Monthly Archives: October 2009

Organization vs. Spontaneity

3088163662_f0df4f9508I’m the kind of person who likes some spontaneity in my life. I don’t like schedules. I don’t like a to-do list. I want to be free to do whatever strikes me.  So, for many years, I resisted using a planner or organizer.

Finally, I was at a seminar where Hyrum Smith taught how to use a day-planner. I started using one, and I have to admit that it was one of the best changes I ever made. My ability to remember things and accomplish my goals and tasks dramatically improved. But I still thought of it as a compromise of my artistic,  spontaneous principles.

Finally, I read David Allen’s book – Getting Things Done – known in the organizational community as GTD. His explanations of the need for an organizational system finally penetrated my philosophical resistance.  Allen explained the psychology of organization.  Suppose you have an upcoming appointment or a critical task – and you have NOT written it down in a trustworthy system.  Even if you are not consciously worried about it, there will be some part of your  mind that KNOWS you have that appointment, and is always worried about whether you will remember it.  There will be a subtle background of stress and worry, even if you aren’t completely aware of it. And that stress and worry will make it harder for you to relax or to devote all your mind to creating and producing anything.

On the other hand, if you have a reliable system for capturing those appointments and tasks, and if you have captured them, and if your mind KNOWS that – at the right time, your system will remind you – then you can relax. Your mind will be free to relax, enjoy life and create wonderful things – the moment it knows it can trust your external system to bring things to your attention. The trick is to get everything OUT of your mind and INTO your external system.

Look at it this way. If I have a planner, and I book an appointment for two weeks from now, and I know that I will check that planner every day – then I can completely forget about that appointment until two weeks from now. On the other hand, if I don’t have a planner or other system, then some part of my mind will occupy itself – for two whole weeks, with trying to remember the appointment.

You don’t use organizational systems and planners so that you can obsess about things. You use them so that you can put things out of your mind until absolutely necessary. Organization frees the space for spontaneity.

Beginning Lucid Dreaming

lucid2What is lucid dreaming? Since I’m not written on the topic before, I should begin with some explanation. Have you ever been in a dream in which you suddenly realized that you were dreaming? Often this results in waking up. But sometimes, with luck or training, we can manage to stay “lucid” (clear-headed and conscious) in our dreams, and begin to control what occurs in them. With practice, this can become great fun. We can give ourselves super powers, or summon up great historical figures to talk to. We can visit other planets and destroy or befriend the monsters of our nightmares.

Not only is this tremendous fun, but many esoteric teachers believe it’s an important exercise. The Tibetans apparently believe that if you can develop the power to stay completely lucid in your sleep to its ultimate potential, the same consciousness and control we develop in our dreams stays with us after death. At the point of death, we find ourselves with the consciousness to understand what it happening to us and control it. We are then able to pass by the dangers of the afterlife that various “books of the dead” warn us about and ascend to higher realms.

Would you like to add years to your life? How much time to you spend asleep and completely unconscious? If you can extend your consciousness to your dreams, it’s like living a whole new life in addition to the one you live while awake. And this life can be extremely fulfilling and useful.

Lucid dreaming is also extremely helpful for those who wish to learn astral projection. The most successful out-of-body experiences I have had began as lucid dreams. How do we develop lucid dreaming ability? There are a number of techniques, ranging from simple affirmations to complex machinery designed to “almost” wake you up at just the right moment. But the first order of business, if you don’t do it already, is to begin to remember and journal your dreams.

It’s a matter of scientific fact that everyone dreams. Many of us, however, don’t remember them. Several things contribute to our inability to remember dreams. First of all, we simply aren’t in the habit of remembering them. We have conditioned our minds to believe it isn’t important. Secondly, we may be used to waking up too abruptly. If we have an annoying alarm clock, or tend to jump out of bed abruptly, the fragile mental state with which we wake up (and which contains our dream memories) is dissolved. Within a few seconds of jumping out of bed, all our dream memories will be gone.

To begin to remember your dreams, then, put a notebook, a pencil (so you don’t have to sit up to write) and a light next to your bed. Make sure your alarm, if you use one, is gentle. Affirm to yourself several times as you go to sleep that you will remember your dreams. As you wake up, DON’T MOVE. Gently think back on what you remember from your dreams. When you have as much detail as you think you are going to get, grab your notebook and write it down. The first few times, you may forget and start to jump out of bed. Let the notebook on your bedside remind you, and write down whatever you remember. If all you remember are vague feelings, write that down. If you really don’t remember anything, take a GUESS at what you might have dreamed and write down the guess. Your mind will start to realize that you are serious about remembering your dreams, and you will remember more and more each day.

If you get up during the night, try to remember your dreams and write them down before you get out of bed. Some people have luck with setting their alarm for the middle of the night and recording their dreams at that time. In any case, if you are patient, within a short while you will remember more and more dreams.

Don’t slack. Write down everything you can. This serves several purposes. First of all, you can begin to use your dream journal for interesting analysis. Secondly, your consciousness will begin to develop itself. Soon you will start finding yourself being aware of your dreams while you are still IN them. This is one of the best roads to lucid dreaming.

There are a number of other techniques to increase your ability to have lucid dreams which I may write about soon, but dream journaling is, in my opinion, the most important.

Joel Fuhrman

joel-fuhrman Joel Fuhrman is a medical doctor who writes on the topic of healing and weight loss through nutrition. His flagship book is Eat to Live, which is one of the most remarkably clear and informative books on nutrition I have ever read. Fuhrman, who was a champion figure skater earlier in his life, has apparently developed a reputation among other doctors of being the one they will refer a patient to when that patients life depends on them losing weight.

In fascinating and compelling writing, Fuhrman explains nutritional concepts in a way that motivate and inspire you. His diet is primarily vegetarian and low fat, and not only produces remarkable weight loss, but also reverses conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

Dr Fuhrman was also involved with Dr Cousens in the “Raw for 30” experimantal program for reversing diabetes which was so remarkably successful.  For those who aren’t quite ready for the raw food diet of Dr. Cousens, Dr Fuhrman’s diet is an excellent and wonderfully healthy alternative, combining raw vegan, cook vegan, and (in the maintenance phase) small amounts of animal products if desired.

Below is a video of Dr. Fuhrman describing his program and giving some amazing real case examples of what it can do.

Eckhart Tolle

eckhart_tolleI remember first encountering Eckhart Tolle. I was on a long commute to work and I slipped one of his audio CD’s into my car player. I had picked him up at random because his CD’s happened to be next to Wayne Dyer’s and it looked interesting. I turned on the player and waited.  And waited. I began to be tense and worried. Was the CD defective? Then, finally, Eckhart’s calm, peaceful voice started talking.

It took a while to get used to his speaking style. Eckhart is NEVER in a hurry. But soon I found myself looking forward to it. His very voice, above and beyond what he was teaching, seemed to bring light and peace into me. Echkart’s career as a spiritual teacher began after a shattering mystical experience in his life. He spent a year on a park bench assimilating the state of bliss and happiness he has stumbled into. And after years in “obscurity”, he burst onto the spiritual scene almost overnight. His recent series of webcasts with Oprah Winfrey put him decidedly into the limelight.

Eckhart Tolle has, in my experience, the clearest, most approachable teaching on spirituality of anyone alive (and quite a few who are dead, for that matter). Stripping away the jargon and elaborate processes that burden some systems, he gives it to you simply, directly, and with beautiful, minimalistic elegance. If you are just beginning to become interested in spiritual things, or you are desperately looking for happiness and finding yourself empty, Eckhart Tolle is a wonderful place to start.

Eckhart’s first book was The Power of Now, and it introduced many of the themes found in all his work.


The need to live profoundly in the present moment is a primary theme in Tolle’s work. Eckhart urges us not to focus  on the past or the future, except as needed to function in the everyday world. Both of these are attempts by the ego to escape the power of the present moment. The secret to happiness is to abandon resistance to the present moment. This does not mean passivity, but an acceptance of reality as our starting place.

A mind may be a terrible thing to waste, but according to Eckhart, the mind is also a terrible slave master. Most of us live our lives trapped in a stream of repetitive thinking. Our constructed world of thought draws us away from the reality of existence in the present moment, and leads to our unhappiness.

A unique concept that I’ve only run across in Eckhart’s teachings is the concept of the “pain body”. This is apparently a collection of emotional energy that many of us accumulate that virtually “feeds” on emotional energy. The pain body can act almost as a separate entity, taking over the mind of its host, controlling their thinking so as to produce more emotional energy to feed on in the form of pain, anger or similar negative emotions.

Recent Controversy

I have noticed that since Eckhart’s series of webcasts with Oprah, there has begun to be some significant opposition to his teaching. By the way, the webcasts with Oprah are still available for free to download or listen to live here on Oprah’s book club site. For many people, this will be a good introduction, since Oprah keeps the pace moving a bit more briskly. Personally I prefer the calm serenity of Eckhart speaking alone.  In any case, since these webcasts, the opposition to Eckhart has increased.  This is often in the form of Christians who insist that Eckhart is a false teacher because he doesn’t specifically endorse a particular set of Christian dogmas or acknowledge Jesus as the only path to salvation.

The fact is that if you are familiar with the teachings of the great Christian mystics, you will realize that their teachings overlap Eckhart Tolle’s at many points. Still, if you are a very dogmatic Christian, you will probably find his inclusiveness a bit uncomfortable. I would urge you, nevertheless, to give him a try.

Listen to a bit of Eckhart in the video below:

Leo Babauta

leobabautaLeo Babauta is a recent addition to my list of favorite teachers. He’s primarly known for his blog, Zen Habits, which I stumbled onto one day. It quickly found its way into my personal RSS feed.

Leo’s specialty is taking the task or organizing your life and reducing it to the bare minimum. He is one of the leading advocates of zen minimalism in the area of personal organization. For example, he took David Allen’s famous Getting Things Done system (of which I’m a big fan) and reduced it to a more streamlined system he calles Zen To Done (ZTD).

Leo’s books and posts bring simplicity to such areas as your email, your finances, your health,  your business your browser and life in general.

This is a great thing, because the simpler a system is, the more likely we are to actually USE it.  Our systems for managing our life shouldn’t make it even more complicated and difficult.

In addition to his blog, Leo has several books available which we will be reviewing here time permitting.

The video below is part of an interview with Leo on his book The Power of Less

Stephen Covey

stevencovey Stephen Covey is someone I’ve been well aquainted with since my younger days as a Mormon (a long stop on my spiritual journey). Covey has been strongly involved in the leadership of the Mormon Church, as well as being the author of one of the most popular organizational books of all time, the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

At a time where a lot of attention was being focused on the mechanics of staying organized, Covey took a step back and looked at the principles behind organization. Personal organization is not simply a matter of making lists of things to do. It is a matter of choosing to do the thigns that are actually important to our life’s purpose and values. For many type “A” personalities, this is a dramatic insight.

This is the centerpiece of the first of the “seven habits” – proactivity

Just to give you a taste, here are the “Seven Habits” that Covey recommends:

Habit 1: Be Proactive: Principles of Personal Choice
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind: Principles of Personal Vision
Habit 3: Put First Things First: Principles of Integrity & Execution
Habit 4: Think Win/Win: Principles of Mutual Benefit
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood: Principles of Mutual Understanding
Habit 6: Synergize: Principles of Creative Cooperation
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw: Principles of Balanced Self-Renewal

Excellent principles. And Covey has added a book on his eighth habit. “Find your voice and encourage others to find theirs”.

Covey is a well-grounded, balanced and knowledgeable teacher, with many years of experience in leadership, motivation and training. And  he brings deep psychological and even spiritual insight into his work. He is usually careful to keep his overtly religious ideas out of his teaching, but some critics think they detect shades of subtle Mormon philosophy coloring his work. Not surprisingly, these critics tend to be those who have their own very dogmatic religious views.

As for me, even though I now completely reject and cannot share Covey’s Mormonism, his organizational teachings are first-rate, and everyone interested in this topic shouldn’t consider themselves well-trained until they have read Stephen Covey.

Below is a short video interview in which Covey discusses the first of the seven habits – proactivity

David Allen

david-allen David Allen and his system of Getting Things Done (known as GTD by fans) took the world of personal organization by storm several years ago.  While many previous teachers such as Hyrum Smith and Steven Covey had been focusing on the general principles of organization, David Allen came along and noticed that many people were failing at organization because of poor mechanics – not knowing the right “tricks”.

Allen takes the planning methods of previous generations and gives them a much-needed overhaul for the computer age. One thing that Allen noticed that had become more important in the digital age is the idea of CONTEXT. Rather than organizing thing strictly by priorities,  we should organize by our working context.

For example, if we are sitting at our computer, answering email, we aren’t going to shut our computer down and move to our next priority. We are going to do all our “computer” tasks at one time – while we are sitting at the computer. Allen’s system organized work into contexts of tasks to accomplish together.

Another of Allen’s principles is the “empty in-box”.  It is never efficient to look at an item and put it back in our inbox (whether literal or electronic). Items in our in-box should either be done immediatly, or moved directly to the appropriate project or context lists, so that it will be dealt with at the appropriate time.

David Allen’s books are full of smart, streamlined “tricks” to make you a more organized person Get one today.

Meanwhile, have a look at a brief promotional video below:

Don Miguel Ruiz

Don_Miguel_Ruiz Don Miguel Ruiz is a Mexican Toltec shaman and teacher.  Writings about Toltec shamanism came into popularity decades ago with the writings of Carlos Castaneda. But Ruiz makes his teachings relevant to everyone, not simply to students of the esoteric. Like Eckhart Tolle, he gained significant exposure for his work from Oprah Winfrey. While his credentials may be as a shaman, his popular books and teachings are quite practical and down-to-earth.

His first book was The Four Agreements, which focuses on four key principles to recover spiritual power in our life. These are not strange esoteric principles, although Ruiz invests them with spiritual power. They are, in fact, things your mother might have told you. I won’t be giving anything away if I tell you what they are.

1. Be Impeccable With Your Word.
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally.
3. Don’t Make Assumptions.
4. Always Do Your Best.

If those sound a bit simplistic, you need to read his books. His explanations of these simple principles are actually quite spiritually sophisticated. They are not all what you might think. In the section on being impeccable with your word, for example, he discusses the magical power that words have over the human consciousness. Cruel or overly critical talk, for Ruiz, is basically a case of black magic, and many of us are black magicians without realizing it. We use the power of our words to destroy rather than to help.

Ruiz is an excellent author for someone of shamanistic inclination, or simply someone who wants good practical advice and techniques for improving life and gaining happiness, freedom and spiritual power.

Here’s a brief video of Don Miguel Ruiz:

Wayne Dyer

10491-SM Wayne Dyer has been in the public eye since the seventies when his book Your Erroneous Zones became wildly popular. While Dyer has interesting things to say in the area of progressive psychology, he has become much more interesting since his work has become progressively more spiritual in recent years.

The wonderful thing about Dyer that makes him so accessible to a wide audience is that while he has embraced the spiritual dimension, he has lost none of his dynamic writing and speaking ability that he previously used to promote psychology and self development.  This is contrast to Eckhart Tolle who’s zen-like style of writing and speaking takes some degree of enlightenment simply to appreciate.

Wayne has also been astonishingly prolific.  I’m a big fan, but even I haven’t managed to read all his books and listen to all his CDs. Every year or so you can count on another wonderful book by Dyer. And now that he has branched into areas such as meditation and manifestation, he’s better than ever.

I particularly appreciate Dyer because he is the one who’s books gave me the courage, at a difficult moment, to make a bold step in my life that involved quitting a secure job. It was one of the best moves I ever made, and I have Dr. Dyer to thank for it. Look for more wonderful work by Wayne Dyer in the future.

Wayne has been especially generous with his time and talent in support of PBS, and has generated some criticism – I suspect from people who’s dogmatic principles are threatened by his inclusiveness.

Here is a clip of Dyer discussing your divine purpose


spirit1Spirituality is one of our focal points here at PathsToKnowledge. In this section we review spiritual books and teachers. We explore spiritual paths and techniques. We discuss spiritual living and spiritual healing.

Spirituality does not imply religion. It involves connecting to our source and essence to find guidance and meaning.  Spirituality is the map that guides our journey.  The puzzle into which all the other pieces fit.

We can be successful in all the other areas of life, but if we don’t have a sense of meaning, we will ultimately find happiness eludes us.  On the other hand, if our spiritual compass is working properly, the other areas of our life will align more easily.

On the side menu, you will find pages devoted to particular spiritual teachers and gurus. Below is a list of all our posts dealing with the spiritual, the esoteric and the philosophical.

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