Friday, April 13, 2007

Calendar: 2007 HSP Gatherings

I am going to take a brief "commercial break" here to put in a plug to all HSPs to consider making one of the HSP Gatherings part of your 2007 schedule.

I have attended several of these events, and cannot stress enough how much of a validating experience they are for HSPs. There is nothing quite like spending a long weekend in a completely "HSP safe" space.

Some HSPs express concern about going to a "group event." And I must admit that the first time I went to an HSP Gathering, I felt very apprehensive about voluntarily agreeing to spend four days with 30 complete strangers. But my fears were unfounded. The "energy" of a group of HSPs is such that it really doesn't feel like you're "in a group."

Although it may seem expensive to many, the expense of going to an HSP Gathering is actually considerably lower than most spiritual and self-growth workshops of similar length.

Make a difference in your life-- attend an HSP Gathering!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Thoughts About "Enlightenment"

It is well documented that HSPs tend to be "deep thinkers." In her book "The Highly Sensitive Person," Dr. Elaine Aron describes HSPs as "prone to deep reflection on inner experience."

In a sense, this is the "puzzle piece" of HSP-ness that explains why so many HSPs are on paths of spiritual discovery, often involving much self-inquiry and introspection. The average person may not care much about such ideas as "Enlightenment," but it often holds a great deal of interests for HSPs, and often becomes a topic of conversation at the annual HSP Gatherings.

There are certain funny notions attached to enlightenment, and many of them apply directly to HSPs. The one I am going to focus on today is the perception that to live an enlightened life, we must turn our back on money, and any and all desires to have anything material in our lives. The ironic thing about this paradigm is that we see "enlightenment" as an all-or-nothing proposition, in which we either become the "Guru In A Diaper" who sits serenely on a mountain top, OR we have "accomplished nothing." The irony lies in the fact that a concept like "enlightenment" has its roots in nonduality, and we immediately assign an "either/or" duality to it.

Enlightenment-- to the degree we experience it-- isn't about abandoning money or things. Enlightenment is about reducing/ending our personal suffering. And we don't really end suffering by making declarations that we must be "dirt poor" in order to see the light. In fact, we just trade one form of suffering for another.

It is true that greater self-awareness often involves a certain amount of "downsizing" of the stuff we surround ourselves with-- "stuff" we have put there because it feeds our egos. But there is a huge difference between making a choice to be a "responsible" human (in the sense Daniel Quinn distinguished between "givers" and "takers" in his metaphorical novel "Ishmael"), and choosing a modern-day ascetic lifestyle.

Sometimes we just have to stop and think about whether we are making sense.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Conversation Café: Using Conversation to Help Save the World

As part of trying to feel settled in my new town, I have joined a group called "Conversation Café." It might sound somewhat "counter to type" for an HSP to "join a group," but this case is rather different.

An issue facing many HSPs centers around the fact that we tend to prefer the "deep and meaningful" in life-- be it in conversation, or in what we read, or in the people we choose as friends. This often feels like a great challenge to us, because we perceive most of the world around us to be "fluffy" and interested in largely talking "about nothing."

So what is a "Conversation Café?"

It's a group of people who meet once a week (at a local restaurant) to talk. Yes, I said "talk." What's different about it lies both in the structure of the dialogue, and in the topics discussed.

Each week, a topic is chosen ahead of time (so you can think about it)-- it might be something like "the value of collective wisdom" or "is there purpose to believing in God." The topics are never "lightweight" issues, but rather things that directly affect our lives, and the world at large. The conversation goes by a "talking stick" being passed around the circle-- and only the person holding the talking stick may speak. This means that there is no chance for more forceful voices to drown out the more softspoken people-- everybody gets equal time, and equal voice. This is an ideal format for HSPs, since they often feel "drowned out" by louder voices. Typically, the conversation goes for about 1 1/2 hours... and we all tend to come away wiser and more enlightened.

I don't often recommend group events to HSPs, but this is one of the rare exceptions. If you'd like to learn more, and perhaps see if there's an existing café in your area, visit the Converation Cafe web site.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Creating a New Way to Live

One of my friends-- and fellow HSPs-- once coined the phrase "Creative Slacker." I have adopted that term as a description of myself, because it seems extremely appropriate.

In her book "Making Work Work for the Highly Sensitive Person," HSP author Barrie Jaeger suggests that HSPs most often find the way to their true calling in life through some form of self-employment.

As part of my own ongoing life changes, I continue to explore ways that allow me to stay true to myself and what I believe in, without needing to "sell out," in the service of financial needs or "societal peer pressure."

I realize that I have never had much ambition or desire to strive for "success" in the sense greater society defines it. For many years, I pursued a carreer in sales, marketing and advertising-related fields, because I operated under the impression that I "should" do something like that, to "get ahead" in life. All the while, I felt like a horrible misfit in my surroundings. From speaking to many HSPs about their work, I get the sense that we HSPs often wrestle with the issue of "finding meaning" at work. And meaning is not the same thing as money.

The challenge for me, these days, is laying out a path that allows me to earn a basic living from things that really matter to me:
  • Writing
  • Helping people feel better about themselves
  • Being in nature, often with a camera
  • Collecting stamps
  • Walking on the beach

I think a lot of people go about the process of deciding on their work "backwards." They start at "will this make money" and then ask the question "do I like it?"

I once came across an exercise in a book, which asked readers to make a list of everything, ever, that made them feel pure joy, happiness and contentment. It could be sleeping, it could be petting a kitten, it could be winning at cribbage. The purpose was not to discover a career, but to discover "patterns" in what creates happiness. And from that pattern, we can discover ways of earning an income.

It's all a matter of creativity.

If all you feel you are good at is SLEEPING, you can always look for a job as a mattress tester, or working in a dream research lab.

It's all a matter of creativity.

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