Enabling the Acorn to Flourish (Part 2)

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We cannot truly prosper if we are lying to ourselves about who we essentially are. Wearing this false facade, our divine purpose will be prevented from rising to the surface of our being. With this purpose being trapped in the realm of the heart, we will experience great tension and uncertainty, until we find the courage to reconcile the fractured aspects of our being with that source of wholeness that is otherwise known as spirit.

This I know from personal experience. It wasn’t until I gave up my career practicing law that my love and talent for writing and teaching was able to shine through. Holding onto my inauthentic identity, I deprived myself of the opportunity to reveal to the world the essence of who I am. With the tension of my incongruity becoming too much to bear, I effected the shift from a career to a calling within myself. Travelling down the unique path that is mine to walk, I now enjoy a quality of life that far surpasses the drudgery that my previous life represented.

Doing what I love and loving what I do, I sometimes can’t believe the journey that I have been on, and the transitions that with the benefit of hindsight, were not made soon enough. This, I don’t regret however, for I have come to learn that every shift is made in perfect time. Not having previously been ready to bring forth my greatest gifts, I was really no different than the many people who let fear get in the way of the love that they have for what they really want to do.

Everyone has something that they genuinely love to do. Whether it is dancing, cooking, mentoring, caring for animals or raising children, your vocation is the cherished endeavour that you could easily spend your time doing, even if you weren’t getting paid for it. Capturing your attention and awakening your passion, your calling is what brings meaning to your efforts and fulfilment to your heart. Making you feel alive, it is what provokes the state of flow which allows you to perform to the best of your present moment ability. Stimulating wildly your curiosity and imagination, this call to actualise the best version of yourself, powerfully motivates you to evolve and pursue a vision that makes a positive impact on the course of human history.

When I contemplate this aspect of a vocation, my mind turns to the remarkable legacies left by Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa and Václav Havel. Prophetic figures who wholeheartedly gave themselves to a vision and brought it about, they fulfilled in life their highest potential, and died without experiencing the regrets of the half-lived life. Doing what they knew they were put on earth to do, the impact that they had was vast, and the commitment that they had for their cause still resonates powerfully in the world today.

With this I ask you, how intense is the love that you have for that which you spend the majority of your time doing? If you have no love for, or derive no meaning from, what you do for work, then I can guarantee you that you are not living in alignment with your calling. If you wake up every day dreading what is ahead, then I would recommend doing something different that allows you to express the light that you have within. If this can’t be done now for legitimate reasons, then I would suggest taking small steps towards your calling, so that the stage can be set for more intimately engaging with it in the future. It is not always realistic or wise to dramatically change course, especially when others are dependent on us to provide for them, but we should not let this of itself, deter us from doing what we know in our heart is the right thing to do.

What is right for us at the spiritual level, will always be right for those whom we love. In this, we must not harbour the fear that living our vocation will negatively impact our loved ones. Harmoniously pursued and balanced with other responsibilities, their reasonable concerns should be allayed, and their support won by our willingness to include them on the journey. So much of the resistance that is encountered in this respect, stems from our ego based tendency to single-mindedly pursue one thing to the exclusion of all else.

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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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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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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.

 

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Teaching It Forward

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Pay it Forward is a really great movie. Very inspiring in its message, it teaches much about not holding onto the gifts that we have, but sharing them with others who may not be expecting it. While the film deals with acts of good will directed towards others, I would like to focus here on imparting wisdom that has been passed to us. I love quotes from great thinkers and inspiring stories that evoke the heart and challenge the mind. Shaped by the musings of those special souls who have illuminated my path, they are what I love sharing with others who I encounter on my journey of life.

In so many ways this is what these reflections are about. It is giving to others those things that have had a powerful influence on me. We all have the capacity to be agents of wisdom. This is because wisdom is an inherent part of our spiritual fibre. In this respect, it is akin to beauty. We are capable of appreciating it in the world because it is what we inherently embody. Being in alignment with our spirit, beauty is what we perceive in the world when we look upon it with the clarity of love.

As a lifelong student who has become a teacher in a university setting, I have come to observe something interesting about the learning process, which is this. Teaching something to another delivers a benefit to both the student and the teacher. The student of course receives the learning that the teacher has imparted, and the teacher receives the gratitude of the student, with the fulfilment this is inherent in giving something to another that they can use to improve their life in a powerful way. But even more profound than this is the revelation that the act of teaching strengthens the teacher’s understanding of that which is taught. By having to explain something to the student and making it clearer for them, it naturally becomes clearer for the teacher, who has had to become more closely connected with the essence of the lesson in order to articulate it.

Words can be very clumsy sometimes, especially when we are trying to articulate a complex concept or express something from the heart. Wanting to speak of the infinite dimension of spirit to others, words can often be inadequate as a means of expression. This is why we sometimes get lost for words when we experience something awe inspiring or transformational. Despite this being the case, we shouldn’t let this challenge in communicating interfere with the spirit’s intention to have us understand and accept each other for who we truly are.

There is so much of value that we can provide to others. In our hearts and minds, we have a treasure trove of knowledge and wisdom that we are meant to share, not keep to ourselves. With this, I do not mean forcing our ideas on others and having them bend to our whim. That would promote misunderstanding and conflict which would not serve the spirit, but the purposes of the ego. Rather, what I am advocating for here, is giving of inspiration and information that will enrich others and enable their growth.

The success of a learning experience is determined in equal parts by the student’s openness to learning, and the teacher’s willingness to teach. Do not doubt that what you know in the depths of your being can lead others to a deeper experience of life. All you need is an interaction to touch the life of another in a profound way. Here, you have nothing to be afraid of. With grace as the facilitator of these interactions, the words you express are in the safest of hands.

So much of the confusion and lack of fulfilment in relating that characterises the human experience at present, stems from our unwillingness to open ourselves up to the presence of spirit, and being unreceptive to the presence of spirit in others. Resolve here and now to be a part of the solution by embracing your role as a teacher of others. Teach what you learn from relating with your spirit, so that the consciousness of the world may be elevated by the wisdom that you have found yourself to be.

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The Relationship Wake

What is your relationship wake? Concerning the people that you share time with, do you leave them in a better position than you found them, or worse off for having encountered you? Do you lift others up by your contribution to their life, or do you tear them down? Do you make them the focus of your attention when you interact with them, or do you make yourself the focus of these interactions? Each of these are potent questions, when you consider that the quality of one’s life is determined largely by the quality of their relationships.

A wake is a trail that is left behind. The mark that we have made on the world, it illustrates the path that we have taken from one moment to the next. The by-product of our being, it attests to the maturity of our character, and our willingness to grow as we were created to. Embodying the thoughts, attitudes and behaviours that have shaped our interactions with others, this wake is what they will remember us by, even after we have long forgotten the dynamics of those interactions.

With this, picture yourself standing on a cliff and looking out into the ocean. Spotting a small boat in the distance in front of you, what is observable to the eye is not only where the boat is, but also where it has been. Moving atop the water by the power of its engine, what it leaves behind is a wash of white water that tells a story of its own. The wake of the boat, it contextualises the picture that otherwise would have remained obscure to an observer with a more limited perspective.

Now extend this metaphor to your relationships. Have the boat represent who you are to those who you interact with, whether they are loved ones, business colleagues or acquaintances. What wake have you left behind? Is yours one that has seen you give to others what they needed from you in those interactions? Has that path been consciously created and expressive of who you truly are, or does it provide evidence that you have not shown up in the world authentically as yourself?

Rarely do we give thought to the kind of relationships that we would like to create as we are participating in them. Most often we shape them unconsciously, and then look back at what we have effected. This is not something to regret if what we have created has been positive and fulfilling from both our perspective and the perspective of others. The real problem comes when we look back and have the realisation dawn on us that we have left a path of destruction in our wake.

Seldom is the case that we intend to cause others to suffer in relating with us, but this is what we nevertheless create when we do not direct ourselves consciously, and make others a part of our focus. Leaving them on the periphery of our concern, what we create is unsatisfying and incapable of nurturing the best of what is both given and received in these interactions.

The beauty of relationships is that they hold great potential for individual and collective growth, but we will struggle to see this beauty and facilitate this growth when we are so focused on ourselves and where we are going that we forget to take the time to look behind at our wake, and the story that it tells not only about the quality of our relationships, but ultimately the quality of our life.

In your awareness, stay on that cliff looking over the vastness of your life, even after you have stopped reading this, so that your perspective is one that adds depth to your ability to relate to others in the here and now, and into the future. We can’t do much about the wake that has already been created, but we can create a new wake from this day forward. Your power, joy and wisdom are that which you give to others as you relate to them from the depths of your spirit. Be sure to integrate this lesson into your wake, so that others can learn from your example when they look upon your boat from the precipice where they now stand.

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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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