Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The beginning of spirituality is the spirit... obviously

The following phrase from the French Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin, is a frontal challenge to materialistic thinking:
"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience."
If this is true - that our essential existence is as spirits or souls, then we are eternal, without beginning or end. This leads to a totally unconventional area of exploration. This is far beyond the popular idea that the physical universe came into existence (somehow) and that life appeared on it (somehow) and evolved (somehow) into its present forms. The soul seems to have no place in Darwinian thought. And if we are souls, what is the meaning of taking a body and passing through the human experience, especially considering the possibility of reincarnation? Both experiences have to be relevant - the spiritual and the human. At least we should be open to seeking the meaning to life's greatest puzzle - who am I and what am I doing here?
No one has seen a human soul through the eyes. To prove its existence using physical means and instruments has proved daunting. Very little real information has ever been available let alone proof. I remember reading about experiments in the late 19th century, in which researchers into these matters tried to catch the soul escaping from the body by putting a glass bottle over the forehead. They thought that the spirit was perhaps some gaseous being that could be captured and labeled - herein is the soul of the great so-and-so. The only real proof can only be in the laboratory of our lives.

If the above phrase from Chardin is true, then our deepest identity is as a spirit. Automatically this becomes the beginning, middle and end of spiritual endeavour. ‘End’, because what we call death would be just this spiritual, conscious energy leaving the confines of its physical vehicle, the body. Knowing ourselves deeply also becomes the door to meaningful relationships with others, the Divine and therefore to a life of greater freedom. Yet, it is such a basic and foundational concept that we often forget to preface what we do with this consciousness. One could even say that everything that happens in the world that forms around each one of us is a specific reflex of the extent to which we understand and accept ourselves. Those who come to this understanding get the chance to dive deeply into what moves and shapes reality. They move a few steps up on the ladder of self-progress.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Humility: the other face of self-respect

Being able to mold ourselves in any situation, from an internal state without ego, indicates an inner strength based on understanding and love. In fact, true humility is not possible without spiritual love. The thought ‘I did this. I'm good' can be the door through which many obstacles come. Ego is the seed of obstacles, is to count the virtues of self and the weaknesses of others. The thought 'I am an instrument of good to do good' can close that door forever.
Humility allows the existence of other people in the plenitude of their virtues or the emptiness of their weaknesses, without either jealousy for their strengths or judgement of their weaknesses.
Each individual is unique. The state of humility is shown by a tree with its branches so full of fruit that they almost touch the ground.
Humility does not mean being submissive because of lack of respect for yourself, but it means to be so sure of your own spiritual attainments that it costs nothing to bow. One can still be like a lion yet recognise the value of others and life. It is the other side of the coin of self-respect.
A truly humble person puts out the fire of the anger of others.

From the book ‘Peace Begins with You’ (Portuguese)' by Ken O'Donnell (link

Friday, August 23, 2013

True abundance

From an interview with Ken O'Donnell for the magazine Bons Flúidos, (Brazil) "Follow the Money Trail" F. Wilson D. Weigl / Milton Trajan.

Building a prosperous life is not just balancing earnings and expenses. The abundance of material goods, professional recognition, the control of monthly bills are deeply connected with values ​​such as generosity and detachment.
K: As in a reaction of cause and effect, when we set less selfish goals and direct our talents to providing well-being for others, we attract what is called luck or good fortune. This is nothing but a sign that the universe returns what we do for other human beings.

Does money brings happiness?
K: If this answer were yes, all millionaires would be immensely happy and the poor, who are the majority on the planet, unhappy. Associating money with happiness depends not on how much we have, but on how we use and how we relate to our resources. Of course, a person with modest means will have many concerns, such as paying bills and the schooling of their children, but a rich person needs to protect him/herself  behind walls, and pay for armored cars and  guards. From this point of view, a nomad living in a tent in the desert would be happier.

Purposes attracts wealth?
K: The higher our goals, the more the Universe contributes to our material achievement. Whoever pursues egotistic  goals will hardly get the cooperation of other egos. Rather, when we want to not only improve our financial situation but also that of a lot of other people, it mobilizes more energy for this purpose. For example, when I think about opening a business, beyond yielding money, it can employ other people. When we have a useful purpose that serves the world, the world always find a place for us.

K: Indian children play a cruel joke on mpnkeys. They put a glass with peanuts in front of the monkey. It tries to grab as many peanuts as possible. The poor animal fills its hand, but can’t pull it out of mouth of the glass. In its eagerness to eat the peanuts, and not wanting to drop them, it smashes the glass on the ground and cuts its hand badly. This analogy illustrates our need to monitor ambition to a healthy limit. Do we really need everything that we want? We're not wasting energy chasing after status symbols or something that we don’t lack in the slightest? This should be a constant reflection, otherwise we run the risk of injuring ourselves in our eagerness to get something at any cost, just like the monkey.

Masters or slaves to money?
K: In India there is an expression that shows the relationship between the human and material life: tan, man, dhan. In Hindi,  tan means body, man means mind and dhan, wealth. They are together like a coachman (man), a horse (tan) and cart (dhan). This rhyme teaches that, depending on how we focus our mental and physical energies, we can steer ourselves well on the road of life or, if we put the cart before the horse, be dominated by materialism. Real wealth is self-control.
Just as the driver has to drive the cart, we need to be constantly observant as to how our mind conducts our actions when the goal is of attaining wealth. The danger is to invert tan, man and dhan, when there is a danger of letting greed, attachment and thirst for consuming control our lives.

K: We need to know how to find true balance, a sense of security and sufficiency in ourselves, and not externally. If we place all of our expectations on an achievement or on material goods, or anything outside of our own inner resources, if it fails or runs out, we will lose our structure.
In the dictionary, the meaning of the verb to be attached is to be trapped or stuck to something or someone. But this is fairly futile, especially in today’s world. At this time of such rapid and drastic changes, we need to sustain ourselves on our own inner bases.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Happiness is the best expression of who you really are

To create and maintain a happy disposition, I need to know how to be positive. This doesn't mean walking with my head in the clouds thinking that everything is wonderful. I need to learn to keep equanimity in both good and bad situations. Ugliness doesn't make me ugly nor sorrow makes me sad. Successes don't inflate the ego nor does failure shake me. If it were so, life would continuing swinging between high high and low disappointments.
Transient peaks of joy, paid for by valleys of depression in the existential rollercoaster, only lead to wear and tear. Tiredness, boredom and loneliness are symptoms of an inability to extract happiness from the simple. Dissatisfaction is the fruit of not being able to make the best use of what I already have.
A few tips:
  • Observe your own and others' specialties and encourage them consciously.
  • Enjoy the moments when you're alone to access your own deep inner happiness.
  • Remember that success is a combination of enthusiasm and determination.
  • Don´t try to be someone you are not; be the best you, you can possibly be.
  • If you are fun, everything will also be. Be serious only when you really need to be.
Happiness is not a conquest but the expression of the deeper state of the being itself.

Source: "Reflexões para uma vida plena”, by Ken O’Donnell. Integrare Editora, Sao Paulo.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Links for Ken’s videos in English

Several friends have suggested that I put some links for talks I have given. Though most of the talks I have given are in Portuguese or Spanish, here are some recent ones in English:
1.      Transformational Leadership (Tel Aviv – Israel – 2013)

2.      Productive Leadership (Kobe – Japan – 2013)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Man versus Nature?

São Paulo - one of the biggest cities in the world is surrounded by rainforests!

It also seems incredible that more than eighty years after the implications of quantum physics shattered classical thinking, many still consider the universe of objects and people as a static, linear system made of small discrete blocks that can be observed and thus controlled in a perfectly predictable way. The basic flaw with this old paradigm is in imagining that by comprehending things we can impose order on them. The slightest earth tremor demolishes this illusion.
This type of anthropocentrism is one of the main reasons for our estrangement from Nature as it really is - vibrant, moving, alive and integrating, disintegrating and self-organizing continually. The divorce between the inner nature of the human being and Nature, considerably strengthened over the last three hundred years, has almost succeeded in destroying our planet – almost, but not quite.
An afternoon on a deserted beach, a sunset seen from a majestic mountain, a walk in a deliciously-smelling virgin forest – who has not felt a deep identification with beauty of nature at such times? To the disappointment of the inhabitants of the great metropolitan spreads, the weekend or the vacation finish too quickly and they are thrust back into their work-posts. From the traffic-jams or office windows they wistfully contemplate the Nature that for them only exists far from the noises and smells that surround them. They begin to count the days again until the next opportunity arises for them to ‘get back to the Nature’.
Nature is often seen romantically as a sort of utopia that contrasts with the dystopia of the many urban map-stainers we call cities and their frenzied materialism. The search for Rousseau's "noble savage" who lives harmoniously and selflessly with Nature, inspires environmental fundamentalists even today.
On the other side, the anthropocentric vision that unfortunately still operates, is that humans, being the main components of creation, have the right to explore Nature's resources ad infinitum, that were predestined to them by some divine decree. However, we cannot deny that others species have their place in the scheme of things. There are more microbes in a cubic centimetre of soil than there have been human beings in all of history!
Only recently, we have started to question these two extreme positions to find a point of balance between sustainability and development, which until now have lived in contradiction to each other. Businessmen, political, scientists, NGOs and common citizens ‘try’ to make a bridge between the preservation of the inherent beauty of our planet and the rational use of its resources. But, as some modern wit has said, “trying is often a lazy way of doing nothing".
The main difficulty is that the dialectics for both extremes of our obligations regarding nature are mistaken. It is not man against Nature or that he was always fighting with it and now has to get a new mind-set to 'save' it. Our bodies are made of the same elements – air, water and food supply each molecule. The cities are just Nature transformed – the stones that become cement, the trees that are converted into beams, the ancient forests that end up as petroleum and later as plastic. Therefore, Nature is not something that starts where the cities finish. It is in fact everything we can see, hear and touch.
It is worthwhile to reflect about the implications of quantum physics in our world vision. More than 80 years ago, it abandoned the division between the observer (typically a human being) and the observed (typically inanimate matter). Both form one whole. One influences the another. You could even say that they create each other symbiotically. This does not just refer to matter itself, but what we do with it and each other in the building of a society.
While we continue to see Nature and the problems that we have to solve as something separate from us, a passive subject like an unconscious patient on an operation table, we will not understand the depth of the interconnection and interdependence between us and our planet. It is an ancient marriage. The dance between observer and the observed, implies that the external problems in nature and in society are manifestations of the pollution and confusion that reign within us. They are inseparable.
From the book, O Espírito do líder, Editora Integrare, Sao Paulo, 2008
By Ken O’Donnell

Monday, August 5, 2013

II. Spiritual Intelligence (written in 1996!)

Spiritual Quotient (S.Q.)

If our intelligence is often dominated by the emotional state, the emotions in turn receive their calls to attention by the reason. For example, on a cold winter morning the alarm rings. The dialogue between reason and emotion begins:
Emotion - It's too cold today and so warm in bed. I want to stay just five more minutes.
Reason - No! It's time to get up. The last time you wanted just five more minutes you slept another hour and arrived late at work.
Emotion - Please, today is too cold. Don't be in such a hurry. After all I slept very late last night.
Reason - No! Get up you lazy good-for nothing.
Emotion - Please just over two minutes. . .
This is how the internal dialogue often goes on. Wanting (emotion) and knowing (reason) battle it out on the field of the mind using the recordings in the subconscious to bolster their respective arguments. We want things we know are not good for us. We know many things we do not want to know. In this way inner conflict takes birth. It  ends only when spiritual strength takes charge from the confused, overwhelmed and weakened ego.
What I propose here is a Spiritual Quotient (S.Q.) Which is precisely what can give guidance and strength to the intellect and fulfilment and tranquillity to the mind.
If rational intelligence is what helps me to manage things and emotional sensitivity is what helps me in dealing with other human beings, it is my dose of spirituality that saves me from the excesses of the other two.
Instead of a series of questions and answers of the type used to calculate the IQ and EQ, the SQ  can be computed automatically by applying some criteria regarding the effectiveness of my life. For example:

  • Am I spending more time, energy, money and thoughts than I need to, to get the results that I have?
  • Can I keep bilateral respect in my relationships?
  • Do I play a fair game when I'm working with others?
  • Do I keep my dignity while respecting the dignity of others?
  • Do I feel peaceful despite having  a lot to do?
  • Am I sensible in my decisions?
  • Do I remain stable in a situation of tumult?
  • Am I more aware of people's virtues than their defects?
These and most other questions could serve as a basis to calculate my SQ. If most of the answers are yes, you certainly have a well-developed dose of spirituality.

This article is from my book "Endoquality: The Emotional and Spiritual Dimensions of the Human Being in Organizations", published by Editora Casa da Qualidade (1997). It was in this book in which I introduced SQ, the first time that this concept appeared in a book, at least in Brazil. Later in the same year, the book "Rewiring the Corporate Brain" by Danah Zohar, in which she also introduced the concept of Spiritual Intelligence. I only got to see that book years later. Definitely synchronicity was happening.