If I can, so can you!

I had the pleasure of watching Cirque du Soleil’s “Ovo” in Atlanta yesterday evening. What a remarkable display of human capability! I almost wrote human “physicality” but to limit what they did to mere physical acts would likely understate what was involved in their performance. To do what they do must take enormous mental focus and emotional steadiness.

This particular show is an “immersion in the teeming and energetic world of insects.” The costumes were fabulous and the acts, especially the high wire and the trampoline/climbing wall, were breathtaking. It can be refreshing and inspiring to see such a spectacle, where people are functioning at the edge of the performance envelope available to human beings.

I am of the opinion that it is good to stretch your figurative legs on occasion. Pushing yourself to go beyond the familiar or the comfortable keeps life interesting as it typically broadens your ability to touch and inspire others. So doing also bolsters self-confidence, an element of character that can work wonders in a pinch.

Two of my extended family members have undertaken falconry, a sport that challenges comfort zones in more ways than one. The falconer’s life begins with the passing of a difficult written examination administered by the Department of Natural Resources, followed by a two year apprenticeship. To top it off, the first task of the apprentice’s life is to trap a wild bird, more often than not a maniacal, sharply-taloned Red-tailed Hawk and to “man” it, which means to get it used to close human contact.

Their progress is a delight to behold as it seems that not a day goes by without some type of new challenge that pushes each one to their limits and then slightly beyond. You cannot expect to grow as a person if you are not willing to push yourself or to be compelled by others on occasion. It matters not if the activity is mental, physical or emotional, the point is that if you reach beyond where you are you will gain flexibility, capability and strength in the process.

While I don’t anticipate jumping repeatedly (and untethered!) from a 30 foot rock climbing wall onto a trampoline and back up again anytime soon, I do know that I will rise to whatever occasion may come my way, even if it requires that I push through or conversely, relax more deeply to overcome fear, weakness or unfamiliarity.

So can you!

Be Ye Therefore Perfect. Seriously? Seriously.

My youngest son (4 years old) passed the weight test to climb the 24 foot rock wall at the Atlanta Zoo (40 lb. minimum) the day before yesterday and he made a bee line for the top, rang the bell and belayed down. He never hesitated, he remained focused on the goal and he never relinquished control of his body, mind or heart. I can say without qualification that he was perfect, absolutely perfect in that moment!

Speaking of the “p” word, I find it curious that the mere idea of perfection tends to freak most people out. Those who see perfection as tenable are branded as snobs, idealists or arrogant, while those who are convinced of its impossibility possess the perfect excuse for explaining away every failure under the sun.

The idea that human nature is flawed and that human beings are imperfect is one that proponents of science and religion are drawn to like moths to a flame. In religious circles, there is general agreement that we were once “good” but due to an unfortunate and willful bad decision we became sinners in need of salvation. In scientific circles, the notion that perfection is our birthright is blasphemy because we are evolving from our humble beginnings as self-reproducing RNA toward an ever better, more complex future, albeit one that is likely riddled with chaos and imperfection.

It’s hard to mention perfection without also thinking of a remarkable man who walked the earth some 2,000 years ago, a man who has been in many people’s thoughts ever since. He, more than just about anyone else in the centuries that followed, taught that perfection was possible and available to all who sought it. While his teachings were organized and at times rather tragically twisted into religions and codes of behavior by those who were inspired by his wisdom, I do suggest that anyone who longs to live a creative life spend a little time reviewing the observations on life attributed to him.

At a certain point in his life he was purported to make the injunction: “Be ye therefore perfect…”, an electrifying and polarizing commandment that proved an unpopular thing to say to those living on earth at the time. The shock wave produced by that notion has haunted the consciousness of man for nearly two thousand years, leaving a freshly pressed impression on the minds of men that begs the question from generation to generation: “Is perfection possible?”

I believe that it is. Allow me to explain. For starters, perfection is not what most people think it is. It is not static, fixed, unchanging; neither is it passionless, sterile or detached from the quotidian affairs of men. Instead, it is dynamic, fluid, malleable, commodious, energetic and peaceful. Perfection is a floating band of possibilities, not a linear path of all-or-nothing choices. No matter what you believe or don’t believe in, the stand you take on perfection determines the impact you will have on the world through your living.

Why would one of the most remarkable human beings to grace this planet issue such a command if perfection were not possible? To mock us? To give us something to aim for to keep us off the streets? No! He believed and revealed – from what I can see through the lens of history – that perfection is available to each one.

It can be challenging to see through the matrix of concepts, opinions and beliefs that shroud the perfection revealed at that time and non-religious people often mistakenly throw the baby out with the bath water by saying that religion is bunk and therefore what he offered is not worthy of consideration. But if you take a close look, it’s hard not to leave room for the possibility that just about everyone in the world today has it wrong. How specifically? Well, the widely accepted and chanted mantra: “nobody’s perfect” couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Such mistakes have happened before, haven’t they? Just because the majority believes it to be a certain way, doesn’t mean it is so. No amount of human opinion can overturn the reality of the situation, for logic that proceeds from a faulty premise is flawed, no matter how elegant the structure formed thereby.

Well then, what are the options? As I understand it at this point in my life, the options are as follows:

  1. Refuse to believe that perfection is possible. Claim that “nobody’s perfect” – not you, not me, not anybody – and declare the case dismissed. The options with this choice are: (a) pick apart anyone who comes close. Destroy them if necessary or (b) strive for progress but never perfection.
  2. Believe that perfection is possible but only for a God or gods in human flesh. “They can do it but I cannot really be expected to.” The options at that point are: (a) don’t even bother trying, (b) make a half-hearted attempt, for it is better to die a failure than to never have tried or (c) accept the idea that you can get a free pass somehow without doing the work yourself.
  3. Believe that perfection is possible for anyone and everyone given the proper education. Learn the keys to wisdom – that uncommon sensitivity to the right choice in any situation – and unlock the door to perfection in the circumstances that come your way.

The refusal to accept the possibility of perfection – here and now – is the perfect way to guarantee mediocrity. If perfection is not possible, then so too is:

  1. Being in the right place at the right time
  2. Doing the right thing at the right time
  3. Saying the right thing at the right time (le mot juste)

Why not take a stand on this issue? Why not rise to the call that has echoed through the ages and accept the responsibility for the expression of perfection? You needn’t adhere to one religion or another to be open to the possibility of perfection and the fact that you deny its possibility doesn’t make you scientific.

I have a hunch that we’ve made it much harder for ourselves that we need to, much as an “experienced” adult would let his fears, doubts and convictions stand in the way of climbing a rock wall without hesitation, in the pure and unencumbered fashion of a 4 year old. “Well,” you say “life’s just not that simple.”

Well, maybe you’re right. If you are convinced that perfection is not possible, it is unlikely that you’ll do what is required to reveal it consistently. Conversely, admitting that it is possible is the first and most important step in the process that leads to its consistent revelation in and through you.

You needn’t see it to believe it.

I had an unusual conversation yesterday that I feel is worthy of further consideration. A new acquaintance, whom I have not met in person, asked me where I thought the world was headed. What a whopper of a question! She qualified her question with a mention of the Mayan Calendar, which as I understand it predicts a massive shift in the year 2012 and a number of her own observations on the matter.

Many predictions of doom and death have come and gone – even within my lifetime – with little to no outer evidence of their coming true. Some claim Nostradamus pointed to big changes in our present era while others made more specific predictions based on astrological alignments (e.g. 5/5/200) that ended up being no more devastating than the Y2K bug.

That said, I cannot help but feel that we are living in a momentous era. My reply to the question was qualified by the fact that I work in the field of energetic medicine, where the physics of the body are given as much weight as its biochemistry. For instance, doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), an effective system of medicine developed thousands of years ago in the East, work on the basis that what happens physically in the body happens first in the energy flow of the body. To a TCM practitioner, disease manifests first invisibly in the energetic body before it appears in the physical body.

Many of the more “sensitive” or “intuitive” types I know share the conviction that change is afoot. It may not yet be visible or tangible to the typical person, but as with our health, the invisible precedes the visible and the canaries in the mine are agitated. Just as I am open to the observations of my trainer who is infinitely more sensitive and perceptive in the field of horseback riding, I am inclined to listen to those more sensitive to me as I refuse to be prejudiced by the view that says “I can’t see it or measure it so therefore it is not real or valuable.”

Maybe the predictions related more to the energetic pattern of the body of humanity – its physics – than its actual, physical body. Maybe the failure is occurring at that level, as we speak? Who knows, really? Are we so bound by the present borders of our understanding – both scientific and spiritual – that we are willing to dismiss the possibility, without any consideration at all? Snobbery and fanaticism are as rife in the scientific community as they are in the religious community and I believe that we could all benefit from a more open-minded view of the possibilities.

I’ve often wondered if the changes that need to be made to move off of the path of self-destruction relate to the necessity of making more subtle, internal and therefore less visible changes, for what’s true of the individual tends also to be true of the body of humanity. A good driver, for instance, makes the constant adjustments in steering and pace in a way that the more extreme moves are not required. Making the little changes obviates the need for the larger, more dramatic and dare I say, cataclysmic changes down the road.

In medicine, you can make the change at the level of qi, with often imperceptible interventions. You can make the changes when biochemical or physical precursors to disease are discovered. Or you can wait until the disease manifest fully, an approach that requires the most invasive and potentially dangerous interventions. The longer you wait to deal with something, the more difficult it will be to handle. Isn’t that true in all spheres of life?

I have faith in humanity. I am not convinced that we are inexorably bound to destroy ourselves as a result of what has come to be known as “human nature.” As I’ve mentioned before, what is accepted as being permanent is only perceived as such because it has been around as far back as we remember. We must leave room in our thinking for possibilities that we cannot conceive of from the confines of the box we live in today.

My new acquaintance mentioned that she had recently lost just about everything in her life and as a result she thought a lot more about life than she ever had. I felt for her and can appreciate what she went and is continuing to go through, though I hope that it doesn’t have to come to that point for the human race as a whole.

Let’s make the changes now, step up our game, relinquish the tendencies that are obviously of no benefit to anyone, present or future, and create a brighter world together.

The Highest Common Denominator

We are incredibly complex creatures. From macro to micro, our design is beautiful, intricate and marvelous to behold. I remember watching a short video in physics class in high school similar to the one below which showed the wave dynamics of a crowd of people:

People, when moving in an aggregated mass, tend to “go with the flow” in a way that modifies their approach to fulfilling their self-determined desires. Given that human beings are generally gregarious creatures, it follows that the longing to belong tend to bring them together into masses that move in concert with one another.

These masses are unified in purpose, interest or some other common denominator, and the individual actors tend to trade personal identity for group identity. The homogenized group may be as small as two, and if you’ve ever watched a young couple lose themselves in one another, you know what I mean. Scaled out significantly, you begin to see larger groupings such as races, religions, nationalities and so on, which are masses of people who recognize a common identity.

The rise of individualism is apparently a recent phenomenon, fueled by the great thinkers of the Renaissance. I imagine that this was only the rebirth of the idea and that individualism was generally accepted as a cosmology in earlier civilizations, but it is hard to imagine a grouping of people more tied to the notion of individualism, self-determination and self-realization than modern Western society.

We – especially in America – see ourselves as individuals capable of independent function. For many the independence is based on a freedom from the deterministic oversight of a Creator, for others it is based on the freedom from the unifying and directive control of a Church, while for some it is based on the relative sense of independence stemming from the freedoms promised by the Constitution that governs our Republic.

The roots of self-reliance, self-love, self-education are found in the soil of the notion of individualism. The rise of knowledge and the structural members of individualism – free will and choice – create the impression of self-determination, yet the physics of the matter tell a different tale. Aggregated individuals become groups and the groups take on a life of their own that in many both obvious and subtle ways undermines and dilutes the potent and catalytic influence of free will and choice.

The net result is that in many groups there are individuals who would fight to the death to defend their right to individual expression, yet they more often than not do so on the basis of the dictates of a larger group, rather than at their own behest. The perception of individualism, in my observation, is more important for the large majority of people than the reality of its manifestation.

A question I would love to realize the answer to is this: is there a unifying impulse or compulsion inherent in life itself that better heard and heeded would create a more harmonious and productive whole? Individual actors, acting primarily on the basis of unadulterated self-interest, produce in large measure the world we have today. Everything else in the observable world seems to function according to a more natural, deeper, invisible impulse.

Even our own complex, highly organized physical and energetic bodies seem to be guided by something that we haven’t sufficiently understood or explained to date. We have compiled a mountain of knowledge over the last six centuries, but what really have we learned about how to live better, more productive, happier, more harmonious lives? Precious little in my estimation.

In a world where everyone simply does what is right in his or her own eyes, without respect to a deeper unifying influence, the lowest common denominators – fear and greed – reign supreme. These base influences not only seem inescapable, they seem normal and are determined by social and physical science alike to be natural. But are they?

I don’t think that we can conclude, without reasonable doubt, that we do not have an ability to perceive and to move in concert with a higher common denominator. As human beings we tend to focus on that which we can see and we consequently explain away and dismiss, often with prejudice, that which we cannot see or adequately explain through the lens of our present consciousness. Call it group bias, fanaticism, prejudice or whatever you’d like, limited thinking leads to limited function and limited function constricts vision and understanding.

My own thinking on the matter at present is that individualism and determinism are not opposites, but instead complements. Free will and choice are vital to right function, but I do not feel that it is safe to conclude that they operate without respect to some other coordinating influence.

What about you? Another cup of coffee or tea might be in order at this point before you answer… Have a great day!

Your Lucky Day

Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

One of the presenters I was privileged to watch this weekend at our annual Energetix Lyceum described the methylation pathways of our body. Methylation acts as an on/off switch that allows the body to learn how to deal with the environment and it controls the body’s ability to detoxify.

With the industrial revolution came explosive growth in the production of new substances that have proven over time to be toxic to all living creatures on earth, including you and me. Plastics, preservatives, food colorings, synthetic fabrics, personal electronic devices and so on have made the achievement and maintenance health an increasingly difficult proposition.

I am certain that in all things there is causality. Cause and effect governs the movement from past to present and conditions the movement from present to future. What people call “luck,” as in “I had a lucky day” or “I stumbled upon the solution by dumb luck” is really another way to say “I am not too clear about the cause of this effect, but I am pleased by its occurrence.”

Similarly, the idea of “bad luck” is nothing more than an admission of the same, followed by displeasure with the outcome. In my view, professing to have good luck or bad luck is a convenient and generally acceptable way to shirk responsibility in and or for any given matter.

Those who profess to have good luck are either unwilling to accept responsibility for the investments they’ve made that have constrained to a positive outcome or they are unwilling to recognize and thank others for the seeds they’ve planted that resulted in a desirable harvest beyond themselves.

Likewise, those who claim to be the victims of bad luck are frequently avoiding the fact that they didn’t do the work required to tip the scales toward a positive outcome or they have failed to see the fact that the human race is deeply interconnected and that they more often than not are forced by the objective flow of cause and effect to harvest the less-than-perfect actions of their fellow human beings.

Luck – both good and bad – is not a random process. Like the methylation pathways in our bodies, luck is nothing more than the expression of cause and effect. Luck can appear to be random as cause and effect can be incredibly complex, with multiple agents affecting multiple processes that can link seemingly unrelated events and people.

We are all related in one way or another. Whether you read this blog in a Yurt in Costa Rica, the Presidential Suite at the Plaza Hotel in New York or a dorm room at university, your thoughts, words and actions eventually end up impacting people and events that would appear on the surface to have nothing to do with one another.

Health is also the product of cause and effect. You can no longer bank on having health throughout your life by virtue of having “good” genes. Even those with the strongest constitutions are finding themselves challenges by the mounting toxicity in our world. The point is that if you are concerned to have better luck, you must pay closer attention to causation.

The wise man handles both the good in life as well as the bad with equanimity. After a string of “good luck” he doesn’t take the good things in life for granted, rest on his laurels or forget to continue to plant seeds of inspiration, encouragement and refinement. Similarly, after a bad day or worse a bad week he doesn’t resign himself to blame, complaint or dismay.

The understanding of cause and effect is the basis for a generative life. Without this foundation it is easy to fall prey to the many substandard explanations for why life is the way it is at any given point in time.

The decisions you make in your life affect more than you could ever imagine. Think big when you think. Think of others when you think. And most importantly, think when you’re supposed to think, for luck never made a man wise.

Happiness and Righteousness Redefined

As a young man approaching middle age, I often ask myself what it is that human beings truly seek. Material wealth and comfort appear on the surface to shape the thoughts and dictate the actions of many, but scratch a little deeper and you will find that the common goal of man is happiness and self-realization.

Throughout my youth I travelled the globe to gain insight into dreams and desires of mankind, to discover other modes of thought that may lead more adequately to the goals of happiness and self-realization. The more I saw as I explored the four corners of the earth, the more I had to ask myself: “Could it be that the way we view the abundant delicacies made by the merchants of the earth keeps us from obtaining our deepest longing, that is, happiness?”

I remain to this day unconvinced that material possessions are in and of themselves bad or evil, for it is only their use that determines their relative worth. That said, I have encountered very few people who do not worship at the altar of material possessions in some way. My observation is that happiness to them is fleeting – there for a moment when a goal or some object is obtained – and gone shortly thereafter as the band plays “The Thrill is Gone” in the background.

It seems that those who are happiest are least attached to their material possessions, regardless of whether they have many or few. I have two sets of friends who live quite simply, who’ve deliberately devoted their lives to “enjoying the basics,” and I have to say they are the most genuinely happy people I know. I’ve known others who have accumulated great wealth and who were also genuinely happy, but I think that there is abundant evidence indicating that wealth and an abundance of material possessions is no guarantor of happiness.

No wonder it was said the the “love of money is the root of all evil” and not “money is the root of all evil‘ as people often mistakenly quote. Happiness is the natural by-product of righteous living. I must admit that I hesitated to use the word “righteous” as it has so many undesirable connotations and obfuscating religious overlays.

Righteousness is life lived with integrity, honor and respect. Righteousness needn’t imply sacrifice or weakness, in fact, a life lived righteously is a life of natural abundance and strength. Righteousness is revealed through your decisions and actions, not in how they are perceived, for righteousness is rarely the popular choice nowadays.

We live in a world where the assumption of personal responsibility is at an all-time low and where the expectation of being cared for is at an all-time high. While I don’t know if this trend is due to complacency born of the decades of growth and prosperity we’ve enjoyed or if it is evidence of a larger cycle working out in the evolution of humanity, I do know that the wisest constitution and the most elegantly constructed laws will prove impotent in their ability to secure the happiness of a people whose lives do not square to an underlying pattern of righteousness.

This is the greatest challenge we face, dear readers: finding ways to inspire righteousness in a world that has grown jaded to the very concept. It is incumbent upon our parents, teachers, business and political leaders to raise the standard of righteousness once again by leading by example.

If it means that you will be unpopular for a while, so be it. Your happiness and the happiness of generations to come depends upon the restoration of this basic principle of living.

Just say no to negativity!

I came across a scientific explanation why humanity progresses in fits and starts rather than on the basis of eternal progress. Apparently our brains are hard-wired with what is called “negativity bias,” a trait that proved favorable as the process of natural selection worked its magic on our species.

Negativity bias is the tendency to feel threatened by the big, bad world we live in. Prior to the civilization of the human race we lived in a world fraught with peril. Those who survived these times were not necessarily the strongest, but instead the fittest who came to expect danger, problems and threats at every turn.

We no longer live like savages or animals in the wild, but the negativity bias that served our ancestors well continues to play like an old record in the darker recesses of our minds. Our feet continue to tap to its tune despite the fact that the dance is no longer necessary.

Unfortunately negativity bias by its nature produces a state of consciousness where threats are overstated and opportunities are understated and frequently missed. Fearful, dubious and anxious about the other foot falling, people – even in our modern times – are hesitant if not reticent to take risks, enjoy themselves and invest in the future.

The recent economic perturbations are no doubt exacerbated and prolonged by this vestigial trait, as actual uncertainty is given as much weight as imagined instability. The unknown – real or imagined – is humanity’s greatest fear.

Murphy’s Law is really more appropriately termed “Murphy’s Self-Fulfilling Prophecy,” for those who believe in it are doing nothing more than adding fuel to the fire of their inherited negativity bias. If you are convinced that things are certain to go wrong, you are more likely going to follow the tracks to the end that you envision than you are to happen accidentally upon a more ideal resolution.

I overheard someone saying yesterday: “I’m no optimist, but I do believe in the fundamental goodness of people. I’m willing to let them reveal themselves either way. There’s no need to judge them because they prove their worthiness in the choices they make.” Here was someone who was not afraid of the unknown, of what was yet to come. I couldn’t help but think of that attitude and approach as being the perfect antidote to this pesky negativity bias.

The key to overcoming negativity bias is found in developing the ability to discern between real and imagined threats. You’ll drive yourself crazy if you treat every threat as real. Conversely, you’re at risk if you don’t pay heed to the alarm bells. There is a balance point available to each one, yet no one can show you where that is, you have to discern it for yourself.

Be careful not to give over your ability to discern for protection as many do when faced with fear. Be wary when protection is extended at the expense of your rights to privacy and self-determination. Ask others who are not easily shaken by the storms in life for their perspective when yours is rendered myopic by the hormones produced by fearful reactions. Perspective is always your friend.

Likewise, deliberately develop the ability to identify, compliment and complement those elements in your world that are working correctly, functioning smoothly and trending toward victory. In other words, work on your positivity bias. Invest in others where you can, expect the finest from your peers and give your best no matter what.

Victory breeds victory and progress on the heels of victory is far less costly than the progress that comes from failure. Your life is likely to be full of both victories and defeats, but this mixture needn’t subdue your enthusiasm. Put yourself out there, embrace life and enjoy yourself…the world can and will be a better place because you lived.