Liliane Grace, creative writing, author, keynote speaker, The Mastery Club 

Liliane Grace, creative writing, author, keynote speaker, The Mastery Club 

Divine Order in Philomena - Spoiler Alert!!!

If you haven't yet seen the movie, Philomena, starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, you might not want to read this blog, but if you have, and you found your heart strings tugged by the young mother's pain in having her toddler ripped away from her and adopted out against her will, then you might find this blog useful.

I went to see the movie a few days ago with my mother, and we were both deeply moved by it. As films go, it's well constructed, brilliantly acted, and beautiful to watch. As a true story, it's all the more poignant. A teenage girl who becomes pregnant out of wedlock in the 50s is shunned by her family and sent to an abbey to give birth, after which her child is raised by the nuns – the young mothers are only given one hour a day with their children – and soon adopted out. Philomena loves her child fiercely but has no say in any of this because she has 'sinned'. Near the end of the movie she – spoiler alert! – expresses her forgiveness to the 'evil nun' who orchestrated the arrangement.

As we drove home from the cinema, my mother and I discussed the movie and how we felt about it. I explained that the concept of  forgiveness that inspires me is not so much the 'superior' position where we forgive someone who has wronged us, but the appreciative position where we can genuinely say, 'thank you for giving me this experience' – because we recognise the divine order at work. 

That's my philosophy but I felt a bit wobbly declaring that because my own heart strings/attachment to my children etc. had been pretty vigorously affected. As I reflected on the film in the hours afterward, my emotions settled down and I saw the core principle at work.

Firstly we have to remember that 'divine order' isn't equal to 'human order'; it's not about 'happiness' or human concepts of fairness, it's about evolution.

The principle at work in Philomena is that dictators arise where people are disempowered. We can say that this isn't nice but the point is for the people to empower themselves and subsequently unseat the dictator.

In this case the dictators were the nuns and society's narrow-minded thinking, and young Philomena played her part – she gave her power away to her parents, society's voices, and the nuns. Granted, this was because she was ignorant – she literally didn't know better, but this is the whole point of evolution: we begin with a certain set of limitations and we grow beyond them.

The order is here: Philomena's pain, which she felt every day for over 50 years, slowly erodes her blind faith in the church and society's rules, empowering her to make her own decisions. We see this crack in her belief system when she reveals her conundrum – she believes she has been rightfully punished for her carnal sin in having pre-marital sex, but gradually she realises she is also sinning by lying about what happened. This internal conflict comes to a head when she walks out of a confessional without speaking and doesn't make the sign of the cross as she leaves the church. She is taking her power back from the church but it has taken her 50 years to grow into being able to do so. 

This growth is the divine order at work because her soul needed to grow in this way more than it needed to keep the baby… who had a much richer life with the adoptive parents – i.e. more opportunity – than with a stigmatised, single mother in the 40s who had no means of supporting them. There's no guarantee he would have been happier with his biological mother even though, watching the movie, we might all nostalgically think so because she clearly loves him so much. My own mother has rejected one of her daughters in adulthood – there's no telling what might have occurred in Philomena's relationship with her son as their lives together unfolded.

Another form of growth for Philomena in this story was her character growth. She didn't indulge in bitterness or revenge, and she developed quite an extraordinary degree of poise and self-control. I recently watched a TED talk featuring a lesbian woman who daily receives a flood of hate mail. Her poise and centeredness and self-acceptance in the face of all this hatred is incredibly inspiring, and herein lies the divine order: our challenging experiences offer us profound opportunities to grow.

NB. It's worth recognising, however, that while the son avoids being brought up by a stigmatised mother, he then recreates this dynamic in his own life because – spoiler alert! – he becomes a homosexual who eventually dies young of AIDS.

Also emerging out of this prejudiced 50s scenario was social welfare and more enlightened attitudes. Where people are disempowered dictators arise to frustrate the people into reclaiming their power:

"In any area of your life that you don't empower, you will attract people who will overpower you. You are not a victim of their over-empowerment. You are just attracting over-empowerment by your very nature, to get you to raise the value of that area and empower it. The so-called victimisation is actually giving you the opportunity to realise where you are not empowered, to frustrate you enough to get you empowered." - Dr John Demartini, The Values Factor pp 383-4. [My bold.]

I arrived at this realisation spontaneously some ten years ago when I realised that my partner's depression and lack of involvement in our family were valuable agents provoking me into valuing myself more and taking action on what was important to me.

Another example is that we perceive slavery to be cruel and horrible but slaves have inevitably devalued themselves and given their power away, so they are co-creators of their situation; as they reclaimed their power in the USA, they have risen to the point where their (previously) prejudiced country elected a black president.

Healing is never complete until cause and effect are united; until we see our role in creating the problem and respond responsibly. 

Owning the Marketing Villain In Me

I've just had an eye-opening conversation with Emotional Mastery Expert and Demartini practitioner, Bruce Conrad Williams, who managed to get me to see something that was hiding away in my blind spot.

The world of publishing is quite transformed these days as so many self-publish rather than waiting for the external stamp of approval of a traditional mainstream publisher. There are obviously pros and cons to this scenario: on the 'pro' side, the barriers to publication are fewer than ever and writers are able to claim the profit from their book sales rather than just a ten percent royalty; on the 'con' side, more and more publishers are opting to not pay for contributions (one publication that used to pay me one and a half times the going rate now pays nothing at all because they are flooded with material) and many traditional publishers are redirecting applicants into their own self-publishing companies (establishments that used to be known as vanity presses, where the writer pays a fee to have their book published). The traditional publisher will watch the author's stats and if the results are good, pick up their work and publish it themselves. No risk to the traditional publisher, all risk to the author… It’s a brave new world.

Another feature of this brave new world is the modern miracle of the ‘make-your-book-a-bestseller’ campaign. This is a marvellous strategy whereby the author creates joint ventures with people who have big email lists who agree to email all their subscribers offering great gifts and bonuses if their subscribers buy the author's book in a particular window of time. The resulting spike in sales causes our happy author to be listed as a bestseller on Amazon, for instance, even if s/he only held that place for a few minutes.

I've always been wary of these arrangements, declaring that I would rather achieve bestseller status naturally, like JK Rowling - authentically, organically, through word-of-mouth recommendation and referral - rather than engineering my success in so calculated a form as a bestseller campaign… 

When I mentioned this to Bruce he immediately pointed out that JK's publishing success was a tad more engineered than I was giving her credit for – after all, she had a major publishing company's marketing budget behind her, while I have sweet me and the hubby. (This is a little like our belief in 'natural talent and genius', and our tendency to overlook the hours that are actually invested in mastering a skill – some 10,000 hours to be classed as an expert, apparently, and young Mozart had already studied music for some 3,500 hours by the time he composed his first work that was considered to be a masterpiece. But that's another subject - maybe a future blog.)

At any rate, in the process of putting authenticity and honesty up on a pedestal and shrewd marketing practices down in the pit, I had quite lost sight of the fact that there are times when pretending really serves us – like when we are 'acting as if' while we build the courage and resources to truly 'be' something. (This was the case for me when I sold my first corporate training. I spontaneously rang a very large, international company in response to their old-fashoined, non-user-friendly literature, and claimed that I could help them bring their material into the modern age. I was amazed when they agreed to meet with me, and headed into their city office in my power clothes, quaking in my shoes… The meeting resulted in a training, which was a great success and I was invited back. So my efforts to market myself as the expert I didn't actually feel I was, was actually the growth step I needed to take, and it served all parties.) 

But the real clanger of an insight for me was when I realised that engineering one's success is another way of taking responsibility for achieving one's goals and dreams, which just happens to be what The Mastery Club books and programs are all about.

This ‘engineering’ is another form of visualisation, you could say, rather than waiting passively for one's success to fall into one's lap. So all this time I had been taking the moral high ground that I was 'above' such calculating strategies, and simultaneously shooting myself in the foot as I clung to my fantasy about genuine, authentic, 'deserve it' success…

We deserve our success when we are resourceful and take conscious, deliberate actions to create it!!!

That insight effectively pulled back the curtain on my blind spot, and suddenly all the times that I had already 'engineered' my success tumbled into my awareness:

Where I've 'engineered my success':

- crying as a baby (to get attention/needs met - it worked!);

- studying hard at school (to get good results; I was a straight A student, Dux of Humanities…);

- selling my writing skills corporate training (it worked - I was invited back to train another group);

- managing my family dynamics to achieve certain outcomes (we've gone from falling apart to very close);

- arranging for my husband and son to attend a rite of passage together (they considered it to be transformational and it brought them much closer);

- creating a rite of passage event for my daughters so they would make this transition consciously and appreciate their womanhood (yep);

- submitting The Mastery Club to competitions (it won Bronze in the 2007 Independent Publishers Award, Youth Fiction);

- participating in joint ventures (not so effective but I had a go);

- all the marketing material I've created to put my best foot forwards in business (you tell me!);

- all the time spent preparing for talks, workshops, developing my Mastery Club programs (I'm often described as one of the best speakers the group has experienced, my programs are expanding around the world…);

- maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle (people often comment on how young I look);

- controlling the food in the pantry at home so the whole family eats well! (they're all pretty healthy and share this value);

- honesty and self-disclosure in relationships (when I do, I experience greater depth and fulfilment);

- visualising and affirming my goals and dreams (achieving many of them, and many more in process…).

etc. etc.

I'm very grateful for this insight. Watch this space as I get up to some real marketing villainry!

And thanks again to Bruce. 

If you'd like to connect with him, go to www.bconradwilliams.com

Do You ‘Crash and Burn’ or ‘Crash and Learn’?

How to extract the wisdom, opportunities and benefits from difficult experiences.

We’ve all heard the truism that it’s not how many times we fall down that matters, it’s how many times we get up. (And the other one about getting back on the horse.) Which is all good sense and we know they’re right, but it ain’t easy.

In fact, speaking for myself, I’m thinking of creating a business card that says, ‘Failure Expert’ because I seem to have a knack for screwing things up. I’m not sure that I would attract many willing clients, but perhaps if we all made a study of our ‘failures’, we’d be better able to transform our challenging situations.

The ‘Failure Expert’ in me suggests that you pull out a pad and start noting the examples of your so-called failures. Eg. Rejected by so-and-so, offended x, caused a problem with y, overlooked an important appointment, missed hearing a critical piece of information, the special meal that flopped, the critical conversation you muffed, the stuff-up at work, etc. That’s the easy step – painful, but easy.

The next step is more confronting. It’s to go and find out how the apparent disaster served you – and, in fact, all concerned. To uncover the blessings in crisis requires a different sort of brain plug-in. You can’t look at it through your usual filters, through your conscious values. The gifts are usually in our blindspot.

For instance, if we really examine the situation, being rejected can make us stronger, more independent, more resilient, more responsible, more persistent; we ‘individuate’, clarify our values and expectations, attract support from unexpected quarters, seek guidance, are humbled, receive a reality check, develop flexibility and resourcefulness… These are valuable outcomes, right? But because we are attached to being accepted or liked or successful, we typically devalue the gifts of rejection or don’t even recognize them. We stamp our feet or cry or feel depressed because we’re attached to being accepted or liked or successful.

The way to ‘crash and learn’ rather than ‘crash and burn’ is to pause in one’s fury or despair long enough to really register the benefits, and their value to us.

For example, we might want to be loved-by-all but sometimes being disliked is the gift lurking in our blindspot. This unexpected blessing was pointed out to me when a potentially enriching relationship hit a rather messy roadblock. In the midst of my upset about now being disliked by the person (I was very attached to everyone – the whole world! – liking me), I was reminded that we only achieve leadership and success if we can deal with conflict and rejection. Think of our national and global leaders – they have their supporters and fans and followers, but also their detractors and enemies and challengers.

The more I thought about it, the more I had to acknowledge that stepping up in influence and power would very likely mean an increase in both supporters and challengers, and that there was a golden opportunity here to develop greater resilience. It even occurred to me that being disliked could actually be quite freeing. After all, society’s ‘baddies’ are independent players; they are free to follow their own values and agenda. The less we feel obliged to be ‘likable’, the more we are able to genuinely listen to, and honour, our inner guidance.

Same with ‘success’ and ‘failure’. Think of the world’s entrepreneurial billionaires – they have usually experienced a number of business ‘failures’ before they break through to ‘success’, and along each journey there are numerous problems to be solved, whether practical or interpersonal. The brains and brawn and emotional resilience developed through dealing with these issues are enormously enriching, if only we would value them.

Even the people we believe suffer as a consequence of our ‘errors’ benefit from them. Once again, if you take a moment to ponder this, you’ll find that those people are equally called to clarify their values and develop realistic expectations, to communicate more clearly, to be more responsible or less dependent or more accountable or less gullible… The blessings or gifts are always there if we look for them.

And there are even steak knives! I suspect that when we ‘crash and learn’ we grow in self-worth, thus building our capacity to ‘crash and earn’… After all, ‘appreciation’ applies both to qualities and money. 

So, as your Failure Expert, I’d encourage you to make these lists and go digging for the blessings, and to become more appreciative of those on your ‘Challenge Team’ – the people who push your buttons and, in doing so, give you the greatest opportunity to grow.

 

Liliane Grace is an award-winning author, inspirational speaker, and writing coach based in Melbourne, Australia. She is author of The Mastery Club – See the Invisible, Hear the Silent, Do the Impossible and The Hidden Order – Can You See It? and creator of programs based on these books. Her vision is to empower youth (of all ages) to create lives they love living.

The Peter Pan Principle

Did you read or watch Peter Pan when you were a child?

I remember being captivated by this story about a youth who is perpetually young and can do all sorts of magical things (like fly), and who lives an adventurous life battling crocs and evil pirates and looking after a band of lost kids!

As with most classic tales, there are a few profound truths being communicated despite the childlike surface story, not least of which is the fact that a one-sided, only-positive life is an illusion.

Most of us crave that kind of a life – and world. We want things to be nice for us (and everyone). We want a Golden Age, an era of plenty, of love, of peace, of ease… We want to cast off our negativity and flaws and aggression and our experiences of lack and hurt. We want to lose our shadow, just like Peter Pan – but, as that classic tale suggests, if we do lose our shadow, we’ll be destined to live in an illusion, ‘Neverland’, where one never grows up.

Elegant, huh? If we want to mature, we must embrace our shadow side. If we want to cast it off, like young Peter Pan, we’ll be stuck in a world of illusion and separation. You might recall that Peter Pan must not be touched, and while a reason isn’t given, this suggests that his immateriality will be revealed; i.e. we can only be touched if we are human/alive/‘real’.

That statement, in itself, reverberates with meaning. We can only be ‘touched’, whether physically or emotionally, if we are real. So what does being ‘real’ entail? The dictionary tells us that ‘real’ means ‘true or actual’, ‘not imagined’, ‘not imitation or artificial; genuine’. Being real means being here and now in ‘the real world’, authentic; it means growing up, facing and dealing with things, not running away to a dreamy Neverland. It means being whole.

Our shadow, according to Jung, is everything of which a person is not fully conscious, and may be positive or negative; it can include aspects of oneself that one finds undesirable, and it can also include positive aspects that one denies, perhaps through a lack of self-esteem. Our shadow is effectively our disowned self.

I used to be all for disowning parts of myself! I wanted to cut off anything that wasn’t positive and supportive, calm and wise. I wanted to be only good. I wanted to be like the spiritual masters I had read about who seemed to have no fear and appeared to perfectly control their lives. I wanted all of this because I often felt small and insecure and at the effect of life, and because I didn’t like that darker side of life. (And I wanted everyone else to be happy too.)

The last few years have taken me on a confrontational journey into the heart of the Yin/Yang symbol, that Asian sign that represents a harmonious interaction and perpetual balance between light and dark, good and bad. The Yin/Yang symbol shows us that these opposites belong together and together form a whole. Everything exists in polarity; nothing in universe is one-sided. As Bob Proctor has famously pointed out, if we cut a magnet in half, we don’t end up with a piece that is only north pole and a piece that is only south pole; we end up with two pieces with both poles intact.

The Yin/Yang symbol, and the writings and programs of Dr John Demartini, have finally convinced me that there are some benefits to darkness, weakness and negativity; in fact, I’ve thrown myself so deeply into this research that my latest book is all about the ‘hidden order’ in apparent chaos and injustice. I’ve gone from craving happiness to recognizing that mastery, as Dr Demartini says, is the ability to find divine order in every event, to instantly recognize that every crisis is simultaneously a blessing[1].

Masters, I have found, understand that mastery is not about cutting ourselves in half and tossing away the ‘bad’ bits; it’s not about condemning half of life. Mastery is about the centrepoint, the balance. It’s about appreciating both polarities equally, and consciously, deliberately, bringing oneself back to centre. By valuing and appreciating our shadow we ‘bring light into the darkness’ but we simultaneously come to see that without the dark, we wouldn’t even seek the light.

I also used to think that one could be strong and brave and kind and all those positive traits without going through the mill first; I’m coming to realise that it doesn’t work like that. We develop our strengths through being challenged.

Yvonne Chamberlain is the author of a book called Why Me? Kicking Cancer in the Guts & Other Life-Changing Stuff[2], in which she reveals the shock she experienced when diagnosed with black melanoma and given six weeks to live. Instead of giving up, Yvonne embraced the challenge and has transformed her life and health in the process. The cancer was not a death sentence – the process she went through in dealing with it was, in fact, profoundly healing; it healed her relationships with herself and her family, and, subsequently, her body.

I read the following anonymously written story in her book:

‘A man was sleeping in his cabin when suddenly it became filled with light and God appeared before him. The Lord told the man that He had work for him to do, and showed him a large rock, explaining that he was to push against the rock with all his might. This the man did, and for many days he toiled from sunup to sundown, his shoulder set squarely against the cold massive surface of the rock, pushing with all his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling his whole day had been spent in vain.

‘Seeing that the man showed signs of discouragement, Satan decided to enter the picture, placing thoughts in the man's mind, such as “Why kill yourself over this? You're never going to move it!” or “Boy, you've been at it a long time and you haven't even scratched the surface!” thus giving the man the impression that the task was impossible and the man was an unworthy servant because he wasn't succeeding in moving the massive stone.

‘These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man and he started to ease up in his efforts. “Why kill myself?” he thought. “I'll just put forth the minimum effort and that will be good enough.” And this he did, or at least planned on doing, until, one day, he decided to take his troubles to the Lord.

‘“Lord,” he said, “I have laboured hard and long in Your service, putting forth all my strength to do that which You have asked of me. Yet after all this time, I have not even budged that rock half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?'”

‘To this the Lord responded compassionately, “My friend, when long ago I asked you to serve Me and you accepted, I told you to push against the rock with all your strength and that you have done. But never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. At least not by yourself. Your task was to push.

‘“And now you come to Me, your strength spent, thinking that you have failed, ready to quit. But is this really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled; your back sinewed and brown. Your hands are calloused from constant pressure and your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much and your ability now far surpasses that which you used to have. True, you haven’t moved the rock. But your calling was to be obedient and to push and to exercise your faith and trust in My Wisdom. That you have done.

‘“Now, my friend, I will move the rock.”’

This is clearly a Christian story and perhaps there will be aspects of it that don’t sit well with you. But it clearly demonstrates the benefits that lie waiting for us in challenging experiences, and the truth is that we can’t always judge, from the little piece of the puzzle that we have, what the purpose is behind such experiences. So often things occur and we ask, ‘Why? Why me? Why did that happen?’ The situation might look exceedingly grim, as in Yvonne Chamberlain’s case, or merely disappointing, but perhaps that is only how it appears.

Perhaps the situation is a gift in disguise, offering us the opportunity to transform ourselves and our circumstances. Besides, as the ‘punchline’ of this story suggests, perhaps God/Intelligence/the Universe has a different set of values and purposes than we have. Perhaps we are busily assessing and evaluating our efforts on the wrong scale altogether.

We often feel that we can strive for perfection all we like, but, being human, it is unattainable – we are incomplete and need improvement; God is perfect but human nature is a blend of perfection and imperfection. Perhaps. And perhaps perfection to this Grand Organising Design/er is not one-sidedness but wholeness. Perhaps it’s our very balance of traits that makes us perfect, rather than attaining a state of being only-kind, only-patient, only-positive. Perhaps some unkindness occasionally serves. Perhaps impatience has a role to play. Perhaps negativity can sometimes generate an important insight… 

Besides, if God is omnipresent, then where is God not? God must also be in us, exactly as we are, here and now. Just because we are judging ourselves through the filter of our finite human values doesn't mean God sees us that way… In God’s eyes, in the sight of Divinity, we are perfect exactly as we are, warts and all.

The Peter Pan Principle is that we will never escape darkness, just as we cannot eliminate our shadow – a very nice ‘touch’ from G.O.D.! (i.e. the Grand Orderly Design). Or perhaps you prefer the Peter Pan Principle expressed this way: Cast off your shadow and you become eligible for an unreal, illusory world where you will be untouchable… Hm.

What I have found, paradoxically, is that the more I embrace and appreciate life as it is, the less fearful I am and the more smoothly my life seems to unfold. Which suggest that perhaps a Golden Age might unfold not through seeking a one-sided, shadowless world, but through embracing and appreciating our wholeness and the wholeness of life. Perhaps such an Age is not marked by only-happy experiences, but by a reverence for and non-resistance to any of our experiences, by a willingness to find the Divine Order in every life event.

In that case, it’s not a world for Peter Pan.

 

This article was first published in Balance Online: http://www.balanceonline.com.au/article/the-peter-pan-principle.html

[1] The Breakthrough Experience – a Revolutionary New Approach to Personal Transformation by Dr John Demartini, Hay House, 2002

[2] Pennon Publishing 2008

How's Your 'Self-As-Team'?

If you've been following my writing and journey, you know that I'm pretty interested in the Law of Polarity – the fact that our universe is an expression of complementary opposites. Years ago, in my early 20s, I started to teach Creative Writing workshops, and without having a very deep understanding of polarity at that time, I was teaching it!

In the process, I coined an expression – 'Self-As-Team' – that fits in with everything I'm doing today. Here's a quick overview:

There are two parts to the writing process, writing and editing. These two parts reflect our intuitive, imaginative, creative side and our conscious, decision-making, discerning side. They also reflect the two hemispheres of our brain: the right hemisphere is associated with intuition, dreams, symbols, inspiration, etc., and the left hemisphere with logic, language, linearity. We can relate the conscious/unconscious model of the brain to these two writing processes as well: we intuitively draw ideas from the unconscious and we deliberately use our conscious mind to assess and order those ideas.

Writer's block occurs when we do these two processes in the wrong sequence, trying to perfect an idea while it's still being birthed, or judging our ideas instead of simply receiving and accepting them. Both sides have benefits and drawbacks: Creativity is a wonderful thing but it's possible to just be gushing with ideas and yet never order them or realise them; it's also possible to be so brilliant at finding flaws and weaknesses that we tie ourselves up in knots. 

We need both aspects, the Creator and the Editor within us, but we need them to function as a team, a partnership. When one dominates the other, we run aground. The more we judge and evaluate and criticise, the more we doubt ourselves, lose competence, and become incapable, whether we're talking about writing or our our everyday lives. And when we are running rampant with ideas but never taking any of them to completion, we don't feel too good about ourselves either.

The solution is to express both sides in balance, and when we work with ourselves 'as a team' in this way, we build our self-esteem' - in other words, Self-As-Team is the way to go!

If you'd like to learn more about Self-As-Team, Writing Mastery and life lessons, come along to one of my writing workshops or purchase Your Life: A Brilliant Story - the ten part online course that takes you through my entire Writing Mastery program, interweaving stimulating creative writing exercises with thought-provoking self-awareness exercises.

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