Tag Archives: The Spark

Stop wasting your energy on worry and put it into action

I wish life was simpler and I didn’t have so many things to worry about.  A friend of mine told me recently about a book she’d read called The Secret. It says that if you want things to go well, you have to picture them going well, and that if you see them going wrong, they are more likely to go wrong. She says that I worry unnecessarily and that I “catastrophize”.

I admit that I do worry a lot, but I do it because when I picture things going badly, I feel more prepared to deal with them, and then when they don’t turn out as bad as I expected, it’s a relief and a happy ending. It’s always the things that I DON’T worry about that go wrong, which is why I think it’s safer to worry, and then things will always turn out better than I expected.

My friend thinks this is silly and says it doesn’t work that way. I would like to be more relaxed, and I wonder if maybe my friend could be right.  What do you think?

I can see how this preparation strategy might appear to work for you, but quite frankly, you’re deluded if you believe that what you picture in your mind has any control whatsoever over “the way things turn out”.  That’s ridiculous and impossible. Nobody can control their external environment with the power of thought alone.

If you look at the immense scheme of things, of all the occurences and events that are unfolding at any given time, your concerns are a mere ripple in an ocean… if that. The possibilities that will influence the outcomes of your worries are infinite, interconnected and variable. What you picture in your mind is pure fantasy, and I can assure you that imagining possible outcomes won’t make the slightest difference on real outcomes.

The only way you can make a difference to a situation, is by contributing your real action.  Imaginary brain activity alone is useless. Visualization is necessary to map out the steps of your action plan, and obviously if you can visualize these steps clearly and see them working, it will make things much easier for you when the time comes to carry them out.  So in this sense, yes, your friend could be right.

It’s important to recognize which are the things that ARE in your control, and which things you can’t control. Whatever you can do to improve the situation, do it.  Then accept that everything else is “out of your hands”. No amount of worrying or hoping that the weather will be good, or that people will react the way you want them to react, or that the plane won’t crash, will make any difference.

And anyway, who’s to judge if a situation turns out well, or if it turns out badly? The outcome you hope for is probably not the best one. Just because the outcome is different to the one you were hoping for, that doesn’t make it a bad one. It just is what it is, and if you can accept it, you’re more likely to see the benefits of it.  So if you can let go of any pre-concieved hopes or expectations of how a situation “should” unfold, take things as they come, and play your part in taking these circumstances (whatever they may be) and turning them to your advantage, then you can do no wrong.

Or to put it more simply, just do yourself a favour and stop worrying. If you haven’t already done everything you can to contribute to a positive outcome, then stop wasting your energy on worry and put it into action.

The Spark.

When Sparks are Ignored: Egotism

One of the greatest pleasures for a Spark is to reside in the brain of a human who has what people like to call a “small ego” – someone who thinks of themselves more as a part of something larger than as an individual. When a person with a small ego has an idea they are likely to attribute it to something outside of themselves (something they plucked out of the air as it was floating past). People like that are usually very receptive to the ideas of Sparks, and they often go on to become very successful people.

The trouble is that the size of a person’s ego can change, and in most cases when a person is successful their ego grows and before they know it their ego has well and truly taken over. They no longer think of themselves as part of something bigger, but think only of themselves. An egotist thinks that any ideas they have had were entirely their own creation – they not only start ignoring their Spark, they start denying it even exists. So, you can see why they might find that their Spark decides to leave them.

This is a common story – lived out by artists, business people and revolutionary leaders-turned dictators. At the start they recognize their small part in the world and long to do their best or something “good”. A Spark tunes into their longing and joins them and the ideas and energy start flowing. Then the person starts doing something well. If this is recognized it leads to success and then praise, which are both good fertilizer for growing egos. Then, just when the person has grown an enormous ego and the world is watching and waiting for them to perform, they lose their Spark.

You can imagine the feelings of helplessness that develop in this situation. Rage often follows. Then comes the decline, which usually includes humiliating attempts to cling to fame and/or power. Lies and murder are possible. The egotist watches their friends and supporters fleeing. You can imagine the loneliness and feeling of betrayal. Finally they are alone, and not part of anything anymore. As a final blow to the ego, the person may find that history remembers them for their desperate acts in the dying days of their power rather than for their initial good deeds and intentions.

The pattern of success driven ego growth followed by decline can happen on other scales too. It is a common cause of project failure because when egos take over people place more importance on getting things done in “their” way than on the success of a project and spend time arguing over unimportant details instead of cooperating. A similar thing happens between people who are fighting for the same cause but all want the victory to be “theirs”.

Good ideas don’t have to lead to egotism though. There are some people who are able to keep their ego small even when they have great success.  When these people have good ideas they realise that their inspiration came from outside of themselves. They attribute their idea to things such as the colour of the sky that morning, the song they heard on the radio and a conversation they overheard on the bus. Small ego people know that they cannot exist alone. They remember that they wouldn’t have been able to even feed and clothe themselves without the things other people have done. Even a billionaire needs to realize that they could not have generated that money on their own. Not only do they rely on a workforce that could probably find something much better to do if they weren’t slaves to their mortgage or “lifestyle”, but that the workforce relies on the rest of society. And just as everyone relies on other people for their survival, our ideas are also products of the same system. Acknowledging this is a strategy that cannot lose. Not only are you more likely to keep your Spark, but if you remember that you aren’t doing everything on your own then when things go wrong you aren’t on your own either.

When Sparks are Ignored: Lobotomies

Humans are capable of some brilliant things, but they can also do some really stupid things. Sometimes it is the most brilliant people who do the stupidest things, and sometimes it takes a while for everyone else to realise how silly these things are. Lobotomies are one example that causes particular pain to Sparks.

A lobotomy is an operation where the connections between the prefrontal cortex (part of the frontal lobes) and rest of the brain are severed. The prefrontal cortex is where the executive functions of the brain are performed (such as reasoning and understanding, creativity, planning, attention, problem solving, inhibition, mental flexibility, and the initiation and monitoring of actions).The idea behind disconnecting the prefrontal cortex is that this leads to the uncoupling of emotions and intellect.

Lobotomies were developed in 1935 by neurologists Dr. Antonio Egas Moniz and Dr. Almeida Lima as a treatment for mental illnesses, including anxiety, depression and schizophrenia. If you were considered extremely emotional, difficult or moody you might also have been given a lobotomy. They were given to criminals, to problem family members and to patients who would otherwise have taken up hospital beds.

As you may know, when Sparks visit human brains they inhabit the frontal lobes. This is because Sparks are looking to interact with the intellect and because the frontal lobes are where all good ideas are formed. If you were to lose the function of your frontal lobes you’d be left with what is sometimes called the reptilian part of the brain. The reptilian part of the brain runs on reward and punishment. It is not capable of abstract thinking (like imagining the likely consequences of actions or understanding another person’s feelings or motives). Obviously if you lost the function of your frontal lobes you’d also lose the opportunity to be influenced by a Spark.

Many Sparks joined forces to try to stop the lobotomy craze taking off, but they weren’t successful because not all brains are receptive to Sparks and the type of people who sanctioned and performed lobotomies turned out to be the least receptive. The potential patients were far more receptive to Sparks, but they were also often powerless or overcome by other problems, and in the end there was just not enough time – most people seemed to want a solution that was convenient rather than good.

Instead, lobotomies were made even easier by Walter Freeman. The first lobotomies involved drilling holes into the skull on either side of the prefrontal cortex and injecting the connecting fibres with alcohol to destroy them. So that lobotomies could be given to more people, Walter Freeman came up with a technique that was faster, more accessible and less expensive. This involved getting to the prefrontal cortex through the eye sockets instead. His method has become known as the “ice pick lobotomy”, because he developed the technique using an ice pick and eventually used an instrument (orbitoclast) that resembled an ice pick.

The ice pick lobotomy could be done by non surgeons and didn’t require an operating room. It took around 10 minutes to perform. The patient was made unconscious using electroconvulsive shock instead of anaesthetic. The orbitoclast was pushed up through the top of one eye-socket. Then, after a light tap on the end with a hammer, the orbitoclast would break through the thin layer of bone and enter the brain. Next the fibres connecting the prefrontal cortex were then broken by twiddling the orbitoclast around a bit. The procedure was then repeated on the other side (via the other eye socket).

Sparks weren’t even able to stop Dr Moniz being given the Nobel Prize in 1949 for his lobotomy work. Things began to turn around when the USSR banned lobotomies in 1953, but it was really the invention of drugs as a replacement that meant that Lobotomies began to decline in the 1950s.

Some people were happy with their lobotomies, as some people are happy taking drugs today. But many people suffered and many died. Those of you who still have the connection between intellect and emotion may like to listen to Josef Hassid play the violin (pre-lobotomy) while reading about him and nine other notable lobotomy patients.

Valentine’s Day has very little to do with genuine love

My husband didn’t get me anything for Valentine’s Day. Do you think that means he doesn’t love me enough?

Without knowing exactly what you consider to be “enough” love, it’s difficult for me to give you an answer.  It’s also difficult to know how much weight can be given to Valentine’s Day as a measure of your husband’s love towards you.  Valentine’s Day may be completely irrelevant to your husband. If your relationship is based on respect, friendship and soulful connection, then the idea of making obligatory gestures as part of a commercialized, mass-frenzy of superficial love giving could seem insulting to your husband.  His love for you may be so solid, deep and unquestionable that he doesn’t see the need to show you any extra evidence of this. Maybe he is just not an overtly affectionate person. This doesn’t mean that he is incapable of love, or that he doesn’t love you enough, it could just mean that he is more sensitive with his feelings and he prefers to keep them well guarded.

Having said all that, I can see how his indifference towards Valentine’s Day could be interpreted as indifference towards you, or that by him not making any effort, you could be left feeling that he thinks you are not worth the effort.  These are reasonable conclusions to jump to, but not necessarily the only ones.

Has your husband been more romantic on past Valentine’s Days? It could just be that he expects you to know how he feels now, so he doesn’t see the need to go on reminding you again and again every year. Maybe he considers Valentine’s Day to be a cliché and feels that he shows you his love more frequently, in other ways.

Perhaps more important questions to be asking yourself are: Do you feel loved and appreciated by your husband in other ways?  Does he value your opinion?  Does he like to see you laugh? Do you tell each other your hopes and fears? Do you feel empathy for one another, and enjoy one another’s company?

Valentine’s Day is for people who want to make a show of their affection.  It has very little to do with genuine love.  I wouldn’t take it too seriously.  Did you get your husband anything for Valentine’s Day?

The Spark.

New column coming soon: When Sparks are ignored

Every month or so The Spark will tell us about a different time when the good advice of a Spark was ignored.


Advice from the Spark

I have so many things I need to do but I find that getting things done is such a struggle! What can I do?

Sounds to me like you are caught in a hamster wheel.  The harder you try, the faster it spins and you still get no where.  Do you feel as though each day is a trial to get through?  That every obstacle along the way presents new problems and set backs?  That from the moment you wake in the morning until you fall asleep at night you are racing against time?  Do you wish life could be easier?

What if I told you it could be?  Would you be willing to give it a go?  Because it can be.  Life can be full of excitement, love and comedy if you let it.  You can still keep up with your obligations and projects without sliding and falling behind.  In fact you may find that your methods are smoother, more efficient and more creative when you allow life to be and work with it, rather than against it.

There’s no use in fearing or dreading the day ahead.  That’s not going to change anything apart from putting you in a bad mood and making it harder for yourself to cope with the day’s challenges.  Instead, when you wake in the morning put yourself trustingly in the hands of the present moment and make a deal with the day to accept what comes your way and cooperate by playing your part as it unfolds for you.  Each day is a gift.  Don’t reject it ungratefully by wishing it were different, but appreciate the opportunities you are given.  To the inexperienced many opportunities may be confused as problems.  Don’t be fooled.

Where are your problems now anyway?  Are they pounding on the door, trying to all come in at once to “get” you?  If they are, welcome them in. Give them your full attention and cooperate with them by doing what is required of you.  There’s no need to judge or resist them.  They exist, so calmly and mindfully deal with them one by one.  Notice and enjoy the feeling of harmony when working with life, rather than against it.

Or you may notice that your problems are not really out there after all.  It may be that the only place they exist right now is in your mind.  Perhaps the only thing that requires your immediate attention right now is to breathe and to be in this moment as you put this step of your plan into action.  That is all you ever really need to do. As you do so, respect your actions and give them the attention they deserve.  This will help you to go about your tasks more effectively with less stumbling and tripping.

If you are out of step with life’s rhythm you will feel like you are fighting a current, forcing your way through, exhausting yourself without gaining pleasure or satisfaction from your activities.  If you let life run it’s course and take the moments necessary to find your place in the rhythm and your comfortable cruising speed, life will be easier and more enjoyable.  Your actions will feel natural and effortless.  You will find that your problems often sort themselves out without your clumsy intervention, and solutions will present themselves when you are more receptive to your surroundings.  You will feel energised and alive when you find your slipstream.  You will find excitement in a challenge and pride in a job well done.  You will laugh more, attract appreciation from others and create opportunities to do all the things you never used to have time for.

Stop trying so hard.  Tension and resistance drain your energy and blind you.  Remember to breathe, accept what is, and whatever you do, make it fun!

The Spark

Want to buy us a chocolate?

Would you like some advice from The Spark?

Advice from the Spark

I am a single, overweight 40-something. I feel like I’m wasting my life. What can I do?

What do you feel is lacking in your life right now?  Is there anything missing? Maybe you do already have everything you need to be happy, but just need to discover where your happiness and joy has been hiding.

Is there anything in your life right now that you have the power to change, which may help unblock your connection with life and fulfillment? Maybe everything is fine the way it is and you are already as happy and content as you possibly can be…  But the fact that you are asking me this question indicates that you have some doubt within yourself.  Maybe it’s not obvious and pressing, but more of a persistent itch that feels like it can never really be scratched satisfactorily.

You mention your weight… This would be the most obvious problem a human would focus on.  As a spark, I can assure you that your physical shell is not really you, but merely a reflection of how you view and treat yourself.  Maybe it could be suggested that your excess weight is the manifestation of your unsatisfiable hunger, rather than the cause of your discontent.  It is completely normal for humans to feel perpetually hungry for fulfillment.  This is usually the explanation behind so much of their irrational behaviour.  Your discontent may even be aggravated by the form in which you attend to your hunger (this is often the case).  Hunger, naturally, you would associate with food, so it’s perfectly logical that whenever you feel the aches and pains of your discontent, you reach for the most automatic, tried and trusted remedy, which in your case may be food.  This action no doubt calms your discontent temporarily, but the long term, chronic itching persists.

Rather than feeling uncomfortable in your body because you judge it as being overweight, why not recognise your weight as the result of mistreatment.  Is food really the only way for you to satisfy your hunger?  Why not vary your emotional diet with more nutritious, longer lasting activities which fertilize the growth of true happiness or aid in the re-ignition and maintenance of your inner flame.

This is probably sounding like a whole lot of cosmic rubbish.  What you really want is reassurance and simple answers.  So let me suggest to you some clues which will lead the way to rediscovering your true self and ultimately your true happiness:

* Think of the times in your life when you have felt most alive.  What was that feeling like?  Remember it intensely.  What allowed you to feel that way then?  What is stopping you from feeling that way again now?

* Think of all the fun you have had in your life.  Do you still do any of those things now?  If not, why not?  What’s stopping you?

* When was the last time you experienced a soulful connection with another Human Being? I don’t just mean during sexual intercourse. Think about times when you have opened your heart to a friend or sibling or parent, maybe even to a stranger, and shared with them your true feelings?  What gave you the courage to do it then?  What’s stopping you from doing it again now?

You don’t need to stop doing any of the things you are physically doing, or give up deriving pleasure from food.  Food is not the problem, it’s just not the only answer.

Be aware of all the other opportunities for soul fulfilment that life gives you each day.  When you see an opportunity to try something new or do something differently, take a risk.  See what happens.  Be brave.  Live each day as if it were your last.

The Spark

Want to buy us a chocolate?

Would you like some advice from The Spark?

%d bloggers like this: