I’m in a slump. I’m sure you’ve been here, or maybe you are in one to?
How do I know I’m in a slump?
My batteries feel flat, focus is elusive and I am drawn to my couch like a moth to a flame. Your symptoms may be different, but you know you are not operating at your best.
What’s really embarrassing about this, and causing me some guilt, is that I am an author on personal development and self-leadership – surely, I shouldn’t be in a slump?
The surprising fact is, I don’t want to get out of my slump, well not yet anyway! I am like the man who is happy at the bottom of a hole, you see I both know the way out and I know the benefit of being in the hole.
Mostly I maintain pretty high-energy. Zest is, in fact one of my strengths, but when we are ‘go, go, go’ we can miss the subtle things. So I am accepting my slump. Why? Because it’s my slump. Nobody did this to me. It’s my body signaling me something, and in accepting that I can get the message.
Often we force ourselves to push through low performance, but if it really is a slump, the best strategy is to call it. By naming and owning your slump, ultimately you put yourself back in control.
Everything in life has cycles, the weather, the stock market, and your energy levels. The secret of success is to ride the cycle, and benefit from the down-time.
So I’m in a slump and you maybe you are too, so what’s the benefit?
It’s time to reflect, to regroup, and to decide on what’s important and what’s not. Use your slump to nurture yourself and become aware of what really matters to you. When you have answered this question, and given your body some rest, do the following:Continue reading →
“Real love is something so deep, so energizing, that you will not know it unless you experience it. Love is an expression of energy, not something that is transacted. Tell me one thing: can you love people when you meet them for the first time?”
(From the audience: No Swamiji! We don’t even know them, then how can we love them?)
Exactly! This is what you think. Let me tell you, with a little bit of intellectual understanding and meditation, you will realize that you can love anyone without a reason! You can love the trees on the road, you can caress them and feel the energy flow from you. You can love people whom you pass by on the road without even knowing them. Love is actually your very being, not a distilled quality that you possess.
Nothing is as misconstrued as love is today. Today, love is more of a transaction. If someone says something nice to you, you love him; tomorrow if the same person falls short of it, you don’t love him that much or you probably hate him.
Even your lifelong friend, with whom you chat everyday on the computer, will seem suddenly not-so-close if he says something that goes against your approval. Where is your love at this time? It has suffered temporarily!
It is just games that you play; a game in which love and hate surface alternately and interchangeably. And this love-hate relationship is not love at all. Be very clear. It is simply your reaction to a person or a situation, that’s all. This is what we call love. This is not real love. It is subjective love, that’s all.
Real love knows no object. It is simply there whether there is an object or not. Real love is the subject itself. It does not know any object. You are the subject and you have become love, that’s all. Any object that comes in touch with it, feels it. Just like a river flows naturally and people enjoy it at the different places that they encounter it, real love exudes from a person and the people around him will be able to feel it.
There is absolutely no room for conditioning in real love. The energy in you should overflow and express itself as love. It is then that you can break through the highly knotted boundaries of relationships and express yourself beautifully, as a loving being!
In order to discover the quality of your being, that is love, two things can be done. The first thing: repeatedly listen to words like these so that they create a conviction in you about real love; so that a space is created in you for the process of transformation. Second thing: meditate so that the transformation can actually happen.
In practical life, when you go deeper and deeper into relationships, you will understand that all that you feel is not real love, but just some form of give and take. It is all just adjustment, some compromise, some duty-bound feelings, some fear, some guilt. It is all there in the name of love.
Meditation will take you beyond these mis-understandings of love. Meditation will work at the being level. That is why it is a shortcut! When you have to go through life and know it by yourself, it will take you a lifetime. But with meditation, a space opens inside you to experience these things clearly for yourself, whatever your age may be.
Just understand this one thing: when you are able to love without a reason, you will expand like anything. Your world will suddenly seem larger than life. It will be so ecstatic. You will become an energy source to yourself and to others. You will be so overflowing that the energy in you has to touch others. There is no other way. Others will be naturally drawn to you.”
I recently had the unique and almost otherworldly experience of stepping into the world of Shakti Rising; a nonprofit social change organization that takes a holistic approach to empowering women and girls from the inside out, with the vision that healthy, empowered women are the potential change-makers in their families, social circles, and communities. They distinguish an empowered female leader from a powerful female leader, a concept I found fascinating.
During the hours I spent at Shakti Rising when I attended their community “Garden Day,” I interacted with a number of women; some of which were on a transformational journey, some of which were there to volunteer, and some of which led the program. The sense of community and support was palpable among everyone, even though many of us had just met.
The women live together in a large home, taking classes, facing their personal demons or difficulties daily, and learning to live in community. As I worked alongside these women, saw how they interacted, and enjoyed a delicious lunch with them, I started to put my finger on what was unique about this place, apart from its holistic, inside-out approach to healing and growing.
It was the energetic space and how open, inviting, and accepting it seemed to be.
The benefits of this unique model, where women live and work side by side, became obvious to me as I witnessed the support they all received from each other. It was a refreshing change from most modern day living arrangements, where single women often live alone, only meeting other women in passing, when meeting up with friends, or in a competitive work environment. The benefit these women receive from living in community became quickly apparent. As one woman said, when commenting on how much she enjoyed preparing the food with other women, “We were not meant to cook alone.”
Shakti is a Hindu goddess representing divine, manifesting, feminine energy. She takes many names and forms, sometimes representing a motherly, fertile form, and other times is described as a fierce warrior. As such, the name “Shakti Rising” really hit home when I realized the underlying intention of the organization to empower women to rise up into their whole, complete, empowered being and then send that complete, integrated, whole-hearted woman into the world to empower, inspire, and lead others without needing to overpower others to do so.
In part, their description reads:
Our way is to walk our talk, organically closing the gap between principle and practice. We do this by welcoming change, valuing friendships, taking risks, and creating lives with fun, passion and laughter. We practice presence, gratitude and forgiveness. We delight in relationships that are long term and mutually beneficial.
We are woven together by what we value: authenticity, faith, courage, integrity, commitment and service. We believe in the power of our real life choices, knowing that mundane actions can have the most far-reaching implications. We are dedicated to sustainability and the pursuit of social and environmental change. Our lifestyle embraces the needs of the present and the legacy of the future.
Shakti Rising has several locations, including the Bay Area, San Diego, New Mexico, and Kauai. Their current goal is to reach 1,000 monthly donors in support of the education and leadership services of Shakti Feminine University. They also welcome energetic support and volunteerism, as they are largely a word-of-mouth organization.
My visit to the world of Shakti Rising sprung out of an interest to be of service to other women. I thought my contribution would be through teaching yoga. After experiencing the Shakti Rising community personally and getting to know the women and some of their individual stories, I realized that this was an opportunity to take my yoga off my mat.
Practicing yoga doesn’t always mean bending over backwards physically. Sometimes it means bending over backwards to help someone else plant a seed. Instead of supporting someone in an arm-balancing pose, sometimes we support them as they learn to trust themselves fully in the real world. We all hold space for introspection and transformation when we attend a yoga class, but it’s also entirely possible to create a sacred space in our communities where transformation, conversation, healing, and growing are possible and welcomed.
As women, we are all in a position to shift the paradigm of being a powerful woman to being an empowered woman. The difference is that one power comes from outside of us and the other comes from within. Our young women are our future leaders, and they are following our example.
As I enter the autumn of my life and you the springtime of yours, I want to leave you with seven skills in self-awareness that I have learned and that I hope will serve you well no matter what profession you choose, or where your life and destiny take you.
Skill # 1 Become the best listener you can be. Learn to listen with the instruments of the body, the feelings of the heart, the logic of the mind, and the stillness of your soul. As you listen deeply, reflect on the following questions: What am I observing? What am I feeling? What is the need of the moment? What is the best way to fulfill this need?
Skill#2 Bond emotionally with friends, family, professional colleagues, and those you interact with daily. Understand that each of us is part of a web of relationships that is nurtured through love, kindness, compassion, empathy, and joy. Emotional bonds create effective teamwork where nothing is impossible because you have a shared vision for service, contribution, and success and because you complement each other’s talents and strengths.
Skill # 3 Expand your awareness by knowing that all human beings have a hierarchy of needs that start with survival and safety and progressively expand through stages that include love and belonging, true self esteem, success as in the progressive realization of worthy goals, creative expression, higher consciousness, and self-actualization. As you expand your awareness learn to harness your spiritual gifts that come in the form of the powers of intention, intuition, creativity, imagination & conscious choice making.
Skill #4 Remember the importance of action. Learn to be action oriented and know that there is no power higher than love in action. Remember that love without action is meaningless and action without love is irrelevant.
Skill# 5 Assume responsibility for your own well being in all its various facets. Your well being encompasses every aspect of your life – your career, your social interactions, your personal relationships, your community, and your financial success. Take time to rest and play, to be with your family and friends, to exercise and nourish your body with healthy food.
Skill# 6 Empower your self with true self-esteem. Learn to be independent of the good and bad opinion of others. Recognize the power of presence. Do not allow yourself to be distracted. Know your life purpose and the contribution you want to make to society.
Skill # 7 Know your true self. Your true self is not your self-image that is dependent on the labels you and others have given yourself. Your true self is the innermost core of your being that is beyond all labels, definitions & limitations. All the wisdom traditions tell us that the human spirit is a field of infinite possibilities, a field of infinite creativity, love, compassion, joy, and profound equanimity. Know you can only give to the world that which you possess in that innermost core of your being. Remember that you will create peace only when you are peaceful and create a loving world only when you have learned to love.
I entreat you to not lose your idealism with the passage of years. That idealism is connected to your knowingness of the good that can be created and the power to manifest it. In you lies the potential for a more peaceful, just, sustainable, healthier, and happier world. Remember that the goal of all other goals is to be happy. I am reminded today of an assignment that John Lennon was given by his elementary school teacher when he was seven years old. He and his classmates were asked to write a short description of whom they wanted to be when they grew up. John Lennon wrote down that he wanted to be always happy. When his teacher complained that John did not understand the assignment, John’s mother told him to tell the teacher that he did not understand life.
But what do we really know about happiness? Recently there has been a lot of research on the dynamics of happiness. Most people think that if they are successful in achieving their goals or have good relationships or if they are healthy, they will be happy. In fact it is the other way around. If you are happy person you are likely to have healthy habits, and nurturing relationships, and great success in life. Social scientists describe what they describe the Happiness formula: H=S+C+V
H stands for happiness
S stands for set point in the brain
C stands for conditions of living
V stands for voluntary choices
“S” stands for the set point in the brain and refers to our mechanisms of perception. We all have a semi-fixed place on the happiness spectrum based on our outlook on life. Happier people see the opportunities, where unhappy people see problems. The set point for happiness can be upregulated, or shifted toward greater happiness, through self-reflection on limiting beliefs. The set point determines 50% of our happiness experience on a daily bases. The ‘C’ in the formula is the conditions of living and refers mainly to material success and personal wealth. It determines about 12% of your daily happiness experience. If you win the lottery you will be extremely happy for a few months, but after one year you will return to your set point.
Voluntary choices represents choices that we make on a daily bases. Choices for personal pleasure bring transient happiness, while selfless choices bring inner fulfillment through purpose and meaning, e.g. by making other people happy meaningful relationships bring more permanent happiness. So to be happy it’s fine to have material comforts around you, but that will only account for 12% of your happiness. To really be happy you need to expand awareness and overcome your self-limiting beliefs and then choose selfless actions, or ways to be of service to others. This leads to true and lasting happiness and wisdom.
Finally today, more than any other day, remember to be grateful. Gratitude opens the door to abundance consciousness. Express your gratitude today particularly to your parents, teachers and fellow students, all who have helped bring you to this threshold of life.
You are now ready to embark on the hero’s journey, the hero’s quest. Good luck and God speed.
Today as you celebrate this major milestone in your life and commence a new stage of your life journey, I ask you to reflect on the gift of life itself. And life, in essence, is nothing but awareness. Furthermore human life, considered the pinnacle of biological evolution, is not just awareness, but self-awareness. Amongst creatures on this planet, we human beings are not only aware; we have the capacity to be aware that we are aware, to be conscious of our consciousness. In that self-awareness lies our potential and power to direct our own future evolution and the future evolution of civilization.
Biological evolution has been summed up in the phrase of “survival of the fittest,” but with overpopulation and over-consumption of resources, the future belongs to “survival of the wisest”. It is imperative for the future of humanity that wisdom becomes the new criterion for sustainable life on this planet. And wisdom is that knowledge that nurtures life in all its dimensions not only for us but also for the generations that follow us.
Today’s age is frequently referred to as the Information Age. The hallmarks of this age are the gifts of science and technology that have created the miracles of molecular medicine, real-time imaging of cellular function, instant accessibility of global knowledge, and social networks. Yet despite this emerging global brain, paradoxically we are beset with the same scourges of war and terrorism, radical poverty in 50% of the world’s population, irreversible climate change, along with deepening social and economic injustice! Furthermore, humanity suffers from massive malnutrition in which half the world suffers from hunger and the other half from obesity leading to inflammatory disorders, increasing the risk of chronic illnesses including many types of cancer and cardiovascular diseases while the hungry die from compromised immune function and infectious diseases. The information revolution has not led to the wisdom needed to solve our world crisis in health and well-being.
If ever humanity had the power of mass self-extinction on planet earth, it is today. And if it happens it will be because we allowed our emotional and spiritual evolution to be outpaced by the evolution of our science and technology. Nuclear proliferation, biological warfare, eco destruction, the extinction of species and the poisoning of our atmosphere, our rivers and waters and the very food that sustains our life and all life loom before us as imminent threats. But just as in other critical phases of transformation, while there is disaster looming on one hand, there is on the other hand the potential to create a radical reorganization into something much greater than was conceived of before.
Today, I ask you my young friends, you who are the future hope of humanity, you who are the future leaders of the world; today, I ask you what Mahatma Gandhi once asked, “Can you be the change you want to see in the world?”
In fact, there can be no social or world transformation unless there is your own inner transformation. Today, I ask you to face a fundamental truth. Today, I ask you to consider that there is no ‘you’ that is separate from the world. The gift of life, your own self-consciousness is your key to inner transformation and wisdom, and that in turn is how you will transform the world. Today, I ask you to acknowledge that you are the world and that your transformation of consciousness will be the future of the word. This self-transformation is the wisdom for our planet’s survival.
As I enter the autumn of my life and you the springtime of yours, I want to leave you with seven skills in self-awareness that I have learned and that I hope will serve you well no matter what profession you choose, or where your life and destiny take you.
Stay tuned for Part 2 in which I outline the seven skills of self-awareness!
If I could choose one quote that defines the ethos of our youth today, it would be, “When you learn, teach. When you get, give.” Simple but sweet words carefully crafted by my favorite poet, Dr. Maya Angelou.
This is a bold statement, I know, but hear me out.
Boy, was I wrong. Or as my students would say, “You got moded.”
Reality Check #1: A few years ago, I was given the rare opportunity to build and teach a high school summer bridge program at AAU. I thought that my students would be excited to execute the final I had prepared. “You are going to create a short video on ‘hot spots’ in San Francisco. It could be a cool place to hang out, shop or eat.” I instructed in a sure tone of voice. I thought hands down, students would be stoked.
Instead, hands eagerly went up. The questions they asked changed the trajectory of my stereotypes toward the youth.
One student raised her hand and said, “My mom was so excited that you were teaching us because she follows Go Inspire Go (my nonprofit) on social media.” Another student said, “Yeah my friends follow you on Twitter in Sweden.” A third student said her friends who live in the Midwest follow our stories. Their collective wish: “Can we do our video on a story for GIG and if it’s good enough, would you post it?” My heart skipped a beat. Chills ran from head to my feet.
I was taken aback.
Julian Cohen, a high school junior from Jersey City, N.J., saw an article in his local newspaper about a reverend who wanted to build a high school in Grande Saline, Haiti, following the devastating earthquake in 2010. Cohen was sad that there was no high school in Grande Saline and was inspired to make a video to engage action. This led to two youth movements that eventually sent 32 kids to school for one year in Haiti.
This led me to create a GIG program called GIG Spark, Lesson on Compassion. Students think about a problem and how they could be part of the solution. They create a short 90 second video and send it to us to multiply their message.
Reality Check #2: I’m exited to announce that Go Inspire Go partnered up with The Bayview Hunter’s Point YMCA, YouTube, the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation and National Youth Radio to create GIG Sparks with youth at the Bayview Hunter’s Point YMCA. They wanted to make videos that inspire compassion, change and a shift in perspective.
If you watch the local media here in the San Francisco Bay Area, you’d think that this area is only known for its crime, violence and destitution. I found that there was so much hope for the youth living in this area of the City.
Photo Courtesy: Oscar Nilsson/ Interview with Betty Sells-Asberry, YMCA Teen Services Director
When I spent an afternoon training six of these young YMCA change makers, I was filled with pride. Kier Wilson, Tajae Hill, and Jonkia Davis were amazingly inspiring. They were so proud to call the Bayview Hunter’s Point their home, but were deeply saddened their neighborhood is viewed as “the ghetto.” They wanted to do something to change the negative perception of their community.
Thank you to YouTube and the Mayor’s office for inviting us to share our “GIG Spark” as an innovative, organized and fun way to inspire the YMCA kids to accomplish this mission.
* This video was created by four of my students at AAU — youth — who asked to come along on the shoot. Thanks Oscar Nilsson, Marcus Pettersson, Eva Broman, and Hugo Albrektsson for your great work!
Reality Check #3: At the University of San Francisco, my alma mater, I was asked to design and teach a Blogging for Social Change course. On the first day, I asked students, “What is your passion?”
With optimism and determination, one student said, “I want people to get out of their bubble and do something to help the people in their community.”
‘Nuff said! Amen to that.
As a kid, I felt insignificant. I thought I didn’t matter. I didn’t feel like I had a voice. What would a Chinese immigrant boy, growing up in a rough South Sacramento neighborhood, say of any importance? Why would anyone care?
I wonder how many youth feel like that today. What if adults took a moment to listen to the youngsters in their lives and hear them out. With a little guidance, support and inspiration, we too could be a part of inspiring a new generation of people who teach what they learn and give what they get!
* * *
Take Action: * Check out “I LOVE Bayview” on Improve SF! * Share their stories on social media and by word of mouth. * Volunteer at your local YMCA
With the country so divided this week over the Supreme Court’s deliberation on same sex marriage, let’s consider what it takes to build strong, cohesive teams. Despite heightened individualism in the age of computers and iPods, teamwork is critical today, especially as we face mounting global issues. In this episode of “Ask Deepak” on The Chopra Well, Deepak Chopra discusses the key ingredients to building successful teams.
Team building is an essential component of leadership, which Deepak explores at length in his book The Soul of Leadership, as well as in his course on leadership at the Kellogg School of Management. Deepak idenfies three key attributes of strong teams:
1. They have a shared vision
2. They are emotionally bonded.
3. Every member of the team complements the strengths of every other member.
Consider this next time you find yourself building a team to collaborate on a mutual vision, whether it’s for work, leisure, or activism.
A good story is the story of the hero’s quest, and a hero’s quest begins with a dream. This is why all great leaders are visionaries. They ask themselves mythical questions: Who am I? What do I want? Who are the heroes and mentors our society can learn from?
In this week’s episode of “The Rabbit Hole” on The Chopra Well, Deepak Chopra explores the key elements of visionary leadership. History traffics in myth-making, which is based on personal charisma and uses spin to evoke an aura of destiny. But it is alarming to witness how often leaders come to power through the force of arms and money. When the strong and ruthless rise on the world stage, we find ourselves led by kings and generals, autocrats and dictators, power-hungry premiers and presidents. Leadership of this sort is flawed. Power and prestige do nothing to ensure leaders like this will actually improve the lives of those who follow them.
A truly successful leader, Deepak suggests, learns to cultivate her power as the result of being tuned in to her inner voice and guided by intuition. The inspired leader walks a path laid out by her own soul, characterized by love, creativity, and intelligence. In her core self she strives for alignment with the greater, collective society she serves. In this way, listening comes first, followed by comprehension, empathy, and, finally, action.
In the midst of chaos, certain individuals step out of the shadows in order to lead society in new directions necessary for further evolution. Only a truly great leader will find wisdom in the face of mythic-proportion challenges. And only a leader who operates from the soul level, with vision, creativity, and love, will be remembered as such.
At the Chopra Foundation’s 2012 Sages and Scientists Symposium, brilliant minds from all over the world gathered to share their thoughts about the “Merging of a New Future.” It was a stimulating conversation, filled with revelations and sprinkled with optimism, with topics that ranged from medical research to leadership in business, and even social media. I can’t imagine any one other than Deepak who could bring together such a fascinating array of speakers and entertainers!
We heard from former President of Mexico Vincente Fox, General Wesley Clark, Chemist, Quantum Physicists, Corporate leaders, and more. Entertainers included upcoming musical groups Black Opera, Caught A Ghost, kid’s dance troupe The Miniotics, Flamenco dancers and a group of male acrobats to performed on poles!
By the way, all of the volunteers looked fabulous wearing the Jnana Yoga tee-shirts ! Jnana Yoga is the path of knowledge, so this was the perfect design for the conference. Each of the speakers received the gift of a shirt as well. We got tons of compliments on them!
Here are some of the highlights that I captured on video:
Dr. Rudy “Rock Star” Tanzi accepted the Spirit of Rustum Roy Award for his contributions in Alzheimer’s Research. I was fortunate to get an interview with the late Dr. Rustim Roy during the 2010 Symposium and you can see what he had to say about the “New Science” in this video:
This year I was delighted to interview Dr. Lothar Schafer – he had so many amazing things to say that I ended up making his interview into three videos! Here’s one:
All of the attendees, including me, were impressed by what two young men are accomplishing to help solve the world water crisis. Here’s my interview with Mike Muniz from Generosity Water:
Leonard Mlodinow is Deepak Chopra’s co-author in their book , War of the Worldviews. It was great speaking with him and getting a behind-the-scenes perspective. Here’s what he had to say:
One of the most popular entertainers was poet/rapper, J. Ivy. He performed with his beautiful and talented wife. You’ll be hearing a lot from this guy:
Carlos Dominguez gave a great talk. He calls himself a “TechNOWist.” Find out exactly what that means in this interview: