Category : Personal Development

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Zen and the art of mojo maintenance

imageThe zone, as it’s called. The warm satisfaction of finding the right key and making it hum. We know it immediately, an alignment of will, intent and purpose that resonates as if a string were plucked on a musical instrument.

Unfortunately this can be a fleeting experience, so how can we foster and maintain this highly creative state?

Zen Buddhism has practical applications which can help us here. It recognises the inherent paradox in ‘trying not to try’ and creates a space between the doer and the action that enables a mindfulness of context to balance a singular focus. Kyudo is one of these.

Essentially what happens is a merging or coalescence of the archer, the bow and arrow with the target in a conscious sense. This requires the mind to be empty of all other thought and may only exist for a split second but it is then that the arrow is released.

Surfers know this feeling well when they choose the moment to ride a wave, in fact most action sports require this fusion to achieve a goal and there is an electric tension in the air when teamwork takes over and similar to a flock of birds in flight, group movements can be performed that would not be possible by an individual. A certain type of energy seems to take over.

imageEven Zen gardens cultivate a meditative space by the simplicity of contextual juxtaposition such as bonsai, rocks and water. Zen painting also illustrates by what it doesn’t show, literally forcing us to ‘read between the lines’. The meaning is transmitted through the space created by the form.

We have a tendency to ‘get in our own way’ with our overuse of the conscious mind. The old adage of ‘sleeping on it’ recognises this, allowing the subsconcious and superconscious minds to balance the equation. Meditation also depends on emptying the mind of conscious thought to reach a state of equanimity and identification with the inner instead of the outer.

The synergy of mind, body and action are also at the heart of Tai Chi, the health benefits being well documented and widely understood. It is as though we are musical instruments that thrive on producing harmonic energy.

Each one of us are able to find our own ‘sweet spot’ by doing that which we love. imageThe degree of benefit increases the more one merges into that space.

Extreme Sports participants could well agree with the Master in the Kung Fu television series:

‘Grasshopper, for he who has no fear, there is no place for the arrow to enter’. 

Now that’s getting your mojo back.

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The Cyclops Consensus

cyc2 Alexander Pope wrote that ‘a little learning is a dangerous thing’ and ‘fools rush in where angels fear to tread’. Was he extolling the virtue of caution or perhaps he wanted us to realise the importance of getting all the facts before coming to a conclusion?

Either way, he was addressing our tendency to assimilate information without integrity confirmation or ‘taking things on face value’. This grey area in our perception has been manipulated by power brokers since even before the Nicene Creed in the fourth century, perhaps one of the most infamous examples of censorship and adulteration, whereby the years of Christ’s life between the ages of 12 and 30 were swept under the mat and the ‘Gone Fishing’ sign was put up. What you don’t know mightn’t hurt you but it sure can make you subservient.

The ability of media moguls to shape popular opinion is largely due to this selective myopia that is applied to controversial issues. ‘If we want your opinion, we’ll give it to you’.

Of course, collective consensus is the comfort zone of the bourgeois and who would question that the Earth is flat and the centre of the Universe? Apart from the usual suspects like Copernicus and Galileo, most of us would not want to rock the boat, content to belong to the conformity inherent in mutual security.

The Bay of Pigs incident in Cuba was possibly as close as we came to MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) as we hopefully ever will. The collapse of the Berlin Wall was highly symbolic of the chink in the armour of power perpetrated pedagogy, the overthrow of government in Egypt a testimony to freedom of information courtesy of the Internet and whistle-blowers being offered asylum are all signs that ‘having the wool pulled over our eyes’ is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain by those with vested interests.

‘It is not enough for journalists to see themselves as mere messengers without understanding the hidden agendas of the message and the myths that surround it’ to quote twitter.com/johnpilger.

cyc3With more freelance writers now than ever before, the cloak of massaged messages is being cast aside. With restoration of 20/20 vision we are regaining our ‘sangfroid’ in the face of distorted truth.

Contextual misrepresentation, scandal and trial by media will come undone as more and more of us begin to realise, as did the taxi-driver helping a lady up 6 flights of stairs carrying her luggage only to be paid the exact fare, that it may be correct but it sure isn’t right.

There’s more to it than meets the eye.

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If only, then…

luck2Wishful thinking. Dream, oasis or mirage? However we might like to describe it, we all do it at some time or another. Like stumbling out of a cinema matinee into the stark light of day, it’s a sobering recognition that hits us when we realise that our little bout of escapism is over, for now.

The success of the gambling industry is testimony to our susceptibility to this emotion of desire. The ‘wouldn’t it be nice?’ lure works well for lotteries where every entrant imagines themselves as the winner, the silent lamenting at the loss of hope when the draw is announced being ‘the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper’ (T.S.Eliot). Not that we shouldn’t harbour dreams, hopes or aspirations. Our ability to shape our future by purposeful intention is one of our most powerful attributes and must be nurtured and protected from sabotage, both within and without.

‘The strength to endure that which cannot be changed, the courage to change that which can and the wisdom to know the difference’ (Desiderata) is a maxim that can be applied here. Faith does not need to be blind faith, hope is too valuable to end up being smashed upon the rocks and charity can only be extended when we have something to give.

Putting our hopes and dreams at the whim of external forces whose prime motive is profit is not a good bet and leaches our capacity to take responsibility for our own actions. Perhaps instead of ‘better luck next time’ it should be ‘better not next time’.

luck3The trillions of dollars in gambling revenue represent the collective aspirations of people who wish to hit the jackpot by being ‘lucky’. It was actually Casanova who invented the lottery in 1757 and successfully manufactured his own ‘luck’. He was also ‘lucky’ in love as has been well documented.

If fortune favours the bold, then we need to take a leaf out of Casanova’s book. He also suffered the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous Fortune’ but managed to pick himself up every time and look for new opportunities, making the most of what presented itself and putting himself in the picture. Richard Branson took more than a leaf, he’s rewritten the book.

The following short video helps us to understand the part that ‘luck’ played in his success.

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Where’s Daddy?

dad2Disenfranchisement is a common malaise amongst humanity, young folk in particular will display their orphanage from guidance in seeking a new identity to re-establish a belonging to tribe, one which holds the seed essence of their inner pain.

Throughout history, the baton of heritage has been passed on to our children, traditionally through family structures where the father laid down the law, for better or for worse.

The days of sons following their father’s footsteps in the hand-me-down tradition are well and truly over but something has been lost along the way. Traditional nuclear families have also been overtaken by blended and in many cases, dysfunctional families, in that the balance of gender roles has been altered and a standard blueprint no longer applies.

In tribal cultures the process of initiation of young males into manhood was of the greatest significance both symbolically and practically, giving the new apprentice purpose and meaning in a cultural sense and providing an identification that served both the tribe and the individual.

Admittedly history has not been immune from sons losing their fathers to wars, sickness or misadventure but usually there would have been a support network of uncles and tribal elders to uphold the scaffolding structure and substitute for the missing paternal influence.

Sadly in our western cultures this is largely no longer the case. The success of purveyors of discontent in fomenting disillusioned young men into radicalised movements such as jihad is testimony to the need for a process of socialisation which restores the sense of meaning and purpose to young people, especially males.

For a man to be a good father, the best guarantee is that he had a good one himself. Unfortunately this has become a luxury rather than a necessity and as a result we see more women filling the gaps left behind in a trail of domestic wreckage or moral delinquency. As much as this is a safety net, it is not the same as the rite of passage provided by paternal or avuncular influence.

The rise of female emancipation after a history of suppression has been accompanied by a slide in male domination, at least in a domestic sense, the power groups dominating religion and dad3corporate culture still being an ‘old boys club’.

With so much commercial attention being paid to the ‘individual’, the whole that is comprised of ‘individuals’ has been largely side-stepped. There are now more holes in that ‘whole’ than a Swiss cheese.

Maybe that’s why we can smell a rat, rather than a mouse that roared.

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Daunted but not Deterred

imageNatural enemies. Nature is full of them. The ecosystem would break down without the recycling and cleansing abilities of natural predators.

When we get sick we look for an antidote if our body’s immune system cannot produce enough antibodies, it’s own natural predators, to combat the illness.

So, too, there are times when we stumble on the personal development path and lapse into old ways and patterns of thinking. How do we remedy this setback?

Motivational quotes and stirring speeches have their place to inspire us but sometimes a more physical aspect is required to be incorporated into an antidote for lethargy.

Whether it’s walking, playing sport or yoga, by getting our physical energy circulating again, our thoughts will also become unstuck.

By letting go of our ‘stasis’ or static state, we allow the answers to come to us rather than chasing our own tail trying to find them.

Essentially we tend to spend too much time identifying with the problem rather than the solution.

Napoleon once said ‘I focus on the goal and the obstacles fall away before me’. Sounds easier said than done but greatness is not for the faint-hearted.

The path of personal growth is never-ending and by it’s very nature there will be times of pressing conflict within us as we battle our own inner demons and limitations.

Although we may lose battles along the way, the ultimate goal of winning the war must be kept in sight.

So when we do suffer a setback or defeat, we need to take a break and re-assess what is required to get back on track.

Quite often this will require doing the opposite of what we think we need to do in order to break the deadlock of negativity in our minds.

Call it a ‘circuit-breaker’ or ‘thinking outside the square’ to release the grip of the ‘Catch 22′ embrace which tells us we’re ‘damned if we do, damned if we don’t’.

Sometimes for us to stay sane, we need to go a little crazy. Our rational minds will reason us into a corner if our fuzzy, irrational intuition is overridden.

So if the moment beckons us to switch off or do something else, it may be for a good reason.

imageThe tortoise won because of slow and steady progress as opposed to the hare who burnt himself out by trying to achieve too much, too soon.

Better to arrive a bit late than ‘dead’ on time.

If you don’t give yourself a break, nobody else will.

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Skeletons in the Closet

imageWe’ve all got ’em. You name it, our dark side or shadow, our clandestine ‘other’.

The stock market may run on fear and greed as motivators but the biggest corporations of all, religions, have a field day with all seven deadly sins, neatly bundled together under one big banner.

Mea Culpa, Original Sin…all just other words for that worst of emotions…’Guilt’!.

Frogmarched into repentance by our inability to process this emotion, we become easy victims to be press-ganged into subservience of whichever Overlord happens to be in the seat of power, from Islam to Christianity.

Only something as all-consuming as Guilt can beguile us into the perfect mousetrap of confidence trickery purveyed by those bastions of exploitation which deign to presume their authority.

Commercial advertising with all its subliminal seduction and sycophantic succour is but a baby lamb or innocent child compared to the monopoly of soul domination by religions.

Here’s the kicker.. we make the first down payment on redemption when we label ourselves as a ‘sinner’.

Why do we so easily commit this form of ‘Hari Kari’?

Judas hanging himself for betraying Christ is understandable but why should we be paying the same price two thousand years later for a crime we didn’t commit?

It is when we lose faith in ourselves that we become part of the ‘flock’ that requires the Good Shepherd to lead us to the faith in something ‘other’ than ourselves.

What was that ‘mustard seed of faith’ referring to?

Out there or in here?

Who am I? Dare I eat a peach (let alone an apple!)?

‘This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper’ to quote T.S. Eliot.

A quiet suffocation won’t disturb the neighbours, after all, community service can take many forms, Hitler was just too heavy-handed compared to the Church which had a mortgage on our soul and didn’t need to foreclose.

By the way, in case you didn’t notice, none of this is any accident. There are perfectly good and legitimate reasons for this unquestioning acquiescence.

We are inherently lazy. That’s why they invented work.

Our brains are the same.

It requires energy to think outside the square and not follow the herd.

It’s a lot easier to subscribe to someone else’s lie than it is to discover imageour own Truth.

So we become ‘fair game’ for any con out there.

There used to be a TV show called ‘Pick a Box’.

Another one was called ‘You Asked For It!’

Ring a bell?

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A Penny for your Thoughts

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This blogroll seems to be coming of age in that, all of a sudden, a big wave of new engagers has arrived and they have left very positive comments.

As a result, it seems only fair that the gate should be opened for more interaction from all you good folk out there.

Please feel free to bring forward topics for discussion or questions you may have so a relevant blogpost can allow others to contribute with their comments also.

This is exciting, we should all be able to help each other here. The thread is personal development so keeping relevance is important.

Any suggestions or questions can be left in the comments section below this post.

A blog has fulfilled its mission if it results in an open forum which then belongs to the readers and participants.

If at least one person derives benefit in a way that improves their lives then this whole exercise will have been worthwhile.

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Listing badly, taking on water

alkoWe’ve all been there at some time or another. Whether it’s running off the rails, losing a job or even worse, a loved one, there are times in our lives when we feel dragged down by events seemingly beyond our own control. True friendship reveals itself when someone cares enough to provide support either emotionally, physically or financially.

Very often the people that care the most have been in similar circumstances themselves at some stage in their lives and realise the value of connecting those in need with those who can help. In the case of alcoholics, for example, sharing experiences and solutions with others who have struggled with the same affliction can establish a lifeline to extract them from the quagmire. There will always be recidivists and re-offenders but saving even a minority is better than none at all.

The key point here is the quality of the connection we establish and maintain with those whom we are trying to reach. This has a universal application, whether as a volunteer, charity worker or a marketer in the commercial world. Perhaps the adage “you can never say the wrong thing to the right person and you can never say the right thing to the wrong person” has some cogency here. The services that we offer may not have all the solutions, so we need to focus on those who are responding to us in a favorable manner. This is a first line of qualification.

The second line of qualification is a commitment to connect and transact according to mutually agreed objectives. A customer needs to understand what they are receiving in exchange for their contribution and to what they are binding themselves. Breaches of contract need to be clearly understood by both parties.

The third and final qualification is the establishment of ‘progress markers’ or milestones in the relationship. Incentives, rewards and loyalty programs have their place here, they provide a glue or scaffold to measure and monitor performance of both parties. These will form the basis of future testimonials from those who have received benefit from the program.

The focus here is on winners. There will always be losses involved but in the same way gold mining companies excavate tons of earth to extract a few grams of gold, the overburden is the ‘cost of doing business’. 

None of us can save the world on our own but helping someone effectively can enable them to help others in a way that we can’t. Kindness has no linguistic barriers and is universally understood.

listOur port-of-call may not have all the facilities to repair the damaged ship but can certainly offer shelter from the storm.

Who knows, one day we may need it ourselves. 

What goes around, comes around.

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Farewell to Welfare

imageAs governments around the world tighten fiscal belts and juggle shrinking balance sheets, the latest catch-cry is that the so-called ‘Age of Entitlement’ is over.

Both the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions required human labour to fuel them. The current Information Revolution was also initially as dependent on this resource. The nature of the beast, however, is to replace human effort with technology.

Coupled with the increased longevity of a burgeoning retirement class (thanks partly to technology in medicine), the net effect is that the only jobs that can be sustained are those where the incumbent can deliver a better profit ratio than his technological counterpart.

Although the feudal yolk of vassal/serf is relegated to machines, the human consequence is a redefinition of ‘personal value’. The bleak prospects of long-term unemployment and the concomitant depression and failing health issues exact a high price for this transformation.

Economic priorities and vested interests ensure that provisions for this collateral damage are kept to a minimum. The fight over Obamacare brought an administration to it’s knees, all over a basic safety net for the 40 million plus living below the poverty line in America.

So the writing is on the wall, relative security will soon become a term for how well-off your relatives are! Futuristic scenarios as depicted in ‘Escape from New York’ may be not all that far from the truth, however it does predispose a poetic license towards a fiction that presumes a collapse of civilisation as we know it.

The key to survival is to stay at the cutting-edge where our human contribution exceeds that of a machine in delivering a product or service. This is an art form instead of a mechanical response, without union officials or workplace agreements. Yes, we need to put our thinking caps on and be creative, but ‘singing for one’s supper’ has taken on a new prerogative that cannot be denied.

We thus become better at re-inventing ourselves, embarking on a journey of self-discovery which through expression serves as a remedy for suppression, repression and the dreaded ‘Black Dog’ of depression.

imageIf every cloud has a silver lining, this change in the weather could bring some welcome ‘loose change’ from those gathering storm clouds. We were meant to be dynamic and creative instead of being shackled to a ‘job for life’ where initiative could result as easily in demotion rather than promotion in an organisation, invariably owned by someone else.

‘Farewell’ means ‘Goodbye’ but it also means ‘Fare Thee Well’. May your endeavours to be independent fare well and may you prosper.

 

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The Pie Factor

imageThe great Aussie meat pie has been an icon alongside kangaroos, boomerangs and Bondi lifeguards. To find the perfect one can be quite an odyssey, however. As with all good things in life, quality matters.

The best pies come from small, family-run bakeries that produce them hot from the oven. They will still vary greatly between shops but it is possible to find that perfect pie.

Now that’s great if you come across them when you’re feeling hungry but what if you finish work after the shops have closed? Frozen, of course. OK if they’re a good product but how to get it like the bakers?

Now for some earth-shattering news! The heating instructions on the packet only tell half the story!

They will typically say place the pie in a preheated 180 degree oven for about one hour. Great. It’s cooked. But why is the crust so damned hard?

The poor old pie. Having been par-cooked then frozen, the moisture releases into the oven before it has time to re-absorb into the crust. No problem with the cooking process but the result is a hard crust.

Eh voila! There is a remedy.

Follow the cooking instructions. Then take the pie and wrap it in foil and rest at room temp for half an hour. Then put back in oven, still in foil, at 130 for 20 minutes.

This is as close as you can get, just make sure the pie is top quality.

You won’t find this secret anywhere else so guard it closely. So what does this have to do with personal development anyway? Lots.

It all comes down to blueprints. We have blueprints of how to live, work and play, instructions for a better life(?). We follow instructions everywhere, on the road, at work and even at play.

Sometimes we’re only given half the instructions. Just like the frozen meat pie, the results don’t quite turn out as expected. What do you do when your GPS no longer navigates correctly because it doesn’t have the latest update?

Improvise.

That’s it. Put the thinking cap on. Stimulate the neural pathways with glucose and oxygen to think creatively, to solve problems.

imageCreative thinking is hard work not in a mechanical sense but in a way that capitalises resources that otherwise would be consumed. It costs.

We wouldn’t be living the lives we do now with all our creature comforts and technologies were it not for our creative thinkers.