“What does it mean to be healthy in an unhealthy system?”
~ Nora Bateson, Small Arcs of Larger Circles
What would your life be like if every choice you made were, psychologically and spiritually, a healthy choice? What would our societies be like if that were true for all, or at least a large majority of us? What if we only elected people, or made healthy choices about who would lead us, who were themselves likely to make healthy choices?
To the degree that you recognize how things would be different, or at least that they WOULD be different, you are recognizing how often choices and decisions are NOT made in healthy ways. We are the inheritors of societies and cultures in which many, many unhealthy choices have been made, resulting in everything from wars to internal violence, to massive inequality, needless competition, opression and more. We are all, to one degree or another, wounded by this harshness and cruelty, yet we tend to go about our lives as if it were all normal, feeling somehow diminished that we are not stronger. Some of this is due to the inevitable growing pains of human development, but much of it is due to our failure to understand and foster human development in healthy ways.
“When our souls are wounded, they respond in ways terrible to themselves and others. They can only change themselves and their society when they become conscious of their wounds.”
~ James Hollis
We are taught, early on, what our worth is, what our role is, and how we are to see the world and other people. For the most part, we are taught this by people who have been wounded themselves and have developed a personality which either denies that wounding, or wears is as a mask of victimhood. My recent series on the wounded masculine in this society speaks to this as well (LINK).
This culture of the wounded wounding the innocent has produced a variety of results. Here is just one: if you look at the current situation with he COVID-19 virus, you can easilyly see that the virus itself is less of an issue than many of the responses to it – denial, fear, outrage, politicization. In this atmosphere, the virus multiplies much more than it would if we had a more unified, healthy response. It is as if we have developed a type of immune system which guarantees that healthy responses will be resisted. When we need healthy cooperation, instead we get unhealthy division and conflict, driven by people seeking power and/or acting from fear. We get conspiracy theories instead of relying on scientific guidance.
“The Waste Land is that territory of wounded people—that is, of people living inauthentic lives, broken lives, who have never found the basic energy for living, and they live, therefore, in this blighted landscape.”
~ Joseph Campbell, Thou Art That
The good news is that healing is always possible. It must begin with the individual and work its way outward to the larger community. We have among us the healed and healers, but they are too often subjected to that immune system response and dismissed; and there are many who are not healed who pretend to be healers. It makes for a landscape of confusion, which is another reason it is so important to do the work to allow that authentic knowing to emerge – this is known as discernment (LINK).
Healing is a return to Truth. It requires some degree of awareness that something needs to be healed, and some way to facilitate that healing. We either heal ourselves by changing our consciousness, or we use external people or modalities to allow us to bypass our lack of self-awareness or self-consciousness. Healing (enlightenment) is more about subtraction than it is about addition. We must dissolve the limiting consciousness with makes us attract unhealthy ideas, conditions, and choices so that our natural innate inner wisdom and compassion can emerge.
“Enlightenment is a destructive process. It has nothing to do with becoming better or being happier. Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth. It’s seeing through the facade of pretense. It’s the complete eradication of everything we imagined to be true.”
Many of the spiritual masters teach that what stands between our current circumstances and becoming spiritually awakened, or enlightened if you will, is not the need to grow, but the need to release. The mathematics of spiritual growth is mostly subtraction, the removal of limited belief patterns and the effects of trauma so that our natural, evolving selves can emerge. What needs to be added is awareness; what needs to be subtracted are limiting fear-based beliefs.
Instead, we are taught to strive and drive, ending up with little to show for it in terms of authentic fulfillment. We have created what we call “developed” societies which are unfair, overly competitive, and emotionally (and too often physically) violent. We hit our children, demean them, and they all to often grow into wounded adults and then prey on themselves and others. Wounded people wound people – it’s true. I tell people that the biggest challenge in my ministry wasn’t raising money or finding volunteers – it was getting people to believe that they are worthy of love simply because they exist.
“The Apartment” 1963 – Shirley McLain & Jack Lemmon
“If a person doesn’t know how they are wounded, they can deny the pain of others and the tragedies of this life. If a person doesn’t know how they are wounded they can’t see that others are wounded as well.”
~ Michael Meade
We have been conditioned to value our individual good over the common good (which is what wounded people do) and we are unhappy despite our great collective prosperity. For many, this false sense of well-being has come at the expense of others – individuals and entire races – who have been exploited and worse so that we could have the illusion of being self-sufficient. We are unhappier (LINK) heavily in debt, and angry – blaming others for our unhappiness. We too often elevate the most wounded among us to positions of power and wealth, assuming their worthiness because of their achievement or luck and then paying the price when they betray us. We are wounded, we have been for centuries, and we continue to wound each succeeding generation as we pass on our unconscious ways of seeing ourselves and one another.
Those of us on spiritual pathways find themselves too often trapped in unconscious conflict which denies us full access to our natural inner wisdom. We are wounded – all of us to varying degrees – and we have been conditioned to deny this deep truth. So, we seek a salve of peace and goodness, to detach from the cruel world around us, living in denial. Until we confront ourselves, we will continue to repeat the same individual and collective patterns over and over and over.
“Human consciousness does not emerge at any depth except through struggling with your shadow. I wish someone had told me that when I was young. It is in facing your conflicts, criticisms, and contradictions that you grow up. You actually need to have some problems, enemies, and faults! You will remain largely unconscious as a human being until issues come into your life that you cannot fix or control and something challenges you at your present level of development, forcing you to expand and deepen. It is in the struggle with our shadow self, with failure, or with wounding, that we break into higher levels of consciousness. I doubt whether there is any other way. People who refine this consciousness to a high spiritual state, who learn to name and live with paradoxes, are the people I would call prophetic speakers. We must refine and develop this gift.”
~ Richard Rohr
What the kind of deep personal work, including shadow work can do is show us how to move through the inevitable conflicts, challenges, losses, and sadness of life, using these things as steppingstones to wholeness. We are not meant to have friction-free lives, quite the opposite; nothing in the universe is free of friction – things collide, burn up, explode. Our very existence was made possible by the explosions of stars and the collisions of galaxies. To see spirituality as a pathway to some form of catatonic peace is to misunderstand our own nature and the nature of the universe in which we exist. What we are called to do is to tangle with our demons, our challenges, and learn to live in this world the way it is. We have within us everything we need to do this, but we must learn to encourage it to emerge.
“Every single one of us has it within us to be patient, kind, and compassionate. And each one of us forgets this. A central task in life is to remember.”
~ John Campbell
Once again, we in New Thought have an advantage because our teachings encourage us to remember, to know who we really are, beings with the spark of divinity with access to an infinite store of potential. For many, that is a difficult thing to accept fully – it certainly was for me when I first found the teaching. My decades of conditioning about power being external to me, whether in an Old Testament God, an angry parent, a teacher who shouldn’t have been teaching, friends who lacked the capacity for compassion, wounded all, through them I had formed my self-concept and worldview.
It took several years of classwork, counseling, and community before I began to seriously accept my own agency and began to accept my divinity. As I learned to work with the Law to manifest more good, I was also learning to embrace a greater idea of Spirit. The ensuing 25+ years have been about refining and deepening that realization while doing deep internal (mostly shadow) work to clear the way for my inner, latent, evolutionary development to emerge. In that process I have come to realize that my inner wisdom and compassion naturally seek to emerge. It was me and the fearful limited beliefs I had accumulated which narrowed the path of inner emergence to a trickle at times. I learned to forgive myself, then redouble my efforts, constantly correcting my course through spiritual practices and deep work.
I see this as a path to authenticity, to the deep soul-identity we arrive here with as an embedded potential awaiting recognition and emergence. Like a seed in a meadow, the conditions must be correct for germination and growth to occur. So, it is with each of us, we need to be nurtured and loved properly to encourage our authentic growth. To the degree that this has not occurred, we can seek to replenish what may have been missing from our upbringing, using clear ideas of wisdom and compassion as guides for the choices we make.
If I had made only healthy choices, what would my life be like? If I make only healthy choices from this moment forward, regardless of appearances, what can my life be like in the future? Can I commit to this direction, knowing that I will stumble along the path, but resolving to return to this deep intention no matter what?
If our society now made only healthy choices, would not the shift from racism, sexism, classism, ageism, policing, governing, and more be more clear? How do we increase the critical mass of healthy intention leading to healthy choices? I think through individual commitments to personal spiritual development.
Humanity is crying out for the release of our authentic potential. It is time for those with the awareness needed to recognize the need to direct our choice-making to come ONLY from wisdom and compassion; to do our best and trust that we will grow into the process over time. Through such an intentional practice, we can do our subtraction of the limiting beliefs and sense of woundedness which holds us in place. The time to begin is now. The place to begin is where you are.
“The lesson which these observations convey is, Be, and not seem. Let us acquiesce. Let us take our bloated nothingness out of the path of the divine circuits. Let us unlearn our wisdom of the world.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, Spiritual Laws
Copyright 2020 – Jim Lockard