Sunday, 30 June 2013

Choose Your Game Wisely

People who embark on the path of self-discovery realise at some point that there is nothing to master in life, nothing to “get right”, nothing to be better than what you already are. It often takes a crisis to shake someone out of their state of sleep-walking. When travellers on this path start waking up, there is no turning back really. The subconscious mind was one step ahead of the conscious and wanted to move to a new level before the ego was willing to let go of old structures of meaning.

Moving beyond the standards of the world is an interesting process. It is very liberating yet it can cause a lot of anxiety. It is the point where one realises that it is up to oneself to create meaning in life and define oneself. Nobody is responsible for the choices that you make and the experiences that you have but you. It doesn’t mean that all experiences have to be good and if they are not then you have failed in some way. It also doesn’t mean that you have to stop making mistakes or else you’ll be in trouble. What it means is that ultimately you and Life are alone in a sacred dance. There will be actors on your stage but ultimately it’s you and Life that will determine where you’re going.

As soon as one starts to see through the games the world play, the temptation is there to want to throw it all out the window and refuse to move because it’s all just a game anyway. But existence dictates that you have to play a game. Whether you tell the world about your own game or simply play along with everyone else’s is up to you to decide. The true poets/artists/warriors will be tortured by their dreams until they have no choice but to live the life they were born to live, or die trying. In the end the important thing is not whether one is successful but whether one has the courage to give it a go.

When you listen to Life it will tell you which path is the best one for you to take. Since you have to play a game anyway, you might as well be the best player you can be. It’s not about winning – you are the one who makes the rules anyway. It’s about being the lead actor on your own stage and being in love with the story that you write.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

How to Handle Rejection

Everyone has to face rejection at some point or another. Recently I have faced quite a few rejections in a row, which could be discouraging. They weren’t unexpected at all in the context of either limited resources or a very small likelihood for success. Nevertheless, the first few put me down rather badly. The last two or three were still gloomy but I rebounded faster.

I talked to other people about my plans and told them that I expected rejection.  I was told that I shouldn’t be negative, but the wisest person told me just to persevere. Interestingly I feel that being more comfortable with rejection is not an indication of low self-esteem or accepting defeat – quite the opposite actually. My attitude to rejection is changing the more I believe that miracles are possible and that I could leave my desires to the Universe to manifest. Rather than seeing rejections as a barrier, I choose to see them as an opportunity for building self-confidence and finding my path in life.

The word rejection doesn’t sit well with most people. I have sometimes found that I’m almost afraid to read or contemplate the word for fear that it would imprint itself on my mind and manifest in my reality. Yet pushing the word below the surface doesn’t help. The things that come from our subconscious mind that are less than nice to behold can best be healed by calling them out from the shadows. When one takes a proper look at them, they cease to be a threat. So rejection also asks us to confront it full on, without fear. When seen in the light, its guise can easily change from a monster in various hues of menace to an angel that beckons opportunity, illuminating the ways of trust and faith as viable options.

When looking at it closely, rejection means that someone doesn’t want us, they think we’re not good enough or they’re just not interested in what we have to offer. Looking at all my past rejections it was the defeat perhaps more than anything else that I had to overcome. The only way to overcome the urge to give up is to get up from the dust and try again. When I look at the rejections in themselves though I cannot think of any instance in which I can truly say that what I wanted was better than what I eventually got. Fair enough, I couldn’t pursue the paths where the doors closed for me. Yet my resolve and self-belief were tested and I came out stronger on the other side, rendering the closed doors a gift.

When one gets rejected the question to ask is whether one wants to internalise the world’s standards as one’s own. The alternative is to be the one to define the standards, believe in them and bring them into the world. You might not convert everyone but you would convert a few. In the end the worst thing you could do is play along with someone else’s game just to maintain their approval. It would eventually become draining, if not disempowering.

In instances where one actually has to play the world’s game, rejection could mean that you just aren’t good enough yet. In which case you have the opportunity to persevere, improve and try again. If you lose interest then it wasn’t the road for you and the right one would show itself if you keep walking and maintain a positive attitude.

Rejection tests our self-belief. It entices us to ask the questions of how we would like to define our success and how we want to be loved. If the answer boils down to being ourselves then we return to the treasure within and we know where to find our power.

Rejection doesn’t mean failure. The only failure would be to cease trying. Where we apply our efforts with love, success is guaranteed. If I had to measure my self-worth according to what others thought of me (positive or negative) then I would have missed the point – success and acceptance would lose their meaning.

In pursuit of our dreams the true magic happens when we start trusting that the right things will come about in their own way and time. Although we might not always understand what’s going on, our path will be paved if we keep walking. There is nothing better we could do than be true to ourselves and continue in pursuit of our heart’s desires. Rather than always yearning for something better, we show our gratitude to the Universe by accepting what we have, knowing it’s what is best for us. In this way we bring more good things into our life. Surrendering to a will higher than our own is the fastest way to transform limitations into opportunity.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

What I Learn from the Trees

Trees have a way of talking to me. Perhaps Tolkien’s portrayal of the Ents was a way of waking us up to the fact that trees have spirits. Over the last week or so they have been talking more loudly than usual in both my dreams and waking life. All of it built up to two days of spirit work where I spent time connecting with the essences of a handful of trees in Southern Africa in the Platbos forest. (Visit and for more information on the African Tree Essences).

Trees are a channel to the dream world. They connect the world of the sky where we find our dreams and aspirations to the earth where we have a solid base from which to act. Trees are sensitive to changes in the environment and adapt accordingly. When one of their limbs is severed they find a different path of growing. They move with the seasons, sensing what’s going on around them. When it’s cold, they withdraw into themselves, waiting patiently for the right time to come out again in full bloom. They know when it’s time to blossom, spreading their seeds for more of their own to grow.

When you talk to a tree gently, asking it to share its wisdom and holding your hands against its bark, you will find out about its own special power. They are more than just a shape growing out from the ground. They are the great transformers, breathing in filth and converting it to oxygen. They are the shaman’s portal to the otherworlds, the places where healing is found on an energetic level. The trees can tell you when you need to look at something in a past life to understand what’s happening now. They connect over space and time, talking to your soul through synchronicities and reminding you of your purpose in life. Journeying through the trunk of a tree, one awakens to larger cosmic perspectives, remembering that the reality we have now is not the only reality there can be. There have been many civilisations before us and there will be many more to come. If I want to make a difference to the world that I know now then I have to live my vision. Whilst I may have been persecuted in past lives because of it, all that is now over. Because I have the freedom to live as I choose, I have greater responsibility to be authentic.

The trees have taught me not only about unconditional love, unbending courage and perseverance when things get hard, but about the importance of intuition and living the magic within. They call me back to the world tree where my forgotten origins lie, asking me to claim my place as a shaman and have the courage to speak my truth.

Monday, 10 June 2013

What Does Happiness Look Like?

Happiness is an interesting thing because there doesn’t seem to be general consensus about what it actually is. Contemplating the word makes me think that it’s a feeling. Yet when I listen to people or when I look around at culture and media messages, I come to the conclusion that it might well be a picture. A few conversations I have had with different people about the topic come to mind.

A friend mentioned to me that he remembers being eight or nine years old and having a conversation with two of his friends. One of them said that he wanted to be a chartered accountant and the other one said he wanted to be a lawyer. My friend pointed out that at a child of that age cannot even know what being a CA or lawyer entails and that we’re culturally conditioned to believe we want certain things in life. This friend and I are in a similar situation in the sense that we feel called towards the way of the artist. Neither of us is really interested in going down the traditional route solely for financial security.

I remember talking to a family member a few years ago about the same topic. She said that being happy means that there is nothing bothering you. More recently I talked to another family member about a personal decision and the way I view things. The subject of happiness came up and I said that I didn’t think people value happiness enough. She was quite surprised and said that she thought they did. I think she probably couldn’t understand why I saw things that way and I couldn’t quite understand how she thought that people valued happiness. On the other hand, my status as a misfit can mostly be ascribed to the fact that I don’t seem to want the same things out of life as most of the people I know. In retrospect it makes sense.

The way in which people generally present themselves often makes me think that everyone is super happy. I sometimes wonder where I fall out of the bus when everything doesn’t look rose-coloured to me. Yet when I look at all that goes on in the world I don’t think I can be fooled that easily. If everyone really was that happy then the world wouldn’t have been in the state that it is in. Scratching a little bit deeper under the surface of the happiness that is presented to me I often find that a lot is swept under the carpet. Not that it has anything to do with me – other people’s lives are none of my business. Yet the psychologist Carl Rogers’ theory of the organismic valuing process and incongruence comes to mind. Carl remains one of my all-time favourite psychologists because he seemed to have believed in people’s natural tendency to be whole. When looking around I cannot help but wonder if the general concept of happiness has become one of Carl’s “ideal self” (the one that can never be obtained) rather than the one of Carl’s “real self” (that which we are, in progress – a process of growth).

Thinking about what happiness represents to me (if I had to picture it) a few things come to mind. One of them is an archetype; let’s call her the Earth Goddess. She wanders in forests and thrives during night time. She is made from the same substance as the trees, the rivers, and the night sky and has an ethereal quality. I see her dancing in a spiral of light coming from the stars and the moon. The light that she receives from the heavens is sent forth into the world.

Another image that comes to mind is that of a flame that moves really fast through forests in the night, about a meter and a half or so above the ground. It’s like a miniature representation of a comet that moves parallel to the earth’s surface. The flame is continually on the verge of breaking through an invisible barrier. I’m not sure what would happen if it breaks through; I think there will be no more flames and it will move much faster as pure energy without its physical attributes. I’ll call the flame the spirit of a runner. It’s not surprising I see it that way because I’m probably the happiest person alive when I’m doing a half marathon on a scenic route.

But happiness is much more than an image. It is watching the orange of the sunset blending into the blue and black of the night sky with the silhouette of the mountains and thinking, this is just amazing and I am so grateful to be alive just to be able to witness it. It is knowing that no matter how many times my heart has been broken, I can still choose to love. It is knowing that for as long as there are still people making music and my body is in sound condition, I can dance for the sheer joy of it. It is knowing that no matter how tired I am of trying and failing, the song in my heart will always return. Happiness is triumph over suffering; it is life itself wanting to continue expressing itself. It is knowing that my natural inclination is to return to a state of wholeness. It is the urge to survive because I love life so much. The spirit of the runner that I visualise as a comet on ground level is not about winning others but about personal victory because no matter how tired one is, one can still continue running.

Happiness is being able to recognise the songs other people are singing and to identify with it. It is knowing that no matter how lonely I am, there are others who have come before me and there will be others who will come after me.

I remember a family holiday to Southern Africa we had when I was a teenager. I can’t remember where exactly but I think it was in Zimbabwe, late one night in the midst of political unrest. We drove past a local shebeen with the most beautiful music coming from the place. It didn’t sound anything like a professional band yet it was far more moving. People were singing and it sounded like they were using kitchen utensils for instruments. What I remember is not what the songs sounded like but what I felt when listening to the music. I felt connected to something larger than myself. I felt like I could see into the souls of the people making the music and feel their experiences in my heart. My father’s best friend wouldn’t stop talking about it for days. He remarked that it was the best music he had ever heard. He had simply wanted to join the people’s company for the sheer joy they emanated through their music.

Happiness is being able to sing the song of your soul despite all of life’s setbacks. It doesn’t always have to be a happy tune because sometimes the most beautiful notes are contained in a sad song. The happy person recognises that the beauty of the universe outside her is also within her. She knows that light will eventually come back to light up her life despite dark times. Happiness is the will to keep the sacred flame alive out of sheer gratitude for being here to experience it all.

Friday, 7 June 2013

The Magic of Symbols

Where marketing, Jungian psychology and general observations come together I have discovered the magic of symbols. Every thought structure has symbols that represent it. The more people believe in these symbols, the more powerful they become. When one takes a step back and looks at them carefully, one discovers that they are representations of an idea that has gained power and momentum through belief. When we don’t recognise it and simply take them for granted as “the truth” rather than a construct, they dictate our reality.

The poem Ozymandiaz by Percy Bysshe Shelley comes to mind. I was fascinated by this poem when we analysed it in English class in high school. It made so much sense – the hunger for power, the ruler’s urge to deify himself – leaving monuments in his honour on earth after his soul has departed his body. While the physical material used to build the structure is still there centuries later, it has been eroded, leaving only ruins. One wonders what for. The leader is no longer there to appreciate his legacy.

In a similar vein, I watch snippets of Sky News when I can’t help doing so whilst cycling in the gym. I wonder at all the processions when there is some political congregation. It doesn’t look like there is a point to any of it other than a display of power. The reason why school kids wear uniforms is to discipline them into submission. The same can be said of the suit and tie as the corporate attire and the fact that jeans are not allowed on golf courses. It’s a little bit ridiculous and yet everyone accepts it because it’s what they’re used to.

Symbols speak to the subconscious mind, which explains why countries have flags and companies have logos. Most of the time we don’t question these symbols. They tell us what to believe and we fall in with it, assuming that they must have authority if they have survived. In a way it’s true because only the ideas that people believe in survive, yet most people don’t recognise their freedom to choose what they want to believe in.

The symbolism in being wealthy leads me to question why people want to make money. I’ll risk looking like an idiot and confess that I don’t understand money at all. Whilst in some sense it is a figure on a computer screen that determines how much one can buy, in another sense it is a floating ideology that decides the social order. We don’t desire the things money can buy because they truly make us happy, but because we attach a certain meaning to them which gives us a sense of security. The things we are sold are only significant for as long as we esteem them. To be free from the ideology of money rather than enslaved by it, we need to consciously bring our intentions to the way we work with it. If we use it in such a way that it makes us happy we will transform it, making it work for the benefit of the whole.

Whilst symbols can be used to influence us and control our minds, it is also Nature’s way of talking to us, telling us what we need to heal. She speaks to us about the power that we find inside through our connection to the whole. Recognising that we create our own internal universe frees us from the belief that we need anything in order to be happy.

The best things in life are free. Happiness can be chosen at any time because it comes from the space between something and nothing where there is no limited supply. The more we believe in it, the more we have of it and the easier it becomes. Happiness is right here, right now, not in the future where we will have all our ducks in a row or enough money to claim our freedom. The most exciting discovery one can make is that one doesn’t need anything to be happy.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

The Art of Being Original

Being an artist means one has to expose oneself. The energy of creativity will only have power when the artist creates from deep within his soul. She has to put a little bit of herself into her work in order to truly reach others. Art is appreciated and understood from a level beyond the mind. When an artist sincerely expresses himself, his art will inspire others to sing their own unique songs. It is the artist’s intention to create and his willingness to be open that make the dream world accessible, both for himself and his audience.

The artist’s biggest obstacle is the fear of exposing himself. It is much easier to find a way around his yearning to create by lying to his soul. He could tell himself that it is impossible to make a living as an artist, or that he could never be as good as other artists. He could make excuses, saying that it is too late to start or that he doesn’t have time.

Failing at something we don’t care about doesn’t really hurt. It is therefore much easier than failing at the only thing that we value with our entire being. This is what prevents the artist from cultivating his talent and trying to succeed at his true craft. It makes no sense, yet the artist tells himself that it is easier to cultivate a skill that doesn’t come naturally to him.

In the end it is frustration that frees the artist. The soul is clever and it knows that the artist will feel it when his soul is dying. It will refuse to accept his dispassion, for it knows that the true artist cannot handle numbness. She desires experience and is willing to endure pain in order to feel alive. The soul will not play along with indifference, for it knows that the artist wants to break free. She will eventually return to claiming her true identity and embrace the pain that goes hand in hand with creativity.

It is only through exposing oneself that true originality is born. Fear of rejection or failure is the artist’s greatest obstacle, and yet vulnerability is his greatest strength. When an artist is truly himself, he has the best chance of being great, because only then does he become all that he was born to be.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

The Power of Choice

Recently I have been applying all my efforts to activities that are closer to my original dream than what I have been doing for the last few years, thinking I had to fall in with the system if I wanted to make living. The result is that I have a lot more energy and creativity. I am, however, also more sensitive and less inclined to want to suppress myself, sometimes with interesting results. What is interesting is that to a great extent I am returning to the threads that have always been present in my life, rather than drastically changing direction.

When things became tough on my chosen path, I have at times looked back to the places where the road had forked and big decisions had to be made. I often wondered whether I had made the right (or best) choice at those big forks in the road. This was even more the case when I watched others who were on the path I had diverted from and it looked like they were having a fabulous time. I would then ask myself if I hadn’t been telling myself lies to avoid my problems, and if I really wouldn’t have been able to truly be myself had I taken the other (more straight forward) option. I also wondered if I hadn’t made things difficult for myself simply to prove a point. I often came to the conclusion that I could have taken any of the roads and it might not have made such a big difference. What was important was not what I was doing, but whether I was being myself whilst doing it and whether I was enjoying the journey.

On the flipside, deciding that I wanted to live an authentic life influenced which options I considered viable. The ones that didn’t appear worthwhile fell away. Because life remains interesting, I still had a number of options left, each of which would have been an interesting journey. There were times when I regretted not having considered certain alternatives simply because I didn’t see them as a possibility.

The greatest crossroad for me was probably at the end of my first year at university when I changed course from law to humanities (I ended up doing postgraduate degrees in both psychology and classical literature). It was a very impulsive decision and I wasn’t in a particularly good emotional state when I made it, which is an understatement. I didn’t take anyone’s advice simply because I was too stubborn. I wanted to prove that I would decide how to live my life. During the times when I felt all my efforts were futile, I often found myself looking back at that moment. I would wonder if I was simply a dreamer and if I would have been better off having continued my law studies or, perhaps closer to my passion, studied homeopathy or nature conservation. The word “if” is probably the most useless word there is and yet I’m guilty of falling into its trap at times.

Having recently changed my approach to working with whatever enthusiasm I could find and seeing where that led me rather than trying to find work that I would be able to do with enthusiasm, I now realise that I probably couldn’t have made a better decision. It looks like my subconscious mind was one step ahead of me, knowing perfectly well what my passions were and what I needed to learn next. Destiny is a strange force. When we don’t have the power to play the cards it looks like everything comes together in a beautiful whole of flawed perfection, or perfect flaws. As soon as we apply intent, the subconscious either brings up what we need to heal or point the way towards achieving our desires.

The value of choice lies in empowerment. My teacher of ecopsychology taught me that empowerment is recognising that you have more than one option available to you. Through experience I have learned that the fastest way to move beyond powerlessness is to consciously choose what I have, regardless of whether I like it or not. We cannot be always happy or always comfortable. If we choose the discomfort when it’s present, we get to experience it. In the meantime we are being prepared for more fulfilling experiences. Life has its ups and downs and by choosing the downs when we don’t seem to have a say in the matter, we learn how to be more in control of our own ship.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Autumn - the Beauty of Change

This tree close to my home kept asking me to take a photo of her because she captures the magic of autumn so beautifully. I asked autumn to show me her spirit so I could better understand the changes in mood going on around me. Two images came to mind. The first was of a young woman’s face in a tree. The image comprised of leaves and branches in the red, brown and golden shades of autumn. She was young and pure yet wise, reminding me a bit of the Virgin Mary or perhaps Persephone. The second image was of a snake that was shedding its skin, leaving behind the beautiful old skin in the same colours as the autumn leaves.

Whilst running I meditated some more on the symbolism of the snake and the autumn leaves in their beautiful colours. Autumn is a season of change, signifying the end of things blossoming before we approach the phase where we go deeper into ourselves. It is the season of contraction. We move closer to the time of reflection where we draw energy from deep within before starting the next phase of expansion. Autumn also signifies transformation and brings to mind the approach of the death phase of our journey. We leave behind the parts of ourselves that we don’t need any more, not because they are no good, but because it is time to move on to new things. The death analogy again links to Persephone, who was abducted by Hades, god of the underworld. The snake signifies transformation as ever. In my mind’s eye I keep seeing the beautiful golden skin that it has outgrown.

It is the red-brown- yellow autumn leaves and the golden-brown-black snake skin that draw my attention, asking me to look at them with new eyes. Often we think of the things we have outgrown as useless parts of ourselves that we are doing away with. The beautiful autumn leaves and snake skin show me that this is not the case. When we shed things, moving on to something new, we give the old matter back to the cosmos to be used elsewhere. The energy goes back into the flow. The bright parts are attracted to other bright currents where they move in unison to create something beautiful. The stuffy, darker parts perhaps go to the ocean where they are transformed by the whale songs and other beautiful ocean secrets that we don’t know about.

The parts that we are shedding are useful elsewhere but no less beautiful because of it. If they need to be transformed then we have learned from them. They have enabled a new part of ourselves to emerge; an aspect of ourselves that we didn’t know was there. The things that have worked well can also be outgrown, simply because the experience is needed elsewhere for someone to learn from.