Donna Quesada: You are referring to Neuro-linguistic Programming?
Arjuna Ardagh: NLP. Yeah. But Gregory Bates was one of the inspirations of NLP; he wasn’t one of the founders. So, Gregory Bateson…he recognized something that happens in life, which is called, “Double Bind.” Double Bind means that you are faced with impossible choices. It happened to Hamlet in the play. To be or not to be?… That is the question. Is it better to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and take up arms against a sea of troubles? This is a double bind, you see? Arjuna, in the Bhagavad Gita, was faced with a Double Bind. So, when you are faced with a Double Bind in this way, you are inevitably bound to make mistakes. A mistake is not now optional. Whichever side of that double bind you choose, the other side feels like regret.
Now, as you move beyond six o’clock, you explore feelings of shame, regret, failure, guilt, remorse…these are very unpopular feelings, mainly because they were shoved down our throats by Catholicism and Judaism and Puritanism. But actually, they do have a helpful role because if you temporarily go into feelings of shame, regret, remorse…it allows you to apologize. It allows you to learn from your mistakes. It allows you to accept the smallness and the limits of your human incarnation. This brings you around in the next movement, from self-doubt, it blossoms in humility. It’s when you realize that… “what I don’t know is so much more than the little bit I think I know.” It allows you to be humble as a human being and to realize… “I’m not so great as I thought.”
Over here, you thought you were everything to everybody. Here, I can’t do anything…I’m so small…I’m so limited. And that’s a good thing to have, sometimes. So once again, there is a seed. Because in humility, in true humility, where you give up on being anybody special, you realize, wow, I am so small…so irrelevant…so limited…yet, all this is happening…all of this is flowing, anyway. Kind of… even though I keep making mistakes it keeps flowing anyway. And it gives us the intuition of something bigger than the me. If you turn that curiosity inwards, it becomes the awakening that we’ve talked about. If you turn that curiosity outwards, it becomes devotion to the divine. But either way, it returns you from 9 to 12, which is the movement back into awakening. This cycle, awakening, flow, accomplishment, humility… This cycle is repeating in your day…in your week…in your year. When all of those four phases are activated, that is the foundation of a brilliant life contribution.
DONNA: Ok, so I have a question about the six o‘clock point. Or, actually, moving into humility…moving into the nine… And dealing with those stumbling blocks, doubt and all of these things…is there a right way or a skillful way to navigate those road blocks? Or…those self-imposed means of suffering? And do you get into that in your book?
ARJUNA: There is a skillful way to navigate all of this stuff. Every point in the cycle has practices attached to it. Because the cycle, the way that I’ve described it so far, is actually purely theoretical. It’s a little bit like acupuncture or Chinese medicine. They talk about the Chi flowing through the different meridians. But the Chi is not flowing freely through all of the meridians. What we actually have Is deficiency and blocked energy, which builds up. So almost everybody…when acupuncture measures the pulses…it will notice blocked energy and deficient energy.
In the same way, this cycle is not flowing freely for almost anyone. What we actually have is blockage. Blockage in the cycle. There are four kinds of blockage that we have been able to notice. One kind of blockage is what we could call addiction. Addiction means you get stuck somewhere in this cycle and you think that is the point of life. You can have addiction to awakening. That would be someone who primarily identifies with spirituality. You can have addiction to creative flow, which primarily identifies with being an artist. You can have addiction to doing. That is someone who identifies with finances and accomplishment and achievement. You can have addiction to self-improvement. That is someone who primarily identifies with fixing themselves. It can become a way of life.
So that’s addiction. We can also have judgment. So, it is possible to look at a certain point of the cycle and go, “that is stupid.” So, that would be judgment. You can have aspirational resistance. Which is another form of blockage…where you look further along the cycle and you go, “that’s amazing, but it’s just out of reach.” That’s another form of blockage. And the last form of blockage is called looping, which is what we do a lot in our society. We loop somewhere and we become a specialist instead of having a rounded life. We become a specialist. For example, like a proof-reader would be looping here. It’s a specialist job, you see. An editor would be looping here. So different jobs…different roles…psychotherapists…are over heresomewhere. If it’s someone who specializes in break-down, they are over here. If it’s someone who specializes in hugging the inner child, they are looping here. But most of us end up looping somewhere.
DONNA: Is that indicative of a life that is not properly balanced, or, it’s just a choice?
ARJUNA: Yeah, there’s no rules, but what I would say, and I’m just a guy… I would say that when all of this is flowing freely, the result is spontaneous brilliance. But it gets blocked by one of those four kinds of blockages. Those four kinds of blockages can exist anywhere in the cycle. So, you’ve got 16 flavors of blockage. Four types of blockage and four quadrants. Consequently, we can now develop a really sophisticated map of practice. So, you can see…you mentioned Zen earlier… Zen sitting would be a practice, here. But, completing a deadline, which is also a practice, happens down here. Automatic writing is a practice, here. Apologizing and learning from mistakes is a practice, here. Anything that anybody does, is a consciously chosen practice…fits somewhere into this cycle. We start to develop a really sophisticated map of what practices are needed, to move someone through the cycle and to open up the flood gates.
DONNA: Would that be an awakened life or a brilliant life?
ARJUNA: I think I’ll stick with brilliant, myself. It’s just language. You can say anything you want. But the thing is, when we say “awakened life,” it gets us back into…
ARJUNA: Yeah. And it gets us back into obsessing about… No, the thing is, you can go deeper and deeper and deeper. If you focus here, there is no end to infinity. However much you explore infinity, there is infinitely more. If you focus here, there is no end to creativity. No book ever gets written because it’s finished, it gets written because there is a dead-line. No creative act is ever really complete. Here, there is no end to accomplishment. However much money you make, you can make more. However much you get done, you can take on more. And there is no end to self-improvement. You are never going to completely heal yourself or get rid of all your neurosis. You can always go deeper. So, you can explore each of these more and more. And that’s why people get stuck…because they want to keep going…keep going…keep going. But, it’s at the expense of a life lived in balance.
DONNA: So, we shouldn’t stay in one place… It’s got to incorporate the flow of all of these points?
ARJUNA: When I was younger and my kids were younger, we used to go to Disneyland. Have you ever been?
DONNA: Of course. Many times.
ARJUNA: So, I used to take both of my kids to Disneyland. We used to go together, as a family. And we used to pay some money to get in. I think the last time we went, it was 87 dollars. But the first time I went, it was 25 dollars. And when you go into Disneyland, they’ve got hundreds of rides. And once you have paid your money, you can do any ride you want. Nobody is checking on you. Nobody is saying, “You’ve done that ride three times already.” There are no ride police. There is a little boat and it goes “It’s a Small World After All.” You could just get on that little tea cup thing and go around all day if you want. No one is going to stop you. You can go on The Pirates of The Caribbean. You can do that one. You can do the thing where you go up, up, up in the dark…and down. You can do any ride you want, in any order. You can repeat the same ride and no one cares. And that’s what makes Disneyland fun, in a way. You can do whatever you want. You can repeat things. You can go in different orders. There is no one telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. And personally, I kind of feel like life is a bit like that. Here’s a human body; it’s like a blank canvas. You can use it anyway you want. Whatever you think is fun. You can use your life that way.
I’m just one guy. I wrote a book. Not that many people have even read it. It’s just one little tiny thing about brilliance. The work I do is, I support people to be radically brilliant—usually on a pretty large scale. I support people to do projects that are going to have a big impact. And not everyone is going to do that, but that’s what this is about. The book is about making the maximum contribution to others with your life. But I don’t think it’s a good idea to say universally, “everybody should do this and you shouldn’t do that.” You can do whatever you want. If you are interested in making a great contribution to the world, maybe I can help.
DONNA: Does It help to have a coach,in general?… To make a credible contribution?
ARJUNA: In my opinion, it’s invaluable. I don’t think it’s even possible without…I have four coaches. Coaching is probably the one thing… I did 420 interviews for this book. Brilliant people. The one thing that they really all have in common is, they get coached or mentored.
DONNA: Why is that, Arjuna?… Because they have navigated the bumpy path before and steer you around those pot holes and traps?
ARJUNA: Not exactly. Kind of. It’s not that a coach is more advanced than you, but when we try and make decisions about practice and about how to navigate…you are seeing through the very distortion you are trying to address. Just before you, the reason I was a few minutes late today is, I was coaching somebody who really has global vision.
DONNA: So, you have fresh eyes. The coach has fresh eyes, so to speak.
ARJUNA: Yeah. I was coaching someone who has a global vision. He has a project, which, by every logical evaluation, has a very good chance of changing a big area of life for everybody. He has the means to do it. He’s got the funding to do it. He’s got everything, but I was on the phone with him and he was telling me… This was a few minutes before we spoke. He was telling me why the project didn’t move forward, the last week. It seemed to him like a legitimate emergency. He was saying, “here is why it didn’t move forward…because I was dealing with this crisis.”
So, I was able to say to him, “okay, I understand you have this crisis. I also want to point out that it’s right now…it’s toward the end of June, so if we just look at 2018 alone, which is less than six months… This is your eighth crisis in the last six months. The eighth big crisis that has caused you to stop the whole thing.” So, I said, “each crisis seems normal to you. But if we put them together, there is an unconscious pattern.” He argued for a bit. He couldn’t see it. He was seeing through the glasses of addiction to crisis. It took an hour of talking, for him to realize that there is a part of him that is addicted to the latest crisis. I had to be able to share with him… “You want me to coach you to complete this project…we are going to have to address this addiction to crisis.” He would have never in decades spotted that for himself. It was the glasses through which he was seeing. I had to point out to him, as an observer… “Look, on the outside, communicating with you…this is a very common occurrence. So, maybe we don’t want to believe the story quite so thoroughly…that the crisis is an excuse. That’s an example, you see?”
DONNA: So, it’s something that is afraid to go forward and you latch on to whatever you can latch on to…to prevent that movement?
ARJUNA: Well, that’s not necessarily the story, in his case. It was different. But everybody has stuff like that.
DONNA: And that’s what I’m looking for. That kind of universal application, where we get in our own way by grabbing onto something that we can name as the thing that stopped us.
ARJUNA: Exactly, but the landscape is varied. We all have our personal variation of what we think gets in the way. Sometimes they are completely contrary to each other. But that’s the benefit of coaching. Is somebody…not necessarily someone who is more advanced than you, but someone who has an astute ability to recognize false assumptions.
DONNA: Fascinating. Well, that might be a good point to conclude our discussion. I want to respect the time that we have and the time that you have given us. Is there anything that you would like to say, before we conclude this interview?
ARJUNA: Well, I think it comes back to what we started to talk about “should and shouldn’t.” I really would encourage anybody and everybody who is interested, to live this life on their own terms and according to their own values. And that’s really the difference between a coach and a teacher. A teacher tells you what you should do. A coach asks you what you should do. So, I think we, all of us, have an internal compass for why we were born and what we were brought to bring…and to really find a way to trust that compass, which may mean to brush aside a lot of layers of conditioning. The “should and the shouldn’t.” To really find that music that you were born to dance to, which is generally going to result in a contribution to other people.
DONNA: Lovely. Well, Arjuna, thank you for your time. And I wish you great success…however, you define success with your book Radical Brilliance. May it help many. May it help the world.
ARJUNA: Thank you.
Read Part I Here: Awakening Is What Happens When Awareness Pays Attention To Itself
Read Part II Here: The Components That Allows A Human Being To Become Brilliant