Past Articles

"Follow your Bliss" revisited.

follow your blissJoseph Campbell didn't say, "Go find your bliss". He didn't say, "Do the things that give you bliss". Neither did he say, "Pursue a vocation that gives you bliss". He didn't even say, "Follow your path of bliss".

He simply said, "Follow your Bliss".

I was reminded of this whilst reading a passage from Derek Siver's book "Anything You Want" (http://goo.gl/qKvX1) at my local café an hour or so ago. Here it is...

"No “yes.” Either “HELL YEAH!” or “no.” ……
When deciding whether to do something, if you feel anything less than “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!”—then say “no.” When you say “no” to most things, you leave room in your life to throw yourself completely into that rare thing that makes you say “HELL YEAH!” Every event you get invited to. Every request to start a new project. If you're not saying “HELL YEAH!” about it, say “no.” We're all busy. We've all taken on too much. Saying yes to less is the way out.

This is what is so hard for our 'little me' minds to accept: Bliss is not a path, or a vocation, or a destination of an kind... it is a Compass!

There is no path. The path is what we see if we happen to look back over our shoulder whilst following our bliss... but you are not going to see that path in front of you. And another thing: When you follow you bliss, the things that light our fire are quite likely to morph into other things, just as quickly as we learn whatever it is they have to teach us, and then accept their gift.

So here's the thing: The feeling of "Hell Yeah" IS our Bliss. And we are free, if we so choose, to follow that feeling... trusting that it knows its own perfect way. What's more, that feeling is always present. It's just that we've pretty damn good at suppressing it.... or, perhaps more accurately, we hear only those who have got good at supressing it, which is virtually all of us.

We really don't have to do that anymore. :)
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On Learning

All the great discoveries, once discovered, are seen as incredibly obvious and simple… and tend to make everyone, including the discoverer, appear foolish for not having seen them before. ‘Foolishness’ or 'ignorance' then, is simply the state that exists prior to knowing.

Unfortunately, we learnt that these states are to be avoided. Our society and education system teaches us to take pride in what we know, and to be ashamed of ignorance.

Ashamed-of-ignorance now creates a fear of exploring those paths where we imagine we could be open to ridicule. But more sinister still, pride-in-knowledge ring fences our ability to learn, as we now avoid everything that could contradict our core beliefs rendering us ‘ignorant’... in favour of pursuing only the learning that extends our carefully constructed and prized models of reality.

It's not that we do this consciously, we just don't see what we turn away from – the knowledge that contradicts what we stand for. So we explore that which we know we don’t know but rarely venture into the domain of what is not seen – the stuff we don’t know that we don’t know.

For those brave souls willing to cross this threshold of indoctrinated shame, laugh at ourselves, and move on into the outer reaches of our vast universal ignorance, life’s ‘secrets’ slowly unfold. But in the face of the strong internal and social pressures against this, there are few as yet who are willing to practice or even advocate such a simple and satisfying course towards sanity.

Those who do have the courage to tread this path to real discovery find little practical guidance on how to do so. But you do find them even in established institutions – mostly working away in secret, pretending to be busy following accepted policies, talking the talk as if agreeing with the deadening personal opinions they hear around them… but all the while walking in the other direction. Paradoxically, in embracing their ignorance they re-discover the joy of learning, and their un-knowingness clears a space in mind for insight beyond anything imagined.

To arrive at first principles doesn’t requires years of study or great calculation or an intellectual thought process of any kind. No prior research is needed, in fact no effort at all. Thinking creates belief. Knowing is not a product of thinking. It unfolds -- as if a gift -- when we hold in mind what we want to know and then pay attention to (and share) our experience as it unfolds in following the trail of insights. To borrow Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s words, “The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach – waiting for a gift from the sea."

To learn together with our peers like this is nothing but fun. In exploring together in openness we start to see the connectedness of everything, we feel a part of each other and feel a part of this that is animating the whole show, instead of perceiving only the complexity appearing on the surface… and as this background becomes more distinct, it begins to all make sense as the unity and simplicity of this bigger picture becomes clear.

And so learning and joy are two sides of the same coin. One cannot come without the other. And this, to me, is the essence of Joseph Campbell’s plea, “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls”. Notice that J.C. never said‘Find a vocation that gives you bliss’, or ‘Find something that gives you bliss and do that’, or ‘Follow your path to bliss’. He just said,‘Follow your bliss’.

We all have this experience of joy when we are on track and learning what we need to know. Bliss is not something we do, not a vocation, not a path... it is our compass needle. Our art, vocation[1] and gift to the world are all just effects – what shows up for us along the way, when we commit to following our inner knowing (and feeling of ‘bliss’) that knows the way to our freedom and happiness. Our 'path' is simply what we see if we happen to pause and look back while ‘following our bliss’.

Does anyone here feel a similar way about this? 

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[1].. ‘Vocation’ is a very fluid thing for me. What-gives-me-joy tends to change pretty much as soon I learn what each new venture has to teach me. I‘m not sure whether this is an exception or a rule.

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Credit: the video animation is courtesy of http://www.born-to-learn.org/.

The Music of Life

The first question I ask myself when something doesn't seem to be beautiful is why do I think it's not beautiful. And very shortly you discover that there is no reason." -- John Cage.

Glimmers of light

The first house I owned was on a main road through a town. Although it had a lovely back garden backing onto a river with open country beyond, I couldn’t get used to the noise from the road. Every morning we’d wake to sounds of sirens from the ambulance station diagonally opposite, and the din of commuter traffic in the early morning rush. What a nightmare! I grew to hate it, and couldn’t wait till we could afford a place in the country.

Then one day something extraordinary happened. I’d been working ridiculous hours, been out till the early hours, I was exhausted and fell into a deep sleep. What woke me from my slumber was the sound of a lorry pulling away from the junction just down the road, and now coming towards our house. But this time the sound was like nothing I ever heard before. It was wonderful beyond imagination. It had somehow caught me in the moment as we awaken from sleep, but before we remember just who or where we are.

The engine note started with a deep reverberating bass, rising -- slowly at first -- through the scales as it gathered speed, becoming louder until a wonderful crescendo of engine revs. Then followed by a softly pause, a clatter of misplaced gears, and then once again repeating this stanza from the base line as the truck gathered speed again in a higher gear… but closer and louder now. It sounds silly typing this, but this was unbelievably delightful and enchanting. Two cars then added to this symphony as they overtook — their contrasting speed and engine tones in absolute perfect harmony, as this now three-piece-ensemble burst into full song. Words cannot describe how beautiful this was.

I lay there with eyes now wide open, lost in the sounds and in awe of this moment, until eventually the thought arose of not wanting this music to end. And sure enough, in the instant of wanting, it faded. I loved music, many genres, but I’d never heard anything as mellifluous as this. In retrospect, the sounds were much the same as those I’d always heard, and had grown to despise, but what I had inadvertently fallen open to was the feeling and experience of This that was animating the whole show.

It took many years and many such experiences to grasp that these moments are simply glimpses of into what is always present, and all we need do to experience the reality of this -- as happened accidentally on this morning -- is set aside our resistance to being open in what is plain to see in each moment that we come to defencelessly.
This music is always playing because it’s the sound of our own Self which knows nothing as separate from itself. Our ability to hear it is only a function of our willingness to listen. Fast forward thirty years.

Listening

I am writing this piece from the cafe a mile from home. I love it here. A couple of times a week I'll come and use this place as my office for a hour or three. It's full of noisy kids, ladies who lunch gossip, students or business types tapping on laptops, and I sat in a corner by the window listening to the music of life inside and outside as I write — the air brakes on the delivery truck across the street, the clunk of car doors of a Mum and her Mum who just left, the couple by the wall trying to have a discrete argument and failing miserably, the clatter of crockery and gurgling of the coffee machine from behind the counter. I love all of this. This, to me, is the most sublime music of all.

I have nothing against silence, but it’s this stillness in the heart of the storm where I feel at Home, and right here I feel as though I have best the seat to the best show in town. Paradoxically, I find the peace, insight and inspiration that’s sought after in meditation overflows in abundance when we open like this to the recognition of our Self as Life itself. As I look around I know I can experience an overwhelming love and connection with anyone who walks through that door, as long as I remember it’s a choice. Love flows through me as I listen to the Truth, as it does with all of us.

Some folk say ‘Hi’, some chat a little, occasionally someone gets curious and comes sit with me. Each of these is a gift that pulls me deeper into this Flow of benevolent, energetic wholeness that we are all a part of and immersed in and that delights in it’s free expression and recognition. Friends have asked me how I can work with so much no noise and so much going on, and yet I am at my most creative and productive here. This ‘noise’ is music to my ears, 'interruption' is no more than a name given to a judgement call that has no basis in reality. I could write a whole book about the serendipitous moments that just come together in this place to help me bring clarity to whatever it is I happen to be working on.

Most of us, most of the time, don’t hear this Music. We are so caught up in our own story, or caught up trying to fix our story, or caught up in trying to resolve the parts of our story that still trouble us... that we have come to believe the story is real, and taken our identity as our story’s lead role. In doing so we forget that this is our fiction — this is our own tape we are listening to running inside our own heads (http://goo.gl/cd6iX) and nothing at all to do with the reality that is here right now, calling us to from every corner of Creation to wake up from our mind-constructed dream-state.

The burden of keeping up the appearance of the protagonist in our own black comedy, is one so huge it is a wonder how we ever cope. Our hospitals and our prisons and our locked bedrooms are full of those that don’t. Yet we perpetuate this in each moment that we choose not listen to this Music, in favour of retelling our story and seeking self-validation (little ‘s’) instead. Perversely, we continuously choose being ‘right’ (regardless of the suffering) over being happy as we shed our mistaken limiting beliefs.

A challenge

Do you want to hear this Music now?

We don’t believe we can simply call upon this and have it be so, because our ego does not allow us to believe this. It will support our effort to atone for the past, improve ourselves, and even support our spiritual journey, but not this. It takes no time because it is not something 'we' do. Our real Self knows it’s own way into our conscious awareness. What we experience as time is only our letting go of our resistance to the recognition that time plays no part in this.

NOTE: If you are unwilling to do what I suggest in the next few paragraphs, don’t fret about it and just skip ahead. This is something we approach or resist in our own particular way, and that is absolutely perfect. :)

If you are up for it, take a few moment to allow everything you deem unacceptable -- in the past, present or imagined in the future -- to be exactly as it is. This ’everything’ includes not only your list of personal horrors, but also you. This means setting aside your need for self-validation, or enlightenment or fulfilment or your idea of ‘success’ or whatever else it is you seek. Just for a few moments let all hope of getting any of that stuff go. Let everything be just as it is.

Is it absolutely just as it is?

What this little preparation does is leave us sat on the chair exactly as we are, with nowhere to go with who we are right now. We are left face to face with the issue of our own Self-acceptance and nowhere to hide from it.

And now, without second-guessing or assuming you already know, just listen to what is here... trusting that this ‘What Is’ knows it’s own way into your conscious awareness. Trust that in choosing this, your part is done… and so all you need do is relax into the feeling of what is here right now. Nothing more.

Notice how challenging this is. For each of us our prison is right there, at the point where we can't just let it all be. This is our resistance staring back at us. This is the very situation we spend most of our life avoiding.

But here’s the thing: This is also the one place we can exchange resistance -- and the resultant suffering -- for freedom. The tug-of-love in us knows for sure how to handle every spec or boulder of resistance that our mind would have us turn away from. Everything that appears as an impediment to us, our God-Self delights to trance-end.

The challenge I offer, is for you to hand over to your true Self whatever resistance appears for you now. Give these in trust, and see how delightful this can be. It knows how to trance-end any obstacle (mental, emotional or circumstantial) that appears as a limitation or impediment within our experience. From the light of our own Beingness, the secret attraction that any suffering has held for us within in our story can be clearly seen, and in seeing this we naturally let it go.

Miracles

These miracles are ours for the asking, but we've got to want them. We've got to want the Spirit that jiggles the molecules more than the molecules themselves, and no-one can make this choice for us. The problem we have with it, is that we can’t keep both the story and the Music because only one can be true. It’s impossible to believe a lie once it’s seen for what it is, the awareness of what is true immediately invalidated what is untrue.

This Self-acceptance is the way we come to know that our story -- however attractive or horrendous it may have been -- is just a story. Our Beingness is untouched by anything that appears in nightmares. Self-acceptance gives us the eyes to see this, and also see that everything that shows up for us is perfectly helpful in our overcoming our resistance to consistently choosing this gift. Life delights to lift us free.

I hope you join me in listening to the Music this New Year, to be true to What Is instead of true to our latest idea about what is still needed… and perhaps you’ll also remind me when I forget. :)

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Happy Christmas Friends

CAS56389“The hardest thing to see is what is in front of your eyes"... Goethe

Somewhere hidden between the religious Christmas (the bible stories, nativities and carols) and the festive Christmas (the parties, feasting and commercial stuff), there’s another Christmas that gets lost in all the hustle and bustle and planning that goes off at this time of year. This the spirit of Christmas.

This 'hidden' Christmas is the one I feel when I hear Wizzard's Christmas song 'I wish it could be Christmas every day'. It's the Christmas of easy smiles and infectious laughter and enjoying what is so real and alive and lovely right now. It's the Christmas of renewal and grace and the seeing of what Jack Kerouac spoke of in ‘On the Road’, "Life is Holy, and each moment is precious."

You don't have to be a Christian, or in anyway religious, to enjoy this. It's a universal Christmas that can permeate all others, one that everyone can feel and understand on a personal level, and can love and celebrate in their own quiet way. This Christmas touches something we’ve kept hidden… and can also be, if we choose, a time of opening to this Light that shines in all of us.

We call this light by different names, and may think of it differently…. but it makes no difference, because it is there. It exists regardless of the name or thought we give it. We could say it is the rebirth of our Buddha nature, the awakening of our Christ consciousness, the recognition of our essence as Spirit, the restoration of our natural unlimited Self, the rebirth of unconditional Love. The language varies but it's all the same.

It's probably no coincidence that the symbol of Christmas is a star - a light in the darkness. My wish is that we remember this Christmas and come to never doubt the power of our simple, undivided intention to allow this -- our Light -- to shine, regardless of 'present circumstances'. I wish you the very best in 2012.

Happy Christmas. *

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Self Healing Communities

HappyHomeIn spite of its troubles, Britain has a couple of endearing qualities that seem to get it through most things.  The first is that we not only tolerate eccentricity, but we actively welcome it.  Silliness and absurdity are good here, and we have plenty of it (witness the drop-down box for 'Title' on the Royal Opera House registration here -> http://goo.gl/cWdlr ... How posh are we!).  We even have a political party founded upon it (http://goo.gl/WfnMq).

But to understand why it so revered, you need to understand the second quality -- a rather peculiar form of humour that uses silliness, pompousness and any other form of posturing as raw material for good natured exposure.  You find this in healthy families and workplaces, but it's in traditional English pubs that it's most visible.  There you see little groups engaging in a form of mockery and character assassination that anywhere else in the world would be classed as mental abuse.

A lot of this is quite subtle, and difficult to at first detect.  A pompous, self-righteous or boastful person will often be encouraged ("Oh, did you really?" "Do tell us about it!") purely to harvest material that can then be carefully laid out, in all its mis-glory, for everyone to laugh at.  If you have a tendency to take yourself a little too seriously or enjoy the sound of your own voice - beware!  Any attempt to impress will have the exact opposite effect.  And nothing is sacred.  Don't be surprised if you walk into your 'local' with a new girlfriend and -- after the initial pleasantries -- your sexual prowess is immediately brought into question!

Most foreigners just don't know what to make of this, and tend to give these groups a wide birth in case they their own persona becomes fodder for their teasing too.

But look close and you'll see there's nothing at all sinister here.  Even though insulting or even heated words may be used, the relaxed postures and quick smiles reveal something else is going on.  Teasing is a sign that you are liked, in spite of the mask you wear -- your faults and follies are amusing, not distressing.  Watch carefully and you'll see there are as many perpetrators as 'victims' - everyone and everything is fair game... and even though nothing is off limits, everyone ends up laughing.

It's laughter therapy of the most brutal kind, but by God it works.  No matter what kind of day you're having, you cannot leave without feeling humbled, yet closer and better.  (BTW, my kids are all experts at this.  They know just how to keep each other -- and me -- real.   They are masters of irony, and can keep such a straight face that it's often hard to tell whether they are joking and teasing, or not).

Look closer still, and you can actually see a well-defined structure to all this:
The unwritten 'constitution’ prescribes reciprocity, equality, the pursuit of intimacy and a tacit non-aggression pact.  There's also two unspoken commandments enshrined in this ritual, knowledge of which is mandatory for effective participation.  The first is: 'Thou shalt not take anything, especially yourself, too seriously.'  And the second: 'Be prepared to laugh at yourself, because you most surely will be teased."  These unwritten rules are not at all restrictive or inhibiting -- quite the opposite -- they are designed to crack the toughest shells, opening to more communication and to places we would normally never dare to go.  And finally, the golden-rule that ties this all together is, 'don't forget to laugh!'

But here's the beautiful paradox of this ritual: It is both social-bonding on steroids AND it gives you permission to go and express your Self without holding back (regardless of the outcome of that Self expression and no matter what fears or foibles come to the surface in the process).  You are free to be as eccentric as you like when 'eccentricity' is cherished... and fear of failure or ridicule disappears completely when the idea of 'everyone laughing' includes you!  It's the perfect environment to learn and grow.

It also allows for arguments that are incredibly joyful affairs, where real meaning is created.

Steve Jobs was aware of the effect of this (although I'm not so sure he fully understood the 'why' and the 'how' of it).  He told Tim Cook,"My model for business is The Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other’s kind of negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other and the total was greater than the sum of the parts."  What actually happened was throughout the massive changes and pressures from suddenly being shot to stardom, they engaged in this same good natured barracking that kept them grounded, kept them cheerful and kept them creative.  You saw this every time they were together, in interviews and in private, 'on screen' and off.

This is a great model for business, but it also a great model for any community.

There are many 'serious professional types' who would scoff at the frivolity of this simple approach and question its relevance to the big issues we face today, but I would disagree.  Restoring and maintaining the happiness and wellbeing of your people as 'job 1', is to put the horse back in front of the cart... and it's only in this frame of mind that we become truly creative.  And that's all we need do.  The resulting inspiration and new found creativity takes care of the rest.  When you have the ability to create what we really want, you no longer have to worry about what you don't.

So please... don't forget to laugh! :)

DEDICATION: I dedicate this post to my four children -- Jedi Masters in the art of persona dissection and playful teasing, and to my partner and step daughter who had such a shock walking into this... but are now appear more real, more radiant and more lovely because of it.
PHOTO CREDIT: +Chung Huynh

Comments:  
I have started using the Google+ (the social networking site) for my shorter writing and musings.  If you'd like to join me there I'd be delighted.  You can find me here =>  http://gplus.to/swiftnick .  If you would like to leave comments you can do so either here on Life 2.0 or join the conversation here on Google+.

Beware false prophets

Most people stumble across the truth at some time in their lives. Most jump up, brush themselves off and hurry about their business as if nothing had happened." -- Sir Winston Churchill

…and most of us that do not hurry-away look for someone to help us stabalise that experience. It’s as though we can’t quite accept that the source of the insight and inspiration we experienced came from within us… which of course, would mean that what we have been looking for is US, perfect already. And we couldn’t possibly have that now, could we?

So in that disbelief we go looking for a ‘teacher’ -- other than the one we just discovered – to help us recapture the experience that for one minute seemed so real but now increasingly remote.

We buy his books and CD’s and watch his videos… all the while refusing to look at the truth of who it is that is doing the seeking – the reality hidden behind our self-belief. And when this teacher doesn’t deliver, we go find another. In this way we continue to hide from our Self by acting-out being lost.

Ultimately, it’s insight that unravels complexity and brings doubt to clarity. And -- although life speaks to us in many different ways -- the insight that reveals what is, arises from within. Accepting that the means and the end are One, we can dispense with false prophets. We don’t have to go looking for Love when that is the place we are coming from.

False Prophets L

Cartoon credit: http://www.holymolecartoon.com/store.html

Announcements:  
I have started using the Google+ (the social networking site) for my shorter writing and musings.  If you'd like to join me there I'd be delighted.  You can find me here =>  http://gplus.to/swiftnick .  

The way I’ll remember Steve Jobs

SteveJobs2

 

If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas…. George Bernard Shaw

 

True stoics are a rare breed. The simplicity and clarity of the principles they live by gives them a power that shines through most everything they do... and that light can act as a beacon for all of us.

Steve commenting on the photograph below:
“This was a very typical time. I was single. All you needed was a cup of tea, a light, and your stereo, you know, and that’s what I had.”

SteveJobs 

iThankyou. 

Stay hungry, stay foolish Steve.  God bless ya.

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Tiny Interventions

This little experiment by Improv Everywhere where they place a wooden lectern with the sign ‘say something nice’ in public spaces around New York, reminds me how small interventions can have such profound effects.


(video link here)

I get the feeling that when our 'greatest minds' finally unravel the mysteries of life  -- the strangeness of the observer effect in quantum mechanics and all that -- we'll be faced with the shocking truth that we stand at cause in our life, with the Universe as effect;  that perception is projection, not fact; that who really are is this changeless presence of awareness in which all that can be observed, and that is subject to change, appears;  that who-we-are is the answer we have been looking for.

Maybe it’s only then that it will dawn on our waking minds that we are the Artist – the script writer -- in the story of our life, and the Universe not a mystery to be solved or problem to be fixed, but the pristine canvas on which we are free to express whatever we choose – that this is simply our playground and our classroom.

The thing is, we don't have to wait for that day to learn just how influential we are.  We can choose now to witness how seemingly tiny loving interventions fan out like ripples on a lake, bringing untold release in places we would never have imagined.  As Gandhi said, "The pure love of one soul can offset the hatred of millions."

Miracles are expressions of love, but they may not always have observable effects.  A miracle is never lost.  It may touch many people you have not even met, and produce undreamed of changes in situations of which you are not even aware…. ACIM

But first, we must learn not be dismayed by appearances.  We have to recognise that fear, in whatever form it appears or however it is expressed, is nothing more that the perception of absence of Love.  Recognising this allows us to hold a place of peace so we hear the reality of the call being made, and respond naturally in kind. 

Miracles honour you because you are lovable.  They dispel illusions about yourself and perceive the light in you.  They thus atone for your errors by freeing you from your nightmares.  By releasing your mind from the imprisonment of your illusions, they restore your sanity…. ACIM

Right where we stand we have the opportunity to heal the world.  It is only the ego’s voice that protests we are not ready.

Comments >>

Welcome.....     

  • ..this blog stems from a recognition that our true nature is far more creative, loving and unlimited than we could possibly imagine... and it transforms everything... a practical, generic solution to all our problems.

    These are just my lesson notes as I try to  be true to that recognition... and  learn to fly.  So it's quite possible that everything here may be wrong.

    Thank you for visiting.  Email (to Nick Smith) is always welcome.

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