Last weekend, Paul and I had a delightful trip back to our home territory in Corpus Christi, TX.  All Saints Episcopal Church sponsored a “Marj Barlow Academy” and I was privileged to work with a large friendly audience on Friday night and Saturday morning, delivering my version of Strengths psychology.  We were totally loved and our buckets were filled to the brim by these wonderful friends, most of them from the long road of life, and some new ones who are also very much treasured.  I brought home a literal bucket and dipper gift.  The bucket was filled with nuggets of hand written drops of appreciation and love.  Wow!  It can’t get better than that.  I am in awe of the power of love.  Gayle Gottlich said it well, “We are just gonna love on you and Paul.”  AND THEY DID!  From the first encounter with Father Jonathan Wickham, a true servant leader, to the last lunch with the leadership team, we were warmly loved and blessed.


I also met with my Women’s Wisdom group on Friday morning at the Town Club.  What a fun bunch of women.  We laugh and we love and we share our time together.  And, our Cliff House neighbors, Paul and Ranee, hosted us for a really beautiful as well as delicious dinner.   So, my cup runs over.


In preparation for our study group at Unity of Wimberley, meeting on Tuesday mornings, I dredged up some old writing (2007) that seems to fit the book we are studying.  I highly recommend Bruce Lipton’s new book, The Honeymoon Effect.  


Read on, if you want to see what is on my mind today:


Waking Up is Hard To Do


Most of us go around in a sleep-walking state.  Some say even 85% of us are asleep.  By asleep, I mean unconscious.  C. G. Jung said, “When the unconscious is not made conscious, it will control your life, and you will believe it is fate.”  I can reflect on my own life and see that I live much of it in a state of unawareness, unawakeness, or unconsciousness.  It rests in my irrational beliefs.  An irrational belief denies my power, attributing power to outside forces.


“I honestly try to live my life to the maximum, limited only by my imagination. In these 78 years, I have experienced life, birth, and death many times with many loved ones.  I created a simple little pneumonic device with which we can ‘plug in’ our life experiences and watch the spiral of growth, ever upward, ever expanding, and always of benefit—no matter the depth of pain or suffering.  I propose that we do grow from our angst, that chaos is the predictor of order, and that we have strong inclinations to create both quietude and stimulation.  We live in the tension of that paradox.  AND, we are likely to be at our most creative in the still-point—the eye of that hurricane–a good mental picture of this spiral!!


Join me in thinking of your own spiral of growth, remembering the teachings of Meister Eckhart back in the middle ages.  Eckhart said,  pear trees grow from pear seeds, oak trees from acorns, and humans are God-seeds.  Therefore, this god-seed that is you, has miracles to do.  Think of yourself as a seed, ready to sprout, grow, and flower.  There never was one like you! Even if you have had several lifetimes in this one life, and you are as old as I, you can still expand outward from every plateau of your existence. Every loss brings us to new knowledge and heightened awareness, if we face it, process it, decide how long we will grieve it, and make the choice to evolve from it.  Forgiveness is the muscle we can learn to exercise.  I say to my students: ‘You have not yet claimed all that you can be.  We live as half-light versions of our true selves.  Every day is a new beginning.  See your world and the people in it through fresh, new eyes; hear through accurate ears; and cultivate a compassion that enables you to hold the field while others find their way.’    


Merciless self-awareness is required for this process.  Mindfulness and ownership of experience is helpful, also.  From an unconscious, unaware state that might be termed ASLEEP, we will examine what it means to become AWARE, AWAKE, ALIVE, ATTRACTING, ACCEPTING, and reaching our full AUTHENTICITY.


You can call it your spiral of growth or, in broad terms, it is your “ Spiral of Consciousness”.  Consciousness is from ancient cosmologies and yet it is rooted in contemporary science.  Biology, Psychology, Sociology, Physics, Theology, and all the other human sciences recognize to some degree that consciousness is primary.  The Big Bang involved matter and also, included mind.  So, in my belief, consciousness does not arise from the brain, but is more than our cell-blood-bones and intellect.  This is Source Energy.  It is just possibly the determiner of form that matter and energy combine to make.  It is the dynamic life force of one’s creative potential.


Emotions are energy in motion.  We have mounting evidence that positive emotions lead to broader, more flexible, more creative beliefs-thoughts-behavior.  It is my experience that the spiral I use as a pattern of growth will follow this design and that it builds mental-emotional-even physical enhancements for our lives. 


I have worked for more than thirty years in the field of human relationships.  My conviction is that relationships are our strongest determiner of meaningful joy and happiness.  And, positive emotion is the most potent component of those relationships.  Our wellspring, even our birthright, is JOY.  If we transformed psychological diagnostics into a positive view and description of relationships and character strengths and values, we would transform our world.  From a disease model (with its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) to a model of Well-Being (perhaps with a Handbook of Virtues and Strengths), we could more readily support the new human formations that transcend the old.


Any one life lived to its maximum authenticity brings better life to all on our planet.  Therefore, my hope and my goal is to inspire and evoke the highest possible thoughts, the grandest ever plans, and the wildest imagination emanating from each human being, and that includes you who are here today!


From The Radiance of Being by Allan Combs


The difference between consciousness and mind:

Consciousness is the essence of experience.  Its touch is the bearer of meaning.  It is the perfect transparent subjectivity through which the phenomenal world shines.  Without consciousness, knowledge is only information.  Consciousness brings objects into awareness—thoughts, dreams, feelings, memories, sensory impressions.  Consciousness is intentional, activating the senses and emotions, awakening memories, and animating imagination and desires.  Consciousness tends to exhibit wholeness.  Mind does not.  Mind is fragmented and separate.

If consciousness weakens, as when we become drowsy, we drift into a disarray of memories-thoughts-feelings…..floating into awareness


MIND is, in addition to cognition and intellect, all those inner processes and conditions that shape and color consciousness, producing unique landscapes of experience that characterize each moment of our lives.  Thoughts, feelings, desires, dreams, memories, aspirations.  These can be objects of conscious experience if one attends to them. 


Consciousness is like one’s attention, intention, focus, or awareness (like a searchlight).  Consciousness may even extend to describe our choice mechanism, the means by which we decide or how we make selections from our memory-thought-imagination reservoir.


The Ladder of inference fits here.  From all the stimulus, we take in data, SELECT from that data, make assumptions based on the selection, and from that we create meaning and action.  So Consciousness and the spiral of growth of consciousness is the expansion and development of one’s own choice making.  It is our ownership and  our mechanism for creating daily existence. 


Creative tension, vs unaware tension based on old patterns is the draw of the attractor factor.  WHATEVER we focus on becomes the reality we experience.


The image of stillness in the midst of chaotic motion typifies our notions of deeper mystical awareness.  Like the heart of a whirlwind , the eye of the hurricane, this tension gives us the paradox of the desire to stimulation or the desire to stillness.  Flux and stasis; process and structure.  Why do we lean more to the structure?  East or West, this tendency has blinded us in part to the chaotic and fluid nature of the cardinal events of our lives; of thought, of emotion, of growth and transformation in all their myriad aspects, and of human relationships and everything they entail.  From p 13—The Radiance of Being.


Newton’s physics took us to a new level of understanding the world. Descartes enlightenment placed emphasis on the structure and the material objects.  Processes were reduced to byproducts of motion.  Consciousness had no place in the material world.  Dualism of mind and body brought us to this day where we go to different doctors for different parts of the body, we do business in separation from others, and we live subjectively in an object conscious culture.  We live in a time where Wellness and Wholeness are still “new-age” concepts.  (Evolution is still explained as the lone result of the random play of physical elements).  Comprehension of quantum physics brings forth the yearning for wholeness and for something spiritual.


The Tao, Metaphysics and the growth of this thing we call consciousness are ready to be brought into the wholeness of an individual.  The Fire and the Rose.  I heard Margaret Mead speak about a Science of the Human Being, in which all science came together—all “ologies” (biology, psychology, sociology, physiology, anthropology, theology, etc).   One place to begin is in the concept of Systems—whole systems.  Ludwig Van Bertalanffy and others—cybernetics—Norbert Weiner in Mathematics—and present day biologists such as E. O. Wilson or Margaret Wheatley.  Biomimicry by Janene Benyus is a book that ties the whole thing into our need to get back to the wisdom of nature in our attempt at environmental sustainability of the earth and all her systems.  There is a connection to human consciousness and its spiral of growth in the evolution of theory and understanding since Newton.


Self-creation has been expressed as “autopoiesis” by biologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela.  They proposed that certain systems, including living organisms, are in a business, the primary object of which is no less than to constantly create themselves.  Biomimicry posits the same thing.  This self creation is really patterns of process rather than segments of material structures.  This is why some get well and others do not, both having the same disease.  So this whole notion would say that consciousness and growth are the essential elements.  If we are not physical composition or momentary structure, then we are essentially self creators.  We, through these processes, sustain our identity.  The mind itself is in a constant autopoietic process.


Can it be possible that the large majority of the population is in a state of sleep, unaware that they are really creating their own existence?  Can it be possible that I, myself, am in a trance?  Do I grasp reality?  What is reality?  Who am I?  What is the elusive thing called the “self”?  Am I the victim of the world I see?  Do I really see what is?  Or do I make it all up??  Why would I want to stay asleep?  Are there advantages to being asleep?  Does my world stay predictable and dependable only if I stay asleep?  For this argument, and in search of answers, I am assuming that I might be asleep, or at the very least, I might be unenlightened?  I surmise that the thousands of clients I have seen in a thirty year period, all of whom came to me with complaints, sadnesses, rages, and general states of disturance regarding their relationships and life, were among the sleep-walkers.  I count myself a sleep-walker, also.  So, yes, I think we are asleep—unconscious.  


From this ASLEEP state, I have noticed that we construct all manner of protection.  The Freudian defense mechanisms help us live in unawareness, tantamount to staying dependent children.  Albert Ellis, pioneer of cognitive approaches to growth, said, “People are such @*#^ blankety-blank babies.”  So, denial-projection-rationalization and other defenses allow us to blame the outside world for our state of mind and emotion.  In AA, they tell us that “It is all an inside job”,  therefore, we will do well to learn methods for waking up.  Instead of the psychological games we play (Persecutor-Rescuer-Victim roles), we can reach for growth into true intimacy in relationships.  In my experience, I have observed that all change begins with awareness.


 AWARENESS is the next turn of the spiral of growth.  Awareness comes to us through our senses.  Try an experiment right now:  notice what you are tasting, touching, smelling, hearing, and seeing.  As you become aware of each sense, you focus your mind in the present moment.  So, first learning might be to stop, focus, become aware at any given moment.  Making that choice to stop will bring yourself to the present moment, which is, in truth, the only place where we live.  Nothing happens to us from the past—it is gone and can be a source of depression.  Nothing happens in the future, except in your mind.  If you are addicted to worry, go to the future and you will surely be anxious about something.  Your point of departure to create this spiral of growth begins with awareness in the NOW.


Now is Eternity.  Think about that.  Make a choice to be in the now moment and you will experience eternity (timelessness).  Then, a gentle waking may come to you.  OR, it could be more earthquaking in its appearance.   Tune in to your beliefs, your thoughts, your feelings, and your behavior.  What will follow will be a gradual opening of your psychic eyes.  You could be ready to AWAKEN.  Good therapy facilitates this; bad therapy allows you to continue in your sleep state, playing victim to your world and circumstances.  People grow and change in three or four ways, in my opinion.  They grow when they a fully engaged in their growth (possibly through good therapy); they grow under conditions of emergency (famine, fear, disease, disaster, etc); they sometimes grow with religious experience; and, they might be changed through brain surgery…..not to be too cynical.  The real possibility is through awareness and exercising choice (ownership).


Ownership of one’s own feelings-thoughts-behaviors-beliefs is requisite to traveling the next turn of the spiral into being fully ALIVE.  Mind, body, spirit all can wake up and be present in a consciousness of true aliveness.  Each of us has an Internal Guidance System.  That system is comprised of our emotional flow—our energy in motion.  Feelings are our most excellent feedback.  If it feels like “flow” as described by Mihaly Cszsithenmahai, then you can trust the guidance you are receiving.  This flies in the face of much teaching from parental units, including religion.  To know what one wants has been labeled as selfish.  And selfish is bad.  Consider that our best guide to our true self is in the system of desire.  Also, consider the possibility that you would still be a person of good conscience and high moral fiber, if you pursued what you want.  Think of all those women who have gone before us.  Elizabeth Cady Stanton pursued what she wanted and she and Susan B. Anthony paved the way for our independence as females.  So, this turn of the spiral says, to be fully functioning, you must be fully Alive.  And to be alive, you really need to know what you want.  E.g. it does not feel good to gossip and say negative things about our friends.   See them as they want to be will feel good, whereas seeing them as you want them to be and talking about their faults will feel bad. 


The Spiral of Consciousness continues if you are still in a mood to grow.  This next turn of the spiral is toward ATTRACTION.  There is a real truth (popular in some groups today) that what we think about will come about.  The Law of Attraction operates all the time.  And there is no guide out there governing whether it is good or bad, negative or positive.  Either way, this law works.  I have included it in my Spiral of Consciousness because, I have learned at this stage of my life the real joy of positive thinking.  I choose to stay in the vein of positive thought, and my experience bears out that what I think about seems to manifest. 


Turning ever upward and outward, in the expansion of one’s own personal universe, the next climb up the Spiral takes us to ACCEPTANCE.  Love is the warm acceptance of self, others, or society just as it is (my current working definition of love).  Acceptance of ownership of who I am, what I do, and the consequences of my choice-making is one of the lessons learned on my life journey.  I accept that I am the Author, the Actor, and the Audience in my life drama.  This acceptance, which really means ALLOWING, serves me well on a daily basis, as I write my intentions in the morning; then I go about my day as if on stage acting in my story; and at night I am a kindly audience, reviewing my day with tolerance and respect.  Forgiveness is the muscle that I am developing.  Our chief task in the maturity process is to reach a state of Self-Forgiveness and Self-Love.


Now, this final turn of the spiral could be called AUTHENTICITY.  Who you are and what you can be is unique, significant, and will be done only by you.  If you allow (another nice A word) that there is a true self, hidden by all the false selves and ego-constructs, and that this true self is a God-Seed, then as you reach for your authenticity, the only question becomes, am I on track or off track?  Your life purpose and your mission just might have been chosen by your soul before you were born.  That is why your soul chose your parents (this removes all trace of Victim mentality), your place and time to be born.




And all shall be well and

All manner of thing shall be well

When the tongues of flame are in-folded

Into the crowned knot of fire

And the fire and the rose are one.

—T. S. Eliot, 1942






The human heart can go to the lengths of God

Dark and cold we may be, but this

Is no winter now.  The frozen misery

Of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move,

The thunder is the thunder of the floes,

The thaw, the flood, the upstart Spring,

Thank God our time is now when wrong

Comes up to face us everywhere,

Never to leave us till we take

The longest stride of soul men ever took,

Affairs are now soul size

The enterprise

Is exploration into God.

Where are you making for?  It takes

So many thousand years to wake,

But will you wake for pity’s sake?


Christopher Fry

A Sleep of Prisoners



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