In this issue, we dived deeper to bring you our thoughts on POTENTIAL.
We think it’ll be helpful to present the Food for Thought first in preparation to guide you through what we have for you in this issue. It’s slightly dense but we promise this issue will give you more than a penny for your thoughts if you’ll be so willing to follow through.
So, grab a cuppa coffee, clear some space, and come on in.
Food for Thought // Human Potential: Physical vs Spiritual
Article // The Cost of Infinite Potential
Article // The Gifts We Are Born With
Practice // Transform your relationship with your gifts
Rosslyn & Daryl
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Human Potential: Physical vs Spiritual
Daryl examines the potential of a human being from a physical point of view by showing us the journey our scientific predecessors took, which marked the beginning of the pursuit for infinite potential. Everything we pursue has a cost, what is the cost, then, for humanity’s quest for infinite potential? When does this quest end? How are we pushing nature’s limit in that, and where does that lead us to as an entire race?
On the other hand, Rosslyn focuses her exploration from a spiritual perspective and how potential is manifested through the natural gifts we possess. Our physical beings support the gifts of our spiritual beings. Through her personal story, she shares how the change in her views on potential impacted her life. In the second half of her article, she uses her own example to offer you the possibility of how you may examine and transform your relationship with your own potential.
How do you understand the potential? Where do you see your limit, or is there even one?
👓 Read on to see our exploration. There are also practices at the end for you to inquire into your own potential.
ARTICLE // by Daryl
The Cost of Infinite Potential
The Age of Enlightenment, characterized by the belief in the modern scientific method, resulted in unprecedented progress in the realm of science. It was the age when the greatest thinkers then sought to break free from the chains of religious and supernatural superstition, preferring, instead, to place their absolute trust in the powers of reason and reason alone. No longer will man be beholden to invisible and unknown powers because the light of reason itself will illuminate everything. And it proved to be true. Phenomena that were once perceived to be divine retribution became normalized as part of the cycle of nature. Miracles could be deconstructed and their causes located to be accessed by your average layperson. The supra-natural was dragged down from the heavens by scientific tools and processes to be anchored firmly within the realm of nature where man could firmly investigate and analyse it in its entirety. In turn, this became a body of knowledge that was translated into scientific progress—from the automobile to skyscrapers to exploring the outer reaches of space—that led to us believing progress is unlimited. Everything could be dissected and improved upon endlessly. If the scientific spiel is to be believed, the potential for improvement is infinite.
It is, however, this belief in infinite potential that marks the rupture between ancient and modern thought. Ancient thought recognized that there was such a thing as a natural limit within all things. A thing that fulfilled its natural potential was a thing that attained its teleological end (an end that’s compleat or perfect.) By today’s standards, someone expressing this view would come under heavy chastisement for being unambitious and merely seeking the pedestrian, “Why should we have to settle?!” But there’s a difference between settling and recognizing when something has reached its perfection. Perfection doesn’t mean flawless. It means it has fulfilled its natural teleology. Of course, someone mired in the modern scientific spirit will pooh-pooh the idea of teleology since it feels like an unnecessary limitation.
This is where the wisdom of modernity is found wanting. It is impossible for anything to be unlimited. Through the principle of the conservation of energy, we know energy has to be transformed or transferred such that the net total remains fixed. The materials of all things have a limit with respect to what we can reasonably expect them to transform into. Likewise, why not human beings as well? We might have surpassed many of the other natural objects in this world but at our core, we are still natural beings. In other words, we are also ineluctably connected to the natural limits inherent in us. The ancients, because they understood this principle, were actually wiser than the moderns with their brand of brash bravado. Then what about the fact that we can now equip human beings with cybernetic implants, aren’t these humans surpassing their potential? Well, it’s true they are able to overcome some of their current limits. But this transcendence comes at a potential cost. When man loses sight of his natural limits and believes in his infinite ability to transcend everything in his path, he develops hubris within himself. In ancient Athens, hubris was defined as the crime of grand arrogance. The grandiosity of this arrogance was traced back to the perpetrator’s desire to humiliate and demean his victim in a manner that destroys the latter’s worth; some examples of hubristic crimes are rape and torture. And it is this attitude we see today in modern science vis-à-vis its belief in infinite potential. Everything from the environment to man’s own body is no longer sacred. They can be violated for the sake of pursuing the nebulous notion of potential that can and should be improved ad infinitum. Machiavelli, the forefather of the Enlightenment thinkers, coldly described nature and its caprice as a woman, and “if one wants to hold her down,” one has to “beat her and strike her down.” (The Prince, XXV) The activity of modern science is effectively the rape of nature. Instead of living harmoniously with and within the natural world, man now exists in an adversarial relation with everything around him. Hubris, then, denatures man because it deceives him into believing himself a god while acting like a beast.
Pushing the proverbial envelope of human potential is a wonderful thing. After all, the material luxuries we enjoy today are the tangible results of man’s scientific spirit. However, when we fail to recognize the natural limits of this world and pursue potential immoderately, we pay the price with our humanity. While the ancients did not enjoy the material comforts we do today, they were able to look at their humanity through a more sober lens and reaped the rewards from being in a much more congenial relationship with their environment and with themselves.
ARTICLE // by Rosslyn
The Gifts We Are Born With
A decade ago, I would have evaluated how well I was tapping on my potential based on the heights I could scale in my career. The questions I used for my evaluation solely involved doing: can I still do more; is that the best I can do; how many hours more can I burn?
Did I have a clear image of my potential back then? No. But I thought I did. I was smart and diligent. I was willing to put in the hours. There was no way I couldn’t get there. Where was there, but a constantly shifting goalpost? I was seeking the me I thought I could be.
Now, I experience potential very differently. It comes in the form of a hollowness in my solar plexus on days I lose touch with myself. I know it as my hunger for life. In these moments, I don’t feel like I’ve lived up to my fullest potential. It also comes in the form of abundance and excitement when I’m present with myself. I have so much within me, I can’t wait to see what will unfold next.
I still don’t have the image of my full potential, but I believe when I’m in touch with my true nature and can live from there, I will be fulfilling it. In short, my best version is when I truly become Me. The Me in my wholeness, currently hidden within. Sometimes, I’m connected to it, other times, I lose my way being bound to the conditioned structures I carry.
I no longer seek me. I return to Me.
An acorn’s innate potential is an oak. An acorn’s potential to a squirrel is food. How are you viewing your own potential, as an end in itself or a means to an end? With respect to an internalised expectation or an external image? It’s important we know our truths and be honest with ourselves, lest we set impractical and unfulfilling goals for ourselves.
Consider this, does it make sense to judge a carrot as an imperfect radish? If not, then are we measuring ourselves against external standards?
An acorn reaches its perfection when it becomes an oak. It’s perfect because it fulfilled what it was meant to become. It takes at least 20 and up to 50 years, for an acorn to mature into a flowering oak. An 80-foot tree emerged from a mere 2-inch seed. When viewed in this respect, the potential carried in each acorn seems colossal. For human beings, though we do not grow to an enormous size physically, our potential for growth in our abilities is immense, and in our spirit, boundless. It is not untrue to deem ourselves as beings who hold infinite potential.
We may be imperfect beings but when we return to our Selves and become our true nature, that is perfection. There are indeed many ways to be, and to me, true perfection is attained when I truly become me. As I develop my physical self to support my spiritual self; as I develop my container to hold and grow the seed I bear; as I release the structures and tensions shackling me, I move towards me—a whole and fully aligned being. I stand as One, move as One. Mind, heart, body, soul all in the same place—the present moment.
My potential comprises my gifts. We are each born with our unique gifts. They are beautiful, precious gifts though not all are seen in a positive light. Here, I offer my story as an example of how I came to terms with one of my gifts and am a step closer to fulfilling my potential.
Seeing our gifts
With the help of my coach cum teacher who first named my sensitivity as a gift, I learned to befriend it and got to know it afresh. Hailing from modern, capitalist society, it was almost inconceivable to think of it as a gift. It was more like a curse to me. Because I’m highly sensitive, I feel a lot more and I get hurt easily. I had to numb myself so I could function professionally.
But it was no fault of the gift. The gift is neutral, our judgments aren’t.
Just because I didn’t know how to be in my environment that doesn’t see the value of this gift, it doesn’t mean it’s bad.
There are instances too when my sensitivity is exceptionally powerful. It gifts me the richness of being human. It allows me to experience the range of emotions and sensations with the fine distinctions between them. It allows me to pour forth layers of experiences into writing now that I gave it a voice.
Are you seeing your unique gifts? Without filters, as they are?
Owning our gifts
Some of us may be aware of certain gifts we have, but we may not own them. Owning our gifts means acknowledging them as part of us. It is not a skill we attain but the quality we possess.
Now that I see my sensitivity, can I own it, without feeling the need to hide or be ashamed of it? Can I stand tall and express that I possess a fine, delicate sensitivity? This gift does not make me better or flawed as a person, rather, it makes me, Me—human and Rosslyn.
The thought of not having my sensitivity brings up some anxiety in me. I can’t imagine being unable to feel. I’m able to enter flow states intuitively and regularly partly because of my sensitivity. I feel humbled and blessed I have this gift, and I experience its preciousness because when I think of it, I want to treasure and protect it.
What is your relationship with your gifts? Do you appreciate and honor them?
Supporting our gifts
Imagine there’s a light bulb that carries our gifts, how might we dial up its lumens to shine brightly? How might we support ourselves to exercise our gifts and offer them to the world?
We develop ourselves.
In my case, how might I remain open-hearted to exercise my sensitivity? I practice being present with myself and staying in touch with my body, so I’m aware when I’m overwhelmed or undergoing more than I can bear. Our bodies show us the first signs of stress when we are present to them. I take time to pause and connect with myself, to experience the inner strength within that holds me. I learn to set and enforce my boundaries, to express “yes” and “no” intentionally. In these ways, I support myself to embrace and nurture my gift of sensitivity. That’s part of the growth needed for me to become my oak.
How will you support yourself in your growth?
Our gifts are what come naturally to us. We may learn how to exercise them, but unlike skills, we don’t acquire them. If you are gifted a voice, exercise it. You don’t have to shout, but you have every right to express yourself. If you are blessed with sight, exercise it. Not just to judge and critique, but take in the beauty of this world as well. See what’s truly before you.
These are the tangible ones, but there are also the intangible essential qualities too. Courage, passion, luminosity, steadfastness, clarity, wisdom, love, equanimity, creativity, compassion, wonder, innocence, power, stillness, the list is long. We are blessed with the abundance of goodness to flourish and move towards excellence.
Nurture your gifts, not hamper them.
Trust what’s within, what you’re made of.
Tamper not with holy perfection.
Transform your relationship with your gifts
Step 1: Pick a quality
Pick a physical quality (e.g. dexterity, sight) or an essential quality (e.g. courage, creativity). I’ve used the examples of “sight” and “creativity” in the inquiry process below. Change it to the quality you picked.
Step 2: Your experience of the quality
Say these lines aloud to yourself and hear yourself.
“I have sight.” or “I am creative.”
“I don’t have sight.” or “I am not creative.”
Notice what happens when you say each line. What thoughts come to mind? What emotions or bodily sensations do you experience? Journal them.
Step 3: Your relationship with the quality
What do your experiences inform you about your relationship with -creativity-?
Do you take -creativity- for granted, or do you appreciate/disregard -creativity-?
What are your judgments on -creativity-?
Step 4: Be present with it
For the following week, observe how -creativity- shows up in others.
How do the examples show up in you?
Learn about -creativity- in a fresh way:
Check the dictionary, talk to others, look for stories, examples of -creativity-.
Step 5: Shifting your relationship with it
What is the relationship you want to be in with -creativity-?
How might you support yourself in nurturing your -creativity-?
What practices might you take on or remove from your life?
This is a taste of what it means to engage in self-inquiry. It is a process, not a one-off project, so go at your own pace and be gentle with yourself.
If you have any questions or are interested to know more, reach out to Rosslyn.
We sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed and benefitted from this issue. We welcome your feedback, and if you have a topic you’ll like us to explore, do drop us a note.
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