The Planets of Generation X

The rhythms of Astrology have always fascinated me. The “personal planets” like the Sun, the Moon, Venus, Mercury and Mars zip around the zodiac at a relatively rapid pace, and so the transits of these planets happen fast and tend to be short lived. On the other hand the outer planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Chiron, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto move very slowly, so their transits develop over years and affect entire generations. The energy we feel on any given day can be a combination of these short term personal transits and the longer term generational transits.

For those of us who remember Billy Idol, that is, we members of Generation X, the defining transit of our birth was the conjunction of Pluto and Uranus that started in about 1965. Those born before this conjunction are baby boomers and those born after are Generation X.

Have you ever noticed that there was no Generation W? Generation X was not so named because of who we followed, but because we were largely invisible. We are wedged in between the baby boom and the millennial generations who take up all the space in the press. We are hard working and honest. We were born before cable TV, before the home answering machine, before cellular phones. We remember Smoky and the Bandit and we were amazed by CB Radios, which were all the rage in the late 1970s. I remember when we got our first VHS machine. It was before you could even rent movies and there were only a few that you could buy. My Mom invested in Flashdance. I saw it once and then figured the VHS machine was largely useless if you had to pay $75 for a movie. At the $2.00 per hour that I earned baby sitting, it was better for me and my friends to just ride our bikes to the theater, which we did about nine times to watch Star Wars.

Do you remember the phrase “ok boomer” which was a dismissive phrase hurled by Millennials at their Baby Boomer parents? Back before COVID, when the Millennials were taking their Lattes to offices with ping pong tables and basketball hoops in them, they would dismiss the views of members of their parents generation saying “ok Boomer.” Sometimes they would try to aim this phrase at me, but it would never stick, because I am generally not old enough to be their parents. But the Millennials could not seem to get that. Who was this person who is older than me, yet younger than my parents?

Well we are Generation X and we are very quietly coming into our time right now. And there are some major astrological events that are heralding our generational awakening. Most of Generation X will feel two major transits of outer planets in the next several years. The first is likely to be the transiting Neptune in opposition to our Natal Pluto. The second is likely to be transiting Neptune in opposition to our Natal Uranus.

Because we were born under and after the conjunction of Pluto and Uranus, these two planets are very close together in all of our birth charts, and the very slow moving Neptune is now coming into opposition with these planets. Neptune represents our deep spirituality. It is the subtle energy of music, it is our divine connection, and it is our soul contract with our life here on earth. Neptune is the farthest true planet from the Sun and represents our deepest waters. It is sandwiched between the major disruptors of Uranus and Pluto.

Neptune transited in opposition to my Natal Pluto a few years ago, and it came into opposition to my natal Uranus the day before yesterday. This was exactly the day after I had surgery on my vocal cords, and so I have had several days of forced silence to sit with the energy.

I admire those who have deep study of astrology, but I am not one of them. I like to ponder the planets and to see them in the sky, but my understanding of astrology is much more personal and intuitive. When I feel something strong in my life, I often go look at my Time Passages application on my phone to see what is occurring in the sky. And when I see something occurring in the sky, I like to sit with it and feel how the energy is affecting me.

The energy of this one is very clear and obvious to me. If you look at my current chart, which I posted above, you see that it is full of red conflicting aspects. Most of the time we think of these conflicts as difficulties, but they are much more than that. They are also the energy that creates transformation. I personally am experiencing a literal transformation of my voice. My vocal cords are resting for four to five days after surgery, and the image that keeps coming to me is that of an insect in its chrysalis, while in pupates from larvae to adult.

I also feel a new level of maturity and acceptance arising. This process started for me about ten days ago when a close friend of mine shared a hypnotic meditation about patience which brought to my awareness the energy I have of being driven. I have always had inside me an energy of pushing, that is often counterproductive to my happiness. An example of this would be a car ride. Say I’m in the car and I need to be somewhere in 30 minutes, but it’s only 20 minutes away. Why do I grip the steering wheel and take all the short cuts? So I can be there ten minutes early? Why do I not instead take the time to start something interesting on the audio and then take the easy route with few turns even if it’s a little slower? Where is this pushing energy coming from? Not from the outside…it’s coming from within me.

This hypnotic meditation on patience really brought this into my consciousness. And while my surgery was only a few days ago, my ability to speak has been seriously impaired since early January. There have been many instances where I have just decided that it’s not worth arguing or debating with someone. Or not worth talking about some item of the news or some other scandal. Not speaking has been calming my mind.

This has helped me to not take in personally when other people have emotional reactions or if they are disappointed in my reaction to them. I am letting go of the need to talk a lot to fix things. I no longer need to spend a lot of energy trying to explain myself or things to other people. Let them figure it out for themselves a little more. In our spiritual doctrine there is a beautiful hymn that says “you don’t need to give counsel to those who don’t want to listen to you”. And in Portuguese, when they say “you don’t need to” it has a little stronger sense of “you need to not.” Like really, don’t waste your breath on those who do not want to listen. Having this impairment in my voice has helped me a lot with this.

And since these transits I am experiencing are generational, I feel they apply to my peers. We were the first generation coming to disrupt the old order of the industrial world. We were here to lay the ground work for Gen Y (millennials) and Gen Z and to take the reigns from the baby boomers. But really, we can keep our counsel to ourselves when it is not appreciated, and we can share it with those who want to listen. We can walk through life with our divine connection and we can act in integrity. And we can continue to stay out of the news. And we can continue to listen to Billy Idol.

Peace

Lessons From My Dog

PhoDOGgraphy

I was reading through some of the great articles available here, and found one were the author had unapologetically posted several pictures of her dog. I commented that I love PhoDOGraphy, and often personalize shots of landscapes or points of interest with our beloved Frankie. Here he is in early March on a trip up to the frozen Bear Creek waterfall in Telluride Colorado. I wanted to feature one of these pictures of Frankie, and then to write a little bit about some of the great lessons he has taught me.

I may as well disclose that I have undertaken a spiritual path which includes the commitment to make one’s spiritual evolution the most important value in one’s life. If this sounds extreme, it’s tempered by the view that spiritual evolution occurs through participation in the school that we all find ourselves in here in this world and in this life. Our path is not one of going into a cave and seeking to find union with a divine force, but rather to develop by fully incarnating our spirit in the here and now. This is not to cast any disrespect on those who follow a path of long and deep meditation, and of course meditation and prayer are very important in any spiritual practice.

But for me, it’s 80/20, meaning that I try to spend 80% of my time fully engaged here in this material world, and maybe 20% in a broader vision. One of the first things we learn in any meditation based practice is that we can look on ourselves from a higher perspective, I have heard this described as realizing that the “I am” is the observer of our thoughts.

Frankie, on the other hand, lives right behind his eyeballs, and this is my favorite lesson from him. I walk him frequently, and he’s always completely in the flow of his immediate adventure. When he finds a stick on the side of the path and pulls against the leash, his focus is complete. He is not wondering whether he should want that stick, or whether sticks make him happy or any of that. It’s just Frankie and the stick.

I am not a practitioner of Zen, but I have studied it a little, and it is my impression that this is what they call present mindedness. It is the “Be Here Now” that Ram Das talks about. I love to witness this, and now in my own life, when sailing, or skiing, or running or sitting in the woods, I try to adopt this way of being absorbed in the present moment.

There is a really great teacher that I have had the pleasure of learning from. His name is Alex Polari. Alex has an amazing history in that he was part of a group that kidnapped someone from a foreign consulate in Brazil in protest of the military dictatorship there, and then was captured by the fascist military police and spent 8 years in prison there. When he got out, he dedicated his life to the pursuit of spiritual study. Alex explained to a group I was participating in that the our purpose here on earth is to fully incorporate our higher self into this material existence.

I’m not sure if I have this just right, but the feeling I get from this is that we are here as witnesses to creation. Elon Musk often talks about the simulation. If you created a world of an amazing simulation, would you not want then to immerse yourself in your creation so you could really experience it? The idea would be to fully incorporate your consciousness from the higher realm into the experience here. And so Frankie is a good teacher of this. He is definitely fully incorporated here.

Another thing I really admire about Frankie is his capacity to accept (and ask for) praise and affection. I take him with me a lot as I go through my day, and so he has met many of the people I encounter on a regular basis, and he always shows his joy in encountering them and ends up getting his belly rubbed and lots of love and affection dumped on him. He has no reservation or doubt about this. I am not this way at all, and that’s probably a good thing. We offer to each other a tepid peck on the cheek and an A-frame hug, and exchange faint praise. This is not at all Frankie’s style. He’s all in for love and attention.

I do recognize that my life is better because I can spend the other 20% of my time in reflection and see myself from a higher perspective. But I’m not sure we are really all that happier on account of all the thinking we do about everything all the time. Maybe if we just spent our lives in pursuit of a good belly rub we’d all be better off.

Peace.

Bamboo Blooms Once and Dies after 50 Years

I remember my fourth birthday party at the Navy Base in Corpus Christi, Texas. We lived in one of the top apartments of a quadruplex. There was a balcony between the top two apartments that overlooked a small yard with burnt grass, and on the other side of the yard was a large oval shaped stand of oleander. I learned to ride my bike when I was still to short to put my feet on the ground, so I would just crash into the oleander and trust its slender branches to hold me upright. My birthday is early February, and so for my party my mom bought two of the same books of punch out valentines day cards. (I remember this, because I punched them all out when I found them, and got in some trouble for it.). My Mom hung the cards from one book on the oleander bushes, and passed out the other set to the kids who came to my party. I remember there were quite a few of us. With card in hand, you had to walk around the bush until you found your match, and then you received your prize, which I remember being a balsa wood airplane with a rubber band powered propeller. I remember it flew surprisingly well from the balcony above the yard.

And then my Dad went to Vietnam, which I really did not know or understand. I actually was not even really aware that we were in Corpus Christi because he was in Officer Training School. But I know now that he had been drafted as a surgeon and had been shipped off to Vietnam and assigned to a division of Republic of Korea Marines where he put bodies back together in a M.A.S.H. unit that was never more than a mile or two away from the front lines. He learned there to be a brilliant vascular surgeon. If my Dad could not save somebody on the table, then they were just going to die. Plain and simple. He had no restrictions on the need to try novel approaches, and he had to work fast. I think he was chief of surgery at every hospital he ever worked at after that.

My Mom took me and my sister to my father’s parents house in Miami, which was the same house my father had been born into, and was about a mile and a half from Doctor’s Hospital where I was born in 1967. My fifth birthday party was at that house, and I remember this because we had a pony. So it was sometime between my fourth and fifth birthday that we moved back to our hometown of Miami.

My Mom has always had an amazing green thumb, and to pass the time, she would volunteer at the Fairchild Tropical Garden. David Fairchild had been a close personal friend of my Grandmother. So had most of the old Miami families, because back in the 1920s there were not any people in Coconut Grove except those who could stand the heat and the mosquitos. My parents bought the house from my Grandparents, and they moved to a smaller house with more land near snapper creek. This sets the stage for my story, which revolves around a stand of bamboo.

My Mom brought home one day a bucket from an exotic plant sale at Fairchild that had bamboo in it. We planted it in the jungle that was the front half of the acre where the house was. On this land, back in the 1940s, my Dad’s family had dug out the soil from a sink hole and used it for a victory garden, and so in the front yard, which was a beautiful lush tropical jungle, there was this excavation of what we called “The Big Hole”. It’s still there today, and it’s about 15 feet deep. It looks like it was some sort of spring from ancient times. Mom planted the bamboo at the back of the big hole, and I used to try to make blow guns out of it. I also used to sit on the edge of it with my BB gun to shoot toy soldiers that I would set up on the rocky coral ledges on the other side of the hole. I had green good guys who were the American soldiers and grey bad guys who were the Germans. World War II had left such an indelible print of good vs evil that we did not have with Vietnam. With Vietnam, war was the bad guy and the people who fought it were all victims.

This stand of bamboo grew and grew. As the stalks got taller and thicker , they started to sprout horizontal sticks with sharp thorns, and created a completely impenetrable thicket. For many years cat birds would nest inside the thicket. I’m sure several generations of the same family lived in there. They would pop out and coo to me while I shot my BB Gun.

It was there in the big hole that I sat on the day of my wedding to Stephanie and prayed and listened over and over to a hymn called “I Invoke My Master” which talks about being a son of the truth and living in integrity. It was just the right vibration for the start of a strong marriage. My kids grew up going down there too. My Mom put a concrete alligator statue in the bottom, and the kids all believed it came alive at night and wandered around the woods. Maybe it did.

That was 50 years ago that my Mom brought the bamboo home in the bucket. Last month we were all delighted when it bloomed, as you can see in this picture. But then the towering stand of bamboo started to break and fall over. We did a little research and found that this is the end of the life cycle for the bamboo. It lives about 50 years, and grows to 70 feet high with thick rods of bamboo about six inches in diameter, and then it explodes into a giant geyser of bamboo rice and flowers, and then the whole stand dies.

A couple days ago, I went and looked around the base for new shoots, and there simply were none. I remember years ago seeing new shoots protruding from the ground as the stand spread, but now there are none. I had thought that each shoot of bamboo was a separate organism, like a bunch of trees growing close together, like an aspen grove. But the entire stand is a single organism, that blooms and dies.

This amazing creature was planted when I was a boy of five years old. I am now a grandfather of 55 years old, and it feels so poignant.

I often write here about astrology, and for me a lot of astrology is like a clock that measures the progress of our life. We have our twelve year cycles of Jupiter returns, our 29 year cycles of Saturn returns, our 84 year Uranus return, and on the shorter scale we have our 29 day lunar months, our four times a year Mercury retrograde, our beautiful oscillating Venus clock as she moves from the evening star to the morning star and back again, and the faithful sun marching out one year at a time… never in retrograde, like the march of a maracá.

This bamboo takes me from my early childhood almost right up to my second Saturn return, and its demise is a milestone in my life. I have been going through a personal process of letting go of being the one who does all the tasks, the Dad role, and of assuming the role of the Grandfather. In the Tarot, this is the fools journey from the Knight to the King, where the Knight is in the battle swinging the sword and the King exerts influence from wisdom and moral authority, but no longer is the one taking the actions.

The other day, when I walked down to the big hole to take these pictures, I could still feel the presence of my little boy spirit with the BB gun. I could still feel the cat bird’s soft coo in the bamboo. I could feel the strength in my heart on my wedding day as I listened to that hymn, and I can feel the incredulous gaze of the children as they pondered the concrete alligator. All this happened under the shade of this big bamboo, and now it is casting those memories into the air in an explosion of flowers.

My Mom, she was about 30 years old when she brought home that bucket from Fairchild Garden, is 80 now. A whole lifetime has passed, but so little has changed.

It makes me feel peace in my spirit. I hope this story brings peace to yours too.

Peace.

Spring brings all of the planets to the dawn sky

As I have mentioned before, I am a big fan of Astrology, and my favorite part of the study of Astrology is the connection it brings me to actually going outside to view the planets. They are the path of brilliant shining stones, the universal treasure, the light of the firmament, and they will all be there in all their glory for us to see this Spring. You may have felt the powerful energy of the recent conjunctions of Mars and Venus with Pluto, and for those of you who are waking up before sunrise with daylight savings time, Mars and Venus have been putting on a spectacular show with the dimmer Saturn just below them. All you have to do is look to the eastern sky before dawn and Venus will immediately catch your attention.

But this is just the beginning of an amazing spectacle that continues throughout the year, as if we are being rewarded for the passages we have all gone through in the last couple of years. And so here I would like to outline some things you can easily observe in the sky to help you feel connected to the rhythms of the celestial clock.

My favorite aspect of this is Jupiters path through the zodiac over its twelve year “synodic orbital period” (the time it takes for Jupiter to go all the way around the zodiac from our perspective on earth, as opposed to from the perspective of the Sun). I remember I was in the middle of the Amazon Rain Forest in the spiritual community of Céu do Mapia with my son in late June and early July of 2019. During that year, Jupiter was at opposition to the sun during this exact period. I took the photograph that you see above simply by placing my camera on the ground facing straight up into the sky at midnight. Because Jupiter goes all the way around the zodiac almost exactly every 12 years, it reaches opposition one month later from one year to the next. So in 2020, Jupiter was opposite the Sun in late July and early August. In 2021, Jupiter was in opposition in early September, and in 2022, Jupiter will be there again in October.

So if we watch Jupiter in the night sky, we can see the passage of years. I always remember my trip to Mapia was with Jupiter in this position in late June during the festivities surrounding the Summer Solstice.

As I said up above, the planetary show for the spring of 2022 is already underway in the pre dawn sky, with Venus, Mars and Saturn being the main attractions. But Jupiter is right there in the glow of the rising Sun. The Sun goes through the zodiac 12 times faster than Jupiter from our perspective, so every day at dawn, Jupiter will be a little higher. Soon it will start to be visible through the glare of the morning Sun, and then every month it will rise about one hour earlier, and therefore be about 30 degrees higher in the sky each month. I love to watch the advance of Jupiter across the sky, so I will be out there in the morning when I walk the dog looking for it.

Venus, on the other hand, travels through the Zodiac faster than the Sun. It happens to be at about the point where it is highest in the morning sky. One really interesting fact about Venus, is that it’s never visible at midnight. Think about it. Venus is closer to the Sun than the Earth, so it can never be on the opposite side of Earth from the Sun. Instead, Venus oscillates in a beautiful pattern between being the morning star and the evening star. Right now, Venus is as high in the sky as it can get, and now it will start diving back into the sun, until it goes behind the Sun and reappears as the evening star.

But first, it will pass both Jupiter and Saturn. So we have these conjunctions to look forward too. First Venus will pass Saturn, and then it will pass Jupiter. It already passed Mars and Pluto. All you have to do is go outside before dawn and you can see this for yourself!

Something extraordinary is about to happen, and that is that in early June, all nine planets will be present in the morning sky. Of course, only five of them are visible to the naked eye, but they will all be there. You can try to find them with a telescope (I’m not sure if this is possible with Pluto and Neptune, but it is possible with Uranus), but for me, I am satisfied just using a Star Gazer app on my phone to locate them. Then I just ponder the sky and it’s not hard for me to imagine the presence of the planet there. I’m quite sure I can feel the energy of it. Even if you could see it with a telescope, these far outer planets would be simply dim points of light.

But Jupiter and Venus have much more to offer with a telescope. Jupiter will offer up its Moons to a casual observer. I remember the first time I saw the four principle Moons of Jupiter through a telescope. It was on a field of icy snow in the dead of winter in Sun Valley, Idaho. I was astounded and humbled. What a beautiful and profound hidden treasure. I remember the four Moons were all lined up on one side of Jupiter, and I was surprised at how far their orbits took them from the planet. I remember a couple weeks later taking my sons outside to repeat the observation, and was so surprised to see two Moons on either side of the planet. It had never occurred to me that they would change their orientation like this, but they did sure enough. Again I was astounded.

Most recently, I set up a telescope to observe the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in December of 2020. This was on our chocolate farm in Bahia Brazil, that offers and amazing view of the night sky. There again were the Moons of Jupiter, and within the arc of their orbit, was Saturn. Just by putting my eye on a simple telescope I was able to directly observe Saturn so close to Jupiter that it was encompassed by the orbit of Jupiter’s Moons. I will never again see that in this lifetime, unless I travel through the solar system on something other than Earth!

Venus (and Mercury) also offer some grand spectacles to an observer with a telescope. These two planets, because they are closer to the Sun than the Earth, have phases like our Moon. So when you look at Venus, it can appear as a bright crescent. The same is true for Mercury, but be very careful not to let the morning Sun get into the view of your telescope our you can really fry your retina. Best only do this before dawn.

So in early June, all nine planets will be in the sky before dawn at the same time. I don’t remember the last time this happened. But this is not the end of the show! Saturn and Jupiter will continue their path toward opposition. Saturn, with its slower orbit, will reach opposition sooner than Jupiter. Without looking, I was say this will happen in late July. Then, Jupiter will reach its opposition in late summer, which will be the best time to see its Moons with a telescope.

And Mars, don’t forget Mars!, will be putting on a show too. Mars will reach its opposition in early December and it will be huge and bright and red and also fun to look at with your telescope.

You can read all about the energies of all these events in a good blog. I recommend Astrobutterfly on this platform. But I find sometimes that I just need to sit in the quite while I gaze upon these shining stones, and the energy speaks to me directly. I think you will find you can feel in your heart the power of our celestial neighbors.

Enjoy the brilliant spring. Pray for Peace. Show gratitude. Love your neighbor, and enjoy the celestial beauty, the universal gift of the firmament.

Peace

Venus, Mars and the Butterfly Effect

It’s amazing how fast the days go by. It’s been quite some time since I last sat down to write, and there are a few topics that come to mind. The first is the array of planets visible in the morning sky on the eastern horizon, which I had the fortune of seeing this morning. Frankie (our dog) woke up about an hour before dawn, and I had already been lying awake in bed, so when he asked to go out, I put the leash on him and walked down to Biscayne Bay to see Venus in the morning sky.

Venus made its transit of the Sun sometime back in January I think it was, and thus it switched it’s role from the evening star to the morning star. I had brought my telescope with me to Telluride so I could look at the Mars transit that occurred on about March 6th, but alas, Telluride is in a box canyon that opens to the west. On the east side is Ajax Mountain, and Venus, at least from our perspective, does not clear the mountain ridge before the sun comes up. I was not able to see it while we were in Colorado.

But this morning I did get to see Venus, still pretty close to Mars. It was so bright like a diamond. Mars was down and to the right a little bit, and then Saturn was closer to the horizon. It’s so pretty when we can see several planets in one view. Pluto was also there, but not visible to the naked eye. Jupiter, in Pisces, was still below the horizon, and I was cold and wanted to go get back in bed, and did not wait to see it rise. But Jupiter will start gaining prominence as the year progresses, until it reaches opposition, I think in September this year.

Have you already started to feel the shift in energy after the conjunctions of Mars and Venus and Pluto? Remember COVID, which suddenly left our headlines to be replaced by constant news about the war in Ukraine? Finally we are through with this pandemic it seems. Funny that the only exception to this is China, where they struggled so hard for years to prevent the pandemic from landing there. But all they succeeded in doing was to delay the inevitable. For the rest of the world, we now have some immune protection and the pandemic will go the way of all pandemics, all the way back to the plague of 1655, which tend to last about two years.

For all the ineffective and pointless reactions we had to the pandemic, we succeeded in shortening it’s duration by about exactly zero. Sometimes I think we would all have been much better off had they never identified COVID as a novel virus and had just written it off as an unusually harsh flu season. If that sounds cold hearted, it’s really not. People who get sick and die from the flu are just as deserving of compassion as those who got sick and died from COVID. The recognition that our responses were ineffective does not reflect a failure of compassion. When you compare the response in Florida, which is led by a regrettably pro-Trump governor, to that of California, you can really see how ineffective all the responses were. Florida eliminated mask mandates and lock downs state wide, while California leaned into every available restriction on liberty, and California fared no better than Florida. Futility of the fight against nature.

Another concept I wanted to touch on is the butterfly effect. I was talking to Stephanie the other day about the war in Ukraine and about how the USA did exactly the same thing in Iraq. Also, in the 1980s it was Russia that invaded Afghanistan and fought for twenty years while the USA supplied stinger missles and other weapons to the “freedom fighters,” but then these same people that we supported in their opposition to the Russian invasion became our enemies, and so we invaded their country, and faced people we had trained and armed. But now they were not freedom fighters anymore, they were terrorists. Same guys. Same pile of rocks.

Of course all war is barbaric, and if you follow the dollars, who is making money off the war, it’s always the same oil and gas companies, arms suppliers and corrupt security firms like Haliburton and Blackwater who make the billions of dollars. Another war drives the price of oil above $100 per barrel, and suddenly talk of the Keystone Pipeline and shale oil are back on the table.

So Stephanie told me to write a post about it, and I commented that while I do really appreciate that there are a few people who read this blog, I suggested that my audience was not wide enough to have a material effect. I said I can blog about it but it won’t change anything.

And then she made a point that really stuck with me. She said… but remember the butterfly effect. I loved the book “Chaos” which describes in detail how sensitivity to initial conditions can give a small input great power over time. There is a point to writing some of these things down, because even affecting the consciousness of one other person in a positive way can be like the effect of a butterfly flapping its wings and changing the weather.

I hope we can all “change our weather” by awakening our consciousness. Every email I send out has the signature “The expansion of the consciousness will be able to save the Earth”. As my beloved God Mother teaches in a hymn that she received… “we must pass through the suffering and aggression that humanity is suffering without the least bit of need.” All this suffering is actually not necessary. We have everything we need in the material world to take care of everyone alive on this planet and to take care of the planet too. But instead we have wars and all this suffering and aggression. It is only a small shift in the consciousness that is necessary and we can all wake up from this bad dream. Flap your wings butterflies. Let’s change the world.

Peace.

Lessons from The Rhythm of Life

I have been reading a book titled The Rhythm of Life by Matthew Kelly which a dear friend recommended to me. The gist of the book is that we should dedicate our lives to becoming the best version of ourselves. Matthew Kelly has sold over 40,000,000 copies of his books in 30 different languages. I thought that to have such a following, he must certainly have a few good things to say, and indeed he does. He explains that to be the best version of ourselves, we have four basic types of need–physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual. These needs he calls “secondary” needs, because it is assumed that the basic needs of food and shelter and air and water are satisfied. He makes the very good point that we are here to thrive, not only to survive. Once the basic requirements for survival are satisfied, we move on to our secondary needs, which are the things we should pursue in our lives to become the best versions of ourselves.

A lot of what he says resonates with me, and I felt good that my life in general reflects the basic values and priorities that the book recommends. But I have been suffering from a physical malady over the last several weeks that is causing me some concern and that is the result of my somewhat lazy and gluttonous behavior. Early in January, I caught a mild virus that caused me to develop laryngitis. I kept up my routine as usual, expecting that it would go away, but it did not. Now we are on the cusp of March, and so it has been about seven weeks since I first noticed the symptoms, and they continue. My behavior has been to pursue superficial wants and cravings and habits, and to ignore what is truly important to me, which is my physical well being.

The second lesson that really struck me concerns universal emotional needs and how these are interrelated to our physical well being. I have always strived to develop a very independent nature, where my own life and self image are not dependent on other people. I have been resistant to the idea that we “need” acceptance from others. I thought of this as a weakness and a failure to know my own self. Even in my last post I mentioned that I had the emotional maturity of a seven year old in that I see in myself a desire to elicit the approval of others. One of my spiritual teachers in the doctrine that I personally follow has helped me to persevere even when faced with opposition from others. I do happen to be highly effective in life, and I do get a lot of things done, and this often creates conflicts. My Padrinho teaches me that “dogs do not bark at park-ed cars”. The point is that people who are accomplishing things and bringing about change become targets of criticism.

My own work in this area was to learn how to accomplish my life’s work without causing unnecessary upset. I would focus on being considerate and trying to see how my actions impacted others, and also to focus on communication and developing consensus. I learned I could be more effective when I listened to everyone. But at the same time, as anyone has served on a large committee knows, you can’t make everyone happy. So there is a balance between listening and being considerate on one hand, and moving forward and accomplishing things on the other.

I would seek humility as a refuge in these situations, but I would not let the negative attention that I attract from time to time deter me from my purpose. And so it was that I adopted a rather stoic attitude of not “needing” the approval of other people. The Rhythm of Life gave me some very new insight into this area. The book says that to become the best version of ourselves, we need relationships with other people. Other people and our good relationships help us to have clarity and help us to become the best we can be. They also give us the opportunity to serve.

And so it is that we have all kinds of different relationships. We have superficial and transactional relationships and we have more intimate relationships. The author points out that we have to share our lives with others in measure to the relationship. So for instance, if I have a bad day and unload my baggage on someone who is not in close relationship with me, I will perhaps feel somewhat better for having articulated my story, but if I do not have a sufficient level of intimacy in my relationship with the other person, then this will be seen as over sharing, and will alienate them. Instead of feeling heard and understood, I will just feel awkward and embarrassed.

On the other hand, and here I am about to return to my throat, if we do not share enough with people who we are intimate with, then it seems like we are distant and cold, and this can, over time, impair the relationship and leave us feeling hollow and frustrated. In the case of my throat, I do have some fear around the situation. I don’t think I’m alone in that my imagination can start to run a little bit when I have a physical ailment. I have a tendency to stick my head in the sand and to not want to talk about it. And I hate going to the doctor, because I’m always afraid they are going to actually create some terrible condition, like Schrödinger’s cat, by looking for it. This might be a little bit of an aside, but I do believe that consciousness forms our material reality, and so by looking for something we actually create it. So if I have a problem with my throat, and I’m afraid that I might have scar tissue on my vocal chords, the last thing I want to do is “open the box” and find the dead cat. If I can ignore it long enough, maybe it will just go away.

And so for me, to speak to someone about a medical condition is a very peculiar dynamic. It requires real intimacy for me to want to reveal a medical condition, but more than that, it requires that the person I am talking to not to have a reaction of wanting me to go to the doctor. I will use my mother as a good example here. If I talk to my Mom about a headache, she’s going to want me to get an MRI. So I don’t talk to her about it at all.

Intimacy is new topic for me. I always have equated intimacy with sex, but this book has a much more nuanced explanation of the need for intimacy. Intimacy is revealing the true nature of ourselves to another person. This takes a lot of trust and it takes a lot of courage. And sometimes it even takes a degree of detachment from our personal lives.

Even this blog explores the boundaries of intimacy. I am talking about things that are personal to me, and it’s funny because there is a small audience of people reading this (thank you). Some part of me wants to reveal more about my personal life here, but at the same time, I am aware that this will become part of the permanent record, and so someone who is not acting in my best interest might in the future do some background checking on me, and come across this in an adversarial context, and then I will be eating my words. So when I write here, I have to write in a public voice about personal matters, and so they are all discussed at a level of general applicability. For instance, I can say here that my habits are exacerbating my laryngitis, but I do not want to get into detail about my personal bad habits in this public forum.

So this intimacy requires confidentiality as well. Several of the people I love in my life have come to my aid. I promised that I would go to the Ear Nose and Throat doctor if my throat did not improve before we return to Miami from Telluride. Today I went ahead and made that appointment. I have also developed a list of self care practices to see if I can heal this myself before that appointment. These were also recommended to me by people I love and trust, such as gargling salt water and avoiding anything that will cause my throat to become dry and irritated. It’s these people who love me enough and care about me enough that want me to be around for a long time who are causing me to take the right actions to “be the best version of myself” in terms of my physical health.

So there are several different types of intimate relationships that we all “need” to become the best version of ourselves. There is our intimate partner in the traditional sense of the word. And beyond this we need a handful of other intimate relationships with people who truly know us for who we are. These relationships help us to become the best people that we can be, and in turn, it is our joy to reciprocate and help them to become the best versions of themselves too.

I am very fortunate to have my wife and family a handful of these true friends in my life. These are the relationships I really need to be the best version of myself and to fulfill my purpose here. On top of that we have so many more superficial relationships that fit together with our lives and we exchange good with each other, but at a lesser degree of intimacy. I pay to get a haircut and I chat with the stylist, and I get a good haircut and some humorous conversation. Maybe we exchange a few treasures, but it is a level of public persona that engages in these interactions.

We all have so many masks that we need to get through our days. I have the expert in aviation mask, I have the financial analysis mask, and the attorney mask, and I wear these when I go out in public. Then there is the level of people who know me a little better than that. They see my devotion to nature, they hear me play guitar and see me play with my little puppy dog. This is the realm of personal relationships. And then there is a small handful of people who we share our true hearts with.

For me, this case of laryngitis, coupled with this brilliant book, has really taught me an important lesson. It’s to expose something I don’t like about myself to those who I truly love, and then to accept their concern as help instead of criticism. And so I am going to gargle my salt water, and I’m going to go the the ENT and I’m going to keep lozenges in my pocket, and refrain from whispering, and avoid anything that causes dryness of the mucous membranes. I’m going to do all these things so I can be the best I can be physically. And this is really something that I truly want, because I recognize that my health is fundamental to my overall quality of my short life on this awesome planet.

I would also like to offer a prayer of peace and forgiveness for all the suffering in our world right now. May our universal celestial mother cover the world with a mantel of peace.

Peace.

The Audience of the Ego

Is it a common human trait to want popularity and recognition? I think it must be, and if I do just a little bit of honest introspection, I can see that I share in this craving for the attention of others. Certainly anyone who is reading this is aware of the ego and it’s need to feel important in the eyes of others. We hear so many spiritual seekers chastising themselves and others for “coming from ego.” It is my ego that wants recognition, and this is somehow bad, right? Like a truly enlightened spiritual being would be free of ego and would simply be without needing the validation from the outside.

I would like to suggest a little kinder treatment of the ego. For me the ego is the part of my consciousness that identifies as “me,” and this is the student in the spiritual school of life. It would not be much of a spiritual school if its whole purpose was to be rid of all the students. It’s not as simple as that. We cannot escape our ego to attain enlightenment. We can console ourselves so that we do not crave what we do not have. We can remind ourselves to be true to ourselves and not to depend on the approval of others. We can accept when others do not want to hear what we have to say, or when they do not recognize us for our knowledge or achievements. But we cannot be rid of our egos. We must be kinder to ourselves than that.

I think my ego is about seven years old. Really. I know how to act in life to avoid making a fool of myself. I have learned to bite my own tongue when I want to clamor for attention. But the truth is, deep down, there is a part of me that has the emotional maturity of a seven year old boy, and this part of me wants to be popular, wants to be picked first, and wants to get recognized by the teacher. If someone does not like or respond to me in the way I want, then this bothers my inner 7 year old. I naturally then strive to attain their approval.

This comes up a lot in the spiritual path. There are so many people who are so famous for presenting their spiritual truths. Some of these are quite profound and some are quite common. It really does not matter, because each has its own audience. I remember the time in my life when I first read a spiritual book. It was A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. The wisdom contained in that book about the ego and inner peace was a huge revelation to me. I had never considered that before. I had never looked at myself from a higher perspective. I did not even know where the path that started there would lead.

This experience reminds me of another experience. I remember when I was young and I read my first “grown up” book. It was The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlam. I was amazed by the character of Jason Bourne. Steel blue eyes, master of martial arts, cool under any circumstances. Wow. It was the first time I had ever encountered such a character, and I was riveted by it. And as I continued to read more, I started to see that all of the heroes in all of the books were human superlatives. The first time I encountered this, I was amazed, and as I continued, I saw that it was really very common.

And so it is in the study of the spirit. That first encounter with topics like the ego, and setting boundaries, and finding the divine within were so profound. And once I developed a conversational familiarity with these topics, I developed the capacity to share them with others. I could share the new knowledge I had, and the people who I could share it with were the people that did not have it yet.

So to being a good teacher is not really so much about having the highest knowledge. It’s about finding and communicating with those who are thirsty for the knowledge. So maybe in this life I have advanced beyond the elementary stage, or at least I’ve gone far enough to have dipped below the surface. Yet I do not have a large constituent of followers. There is no one outside my door clamoring for me to deliver to them pearls of wisdom.

I almost went in the other direction, which is equally egotistical. I almost was tempted to say “nobody wants to hear what I have to say” But that’s really not at all true either. There are now 16 people who will receive notification of this writing, and some of them will perhaps read this, and maybe even relate to it. There is a small group of people in my life who I share wisdom with, in both directions. The ego wants to either be a million or zero. It’s not very comfortable with ordinary success.

And so with spiritual truths, it is really not so much about who is presenting them. Most of them have already been presented over the several thousand years of spiritual study in our society. Some of most profound interactions I have had come from people who I met from indigenous cultures of the Amazon. It’s so interesting to me to hear from them. They have such profound wisdom to share.

One is “there are none so small that they have nothing to teach and none so great that they have nothing to learn, sometimes we are the great, sometimes we are the small, and it is in the balance that we walk our lives.” That was a good one from one of the few people I have met in my life who was actually a shaman. She was explaining why it was so important to always have the mind of a child and not think we know everything. She continued, when we think we know something, then we are blocked from further knowledge. Did not Christ also speak of having the mind of a child?

Another pearl I received from that was how to listen. I was talking with my friend and she was bowing her head with her eyes closed and not responding to me at all. I feared that what I was saying was not interesting and that she was simply suffering my boorish talking until I was finished. Not at all she said. She said when you truly want to listen you have to bow your head and close your eyes so that the words come into your ears and drop right down to the heart without going into the mind first. If they go into the mind first, then the mind immediately starts thinking of responses and of how the information fits into the mind’s view of the world. But if you can let the words travel straight to the heart you can connect with the heart of the person who is sharing with you, and after they are done speaking, you can take this gift from the heart up to the mind and then you will maybe have something to say about it or think about it.

She also told me, Spencer, in your world, in your life, you can go where you want. If someone or something is not to your liking, you can be done with them and simply move on. You can go away. But here in the tribe, in our culture, there is no away. There is only the tribe and the jungle. If you go “away,” or into the jungle by yourself, well death waits for you there. Certain death. There is no “away” for them, and so it’s very important to learn how to get along with your 50 or so tribe mates in your village. So profound.

I see so many people today selling some version of shamanism, and I can’t help but react with some contempt. It seems that there are so many people offering shamanic healing and practices. Some part of me resents this, but in honesty, that is only the part of me that is envious of the recognition they receive. I (my ego?) would protest that I am not like that, but is that true? Am I really not like that, or am I simply not very successful at that?

It’s so important not to judge, but it’s hard not to as well. Maybe someone who holds themselves out as a shaman is able to access some people who really crave an introduction to the spiritual path, and maybe the title of shaman gives another person a justification or reason for listening to the wisdom that is being offered. I might have to exercise discernment to make a decision for myself about whether I want to follow such a person. But it’s not at all appropriate for me to judge them. But I do anyway right? Some part of me puts them down. There is part of me that says “oh another California Shaman”. I might even joke, how can you be sure if someone is a shaman, well one clear sign is they are not from California. But really that’s just me wishing I shared in their popularity. What harm are they doing to me?

Is it the same with celebrity? I have met a few celebrities in my life. I always feel this strange desire to be seen by them. Is that familiar? It reminds me of an old Saturday Night Live bit where Martin Short dreams of meeting Pat Sajak on Wheel of Fortune. He has this fantasy world where he and Pat Sajak are best friends. Isn’t that the appeal? Don’t they have their fame because we all want some of what they have?

And they do have something special. It has been called the “it factor”. It’s a larger than life energy that draws us to them and gives them power. Some use it for good, some for their own self destruction, and some seem not to be able to control it at all. The famous people I have had good fortune to meet all seemed to me to have their lives very well put together, but this is not what I see in the news. What appears in the news usually looks more like a train wreck. Maybe that’s because as soon as we build someone up we want to tear them down.

And so that’s were we find ourselves. I have the knowledge and experience that I have, and the truth, or lack of truth, speaks for itself. I can speak my truth and maybe only 16 people will have the chance to read it. Others might speak and have hundreds of thousands of followers hanging on every word. I can’t really seek followers, that would be a lot like a dog chasing its tail. But I can seek the truth, and maybe there will be someone who benefits in some small measure from something I have shared. But to continue, it really has to be me that learns from what I am writing. It has to be enough for me to write what I need to learn.

Peace.

Ego, Karma, Personality, and Forgiveness – freedom through the examination of your conscience.

It’s a super rainy day here, and I came to my office by myself to listen to vinyl records and do some writing. I sat for a while before opening my computer in anticipation of the barrage of notifications and distractions I would have to wade through on my way to this blank screen. It seems there are so many forces out there constantly taking us out of the present moment and transporting our minds to distant conflicts. I often admire my little dog Frankie because he lives right behind his eyeballs. Constantly present. Here I am already distracted thinking that I need to cancel a meeting I had planned to go down to the marina and measure the depths of the boat slips at low tide. It’s pouring down rain on a Sunday. That’s done, and now I’m back here. Small distractions everywhere.

One of the ideas that has been sitting with me is the interplay between our ego, our personality, and our karma. I often hear a lot about these topics individually, but I do not very often here about them being talked about together. So what is the relationship between our ego and our Karma? To me it seems like one creates the other, much like the ancient image of the snake eating its tail.

There was a spiritual master from Brazil who lived from the late 1800s until 1971. His name was Mestre Irineu, and from the time he was very young, he had dreams of a celestial mother who would keep her eye on him. If he did something wrong, she would come in his dreams and punish him. She would roll him in the hot sand or in the mud of a rice paddy with sharp rice shoots pointing up. It was not for him to steal or take advantage.

Mestre Irineu has many hymns that he used to sing that talk about his mother is always watching him. I used to think that meant that there was a benevolent supernatural force that kept track of him and made sure no harm would befall him–kind of like a guardian angel queen of the forest. But when I heard the story of the mother that would appear in his dreams, I knew it was much more than this. She would watch his every step and hold him to account. There was no escaping her watchful eye.

This is like our Karma. We can never get away from it. We often try, as they say, we do our tricks down low, thinking that the master does not know. But of course he does. Everything is recorded in the record of our own karma, because our karma is our own conscience. We can deny the truth, we can avoid the consequences of our actions, we can hope that nobody finds out the truth, but there is no escaping our own conscience. We might fool even ourselves, but never our karma.

Let’s say for instance that we tell a little lie to someone and make up an excuse for not doing something that we did not want to do. We may very well have been justified in just being upfront and saying, for instance, I know we had plans for dinner tonight, but I’m feeling tired and would rather not go. But instead we say we had a headache and could not go. It’s probably not even morally wrong to do that because it really does not cause any harm to anyone, but what does it do to us?

The psychology of this is very interesting. The next time someone tells us they cannot do something because they have a headache, we will doubt them. We will wonder what the real reason is. Because we ourselves told a little lie to smooth out a social awkwardness, then we will see this in the world. This of course happens all the time. Do you not frequently receive excuses that you know are not true in the absolute sense? “I’m sorry I was late, you know, traffic.” Like you did not know there would be traffic in Miami at 5:00 on a Friday? Ok sure.

But we can also let this go right? Do I really care if someone has a doctor appointment or if they just don’t want to go to lunch that day? Does it matter? The important information, that I’m glad to receive in time to change my own plans, is that for some reason that my friend does not want to explain, lunch is not going to happen. Maybe they have to go do something else that they don’t want to talk about. Maybe they have a job interview and don’t want to tell anyone that they are searching for a job. It really does not matter to me personally what the reason is, the simple fact is I need to make new plans for lunch.

But the point is that we record our own actions in our own memory, and this becomes the lens through which we see the world. If we steal from our neighbors, then we expect our neighbors to steal from us. If we hate other people because of their race, we will be afraid when we walk past people of that race, because we will see them as feeling the same towards us. If we cheat in our relationships, we will be unable to trust. Our actions become our Karma in this way. It’s the collection of our past actions that is stored in our conscience and frames our perspective on the world.

This in turn, becomes our ego. It becomes who we think we are. It becomes how we see the world. The ego is a very illusive being that lives inside our conscience. It wants recognition, approval, acceptance, and to be admired. But it also knows the truth about what we deserve and what we have earned. So, often, what we want and what we deserve do not really align, and we experience distress. And it is this distress that often leads us to seek a solution.

And so it is that the ego is the patient that shows up at the door of a therapist, it is the initiate who starts a 10 day vipasaana, the ego is the seeker who holds its first cup of ayahuasca, it is the lonely soul that starts the Camino de Santiago. And the first thing the ego bumps into on this path of self discovery an objection to the notion that we are receiving just what we deserve. We don’t like this medicine very much. We often want to point to other reasons for our failures in business, in relationships, in school, in overcoming addictions, in whatever we are failing at. We don’t like to think that we deserve what we get. But the ancient wisdom is unrelenting. You reap what you sow, and that is what we all deserve.

The first lesson in all of these paths is to learn to examine your own conscience. It is all written there just as clear as a book, for those who want to see. But we usually don’t see it. And this is where good friends really come in handy, because they usually see things from a little different perspective. Sure our friends have their own distortions in their own lenses, but it’s not the same distortion as the one we have, and so another perspective can help us to see the truth. If we want to.

Have you ever had a friend who complains about the same thing over and over? Another lousy job? Another lousy boyfriend? Another excuse for why they did whatever they always do? Continuations of self defeating behavior? A good friend can hold the light on what we don’t want to see, but it’s up to us to open our eyes.

Our egos hold onto wounds and resentments like little treasures. These are little treasured bits of evidence that prove that the world is unfair and out to get us. They are the stories we tell to ourselves, and to anyone who will listen, that justify us. These stories paint us in favorable light. How could we have been expected to do better given the awful circumstances? Of course we could not. These become the stories about who we are.

And so it is that our actions, in this life and in others, are recorded in our conscience, and this becomes the lens through which we see the world, and this forms our ego. And our ego then manifests itself as our personality. The personality is how this complex presents itself to others in the outside world. Karma is our history, ego is the result, and personality is the display.

We come into this world already with a Karma from our previous lives, or at least that’s what the ancient wisdom traditions of the east tell us. We come into this incarnation with the karmic baggage from our previous incarnations. We continue to play those same stores out in this life time, until we dissolve these karmic blocks through the process of forgiveness. Forgiveness was preached by the spiritual master known as Christ in the Judeo christian frame of reference. It comes as compassion and non-attachment from the east. All of the true wisdom traditions have the same prescription, even if the colorful stories are different. It does not much matter whether you believe in a god with an elephant head and a human body, or a god in the form of a man who was born of a human woman through immaculate conception. Stories of God coming into human form exist in all wisdom traditions, and the most important message they bring is the message of forgiveness.

This was a difficult topic for me initially when I started my spiritual path. I was super angry and feeling the victim. I was feeling misunderstood, and I thought the treatment I was receiving was unjust. And so when the notion of forgiveness was laid at my feet I initially did not understand. Why forgive people who continue to do me wrong? Turn the cheek so you can slap me again? That sounds like a sucker to me. But here in the battle, it is the sword of forgiveness that cuts the most.

Forgiveness is simply the ability to leave behind the treasures of resentment that the ego holds onto. It is the release of the stories about how we were wronged and did not get what we deserved. It is abandonment of the idea that we live in an unfair world that is out to get us. It is simply the determination that we accept the world and our role in it, and we are not going to carry around all this baggage anymore.

My favorite teacher of this is an imaginary baboon that is a friend of mine. This baboon friend is ornery. He lives in a tree and shouts insults at any who walk by, and if you stop to take issue with his insults, he will bombard you with monkey poo from the top of his tree. You can stand at the bottom of the tree and point your finger and yell, while he throws monkey poo down upon you. You can walk off and tell your friends about what a bad monkey my baboon friend is. You can hold onto your resentment, and you can judge other baboons to be the same way, and maybe some of them are. But really, would you argue with the baboon? Would you want to hold on to resentment?

It’s easy to say “no, of course I’m not going to hold resentment towards a baboon.” We can all see that there is no point in expecting the baboon to behave any differently. Baboon gonna do what baboon gonna do. But what about your coworker who routinely fails to show up and leaves you holding their shift? What then? Well “what then” is you tell your boss that your coworker’s delinquency is not your responsibility, and you don’t take their shift. And you smile and go home.

See this dynamic? If you stay and take the shift for your delinquent coworker, your boss might be happy, and your coworker will thank you and give you a great story for why this time was different, cause their phone was not charged and their car died. You will be left holding the bag of resentment with a story of how you are the victim. But it is your own action that causes you to suffer. Or maybe, having embraced your power, you might choose to take the shift, for time and a half. Your choice. No resentment.

Let’s say you were looking forward to seeing someone, and they stand you up. Ok that’s a bummer right? Your lunch did not go as expected. If you are quick, you can still make the best of it, but let’s grant that it’s a disappointment. But the next time, bring a book. Because if they stand you up again, it’s your own fault if you are disappointed. Forgive but don’t be a victim. We all have this power, but most of us don’t see or appreciate it.

So if we examine our conscience, we will see how we sowed the seeds of our own harvest. We can forgive the rolls others have played in bringing them to pass, and we can modify our own actions in the future. We can plant new seeds next time.

And so through a process of self examination and forgiveness, we can clean our conscience and release our karma. It’s as easy as that. And as we relax our karma and let go of our collections of resentments, as we clean the lens through which we see the world, we get lighter and lighter. We expect peace, harmony, love, truth and justice in the world, and we receive it.

And after practicing this for years and years, we can start to get a little quicker. When someone cancels on us with a flimsy excuse, we don’t dwell on it. We just bask in the divine love of the sun that is always there for all of us. May the sun shine down on you.

Peace

Sales – The Easiest High Paying Job or the Hardest Low Paying Job

For the last thirteen years of my corporate career, I worked in sales originating loans for private aircraft. My manager at the company I worked for was one of my best mentors. He taught me that sales was either the easiest high paying job or the hardest low paying job, and the difference was up to us. Successful salesmanship is a way of being that enables you to help people who trust you to get what they need. Unsuccessful salesmanship, on the other hand, involves trying to persuade people to buy products, whether they need them or not, so that you can meet your sales quota. You can see that you can work very hard to achieve mediocre results, or you can have results just flowing to you. Which would you rather do?

The Key to Successful Sales is Manifesting Abundance

I was first introduced to the concept of manifestation and abundance through the Abraham Hicks Vortex Meditations that a friend referred me to on Christmas Eve 2011. I realize now what I did not know then, and that is that the key to Sales Success is abundant thinking. In a world of abundance everything we need naturally flows to us with little effort. There is enough in the world for everyone to be satisfied, and success comes easily. From this frame of reference, a good sales person needs only to help others to get what they want, and success flows naturally.

In a world of scarcity, on the other hand, we compete for limited resources. There is a fixed amount of stuff in the world, and this stuff is not enough to satisfy everyone, and so it’s up to us to get as much as we can get. It is a world of competition, poverty and stress. When we go into sales from this perspective, the very difficult job of a sales person is to somehow convince potential customers to do what the sales person wants. This scarcity vibration permeates our being, and other people pick up on it.

As a Sales Person Remember that Others Feel the Same Way

Are you familiar with the polarity of magnets? Have you ever noticed that when you line them up correctly, north pole to south, they stick together automatically, but when you line them up in the opposite orientation, they repel each other. I remember being so mesmerized by this force. It’s the same force we feel with sales people.

Have you ever walked into a store to take a quick look at something that caught your eye, and then had a sales person send you right back onto the street? It feels like a misaligned magnet. As soon as they approach, I feel their energy and I am either attracted to them or repelled. I have literally seen over eager sales people chase customers right back onto the street. Have you ever had this experience of just wanting to have a look around, and then feeling chased off by a sales person?

It is understandable. Sales people working on commission can come to see each customer as a stepping stone to their quota, like fish or something. The language of typical sales instruction and management reflects this. I have heard sales people celebrate that they “sold the whole boat” to someone, like it’s some kind of victory. A little star goes on the board in the sales office and there is some chest thumping. I remember each year our company had a “President’s Club” for sales people who reached a stretch quota. There was tremendous pressure to meet this objective, and those who made it went on a trip with the head of our division. Those who did not stayed behind. Nobody wants to miss that trip.

How does a good sales person reconcile these competing forces? How do you make sales both easy and high paying? There really is only one true secret. You have to, in your heart, truly desire to help people get what they need or desire with your product offering. Success can only come from true commitment to being of service to your clients.

I remember when I was financing corporate aircraft, our “price” was the interest rate and the origination fee for the loans we would advance. The first question out of everyone’s mouth was “what’s the interest rate.” If you have ever financed a home with a mortgage, you may have experienced that a lender can offer a super low variable interest rate with a short term interest only period. They can structure the transaction to get the rate almost down to zero for the first year. That’s what created the housing bubble of 2008 right? The rate on a qualifying 30 year fixed rate mortgage would be significantly higher, but also a much better deal for the borrower, because they actually have terms that will let them stay in their home until they own it. The bank takes the risk of interest rates going up in the future and commits to leaving their money out for 30 years. As a sales person I had to really gain someone’s trust to lead them to a better deal with the higher price.

And the key to this was knowing who I could actually help. In the world of aircraft owners, we were often dealing with extremely high net worth clients. Many of them had large investments in corporate or municipal bonds, like tens of millions of dollars in a bond portfolio. After the financial shock of 2009, when the federal funds rates dropped to almost zero, the yields on these bonds also went down dramatically.

The truth in this environment was that it usually was not sensible for an ultra high net worth individual to pay a rate on a fixed rate loan that was higher than the rate they earned on a bond portfolio, because a loan is exactly the opposite of a bond. If a potential client owned $10,000,000 of bonds with a ten year maturity and a fixed yield of say 1.5%, why would they want to take out a loan with a ten year term and a fixed rate of 3%? They would earn $150,000 per year of interest on the bond, and then pay $300,000 of interest on the loan. In this case, it often made more sense for the client to sell the bonds and pay cash for their jet.

So here’s the tricky part in the sales process. The question a good sales person who truly wants to help their client would ask is “Why would you want to finance your plane with us, if you could sell a bond and pay for it, and then save yourself $150,000 in interest?” Most sales people in our industry were terrified to ask questions like this, because the answer might be “good point, I’ll pay cash.”

People who own their own jets tend to be very good negotiators. They tend to be very smart people. They tend to know how money works. To earn their respect and trust, “NO” has to be the right answer when a financing deal does not serve them. So discovering a big reason why they would not want to do a deal saves everyone a bunch of time and creates great trust. And things do change.

Sometimes they would surprise me. They might say they would sell the bonds, but they don’t want to because they were collateral for a portfolio loan account, or they did not want to use their available capital on an asset like the aircraft which can support its own financing. Other times they would say, yeah, that’s the truth. We don’t really like to finance anything because the rates we earn on our bonds are so low right now.

Do you feel the energetics of this? By being willing to ask these difficult questions, they would see that I would accept “no” for an answer if the deal was not in their best interest. I would not try to talk them into doing something that they did not want to do. The flood gates of information would open once that tumbler clicked. They trusted me because I was actually trustworthy.

I would say to them, yeah your right, it does not make sense for you to finance your plane right now. But here is the market analysis I prepared for you, and this is what the market for your jet looks like, and please let me know if I can give you any helpful information on the aircraft. And then I would take my leave.

And then I would send them a thank you note for their time. Then the next time I financed a jet like theirs, I would call them up and say “hey we just did a deal on a plane like yours. Would you like to see the market analysis?” Then they would start to call me whenever they had a question. And sometimes, they would say, “the plane we bought really does not have the range we need to get to all of our business locations, so we were going to trade up to a larger aircraft.” And presto, I would be given the opportunity to look at the next deal.

The Same Energetics Apply to Short Term Sales Cycles

Sales in jet financing thus often had a two to five year cycle. I would start with initial contact, then develop rapport and trust, and then a few years later when they got ready to trade up their aircraft, I would be in position to help them. But the same energy works in very short term sales like retail.

Imagine you work in a store with crystals and candles and buddha statues and a potential customer walks in looking for a gift for their sister. Greet them by saying in a friendly way “hi, welcome to our store. Please feel free to look around, and let me know if you have any questions” And then give them space so they feel comfortable, but not abandoned. Let them look for a while and notice what they are looking at. Eventually their body language will let you know when you can approach them. Say they keep fidgeting with crystals and glance around looking for you, then you can ask “can I help you find something?” Then the whole story about the gift for the sister will come pouring out. The key energetic is that they sense your willingness to let them leave without buying anything. This has to be sincere. Once they sense that you only want to help them, that you have plenty of customers, and a successful store, they will want to buy from you. But if you hover over them and get all pushy before they are ready, they will run right out the door.

Can you see how this abundant thinking makes all the difference? If clients are scarce and if sales are a zero sum game, then sales people are predators, and potential customers are prey. If the world is abundant and abundance flows freely for everyone, then sales people are helpful allies that help others make good decisions and increase the flow of abundance in their own lives.

And so it is that if you have this abundant attitude, you spend your days with people who trust and respect you, you get referrals, you get call backs, you get deals done, and you don’t waste time with people who really shouldn’t be in your pipeline. If your attitude is scarcity, then you throw everything on the wall and take whatever sticks. You have lots of maybes that drag you on forever because they feel guilty saying no to you. Your customers dodge your calls, and your phone never rings. One way is hard, one way is easy. One is abundantly compensated, and the other pays very little.

Sales is a wonderful career for those who have the right attitude, and a short one for those who do not. Happy selling!

Peace.

Living in a Magical World — Free The Mind to Experience Awe

Good morning dear reader. Today is my Solar Return and I was very happy to share my morning coffee walk with my lovely wife Stephanie and our mutual friend Marya. We all enjoyed coffee with the dogs in Coconut Grove and we had a lively conversation around the nature of our beliefs. As I have written here before, I come from a hyper rational way of thinking. I suffered for decades under the cold eye of material reductionism and lived a great part of my life in a world devoid of magic, miracles, and divinity. For me, everything was the result of atoms bouncing around like billiard balls, and anything more than that I considered wishful thinking by weak minded people who refused to accept the truth. Occam’s Razor was my religion.

And so this morning Stephanie was talking about how her faerie beings help her keep a beautiful and tidy environment. She explained how she used to feel frustrated or annoyed when I would leave my shoes scattered haphazardly around the entry way, or empty my pockets on the kitchen counter, or basically go about my way like a Labrador retriever. She would ask herself why it was always she who cleaned the messes. She told us how she now recognizes that it is her faerie guides who like to beautify her environment, and so now when she sees something out of place, it is the place that she cleans, not the mess. Suddenly her thinking and feelings around the situation shifted, and she appreciated the guidance she receives to beautify her surroundings.

The old Spencer would have judged this belief based on it’s objective truth in my material reductionist worldview. Occam’s razor has no time for Faeries. But that’s not me anymore. We talked about how useful this belief was to Stephanie. It gives her a frame of reference for her experience in the world that empowers her to make her environment beautiful without building up resentments towards the perpetuators of disorder. And it helps me too.

This is not just her putting a sugar coating on my disrespect. I actually do want to participate in keeping our environment peaceful and calm and beautiful. It’s just that my awareness and sensitivity are not as refined as hers. I am very Yang and masculine in my way of being, and so I tend to be focused on the object of my intentions. I might be coming home from the grocery store and on my way somewhere else, and my mission might be to get the cold items in the fridge, and I focus on this, and then I leave the dry goods out on the counter. Sometimes I remember to stop and look at the kitchen and see if there is anything out of place, but this really is training to improve myself. My natural inclination is to focus on my task and screen out distractions.

But the faeries are helping me too. I appreciate the environment they create, and instead of feeling nagged by Stephanie having a stronger desire for neatness than I do, I can support the effort to elevate the energy of our space to the level that faeries and spirits like to inhabit our home. And they do. Everyone feels it when they come over. They feel the feeling of calm in our home, and the way everything is just so makes this possible.

And after all, we really have only the dimmest understanding of the true nature of our reality. We are like super intelligent goldfish in a goldfish bowl debating what exists in the outside world. We debate the source of the food that gets sprinkled on the surface, and we call in Mana from Heaven, our daily fish bread. We peer out of the bowl with a telescope and observe the living room around us. Maybe we even manage to develop technology to enable us to send up a periscope above the rim of the bowl for a better look. But really, how much do we understand? What if a new goldfish comes in and has memories of another place and another bowl? Is that heresy? There is no proof of another fish bowl is there? Occam’s razor says no.

So we can see that insisting on our limited view of the world is not really very helpful at all. It limits us to thinking of things in terms of a model of life with no purpose or meaning. It is very difficult to understand why anything matters in a world where the only truth is a bunch of billiard ball atoms bouncing into each other until the Sun eventually explodes. Occam’s razor and the material reductionist world view give us little to love.

And so it is that we can either see the divine in everything, or we see the divine in nothing. Magic is either everywhere, or it’s nowhere. You are either a spirit incorporated in a material body having this material experience, or you are a consciousness created by the interaction of chemicals in a very complex brain structure. We can all debate, like the goldfish in the goldfish bowl, about which of these understandings is materially most accurate. But this is really not a very interesting discussion, and if history is any guide, it’s not very productive either. This is because basically every theory or concept to describe the true nature of the Universe has ultimately been proven to be a remarkable oversimplification. The Big Bang is no exception, it is just the latest theory of the goldfish bowl.

A better way to evaluate beliefs is in terms of whether they ring true in your heart and whether they are useful in life. For me it rings true that I am here on this world for a purpose, and that this purpose is to learn and to teach, and that when I’m done here, I will return to where I am dreaming this from. For me this is a very useful frame of reference. It gives meaning to my relationships, it enables me to see divine guidance all around me, and it fills me with a sense of awe and wonder at the beauty of nature and the firmament. For me, I see the divine in everything, and this is very useful. I am much much happier now than before I opened my mind.

It’s so freeing to open our minds to miraculous possibility, and there is so much that flows from this. Over the next weeks, I pray, to receive some material to share here about what can happen when we just open our eyes to a miraculous world.

Peace