Posts tagged #Optimism

How to be an Optimist: See Life as a Dream

A young man wrote to me about his own pessimism (co-occuring with a scientific attitude toward life) and asked me what spurs on my optimism.  I wrote this reply:

Optimism and Transcendentalism

I guess a long time ago in my philosophical searchings I examined the kind of scientific materialist attitude you seem to be describing and.... utterly rejected it. I'm a transcendentalist - which means I see the world and everything in it (including my own self) as a kind of deep holographic dream projected by "my" consciousness (I put "my" it quotes because it's "mine" in the sense that I can make choices that influence it, but it's not mine in the sense that there ultimately is no me since "Carolyn" is just another part of the dream.... sorry if that's hard to follow, it gets a little complex).

Changing the Dream

The reason all this transcendentalism adds up to optimism is this: if everything is a dream, then it can change from a terrible dream into a beautiful dream. Whether the dream is beautiful or terrible depends on what angle of light, or motivation, I'm sending through the hologram projector (my brain). If I'm sending the self-centered motivation of gathering up pleasure and security and power just for myself, then I'm going to be faced with a hologram of an utterly ugly, difficult, barren and horrible world. I'll be in endless conflict with the people around me. I'll be miserable. I've spent years living in that "reality" and it's awful. I've also dipped down into that recently - I was hugely depressed and suicidal. I had lost my way and wound myself into a big mess of compassionless horror.

Generating Awake-heart aka Bodhicitta

On the other hand, I've found that if I'm sending the other-cherishing motivation of being committed to bringing all creatures into happiness (i.e., non-attached and unending bliss, freedom from addiction and craving) and I'm willing to project limitless loving-kindness (i.e., deliberately being willing to love and wish happiness for people I don't like and resent, being willing to delight in their triumphs and to work to spare them from pain)...

...well, then the hologram becomes beautiful, synchronous, full of joy and meaning and connection.

Life becomes easy and I find I can fulfill my basic needs and my big aspirations without much worry. I mean, there are still so many challenges - but the challenges are fascinating instead of frightening. It's not like hunger and war and tragedy and sickness and misfortune disappear from the dream - but they don't oppress me in the same way. Instead there's a light within me that is willing to take responsibility for healing all that pain in the world and in myself.

And ultimately, I think, this process of lightening and en-blissening just goes on and on until the dream becomes very transparent and dissolves entirely, leaving the consciousness in Nirvana or the Kingdom of Heaven or what-have-you.

My optimism is essentially this: that it's possible for everyone, including myself, to dwell in ecstatic happiness, and that there are things I can do to bring that about... and the very process of working to bring this about is incredibly fulfilling and fun. It's basically Mahayana / Vajranya Buddhism but I like to spice it up by thinking a lot about Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

I don't know if those are flavors of Buddhism that you've investigated, but I sure love them. I've also been influenced strongly by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Don Miguel Ruiz and Byron Katie.

Man, I could go on and on. I'm sure I've used some shorthand in explaining this that doesn't make sense and sounds very fluffy. But I assure you, it all makes razor-sharp sense in my mind.

Warmth,

Carolyn

image: [seyed mostafa zamani]

The poetics of occupation: pressing reasons we need to "occupy" our own cities

The Poetics of Occupation

I've been thrilled and privileged to participate in the Occupy movement via Occupy Pittsburgh. While sitting out in the cold and rain, I got to having some deep thoughts about the poetics of the occupation and I figured I'd share them here with you.

 

 

The term "occupy" has obvious military connotations.  The poetic use of the term as a metaphor to describe a peaceful protest demands some reflection.

 

Currently, the U.S. military is just winding down a massive, costly and controversial occupation of Iraq. This occupation of Iraq is the  prominent cultural back drop in the minds of most Americans when we hear the term "occupy." "Occupy" in this sense suggests going on to foreign soil where we're not particularly wanted or welcome and ensuring that our interests are protected there.

 

Thus, the notion that we would need to Occupy Wall Street, for example, frames "Wall Street" as a kind of hostile foreign nation, a place where we need to send "troops" (of peaceful protesters) in order to control the situation there and to protect our interests.

 

But Wall Street IS American soil, right? Why should we feel we need to "occupy" it?

 

How Wall Street Made Itself a Foreign Land: Usury

The answer to this, I believe, lies in the spiritual dimension of our financial institutions and failing economy. The spiritual malaise of Wall Street, the banking industry, and the corporations has created a sense of alienation and violation so potent that those institutions can no longer be perceived by Americans as even belonging to their country. There's a sense of these institutions and corporations as alien and hostile.  This sense is not imaginary or paranoid.  It's completely correct, and it has its root in the alienating and hostile actions of those institutions towards the American people.

 

In order to make my point clear, I need to explain a few rather arcane (but fascinating!) points which I first learned from Lewis Hyde's brilliant book, The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World.

 

To begin, the banking industry's practice of usury is a practice that was recognized in spiritual traditions throughout the ancient world as an act which promoted division, suspicion, and alienation within a community. I think we need to reconsider ancient and indigenous attitudes towards usury in order to understand the extent to the unity and spiritual virtue of the United States has been violated by Wall Street.

 

Today, "usury" means "lending at unbearably high interest." In the ancient world, usury just meant charging any interest at all on a loan.

 

Lending at interest itself is now widely accepted and taken for granted as perfectly acceptable and normal.  Loan-sharking, or lending at really high and outrageous interest, is the only stuff that raises eyebrows now.  Loan-sharking on the part of the banks is a large part of what created the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

 

We can keep in mind that the banks have practiced the intense form of usury-as-loan-sharking and that this practice has led to the current widespread poverty and outrage, but in order to understand the severity of loan-sharking, I want to start by discussing the problematic spiritual dimensions of usury, period.

 

In order to understand why usury (which is now so widely accepted) would be seen as a spiritual problem, we first need to understand a little bit about the way gifts work.

 

The Increase of the Gift

An interest-free loan is a form of a gift. For example: if I give you an interest-free loan of $1000 dollars, and you are able to use that loan to invest in a business which then makes you money. A year later, you return to me $1000, but you've still been able to create an "increase" out of the loan that I gave you, an increase that you wouldn't have been able to enjoy if I hadn't loaned you the $1000 to begin with.  So the increase that you make on account of me loaning you $1000 is a kind of gift from me to you.  Theoretically, if I had held on to my $1000 and not given it to you, I could have used the $1000 to invest and thereby enjoyed the increase myself.

 

Gifts are really cool because they create relationships of community and connection.  There's something magical and in harmony with the natural growth and decay of nature in the increase that properly treated gifts can create.

 

In indigenous cultures which maintained gift economies, it was always considered imperative that the increase generated by a gift  be passed on or used up, and never hoarded or used as capital itself. This passing-on or "paying it forward" was thought to be necessary in order to keep the "spirit of the gift" moving. So, for example, if you were able to make $2000 out of the $1000 interest-free loan I had given you, it would be good form for you to spend that $2000 on necessities for you and your family or to throw a big party and share the wealth. It would be very bad form for you to keep that $2000 to invest as capital or to hoard in savings.

 

The idea behind this is that gifts in a community should be kept in circulation and not used to unduly benefit or to create an unfair advantage for any one individual. When gifts are hoarded or used to create only private benefit, the spirit of the gift dies and the nihilism of separation, meaninglessness and isolation arises. This nihilism of separation creates a general atmosphere of cruelty. It's the atmosphere we're living in now.  It's the atmosphere that the Occupy movement has arisen to protest.

 

The Spirit of the Gift

We can think of the "spirit of the gift" as a sense of gratitude that puts human beings in an attitude of reverence and love for each other, nature, and divinity.  When gifts are kept moving and circulating, no one person has giant storehouses of money or goods to use as "security." The "security" and "prosperity" of an individual is instead intimately tied to the security and prosperity of the community, and thus to relationships of good will, love, and interdependency. Furthermore, a person who is living in the spirit of the gift, rather than seeking to extract and hoard the riches of the earth in warehouses instead respectfully fosters and tends for the earth so as to continue to enjoy the bounty of her gifts in a sustainable fashion.

 

Living in the spirit of the gift is an act of faith.  It involves a surrender of control.  This surrender entails two spiritual attitudes that are largely unknown to our control-obsessed modern world: 1) A general trust that the community / nature / divinity will continue to provide and 2) A graceful willingness to accept death and suffering in the event that the community / nature / divinity does not provide.

 

The act of living in the spirit of the gift is something which my favorite poet and all-around-awesome dude, Jesus, pointed to many times, perhaps most memorably in his Sermon on the Mount, when he suggested that everyone live "like the lilies of the field."  The lilies of the field, J.C. pointed out, don't do any work or save for rainy days, and yet they're gorgeous and happy. The lilies live in the spirit of the gift, accepting the nourishment of the sun and earth and giving forth radiant beauty.  Then they gracefully die when it gets cold and they don't whine about it. They don't control or hoard anything.

 

The Nihilism of Usury and the Control Freaks of Wall Street

Usury, in essence, is an expression of fear and clinging to material existence.  It's a refusal to surrender control. Usury hears about the notion of living like the lilies of the field and says "screw that!"

 

Usury seeks to maintain control over the increase generated by a gift.  It thus kills the spirit of the gift and creates disconnection.

 

When I give you that $1000 interest-free loan, I'm letting go of my say over that money. I'm letting you "use" it.  In turn, in our little gift society, I trust that you will put your "use" of the gift (the increase you accrue from investing it) to benefit all of us.  But I'm trusting. I've surrendered control of the "use" of the gift.  Through my trust, I'm making space for the spirit of the gift to live and breathe.

 

When I give you a $1000 dollar loan with 20% interest, I'm not letting go of my say over that money. I'm not trusting that you will use the increase of the gift to ultimately benefit our community and thus me. I'm demanding that you put the increase that you generate through your "use" of the gift back in my pocket. Thus I am controlling the "use-stuff" or "use-ury" or of the gift. In my control, I don't trust you and I certainly don't love you.

 

Usury = commerce between foreigners

Lewis Hyde explains:

 To ask for interest on loaned wealth is to reckon, articulate, and charge its increase.  The idea of usury therefore appears when spiritual, moral, and economic life begins to be separated from one another, probably at the time when foreign trade, exchange with strangers, begins. As we saw in an earlier chapter, wherever property circulates as a gift, the increase that accompanies that circulation is simultaneously material, social, and spiritual; where wealth moves as a gift, any increase in material wealth is automatically accompanied by the increased conviviality of the group and the strengthening of the hau, the spirit of the gift.  But when foreign trade begins, the tendency is to differentiate the material increase from the social and spiritual increase, and a commercial language appears to articulate the difference.  When exchange no longer connects one person to another, when the spirit of the gift is absent, then increase does not appear between gift partners, usury appears between debtors and creditors. (144-145 The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World)

 

The key point that Hyde makes here is that usury begins when foreign trade begins.  It's an economic relationship forged between groups of people who have no necessary bonds to each other communally or spiritually and who do not trust each other.  It's a relationship of outsider to outsider.

 

Think about this: usury now colors every exchange in our financial institutions.  The banks lend to us, the people, at interest-- and in the case of the sub-prime mortgage crisis at insanely high, loan-sharking interest.  They might call themselves things like "Bank of America" but to them, we, their debtors, are obviously foreigners.

 

The Occupy Movement as a Gift Society

Therefore, it makes perfect sense that the movement against the banks, against our financial institutions and corrupt government and corporations calls itself an "Occupation" and takes the form of physical encampments.

 

We are occupying Wall Street and occupying symbolic squares and parks in our hometowns because the banks have made themselves foreigners to us through their usury.  We have no fellow-feeling and good-will for them because we have no trace of a gift relationship with them. They've destroyed the spirit of the gift through their rapacious lust to control and their absolute unwillingness to trust.

 

They've treated us, the people, their fellow citizens, like strangers.

 

To speak in biblical terms, our financial institutions have committed grave sins and the consequences of those sins are alienation and disunity.

 

It is absolutely no accident that the Occupy encampments in NYC and throughout the world are operating as communal gift economies with free healthcare (in the form of medic tents), free education (in the form of teach-ins, speakers, and lending libraries), free food, free shelter (in the form of donated tents, clothing, sleeping bags, etc.), and free entertainment (as people share their musical and artistic skills).

 

The Occupy encampments are modeling the living power of the spirit of the gift which the banks, corporations, and corrupt government of the United States had sought to destroy through usury, among other means.

 

Debts create suspicion, scarcity, distrust and death.  Gifts create love, abundance, trust and life.

 

Why doesn't Occupy need to articulate demands?

In the Occupy movement, the spirit of the gift is rising up and roaring through the hearts and minds of people throughout the world. This is what makes it enormously powerful and wonderful.

 

This is why it doesn't need to "articulate demands." The demand of the movement is implicit in its very existence.  The medium is the message.  Gifts, not debts. Consensus, not tyranny. Community, not commodity. The time has come. The spirit will prevail.

 

Check out this tour of the gift community at the Occupy Pittsburgh encampment, given by yours truly:

 

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTMvFWhjNq8

 

Love!

Carolyn

The Gift World vs. the Mad World

Dear Reader, As I began discussing in my last post, the gift world is a subjective experience of life in which your genius is fully supported and welcomed in its expression, and in which your needs and authentic preferences are joyously met by a provident universe.

I might elaborate on that by saying it's also a condition in which you don't need to control or manipulate anything, nor are you subject to any control or manipulation.  It's a state wherein you offer yourself fully as a gift and experience yourself likewise fully supplied with everything-- also as a gift.  The gifts which supply you come to you through a variety of people and circumstances, but they simply come.  There's no struggling and striving involved, no need to force yourself to do work you don't want to do, no sense of barrier or disconnection between you and other people.  In other words, the gift world is a lot different than the mad world we currently live in.

What's the mad world? It's the state in which we apparently need to strive and do drudge work in order to support ourselves, or, conversely, we need to manipulate, lie to, and exploit others in order to spare ourselves from drudgery (i.e., do business).  It's a world in which we must exert control and force over ourselves (how else do you get yourself to go to work in an ugly office other than through forcing?), where we feel painfully alone and disconnected from our own vital souls and from the other people that surround us.  It's something wrought upon us from the time we're very young and made to go to school in a thoroughly corrupt and increasingly pointless educational system. I think Gary Jules' cover of Tears for Fears' "Mad World" in Donnie Darko sums it up pretty well. But then again, the original Tears for Fears version is way easier to dance to:

 

The mad world is a condition in which we're desperately trying to control ourselves, other people, and all the factors which surround us out of an intense survival anxiety.  Charles Eisenstein sums it up very well, blow by blow, in his book The Ascent of Humanity (which is available online in its entirety-- as a gift, because Mr. Eisenstein knows what's up). The mad world is a world in which technology and science, surveillance and laws, discipline and punishment are used to maximum effect in order to produce a very tenuous and unsustainable version of security in which we're not only not actually safe, but we're also now bored and depressed.

In the gift world, since you have no need to control, there's no fear.  As the teacher Adyashanti has observed, fear is just a by-product of frustrated control. In the gift world, you do things, but nothing you do is "work" in the sense that we've come to think of it, because your security and your identity don't come from what you accumulate as a result of your effort.  Instead, you give your efforts freely, accruing no obvious security or bolstering to your seperate ego-self.  As you give in this manner, your wants and needs are subsequently mysteriously met in delightful and miraculous ways by the universe.

This miraculous movement happens because, as Lewis Hyde observed in his seminal work The Gift, when gifts received are consumed or passed on, the spiritual power at work in the gift grows-- more is drawn forth, more gifts flow to you. When gifts received are hoarded, stored up, or used only to accrue individual gain, the spiritual power at work in the gift departs-- it dries up, and no more gifts come to you. The gift spirit as it moves creates connection and joy, satisfaction and fulfillment among a circle of givers and receivers.  The gift as it is hoarded creates disconnection and ennui, alienation and discontent.

Our genius (talent, intelligence, creativity, soul-- whatever you want to call it) is clearly a gift given to us by the source.  We didn't manufacture our genius deliberately, of our own clever device.  We didn't make it out of duct-tape and cardboard. It came to us freely, from outside our own will and effort. When we use our gift of genius only promote ourselves, only to make ourselves as individual egos more secure and safe in a seemingly threatening universe-- we then betray the spirit of the gift. We become hoarders. The genius then stops giving us ideas and inspirations and means to carry those out because we've proven ourselves ungrateful.  When we wrongly use gifts graciously bestowed upon us as possessions to which we are entitled,  the spirit of the gift dies.

It was a revelation to me when I learned from Lewis Hyde about the need of the gift to move.  While it made deep sense to me on one level, on another it contradicted the perverse notions of gift reception that I'd learned in childhood: gifts are given to me on my birthday and at Christmas and they are MINE all MINE.  I was taught that to give away a gift that I received as a birthday or a Christmas present was rude. Not only this, but I was prevented from actually formally reciprocating the gifts given to me. When I was invited as a guest to the birthday parties of other children,  the birthday gifts bestowed on my friends by "me"  were toys bought by my mother. I was not allowed to give the pine cones and twigs, the flowers and quartz pebbles I really wanted to give.  The toys my mother presented did not come from me-- they had nothing to do with me. I was deluged with gifts and yet kept out of the circle of giving-- and perhaps unsurprisingly, the gifts I was given in this fashion meant nothing to me on a deep level. They represented nothing to me but a hoard of "my" toys.  The ethos of giving and receiving taught to me thus denied the  actual spirit of the gift.

As I practice the path of virtualizing a great universe and surrendering into my innocence, I can more and more clearly perceive that what I'm virtualizing is the gift world-- and as the gift world is more and more  coming to be my reality,I'm growing increasingly excited.  In the coming days, I'll be sharing more regarding what it takes to move from the mad world to the gift world.

 

Love, Carolyn

Image Attribution: Photo "Presents under the tree" by VancityAllie, borrowed from Flickr under Creative Commons licensing.

Make Cool Stuff, Not Art

Dear Reader, Let me be clear: I respect art and artists. But me and many of my friends freeze up when we set out to make "art." The very word triggers all kinds of threatening associations and judgments: standards of quality based on other people's taste, rules, questions of fashionableness and style.  In other words, the word "art" can send us to the demonic forgery of Doubt, deep in the harrowing mountain fortress of Not Enoughness, where our shackles are made.

For this reason, I'm a strong proponent of making cool stuff, not art, as a route to creative awakening.

Wherein My Snob Brain Makes Me Miserable

My Snob Brain is the part of me that convincingly reasons that nothing is worth doing unless it is guaranteed to rocket me into the ranks of the luminaries.

For a long time I considered myself a blocked poet-- I could write poetry (indeed, I wrote two books of the stuff this past year), but only in bursts, not every day.  And I never felt really nurtured and only rarely deeply delighted by what I wrote, even when it garnered me recognition and prizes.

Whenever I would sit down to write poetry I'd be working to create something which would be legible to others as insightful, beautiful, valuable.  This led to me feeling frustrated, resentful, crazy.

One day I realized that while there are poems I love very much, and even some I have memorized, my most favorite lines of wonderful words actually aren't from poems at all-- they're song lyrics.

The snob in me can tell you that the lyrics to the songs I most love are really not dazzling poetic masterpieces.  A lot of them are overwrought and corny-- for example, please check the lyrics of my favorite ballad ever, Total Eclipse of the Heart, and see if they don't strike you as rather turgidly purple.

But the thing is, I love them.  They've given me a lot more pleasure over the years than "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock."

Singin' a Song

I've discovered recently that it gives me great joy to make up a tune while I'm walking down the street (I walk a lot-- about 4 miles a day) and to put words to it that don't particularly make much sense.  I sing these songs into the voice recorder on my phone so I can save them for later development and enjoyment. My latest is called "The Nothing Eats The Nothing" and the words go something like this:

The tangle in the ivy / The striping in the bark / The nothing eats the nothing eats the now

The rubies at the dawning / The walking in the park / The nothing eats the nothing eats the now

The last time that I saw you / The striving in the dark / The nothing eats the nothing eats the now

I can promise you that Poetry magazine would not print "The Nothing Eats The Nothing," and I can also tell you that making it up and singing it makes me very happy.

It makes sense to me that I derive great pleasure from making up songs-- an activity that doesn't qualify as "art" in my Snob Brain -- because many self-taught visionaries who make cool stuff via attention to their own intuitive voices tend not to consider what they make "art."

The tough thing about using my energy to make up neat songs, though, is that it takes time and energy away from my old ego project of getting prestige through poetry, i.e., winning the Nobel Prize in Literature by whatever means necessary.

You may not share my particular prestige hang up, but you still might be declining to follow your playful impulses to make cool stuff because whatever those impulses are and whatever it is they want to do doesn't fit in with your ego's rational plan for life success.

Why My Snob Brain Hates Singin' a Song

Songwriting very much does not fit into my ego's rational plan for life success.  Here's why:

1) I can't play an instrument, unless you count the tambourine-- and even that's sorta iffy.

2) I can't read or write music.

3) My voice is okay but quite untrained.

4) So many people out there have been music-making since they were 5 and are better than me in all respects.

Nonetheless, I have this extra-rational impulse to spend time making up songs.  Despite all the strikes against me, I trust that if I follow this impulse and allow it to bring things forward into manifestation then something-- though goodness knows what-- will come out of it.  Indeed, I already notice myself feeling more and more like a visionary all the time.

What cool stuff could you make today?

Love,

Carolyn

Image Credit: Photo "heart-on-a-stick" by dev null, borrowed from Flickr under Creative Commons licensing.

 

Posted on March 27, 2011 and filed under Creativity.

Become a Visionary

Dear Reader, Do you demure from expressing yourself creatively? Do you insist that you don't have the time or money to acquire the necessary training, skills, and materials requisite to being an artist?

Do you bemoan that whatever kind of work you do isn't fashionable, isn't desired, isn't wanted by the world? Is your name Carolyn Elliott? Because I do all that stuff, every day.

Ever since I was old enough to realize I could get attention with my artistic stylings I've been hobbled by chains of perfectionism and caring-what-others-think tempered in the hands of demonic smithys under the mighty mountain forgery of Self-Doubt.  It's a painful condition. But I'm getting over myself, in large part thanks to inspiration from visionary art.

The Art that Forgets Its Name

What's visionary art? According to the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, the term

refers to art produced by self-taught individuals, usually without formal training, whose works arise from an innate personal vision that revels foremost in the creative act itself." In short, visionary art begins by listening to the inner voices of the soul, and often may not even be thought of as 'art' by its creator.

So visionary art, much of which is so freakin' cool it makes me quiver (check out that mosaic mirrored egg!), is made by people who lack formal artistic training.  Indeed, it's very often made by people who are in some way marginalized by society and who lack financial resources. Hmmm.  As I consider the vast wonder of things made by self-taught and under-advantaged creators, I begin to seriously lose my excuses for not making more stuff myself.

The thing which really fascinates me about visionary art though, is that its creators often don't even consider it to be art. They just think of it as a necessary expression of their intuition. The section on the American Visionary Art Museum's website which describes the difference between traditional folk art and visionary art goes into more detail on this matter, and I find it so compelling that I have to share it with you:

The essential difference between the two [folk artists and visionary artists], though both may at times use similar materials and methods, is that visionary artists don't listen to anyone else's traditions. They invent their own. They hear their own inner voice so resoundingly that they may not even think of what they do as 'art.' Dubuffet's beloved Art Brut Collections, formed exclusively from the "raw art" creations of non-artists, such as street people, hermits, factory workers, housewives and psychic mediums, motivated him to say: "Art is at its best when it forgets its very name." It is this listening to one's inner voice with such focused attention that contributes to the unusually large number of visionary art works -many of which took decades to create. Yet there are still common threads. The most common theme of visionary artists worldwide is the backyard recreation of the Garden of Eden and other utopian visions -quite literally building heaven on earth.

On reflection, I think I have to agree with Mr. Dubuffet that "Art is at its best when it forgets its very name." I've spent many hours in fine art museums in America and Europe. I volunteered for years at the Carnegie Art Museum and the Andy Warhol Museum. And yet nothing that I've seen in the fine art category grips me as much as art brut.

And isn't it wild that the most common theme of this work is the recreation of the Garden of Eden? Knowing this reminds me of the trippy aboriginal greatness of Womb With Three Births, a work produced by two of my favorite (largely self-taught) geniuses, Sigh Meltingstar and Eliza Bishop, for a show I curated this past summer at the International Children's Gallery on Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh.

When I ponder the truth that art is best when it forgets its name, I get a little sad.  I remember all the times I forced myself to do something serious with words or paint or clay because I was indeed aiming to make "art." In my self-imposed seriousness, I've drained most all of the fun out of creating and often ended up with stuff that induced yawns rather than yelps of joy.

A few weeks ago I decided to surrender my conditioned desire to make "art" and instead relax into my authentic preference to produce cool stuff in accordance with the dictates of my inner voice and share it with others by whatever means necessary.

So far, the results have been really fun-- I've started making songs with my friend Jane for our freak folk project and I wrote and performed my first few minutes of stand up comedy.

In the coming days I'll be sharing thoughts and prompts on making the transition from stifled-by-seriousness to trembling-visionary-glitter-bombness.

Love,

Carolyn

 

Image Credit: Picture by LollyKnit of a sculpture in the American Visionary Art Museum, borrowed from Flickr under Creative Commons licensing.

4 Ways to Turn Searching Into Finding

Dear Reader, Navigating the search for fulfillment and joy in this life can be tough. It often feels like groping in treacherous darkness. I want to offer some simple suggestions for summoning more synchronicity to help you on your journey.

1) Each day, spend time focusing on what your ideal relationship with the world would feel like.

We tend to think that we want specific things-- for example, let's say that you think you want a house in the country with cathedral ceilings, a lush garden, and a teacup poodle. I would argue it's not really these things that you want.  It's the ideal relationship with the world that those things represent to you that you want. You want a relationship with the world that's rich with beauty and opportunities to nurture. A relationship that's expansive (cathedral ceilings), alive (lush garden), adorable and adoring (teacup poodle).

Many teachers of the law of attraction will suggest that you focus on imagining having the specific things that you want-- I suggest this, too, but only as an aid to imagining and vividly experiencing the feeling of what it would be like for you to be in your ideal relationship with the world.

Because let's face it-- the things without the relationship would be meaningless.  There's lots of people who have fab houses and gardens and poodles who are out-and-out rotting with misery. Being surrounded by wondrous things and creatures only feels good when those things occur in the context of a rich relationship with life.

What would it feel like if every person you encountered knew you as you wish to be known, honored you as you wish to be honored, helped you as you wished to be helped? And what would it feel like if all the unseen forces of the universe were continually showering you with gifts? Focus on this feeling every day-- discover it and nurture it.

2) Notice what beliefs or self-images you hold that seem to argue against the possibility of this ideal relationship and work to release them.

The very act of imagining yourself within your ideal relationship with the world has the effect of turning on the bright lights within your spirit, so you can see the shadows more starkly.

As soon as you begin to focus on the feeling of that relationship, you'll notice parts of yourself objecting-- "that's impossible" -- "that's not how life works" -- "that could never happen for me."  Those objections come from the conditioned beliefs and self-images which we hold about ourselves.

The process of releasing long-held limiting beliefs and self-images is on-going and multi-layered. Great progress can be made immediately on some important layers, and some layers take years to effectively budge. It's important, though, to accomplish this work because doing so clears our perception so that we can find our way towards our best world relationship.

In my experience, the most effective way to work with these doubts and false limitations is through meditative inquiry, which can be done alone or with a tutor.

3) Discover what it is in your life that conflicts with or argues against you enjoying your ideal relationship with the world and make changes accordingly.

Imagining what your best possible relationship with the world would feel like not only brings into stark view our inner doubts and limiting beliefs, it also can have the effect of showing us what elements in our current life are out of tune with the harmony we envision.

Once you begin focusing on your ideal world relationship, you may clearly realize that your critical friend or your demanding career don't fit in with your best vision.  This can be very painful to realize, since we like to hold to the familiar and can easily make the mistake of putting loyalty to others above loyalty to our own genius hearts.

Nonetheless, our dream relationship with the world won't be able to come true until we consciously let go of that which is presently in our lives that doesn't resonate with it.

4) Follow the path that sings.

As you focus on your ideal world relationship and let go of fearful doubts and people, places, and things which don't resonate with your vision, you'll come upon a path that sings to you.

When you come upon the entrance to a path that sings, you'll find yourself surrounded by people who know you as you want to be known, in an environment rich with beauty and love.  There will be spiritual resources and opportunities present for you in this place, and you'll be able to recognize it because the feeling that you get when you're there will feel like the wondrous world relationship you've been virtualizing in your daily practice.

As it happens, my path includes bhakti yoga, which-- quite literally-- sings. In bhakti yoga practice, we sing the names of the divine, offering ourselves to it in unconditional devotional service.  The first time I came to a kirtan (a session of music and chanting meditation) I immediately knew I was in the right place for me because the people and the environment there so fully resonated with my heart, which I had carefully tuned using the above-outlined steps.

Once you find your path, don't stop dreaming of that ideal world relationship and releasing that which doesn't align with it.  Keep dreaming and dropping until your life is a radiant pulsing jewel of love.

Love,

Carolyn

Raise Your Resonance with Loving-kindness

Dear Reader, One of the most potent means I've found for improving the resonance of my being so that I'm more open to love and happiness and all the good things of life is to practice loving-kindness virtualization.

About Loving-kindness Virtualization

Loving-kindness virtualization is like traditional Buddhist loving-kindness meditation, except instead of just verbally wishing others well, you take time to vividly imagine and feel the happiness and well-being that you wish for them.

I notice that when I practice this form of virtualization it gives me a big energetic boost and enhances my awareness of my connectedness to all other people. When I vividly imagine another person feeling happy and loved --  sometimes especially if I don't like that person or have a grudge against them -- I feel the happiness and love that I'm imagining on their behalf.

This clues me in that my happiness really isn't separate from theirs. It's all one big field, available to be shared.

How to Practice Loving-kindness Virtualization

1. Find some place to be relatively alone and relaxed.

2. Take a few deep breaths, center yourself in the intention to extend your love and drop your grievances.

3. Bring to mind someone you're a little bit irritated with-- a friend, a colleague, someone you see on the bus every day.

4. Imagine that person in a place where they're tremendously happy, doing what they most love.  This can be tough if you don't know the person all that well or you've never seen them really happy. Nonetheless, make something up.

Example: See your colleague who likes to bake standing in the midst of a totally gorgeous kitchen with glossy blue walls and a high stamped-tin ceiling: she has graceful cake plates stacked with luscious cupcakes all around her; her heart is full with joy and peace; she's stirring a bowl of golden batter; she's surrounded by people she loves who are sharing in her bounty. She's radiant, her face is beaming. The room smells like swiss cocoa and cinnamon. Someone makes a joke and the happy baker bursts out with a delighted, full-bodied laugh.

This virtualization might take some work to come up with because you usually encounter your colleague looking bored across the table from you at meetings, quibbling with your ideas, rushing past you in the hallways.

The Benefits for Another

To invest your time imagining her gloriously happy and fulfilled is a real act of generosity on your part.  Since all of us human beings are connected by a morphic field, your kind vision for your colleague actually has the effect of improving the probabilities in the field directly surrounding her.  The altered condition of the field can then draw forth from her new manifestations of joy.

The Benefits for You

While practicing this loving-kindness virtualization for your colleague, you'll immediately start to feel more of your own love and generosity. Even if you begin from a place of resentment or irritation, you'll discover after awhile that you really would like to see this person being completely fulfilled and relaxed. Just realizing this brings you to some important knowledge: you're a kind person who can take real pleasure in the happiness of others.

You'll also start to feel happier and lighter yourself.  It's impossible to vividly imagine anyone feeling really great without you also starting to feel really great.  You've not just improved the field surrounding your colleague-- you've improved the whole field surrounding you.

You may notice that after doing this meditation you feel more alert, more interested in your life, more inclined to do things, more glad to listen closely to other people when they talk.

The next time you see your colleague after you've practiced the loving-kindness virtualization on her behalf, you'll feel more inclined to be soft towards her and less inclined to judge her.

You'll sympathize with her own best wishes for herself, and you'll be able to intuitively grasp how her irritating actions (quibbling, rushing) are part of her means of coping with life's difficulties and defending her tenuous sense of self.  You'll see she can't help it. You'll feel more compassionate, and interested in helping her.

We human beings are all extremely perceptive. Because we're connected by the field, we can feel when someone genuinely wishes well for us, and we respond to this positively.

Over time, your colleague will pick up on your altered resonance. She'll notice that you don't put out vibes of irritation or disapproval when she brushes by you.  She'll be able to relax more when she's in your presence. She might ask you how you're doing. She might support one of your ideas brought up at a meeting.

One day she might bring you some rad cinnamon cupcakes with cocoa-custard icing, and then you'll know the magic is really working.

Love,

Carolyn

Image Credit: Photo of cupcakes from Little Cupcakes, Desgraves St., Melbourne by dootsiez on flickr, used under Creative Commons license.

Virtualize Your New Universe - Part 2

Dear Reader, Today I want to take you step-by-step through the virtualization process.

Yesterday I wrote about how through the virtualization of our authentic preferences, we can alter our resonance and take ourselves into the range of morphic fields which can powerfully shape and organize developments in our minds and in our lives for the better.

1. Pick a Preference, Any Preference

One of my authentic preferences (something I would still like to happen, even if I was completely blissed out) is to record a freak folk album. Actually, upon reflection, I might especially like this to happen if I was blissed out.

Please note-- this is not an especially "realistic" preference. I don't yet know how to play an instrument (I'm working on guitar- slooooowly).  I don't know how to read music. I don't have any ties to any aspect of the music industry. I've only yet "written" (i.e., recorded myself whistling on my phone's voice recorder) a few little tunes. My optimism surrounding this matter is, indeed, Extra-Rational.

Something that I find very important in this whole optimism process is not to limit the things I hope for to things that I think are realistic based upon my current skills and what's happened in the past.  Why? Because the morphic fields can handle all that stuff.  When I alter my resonance, I get swept into currents where I learn things rapidly and I find out I somehow have more resources and knowledge inside me than I realized.

For example-- at the time I started practicing the dating optimism which eventually resulted in me meeting the love of my life, Dey, I had a rotten track record with relationships.  Nothing in my past repertoire told me I had the chops to maintain a romantic interaction that was happy and healthy.  But I embarked on the process of awesoming my life in that dimension-- I virtualized, I was honest with myself, I surrendered (I'll have more to say about all these parts of the awesoming process, stay tuned)-- and then, not only did I meet my amazing partner, but as he and I spent more time together I discovered that somehow, I did have within me the necessary skills to consistently relate well with him.  Yikes! Where the heck did those come from?

Although I work hard to practice spiritual principles in my every day life and those principles are an essential part of any kind of good relationship, I didn't consciously cultivate romantic intimacy skills. The morphic field of successful romantic love which I entered into with my virtualization caused them to develop in me, drawing them out of the chaos of my heart.

2. See it, Feel it, Smell it, Hear It

This is the fun part. Let's say "you" share my preference to record a freak folk album-- and let's say you're recording it live.

Go somewhere that you can be alone and relax.  Take a few deep breaths.  Imagine yourself on a stage at a summer music festival. Feel the ruffled linen of your rad threads flutter on your skin as a breeze goes by. Feel the gentle weight of the guitar on your knee.  Breathe in deeply.  Smell the fresh sweat of the crowd; the inevitable fragrance of illegal herb smoke that rise up from their midst; the yummy summer smell of hot sun on green grass.  See your band mates wearing their quirky robes, fat flower garlands, carrying their handmade instruments.

Finally, hear yourself start to play and sing, and feel your heart opening and going out to all your audience and all your band members as you do it.  Hear what the music sounds like.  Hear yourself singing, feel your fingers on the guitar strings.  Breathe in the great energy from the crowd, the grins on their faces, the sight of all the dancing, swaying torsos.

There's music moving through you that's more than just the love in your mortal heart, it's the grace of a higher power that wants to come into the world and touch people through you. It's ecstatic-- your ego fades into the background and there's a oneness amongst you and everything around you.  You're right where you're supposed to be.

3. Wash, Rinse, Repeat

Now, future denizen of the folk realm-- keep that up.  If that vision were your authentic preference, I would recommend to you that you set aside ten minutes each day to virtualize it to the max. And when you virtualize it, make sure you imagine it happening in the greatest way possible for you and everyone else who's involved. In other worlds, don't virtualize yourself up there on stage, giving a so-so performance to a crowd that's more focussed on selling and buying acid than on listening to you play.  Focus on seeing a picture of dynamic harmony, with all elements working together to bring forth something that's just insultingly sublime (i.e., way bigger than your self).

Why? Because for some weird reason, life is just crazy about fulfilling expansive, gorgeous dreams like that.

Love,

Carolyn

Virtualize Your New Universe - Part 1

Dear Reader, Yesterday we talked about how it's possible to travel to a whole new universe through the power of Throbbing, Extra-rational Optimism and hops.

Today I want to talk more about exactly how this travel is accomplished.

Why Virtualize

Virtualization is a process in which you vividly imagine the fulfillment of your authentic preferences, drawing upon all five senses and upon your emotions. Let's say that I'm working on manifesting some roly-poly pigs.  I would relax, lay back, and spend some time seeing myself hanging out in a pig pen, feel the soft squishing of the mud, hear the sweet grunts of porcine oinking, smell the fragrant shit, feel my heart swelling with joy. Why do this?

Because in order to jump to a better universe, you've got to get the feel for what it would be like.  This works because imagination, as my hero Ralph Waldo Emerson realized, is not just making stuff up. It's actually a kind of insight, or what Emerson called "a very high form of seeing." It feels like "making stuff up" at first because our imaginative light is dim to begin with.  As that light gets stronger and stronger, we begin to see that when we're imagining the fulfillment of our authentic preferences, we're actually not just making stuff up-- we're perceiving a possible world, and the act of vividly perceiving it with our imagination draws it into physical manifestation.

Virtualizing your new universe is itself a hop-- a hopeful optimistic practice -- and a very powerful one at that. When practiced regularly (every day is best) it alters your resonance.

On Morphic Resonance

What does that mean? Allow me to explain: the biologist Rupert Sheldrake posited that the development of life forms doesn't just depend on the information in their genes. The development of plants and animals also depends on something he called organizational fields, or morphic fields (meaning "fields that influence form").

Sheldrake offered that these fields work by creating order in otherwise chaotic or random patterns of gene-instructed activity. He said that these fields are not static, but constantly evolve:

The fields of afghan hounds and poodles have become different from those of their common ancestors, wolves. How are these fields inherited? I propose that they are transmitted from past members of the species through a kind of non-local resonance, called morphic resonance.

That is to say, morphic fields are a kind of collective memory which each individual of the species both draws upon and contributes to. Thus if one member of the species learns to do something unprecedented for the species as a whole (say, a cat in Pittsburgh learns to flush toilets), the rest of the species, due to an alteration in its morphic field caused by the advance of its individual member, thus instantly becomes more easily able to learn that same new thing (cats in Japan, unacquainted with the original Pittsburgh cat, are now figuring out how to flush toilets at a rapid rate).

Sheldrake proposed that religious rituals are a way in which "the past becomes present" because the people enacting the rituals, by the very act of the ritual, thereby enter into a morphic resonance with the people who in previous centuries performed the same rituals. Thus they partake of the wisdom and strength of all those ancestors. Also,

The morphic fields of social groups connect together members of the group even when they are many miles apart, and provide channels of communication through which organisms can stay in touch at a distance.

This phenomenon of non-local communication is very interesting for us folks on the path of awesoming our lives, because it implies that  through entering the morphic field of a certain group by adjusting one's resonance to match it, one can gain access to that group's implicit knowing and force of developmental organization.

In his book Power vs. Force, the psychiatrist and spiritual teacher David R. Hawkins claims that Sheldrake's theory of morphic fields and morphic resonances offer an explanation for why 12-Step Recovery Fellowships work so well to heal members from life-threatening compulsions and addictions: the frequent meeting attendance and repeated ritual behaviors which these fellowships encourage align suffering newcomers with the morphic field of those who are already successfully recovering from the illness.  Through the morphic field of the group, the newcomer who on his own could not stop abusing substances becomes capable of getting time away from active addiction just by simple actions that align him with the sheer power of the group's non-local field of recovery.

So if your life is kind of sucky right now, you're a newcomer, in a sense, to awesomeness.  You need to get aligned with the morphic field of an awesomed life. And virtualization is one important way to do that.

By spending time virtualizing a universe in which your authentic preferences are fulfilled, you alter your own morphic resonance so that it's in harmony with the group of people who have previously achieved those preferences. In doing this, you thereby access not only the collective group knowledge of people who know how to achieve those preferences but you also come into an organizing field which shapes the whole landscape of your life (including factors well beyond your conscious control) into the morphic pattern held by that field-- into the pattern of success.

Stay tuned for How to Virtualize Your New Universe Part 2!

 

Jump to a Great Universe

Dear Reader, Our preferences, even our authentic ones, are fluid, changeable things. Today I'm all about pug puppies. Tomorrow, I might be crazed for miniature pigs (yes-- in fact-- I can feel it coming on... right.... now!)

Yesterday I wanted gold coins to swim in, today I think I'd prefer a chocolate river in which to wallow.

Now you might be thinking-- hey there, Carolyn! You just got me all worked up about the arrival of my gypsy caravan / infestation of of koalas / paradaisical eco-village.  And now you're telling me that stuff doesn't matter? It's all "fluid"?

Yes and no.

Yes, it's all fluid, and no, I'm not saying it doesn't matter.

When you practice Throbbing, Extra-rational Optimism, you will find some of your preferences being met with mind-boggling rapidity. And not just the ones you think are "easy" for the cosmic forces to deliver up. Some of the huge ones just come sliding in to your reality, like, BAM! But some of the others don't.  Why is that? Because our preferences are fluid, and they're all symbols of a certain elevated mode of being rather than ends unto themselves.

For example, yesterday one of my life-long dreams came true. I was offered a book deal from Balboa Press, a division of Hay House.

Optimism WORKS

I only started feeling finally ready to write a self-help book a few weeks ago. I began practicing my Throbbing, Extra-rational Optimism around that matter (check it out-- a published self-help book is on the list of 25 things I want! I wrote that list before this happened, friends!).  And believe me, my optimism needed to be really Throbbing and really Extra-rational because the world of book publishing can look grim. All the websites I read told me the process could take years of building an audience platform via a blog like this one in order to convince agents and publishers that I was a viable investment, soliciting literary agents with book proposals, waiting for an agent to be willing to take me on, waiting for an agent to sell my work to a publisher... on and on. Hay House doesn't even accept submissions of book proposals that aren't from agents! And I don't have an agent!

So how did my agentless self get a book deal? I responded to a neat contest that Balboa, Hay House's self-publishing division was having on twitter.  The winner of the contest would get Balboa's master publishing package, worth $8000 and $15,000 worth of promotion. To enter the contest, all I had to do was tweet a 140 character description of how my book would change the world to the company. That's all I had to do-- not a formal book proposal-- a TWEET!

Hops!

What I'm saying is, my response to Balboa's contest was not grueling hard labor-- it was a fun little adventure. It was a hop.  And now one of my topmost authentic preferences is on its way to becoming a reality.

I'm not telling you all of these to be like "Look how cool I am! I'm so much cooler than you! And luckier! And better!" -- I'm telling you this because it's a fresh hot example from my own life of how these universal principles we're talking about simply and factually work. Your dreams can start being fulfilled in dazzlingly simple ways, also.  This hasn't happened to me because I'm one of the Chosen. It's happened because I'm co-operating with deep principles, principles which can work for every body who's willing to work them.

But Where's My Caravan?

Let's go back now to the idea of fluidity. I just got my self-help book publishing preference fulfilled. But my rad gypsy caravan, itself didn't show up. Am I bummed about that? Not at all, because right now I know I'm in the universe where that caravan can happen, too.

You see, your vision of your authentic preferences, changing as it is, is important because it's the objective correlative of an intangible subjective state-- a total experience of reality, a universe.  In other words, your preferences are symbols of or metaphors for a life that's burning well.

Because your vision of your preferences is your own personal symbol for a well-burning life, vividly imagining that their fulfillment is eminent can be a useful means not only of making those specific things happen, but also of getting you into the resonance of a life experience that's bountifully joyous and rewarding.

Let me put it this way-- I might think I want a gypsy caravan that's so rad I can hardly stand it-- but what I really want is a universe wherein I feel generously supported in having disreputable adventures, free to be my expansively weird self.

What You Really Want is a Universe

I might think I want a few dozen miniature pot belly pigs-- but what I really want is a universe that's rich with humor and opportunities to nurture.

I might think I want a rainbow-colored pad at the Chelsea Hotel -- but what I really want is a universe that's saturated with beauty.

I might think I want a self-help book deal -- but what I really want is a universe wherein my gifts to the world are eagerly received.... and as it turns out, that can materialize as a self-help book deal!

So while an awesomed life is absolutely NOT about the stuff (an accumulation of gorgeous stuff and rockin' success can be empty, meaningless, and isolating-- just look at any Hollywood starlet)  your vision of your authentic preferences IS very important, because it's your ticket to traveling from the universe you're in now (the one, which, according to you, kinda sucks, at least in some dimensions) and the universe that's on your side, wherein life serves up giddy surprises with astounding efficiency.

How to Jump to a Horrible Universe

The premise of the wickedly delightful film Wristcutters: A Love Story is that when you commit suicide, you end up in a world that's not hell, exactly -- there's no fire and brimstone -- it's just like normal life, except it sucks more: there's no flowers or stars, it's grey all the time, no one can smile, everything breaks and stays broken, and your only friend is an angry Russian guy. Actually-- it's a lot like Moldova. The film is a parable for the way life works, taken to the extreme. If you go around despairing and acting accordingly, you'll end up in your own personal cosmos of lousiness.

In Wristcutters, through an act of despair (suicide) people land themselves in a universe that's even worse than the one they hated so much to begin with.  It's not just that one element is worse-- it's a total package. It's all-around worse.

How to Jump to a GREAT Universe

Throbbing, Extra-rational Optimism works the same way-- except in the other direction. Through acts of hope (hops - hopeful optimistic practices) people land themselves in a universe that's much better than the one they started out with.

It's my experience that the universe brought on by Throbbing, Extra-rational Optimism (TERO) is one where flowers and stars are more intensely lovely, everyone smiles more, HUGE things come together effortlessly, and you have a giant circle of incredible friends who adore you, and whom you adore.

Just like it's fully within your power to make your life worse through acts of despair (including the ultimate one, suicide), it's also fully possible to awesome your life with TERO and hops.

So dive in to seeing and believing in the arrival of your infestation of koalas, your paradaisical eco-village and your river of chocolate, because those are your soul's shifting symbols for what a great universe feels like.  They help you to conjure the feeling or resonance of that universe, and that feeling is your ticket to jumping right into that awesomefied reality.