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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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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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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