Stephanie is the founder and director of Blue Star Temple. An ordained shamanic minister, she holds a bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics and master’s and doctorate degrees in shamanic studies from Venus Rising University. She is also a mesa carrier in the Pachakuti Mesa Tradition of Peru, having studied with Don Oscar Miro-Quesada and his lineage since 2005. She lives near Kansas City, Missouri.
According to a folk saying in Thailand, if a person is wealthy, it’s because they were generous in a previous lifetime. (They have another one about if a person is beautiful it’s because they were kind, but that is a different article.) Either way there’s a catch (there’s always a catch). If you are well-off now you have the wherewithal to be even more generous this time around. Yet how many wealthy people are greedy and miserly, always in pursuit of more, more, more? Just as too many beautiful looking people might be conceited, mean and snobby. Such folks are spiritually regressing and, if they’re not careful, they could come back as an ugly cockroach.
The most generous human societies existed long before the invention of private property. Indigenous foragers had no concept of individually accumulated wealth. Often on the move, they shared everything transparently and immediately. Our native ancestors wisely put the highest value on community—recognizing human bonds as the only real security there is in life. As a result, they instinctively took joy in sharing and bonding with each other, never imagining hoarding possessions or lording it over others who have less. They would have been quickly ostracized for such egotistical obnoxiousness.
Our species, Homo sapiens, existed 200,000 to 300,000 years before civilization took over culture. According Christopher Ryan, author and psychologist, humans certainly had survival challenges way back then, but overall the foragers were considerably healthier and happier than their agriculturist descendants—and way less stressed out, working only 20 hours/week.
Biologically not much has changed in the last 10,000 years, a mere blip in anthropological time. Technology is rampant these days—and having a huge impact on the way we interact with each other—but essentially we are the same species, organically wired for cooperation and sharing. And, even in these times, we invest in our most trustworthy source of security anytime we give of our time, energy and attention to others in a real way. This is love (and I’ve heard it said that generosity is an aphrodisiac.)
As we enter gift-giving season, let’s remember that a wonderful, transformative gift that strengthens the fabric of relationships is just being there for someone else. This is a gift we can give all year round. In these times of shallow social media connecting, being totally present and deeply listening to another—without judging, reacting or editing—is a supremely generous and precious gift. The exercise of emotional intelligence known as empathy, wherein we accept and try to understand another person’s feelings—and let them feel that—is a gift of healing. Passing on some skill or knowledge that you have mastered is a gift of mentoring. Helping somebody move is a gift of service. Giving a homeless person a sandwich is a gift of nourishment. Smiling and saying “Howzit going?” to a stranger on an elevator is a gift of kindness and civility.
No matter how little property or money we have at our disposal, we all have gifts—really valuable gifts—that we can find a way to give. The practice of generosity honors our ancestors and ennobles us as human beings. It cleanses the soul of competitive possessiveness, status and privilege. May we honor our heartfelt heritage and grow back into ourselves by embracing our native generosity of spirit!
Dr. Bradley Nelson is the author of the newly updated and expanded book, The Emotion Code: how to release your trapped emotions for abundant health, love and happiness. Veteran holistic physician Dr. Bradley Nelson is one of the world’s foremost experts on natural methods of achieving wellness. He has trained thousands of certified practitioners worldwide to help people overcome physical and emotional discomfort by releasing their emotional baggage. His best-selling book “The Emotion Code” provides step-by-step instructions for working with the body’s energy healing power.
John Murphy is the author of the new book, Miracle Minded Manager: A modern-day parable about how to apply A Course in Miracles to business. John is a global business consultant, speaker, spiritual mystic, “zentrepreneur,” and award-winning author. He is Founder (1988) and CEO of Venture Management Consultants, Inc., a firm specializing in creating lean, high performance work environments. As a business consultant, Murphy has delivered services to some of the world’s leading organizations. As an educator and Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt, Murphy has trained thousands of people from over 50 countries, including Fortune 500 executives, project leaders, military leaders, managers, and black belts. He has mentored dozens of project teams in Organizational Development, Operational Excellence, Business Process Innovation and Lean Six Sigma applications. As a speaker, Murphy has delivered keynotes and seminars worldwide. A critically acclaimed authority on peak performance, transformational leadership and healthy mind-body-spirit, Murphy is a best-selling author who has published 19 books and appeared on over 400 radio and television stations and his work has been featured in over 50 newspapers nationwide.
We now recognize several forms of intelligence. There’s IQ, emotional intelligence and—thanks to the work of Esther Perel—erotic intelligence. One of the most important forms of intelligence is “intuitive intelligence,” which is the title of my new book (available September 10, 2019 from Beyond Words Publishing).
Long known as “the sixth sense,” intuition is a higher sort of instinct, a feeling-based skill that transcends the strictures of logical analysis. Intuition is commonly defined as the ability to acquire knowledge without inference, or the use of reason. It is a holistic and nonverbal faculty that takes in the big picture and receives holistic impressions directly, sensing patterns without regulation by, or interference from, the analytical mind. The logical left-brain is superb at taking things apart and putting them back together again, sometimes in inventive ways. A holistic approach to perception, however, is different. It hinges on understanding that the totality of a system is much bigger than the sum of its parts and—for making big decisions—much more important. Thus, the subtitle of my book, “Make Life-Changing Decisions with Perfect Timing.”
Unfortunately, the reception of information by the intuitive sense cannot be switched on or willed into action like logical thinking can. From a Jungian point of view, we could say it’s more feminine energy than masculine. Its operation depends on being open and receptive to a spontaneous flow of impressions, insights, ideas, unusual occurrences, coincidences, hunches, and inspirations that arise in your personal mindscape. Such noticing can’t be forced; the mental circuits have to let go of rumination to free up the mind. It requires setting aside thinking in favor of a holistic ability to take in entire patterns, where not all the interconnections are visible, when the situation is not outlined enough to be fully traced or logically analyzed.
This ability to take in whole patterns is intimately related to the “visionary decision-making” process I teach in my book. It is a high form of pattern recognition, related to the ability to hold a vision, wherein larger patterns are perceived even though all the dots aren’t filled in. Holistic perceiving also benefits from wisdom, wherein more of the big picture has been filled in by experience and memory.
Intuition’s most important function and role in life is to help with decision-making, strategy, and making the right moves at the right time. The four steps involved in making a visionary decision are: 1) determining the best action you can take, 2) committing to that action, 3) deciding when to make your move, and 4) executing your decision with confidence. It is important to coordinate intuition with logic when it comes to your choices, but the timing aspect is especially important—and tricky, since it is almost entirely an intuitive decision.
In order to develop our intuitive sense, we have to learn to notice it and listen to it. It’s a subtle ability that never instigates strong feelings—gut or otherwise. Intuition, like meditation, is mindful of the big picture, the largest patterns. It ‘speaks’ to us through a quiet voice or feeling, based on its special kind of broad seeing. Paying attention to those subtle signals, and being open to them, is one of the best tools we can develop to make great decisions and cultivate Intuitive Intelligence.
A common spiritual trope is that we should get rid of ego. The word can even make us cringe or feel guilty. We try to suppress parts of ourselves, but to operate in the world we need a personal sense of self. When kept in its place, a healthy ego is extremely useful. It helps us get things done and express the unique gifts of who we are.
Ego can feel separate, unloved, and threatened, afraid of intimacy and afraid to let love in. On the useful side, its basic job is to defend us. We can allow it to relax its guard, feel less separate, and support our higher selves. But to insist on “no ego” is just an egoistic mentality struggling with itself. We can approach all ego actions with openness instead of judgment and channel them to serve the heart through authentic engagement and love. Whether you are coming from ego or from your heart is the central question regarding lasting fulfillment in life.
Khan defines ego as “the imaginary identity of an overstimulated nervous system.” He characterizes an overstimulated nervous system as having a closed heart, a noisy mind, low self-esteem, with an ego that runs things like an overcontrolling commander-in-chief.
We can learn to engage and integrate the ego as a competent lieutenant, who helps us get our needs met, while taking direction from the higher self. Gradually, we can unravel and heal our battered nervous systems. The keys are radical acceptance, compassion (including self-compassion), honesty and emotional receptivity. Just like its fears, the ego cannot be defeated, cured, or overcome. It evolves through our commitment to love ourselves and each other. When we let ourselves feel grief, rage, terror and other emotions, we can free the ego to better serve our soulful hearts.
The ego is only capable of conditional love and tends to be transactional, and that’s OK under many circumstances. When the immature ego, weak and conflicted, is in control, however, it blocks fulfillment. According to spiritual mystic Matt Kahn, the ego can be thought of as the “soul in incubation.” We process ego stages of development in trying to attain security, pleasure and power. It’s only when we get stuck on one of these three lower levels of consciousness that the ego’s control bites us. (Eckhart Tolle refers to this as the “pain body.”) The soul, or higher self, is a wave on the cosmic sea, connected to all. Unconditional love comes via the soul, via a heart-centered higher consciousness.
Whether we know why or how, everything is here to help us in making the transition from ego-centered to heart-centered. “While the ego judges each feeling solely on how painful or pleasant it is, the soul views each emotion while it lasts as an opportunity to love itself,” writes Kahn. Instead of fighting our ego, let’s learn to embrace it, listen to it and from that, grow and learn. In truth, through all the changes we can’t control, through all the pain and suffering of its dissatisfactions, the ego is evolving to serve the heart. Although it hurts sometimes, love is our only fulfillment and more than worth the price.
Matt Kahn is a spiritual teacher, healer and author. I had the good fortune to interview Matt Kahn on my Pathways Podcast and to attend his three-day retreat in Portland Oregon.
Feel rushed? Even when you’re on vacation? Worried about the future? Overwhelmed? Fast-paced living creates “hurry-sickness”– a sense of desperation and time-pressures that are draining. We’re conditioned to chase money, power, success – ever embracing a wilder, faster pace of life. Despite a rise in stress-induced illnesses, we continue onward in a furious race to an imaginary finish line. The anxiety we feel breeds muddled thinking which leads to poor choices. Poor choices lead to more problems, pain and suffering. It’s a race to the finish that we’re destined to lose.
Yun Rou, a modern Taoist monk I interviewed on my Pathways show, offers wisdom pointing to a better way. Tao, in fact, means “the Way.” It refers to living life in harmony with nature. Many of us spend our time and energy doing battle with life when the key is to live in harmony – through a Taoist alchemy that finds the balance between action and non-action, between assertion and letting go of resistance, as circumstances dictate. Yun Rou uses the term ‘rectify’ to refer to the effort it takes to bring things out of whack back into balance. We will never finally achieve perfect balance – we will always be rectifying – but it’s fun trying and getting better at it. Otherwise, we squander considerable effort and time trying to force the universe to bend to our will. So very exhausting!
Below are four Taoist secrets to doing less and getting more done.
1. Be like water – in the flow.
In his book, Mad Monk Manifesto, Yun Rou notes that we are each called upon to become a sage, defining sage as “a person who deeply senses the flow of the world and moves with it, not against it.” But how do we learn to yield and not resist? Taoists embrace the image of flowing water: when a stream of water is confronted by a rock in its path, it flows effortlessly around it or over it, rather than banging its head against the rock. Flow like water.
2. Cultivate inner peace.
Meditation, Tai Chi, Yoga – all of these ancient methods can be used to help us calm our anxious minds and reduce stress. If we imagine the principles of yielding, softness, centeredness, slowness, balance, suppleness and rootedness that these methods draw upon in a balance of stillness and movement, then we will sense our connection with nature, harmonize ourselves to her ways, and cultivate the inner peace that we all need and subconsciously crave.
3. Find the balance.
An important first step toward attaining this solution to modern stress is by learning to recognize and align ourselves with the movement of life itself. This is achieved through an understanding of yin and yang and finding the balance points of life’s ever-changing dance of polarities – light or dark, up or down, feminine and masculine, giving and receiving, consuming and sacrificing. Balance is the Way.
4.Practice gentleness and compassion.
Mistakenly interpreted as weakness, true gentleness is a courageous sensitivity, respect, and reverence for all life. Its companion virtue, compassion, brings acceptance, generosity, forgiveness, and love. How wonderfully ironic that caring about others’ happiness as if it were your own will reduce your stress level and improve overall well-being for everyone. Yun Rou sums it up: “Compassion is the key element of the awakened, rectified life.”
Jonathan Robinson is a psychotherapist, best-selling author of 12 books, and a professional speaker from Northern California. He has made numerous appearances on the Oprah show, as well as many other national TV talk shows, and articles about him have appeared in USA Today, Newsweek and The Los Angeles Times. He co-hosts the podcast “Awareness Explorers” with author Brian Tom O’Connor. Through TV, live lectures and radio, Mr. Robinson has reached over 100 million people around the world. He is known for providing his audiences with immediately useful information presented in a fun and entertaining manner. His latest book is entitled “More Love, Less Conflict.” Other books by Jonathan include: Find Happiness Now: 50 Shortcuts for Bringing More Love, Balance, and Joy Into Your Life, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Awakening Your Spirituality, and Real Wealth: A Spiritual Approach to Money and Work.
John Pavlovitz is the author of the new book, Hope and Other Superpowers: A life affirming, love-defending, butt-kicking, world-saving manifesto. John is a pastor and blogger from Wake Forest, North Carolina. In the past two years his blog, Stuff That Needs To Be Said, has reached a diverse audience of millions of people throughout the world, with an average monthly readership of over a million people. His home church, North Raleigh Community Church, is a growing, nontraditional Christian community dedicated to radical hospitality, mutual respect, and diversity of doctrine.
As this year draws to a close, the holiday season is upon us. Christmas is both a materialistic celebration and a religious holiday—a convoluted intersection of opposing belief systems. But the real spirit of the season derives from a celebration of nature and the solstice’s pivot towards greater light—a celebration neither materialistic nor religious. It was spiritual.
It’s strange that religion and materialistic science—in conflict for centuries—can intersect at all, but one thing they have in common is that they are both in opposition to nature. While religion and spirituality sometimes overlap, they imply different things. Religion is generally belief-centric, dogmatic, and ideological, whereas spirituality is practice-oriented, in tune with the season, and experiential. These differences have significant ramifications.
Dr. Steve Taylor, author of Spiritual Science: Why Science Needs Spirituality to Make Sense of the World, writes, “Every culture needs a metaphysical system to make sense of the world, a belief system that answers fundamental questions about human life, the world and reality itself.” I had Dr. Taylor on Pathways Radio and Podcasts. We discussed these belief systems, as well as the growing role of spirituality.
“Spirituality wakes us up, opens us up to the aliveness and sacredness and nature, and reconnects us to the world,” Taylor wrote. Aside from dogma and morality, “[Traditional religions] encourage compassion and altruism, teach us to be co-operative rather than competitive, to be moderate rather than hedonistic, and tell us that we shouldn’t expect complete fulfillment in this life.”
Scientific materialism, on the other hand, is a reaction to religion. “Our culture is in thrall to a particular paradigm…which in its own way is just as dogmatic and irrational as a religious paradigm,” writes Taylor. “This is the belief system of materialism, which holds that matter is the primary reality…and that anything that appears to be non-physical—such as the mind, our thoughts, consciousness, or even life itself—is physical in origin, or can be explained in physical terms.”
Many people see materialism—which ultimately negates anything but the physical—as the only alternative to religion. Taylor calls this ‘scientism,’ which is dogmatic, like religion. This materialistic paradigm promotes rampant consumerism, hedonism, status-seeking, competitiveness, and environmental destruction. After all, if nature is but a biological machine whose sole function is to sustain us, then as long as we continue to survive, there is no inherent value in maintaining other species or their ecosystems. By placing God outside of Nature, religions support this attitude too.
There is a fundamental sense of meaninglessness that takes hold without spirituality, but Taylor is optimistic that we are heading into a post-materialistic phase, where there’s growing room for a spiritual worldview. This viewpoint honors the insights of philosophers, physicists, mystics, as well as spiritual traditions and indigenous cultures. “The idea that the essence of reality is a non-material, spiritual quality is one of the oldest and most common cross-cultural concepts,” writes Taylor, and he explains how modern science is converging with mysticism. Perhaps someday in the future we can move beyond a consumer holiday or celebrating the virgin birth of a savior, and return to one that honors the changing of the seasons, the return of the light, and a sense of connection with nature, each other, and all beings. Halleluiah!