Tag Archives: joy

Successful Willing

We are now more than half-way through January and you may want to reflect on any New Years Resolutions you have made. Most of us choose goals like losing weight, giving up smoking, learning something new, and finding a better job or relationship. Studies show that only about 2 out of 10 of us will manage to achieve our goals. When we do succeed in achieving a set goal, we often feel joyful.

New-Year-Resolutions

As Assagioli wrote:

“Since the outcome of successful willing is the satisfaction of one’s needs, we can see that the act of will is essentially joyous.”

If you find yourself far from feeling joyous, struggling instead with your longing to change, then maybe it’s time to take a closer look at how you make decisions. Assagioli has written extensively on decision making in his book The Act of Will. He describes six stages of the decision making process: defining purpose, deliberation, choice, affirmation, planning, and execution.

Which Way to Go - 3 Colorful Arrow SignsOur decision making process is only as strong as our weakest stage and usually we are more effective with some of these stages than others. For instance, I once had a client who skipped over any deliberation, which often caused her problems later once she realized that the action she decided to take wasn’t necessarily the best. Let’s take a closer look at each stage of any decision.

Stage 1: Defining Purpose

The first step is to identify your intention or goal. During this step, you explore your goal. Try to be honest about your motivation. Throughout this discussion, I will use myself as an example. My goal is to create more satisfaction in my life. Questions I need to explore are: What is blocking me from receiving more satisfaction? What do I need to do/feel/experience in order to create more satisfaction? Perhaps I need to spend more time alone, increase my self-esteem, garner more faith and trust, communicate my own needs more openly, or no longer fear taking a risk.

Try to narrow down one thing that you might achieve towards your goal. Pick the one that you feel most enthusiastic about, that feels most worthwhile. I pick: Write a book about subpersonalities. Finally state your goal clearly and precisely:

I use my will to … (write a book about subpersonalities).

Stage 2: Deliberation

Next you must weigh all the possibilities you have to achieve your purpose. This is the brainstorming stage where anything goes. It is not the stage where you evaluate, judge or reject any idea. Let your ideas flow, include everything that occurs to you, and play with the endless possibilities. For example, I can join a writing class or workshop (in the South of France!), I can schedule time everyday to write, I can find a class online, I can find a writing buddy that helps motivate me …

Then examine your responses and explore their consequences. Consider how willing you are to accept responsibility for them. Take your time for this process.

Stage 3: Choice

change-sign-postsEventually, you will have to choose one of your options. Some people never get beyond the deliberation stage. Instead they become enamored with the fantasy and, consequently, lack the will to actually perform the action needed to achieve their goal. (This is my problem! How many times, in my head, have I been interviewed about the best-seller that I  still have to write!?) Write your choice down clearly and precisely:

I use my will to … (write every morning).

Stage 4: Affirmation

Next you affirm your decision. Just by sharing my choice with all of you, I am affirming it. You might think this stage unnecessary, but it helps to ground the idea in reality and protect it from your own inner Saboteur. Later, whenever you might feel discouraged, you can come back to your affirmation. Write it down:

I (name) choose to … (your choice).

Stage 5: Planning

Planning can be a key stage to establishing your success. Paradoxically, we tend to limit ourselves when we think too big. Think in SMALL STEPS. Prepare a detailed plan that specifically is directed towards your chosen option. What is the first step you have to take? Who else is involved? What equipment, material, money, space, time, do you need? How do you evaluate your success?

Consider for a moment how you might defeat yourself. How might you resist this new change. How are you going to deal with any inner resistance? Use your imagination to visualize your plan to its successful completion. Always think positively about your purpose and intended outcome.

For example, my plan includes: reviewing my notes, writing an outline for the book, starting a chapter, and looking for a literary agent.

Stage 6: Execute

Finally, you actually execute the decision. Execution of will requires you to use skillful will, feelings, imagination and impulses to constantly supervise your activities. You also have to be flexible and adopt your plan to any change in conditions and circumstances. (For example, what if my “real work” starts to demand more time from my writing? What if I suddenly feel bored with my book?)

Slowly, you begin to work towards your goal. By focusing on your small successes, you can begin to enjoy the benefits of what you have achieved. In this way, you recharge the energy you need to continue towards your goal, and are always moving towards Joy.

Wish me luck! I’ll keep you posted.

Dark Days before Christmas

Light in the darknessIn northern Europe the days are growing shorter. Except for the oak trees with their withered sienna-brown leaves, most of the trees are bare against a bleak landscape and gray skies laden with cold, damp winds. The Dutch have a saying for this time of year: De donkere dagen voor Kerstmis. The dark days before Christmas. Indeed, every day is shorter and the nights seem to stretch out like a long, endless dream.

We are in the season of Advent, which mark the days before Christmas. Advent comes from the Latin word adventus meaning arrival. We freely use the word advent to simply mean “to come into being.”  This is the time of year that we await the arrival of light when the Earth will once again begin to tilt towards our sun. The days can then slowly “come into being,” promising their full splendor of sunshine and warmth at the summer solstice. For Christians, this is the time during which they await the birth of Jesus, when the Divine comes into being. Continue reading

The Stars are Living Beings

olive tree flower

In the garden at Casa Assagioli in Florence, the olive trees are flowering and bees are humming around the acacia tree. Recently, I and ten other guests had the opportunity to spend one afternoon with Piero Ferrucci, author, philiospher, and psychosynthesis psychotherapist, asking him questions about the five years he spent with Assagioli as a student from 1969 to 1974.

After Assagioli’s death, Ferrucci was the first person to work with Assagioli’s material, and he spent two years compiling stacks of paper into what is now part of Assagioli’s  archives. Ferrucci recalled sitting at two tables in the kitchen of Assagioli’s home, surrounded by many folders. Many were in a mess. While working his way through them, Ferrucci sensed Assagioli’s presence and energy. He said that he could feel Assagioli blessing each small piece of paper, each a separate, distinct insight.

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Dark Days before Christmas

Light in the darknessIn northern Europe the days are growing shorter. Except for the oak trees with their withered sienna-brown leaves, most of the trees are bare against a bleak landscape and gray skies laden with cold, damp winds. The Dutch have a saying for this time of year: De donkere dagen voor Kerstmis. The dark days before Christmas. Indeed, every day is shorter and the nights seem to stretch out like a long, endless dream.

We are in the season of Advent, which mark the days before Christmas. Advent comes from the Latin word adventus meaning arrival. We freely use the word advent to simply mean “to come into being.”  This is the time of year that we await the arrival of light when the Earth will once again begin to tilt towards our sun. The days can then slowly “come into being,” promising their full splendor of sunshine and warmth at the summer solstice. For Christians, this is the time during which they await the birth of Jesus, when the Divine comes into being.

Darkness Inside

For most of us, these days are more than just physically dark. We can also become lost and overwhelmed in all the expectations of the season. The shopping, planning, cooking, baking, wrapping, cards, music, school plays, church concerts. The running and stress, travel and traffic, not to mention all the money worries.

Typically, we are expected to spend time with our families, with the idea that everyone should be happily singing songs around a piano or opening perfect presents or eating gourmet meals. But our reality may actually lead us to feeling only more lonely and unsatisfied. Under pressure by the media and our own unreal expectations, many of us become depressed this time of year and some of us may even feel suicidal.

Assagioli's notes on polarities.

Assagioli’s notes on polarities.

Darker still are the constant reminders, between the tinsel and flashing lights, of the pain and suffering in the world. Not to mention, of course, our own pain and suffering. How can we possibly feel Joy? The entire season can feel like a sham. Bah Humbug! Where is the Higher Self in all this tragic mess?

Balancing Darkness with Light

Simon and Garfunkel once recorded a song called 7:00 News/Silent Night,” in which the familiar carol is quietly and beautiful sung. At first dimly, then more clearly and loudly, we simultaneously hear the voice of a newscaster dispassionately announcing the kind of violent and terrible news we are all too familiar with. Even though, at the end, the voice of the announcer seems to overwhelm the song, the tender voices unceasingly sing – they are not even faintly shaken.

One could experience this song as another symbol of despair – the submergence once again of peace and joy in the harsh violence of our day. But when listened to in its wholeness, the song expresses the reality that light does shine in the darkness. If we tune into the song of peace, we will be able to hear its still small voice singing clearly under the din of the crowd.

Light and dark. Joy and hatred. These are two of the many polarities that exist in the world. Our job is to learn to live with their tension in order to transform and synthesize their energies into a higher reality. Assagioli says that this process is analogous to a chemical combination when two elements are absorbed into a higher unity endowed with qualities different from what each individual element has.

Transforming Opposites into a Synthesis

The idea is to balance these opposites, hold their creative tension, and give space for a completely new and higher entity to be born. You do this by first being with the violent darkness but not identify with it. Then be with the joyful light and not identify with it either. Finally, we need to be with all that is and hold an objective understanding of the tensions between them in order to creatively seek wholeness.

Assagioli insisted that the mid-way point between two opposites is not static inside us, but rather in “a state of continuous oscillation.” We can actually experience this oscillation between Darkness and Light when we listen to the song “7:00 News/Silent Night.”

Once we can hold onto this mid-way point, then psychosynthesis can occur. It is a wise person who can play with opposites and watch with awe as they awaken and manifest into a complete formed higher quality.

So during these dark days before Christmas, practice hanging on and letting go. Hang onto the dark, and then let it go. Then hang onto the light, and let it go. Try to stand in the mid-way point by expressing Human Affection during this season. Then wait quietly and patiently for the advent of Spiritual Love that is quietly, calming, and ceaselessly singing in the world’s chaos.

Inside Out Turned Outside In

Inside Riley's Headquarters. From right to left: Anger, Disgust, Joy, Fear, Sadness. Photo by Pixar.

At the controls in Riley’s  brain Headquarters. From right to left: Anger, Disgust, Joy, Fear, Sadness. Photo by Pixar.

Yesterday I went to see the new Pixar movie Inside Out. It is an intelligent 3D-animated feature about 11-year-old Riley who moves with her family from Minnesota to San Francisco. But the real stars of the film are her five emotions, Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear, who are busy operating Riley’s outer behavior from her brain Headquarters. I will not go into details about the story, but I did find it entertaining, fun, and thought provoking. The movie has received rave reviews and is topping all kinds of records for ticket sales.

Today in the Guardian newspaper, one movie critic has warned shrinks to stay away from the movie. (Oops! Too late!) Psychology professionals (along with some parenting forums) are reportedly outraged that Sadness is shown as fat, frumpy and unattractive, and Joy is slim, pretty and smart. What is the film saying? That fat people are sad and thin people are full of Joy?

Actually, from a psychosynthesis perspective, this discrepancy could have easily been explained (and the movie would have been much richer) if the five emotions had actually been five different subpersonalities. Like our subpersonalities, in the movie each emotion not only has feelings but also a body and mind as well. All are embodied in a type of human form. Sadness is the color blue and, okay, let’s say full-bodied, while Joy is a slender and an adorable version of Tinkerbell. In addition, all five emotions have cognitive functioning, that is, they all contemplate, calculate, make decisions, and integrate new ideas and experiences, especially when they have to find a way to reconnect to Riley.

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Does Prayer Matter? Sending Help to Nepal

Prayer flags    earthquake Kathmandu. Photo by Luca Galuzzi. www.galuzzi.it

Prayer flags flying before the earthquake in Kathmandu. Photo by Luca Galuzzi. http://www.galuzzi.it

Immediately before dying by firing squad in Indonesia, eight men convicted of drug trafficking sang Amazing Grace. On the same day, across the globe in Baltimore, Maryland, a large crowd gathered in the riot-torn streets of their city to also sing Amazing Grace. I was moved to learn about these simultaneous events and particular struck by their media coverage on BBC news.

These past days, I have been praying for the Nepalese people caught under rubble, trenched by rain and hovering in makeshift tents in the middle of Kathmandu, fearful every time another aftershock unrattles their trust in the earth under their feet. Last Christmas a good friend who just returned from Nepal on business brought me a stream of colorful prayer flags. Since then, these prayer flags have hung across my terrace roof tagging along with the white grape vine that is just starting to burst with leaves.

I imagine my prayers leaping off my lips onto these colorful square pieces of cloth and then flying home to Nepal. In the Tibetan tradition, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. The flags do not carry prayers to gods, but rather the prayers are blown by the wind to spread good will and compassion to all.

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Imagine All the People …

Plastic WorldSomeone is holding a large plastic globe over my head while I stand in front of about 750 people and welcome them in English to the Friedensfest or Peace Festival. The afternoon has started with various citizens welcoming the crowd in German, Arabic, Turkish, Aramaic, Kurdish, Dutch, Russian, French and Persian. During the past year, 700 refugee families from Syria and Iraq have descended upon our small German town of Gronau, nestled against the eastern Dutch border. More than 90 languages are spoken among a population of 45,000. In stark contrast to the anti-immigration movement of Pegida in Eastern Germany, today we celebrate our differences as well as try to raise money for those left behind in Sengal and Kobane.

Outside in the drizzling rain, men from the Yazidi community are grilling meats while the women fill plates with cut tomatoes and onion salad. I am struck that ‘Yazidi’ is no longer an idea but suddenly a smiling human before me. Inside the hall, Turkish children are circle-dancing to traditional songs. Other children bob their heads to the music while folding paper into origami birds or dipping their hands into paint and printing their palms.

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