Energy, Discipline, Spirit

Managing people, like training horses or parenting, is all about harnessing energy and teaching discipline, while preserving spirit. The best managers, like the best trainers, possess a remarkable capacity for empathy and their high expectations are never lowered by sympathy.

I have no doubt that there is a marvelous spirit resident within each and every person on earth, a spirit that must be properly clothed to highlight its finer qualities. The connection to spirit (not the spirit itself!) can be broken by overly severe discipline or conversely, by the absence of discipline.

A broken man, like a broken horse, has lost the connection to the spirit that animates him. The spirit is still there, as is the form until death, but the flow of life, energy and passion between the two is reduced to a trickle.

Nurturing or restoring that connection is my life’s work. Whether working with people or horses, my great hope is that the spirit of the one with whom I am privileged to associate at any given point in time is allowed to be magnified into dignified expression. Dignity requires control and restraint, both of which are the product of discipline.

The uncontrolled expression of spirit is doomed to burn out its vehicle expression. The overly-controlled expression of spirit is muted and impotent, dull and uninspiring. There is a golden mean in expression, a flowing state in which body, mind and heart are aligned and poised to give birth to brilliance. And that mean is available to every single person on earth.

Whether I’m managing, riding or simply being a father, inspiring that brilliance is one of my central concerns.

What about you? What concerns do you fill your heart with before you look into the eyes and thereby the soul of another, regardless of their individual story, of your history with them or with how you feel at the moment?

Step it up a Notch

Step it up a Notch

I had an interesting conversation with an associate today about the need to inspire others to move out of their comfort zones and into a greater, fuller expression of themselves. As with so many conversations or events that catch my eye or interest, my thoughts on the matter have evolved through the day and it is my delight to share them with you in the hopes that you and those around you might be inspired to step your living up a notch.

Let’s Face It #1

It is so easy to let yourself be lulled into a false sense of security that comes with familiarity, but let’s face it, we live in a dynamic world in which change is constantly afoot. Despite the earnest efforts of many throughout history to defy the laws of living, you cannot really “stay the same” for in so doing you fall behind and eventually apart, for adaptation is critical to survival.

On “Staying the Same”

To be sure, you cannot “stay the same” physically, for your body is constantly exchanging cellular material with your environment and you, biologically speaking, are not the same person as you were yesterday or that you will be by the time you finish reading this post!

Try as you may to “stay the same” mentally by clamping down on ideas and beliefs to which you vow to adhere come hell or high water, your mind is constantly adapting neurologically to the changing stimuli around you.

And your heart, well, don’t even get me started! Your heart, as much as some like to use it as their brain and others like to ignore it all cost, is the most impressionable and thus malleable of the tools you have which give the inner you, your spirit, your being, or whatever you’d prefer to call it sentience, sentiments and mobility – your body, mind and heart!

Let’s Face It #2

Everyone has experienced tragedy, loss or failure of some sort in his life at some point or another. Some are exposed to more devastating and chronic negative influences while others manage to escape relatively unscathed, but we all have mental, emotional and physical scarring to deal with. The more extreme cases may require delicate handling, but everyone has an opportunity to move forward, to grow up and to move more gracefully with the flow of life that will occur with or without the participation of humanity.

What can you do today to step it up a notch? One of the best ways to answer this is to first ask yourself “what limiting assumptions have I held in this area of my living?” An honest answer to this query will invariably get the ball rolling. Maybe you’ve held someone hostage by your prejudiced views or inflexible expectations of them. Or perhaps you’ve not felt yourself up to the task of taking the next step to expand your world. Limiting assumptions always lead to atrophy, which in turn lead to entropy.

I do not possess enough faith to believe that the dizzying complexity of your body’s construction with all of its levels of coordinated organization, the intricate design of your mind and the limitless potential of your heart came together to form the peculiar vehicle that allows for the expression of the unique focus of life that you are just so that you could live a life of mediocrity! You are here to grow and learn, to move from glory unto glory each and every day of your life so that your soul (in the sense of nephesh, that is, the tangible aspects of your life – your body mind and heart) can accommodate the steadily expanding and refining expression of your spirit, the invisible, intangible aspect of you.

This is important for you personally, but the greater blessing is to the world around you. Each time you step it up a notch you prove to those around you that they too can take heart and move forward. Life is too precious to waste by dithering in mediocrity or settling for the sake of comfort.

Rise up and bring it!

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!

Orientation is Everything

You are wise to consider your motivations before you resolve to change the course of your life and the world. If the sole purpose of the resolutions you plan to make is to better yourself – physically, aesthetically, mentally or spiritually – as an end rather than a means to an end, the first step you take will be in the direction of failure.

Rather than make that mistake again, look instead to base your resolutions on ways that you can improve your ability to enhance the lives of others. Make them outward, rather than inward. What you end up doing may be no different, but the motivation that lies beneath the action matters more than you might imagine.

The spirit of your words and actions carries more weight than their content and form. Further, the quality of spirit is determined by your orientation. If your heart is centered in what are often called “the spirits of this world,” such as anger, bitterness, complaint and  disdain, then your words and actions will inevitably carry the signature of the same. There is no way to circumvent this basic principle of life.

Changing your behavior (aka trying to be a better person) without addressing the underlying disorientation is foolish, for as soon as you turn your attention to other matters, the old motivation will reproduce the old behaviors, often without you detecting the shift. Sound familiar?

Look instead to resolve to make a change in orientation, first and foremost, and the changes that follow will be grounded in a sustainable, meaningful and purposeful spirit.

Orientation is everything.

Happy New Year!