Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Power of a Label – Attachment vs Acceptance

This year seems to be about creating freedom, which first requires that I understand what I mean when I choose to be free. The more I work with this specific Enlightenment Intention (Free) the more I understand that for me, freedom is about letting go of identifying with the labels I live. To live empowered (and so to live enlightenment) means I get to choose when and what I identify with. It also means I can stop defending and protecting the labels I have...which seems to be an integral part of my being and the biggest contributor to my state of suffering. What do I mean by a label ? Well in my mind I define myself as a superior business analyst, which means that is something I have to defend and continually see reflected back at me by the peoplei work with. The problem is that this is just one of the labels that define me. For the most part, I don't even see the label that is wreaking havoc in my world. Work is the perfect example.

Over the last 15 years I have established a reputation (in my own head naturally) for excellence and over performance. So now that I find myself in a large corporate I am battling. Firstly I am no longer visible, secondly, my success is integrally linked to the performance (or more often than not, non-performance) of people I can not influence. My frustration has subsequently hit all time highs and with that frustration comes an extreme effort to be heard and create change.... which is always (and I have 15 years of experience creating this) dramatically self destructive. The less I am acknowledged and heard, the harder I push back .. the more drama and conflict I create.... and so we spiral down and down and down until finally I can not cope anymore and fed up I leave and start all over a new place that this time will be filled with the right people – people who understand, who are high performers (now their is a contradiction of note, an A-type personality that bonds and cares about the well being of others), who will create that safe place of belonging where I can blossom. Yes, fairy tales are alive and well in my psyche which is quite a depressing thought after over 20 years in the so-called ‘adult’ world.

To cut a long story short, at the end of all this I am left with the feeling that I am really schizophrenic (or is it just multiple personality disorder?) because it feels like someone else is creating all this and I am an innocent bystander who is left to clean up the mess. I know there is something I have to let go of, I just can’t see it and if I can’t see it, I can’t stop holding on!!

So when well meaning friends and confidantes tell me I need to leave, that this place does not appreciate me, it is not worth it, I stay. My answer is not in escaping. We live in a world where it is to easy to run away from our problems and distract ourselves with a new place, a new challenge (a new significant other). I need to stay right here and confront this part of me. I need to live in the flames and see what happens if I refuse to give in, if I refuse to live this. So here I sit, refusing to jump ship, just breathing and allowing my world to flow, refusing to give up and escape to another job.

There is another reason for staying - the corporate world is the one place that still swallows me up whole. It is the one place where I can not seem to Live Empowered. My world record create a moment where I was able to escape being invisible and less. For the first time in my life I was truly empowered. That lable of deepest was something I choose for myself, something I fought to bring into being. It was the first taste I had of freedom and an experience I wanted in all areas of my life. Which is why I created Living Conscious Enlightenemetn.
Now at work, I am finally starting to get a glimpse of what it will take to recover my power and my first step is going to be a hard one - to stop identifying with the labels I carry with me into work. Which means creating awareness in every moment so that I can stop just being a collection of unconscious habits. I need to own the me that created this mess and start to slowly release her.
It is with relief that I can fall into the process of Conscious Enlightenment and with my own coach (there are just some days I can not escape my own mind by myself and need an unbiased observer to ask me the ‘obvious’ questions) I am going to focus on what it is I want to create - because it is not enought to know what I don't want. You can not create a negative and if I want to live something new, I have to know what that new is so that I can start to make choices that create that. Only and only in that process will the old disappear.
It is going to be hard to ignore the temptation to search for the labels that are creating this drama and instead work on disinvesting and disconnecting and creating consciously who it is I want to be. But, I suspect that the labels will show themselves when the time is right and when I am able to let them go. Until then, my focus is going to be on stepping into my power and consciously creating me. That way if it all goes pear shaped at least I made the choice - it was not something that happened to me. I find my life easier to accept when the consequences are a result of the choices I MADE! I can accept being wrong, but when someone or something else chooses for me and I have to pay the price, then I am not such a graceful looser.

How do you escape the trap of being ? Start to consciously choose and trust that you will find the baggage along the way. Anything else is a trap, keeping you from going forward, keeping you from your power to create your own life and your own experiences.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The follow up blog - Understanding redecoration, makyo/ ego & being here

One of my favourite passages from Spiritual Enlightenment – The Damndest Thing’ by Jed Mckenna...just is so irreverent...and very funny.

“Have you heard of the term makyo?” I ask her.

“Yes, isn’t it something to do with...?”

“It’s a Zen thing. Very handy term. In Zen, no one is interested in spiritual growth. No one is interested in self-exploration or self realization. They’re not trying to become better people or happier people. They’re not following a spiritual path, they’re following a wake-the-hell-up path. They’re completely focused on the hot and narrow pursuit of enlightenment. There’s no consolation prize, no secondary objective. Full awakening is what they signed up for. Of course, as students, they have no real idea of what such a pursuit actually entails, so it’s the job of the master to see that they stay on course. With me so far?”

She nods a little uncertainly.

“The Tao warns to beware the flowery trappings of the path, or words to that effect. There are many things to see and do on the path to awakening. It’s all new and magical. There are points for instance, where you can stop and develop what you might consider special powers; prophecy, telepathy, mediumship, magical arts, plate spinning, whatever. During Zen meditation – zazen – the student might merge into timeless unity consciousness. He might unravel all the complexities of his life in a single glorious sitting. He might feel that he has vomited a gigantic ball of molten lead that has resided in his chest for years. He might descend into the pits of hell and slay all his demons. After such experiences, he might run to his master to share his victories and experiences, only to have the master splash him with cold water by calling it makyo.:

Marls is frowning now, realising that she’s the one being splashed with cold water.

“When a Zen master uses the term makyo, he’s telling his students that the previous gems they’re stopping to pick up or the pretty flowers they’re pausing to collect only have value or beauty in the world they’ve chosen to leave behind. The Tao says ‘beware the flowery trappings Because, in order to possess them or benefit from them, you mist cease your journey, stay in the dream. Ultimately, they’re just a distraction from the tricky business of waking up. Breaking free of delusion takes everything you have. The price of truth is everything. Everything. That’s the rule and it’s inviolable.”

She looks sad. I continue in a gentler tone.

“I’m explaining makyo because this is what’s happening here. You have had some profound insights in meditation and you have brought them to me. Understandably so. Western spirituality seems to equate enlightenment with self perfection, so it’s natural to assume that ridding yourself o mental and emotional baggage is the way to go. But what I’m telling you is that, within the context of searching for enlightenment, your experiences are makyo. You bring me these priceless jewels and I am telling you that you should flush them down the toilet and move on.”

I pause to let that sink in. The point here is less to aid Marla in her quest for enlightenment than to help her see that she’s not on one. I sometimes wonder if I would make a good Zen master but I don’t think so. Or maybe I’d be a great one, depends how you look at it. My emblem would be a graphic depiction of the Buddha’s head lanced on a pike, complete with dripping blood and dangling viscera. The motto beneath the emblem would be “DIE!” Students would line up outside my door and as soon as the first one opened his mount I’d start shrieking at the op of my lungs “You’re not him! You’re not the real guy” You’re the makyo guy? You’re just the dream character!” I’d probably start hitting the student with a stick at this point, which is one of the perks of being a Zen master.

“You’re supposed to be dead! Why aren’t you dead? Why are you coming to see me? You’re the problem! Get out and come back when you’re dead. That’s the guy I want to talk to, not a stupid dream character. Now GET OUT!”

That essentially defines the quest for enlightenment; the you that you think of as you (and that thinks of you as you, and so on) is not you, it’s just the character that the underlying truth of you is dreaming into brief existence. Enlightenment isn’t in the character, it’s the underlying truth. Now, There’s nothing wrong with being a dream character, of course, unless it’s your goal to wake up, in which case the dream character must be ruthlessly annihilated. If your desire is to experience transcendental bliss or supreme love or altered states of consciousness or awakened kundalini, or to qualify for heaven, or to liberate all sentient beings, or simply to become the best dang person you can be, the rejoice!, you’re in the right place; the dream state, the dualistic universe. However if your interest is to cut the crap and figure out what’s true, then you’re in the wrong place and you’ve got a very messy fight ahead and there’s no point in pretending otherwise.”

Cracks me up everytime.... DIE DIE DIE...bwahahahah

I also find it totally reassuring. We get to stop where we want on this journey. We do not have to commit to awakening. The whole point of being here, human is to enjoy the drama and play with our lives... there is no point being enlightened...or rather, in this reality of be enlightened is to be outside of the fun.

Excerpts from Books – Redecorating the Office/ Stepping into Enlightenment

One of my pivotal books at the moment is ‘Spiritual Enlightenment – The Damndest Thing’ by Jed Mckenna. Seems to just hit the spot about where I am and how odd it feels right now – a stranger in a world where everyone else seems to be comfortably normal. Thought I would pass on this extract... it revolves around the only practice he believes creates an enlightened individual, spiritual autolysis, which is in essence the destruction of the ego. Ego is the enemy and until it is destroyed and the illusion it creates dies, there can be no truth and so, no enlightenment (that is a really bad summary of a truly awesome book that will challenge what you think you know to be true). He is trying to explain the process of becoming enlightened to a student...

‘“Let’s try out a new analogy. I’m making this up on the fly so bear with me. Here’s the situation: You’re sitting in your skyscraper office a hundred stories off the ground thinking about how successful you are and how your life is just grand. With me so far? In terms of satisfaction, you’re very satisfied. You have it all; fancy office, great views, the respect and admiration of those around you, everything you ever wanted. Okay?”


“So, you’re like that – happy, content, sell-satisfied – for however long; months, years, decades. But then one day, for whatever reason, dissatisfaction begins to creep in. Something about your office starts to bug you. It starts with little things. You’re dissatisfied with your curtains, they don’t go with the credenza at all. “What was I thinking?’ you wonder. ‘How could I have been so blind?’ And now that you’re looking more closely, it’s obvious that the carpet is a fiasco and the artwork is just an embarrassment. One minute you’re happy, the next you’re very dissatisfied. Extremely dissatisfied. This office is simply not an accurate outward representation of your inner professional. You’ve outgrow it.”

“It actually sounds like a pretty cool office ”

“Yes, well, that’s what everyone else things; your friends, colleagues, your family. They think you’ve got it made and that you’re nuts for wanting to mess with it. Of course, you’re only dissatisfied when you’re in the office. You pretty much forget about it when you’re anywhere else. Right?”


“and you’re following the analogy, right? These things can be a bit wobbly the first time out. Your office represents your relationship to the larger questions of life and your dissatisfaction represents –“

“Got it.”

“Good. So what’s the answer? What do you do about this very dissatisfying office of yours?”

“Uh, I don’t know.” He shrugs. “Redecorate?”

“Yeas, that sounds right. But this time you’re going to be ery serious about it. You’re going to bring in a top-notch decorator and strip the place down to the floorboards and start from scratch. You’re not going to be a mere dabbler; you’re going all the way with this. You’re a serious professional and you deserve a serious office. See what I mean ? See how what started as a gnawing little dissatisfaction has grown into a life transforming event??

“Oka, “ he says dutifully.

“So that’s what you do. You go out and buy books and magazines on interior design. You talk to people and attend lectures and events. You hire the best decorator you can find; someone you resonate with deeply. You yourself are being transformed by this experience. You yourself are growing, developing, expanding. It’s very challenging, but you’re taking a no-nonsense approach. It’s slow going, but little bu little change is occurring. Your office is starting to look and feel like a genuine outer representation of your inner professional. It may take years to get it right, but nothing wills top you. This is too important. In fact, it has become one of the most important things in our life, right up there with home and family. See what I mean?”

“Yes,” he says eagerly. “The master decorator represents the guru and the redecorating process represents the spiritual transformation we undergo when we truly begin to challenge our beliefs and seek higher knowledge. What started out as a kind of gnawing dissatisfaction has grown into the impetus for important change and although it may seem like a bad thing at first, this is how the process of change works. This is how we develop, how we grow.”

“Exactly, “ I say. “Nobody acts from contentment. We need problems to solve or else we vegetate. That great office was once something we strived to get, then it was achieved and enjoyed in contentment, but then discontent sets in to let us know that it’s time to move on.”

“So, “ Says Kamiel, “that’s what the teachers are talking about when they discuss the dissatisfaction needed to spur us on, right? It might seem bad or uncomfortably, but it

S really a good thing?”

“Sounds right,” I say.

“And that’s the sort of determination and focus that’s required in order to awaken from delusion? To become truth=realised?: He smiles, excited, like he’s just now getting the big picture. “So that’s what you mean by purity of intent!?

I smile back.

“Fuck now. That’s what I mean by recipe fore failure.”

His dismay is instantly apparent. I’ve cut him off in the first rush of a new grokkign and now he’s confused and hurt. I did this intentionally. I didn’t allow myself to be drawn into this “A lot of teachers say’” conversation just wanting to make a point’ I wanted to counterpoint. That’s what the dialogue has been up until now because I wanted to make a clear distinction. This is the critical distinction between seekers and finders. This is where the line is drawn; a line the existence of which ‘a lot of teachers’ don’t even suspect.

That’s the sort of pathetic, half-assed approach that is absolutely certain to keep you confined to your current state. That’s the sort of approach that everyone takes and that’s why they fail.”

He visibly and audibly gulps. “Oh.”

“ The very people and institutions that are supposedly dedicated to waking us up are doing exactly the opposite. They are lulling us into a more comfortable sleep. That’s what we really want and that’s what they really provide.”

He doesn’t seem pleased. “oh, God...well then...then what drives the process of true awakening?”

“Purity if intent, but what does that really mean? Oka, you’re back in the office again, totally satisfied with everything. Life is great. Okay ?”


“Okay. So now dissatisfaction starts to creep in on you, but this time the dissatisfaction stems from the fact that you smell smoke.:

“The building is on fire now?”

“Wake up and smell the coffin, Kamiel. The building has always been on fire, you were just repressing that knowledge until now. But now you’re aware of it and it’s causing you some dissatisfaction. Quite a lot, in fact, and more with every passing moment. Now for the first time you realise that the flames are right outside the door and the temperature is rising. Acrid black smoke is pouring in. The door busts into flames There is no exit. Now you’re very, very dissatisfied with your office. In fact you’re starting to hate your office quite profoundly. See how this dissatisfaction – this gnawing discontentment on the, uh, feeling level – is of a more immediate and compelling nature then the dissatisfaction brought on by the decor?”

He nods mutely.

“Sure. Now your dissatisfaction with your office is quite intense. Searing really. In fact, your dissatisfaction is so intense that it feels like you’re n fire, like you can’t stand to be in your own skin, like anything would be better than more of this. Now you have no thought at all for career, home or family. Die to a change in your personal circumstances they’ve all been reduced to complete irrelevance. Belief’s and concepts disappear and even death is suddenly small. You’re very focused now You’re in the moment, very present. The flames are feet away. Your dissatisfaction with you office is well beyond anything even a master redecorator could handle for you, agree?”

He nods.

“and there’s no return is there? No going back. No do-over. The fire is here. It’s a fact. Do you see that?”

He nods again.

“And you’re completely alone in all this. There’s on rescue. Your office is engulfed in flames and there’s no one here to save you. Not Jesus or Buddha or the Pope or your mama. This is your dissatisfaction. This is your problem. This is your agony. This is you about to burn to death, okay?


“Okay/ So what do you do?”


“Your world is burning. The whole office is in flames. You’re in a hopeless, no-escape situation. The pain has started and will only get worse. I think we can safely say that your dissatisfaction is now quite pronounced. What do you do?”

“Christ, I don’t know. Go out the window?”


“Hell, I don’t know. What else?”

“Yeah, I guess so. You’re in this inferno of an office while outside the window is blue sky, white clouds and freedom from suffering. That seems like the only possible solution given your very dissatisfying circumstances. But-“

“But what?”

“Well, that’s not Hollywood glass in those skyscraper windows. You start flinging yourself against the window but it doesn’t give. Your dissatisfaction is of such intensity that you might break bones and crack your skull from hurling yourself desperately against the window, all to no avail.”

“Yeah, then what? What happens?”

“Well the obvious thing is that you might simply perish in the hellish inferno. No law against dying.”

He look sate me desperately.

“Or, maybe you have some object that allows you to break the window out. Or maybe the sheer intensity of your – what are we calling it, dissatisfaction? – allows you to break through the unbreakable window. So, boom!, you blow out the window. Now there’ s nothing left in the equation but you, the raging fire and a hundred story plummet to the sidewalk below. Everything is suddenly quite simple. Perhaps for the first time, your life is perfectly clear.”

“Yea? Then?”

“Burn or jump, I guess.”

“Burn or jump?”

“Do you see another option?”

“Burn or jump.” He says flatly.

“When you become so dissatisfied with your office that the hundred story plummet and the sidewalk seem like the better option, so dissatisfied that you actually hurl yourself out the window, then you know the level of dissatisfaction necessary to awaken from delusion.”

He is silent for several moments, head bowed, thoughtful. “I guess dissatisfaction isn’t the right word.”

“Maybe not, “ I agree. “I call it purity of intent, but that doesn’t really capture it either.”

“And that’s something every enlightened master went through?”

“You say it like there are countless enlightened masters dotting the spiritual landscape, but there are extremely few and now you know why.”

“Jesus,” he umbers, seemingly sincere in his effort to truly appreciate what he’s just been told. “Jesus”

I deliver the moral of the story in three easy pieces.

“The price. Of truth. Is everything.”'

Makes me think that until now, all I have been doing is escaping...redecorating the office, creating a temporary solution that reappears eventually.... I am fixing the symptom... not the problem... but I do not want to pay the price.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Being Empowered – Using the power of your Voice and Choice!

The entire goal behind te-a and Conscious Enlightenment is to create empowered individuals. Which requires a number of conditions to be met.

The first and most important of these is to understand what empowerment is. It is not something that you can be given! No matter how long you wait for that guru, that father, boss... whoever it is, no proverbial knight in shining white armour can ever give you empowerment. Empowerment is something you have to take for yourself. It is an attitude, a knowing deep in your soul that you are worthy, that you have a voice and that you have choices.

Yes, you have a choice!

This concept is perhaps the hardest for individuals to ‘get’. Where is the choice when you get laid off and no longer have a home? You have to go to work otherwise there is no food on the table, where is the choice in that ? Where is the choice when you live in a township, have no education and so no way to get a job and provide for yourself and your family?

The thing about choice is that you have to be aware of who you are and your surroundings in order for you to begin to see the choices that are available. The entire mindset that we have no choice  is based on being unaware. We live in a kind of default program, living what we expect to be true without ever questioning our assumptions. We are unaware of who we are, we are unaware of what we think and we are unaware of what we say and what we do. We do not see the connection between what we say and what we do and the experiences we live.  We see instead people (often defined by colour and gender) who speak differently, who act differently and we want to be those people without understanding that really the only thing that differentiates us from them is the way we think about ourselves and our world.

When you live a life of unconscious unawareness, you live a life of permanent reaction, never questioning, never asking if this is true, never wondering if there is something else out there, always wishing and envying those who have. When you are living unaware your seldom believe that you have the ability to create the life you envy. So you never make new choices, instead you say and do the same old things and so create the same experiences and limitations.

Yes, you need to work to get the money to pay for the bills, but is it true that you have to put up with humiliation and derision and unpleasant people ? No! Do you have a choice, yes! The choices range from the extreme (making a stand and accepting the possible consequences there-of) to finding an alternative job, but there are choices.

When you are living in extreme poverty the choices become more limited but they are still there. You still have a choice in how you engage with the world, in who you are being. You get to choose if you are going to be defeated or simply make the best of a horrid situation and if you watch the people who choose not to be defeated, you will see that somehow that choice seems to lift them out of where they are, creating opportunities that open up more choices... and creates a more empowered and abundant life.

Until you as an individual can make a choice (be it where you live, what you do, who you marry or how you vote) based on what YOU want and not based on history, skin colour, gender, culture, circumstances, family, religion or any of the thousand labels that limit your, until then you will always be trapped. Choices need to be free of all those labels, all that history and all that guilt. Choices need to be about what you want ! Which is a question most of us never engage with.

Living in the new South Africa I feel this lack of conscious choice. When I look at my country (one I have a passion for and could never leave), I see one that is still divided by gender and race. I see a nation that approaches each election knowing things are not right but unable to make individual choices based on what they want. Instead we make choices based on loyalty and race and so we create a country where loyalty and race are king, instead of a country where we demand performance and equality. Yes, that is perhaps a simplistic view, but think about it? How do you make the decisions in your life ? Do you think that as a woman your place is defined ? Or that you can not move up the ladder at work because you did not have the right parents, the right school ? All of these assumptions create labels that define and restrict you. All of these assumptions about why you can not create change disempower you and make you into the never ending victim. The people you envy are people who have things because they never believed in those limits and they were prepared to make choices (often hard choices) to do whatever it took to create what they wanted.

At the end of the day, limits are choices. The trick is to become aware of those limits and so either accept them (and the consequences they bring) or make a new choice.

Perhaps I see this from a perspective where I am already empowered, yet there are moments where I feel completely defeated by my world.  The goal behind Conscious Enlightenment was to take the empowerment I created in diving when I attained my world record and transfer it into any and every moment of any and every day. In the real world it is too easy to forget I have a choice an instead fall into the never ending victim thinking that is so pervasive. There are way too many days where I find that the world is a place where there are too many people making choices for me - my boss, my colleague, the President of my country, the President of the United States. I seem to live in a world where other people’s decisions create turmoil in my life. I have to live with the consequences of other people’s actions. I have to stand up and explain why I am not performing yet it is not my fault, these were not my decisions. I live in a permanent state of victimisation.

So I actively work on trying to find choices! I may not be able to control the effects of other people on my life but I can make the choice to let go and instead use that energy on trusting myself and creating a flexible attitude. I can let go of the outcome and focus instead on who I am being and my reactions to events. Instead of being a bitch about it, I can focus on how to make it work for me and so create an experience that is calmer and more pleasant not only for myself but for the people around me. I can make a choice to express my needs instead of getting more and more frustrated as no-one seems to care and I become more and more invisible. These days, the choices I seem to be making seem to be less about changing the circumstances around me and more about changing how I react to those circumstances. I want to be living a life where circumstances and other people do not define who I am and so do not define my experiences. I want to have control back of me.

I want to be empowered. I want to use my voice to make the choices that are right for me. And I want the people around me to start seeing that there is always a choice and to be Empowered is one of them!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What do you Want? Do you know ?

It is one of those days, when I get lost in my thoughts, trying to find my way forward. Inevitably I find myself coming back to that one question, “What do I want?” It is a question that always interests me because, if take a step back and just watch the conversations in my head I notice how hard it is for the various me’s that live in my thoughts to stop focusing on what is wrong and what I don’t want!!

Engaging with that one question was an eye opener for me (and I have to thank my life coach Savannah Steinberg for nagging me with it until I started to really answer). It has also been an evolution. The first couple of times I started to answer I answered with things. I want this job, here. I want this house, here. The problem I find now is the same problem I faced in diving. What do you do when you have a world record ? Where do you go ? What do you create? I have a job I basically enjoy. I have the perfect house (for me at least), so what do I want ? I have run out of ‘things’ to desire and chase after!!!! Is this the end of life ?
What if I changed the answer to the questions? Rather than providing the answer, what if I let the universe find me the ‘thing’ and instead defined who I want to be and what I want to be feeling? I know already that I do not have enough imagination and that my answers will be more of the same...what if I released the universe and allowed it to find me an answer I could not imagine, an answer that would give me the inner world I am looking for.. what then ?

So my challenge to you is simply this, take ten minutes and sit with that question, what do I want ? Then take it one step further and sit and really understand what you are hoping those answers will do to your inner world ?

What do I want ? I want to be living in contentment, peace, laughter and safety (not the physical sort... I want change... a different sort). I want to be adding value and  influencing my workplace. I also want to feel free. What do you want ?