The Evolutionary Imperative for Business by Dawna Jones

That business leaders are struggling with the implications of global, systemic, and structural change cannot be denied. After all, business has always had to deal with the sometimes chaotic processes of evolutionary change. During the Industrial Era, for example, the emphasis was on efficiency and a view that employees were just one more component of the production process.

Progressivism, otherwise known as “scientific management,” assumed that employees were incapable of making decisions and needed to be directed or managed. Employees weren’t trusted to do the right thing, nor were they empowered to contribute. Then along came Dave Packard, cofounder of Hewlett Packard, and other foresighted humanistic leaders who saw that the responsibility of a company went beyond designing an effective economic model to recognizing, as Packard put it, that “we had important responsibilities to our employees, to our customers, to our suppliers, and to the welfare of society at large.”

Although many companies weren’t as ready to trust their employees to the degree that Hewlett Packard did, some were prepared to flip the organizational chart and slowly move toward employee empowerment while still holding on to the reins. For most, though, making that leap of faith seemed riskier than sticking to what seemed to be the tried and true. However, that option is no longer viable for companies that want to survive and thrive.

Dave Packard’s intuition served him well. He saw above and beyond the limits of thinking that were prevalent at that time. In his book The Biology of Transcendence, Joseph Chilton Pearce writes, “We actually contain a built-in ability to rise above restriction, incapacity, or limitation, and as a result of this ability, possess a vital adaptive spirit that we have not yet fully accessed.” He further explains that we can intuitively sense this adaptive potential. I wonder if that desire for inspiring, engaging, fulfilling, and creative work arises naturally from deeper levels of knowing that we have unrealized potential waiting to be released.

And release it must, for we are at a pivotal point in our evolution. The accelerating degeneration of our natural systems, including climate change, diminishing biodiversity, and disruptions in our global food supply, confront us with some very complex issues to resolve. As ecological economist Herman Daly has pointed out, “The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the reverse.” A 1997 article in Nature estimated that “Through its natural resources, the earth provides $33 trillion worth of value per year to the global economy.”1 Linear styles of management are simply too archaic to effectively respond to the uncertainty and complexity we now face. As our collective consciousness rises to meet these challenges, business has yet another opportunity to apply its considerable resources toward solutions.

Paradoxically, it is nature that provides the guidance.The LAMP index, created by investment advisor and author Jay Bragdon (Profit for Life), is rigorously screened to include companies that operate with integrity (where the means align with ends), value their employees, and follow the principles of nature. These principles include interdependence, where the success of the individual depends on the success of the whole and vice versa; nonlinear networks, which feature multiple feedback loops that serve to support self-regulation; and frugality, the efficient use of energy and resources.

“Globally, fewer than 4 percent of stock exchange–listed companies operate from core values of care and compassion,” Bragdon explained to me. “Most people believe this approach to business is ‘soft.’ But when done with deep commitment and professional competence, it produces hard results. In 2009, for example, Global LAMP Index companies returned 44.56 percent, far surpassing returns on the S&P 500 (+26.46 percent) and the MSCI World Index (+28.01 percent). Over the past decade, Global LAMP Index companies returned 98.03 percent, while other benchmark companies collectively lost money.”

If such achievements confront conventional wisdom that the profit-and-loss statement is the only measure of a successful business, then we are on the right track.“Managing a company as if it were a profit-making machine imposes a linear-thinking mentality that blinds it to important relationships . . . Managing a company as if it were a living organism, which it is, creates a radically different and more beneficial set of relationships.”2

Systems thinking maps these relationships, most often as thought patterns, cycles, and feedback loops. By combining systems thinking with insights from such emerging trends as the internalization of social and environmental responsibility, open and crowd sourcing, social enterprise, increases in self-employment, and other indicators of change, a wider and more integrated map emerges that shows these interrelationships on a global scale. And in order to seize the opportunity available to work with rather than against the emerging forces of change, a higher level of consciousness is needed.

A Reckoning of Forces

Force 1: A Shift of Consciousness. Scientific analysis of the Mayan calendar tells us that we are right where we are supposed to be.The connection between the Mayan Calendar and contemporary systems thinking was presented in an award-winning paper by Slovenian professor Tadeja Jere Lazanski at the 2009 Computing Anticipatory Systems Conference. Most modern-day businesses, she explained in her paper “Ancient Maya’s Evolution of Consciousness and Contemporary Systems Thinking,” grew up during what the Mayan Calendar describes as the “seventh step” of consciousness:

“The seventh step of consciousness, from 1755 to 1999, was a consciousness of power, where there was no place for integration but analyzing, separation, creating towers of power, wars, and manipulation. This is a reason that no one would think of connection and integration, of systems thinking in its highest meaning — not one philosopher or politician.”

In other words, there was no receptivity for the kinds of connected consciousness we see appearing today. Everything was neatly sorted into black and white, with no tolerance for ambiguity or shades of gray. Duality prevailed: right-wrong, good-evil, environment-economy, green-profit. Differences of opinion were pitted against each other as opposing ideas rather than a piece of the larger picture. Power meant the ability to control or influence others rather than mastery of the self. Left brain–right brain was synonymous for practical and impractical. You took your left, linear, analytical brain to work and used your right, creative brain for family matters and hobbies. A focus on the short term was being practical; a focus on the long term was considered pointless given the expectation of volatility and uncertainty.

Those operating from this mind-set will, by force of habit, have a great deal of difficulty shifting to a more holistic, big-picture view unless they agree to boldly commit to doing so. And the pressure to do so is intensifying.

From now until the end of 2011, we are (from the Mayan perspective) in the eighth level: “a consciousness of ethics,” writes Lazanski, “where all the towers of manipulation and of negative power are collapsing. Ethics in the higher sense refers to spontaneous solutions through the application of law and power to the benefit of everyone. It shines from within and is personal, knowing the right thing to do and doing it. It is a refined consciousness. Now, the powerful people who make the laws and lead the nations and societies cannot get away with anything without being exposed; all abuses of power are becoming uncovered.” Look no further than the recent Wall Street meltdown for proof.

The ninth and next step leads “the planet to one harmonious system” of conscious cocreation. Affirming that evolutionary step is a finding published by IBM in its 2010 survey of global CEOs titled “Capitalizing on Complexity“: social networking has exponentially increased the degree of interaction customers and citizens expect of organizations. It isn’t enough just to collaborate anymore. Today, the watchword is ‘cocreate.’

Force 2: From organizations structured on Newtonian principles to those structured on quantum principles. Newtonian principles operate quite well in a simple, linear world. They rely on materialism, reductionism, and determinism — the idea that the only thing that matters is matter and that outcomes are predictable and controllable. Quantum principles, by comparison, recognize that everything is energy; everything is connected, interrelated, entangled, and uncertain. In today’s reality, where the context for day-to-day living is characterized as volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA), such an understanding is imperative to survival. Companies that remain attached to the hope that these underlying conditions will follow old rules face certain decline.

Force 3: From controlling behavior to focusing on performance and results.
We are used to thinking up and down when it comes to hierarchical organizations, but that is not how phenomenal results are produced. Nick Zeniuk, now retired from Ford, described the shift to me in this way: “The traditional managerial system is based on the concept of control, which was a reasonable concept fifty to one hundred years ago, when managers and senior managers knew enough about the business to effectively control the business.

Many of the managerial systems in our organizations are based on controlling behavior: the performance systems, the reporting systems, the reward systems, and quality control mechanisms like Six Sigma. That is no longer a valid system. The realization that we were operating under the illusion that we, as executives, could control the outcome was quite a startling discovery. What I discovered personally and what we are discovering now is that our focus needs to be redirected from control and behavior to results or performance — because when we focus on performance, we are focusing on those attributes that enable us to achieve the results we want.” In this process, trust is essential — trust in one’s own sense of inner power and trust that people will do the right thing when given a shared and worthwhile goal. Effective managers no longer control performance but support it. Higher levels of personal mastery then become a prerequisite.

Force 4: From hierarchical leadership to leadership at all levels — top-down, bottom–up, and sideways. Collective intelligence emerges from the collaboration and competition of many individuals, with the group having a higher level of knowledge than the individuals in it. Collective intelligence happens through networks of performance that cut horizontally across a company’s hierarchical structure. Social scientist Dennis Sandow and his client, Anne Murray-Allen, formerly of Hewlett Packard, mapped out networks of performance at HP to understand how, as complexity increased along with the growth of the inkjet cartridge division, that division performed at a consistently high level of achievement over time.

“What I have learned from working in organizations where we had truly phenomenal results day after day after day is that leadership does not come from position; it comes from a place of contribution. It can come from anywhere in the organization. It is based on who is in a position to see what no one else can see, to make the contribution that everyone can get behind and support. My experience from working in organizations for over thirty years is that it is in our nature to be motivated by two things. First, we all want to make a big contribution, not just a contribution but one that is significant. It drives us in terms of purpose. Second, we all want to belong. We are social and emotional beings. We know now from what have learned through neural and cognitive science that we are hardwired to be together and collaborate.”3

Sandow and Murray-Allen also discovered that the people involved in achieving a goal rarely showed up on the organizational chart. In fact, they discovered that most of the people working on a particular objective were from outside of HP and included customers, competitors, suppliers, and anyone else who needed to be a part of it.

Jay Bragdon calls this phenomenon “relationship equity.” “Relational equity is the foundation of financial equity,” he writes. “How companies relate to employees, customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders matters more than most people think. Corporate leaders who understand this build cultures that inspire systems thinking and organizational learning. Those who do it well catalyze a powerful, reinforcing cycle of profit, which turns their firms into innovation hothouses.”4 Employees might describe this as taking your whole self to work, doing work that truly matters, and contributing to a hopeful future.

Tools for Transformation

To accelerate the evolution of leadership and innovation from the old model to a new one, we need to let go of a few habits.

1. Overreliance (or addiction) to linear and analytical thinking.
Life does not operate on a runway; it operates as a network, a web of complex and interconnected systems.Linear-logical thinkers link one thought to another in an orderly sequence until a story or thread is constructed that makes logical sense. Analytical thinking takes a concept apart to its more manageable pieces. Both were effective in a simpler world when interrelationships could be ignored at minimal risk. In the workplace, linear thinking is heard whenever older generations depict the exceptionally creative Gen Y as “the entitlement generation” who need to “suck it up” and “pay their dues” on the same career runway they experienced. As creativity becomes the talent du jour, linear thinking can still offer support for implementing creative ideas. But seeing the value in different ways of thinking and processing information must come first. It starts by listening with the intention to understand rather than to be right.

2. The temptation to file and sort new ideas and incoming data so it feels like they have been handled
.This is one of the greatest temptations and pitfalls of reacting to complexity. Clarity is achieved by seeing the system, not getting lost in the details. Everything is connected to everything else. The moment you file it, you’ve lost the link to an interrelated dynamic. Fish might be managed by one government department, forestry by another, and the environment by a third. Though administratively convenient, nature ignores such political boundaries.

Further, there is a temptation to place anything outside the norm in the “woo-woo” or “New Age” file, where you’ll find alternative health, quantum physics, and holistic thinking. This habitual dismissal of new concepts unnecessarily narrows options and diminishes the capacity to see the whole picture. Developing sufficient self-awareness to know when your coping strategy is “file and sort” versus “listen and absorb“ is critical.

3. Negative thinking and limiting beliefs. Uncertainty can provoke fear.
Deepening the skill set and ability to regulate emotions reduces stress and opens possibilities. Limiting beliefs operate both consciously and unconsciously. The former are readily identifiable, the latter are not, so it takes a deepening of our inner skills to spot the telltale patterns and know what to keep and what to release. Upgrading personal mastery and expanding self-knowledge are inherent and imperative in such a process.

Systems thinking recognizes that we are a part of the system, not above it. Identifying attachments to old patterns of thought, belief, and habit about how the world works allows new innovations and our greater human potential to emerge.

Organizations as Living Systems

“Companies that model themselves on living systems typically practice what I call living-asset stewardship (LAS),” writes Bragdon in “Capitalism as a Human System.” “To them, profit is not so much a goal in itself as the means to a higher end of service. When such ends are condensed into a compelling vision — one that calls forth the life-affirming instincts and future hopes of employees — the firm becomes a profoundly inspirational workplace. The operating leverage in this is easy to understand. Employees who work with their hearts as well as their minds are more productive than those who simple ’do a job.”5

Project Shakti (meaning “strength” in Sanskrit) was started by Hindustan Lever, Unilever’s Indian division, in 2000. They turned to local women entrepreneurs to distribute products to their rural communities. By 2008, there were 45,000 women distributing $3 million worth of products to 100,000 villages. For Unilever, the rural Indian communities, and the women entrepreneurs, this is an “everyone wins” solution, creating a vast rural marketing network through the resources of the community. By trusting that the local community networks would do what would best serve the entire system, Unilever tapped into a deep well of motivation, creativity, and commitment. Unilever is also behind the establishment of the Marine Stewardship Council, now recognized as the good housekeeping seal of approval for sustainable fishing.

Such initiatives represent good examples of next-stage corporate evolution as well-intentioned businesses move toward a higher level of planetary stewardship. Perfection is not the goal; “self-actualization” is a process so mistakes will happen. To stay on track and overcome the temptation to lose focus, organizations must commit to continual learning and maintain allegiance to a higher purpose.

When control is replaced by trust and the joy of being in service to something larger than oneself, tacit knowledge emerges — the innate know-how unique to each person. The power of our human potential is unleashed and the community as a whole becomes healthier. The simplicity of complexity is that by making a leap of faith, trusting people to do the right thing, supporting development of an employee’s wholeness (self-actualization), and actively stewarding our relationship with nature, organizations will nurture the most powerful source of innovation — the human spirit.

* * * * *

Fluent with the science behind self-actualization, Dawna Jones develops leaders who can function in any environment, helping them to clear hidden barriers to achievement while restoring entrepreneurial intuition. She knows it is the power of the human spirit that drives creativity and radical innovation and contributes big-picture thinking and deep personal insights to that process. (www.FromInsightToAction.com)

About the Author
Dawna Jones

Fluent with the science behind self-actualization, Dawna Jones develops leaders who can function in any environment, helping them to clear hidden barriers to achievement while restoring entrepreneurial intuition

Executive Fireside Chat: The Power of Intuition

Increased amounts of information, complexity and the need to adapt business cultures to engage and keep talent requires being plugged into your intuition

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Chaos and Disorder: Why We Need Them by Larry Dossey, MD

Suppose someone gave you a choice – a life lived in perfect harmony and order, or an existence marked by chaos and disorder. Which would you pick? For most people, the choice is simple: Go for the harmony. Who in their right mind would choose anything else?

Harmony and order are suggested by the image of someone sitting in quiet meditation, unmoved by the chaos swirling everywhere in today’s hectic world. The benefits of such practices are numerous, including claims of lower perceived stress, anxiety and pain, and heightened immune function.1 An army of experts exists to show the way toward emotional balance and tranquility. A Google search for “happiness workshops” yields nearly three million hits. Harmony is important not just in physical health but in the interpersonal domain as well, suggests eHarmony, one of the most popular Internet dating sites in the world.2

“Coherence” is a term used to describe this idealized, harmonious state. It comes from a Latin word meaning “sticking together.” “Harmony” is derived from a Greek term meaning “joint.” Both coherence and harmony, therefore, imply that elements are stuck or joined together in a unified, smoothly functioning whole.

At the annual conference in June 2010 of the International Society for the Study of Subtle Energy and Energy Medicine (ISSSEEM) in Westminster, Colorado, I heard an inspiring address by physiologist Rollin McCraty on coherence.3 McCraty is the director of research at the Institute of HeartMath in Boulder Creek, California, where he and his colleagues have done splendid work on the virtues of coherence. The HeartMath researchers believe coherence applies to every possible domain, from the invisible, subatomic quantum level to the farthest galaxies and everything in between. As McCraty says, “Coherence implies order, structure, harmony, and alignment within and amongst systems – whether in atoms, organisms, social groups, planets, or galaxies. Thus, every whole has a relationship with and is part of a greater whole, which is part of something greater again.”4

HeartMath has developed effective programs to help people achieve harmony and better health.5 Behind harmony, they maintain, lies coherence. As McCraty puts it, “[H]armonious order signifies a coherent system whose efficient or optimal function is directly related to the ease and flow in life processes. By contrast, an erratic, discordant pattern of activity denotes an incoherent system whose function reflects stress and inefficient utilization of energy in life processes. Interestingly, we have found that positive emotions, such as appreciation and compassion, as opposed to negative emotions, such as anxiety, anger, and fear, are reflected in a heart rhythm pattern that is more coherent.”6

When Order Is Disorder

Coherence, therefore, matters – so much that many individuals now believe that regularity, order, periodicity, and coherence are always required for healthy physical and psychological function and that wherever you see health you can be sure that coherent function underlies it. To discover that this is not always the case can come as a surprise. But, in fact, evidence suggests that coherence – harmony, order, regularity, periodicity – in human function can sometimes be pathological, that chaos can be necessary for health and longevity, and that the loss of chaos is involved in aging.7

Ary L. Goldberger, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, is also director of the Rey Institute for Nonlinear Dynamics in Medicine at Boston’s Deaconess Medical Center and program director of the NIH-sponsored Research Resource for Complex Physiologic Signals. Goldberger helped pioneer the study of chaos in human function. In the early 1980s, as a young cardiologist at the University of California-San Diego, he expected healthy hearts to beat in steady, metronomic patterns. But his data showed that diseased hearts beat this way, while healthy hearts produced unpredictable EKG patterns. “This makes sense when you consider that healthy physiology needs to be nimble and adaptive,” he says. “It’s only sick, aging, or premature systems that get locked into overly rigid patterns.”8After three decades of research, he and his colleagues say, “Chaos in bodily functioning signals health. Periodic [regular, rhythmic, coherent] behavior can foreshadow disease.9 Transitions to strongly periodic dynamics are observed in many pathologies, including Parkinson’s disease (tremor), obstructive sleep apnea, sudden cardiac death, epilepsy, and fetal distress syndromes, to name but a few.”10

In a review of the role of chaos in health, journalist Kathleen McAuliffe states,

[T]he latest findings show that in many instances, the brain functions normally – and even optimally – in a chaotic state . . . Moreover, when we are mentally challenged, the interval between the electrical waves becomes even more variable – or chaotic.

. . . [C]haos may actually be highly beneficial during problem solving . . . [T]he greater the mental challenge, the more chaotic the activity of the subject’s brain . . . The notion that chaos might have a constructive side has also carried over into medicine, where it has prompted fresh insights into the causes of several neurological conditions . . . [M]any so-called “disorders” turned out to be exactly the opposite. The problem was too much order.

The complex rhythms of the nervous system had been replaced by a regimented beat or even drowned out altogether . . . Patients with normal motor control had nerves that pulsed in a chaotic fashion . . . “Contrary to intuition,” says [UCLA’s Alan] Garfinkel, “you need desynchronized firing of nerve cells in order to achieve smooth movement.” . . . [A] loss of “healthy variability” in neural activity has been implicated in [depression], too. According to Cindy Ehlers, a neuroscientist at the Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, California, a normal person will undergo erratic and relatively mild fluctuations in mood on an almost daily basis. “But in the depressed patient,” says Ehlers, “there is a loss of some kind of control mechanism, so that over time their behavior starts to look extremely periodic or rhythmic.“11

Recent analysis of human balance and gait reveals the importance of irregularity. The step-to-step (stride interval) fluctuations in human walking rhythm have been thought to be quite regular under healthy conditions, but detailed analysis reveals that subtle but complex fluctuations are present in healthy gait dynamics. As people age, this variation is lost in favor of a non-varying gait rhythm.12, 13

Moreover, the widespread belief that meditation practices always lead to increased coherence in heart rate and breathing is an exaggeration. C. K. Peng , codirector of the Rey Institute, and his colleagues have shown that coherence in these systems may increase or decrease during meditation, depending on the technique that is employed.14

The emerging picture of healthy function involves what Goldberger calls a “clinical paradox: namely, that a wide range of illnesses are associated with markedly periodic (regular) behavior even though the disease states themselves are commonly termed ‘dis-orders.’”15 In other words, in some conditions, it’s the order that is the disorder. All that is healthy is not coherent, and all that is coherent is not healthy.

Aging

As we age, there is often a loss of chaos and disorder not just in physiological processes, as Goldberger and others have shown, but also at the psychosocial level. Aging can become an exercise in locked-in repetition, order, and unremitting boredom, as the elderly individual settles into a mind-numbing, unvarying pattern of existence – “set in his ways.” Everyday experiences such as diet, dress, diversions, the friends one sees, and even one’s beliefs can become rigid, fixed, and unvarying – coherence writ large. Neophobia, the fear of new things, dominates the elder’s existence.

These ruts can be deepened by the regimentation that often occurs in eldercare facilities. The aging individual may become increasingly apathetic – the thousand-yard stare that is all too common among the residents of these institutions. The solution is to interrupt the coherence by the gradual and gentle insertion of newness, novelty, and variety into the daily round. Simple measures can often make a major difference, such as the introduction of a pet or music into the elder’s schedule.16

Injecting choice and responsibility can be especially helpful. Consider a famous 1976 study by psychologists Ellen Langer and Judith Rodin. They gave one group of nursing-home residents potted plants to take care of, while offering suggestions on doing more for themselves rather than letting the staff take all the responsibility. A second group, matched with the first for degree of ill health and disability, received the usual nursing-home care, along with assurances that the staff would handle all decisions and responsibilities. After only three weeks, the potted-plant group showed significant improvements in health and the amount of activity engaged in. The results were even more dramatic after eighteen months, at which point the death rate of the potted-plant group was only 50 percent that of the other group.17

Studies suggest that individuals who engage in novel, mentally challenging experiences, such as doing crossword puzzles or learning a new language, preserve their mental faculties as they age to a greater degree than do people who resist such experiences.18, 19, 20 These novelty-loving neophiles are living proof that variety – chaos at the experiential level – can help make life worth living.

The Larger View

These observations are likely to be misunderstood. By making a case for chaos, it may appear that I am extolling dysfunction and illness. Not so. It’s just that the evidence suggests that while order, harmony, and coherence may be more appealing conceptually and aesthetically, they are sometimes unhealthy. This situation need not be mystifying; we see evidence of the value of chaos on every hand. We know that without early challenges to our immune system we’d wind up as “bubble babies,” with immune systems so incompetent we could not survive in a pathogen-packed world. As Thoreau observed, “’Tis healthy to be sick sometimes.”21 And without the disharmonious upsets of adolescence, we would turn out to be such psychologically immature adults we could not function well in a friendship, marriage, family, or society.

A one-sided emphasis on coherence will not serve us well. We need to acknowledge the evidence that healthy function requires the coexistence of the oppositional factors of coherence and chaos. Coherence and chaos are in cahoots with each other, each one neither wholly good nor wholly bad, both important in different situations. Context matters. When we exclusively reify one over the other, we pay a price. Nature is not black or white; she adores ambiguity and paradox – which, G. K. Chesterton said, is “truth standing on her head to get attention.”22

The value of chaos and disorder in human life and the paradoxical unity of opposites have been repeatedly affirmed by an impressive array of individuals from various walks of life – scientists, mathematicians, physicians, nurses, psychologists, philosophers, poets, writers, musicians, artists, theologians, saints, and sinners. They tell us that chaos and disorder are as essential as harmony and coherence in a fulfilled life, and in emerging science as well.

Sir Laurens van der Post wrote in his biography of psychologist Carl G. Jung, “No wonder Jung was later to tell me with a laugh that he could not imagine a fate more awful, a fate worse than death, than a life lived in perfect balance and harmony.”23 And as mathematician Ralph Abraham, of University of California-Santa Cruz, puts it, “We are learning that chaos is essential to the survival of life. Our challenge now is to restore goodness to chaos and disorder . . . In our current paradigm, order is to chaos as good is to evil, and this had been the status quo for the past few millennia. Meanwhile, while culture says disorder is Bad, chaos is obviously the favorite state of nature, where it is truly Good. But this truth has been banished to the collective unconscious for all these centuries. From the shadows of the unconscious it pushes forth into our consciousness and literature in poetry and song, romance and struggle.”24

This excerpt is taken from the editorial “Coherence, Chaos, and the Coincidentia Oppositorum,” which originally appeared in the November–December 2010 issue of Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing. (www.explorejournal.com)

Dr. Dossey is a distinguished physician, author, and advocate for the role of spirituality in healthcare.

Bhagawan Ramana Maharshi rare video

(The video cuts off abruptly at the end)

Residing at the Holy Hill: (source http://www.sriramanamaharshi.org)

The first place of Ramana’s residence in Tiruvannamalai was the great temple. For a few weeks he remained in the thousand-pillared hall. But urchins who pelted stones at him as he sat in meditation troubled him. He shifted himself to obscure corners and even to an underground vault known as Patala-lingam. Undisturbed he spent several days in deep absorption. Without moving he sat in samadhi, unaware of even the bites of vermin and pests.

But the mischievous boys soon discovered even this retreat and indulged in their pastime of throwing potsherds at the young Swami. There was at the time in Tiruvannamalai a senior Swami by name Seshadri. Those who did not know him took him for a madman. He sometimes stood guard over the young Swami, and drove away the urchins. At long last he was removed from the pit by devotees without his being aware of it and deposited in the vicinity of a shrine of Subrahmanya. From then on there was some one or other to take care of Ramana. The seat of residence had to be changed frequently. Gardens, groves, shrines – these were the places chosen to keep the Swami who himself never spoke. Not that he took any vow of silence; he just had no inclination to talk. At times texts like Vasistham and Kaivalya Navaneetam used to be read out to him.

A little less than six months after his arrival at Tiruvannamalai, Ramana shifted his residence to a shrine called Gurumurtam at the earnest entreaty of its keeper, one Tambiranswami. As days passed and as Ramana’s fame spread, increasing numbers of pilgrims and sightseers came to visit him. After about a year’s stay at Gurumurtam, the Swami – locally he was known as Brahmana-Swami – moved to a neighboring mango orchard. It was here his paternal uncle, Nelliyappa Aiyar, traced him out. He was a pleader at Manamadurai. Having learnt from a friend that Venkataraman was then a revered Sadhu at Tiruvannamalai, he went there to see him. He tried his best to take Ramana along with him to Manamadurai. But the young sage would not respond. He did not show any sign of interest in the visitor. So, Nelliyappa Aiyar went back disappointed to Manamadurai. However, he conveyed the news to Alagammal, Ramana’s mother.

The mother went to Tiruvannamalai accompanied by her eldest son Nagaswamy. Ramana was then living at Pavalakkunru, one of the eastern spurs of Arunachala. With tears in her eyes Alagammal entreated Ramana to go back with her. But, for the sage there was no going back. Nothing moved him – not pitiable sobs of his mother. He kept silent and sat still.

A devotee who had been observing the struggle of the mother for several days requested Ramana to write out at least what he had to say. The sage wrote on a piece of paper quite in an impersonal way:

The Ordainer controls the fate of souls in accordance with their prarabdhakarma (destiny to be worked out in this life, resulting from the balance-sheet of actions in past lives). Whatever is destined not to happen will not happen, try as you may. Whatever is destined to happen will happen, do what you may to prevent it. This is certain. The best course, therefore, is to remain silent.

Disappointed and with a heavy heart, the mother went back to Manamadurai. Sometime after this event Ramana went up the hill Arunachala, and started living in a cave called Virupaksha after a saint who dwelt and was buried there. Here also the crowds came, and among them were a few earnest seekers. These latter used to put him questions regarding spiritual experience or bring sacred books for having some points explained.

Ramana sometimes wrote out his answers and explanations. One of the books that were brought to him during this period was Sankara’s Vivekachudamani which later on he rendered into Tamil prose. There were also some simple unlettered folk that came to him for solace and spiritual guidance. One of them was Echammal who, having lost her husband, son, and daughter, was disconsolate till the Fates guided her to Ramana’s presence. She made it a point to visit the Swami every day and took upon herself the task of bringing food for him as well as for those who lived with him.

In 1903 there came to Tiruvannamalai a great Sanskrit scholar and tapasvin known Ganapati Sastri. By the age of 21 he had mastered Sanskrit, intently delved into all the major Puranas and Vedas, engaged in austere tapas at several holy places and had been awarded the title Kavyakantha (one who had poetry in his throat) by an august assembly of scholars and poets in North India. His father had initiated him into the secrets of the worship of the Divine Mother and he intently pursued the path set down by the ancient scriptures of the land.

Ganapati had visited Ramana in the Virupaksha cave a few times, but once in 1907 he was assailed by doubts regarding his own spiritual practices. He ran up the hill, saw Ramana sitting alone in the cave, threw himself on the ground before the sage and appealed to him, saying, “All that has to be read I have read; even Vedanta Sastra I have fully understood; I have done japa to my heart’s content; yet I have not up to this time understood what tapas is. Therefore I have sought refuge at your feet. Pray enlighten me as to the nature of tapas.”

Ramana silently rested his gracious eyes on Ganapati for some fifteen minutes, and then replied:

If one watches whence the notion ‘I’ arises, the mind gets absorbed there; that is tapas. When a mantra is repeated, if one watches whence that mantra sound arises, the mind gets absorbed there; that is tapas.

To the poet-scholar this came as a revelation, a new spiritual path opened to mankind, and he felt the grace of the sage enveloping him. He then proclaimed that henceforth Brahmana Swami, which Ramana was then called, should be addressed as Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. He thoroughly surrendered himself to the Guru, composed Sanskrit hymns in his praise and also wrote the Ramana Gita, which explains Ramana’s teachings.

From that day on the young sage was known as Ramana Maharshi, the Maharshi, or just Bhagavan by his devotees.

Spiritual Growth is a Personal Quest By: Richard D. Blackstone

The more spirituality information you are exposed to the more you understand that your spiritual growth is a quest for understanding your relationship to life, love, God and the true nature of how the universe works.

There is this wonderful thing you need to know about your eternal life quest and it is one of the reasons that I love the concept of spirituality so much. Spirituality tells us that each person must follow their own particular path in their quest for spiritual understanding and knowledge about the true nature of how things work. It is an individual journey and you get to take the journey in any manner that suits you best. There is no one right way that fits everybody. There is only the way that works for you.

The words and concepts in this article are here to help you see another way of looking at life (or God, or love) so that you might incorporate these understandings into your own life creation. My request is that you view this material with an open mind and an open heart. Some of the concepts you will explore here may be new to you, and some of them may be ideas that you have heard before and revealed to you through my own particular filter. None of what you will be reading here is new news. We are not re-inventing the wheel. The wheel is already known to us, but the wheel is cyclical and as it turns and turns we get to view it from all different perspectives.

You are reading this article because you are on a quest to improve your life. I am on a quest to improve my life. And by improvement, I don’t mean that my spiritual growth life, just like yours, isn’t already perfect. Mine is, just as yours is. It is just that there are ways to live life and go through the life process that serve us, and there are ways to go through the life process that don’t serve us, given what it is that we say we are trying to accomplish and who we are being.

If you desire to live your life effortlessly and in abundance, then there are ways of interpreting the process of life that serve you better than other ways of interpreting the process of life. All of life is a choice, but in order to make the preferred choices you must have an understanding of all the choices available to you. This article is designed to allow you to see some different perspectives on the life process and thereby allow you make choices that serve you.

Whether you make those choices is entirely up to you. That is what I love about this concept called spirituality. It is entirely up to you to interpret what is best for you, given who you define yourself to be. Once you have defined yourself, then you have the opportunity to choose those experiences that reveal your innermost desires and aspirations to the world. If you so choose.

As you wake up to who you really are, you become inspired (in spirit) to create the life of your innermost and deeply held intentions and desires into your physical reality.

As you wake up to who you really are, you begin to understand the true nature of how things work.

As you wake up to who you really are, you begin manifesting into your life those people, events and experiences in your life that fulfill your innermost desires and aspirations.

As you wake up to who you really are, you align yourself with the universal forces that allow you to live effortlessly.

As you wake up to who you really are, you begin to see the abundance that is your inheritance by the fact that you are here, right now, in this present moment of now.

As you wake up to who you really are, you bring yourself into balance in the mind, body, spirit being that is inherent to your beingness.

As you wake up to who you really are, you begin to understand fully that you are not a human being having a spiritual experience, but rather you are a spiritual being having a human experience.

So that is our quest. We are going to venture deeply into the process of life with the intention of coming to clarity on the true nature of how things work. It is with this deep understanding that we will be able to incorporate the concepts and ideas in our lives that will allow us to be and therefore do the things that serve us as we move toward the vision that we hold of ourselves.

This is not the only way to view life and the life process, it is just another way. Once again, the beauty of life is in the free will to make any choice that you desire that will help define who you are and how you wish to manifest into your life that which you truly desire and intend to experience.

You see, all of life is an experience. That is why we are here. To experience life, to experience God, to experience love. (They are interchangeable) We are here to experience life in all of its different perspectives in order for us to see the core of who we really are, which is Love, from all of its different perspectives.

With an open heart and an open mind, let us begin our journey. By taking an in-depth view of Life As A Process we will gain some perspective on the true nature of how things work. Once you understand how the universe really works you can incorporate that understanding into your life and let the love and abundance of life flow to you effortlessly.

Let the journey begin.

Richard D. Blackstone

Author Bio

Richard Blackstone is an award winning author and international speaker on Love, Oneness & Creation. Journey into discovery of Self by reading this FREE report; “The 3 Simple Immutable Laws of the Universe” at: http://www.NutsandBoltsSpirituality.com

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