The Simple Smile (Part 2)

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I find it to be pretty amazing that something so powerful has been freely given to us by our creator. For so many of us, we have been strongly conditioned to believe that only the things that money can buy have value. Clearly, this is not true. While money allows us to access different things that serve to enrich our experience of life, it cannot buy the joy, peace and contentment, which communicate to the world through our smile that we are harmoniously integrated with the spiritual substance of our being.

Why so many people find it hard to smile is because they are stuck in their own head. Consumed with the past aspects of their lived experience, or focused on the events of the future, they are absent of mind and closed of heart, with the consequence that they cannot perceive the abundance richness that the spirit has infused life with. Everything that surrounds us is a potential source of joyful and conscious awakening, but before we can appreciate this reality, we have to learn to take ourselves and the events of our life less seriously. By this, I am not saying that we should stop caring about the things that mean the most to us, but that we should favour a gentle and light-hearted approach to life that allows us to appreciate its journey as we go along.

The overarching tension that poisons our daily experience of life largely arises from the belief that who we are and what we have in this moment is lacking, and that to be more, we must be continually striving to get more. Subscribing to this distorted paradigm, it is very hard to smile through the stress and strain that have us perpetually resisting against life.

I have encountered many people who are so anxious and uptight because of their ego-centred desire to get ahead in the world. Chasing after those things that money can buy, they take for granted the things in their life that money can’t buy. While there is nothing inherently wrong with achievement and the pursuit of excellence, when these things come at the expense of our ability to appreciate and engage with life, then we have a real problem. Being on the journey of growing into our potential, it is natural that we would enjoy the process.

Why then do people find it hard to express joy during the course of their days? Because they are not being in balance, and are functioning from the disempowered self that is the ego. Habitually forcing the issue, their life energy becomes scattered, as does the joy that is starved of the opportunity to express itself when we live this way. Fleeting in its coming, we experience a greater sense of suffering and loss upon its going.

For the better part of my twenties I knew this too well. Frequently asking myself the question, how can I get more of the things that I want?, I seldom if ever genuinely smiled because I was looking at my life from an impoverished perspective. It was only when I really started to evolve spiritually and mature in my worldview that I developed the capacity to smile for no other reason than I had life, and the opportunity each day to continually become more, just by being who I was created to be. This wisdom is so easy to lose sight of, and we resist against it so mightily.

In one of my previous works, I wrote about small things that make a big difference. Smiling is one of those things when it is an authentic expression of who we are, and the joy that we have to share. Not everyone has the alluring smile of a Jennifer Lawrence or George Clooney, but this doesn’t matter at all. When we heartily smile, we convey a beauty and warmth that is not visible when our face is contorted by vain worries and discontent. This beauty and warmth comes from the soul, the source of our very being that is always open and receptive to life because it is the embodiment of the life force within us.

When we live in harmony with the soul, we will meet life where it is. Flowing with the promptings of our spirit, we bring our best to the world and have a blast in the process. The most ‘successful’ people, in the truest sense of that word, are the most fulfilled people who have connected with the spiritual reservoir of abundance within themselves. Feeling their joy intensely with the intention to infuse the world with it, they give freely of their smiles.

Here, my mind turns to the spirited and adventurous entrepreneur, Richard Branson, who is perpetually smiling. Whenever I see him in the news, he is always sporting a grin that communicates to the world how much fun he is having with his life. While many may think that the smile came with the tremendous wealth that he has accumulated, the truth is that the smile and money both came because he was first engaged with his spirit, and committed to manifesting the calling that he was born with. True wealth comes to those who smile, laugh, love and serve with passion. Relax into a life that is aligned with spirit, and just as a smile is effortless in its expression, so will your contentment and flourishing be amidst the necessary doings of the physical world.


The Simple Smile (Part 1)

A smile is the universal welcome. ~ Max Eastman

Each smile is a gift that one person gives to another, and when they are authentically expressed, they have a way of breaking down the defences of the fearful, stressed and suspicious, by bringing them into conscious contact with their essential nature. The spirit is joyous, carefree and grateful for the opportunity to just be. Living in its light, we find it easy to smile and laugh, not because life is without difficulty, but because our heart is open to being amazed and entertained by the spectacle that life is.

Modern life is not easy going, but we can choose to be. By making the decision to go with the flow of the life force as we encounter it, we add depth to our lived experience and find ourselves capable of connecting with a richer meaning and sense of contentment that ego based thinking and status quo living do not resonate with. When we are resisting against life, we find it very hard to smile. Stuck in the belief that life should present itself in ways that we find agreeable, our efforts consist of vain attempts at control and subsequent relief, when our resistance inevitably bumps up against life’s reality. To this end, the expressions on our faces tell a story of exasperation and bewilderment.

Continually seeking to go somewhere other than where we find ourselves, and feeling the pressure of not getting there fast enough, we cannot bring ourselves to stillness, being the space from which we can delight in our blessings and the natural world that surrounds us. Incapable of being at one with the true source of joy in our life, we ask to be amused and distracted by artificial agents. Holding onto the hope that these dalliances can build the bridge to our integrity, we remain separated from our spirit which teaches that with the present moment comes the ability to express joy in infinite amounts.

Having distanced ourselves from this wisdom, we allow the ego to take us over to the detriment of our well-being and happiness. Conditioned to participate in the rat race, we lose ourselves in the maze, not only of the world but also of the unconscious mind, which under the ego’s tutelage teaches that we cannot enjoy the journey because we have some better place to get to. Oriented towards the future, we see not the vast potential for joy that the present moment holds. This, we had no difficulty appreciating once upon a time, not because we didn’t have the demands of the world on our shoulders, but because we were authentically attuned to the voice of the spirit, and the experience of joy that it was continually calling us into.

As children, we had no difficulty in smiling at random. Living in the moment, it was the expression that came most naturally to us. Finding joy in whatever we were doing, we didn’t need to be invested in anything outside of ourselves because we were fully present in experiencing life as a new adventure. Innately appreciating the novelty of every new day, we couldn’t help but smile at the prospect of learning and growing through our involvement with life. Expressing our silent gratitude through our enthusiastic engagement, we didn’t have to use words to communicate how beautiful we found life to be. Conveyed by the joyful expression on our faces, this was the gift that we gave to those who witnessed our bliss, and attested to our humble wisdom.

Given the choice whether to smile or meet the world with a stone face, what would the conscious individual do? Concerned with elevating the condition of the world through their state of being, they would choose to smile. Our experience shows us that smiling is highly contagious and transformative in its effect. Like yawning, it holds an energy that we pass onto others who we come into contact with. From the metaphysical heart comes the joyous energy that gives birth to a smile and then laughter. Embodying this energy and then transmitting it, we can change the course of others days. What may have begun as a testing day, can quickly turn around because of the simple exposure to a cheerful smile.


The Noblest Aim

‘True nobility is not about being better than anybody else. It is about being better than you used to be.’ ~ Dr. Wayne Dyer

Today, I was reminiscing on a conversation that I had with a relative a number of years ago, during which she was trying to cajole me into watching the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Being what she described enthusiastically as an unmissable event for the ages, I found myself not sharing the sentiment behind her assessment of the event, despite being very happy for this young couple, who were undertaking the next stage of their journey together. Not placing the members of the monarchy on a pedestal as she did, I didn’t have the urge to stop my life for this occasion. Seeing the pomp and ceremonial show for what it truly was, I thought my time would be better spent reading a book that expanded my mind and nourished my soul.

For me, nobility is what we demonstrate when we courageously commit to a worthwhile purpose, and open ourselves to participate in the process of our individual and collective evolution. Led by the spirit to integrate our daily movements with our essential nature, our primary concern is restoring the balance that has been lost since we gave our power away to the ego. By healing the divide between who we were created to be and how we see ourselves and each other, we will collectively come to learn that no hierarchy is legitimate to the extent that it attempts to delineate the worth of people. Having the understanding that nothing separates one person from another in spiritual terms, the cracks in the ego’s characterisation of nobility start to reveal themselves.

To the ego, nobility is centred in titles, their trimmings, and having exclusive access to the material things that it values. Extremely conscious of status and reputation, it labels as noble, the royalty and celebrities of the world, who have the worldly means to exert power and influence over a ‘lesser’ group of people. Invested in the pursuit of hierarchical ‘success’ that has us fixate our attention on the Prince Williams and Kate Middletons who we idolise, the ego pushes us to forever look skyward and exhaust ourselves to move further up its pyramid of life. Promising happiness and fulfilment as the reward for striving to reach the peak, it does not deliver these precious jewels, but only the stress and dissatisfaction that inevitably come when we make our life about who we are better than, and having more to be more in the eyes of others.

True nobility is not concerned with any of these externally oriented ambitions and distractions. Focused instead on cultivating a higher quality of life for all, the highest qualities of the human spirit are given the freedom to grow and synergise with other agents of our collective flourishing. Evolving in union to create an egalitarian world where people are honoured for the essence of who they are, class distinctions would dissolve, and the sense of separation that fuels competition and unjust behaviour would be supplanted by genuine solidarity and collaborative engagement.

In what ways are you now better than you used to be, and how can you prosper the world by the authentic expression of your spiritual nature, irrespective of how others in the world might perceive your contribution? These questions I ask myself when I am tempted by the fruits of worldly power that are so frequently on display. Shifting my attention to the spiritual aspect of my being, I know that the noblest contribution that I can make, will come from that place.

Each and every one of us is born royalty. Thus, we don’t need a coronation, as we have already been given life and our fullness to grow into. Having the opportunity to partake in this evolutionary process, there is nothing more attractive to those spirited souls who are intent on actualising themselves and liberating the world with the love and wisdom that they unearth in fulfilling the noble aim that is their calling.


The Home of Peace

Each of us wants more peace in our life. The problem though is that we often look for it in all the wrong places. Believing for example that the perfect relationship or receiving a monetary windfall will cure our discontent and thus bring harmony to our being, we endow the elements of the external world with a healing power that they don’t possess in reality. Painting over our sorrows temporarily, these illusory remedies cannot hide for long the cracks in our spiritual foundation that prevent us from experiencing an enduring peace in the perpetual present moment.

The only peace that will fill our heart is that which results from aligning our being with spirit. Requiring an integral shift that is supported by daily practices that nourish this peace, such as meditation, visualisation and prayer, the onus is on us to restore balance in our lives, not on the world, that with its egocentricity, is incapable of pointing the way to tranquility.

By embracing this responsibility, we can effectively enter the still space that provides clarity on our identity and purpose. Being at home within ourselves after effecting this shift, we come to learn that our ego-based thought forms are the source of the emotions (fear, anxiety and anger, for example) which deprive us of peace. Giving ourselves distance from their inner workings, we empower ourselves in a way that minimises the deleterious impact that they have on our life. Better able to control their influence on our movements, we have a greater scope to actualise the dimensions of spirit that make for a peaceful world.

Called to be instruments of peace on this planet, we cannot serve this role while living to pursue the selfish objectives of the ego. Opposing peace by the conflict that it stimulates, we stand separated from others and the mutual aspiration to come together, when we are cajoled by the ego’s righteous voice, and act out its frightful fantasies. War, for example, is a larger scale manifestation of ego consciousness. Being the realm where we must fight and overcome an enemy, to strengthen an artificial identity and win the rewards that are validated by a like-minded society, this state of opposition is not conducive to peace at either the individual or collective levels. This more evolved existence can only be realised when we surrender ourselves to a broader knowing that in its wisdom will show us a way to navigate this drama.

Finding our peace by living through spirit, and reconciling the suffering that we have experienced in our life, we can powerfully assist others to do the same. With enough people taking up this responsibility to enrich the quality of their life, we can enrich the quality of all life. Bound together by the fabric of love that becomes visible when we start to view the world with spiritual eyes, this truth is not one that the mind alone can acquaint itself with. Cultivating this conscious awareness, we do not have to act impulsively in a way that is likely to bring harm to the world. Stopping to consult the spirit through stillness, and assessing our intentions against its wisdom, we will act in a way that makes us a potent instrument of peace in a fractured world.

Not straying into the realm of temptation as the ego would have us do, our peaceful and loving energy is not dissipated by engaging in fruitless endeavours. Harnessed rather in perpetuating the life of the spirit, we become invigorated and more capable of dealing with life’s challenges, when we have within a safe harbour that the ego’s fleet is incapable of attacking. This is the home of peace; the defenceless realm of strength.


Wisdom without the Grey Hair

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“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” ~ Abraham Lincoln.

It was once said that wisdom comes with age, but I very much doubt that this is true. In my short time on this planet, I have encountered enough ignorant and egocentric people to understand that these two unflattering character traits do not discriminate on the basis of age, which after all is just a numerical label which fails to get at the heart of who we are, and what we are capable of expressing at any moment in time. Wisdom, in this respect, emerges from a realm that is deeper than the physical stage of life that we occupy. In essence, this source of wisdom is the spiritual basis of life, and by living in a way that aligns with spirit, we will be capable of embodying wisdom in tangible ways. Even children, who often do a better job of remaining true to their essence, can be great teachers of wisdom if we care to be receptive to their lessons.

Being inclined to believe that old age holds the answer to life’s problems, we assume that learning is automatic, when in actuality it is not. Learning is a choice and it will be something that we naturally gravitate to when we allow our innate curiosity to take hold. On this point, one of the prominent findings from my research was that individuals who are living their calling and aligned with their spirit in that process demonstrated the trait of continuous learning. An intrinsic part of life is the learning opportunities that it affords, but ultimately the decision of whether we learn or not is up to us.

Possessed of the free will to evolve and allow wisdom to move through us, it is not a given that we will choose to embody it at any time, let alone in old age. While it is nice to think that we grow more receptive to learning the older that we get, it is just not true. Often, the older people that we encounter are stubborn and rigid to the point where they find it difficult to entertain the possibility that someone who is younger in years is acquainted with a truth/truths that they have not encountered yet. Themselves victims of this ‘wisdom comes with age’ fallacy, it is the comforting position that they adopt under the direction of the frail ego, which prefers to believe that which affirms its own righteous identity, and not expose the agent to a learning situation that would require them to be truly vulnerable.

Learning requires great courage and humility (also qualities that my research found are emblematic of spirit), and if we don’t allow these virtues to guide our evolution, then we will find ourselves living in old age with the same mindset that we had in our younger years. For the mind to expand, it must be fed on a continual basis. Only by doing this do we ensure that our experience of the years ahead will be richer than those that we have already lived. Why a great many people get bored and disillusioned with life as they become older is because they have stopped growing, and as a consequence they are essentially living the same year over and over again.

This experience is much different from continuously learning on a day to day basis, which has the effect of compounding our personal growth. Like an interest amount that increases with every dollar that we add to our bank account, the quality of our life increases in proportion to the amount of learning that we agree to undertake. Whether it takes the form of education or new experiences, we strengthen our capacity for insight into the nature of the world, and ultimately ourselves, every time that we move to ask new questions of life.

It is when we are comfortable staring into the abyss of consciousness that wisdom comes alive. Presenting profound answers to the questions that we have asked with intentionality, it works alongside the gaining of knowledge to round out our understanding of life. Grey hairs or not, we will struggle to find all of the answers because our time in this world is just too short. Despite this reality, I still believe it to be a wonderful thing that in any moment, we can lose ourselves in the mystery of life and allow wisdom to come forth. A manifestation of our being in the here and now, it is not time that it needs to speak, but a heart that is open and willing to liberate the spirit that it houses.


The Long and Lazy Road (Part 2)

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The process of growing into our fullness demands that we deal with reality in a blinders-off fashion. Having the openness to inquire about its substance, we discover far more of value and truth than we otherwise would have by demanding that reality conform to the dictates of our mind. Essentially, these distortions of reality are what come to form our assumptions. Refusing to look beyond the prism of our own knowledge and experience, we forego wonderful opportunities for learning that when integrated into our being, are likely to open up new avenues of constructive action.

Perceiving the world through the narrow lens of the ego, we fail to question as much as we should. Arrogant in our perceived ability to decipher circumstances, and not wanting to appear stupid or weak by asking questions of others, we are held captive by our pride which isolates us from sources of new knowledge and progress. In most, if not all circumstances, there will be people in our immediate environment who have the knowledge and information that we can utilise to generate better results in our area of influence.

Eager and willing to share what they know, all we have to do is ask. An act of humility that allows us to bridge our knowledge deficit, it is what each of us is capable of doing when we disassociate from the ego, which would have us believe that we do not need the help of others who, in one way or another, pose a threat to our identity. The tale that the ego tells, it is responsible for so much of our implicit reluctance to open ourselves to the knowledge of others. Not wanting to experience the vulnerability that true learning requires, we succumb to the perspective that falsely assumes the predominance of ego in those who endeavour to assist us.

Harbouring also the fear of rejection, we choose the safest option of not asking others for those things that will bring us clarity. Pessimistically convincing ourselves that we will receive a ‘no’ response, we don’t even entertain the possibility of them meeting our request, and receiving the missing pieces of the puzzle that we are trying to solve. In my experience, people with expertise in a particular area are open to sharing the knowledge and information that they have, if they are approached in the right way. This means respecting their time, knowledge and privacy, and being forthright about how you intend to use the information that is being conveyed.

Even in the event that they do shut you out, that is far from the worst thing that could happen in the circumstances. Often it will be the case that the same knowledge or information is available from another source. Your task will then be to search that alternate source out. Persistence in this task is key. Requiring the kind of committed action that is the antithesis of laziness, it is what will enable you to breakthrough with a solution, while others remain stuck in the dark because of the assumptions that they have not challenged.

The reactive nature of assumptions that are followed blindly, guarantees that they will not be nearly as effective as the proactive inquiry which is characteristic of leadership. Being the ‘leader’ of my class who was responsible for my students learning, I didn’t serve this function when I assumed that they knew what the terminology meant. To lead them effectively in that learning situation, I should have asked them up front if they knew what the terminology meant. The revelation would then have empowered them in a way that is not possible when the reality of what we are faced with is being obscured by our chosen assumptions. Equipped with an accurate understanding of that terminology, these students would have been in the position to lead others in understanding these same concepts. Having this conscious awareness perpetuates leadership. Thus, I believe, it is our responsibility to nurture this within ourselves.

Learning from that classroom experience, I will still have to exercise caution in coming to malformed conclusions. The temptation to assume is admittedly very strong. Ever present in the moment that we engage in thought, we must take care to ground ourselves first so that we can be guided by truth in fact, and not a false self-serving version of reality that paints our circumstances not as they are, but how the ego wants them to be.


The Long and Lazy Road (Part 1)

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Assumptions provide me with a good cause to pause. Reflecting what we think we know about a person or situation, their foundations are often flimsy and unworkable. Not really corresponding with the reality of what we are faced with, their fictitious leanings make them risky propositions to adopt. Born of a self-serving combination of laziness, righteousness and in many instances the convenient denial of truth, these assumptions can carry an air of commonly accepted knowledge or experiential meaning that make it very easy to adopt them in the often busy grind of our daily existence.

Starting in the recesses of our mind, these assumptions most often take the form of malnourished utterances. Reminded of this recently in one of my classes, I paid a rather embarrassing price. Using some rather obscure terminology in my morning law lecture that I had not thought to define for the class members, I was greeted by a sea of confused faces that had clearly not grasped what I had taken as a given. Being familiar with what these words meant through the years of experience I had with the topic, I had inconsiderately overlooked that their burgeoning knowledge didn’t yet match mine in the area.

Feeling a temporary sense of despair over my failed attempt at teaching, I let it pass soon enough, after I renewed my commitment to meet my students where they were. Not having the luxury of taking for granted what they knew, I would go to greater lengths to introduce concepts before eventually reinforcing them. Doing this, I would strengthen their base of learning and better equip them to deal with the intricacies of the course material.

Allowing my ignorance to make the whole interaction more complex than it had to be, I had clearly allowed the assumption temptation to take effect. This effect, while promising a short cut, more often than not has us travelling a longer distance to our desired destination. Better would it have been to do the preliminary work of acquainting myself with the reality of the situation.

When we know what is going on in a given situation, we can deal with it more easily. Having a complete picture to work with, we don’t have to guess, speculate or waste our time deciphering people and circumstances. Ultimately, this makes us less reactionary and much more effective at dealing with problems, and while it may take us a bit longer to get the full picture, the extra work is worth it because it allows us to deal with concrete realities rather than vague possibilities.

Obviously, there are going to be times when some of the information that we want to consider, can’t be accessed in a time frame that is workable. In situations like this, we must be smart about our process of decision making. Smart, in this context, means integrating the available information with our lived experience, education and intuitive ability. What it doesn’t mean is telling ourselves or others something that we want to be true, but which the aforementioned pillars of decision making don’t support.

Often, when we have a particular outcome that we would like to see achieved, the assumptions that we make concerning that outcome are contaminated by bias. Blinded by our self-interested attachment, we will seek to impose our desires on the situation at hand. Doing this in subtle and more obvious ways, we are vulnerable at these times to being betrayed by our optimistic or naive ideals. Being all that we want to see and believe in, we will ignore or not seek out information that does not correspond with our desired outcome. The point at which the picture we are looking at becomes distorted, it is not coincidently the same point at which we invite suffering into our lives.

At a deeper level, when the substance of our thoughts are divorced from our internal and external reality, we become separated from our essential nature, and this leads us down a path where it becomes next to impossible to actualise our intentions. Why this is also hazardous is because of the potential consequences of this thinking which remain hidden to us. If for example, a person has falsely convinced themself that they are in fantastic health, when they are suffering symptoms of a serious illness, this may lead them to a premature death if what is present remains untreated. Only by dealing with the present moment reality of disease (or dis-ease) is healing and wellness a future possibility. The same goes for the manifestation of meaningful outcomes in our lives.