Enabling the Acorn to Flourish (Part 5)

This explains why we experience such high levels of enthusiasm and energy when we are engaged in a form of task or activity that we love. In flow with the depth of purpose in our heart, we avoid much of the fatigue that comes to the mind and body when we are consumed with rowing our boat against the tide. Weakened by the choice to entangle ourselves in this struggle, we then encounter the pressure of having to measure up to those forces which constitute the weight of that tide. Suppressing the fullness of our being, we are starved of enthusiasm and the will to engage with what we come to label as ‘work’.

Living our calling shouldn’t be viewed as work in the traditional sense. Better is it understood as purposeful and passionate play. As much as a child enjoys playing with their favourite toy, so should we enjoy doing what we have been called to do to the same extent. Granted, the adult world is more complex than that of a child, and there are going to be challenges encountered in this process of engagement. These are an unavoidable part of the journey. Whilst these occurrences may temporarily disrupt our flow, they need not diminish our joy and harmony. Having a genuine love for that which we do, and how it relates to who we are, we will be inoculated from much of the suffering that stems from a spiritually unbalanced life.

It is often said that to succeed we must persist in the face of opposition. This, I couldn’t agree with more, but what is it that allows us to demonstrate and sustain this quality? The answer to this is the loving essence of spirit, out of which courage, determination and resilience also spring. When we partner with genuine love in the pursuit of a purpose, we find ourselves unattached to the outcomes that lay ahead. Immersed in the life enhancing experience of joy and growth, there is nothing more that we need gain. Achieving results by our efforts in the physical world, these are secondary benefits that mean very little in and of themselves. Flowing from our devotion to the spiritual inclination to love, it is this that means more in absolute terms.

Achievements are fleeting, but joy is impactful. Infusing our present moments with richness, it is the degree to which we experience and perpetuate joy that is the true measure of success. How different would the world be if we came to define ourselves in these terms? When we learn to cultivate joy in what we do, and allow this to guide our service, we diminish the need to define ourselves by such things as money, power and material possessions.

In the unconsciousness of our habitat, the success score is assessed by these dysfunctional metrics, despite our intrinsic knowing that they fail to deliver what we most want in life. Of them, there is never enough, especially for vultures who have become slaves of this world. Continually wanting more of these addictive lures, their hunger remains strong, with their discontent in the present moment. We cannot be joyful in the same moment that we are discontented. Mired in the negativity of fruitless striving, joy will not arise from within, when we need something more than we want to be fulfilled.

Similarly, we cannot truly be living life if our attention is continually being focused on the future and what we can gain from it. The future does not hold any joy that is not first present in our heart. To experience joy in any moment, we must bring it there. Manifested through our connection to life, this joy is not dependent on us gaining at the expense of others, despite what the world with a scarcity orientation would have us believe.

At the spiritual level, a form of life is entwined with all other forms of life, so when we seek to take something away from another person, we are also taking something away from ourselves. Depriving ourselves and others in this way, joy is obstructed and our clarity is contaminated. Perpetuating ego consciousness with these life depleting movements, it is the illusion of duality that we must consciously overcome to understand that we can only ever flourish in the fullness of an integrity that no one single mind can claim on or as its own.

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Enabling the Acorn to Flourish (Part 4)

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Having the love for what we do, we will have to trust that one thing will lead to another. Being faithful to that which we know to be aligned with the intention of our heart, we will find the courage to follow the path, even if we do not know exactly where it will lead. What holds a lot of people back from following their passion is the need to know the port of destination before they commence the voyage. Fearing the unknown or wanting a promised return on the investment of their time and energy, these individuals resist the spiritual essence of the journey that thrives on faith, and the majesty that flows from the mystery of how the path will unfold. Like a great movie, the most enthralling journey has its unforeseen twists and turns that add richness and depth to the scenes of our experience. With this I ask you, ‘how extraordinary can a journey really be, if we know beforehand how it will unfold?’

The journey of connecting with our vocation, is one with the journey of discovering the spiritual self. The more clarity that we get on who we are at the core level of being, the greater is our power to serve authentically in the world. What has progressed the world forward is the conscious application of our unique gifts and abilities that was not motivated by the ego’s desire for gain and recognition. For me, this is a key component which separates a career from a calling. We pursue a career to make something of and for ourselves. We live a calling in order to reconcile the fullness of who we are with the longings of the world.

With a career, we might strive to arrive at a place of fulfilment, only to find ourselves empty and burdened by the weight of inner tension. Strained by the wedge that we have allowed to be driven between our purpose and the means of its accomplishment, our spirit is numbed to the point where we come to believe that this type of mediocre existence is the best to be hoped for. Many of us have had the experience of working in establishments where the work to be performed did not evoke the gifts of our heart, along with the talents of our mind. Meaning very little to us, there was no joy or authentic expression to be found in that work, but only a meagre pay-check that in its accumulation and expenditure failed to deliver anything of lasting substance.

While many people would have been willing to settle for this life once upon a time, a shift is presently being effected in society that is seeing a growing number of individuals leave their career to live their calling. Craving purpose and meaning to their existence, these courageous travellers are forgoing higher compensation and an assortment of other perks in some instances, for the experience of doing on a daily basis what they love and value most in life.

Not too long ago, I was watching the grand finale of Masterchef Australia. This show, which pits a number of amateur chefs against each other for the opportunity to realise their culinary dream, has played its part in bringing many people in touch with the love that they have for cooking. For those who appeared on the show, they were inspired and driven to do what they were previously afraid to attempt. Such is the power of having a purpose that allows us to express our fullness in being.

What was interesting to me as I watched the show was observing how many of the contestants described the life that they led before deciding to follow their passion. Stuck in jobs that stifled their spiritual freedom and precluded their joy from arising, the absence of meaning and engagement could be felt through the television screen. Coming alive when they were asked what cooking means to them, they almost become different people with their tone, body language and facial expressions aligning to convey the sense of integrity that they had found on that journey.

Who we are at the spiritual level must match what we do at the physical level of being. Without finding this fit, we cannot truly know what it means to be joy-filled. The greater the disparity between who we are and what we do, the harder we must search for happiness and fulfilment. When we are doing what we love in the moment that is now, we can be said to have arrived. Not having any other place to go to express the fullness of who we are, this love naturally arises to infuse our work, like a sweet fragrance imbues the skin with a fresh and rejuvenating essence.

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Enabling the Acorn to Flourish (Part 3)

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Fixing our mind on that which we believe will be our crowning glory, it is easy to lose sight of what is really important. So many valuable relationships are discarded or irreparably harmed because ambition is prioritised above love and authenticity. We live in a society that is obsessed with celebrity. We see other people getting attention for what they are doing, and we want the same thing for ourselves. Becoming blind to the substance of our own acorn in this process, we try to climb the oak that the success of these famous people symbolises to us.

Why this poses a risk to our fulfilment is because their competencies may be very different from our own, and even if we have the same or similar talents to these people, we may be called to use them in alternate ways. Just because I have the same gift as Dostoyevsky or Jane Austen, does not mean that I am called to write as they did. Trying to emulate their work would prove futile for me because I can only write about what my lived experience and learning has taught me. Why their work was so profound in their impact was because they were unique and genuine representations of their spirits, and how they interacted with the physical world. Not fighting against the natural pull of their respective acorns, the oaks of these two literary giants were allowed to flourish in beautifully original ways.

So many of us fail to exemplify the best version of ourselves because we expend too much of our energy trying to be like those people who we emulate. Wanting to live in their shadow, we dim our own light that is not afraid of being exposed to the harsh winds of criticism, and the other tests of time. Following in the footsteps of others who appear to be ‘successful’ is not as prosperous a course as our ego would hope, and taking this course is particularly damaging when our motive for doing so is to hide from the essential truth of who we are.

To my heart and mind, the risk of living to conform is much greater than the risk involved in living our highest life. Being on the receiving end of the critical opinions of others and failing or losing face occasionally is not that bad when compared to a life that is lived in a psychic/spiritual straightjacket and a padded cell. While the latter requires us to forfeit our freedom and sanity, enduring the former calls us to demonstrate resilience, courage, patience and perspective. Being virtues that fortify our will and character, they are the building blocks to the richest form of life that our spirit aspires to.

What others have to say about us or our efforts does not have to define us. We can choose to absorb it, or we can choose to ignore it. As it pertains to the actualisation of our innate potential, these external utterings are mostly irrelevant, and we should not hold the voices of the world in a higher regard than the voice of spirit that is alive within us. Directing the way to our highest flourishing is our intuition, which speaks with an authoritative wisdom that has to be trusted. Too often we doubt the legitimacy of this guidance and abandon it in favour of the opinions and judgments of others because that is what our social norms have conditioned us to do.

The people who are closest to us, in particular family and friends, are rarely shy in offering suggestions as to who we should be or what we should do. Feeling liberated to offer their input because of the proximal relationship that they enjoy with us, it is in our response to their advice that we must exercise caution. Allowing it to direct our course for the future, the integrity of our purpose is compromised, and we languish in the pursuit of something that is meaningless to us. Just like we can never be someone else, and do all that they have done, so can we never realise a vision that is foreign to our heart. Try as we might, our vain efforts will be met with resistance from worldly forces and attendant frustration. While our ego may curse this happening, the blessing that the opposition provides is the opportunity to turn inward and recalibrate, so that our movements forward can be informed by intuition and taken firmly in faith.

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Enabling the Acorn to Flourish (Part 2)

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We cannot truly prosper if we are lying to ourselves about who we essentially are. Wearing this false facade, our divine purpose will be prevented from rising to the surface of our being. With this purpose being trapped in the realm of the heart, we will experience great tension and uncertainty, until we find the courage to reconcile the fractured aspects of our being with that source of wholeness that is otherwise known as spirit.

This I know from personal experience. It wasn’t until I gave up my career practicing law that my love and talent for writing and teaching was able to shine through. Holding onto my inauthentic identity, I deprived myself of the opportunity to reveal to the world the essence of who I am. With the tension of my incongruity becoming too much to bear, I effected the shift from a career to a calling within myself. Travelling down the unique path that is mine to walk, I now enjoy a quality of life that far surpasses the drudgery that my previous life represented.

Doing what I love and loving what I do, I sometimes can’t believe the journey that I have been on, and the transitions that with the benefit of hindsight, were not made soon enough. This, I don’t regret however, for I have come to learn that every shift is made in perfect time. Not having previously been ready to bring forth my greatest gifts, I was really no different than the many people who let fear get in the way of the love that they have for what they really want to do.

Everyone has something that they genuinely love to do. Whether it is dancing, cooking, mentoring, caring for animals or raising children, your vocation is the cherished endeavour that you could easily spend your time doing, even if you weren’t getting paid for it. Capturing your attention and awakening your passion, your calling is what brings meaning to your efforts and fulfilment to your heart. Making you feel alive, it is what provokes the state of flow which allows you to perform to the best of your present moment ability. Stimulating wildly your curiosity and imagination, this call to actualise the best version of yourself, powerfully motivates you to evolve and pursue a vision that makes a positive impact on the course of human history.

When I contemplate this aspect of a vocation, my mind turns to the remarkable legacies left by Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa and Václav Havel. Prophetic figures who wholeheartedly gave themselves to a vision and brought it about, they fulfilled in life their highest potential, and died without experiencing the regrets of the half-lived life. Doing what they knew they were put on earth to do, the impact that they had was vast, and the commitment that they had for their cause still resonates powerfully in the world today.

With this I ask you, how intense is the love that you have for that which you spend the majority of your time doing? If you have no love for, or derive no meaning from, what you do for work, then I can guarantee you that you are not living in alignment with your calling. If you wake up every day dreading what is ahead, then I would recommend doing something different that allows you to express the light that you have within. If this can’t be done now for legitimate reasons, then I would suggest taking small steps towards your calling, so that the stage can be set for more intimately engaging with it in the future. It is not always realistic or wise to dramatically change course, especially when others are dependent on us to provide for them, but we should not let this of itself, deter us from doing what we know in our heart is the right thing to do.

What is right for us at the spiritual level, will always be right for those whom we love. In this, we must not harbour the fear that living our vocation will negatively impact our loved ones. Harmoniously pursued and balanced with other responsibilities, their reasonable concerns should be allayed, and their support won by our willingness to include them on the journey. So much of the resistance that is encountered in this respect, stems from our ego based tendency to single-mindedly pursue one thing to the exclusion of all else.

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Enabling the Acorn to Flourish (Part 1)

The greatest achievement was at first and for a time a dream. The oak sleeps in the acorn, the bird waits in the egg, and in the highest vision of the soul, a waking angel stirs. Dreams are the seedlings of realities ~ James Allen.

An acorn is truly an amazing component of nature. The seed that an oak tree starts out as, it carries in it such power and potentiality for realisation. Fitting comfortably in the palm of a human hand, it takes on a life of its own when planted, and in time sprouts to a size that is much greater than the person who once held it. Growing into the world through this process, the form that the oak takes above the surface is beautiful and awe-inspiring.

I mention the acorn here because very recently I was reviewing one of my favourite books, The Soul’s Code by James Hillman, in which he explores the metaphor of the acorn. Mythologically, the acorn represents the seed of our vocation that was planted in us before we entered the physical world. Holding our highest potentiality and the gifts that will facilitate our self-actualisation, it is both our task, and the responsibility of the world, to honour and nurture these seeds (in ourselves and in others). As we do this by participating in the collective dance of evolution, we enable each other to flourish as oaks do, and stand out in the landscape of life to indicate something that is profound and meaningful.

While it often appears that the world is not complicit in our efforts to actualise the best version of ourselves, we cannot abdicate our responsibility to give a voice to our calling. The Latin interpretation of the word ‘vocation’ is vocare, that when translated means ‘voice’. Extensions of the divine creator that many call God, we have within us this same source of being, that is continually prompting us to fulfil our function/s and manifest the qualities of spirit in everything that we do. With these qualities of love, creativity and authenticity (among others) representing our highest potential, they are what we are called to express through our thoughts, words and actions, at home, in the workplace and in the other spheres of our lives.

I think that when most people hear the word ‘vocation’, their mind turns to the formalities of religion, where priests and nuns are held up to be favoured by God because of the devoted service that they are rendering to the church. A mistakenly narrow perception, it doesn’t accord with the spiritual wisdom which teaches that we all have a purpose/s in our hearts that we have been given life to relate with and fulfil. Even Martin Luther and John Calvin, in challenging the edicts of the church, came to the conclusion that a vocation is so expansive in its substance that it cannot be reserved for members of the church, or any other religious instrumentality.

Finding its foundation within us, a vocation is something that is inescapable. What this means is that we cannot not have one, even if in our unconsciousness we may think that we have been created without it. Many people believe that they don’t have a vocation, simply because they haven’t found it yet. What they don’t understand however is that just because they can’t see something doesn’t mean that it is not there. In these cases that I have encountered personally and through my research work, I have identified a variety of fears and other barriers that in one way or another prevents these individuals from looking deeply into themselves and discovering what their vocation is.

Thinking that this revelation should present itself at their whim, they are naive in their expectations because that which delivers the richest rewards, must be given to and worked hard for. When I say worked hard for, I am not referring to frenetic activity in the outside world, but rather the process of engaging in spiritual exploration, and the price that it asks us to pay for internal freedom and clarity.

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The Perils of Imposition (Part 2)

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In so much of fundamentalism we see this compromise being made. An ideology of the ego that is driven by fear, desperation and a perceived lack of control, what else can explain the gross levels of violence, aggression and manipulation that so much of it involves? Only those who feel impoverished and vulnerable would resort to such means of making themselves heard. Disempowered in spirit, they are incapable of using non-violent means to resolve conflict, for they do not understand its real power.

With the spirit comes strength, and with strength comes the courage and willingness to entertain a position that is different to ours. When we feel strong within ourselves, we intrinsically understand that no one can have their way with us without our permission. Holding the power that is authentically ours, we can approach and engage others without drawing any weapons. Coming not to battle, but to understand their position, we empower them to make themselves heard by a more constructive means than violence.

All violence is an extreme response to conflict. Having the ability to communicate and connect with each other at the spiritual level, we can evolve through our disagreements if we listen with the heart, rather than attacking from the mind. The spiritual warrior is one who knows where the true battle is being waged. Being in their own mind with their fabricated conceptions of self, they look not outside of themselves for others to overcome. Knowing where the real work of manifesting true self is to be done, this is where they focus their precious energy. Committed to victory, their preparation is gruelling, and their perseverance ever constant. Taking place in each moment, this evolutionary dance is unceasing, even as death comes to the body. A primary human obligation that prompts us to conscious thought and action, the reward of mastery of the self is the goal that is sought for, as fleeting as that prospect may be.

Far from a master on this path, I have found myself developing this ability to relate to others with a mind that has descended to the heart. A teacher of this spiritual wisdom that I have encountered through my exploration and experiences of life, I am continually reminding myself to afford others the same dignity in awakening to their spiritual self. Being what others had afforded me in my journeying, it is what I must reciprocate, for I know that there is no meaningful education when a student is resistant to learning.

On many occasions, with family and friends especially, I have had to fight the temptation to impose my learnings on others. Wanting to impart these lessons for their benefit, I have needed to temper my expression in circumstances where an open and honest assessment of their situation would not only have been unwelcomed, but greeted with open hostility. The reality is that people will not change in response to something we put forward, if they are not open to evolving themselves.

No matter who we are or where we find ourselves, we are better served by practicing humility rather than righteousness. So often righteousness wears the mask of piety, so we have to make sure that the place we are coming from is adding strength to others, and not only to ourselves at their expense. When we are humble, we are less threatening to those who are finding their way to a more authentic life. Requiring someone to open up to, they will gravitate to someone in whose company they don’t feel judged. Judgment always precedes an attack in one form or another. If we are not to harm those who we wish to help, we should not judge them. Instead, we should empathise with what they are going through, and by so doing relate to them. Their story is our story, if we care to listen.

The art of empowerment is walking alongside others, and cultivating the space for them to find themselves and their course. The best leaders instinctively know this, and they don’t resort to asserting authority to resolve issues. With the conscious understanding that others are an extension of the life force that we are, comes greater relational acuity and acceptance. Give others the time and space to learn their lessons without the pressure of having to do so on our terms. Our task is to love, not impose ourselves upon, those who walk with us in spirit.

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The Perils of Imposition (Part 1)

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We live in a world where many people have trouble with hearing the word ‘no’. Wanting the validation that comes with being listened to, they often go about finding this validation in the wrong ways. Not believing that other people will listen to them willingly, those who are desperate to have their voices heard, will try to impose themselves on others, whether by emotional, verbal or physical means. Set on having their views accepted, they resort to intimidation and force, which can only ever lead to a win-lose or mutually detrimental outcome.

No matter how hard anybody might try, they cannot bully another into accepting their position. Either a person will accept a position willingly, or not at all. Resentment is a mighty barrier to acceptance. Stirring it up in those whom we try to control, their resistance will be all the more intense. Fostering hostility with our unwelcome imposition, we receive it back in equal or greater amounts from those whose boundaries we have violated by our righteous and indulgent actions.

As human beings, we value our free-will. Exercising it, we feel in control of our lives, and that makes us feel competent and secure. Having this treasure chest of possibilities threatened by an intruder, it is only normal that we will rebel in response to their attack. With this gift of free-will being such a crucial component of our very existence, it is not something that we can just surrender, especially in the face of someone who is attempting to rob us of it.

In this context, what is sought to be taken, is better earned. What this means in terms of being listened to, is first listening to what others have to say in the absence of judgment. A primary need that we have as human beings is to be accepted. To be accepted is to feel that we are seen, heard and valued. It is to understand that we matter, are worthy of respect, and that we have something meaningful to offer to the world.

People communicate who they are in many ways, with words being one of the prime instruments of expression. Being open to receiving them, when they are moving from someone who is opening up to us, a connection can be created, which in its willing embrace satisfies the fundamental need that each party has to be accepted. To be open and giving of our attention, requires us to first and foremost listen to what others are attempting to tell us. Practicing this important and selfless skill that gives others the podium, we are presented with the opportunity to see and acknowledge those others for who they truly are.

As John C. Maxwell points out, people do not care how much we know, until they know how much we care. To genuinely demonstrate care for another, we must drop the ego in the moments that they call us to presence. Wanting to establish a connection, and have them receive what we have to give, we must engage graciously and generously from the spirit, not belligerently from the ego. From this, we can see what separates the person who is welcomed into our world, from the one who is denied without hesitation.

In so many of our interactions, the barrier that we encounter is not erected by the other person, but by our own mind. Coming from the realm of the self-centric ego that is always concerned with being right and justifying its own position, we create a divide between ourselves and others when we orient these interactions around gaining acceptance, rather than giving of our acceptance.

Focusing on ourselves and not on other people, we neglect their needs to give priority to our own. A violation of the universal law of reciprocity, it produces disharmony and a reduced willingness in others, to give or share anything of substance. Put on alert as to our attempt to exploit, their ego defences are activated and a battle ensues. Not ending until one of the participants gets their way, these are hollow victories that come at the expense of our shared respect and dignity.

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