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

 

A TIME FOR HEART-CENTERED COURAGE, STRENGTH, AND PERSONAL TOUGHNESS

“Tough times never last, but tough people do.”

~ Robert Schuller

For many people on our planet today, times are tough. Even in the United States, among the most prosperous nations on earth, many are suffering in serious ways – from poverty, disease, discrimination, and the like. Others are finding the political turmoil of current times to be very difficult to live with – they are feeling increasingly hopeless.

We can look at all kinds of reasons for this – but that is not the point of this post. What I wish to address here is how to apply New Thought spiritual principles to our lives at times like these – including being careful how we label such times. We are in the midst of vast emerging change driven by cultural evolution. It is critical that we stay deeply and consciously rooted in our spiritual nature so that we remain strong and effective in directing our lives.

“Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. I use the word love here not merely in a personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of grace —not in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.”

~ James Baldwin

There is more to you than meets the eye; more than you can even imagine. You are born out of and remain within an Infinite Spirit and your good, your peace of mind, are not determined by external factors, by who is in what political office, unless you allow them to be.

whitelion

New Thought teachings are about the realization of an empowerment, a birthright, which has always existed and never been diminished. It is not a teaching about how to hide from harsh conditions – it is a teaching about how to transcend them by transforming consciousness.

“Stop worrying about your identity and concern yourself with the people you care about, ideas that matter to you, beliefs you can stand by, tickets you can run on. Intelligent humans make those choices with their brain and hearts and they make them alone. The world does not deliver meaning to you. You have to make it meaningful…and decide what you want and need and must do. It’s a tough, unimaginably lonely and complicated way to be in the world. But that’s the deal: you have to live; you can’t live by slogans, dead ideas, clichés, or national flags. Finding an identity is easy. It’s the easy way out.”

~ Zadie Smith

There are, of course, times when we are seriously wounded, times when a retreat is necessary for healing, however, such times are relatively rare when you think about it. I hear people saying they just want to go and hide until everything is better. These voices are more numerous today, driven by the antics of the current administration in Washington, or by some other more localized difficulty. These issues do not warrant hiding or retreating, they warrant standing in our full power and integrity. We are all capable of crafting creative change in our systems – all of them. This requires the deep realization of inner strength and a practice of being in dominion emotionally – even on Facebook and Twitter.

“People need to be encouraged. People need to be reminded of how wonderful they are. People need to be believed in—told that they are brave and smart and capable of accomplishing all the dreams they dream and more. Remind each other of this.”

~ Stacey Jean Speer

Most of life is challenging in one way or another, and we have our own devices to make it more challenging than it needs to be much of the time. It’s called self-sabotage, and it is yet another proof of our power over our experience, isn’t it? Metaphysics tells us that everything that comes into our experience contains the potential to bring forth something new and more useful from within us. What is being called forth from you in these times?

“Be patient and tough. Someday this pain will be useful to you.”

~ Ovid

Toughness is something that is rarely talked about in New Thought circles today (in my experience anyway). We talk about being loving and heart-centered and often speak of these qualities as if toughness were not an important aspect of their expression. I think that in trying to move away from the perceived authoritarianism of our past (and of our own personal pasts), we have become so non-authoritarian as to be largely ineffectual in the world – and, I suggest, this is also too often the case in our own lives. The pendulum has swung a bit too far in the opposite direction – there is little to no authority in our organizations today – and too little in how we practice our teaching. (LINK to posts on the Green vMEME) We are called to find a more balanced approach – to express our authority in ways that are both clear and compassionate.

 

“Your problem is how you are going to spend this one and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.”

~ Anne Lamott

There are limits to our ability to apply our principles. We may not like to hear this, but it is the truth. Those limits may be conditional – I may not have developed the consciousness to simply think peace on earth into existence yet – but I suspect that many are more than conditional. I believe that we do not single-handedly create realitywe influence external reality, which we co-create with others. We are the sole creators of our experience of that reality. This means that we must find ways to cooperate with others to change things beyond our individual capacities to heal.

The word courage means strength of the heart. Loving peopletruly loving people – are very tough – they do not abuse others and they do not allow others to abuse them. Toughness in a heart-centered person respects boundaries, speaks Truth to power, holds themselves and others accountable, and expects the best from themselves and others. They live courageous lives, which, when practiced regularly, becomes a natural way of being.

“We must combine the toughness of the serpent with the softness of the dove, a tough mind and a tender heart.”

~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

I question I often ask myself is “How does a student of New Thought refuse to engage the outer world when so much of that world is in pain?” Aside from personal fear, which is normal and can be overcome, how have we come to align with belief systems which propagate suffering and inequity, or which believe in scarcity and lack? How do we not stand for justice, help the needy, spiritually educate those willing? How do we bicker, argue, and engage in endless circular conversations on social media (including our list serves)? How do we fail to do our own spiritual practices in a rigorous way – leaving our fears not soothed, our wisdom and strength not energized?

 

I plan to focus the remainder of 2017 on crafting a new vision for my life in 2018 – to be more present, more authentic, more focused on being my True Self, and more of a contributor to the world around me. And to be a better husband, father, friend, and citizen (of the world). I can’t think of a better way to spend my time.

“You must be willing to change. You must be willing to break the deal you made with the devils within. You must be willing to leave the past and not be tempted to rebound when times are tough. You must be willing to let go of everything and anyone that takes you back to your mistakes. You must be willing to have hope. You must be willing to have hope that you can change and that you will and that you will be better. You must believe you are worthy of change and you are worthy of improvement and you are worthy of being the best. You must be willing to set aside your negative notions about life, about hardships, about people, about things, about yourself. You must be willing to stop feeling sorry for yourself while looking at the world move around you. Get up and make something of yourself.”

~ Jack Barakat

Your comments are welcome in the section below. If you find this blog to be of value, please consider following it – you will get an email whenever a new post is published.

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

I will be speaking at a special event in La Jolla, California in January – the information and registration is at this link: http://lornabright.com/gathering/

Positive Gathering Jan 2018.png

 

 

MY BLIND SPOTS, PART 3

“There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order. This quality of lukewarmness arises partly from a fear of adversaries, who have the law on their side, and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it.”

~ Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince

White Privilege -blind-spots

What do we do with our individual and collective blind spots? How do you deal with something that you are either unaware of, or once you discover it, you realize that dealing with it may be very unpleasant? If we take Machiavelli’s quote above, and we make all of the characters internal and personal, we can see the challenge. The reformer is in me, the defender is in me, the adversaries are within me. It is me that must be convinced to do the work of coming to awareness of the blind spots, and then doing something about them. Me.

This may also extend to a group – spiritual communities can have blind spots. So, can families, nations, religions. The work is always first within the person or group.

Ernest Holmes hits us in the face with one of his most profound statements, which was never officially published – maybe due to one of his or his editor’s blind spots?

“The difficulty we find in our field …is the difficulty of sincerity, the heart not acquiescing to the statement of the lips; it is the difficulty of using constructive rather than destructive conversation; it is the difficulty of not being able to see reflected in each other the symbolic Christ or manifestation of the Infinite, the Spirit. That is what heals – seeing the Spirit in each other – it is the difficulty which arises from a certain form of spiritual stupidity which we all have, a lack of faith, a lack of absolute conviction that now we have it and we can use it., the absolute simplicity of it – the difficulty of surrendering the mind in complete abandonment to the idea; that is hard. That means putting the foot out, as it were, into a vacuum, into a nothingness; but if the faith and conviction is there it will be on a solid rock.”

~ Ernest Holmes, Unpublished Papers

“Spiritual stupidity” – quite a phrase. Stupidity is beyond mere ignorance, which we all are of many things. Ignorance is merely not knowing something; it is cured by learning something. Stupidity is much more serious. To be stupid, means you have learned something and then refused to use it. In other words, you can’t be stupid unless you know better. Yet he says that we all have this spiritual stupidity. To cure stupidity, you have to act differently“putting the foot out, as it were, into a vacuum, into a nothingness.”  You have to take a leap of faith.

That is what revealing and healing our blind spots is – a leap of faith in the name of the Oneness of Humanity. How can we ever open the compassionate heart and co-create #TheBelovedCommunity if we do not take such a leap? If we are unwilling to subject all of our limiting beliefs to radical and rigorous questioning, are we not condemning ourselves to living limited lives? The “lukewarmness” described by Machiavelli is our own tendency to let ourselves off easy, not to push too hard, not to rock the boat.

Well, that isn’t working, is it? The world is filled with inequality of every description, all of it unnecessary and capable of being rectified if we, as human beings, realize more of our potential for love and compassion. Perhaps if we come to understand the need to recognize that we are in a liminal space, it will help us. Liminal space is the place between the old and the new, between one room and another.

We keep praying that our illusions will fall away. God erodes them from many sides, hoping they will fall. But we often remain trapped in what we call normalcy—’the way things are.’ Life then revolves around problem-solving, fixing, explaining, and taking sides with winners and losers. It can be a circular and even nonsensical existence.

“To get out of this unending cycle, we have to allow ourselves to be drawn into sacred space, into liminality. All transformation takes place here. We have to allow ourselves to be drawn out of “business as usual” and remain patiently on the ‘threshold’ (limen, in Latin) where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown. There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence. That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin.”

~ Richard Rohr

To be in transition from one way of being to another is to be in liminal space. While it may not be possible for an entire spiritual community or organization to completely devote themselves to the experience of being in liminal space, it is possible for us to understand that dynamic as a critical aspect of our process of transformation. We must set aside time, alone and together, to be in this unknown, this in-between place. To vision, to meditate, to pray, to contemplate, and to converse. Perhaps to engage in some artistic endeavor or to delve into some new reading or to go to a place that is new to you and experience it for the first time. We must do the work of releasing our attachments to the old ways, the old forms, and of creating a space of invitation for what is next for us to emerge through our consciousness.

For me to move beyond my blind spots involves a process of disentangling the aspects of my psyche and personality connected to and dependent upon them, perhaps unconsciously. I am dismantling a structure, not simply changing a habit.

For a spiritual community, this is a communal process. Each person doing their own work in solitude and then coming together to join in the often-painful work of communal transformation. Such processing must be carefully facilitated, preferably by an “outsider” or a trusted elder. It is a combination of hospicing and midwifing –  the alchemical transformation of the old into the new. This is Edgewalkers work (LINK), the process of cultivating change at deep levels. The status quo is in grave danger when such work is being done; and appropriately so.

“What’s the point of spirituality and religion if you are not going to be out on the edge?”

~ Jim Lockard

Many aspects of the status quo aren’t working, are they? And many of the aspects that are working, or appear to be, are interwoven with and supporting what is not working. If your status quo isn’t serving you, why are you serving it?

Work with your teams (boards, committees, congregations, book clubs, families) to develop the deep trust that is required for rigorous inquiry into blind spots. That trust is essential if we are to call each other out on our blind spots. This is a challenging way of being which requires deep compassion, awareness, and love.

Finally, the gift in blind spots is that they will lead you closer to your best self or best community if they are recognized and healed. As our great spiritual teachers tell us over and over, we must focus on what we desire, from a pure heart and consciousness, to manifest heaven on earth. Let us get about our work together. Let us create The Beloved Community that we know is not only possible, it is our birthright.

Victor Hugo claimed Galileo spoke to him in a séance:
“You know what I would do if I were in your place? I’d drink from the milk basin of the Milky Way; I’d swallow comets; I’d lunch on dawn; I’d dine on day and I’d sup on night; I’d invite myself, splendid table-companion that I am, to the banquet of all the glories, and I’d salute God as my host! I’d work up a magnificent hunger, an enormous thirst, and I’d race through the drunken spaces between the spheres singing the fearsome drinking song of eternity.”

Beautiful Woman Moon

Your comments are welcomed below. Thank you for reading this series!

Links to Part 1 (LINK) & Part 2 (LINK) of this series.

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

WHY YOUR MINISTER NEEDS A SABBATICAL & WHY YOU SHOULD ENCOURAGE IT

“I’m restless.

Things are calling me away.

My hair is being pulled by the stars again.”

~ Anaïs Nin 

Why take a sabbatical? For a lot of reasons! Maybe you are restless or simply finding less joy and challenge in what you are doing. Perhaps things are a bit stale and in need of a creative tune-up. Or, more seriously, burnout is just around the corner.

There is a primal tension within each person between the horizontal, ascendant nature of spirit, and its horizontal, descendant nature. You can picture it this way:

Vertical Horizontal Slide Image

Those in ministry spend a lot of time in both dimensions conceptually, however, the reality of pastoring a spiritual community is to be living in the horizontal most of the time. You are there, IN PLACE, holding space for the community (probably operating as a family dynamic) you serve and lead; dealing with all the expectations people bring regarding familiarity and connection. The ascendant takes a back seat, except for the occasional retreat or vacation. Therefore, sabbaticals are essential – to take one into the ascendant, away from the familiar and routine, and into the new and unexplored.

Believe it or not, this can be relaxing as well. In fact, relaxation is often something missing from the day-to-day pastoring of a community. There is just too much to do, and those in ministry tend to be Type Aachievers and doers, with perhaps a few control issues thrown in (which often leads to reluctance to take a sabbatical).

Cartoon - Control Issues - Calvin

Calvin & Hobbes

Indeed, one of the most prevalent addictions in our society is workaholism – the addiction to work, to being (or at least seeming) productive constantly. Ministers often develop a sense of their own indispensability to their ministry, making the idea of taking a sabbatical something to be resisted, even feared. Sometimes, those in the community project their own sense of the need to be productive onto their minister(s), imagine that, and the idea of a sabbatical is seen as a way to be lazy or to escape responsibility. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, sabatticals result in greater overall productivity and creativity – and should be encouraged by members of spiritual communities. And members should continue to show up while the minister(s) is on sabbatical. If you need your own break, take it at another time.

I took my first (and only) sabbatical after 18 years in ministry. It was for six weeks (which would be the minimum that you could actually call a sabbatical), and I spent it in France, with my wife, Dorianne. We stayed in an apartment in Paris for three weeks, then spent a week in Lourdes at a conference, then a week in Bordeaux, and finally a week in the Loire Valley. During that time, I had no real contact with my spiritual community, other than to send a couple of videos back for them to show on Sundays. I did some reading and writing, but mostly enjoyed exploring the places we were visiting. I returned rested, relaxed, and rejuvenated – ready to bring new creativity to my spiritual community.

Before I left, I prepared the soil, if you will, by getting some people ready to step up to greater levels of responsibility. I must have done this well, because no one called me while I was gone, and when I returned, all was in order.

A sabbatical is something that, in my opinion, should be part of every clergy person’s contract/letter of call. A paid leave of six weeks to three months should be included every three to four years. The board and other leadership need to see this as an essential aspect of the package in order to keep the minister at his/her best and most creative. The balance of the vertical and horizontal elements is important for any person, and, as noted above, pastoring a spiritual community tends to naturally favor the horizontal over the vertical. A sabbatical can help to restore that balance in addition to its other benefits. This quote sums it up nicely for me:

“Whatever it may be that your soul, your heart needs may you find it easily, eagerly, gently, wondrously, and healthfully. May it open you up and make you kinder, wiser, whole and healed. May it make the world around and within you brighter, sweeter, spacious and nurturing. May you have rest when you need, energy to do good, laughter like mountains and tears like a spring rain. May you have mind and heart that open readily and release graciously. May your life go well and joyfully.” 

~ Leigh Shoju Loesch Macaro

sabbatical

 Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

CONSENSUS AND THE EVOLUTION OF PEOPLE AND ORGANIZATIONS, PART 2

“Change is inevitable. Progression is a choice.”

~ Sonya Teclin

In Part 1 (LINK) of this series, I pointed out how consensus decision-making is the result of an evolutionary dynamic – one which emerges with the movement on the spiral into the Postmodernist-Green Level of Existence.

Consensus as the primary, or sole, formal method of decision-making at the spiritual community or organizational level works very well, if not perfectly, when all of those involved in the decision-making process are centered at Green. It is less successful when participants are centered lower or higher on the spiral. (Remember that lower or higher is not better nor worse, simply a reflection of the level of complexity of thought at which someone is operating currently). There is a tendency for those who are not aware of the dynamics of cultural evolution to simply think that they have discovered something new, such as consensus, and seek to entice others or impose the new thing on them. This can lead to negative consequences. An understanding of cultural evolution will help one realize that we are all evolving differently and unevenly; and that there are vMEME-driven implications in our emerging values systems.

VMEMEs Simplified

 

Let’s look at some pros and cons of consensus decision-making, then follow with some additional exploration of developmental and evolutionary factors.

PROS OF CONSENSUS (some from this LINK)

  • A way to ensure that every voice is heard
  • A way to make decisions without authoritarian energy
  • A safe space to voice concerns
  • A respectful hearing of all perspectives
  • A bias toward the non-rational – this can allow exploration of deeper meaning (Presencing – LINK).
  • A process by which a group mind emerges from individual input
  • A process aimed at achieving a greater good
  • A way to synthesize various ideas or perspectives into a uniquely new outcome
  • A way to forge greater emotional connection between members of a group or team

CONS OF CONSENSUS

  • Those operating at vMEMEs below Green will feel out of harmony with the processing and will believe they must comply or be a hindrance (they will project their own values system onto the process at hand). Those at Blue will want to know what happened to Robert’s Rules of Order and be uncomfortable with what is to them the free-flowing nature of the process.
  • Those operating at 2nd Tier may well become very frustrated with how long it takes to process decisions and by the tendency to succumb to manipulation by feelings (see below), and they may leave the group.
  • When unhealthy elements of Green are present, consensus can be obstructed or, at minimum, become very difficult. Examples of unhealthy Green include:
    • Open-ended relativism – every idea or concept or belief system has equal value – “Who am I to say what we should decide?
    • A bias toward the non-rationalGreen is where elements of Tribal-Purple re-emerge. This can result in budget income line-items such as “God Will Provide” when dealing with scarcity. This will be very difficult for someone centered at Blue, Orange, or Yellow to accept.
    • A strong bias toward inclusion can lead unhealthy Green to overlook whether candidates for positions have the necessary skills, experience, or ethical backgrounds.
    • Unhealthy Green can become authoritarian (re-emerging Blue). Remember, unhealthy Green can be in shadow and have a high tolerance for dysfunction.
  • A tendency to be manipulated. At Green, feelings are paramount. Everyone must feel that decisions are correct and in the best interest of all concerned. This can lead to two major issues:
    • Someone with a lack of emotional maturity can manipulate the group by expressing negative or hurt feelings about issues. A sociopath can effectively sabotage or even take over the group by manipulating emotions.
    • Getting everyone on the same page emotionally can take a long time. Seemingly endless processing can frustrate members and make it difficult to recruit new people into leadership due to the frustrations of some with the leadership culture – word spreads that being on the leadership team is no fun.

Cartoon - Agreement in Principle

It is important that we realize the evolutionary nature of human cultural development as we explore how we make decisions in groups. Those centered at the various levels on the spiral will naturally gravitate toward decision-making processes which reflect the values systems of their own level. And, they will tend to reject the decision-making processes which reflect the values systems of other levels. So, for someone centered at Blue or Orange, consensus will seem less than ideal. And for someone at 2nd Tier, Yellow or Turquoise, it will seem like an immature process. At the same time, someone centered at Green will see authoritarian or majority rule decision-making as undesirable as well.

Remember also that vMEMEs are fluid – we are always in an evolutionary flow, even if we are slow to change. Evolution is never static, always dynamic. The composition of vMEMEs present on any decision-making team will be in flux, as are other aspects of their developmental natures. Each will bring levels of psychological development, styles of being such as introvert or extrovert, orientations to change (LINK), and what is happening in their lives at the current moment to the decision-making process. That said, the vMEME levels occupied by those involved will have the greatest effect on what kind of decision-making process is most favored.

“While genes evolve slowly, the decision systems formed by vMEMES are always on the move. vMEMES can be so dominant they seem like archetypes and are easily misinterpreted as ‘types’ of people. When several are in harmony, vMEMES resonate like the notes in a musical chord. However, vMEMES in conflict lead to troubled individuals, dysfunctional families, corporate malaise, fractured churches, and civilizations in decline and fall. Since they are ‘alive,’ vMEMEs can ebb and flow, intensify and soften like a string of Christmas tree lights on a dimmer. Several different ones may line up in support of a specific issue, idea, or project because they share the values contents. At other times, people with essentially the same vMEME decision-making frameworks may disagree violently over details of beliefs and what is ‘the good,’ degenerating into holy and un-civil war.”

~ Don Edward Beck & Christopher Cowan, SPIRAL DYNAMICS

Consensus is a good fit when an organization and/or its leadership team is centered at the Green vMEME. That said, it does not guarantee that the consensus process will have positive results. That will depend on how healthy the team expresses at the Green level. It will also depend on how those centered at different levels on the spiral are welcomed within the leadership team and the larger spiritual community. Like all 1st Tier levels, Green is fear-based, and those at Green will tend to view those expressing the values systems of other levels as being wrong. When there is pushback, those at Green may close in together and keep others out of the decision-making process. These are all things that good spiritual leadership will be aware of, and work to minimize.

“Cultures are moving pictures, adoptive flow states, that can either downshift under fear or upshift with waves of confidence, access, education and appropriate structures.”

~ Don Edward Beck

Finally, it is important to realize that while consensus may be an ideal fit when those involved are at the Green level, the evolutionary process will continue, and there will come a time when expression at a higher level on the spiral will emerge. Any given spiritual community or organization may be centered at the Green Level for a few years or a decade or more. In Part 3 of this series, I will explore some of what we know about 2nd Tier decision-making.

“It’s a recognition that reality as we know it is being animated by an evolutionary current. This is true on the cosmological large-scale structure of the universe. It’s true biologically. But it’s true on a human level, too. The great mystery is living and wanting to transcend itself through us toward greater expressions of beauty, truth and goodness. And so evolutionary spirituality says that, for lack of a better word, God is implicate, intrinsic to that evolutionary push.”

~ Rev. Bruce Sanguin

 

United colors-38
Here is where you can get my book
CREATING THE BELOVED COMMUNITY:
A Handbook for Spiritual Leadership,At
in paperback or Kindle editions
(LINK TO AMAZON.COM)
(LINK TO AMAZON.CA – Canada)
(LINK TO AMAZON.CO.UK)
And at DEVORSS.COM

 Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

GETTING CULTURE RIGHT IN A SPIRITUAL COMMUNITY

Navigating a culture

towards conscious impulsion

with unshakeable vision

while at the same time

honoring its sacred heritage

is not for the faint of heart.

~ Unknown

 new-thought-logos

Organizational culture is defined as: The values and behaviors that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organization (LINK). In New Thought, we have two levels of organizational culture – the denominational organization (such as CSL, Unity) and the local spiritual community. The focus of this post will be the local community – I will address the larger organizational level in another post.

The culture of a spiritual community is the environment, the energetics, the Presencing (LINK) that exist as a felt reality for those who are a part of the community and for those who encounter the community and its members. It includes any sense of vision, mission, purpose, and passion that the community espouses – or the lack of any of these things. It includes the leadership Presence, style, and expectations. It includes the values & behaviors of members in support of the highest vision (if one is articulated) or in opposition or indifference to that vision. It includes the overall sense of well-being, or lack thereof, at any given time in a spiritual community.

“As within, so without. As above, so below.”

~ Ancient Hermetic Philosophy

Far too often, the culture of the spiritual community is not consciously considered; it simply happens. The role of spiritual leadership in the creation and maintenance of the culture cannot be overstated. It is a critical aspect of spiritual leadership. Culture is fluid by nature, it ebbs and flows, it evolves, and it is a constant presence that everyone feels and experiences. If not properly attended to, it can devolve quickly into negative behaviors, confusion about values and vision, inconsistency of message, fear, and indifference.

“The one constant, the North Star of every vital community is its commitment to nurturing a culture of love. This reverent commitment uplifts our relationships to one another and to the world at large. Without it, our collective experience is embittered rather than empowered.”

~ Dr. David Ault

What is the culture of your spiritual community? Can you define it? Can you articulate the vision and mission, whether you are a spiritual leader or a regularly attending member? Can you describe the values of your community based on how people behave toward one another – toward leadership – toward the teaching?

Poster - Culture Quote - Nehru

In a more secular, but still applicable, context, Seth Godin speaks of organizational culture this way in his blog (LINK):

Four ways to improve customer service

  1. Delegate it to your customers. Let them give feedback, good and bad, early and often.

  2. Delegate it to your managers. Build in close monitoring, training and feedback. Have them walk the floor, co-creating with their teams.

  3. Use technology. Monitor digital footprints, sales per square foot, visible customer actions.

  4. Create a culture where peers inspire peers, in which each employee acts like a leader, pushing the culture forward. People like us do things like this. People like us, care.

You’ve probably guessed that the most valuable one, the fourth, is also far and away the most difficult to create. Culture is a posture that lasts. It’s corroded by shortcuts and by inattention, and fed by constant investment and care.

Big company or small, it doesn’t matter. There are government agencies and tiny non-profits that have a culture of care and service. And then there are the rest…

How do we ensure that the culture we ARE living in our spiritual communities is the same as the culture WE SAY that we are living? This is primarily the role of spiritual leadership. The culture must be presented over and over again – spoken about at gatherings (every gathering is an opportunity to express the culture to those present); taught in classes; expressed at special events; mentioned in conversations; modeled in behavior, etc. It is best presented in an evolutionary context, recognizing the ongoing development of the spiritual community and its members. So evolutionary leadership is called for here.

When you consider what kind of events your spiritual community is going to host, do you think about things like “does this represent our culture well?” or “how can we use this to express our culture clearly?” Do you include cultural identity and its expression in your planning? Do your planning teams know what that is and how to do it? I hope so. Would someone from outside your spiritual community get a good sense of your culture by attending any event that you present?

“As I see it, there are two main reasons to be in spiritual community. One is to develop a culture of love and support for people living their daily lives based on spiritual understanding; the other is to introduce them to the mystical path.”

~ Jim Lockard, CREATING THE BELOVED COMMUNITY

Poster - Included Inspired Involved

You can think of your organizational culture as the environment that is created by those present. Every spiritual community has a culture. That culture is best cultivated and expressed in a conscious manner. Over time, it becomes more and more automatic, but still it must be expressed. It is much more than reading the mission and vision statements out loud. We don’t hit people over the head with our culture – we speak of it internally and express it through our behaviors and statements to the larger world. We tend it like a gardencultivating the flowers and removing the weeds.

Beautiful Tree in Lake

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

 

 

Here is where you can get my book

CREATING THE BELOVED COMMUNITY:

A Handbook for Spiritual Leadership,At

in paperback or Kindle editions

(LINK TO AMAZON.COM)

(LINK TO AMAZON.CA – Canada)

And at DEVORSS.COM

TRANSITIONING THE GREEN LEVEL OF EXISTENCE – WHERE ORGANIZATIONS GO TO DIE, PART 4

“It is an ironic habit of human beings to run faster when they have lost their way.”

~ Rollo May

ELP Butterfly

In Parts 1 through 3 of this series (LINK), I have suggested an idea about the nature of the Postmodernist-Green Level of Existence from the Spiral Dynamics™ Model. Namely, that the Green Level is where organizations go to die – in the sense that the caterpillar enters the chrysalis to die as the caterpillar, but to emerge as the butterfly.

Green nature has many facets, and it also provides a “launching pad” into 2nd Tier Levels of Existence. 2nd Tier is starkly different from 1st Tier. The preparation for what Clare Graves (LINK) called the ”momentous leap” from the Green Level to the Yellow Level is nothing if not significant, requiring a massive change in consciousness.

“To move beyond the Green memetic mindset and consciousness requires that you start to really and honestly understand, appreciate, and respect your own and other people’s incomparable cosmic singularity. So long as you compare yourself with others (equality is a term of comparison) you will remain in the mode of deficiency. When you realize your and other people’s incomparability, you enter the existential mode of abundance and start to live in the world of abundance and plenitude.”

~ Yasuhiko Genku Kimura, President & CEO, Vision-In-Action, LLC

2nd Tier consciousness is not fear-based. That is a huge distinction, as most of our energies when we occupy 1st Tier levels go into self-protection, ego defenses, and creating the structures which provide these. As we move to 2nd Tier, this changes, moving into an empowered, love-based ego structure. There is currently no well-defined pathway into 2nd Tier, but this transition clearly requires significant changes in one’s self-image.

“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

Sign - Self Knowledge

When an organization or spiritual community emerges into the Green Level of Existence, one of four outcomes is possible:

  1. A long period occupying Green due to either unhealthy expression, a lack of 2nd Tier Living Conditions being present, or a lack of 2nd Tier development by the spiritual leadership. This is a good thing when there is movement toward a healthy expression of Green.
  2. A transition to 2nd Tier occurs over time – this requires a healthy Green foundation to be successful.
  3. A regression to Orange due to unhealthy Green or a change to Orange-centered leadership.
  4. The organization or spiritual community ceases to exist.

Major challenges for spiritual leadership within organizations or spiritual communities that are entering or centered in the Green Level of Existence are twofold: (1) to guide them toward a healthy expression of Green and (2) to shepherd them through the transition to 2nd Tier when that is appropriate. And, if it is time for a spiritual community to cease to be, wise leadership will hospice that process.

While arrival at the Green Level may not have occurred for many spiritual communities, it is on their agenda. As Living Conditions (the cultural world around us) grow more complex, humans are called to adapt to that complexity by moving their Level of Existence farther up the spiral. Here are my suggestions for spiritual leadership who are recognizing these dynamics:

  1. Grow your knowledge about cultural evolution. Models such as Spiral Dynamics (LINK), Theory U (LINK), and Edgewalkers (LINK) are important tools in this regard. Get a coach/mentor to work with you – this is not a solo journey.
  2. Seek to expand your capacity to be creative and bold. Evolutionary leadership skills are essential to determining who will thrive in the future. Success will come to those who are willing to make decisions that require deep knowledge and the willingness to risk being judged (LINK). Remember that significant transformation is on our agenda. How will we respond to that challenge? We are not planning for catastrophe, we are setting the stage to thrive in the chaos.
  3. Grow the knowledge of your community leadership team as well – ensure that you are developing evolutionary leadership capacities in your spiritual community.
  4. Speak about evolutionary growth – personal and communal – when you address your community members. Your future leadership team is in the audience every time you speak.
  5. Remember that, for the most part, people with different value systems are not corrupt or lacking understanding – they are operating from the values system of their Level(s) of Existence. When spiritual leaders are aware of this, they can expand their field of compassion to include those with different values than their own (whether higher or lower on the spiral!). The key is to encourage healthy expressions from each of the levels present.
  6. It is critical that spiritual leaders understand and model the healthy aspects of each Level of Existence present in the community. To do this, develop an awareness of the spiral, and do the deep personal work to develop greater capacities for compassion.
  7. Those centered at the Green Level will advocate for processes like governing by consensus and shared leadership. It takes wise leaders to recognize that consensus is only viable when everyone is operating from the Green Level.

Those centered at Blue and Orange value authoritarian leaders and majority rule. When consensus is imposed, they will find it very difficult to respond authentically – they will feel coerced. Shared leadership feels good to those at Green, however, it often results in a lack of clear accountability, which is a significant liability for any organization with Blue/Orange structures and proceduresGreen will tend to insist that everyone else be as “evolved” as they are, and have little patience with those who currently occupy the same places on the spiral that those now at Green occupied a short time ago. The tendency of those centered at Green to insist that no one feel discomfort or use abrasive speech can also be an obstacle to progressive growth.

“We live in a bourgeois cocoon of niceness and anything that breaks out of that is very threatening and disruptive to people. We have to work towards having honest speech with each other. When we have honest speech, we have to speak out about the things that are unjust and unfair. We need a more honest and abrasive speech to bring our talk into connection with our social reality. Any intent to curb that kind of speech is a desire to not have reality pointed out to us. But if we don’t have reality pointed out to us nothing will ever change.”

~ Walter Brueggemann

  1. At 2nd Tier, leadership moves away from both authoritarian leadership and shared leadership. In most organizations operating at 2nd Tier levels, anyone can make any decision at any time! (LINK) Imagine leading such an organization. Can you see now why the “leap” to 2nd Tier is so momentous?

What is required of spiritual leadership in these times is a deeper step into our own authenticity. If something new and different is required of us in these times of accelerated change, that something is already within us, awaiting our permission for it to emerge. The process is not one of becoming different, but of becoming more of who we already are. Finding our inner genius, our inner lover of life, and bringing them forward is our calling. We in New Thought have the tools to do so.

“Do not adopt the letter of my teaching, but the spirit, and you will find, as I did, that you will begin to formulate a system that is true for you. I learned for me, and you must learn for yourself that you must develop your own faith and confidence in your own interpretation of God, humanity, and the universe.”

~ Ernest Holmes

spiral_staircase_photography

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

 

Here is where you can get my book

CREATING THE BELOVED COMMUNITY:

A Handbook for Spiritual Leadership,At

in paperback or Kindle editions

(LINK TO AMAZON.COM)

(LINK TO AMAZON.CA – Canada)

And at DEVORSS.COM

DEEP CALLS UNTO DEEP – WHAT THEY DON’T TELL YOU AT SUNDAY SERVICES, PART 4

How to Create a Welcoming Atmosphere for Deep Spirituality in a Spiritual Community

 Spiritually Mature Subject Matter

“The best place to start on these complex initiatives is to get to the bottom, to the deepest tectonic plates that grind and gravitate from the past, shape and structure the present, and extend their stress fractures well into the future. All this happens in spite of our very best efforts on the surface. Until we go deep with major repair and realignment technologies, each succeeding generation will sing: ‘All we are say-ing is give peace a chance.’”

~ Phyllis Philomena Blees, President, Peace Through Commerce, Inc.

If you have read this series of posts (LINK), and agree there is value in having depth of spiritual awareness, practices, and realization in your spiritual community, you might be asking, how do I promote this? That is the subject of this final post in the series.

FIRST, LEADERSHIP

“A leader is a person who has an unusual degree of power to create the conditions under which other people must live and move and have their being, conditions that can be either as illuminating as heaven or as shadowy as hell. A leader must take special responsibility for what’s going on inside his or her own self, inside his or her consciousness, lest the act of leadership create more harm than good.”

~ Parker Palmer

 Spiritual Leadership is the essential element in the development of the atmosphere of a spiritual community. Leader(s) do this in a variety of ways. First and foremost, by being an example of the consciousness of sacred calling and personal mastery. This does not mean having no issues or knowing how to do everything. It means that one has clearly prepared in consciousness for the role; that one is a living example of the application of the teaching.

A second very important element is the setting of expectations. Are attendees encouraged to engage in deep spirituality? Are they consciously directed toward attending spiritual classes, engaging in spiritual conversations, and doing rigorous daily spiritual practices? This may seem elemental, and yet, I have seen many spiritual communities where little or nothing is expected of those who attend. Instead, there is a constant begging for donations, volunteering, class attendance, etc.

I swear, if I hear one more Sunday announcement like this, I will SCREAM:

This Wednesday’s Midweek Service features Rev. (not the spiritual leader) speaking on “Your Inner Power.” Please come out and support Rev. (not the spiritual leader).

How about Rev. (not the spiritual leader) supporting those who attend?

How about Rev. (not the spiritual leader) being known for delivering such amazing talks that you can’t keep the crowds small even if you charge admission and have a dress code? How about Rev. (not the spiritual leader) being known for such great depth and gravitas that she or he draws those who seek deep spirituality with ease? How about we stop apologizing, in effect, for letting this person speak, and find someone who has something to say? Spiritual Leader – why are you allowing this to happen in your spiritual community? Rant over.

SECOND, LEADERSHIP MUST BE EVOLUTIONARY

‎”I am personally convinced that one person can be a Change Catalyst, a ‘Transformer’ in any situation, any organization. Such an individual is yeast that can leaven an entire loaf. It requires vision, initiative, patience, respect, persistence, courage, and faith to be a Transforming Leader.”

~ Stephen Covey

Leadership is the key to the atmosphere and experience of spiritual community – not 100% of it, but the most significant part. And leadership in today’s world of spirituality needs to be evolutionary. That means that the leader(s) understands psychological and cultural development; recognizes that there are several developmental levels present in any group and that everyone is on a developmental pathwayemotionally, psychologically, socially, and spiritually. It also means that leaders are constantly in the business of developing leadership qualities in their students.

If this is so (and it is), is the process of teaching students in your spiritual community based upon the evolutionary developmental nature of learning? Or is everyone treated the same in every class; anyone can take any class at any point in their personal development? Is curriculum design and structure based on past, limited understanding of personal and cultural development? Or is there a deep understanding of the evolutionary nature of emergence?

“The ability to shift from reacting against the past to leaning into and presenting an emerging future is probably the single most important leadership capacity today.”

~ C. Otto Scharmer

Naturally, this need to have an evolutionary consciousness is in addition to having the talent to speak, teach, counsel, organize, manage, and lead. It is in addition to financial savvy, conducting great meetings, doing some conflict management, knowing how to dress and to be on time. All of this is necessary as well. However, if the leader is not coming from a deep understanding of evolutionary and developmental perspectives, and has not done her own deep work, the following will be true:

“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, Jungian Analyst

I strongly suggest that competent evolutionary leadership is the key to successful spiritual community in the post-postmodern world in which we currently live. Although it is NOT a substitute for competencies in other areas of spiritual leadership.

Leadership woman

That said, we also need to recognize that some come into spiritual leadership unprepared or needing greater emotional and spiritual maturity, or who experience setbacks or burnout (LINK). While this is not the topic of this post (see my book LINK for more on this), it is something which both local spiritual communities and spiritual organizations need to give serious attention.

THIRD, A PATH TO DEEP SPIRITUALITY.

Does your spiritual community have a clear pathway for those who desire to study, practice, and live their spirituality deeply? Those centered in the Postmodernist-Green Level of Existence (LINK) on the spiral, may see this as elitism or labeling – remember the high value that Green places on egalitarianism. We need to see that everyone will not be interested in or have the aptitude for deep spiritual study, practice, and realization; and if we do not serve those who are, the entire spiritual community will suffer – it will have no core of deeply spiritual members to positively affect the vibration of the whole community. I think you know what I mean by that.

Deep spirituality from a developmental standpoint, helps one develop empathy – the capacity to experience a true sense of Oneness with others. Empathy is realized through an evolutionary process of awakening within each person, which must include deep psychological and spiritual work. Empathy is the important attribute to harmony in spiritual community. When empathy exists, truth can be spoken into a field of emotionally and spiritually intelligent receptivity. Things are not taken personally because the sense of feeling diminished has been healed.

“You have to do the work to develop real empathy. There’s a cost to evolving: if you want your soul to cross the line, there’s no way around emotional work. Face that deep pain, and you gain tremendous compassion for yourself. You feel compassion for those who have hurt you because they were hurt themselves. To really make yourself available to consciously create a new future, you have to do that work.”

~ Bruce Sanguin

New Thought spiritual leaders are in the business of developing spiritually realized beings. In the center where I took classes, the dividing line of sorts was practitioner class. One did not have to desire to become a licensed practitioner to take that class, but one did have an in-depth interview with the spiritual leader to get into the class. Those who indicated a strong desire to deepen their spiritual awareness and practices, and who already had a regular spiritual practice and worked with a practitioner were allowed into the class. Many of those dropped out as the class went along, due to the rigor of high expectations (there were other classes for them to take). But it was a breeding ground, if you will, for deep spiritual realization. And it worked pretty well.

 Baby reading Deepak

 

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

HOW TO BE EFFECTIVE AT ENGAGED SPIRITUALITY, PART 4

“Cautious, careful people always casting about to preserve their reputation or social standards never can bring about reform. Those who are really in earnest are willing to be anything or nothing in the world’s estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathies with despised ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences.”

~ Susan B. Anthony

Engaged spirituality requires a strong consciousness. When those engaged in activism have not done their personal psychological and spiritual work to a sufficient degree, they can do more harm than good. They lose their poise, fail to act from a compassionate heart, and are swept away by the energy of events. Only when one has been trained with some degree of rigor in spiritual principles and practices, and has applied themselves to regular practice over sufficient time is one likely to be capable of acting from such a consciousness.

“You can’t be a wimp when you’re doing justice work.”

~ Bishop Yvette Flunder

The Postmodernist-Green values system now dominates New Thought organizations and many local spiritual communities. If, as we evolve along the spiral, we do not bring forward the healthy aspects of the Traditionalist-Blue and Modernist-Orange levels (transcend & include), then Green will become unhealthy, because the values at the Green level do not support what organizations need to thrive. Green is, in part, a transitional stage between 1st and 2nd Tiers of the spiral – between levels of complexity and their value systems. Many of the values (both healthy and unhealthy) essential to the Blue/Orange organizational structure can be abandoned with the movement into Green.

Green vMEME

Green sees consensus as the ultimate form of decision making and shared leadership as the vehicle for generating consensus. But while consensus is laudable, it is rarely achievable unless everyone at the table is operating at or beyond the Green Level of Existence. Someone at Orange or below on the spiral will not value consensus and will feel forced into compliance, even though that may not be the intention of leadership.

“Consensus comes with another flaw. It dilutes responsibility.” 

~ Frederic Laloux, REINVENTING ORGANIZATIONS

In fact, Green is where the Blue/Orange form of organization goes to die. Die so that it can be re-born at the 2nd Tier level, as the caterpillar goes into the chrysalis to die as the caterpillar and be re-born as the butterfly. The caterpillar has no knowledge of what is coming, a huge transformation; the butterfly has no knowledge of where it came from. Organizations entering the chrysalis of Green, without awareness of the dynamics involved, are like the caterpillar – they are blind to what is coming, what is beginning to emerge from within them. And while in the caterpillar to butterfly transformation, nature knows what to do, in organizational transformation, we must depend on the collective wisdom of the group.

Green is where we begin to shed the old forms of fear-based structure, of centralization and hierarchical authority, of mistrust of people at every level. We have some insight into Integral-Yellow level organizations thanks to the work of Frederic Laloux (LINK to REINVENTING ORGANIZATIONS) and others. What we see emerging at 2nd Tier levels are things like self-organizing teams where full authority is moved to those who actually do the work.

“Others will arise who will know more than we do; they won’t be better or worse, they will be different and know more than we do. Evolution is forward.” 

~ Ernest Holmes, Sermon By The Sea- Asilomar, Saturday, August 15, 1959

This requires 2nd Tier leadership at the top of the flattened organization, as leaders centered in the 1st Tier generally lack the degree of trust and vision needed to actualize the Yellow organization. In fact, most of the structures in Blue/Orange organizations arose out of a lack of trust in people. However, Laloux give us a glimpse into what can be. We see the beginnings of this with the increasing decentralization of authority in Centers for Spiritual Living and Unity. But this is only the beginning of the movement into 2nd Tier, and Green values often  limit the functioning of the organization or spiritual community while it is still in its First Tier structure. This makes the transition more difficult, even treacherous, than it need be.

“Nothing is more curious than the self-satisfied dogmatism with which mankind at each period of its history cherishes the delusion of the finality of its existing modes of knowledge. Advance in detail is admitted: fundamental novelty is barred. This dogmatic common sense is the death of philosophical adventure.” 

~ Alfred North Whitehead

Where in our New Thought organizations, with their predominance of Green leadership, is there the vision and the power for change? Where is the authority held in organizations to require ANYTHING of leadership in local spiritual communities? It has dissipated like the morning fog as we have moved into new cultural evolutionary ways of being. Leaders who try to exercise authority are ignored or shouted down, sometimes lovingly, but they surely are hampered in their ability to lead.

This shows up in many ways – one is when ministers who teach accredited classes in CSL (I cannot speak for Unity here) freely replace significant content from the accredited curriculum and yet see no ethical issues in signing off on certificates of completion from CSL which say that the student has completed the required curriculum. If CSL leadership questions this practice, they are rebuffed with a “how dare you question me?” attitude. And the leaders tend to back down, because what else can they do without upsetting someone?

Why does this matter? Shouldn’t ministers have the freedom to teach what they want?

I think it matters because the  CSL organization and local spiritual communities had an original intention – a Prime Directive if you will – to teach the Science of Mind philosophy. If every community does that differently (and, let’s be honest, not every unique way of teaching the material is equally effective), where is any sense of uniformity within our movement about our basic reason for being and our spiritual principles?

Simply put – New Thought leaders need to up-level cultural evolutionary awareness, as in Spiral Dynamics™, Theory U, and the work of Frederic Laloux.

ce-books

My reason for bringing this issue up here is to give some context to the issue of whether to engage in social activism, or any form of engaged spirituality. If we are drifting away, however unintentionally, from our core reason for being, how can we engage in this important conversation from a common set of principles and values?

There are two steps to effective engaged spirituality:

  1. Realization and actualization of the spiritual principles of the teaching.

  2. Engagement with the outer world that is consistent with those principles by people who have developed #1.

In my opinion, before (or at least, as) we decide what forms of engaged spirituality we will take, we need to decide to become a unified body teaching the same basic spiritual principles in an atmosphere of love, compassion, and full accountability. This means that, at minimum, every student who takes classes in the Science of Mind at any CSL center will learn the same principles and practices. There will be a common understanding of these and a common vocabulary. We all recognize the importance of bringing the highest possible consciousness to what we do; so why should involvement in engaged spirituality be any different? 2nd Tier organizations may self-organize and decentralize decision making, but they do so in an atmosphere of adherence to the basic principles and values of the organization.

This blog series, I hope, will lead to some serious consideration about how we go forward as New Thought organizations and spiritual communities. To do so, we must understand where we are developmentally on the spiral, and bring the best of those values systems present forward in our visioning and decision making.

“Job Description for Spiritual Seeker: Full time position available for person who strives to be mindful and aware of the deeper context of life. Must be intellectually curious, open-minded, and willing to change. Reverence for creation, personal humility, and a strong commitment to social justice will be necessary. Study, prayer, dialogue and meditative practice are expectations. Cross cultural experience important. Compassion and kindness are requirements. Starting date: now. Salary: zero. Benefits: unlimited. Apply in person to the Maker of Everything.”

~ Bishop Steven Charleston

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

 

CREATING THE BELOVED COMMUNITY: A Handbook for Spiritual Leadership,

By Jim Lockard

Available in paperback or Kindle editions

(LINK TO AMAZON.COM)