A guide to realizing your true potential by New Age guru, Jean Houston

by Jean Houston 

In the new world that lies just ahead, all of the individual skills (that emphasize process more than product) and fresh solutions will be needed to face the perils and harvest the promise of a technology- and media-driven world. People and ideas are fast becoming interconnected in ways that create a new environment—virtually a new world mind.

The challenge is in figuring out how our local minds can cope with the resulting overload of information. Too many people are already drowning in the glut. Some waste hours on the internet, withdrawn from friends and family, cluttering up their heads with life-leeching trivia.

But others have found ideas and communities on-line that feed their minds, giving them courage to take on projects they never would have dreamed possible. A fourteen-year-old girl I know of used the internet from her home to help organize a movement to clean up the oceans!

It is as if a worldwide nervous system is in the works. Each of us is a brain cell in that system, with powers that once belonged to kings.

How do we train ourselves to live in an interconnected world, an ever-changing world, a world in which the unexpected is the expected and the breakdown and reconstruction of everything we ever knew is daily fare? We are attending a vast wake for a way of being that has been ours for hundreds, even thousands, of years.

But we are also the ones who will carry on. We have an unparalleled opportunity to cultivate the human capacities we need to deal with the opening times that follow upon closing times. The good news is that our bodies and minds are coded with an extraordinary array of possibilities and potentials. The bad news is that we learn to use very few of them.

It is as if we were a musical instrument with a million keys, but we tootle and hoot on only some twenty of them.

The stupendous music of our minds goes largely unplayed and unknown.

The Possible Society 

It is as if we are living in the middle of a vast garden filled with wonderful fruits and vegetables, starving because we eat only the bugs we find on the ground.

Existing on so narrow a band has brought frustration and misery, the shadow of hate and the threat of apocalypse. Our current ecological catastrophe has been engendered by gross overuse of the outward world and terrible underuse of the inner world.

In this time of whole-system transition we can no longer afford to live as half-light versions of ourselves. The complexity of our time requires a greater and wiser use of our capacities, a rich playing of the instrument we have been given. The world can thrive only if we can grow. The possible society can become a reality only if we learn to be the possible humans we are meant to be.

I recently asked an audience what capacities they felt they needed to deal with this challenge. One woman talked of learning new strategies for accomplishing the multiple tasks that were her lot. She held a full-time job while taking care of her home and family while going to school to complete a graduate degree in social work while being responsible for her aged parents.

Another spoke of finding ways to maintain the best possible health in the face of her complex and busy life.

During the break, a number of people came up to me with ideas. One woman spoke of feeling a push from the past and a pull from the future to be all that she could be. "It’s as if my ancestors demand it, and my descendants require it."

A man reported that the capacity he most desired was to reactivate the parts of himself he had let lapse.

"Like what?" I asked.

"Like memory, imagination, creativity," he replied. "I’ve been running so hard, I’ve forgotten who I am. As a young man I was filled with dreams and ideas—so many ideas. I want to get some of them back."

Human beings are not constituted to be content with living as thwarted, inhibited versions of themselves. Throughout history and all over the world, people have felt a yearning to be more, a longing to push the membrane of the possible. They have entered monasteries and mystery schools, pursuing secular as well as esoteric studies. They have practiced yoga, martial arts, sports, dance, art. They have left home and family to adventure on visionary and spiritual quests.

These pursuits come with the territory of being human. It is as if there are catalytic agents cooking in our genes that regularly sputter and pop with evolutionary juices. "It is time to wake up now," they seem to say.

And so I ask you to reflect on this: What would you be like if you started today to make the most of the rest of your life? If you turned a corner and awoke?

Suddenly, you are intensely connected with all the inner wisdom you contain, more present and alive in this moment than you have been in the previous drowse of many years. Each day brings new thoughts and feelings or interesting variations on old ones. No longer is 90 percent of what you think and feel the same as what you thought and felt yesterday or will think and feel tomorrow.

Many of the so-called larger-than-life people differ from the rest of us chiefly (because) they are profoundly present to the stuff of their lives, to what is happening within themselves and around them.

They use and enjoy their senses more, they inhabit with keen awareness their bodies as well as their minds, they explore the world of imagination, they rehearse memories, engage in projects that reinvent the world, are serious about life but laugh at themselves, and seek to empower others as they would be empowered. Quite simply, they are cooking on more burners. And when at last they lie dying, they can say, "Life has been an eminently satisfactory experience."

The inner realms

My work is to show people how to wake up, how to inhabit parts of themselves that have been left vacant and unexplored. We are told in Christian scripture that "In my Father’s house there are many mansions." As above, so below. In the province of the human condition, there are countless houses, apartments, condominiums, tents and even a few mansions, many of which have been uninhabited for years.

When we move out of the cardboard box we have called home and take up residence in some of these glorious places, our reality heightens dramatically. We begin to live with everyday passion. Things become more real. Colors and shapes and ideas and relationships have more intensity, energy, and pattern.

This acuity brings with it a motivation to "get on with it." Old obstructions dissolve as we discover new ways of being, new forms of enterprise—a new body and a new mind.

Believe that you are more, that you contain an inner self, a true self, that can emerge only if you give it attention. You might consider it the fetus of your Higher Self, an evolutionary being ready to be born.

New birth requires new being. It means laying down new pathways in the senses to take in the news of this remarkable world. It means extending the field of your psychology so that there is more of you to do so much of this. New birth demands that you choose a richer, juicier story, even a new myth, by which to comprehend your life and that you begin to live out of it. And most important of all, it asks that you be sourced and re-sourced in God, Spirit—the Love that moves the sun and all the stars.

Through decades of research and teaching, I have found that all human beings contain these inner realms, but few have more than a passing acquaintance with what they hold. Most are familiar with only the surface dimensions, leaving their inward reaches unexplored.

Yet it is in the world within that these realms of being have their greatest range, variety, and depth. In them are the materials for reweaving mind and body. From them you get marching orders for your soul’s deepest purpose. From them you begin again!

What are these familiar yet alien realms?

The most accessible is the sensory, physical realm, the level of the body and the senses. Next is the psychological realm, the level of personal history and emotions. The third I call the mythic and symbolic realm, the level of story and of universal patterns. The deepest, the spiritual realm, is the Great Mystery out of which we all emerge.

You will be eating ripe peaches and walking on warm beaches in the sensory realm. In the psychological realm you will meet members of your inner crew: elder, child, mechanic, poet. In the realm of myth, you will travel to a time long, long ago in a galaxy far away with a number of familiar characters. Finally, in the spiritual realm you will come Home to who and what you really are.

Excerpted with permission from A Passion for the Possible, © 1997 by Jean Houston, published by HarperCollins.

Dr. Jean Houston is a scholar and researcher in human capacities, and a co-director of the Foundation for Mind Research. She has written some 15 books, and taught in over 40 countries. She holds a PhD from Union Graduate School. Information is available at the Foundation for Mind Research, PO Box 3300, Pomona, NY 10970.