Several years ago, as I sat in a darkened theatre with my children at Syracuse Stage, awaiting the start of Looking-glass Alice, a play adapted by David Catlin, I knew that I was in for something very special. What I never anticipated was that the evening’s entertainment would strike such a resounding cord in me.
I was poised to be transported, for the span of an hour and one half, into another world, to be whisked away for a brief time from what we might call “reality” into a world where nothing is as it appears. Game for adventure, I was oh so willing to go along for the ride.
The production, a highly stylized adaptation, traced the arc of Alice’s journeys down the rabbit hole and through the looking glass into Wonderland. Lewis Carroll’s themes and metaphors, adapted by the playwright and expressed in visual terms by the designers and actors, resonated with me deeply, and clearly reflected my own spiritual journey back to me. The experience ultimately inspired me to revisit the books that informed the play and to see Tim Burton’s film, which I also attended with my children, and finally to write about my insights here. This blog will only scratch the surface, though I have intentions of exploring these notions further at some point.
Imagine for a moment a few select scenic elements artfully arranged on a stage that create the impression of a Victorian drawing room. A high winged-backed chair and end table sit to the right of a large marble fireplace, topped by an enormous, ornate gilt framed mirror, which commands center stage. Long, black curtains hang from the grid above, extending to the stage floor, either side of the fireplace, creating the appearance of a wall. Two delicate statuettes, also under glass, flank a domed chime clock, centered on the mantle. A chessboard lies on the floor in front of the chair, the game already underway. Downstage left a tasseled ottoman rounds out the stage picture.
As the house went to black, sweet youthful laughter, underscored by a child’s tinkling piano, punctuated a montage of well-known nursery rhymes. A gentle man’s voice then wove into the soundscape expressing that “Alice, in her later years, would keep the dream of Wonderland alive in her simple and loving heart.”
The lights came up, and there was Alice sitting in the chair, legs flung over the side, scolding a stuffed animal named Kitty, who was all tangled up in a ball of yarn.
In due course, I came to learn that the disembodied voice belonged to Mr. Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, Alice’s friend, to whom she and her siblings played muse for his seemingly nonsensical tales of whimsy. Alice then offered the suggestion to the stuffed cat that they pretend to be queens. Kitty would be the Red Queen and Alice, the White.
As Alice explained to her friend that when pretending “shutting one’s eyes tighter and tighter is always of some use”, the mantle clock began to chime. With 11 o’clock Alice began counting the chimes aloud. Dodgson’s voice joined in at 12. There was a slight pause and then…one final chime. “Thirteen? Curious?”
Struck by the oddity of the extra toll of the bell, Alice proceeded to the mantle to look at the clock, shocked to find Dodgson gazing back at her from the other side of the mirror.
Alice and Dodgson, each needing a closer look, began to climb up onto the mantle, movements perfectly synchronized. Hands outstretched, just shy of touching, they mirrored each other in a choreographed pantomime, until they simultaneously passed through the looking glass to the other side.
At that moment the work lights on stage came up, the curtains were torn asunder by the stage crew, and the stage manager’s voice, giving sound and light cues, came over what we is ironically call the ‘God’- mic. The 4th wall, a theatrical convention, which creates the illusion of time and space, had been completely shattered.
The world of theatre, in which I spent over 20 years working as a designer and actor, is one of imagination and illusion. Through a series of stage conventions we co-create whole worlds that begin with the power of the word.
From those mere words of the script, we theatre artists begin to visualize all of the possible expressions for the author’s intent. We then begin to make choices from the inspiration we have gathered in our research. We weed out the images that don’t support the author’s intent, and we hold onto only those concepts that serve the good of the play. From those visions we formulate pictures, fine tuning as we go, always returning to the source, the word, for our inspiration and guidance, and finally from those pictures the world of the play becomes manifest.
This world is complete, a unified whole, a sensory symphony of component parts, visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, and even sometimes oral. It is the perfect environment, created specifically for a particular cast of characters to unfold their story in space and time.
We have all heard the phrase, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…” The beginning words of a much longer monologue from William Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Essentially, these words point to the fact that like the world of the theatre, what we consider the “reality” of our lives is, in effect, an illusion. It is just as ephemeral, transitory, and impermanent, a fabrication born in the mind of the creator. And each of us is that creator.
The English poet and aesthetic philosopher, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, coined the term “willing suspension of disbelief.” In the context of the theatre, it refers to the willingness of the audience member to overlook the limitations of the form, and agree, for the duration of the play, to accept what he or she is viewing as truth or “real.”
Is this not exactly what we do in every moment of our existence in this physical form we call a body? Are we not all authors and artists, each creating in every moment the reality of our experience? I say, “Yes!” emphatically. However, most of us just aren’t doing it consciously. As I watched the play and film, and reread these Lewis Carroll stories, it became clear to me that Alice represents us, or more specifically, our souls.
Before incarnation we are one with Source, or God, until that Divine essence decided it wanted to know itself more fully, at which time it scattered itself into myriad forms, the un-manifest became manifest in the act of creation, and our souls were “born.” Something within our souls stirs us to go forth into the realm of duality, and we enter into a world of time and space, cause and effect. Thus we begin the cycle. We step onto the Wheel of Fortune, the wheel of karma, the circle of life.
As sparks of divinity wanting to experience ourselves through creation, we choose to separate from Source, the One, to descend, or lower our vibration, and enter into this world of infinite contrast, into a world that we create in every moment through our sense perceptions. Why, you might ask, would we do such a thing? Curiosity. We are just like Alice.
Sitting in her garden, rather bored with her idyllic, ordered life, she takes the fall. “Burning with curiosity” upon spying a waistcoat wearing white rabbit carrying a pocket watch, (a metaphor for space and time), she, like the Fool of the Tarot, takes the leap, willingly plunging down the rabbit hole after him, “never once considering how in the world she was going to get out again.”
Thump, she hits bottom and finds herself in a darkened room, or is it a womb? Before her are a number of doors, all of which are locked. There is seemingly no way out. Then she spies a curtain, behind which is a tiny little door. It too is locked, but there is a key resting on a glass table. At her size, how will she ever get through?
Beneath the table she sees a little bottle, with the words “Drink Me.” written on it. Without question Alice quaffs it down, and the transformation begins… Expansion and contraction, evolution, first too big, so we try the little cake, then too small, until finally we find the right size and shape.
As Source Energy, we are too vast, infinite in fact, to enter into this world, so we lower our vibration and come into a state of being, the human form, which evolved over millennia, a body perfectly fit for our entry into our lives on planet Earth.
All that life force contained in such a tiny package makes the passage out a rough one. Key in hand, we make our way to the door, unlock it, and squeeze our way through into the light of day, into a world of duality, a world of opposites, where nothing is what it seems, where everything is upside down and backwards.
Only, in all the activity and commotion of our entry into this strange and magical world, we leave the key behind. This golden key is the knowledge that we are Source Energy, we are God, and that we chose to come forth to co-create our own experience.
Throughout these fantastical Alice stories, our young heroine holds several specific intentions. In each story she is trying desperately to make her way to a garden she sees off in the distance. She also wishes to be a queen, and in the end to make her way home.
When we begin to wake up and to walk the spiritual path we come to realize that this is what each of us is attempting to do. But like Alice we encounter various obstacles we need to overcome, in order to become the sovereign of our own lives, and find our way home to the garden. The biggest one of these is our own mind. For it is from here that all our impediments emanate.
These seemingly nonsensical tales hold great wisdom. Quite often truth is shown to us through unconventional means. The language of the soul is very often not heard by the rational mind. Generally, it comes to us in dreams, in visions, in “out of the way” experiences, as Alice would say, and through a curious cast of unlikely characters, just like those she encounters in her Adventures in Wonderland.
There's a story in which a professor visited a Japanese master to inquire about the nature of Zen. While the master quietly prepared and served tea, the professor spoke about his understanding of Zen. The master began to pour tea for his guest. Though the visitor's cup became full, still the master kept pouring. Tea spilled out of the cup, and onto the table.
The professor watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer contain himself. "Master,” he cried, “the cup is full!" "It will hold no more!", he blurted. "You are like this cup," said the master, “full of your own opinions, concepts, and perceptions. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"
For Alice the journey through Wonderland is a process of unlearning, of letting go of her attachment to everything she ever believed about herself and the world around her, in order to finally embrace a world of unlimited possibility. She must step through the looking glass, leaving behind her firmly rooted concepts of reality, so she can ultimately claim her full power and crown herself creator of her own dream.
Not long after Alice arrives in Wonderland, she is mistaken for somebody else. The White Rabbit takes her for his maid. And not being one to question his authority, and fearful of what might happen should she contradict him, she accepts the role that is thrust upon her. In no time, she is expanding and contracting again, trying to conform to the wishes and desires of someone else. She becomes so misshapen that she gets stuck inside the rabbit’s house.
Most of us, at some point in our lives have fallen into this same trap. Not firm in our own sense of who we really are, we accept other’s opinions about us, thus giving away our power. Like Alice, we are made prisoners of our own fear, afraid to be our true selves. Real authority, which comes from the root word, author, means we take control and responsibility for writing the scripts of our lives. When we consciously begin to create our destiny, authority will come.
Alice is repeatedly asked a series of questions. The most critical comes by way of a hookah-smoking caterpillar. This peculiar little guru asks of Alice“ Who are you?” She responds rather shyly, “I~ I hardly know, Sir, just at present~ at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have changed several times since then.” The caterpillar replies rather sternly, “Explain yourself!” “ I can’t explain myself, I’m afraid, Sir” says Alice, “because I’m not myself, you see.”
You see, when we get into a pattern of changing ourselves, morphing and adapting to meet the needs and wishes of others, we lose sight of who we really are, until we don’t even recognize ourselves anymore.
As she makes her way onward, Alice next encounters a friendly, toothy grinned feline, whom she asks, “Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” the Cheshire Cat replies. “I don’t much care where,” says Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” is the reply.
The truth is, when we are unspecific or confused about our intentions, we cannot claim the help the universe and our Higher Self are continually and consistently offering us. We only get back what we put out. So, if we are ambivalent, our experience will lack focus and be filled with confusion. We must know our intentions, stand firm in them, and only then will the path unfold to lead us in the direction we want to go.
Alice then meets up with the Mad Hatter, March Hare and the Door Mouse. They only serve to unravel her sense of reality even more, challenging her concepts of language, time and space, and ultimately of her self. The Mad Hatter says of Time, “If you only kept on good terms with him, he’d do almost anything you like with the clock.”
We continually speak of wasting time, losing time, and being out of time. Is it any wonder we never seem to have enough of it? The truth is that time is an illusion too. When we begin to understand this we realize there is enough time for everything we could possibly need or desire to do. It is malleable like clay, we can mold it to our needs and no longer be a slave to it.
In Through The Looking Glass, Alice happens upon Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee and is presented with probably the most confounding and troubling information yet from this dynamic duo. The peculiar pair directs her attention toward the Red King, who is sleeping under a tree. Tweedle-dee asks, “What do you think he is dreaming about?” When Alice says she couldn’t possible know, he goes on to tell her, the King is dreaming about her. “And if he left off dreaming, Tweedle-dee continues, where do you suppose you’d be?” “Where I am now of course.” says Alice. “Not you! You’d be nowhere.” he replies. “Why you’re only a sort of thing in his dream! If that thing were to wake, you’d go out – bang- just like a candle!”
In the Hindu tradition, the God Vishnu is pictured as the divine dreamer of the world dream. Vishnu sleeps on a great, coiled serpent named Ananta, which means "Endless." The serpent floats on the cosmic ocean, called the Milky Ocean. The ocean, the serpent and the sleeping god: these are all aspects of the same thing, Mind. It is from the One Mind that all creation is born.
The God Vishnu sleeps and the activity of his mind stuff creates dreams, and we, and everything in the material plane, are components of that dream. Just as all the images that we perceive and all the people who appear in our dreams are really manifestations of our own sub-conscious mind, so are we all manifestations of Vishnu or God’s dreaming power. We and everything in our environment are no more “real” than the characters in our own dreams.
Tweedle-dee really begins to strike a raw nerve with Alice. She becomes mightily defensive, because now he is threatening her concept of her very existence. Not her physical existence, mind you, but that of her ego. It is the ego-mind that resists the notion that we all thoughts in the mind of God, cells in the body of God. It is the ego that clings to the illusion that we are unique, separate individuals with limited means and a finite shelf life.
One of the most memorable characters in these tales, and certainly the loudest, is the Queen of Hearts, also referred to as The Red Queen, who is oft-times heard screaming, “Off with their heads!”
The Red Queen in all her brazen bluster is the representation of the ego mind, or the false self. Alice, in both tales, comes up against, and firmly butts heads with this mad Queen, whose reaction to anyone who threatens her authority is to relieve them of their crown. Neither does Alice escape her ire.
It is only by facing her head on, pun intended, and challenging her authority that Alice comes into her full power and finally sees how insignificant and puny the Red Queen really is.
This is our ticket home. Only when we let go the strangle hold our ego minds have on us, can our souls begin to regain their strength and sing. When the voice of the ego is finally subdued and brought into balance, we will hear the still small voice within that tells us we need not look outside ourselves for directions to the garden.
Paradoxically, the Queen of Hearts actually had something there. We, in fact, must lose our heads in order to regain awareness of our souls and our true nature. The costume design in Tim Burton’s movie, depicting the Red Queen with an outsized head is brilliant, indeed.
I love the message on my Uncle Paul’s voice mailbox. He is a Jesuit and a brilliant, profoundly funny man. When I call, and he is unable to answer, I hear his rich baritone voice say, “I’m either out of my room, out of the country, or out of my mind.”
It is ironic that the character in these stories that is the least kind, the most selfish, and un-evolved, is the Queen of Hearts. The irony is not lost here, the message is very clear; in order to rediscover who we really are we need to “lose our minds;” we need to move out of our heads and into our hearts.
The heart is the gateway to our creative, intuitive and spiritual centers, the home of the sub-conscious mind, fertile ground from which springs our imagination, and all that we ultimately create. This is where our souls reside. When we turn inward, and turn off the Jabberwocky in our conscious minds we can begin to open our hearts and hear the inner word, our true song that will sing us home.
We are often told we need to follow or chase after our dreams. However, this implies that they are somewhere out ahead of us or beyond our reach. This is why Alice was having so much difficulty making her way to the garden. The fact is our dreams and the garden dwell within us. We do not need to look without for the answers. They already exist right where we are. All we need do is turn our focus inwardly… return to the home of the Word, the Source. Only then will the garden, and our dreams reveal themselves to us. We too, like Alice, must “keep them alive in our simple and loving hearts.”
What is life? Simply defined, we might say life is movement. It is the Vital Life Force pulsating through us, the vibration of the Universe stirring creation into being. In the Yogic tradition, this Life Force is referred to as prana; for the Chinese, it is called chi or qi, and the Japanese name it ki. Prana, in Sanskrit, also translates to breath. The Greek word for breath is pneuma, which also means “soul” or “spirit,” and is referred to as spiritus in Latin.
One day, while peddling away on a bike at the gym, I was reading an interview with the actor Bradley Cooper, in a copy of Details Magazine. In the piece, he was discussing how his father’s death had impacted him, responding to the question had it made him more religious. I was struck by his answer. After paying homage to his father for planting the seeds of faith in him through his Catholic upbringing, he concluded by saying, “Am I a spiritual person today? Yes. I don't know how I could not be. It's like saying, "Do you breathe?"
We are all spiritual. Whether or not we know it or believe it, because we breathe, we are spiritual beings. The breath that fills our lungs, that nourishes our bodies is the breath of the Cosmos. You might say our inhalation is God’s exhalation. Through the breath we comingle with the Divine. Breath is sound vibration, the music or underlying soundtrack that accompanies the dance of life.
I’ll repeat Cooper’s question, “Do you breathe?” “Well, of course I breathe,” you would say. But, really, do you breathe? Do you breathe? What is it that breathes? Do you consciously say to yourself, “I am inhaling; now, I am exhaling.” That would be ridiculous and debilitating. Fortunately, the breathing, along with all the other functions of the body, is governed by the subconscious mind, one aspect of the Higher Self or Super-Conscious Mind. If we consciously had to think about breathing, we would not be able to do anything else. More importantly, if breathing were ruled by the conscious mind, when we went to sleep or lost consciousness, we would stop breathing and die in mere moments.
In essence, the breath breathes us; the Universe or God is breathing us. This Divine Life Force animates, supports and sustains us. We are, or rather this body is, simply a vessel, a container, the vital energy may flow through, for the purpose of experience in the material plane.
Now, this vessel must be in a condition suitable to house the Life Force, or prana. When there is contraction or constriction in the body, emotions or mind, the Life Force becomes obstructed. When this occurs chronically, the body moves into a state of imbalance, or disrepair. Should this continue unresolved, the Life Force can no longer be properly supported and will, eventually, leave. Once gone, it is not long before the body begins to decay. We refer to this process as death.
There is a Vedic story about prana found in the Upanishads. The five main faculties of our physical nature - mind, breath, speech, the ear and the eye - were all arguing over which was the best and most important. (This illustrates how these faculties, when not well integrated, compete for dominance of our attention.) To resolve their conflict, it was decided that each would leave the body and then it would be determined whose absence was most critical to the wellbeing of the whole.
First speech left, and the body continued to function, though mute. Then the eye left, and the body continued on blind. The ear left next, and the body kept on, though deaf. Subsequently, mind left, and the body carried on in unconsciousness. Finally, prana began to depart, and the body quickly began to die, so all of the other faculties started to lose their energy. Immediately, they all rushed to prana and begged it to stay, hailing it as supreme among them. Prana/Life Force provides the energy for all our physical, emotional, and mental faculties, without which they could not function. If we do not honor prana first, there is no energy with which to do anything else. Thus, Breath is Life.
Contrary to what many believe, it is not the lungs that breathe, but rather the cells. Every cell of the body breathes. Every cell requires food to function optimally. Oxygen is the primary food that nourishes every cell. Each cell cries out for oxygen. Like Audrey ii from Little Shop of Horrors, they shout, “Feed me! Feed me!”
Our ability to breathe is affected by the functionality and effort of every cell in the body. Generally speaking, we only allow a fraction of the cells in the body the oxygen they require; most are sorely neglected. For cells to function properly, they must be able to access their food, the oxygen, from the breath.
If the cells are not working, they are not hungry, and therefore do not draw in the requisite food or oxygen necessary for their vital function. If the cells do not eat or take in oxygen and then release their waste, such as carbon dioxide, they die. When the cells die, we die.
If we do not work, we are not hungry. Consider what happens when someone is depressed. They are likely, before long, to become lethargic, and very soon may follow a loss of appetite. If our cells are inactive, they too lose their appetite.
How do we encourage the cells to eat? We must encourage their appetite for oxygen, which means we must get them moving. Certainly exercise is one primary way to get all of the cells in the body moving - that is, functioning to their full capacity - firing on all pistons, you might say.
All the body’s cells engage in cellular respiration. They use oxygen and glucose, a sugar found in many foods we eat, and convert them to ATP (adenosine triphosphate), or cellular energy, and carbon dioxide. ATP transports chemical energy within cells to support the metabolic function.
This is how a cell eats and then excretes its waste. If that is not happening in a balanced way, the cell becomes poisoned and dies. Imagine what would happen if we ate but were unable to properly eliminate the waste. Our body would toxify and we would become very ill and ultimately expire.
The cells receive their nutrients through a continuous interplay between the blood and lymph, which is a salty liquid that bathes the cells. The lymph carries toxins and waste away from the cells and transports infection fighting white blood cells through the body. In addition to the rhythmic contraction of the lymph cells, the abdominal muscles serve as a pump that helps move the lymph and blood into and out of the chest cavity to other parts of the body.
Cells are microscopic, tiny little living beings. We must feed them oxygen in increments they can handle. If we were to eat without chewing our food, we would choke, and if we were able to get the huge pieces down, the body would not be able to effectively absorb all the vital nutrients contained in it.
Similarly, if we were to drive a car, alternately flooring the accelerator and then jamming on the breaks, not only would we get really car-sick, but pretty soon the car would revolt and stop functioning.
This, in essence, is what occurs with our breathing when we are consumed by our emotions, stuck in a pattern of what might be called “negative” emotions, such as hate, anger, fear, anxiety, depression, or grief, to name a few. When in these states we are caught in a pattern of choking or interrupted breathing. Remember that poor car from a moment ago.
When we stop and start the breath in an arrhythmic pattern, we can vacillate between high and low blood pressure. Sometimes we hold the breath and the carbon dioxide too long in the body, causing an overly acidic environment, creating inflammation, which leads to dis-ease. And very often, the body is too tired to work, incapable of taking in the required oxygen. Regardless, one or all of these scenarios will eventually kill us. So, in order for our body to remain in optimal working order, we must move the body regularly, encouraging the cells to work, and we must breath mindfully, slowly and rhythmically, so the cells can readily absorb the oxygen that nourishes them.
An article in Time Magazine written by Clare Grodon posits, “when choir members sing together, it’s not just their voices that join in harmony.”According to a study published in the journal Frontiers of Neuroscience, when choir members sing together, their heart rates tend to synchronize and beat as one. A team of Swedish researchers discovered this synchronicity induces a sense of calm, consistent with the effects of the practice of yoga.
This is how it works: A long nerve called the vagus nerve — Latin for “wandering” — trails down from the brain stem into the body, where it enervates the heart along with other visceral organs. Exhaling activates the vagus nerve, which slows the heart’s pulse. So, if a group’s breathing is in sync, then it makes sense that the beating of their hearts will be too.
According to the study, the unified heart rate isn’t just a nice warm fuzzy — it has real, emotional effects. The vagus nerve conveys sensory information about the state of the body’s organs to the central nervous system. So this primary nerve that affects the heart plays a major role in a person’s sense of arousal or calmness.
The more slowly and rhythmically we breathe, the more easily it is for the cells to take in oxygen, so they can function maximally. The slower the heart rate, the easier it is to initiate the relaxation response, the opposite of the fight, flight or freeze reaction. It is a “physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress.”
In the Yogic Tradition, we have a practice known as pranayama. Prana, as previously stated, is the Vital Energy in the body. It is also the breath or the vehicle via which the Life Force circulates through the body. Yama means to control or to direct, in this case. Through many of these breath practices, we can initiate the relaxation response, which raises our quality of life immensely.
Practice the following simple breath pattern, to awaken your awareness of the Life Force, to amplify the Vital Energy, and then to begin to direct it through the body for purification and healing.
Allow the breath to fill the torso from the bottom up, moving through the pelvis into the abdominal region, and finally up into the chest cavity. Let the belly be soft, as you inhale richly and deeply, and then gently contract the abdominal muscles throughout the exhalation. Inhale smoothly and fluidly for a count of 4. Then hold the breath for 4 beats (less if you find you are straining). Finally, release the breath gradually and completely for 4 counts, or until you can exhale no further. Repeat for 4 cycles. Observe how you feel physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, after you complete the practice. Gradually, with more practice, lengthen the number of cycles and the duration you inhale/hold/exhale. Eventually, you will find the ease of breath to exhale about 1/3 longer than you inhale. This particular ratio really serves the relaxation response.
BREATHE. LIVE. BE.
“When we are living as our unique selves, we find we have a rich creativity available to us…. We love into existence that which we wish to create. I believe that what we create also contains the love that brought us into existence." ~Ruth Schweitzer-Mordecai
When my son Coe was 10 or 11, he had a t-shirt that read, “I’ve decided to put myself in charge.” It was always interesting to see how people reacted to it. Inevitably, some adult would make a remark like, “You better watch out, Mom. Are you sure you want him running the show?”
I have to admit, the first time I saw him wearing it, I was a little taken aback by the implications. But then I began to question why those words had elicited such an emotionally charged response from me. Is there really something inherently wrong with a child being in charge of his or her own being? Would that we, as adults, really subscribed to such an intention.
As I am fascinated with language and its intricacies, I began to ponder this word, charge. I was intrigued by the slogan emblazoned across my son’s chest, as well as my reaction to it. Where was my resistance coming from, when I know conceptually that this is an essential spiritual truth? Each of us is fully in charge of our own experience, our own destiny.
The more I considered this, the clearer it became I was balking because of my own experience as a child. I kept coming back to a particular meaning of the word charge that was nagging me. It relates to one, usually a child, who is commended to the custody of another. Such a child would, most often, have very little control over his or her own destiny, because the child would essentially be the responsibility of a caretaker or guardian, and anything but “in charge.”
As I pondered this, it was clear most children fall into this category. In my case, my parents “knew” what was best for me, and were the arbiters of my life, while I lived “under their roof,” leaving me with very little say in the matter, and even less control.
I was often shuffled off to events for which I had no interest, or required to participate in sports for which I had no passion, because that was what the Naumanns “did”. I was rarely consulted about my wishes or desires, and many times simply ignored, when I asked to be allowed to do what I knew was more in alignment with who I know myself to be. I learned very quickly to suppress my own vision and silence my voice. I learned to simply do as I was told.
As a result, I grew up, to a certain degree, relying on others for guidance to determine what was best for me, deferring to others beliefs about what would make me happy or feel fulfilled. In many ways, I no longer knew what it was that I really wanted, or even how to determine it for myself.
When this is the case, as I believe it is with so many of us, we lose sight of our own ability to create. We forget the fact that each of us is in charge, that we are all ultimately responsible for ourselves, for every thought we conjure, every emotion we elicit, or action we take, and thus for the entirety of our experience.
We might like to think or believe otherwise, but that false premise only serves to dis-empower us. Whatever our belief, we are in full control, whether consciously or not, and we are the creators of our own reality, by virtue of our thoughts, and on what we continually place our focus.
Ultimately it comes down to this: Are we going to create our lives consciously and deliberately, or by default?
The truth is, we began as pure potential, as Source Energy, one single Vibration, united with the One, with God. Through Divine Impulse, we chose to come into this time-space reality, into this body, with all of the given circumstances of our birth environment, and we arrived perfectly well equipped to run our own show.
Imagine for just a moment you are 11 years old. It’s a hot summer evening after dinner, and you’re hanging out with a group of kids from the neighborhood. You’ve finished the popsicles your mom has doled out, when someone says, “Let’s play hide and seek!” You’re the last to yell “Not it!” so you walk over to the big old maple tree in your front yard, lean up against it, cover your eyes tightly with both hands, and begin counting to ten, very slowly. One, two, three…
Now, consider for a moment how you would feel, if after counting ten, and calling out “Apples, peaches, pumpkin pie, who’s not ready holler I,” you turned around, opened your eyes, and all your pals were still standing there in front of you?
It wouldn’t be very much fun, would it? The point of the game- to have fun and take pleasure from playing- is impossible. The primary purpose, that experience of happiness, can only be achieved if all of the kids scatter and hide. And the better the hiding spot, the greater the challenge, and the more fun it is!
This little story, paraphrased from Rabbi Yehuda Berg’s book on the Kabbalah, called The 72 Names of God: Technology for the Soul, is an analogy of what happened prior to the creation of the physical world, human beings included.
The teachings of the Kabbalah, as with many other wisdom traditions, explain that before the birth of the Universe, all that existed was infinite, non-physical energy that expanded endlessly.
The Kabbalah calls this vastness Limitless Light. In the Chinese philosophy, it is known as Tao, and to the Hindu practitioner, or yogi, like myself, it is called Parusha. Abraham-Hicks calls it Source. Still many more refer to it as God.
Regardless of the name, every possible form of pleasure was included in this Light, in this pulsating, vibrating, highly charged, pure, positive energy. Everything a person could possibly conceive of, yearn for, need, or desire was included in this Light of happiness. This was Reality, the domain of the Creator. There was no concept of time, no sense of space, no awareness of separateness, or duality.
According to Berg, the Kabbalah teaches that this Infinite Source Energy then created all the souls of humanity for one express purpose: to further know Itself. By endowing us with this Infinite Light of happiness, and bestowing upon us our birthright, the Creator would expand, and we, as sparks of that divinity, would experience bliss, the grace of immeasurable Joy.
This Limitless Light was handed to us freely, unconditionally. But, just as in the story with the game of hide and seek, it wasn’t much fun, because everything was offered up so easily. In other words, we were created, we opened our eyes, in a manner of speaking, and all that happiness was just sitting there right in front of us.
Berg goes on to say there was still something missing: the thrill of the hunt, the quest, the game.
It quickly became clear, that our newly created existence would have been even more fulfilling and enjoyable if we, ourselves, could create this Light of happiness, this joy, instead of just being handed it on a silver platter.
So we said to God, “Let’s play hide and seek! You hide your Light and we will find it.”
Picture this Light, if you will, as a vast mirror containing All and reflecting All, and in one cataclysmic event, the Big Bang, one might say, this mirror was shattered into an infinite number of pieces. Our Universe in its present incarnation was born.
Each of us is one of those mirrored pieces, like a hologram, containing the entirety of the original Source within us. How ingenious! God found the best hiding place of all. Who would have ever thought that the light would be found right where we stand? Who would have suspected it would be hidden within each of us? Let the game begin…
Unfortunately, many of us have simply forgotten we came here to play, to enjoy the experience of sifting through all of the contrast that exists in our world, to uncover our inner essence of Light, and to let it radiate through the infinite expressions of our creation.
That’s not entirely true, we haven’t so much forgotten our original intention, as we have been conditioned into believing we do not possess this power to create. We believe, many of us, that it only exists outside of us, that we are at the mercy of forces beyond our control. We so very often hand our power over to others, to our parents, our teachers, our lovers, our clergy, politicians, and institutions to dictate what it is we should want to be, do and have.
It didn’t happen all at once either. In fact, as infants and in the early years of childhood, before we had been too terribly tainted by those around us, who had lost sight of this original awareness, we were as close as we could get to our Creator.
Infants have no awareness of separation; they are perfect and whole, completely in tune and connected with the All That Is. Young children still see through the eyes of Source. They experience the world openly and honestly. They have not yet learned to disbelieve, to doubt, to judge or to fear. Poet Kurtis Lamkin expresses this so eloquently. He says, “Believing is all a child does for a living.”
A child’s imagination is a glorious thing to behold; it knows no bounds. It is full of all possibility. Children are blessed with the ability to create worlds that conjure wonder and delight. They divine stories that defy reality, and immerse themselves in scenarios completely unaware and unruffled by our notions of time and space.
Why is it that we relegate this world of the imagination only to children? And why do we allow them to be trained away from it so easily? All too quickly we begin to impose the strictures of “reality” upon them, conditioning them to mistrust the innate impulse to create.
Pablo Picasso once said, “Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that will never be again. And what do we teach our children? We teach them that two and two make four, and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are? We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel....” He passionately believed that “Every child is an artist. He said, “The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
And yet, when we look around us in our daily lives, do we not often marvel at the wonders of creation that are in our midst? I am not speaking of the creations of the natural world, which emanated from Source, but rather of the dynamic feats of engineering, the intricacies of computer technology, the beauty of Art and Architecture, just to name a few.
Who is responsible for these? From whence did they come? They sprang from the imagination of individuals like you and me.
This concept dawned on me one misty evening when I was driving through the damp streets of downtown Syracuse. As I looked around me I had this flash of insight. Every building, every lamppost, every vehicle, all of it began in the mind of an individual.
We were able to send a man to the moon, because one man believed it possible. And a belief is just a thought we keep thinking. We bring into being that which we believe. Consider the power in that statement. Thought, then, is the source of all creation. The imagination is the fount of all manifestation. The conscious mind plants a seed in the subconscious, where it takes root and grows, ultimately breaking forth into physical form. Conceive it, Believe it, Achieve it.
When we have grasped the “CBA” process, it is easier to work with another, more powerful, means of manifesting that is based on our knowing. Most people would say they know something to be true because they have experienced it. They work from the “I’ll believe it, when I see it” mentality. However, at its most basic level, the process of creation works in reverse. “I’ll see it, when I believe it”. More to the point, when I know it, I’ll experience it. There is one very important caveat in this equation. There can be no doubt. No doubt.
Without being aware of it, many people work with this principle when they pray. Prayer is an act of creation, or it can be. We have heard of people being cured “miraculously” by means of prayer. When faith in the vehicle of prayer is so strong, it is the very knowing it works that empowers the prayer for a friend or loved one’s recovery. Still, just as many of us have lost that friend or beloved.
So, as Picasso said, each of us began our lives as an artist. How then, if we have lost this understanding, do we reclaim our birthright? How do we recover our innate desire for play and our ability to mold and sculpt the clay of our lives into all that we desire? How do we return to our childlike state of innocence that believes anything is possible?
First, it is important to remember that our connection to Source, that fluid, undiluted, stream of pure potential has always been there at our disposal. We have never been cut off from it. We have only hardened the walls, and clogged this “arterial” pathway with the plaque of our negative beliefs, habits of thought, and behavior. We have obstructed the free flow of Divine Inspiration from consistently and continually coming through us.
This Light of Awareness, this Source Energy has always been there, it has merely been hidden from our view, hidden inside us. Our challenge, in this game we call life, is to seek it out, to uncover it, and to let it shine. This illumination of our awareness will, then, allow us to tap the pure potential of the creative impulse from which all things in the Universe are born. From this vantage point, we can manifest the deepest stirrings of our souls, brought forth in the imagery of our imaginations.
Yet, as we are these mirrors, we are not able to see our own reflections. As we look out from this place of wholeness, unaware of our perfection, we see ourselves reflected back to us only in relation to others, and always in reverse. We carry within ourselves all that we ascribe to others.
When we view someone through the eyes of love, through the eyes of our inner being, with the innocence of a child, we are actually seeing the best of ourselves, our God-Self. We then only see reflected in the other those attributes that we admire, or to which we aspire. Conversely, when we look through the eyes of hate, fear, and separation, from the perception of the ego or false self, we see those aspects of ourselves we deem less than worthy also reflected in the other.
In order to become the deliberate creators we chose to incarnate as, we must realign with our God Self, the Inner Being that emanates a vibration of pure positive energy. When we are open channels, receiving the flow of Source Energy, we can then finally take responsibility for our lives and our own happiness.
So how do we do this?
We are aware that many cars, these days, come with guidance systems hard wired into the main frame. We have been given a similar means of moving swiftly and easily in our desired direction, which allows us to gain control of our experience, ultimately to achieve the joy that is our purpose for being here. It is our intuition.
This ingenious system comes standard on every make and model. When in proper working order, it will never steer us wrong. When we are tapped into it, we will consistently make choices that without doubt will serve our greater good.
In the Disney version of the story Pinocchio, the diminutive cricket, Jiminy, cautioned the wooden boy to “let your conscience be your guide.” This conscience of which he speaks is not the guilt inducing angel and devil on our shoulder. It is an amalgam of emotion and feeling, a visceral response, or “gut reaction.”
We can know what is serving our greater good, what is bringing us closer to that which we truly are and desire, by becoming aware of how we feel. Our emotions are the best indicators of where we stand in relationship to our highest Self at any given moment.
Yet many of us, like Pinocchio, can get confused and easily led astray by the allure of the ego, drawn toward those things that seem to be of benefit or pleasurable at first glance, but that often wind up entrapping us in the end.
Pinocchio knew when he was lying to himself because his nose began to grow. We are not so fortunate. We don’t have such an obvious indicator. We must quiet ourselves long enough to feel our way to the truth of what is best for us. The better we feel, the more in line we are with our Source. The worse we feel, the farther we have strayed from the path.
If we lack awareness of this guidance system, then we will allow marketing and media moguls, pundits and politicians to tell us what they feel is best for us, what it is we really want and need. We can find ourselves following the masses, just as Pinocchio trails behind the other little boys straight to the Isle of Pleasure. Then we wind up feeling like an ass, when we realize we have been swindled and duped. Just like these sorry little donkeys, we can frequently lose sight of our intuition, our Inner Being, and get caught in the trap of ego mind. And so, our perfect mirror that reflects the Wholeness of our Creator becomes fractured.
Zen Master, Osho, teaches, “Man is Split. Schizophrenia is a normal condition of man – at least now. It may not have been so in the primitive world, but centuries of conditioning, civilization, culture and religion have made man a crowd – divided, split, contradictory… But because the soul of man is one, all the conditionings, at most, destroy the periphery of man. But the center remains untouched – that’s how man continues to live. But life has become a hell.”
He goes on to offer, “The way that you are, you cannot say that you are. You don’t have a being. You are a marketplace – many voices. If you want to say ‘yes’, immediately the ‘no’ is there. You cannot even utter the simple word ‘yes’ with totality…. In this way happiness is not possible; unhappiness is a natural consequence of a split personality.”
How then do we cure this schizophrenia, how do we become undivided, integrated, centered, crystallized? Jesus said, “When you make the two one, when you make the inner as outer and the outer as inner---then shall you enter the kingdom.”
So we begin by cleaning up our vibration, in order to realign ourselves. We start stripping away that which no longer serves us. We release the resistances we have accumulated in our bodies, hearts and minds, we shed the outmoded beliefs, the false premises, the chronic habits of thinking and being that limit our ability to create the lives we so deeply desire to live.
And then again, with this Divine Light, we ignite the spark of our imagination, we dream; we fantasize; we tell the story, with all the embellishments, of what we desire to create. We move from powerlessness toward a place of hope, of expectation, and belief that what it is we intend to manifest is within our power. Remember, all beliefs are merely chronic or habitual patterns of thought. As we progress from belief to knowing, we will begin to witness the manifestation of our desires, which will reinforce our knowing. Ultimately, our knowing will evolve into being, and we will have reclaimed our birthright as genius creators.
From this place of expansion, liberation and clarity, we will then consistently take inspired action. We will know when something feels right, and we will do it. We must let our conscience be our guide. As we do, we begin again to take charge of our lives, and we become the artist who crafts the masterpiece we call life.
Katrin Naumann worked for 20 years as a Theatre Artist, both behind the scenes as a Costume and Scenic Designer, and on stage, film and TV, as an Actor. She has been a lifelong adventurer on the path of Self discovery, which has led to her current role as Director of Inner Balance Life Works. Her holistic healing practice focuses on offering pathways toward (R)evolutionary Self Transformation. Katrin serves the community as an Energy Healer, Intuitive Spiritual Guide, Qigong & Yoga Instructor, Author, Public Speaker, and Workshop Creatrix.