J and I had the honor of meditating with/learning from Sri Shivarudra Balayogi Maharaj the other evening. Great thanks to Yoga of Sausalito for hosting the evening in their very comfortable/warm/welcoming studio. And great thanks to Sri Shivarudra Balayogi Maharaj (and those who assist him on his mission) for sharing his peaceful energy and timeless wisdom. And the music and chanting were Wonderful!
This is the beautiful message I am carrying forth from the experience:
Practice, practice, practice!
Dedication, Discipline, and Patience will yield the results you desire.
You are secure and regular, daily meditation practice will teach you, remind you, of this.
The real guru is the Divinity Within (the silent wisdom) which is experienced as inspiration.
I embarked on the Creative Pathfinder journey on September 3, 2010 – eight months ago! And I’ve so enjoyed the experience – every step on the “path” I’m finding/creating. I’ve said it before, but need to say it again: Mark McGuinness is smart, and wise, and insightful, and Creative, and most generous to share this course for Free. It’s worth a lot. I’ve benefited a great deal in these eight months of examining myself and learning methods and practices to increase my productivity and success.
Topic = What Motivates Us?
- I have a hard time ranking the intrinsic motivations. Really they are all super important to me, but if I had to, this is how I would prioritize them: meaning; purpose; creative flow; interest; learning; challenge. This is helpful to know in terms of how to get and stay really motivated.
- Also good to consider that extrinsic motivators do play their role and help us along, too. For example, I particularly enjoy praise (positive feedback, etc) and appreciation.
- And it’s always worth keeping in mind that the hardest part usually is getting started. I find that once I “get into it” the momentum builds on itself.
The funny thing is, the work is usually quite enjoyable when you get going and intrinsic motivation takes over. But to get you going in the first place place, you sometimes need the extrinsic motivation of ‘deadline magic’.
- Keep reminding myself that meaning and purpose (my two biggest motivators) are found in the simplicity of living each moment to its fullest: being really Here and Now, being the best we can be (our Authentic Self), and offering our Positive Energy to the world around us, whatever we are doing, no matter how small it may seem. And also remind myself that every time I pick up a pen, paintbrush, pastel, marker, etc, and start moving, if I stick with it for awhile, I get into the creative flow (the third of my motivators) and what a nice place that is to be!
Topic = Rejection and Criticism
- Yes, when we “put our heart and soul” (even a small bit of it) into our work, it hurts when others don’t like/appreciate it. Also, we all just, at a fundamental level, want to be loved – that’s human nature, whether we’re aware of it or not.
- Similarly to homeopathic medicine, when we expose ourselves (in small doses) ,repeatedly, to what challenges us, we become stronger.
- It matters not that we fall down and get dirty. (We will – it’s a natural part of being human.) What matters is how we choose to respond. If we learn and grow from the experience then we are living our purpose.
- Meditate everyday! By tuning in to my Inner Light, my Highest Self, and connecting with the Abundantly Positive Energy of the Universe, I am strong, balanced, calm, clear, and confident. I’m planning to participate in The Chopra Center’s 21 Day Meditation Challenge.
Topic = Difficult People
People are much more complex than the labels we stick on them.
- Not only do we generate potentially negative energy by labeling people, we also limit the possibilities for how we can interact with them. If we recognize them as multi-dimensional, ever-changing, infinite beings like ourselves (see last Lesson 22 ‘Actions’ re meditation…) we expand the possibilities tremendously.
- As usual, focusing on the specifics is worth every bit of effort. If we understand what we want from the other person, and why, and if we take the time to understand their perspectives and motivations (empathy serves us well), we can approach the situation with clarity and a big-picture view.
In Aikido, Harmony, and the Business of Living (Zanshin Press), Richard Moon calls the practice of being fully present and fully aware “Feel Where You Are.” If you are to truly listen, engage, and empathize with someone challenging you then you yourself must be completely aware of your situation and aware of their situation and all the subtle signals. One who is fully in the present cannot be caught off guard. “Feeling where you are,” says Moon, “refines awareness into attention.
- Give others respect and understanding by not labeling them, not assuming, just as I hope others will do for me.
- See last Lesson 22 ‘Actions’ re meditation…
Topic = Fun and Informative Presentations
- The best presenters are great storytellers. They know why they are asking for their audiences attention and what the desired post-presentation actions are. And, they weave in interesting stories that illustrate their points, so the audience is entertained while being informed. While studying architecture, learned that even math can be fun (for an arts and literature type) to learn when taught by someone who is friendly, funny, entertaining, and engaging.
- Follow the ‘three key points + call to action = the structure of your presentation’ formula for fun and informative presentations.
Topic = Managing Creatives
- As fellow creatives, even if we are in roles not traditionally seen as creative (IT project manager, etc..), we understand that freedom plays a big role in our ability to produce. If we are too limited by micromanagement, the flow of our ideas and thus our products/deliverables get restricted. And, every one of us has some creative fire within, even if it’s not regularly applied, or even recognized. So, even if our title is not “manager”, when we are managing and coordinating projects and the people involved in those projects, we’ll do well to encourage that creative fire and the brilliance it can produce by giving freedom of thought and action.
- Feedback! As a communications and project manager (by nature and profession), I cannot say enough about the value of feedback. The best managers I have had over the years were those who regularly shared their thoughts/feelings about my performance and work. I learn so much, we all do, when others take the time to share their perspectives with us. I also encourage you to actively seek it out as well, as even the most well-intentioned managers sometimes need to be asked. And, whenever you are giving feedback (either solicited or unsolicited), also see it as an opportunity to ask for feedback yourself.
- I’m a pretty good listener, but I know what it feels like when someone you are trying to share with is not totally focused on you – it feels like “why bother?” And we’re missing a lot of greatness when we are not really present in the moment with those around us. So, I commit to greater presence and attention when sharing with others. Oh ya, this is important in a management sense, because as we learned in Lesson 23 (when dealing with difficult situations), through understanding others we have a better chance of getting the desired outcomes.
Topic = Measuring Success
- Regular self reflection and assessment allow us to see where we’ve been, how we’ve been doing, and how that measures up to the goals we’ve set for ourselves.
- Yes, let’s say it again: money is a positive resource if we are using it to do good (and doing good includes taking Great care of ourselves and feeling Great all the time.) The more we prosper, the more good we can do!
- What we focus our energy on is what we get. So if we desire to be a positive force in the world, we need to actively envision and work towards that.
Maybe you want to save the world, or at least part of it. Or maybe you want to delight and amaze it, which is just as valid. But if you don’t make it a priority, you risk falling short.
- I so, so, so appreciate Mark’s shining light on an area that many of us fail to give attention to: recognizing “the positive difference we are already making to others and the world at large.” This is a positive use of our energy and attention. As we acknowledge, and celebrate, the good we are doing each day, we are inspired to do more good! I also appreciate Mark encompassing animals, plants, the environment, and the Universe in the web which we are connected to. And lastly, I would like to enthusiastically agree that even the smallest gestures/actions/reactions can have a large and positive impact, frequently rippling out far beyond what we imagine.
- Some of the primary goals I am actively working on?: more collaborating, connecting, and positively contributing.
- Continuing to cultivate Mindfulness. Being Awake and Aware and trusting my gut/instinct/inner wisdom and the Universe to guide me along this brilliant path.
- Find meaning and purpose in the choices I make and the actions I take each day which positively contribute to the world around me and the universe as a whole. What a perfect note to end the course on!
October 2, 1997:
In this entry I quote The Astrologer’s Manual by Landis Knight Green:
In Buddhist and Hindu Philosophy the conscious sense of purpose is called dharma, the law for living and developing one’s own character through fulfilling the right duties. A person’s entire horoscope is a key to understanding and defining these duties; however, it is the Sun that dictates the exact nature or heart of this conscious and mature relatedness. The planets which form aspects to the sun show exactly how this is carried out. Naturally, this refers mainly to a person who has developed self-awareness to a degree where he can determine many of the conditions of his present, as well as future, life. In the I Ching, he is called a “Superior Man.” Astrology, as it is being discussed here, would have little meaning for someone who is not assiduously seeking the truth about his being.
The solar individual is enlightened to the degree that he can utilize, direct, and project his energies and his will precisely there that life has the greatest meaning and value.
The conscious person (solar self) is even more receptive (lunar self) so that he can continue to learn the laws of life that make his survival easier while he develops himself spiritually.
October 5, 1997:
I want to ponder what is happening w/ my existence and how to react to it. And, more importantly I think, what I want to happen and how to work towards that. I feel like my life is 90% (mas o menos) me struggling against the tide.
What are the lessons I need to learn?
In The Wisdom of Insecurity by Allen Watts, he talks about how we are all searching for comfort and stability, but that those things are illusions, so we are really just fighting off life. Is that true? To a certain extent I believe it is, but where is that line between building a solid foundation and being able to sway and bend with the wind. If only I could solve maybe one mystery, maybe I’d get some confidence which would give me more energy to keep striving.
I am very happy, and grateful, to report that there is little struggle in my life these days. Still plenty of challenges, yes, but I have learned (by much trial and error) that struggling against them is a waste of energy and serves no purpose. I do a lot of “swaying and bending with the wind” while at the same time making that foundation ever more solid and stable. I don’t think there is “a line” between the two.
Through meditation, mindfulness, reflection, observation, exploration, study, and practice, I have come to see that the foundation is our infinite soul and the more we are aware of it and honor/care for it, the more it will keep us steady in the worst of storms and serve as firm ground for our personal evolution.
I’m beginning to believe that the insecurity Alan Watts is referring to is a result of our clinging to and grasping (things, people, events, expectations, etc), not wanting to accept the inevitable changes of life. But, with a strong foundation, supple body/mind/energy/spirit, and awareness of the infinitely fluid rhythm of life, we can begin to embrace it in all it’s magically mysterious glory. So that’s what I’m going for these days, thirteen and a half years later.
November 3, 1997:
Life seems so short to me sometimes, oftentimes, so I want to jump in and swim and be carried by the stream – without checking to see how cold the water is or if there’s a big rapid or waterfall ahead or a rock or branch in my path. I get bruised a lot. Cuts and scrapes are inevitable, cracking my head open kinda sucks, for awhile. If only I could figure out how to really apply this metaphor to my life. Just because the water is warm when you jump in doesn’t mean it stays that way. Life is not static. I’m not sitting in tide pools very often (I don’t like pollywogs sucking on my toes.) And how do I know if there’s a strong current up ahead – I can only see about 2 feet in front of me. And, even if there is , is it worth the risk if I really want to get there and there’s no way around? These are questions I can’t answer so I usually/sometimes decide that the only way to know is to find out.
Life is not short! At the same time, though, each moment is passing, replaced by a new one. The more richly we experience our Now, the more satisfying our life will be. That river metaphor is a bit muddy but I do think that we all must find a balance, that works for us, of being safe and grounded and diving into the rough waters and getting banged up a bit.
I’m feeling pretty good about my balance these days.
January 4, 1998:
I’ve been feeling that I’ve been sacrificing and avoiding focusing on my inner reality and my future goals and dreams and my healthy. Well, I would like those to be my new focuses – I believe they are way more important to true peace and balance than the exterior realities (distractions and diversions a lot of the time) and they have been sorely neglected for a long time now. If the Universe is listening, I say a little prayer to be thankful for all I have and to ask for the strength to make these changes in my life and stick to my goals.
Thanks for listening!
I had the pleasure of hearing Rick Hanson speak at Spirit Rock a few months back. It was an afternoon to honor volunteers and donors and he spoke about gratitude. I found his particular blend of spiritual development and understanding how the mind works interesting. And I also felt an affinity for the positive, calm, and light energy he puts forth. Visiting his website, I discovered he hosts a weekly meditation group in my home town. That was great news as I’ve been looking for a group that is closer, and more intimate, than Spirit Rock Monday nights. I love going out there and will definitely continue experiencing and learning there. But having a group I can participate in that is only a 5-10 minute drive (or a 10-15 minute walk) means less resistance. And the smaller size of Rick’s group is more conducive to getting to know people. The 1:1 sharing we do each week is a particularly nice way to connect with, and be of service to, others, and I know I will be writing more about those exchanges as their value is always tangible.
What I have begun to notice is that I feel better in the days after I attend and I miss its positive effects on the weeks I don’t attend. November and December have been challenging months for me, with some old and deeply embedded insecurities rearing their heads, demanding to be seen and reckoned with. So it was perfect timing for me to find the group. As it happens in life, when we are open and awake to it, what I needed found me!
When I am there, sitting in silence with the group, it is definitely a challenge to relax and Let Go, and especially to calm my mind down. But is is So worth the effort. I remind myself, every time I meditate, that even if I have just a minute or two, here and there, of being fully present, Awake and Aware, that is beautiful and that will have a profoundly positive effect on my life.
Because it is all about this moment. This is where Wisdom and Grace, Love and Potential are.
So, the moments I am able to connect with all of that, as fleeting as they may be, are full of power. That is what matters – the quality of the moment. There’s no need to worry about the quantity.
As with all practices, the more we do it, the more natural it becomes. It can still be challenging, and there may still be resistance to cut through, but once we are really Here again, it begins feeling familiar, like an old friend, a familiar place. And in that comfort we are able to begin taking off the layers of our Being – what we put on to go out into the world and protect ourselves from all that we fear. In Here, in this moment, as our True Self, it is warm and safe and so we don’t need all the layers. Taking them off is a slow and tentative process. The more we remove, the more naked and exposed we feel. But that is why it is so beautiful to do this as our personal practice. Because we know we are safe Here. We know it’s just our infinite self and our connection to the Universal Source of Goodness. When we are really present, we can begin to know our Self and feel that interconnection, and that knowing brings a feeling of safety. So let’s start Here, removing one layer at a time.
If you can imagine it, it is real. You are connected to what already exists.
Four more weeks of The Creative Pathfinder Course full of valuable lessons on nurturing our creative talents and successfully bringing them forth into the world. See this post for context and week 1-4 lessons.
Note: As my study and practice of meditation and consciousness continues (see my last post, or previous posts on meditation), I see more and more overlap between the wisdom of those life elements and healthy, successful creative work.
Topic = Information Processing
- Through our senses and our consciousness, and subconscious, we are sponges, continuously taking in information (etymology: knowledge communicated.) And in order to utilize all that info, we must process it. Learning, and practicing effective processing methods has a profound effect on our creative output.
This is how I’m seeing the flow of energy:
- Reframing: This is such a key, not just for opening up creative possibilities, but also a critical skill for enjoying life. A truly important lesson: how we interpret and what we do with our experiences is always Our Choice. This is a gift – Use It!!! And, as with any other skill, the more we practice it, the better we get and the more natural it becomes.
The more you do this, the more you will realise how much human beings make themselves happy, sad, anxious, or plain miserable over their interpretation of events, rather than the events themselves.
And, as one of my favorite wisdom teachers says:
Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change.
- Mind Mapping: This is fun stuff. It’s great to get away from just black and white, left to right, and heavy reliance on words. Letting ideas flow freely and arranging them organically and colorfully is liberating and definitely helps us see things in new ways.
As you draw the mind map, you will start to see relationships and patterns emerge as if by themselves, which will help you order the material later on.
- Insight: means “sight with the eyes of the mind”; internal sight; inner knowing. I like the recognition that we can cultivate this gift through our actions. It’s not about just waiting to be struck with knowing, as with all growth it comes through continued effort.
This is how I’m seeing the Insight Flow
As I was writing about this lesson, this guidance (from an Insightful teacher! – see my last post on the SAND conference) synchronistically came to me:
Often our best ideas come, not when we are struggling to solve the problem, but when we are doing something completely different. When the mind is free and relaxed. So if you are struggling with something right now, take five minutes off. Give yourself a break. Do something completely different.
- Creative Flow: Again, being present and mindful, we begin to discover what choices and actions make our creative energy flow and what tangles it up. And also, knowing our true passions, our Big Dreams, and dedicating a majority of our time and energy to those pursuits, naturally feeds the flow. When we are in that flowing river, we are part of the cosmic rhythm, without separation, moving beyond space and time.
- The suggestion to observe those around us as they frame reality is a great one. Because, it is frequently easier to learn by observing externally. That practice, along with our personal practice of consciousness development, helps us see the self-limiting frames we all use, and to reframe. So, I will be paying closer attention to others and my self. As I observe negative/unproductive/self-limiting frames, I will run through the list of positive/productive/expansive options and shifting frames. And, in the creative realm, I’ll be giving more thought to the lenses (frames) that inspirational artists are using, and looking at my work (the tools/techniques/mediums/subjects/etc) through a variety of new lenses.
- I am in the midst of my first mind map, and a broadly encompassing one at that. Having fun with it and will write about when done. I plan to utilize this technique for other life and creative reviews/planning sessions.
- As I am more regularly in the moment (through meditation and consciousness development), I am more able to fully apply myself to the work, sense when it is time to take a break and shift focus, open to the insights that arise, and committed to using them constructively.
- I am consciously giving more of my time and energy to my passions and minimizing distractions to the flow.
Topic = Free Flowing Creative Energy
- Everyone experiences creative blocks, they do pass, and there are tricks to help them pass more quickly? That’s comforting!
- There are many, many reasons we resist doing good work. If we are really in the moment, we can recognize our inner dialogue and reframe it!
- Self discipline is critical, too. I like the suggestion to commit to staying present, with your materials, and bringing your focus back to the work.
Remembering why you are doing it and why it is worth the effort are great motivators as is envisioning the future we are creating.
- Sharing the experience of blocked creativity with trusted friends/family/colleagues/teachers often brings support and understanding which can actually loosen the block.
- The suggestion of making a list of past successes and continuously adding to it is great! We don’t tend to take much time to reflect on all that we have accomplished in life.
- Sometimes we just need to take a break, to shift focus. The more we know our true self, the more we’ll know when that’s what’s called for. And, just like developing an understanding of what keeps your creative energy flowing, we need to learn the best ways (for us) to rest and rejuvenate.
Just as others can inspire us to good work, we can inspire ourselves.
- I need to get going on that List of Past Successes.
- Read more of Mark’s ‘creative blocks’ series when I’m experiencing my own block, and learn from how others move through them.
Topic = Maximum Creativity and Productivity
- What is my top priority, in terms of productivity? To “carve out more time for creative work.” What are the benefits of doing that? More will be created/produced. I will feel a regular sense of accomplishment. It will build my confidence. I can move on to new projects/elements. My skills will grow. I will be happier.
- What is my weakest link right now? Routines. I have a good daily schedule, I just need to be more committed to, and disciplined in, following it.
- I’m doing quite well with the systems I have in place to capture ideas and commitments – yay for that!
- Read ‘Time Management for Creative People’
- Beyond following the general daily schedule, beginning each day by creating a short list of action items will help me focus in on my top priorities, and have a sense of accomplishment as they are crossed off. I do this but don’t start fresh every day – that’s going to feel really good, I think.
- Get out and meet new people. Dialoguing/sharing with people and experiencing their productions is inspiring, and inspiration feeds creativity and productivity.
Topic = Career Goals/Life Vision
- I have always seen myself, Big Picture, Big Dream, as a creative entrepreneur. I have plenty of ideas and inspirations, the challenge has been deeply assessing them, prioritizing, making a do-able action plan, and Doing The Work, staying focused, confident, and committed. The good news is that I am currently meeting all of those challenges, with consciousness, openness, and as much grace as I can summon. I am a “creative entrepreneur in training.”
- Doing work for other people, as an employee or consultant, can be in harmony with working on my personal creative projects. I have successfully balanced the two and this is actually the healthiest approach for me now. The stability and structure, challenges and collaboration of outside work can be both supportive and inspiring to my personal work.
- The trick is doing great work that is interesting and really brings forth your true talents and gifts. I am learning that trick!
My favorite takeaway from this series:
Happiness + Contribution = Success
-Ask yourself ‘What work do I love doing the most?’ and ‘Where do I contribute the most value?’
-Focus your efforts on the overlap between the two.
Thanks again, Mark!
I volunteered for a daylong at Spirit Rock this past weekend. It was my first time volunteering there, first daylong, first time doing walking meditation, and first time practicing lovingkindness. A lot of firsts in one day! I am so grateful for Spirit Rock and the opportunity to assist in exchange for participating in classes/events.
The day was led by Donald Rothberg and our morning session focused on mindfulness. There was some instruction on the basics of getting comfortable in your posture, tuning in to your breathing, and bringing your awareness back to the present, which is where mindfulness occurs. And in the second half of the day we learned about the practice of lovingkindness, phrases to personalize and silently repeat, and the different groups to direct this positivity towards. Both sessions alternated between sitting and walking meditations, and questions and guidance.
Mindfulness is not a new concept to me, in fact, cultivating it every day, every moment is my goal. I have been aware of the power of being present for quite a few years and that awareness is evolving into more and more of an active practice versus just a passive realization. In other words, I read ‘Be Here Now’ by Ram Das, and many other books of spirituality, eastern philosophy, etc, which taught mindfulness, back in my twenties, but continued to be somewhere besides here and now almost every moment. Really just within the past three to four years have these teachings started to dawn on me in a new, deeper way. I am gradually putting all of this wisdom (thousands of years worth) into practice. And that is the key to so much in life – doing the work, the practice.
I enjoyed Donald’s patient and lighthearted approach and the affirmative effect of all these people coming together to learn about slowing down, tuning in, and being present. It was nice to be a part of that and to have the time and space to dedicate to it.
Walking meditation is interesting. It’s a nice chance to stretch your legs and get outside. It requires concentration in different ways. I found, as did others in the class, that balance was trickier the more I slowed down. The positive effect was that being challenged to find balance brought my thinking and feeling back to now. And as is often the case with physical, tangible lessons, it made a lasting impression:
You need to be present in order to be balanced.
The afternoon was harder for me. I’ve found through observing my natural daily rhythms and patterns (and thank-you to Mark McGuinness’s Creative Pathfinder course for the prompting), that as the afternoon progresses, my concentration diminishes. And lovingkindess requires another level of concentration beyond mindfulness (which we still need to be practicing.) It was well worth the effort and very rewarding, though. Again, to give myself permission to sit quietly and cultivate positive, loving, patient, and kind feelings towards myself and towards the people, and creatures, of my world – if we all did this on a regular basis the world would be a nicer place. So much negativity could be dissipated by taking the time slow down and be kind and loving.
Donald provided some suggested phrases and this is how I personalized them:
May I/he/she/they be safe, secure, and comfortable.
May I/he/she/they be happy, healthy, strong, and vibrant.
May I/he/she/they live with ease and grace.
And May positive energy flow to and from me/him/her/them.
Thank-you, Donald, for your generous teachings.
What I find most interesting is that the following day was a hard one and three days later I am just starting to feel lightness and awareness return. I didn’t recognize what was happening on Sunday, just that my energy (physical/mental/emotional) was quite low. It was hot and Saturday had been a long day (and also hot) – that’s what I attributed it to. But on Monday I began to examine my thoughts and feelings and recognize that they were primarily self judgement, insecurity, doubt, and worry and in the past or future. At some point it hit me that I was being challenged in the very areas we had practiced on Saturday: being present (not caught up in analyzing the past or worrying about/imagining the future) and being loving and kind, starting with ones self. Hmmm…
The only way to really learn is by Doing and the most powerful learning, and growth, comes through the biggest challenges. So, little by little, moment by moment, I have been able to see the opportunity in this challenge of focus. And there is a gift there, too: I have the choice of what to focus my attention (thoughts/feelings/energy) on at each moment. Starting with mindfulness, the more I am fully present, in the here and now, the more I can recognize and release negative thoughts/feelings/energy and cultivate positive and productive thoughts/feelings/energy, including lovingkindness towards myself and the world around me.
I spent some time with ‘Be Here Now’ last night and like this description of mindfulness meditation:
The southern Buddhists (Theravadin) practice a form of meditation called Satipatthana Vipassana (Application of Mindfulness). It starts with the simple exercise of Bare Attention. All that you do is register thoughts, states, etc. in the present. This process slows down the transition from the receptive to the active phase of the cognitive process. You don’t think about your thoughts. You merely note them. This produces “peaceful penetration.” You transcend conceptual thought.
So I will start there (for a week is Ram Dass’s recommendation) and once I’ve gotten good at Bare Attention, I will move on to the next level of the practice.