Under the Tuscan sun

August 2010

As the sun shines on the pool and I swim just one more length, I contemplate the nature of the world around me. It’s a fascinating world, chopping and challenging everyone I know. Whether on holiday or at home, at work or at play, in big business or small local affairs, whether major corporate boards or individual entrepreneurs like me, young or old, unusual choices are occurring every day.

Let me explore why I say this…

The barometer of our lives is very variable and whether you believe in it or not, there is huge amount of planetary action going on in our solar system. May be this is influencing the magical mixture of life where so much uncertainty is counter-balanced by the natural energy flow of life and the choices we make every moment. When I observe everything from my cash flow to my friendships, from family to fortunes, I see life as a total integration of interconnected parts. From ordinary life to current economic pressures (my own and others) through to political uncertainty (everywhere), there is plenty of mayhem over the summer month of August.

In every aspect this is a time of unrest, so taking August out is a perfect time to re-energise and realise the space we all need to retune to nature and view ourselves as others might from other cultures. I love making that choice to go away and see how other countries live their lives. Maybe there are alternative life styles for us all and about a more sustainable choice day to day that adds meaning and passion to who we are. We so often work too hard for the sake of something that is not worth having, is only material and limited by time.

In my own life, many choices are occurring that make me smile…and make me sigh… as I trust the unknown path ahead. My two week holiday in Tuscany is perfectly chosen as ever to come when I needed a rest, a renewal, a rejuvenation of body and soul. With friendship and love being core to my existence, I was delighted at the synchronicity of two female friends, Mary and Dawn, both inviting me to go on holiday to Italy and choosing Tuscany to be the best place to be.

A truly magical land, fresh and green due a wetter spring than usual, the Tuscan landscape is verdant and lush. Our first week together with Dawn’s wonderful family, a great crowd spanning generations and experiences, had so much fun and laughter, engagement and exploration of each other and the Italy around us.

The wonders of Sienna and the Palio horse race, the tiny streets crowded with enthusiastic people, waving flags to celebrate their communities. The energy was magnetic. Another day we took the train to Florence and as we rode through the streets of Florence and climbed the steps to view the city, I revelled in seeing this beautiful city once more. Our feet weary, we bartered gifts in the market, walked the riverside and photographed the Duomo. We savoured the Italian way of life and loved it!

Then some days swimming in our pool, we really start to unwind. We eat and drink, play games and laugh in the surroundings of our temporary villa home, Villa Migliarina, in Bucine area. As the days unfold, the sunshine gets hotter and hotter, and the conversations delicious along with the food!

During my first week, my girlfriend Mary and I set off for an adventure one day to find a castle. We drive our little pale blue Fiat across steep winding roads; see amazing views and the true magnificence of Tuscany. A patchwork of rolling fields and tall Cyprus trees, the roads take us cross country. That day, we make new friends, with Tommaso who owns the castle, Jane and Alison who assist him running this as a conference centre and Ill Borgo, a high spec development of executive homes with views to die for and furnished immaculately. We are most welcomed to return and vow to do so.

We then adventure onto Rome overnight and stand inside St Peter’s Basilica. A hugely impressive church yet, for me, a bit too awesome rather than inspiring. The flavour of Rome lingers still on my breath, hot and wonderful and with a promise to return, our coins in Trevi fountain to be sure.

In the second week, my holiday slows down a pace and the choices arise again – to linger around the pool over many hot days and sweltering nights, BBQs, take journeys to natural spas, hilltops and wondrous views, to see Italy grow on me in every sense.

Returning to the UK and prospects of economic strain, colder weather and tube strikes, reminds me of the very versatility of our world, choices once again. The idyllic nature of a hot Tuscan summer doesn’t necessary mean I would live there all year. I love my homeland and whatever the nature of the next few months I face them renewed and with a wider viewpoint than my own front door. Adventure lingers in my mind and the choices brought to me through travel yet again excite me for the future ahead.

Our world is shrinking in front of our eyes; we can find vast knowledge and learn anything on a screen, within hours we are in another land. We can speak across technology and see each other live on voice over computer, mobile technology and tele-presence screens. We may soon be able to beam ourselves across the universe, who knows what choices that will bring!!

…and yet there is no place like home whatever the adventure – where loved ones wait to greet us back into their embrace.

Back afresh, I reflect on the nature of choice – even over a holiday break, and soon it shimmers and disappears, reduced to the happy snaps and warm memories, held in my own computer mind for ever.

Expansion and contraction – the natural ebb and flow of life and business?

Expansion and contraction – the natural ebb and flow of life and business or are we forcing the issue?

Summer breathing as June passes the Summer Solstice, and here in the UK, we enjoy the wonderful heat and the expansive noise of England winning through in the World Cup, during a time of daily contraction of our financial power in a budget geared to collective restraint, I wondered about the power of our own natural reserves?

Swirling despair or growing pains?

Everyone I know is experiencing swirls of despair and exhilaration, no day is the predictable day we expected. The past is past. The future is ours to grow. And one person’s point of view can be positive or negative over the same situation depending on their nature, their life experience and their current status. Naturally we all perceive the world differently, we are all different, yet we are also the same; living breathing human beings. When we are facing tough challenges (as the world is right now) we polarize to our core point of view and find obstacles and limitations around us.

Why do some of us face each day with energy and vivacious capacity to smile regularly even when the chips are down? And others become despondent and cynical about possibilities and strains that don’t fit now, don’t adhere to our expectations born of past promises! We have a world that needs re-order at a fundamental level, expanding collaboration and contracting chaos. We have choices, many on a daily basis about survival, growth and the future for our children – and our children’s children. We are all connected and inter-connected. What we do right now affects everyone eventually in the whole world and for generations alive when we are gone. We are all connected – yet do we believe that really? Everyone is some mother’s child; we all are born of human stock.

Choices – yours or mine? Do we believe and own our own choices that connect into the collective responsibility – especially in our own families or communities or workplaces when there are so many disagreements, negative behaviour and possible abuse? Can we be open-minded in conversation and listen to everyone, holding their perspective with our own? This is especially relevant to bringing new conversations together between men and women, within women’s group and within men’s groups. Gender confusion still lies at the heart of broken relationships and abuse.

Do men and women face these current difficult times differently?

I believe we do – yet one gender is not better or more right than the other.We need an ‘and/and’ mind shift to create a world together not an ‘either/or’ world of separate parts. Men and women are both responsible and both need to be engaged in the foundations and a new start. There are many different approaches that build society and economic reform together – these approaches economically, politically, socially and spiritually differ in core roots of maleness and femaleness, the yin and yang of life and energy. The former male energy builds strong direction, provider drivers and tenacity of mindful, clever ‘brainy’ ideas – while the latter female fuel, underpins the life force of relationships and community coherence, brings emotional and mental intelligence in a pre-packed integrated package. Although some women are tougher, more masculine than others, some are gentler more cautious, less confident, all women want their lives to honour life and common sense prevail. Women have enormous untapped talents to bring a balance future to our world.

Together men and women are more powerful. Separately we fight for airspace, not listening to the other’s need.

We rival each other for position on a past plan headed for bankruptcy and social disorder – when we now have a choice to co-create a new future. Here is an example of a new way of thinking and being.

A new style together

I had the great pleasure to join a wonderful community in Geneva last weekend for ‘Friends of Humanity’, a foundation set up by Graziella Zanoletti CIO (Chief Inspiration Officer) of Elite Rentals. Graziella’s great success in the commercial world is now partnered by her great passion to give back to many good causes in less developed countries such as India, earthquake suffering in Nepal, South American rainforests and children in Tibet. 100 people gathered to hear the news on these projects and to come together, men, women, and their families adding back many £1000s by being part of this intention.

I met many extraordinary people especially my host Fabienne Feldman, helped to run this amazing event. We watched and joined in with likeminded people to gather together, hold magical conversations, listen to wonderful music and song, chatter about life and purpose and those projects on display; we eat fabulously well yet abundance for all and enjoyed the wonder of the day – it was an example of people coming together who didn’t know each other and who now form bonds across the world… from Boston to Goa, from London to LA… proving that communities can so easily come together in harmony for a common purpose across the world.

I explored with Graziella the nature of a new approach to “business, life and giving back” when we met last month for our first Magical Conversation at Fabienne’s home. Integrating commercial success, building personal and collective wealth, giving back, creating social cohesion and sustainable communities – bringing social enterprise into main stream business ethics – these are core to our conversations and those of many other female conversations I experience…and with many wise men too who feel tuned into this new multi-streamed way of being, business and life. How do we each measure up to these intentions in our own life?

Magical Conversations are about ‘life’ and business and society – about truth and trust, respect and relationships, humanity and prosperity – and becoming more keenly aware of what matters to others as well as our own. Everywhere I go, wise men and women are speaking with their hearts as much as their heads…and allowing their inner spirit to guide them more times than not. The nature of magical conversations is to embrace expansion and contraction in all we do and not get out of balance in our own lives and in our world. It is being aware of where and how one needs to expand effort and operate at a level of financial viability – consistently contracting efforts where obstacles appear, adhering to rules and regulations, “and and” being our mantra in expanding in relationships, respect and trust in our lives and in our businesses. It’s about exploring a common reason for giving back, feeding and educating those in the world less well off, both in developing countries – and more importantly, lovingly, at home in our own communities.

“It’s not so much about what you do, it’s about the loving you put into the doing that counts” Anon

How can we mend the world when we are not mended (healed from the inside out) first? This all starts at home with love… with loving yourself, your closest friends and family and community first.

Like breathing in and breathing out, expansion and contraction underpins our life force. Masculine and feminine energies do similarly ebb and flow; male dominance is necessary for strength and getting tasks done while the feminine energy flows, nurtures and heals the cracks so that communities can gain sustainable results. Together this alliance of men and women brings abundance in the true gifts of our natural life to be self sustaining for all members. Get to know your own natural gender nature and recognize different perspectives are valid too. It’s the ‘common purpose’ of conversations, built on trust, that includes all points of view, which will help our future come sooner.

Our ‘BIG SOCIETY’

We have a long way to go in the UK, our political leaders talk of a ‘big society’; many male CEOs talk of attracting women into the top positions, mixed boardrooms leading better; many communities, public and private make noises about community cohesion. I applaud their words, the rhetoric, the opinions…. however I don’t believe we invite all the right people to the conversations and listen well enough?

I don’t yet see enough evidence that the best, most aware, intelligent, experienced women are invited to really, truly, openly explore ‘what women want’. Maybe they don’t get noticed or don’t speak up enough. We’re in a world that doesn’t allow women to be women, to grow naturally, be business women and mothers, to grant that life’s natural family pressures are accounted for without marginalization financially or limitations in job prospects.

If we keep going round the same old arguments and propositions, guess what we get the old emerging again. We need to explore more, the new awaits us on the horizon of our awakening to possibilities without judgment and favour.

Magical Conversations count

We can’t create a ‘big society’ based on the old blueprint of business and life separation (the male plan that has traditionally separated ‘making money’ and ‘life’ into two camps)– there are more core principles of evolution to be explored (a female plan for business would combines ‘making money’ and dealing with ‘life’ issues).

My invitation to YOU I now implore my sisters, women of all types, generations, creeds and cultures to put aside the past and grow strong views on ‘what women (and men) really want’ and join our brothers, all kinds – tough guys and gentle giants – in the conversation of co-creation – and magical conversations.