“It takes courage to endure the sharp pains of self-discovery, rather than choose to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives.” ~ Marianne Williamson
I can hear my mother’s concerned voice now: “Vincent, how is your business going? Is everything okay?” My mother loves me dearly, and like many moms, she worries about her child, perhaps more than other moms do because of where I came from, and how I have chosen to travel a highly unconventional route.
It wasn’t long ago that I was living below the poverty line for four years, desperately holding onto a dream that was slowly slipping from my grasp. I knew I wanted to be a speaker—to travel, leading groups deeper into their hearts and dreams—but what I was enduring to actualize this wide-eyed vision was not what I or my family had in mind.
In the face of what seemed to be endless mental, social and financial strain, I persisted, despite it all; despite the concerned words of many who suggested I get a job when I could barely afford a meager cup of tea. Yet I braved on, ignoring their admonitions, feeling something deep within me nudge me in a different direction that their eyes were blind to, forward through the darkening days when my questioning and doubting echoed only louder.
Keep going, this still voice inside prodded, without reason. Don’t listen to the crowds; don’t fall for the illusion of what only your eyes can see and fear can think up. It was a choiceless choice for me at this point. There was no turning back.
Surrendering into the Gate
“A single dream is more powerful than a thousand realities.” ~ J. R. R. Tolkien
Most people live in a literal world driven by the five senses and bound by the limits of logical reasoning, where we decode and decide life through the concreteness of the tangible and temporal. But this, I have realized, is only a pigeonhole perspective of reality. Limiting ourselves to this view is like living inside a dark room and blindly assuming it to be life.
One evening, in utter despair, I phoned my mentor, a wise woman who lived in Minneapolis. I told her I was absolutely done. I could not keep going. I just wanted to give up. Her words came with a jolt of rousing excitement, and to my surprise were, “Yes, giving up is the Gate!”
It was now just after 9pm, the call over, as I sat on my couch reeling from her words, when suddenly a man screamed from the top of his lungs, “I give up!” I bolted to my balcony and there he stood, this stranger of the night, on the street directly in front of my apartment. “Let a new life begin!” He then turned and walked away, saying nothing more, disappearing mysteriously into the dark mist.
It wasn’t long after that I lay in my bed one fateful evening knowing it was time. I could not go any further. My almost maxed five credit cards would not let me. I could not continue paying debt with debt. My mental and emotional exhaustion would not allow me, either. It was time to face my greatest fear—not living up to my potential, giving up on the dream, and getting a job I would loathe as much as every other job I had ever had.
It was January 2007, in my humble one-bedroom North Vancouver home, when I truly gave up. My tired clenched fists opened, finally, and softly I surrendered this long battle. In that moment a tremendous relief came over me, as you might imagine. The painful drudgery of carrying this large weight on my shoulders had now become more burdensome than the perceived pain of walking away and getting a dreaded job. Indeed, I became free. No longer was I attached to finding joy in one particular area; suddenly, I was open, free to find joy anywhere. The dream still lay in my palm, but now with fingers uncurled, I was available to receive the nourishment it needed to grow.
A deep expanse filled me. I was wide open, and ready.
Into the dream world
“The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.” ~ Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
That night I had a dream:
I was lying in a hospital bed when two beautiful women came and sat beside me. I remember feeling a deep sense of loving kinship with them; a transcendent resonant familiarity that still today I have yet to experience. After a brief conversation, one of them said to me, “Offer Remembering to Play to doctors and nurses.” Remembering to Play was a playshop (workshop) idea that I had been toying with for only a few months prior. It was a grand idea, I thought, but there was little hope of making it reality. But these two angels encouraged me to do so.
Having guidance in dreams was not an uncommon occurrence for me at this point. Neither were synchronicities like the man appearing on the street. By this time, in part because of the amount of inner work I had done—the clearing out of old trauma / fear—I felt myself living in alignment with a greater intelligence and flow guiding me. Each synchronicity was a wink of starlight validating my path, reminding me that I was on the right track despite the odds; despite what my eyes could see and the fears others placed on me said.
The morning of the dream I awoke delightfully startled, reflective, wondering if what I experienced was truth or fiction. With nothing to lose, and buoyed by this small ray of hope, I took immediate action. It was my only chance.
First, I made a rather rudimentary Remembering to Play Microsoft Word outline that I emailed out to all six health authorities across British Columbia. Then, briskly, I walked up the road to my favorite metaphysical bookstore, Utopia, and asked to speak to a Tarot reader named Laura, who I knew on a professional basis. Candice, the manager, said that she was not in, but that she would be coming in later that day. At that moment the phone rang. It was Laura. Candice told her I was in-store hoping to speak with her. Laura told her to tell me that she would come straight away, just to see me.
I waited for her arrival impatiently at the front door, pacing, my mind dizzied with amazement at what was unfolding. This new ray of hope in my heart was intensifying as each moment passed by. Could this be really happening? Are things about to turn for the better?
After only ten minutes or so, Laura greeted me at the front door. I could not wait another moment to tell her of my news. There, in front of incoming and outgoing customers, passers by on the sidewalk, and through the din of car traffic, eagerly, like a revved up child, I revealed the details of my dream and dire circumstances. After a short while of attentive listening, kindly, and with a depth of certainty, she replied, “You know whom you should offer your playshop to? My friend Bev Smith, who works for the Ministry of Social Services.” At that very moment, Bev walked right up to us. Another wink of starlight. The inner ray of hope glowing even brighter. Bev and I spoke for a brief while, she gave me her contact information and she then left.
I was stunned. As the conversation between Laura and I came to a close, and I turned to walk away, I heard her voice reach me one last time, and say, “Oh, and Vince, be prepared to travel!” That I have, extensively, ever since that auspicious day!
“I try to believe like I believed when I was five…when your heart tells you everything you need to know.” ~ Lucy Liu
Ten months later, after leading a few playshops here and there, some for the Ministry, I was ready for the big times, or so it felt to me. I went on my first extensive road trip up through the beautiful Peace River region of northeastern British Columbia. There I led eight playshops in eleven days in three communities. When I came home I had checks worth $14000 in my hand. My family was in tears. So was I.
It wasn’t long before that paying $1.35 for a cup of tea was a stressful decision. It wasn’t long before that my parents, in sympathy and deep concern, paid for my bread, meat and cereal at Costco. It wasn’t long before that I broke down in tears while life coaching my one remaining client—I could not hide my absolute desperation. It wasn’t long before that my perplexed dwindling number of friends pitied me and paid for my movie pass. It wasn’t long before that I endured being regularly questioned, doubted, and thought of as highly unrealistic. It wasn’t long before that I questioned and doubted myself, and thought I was highly unrealistic.
It wasn’t long after the dream that I moved into the black. It wasn’t long after that I was living the dream my heart always knew was ahead, and that my five senses and logical mind could never fathom. My heart knew what my limited mind, and the minds of others, had no way of knowing, despite pervasive fears and doubts. I knew without knowing how I knew. That’s the power of intuition—of knowing beyond the fives senses and rationale.
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Redefining and recreating success
“The ultimate gift we can give the world is to grow our tiny humans into adult humans who are independent thinkers, compassionate doers, conscious questioners, radical innovators, and passionate peacemakers. Our world doesn’t need more adults who blindly serve the powerful because they’ve been trained to obey authority without question. Our world needs more adults who challenge and question and hold the powerful accountable.” ~ L.R. Knost
This journey unfolded for me because I took the risk to look deeply within, question what I know, and walk the path my heart called me to, at the cost of disappointing and frightening others along the way. I did not follow my father’s dream of working in business. I did not stay in the “secure” cubicle job downtown at the financial dealer maintaining their database, despite my parent’s well-intentioned pleadings. I backpacked across Europe, lived abroad, soul-searched, took risks, zigzagged, followed my joy, fell and failed countless times, while carving my own path based on the silent whispers of a deeper elusive knowing.
Success has little to do with fitting in and making it in the “real” world. Rather, it has everything to do with having the courage to stand out and live in your unique heart-felt and hard-won truth. It is a state of alignment with the greater flow and intelligence of the cosmos—the mystery I felt cheering me on, and charging my system, from beyond the illusory veil, despite the seemingly endless desert I crossed. Success is a giving of yourself to the unknown, an unlearning of what you thought true, an unraveling of whom you think yourself to be.
“Trust as you have never allowed yourself to trust. Let go as you fling yourself into the newly cresting waves of ever-becoming.” ~ Nalini
I struggle using the word success, in part, because of its limiting, and somewhat rigid, us-versus-them, temporal connotation; because of the ideas, fears and expectations we hold around what it means to be successful. We can see these fear-based limits played out in how much we push small children in school in developmentally inappropriate, and in some cases, abusive ways.
We have “Success Schools” where teachers yell at their young students, tear up their assignments in front of them, and shame them, all in the name of “success”. In one Canadian elementary school, a teacher has actually created a “Shame List” to publicly display who has not handed in their homework on time.
We have overly concerned parents pressuring teachers to ensure their children are reading, writing and counting to unnecessarily high standards when really they should be playing, and learning through play. We have school systems that get funding based on the test results of their young students, forcing the cancellation of recess, and art and music programs so standards of “excellence” are met. And we have teachers reaching new levels of burnout and turnover, stressed out college graduates loaded with a lifetime of student debt, and kids with higher rates of anxiety and depression than ever before.
“It is time for a return to childhood, to simplicity, to running and climbing and laughing in the sunshine, to experiencing happiness instead of being trained for a lifetime of pursuing happiness. It is time to let children be children again.” ~ L. R. Knost
“My son suffered from anxiety and low self-confidence as a learner because of timed math worksheets.” — Concerned Mom … Is it worth it?
We have a world full of people who are miserable in their jobs. We go to work when really we would rather be playing. Fridays are longed for, and Mondays dreaded. Meanwhile, in the name of “success”, our air and water are further polluted, our foods poisoned, and our planet heating at a rapid rate. Regulations are becoming increasingly complex and fear-based, political and electoral systems corrupt, and corporations greedy.
But we want kids to be successful, right? We want them to “make it” in the “real” world—to be a successful cog in the machine of fear. Right?
“While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. So, I wonder, why did I even want this position? Sure, I earned it, but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, will I be successful or forever lost? I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning. And quite frankly, now I’m scared…” ~ Erica Goldson, “Here I Stand” 6/25/10 Valedictory Speech
You see, that is what we are blindly setting our kids up for—not their inner resourced creative path, but one we have traveled and only know of; the one crumbling our earth at an alarming rate; the one our five senses and linear logical mind perceive, are limited to, and fear to look beyond.
Keeping putting information into kids and you prepare them for an illusory world and job they will surely grow to dislike. Pull information out, however, and you support them to find a calling that will spark joyful rays in their hearts that light up the world.
We do not need any more analysts, bankers, or car salesmen. We do not need more people blindly following the blind, living lives others expect them to live. Our world now needs courageous creatives—imaginative risk takers and intuitive revolutionaries who will bring light into the dark room we assume to be the world of the living, when in fact, it is the world of the silently crying.
Remembering the greater mystery unfolding through our hearts
“Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time.” ~ Rabindranath Tagore
My parents could never have known what my path was about. Sure, they knew I needed to look both ways before crossing the street, and that I should not touch the hot stove element. They knew the common sense practicalities that the ears could hear and eyes could see. But in no way could they know the longing and gifts imprinted in my heart from birth—the deeper soulful reason I was here. That is a mystery to be unfolded over time, a journey from the inside out that takes a whole new mindset to engage and support.
“You had a purpose before anyone had an opinion.” ~ Unknown
So long as we primarily perceive and relate to life from the five senses and linearity of logical reasoning we will limit children to our own literal, concrete and consensus reality. We will continue to overly prepare them for, and push them towards, illusory ideas of success by giving them a ceaseless plethora of quantifiable tasks and curricula. We will control them with our cluttered schedules and expectations both in and out of school, distracting them from quiet whispers of a deeper mysterious Self. And we will rush to patch kids and adults up who fall down and apart—as I fell, deeply—when falling may be, in fact, the best thing that can happen to them.
Bypassed is the immeasurable intelligence of the heart that engages the unseen through intuition and imagination. Bypassed is the innate creative resourcefulness that must be tended to with loving care, curiosity and deep listening if we are to birth its wisdom and gifts into the world. Bypassed is a trust in a child’s capacity to innately know what is best for herself, to know her way, to be guided as I was, in miraculous ways that no human could devise. Bypassed is a respect for, and awareness of, the ubiquitous orchestrating wisdom of a cosmos that is ultimately in charge, and that knows far more than you could dream up in your wildest imaginings.
There is a great mystery unfolding here on earth. Life is not what it seems, if only we open our hearts wide enough to feel this—not think it, but sense it through felt-knowing ever-flowing from beyond the linear intellect we so prize in the illusion of success we think we want.
“The wealth I have won in my life I cannot bring with me. What I can bring is only the memories precipitated by love. That’s the true riches which will follow you, accompany you, giving you strength and light to go on.” ~ Steve Jobs, Apple Co-Founder, shared beautifully at the end of his life
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Check out Vince’s book: Let the Fire Burn ~ Nurturing the Creative Spirit of Children, A Children’s Book for Adults