It is amazing how human language distinguishes one behaviour from another. For example, consider the act of ‘eating healthy’…as opposed to eating unhealthily?! Shouldn’t it just be called eating? Why does anyone eat unhealthily? The language we use on a daily basis almost makes it acceptable. Another example, ‘volunteering’. How about just being human? Why do we need a separate word for it. Eating healthy, and volunteering should be so common place that we can’t even describe them, much like a fish trying to describe the water in which it swims.
The best science of our time tells us that approximately 13.8 billion years ago, give or take a few billion, that everything in our known universe was condensed in a single point about the size of a pea! Take a moment to just appreciate what that means. Everything that you can see around you squeezed into a tiny little space no larger than a pea, plus the rest of the universe. It is inconceivable! That is the theory anyway, it is impossible for us to really know but this is the currently accepted theory of the origins of our universe.
So 13.8 billion years ago, give or take, something happened and this tiny pea exploded and spewed out everything that we know today. If that doesn’t blow your mind, think; Where was the pea to begin with? Was it just floating in a blackness like we see beyond our atmosphere? Were there any other peas? Have they exploded yet? So what if our pea existed in amongst another galaxy, or universe, and the explosion of our pea pushed its own galaxy even further beyond it. It’s weird right?
This explosion, which happened from a single point, spread outward in every direction and the expansion is still happening. Entire galaxies that we can observe which display an assortment of beautiful colours are all moving outward. Obviously I have provided a very simple explanation of the events that have led to the ‘modern universe’ but is undoubtedly a seriously magnificent phenomenon.
Then about 4.54 billion years ago, give or take, the Earth that we all inhabit was formed; 9.2ish billion years after the pea exploded. Lets take a look at how large of a number one billion is; 1,000,000,000. That’s nine zeros, nine (9)! That is a freaky long time. So the earth we are currently living on is believed (theorised) to be 4,540,000,000 years old. So far in recorded human history, the longest living person died at 122 years of age. In comparison to the age of Earth, 122 years is like an ant to an elephant.
The next miracle, that really blows my mind, is that somehow in the last 4.54 billion years a concoction of elements created life! Somehow, somewhere, a whole bunch of unknown, seemingly inanimate, stuff decided to live, and breath, and interact with its environment. It doesn’t matter what scientific-sounding, long, complicated words you use to describe this event, it is still something that I would consider super weird! How does a whole bunch of space stuff that was all once compressed in to a space believed to be the size of a pea explode out to create planets, galaxies, suns, stars, and something that has the ability to think, eat, feel, breath and move?
According to Wikipedia the first life forms are estimated to have appeared around 3.5-3.8 billion years ago in the form of graphite rock. And photo synthesisers appeared around 2 billion years ago helping to create the oxygen and the atmosphere we now have. Up until about 500 million (500,000,000) years ago most life on Earth was uni-cellular, single-celled organisms. But something happened around 500 million years ago that made these single-celled organisms assess their solitude and they decided to join forces to eventually create the type of life we see today; the birds, bees, flowers and the trees.
So what about us! The earliest evidence of ‘homo sapiens’ is believed to be 200,000 years old. 200,000 is 0.0014% of the time since the big bang (exploding pea), and is a whopping 0.0044% of the time since the Earth formed. So in the grand scheme of the universe we are a very recent development really.
The next really interesting bit is the 200,000 years of homo sapiens. How we suddenly came to be around 200,000 years ago is still a mystery apparently. The common held belief that we are an evolved version of the Neanderthal lacks the evidence to support the claim, and more and more evidence is showing up to suggest that homo sapiens actually lived around the same time as Neanderthals and other close versions of upright apes.
It is believed now that the ‘anatomically-modern’ humans of today evolved as an entirely different species altogether, or got here some other way…open to speculation. Let’s recap, bang 13.8 billion years ago, Earth 4.54 billion years ago, and humans 200,000 years ago. Now, in our 200,000 year history we have developed many different civilisations which have risen and fallen and archeologists, anthropologists and other dedicated smart people dedicate their entire lives to the discovery and interpretation of the remains of such civilisations.
It is incredible to hear about the discoveries being made and the theories of why these great civilisations of the past have suddenly disappeared. Even more amazing is the level of technology that is present in the construction of their buildings, and monuments given that even today we would struggle to do what they have done. I personally believe that we have a great deal to learn from the past failed civilisations which may help us in our current crises of climate change, and our social, political and economic nightmares.
It think it is quite easy to look at those massive numbers and feel rather insignificant in the unfolding of our universe. We are but a tiny blip in the history of a massive cosmic unfolding that started with a single ‘bang’, that very possibly wasn’t even heard, by anyone, because there may not have been any ears. We don’t know! The reason for this post was not to make anyone feel insignificant but to demonstrate just how much of a miracle life is. The very fact that we exist at all after billions, and billions of years of floating star dust is a serious miracle.
The development of life is awesome, but even more awesome than that is the fact that us humans have this amazing ability of self-awareness, we know that we are. We feel, think, love, experience, cry, laugh etc, but how? I doubt we will ever really know how we all came about but what I do know is that we are the greatest miracle to have ever been, that we’re aware of. We rose alongside all of the other living, and non-living, matter of this planet, and the galaxy endowed with the ability to create, imagine, dream and truly live.
I feel at times though that as a species we aren’t fully utilising our incredible abilities. I believe that we have the most amazing potential to live the most inspiring and harmonious existence but instead we waste our time in our physical bodies destroying the very thing that gave us life, and fighting the people who are just like us. It doesn’t make any sense. Our time here should be spent rejoicing all of life for the miracle it is, and enjoying the journey collecting all of the quality experiences possibly available.
So my message to you is simple. Wake up each morning and be grateful for life. Embrace and engage others around you because we all come from the same place. Don’t waste any time doing things that don’t excite you, always live from the heart. Get out and enjoy nature, walk barefoot in the grass. Feed your body with quality food, this incredibly complex body-suit is the vessel through which you experience all of life. Fall in love and laugh with friends, and strangers. Fill your life with people and memories, not stuff. Live in the present and love every single moment of your life because it may be gone on the blink of a cosmic eye.
We are bioengineered with the capacity to be extraordinary, but neurologically configured to be ordinary/sub-ordinary in some areas of our life.
– George Helou, Mind Power Coach and Founder of Empowered for Purpose
Last week I started on a new journey! I am participating in a 7-week personal development program called EP7 – Empowered for Purpose in 7 Steps, and the quote above encapsulates the key message of the first step, Empowered Identity. The aim of this first session was to help us to understand how, biologically, we are a blank canvas and throughout our life we are painting a picture of ourselves and the world around us. This painting isn’t created using brushes, instead it is our thoughts and beliefs based on learnt ideas and past experiences that create the picture which in-turn affects on how we see and experience the future. Parts of our painting could be empowering and other parts disempowering but we lose our true selves in the painting, forgetting that we are actually the blank canvas underneath. We can change those parts of the painting that we feel are holding us back in certain areas of our lives; to understand how we have to learn how our thoughts and our beliefs affect our biology.
First, a bit of history…
The Empowered for Purpose program was created by a personal friend. I first met George Helou at the young and motivated age of 18 when I sought business coaching support for the first of many business ideas. It didn’t take me too long to lose enthusiasm for the idea but what remained was a great connection with an interesting and inspiring person who has always taken the time to share his wisdom. Connecting with George led to many more opportunities to meet and work with other inspiring individuals over the years who all introduced me to new ways of thinking. I always find it really interesting to look back and track all of the events that occurred because of a single person that perhaps may not have happened otherwise. It is impossible to know where we would be if something happened slightly differently in our past but it does make you appreciate how it takes just one thought, idea, action or meeting to spark off a whole new direction in life.
My interest in the profound importance of personal-development began when I was 12 years old reading Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Kid Smart Kid. This book found its way to me through friends of my parents and ever since that book I have devoured many more of Robert’s series and continued to expand my understanding of the supreme power that our thoughts, our language and our beliefs have on our everyday experiences and relationships. The earliest lesson I can remember learning from Robert was the difference between the word ‘problem’ and ‘challenge’. One word seems to stop you dead in your tracks but the other automatically makes you think of ways to overcome an obstacle. It is such a simple little distinction but depending on which of the two words you use to describe a situation you can set yourself up for success or, equally, failure.
Whether you believe you can do a thing, or believe that you can’t, you are right.
– Henry Ford
I would have to say that for the first 10-12 years of personal development my focus and intentions were entirely aimed at making money. I wanted to be rich and the information stored in these pages held the proverbial keys! In more recent years however an interest in spirituality, religion, philosophy, quantum physics and biology has really changed how I see the world and its infinite interactions. I no longer aspire to monetary riches, I instead aspire to learn and experience as much as I can in each moment, a different kind of riches I suppose! The more I learn, and understand, and believe, the more of an impact I feel I can have on the people around me so that they too may also deepen their understanding of their role in this great cosmic game.
So when George offered me a place in his program I saw it as an opportunity to feed off of his passion for personal development and dive deeper in to my own thoughts and beliefs to help identify anything that may be having an undesirable impact in certain areas of my life. Admittedly, in the hours leading up to the first session I started to have that feeling of nervousness, for what reason exactly I can only guess but I have learnt that this feeling means I am moving in the right direction. It means I am moving beyond comfort and in to a place of discovery, or excitement. The last time I remember having that feeling I was in Portugal on the back of a horse, out on a hack. Saskia, the horse’s owner, told me that with the paddock and the other horses now in sight my horse was likely to bolt and suggested that if I didn’t feel safe I should jump off…quick! The butterflies set in, bit of uncertainty, but I took it all as an opportunity to have a new experience; I had never had a horse bolt on me before. It didn’t bolt in the end but at least I didn’t get off!
My thirst for information on the complexities of our universe naturally led me to the weird and wacky world of quantum physics. Quantum physics is the study of the behaviour of the particles that comprise an atom and has done its best to demonstrate that what you think of as solid actually isn’t and what you think is there, could actually be somewhere else! This for me was the first practical bit of evidence that the world around us was pretty much an illusion, and we are the perceivers of said illusion. It gave me a deeper understanding of the power of our thoughts beyond the long-lived self-help ‘always be happy and positive’ philosophy. How we ultimately perceive the world around us can be attributed to our biology and the 100 billion Neurons in our brain that can form an infinite number of neural pathways in the brain. These neural pathways link up concepts, with events, feelings, objects, people etc so that when we hear a certain word, or think of a certain someone, we can instantly jump from the thought, to a past experience, to a feeling in a fraction of a second. These pathways have developed as a result of our past experiences, our ideas and our beliefs and serve as a lens to how we see the future. We predict, and often limit, our future experiences based on our past neuro wiring.
This is pretty heavy stuff! But there’s more!
We have the capacity to re-wire our past conditioning to improve the quality of our future experiences. Through conscious thought, willful determination and some guidance we can disconnect undesirable neuro pathways and make new connections that serve us. As well as the neurons in the brain we have 100 million in the gut and 40,000 in the heart. I don’t know about you but I can certainly recall times when my heart has felt like it has swallowed one of those gob-stoppers or when I have had that feeling in my gut telling me to take a particular action despite my head telling me that it may not be the most sensible decision. That gut feeling is something I have come to really appreciate and respect a great deal more in the last few years while I was travelling in Europe. I often ran with a decision because it just felt right, and then months later when you look back at that moment and the events that have unfolded since you can see that something magical has happened. The power of intuition.
Physiological Effects of Stress
I remember reading a book years ago that touched on the physiological effects of stress on the body’s cells and organs. I had completely forgotten about it until George brought it up. Fortunately for me stress doesn’t play a huge part in my life, the last time stress got the better of me was when a border control officer at Dublin Airport wanted to deport me back to Romania because he deemed I didn’t have enough money to enter the country. After sleeping at Bucharest airport for 8 hours with a Tequila hangover, the hour delay taking off and the 4 hour flight, an un-winnable argument about my resourcefulness and ability to stay in Ireland for 3 months with less that $800 got me a little worked up! He was kind enough to grant me a one month stay in the end which I accepted but my blood was still boiling. This kind of situation serves as a reminder that it only takes a single thought, or objection, to illicit a full on biochemical response, I mean, I was tense, and angry, but I wasn’t in any kind of physical danger but my body believed I was. It probably didn’t help that once he mentioned sending me back to Romania and the stress built up I couldn’t answer any of his questions without a pause and a bit of an uncertain stammer…not the kind response you want to show a guy who can mistake these reactions for intended deceit! My brain had completely shut down in response to the perceived threat. I would be an open book if I did ever try to intentionally deceive someone, especially border control.
This explosion for me is incredibly rare but for most people this kind of stress happens far too frequently, some even live in a constant state of stress. Stress is the bodies response to a perceived threat, physical or otherwise, to prompt and prepare the fight or flight response. This response serves us well when we actually have to face a physical threat where running or fighting may be useful but most of the time the stress response is triggered when someone merely disagrees with an opinion. And this to me is incredibly interesting because if the stress response, a survival instinct, is triggered from a perceived threat to our believed identity, our ideas, opinions, beliefs, then our mind believes that we are fighting for our life. When our body is in the stressed state, the bodies energy, and nutrients is redirected from our organs to our muscles, preparing to run or fight. And like I said above, this is useful if actually faced with a physical threat every now and then but if we are constantly living in stress, our body is constantly denying itself the nutrients it needs for growth leaving us susceptible to illness or disease. This can have a lasting and devastating impact on our health!
This is where I started to gain a whole new set of knowledge! George introduced us to the various brainwave states and their functions as well as providing us with some Brainwave Training audio programs to listen to each day. He described these audio programs as a type of modern meditation which utilises sound to induce a particular brainwave state. They are pretty funky to listen to; they sound almost like a helicopter sitting on the roof going hell-for-leather. Admittedly it does take some effort to actually sit and listen to a 30 minute program but I find that it is getting easier after the first few days. During the program, while focusing on my breathing and releasing any muscle tension, a strange sensation comes over the body and I kind of feel like I am floating, super-relaxed. It is almost undeniable, in my opinion, that the audio programs, if embraced, do have an affect, if not a physiological affect on the neurons in the brain, then at the very minimum taking 30 mins out of your busy day to relax and reset can’t be a bad thing!
George has devised a detailed list of 52 principles that can help us to live more empowered lives.
Empowering Principles are our backbone. The closer we align with these empowering principles, the stronger our purpose, passion and confidence is to navigate through life.
– George Helou
By incorporating these principles in to all areas of our lives they allow us to enjoy a more enriched experience, enjoy more meaningful relationships and have the confidence and the strength to follow your purpose.
I didn’t anticipate this blog post being so long when I started it but it is easy to get carried away excitedly with the information presented in this first session. All of this information really is life changing, but it doesn’t necessarily change what is ‘out’ there, it changes how you respond and perceive the world around you. By having a greater awareness of the potentials and the possibilities existing outside of your programmed neaural pathways you have a greater choice over your experience in each moment. This alternate awareness has the ability to actually transform our physiology, our cells and neurons, to disconnect from limiting, self-sabotaging habits and beliefs and create new, empowered identities that make living our purpose effortless.
Looking forward to session 2…
Extravagance of desire is the fundamental cause which has led the world into its present predicament.
Fast rather than slow, more rather than less- this flashy “development” is linked directly to society’s impending collapse. It has only served to separate man from nature. Humanity must stop indulging the desire for material possessions and personal gain and move instead toward spiritual awareness.
– Masanobu Fukuoka, The One Straw Revolution
I don’t believe that the real underlying issue to some of our political, social, environmental and economical problems is being addressed. All we are really doing is chucking on a band-aid, a quick-fix remedy, thinking it will fix it, or at least hide it to a point that it is out of mind. These quick-fixers are not sustainable and don’t help, or educate, people to make the necessary changes to actually solve the problems.
Who knows anything about death? Nobody. After millennia of thinking about it, not even the greatest minds have come any closer to answering the perennial question of “What happens next?” that so chills the soul. Why bother about it? Why not use our consciousness of the awesome and sometimes dreadful mystery of mortality to drink every drop from the goblet of life while it is still in our hands.
– I think I found this in the book Horses and Zen
It is impossible to know for sure but it seems at times that the universe is responding to my wishes time and time again. Opportunities arise, seemingly out of nowhere, and sometimes I see them in the moment and just have to act consciously, or I look back and see the opportunity that I had taken unconsciously and how it lead me to where I wanted to be. Sometimes I know that I have missed them, usually held back by my own fears. But perhaps there is no such thing as a missed opportunity, perhaps it is in itself an opportunity to learn and grow from.