Category: Greatness



Guy Finley explains that true greatness is found not in trying to be seen as special in the eyes of the world, but by dying to part of us that believes it knows what it means to be special in the first place.

How to Be Happy for the Rest of Your Life

Guy Finley explains that although at times it may seem otherwise, the universe does want you to succeed as a human being. When you finally understand the truth of this, you’ll no longer have doubts about finding happiness. http://www.guyfinley.org

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The Seeker, The Search, The Sacred is about the universal and timeless spiritual principles that lead us to the personal revelation of Divine guidance, and the ultimate realization of our own highest possibilities.

This landmark work by self-realization teacher Guy Finley offers compelling evidence that from time immemorial, individuals touched by spirit have stood as witnesses and then reporters of a single great story: the transformation of the human soul.

The Seeker, The Search, The Sacred presents passages from all the major religious traditions and philosophical systems, and demonstrates — despite differences in language and form — how they all work in concert to describe different aspects of a single compassionate, loving, and Divine intelligence.

The clearer the truth of this one story, the greater the possibility of individuals everywhere reclaiming their spiritual birthright. And in this discovery lives a new understanding that can help heal our world.

Guy Finley, founder and director of the nonprofit Life of Learning Foundation, a member of the faculty at the Omega Institute and a regular contributor to Beliefnet. He is the bestselling author of The Essential Laws of Fearless Living and The Courage to Be Free along with many other books and audio programs that have been translated and sold worldwide. Guy appears regularly on radio and television and has been featured on NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, NPR, and PBS. He lives in Oregon.

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The Seeker, The Search, The Sacred: Journey to the Greatness Within

Guy Finley speaks about his newest book — The Seeker, The Search, The Sacred: Journey to the Greatness Within.

Journey to the Greatness Within! OneJourney.net

Visit http://www.OneJourney.net to learn more about the One Journey outreach program of nonprofit Life of Learning Foundation. When the sleeper awakens, the seeker is born.

Mind Training is a comprehensive practice that is suitable for all types of students. It contains the entire path and does not depend on a person’s background. Mind Training nurses and cultivates the Buddha Nature, that pure seed of awakening that is at the very heart of every sentient being. It has the power to transform even egotistical self-clinging into selflessness. Put into practice diligently, it is enough to lead you all the way to awakening.

In The Path to Awakening, Shamar Rinpoche gives his own detailed commentary on Chekawa Yeshe Dorje’s Seven Points of Mind Training, a text that has been used for transformative practice in Tibetan Buddhism for close to a thousand years.
Clear, accessible, and yet profound, this book is filled with practical wisdom, philosophy, and meditation instructions

Shamar Rinpoche, is the 14th Shamarpa. Born in 1952 in Tibet, Shamar Rinpoche was recognized by the 16th Karmapa in 1957, and by the 14th Dalai Lama. In 1996, he started to organize Bodhi Path Buddhist Centers, a network of centers covering many continents, which practice a non-sectarian approach to meditation. In addition, over the years, Shamar Rinpoche has founded several non-profit organizations worldwide and engaged in charitable activities such as schooling underprivileged children and promoting animal rights.

Other Books Authored by Shamar Rinpoche are:

Boundless Awakening
A Golden Swan in Turbulent Waters
Creating a Transparent Democracy

The Editor and Translator, Lara Braitstein, is Professor of Tibetan and Indian Buddhism at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

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In Session Four of the Awakening To Your Life’s Purpose course, Jean explains how we need to turn our local story (the ordinary story of our everyday life) into a more mythical story, a story of our deepest imagining, so that we can access our higher capacities and realize our destiny.

In doing so, we can begin to achieve the kind of tangible results in our lives we’ve been unable to attain.

In this audio clip from Session Four of Awakening To Your Life’s Purpose, Jean reveals an exercise that will allow you to create a transforming metaphor for the wounding, and turn the “bad” events in your life into empowering vehicles to reach your higher destiny. Click here to listen to A Powerful Process to Transform Old Wounds

And listen here A 7 minutes Exercise: Activate Your Deeper Wisdom And HERE A 5-Minute Practice To Access Your Higher Self.

These brief audio excerpts are from Jean Houston’s 7-week online course, Awakening To Your Life’s Purpose.


Richard talks about why we should listen to our tears of recognition. It is the soul saying this is what matters. When we listen we know why we are here. What our lives are consecrated to.

What is your life consecrated to?

Richard speaks about what it means to live a consecrated life.

Living with Saints and Sages is a bridge that connects spiritual masters from various religions or without any religion, focusing on their whole-hearted commitment to realize the true meaning of life. Clarifying the common confusions concerning religion, the book provides the reader with the clear concepts conducive to steady progress in the art of living. “The joy and love that pervades these individual narratives seem so natural and immediate that we can’t help feeling that this is how our Creator would wish to deal with each and every one of us . . . To read this book is to sense that God is offering us a ‘Romance with the Infinite'” -Dr. Quincy Howe, Professor of Classics and Religion

Devadas Chelvam studied at Union Theological Seminary in New York, Columbia University, and Fordham to earn master’s degrees in theology and sociology. Initially a Catholic priest in Sri Lanka and the United Sates, then an agnostic, and now he accepts that all the people are marching towards Truth, though their paths may differ widely.

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Living with Saints and Sages by Devadas Chelvam

Overview
Living with Saints and Sages is a bridge that connects spiritual masters from various religions or without any religion, focusing on their whole-hearted commitment to realize the true meaning of life.

Clarifying the common confusions concerning religion, the book provides the reader with the clear concepts conducive to steady progress in the art of living.
“The joy and love that pervades these individual narratives seem so natural and immediate that we can’t help feeling that this is how our Creator would wish to deal with each and every one of us … To read this book is to sense that God is offering us a ‘Romance with the Infinite'”
-Dr. Quincy Howe, Professor of Classics and Religion

Frank Strock’s Interview with the author of Living with Saints and Sages – Devdas Chelvam

Too many people go through life racing after proof of their self-worth along an external loop: the finest shoes or watch, the most expensive car, a bigger house – or a better-looking mate, a brighter child, another academic or professional degree, a promotion at work. Some of these items may be briefly satisfying . . . but soon the old hunger returns. You can avoid this senseless and exhausting pursuit by reconnecting with the spiritual Being that has lived inside you from birth.

In this compelling and enlightening book, Dr. Rajiv Juneja shows how acknowledging the spirit within offers new insights about the biological, psychological, and social aspects of our lives – helping us manage mindless responses, build emotional intelligence, find a life partner, enhance our relationships, and follow a purpose-filled highway at work. You Are More Than That describes rich strategies and practices for mastering your emotions and walking out of the comfort zone that hinders your growth. Your internal sense of soul will release your mind’s full energies and let you fall in love with life.

This book clearly demonstrates that you are more than the limited creature you may perceive, and you can follow a different story than the often-negative narrative cobbled together unconsciously from childhood experiences. You are more than that.

T. Rajiv Juneja, MD, MS, is double board-certified in Adult Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine. Currently, he is a fellow at the University of Arizona, studying Integrative and Alternative Medicine under Dr. Andrew Weil. He also chairs the committee on public education for the American Psychiatry Association’s New Jersey chapter.

At the age of six, Dr. Raj moved to the United States from India with his family and began what he later recognized to be a journey of transition and transformation. His initial desire to become a doctor mainly stemmed from cultural and familial pressures to ‘do the right thing’. Only much later when he completed his medical degree did he begin looking for real understanding of self. He says, ‘I realized that self-worth is something we’re born with, and a sense of purpose can never come from the outside; it must be found within. We want to address our problems before they lead to complete breakdown and result in illness. Insight and prevention are the key to a more fulfilling life.’ doctorraj.com

Eckhart Tolle TV: Issue Preview – Midwifing the New Consciousness: A Dialogue with Marianne Williamson

Eckhart talks with internationally known spiritual teacher and bestselling author Marianne Williamson about the possibilities of individual and planetary awakening

In this heartfelt book, the essence of Islamic wisdom is shared with the reader through teaching stories, Rumi poetry, and sacred verses from the Qur’an and Hadith (sayings of Muhammad). It expresses a deeply compassionate view of the world along with simple spiritual practices that have a profound effect on integrating this wisdom into everyday living.


On Transformation
(from The Fragrance of Faith, by Jamal Rahman)

The Qur’an was revealed over a period of twenty-three years. It was sent down, little by little, stage by stage, in order that it might “strengthen the heart.”

There is sacredness in the words “little by little.” God could have sent full-blown perfect beings, flying through the cosmos, to arrive here in one instant. Gradualness, it seems, is favored by that mysterious Intelligence.

The marvelous creation of a child takes nine months. A great task is often accomplished by a series of small acts. A skillful cook lets the pot boil slowly. Night by night the new moon gives a lesson in gradualness. The Qur’an says that “God only commands when willing anything is saying to it, ‘Be!’—and it is” [Surah Ya Sin 36:82]. But even the Universe took a few days to be in place! Gradualness, indeed, is a characteristic of the action of the Sustainer of the Universe.

Do your work of transformation little by little. Rumi says: “Little by little, wean yourself. This is the gist of what I have to say. From an embryo, whose nourishment comes through the blood, move to an infant drinking milk, to a child on solid food, to a searcher after wisdom, to a hunter of more invisible game.”

Grandfather said that by doing the work of inner growth, little by little you make progress, increment by increment and again, a big jump! The big jump happens because of the little-by-little application. It’s a law. Truly, it pays to persist, little by little.

Grandfather enjoyed telling the following story. The Mullah was enamored of Indian classical music. He eagerly sought out a teacher to take private lessons. “How much will it cost?” asked the Mullah.

“Three pieces of silver the first month and one piece of silver from the second month onward,” replied the teacher.

“Excellent!” replied the Mullah. “Sign me up from the second month!”

Spiritual Directors International learns from Jamal Rahman

Spiritual Directors International learns from Jamal Rahman, a Muslim Sufi, speaks about prayer, the Qur’an, and describes how spiritual teachers and spiritual directors in the Muslim tradition provide support for learning how to be at peace with yourself and offer service in the world. Jamal answers the question, How do I find a spiritual director? He is co-host of Interfaith Talk Radio, author of Out of Darkness into Light, and co-minister of Interfaith Community Church.

John Troy, Wizard ( http://www.thewizardllc.com/ )

Listen to this radio talk interview between John Troy and V Ganesan who is the great grand nephew of the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. V. Ganesan, shares stories about the life and teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi.


V. Ganesan grew up till the age of fourteen in the presence of his great uncle, Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. After the mahanirvana of Bhagavan in 1950, Ganesan went on to get a Master’s Degree in Philosophy. After to return to Arunachala, where he was able to absorb reminiscences of Bhagavan that had never been recorded before. In addition to this, his close contacts with saints, sages and seers like Yogi Ramsuratkumar, Nisargadatta Maharaj and J. Krishnamurti, helped him to deepen and widen his understanding of the essence of Bhagavan’s Teachings.

V Ganesan on Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi
072208ganesan.mp3

A beautiful Question about the Nature of Love towards Maharishi and Maharishi’s answer:
Guru Dev and our love for Maharishi
Rishikesh, 1968

Question: Something comes frequently to my mind, but I do not really dare to ask you that. But in the end I probably will ask you anyway.

MAHARISHI: Be bold. (laughter)

Question: It is very personal and it has to do with the Holy Tradition. I have more feelings and affection towards you than to Guru Dev. Guru Dev is more like a passed away grandfather to me, someone I do not really know.

MAHARISHI: A very scientific evaluation, it is very natural.

Question: It don’t feel uncomfortable to do the offerings to him, but I don’t know how to have feelings of an overflowing heart towards someone I don’t really know. Is it possible to kind of transfer the love towards you also to Guru Dev?

MAHARISHI: Yes. The greatness of the gardener is in the full bloom of the beautiful flower. And that is it – we enjoy the flower and hold high the gardener.(laughter) The gardener is not there, just from the flower we know he must have been good and great.

Love for me is very natural, it is just very natural. But what we are faced with here is the effect that the attitude of the initiators is going to produce in the preservation of the knowledge. The attitude of the initiators, generation after generation, in the preservation of the wisdom.

Reverence to me is alright, but what I intended from the beginning was that – personal I am just an individual, just out of nothing – but something that is coming on from times immemorial, this great Holy Tradition coming on from times immemorial and because it speaks of truth, it represents the truth, and that is why it is coming on.

And therefore this movement which has in view thousands of years of human population, should be tied down to something eternal. Fortunately for the world Guru Dev happened to be Shankaracharya. And therefore we got both the things – not only the knowledge, but the most valuable tradition has been attached to this knowledge.

When I started the movement I could have started a religion. So many religions have been coming up and coming up. But I thought another religion will be another river flowing towards the ocean. It won’t present to the world the source of all the rivers, which again ultimately is the ocean itself. All the clouds they come from the ocean and then the streams go back to the ocean.

Just for that thing with thousands of years ahead in view, I thought not the person but the photo of him, who has been the source of this wisdom for me, Guru Dev. Directly he is the source of wisdom for us, very directly. I know the reality of all this. It has only been due to the innocent surrender- innocent sense of service, just innocent sense of service.

And his personality was so great, it is all divine. And just as the midday sun, the blazing sun, is just…that great sun of the divine effulgence, it just held me gripped in his grandeur. And very naturally the transparency of all that he stood for. And all what he stood for was pure divinity, pure knowledge, eternity, absolute.

This imbibing of the knowledge of integration of life in totality, in completeness, is from that level of innocent surrender. It is now that I am able to analyse the whole thing and see the mechanics which have brought the whole wisdom in its completeness from both points, practical and theoretical.

During those days I was just living Guru Dev. I was living him in my life. That’ s innocent. And it was this that has grabbed the wisdom. It was a great fortune for all the future times that he was taken to be the Shankaracharya, installed as Shankaracharya. Therefore whatever wisdom came, it came in all the dignity and fullness, complete fullness of it.

And that is the reason why for us it is of immense value that we tie down our feelings and our emotions and our understanding, everything to him who really presents the last point of the tradition nearest to us. Very, very important. It is absolutely important.

And fine, it is no harm singing of the glory of the bulb that is there, but all the glory is transferred to the powerhouse. Actually electricity is generated there. (laughs) And therefore not an individual, but the most illumined star in the galaxy of stars. And to him we point our mind and heart and this. It is fabulous to have that thing…

The Tao of Liberation skillfully combines social, political, economic, ecological, emotional, and spiritual approaches of the current crises rooted in unsustainability of global capitalism, which has resulted in rising social inequality, exclusion, a collapse of democracy, deterioration of the environment, and growing poverty. Moreover, authors go further and claim that all current hazards are symptoms of a more profound cultural and spiritual sickness, and the great challenge for the twenty-first century will be to make a fundamental shift in our attitude to nature, and within our value system.

This book takes a different approach to sustainability, traditionally seen in terms of limits and restrictions, and rather offers a new conception of sustainability as liberation both in the personal sense of spiritual realization, and in the collective sense of people seeking their freedom from oppression. Such an approach is conceptualized in the ancient Chinese word Tao referring to both an individual spiritual path and the way the universe works. Hence, spiritual realization is achieved when we act in harmony with nature.

The book has a section on the Earth Charter and its role (See: Part 2, Chapter 10 The Earth Charter as a Common Framework, p. 298-306). As “a truly liberating dream for humanity,” the Earth Charter presents a key resource in the process of profound transformations, and a new way of conceiving ethics, being the result of the broadest consultations with the civil society ever.

Seeking Wisdom: Overview of The Tao of Liberation
By Mark Hathaway

Today we stand at what may well be the most important crossroads in the history of humanity, and perhaps the Earth itself. Our industrial growth society continues to consume the natural wealth of our planet at ever-increasing rates, far beyond what is sustainable in even the near term. We are changing the very chemistry of the atmosphere and oceans, threatening to push these life-sustaining systems past key tipping points in ways that would vastly accelerate the process of mass extinctions already underway.

Yet, our great push for economic growth, development, and the accumulation of goods and capital has only benefitted a relatively small proportion of humanity. The gap between rich and poor continues to grow: The richest 20% of the world’s population now earns nearly 200 times more than the poorest 20% while a tiny group of about 700 billionaires have a collective net “worth” equal to $2.2 trillion, more than the combined annual income of the poorer half of humanity. Our planet, fruit of over four billion years of evolution, is being devoured by a relatively small minority – and even this privileged group cannot hope to sustain its exploitation for much longer before provoking an ecological collapse.

All the major crises we face – the destruction of ecosystems, the grinding poverty of billions due to greed and systemic injustice, and the continued threats of militarism and war – are of our own making. These crises – particularly the threats of ecological collapse and the still-present possibility of nuclear conflict – have the potential to destroy not only a specific culture or a particular region of the world, but the complex diversity of our planet’s web of life. Not only present – but also future generations – of the Earth community are threatened.

Certainly, the dangers we face engender fear. It is important to acknowledge this fear while also recognizing the complexity of the challenges we face. Yet, despite the gravity of our situation, there is also very real room for hope. It is not as though a giant asteroid was hurtling toward our planet and we were powerless to stop it. The very fact that these crises are of our own making means that it is possible for us to address them in a meaningful and effective way – at least if we act in a timely manner with sufficient energy and wisdom.

Indeed, people around the world are finding creative solutions to many of the problems we face. New technologies for generating energy are being developed. Ecological approaches to agriculture are demonstrating that food can be produced sustainably while nurturing the health of soil and conserving water. Grassroots movements are reinventing democracy and proving that organized action can bring about real change. Together, humanity has the creative resources to largely overcome social injustice, create a sustainable economy, and live in harmony with one another and with the other creatures who share the planet with us.

Yet, despite these very real and very significant advances, there is little evidence – particularly at the level of our large institutions such as governments and corporations – of concerted action on a scale sufficient to actually halt deepening poverty and ecological devastation, much less to initiate a process that could truly heal the Earth community. The recent climate change conference in Copenhagen, for example, illustrates the huge gap between the creativity and foresight of civil society and the “business as usual” approach of the leaders of our global institutions.

In our book, The Tao of Liberation: Exploring the Ecology of Transformation, Leonardo Boff and I explore the multiple obstacles that prevent us from moving toward a just and sustainable society. At one level, we see that we are in the grip of a pathological system, a global dis/order that is neither rational nor inevitable, yet is nonetheless very powerful because it has distorted both our values and our very perception of reality.

The cultural, political, and economic systems we have created are bent on domination and exploitation, destroying the living wealth of our planet to accumulate a dead abstraction called money. These same systems seem to have taken on a kind of life of their own, subtly warping human desires and creativity to suit their purposes.

Instead of pursuing fulfillment and the sustenance of life, we seek a kind of unbounded, cancerous economic growth where the idea of “development” often means destroying ecosystems and livelihoods to generate a fictitious capital with no intrinsic value. We submit to the rule of corporate pseudo-persons who have neither heart nor soul, who essentially act like immensely powerful sociopaths. Instead of an economy that sustains life, we seek out gain through a speculative financial system that has become a giant global casino, a parasite sucking life from the planet and wreaking havoc in human communities. We substitute authentic cultural and ecological diversity with a kind of “monoculture of the mind” – a globalized culture of consumerism.

This global dis/order has become a veritable monster devouring life on our planet. Yet, even here, there lies a seed of hope. Certainly, this system has grown to be extremely powerful, but once its pathological nature becomes apparent, we can see clearly that it is also fundamentally irrational and essentially, undesirable. As David Korten wrote in his classic work When Corporations Rule the World, “We continue to go boldly where no one wants to go” (1995, p. 261)

No one, not even the richest and most powerful, truly wants to live in a degraded world where beauty and diversity have become but a distant memory. No one desires to live in a world where the divisions between rich and poor lead to violence and insecurity for all. No one wishes to see the possibilities of future generations undermined for centuries, or even millennia, to come.

Perhaps for the first time in humanity, all people – both those who (in the short term) benefit from the current system and those who do not – actually have a common interest in working to change this system for the longer-term benefit of all. The difficulty, of course, is that many – particularly those who appear to benefit from the system in the short-term – have difficulties seeing this. What is more, the current global dis/order actively reinforces the dynamics of denial, despair, and addiction (particularly, the addiction of consumerism) to blind us to the reality we face.
A Sickness of the Soul

To heal and transform our world, then, will take more than new technologies, hard work, organization, and concerted action – albeit all these will certainly be required. We need to understand the various dimensions of the global crisis and the dynamics that conspire to perpetuate them; we need to find ways to overcome the obstacles in our path; we need an even deeper understanding of reality itself including the very nature of transformation; and we need to sharpen our intuition and develop new sensitivities to be able to act creatively and effectively.

In searching for this wisdom, we must first recognize that all the threats we face can, in some sense, be seen as symptoms of a deeper cultural and spiritual sickness afflicting humanity, particularly the 20% of us consuming the greater part of the Earth’s wealth. We suffer from a deep disease of the soul – a kind of collective delusional state that has hypnotized us into acting in ways that are harmful to ourselves and to the greater community of life of which we are part.

This crisis, then, can also be understood as the key ethical and spiritual question of our time. Some term the current threat in terms of “ecocide” – the destruction of the life sustaining systems that allow the full complexity, diversity, and beauty of life we witness today, including human life. Never before have our religious and spiritual traditions faced such an urgent and dire challenge.

The mystic Meister Eckhart said that, “Every creature is full of God, and is a book about God. If I spent enough time with the tiniest creature, even a caterpillar, I would never have to prepare a sermon. So full of God is every creature.” Similarly, Martin Luther King wrote that, “God writes the gospel, not in the Bible alone, but on trees, flowers, clouds, and stars.” The loss of each creature – and even more so the loss of each species – can be understood as the destruction of a unique revelation of the divine. The great ecological thinker Thomas Berry once observed that our species could only evolve its intelligence and creativity in a world as beautiful as this one. With each loss of this beauty, we are also spiritually impoverished.

Once we begin to see clearly the nature of the crises we face, we are impelled to look deeper into our cultures, our values, our faith traditions, and our very selves. As the psychologist Roger Walsh noted over 25 years ago in his book Staying Alive, the crisis we face can serve to “strip away our defences and help us to confront both the true condition of the world and our role in creating it” (1984, p. 77). It has the potential of leading us to truly profound changes in the way we live, think, and act – indeed, in the way we perceive reality itself.

This crisis, then, is also an opportunity, an urgent invitation to a deep awakening and a spiritual transformation. We are called to reinvent ourselves as a species. How can we shift from destroying the planet that sustains us – from exploiting nature and our fellow human beings – to become conscious agents of healing and liberating transformation? How can we come to play a constructive role in the greater Earth community of which we are a part and act wisely in ways that actually advance (rather than reverse) evolutionary processes?

First, we need to understand how we have become ensnared in the delusion that currently warps our perceptions and lures us to act in ways that are both harmful and fundamentally irrational. This process began long ago, dating back at least to the time when humans first began the cycle of conquest and empire-building and accelerating rapidly over the past five hundred years during the age of colonization, industrialization, and modern science.

Over time, we have come to understand power – not in terms of our innate ability to create nor in terms of our collective ability to interact and work together – but rather as the exercise of control, domination, and exploitation. At the same time, we have converted the cosmos once understood as a living organism into a lifeless machine composed of dead, inert “matter” – a word which, ironically, comes from the Latin for “mother.”

Ecologically, this distorted view has progressively separated humans from the greater Earth community. We see ourselves – not just distinct from other creatures – but somehow superior to them. The Earth is no longer understood as a living community of which we are a part, but rather as a storehouse of “raw materials” and “resources” ripe for exploitation.

The very word “environment” illustrates this problem. There is really no “environment” “out there.” We are part of the greater community of life. We constantly exchange oxygen, water, and nutrients with those beyond the boundary of our skins. When we poison the air, the water, or the soil, we inevitably poison ourselves. When we diminish the beauty and diversity of the planetary community, we also diminish our humanity and our potential for authentic enlightenment and self-realization. As Wendell Berry notes, “The world that environs us, that is around us, is also within us. We are made of it; we eat, drink, and breathe it; it is bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh.”

As Rabbi Arthur Waskow notes, the tradition of the second chapter of Genesis teaches us this same insight: Adam, the human, is formed out of adamah, the Hebrew word used for earth (soil). The last syllable of adamah, “ahh,” the sound of the letter “Hey” (which is essentially the sound of breathing) is infused through the nostrils of the “earthling” (adam) and thus becomes imminent within. We are living, walking expressions of the Earth itself. We are the Earth made conscious in a new way. We are not over and above, but rather a part of the Earth.
The Tao of Liberation
Tao Earth Symbol

Where can we find the deep wisdom needed to reawaken us to our deep connection to the Earth, and indeed the entire cosmos that has midwifed us into being? And how can this wisdom become a deep wellspring that sustains and inspires us as we work for the integral healing of our world?

We are blessed to live in a time where the combined wisdom of all of humanity is available to us as never before. One source of this wisdom comes from science itself. New discoveries in quantum physics, systems theory, and the emerging story of the cosmos are helping us see reality in new ways. On the one hand, these insights are recovering a very old intuition – that the entire cosmos is in some sense alive. No longer is matter fundamental. So-called “empty” space is full of possibilities, filled with unimaginable energy and potentiality. Many believe that relationality and mind, not substance, are the most basic constituents of reality. Each entity, from the smallest, most ephemeral subatomic particle to the giant whirling galaxies are in some sense connected at a deep but subtle level to everything else .

We live in a time when, for the first time in history, we have developed the sensitivity to perceive the very first moments that gave birth to the cosmos – not only matter and energy, but space and time. The energy that bears witness to that great birth has been with us since the beginning, but we are only now able to perceive it.

Indeed, the entire cosmos is in a process of evolution. The universe is not so much a thing as an ever-changing story. Nowhere is this more evident than on our own planet. Yet, this evolution bears evidence to far more than just the drive for the “survival of the fittest”. Lynn Margulis has shown that complex cells actually carry more than one set of DNA and were probably originally formed through a process she calls “symbiogenesis” – a kind of cooperative fusion of cells for mutual benefit. James Lovelock has shown that cooperative dynamics are evident in the entire planetary ecosystem and that the living Earth in many ways resembles a giant organism that regulates climate, oxygen levels, and a host of other factors to sustain life.

In many ways, the entire cosmic story being revealed by science is far more mysterious, complex, and creatively playful than anything we could have imagined. Rather than fearing science – including the theory of evolution – there is an opportunity for people of faith to embrace these discoveries and to be filled with awe and wonder by them. At its deepest level, this story reveals a movement toward ever-deeper communion, ever-wider diversity, and ever-more complex self-organization, creativity, and mindfulness. Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme call this the “cosmogenic principle” – and it seems to bear witness to a dynamic wisdom at play which is interwoven into the very fabric of the universe.

At the same time, the accumulated insights and experience of spiritual traditions is available to us in new ways, permitting a dialogue of wisdoms that has never before been possible. Can we come to see this diversity of wisdoms – not as a cause for conflict – but rather as a rich tapestry from which we may draw guidance and sustenance?

One way to understand the wisdom needed to guide us is in terms of the ancient Chinese word “Tao” (or “Dao”, as it is actually pronounced). The Tao, normally translated at the “Way”, is a kind of embodied wisdom leading to harmony and right-relationship. At the same time, the Tao can be understood as the principle of order that constitutes the common ground of the cosmos; it is both the way that the universe works and the flowing cosmic structure that cannot be described, only tasted.

Similar, complementary ideas exist in other spiritual traditions. For example, Joanna Macy notes that in the Buddhist tradition the word Dharma signifies the “way things work”, or “orderly process itself” (1991a, p. xi). At the same time, Neil Douglas-Klotz observes that the Aramaic word used by Jesus normally translated as the “kingdom” or “reign” – Malkutha – refers to “the ruling principles that guide our lives toward unity” and conjures “the image of a ‘fruitful arm’ poised to create, or a coiled spring that is ready to unwind with all the verdant potential of the Earth” (1991, p. 20). While both the Dharma and the Malkutha frame the concept differently, we can think of them as pointing to the same reality as the Tao – a reality that ultimately evades a hard and fast description, but can only be intuited on a deeper level.

In our book, Leonardo Boff and I combine the image of the Tao with the idea of liberation. Traditionally, liberation has been used either in the personal sense of spiritual realization (enlightenment) or in the collective sense of a people seeking to free itself from oppressive political, economic, cultural, and social structures.

We include both of these uses, but frame them in a wider, ecological – and even cosmological – context. For us, liberation is the process of moving towards a world where all human beings can live with dignity in harmony with the great community of beings who make up the living Earth. Liberation, then, entails repairing the terrible damage that we have inflicted both upon each other and upon our planet – in other words, tikkun. On a yet another level, liberation is about realizing the potential of human beings as creative, life-enhancing participants within the unfolding evolution of our living Earth and the cosmos of which we are all a part.

We can even frame liberation in a cosmic perspective as the process through which the universe seeks to realize its own potential as it drives toward greater communion, differentiation, and interiority (or self-organisation (i.e. the cosmogenic principle). Within such a context, human individuals and societies become liberated to the extent that they:

* Become more diverse and complex, truly respecting and celebrating differences;
* Deepen the aspect of interiority and consciousness, fostering creative and participatory processes of self-organization; and
* Strengthen their bonds of community and interdependence, including their communion with the greater community of life on Earth.

The Fourfold Path

In The Tao of Liberation, we explore how the wisdom of the Tao can guide us to liberation that we describe in terms of “The Ecology of Transformation.” To do so, we look at a wide variety of disciplines, including ecological economics, psychology, systems theory, quantum physics, the emerging story of the cosmos, and a variety of spiritual traditions.

In so doing, we look at four basic kinds of spiritual practices or “paths” that form the foundation for a spirituality that can help realign our lives and values—and even reframe our perceptions—as we seek authentic liberation.

The first can be described as the path of invocation, the way of opening ourselves to the guiding energy of the Tao, of reconnecting to the Source and our communion with all beings, of celebrating and praising the goodness of creation. This path is closely related with finding our place and feeling at home in the cosmos—not as masters but as creative participants—as well as with sensing the sacredness of life.

It is perhaps easiest to do this by starting with experiences of beauty, awe, and reverence. These spontaneously lead us into greater mindfulness. On a collective level, work around “Earth literacy” can serve as a doorway to this kind of awareness, especially if the kind of learning involved transcends the realm of information to truly serve as an experiential awakening to the beauty and wisdom of our local ecosystems.

Further still, we can open ourselves to the great story of the cosmos itself, a story of ongoing creation and evolution more mysterious and wonderful than any we could have imagined. As we come to see the universe not as a giant machine but as a living being continually birthed into being, a deep sense of gratitude awakens within us. We also come to understand more clearly our own part in this great story and begin to consciously participate in it, seeking to broaden diversity, strengthen communion, and deepen our creative participation in the self-organizing dynamics of emergence.

Yet, we can never fully open ourselves to beauty and awe unless we also clear away the cobwebs of delusion and create space for the Sacred to dwell. We can describe this path in terms of letting go or embracing the void. On one level, this means becoming aware of the ways that despair, denial, and addictions have deadened our souls. In an attempt to block out pain, we build walls that also cut us off from the wellspring of energy that can motivate and inspire us as we work for change. Joanna Macy’s “work that reconnects” provides excellent examples of the kind of collective practices that can help us to let go of delusion and begin to awaken anew to both interconnection and compassion.

Meditation practices are also ways of experiencing and embracing the void—a void that is not empty but is, as both mystical traditions and modern quantum physics suggest, a vast sea of energy, pregnant with possibility.

The third path, of creative empowerment, helps us to reconnect with the embodied energy of the Tao in a way that combines both intuition and compassion. Science teaches us that living systems can change in rapid and often surprising ways through the process of emergence. In this perspective, the key to effective action is not brute force but rather finding the right action for the right place and right time.

To the extent, then, that we can awaken our intuition—both as individuals and communities — the potential exists for liberating change that goes well beyond what we might have first imagined. The importance of vision also comes into play here. As we expand our imaginations to conceive of new ways of living, we begin to invite new possibilities that go beyond our old habits and ways of being.

Finally, we need to be able to incarnate the vision, moving from the realm of vision to action. This is perhaps the most complex of all the paths, for it calls us to work together in new ways that are infused with the power of creative synergy that remains open to the possibilities and potentiality of each moment while at the same time renouncing the exercise of domination and manipulating control.

In walking all four of these intertwined paths, we find inspiration in the dynamic image of the Tao. To the extent that we can align ourselves with the deep energy and purpose evident in the unfolding evolution of the cosmos, we tap into a vast potentiality that can enkindle, guide, and sustain our work for meaningful change. In the words of Thomas Berry in The Great Work, “We are not lacking in the dynamic forces needed to create the future. We live immersed in a sea of energy beyond all comprehension. But this energy, in an ultimate sense, is ours not by domination but by invocation.” (1999, p. 175)

Mark Hathaway is an adult educator who researches and writes about the interconnections between ecology, economics, social justice, spirituality, and cosmology. He has extensive experience in social justice and ecology advocacy working in both Latin American and Canadian churches and ecumenical organizations. Together with Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff, he is the author of The Tao of Liberation: Exploring the Ecology of Transformation published by Orbis Books.
References

Berry, Thomas (1999). The great work: Our way into the future. New York: Bell Tower.

Douglas-Klotz, Neil (1990). Prayers of the cosmos: Meditations on the Aramaic words of Jesus. San Francisco: Harper and Row.

Korten, David (1995). When corporations rule the world. West Hartford, Connecticut: 1995.

Macy, Joanna Rogers (1991a). Mutual causality in Buddhism and general systems theory: The Dharma of natural systems. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Walsh, Roger (1984). Staying alive: The psychology of human survival. Boston: Shambhala New Science Library.

Ask any group of savvy CEOs to tell you the most valuable piece of information they could have, and they will say, “How to unleash innovation and creativity in my work place?”
Richard Barrett

In a world where change is growing exponentially, fortunes are increasingly being won or lost on the ability of companies to anticipate trends and create products to meet these demands. But in the 21st century, unleashing innovation and creativity will not be sufficient to guarantee success. From here on, success will also hinge on whether, in the eyes of its employees and society-at-large, the company is a trusted member of the community, and a good global citizen.

Who you are is becoming just as important as what you sell. The values that corporations stand for are increasingly affecting their ability to hire the best people and sell their products. There is an awakening awareness of the causal link between the rapidly escalating environmental and social issues and the philosophy of business. Govenments and communities are recognizing that the pursuit of self-interest is not only destroying the planet’s life support systems, but the social fabric as well. The era of corporate autocracy is coming to an end. There is too much at stake for it to be otherwise.

Successful business leaders of the 21st century will need to find a dynamic balance between the interests of the corporation, the interest of the workers and the interests of society as a whole. To achieve this goal they will need to take account of the shift in values taking place in society, and the growing demand for people to find meaning and purpose in their work.

The main reason that organizations are unable to mine the creative potential of their employees is that they fail to understand the importance of linking the well-being and survival of their employees to the well-being and survival of the company. When the link between effort and reward is severed, and employees are paid to do rather than to think, there is no incentive to achieve optimal performance. It is only when people feel a direct link between their own contribution, the success of the company, and their personal reward, that they assume responsibility for the whole. When this happens they feel encouraged to fulfill their potential. In other words, moral and economic democracy are essential components of a culture that nurtures innovation and creativity, and taps human potential.

This calls for open, more transparent forms of corporate governance where individuals are encouraged and rewarded for developing their potential and making contributions that impact on the good of the whole. Such cultures can only be based on trust.

Corporate Consciousness
Corporate cultures can be categorized into seven levels:
1 Survival Consciousness
Totally focused on profits. An autocratic, uncaring and fear-driven culture (corporate survival).
2 Relationship Consciousness
Benevolent dictatorship where loyalty between workers is stronger than company loyalty. Lacks flexibility and entrepreneurship.
3 Self-esteem Consciousness
Desire to be the biggest or the best. Hierarchical power structure. Search for efficiency, productivity, quality and excellence (corporate fitness).
4 Transformation
Self-discovery, vision, mission, and values. Balanced needs scorecard. Shift from control to trust, fear to truth, privilege to equality, and fragmentation to unity.
5 Organization Consciousness
Release of innovation and creativity. Search to create conditions for cohesion, community spirit, trust, diversity, and mutual accountability. Recognition of the importance of strategic alliances with suppliers and customers. (corporate well-being).
6 Community Consciousness
Voluntary environmental and social audits. Support to local community. Seach for long-term sustainability. Relationships with local suppliers.
7 Global/Society Consciousness
Contribution to resolving social, human rights, and environmental issues beyond local community. Focus on ethics. Search for truth and wisdom (global/society contribution).

Transformation
Successful organizations in the 21st century will be those that complete their transformation and live out values that support the common good (three higher states of consciousness). Corporations that cannot move beyond self-interest (three lower states of consciousness) will find themselves struggling to survive. The transformation from the lower to the higher states of consciousness involves liberating the corporate soul. It demands enlightened leadership—CEOs and executives who have completed their own transformation.

The fundamental change that occurs during corporate transformation is a shift in attitude from “What’s in it for us (me)?” to “What’s best for the common good?”—a shift from “self-esteem consciousness” to “organizational consciousness.” This involves moving from an exclusive focus on the pursuit of profit to the broader pursuit of a group of objectives that are instrumental in meeting shareholder, worker, customer, supplier, community, and societal needs. In order to measure progress in all these areas, I have developed a balanced needs scorecard based on the seven levels of corporate consciousness:
Seven Levels of
Corporate Consciousness Balanced Needs Scorecard

Balance and Values in Practice
In Built to Last, Collins and Porras identify eighteen visionary companies that, between 1926 and 1990, achieved a growth in shareholder value 15 times greater than the general market.

Their research shows that all these companies had a strong core ideology (values + purpose), and that contrary to business school doctrine, “maximizing shareholder wealth” was not the dominant driving force of these visionary companies. They have tended to pursue a cluster of objectives, of which making money is only one—and not necessarily the primary one. Visionary companies had objectives that transcended purely economic considerations.

When I analyzed the mission statements of the eighteen visionary companies in Built to Last, I found that sixteen had three or more objectives. The majority of their objectives (44%) concerned well-being, and only 20% concerned corporate fituess. Surprisingly only 6% of the objectives mentioned corporate survival (profits or shareholder value).

What is remarkable is that all 18 companies had objectives concerning corporate well-being, whereas 13 had objectives relating to corporate fitness, and only 6 to corporate survival.

Some of the more inspiring values-driven examples of statements adopted by these companies are:

“We are in the business of preserving and improving human life.”
“People as the source of our strength.”
“Improving the quality of life through technology and innovation.”
“People are number one—treat them well, expect a lot, and the rest will follow.”
“Corporate social responsibility.”
“Honesty and integrity.”

The conclusion I reach (indeed, one of the main messages of Liberating the Corporate Soul), is that an organization’s performance is directly related to its ability to tap into its human potential. For the average person, work is one of the most important ways he or she gives expression to who they are, and find their fulfillment.

When a group of people are committed to a common purpose, are given responsibility, and at the same time feel supported and trusted, then, and only then, will they tap their deepest potential. Emotional energy, not mental energy, is the true motivator of the human spirit.

Emotional energy has its source in what people believe and value. Values give meaning to people’s lives. When there is an alignment between an organization’s values and its employees values then people respond by fulfilling their potential and tapping their deepest levels of creativity.


RICHARD BARRETT, Managing Partner, Richard Barrett & Associates, is an international consultant in the field of vision-guided, values-driven cultural transformation. He works with leaders and senior executives in North America, Europe and Australia to develop values-driven organizational cultures that build human capital, strengthen financial performance, and support sustainable development. He is a Fellow of the World Business Academy, and Former Values Coordinator at the World Bank. Mr. Barrett is the author of A Guide to Liberating Your Soul (Fulfilling Books, 1995), and Liberating the Corporate Soul: Building a Visionary Organization (Butterworth-Heinemann, 1998),lt=””

“We have plenty of people who model material success and achievement for us…
What we need more of are those who model enlightenment, real freedom,
the mastery of being.” – The Way of Harmony

Imagine being able to not just reduce, but actually eliminate stress, anxiety, and fear from your consciousness. Imagine being able to solve problems, resolve conflicts, and make decisions effortlessly, while at the same time enhancing the flow and focus of your own creative energy, and that of your organization, so that you maximize performance and results.

The key to realizing freedom involves a shift in the way we see reality. In my new book, The Way of Harmony, I call this shift the core insight, an idea which has its roots in many wisdom traditions. It is seeing that we are not our story, our personal history. The world between our ears that we “think” is who we are, and that gets expressed in the mind and body as conflict, stress, and fear, is not who we really are. The more we learn to be present, expand our awareness, and see the inner drama for the self-created illusion it is, the more it drops away. Without the psychological and emotional holding, our body relaxes, our mind clears, and we awaken to our natural wisdom, love, courage, and joy.

This article explores seven gates of personal mastery that you must pass through if you are to translate the core insight into reality, so that fearless, enlightened leadership can become your “way” in the world. The effectiveness of this material in bringing about transformation has been proven. Make it your own, and it will work for you.

The First Gate
Presence

As you learn to be relaxed, centered, and grounded in the present moment. you begin to free yourself from all forms of mental and emotional conflict. Presence is the source of your physical energy, power, and charisma. The following exercise is the key to being supremely present, and to successfully opening all the gates that follow. Master this one through regular, frequent practice, and true fearlessness will one day be yours.

Expanding Awareness: Whether sitting or standing, close your eyes, wiggle your toes, feel your feet on the ground. Breathe down into your belly. Now visualize the focal point of your awareness as being just behind and above your head. From this place, see and feel the length and breadth of your body within your awareness. Notice your breath, your bodily sensations and feelings, arising and falling away within your awareness. Notice the thoughts and images in your mind coming and going. Notice how sounds come and go against the background of this silent, expanded awareness that is your natural, relaxed state of being.

Everything arises and disappears within your awareness. But awareness itself, this sense of inner clarity and spaciousness, is always present. It is who and what you fundamentally are. Be present, then, as this awareness. Bring this quality of clear, present-time awareness to the task before you.

The Second Gate
Balance

This gate is about understanding the nature of rhythm and change, of ups and downs, and learning to dance harmoniously with whatever is The dance happens naturally as you become sensitive to energy itself, to the underlying flow of mood, sensation, feeling. Most of the stress people experience is because they live too much in their heads, in their story. They are not in touch with their felt, present-time reality.

Energy Awareness: Start paying more attention to what you sense and feel, rather than to judgments, opinions, thoughts. When you are with people, take a few moments to tune-in. Open up to the deeper energy that’s present. Become aware of awareness itself. Listen for the silence behind the words, beyond the surface activity. This will help you get out of your head, into your body, into the moment. As your sensitivity to energy increases, you’ll be more in the flow. Then you’ll know when to be soft, and when to be strong; when to move forward, and when to pull back; when to speak, and when to listen.

The Third Gate
Detachment

Holding on to negative memories and energy from the past, and worrying about what is going to happen in the future are major causes of fear-based reactions in the body, and especially that tight, knotted, or sick feeling in the gut that signals stress. Developing a more meditative, present-time awareness helps with the letting go process, and brings clarity to the mind. When you release attachment to the outcome of your thoughts, goals, and plans, you actually have a much better chance of manifesting them in reality, because your creative energy is no longer being stifled by the fear of loss.

Facing Your Fears: Get centered, then look at the situation, whether real or imagined, that is triggering fear, and affirm to yourself, “Ah, I welcome this as a gift. It is showing me where I am not yet free.” Then you simply picture, in your mind, the worst thing happening. You visualize experiencing the loss, or failure, or whatever it is you’re afraid of over and over again, until it begins to lose its charge. Until you realize that no matter what happens, you will always be okay, and the true beauty and freshness of life will always be here. Like the samurai warrior, you learn to die before you die, and this is the source of your freedom.

The Fourth Gate
Heart

Stress and fear tend to close the heart down. We become judgmental and critical, and life starts to feel empty, joyless, meaningless. One of the key traits of fearless leadership is an awareness of the fundamental interconnectedness of all of existence. The Expanding Awareness exercise brings you into the experience of this. As you become more sensitive to your own and others’ feelings, to the underlying concerns, worries, and fears that all people have, your natural kindness, compassion, and generosity are liberated — and, with them, deep inner strength and courage. An open heart, balanced with common sense and good judgment, makes you the leader that everyone wants to follow.

Releasing Blame: Blaming those who have hurt, wronged, or betrayed us causes our heart to harden, makes us feel like a victim, and just perpetuates our own suffering. People do hurtful things because they do not feel loved, they are not at peace within themselves. Understand that, focus on being fully conscious and present in your own life, and it will be easier to let go of blame, resentment, and anything else that interferes with your mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

The Fifth Gate
Truth

Fearless leadership requires self-honesty. You’ve got to be willing to look within and examine your personal demons, whether they manifest as self-doubt, guilt, resentment, judgment, arrogance, or in some other form. As you face them, breathe into them, and see through their essential insubstantiality (as “real” as they seem, they are in fact just part of the story you’ve been telling yourself), you start to get free of them. Then it becomes easy to speak the truth, because you’re no longer caught up in trying to defend or justify your ego. You are able to facilitate authentic dialogue with others. They will feel free to speak their truth, and in this way you gather the energy and talent of the entire group, or team.

Be A Listener: The best way to invite honesty and to attract people to your cause, is to be interested in them. If you are really present with them and listen to them, you will establish the level of trust that makes them want to open up, share themselves, and bring all of who they are to the table.

The Sixth Gate
Vision

As you become more present and learn to witness your thoughts, rather than being caught up in them, your awareness naturally expands, becomes more multidimensional, so that it is easier to process endless amounts of information without being overwhelmed. You break free of the box of either/or, black/white thinking. Paradox and uncertainty are no longer seen as threatening, but rather are viewed as opportunities for exploring new possibilities, and for engaging in fresh, creative thinking.

The key insight here is understanding that what you see is what you get. Think fearful thoughts, and you’ll create situations which just reinforce your fear. But pull back your mental projections, drop your conceptual filters, your story, and you will see reality with stunning clarity. You will use thinking as a tool for communication and creativity, but it won’t be a source of worry and anxiety anymore. Then it will be much easier to make the right decisions, and to manifest your goals and dreams in reality.
The Seventh Gate
Realization

True fearlessness comes with what has traditionally been called enlightenment, awakening, or self-realization–or, as I call it, mastery of the core insight. It is knowing yourself at the deepest level of your being. It is knowing who you are beyond all your beliefs and ideas about who you are, beyond the “story” you have created about who you are.

When you no longer hold onto any image or concept of “self,” because you have seen that it is all a self-generated fiction anyway, there is nothing in your consciousness to resist what is happening — and so, no fear. Meaning and happiness no longer depend on beliefs, outer conditions, economic status, or anything else. They come from within, from the fullness and radiance of being itself. Your ego and your personal history are available when needed, but they don’t get in the way. Changes, of the kind which throw most people into crisis, cease having the power to upset you, other than momentarily. If upset does occur, you remember to breathe and be present, and you recover your clarity and equanimity quickly.

The authenticity, spontaneity, and sheer goodwill you then bring to each moment will inspire the highest and best in others, and in this way you create a fearless organization.

© Jim Dreaver, June, 2000

The Way of Harmony: Walking the Inner Path to Balance. Happiness. and Success (Avon Books) focuses on how to accelerate the awakening process within the context of health, relationships, work, money, success, and daily life. Acclaimed by all who have read It for its clarity, inspiring stories, and practical tools, it is available at your bookstore or on-line at www. amazon. com, or http://www.barnesandnoble. com.

Jim Dreaver has been teaching in the fields of mind/body integration, stress-management, personal mastery, and leadership development for twenty years.

Author and teacher Jim’s (who appeared on Bridging Show # 220) message explores the awakening to inner peace and freedom, and what is involved in transforming conflict, stress, and suffering into clarity, well-being, and optimal performance.

His journey began in New Zealand, where he was the grandson of one of the first women elected to the Parliament there. He served as an army officer with New Zealand forces in Vietnam in 1967-68, studied English literature and political science at the University of Auckland, and then eventually traveled to the United States, where he attended Palmer College of Chiropractic, graduating with honors in 1976.

After settling in northern California, he built a successful private practice teaching others how to heal and transform their lives from within. In 1983, he embarked on a nine-month spiritual quest through China, Bali, Nepal, India, and the South Pacific. A year later, when he returned to California, he met Jean Klein, a European master of Advaita Vedanta, the direct path to awakening. Under Jean’s guidance, Jim eventually realized his true nature and found the inner peace and freedom he had spent twenty years seeking.

He has published two books focusing on integrating spirituality with everyday life: The Way of Harmony: Walking the Inner Path to Balance, Happiness, and Success (Avon, 1999), and The Ultimate Cure: The Healing Energy Within You (Llewellyn, 1995). He has also written a text for health professionals titled Somatic Technique: A Simplified Method of Releasing Chronically Tight Muscles and Enhancing Mind/Body Awareness (Wild Goose Press, 2001), and has published articles in Yoga Journal, New Realities, and Science of Mind.

He has facilitated over two hundred seminars and workshops, including teaching at Esalen Institute, and has shared his work with audiences nationwide through numerous radio interviews, book signings, and television appearances.

Jim lives in Sebastopol, California, where, along with his writing, and his speaking and workshop schedule, he sees people privately, guiding them on the journey of awakening.

Jim’s website is:

http://www.JimDreaver.com

Orchestrating Our Many Selves
Jean Houston on the Fallacy of
Self-Mastery
by Amy Edelstein


WIE: You write in your book A Passion for the Possible that “human beings are not constituted to be content with living as thwarted, inhibited versions of themselves. Throughout history and all over the world, people have felt a yearning to be more, a longing to push the membrane of the possible. They have entered monasteries and mystery schools, pursuing secular as well as esoteric studies. They have practiced yoga, martial arts, sports, dance, art. They have left home and family to adventure beyond the ordinary, embarking on visionary and spiritual quests.” Are you suggesting that what motivates an individual to pursue excellence in any of those disciplines, be it creative or athletic, is the same as what motivates an individual to pursue spiritual evolution or enlightenment?

JH: I think they come from different levels of the self. I talk about four levels in my work—the sensory, psychological, mythic and spiritual levels. So I would say that more likely what motivates people to pursue excellence is from the sensory and psychological levels, and what motivates them to pursue spiritual realization is more from the mythic and spiritual levels. But that impetus, the great sounding chord that says “it is time to be what you are” is there all the time. This is what I try to communicate in my workshops, seminars and books. The simplest book I ever wrote was A Passion for the Possible, in which I try to lead people into ways of enhancing each of the levels. And all of this works to some extent. But if you’re talking about enlightenment, I think it is a balance between all of the levels. At different times in life one level may be more emphasized than another, but above all it is the finding of the essential self that then becomes the orchestrator, the evocateur of these many levels of the self.

WIE: You speak about being “a conscious participant in an unfolding drama,” about the personal drama of life as an impersonal event and about our own struggles as equivalent to the challenges faced by heroes in the mythic stories. You also very passionately ask people to act with strength, courage and perseverance, and not to stop in the face of obstacles. In light of this, would you say that you are calling people to live from the realization of what you refer to as the “unitive level,” or could we say that you are also calling people to live a life of self—determination or, in other words, self-mastery?

JH: Again, I will not use the term “self-mastery”! I’m calling people to live out of the larger story, out of the capacity of their own destiny. The reason I use the great stories like the search for the Holy Grail and The Odyssey is that these myths help us tap into the extraordinary coding, which allows us to express the deepest truths about ourselves. We can find these deepest truths through realizing that we are part of a greater story. You see, we are storied beings; stories are just flowing through our bloodstream. We are a story at every second of our life, and the stages of our lives are great stories. What I try to do is help people to find these eternal stories that are there. These mythic tales of death and resurrection, rites of passage, quests and discoveries are organic constructs of the deep psyche. And they are there to show us that the story isn’t over. A few of us may get stuck, get depressed, get caught up in our own insularities, but when we find the motivating story, then the personal-particular becomes part of the personal-universal and we move on. The yellow brick road unfolds and the journey is before us.

WIE: Would you say that we need to live from these higher levels in order for evolution to take place?

JH: I would say that it’s as if we have a million potentials and we tootle and hoot on about twenty of them. Part of my work has been saying, “My God! Look what we’ve got! Look what’s there!” It’s not just in our body and mind, as Joseph Campbell thought, but in our very psyche. It’s not just cultural, it seems to be structural. It’s part of the resonance of the universal story that is activated in us, and when we tap into it, all kinds of potentials begin to unfold. If we are exploring our lives through the larger personae which we have within us, through the greater story, and if we are ultimately spiritually sourced in the ground of our being, we’re cooking on more elaborate burners, and the fire is under the crucible of spirit.

WIE: In your travels all around the world, having met thousands of very unusual individuals, who would you say would be the greatest example of self-mastery? Who would you say was the greatest example of enlightenment? And what was it about them that distinguished them from each other?

JH: I wouldn’t describe an example of self-mastery, but I would of enlightenment. The most evocative example for me was an old man who I used to take walks with. When I was fourteen years old my parents got divorced, and I was just grief-stricken about it. I took to running down Park Avenue, late for school—I would run from my grief. And one day I ran into an old man and knocked the wind out of him. I picked him up and he said to me in a French accent, “Are you planning to run like that for the rest of your life?”

I said, “Yes sir, looks that way.”

He said, “Well, bon voyage!”

I said, “Bon voyage.” And I ran to school. The following week I was walking my fox terrier, Champ, and I saw the old man coming out of a building. I lived at 86th just off of Park Avenue and the old man lived somewhere around 84th and Park.

He said to me, “Ah, my friend the runner, you have a fox terrier. Where are you going?”

“Well sir, I take Champ to Central Park after school. I just think about things.”

“I will go with you sometime, okay?”

I said, “Well, sure.”

“I will take my constitutional.”

Now he was something. He had no self-consciousness at all. He had leaky margins with the world. He had a long French name but he asked me to call him by the first part of it, which to my American ears sounded like “Mr. Tayer.” So I called him Mr. Tayer. We walked for about a year and a half, off and on, mostly Tuesdays and Thursdays. He would suddenly fall to the ground and look at a caterpillar: “Oh, Jean, look at the caterpillar! Ah, moving, changing, transforming, metamorphosing. Jean, feel yourself to be a caterpillar. Can you do that?”

“Very easily, Mr. Tayer.” I mean, here I was, a fourteen-year-old girl nearly six feet tall with red dots on my face—I felt like a caterpillar!

He said, “What are you when you finally become a papillon, a butterfly? What is the butterfly of Jean?”

“I don’t know, Mr. Tayer!”

“Yes, you know, you know. I know you know. Now, what are you transforming into?”

“Well, I think when I grow up I’ll fly all over the world, and maybe I’ll help people.” It turned out to be largely true.

WIE: It certainly did.

JH: “Ah! Bon, bon, bon.” And he’d say, “Oh, Jean, lean into the wind!” There are these strong winds off of Central Park. “Ah, Jean, smell the wind! Same wind once went through Jesus Christ.”

“Jesus Christ felt this?”

“Yes. Oh, Marie Antoinette, here she comes! Genghis Khan, not so good. Joan of Arc, Jean D’Arc! Be filled with Jean D’Arc! Be filled with the tides of history!” We had all these wonderful games about life: “Jean, look at the clouds, God’s calligraphy in the sky!”

He would suddenly stop and look at you, and he would giggle and you would giggle, and he’d giggle and you’d giggle, and then he would look at you laughing and laughing as if you were the cluttered house that hid the Holy One. I would go home and tell my mother, “Mother I met my old man again and when I’m with him I leave my littleness behind.”

Toward the end of our walk together one day, he stopped suddenly and he turned to me and said, “Jean, what to you is the most fascinating question?”

And I said, “It’s about history, Mr. Tayer, and destiny, too. How can we take the right path in history so that we even have a destiny? My friends at school all talk about the H-bomb, and I wonder if I’ll ever get to be twenty-one years old. Mr. Tayer, you always talk about the future of man as if we had a future; I want to know what we have to do to keep that future coming.”

He said, “We need to have more specialists in spirit who will lead people into self-discovery.”

“What do you mean, Mr. Tayer?”

He said—and this is exactly what he said; I was taking notes because I knew I was in the presence of greatness—”We are being called into metamorphosis, into a far higher order, and yet we often act only from a tiny portion of ourselves. It is necessary that we increase that portion. But do not think for one minute, Jean, that we are alone in making that possible. We are part of a cosmic evolutionary movement that inspires us to unite with God. This is the lightning flash for all our potentialities. This is the great originating cause of all our shifts and changes. Without it there is nothing but struggle and decline.”

And I said to him, “What do you call it? I’ve never heard of it. Can something as great as that even have a name?”

“You are right,” he said, “it is impossible to name.”

“Well, try to name it, Mr. Tayer. I’ve heard that once a thing is named, you can begin to work with it.”

He seemed amused and he said, “I’ll try.” And then he said, “It is the demand of the universe for the birth of the ultra-human. It is the rising of a new form of psychic energy in which the very depths of loving within you are combined with what is most essential in the flowing of the cosmic stream.”

I didn’t really understand what he was saying, but I nodded sagely, and I said I would ponder these things, and he said he would also. One day toward the end of our time together—this was actually the last day that I ever saw him—Mr. Tayer began talking to me about the lure of becoming, a phrase that then became a part of my language. And also about how we humans are part of an evolutionary process in which we are being drawn toward something—which he called the “Omega point”—full of evolution. He told me that he believed that physical and spiritual energy was always flowing out from the Omega point and empowering us as well as leading us forward through love and illumination. And it was then that I asked him my ultimate question, the one that I must say has continued to haunt me all the days of my life: “What do you believe it’s all about, Mr. Tayer?” His answer is enshrined in my heart. He started by saying, “Je crois”—I believe. “I believe that the universe is in evolution. I believe that the evolution is toward spirit. I believe that spirit fulfills itself in a personal God.”

“And what do you believe about yourself, Mr. Tayer?”

He said, “I believe that I am a pilgrim of the future.”

It was the Thursday before Easter Sunday, 1955. I had brought him the shell of a snail. “Ah! Escargot!” he said, and then he began to wax ecstatic for the better part of an hour about spirals and nature and art, snail shells and galaxies, the labyrinth on the floor of Chartres Cathedral—which later became a symbol of my work—and the Rose Window and the convolutions of the brain, the whirl of flowers and the circulation of the heart’s blood. It was all taken up in a great hymn to the spiraling evolution of spirit and matter, “It’s all a spiral of becoming, Jean!” Then he looked away, and he seemed to be seeing into the future and he said, “Jean, the people of your time, toward the end of this century, will be taking the tiller of the world. But they cannot go directly.” He used the French word, directement. “You have to go in spirals, touching upon every people, every culture, every kind of consciousness. It is then that the newest in the field of mind will awaken and we will rebuild the earth.” And then he said to me, “Jean, remain always true to yourself, but move ever upward toward greater consciousness and greater love.” Those were the words that he said to me. Then he said, “Au revoir, Jean.”

“Au revoir, Mr. Tayer! I’ll see you on Tuesday!”

And Tuesday came and I brought Champ, and Champ whimpered; he seemed to know something. And my old man never came. Thursday, Tuesday, Thursday. Eight weeks I waited and he never came again, because it turned out he had died on that Sunday in 1955.

Years later, somebody gave me a book without a cover called The Phenomenon of Man. And when I began to read it, I said, “My God! That’s my pal, that’s . . . oh my goodness. . . .” And I went to my friend and asked, “Have you got the cover to the book?” And she gave it to me and I flipped it over and, of course, there was my old man. No forgetting that face! Mr. Tayer had been Teilhard de Chardin.

WIE: That’s extraordinary!

JH: He was the most enlightened person I’ve ever met. He certainly has had a profound influence on my life, on my sense of history and of who and what we are. He was childlike, always in a state of wonder and astonishment. Always in a state of, as I said, leaky margins with reality. There wasn’t a question of self because he was so embodied in all things, in all existences. And he saw spiritual and physical energy as utterly necessary to each other. So that’s ultimately what I have to say about the whole thing and what I really believe.

WIE: I’d like to begin by asking how you would define “self-mastery.”

Jean Houston: I would never use the word “mastery”! I thought I’d tell you that right away. Maybe that’s a feminine point of view—I can talk about an orchestration and a balance of capacities, but I don’t think I’d ever use the word “mastery.” To me, it smacks of galloping chutzpah! I just don’t think self-mastery exists. How’s that for a beginning?

I think the nearest that we can come to talking about self-mastery is to talk about the nature of essence; and when we touch into essence, latent abilities and skills suddenly jump into life.

WIE: How would you define “enlightenment” then?

JH: I think enlightenment exceeds definition because it is so experiential; the mystics say it’s unexplainable. But if I can speak about it as a process, I can get closer. I’d say it’s an extraordinary effort of reweaving the self in body, mind and spirit that can be accomplished by a depth of loving, by a giving over of the local self to the godstuff. It is the honing of one’s inner and outer perceptions so one is able to see, hear, touch, taste, feel and intuit the immensity of what is really there. The veils of the self are lifted.

WIE: Exponents of self-mastery and enlightenment each tend to see their approach as leading to the realization of our full human potential. Yet closer examination reveals these two approaches to be radically different. The highly accomplished individuals who we have come to call the “Self Masters” express what could be described as an “I Can” spirit. They are individuals who have made enormous effort to break through seemingly unbreakable barriers, and who exude a powerful confidence that comes from their fundamental knowing that “I can do it!” Jack LaLanne would be a good example of someone who embodies this “I Can” spirit. On the other hand, enlightenment is described by the great traditions as a fundamental groundedness in what is referred to as “Being” itself, or “I Am.” Would you say that the “I Can” and the “I Am” are basically antithetical modes of transformation?

JH: Well, not from the perspective of God. You see, you can get extraordinary confidence from being “in the flow” in great sporting moments. For example, when I was fourteen or fifteen I was a very serious fencer. I really loved it and I was pretty good. Once, in New York, I was in a round-robin—where you keep competing until you lose—and what happened to me was fascinating. There were men and women, and we were fencing with foils. All the fencers were much older than I was, and they were some of the city’s best. Well, as I began to fence I suddenly found that I was in “the zone”! No longer just a pretty good fencer, I had tapped into the essence of fencing. I was the sport! Anticipating all moves, seeing all opportunities, I couldn’t tire. Endless waves of energy filled me. There was no possibility of beating me. One after another, twenty opponents came up and were defeated. And there I was, “Quarte, sixte, paré, et là! Strike to the heart!” On and on it went—my essence and the essence of the sport in a rapturous union of movement and spirit. That kind of gallant élan filled me. I was all the great fencers who ever were, Scaramouche, Cyrano de Bergerac. I felt as if their spirits were joining with mine for one last great bout, until after six hours of continuous fencing, the match was stopped and I was declared the winner. How did this happen?!

Several times in my life I’ve been in that state, and it’s not a state of “I Can,” I assure you. It is as if your essence joins the essence of the action itself—almost like you tune into the god or goddess of the action, the very archetype of it. It’s much more complex than saying “I Can” and “I Am.”

WIE: When speaking about cultivating our highest human potential, the approach of self-mastery advocates the use of discipline and effort to push ourselves through limitations, while the traditional teachings of enlightenment point to the realization of a condition of effortless “letting go” as the ground for deep and abiding change. What do you see as the fundamental basis for the realization of our full human potential?

JH: We’re so different from each other. We’re as different as snowflakes. I often say, “We’re not flaky, we’re snowflakes.” Some people are pushers and some people are relaxers-into. That’s why, when I teach, I always try to provide a variety of ways into the unfolding and enlisting of capacities. My workshops are filled with music and dance and jokes and enactments and “process” as well as cognitive exercises, because the point is to reach people through whatever form. That’s why there are so many different forms of yoga—karma yoga, bhakti yoga, hatha yoga, dhyana yoga, etc. You can’t just talk about one particular way.

WIE: I understand, but just to pursue this question a little further, individuals who seem to have achieved an unusual degree of self-mastery often claim that through the consistent development of greater and greater control over our bodies, thoughts and feelings, it is possible to discover a deep sense of fulfillment and a profound experience of inner freedom. Enlightenment teachings, on the other hand, generally state that it’s only through a complete giving up of control, a submission to “Thy will” rather than “my will,” that we can experience true spiritual freedom. What is your view of these two different approaches to inner freedom?

JH: I would never use the word “control” here. I just don’t think it can be achieved! I would say instead a kind of “genial orchestration.” And you’ve also got to realize that you’re talking about the difference between the muscular West and the more relaxed East. Our Calvinistic theology is: Try! Try! “I will labor in the vineyard of the Lord to know if I’m worthy or not,” or, “Am I among the 144,000 elect? I can only prove it by trying harder and harder.” It’s a cultural lensing. Look at the stories that make up our culture’s mythic structures: Horatio Alger. Sail over the sea! Cut down the forest! Build! Push! Those are the words of a frontier psychology. And a frontier psychology will manifest especially in religious or spiritual experience as: Keep pushing, keep trying. Whereas the other is surrender: Surrender into love, surrender into being. The great mystics say, “My God, my Love, Thou art all mine and I am all Thine!” They talk about the intensity of loving; theirs is a culture of love. You see, the union with the Beloved is a different perspective.

What happens in either case is an alchemy, no question. It is an alchemy in which the human being attempts to become what he or she truly is, and in which they perhaps experience and express the greater life for which we have all been coded. You see, I believe that we’ve all been deeply coded for a much larger life. And I believe that what we’re calling “enlightenment” is coded in us as part of our inheritance. For different people from different parts of the world, there are certain patterns of journeys and stages of unfolding—not unlike the unfolding of the coding of the DNA structures in the genes.

My problem with those who will themselves to a certain end is that they lose access to the coding, and then they only gain the culture’s notion of what is good and best and bright and beautiful. You just have to look at Vanity Fair or Vogue magazine to see what I’m talking about. I think our potential is much richer than that, and I think that the Easterners have a deeper and more subtle and perhaps even a truer grasp of it.

WIE: You said you would never use the term “self-mastery,” and that maybe that’s a feminine point of view. It might intrigue you to know that it was very difficult finding women to interview for this issue of WIE, apparently because women don’t tend to speak about their achievements in the same way that men do. For example, Susan Powter wouldn’t go near the term “self-mastery” either. In spite of the fact that she expresses many of the qualities of self-mastery in her own life, she felt strongly that “mastery” represents a patriarchal view, and she insisted that we speak about this subject only in terms of natural processes and other more “feminine” concepts. Why do you object to the term “mastery,” and why do you think women in general object to both the word and the concept?

JH: I think “mastery” offends the senses of anybody who has a real ecological sense of the world. Sir Frances Bacon talked about extending the empire of man over things, and we see where that has brought us—our so-called mastery has resulted in so much destruction. So I think that’s why. Mastery just reflects such a narrow bandwidth. It is like making a slave of the self and then mastering your inner slave. In this country with its horrendous history of slavery—with its “Ho Massah! Yessah Massah!”—the word has fearful connotations. In addition to that, there is the sense that you are mastering the self. Who is to say that the self doesn’t have its own agenda, which may be much larger than one’s own ego’s view of what that agenda should be?

WIE: In the course of our research for this issue, we looked at many individuals who expressed the unusual qualities of self-mastery: control, discipline, perseverance in the face of obstacles, going beyond limitations and deep confidence and positivity. We read about some extraordinary women, including Billie Jean King, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Jan Reynolds, who skied Mt. Everest, and Ann Bancroft, the first woman to go to the North and South Poles. To our surprise, we found that even these outstanding individuals didn’t describe their accomplishments with the degree of confidence and pride they undeniably warranted. In fact, King and Bancroft, in spite of their achievements, slipped into depression, disillusionment and despair. They didn’t sustain the same positive outlook on life—

JH: The way the men did.

WIE: Yes! We were intrigued by this, and we spoke with Beverly Slade, a psychologist who has studied the way women relate to excellence. She had some very interesting things to say. One of her primary conclusions is that women don’t want to speak about their own abilities because it’s socially unacceptable for them to do so; and if they do, they risk losing their relationships—the friendship, support, protection, and affirmation of men and of women. It’s acceptable in our culture for women to stand out if they are nurturers, like Mother Teresa, but women risk censure if they speak with confidence about their attainments, about their cultivation of self-mastery. What do you think about her conclusions?

JH: I think that is partially true, but I think there is a deeper story to it. The deeper story is that women are devoted to process rather than product. I think the underlying reason is that women are devoted to making things grow—so you do something and then it’s time to move on and do the next thing.

WIE: What do you mean by being “devoted to process”?

JH: Well, to be devoted to process is to really look at each stage as it unfolds, to see how the things cohere, develop, grow. The way or the path is what is important—it is the ways and the means; it is not the end. If you’re watching little children grow, if you’re taking care of things in process, then that’s what’s important and you get on with it.

WIE: From all I’ve heard about your teaching work, you really give everything you possibly can to what you are doing—you go all out. It doesn’t seem to be just about process. It isn’t only that you enjoy the preparation for one of your talks, for example, but that you give everything to make it exceptional. This is one of the qualities that we’ve found in self-mastery—giving everything, going for broke.

JH: To me that is not a mastery of the self. That is merely an orchestration of many qualities that I have developed over many years. It is my self in its efflorescence, you see, the fullness of my being. A fuller use. I even hate the word “use”; I would say—”fuller unfolding” or “being in the service of something that it seems very important to do.”

WIE: What do you think it is in you that drives you to go all the way when other people would settle for giving less than everything?

JH: Well, it is not ambition. I’ll tell you what it is—it’s a sense of time, of history, and a sense of urgency; knowing that we could lose it all. These are the times and they’re so critical. I figure I have maybe thirty or thirty-five good years left of my life. And I would hope in that time to continue to be able to do something to be of service to the planet, to people.

WIE: What do you think about the message of individuals like Anthony Robbins, who teach that the force of transformative change is materialized through taking action, that we control our own destiny through the decisions that we make? Or Jack LaLanne, who says he doesn’t know anything about grace, and asserts that “God helps those who help themselves”? Or Dan Millman, former world-class gymnast and author of books about human transformation, who endorses as a way to live the popular slogan “Just do it!”?

JH: That’s a very Western point of view!

WIE: The enlightenment teachings, on the other hand, point to surrender as the way to transformation. Would you say that genuine evolution is achieved through our own efforts, as these extraordinary individuals suggest, or is it found through naturally surrendering to that process of “unfolding,” as you have described it?

JH: Well, my point of view is that it is both plus much, much more—it’s not one or the other. As I said earlier, people are very different in the ways that they approach this. To be able to give a cogent answer, not only would I have to study these people’s work, but I would also have to look at long-term results in people’s lives. And I mean long-term results, not just people saying “I had a wonderful time at the seminar,” because that’s easy to get. We live in a testimonial world. To me the proof of the pudding is: are they kinder? Like the Dalai Lama says, “My religion is kindness.” Also, what is the service to the world that people are giving? Are they trying to make a difference and make this a better world? I feel that it really comes down to that.

WIE: You write in your book A Passion for the Possible that “human beings are not constituted to be content with living as thwarted, inhibited versions of themselves. Throughout history and all over the world, people have felt a yearning to be more, a longing to push the membrane of the possible. They have entered monasteries and mystery schools, pursuing secular as well as esoteric studies. They have practiced yoga, martial arts, sports, dance, art. They have left home and family to adventure beyond the ordinary, embarking on visionary and spiritual quests.” Are you suggesting that what motivates an individual to pursue excellence in any of those disciplines, be it creative or athletic, is the same as what motivates an individual to pursue spiritual evolution or enlightenment?

JH: I think they come from different levels of the self. I talk about four levels in my work—the sensory, psychological, mythic and spiritual levels. So I would say that more likely what motivates people to pursue excellence is from the sensory and psychological levels, and what motivates them to pursue spiritual realization is more from the mythic and spiritual levels. But that impetus, the great sounding chord that says “it is time to be what you are” is there all the time. This is what I try to communicate in my workshops, seminars and books. The simplest book I ever wrote was A Passion for the Possible, in which I try to lead people into ways of enhancing each of the levels. And all of this works to some extent. But if you’re talking about enlightenment, I think it is a balance between all of the levels. At different times in life one level may be more emphasized than another, but above all it is the finding of the essential self that then becomes the orchestrator, the evocateur of these many levels of the self.

WIE: You speak about being “a conscious participant in an unfolding drama,” about the personal drama of life as an impersonal event and about our own struggles as equivalent to the challenges faced by heroes in the mythic stories. You also very passionately ask people to act with strength, courage and perseverance, and not to stop in the face of obstacles. In light of this, would you say that you are calling people to live from the realization of what you refer to as the “unitive level,” or could we say that you are also calling people to live a life of self—determination or, in other words, self-mastery?

JH: Again, I will not use the term “self-mastery”! I’m calling people to live out of the larger story, out of the capacity of their own destiny. The reason I use the great stories like the search for the Holy Grail and The Odyssey is that these myths help us tap into the extraordinary coding, which allows us to express the deepest truths about ourselves. We can find these deepest truths through realizing that we are part of a greater story. You see, we are storied beings; stories are just flowing through our bloodstream. We are a story at every second of our life, and the stages of our lives are great stories. What I try to do is help people to find these eternal stories that are there. These mythic tales of death and resurrection, rites of passage, quests and discoveries are organic constructs of the deep psyche. And they are there to show us that the story isn’t over. A few of us may get stuck, get depressed, get caught up in our own insularities, but when we find the motivating story, then the personal-particular becomes part of the personal-universal and we move on. The yellow brick road unfolds and the journey is before us.

WIE: Would you say that we need to live from these higher levels in order for evolution to take place?

JH: I would say that it’s as if we have a million potentials and we tootle and hoot on about twenty of them. Part of my work has been saying, “My God! Look what we’ve got! Look what’s there!” It’s not just in our body and mind, as Joseph Campbell thought, but in our very psyche. It’s not just cultural, it seems to be structural. It’s part of the resonance of the universal story that is activated in us, and when we tap into it, all kinds of potentials begin to unfold. If we are exploring our lives through the larger personae which we have within us, through the greater story, and if we are ultimately spiritually sourced in the ground of our being, we’re cooking on more elaborate burners, and the fire is under the crucible of spirit.

WIE: In your travels all around the world, having met thousands of very unusual individuals, who would you say would be the greatest example of self-mastery? Who would you say was the greatest example of enlightenment? And what was it about them that distinguished them from each other?

JH: I wouldn’t describe an example of self-mastery, but I would of enlightenment. The most evocative example for me was an old man who I used to take walks with. When I was fourteen years old my parents got divorced, and I was just grief-stricken about it. I took to running down Park Avenue, late for school—I would run from my grief. And one day I ran into an old man and knocked the wind out of him. I picked him up and he said to me in a French accent, “Are you planning to run like that for the rest of your life?”

I said, “Yes sir, looks that way.”

He said, “Well, bon voyage!”

I said, “Bon voyage.” And I ran to school. The following week I was walking my fox terrier, Champ, and I saw the old man coming out of a building. I lived at 86th just off of Park Avenue and the old man lived somewhere around 84th and Park.

He said to me, “Ah, my friend the runner, you have a fox terrier. Where are you going?”

“Well sir, I take Champ to Central Park after school. I just think about things.”

“I will go with you sometime, okay?”

I said, “Well, sure.”

“I will take my constitutional.”

Now he was something. He had no self-consciousness at all. He had leaky margins with the world. He had a long French name but he asked me to call him by the first part of it, which to my American ears sounded like “Mr. Tayer.” So I called him Mr. Tayer. We walked for about a year and a half, off and on, mostly Tuesdays and Thursdays. He would suddenly fall to the ground and look at a caterpillar: “Oh, Jean, look at the caterpillar! Ah, moving, changing, transforming, metamorphosing. Jean, feel yourself to be a caterpillar. Can you do that?”

“Very easily, Mr. Tayer.” I mean, here I was, a fourteen-year-old girl nearly six feet tall with red dots on my face—I felt like a caterpillar!

He said, “What are you when you finally become a papillon, a butterfly? What is the butterfly of Jean?”

“I don’t know, Mr. Tayer!”

“Yes, you know, you know. I know you know. Now, what are you transforming into?”

“Well, I think when I grow up I’ll fly all over the world, and maybe I’ll help people.” It turned out to be largely true.

WIE: It certainly did.

JH: “Ah! Bon, bon, bon.” And he’d say, “Oh, Jean, lean into the wind!” There are these strong winds off of Central Park. “Ah, Jean, smell the wind! Same wind once went through Jesus Christ.”

“Jesus Christ felt this?”

“Yes. Oh, Marie Antoinette, here she comes! Genghis Khan, not so good. Joan of Arc, Jean D’Arc! Be filled with Jean D’Arc! Be filled with the tides of history!” We had all these wonderful games about life: “Jean, look at the clouds, God’s calligraphy in the sky!”

He would suddenly stop and look at you, and he would giggle and you would giggle, and he’d giggle and you’d giggle, and then he would look at you laughing and laughing as if you were the cluttered house that hid the Holy One. I would go home and tell my mother, “Mother I met my old man again and when I’m with him I leave my littleness behind.”

Toward the end of our walk together one day, he stopped suddenly and he turned to me and said, “Jean, what to you is the most fascinating question?”

And I said, “It’s about history, Mr. Tayer, and destiny, too. How can we take the right path in history so that we even have a destiny? My friends at school all talk about the H-bomb, and I wonder if I’ll ever get to be twenty-one years old. Mr. Tayer, you always talk about the future of man as if we had a future; I want to know what we have to do to keep that future coming.”

He said, “We need to have more specialists in spirit who will lead people into self-discovery.”

“What do you mean, Mr. Tayer?”

He said—and this is exactly what he said; I was taking notes because I knew I was in the presence of greatness—”We are being called into metamorphosis, into a far higher order, and yet we often act only from a tiny portion of ourselves. It is necessary that we increase that portion. But do not think for one minute, Jean, that we are alone in making that possible. We are part of a cosmic evolutionary movement that inspires us to unite with God. This is the lightning flash for all our potentialities. This is the great originating cause of all our shifts and changes. Without it there is nothing but struggle and decline.”

And I said to him, “What do you call it? I’ve never heard of it. Can something as great as that even have a name?”

“You are right,” he said, “it is impossible to name.”

“Well, try to name it, Mr. Tayer. I’ve heard that once a thing is named, you can begin to work with it.”

He seemed amused and he said, “I’ll try.” And then he said, “It is the demand of the universe for the birth of the ultra-human. It is the rising of a new form of psychic energy in which the very depths of loving within you are combined with what is most essential in the flowing of the cosmic stream.”

I didn’t really understand what he was saying, but I nodded sagely, and I said I would ponder these things, and he said he would also. One day toward the end of our time together—this was actually the last day that I ever saw him—Mr. Tayer began talking to me about the lure of becoming, a phrase that then became a part of my language. And also about how we humans are part of an evolutionary process in which we are being drawn toward something—which he called the “Omega point”—full of evolution. He told me that he believed that physical and spiritual energy was always flowing out from the Omega point and empowering us as well as leading us forward through love and illumination. And it was then that I asked him my ultimate question, the one that I must say has continued to haunt me all the days of my life: “What do you believe it’s all about, Mr. Tayer?” His answer is enshrined in my heart. He started by saying, “Je crois”—I believe. “I believe that the universe is in evolution. I believe that the evolution is toward spirit. I believe that spirit fulfills itself in a personal God.”

“And what do you believe about yourself, Mr. Tayer?”

He said, “I believe that I am a pilgrim of the future.”

It was the Thursday before Easter Sunday, 1955. I had brought him the shell of a snail. “Ah! Escargot!” he said, and then he began to wax ecstatic for the better part of an hour about spirals and nature and art, snail shells and galaxies, the labyrinth on the floor of Chartres Cathedral—which later became a symbol of my work—and the Rose Window and the convolutions of the brain, the whirl of flowers and the circulation of the heart’s blood. It was all taken up in a great hymn to the spiraling evolution of spirit and matter, “It’s all a spiral of becoming, Jean!” Then he looked away, and he seemed to be seeing into the future and he said, “Jean, the people of your time, toward the end of this century, will be taking the tiller of the world. But they cannot go directly.” He used the French word, directement. “You have to go in spirals, touching upon every people, every culture, every kind of consciousness. It is then that the newest in the field of mind will awaken and we will rebuild the earth.” And then he said to me, “Jean, remain always true to yourself, but move ever upward toward greater consciousness and greater love.” Those were the words that he said to me. Then he said, “Au revoir, Jean.”

“Au revoir, Mr. Tayer! I’ll see you on Tuesday!”

And Tuesday came and I brought Champ, and Champ whimpered; he seemed to know something. And my old man never came. Thursday, Tuesday, Thursday. Eight weeks I waited and he never came again, because it turned out he had died on that Sunday in 1955.

Years later, somebody gave me a book without a cover called The Phenomenon of Man. And when I began to read it, I said, “My God! That’s my pal, that’s . . . oh my goodness. . . .” And I went to my friend and asked, “Have you got the cover to the book?” And she gave it to me and I flipped it over and, of course, there was my old man. No forgetting that face! Mr. Tayer had been Teilhard de Chardin.

WIE: That’s extraordinary!

JH: He was the most enlightened person I’ve ever met. He certainly has had a profound influence on my life, on my sense of history and of who and what we are. He was childlike, always in a state of wonder and astonishment. Always in a state of, as I said, leaky margins with reality. There wasn’t a question of self because he was so embodied in all things, in all existences. And he saw spiritual and physical energy as utterly necessary to each other. So that’s ultimately what I have to say about the whole thing and what I really believe.

Biography of Jean Houston

“In our time we have come to the stage where the real work of humanity begins. It is the time where we partner Creation in the creation of ourselves, in the restoration of the biosphere, the regenesis of society and in the assuming of a new type of culture; the culture of Kindness. Herein, we live daily life reconnected and recharged by the Source, so as to become liberated and engaged in the world and in our tasks.”

Dr. Jean Houston, scholar, philosopher and researcher in human capacities, is one of the foremost visionary thinkers and doers of our time, one of the principal founders of the Human Potential Movement. A powerful and dynamic speaker, she holds conferences and seminars with social leaders, educational institutions and business organizations worldwide.

Jean Houston has worked intensively in 40 cultures and 100 countries helping to enhance and deepen their own uniqueness while they become part of the global community. Her ability to inspire and invigorate people enables her to readily convey her vision – the finest possible achievement of the individual potential.

In 1965, along with her husband Dr. Robert Masters, Dr. Houston founded The Foundation for Mind Research. She is also the founder and principal teacher since 1982 of the Mystery School, a school of human development, a program of cross-cultural, mythic and spiritual studies, dedicated to teaching history, philosophy, the New Physics, psychology, anthropology, myth and the many dimensions of human potential. She also leads an intensive program in social artistry with leaders coming from all over the world to study with Dr. Houston and her distinguished associates.

She is a prolific writer and author of 26 books including A Passion for the Possible, Search for the Beloved, Life Force, The Possible Human, Public Like a Frog, A Mythic Life: Learning to Live Our Greater Story, and Manual of the Peacemaker.

As advisor to UNICEF in human and cultural development, she has worked to implement some of their extensive educational and health programs. Since 2003, she has been working with the United Nations Development Program, training leaders in developing countries throughout the world in the new field of social artistry. Dr. Houston has also served for two years in an advisory capacity to President and Mrs. Clinton as well as helping Mrs. Clinton write, It Takes A Village To Raise A Child. She has also worked with President and Mrs. Carter and counseled leaders in similar positions in many countries and cultures.

A past President of the Association of Humanistic Psychology , she has taught philosophy, psychology, and religion at Columbia University, Hunter College, the New School for Social Research and Marymount College, as well as summer sessions in human development at the University of California at Santa Cruz and the University of British Columbia.

In 1985, Dr. Houston was awarded the Distinguished Leadership Award from the Association of Teachers Educators. In 1993, she received the Gardner Murphy Humanitarian Award for her work in psychology and the INTA Humanitarian of the Year award. In 1994, she received the Lifetime Outstanding Creative Achievement Award from the Creative Education Foundation. The following year, she was given the Keeper of the Lore Award for her studies in myth and culture. In 1997 she was made a Fellow of the World Business Academy and in 1999 she received the Pathfinder award from the Association of Humanistic Psychology. In 2000 she was given the prestigious Millennium Award from Magical Blend Magazine.

Dr. Houston holds a B.A. from Barnard College, a Ph.D. in psychology from the Union Graduate School and a Ph.D in religion from the Graduate Theological Foundation. She has also been the recipient of honorary doctorates.

Hosted by Patrick Michaels, this excerpt from the PeaceMakers News Report, from Goodnewsbroadcast.com, features Jean Houston http://www.jeanhouston.org

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