THRIVING SKILL: SPIRITUAL MUSCLE TO OVERCOME CRISIS FATIGUE

“May you live in interesting times.”

~ Chinese Proverb/Insult

 

“Personal practice builds the spiritual ‘muscle’ necessary to be a contributor to the energy of love and compassion needed for the creation of The Beloved Community.”

~ Jim Lockard, CREATING THE BELOVED COMMUNITY (LINK)

strength-rock

We are living in extraordinary times. Global warming is affecting our weather in powerful and unpredictable ways; the developed west is in political turmoil; the pace of technological development is accelerating; unhealed racism is re-emerging in our social sphere; spiritual communities are seeing their membership shrink across denominations; pressures in the undeveloped world from wars and other conflicts are driving refugees across the globe.

Disaster Word Cluster

We have a major case of crisis fatigue atop a case of deep anxiety about ourselves, our culture, and our nation. Now, the long-ignored issues of sexual harassment and violence perpetrated by men upon women is coming to the fore, which is a necessary development, but one that will stretch us even thinner (LINK to my blog post on this topic). These are times which call for spiritual muscle, the expression of the realization of an inner strength. This realization and expression are essential components for true empathy and compassion.

compassionate-heart-cloud

The waves of hurricanes and fires affecting the US and its territories come at us on top of a wave of political divisiveness and rancor that few Americans have seen in their lifetime. Many in our society are in shock, filled in sadness, anger, loss, and a deep frustration about what is happening. We are living in interesting times of the kind in the Chinese proverb above. Many are experiencing crisis fatigue, as our desire and ability to help become stretched thin.

You may be one of those who is naturally empathichighly sensitive to the feelings of others, to suffering and to joy. For you, these are especially difficult times. An intellectual analysis of the dynamics we are experiencing does nothing for you – you want to feel the suffering stop and the joy return. We in spiritual community need to surround you with loving support at this time, to deeply listen to what you have to say, and to be sensitive to your feelings. We need to do this even as we deal with our own fears and anxiety. There are so many of us who are walking wounded, may we find support within and without.

“When we practice generating compassion, we can expect to experience the fear of our pain. Compassion practice is daring. It involves learning to relax and allow ourselves to move gently toward what scares us. The trick to doing this is to stay with emotional distress without tightening into aversion, to let fear soften us rather than harden into resistance.”

~ Pema Chödrön

 When we move toward compassion, we move toward healing. Out of a sense of compassion, we can be with others in their joys and sorrows as an equal – as one who is one with them regardless of their circumstances. The development of our natural capacity for compassion is one of the most important aspects of our spiritual growth, and is the result of the realization of inner strength.

“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”

~ Pema Chödrön

True compassion contains wisdom – we become more intelligent about what is ours to do and what is not. From this perspective, crisis fatigue is lessened. We still feel for the whole of humanity, but we are more wise and clear about how and where to expend our own energies. None of us can cope alone with the massive amount of human suffering and need that we encounter in these times of instant global communications. And if we are to be effective at all, we must practice physical, emotional, and spiritual self-care at a high level. This, too, is a form of spiritual muscle.

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”

 ~ Siddhartha Gautama

Self-care is important. It is good for you. Humanity, in fact, all of creation, need you to be at your best. When you commit to total self-care and self-acceptance, you allow that best you to express.

Another part of crisis overload or fatigue is when we forget to be clear about the metaphysical realities of existence. That all is well, that destruction is part of creation, that nothing is in its final form, and that you are part of an Intelligent Unfolding Universe – never separate. This lens allows us to view grand processes that include destruction with a more positive, principle-based attitude.

“The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy. What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.”

~ Richard Bach

The storms, the fires, the changes in long-term patterns of climate are the expressions of a planet thrown out of balance and attempting to heal itself. A wise humanity would work without ceasing to assist in that healing. We are clearly currently not at that level of wisdom, so we will have to experience more of the turmoil of healing. The butterfly emerges after the caterpillar dissolves, and yet, it is the combined intelligence of the two that drives the process of creative transformation. Remember that the Light is always there, always seeking clear expression, always on your side.

Thank you for reading. As always, your comments are welcomed. Please feel free to re-blog and to share this blog post.

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when (people) are afraid of the light.”

~ Plato

 

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

 

 

 

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MEN AND THE NEED FOR EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

 

“The experience of the feminine is the psychological key to both the sickness of our time and its healing.”

~ Marion Woodman, Jungian analyst

TRIGGER WARNING: This post will cover some areas of sexual harassment and sexual violence which some may find uncomfortable. Also, I am going to generalize a bit in this post. In addressing the issue of sexual harassment, and its ugly sibling, sexual violence, I will focus here on straight men. This admittedly narrow focus is due to two things: the space limitations of a blog post, and my greater familiarity with this aspect of a larger topic. Perhaps future posts will expand into other areas, and certainly the comments section is open to all.  


Sexual harassment and sexual violence are not the only problems in the world, but they are among the most pervasive. They exist among people who do not know each other (LINK) and within long-term relationships (LINK). It is said that up to 80% of women in the US have experienced sexual harassment (LINK). Far too many women have been abused emotionally, physically, and sexually as children and/or adolescents. Many experience sexual violence as adults. While I have not had this conversation with every woman who I know, every woman I have talked about this with has told me that she has faced harassment and/or sexual violence.

“The more a man swaggers, the more insecure he is in his own masculine nature.”

~ James Hollis

As we look at the news, or listen to the neighborhood gossip, we hear the stories. Men in power make the news when exposed, others become part of a more localized conversation. And much of this activity exists with a conspiracy of silence until someone speaks up. The need for greater Emotional Intelligence (LINK) in men could not be more obvious.

The way that we acculturate men in our society, to have no sense of the Divine Feminine (LINK), leads to great harm for most, if not all women. We are born with a sex drive, the healthy need to reproduce and to experience pleasure. Sex can be a powerful way to express love, to truly connect with another human being at depth beyond words. When combined with an immature or unhealthy emotional self, the sex drive can be transmuted into a drive for power and domination (LINK). It also becomes a way to express our repressed energies, which may include self-loathing, in such a way that our sexual behavior becomes demeaning and harmful. Sexual violence, and most sexual harassment is more about power than pleasure, more about the projection of an inner sense of self-hatred than about a desire to truly connect with another.

“How we diminished her and in turn ourselves. Turned parts of her body into heavy burdens to carry. Watching. Tittering (we no longer laughed, from then on it was tittering). Commenting. Losing our composure. Falling in love, developing obsessions, and growing resentful when our shallow affections were ignored.” 

~ Rion Amilcar Scott, Insurrections: Stories

Probably the major influence in my sexual development was the recently deceased Hugh Hefner, publisher of Playboy Magazine. I sought an outlet for my newly emerging adolescent urges and desires, one that was generally denied to me in my Catholic school and home, and found it in Playboy – which I usually had to steal to look at (although my uncle had a cache in his basement that I could peruse when we visited them and the parents were playing cards upstairs). Sex and women who wanted to have sex were portrayed as part of a sophisticated lifestyle which included the latest stereo equipment, a good wardrobe, a bachelor pad, and a sports car. There was even a joke –

What is Playboy for married men?”

“Every month, the same centerfold.”

Playboy

Of course, there were a thousand other influences – the rocky, if standard for the era, marriage of my parents; the implied (in my day) sexuality of Madison Avenue’s advertisements; the admonitions that I heard in school, in church, and from the occasional relative; and the mostly uninformed information that I received from my clueless peers.

It was very easy to objectify women – everyone seemed to be doing it. And from what I could see at the time with my limited understanding, women seemed to be mostly willing participants (not in having sex necessarily, but in trying to be attractive and to look sexy). They were often judged by men according their willingness to take harassment and objectification in good humor. The raging hormones of youth and early adulthood added to the tension. The results of this kind of acculturation:

“The solution to online harassment is simple: women should log off.”

~ Steve Bannon

When it was revealed that our current president had a history of making derogatory comments (at minimum) about women, it was written off by some as “locker room talk.” Well, I’ve been in a few locker rooms, and to be candid, I would not have found what he said to be particularly unusual. Many men talk that way, even men who do not act that way. Sometimes it’s to be accepted by your peers, or maybe it’s the talk of an “alpha-male” establishing his territorial imperative. In any case, psychology tells us that such talk is the result of repressed energies, poor self-image, and low levels of emotional intelligence.

Divine Feminine

A mythologist could tell us the expression of archetypes like the immature Warrior or the unrealized Lover or the negative Destroyer (LINK), which, without the Divine Feminine are emasculated and weak. We are supposed to grow to a place by the time we are in adulthood where these archetypes are maturing in a healthy way, but there are few models and traditions for men to follow in this regard. As a result, we end up with men in midlife and even old age who are still immature. They are the unrealized hero, still fighting the battles of youth rather than becoming the wise Ruler and Sage.

“There are two aspects of the hero, I think. The hero is somebody whom you can lean on and who is going to rescue you; he is also an ideal. To live the heroic life is to live the individual adventure, really. One of the problems today is that with the enormous transformations in the forms of our lives, the models for life don’t exist for us. In a traditional society – the agriculturally based city – there were relatively few life roles, and the models were there; there was a hero for each life role. But look at the past twenty years and what has come along in the way of new life possibilities and requirements. The hero-as-model is one thing we lack, so each one has to be his own hero and follow the path that’s no-path. It’s a very interesting situation.” 

~ Joseph Campbell

We must do better, and we can do better. Boys and young men need models of appropriate manhood – where women are seen both as equals and as partners, and where relationships are based on love, support, and deep connection. Our practice as men must include a conscious radical self-inventory to see where we may be part of the problem, even unconsciously. The gifts that we in New Thought have in making this shift are the spiritual principles and technologies that we know and are learning more about.

That said, we still have a primal nature which is not to be seen as a source of shame, but as something to channel into positive expression. Spiritual growth is often about transmuting primal energies into refined energies, and our sex drive is no exception. Healthy, sexual energy becomes creativity, loving relationship, and beloved community, while being directed to procreation where appropriate.

“If men and women often seem unsuited to one another, maybe it’s because they have different emotional realities and speak a different emotional language.  For many years, I found it hard to understand the feeling systems of men; I didn’t believe they were vulnerable and I empowered them in a way that didn’t acknowledge their fears and feelings.”

~ Nan Goldin, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency

We men need to do our work, and we need supported from women. This support can be in the form of seeing men through the eyes of potential and encouraging the increased expression of that potential; while finds ways to communicate our failures to do that in ways which encourage change, not defensiveness. And women may help shape the acculturation of boys in more positive ways, both by imparting a respect and love for the Divine Feminine, and by finding better adult male role models. Also, women can teach boys (and men) what women experience when men fail to be empathetic and emotionally mature (LINK).

Spiritual leaders should promote empathy, equality, and emotional intelligence in their teachings and model it for their spiritual communities. But the primary accountability falls with men – it is time to fulfill our potential for empathy, strength through gentleness, and emotional intelligence. We are, after all, in this together.

Your comments are deeply appreciated.

“If you’re looking at the world and not grieving…then you’re not Conscious. But if you’re looking at the world and not rejoicing in the miraculous possibilities for healing it…then you’re Spiritually Immature.”

~ Marianne Williamson

 

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

 

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THRIVING SKILL: EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

“You are, after all, what you think. Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions.”

~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is both a quality and a skill. It is a quality in that you possess it, at least in potential, naturally; it is a skill in that it requires cultivation and attention to manifest at high levels. I have blogged about it several times (LINK).

Daniel Goleman defines emotional intelligence (LINK) as “The capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships.” EQ is one of multiple intelligences that we have as human beings. It is among the most important. It is different from IQ, or math and verbal intelligence. Have you ever known someone who was really smart intellectually, but really bad at relationships? That person probably has a high IQ and a low EQ. EQ forms the basis for Spiritual Intelligence (SQ) (LINK) which is essential for those on any kind of advanced spiritual path.

SQ21 Intelligences Pyramid

From DEEPCHANGE.com

“There is no change from darkness to light or from inertia to movement without emotion.”

~ C.G. Jung

Most of our human problems in relationships and in dealing with human issues (politics anyone?) are due to some lack of development in EQ. I call it a Thriving Skill because it is so essential to relationships of all kinds and, more importantly, to the development of true compassion (LINK).

Poster - Compassion - Hoffer Quote

Consider your experience on social media. Have you seen any evidence of a lack of emotional maturity there? Of course – in fact, our online discourse is filled with examples of people who cannot direct their emotions, and who fall prey to their most vile beliefs and actions under the relative anonymity of social media. Imagine Facebook or Twitter with a high level of EQ. It would be a very different experience. And, of course, there are many examples of high EQ online – but you must use your Thriving Skill of Discernment (LINK) to find and connect with them. This is very important in this time of great cultural transition.

“The central reality of our times is that we are in such a transition moment. This is not an easy moment as already human suffering and environment loss are widespread. It is not a guaranteed transition, as it will require tremendous human creativity, emotional intelligence, and spiritual strength.”

~ Mary Evelyn Tucker and Brian Swimme

The challenges in working with EQ are, first, how to increase one’s own level of EQ, and second, how to inspire others to increase their own. A paradox is that when one’s EQ needs development, one often resists either by being in denial about the truth and claiming high EQ for themselves, or by expressing pride in their low EQ – being rude, harsh, controlling and otherwise destructive. It is challenging for leaders to work to improve the overall EQ of a group or organizations – it can be a very touchy subject. Assuming that the leader(s) has a good degree of EQ, then a good approach can be a combination of modeling high EQ and setting agreed-upon standards for human conduct that will reflect higher EQ (whether that has been actualized or not). Through practice of adhering to such standards (such as: we are all respectful toward one another during meetings), EQ can be developed.

Wings Clipped

We must remember that very few of us had strong EQ modeled for us growing up. If you think about how many adults in your childhood expressed a high degree of EQ, the number will probably be small. If not, good for you! So we must assume that many of the people in our spiritual communities have a need to develop greater levels of EQ, including those in leadership. If we all had higher levels of EQ, our prayer-treatment request lists would be much smaller. Often what is needed is to pray for greater EQ for yourself and those on your prayer list.

“Back of nearly every discord or disorder, there is some subjective complex, or mental knot, that needs to be untied; generally, some suppressed emotion, which perhaps is centered around the affections – the likes and dislikes, the loves and passions, and everything which goes with them. These knots must be untied, and it is the business of the practitioner to untie them.”

~ Ernest Holmes, The Science of Mind

It is said that our body is the storehouse of our emotional experience. Therefore, it is critical that we develop positive EQ and learn to direct our emotions more frequently to uplift and joy. Sadness is also a positive emotion, in that it comes from a healthy place within us – we are saddened by loss and separation. Enmity, condemnation, and most anger come from unhealed places with us. When these negative feelings take hold, we are incapable of generating compassion.

Increasing one’s EQ contributes to a host of benefits within and without. High EQ people are better leaders, better life partners, better friends, and better parents. Effort and energy put into developing higher EQ reap great benefits in every area of life – including physical health. Spiritual growth is largely a product of EQ and SQ (about which another blog post is forthcoming).

“When we practice generating compassion, we can expect to experience the fear of our pain. Compassion practice is daring. It involves learning to relax and allow ourselves to move gently toward what scares us. The trick to doing this is to stay with emotional distress without tightening into aversion, to let fear soften us rather than harden into resistance.”

~ Pema Chödrön

If we are to be about the work of CREATING THE BELOVED COMMUNITY in our local spiritual communities, we need to be about the work of developing higher EQ within those communities. EQ becomes the basis for higher SQ, which is the higher-order intelligence that is needed to be agents for positive transformation in our world.

“DAILY PRACTICE: Push hard to get better, become smarter, grow your devotion to the truth, fuel your commitment to beauty, refine your emotional intelligence, hone your dreams, negotiate with your shadow, cure your ignorance, shed your pettiness, heighten your drive to look for the best in people, and soften your heart — even as you always accept yourself for exactly who you are with all of your so-called imperfections.” ‪

~ Rob Brezny

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

 

Note: I’ll be speaking and presenting a workshop based on my book, CREATING THE BELOVED COMMUNITY at the Music City Center for Spiritual Living in NASHVILLE, TN on Sunday, October 12th – here is a link to their website for more information about attending or watching on video (LINK).

IS NEW THOUGHT ORGANIZED RELIGION?

new-thought-logos

This post is a bit long – you may want to bookmark it so that you can come back to it. It may or may not lead to other posts along the same line. Our New Thought Organizations are going through tectonic shifts due to cultural evolution. If we fail to look at these dynamics seriously, then our future may be short as organizations. It is time to look at our situation through evolutionary eyes. Let me know what you think in the comments section. Also, we are nearing 30,000 visitors and 50,000 views on this blog. I am so grateful that many find these ramblings to be of value. Thanks.

This morning I saw a comment on Facebook that called Centers for Spiritual Living an organized religion, which is not how I usually hear it described. I reread the comment a few times to be sure that it said what I thought it said. Yep – “an organized religion.” 

This set me to thinking, because this morning I also read a column by NYTimes Columnist Ross Douthat (LINK) entitled “Expect the Inquisition.” It is about current arguments within the Catholic Church which pit liberals against conservatives (imagine that!) regarding several aspects of Catholic doctrine versus the statements, writings, and actions of Pope Francis (LINK).

Now I have no problem seeing The Church of Rome, as the Catholic Church is called, as organized religion. (FULL DISCLOSURE: I was raised as a Catholic and was actively involved in that religion until I graduated from high school and escaped to the religiously unsupervised realm of the state university.) But I have a big problem seeing Centers for Spiritual Living, or for that matter, other New Thought organizations under that label. I usually tell people, “If you hate organized religion, you’ll love us.” Maybe I have to revise that statement.

Oh, we have organizations all right, but (and it’s a big but) where is the authority of those organizations to establish and enforce doctrine? I can’t answer that question in most cases. You can go from spiritual community to spiritual community and be hard-pressed to identify one as in the same denomination as the other; in fact, you can cross denominations, from CSL to Unity to Divine Science, and see more similarly between communities in different denominations than within the same denomination. There is within the New Thought organizations, no clear authority, and certainly no effort put forth, to ensure much in the way of uniformity among member communities.

I blogged about this a while back regarding who may have the authority to write and approve a new Science of Mind text, and in that blog post (LINK), I wrote:

 “. . . there are really two important challenges facing New Thought in the world regarding this issue. One is whether the original writings need to be updated for a modern audience; the second is who has the authority to authorize such an undertaking and approve the results? I suggest that there are no ready answers to either question in the major New Thought organizations. I will speak primarily to CSL here, as I am not familiar with Unity’s processes for such things.”

One of the effects of cultural evolution on the New Thought Movement is the movement away from anything resembling an authoritarian approach to leadership within the various organizations. While this is a good thing in many respects, it has some negative side-effects. A significant side effect is tied to another impact of cultural evolution: the tendency for local spiritual communities to resist or ignore the dictates of the organizations regarding the presentation of educational materials and the rules regarding certification of students. There are other areas of concern as well, but nothing is more important than teaching the philosophy.

Spiritual Leaders tend to stray from the designated curricula in two ways – substitution of material to be taught and studied, and in some cases “unofficially” changing the requirements for course certification. I am not referring to the beneficial practice of adding depth from one’s own experiences and alternate sources to the material in the course curriculum, but rather bringing in different material that is either loosely related or not really related at all to the course design. We all know that this happens, and my intention is not to say that it is good or bad, only that it speaks to the issue of organizational authority – and, to whether we are organized in the manner of other denominations.

Occasional attempts are made to hold people accountable, but they generally do not go well. Spiritual leaders often simply tell the organizational representative where they can stick their rules in so many words – or they simply leave the organization. This also happens in cases where there are demonstrated breaches of ethics policies. Another thing that happens, too often in my opinion, is that the organizational representatives bungle their work, making things worse and needlessly putting the organization in a position of liability while failing to hold anyone accountable for any misdeeds which may have occurred. When ethics violations occur, it means that people have been harmed in one way or another, and a lack of professionalism and competence in handing such cases can multiply that harm.

Another area in which I see our lack of organization (again, not as a value judgement), is in the trend toward greater action for social justice in our movement. Here, there does seem to be a liberal/conservative split, in this case, both politically and ecclesiastically.

Some who are more conservative politically see the kinds of statements and actions being issued or supported by New Thought organizations as too politically liberal; some who are more ecclesiastically conservative believe the organizations and spiritual communities have no business telling people what to support. Thus far, in those organizations who have taken positions on social justice and related issues, it has been left to the local spiritual communities and individuals to decide for themselves whether and how to participate.

Cultural evolution is moving us away from the old authoritarian model that could attempt to ensure organizational conformity through some combination of incentives and punishments for a membership whose values systems included obedience and fealty. We have moved beyond those times to a place where an interesting mix of independence and egalitarianism have come to the forefront.

My concern is that as the values systems within the organizations evolve, there needs to be both a recognition of these processes of emergence and decline AND a conscious effort to operate in harmony with them. It seems that too often, our New Thought organizations are operating without an adequate awareness of the cultural milieu in which they find themselves. Today, leadership must be nimble and flexible regarding form and steadfast and consistent in principle. Too often, they are the opposite, or neither.

There is certainly potential for good in these evolutionary developments, even though they may look disruptive, even harmful. We cannot move toward higher levels of leadership and practices while maintaining an authoritarian model, and the pathway forward seems to be via a swing in the opposite direction, where there seems to be little or no authority vested in leadership.

Times like these require very special people in leadership roles, who can facilitate the organizations’ passage through transitional periods without disenfranchising member communities and losing sight of the reason for the organizations’ existence. And times like these require leadership in member communities who recognize the value of being part of an organization and who support the organization during times of transition. Supporting the organization does not mean abstaining from criticism where it is warranted, but it does mean affirmative support with intentions, prayers, vocal support within the local community, and financial giving.

There is room to see all of this as the natural unfolding of our evolutionary pathway, however, there are no guarantees that we emerge from these transitional times in a healthy way. Breakdown does not necessarily lead to breakthrough – it can lead to collapse.

Getting back to the Catholic Church, theirs is a very different environment, with a two-thousand-year history of dogmatic, authoritarian rule under a leader who has been declared infallible. Can you imagine if a resolution came to the floor of a New Thought organizational business meeting to grant the organizational leader the status of infallibility? Neither can I, but it might be fun if someone made that motion one day.

Cartoon - Religion - Organized Infallible

We are a very different culture than the Church of Rome, we are younger, more American, more individualistic. But we face many of the same cultural evolutionary and organizational issues. Will we learn to thrive as organizations, as communities in a rapidly changing world? Time will tell.

As the founder of Centers for Spiritual Living wrote in the very important book, THE SEMINAR LECTURES:

“Let me repeat that ours is not an authoritative religion. We have a textbook, which is the accumulation of the greatest teachings of the ages but we haven’t any idea of becoming a closed system. We have two possibilities; we can become so narrow that we never grow or we can be so broad that we have no depth. It is up to us to find the place in between which gives freedom without giving the freedom to destroy the freedom which makes freedom possible!”

~ Ernest Holmes, “The Seminar Lectures”

As always, your comments are welcomed. What do you think?

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

 

THRIVING SKILL: DISCERNMENT

DISCERNMENT:

The ability to judge well; perception in the absence of judgment with a view to obtaining spiritual direction and understanding.

One thing which has become increasingly clear to me is the almost universal need to develop discernment in these rapidly changing times. Of course, discernment has always been important – it is the ability to see through falsehoods and distractions to the deeper truth. There have always been versions of fake news, including the ways that we delude ourselves and live in denial of what we need to know to thrive. However, these times such skills are particularly important for two major reasons: we are bombarded by information via an increasing number of channels, and there is an increasing level of sophistication in the ability to convince people a falsehood is true.

“The first point of wisdom is to discern that which is false; the second, to know that which is true.”

~ Attributed to Various Authors

discernment

Discernment has a spiritual context. We are encouraged to see through the distractions and falsehoods to the deep inner Truth – that we are One. When we get lost in the tangle of warring ideologies, when we lack the emotional maturity to rise above the taunting of the crowds, we cannot see, much less experience, that Truth. We develop the kind of confused consciousness that will use violence to attempt to gain peace. True discernment is knowing when to speak and what to say; when and how to act; and when to stay still in silence.

When we become spiritual seekers who also seek to develop our discernment, then we can move toward the opening of our compassionate heart. We must learn to recognize truth, and its shadings or its opposite, when we see them. As Oriah Mountain Dreamer has written:

‎”Having compassion does not mean indiscriminately accepting or going along with others’ actions regardless of the consequences to ourselves or the world. It is about being able to say no where we need to without putting the other out of our hearts, without making the other less of a fellow human being. There is a difference between discerning & sometimes even opposing harmful behaviour and making the other wrong – less than we are, less a part of that presence that is greater than ourselves – in our own minds & hearts.”

~ Oriah Mountain Dreamer

compassionate-heart-cloud

There is a difference between believing in the power of the unseen and magical thinking. One recognizes the reality that everything in our visible experience of life is a projection of some form of consciousness – a part of the Infinite Mystery that we call Spirit or God. The other tries to identify the elements of the Mystery and give them some form of human characteristics – expecting some entity to redirect a hurricane for example.

When the hurricane turns or dissipates, the causes are a mystery, only explained in a limited way by our scientific knowledge, which itself is limited to what we can observe. magical thinking is a limited way of thinking and being – it may be a step on the path toward the development of discernment, by taking us beyond the limits of purely literal thinking. However, discernment cannot be mastered until the tendency toward magical thinking is released. Discernment requires great clarity and a deep recognition of the harsh truth that most of reality is a mystery – and being satisfied.

“The road to freedom lies not through mysteries or occult performances, but through the intelligence use of natural forces and laws.”

~ Ernest Holmes

At the level of our society, discernment includes the ability to parse real news from “fake news,” and to develop the inner sense to recognize when something is authentic and true or not. It also includes the realization that one will not be able to do that perfectly – so there is always room for some doubt, but the sense of doubt should not be allowed to expand so far that all trust in the world is lost. The too-often harmful certainty of the fundamentalist is due to his inability to accept doubt and ambiguity as a part of the human experience.

“Fundamentalism is authoritarian by definition–it accepts a vision of ‘the Truth’ that is sacrosanct, unquestionable, and, when found to be incompatible with reality, protected through the generation of ‘alternative facts,’ which themselves become unassailable truths within the enclave community that is built up to sustain the fundamentalism in question.”

~ Christopher Stroop

When we lack the skill of discernment, we are very much at the mercy of the reactions of our fear-based ego self to the world around us. Our fear-driven response system will expand what looks frightening or dangerous and shrink our sense of goodness, wisdom, and love. The compassionate heart cannot emerge from such a consciousness; and compassion is what is most needed in our world today.

We must use our spiritual practices to develop and expand our emotional intelligence, inner wisdom, and compassion; and this will lead us to discernment, which is, in essence, the ability to see deeply. From such a level of development, we are freed from the stormy seas of fear-based ordinary consciousness, and we rise above the turbulence inherent in that level of existence. Then we can truly be of value and contribute to the greater good from a place of deep wisdom and compassion. We can become the force of calm amid the storm. That is what is meant by raising your consciousness – that is why discernment is a Thriving Skill.

“One could say that the whole of life lies in seeing — if not ultimately, at least essentially. To be more is to be more united — and this sums up and is the very conclusion of the work to follow. But unity grows, and we will affirm this again, only if it is supported by an increase of consciousness, of vision. That is probably why the history of the living world can be reduced to the elaboration of ever more perfect eyes at the heart of a cosmos where it is always possible to discern more. Are not the perfection of an animal and the supremacy of the thinking being measured by the penetration and power of synthesis of their glance? To try to see more and to see better is not, therefore, just a fantasy, curiosity, or a luxury. See or perish. This is the situation imposed on every element of the universe by the mysterious gift of existence. And thus, to a higher degree, this is the human condition.”

~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

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Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Jesuit Priest, Paleontologist, and Philosopher

 

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

 

THRIVING SKILL: FINDING THE SWEET SPOT BETWEEN CERTAINTY AND UNCERTAINTY

“Nothing is perfect. Life is messy. Relationships are complex. Outcomes are uncertain. People are irrational.”

~ Hugh Mackay 

We can be certain that there is an Intelligence in the Universe to which we may come, that will guide and inspire us, a love which overshadows. God is real to the one who believes in the Supreme Spirit, real to the soul that senses its unity with the Whole.”

~ Ernest Holmes

We find ourselves in times for which few, if any of us are prepared. Human societies and cultures are changing more and more quickly, and there are no maps for where we are headed. No one has been where we are headed before, and the rate of change is so fast there is no “ramping up” process where existing knowledge has the time to adopt new knowledge for smooth transitions. Our institutions – church, government, business, science – used to show us the way forward, but they are disintegrating before our eyes, along with our trust in them.

integrity-4We used to be sure of many things – however as we have learned more about ourselves and our world, we have seen that much of what we were sure of was false or incomplete. We are beginning to realize that often, it was the very institutions in which we trusted that were misleading us for reasons ranging from innocent to malevolent. The traditionalist values that held western culture together for hundreds of years, despite wars and other tragedies, are being abandoned by many as relics of a past that no longer serves us. The values which are emerging in their place demand a differently constructed society. This has both positive and negative impacts – we are too likely to throw out the stabilizing values of traditionalism with the values that no longer serve. Our doubts can become all-consuming.

“Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is an absurd one.”

~ Voltaire

Those of you who are familiar with the Spiral Dynamics™ Model (an increasingly essential area of knowledge) can see how the model applies here, but I am not going to focus on that in this post.

Poster - Old Ways New Doors

There is a dynamic tension between the myriad uncertainties of life and the need to have some degree of certainty in our faith in the Intelligence of the Universe. This tension is increased with the growing uncertainties that come with a time in which many of the “certainties” that we grew up with are being challenged or toppled. Those who have developed an evolutionary approach to life will handle this better than those who have not.

“As an adolescent, I aspired to lasting fame, I craved factual certainty, and I thirsted for a meaningful vision of human life — so I became a scientist. This is like becoming an archbishop so you can meet girls.”

~ Matt Cartmill

With increasing complexity comes a greater array of positive and negative outcomes of newly emerging values systems. A case in point: one of the “gifts” of the newly emerging Levels of Existence is social media. This aspect of the internet brings us into the world of instantaneous communications in multiple directions. We are no longer passive consumers of news from a town crier, newspaper, radio, or television newscast – we can engage and deliver content of our own creation or we can multiply the effect of content by sharing it. The responses can be instantaneous and unfiltered – and offer a rude awakening, as we discover the degree to which others hold our ideas and viewpoints in contempt. We are swept away by social media exchanges that trigger our emotions and demand fast and strong input if we are to get our point across. We are all amateurs at this.

“Amateurs [are] just regular people who get obsessed by something and spend a ton of time thinking out loud about it… Raw enthusiasm is contagious. The world is changing at such a rapid rate that it’s turning us all into amateurs. Even for professionals, the best way to flourish is to retain an amateur’s spirit and embrace uncertainty and the unknown.”

~ Austin Kleon

The pace of exchange on social media, along with the vitriol that has become part and parcel of the experience, leaves us no time to simply sit with an idea before responding. We get emotionally caught-up in the flow and act like an addict seeking a fix as we seek to convince others of our opinion, or, failing that, we make sure that they know the error of their ways (to put it mildly). In turn, we are subjected to screeds and venom from people we thought we knew better, hardly know at all, or never heard of before (some of whom are not even human, but “bots” designed to carry messages and spread ideas, true and false).

social-media-shouting

In this respect, social media reflects the need for greater emotional and social intelligence (LINK) (LINK) in our culture. Being on social media is, all too often, like being in the sandbox with immature children. We find that those who have yet to develop a healthy level of emotional intelligence often need an enemy – someone or some set of values to defend oneself from and to attack when it is safe to do so. Social media can provide such cover – it is impersonal enough that many say vitriolic and hateful things that they would never say in person.

“The real existence of an enemy upon whom one can foist off everything evil is an enormous relief to one’s conscience. You can then at least say, without hesitation, who the devil is; you are quite certain that the cause of your misfortune is outside, and not in your own attitude.”

~ Carl Jung

And yet, it is increasingly essential for many of us to be online and involved with social media. There is also an addictive quality to the experience (LINK).  Some abstain (or try to), but find that they are missing a valuable form of connection with others who may not be available by other means. How do we engage in this arena as keep our sanity? How do we approach it in a healthy way?

Meditate.

Pray.

Develop your Emotional & Spiritual Intelligence.

It is something to explore in future posts. As always, your comments are welcomed!

A thousand times I have ascertained and found it to be true:

the affairs of this world are really nothing into nothing.

Still though, we should dance.

~ Hafiz 

Beautiful Dance

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

 

 

 

THE ULTIMATE FREEDOM

 I’m writing this post on my iPad, because my laptop is in hospice. The new laptop should arrive in a week. So this post won’t have all the highlights and other bells and whistles that you may be used to as a reader of this blog. Oh, and yesterday marked the second anniversary* of this blog. So many thanks to all of you who have been with us all along, and those who have joined along the way.

Wayne Dyer once wrote that the greatest freedom was an absence of self-regard.  When you think about it we are bound by our fears, our anxieties, and far too often, our ignorance about many things. There is ample evidence that the anxiety levels have risen since the last election in the United States. And I know that many of you are following the news online and in other ways, and finding yourself getting upset and fearful about many things.

What are we to do about this? Some others choose to simply tune out.  Others are becoming more actively engaged in the political realm, while others are simply hoping it all goes away.  But one commonality in all of this is that it is anxiety that is leading the way, determining how we behave and ultimately how we see the world.

In my book and in this blog I have consistently pointed out that we are in a time of great upheaval, of cultural evolutionary change which is really significant, and about which we know very little. No one has been where our societies are heading, so the only models we have our models from the past Which are no longer sufficient.

The world views of many in the current US government seek to apply old solutions to current challenges. They too are operating from fear, anxiety, and ignorance. They to desire a better life as they understand it.

So in general we have two sides (actually many, but let me generalize a bit here),  two worldviews which are apparently incompatible. One of the results of our overall frustration with how to deal with this rapidly changing world in which we find ourselves, is that we have more and more trouble talking to one another. The fear out of with this arises is fed by our media, or political parties, and let’s not forget, by our own sense of fear and anxiety. We are often so afraid that we make anyone with a different idea into an enemy.  Have you noticed?

As always those of us on the spiritual path recognize that healing is the answer. Healing is a return to truth, and we know that fear and anxiety are based on a false idea of separation.  We know this and yet so often we find it almost impossible to put into action in our lives on a continual basis. So our challenge in these times is to live more fully the principles of our spirituality. We must stop waiting for the other side to change, or for conditions to be different before we will be happy or fulfilled. We must take the lead in our own lives in seeing, accepting, and living the truth.

I don’t know of any shortcuts. I am is troubled by events in the world as anyone else.  I have my own set of answers, based on my own conditioning and experiences. And I understand that these may not be the best answers, and that nothing significant is going to change until there is a greater degree of cooperation among the human beings on this planet.

But I don’t have to wait for their cooperation to occur. I can live in my truth more and more each day. I can free others to follow their own path. But I understand that to do this I have to except that I won’t like everything that happens.  I will experience loss, sadness, perhaps even betrayal. I can fully expect that humanity including me will move forward toward our solutions imperfectly.

And I have to come to realize you’re fully but the more I resist the more I add to the energy of discord, disharmony, and sadness. My actions must be consistent with love. My actions must be consistent with my own sense of a compassionate heart. Is we are to co-create #TheBelovedCommunity together, I must be in rigorous integrity with myself and my spiritual principles.

To be truly loving demands of us high standard of principle, integrity, and courage. We must never forget that.  Spiritual realization is never easy. And our spiritual communities can be sources of great help in urging each of us forward as our best selves. Do you demand that your spiritual leader hold you accountable fully for your spiritual development? Or do you seek to be let off easy, to find ways around the difficulties on your path?

And for spiritual leaders: do you withhold teaching principles in a rigorous way and holding people, your students, to be fully accountable for their development? Or do you let things slide, afraid that people (and their $$$) will leave your community?

These are difficult questions, but we are in challenging times. Our movement is not growing, to be generous, and I think a significant part of the reason is because we are simply not helping people to develop to a level of spiritual mastery that is required for these times.  The collective unconscious of New Thought seems to be stuck in the past, not in the sense that our principles are out of date, but in the sense that believe we can be truly effective in the world.

I write this blog mostly for myself. I need to express myself in a way that helps me to reveal what I need to do to develop my own spiritual growth. I trust and I think I know that some of you are helped by reading it.  Readership of this blog is a community, a community of people who are dedicated post to their own spiritual growth, and to the growth of the spiritual movement that we call New Thought.

I am grateful for both the opportunity to write in for the knowledge that quite a few people read what I write. But the real meaning of it all is that we are working together in community to awaken humanity to with spiritual magnificence – beginning with ourselves.

So I seek the perfect freedom Wayne Dyer wrote about. The freedom from any concern about myself that is separate from a global consciousness. As I begin this fifth year of the #NewThoughtEvolutionary blog, It is my intention to keep that in mind every hour of every day.

* For some unknown reason, when I initially published and promoted this post, I indicated that it was the fourth anniversary of the blog. I apologize for any inconvenience that my inaccuracy may have caused.

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

 

Hope & Horror, Parts & Wholes.

I am re-blogging this post from Nora Bateson’s blog because I think it speaks to not only a major crisis of our time, but also to the complexity that I have been blogging about since the inception of my own blog. Nora’s amazing view points which allow us to be more clearly understand the interrelationships of all aspects of our universe, or critically important for those of us In New Thought to digest, and to incorporate into our own world views. We who teach Oneness must come to see your world as an expression of that worthles must come to see our world as an expression of that Oneness, not just as an idea, but as the basis of our construction of reality. The blog post take you to a link which contains a chapter from Nora’s book, SMALL ARCS OF LARGER CIRCLES. It is worth your time to read it. I look forward to your comments.

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This is a chapter from my book, Small Arcs of Larger Circles. It is a story of my discovery and confusion around the emergence of a widespread global grouping of people concerned for the survival of “indigenous Europeans” — white people. It is important to note that a peephole into this parallel world began for me in 2013 (maybe 2012?), and by then as an internet phenomenon of community it was already in full swing. This white supremacy question is not about the USA, it is not about Trump, it has nothing to do with Making America Great Again (MAGA), this situation runs much much deeper. In my considerations of how and where to take action, I am finding that an oversimplified, or decontextualized view of these social divisions only helps to fuel the fire. I am not suggesting that I have the deeper view necessary, only that I am…

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#Charlottesville – Thoughts and Prayers?

“We have been so persistently taught that prayer consists in asking God for some human need that we have lost sight of our spiritual identity and have become a race of praying beggars.”

~ Charles Fillmore

 

“Prayer doesn’t change things for us, it changes us for things.”

~ Norman Vincent Peale

What showed up in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend was a consciousness of ignorance and fear, one that many of us thought long dead (but many others know better). It is a consciousness which has been encouraged by many aspects of our society, not just the right-wing media, but they bear a great share of the responsibility for fanning the flames of ignorance and fear. Like an iceberg, what we see above the surface is only a small percentage of this consciousness – it exists in various degrees in many people as a dominant way of thinking, and many more as secondary elements of their worldviews. To deny this is to make a grave mistake.

This consciousness is so pervasive that it exists in barely cloaked forms at the highest levels of our government – to deny this is to make another grave mistake.

Like any consciousness that leads to a worldview, it is self-justifying in that it alters perception to make the world look as if this consciousness is both reasonable and necessary. In that regard, it is no different from any other type of consciousness.

In fact, this element that surfaces as white supremacy is only one aspect of a much larger consciousness of ignorance and fear. It shows up as every human failing, every criminal and unethical act, every failure to act from a compassionate heart and the wisdom that emerges from a heart fully opened to compassion. You might say that it shows up in every opportunity for human learning and spiritual growth – it is not alien to us, it is part of our nature, a part that is to be gradually transcended as we deepen and grow.

So, what we see in Charlottesville is like one lesion on a body with many lesions, all arising from the same disease – a sense of separation from Good, from Love, and from Wisdom. Every lesion is a symptom of something deeper, there are no exceptions. Thinking that removing the most currently painful lesion will heal the body is magical thinking. We must get to cause – we know that, right?

If I were speaking to a spiritual community today, Sunday, I would make mention of this consciousness of ignorance and fear urging everyone present to look for evidence of its many tendrils within themselves. For when the consciousness of ignorance and fear is present beneath our awareness, we are helpless to do anything but be carried along by it, acting as though it were a justifiable way to see the world. Those of us who were not part of the mob in Charlottesville may well be part of the same root system which produced it. We believe in separation, we blame, we hate – but we are reasonable whereas they are not.

Have I ever blamed? Have I ever made another wrong in such a way as to accuse them of committing wrongful acts from a level of awareness that they had not attained? Have I ever projected my own unhealed issues onto others because I had not done my deep personal spiritual work? Of course I have – I still do, don’t you?

But ours is not to get stuck in self-criticism either – that is not productive. Ours is to find the Compassionate Heart which lies beneath the crazy, sad, false ideas that we have all accepted to one degree or another. Ours is to do our spiritual work to heal those aspects of ourselves that still give energy to the consciousness of ignorance and fear.

If you are a student of New Thought, as I am, you already know how to do this. You can tell you are doing it well when your first reaction to the actions of ignorance and fear is compassion, the sadness of a broken heart, rather than anger. That is when we will co-create The Beloved Community and your “thoughts and prayers” will be powerful enough to influence the world around you in a larger more positive way. That is what we are called to develop in ourselves.

“May this suffering serve to awaken compassion.”

~ A traditional prayer to Kwan Yin, Bodhisattva of Compassion

 

“Our prayers are answered not when we are given what we ask, but when we are challenged to be what we can be.”

~ Morris Adlier

 

The Prayer of the Heart

To deliver oneself up,
to hand oneself over,
entrust oneself completely to the silence
of a wide landscape of woods and hills,
or sea and desert; to sit still while
the sun comes up over the land
and fills its silences with light.

…few are willing to belong completely
to such silence, to let it soak into their bones,
to breathe nothing but silence, to feed
on silence, and to turn the very substance of their life
into a living and vigilant silence.

~ Thomas Merton, from Thoughts in Solitude

 

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

 

“We can be certain that there is an Intelligence in the Universe to which we may come, that will guide and inspire us, a love which overshadows. God is real to the one who believes in the Supreme Spirit, real to the soul that senses its unity with the Whole.
Every day and every hour we are meeting the eternal realities of life, and in such degree as we cooperate with these eternal realities in love, in peace, in wisdom, and in joy—believing and receiving—we are automatically blessed. Our prayer is answered before it is uttered.
Wake up! Your word is all powerful. Your consciousness is one with Omnipotence. Your thought is infinite. Your destiny is eternal and your home is everlasting heaven.”

~ Ernest Holmes

#Charlottesville

#AWorldThatWorksForEveryone

#TheBelovedCommunity

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard