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The Infinitely Inspired Life
Understanding the true nature of Inspiration so you can unlock an infinite flow of it in, though, and as your life
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I’ve always believed a more inspired way of living was within reach, but what I didn’t realize is how I’ve been unknowingly getting in my own way.
For my whole life I’ve misunderstood inspiration—what it is, what blocks it, and how to make more space for it. But, something clicked recently while I was walking along the river near my house.
I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
What is Inspiration?
It’s a simple question, and I thought I knew the answer. I’ve always understood it as sudden insight or an “aha!” moment. But, this is just an atom of water within a single snowflake on the tip of an iceberg.
There’s so much more to it.
Let’s start with the word itself because all language is a symbol or signpost that points to a wordless reality.
What does the word “inspiration” point to?
The English word can be traced back to the Latin inspirare, which means “to breathe or blow into”. This is the root of spiritus, Latin for “breath” from which we get spirit.
This connection of breath, blowing, and spirit spreads throughout cultures. It isn’t simply an English convention:
In Greek, the word pneuma, from which we get pneumatic, also means “breath or to breathe”. It also means both wind and spirit.
The Hebrew language echoes this in the word ruach, also meaning “breath, life, and spirit”. In the ancient book of Genesis, the Creator breathes the animating spirit of life into the dust-man Adam. Ruach.
It’s the same in Arabic (الروح, al-rūḥ), which connects spirit, breath, and wind together in a single word, and Sanskrit (प्राण, prāṇa), which does the same and also equates it with life force.
I could go on, but you see the common thread.
Thousands upon thousands years of language from different times, cultures, and languages point to the same thing: inspiration is in-spirit-ation.
It is the breath of divinity, Spirit or life itself.
Let that sit for a minute, because we’re about to walk through what this could mean.
3 Movements of Inspiration
Inspiration is multi-dimensional. It isn’t any one thing in particular because, like the wind, it isn’t a thing at all.
Inspiration is a verb, not a noun. It is a happening, an activity, a movement.
As I’ve sat with this, three ways in which inspiration flows and moves became clear to me. I’m sure there are many others ways, but these have been helpful for nudging me beyond the cramped definition I’ve held for so long.
The 3 Movements of Inspiration, as I’ve come to see them, are: In Me, Through Me, and As Me.
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Movement 1: In Me
Inspiration is, first, effortless being.
If we’re to stay true to the formless reality all the words above point to, we must say that inspiration is the essence of life itself, the vitality which is breathed into us and all things.
In every moment, we are effortlessly in-spirited or inspired with a continuous flow that can simply be described as the movement of existence.
To be alive is to be inspired. To be human is to be inspired. They are inseparable.
Inspiration is the gift of being.
All of your senses operate effortlessly. Your heart beats without any involvement from you. You don’t have to think about how to digest your food after eating. You don’t have to consciously remember to breathe while you sleep.
This is the essential nature of fundamental truth of inspiration, and it is true of everyone. We are all in-spirited. We share the same breath, literally. Everything else you can say about humans—ethnicity, gender, class, age, anything—is simply a detail added to this fundamental truth to help us navigate a shared reality. But, our essence is the same.
It bears repeating: our essence is the same.
The ramifications of this are staggering, and would radically re-shape our world if we recognized this one simple truth clearly and acted from this perspective.
All suffering is the created by the denial of this divinity, this animating in-spiritation, in ourselves and others. At the core, this is humanity’s only problem and the sole cause of all wars, inequality, and injustice. In this is the beginning of the end to all of our problems. Truly.
Movement 2: Through Me
The second movement is more familiar territory because it’s related to my long-time understanding of inspiration as sudden insight, which originates beyond the conscious mind and takes me by surprise.
Like a wind that clears the sky, this insight “blows through” the mind and clears all the clouds, which were hiding the sun.
Think of when you get the punchline to a joke. Our laughter happens in a moment of insight that comes in a rush, on its own. You don’t think your way to a punchline—it happens spontaneously, all at once.
What is fascinating is that this spontaneity isn’t personal.
If you’ve ever been to a comedy club and experienced the moment when the punchline dawns on everyone at the same time, you know what I’m talking about. The sudden insight seems to arise all at once for everyone.
That is a moment of inspiration blowing through us to reveal something. We “get it” and then the light shines through and the mind catches up. “Oh! Aha!”
The Sanskrit word nirvana is a beautiful image of this blowing through. The word means to “blow out” as in blowing out a candle.
So, whenever you have an experience that “blows your mind” and you’re left speechless, that’s nirvana. Your mind and all of the things that clouded it are blown out and the ever-present light illuminates us in a moment of clarity. t.
Movement 3: As Me
While the first two movements happen to us, the third movement of inspiration is an act of co-creation as me and, potentially, with me.
Circling back to the ideas of breath, life, and spirit, imagine your physical life as a wooden flute. If you were to hold the flute in the air as a breeze drifted through, not much would happen. Place your lips on it and direct the breath through it, however, and a note begins to vibrate and play.
The mystics of old would say that this is a true picture of life. Our physical lives are the flesh and bone instruments of life. Rather than living a life, however, we are being lived. We are the creative expression of Life, being played like that flute simply by virtue of being alive.
This is the co-creative process of spirit and form. Without the breath, the flute is just a piece of wood holding the potential for all songs (or no songs).
In the same way, the breath without the flute is just a puff of wind holding the potential for all songs (or no songs).
Together, that potential becomes actualized. A note emerges. Zoom out far enough and it’s easy to see how the universe is truly a uni-verse. One song played.
This is a co-creation that is always happening whether or not we’re conscious of it. There are many people (most people?) living on autopilot. The wind is still playing through them, but not in fullness or in their awareness.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We can recognize and begin to actively participate and collaborate in this song that is our lives. To do that, we must begin to open more fully to the movement of inspiration.
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How to Open to More Inspiration
Opening to Inspiration—or in-spiritation—means becoming aware of this flow and consciously making space for it to blow more freely in, through, and as us.
Discover how to do this, develop a level of practice and mastery around opening this space, and you will have found an infinite and inexhaustible source of vitality and creativity.
How do you open yourself to more inspiration, though?
The most inspired humans alive today are the youngest among us. On this subject, they are our teachers. Their native language is wonder and their superpower is play.
If you want to find an enlightened sage, most are hanging out in sandboxes and tire swings. Pay attention to them.
It’s ironic that modern culture works hard to squeeze the boundless creativity of youth into societal roles that are predictable, productive, and expected to color within the lines. Then we work our whole lives just so we can get back to playing like children. We have a name for it: retirement.
Your willingness to make room for play has an outsized impact on your ability to experience inspiration, so learn to grow young:
Wander in the woods
Get lost… regularly
Actually enjoy life
Play in the sandbox
I’m convinced the future of work is inspired play, which is the ability to creatively express our unique gifts and talents in an effortless flow state.
For too long we’ve an uninspired, narrow version of The Good Life, and it hasn’t worked. People are feeling more disconnected and unfulfilled than ever.
For quite some time, the scientific community has been researching the principles of flow states and how to tap it on demand as a response to this. They are principles worth learning and practicing, but they are all invite us back to something we do naturally: play.
The mind will be of no use here because it relies on language, which is symbols, to distill and categorize the teeming infinity of life into a small world it can manage and control. The ego is deeply committed to its own limitations and has formed its own superpowers to ensure its safety.
But, play is its Kryponite.
Modern life is a chaotic, perpetual motion machine. We exist with constant background noise, and the life-giving signal we’re most in need of gets drowned out. We’re like the man who lives by the airport who no longer hears the constant jets screaming overhead.
Most of the men and women I’ve coached over the years who experience burnout, depression, and a lack of inspiration are constantly on the move. They have little stillness in their lives beyond sleeping, which they struggle with, too.
For them, silence is deafening and stillness feels unnatural… until they make space of it.
Then it’s revolutionary.
Personally, I need regular, heroic doses of it to feel nourished and joyful. I love the modern return to practices such as meditation, breathwork, forest bathing, and vision quests, which call us out of the mental cycles of past regrets and future worries and bring us into the Now.
This is such a high return investment that I’ve begun creating my own sacred experiences, and have designed them for others as well.
If you think you don’t have time to create meaningful space for stillness in your life, that’s a sure sign it’s exactly what you need to do.
If you believe you can’t afford it because you’re too busy, chances are you’re nearly bankrupt already and need to make a significant shift so more clarity and inspiration can flow
Awe is a portal through which in-spiritation comes flooding into our awareness through everyday experience. If you want to experience more inspiration, regularly seek out situations where there’s a possibility your mind will be blown.
What do we mean by “awe?”
In his book, Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life, Dacher Keltner writes:
Awe is the feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends our current understanding of the world. Vastness can be challenging, unsettling, and destabilizing. In evoking awe, it reveals that our current knowledge is not up to the task of making sense of what we have encountered.
We can find awe… in eight wonders of life: moral beauty, collective effervescence, nature, music, visual design, spirituality and religion, life and death, and epiphany. In each instance… epiphany unite[s] facts, beliefs, values, intuitions, and images into a new system of understanding.
You can replace the word “epiphany” with “inspiration” here.
How do you seek out awe? One point Keltner makes is that it isn’t always about standing beside the Grand Canyon. Awe shows up in simple moments like paying attention to the hummingbird in the backyard or witnessing the moral courage of another human.
The key drivers are curiosity, a beginner’s mind, and the courage to continually step beyond the known circle of comforts into the Unknown.
Bringing It Together
We are, at the same time, humans being and Being that is humaning.
I encourage you to sit with these ideas this week. Go for a walk or two. Consider these ideas of In Me, Through Me, and As Me to see what clicks for you.
We are all right now tapped into infinitely inspired life. It’s impossible not to be. But our ability to experience it consciously, and co-create with it, depends on our willingness to open wide to it, be seen and known, and say yes to it.
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