user-icon chevron-right minus plus cross google shopping-cart caret-down chevron-down chevron-circle-up menu search youtube facebook twitter rss linkedin2 pinterest

personal growth

The way you look and feel, how satisfying your life is depends primarily on you. Unless you are aware of this, unless you have an active sense of participating in and being responsible for your own well-being, you are unlikely to develop the motivation you need. Self-responsibility holds the key.

Featured

Creativity Is Yours

Creativity Is Yours

In Sanskrit they call it lîla. The word means play. Yet not in the limited sense of our word. Lîla is free play, deep play, wild play carried out in a timeless NOW. It speaks of divine play. It’s the kind of play that sets us free to be who, in essence, we already are, even though we may not yet know it. Lîla is also the kind of creative play that brings new worlds into existence. FROM CHILDLIKE TO GENIUS In its simplest form, lîla describes the spontaneous activity of children so absorbed in what they do that they don’t even hear you when you speak to them. One morning my three-year-old friend Marina came to visit. Scrambling onto the four-poster bed where I was writing in a state of intense concentration, she told me the story of how she had climbed to the very top of a pirate’s ship as high as the stars. Like all still-innocent children, Marina entered into her imaginal world with ease—a magical realm in which creative sparks can be seeded then begin to grow. The imaginal world is a place most of us adults have lost touch with—a powerful realm in which the joys and fruits of lîla reign supreme. At a deeper level, lîla speaks of the all-encompassing absorption out of which Beethoven, then dangerously ill and nearing the end of his life, nonetheless created the most remarkable music of the 19th century: The Late Quartets. Or the obsession of Van Gogh, which led to his having painted 900 pictures and turned out 1100 drawings pictures during a lifetime. This kind of lîla is far more complex and committed than child’s play. It can produce achievements that enrich the way we look at life, that connect us to the deepest levels of our own being. Some fruits of mature lîla even transform the world. A big deal? You bet. This is play of the highest order—nothing less than an outpouring of the most intimate and essential nature of each unique human being. Living your creativity as fully as you can while you walk the earth, in whatever way most satisfies your unique nature, is the most exciting and enriching process any individual human being can experience. It brings a sense of meaning and purpose to your own life that nothing else can. CREATIVE PASSION Creativity is not a problem to be solved or a subject to be picked apart in psychologists’ laboratories. Those who try end up wandering in an endless maze of moribund words and phrases which miss the point. Meanwhile, the wrinkled fiddler on the city street plays on—smiling. He is lost in the excitement of improvisation, magically blending movement, feeling and sound—making music never heard before, that touches his heart and awakens the senses of all with ears to hear. We have grown up with some weird ideas about creative power. We’ve been taught that creativity belongs to a few select human beings whom history labels as genius. Nothing could be further from the truth. Creating is not a rare privilege—it is a right, even a necessity for all of us, if we are to live a fulfilling life. Creating anything, from cooking a healthful meal to writing poetry or playing games with children reminds us all what life is about. From this place we learn to live and work, to imagine, invent, and finally give birth—not only to things that have never been seen, heard, felt or touched before, but to a way of living more wondrous and exciting than most of us would ever have imagined. A passion to be lived, a lîla to be danced, the wild creative power within us urges us to tell the truth and shame the devil. It demands that we express our love, our obsessions, and the fascinations which pursue us. It asks that we live out life from the very core of our being. “Genius,” as late American writer John Gardner used to remind his students, “is as common as old shoes. Everybody has it.” CREATIVE RELEASE A few years ago, I began to explore not only the power and dimensions of creativity in you, me, and all of us. I wanted to discover how each of us can gain greater access to it, and how best we can live out our own creative power in our day to day lives as scientists, professional artists, musicians, writers, dancers, actors or as businesspeople, parents, teachers, lovers, gardeners, healers, craftsmen and thinkers. I was sure that on a larger scale, the way we as a group choose to use our collective creativity determines whether or not we will be able—in the wake of having laid waste to so much of our planet—to emerge as a sustainable species in a sustainable world. A lîla of enormous proportions; what could feel more powerful or more daunting? Yet the creative power on which it depends springs from the same source within each person as Marina’s imaginative play. PRIMORDIAL POWER Mysterious, enigmatic, spontaneous, occasionally even frightening, in essence creative power is the power of life itself. It is the force that gave us birth which continues to give birth to universes. It is what created us and brought each of us our own lives. It originates from a place within each one of us where we can touch and tap into the numinous energy of the Cosmos: God, Being—call it what you will. No words can adequately describe it. In truth, it is far more an experience of aliveness than a place at all. And, although we may never describe it adequately, we are perfectly equipped to enter this locus of creative power within us and find out how to live ever more of our lives from it. For the majority of artists, creativity pours forth most easily when they have intimate support for it. Shakespeare had his actors and a Globe Theatre eager for his plays, Virginia Woolf entered a room of her own and there wove tapestries of words. Emily Dickinson wrote out of the intimate community of a family who adored her, admired her and made sure she was given the space and time to carry out her imaginative work. For others who are highly creative, there is no such intimate support. Many have suffered childhood abuse, loss, illness or intense suffering. The creativity of such people can be monumental. Each man or woman is brought to the exploration and expressions of their creative power through suffering in just the same way that, so often, we discover what is most important to us by having what we believe to be of greatest value—a loved one, a job, a title—taken from us. Painful as such experiences are, often they turn out to be great gifts when it comes to freeing our creative power. Caught up in our lives of work, children, and householder duties, few of us live in such fortunate circumstances as Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson. But that does not matter. What has not been given us we can make for ourselves. Art is not the province of the privileged few. It belongs to all people—those of us who spend our days in front of computers, cooking, sweeping streets, running errands, caring for children, handling the stupidities of bureaucracy, and living our constantly changing lives in a world that is ever less secure. THE WAY AHEAD We are alive at a moment in history where one age is dying, yet another has not yet been born. We are, each one of us, faced with a choice: As we sense the foundations of our world shaking, do we withdraw in anxiety, trying in desperation to hang on to what we once believed to be “true”? Do we become paralyzed, and try to cover our fear with apathy? Or do we summon the courage offered us by a Universe in flux, honor our personal sensitivity and consciousness, then choose to face the challenge of entering the realm of creative power within? Then, trusting our individual capacity for lîla, do we begin to play in ways that may help bring forth a new world for all? Regardless or age, background, or limiting notions about what’s possible, each one of us has a choice to make. It’s a choice between continuing to conform to established belief systems that stifle the human spirit, or trusting in ourselves. Are you willing courageously to explore your intrinsic creative gifts and make use of them? “That which we give birth to from our depths is that which lives on after us. That which is inborn in us constitutes our most intimate moments—intimate with self,” says Theologian Mathew Fox, “intimate with God the Creative Spirit, and intimate with others. To speak of creativity is to speak of profound intimacy. It is also to speak of our connecting to the Divine in us and of our bringing the Divine back to the community.” Personally, I urge you to begin connecting ever more deeply with your own brand of creativity. Discover new ways of living. Leave automatic assumptions about who you think you are and learn to respond to each moment and each day of your life with new eyes and an open heart. The more you do, the richer your life can become. Such is the joy of lîla. Such is the power of lîla. If you have not yet explored it, you have an exhilarating, wondrous adventure ahead of you. Take it. Trust it. It’s the adventure of a lifetime.

Go For Freedom

Go For Freedom

Each human being is utterly unique. Like the seed of a plant which has encoded within its genetic material the potential for everything it can become as a full blown flower, each of us comes into this world carrying a package of as yet unrealized potential for energy, health, creativity and joy. I believe our purpose on the earth is very simple - to bring as much of our unique spark of divinity - our seed power - into full blown power. Our seed power comprises our physical, psychological and spiritual potential. It is what creates our uniqueness. The fullest expression of it leads to the fullest experience of authentic freedom. It is rather like the brushstroke a zen painter uses to represent a single leaf on a shaft of bamboo. The leaf he paints is totally singular – like no other leaf that has ever existed. Yet within its uniqueness is encompassed universal beauty and life energy of the highest order. So it is with each of us. Within the individual genetic package which is you is nestled your very own brand of seedpower – an essential soul energy that encompasses far greater physical, creative and spiritual potential than you could ever hope to realise in one life time. The more fully this seedpower is allowed to unfold the richer your experience of authentic power and freedom will be. So focused is the energy of spirit within a tiny seed that it opens and reaches towards the light, regardless of what is in its way. Once I pulled up a weed growing in my garden to discover within its roots a marble that had been crushed out of all recognition by the life-force of the growing plant. The wonderful thing about any little seed is that it doesn’t take much for it to develop into the plant it is designed to be: some good rich organic soil, a little rain and a dose of sunlight. For the power and the intelligence that makes growth possible lies not outside of it but within the seed itself. People – you and me, and the woman you saw when you got on the bus this morning - are just like plants. All we need is a good healthy environment which allows our unfolding to take place. painful distortions The problem is that few of us get it. For as we are unfolding - as we are passing through the superbly orchestrated phases of our physical and spiritual development - more often than not our environment does not provide the rich soil, clean water and sunlight we need for full unfolding. More often than not it truncates our development. Then, like a little plant trying to push through depleted soil with too little water and not enough sunlight our growth becomes stunted or twisted. Or like a seedling trying to push through earth with a stone on top of it we develop ‘distortions’. All sorts of things can cause distortions: accidents, illnesses, emotional or physical abuse. Even being raised in a wonderful family if you happen to be a ‘fish’ and the rest of your family are ‘ducks’. Distortions can be physical in nature - a sunken chest or an excess of fat which our bodies create as a cushion against a harsh world around us. They can also be emotional, leaving us with a sense that there is something wrong with us, that we cannot rely on our judgement, that we are unworthy, or incompetent or guilty even though we may have no idea why or how. And they can be spiritual. When we grow up in an environment which lacks an awareness of the interconnectedness of all life, when we feel ourselves to be isolated and living in a boxed-in world of the five senses, then we can end up with a nihilistic sense of life. We feel we have nowhere to go, nothing to do and no purpose in remaining alive. powerful values That’s the bad news. The good news is that, because of the enormous capacity of a living organism to heal itself, most of these distortions can be cleared through such practices as detoxifying the body, through meditation, through shamanic work that brings you closer and closer to your soul. Of course, some distortions can’t be cleared. I recently did some shamanic healing for a young man who had spent the first six years of his life trying to stay alive while all around him the Khumer Rouge threw people into open graves and shot them. I am not sure if the distortions that come from such an experience are ever cleared. They may be like genetic defects which remain with us throughout our lives. They may not, too. For I have witnessed many so-called miracles and learned that the universe moves in wonderful and mysterious ways. But what’s exciting about distortions that can’t be corrected is that, once we come face to face with them, they often bring us a deep sense of compassion and help us define the values by which we choose to live our lives. The young man I worked with has become highly skilled in working with abused children in war zones. I myself would never have been concerned with issues of health and freedom had I not had to struggle in my early life with chronic illness, depression, and straight jackets. the real McCoy Authentic freedom brings a sense of ease in being who you are - distortions and all. It is feeling OK about yourself and being able to make use of your creative power to bring your unique visions into form. It is feeling good about what you have created too. Tap into freedom and you release energy. You feel like you are connected to life with your whole being. You are no longer trapped within what Alan Watts used to call ‘a skin-encapsulated ego’. Freedom gives you easier access to some of the submerged iceberg of your being where creative power and joy live.

Caterpillars To Butterflies

Caterpillars To Butterflies

Quite apart from all the mind-boggling new research into how the right kind of exercise can rejuvenate your body,  I have discovered for myself that exercise is a great deal more than something you do to counteract aging or protect yourself from heart disease. It can be used to fan the flames of creativity and help make you more true to yourself. It can also foster personal metamorphosis of the deepest order - physical, emotional and spiritual. Not only is such transformation possible, it is virtually guaranteed - provided you are patient, and provided you are willing to put real muscle behind it. I have always been fascinated by the idea of transformation - you know the kind of thing: Frogs into princes, Cinderella becomes belle of the ball. Most people believe that in real life, transformation is not possible. They have obviously never learned to work with muscle. Some time ago I made a decision to explore just what kind of transformation was possible for me by working intensively with muscle.  I had come to understand the enormous importance of enhancing Lean Body Mass (LBM). I knew that skillful weight training (not the slap-about kind you see carried out in most gyms) is the fastest and most efficient way to do this. So I searched out someone who could work intensively with me as a trainer to shift the LBM to fat ratio in my own body. I found a Welsh champion weight lifter, Rhodri Thomas, who said he would take me on. When we began to work together I was scared to death that after the first two hours I would collapse in a heap. After all I am no athlete. However, I was keen to find out for myself just how change happens through muscle, so we trained six days a week. Every day we would work with weights backed up by aerobic exercise such as running, swimming and cycling interspersed with other activities like squash and tennis - just for relaxation. I found to my amazement that I did not collapse. Instead I watched as all sorts of deep changes began to take place. Muscles I didn't know existed slowly and quietly began to surface through my flesh. I discovered that the psycho-physiologists are right - feelings, thoughts and past experience is indeed held within our own flesh. All sorts of old memories, feelings, fears, I discovered seemed to be encoded in some mysterious way in my muscles. As you work muscle intensively, sometimes these rise to the surface to be lifted off - much as the body is detoxified of physical toxins on a fast. Frequently I found myself pushed to my absolute limits. Then the gym floor would be covered equally with my sweat and my tears. Still, thanks to Rhod's presence and a will that came out of somewhere deep inside me, I kept working. I was glad that I did. I discovered that working with muscle in this way transforms the body in an outer way by changing LBM to fat ratio and reshaping your body, which has all sorts of wonderful rewards including more energy, freedom from aches and pains, and a lean, firm body, as well as better hormonal balance. In many ways even more wonderful, it helps develop from within you a slow but steadily growing sense of self confidence, clarity and independence. For many - myself included - this was a deep change which had been virtually impossible to come by any other way. It now seems to me that working with muscle slowly and steadily day after day builds a powerful bridge between one's inner and outer world, so that with each passing week you become freer to live the truth of who you are. So now when I think back to all those fairy tales about transformation, about frogs and princes, for the first time in my life I feel I am beginning to understand them and to understand what real transformation through the body is about. It is not all glitzy, like they say in the movies. It is slow and inexorable. Yet it brings in its wake gifts far beyond our wildest dreams. Now I wonder, would Cinderella have been prepared for union with her Prince Charming had she not for many years before strengthened her body and purified her spirit through hard work?

Secret Gifts Of Flowers

Secret Gifts Of Flowers

When the soul of a flower meets the spirit of a human being, prepare for magic. You won’t be disappointed. In our vast universe, all things have consciousness. These days even leading edge physicists tell us so: From rocks to ravens, and rivers to ratchets. Each thing also has a special brand of friendship to share with us and can become our teacher - if only we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear. FLOWER HEALING In the Native American tradition the word medicine has nothing to do with pills you take to get rid of a headache. It is the word used to describe anything that draws us deeper into a sense of connection with the divine spirit that radiates from all things around us. In making such connections we gain wisdom, healing, creativity and vision. We also support the blossoming of our own soul. There is no medicine more bounteous in its blessings than flower medicine, and no better way to bring its immense power into your own life than flower meditation. The generosity of a flower, its willingness to teach, bless and guide whoever comes to it with an open heart, is unbounded. The genus and species to which a flower belongs carries ancient mythology, as well as chemical and vibrational energy. Each flower has its own spirit and is capable of bringing wisdom and spiritual healing to those who know how to access it. Each flower can help unify our strengths in its own unique way. VOICES FROM NATURE Throughout history there have been a few who could read the nature of living plants and make use of their strengths. Using intuition and sensitivity, these healers, diviners, poets and mystics simply opened their hearts to a flower, and then listened to what the flower told them. Each time they did this they learned more about each flower’s essential nature – not through words or rational deductions but by attuning their own spirit to commune with the spirit of the flower. They came to know how a flower can be used for healing thanks to spiritual gifts it bestows upon you. Bards told stories about the flowers they came to know in this way. Artists painted pictures. Gradually a rich mythology developed around each one. Take the beautiful blessed thistle. You find it gracing most Renaissance paintings of the Virgin. It is a plant still used to bless a barren woman with fertility. LISTEN TO THE WHISPERS Healers who worked with flower spirits learned to converse with plants and created herbal remedies from them. Others extracted essential oils from rose, lavender and jasmine then used them to make incense for worshipping the Divine and to fashion fine perfumes or to embalm and sanctify their dead. Shamans in the rainforest were taught by the plants themselves what illnesses they could cure and how to use them. They still are for that matter. Multi-national pharmaceutical corporations now send their left-brained chemists off to Peru or Sarawalk in search of new plants from which to derive and patent drugs for profit. “But how do you know this flower cures arthritis?” the drug-researchers ask jungle shamans and healers. “How do we know?” is the reply, “Why, the plants tell us of course!” The pioneering work of Edward Bach – a man who knew well the art of flower communication – has led to the development of this wonderful form of vibrational flower medicine. In common with the great physicians who came before him - Hippocrates, Paracelsus and Hahnemann - Bach understood both that true healing comes from within and that it depends on bringing into balance the spiritual, mental and emotional faculties of a human being. It was the flowers themselves who showed him how they could help bring this about. OPEN YOUR HEART The ability to communicate with a flower does not require that we become mystics or trained intuitives. Far from it. We need only to reclaim abilities we had naturally as a child. Such creative intuitive abilities have often been educated out of us by a system which treats them as inferior to left brained linear thinking – sometimes to such a degree that it prevents us from listening to the whispers of our own soul. For many years I have been involved in the practice and teaching of shamanic skills. Shamanism is the oldest known methodology in the world for expanding consciousness at will. It allows you to tap creativity and vision, intuitive knowing and healing. It brings access to immediate spiritual experience. It also enables you to return at will to ordinary reality, and in complete control, bringing back richness from the numinous realms to benefit your own life and the lives of others. QUANTUM CONSCIOUSNESS I used to believe (most people still do) that the ability to do this is limited to a few very gifted people like Dr Bach, Paracelsus, Beethoven and Mozart, Einstein and other great artists and scientists. I used to think that the rest of us did not have access to visionary realms or to the blessings, healing, creativity and spiritual power that they tapped into. My own shamanic work and the experience of teaching shamanic techniques to others has shown me otherwise. Techniques for expanding consciousness, communing with flowers, with animals, with rocks and guardian angels – with our own inner soul truth are not only simple to learn, they can be used by anyone at any age. Learning flower meditation is a great way to begin. The consciousness matrix is the natural ability which each of us has to access quantum realms of multi-dimensional reality – or you could say to pass through the membrane between the world of everyday reality and the holographic realms which leading edge scientists speak of. These are the realms the mystics associate with spiritual truth and spiritual healing. This matrix is a kind of interface - probably within our very DNA or morphogenic fields - which provides a means of shifting back and forth between different levels of consciousness at will. This ability enabled Einstein to experience riding on a beam of light. And, because he was a mathematician, to return afterwards to ordinary reality and encode his experience in the language of mathematics. The formula he recorded became the General Theory of Relativity which changed the whole course of scientific history and philosophical thought. The matrix made it possible for Blake to write his poetry and etch his pictures, and for Galileo, Copernicus and Newton to gain world-changing scientific insights that eventually expanded our perceptions of reality. ENDLESS CREATIVITY All through human history the consciousness matrix has rewarded those who knew how to make use of it – from plant healers in the Amazon to great artists, writers and musicians - with a direct experience of wisdom, vision, creativity, and often too a luminous sense of freedom. That was then, but the world is changing fast. We are now living in the midst of a revolution in knowledge and vision so vast that nothing like it has ever been experienced by mankind. Science is approaching new thresholds of meaning. As the scientific view of reality moves ever closer to the cosmology of the great mystics – a cosmology often referred to as the perennial philosophy and which crosses all cultural barriers - we now have access to new methods of vibrational healing such as the flower essences. The awareness of all of us is being opened to the possibility of learning about the nature of reality not only by reading or hearing what others have to say but by direct intuitive experience, as mystics, artists and visionaries have always done. Well-tested methods for learning to shift consciousness and expand awareness are now widely available to anyone who wants to use them to dive into the ocean of the vast universe and become immersed in its richness. ACCESS NATURE’S POWER In my Journey to Freedom workshops, among many other ways of expanding consciousness, I encourage people to explore the rich, empowering relationship that can develop between a human being and a flower. When you meditate on a flower, you listen to its whispers and are touched by its deep healing. Speak to it from your heart. The experience can be transforming. A flower can act as a bridge between your ordinary state of consciousness and expanded awareness thanks to its unique beauty, texture, colour and fragrance. Doing this can bring you an awareness of how the world around is filled with consciousness – what mystics and shamans call spirit energies – that bring us energy, strength, friendship when we most need it, as well as comfort, wisdom and support for the sometimes challenging passages each of us has to make again and again in our life. Next week I’ll show you how set your spirit free and tap into infinite creativity through Flower Meditation. It is not only powerful and healing but a lot of fun. See you then.

Immersed In Freedom

Immersed In Freedom

When I was six years old I had my first love affair. Yes, really. Of course, not until years later did I recognize the experience for what it was. But like every first love, it changed my life forever. My father was a jazz musician so our house was equipped with the best possible sound equipment. Both he and I loved to listen to music—just about any music—at full volume. This my mother could not stand—which made it something even more exciting. While my playmates roamed the hills of Hollywood skinning their knees, I would lie on my belly in the living room, listening to music at full blast. THE MAGIC BEGINS One day, combing through our vast supply of records, I came upon Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” It meant nothing to me, but I liked the colors on the cover, so I put it on the record player, turned up the volume and flopped in front of our huge speakers. Strange, mysterious, often discordant sound flooded my body, opening a secret door to somewhere deep inside me. It was a place I had never been before. I did not even know it existed. I trembled with fear and excitement as the music wound its way into me. I flushed hot and then cold; my heart raced then calmed. I lost all sense of place and time as I rode the waves of an imaginal sea into unexplored worlds, too numerous to identify. ONE WITH STILLNESS I have no idea how long this lasted. Before long, even the “boat” carrying me along, and all the images that came with it, had dissolved like sugar in water. Then, in perfect union, the sounds and child-that-had-been-me swirled into a vortex, becoming lost in each other. We shared excitement, fear, longing, fierceness and sadness. Like lovers, we had come together—music and child—in an immediate, passionate, all encompassing union. Eventually I found myself at the centre of this whirlpool. There, even the ecstasy of the movement vanished. Like Alice down the rabbit hole, I tumbled—not into Wonderland, but into that place of unspeakable stillness. Zen practitioners claim this place is available at every moment to each one of us. For me it was an indescribable event—beyond space, beyond time, outside thought. Here I knew, without the slightest possibility of ever being able to describe it, that everything was exactly as it should be. In the words of Zen Master Daisetz Suzuki, it is a place where I would eat when I am hungry, sleep when tired. I knew that “it was fine yesterday and today it is raining.” Or, in the words of Julian of Norwich, that “All things shall be well, and all things shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” My affair with Stravinsky lasted more than four hours. At least that’s what my mother said. “Don’t tell me you are still listening to that awful music.” She had to raise her voice to be heard above the sounds. “For God’s sake, turn it off. Do something useful.” MY USEFUL LIFE So I did something useful. I went to school, then to university where I learned at least some of what you are supposed to learn. I earned praises for good marks, went to work, won prizes, gave birth to four children, wrote books, gave talks and made television programmes. In effect I did what millions of men and women do—became the breadwinner, the carer, the nurturer of others’ lives. And I loved it. Yet through all the years between six and now, my passion for music, painting, books, poetry, architecture and design never left me. Far from it. During most of those years, my longing not only to experience the emptiness that listening to Stravinsky had brought me that day—an epiphany, and the experience of being fully alive for the first time in my life—but also to create things: books, films, relationships, and to explore physical places, inviting me to move beyond thoughts to a place of unity with the rest of the universe. They kept gnawing at my gut. They would not go away, just as the urge to breathe never goes away no matter how long we hold our breath. SIX YEAR OLD WISDOM That day, when I lay on the floor lost in Stravinsky, without realizing it I had decided that what interested me most was the beauty of art—whether it be music, words, film, stories, sculpture, buildings or what-have-you. Why? Certainly not because I had any idea that art was supposed to be valued since it was part of what grown-ups called culture. I knew nothing about either. I could not have cared less. After all, I was a kid who, when I was not entranced by what I was seeing, hearing, feeling or touching, spent the rest of my day learning card tricks, wrestling with my rough Collie, and trying (unsuccessfully) to sell packets of chewing gum my grandfather brought me to neighbors’ kids. Nope—I loved the beauty and wonder of art in all its many forms because, unlike the world around me, with which I seemed to have little in common, it had always grabbed hold of me and would not let me go. It demanded of me both a submission and an active participation in the making of it. TIMELESS REALITY What I did not know, and this took me scores of years to come to understand, is that the rabbit hole into which I had accidentally tumbled at six is described by every culture and religion in the world in one form or another. Nor had I any idea that, at any moment in time, anywhere in the world, regardless of the circumstances of our lives, it is available to each of us. To Zen Buddhists, this wordless, timeless space represents ultimate reality—that which can only be sampled through immediate experience. In Suzuki’s words, “For the sake of those crucial experiences Zen Buddhism has struck out on its own paths which, through methodical immersion in oneself, lead to one’s becoming aware, in the deepest ground of the soul, of the unnameable Groundlessness and Qualitylessness—nay more, to one’s becoming one with it.” ANNIHILATION AND RENEWAL It is a state in which nothing is thought or contrived, longed for or expected. It reaches out in no particular direction, yet it knows itself able to handle the possible as well as the impossible. Concentrated, yet so expanding is its potential, such power is both purposeless and egoless. As such, it is often called truly spiritual. Why? I suspect because it is charged with an awareness that spirit is present everywhere. The universe and all that is created is never attached to place or time. In such a state, because the cosmos is present everywhere, we too are present everywhere. We have direct experience of and access to the power that continues to create the universe itself. And, like water flowing through the river, we have full access to that power of creation to use in our own lives, in whatever way we choose. DOORWAY TO BLISS The Sufis call this state fana—the annihilation of your individual selfhood. When we experience fana, our everyday personality becomes transparent, so the larger being that we are shines through. You become fully absorbed in the all-encompassing fascination of the moment—textures, nuances... Cutting edge physicists speak of a holographic universe in which we live but seldom access because we are plagued by endless mental concepts which blind us to reality. They also blind us to the experience of Samadhi—“a non-dualistic state in which the consciousness of the subject becomes one with the experienced object.” This state of selfless absorption and total surrender is characteristic of children when left alone to follow their instincts. Yet it is available to each one of us, regardless of age. Honoring whatever brings us bliss in our own lives opens the door to it.

Quantum Healing Via Consciousness

Quantum Healing Via Consciousness

Harvard professor and expert in cardiology and behavioral medicine, Herbert Benson MD, began the first scientific studies into the effects of meditation almost 40 years ago. Ever since, Benson and his colleagues at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital have continued to conduct clinical research and to map the benefits of regularly practicing the relaxation response: In Benson’s own words, "a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress.” The relaxation response can enhance brain function, slow age-related changes, stabilize heart beat, alleviate anxiety and dissipate stress. What is even more remarkable is this: When ordinary people with no training of any kind practice the relaxation response once or twice a day, it brings about cognitive restructuring and rapidly alters the expression of their genes. When it comes to rejuvenating, regenerating and healing the body, these findings are nothing short of revolutionary. WHAT IS GENE EXPRESSION? Uninformed people as well as many mainstream scientists believe that our health, biological age and death are written into the genes we inherit at birth. They view genetic inheritance as something akin to a dour clairvoyant prediction of our future—something which we remain powerless to alter. It is true that the genes we inherit may indeed define our “risk” of early aging, degeneration and disease. But whether or not this “risk” becomes fact, so negative events actually happen to us, has far less to do with our genetic inheritance than it does with how we choose to live our lives—in effect, on how our genes are expressed. Gene expression is the scientific term for how well or poorly we manage our genetic inheritance. For instance, how do your own genes express themselves? Do your genes provide you with great vitality? Clarity of mind? Creativity? Freedom from illness? Or are they expressing themselves in negative ways, like creating obesity, sagging skin and spirit, early aging and degeneration? HOW’S YOUR OWN GENE EXPRESSION? You see, there are many possible versions of you tucked within your genes and chromosomes. Which versions become expressed—which potentials become “facts”—depends almost entirely on the way care for and use your body, handle stress, and orient yourself spiritually and creatively. Here’s where the food you eat, the exercise you get, and practicing Benson’s relaxation response really come into their own by helping to prevent degenerative conditions: Alzheimer’s disease, many forms of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, obesity—even overt signs of skin aging, to mention only a few. And there is even better news: Once signs of degeneration have already appeared, practicing the relaxation response daily can reverse them while rejuvenating mind and body, halting stress damage and setting your spirit free. All you need to tap into it to use a method to turn it on. The possibilities are many. They range from relaxation response meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, zazen, silent repetition of a word and autogenic training to steady aerobic exercise and even biofeedback. Some will work better for you or be more enjoyable than others. It is worthwhile trying a couple of different techniques so you discover which you like best. My own favorite method is “relaxation response meditation.” I am happy to be able to share with you a simple and fun video so you can do the exercise along with me. Click here to watch the video FREEDOM’S DISCIPLINE We live in an age where discipline is looked down on as something which interferes with our spontaneity and freedom. So we tend to rebel against it. But the kind of discipline needed for a daily relaxation response practice—far from stifling your ability to be involved in the spontaneous business of life—actually frees it. At first it may take a little effort to get up fifteen minutes early each morning to practice the technique and (if you can manage the time) take fifteen minutes out of your afternoon or early evening to practice again. You will find it is well worth it. The most common objection most people make is that they don't have time. The reality of the situation is this: Even if you practice this technique once a day for fifteen minutes, it will expand time for you. You’ll find you can do everything with greater efficiency and enjoyment, and far less of your energy is wasted on fruitless activity. Every minute you spend in this deeply relaxed meditative state will bring you a fourfold return in the energy you have to use in the rest of your life. LIVING STRESS-FREE Herbert Benson first described the relaxation response as the physiological opposite of the stressed fight-or-flight response. Working with his team, he then went on to pioneer the application of mind/body techniques to a wide range of health issues and meditative practices. They charted the measurable physical benefits which accrue from practicing any form of meditation, including those that rely on the silent repetition of a mantra—a word-sound. Meditation using a mantra has a long tradition. Some mantras are considered “sacred words” that hold particular sound vibrations to transmit particular powers. Each spiritual tradition has its own mantras, such as Guru Om, Om mani padme hum, La ilaha illa 'lla or, in the Catholic religion, Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Whether their magic aspects are true or not, these techniques work beautifully to replace the habitual chatter that runs through one's mind, worries about things past and things yet to come. BENSON’S QUANTUM LEAP To learn a relaxation response meditative practice (which I have recorded on video so you can do it with me), Benson suggests you choose a word that is pleasing to you. It could be anything, say, “flower”, “peace”, or “love”. He likes the word “one”, as it is simple and has the connotation of unity about it. Here's how to do it: Find a quiet place where you won't be disturbed for fifteen to twenty minutes and a comfortable chair that supports your back. Sit down and close your eyes. Give yourself a moment to settle in and you are ready to begin. Simply sit there, feet on the floor and eyes closed, quietly repeating your word over and over to yourself: “one...one...one...” Whenever your mind wanders or you are disturbed by a sound or thought, simply turn your mind gently back to repeating the word again. That is all there is to it. After fifteen to twenty minutes, stop repeating the mantra and get ready to open your eyes. Open your eyes, stretch, and go about your everyday activities. This is a particularly useful technique once you have practiced it a few times because you can do it in so many different places, such as in a waiting room or on a commuter train or bus. THE RACE IS ON We live in exciting times—times when the breach between science and spirituality originally ushered in 400 years ago by the Copernican Revolution is rapidly narrowing. We need to make use of the gifts that the closing of this gap brings us. Even if you have neglected yourself over the years—most of us have, by the way—it is never too late to change. Making simple alterations in the way you live can regenerate your health and rejuvenate your body and mind. In my opinion, practicing the relaxation response once or twice a day is a powerful way to begin. Collectively, we are involved in a race against time. It has no precedent in human history. The stakes are high—ultimately the future of our planet. Scientific discoveries about the relationships between mind and body, and about life changes which can alter our genetic expression, are here to be understood and used. Experiential methods of self-exploration, healing and personal transformation emerging from humanistic and transpersonal psychologies offer enormous potential for taking control of our lives and creating the future we want. Making good use of what is already tried and tested can transform the whole way you experience life. Living can become a process of growth and joy, instead of one of degeneration and disillusion. If a sufficient number of us undergo a process of deep physical and spiritual transformation, we may in time reach a critical mass that enables us, working together, to envisage another finer and more just way of living together on the planet. Two things are certain: Now is the time. We are the people. May your own life be blessed.

Get High On Life

Get High On Life

Several years ago, as a result of an unexpected breakthrough in my own life, I came to understand something remarkable: Bliss is a natural state for human beings. When we feel blissful, it’s not only a wonderful personal experience—it connects us with our compassion for ourselves and others and with innate creative power. It shows us that we are capable of living life to the full, regardless of current circumstances. Unfortunately, in the chaotic atmosphere of the 21st century, with all its economic uncertainties, political unrest and suffering, too few of us tap into our capacity for bliss. Perhaps the greatest reward of working with participants on the on-line Cura Romana program is this: As a result of changes that take place physically, emotionally, and spiritually bliss becomes a frequent visitor in their lives. BODY OF BLISS Our capacity for bliss, as well as our need to experience it, is inscribed in our primitive brain—almost as deeply as our need for air, water and food. Bliss is the medium through which mind, spirit and emotions weave a tapestry of meaning. Bliss renews. Bliss cleanses. It makes us feel whole, solid, stable and alive. Bliss tells us: “This is something I want to try.” Then it brings us the courage to go for it. So important is bliss to our discovering who in truth we already are and to our realizing our goals, that when we deny our need for it we are forced to look for artificial substitutes. Addictions arise: to food, drugs, alcohol, sex—even ambition. But addictions always disempower us. They lead us further away from the authentic freedom that is our birthright. Here’s the bottom line: Find out what brings you bliss day by day. Make space for it in your life and you forge your own unique path to authentic freedom, creativity and joy. Where do you begin? Here’s a three-stage process: Dive into stillness Immerse yourself in sound Discover your passions JOURNEY TO THE CORE At the center of your being is a place of safety and security which you can move into when you so choose then out of again to meet the outside world, form friendships and share your gifts with others. This place within is a permanent sanctuary to which you are able to return when you feel tired, confused, or in need of more vitality and new directions. The key that opens this particular door to stillness is sensuous breathing for letting go. HERE’S HOW: Lie on the floor on your back and just let go, so your arms and legs flop. Close your eyes. Feel your body against the floor. Do you notice any tension in any part of it? Shoulders? Back? Legs? Focus inside your body; notice where you sense any movement in your muscles as you breathe. Imagine you are breathing into that spot. Imagine you can exhale through that part of your body. As you do, experience the breath relaxing your sore muscles as it filters through them. As you become more and more relaxed, experiment with movements that are a natural consequence of free breathing. They are blissful movements. WHOLE BODY SENSUALITY As you breathe in, your pelvis tips back ever so gently, creating a slight arch to your back. Your abdomen and chest rise. Your ribs and back expand and your chin tilts forward just barely. Then, when you exhale, your pelvis moves down again so your spine almost touches the floor, your back contracts, and your chin and head move back again, exposing the front of your neck a bit more. This subtle, natural movement turns into a wave-like motion that gently flows without hesitation from in-breath to out-breath. The whole process of sensuous breathing is already encoded in the human body. Experiment with this kind of breathing, and before long you will discover that it happens automatically. And as this takes place, you can enter a realm of deep stillness and begin to experience a surprising bliss. It’s a bliss that revives, restores energy and helps set you free from habit patterns that no longer serve you. Try it a few times and see for yourself.  SOUND POWER Sound is another effective medium for invoking bliss. The sound of running water winding its way over stones in a stream cleanses the mind of worries and leaves us feeling calm and clear. The sound of a heartbeat played in an infant's cot reassure her and send her into blissful sleep. Take advantage of the sounds of nature even if you live a bustling city life by regularly using earphones and an MP3 audio which reproduces the breaking of waves or the calling of birds. Then there is simply listening to music. This is one of the few human activities that activates the whole brain. Intrinsic to all cultures, music brings us profound benefits—improving memory and focusing attention, as well as enhancing physical coordination and development. It opens our mind and body to experiences of deep pleasure and joy. The right kind of music clears the mind. It filters out distractions and improves focus on whatever activity we happen to be involved in. The finest classical music is generally the best choice. By now it is common knowledge that babies exposed to classical music while in the womb are likely to be born with higher intelligence. GIFTS FOR FREEDOM Music also spurs creativity. Artists and writers learn this from experience. For some, even writer’s block can be cleared by listening to music. Sound and music are processed by both sides of the brain simultaneously. This encourages a unity of perception and feeling in us. Listening to music also reduces chronic pain, including that of osteoarthritis rheumatoid arthritis, back problems and muscular aches. It also alleviates depression by as much as 25%. This is one of the reasons that music therapy is increasingly used in hospitals. It reduces the need for medication during childbirth, decreases post-operative pain, and complements the use of anesthesia during surgery. How does music do this? Music helps us feel that we have a sense of calm control over our bodies. It triggers bliss, fosters relaxation and encourages the release of endorphins. Gentle music relaxes us, slowing the rate of breathing and the heartbeat. It reduces stress all round. Music also boosts immune functions. Some kinds of music can create a positive and profound emotional experience which leads to the secretion of immune-boosting hormones. This contributes to a reduction in the factors responsible for illness. Listening to music or singing decreases levels of the stress-related hormone, cortisol. CHOOSE YOUR MUSIC The most important question then becomes “What kind of music do you use for what?” This is such an individual experience. Everything from Mozart to the soul dynamism of Brazil’s Capoeira can do it for you. I believe that we humans need lots of different kinds of music if we are to gain the greatest value from it. Let me share with you some of my own favorite music and composers. Get yourself an inexpensive iPod or other MP3 player. Experiment with music from different artists and genres. Don’t be afraid to explore lots of different kinds of music in your own life. Find out what each makes you feel. The bliss awaiting you as you do is virtually unlimited. Here are a few of my personal suggestions to get you started: Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony Craig Armstrong’s film music Brazilian Capoeira Arvo Part John Martyn Al Gromer Khan  YOUR OWN BLISS TRIGGERS OK. We’ve explored a few bliss-creating experiences together, from stillness and sensuous breathing to sound. There are many more. It’s time to find out what brings you joy. Get yourself a simple notebook. Start making a list of all the things that bring pleasure to your body and mind by enlivening your senses. Continue adding to your list day-by-day and week-by-week as you become aware of more possibilities. Let your imagination run wild. At the beginning of each week, make a pact with yourself to enjoy one or more of these things within the next three days. And keep your promise. Experiment. Find out just how much enjoyment your body can take! Remember, your body thrives on bliss—feed it and it will reward you with energy, rejuvenation and joy that builds week by week into a whole new way of being for you. Here are a few of my own favorites. Making love. Running along the cliffs above the sea. Smelling lilies and freesias, roses, jasmine, and honeysuckle. Watching a good movie. Dancing with abandon to wonderful wild music. Feeling the breeze on my face on a bike ride. Swimming naked. Listening to all sorts of music. Lounging in front of an open fire. Reading a fascinating book. Spending time with a young child listening to its stories and make-believe games. Snuggling up to my cats. Eating fresh organic strawberries. Walking in the rain. What are yours? Write them down. Then create an intention to make them a part of your life, day-by-day. DIVE DEEP This experience feels like diving deep into a lake where the water is shot through with streams of light in constant motion—one moment gentle and lulling, the next wild or filled with the excitement of wind or the pounding of rain. This is what it can feel like for each of us as we delve deeper into the blissful state and develop greater aliveness. Bliss asks us to immerse ourselves in a way of being and thinking, living and dreaming that feels brand new. Try some of the activities that bring you the greatest joy, will help you rediscover ancient echoes of an endlessly rich way of living too long forgotten. Of course, at the deepest levels, we have never forgotten at all. Reconnecting with your innate capacity for bliss doesn’t happen overnight. It is a constantly developing experience, which makes it possible for us to reach levels of vitality, joy, clarity and radiant health which previously seemed beyond reach. The process begins by reconnecting with the body and developing a determination to live life your own way come hell or high water.

Bliss Brings Freedom

Bliss Brings Freedom

I’d like to share with you a life-changing story. Here’s how it begins: “Follow your bliss,” the gypsy said. “Connect with your inner light. Hear the sounds of birds. Taste the ocean’s spray. Listen to the whispers of your soul. Bliss is your key to freedom. Have you forgotten?” The gypsy’s words echoed in my heart. Like most women, I had never followed my bliss. I’d tried my best to do the “right thing”. I’d listened to the voices of others and valued their opinions above my own. And I am not alone in this. Too often, we women have gone on and off diets, lost weight, gained weight, made money, spent money, found lovers, lost lovers, done assertiveness workshops and quit doing them. Every so often, we figure we’ve found an answer to something. Then it melts away from us like a forgotten dream. The gypsy woman on the road was old and wrinkled. Yet her eyes shone with a light so bright you could hardly bear to look at them. What the hell, the woman thought, let’s find out what this old lady has to say. What have we got to lose? That was the day this woman let bliss into her life. That was the beginning of a journey that transformed her body and illuminated her life. You know, most of us waste a lot of time and energy doing what we think we’re supposed to be doing. This takes us far away from connecting with our souls and experiencing bliss. I believe it’s time for each one of us to discover what we love and then follow it. When Carl Jung was searching for meaning in his own life, he asked himself a simple question. “What did I most love doing as a child?” He remembered he adored making little streets and houses out of stones and blocks. So he bought some land at the side of the lake in Zurich, and began to build a house with a tower. There was no rational sense behind his decision. After all, he already owned a fine house. But what he created for himself, by choosing to do this, was a unique, sacred space in which he could both come in touch with the core of his being, and begin to live out his deepest longings. By honoring the whispers of his soul in this way, Jung not only expanded his capacity for bliss. He set the stage for the finest writings he would ever produce during his lifetime, and he embarked on a road to fulfillment he had never imagined to be possible. Long before you were born, you were wired for bliss. You still are. Its oceanic quality brings an experience of oneness and harmony both with the essence of who you are as well as with the world around you. You probably first experienced it when you were floating in the womb: Relaxation, aliveness, security and the sense that your life has purpose and all is right with the world. If you want to live in the fullness of your being and connect with your creativity, vitality, radiance and beauty, now’s the time to invite more bliss into your life. Our capacity for bliss, as well as our need to experience it, is inscribed on the primitive brain—almost as deeply as our need for air, water and food. Bliss happens to be the medium through which mind, spirit and emotions weave a tapestry of meaning. Bliss renews. Bliss cleanses. It makes us feel whole, solid, stable and alive. When we encounter something new, bliss tells us “This is something I want to try.” Then it brings us the courage to go for it. In ancient India, they had a name for it—Satchitananda. This composite Sanskrit word is made up of three roots: Sat means being or existence. Chit translates as awareness or consciousness. Ananda means bliss. Together they describe a radiant, boundless state of being that carries a sense of infinite awareness and joy. Satchitananda brings the capacity to create worlds and forms out of itself. There was a time when such experience was reserved for saints and shamans. No longer. Sometimes we steel ourselves against bliss out of guilt or misguided self-denial. Then we become as mechanical as a sharp-nosed spinster—nitpicking and critical of everything and everyone, most of all of ourselves. Is bliss the be-all and end-all of life? Nope. Is it an essential ingredient in realizing your potentials on every level? You bet. So important is bliss to discovering who you really are, and bringing your most cherished goals into form, that when we deny our need for it, or forget how to experience it, we’re forced to look for artificial substitutes. Addictions arise: to food, drugs, alcohol, sex—even ambition. But these addictions disempower us, taking us further and further from the authentic freedom and satisfaction that is our birthright. All life is lived through your senses. The more awake they are, the more you’ll get out of the multidimensional pleasures of every moment: the aroma of freshly made coffee, the touch of silk against your skin, soulful fingers on guitar strings, waves of orgasm that swell your body and silence your mind. I believe it’s time, just like the gypsy said, to leave behind guilt and self-criticism and begin to live from moment to moment just as you are. The secret to using bliss to enrich your life lies in becoming fully aware of everything you feel, touch, taste, smell, hear and see. Play a little game with me, right here, right now. Ask yourself these questions: What is the moving power behind my life today? What matters most to me? What did I love most when I was a child? How can I begin to live what I love most right now? Explore these questions in an ongoing way. When you go for a walk, lie in a warm bath, or wake up in the night—let yourself feel bliss wherever you are. It’s the perfect antidote to the meaninglessness we feel when we have been following the wrong directives. It’s time to uncover your bliss and discover the marvelous inner freedom that comes with it.

What Every Women Wants

What Every Women Wants

Great stories carry hidden secrets that can transform a life. They bring us face-to-face with hidden truths that help free us from false beliefs and attitudes, self-criticism and negativity that crush us. Cultural conditioning has taught us to undervalue the wild creativity that lies within—that part of us which is instinctual, irrational, and full of passion. Conventional society is so frightened of these things that we have been taught to fear ourselves and to judge ourselves harshly. We swallow our anger even when it is righteous. We crush our wild nature and we see ourselves as ugly. Yet locked within what we most hate and fear lies the greatest power for true freedom. Today I’d like to share with you one of my favorite mythologies of self-discovery—as delightful and important for men as it is for women. Here’s how it goes: THE LOATHLY LADY One Christmastide Arthur rode out with his knights to hunt. By chance he became separated from his companions and found himself at the edge of a great brackish pond. There, a knight in black armour emerged from the shadows and challenged him to a fight. Arthur reached to draw his sword Excalibur and call on its power to protect him from all harm. Alas, he had come away from court without it. He could feel every ounce of strength drain away from his body in the presence of the dark and evil stranger who raised his sword and threatened to kill him. Being a responsible king, of course, Arthur told the dark knight he didn't think that killing him was such a great idea—he had a country to rule, after all, and knights to look after. Where would they be without him? The stranger, bored at the thought of such an easy kill, relented and replied, "OK, I won't kill you so long as you return to this place in three days with the answer to a riddle I shall give you. If you fail I shall remove your head in one fwll swoop." WHAT DOES SHE WANT Arthur agreed. He figured that given half a chance and a mug or two of fancy mead, his pals back at the castle would be sure to come up with something. The riddle the stranger posed was this: "What does every woman want?" So Arthur headed home to ask all of his knights and wise men to give him the answer. Everyone from Merlin to a goose girl he met along the road had a go. Each gave him a different answer: "A woman wants beauty," said one. "A woman wants power," said another, or fame, or jewels, or sanctity. None could agree. Time was running out. Finally, although he had done his best to hide from his beloved Guinevere the seriousness of the situation, the third morning arrived. Bound by his word of honor to the Black Knight, Arthur had to face the music. Along the road to the meeting at the brackish waters, Arthur came upon an old woman. She sat on a tree stump by the side of the road calling his name. Arthur dismounted and approached her with all the courtesy he could muster. For the closer he came, the more ghastly this old hag appeared. Although she was dressed in fine silk and wore magnificent jewels on her gnarled and twisted hands, she was unquestionably the most hideous thing he had ever seen—or dreamed of, for that matter. Her nose was like a pig's, her mouth was huge, toothless and dribbling. What hair remained on her head was greasy, and the skin all over her misshapen and bloated body was covered in oozing sores. COURTESY CHALLENGED Arthur swallowed hard, forcing himself not to have to look away. "My Lord," she said in a surprisingly gentle voice, "Why look you so dismayed?" Summoning up all his chivalrous training, Arthur apologized for his manner, trying to explain it away by telling her he was most unsettled at the prospect of returning to meet his death at the hand of an evil knight because he could not tell him the answer to the riddle, "What does every woman want?" "Ah," said the hag. "I can tell you that. But such knowledge cannot be given without payment." Arthur, hoping once again for a reprieve from death, replied, "Of course Madam, anything you desire shall be yours for the answer—even half my kingdom." IMPOSSIBLE REQUEST The Loathly Lady made Arthur bend down while she whispered a few words in his ear." The moment Arthur heard them, he knew his life and his kingdom had been saved. He was about to leap on his horse again and ride off to meet the stranger when she tugged on his cloak and said, "Now I want my reward." "Of course Madam, what is it that you want?" he asked. "I want to be the wife of your bravest knight and live at your court." Arthur, who only a moment before had felt his spirits soar, was plunged into the deepest despair. How could he possibly expect any knight to consent to marry such a hideous hag? And what would it be like to have to endure such ugliness every day at court? "But Madam, that is impossible!" he said. The words slipped through his lips before he could catch them. Aghast at his own lack of courtesy and agonized by having to ask any of his knights, Arthur said, "I beg your pardon, Madam. You are quite right. Come to court tomorrow. There waiting for you will be your future husband." So saying, he mounted his horse and rode off to meet the Black Knight to convey to him the answer to the riddle. When he got back to the castle, Arthur was distraught. The knights questioned him. He confessed that he had won his life from the Black Knight but then told them at what cost and reported his promise to the Loathly Lady. "My very honor is at stake," said Arthur, wringing his hands, "unless one of you will agree to wed her." His knights were horrified at the prospect and tried to avoid his gaze. But one—the youngest knight of all—Sir Gawain, the most courageous and purest of heart stood up. "Worry, not my liege," Gawain said, "I shall save you, I will marry the woman no matter what her mien." SELF-PROFESSED HERO Gawain did not have long before he rued his offer. The marriage was planned for the following morning and the hag arrived at court. When he looked upon her, even Gawain with all his chivalry did not know how he could go through with the ceremony. It demanded every ounce of his courage. Somehow he managed it. But things got worse. When the festivities were over, the couple were obliged to retire to their chamber for the night. Gawain, unable to face the hideousness of his wife, sat for long hours in their bedchamber with his back to the lady, writing at his desk and praying she would go to sleep without him. Was he to spend the rest of his life shackled to such a hideous monster? ENCHANTED WOMAN Long past midnight, as the candle burnt low, he felt a hand come to rest upon his shoulder. "Will you not come to bed now, my Lord?" a voice whispered from behind him. Shuddering with horror, Gawain mustered his courage to look at her. To his astonishment there stood not the ugly hag he had married but the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. She had golden hair and ivory skin. "Why do you seem so surprised, My Lord?" she said to him. "I am indeed your wife. I was enchanted by a wicked magician. But now the enchantment is half broken by your having consented to marry me and so you see I stand before you now in my true form." Gawain could not believe his luck. "Half broken?" he asked. "Yes, my lord" was the reply. "Sadly I am only allowed to spend half the time in my true form. For the rest I must return to the shape of the same hag which this afternoon you married. And now you must choose, my Lord. Would you have me be my true self at night when we are alone together and the hag during daylight hours?" Gawain, whose mind was flooded with passion at the thought of her beauty filling his bed each night replied eagerly, "Yes, that is certainly how it must be." TEARS FOR FREEDOM In the eye of his beautiful lady appeared a tear. "But sir," she said, "Would you then have me suffer the humiliation of the court who cannot conceal their horror at my ugliness?" Now Gawain, if he was nothing else, was compassionate. He could not bear to bring this beautiful woman a tear of sorrow. "No, of course not," he replied. "It shall be the other way round, of course. You shall be my beautiful wife for the court during daylight hours and the hag at night." But this only made the lady weep the more. "Oh sir, would you then deny me forever the joy and pleasure of your embrace?" She asked. Poor Gawain, who after all was but a man (and man has never found it easy to deal with woman's grief) did not know what to do. After much thought he replied, "My lady, whatever choice I make will be the wrong one. It is therefore for you to choose which you prefer." At the sound of his words the Lady threw herself into his arms in glorious laughter. "In so saying, my Lord, you have given the right answer. You have bestowed upon me what every woman wants—her own way. The spell at last is broken. You will never have to look upon the hideous hag again. I am my true self and it belongs to you forever." Such is the power of accepting that which to ourselves is most loathsome. And such is the power of myth in reminding us of it.

More in personal growth

Leslie Kenton’s Cura Romana®

Fast, Healthy Weight Loss

Leslie Kenton’s Cura Romana® has proudly supported 12,000+ weight loss journeys over the past 12 years. With an overall average daily weight loss of 0.5 - 0.6 lb for women and 0.8 - 1.0 lb for men.

Yesterday’s Average Daily Weight Loss:

on the 2nd of August 2020 (updated every 12 hours)

-0.88 lb
for women
-0.99 lb
for men
-0.88 lb
for women
-0.99 lb
for men

Yesterday’s Average Daily Weight Loss:

on the 2nd of August 2020 (updated every 12 hours)

sign up for our newsletter

download our free book healthy & lean for life