Tuesday, 28 August 2012

August Book Review

Personal Development Book Review

Welcome to my August book review.  A bit late in the month this time, but it is still August - just!

This month I am looking at books designed to help us change ourselves from within so that we can achieve what we want to achieve in life.  How to change the negatives within us into positives.  All three focus on this general topic, but each from a slightly different angle.

Click on the title of any book that particularly interests you and you can buy it right away from Amazon.

First up is:

Self-Defeating Behaviors: Free Yourself from the Habits, Compulsions, Feelings, and Attitudes That Hold You Back


Milton R. Cudney and Robert E. Hardy

The title of this book says it all, really!  It is not a new book, but still what it has to say is refreshingly up to day.  Have a look at what some readers who bought it have to say:

"What is your life like? Is it a relentless procession of empty days, an endless cycle of meaningless, frustrating work and unrelaxing sleep? Do you repeat the same pattern of joyless days and empty nights ad nauseam? Do you bounce out of bed eager to face another exciting day filled with opportunities for enjoyment, human contact and personal growth? Has the memory of the irrepressible you faded into dust? Has your life become an arduous and repetitive ordeal? Do you keep hurting yourself, and does this recognition keep haunting you, day and night? Are you acting on misguided choices, doing and saying things that virtually guarantee dissatisfaction and unhapppiness? If you answered ‘Yes’ (or even ‘Maybe’) to any of those questions, have I got good news for you!

The best book I have seen that specifically addresses how we can reclaim our mental, emotional and spiritual power from the traps we ourselves have built and continue to nourish is ‘Self-Defeating Behaviors’ by Cudney and Hardy. On second reading, it is a truly phenomenal work. I have already purchased and distributed over two dozen copies. It provides a dynamic model of the way we construct, defend and nurture our self-defeating behaviors, while we simultaneously minimize the real pain heaped upon us and the people around us, and abdicate responsibility for the whole thing!

We are each of us presented with a continuous stream of new moments of life, in which we exercise choices. Each of these choices can lead either to a self-defeating behavior or to a behavior that affirms and honors life. At certain times, we ‘learn’ (i.e. we make an invalid association) that we can avoid work/pain/criticism or other fear by choosing a certain escapist behaviors or thoughts. This choice, expressed through various internal and external techniques, results in various prices that we must pay. In order to continue avoiding our fears, we proceed to minimize the prices (by saying, for example, ‘It's not all that bad; I can stand the discomfort’), and finally, to disown the choice we made (‘It's not MY fault; it was my parents/teachers/bullies/social conditions/the government/ghosts/the voices/...’).

That cycle, from our choices of developing internal and external techniques to avoid some (mythical) fear(s), and then refusing to pay the price, results in a full-blown self-defeating cycle, which feeds on itself, getting worse and worse, engulfing more and more areas of our lives. Even when new techniques are learned (such as NLP!!) which appear to offer the promise of positive growth, they quickly and effortlessly become swallowed up in the seething vortex of self-defeating behaviors, making it even bigger than ever! This black hole effect can easily escalate from disappointment to depression, food/alcohol/drug abuse, violence, murder and ultimately, suicide. Unless we recognize and terminate this vicious cycle, ALL of our other efforts can lead to naught, mired in our old habits of thought and action."
-    Amazon Customer

"This book made a major difference in my life. We all have many kinds of relationships and roles to play in life, and one of those relationships lasts the longest -- from cradle to grave. That's the relationship I have with myself. In my case, that means John Prin's relationship with John Prin. I can be my worst enemy or my best friend. What the authors showed me was that it is my choice. I choose how I relate to me, whether I acknowledge it or not.

The main theme? When unhealthy choices are made, we choose self-defeating behaviors that separate us from our core attitudes, beliefs, feelings and values. When healthy choices are made, we choose 'life-enhancing behaviors' that fit or strengthen our core being. Over time, depending on the mix of choices, our lives are either headed for breakdowns or breakthroughs. Thanks to the wisdom and clarity in this book, along with the easy-to-understand charts and diagrams, breakthroughs in my life are happening on a scale I never dreamed possible.

The pace is methodical but not plodding. Every sentence and paragraph makes sense as you read it. The authors strive to help readers to define and to behave in ways that serve their own best interests, and to create better selves from the inside out -- as I have learned to do and described in my book STOLEN HOURS. For anyone who has dealt with puzzling failures or intense negative emotions, including addictions and crippling moods, the information and encouragement in this book are a godsend. "
-     John Howard Prin, author of STOLEN HOURS: Breaking Free From Secret Addictions, Syren Books 2004

The Power Of Being Different
John Paul Carinci

"John Carinci is an excellent writer who knows how to keep a reader's interest. I am an avid reader of self-help books, have read many of the books John recommends, and have already learned many of the life lessons that Mr. Carinci presents in this book, but his writing style is refreshing and the examples and quotes he uses are inspirational.

I particularly enjoyed the author's point that the odds of our birth are like winning the lottery. The one in a million chances that an egg would be fertilized coupled with the likelihood that the development of the embryo into the miniature person born in this time and place that perpetuated our personhood is phenomenal. Those coupled with the fact that we survived exposure to disease and accidents and live in an age of modern medicine; opportunity, education, and freedom that promote our longevity and ability to have a meaningful life are not an accident. We are here for a reason!

The author does an exception job laying out how people who work hard and think positively employing the gifts they are born with and those that they develop should not be satisfied with their accomplishments. Rather, they should strive to make a positive impact on the world and leave behind a legacy that will impact humanity through the ages. He gave numerous examples of such people who ignored ridicule and persevered to accomplish and make our world one of technological advancement. He encourages us to be different, to dream, to act and never be satisfied with what is, but strive for new and better ways to live, work and play.

The author encourages us to make time for ourselves and extend our waking alert hours living healthily and purposefully. Example after examples are provided of people who were either not born with certain physical attributes or have lost them, but nevertheless have used their minds and ingenuity to achieve great things that impact the world as we know it. He believes that those who have passed on their gifts look down at us and challenge us to improve upon their contributions.

I recommend this book to people of all ages and backgrounds. It is uplifting and enlightening. I am glad I read it and you will be too."
-    Tom McGee

"The Power of Being Different never leaves you bored. This book is filled with quotes, humor, and wonderful advice to get anyone up and moving and becoming all they can be. No room for procrastination here. Along with all the good advice, Carcini is obviously a spiritual person, writing a motivational book toward being your true self.

I believe that John Carcini should become a motivational speaker for I sense a gift for delivering wise advice to all. "
-    Mary Ann Johnston

The Power of Self-Coaching: The Five Essential Steps to Creating the Life You Want
Joseph J. Luciani

"This empowering book will teach, inspire, and coach you to break the habits of insecurity that prevent you from realizing your spontaneous inner potential for genuine happiness."
-    John Gray, Ph.D., author of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus

"There is nothing more empowering than accepting responsibility. Taking responsibility is not about assuming fault; it is about re-taking the helm and control of your journey in life. This book will help you navigate through the difficulties of personality and behavioral change to more emotional peace."
-    Dr. Laura Schlessinger, author of The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands

"I don't have depression or anxiety and I swear I will never go to a psychologist or psychiatrist. I rarely even go to regular doctors, but am slightly more convinced of the importance of dentists.

Imagine my surprise when I found myself reading Dr. Luciani's book, realizing that many of the habits of insecurity and control could be found in my own life. I came across Dr. Luciani's philosophy of Self-Talk and his views on the habit-based nature of anxiety and depression on his website. Through reading his thoughtful and empathetic answers to truly troubled individuals seeking comfort and understanding, I was moved to read Dr. Luciani's articles and then to purchase The Power of Self-Coaching.

I still won't go to a doctor, but Dr. Luciani's book made me realize that my lifelong anxiousness and fear of failure are habits that I can break through sustained positive affirmation. Self-Coaching is a great tool for everyone struggling to deal with the stress of modern families and careers, regardless of whether you have a diagnosis of anxiety or depression, or are just feeling nervy all of the time."
-    M Long

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Using Your Subconscious

How to Use Your Subconscious to Change Your Life

“Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious.” – Thomas Edison

Your subconscious loves to do work while your body performs other tasks that are easy. I can prove this very easily by asking you how many good ideas you have had while driving or in the shower. When you are relaxed yet slightly distracted, your mind is often at its best.

Using subconscious requests will…
  •     Improve your motivation.
  •     Help you become happier.
  •     Increase your emotional intelligence.
You’ll see improvement in less than a month.

My last request was…

“Please give me more patience when commuting to work and allow me to even enjoy my time in the car.”

Within a month I was enjoying my ride to work.

My latest request is…

“Let’s find creative ways to grow my blog.”

I took this approach because it’s going to take a request to my subconscious and action in my waking life to make this happen. This request is only a few days old, but it’s already working. Instead of just asking people to help vote for my blog on social sites that rate articles such as Stumble Upon and Digg, I’ve change my communication. I now friend someone, give a compliment (only if they are worthy) and tell them that they ever need any help to shoot me a message. They are much more willing to help me out.


My mindset is changing by setting my subconscious on a certain issue.  I start to see new angles that I’ve never seen before. This subconscious request works for personal issues as well as work related concerns.

The 3 step request only takes five minutes:

Step 1: Before you turn out the light, close your eyes and take one minute to make a request to your subconscious. It can be anything. I would start small and make it open ended. I wouldn’t request to be an astronaut by the end of the month. Your subconscious is good, but not that good.

Step 2: Take two minutes to visualize yourself actually able to do this thing. Whether it is getting the motivation to jog before work or eating a healthy snack, you must visualize yourself doing the request that you asked your subconscious. Let’s say you want to jog before work: imagine yourself getting up a few minutes earlier than usual, putting on your exercise clothes and jogging shoes, and heading out into the crisp air. Then you start jogging, watching the sun rise over the buildings, the birds chirping, and you are feeling good.

Step 3: Take two minutes to imagine the feeling that will occur when you are able to accomplish this new thing. How do you feel when you walk back in your front door after a morning jog? Energized? Whatever feeling you want to achieves imagine that you have already created this emotion inside of yourself. Let it sink in, then go to sleep and let your subconscious do the rest of the work.

Your subconscious mind wants to help you improve your life; you just have to trust its vast resources and allow it to do its thing.

Action Makes Your Request Real

You may not want to go jogging after the first subconscious request, but try to visualize yourself going through the motions the first couple of weeks. Then just start putting on your exercise gear and go for a five minute walk. Taking these baby steps will set you up for your jogging routine. Then after a few weeks just go for it. Now that you have your emotions geared toward jogging it should spur you into action.

By allowing the emotional momentum to build, you can create motivation that will help you accomplish things that make you happier.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Making Your Dreams Come True

Do you have any dreams you would like to realise?  I hope so!  We all need dreams!

Those dreams could be about money, your personal life, your spiritual life, improving your physique, in fact they could be about anything at all.  No matter what they are, watch this video by Jack Canfield (author of the famous "Chicken Soup for the Soul" series) and you will be far better placed to achieve them:

If this presentation by Jack Canfield inspired you as much as it did me, you will want to hear more from him.  In the comments on the YouTube page where I found it one viewer suggested buying the complete course from Amazon.  The only problem is this is actually a very old course, and it is in VHS video format, not a DVD.  Why not, instead, get bang up to date inspiration from Jack by joining his Inner Circle Club?  You can find out more about this club here:

"The Inner Circle Club"

Friday, 10 August 2012

Awakening Our True Potential

Author: Richard Smoley

Man is born an unfinished creature. He cannot walk or talk or feed himself. Long years of care are required to bring him to even the most minimal levels of self-sufficiency.

And yet even after the typical person has reached the stage of functioning that we call adulthood, something still seems to be missing. In a sense, of course, something will always be missing; there are always new horizons to discover and new skills to attain. But the lack may go further. There is a sense in which even the mature human being is incomplete. The Freemasons allude to this when they speak of the candidate for initiation as a “rough ashlar.” An ashlar is a block of stone; in its rough state it fits only approximately into its intended setting. Some kind of process is needed to adjust and polish it so that it is perfectly suited to its function.

Some may balk at this description – are we, after all, nothing more than raw materials to be sent down some assembly line to be made into identical pieces of manufactured goods? That is the kind of transformation society as a whole seems to envisage. And we would do well to mistrust it. The process to which the Masonic initiations allude has something more than mere conformity as its goal; it is not a matter of circus horses trying to break themselves in. It is the opposite: it is a matter of having access to our own potential, developing it, and offering to the service of higher aims.

This process has been discussed often, sometimes (as in Masonry) allegorically, sometimes in more straightforward terms. But even so it has rarely been presented in a reasonably honest and lucid way. Most of the time, developing human potential is portrayed as a kind of hypertrophy – the exaggerated development of certain functions at the expense of others.

Recently I read a magazine profile of a prominent Oxford philosopher. He had written a fourteen-hundred-page treatise on moral philosophy, in which he had examined and refuted all possible criticisms and objections to his thesis. Yet the article said he wore the same clothes each day (white shirt, black trousers) and did not like to look at any building that was not adorned with columns. His capacity for human interaction sounded rather primitive. In the end I was left with the impression of a gigantic cerebrum attached to a vestigial body.

Is this what is meant by developing our human potential? For many people it is. The abstracted philosopher is only one specimen. Others are the athlete who is nothing more than his sport, the painter who can do nothing more than paint. Some of the greatest achievements of the human race have been attained by such people. But the overdevelopment of talents can and does turn into a Faustian bargain. Breakdowns, crises, and collapses seem to dog these individuals. We may envy their achievements, but their fragility warns us against imitating them.

The same holds true for abilities that are considered paranormal. Although science does not care to admit it, it is possible to develop psychic powers such as telepathy, clairvoyance, and telekinesis. Indeed, in his forthcoming book The Reality of ESP: A Physicist’s Proof of Psychic Abilities, Russell Targ, one of the leading parapsychologists in the US, argues that anyone with a certain amount of (not very difficult) training can develop these skills. Nevertheless, overemphasis on these abilities, no matter how miraculous they may seem, creates problems as well. Psychics, clairvoyants, visionaries, and healers frequently seem imbalanced, having developed one skill or power at the expense of the whole.

That is why I would like to suggest a slightly different model of developing human potential, one that is not designed to serve the interests of society (or business or political powers) at the individual’s own expense, but also one that avoids the trap of hypertrophy of a single area. Hence it begins with the crucial need for balance.

There are many models of the human mind, all of them insightful to a certain degree and all of them to a certain degree incomplete. One of the oldest and simplest sees the human makeup in terms of the body, the emotions, and the mind. We have already seen how some people are underdeveloped in one way or another. Even if we set aside extreme cases, esoteric teachings suggest that this is basically true of everyone. While it’s often easy enough to see someone else’s imbalances, it may not be so easy to see one’s own.

Gurdjieff’s Three Types of Humanity

The great twentieth-century spiritual teacher G.I. Gurdjieff divided the ordinary run of humanity into three types: man number 1, who is orientated toward the body; man number 2, who is centred in his emotions; and man number 3, who sees the world through the intellect. Moreover, Gurdjieff contended, human beings pass their lives in a kind of waking sleep – a low-grade trance populated by illusions and daydreams. These facts are all connected. Our sleep in ordinary life is characterised by the fact that we are overbalanced in one or another of these directions and fail to use the intelligence of the other parts of the mind.

This, then, is the first step toward awakening human potential: to see what type of individual you are, because this shapes how you conceive of the world. Man number 1 is often of a highly practical turn; he can fix anything but may not have the dimmest idea of how to express his emotions, and may not even know what emotions he is having. Man number 2, by contrast, sees everything through his feelings. Artistic types (whether or not they have any real artistic talent) are a prime example; everything is emotion, everything is drama. Man number 3 sees life as a series of intellectual problems. He may be able to discuss philosophical issues brilliantly or add up long rows of figures in his head, but may, as James Joyce remarked of one of his characters, live a short distance from his body. (The Oxford philosopher I have mentioned would be an example of man number 3.)

In all probability you are one of these three types. The first task in awakening human potential is, as the ancient motto said, to “know thyself,” and in a very fundamental sense this means knowing what type you are. One way of exploring this question is by looking at your leisure activities: what do you do with your free time? Are you compulsively active, running from sport to sport or task to task? Do you enjoy spending your time in pleasant fantasies of happier times past or present? Or would you rather curl up with a good book? Leisure activities are important cues because they are not compulsory; you are doing these things because you like them. Of course, work life offers its own share of data. Your profession is often based on type, even in cases where you are not doing the kind of work you want to do. You may think you are really an artist or writer but somehow you have found work as a plumber, and the work comes as second nature to you. You keep at it not because you like it but because it comes easily to you. Despite what he may think about himself, a person like this is probably man number 1.

Very few people are pure examples of any given type; we tend to be admixtures, with bundles of strengths and weaknesses, with skills and affinities that harmonise or conflict in any number of ways. Consequently it is not a matter of simply typing yourself as you might do when taking a test out of a magazine. Knowing yourself is a lifelong course of study.

Furthermore, self-knowledge is not a static process. There is a type of individual who is self-conscious to an extreme degree and can see her strengths and faults with remarkable clarity but is utterly unable to do anything about them. Consequently the next step in developing human potential is trying to consciously balance ourselves, strengthening the weaker aspects of our natures and making sure the stronger ones do not overpower the others. This is one meaning of Christ’s parable of the “evil servant,” who, when his master is away, “shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken” (Matt. 24:45-49).

Balancing the Different Aspects of Yourself

Strengthening your weaker functions is never a pleasant task. Inevitably it involves giving time and energy to things you do not like. The intellectual must take up Tai Chi or learn carpentry; the artist must manage financial accounts; the athlete needs to paint pictures or write poetry. Because these are the things we do not like to do, we often find them unpleasant and humiliating, and it is a rare person who has the discipline to persist on his own.

Speaking personally, when I was a high-school student, I realised that my connection to my body was not all that it could be, so I took the somewhat extreme step of attempting ballet. But the rigorous discipline ballet demands of the body was too much for me; I lost interest in it and dropped it after two or three classes. Only years later, as a result of involvement with esoteric disciplines, was I able to work on a more conscious connection with the body through various movements and exercises. But I never took up ballet again.

Another one of my experiences, at an esoteric school in the north of England, casts further light on the sort of work required. The school was moving into a new centre, and a great deal of remodelling was needed. I was there for a residential course, and I was given the job of cutting wall-to-wall carpeting for one of the rooms. I was utterly hopeless at this task. I could not cut the carpet straight; I kept hacking at it and making a mess of it until I was relieved and someone was given the job who was able to carry it out in short order.

Why was the job given to me first? Not because anyone was under any illusions about my skills at laying carpet. Rather it was to show me something about myself, so that, by struggling with an unfamiliar task, I could see where some of my limitations lay. And in fact to this day as a homeowner, I find it a challenge to do the types of household repairs that other men do without trouble and sometimes with pleasure.

As this story suggests, it’s comparatively rare to even out one’s own imbalances completely. If you were really to do so, it would probably take a life’s work, and a life’s work cannot consist entirely of remedying imbalances. Nor is that the ultimate goal. Becoming a well-rounded person is a worthwhile aim, but from a spiritual point of view it still falls short of fulfilling the true potential that every human being possesses. What is this potential?

The student becomes aware of it little by little in the course of struggling with his imbalances. In the first place, he learns to become free from the roles he has identified with in the past. A man thinks, “I’m not a handyman,” but if he has to carry out some task of repair he learns that this is a limitation. His identification with whatever roles he has traditionally clung to – thinker or artist – impedes him in other areas of life. In this way he learns to become free of roles – or at any rate he is a little bit more suspicious of his own tendency to identify with them. This seemingly small step actually marks a crucial point of transition, because it frees up an initially tiny amount of will and attention that had been completely fixed in identification. In short, the student learns that there is an “I” that is separate from, and free from, all the things he has identified with up to this point.

I have spoken of this development taking place in the context of an esoteric school, and while there are not a huge number of these in the world, there are still a fair number. The ones I have encountered range across traditions: Gurdjieffian, Buddhist, Sufi, Qabalistic. Each has its own peculiar orientation, but the general type of training is the same – and in the beginning consists of the kind of work I have been talking about here. The question then arises, is a school necessary? Can you do this work all on your own?

Generally speaking, no. You did not learn how to speak English alone; you did not learn math or cooking or carpentry or whatever life skills you have on your own. Almost always there was some instruction, and usually some instructor, behind your training. You can teach yourself how to do some things, but these are the exceptions in life. Human beings need each other for many reasons, and one of them is learning. While it’s true that people can and do undergo spontaneous moments of awakening that illuminate their being past all previous limitations and preconceptions, these are rare cases, and you can’t count on being one of them. If it has happened to you, you are fortunate. Even so, such moments of awakening are, for many people, mere glimpses intended to motivate them to undertake the hard, slogging work that I have been talking about here.

In any event, at some point in one’s development, something starts to crystallise. And this something consists precisely of the small amount of will and attention that I spoke about earlier. An aspect of the mind begins to awaken and can see that it is not its roles, its tasks, or even its thoughts and feelings and emotions, but can step back and look at them almost as if they belonged to someone else. This is the true “I,” or at any rate the seed of the true “I.”

Ultimate Key to Human Potential: The True “I”

Remember that Christ in the Gospels often speaks of the kingdom of heaven as a seed. The metaphor is apt on more than one level. As the parable says, the sower sows seeds on all kinds of ground. That is, everyone has this seed of the true “I” – somewhere inside of you there is a Self that stands back and can witness, impartially but compassionately, all the doings of your life like a film. But most people take this for granted. They do not see it as important and they do not bother to develop it. To use the language of the parable again, the seeds fall on stony ground or the birds of the air eat them up.

But this Self, this true “I,” is the ultimate key to human potential. Almost all of the parables in the Gospels speak of it in one way or another. It is the pearl of great price; it is the treasure buried in a field that a man sells all he has to buy; it is the light “that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” Everyone has this and can never lose it; it is immortal and indestructible; indeed it is the only thing about us that is genuinely immortal – everything else will pass away. But you can make contact with it and make it develop and grow or you can neglect it, as the majority of people do and have done throughout the course of history.

The choice is yours – now. Up to this point in your life you may not have been aware that you had this “I” within you or had the chance to develop it. You may have had the dim sense of something missing, or you may have had a vague longing of a journey that you have wanted to take without knowing where or why. This is the journey that you have wanted to take. If you were not aware of it before you read this article, you are aware of it now. And like the man in Christ’s parable of the treasure hidden in the field, you will either go out and sell all you have to buy it (figuratively speaking), or you will ignore it and return to the sleep of ordinary life.

“Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven, and all else will be added unto you.” This true “I” is what the Gospels call the “kingdom of heaven.” If you have it – that is, if you are aware that you have it – the rest of life begins to fall into place, naturally and as it were spontaneously. This does not, of course, mean that life automatically becomes easy. It does mean that you become increasingly able to value things rightly. Money, possessions, status become progressively less important. You don’t need to become an ascetic and cast all these things away. You do need to put them in perspective and see that while they have instrumental value, they do not have ultimate value.

This teaching of the true “I” extends far beyond even esoteric Christianity. The sacred Hindu texts known as the Upanishads speak of it frequently. Here is one example: “Verily… that Imperishable is the unseen Seer, the unheard Hearer, the unthought Thinker, the ununderstood Understander. Other than It there is naught that sees. Other than It there is naught that hears. Other than It there is naught that thinks. Other than It there is naught that understands. Across this Imperishable… is space woven, warp and woof” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 3.8.10).

The Gospels speak of this “unseen Seer,” also known as “the kingdom of heaven,” as a seed. A seed is not a fully developed plant. Similarly, this sense of “I” above and apart from our ordinary thoughts and feelings is also undeveloped when we first come across it. It is developed by further work, and even at a fairly early stage it becomes obvious what this work is. I’m tempted to use words here such as love and compassion, but what I am getting at goes far beyond even these characteristics. To put it as simply as possible, it involves a further insight: that this “I” that exists at the core of my being also exists at the core of all other beings, human and nonhuman, animate and inanimate. It is very hard in ordinary language to express the idea that what is most essentially myself is precisely that which I have in common with all others, but this is exactly the case.

Most spiritual traditions speak of a dual path that they characterise as wisdom and compassion or of knowledge and love. While these two potencies may appear at first to be separate, in fact as a student progresses they seem more and more to converge. There is a first level of awakening – to become conscious of the true “I.” The second level is to understand how vast and all-pervasive it is and that so far from cutting us off from others, it is precisely what unites us with them. In this way individual consciousness becomes universal consciousness.

Earlier in this article I mentioned that psychic powers are comparatively easy to develop. So they are. But if they are developed independently of the greater growth that I am speaking of here, they risk becoming a trap. (Practically all the great spiritual traditions warn of this.) By contrast, if we work to grow the seed of the individual consciousness into the greater consciousness that embraces all of us, paranormal powers come more or less naturally. You will not necessarily find that you can read minds or predict the future at will, but you probably will find that you know what you need to know when you need to know it – sometimes in ordinary ways, sometimes in ways that are quite startling.

I have tried, in an extremely brief way, to sketch out some of the key aspects of developing human potential. Of necessity this description will seem somewhat linear. You start as a novice; you experience certain types of insight or awakening; and gradually these insights become more stable and present in your day-to-day life. In a sense this is all true. But the path – if it is right to call it a path – is more circuitous than this. Doubts come after awakening; fear closes in again after times of great opening. More than once it will seem as if all the gains of years of effort have suddenly evaporated. I do not know how to avoid this problem – if it can be avoided. I do know that when one picks up again, after however long a time, the knowledge and faith that one had before reasserts itself, and the long, laborious work of transformation can recommence. As one of Gurdjieff’s pupils once observed, “No conscious effort is ever lost.”

About the author:

RICHARD SMOLEY has over thirty years of experience studying and practicing esoteric spirituality. His books include Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions (with Jay Kinney); The Essential Nostradamus; Forbidden Faith: The Secret History of Gnosticism; and Conscious Love: Insights from Mystical Christianity. He is editor of Quest Books and Quest magazine, both published by the Theosophical Society in America. His website is www.innerchristianity.com.

The above article appeared in New Dawn No. 129 (November-December 2011).

© Copyright New Dawn Magazine, http://www.newdawnmagazine.com. Permission granted to freely distribute this article for non-commercial purposes if unedited and copied in full, including this notice.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

How Dreaming Changed My Life

By Alison Ottaway

Were you one of those kids who was always told off for looking out of the window at school?

I wasn’t.

I was usually looking at the teacher.

You see, I’ve never been a natural dreamer. Dreaming wasn’t part of my upbringing. Security and down-to-earth practicality were. Dreaming was one of those indulgent, ‘waste of time’ activities.

Thing are different now though. Now I know that dreaming is one of the most powerful activities I can engage with.

No one told me about the power of dreaming. I had to figure it out for myself.

It’s the changes I have made in my life that have taught me this truth: If you want to change your life and go after the things that you really want, you need to dream.

How dreaming helped me lose half my body weight:

My introduction to the power of dreaming was at the age of 20, when I was over 20 stone (280lbs). I’d had a problem with weight throughout my childhood. It made me sad because I knew that the real me didn’t look like the one I saw in the mirror! Approaching my 21st birthday I saw my 20s stretching ahead of me and I thought, ‘I want my 20s to be fun, fun, fun! There are so many amazing, exciting things I could do.’ I used to imagine the fun that I could have. The people I could meet, the places I could go, the clothes I could wear, the men I could flirt with and how beautiful I could look.

It was dreaming – and how I felt when I thought about what could be- that gave me the strength to change. It directly informed the start of my weight loss process (refusing some chocolate raisins offered to me on Boxing Day). And my vision kept me going – when the last thing I wanted to do was get out that exercise tape, when I really wanted to eat chocolate, when I thought of the enormity of the task swamped me.

Of course, once I’d started changing, I saw the results – the looser clothes, the changes in my face, the increase in my energy…and as I got closer and closer to realising my dreams and my visions spurred me on even more.

How dreaming got me doing what I love:

At 26 I was well and truly entrenched in the corporate life. I’d successfully climbed the career ladder and was working for Microsoft. ‘Wow’, some might say. But I dreamt of a different life. One that was more fulfilling, more meaningful and more vital – where I really cared about what I was doing and I made a difference. I decided to take a 3 month sabbatical from my job and travel. I taught English in Brazil, trekked the Inca trail in Peru and visited Australia and New Zealand, before working with ethnomusicologists in deepest Russia.

These 3 joyous months really encouraged me to dream. I was seeing, feeling and living possibilities. I started to conjure up a another life – one where I was doing what I loved, using my own talents and fascinations – being myself and doing work that didn’t seem like work.

I returned from the trip and started to make the changes I needed to find another job. I left behind the golden Microsoft role and took a job with a music charity in London. I continued to dream and those dreams kept beckoning me onwards to more change. After a year in the music industry, I returned to college. The confidence I was gaining helped me get bolder and last year I set up Path Less Trodden, to help other people follow their passions and live their dreams. I’m now using all of my gifts to bring support and inspiration to others and doing work that I love every day.

Are you convinced about the power of dreaming yet?!

Let me hit you with one final example from my own change catalogue:

How dreaming moved me 1000 miles:

I love everything Italian: The sun, the food, the people, the music, the language. It didn’t actually visit Italy, however, until 2003. Following that first visit, which cemented my love, my visits became more frequent and longer, because I felt so great there…I felt more like me.

Along with this passion for Italy, I’ve always hankered after moving to a different country, but part of me used to think that I just ‘wasn’t the sort of person who did that kind of thing’.

In 2009 I moved to Italy and have made my home here in Tuscany. Again it was dreaming that got me here. This time, my dreams coincided with a period of illness. It lasted 6 months, and I was forced to move back in with my parents. It was during this period that my dreaming came into sharp focus – ‘If only I can get better, I’ll move to Italy…that’s what I really want’. I’d dream about the sun, the rolling hills and my beautiful Tuscan home.

I did get better, and as I did I slowly put the steps in place to enable me to get here. Now I’m surrounded by what I used to dream about: La Dolce Vita!

I learnt some useful things from looking at the teacher and my books at school, but dreaming wasn’t one of them. I’ve had to learn for myself and from my own experience just how important dreaming is to getting a life that you actually want.

Want to have a life you love? Visualise it. Flesh it out: Live it, breathe it, smell it and taste it. What does it look like? Who’s there? How do you feel?

Let’s make a stand for staring out of the window and give dreaming the credit it is due for the vital part it plays in bringing you a body, home and life that you love.

This article was originally published in www.thechangeblog.com.