Have you ever felt a seed of brilliance and magic inside of you… a soaring potential… a knowing that you were created for amazing things? We all have this unbelievable potential within us, but how many of us truly stretch the bounds of what’s possible? And are we all supposed to do this? To reach some level of talent that is superhuman?
We all know brilliance when we experience it; that mysterious something from beyond ourselves. It’s that breathtaking moment of wonder, when you see or create an incredible piece of art for the first time, or you read something lusciously poetic, hear an extraordinary piece of music, or watch an unbelievable sporting moment. Brilliance brings forth an electric moment of grace that goes beyond humanity.
In his book Radical Brilliance, international author and spiritual teacher Arjuna Ardagh describes how we all have a universal instinct and a sense of one pivotal decision we could make that would transform everything in our lives, like a magic switch.
This intuition we all share of our potential creates something like an itch. It is a longing for something which your mind cannot quite articulate, but your heart will not let you forget. It is as though you are homesick, but you can’t remember where you live.
So can we all access these states of brilliance? Apparently we can! His book guides us to a deeper state of genius and a place beyond mind.
Arjuna Ardagh was born into an intellectually brilliant family. He shares how he felt like a bit of a misfit. His lifelong exploration of what it truly takes to live a life of no regrets, based on more than 15 years of interviews with more than 420 scientists, artists, musicians, inventors, and social architects, became this fascinating book.
He says because we can’t pin down exactly what we are longing for or how to bring it forth, we rely on outside sources of creative direction and expression to direct us, yet everything we need is right within us.
Everything great and inspiring and true, everything which has forwarded the evolution of humanity, had to begin with an event in consciousness—a thought. The Eiffel Tower, Beethoven’s 9th symphony, the iPhone… everything we can reference as great in any dimension had to be preceded by an event in someone’s mind.
Prior to the detailed plans, Monsieur Eiffel created rough sketches in his notebook. Prior to those sketches, he was able to visualize—to imagine—the tower in his mind. Because this was not a copy of anything else, his visualization came not from imitation, but from within himself. Exactly the same is true of Beethoven’s 9th symphony, which he composed when he was deaf. Almost everyone can recognize the refrain. In just the same way: before an orchestra could play the music, it was written as a score. Before the notes were written onto the paper in Vienna in 1823, the maestro had to hear the refrain in his mind. But he was not remembering something he had heard before. It was an event in consciousness that had no precedent. Not every event in consciousness creates the Eiffel Tower, or a great symphony, or the icon-based system on the Macintosh computer.
Brilliance to me feels like it happens in that place of no mind. Of nothingness, or deep oneness. A state of sublime connection. Arjuna has an interesting take on recycled thoughts and original thoughts and their relationship with creativity and authentic expression.
Original thought does not originate on the surface of the pond, but from the depth. We could call it a vertical thought. It starts at the bottom of the pond and bubbles its way up to the surface. Thoughts which originate in this way begin as very, very subtle and fine impulses, but as they bubble up to the surface, they become more vivid and pronounced.
It seems the more we can access these original thoughts that come not from the soup of human consciousness, but from almost a cosmic clarity, the more we can access fresh inspiration.
Unlocking the Flow of Innate Brilliance
Setting out to discover what highly fulfilled, energised, motivated and happy people had in common, Arjuna has spent 30 years coaching people and training coaches in how to become radically brilliant. He believes there are specific components which support us to become brilliant and that each of these components can be activated through conscious and deliberate practice.
From a young age, every time I started to meditate, and there would be a settling into a more calm and spacious consciousness, there would follow a melody, or an idea, or the beginning of the poem. But I had been conditioned, continuously over years, to ignore all mental activity, and return the attention to the watcher, the witness, to silence. For years and years, I just thought I was a really bad meditator. The more settled and expansive I became, the more fireworks went off in my brain. Since then, I have discovered that many of my clients, colleagues, and friends have the same experience. When they sit to meditate, as soon as settling starts to happen, it initiates a process of creativity.
Out of his observations of his own and other people’s creativity, he created a brilliance cycle, which explains the different phases of creative expression and is based around a clock face. His map is based on a circle or cycle with four distinct phases:
- 3 pm–Flow
- 9 pm–Dissolving
The awakening or meditative phase is where we let go of the personal perspective and open ourselves up to inspiration. It aspires towards contribution and purpose. The creative flow phase is an initiating phase, where we’d ground a creative project and aspiring towards completion. The active phase is about getting things done and the dissolving reflective phase is about seeing your own shadow, and aspiring towards oneness, unwinding, reconnecting and renewing your inspiration, returning back to awakening.
If you follow this cycle, it staves off the possibility of burn out and keeps your creativity fresh. It shows the holistic and cyclical nature of creative output, which is often ignored in this world with its addiction to productivity and overwork. This cycle values doing nothing, and spending time in meditation and spaciousness as a way to be more productive. It also provides a solution to the depression and grief that artists feel at the completion of a project, with a return to the ground of your creativity with reflection and stillness to await the birth of the next inspiration.
The cycle is not a rigid map for us to follow, Arjuna says that having awareness of the cycle is 97% of the work.
Simply understanding the different phases of the cycle, noticing how they play out in your life, frees up creative energy. You don’t have to do anything more than that. Through this understanding you can easily recognise at what phase you are in the cycle, where you may have got addicted, and therefore resistant to moving on. The awareness on its own loosens things up.
Living a Purposeful Life
So much of creativity tends to be wound tightly around life purpose, living your passion, or doing something meaningful. But what if we’ve got it all wrong? Arjuna Ardah believes our purpose is in fact not at all about being here on planet Earth to get something for ourselves.
You are actually here to make a contribution that flows uniquely through you. When you discover that gift, and make it central to your life, you become naturally brilliant and everything else falls into place.
You can read more in Arjuna Ardagh’s recently released book Radical Brilliance.