MORE ON GRIEVING – AS TIME PASSES, LESSONS EMERGE

“His grief he will not forget; but it will not darken his heart, it will teach him wisdom.”

~ J.R.R. Tolkien

There is no set timetable for grief. For some, the deepest experience of it is relatively short; for others, much longer. And while the sense of loss may never go away, it does subside over time. As we notice that happening, we must begin to emerge from the deep fall into grief and start the climb back into our life, changed though it may be.

Beautiful Angel Sculputure 3

For me, when my daughter died (LINK to last post), I went very deeply into grief and stayed there for several weeks – numb, in pain, lost – going through the motions of preparing for the cremation, the memorials, having conversations with loved ones and remembering almost none of it afterward. Because of my faith built through spiritual study and spiritual practices, I knew that grief has a bottom, I was able to let myself fall fully and deeply for a month or so and my recovery to a functional life was, I believe, quicker as a result.

Beautiful Angel Sculputure 5

“Failures to grieve loss and disappointment, openly, honestly, will rise again, as unbidden ghosts from their untimely burial, through depression, or as projection onto objects of compelling, delusive desire, or through captivation by the mindless distractions of our time.”

~ James Hollis

This is something which I know from my own experience, but which I would never say to someone fresh in their grieving process. I would encourage them to grieve fully and offer my support in any way they may desire it. However, it is of no help to tell people about the lessons they are learning or that a loved one is in a better place, or that the one grieving is better off without what is lost (as in the case of a lost job, for example). In the early stages of grief, we are not capable of learning lessons or of rationalizing loss. We are better served by being with the pain of loss in an environment which allows us to be with that pain safely. There is no escaping the need to grieve, but we can refuse the experience at the depth needed for us to move toward healing. Refusing the experience deprives us of the healing that only deep grieving can offer. We need to grieve, painfully and fully, if we are to emerge and live a fulfilling life ourselves.

“For me there are two wise lessons in this story: Grief and loss are ubiquitous even for a young child. And the way toward healing is to look for how love comes back in another form.”

~ May Benatar

841-03675826

Eventually, we move into a phase of grieving in which we are ready to explore deeper meanings, new ways forward, and other issues. But this may happen slowly and we may well have times when we return to deeper grief. Again, there is no universal trajectory or timetable to measure one’s progress. Grief will ebb and flow. Patience is needed here, both by the one grieving and by those in his or her support system.

When we are ready to explore the lessons to be learned, we might also realize that the lessons we might learn are NOT the reason the loss occurred. They are a byproduct, not part of a causative chain. Thinking that someone died so that you could learn more self-acceptance is a road to unnecessary guilt. That said, there will be valuable lessons to learn about yourself, about life, about many things as you emerge from deep grief. Some of them will be unique to you and to your situation, others will be more universal. I will close with this poem which speaks to a universal lesson that we would all be well-served by learning:

The Dakini Speaks:

My friends, let’s grow up.
Let’s stop pretending we don’t know the deal here.
Or if we truly haven’t noticed, let’s wake up and notice.
Look: Everything that can be lost, will be lost.
It’s simple — how could we have missed it for so long?
Let’s grieve our losses fully, like ripe human beings,
But please, let’s not be so shocked by them.
Let’s not act so betrayed,
As though life had broken her secret promise to us.
Impermanence is life’s only promise to us,
And she keeps it with ruthless impeccability.
To a child she seems cruel, but she is only wild,
And her compassion exquisitely precise:
Brilliantly penetrating, luminous with truth,
She strips away the unreal to show us the real.
This is the true ride — let’s give ourselves to it!
Let’s stop making deals for a safe passage:
There isn’t one anyway, and the cost is too high.
We are not children anymore.
The true human adult gives everything for what cannot be lost.
Let’s dance the wild dance of no hope!

~ Jennifer Welwood, The Dakini Speaks

Beautiful Angel Sculputure 4

As always, your comments are welcomed. I am deeply touched by the love and support in the comments to my last post, here at the blog site, on social media, and via direct connections with many who read the post. It was my most read blog post to date. May we all find the healing we need to live with the inevitable losses in life, and may we support one another in doing so. Be gentle with yourself and with one another. Thank you.

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

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LESSONS FROM THE DEATH OF MY CHILD

Don’t surrender your grief so quickly,
let it pierce the soul
Let it wail and crack open wide the disbelief
allowing its searing tears to stain your face
Something is missing in my heart tonight,
it has made my gentle eyes soft with sorrow
while my angry voice turns into a whispered prayer
and my tender need of absolution so clear.

~ Joseph Francis Argazzi

Angel Tears

Two of my colleagues in ministry have experienced the death of young adult children in the past couple of weeks. One is eerily like my own experience of the loss of my precious daughter, Caitlyn, on Easter Sunday 2008 to a tragic car accident. Like Caitlyn, my friend’s daughter was under 20 with what was surely to be an amazing life ahead of her. Needless to say, these events have brought up feelings and memories for me as I grieve their losses and, once again, my own, I am reminded that grief does not end. It lies beneath the surface at times, but it can be awakened at any moment. So, I am moved to write this, my most personal blog entry to date.

I have only partial, episodic memories of the three weeks in 2008, beginning just before midnight on the eve of Easter Sunday, California time, when my daughter, Heather, called me from her mom’s home in Ft. Lauderdale. It was already after midnight in Florida where Caitlyn had just died. I remember those first few hours, crying off and on as I called people – my wife, Dorianne, who was writing in our cabin in Montana and unreachable at that hour; my ministerial partner at the time, Dr. Sue Rubin, to tell her the news, pray, and arrange for her to do the Sunday service alone; Delta Airlines, where the person who took my call put me on hold while she cried and spoke to her supervisor so that we could transfer the airline tickets we had purchased to attend Caitlyn’s high school graduation in six weeks – without any fees; and my friend Steven Brabant, for a ride to LAX very early on Sunday morning. If I called anyone else, I don’t remember.

Beautiful Angel Sculputure 2

Of the three weeks in Fort Lauderdale which followed, I remember staying with my dear friend Dr. Charles Geddes (well, arriving at his place, that’s about all I recall), making arrangements with the Neptune Society, bits of two very large memorial services, some connection with friends and family, and a few other things, but not very much. I realize now that what I was doing was grieving and that was, for me, a period of sadness and numbness. Along the way there was anger, despair, more anger, resignation, more sadness – much more. And the gradual realization that this had really happened and my beautiful daughter was gone; and that my life would never be the same. Memories had to be restructured and given new meaning, future plans and idealizations erased. Joan Didion put it well:

“Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect the shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe that their husband is about to return and need his shoes.

“In the version of grief we imagine, the model will be “healing.” A certain forward movement will prevail. The worst days will be the earliest days. We imagine that the moment to most severely test us will be the funeral, after which this hypothetical healing will take place. When we anticipate the funeral we wonder about failing to “get through it,” rise to the occasion, exhibit the “strength” that invariably gets mentioned as the correct response to death. We anticipate needing to steel ourselves the for the moment: will I be able to greet people, will I be able to leave the scene, will I be able even to get dressed that day?

“We have no way of knowing that this will not be the issue. We have no way of knowing that the funeral itself will be anodyne, a kind of narcotic regression in which we are wrapped in the care of others and the gravity and meaning of the occasion. Nor can we know ahead of the fact (and here lies the heart of the difference between grief as we imagine it and grief as it is) the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession of moments during which we will confront the experience of meaninglessness itself.”

~ Joan Didion on Grief from “A Year of Magical Thinking”

A big lesson I learned through my spiritual philosophy, The Science of Mind, which I had been studying for nearly 20 years at that point, was that if I trusted Spirit and my connection, my grief would have a bottom. I could allow myself to grieve deeply without fear that I would lose myself. This was very comforting in helping me through the process (which never ends, by the way). I also had spiritual support from colleagues, friends, family, and others.

Spiritual maturity is the ability to face whatever comes along in life from a place of realization that it’s all divine – meaning that much of what happens is a mystery. The why questions about people dying are ultimately unanswerable. There are aspects of reality at play for which we have no understanding.

So, if I were to offer advice to anyone who is grieving the loss of a loved one (or any other kind of loss), it would be this.

  • Let yourself grieve – your process will be unique in some ways and frustratingly conformist in others. Be with it regardless. Remember, it has a bottom; but it never ends.
  • The memorial service is not the hardest part. As difficult as that can be, the weeks that follow were a wasteland of numbness for me. Life had no flavor, no prospect of joy, as Joan Didion noted above. And after a few weeks, ready or not, people start expecting you to be “normal” again.
  • There is no appropriate time for grieving to be over; but it should become manageable over time. If it doesn’t, get some help.
  • Try to have compassion for those who try to comfort you but do not know how. Next to losing my daughter, the most difficult part of the process was dealing with well-meaning but unskillful efforts to comfort me. Most of the time, the best thing to say to someone grieving is something like, “I don’t know what to say,” because, more often that not, that is the truth. And, of course, people are approaching a grieving person from their own fears – of death, of inadequacy, of sorrow, of loss. Compassion is the only answer.
  • There is more to life than meets the eye. I have had experiences which point me to the realization that this experience of life isn’t all there is. I don’t pretend to have any details about what is beyond this experience and tend not to trust those who tell me they do. But there is more.
  • Finally, show your love to those for whom you care – not out of sense of fear of loss, but rather out of a determination to live in greater joy now.

Beautiful Angel Sculpture

“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get ‘solved.’ They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief and for relief, room for misery and for joy.” 

~ Pema Chödrön

 As always, your comments are appreciated.

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

 

 

SPIRITUAL HEALING & TRAUMA – MAKING A SOUL CONNECTION

“Briefly formulated, the universal doctrine teaches that all the visible structures of the world – all things and all beings – are the effects of a ubiquitous power out of which they rise, which supports and fills them during the period of their manifestation, and back into which they must ultimately dissolve. This is the power known to science as energy, to the Melanesians as mana, to the Sioux Indians as wakonda, to the Hindus as shakti, and the Christians as the power of God. Its manifestation in the psyche is termed, by the psychoanalysts, libido. And its manifestation in the cosmos is the structure and flux of the universe itself.”

~ Joseph Campbell

Healing, which is the essence of New Thought spiritual principles, deals with a triune of realms: the physical and metaphysical realms, plus the realm of pure Spirit. It is a process of revealing the perfection of the soul through a consciousness which has become unaware of its own radiance. It is never solely in one realm or another, it is always holistically present through the whole being – from soul/essence to outer physical being.

“We are ever renewed by the passage of the Divine light through our consciousness.”

~ Ernest Holmes

When we view spiritual healing as a linear process (Unhealed Condition → Prayer Treatment → Change of Consciousness → Healed Condition) we miss a greater Truth. Most of what we are is beyond language and calculations about matter – most of what we are is ephemeral energy directed by an intelligence which “thinks” in symbols and archetypes. Our physical being of cells, organs, and systems is also beyond the merely physical; it is a community of beingness with many intelligences converging to become what we call “me.”

The limitations of medical treatments, now or at any time in history, are that they offer linear treatment regimens to a non-linear being. Sometimes, this is enough, but more often there is no healing unless the deeper systems of beingsoul and consciousness – come into harmony with the medical treatment. In New Thought, we recognize these deeper systems as the most important, recognizing that, when properly aligned, they can heal without medical intervention.

However, we do not eschew medical practices, recognizing that they can be beneficial, especially when our consciousness is not able to accept our own healing potentialities.

“In this Science, we believe that man’s life is a drama which takes place on three planes:  the physical, the mental, and the spiritual.  We should have no objections to any form of healing, for anything that helps to overcome suffering is good, whether it be a pill or a prayer.  We believe in any method which produces results, for each has its place in the Whole.”

~ Ernest Holmes, “The Science of Mind,” Page 191

When healing is required, it is necessary that the processes of healing be available. This means that one must know how to facilitate the healing process by utilizing or invoking the three realms. Sometimes, this is not possible. A person may be incapable of aligning thoughts and emotions in a way which allows healing to occur. In such cases, it can be helpful to have assistance from others, who may treat for the person. Another way forward is through ritual, compassion, and other actions which may help the person to move to a salutary state of mind more receptive to healing.

As we learn more about psychology, we are seeing that not everyone may be able at any given moment to create a healing consciousness. This can be due to a number of things, from brain injury, to trauma, to improper chemicals in the body. The condition may be temporary or permanent. Trauma can result in an inability to create mental patterns which facilitate healing.

PTSD Word Cloud

Trauma, resulting in what is currently termed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a condition which is undoubtedly on the rise in our society. Once thought of as applying only to soldiers in combat, it is now realized that any kind of physical or emotional trauma can result in some degree of PTSD or similar disorder. Those affected are often unable to form the mental patterns necessary for their own physical and emotional well-being. They may also fail to understand that their condition is unusual and not seek help.

In a prescient column in the New York Times (LINK), David Brooks (@nytdavidbrooks) speaks to the need to treat the effects of trauma holistically, including soul issues (what we in New Thought would consider metaphysical issues).

“Our society has tried to medicalize trauma. We call it PTSD and regard it as an individual illness that can be treated with medications. But it’s increasingly clear that trauma is a moral and spiritual issue as much as a psychological or chemical one. Wherever there is trauma, there has been betrayal, an abuse of authority, a moral injury.”

~ David Brooks

The sea change necessary to bring our understanding of what it means to be human is underway, but a long way from complete. We have only seen a mind-body connection for about half a century. Incorporating the soul will take a while longer. But we in New Thought are already there – at least we have a teaching which is already there. And we, too, must broaden our vision of how potential is actualized into experience. We must see that there are times when individuals and groups CANNOT know the truth. And, just maybe, we need to expand our spiritual toolkits to include things that might help people bridge the gap. These might include clearly thought-out rituals, initiation rites, and the like, which do more than celebrate something. To be effective at the levels needed they must include no small amount of challenge and a willingness to create discomfort along a path to recovery or to a new level of being.

(Edward) Tick (LINK) points out that most ancient cultures put returning soldiers through purification rituals. The men came back from battle and the terrible things they had done there, and they were given a chance to cleanse, purify and rejoin the community. The community would take possession of the guilt the soldiers may have felt for the things they had to do on its behalf.”

~ David Brooks

Purification Ritual - Japan

Purification Ritual – Japan

Such rituals are also needed for survivors of abuse, for first responders, for spiritual communities where trauma has occurred. We need to facilitate the reconnection with the soul where that connection has been distorted. This will require a new skillset for most or all of us. You might begin by studying Joseph Campbell (LINK). It is a way of working toward #AWorldThatWorksForEveryone.

“I wish our culture had many more rites of passage, communal moments when we celebrated a moral transition. There could be a communitywide rite of passage for people coming out of prison, for forgiveness of a personal wrong, for people who felt they had come out the other side of trauma and abuse. There’d be a marriage ceremony of sorts to mark the moment when a young person found the vocation he or she would dedicate life to.

“It’ll take a lot to make our culture a thick moral culture. But one way or another, nations and people have to grow a soul big enough to enclose the traumas that haunt them.”

~ David Brooks

 

As always, your comments are appreciated.

 

 Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

SPIRAL AWARENESS IS IMPORTANT WHEN ENCOURAGING DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION – PART 3

“If one were to crystallize twentieth-century psychology into a single problem, it would be the problem of fear in the face of overwhelming evolutionary forces in humanity as a whole. At the end of the century we thought we were past that problem. We are now in the thick of it.”

~ John Campbell on Twitter

In Part 1 (LINK) and Part 2 (LINK) of this series, I have laid out some of the issues to be considered when planning and implementing programs designed to encourage greater diversity and inclusion in spiritual communities and other organizations. Using the Spiral Dynamics™ Model, one can see how different evolutionary values systems (vMEMEs) give meaning to terms such as “diversity,” “inclusion,” “racism,” and “white privilege.” Thee is also the issue of complexity of thinking at the different values systems. When we fail to see the presence of these values systems, we either make them wrong, present issues in highly complex ways, or ignore them entirely. This lack of “spiral awareness” means that many well-intentioned programs fail to be compassionate and to achieve the desired results.

VMEMEs Simplified

The Values Systems (vMEMEs) of the Spiral Dynamics Model

It can be quite challenging from any point on the spiral to convey your values in such a way as they are understood by those centered at different levels. And, the “circular argument” (if you disagree with me/us it proves my/our point) is a sign that absolutism has entered the picture, which is unlikely to result in understanding or collaboration. While the concept of white privilege or straight while male privilege makes perfect sense to someone centered at the Green level of existence, it is very likely given a different meaning at other levels on the spiral. The result is that you think you are communicating one thing, but something else is being heard.

“Drawing a ‘privileged’ individual’s attention to the discrimination issue might be valuable (more awareness is better) but pushing them into the ‘perpetrator’ role (which personalized discussions of privilege do) rather than directly asking them to step up to help those disadvantaged is more likely to backfire and polarize potential allies than it is to solve the problem.”

~ Kylie Stedman 

What is needed to ensure the highest level of success in programs intending to encourage greater diversity and inclusion, or to raise awareness of racism and sexism, include the following:

  1. Spiral Awareness – a recognition that different values systems exist so meaning making is not uniform.
  2. A focus on desired behaviors – rather than on labels which will be interpreted differently. For example: saying that “white privilege” is a given, for example, will not be received well by white people* who are not centered at the Green level of existence. Since they are the target audience for the program, alienating them means less likelihood of a successful program.
  3. Sharing stories – have representatives of all groups in the community share their stories, which may be of oppression or the ignorance of oppression. There is nothing more powerful than hearing from people you know and can relate to.
  4. Cast a Vision – programs including a sense of vision for what is possible are very powerful. This process can be participatory as well, thus growing a vision which is shared by as many participants as possible.
  5. Provide counseling – some people are going to need assistance to process strong feelings which will arise during programs such as this. Consideration should be given to how to best provide counseling to those who need it.
  6. Understand: Not Everyone Will Get It – it is important to realize that a person may be open, arrested, or closed at any level on the spiral. Some will not be willing to expand their sense of reality to include the values being presented. This is to be expected.

Poster - Change is Good - You Go First

Cultural change requires time plus a deep understanding of the values systems present. It also requires an understanding of change itself; change is usually gradual with occasional leaps forward or setbacks, and often uneven. There needs to be proper support through the change process, especially for those with natural aversions to change (LINK) and for those for whom a particular change does not seem like a good idea.

Leadership has to be onboard with the change and has to model the desired behaviors in ways that everyone can see. Everyone’s value system must be acknowledged and approached in appropriate ways. This requires a lot from leaders and program managers, but the alternative is another program with little to no impact.

“An elemental law of psychology confirms that what is not faced in the developmental tasks of the parent will be visited upon the child. So it is true that what is not faced by corporate or collective leadership will be carried as a problem by the employees or members.”

~ James Hollis

Beautiful Beginnings

As always, your comments are appreciated in the section below. Please consider following this blog if you are not already doing so (Click on the FOLLOW button), and feel free to share with your friends.

*People of Color centered in other values systems may understand white privilege differently than white people, however, they will still see it differently at each values system on the spiral.

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

 

NOTE: I will soon be offering a two-part program in Spiral Dynamics™ for New Thought. Part one will be an introduction to the model; Part two, which is optional, will provide certification to teach and coach using Spiral Dynamics. More information soon.

 

SPIRAL AWARENESS IS IMPORTANT WHEN ENCOURAGING DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION – PART 2

LINK TO PART 1

While there are clearly serious problems in our society, our organizations, our schools, and our families with racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry and violence, it is often unclear how to approach making positive changes in the systems so infected.

Spiral Dynamics (LINK) shows us that human development moves through stages of complexity and values systems which are called Levels of Existence. These are the effects of a larger dynamic which is unfolding calling higher stages of development forth from within human beings in response to increasingly complex Living Conditions. As more complexity emerges within individuals and groups in response to an increasingly complex world around them, new values systems emerge in ways that we are coming to understand.

VMEMEs Simplified

When some people evolve to more complex levels while others do not, or when people with different levels of complexity move into communities, a natural sort of disharmony results. This disharmony may involve appearance or background, but it will also involve a clash of values systems. You can probably see this in your own family – some who have what are considered “old fashioned” values, while others have evolved to more open and complex values.

Of the values systems described by the Spiral Dynamics Model, the Green stage or Level of Existence (LINK) (LINK) is the most relevant to our current discussion in New Thought. Green is a very complex level of thinking, one capable of systems thinking, and is a communal, feelings-driven values system. Those centered at Green value egalitarianism, consensus, cooperation, and believe that no one should be made to feel inferior. At Green, one sees no value in competition, labeling, ranking, or otherwise putting people and things into artificial categories.

Green vMEME

Those centered at Green tend to favor interfaith initiatives, have a global viewpoint, and support sustainable practices in all areas of life. Green is communal and is often unbound by dogma – but not always. Sometimes in order to gain support for what it believes in, those at Green can be dogmatic, insisting that certain speech or behaviors are or should be forbidden or required. This is usually in the name of acceptance of those who have been marginalized, oppressed, or worse by previous values systems.

The Civil and Women’s Rights Movements were born at the Green Level of Existence. So was the Ecology Movement, and many others. Movements which arose from a values system which is complex enough to understand systems thinking, and which places a high value on egalitarianism, diversity, and accountability arise regularly from Green. Diversity and Inclusion programs are no different in this regard. The Green Level of Existence sees all people as equally valued, valid, and places a high premium on every voice being heard. In this regard, Green is a very positive force for good, seeking to heal the sins of earlier values systems and to create a world which is more equal for all.

In these movements, organizations, and initiatives developed at the Green level with the highest of intentions, sometimes there are excesses and unhealthy elements. Many at Green are unaware of the entire Spiral and, like all Levels of Existence in what is termed the 1st Tier (Two tiers are believed to exist (LINK)), Green can simply see those centered at other levels on the Spiral as ignorant, wrong, or evil. From this viewpoint, Green can approach others by making them wrong, or, by insisting on a degree of complexity of thought to which those lower on the spiral have not yet evolved. And when complexity meets dogmatic thinking, the dogma often proves to be unshakeable.

Terms and concepts such as white privilege or gender fluidity tend to have a high resonance at Green, but do not resonate positively among those centered at lower Levels of Existence on the spiral. While individuals, particularly those who are white and male at Blue or Orange may be open to diversity on a personal level, they often see general diversity programs as intrusive and unfair. Part of this has to do with values, and part has to do with complexity – both white privilege and gender fluidity are complex concepts with lots of factors. Those thinking at less complex levels than Green will have some difficulty grasping these complexities.

White Privilege Montage

If we define privilege as not having your race, ethnicity, gender, or orientation be a barrier to opportunities in your life, then it takes away the sense that privilege means unusual success or celebrity. Green will understand this relatively easily, but not so much those below Green on the spiral. Complexity enters the picture when you have some members of oppressed groups achieve high levels of success and make lots of money while some members of groups identified as having privilege are homeless or otherwise struggling.

Those centered Blue and below will have a hard time with the concept that privilege is an absolute (which is a necessary component of their values system) when such disparities exist. And then, when one explains the reasons for the disparities, it gets even more complicated. And those at Orange, particularly white people who are individualistic, achievement-oriented, and value rationality will not really be that invested in the issue – Orange values tend to focus on individual achievement and competition. They will give concepts like diversity and inclusion lip service if it helps the bottom line but tend to have difficulty accepting that the playing field is not level in terms of opportunity.

“The very term (white privilege) is to me hypocritical: discrimination against women happens when they are seen for their gender over their humanity, racism happens by way of a person seeing skin color before humanity. The term ‘white privilege’, no matter how much evidence one might pile onto the concept, cannot escape the same fallacy it is supposed to be challenging. When we focus on his skin color and gender, instead of having a practical conversation with him, I cannot see how it will do anything except make it worse.”

~ Comment on the Spiral Dynamics FB Page

This quote demonstrates a response which those who are developing and presenting diversity and inclusion programs need to consider – it is a values resistance to the idea, but also an issue of complexity of thinking. The idea that white privilege is a given to be accepted is a value is not easily accepted at levels below Green on the spiral. The idea presented in the quote – to speak to desirable behaviors and attitudes – may well resonate more positively with an audience made up of people at several Levels of Existence on the spiral.

This is similarly reflected in the following quote:

“It turns out that while progressive activists tend to think that only hate speech is a problem, and devoted conservatives tend to think that only political correctness is a problem, a clear majority of all Americans holds a more nuanced point of view: They abhor racism. But they don’t think that the way we now practice political correctness represents a promising way to overcome racial injustice.”

~ Yascha Mounk in The Atlantic

The article in The Atlantic Monthly (LINK) describes a study of attitudes in the US to political correctness. In the quote above, you might recognize the viewpoint about hate speech as coming mainly from the Green level and the viewpoint on political correctness as coming primarily from the Blue level, and the more nuanced view as coming from the Orange and Yellow levels. There is a strong relationship between where people are currently centered on the spiral and how they view these issues.

While every level on the spiral has its version of political correctness, the type in the forefront today arises from the Green Level of Existence. It includes many constructs, but those relating to how people who have experienced oppression or discrimination are in the forefront at the moment. For example, certain kinds of jokes based on ethnicity or race, or which are seen as sexist, are increasingly forbidden. Those at Green would tend to say, “with very good reason.” Those at levels other than Green would tend to disagree – not necessarily with the intention behind it, but with the way it is enforced (seen as political correctness). When not recognized by those at Green, this disconnect can lead to additional resistance to well-meaning and culturally positive efforts to promote kindness and better treatment of our fellow human beings.

In Part 3 of the series, I will describe my ideas for effectively communicating challenging and difficult concepts so that they have a better chance of being heard.

 “The political winds may howl above me, scattering people like leaves in a storm, but I will hold fast to the common ground, the wisdom that once formed us. Difference is not a crime. Diversity is not a threat. Disagreement is not a failure. Community requires of me what it requires of others: a commitment to share in the process of justice. There are no expendable human beings in that process, only a sacrifice of privilege. For the sake of the many, I will not stop caring for the few.”

~ Bishop Steven Charleston

 

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

SPIRAL AWARENESS IS IMPORTANT WHEN ENCOURAGING DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION – PART 1

‎”Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.”

~ Mahatma Gandhi

diversity

The issue of diversity and inclusion has been much on my mind of late. This is both because it is a topic of current focus in New Thought organizations and because it is something that I value greatly. There are a number of program initiatives, training programs, and other approaches to move forward and bring greater diversity and inclusion to New Thought, and, to the larger society as well. And, as with all things, there are a few blind spots involved. One of these blind spots relates to a lack of understanding of cultural evolution, complexity, and values systems and how they affect these initiatives. I will address these ideas in this series of blog posts, recognizing that I bring my own cultural blind spots to the process.

Poster - Diversity Inclusion

I am concerned that some of our good efforts to increase awareness, change cultures and behaviors may actually inhibit some of the very worthy intentions of these initiatives. What if the dynamics of cultural change express differently according to where individuals and groups exist on a spiral of human development? In other words, what if programs and initiatives promoting a culture which truly values and incorporates diversity and inclusion or gender equality actually creates barriers to those things happening? What if terms like “white privilege” and “gender fluidity” are automatically given different meanings at different stages of development? Would it be helpful to know the answers to these questions and to take them into account?

VMEMEs Simplified

Spiral Dynamics™ (LINK) is a model of human potential which I use and teach. Many in New Thought have some awareness of the model through various sources. I would add that very few have studied and used the model extensively, so the awareness of the model is somewhat broad but not particularly deep in our movement. However, a lack of understanding of human development as described by the Spiral Dynamics Model can create a significant blind spot for those interested in progressively changing organizational and community cultures and behaviors.

“What I am proposing is that the psychology of the mature human being is an unfolding, emergent, oscillating, spiraling process, marked by progressive subordination of old, lower-order behavior systems to new, higher-order systems as man’s existential problems change.”

~ Clare Graves, originator of Spiral Dynamics

I think the lack of depth of knowledge of cultural evolution is unfortunate, because the insights into thinking and values systems which Spiral Dynamics brings are very important, especially as the values systems present in our society continue to evolve and diverge. In other words, it is getting more difficult and less productive to “preach to the choir,” speaking only to those of like mind. This is because the “choir” is becoming more diverse in complexity of thinking and values.

Uniformity of thinking and values is becoming rarer as there is greater diversity of all kinds in our families, groups, organizations, and societies. This is a very good thing in many respects – we want to encourage and promote diversity and inclusion in our spiritual communities and organizations. We want to hear more voices and see more of the rainbow of humanity. At the same time, there are aspects within us which desire harmony and uniformity – to feel comfortable and safe. The tension exists within each of us as we confront a more diverse culture and seek to both embrace and expand that diversity.

“We should NEVER mistake conformity for harmony…uniformity for synthesis… (we should) know that for all men (and women) to be ALIKE is the death of LIFE in man, and yet perceive HARMONY that transcends ALL diversities and in which diversity finds its richness and significance.”

~ Dr. Howard Thurman

While most in our movement are very supportive of greater diversity and inclusion and representation, we are not all looking at these terms through the same lens. Spiral Dynamics shows us some of the various lenses, or Levels of Existence, by which we give meaning to our experience of life. These lenses are values systems which emerge with different stages of complexity of thought, and they exist across all cultures and societies to one degree or another. Failure to understand these differences can lead to our tendency to assume that our values are shared by others or that all people of certain groups have the same values systems. This is not true and can lead to organizational disharmony and dysfunction if ignored. Clare Graves used to caution that “all we can do is help a system become what is next for it to become.”

When organizational leadership tries to change their organizations’ cultures by altering the belief systems of their people, it is critical that they understand how cultures evolve and values systems cause people to respond to such efforts. The best of intentions cannot prevent widespread dysfunction when change is initiated with insufficient understanding of cultural dynamics, values systems, and cultural evolution. Over the next few posts, I will explore this topic as clearly and in the most loving and compassionate way that I can.

“If you want to bring a fundamental change in people’s belief and behavior…you need to create a community around them, where those new beliefs can be practiced and expressed and nurtured.”

~ Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point

Each Level of Existence on the spiral has its own way of enforcing its beliefs and values. In other words, there is a form of political correctness for every level. Blue values conformity and has lots of rules to insure it. Violate the rules and there are punishments of various sorts. Shunning is also common at Blue.

Orange values individualism, freedom from restraint, rationality, status, and entrepreneurialism. Orange political correctness is an unrestrained field of winners and losers; the belief that things will sort themselves out properly if no “authority” intervenes.

At Green (LINK), egalitarianism, cultural identity, and feelings are valued. Conformity is also valued, but not of appearance and social mores as at Blue, but conformity of beliefs based on the value system. Green values include the desire for every voice to be heard, and for every voice to be valued. Green values also include a dislike of hierarchy and dissonance within groups. Paradoxically, those centered at Green can also be blind to the fact that others do not automatically share their values, nor do they necessarily want to share them.

In the next post, we will explore how this mix of values can show up a both healthy and unhealthy expressions which affect how messages of equality and connection are heard across the spiral.

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

NOTE: I will soon be offering a two-part program in Spiral Dynamics™ for New Thought. Part one will be an introduction to the model; Part two, which is optional, will provide certification to teach and coach using Spiral Dynamics. More information soon.

 

And Spiral Dynamics is discussed more thoroughly in my book for Spiritual Leadership:

LOOKING FOR HAPPINESS? TRY SPIRITUAL PRACTICES!

 

“If we cannot be happy in spite of our difficulties, what good is our spiritual practice?”

~Maha Ghosananda

 “There is a direct connection between the quality of my life in every respect and the quality and quantity of my spiritual practices.”

~ Jim Lockard

I saw a post on social media the other day which said in essence, “I haven’t been happy since November 6, 2016.” That’s a long time not to be happy. It is also a sign that the person who posted that statement believes that his or her happiness is tied to external conditions – conditions over which he or she has little or no control.

Poster - Einstein quote on External ConditionsUnhappiness, in its various forms (anger, depression, complaining, etc.), is like a plague in our times. Amplified by social media (especially the comments sections!!), and driven by the 24-hour news cycle, it is an epidemic. While it may seem reasonable to be unhappy in the world today, it is a creative energy that we cannot afford to expand. Our thoughts are creative, as we in New Thought know, and unhappy thoughts can make unhappiness a habit.

“Complaining becomes a habit. Focusing on the negative also becomes a habit. It’s one of the most detrimental habits you can possibly have. It can negatively impact you socially, affecting your personal happiness, but it can also subconsciously sabotage your money and success.”

~ T. Harv Eker

 

The answer IS NOT to ignore the world around us or to stop caring about the well-being of others or what is best for society. The answer IS to recognize that there is always suffering in the world, that everyone is on his or her own pathway in life, that some of us will be destructive, even cruel. Having the spiritual discipline to see what is and what is not mine to do is critical. Developing the spiritual poise to discern how and where to engage and to show love, wisdom, and compassion at all times is so critical. Our practices help us to develop these qualities to levels which allow us to live a happy life and still be a positive influence, still stand up to injustice, still care deeply about our planet.

“Realize you can be happy this moment for no reason. Otherwise, you eternally depend on conditions for happiness. Unconscious of this moment, you remain a victim of circumstances.”

~ Arthur D. Saftlas 

Happiness Five Miles

Cultivating happiness as a way of being is different from having moments of happiness. A happy way of being means that we are viewing the world through a lens of inner acceptance of joy. We have decided to be happy and not allow external conditions to rob us of the joy of life. This may sound like a contradiction, but it is only contradictory to the conditioning we face in our society – driven by old limited ideas, mass media wanting to gather our eyes and ears to sell us things, and habit. When we clear our consciousness of blind adherence to such a worldview, other possibilities open up to us – including happiness.

“Things that matter are not easy. Feelings of happiness are easy. Happiness is not. Flirting is easy. Love is not. Saying you’re friends is easy. Being friends is not.”

~ David Levithan

 “Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.”

 ~ C.G Jung

The quotes above speak to the reality that a happy way of being does not mean a life without challenges or sadness. The speak to a life of determination and being unattached to external outcomes. The difficulties of sustaining a happy way of being are largely due to the truth that most of us are surrounded by people and a society which has developed a fear-based way of being. Rising above this into happiness takes clear intention, disciplined practice, and a conscious awareness of who we really are.

Poster - Rumi - Eyes Are Open

“Each of us must learn to live with paradox, or we cannot live peacefully or happily even a single day of our lives. In fact, we must even learn to love paradox, or we will never be wise, forgiving, or possess the patience of good relationships.”

~ Richard Rohr

The unpredictability of life and all of its paradoxes are not things to be feared, but to be deeply appreciated. There are wonders we have yet to access, surprises around every corner, and aspects of ourselves which we have not yet revealed. Bringing a way of being to this reality which supports openness to the new and to paradox means that we will be happy more of the time. And every “miracle” starts with a problem. Positive spiritual warriorship includes the ability to discern whether, where, and how to engage. Warriorship includes a healthy version of the Destroyer Archetype – the aspect of self which, when mature, knows how to remove things which no longer serve us, or are our responsibility.

Our practices should include forgiveness and gratitude. Forgiveness to release needless attachment to grievances and old wounds; gratitude to foster deep recognition of the blessings of every life.

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”

~ G.K. Chesterton

 

Happiness is a decision which, with practice, becomes a way of being.

 

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

You can see my regular blog posts for AGNT here:  https://www.agnt.today/blog

A CALLING IS NOT A JOB, IT IS A VOCATION

“Vocation does not mean a goal that I pursue. It means a calling that I hear. Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling the who I am. I must listen for the truths and values at the heart of my own identity, not the standards by which I must live — but the standards by which I cannot help but live if I am living my own life.”

~ Parker Palmer 

Calling to Ministry

Those who are called to ministry as a vocation, a way of life to which they are totally committed, are doing something which is beyond choice. A calling is not a decision, it is far deeper than that. A calling may be in harmony with one’s inclinations or with society’s expectations, but that is often not the case. Often, a calling seems to be against everything one is seeking at the moment. Joseph Campbell wrote extensively on the denial of the call.

“If a person has had the sense of ‘The Call’ – the feeling that there’s an adventure for (them) – and if (they) doesn’t follow that but remains in the society because it’s safe and secure, then life dries up. And then he comes to a condition in late middle age: (they’ve) gotten to the top of the ladder and found that it’s against the wrong wall.
“If you have the guts to follow the risk, however, life opens, opens, opens up all along the line. I’m not superstitious, but I do believe in spiritual magic, you might say. If one follows what I call one’s bliss – the thing that really gets you deep in your gut and that you feel is your life – doors will open up. They do!”

~ Joseph Campbell

But following your calling is no guarantee of bliss either. What Campbell means by bliss is the experience of expressing your true self via some channel of expression that serves a larger purpose. But while that is not an easy thing to do, it beats living in the bitterness of a calling denied.

My dear friend and colleague, Rev. Linda Finley, of the Center for Spiritual Living Eugene (Oregon), recently posted something on Facebook about her calling to a vocation of ministry. A few quotes from that post:

“Of late, I have been realizing that, at some level, the role of a Minister/Pastor/Spiritual Leader is not wholly understood by a lot of folks. Choosing to serve in any ministry, and especially, I feel, pulpit ministry is not now and never has been “a job.” I keep coming up against folks who view it as such, and it is disheartening. When I was ordained, I went through a ceremony that, in a lot of ways, looked like a wedding – I exchanged vows with a teaching and pledged to hold my faith and that teaching sacred. My accountability and my allegiance is to God, then to the organization which licensed and ordained me and sets standards and practices for my work, then to the congregation that hired me to serve them, and finally, to whatever Board that congregation has elected at any given time.”

“When we were finishing Ministerial training, we were advised that if we had any other skills at all, we might look at those – maybe card dealing or insurance sales… as this was taking on a role that could be overwhelming and thankless. As I move into September, which marks my 19th year in Ministry, I am grateful I made the choice … I love what I do. I love the teaching, the speaking, the counseling, even the leadership meetings and events where my introvert self wants to find a corner to crawl into!”

Linda’s recognition of her calling may have come at any point in her life, but she entered ministry after an earlier career. This is often the case, either because our younger selves did not recognize our calling, or we ignored it because it seems inconvenient. Or, it can be that the calling arises later in life – midlife is often a time for this emergence.

“The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”

~ Mary Oliver

Ministry is creative work. It can be done in a multitude of settings, using a multitude of approaches. It does not have to be one’s livelihood; in fact, one often has a “job” to pay the expenses of following a calling which does not provide a living wage. As Mary Oliver echoes Joseph Campbell in reflecting on the denial of our calling, we can see the effects of this denial throughout our society – people in soul-crushing jobs, without spiritual direction, hating their lives because they have denied themselves the spark of expressing one’s true calling in this life.

Many in ministry today are struggling to see how their calling relates to the changes unfolding in our society; changes which make ministry very unpredictable and call for a greater consciousness of innovation and willingness to let go of what no longer works.

“The church of yesterday cannot meet the needs of today, nor be prepared to adapt to the needs of tomorrow. ‘The past is the past…,’ no matter how wonderful. Precious memories are just that…precious and memories. We must look to the future if we are to continue to be faithful to our calling.”

~ Rev. Dr. Grant Lynn Ford, Metropolitan Community Church

My prediction is that these changing times are more of a challenge to those who see ministry as a job and do not have a true calling to the work. To those who did not experience the transformation of the “wedding,” via ordination, of oneself to the expression of the calling – perhaps because there was no calling to ministry to begin with. There is no shame in realizing that one is not following their calling – but to continue along that same path once that realization has dawned is to court an empty life. Harsh but true.

Only you know what your calling is – ministry is my focus, but you can be called to anything which calls forth the best of yourself and is in service to something larger. Everyone has a calling, and it may shift over your lifespan. The key is to be open to the signs which your psyche, your mind, and your body will give to you. And follow them.

Beautiful Staircase

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

 

MILLENNIALS IN NEW THOUGHT – AN UPDATE – PART 1

Having blogged about New Thought Millennials before (LINK) (LINK), I thought it was time for an update. I reached out to two key leaders in the Centers for Spiritual Living Millennial population, Rev. Savanna Noelle Riker, and Rev. Abigail Schairer, with some questions about what’s up with Millennials in general, and with Centers for Spiritual Living’s (CSL) Young Adults in particular. This post is devoted to Savanna’s responses. Abigail’s will appear in a future post. Welcome guest bloggers!

Savanna

Rev. Savanna Noel Riker

NTE BLOG: What is happening in the Centers for Spiritual Living Young Adult Movement these days?

Rev. Savanna: The CSL Young Adult movement is growing! In the 18 years I have grown up as a youth and young adult in this teaching, I have always talked about and have wanted to see the progress and inspiration to lead our organization into a completely new paradigm, to feel the kind of energy exhibited from these young people who make you want to get out of bed in the morning! I’m finally seeing it unfold before my eyes, and it is so moving. The energy of the young adult movement is palpable, joy-filled, exciting and deeply passionate about a world that works for everyone (#aworldthatworksforeveryone). It is taking our mission and vision to a whole other level, through action and compassionate being. Young adults interested in our teaching are sprouting up all over the nation.

CSL Next Gen Retreat 1

Rev. Abigail at NextGen Retreat.

The young adult movement is always seeking more events and ways to connect because often, they are the only one or part of a small group of 3-5 at any given spiritual community miles from each other. We realize that CSL will not survive with the current paradigm alone. The NextGen Retreat hosted by Center for Spiritual Living Peninsula is a retreat for late 20/early 30-somethings, gathered together in the northern California mountains, where we come together in spiritual practice, silence, rejuvenation, process, community, sharing our talents and ideas of how we actively want to make this world better.

CSL Next Gen Retreat 3

This retreat was awe inspiring to me to hear the topics of interest from these young adults. Even my own call for ministry was deepened and ignited in a bigger way because of the power of this event and all those attending. There is this great need for connection, unconditional love, education, the freedom to express as you are, and a commitment to personal self-growth and collective change for the better. We left the retreat as a huge family. I continue to hear even now after all these years, “Where are the other young adults in CSL? We want to attract more young people into our community.” And here I am thinking… “You’re preaching to the choir…. It is SO much better than it once was 20 years ago.” But we can still do better – we are rethinking the models of “church,” and outreach and that is super exciting.

NTE Blog: What are people in their 20’s & 30’s looking for in a spiritual community?

Rev. Savanna: Young adults long for deep listening and to be heard, seek connection, authentic, vulnerable leaders, education, personal development, and tools that are relevant to their lives and the world they live in.

NTE Blog: How does this teaching apply to my life in the world I live in?

Rev. Savanna: What came through the most at our retreat was not just a spiritual community where we practice but where we take action in the community and in the world. Spirituality is tied directly to a cause, development, a mission or purpose to most our CSL young adults. They are interested in topics like: sustainable living, clean energy and being good stewards to the planet, social justice, human rights issues, impoverished and disenfranchised communities, LGBTQ rights, cross-cultural immersion, travel, spirituality and sacred sexuality just to name a few.

NTE Blog: How have New Thought principles helped you in your own life?

Rev. Savanna: New Thought principles have deepened my own relationship with myself and the Divine. They have continually reminded me of the innate power that is within me to transform myself and the world. My spiritual practice has guided and directed my path, and ministry has surely given me MANY opportunities to challenge my faith and my beliefs. I have the powerit isn’t something outside of me. It has helped me manifest amazing opportunities, resources, jobs, support, abundance, love, and just what I needed when I asked for it. This teaching has given me the tools to navigate my life from an empowered conscious place, trusting that Life is for me. I just have to get out of my own way. 🙂

NTE Blog: Thank you, Savanna!

What we are seeing is an echoing of what this blog has been reporting for several years – we are in changing times; New Thought organizations and spiritual communities need to be responsive to these changes. Our Young Adults, from the past decade, who by the way are not so young – Millennials can be in their late 30’s – are demanding different approaches to spiritual community, now and in the future. What is going to be the response?

CSL Next Gen Retreat 2

Masando Hiroaka, Savanna, and Elisha Christopher Hayden-Berrios at NextGen

As always, your comments are encouraged – see below! And feel free to share this post with others who may be interested.

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard