Last week, the UN released a report on the impending global crisis that has been described as climate genocide. Assuming that current trends continue, atmospheric temperatures will be high enough in 20 years to kill off hundreds of millions of people, disrupt the world's food supply, destroy all of the world's coral reefs, and set off a chain of global heat waves, wildfires, and droughts the likes of which the Earth has rarely seen. And this may be the best-case scenario.
My Fellow Americans: A revolution is coming. All the conditions are in place. In 2011, half of all Americans were living in poverty, and by all estimates, this number will continue to increase. An article published in Time magazine declared that “every pillar institution in American society—whether it’s General Motors, Congress, Wall Street, Major League Baseball, the Catholic Church, or the mainstream media—has revealed itself to be corrupt, incompetent, or both.”
Trust in our system of government has never been lower, and for good reason. Unless you are rich, white, male, Christian, and heterosexual, the government does not seem to be particularly concerned with your needs. This is not a partisan matter. Issues like climate change, lack of adequate health care, social and economic injustice, loss of privacy, contamination of food and water, and gun violence affect all of us. “When the rain falls,” sang Bob Marley, “it don’t fall on one man’s house.”
Given the inevitability of the coming revolution, it might as well be effective. In Deep Creativity, I identify vision as one of six qualities that predicts the success of creative endeavors. Vision is the ability to conceive of new possibilities that lead to new realities. These possibilities tend to exist beyond the scope of most people’s imagination. As Jonathan Swift observed, “Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.”
One of the most articulate and misunderstood revolutionaries of the Twentieth Century, Angela Davis, recognized the importance of vision as a means to enact meaningful, lasting change. In a 1972 interview, she said, “When you talk about a revolution, most people think violence, without realizing that the real content of any kind of revolutionary front lies in the principles and the goals that you’re striving for—not in the way you reach them.”
A revolution can only succeed if it has a substantive core vision. Here are five guidelines for creating such a vision:
Today I honor the memory of Doris Adams, a beloved member of the Global Chant community who died less than two weeks ago. This seems like a fitting time to commemorate the passing of this extraordinary woman because today is also Gandhi Jayanti, the celebration of the birth and life of Mohandes K. Gandhi.
Like Gandhi, Doris had an indomitable spirit. For nearly a decade, she was a mainstay at our chant circles, beaming with joy while playing her favorite tambourine. Some weeks, she would attend two or three chant circles, always driving herself until health issues forced her to sell off her car. After that, she somehow managed to find a ride most weeks. People would happily pick up Doris because our gatherings never felt quite complete without her there.
We met Doris in Sacramento while touring in support of my first book, The Chanter’s Guide. I had been invited to give a guest sermon at the local Unity church. In that sermon, I mentioned that I was from Tucson. After the service, Doris approached us and said that she too was from Tucson and happened to be in Sacramento caring for her ailing aunt. She had never been to this church before, but on that particular morning, she woke up with a strong intuition that she needed to be there. After jumping in the shower, she raced to the church and made it just in time for my sermon.
Upon her return to Tucson, Doris became a regular at our weekly circles. Like Gandhi, Doris was tiny yet potent. Her joyous smile rarely left her face. Every week, she would thank me for having started Global Chant and tell me how much the group meant to her. When I would go to greet and hug her, I almost always felt like I was in the presence of a great soul—a true Mahatma.
The picture you see here was taken at a full-moon chant circle that took place on August 18, 2016—the last time I saw Doris at one of our events. Because of failing health, she had moved into a nursing facility. That evening, we went and got her. Another elder in our community--our dear friend Roy—came as well. Neither one had been in attendance for months. So, we all knew what a special night it was. You can see the genuine delight on my face as I stood directly behind Doris. And I was far from alone.
Doris lived through much more adversity than most people will ever face. Yet, you would never know by being in her presence. Her love and joy were infectious. I rarely heard her complain about anything, and her strong will allowed her to overcome virtually every challenge. Like Gandhi, Doris was compassionate, devoted to serving others, and fiercely independent. I consider myself extremely blessed to have had her in my life.
Here is a link to a video of one of her favorite chants: “Sing ‘til the Spirit of the Lord Come Down.” In the video, Doris is seated third from the left in the back row. Per her request, this chant will be performed at her memorial service this Saturday, October 6, Johrei Center (3919 River Road, Tucson), 2 pm. Hope to see you there!
After traveling through much of the country this past spring and summer, sharing the secrets of Deep Creativity and creative inspiration, at last I have the opportunity to do the same in my own home town, thanks to my friends at Saint Francis in the Foothills United Methodist Church. This will be a delightful day of group play activities and personal exploration. Participants will take away a set of simple yet potent tools that can be incorporated into daily life with great ease. The full details are below. I look forward to seeing you there!
Play Inspired, Stay Inspired: Tools for Creative Inspiration
A Workshop offered by Victor Shamas based on his latest book, Deep Creativity
When: Saturday October 27 9:30am - 3:30pm
Where: St. Francis in the Foothills UMC new Celebration Center 4625 E River Rd.
(near River/Swan intersection)
Besides being intensely enjoyable, moments of creative inspiration can lead to major breakthroughs. Here, you will learn a set of six tools that are effective not just for inducing creative inspiration but sustaining it. You will use these tools to create important new outcomes in your life. This will be a fun day of creative play as we move through activities that will help us unleash our passion, refine our vision, free our minds and awaken our creative spirit.
In 1987, University of Arizona psychologist Dr. Victor Shamas had a profound experience of inspiration that led him on a 30-year quest. Along the way, he discovered specific ways to stay inspired on a daily basis, which he has shared through his two non-profit groups (Global Chant and PlayHaven) and his four books: Deep Creativity, The Way of Play, The Chanter’s Guide, and Repose: The Potent Pause.
Registration Fee: $20
Catered Baggins Lunch: $10
(Or bring your own sack lunch)
Register online and find instructions to pay with credit card or check: stfrancisumc.org/lectures
If you do not have access to a computer, call Alice: (520) 292-8799
Registration limited to 50 participants. DEADLINE is Friday, October 12
IF you have a yoga mat or something similar for lying on the floor, please bring it with you.
For questions about the program, email Victor at email@example.com
In August, I had the pleasure to meet artist Suzanne deVeuve at a farmer's market in Sebastopol, California. Immediately, I was struck by her unique viewpoint and the inspirational quality of her art. Suzanne tackles some deep and complex themes in her work, which made me want to learn more about her creative process and her sources of inspiration. Here is our brief interview:
How would you describe your art? What are some of the recurring themes?
Visionary art is my thing. What makes it visionary is that its influences include dreams, as well as collective and personal mythology. My art features spiritual themes from around the world
How did you get started on this path?
When I was in my early 20’s in art school at the Academy of Art in San Francisco, I was reading Memories, Dreams and Reflections by Carl Jung, as well as the diaries of Anais Nin Joseph Campbell’s books on world mythology. These were my big inspiration back then.
Were there specific moments or experiences that pointed you in a specific direction? If so, can you share any of them?
When I met my husband, we traveled to the Southwest and lived in Taos. At one point, we lived in a Navajo hogan. Being pregnant at the time, I was in a very receptive state, which allowed me to absorb the essence and energy of both the land and the indigenous peoples. I originally did a lot of American Indian images. Their clothing and rituals were a great inspiration.
Also I was married at the Hanuman temple in Taos. So Eastern spirituality was also a big influence as my husband had traveled there and shared much of what he had discovered with me. I found some collectors in San Francisco who commissioned several paintings on these themes.
My intentions were and are that these paintings could help integrate the wisdom of the ancient cultures into our high-tech one. This I feel is essential to humanity’s survival.
Can you describe your creative process? What role does intuition play in it?
My creative process is open to whatever comes. I do have dreams that influence what I choose to paint—often to the point of obsession. Thirty years ago I did a painting of the Apache ghost dance and recently I did one inspired by a South American ghost dance. The recent piece was inspired by a dream I had of a serpent lunging at me with an open mouth.
This I later learn was a vision of Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec deity that looks like a feathered serpent. Traditionally, this image has appeared to Aztecs during a vision quest that takes place during a solar eclipse, which is when I had the dream. So it’s a wonderful affirmation and realization that the spirit is always interfacing with the material plane.
In Deep Creativity, I identified passion as one of six qualities associated with creative inspiration. To lead a life of inspiration, it helps to find the people and things you’re passionate about so that you can you can immerse yourself and be inspired by them.
A recent study coming out of Yale and Stanford has opened up a new public debate about passion, at least as it pertains to careers and the workplace. The debate revolves around this question: Is it better to follow an existing passion or to learn how to cultivate a new one? The researchers conclude that people are better off learning how to develop their passion as opposed to just following it. One of the investigators, Paul O’Keefe, explains, “Parents, teachers, and employers might get the most out of people if they suggest that interests are developed, not simply found. Telling people to find their passion could suggest that it’s within you just waiting to be revealed. Telling people to follow their passion suggests that the passion will do the lion’s share of the work for you.”
From what I have observed and experienced in the past three decades, both sides of the debate are correct: Passion has to be found AND cultivated. You are unlikely to cultivate a passion for something that does not interest you or that you may even find repulsive. For example, I have never been drawn to microeconomics. That might change if someone close to me is passionate about the topic. Their passion could rub off on me to a certain extent, because nothing is more infectious than passion. For years, I have tried to adhere to the following philosophy when it comes to the people in my life: Show me what you love, and I will love it. That is not always easy to do, but I consider it to be a wonderful challenge.
Throughout my teaching career, I have often asked students about their areas of passion. One of the things I discovered is that most of them could not answer simple questions like this: What do you love to do? What excites you? Where does your passion lie? It could be that college students just assume their professor wants to know about their career choices, like most other adults in their lives. Or they may feel uncomfortable telling their professor about their passion for sex, drugs, music, or video games. But I also wonder if perhaps some of them have never given these kinds of questions much thought because nobody ever asked them.
The researchers in the Yale-Stanford studies seem to have assumed that passion is static and that identifying an existing area of passion requires relatively little effort. I think that neither of these assumptions is right. For me, connecting with passion is a daily occurrence. Every morning, when I wake up, I ask myself: What am I most passionate about today? That can change from day to day. I feel that if I follow what I am passionate about today, it will lead me to what I am passionate about tomorrow.
The thing that evokes passion in you does not have to be huge or Earth-shattering. Smaller passions can open the door to bigger ones. So, just start with the tiny, simple pleasures. Right now, I am excited about writing this blog and about the fresh cauliflower that I am munching. When I throw myself into these passions, they draw my awareness fully into the present moment, which is where I want to live. That is where inspiration lies. Later today, I will give myself over to whatever is in front of me then: an afternoon bike ride, my sweetheart’s soft kisses, or finding just the right gift for my father’s upcoming birthday.
Cultivating passion means fanning a flame that is already burning inside of you. Maybe that flame is nothing more than a flickering ember right now, but that is enough. A raging inferno usually starts off as something small and weak. We all know that a smoldering cigarette butt can be enough to burn down an entire forest.
Stay open to new areas of passion. Be willing to try something you never have before, without any prejudgment or expectation. The whole world is filled with people and things that can inspire love and joy in your heart. You can focus on negative forms of passion, like hate and anger, if you choose. These can be powerful motivators, but they are rarely beneficial to you or anyone else. I have known a few people who turned anger into a force for good in their lives, but I have also seen too many others lose control of their anger until it crippled or destroyed them.
Inspiration often starts with the littlest of things. Find those tiny passions, give them room to grow, and let them take you to new heights. When you follow AND cultivate these small passions, they will steer you towards exciting new avenues of exploration. Every major development and breakthrough in my life began because I was passionate about something or someone. Even the most seemingly frivolous trivial thing can make a difference if you open yourself to it. So I say: Long live passion!
Many of us do yoga or some other form of stretching every day. We do it because we realize that our bodies benefit from stretching in a number of ways, including flexibility, mobility, vitality, and balance.
What if we were as diligent in stretching our imagination? How would we do it? And what benefits would that have?
Of all human capabilities, imagination may be one of the most powerful. Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination encircles the whole world.”
For Einstein, imagination held the key to progress and scientific advancement. And he knew how to stretch his own imagination, envisioning himself chasing a beam of light or standing on a moving train during a lightning storm. Einstein’s imaginary “thought experiments” led to some of his most important discoveries and breakthroughs.
Your own discoveries and breakthroughs may be awaiting a similar act of imagination.
The direction of your life can turn on a dime, and sometimes all it takes is the ability to envision something new and different. Einstein considered imagination to be a “preview of life’s coming attractions.” So, what might be the coming attractions in your life?
Take a moment to imagine the life you would like to be leading. You may want to find a comfortable place to do this. Close your eyes and take some deep breaths. Then just allow your imagination to move freely and effortlessly.
Perhaps you may want to envision a specific point in the future, projecting forward six months, a year, five years, or even longer. The changes you imagine may be personal or societal. They could be related to where you live, the way you spend your time, how your body feels, or the people closest to you. Maybe you are dreaming of global changes that affect how all of us move in the world, earn a living, or make the most of the resources at our disposal. You might imagine more effective alternatives to existing institutions and policies.
Rather than just accepting things the way they are, you can redesign them. Every aspect of your life, from the way you wake up to the foods you eat and the clothes you wear, can be reinvented to suit you better. As Steve Jobs pointed out, “Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that are no smarter than you. And you can change it. You can influence it. You can build your own things that other people can use.”
The design process always begins with imagination. But what you imagine, and how you imagine it, can make all the difference. Your imagination is so powerful that simply envisioning a particular outcome may give you the same level of satisfaction as if you had actually attained it. That is why an Olympic athlete should not just envision herself on the medal stand after winning her event. That could be counterproductive if it causes her to feel too content with her imagined achievement. Instead, she may also want to envision every aspect of her training process, including each nuance and detailed step that brings her closer to earning that gold medal.
So, make sure to imagine the journey at least as much as you do the destination. If you are imagining yourself in a new career, for example, make sure to also imagine yourself doing the things it takes to get there, which may include: cultivating your passion, honing your skills, expanding your knowledge base, establishing your network of colleagues and mentors, and building your confidence.
Taking a few minutes every day to stretch your imagination may be one of the most valuable gifts you can give yourself. Let your imagine roam freely, even if it takes you into realms that seem outlandish or even ridiculous. In truth, nothing that can be imagined is beyond the scope of possibility. As the 19th Century American author William Arthur Ward once said, “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.”
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.
I want to hear from you! Please share your questions and comments. And sign up for my newsletter, where I will pass along the insights, ideas, and inspiration that come my way.