Vertical Development

The Actor & Character Upon the Stage Metaphor

This is basis for the player and character within The MMORPG Called Life metaphor that I’ve created. I’m just replacing the stage that one is roleplaying upon with a MMORPG that one is roleplaying within.

Vertical Development

Collective Experiences Revealing the Player Behind the Character

There’s something that Rupert says near the end of this video that feels somehow connected to something I’ve experienced in the past.

When King Lear is miserable about his relationship with Cordelia, John Smith’s enjoying himself on stage. He’s happy. He’s not saying no to Cordelia.

So even in the midst of our suffering, the inherent nature of consciousness is shining. All you need to do is take a step back from your mind into the true nature of your awareness and immediately your happiness is restored.

Whenever I’ve experienced a deep realization or almost revelation about something, it’s almost as though the deep emotions from it are catalyzing and connecting a bunch of previous memories and experiences that I’ve had, so much so that it feels like you’ve stepped back from your life and are almost watching it cinematically on a screen as a flashback.

When this occurs, even though the separate experiences within your flashback may have been painful, sad, or frustrating ones, there’s almost this deep profound sense of joy in the overall collective experience of watching the flashback, as it reveals a deeper sense of meaning within your life that reveals who you truly are at your core.

So it’s like revealing the “player” behind the “character” that you’re roleplaying (when we see Life as a MMORPG), just as John Smith the “actor” is behind the “character” of King Lear that he is playing (when we see Life as a stage).

Site Design

Didn’t Backup WordPress!

Doh! I just realized that while I did a static backup of my last WordPress site before I had to cancel it (due to costs), I forgot to do an actual WordPress XML backup.

So while I’ve imported my old posts again, I still have somewhere near 250 posts that I have to manually add in again, if I want to get my site back to the way it was. And considering these are probably some of my most deepest posts, where I’m really digging deep to try to express myself and my work, I really need to add them back in again.

The upside is that my new hosting plan is only costing me around $10/month (versus the $30/month previously), so costs shouldn’t be an issue anymore (well, as long as they don’t keep rising as well). So all said and done, I’m hoping this will be the last time I need to shut my site down again, especially since I’ve tried a lot of alternative sites (like Medium) and prefer to just stick with WordPress going forward from now on.


Just manually add in 10 posts and it didn’t go too bad, as I can copy and paste the entire post body into WordPress and it seems fine. The slow down is when there is images on the post which I have to manually upload and insert. Still shouldn’t be that bad considering I don’t have a ton of posts with images. So hopefully if I do manually import 10-20 posts a day, I can get it done within a couple of weeks at most.

Doh! But I just noticed something else that I’ve never seen before! WordPress imported my old posts from the XML backup and created the categories for the posts but didn’t actually apply the categories to the posts themselves. So all of my old posts are marked as just “General” category. Oh well, guess I needed to clean up my categories anyways.


Finding Your Poetry, Your Language of Meaning Making

There’s something that Rupert Spira mentioned in a video of his that stood out for me, when reflecting upon it.

When it comes to poetry, we should not demand that the poet uses words in too literal or rational a way. The words of a poem don’t operate on the rational mind, they operate on a deeper level.

Rupert Spira

This reminded me of something I touched upon before. That this “language of keywords” which was revealing itself to me over time, seemed very similar to mythopoetic language which is sometimes called the soul’s language.

It’s funny because I’ve said before that if life is a MMORPG, I feel like a Bard because I seem focused on identity and meaning, enjoying helping people and businesses to clarify their identity and communicate it meaningfully to their customers.

But what I realized about this all is that my language of meaning making, which helps me communicate things beyond the literal or rational in a deeper way, is the language of MMORPGs (which just happens to closely mirror the language of the Hero’s Journey as well).


The Integration of My Life’s Work From My Life’s Story

My life over the past two decades has changed dramatically.

It has also integrated itself, more and more. In fact, the more my life’s work integrates itself, the more it is doing so by integrating more of my life’s story and the experiences within it.

Let me explain what I mean.

Work Isn’t Working

Back in 2001, when the Dot-Com Bubble burst, I realized that the concept of work wasn’t working for me anymore and I wanted to find a newer way. As the years passed by, I began to realize that more and more people were feeling the same way as I was and they were looking for a new way as well.

A few years back with the pandemic, this became even more apparent to a lot of people, as they began questioning their beliefs and assumptions about the work world and started seeking other ways of working as well.

The Future of Work

In the mid-2000s, I started discovering other people who were searching for a new way of working and over time, this new way of working emerged as The Future of Work.

While more and more books explained this future of work and even what it looked like, what seemed to be missing was how to get there though.

Social Innovation

When the term social business emerged in the latter part of the 2000s, I realized that businesses needed to not just technologically innovate, in terms of their products and services, but they needed to socially innovate in terms of how they operated, both internally with regards to their employees and externally with regards to their customers.

But again, the question was how can these business transform themselves, so as to socially innovate?


In the early 2010s, I realized the obviousness of my questions that I was questing towards and realized that it was creativity itself, applied to our very sense of selves, that could help us to socially innovate.

This was a massive leap for me, as it finally gave me a process which could be used in transforming ourselves, thus allowing us to travel to The Future of Work by each of us undergoing a journey within our selves.

The Hero’s Journey

The more I explored creativity applied socially to ourselves, the more I was seeing connections between what I was learning and my past experiences in building communities online around video games. In fact, it almost seemed like there was this language of keywords emerging, that were cryptically guiding me to something much bigger.

What I realized though was that this language mirrored Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. So much so that I soon realized why. The Hero’s Journey is actually a metaphor of the psychological journey within ourselves that we undergo to grow, evolve, and transform ourselves.

Thus the inner journey to The Future of Work is the inner journey of the Hero’s Journey. They are one and the same. Now I had a metaphor which could be used to help people understand this inner journey and the paradoxical experiences one would encounter in undertaking this journey.

But something was missing from my work. While creativity is how we can transform ourselves and it’s embodied by the Hero’s Journey, it became evident that we are all different stages of social development and growth. In fact, with regards to The Future of Work, leaders and followers both needed to creatively transform themselves to work within this new world. So people couldn’t expect their leaders to level up and save them. They had to level up as well, so as to save themselves.

So how can creativity, embodied as the Hero’s Journey, help different sets of people at different stages of development? It can’t. You need something else that can help people understand the different psychological, inner terrain they are going through, compared to someone else. This is where vertical development comes in.

Vertical Development

While I had been researching vertical development since the latter part of the 2000s, it really didn’t start making sense as a whole until I started overlaying all of the different knowledge I was learning from it, so as to create a much bigger picture of what was going on.

So if you can imagine our journey to The Future of Work, as a leap from one world to another, with creativity being the process of how we make that leap, then what vertical development does is help us to zoom out and back from that process and realize that life is filled with these transformative leaps of logic. So whereas creativity is the process for achieving growth and development, vertical development helps us understand the different characteristics of each stage of development and accompanying levels of consciousness.

So what I recognized here was that creativity was an integral part of vertical development itself. And the more I reflected upon this, I realized that so many other things were an integral part of vertical development as well. For example, mental health and well-being are aspects of vertical development. In fact, natural growth and development is an inherent part of well-being and if we block this natural growth, it can actually affect our mental health.

But it even went beyond this. Suddenly the deeper I got, the more I realized how so many of the issues within our world today could be resolved if people became aware of vertical development and began applying it to their life. In effect, it is often our beliefs and expectations which limit our perception of the world and often cause problems that arise from this limited perception. In fact, wicked problems are such that they often require “a large group of people to change their mindsets and behaviours to solve them.” In other words, the cause of our most serious problems aren’t “out there” (and thus something we can blame on someone else) but rather are “inside of us” (often of our own doing, unbeknownst to us).

But the more that I began to share what I was discovering about life at a much deeper level, the more it became aware that many people couldn’t grasp what I was talking about because it seemed inconceivable. For example, the basic premise of vertical development is realizing that we don’t see reality directly but instead see a map of reality, constructed from our life’s experiences. If you tell the average person this, they’ll think you’re crazy, even though more and more people within the scientific community are actually proving this to be true today.

Life as a MMORPG

So what I realized I needed here was something like the Hero’s Journey, but something larger than it, to help people metaphorically grasp this bigger picture of vertical development and how it relates to the natural growth and development within our lives. Yet what became the obvious solution to me seemed almost absurd to attempt at first, even though this language of keywords had been cryptically guiding me to it all along. What I began to realize was that life was metaphorically a MMORPG and the Hero’s Journey was the foundational primer for this all along.

You see the Hero’s Journey is effectively a Player’s Handbook for The MMORPG Called Life. It helps you to understand that when you encounter a major life challenge that your current mindset can’t help you navigate, you have to go on an inner, creative journey within yourself, exploring and mapping a new stage of development that lies beyond the horizon of your current mindset and beyond the border of your current worldview.

This occurs because it requires you to question your assumptions and beliefs which begins a quest for you. And this journey will require you to overcome your monstrous fears blocking your way which is really just your older, limited perspective of your “self” that you have to “slay” by letting go of it. But when you do so, you will gain the treasure of gaining newer values which give you the experience of living your life in a whole new way.

But while the Hero’s Journey, as an embodiment of the creative process applied to ourselves, can help us understand the narrative mechanics of The MMORPG Called Life, we need something else. Again, we need something to understand the different inner terrain we will be traversing across. And this is where vertical development comes in.

Vertical development is like a Campaign Guide for The MMORPG Called Life. It helps us to understand the inner psychological terrain we will have to traverse across, thus helping us to understand where we’ve been, where we are at, and where we’re going with regards to our growth and development.

And in terms of expanding the metaphor founded by the Hero’s Journey, it mirrors quite closely with the expansions found with a typical MMORPG. The starting expansion is The Walled City which represents the defensive nature of the Socialized Mind. The next expansion is The Borderlands which represents the Self-Authoring Mind and how we begin to discover ourselves beyond our societal programming. And the final expansion is The Great Wilderness which represents the Self-Transforming Mind, thus allowing us to fully embrace our True Nature that is found deep within us.

An Integration of Past, Present, & Future

As I’ve shown here, the more I integrate my life’s work, the more of my life’s story is integrated within it as well. In fact, when I look back and remember myself as a teenager building my own imaginary world within Dungeons & Dragons, it’s not that different from what I’m striving to do today. The key difference is that today I’m imagining a new worldview which can hopefully make a new world possible.

Vertical Development

The Paradoxes of Life Are Beyond Your Beliefs & Expectations

Life is much more paradoxical than we believe it is.

And it is definitely much more paradoxical than we expect it to be.

The first represents what a person experiences when they struggle to shift from a Socialized Mind to a Self-Authoring Mind and begin to realize that life is paradoxical.

The second represents what a person experiences when they struggle to shift from a Self-Authoring Mind to a Self-Transforming Mind and begin to realize that life is even much more paradoxical than they first realized.

Vertical Development

Expanding Beyond the Ego’s Voice of Doubt by Understanding Its Mechanisms

Whenever we expand beyond limits, the ego experiences it as a death. Whenever we go beyond ourselves, the ego experiences a little death because the ego is defined by its limits. That’s what the ego is, a limitation or an apparent limitation on our true nature.

The ego says, “Ah, if Darren gets a job working at a higher level, he’s going to expand beyond his current limitations.”

So the ego says, “I will not survive that expansion. I will die.”

That’s the voice of doubt in you. That’s the voice of the doubt.

It’s the ego telling you, “No, no, no, no, don’t, don’t do that. Don’t do that. Don’t expand. I’ll die. I’ll die. You don’t, don’t do that. Just stay comfortable. You’re fine. You’re well paid. You’re well respected. You have a nice life.”

Really the ego couldn’t care less about you. It just wants to stay. It just wants to stay. It doesn’t want to die.

Fortunately the impulse for truth is stronger than the ego’s resistance to it, sooner or later. To begin with they kind of battle with each other. They go backwards and forth. But sooner or later, truth—our intuition of truth—overrides our fear.

So it’s helpful to have the right interpretation for the doubt because when it rises again. you’re less likely to listen to it, if you understand the mechanisms behind it.

I wouldn’t be surprised if you find that just by having this confidence in this intuition that you have and no longer listening to the doubt because of this correspondence between our inner life and the outside world that just having this understanding will in some way somehow reconfigure the world that you live in and some new opportunity will open up. There’ll be this magical response of the world to this inner change in you and all the inner changes.

You’ve understood the doubt. You no longer listen to it. You’re going to listen to this deeper voice inside you. You’re going to acknowledge it, validate it, follow it, and not let the doubt prevent it. And chances are the world will respond to that.

Rupert Spira

Rupert’s words above are a beautiful embodiment of the hero slaying the monster within the Hero’s Journey. The monster embodies our fears which stands in our way, blocking our progress. But it is created from our limited beliefs which are a part of our current identity, now having become outdated.

So to go beyond it, we have to let go of our old sense of self and our old sense of beliefs which effectively feels like we are killing ourselves by letting go our old sense of self and discarding it by the wayside, thus no longer giving it the attention it feeds from and desires. But in the process of doing so, we are able to expand our sense of self-identity, become more than we thought possible.

This is the struggle I am going through with my old sense of self right now. And the more I struggle with it, the more I realize that you just can’t ignore it and “get busy” to try to overcome it because that’s the very thing it feeds off of. Instead you have to fully stop, turn towards it, stare at it, sit still with it, and say, “I see you for what you are.”

This is why vertical development to me is like playing within a MMORPG. Your True Self is the “player” and your identity, who you misbelieve you are, is your “character.” When your character has achieved enough experience in life to outgrown itself and level up its level of consciousness, it does so without fear or grief of losing itself. Instead it’s seen as a wondrous experience of greater opportunities and possibilities, as it expands itself.

Knowing this is one thing though. Living it is completely another.

Vertical Development

How Our Expectations Rarely Match the Paradoxical Reality of Life

You’re still expecting something to happen. That’s the problem.

Enlightenment is not an event. It’s not a marvellous event. It’s not a mundane event. It’s not any kind of event. It’s not something that happens.

Enlightenment is not something new. It’s not something that was lost and now has to be found. At best, and even this is not quite true, but at best we could say it was overlooked

In fact, awareness doesn’t have problems, doesn’t know problems. Why? Because in order for there to be a problem, there needs to be resistance. There needs to be the, “I don’t like this.” That’s what makes a situation a problem.

But awareness is like empty space. It’s never saying to the current experience, “I don’t like you.” And therefore, it doesn’t have problems.

So it’s not saying, “My separate horrible self needs to be got rid of. I’m fed up with her.” The “I” that is fed up with her is another form of herself. In other words the separate self is perpetuating itself by trying to get rid of itself.

So you’re caught in this mind from which you are understandably tired of trying to get rid of yourself. “I, the separate self, want to get rid of myself, so that I, the separate self, can experience enlightenment.”

And you’re going round and round and round. And you’re rightly frustrated and disheartened because you’re engaged in a never-ending endeavour which is perpetuating the separate self by trying to get rid of it.

It’s just see the situation clearly. You cannot get rid of an illusion.

What can you do to an illusion, what do you need to do to an illusion, just to see that it’s an illusion? Don’t spend your life trying to get rid of an illusion. It’s a waste of a lifetime.

Just live what you understand. Take your stand there.

In other words, enlightenment is a fancy name for the most simple, the most ordinary, the most well-known experience there is. And all seven billion of us know it. However, because it cannot be found by the mind, in most cases it is deemed missing. And as a result of that, the peace and the happiness that are inherent in it are also considered missing. And hence, the imaginary self goes off into the world in search  for the missing peace and happiness.

And as we all know, it doesn’t live there. Where does it live? In the simple knowing of our own being. It’s knowing of itself. That is awarenesses awareness of awareness.

Instead of mistaking yourself for a cluster of thoughts and feelings, just noticed, “Oh no. I am the one who is aware of those. I’m not a cluster of thoughts and feelings. All those flow by. But I’m not flowing by, I’m just always here.”

Just allow that to come from the background into the foreground, more and more.

Rupert Spira

Rupert uses an amazing metaphor for life within this video as thought one were looking at a movie screen and seeing their life play out upon it (which mirrors Plato’s Allegory of the Cave) but then forgetting that what we’re seeing is an illusion cast upon a screen. (I, myself, prefer a more modern metaphor for this whereby life is playing out upon a VR headset screen that is covering our eyes which is why it’s hard for us to realize this.)

Thus this “screen” is what is often overlooked, as he notes.

Compared to the woman who Rupert is speaking to, who is experiencing this problem, I would say it mirrors my own experience in that I’m seeking some transitory and transformative event that will shift my perception but that in looking for it, even expecting it, I’m actually preventing it from happening.

In effect, so often how we think things will turn out is completely different than how they will because we often misinterpret the meaning of the experience itself, thinking we know it. When it’s actually much more paradoxical than we imagined it would be.

At the same time though, the reverse of this also happens! In effect, we often do things that we think are “wrong” but they are actually naturally right. Like I kept feeling like having a blog and taking things only one step at a time and just writing that thread of an experience separately, wasn’t enough. So I put a massive expectation upon myself to try to force it all out at once which only made it worse and made me stuck even more.

Yet you can’t force a seed to grow. You have to give it time, space, and room to grow on its own. Thus when finally in the right fertile environment and conditions, it flourishes rapidly upon its own.

It’s funny. I remember saying something a while back about the quote, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” I said that the teacher is actually always there, they’re often just not noticed. This is remarkably similar to what Rupert is saying here. Our awareness, which is constantly with us, is always there.

BTW Rupert’s mention of defusing your vision to become aware of our awareness is also remarkable close to an experience I had many years back, while I was in a liminal state while preparing to fall asleep. Effectively my deep rhythmic breathing and a state of focus that was out of focus, both between what was I looking at and what I was, caused this experience to occur. But as I noted before, I never replicated this experience, even though I knew I could, because I was too afraid of the feeling of the experience of not being my “self” and thus potentially losing my “self” permanently in the process.

Vertical Development

Devoutly Resting in the Being of Your True Self

When it comes to poetry, we should not demand that the poet uses words in too literal or rational a way. The words of a poem don’t operate on the rational mind, they operate on a deeper level. And the same is true of a prayer.

So the main thing to understand is that the god to whom we might pray, if we’re inclined to pray in words like that, the god to whom we might pray is the god that we are. It is a prayer of ourself to our self, couched in the limitations of language.

Sitting in abidance, abidance as being, is the ultimate prayer. Liberate your idea of prayer from the belief that it is something that is contained in words or expressed in words.

So abidance, being knowingly the presence of awareness or resting in being, is the highest form of prayer.

Understand you are the one you are praying to. It’s a way of speaking to yourself. It’s a way of personifying yourself, so that you feel that you can, in some ways in your mind, objectify yourself and have a relationship with yourself. But at some point that has to go, so that you feel that you are the being that you pray to.

I remembered a while back reading something that mentioned that people are “seeking something larger than themselves” and I intuitively realized at the time that this “something,” that was “larger” than themselves, was actually their True Self which lies beyond their current limited sense of “self.”

This video above by Rupert Spira mirrors this realization.

In fact, Joseph Campbell’s The Hero Path mirrors this realization as well.

And where we had thought to find an abomination
we shall find a God.

Where we had thought to travel outwards
we shall come to the center of our own existence.
And where we had thought to be alone
we shall be with all the world.

Joseph Campbell, The Hero Path

That Rupert also mentions that it’s about having a relationship with yourself is also poignant, as I’ve noted before that this is what vertical development is really about at its core. It’s about beginning a lifelong journey of getting to know yourself by being within an intrapersonal relationship with yourself.

Why? Because when we reach a point of being able to truly accept and love ourselves as we are, thus truly becoming at “home” with ourselves, then will we be able to accept and love others as they are as well. This is the oneness, the “god”, within us all, as Joseph Campbell speaks above about.

This also poignantly ties into what I intuitively felt like was required to “level up” one’s level of consciousness. In effect, one has to completely trust one’s larger sense of Self would catch oneself, as one falls back into its embrace which occurs when one turns around and steps back from one’s life to understand it better.


Improvising & Playing With the Imperfection Within the Creativity Process

The great dancer and choreographer Martha Graham described the creative process as a mixture of terror and joy. The terror is the fear of not being able to render the thing imagined in the world of time and space. Living with the discrepancy between the vision or ideal and the manifest reality is an integral part of the creative life. The manifested thing or event is never is perfect as the vision that inspired it.

People who tend to be perfectionists are often terrified to the point of procrastination and paralysis by the prospect of failing to achieve the ideal. They are too impatient and self-critical, becoming frustrated and discouraged if they don’t get it right on the first try. People in touch with their creativity accept imperfection, keep their fear in check, and forge ahead—striving always for their best work, yet realizing they will never quite hit the target. So much for the terror!

The joy is in the creative process itself—in the self-abandonment in creative engagement, where the soul takes flight and soars beyond the realm of time and space.

Laurence G. Boldt, How To Find The Work You Love