FeedBurner makes it easy to receive content updates in My Yahoo!, Newsgator, Bloglines, and other news readers.
A message from this feed's publisher:This is the official blog of the Divination Foundation and Paul O'Brien. Paul founded Tarot.com and invented divination software. He sees himself as a dedicated student/inventor fascinated with the mysteries that matter. Paul is a Gemini Sun sign.
Your beliefs — about yourself and the world you live in — are the lens through which you experience life. Every thought, every feeling, every decision and every action you take, arises out of your beliefs. Many are so deeply ingrained that we take them for granted as representing reality and rarely question their validity. We act on beliefs as though they are a fixed part of us; while our subconscious selects information that reinforces what we already believe.
Eastern masters have long advised, “Cease to cherish opinions.” From the Zen perspective, all beliefs are little more than current opinions — based on the best perceptions we can make, given our upbringing and conditioning, and what we would like to believe. Around age 3 or 4 we begin to make conclusions about our environment and form core beliefs to make sense of the world. Such deeply entrenched opinions can continue to operate subconsciously for a lifetime.
Looking at beliefs as opinions illuminates their impermanent nature. As I discuss in my book, Great Decisions, Perfect Timing, every belief is a choice — one we are making now or made years ago. Recognizing the nature of beliefs helps us be more open and flexible; and able to allow our beliefs to naturally evolve based on new learning experiences. If we want to make better decisions for ourselves, we must be willing to reconsider what we think is true and grow beyond the limitations imposed on us by our current beliefs. The important question now is: How aware are you of your beliefs, especially your fears? Often the vigor with which we defend against our fears unwittingly locks us into the belief behind them. More than any other mental structure, your beliefs and the attitudes they derive from define what is possible for you. Beliefs can be a major limiting factor in getting what you want.
An important part of self-knowledge, it is necessary to take full ownership of what you believe – something most people actually never do. For one thing, it requires the courageous humility of self-examination. To make things more difficult, many of us were taught that certain beliefs are sacred and that even to question them is a sin. Well, the wise and the brave are willing to question and test everything they believe in order to make better, more conscious decisions. Can your current beliefs pass two critical tests? Are they 1) based in reality as best you understand it now (have you studied?) and 2) do they help the realization of your higher desires, your aspirations? If you answered no in either case, it’s time for some more experimenting and learning! Nothing is more important than having success-functional beliefs!
A skillful way to look at beliefs is to take them as current operating assumptions, rather than ‘facts’ or articles of faith you must cling to. They should work for you, not you for them! Ultimately, we are responsible for our beliefs and the decisions we make from them. Believing itself is a choice, so decide wisely. Be sure to upgrade your beliefs as needed. Try and learn new things.
As I point out in my book, Great Decisions, Perfect Timing, one of the benefits of living the “synchronistic lifestyle” is wisdom–a rare quality that no longer gets the respect it deserves. Wisdom is the learned ability to calm down and make great decisions–based on experience, common sense logic and intuitive intelligence.
Lack of this profound quality handicaps our personal and cultural evolution. Nowhere is this more evident than in polls that show almost half of American voters are so emotional they might be willing to risk further damaging government by electing a con-artist demagogue.
Wisdom requires resisting the pull of strong emotions like fear and anger, the attraction to magical thinking or addictions to instant gratification. As Wikipedia puts it, “Wisdom is a disposition to find the truth coupled with an optimum judgment as to what actions should be taken.” The pursuit of wise judgment is why my life and work are focused on visionary decision-making.
Wisdom is both a function and result of skillful decision-making. You only have to listen to Trump for two minutes to see how critical a bit of wisdom is to good decision-making in these crazy times. Rather than make ridiculous xenophobic decisions about building walls and banning peoples, wise leaders humbly enlist creative intuition and good advice to make decisions that will benefit everyone in the long run.
When you practice fine-tuning your intuitive sense, you more easily notice meaningful synchronicities and insights that arise. Everything that happens shines with a greater sense of meaning, which provides a basis for even more wisdom. As wisdom is cultivated, it helps you balance taking care of yourself while attending to the common good. Things are out of balance, on the other hand, when our point of view is narrow or self-obsessed–constrictions of consciousness that can happen due to lack of self-esteem or an inflated sense of self-importance.
As Aristotle put it, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” It is important to be able to call upon a strong ego that is ready to defend boundaries, but the ego should never allowed to run the show. The ego is properly a lieutenant who should take direction from a higher consciousness, the spiritual self. The ego can be maniacal and does not provide good leadership.
Establishing an appropriate relationship between your ego and higher consciousness is the fruit of self-knowledge. Experience is a great teacher, and the single experience that most helps develop wisdom is strategic decision-making–provided we are brave enough to creatively and proactively step up, go through and move past our fears and make the important decisions).
The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present, the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
Could anyone could sum up the hazards of neglecting wisdom better?
Spring in full bloom is a perfect time to spread your creative wings — including through playfulness, joy and humor — with some playful monkey business. If you’re feeling more creative or playful than last year, it might have to do with this being the Chinese Year of the Monkey. This nimble, playful and oh-so-clever primate wants adventure or to seek out more creative solutions (in contrast to the energy of last year’s Goat, which was more about careful footing and diligence).
How can we channel creative energy this year that supports our learning and productivity? Well, truly fruitful creativity requires focusing your attention and doing things in the right order. Ironically, these boundaries free up creative power so it can flow through us. Hardly anything is more joyful than creative productivity!
Focus On Goals
Creative power is unlimited, but requires focus to produce effective or pleasing results. If you want to creatively design or produce something, make your goal enough of a top priority to work toward it every day. That’s how I finished my book, Great Decisions, Perfect Timing. I wrote an hour or two upon waking every morning for over four years — every day of the week, no matter where I was. In spite of the disciplinary aspect of making myself do this, I found I kept discovering fresh insights!
Do Things in the Right Order
Creative Power is the first archetype of the great Chinese oracle — the I Ching, or Book of Changes. It represents the highest expression of pure Yang ‘doing’ energy. As the Visionary I Ching App advises, if your goals are in alignment with the greater good — if you assert yourself in a positive way — actions taken with good timing produce success. How do we channel creativity most effectively? We start by doing things in the right order, while creating some space for creative inspiration. A mindfulness practice like the “Letting Go” meditation taught in Great Decisions, Perfect Timing, is an easy way to release mental roadblocks, “priming” your mind for better intuitive reception. It’s critical to learn how to clear your mind of distractions and emotional clutter when you need a creative solution the most!
Work Can Be Fun!
If you are focused on a creative pursuit, make sure to take in the pleasure and joy of the experience. A recent article in Current Biology by Patrick Bateson noted that “acting playfully” and “coming up with new ideas” and being humorous are linked. Interestingly, playful creativity was defined as an internal human attribute — as opposed to being motivated by external rewards, which were shown to actually inhibit creativity! Organizations should take note that it is beneficial to profits and customer satisfaction for staff members to be playful and creative at work. Bateson points out that companies like 3M give employees a portion of each day to engage in “speculative ideas” to help spur their creative juices.
Let feelings of deep pleasure sink in … let yourself enjoy the process — whether you’re writing, playing music or making art. If you feel distracted or frustrated, do a quick “Letting Go” meditation, or just put creative work aside and escape into something you enjoy. By combining focus, timing and playfulness, you will be able to joyfully channel creative power. So, plant some wild seeds and manifest some monkey business!
Often we are our own worst enemy. We resist painful realities or avoid difficult situations; or we become overwhelmed by taking on too much. Pain is a normal part of life, but the extent of our suffering is largely governed by attitude. We do not have to resign ourselves to being helpless victims, always defending against possible dangers. One way of managing personal challenges is to look at life as a game of strategy and timing, like chess or the game of ‘Go.’ Of course, our lives aren’t games that we can ever really lose — at least not as long as we keep improving. But it can be hard to grow while managing our responsibilities, as well as unexpected occurrences that could knock us over!
Awareness of synchronicity can help tremendously. This is a higher awareness of timing, a stronger sense of being in the flow of life and essentially trusting life’s process of evolution. The happy result of this approach is the realization of a “synchronistic lifestyle.” Below are some benefits that describe a synchronistic lifestyle, wherein we learn to make better decisions and ride the waves of change rather than flounder.
Inspiration is the mental connection between a receptive intuitive sense and an idea ready to be adopted by someone who can appreciate it enough to do something with it. Stress and distractions block receptivity to creative inspiration, but our brains are hard-wired to seek solutions to problems. The best approach, however, is a calm mind and a quiet heart. How can you follow inspiration if you’re on high alert? There are mindfulness exercises to “calm” the mind (see the book Great Decisions, Perfect Timing). Sometimes it’s enough to just remember what you enjoy or find meaning in, acknowledging the importance of your creative side.
Develop Confidence in Your Own Intuition
Once you have identified the meaningfulness of what you enjoy, celebrate your competence! You are much more capable than you generally give yourself credit for. Believe in your inner strengths—and assert your desires. We can quickly feel overwhelmed if we never say “no” to co-workers, friends, and even strangers. Being assertive while doing what you are good at will make you more visible to key people. The exercise of confidence reduces stress levels over time.
Wisdom and Contentment
Think of contentment as a “ripened state of happiness.” Based on an unconditional acceptance of reality, contentment arises from conscious feelings of gratitude and compassion — for yourself and all beings. Cultivate contentment by appreciating all the ways that things in your life are going right. Contentment usually arrives after you have had time to digest insights and unlock their meaning. That’s when you have achieved some wisdom, the culmination of learning from experience. Wisdom helps us balance our needs with the greater good. As Aristotle put it long ago, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
You will feel less stressed just by knowing what is possible. If you cultivate the synchronistic lifestyle, you will have more access to creative powers that influence life’s ebbs and flows and your reactions. The more you trust your intuition and take the risks that grow you, the more accurate and trustworthy your intuition will become. Your understanding of people and human nature will dramatically improve. You will learn that the more you trust yourself — and the Universe — the more confident and happy you automatically will become.
Sometimes perfect timing happens the minute you make a great decision and sometimes it takes years. My recent trip to China in October illustrates the point. Amazing synchronicities proved out the truism that “everything happens for a reason!”
Attending this year’s International Holistic Centers Gathering, held outside of Beijing, I was asked to talk on my new book, Great Decisions, Perfect Timing. Now, Beijing is fascinating, but what hits you upon arrival is a thick and suffocating smog that makes it difficult to see further than a city block. Add traffic gridlock in a city of 20 million people and, in spite of great historic sites, the place is barely livable.
The conference was held at a resort community known as “Jackson Hole, China” (search articles online). A billionaire developer, Mr. Liu Xiangpiang, developed the gated community a decade ago, adding in a personal growth center and spa. He and his wife, Annie, were most gracious hosts.
The 1500-home village is modeled on Jackson Hole, Wyoming and is a veritable monument to the American dream of conspicuous consumption. The homes are log castles of 4,000 to 5,000 square feet that cost $1 to $8 million, and they are selling as fast as they are built. The town center reminded me of a Wild West theme park. To make it even more westernized, they built a church with a cross in the center of the town, which is popular for weddings.
Tai chi is a passion of Mr. Liu’s and he led an excellent Tai chi class at our conference every morning. A CNN article quoted Mr. Liu as saying, “Those who can afford to buy houses here, have enough money … they want spiritual fulfillment.”
One can hope that injecting a spiritual element into materialism will lead to greater awareness in China of its own amazing heritage of Taoism, Tai Chi and the I Ching. My experiences with Chinese people lends weight to such hopes, as I found myself in the ironic position of bringing concepts back to a modern China that knows very little about its own noble spiritual traditions.
After giving a talk about my ‘psychological’ I Ching, I took questions. Mr. Liu himself asked me if my Visionary I Ching was influenced by personal growth experiences. I responded recounting many of the trainings I have undertaken. He asked if I had a Chinese translation of my I Ching. When I said “Not yet,” he said he would like to publish it if I did. (I thought, “Maybe that is the reason I am here!”) The next day I met with nine PhD. candidates doing dissertations on the I Ching. When I explained Jung’s synchronicity and archetypes as a way to understand the I Ching, they too thought I was a genius!
Years of refinement of my modern I Ching (beginning in 1989 up until the current Visionary I Ching app now available) have enabled the program to enter China at the right time. Sometimes perfect timing takes a while. In the case of returning a 21st century version of the I Ching back to its roots, it only took 25 years!
Both businesses I founded had “visionary” in their name (Visionary Software and Visionary Networks). Now we have the Visionary I Ching app. From the start of my entrepreneurial career, I called myself “Chief Visionary Officer,” because I saw myself primarily as an inventor. Obviously, the word “visionary” has long packed meaning and power for me. Nowadays, it has become a fashionable word, if only for marketing.
Writing my book, Great Decisions, Perfect Timing, made me wonder if the visionary capacity – including an ability to practice my Visionary Decision-Making (VDM) processes – is really available to everyone. It starts with holding to a vision that can “inspire you to take the risks that grow you when the timing is right.” VDM is simply beyond many people because most people are too busy and distracted to think outside the box of their beliefs.
In truth, a highly visionary capacity is available to everyone … eventually. I wrote the book to serve both those who are already becoming intuitively adept and those who want to. Each of us certainly has a capacity for vision, even if few of us dissolve the box of our thinking.
How can a person develop their visionary capacity? Well, for one thing, you can improve your skill at envisioning novel results by practicing active imagination. In other words, “think different” … and think bigger. That’s how I created the first interactive divination software (which culminated in Tarot.com, I-Ching.com, and now the Visionary I Ching app).
My book shows how to channel and focus Creative Power—the archetype that is first hexagram of the I Ching. This is divine power resource that is always there for you. Through active imagination, dreams and daydreams, Creative Power generates insights and visions. As the nursery school rhyme chants, “life is but a dream.” Yes, but it is a dream that you are creating with and for yourself. Surround yourself with objects or people that inspire you, like favorite music, time with a loved one, or meditating quietly with nature. Doing what inspires you will cultivate intuitive intelligence and creative powers.
You might ask: How do I be sure that my vision is real rather than wishful thinking or fantasies of my ego? In order to be sure that a vision is in alignment with who you are at depth, you can use the “heart-check” method. A trustworthy vision will connect mind, heart and soul. For some, success takes the form of a harmonious and loving family life. For others, it could translate into a strong sense of mission or purpose related to one’s vocation, or some competitive victory on behalf of a partnership, family, tribe or entire world.
As we move toward a more evolved society that spawns dreams of greater creative freedom, the ability to formulate and realize the visionary capacity becomes more essential for individuals and society. Developing your visionary potential and increasing creative freedom is part of your legacy to future generations. As we cultivate intuitive intelligence and evolve toward our human potential, we make it easier for all those who follow us. This is the path of healing the planet as well as ourselves.
In my previous blog post about interviews, I referred to my being the host of KBOO Community Radio‘s Pathways program. In this blog, I’m going to share about my own appearances in support of my latest book, as well as my talks about the I Ching.
Nowadays I find myself on the other side of the microphone as the person who is trying to help people make better decisions via my latest book, the Amazon.com best-selling Great Decisions, Perfect Timing. It’s gratifying to see that there is an appetite for the book and its message, which includes some interest in online classes that we are in the process of developing.
When I invested everything I had in developing I Ching software back in 1989, my peers thought I was crazy. The only excuse I could offer at the time was, “Wherever God drags me, I will follow.” Now I’m finding myself invited (not quite dragged) into the limelight through media interviews and public readings. Even though I don’t have a huge desire to promote myself, the response that Great Decisions, Perfect Timing is receiving tells me that I should step up to the microphone.
Readers have responded warmly to the personal stories in my book. Many have been inspired by how I walked away from a high-paying, VP-level job in the tech industry to pursue my desire for greater creative freedom designing esoteric software that had special meaning for me. However, I signal a note of caution. Some think that the lesson is to simply “follow their muse out of love” and shuck their jobs right away. But after I left my full-time position, I kept up a “day job” as a high-tech marketing consultant for years in order to fund my creative pursuits. Greater creative freedom takes commitment, discipline, and sacrifice. The happy ending to my business story certainly did not happen overnight!
The warm and enthusiastic response to this particular story (and many others in the book) signals a natural drive for greater creative freedom. When I advise people not to quit their day job (just yet), I remind them of how grateful we should be for any creative freedom at all. As recently as 250 years ago, we had no freedom to choose our profession, where we live, even who we marry. You are probably living a high level of creative freedom right now. The desire for even greater creative freedom is positive, however, because this desire drives personal and cultural evolution. It gets better!
If you listen to any of the radio show I’ve been interviewed for, I hope that you find them worthwhile and enjoyable. My recent interview on the Dr. Pat Show (with Pat Baccili) is a great introduction to these podcasts if you haven’t had a chance to hear them yet. You can listen to this and all of my recent interviews on the Resources page of the Divination Foundation website.
Media transforms lives and reflects our fascinations. We read books that inspire us, view films that move us, and listen to programs that broaden our knowledge. Sometimes getting involved with media can be a powerful, transformative experience in and of itself. That certainly describes how I became the host of the Pathways interview program on Portland’s KBOO Community Radio.
During Stage Two of my life (I explain the life stages in my latest book, Great Decisions, Perfect Timing), I worked in software marketing for an Oregon start-up. I loved listening to the Pathways interview program on KBOO. At the time, the show was hosted by Tom Park, who conducted insightful interviews with leaders involved with personal and cultural transformation. Obviously, the content of the show resonated with me. In a stroke of synchronicity, I happened to meet Tom at a men’s group in 1980. I told him how much I enjoyed the show, and I mentioned that if he ever wanted help with interviewing to please let me know, because I thought I would be good at it.
Over one year later, Tom contacted me and asked if I was still interested in helping him do interviews on Pathways. I began as co-host and became the primary host of Pathways when Tom retired from the show last year. This all goes to show how after you put yourself out there for what you want, divine providence can come around when the timing is right—another case of the “law of attraction” at work!
The Pathways show is an extension of my life’s mission and the mission of my non-profit Divination Foundation, which is to research, develop and promote technologies for personal and cultural transformation. I’ve learned so much picking the brains of cultural change agents and spiritual leaders, and that’s helped me understand myself and has also provided a wide perspective on the world we live in, to support a sense of hope and meaning. In the process, I’ve interviewed hundreds of people over the years, including such luminaries as Deepak Chopra, Don Miguel Ruiz and John Gray.
My Pathways interviews are available to stream or download on Divination.com, and you can subscribe to the podcast for free on iTunes. The conversations cover personal and spiritual development, entrepreneurship, financial responsibility, creative power, shamanism, sexuality, philanthropy, environmental issues, spiritual awakenings and many other topics that are delightfully unclassifiable. The programs are short (28 minutes long), free of advertising and free of charge.
I’m no stranger to giving talks or being interviewed myself (or giving speeches to large audiences). In my next blog post, I’ll discuss my adventures on the other side of the microphone!
A hyper-connected world makes us hyper-distracted. Smartphones, tablets, even watches spit out endless texts, tweets and funny kittens — making it difficult to concentrate or accomplish goals. When faced with a list of tasks, the common tendency is to save the hardest for last, putting off the more stressful items until we have no choice. This tendency leads to procrastination or incidental neglect, where critical factors don’t get the attention or quality of thinking they deserve.
How can we better prioritize things to correct for this self-defeating tendency? In my recent book, Great Decisions and Perfect Timing, I bring up an aspect of emotional intelligence known as delayed gratification, which I refer to as “Grandma’s Law.” Daniel Goleman, the author of Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, makes a compelling case for delaying gratification. He calls for greater “cognitive control” to help children manage their attention through the use of mindfulness techniques. This is Grandma’s Law in a nutshell!
The ability to control one’s impulses is a foundation of wise decision-making and effective productivity throughout life. As a parent, I tried to teach my son “Grandma’s Law,” which went like this: “Sure, you can have ice cream… after you finish your green beans.” Putting chores first was a lesson I was made to learn at a young age (I’m grateful about it now.) It took me a while to realize that the removal of overhanging deadlines made subsequent playtime more fun.
Applying Grandma’s Law in my own life, I had achieved perfect grades and scholarship awards throughout a rigorous education. Later, Grandma’s Law made a critical difference in my professional life—informing my decision-making and enabling my ability to survive, and ultimately thrive, as a bootstrap entrepreneur. As a parent, one way I invoked Grandma’s Law with my son was to get him to do his chores and homework on Saturday with Sunday as his play day, rather than the other way around (which he naturally preferred).
Grandma’s Law speaks to the logical aspect of strategic decision-making—prioritization—helping us do things in the right order. It is logical, because it doesn’t take intuition to analyze the most challenging part of a project or to-do list. Just tune into your feelings—the thing you dread having to do the most is where you start!
If you’re not sure how to focus on the most difficult tasks, ask yourself: What task fills you with the most apprehension? Which are you least confident about? These are the ones to tackle early on. After you knock them off, it’s like rolling downhill until you are done and it’s playtime!
Tip: If you’re stuck, try the “Letting Go” mantra from my book. It’s simple: Focusing on your breathing, let go of identifying with changing thoughts and feelings, while being open to and mindful of whatever arises in your mind. Close your eyes and take a full breath, thinking the word Letting as you inhale and stretching out the Go as you exhale. Repeat as often as necessary until your mind relaxes. Your head is then clear enough to make the wise move. You will get better results and have more fun afterwards!
In the early days of my Internet start-up (Tarot.com), I assumed the sovereign archetype and invented my own currency. I called it “Karma Coins” and it was a radical idea at the time — a way to give registered members a way to make small payments for do-it-yourself Tarot card readings, I-Ching readings and astrology reports — payments that would sometimes be too small for a credit card.
As our first year of Karma Coin operations was ending, I was inspired to give all of our 100,000 members (which grew to 10 million over the next few years) a New Year’s gift of 50 Karma Coins each. It was a gesture born of a generous impulse but also to see what would happen. I told our IT guy to deposit 50 Karma Coins into each account. On the side, I predicted to our small staff that revenues would take a hit for a few days as a result.
Boy, was I wrong! Instead of dropping, sales of Karma Coins almost immediately tripled! After that, I increased the company’s generous giving to our community. We started depositing KCs into members’ accounts on their birthdays, along with a ‘personal’ e-mail from me wishing a happy birthday and telling them about our gift for them.
We were experimenting with generosity as business practice, and it had a “Johnny Appleseed” effect. When we launched Karma Coins, Visionary Networks had few employees and was barely profitable. Some thought that giving things away might destroy our chances to grow and prosper. But this experiment was an example of listening to my intuition and a desire to do a good thing for our community, so I expanded the gift-giving in various creative ways.
Other CEOs have also understood the power of generosity. For example, you may recall recent news story about Dan Price, CEO of Seattle-based Gravity Payments, who pegged $70,000 as minimum wage at his company. He drastically reduced his own pay to balance this out. His rationale was that happy employees are loyal if they are treated generously and have a long-term stake in a business (granted, he held founder’s stock).
We all have an ability to think bigger. In my previous blog post on the Tragedy of the Commons, I referenced Charles Eisenstein’s book Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition. Eisenstein mentions the possibility of making gift-giving itself into a kind of currency – where “a magical synchronicity of wants and needs” can unfold. It’s a fascinating idea.
A coda about Karma Coins: sadly, the practice of giving them away faded after I sold the company and bean-counters took over. But what I had learned from gifting Karma Coins is that when generosity comes from the heart and is in alignment with the collective good, it rebounds to the good of the giver! Even small acts of generosity can grow you while contributing to the greater social good. Let’s challenge ourselves to do at least one generous act a day without expecting anything in return. Generosity is a gift to ourselves … let’s be good to ourselves often!
Everyone always has a day job, even well-off folks who have a lot of time or someone like me who sold his business. While I am no longer an employee or an entrepreneur – and I enjoy more creative freedom than I used to – serving as Executive Director of my non-profit Divination Foundation is work. Writing books, like Great Decisions, Perfect Timing, is a lot of work. Paying bills and taxes is work, and managing one’s investments is serious work too.
Most people want more freedom, some room to move. You may not feel you have creative freedom within your current occupation. Even if you don’t have as much as you would like, you have cause to celebrate how much freedom you do have. Only 250 years ago you would have had no choice over many important things—including livelihood, where you lived or even whom you were married off to!
Throughout history, most of a person’s identity was predetermined by family and circumstance. There was little freedom (or privacy) at all. The American and French revolutions gave rise to democratic societies and, together with the Industrial Revolution, the rise of a middle class. Urbanization led to a decline of village customs like arranged marriages and, in general, greatly increased the number of occupational options that people were able to choose from.
Does this progress mean we will ever achieve the freedom to do absolutely anything we want, whenever we want? No. We can choose our trade, but even so, it’s the rare person who can make a living (mostly) doing something they passionately love. Nevertheless, we can still be grateful that we have so much more freedom than our ancestors and many of us have some choice of occupation according to how a job suits our nature and temperament.
In its twisted way, the 2008 financial crisis made it easier for people to appreciate their day job – because they were happy to have one at all! Many people who were laid off had a hard time finding employment, and were forced to reinvent themselves. In some cases this was a positive disruption, an opportunity to discover a new occupation that may be in better alignment with one’s sense of creative and personal freedom. Now that the job freeze seems to be thawing, more people are able to make adjustments to their job descriptions toward doing business that makes greater room for heart and spirit. And, with a more inclusive and empathic feminine style of leadership, we are changing the face of the workplace from the inside out.
Whatever occupation you find yourself in, the ultimate key is to find the meaning in the service (or products) you help provide, and see how it at least indirectly supports your personal development path – and possibly the evolution of your company – with the help of your own improved decision-making.
As long as you have a day job that is not harming anyone (including yourself), consider yourself fortunate. As you learn how to make better intuitive decisions that bring you into closer and closer alignment with your own highest values, bit-by-bit you’ll be guided to perceive whatever it is you do with a perspective that supports both personal satisfaction and advancement.
What is a mission? For some, it is a singular sense of purpose and meaning in their lives. I think that’s partially correct. However, a mission is not the result of specific acts (or actions) we take. It has everything to do with evolving your consciousness and awakening your creative power. How many missions can a person have in one lifetime? Is it possible to think in terms of having a different one at each stage? Yes! I reject perfectionistic fantasies about one’s lifelong mission. I find that the “all-or-nothing” philosophy is self-defeating, and it is diametrically opposed to true strategic decision-making. Our ultimate mission is about being, not doing.
To help illustrate this point, think of your life as (broadly) divided into three stages. We arrive at several crossroads on our individual journeys; each stage offers different dilemmas, different priorities, and different strategic decisions that need to be made. We investigate these stages in my new book, Great Decisions, Perfect Timing. They are Self-Discovery; Building and Providing; and Giving Back. Let’s discuss each stage of life as I’ve come to understand them.
The mission in Stage One is self-discovery and the primary strategic decision is in answer to the question: “What shall I try next?” As a result of trial and error – which might include a fair amount of job-hopping and, in the social sphere, dating a lot of different people – we trip across one or two things that utterly fascinate us. It may take 20 years for the reasons to fully manifest – as it did in my career story – but your natural fascinations are important at this stage of life.
Building and Providing
The mission in Stage Two is to produce and provide – for yourself and perhaps a family. It is during this stage that we master skills and build a livelihood that will support us and others. My career in the software business, followed by becoming an inspired entrepreneur, exemplifies this stage for me. My only goal during this stage was to make a living doing something I found interesting, and ultimately creating products and services that fascinated me. The primary questions during this stage have to do with managing resources, teamwork, logistics, and making tactical decisions.
The mission is Stage Three is giving back. It is the patron stage, where you’re a mentor, sponsor, and/or you engage in philanthropic activities. You’re creating a legacy. In fact, at this stage, you should ask: “What is the most impactful legacy I can create starting right now?” In my case, after I had mastered valuable professional skills and eventually sold the business I built in Stage Two, I chose to create a non-profit entity: the Divination Foundation. The Divination Foundation has a mission to help people make profound decisions and take the risks that will grow them.
Ultimately, your mission is not a function of what you do or have done, but it is to be a self-actualized human being. Always remember … it’s about being!
Hearing people’s synchronicity stories – and sharing my own – has been a fun offshoot of the launch of Great Decisions, Perfect Timing. One of my favorite visionary beliefs is that there are no accidents and everything happens for a reason; we can recognize amazing coincidences as meaningful – as synchronicities that we can intuitively perceive and actually use to improve our timing.
In the book, I noted, “living a synchronistic life involves cultivating acceptance and wonder while letting go of judgment and resistance to the way things appear.” Wonder is important to synchronicity, the perception that there are no accidents, and things happen for a reason. I’m sure you can think of a dozen instances where you felt there was an unseen intelligence involved in the way certain situations in your life have unfolded.
Richard Hopcke, the author of There Are No Accidents: Synchronicity and the Stories of Our Lives, argues that synchronicity helps us bring a “symbolic attitude to our lives,” and I couldn’t agree more. Whenever you experience misfortune – and we all do – rather than blaming yourself or others, it is helpful to think of it as a new point of view on a larger pattern. You will also notice “little miracles” that occur in your life. For example, in the book, I relate an anecdote where I needed to buy a house to accommodate myself, my teenage son, my startup and a couple of employees. However (and many of you will relate to this), my credit score had taken a beating because I was a struggling entrepreneur and no longer a regularly-paid employee.
I located a house in Portland that was just right, but was immediately told that there had been dozens of other applicants ahead of me. After exchanging small talk with the owner (“so what do you do for a living?”), she was delighted to learn that I was the producer of the Synchronicity software for the Mac, that funny new ice cube-shaped computer she had purchased. This came as a shock, because in those days, Apple was not the juggernaut that it is now. She also told me that Synchronicity was the only software she herself had ever purchased. We both noted the remarkable synchronicity that had brought us together and she leased the house to me on the spot. A year later, she sold it to me and we ran the company out of there until we outgrew the space. To this day, I refer to that home as “the house synchronicity built.”
The previous owner of that house and I were both aware of the power of synchronicity. She could have shrugged off the coincidence, or I could have decided not to approach her at all because of my credit score. But we both listed to our intuitive antennae, which led to making the right move at the right time.
I’m sure you have similar stories to share, and I’d love to hear them. In Chapter 12 of Great Decisions, Perfect Timing, I include a link to our Synchronicity Forum, which contains amazing tales of synchronicity shared by readers of the book. Please share (anonymously if you wish) your own stories of synchronicity, and be inspired by others. (You can also email such stories to the Divination Foundation.) May we all learn to better appreciate the power of synchronicity!
In my new book Great Decisions, Perfect Timing, I explore how a “visionary decision” needs to take the collective good into careful consideration. A personal criterion of mine is that if anything is good for me, it also has to be good for everyone. Everything is interconnected. If something is not good for everyone, it can’t really be good for me.
Charles Eisenstein’s book Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition discusses our “Age of Separation” where we have lost our ties to nature and community. He also points out how we are moving into a new “Age of Interconnectedness.”
Science proves we are interconnected. If you doubt that, just consider climate change. Greenhouse gases (no matter which country they come from) affect the global climate, upsetting the balance of energy entering or leaving the planet. Burning fossil fuels (like coal or natural gas) for electricity is responsible for about 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions are actually affecting our weather, and their production is directly caused by unregulated industries.
Another unfortunate economic byproduct of unregulated capitalism is an unbalanced concentration of wealth among 1% of all people. According to the Pew Research Center, U.S. income inequality has been growing for decades, but it is now higher in the U.S. than it was before the stock market crash of 1929. (This level of income inequality was one of the catalysts that led to the Great Depression.) Income inequality is also endemic to the economies of many other countries around the world, from democracies like India to totalitarian regimes in China and Russia.
In Great Decisions, Perfect Timing, I write about “The Tragedy of the Commons,” an article by ecologist Garrett Hardin that was first published in 1968 in the journal Science. Hardin describes a village of herdsmen whose sheep share a common pasture for grazing. Short-term advantage occurs when any one herdsman adds animals to his herd, but the long-term effect of this kind of infectious behavior is the complete destruction of the pasture. As I write in my book, “win-lose” strategies always turn out to be “lose-lose.”
To the extent that people think they can insulate themselves from their neighbors (whether local or global), they are delusional. Those who play the zero-sum game of win-lose, and consumed with accumulation, are not “voting in their own best interests.” If a decision or action is not to the benefit of the greater good of all, it’s not really good for you. Why not? Because we are all connected!
So how do we align our personal good with the good of all? Eisenstein discusses a society that operates on a gift economy: “If you have more than you need, you give it to somebody who needs it…that’s where real social security comes from.” This is a powerful idea. I wrote in a previous article how the Divination Foundation is my “legacy non-profit”— my way to give back to the cultural commons. We all have the benefit of our wisdom, our attention, and our time. Even a kind word or gesture to a stranger is a way of giving back. We are all a part of this emerging Age of Interconnectedness.
No matter what you do, think of yourself as the Chief Executive (CEO) of your life. I am referring to that part of you that consciously makes all your strategic decisions. Hopefully a Visionary Decision Making practice is helping you make the right moves at the right time.
Archetypes play a critical role in Visionary Decision Making. If you’re new to the concept, a couple of chapters in Great Decisions, Perfect Timing, will help. Archetypes are “patterns of thought or image that are collectively inherited and universally available to us via the unconscious” mind. You can connect with archetypes whenever you need support; more specifically when you need to make an important decision.
The Sovereign is an archetypal persona central to Visionary Decision Making. This is your inner ruler who makes sure that his or her decisions support or protect all the members of your realm – everyone you take care of or manage. As a leader, you are called upon to exercise authority and allocate resources so that everyone you are responsible for, including yourself, will benefit. The primary qualities of the Sovereign are wisdom, compassion, and responsibility.
In history, there are many instances of benevolent rulers – men and women – who supported the collective good, sometimes with great sacrifice. The Buddha abdicated his entire throne – with pleasures abounding – to resolve the problem of human suffering. King Solomon was invited by God to choose any power he wanted. Rather than taking more power, he chose to become the Wise Ruler/Elder, and became renowned for his enlightened decision-making.
When you invoke or channel an archetype, you are drawing from a realm of limitless power, so don’t let it go to your head. Those who get greedy for power run the risk of turning into petty tyrants or manipulators. As noted in my blog post on the Tragedy of the Commons, tyrants hoard power and try to put themselves above the law. My book shows how to invoke archetypes in such a way that you are siphoning the generative aspects of these powerful energies to inform your conscious mind and improve your decision-making.
When I was an entrepreneurial employer, consciously connecting with the Sovereign archetype helped me better run my startup company – a small “kingdom” that eventually included thirty employees and millions of members. I made a conscious daily effort to invoke the calm power of the Sovereign. Every morning I would recite an invocation like this: “Today I call upon the powers that be to help me do a good job taking care of my people.” I took this role seriously; in fact, I once mortgaged my home (hardly a palace) to make sure I could pay my people on payday!
My Builder stage is over, but I make strategic decisions as the director of the Divination Foundation during this new Patron stage of life. There are several people involved with Divination Foundation, and part of my “job” is to make sure that they – as well as my extended family – have all the support they need.
Never forget that you are the CEO of your own life. Connecting with your inner Sovereign will help you make the right moves at the right time in the most generous way.
The subtitle of my new book, Great Decisions, Perfect Timing, is “Cultivating Intuitive Intelligence.” Accessing intuitive intelligence is the central component of the Visionary Decision Making process: after all, intuition stimulates the impetus to make a decisive move, do nothing at all, or run like hell. Its signal may take the form of a “gut feeling” or a “feeling in your bones,” based on perception associated with the right brain.
Humans have a “triune brain” that consists of the brain stem, the limbic brain, and the neocortex with its right and left hemispheres. Logical problem-solving derives from the left hemisphere, and intuition is a function of the right hemisphere. The two hemispheres are physically identical, but their contents are quite different. In the book Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, neurobiologist Dr. Roger Sperry notes the two hemispheres are, “two separate realms of conscious awareness; two sensing, perceiving, thinking and remembering systems.” The physical structure of our brain can make it difficult to receive signals from the intuition. The barrage of all the sensory stimuli can be so overwhelming that we don’t perceive (or we misinterpret) the subtle signals from our intuition.
We rely on wireless signals in our smartphones, tablets, and laptops; it has become an indispensable technology. Yet few of us are aware of a delicate wireless connection between the right hemisphere of our brain and what I call the “Infinite Intelligence”—a realm of knowledge that Jung termed “the collective unconscious.” Our intuition is that sixth sense by which we can access this reservoir of knowledge, storing impressions and images in the right brain’s memory. We need the left hemisphere to translate the information that this wireless connection reveals into the form of thoughts, words, and ideas. Our logical, problem-solving brain contains the tools needed to understand intuitive sensations and allows us to formulate a decision to make a move.
But, as I mentioned above, all of the sensory “noise” we deal with every day makes it challenging to access our intuitive intelligence. In addition, fear and strong emotions can greatly interfere with the receptivity of our delicate wireless antenna.
One type of image particularly that helps the left side of the brain make sense of nonverbal impressions is an archetype. For example, one way for the logical mind to translate an intuitive message would be by an archetype showing up in your dreams. An example would be your inner King or Queen appearing in a dream to help you make an important decision that has been pressing upon you. A recurring dream with your inner Sovereign lets you know that a particular situation requires some decisive action.
Intuitive intelligence allows you to identify the risks in life that will grow you. Then, with a modicum of courage, you can commit to them by taking brave action. You will learn from all these risks, even if your ego should later label an outcome a “failure.” But before you have all your good options, you need to A) clear a pathway for signals that can be picked up by your intuitive antenna and B) execute a decision with good timing.
Great Decisions, Perfect Timing, my new book, launches on February 19, and the date is more than just a meaningless coincidence. February 19 is the 2015 Chinese New Year, the most important holiday on the Chinese calendar. Dating back to the 14th Century B.C.E. (many centuries before the western calendar was made up), the Chinese calendar is a lunar-solar calendar. Its New Year marks the beginning of the annual lunar cycle. This year February 18-19 is also a new moon – adding another auspicious dimension to this date for my book’s launch, because the phase of the new moon is reckoned to be the best time to start a new cycle.
It seemed a particularly fitting date to launch a book that will be a big part of my legacy and which deals with a cosmic sense of timing. And this is a book that—like my career—builds on and celebrates the legacy that the ancient Chinese sages left us—Taoism and the I Ching—an understanding of which has shaped my life.
In western society, however, the New Year celebration is not just a recognition of a new annual cycle and new beginnings, it’s also about making resolutions … the effort to proactively induce beneficial changes in one’s personal or professional life.
Unfortunately, typical New Year’s resolutions do not stick. Great Decisions, Perfect Timing discusses how my Visionary Decision Making process changes that by helping a person identify values, become more aware of cosmic timing signals and realize more intuitive insights by learning to facilitate them. VDM is a way to make and keep big changes that will not only outlast this year, but persist for many years to come—for as long as they support you.
You may remember that our last blog, the book’s inaugural blog post, discussed the idea of people in the last stage of life proactively creating legacies for descendants and future generations. Well, Chinese New Year has traditionally been the time to honor household and heavenly deities, including one’s ancestors. Perhaps this is the year that you add a bit to your own eventual legacy—by starting your memoir or creating a scrapbook of your parents and grandparents’ pictures.
This year, make some visionary resolutions that will enhance your life and support you on a more fulfilling path as you boldly execute them when the timing feels right. You can find out more about how the Visionary Decision Making process can help you do all this on Great Decisions, Perfect Timing’s Amazon page and on the book’s website.
P.S. On a side note, I have an upcoming trip to Beijing, China in October 2015 to speak at a conference of entrepreneurs and business leaders. I will be speaking about the book and visionary decision-making techniques—including the use of the I Ching, which most modern Chinese know nothing about. It’s ironic how a modern Visionary I Ching from America (my last book) can be an import from the West … and I’m so happy to be of service in this way (I hope they like it :-)!
My newest book, Great Decisions, Perfect Timing: Cultivating Intuitive Intelligence (coming out Feb. 19, 2015) is many things: an autobiography, a guide on how to improve decision-making and timing and some philosophy — rolled into one. Above all, its composition, which took four years, has been a labor of love.
The book incorporates the subject matter of my two previous books — The Visionary I Ching and Divination: Sacred Tools — and tells the story of how I found right livelihood in developing an intersection between two major fascinations — the I Ching and interactive multimedia.
Great Decisions, Perfect Timing: Cultivating Intuitive Intelligence focuses on Visionary Decision Making, which involves making use of the Synchronicity Principle and archetypes, two revolutionary discoveries of the great psychologist, Carl Jung. This gives you a hint of what the book is about, but to understand why I wrote it, let me tell you a bit about the journey behind it.
If you browsed through spiritual or “New Age” bookstores in the 1980s or 1990s, you may have stumbled across a couple of CD-ROMs named the Oracle of Changes and Tarot Magic. I was their producer. After the Internet gained primacy, I created a web business that produced authentic, do-it-yourself I Ching, Tarot, numerology and astrology reports. I sold the company in 2007 and started the Divination Foundation, the non-profit that publishes my books and podcasts my interview show on iTunes and Divination.com. I consider my books, radio show and the non-profit itself as “legacy work” — my giving back to the cultural commons.
Legacy is a powerful concept. I recently interviewed Rick Weijo, author of Our Dreams for our Children: Creating Legacies that Inspire Each New Generation (you can listen to the interview at Divination.com). Rick noted that legacies can be consciously and proactively created. In fact, he argues that they should be created, that legacies need not be defined as what is left behind for descendants to sort out. Rick talks about “renewal” rather than retirement, and I totally resonate with his thinking. By interviewing Rick I became acutely aware of the fact that all of my current writing and interview work — none of which profit me personally — is a legacy project.
Great Decisions, Perfect Timing discusses three stages of life, which roughly correspond roughly to every 30 years. The first 30 years are naturally about discovering your fascinations (the student stage), the second stage is providing for yourself and others through achieving mastery in a livelihood (the builder stage), and the third stage is about recycling and passing on your wisdom and support (the patron stage). It is during Stage 3 that the idea of creating a legacy gains traction. And, not coincidentally, this new book’s beginnings were just after I had sold the business and my patron stage had begun.
Of course, many people in the world are not in a position to leave much of a financial or material inheritance (with seven children, my parents certainly weren’t). But leaving a legacy isn’t necessarily financial at all. In fact, it can be as simple as writing a “legacy letter” where you discuss family history for your children or grandchildren. It could be a poem or a memoir, or even be a series of videos telling stories and sharing bits of hard-won wisdom. Your wisdom and experiences can feed the next generation; more than anything material, your internal gifts are worth passing on.
Over the next several months, I plan to introduce topics of Great Decisions, Perfect Timing into this blog. The blog posts will follow the themes of the book. Here’s a teaser from the book’s table of contents:
I hope you’ll join me on this voyage of lifelong self-discovery.
Great Decisions, Perfect Timing will be published on Chinese New Year, February 19. It is available for pre-order right now. Thanks for reading.
Carl Jung’s work with archetypes was one of his groundbreaking contributions to psychology. He defined universal archetypes as psychic blueprints that lend form to how human beings perceive, interpret and respond to situations and relationships.
Archetypes are an energy resource that we can call upon to protect and inspire us on our path to individuation and wholeness. They reside in our “collective unconscious,” as Jung called it, from which they can be ‘downloaded’ to support personal development and lend powerful support for overcoming challenges.
We have all experienced how different we can feel just by changing our clothes. An archetype can be like a costume that we put on to embody the energy of a sage, trickster, maiden, eternal child – or even the gods, goddesses, demons and angels of mythology. By personalizing and taking on archetypal characters, it can be easier to resonate with divine powers that are mystical and essentially unknowable by the logical mind.
Praying to an all-powerful God is the most common form of invoking an archetype in Western society. The shortcoming of how we were taught to pray as children, however, is that it is usually a petition, often a begging for some sort of rescue. Now, it’s good to be humble, but prayers of petition can blur the line between humility and low self-esteem. An alternative form of invoking this archetypal energy would be to channel Creative Power, which is the archetype of the first hexagram of the I Ching.
The invoking of archetypes is a broader way of prayer that can engage various different powers on our behalf. From a practical point of view, it doesn’t matter how we conceive of the divine – as one God or many – but a channeling approach is psychologically very different than begging an all-powerful deity to do something for you. In this more empowering form that I call “invocative prayer,” we call upon archetypal energies to flow through us in order to help us grow into ourselves and follow our calling. We invoke the blessings of divine energy to help us rise to the occasion – through us not to us – inspiring and empowering us to make better decisions and do our best.
Invocative prayer is expressing an intention to the Universe and feeling grateful in advance as you welcome good results (there is a template for a Manifestation Treatment in the Resources section). Invoking archetypes can work for you no matter what your belief system.
When I was young, I was taught to say morning and evening prayers. Even now when I find myself going through changes, I return to a prayer ritual. Depending on what it is that I want to co-create, develop or preserve that day, I can call upon various archetypes in addition to Creative Power to help me stay more consciously connected to Infinite Intelligence throughout the day. In the evening, my prayer summons the healing power of dreams.
As much as I can, I try to live in connection to the Synchronicity Prayer: “May I notice synchronicities that arise during this day and pay attention to them. If I don’t understand their meaning, I trust it will be revealed in due course. In the meantime, I am grateful to notice the signal.”
No need to beg. Whatever your heart desires, you will realize it more easily by means of a skillful invocation. Twenty years ago I developed a Creative Manifestation Treatment based on an old Religious Science template, and use it to facilitate manifesting important desires.
Edit the treatment to make it feel powerful to you. Read it aloud with feeling every morning as you sit on a cushion. Summon divine wisdom to help you fulfill your highest priorities and assume an optimistic attitude of expectancy.
Step 1: Recognition. I humbly acknowledge Creative Power,the universal magnetic energy that unites and makes things whole. Divine power expresses as love, wisdom and courage. It is reflected in the infinite vastness of space, the sun around which earth revolves, the beauty of nature, the joy of love, and every kind of miracle. This unlimited resource operates according to the law of cause and effect that begins with attraction. First the image, then the declaration, and then manifestation. I know there is no limit to the power of divine love.
Step 2: Identification. I am one with Creative Power, which surrounds me and flows through me. My very breathing reminds me of my interconnectedness with all of nature and I can feel it any time I close my eyes. Divine love and wisdom surround me, and go before me, making easy and successful my way. I AM capable of facilitating any results I visualize and feel. I don’t need to know what exact form the results will take, but solutions appear quickly and easily. I deserve what is good for me.
Step 3: Declaration. I declare that I am now enjoying the realization of [my desire]. This feels [liberating, joyous and pleasurable, etc.]
Step 4: Thanksgiving. I give thanks for the fulfillment of [my desire], the joy of which I am feeling even now. I feel strong on my path, I AM confident, full of faith, and my heart is filled with gratitude.
Step 5: Release. I let goof tendencies to worry or interfere by trying to make results take shape in any particular way.I know that the law of cause and effect is operating on this treatment right now, even if my senses have no proof yet. I am attracting [my desire], and [my desire] is attracting me. The manifestation of this, or something better, is in process. Creative Power is synchronistically producing the right results for me in a way and according to a schedule that is perfect. I am letting go of trying to control things and surrender to the good that is my destiny. My “faith” is my psychic sense of the manifesting process that is happening behind the scenes right now.
Step 6: Emotional magnetization. I let myself feel the presence of what I have declared, which is in the process of manifesting. As I let this feeling radiate throughout my entire being, I am becoming magnetic.
Step 7: Action steps. I make the right moves at the right time, starting with better decision-making that taps intuition and intellect and receptivity to good advice. I make and follow up on commitments to myself. In the two-steps-forward, one-step-back dance of life, I am taking good steps in a timely manner. As long as I am tuned into Creative Power, I know I can’t go wrong!
Friendships usually begin by meeting someone at work or school or in a social group. You are open to new people, discover that you have something in common with some of them and decide to enhance the experience of common interests with the spice of good companionship. Shared interests and experiences become the basis for genuine friendship wherein both parties come to understand and care about each other over time.
There’s a difference between developing such tried-and-true friendship and the acquisition of friends via social media, which, by appropriating the term “friends,” has actually cheapened the whole concept of friendship. Despite claims that social media is helping us be more connected more of the time, all too often we’re not really feeling it. Why not? Because like reality TV, it’s not quite real.
“Friends” who are too easy to get can’t be counted on to provide support, share experiences or communicate on a heart level. Having hundreds of so-called friends on a site like Facebook—which can be a lot like a staged popularity contest—is no substitute for the real deal.
Some interesting phenomena go along with the general demeaning of friendship. As Sherry Turkle points out in her book Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, ours is rapidly becoming a “performance-based” culture, where image is everything and self-expression is a performance for attention from others. She explains how it is that so many young people refuse to have live conversations because texting is a performance they can better control.
A disheartening aspect of modern friendship is how ready people can be to ‘go dark’ after a broken agreement or even just an argument. They feel no compunction about cutting another person off rather than resolving things for the sake of clarity or the salve of closure that can preserve the memory of warm feelings. Understanding brings freedom from blame, including blaming oneself for expecting anything.
This is happening more in all kinds of relationships including between friends who had some falling out. A ready willingness to go radio silent is the dark side of a narcissistic trend where people find it easy to ostracize each other. Abandonment is more convenient than dealing with awkward feelings … and the world becomes a colder place.
Trust is vital and precious. If there is such a thing as emotional security, it depends on trusting and trustworthiness. Fake friendships and going dark damage peoples’ ability to trust. Empathy is the capacity to read the emotions of another. You must have empathy to experience sympathy or compassion, to ‘be there’ emotionally, to trust the other. It is a pity to live in such a shallow society just as it is a heroic challenge to serve as an empathic antidote.
Oxytocin, the bonding hormone, helps and we can increase it to the benefit of friendship. Studies demonstrate oxytocin’s role in social recognition, pair bonding, orgasm and motherhood. Personality–wise, oxytocin promotes empathy and altruism. It’s good for the tribe, it’s good for civilization.In both sexes, oxytocin rises instantly with a single touch. (Its power is more abundantly available to and through women because of how it synergizes with estrogen, whereas testosterone counteracts it.) Generate as much oxytocin as you can. Your real friends are the ones you hug the most!
In this age of anxiety, multitasking, and myriad distractions, it’s easy to overindulge in too much thinking … even when you don’t want to. We dwell on the past, worry about the future, second-guess ourselves—sometimes endlessly. Against this epidemic of stinking thinking, meditation is a crucial skill for mental health—not to mention a good night’s sleep.
Once I spent a couple years in ashrams and monasteries. When I came back to the States, I taught adult meditation classes and served as meditation minister at a New Thought church, where I facilitated a how-to class and a 10-week survey course entitled ”Styles of Meditation,” where we received a weekly presentation from purveyors of different styles of meditation—including Transcendental, Buddhist, Christian, electronically-assisted, Japanese Tea Ceremony and others.
In my how-to class, I taught an ancient but simple mindfulness-of-breathing technique—a method that does not require any particular beliefs, visualizations of wrathful deities, or special rituals. We learned to do mindfulness exercises in line at the bank or during a traffic jam. One year we used the book “The Three Minute Meditator” as class text.
As my teacher, Ayya Khema, used to say, meditation is just a matter of being present. As long as you are grounded in an awareness of the present moment, you are meditating. Considering that our ego dwells on the future or past, a meditation experience—even a short one—is a sort of ‘vacation’ (as in the vacating the ego).
Fairly often, students would tell me “I just can’t meditate; no matter what I do, I can’t put a stop to the thoughts.” This is an understandable complaint, but based on a misunderstanding about the very nature of meditation. I would explain that thoughts almost never come to a halt. After all, they arise of their own accord even when you don’t want them! If so, how can the thoughts that arise be your thoughts? If you don’t want them around, if you did not invite them, but they arise in your mind anyway, what makes them yours?
Thoughts arise uninvited and they always will. It is impossible to stop them from coming and that is not what meditation is really about. It’s about changing how we relate to thoughts that arise. Do we identify with them—as in “my thoughts?” Do we invest in them by thinking about them? Of course we do!
The skill of meditation is not about shutting out thoughts or shutting down the mind. Rather, it’s about divesting ourselves of thoughts that arise when we need to get away from thinking. This is a practice of noticing the thoughts that arise and then letting them pass by turning your attention to an object like your breathing or some mantra. It doesn’t really matter what object of concentration you use.
I suspect that like me, you are fairly addicted to thinking. All the more reason we need to turn it off sometimes! As long as you remember the distinction between thoughts arising and thinking about them, anyone—even you—can let go of the ego’s urge to think about things when they pop up. Practice noticing thoughts arising and intervene by letting them go before you react, lest the ‘stinking thinking’ of regrets and worries ruins your ability to enjoy your life.
Have you ever passed up something that was good in the hopes that something more perfect might come along? Do you find it difficult to tell the difference between a risk worth taking and wishful thinking? How many times has trusting your feelings caused you to make a decision that actually set you back?
Making great decisions with good timing is not easy, and you are not alone if you’ve experienced any of the dilemmas above. In these chaotic and fast-changing times, most people find it challenging to trust their magical ‘sixth sense’ known as intuition. It’s as if our wireless connection to natural rhythms has gone haywire. Fortunately, it is possible to reboot our intuition and improve our timing by learning to leverage synchronicity, the principle of perfect timing defined by the legendary psychologist Carl Jung.
Awareness of synchronicity is a doorway to new information from outside the ego’s box of black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking. Putting on synchronistic glasses lets us see the holistic web of connectedness that weaves itself through our experiences, how things are connected in time. Most dramatically, this shows up in the form of meaningful coincidences.
Becoming aware of synchronicities as they happen is a special skill that takes practice. For one thing, it requires a willingness to make the paradigm shift from cause-and-effect analysis to a more open-minded, holistic and creative point of view that incorporates timing into the equation. To do this, you need to suppress a tendency to always be in a hurry, because timing may well be the most important factor. You won’t notice synchronicities when you are in a hurry, so slow down enough to consider the possible meaning in coincidences. We need to take this question of meaning more seriously, because an evolving sense of meaning is required for personal fulfillment and peace of mind.
Keep track of the amazing coincidences you notice, especially those that seem meaningful right off the bat. The moment a profound coincidence happens, you may feel it in your “gut” or in your “bones.” Such synchronicities are the ones that can broaden your perspective, invite insights and allow new opportunities to arise. These little miracles of insight will take you outside the box of what you think you know now. As you discover the personal meaning that synchronicities contain for you – messages that can help you succeed or evolve – record them. Give yourself a way to absorb their meaning over time and you will see how they make you more loving and wise, a better problem-solver, and more empowered to heal yourself and others.
You don’t have to be perfect at this. Even a slight improvement in decision-making produces better coordination that, like compound interest, makes your life exponentially more abundant over time. If you develop your mix of talents and pay attention to synchronicities, your odds of succeeding at whatever you put your attention to go up dramatically. Will there still be setbacks? Of course. But even your mistakes will be useful the more learning you take in from every experience. With less wasted effort, you will enjoy better results with fewer wrong turns. Worry and stress will go down. You will come to realize that you are in sync with your unfolding destiny. Your timing was perfect all along!
A new year is upon us — both solar and lunar (Chinese) versions. Some common rites this time of year include setting goals and making resolutions.
My next book — Great Decisions, Perfect Timing — is about how to activate intuition and leverage synchronicities for greater success, happiness, abundance and joy in fulfilling your needs and wants. This means different things for people of different temperaments and stages of life. So, it is important that our vision of success be in alignment with who we have discovered ourselves to be. It’s an anguishing waste of time to compare oneself with others. True success can only be measured in your own terms. So, what does success mean for you? Have you defined it for yourself lately? With spring approaching, this is an excellent time for restarting.
Success can take many forms. Your definition depends upon what you value most highly — not what anyone else wants (or what you think most people want). The story of my cousin Lennie illustrates the point brilliantly. He defined success for himself and has been living it for 25 years.
Lennie sold his thriving barbershop 27 years ago and purchased 12 acres on Lake Leelanau, Michigan, a few miles from the village where he grew up. He lives in a house that he built with help from friends near the large spring-fed lake. Lennie built a passive-solar home into the south side of a hill, using beautiful ash wood he harvested from trees growing there for floors and paneling. He cultivated a huge garden and dug out two ponds for trout, which receive fresh flowing water from an artesian spring on the property.
Not only does he fish, but Lennie also hunts. He eats what he catches. This means plenty of venison, stored for consumption year round. His life requires plenty of work, but it has a beautiful simplicity and Lennie is remarkably self-sufficient. His utility bills are almost nil and he makes less than $10,000/year, mostly from working one day a week in his friend’s barbershop.
Lennie’s way was to trade off accumulating money for low overhead, living close to the land in an organic, non-wasteful way. He has no regrets. For him, the tradeoffs are worth the self-sufficiency, a high value for him. It’s not for everyone, but his is a simple life and, even with some hardships, a happy one. He knows himself, what he wants and he manifests it.
In light of his diligence in honoring his values, Lennie’s is a profound success story, even though he’s hardly thought of it that way. One night, as we were cooking fish we caught and vegetables we harvested that same day, I remarked what a monumental success story I consider his to be. Coming from his more “accomplished” cousin, this greatly surprised him.
As we begin a new year, how clear are you about your deepest desires and what is really most important to you? This is the foundation that will determine how successful you feel — not necessarily how much money you accumulate or what you can buy. Notice and appreciate the real satisfactions of your life … you may be more successful than you thought! Such remembering will help you nurture powerful feelings of joy and abundance throughout the new year.