I made a decision a long time ago that has served me well. If given the choice, I would rather be happy than right. To me, this is basic pragmatism. It does not mean that I ignore facts. It's just that everything in our lives is subject to interpretation. Given that we can see things from any perspective we want, it makes sense to look at them in the best possible light. Every morning, I say The Pledge, which includes the following statement:
Everything that comes my way is a gift and an opportunity. To think otherwise would be the height of arrogance and ingratitude. It's like declaring to the universe: "I know better." The problem is one of expectations. If I expect things to turn out a certain way and they don't, then I am setting myself up for disappointment.
The flip side is to always expect the worst. Psychologists use the term depressive realism to describe the finding that depressed people who expect the worst also tend to be right. Of course, part of that could be self-fulfilling prophecy: If you expect the worst, you often get it--especially when the outcome is determined to a certain extent by your own efforts. Expect to fail and you probably will.
Success is trickier because it is harder to define or anticipate. I have had many times in my life when something wonderful and unexpected happened. Such outcomes far exceeded anything I could have expected or imagined. Case in point: The night I met and fell in love with Maria. I never saw it coming, and I certainly wasn't looking for it.
In a results-oriented society, we are pushed to set goals and envision our future successes. To a large degree, I buy into this philosophy. I know that there are a number of things I can accomplish more successfully if first I can conceive and imagine them. And yet, there has to be room for magic--for the kinds of outcomes that defy expectations and stagger the imagination.
I just experienced a bit of that magic while visiting my father, who is dying at age 91 of a series of complications, including congestive heart failure. I went to see him without expectations of any kind. And here is what I found:
The one thing we can all expect is that my father will die in the days or weeks to come. That moment, when it does arrive, will come with great sadness but also a tinge of relief. None of us wants to see a good man's life come to an end. Yet we also know that his decline has brought a certain level of indignity to a dignified man, who is now relegated to having his diapers changed several times a day and being spoon-fed his meals in bed. And we have watched my mother work herself to total exhaustion trying to attend to his ever-growing care needs.
I don't know how I will react to the death of my father, because I have never been through this experience before. And also, because I don't want to have expectations. I prefer to stay open to whatever gifts this major life event will bring my way. Maybe, just maybe, a little unexpected magic will occur.
Very special chant, dedicated to my father David. This one is based on the Jewish prayer of sanctification, the Kaddish. The words are:
Blessed is the Glory of God
In Heaven and on Earth (2x)
Baruch Kevod Adonai Mimkomo (4x)
Much has happened in the past week. The Creative Revolution that I have been discussing is gaining momentum! My presentation to the Austin Texas Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) group has been met with overwhelmingly positive response. In fact, it has gained as much "buzz" in as short a time frame as anything I have ever done.
Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Bob Price, the director of the Institute for Neuroscience and Consciousness Research (INACS) , the video of that presentation is now available online. You can watch it in its entirety here:
In the weeks to come, I will be featuring specific excerpts from this video. The entire talk is 65 minutes in length, and it starts with a discussion of an experience that I am calling "the greatest feeling in the world."
While I was in Austin, I had the good fortune to be interviewed by Chuck Robison, the co-founder of What If It Really Works? Over the past decade, Chuck and his amazing wife Karen have videotaped interviews with some the most well-respected authors and thinkers in the fields of consciousness, spirituality, and new science. I was very honored to have this very lively and thought-provoking recorded conversation with Chuck:
On the same day that both of these videos were uploaded, I also discovered that Deep Creativity has been named one of the 13 "most passionate books to read about love" by a British website called Fupping that reviews books from a wide range of genres. The reviewer wrote:
"Deep Creativity draws a link between creativity and love. The last chapter is devoted almost entirely to an the topic of unconditional love. In fact, the book ends with an unconditional love invocation that my fiancee and I have incorporated into our lovemaking. I would say, without hesitation, that this invocation has played an important part in bringing us together. One of us will say a line from the invocation and the other will repeat it, all while making eye contact with one another. These words have been so impactful that we are seriously thinking about incorporating them into our wedding vows. The unconditional love invocation alone makes this book a worthwhile read for couples interested in nurturing unconditional love in their relationship."
Thanks to Zak Parker at Fupping for this great write-up! Last but certainly not least, theTEDxTucson "[r]evolution" conference that was postponed this past January has been rescheduled for September 21. Barring anything unexpected, I will be speaking on creative inspiration that day. I will share more updates on that event in the weeks to come.
This week, we are doing one of the most frequently requested chants in the Global Chant collection. Here are the words:
All I ask of you is forever to remember me as loving you
Ishk Allah Mahbood Lillah
This past week, I traveled to Austin Texas with one purpose in mind: to launch a creative revolution. That is why I drove 15 hours straight. I was a man on a mission!
On Thursday, February 28, I gave a presentation to IONS Austin entitled, "The Creative Revolution: Reframing Creativity as Yoga." The ideas in this talk mark a major shift in my life's work, where I am connecting the dots explicitly between my research and classical yoga. This link has always been there, as far as I'm concerned. But now I am showing how the breakthroughs I am having in my own work tie back to the writings of Patanjali, Vyasa, and other great sages in the yoga tradition.
This is not just a link to the past. I laid out a road map not just for the future of creativity but for the survival of humanity and the inevitable transition from conventional religion to forms of spirituality that speak to the human condition in this new millennium. It all stems from what I consider to be the greatest feeling in the world. The creative revolution integrates everything I've ever written about in The Chanter's Guide, The Way of Play, Repose: The Potent Pause, and--of course--Deep Creativity. Here is the culmination of all my life's work, and the connection to the next phase, in which I will be collaborating with my brilliant and beautiful bride (and yes, the love of my life!), Maria Mendola, seen here:
The creative revolution is not just an abstract concept. On Saturday, March 2, we demonstrated the power of these ideas in a retreat called The Yoga of Creative Inspiration. A group of 20 people took part in this retreat, which led them through a set of very specific and carefully-honed activities designed to open up their bodies and minds to the experience of creative inspiration.
These activities involved sound, movement, free-form expression, and simple fun ways to silence the mind. We also incorporated Repose to maximize receptivity.
The effects of this retreat were astonishing even to me. I watched each participant undergo a profound transformation over the course of the day and gain life-changing realizations, which they shared with the group in our closing circle. We definitely tapped into something powerful here. And much of what happened in Austin was documented. Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing the video of my IONS presentation and of a conversation I had with Chuck Robison, the co-founder of What If It Really Works, a site that features interviews with "pioneers of the new spiritual culture.
I want to thank Chuck and his wife Karen, who was there with us in spirit although she was not able to make it for the taping session. Also, I am grateful to Bob Price, the kind and thoughtful director of the Institute for Neuroscience and Consciousness Studies, who painstakingly shot and edited the video of my talk. Finally, I can't say enough about Joe and Lynne Lam, who carried out the herculean task of organizing everything and hosting me for five days. Joe in particular did everything humanly possible to ensure the success of my visit. I believe that we will look back at my time in Austin as a key turning point in the launch of the creative revolution that I've been discussing on this blog for the last few months. When you see the videos, you will know exactly what I mean. And to Joe Lam I just want to say: You're my ambassador of quan, man!
There is a salve that can heal the human heart and bring us closer to the freedom that most of us crave:
These themes of freedom and the end of suffering are captured in the powerful, evocative rendition of "Keep Your Eyes on the Prize" by Mavis Staples, which I'm featuring here in honor of Black History Month:
May I/you/we be filled with loving kindness,
May I/you/we be well,
May I/you/we be peaceful and at ease and happy,
May I/you/we be happy.
Suppose you were dreaming right now. Everything you would be experiencing at this moment would be a product of your imagination. Your dream body would be moving through a dreamscape, every detail of which would be generated by you. Although you may not know it, this dream would be happening entirely inside of you.
If this were a lucid dream, you would realize that you are more than just the dreamer reacting to events as they unfold in the dream. Lucidity means being aware that this is all a dream and that you are the dream-weaver who creates it. At the height of lucidity, you can control and manipulate the dream by making the leap from dreamer to dream-weaver.
This leap lets you engage in a type of alchemy by which you transform your dream body. When the one who creates the dream lives in that body, its capabilities expand infinitely. Suddenly, that body can take flight, change forms, or gain superhuman strength. The possibilities of what this body can accomplish or experience are limited only by the dream-weaver’s imagination.
Whether you know it or not, you ARE dreaming right now. Everything you know about yourself and the world around you is based on mental constructs—the products of your own mind. Psychologists and physicists are in agreement on this point. “The study of relativity theory,” writes Gary Zukav, “can produce the remarkable experience that space and time are only mental constructions.”
You may be tempted to think that waking reality is different from the kind of dreams you have when you sleep at night. In a dream, everything is subjective, whereas when you are awake, there is an objective reality upon which two or more people can agree. In actuality, there is no such thing as objective reality, according to quantum physicists. “The world is given to me only once, not one existing and one perceived,” wrote physicist Erwin Schrodinger. “Subject and object are only one.”
You and I can agree upon the existence of something—such as the words you are reading right now—because we share certain conventions. These are customary ways of perceiving and understanding the world which are based on shared assumptions that could be a function of similar genetic, social, and cultural influences. To a large extent, we are of like mind, which is why we may come to see the world in similar ways.
How like-minded are we? According to many of the world’s most influential wisdom teachings, such as those found in the 1000-year-old Recognition Sutras, there is only a singular consciousness in the universe—one light of awareness shining in each and every one of us. So, here is the bottom line: Everything you know is the dream of a single dream-weaver.
If this is all a dream, then what is it like to wake up from it? There is a reason that so many wisdom traditions speak of the experience of spiritual awakening. For instance, the term Buddha means “the awakened one.” You know that you are dreaming when you sleep at night because you can awaken to a very different reality from the one you experienced in your dream. In the same way, you must be able to awaken from the dream of waking reality to something completely different. Buddhists call this “other” reality shunyata—the realm devoid of all form.
Can you co-exist in both realities? Yes, of course! Just as there is lucid dreaming, you can also have an experience of lucid waking. This means knowing that the reality you are living in is all a dream, and that the dream-weaver lives and breathes inside of you. The experience is called “inspiration” and it is an unparalleled form of alchemy. Just as the medieval alchemists sought to transform base metals into noble ones, the alchemy of inspiration allows you to transform yourself from dreamer to dream-weaver. This transformation happens when you are able to embody fully the one light of awareness that is the source and essence of all creation.
On Thursday, February 28, I will discuss this alchemy and how it works in the following presentation:
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