Saturday, February 27, 2010

Why do anything?

I have been thinking quite a bit lately about what motivates me to do the things I do.

I have read over-and-over that there are only two real motivators, one being fear and the other being love. I know that fear used to be a very strong motivator for me in the past. I feared that, if I didn’t perform according to certain criteria, if I didn’t exceed my budget, if I didn’t have the car, the house the possessions, if I wasn’t a “nice”, sweet person who “massaged” the egos that counted and conformed to societal expectations, then I would not receive the recognition, affirmation, acceptance, ie: “love”, from society that I craved. The roles that I have chosen to play in the past have all been aimed at being told that I was acceptable and therefore worthy of love (because, of course, I feared that I was neither). This fake “love” is like fast food for the ego, but it always left me feeling hungry for more. Addictive and not at all satisfying or truly nourishing.

We learn from a very young age that there are certain behaviours that are rewarded by the giving of love and treats, whereas there are other behaviours that are discouraged through the withholding of love or the infliction of punishment. This conditioning continues into adulthood. When we play socially sanctioned roles, we are rewarded in the form of approval (respect, acceptance, status, power), money, possessions etc. so that we will continue to play these roles for the maximum utility of the corporation, the family, the society or whatever other institution requires our acquiescence. When we behave contrary to what is required by the institution, we are “punished” by the withdrawal of the aforementioned tokens of approval.

If we view society as an organism that is principally concerned with its own survival, then it makes perfect sense for society to strongly dis-incentivise its members from engaging in anti-social behaviours such as murder, rape, theft etc. It also makes sense to strongly incentivise people to devote their time and energy to activities that support the prevailing ideology and maintain the status quo and to discourage ideas, belief systems and activities that threaten it.

I suppose that we all have, to a certain extent, the choice whether to support and participate in these institutions or not and there’s nothing wrong with this at all, if we are very clear about the transaction that is taking place. As individuals of course we require (or believe we require) certain things from society such as security, infrastructure, community, a sense of meaning and purpose, and in exchange we are prepared to offer our acquiescence to the prevailing “way of being”. For me (and others, I suspect) the problem comes in when we mistake the rewards we receive for our acquiescence for love, and when we become dependent on this substitute “love” for our sense of self or well-being.

But how to distinguish between true love and the fake substitute? Well, for myself, I have come to the realization that true love accepts and rewards me for simply BEING myself in every moment, whereas substitute or fake love rewards me for DOING what the institution wants me to do. I have also realized that no expression of love from a source external to myself is ever going to feel completely satisfying unless I have found true love for, and acceptance of, myself. And then, ironically, I no longer require any external expressions of love at all!

But, coming back to love or fear as a motivator; actually I suspect that most of the things we choose to do are motivated by a combination of love and fear. For example, the motivators for sending my child to the most expensive private school could be a combination of the following: I love my children and want what’s best for them, I fear that unless they have the best education they will not have a secured future, I fear I will be considered a bad parent if I don’t send them to the most expensive school, I fear my children will come to resent me and eventually reject me if I don’t give them the very best, I love to see my children happy, secure and adjusting to life in a good school, etc, etc.

I am currently in the fortunate position of having very little that I absolutely MUST do (other than eating, sleeping and maintaining basic standards of hygiene!) It is actually very interesting to observe what it is that I choose to do in this position. Fear is playing a virtually non-existent role as a motivator right now. I guess it is love that is currently motivating me to keep simply choosing to do that which brings me the most joy and personal satisfaction. When viewed from the outside, I’m definitely not doing a whole helluva lot! I have never, in my whole life, been so blissfully indolent.

I suspect that I am merely pupating at the moment. Even though the caterpillar in the cocoon appears to be completely immobile and doing absolutely nothing at all, a miracle is taking place, which will reveal itself when the butterfly finally emerges. Hopefully, in due course, I will emerge from my own cocoon of inactivity as a whole new being with a great deal of purpose and fully energized to contribute my best and most meaningful gifts to the world.

And so the journey continues…

Next: Going With the Flow

Friday, February 19, 2010

Creating my own reality?

Lately one often hears people say that we create our own reality. This idea was probably seeded into general consciousness by movies such as “The Secret” and “What the Bleep do we know”, but perhaps it is simply a concept whose time has come. Perhaps our consciousness has sufficiently matured that we are finally able to entertain such an idea. Recently, as a result of certain experiences I have had (more about these later), I have been wondering what exactly it means to create my own reality.

Science tells us that our thoughts and emotions lead to the production of various chemicals in our brains and bodies, which do, indeed, impact on our physical experience of our reality. Just thinking about something, or imagining it, engages the same parts of the brain (as can be clearly observed by scientists), and leads to exactly the same physiological response, as actually experiencing that event in reality. So, if I think of someone I love, I will experience the same cascade of feel-good chemicals in the brain that I would experience if that person were actually physically with me. Positive thinking leads to the production of brain chemicals that cause us to feel happy and positive and vice versa. So, we really are able to influence our own subjective, physical experience of reality through our thoughts and intent. But what of the external reality that we experience with our five senses? I’m of the opinion that this too, is 100% a subjective experience.

We know that we are bombarded by thousands of bits of information every second, of which we are only consciously aware of a tiny percentage. What determines which bits of information we actively experience? Well, all information is filtered through the lens of our own view of the world and ourselves, which, in turn, is created by our previous experiences and our thoughts and attitudes about those experiences. So, if we hold a certain worldview, we will continue to have experiences that confirm and support that worldview, and our brains will disregard those bits of information that don’t actively support our worldview. Someone with a totally different worldview would experience exactly the same circumstances very differently. We know this is true when we interview several people who all witnessed an event but recall vastly different versions of that same event.

In truth we don’t experience the world the way IT is, but rather the way WE are.

Our experience of reality can never be truly objective at all, but is a totally subjective experience, which would seem to suggest that we could dramatically alter our experience of external reality if we were to alter ourselves. And how do we alter ourselves? Well, we alter our thinking, which leads to an alteration of our emotional state (we can eventually learn to “self-emote”, which means that we choose how we will feel about something rather than simply being a victim to our emotions). This, in turn, leads to an alteration of our physiological state, which alters our physical experience. Changing our thinking clearly changes the lens through which we filter the information we receive through our 5 senses, which, in turn, also alters our experiences and so on and so on, either in an upward spiral of self-perpetuating and self-reinforcing positivity or in a downward spiral of self-perpetuating negativity.

There is a school of thought that posits that our entire experience is subjective, which means that the whole of reality plays out in my own mind and that all reality is therefore a projection of my own consciousness. Therefore, I am 100% responsible for my own experience of all reality. We can combine the subjective worldview with the “many worlds" theory (or parallel universe theory) given to us by quantum physics, which suggests that, at every event, reality branches into all possible options, which all continue to co-exist. In this combined theory, I truly choose, in every moment, through my thoughts and intent and consciousness, exactly which version of reality I am going to experience. This would seem to indicate then that I choose which version of YOU I am going to experience, indeed, which version of all reality I am going to experience. This is indeed, the strongest version of the “I create my own reality” thesis. I’m not sure I’m prepared to accept this version as yet! However, I am pretty sure that, on some level or other, we do create our own experienced reality.

Of course, in order to benefit from the knowledge that we can create our own experiences of reality, we have to relinquish our attachment to our belief that we are victims and embrace our true creator-selves. And that’s the hardest part of all. It’s SO much easier to think of ourselves as helpless, weak, passive beings, victimized by fate or God or by society or our parents or whatever, than to take full responsibility for the creation of our own reality. Do I have the courage to stand up and take ownership of my life, my experiences, my emotional state, and my self-created reality? Well, I guess that, by applying the principles explored above, then I need to choose to have the courage, think and believe that I have the courage and then my reality will start to reflect that I DO have the courage. And so it is…

OK, this is all very interesting theory, but what have my own experiences in this regard been? Well, I have been working on investing my energy in the things I DO want rather than the things I don’t. What this means in practice is that I spend time every day in meditation and contemplation in which I vividly imagine what it is that I want to create in my life. I visualize this in great detail and I start to imagine the way I would feel if this was the way things were. Remembering that imagining the event causes EXACTLY the same physiological response as actually experiencing the event and that this physiological response then starts to alter my experience of reality. Then I express my willingness to be the version of self that experiences this new reality and get on with my life, staying open and receptive to pick up on “route markers” along the way. These could be an intuition that I should go somewhere, do something, talk to someone etc. Or often they come in the form of a strong emotion, which tells me that I am on the right path.

These are essentially the techniques described in greater detail in “The Secret”, but they are immensely powerful and also unbelievably effective. The world I am experiencing is starting to change. I keep meeting people and having experiences that confirm my opinions about the way I choose to see the world. I am happier and calmer and more in touch with what I really want than ever before. I am starting to experience incredible synchronicity, as I miraculously find myself in the right place at the right time to experience that which moves me ever closer to my stated intent. Below is an example of this.

I wrote last week Friday about the property we had found (link to last Friday's blog posting here) and certainly, at the time, it appeared to meet all the criteria we had intellectually set for our forest retreat. But then, on Saturday, we experienced something truly miraculous. We had agreed to meet with the estate agent to view one last property before we left for Cape Town. We were a bit reluctant to do so, as we thought that we had already found the perfect place for us. But she had gone to so much effort to set up the appointment that we felt bad about canceling and so we decided to quickly have a look and then leave.

Now, I need to backtrack a bit to something that happened 18 months ago. After the “peak experience” I had on the forested hilltop (described in my first blog post), I started to imagine what my new life could be like in the Tsitsikamma forest. I would lie awake at night imagining driving up a densely forested driveway in a white pick-up and pulling up in front of a wooden home, surrounded by indigenous forest. I imagined living a self-sufficient life, collecting rainwater, growing our own food and spending the rest of my time expressing my authentic Self in a way that brought me a sense of meaning and purpose. These imaginings brought me a great sense of joy, excitement and anticipation. However, as the months passed, my attention was diverted by the busy-ness of disentangling myself from my corporate job and city life and I forgot about my imagined perfect forest home.

Well, on Saturday, as we were following the estate agent in our car along an 8km dirt road winding its way through indigenous forest to the piece of land we were to view, suddenly there was a CLICK and I realized that I recognized this place! It was EXACTLY the way I had imagined it all those months before and, when we walked onto the piece of land, I knew that I had been there before in my vision. I had an overwhelming emotional connection to the place. Without knowing any of the practical considerations with respect to the property, I knew I was home!

This property is surrounded by protected indigenous forest with views of forest-covered mountains, as far as the eye can see. It has 2 dams, which had plenty of water despite the drought and is mostly cleared of invader species (although some work will still be required). We would need to build our own timber home to our own specifications (in my vision I saw the timber home we will build). There is plenty of space for a vegetable garden. Our neighbour, who is selling the property, owns a helicopter, which is put into use whenever there are fires in the Tsitsikamma forests. A useful connection to have! Even better, he has a guest cottage on his property where he has offered us accommodation while we are building our own home. He is also moving towards complete self-sufficiency and even shares our beliefs and philosophies, which we discovered during an hour spent chatting to him after viewing the property. Several of the other people in the small community appear to have similar ideas. We start to see the possibility of being part of the creation of an intentional community based on shared vision and values, which is something that we have often spoken and dreamt about. Every detail is simply perfect. This IS our new home.

So, did I create this reality through my intent or is it simply a huge coincidence? Was it prescience or did I predispose myself to finding this property because of the energy and emotion with which I imbued my imaginings? I guess I have a choice to see it any way I wish and therefore I choose to believe that I do indeed create my own reality and that my experience provides me with confirmation of these views. I choose to believe this simply because it makes me feel happy. My daily experiences are increasingly providing me with more and more reasons to believe as I do. And, really, at the end of the day, I choose to trust my own experiences rather than anyone else's theories or opinions.

What I have realized is that my emotions are the key the creating my reality. When I strongly imbue a thought or vision with emotion, I generally find that vision fulfilled in my reality and when I feel a really strong emotional response to something, then I know that I am on my true path. My heart is my infallible guide.

So, we have put in an option to buy the land and tomorrow we will be receiving an offer to purchase our home in Cape Town, and all is progressing perfectly in fulfilment of our dreams.

And so the journey continues…

Next: Why Do Anything?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Paradise found!

I’m writing this from Paradise. Well, my version thereof anyway!

We’ve spent the last 6 days viewing a myriad of diverse properties in the Garden Route, from Wilderness to Tsitsikamma, in search of the perfect place from which to create our forest dream. As the days have progressed, our dream has steadily come more-and more sharply into focus. In the process I have realized a few things about myself.

Firstly, I am DEFINITELY not a farmer! The hours spent inspecting an assortment of farm dams, traipsing through whitefly-infested citrus orchards, hectares of invader species that would require endless clearing and maintenance, pastures of silage or tracts of thorny “braam bos”, all the while sagely nodding my head in a vain attempt to create the impression that I understood what I was being told, have certainly made this fact abundantly clear to me! We have also decided that any property larger than 5 ha is simply too much for us to cope with and have accepted the sunburn, scratches, insect bites and twisted ankles as “school fees” before gratefully abandoning any delusions that we might have been harbouring of becoming “gentlemen farmers”. Our time is far better spent in other, more lucrative pursuits better suited to our talents and interests.

Similarly we have accepted that 100% self-sustainability might not be for us; at least not for a while until we have had time to gradually ease ourselves into the lifestyle – I definitely don’t have the courage to go cold turkey on my creature comforts! We visited several people who are attempting to be self-sustaining and, one look at the extremely challenging, not to mention bloody exhausting, existence they are attempting to scratch out of their dusty pieces of earth made me realize that, although I am willing to forgo the malls, my sporty car and other luxurious trappings of city life, I am certainly not willing to give up on essentials such as a daily shower, lights, a flushing loo, a washing machine and sufficient quality food to eat. I just can’t see myself fighting a daily battle with the baboons in order to harvest enough food to keep body and soul together!

We also considered some lovely eco-village propositions. Here the idea is to live with as small a footprint as possible and to use eco-friendly materials and building technologies in the construction of one’s home; however there is still Eskom-provided power and running water although most people do collect rain water and supplement with solar power. These eco-villages are situated in very beautiful, remote places, often in nature conservation areas, which would seem, on the face of it, to be absolutely perfect for our needs. However there are problems with the keeping of domestic pets and there are many, often extremely onerous, rules with respect to what one may and may not do. Suddenly it all felt very restrictive and not really conducive to our dream of having sufficient freedom and space to do our own “thing”.

We looked into residential properties within developments where the “country-feel” is maintained; a sort of rural “lite” solution for reforming city slickers! Some of these have incredible views and include communal use of small tracts of indigenous forest. But, at the end of the day, one is restricted to a small piece of land (measured in square metres instead of hectares!) and there are limitations to the freedom of expression and movement through voluntary subjugation to the dictates of a “body corporate”. Had we wanted this, we could simply have relocated to the outskirts of Cape Town.

So, the solution appeared to be a smallholding that had the right mix of indigenous flora, with enough space to breathe and sufficient autonomy but with acceptable security and at least Eskom power.

Well, we may just have found it! A 4.2ha property 5km from Plettenburg Bay; down a 400m gravel road. It has its own piece of >3ha of indigenous forest and fynbos and a 1,200 m2 piece of cleared land in front of the house, absolutely perfect for a large herb and vegetable garden and there is plenty of space for fruit trees along the driveway. There is a charming, large, well-maintained 3-bedroomed house on the property and a 2-bedroomed cottage in the indigenous forest, complete with tame loeries that appear every morning for their breakfast of fruit. Rainwater is collected in 6 large tanks but Eskom power is connected. Grey water is collected and can then be pumped onto the vegetable garden. Views are of the distant mountains, covered in pine forests, our own valley filled with indigenous forest and neighbouring dairy farms. None of the surrounding farmland may be subdivided or developed, as it is outside of the urban limits. There is space to breathe, space to develop and space to grow our dream. And, best of all, it is considerably cheaper than the asking price for our little “yuppy-pad” in Cape Town! Now, all that remains is to very rapidly conclude the sale of our Cape Town property and to make an offer. Even if we miss out on this property, we have been able to clearly articulate what we are looking for and we have seen that what we are looking for does indeed exist at a reasonable price.

This all very exciting! Our dream is finally starting to take shape.

Next: Creating My Own Reality

Friday, February 5, 2010


This week’s blog post will not contain any self-indulgent philosophical musings! Somehow I’m in more of an action-oriented mood at the moment rather than in a reflective, navel-gazing mood. So I have decided to simply write a short update of the progress toward the realization of our forest dream.

We leave tomorrow for Plettenburg Bay where we will be staying in the holiday home of an ex-colleague for 8 days. However this is no holiday, but rather a business trip! We will be spending the time visiting umpteen properties in the Garden Route, which we have pre-selected as a short-list during hours of Internet research. We have several appointments set up with estate agents (usually a sub-section of humanity that I avoid at all costs!) We will also be catching up with several contacts we have made in the Garden Route over the past few years, as we believe that we need to find a way to tap into the social network there. This will enable us to be “in the know” with respect to finding possible property solutions that may work for us. Amongst others, we will be meeting with various people who opted out of the corporate world to create a self-sustaining lifestyle in the Garden Route and it should be interesting to learn from their experiences.

At this point we aren’t sure whether we may indeed find the perfect place for us next week (in which case we will sign an offer to purchase) or whether we will merely get a better idea of what is out there and at what price. We may simply find a rental property for now and then find the perfect property to purchase once we have been living there for a while. The perfect home will either have indigenous forest on the property or will border on the state-owned indigenous forest. It should have a water source and should have sufficient land for the growing of our own food. If there is a dwelling on the property that would be good, but if we find the perfect land without a dwelling, we will rent somewhere close by while we build our own home.

Our house in Cape Town is just about sold; however we are waiting to hear about bond approval in one case, and the property of prospective buyers being sold first, in another case. Once we return to Cape Town, we will be selling my partner’s car (we have a buyer), buy our pick-up and start planning the big move.

So, after a month of relaxation and relative peace-and-quiet, it’s all happening now, which is very exciting and also quite intimidating. However, we continue to follow the dictates of our hearts and it all feels just right.

I’ll be back in a week’s time, hopefully with some good news that will take us several steps closer to our dream!


Next: Paradise Found!