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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Enabling the Acorn to Flourish (Part 5)

This explains why we experience such high levels of enthusiasm and energy when we are engaged in a form of task or activity that we love. In flow with the depth of purpose in our heart, we avoid much of the fatigue that comes to the mind and body when we are consumed with rowing our boat against the tide. Weakened by the choice to entangle ourselves in this struggle, we then encounter the pressure of having to measure up to those forces which constitute the weight of that tide. Suppressing the fullness of our being, we are starved of enthusiasm and the will to engage with what we come to label as ‘work’.

Living our calling shouldn’t be viewed as work in the traditional sense. Better is it understood as purposeful and passionate play. As much as a child enjoys playing with their favourite toy, so should we enjoy doing what we have been called to do to the same extent. Granted, the adult world is more complex than that of a child, and there are going to be challenges encountered in this process of engagement. These are an unavoidable part of the journey. Whilst these occurrences may temporarily disrupt our flow, they need not diminish our joy and harmony. Having a genuine love for that which we do, and how it relates to who we are, we will be inoculated from much of the suffering that stems from a spiritually unbalanced life.

It is often said that to succeed we must persist in the face of opposition. This, I couldn’t agree with more, but what is it that allows us to demonstrate and sustain this quality? The answer to this is the loving essence of spirit, out of which courage, determination and resilience also spring. When we partner with genuine love in the pursuit of a purpose, we find ourselves unattached to the outcomes that lay ahead. Immersed in the life enhancing experience of joy and growth, there is nothing more that we need gain. Achieving results by our efforts in the physical world, these are secondary benefits that mean very little in and of themselves. Flowing from our devotion to the spiritual inclination to love, it is this that means more in absolute terms.

Achievements are fleeting, but joy is impactful. Infusing our present moments with richness, it is the degree to which we experience and perpetuate joy that is the true measure of success. How different would the world be if we came to define ourselves in these terms? When we learn to cultivate joy in what we do, and allow this to guide our service, we diminish the need to define ourselves by such things as money, power and material possessions.

In the unconsciousness of our habitat, the success score is assessed by these dysfunctional metrics, despite our intrinsic knowing that they fail to deliver what we most want in life. Of them, there is never enough, especially for vultures who have become slaves of this world. Continually wanting more of these addictive lures, their hunger remains strong, with their discontent in the present moment. We cannot be joyful in the same moment that we are discontented. Mired in the negativity of fruitless striving, joy will not arise from within, when we need something more than we want to be fulfilled.

Similarly, we cannot truly be living life if our attention is continually being focused on the future and what we can gain from it. The future does not hold any joy that is not first present in our heart. To experience joy in any moment, we must bring it there. Manifested through our connection to life, this joy is not dependent on us gaining at the expense of others, despite what the world with a scarcity orientation would have us believe.

At the spiritual level, a form of life is entwined with all other forms of life, so when we seek to take something away from another person, we are also taking something away from ourselves. Depriving ourselves and others in this way, joy is obstructed and our clarity is contaminated. Perpetuating ego consciousness with these life depleting movements, it is the illusion of duality that we must consciously overcome to understand that we can only ever flourish in the fullness of an integrity that no one single mind can claim on or as its own.

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Enabling the Acorn to Flourish (Part 4)

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Having the love for what we do, we will have to trust that one thing will lead to another. Being faithful to that which we know to be aligned with the intention of our heart, we will find the courage to follow the path, even if we do not know exactly where it will lead. What holds a lot of people back from following their passion is the need to know the port of destination before they commence the voyage. Fearing the unknown or wanting a promised return on the investment of their time and energy, these individuals resist the spiritual essence of the journey that thrives on faith, and the majesty that flows from the mystery of how the path will unfold. Like a great movie, the most enthralling journey has its unforeseen twists and turns that add richness and depth to the scenes of our experience. With this I ask you, ‘how extraordinary can a journey really be, if we know beforehand how it will unfold?’

The journey of connecting with our vocation, is one with the journey of discovering the spiritual self. The more clarity that we get on who we are at the core level of being, the greater is our power to serve authentically in the world. What has progressed the world forward is the conscious application of our unique gifts and abilities that was not motivated by the ego’s desire for gain and recognition. For me, this is a key component which separates a career from a calling. We pursue a career to make something of and for ourselves. We live a calling in order to reconcile the fullness of who we are with the longings of the world.

With a career, we might strive to arrive at a place of fulfilment, only to find ourselves empty and burdened by the weight of inner tension. Strained by the wedge that we have allowed to be driven between our purpose and the means of its accomplishment, our spirit is numbed to the point where we come to believe that this type of mediocre existence is the best to be hoped for. Many of us have had the experience of working in establishments where the work to be performed did not evoke the gifts of our heart, along with the talents of our mind. Meaning very little to us, there was no joy or authentic expression to be found in that work, but only a meagre pay-check that in its accumulation and expenditure failed to deliver anything of lasting substance.

While many people would have been willing to settle for this life once upon a time, a shift is presently being effected in society that is seeing a growing number of individuals leave their career to live their calling. Craving purpose and meaning to their existence, these courageous travellers are forgoing higher compensation and an assortment of other perks in some instances, for the experience of doing on a daily basis what they love and value most in life.

Not too long ago, I was watching the grand finale of Masterchef Australia. This show, which pits a number of amateur chefs against each other for the opportunity to realise their culinary dream, has played its part in bringing many people in touch with the love that they have for cooking. For those who appeared on the show, they were inspired and driven to do what they were previously afraid to attempt. Such is the power of having a purpose that allows us to express our fullness in being.

What was interesting to me as I watched the show was observing how many of the contestants described the life that they led before deciding to follow their passion. Stuck in jobs that stifled their spiritual freedom and precluded their joy from arising, the absence of meaning and engagement could be felt through the television screen. Coming alive when they were asked what cooking means to them, they almost become different people with their tone, body language and facial expressions aligning to convey the sense of integrity that they had found on that journey.

Who we are at the spiritual level must match what we do at the physical level of being. Without finding this fit, we cannot truly know what it means to be joy-filled. The greater the disparity between who we are and what we do, the harder we must search for happiness and fulfilment. When we are doing what we love in the moment that is now, we can be said to have arrived. Not having any other place to go to express the fullness of who we are, this love naturally arises to infuse our work, like a sweet fragrance imbues the skin with a fresh and rejuvenating essence.

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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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