Enlightenment glimpse by glimpse : a Quote and a Poem

Zen enlightenment, which carries with it a deep and lasting comprehension of one’s place in the totality of the universe, is not easily gained — contrary to the impression of “immediacy” that many people have taken away from their cursory reading of Zen literature. Continue reading

Notes on Saving Icarus: Lin Yutang’s Pseudo-Scientific Formula for Wisdom

Self-Realization vs Self-Help

Our century is filled with formulas for living, statistical  empirical studies, tests and proofs of what brings happiness, what constitutes the good life that, you may notice, provided you don’t get caught in the hype, only corroborate age old wisdom for happy happening, found in every cultures and especially religious traditions/institutions, like marriage, going to church/synagogue and other rituals, respect of the elders etc…   The promise of Seligman’s learned optimism against learned helplessness, started with humanistic psychology, has degenerated into the overly statistical science of happiness, known as positive psychology. Continue reading

T.H. White: The Book of Merlyn

the book of Merlyn_last chImagine a rusty bolt on the garden door, which has been set wrong, or the door has sagged on its hinges since it was put on, and for years the bolt has never been shot efficiently: except by hammering it, or by lifting the door a little, and wriggling it home with effort. Imagine then that the old bolt is unscrewed, rubbed with emery paper, bathed in paraffin, polished with fine sand, generously oiled, and reset by a skilled workman with such nicety that it bolts and unbolts with the pressure of a finger – with the pressure of a feather – almost so that you could blow it open or shut. Can you imagine the feelings of the bolt? They are the feelings of glory which convalescent people have, after a fever. It would look forward to being bolted, yearning for the raptures of its sweet, succesful motion. Continue reading

Radical Rhetoric: literature as ‘Happy Creation’ and Blogging

In a previous post, I chose Jeb Birdman Corliss as an extreme case of ‘follow- your- passion’ type. As I roam the Blogocean, some bloggers choose to navigate the highs and lows of their lives through poetry, it is true from the comfort of their homes, but it does not mean that this endeavor is void of any risk. Continue reading

The Golden Mean for Passionate Souls?

First Fig
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light.
Edna St. Vincent Millay

The Triumph of Moderation Continue reading

Icarus: the Obligation to Feel Good

Bruegel_IcarusWhy Icarus?

O no, she’s at it again with her Icarus! Yes, I’m at it again, but this time to make a little re-view of “why Icarus?“. Continue reading

Peter Schlemiel and Icarus

What’s in a Shadow, Dear Michal?

“ Sell me Thy shadow” entreated the obsequious man
in the gray coat. No treachery in asking
‘What’s in a shadow that lures you so, my man’
‘Shlemiel, for thy lovely, lovely shadow
I give you Fortunatus magic purse’ Continue reading

Learner-Centered Mentoring as an Antidote to the Guru Trap

As a coach/mentor and lifelong learner, I feel the need to keep current on what’s out there in the world of self-help and coaching, both for personal renewal and community building. So it happened that I attended another lecture last week, in my region. It is not important to know all the particulars of this event, except that it was all women entrepreneurs or would-be ones. The lecture was geared at promoting a new course on self-development with success/ happiness as one of the main tenets.  It promised to be very rich, as the women attending, introducing themselves, shared their expectations for the present lecture. However as the lecture proceeded, it would have been the usual cant for me, about the pursuit of happiness and success*, if a 30 something year old woman wouldn’t have been there. Let’s call her E., of course not her real name.

* two (coaching) themes strongly related and interchangeable maybe due to the Latin etymology of ‘success’. For example, in Italian:

succedere happen, occur, succeed, follow, befall, follow one another

http://translate.google.com/#en/it/happen

Happiness Drawing Exercise

This post is dedicated to E. and all the special women like her, I did not seize the opportunity to encourage on their rightful path. But, through this post, the opportunity is not lost: a consolation.

We were some 30 women, +/-, attending this lecture on personal growth and empowerment. E. arrived some 20 minutes late, at her young entrepreneur friend’s invite who was in the know of her plight. E. came all the way from a faraway town to listen to this lecture and eventually sign up for the course it promoted. She seemed very expectant of this class. For our first practical exercise, we were asked to draw with color crayons how each of us viewed our journey in the direction of happiness, how we imagined we’d get there; with the lecturer emphasizing that there were no correct answers: “it’s not an exam”. So far so good. However, when it was time to get feedback from the lecturer on our “masterpieces”, we were all made wrong. No flowers, no spirals, no joyful faces or splashes of colors, no meandering paths, no labyrinths, please. The right answer, dixit the lecturer, was the drawing bellow (without the guy, at the blackboard, with the weird look).

Is the shortest route to happiness the straight one?

shortest route_happiness.jpeg

We were supposed to have a eureka (happy heuristics) moment from this picture: but of course! It’s the straight line that we should have drawn. ‘Why none of you has drawn a straight line?’, rhetorically asked the happiness expert.  E. dared to share her present process, by asking if happiness wasn’t somewhat one result of asking herself what to do with her life and learn what she was meant to become.  E., who made herself vulnerable by sharing her own experience through asking a question, was met with a straight, categorical ‘no’ to her legitimate question, by the happiness high priestess, followed by a sneaky “don’t even think about it”.  The ‘expert’ had to have the last word: we all pursue happiness and we have to learn the rules to get there. Now, E., this young woman who seemed quite confused about her life, the non-expert, was echoing some aspect of one famous quote by Victor Frankl and the know-it-all coach would not acknowledge that !:

Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it”

Beyond the labyrinth  Continue reading

Defining Success Part 1: Spiraling Down

My first encounter with self-help coincided with my going to the States and what can be called a cultural clash. The culture of success and happiness the American way: good, better, best. The title in the news in my school’s paper could have gone like this: French schoolgirl mugged during an exchange trip to America. So the story began:

On one fateful day, I entered the local drugstore  in Needham, Massachusetts. I was 14 years old, the school trip was drawing to an end and it was time to buy some souvenirs. Among all the tacky memorabilia I could afford, I bought a mug with a message that was going to mesmerize me for the next 10 years to come:

Success is doing what you love;

Success is loving what you do;

Success is being true to yourself. Continue reading

“Follow Your Passion, You’ll Make a Life”

The “Follow Your Passion” Fallacy

One of the biggest fallacies in the self-help department is the advice “follow your passion”, the implication being: “the money will follow”, the fallacy part of it all. My husband, in the know of my centers of interest, sent me an interesting article on the subject. http://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/worst-career-advice-do-what-you-love.html Continue reading