by Arjuna Ardagh: In a few weeks, my new book Radical Brilliance will be published here in the U.S., and a few months later, it will come out in Germany…
The book and its message are a new departure for me; and so, I’m writing this to people who have been reading my words or studying with me for a while, to explain what motivated this change of direction.
This whole pursuit of personal transformation started for me in my teenage years. There was a lot of unnecessary psychological suffering in my family, and so by force of necessity I asked myself, “What is it that allows people to feel truly fulfilled?” The converse to that is, “What is at the core of human being’s suffering?”
The marketplace is flooded with answers to that question. There are seminars, books, online courses, podcasts, training programs, which are all, in one way or another, dedicated to someone’s answer to that question. Some people assume that having enough money will flip the switch; some people say it’s finding your soulmate; others say it’s healing the wounds from your childhood.
The answer to those questions that I have latched onto for most of my life, has been the “spiritual” one. I started to practice meditation when I was 14. I first traveled to India when I was 21. I started to act as a “spiritual teacher” in my 30s. That is how some people still recognize my name today: as somebody who writes about, speaks about, and teaches about “spirituality.”
The assumptions at the core of a spiritual approach are that there is a higher state of consciousness to aspire to, and that if you work diligently on changing your state of consciousness, (often called “becoming enlightened”) everything will be okay. Commensurate with that is the idea that there is an “ego” that gets in the way, and if the ego could just be dissolved, vanquished, released, then all that would remain would be boundless bliss.
Of course, there are significant refinements on that basic assumption. The advaita / satsang / non-dual wave brought the recognition that there is actually no ego there in the first place, and that who you really are, that which is actually experiencing this moment, is already limitless and free— it only has to be recognized. This is sometimes called “awakening.”
A little more than a year ago, I had quite a serious car accident. The car I was driving was reduced to a pile of bent metal, but miraculously I walked away without any broken bones. I was lucky to survive an impact with that much force without any physical damage, but it did initiate a process within me, over several months, of questioning why I am alive and how I can live each day in the most meaningful way. Part of that process was to return these basic questions; what is it that really causes true fulfillment, meaning, wholeness, for a human being, and what is it that really gets in the way?
When we look at the potential answers to those questions with fresh eyes, in an objective enough way, we can discover what actually works and what doesn’t. For example, most intelligent people realize by now that making loads of money is not a reliable way to discover fulfillment. Pinning your hopes on finding your soulmate is equally unreliable, and psychotherapy can so easily become a hamster wheel of self-improvement and healing— with no real end in sight. Equally, we need to ask what happens when we make the pursuit of spirituality the centerpiece of our lives.
I’ve had the great good fortune to meet, and befriend, and often to interview, extremely fulfilled people— people who seem to have an endless supply of energy and optimism, for whom money flows easily, although its not an obsession, for whom relationships are easy and loving, and for whom their default emotion is gratitude. I’m thinking of people like Lynne Twist, John Gray, Michael Beckwith, and Barbara Marx Hubbard. Over this last year of re-examining these things, what we call spiritually is certainly a part, a component, of a fulfilled life, but it is rarely the center of that life.
That is the subject of my new book, Radical Brilliance, which you can soon hold in your very own hands. Brilliance means to be lit up by a force beyond your own limited individuality. Most often we don’t even know what that force is; it is mysterious. It appears to be intelligent, humorous, compassionate, and innovative, but no none knows its gender, nationality, or e-mail address. People who hand their lives over to being used by that become instruments in the evolution of humanity. They move the game forward to its next level. They think thoughts that have never been thought before. They create things that have never been created before.
When you look at the world today, it’s almost become a cliche to say that these are difficult times, perilous times. We are surrounded by unresolved problems for which we do not have solutions. For sure, a little more compassion and tolerance would be great right now, but I don’t think that’s going to save the day. Sitting on a meditation cushion and watching your breath is definitely a good idea, but it’s going to take more than that, in my humble opinion, to create a sustainable future. What the world is crying out for today is for more brilliant people to have brilliant ideas, and act upon them.
What caused Albert Einstein to recognize the general theory of relativity? What caused the Beatles to make the White Album? What caused Teresa Shook to initiate the Women’s March in Washington? Some people would say that these moments of genius are caused by genetics, or just by accident. Through a process of reverse engineering, I’ve been able to identify the common elements, which, when they co-exist, make the emergence of brilliance less of an accident and more of a probability.
So, for those people who have come to rely upon me as a disseminator of spiritual insights, let me reassure that I’ve not thrown out the baby with the bath water. I’ve simply realized that there are several babies who need to play in the bath together, in order for it to be a truly brilliant bathing event.