The human mind is extraordinary! We celebrate all the wonders of human ingenuity and innovation that fill our lives on a daily basis. At the same time, we have to acknowledge the fine mess that our minds have created. Humanity has reached a breaking point as a result of decisions made by minds that are highly-educated and knowledgeable.
We have more scholars, engineers, systems analysts, and intellectuals than at any time in history, with vast data banks at their disposal. So, why is there an epidemic of greed, violence, injustice, and environmental destruction? How can such brilliant minds lead us on a path of self-annihilation?
Clearly, there is an imbalance. As a society, we have elevated the mind to the point of reverence, while overlooking the far more impressive genius of the body. Whereas the mind has a hard time managing two tasks at the same time, the body oversees hundreds of trillions of events every second. Whereas the mind requires periods of rest, the body never sleeps. Whereas the mind needs as much as a half-second to process information, the body has hair-trigger reactions and reflexes. Whereas the mind thinks, the body KNOWS. It knows how to maintain just the right balance of conditions to support life at every instant. That is a staggering feat!
As a cognitive psychologist, I have spent decades studying the human mind. I can say without a doubt that the mind alone will not save our species from the enormous hole we have dug for ourselves. Our collective future depends on our ability to tune into the wisdom of the body.
So, what does the body have to teach us? Here are five core principles identified by the field of human physiology, including the ways we can apply each one to our own lives:
1. Openness. The body is an open system, the contents of which are constantly changing. The boundary separating the body from its environment is to a certain degree arbitrary. The sandwich you ate for lunch turns into human tissue, energy, and waste products. Such alchemy is happening continually throughout the body. TAKE-HOME MESSAGE: Stay open to people, ideas, and possibilities. Don’t get too caught up in distinctions like: self and other, friend and enemy, Democrat and Republican. Those lines are meant to get blurred. Allow yourself to change, grow, and evolve.
2. Homeostasis. No matter how much things change in the body, certain vital parameters remain relatively stable. For example, normal body temperature does not fluctuate very much from 36.5 -37.5 ° C. The ability to maintain internal stability, or homeostasis, is critical to sustained health and survival. TAKE-HOME MESSAGE: For everything you take, give something back. Replace the resources you consume. Create a new habitat for every one you destroy. If your actions cause suffering, do something to alleviate suffering. And if you think that living this way is too hard to be practical, just remember that the alternative is much, much harder in the long term.
3. Interdependence. The body is an intricate network of interdependent entities. Every cell is unique, with its own life cycle and specific role in the body. Yet, no cell, tissue, or organ acts entirely on its own. Each acts in conjunction with all the other entities in the network. Without this important quality of interdependence, the body would fail to thrive. TAKE-HOME MESSAGE: In an ever-shrinking world, nobody is a free agent. Your actions affect others, and vice versa. More than ever, our survival depends on our ability to act together for the common good. You and I have no choice but to consider carefully how our actions contribute to or detract from the welfare of human and non-human species alike. And we must demand that governments and other institutions act for the good of everyone—not just an elite few.
4. Communication. In the body, communication takes place at both a local and global level. Individual cells send and receive signals in their immediate surroundings, while the nervous and endocrine systems communicate broadly throughout the body. Survival of the organism depends on the quality and speed of this communication. TAKE-HOME MESSAGE: Be clear and honest in your communication with the people in your life. Question the accuracy of the information you take in, and avoid spreading misinformation and gossip at all cost. Demand the highest quality from your news sources and help establish a global channel of communication that meets the loftiest standards when it comes to integrity and commitment to the common good.
5. Flow down gradients. Energy and matter in the body flow from areas of higher to lower distribution, usually across a semi-permeable membrane. This difference in distribution, called a gradient, can apply to any of the following: temperature, pressure, electrical potential, or the concentration of molecules and ions. The flow of energy or matter down a gradient happens in small, precise, incremental steps. TAKE-HOME MESSAGE: Help redistribute wealth and resources slowly and steadily from those that have it to those that don’t. Share more of what you have with others—especially those in need. Do so through small acts of kindness. Disregard any justification for the continued concentration of precious natural resources in the hands of a few. Make sure to use only what you need and avoid waste of energy and non-renewable resources. Demand new systems of production and distribution of energy and consumer goods that minimize waste. Help install governments and economies that prioritize the common good over individual gain.
To ensure that future generations have the opportunity to thrive and evolve, you and I will need to envision and implement a far more peaceful, sustainable and balanced way of life than what we have now. This is a major undertaking, but I know it is possible. The key is to tune into innate wisdom found in the human body. Everything we need to know in order to face the challenges that lie ahead can be found right here, in the body. We have focused so much on the mind and the intellect that we have overlooked the obvious. It is time to let the body lead and the mind follow.
Photo courtesy of Scott Fadynich
My entire life, I have been chasing down a profound experience that I call “creative inspiration.” That is what brought me to Tucson, Arizona, in the first place, to work with some of the leading consciousness researchers in the world, trying to understand what happens in moments of inspiration.
In the past few years, something extraordinary happened to me. I learned how to tap into that experience on a consistent basis. It’s not about creativity per se. Inspiration for me is what it feels like to embody the creative spirit at play.
Every major life decision I have made has been with the intention of bringing me closer to that sacred and sensuous feeling. It’s the reason why I started Global Chant and wrote The Chanter’s Guide. Chanting has always been a source of inspiration for me, from the time I was a little boy.
But I have discovered many other ways to tap into this experience, including various forms of play (as I described in The Way of Play), as well as Repose. I feel that Repose is the secret sauce in my practice and my life’s work. When I started lying in Repose three times a day, everything changed. My physical and mental receptivity increased exponentially, giving me the clarity to finish Deep Creativity, a book that had sat on the shelf for two decades because I lacked the understanding needed to complete it.
Now, I want to share what I know about inspiration, because I feel that anyone who wants to should have the opportunity to experience what I consider to be the greatest feeling in the world. When I am inspired, I am so empty of myself that only the creative spirit of the universe lives in me. Do you know what it feels like to awaken from the dream of reality, to know who you truly are, to be fully present in the moment, and to be a conduit through which the creative energy of the universe flows freely? If you do, I celebrate that! And if you have not yet gotten there, I would be honored and delighted to help you find your way.
This is my life’s calling, and I want to pursue it with total passion and devotion. It’s the reason why I took a year of my life to prepare my TEDx talk, “The Art of Creative Inspiration.” If you have not watched it yet, please do so by clicking on the link below. I gave that talk with you in min. And please share it with your loved ones, too. You will notice that I avoided the use of overtly spiritual language in my talk. That is because I want the experience of inspiration to be accessible to as many people as possible.
The path of inspiration led me to Maria (formerly Mendola, now Shamas), my wife whom I adore and my beloved partner on this journey. Maria has taught me so much about the central role the body plays in the experience of inspiration. As a yogini, therapist, and educator, she has an extraordinary level of attunement to what is happening in the body. When it comes to inspiration, we both realize how important it is to let the body lead and the mind follow.
In the months to come, we hope to offer some events, both in Tucson and around the country, so that you can experience the bliss, ecstasy and delight of creative inspiration for yourself. This is an exciting new chapter in my life, and like every other major blessing that has come my way, including the great joy of chanting, I want to share the gift of inspiration with my community.
Wishing You a Very Happy Holiday Season!
This weeks marks the launch of my new e-book, Inspiration Day: 10 Daily Habits to Free Your Body's Creative Genius. You can get this e-book FREE through the end of 2019 by sharing the link to my just-released TEDxTucson talk, "The Art of Creative Inspiration, with at least five people on social media. If you have not yet seen it, please click on the image below to watch the video:
Today, on what would have been my parents’ 67th wedding anniversary, I was notified that the video of my recent TEDx talk is now online (see above). My father David died last spring, four months before I took the TEDx stage to speak about “The Art of Creative Inspiration.” The TEDx conference at which I spoke had been scheduled originally for last January. If it had not been postponed, my father would have been alive to see this video.
I dedicated my talk to him, which is why you can see that I become visibly emotional towards the end of it (at about the 15:45 mark), when I feel his presence with me on-stage. From my father, I learned to follow my passion in life. He had an undying passion for my mother, our family, and our nation’s history (especially the history of baseball and the Civil War, about which he read voraciously and had encyclopedic knowledge).
This TEDx talk expresses my lifelong passion for creative inspiration, which led me to Tucson and to everything I have done for the past three decades. My father would have been very proud to watch the video because, like me, he wore his passion on his sleeve. As a lasting tribute to my late father David, I want to share my passion with the world. And you can help me do that: Please watch this video, and if you like it, please share it with your loved ones through email and social media.
Thank you. I am so grateful for your love and support on this journey. Happy Thanksgiving!
I am grateful to the legendary Rama Jyoti Vernon for inviting me to talk about "The Yoga of Creative Inspiration" as part of her Dialogue with Visionaries webinar series. Here is the video of my lively online conversation with Rama, which covered a number of topics very close to my heart. You will find several references to the practice of AUM Tantra, which is the focal point of an upcoming book that I am working on with my beloved wife, yogini extraordinaire and divine playmate, Maria Shamas. In November, Maria and I will be unveiling our new website, which will include practical tips and fun activities that you will definitely want to try at home. Stay tuned!
Over the past several years, I have been exploring the power of touch in relation to creativity and inspiration. The role of touch in the creative process is pretty uncharted territory. I am not familiar with very much research that has addressed this topic. So, I have had to take matters literally into my own hands.
What I have found is that certain kinds of touch can really trigger the feelings and sensation that I associate with creative inspiration. When that happens, fresh ideas and insights seem to follow naturally. The forms of touch I prefer, for this purpose, involves steady rubbing or caressing of my skin. I find that skin vibration, through the use of water jets or electrical massagers, can also be effective.
Often, inspiration happens when I am moving slowly—perhaps while dancing to very soft music—and at the same time running my fingers along the surface of my skin. When I do this, I don’t tend to linger on any particular body part for very long. I like to keep the sensation moving along the entire surface of my skin.
As Maria likes to point out, your skin is the largest organ in your body, which means that there is a great deal of exploration to be done. Lately, I have been using a percussive massage wand and mapping its effects on different body regions. Everywhere is a little different. My hands and face, for example, are so sensitive that they require very gentle touch, whereas my arms, legs, and back call for something firmer. For me, one of the most intense experiences happens when I touch my face lightly with my fingertips. This simple act brings into contact two skin surfaces that are among the most densely-packed with nerve endings.
Touch can be so profoundly inspiring because it combines a number of elements that we know are conducive to creative inspiration: openness to experience, self-expression, passion, absorption, attraction to beauty, and mindfulness. All of these elements can be engaged through mere touch.
As with any tool, touch is not going to have the same effect on everyone. What I consider to be an inspiring level of skin stimulation might be annoying or irritating to you. The impact of touch can vary from person to person, from day to day, and from one part of the body to another. If you are going to explore the use of touch as a creative trigger, here are a few suggestions:
Fabric, feathers, oils, lotions, a warm cloth, or ice might be worth trying. When it comes to your body and the kinds of touch that are most likely to evoke inspiring sensations, you are the world’s greatest authority. At the same time, it never hurts to get a little guidance and coaching. In upcoming blogs, Maria and I will be offering a number of ideas for integrating sensation with inspiration.
There is always more to discover about your body and about the things that inspire you. Happy Exploring!
On October 16, I will be taking part in the "Dialogues with Visionaries" webinar hosted by legendary yoga educator and innovator Rama Jyoti Vernon.
If you are not familiar with Rama and her work, I encourage you to find out as much as you can about this extraordinary woman and the profound wisdom she has offered the world over the past half-century. For me, the chance to dialogue with her is a tremendous honor and joy.
At a time when my beloved Maria and I are working on a book about the power of OM, I am drawn to the unique vibrational qualities of OM as Rama chants it. Attempts to capture her version of OM have overwhelmed even the most sophisticated recording equipment. Here is one of the few decent recordings of Rama chanting OM that I have come across. To feel its potency, turn up the volume on your speakers, close your eyes, and just take it in:
I am thrilled to be talking about "The Yoga of Creative Inspiration" with Rama on the October 16 webinar (4 pm MST) because it will be my first time discussing some new ideas about inspiration and because I know it will make for a stimulating conversation with one of the nation's leading yoga scholars. To register for this FREE webinar, just click on the image below, taken during my recent TEDxTucson talk on creative inspiration. Incidentally, the video of that talk should be posted online in the next few weeks. I am excited to have you view it and share the video with others who share your interest in this very important topic
Do you want to feel inspired? I know that I do. For me, inspiration is the greatest feeling in the world. I feel totally present--alive, awake, alert, and aware. My mantra of inspiration is: HERE AND NOW, BABY!
The experience of inspiration has an unmistakable sense of freshness, as if I have just come to life for the first time, and transcendence, taking me beyond all of my perceived limitations. As if that weren't enough, I have this profound sense of clarity that gives rise to fresh realizations, discoveries, and insights. It's called creative inspiration for a reason!
This past Saturday, I had the wonderful privilege to speak about "The Art of Creative Inspiration" on the TEDxTucson stage. The most important idea in that talk--one that I think has the power to revolutionize the way we think of creativity as a society--is that inspiration is not about your mind. It's about your body! To feel inspired, you just have to draw your awareness to the feelings and sensations that fill your body in the here-and-now.
There are many reasons why you may find that hard to do. You might be carrying pain or trauma in your body that seem overwhelming. Or the life of the mind may be so compelling that you hardly want to give it up--even for a few brief moments. Ironically, it's your mind that reinforces pain or trauma by the way it interprets specific feelings and sensations. If you can give your mind a break, you will find that there is so much more going on in your body than you tend to notice. And these bodily happenings are where inspiration lies!
As I explained on Saturday, there is a wonderfully simple, enjoyable, and powerful way to disengage your mind so that you can tune into you body. It's called: play! Not all play is created equal, when it comes to creative inspiration. What you want to find is a form of play that is simple and non-competitive, requiring no strategy and minimal effort. In The Way of Play, I identified 108 different forms of play that are ideally suited to this purpose. These can range from very gentle (getting a massage or soaking in a warm bath) to extremely active (dancing or swimming).
Find a form of play that feels right for you and immerse yourself to the point that your awareness is completely absorbed by it. The idea is to lose yourself so fully in play that you lose track of time as well as all worries and concerns.
One of the questions I was asked on Saturday after my talk is "How long should I play?" The way I see it, your time is more precious than gold. You deserve to allocate a significant amount of it to yourself--specifically to the activities that bring you joy, relaxation, and emotional nourishment. Especially if you are interested in a life of inspiration, there is no such thing as too much play. Just find the amount of time that seems balanced and healthy. Too much play might be as stressful and limiting as too little, especially if it puts stress and strain on your home life or your career. You will know what's right for you. Just make sure to enjoy every little bit of it and to be aware of how it feels in your body. That's the key to inspiration.
After taking the summer off to honeymoon with my brilliant and beautiful bride, Maria Shamas, and to work on our new collaborative venture, AUM Tantra, I am back to posting each week to this blog page. My last post featured our wedding vows, which I feel was a great place to leave off for the summer. I am as proud of those vows as I am of anything I've ever been involved in creating!
In the interim, much has happened. One of the most exciting developments is that the world is starting to really discover Repose (pictured here).
Anyone who knows me or who has read my work knows how passionate I am about Repose. As far as I'm concerned, lying in Repose is one of the best ways to spend seven minutes. That tiny investment of time will pay huge dividends in terms of your overall health, stress management, productivity, mood, social interactions, and most intriguingly, creativity.
In August, I introduced Repose to a very influential and receptive audience at the 33rd annual World Congress on Illumination. Then this past week, Repose was featured in two online articles: one on creativity in the workplace and the other on the best times to meditate. This This coming Saturday, September 21, I will be speaking about "The Art of Creative Inspiration" on the TEDxTucson stage. This presentation will focus on the role of Repose and play in the creative process.
Repose is simply a tool, like any other. It only means anything if it benefits you. If you go off somewhere quiet right now, and lie in Repose for seven minutes, you are going to find out first-hand what makes Repose so compelling. You don't have to think about anything at all--or stop yourself from thinking. In Repose, your body leads your mind into the kind of receptivity that is so lacking in most people's lives right now. And that is so needed. If you devote seven minutes every day to Repose for the next month, I promise that the results will astound you. Without exerting any effort, you will come into your power in terms of clarity, well-being, and inspiration. But please don't take my word for it. Find out for yourself. IT'S REPOSE TIME!
This past Saturday, May 25, 2019, Maria and I exchanged vows in a wedding ceremony that allowed us to express and deepen the powerful connection that has brought us together. Many of our family members who were in attendance asked that we share our vows. Here they are:
Maria: This is the greatest love story we could ever have imagined. At last, we have found each other.
Victor: And in our union, we have found a path of holiness that we can walk hand in hand for the rest of our lives.
M: What a blessing it is for the two of us to come together as one. Every day we will celebrate this precious gift that the universe has bestowed on us.
V: Let us aspire to live each day together as if it were our last, savoring every precious moment.
M: In the sanctuary of my heart, our love has flowered a new life. And your heart is my home.
V: From this point forward, you and I are one. Who you are, I am. What you feel, I feel.
M: I Maria take you Victor
V: I Victor take you Maria
M: As lover and Beloved
V: As divine playmate and soulmate
M: As my high priest.
V: As my high priestess.
M: To love and honor.
V: To delight in and adore,
M: With total passion and devotion.
V: With utter joy and gratitude.
M: I promise to live in truth with you, to communicate fully and fearlessly.
V: I promise to be fierce in protecting our love and our union.
M: I promise to dream with you, celebrate with you, and walk beside you through whatever life brings
V: I promise to be impeccable in my devotion to our love and in my faithfulness to you, Beloved
M: I pledge to always keep my heart open to you.
V: I pledge to always seek out and find you.
M: I take you to be my husband, here and everywhere.
V: I take you to be my wife, now and always.
M: And so it is.
V: And so it shall be.
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.