Yin and Yang, The Scottish Referendum, and Competition and Collaboration

When many people think of the Eastern concept of Yin and Yang, they tend to think in terms of taking these opposite forces and bringing them into balance. I have thought in much the same way for a long time, but increasingly in the last couple of years I have come to think about Yin and Yang, and other such polar opposites as needing something more than balance: I think they need integration.

This is a subtle distinction, but an important one to me. The idea of balance seems to me to be a devil’s bargain where I take these apparent opposites and do my best to juggle them in my life trying never to let one or the other be too dominant, which I would suggest leads also to never fully committing to one, or the other. At the heart of this balancing act is what I consider to be a somewhat flawed belief in the first place - that polar opposites by their difference are necessarily separate.

When we introduced the idea of integration we step into an entirely different dialogue, one where opposites don’t just attract but are intimately linked, necessarily interdependent. For me this is a truth which is expressed by the Yin Yang symbol which contains a dot of white in the black and a dot of black in the white, Yin contains a seed of Yang, and Yang contains a seed of Yin. This is the essential paradox at the heart of Taoism from which these concepts originate: things which seem to be opposed are actually in support of each other. You can’t say yes to one thing without saying no to many others; to jump up you must push down; we only know there is light because we can contrast it against darkness.

This seems in some ways particularly pertinent this week where the debate in Scotland has been so hot about whether to separate or stay together with the rest of the UK. What seems to me to have so often have been lost in this debate is the fact that if Scotland chooses independence, in the turbulent and tough times we are facing in this world Scotland and the rest of the UK will need to find a way to be close allies. Equally, if Scotland chooses to stay in the United Kingdom, then the central UK government will need to be ready to give Scotland greater freedom. Either way it seems to me we will have to be ready to work together, and either way the people of Scotland who have been in such heated debate will have to be ready to live together. I think the divisiveness of this debate and the way the politicians have handled themselves has not paved the way well for either of these 2 things.

We can draw a wider application when we consider the broader positions of competition and collaboration. So often these 2 things are seen as being mutually exclusive, so often I hear competitors speak with scorn about collaboration, so often I hear collaborators speak with distaste about competition. In my opinion, as with any Yin and Yang the 2 things at their heart are completely interdependent and it is when one is exclusively heralded and the other pathologised that systems and relationships begin to break down.

I used to be very much in the collaborators camp having had a difficult time with competitive sport at school and found my home in theatre where the cast depend so much on each other. However, playing Capoeira at University, studying the Samurai Game, and discussing this with Jane Magruder-Watkins when I trained in Appreciative Inquiry shifted my perspective. In Capoeira competition is strong but playfully and joyfully held, in the Samurai Game fierce combat is conducted with total respect, and what Jane helped me to see is that in any competitive situation short of the death-match collaboration is necessary.

No matter how competitive the sport, let’s take football as an example, unless I walk onto the pitch armed with weapons ready to slay anyone who tries to stop me putting the ball in the goal then collaboration has to be a play! In even the most collaborative environments, unless we are all going to “play small” desperately trying not to be better than anyone else then some kind of competition is at play: we each bring our best game and want everyone else to do the same but some ideas will be pursued and developed while others won’t. When we can stop trying to make one approach right and the other one wrong competition and collaboration are mutually nourishing and supporting.

Let’s hope that whatever the outcome in Scotland we as nations and regions can find a supportive and nourishing integration of togetherness and apart-ness.

I invite you in your communities and organisations to consider the place of competition and collaboration and how they can be better integrated.

If you’d like to explore the integration of Yin and Yang I will be running a workshop 27th of September on this theme, and I will soon be releasing a new book ‘My Tao Te Ching – A Fool’s Guide to Effing the Ineffable’ which is a modern take on the most ancient Taoist text exploring the expression of Yin and Yang in the world.

Obsession, Artistry, and Faith

Some of you who read this regularly may remember me posting an article called 'The Right Costume' which was inspired by a quote from the Hagakure - the Book of the Samurai, which I often quote from when I am running The Samurai Game.  Well, I dug up another one!  I've re-worked it a bit but I like it and I hope you enjoy it too.  As the title suggests, this is about Obsession, Artistry and Faith.  Funnily enough, while I haven't seen this article for a few years, it really resonates with the book I published earlier this year which I posted an excerpt of here.  It would seem my thinking has at least a little consistentcy...I'm either on the right track or a very slow learner!  Anyway, here it is:

 

“It is bad when one thing becomes two.  One should not look for anything else in the Way of the Samurai.  It is the same for anything that is called a Way.  Therefore it is inconsistent to hear something of the Way of Confucius or the Way of the Buddha, and say that this is the Way of the Samurai.  If one understands things in this manner, he should be able to hear about all Ways and be more and more in accord with his own.”

-  Hagakure, First Chapter. (Trans. William Scott Wilson)

 

 

                        It is rare in our modern world for people to speak of having a Way, or a ‘Calling,’ which is probably the English equivalent.  To have a Calling was most commonly associated with joining the church and becoming a minister but could be applied to many paths.  I suppose the modern equivalent is ‘having a career,’ but I seldom encounter this having for people the kind of unreserved commitment that is associated with a Calling or a Way.  Also, in my understanding of such things it is quite possible to follow a Way that is not necessarily directly associated with one’s career.  To pursue a Way is like a path of healthy obsession, it is where a mere technician becomes an Artist.  This kind of obsession takes skill to balance with the rest of one’s life and is also not generally considered very ‘cool!’  Discovering and embracing our own personal Way requires us to connect with our inner ‘geek,’ to find that thing which takes no effort to be completely focused on for hours, days, and years of our life – not so that we are cut off from the world and become exclusive in our attitudes, but so that we have an arena to fully embody and exercise our passion.  We can achieve a high degree of focus with discipline as our motivating factor, but the image of “discipline,” can fall into some very unhealthy traps.  For years I practised martial arts with a great deal of discipline, but my version of discipline back then involved internally beating myself over the head until I got up and trained.  My discipline was based on anger and as such was unsustainable and essentially self-harming.  In this way, my entire practice was built on a foundation of anger and it has taken a lot of work since realising this to break that foundation up and put a new one in place.  It’s not a process I would recommend duplicating!  You will be best served to find a Way that you keep going back to just because it brings you a quiet inner sense of pleasure and satisfaction to do it. 

            Anything can be embraced as a Way, it is just a matter of asking yourself what you are obsessed enough with to explore it that deeply.  When we really commit to such a course of study there comes a point where everything in our lives is automatically related to this Way; it becomes a lens through which we view the world and a forum for us to develop ourselves.  I have studied many things but only 3 things to anything approaching this depth:  Acting, Martial Arts, and Shamanism.  What I have realised over the years is that none of these is really my Way.  They are all a part of the picture but my Way is the Way of Presence.  I am completely and effortlessly obsessed with Presence.  So I continue to study several arts but with the clarity that all the time I am using them as tools to develop my commitment to the Way of Presence.

            The Ascetic or Hermit’s path (referred to in some shamanic traditions as the ‘via negativa’) of enlightenment is to keep shedding attachments, constantly letting things go, removing oneself from the world to enable total non-attachment to anything whatsoever so that nothing distracts the Ascetic from being totally free.  The Warrior is involved with the world and as such has to take a different path of realisation (sometimes called the ‘via positiva’):  the Warrior becomes completely involved with the world to the point of love and obsession, so completely invested in the present moment that they pass out the other side of obsession and find freedom.  The destination is essentially the same but the path is different.  This is a fine example of structure leading to freedom.  This is similar to the Zen arts of Chado (Way of Tea – the tea ceremony) and Kyudo (Archery).  2 everyday activities (in the time they were developed) which have been heightened to the level of an Art through structure and ritual.  Once a practitioner is so well versed in the formal ritual of the practice that they can do it without thinking, they can completely surrender themselves to each and every tiny moment knowing that the ritual, the structure will take care of the bigger picture.  The practice provides a framework for us to practice emptying ourselves and totally trusting.  In practicing such arts, or any martial art with Kata or Forms (solo patterns of movement) there comes a point where the ritual is so familiar it is essentially boring; then, having become that familiar with the form you can forget about where you are going next and become obsessive about the details within each movement and moment; finally once the detail is sufficiently refined you can pass out the other side of obsession into a freedom where the form (or pattern, or ritual, or Kata) is ‘doing’ you rather than you doing it.  There spontaneously arises a mindful effortlessness.

                It seems to me that mostly in our modern world we just keep giving up when we get to the boredom stage so we never develop a Way and everything seems “too much like hard work.”  We just have lots of fragments of knowledge and no understanding, no sense of an underlying structure – no faith.  What is faith if not an underlying structure, or a sense of being supported and held?  In practicing standing meditation I found a benefit I had no idea I would find there.  I found such a profound awareness of my connection with the ground that I began to feel totally supported by the Earth – by Mother Earth -  all of the time, as indeed I am! In this way Faith seems to me to be a practice, not a passive waiting for something to fall in our laps.

 There is nothing wrong with trying things out and letting them go if they are not what we want, but if we stick at nothing, or do everything mindlessly then we end up with what my Mum used to call a ‘readers digest knowledge’: small facts about many subjects and no real understanding of anything.  By gaining a deep understanding of one subject, this subject can serve as a microcosm for us to learn about the macrocosm of our lives.  This is wisdom.  Through practicing something until it is the structure that underpins our lives, we learn faith.  It is not a matter of randomly picking a pursuit and blindly sticking to it, but of connecting with our heart’s passion to find out what nourishes us.  I have had 3 main paths of study and each of them have served me well in their time. With each of them I felt that maybe there was something that would suit me better, but without being sure what, it was a matter of sticking with something until it led me somewhere else.  That ‘somewhere else,’ is my Way.  It is a Warrior’s Way and having found it I feel more confident and centred in myself and in my life.  From this place of confidence I don’t need to justify or defend my way of life, so I can have experiences and learn from all Ways, and be more and more in accord with my own. 

 

The Art of Dad-Fu

 

Not long ago I became a dad.  There are lots of things that come with being a dad both wonderful and challenging much of which I was kind-of expecting.

 

On the wonderful side I have got to see my wife blossom into motherhood, I got to witness her awesome strength in giving birth, I get to play with and generally enjoy my gorgeous baby son, and perhaps most importantly we get to put various cute and funny hats on him and take pictures!

 

On the tougher side of things it was not an easy birth and it was very difficult to see my wife work so hard and not be able to help, I have occasional bouts of terror about providing financially for my family, and it’s hard running my own business to find the right balance between work and family time.

 

One thing that I didn’t expect when becoming a dad was to put on weight.  It is apparently very common though and it has happened for me.  I’m a stocky build and am never likely to be either skinny or conventionally ‘Buff’ but I keep in reasonable shape through martial arts training and walking.  I am now heavier than I’d like to be.  During pregnancy when the mum-to-be is being flooded by hormones, the man does often have hormonal changes too.  In many men their testosterone production goes down (the hormone that makes you manly, active, lusty, and when there’s too much of it – aggressive!) and progesterone production goes up (progesterone goes up in women too and is often associated with ‘nesting’ tendencies).  This shift tends to bring with it a weight gain.  Also once the baby is born it’s common for a new dad to gain between half a stone and one stone just because you end up eating more and being less active.  So while I didn’t expect this change, it looks like I’m not the only one.

Now, pre-baby I would have got back into training Karate and Kung-Fu with my teacher, upped my solo training and not worried about it too much.  That was what I first set my sights on.  However, finding an hour or so a day plus the 2-3 hours I would spend with my teacher each week doesn’t seem very realistic in the post-baby new world.  That doesn’t mean I’m giving up on my training, but it’s clearly something I’m going to have to find my way back into more slowly than I would have hoped.  Right now, I need to up my exercise… so what do I do?!  If I take time out of my work day then I get less hours at that when my time already feels squeezed; if I take time out of my family time then that’s less time with my wife and child and my wife having to manage without my support more than is the case already.  It’s a bit of a rock and a hard place.  Well, it was… Until I invented the art of Dad-Fu!

 

Anyone who knows me or my work will know that I am passionate about creating practices – taking regular activities and making them conscious and meditative processes to engage in.  I even have a book coming out soon on this very subject: A little book on finding your Way – Zen and the Art of Doing stuff.  Watch this space for more news if you’re interested or get in touch and we can put you on the mailing list.  The art of Dad-Fu is a practice.  What it involves is taking my son, Samson out for a walk for an hour every day in the sling.  Doesn’t sound like such a big deal?  Let me explain…

 

It meets my need for getting some good basic exercise (walking is great cardiovascular exercise providing you walk swiftly enough to raise your heart rate slightly and keep it raised), Samson is perfectly happy wrapped up in his furry super-suit (and usually goes to sleep within about 10 steps), and my wife gets an hour to herself to do with as she pleases!  It meets everyone’s needs and I get some more bonding time with Samson.  If he’s awake I often talk or sing to him (I don’t look any more crazy than your average blue-tooth headset user!) and if he’s asleep then at least he’s still in my energy field.

This has taught me a valuable lesson about developing practices: whatever high ideals we might have and as wonderful as some practices may be, sometimes what’s most important is that the practice fits your life not the other way around.  If your practice is not supportive of you taking this one precious life you have and making the most of it then what’s the point?  That’s not to dismiss taking special time out to meditate or do Karate or have a tea-ceremony or whatever floats your boat.  That can be vital to living a fulfilled life too, but right now my highest priority is being the best dad I can so I practice Dad-Fu.  I think the key question to ask ourselves here is: “What is this in service of?”  It’s a big question and one that comes up a lot in the Samurai Game when I run it.  ‘Samurai’ translates as ‘One who serves.’  I see the warrior archetype as an archetype of service.  The warrior serves the ruler or King, so what rules you?  Negative habits and addictions can rule us whether that is alcohol or shopping or too much TV (and I’m not against any of these things per-se, see my previous article on TV as a practice!).  Equally, apparently positive practices can end up harming more than they help if they rule us.  A meditation practice, or going to the gym can be great for your spiritual or physical health but if it takes up loads of your time and damages your relationships, is it worth it?  You need to take into account the fact that devoting time to a solo practice may be what makes it possible to be really present in relationships so it is not a simple equation to solve but definitely one worth considering.

 

You may be wondering “Why Dad-Fu?”  Well partly because I think it sounds cooler than “The art of going for a walk in the cold with my son” but also I think there is a valuable parallel between Kung-Fu and being a dad.  Kung-Fu can be translated many ways from the original Chinese but one of those translations is ‘time and hard work.’  I find it a heartening reminder of the nature of committed practice whether that is to a martial art or to being a father.  It is going to be hard work sometimes: deal with it.  It also takes place in an extended time period and while that means that the hard work keeps going, it also allows lots of time and space to make mistakes (and we’re all going to), to learn from them, and to heal from the disappointments (and these will happen).  Taking up any form of committed practice is both a burden and a gift – I think that’s doubly true of parenting – and that is the wonderful, mysterious dichotomy of life. 

As with any new practice, Dad-Fu has had some unexpected delights.  Brighton is really quite beautiful at night in a way that you just don’t see during the day.  The sea-front is wonderfully quiet and peaceful, the sea dark and mysterious in its murmurings.  I also get time to just ponder things as I walk.  An hour largely devoted to pondering and walking feels like quite a treat!  I have also discovered hidden architectural delights, sometimes just on regular houses, sometimes in more obvious places like the beautifully repaired bandstand on the sea-front (the pictures throughout this article are from my walks in the last week or so).  It feels like a really magical space to be mostly on my own, Samson asleep on my chest and find a spot, view, or moment which conjures something in my imagination or sparks a story in my mind.  I am really enjoying my new practice.

 

So what can you take away from this article?  Maybe just consider your own practices (and whatever you’re doing again and again is a practice) and have a think about what you want to be in service of and whether those practices are the best use of your time.  There is a saying which has been attributed to various people over the years (right back to a Latin version from ancient Rome):  “Necessity is the mother of Invention.”  I have certainly found that to be true in creating ‘The Way of Dad-Fu.’  Perhaps you have necessities which are calling for your creativity…?

 

Whatever you practice, I hope it brings you joy in the easy times, strength in the tough times and growth all the time.

 

Warriors for Peace

It may seem odd to some to consider the Warrior archetype in conjunction with an orientation towards peace, however, I see the 2 things as not only linked but necessary to each other.  One symbolic way of looking at the connection would be through the lens of Taoist beliefs that opposites create each other, as shown visually in the Yin Yang symbol – the black half contains the seed of the white half, and the white the seed of the black.  In a slightly more concrete illustration, when I say yes to one thing I am simultaneously saying no to many other potential options.  Yes and No are opposites but are interdependent upon one another.

To deal more specifically with the matter of the Warrior and Peace, a perfect example can be seen in The Samurai Game®.  George Leonard who created The Samurai Game® was a senior grade Aikido practitioner and former World War II fighter pilot.  This was a man who had seen war and had deep experience of martial arts.  He originally created the Game after he had met with a bunch of his old war buddies.  They had all been reminiscing about their time together during the War and most of them had been saying that life had seemed dull by comparison since.  This was not George's experience but it did set him to thinking about a question he had pondered often before:  Why, when we know the consequences, do we continue to make war?  There are many possible answers to this question ranging from the surface of any political considerations which are specific to each conflict but can be categorised as essentially being questions of power and control; right through to much deeper considerations of fundamental aspects of human nature.  After many years of sitting with and experimenting with this question, one of the possible answers George came up with was:

Maybe it's just the Juiciest game in town!

This could seem light or even crass, but pause for a minute.  There is a part of the human psyche which craves vivid experience and as we have become increasingly 'developed' and 'civilised' this has become less and less nourished as time has gone on.  When aspects of us which need expression are suppressed or ignored they will find ways to leak and burst out on their own.  This is the nature of the human shadow.  Maybe part of what keeps human beings making war is a basic craving for vivid experience.  I think this is part of what George Leonard learned from running The Samurai Game® for many years, with all different kinds of groups.  Certainly, part of what I see people coming into contact with through the Game is not only a deep connection with their own Warrior selves, but an experiential understanding of the consequences of war.  This runs the range of very positive in that they have lived brightly, vividly, profoundly and completely connected to a higher purpose; right through to the truly terrible consequences of massive loss of life and ultimate futility.  Here we have a fascinating dichotomy: a game about War where we learn profound and lasting lessons about Peace.  In the modern world this is a rare, example of the beautiful balance of being a Warrior for Peace.  Some martial arts dojo’s manage to embrace and explore this but even there it is not as common as you might think.

In ancient times and indigenous cultures I think this marriage of Warriors working for Peace was more common. In many indigenous, tribal societies in recent history there were ritual ways of doing combat that limited the danger of loss of life.  These were used to settle inter-tribal disputes but were often invoked and enacted at certain times of the year whether there was a conflict to settle or not.  I see The Samurai Game® as being similar to this, and part of George Leonard's work to create a more vivid peace in the hope that we can one day relinquish war-making.  When your community is smaller you notice the loss of one of you much more keenly – this is clear in The Samurai Game®, as I think it would be in smaller tribal village communities.  I suspect death was in some ways a weightier matter in these communities than it is today in a world where we have such phrases as ‘collateral damage’ and ‘acceptable losses.’  In the arena of mass war, leaders have to numb themselves to the casualties or they will be overwhelmed. 

Examples of the old ritualised combat forms are still visible today whether we draw a parallel between the mass bonding and vivid experience of war-time and sports events like football games, or we look to extant tribal communities and practices closely derived from them.  Lacrosse began as a warrior game amongst first nation American’s and was very much an arena for the young bucks of the tribe to let off steam and work out their aggressive urges in a contained environment.  Many rites of passage and initiatory experiences were designed with a similar intention.  As the saying goes “If the young men are not initiated they will burn down the village for warmth.”  I think this can be particularly true of young men but I think it is true for all of us that we need places where we can let our wild sides out of the box for a while.  If we can find safe, contained ways of exercising our wilder nature, and aggressive tendencies then that is far preferable than risking hurting ourselves and others on a regular basis.  This then becomes a conversation not just addressing external peace-making, but being at peace in ourselves – an issue which to look at the statistics about drug abuse, alcohol abuse, overeating, compulsive shopping and street violence is clearly a pressing issue for us to address both individually and culturally if we are to create a genuinely healthy society.  To see some other examples of ritualised combat we can look at the Dundunbar rituals of West Africa (please forgive me if I have spelled this incorrectly, I have only heard it verbally described).  Young men come together to do ritual combat with sticks.  A great deal of pride and social recognition is at stake and while injury’s can be serious it is nothing like the damage they would do if they were left to create real combat with heavier weapons.  Capoeira is a martial art from Brazil that may have it’s roots at least partially in the ‘Zebra Dance’ of Africa and is generally practised to avoid physical contact with a strong emphasis on ritual and an exercising of aggressive and competitive tendencies without doing harm.  Part of the tradition of Capoeira is a dance called the ‘Maculele’ which is a ritualised dance-combat with sticks.  One story I have heard about it is that originally it was a ritual created by 2 tribes who lived on either side of a valley.  Once a year the 2 tribes would meet at the bottom of the valley and ‘do battle’ through the Maculele.  Whether this story is historically correct or not, it is another example of ritual combat being used to alleviate the Warrior’s call for real combat.  

Whether we are looking at promoting inner peace or creating outer peace, it is clear to me that a healthy embrace and inclusion of the Warrior archetype in all of us is not only preferable but necessary.

For people who are seeking to be peace-workers themselves, I would see it as particularly important that they have not only studied peace but have learnt about and embraced their warrior selves.  Otherwise, the potential that they will repress their aggressive tendencies is much greater.  Aspects of ourselves which are repressed or ‘left in shadow’ in my experience not only leak out unconsciously in many small ways but also have a tendency to explode out at the most unfortunate moments.  Imagine if you are working on a mediation case and one of the emotional dynamics pushes your buttons… It would be the worst possible moment for you as mediator to have an emotional explosion yourself!  However, when our warrior tendencies, our need for healthy expression of anger, our need for vivid experience, and our need to be able to say “No” and draw hard boundaries when necessary have not been listened to, exercised and understood for long periods of time an emotional explosion is exactly what we are likely to get.

Even without the potential for unfortunate emotional outbursts or subtle emotional leakage, I think the Warrior has a fundamental role to play in creating Peace.  To truly choose Peace we must be coming from a position of strength, other wise it is not something we are choosing, it is our last remaining option for survival.  This idea is beautifully articulated by Paul Linden in his book 'Embodied Peacemaking' and by Daniele Bolelli in his book 'On the Warrior's Path.'

 

“If Attila the Hun comes riding over the hill all set to pillage your village, the first, civilized step is to say, “Excuse me, Mr. Hun, but I’d really rather you not pillage my village.” Of course, we know what he’d likely say. So the next step would be to make a clear statement of the negative consequences for him of his trying. And of course, we know what he would be likely to do. So the necessary last step would be physical self-defense. Without the capability of bottom-line, practical self-protection skills, other conflict resolution skills rest on a foundation of sand.”

                                                -Paul Linden

 

“You can only renounce what you are able to do. Peace is a choice only for those who are able to do battle. Otherwise, it’s the desperate pleading of someone who has no alternatives. Unless you are a mean, violent bastard with murderous tendencies to begin with, renouncing violence probably is not to the main thing on your mind when you pick up martial arts. Renouncing violence, anger, and aggression is a by-product of growing as a human being, of becoming more confident and secure in yourself. Once you are confident enough, you can afford to be sweet and open up emotionally to others because you are no longer afraid. Ultimately, mastering combat is a path to face one’s fears and, at least partially, overcome them. Abandoning violent tendencies is only one of many transformations that take place when fear lessens its hold on us.”               

                                                                                    -Daniele Bolelli

 

The Warrior and the Peacemaker may be apparent opposites, but like the Yin Yang symbol they are completely necessary to each other if we are to be whole people and if we are to create a more peaceful and loving world.  They are not enemies, they are brothers.  I think this is why so many great teachers through the ages have embraced the Warrior archetype while essentially teaching us to be more peaceful and loving: Chogyam Trungpa, Gichin Funakoshi, Morihei Ueshiba, George Leonard, Paul Linden, Richard Strozzi-Heckler, Paulo Coelho and many others.  This too is why I do the work that I do.

 

If you’d like to know more about The Samurai Game® and Warriors of the Heart workshops, or would like to work with Warrior Leadership in your organisation, please do check our calendar for upcoming events, or get in touch.  Thanks for reading.



The Right Costume

"It is good to carry some powdered rouge in one's sleeve.  It may happen that when one is sobering up or waking from sleep, his complexion may be poor.  At such a time it is good to take out and apply some powdered rouge."  -  Hagakure, 2nd Chapter.  (Translation by William Scott Wilson)

                         There are many ways this passage could be interpreted.  It could be seen as an admonition not to let your enemies see you looking anything other than entirely healthy - even if that means a little artifice - although that strikes me as rather a paranoid and fearful stance to take. 

In the film "Ghost Dog," by Jim Jarmusch the lead character has to go and tackle his enemies and in order to fake his way in, he steals a posh car and a rich mans suit.  In this way he finds the appearance that best suits his purposes so that he can achieve his ends.  This is perhaps a little closer to what I see in this teaching. 

A very dear friend of mine was with me once when I was giving myself a particularly hard time about wanting to have more money.  At the time (young fool I was) I saw this as a deeply un-spiritual desire!  In this particular instance I had been pretty broke for a while and wanted to have some spare cash to buy a new pair of jeans - something "superficial" and therefore even less spiritually necessary.  My friend listened while I tied myself in knots simultaneously wanting and not wanting more money and then simply said:  "You know, sometimes when you're trying to be the person you dream of being, it just helps to have the right costume."  I think she's right. 

It is not uncommon in spiritual development to forget that while the body may not be the entirety of our being it is a part of it.  Even for those of us who incorporate the body in our practice and care for it as a part of caring for ourselves, how many of us take as much care over our clothes?  I am not just talking about being "smart" here, or wearing nice things - although both of these things are totally valid - I am talking about the essential way we express ourselves in the world.  Our clothes are a fundamental part of that.  What divine expression of being do you wish to offer up when God looks your way?  I like to take it a step further. 

It is common knowledge in the theatre that costume can sometimes be an excellent method to help you getting into character.  When you are working on period pieces (set in a particular era), wearing the right shoes makes a huge difference to how you create the world of the play.  It substantially changes the way you move and therefore, the physical expression of the character.  Other items of clothing can prove vital in forming and understanding the character and not just because of the way they may affect your posture.  When you see yourself in the mirror wearing the right hat or wig or jacket it can go a really long way to helping realise the existence of the character in you.  So who or what in life do you want to be?  I'm not suggesting you pretend to be something you're not, but then it is a common misunderstanding that actors 'become someone else.'  One of my teachers at drama school used to like to remind us "You've got nothing but yourself" and as a film director (who's identity I'm afraid I do not know) once said:  "Acting is not about being someone else, it is about being yourself under imaginary circumstances."  So I ask you again, who or what in life do you want to be?  We are always wearing some kind of mask so we may as well choose which one we want to wear.  What do you aspire to? 

I like to dance 5 Rhythms (which is personal development movement practice).  For a while a few years back I decided that I wanted to wear clothes with words or images that I wished to invoke in me instead of just my baggy sweaty clothes.  I had a t-shirt with the horned God on, and made t-shirts with hearts on and phrases like "Passionate Creature," and "Radiant, but easy on the eyes."  What is the costume of the character you wish to embody?  Maybe start by looking at the costumes of people you admire in films - not the ones you identify with, the ones you admire and aspire to be like.  This all becomes particularly relevant when we are not feeling at our best.  When we are low we tend to collapse and sag physically. If you adjust your posture to a more positive, aligned and self supportive shape this can have a knock-on effect on your emotional state.  It works the same way with clothes.  It can be great to snuggle up in a comfy jumper when I am low and this kind of comfort is really necessary sometimes.  However, when I need to get out there and face the world -  even though I might not feel at my best - sometimes the right costume can really help me shift my consciousness and state of being. 

One native American tribe used to wear their special ceremonial clothes every day, helping them to bring a heightened, ritual awareness to every moment of their lives.  In many cultures a warrior would traditionally always carry his sword even in times of peace.  I think this is a ritual reminder to keep ones senses sharp and maintain a constant state of readiness.  I have found certain clothes and items which, when I have them, help me to feel ready to face the world.  I am not dependant on them, but they are useful tools and wonderful allies.  In this way I can "apply some powdered rouge" when I need to, supporting myself in growing into the person I dream of being.  On good days, rouge or no rouge, I look in the mirror and he's already there looking back at me.  I hope that’s true for all of you too.