The Perils of Imposition (Part 1)

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We live in a world where many people have trouble with hearing the word ‘no’. Wanting the validation that comes with being listened to, they often go about finding this validation in the wrong ways. Not believing that other people will listen to them willingly, those who are desperate to have their voices heard, will try to impose themselves on others, whether by emotional, verbal or physical means. Set on having their views accepted, they resort to intimidation and force, which can only ever lead to a win-lose or mutually detrimental outcome.

No matter how hard anybody might try, they cannot bully another into accepting their position. Either a person will accept a position willingly, or not at all. Resentment is a mighty barrier to acceptance. Stirring it up in those whom we try to control, their resistance will be all the more intense. Fostering hostility with our unwelcome imposition, we receive it back in equal or greater amounts from those whose boundaries we have violated by our righteous and indulgent actions.

As human beings, we value our free-will. Exercising it, we feel in control of our lives, and that makes us feel competent and secure. Having this treasure chest of possibilities threatened by an intruder, it is only normal that we will rebel in response to their attack. With this gift of free-will being such a crucial component of our very existence, it is not something that we can just surrender, especially in the face of someone who is attempting to rob us of it.

In this context, what is sought to be taken, is better earned. What this means in terms of being listened to, is first listening to what others have to say in the absence of judgment. A primary need that we have as human beings is to be accepted. To be accepted is to feel that we are seen, heard and valued. It is to understand that we matter, are worthy of respect, and that we have something meaningful to offer to the world.

People communicate who they are in many ways, with words being one of the prime instruments of expression. Being open to receiving them, when they are moving from someone who is opening up to us, a connection can be created, which in its willing embrace satisfies the fundamental need that each party has to be accepted. To be open and giving of our attention, requires us to first and foremost listen to what others are attempting to tell us. Practicing this important and selfless skill that gives others the podium, we are presented with the opportunity to see and acknowledge those others for who they truly are.

As John C. Maxwell points out, people do not care how much we know, until they know how much we care. To genuinely demonstrate care for another, we must drop the ego in the moments that they call us to presence. Wanting to establish a connection, and have them receive what we have to give, we must engage graciously and generously from the spirit, not belligerently from the ego. From this, we can see what separates the person who is welcomed into our world, from the one who is denied without hesitation.

In so many of our interactions, the barrier that we encounter is not erected by the other person, but by our own mind. Coming from the realm of the self-centric ego that is always concerned with being right and justifying its own position, we create a divide between ourselves and others when we orient these interactions around gaining acceptance, rather than giving of our acceptance.

Focusing on ourselves and not on other people, we neglect their needs to give priority to our own. A violation of the universal law of reciprocity, it produces disharmony and a reduced willingness in others, to give or share anything of substance. Put on alert as to our attempt to exploit, their ego defences are activated and a battle ensues. Not ending until one of the participants gets their way, these are hollow victories that come at the expense of our shared respect and dignity.

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One Last Call

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Earlier this week, an AirAsia flight from Perth to Kuala Lumpur had to urgently return to Perth mid-flight after an engine ruptured, which caused the plane to shake violently. After being notified by the captain of a serious problem with the aircraft (so serious that he suggested the passengers say a prayer), a priority of many of these terrified passengers, in what could have been their final moments, was to try and make phone contact with their loved ones. A natural response in these types of circumstances that is yet not really understood, this piece will seek to elucidate why these passengers acted as they did when faced with the imminent prospect of death.

In a society where its members abhor the thought of dying, it is unsettling to have to contemplate a scenario like the one above. We have a tendency to act like we are going to live forever, and although we comprehend with the mind that we could die at any moment, we frequently deny that reality by taking for granted that we will live to see the day out. Every day, people die unexpectedly and what is left behind are unexpressed emotions and unfulfilled plans. The father dies without his son having heard how truly proud his dad was of the man that he had become. A best friend dies in an accident, leaving future occasions bereft of her company.

It is true that life is fragile, and as we embrace this truth, so can we infuse every breath with a love that yearns to perpetually express itself. Born in love, it is only natural that the deepest part of who we are would want to leave the physical world immersed in this same eternal love that is never born and never dies. Having its foundation in the metaphysical dimension, it is eternal love that is characteristic of our spiritual nature. Calling for love’s unhindered expression, this becomes effortless when we align with our true nature, and do not allow our ego to resist its flow.

To resist death is to restrain the flow of love that is characteristic of life. Being life’s counterpart, it is the shadow of death that has much to teach as it follows us. Teaching us that this moment is all that we truly have, it is this day that it would not have us waste with egoic concerns and trivial pursuits. Many of us live our lives with the nagging feeling that we are missing the essence of life. Consumed with getting ahead, we forget that the true essence of life is only to be found in the here and now. Remembering this as we put ourselves in the position of these airplane passengers, a new perspective emerges that gives us the permission to be free. No longer do we have to settle for an artificial and unfulfilling existence, for with every choice to love comes new life that the realm of form cannot take away.

With moments to live, it would be the things that matter least which would fade like the clouds on a summer’s day. Wanting only to bring contentment to our heart, we would not think to call the office to wind up our business, or call our financial advisor for a final assessment of our net worth. Who we would call are the ones who mean the most to us. These are our spouses/partners, parents, children, or our closest friends. What we would say are the words that each of us yearns to hear from the ones who we care the most about, ‘I love you’. With these words would come others that express the same sentiment. Love speaks most eloquently, and with this clarity it is beyond reproach. Being what we cannot deny because of its identity in spirit, this eternal love is what heals the heart and cleanses the mind of the misperceptions that in the ego’s company, we take to be reality.

In the moments before his death at the hands of a gunman, Gandhi showed us the way to an inspired life. Mouthing the words, “Krishna, Krishna”, it was love that he chose to be his final message. Knowing love to be the only way, it is what he could not withhold as he returned to oneness. In the company of spirit he walked, and by his example, we can learn to do the same. The choice to love need not be reserved for our final moments on the physical plane, for being abundant in its presence, it is what we can embody here and now, in the holy instant that always lives and never dies.

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A World Beyond Wishing (Part 2)

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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.

 

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Picking Our Battles (Part 2)

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There are so many great qualities that others possess, but if we don’t allow ourselves to see the fullness of their gifts, how can we invite them to come and touch our interactions? It is difficult to want to give to others when we are feeling invalidated by them. Faced with this repudiation, we will quite naturally withhold what we have to give, not because we are being punitive, but because we are being offered an experience of pain and unreceptivity as unwelcome rewards for our efforts.

In my experience, people are seldom reluctant to give to others if they are made to feel that their essence is being honoured by those others. When we can perceive the beauty of another’s spirit and honour it without condition, it makes it much easier to overlook those surface level things that we sometimes find irritating or distasteful. Part of the reason why we focus on these things in another is because they are the same things that we most want to change about ourselves. Sure, there might be some variation in behaviour, but it all exists at the same level that grabs the attention of those who are most unwilling to shine the light on themselves.

Evolving ourselves is hard but rewarding, and we will never really appreciate this if our attention is externally directed onto others. Criticising them in the hope that they will change, we are really only distracting ourselves, and in the process becoming more powerless in our capacity to change ourselves. How we orient this power in the direction of progress is giving ourselves permission to be bigger than the ego, and the things that prompt it to express negative emotions.

When we become more of who we were created to be, those things that once agitated us lose their power of control because they do not grab our attention as they once did. Focusing on the spiritual presence in all that which we encounter, we look for good in the world, and not those things that have the potential to take away from our peace. In the realm of relationships, this makes all the difference to their substance and quality.

With greater self-awareness comes a heightened ability to discern what helps our relationships and what hurts them. Observing ourselves in the moment that we are relating, we can bring more to the life of the other person, which only appears to be separate from our own. Connected at the spiritual level of being, we are guided by wisdom when we allow ourselves to learn the lessons that others have come to teach us.

If the gesticulations of others are capable of pulling our strings and leading us to suffer, we are being taught that we have more evolving to do. If we were more evolved, these things would not bother us, for the wise understand that suffering is voluntarily undertaken. Remember this the next time that you are tempted to sweat the small stuff in relationships.

The minor irritations on which we so often base our battles are not worth our energy. Sent here to love, understand and unite, our task is not as inconsequential as the ego would have it be. Being to reconcile the wounds of our unconsciousness, this is what we work towards in each moment that we purposefully relate to others from the heart. Each human being who is formed from the same spiritual fabric that animates our life, deserves our love and mercy, which is quick to excuse others for their misgivings, and never hesitant in its wisdom to forgo battle for freedom.

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Picking Our Battles (Part 1)

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The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook ~ William James.

Scott Peck was right when he said that life is difficult. The opening line to his best-selling book The Road Less Travelled, he was seeking to articulate through that statement, that life is full of challenges that we are called to confront and overcome. With these challenges come conflicts that we must engage in along the way. Being waged both internally and externally in our environment, these tensions are where we must direct much of our precious energy, in order to evolve and reconcile the nature of our humanity.

Rather than resist this reality, we should just accept it, not passively but courageously, holding true at all times to our higher aim of fostering understanding, peace and fulfilment, for ourselves and others. A test of our willingness to become all that we were created to be, this opposition requires us to learn to draw the line between constructive and destructive battles. The former allows us the opportunity to grow and improve the quality of our existence; the latter, if we choose to take them on, can easily produce severe fragmentation, with disastrous consequences for our inner state and the state of our world.

We see this a lot in our personal relationships where we are taught to pick our battles. We will not agree with everything that other people do. Some of what they do will mildly irritate us. Other things they do, we will find completely unacceptable. But through it all, we must have the awareness to know that in each of these relationships, we are the other person to them. Not everything that we do appeals to others. Some things will grate on their nerves, while other aspects of our behaviour will have a harsher impact. The lesson then is to balance our expectations of others with what they would expect of us. Of course, not all expectations are reasonable, but we can assume that those with whom we choose to relate, expect similar things of us as we do of them.

Why then is there such a tear in the fabric of our relationships. So often it is because we hold others to a higher standard than we are willing to hold ourselves. Orienting our awareness externally, their shortcomings become the focus of our attention. Being sometimes large but more often minor, these flaws are what we criticise them about, in the vain hope that our righteous observance and accompanying notification will somehow raise their behaviour to a more tolerable realm.

Instead of having the desired effect, this approach drives their determination to not be imposed on, and they become defensive in the face of our attack. Retaliating in kind, their response is just as swift and brutal in their assessment of our faults. Invited to pervade our interactions with one another, these character assassinations will soon doom these relationships, unless one or both of the parties to them can practice functioning from a place of love, rather than ego.

The essence of this entry, we must learn to direct our focus towards what is important and meaningful, and pay less attention to what is superficial or trivial. What is important in relationships is being able to see the essence of who that other person is, and appealing to the best of who they are. It is raising others up by evoking the spirit in these interactions, and not wanting them to change, but to evolve. Relating with love is valuing the other person for who they are, rather than disparaging them for who they are not.

Such a large part of the process that love takes us through, is learning to overlook so that we may appreciate. Never can we appreciate what we criticise in the moment that criticism is being levelled. Focusing our attention on that which we are criticising, we take it away from that which we could and should be appreciating. I know that this can be difficult to reconcile when we are unconsciously acting out our relational scripts, but if we are to maximise the quality of these relationships, it is utterly necessary that we come to understand the connection between what we give our energy to and what we draw forth in others.

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Doing it more often

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When was the last time that you celebrated an achievement, whether it be personal, or as part of a team? If you are like most people who tend to reserve celebrations for traditional occasions such as birthdays, weddings and Christmas’, understand that you are missing out on opportunities to experience more fun, fulfilment, and gratitude in your life. Every time that I finish a project, whether it is large, like a thesis, or small, like a presentation, I take some time out to reflect on and celebrate that accomplishment. Having channelled the extended effort, focus and dedication into something that means so much to me, it feels so good to finally bring to life what was once an idea seeking worldly expression.

Creating something new that is pregnant with possibilities, I want to not only express gratitude for the journey and contemplate what it has taught me, but also to continue harnessing the inspired energy which got me to that point. Finishing something that really means a lot to you can produce a hollow and depleted feeling. Languishing in that emptiness, purpose and direction can be lost as we ask ourselves the question, ‘where do I go from here?’ Not knowing the answer to that question, we do not move as we should, with the effect that the utility of our creation is greatly compromised.

Celebrating also the destination that we have reached, we remain driven to succeed, and with that momentum we can more easily transition into the next stage of our journey where another challenge awaits to be tackled. This lesson I learnt from Jack Welch, the retired CEO of General Electric, who made celebrating success a part of that company’s great culture. What Welch realised was that his people performed better when they were allowed to celebrate and be celebrated for their hard work that delivered positive results for the company. Far from advocating for a hedonistic approach to work, he was wise with his leadership style for rewarding his people with fun for their hard work and superior performance.

Fun should be an integral part of everything that we do, including work. In saying this, I know that there is a time to grind when things need to get done, but when we reach a goal, there should be scope to sit back and reflect on what the journey has meant. What good is accomplishment if we can’t bask in the joy of it, and enjoy the other fruits of giving ourselves fully to something that truly matters? A sad part of our culture is that we almost see it as slacking off, if we were to take the time out to celebrate our accomplishments. Always focused on the next thing to do, we remain unconscious participants in the societal rat race, with its endless demands that promise a life of stress and dissatisfaction.

How different the quality of our lives would be if we learned to love ourselves by honouring our efforts. Cultivating the space to see how we have touched the lives of others in a positive manner, we grow in our capacity to serve the world. In and of itself, celebrating doesn’t serve this purpose, but by engaging in it with a receptive spirit, we find greater fulfilment and harmony within ourselves, which not only enriches our experience, but the experience of others with whom we interact.

Without stopping at the appropriate time to pat ourselves on the back for what we have accomplished, our passion for life begins to dry up. Don’t let this happen to you. Fight against the force of the ego which says that you can’t celebrate until you have arrived on its terms. The day will not come when it allows you to step off that depleting treadmill, and what it wants for itself is immaterial to your happiness. The sooner you can appreciate this truth, the sooner that your spirit can meaningfully engage with life. Your being is cause enough for much celebration, as is your flourishing that will provide a potent example for succeeding generations to celebrate and draw inspiration from. I for one salute you, and I hope that you enjoy the time you take out to salute yourself.

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The Boomerang that is Happiness

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‘When you seek happiness for yourself it will always elude you. When you seek it for others you will find it yourself’ ~ Wayne Dyer

Of all the lessons that I have learned in my life, this is one of the most profound. Why this is the case is because in worldly terms it is so counterintuitive, yet in spiritual terms it makes perfect sense. The world preaches the virtue of action as a means of attaining happiness. It says, move about externally and bring to yourself that which will make you happy. This is problematic on so many levels. Firstly, this flawed thought is underpinned by the assumption that we know what will make us happy. Secondly, the belief that happiness must be acquired is one that originates from the ego mind that will deny, for the purpose of its preservation, our innate ability to know happiness by giving the spirit a voice in our life. Thirdly, that which the ego guarantees will deliver happiness never truly does.

A sure way not to know happiness is by indulging the selfish desire to experience it at the expense of others, or going after what we believe to promise happiness with blinders on. Often confusing an experience of happiness with one of pleasure, we chase physical sensations, rather than allowing joy to arise from within. Thinking that experiences of pleasure will make us satisfied or whole, we go out and get ourselves addicted to the things of this world, not knowing that in the process we are numbing ourselves to the love of the spirit, which is the true source of happiness in life.

This, we will not be able to comprehend in the company of the ego because it is too myopic in its focus. Seeing only the potential for its enrichment, the ego is blind to the needs that others have for our being. Perceiving only a small part of a much larger picture, it fails to understand that happiness is born of reciprocity. What this universal law teaches us is that it is not what we receive that leads to happiness, but that which we give to others and the world. Here, I am reminded of a quote from Marianne Williamson which says that, ‘fullness has no potential for fullness, only emptiness has the potential for fullness’. A lesson in the value of having a beginners mind in learning, it also speaks to the need to prioritise serving others with our natural gifts.

The ego resists service to others, preferring instead to be served by them. Wanting to preserve what it believes to be fullness, it blocks us from a genuine experience of fulfilment. Hoarding the things of the world that the ego values most highly, the joy of the spirit is prevented from entering. Having our hands full of things that we do not need, we have not the capacity to receive anything that we intentionally want. Maintaining this internal imbalance, it explains why we often want things to get better in our lives, but they rarely do.

To bring enrichment and abundance into our lives, we must subscribe to a more evolved paradigm which is focused on meeting the needs of the world. Taking care of others, we will be taken care of. Doing what we can to bring happiness to others, it will surely, as the night follows the day, come to illuminate our heart. This is not a complicated but a simple process, for reciprocal flow is the spirit’s way. Coming from the ego, we have to strive for happiness through effort, but when we allow ourselves to give from the heart, it takes no effort at all. Only when we resist giving do we expend energy needlessly, but this we can move past when we focus our eyes on the bigger picture, and respond to what love prompts us to do.

The boomerang is such an apt metaphor for this concept. What we toss out into the world builds momentum and returns back to us in greater amounts. Fill your heart by giving of it authentically, and trust that the universe will play its part in manifesting your highest intentions. There is so much more to happiness than what we have been taught. There is not much more to happiness than giving of the highest parts of ourselves that nourish the world in ways that the lowest parts of ourselves cannot fathom.

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