In All Seriousness (Part 2)

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In the context of our relationships, creating this space from the substance of thought forms becomes a valuable means of improving their quality and depth. To illustrate this with an example, have you ever gotten into an argument with someone you cared about and they said something that hurt you deeply? Maybe they labelled you in an unfair way or called your integrity into question. I think that at some time or another in our lives, we have all been there, and found it to be an unpleasant experience. But how long did what that person had to say linger with you? That would be determined by the weight that you gave to their words at the time they were uttered. The greater the weight that you gave to their words, the stronger the connection that you have drawn between who they are and the thoughts that have animated their words. But what of the deeper reality that more meaningfully characterises their behaviour? No doubt they are responsible for what comes out of their mouth, but beyond their words, isn’t there some other dimension of their being that is yearning for your ear?

Appearing on the surface to act viciously towards you, their motivation may have been preservation of an ideal or position that they perceived to be under threat. Feeling vulnerable in how the interaction was unfolding, they acted as they did in an attempt to protect themselves from your judgement or disappointment. With their purest intention being to find the common ground of understanding, they settled for something far less constructive because retaliation in response to the feeling of being rebuked has become their way of relating in such situations. Being a conditioned pattern of behaviour that they are unconscious of, it is something that you can relate to, for in your most susceptible moments, you have acted in similar ways when you felt threatened by someone opposing you.

Looking at our loved one’s behaviour from this new perspective, it becomes abundantly clear why we care about them so deeply. Sharing our vulnerabilities and shadow elements, their shortfalls are what we can appreciate and empathise with. Allowing ourselves to be conscious of this fibre that connects us, their harsh words do not cut as deeply any more. Not being reflective of the spirit that we know to be their essential light, forgiveness and love pour out of us like rain.

Extending this scenario a tad further, what if the substance of this insult was internally directed and spouted by your mind in monologue form? Upon hearing these negative words take shape, you would not need to take them to heart because in consciousness you would have an acute awareness of the ego’s proclivity for such action as a means of asserting control over you. Being centred within yourself, you would not need to become distressed or defensive in response to this artificial power play. This is the true power that we exercise when we become the still observer of the storm that brews in the undisciplined mind. In the eye of this storm, there is a silent calm that we call spirit. Surrendering ourselves to that space of higher consciousness, we will experience a rejuvenating peace and perspective that to an independent observer appears unreal amidst the turmoil that they see swirling all around us.

To provide you with a simple example, some time ago I was moving house and I forgot to bring something important that I had planned to take with me. With this mistake requiring me to do another round trip that was going to take three quarters of an hour, I found myself stuck in traffic having negative thoughts which expressed how much of an idiot I was to forget something so simple and make more work for myself.

After letting the voice of my ego mind say its piece, I couldn’t help but laugh at its offering. Having prepared myself for its reaction to this inconvenience, I knew that this wasn’t the time to beat myself up over this happening that had come and gone. Out of this more conscious response to the thoughts I was having, I felt a strong sense of peace, despite my mind’s initial unwillingness to relent. By choosing this course, I subdued its attack to the point that I moved past any semblance of negative feelings by the time that I returned home.

When do you find yourself taking your thoughts too seriously? In what areas of life do your negative thought patterns play themselves out? The grief that you allow these unhelpful thought forms to cause you, does not have to be. Entanglement, in this respect, is an unconscious choice that we have made. If we are to get serious about anything, it should be the work of disassociating ourselves from the thought forms of the ego that would have us remain ignorant to our inherent godliness. Establishing that foundation, a meaningful life that enriches the world can take form from the realm of being that is the very definition of truth and reality.

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Bribery of the Mind (Part 2)

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Each of us have blind spots that keep hidden those sabotaging elements, which can take a variety of forms. What to my friend was the release that nicotine and alcohol provided, may to you be the anonymity that comes with conformity. Wanting at the deepest level to live your calling, you may engage in defeating behaviours that prevent you from stepping up and standing out. Perhaps you feel undeserving of the success which would come from that journey, which leads you to settle for much less than you know in your heart you are worthy of receiving.

Another prominent payoff that I have observed in my own life and the lives of others, is doing too much for other people, or saying things that we don’t mean in order to gain their approval. Wanting to just be ourselves and have the world like us for who we are, we are reluctant however to show our true face, for fear that this vulnerability will bring about rejection. Learning early that a numbing comfort can be found in not risking ourselves, we play it small in our relationships that never really move beyond the superficial stages.

I have written before on intimacy and how it requires vulnerability to develop. If we are scared of being hurt in our relationships, we may try to remove ourselves from them, even though at a spiritual level we are receptive to the fruits of those connections, and willing to nourish them with our authentic gifts. Allowing this fear to get the best of us, we may find ourselves taking more from these other people than we give because this is easier work, and more rewarding for the ego. Causing an imbalance in these relationships, its effect will be harmful, and before long what we say that we didn’t want to happen will come to pass.

Unfortunately, a lot of relationships end this way. With love still being present in the moment of parting, what is lacking is the awareness of the sabotaging elements in our character, and the personal responsibility to reconcile these conflicts. Leaving the friction between the spirit and the segregated mind unaddressed, dysfunction will continue to manifest in various ways that will not always be palpable to us.

When we can learn to see these payoffs at work in our life and the lives of others, we cease to be as frustrated and hostile as we otherwise would have been when somebody doesn’t act as we would have expected them to. In reminiscing about my friend’s situation, I can remember that my first thought was that the behaviour he was engaging in was completely idiotic. Becoming acquainted with his payoff system in hindsight, that judgment and negative labelling subsided because I could see past the behaviour to the motivation behind it, and respond with empathy to the struggle that he was experiencing.

Yearning for something more meaningful in his life, he was just temporarily stuck, which is something that I could relate to from previous experience. Engaging in this destructive behaviour didn’t make him a bad or weak person. Having a light inside of him that yearned to overcome the limitations imposed by his dependence on these external substances, he had to surrender his chosen suffering before a breakthrough could be achieved. While he was bearing his own cross and defending his addiction, nothing could or would change for him.

It was only when he took the brave step of admitting to himself that he was navigating the terrain of his life with the wrong map that a more integral intention was revealed to guide him down an authentic path. Whether we say that this movement was inspired by grace or God, it doesn’t detract from the fact that intrinsically each of us has the ability to break free of our burdens and live a life that is aligned with love.

The essence of love is integrity that inspires a wholehearted movement towards joy, peace and fulfilment. Rather than bribe the mind with the temptations of ego, we must heal it of all the things that do not support and align with our life’s purpose. Shedding this dead psychological skin is challenging work, but such is the evolutionary process of life. True freedom exacts a cost, and that is the disillusionment of mind, and the payoffs that keep our spiritual light obscured from the world.

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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.

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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.

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Tolerance is not Enough

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It has been said that the number one need that people have is for acceptance. This, I am not sure about. I tend to think that love is, and will always be, the primary need of every human being. But even as I write this, I do realise that the two are so closely intertwined that it is problematic to try and place one above the other.

The very nature of love is to accept another unconditionally. It is to know another as yourself, and to be willing to look beyond the perception that the ego has constructed to fragment the spiritual identity that we share with each other. With the heart being a vessel for the spirit, it is the meaning of acceptance that the mind cannot grasp alone. This is because acceptance is a function of being, and not something that can be merely understood with logic and conveyed with words.

Love is as love does. It may use words to express itself, but it is acutely aware of their shortcomings. Love is openness, truth and fearlessness in action. Therefore, we must move towards those whom we seek to embrace, if we would have them trust that our intentions are pure. Short of that, we will be viewed with suspicion by the same conditioned mind that doesn’t recognise its equal in us.

So often, we come across people who claim to be accepting of others, but when we really look at their behaviour, it becomes obvious that they are merely tolerating others rather than accepting them unconditionally. Tolerance is as flexible as the ego mind would have us be, but in its company we are still in bondage. To merely tolerate another is not to accept them wholeheartedly. It is being reluctantly willing to reach out to another on the ego’s terms, but this is no virtuous act. Genuine reaching out can only be done in the company of love, but the ego knows nothing about love.

Being the conduit of all that love is not, it is the ego which stands in the way of what love desires to accomplish. Extending its apprehensive arms, it does not intend to bring others closer, but to keep them at a safe distance from which they can be judged. Driven by the desire for superiority and righteousness, this is how the ego serves those ends. With this, do not doubt that the tolerant are fearful of having their conceptions of self and the world challenged by the light.

Separation only strengthens our ego identity, and holding onto the constructs of this identity becomes an impediment when they feed a reality which says that what I see in the world is not a part of me. I know myself only when I walk in union with spirit, and taking this path I have seen what I can no longer accept. Our world tells us to tolerate others. It says that walking under a different banner, they are entitled to the same rights as we are. But we do not need the world to tell us this.

I have allowed myself to be taught by the light, and I know that we are not different in any meaningful way. The banners that we hold up as representative of reality are but illusions that prevent the image of spirit from shining through the cracks of consciousness. White, Black, Muslim, Christian, Straight, Gay, are but some classifications that form this wall, to keep the ego in and the spirit out. Once an indomitable structure, it is now vulnerable to collapse in the minds of those who would have the heart rule their actions. What leads to division, isolation and conflict is bearable no longer. Having its day, it is not what love cares to tolerate. Calling us to heal in the light of truth, it is what the spirit would have us accept unconditionally as the next stage of our collective evolution.

 

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Enabling the Acorn to Flourish (Part 8)

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Regardless of how old you are, you still have the opportunity to live your calling. Age is no excuse. Neither is aptitude, or the lack of it, for this is to be developed on the journey. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t want to start something unless they are already good at it. A nonsensical view that is often adopted to mask a deep seated fear of failure, it goes against the established process of mastery which recognises that incompetent doing must always precede masterful being.

Humility is such a key virtue to embody here, for without it we cannot grow to become masters in the domain of our calling. Wherever we are on the path of life, we must remember that we are students who have more to learn each day. Learning about that which we love is immensely enjoyable. An investment of our time, energy and very being, the rewards that we receive from this engaged exploration are so much greater than just the learning alone.

Involving the heart in the process, the love that we have for what we do, teaches us about the love that we are. Opening us up to the unexplored parts of ourselves, wisdom is allowed to flourish as one with knowledge. Harmonized in this growth process, the mind and spirit add strength to each other with the effect that our learning is integrated into our life. While we may think that this happens automatically, evidence proves that our learning is nowhere near as strong when we have no passion for the subject matter of that learning.

If I were to ask you here what you remember about trigonometry at school, you would probably go blank, unless of course you have a passion for mathematics. Having love for the subject matter of our calling increases its stickiness, to use marketing language. Resonating with who we are at the deep spiritual level, we take more in with an enhanced capacity, just as a hungry person is likely to do when presented with a bowl of food that they love. While having an insatiable appetite for food may get us into trouble with our health goals, having an insatiable appetite for learning about that which we love, will pave the way for continuous improvement, while exponentially increasing our level of fulfilment.

Digressing from this point, it has always amazed me how when we get on the vocational path, and allow inspiration to speak to us, forces beyond our conscious control come to assist us in our mission. Frequently, when I engage in the process of writing, what emerges in form is so much greater than my mind’s ability to hold. Knowing what I want to say and a bit about how to express it, I feel a force more powerful than my limited conception of self, assisting with the process. Being the spirit within that has given me the ability to write, it continually nudges me forward in my destined unfolding, while supplementing my knowledge with its innate wisdom.

Trying to explain this synchronicity, it mightn’t make much sense to you, unless you have experienced it yourself. Doubting initially my own perspective on this experience of flow, I have since had it validated by many other people who have reported similar experiences when engaged in tasks or activities that they profoundly loved to do. The basketball great Larry Bird once said that often when he had the ball in a game, he intuitively knew the best play to make in the circumstances. But how did he know? Because in those moments of play, he was fully present in what he loved to do and had an incredible talent for. Allowing his inner spiritual guide to speak to him in these moments about the rhythm of the game, Bird was able to perform at a higher level than his contemporaries, who were more focused on imposing their own personal will on the game.

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Enabling the Acorn to Flourish (Part 7)

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Many of us are not curious enough, or willing to challenge the status quo, in this respect. Taught by society to accept our lot without complaint, I detect a passive reluctance to question whether the lives that we lead are the ones that we really want. Fearing the honest answer to this question, it is easier to deny the thoughts and feelings that we have about doing what we love. While this may bring us solemn comfort in the moment, our soul will suffer with the passing of time by not being able to freely express itself in service.

To be liberated spiritually and vocationally, we must listen for the clues that are communicated by our emotions. While the mind can and often does lie, our heart is honest in how it moves us emotionally. Free to express the feeling of love, this will naturally arise when we are performing those tasks or activities that are aligned with our spiritual intention to serve and create as only we can. Signalling to the mind that we are at one with our purpose, we do not have to indulge the ego identity and its fear inducing messages.

The ego mind, desiring the absence of purpose and integrity in our life, will often contaminate the thoughts that we have about doing that which we love. Using negative and disempowering words to break the bond that we have with the spirit of love, we will be tempted to believe in the impossibility of living our calling to a ‘successful’ level, or of being fulfilled by taking that journey. Listening to this cynical voice in our head, we allow fear and doubt to permeate the substance of the questions that we ask, and the statements that we make. Take for example the following:

‘What will my family and friends think of me doing this? They will probably think I am crazy and ridicule me.’

‘Moving in that new direction will be too challenging, and I doubt that I will ever succeed. I am better off sticking to what I already know how to do. Who cares if I don’t have any passion for it? I am competent at it and that will get me by.’

‘I need the money right now so I can’t pursue my passion. When I have enough money, then I will think about it.’

I think that most of us have said something similar to these statements at one point or another in our life. Staring at a fork in the road, the ego mind creates obstacles and perceived dangers, while the heart relishes the opportunity to take a new direction and flourish. Feeling our body come alive with excitement and positive expectation at the prospect of living our calling, we allow the ego mind to crash the party by interpreting these inspired responses in a negative way. Conditioned to be suspicious of that which is unfamiliar and untested, we choose not to risk what we have for fear of losing it, and being left without.

The flaw with this reasoning is based in the belief that what we now have is better than what we could have if we lived a life that gave a voice to our vocation. The ego mind is enamoured with those things that bring it comfort and security, despite those things not being conducive to our flourishing. Clinging to that which is trifling in its substance prevents anything that is more meaningful from coming into our lives. This is why we must take a step back to contemplate whether the ‘treasure’ that we have is really treasure at all. Dressed up that way by the ego, it more likely to resemble fool’s gold, when subjected to the pure light of spirit.

What we have already accumulated on our travels along a false path, has a shorter lifespan than those things that we can purchase with spiritual currency. With the spirit as the source of life, its abundance is latent in all that which is born of love. Taking the path that allows us to express our vocational gifts, what we give and receive in union with spirit is infinitely more valuable than what the ego would have us cling to for the purpose of preserving our worldly identity. While the physical world and the people in it may be fooled by our act, the universe is not. Knowing and embracing who we essentially are, its intention is that the world come to know and embrace us in this totality. This is why it is imperative that we stop hiding from ourselves and start living authentically.

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