A Better Chance of Survival

“I am pessimistic about the human race because it is too ingenious for its own good. Our approach to nature is to beat it into submission. We would stand a better chance of survival if we accommodated ourselves to this planet and viewed it appreciatively instead of skeptically and dictatorially.” – E.B. White

My sons and I took a walk through our field and around the pond yesterday and my youngest gathered specimens of the most interesting flora along the way. He started with pinecones and pokeweed and ended with honeysuckle (after hearing about the sweet drops of nectar hidden deep in the flower). There were so many different and wonderful sights and smells that it was hard to leave the world crafted by nature and reenter the world made by man.

Dominion is so very different from domination. It is a terrible privilege, one that begins and ends in devotion.

Consent to Concede

Consent to Concede by Gregg Hake

We are too much of this world, then and now,
Trading birthrights for a mess of pottage;
Forsaking true intercourse for frottage,
Dominion lost in domination’s dow!
The sea of glass churned by earth-tiller’s plough,
Crystal no more but occluded by flotage;
Vision enclosed by walls of man’s plottage,
We labor in vain and strain for the sough
Of good news. – Rise up! Lift this great torment,
From vexed mind and shameful heart scarred by greed,
Seared by hate, torn by strife, choked by lament,
By quitting the farce: consent to concede.
To win we must lose, unbend and repent,
For orientation that spawned misdeed.

The Spirit of the Method

The old and familiar maxim: “Knowledge is Power” shapes the way we look at education, marketing, politics, religion and many other areas of human activity. The idea that knowledge begets power is based on the limited view that humanity is meant to dominate his environment, rather than have dominion over it.

Domination is established through strength and power. It is the product of forced compliance and it is unsustainable because of its disconnection from the larger creative context of which it is a part. Dominion, on the other hand, manifests through agility and suppleness. It inspires a willing submission and compels agreement because of its synchronicity with the unifying pattern of truth.

Whereas domination divides, dominion divides but also connects. Domination coerces control by introducing an arbitrary and inflexible restraint on true creative expression, while dominion extends control in lockstep with the wheels within wheels of creation. A horse, for example, can be held artificially in a desirable frame or he can be brought progressively into a state of fitness and understanding which allows him to hold that frame willingly and even proudly, if that can be said.

Likewise, a child can be educated in one of two ways. The first, and most prevalent is based on the notion that knowledge is power. To that aim, facts and figures are pasted on from the outside, typically with complete disregard to the inner wisdom of the child. The second, yet more desirable sees knowledge as the means of unlocking the true creative expression already resident in the child. Knowledge in the former is an end and in the latter is a means to an end.

Knowledge is not power, but the agility and suppleness that attend a well-organized system of knowledge do allow for a safe and contained increase in the expression of power. Loosely arranged or poorly organized knowledge is dangerous in that it does not provide a safe container for power. Power inevitably leaks through holes in understanding.

I have found this distinction to be an important one in every field of human activity I’ve explored. While there are many examples that could be given in support of it, I am privileged to share an example that comes from the field of classical equitation. General Decarpentry, a distinguished scholar of artistic equitation who served in the venerable Cadre Noir from 1904 to 1913 and again from 1925 to 1931 as the school’s second-in-command, provided a useful explanation of how dominion can be established in the field of equitation in his book Academic Equitation, A training system based on the methods of D’Aure, Baucher and L’Hotte:

The methods employed in Academic Equitation are in no way different from the ones used ever since the beginning of training, and they are in fact the only means man disposes of to train any kind of animal.

They consist of progressively developing applications of the principle of submission, by substituting for the means primitively employed to obtain it, other more convenient means that give scope for wider and more subtle applications.

The conventional language which has been thus gradually established between rider and mount becomes enriched with new signs. The understanding of the horse develops. The combined use of the signs, the isolated meaning of which has been established separately, allows the rider to enlarge the scope of his teaching, which always proceeds from the known to the unknown.

This is the spirit of the method. It uses conventional language to apply to the body of the horse the gymnastic progression of a series of movements intended to develop his agility rather than his strength, and his suppleness rather than his power.

Living in an Air Castle VII

The air-castle typifies any delusion or folly that makes man forsake real living for an idle, vague existence. Living in air-castles means that a man sees life in a wrong perspective. He permits his lower self to dominate his higher self; he who should tower as a mighty conqueror over the human weakness, sin and folly that threaten to destroy his better nature, binds upon his won wrists the manacles of habit that hold him a slave. He loses the crown of his kingship because he sells his royal birthright for temporary ease and comfort and the showy things of the world, sacrificing so much that is best in him for mere wealth success, position, or the plaudits of the world. He forsakes the throne of individuality for the air-castle of delusion.” ~ William George Jordan

Whether you see your royal birthright as the result of millions of years of evolution or divine decree, the fact of the matter is that you have an opportunity to have dominion over the world you center. Dominion is the by-product of the expression of your natural authority into the earth. Domination, on the other hand is a cheap imitation based in the notion that might makes right and sustained by the idea that forced compliance is superior to inspired agreement.

My company, The Spa on Green Street, sponsored a “Petpalooza” yesterday afternoon. The Humane Society brought a number of puppies for adoption and a local dog trainer set up an agility course to demonstrate their agility and manners programs. It is always fascinating to watch people interacting with puppies, as I’ve noticed that the way people work with puppies reveals very quickly what method they prefer to bring order out of chaos in their worlds: dominion or domination.

Those who elect to dominate their worlds typically emphasize visible force. Corrections are harsh, sharp and unforgiving and such people rule with an iron fist, as a dictator would in a repressive political regime. They govern the world around them from the throne of their lower self, preferring “push” techniques to “pull” strategies. Their subjection to their lower selves makes them mistrustful of their higher selves, and they fear if they let go of their white-knuckled grip they have on that which they control they will lose control. And they’re probably right based on the way they’ve built their kingdom.

Those who rise to the occasion and discover how to extend dominion take the opposite approach. They rule from the throne of their higher selves, and their control extends from within outward, and is usually invisible to the eye. They understand that forced compliance may appear to work in the short-term, but that it unravels the instant the aggressor turns his back on those who have submitted to his rule. Their empathy allows them to remove the obstacles that stand in the way of agreement and cooperation and their perfect patience affords them the perspective to know when to act and when to wait.

Dominion springs from love, while domination grows in the shadows wherever love has been withdrawn. Some dominate out of fear, others out of greed, but most dominate out of a laziness, a simple but devastating unwillingness to do the work required to refine their character and disposition to the point that nothing but the higher self is allowed expression.

The higher can and will permeate the lower if your let it. In many cases, simply letting go of the lower, more base elements in your expression is sufficient to turn the tide in your living. Stopping to do what you know you shouldn’t makes room in your heart and mind for the noble expression to come through. The kingdom governed by your higher self is at hand, immediately available to you should you choose to incline your heart to it.

Real living only happens when your higher self rules. The trouble with most people is that they know this, but they’re afraid to let go of the petty control struggles they’ve won over the years in an effort to claw their way out of the darkness and chaos that overshadow so much of the world around them. Just as a hot air balloon operator understands that he must throw out ballast to ascend, you too must be willing to let go of the baggage – with no strings attached – to rise up in your living.

So where is it best to start? Much of this release is done using forgiveness, of others and of yourself, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to be dogged about obeying the compulsions which emanate from your higher self. Further, complaint, blame and martyrdom are utterly foreign to your higher self, so any shade of any one of those must be avoided like the plague.

If you’ve been subject to the petty tyrant who rules your lower self, have no fear. He has no real power and no natural authority. The only power he possesses has been stolen from your higher self. Stop bowing to his wishes, mindlessly following out his commands and believing his nonsense and you will be well on your way in the demolition of any air-castles you may have built for yourself over the years. There is no shame in this, in fact, this is the best way to take the legs out from under the patterns of shame that are keeping you from putting your royal birthright to use.

Living from the Inside Out

A newborn child has no dreams, no hopes, no failures, no past experiences in particular that stand in the way of simply being himself in the moment. His desire to achieve has not yet come to focus and he knows nothing other than being who he is, where he is and how he is. He begins to interact with his world, albeit in a limited way.

Despite the fact that babies can do next to nothing but the most basic functions common to any living organism, they possess a remarkable ability to radiantly influence the world around them. They inspire intelligent and articulate adults to make silly faces and baby-like sounds. Their presence alone can cast a spell that grabs the attention and softens the gaze of even the most busy and emotionally hardened men and women.

Why is that?

For starters, babies have not yet been forced to make decisions that mute the expression of their natural radiance. Neither have they formed desires, beliefs and goals that change their basic approach to living from a radiant posture to a fundamentally absorptive one. Make no mistake: unbridled, unmitigated radiance intensifies all that it touches. It draws a line in the sand that says “I have not lost hope or my will to live, are you with me?” It reaches through the muck of your consciousness and says “I’m okay, you’re okay, you can trust in the power of life.” All that from a baby…seriously!

Contrary to popular opinion, fulfillment comes not from getting more, but from giving more. Children are typically trained by well-intentioned adults who are not clear on this point. They may profess the value and importance of charity, of sharing and of doing good to others, but look more closely at their motivations and daily decisions and you see that most people shift from being more concerned about giving to being primarily centered in getting as they age.

This is not a function of the aging process, rather, it comes as a side-effect of the reaction to the recognition of one’s mortality. When you start to recognize that you only have so long to do what you are going to do on earth, you begin to ask yourself “am I taking steps to fulfill my purpose?” Most, when confronted with this question, decide to form goals, to set a vision for what they feel their life should accomplish and then set about manipulating the world around them to accomplish they goals they’ve set for themselves. They decide, in a nutshell, that their fulfillment is dependent upon their ability to distill it from the world around them.

Despite the fact that billions have tried this approach to no avail, the new generations come and try to apply themselves even more assiduously, only to fail even more gloriously. But does trying harder to prove a flawed premise make the approach more valuable or the effort more noble? I think not.

So what then?

I am increasingly of the opinion that the basic shift from “how can I give” to “how can I get” influences the life of an individual more than any other factor. When you approach your world from the inside-out, where the radiant expression of the qualities of life that come to focus in you from moment to moment are given voice, you stop excusing yourself from giving the very best that you can give. You stop accusing others around you of standing in the way of your greatness. You no longer blame your circumstances for your failures or shortcomings. You, in short, allow the radiant influence in you to move from the inside-out, regardless of how the world is configured around you.

If, on the other hand, you choose as most do at some point in their life, to live in reaction to the world around you rather than radiantly in relation to the world around you, you make an initially conscious and and eventually unconscious resolution to give a fraction rather than the fulness of yourself. You begin to measure your radiance, giving only to those people and circumstances you have judged to be worthy of your giving, likely in exchange for some perceived benefit. You stop being who you are and start to become who you think you should be, that is, you begin to live from the outside-in, based in large measure on your reaction to the world around you.

You alone can choose which course you shall follow. Make no mistake: dreams and goals are not distractions from your true purpose unless you let them pull you around by the nose. You can have dominion over the world you center without being domineering; you can be who you are without apology, without excuse and without exception as soon as you are willing to drop all other pretense.

So let it be!

The Kingship of Self-Control I

When a man fails in life he usually says, “I am as God made me.” When he succeeds he proudly proclaims himself a “self-made man.” Man is placed into this world not as a finality,—but as a possibility. Man’s greatest enemy is,—himself. Man in his weakness is the creature of circumstances; man in his strength is the creator of circumstances. Whether he be victim or victor depends largely on himself.

Man is never truly great merely for what he is, but ever for what he may become. Until man be truly filled with the knowledge of the majesty of his possibility, until there come to him the glow of realization of his privilege to live the life committed to him, as an individual life for which he is individually responsible, he is merely groping through the years…

Man needs less of the “I am a feeble worm of the dust” idea in his theology, and more of the conception “I am a great human soul with marvelous possibilities” as a vital element in his daily, working religion. With this broadening, stimulating view of life, he sees how he may attain his kingship through self-control. And the self-control that is seen in the most spectacular instances in history, and in the simplest phases of daily life is precisely the same in kind and in quality, differing only in degree. This control man can attain, if he only will; it is but a matter of paying the price.” ~ William George Jordan

I love Mr. Jordan’s assertion that you are placed here not as a finality, but as a possibility and that if you approach life weakly, you will forever be a victim of circumstance, whereas if you approach it in strength, you are a creator. I’m sure that most people long to be creators and not victims, but for lack of the right education and training their identity remains firmly fixed in the dust of the earth.

It is a strange thing that people more often than not must be convinced of the greatness of their soul. This is not to be confused with the greatness that many people feel about themselves in an outer sense, as in “I am beautiful,” “I am smart” or “I am all heart,” for such greatness often leads to vanity or hubris. For the greatness of your soul to be known, you must first and foremost be humble.

Humility is a stance of strength. Many assume it is a weak-kneed or apologetic approach to living, which it is if it comes dishonestly, but true humility allows for the fullest expression of your inner greatness in any circumstance you might face. False humility produces false pride, limiting the greatness that could be expressed from the inside out. True humility is like a fiber optic line that allows the light which emanates from the core of you outward to your body, mind and heart, that is, the “you” that everyone else sees. How do you let your light shine? For starters, by assuming a stance of complete humility.

Humility sets the stage for the development of self-control. Arrogance, on the other hand, plants the seeds for the gradual yet eventual loss of self-control. Arrogance is easy to recognize. Defined as “having or showing an exaggerated opinion of one’s own importance, merit, ability, etc.,” arrogance gives evidence of a disconnect between the soul and the mind. Absent this nourishing link, the mind must artificially inflate itself.

Man’s greatest enemy really is himself. He is either, as Jordan observed “the creature of circumstances” or the “creator of circumstances” and it is his approach to living, more than the quality of the hand he is dealt, that establishes him as one or the other. I suppose that is why it was written long ago that the number of man is the same as the number of the beast. This is not a religious statement belonging to one group or another, it is simply a statement of the fact that we are capable of both dominion and subjection.

Approach life in strength and humility and you are bound to be a creator in the center of your world. Handle your world reactively rather than radiantly, forever worrying about what lies around the next corner and obsessing about how it makes you feel, and you are sure to assume the role of a victim to be pitied.

The choice is yours.

The Hungers of Life I

We human beings are marvelously constructed. We have bodies, minds and hearts at our disposal, all of which are animated by a uniquely configured inner source of life. These four components are combined in an infinite number of ways to create a spectacular and beautiful array of people, each one remarkably different from the other.

For an individual to be functioning optimally, his body, mind and heart must be healthy and in alignment with his inner essence, for as Plato put it: “The part can never be well unless the whole is well.” Each of these parts hungers for something different and could be said to hold aspirations. These aspirations separate us from the animals and permits us, when nourished sufficiently and used properly, to have dominion over the worlds we center.

You are wise to realize in advance that a newborn aspiration foreshadows future discomfort. In fact, aspiration is the source of most of the discomfort in the world. Rightly held, aspiration is the longing for greater and more refined expression of blessing through the capacities of body, mind and heart, the net result of which is a powerful pressure for change. Wrongly used, aspiration drives men and women to climb upon the backs of others in the accomplishment of their goals, which creates an unnatural and often unrelieved tension between all involved. Either way, aspiration brings discomfort.

Think about any aspiration you’ve had up until now, no matter whether it was centered in body, mind or heart. The experience of something more, something greater was desired and you became instantly uncomfortable in your own shoes. You were agitated, the fire was stoked and you were ready for change. Many people keep their aspirations low because they are afraid of the discomfort that is sure to follow. The lower the aspiration, the less the discomfort, yet compromising in this way is a death before death.

You, as I mentioned above, are marvelously constructed. Use the equipment you have – your body, mind and heart – on a generative basis that is constantly refining  and seeking to accommodate a greater and greater expression of blessing, and life will be good, no matter what is happening round about. React to the expansion and you will find your heart and mind flooded with excuses and rationalizations as to why you couldn’t simply let it happen. “If only this were different” or “if only I had a different set of circumstances” soon becomes the mantra as the individual vainly attempts to barter with life itself, which sadly puts the individual at odds with the true nature of his inner self.

This is a critical phase. If you set up camp in the battlefield by wrestling with the excuses and rationalizations, you will experience inner turmoil that will eventually spill over in your living. Be thankful, however, for the turmoil is naught but a symptom of your body, mind or heart being at odds with the life that is in you. You have a warning light and it is good to know that you have a problem. If, however, you relinquish at this point any justification for not marching bravely forward – in body, mind or heart – and rise above the temporary discomfort caused by an aspiration that is transforming into new life expression, the excuses and rationalizations melt away just as quickly as they came into being.

You can and must be a better person from day to day. Your capacities of body, mind and heart thrive when challenged in this way. Keep moving, my friends, keep moving!