The Elephant in the Living Room

I saw a fascinating documentary last evening called “The Elephant in the Living Room.” The film takes its viewers deep into the American subculture of raising some of the world’s most dangerous animals as household pets, focusing in particular on Terry Brumfield, a kindhearted man who is struggling to raise two African lions he bought to help him deal with his depression following a truck driving accident.

Mr. Brumfield cares deeply for the lions, but his declining health and fragile emotional state make it obvious to him that he must find a more appropriate home for them. He knew he was growing increasingly incapable of handling them, but holds on to them even though his difficult situation is rendered more awkward by the birth of four lion cubs. Strangely, he doesn’t let them move on until tragedy strikes. His first lion, a gorgeous male named Lambert, was sadly electrocuted to death in a freak accident.

While the story is heart-wrenching, it happens more often than you might think, well, maybe not actually, but metaphorically-speaking. Mankind has suffered from this ironic condition – where that which is loved is kept imprisoned – for ages. He loves his higher self, but keeps it imprisoned for various reasons. Perhaps like Mr. Brumfield, he feels he will lose himself if he opens the gate. Or maybe he does so because it makes him feel powerful to imprison that which he knows is greater than himself.

Whatever the reason, it is clear from watching this film and from any honest review of human history that we must endeavor as individuals, and eventually as a race, to embrace the means by which our higher selves can be given free reign in the field of circumstance we are blessed to have before us. The lion is a wonderful symbol of nobility and strength and it pained me to see one of them locked in a horse trailer in this well-intentioned, but sad man’s back yard. Even sadder to me is the limited state we have accepted for ourselves as human beings. Remember this: that which becomes normal is not always natural.

Man has long hoped and prayed for the release of a great power in the earth. They feel it is being withheld from them for one reason or another. The various world religions have elaborate reasons for why it is being kept from them, but I think we’ve been looking at it backwards. We are the prison wardens – not the prisoners – and we alone possess the key that unlocks to gate to our freedom. We are are the means by which and through which the beauty and truth, the majesty in fact of that power can be known in the earth – not in some distant future, but here and now.

Mental Blocks

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face…do the thing you think you cannot do.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

While there is a world of difference between your actual limitations and limitations you’ve accepted for yourself that don’t really exist, the two are identical until you’ve overcome the latter. It may be easy for another to discern which is which, particularly if they have transcended that limitation in their own experience, but so long as you have not broken through to the other side of the limitation it will be as real as any brick wall that stands in your path.

Most of the false limitations we hold are mental or emotional blocks, self-imposed glass ceilings that are hinged to our experience by fear. The fear takes on many forms – fear of failure, fear of success, fear of humiliation and so on – but it is made of the same stuff regardless of its flavor.

It’s easy to psych yourself out of a personal victory, to over-think something that requires not thinking, but action. Your mind is a marvelous thing, but if you’re not careful, it’s easy to get in the habit of over-analyzing to the point that any deliberating becomes debilitating. Yes, we need to think, but when it comes to areas of chronic weakness or limitation, sometimes it’s best to act first and think later. More often than not the thinking you will do after the fact will likely focus on how incredibly easy it was.

A Greater Person

When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds. Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.” ~ Pantanjali

A friend of mine sent me this lovely quote from Pantanjali (who is purported to have authored the Yoga Sutras) and I am pleased to admit that it really got me thinking.

For starters, I love the idea that a shift in attention can lead to an expansion of both consciousness and capability. The way in which we focus our attention either binds or loosens our inherent capacity for the expression of beauty, strength and wisdom.

Rare is the person who, once ignited by a great purpose or an extraordinary project, maintains the flame through to fruition. For most, attention wanders, vision dims and passion fizzles. If great care is not taken, the clarion call to greatness that once titillated the hearer is lost in the din of prisoner’s cups clanking on the bars of their own making.

The world is full of distractions that will consume your attention if you let them. You must deliberately place your attention in a direction that matters.

An open door is set before you, that only you can shut.

The Consciousness of Right

It takes courage to choose the harder road and to walk bravely in it, simply, steadfastly and uncomplaining. If you are right and know you are right it matters not what the world thinks or what it says. You can fight your way through the smoke of doubt, the choking atmosphere of misrepresentation, the blinding sulphurous clouds of unjust criticism and plow through the serried ranks of jealousy, cruelty and injustice, vitalized to new wondrous powers of resistance by the consciousness of right. You will know no fear but the fear of failing to do your best; you will glow in the thought that, no matter how hard the fight, the eagles of victory must finally rest on the banners of right.” ~ William George Jordan

The fear of failing to do one’s best is one of the few fears I would encourage holding onto for those desirous of living to their full potential. This fear pushes you to do better, to give more, to stay on point more consistently without the typical side-effects that come with other motivations, such as the fear of being wrong, the fear of making (or repeating) mistakes or the fear of disapproval.

Fear is rarely a creative motivation. It triggers processes in your body that heighten your awareness, strength and agility when you are under a physical threat, but more often than not fear controls where reason should hold sway. If you’re not careful fear tends to lead to one of two extremes: paralysis or frenzy. Neither are preferred to the consciousness of right.

The deeper you fall in love with the beauty, symmetry and elegant simplicity of truth, the more fully you are released from the death grip of fear. The closer your relationship with truth, the more likely it is that you will be conscious of right and not simply fooled by a semblance. It was once said that “perfect love casteth out fear” and I cannot imagine a more comforting and inspiring thought.

What fears have you held that you wish to be freed from, beginning now? If you think about it, fear is a form of worship. When you fear you say to the object of your concern: “You hold power over me” and “I am subject to you.” Fear, you may recall, is a synonym of reverence. It is for this reason that I have mentioned in previous posts that “What has your heart has you.”

To relinquish fear, you must love more perfectly. While I’m on the subject, don’t be afraid of that word, “perfection.” It is well within the realm of possibility, not something to be scoffed at or dreamed by means of some impossible dream.

The Power of Renewal

Greatness lies, not in being strong, but in the right using of strength; and strength is not used rightly when it serves only to carry a man above his fellows for his own solitary glory. He is the greatest whose strength carries up the most hearts by the attraction of his own.” ~ Henry Ward Beecher

The right use of strength requires an understanding of the power of renewal. While the theme of renewal is typically considered in the springtime, the natural world is constantly renewing itself. The leaf that floats to the forest floor, the eddies in a mountain stream and the ionization of the air when the surf is up at the beach all give evidence of our blessed planet’s ability to cleanse, replenish and renew.

You cannot expect to inspire the heart of others if you refuse to renew your view of them in each and every moment. No one likes to be the target of prejudice or the recipient of discriminatory treatment. Prejudice is a repulsive quality and you cannot provide sustainable attractive leadership with an impure heart.

You likewise cannot stoke the passion to rise up in others without a well-developed ability to bring the flames of renewal to bear on any and every situation you face. A true leader sees every single opportunity as an aperture for renewal, no matter how trivial, menial, compulsory, irritating, taxing, vexing or worrisome. He says to himself “I can and shall move from glory unto glory in relation to this matter, regardless of how I feel or how it looks.”

Inspiration is the updraft caused by renewal. It is the promise the revitalizes the mind and comforts the heart, that convinces smallness to inch towards greatness. Each one has the ability to both be inspired and to inspire. You cannot be just one or the other, in fact, the pulsation of the two should be as rhythmic as breathing.

As soon as you possess an understanding of the spirit of renewal as well as the strength of will to let it flow in you and through you at all times, you possess the means to unshackle and carry up the world around you.

The Kingship of Self-Control II

Every step in the progress of the world has been a new “control.” It has been escaping from the tyranny of a fact, to the understanding and mastery of that fact. For ages man looked in terror at the lightning flash; today he has begun to understand it as electricity, a force he has mastered and made his slave. The million phases of electrical invention are but manifestations of our control over a great force. But the greatest of all “control” is self-control.

At each moment of man’s life he is either a King or a slave. As he surrenders to a wrong appetite, to any human weakness; as he falls prostrate in hopeless subjection to any condition, to any environment, to any failure, he is a slave. As he day by day crushes out human weakness, masters opposing elements within him, and day by day re-creates a new self from the sin and folly of his past,—then he is a King. He is a King ruling with wisdom over himself. Alexander conquered the whole world except,—Alexander. Emperor of the earth, he was the servile slave of his own passions.” ~ William George Jordan

We recently considered the matter of self-sabotage and how important it is that you begin to recognize those areas in your life where you tend to self-destruct based on crooked habits of thought and behavior. Self-sabotage is one of the most destructive of human tendencies and it gobbles up human potential faster than any dictator, controlling spouse or overbearing parent.

Self-sabotage thrives wherever there is a deficiency of self-control in the soil of your being. Once you recognize an area of deficiency, the best remedy is often one that does not attack the behavior directly, as self-sabotaging strategies are often (1) well-defended both consciously and subconsciously and (2) complicated in the sense that they create internal imbalances to which the body, mind and heart grows accustomed by means of compensatory strategies.

So where do you start? You must, as we considered yesterday, meet the issue in the strength of humility. True humility is not saying “I suck,” “I’m only human” or “I am a horrible, flawed person,” it is that quiet place in you which allows for the solution and the power to get you there to well up from within. So doing affords you the opportunity to address the matter at the deeper causative levels, the flaws in your bedrock character.

Such an approach requires focus and follow through, especially when body, mind and heart are not in clear agreement as to the need for adjustment. It involves a supple single-mindedness, and an internal stance wherein you consecrate yourself to a higher vision for what is possible through you. In one sense, you have to care enough about others and the fact that you will be free of an unnecessary limitation in your service to them and in another, you have to come to terms with the fact that you are an extraordinarily valuable person.

Sin is nothing more than missing the mark in your expression. It is an area that your body, mind and heart have not yet learned to accommodate and magnify the perfection resident within you. Yep, I said it, the “p” word.” Perfection. It is in there whether you are ready to admit it to yourself or not. When you err, don’t beat yourself up, instead, allow yourself to be lifted up. Yield to the deepest and highest impulse in you which call to you from on high…not from some mysterious place, but from the pinnacle of your understanding and the peak of your performance.

There is no reason why every aspect of your living cannot hew to the same high standard. Far too many people allow themselves to be a mixed bag – excelling in some areas while settling for inferiority in others – rather than presenting a united front, where every aspect of expression is squared to the highest and finest of which they are aware in any given moment. If you are brilliant, why do you swear? If you are blessed with physical strength, why do you smoke? If you are dedicated to moving forward, why do you constantly look backward?

Any time there is a dichotomy within you, there is a leak in the container that is you. You cannot move from where you are now to a state of balanced an unflappable self-control while tolerating these leaks and self-sabotaging tendencies. They sap your energy, your focus and your momentum, all of which are necessary to sustained forward movement.

Dare to plug them specifically and quietly, that the holes in your character might be filled in and that your body, heart and mind might move from being a colander to being a perfectly shaped and leak-resistant container. This container – your body, mind and heart in absolute agreement – becomes a pressure-cooker of sorts for your radiant life expression.



Flexibility and Control

My Pilates instructor shared an interesting video with me after attending the recent Atlanta MANIA fitness tradeshow. The video featured Chuck Wolf, M.S., an exercise physiologist who developed an interesting fitness training modality called “Flexibility Highways,” who expanded on the basic point that: “Mobilizing muscles and joints without incorporating a stabilizing movement pattern can actually increase the client’s risk of injury.” Take a moment to reread the last sentence. It’s an important point!

Increasing flexibility without increasing control is risky business.

This principle works well in this setting, but does it hold true in other phases of life? I believe so. Yesterday we considered what it takes to “step it up a notch” in your personal expression. I have found that stepping up my game requires that I first relax more deeply in relation to some point around which I have held unnecessary tension. That relaxation – physically, mentally or emotionally – allows the life force to course more freely through body, mind and heart, providing a natural source of strength and inspiration to overcome previous limitations.

New capability without new control is dangerous.

Think of this in relation to children who are allowed to go on the internet for the first time. At first the control must be provided externally, by a parent or limited access restrictions on the search engine, but it makes sense to ease those external controls over time as the internal control builds in the maturing child. If you were to give a child free access to the internet without such controls, the results could be disastrous.

Whenever you mobilize new capability, pay attention to the corresponding stabilizing movement. There will always be one.

In business terms, this would relate to the corresponding strengthening of infrastructure that must accompany a growth in sales. Many wonderful companies with excellent products or services go out of business because of a failure on this point. Their growth outpaces their infrastructure and the company implodes or the infrastructural development outpaces the growth and the company starves to death. Either is an ugly and inglorious ending. Both are generally avoidable if care is taken to add a dash of stabilization whenever a pinch of expansion is experienced.

Principles such as these abound in life and the nice thing is that one principle properly understood can be applied in millions of different ways. What you learn, experience and know in one area of your life can be tremendously useful in other areas of your life when you learn to connect the dots. It’s not that hard, really.

Go ahead, give it a try!