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How does one express his or her true essence?

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How does one express his or her true essence?

Q. If living a life as Keats is ultimately about experiencing one's true essence, what does this really mean? Can you please describe a life of expressing one's true essence.

A. Gandhi described happiness as, "when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony." And if you add "and how you genuinely feel" to that maxim and you'd be very close to experiencing the answer to your question.

To express one's true essence is to be aligned from the inside out and to live consciously from that center of being, rather than being unconsciously pushed and pulled by one's environment and mental conditioning.

Expressing one's true essence means being 100% comfortable in every and all situations. It means never looking up or looking down on anyone or anything. And it means interacting with others (and with every thing) in a caring and considerate way, being respectful of their essence, which is exactly the same underlying, egoless essence as yours.

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What does it mean to "let Keats lead?"

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What does it mean to "let Keats lead?"

Q. After reading the nonfiction book, I walked away with a great dislike for Coleridge. In fact, my Coleridge-mind has held me back on more occasions than I care to remember. However, I don't think that being "all Keats" is practical, or realistic. Could you explain what you mean by "let Keats lead?"

A. Let's first consider our definition of Keats and Coleridge as ways of thinking.

Coleridge is the instinct of self-preservation. It is the goal-obsessed, reasoning mind. It's a scientist, an engineer, a director; the part of you that wants certainty, control and comfort over life. Its focus is on survival, identity enhancement and achieving success through the external world.

Keats, by contrast, is the instinct of self-creation, a longing to expand and flourish. It is the life-obsessed, joyful mind of possibility. It is pure energy and intelligence, unsullied by memory or identification. It's an artist, a wild-eyed child moved by curiosity, compassion and creativity. Its idea of success is bringing its unique essence to life internally and expressing it, uninhibited and omnipresently, in the external world.

Can someone be all Keats, with no survival instinct? Of course not. Cultural giants like Van Gogh, Franz Schubert, and William Blake all died penniless, but they certainly used their intellects to feed, clothe and shelter themselves while they expressed their inner selves.

"Let Keats lead" means to wake up and stop being pushed and pulled by your conditioning and your environment. It means to turn from the outside as your source of bliss, to your inner self. It means to subjugate your intellect, your analytical mind and its desire to understand, control and gain from the external world, to your inner life of awareness, compassion, and exuberance for discovery and creation.

And by the way, "practical" and "realistic" are purely subjective terms.

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What is negative capability?

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What is negative capability?

Q. In your nonfiction book, you make reference to "negative capability." I've looked up the poet John Keats's use of the phrase and I'm still not quite clear on the concept.

A. We're not sure that anyone has a "clear" understanding of Keats's idea, since he only used the term once in a letter to his brothers. Nevertheless, the concept is so compelling that countless articles and entire books have been written, musing on its intended meaning.

So here's our guess, and the expansive view that we have adopted.

Every living creature is programmed to survive. In human beings that conditioned self-interest extends beyond our physical selves (our bodies) to our social selves (our identities). For most, life is a personal survival puzzle to be solved, and they conceptualize every experience in order to predict and explain it in accordance with that goal.

Let's call that instinct to know everything "positive capability" because, after all, it does help us to... survive. 

"Negative capability" is the ability to not know, to tolerate ambiguity and resist that instinctive need to protect oneself through understanding and control. It is the ability to see the truth of the world through an unfiltered lens, no matter how disturbing or threatening it is, and to abandon beliefs that serve to protect one’s identity and create comfort.

The receptive openness of negative capability comes from the insistence of discovering the truth through actual experience, as opposed to idealism which attempts to abstract truth by reducing experience down into ideas and concepts. The person with negative capability willfully submits to being unsettled by experience, by a person or situation, and embracing the feelings and possibilities that emerge.

This may sound counterintuitive, but to possess negative capability means to be disinterested. By not caring one way or the other about meaning, intention, reason, history, outcomes, et al., it opens you up to a vaster realm of understanding and connection. Therefore, a person with negative capability has no fixed “self,” but rather possesses shifting selves which allows her constant sympathies with nature and with others

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Fate or destiny?

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Fate or destiny?

Q. Do you think our destiny chooses us, and that we can't run from who we are?

A. If you stay in your conditioned state, hypnotically moving through life, then your fate will choose you. You'll follow your script right to your grave.

However, if you make conscious choices to step out of that script, there's no telling where your destiny will take you.

We believe that life IS creation. It begins the day you are born and, as a separate self, ends when you die. It's as simple as that. You are born as potential, and your choices create your self. 

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Suggestion for reading.

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Suggestion for reading.

Q. How would you suggest someone approach reading these books, i.e. if you were only going to read one, what would be your criteria for picking AND if you were going to read both, which order would you read them?

A. Thank you for asking. It's made us think about the evolution of I am Keats, and the possible confusion our chaotic dance with the Universe may have created for others. :)

Here's what happened:

1. The "idea:" that our memories are the cage that keep us spiritually and creatively locked up;

2. The screenplay: a strange, enlightening two-year journey of discovery and creativity while trying to bring the "idea" to life for the big screen;

3. The non-fiction book: all of the insights and philosophies of life that emerged while working on the screenplay; and

4. The novel: the screenplay brought to life in novel form.

To answer your question, we'd need to know what you are looking for. If you want a challenging, deep dive into self-discovery, then choose the non-fiction book. If you're looking for an easy, yet insightful read... a story to make you pause and think, read the novel.

If you want the full experience, read the novel first. Then take your time, read the non-fiction book, take notes, and contact us with questions or to discuss it.

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How do you view the ego?

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How do you view the ego?

Q. You said something I don't quite understand. Can you please define "ego?"

A. We define the concept "ego" a bit differently than most. In our view it is simply one's sense of self, of separateness from the Universe. It's the "me" that you see when you look in the mirror.

But we've created a further distinction.

Take a look at your hand. See your thumb? Humans have created the word "thumb" to describe something that appears distinct, unique. It's purely a concept. There is no thumb, without a hand (another concept). And there is no hand without an arm (ditto), and so on, and so on, and so on.

Ultimately, there is no separate "you." It's simply another concept. But there is a persistent feeling of a separate self, a conscious thinking entity. We refer to that feeling as "ego."

We then create a distinction between that ego's essence and its identity.

Imagine that your thumb has conscious awareness. It's essence would be... to be a thumb! It would pick up a grape, give a thumbs up, thumb the nose, or even thumb wrestle, all without worry or care about what it thinks it should do or how it feels about itself.

By contrast, a thumb's identity is its sense of self-worth, of its importance relative to others. Being obsessed with what others think of it, it would be proud of its title of "the first digit," and it would boast that it is opposable and has an emoticon for "Like" created in its image. It would probably feel envy towards the ring finger, but morally superior to the middle finger.

So, that "me" in the mirror is both the manifestation of the Universe (essence), and it's our, and others, idea of it (identity). Ego is simply where you direct your conscious attention. For example, the weaker our essence—the less accepting we are of our unique self—the more we try to fill our emptiness by propping up our identity through the external world, through the eyes of others, with ambition, titles, recognition, pride of ownership and dogmatic beliefs.

There is a paradox, a dual existence of the ego, within each of us. Does the artist feel passionately about "the artist" and her work? Does she have a big ego? Yes. But the "person" does not. She doesn't cling to an identity, swelling with self-importance. Rather, she radiates her self, her inner spirit, out to the world.

We don't believe you will ever get rid of your ego, nor is it good or bad, as the paradoxial wisdom of Lao-tzu makes clear in the Tao te ching:

"Hence always rid yourself of desires in order to observe its secrets;
But always allow yourself to have desires in order to observe its manifestations."

 

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Conscious or unconscious?

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Conscious or unconscious?

Q. In your nonfiction book, you write that Coleridge represents our "thinking mind" and Keats our "feeling mind." Does that mean that Coleridge is our conscious mind, and Keats our unconscious?

A. This is a bit confusing, so let's start with the human brain. It represents about 2% of our body weight, yet it consumes 20 to 25 percent of our calories when we're at rest. For that reason the mind is often referred to as a "cognitive miser," meaning that we use mental shortcuts rather than thoughtful analysis to make most of life's decisions. In fact, our unconscious mind is running our show more than 90% of the time.

And where did our unconscious mind get its script? From our director, our conscious mind! For example, let's say we desire to play the piano. We take lessons using our conscious mind, and eventually our unconscious mind "knows" how to play the piano. The same with tying our shoes or driving a car. Our conscious experiences, with the world and with others, condition our unconscious mind.. and then we go on autopilot and follow the script.

"Thinking" or "reasoning" (artificial distinctions) occurs at both levels of consciousness. It's how our mind sees patterns, makes meaning and creates belief, all in a primitive attempt to keep us safe and "in control." Let's say someone asks if you'll give a speech to a group of people. Your conditioned "feelings" immediately kick in and are then rationalized and amplified by your thinking mind, below your own level of awareness.

So are those "feelings" Keats, as described in the book? Not necessarily. Those feeling may be a response to Coleridge's conditioning, his desire for certainty, control and comfort. Keats's feelings are not conditioned by anxiety and fear. They're turned on by curiosity, compassion and creativity.

Think of it like this. When we're born, everyone around us starts handing us sticks. These sticks represent their ideas about the world, especially how to be acceptable to others, and stay safe and secure. The sticks defined what was good and bad, right and wrong, "how to" sticks, "how not to" sticks, etc. 

Over time the sticks become too heavy to consciously hold onto, and so we collapse under the weight and turn it over to our unconscious. And our perceptions, our life, become darker and darker, as the sticks continued to pile higher and higher. Sure, some of the sticks were valuable, like the idea called "how to read." But most were spurious, like "you can't do that" or "you shouldn't do that."

The sticks are strange. First, you hate them. Then you get used to them. Enough time passes and you find yourself depending on them. Like a house, they shelter you from the realities of life.

The quiet voice of Keats is still alive, but it's buried under a mass of sticks. To live fully and passionately, we have to put Keats in control and have him direct Coleridge to move the sticks. We need to use our conscious mind to remove the limiting ideas, so we can see the beautiful blue sky of potential again.

 

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Who's in control?

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Who's in control?

Q. It seems although Coleridge has Keats on a leash, it is Coleridge who is the more malleable of the two. What I mean is: it seems the more information you acquire without proper curation, the more beliefs you develop, which when mixed with imagination can spawn fear and anxieties. It is for the seemingly "credible" reason of preservation that Coleridge stifles Keats.  

So we wanted to ask what you think about controlling the information Coleridge is exposed to as a means for allowing Keats to shine?

A. So, is Coleridge more malleable? If by malleable you mean impressionable, easily influenced... then yes, absolutely! Coleridge, being primarily concerned with comfort, certainty and control, and especially what others think, is always on the lookout for new information from the world to help him strengthen his identity and bolster feelings of conformity, safety and security.

It's really strange because, to your very astute point, Coleridge will believe information that even makes him feel badly; e.g. guilty, anxious, fearful, etc. And why is that?

Psychologists use a term "motivated reasoning" to convey that people will come to believe what they "desire" to believe. My last book on belief was based on that premise. There are some experts who find fault with that concept. They argue that no one would desire, or be motivated, to feel bad.

That seems to make sense, until you realize that people would rather be safe and in control than happy. So signals and information that hint that my "self"—especially my social identity and worldly security—is being threatened are assimilated, mixed with our imagination, and then used to form beliefs and actions to protect that identity. And it's those actions that suppress or annihilate our inner voice, our potential and true desires... Keats!

So, should we therefore "curate" the information that Coleridge is exposed to in order to prevent his power over Keats? If you can, absolutely. That's why we emphasize finding your "scene," an environment that opens your mind to possibilities, with people who will help bring out your Keats and suppress Coleridge. You should also stop consuming media that empowers Coleridge. Most of that information is pragmatically useless to you as an individual.

And in cases where you simply can not control the stimuli and information that you are exposed to, you need to understand it and let it flow over you. This is especially difficult when it comes directly from others in your life. But you must recognize what it's intended to do, and that's to keep you in your place... conforming to a particular script.

It's sad, really. Most people's potential for growth, deep connection, and joy are quashed by their fearful Coleridge voice, who is much more concerned with preserving the status quo than with living fully and passionately. It takes courage to be Keats! But life is meant to be lived, right?!

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