Sunday, November 19, 2006

Creativity and Unconscious Beliefs

Even as we move beyond the fear of failure, and into our own creative identity, there are still many hurdles to cross. And the curious thing is these hurdles are not always experienced as hurdles. I mean, as I lived out my life in pursuit of material success, I would not have thought to call these hurdles.

Let me explain with a visual. Imagine driving a car on a highway. It’s a nice car, and you are enjoying the drive, feeling the power, and reveling in your position as the driver. Life seems smooth. Now imagine that suddenly your dashboard begins to display a blue light. You notice it but cannot recognize it at all. You rack your brains to remember what it might mean, when suddenly there is a whirring sound from both sides of the car, somewhere along the middle. You get a bit alarmed now. But there’s no time for that to escalate because you feel a distinct jolt in the body of the car. You look out and your jaw drops. The car has developed wings and you are about to take off! Good God you are in the air, flying above the traffic in what seems like a perfectly natural state of being! You laugh out loud from the sheer freedom of the experience!

Sounds like a particularly bad cross between a James Bond and Harry Potter scene? J My point though, is that dealing with unconscious beliefs is a bit like the above experience. Life seems fine until you start shedding those beliefs; but then you really take off!

So how do you shed those unconscious beliefs? And if they are unconscious how do you even know they are there?

What I discovered was that as I engaged with failure (Check out my previous series titled Releasing Blocks to Creativity - Conversations with Failure), I started to get more and more in touch with what I wanted in life. It didn’t all come to me in a flash, but it began unfolding. And each unfolding, it seemed, was accompanied by the appearance, and then release, of an unconscious belief.

As I slowly let go of the comfort of hanging onto the image of success that I had developed over many years, the truth of who I am began to surface. When I found the courage to keep letting go, the truth became clearer. And the unconscious beliefs that were part of my truth began to become conscious.

My next few posts will revolve around a few of these unconscious beliefs. Stay tuned to see if they seem familiar…


Copyright 2006 Ameeta Kaul

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Releasing blocks to creativity - 3

Conversations with Failure - Part 3

I had gone past avoidance, almost without realizing it. I was in deep relationship with failure. It felt like we were exploring each other intimately. And curiously, the more I explored failure, the more I learned about myself.

I learned about how the trappings of success can be so seductive, that they lure us into doing whatever it takes to be successful. Unfortunately, for me that meant staying within a narrow comfort zone to ensure that I would keep on being ‘successful’. Paradoxically I was limiting myself, and my experience of life, for this kind of success. I also got to glimpse another reality. One where there was such an expanse of experience, unfettered by fear or limitation. It was this glimpse that hooked and reeled me in completely. There was no going back.. I had to get to the other side and roam free.

There was a distinct change in the tone of my conversation with failure from this point on. I was no longer resisting and constricted. Check out this snippet:

Me: I am learning a lot and it’s not easy by any means but I want more.
Failure: I see that.
Me: I want to go to that place of freedom, of fearlessness.
F: Great, tell me more about that.
Me: I’m scared you know, but I want you to shine the light on the darkness, the hidden stuff inside me – because I can see that that’s what is keeping me from that field of freedom. And somehow all this is a relief.
F: Go on.
Me: Well I’m thinking it’s kind of paradoxical. I mean I am willing to face fear in order to be fearless! Having glimpsed the possibility to be free has given me courage.
F: What will you do with this courage?
Me: It’s more like what the courage is doing to me…
F: Yes. That’s good.
Me: I feel open, and receptive. And I am writing again. And I feel this surge of creative energy. And it’s all coming through me almost as if something else was driving it.
F: Fantastic. So where will this lead you, do you think?
Me: I don’t know.
F: Maybe you’ll be a successful writer?
Me: Maybe… Oh I see what you’re doing. You’re testing me aren’t you?
F: Let’s say I am. Do you mind?
Me: Not at all. Bring it on.
F: What is driving you now? Is it still success?
Me: Wow. (Long pause) Yes, but a different kind of success. I want to be who I am, unreservedly. And I sense that it will be a journey of self-discovery. In other words, I accept that it will be a process and will take time.
F: Good. What if you look like a failure even as you are on this journey?
Me: How do you mean?
F: Well, what if you don’t have much money, status, prestige and whatever else you think constitutes success?
Me: I don’t know. What I do know is that I can’t be chasing after those anymore, not for their own sake. They don’t hold value for me on their own, without the freedom to be me.
F: You’ve come a long way kid.
Me: Thank you. And I mean thanks to you.
F: What about me then?
Me: Huh?
F: How do you feel about me?
Me: Well, I don’t love you. But I value you immensely. Does that make sense?
F: Sure does. So when I call on you again, you’ll let me in?
Me: Oh, I will welcome you in. And it’s great to know that if for some reason I don’t, then you’ll still find your way in anyways! Please keep it that way.
F: Deal.

I still have conversations with failure. And I learn something new every time. But the lessons are getting gentler and milder. I sometimes wonder whose door my friend is crashing open right now…


Copyright 2006 Ameeta Kaul

Friday, November 10, 2006

Releasing blocks to creativity - 2

Conversations with Failure - Part 2

I couldn’t believe I was conversing with failure in this extra-ordinary way. (Check my previous blog for Part 1) And I couldn’t believe that failure had truly given me a gift! I felt like I had lived with chains around me all my life, only I hadn’t known they were chains, until they had been broken open. The sound of them breaking was terrible, and yet I suddenly felt like a burden was lifted…

And what’s more, this was not the only surprise. Here is another snippet of my dialogue with failure:

Failure: So how are you feeling about me today?
Me: Reflective
F: You sound less scared, - a bit more open
Me: Yeah.
F: Great! So will you walk out into the open with me now?
Me: You mean I would walk out with you, and people would see you by my side?
F: Yes, exactly.
Me: So people would see and know that I walk with failure. Which means that they would see me as a failure…. Well, that would be really tough for me. I mean, I have always been seen as a success, and I am used to that, you know.
F: So in your view one is either a success or a failure and you are a success.
Me: Yeah. – Well, I see that it’s not so black and white as that. I mean, one has failures on the way to success. But you don’t wear them on your sleeve for everyone to see.
F: Ah, so you fail privately but you succeed publicly.
Me: Yeah, kind of.
F: Like Halloween.
Me: Huh?
F: You know - wearing a mask. Doesn’t it suffocate you after a while? - To be someone other than yourself, in public, all the time?
Me: I don’t wear a mask all the time.
F: No, I don’t imagine you hide the good stuff, just the bad. Right?
Me: Oh, ok. Yes I do, and as far as I know everyone else does so too. I mean that’s how we operate as a society, you know. We all wear masks, and the more we wear them, the more we need to wear them.
F: Great, - that’s a great realization! Now, have you ever taken off the mask with anyone?
Me: Oh, of course. I have family and friends with whom I can be myself.
F: And you can relax with them?
Me: Yeah.
F: And at all other times you are tense inside. How you limit your life! Can you imagine even for a minute how it might be if you never wore the mask again? Imagine walking out just as you are, every remaining day of your life. What does it feel like?
Me: (after a long teary pause) Very scary…. Immensely relieving. Free. Truly secure.
F: I rest my case for now.
Me: So what do I do?
F: Nothing, for now. Just let this sink in.

What would you have said to Failure in my place? Use my conversation to imagine yours. Then, just let it sink in. Until next time and Part 3.


Copyright 2006 Ameeta Kaul

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Releasing blocks to creativity

Conversations with failure - Part 1

Have you experienced failure? Of course you have. Everyone has, at some point in life. Right? - Wrong! Many people run from failure. So even when it knocks on their door, they barricade its entrance. Then it pushes through, but they escape through a side-door, and run. So my question again, is, have you experienced failure?

I have. Unwillingly. – Because it thrust itself upon me. I resisted it and fought it and kicked at it, but it pushed its way into my awareness. And there it stayed till I learned to live with it. You can run, it said, ruthlessly, but you can’t hide.

Imagine an unwanted guest in your house, - a guest that you simply cannot force out. At first I pretended it didn’t exist, then I ignored it, then I hated it and then, after a long time, I tolerated it. Somewhere along the way I began dialoguing with it. Surprisingly it had a lot to tell me about myself. And this I found interesting. Here is one snippet of our conversation.

Failure: I have been trying to meet you for so long. But you keep running. Why?
Me: I don’t want to meet you.
F: Yeah that’s obvious. I’m asking why?
Me: You suck! I don’t enjoy your company.
F: What are you afraid of? Now don’t say you’re not afraid. Only fear has the power to make you avoid me with so much energy!
Me: Ok. I am afraid. To be seen with you. You embarrass me. You don’t do me any good. You make me feel small.
F: Is it so bad if you feel small sometimes?
Me: Yeah.
F: Why?
Me: Well, because people will assume that is me all the time. And I’m not, you know. I am successful by any societal standard.
F: Are you sure?
Me: Yeah
F: Then why do you fear failing sometimes? Everyone must fail sometime you know. Nobody can avoid me indefinitely. And even though people sometimes ignore me, I am at their door, and won’t leave them till they let me in. Kind of like what I did to you.
Me: Yeah like I need you to remind me.
F: Well the point is everybody fails. And when you acknowledge me and meet me, I give you a gift.
Me: Oh yeah! So what’s my gift?
F: For starters, you can let up a bit you know. I mean your perfect score is ruined, so there’s less pressure to keep up the image, don’t you think? There is no such reality as constant, unwavering success. It is an image. Can you see that?
Me: (after a long pause) I guess so.
F: Isn’t that a relief to accept?
Me: Maybe.
F: If I hadn’t forced my way in, you would have resisted me forever, and remained in fear and bondage. How many things have you not attempted for fear of failing?
Me: A few.
F: Well, can you imagine doing one of those things now? If you fail at it, it wouldn’t be the first time, any more. You’ve already gotten over that hurdle.
Me: You are brutal.
F: I am teaching you the only way you will learn. By living it. Success doesn’t mean avoiding failure. Success means meeting and going beyond failure. I am inviting you to overtake me. I am helping you to see the truth. Is that so brutal?
Me: (after pause) Maybe not, but I’ll have to think about it.
F: Oh take your time. I'll stay as long as you need me to.

Stay tuned for Conversations with Failure - Part 2.....


Copyright 2006 Ameeta Kaul

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Creativity unleashed

When you start to accept, trust and love your current work choices, you begin to relax, - mentally, emotionally and physically. And then you release all the blocked energy that went with the divisive state of hating your job, and wanting your passion instead. This unleashes immense creativity that you can now channel towards your passion!

Ruth and Rick have both, just begun to trust the choices they ended up making, to stay in their jobs. (Check my last post for their stories.) I contend that practicality need not rob them of their passion.

A contented Ruth can find several ways in which to indulge her passion, both in the workplace and outside it. In time, this may even lead to the transition into art as a lucrative profession.

So what might Ruth do, for example? Well, to start with, of course, she might practice her art during her off time. She might take classes to improve some particular aspect of her style. Then she might want to think of ways to make a living from her passion. This may include conducting art classes for her kids and their friends, or at the local adult education center. She may even be able to negotiate a way to conduct art workshops at work, as a means of stress relief for co-workers, for instance. And as she increases her visibility this way, she may ultimately sell her own works of art. The sky is the limit!

What about Rick? He doesn’t even know what his passion is! Well there is a wealth of information and knowledge out there, on discovering your passion. There are books and courses, seminars and consulting and coaching opportunities, which have helped many people to find their passion. And because of his job, Rick is comfortably able to pay for any of those.

I suggest a simple 2-step plan to discover your passion:

1.Remind yourself of what you love doing, and do it. This may be totally unrelated to your work right now, and there may be a few different things you may love doing. Make time in the week to do a couple of those things every week. Get in touch with the enjoyment you experience from them. In time, you may come to 1or 2 things that have potential to be your life work.
2.Be open to discovering new loves. What you may have enjoyed doing in the past, may not do anything for you today. Set aside 10 minutes every day to reflect on your day, and to spot incidents or opportunities that sparked some energy in you. Do this for a while, and see what shows up. You may be able to detect patterns that provide a clue.

There are no rules about finding your passion. Don’t get caught up in the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should-nots’ around this. You may find that your passion is not unique to you, is not one thing - but 2 or 3 things, is quite mundane after all, and doesn’t quite consume you as you were told it would.

Don’t get me wrong; I have been very inspired by the story of Michelangelo – the agony and the ecstasy of his passion. But I believe that we are all different and passion comes in different packages for each of us – a bright dancing flame for some and a soft, slow sizzle for others. :-) Find yours, without pressure and with authenticity.


Copyright 2006 Ameeta Kaul

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Balancing passion with practicality

Do you trust your choices?

In my last post I suggested that instead of starting with finding what you love to do, start with finding how to love what you do. Then I suggested some questions for you to consider. Here’s a quick recap:

  • Has anybody forced you to hold this job?
  • Are you choosing to hold this job?
  • What is it that you are getting from the job?
  • What is it that you are not getting from this job?
  • What possibilities exist for getting what you want from this job?

Most people come to the conclusion that nobody is forcing them to hold their current job. Are you one of these people? If you answer yes, then you are accepting that you choose to hold your job. Further, I suggest that your choice is probably based on very sound reasons. I can’t know them, but you do.

Consider this example. Ruth is very passionate about art. She loves to create original works of beauty. She is a single mother of 2 children, and she provides for them very well, by working as an HR manager in a successful company. She doesn’t love her job and would rather be painting.

Consider this example – Rick is a manager in an IT firm. He makes enough money, has a great title, and is generally well thought of by his friends. He doesn’t love his job but he doesn’t know what else he could be doing.

In each case, the bottom line is that Ruth and Rick don’t love their jobs. But they are each getting something important from their jobs. Ruth gets to take care of her kids and Rick gets the respect from others that he seeks.

Can you identify with either situation in some way? I suggest that it is important to recognize the trade-offs we make. – Because that helps us to trust our choices.

So let’s imagine that Ruth is considering giving up her job in order to be a painter. Clearly her first priority is to have a certain income regardless of what she does, because she knows that she must provide for her kids in a certain way. So what are her choices? Perhaps she can find a way to change her occupation while making the same amount of money. But she realizes that it is difficult to establish oneself as an artist, and it will take a while to ramp up. If she quit her job and took up art, she would be pursuing her passion, but she would be unhappy about her mothering. She would be worrying about money, and ultimately all this would begin to undermine her passion. So she stays in her job. She is choosing her priorities in life and acting in accordance with them. What could be sounder?

Now, there are at least 2 possibilities for her to live with her choice. - Happily and not so happily. She could give herself credit for her clarity, and understand the trade-offs she is making in order to be happy in the long term. Or she could resent the practical demands on her, that she herself is making, which rob her of her passion. And she can go on, hating her job.

What I am suggesting here is that when we find ourselves balancing passion with practicality, it robs us of nothing! There are indeed some people who can suffer almost anything for their passion, and I admire them greatly. But most people are like me and Ruth and Rick and perhaps you too, and we want to be secure and safe and engaged, all at the same time.

I am suggesting that the opportunity here is to step out of the confusion of resenting what you will not drop. - To see your choices as a package deal that come with consequences included. - So that you won’t be doing one thing, while looking longingly at another.

Then when you are no longer coveting something else, you begin to more fully accept what you are doing. You open to the possibility of discovering more in your present situation. This is the beginning of loving what you do. Don’t you think?

So does that mean that art is over for Ruth? Or that Rick will have to settle for work without passion? I don’t think so. If you’d like to discuss that, stay tuned.


Copyright 2006 Ameeta Kaul

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Love your job?

Do you love what you do?

Do you love your job? If you answered yes, - well, great! Going by the statistics on this, you are in a blessed minority. Enjoy yourself.

If you answered no, then you are in plentiful company, and that means something’s gotta give! When there is a critical mass of people experiencing pain over an issue, enough inquiry and energy are going into it to make a turnaround possible.

Most people tell themselves, or are told by others, - if you don’t love what you do, well find what you do love, and just do it. That’s sound advice – it sounds nice. But it doesn’t really help the person very much. For how the heck does one find what one loves to do? And then there is the practical stuff to take care of. How long will the search take, and meanwhile, how does one earn enough money to keep oneself and the loved ones alive and well?

Those are legitimate questions. But they are glossed over by people who tell you that what’s wrong with you is that you lack the passion and the drive to really do what it takes. Then they point to the people who sacrificed it all to find what they loved.

When I used to be handed that advice, it made me feel at once, hopeful and hopeless – hopeful because some people did it and so I may be able to do it too, and hopeless because if I haven’t done it yet, then I must truly lack the passion to find what I love!

But then I began to notice something that bothered me even more. I began to notice how everyone who was an authority on ‘doing only what you love’ had already found what they loved and spoke from that place of certainty. Great! But how did they get there? How long did it take? What was the journey like? What hurt? What did not? How many times did they stop believing in the worth of the journey? How did they get back on track? Those are the kind of things I wanted to know.

Are these your questions too?
Almost 5 years after first asking these questions, I have something to share. Start with finding how to love what you do. Put slightly differently - find the love in what you do.

No matter how I put that, it’s going to sound trite. But remember that I am simply asking you to start this way, and not suggesting that this is the whole deal. And I speak from gut-wrenching experience. When you start this way, you achieve one thing right away - you open yourself to possibilities. So take the short cut. Instead of starting with trying to find what you love to do, find how to love what you do.

By now you’re saying, - "ok stupid, but I started by saying I don’t love what I do!". I know, and I’m asking you to jiggle that statement around just a bit.

Here are some questions you might ask of yourself:
  • · Has anybody forced you to hold this job?
  • · Are you choosing to hold this job?
  • · What is it that you are getting from the job?
  • · What is it that you are not getting from this job?
  • · What possibilities exist for getting what you want from this job?

You might want to revisit the questions a few times, with enough time in between repeats, and notice if your answers change.

I’ll bet that each of you would have a slightly different experience. If you’d like, share your experience with me at I’ll bet also, that each of you who attempts this with any seriousness at all, will be planting a seed. And this seed once planted, will find a way to grow against all odds, and in time you will find yourself doing what you love.

So, is that all that’s required? - I don't think so. But it’s a great first step. And if you’d like to consider a next step - stay tuned.


Copyright 2006 Ameeta Kaul