One of the best ways to pick up a new skill or mindset is to practice something NLP practitioners call ‘modeling.’ And the key is to only model excellence. I’ve been fortunate to connect with someone who is truly excellent at living with an effortless joy for life.
In this interview watch out for what you can model from Mark Harrison, who is a personal growth teacher. Enjoy.
Jim: Going back to the beginning of your personal development journey, what started it all off for you?
Mark: About 20 years ago, I discovered a couple of books, quite by chance (if you believe things happen by chance!) One was the Tao Te Ching, and the other was Anthony de Mello’s book ‘Awareness.’ They opened up a completely new way of seeing things for me, and the philosophy contained in these books has been the compass by which I have navigated through life ever since. Over the past two decades, I’ve read many books which present the same kind of view in different ways, but none as clearly or as movingly as these two books.
Do you think about challenges, failures and negative events differently now?
To interpret events as negative or positive is to think we can see the whole picture. The old Taoists understood the foolishness of this:
A farmer had only one horse, and one day the horse ran away. The neighbors came to condole over his terrible loss. The farmer said, “What makes you think it is so terrible?” A month later, the horse came home–this time bringing with her two beautiful wild horses. The neighbors became excited at the farmer’s good fortune. Such lovely strong horses! The farmer said, “What makes you think this is good fortune?” The farmer’s son was thrown from one of the wild horses and broke his leg. All the neighbors were very distressed. Such bad luck! The farmer said, “What makes you think it is bad?” A war came, and every able-bodied man was conscripted and sent into battle. Only the farmer’s son, because he had a broken leg, remained. The neighbors congratulated the farmer. “What makes you think this is good?” said the farmer.
I don’t really know why certain things happen to us. Some people think we attract everything into our experience, and I think there is some truth to this – the way we perceive the world changes it, in a sense. At the same time, I think there are lots of things that happen to us which are outside our control. But whether we attract things into our experience at some deep level or whether events just happen, we can never know how they will affect us in the long term. I think it’s helpful to be positive, but the best approach is to let things unfold and be a witness to the mystery of it all.
Absolutely. Witnessing is one of the most profound things we can learn. After you began your journey, how did you come to teach the things you were learning?
When I first came across the books I mentioned, I wanted to share them and the ideas they contained. For the most part, people were not really interested. And they still aren’t. But writing and talking about a way of living which is natural, easy and in tune with the natural structure of the environment is something which gives me immense pleasure. I think a sign that you are doing what is right for you is that what you are doing brings you happiness, and sharing this philosophy is something that brings me great pleasure. So it’s for me, really. As Anthony de Mello might say, I’m just dancing my dance, and if some people benefit, that’s fine, and if people don’t, that’s fine too.
That’s beautiful, because if you’re always acting from your own bliss then whatever happens is perfect. So, how did you decide to create your business around it?
I think success comes when you’re doing what makes you happy, so founding a website focusing on what I love seemed like a sensible choice.
I’m fascinated with the routines of high-achievers. Tell me a little bit about your daily routine.
I have a regular job, so my routine is similar to that of millions of working people. I get up, travel to work, spend eight hours there, and go home. I fit my writing and other website activities around my work schedule. Apart from that, I try not to have too rigid a schedule. I don’t like full calendars and ‘to do’ lists – I prefer to be spontaneous. Of course, a certain amount of planning and scheduling is necessary, but I try to keep this side of things to a minimum.
My favourite quite from the Tao Te Ching sums up my philosophy.
By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try, the world is beyond winning.
Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
I believe that life unfolds naturally in a certain way, and we cannot predict this. But we can embrace this unfolding, work with it and follow it, or we can resist it. The latter gets you nowhere but leaves you exhausted. It seems to me that allowing things to naturally arise and open, and being the silent witness to all this, is the way to happiness.
If you had asked me that question 10 years ago, I could never in my wildest dreams have given you a description of what I am doing now – it is nothing that I had ever imagined. But life is like this – always unpredictable, always surprising. So in 5-10 years, I hope to be embracing whatever course life has opened up for me, but what this course might be, I have no idea. I think it is helpful to have some goals, such as being happy and confident, but to attempt to design the circumstances of your life in any detail seems like foolishness to me.
Where do you see the world in 5-10 years?
The only thing I can say with any certainty is that the world will not be how I imagine it. We seem to be living through a time of great change. Profound social, economic and political changes seems to be taking place and it’s impossible to say how things will work out. But this is nothing new. Although the world has seen periods of calm, it’s almost always been chaotic and unpredictable.The twentieth century was one of almost continual and enormous change, and the future looks no different. But, as old Taoists would have advised, it’s best to watch, to allow things to unfold and to work with the constantly shifting landscape in an open minded and open hearted way.
I give the final word to Lao Tzu:
Those who have knowledge, don’t predict. Those who predict, don’t have knowledge.
That’s great advice. Thank you so much, Mark.
Mark blogs about spiritual and personal development at changeyourlife.net. I suggest you take a look 🙂
Image courtesy of mi9.