What is the most important thing in life? For me, it is to liberate myself from unnecessary suffering so I can savour the great mystery of life; to revel in the beauty of the natural world, and to open to love more and more, especially the beautiful planet which we are in danger of destroying.
In the last few weeks I have talked about the practicals of living the first two principles of Life Talent.
- Make the most of what is special about you.
- Overcome your inner obstacles to fulfilling your potential.
- Learn to feel the support of Life itself.
- Take action to improve your life.
Today, let’s talk about the practicals of “learning to feel the support of life itself”.
As John Keats says
“I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart’s affections, and the truth of imagination.”
Ultimately, what else is there to do in life?
Fulfilling your potential has two dimensions:
“To find yourself is half the way to god
To lose yourself and all the way is trod1”
In the first half of life many people work to fulfil their potential by developing healthy egos that can confidently express their potential in the world.
At some point one asks “what is all this about?” and then a new journey begins.
If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow: and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are.2 (Thich Nhat Hanh)
“Inter-being” is the connection of any one person or thing to all other people and things. It means to inter-dependently co-exist.
The food you eat depends on the seed, the sun, the soil, the rain, the climate and the farmer and the lengthy supply chain needed to transport the food to your plate. Your plate itself comes from the earth, through many hands, a factory, a shop, eventually ending up in your house.
As we pay attention to inter-being more, we begin to realise that the whole is more important than our little finite lives. That we are part of something much bigger than ourselves. We may experience this as the miracle of Mother Earth, or as the unimaginably vast dimensions of the cosmos, or the presence of God in everything, or forms rising out of the vast emptiness of non-existence.
Once you devote yourself to exploring, identifying with, or taking refuge in, something vastly larger than yourself, the problems of life become less significant and begin to drop away.
The way to do this is through daily practice: to walk in nature and give it our undivided attention; to take time to pray to Mother Earth, God, an incarnation of God, or Buddha-nature. Every five minutes that you take to open into experiencing something bigger than yourself, builds slowly and inexorably into a sense of identification with inter-being, with the whole of existence. There are many paths to this, but all of them need daily practice.
How do we support this “opening” during the 4 day The Personal Transformation Intensive: Life Talent Level 1, Friday 17 – Monday 20 January 2020 and the 15 day (over 4 modules) Life Talent Programme: Level 2 starting on 6th March 2020?
Well, I have to admit that at the beginning we focus on “to find yourself is half the way to god” because most people need support in expressing their psychological resources and potential. We should get taught how to psychologically resource ourselves in school, but we don’t, so I start here.
In the four days of Life Talent module 1 our main experience of inter-being is the healing field created by the group. This field of healing inter-being is the reason I think group work is more powerful than 1:1 coaching or therapy (with the exception of long-term therapy). Each person comes with an intention to bring out the best in themselves and to heal the disempowered aspects of themselves, and this resolve is infectious. When one person in the group opens to the vulnerability of healing, other people’s hearts open with compassion. Love brings the feeling of inter-being. As the field of compassion grows in the room between group members, so we begin to bring that compassion to the darkest corners of ourselves. This is how psychological healing takes place.
As we progress with making the most of our inner resources psychologically and healing wounded places in ourselves, so we begin to turn to creating a world around us that has love at it’s centre. Whether this is intimacy in our personal lives, compassion for people we meet on the street and the journey to work, or in engaging staff in high performance within work teams, empathy and connection are at the core of human relationships. And now we are at a time of human history that we understand that our consumption in the rich world is destroying the forests of the poor world, that our excessive use of fossil fuels is polluting the atmosphere and changing the weather, our hearts are beginning to open to the inter-being of the entire planet. Faced with the possibility of the extinction of a multitude of species, including, possibly, humanity itself, we wonder about our connection with the whole of life, the whole of existence. How am I an expression of this vast universe?
The title of this article is “Liberate yourself! How to feel the support of life itself”… but how does one “liberate yourself?”
As our circle of love and connection, our sense of inter-being, expands from our close community, or the Life Talent group broadens to include the Earth, the Cosmos and existence itself, something strange happens.
As my sense of identity becomes more about the whole rather than the part (myself), so I become more interested in the life of the Universe than my own, short life. Things that seemed important: success or failure, social status, wealth, become less so. I know that all of my everyday worries won’t mean much after I am dead, but contributing to something larger than myself feels more important and pressing.
Also, inter-being reminds us of that we are a product of our biological history and ancestors, our family history, of the culture in which we were brought up and our environment. It is good to imagine that I am responsible for everything in my own life, but in reality I am a product of inter-being and some things in my life are outside of my individual control.
The highly successful 12-step programme for addiction has the following first three steps:
- We admitted we were powerless over addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
If this sounds a bit too godly and worthy for you, you might prefer Russell Brand’s version:
- Are you a bit f*cked?
- Could you not be f*cked?
- Are you, on you own, going to ‘unf*ck’ yourself?3
I was born in 1955 and as a baby got exposed to some of the psychological scars of 2nd World War and the end of the British Empire. I have changed a lot about myself but my genetic, psychological and cultural history influences me. I am part of a larger story.
But being down on myself for my faults is greatly reduced when I ask inter-being to be my healer, and I vow to serve inter-being to the best of my ability. Then somehow my difficulties are less painful and I feel more free to enjoy the beauty of life.
I can’t say I am fully liberated from all psychological suffering, but my suffering has greatly reduced over the years, and my enjoyment of life has increased. My journey in life is to become increasingly free, to enjoy more, to give more, to love more.
If you want to read more about the four principles of Life Talent you can read previous posts.
- Make the most of what is special about you.
- Thich Nhat Hanh, T. (2019). Clouds In Each Paper. [online] Awakin.org. Available at: http://www.awakin.org/read/view.php?tid=222 [Accessed 22 Nov. 2019].
- Brand, R. (2017). Recovery. New York: Henry Holt and Company, p.25. I have taken the liberty to spell the word fuck “f*ck” so as not to offend some readers.