I recently came across a list of 33 inspiring TED talks on the Week Hack website. Upon reading through it, I was struck by the fact that my list would look very different. I invited my social media friends and followers to share their most inspiring TED talks, promising that I would do the same. Here are six of my favorites, presented in no particular order:
“Why Our IQ Levels are Higher than our Grandparents.” During his lengthy research career, intelligence researcher James Flynn examined IQ test scores from different eras and parts of the world. In doing so, he uncovered a remarkable finding, now known as the Flynn Effect: Test scores have increased steadily over time. These increases are fairly linear and consistent across settings and types of tests used.
Here, Flynn offers a possible explanation for the increase. Although his delivery is a bit dry, I find this talk inspiring because it serves as an important reminder not to underestimate ourselves. Whatever we think we are capable of doing, thinking, or being, there is always more. Each generation makes new strides with respect to abstract and moral reasoning. The Flynn Effect is one of many reasons to have hope for the future of humanity.
“Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.” Since giving this groundbreaking talk, Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy has been harassed by academic colleagues who seem obsessed with dismissing her research findings on what she calls “power poses.” In no way does this criticism detract from the power or veracity of Cuddy’s message in my view. Her basic message that our body posture affects our mental state is perfectly consistent with my own research into the effects of Repose. In this fascinating talk, Cuddy explains how assuming a position or stance that makes you seem bigger also makes you feel more confident, relaxed, and powerful—qualities that others observe in you during social interactions. She shows us how our bodies can change our minds in as little as two minutes. The power poses that Cuddy has designed and tested are effective. I know this from my own experience and from my observation of hundreds of others that I have introduced to these poses. There is no doubt in my mind about the validity or usefulness of Cuddy’s work, regardless of what the doubters might say.
“What if We are Wrong about Diabetes?” I love it when someone challenges basic assumptions, as surgeon Peter Appia does in this beautiful, touching talk on the underlying causes of diabetes. Appia describes his judgmental attitudes regarding his obese patients with Type 2 diabetes until he himself was diagnosed with metabolic syndrome—an important precursor of diabetes—in spite of his careful diet and rigorous workout regimen. Here, Appia suggests that insulin resistance causes obesity and not the other way around, as the medical establishment has assumed. He ends his talk with a moving, heartfelt apology to an obese patient he had judged in the past. The reason I find this talk so inspiring is that it combines intellect and heart in ways that lead the audience to challenge their own assumptions.
“Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” This classic “last lecture” by Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch, who was dying of pancreatic cancer at the time, is one of the first Ted talks I ever watched, and it is certainly one of the more inspiring. I do not consider most of Paush’s observations or conclusions about following one’s dreams to be particularly fresh or earth-shattering, but there is no denying the passion or conviction with which he delivers this talk. At the end of the talk, he reveals that the lecture is intended for his three children as his parting gift to them. Through his words, Pausch left a precious legacy not just for his family but for millions of viewers who have benefited from his compassionate message.
"Carrot Clarinet." In a powerful five-minute demonstration of creativity, Linsey Pollack builds a clarinet out of a carrot and then proceeds to play it, producing a wonderful, jazzy melody. What’s not inspiring about that?
Sometimes, music speaks louder than words. Hearing ukulele master Jake Shimabukuro play Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” on the uke will blow you away!
So, that's my take. Now, feel free to share yours! What are your favorite TED talks? You can post your choices in the Comments section below or contact me on Twitter or Facebook.
August 1, 2018 marked the official premiere of a new type of chanting experience, the Five-Minute Chant. You can watch the video of that first live event here. The idea of Five-Minute Chant is to offer all of the benefits of a normal chant circle in a streamlined format lasting only a few minutes.
The benefits of chant circles are numerous. Here are just a few that I have found in the 22 years I have been leading Global Chant:
In spite of all of these benefits, most people will never take part in a chant circle. Lack of time is one of the most common reasons cited by those who are drawn by the idea of a chant circle but simply have not gotten around to participating in one. So, we designed Five-Minute Chant to make the chanting experience more accessible and convenient. Five-Minute Chant has all the elements of a full-fledged chant circle: intention-setting, invocation, chanting, and closing.
Try it for yourself. Click on the sample video shown above and let me guide you through your first Five-Minute Chant. If you want to have a true sense of community, invite others to join you. The real benefit comes from participating fully, as opposed to just watching or listening to someone else chant.
You can access these Five-Minute Chant videos on the Global Chant Facebook page. If you are not already following this page, you may want to do so. I will announce upcoming Five-Minute Chant live events so that you can join us on Facebook Live as these chant circles get broadcast around the world. If you are unable to take part in our live events, you will be able to access the archived videos at your convenience on our Facebook page.
Every Five-Minute Chant event is done with healing intention. In the days to come, I will let you know how you can request that a special Five-Minute Chant be dedicated to someone you know that may be undergoing a health challenge or simply in need of positive thoughts and vibrations. Please feel free to share the following link to our Facebook page with those you know who would be drawn to this type of virtual chant circle: http://www.facebook.com/FiveMinuteChant
To learn more about the structure and healing power of our chant circles, please read The Chanter’s Guide: Sacred Chanting as a Shamanic Practice or visit the Global Chant home page.
You are greater than you ever imagined. The source and essence of the universe abides in you. And there is only one. The world's great spiritual teachings have been saying this for thousands of years. Here is a beautiful example, taken from the Upanishads:
In the beginning was only Being,
One without a second.
Out of himself he brought forth the cosmos
And entered into everything in it.
There is nothing that does not come from him.
Of everything he is the inmost Self.
The contents of your mind may differ from mine, but the consciousness that illuminates both is one and the same. This is the fundamental realization that lies at the heart of what we call "enlightenment" or "spiritual awakening." And you cannot just grasp it cognitively. This realization has to be felt in every cell of your body. To quote one of my favorite film characters, the Oracle from The Matrix (see above), "Being The One is just like being in love. No one can tell you you're in love. You just know it, through and through, balls to bones."
Nothing is more challenging to accept than the notion that The One abides in you. That is why spiritual teachers keep converging on the same message. The core wisdom on which the spiritual evolution of our species depends has to be earned, and that does not come easily. Joseph Campbell expressed the potentially frustrating nature of this venture with a rhetorical question: "How teach again what has been taught correctly and incorrectly learned a thousand thousand times, throughout the millenniums of mankind's prudent folly?"
In the past, humanity had the luxury of forgetting who we are, where we came from, and what connects us at the deepest level. Now, time is of the essence. We can hardly afford to squander the opportunity to REALLY remember this simple yet profound truth: "I am one with The One that created me." Once enough of us get it, everything changes--families, communities, government, economics, and religion. We will have to reinvent every aspect of our lives to move closer to an age of peace, sustainability, and balance. This is doable, but we must act quickly.
So, what can you do? The answer is simple: Remember who you are. Here and now, baby! You owe it not just to yourself but to all the other denizens of this Earth. Just follow the advice offered in this verse from The Radiance Sutras:
There is no image you can hold,
No thought you can think,
That encompasses the Great Self.
Is immortal and unchanging,
Yet it is the foundation for all that moves.
Rest in the shimmering emptiness
That is the source of this world,
And remember who you are.
I leave you with this message because I don't know what kind of internet connectivity I will have the rest of July. In case you do not hear from me for a while, I want to share what I consider to be the most important message of this era. Given that this could be my last blog post for a while, I offer you my deep unconditional love, along with this blessing: May you remember who you are, and may you inspire others to do the same.
When I sit down to write, entire sections of books come to me intuitively. Sometimes, it feels like I am taking dictation or as if my fingers are moving themselves on the keyboard with no effort on my part. Those moments feel magical and they lead to some of my most inspired writing. But there is no magic involved. This is not a trick. You can tap into your intuition just as well as I can. Here is how:
I just returned to Tucson from a 32-day West Coast book tour. The reception for the ideas in Deep Creativity was overwhelmingly positive! Many thanks to those who came to these events. I met some extraordinary folks with inquisitive minds, open hearts, and creative spirits. Here are a few of the highlights of my journey.
Fort Bragg, CA. Here, I had the pleasure to meet Rev. Tanya Wyldflower and her open, adventurous congregation at the Mendocino Center for Spiritual Living. What a wonderful spiritual community this is! I want to single out my hosts, Jim and Shelley, who were so kind and welcoming; musician extraordinaire Marcus McCallen; Lorenzo and Harmony Wells for all they are doing to help build this community; and artist Sue Ellen Parkinson, featured in last week's blog, whose inspired art I discovered at her opening in The Northcoast Artist's Gallery.
Seattle, WA. In my old hometown, I had the pleasure of speaking to the International Association of Near-Death Studies group at its 36th Anniversary meeting. Then, I had an author event at Third Place Books, which is located less than a mile from the house where I grew up. In attendance that night were my parents, my beloved Maria, and several other friends and family members, as well as a number of new friends who were drawn by the topic of Deep Creativity. Among them was photographer, author, musician, and creativity teacher Jeff Leisawitz, who took a number of great shots of my talk, including the one you see here.
Port Townsend, WA. Two weeks ago on this blog, I wrote about the extraordinary Unity congregation in this charming port town. Under the wise and loving leadership of Rev. Pam Douglas-Smith, this congregation is an exciting and super active hub for the local spiritual community. On this visit, I had a wonderful connection with the musical minister, Simon Ruth de Voil, who introduced me to one of the most beautiful chants I have heard in years. Based on the Bible verse, "Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalms 46:10), this chant turns the verse into a profound meditation. I look forward to sharing my rendition of it with you in the days to come. Besides giving the message at the morning service, I led an afternoon play circle that was lively and fun. Afterwards, two congregation members, Don and Diane DiPrete, invited me to stay in their hideaway in the woods on the edge of town. I had the pleasure of sleeping in the tiny Boler trailer pictured here. It was a memorably enjoyable stay. That evening, I met Diane's daughter, Drea DiPrete--an extremely talented local artist whose work I hope to feature here very soon.
Boise, ID. Here, I spoke to the local Institute of Noetic Sciences group, led my Michelle Woods and Judith Allen (aka Lady J). Plus, I had a chance to explore this quaint city and discover its charms. Among the local attractions is Merritt's Family Restaurant, an old-time diner where I had a four-hour lunch conversation with Mike Dunlap (pictured here). Mike is a true renaissance man who holds two Ph.D. degrees (in physics and education), has written a number of fantasy books, and has had one of the most impressively eclectic careers of anyone I have yet to meet. Having the chance to talk with this remarkable man was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the trip for me.
I am delighted and grateful to have had this terrific adventure. Now that I am back home, it's time to start on the next book. More about that later!
Once a month, I plan to feature inspired artists who embody the Ten Tenets of Deep Creativity. Today's featured artist, Sue Ellen Parkinson, creates sacred art that plays with traditional spiritual themes in unique and exciting new ways. I had the pleasure of meeting Sue Ellen at the opening of her "Strength in Tenderness" exhibit in Fort Bragg, California. We then had the opportunity to sit down for this interview about her creative experience:
How would you describe your art? What are some of the recurring themes?
I would describe my art as non-traditional icon painting. I’ve been exploring my personal connection to the Christian mystics through creative means. I’m particularly drawn to depicting Mary Magdalene and the Sacred Feminine. I’m not a Christian or religious scholar. I've come to this from a purely intuitive place and I’ve found Magdalene to be an incredibly compelling archetype to work with. My sense is that her energy is deeply needed at this time—not just for myself but for the entire planet. This experience of painting Christian mystics was unexpected for me. However, I’m learning so much, and my imagination is absolutely on fire, so I doubt I’ll ever stop.
How did you get started on this path?
My mother was an incredible creative. She turned everything she did into a creative act. Growing up with her made my entry into the world of creativity feel very natural. I was fortunate to have had that. And being that I’m a quiet person by nature, the contemplative process of drawing and painting was very appealing to me. I’ve been drawing since I could first pick up and manipulate a pencil.
Painting was a natural progression and such a pleasure! Creating a painting is like an inner vision quest. It’s my favorite way to explore. Just relaxing into my intuition and observing. I feel an intimacy in observing things that’s more satisfying than words. I often discover a deeper understanding of myself. My painting the mystics evolved out of many things but primarily out of my love of painting portraits. I love to look at the way the shadows and light move across a persons face, the hands, the human form. It’s so beautiful. Painting brings me such peace. When I’m painting, it feels like a blessed unfolding—like when a flower opens up, or like when a babies fingers uncurl for the first time.
Were there specific moments or experiences that pointed you in a specific direction? If so, can you share any of them?
So many significant experiences…One very important turning point was about 12 years ago. I received a divination from the shaman, Malidoma Somé. He told me that I was a different sort of an artist, that I was a “healer artist.” I had never had anyone articulate that concept to me. He comes from a culture that understands such things—I don’t. So when he said that I was a “healer artist,” it was like having a missing piece of the puzzle fall into place. I knew in my bones it was true. That distinction helped me to make some important decisions and to go in the right direction.
You have described your creative experience as a form of prayer. What do you mean by that?
I've always felt that creativity was a form of meditation and my most direct connection to the Divine. That understanding went even deeper about 30 years ago when I had a cancer scare. I was looking for philosophical advice and was fortunate to find a teacher named, Mukusen Miyuki. He was a Jungian analyst and Buddhist priest from Japan. He became a dear friend and trusted advisor. He let me trade drawings of my dreams for counseling sessions. Working with him woke up my awareness that art was my spiritual path. Early on he suggested that I offer my creative work as, “spirit food,” to my ancestors. I started making offerings to my mother who had died when I was 13. To this day I begin any creative work with the intention of giving thanks. Creating is a way of giving my deepest self to the world. It’s a very grounded expression of my gratitude. That’s what a prayer is, isn’t it? An expression of gratitude.
It seems that dreams and visions shape your work to a certain degree. How do those images tend to come to you?
They come through actual sleeping dreams—and when I’m awake through intuitive visual flashes.
When I paint a dream I uncover much more detail about the dream. For example, I discovered the guidance of spirits through painting. That was something that I hadn’t been consciously aware of but I saw it clearly in a painting and knew it was true.
Dreams are another language—a visual language—different than words, but just as valuable. Working with my dreams has helped me to trust my intuition. When I get a visual flash, or idea of what needs to go into an image, I’ve learned to just go with it. Often those impulses turn out to be perfectly inline with what’s needed.
I recently received a strong message from my female ancestors through a painting that they wanted me to speak to the public. So even though I’m an introvert, I’ve been doing that. This interview with you, stems from their request.
Some of your art is a reinvention of the traditional Mexican retablo. How has this type of folk art influenced your work? And in what ways have you modified it?
Many years ago, I fell in love with Mexico, and Mexican Folk Art. Traditionally a retablo depicts a miracle that has occurred in a person’s life and it gives thanks to a particular saint. These are little paintings that are put up on alters in homes and also in churches. I was so charmed by them, I started painting retablos myself—just for family members and friends. I didn’t emphasize saints though, because at that time, I had no personal relationship to them. In my retablos I focused more on the divine qualities in the person being depicted. People would often cry when they first saw them, because folks feel so unseen in this culture. So these retablos could be very healing. This work was of course, inline with what Malidoma had perceived in me.
A traditional retablo painter is called a santero, or santera, because they paint saints. It was the tradition of retablo painting that led me to painting saints. I felt so much respect for these little paintings, and the santeras who painted them, I wanted to explore the saints for myself.
What role does intuition play in your creative process, specifically, and your life in general?
At this point I live by my intuition. It’s an inner barometer, that I stay tuned to in order to keep centered. My life wasn’t always like that. But now, my painting is my livelihood, and it’s also my spiritual path, and it reflects my emotional and intellectual life as well. Nothing is separated. It’s all of one cloth. In this modern world, that’s a precarious way to live. It requires a certain level of faith. I’m in my late 60’s and making a living as an artist is quite a roller coaster ride. But I trust that I’ll be OK—and so far, I am.
You have said that your creative process connects you to the mystery. Can you elaborate on that at all?
Yes. When I’m creating my sense of separateness dissolves. Fear and anxiety dissolves. I feel very connected, and strengthened by the world. I feel at one with the world. So I’m open and inquisitive and am able to solve problems with clarity. I experience a strong sense of possibility. The state of “awe,” is a good way to describe this experience.
How is your art evolving? In what directions do you see yourself going?
I had a dream that I was walking along the west coast when I noticed a huge tsunami was forming out at sea. Then I turned and looked in the opposite direction. I was stunned to see another huge body of water rolling across the land towards me. Both of these enormous bodies of water were dazzlingly beautiful. They were going to converge, and there I was in the center. No where to go.
I think that was a teaching dream and the lesson was: Be present to this exquisite Beauty.
I’m just a dot of dust. So my plan is to make some Beauty for the Sacred before I disappear. That’s my big plan for the future: Create some Beauty before the waters converge, and I’ll continue with the mystics and see where life takes me.
Thanks to Sue Ellen Parkinson for this beautiful, insightful interview. To learn more about Sue Ellen, her sacred imagery, and upcoming exhibits and workshops, please visit her website: http://www.miracleofyourlife.com.
I just had the honor and pleasure to visit the Unity Church of Port Townsend, Washington, where I was a guest speaker at the Sunday service and then facilitated a Deep Creativity play circle in the afternoon.
Rev. Pam Douglas-Smith sets the tone for this remarkable, thriving spiritual community with her light touch and openness to new ideas and possibilities. I feel very strongly that leaders like Rev. Pam represent the future of spirituality.
In this century, spiritual life will undergo a radical transformation. The change is already happening. There is no longer room for religious differences and sectarianism. We cannot afford any more "holy" wars.
In place of existing religious institutions, which are rapidly losing momentum, we will see an unfolding of a universal spirituality--one that focuses on unity as opposed to divisiveness. It's hard to imagine that humanity can find this type of common ground, but make no mistake about it: We can and will do it. There is no other choice.
But what exactly will that spirituality look like? In The Chanter's Guide, I describe the Seven Keys, a set of basic human qualities that we can all embrace, regardless of our spiritual beliefs or cultural background. These are: serenity. humility, forgiveness, detachment, compassion, unconditional love, and selfless service. The idea is simply that spirituality begins with behavior. What we believe matters far less than how we act, especially in a rapidly-shrinking world.
In The Pledge, we have a simple creed built around the Seven Keys. These nine statements comprise a new way of living in the world--one that promotes, peace, sustainability, and balance.
Then there is the question of a universal spiritual icon. For me, the Mandelbrot set is a logical first choice. It reminds us of the core wisdom underlying all genuine spirituality, which has to do with the unitary nature of consciousness. A single essence or I AM permeates all of creation. The same consciousness that is experiencing the universe through your eyes is doing the same through mine. And that consciousness can be found at every layer of this fractal universe, from the microscopic to the expansive.
To learn more about the significance of the Mandelbrot set, please watch this video:
I am so grateful to Rev. Pam and her entire congregation for welcoming me with open arms and open hearts. As I travel the United States talking about the basic spiritual truths that link Deep Creativity with the great wisdom traditions of the world, I have the great joy of discovering the places where true wisdom is being nurtured and developed. There is no doubt in my mind that Port Townsend is one of those places, thanks in large part to the work of Rev. Pam and others like her.
This week, I am in Seattle, my childhood home, to speak about Deep Creativity to the local International Association of Near-Death Studies (IANDS) group. My message is that all profound experiences, including near-death experiences (NDEs), kundalini awakening, and creative inspiration, connect us to the same source.
The notion of one source simplifies everything. From the standpoint of creativity, a single-source model is in keeping with the law of parsimony, which is "that simpler is better." Whether you are trying to understand natural processes "out there" or psychological ones "in here," the simpler model or theory tends to be more effective in capturing the underlying mechanism.
Why is that? Any good designer knows that the simplest and most economical connections are most effective. There is no reason to build more complexity into a system than it needs in order to operate effectively. When it comes to creativity, it makes no sense to have seven billion or more different sources of creation when one will do just fine!
This single-source model of creativity has the potential to change the way we see the world. When we really grasp that a unitary consciousness is giving rise to the ideas in your mind as well as mine, we come into direct contact with a spiritual truth that mystics throughout history have been seeking to convey to the rest of humanity, which is that there is only one consciousness, and there has only ever been one.
This truth leads us down a rabbit hole to a core reality that many of us have grappled with but few really comprehend: One consciousness abides in all of us. This is not an idea like any other. It is a reality that has to be felt, tasted, and touched. That is why we celebrate profound experiences such as NDEs or creative inspiration. These experiences allow us to come into the most intimate contact possible with a truth that transcends all thought. This truth is too simple for our minds to grasp. We have to experience it first-hand!
Remember the song, "He's got the whole world in his hands?" Well, we have an entire universe in our minds. Don't believe me? Then please answer this question for me: Is there anywhere in the universe where your imagination cannot take you? Even the most skeptical cynic I know has admitted that the answer is: NO. In other words, nothing in this world is beyond the reach of our minds through the power of imagination.
Nearly a century ago, quantum physicists showed us that there is no point searching for an "objective reality" separate from our perspective of it. One of the pioneers in this field, Erwin Schrodinger, said, "The world is given to me only once, not one existing and one perceived." Do you realize the significance of this statement? It means that ALL reality is subjective. The only universe that exists is the one we perceive. Period. If you look for a "hard" reality beyond the one you see, hear, smell, taste, touch, think, feel, and imagine, you simply will not find it. That thing you are seeking does not exist.
So, why can we agree on so many things: California is on the West Coast, New York is on the East Coast, and Nebraska is somewhere in the middle. Perhaps this is simply evidence that we are of like mind. Through a combination of factors, including genetics, cultural influences, and our exposure to the same sources of information, our minds have converged on certain "realities." But make no mistake: Those realities are not as hard and fast as we might assume. As the video above explains, science itself has shown that space and time are illusory.
This reality we are living in is ours to shape and mold as we please. If enough of us agree on something, we bring it into being. "A dream we dream alone is just a dream," said John Lennon. "A dream we dream together is reality." It's time to re-envision our world. The one we have conceived is in crisis. I just found out, while visiting the beautiful North California coast, that 93% of California's kelp beds are dying. This is a portent of some severe conditions ahead. It means that the Pacific Ocean is dying right before our eyes. Without kelp, thousands of species cannot survive. Abalone that used to be extremely plentiful in these parts is all but gone now. Starfish have died off. These are very hardy animals.
We live in a paradise of our own making, but as a species, we have been very careless with it. Let's shift that reality now, while we still can. We clearly have the power!
I just returned from Boulder, Colorado, where I had the pleasure to speak to the local International Association of Near-Death Studies (IANDS) group. Boulder impressed me as a community of influential and insightful thought leaders. The room was filled with artists, group leaders, mystics, and healers.
One of the things I had heard about Boulder prior to my visit is the following joke: Boulder is 13 square miles surrounded by reality. The humor lies in the implication that Boulder is living in a reality other than the one in which everyone else is living. So, people outside of Boulder seem to believe that Boulder makes its own reality. And, coincidentally, the people I met inside of Boulder share that belief! So...is making your own reality a good thing or a bad thing?
My answer is that making your own reality is the only thing. One of the themes of this week's featured video is that there is no objective reality. In other words, the "real" reality (on which everyone can agree) does not exist, never did, and never will. This leaves only one reality: the one we make. Deep Creativity recognizes and celebrates this power to make one's reality. Great artists and visionaries have been creating such realities for a long time, and they have taken us on a journey into those realities.
After my first-ever visit to Boulder, I came away with the sense that Boulder is not only making its own reality; Boulder knows that it can; and Boulder knows how it's done! I bow to the creative spirit of this community. And I offer my sincere gratitude and AWE for the beautiful, warm welcome I was given by everyone I met. I don't know too many people who are living in that kind of lofty reality, where the spirit of openness and Ubuntu prevails. Now, imagine an entire community doing that together. That's a Boulder reality--and also a bolder one!