Interpersonal Connections

Here is an email I sent to a very intelligent, eccentric and vulnerable client going through a difficult patch. I think it is something we all need or needed to hear at some point in our lives:

I hear you very strongly my dear friend. In a way your non resonation with the normal world is a sign of you being one of the new kind of people being born today to take our planet into new arenas. I often feel the same kind of non connectedness with conventional people, only I can bullshit by pretending to be one of them so they’ll feel comfortable with me. The difference between us is that I’m a better bullshitter than you.
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Idealism Prevails

 

Genius in Sport

Roger Federer achieves zen like concentration during sport

Playing sport has been important to me all my life. Playing tennis, swimming, skiing, hiking; all these activities fill my heart with joy – as sport exercises our hearts and spirits as well as our bodies. For me, sport is also food for my soul! And I try to do it everyday not because I need to but because I love to. When I’ve just won a hard-fought three setter in doubles tennis and I’ve really gone for it and got one or two good shots in, I feel very energised and sense that all parts of me have not only been exercised but also stretched. And I think we need to be stretched in life. Intellectually, spiritually, physically. And putting effort into a particular sport is a good way to achieve it.
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Unsung heroes and stage-hogging zeroes

SA Unsung heroes and stage-hogging zeroes

Question: What is your view of the state of the world at this moment? Do you think we’ve a hope of making it or are we toppling right over the precipice?

 

Well, if we just get our information from the media, you’d think we hadn’t a hope in hell as the media just loves telling us about what’s going wrong with everything, the result being that we all get a bit hooked into disaster and some of us even take a vicarious pleasure out of it, plonking down in our armchairs of an evening to watch the news to see was what’s the next juicy bit of ghastliness coming up? Who has Trump offended now? How many died in that earthquake? Have ISIS really got hold of nuclear material? And so on…

 

OK, this is all happening and some pretty terrible as well as some very superficial things are going on, but many other very good things are also taking place which we are often wholly unaware of as they don’t get reported about. Why? Because good news isn’t dramatic or exciting and so it doesn’t sell newspapers! Many years ago a group of us got together to try and start a positive newspaper, only giving the good news. Guess what. It never took off!

 

Actually, there are many wonderful people all over the world doing many incredible things – designing new technologies to irrigate deserts, creating new economic systems to try to eradicate inequality, helping refugees damaged by the ravages of war, etc. Look at Médecins Sans Frontières, for example; fantastic bunch of people. I recently wrote a book which explored how we can ‘make a difference’ in the world and this led me to discover that actually millions of people have this as their aim. And in every country: Russia, China and North Korea all very much included. Generally, they do their good work behind the scenes. Thus, for every brave woman like the well-known Afghani schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai who, if you remember, stood up against the Taliban who shot her in the face for championing the education of girls – there are hundreds of other equally brave women standing up against evil and corruption and equally deserving of Nobel prizes. The problem is that they are completely unknown.

 

Anyway, it is because of such people, that I have great hope in my heart. I feel it won’t be too many years in the future when we will stop awarding knighthoods to the likes of ‘Sir’ Philip Green – who, a few years ago, stole £571 million out of the pension fund of BHS to help fund the construction of his third super yacht – and award it to truly noble people, who do truly good things for the world, for these people sure exist. As my hero Bob Dylan put it ‘The times they are a-changin’, and yup, Bob, they’re doin’ so a hell of a lot quicker now than half a century ago when you wrote that immortal song.

It’s interesting: we seem to get two kind of messages today. One side says ‘Yes, it’ll be tough. We’ve got some dark roads still to go through but we’ll make it – fear not,’ while the other side categorically says ‘No way José. Things are too far gone. The environment is now too damaged, the system too dysfunctional, we’ve gone beyond the point of no return. No way back. Sorry!’

 

Yet perhaps it is good that we receive this conflicting information. If we all felt things were going to be OK, we might sit back and do nothing and so things wouldn’t be OK (for, after all, if they are to be OK it is up to you and I to make them that way. Change, if it happens, happens through us!) Conversely, if we felt everything was hopeless, we might give in to supercharged despondency and also do nothing. This way, we are challenged to stay on our toes as the world is full of surprises, nothing more so than the continued ascendance of ‘The Donald’. But perhaps here, there is some method in madness. The fact that so many people support him is a reflection of some part of the American psyche ( or should I say ‘American psycho’!)

 

The thing is that so long as our dragons are buried in their lairs, we can’t see them. They breathe their fire on us but we can’t do anything about it as we don’t know where the flames are coming from. However, once the dragon is out of his lair and we see him for what he is, then there are things we can do, and I think the gift that Trump’s presence is giving the American people is that he is reflecting for them a certain part of their dragon-like nature which needs a lot of addressing as it sure ain’t pretty and it is very dangerous. The good thing is that a lot of the American psyche is also very good and very noble and this part of itself is, even now, contemplating how best to deal with its dragonry…

 

My reading of the world at this moment is that a huge struggle is going on between two hugely conflicting worldviews. On the one hand, we are surrounded everywhere by outmoded behaviours and values, which are both holding us back and destroying our planet and therefore need to die off, yet are often fighting furiously to try and stay alive and maintain their positions. On the other hand, we are seeing many movements for change going on all over the world and which are being led by people totally committed to working for a new and healthier future and who are aware that the process of salvaging our society requires nothing less than a wholesale transformation of dominant cultural patterns, a dramatic shift in the very design of human societies.

 

What I find so reassuring is that those leading this transformation are no longer society’s outcasts, poets and assorted weirdos, but those in high positions in government, industry, science and the arts – people in positions truly to make a difference. Put simply, what, forty years ago, had existed at the edge of our society – etc, namely alternative technology, alternative medicine and strategies like my spiritual retreats – are today at the centre of society (the word ‘alternative’ being changed to ‘complimentary’). People who come to my retreats nowadays are no longer a groups of out of work ‘consciousness explorers’ but people in government and corporate leaders. I remember when I worked as a publisher in my youth, going to have lunch in a little whole food, vegetarian restaurant in London called Cranks. Often, my friends laughed at me. Today, you are seen as a bit of a crank if you don’t eat wholefood! And this is all healthy.

 

So that is why, in answer to your question, I am hopeful and positive. If we believe that there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come, then surely its corollary also applies and there is nothing weaker than ideas whose time has past! Perhaps, this is one reason why we are currently seeing the implosion of the Republican party in America. Yes, one doesn’t like what ISIS is up to and it is true to say that the world is finding it hard to address the many very complex problems lying behind the emergence of terrorism. And goodness knows what that tubby-faced little creep with the weird hairstyle and an inferiority complex in North Korea, will get up to next – certainly the ‘being a tyrant ‘ business has not yet lost its allure – and yes, global warming is a damn serious issue (despite what the climate deniers believe), yet despite all this I believe a powerful new integrative spirit is afoot in the world and that the forces for goodness are more powerful than those for badness. However, as I said earlier, I do still think we all need to stay on our toes, take nothing for granted and avoid complacency.

Corporate vs Heart

Corporate vs Heart

SA Corporate vs Heart

Question: I work for a large corporation and receive an excellent salary for my work. While I like my work, I am starting slowly to change how I see the world and I am seeing that my firm does not support my values and beliefs as much as a small company or charity perhaps might. So I have two questions for you: do you think it is emotionally damaging to continue to work for a company that does not share one’s vision of the world and do you think I should I give up working for it?

Boy, those are both biggie questions and I am sure you are not the only one around asking them, as with our world becoming ever more transparent, more and more of us are becoming ever more aware of the fact that the value systems of many companies may need shifting. Interesting, isn’t it, how having a conscience or becoming more aware of what is ‘wrong with our world’ often makes our lives more complicated!

At one level, I suppose you need to ask yourself what is the lesser of two evils: do you compromise your pay packet in order to stand up for your values or do you compromise what you are increasingly coming to stand for, in order that you keep your good salary? Perhaps you need to ask yourself which is the most important: your money or your life! Ha ha! If you have eleven children to feed or you don’t want to sacrifice your luxury holidays, then the question is decided for you.

Interestingly, what makes this issue more problematic is that you like your work! I mean if you hated what you do and did it just because it brought in the bacon, this dilemma would be easier to resolve. That said, who knows that you can’t also have your cake and eat it! I say this as you are presuming that only smaller firms or charities have values similar to yours and that none pay well. Maybe this isn’t the case so I would certainly try and see what smaller firms or charities pay and also if there are some big organisations around with values you agreed with.

I am someone who likes the idea of life being an adventure and I think you need to use this dilemma positively, as an opportunity to explore new avenues and perhaps if you found somewhere new to work that did pay less, you might find your new work so creatively fulfilling that making the shift would be worth it for you. (I think the more dissatisfied we are, the more we feel driven to need a lot of money to compensate!) I also think we need to measure well being or abundance in ways other than just material. Yes, materially you might be downsizing a bit, but because your new work might be so interesting emotionally and creatively, taking it on might actually be up-sizing! Personally, I think the kind of work we do is very important and I feel very sorry for people who have to do something they hate simply to put bread on the table, and I know this is a lot of people’s lot in life today. But at least it ain’t yours!

In my life, I have always worked with people, trying to help them get well, sort their heads out, be more themselves and I love doing this as I love people. It makes me feel good. In no way would I substitute this for sitting in an office all day even if I was paid huge amounts. The price I’d pay would be too big. But that’s me. I think you need to listen to your heart as this part will tell you what you need to do. This is not a problem you face. It is a great opportunity.

Finding your place when moving abroad

SA Finding your place when moving abroad

Question: I have recently arrived in Mallorca to live with my wife and young daughter and we can’t quite settle in. I don’t know why this is. We also haven’t really made any close friends, yet we live in a part of the island with plenty of British ex-pats. Could you give me any advice about what most people do when they come to live here as we may be doing something wrong.

We need to start with why you decided to move abroad and live in Mallorca, as people come for many different reasons. To have some sun. To avoid the rat race. Because you’ve fallen in love with someone on the island. To retire. Because you don’t like England any more. To avoid terrorists blowing you up (if you live in London). For your health. To embrace a more relaxed lifestyle. Because you have found a job there. My list could continue…

So ask yourself these questions: why have you come? Perhaps for a few of the above reasons and a few more as well. Also ask yourself: did you really feel good moving abroad? I presume your decision was not spur of the moment and that you researched Mallorca well and you decided where on the island you wanted to settle and as you have a young child, you haven’t based yourself in a part of the island full of raging night life!

The point about most islands is that they are always rather special places and Mallorca is no exception. My experience is that either they accept us or they don’t. In this sense islands are rather like people. Many years ago, I felt very drawn to spend time in Ibiza and at first the island welcomed me with open arms. I couldn’t have felt happier. And then one day I remember, I arrived at the airport and those familiar island smells that I so loved, suddenly seemed rather insipid and I realised, in the way we sometimes realise when a relationship with someone has come to an end and we no longer take joy in their presence, that my love affair with Ibiza had finished. It was time to leave. And I did.

So ask yourself. Has your love affair with Mallorca ever begun? To live here one must deeply want to. Was it your heart that brought you here or your head? And does your wife also like it? What about your little girl? Does she feel at home here? I presume she is going to a local school. The question is: are you feeling this way because you are not supposed to be living here, or not yet?

Or are you feeling this way because you are supposed to be living here and your heart (that always knows best) has led you here, but there is perhaps something in you that may be a bit rigid and so doesn’t allow the island to put its arms around you? The thing about uprooting oneself to go and live elsewhere is that we are leaving our old securities behind and we are challenged to put down new roots. And this can be challenging as the kind of roots we need to put down in Mallorca are different from the kind we had in England. Thus it requires some imagination and flexibility. And, most important, time. New roots can’t be put down at once. They need to be planted gradually. Is the problem that you may be a bit impatient?

Another question to ask is how good are you and your wife are at making new friends, for it is a bit of an art and not all of us are accomplished in this area. I am interested in this issue and for many years I have taught a weekend workshop called The Art of Friendship as I believe having good friends whose presence truly nourishes us, is so important for our health and happiness and if we have blockages here, it can be very detrimental for us.

The point is that if we go to a new country where we may not meet as many people as back home and if we wish to have friends, we need to be open to meeting people who may not be exactly what we feel is ‘our type’ or ‘like us’ and so we need some flexibility in this area. We also need to ask ourselves how naturally friendly we are – if we make it easy for people to approach us. If we are someone naturally suspicious of those we don’t know, then we put blocks up and we keep people who might become friends, at arm’s length.

I know I have put more questions than given answers, but the key is asking the right questions and if we can do that, then the answers naturally emerge. The deeper question is: are you really supposed to be living on this island or not? Are you really ready to sever your roots with your homeland and come to Mallorca? If not, then the island is being honest with you. If you are, then it is up to you to evolve better friend making skills and be a bit more patient and tolerant. I am teaching a weekend on this topic at the end of May, so if interested, get in touch with me. I wish you well.

Living a Spiritual Life

SA Living a Spiritual Life

I had someone write this email to me, asking:

“Serge, I really want to live a deeper spiritual life. Can you give me any advice?”

Here was my reply:

It depends what you mean by a spiritual life which for a lot of people means one of austerity, and being adept at difficult yogic postures! This is not my understanding. Just being able to stand on your head for two hours does very little good in the world and by no means guarantees you are a decent human being, which for me is what being spiritual is all about. Yes, yogic practices or other spiritual practices help refine us and certainly if we wish to be more spiritual we will probably need some practices to do, meditation being my favourite one, but remember that a practice in itself is not spiritual. What is spiritual is the potential in us that a practice may help bring about.

I prefer the term being more fully human to spiritual as that sounds more genuine. For me, spiritual people are people who live with gusto and passion, who don’t deny their own fruitiness, who prefer expressing than suppressing, who see the value of working at opening their hearts and listening to them, who are interested in some way of being a force for positive change in the world and don’t try to escape life by living on a mountain top in the Himalayas but are engaged in it fully without taking on its horrendous value system. Or as one teacher of mine put it: “The challenge of being spiritual is about being in the world but not of it!”.

A spiritual person for me is not about being some skinny ascetic (unless one feels one’s true calling really is to renounce the world and live cloistered away in an ashram and this is a few people’s calling, I admit) but rather someone willing to live in the midst of civilisation and its many discontents in a way that doesn’t aim to increase them so much as be an antidote to them. A spiritual person then, for me, is someone whose aim is to emanate a good, positive energy and not dump their surplus anxieties and fears onto their environment but rather is willing to recycle them. Such a person seeks to be authentic and not to engage in all the manipulative game playing that is so prominent in the world today. A friend of mine used the phrase “Elegant Simplicity” and I think that if we are seeking to be more spiritual, that that is how we should attempt to live.

Modern life is so complicated and inelegant. We all have so many eggs in so many baskets and are always feeling we need to do more or be more, so I say that a spiritual life is one where we try to reduce what we do to essentials, not have surplus stuff hanging around, and put more energy into being than having or into connecting with rather than possessing. We need to practice right livelihood, have a profession that is respectful of our planet, and see that the way we live, move, and generally have our daily being is less and less about feeding the many problems in the world and more and more about trying to be part of their solution. Thus, we seek to not be greedy, not to have our investments in oil or armament shares, not to believe that killing off more and more terrorists will end terror, not project our dark side out on others but take responsibility for it ourselves. For me, a huge part of being spiritual is seeking to treat all people in a kind and compassionate way and to see the best in them and thus to work at ridding ourselves of the terrible tendency so many of us have, which is always to be critical and see what is wrong with everyone and everything. Thus, we need to see if we hold beliefs and values and attitudes that are in any way ‘anti-life’ and if so, think about changing them. I hope this is OK for starters.

The last thing I will say is that we need to have an aim in life, a purpose. My experience is that powerful “helping forces” exist in the world. I wrote about them in my recent book on Awakening the Universal Heart, and if we really wish to be more human, then we start evoking these wonderful forces and they start working on our behalf. My point is really that being spiritual is all about the way we live our daily lives and it requires more than just reading a few spiritual books and going to the odd weekend workshop. It needs to be a total commitment that engages us in all areas – our work, our relationships, our families, what we do to relax. My new book coming out next year, provisionally entitled From Separation to Celebration, will attempt to answer your question more fully. I wish you well in your commitment.

How Can We Maintain a Positive Outlook in Times of Crisis and Uncertainty?

Maintain positive outlook in crisisHow can we maintain a positive outlook in times of crisis and uncertainty?
Questioner: ‘I am very concerned about the current financial crisis. How can I maintain positive energy and increase my luck in amidst the worries and uncertainties, and what can I do to help benefit those around me?’ Continue reading

Royalty through the Emergence of Heart – the Royal Baby

Royal baby William and Kate Universal HeartWell the  Royal baby and third in line to the throne has arrived. What kind of world is he emerging into?  Will England still need kings by the time he is ready to assume that responsibility? Will any traditions be left? Continue reading

Does Evil Exist and if so What Should we Do About It?

Question: ‘Serge, do you believe in the reality of evil? Do you think it exists? if so, what should we do about it?

Serge: I do believe in evil, yes, and certainly feel that if we are to have a better world  that we should  understand  it and, if we feel strong enough,  confront it and not bury our heads, ostrich-like, and pretend it is not there. You know that old saying about evil being allowed when good people do nothing.  Well, it’s true! However, if we are to ‘do anything’ about evil, we need to recognise its many different faces. The way I see it is that there are two kinds of evil: obvious evil and non-obvious evil. Obvious evil is, well, obvious.  It is about Hitler, Robert Mugabe, Darfur, Stalin, Genocide, Auschwitz, murder, torture, Saddam Hussein, Stalin, Etc. Continue reading