Sunday, February 22, 2009

Activate your love muscle!

Can you feel it? The love heart – the colour red, the shape, the symbol, the nuance – is in vogue. I was browsing through one of my favourite d├ęcor and homeware stores today and I see that the love heart has evolved into more than the typical jewellery and chocolate fare. I was deluged by heart shaped bakeware, the most desirable fondue sets and of course the expected pamper-me bath accessories.

While you’re probably still basking in the red haze of Valentine’s Day fun now, soon, the memories will become a glimmer. Just like the heart-shaped mineral bath essences melt, our collective bliss of celebrating love this month will also soon fade away. Why?

When I think back to the delightful heart shaped bakeware in the shop, I whizz forward to a vision of creative joyfilled moments spent baking and sharing. I ponder on how we can make the hearts a more permanent fixture in our lives.

Amidst the doom and gloom of stimulus packages and recession talk, I realise that the real love muscle, the heart, is the only way we’re going to get through this.

What does your heart look like? Do you vision a perfect red two-fold love dome or something more like the biology class diagrams? How does your heart feel? Is it sentimental, soft and warm? How do you use your heart – as an intuitive guide, to manipulate, as a holistic life management tool?

Let your heart be your guide
So, how can our heart guide us through the harrowing economic downturn? By continually focussing on money, making money, the lack of it or having too much money (even in these heady days!) we freeze the gateway to our hearts. What we believe is a logical brain-centered approach to our financial wealth management is probably the most illogical route to take.

For when we are scared of what the future holds and worried about mounting debts, we process life from a basis of fear. Fear of failure and not making it through paralyses us and often prevents us from remembering our heart.

We have a tendency to be so hard on ourselves. Probably an over-hang from the ‘tighten your belt’ philosophy – sentiments which choke any possibility we have to be creative, magnify opportunities and call in the abundance we claim we want.

If we took the lead from our hearts, we would anchor our behaviour in acceptance (no resistance) and responsibility, allowing the possibility of change. This era calls for us to nurture and use the inbuilt tool that we all have – the heart.

It’s interesting that the heart offers such capacity for healing, resolving and regenerating yet; we make limited use of it. When last did you stop to check your heart rating when faced with a tough decision? It’s easy when life is good, but when the going gets tough, our faithful hearts stand by, ready to work.

The invitation
If we accept the heart-felt invitation to seed opportunities in these turbulent times, then by re-channelling our energy away from worry to the ultimate love muscle, our hearts, we will be stepping firmly along the path to tranquillity, harmony and abundance. It’s ours for the taking and what’s more, it’s within us all.

Will the real men please step up!

As we race into the luurve month, hearts pumping, spirits soaring, the love theorists say we should be more alluring than ever. Scientifically, physically and well, even spiritually of course, it goes without saying that when you ignite the inner glow, it’s magnetic.

Now, I’m all for the glow, before, during and after, but maybe we need to think a little longer about the baggage the magical love connection brings.

As for magnetism, the negative attracting the positive or vice versa is a tricky conversation in South Africa these days. For when we think of love; rising in love, being loved-up, loving each other and its inherent risks , the positivity is tinged with that difficult question – is he or isn’t he…HIV Positive? Is she or isn’t she HIV positive? Statistics show that only 1 in 10 people here know their status which leaves the scary reality of Russian roulette as we consider running through the love rain with or without a rain coat.

The Soul City Institute – a health promotion and social change project based in South Africa, uses innovative television dramas, radio programming and more to work at the heart of the matter – behaviour change.

Just yesterday, I heard one of the Soul City senior executives eloquently outlining the task at hand on a local radio talk show. Her thoughts stopped me in my tracks. She outlined how the ABC of AIDS management (Abstinence, Be Faithful, Condomise) has failed to work because people are inconsistent in applying the rules. So, condoms might be part of the mix in the early heady days of romance but after three to six months of sexual relations, the condom is often relegated to those on the prowl. A negative HIV test not withstanding!

Soul City operates across eight countries in Southern Africa and the clarion call is for the conversation. The talk show guest presented an idea which I found fascinating because it was so simple and at once ludicrous! But what if, it could be done?

Mr. Philanderer's story
This is what she proposed as a way forward: Picture the scene; Mr Philanderer calls his multiple concurrent partners together a meeting. Let’s say he has four sistas in tow. He is concerned about his sexual health and he wants to make sure he’s spreading the love responsibly.

So, says the Soul City executive, given the fact that he’s rolling with four regular partners, he should consider the conversation. A discussion about how they can all work together to protect themselves as they share the love.

I’m still working on Scene 1 of this almost farcical scene. But maybe it’s not such an impossible thought. It probably begins with how he starts the conversation before the sistas become bed partners. The moral arguments aside, let’s face it; most concubines know and often accept that they have company.

Woman enough?
Would they be woman enough to be upfront and speak collectively about how each would protect the other? Would the brothers be man enough to step up to the plate? If so, I see room for many more fascinating conversations in the luurve month and way beyond.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Each One, Teach One

The transition from the industrial era to a knowledge economy over the past decade, has spurned many developments. From the business world to our intimate social spaces, the ways in which we go about our daily lives have evolved to greater heights.

As we strive for optimum efficiency and better connectivity, the advance of technology sends us spiraling into hazy spaces where it's all about 'me'. The focus on the up close and personal has morphed into exactly the opposite!

You can sense the growing thirst for a more personal touch in our everyday business; the need for bonding time and focus re-anchored in quality not quantity. It's the humane response to the fallout that we're experiencing in the Information Age.

We are all players and consumers in the knowledge economy, but how far do we actively craft a brave, new knowledge culture to support our souls in this evolution?

Not surprisingly, one of Africa's greatest knowledge cultures is currently undergoing a revival. What does the word Timbuktu mean to you? For many in the Western and Northern hemispheres, Timbuktu is a mythical, unreachable place that languishes in a mindset tarnished by colonial (mis)education.

In fact, Timbuktu is a city in the West African country of Mali. Boasting a rich cultural heritage, Mali is cited as one of the poorest countries in the world today. Located in midst of the Sahara Desert, Timbuktu is home to what remains one of the world's greatest knowledge centres and one of Africa's most valuable riches - the Timbuktu Manuscripts. Over the last three years, the South African and Malian governments have worked in partnership to revitalise the knowledge heritage of Timbuktu.

Beautiful documentation
Far from being a twilight zone, intellectuals and scholars wrote tomes about all aspects of life from astronomy to civil law, dating back as far as the 15th century. Thought leaders of the day scribed their works in beautiful hand-crafted leather-bound books on handmade paper in beautiful calligraphy. There was a veritable industry created through the documentation and preservation of the word.

Apart from the knowledge economy of the day, the ways in which knowledge was cultivated was defined by a culture of dialogue, debate and contribution from all who cared to participate. Often scholars refrained from naming (owning) their works as they saw their manuscripts as a contribution to the greater good of society.

The manuscripts were read in discussion groups and the insights and conclusions gleaned were systematically documented, adding to the body of knowledge. While the craft of manuscript making has been eroded through the passage of time, the culture of knowledge sharing and evolution continues to exist in the arid sands of Timbuktu.

Brandishing BlackBerrys
Maybe it is we who, brandishing BlackBerrys and high-octane lifestyles, are the ones who will continue to feel bereft and adrift until we are able to drink from a life-enhancing source of knowledge. A fountain that we have crafted in a deliberate effort to create a 2009 knowledge culture devised for our common evolution? As they say, each one, teach one. Let's start there.

Obama Fever

One of the most significant upside effects of the Obama fever that is sweeping the world, is the high-octane optimism that you can literally touch, smell and feel everywhere.

As I looked at America's first lady, Michelle Obama, glowing with pride, awe and humility as her husband took the inauguration oath, I wondered which cloud she was floating on; how high did she dare dream as a co-creator in this magical moment?

Obama vitality
As we pinch ourselves, many are wishing they could stay in the 'yes we can' dream space which offers such comfort to our souls - three words which salve our wounded psyches while invigorating our spirit. Sadly, I've heard one too many question how they can sustain the optimism. Point is, once we've touched it, we probably could bottle the energy if we but allowed ourselves to reframe dream space from ethereal realms by shaping the Obama vitality into our everyday reality.

Creating the vision is the first and probably easiest step. What the self-help gurus often forget to tell us is how we hold the vision. A week will not cut it! Sometimes it takes years of fortitude and faith. There are clear lessons that can be gleaned from those who have changed the world through dreams.

Clear, unwavering picture
World leaders like Mandela and Gandhi both speak of how they focused on a clear, unwavering picture, painting, embroidery and broadening day by day to see their visions manifest.

It's also a question of orientation. Are you casting your vision from a ship navigating treacherous open seas or are you in a tranquil cove? Where your mind is at is a critical factor.

When we say the sky is the limit, what are we really saying? That the sky is boundless and so everything is possible or that it's impossible to touch the sky and so, in effect, any blue-sky goals are unlikely to be accomplished?
On scratching beneath the surface, we'll see that our mindset is influenced by the most unassuming and subtle things. Take the phrases and sayings that punctuate our language daily with little thought about how they impact our sense of boundaries and what is or may not be possible.

Sayings like 'Don't hang your hat higher than you can reach' and 'don't put all your eggs in one basket' made much sense in a time when it was important to consolidate and secure resources for sheer survival.

I imagine those who coined those phrases also battened down the hatches in the wake of the storm in an attempt to cover their heads and shelter. They called it common sense and no doubt there is merit in that thinking.

As we open 2009 soaring on Obama fever, we're being called to look the storm in the eye. It's not a question of reckless abandon, more an opportunity to run towards our fears and create deliberate, calculated visions based on principles of tenacity and faith rather than the illusion of 'knowing'.