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 1)

The greatest achievement was at first and for a time a dream. The oak sleeps in the acorn, the bird waits in the egg, and in the highest vision of the soul, a waking angel stirs. Dreams are the seedlings of realities ~ James Allen.

An acorn is truly an amazing component of nature. The seed that an oak tree starts out as, it carries in it such power and potentiality for realisation. Fitting comfortably in the palm of a human hand, it takes on a life of its own when planted, and in time sprouts to a size that is much greater than the person who once held it. Growing into the world through this process, the form that the oak takes above the surface is beautiful and awe-inspiring.

I mention the acorn here because very recently I was reviewing one of my favourite books, The Soul’s Code by James Hillman, in which he explores the metaphor of the acorn. Mythologically, the acorn represents the seed of our vocation that was planted in us before we entered the physical world. Holding our highest potentiality and the gifts that will facilitate our self-actualisation, it is both our task, and the responsibility of the world, to honour and nurture these seeds (in ourselves and in others). As we do this by participating in the collective dance of evolution, we enable each other to flourish as oaks do, and stand out in the landscape of life to indicate something that is profound and meaningful.

While it often appears that the world is not complicit in our efforts to actualise the best version of ourselves, we cannot abdicate our responsibility to give a voice to our calling. The Latin interpretation of the word ‘vocation’ is vocare, that when translated means ‘voice’. Extensions of the divine creator that many call God, we have within us this same source of being, that is continually prompting us to fulfil our function/s and manifest the qualities of spirit in everything that we do. With these qualities of love, creativity and authenticity (among others) representing our highest potential, they are what we are called to express through our thoughts, words and actions, at home, in the workplace and in the other spheres of our lives.

I think that when most people hear the word ‘vocation’, their mind turns to the formalities of religion, where priests and nuns are held up to be favoured by God because of the devoted service that they are rendering to the church. A mistakenly narrow perception, it doesn’t accord with the spiritual wisdom which teaches that we all have a purpose/s in our hearts that we have been given life to relate with and fulfil. Even Martin Luther and John Calvin, in challenging the edicts of the church, came to the conclusion that a vocation is so expansive in its substance that it cannot be reserved for members of the church, or any other religious instrumentality.

Finding its foundation within us, a vocation is something that is inescapable. What this means is that we cannot not have one, even if in our unconsciousness we may think that we have been created without it. Many people believe that they don’t have a vocation, simply because they haven’t found it yet. What they don’t understand however is that just because they can’t see something doesn’t mean that it is not there. In these cases that I have encountered personally and through my research work, I have identified a variety of fears and other barriers that in one way or another prevents these individuals from looking deeply into themselves and discovering what their vocation is.

Thinking that this revelation should present itself at their whim, they are naive in their expectations because that which delivers the richest rewards, must be given to and worked hard for. When I say worked hard for, I am not referring to frenetic activity in the outside world, but rather the process of engaging in spiritual exploration, and the price that it asks us to pay for internal freedom and clarity.

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The Perils of Imposition (Part 2)

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In so much of fundamentalism we see this compromise being made. An ideology of the ego that is driven by fear, desperation and a perceived lack of control, what else can explain the gross levels of violence, aggression and manipulation that so much of it involves? Only those who feel impoverished and vulnerable would resort to such means of making themselves heard. Disempowered in spirit, they are incapable of using non-violent means to resolve conflict, for they do not understand its real power.

With the spirit comes strength, and with strength comes the courage and willingness to entertain a position that is different to ours. When we feel strong within ourselves, we intrinsically understand that no one can have their way with us without our permission. Holding the power that is authentically ours, we can approach and engage others without drawing any weapons. Coming not to battle, but to understand their position, we empower them to make themselves heard by a more constructive means than violence.

All violence is an extreme response to conflict. Having the ability to communicate and connect with each other at the spiritual level, we can evolve through our disagreements if we listen with the heart, rather than attacking from the mind. The spiritual warrior is one who knows where the true battle is being waged. Being in their own mind with their fabricated conceptions of self, they look not outside of themselves for others to overcome. Knowing where the real work of manifesting true self is to be done, this is where they focus their precious energy. Committed to victory, their preparation is gruelling, and their perseverance ever constant. Taking place in each moment, this evolutionary dance is unceasing, even as death comes to the body. A primary human obligation that prompts us to conscious thought and action, the reward of mastery of the self is the goal that is sought for, as fleeting as that prospect may be.

Far from a master on this path, I have found myself developing this ability to relate to others with a mind that has descended to the heart. A teacher of this spiritual wisdom that I have encountered through my exploration and experiences of life, I am continually reminding myself to afford others the same dignity in awakening to their spiritual self. Being what others had afforded me in my journeying, it is what I must reciprocate, for I know that there is no meaningful education when a student is resistant to learning.

On many occasions, with family and friends especially, I have had to fight the temptation to impose my learnings on others. Wanting to impart these lessons for their benefit, I have needed to temper my expression in circumstances where an open and honest assessment of their situation would not only have been unwelcomed, but greeted with open hostility. The reality is that people will not change in response to something we put forward, if they are not open to evolving themselves.

No matter who we are or where we find ourselves, we are better served by practicing humility rather than righteousness. So often righteousness wears the mask of piety, so we have to make sure that the place we are coming from is adding strength to others, and not only to ourselves at their expense. When we are humble, we are less threatening to those who are finding their way to a more authentic life. Requiring someone to open up to, they will gravitate to someone in whose company they don’t feel judged. Judgment always precedes an attack in one form or another. If we are not to harm those who we wish to help, we should not judge them. Instead, we should empathise with what they are going through, and by so doing relate to them. Their story is our story, if we care to listen.

The art of empowerment is walking alongside others, and cultivating the space for them to find themselves and their course. The best leaders instinctively know this, and they don’t resort to asserting authority to resolve issues. With the conscious understanding that others are an extension of the life force that we are, comes greater relational acuity and acceptance. Give others the time and space to learn their lessons without the pressure of having to do so on our terms. Our task is to love, not impose ourselves upon, those who walk with us in spirit.

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Wilber’s World

Ken-Wilber

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.

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Culture Reflects Consciousness

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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.

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