The Curse of Envy (Part 1)

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To be jealous of another is to want what they have in material terms. Whether it is looks, money, a position of power or more possessions, each of us have experienced the pangs of envy and dissatisfaction that arise within when we see someone who has something that we desire for ourselves. Wanting that which they have, we might curse them out aloud or secretly under our breath, and hope that some challenging times come to befall them, so that they are brought back to a position that sits more comfortably with us.

In feeling this way, our ego don’t want anyone to be ahead of or above us because on the terms by which it measures it worth, that would make them better than we are and more successful in the eyes of others. This motivates the ego to move out into the world and hang its hat on something that testifies to its specialness. Needing to be held in the highest esteem, the ego craves that which is valued highly by others in the physical world because what it desires above all else is the acceptance of those others. But what it seeks is not true acceptance that is unconditional in spirit, but rather a conditional acceptance that depends on having more than others, being more powerful than others, and being more well liked than others.

You would have encountered particular individuals who are always in competition with others around them when it comes to earnings, cars, houses, clothes, labels, positions and other status symbols. Not wanting to be outdone in the validation that they derive from these superficial pursuits, these people often go to great lengths to show that they are more important than you because their very sense of identity depends so much on it. Being effectively addicted to that recognition and approval, they receive an artificial boost to their self-esteem and pride when the unconscious eyes of the world annoint them as an ideal to strive for.

Feeling superior because of the envy that they arouse within others, the compromise that they are making is the diminution of the life force in their daily movements. Being always concerned with the next acquisition, the next conquest, what others have, and the state of their reputation, what escapes them is the conscious awareness that what matters most of all is the condition of the spiritual heart that is unattached to the source of envy, or the objects that it pursues.

As the very source of material abundance, the spirit is in no need of what others have, and with the contentment that we feel in its presence, we can embody the wisdom of eschewing artificial comparisons which detract from the honouring of our own authentic path. Being preoccupied with the appearance of duality that has us turn against others in envy, guarantees that we will not experience the peace that comes when we can take others as they are and not have to rely upon them for validation of our ego identity.

In the confines of ego, what doesn’t ultimately matter appears to be the be all and end all of our existence, and when our awareness becomes stuck on only that which it allows us to see, what goes unappreciated are the multitude of gifts which are already possess that we should be grateful for. Nobody really knows what is going on in the lives of those who we envy, and in our unconsciousness we naively assume that the grass is greener on the other side of the Joneses fence.

But what if we were to shift this point of perception and identify with the truth that the means of living our best life reside squarely on the side of the fence in which we now live. Such a shift would surely take the blustering wind out of the ego’s sails and put us back on the path to a life of significance and meaning, where the cultivation of our inner garden, and giving to the world of its blossoming fruits, becomes the priority. Here, I will share the story that prompted this realisation within myself and set me on the journey to envy-free living.

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Tempted to Prosper

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Recently, I have been thinking about what it means to be tempted. To me, temptation is that which appears before us to test the strength of our character, and the intention to evolve into the best version of ourselves. Presenting us with forceful choices of action, we can either choose to indulge the flaws in our character, or take a growthful step forward. Whatever we choose to do in those moments, we can learn a lot about ourselves, and how we are progressing along the path to becoming the person that we aspire to be. This is why I believe that temptation is a valuable thing. So why then is it so often demonised as being something to be staunchly avoided?

Here, my thoughts turn to the part of the Lord’s Prayer which reads, ‘lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil’. When I read this passage, I can’t help but think that the person who wrote it didn’t much trust their ability to make sound choices. This I can understand, for none of us have perfect faith in our ability to make right decisions all of the time. But does that mean that we should be apprehended by fear in these decisive moments. Absolutely not!

The feeling of fear leads us to make poor decisions. Weakening our resolve to act courageously, we find ourselves retreating into our shell, rather than doing what we know to be right in the situation. When a temptation is present, this is the opportunity that we take to give into it. Being the most comfortable choice, it is also the one that we do not prosper from.

How we prosper is by being tested. Having the same potential to hold firm as we do to fold, our strength is as accessible as our weakness if that is what we choose to evoke within ourselves. Every time that we say ‘no’ to something that we would previously have surely said ‘yes’ to, we triumph. Being a little win that builds our spiritual muscles, it is the cumulative effect of these victories over ego which allows our spirit to shine forth and guide us in our actualisation.

The more that we forgo in the way of temptation, the more that we grow as human beings. If choosing to resist temptation was easy, we would always do it, but the reality is that we have our work cut out. For most of us, we find this exercise of resistance to be very difficult. This does not make us bad or weak people, it merely tells us that we have more important work to do on ourselves.

Having to refine our character in order to evolve individually and collectively, the temptations that we encounter are actually gifts, when they are viewed from a spiritual perspective. The benevolent universe is always providing us with opportunities to become more of who we essentially are. The problem is that because we want the easy path to a pleasurable life, we don’t see these temptations in this way. Seeing them instead as guilt laden obstacles to that end, this explains why we would much prefer to flee from temptation, or mindlessly indulge their objects, rather than consciously confronting them to learn what they have to teach.

In many ways, we want to be like the quasi-spiritual recluse who lives in a mountain cave isolated from the world. Having removed themselves from the tensions of society and its accompanying temptations, they may appear noble in their pursuit of happiness, but that can be a cover for a deeper reality that they are not yet ready to confront and are running from. While fear and apathy can wear a convincing mask, that mask cannot obscure the truth that our resistance to struggle only worsens that struggle.

The most beautiful diamonds are often those that were the roughest before they were cut into form. Like these diamonds, our inherent treasure is revealed in the process of refinement. The more that we allow ourselves to reflect the image of spirit, the less we will fear facing temptation. With greater courage comes wiser decision making, and the insight to understand that temptation is not a necessary evil, just necessary, if we are to fully flourish.

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Reaching Down the Well (Part 2)

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Often it is the case that those who have suffered the most in life, possess the greatest ability to empathise with others. Having run the gauntlet of their own painful experiences to evolve into a better version of themselves, their gift to others is that they can help them to navigate their way through a storm. Learning their essential lessons in the darkness of night, no one is as qualified as they are to point the way to a new dawn.

When I think about the hardest moments of my life, the people who made the greatest difference to my frame of mind and the strength of my spirit, were those who had struggled in similar ways and made it through to share their story with me. Being blessed with clarity, compassion and solidarity as a result of their triumph, I was able to receive their wisdom and bring myself to a higher place. Open to being saved, my process of healing was allowed to take place, and I grew considerably because of their generous influence. Requiring me to humbly listen and not resist their helping hands, I also learned through these experiences that self-reliance can be built through these expressions of empathy to replace the dependence that sympathy can foster.

Sympathy, for a lot of people, can be addictive. Being locked in a victim mindset, these individuals don’t really want to be liberated from their pain, even though they may say things to the contrary. Receiving the devoted attention of sympathetic ears, this constitutes the payoff that keeps them stuck in the powerless cycle of complaining about the negative experiences of their life, and doing nothing to change the effect that it has on them moving forward. Being ultimately what their ego wants, we do these people no favours when we enable this behaviour. Giving them unconscious permission to stay stuck, we do not express genuine love towards them, but a selfish or naïve resignation to their self-imposed plight.

Some of these sympathetic ears play this game without being aware that a game is going on, while others play the game intentionally to build their self-image. Wanting to be seen as good people who care about others, they take the meek step of enabling without offering much, for fear of not being embraced by those whose facades they assist in maintaining. Craving that acceptance, and liking the power that the role of sympathetic listener affords them, they are reluctant to exert ‘tough love’ as a means of ending the game that the ego is instigating.

Only can healing be facilitated in the light of truth. In essence, this is what tough love facilitates. Calling out the game for what it is, allows the real cause of the other person’s problems to be addressed with empathy. The willingness to engage on these terms requires a strong person who has the best interests of the other person at heart. Radiating this genuine intention, the defences of the confronted will eventually drop, despite the resistance that is initially offered. Empathy greases the wheel in this process of surrender, and disrupts the inertia that produces as much misery as it does comfort.

No matter who we are or what we have gone through in the past, it is our duty to individually and collectively evolve in the consciousness of spirit. Having experienced our own suffering, we cannot let this close us off, and shut other people out. Each of us needs this most essential of connections with other people. By expressing solidarity, born out of genuine empathy, we can make great strides in bridging the gap that leads us to feel so isolated and independent of each other.

Empathy is love’s gift to another. Being something that we are called to bring forth in this interdependent world, ask yourself this day how you can best become a conduit for empathy. There will be no shortage of opportunities to drop into the well, the rope that will be another’s hope for salvation, so preserve your strength as the spirit preserves you in the liberating depths of your being.

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Reaching Down the Well (Part 1)

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If someone that you loved had fallen down a well, what would you do to rescue them? Would you call for help and wait with them, offering words of encouragement until the emergency services arrived, or would you take more of a participatory role in the rescue, and go and find a rope or other object that you could use to hoist them out of the hole? Regardless of which one of these approaches you favoured, one thing that you would probably not do is jump into the well to be with them. Taking that course of action, you would not be able to help them much. Being just as stuck as they are, you would also require the assistance of skilled helpers before you and your loved one could be returned safely to the surface.

Having become a complicating factor in your loved one’s predicament, you have not really done the right thing by them, even though your intentions may have been good. Better would they have been served, if you remained in a position of strength and perspective at the mouth of the well. Being then able to use your solid footing for their benefit, the opportunity is preserved for your loved one to rise up and beyond the circumstances that previously immobilised and isolated them.

By using your empathy to grab their hand and pull them to freedom, they reap a type of reward that sympathy by itself cannot deliver. Despite being often confused for each other, empathy and sympathy are not the same thing. While the latter focuses on the expression of care towards another’s unfortunate circumstances, empathy centres on being there with that other and walking in their shoes. While this can be extraordinarily difficult sometimes if we have not experienced what that other person has, we possess the inherent capacity to open our heart in the spirit of solidarity. Doing this to express unconditional love, understanding and support, we can lend others our strength, hope and resilience, and help them to keep going in times of weakness or suffering.

Like the saviour who throws down a rope and pulls their loved one from the well, we help others to heal their hurts when we are present to authentically listen to what they are going through, and the need that they have to not be lonely in their suffering. By holding their hand and letting them know that we will walk with them on their journey, we do more than just saying that everything will be okay, apologising for their loss, or expressing our own grief.

Each of these expressions of sympathy, while serving their own purpose, do not genuinely allow us to meet the other person where they are. When we express our own grief, we make ourselves, not the other person, the focus of the moment. Similarly, when we apologise to someone for something that has happened to them, we stop short of understanding what the other person has gone through, preferring instead to verbalise the effect that their experience has had upon us. Incapable of validating where they sit in this respect, we languish at the bottom of the well with them, powerless to assist with our true source of strength, wisdom and love.

It is very easy to indulge the negative emotions that another is experiencing in their life. What is more difficult is getting behind the negative feelings to see the real person, and being consciously willing to give of your true nature to connect with them at that deep spiritual level. Requiring courage, honesty and selflessness, many in the world struggle to be this vulnerable in the company of others. Not having reconciled their own hurts and faced their own fears, they are limited in their ability to give of the nourishing and healing force of love that is their essence. Blinded by the defences of ego to believe in their own lovelessness, what is left obscure in their recognition is the inescapable connection that binds the wounded with the healer. Being dual roles that are played out by the integrated soul, that gift of gold is only received once we dive deep into the well of our very being. Having rescued ourselves along this journey, the treasure that was received can then be gifted for the restorative benefit of others.

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The One You Are With

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Very recently, I read an interesting book in which the author made the statement that the most important person in your life is the one who you are with in this moment. Contemplating the meaning of this perspective, it is a really profound point that the author is making. With the entire fabric of the world’s workings being built on relationships, it is the quality of those relationships that ultimately determine the quality of our lives and the functional wellbeing of the world at large.

How often is it the case where we are not really present to give the best of who we are to the ones who we are with? Being too wrapped up in our own thoughts and the goings on in the other areas of our lives, we erect a series of barriers that prevent meaningful connections being made in the present. Insulating ourselves in the depths of the mind, we never really open up to give of our greatest gifts, or receive these gifts from others. Relating unconsciously in this way, we exclude our heart from this most essential process. With the heart being the vessel which nourishes and sustains our relationships, it is what we must engage if we are to decipher a deeper meaning to these human connections.

Always is the beauty that is inherent in life magnified when we have in front of us someone who resonates with the spiritual impulses of the world. Being capable of sharing our admiration for things unseen, so are the things which are seen appreciated to a greater degree through the awareness that pulsates in unison with that present other. Constituting the conscious movement which brings richness to these interactions, it is the space created by this transformative shift that allows us to relate in the absence of ego, and meet others where they long to be.

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine named Richard, and he conveyed something that is very pertinent to this topic. Discussing matters related to our social lives, he passed on his philosophy of being there with and for the people who are not only invited to attend a social gathering, but who actually show up to celebrate that occasion. Resonating with his message, I thought of the times in my own life when I had struggled to move past the fact that people who I thought to be friends were not there for me when I wanted them to be.

Having invited them to attend an important occasion, perhaps they didn’t attend despite promising that they would be there, or maybe it was the case that they didn’t even acknowledge the occasion at all. These things have happened to each of us at one time or another, and it is just a part of life that some people will be thoughtless or flaky in these situations for whatever reason.

My shortcoming in this respect was similar to that of many others. Unable to move past what we perceive to be a slight against our ego, we are not fully engaged or connected to the ones who are actually there with us in the moment. With the gift of their presence offering us the opportunity to let go of what is beyond our ability to control, we would do well not to resist against their lesson to be here for them now.

It has been said that every moment is a gateway to inspired learning and teaching. Having learnt this lesson, I now feel compelled to offer this teaching to others. This present moment is no small thing in the context of our relationships, and before we can truly love our neighbour, we must come to the moment with the presence which makes love possible. Seeing them for who they essentially are in the light of consciousness, the chasms that separate us in relationship will be bridged. Such is the uniting power of those who have subjugated the dualities of the ego to let live the oneness of the human spirit.

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Obituary Therapy

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What will others say about you when you die? What will be their lasting memories of you as a person? Will they say that you were honest and considerate, or unpleasant and self-absorbed? Will they remember you as being loving and grounded, or as a tempestuous bundle of negativity that soiled the joy of others?

These end of life questions are confronting to contemplate. Being ordinarily reluctant to give much thought to our own death, we would much rather use our time to pursue our base desires and egocentric ideals. Living our lives on a metaphorical set of train tracks, we indulge the habit of busying ourselves so that we can avoid having to look up and acknowledge the train that is approaching on the horizon. With our denial being no barrier to its inevitable arrival, we would be better served by courageously facing and accepting that we will die, and consciously using the potent energy which emerges from that realization to create a legacy that the world will benefit from when we depart from this life.

One of the ways that we can infuse a sense of purpose and meaning into our lives in the present moment, is to write our own obituary. Being a summation of the legacy that we will leave behind, its crafting can direct a powerful course for how we live our lives now. Needing to be written at some time in the future, we may as well take an active role in the process, and have it reflect who we aspire to be while we are still living.

When we live unconsciously in the world, we are often blind to the effect that we are having on the lives of others. Absorbed in our own ego centred existence, we seldom enrich the lives of others, and often we leave them worse off for having encountered us. I don’t know about you, but when I die, I want to be remembered as having made a hugely positive impact in the world. When others hear my name, I want them to think fondly of their experience of me, and share stories of how I may have inspired or encouraged them to be all that they were created to be.

If you are really honest with yourself, I would guess that you want to leave the same mark. At a deep spiritual level, I believe that we all want to serve the world with the essence of who we are, and leave it, in some part, a better place than when we entered it. The good news is that this is well within our ability to achieve. Starting this day, we can begin to build our legacy consciously, and in the process add great spiritual power to it.

If you want to be remembered as someone who gave much to others, do something today, whether large or small, to fill a need that someone else has. If you want others to smile at the thought of you, then make someone laugh with your light-hearted humour. If you want to have the benefit of your learning and experience live on, then impart those lessons to those who are looking for some guidance. If you want to create something that will improve the human condition, start now so that others may enjoy the fruit of your blessed ingenuity sooner rather than later.

What we do right here and right now matters in evolving consciousness. With every breath, thought and action, we are shaping the future of generations to come. Your children, my children, are all members of a divine community that longs to unfold and prosper from the manifestation of your calling. Bring this to mind when you are tempted to believe that what you are currently doing does not matter in absolute terms.

Everything that we do and don’t do leaves its mark, even if we cannot see the ripple in eternity that we are making. Have that ripple reverberate in the realm of consciousness that is evolving. Deny no one the magnificence born of your authentic self-expression. Embody that in your statement of remembrance, and work backwards so that together we can move forward in the light that your inspired being represents. The past has power if it enables progress. Death has power if it sobers us to the reality that this moment matters more than the ignorance born of fear would have us believe. The Stoics had the right idea when they advised us to meditate on death so that we may fully live. Death is not just the partner of life. It nourishes it as well. Let you be an instrument through which this wisdom is known to the world.

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Dying for an Outlet

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To really thrive in life, we must find constructive outlets for authentic self-expression. These outlets may centre on the arts, forms of dance, the home/workplace, or another domain where we allow the essence of who we are to flow into and shape the world. Connecting to our deepest joy when we engage in these liberating endeavours, we also become a source of inspiration to others in these domains who yearn to live in oneness with their spiritual source of being. Freeing their hearts and minds to contemplate new horizons, this process explains why we are so often moved by an extraordinary piece of art, or a sublime theatrical performance. Each of these creative expressions were born of great love, vulnerability and diligence, and in them we see something that is manifestly beautiful and worth cherishing in the world. Having this effect on us, we are gripped by the powerful energy of inspiration. Defined as an internal response that our spirit has to an articulation of spirit centred energy in the world, it is what immeasurably enriches our experience of life and provides the impetus for a realignment of our energy towards the calling which we were given life to bring forth.

Why I was inspired to write about self-expression here is because of an article about the Dead Sea that I came across recently. Striking me as a metaphor for this core human need, the dynamics of this natural wonder provide us with important learnings about who we are, and what we have been given life to fulfil.

The Dead Sea is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Middle East. Not a true sea by definition, it is rather a land locked lake that is located between Jordan and Israel. From the north, the waters of the River Jordan flow in, but because the Dead Sea has no outlet, the water becomes trapped and starts to stagnate. For this reason, no animals or vegetation can exist in its depths.

Year after year, thousands of people visit the site to float in its waters. Having the highest rate of salinity and buoyancy of any body of water in the world, its novelty is offset by the fact that when these tourists leave the water, not even those who they love would want to go within five feet of them. This is because the water from the sea is putrid and absolutely reeks. Requiring a long and strong shower to remove, its mark is slow to leave, as should be the lesson that we prosper as we become a conduit of spirit, and allow its energy to flow through us unimpeded by the impulses of ego.

I think it to be rather apt that of all the things that this body of water could have been called, it was named the ‘Dead’ sea. In our own journeys, we die to a degree in every moment that we withhold the fruit of our essence from the world. Whatever form this fruit may take, it cannot bear other fruit unless we love ourselves and the world enough to give it the best of what we have. In using the word ‘best’ here, I essentially mean living in harmony with our true self. When we can bring about this integrity within ourselves, we open up channels of consciousness that are very powerful in their abilities. Delivering much of real world and spiritual value as a reciprocal energy, perhaps their most precious gift is that they allow us to truly know ourselves in relation to the world. With this insight, our most meaningful legacy can be crafted in stone, or in my case, on paper.

What I write about here is reflected for me in my writing. Being the space where I find my ultimate purpose and fulfilment, I know that I must stay faithful to the habit of writing so that the inspiration which produces and infuses it, does not dry up to diminish my offering to the world. In the past I have observed that when I have allowed fear, doubt or apathy to distract me from my duty, the inevitable outcome was for me to float adrift in my own stagnant sea of meaninglessness. A life without writing would be like a death to me, devoid of growth and the opportunity to give expression to my calling.

In each of us, we have much to be expressed that is both beautiful and profound. Awakening to this truth, our greatest gifts can flow through us, as water does in the most fluid of rivers to bring new life to a realm that extends beyond its bounds.

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