The Monk and the General – a journey into the mystic

The Story of the Monk and the General

Andrew Olivier© – may be reproduced with acknowledgement

The army general is disemboweling all the monks. His reputation spread far and wide as a cruel cruel man. He comes into this village and he says to his adjutant. Tell me what’s happening and the adjutant replies, “All the people are frightened of you and they are bowing down. All the monks in the monastery have fled to the hills but for one monk.”

He was outraged at this one monk. He gets up and goes to the monastery and pushes open the doors. As he walks into the courtyard there’s the monk standing in the middle of the courtyard. He walks up to him and he says, “Don’t you know who I am? I could run my sword through your belly without blinking an eye.”

“And don’t you know who I am? I could have your sword go through my belly without blinking an eye.”

The general bowed deeply and left the monk in peace.1

This story of passive resistance was shared with me by Alistair MacIntosh at a a recent workshop on Spiritual Activism.  It is based on the writing of Ram Dass.  I understood the message immediately.  I had such an experience and I told him about, the first time I had shared that story, ever. It took me back in time.  Thirty-eight years to be exact.

I was a young man then.  A lieutenant, and we were doing a sweep through enemy territory. Our advanced reconnaissance units had been observing enemy activity for some months and we were there to clear out the area.

Our orders were to raze the huts wherever there was evidence of hostile activity.  Collect prisoners, the young men especially.  We were maybe a hundred and twenty troops in that operation.  I remember that afternoon so clearly. It was hot. I recall turning and looking behind me.  We were strung out over the hills, advancing in a line abreast.   Two gunships swept noisily past,  low in the sky, silhouetted against a backdrop of thick, heavy black smoke, lazily spiraling up into the deep blue sky.  Smoke from burning compounds, and an occasional sharp stutter of gun fire.

I entered the compound on a rise; some five large huts surrounded by a stick and thorn ring fence. The men automatically fanned out to search it, coming back maybe ten minutes later with a stack of enemy propaganda.  I was just about to give the order to burn the compound, when a woman appeared. I was not sure how the troops missed her, but she walked steadily and assuredly towards me, weapons now trained on her.  I can see her clearly, etched in my mind’s eye and while I have buried this story deep in the passage of time, her image remains vivid.

She was tall and proud. Maybe in her thirties or early forties.  I don’t remember her features now but I do recall she was unflinching.  Completely unafraid or disguising it well.  She was wrapped in a red, brown cloth, the colour of the earth.  She wore amulets around her neck and on her arms, and a traditional head scarf.  I remember she wore ankle rings.

Alone she faced maybe fifteen armed, enemy soldiers. Our eyes locked.  I remember saying something to her –  to reassure she was not in danger.  But she gave no hint of wanting to communicate.  I was a trespasser in her home; the ground of her ancestors. She was mother of this earth and she was willing us to leave.  She was not hostile, just determined. She was the embodiment of her place and I knew if I burned her home, I would need to kill her as well. She and this place were as one.

I acknowledged that and the fact I could never kill her.

I felt both humbled and in awe of her courage.  I ordered my men to destroy the propaganda and we left, with some grumbling from them. I turned to her as we gracelessly exited.  I said sorry.  She stood, glaring at us, her hands on her hips and her head to one side.

She was the monk, I, the general and yes, she knew I had the power to run her through with my sword without blinking my eye. Decades later, in retrospect, that woman may have re-emerged as the young spiritual leader in my book BECause, a passionate advocate of passive resistance.

Reference: 1. https://beherenownetwork.com/category/ram-dass/

The mind once enlightened, cannot again become dark

During our lifetime we may be fortunate enough to receive lenses that provide deep understandings of how things work. Those insights provide models of continuous learning that inform, nourish and sustain us. As a Noble Peace Prize winner said, “It felt like god had revealed a small part of how the universe worked’ adding he was not a religious man.

The point is what has been seen cannot be unseen.  Such meta understandings help us on our pathway towards enlightenment.  Of course, humility and openness are key ingredients to ensure ongoing learning, otherwise we run the risk of becoming dogmatic zealots.

The meta model of understanding human capability, work and the evolution of human value systems were such lenses. What a fantastic journey that has proven to be –  it led me to interview and analyse the most interesting people, and allowed me to assist many and diverse enterprises.  These lenses have stood me instead over multiple decades.

I also know that those lenses have been shared when I hear others encouraging their teams saying these lenses will alter their worldview and help their careers.  Mark Milliner, Ian Stone and Jacki Johnson were the most recent. Thank you for the affirmation in understanding.  Now as Billy Boyd says, I must bid you farewell and in closing I would like to offer you the following insights;

  • Work is a treadmill, but with different and exciting carrots on offer. Fast, fun and challenging.  Our work journey is driven by our deep need to actualize.

    Our need to be of value is enduring.

  • Work can be very satisfying, but while our capability is the driver, our current mode of transport is an old outdated dinosaur called capitalism. There are no free rides, and no one is exempt from travel. It is not a felt fair system and is a value detractor. As Muhammad Yunus says, future business will need a social license to operate.
  • A consultant is a role with accountability and no authority.
  • Work that detracts from planetary, regional and local sustainability cannot be tolerated or supported.  Irreversible damage is caused by companies and governments that have lost their ability to regulate for the common good of all -we need right work.
  • Consulting has allowed me to travel and work in many different and exotic places.
  • As a road warrior I have been equipped with the latest tools of the trade as they evolved… but the problem is my e-wastage mound grows. Full value chain accountability is needed.
  • Consulting has given me time to lead a personally rich lifestyle and get to know my kids – a real blessing… there was a financial sacrifice, but it was worth it.

    “My partner (also a consultant) and I agreed that one parent would always be fully present for the kids (we now have three beautiful adults).  We took it in turns.”

  • It has allowed me to write and publish two books, the third an adventure which sits on the cusp of the new journey and provides a segue to the new future.
  • The right mentors come when the pupil is ready for them.  Gillian Stamp, Don Beck, Malcolm Hollick, Robin Mills – thank you for believing in me.
  • It has led me to renounce the “short-termism” of the free market system, especially greed.

     The word ENOUGH does not exist in business vocabulary.  There can never be ENOUGH!

  • I have lost faith in accountability. I see too many overwhelmed, overpaid and incompetent leaders escaping censure.
  • I am grateful to all my clients who believe in us and were willing to experiment with us.
  • Relationships are frail and need constant tending, trusting and sometimes clear tasking.
  • Look after your networks, friends and family.  Also members of the same family are often not born under the same roof.
  • Thank you to my current team, I am privileged to work with Adam Thompson, Tim Levett, Verena MacLean, Bruce Whitby, Samantha MacDonald, Tanya Brockmeier, Amanda Johnson , Brent Sheridan and Sam Wilkinson.
  • In retrospect, although it did not feel like it at the time, I have learnt more when I have failed or been in conflict.
  • My corporate consulting journey has driven my need to understand other ways we could better organise, for fairer and more just outcomes for all, not just a select few.

 The transition beckons.

I have seen a different world, running on a different operating system and that is now my Call to Adventure. What is seen, cannot be unseen.

Aluta Continua!!

 

My Defining Moments

Defining Moments. My friend has a blog called defining moments. They are profound words.  To me  they mean “a sharp,shaping event; one that alters your view of the world – an unforgettable learning experience”  It can be for good or bad. I have been thinking about some of my defining events and what I learnt;

1. Sunrise and a New Day
– as a young officer, I remember sun rise after a long and harrowing night in enemy territory. It was a defining moment.  I promised myself to celebrate each new day, acknowledging it as an opportunity to live fully. I sometimes think of the words of John Cougar Mellencamp describing how life becomes grey, blurred, slipping past – same old, same old; – “life goes on but the joy of living is gone” An extract from my journal was “If it will not kill or wound – fear not, be brave.” LIVE while you have LIFE. WELCOME EACH DAY.

2. Physical Well-Being – I had a quadriplegic girlfriend. She broke her neck diving into a wave and had not ventured back into the sea until one morning, I took her out on my surfboard – a calm, glassy day and we surfed together. It was a tremendously emotional and a healing time. That relationship was a defining moment because being physically healthy is as good as it gets. There should be nothing else to complain about. Being really sick or physically challenged puts trivial worries into perspective. HEALTH IS NO 1.

3. I CAN do it – in 1997 my company turned over its first million. That was a defining moment. Many said I was mad to go it alone, and yes, the economy was shrinking, the country in revolt and hey, as the naysayers said; what did I know about business? Being successful is great, but it involves trade offs and a never ending commitment. My diary at that time had a note –  “Funny, the harder I work the luckier I get”   COMMIT FULLY TO WHAT YOU VALUE AND DREAM, BE BOLD.

4. Shit, this is NOT as good as it gets in 2009 I discovered a completely different way to live life. It was a struggle for me to embrace at first, being diametrically opposed to how I have been programmed from birth to live – A defining moment. I realised another much finer world exists and I am moving fully into it.  What that defining moment taught me? BE INQUISITIVE, TAKE RISKS. DON’T LIMIT YOURSELF… as Mulder said in the X Files;  “The truth (for you) is out there”.

5. Betrayal – A strong, trusting business relationship shattered some years ago, almost landing in court. It cost me my company, dear friendships and almost my marriage. I was bitter and trusted no one for many years. A defining moment for me, although it shaped a dark journey. Time is a great healer.  TRUST IN YOURSELF. ALWAYS. 

6. Manifestation – you get what you wish and the clearer your wish is – the better your chance of getting it. I have been practicing this for years without realising it.  When I twigged that this stuff ACTUALLY works; it was a defining movement.  I learnt to be mindful in its practice – if your wish  is unclear, you get an unclear outcome; sort of, not quite, often with unwelcome and unexpected side effects.  If  it is a dark picture; beware. My first manifestation was dark and shook me to my core. BEWARE WHAT YOU WISH FOR and DO NO HARM IN YOUR WISHES.

What are your defining moments and what did you learn?