We ask ourselves: Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that others won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us: it's in everyone. —Nelson Mandela
A few years ago I was having a conversation with my six-year-old grandson. "Francesco, what
would you do to save the world?" I asked. He thought for a moment; "Grandma, I would have
everyone be nice to each other."
Francesco's answer was clear and simple, but I soon discovered that to be nice was far
more complex than I supposed.
I looked up the word in several dictionaries and found that in Middle English it meant
strange, lazy, foolish. That wasn't quite what I was expecting, so I researched the originalmeaning of nice, and found that it comes from the Latin nescire; ne (not) + scire (know) = tonot know; to be ignorant.
The contemporary English also proved to be interesting. The definitions were varied
and a little more recognizable, but they started with the word delicate, followed by precise,
subtle, calling for great care, able to make delicate distinctions, scrupulous, etc. Various other
terms followed that: agreeable; pleasant, virtuous, courteous, in good taste, etc.
But it was the Latin root of nice that intrigued me not to know. I began to explore how
it fit in with the concept of healing our world. Most of us are not too keen on performing great
acts of heroism or spending our hard earned money to "save the world," nor do we have the
time or energy necessary to really put ourselves out there, but it has been ingrained in us since
childhood that we are toward "be nice."
After a lot of contemplation and with the urging of my inner voice, I share these
thoughts with you. Hopefully this little book will speak to you directly. Perhaps it will awaken
in you what you already know and offer you greater understanding of your path. It may even
help you discover why you are here on this planet, and more, why you are here at this moment.
I've written for everyone who has asked, "What can I do to help change the world
around me?" This book is for those—and I am one—who are no longer comfortable being an
observer to man's inhumanity towards man. It is for us who wish to become more responsible
stewards of our planet. For those who ache when we see children being mistreated and
abandoned by society. It is for us who feel impotent as we witness the fear and violence in our
world. It is for all of us who long to live in a world that is a safe and peaceful place for
ourselves, for our children, and our children's children. It is for those of us who have felt
compassion for another and have thought in silence or have spoken the words, "How can I
We are all aware that there is no longer any place to hide from the world's issues. The
world's problems are now our problems, right in our backyards, in our homes through the
immediacy of our electronic media, in our schools, in our workplace, on our streets, in our
environment, in our hearts, and also in our pocketbooks.
We've a longing deep inside to do something, but we are not quite sure what it is that
we're supposed to be doing. Our circumstances get in the way—family commitments, job
responsibilities, personal health, lack of financial resources, we're too tired, have no energy,
"my plate is too full," and most of us cannot face being forced to fit one more thing into our
already tightly compressed day.
Yet we feel that there should be more, something different. For some of us there is a
longing, a deep emptiness that cries to be filled. We are simply numbed out, emotions frozen,passion for life depleted. We are just trying to get by day by day. We are putting in time, and we're not quite sure for what. We struggle to find our path in life, to understand our soul's journey. We wonder if this really is all there is. We question our circumstances and ask why.
It is said that there are no mistakes in the universe, that we are exactly where we are
supposed to be. If we set our intent on finding our path, even though we feel stuck in our
personal circumstances, we may discover ourselves seeing with new eyes, finding for the first
time the incredible choices open to us—choices that will assist us in creating the change we
long for. We may also discover that the problem lies in having the courage and the wisdom to
There are those among us who have been touched by a glimmer of light that speaks of
an awakening, an epiphany, a moment of deep joy where we just "know what we know." Our
perspective shifts with the knowledge that things could be different, that there could be peace.
Many of us have sat with that feeling for a very long time. But we have also sat with our
impotence, confused in the chaos, feeling that we have lost the freedom to choose. We long for
answers, for some direction, for simplicity, for some quiet, some peace. We want something
more, but we are not quite sure what that more is. We feel an urgency, a need to do something,
but we aren't sure what it is we need to do, where to start, where to go, or whom to ask.
This book does not attempt to teach, and it does not tell you anything new. Nor does it
claim to resolve all or any of these feelings of longing and inadequacy. Everything here has
been said and written over and over again in many forms by great masters and far more
enlightened beings than I. Others have told us before that the answers are there, that they have
always been there waiting patiently for us to remember them. Unfortunately, we seem unable
to lift the blinders and recognize what we are looking for. We are not even clear as to what the
real questions are.
This book is not about being "chosen" or "more enlightened." It is my belief that
everyone has all knowledge, all knowingness, that the word special loses all meaning, because
we are all from the same source. The answer to the question of why some are more enlightened
may lie in the question of desire: "Just how conscious or awakened do I choose to be?"
"Awakened." "Conscious." These words are key to what I wish to say. And they lead to
the word "mindful." As we become more mindful, we learn to share our minds, our thoughts,
our actions with others, and others in turn pass them on. We pass them on in our own
way—through the spoken or written word, through actions, feelings, or simply through being
as centered and mindful. However one does it, the ripple effect that occurs affects everyone
and everything around us.
Somewhere deep inside each of us is our truth—is all truth. I am nudging us toward
remembering all that we are and all that we know, hoping to assist in removing the obstacle
that keeps us in our deep sleep, perhaps to rid us of at least a bit of our tunnel vision, to help us
take off our blinders and awaken to who we truly are and why we are here. This does not mean
that we have to change anything, that we need to give away our money or our possessions. (If
you feel moved to do something of that kind, then I would ask you to reconsider the intent and
purpose behind your choice.) We don't need to join anything. We don't need to leave our
families, quit our jobs, lose ourselves in a monastery, follow a guru or religious leader.
We only need to change our perceptions, to change how we see and feel about ourselves.
I am addressing this in a rather simplistic way, when in reality, it can be as difficult, as
painful, and as time-consuming as we wish to make it. We hang on to past ways by our
fingertips and cling to all our old fears and pain and dis-ease because it is what we think we know. Our ego or false self screams loud and clear and makes every attempt to reinforce the
things we've always believed, which, in essence is who we are not.
"Why bother in the first place?" we ask. "Given my circumstances, I can't make a
difference anyway. Nobody is going to listen to me, or hear me, or care what I have to say.
Who am I to think I can make a change?"
If that's the way you see it, you are absolutely right. And yes, it will involve giving up
something; it will actually involve giving up a lot. You may need to give up how you think,
see, and feel about yourself.
We cling fondly to old perceptions of who we are, perceptions based on the views of
others—our parents, siblings, teachers, etc. We could call the change those external influences
brought about in us, "our domestication." Our persona—the mask we wear before the world,
and even when we are alone—is usually the result of things that have happened to us, or what
we perceived happened to us. We take pride in "knowing ourselves" through what we do and
what we think we see. But others have contributed greatly to our thoughts about our personal
world and about ourselves.
When we put these influences aside and have another peek at our real self, we come to
understand what a perception change really means, and the results are astounding. Everything
changes simply because our perception has shifted.
The French philosopher Proust once said to his students, "I cannot change your
circumstances, but I can help you see with new eyes." As you begin to see with new eyes, you
reclaim your life and you "gain the whole world."
In fact, according to the teachings of Carl Yung, you reclaim your Self. This I can
This little book is written as a simple guideline. I hope that in its simplicity, it will
assist you in being part of this wonderful change of consciousness that is happening all around
us. There have been those in every century who said they were living in interesting times. But I
believe that we—you and I—are truly living in the most interesting time of all. We now have
the technology, the power, and the ability to self-destruct or to bring peace and prosperity to
the world, and what could be more interesting than that?
Socrates is alleged to have said that "the unexamined life is not worth living." To make
our lives worth living, let's start this journey together by examining our lives with new eyes,
by becoming more mindful, more awake, thereby reinforcing the truth that the world is indeed
a much better place because you and I showed up.
It is time to truly know ourselves!
"Playing small does not serve the world." My world is different from yours simply because I am not in your mind, and I do not have the same perceptions as you. To explain my world to you would be to share knowledge, to share words that you would interpret from your own life's experience. So I cannot share the essence of my world, just as I cannot enter your mind to discover and completely understand your world. It would be like my trying to tell you what a green apple tastes like. The taste buds are mine, and the perceptions of tartness or sweetness, and the very words would be mine as well.
You nescire (do not know) about me except through your own perceptions, and I nescire (do not know) about you except through my perception of you. But we find ourselves in this cosmic soup together. How can it be just "my world" when we find ourselves sharing this life, this planet, and how can I/we be nice to ourselves and to each other to create change? Humans like to think that they are guided by solid facts, but Andy Newberg, a University of Pennsylvania neuroscientist and professor of religious studies points out that all those so-called facts are actually beliefs. The 100 billion neurons in our brains take in an unending stream of information—say, the lines, shapes and contours activating cells in our eyes—and create a vivid 3-D image of a room with chairs and tables that allow us to navigate without crashing into things.
We are born to believe, Newberg says; consequently, we really don't have a choice. In his groundbreaking book Why We Believe What We Believe, published by Simon & Shuster, Newberg details his conviction that studying belief is "the single most important quest" in neuroscience. His Holy Grail is to discover the grounds of religious belief, given its profound influence over history and the fact that our brains "privilege" it, by which he means, our brains give religious concerns ultimate priority.
"Spiritual realities, spiritual visions," he explains, "are reported by those who experience them as more real than real—not at all like a dream, which we recognize as an inferior reality when we wake. All we have to go on is what feels real to people: perception in the brain is all there is, and that forces us scientists to take it seriously."1
His tool is brain scans. Scientists cannot—yet—see belief, but imagining techniques can trace its path, the lit-up neural experience of belief. Newberg himself is genuinely on the fence. He is always conscious that perception is the only reality we can know, at least for now. "I think in the end there may be a way to 'prove' reality," he says. "But it will require us to follow both paths, the scientific and the spiritual."
The world that I perceive as my world, or the world that you perceive through your brain neurons, may differ from mine—our beliefs may be different. That does not mean that my world is better than yours, only that we have different perceptions based upon our different circumstances and how we "privilege" those perceptions. The truth may be that the only person I really can be nice to is myself, in my world, and the same may go for you in your world—you being nice to you, but once we are nice to ourselves, we can't be unkind to each other, despite our perceptual differences. Check the definitions again and choose those that speak to you and start applying them to yourself to see what happens. I rather like the word "delicate." Today I will be "delicate" with myself.
Let's ask ourselves these questions. "How is my world today? How nice or delicate am I being with me? Is there anything I would like to change about my world as I know it? What role would I like to play?—a role of my own making. And how will my world be a better place because I showed up and started being nice to me?
I think most everyone has an inkling that he or she is not alone on this planet, even though there are times when we feel alone. Some of us have experienced that "journey into the darkness of the soul" in which we felt abandoned and separate from others. We may spend a lifetime looking for someone, something outside of ourselves to feed that emptiness. We get caught in the "if only" cure. If only we can find a soul mate; if my parents would only ... ; if my partner or spouse would only ...; if my children would only ...; if my boss or my job would only ...; if only I would win the lottery—the constant, never-ending search to fill that gnawing hunger never seems to abate.
Our Very Own Movie
We set up the illusion—as illusory as a movie that we are watching in a theater—and the movie's tragic theme is lack. And that sense of lack becomes our reality. It becomes our core belief, and we continue to recreate this in our life as our movie plays itself out.
But why? How did we get into this theater anyway? And why do we make it so difficult to leave? Let's take a look at this movie we find our selves collectively trapped into watching.
We see ourselves arriving naked in a space suit that we call our body, and from the first, we find that it doesn't function very well. It comes without instructions, no user manual. There is no one who rushes forward to give us hints.
Some of us are given a set of parents, some are not. Some stay with us, some leave. Some of us have siblings, some of us do not. The circumstances in which we find ourselves are varied and individuated. Some are set down in places that are not safe; some of these places are downright scary and dangerous while others are warm and nurturing.
We may ask, "How come he has loving parents and I don't?" "How does it happen she has everything that I want?"
So the questions go on. How did I end up with someone who sees me as a burden? How is it that we are constantly struggling to keep it together, but can barely survive? How did it come about that I get beaten and abused, and you are loved and spoiled? My legs or your arms don't work properly; my space suit is short, fat, tall, too skinny, and look—yours seems perfect. What's wrong with my space suit anyway? Why did I end up here? What am I supposed to be? Who am I supposed to be? Where am I expected to go? If anyone is listening, I am hiding in plain sight, so please come and help me!
And so, watching our arrival on film, we feel alone.
But let's do two things. Let us assume that we are not alone, that there is help, that there has always been help. Having been given this thing called "free will" and "choice," we are in a bit of a conundrum. The help that is present and waiting is able to do nothing for us unless we ask. That just seems to be the way it is.
So let's ask. But how and what do we ask for?
Before we get on with our journey, I have a question to ask you. "What's your deal with God—or Higher Power or Great Creator?" Or whatever name applies to this something more, this something that is all permeating, the something that gives us a sense of purpose, a feeling that we are here for more than to just be born, work hard, play a bit, and then die. Perhaps our next step is to take a better look at our life as we presently know it.
To live an examined life is to be aware. Others would say it's to lift the veil of forgetfulness. An examined life may help us to come to know our soul's journey or the script that we followed to show up here in the first place. An examined life may be the way to the great "unlearning" of those things our domestication—society, education, religion—imposed on us. To know one's Self is to "know."
A Day Together
Let's try to spend a day together—a day in the life of an awakening mind, of one who is just beginning to be aware that all is not as it seems. We will attempt to take baby steps; it's a start, and we all have to start somewhere.
Before we begin, I must say to you, "Buyer beware!" Once you start this journey, you may lose your innocence—the innocence of not knowing. You are innocent in that you possess knowledge of which you are unaware. And on this journey, you will become aware of what you have known all along. Your innocence will be gone.
Once you begin to open your mind to what you do in fact already know, you cannot go back to not knowing. As you begin this journey—the journey of an examined life, you begin to free yourself from the prison of your own mind. Everything that is happening around you is in your mind; it can't be anywhere else. Without your mind, are you? Yes, you have a brain, but your brain is not your mind. You have a body, but without the mind, the body does not function as it should. And consider this: if God is in your mind, are you therefore in the mind of God? Then who are we? Who am I? Who are you, and what are we doing here in the first place?