Since the start of 2020, I have been returning to my roots. Having been born in Havana, my heart has always been drawn to Cuba and the Cuban spirit. I gravitate instantly to wonderfully loving and joyful Cubans like my beloved friend, spiritual brother, and high priest of Cubanismo, Jorge Porrata. In January, Jorge helped me conduct a survey of fellow Cubans on the nature of the Cuban spirit.
I discovered what it is that I find so compelling about my birthplace, its people and culture. The two factors that Cubans most commonly associated with the Cuban spirit are: 1) a deep connection with nature; and 2) the desire and ability to rejoice in life. Let's look a little more closely at each of these.
For many of the Cubans I have met and admired, nature isn't something apart from themselves. It lives in them, and in their bodies. They know how to feel and savor the rhythms of life; their connection to the elements; the natural beauty that surrounds them; sights and sounds; tastes and scents; plants and animals; forests, oceans, and rivers; sensuality and sexuality; romance and passion; friends, lovers and family.
Very closely linked to that is the capacity to rejoice wholeheartedly in life, including all of its cycles and phases--its ups and downs. The word gozar is an important part of the Cuban vocabulary. It comes from the Latin gaudium meaning "joy" or "delight." This is not mere enjoyment. If I ask you, "Did you enjoy that movie you saw the other day?" and you say, "Yeah, it was pretty good," that is not the kind of enjoyment that Cubans are describing. They mean rejoicing fully, which is enjoyment to the nth degree.
For me, these two factors are inseparable. I express my Cuban spirit when I REJOICE IN MY CONNECTION WITH NATURE! And I have come to realize that this is what my life has been about, including my passion for sacred music that led me to start Global Chant and write The Chanter's Guide; my powerful connection with play, which I described in The Way of Play and which led to the establishment of PlayHaven; the profound love I feel for the practice of Repose, which opens me up to nature on a consistent basis; my 30-year obsession with creative inspiration, as described in Deep Creativity and my TEDx talk, "The Art of Creative Inspiration"; and most importantly of all, my passionate love and adoration for my wife Maria, who inspires my Cuban spirit to sing, dance, and celebrate the blessings of this life on a daily basis!
At a time when chaos and despair are all around us, I see an obvious path to a brighter future. Humanity has to get back in touch with nature. More than at any other time in the history of our species, we humans have become disconnected from our own bodies; from human touch; from family and community; from sensuality; from the joys of tending a garden or walking in the wilderness; from the cycles of the sun, moon, and stars; from clean air and water; from pure, unprocessed foods; and from a sense of our place in the universe.
As we reconnect with nature more fully and take our cues from those who know how to rejoice wholeheartedly in that connection, we can begin to let nature show us how to heal ourselves and our world, how to become better stewards of this beautiful Earth, and how to integrate ourselves back into the web of life so that we can feed and nurture the incredible biodiversity of this planet.
I am about to unveil an exciting new project that I believe has the power to initiate the evolutionary shift that the current times demand of us. We have no choice now but to step up and assume our role as important members of the global ecosystem. Please stay tuned for a big announcement in the days ahead. Here and Now, Baby!
In 2020, chaos seems to be prevailing. Can you feel it? I certainly can. Things seem to be spinning out of control. Humanity appears to be driving itself off a cliff. Meanwhile, those in power are putting their foot on the gas as they steer us towards impending disaster.
Today, approximately 25,000 people will starve to death. Some 200 species of plants and animals will go extinct. Over 100 acres of land will turn into desert. And at least 20 square miles of ocean will become dead zones devoid of oxygen.
Meanwhile, here are just a few of the topics that journalists are covering today: Valentine’s Day gifts, how to choose a video surveillance system for your home, gifts for new parents, the age gap in celebrity couples, and unique texts to send your BFF.
Those in power, including corporate, government, and religious “leaders,” want you to turn a blind eye and go about you daily life as if nothing was wrong. It’s just business as usual. Is it any wonder you may feel stressed, frustrated, or helpless. You might be asking yourself, as I have: Is there hope for the future? Can we get ourselves out of this mess before it’s too late?
\After searching my whole life for answers, I say: YES! And I say it wholeheartedly, definitively, and without the least bit of hesitation. I am not blind to what is happening here. Before switching over to psychology, I taught environmental chemistry at the college level. I have been monitoring this ecological catastrophe for over 40 years. Part of the reason I became a psychologist is that it became apparent to me that the crisis we face requires political will, leadership, shared vision, and inspiration. Humanity already possesses the technical know-how to steer away from this mess. The problem is 100% psychological.
I believe in my heart of hearts that we can right this ship. Humanity can thrive for the next 1000 years or more under the right conditions. And what are those conditions? How do we change to a more productive course? The answer is simple, and it is right in front of our eyes.
Nature is the answer. It is time for us to align ourselves fully with nature. We are an integral part of an ecosystem. Climate change has taught us one profound and unassailable truth about that ecosystem: IT ENCOMPASSES THE WHOLE EARTH. The decisions each of us makes and the actions we carry out affect everyone in the ecosystem, including other people and other species.
So, what can you do, right now at this critical juncture in human history? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
This is just the beginning of a global movement that has the potential to bring us all together in ways that transcend our differences so that we can all co-exist and even thrive. Nature is the one link we all share, and it’s time to treat that connection with the utmost reverence and care. Whatever problems or concerns you face in your life, I assure you of one thing: NATURE IS THE ANSWER. Don’t believe me? Share some of your greatest personal challenges with me, and I will suggest a few practical, nature-based strategies that you can begin to implement today. Give it a try! What do you have to lose?
Dear Ms. Thunberg,
You are in a unique position to make a difference in protecting the planet, and I am here to serve this cause and to support you in your efforts however I can. In that spirit, I offer the following proposal and ask only that you read and consider it with care:
You can take the lead in forming an Earth Council representing people from every part of the world. Each member of the council takes a Pledge of Service to the Earth (POSTTE). The function of the council is to pass resolutions consisting of specific strategies to save the Earth’s ecosystems from permanent damage and protect the natural beauty and abundance of this planet for future generations.
A big reason why humanity cannot get out of the mess that we have created for ourselves is that we cannot see our way out. We need people of vision and high ideals to lead us into a peaceful, sustainable and balanced future. This is not an easy task and will take an extraordinary combination of imagination and practicality. Even those in power are enslaved to the current system, which is broken, outdated, and destructive. True leadership does not yet exist on a global level, but such leaders must arise in order to ascertain that life on Earth will continue to thrive. I believe in my heart that you are one of those leaders, and that you have the ability to attract other like-minded individuals to you.
The Earth Council will make decisions about major issues regarding the use, allocation and replenishment of the Earth’s resources. It will be advised by teams or subcommittees that will work on specific issues, such as: cleanup, culture, distribution, economics, education, food production, health and welfare, justice, manufacturing, re-introduction of endangered species, restoring habitats, spirituality (focusing on ethics and ideals), transportation, and waste management.
The size and makeup of the Earth Council can be whatever you think is right. This is your council, which you can lead as you see fit, according to your principles and ideals. Millions of people trust your integrity and dedication. I am one of them.
Here is what I ask for myself. I have devoted my life to these issues and would like to be involved in the process in the following ways:
1. It would be my great honor to help you create the POSTTE. If you assemble a team to carry out this task, I would love to serve on that team. This is key to the Earth Council's success because the POSTTE will be much more than words. It is a full-fledged lifelong commitment to being of service to the Earth, including ecosystems, human civilization, and all life forms. Each person who takes the POSTTE is obligated by a sense of honor to embody and live in accordance with the ideals it expresses.
2. I would like to take the POSTTE myself and serve the Earth Council in some way, along with my wife Maria. We are fully in support of what you’re doing and will prove to be loyal and selfless allies in this cause, even if it’s just on an advisory basis. If there are teams assigned to address issues of Health and Welfare or Spirituality, we have both devoted our lives to these matters and can help the Earth Council generate effective strategies that can be implemented in a realistic manner.
The existing machinery of power in the world is coming off the rails at this moment. You and I can see this happening all around us. While it is important to speed up the collapse of this system, it is also urgently critical to start establishing reasonable, humane, and inclusive forms of global leadership to replace it. I know that the Earth Council I am describing can fill that void. What I am offering here is simply a proposal—a start to a discussion that I would be honored and thrilled to have with you and other like-minded people. Please know that I am at your service.
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!
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.