Self-limiting beliefs

“The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, the wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh

It’s an inside job, stupid.


That’s a bit strong, but it’s true.

True because I say it? No, because it is: you stop you because you think it so. Unbundle that little sentence and that’s at least acknowledging something that many people fail to see (“It’s just the way ‘I’ am”).

Let me be clear, this isn’t a case of noticing your self-limiting thoughts — e.g. “I’m not good enough” — but moving beyond the noise and asking (at least) the following questions:

1. Why are these thoughts so repetitive?
2. Can I stop these thoughts?
3. Why not?
4. Why are there times when my mind is quieter than at other times?
5. Why do I so often believe these thoughts?
6. Who is it who notices these thoughts?
7. What is it that notices these thoughts?
8. What would happen if instead of arguing with my inner critic, I invited the question, “Are the thoughts true?”

I know that’s an awfully long list and reads like the Who’s Who of narcissism but, trust me, you’re not going to make any progress in your life where so many thoughts hold you back from being who you were born to be, unless you undertake a deep process of self-inquiry. And before you start ye old finger-wagging and telling me I’m in no position to tell you what to do with your one and oh-so-precious life — which I accept by the way — remember this: very few, if any, thoughts are true. The moment you adopt that shield, you’ll find that life becomes a lot easier.

One tip. If you’re stuck and don’t know what to do, write down whatever it is that’s getting in your way. Avoid the temptation to write everything down, but instead stick to the one or two things you can’t get out of your head. (Right now there’s an awful lot of angst about managing life and work which seems intent on deforming our soul — but that’s just a personal reflection. Yours could be entirely different and be relational, economic or societally driven.) Once you’ve written it down, stand back from your jottings, read the thought(s) out loud and invite the question about the truth of the thought. Keep doing that, not to go full circle when you answer “yes”, but to understand if it really is true.

To make this even easier, let me give you an example. The thought arises that says, “I’m worried about losing my job.” The first thing I’d query is which ‘I’ is it that’s answering the question. The ‘I’ that’s your name or something bigger? The ‘I’ in I am? But for now that’s not really the point. The point is you know that “…losing your job” is only a thought. It’s not true — the thought that is — but instead what makes your feel uncomfortable is the lack that arises in ‘thinking’ what will happen — the “What if?” — if you were to lose your job. Again, not to be too prescriptive, but bring yourself back to the present. Right now. Here. If you look again at the thought, you’ll quickly realise (I hope) that (a) it’s not true and (b) unless someone has given you a letter, spoken to you or sent you an email informing you of your redundancy, you’re still employed. Oh, and you’re still alive. Isn’t that amazing? Sorry, that’s not meant to be a silly thing to say but to try and put into perspective that life is life, and a job is a job.

Of course, I’m giving you a greatly simplified version of the process that I often undertake with a client but hopefully you can see the direction of travel with the process. To be clear, I’m not saying that the thought isn’t important but I do know that as soon as you invite the questioning above, your innate wisdom will kick in sufficient to challenge so much of what you long took for granted and is getting you into so much trouble.

In summary, don’t be afraid to test your thoughts by self-inquiry. If you don’t like my questions, use your own, but remember it’s an inside job not out there. Actually, just sitting still in a quiet place and observing the thoughts arise and letting them pass can be as powerful as any amount of self-inquiry. (This is the essence of meditation.)

And no, in case you’re wondering, I don’t think this remotely Woo Woo but a necessary part of keeping the veil up on our ego-infused lives that, in case you’ve forgotten, has gotten us to this exalted place, namely a place where more and more people feel anxious about the life they lead or the one they’d like to lead.

The meaning of meaning

“Experience life in all possible ways —
good-bad, bitter-sweet, dark-light,
summer-winter. Experience all the dualities.
Don’t be afraid of experience, because
the more experience you have, the more
mature you become.”Osho

No, this isn’t a “purpose of life” post. It’s a…stop doing the same thing and expecting a different result post.

In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m troubled by how little we question the status quo. You know the landscape that allows us to continue to pollute on an unprecedented level, to see wanton greed and accept it as part of the necessary face of capitalism but, most of all, the disparity between a faithless society and one connected to a higher purpose. (Notice I’ve not mentioned the G-word but what I’m alluding to is something infinite and beyond our current (worldly) understanding.)

On a practical, day-to-day level this means inviting into our hearts a “more beautiful question” (see the writings of e.e.cummings) and then living that question with all the passion, grit and fortitude that we seem able to devote to the success, goal-orientated credo that fills so many of our personal development books.

The question that sits at the heart of this process of self-inquiry is “Who am I?” which I first read about in the writings of Sri Ramana Maharshi. But even if that’s not your flavour of self-reflection, you might ask something along the lines of “Am I my thoughts?”. Odd, eh? Possibly, but I bet you’ve never stopped to investigate if your thinking self is the same as your true self. (If you need to read any book, you could do worse than read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle which details the different parts of our being starting with the thinker and investigating the watcher (of said thoughts) and then something beyond that — i.e. awareness of the awareness of our thoughts.)

If this sounds ridiculous then I can accept that but not to the extent that so many of the people I meet are driven by a deep fear of losing what they have, instead of accepting more of what they do have. And, in a vocational setting, too few people go to work for anything more than the money which leaves them bereft of soul…and any connection with their true gifts.

But of course I’m not going to break through to you or anyone else. The imperative isn’t there. Indeed, in my own case it took a near-death exeperience for me to lift the veil on my ego-induced life where I thought that my purpose was to get instead of grow emotionally and spiritually, and align with true self.

In the end, as I repeat ad nauseum, all of this is a choice — even reading this far — but trust me unless we’re willing to step out of our “meaning of life” diatribe that insists on conformity as the sine qua non of success, I fear that it will take more than a “life experience” to wake you up from your narcissistic torpor.


This week’s selection produced by Nick Francis.

I’ve been listening to his music for a few years now, and even though I no longer pay for the extended version (…sorry Nick), I still love the one hour mix. I’ve found so many great artists from listening to what he puts out, which I’ve gone on to listen to for hours.


When it’s all gone

“There is within each one of us a potential for goodness beyond our imagining; for giving which seeks no reward; for listening without judgment; for loving unconditionally.” Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Not a day goes by without reading about some man-made disaster, event or issue that says all you need to know about the human condition: we don’t care.

That’s right.

We don’t care.

Oh sure, we care that we’ve got food on the table, money to spend and mobile phones (just kidding!), but when it comes to anything more profound, namely war, greed, poverty, the environment, inequality and the litany of things that unsettle us (or do they, really?), we sit on the sidelines.

I don’t know why, but then again I do: it’s the way we are.

I had this image the other day of an ant colony (a formicary), or rather the equivalent built by humans. It wasn’t one of those beautiful, tall structures that we’ve all seen on the forest floor, but millions of little clumps of sand or soil with a few ants merrily going about their own business. And then the rain came and most were washed away. Of course, this is ridiculous but that’s how it feels to me when we all live in separate houses, go to work in our cars and by and large keep ourselves to ourselves. There are exceptions but not enough, not nearly enough to change the narrative from ‘me’ to ‘us’. However, even if we evolved to live in community, we’d still have to agree a framework of greater equality, stewardship of the earth and non-ownership (some parts will have disappeared or be so deleterious that we can’t inhabit them) and, most importantly, live for a higher purpose.

I used to think that someone, a great leader, would come along and wake us up from our narcissistic torpor. But I no longer believe that. Neither do I believe that the logic of what I say, particularly about the environment, will lay upon our hearts and spur us into action. We’re past that point. No, regretfully, I fear that the only thing that will make a difference is when something cataclysmic happens. And then we’ll run around blaming everyone else by which time it will be too late to take action.

If this sounds depressing, it is. It’s bloody depressing.

As my parents used to say, “When it’s gone, it’s gone”.


My point exactly.

Pioneer spirit

“He was mastered by the sheer surging of life, the tidal wave of being, the perfect joy of each separate muscle, joint, and sinew in that it was everything that was not death, that it was aglow and rampant, expressing itself in movement, flying exultantly under the stars.” Jack London, The Call of the Wild

I’m not into trophies or awards.

I’d rather walk my talk, slowly, but belligerently.

That said people sometimes ascribe the label ‘Thought Leader’ to what I do. I hate the term. I don’t think that way, and, certainly, I’m not on any path where I hope you’ll blindly follow me. In fact, if anything, what I wish for is more people, more brave souls, who don’t give a fig about the status quo, and, shorn of their social conditioning, set out on a path of discovery (not for the glory — hell no!) but instead because they’ve no choice. It’s their calling.

And in case you think this an exhortation to start a business, it’s not. All I’m doing is inviting you to consider how you summon forth your muse to face the challenges of life and pursue those to the bitter end.

Global warming.


A gift culture.

The environment.

The lack of compassion, care and love.

What really floats your boat?

But the thing is, if you have to ask the question, then perhaps you don’t possess the Pioneer gene so many of our early ancestors manifested. Perhaps it was the do or die nature of life that brought forth the best in them but they weren’t apt to sit on the sidelines waiting for others to show the way.

I don’t know, but perhaps it’s time we all started something deliberately at odds with the system just to see what arises. Pioneer? Probably not. But it’s bound to get under the skin of someone.

Onwards, forever onwards.

One moment at a time

“I live my life in growing orbits which move out over this wondrous world, I am circling around God, around ancient towers and i have been circling for a thousand years. And I still don’t know if I am an eagle or a storm or a great song.”Rainer Maria Rilke, Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God

I’ll make this brief.

There is only now. This moment. And yet, we spend most of our life thinking, ‘What’s next?.

How sad.

Yes, there are places to go (physical as well as spiritual), people to visit and things to do, but if your life is lived over there or out there, you’ll never see the beauty and pleasure beneath your feet.

Holding the moment is hard. Breathing, meditation and mindfulness all help, but however you arrive at that place of no mind doesn’t really matter. What matters is you know that’s where wholeness resides — true love if you will.

In case you think this a recipe for escapism, you’ve missed the point. Rather than running away from yourself, you’re getting in touch with who you were born of all those years ago.


Coming home

“There is neither creation nor destruction,
neither destiny nor free will, neither
path nor achievement.
This is the final truth.” ― Ramana Maharshi,


Isn’t it amazing?

But, we take it for granted until something death-dealing happens. And then we’re confronted with a few homes truths, not least the fact that we’re mortal.

The trouble is, as a species, now largely conditioned by our circumstances, we take everything for granted, even the fact that we’re alive by dint of this amazing, dynamic, self-repairing machine.

If you’ve read any of my material, it might appear metaphysical (and I’d accept that) but that’s not where I’m at. If my work means anything, it’s “to become what we truly are” (Nietzsche). In praying in aid those few words, I don’t mean to suggest a deluded version of yourself but true self, i.e. one devoid of egoic identity.

You might think that I’m setting up a scenario where to become the ‘being’ in human being you have to set goals, strive constantly and make each day another uncompromising mountain to climb. If that’s your take on things, then you’ve missed the point. No, to become what we truly are doesn’t mean we have to do anything or become anything, particularly something bearing the rubric ‘success’. As Tony Parsons says in The Open Secret:

“When there is no longer that which seems to stand apart then life is nakedly, passionately all there is. This is freefall, life full on, not my life, not anyone’s life, but simply life.”

I accept that making the distinction between true self and false self is difficult, but unless we examine life from the inside out, we’ll never make sense of things.

Let me try to put this in less prosaic terms. When I’m working with a coaching client, one of the first things I’ll ask them to do is write down what’s going on in their life. Specifically, to write down those thoughts that routinely appear. The bit that comes next, which I’ve termed self-inquiry, is no more than a reflection back of those thoughts and to invite a number of questions which (a) test the veracity of the thoughts and (b) to invite who or what might be witnessing those thoughts. For me, this is the essence of Socratic dialogue: we’ve got to get under the skin of the thinker. I accept it’s not for everyone but all I know, from many years of chasing the next (personal) dream, is that we won’t get to the root of the issue(s) by allowing our egoic mind to go to work on another faux objective or to change the external world to make us happy.
Think of it this way, we’ve been conditioned to believe that if we strive to become something, get something or to avoid something, we’ll be happy. But it never works. Oh, it does for a short while, but we soon get bored and return to the field of consumerist play.

(I’m not sure who it was who said I’m here to shatter all illusions but you can see why, for many people, to be told they’ve set their success sail in the wrong direction can be very disturbing.)

Of course, some people never get to the point of questioning their thoughts — the conditioning is too strong — and that’s fine, but once you recognise that ‘happiness’ exists independently of any-thing or better still no-thing, life becomes much easier. Think of it this way, if you ever find yourself in a state of flow or a place of quiet mind — nature usually takes us way out of our thinking mind — things feel a lot easier. (In that bliss-consciousness state we’re apt to have some of best ideas but that’s only because we’ve less on our mind.)

In the final analysis, I can’t predict or control those people that will eventually step out of their egoic identity but I do have this sense that we’re on the cusp of change as more and more people start to question the material world they’ve created or inherited that takes them out of and away from true self. In concrete terms, people would much prefer to live a simple life than to constantly chase the next fix.

What about you?

Which side of the true/false self divide do you stand?

Meaningless work


“There is only one cause of unhappiness: the false beliefs you have in your head, beliefs so widespread, so commonly held, that it never occurs to you to question them.” ― Anthony de Mello

I’m sure, for most people, work is just work. You know, a means to an end.

Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people: for as long as I can recall, I’ve seen work as a spiritual pursuit, or at least I’ve seen it as more than economic endeavour.

Of course, in my zeal for the often mundane, I could be masking a whole slew of existential issues but I don’t think so. Let’s face it, given our tenure at the coalface, I can’t imagine a life devoted to the £/$ as being anything other than soul-less.

What about you?

What does work mean to you? Something to make the most of your life, or a crushing defeat of your greatest gifts?

If you fall into the latter camp, I suppose the next obvious question is what are you doing to make the most of your genius?