The Positive Side of Stress (Part 2)

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Each of us are called to grow and evolve as human beings, and eustressful experiences assist in this process. Awakening us to the wealth of potential that is inherent in our being, these experiences allow us to more fully access and express our innate wisdom, natural talents, and spiritual virtues, such as courage, resilience and engagement.

What these eustressful experiences look like will ultimately be determined by the essence of the person experiencing them, their level of consciousness and the associated beliefs which shape how they see themselves and the world. With this, the individual experiencing eustress will likely have a positive perception of the ‘stressor’, or at least be open to its presence in the context of their life.

Having a negative perception of a person, thing or event generates internal resistance which leads to a state of distress. Someone who doesn’t like skydiving, for example, because they fear that it will cause them to die, will not enjoy the experience of thinking about skydiving, let alone doing it. Compare this to the experience of the person whose passion is skydiving. Loving the process of jumping from a plane and free falling before activating their parachute and floating back down to terra firma, their response to the same stimulus will be characterised by intense pleasure and exhilaration.

With the former person who has negative associations with the activity of skydiving, they would experience significant distress if they were made to jump out of a plane. The latter individual, on the other hand, will not have this barrier between their being and the activity, which will allow them to truly engage with the process and experience eustress as they embark on their aerial joy ride.

Now, it might be possible for the former person to experience eustress when skydiving, if under the fear of the activity, they have an undiscovered liking for it, but until they move past that fear through repeated exposure, they will continue to experience distress as a response to the stimulus of skydiving. Sometimes it is the case that our greatest fears are centred in the area of our true spiritual giftedness. Not being ready to honour our integrity and embrace our innate potential for greatness, we will experience many of the facets of our authentic purpose as pain producing sources of distress.

For so many years I absolutely despised reading, and would not pick up a book if you paid me to. Having a very negative view of education because of my repressive early high school experience and the pain that I had endured through the death of my father during that time, I wasn’t open to any form of learning, and I actively rebelled against the process. It was only after I grew a little older and matured that I realised the importance of education, and when the penny finally dropped, a shift occurred in me that revealed a great love of books.

Consuming them voraciously for almost twenty years now, the lessons from these books have changed my life in so many ways, and I enjoy nothing more than the time that I spend in solitude reading about things that expand my horizons. Nourishing my being while challenging my base of knowledge, I experience a high level of eustress whenever I engage in this activity. What once caused me distress now has the opposite effect, but to get to that point, I had to do a lot of inner work and clear up some negative misperceptions that I had towards learning that were holding me back in life.

Another massive shift in my life took place when I finally allowed myself to fully embrace writing. Until that time I had resisted it heavily because I thought that it required a level of talent and skill that I didn’t have, or ever think that I would have. Being a substantial intrinsic barrier that caused me much distress when I first put pen to paper, it was a feeling that persisted while I remained detached from my calling, even though I was taking steps to explore it more deeply.

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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.

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What Great Leaders Do First (Part 4)

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What others happen to think of us is largely insignificant. What really matters is the view that we take of ourselves, and the clarity of purpose that this contributes to. This, the leader keeps in mind, as they go about the task of initiating service oriented action. Desiring to deliver something of real substance and quality, they know that this requires vulnerability and a willingness to risk. Courage, in this respect, is putting ourselves at the heart of what we do, and accepting unconditionally that we may fail, be ridiculed or tuned out by some people.

Each of these things are possibilities, but they do not have to infect our mindset around that which we do. Failure is not a death sentence. Neither is the feedback that others offer us. Coming with the territory of bringing our calling to market, these challenging influences are the fertile soil on which we can grow our fellowship. Opportunities for refinement of our character and contribution, they are not to be squandered by the leader who has yet to realise their vision.

A chief imperative, despite these happenings, is not to compromise the integrity of our offering. One of the things that distinguishes followers from leaders is the former’s overriding desire to appease the populous. Wanting to be seen in a favourable light by as many people as possible, they compromise themselves by catering to the various, and frequently competing, needs and expectations of the tribe. Diminishing the power of their gifts, their utility is limited when compared to the novel contribution that is offered by the true leader.

Here, I am not imploring you to be close-minded or inflexible. A genuine leader is always willing to listen to followers and receive their input. Rather, I am emphasising the importance of adding value by being real. I could try to be the next Anthony Robbins or Paulo Coelho, but that would only diminish the quality of my offering. Taking energy away from my unique talents and experiences, they would not be given the space to influence others hearts and minds, if I was trying to hide from my audience by being someone that I am not. In the wise words of Andre Gide, “It is better to be hated for who you are, than loved for who you are not”.

Leadership in its finest form should be disruptive, not just to effect change, but to stoke the fire of reality. All too often, we grow comfortable in knowing what to expect from our leaders, and this coupled with their lack of authenticity, robs them of the power to inspire their constituents, and bring through new leaders by their example. Not affecting any dissonance between where we are and where we want to be, an opportunity is wasted to forge a connection with the spirit within that yearns to evolve and be moved by a vision that it can trust.

Missing this element of connection, leadership will fail to serve its true function. The quality of someone’s leadership will always be determined by the quality of their relationship with spirit, and those people who have chosen to follow them. Endowed with free will, we are not forced into fellowship. The emphasis then falls on the leader to form constructive and rewarding relationships with followers. This takes time, effort and selfless humility. The most effective leader is the other oriented leader. A style of leadership that turns the tables on traditional leadership thinking, it sees the leader as a facilitator of their followers flourishing.

Requiring the leader to put the needs of their followers above their own, it is not a style of leadership that the ego can accept or find a voice in. Demanding an arrangement that sees followers exhaust themselves for its aggrandisement, the emphasis of the ego here is not on serving, but on being served. Practicing this self-centred form of leadership, we demonstrate to the world that we are not on good terms with ourselves.

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Enabling the Acorn to Flourish (Part 9)

Try as we might, we cannot create these experiences of flow by imposing our will on the present moment. The spirit, as the source of our freedom, must be allowed to take hold through the process of surrendering what we might desire, for that which the infinite intelligence wants for us.

Succeeding in our vocation requires us to be vulnerable and to trust in the life of the spirit and the journey that it will take us on. Taking these steps in faith, we become leaders in a world that accommodates too many followers. Instead of making the choice to bravely live their calling, too many of us play it safe by routinely adhering to the societal rules that have been unconsciously agreed upon. Conditioned in tribal consciousness, which says that it is dangerous to challenge the status quo and risk what that society perceives as valuable, these people spend their lives colouring between the lines that to their mind represent the safe boundaries of the human experience.

Not searching for and perceiving a life beyond these limited boundaries, they are blind conformists who stifle their own freedom and happiness. Suspicious of the heretic who goes against the grain, they hastily condemn them without realising that the heretic in this context is the suppressed spirit that longs to speak its truth and fulfil an enduring purpose in form. Historically, the heretic was positioned as a villain. Burned at the stake for what they believed in, the price that they paid is seldom a threat in the modern world, yet we remain enslaved by the memory of their fate.

Frozen by the fear of being scorned by the tribe, those who deny their calling do not speak the truth that burns in their breast. Strangers to the spiritual life, they have not learned that the heretic is in reality the hero that they secretly long to be. A hero steps out with courage, and steps up with an intense focus and fierce determination to succeed despite all difficulty. So it is with the heretic who must overcome the same challenges, and stand for something at the end of the arduous journey.

It is ironic that what once would have gotten us excommunicated or killed, now earns us the admiration of the masses. Look at someone like Steve Jobs, who continually pushed the boundaries of innovation in the tech industry, or Andy Warhol, who through his artistry redefined the way that a generation perceived the world. These disrupters, and many others like them, open our eyes to what is possible for humanity, and inspire us as they stand and deliver their vision or message.

It is impossible to hide while we are making a difference in the world, so we need to make peace with that reality. For sure, some people prefer to remain anonymous in their contributions, and while it may appear that they are hiding, they are not really because they succeed in adding something meaningful to the experience of others’ lives. Just like the oak whose beauty is appreciated as it emerges into sight, our true beauty is best on display when we serve from our heart, and have our unique contributions move the world forward in a way that manifests spirit in form.

The world is waiting for your spiritual unfoldment, so what are you waiting for? Dreams can become reality, if you give yourself to that dream wholeheartedly. No one but yourself is holding you back from setting foot on that authentic path. Give yourself the freedom that you know you deserve. Honour love in your efforts, and have those efforts reflect the essence of spirit that you are. The oak tree doesn’t live forever, but it stands tall while it is here, and leaves a legacy that lasts centuries. Be as the oak, and allow your acorn to flourish in the fertile ground of spirit that is your very nature in this eternal moment.

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Enabling the Acorn to Flourish (Part 8)

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Regardless of how old you are, you still have the opportunity to live your calling. Age is no excuse. Neither is aptitude, or the lack of it, for this is to be developed on the journey. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t want to start something unless they are already good at it. A nonsensical view that is often adopted to mask a deep seated fear of failure, it goes against the established process of mastery which recognises that incompetent doing must always precede masterful being.

Humility is such a key virtue to embody here, for without it we cannot grow to become masters in the domain of our calling. Wherever we are on the path of life, we must remember that we are students who have more to learn each day. Learning about that which we love is immensely enjoyable. An investment of our time, energy and very being, the rewards that we receive from this engaged exploration are so much greater than just the learning alone.

Involving the heart in the process, the love that we have for what we do, teaches us about the love that we are. Opening us up to the unexplored parts of ourselves, wisdom is allowed to flourish as one with knowledge. Harmonized in this growth process, the mind and spirit add strength to each other with the effect that our learning is integrated into our life. While we may think that this happens automatically, evidence proves that our learning is nowhere near as strong when we have no passion for the subject matter of that learning.

If I were to ask you here what you remember about trigonometry at school, you would probably go blank, unless of course you have a passion for mathematics. Having love for the subject matter of our calling increases its stickiness, to use marketing language. Resonating with who we are at the deep spiritual level, we take more in with an enhanced capacity, just as a hungry person is likely to do when presented with a bowl of food that they love. While having an insatiable appetite for food may get us into trouble with our health goals, having an insatiable appetite for learning about that which we love, will pave the way for continuous improvement, while exponentially increasing our level of fulfilment.

Digressing from this point, it has always amazed me how when we get on the vocational path, and allow inspiration to speak to us, forces beyond our conscious control come to assist us in our mission. Frequently, when I engage in the process of writing, what emerges in form is so much greater than my mind’s ability to hold. Knowing what I want to say and a bit about how to express it, I feel a force more powerful than my limited conception of self, assisting with the process. Being the spirit within that has given me the ability to write, it continually nudges me forward in my destined unfolding, while supplementing my knowledge with its innate wisdom.

Trying to explain this synchronicity, it mightn’t make much sense to you, unless you have experienced it yourself. Doubting initially my own perspective on this experience of flow, I have since had it validated by many other people who have reported similar experiences when engaged in tasks or activities that they profoundly loved to do. The basketball great Larry Bird once said that often when he had the ball in a game, he intuitively knew the best play to make in the circumstances. But how did he know? Because in those moments of play, he was fully present in what he loved to do and had an incredible talent for. Allowing his inner spiritual guide to speak to him in these moments about the rhythm of the game, Bird was able to perform at a higher level than his contemporaries, who were more focused on imposing their own personal will on the game.

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Enabling the Acorn to Flourish (Part 6)

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How does it make you feel when something you have done positively impacts the life of another? Attuned to their being as they offered sincere words of gratitude, the emotions that arose within you would have allowed you to understand the relationship that exists between joy and being of service to others. When we serve ourselves in a self-indulgent way, genuine joy is not present in that experience. While we may feel pleasure or some level of satisfaction as a result of those actions, these fleeting feelings are not spiritually affirming responses to the question of ‘what makes for a meaningful life?’

For me, meaning is everything, and I seek not to waste my time doing things that take me away from my calling. Being quite definitive in this respect, I find it difficult to justify applying my energy to those things that do not matter to me on a deep level. While taking this position has sometimes got me into trouble with certain people, it has more frequently allowed me to achieve more meaningful success that I otherwise would not have enjoyed.

Over the journey, I have been presented with different opportunities that would have advanced me materially, but I refused to travel down those roads because what they represented did not speak to my heart. I have seen enough people who have frittered away their lives by chasing money to know that real happiness is not to be found at the end of that rainbow. If you spend your life making money doing something that you despise, what is the real value of that money?

Too often, we are willing to devalue our experience of life, to gain in material terms. Making this compromise, we surrender our potential to a lie that is unworthy of being told. Money, like everything else in the physical world, is transient, and we will still have to live with ourselves after it comes and goes from our grasp. Therefore, we must honour what is forever constant within ourselves. This is the spirit which speaks to us of our purpose.

To reconnect with your spiritual voice and attune yourself to its intuition, take some time out in solitude. This will help to clarify what your purpose is in every moment that you experience confusion. Sometimes we may know what our purpose is, but be unsure of what we are meant to be doing at a particular point in time. Getting back to nature, or being at one with our essential self without distractions, allows us to cut through the clutter that clouds our judgment and fuels our apprehension. Free of this meddling influence, the light from within can emerge to reveal the next step of our individual and collective unfolding.

Prayer is also very profound in this respect. In prayer we ask for answers to life’s deeper questions. Aligned spiritually with our asking, we are guided through the answers that we will receive. Humbling ourselves to submit our personal will to the higher good, our function will be clarified in the context of that higher good. Seeing where we fit in the bigger picture of life, our efforts in service will be more effectual in bringing forth a worthwhile legacy.

With a vision comes the power to make it a reality. This is why we must be able to see who we innately are and what our calling is, because without this spiritual insight, we are bound to chase after the wrong things in the world. By failing to preserve our connection to the infinite, we will come to see our role too narrowly and in purely physical terms. Perceiving this world through the distorted lens of the ego identity, our spiritual vision will be indecipherable, and this will give rise to more questions than answers. Confusing our divided mind, the questions that we ask of life will be shallow and insignificant. Producing answers that are inconsequential when acted upon, we will not advance much further than the person who in ignorance refuses to ask any questions at all. Against this backdrop of unconsciousness, we must be open, engaged and wise with the questions that we ask. We don’t want to come to the end of our life regretting that we never did what we were put on this earth to do. Having to occupy such an unenviable position is easily avoided by proactively questioning, introspectively learning and resolutely acting together with spirit to create something of lasting significance in the world.

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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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