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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The Price of Truth (Part 4)

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I know that on my own journey, trusting in my spirit, or intuition, has never set me on a bad path. While some of the trials and learnings on this path may have been painful at times, in hindsight I can see the higher purpose that these events served as prompts to my evolution. Our spirit knows better than our ego identity what we need in order to manifest our highest potential. The question is, will we trust in this voice of intuition, and allow it to have greater influence over how we live our lives.

If you look more closely at the word ‘intuition’, you will see that it means to receive tuition from within. As creations and extensions of God on the physical plane, each of us are eternally connected to this spiritual source of life. Anchoring our being for the duration of our worldly life, this internal voice of spirit never leaves us, despite our staunch resistance to its wisdom and promptings. Thus, in every moment of life, we have unencumbered access to this guiding presence of truth, if we choose to humbly align ourselves with it.

By making this choice to align ourselves with the internal presence of truth, we are infused with a tremendous amount of confidence, that we otherwise would not possess if we were functioning from the realm of ego. This confidence comes from the clarity that we gain about who we are in relationship to spirit, and what our purpose is in terms of a calling. With this firm foundation in place, we move in the world with a conscious knowing that regardless of what befalls us, in this union with God we are equipped with the inner resources to overcome these challenges, and ascend to the highest form of life possible. Over time, if we can steadfastly nurture and grow this spiritual connection, our confidence morphs into a conviction that is enduring and unshakeable.

All of the people that we revere from history and hold up as icons had this transcendent quality. Unequivocal in their knowing of what their calling was, they were committed with the fullness of their being to make manifest the spiritual virtues that they recognized as being reflective of truth. Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela in their dogged pursuit of racial and societal justice. Mother Teresa advocating for the poor and marginalized and the upholding of their essential human dignity. Winston Churchill with the courage and unflinching determination to stare an intimidating evil in the face so that freedom and goodness could prevail in the aftermath of World War Two.

Unfortunately, amongst modern day leaders (political and business leaders especially), this quality of conviction is too often seen to be missing. In the effort to appease and maintain the approval of stakeholders in their sphere of influence, these leaders don’t give a true account of themselves and they base decisions on watered down values, where the justification for these actions are unpalatable to their core audience. This is why there is such a lack of trust in the leaders of today. The foundation of truth that anchors integrity at the spiritual level has been compromised by their inauthenticity, which breeds doubt, in both those who lead and those who follow.

In the presence of doubt, the strength of our character is significantly eroded to display the ego consciousness that we are living from. Because the ego insists that it represents truth, but is blind to its own falsehood, credibility is lost in that void of unawareness. In unconsciousness, we will refuse to acknowledge the presence of doubt in order to perpetuate the aura of competence and knowledgeability, but despite our denials, others cannot help but sense the real disconnect that we have from both of those qualities and our true selves. This explains the reluctance that many people have to following so called leaders who have this deficit in confidence, and are therefore unable to face what they do not know. Being unwilling to first face the truth of their own existence as an embodiment of spirit, the inability to acknowledge the scope of their shortcomings is a natural extension of this unconsciousness.

Before we can start to take steps to solidify the ground on which we walk, we must acknowledge to ourselves that the truth is us, a cardinal virtue of the human being. Despite what we may have been taught by cynical observers of the human condition, this virtue of truth is not to be discovered out in the world as one might find a valuable chest of antiques. With this innate power comes a great responsibility to embody it for the purposes of cultivating goodness in the world. Exacting a significant price that will challenge our commitment to be ourselves and live our calling, the truth centered life will also reward us in priceless ways that the instrumentalities of the world cannot measure. Chief among these is the gratitude for being given the keys to our own awakening.

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The Price of Truth (Part 3)

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When we consistently allow ourselves to be taken and shaped by these fabricated messages, the balance of our being tips away from truth and towards the falsehood in which the ego thrives and its identity is reinforced. In this insidious process, we slowly lose our connection to spirit and our ability to discern its truths and live with wisdom. The commonly used phrase ‘ego trip’ aptly describes this illusory journey, where one is living in a self-centered bubble that is not aligned with reality. Like the proverbial frog in the slowly boiling water, this condition of unconsciousness gradually builds over time through each thought, decision and action that we take in the company of this shadow self.

The journey to bursting this bubble or emerging from the shadows begins with the onset of disillusionment. To be disillusioned is to experience the illusion of falsehood breaking down around us to reveal the essence of life that is grounded in truth. Why then does the word ‘disillusionment’ carry such negative connotations, as in, the condition of my life is bad because I am disillusioned with it? The answer here is that our ego has a problem with anything that challenges the identity that it has constructed, for fear that the beliefs that it has conditioned us with, will be questioned and found to be wanting under the light of truth which can no longer be denied.

This is why we often indulge the habit of running from those things that unsettle the status quo of our lives. We find comfort in the solidity of the ego identity that we have already formed and are familiar with. Falsehood also loves this static fixedness and the accompanying reluctance to grow and evolve, for it knows that when we move to grow, truth will move to reveal itself to us. It is imperative then for the truth seeker to overcome the inertia of indifference to this higher form of life that is guided by truth, which the ego has convinced us is the less satisfying and prosperous path.

This lie of the ego is one of many examples that implicate it as the purveyor of falsehood. The well known maxim that ‘the truth will set you free’ holds water in our lives because we have each experienced the reality of that claim personally. To prosper is to be free in mind and spirit, and to affect an integral alignment of these facets of being through awareness, which is the medium through which truth is recognized. As decorated former US SEAL commander Jocko Willink puts forward, discipline which is exercised is freedom that is gained.

As this pertains to awareness being a bridge to truth, we must discipline ourselves to cultivate presence in our lives through spiritual practices such as meditation, reflection and prayer. These rituals, which liberate us from living reactively in ego consciousness, create the space that is needed for truth to be recognized as it wells up from our deeper consciousness. Quieting the noise that disorients our intuition and leads us to doubt our ability to connect with anything beyond our conditioned beliefs, the path to knowing reveals itself to us, the humbled who are available. Now being receptive to the invitation of spirit that has always been open to us, the journey to actualization can begin to take form.

The experience of adversity or tragedy can also play an important role in making us receptive to the presence of spirit and truth in our lives. Events such as the death of a loved one, the breakdown of a cherished relationship, or the onset of a serious physical illness are jarring to our consciousness, and the pain associated with these happenings force us to reach beyond the ego as a means of relating to, and coping with, the situation, and lean on the pillars of our true spiritual identity for solace and strength. As novelist J.K. Rowling, of Harry Potter fame, so eloquently conveys, ‘Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life’. In Rowling’s experience, it was an unbearable period of financial struggle and poverty that set her on the true path of her life’s work, from which she has greatly prospered.

Were it not for her courage to follow her calling, her life would have continued to be defined by the false narrative that poverty was her lot to be endured. Challenging these false narratives, particularly when we are vulnerable to external circumstances, is a difficult task. Requiring us to trust in the benevolent spiritual force of life which underpins our material existence, it is an implicit acceptance of its truth that enables such acts of faith to be taken. In this, trust and truth work hand in hand as facilitators of our flourishing.

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The Price of Truth (Part 2)

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While this path of being a leading source of inspiration to others by living in truth, earns one the respect and adulation of their followers, it is not without its perils. King, Abraham Lincoln and Mahatma Gandhi, along with many others, paid the ultimate price for being vocal agents of truth and consciousness in an unconscious world that wanted to silence them. Even if the consequences that we face are not as severe, in this social media age, the threat of being digitally stoned looms large on these platforms, as a faceless army of trolls eagerly await for any opportunity to unleash their vitriol on others whose perspectives dare to bring their ego-centric beliefs or inclinations into question.

In a largely unconscious world, speaking the truth is difficult. It challenges people at the most fundamental level, and when these people are unwilling to be challenged, their ego will prompt them to unmercifully attack the messenger, and discredit the truth as fallacy. We see this at play in religious circles, where institutions that are looking to push a particular agenda, will seek to undermine the more secular and humanistic forms of spirituality that are not dependent on an institutional form for their life and prosperity. In the face of this intense opposition, it takes a great amount of courage, commitment, perseverance and selflessness to stay the course and achieve lasting progress. I say selflessness because no matter how difficult it becomes in being the messenger that others seek to discredit, the higher aim is to make conditions better for the people who will come after you, even if these outcomes are not realized in the course of your lifetime.

In his marvelous book, Truth v Falsehood, Dr David Hawkins makes the point that levels of truth parallel levels of consciousness in the world. What this means in effect is that for truth to be known in the world, we must express it through the evolution of our being. In the foremost religious traditions, the great prophets are seen to be embodiments of truth. To Christians, Jesus is the truth and the light, and if you were to ask Muslims, they would say that their truth and light is Muhammad. Despite these claims, the question remains whether truth can be centralized in these particular individuals or amongst groups of people who choose to follow them. From my extensive research and personal reflections on the matter, I do not think that is the case. With truth being a manifestation of the consciousness that is life, the potential to express truth cannot be separated or localized because it is inherent in every living person whom God has gifted with life.

So many of the world’s most pervasive problems have been created by groups of people who have sought to monopolize truth for their own righteous ends. In the context of religion, these groups, who identify with a particular avatar or spiritual leader, will insist that the road they are on is the one true path, and that the roads which every other group are on are misguided. Taking this egocentric zero sum perspective towards truth, power struggles and conflict inevitably ensue as each group sees the other groups positions as morally inferior and a threat to their existence. Amidst this defensive close-mindedness, what has been forgotten is that the mind that seeks to know truth to the exclusion of the spiritual heart can only ever be acquainted with the various forms of falsehood.

The many stories of terrorists who commit heinous acts against their fellow human beings for the cause of bringing glory to God is a clear form of this fallacious thinking that is completely divorced from the deeper spiritual wisdom of the golden rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you). In acting to exploit a distorted form of truth for ideological purposes, real truth eludes these charlatans because they are motivated by egocentric considerations. With this, it is important to understand that the ego can’t just let truth be. Being the source of its ultimate demise, the ego’s only hope of survival is to distort the truth to such an extent that a vulnerably conditioned mind might accept these distortions as reality.

Needing to circumvent the spiritual heart to succeed in this process, this is why the ego plays on the weaknesses of mind and character as a means of controlling behavior in others. Our fears, anxieties and insecurities are all fair game to the ego in achieving this objective. As an example, a significant number of the goods that we consume on a daily basis have been sold to us through advertising campaigns that cleverly use puffery to play upon our vulnerabilities. Buy these clothes to become more appealing to the opposite sex, or get rich with us to solve all of your problems are some of the implicit messages which are delivered by companies that are looking to profit at our expense.

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The Price of Truth (Part 1)

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As human beings, we often have a hard time facing and accepting the truth. Enamored with the mind, and the ego which makes it a conduit for righteousness, we are prone to believing that we have all of the answers. Wanting to maintain the power of this position, we close ourselves off from that which points to a deeper truth inside of us. Settling for these figments of knowledge, we deprive ourselves of the inherent gift of wisdom, which in essence is the embodiment of truth. A manifestation of the spirit, it is this voice of truth which endeavors to speak loudest within us, despite our egoic protestations that we know better than to listen to it. Harming ourselves in this process of denial, we also blind the world to the spirit’s work within us when we suppress the evolutionary movement from falsehood to truth.

Separated from the presence of truth within ourselves, we speak out against, rather than for, that which longs to bring integrity and harmony to our existence. Throughout the course of history, what is first ridiculed is then violently opposed, before being accepted as self evident. Being the journey through which truth must pass in the world, these are the conditions that we have cultivated by our absence of consciousness. Truth leads to freedom and awakening, while falsehood leads to chaos and suffering, both within ourselves and in the outside world. Fracturing that which truth would render whole, it is the repressive nature of the ego that is the enemy of human progress.

When I think about a person who embodied this quality of truth, my mind turns to Dr Martin Luther King. A statesman of great courage, integrity and vision, he fought valiantly, not just for what his mind believed to be just, but for what his heart knew to be right. Trusting this spiritual voice within, and allowing it to guide him in the way that he communicated, led and connected with others, he spoke with clarity, reverence and an inspired authority that transcended the fear, ignorance and hate which consumed and moved from those people who first ridiculed him and then violently opposed his call to end segregation and liberate an oppressed population of African-Americans.

Knowing in his heart that he was an agent for truth in the world, not even an assassin’s bullet could compromise the power of his message. Speaking to the hearts of men, women and children the world over, it was his dream that resonated with their truth. Awakening them to the realization that our spiritual substance is infinitely more important than our physical appearance, it was the spirit speaking through him that opened the hearts and minds of his audience to receive the wisdom of the message, which even transcended King himself. By humbling himself to become a receptacle of this timeless wisdom, its nature has similarly shaped his historical legacy. More than half a century after his death, we do not remember the unconscious individuals who ridiculed and violently opposed him, but only the man who embodied this truth for the world to see.

While prejudice does still exist in the world, we have come a long way in our ability to perceive and honour the uniting presence of spirit in each other, and become inspired in that process. This was evidenced by the election of Barack Obama, America’s first black head of state, whose worldview and presidential objectives were greatly influenced by the work of Dr King.

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Honing Your Focus Through Living Your Calling

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When we get on the path to living our calling, one of the under-appreciated qualities that manifests itself in us is a sharpened sense of focus. Possessing a clarity around who we are at the present stage of our life, and how that relates to, and enables, this authentic journey that we are on, we are better able to give ourselves to the work of our lives, which includes building enriching relationships, improving societal conditions, and evolving into more integrated human beings.

Each of these spirit centered movements find life through the presence that makes focus possible. In its most meaningful sense then, having focus is more than just keeping one’s concentration on a particular happening. Being a holistic state that evokes a more potent form of action, it first requires a depth of engagement that the mind is incapable of achieving by itself.

In his theory of ‘flow’, Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi details how immersing ourselves in a challenging and inherently enjoyable activity, produces a focus that precipitates an experience of this peak state. Being brought about by a spiritual surrender of sorts, this higher form of focus is so rarely achieved by most individuals because they function from the level of ego consciousness, where an inherent divide exists between the experiencing agent and the object of their sought focus.

Being prisoners of this duality paradigm, it presents a significant obstacle to the intimate act of sustaining focus. Just like someone with a commitment phobia will struggle with the concept of fidelity in a relationship, so will we experience a reluctance to bring our work to life, in the same breath that we are defending our independence in the world. In the midst of this ego preservation, our ability to connect with and grow into that which transcends it is compromised. Being the spirit that holds the space for focused efforts to bear fruit, it is this that we trade for the counterfeit treasures that the culture of ego proclaims as its rewards.

Is it any wonder then why fulfilling work, great relationships and thriving communities are an exception rather that the norm. In this scatterbeinged (as distinct from scatterbrained) world that we live in, we aren’t proving capable of focusing on these core things that make for a fulfilling and prosperous life. One of the noticeable qualities that I have observed in people who are discontented with their lives is that they are flighty. Jumping from one thing to another in search of their next dopamine hit, get rich quick opportunity or superficial base of identification, they don’t have an anchored awareness of their spiritual nature, from which a calling can be lived.

When I asked respondents to my doctoral study to provide me with examples of people who were disconnected from their calling, and the characteristics that they demonstrated, this disorientation emerged as a strong theme. While it manifested in a range of self-deluding and destructive behaviors, it was clear from what was being communicated that the source of this turmoil was a lack of abiding purpose and spiritual understanding of where these people fit into the world. Being like boats operating with no rudder, the chances of these individuals being able to steer an effective course in their lives would be slim to none, and without the clarity of destination to focus the efforts needed for their journey, their energy for action would quickly dissipate and degenerate into the realm of hopelessness and self-recrimination.

I also put this forward as a learning from my own personal journey, where I experienced a transformation in my ability to focus, once I got on the path to living my calling as a student and teacher of this spiritual wisdom. Prior to this time when I didn’t have a solid sense of who I was, I would allow myself to get pulled in many different directions and caught up in activities or relationships that were not meaningful to me. As a result, the quality of my lived experience was hollow and lacking a powerful impact. It was only once I got crystal clear on the direction I needed to take that it became easier to say ‘no’ to the things that didn’t resonate with the inner promptings of my spirit. The other related benefit was that my next moves were guided by the intuitive ‘yeses’, which affirmatively and effectively oriented my focus for the present and future.

Perhaps you can recognize periods in your own life which resonate with what I have conveyed here. If so, and your focus has become obscured, reflect on how this relates to the broader path that you are on, and whether you are doing justice to this overriding purpose that you have been given life to fulfill. My guess is that once you hold the sanctity of this calling in your heart and act to bring it into being in the present, the questions surrounding where you should direct your focus will become a thing of the past.

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