The Importance of a Compass

It started out as an exciting idea:

the-importance-of-a-compass-01 Peter and I would take a bus into the interior and get off in a national park. From there we would follow an old fur traders trail back down to the coast.  I had come across a hand-drawn map with the trail marked, and did some reading about the path, feeling confident that I would be able to find it in the park and traverse its length to the university grounds where the trail ended.  The path we would follow was about 100 miles long, and we gave ourselves a week to complete the trek. Peter and I were in our twenties,  both fit and healthy, and itching to get out of the city, to walk through a wilderness that few people got the chance to see. It was perfect –  what could go wrong?

Well, lack of adequate orienteering experience, for one thing. Also, carrying overpacked knapsacks, wearing bad socks, and relying on an unreliable map might create a few difficulties, and turn my original idea into something more like…

… only with hiking gear on.

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Nevertheless, off we went. We jumped off the bus close to the spot indicated on the map, headed straight into the woods, and in little time had located the trail. By the end of the first day, we had set up camp atop Mount Frosty, and it was then that we realized we forgot to bring enough water. There were no creeks nearby, it was getting dark, and we had to get a fire going and the tent set up. I don’t remember what we ate that night, but it seemed that dry ramen or egg noodles figured prominently in the menu. We went to bed thirsty, certain that we would find water in the morning.

Water found us the next day in the form of a wet snowfall, so we hurriedly collected our stuff and headed into the fog, which shows you the level of experience Peter and I shared. It would be a while before we realized two things: you should not travel in thick fog, and you should always take an inventory of your supplies before leaving the campsite. Consequently, we had left our binoculars, a few cooking pots, and various utensils buried in the snow back atop Mount Frosty. By the time the fog had thinned out and the snow tapered off to rain, we were looking at the old fur-traders path that was now under a foot or more of water. It was at that point that Peter opined, “We should have brought a compass.” Referring to the map, we figured we could just follow a nearby creek that paralleled the trail, and pick it up again further on.

An hour later we were hanging onto roots and vines on the side of a cliff, looking down fifty feet at the rushing water below and fifty feet up at the edge of the cliff. The more we struggled on, the further we got from both the top and the bottom of the precipice, and the greater the danger we faced of losing our hold. Our only hope was to start climbing up, a very difficult feat with 60 pounds each on our backs. We made it, but now we were truly lost. The map said that the river led to Ross Lake, but the lake was miles from our trail, and there was no guarantee that we would find the trail again. It was getting dark and we were tired, but once we reached the top of the cliff we found another problem – we were on the side of a very steep mountain. It took us hours to find anything close to a level spot, so I ended up sleeping while sitting upright on a steep slope. Rain, mosquitoes and noseeums (which are basically winged teeth) plagued me, and whenever I dozed of, I was in danger of falling sideways and rolling down the hill.

the-importance-of-a-compass-03We arose the next morning to face a thick forest and thicker underbrush, and Peter again musing about the fact that neither of us thought to bring a compass. The thorny underbrush snagged at our clothing, making forward movement difficult and a little bloody, but we pushed on throughout the day, figuring that as long as we headed downhill we would eventually end up somewhere! The map had sketched out where the lake was, and indicated that it was southwest of where we had started out, but a) we didn’t know where we were now, and b) we were not sure where southwest was since the thick forest canopy virtually blocked out the sun. We had also lost track of where the river was.

Peter spent the afternoon being royally pissed off at the underbrush…

…while I entered a state of panic, as I felt the greenery closing in on me.

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We had been wandering through the forest for a couple of days. My feet were blistered from wearing socks not designed for hiking, the backpack straps were digging mercilessly into my shoulders, and I seriously considered the possibility that we would never get out of those goddamned woods, when I suddenly reached my hand into my back pocket, and discovered that I hadn’t forgotten to bring the compass after all!

Before the sun had set on that third day of our journey, we arrived on a small dirt track that led us to Ross Lake. To this vey day, when I feel overwhelmed by a problem or lost in my life, and cannot see a way through, I remember that time and remind myself that I always have a compass inside that can guide me through.

Friction

Although the word “conflict” has been shaded with a rather negative connotation, the fact is that it is through the stimuli within conflicts that life provides an opportunity for growth. There is no conflict without the presence of some degree of irritation, but it is the defensive reaction to irritation that extends the conflict and can magnify it into a power struggle — even an all-out war.

Why do our reactions to conflicts so often lead to power struggles or even fallouts of partnerships? The answer can be found in the dynamics of polarization. Whenever a conflict arises the parties engaged will typically react to the inherent irritation by taking a position and then defending it. One party will want to make the problem or irritation go away by changing the situation, preferably into something “better”. This is the “positive” polarity. The Positive’s attitude is to fix it, avoid it, deny it, or make it go away. The other party will want to explore the problem, examine why it exists, and solve the problem so that it doesn’t happen again. This “Negative” will also point out what is wrong with the Positive’s plan for fixing the problem. Before I illustrate how the conflict can be resolved with an optimum outcome, with which both parties are satisfied, let me briefly illustrate a few of the characteristics of the polarities.

Positive

  • Optimist
  • Producer
  • Problem Solver
  • “Loves it All”
  • Can be Reckless

 

Negative

  • Realist
  • Quality Overseer
  • Problem Identifier
  • Discerning
  • Can be Overly Cautious

 

It is apparent that when these two positions work together, they not only balance each other out, but can integrate each other’s point of view and find a completely satisfying agreement, which in turn initiates expansion. However, a true agreement is rarely reached in this day and age, due to a few factors, which include:

  1. Defence of one’s position
  2. Needing to be right
  3. Fear of transformative growth (i.e. fear of the unknown)
  4. Loss of one’s comfort zone

 

These factors keep one locked into a position and turn the other party into an adversary rather than a partner. It is only by leaving one’s position and meeting in the center — a center that is neither east, west, north or south, but rather an integration of all points — that entirely unthought of possibilities emerge from the intuitive, creative, ingenious essence of each individual involved. There is no creativity or genius in a polarized position; only variations of habitual thoughts and reactions. When stuck on a position, aggressively or stubbornly defending it, one is too far from one’s center to access a win/win resolution, and nobody grows. When nobody grows, the company or partnership doesn’t grow. This is true in the boardroom or the bedroom, the high-school council or the United Nations.

To reach the center, there are five key elements that are required from at least one of the positions in order for a transformative shift to occur.

  1. The Loop of Awareness: Listen to the other party while checking in with your own physical / emotional reaction to what is being said. If you experience contraction it is typically a sign of defensiveness growing inside you. If you do not relax, the contraction will create a filter in your hearing and you will not be open to the other point of view.
  2. Willingness to be Wrong: As long as you insist that your way is the right and only way, you will never completely leave your position. Righteousness will lead you into trying to manipulate the other party in order to bend them to your will. Temporary victories of this sort lead to eventual reprisals.
  3. Patience: True agreement takes time. It is a creative, and not only a communication, process. Supporting creative thought in the other party diminishes the conflict immediately.
  4. Accept that “I don’t know”: Thinking that you alone have the solution, or even that you should have the solution is the greatest block to your intuitive genius.
  5. Endurance of the uncertainty: Uncertainty can lead to building anxiety, but it also teaches you how to trust the process.
  6. Willingness and determination to know the truth: Compromise is not an option. We do not grow through compromise. A fifty/fifty partnership is simply a clever way to hold onto our righteousness and defensiveness. 100% / 100% is the only truly satisfying resolution, that initiates skyrocketing success. Creativity over innovation, originality over mimicry. Growth over stagnation.

Judgment

If I see life, the world, myself, and others without judgment, there is no good or bad, and everything seems and feels more peaceful in and around me. Judgment not only reinforces the blindness of belief, but also reinforces my rejection of what is. Rejection is suffering. If I am rejecting something, I will suffer. If I judge what I am rejecting, I will strengthen my attachment to suffering. I have never known a way to ‘let go’ of judgment, but have noticed judgement spontaneously falling away, when I notice my rejection and turn toward acceptance. If you know of a direction in life that is not an expression of either acceptance or rejection, please let me know. At this point in my life there seems to be a pattern that I fall into compulsively. An example of this pattern goes like this:

  1. Something “undesirable” happens.
  2. Upon observing or experiencing what happens, I feel uncomfortable.
  3. I don’t like how I feel, so I reject what is happening, pushing away from the situation mentally and emotionally — and physically if possible.
  4. I decide that there is something wrong in the situation and intellectually seek to justify my judgment.
  5. As soon as I can identify what is wrong, I righteously defend my judgmental point of view through blame, criticism, and a desire to punish.
  6. I will hold onto my righteous position
  7. forever
  8. until the situation goes away
  9. I become aware of how much I am suffering under the righteousness and judgment. However, sometimes I will continue to suffer, well aware that my heart is urging me toward another direction.

 

Regarding point “c”, I become aware that I’m rejecting what is, by the suffering I am experiencing, and when this occurs it seems that I can also become aware of the potential to relax and accept what is. Sometimes acceptance seems slow in coming, while at other times, it flows into me more naturally.

I have raged against the suffering in my life because, in my ignorance I didn’t realize the rage perpetuated the suffering. I thought my anger was giving me a superior position from which I could better control the situation, as well as my feelings and emotions. The fact that my anger seemed to have no power over what was happening never stopped me from resorting to it time after time.

If I try to understand life and the experiences it provides through the filter of good and bad, right and wrong, I imagine that I will continue to struggle in my suffering. Then I will get angry at some ‘creator’ or external force that made me this way, and find some refuge in my righteousness, which is really just another kind of anger and judgment. I know it is frustrating to recognize this, because when I am caught up in my suffering, my need to be right becomes even more obsessive and compulsive. At those times it is hard to let life present itself without any expectations. but when I do relax and see without judgment, the voice of my heart guides me through to a peace beyond all understanding.

Acting Our Age

 How Relationships Help us to Grow Up

I have begun many relationship and emotional adulthood workshops with statements such as the following: “Regardless of your age, educational background or religious / life philosophy, it is very likely that you have acted like a child from time to time in your important relationships. If you’re the boss of a company, you’ve probably thrown a tantrum or two….

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If you’re a parent, you’ve probably acted the same age as your child or children…

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And if you’re in an intimate relationship, well… have you ever seen the way a couple fights?”

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As long as you are motivated by the need to belong or the need to be important – and who isn’t? – there will be occasions when you act out a behaviour such as attention getting, power struggle, revenge or assumed inadequacy.1 These behaviours are the

direct result of unmet needs, and the degree of intensity they convey is directly related to the level of discouragement in the person carrying out the behaviours. These four behaviors are simply ways that we attempt to gain some sense of control over the heartbreaking discouragement that results from our needs not being met by the important person or people in our lives.

The pattern of such behaviours is designed by your unique personality, but the motivation and type of behaviour is universal. The four patterns are easy to identify in children because they haven’t developed the level of sophistication required to disguise the need while at the same time trying to get it met. Let’s look at it from the child’s perspective first and see if you can identify those same behaviours and influences in your close, present day relationships.

A child has a need for inclusion and a sense of significance, and grownups have a need for inclusion and sense of significance or importance.

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If the child feels that the need is not being spontaneously recognized or satisfied, the child experiences discouragement.

Ditto for grownups

Discouragement inevitably leads to various forms of manipulative behaviors that include the following:

Attention-Getting

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Power Struggle

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Revenge

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Resignation (“Assumed Inadequacy”)

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In both children and grownups, it seems that the discouragement goes unnoticed, and the reaction to the unmet needs leads to habitual behaviors intended to hurt and/or manipulate the person we have made responsible for our needs. But if we were to face and accept our discouragement, we could become aware of it’s painful influence, with its accompanying feelings of disappointment, heartbreak and loss. Relaxing more deeply into the center of that experience inevitably leads to peace, the recognition that no one can give us what we think we need, as well as growth in emotional maturity. It is then that the grownup becomes an adult.

Quick Quiz

If you were to examine your behaviour in your most important relationship, how would you describe your actions when you are engaged in:

  • Attention Getting?
  • Power Struggle?
  • Revenge?
  • Assumed Inadequacy?

 

Which is your most habitual behaviour when you feel discouraged?

Life Beyond Expectation (Part 2)

The Expectation/Fantasy Cycle

Human personalities carry with them four basic tendencies—emotional obsession, behavioral compulsion, mental fixation, and physical addiction. These four tendencies lead people into repetitive and predictable patterns of thought, emotion, and action. Once we identify with a need, and insist that this need must be met in order for us to be happy, secure, and empowered, we launch ourselves into a specific cycle as illustrated and explained below.

Acceptance — The Road Less Travelled

Life becomes a much simpler journey when you realize that there are only two directions to take at any given moment, a fact that is often more apparent when you are confronted by a problem or crisis. One direction is rejection and the other is acceptance. People who appear to be involved in unconscious living tend to consistently opt for rejection, while those who seem to be waking up or growing up emotionally lean toward acceptance.

Life Beyond Expectations (Part 1)

In close relationships, expectations are emotional stresses that are often fuelled by the expecting person’s need for belonging and importance. The expectation is often looked at as a “right” by the one doing the expecting. Examples of this include:

  1. You are my wife so you should behave in a way that doesn’t upset me.
  2. You are my husband so you shouldn’t be looking at other women. You should want only me all the time.
  3. You’re my friend so you’re supposed to take my side when I disagree with someone or something, even if I’m wrong.
  4. You’re my parent so you should support me financially.
  5. You’re my girlfriend/boyfriend so you should give me sex when I want it.
  6. You’re my employee so you should always agree with me
  7. You should remember my birthday.
  8. You should consider my feelings before making a decision.
  9. You should do what I want to do.
  10. You should feel the same way I do.

You Did That on Purpose! (Why “why” leads to a lie.)

The question “Why?” may be helpful when dealing with mechanical, scientific, medical, and math problems, but it can create a huge distraction and delay when you are dealing with an interpersonal conflict in your marriage, family, friendships, or work situation, or any personal issue that has an emotional component to it. In other words, if you are confronted with a situation in which you are feeling annoyed, anxious, or otherwise irritated, asking “Why is this happening?” or “Why did you do that?” will be of little or no help to you in coming to a happy and peaceful resolution to the issue at hand.

Devil or Angel

There is an interesting story in Buddhism about “The Dweller on the Threshold.” In spite of the various ways it was described, I was given the impression that this Dweller is one vicious and ugly critter whose job it is to test the sincerity of the spiritual seeker.

The Life and Death of Douglas Moon

Of the eight children in our family, my brother Douglas was the most troubling, if not the most troubled. When I was a young boy he was a lot of fun to be around—playful, generous, funny, and always coming up with creative ideas regarding games that we could play. He seemed to be constantly organizing us younger siblings into games of tag or hide-and-seek with the other kids in the neighborhood, and even organizing amateur concerts where we would sing or act out skits for our parents.

What is Awakening? Part 2

In my experience, waking up seems to begin with awareness of a “presence” in your life. Your physical world does not change, but the way you see it does. You might look at an object with your eyes, and register its solid appearance, but you are aware of the presence behind or beyond that appearance. Or perhaps you will be entertaining a belief in your mind and suddenly be aware of the presence beyond that belief, rendering the belief to be insubstantial, even meaningless. As the belief dissolves, awareness of the presence grows and you begin to realize that the presence is the awareness itself, and the awareness is You! Whereas before it would seem to you that you were looking out at the world from within your body, in the awakening stage, the body – and the very world itself – are now experienced as being inside the awareness; inside You. At this point a wonderful little awareness game takes place.

Emotional Adulthood

I do not like broccoli. And I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid, and my mother made me eat it. And I’m President of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli.

– George H. W. Bush 1990

When I first read the term “Emotional Adulthood” in a book by Jed McKenna, it struck a chord in me. I am still not completely sure what he meant by it, but those two words conjured up childhood memories of observing my parents’ behaviors, especially when they were upset. When I was fourteen years old, it dawned on me that my mother and father often behaved childishly when they were confronted with emotionally uncomfortable situations.

Awakening

It must have been on a television program that I first witnessed someone being placed into a hypnotic trance. I don’t remember why the man was being hypnotized, whether it was simply an act or whether I was watching a documentary. What I do recall was the subject being guided to close his eyes and relax as deeply as possible. He was then asked a number of questions, to which he replied in a drowsy voice. Once the hypnotist was finished with his inquiries, he spoke the following words to the subject: “Now I am going to count to three and as I do so you will begin to awaken from your trance. When I reach the number three you will open your eyes feeling relaxed and refreshed.” At the number three, the subject opened his eyes, blinked a little, and then smiled.

What is Awakening? (Part 1)

Over the last eight years I have noticed that the word “Awakening” has become a more prominent subject in books, on You Tube, as well as in the field of business and personal workshops and trainings. I am fairly certain that the word has different meanings to the various teachers and participants of these events, and since I am involved in leading workshops on the experience of consciousness, I would like to offer my understanding of what “Awakening” means. When discussing these terms, I find it helpful to use metaphors, one of which concerns a caterpillar’s / butterfly’s life.

Chicken Poop for the Soul

A few years back I was leading a workshop in Malaysia, and sharing a story with the group about a farmer who had a bald spot on his head. Every day while he toiled in the chicken coop the perspiration made his scalp itch, so he would stop to scratch and rub his scalp. One day he looked in his mirror and noticed that his hair was growing back. He came to the conclusion that this was due to the fact that when he scratched his head he was inadvertently rubbing in chicken poop, which must have some miraculous hair-restoration properties.

Dad Learns About Trust

My son was unemployed and temporarily living with us. He had completed a four-year degree program at a Montreal university and then spent a year at Taiwan University to master the Mandarin language, and now he was ready to face the working world. Only the working world did not seem to be opening any doors for him and he was faced with the age-old Catch 22, whereby he needed to get a job in order to have the work experience that all the companies were requiring in order for him to get the job that would give him the experience, et cetera, et cetera.

The Three People You Meet On Earth

If you think that you are missing something in your life, your attention will often be preoccupied by what you need in order to feel whole or fulfilled. This lack inside may be expressed through the search for Truth, pursuing success, attempting to heal your past or present, taking risks to increase your confidence, trying to achieve some great feat, or through any number of personal endeavors. Accordingly, the people who come and go—as well as those who stick around—will reflect your quest for fulfilment by taking on certain roles. At any given time, an individual will represent a Threat, a Cautious Friend, or a Conditional Teacher.

The Wasp of Knowledge

 When it comes to teaching lessons, life doesn’t seem interested in my schedule. I was twenty-one years old and coming home from my job as an office clerk. As soon as I walked through the doorway of the house I was sharing with two friends, I saw the wasp circling the ceiling light in the living room.

And the wasp saw me.

Seeing My Partner

We are not human beings searching for a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings immersed in human experience. —Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

As I type in the above quote by the famous Jesuit philosopher, my first response is to ask myself if the statement is true. More accurately, I ask myself, Does this statement point me to the experience of Truth?” The intuition of my heart tells me that it does, although I have no empirical evidence to prove it otherwise. However, since trusting my heart over my intellect has always led me to profound life experiences, I follow it once more. Suddenly this insight leads me to look at my wife and recognize her as more than a physical entity or familiar personality, and a wonderful sense of recognition comes over me. The words appear: “I know you.”

Abundance — Busting the Myth

For a long time in my life I had wrestled with the idea of “abundance.” Maybe it was because of the mixed messages that I gave myself about the meaning of the word. I was a member of what at the time was called “The New Age Community,” which seemed to be a large number of people involved in an attempt at integrating psychology, spirituality, mythology, natural healing, esoterica, the laws of manifestation and, for some reason, crystals.

Thanks for Pissing Me Off

Relationship is simple. That’s not to say that relationship is easy. Actually, I’ve found it to be among the hardest paths to follow effectively on a consistent basis, perhaps because the relationship path involves other people, and while you can share wonderful moments with other people, you also go through occasions that can be irritating, frustrating, intrusive, and challenging from time to time. The most irritating people tend to be the ones you are closest to. Typically, the most irritating person in your life will be the one with whom you enter an intimate relationship, a fact of life that often causes people to believe that they have chosen the wrong person to be their life partner. But this blog is not solely about intimate relationships or marriage; it’s about the relationship dynamic itself, regardless of the level of intimacy in that relationship.

Monkeying Around in the Moment

As I get older, perhaps a little bit of wisdom trickles into me and I can perceive life from a different perspective. When I was younger, I would try to look into the future, searching for signs and messages to prepare me for what awaited me in the New Year. If I saw what I thought was a sign, I would assign specific meanings to the challenges that the omen predicted, in order to help me see a greater purpose unfolding in my life. I even decided that the first movie I saw in the New Year would represent the greatest experience that I would be given, and the second movie I saw would represent the greatest challenge I would face. Then I examined the astrological influences, and read the prophecies of other teachers and masters. All of these things I did simply to prepare myself and my workshop participants for what would come in the future.

Relax, This Will Only Hurt…

My body is basically a system of knotted muscles that surround tight tendons or ligaments. It’s been this way since I was at least five years old. Whenever I mention that I feel as if I were made of wood, I am invariably advised to practice one of the seventeen kinds of yoga in my neighborhood.

I deflect these suggestions with various excuses because… well… I realize I may be the only person in the world that’s like this, but… well, I don’t like yoga. For some reason, people who are really into yoga believe this is because I never tried it, and they insist that if I did, they are sure I would come to love it just as much as they do.

Believe It or Not

Some people need something to believe in. Others need to know.

 Imagine that there are two women arguing about African bushmen. One says that she read about the bushmen and the fact that they don’t hunt when it’s raining, while the other woman argues that her husband visited a tribe who in fact went hunting, rain or shine. The first woman thinks that the husband did not visit the particular tribe to which she was referring, whereas the second woman insists that hunting practices are the same throughout all the tribes of bush people.