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.


A World Beyond Wishing (Part 2)

Image result for intention

When it comes to our intention, honesty and awareness are paramount. Without them, we are liable to confuse what we want, with that which we are taught to want. Many have fallen into this trap, and many others will continue to, not because they are noxious people, but because they are afraid of looking in the mirror. Not wanting to confront their confusion, with this denial they also limit their potential. Linked with their intention, it is their highest potential that is blanketed by their insistence that they can find themselves by getting ahead in the world.

The purest intention that we have within, is not one which is concerned with that aim. Shallow in its promise and ability to deliver the fulfilment that we seek, our prosperity is conditionally withheld when we need the world to validate the path that we have chosen. Shifting our intention to conform to external standards, our true voice remains suppressed. Lurking in the shadows of our being, this abandoned ally echoes the waves of discontent that curse the lives of so many who are deaf to the call of the universe.

This call is one that communicates a simple yet profound lesson in harmony and prosperity. What it teaches is that the point of balance lies in matching our intention with the intention of the universe. What this means is:

  • living life from a spiritual perspective that values truth, authenticity and courage above falsehood, pretension and fear;
  • eschewing a duplicitous existence, for one that is more integrated; and
  • giving ourselves to the heart, which better allows us to give ourselves to the world.

In matters of intention, these things make all the difference, for we cannot know authenticity and purpose in action, if our mind is blind to the heart and its vision for the spirit’s flourishing. The more integrated we become, the greater is our mind’s ability to perceive this vision and move towards it. The essence of aligning with spirit, it represents the process of complementing the universe with the state of our being.

Doing this in every conscious moment, we work to break our habitual pattern of conforming to the ways of the world so that the ego may be fed. The ways of the world are not necessarily evil but are unconscious, and partaken in absentmindedly. Distracted in mind, we are distant in spirit, and our intentionality suffers as a result. Out of touch with our purpose, the ego’s ability to influence us grows to the point where we come to mistakenly believe that its will is our will also. Only when we travel far enough along the ego’s path of destruction, do we think to stop and contemplate whether it is worth living a life that is not in harmony with our highest intention. We may not articulate the conflict in this way, but when you break the problem down to the basic level, it evidences an infidelity against our intention that manifests itself in intense suffering. The block that prevents our union with spirit, the hope in evolving past this divided life, is our ability to choose and embody love, truth and wisdom in our actions.

The more intentional we become, the less the ego likes it. Losing power when we centre our awareness on our higher intention, the ego feels that it is dying because of the intense fear that it has of being displaced by something more real and permanent than itself, whether we call this God, spirit, universal energy or the source of life. This is why the ego fights so hard to consume our mind, and distract us from our purpose. Supporting it in the battle with our heart, we are deprived of precious life energy when our worldly ambition burns brighter than our spiritual intention.

The secret to releasing this energy and channelling it in the direction of your dreams, is to surrender to the nature of your calling. The realm in which you are most free, it is the same place where you are most passionate about life. What is passion but loving energy unrestrained by a spiritual purpose that yearns to be fulfilled one day at a time.

Take steps this day to become acquainted with your highest intention. Ask your heart what it intends for you, and still your mind so that love becomes the language that it speaks. Serve others with your thoughts, words and actions that embody and express who you are in the world beyond this one. A world beyond wishing, it is where all of your dreams are destined to come true.



A World Beyond Wishing (Part 1)

It is not enough for things to be planned – they still have to be done; for the intention to become a reality, energy has to be launched into operation ~ Walt Kelly.

What is your intention? Having the power to determine what form your life will take, is it exercised in a way that gives a voice to your spirit and its creative capacity for flourishing? In many instances, when we think that we are being authentic in the pursuit of our deepest desires, we are really only quenching the superficial desire to conform to an external standard of behaviour and accomplishment.

The ways of the world are very influential to those who have not the purity of intention within themselves. What I mean by this is that if we do not hold in our mind the vision of what we truly want, the vision that we will come to hold will be the one that the world imposes on us. A disastrous consequence of living unconsciously, it tells the tale of many a person who has given up their power by choosing not to set their course in the direction of their dreams.

Understand here that a dream is not merely something that we wish for. When we dream about that which we were born to become, we glimpse our innate potential, which we have the ability to make a reality when our highest thoughts are backed by determined and wise action. Being full of power, it is our dreams that make life worth living. Moving steadfastly towards them, we combine our pure intention with the passionate energy that enables our flourishing on the path to our destination.

Seeing our vision begin to materialise as we journey along, our belief grows to reflect the infinite nature of our potential. Nurturing this belief, we move from strength to strength within ourselves and in the world. With our external manifestations mirroring our internal harmonisation, this holistic integration is what brings forth the joy, peace and prosperity that make for a successful life in spiritual terms.

Wishing, on the other hand, is impotent. Weak in the intention that fails to sustain it, wishes hold very little potential for fulfilment because they are not backed by the belief that what is wished for is able to be achieved. Lacking this crucial element of manifesting what we truly desire, the act of wishing is marked by fear and naïve hope that inevitably produces the subsequent despair that we experience upon realising that what we have wished for, is unable to be claimed.

Usually, what we wish for is disconnected from our ability to meaningfully influence outcomes. For example, we may wish to win the lottery, but how much power do we really have to affect this outcome. We buy a ticket and wait around for our numbers to come up, but how effectual is this approach? Would it not make much more sense for a person to figure out what course is aligned with the call of their heart, and set their intention in that direction?

Abundance in all forms can be realised as a consequence of doing what we love. This dream is not beyond anybody’s reach, but until we come to know this for ourselves, we will continue to languish behind the false belief that we can get something by giving nothing of ourselves. This scarcity centred and passive mentality is at the root of so much of the suffering that we needlessly endure as we search for solutions to our self-created problems. Beginning in the mind, these complications stem from our unwillingness to search our hearts for the intention that is authentically ours.



Wilber’s World


The other day, I learned a very interesting lesson about the process of evolution. Watching an educational video, the presenters got to discussing Ken Wilber, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest thinkers of modern time. Being the man behind integral philosophy which blends body, mind, soul, culture, nature, and the spirit with self, he believes that if we are to evolve, we must take a holistic approach that does not deny any aspect of life. The author of such titles as The Spectrum of Consciousness and A Theory of Everything, Wilber’s work has changed the lives of many around the world, teaching us much about where we have been, who we are now, and where we are going on our collective journey.

A strong proponent of individual and collective evolution, Wilber posits that to grow into someone new, we must disconnect from our previous selves that we have identified with in the past. Being different people at different stages of our life, we hold ourselves back when we cling to who we were in the past, in the present moment. Like wearing a pair of shoes that we have outgrown, we inflict upon ourselves discomfort at best and suffering at worst, when we move against the natural tide of life by keeping alive remnants of the past that once served us, but now only hinders our progress towards wholeness.

Like the cocoon that allows the caterpillar to elegantly transform into a butterfly, so must we cultivate a space within ourselves that is at peace with the death of the old and the birth of the new. Giving ourselves this psychological, emotional and spiritual freedom, we can evolve more consciously and rapidly than those who are willing to remain comfortable constituents of the herd. So often we are reluctant to let die the parts of ourselves that keep us bonded to the past because they are the familiar pillars on which we have built our identity. Wanting to feel like we are in control of our world, we make the mistake of staying the same persons today that we were yesterday. While on the surface this appears to present a solid foundation, it is in reality the most fragile of footings because it does not cater to the fact that the world in which we live is in a constant state of change, never staying the same from one moment to the next.

Honouring the call of nature to growth, it is a potent lesson that we can learn from the world when we choose to move as it does. Creating different identities for himself as he has evolved with his work, it is Wilber who understands better than anyone that we die as we stand still in unconsciousness. Ignorant to the evolutionary pull towards the realisation of potential, we are asphyxiated in an environment that is unmotivated by progress and cursed by apathy.

To find greater meaning and success in every area of life, we must become more fully integrated people. With authentic power flowing from the conscious integration of our being, it is the development of our inner life that holds the potential for flourishing in our external world. By sharpening our own saw, we can cut through the limitations that held us back yesterday, and create a world today which puts into practice the wisdom that has emerged from our growth journey. With the individual being a part of the collective whole of humanity, it is the realisation of our own promise that fulfils the vision that the world has for itself. Being for fear and lack to be overcome by love and abundance, it is what we work towards in each moment that we allow ourselves to express new life.


Culture Reflects Consciousness


An organisation’s culture is a very important aspect of its life and functioning. Comprising the values, beliefs, shared assumptions and identity of those within an organisation, the culture that is created will shape how the people in the organisation behave, and the types of decisions that are made to move the organisation towards its particular objectives. The roles of founders of an organisation and subsequent leaders are crucial in building the right cultural environment for the organisation to thrive in. With founders in particular, they have the unique opportunity to make the initial imprint that will go a long way to forming the DNA of the organisation for the duration of its existence. The leaders that follow, and the style of leadership that they practice, will also powerfully influence the cultural landscape of the organisation, which is why a great deal of attention needs to be given to bringing in the right leaders, whose vision and approach to leading resonates with the mission of the organisation, and the way that the founders want it to operate.

If these leadership selections are poorly made, the consequences for the organisation can be dire. A fish rots from the head down. So too for organisations and the tearing of their cultural fabric, when a leader is out of alignment with what the organisation was set up to stand for. The demise of the Lehman Brothers bank is pertinent to this discussion. When Bobbie Lehman, the last of the original founding family to run the bank, died, the culture of the Lehman Brothers bank began to change for the worse. This was because the leaders who took over the bank became focused on profit and growth, to the neglect of clients who, once valued as the centre of the business, were now seen as a means to the end of those within the organisation lining their own pockets. This ego driven culture, which intensified under the leadership of executive chairman Richard Fuld, led to the company filing for bankruptcy in 2008. Blinded by greed and hubris to the very end, those leading the bank pursued growth at all costs, despite the warning signs in the world economy being clearly evident.

Not only did Lehman Brothers have a devastating cultural problem, they unknowingly experienced a crisis of consciousness. By this I mean that under the stewardship of these new leaders, the consciousness within the organisation regressed to such an extent that the virtues extolled in their mission statement, were completely disconnected from how those within the bank were conducting themselves. What started as a venture that prioritised having a commitment to clients, building partnerships with them, and serving them above all else (which are reflective of spiritual qualities that my research has verified), degenerated into an unevolved mess where the ego, and its every person for themselves mentality, was allowed to impose itself upon the culture of the company.

Evidently, at the time of Bobbie Lehman’s death, the organisational culture of Lehman brothers was not strong enough to resist the negative influence of these new leaders, but hypothetically, let’s say that the person who took over the bank at that time was a transcendent or conscious leader who valued and prioritised excellent service to clients, improving the workings of the organisation (not just growing it – there is a difference), and giving back to the stakeholders of the bank. The impact that this leader, who embodied an elevated level of consciousness, would have made in the organisation would have been profoundly positive, and if that continued, the chances are that Lehman Brothers would still be in operation today. Rather than tearing at the cultural fabric of Lehman Brothers, the integrity of this leader would have strengthened the integrity of the whole organisation and its culture. The people who worked at the company would have followed the example of this inspired leader, and acted in a way that holistically benefited the bank and its stakeholders, not only themselves.

One of the greatest powers that a leader possesses is influence, and with this power comes a responsibility to not only be conscious, but to grow in consciousness. The impact of ego consciousness on our organisations, leadership and culture is harmful and divisive. We know this because we have experienced it firsthand, in our work and in our personal lives. Our task then is to evolve in consciousness, to evolve in our leadership. With the ever-changing nature of our world, we have that opportunity to enrich our organisations as we develop ourselves. Consciousness is not set in stone, but by living with spiritual consciousness we can fortify the pillars of our society, and the cultures which bring them to life.


The Role of Anger in Vocational Fulfilment


When we think of anger as an emotion, the connotations are overwhelmingly negative. Daily in the news, we come across stories where this emotion has been expressed to cause various forms of destruction to others. Incidents of road rage, domestic violence, terrorism, and extreme acts on the sporting field are cases in point. Growing up, we may have been taught that anger is a bad thing to feel, and because it may cause problems or lead to confrontations with others, we should suppress it to smooth our path in the world. The problem with this approach however is that bottling this anger doesn’t make it go away. It merely increases the pressure and intensity of the emotion, which makes the prospect of an explosive outburst (leading to the types of behaviour detailed above) all the more likely. Like the metaphorical spring coil, the more energy that one expends pushing down on it, the greater the counterforce will be upon its release.

As an emotion, anger already has a lot of power to it, so we need not suppress it in a way that harms ourselves and others. If we possess the desire and self-awareness to look at the things in our lives that stir up anger, we have an opportunity to harness that energy and use it for positive purposes. In vocational terms, I have observed two ways that anger can be utilised to propel us forward in the fulfilment of our calling.

Firstly, anger can have a powerful motivating effect on our desire to get things which matter to us done. In the workplace, we may encounter a leader or manager who doesn’t believe in us to the extent that we believe in ourselves, or we may experience a failure with a project that we didn’t see coming, despite our best preparations. Instead of feeling intimidated or discouraged by these obstacles, the experience of them, and the anger that we feel as a result, serves to stoke our internal fire and strengthen our conviction that we will prevail. I see this also in the aftermath of tragedies, when the parents of a child who has been killed by a drunk driver or a violent attack, channel their rage and pain towards the eradication of the circumstances that took their loved one away. Determined not to let the intensively negative feelings associated with these events eat at them and destroy their lives, these parents choose the inspiring path of going into their desolation, and transmuting it so that conditions can be improved for others.

The other way that anger can serve us vocationally is when we allow it to teach us valuable lessons about who we are and what we value, and in this process we can gain greater clarity around where our station in life may be. Here, it is important to realise that not all people come to their vocation through love. Some come to it through identifying the place where their talents and interest intersect with the needs of the world. If we are willing to look out into the world with openness and honesty, we will encounter a range of problems that are crying out to be solved. Whilst not all of these needs will resonate with us at the deepest level, there may be one or more that really strike a chord with our spirit, and sensing an alignment with our natural gifting, we instinctively move in the direction of meeting that need in a particular context.

I was recently talking to a woman who entered the law, with a view to becoming a human rights lawyer, because she could not stand some of the injustices that she had directly experienced in her community. Her motivation in that movement was primarily based in the violation of the value of justice that she held so dear. I know myself that one of the strongest drivers that I have to promote the practice of conscious leadership is the agitation that I experience when I see examples of poor or ego-based leadership. The need to have more conscious leadership is one that aligns with my interest and aptitude. The fact that I also love learning about leadership and look forward to growing on that journey, only strengthens the sense of vocation that I feel towards it.

Anger is like fire, which can keep you warm or burn your house down. Holding these two contrasting potentialities, so do each of us, in our ability to choose how we will experience anger and what the impact of that will be. Endowed with the ability to channel our anger constructively, we should make the most of the opportunity, particularly in vocational terms. Exhibiting our consciousness by choosing the path which leads to greater peace and well-being, a welcome side-effect will be the diminishment of many of the things that aroused our anger in the first place.


Bad Leaders and other Dubious Role Models


When it comes to leadership, I am an avid student who tries to learn more about it in whatever form those lessons present themselves. While books are a valuable source of learning on the subject, observing real life examples of leadership presents a great series of lessons about its art. Leadership as an art has to do with the effective practice of leadership principles, which as we know is much more challenging than the mere digestion of theoretical knowledge about what good leadership entails. The best leaders I have encountered are the ones who may or may not have a theoretical underpinning to their leadership, but they understand it at an intrinsic level, and know how to deal with people, motivate others to achieve a common purpose, and do the other things that are recognised as being hallmarks of great leadership.

Whether they have come to embody that artfulness through instinct, their own learning or lived experience, I must admit that sometimes I find it difficult to get at the heart of what these great leaders do so effectively and effortlessly, and learn from their example. Elegance in leadership is much like beauty, in that it is hard to define, let alone dissect, and when we try to pull it apart for our own purposes, the risk is that we distort, and even devalue, the source of that learning. Perhaps this in part explains why I often seek to gain clarity around what effective leadership entails by observing the examples of bad leaders and other dubious role models.

Unfortunately, we don’t have to venture far to find examples of bad leadership, and I am sure that many of you reading this can easily bring to mind a person who somehow occupied a leadership position, without really having a clue about what is involved in effective leadership. Perhaps they mistreated people, cultivated an adversarial or political environment in the workplace, or took credit for work that others did. Undoubtedly, at the core of bad leadership is suspect character, but in many of these examples, I don’t see people who intentionally set out to make enemies, or tear at the fabric of the organisations that they control. In many ways this happens by default, either because these people are lazy in not having taken active steps to learn about leadership, or they have a fixed mindset that doesn’t lend itself to personal growth and self-awareness that are crucial ingredients for effective leadership.

Perhaps the most significant finding from my PhD study was that the enemy of effective leadership is EGO. At some level, bad leaders have ego problems that manifest in a variety of ways, whether it is the ivory tower syndrome (I am better than those I lead), not being open to the input of their people (I know more than the people I lead) or practicing an authoritative management style (you will do what I say because I am your superior). These are just some examples of how a leader’s unchecked ego can wreak havoc on an organisation, and the lives of the people who work within it. There are many others that I intend to address in a book about Conscious Leadership, which in essence is a mode of leadership where the ego is transcended, or at the very least closely guarded so that it doesn’t impede on a leader’s ability to manifest the qualities of spirit for the common good.

In saying all of this, I don’t want to entirely disparage bad leaders, and I do give credence to Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s assertion that the good are half bad, and the bad are half good. Recently, I read a great book titled ‘Winners: And how they succeed’ by Alastair Campbell, who was the chief aide to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. In this book, he describes the phenomenal leadership focus that Bill Clinton maintained in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky affair. Despite the self-imposed nature of this indiscretion (which not coincidently was a manifestation of the insatiable ego), Clinton’s lesson on leadership focus in the midst of adversity is a valuable one that we could learn from, as of course is the lesson about maintaining appropriate relationships in the workplace!

While it is tempting for our ego to write someone like Bill Clinton off as a person who we can’t learn from because of their flawed behaviour, I think that we should be more judicious in looking for things that we can learn from others, particularly bad leaders, and others like Ben Cousins, who have fallen from grace. When we hear of their stories, or in the case of bad leaders, are directly and negatively impacted by their incompetence, we feel that experience powerfully and it stays with us for some time. Perhaps it does so to teach us something that we can integrate into our own life and take with us into the future to make things better than they were before.