PLEASE SEE THE END OF THIS POST FOR A SPECIAL OFFER!
I love my body! Do you love yours? Look. I get it. There is pain, and trauma, and illness, and injury. Looking in the mirror, it's hard not to judge, compare, or criticize. Some part of your body may seem misshapen, too big, or too small.
But here is the basic truth of Ram Dass' profound teaching. To BE HERE NOW means to BE IN THE BODY. How could it not? You and I are embodied consciousness. And that consciousness is not just in your head. It imbues every bit of your body, from head to toe, from molecule to organism.
Three years ago, I was involved in the co-creation of the following video, which is a meditation on the fundamental truth that the one light of awareness called the Creative Spirit is embedded infinitely upon itself throughout the universe. Everywhere you turn, you will find the Creative Spirit--starting with your own body. That is why the soundtrack of the video repeatedly states that "there are no boondocks." Nothing is devoid of the Creative Spirit. Absolutely nothing.
Try this simple meditation: Take in the video without trying to judge or analyze its message.
When you arrive at the realization that physical is spiritual, that changes everything. This body that I occupy is not MY body. I had nothing to do with creating it and play hardly any role in regulating the myriad events that take place in that body every second, from the firing of neurons to the formation of new cells. Neuroscientists say that my conscious mind is an epiphenomenon, meaning that it's more of a passenger than a driver.
This body belongs to the entire universe. It is layer upon layer of lila, the divine play of the Creative Spirit. In moments of inspiration, I embody the Creative Spirit at play so fully that there is nothing else to be. As I said yesterday, Victor ceases to exist. I am utterly lost in the moment, in this bodily experience of the here and now.
Somehow, spirituality has become disembodied for many of us. The body is often seen as a source of guilt and shame. I heard a Hindu swami refer to it as a "sack of stools." And make no mistake about it: this kind of dismissal of the body has had an influence on all of us. Even though we are living in a supposedly materialistic society, many of us are disconnected and dissociated from the bodies that we inhabit. Comedian John Mullaney captures this state of affairs perfectly: "I don't know what my body is for, other than taking my head from room to room." It is time to find out what the body is really there for, so that we can experience the joys of living in a body to the fullest extent possible. For me, that is the true meaning of BE HERE NOW.
Yesterday, I posted an image of a glass dildo that you might have found inflammatory. My intention was not to shock. I see this type of sex toy in the same light that I see the temple bell Maria and I were given as a wedding gift. Both can be extraordinary tools for inducing the bodily experience of inspiration. Every morning, I ring that bell before stating the following invocation, which you might want to try for yourself:
I LOVE BEING ALIVE!
I AM BEAUTIFUL. AND GRACEFUL.
AND VITAL. AND PERFECT.
I AM FREE TO LIVE IN THIS MOMENT.
HERE AND NOW, BABY!
In 2020, my year of BE HERE NOW, I am happy to offer a brief daily meditation on this theme, exploring the different tools and techniques I have found for inducing and enhancing the bodily experience of inspiration. But I need to know that you are genuinely interested in this topic. Rather than posting to this blog, I will send out a short daily email that includes something you can try for yourself. There is no cost to sign up for this email. I will only send it out when at least 50 people have signed up.
HERE IS MY SPECIAL OFFER: Sign up for my FREE email list by clicking on the image below or sending an email to: email@example.com. Just write the words "BE HERE NOW" somewhere in the body or title of your email. Then you will receive a daily meditation from me in your inbox once enough people have signed up. I promise to keep it short and sweet!
“Here we are—here and now. That’s all there is.”
Happy 2020! On New Year’s Day, I decided to dedicate this year to one of the most profound spiritual teachings I have ever encountered: BE HERE NOW. These three simple words have had a lasting impact on my life, as they have had on countless others. It seems only fitting to honor the life of Ram Dass, who taught us their significance, by delving into the present moment as fully and deeply as I can and writing about my experiences here. My intention is to offer daily meditations on this theme.
But what does it mean to be here now? How does it feel? And what does it take not just to have the experience but to live sustainably in it? Such questions have been the focal point of both my spiritual practice and my life’s work as a psychologist. I call the experience of being fully present in the present “inspiration” and have devoted over three decades to exploring the nature of this experience, as described in my recent TEDx talk:
Inspiration lies at the heart of virtually every major creative breakthrough in human history. That’s a pretty big deal! Some have tried to downplay the importance of inspiration in the creative process. Thomas Edison said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” While there’s no denying all the hard work that goes into creativity, inspiration happens to be the tail that wags the dog. If you take it out of Edison’s equation, all you’re left with is...well…a whole lot of sweat.
For me, inspiration matters regardless of the outcome. This is the ultimate experience of the here and now. As psychologist Abraham Maslow observed, when you are inspired, you are “totally immersed, fascinated and absorbed in the present.” A radical shift happens—one that has been reported by creative people in every age and in all parts of the world. You become so utterly lost in the moment that you are, in Maslow’s words, “timeless, selfless, outside of space, of society, of history.”
Here is one of the great paradoxes of spiritual life: To be here now, in the fullest sense imaginable, is to disappear into the present moment. Ram Dass said, “The game is not about becoming somebody; it’s about becoming nobody.” I have found this out for myself, over and over, through direct experience. In moments of inspiration, there is no Victor to be found in this body. He is gone. All of his history—the total sum of his thoughts, words, and actions—ceases to exist or even matter.
So, what is left? When I vanish in this way, the only thing remaining in my body is: the Creator of the Freaking Universe! Call it what you will. I have tried all kinds of names for this ultimate source and essence of creation, this genius that inhabits the body, this light of awareness that illuminates all thoughts and all things. No words are adequate to name the ineffable or describe the indescribable. Currently, I have settled on “creative spirit.” Feel free to fill in the blanks with your own wording. Honestly, I hardly care what you call it. I am far more interested in how you experience it.
For me, an undeniable transformation happens that is thrilling and instantaneous. Suddenly I become a total embodiment of the creative spirit at play. It’s like the experience of staring at a Magic Eye picture such as the one shown here. At first, you see only a seemingly jumbled color pattern. Then, in a flash, your perspective shifts to reveal the 3D image hidden in that pattern.
You can see the underlying image of a bird in flight when you stop trying to see it and just give into the experience. The change in perspective that reveals the bird to you is a combination of art and grace. Your ability to relax, surrender, and allow the 3D image to show itself takes practice, like any art. Grace comes into play when the image appears, unforced, without any effort on your part. It feels like a gift or favor that has been bestowed upon you once you are prepared to receive it.
This is my recipe for inspiration: Art and Grace. I have no issue with the use of props, tools and toys that can help draw me into the here and now, as long as I don’t become so attached to them that I end up giving these vehicles far more credit than they deserve. I have spent a lifetime developing and refining the art of inspiration. Part of my art is recognizing when an external device can help stimulate my internal process. More about that tomorrow.
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.
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.