The Simple Smile (Part 2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Simple Smile (Part 1)

A smile is the universal welcome. ~ Max Eastman

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Noblest Aim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Home of Peace

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

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

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

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

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

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


Volumes of Insight (Part 2)

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Having journaled for some time now on those things in my life that evoke fearful thoughts, I have come to see quite clearly that my fear based projections are self-created. Born out of my ignorance to my true nature as a spiritual being, these fears are what I have learned to neutralize by bringing my conscious attention to them. Pouring the voice of our fears openly and honestly onto paper, they have nowhere left to hide. Cornered by our courageous expression, the basis of these fears are inevitably revealed as false to the mind that had allowed the ego to betray its confidence.

Like the intruder in a dark room that is apprehended when light is introduced to the space that had kept them hidden, we purify the mind of destructive influences when we learn to stop being controlled by our ego based thoughts, and give ourselves the freedom to observe them objectively. Journaling is a wonderful vehicle for this because the journal allows us to remove our consciousness from the facets of self that we express in it. Getting this all important distance, we can look penetratingly at our psychology without being defensive, manipulated by guilt or judged by an external source. Not feeling compelled to pick up our weapons to defend our shadow as a result, we can start the healing process of correcting our misconceptions and finding integrity through our woundedness.

Before we can deal with the ‘broken’ parts of ourselves, we must come to identify what those broken parts are. Articulating them with the written word, we bring these neglected shards of self to a place where they can be reconciled. Put out in the open through truth, they are given a chance to breathe deeply, as we are. Distanced from the pent up resentments that stem from our long held denial, we can project a new energy towards these shadow dimensions that alleviates the suffering which we would have otherwise experienced. Being that of the conscious and clarifying spirit, its loving insight is abundantly offered to facilitate our growth in each present moment as its light is shone upon the illusions of our mind.

All too often, our judgments towards our negative thoughts are what keep us stuck in our hurts. Adding strength to them, these protagonists in this self-destructive pattern reinforce the ego identity which does not care for our growth. Standing in the way of our evolution, these judgements suppress the spirit which is the essential voice of non-judgment. Judging ourselves harshly, we deprive ourselves of the gift of self-love. Emerging from our willingness to detach from the ego, this inner directed form of love is not what we allow to manifest when we remain imprisoned by our distorted assessment of our lived experience.

To put a twist on the Albert Einstein quote that I detailed in Part 1, never can we heal our suffering with the same level of thinking that created it. Ruminating about our suffering in the company of the ego, that suffering grows more intense. Strengthening our relationship with the source of the problem, we are blind to the means of rising above it to find a solution. To grow beyond where we currently stand, we must open the window of our mind for the spirit to enter. Being a voluntary action, we must initiate the movement, and it would not be wise to sit idly by and wait for the spirit to forcibly enter, for invasive tactics are not its way.

The spirit, with its abundant generosity, is always offering us its gifts, but whether we choose to receive these gifts is up to us. Writing in a journal with an authentic intention to evolve, the spirit works through us. Giving us insight into who we are, we receive its gifts as we act on what we learn. With this, it is useful to understand that by itself, recording our life experience on paper serves no valuable or higher purpose, unless we integrate the teachings that emerge from the reflective process into our daily being.

Only those who search will discover the treasure that is wisdom. Living inside of us, the spirit is the key that we can never be dispossessed of, despite the ego’s protestations concerning its existence. With the curtain of denial being the barrier to our bliss, it is what we must have the audacity to part and walk through if we are to live a full life in spirit. What is real cannot ultimately be denied. Without a guise, it speaks to the heart. Not fearful of truth, it awaits revelation, through our engagement with life and the fertile pages which bring richness and meaning to this unfolding relationship.


Volumes of Insight (Part 1)

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I was once told by a very wise woman never to trust my memory. Speaking of course about the inability that we sometimes face in recalling the events of the past, she was also teaching me indirectly to capture insights when they arise in the mind. Appearing to each of us at one time or another, these jewels of consciousness are often what we allow to slip from our awareness when we do not live consciously and attentively. For so many of us, we are perpetually looking forward to what tomorrow might bring, and reacting to these possibilities in the present. Having also a laundry list of things that we must do at any one time, we are reluctant to take time out to process our experience of life, and contemplate its meaning and lessons.

Some time ago, I was talking to a very good friend of mine who expressed that for many years he had been engaged in the practice of journaling. Travelling to many different places around the world, his initial motivation to complete his daily pages was to record the details of his journey. Within a short amount of time however, what he found himself doing was transcribing his thoughts and feelings in these new and evolving moments he was experiencing. Preferring not to settle for taking photos of the locations that he visited, his focus was one that was directed inwards, in the process of engaging his mind and heart with the words that moved from his pen to the pages of his memoir.

Becoming a habit in my friend’s life, he continued to practice this journaling when he returned from his travels abroad. Revealing much about the depth of his experience, it also provided much food for reflection. Providing an insight into the workings of his mind and the dimensions of his spirit, he was able to learn much about who he was beyond the surface appearance of things. Quieting the voice of his overstimulated mind to articulate his deeper thoughts, feelings and intentions, he found that the waves of chaotic mental chatter would subside to present him with priceless treasures that he didn’t know existed inside of him.

Teaching me of this wisdom, I was inspired to connect to the voice of my own truth. Starting the journey as he once had, I quickly came to learn the power that comes when we open ourselves up for the purpose of self-exploration. Being a task that we have all been charged with, the growth that we experience by our willingness to forego the fear of looking at ourselves in the light of day is truly worth the effort. Connecting us with spirit, which is the great teacher in our lives, we benefit from more than just knowledge, which is collected externally, and comes to form the content of our life in the physical world. Providing the context which frames the content in its purest light is wisdom, which emerges not from the mind as knowledge will, but from the heart, being the expansive classroom that we enter when we consent to undergo the process of personal transformation.

What you are reading here is the result of my many years of personal exploration. Learning these lessons in reflective solitude and out in the world, their profound power was made manifest not only in applying them through action, but in writing them down as they came to me from the wellspring of spirit that is ever clear in what it conveys in moments that we remain non-resistant to its offerings. Why so many of us continue to make the same mistakes in life is because we are unwilling to learn the lessons that our lived experiences carry. Thinking that we know better than the universal source of wisdom which prompts us to growth, we become righteous, rigid and restless within ourselves.

Absent of the peace that is realised in spiritual reconciliation, we must humbly admit to ourselves that the mind alone doesn’t have all the answers to life’s questions, and trying to solve our problems with our limited thinking, and the fragile beliefs that underpin it, is itself the problem. Einstein acknowledged as much when he said that, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”. To heal the mind of its misconceptions, we must explore it with courage and an openness to rewriting our scripts. It is difficult to confront our neuroses and all of the suffering that they have caused in our life. Living in a society which largely favours denial over truth, we have been strongly conditioned to run from our fears and other broken thoughts, rather than towards them. Being one of the many ways that the ego perpetuates suffering, the spirit asks us to take a more integral path. By confronting our brokenness, we come to make sense of the carnage and regain control over the fears that these happenings have birthed. Choosing to run away from them, we give them oxygen and a greater stage on which their shadow can loom larger than before.



What Great Leaders Do First (Part 3)

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Those who remained were rewarded handsomely for their steadfast belief in Steve Jobs and his vision. Developers of the iconic iPhone, they would change the game for every player in the telecommunications industry. Forced to develop their own android versions of the iPhone, these other players have only recently challenged for a substantial share of the market, after years of Apple dominating sales in the category. While some of these other brand versions may catch the iPhone one day, I have doubts whether they will be remembered in the same way. After all, a copy can never be better than the original.

Here, we can learn a valuable lesson from the iPhone, and aspire to lead ourselves in an authentic way. To lead ourselves, we must be true to ourselves. Integrated in our understanding of who we are, our leadership ability, and the impact which flows from that, is radically intensified. Who would remember Steve Jobs if he had decided to coach a basketball team? Absolutely nobody, because basketball was not a part of who he was.

Why Steve Jobs was so successful was because he honoured his DNA. What I mean by this is that he stayed true to his love of technology. Abundantly gifted in this area, it was where he excelled and stood out from the crowd. Allowing himself to be guided by that love, this was his rite of passage to leadership. While some might argue that the title of ‘CEO of Apple’ constituted the basis of his authority, I saw a deeper level to his leadership that was not rooted in worldly power, but in spiritual congruity.

There is something magnetic about people who are doing what they love, and sharing of their inspired creations. Bringing to themselves people who buy in to their purpose, and want to assist them in some way, these originals are thrust into a position of greater responsibility. Presenting them with new challenges that develop their leadership skills, they find themselves taking that path by default when they give a voice to the natural inclinations of their spirit.

In what domain does your service oriented spirit call you to lead? What gifts do you possess that present you with a platform for making a difference in the world? How can you step out into the bright light that shines within you? Find the answer to these questions, and you are well on your way to practicing spiritual leadership that begins with your heart, and ends with a legacy that is characterised by love, generosity and meaningful change in the world.

When I publish a blog entry or speak before an audience on the themes which I am truly passionate about, I become a leader that others want to follow. Reflecting the essence of who I am, these authentic acts of vulnerability are what others respond most positively to. Very recently, I had a friend, who I had not seen in a while, communicate to me how much I had inspired him at a presentation he had attended more than five years ago! Being what I had long forgotten, it was the integrity of the message that had stayed with him, and provided direction as he passed into a new chapter of his life.

After receiving his communication, I was reminded of the responsibility that each of us has to deliver on our innate leadership promise. There can be no leadership without follow through. If I had not gotten up in front of that audience and shared my truths with them, I would have allowed fear to make me a follower. Choosing this unnatural yet familiar role, I would have deprived others of my gifting, and missed an opportunity to impact the world by manifesting spirit in form.

When we give in to fear, we hide from the world. Doing what feels safe in the moment, we forfeit the ability to lead there. Leadership by its nature is uncomfortable and challenging. Requiring us to be seen and heard in a broader context, it opens us up to criticism and disapproval. Threatening wounds to the fragile identities of followers, this state of opposition is what they seek to avoid at all costs. Craving praise and validation of their positions, they have not the courage to speak up, nor the credibility to be taken seriously as leaders.