“If you deliberately plan to be less than you are capable of being, then I warn you that you’ll be deeply unhappy for the rest of your life. You will be evading your own capacities, your own possibilities.” - Maslow
It was a humid early summer morning at our temple in the Tian Mu mountain region. I had just finished sweeping and cleaning the main temple hall and wiping the dust from my face as I made my way back to our monk’s compound. Walking across an open space in front of the temple, I noticed one of the monks speaking to a young woman. They both looked in my direction. Jiu Wei called out to me: “This young woman is looking for the foreign monk”. They both laughed.
The young lady whose name was Ya, was from a small poor village further up the mountain. She was an orphan. This was not uncommon as girls were often considered a ‘liability’ in poor rural communities. I was immediately surprised by her ability to speak English which she later told me she had taught herself listening to a teach yourself English program on a battery radio her teacher had given her. She told me how she was abandoned by her mother when she was eight years old. She had never known her father and all her relatives had died or were killed either by revolution or accident. It was then I asked her a question. It was a question I frequently asked patients in the psychiatric wards where I worked some years before preparing people with long-term institutionalization to re-enter the community. “What is your Dream?” For a few moments Ya seemed stunned by the question, so I repeated it in Chinese. Moisture filled her eyes as she replied: “What do you mean? How can I dream? Don’t you know I am not allowed to Dream?” I struggled to hold back the emotion rapidly welling up within myself.
What is your Dream?
This is a question that plunges deep within the core of our psyche. We must reflect that we are one of the only species who have the capacity to dream, to have a hope, to hold an aspiration. It is primal. The question awakens our inner core of the being we are meant to be – our true identity. Abraham Maslow, the renowned psychologist known for his work on the hierarchy of needs, postulated that at the bottom of the hierarchy are the needs for food, shelter, and clothing continuing to the top where he referred to Self-Actualization as the crowning of our human experience. Later Maslow went on to postulate a further dimension of Self-Transcendence. It is this dimension that puts us in touch with our highest potential. One could argue that this is our spiritual awakening.
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Many of us through the COVID-19 pandemic, isolated through revolving lockdowns have had an increased awareness of loneliness and disconnection from each other. In lockdown, whether through the pandemic or through other forms of limitations of a person’s freedom, the ability to dream is very stunted. This is something I observed in psychiatric institutionalization, prisons, and situations where one’s sense of agency and empowerment is restricted. In such settings, human connection is vital for our mental wellbeing and indeed, survival. I recall when I had asked a patient in a Psychiatric hospital “What is your dream?” she replied. “What’s the use of a dream if I have no one to share it with?” A sense of connection both with others and with our inner self is equally vital. When we are connected with our highest nature, with that which puts us in our ‘element’, we become alive and somehow more connected to others around us. This is why in the Cloud Thinking Method we pay much attention to what we term our Core DNA - that which sets us apart, that which places us in our Element. When we are aware of and awakened to our Core DNA the question “What is your Dream” is no longer relevant because you are living your Dream and in that, you are fully connected with yourself and others. Often it is said we need to close the gap between where we are and where we want to be. However, when you are awakened to your Core DNA there is no gap; you are already there. The caterpillar is a butterfly. The butterfly is in its biological imprint.
How can you begin to tap into your Core DNA?
In Cloud Thinking we refer to the Discovery Cloud. This is simply an awareness of your strengths, talents, and your personal narrative. You can begin to discern your strengths and make meaning from your life story. You can do this today by asking yourself some very strategic questions. Don’t put this off. Even if you have only a few moments just pick one or two of these questions to begin your journey to discovery.
What makes you felt the most alive?
What would you do if you had no fear?
What are your greatest strengths?
What is the thing that you can NOT create?
What are your two greatest accomplishments in the last few years?
What is your vision for the world?
What do you value?
What are your greatest accomplishments going to be over the next few years? Five years? Twenty-five?
What feeling inside you needs the most attention?
You may even like to share your answers to someone else.
Ya, wiping the tears from her eyes took a breath and stated with a strength that welled up from deep within her: “I want to be a teacher”. Ten years on, Ya had completed her higher education, manages her own online business as well as being a tour operator and in her spare time teaches young women to Dream to be the person that they want to be.
What’s your Dream?