LEARNING HOW TO DIE

“Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death – ought to decide, indeed, to earn one’s death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life.”

~ James Baldwin, “The Fire Next Time

I think I have mentioned in a previous post the story of my encounter with a very old man early in my Science of Mind studies. He had been in the teaching for some time and we were having a discussion during a class break. What he said to me has remained with me as one of the most significant statements in my metaphysical learning. He said that in learning the Science of Mind, we are learning how to die.

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When I questioned his meaning, he replied that only in learning how to live fully can we learn how to die properly. If we have not lived fully, we will resist that final state of our human lifetime and likely suffer much more than necessary. The quotes from James Baldwin, above, and Krishnamurti, below, speak to this deep truth.

“Death is extraordinarily like life when we know how to live. You cannot live without dying. You cannot live if you do not die psychologically every minute. This is not an intellectual paradox. To live completely, wholly, every day as if it were a new loveliness, there must be a dying to everything of yesterday, otherwise you live mechanically, and a mechanical mind can never know what love is or what freedom is.”

~ J. Krishnamurti

In our New Thought principles and teachings, we have a recipe for living fully, not just a series of lessons in positive thinking. Our teachings are about the realities of a human existence and a realization that although we are imbued with divinity, so is everything else. Pain and suffering are not to be denied but experienced and transcended as much as possible. The “successful” spiritual pathway is not one free of negativity and pain, but one in which the inevitabilities of life are met with compassion, grace, and wisdom. Our path is never completely clear of challenges, but we can begin to clear it of unnecessary challenges created out of our own ignorance and fear.

“A good life is still a life. It must involve a full share of suffering, loneliness, disappointment and coming to terms with one’s own mortality and the deaths of those one loves. To live a life that is good as a life involves all this.”

~ John Armstrong

Beautiful Angel Sculputure 3

Our fears lead us to live false lives, repressing aspects of ourselves which do not seem to lead to our acceptance by those by whom we wish to be accepted. We develop personalities designed to manipulate others through charm, intimidation, or aloofness. We come to see ourselves as inadequate and try to protect ourselves by hiding behind masks of various kinds.

“Most hide behind the smile because they are afraid of facing the world’s complexity, its vagueness, its terrible beauties. If they stay safely ensconced behind their painted grins, then they won’t have to encounter the insecurities attendant upon dwelling in possibility, those anxious moments when one doesn’t know this from that, when one could suddenly become almost anything at all. Even though this anxiety, usually over death, is in the end exhilarating, a call to be creative, it is in the beginning rather horrifying, a feeling of hovering in an unpredictable abyss. Most immediately flee from this situation. They try to lose themselves in the laughing masses, hoping the anxiety will never again visit them. They don inauthenticity as a mask, a disguise protecting them from the abyss.”

~ Eric G. Wilson

For some on a New Thought pathway, this becomes a fixation on being positive, good, even perfect. There is a clear sense of fear if anything negative is said or if the bad news of the day is discussed. This compulsion to avoid negativity is, psychology tells us, another form of the fear of death. In this realm, no one dies, they “transition.” The fact that no one knows what happens after that “transition” is also not spoken about, unless one has a belief that they do know.

Beautiful Angel Sculputure 5

A major lesson taught by Jesus is that every resurrection requires a crucifixion. In other words, there is no new birth without a death – the child must die so that the adult can be born, ignorance must die so that awareness can be born, etc. If we do not grasp the inevitability and the necessity of death in our existence, we sentence ourselves to incomplete lives lived in bondage to fear and avoidance. This shows up every time we cling to something that no lover serves us or that is, of its own volition or nature, ready to move on. Relationships, old belongings, stages of life, and limited ideas exist in this category. Clinging to the past is a form of denial of our actual fear – that we are destined to be forever moving into an unknown future which includes a physical death, and that we fear living fully.

It can be comforting to have a belief about what happens to us when we die. The founder of Religious Science, Ernest Holmes, was agnostic on this topic. He did believe in immortality of the soul, of the essence of who we are, but he was less certain about any retention of memory of our life in human form. He did not believe in reincarnation to earth but believed that every individual has access to every thoughtform, and memories of past lives were just that – thought forms (see the 1926 Science of Mind Text). Of course, he also held that this was his own opinion and others were not required to believe as he did.

“I do not believe in the return of the soul to another life on this plane.  The spiral of life is upward.  Evolution carries us forward, not backward.”

~ Ernest Holmes, The Science of Mind (1938), p 386.

The ability to live in the paradox of a life which ends with a physical death and the continued journey of the soul, in another form or formless, into an unknown eternity is a sign of spiritual maturity. The spiritually mature person lives with mystery and paradox easily and does not require specific answers where they are not forthcoming or simply cannot be known.

Beautiful Angel Sculpture Death

By learning how to live fully, to accept the mysteries and paradoxes inherent in life and to be a living expression of our uniquely divine nature is the key to learning how to die. To enter that mystery with no more knowledge than we had when we entered this lifetime is what Nature requires of us (“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” ~ Matthew 18:3). To come to a place where we do not fear death because we accept its inevitability and its mystery is to prepare ourselves and to enable us to live fully in each present moment.

Accepting the reality and inevitability of physical death is an important aspect of living a life worth living, one that offers the chance for fulfillment of your reason for being. It allows you to live both fully and lightly, with humility and humor, and to accept death and loss as part of the journey – not tragic but sorrowful, as sorrow is also part of human existence. Living as if life is an adventure to be explored rather than a fragile jewel to be protected at all costs – finding that middle balance where you ride the crest of the wave without falling in and without withdrawing out of fear. In this way we find the grace of life, which is a sense of true belonging, of deep connection with all of life, not just the parts we think we should like. We are all learning how to die.

“The conquest of the fear of death is the recovery of life’s joy. One can experience an unconditional affirmation of life only when one has accepted death, not as contrary to life, but as an aspect of life. Life in its becoming is always shedding death, and on the point of death. The conquest of fear yields the courage of life.”

~ Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

Angel Tears

As always, your comments are welcomed. And feel free to share this post with others who may be interested.

Copyright 2019 – Jim Lockard

A COUPLE OF ANNOUNCEMENTS:

Geneva 2020 Marketing Slide Green 1SIMI - THE HEALTHY MASCULINE

THE IMPORTANCE OF CONTINUED SPIRITUAL AND PERSONAL GROWTH – And an Announcement

“I am convinced that the study of the soul is the science of the future.”

~ C.G. Jung

Full disclosure: This is, in part, a marketing piece. At the end of this post, is information about becoming a private student with me for a course of study which begins in September 2019 and concludes in June 2020. I conducted such a program this past year, and it was very valuable for those students and for me, so I am offering it again. Bu more about that in a bit.

“We are on the hero’s journey when we submit to the deep processes of life and allow them to affect us and bore their necessities into us. We are the hero when we take on the challenges and go through our initiations and transformations, enduring loss and gain, feeling happy and sad, making progress and falling back. The hero is engaged in life The hero is not the one who displays force and muscle without deep insight or the courage to be. The hero may not look heroic from the outside but may go through powerful developments in a quiet way. The difference is that the real hero engages life and reflects on it. She becomes more and more what he or she is destined to be.” 

~ Thomas Moore

The importance of continued study and practice on the spiritual developmental pathway cannot be overemphasized. When we stop studying and our practices become repetitive and stagnant, our growth does not just cease, it withers. Gaining a practitioner license, becoming a lay leader, even obtaining a ministerial license and becoming ordained is not the end of the journey. Each of these is the beginning of a new chapter in your journey. This is true whether or not one aspires to future certifications, recognitions, or awards. We either grow through our efforts or we wither.

Teach Coach Mentor Inspire

 

And the farther one is along the pathway of spiritual growth, the more esoteric and practical knowledge they have obtained, the more powerful their practices, the stronger is the need to do really deep and disturbing work into the depths of the self. And the truth is that today in New Thought, with very few exceptions, you can reach the pinnacles of certification and recognition, even winning awards, without ever having done the deep inner work of healing. While the organizations have a lot of excellent education, it is difficult to create curriculum for this depth of work. Additionally, there are, quite frankly, relatively few spiritual teachers qualified to work with students at this depth – not having done their own work in this area.

“We have a fear of facing ourselves. That is the obstacle. Experiencing the innermost core of our existence is very embarrassing to a lot of people. A lot of people turn to something that they hope will liberate them without their having to face themselves. That is impossible. We can’t do that. . . . That is the foundation of warriorship, basically speaking. Whatever is there, we have to face it, we have to look at it, study it, work with it and practice meditation with it.”

~ Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

What we have repressed since our arrival in this incarnation is called our Shadow. Working with the Shadow is difficult and disturbing and requires a long-term commitment to the process. When we do not do this work, or do it partially, we carry or repressed selves into every decision, every relationship, every aspect of our lives. The results are self-sabotage, drama, ennui, and mediocrity.

“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

I have quoted four prominent teachers in this post, three of whom I do not utilize in my program. However, the message is known far and wide. If we are to realize our spiritual potential, we must do the deep work of personal transformation, and the way to that goal goes through your Shadow.

THE ANNOUNCEMENT:

The program is called METAPHYSICAL PSYCHOLOGY FOR TODAY, and it is a teaching, coaching, and mentoring process. It is for students with some basic metaphysical education, not for beginners. It is a very challenging course of study, not a weekend or a class of a few weeks. It is for those willing to make an investment of time, money, and effort into deep processing and growth. It is also fun, inspiring, and creates a new community. In last year’s group there were ministers, practitioners, and lay members of New Thought communities, and students without affiliation to any New Thought organization. Students from North America and Europe. Students from their 40’s to their 70’s. The maximum number of students I will accept is 12.

 

The course involves a 2-hour group session on Zoom communications software just about every Saturday plus a 1-hour one-to-one session with me for each student. There is also a 5-day retreat in Europe at or near the end of the program.

METAPHYSICAL PSYCHOLOGY FOR TODAY –

Here is one testimonial:

“I am happy to have had Dr. Jim Lockard as a teacher and mentor and just love the wealth of information that he continues to share. As I have said many times throughout the 9 months, I feel as though this gave me more depth and breadth in my awareness of metaphysics, who I am how the world works and I know I am better because of this journey and having you as a teacher and mentor. Thank you!”

~ Rev. Staci Hylton, The Center, Las Vegas, NV, USA

And another:

I highly recommend this class to those who have already “worked” their spiritual path diligently—not a beginner’s class. This course is about deepening one’s spiritual awareness, beyond traditional New Thought boundaries, and may well be very challenging to some New Thought sensibilities. The course materials and time commitment are rigorous and, for me, provided a profound experience in developing new personal spiritual insights.

~ Dr. Steven Brabant, RScP, Emeritus

If you are interested, email me at JimLockardTravels@yahoo.com and I will send you more information. I am announcing this to my blog followers first, but please feel free to share this post with others who may be interested.

 

Copyright 2019 – Jim Lockard

IN THESE TIMES, DOUBLE-DOWN ON YOUR SPIRITUAL PRACTICES

“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day. Unless you’re too busy, then you should sit for an hour.”

~ Zen Saying

We westerners have two significant challenges today – one is that we are too busy. There are a million things to do! The other is that we and our societies are going through seismic shifts, from what we were to what we are to be next, and this transitional period is very turbulent, chaotic, and disruptive.

While our attention and intention are needed to help us to move through these times successfully and to contribute to the greater good, many of us are too busy to do that effectively. Our calendars are full, we have lots of possessions to buy and maintain, then to get rid of, and there are many social and work demands on us all the time.

“Being too busy has this result: that an individual very, very rarely is permitted to form a heart; on the other hand, the thinker, the poet, or the religious personality who actually has formed his heart, will never be popular, not because he is difficult, but because it demands quiet and prolonged working with oneself and intimate knowledge of oneself as well as a certain isolation.”

~ Søren Kierkegaard 

Meditation Ocean

And there is more happening – we are being driven from WITHIN as well. Evolution is the action of the soul’s longing to move forward with the expression of life. The reality of this inner evolutionary response to the changing outer environment is a dance as the inner and outer seek to merge. The turbulence of the world is both being generated by the human need to evolve and being distorted by the presence of so few who are READY to evolve. The heart described by Kierkegaard is the wisdom and love of the intuitive self coming to the fore and being available to us as a default aspect of ourselves. Those who depend on a static world where traditional practices or intellectual analysis will solve our problems are being left behind.

The increasingly rapid rate of change which is unfolding now is human-driven (what else is speeding up? – not the rest of Nature) and seems to have the largely unconscious purpose of increasing the speed of our development toward greater capacities for complexity and healing. Learning to match our heartbeats to this faster and more complex pace is our current calling, perhaps leading to new evolutionary breakthroughs. Our spiritual practices can equip us to master this transformation and to thrive as we move through the turbulence, even as others resist it and push back against forces which are ultimately irresistible.

“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

Evolution is the mechanism for all forward movement in this universe. Nothing in the universe is untouched by it. Amazingly, human beings are now in a time when we are capable of directing evolution consciously. 14 billion years of the evolutionary process being unconscious and now a new era dawns – and we must prepare ourselves to take dominion of our minds. It is time to double-down on our spiritual practices and on our positivity. As some great minds have written about evolution:

“It seems that this higher order is entropy. Evolution is entropy. It requires disorder in order to jump to a higher order.” ~ Barbara Marx Hubbard

“We are moving from unconscious evolution through natural selection to conscious evolution by choice.”  ~ Barbara Marx Hubbard

 “Evolution is in part a self-transcending process.” ~ Ken Wilber

 “Is evolution a theory, a system or a hypothesis? It is much more: it is a general condition to which all theories, all hypotheses, all systems must bow and which they must satisfy henceforward if they are to be thinkable and true. Evolution is a light illuminating all facts, a curve that all lines must follow.” ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man

 “We may be sure that the whole aim of evolution is to produce innumerable selves which are all consciously centered in the Universal Self.” ~ Ernest Holmes

 The cure for being “too busy” is to learn to set priorities and focus – with intention and attention – on the important priorities while minimizing distractions. If your priorities are what you are passionate about, this will be fairly easy. If not, you may have set the wrong priorities. We should be passionate about our priorities.

Awakening to and encouraging our evolutionary nature is to come into alignment with our true nature. We are evolutionary beings, designed to develop and unfold from within in response to outer and inner stimuli – we evolve to adapt to our environment, which we also have a hand in designing. This is a critical thing to understand for all of us today.

ELP Butterfly

By doubling-down on spiritual practices you bring yourself toward a greater expression of life, toward being who you came into this incarnation to be. Doubling down is a gambling term for what you do when things have begun to go your way – you increase your wager, your commitment. Doing that with spiritual practices means increasing both the breath and depth of your practice. You may not double the time you meditate, but you do increase it; and you find ways to go deeper into your meditation. You may not double your prayer-treatments, but you increase them and you go deeper into the feeling tone of love and connection with the Divine. By doing these things with all of your spiritual practices, you integrate your higher self and transform your life.

Spiritual practices, done with purpose, passion, and discipline, are transformational. We all profess to know this, but not all of us have experienced it to the degree possible – but we all can! Sit and do your practices without fail, without distraction, staying positive and using positive emotions to set your intentions deeply into your subconscious mind. Find your evolutionary core and bring it forward and you will never be “too busy” or too fatigued by change again. You will be a master of time and space.

“If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.”

~ Lao Tzu

Copyright 2019 – Jim Lockard

Announcing:

THE BELOVED COMMUNITY
SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP IN CHANGING TIMES

With Rev. Dr. Jim Lockard
A Summer Webinar on Zoom
Dates: 6 Fridays – June 14,21; July 12,19,26; Aug 2

For additional info or to register – email me at DrJim-Lockard@ATT.net

Leadership Class - Summer 2019

THE CHALLENGE OF DEVELOPING A MORE DIVERSE & INCLUSIVE SPIRITUAL COMMUNITY, PART 3

“There is almost a sensual longing for communion with others who have a large vision. The immense fulfillment of the friendship between those engaged in furthering the evolution of consciousness has a quality impossible to describe.”

~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

In Parts 1 & 2 (LINK) (LINK), we explored the overall idea of diversity and inclusion and a macro view, the larger cultural patterns which got us where we are and which we must recognize if we are to be effective in expanding diversity and bringing inclusion to our New Thought spiritual communities. In Part 3, I explore how the culture and values of the local spiritual community affects these efforts.

Cartoon - Diversity - my-kinda-church_2

The culture of the spiritual community is perhaps the most critical element because it determines every aspect of the behaviors and expectations of its members. Whether or not a spiritual community is even open to greater diversity is determined by its culture. Think of the group culture as a combination of the individual belief systems present and the historically encultured traditions and values of the spiritual community. This embodied culture is what greets the newcomer and lets the long-time member recognize the community even though there has been a lot of turnover in membership. This culture is both conscious and unconscious; it is somewhat fluid but also generally stable in nature. New members are taught about the culture informally and perhaps formally in New Member Classes.

One thing which is evident by looking at most New Thought spiritual communities – the local cultures tend to lead to little or no diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, LGBTQIA+, and even age. The fact that this is the reality means that the culture, most likely unconsciously, has simply continued to support a cultural belief in sameness. While me must consider macro and demographic factors as noted in Part 2 (LINK) of this series, it is very likely that any desire for diversity has not been matched by a change in the cultural consciousness.

Cartoon - Church Diversity

As we will see in Part 4 with individual consciousness, group cultures benefit by having a strong conscious awareness of what the culture consists of. Otherwise, people may feel unwelcome at the same time that community members are trying to welcome them. A newcomer’s experience of a spiritual community will be a combination of her experience of the collective culture as expressed AND the individuals she encounters who express their own consciousness, some of which will reflect the collective culture and some of which may not.

Some things to consider: Is there a strong inner circle in your spiritual community who create barriers to “outsiders”? Are the social functions geared toward one particular group? What about age-consciousness in your community? Are young people respected for what they think or treated like children? Are LGBTQIA+ or cis-gendered people made to feel like outsiders? Does the spiritual leader show preferences in terms of which social activities are attended and which affinity groups are visited? Are there efforts to have diversity on the platform and on important committees in the spiritual community?

I was once a spiritual leader of a center in a rather wealthy area. I met a man socially and after we had a discussion on spirituality, invited him to attend one Sunday. He did. I entered the auditorium that next Sunday and saw him sitting in a seat next to a woman, a long-time member of the community, who had her arm around him and told me, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of this one!” Needless to say, we never saw him again at our center. The woman, who understood what should be done to make people feel welcomed, ignored that understanding for some reason. So, in that case, while the collective culture may have been a good fit for the man, at least one individual he encountered led him to decide to avoid our spiritual community from that point forward.

 

These kinds of individual incidents will happen under the best circumstances, but hopefully, they become teachable moments for leadership. The path to greater diversity and inclusion can be a long one for some communities. There must be both an openness to the idea and follow-through with cultural changes, which can and do take time.

“We are not summoned to perfection; that is the realm of the gods; we are summoned to mindfulness, to such fields of divine reference with sensitivity, respect, and humility.”

~ James Hollis, Jungian analyst,

Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life

Being mindful of creating sacred space in spiritual community should be at the top of the list for spiritual leadership in establishing the atmosphere in which people show up and are welcomed. While we can never do this perfectly, a regular reinforcement of the principles of mindful community should be expressed and exemplified by spiritual leadership, both ministers and lay leaders. Otherwise, the community becomes more of a social club with all of the unconscious aspects and biases of that kind of life. Conscious awareness of the sacred nature of the spiritual community, its activities, and of service in that community are essential. Sacred service, rather than volunteering, should be the norm, and sacred service implies that service is a spiritual practice.

No matter how well-meaning we may be, we bring our biases to spiritual community. Unconscious attitudes have a way of showing up and all too frequently, can lead to those who would bring diversity to a spiritual community feeling diminished or separated from the group. I had a young adult tell me once that he no longer attended the New Thought center he loved because older people treated him like their grandson, even pinching his cheek (!) – he was nearly 30 years old. I am certain that that act was both well-meaning and unconscious – and it drove him away. When we unconsciously project our own needs onto others, we do not see them for who they are, rather for who we need or want them to be. This will be described in greater depth in Part 4.

“Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without.”

~ William Sloan Coffin, Jr.

 

“Our unwillingness to see our own faults and the projection of them onto others is the source of most quarrels, and the strongest guarantee that injustice, animosity, and persecution will not easily die out.”

~ C.G. Jung, “Depth Psychology and Self-Knowledge”

 We learn in New Thought that nothing changes on the outside until something changes on the inside. The idea that a spiritual community which is lacking in diversity can simply announce that it is open and welcoming and that diversity will manifest is contrary to the principles of New Thought. For an outer change to manifest, an inner change must occur. If diversity is not present, and could be present, then a change in consciousness which removes the invisible barrier to the new manifestation must occur.

diversity

The work of creating a meaningful invitation to diversity is difficult and can be painful. Confronting one’s biases always is. And it is only the first step, for when diverse people start showing up, how will they be included? Tokenism serves no one. Forced inclusion may be necessary at first, however, that is a sign that deeper spiritual work is needed. The culture of the spiritual community must be genuinely open to the work necessary to make this shift from the limited past to a more open future. There is one level of collective culture which may be open to diversity, but a higher level of openness may be needed to establish true inclusion.

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

~ Rumi

Inclusion-strategy

In Part 4, I will explore the individual element – how our own biases can sabotage our best efforts to bring greater diversity and inclusion – and how to heal those issues.

“We are continuously being drawn into situations or circumstances, sometimes against our objective will, but seldom against our unconscious willing. Most of our mental imagery is unconscious. It comes either from previous experiences or the experiences of the race. There is much in the subconscious of which the intellect is not aware, but one thing is certain, our subjective or unconscious thought patterns can be changed. We have created them and we can change them.” 

~ Ernest Holmes, The Art of Life

As always, your comments along the way are encouraged! As are stories of success or lack of success in doing this work in your own spiritual communities. Please share this post with others who may find it of interest.

Copyright 2019- Jim Lockard

 

MY BOOK ON AMAZON:

THE CHALLENGE OF DEVELOPING A MORE DIVERSE & INCLUSIVE SPIRITUAL COMMUNITY, PART 2

‎”Diversity … is not polite accommodation. Instead, diversity is, in action, the sometimes painful awareness that other people, other races, other voices, other habits of mind, have as much integrity of being, as much claim on the world as you do. And I urge you, amid all the differences present to the eye and mind, to reach out to create the bond that will protect us all. We are meant to be here together.”

~ William Chase

I begin Part 2 (LINK to Part 1) this exploration of diversity and inclusion in spiritual community with the macro, or societal level – the grand scale of things, if you will. There are broad and deep patterns in our society and cultures which carry values and tradition like a kind of cultural DNA, resulting in patterns of behavior at a larger scale which affect the experiences of both local spiritual communities and individuals. Statements such as the opening quote from William Chase, which may seem to be valid on their face, may be easily dismissed or rejected due to these deep cultural values.

VMEMEs Simplified

Spiral Dynamics (LINK) is a good model to use to look at these values, and we will do a bit of that in this post. Since most New Thought spiritual communities are in the United States, let us use that nation as an example of how these broad cultural DNA patterns show up. The dominant values systems (vMEMEs in Spiral Dynamics terms), are different today than they were 50 or more years ago, and new systems continue to emerge as older systems fade. In the developed world, where Modernist-Orange and Postmodernist-Green are on the rise, people are making choices about being in community (or not) differently than when Traditionalist-Blue was more present in the mix. At Blue, you seek conformity, membership, authority, and obedience. Your parents and/or grandparents probably went to church because they were supposed to, and that values system was strongly supported by the family and the larger culture. All that began to change with the rise of Modernist -Orange in the mid-20th Century and Postmodernist-Green in the late-20th and early 21st Centuries. Orange is individualistic, believes in scientific rationalism, and is entrepreneurial, seeking to escape the “herd mentality” of Blue. Those centered at Orange are more comfortable in a secular society, or one in which religion is on the sidelines.

The emergence of Green brings a return to a communal values system, but one very different from Blue. Green wants intimacy and is very relativistic (“Who is to say what is right?” – Blue’s response, “We are!”). Green values diversity, whereas Blue values conformity. Orange will do business with anyone but will tend to associate with those who have similar values. Those at Green view Blue as stodgy, rigid, and old-fashioned; those at Blue tend to view Green as ‘woo-woo” and untethered to proper authority and values.

Spiral-staircase

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

~ Dr. Howard Thurman

Each nation and the regions within nations have their own mixture of these vMEMEs or values systems. In the United States, as a general rule, the east and west coasts tend to have more Green and less Blue; the center of the country more Blue and less Green. Cities tend to be higher on the spiral than rural areas, which makes sense because, after all, spiral stages are based on complexity of Living Conditions. Big cities tend to be more complex than rural areas and small towns. Orange has a bit heavier presence in urban areas but is present everywhere that commerce and science are important. These are generalizations and there will be pockets where the relationships are a bit different.

There are other factors as well, including demographics – where people live and the racial, ethnic, chronological, and cultural makeup of different places. Some areas have a significant known LGBTQ population, some do not; some have higher percentages of certain racial and ethnic groups than others. All of these factors have an effect on a spiritual community which is trying to become more diverse. Again, urban spiritual communities will tend to be more diverse because cities tend to have more diverse populations than suburban and rural areas. More people in the Green vMEME in urban areas, fewer in suburban, where Orange dominates, and rural areas where there is more Blue.

diversity_2 (1)

“He who loves community destroys community; he who loves the brethren builds community.”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

When I was the spiritual leader at CSL Simi Valley, California (2008-2015), a suburban bedroom community for Los Angeles with a population at the time of about 130,000 people, the racial makeup of the city was 92% white, 7% Hispanic, and 1% other, according to census records. Our chances of growing beyond the 3 African-American members already there were rather slim. The Hispanic population was very Catholic. A small population of Indian-Americans (almost all recruited from India to work at large tech and financial companies in the area) mostly attended the two mosques in town or did not attend services. There was one New Thought community (us); two mosques, one synagogue, 13 Mormon stakes (500 to a stake), two Catholic churches, six mainline Protestant Churches, and 140 fundamentalist Christian congregations in the city at the time. There were 0 organized and visible LGBTQ groups.

We did make efforts to be more diverse, but with little success from a demographic standpoint. We were able to expand membership and add more young adults by live streaming and other activities. When I left, there were still 3 African-American members. I was replaced by an African-American minister, but the demographics of the city and the center have not changed dramatically. Demographics matter.

This does not mean that you give up, but it does mean that spiritual leadership needs to be aware of how to prioritize resources and energy regarding what is achievable. The US suburbs are, after all, the result of a system from the mid-20th Century based on racism. There was a huge migration of white populations out of cities, enabled by the automobile, the G.I. Bill, and practices of red-lining by realtors, banks, and insurance companies, to ensure that minority populations could not move to the suburbs in large numbers. While some things have changed over time, the overwhelming whiteness of most of America’s suburbs has not.

I am not saying that these items are excuses. But they are factors in the makeup of spiritual communities. And, as we will see in the next two posts, there are other factors, within our spiritual communities themselves, and within us as individuals, which make it even more difficult to effectively invite greater diversity. All of these factors must be acknowledged and included in the plans and strategies which emerge from our visioning and planning about greater diversity and inclusion in our spiritual communities.

“The range of our possibilities at the present time does not extend far beyond the range of our present concepts. As we bring ourselves to a greater vision, we induce a greater concept and thereby demonstrate more in our experience. In this way there is a continuous growth and unfoldment taking place.”

~ Ernest Holmes

 

Understanding the area demographics and the larger societal patterns are important. There is a wealth of easily accessible data on trends and patterns in worship attendance and religious affiliation. All of it shows that we are in a time of decreasing participation in organized religious activities. The Orange vMEME is often the place where people leave traditional religion and become secular or not affiliated. It is also the stage where they become open to New Thought. New Thought principles tend to appeal to those at Orange and Green on the spiral. There can be differences in how the spiral values systems exist within various populations within a community – and to me, having a broad representation of vMEMEs in a spiritual community is another form of diversity, one which is rarely examined. Also, different groups within a larger community can be at different stages on the spiral – this is especially true of recent immigrants from places where the dominant spiral values are different from those in the US. Many recent immigrants from places other than Canada, Europe, and Australia will be more comfortable in a traditional congregation of some sort. Research shows that the Catholic Church in the US is stagnant in overall growth – it is only not shrinking because of immigration from Latin American countries.

If Orange and Green are interested in New Thought spirituality and are growing in numbers, why isn’t New Thought growing in attendance and number of communities? I believe that there are two main reasons for this (and recognize that some local communities are growing and thriving, but the overall trends are stagnant or downward). One reason is the overall patterns toward secularization are very strong – there is little societal motivation to join another church after leaving one’s church of origin. There is not much which can be done about that pattern. The second reason has more to do with New Thought itself.

In the early 20th Century, when New Thought was growing and expanding, with new branches and churches opening in pretty significant numbers, the overall population was just beginning to move from a Traditionalist-Blue Values System into a Modernist-Orange Values System. There was still a significant societal value regarding attending worship services. Adopting Christian imagery and terms (church, ministry, sanctuary, hymn, prayer, etc.) helped to make the transition to New Thought less threatening for those leaving more traditional denominations. And remember, most of the New Thought founders, including Holmes and the Fillmores, considered themselves to be Christian. Additionally, those with a Jewish heritage flocked to New Thought communities in many places.

By the late 20th Century, the Blue vMEME had faded quite a bit. Orange was the dominant vMEME and Orange valued scientific rationalism over religious doctrine. Societal pressure to attend worship had faded significantly. Sundays rapidly became secular days, with the sacred time for worship no longer protected. Stores were open, youth league games were scheduled, and the standard Monday to Friday from 9 to 5 workday became the exception rather than the rule. The emergence of the Green vMEME made the Christian imagery and terms even less appealing to many. In much of the US, as in much of Europe, worship attendance is not only not supported by the larger culture, it is increasingly frowned upon.

Because of these factors, New Thought’s Christian trappings have gone from an overall asset to a liability over the last century. This was made clear in research done in 2007 & 2008 by the two Religious Science organizations during the re-branding process (LINK) that led to the name Centers for Spiritual Living. That research led to some changes, but has been largely ignored in recent times, the branding has not been updated and more research has not been conducted. But there is no question that the larger patterns and trends continue to change toward greater secularization in the general population, particularly those centered at Orange and Green on the spiral.

All of this shows, I hope, that there are many moving parts in today’s society which impact how diversity and inclusion programs can be developed and integrated into spiritual communities.

In Part 3, we will explore factors in the cultures of local spiritual communities which affect diversity and inclusion.

“In our time we have come to the stage where the real work of humanity begins. It is the time where we partner Creation in the creation of ourselves, in the restoration of the biosphere, the regenesis of society and in the assuming of a new type of culture; the Culture of Kindness. Herein, we live daily life reconnected and recharged by the Source, so as to become liberated and engaged in the world and in our tasks.”

~ Jean Houston

As always, your comments are welcomed. Please share this blog post with others who may find it of value. Thank you!

Copyright 2019- Jim Lockard

MILLENNIALS IN NEW THOUGHT – AN UPDATE – PART 1

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

Savanna

Rev. Savanna Noel Riker

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

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

CSL Next Gen Retreat 1

Rev. Abigail at NextGen Retreat.

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

CSL Next Gen Retreat 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NTE Blog: Thank you, Savanna!

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

CSL Next Gen Retreat 2

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

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

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

 

LIVING SYSTEMS SEEK WHOLENESS THROUGH HEALING

“Carl Jung said that if you find the psychic wound in an individual or a people, there you also find their path to consciousness. For it is in the healing of our psychic wounds that we come to know ourselves.”

~ Robert A. Johnson

“Carl Jung saw that the human psyche strives always toward wholeness, strives to become more conscious. The unconscious mind seeks to move its contents up to the level of consciousness, where they can be actualized and assimilated into more complete conscious personality.”

~ Robert A. Johnson

When we begin to see things as Living Systems, rather than as independent organisms or structures, our perception and understanding can expand to greater capacities. Living systems (LINK to Prior Post) can best be seen as integrated with their environment, as being massively complex, beyond what our human brains can fully grasp, and as being interdependent on other systems and bio-systems for mutual existence. The underlying intelligence of living systems seeks the fullest realization of wholeness – to express itself fully and in the healthiest way possible. There is a deep primal urge within all living systems to do just that – express fully.

“An inner wholeness presses its unfulfilled claims upon us.”

~ Emma Jung in “The Holy Grail”

You are a living system, as am I. Your family is a living system, as is your spiritual community, your workplace, your city, state, nation, and all of humanity. The earth is a living system. A benefit of seeing these things as living systems is the transformation of our perception and understanding from linear, separate sense of what we are to a systems understanding. For example, I cannot be fully understood without taking my family into account – and that can be done in innumerable ways, via genetics, culture, etc. We can never fully understand any living system but using the concept can help us guide these systems with greater wisdom.

Living systems have immune systems. You as an individual have a physical immune system and emotional and spiritual immune systems. These are elements of you which act to protect some aspect of you and keep you healthy. Groups have immune systems as well; some aspect of group immune systems are visible, most are not. It is important to come to see that at the deepest and most holistic levels, every living system wants to heal anything in the way of the fullest expression of that system.

“The manifestation of emotional and psychosomatic symptoms is the beginning of a healing process through which the organism is trying to free itself from traumatic imprints and simplify its functioning. . .. when properly understood and supported, this process can be conducive to healing, spiritual opening, personality transformation, and evolution of consciousness.”

~ Stanislav Grof, Shift Magazine, June-August 2004

Beautiful Nautilus

Healing is something intrinsic within all living systems, from the smallest to the largest. And coming to see that the appearance of symptoms is a positive step in the healing process of a living system is revelatory. We can then shift our emotional and mental approaches to being helpful rather than harmful (such as seeing the symptom as something alien to be defeated). Our political systems are evidencing negative symptoms in more and more profound ways today – this means that larger human living systems are in the process of healing themselves for a move to a higher evolutionary level of existence. Can we become better at stewarding this process? Can we at least stop acting in ways which obstruct the natural ability of living systems to heal? Can we heal the parts of ourselves which, out of fear and ignorance, cause us to make the symptoms worse, threatening the whole system with collapse?

“The soft flakes of healing are falling all around you all the time, even on your shadow.”
~ Emma Curtis Hopkins

Whatever is being identified as “being wrong” in yourself, in your family, in your spiritual community, in your nation, must be viewed and treated as a healing in process. We must shift our attention and intention to greater truths than we have been conditioned to believe up until now. Wholeness seeks to express via the emergence of new, sometimes radically new, ways of being. Emergence and evolution are the vehicles which facilitate these onward expressions in every living system. We are either in or out of harmony with these processes.

A new kind of leadership is required for this transition. As Nora Bateson writes, “Whatever leadership used to be—it used to be. Now, it has to be something different. Now, we all have to be more than we were.” We simply cannot continue the path(s) we are on if we are to make the significant changes – what have been called whole system changes – which are required for the forward evolution of humanity. Leaders, including spiritual leaders, need to be prepared differently, selected differently, and need to operate differently in the near term of our emerging future. They must become versed in complexity, in systems thinking, in radical change processes, and in helping to shepherd others who are unprepared for the age we have entered – an age of unrelenting change affecting every living system.

Our spiritual practices can be about creating an inner willingness to trust the larger wisdom within ourselves an all of us. We must cultivate our inner wisdom to be harmonious with the truth that every living system seeks its highest form of expression. This is an elegant way to view ourselves and the world. Fortunately, it is also a realistic way to view the world.

“So perhaps change is less about fixing a broken world and more about uncovering hidden wholeness in all events, all organizations and all people and remembering our personal power to make a difference. This old story has greatly changed the way that I am a physician and also a teacher. It has given me new eyes. Everyone and everything has in it a seed of a greater wholeness, a dream of possibility. Perhaps what I once saw as ‘broken’ or ‘lacking’ might just as easily be seen as the growing edge of things … a place to be valued and nurtured in our patients, our students and in ourselves.”

~ Rachel Naomi Remen

As always, your comments are appreciated. Please share this post with others who may be interested. Thank you.

 

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

 

More and more spiritual communities are using this book for spiritual leadership development. You can order bulk copies from Devorss.com. Or, just get one for yourself or to give as a gift at Amazon.com (.ca .eu)

 

HOW CAN YOUR MIND HEAL WHEN THE PROBLEM IS YOUR MIND?

“It is our own mental attitude which makes the world what it is for us. Our thoughts make things beautiful, our thoughts make things ugly. The whole world is in our own minds. Learn to see things in the proper light.”

~ Swami Vivekananda

During my 36 years as a psychotherapist, I’ve seen many clients who have been victims of people like those Hannah and my friend describe. I call them New Age Bullies — those who, sometimes with the best intentions, repeat spiritual movement shibboleths, with little understanding of how hurtful their advice can be. Some of their favorite clichés are:

It happened for a reason.

Nobody can hurt you without your consent.

I wonder why you created this illness (or experience).

It’s just your karma.

There are no accidents.

There are no victims.

There are no mistakes.

A variant of this behavior is found in the self-bullying people who blame themselves for being victims of a crime, accident, or illness and interpret such misfortunes as evidence of their personal defects or spiritual deficiencies.”

~ Julia Ingram, MA (LINK)

The two quotes above may seem to be contradictory, but they are not.

They represent two prevalent viewpoints in New Thought, one more traditional, the other something new which is emerging (I know that we are not New Age, per se, however, Ms. Ingram’s quote does apply). They lead me to this question (and lots of others, as you shall see):

If thought is the pathway to healing, what happens when your capacity to think, or to think clearly, is itself impaired in some way?

Today, we know much more about the functioning of the human brain and body than was known at the time of New Thought’s founders. We know that depression is very often not the result of “depressing thoughts,” but due to neurological/chemical imbalances. When under the effects of these imbalances, a person may not be able to form the kinds of thoughts necessary for healing the condition. She/he may also be incapable of seeking help. While this is different from the person who has developed a pattern of negative thinking and who can change with intention and practice, this difference may well not be obvious to external observers.

 

 

 

 

While New Thought teachings say that every condition can be healed, there is evidence that this is not so, and to insist that it is so can be cruel and can deny the process which a person is experiencing. More and more, New Thought spiritual leaders are being confronted with people who are finding many of the absolutist positions and statements of the past to be inaccurate and sometimes harmful.

This statement by Joel Goldsmith speaks to the realization that to truly facilitate healing, one must think in the absolute, not the relative domain – a sentiment echoed by Thomas Troward, Emma Curtis Hopkins, and many others.

“Let us never accept a human being into our consciousness who needs healing, employing, or enriching because if we do, we are his enemy instead of his friend. If there is any man, woman, or child we believe to be sick, sinning or dying, let us do no praying until we have made peace with that brother. The peace we must make with that brother is to ask forgiveness for making the mistake of sitting in judgment on any individual because everyone is God in expression. All is God manifested. God alone constitutes this universe; God constitutes the life, the mind, and the Soul of every individual.”

~ Joel Goldsmith

  • Is there a balance available to us – somewhere between the extremes of “absolute knowing” and belief that our power lies outside of us and we are helpless?
  • A balance which still allows healing for those able to think at the necessary level of clarity, but does not diminish those who may not be willing or able to do so at present, or ever?
  • Is there a more compassionate way to approach mental healing which allows for both beginners and adepts, and for those who experience inner processes which rob them of their ability to use thought to heal?
  • What is the growing edge of New Thought in relation to healing?

The basis of mental healing is to create a consciousness, or a system of beliefs, which is strong enough to change conditions. In the case of physical healing, that means changing conditions in our bodies via a mind-body connection. This often defies our previous conditioning. I came into the Science of Mindteaching with a consciousness that I was subject to external forces – like germs – which, when contracted, required an outside expert – a doctor – to facilitate healing on my behalf. Over time, I came to see that I had the capacity to both heal many conditions myself, and to create a consciousness which avoided many negative conditions altogether. I no longer experienced regular seasonal colds, for example.

While this capacity to heal is authentic, there is also the issue of how we see our evolving capacities – what should I be able to heal and when? Should I feel shame if I contract the flu or if a lover leaves me, or if I lose my job? How should I approach others who are experiencing such conditions if I am not their spiritual teacher, but a friend? How should I approach them if I am their spiritual teacher, with the accountability inherent in such a relationship? Will I simply project my own insecurities onto them and use (or even simply think) some platitude like What’s in your consciousness? as a means of deflecting my own fears?

“Healing depends on listening with the inner ear – stopping the incessant blather and listening. Fear keeps us chattering – fear that wells up from the past, fear of blurting out what we really fear, fear of future repercussions. It is our very fear of the future that distorts the now that could lead to a different future if we dared to be whole in the present.”

~ Marion Woodman

It is our fear that leads us to “sugar coat” things. Like death, for example. We speak of “transitioning” and “passing on,” avoiding the term “death.” When my daughter died at age 18, many people were quick to tell me about her afterlife experience and how she chose that moment to depart this plane. Our belief system may include a continuing journey of the soul; however, we really don’t know what that is beyond speculation. Ernest Holmes had this to say about reincarnation:

“This idea of reincarnation is held by more people than those who don’t believe in it. Personally, I don’t believe in it, but I don’t know. So I would be ignorant to be dogmatic about it.”

~ From a 1933 Lecture by Ernest Holmes based upon

The Science of Mind, 1926 Edition

 

 

 

 

But we don’t like not knowing, so we speculate. While I appreciated the attempt at kindness from many after my daughter’s death, it was often painful to be told how she chose this to happen and, as one told me, “she misses you but wants you to know that she is in a better place.” There were others, but you get the picture.

When we sugar coat the issues of life, we often, if unintentionally, diminish the experience of those we are trying to comfort or help. It is a fine and difficult line to walk – how to give solace or inspiration to someone without loading it with my own fearful projections? How to deal with repeated failures by someone to heal an illness or to get their life in order without making it more about me than about them? How to balance the need for personal accountability with someone’s current inability to accept that concept for themselves?

As in all things, I believe that we must begin by doing our own inner work. We must grow in emotional and spiritual intelligence, we must recognize our own fears, addictions, and biases and work to release them. They will surely affect our ability to be a compassionate and wise presence for others. As spiritual teachers, we must set and enforce healthy boundaries regarding issues such as who moves into professional-level classes, and how inappropriate behavior is dealt with in all classes. Many of us need to work on our ability to say NO. A proper NO can be the most affirming thing you can say many times.

In conclusion – we want to teach New Thought principles and practices as widely as possible, however, there are some who are not ready. We must realize that when we reduce our insistence on developing a strength of consciousness necessary for healing because some find it too difficult or take offense, that we may be harming all of our students. And we must try to work with those who are offended or depressed by the rigors of the teaching so that they can come to see a greater truth and not feel diminished – while knowing this may not be possible in their lives at the present moment.

Beautiful Tree in Lake

The high calling of spiritual teacher means that one says YES to the requirement for ongoing personal development, for setting and enforcing healthy boundaries, and for working for the good of all students who come to learn. Nothing less will do. And that means having people in our ministries with issues which do not get healed. While frustrating, it does not relieve the teacher of the accountability to be the best living example of the spiritual teachings that she can be. We continue to do prayer-treatment for them, to express compassion toward them, but we may never see a healing occur for them.

“If we think we can guide our brother aright, while our own feet still walk in darkness, we are mistaken. We must first clarify our own vision, then we shall become as lights, lighting the way for others. But can we teach a lesson we have not learned? Can we give that which we do not possess? To suppose so is hypocrisy, a thing to be shunned. Jesus tears the mantle of unreality from the shoulders of hypocrisy, winnowing from the soul of sham and shallowness its last shred of illusion. We cannot see Reality until our eyes are open; until the light of eternal Truth has struck deeply into our own souls.”

~ Ernest Holmes, THE HIDDEN POWER OF THE BIBLE

As always, your comments are appreciated!

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

 

 

 

YOUR SPIRITUAL COMMUNITY ISN’T AN ORGANIZATION – IT’S A LIVING SYSTEM

“The chief enemy of creativity is good sense.”

 ~ Pablo Picasso

“Dysfunctional systems will fall under their own weight. Let them.”

~ Bashar

These are dangerous quotes. Dangerous in the sense that they can be interpreted in different ways by people with different perspectives (or even by the same person on different days). Quotes such as these need to be seen from a relatively balanced perspective, meaning that one may believe one way or another, but has an open mind to other possibilities. The Picasso quote I use to suggest that sometimes, what we call “good sense” is only leftover prejudices from the past; of course, sometimes, “good sense” actually is good sense, so we must allow for that possibility. And “dysfunctional systems” are often in the eye of the beholder, so to speak. But it is healthy to note when something’s time has passed so that something new can be encouraged, or at least allowed, to emerge.

The times in which we find ourselves are growing ever more complex at ever faster rates. Old solutions increasingly fail to resolve current challenges; old leadership is increasingly ineffective. It is time to learn new ways of being. What is needed is a whole system change, and spiritual organization is not exempt. We are called to adapt by changing at depth.

“There can be no doubt that we are in a change of eras, as systems crumble around us struggling to hold onto their old ways and new ones seek the patterns and practices that will take us into a future that we can feel emerging but not yet describe in words. We are in what systems thinkers would call a chaos point, a moment where the old systems no longer work but the new are not mature enough to take over the helm. Painful on many fronts.”

~ Peter Merry, Blog Post (LINK)

The old ways of seeing organization are no longer adequate. Our spiritual communities are living systems, with all the complexity that implies. And we do not know what will work in the emerging future – there are no examples for us to follow; we are in uncharted territory. This is both comforting and terrifying: exhilarating!

We might begin with understanding the difference between complexity and being complicated.

“I want to say that short circuiting complexity is never a good idea. It makes life complicated. Complicated and complex are not the same thing. Complex looks like an ocean; whole and alive with a vitality that is generated through interrelational, interdependent processes.”

~ Nora Bateson

Complexity and Chaos

My work as a blogger, author, speaker, coach, and consultant has been focused on the issue of complexity for some time now. I have been urging spiritual leaders of every kind to recognize the increasing complexity which is a result of cultural evolution – the tendency of human culture to grow more complex, necessitating that individuals and groups adapt internally, through the emergence of greater capacities, to come into coherence with increasingly complex living conditions. Some of this emergence is natural and some will come into conflict with our attachments to old and existing structures and forms which cannot continue forward.

In other words – our world, our human world, grows more complex, mostly because of our own doing, and the evolution of greater capacities already within us. When we adapt, we can successfully navigate our newly complex surroundings. When we fail to adapt, life gets more complicated. Spiral Dynamics (LINK) is a good model to use in understanding this process. As new levels of complexity unfold, we must adapt and change. If we do not, we suffer due to our inability to successfully navigate new living conditions of greater complexity.

“Whatever leadership used to be — it used to be. Now, it has to be something different. Now, we all have to be more than we were. The kind of leadership that I want to explore may not be identifiable as leadership at all.  I am interested in a kind of mutually alert care and attention to the well-being of all people and ecological systems. This kind of leadership cannot be found in individuals, but rather between them. It cannot be found in organizations, nations, religions or institutions, but rather between them. I have called it Liminal Leadership to highlight the relational characteristics.”

~ Nora Bateson

I have blogged about liminal spaces (LINK) before – the spaces in-between the places where we feel grounded in the known. The chaos point described above by Peter Merry is an example of a liminal space. Newly emerging leadership must be systemically different than what came before. In other words, trying to imitate your teacher(s) who successfully built a spiritual community in the past is futile. If they were here today, and did the same things they did then, they would not be successful the way they were in their time. It is a different world now. Nora Bateson describes growing complexity beautifully, recognizing that a poetic approach is the only way to begin to grasp what is unfolding.

“Part of the problem is that, globally, nationally and personally, we face crises that can be described as ‘complex’ or ‘wicked’ problems. Complexity is recognizable in situations which have multiple variables in ever shifting contexts of interdependency. Some examples of complex living systems are oceans, cities, families, economic systems, culture, the health of our own bodies, and the medical systems we expect to support them. In each of these systems, vitality is produced by multiple processes in contextual interaction. To study a jungle is to recognize that the jungle itself is not an isolated “thing” but instead exists in the interrelationship between soil, foliage, animals, weather patterns, bacteria and so on. The same contextual linkings can be found in all living systems; approaching the system without an understanding of this holism will create short circuits in the complexity and countless unintended consequences. Making sense of the vitality of a complex system is an inquiry into its way of making contact. A study of the relational patterns gives entirely different understanding of the way in which a system is cohering.”

~ Nora Bateson from her blog (LINK)

A spiritual community is more than an organization; it is a living system which can only be partially understood at best. There are too many aspects, most invisible, which are instrumental it its expression. Nora Bateson mentions “short circuits in the complexity and countless unintended consequences”; how many of those have shown up in your ministry? Yet, we will never grasp it all – we are, at best, able to comprehend a sense of direction and somehow, steer the living system forward toward its highest expression. This, of course, requires much more than a skillset – it involves a well-developed intuitive sense, along with a capacity for living in the mystery. Control freaks need not apply!

Holmes & Bateson

“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

Here, Dr. Holmes encourages us to absorb the principles of The Science of Mind and then, think for ourselves. An important thing to know here is the degree of your own willingness to be dishonest with yourself. Are you holding yourself to a sufficiently high standard of practice and self-honesty? That is a high bar, and many of us fail to reach it. We must develop a clear connection with our intuitive knowing – our heart-wisdom – and be radically self-honest if we are to achieve the level of self-mastery needed for these times and the future.

“One of the greatest stumbling blocks in (anyone’s) spiritual advancement is dishonesty; the refusal to honestly face an idea if that idea happens not to please (them).  This comes in part from the human tendency to take the line of least resistance, whether it be in our physical endeavors or in the operation of our mind.  Confronted with an idea that repudiates one we have held for years, we go far out of our way, entirely around the idea, to keep from being compelled to analyze and possibly to absorb it.”

~ Ernest Holmes, “It’s Up to You!”

This is neither an easy nor a casual undertaking. It is a whole-self endeavor, but isn’t that the fullest way to live? To be fully engaged with developing yourself to face big challenges and to bring the highest and best of yourself to creating #aworldthatworksforeveryone and #TheBelovedCommunity?

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”

~ Henry David Thoreau

If you are incarnated on Earth at this time, you are faced with huge challenges and huge opportunities. You are called to bring forth the best of yourself, over and over again. You are called to find ways of doing this and still living a rewarding life! You are called to step up to a daily spiritual practice which allows the emergence of your hidden splendor into actualized expression. Your spiritual community can be a vehicle for supporting its members in doing just that – for we are more likely to express our inner greatness with the support of a strong spiritual community – a living system of beings interconnected for a higher purpose, each bringing his or her unique genius to the process of becoming. But we must realize that there is no finish line in this work. Complexity is here, it is growing, and it is speeding up. We are called to bring our best selves to all the challenges this brings. New Thought gives us the tools and the perspective to do this – we must study and practice daily to be the fullest possible expression of our spiritual potential. And, we must release what no longer serves the realization of these aims. That is our work – we are the generation.

“The generation that breaks the cycle will be tasked with tending to the generations that couldn’t. It doesn’t seem fair to give that kind of love and care to those who withheld the nourishment we needed. But who are we if we don’t? So, we do.”

~ Nora Bateson 

As always, your comments are welcomed below. Thank you for reading! Feel free to share this post with others who may find it of value.

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

NOTE: I am very gratified to have begun a relationship with AGNT as a guest blogger on a semi-monthly basis. Here is the link to my first post: https://www.agnt.today/blog

And grateful to Harv Bishop of HarvBishom.com for having me as a guest blogger last week. Here is the link to that post: http://www.harvbishop.com/?p=1378