How a Shower Inspired What I Want to Teach You
There’s magic in standing naked in a shower, seeking to transform obsessive thoughts and brain fog into clarity. By the time I stepped into one such shower in about 2012, I had been working over eight years on a book about our capacity to see clearly what is, imagine what can be, discern what’s true for us, then turn vision into thriving reality.
Since childhood, I’d learned much about how to do this from my parents, my childhood hero, Albert Schweitzer, and other teachers. I did my master’s thesis on how people either block or distort visionary potential. My files overflowed with stories, tips and resources of how to focus and built powerful visions for life and work. I’d begun to fulfill my lifetime calling to write professionally.
Attempting to get unblocked about my book on vision, I recalled how Schweitzer once felt that the guidance he sought was behind a dense thicket which was locked behind an iron gate. The harder he tried to eliminate these mental barriers, the worse they became. Only when he relaxed while looking at the sunset and a herd of hippo crossing a river did he get his calling to write and speak about “Reverence for Life,” which led to Schweitzer becoming a Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Inspired by Schweitzer, I affirmed, “I choose to see clearly what’s blocking the completion of my book.” Soon I imagined my brain was filled with marshmallow cream. As I stepped into a hopefully head-clearing shower, I remembered my dad’s advice, “Always pay attention to the strange notions that come through your head.”
I paid attention, as out of the mist came two words, “Genius Amnesia.”
Genius Amnesia? What the Heck?
My first thought was that “genius amnesia” didn’t fit the notion that genius is not for people like you and me. But what is genius? Why does it matter if it’s forgotten?
Then, I asked my Latin-loving husband, “Is the word ‘genius’ is derived from Latin?” By the time I was dry, John had found 3 meanings of genius that led me to see this formula: genius = guidance + natural inclinations + talents. Neither achievements nor IQ were mentioned; nor were there any hint that talents need to be extraordinary.
In ancient times, guidance was thought to come from a divine source. Today, it’s also known to come simply from living with eyes and heart open to the wonders of all creation, or by following guidance methods from the worlds of creativity, vision, science, psychology and spirituality. Today, we also know that there are many types of intelligence.
Talents as an aspect of genius I had already discovered through Barbara Sher, who often says that talents are more about what we love than what we’re already good at. Besides, we can always team up with others who are full of talents we lack.
But what were “natural inclinations,” and how do they matter to genius?” That led to looking at my own life.
Learning from My Own Genius Amnesia
I was blessed with parents who passionately nurtured curiosity, awe, wonder, a passion for learning, open-mindedness, resourcefulness and many other gifts I now call “elements of natural genius.” I learned practical and design skills from my mother as she designed and sewed beautiful clothing. My dad, an industrial arts teacher who met my mother when he taught her in a woodworking class, had us help build our own home and maintain a flourishing garden as soon as we could be trusted to discern weed from vegetable.
When I was 13, my world collapsed with the illness and the death of my mother. This was before Elizabeth Kubler-Ross led the paradigm shift from “let’s not talk about death and dying, but visit our loved ones with helpful smiles so maybe they can live long enough for a miracle cure to be found” to “let’s deal honestly and lovingly with death and dying so we can have meaningful lives to the very end.”
As I practiced ignoring grief, I stopped being curious about my future. I adopted a stoic mindset, believing I had to become a doctor and cure the illness that had killed my mother. When that dream failed in pre-med, I was afraid and unwilling to ask for help. After college graduation, I began the first of many promising but ultimately wrong jobs and fell for all the wrong men.
Everything improved when I discovered the human potential movement in 1971. As I finally began to release years of stagnant grief, I once again felt the awe and wonder, curiosity, hope and the natural spirituality my parents had nurtured. My instincts became sharper, and I began having flashes of intuition. Awareness of anger took longer to return, as its expression had been taboo in my family, but soon I could see the value in anger to clarify what was important to me and to set better boundaries, which led to better relationships. As I trained and worked in various human potential modalities, more lost treasures came alive.
A Vision of the Genius Treasures in All of Us
On my second visit to 55 treasures from the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun to Washington, D.C’s National Gallery of Art in 1976-77, I went straight to the small gilded statue of Selket, a guardian of the Boy Pharaoh’s casket containing his preserved innards.
30+ years later, I can still not say fully what so entranced me about that statue beyond its beauty, the feelings it stirred in me, wonder about the life and world of the unknown artist, and a silent communion with another Gallery visitor who stood next to me for what seemed to be at least half an hour. Only when she was ready to go, did she speak.
“What a tragedy it would be if all this beauty had remained hidden under the sands of Egypt and no-one would get to see and be inspired by it.”
“Yes,” I quietly agreed. As I watched her melt into the crowd, I was struck by how alive the people in the Gallery were. In spite of waits that had lasted four hours merely to get into the National Gallery, almost no one looked tired or cranky. Almost everyone stood or moved in awe and wonder, filled with a sense of joy and meaning.
That made me realize, “It’s an even worse tragedy that so many of us are unaware of the treasures of body, mind and spirit that lie within us.” Thus began a practice of gathering and sometimes creating ways to reclaim the treasures within us, inspired by the work of archaeologist Howard Carter, who found the Tut treasures almost 100 years ago.
Genius: a Gift that Improves with Age
Over time, I’ve found enough information and inspiration about human genius to fill many books. It’s exciting to discover that genius, like love or a fine wine, gets better with time. That’s fortunate, because with age can come many challenges. John and I have come through many of these challenges as we move towards our 80’s. Fortunately, we and others find that facing challenges with our full repertoire of natural genius — including the gift of humility that gets us to reach out and work with others — gets easier over time.
As I shared in a talk to the Commonwealth Club of California, we’re faced with the reality of our shrinking lifetime. Thus, we have a special kick in the butt to get on with knowing and fulfilling our life purposes. There’s a natural tendency to reflect more, to synthesize decades of experience, provided we are willing to be open-minded and keep growing. We tend to be less inhibited, and it’s easier now to learn new skills or take on new art that stretches our talents.
It’s exciting to be of a generation that’s just getting creatively warmed up at ages that once would have relegated us to rocking chairs. We honed our wisdom teeth on paradigm-shifting social movements in civil rights, women’s rights, ecology, human potential, and consciousness when we were young. Now we’re paradigm-shifting what it means to age deliciously, and to do the work of reawakening lost genius, even if we don’t have grandchildren or great grand-children to lead the way.
My current theme song is “I’ve Got a Lotta Livin’ To Do.” That’s got a much richer meaning for me now than it did in the 1960’s!
I’d love to help you create a world that matters, as defined by your core values
In this website are many connections to the growing body of wisdom about visionary development, genius, conscious eldering, spirituality and work, conscious capitalism, and other wonderful things that typically get short shrift in the mainstream media. Hopefully, I’ll be able to encourage you without pushing you, as my mother did in her daily chats over coffee and cake with her best friend as they shared joys and concerns, tips and resources. As you savor what’s here, may you also enjoy lots of laughter, sometimes tears, and many new ideas and inspiration for your best life.
Many blessings, Pat McHenry Sullivan