Updated: Apr 11
Neo: What are you trying to tell me? That I can dodge bullets?
Morpheus: No, Neo. I’m trying to tell you that when you’re ready, you won’t have to.
I shall be celebrating a special birthday in 3 weeks. Until December, I had been in deeply resistant denial that I could ever reach this age, batting off all heartfelt attempts to persuade me to start planning celebrations. And then I realised in a moment of shock what I was unconsciously almost wishing for: that I would never reach this birthday. I shook myself awake, hushed my mouth and accepted that arriving at each year/decade is a cause for deep thankfulness and celebration. And, as Mick Jagger once said, it’s way better than the alternative!
And now, in the midst of embracing the fun of planning the celebrations, I find I am beginning to acknowledge and honour what these years of life have brought me: so many rich memories, so much love and many, many extraordinary adventures, distinctive chapters in my life so far. AND I have very few regrets. Sorrows, yes. Regrets, no. In fact, it was experiencing the shame and ouch of my early regrets that became the transformative fuel for subsequent change and action in my life, what I now call, ‘Red Pill’ choices, see The Courage to Dance.
An outcome of this psychological gearshift is that I am also beginning to own these years of experiential wisdom: 30 years of deep personal development and healing and simultaneously 30 years of intensive study in psychological knowledge and esoteric wisdom, with consequent conscious choices arising from both experience and study.
I was told last year that what I’ve been doing these 30 years is developing Mastery. It is a lifelong learning, one that I aim to continue for many, many years to come, and it is not something we can or should fast track. The process is ruthless: a stripping bare of the ego, a letting go of wilful control and a… sometimes brutal… opening of our hearts and minds. There is a Jedi Knight discipline to this process and learning. If we cut corners then, yes, we might gain Mastery but, like Anakin into Darth Vader, we end up in darkness, ego driven and our power brings great harm to others and to ourselves. We all have that shadow power inside us, this capacity to destroy good in others and perhaps more poignantly in ourselves. True Mastery is not about power over others, it is about connecting to our higher Self, our highest potential as a human being.
This is not a quest for everyone, but we are living in a world that needs us to step up and we don’t have the luxury of 30 years’ apprenticeship training to do so. We have to find ways of using/bending time differently with smart ways of quickening up the Mastery training without compromising its focus on excellence, expertise and integrity.
So what is True Mastery? It means many things to many people, but this is what it looks and feels like to me:
1. I start with what it doesn’t feel like, with what happens when I am not in True Mastery mode: I have an anxious, tight energy, I doubt everything and I am motivated by fear and negativity, expecting the worst and unconsciously setting that up to happen. True Mastery feels the opposite: an opening of my mind and heart; a light, flowing and connected energy and a deep trust in the now and the future.
2. True Mastery is ultimately about coming from the heart and taking the risk to love and embrace life to the full. There are Masters who have spent a lifetime of study, who have acquired great knowledge and yet they have become weary of people and life and have grown dry, remote and often judgmental. We stop trusting them.
3. True Mastery is a finely tuned and simultaneous integration of all our intelligences i.e. ‘Detached Involvement’. Through this discipline, we learn about timing and pacing and how to make the right choices going forwards:
When I was a small child, I internalised a belief that IQ was king and other intelligences were inferior: emotions were feared and so not integrated intelligently; physical intelligence was animal instinct and therefore seen as wrong; and intuition was flippantly dismissed as 'women's intuition' and not to be taken seriously. I grew up to revere my IQ and ignore all else and, consequently, made many poor decisions and choices, ruled by my head and not by my inner voice. What made it even more challenging was that, as I was born with emotions, instinct and intuition, they kept surfacing but having no language to identify and validate them, I was often confused and trapped in self-doubt.
Finally, I got to a point of surrender when I knew I would not find my truth in my head and I had to go hunting for it elsewhere. And so began my Alice through the looking glass trajectory into a new and extraordinary world. Just as my IQ had been developed to a highly trained disciplined level, I began to train and integrate these newly identified ‘muscles’. I had already been developing my emotional intelligence, EQ, through my work as a psychotherapist and now began the training of my physical intelligence, PQ, my instinctual body and energy, through physical fitness including nutrition, exercise and sleep. I learned that my social intelligence, SQ, my interpersonal skills and gift of connecting, were not underrated ‘soft skills’ but highly valuable.
And finally, the strangest intelligence for me to understand and connect with was my intuitive intelligence, NQ. I knew I had intuition but out of all the intelligences, this was the most alien to my background and culture. I began my apprenticeship, learning to listen to my intuition and then honing it so I could use it wisely. It is our inner voice, our greatest guide and where we will find our vision for the future and the source of our imagination and hope.
Conversely, there are natural ‘intuits’, people who listen and trust their powerful instinct and intuition, but whose task is to develop and discipline their minds, their IQ, to interpret the data correctly. This comes through the study of others’ wisdom and insights: the great Philosophers, Writers, Poets, Artists, Historians, etc
4. True Mastery is about self-understanding and compassion. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot begin to love and feel compassion for others, see Loving Me, Loving You: how to learn to love yourself
5. True Mastery is acquiring the skill of Stillness, of tuning into our inner voice and simultaneously listening to what might be there beyond the noise of our immediate world.
6. Finally, True Mastery demands great courage in the face of expected social norms to become our real ‘Authentic Self’.
What helps in this quest?
1. Hope! A sense of meaning and purpose that navigates us through dark woods. This is why a vision is crucial, so begin with creating your Personal Vision.
2. Love and meaningful connection: surround yourself with authentically positive people and be really present with them. Let go of the negative people in your life.
3. A Sense of Perspective: there is real crisis and relative crisis. Avoid hooking into the drama and train yourself to go into your stillness, what is called ‘mindfulness’. Learn not to be afraid of your inner world.
4. People who are bored and who don’t feel a sense of purpose in their lives create drama: like overfed cats with mice. It’s contagious, so be disciplined about creating and implementing your Personal Vision and also about going into your Stillness to protect yourself.
5. On-going training of all our intelligences: why the Arts are so important.
6. Keep your sense of a warm, connecting humour: it brings such love and joy and reminds us that life is very, very precious!
Hannah Elizabeth Greenwood