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In the Eyes of Intimacy

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Intimacy. It is arguably the greatest of human experiences. To be seen deeply and nakedly, and to dare see deeply and nakedly into that person on the other side of a shared gaze—is there any act more courageous or fulfilling? Lover to lover, parent to child, friend to friend, it is in seeing one another that each of us faces the true depths of our own essence.

Powerful beyond the bounds of sexuality, it is through intimacy that we authentically connect with those closest to us. For lovers, however, it serves as the doorway to sexuality's true bounty. As Pál Szinyei Merse's painting suggests, it can be a kind of spiritual foreplay through which the depths of rapture are revealed.

There are a couple things lovers can do to support a flourishing of intimacy together:

1. Seeing and being seen. Gaze with openness and fascination into each others' eyes. No words. No movement. Just empty time together, one consciousness witnessing and absorbing the other. Push through the awkwardness if it arises, giggling or laughing as you may. Take slow deep breaths, centering yourself in the eyes of your beholder. Give it enough time and you will begin to see someone you have never seen before. Give it enough time and you will be seen as never before.

2. Knowing and being known. This technique unfolds slowly throughout your days together. You each develop a kind of user's guide to yourself. You share these user's guides with each other as they continually evolve.

Each of us approaches life in very different ways. We have different needs and gifts. We tend to assume that everyone else approaches life as we do. This misconception is a great inhibitor to intimacy.

What gestures help you to feel that you have been heard? What forms of support are most important to you? What expectations do you hold? What are your needs at this point in your life, whether you are proud or embarrassed about them? What are you most afraid of? What makes you feel most alive? What one gift do you most appreciate? What gift do you most like to give? How can you best be supported when you are upset? What truths about yourself are you most afraid to share and why? And so on...

By developing and sharing your own personal user's guides with one another, you not only learn to see and honor each other with greater depth, but you learn to see and honor yourselves for who you are. This opens a doorway to greater intimacy together, and for each of you independently. After all, you can only be as close in relationship with another as you are with yourself.

The Art of Sculpting Your Life (The Stone Series, Part IV)

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Michelangelo once said, "every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it."

Each and every one of us is a sculptor of the most important kind. We chisel away at our lives with every action. The question is, to what extent are we conscious about the lives we are shaping and how we are shaping them? To what extent are we conscious about the affect that our lives have on those other sculptors around us? To what extent do we know how to use our sculpting tools to reveal the forms deep inside that we were born to share with the world?

When I was a boy, I went through a phase where I tried to figure out who I was and what I wanted to do with my life. I somehow had the impression that I had to figure this stuff out first, then make it happen second. I didn't realize that our lives are always unfolding, that we are always evolving. I didn't realize that thought, choice and action were the precision tools with which we continually discover and reveal ourselves in this extraordinary world.

What if a dream is simply an unrealized truth? What if it is a thought without action? To fulfill a dream of being a writer, for example, all you have to do is write. Then you are being a writer. If you allow your worries about whether or not you are a "good writer" to stand in your way, you tend to not write as much. You put the chisel down and stare at the unformed substance of what you could be. You resign yourself to the life of the unrealized dreamer.

Gandhi was not a dreamer. He was a sculptor who revealed his truth to himself and the world through thoughtful action, one after another. As he said, "you must be the change you wish to see in the world." One chisel strike after another, he blundered and failed, succeeded and emerged, blundered and failed, succeeded and reemerged day after day, year after year. His truth was not revealed at the end of his life, but every moment that his momentum carried him forward.

I am an author—not because anyone has bought my books, but because I have written them, and because I take every step I can to carry them with every action that I take in the world. Through the process of writing, I reveal myself to myself. I reveal myself in the world. I chisel away at the substance of a writer, and in doing so I continually become one. Inevitably a better and better one.

Are you a dreamer? Do you ponder possibilities and chat about them over stimulating yet soon forgotten meals?

Or are you a sculptor? Do you take action to reveal your truth and form one chisel strike at a time?

Into the Light of Day

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In one day, the book project that I have spent the last five years developing is to be released online and in stores around the United States. In all honesty, I find myself rather nervous about the whole thing. How will it be received? It's like sending my child out to his first day of Kindergarten, wanting so badly for for him to be admired and appreciated for who his is and what he brings to this world, yet recognizing that I have to let this desire go. People will have their own experiences of him, and I have to give myself over to that process.

Maybe I've supplied him with great genes. Maybe he's fun and inspiring. Maybe he's imbued with all the love I've been overjoyed to share with him. Maybe he's his own person, with his own gifts to share for which I can take no credit. Maybe people will see in him qualities to which I have been blind. Maybe he will be seen for who his is, admired for who he is.

Have you ever stood in the shade of a tree gazing into the sky, playing peekaboo with the sun? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to stare directly at it, if only your eyes could handle the brightness of its day?

Tomorrow is your day, my sun. I hope you will warm people's lives. I hope you will fill them with energy that allows them to grow and thrive. I hope you will be received.

But even if you are not, go shining my sun!

Go Shining!

The Stone Series (The Stone Series, Part III)

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The User's Guide To Being Human: The Art and Science of Self explores the extraordinary human capacities with which were were born, yet had little time to formally develop while we were busy acquiring knowledge in our modern system of education. For example, we sometimes hear the phrase, "most people only operate about about 4% of their intellectual capacity." We laugh about it, then leave it at that. Hmmm.

What if it's possible to increase that intellectual capacity with little effort? What if you merely need to understand how your intelligence operates in order to increase its effectiveness? The purpose of my book is to put people in direct control over the natural human capacities that affect the unfolding of our lives: intelligence, willpower, mind, imagination, creativity, focus, authenticity, actualization, love, emotion, communication, and so on.

I recently went into the desert of Joshua Tree California to photograph images that captured each of the 8 arts that my book explores. I found images in stone that suggested human qualities relating to those 8 arts. For example, the following image seemed to capture an important aspect of the Art of Authenticity that is central to our sense of life fulfillment.

Marianne Williamson once said, "it is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most."

Most of us learn early on in life to suppress at least part of the truth about who we are. Wanting to be liked or admired, we create personas — social images, or ways of presenting ourselves in order to attract and impress others. We wear these personas like clothes when we are out in the world of people, and learn to leave them on even when we are alone. Over time, we tend to forget about our inner selves there beneath our personas. We grow confused about who we are, or what we really think and feel, or what we most wish to do with our lives. We partially shade ourselves in fear of how we might be received by others.

Authenticity is the art of living your truth without dressing it up or compromising it. By allowing your innermost self to shine through with power and purpose, you reveal your unique vision of what is most important in life. You grasp your deepest gifts and aptitudes, and use them to inspire and enrich the lives of others. Though you do not please everyone, your true self calls to those who admire most the qualities that you honestly stand for. As such, you attract people into your life with whom you naturally and dynamically resonate.

Do you sometimes shade yourself from the judgmental opinions of others? What affects does this shading have on you? Perhaps an exploration of the Art of Authenticity might help you to bring your true self out into the bright atmosphere of this earthy existence. If so, my own sense of purpose in life will be just a little bit more fulfilled. Perhaps yours will be too...

Harvesting an Epic Failure (The Stone Series, Part II)

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Last week, I was about 20 minutes into a lecture on "Focus" when I realized that I was giving what might very well have been the most discombobulated presentation of my entire career. Standing there before a roomful of people who had come to learn about focus, speaking in real time to keep from entering dead air space, it occurred to me that the constant inflow of participants from a late lunch had distracted me from laying out two key elements of my lecture. I was swimming around in an ocean of possibility trying to find my way back to the shore of a clear and concise lecture. What was I to do to salvage what was quickly becoming a disastrous presentation failure?

As words continued to issue forth from my mouth, I remembered that I had gone there to share my passion and interests about the power of human attention, and the ability to focus that attention despite the cacophony of modern stimuli that children and adults face. Perhaps I had landed in this very situation to display the art of refocusing attention under overstimulating circumstances.

One particular member of the audience had been focused on me since the beginning of the lecture, and I realized that I kept looking back to him much the way a young child looks to an adult for attention in order to persist with his or her activities. This compassionate supporter was offering a great gift, just as I had intended to offer a gift with my lecture.

With a growing conscious awareness of my predicament, I looked to him and said, "attention is like the sunlight of humanity with which we focus our energy in order to grow and thrive." Feeling the nourishing attention that he was offering to me, I refocused myself on the gift that I had come there to offer. I made the conscious choice to fulfill my original intention despite the chaotic groundwork that I had laid. By the end of the lecture, a third of the audience were standing in line to thank me for the presentation.

Have you ever found yourself facing a disastrous failure and wondering how you might salvage the situation? Remember this: every audience member who goes to see a movie wants to see the hero or heroine succeed in the end. We want to see this because we want to develop our abilities to do the same.

When all hell is breaking loose, look to one human being on earth who sees what you are reaching for, whether you are accomplishing it or not. In that seeing, you will find yourself anchored just off shore of the intent upon which you seek to land.

Work While You Sleep: Setting Dream Intentions (The Stone Series, Part I)

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In writing The User's Guide to Being Human: The Art and Science of Self, I did a fair bit of work for the book in my dreams. For example, I knew I had about 3 pages for a section on "The Nature of Reality," which was the setup for The Art of Authenticity chapter. Exploring the nature of reality in three pages? Hmmm. This felt like a daunting task.

The night before I was to begin writing the section, I spent ten minutes setting a dream intention. First, I entered a quiet, meditative state, then I began to plant a subconscious suggestion by repeating the words: "tonight I will write The Nature of Reality section in a dream." I repeated these words over and over again for about five minutes, feeling an absolute conviction in making this happen. Then I took a minute to remind myself  to be still upon waking the next morning, and remember what I had written that night in sleep.

Sure enough, at about 6:00 a.m. the next morning I woke with a start. I had just experienced an epic dream that translated almost directly into the "Nature of Reality" section for my book. All I had to do was transcribe it. Thirty minutes later, I had my three and a half pages fully written.

Dream intentions can be used to work on a variety of things during sleep. You can work to improve a skill such as a golf swing. You can ask for insights regarding an issue you are facing. You can seek the answer to a question. You can overcome writers block by brainstorming in a dream. And so on...

It can take some time to develop the discipline of setting dream intentions. Four key steps are involved:

  1. Lie in bed just before going to sleep. Center yourself in a quiet, meditative state.
  2. Be clear and specific about the intention you wish to set, and repeat it over and over in your mind. For example, "I seek to understand where my golf swing is off, and improve upon it."
  3. Lying there in bed before sleep, imagine yourself actually fulfilling the intention in a dream. Try to see, hear and feel yourself doing it as you will once you fall asleep. Trust with absolute conviction that you can do this.
  4. Have a note pad and pen by your bed. When you wake up, do not move a muscle. Lie still and try to remember your dreams, or to recognize a thought of feeling that is present for you. Some "dream intenders" never actually remember their dreams, but wake with a thought or feeling that is present for them which serves as a doorway to access the insights from a night's dream work.

It took me a few weeks to develop these steps and experience success in setting dream intentions. Much like learning to ride a bike, however, once the skills are in place you never lose them. I use this technique regularly now, and it has had a major impact on my effectiveness in the waking hours each day.

Why not give it a try?

 

Everyday Superhero

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I was standing in line at a coffee house today when two police officers stepped up behind me. They were both in tip-top shape, having a conversation about someone's life that they had just saved. I noticed the utility belts they were wearing and it hit me: wow, these guys are like superheroes—actual superheroes!

This brought back the memory of admiration I felt as a boy each time a fire engine would drive by. Those guys riding by with sirens screaming seemed like superheros too. I wanted to be one—as did most of my friends. Perhaps we had all felt this way because each time we saw those firefighters leading superhero lives, it temporarily awakened the superhero gene in each of us.

Of course, in hearing about our ambitions, most of the adults around us were quick to smile and tell us how cute we were. This quickly deactivated the superhero gene.

What if every one of us has a superhero gene? What if you can awaken it for any type of work you do or interactions you have? What if you can be a superhero dad or mom? Some are, and everyone around them knows it. What if you can be a superhero lover, or a superhero friend? What if you can be a superhero teacher with the ability to inspire, or a superhero cashier with the ability to smile at your customers and remind them that they are important—even during the most mundane activities?

I think it's time that I reawaken my superhero gene. It's time to get back into tip-top shape for the work that I do, and to get clearer about my value to the people that I serve. How might living with this in mind improve the quality of my life and the people I care about and serve?

Are there any other potential superheroes out there reading this? Can you think of any actions you might take to further develop your powers? What do you say we join forces and work to spark that gene in those people who share our lives? Maybe then we might find ourselves living in a super world.

In the words of musician Roger Waters, "each small candle lights a corner of the dark." Let's get some more light out there...

Risk or Retreat?

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Last night during a particularly vivid dream, I noticed that in television and movies there are often very specific musical themes that accompany specific characters. The main character in particular often has two key themes or variations that follow him or her through the movie. One is the inspirational, "on the path" theme. The other is the conflicted, "off the path" theme.

In my dream, the composer who provides the musical backdrop to my own life movie identified two themes that he draws upon when scoring my story. His inspirational, "on the path" theme for me was described as risk; his conflicted, "off the path" theme was described as retreat. I find these themes fascinating, especially in light of my last blog entry.

Risk represents several things to me that certainly correspond with moments that I am on the path of my own life purpose. It is the spirit of pushing the envelope and putting myself at the leading edge of action. It drives me to get in the game with courage, authenticity and compassion for others. It catalyzes great personal growth and a deepening of relationships.

Retreat represents an avoidance of failure, pulling myself out of the leading edge of action. It drives me to sit on the sidelines and withdraw from the people around me. Until last night, I believed that it enabled me to recharge my batteries so I could get back in the game. I now believe that I was wrong.

I've spent most of my life developing the body of work that I have written about in The User's Guide to Being Human while engaging in the realm of social action. I was teaching or developing schools or hanging out with friends and colleagues in stimulating circumstances. Once I made the decision to "write it all down," I did an about-face in my approach. I significantly reduced the amount of time spent in the social realm so that I could be as efficient as possible in developing the book. I pulled away from the leading edge and began to create a shroud of isolation around me.

In recent months I rediscovered a coming of age novel that I wrote as a young adult. The central theme is about leaving the protective custody of isolation in order to step out and engage with the world in a powerful and authentic manner. The book is called The Barefoot Warrior, and will be released concurrently with The User's Guide.

To risk, or to retreat? This has apparently been the central internal curriculum that I have faced in my life. Those times when I have chosen retreat, I have hurt people, myself included. Those times when I have chosen risk, I have contributed much to the lives of others and myself.

To all those I have hurt or confused, my deepest regrets and apologies. Please understand that I was doing the best I could at the time. I am sometimes strong and courageous, other times weak and cowardly.

To redeem myself for the affects that this internal curriculum has had on others, I am going to conduct an experiment. I am going to choose risk over retreat whether I'm feeling strong and courageous, or weak and cowardly. I'll let you know what I discover while engaging in this scientific experiment. For now, my hypothesis is the following: that vulnerability can be a magical ingredient that in the realm of human relations catalyzes deep connection and joy.

Loneliness

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How is it that we could be living in a time with so many humans, with extraordinary communication technologies, and yet still occasionally find ourselves feeling lonely deep down inside? What if loneliness doesn't emanate from the availability of people and things out there, but from a hole in our own hearts?

Sometimes when cooped up for five days without end on a writing retreat to meet a deadline, all the while nearing a dead line inside that sings the song of loneliness, I start to have flashes in my imagination where random people are in need and I reach out to them with love. These daydreams fill me back up again and I can go on. I wonder if anyone has ever had a flash like that thinking of me. I certainly never have.

What if loneliness is like a newborn baby in your heart, naked and needy and vulnerable? What happens when you close your eyes, reach down inside and hold that little baby? What happens when you cradle it with all the bountiful love that you hold for other people out there in the world?

The mere thought of this gives me shivers. It challenges my beliefs about masculinity. It scares me, which is why I'm going to try it tonight when the world is dark and I have an hour or two to break from a new set of deadlines. 45 years of planetary life have taught me that most of the time, fear devoid of threat is a pointer directing me exactly where I need to go.

Hold tight, little baby. I'll find time for you as soon as I'm ready to free myself from the mesmerizing song of loneliness.

The Arms of Compassion

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Have you ever noticed that it is easier to feel compassion toward a child and his or her mistakes than it is to feel compassion for an adult and his or her mistakes? Why is that?

Have you ever found it easier to support someone who is crying than someone who is yelling? Why might tears engender caring in greater measure than screams?

Imagine a cellular membrane that can take any form to suit its needs. Imagine that when dropped into a toxic solution, this cell instantly adopts armor and daggers around its exterior, yet when dropped into a nourishing solution softens like an absorbent sponge. Interestingly, armor and daggers tend to bind one's accumulating waste inside, while sponges invite flow and coalescence.

What if the yelling of an adult emanates mostly from the remnant hurts of a child deep inside, wounds bound beneath layers of armor and daggers? Is this design superior to the sponge that allows substance to flow through it? Is compassion a weakness, or a mechanism that enables its host to absorb and release substances of many kinds with ease?

We are moving from an age of armor and daggers into the age of the sponge. Soon the new membrane of choice—even under great threat—will be compassion. Compassion beacons companions. Companions coalesce their power in kindness. Kind power disarms threats.

It has always been this way, and so it will be...