Whenever a group of people get together and become more honest with each other, one of the first thing to happen is that they realize how much we all want the same thing. It happens in marriage guidance counseling, we come to the recognition that we both want love, we both want to be seen and acknowledged. It happens in any kind of business intervention: we come together as a team and realize we all want and need the business to succeed, we want the workplace to be inspiring and relaxed. Ultimately it happens politically, when the leaders of nations recognize that they are more likely to get their own needs met when they can also recognize the need of the other.
The greatest area of split and misunderstanding, which I discover among my friends and other writers and teachers, is the split between the longing of the spirit and material desire. To paint the picture in broad strokes, I am aware of two categories of people I know. On one hand, I've spend a lot of my life in "spiritual circles." I lived with Poonjaji in India, I've lived in community in other parts of my life. When we make our home in this camp life is about liberation. We mediate. We do Yoga. We chant. We disassemble the structures in the mind because we have fallen in love with a deep sense of spaciousness and peace. When you live exclusively in this camp the desire for money becomes a hindrance to be avoided, not a goal to be pursued. Relationships are okay-ish, as long as they don't get too co-dependent. Frequently, our relationship with our parents is something to be "completed" and "resolved" rather than celebrated. When you live in this camp, wanting to make it in the world is the greatest symptom of ego-entrapment.
But there is also another camp, where I equally enjoy setting up my tent from time to time. This camp is much better decorated, has better food, and everyone has an iPhone. In this camp the emphasis is on worldly success of every kind. Making money is a good thing. So is having great relationships, great sex, better health and, in fact, having better anything is good. When you hang out a while in this camp and look back to the other side, the spiritual people look like a bunch of losers. Meditating on their navels and letting go of attachments, you can see from here that they can't pay the rent, their relationships are often messy, and they often have health problems to boot.
This kind of split has dominated humanity for thousands of years. In many cultures you are faced with a choice. If you want to know God or oneness with your true self, you become a monk or a recluse or a priest of some sort and leave the worldly things behind. The alternative is to embrace the world full on. Get married, buy a house, have kids and the whole nine yards, but forget about liberation until another life. You may remember that the outcome of Buddha's life was very uncertain, when he was born. The astrologers said he would go one way or another, and his father did everything he could to make sure he went the worldly route. To no avail, of course.
The shift in consciousness that we are seeing these days looks very different from either of these camps. In one way it seems like more and more people are waking up, and the spiritual camp is increasing its numbers. The other camp waves copies of The Secret proudly in the air announcing, "Look, now all of humanity is going to learn how to manifest the best of everything."
But come now, take a little hike with me, up onto the hill overlooking these two camps and let me show you what I see.
Both camps have grown so big in recent times, like villages that overflow their boundaries and merge into one another. We are coming to discover an interesting thing. The split was never necessary. In fact, when you look from this perspective, exactly the opposite of the split is the truth. Lately, in preparing my new multi-media series "Living Awakening," I interviewed some of the most wealthy and successful people I could find.
Jack Canfield has sold 120 million copies of Chicken Soup for the Soul. John Gray's Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus has sold 50 million copies. Again and again I have discovered that people who are truly successful in a multi-dimensional way have a deep and abiding access to expansive states of consciousness.
Awakening is not the opposite of material success, it is the essential foundation. At the same time, I looked around to find who is rested most deeply and stably and relaxedly in expansiveness. To my surprise I found that the "spiritual seekers" actually tend to go on seeking: the more you run after the golden egg of enlightenment the more elusive it becomes. There are plenty of people around these days who are resting very comfortable in an unbroken sense of expansion and freedom, but generally speaking they have discovered that by being the very best they can be at whatever they love, whether it is music, film making, business, or farming, spaciousness and freedom of consciousness is the inevitable by-product.
Stewart Emery was the original CEO of EST and started that organization with Werner Erhart back in the 70s. For most of his life in the intervening thirty something years, he has focused on the question of what are the components of "greatness." He has interviewed everyone he could find on every corner of the planet to discover the natural attributes of human excellence. He's got a lot to say about what makes people great, and you can read more about it in his book, Success Built To Last. I think the best is yet to come in his next work, Whatever You Do, Be A Good One. When I interviewed him for "Living Awakening," he had an interesting perspective to share with me: that doing something well, becoming a master at what you love, is not just a way to create beauty, art, and wealth in the world, it is also a spiritual discipline akin to meditation.
If I look at what's always mattered to me, I can't remember a time when I wasn't deeply moved, sometimes to tears, being in the presence of human excellence in any field. I get moved, obviously, at art museums and great symphonic performances, great jazz performances. I've had the privilege to interview and photograph people like Oscar Peterson, who has passed now, and Ella Fitzgerald, and Dizzy Gillespie - they're all gone. But I've talked to these people, interviewed these people, and being involved in their kind of brand of seeking and I've always been moved by that.
I remember being in China recently where I was doing a course on business leadership for Beijing University, and I went down to a Starbuck's, who I don't even think make great coffee here in the United States, and I'm into coffee. There was a young man, a punk rocker, with lots of product in his hair, and tattoos and body piercing. And that particular Starbuck's had a wonderful Italian La Marzocco espresso machine, really the world's best machine. He poured me a latte that was just a God shot. I said,"Where did you learn do that latte, lad?" He said, "I learned to do that on from YouTube, from YouTube." He had watched the World Barista Championships and had taught himself to do this at a Starbucks in Guangzhou in China. I was a little bit teary about it. He just moved me. He was so into it. Wherever I go, and the people I talk to, when they've found their passion, they've learned how to get good at it, it's life changing. It certainly has been for me. I recommend it for you.
I have an upcoming tele-seminar with Siona van Djik, the Director of Gaiam Community, this Thursday October 15th at 6pm . We will be talking about how we create sustainable relationships, in marriage, at work and in community. Our dialog is titled "Love That Lasts."
I hope you will join me for one or both of these events!