THOUGHTS FOR A NEW YEAR – SEEKING WHOLENESS

“Seek out that particular mental attribute which makes you feel most deeply and vitally alive, along with which comes the inner voice which says, ‘This is the real me,’ and when you have found that attitude, follow it.” 

~ William James

Dali-2 - Egg

“This is the moment when we either turn up the light within ourselves or move further into the darkness. Stop giving energy, time, and power to negativity. Counteract it with goodness. Notice where there is a need, then do whatever you can to help.”

~ Oprah Winfrey

Whether you call it wholeness, authenticity, or oneness, what we seek is the deep and profound connection with our souls. This is the essence of spirituality – the bringing forth of the best of ourselves, our Divine Natures.

Entering a new year is a wonderful opportunity to make the kinds of changes in your life which will lead to a deeper level of beingness. You can, of course, do this any time, but the symbolic opportunity of a new year is particularly apt. The theme is seeking – what we seek and what seeks us. Spiritual wisdom teaches us that this is an inside-out process; change begins within and seeks expression and the changed person now notices different things in the outer world. It is like putting on glasses which enable you to see more clearly. The external world has not changed, but one’s ability to perceive it more clearly changes how one relates.

The work of changing our perception is done by using our conscious mind to change belief patterns in our subconscious mind. The best way to do this is through regular, daily spiritual practices, the repetition of which generates new beliefs by altering the information stored in the brain. New neural pathways are opened over time, and our perception becomes clearer. As William Blake wrote: “If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear . . . as it is, infinite.” Our spiritual practices and the guiding of our daily thoughts to be more loving and wise help us to cleanse those doors of perception.

“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

Poster - authentic-self-soul-made-visible2

What is unconscious is not available to us directly, but is active in our creative process, which is a blend of conscious and unconscious elements – thoughts, beliefs, emotions, etc. By working to bring more to the conscious level, we gain greater dominion over our experience. The process of bringing the unconscious to conscious awareness can be difficult and painful – much of what is unconscious is repressed aspects of ourselves, called shadow, which we deemed unacceptable at some point in our lives. When we do not do this work, we remain at the mercy of our repressed selves, which seek healing by bringing us into challenges calling for healthy expression of those repressed aspects. This cycle of projection and denial continues until we interrupt it and re-integrate those aspects consciously.

The seeking we must do is beyond the superficial, beyond just positive thinking, meditating, and contemplating. While all of those are essential, they are not sufficient to do the deep work of healing shadow. I do not believe that this deep work can be done alone, the ego is so resistant to revealing what has been repressed. We need to work with someone who has done their own deep work, a therapist perhaps, who will lovingly hold our feet to the fires of radical self-honesty. Anything less is insufficient.

This is a hero’s journey in itself, requiring a departure from the apparent safety of our denial (which is a false sense of security), and into the depths of our being. It requires that we acknowledge, own, love, and finally, integrate what we have repressed into a healthy self-concept.

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“The journey of the hero is about the courage to seek the depths; the image of creative rebirth; the eternal cycle of change within us; the uncanny discovery that the seeker is the mystery which the seeker seeks to know. The hero journey is a symbol that binds, in the original sense of the word, two distant ideas, the spiritual quest of the ancients with the modern search for identity, always the one, shape-shifting yet marvelously constant story that we find.” 

~ Phil Cousineau

The good news is that we are supported in this work by our soul – the deepest and truest part of who we are. The soul seeks to experience the fullness of life and refuses to sit quietly by as we ignore its urgings. It does not care about propriety or the opinions and rules of others – it wants what it wants. It wants love and expression – it wants to experience the infinite.

“Driven by the forces of love, the fragments of the world seek each other so that the world may come into being. Love alone is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as to complete and fulfill them, for it alone takes them and joins them by what is deepest in themselves.”

~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

To the degree that you choose to do deep work in 2019, you will need to accept that such work is not easy and that it will affect every area of your life. Beginning with an appraisal of your regular spiritual practices – are they sufficient, are they deep enough, are they delivering what you want from them?

If you want to do such an assessment, I am providing access to a document I use with my private students: Click to download Self Assessment Authentic Self Handout 2018. You can download it and complete it, then use it to guide you toward developing a more meaningful and relevant set of spiritual practices.

“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

End of Year

As always, your comments are appreciated.

And many thanks to the nearly 12,000 visitors to this blog during 2018. I am very grateful that you found value here.

Copyright 2019 – Jim Lockard

 

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BE ENCOURAGED. IT’S CONSCIOUSNESS – ALL OF IT.

“Consciousness is a singular, the plural of which is unknown.”

~ Erwin Schrödinger

So, as far as I understand it, here is how it works:

Whenever I enter something – a pattern of thought, a room, a situation, a relationship, an agreement, a voyage, anything – I bring my consciousness of the moment. That consciousness determines my experience of what I am entering; it determines my behaviors, helps to co-create whatever it is I am entering before I enter it, and what it will change into while I am there and after I leave. It also determines whether and how I am changed in the process.

Beautiful Prayer Flags

The same consciousness is also in everyone and everything associated with what I enter, and through each individual involved, the Universal Consciousness interacts with itself. So, I am a bit player, albeit an important one, in a much larger theater which is unfolding. Universal Consciousness, knowing itself and discovering itself as it changes, is really all that is happening in this universe. My role (and yours) is to consciously and unconsciously direct that consciousness from potential into actuality by individualizing it within our unique identities. I do this individually in my own life and collectively in my sphere of influence as I live. Quantum physics tells me my sphere of influence (and yours) touches every particle in the universe and beyond to any other universes which may exist.

“As Jung argues in ‘Answer to Job,’ human self-reflective awareness might be seen as the medium through which God becomes conscious – with the human ego serving as the divine organ of self-reflective consciousness.”

~ Keiron le Grice

Beautiful Nautilus

I like to get back to basics in December as I prepare myself mentally and emotionally for a New Year. I like to think about the metaphysical creative process and how it works by means of me to create my own life experience and to influence the experience of others. This thinking helps me to see the value in a regular spiritual practice to bring my psychological process into focus toward positive experiences, outcomes, and contributions. Of course, you can do this work at any time of the year, and I recommend that you do it continuously.

Now, I know that thinking is only the beginning, not the end of what I need to do. I must think in the most constructive way possible, but also be doing deeper work to reveal the limited and destructive aspects buried within my unconscious, for they will continually show up in ways that negatively affect me. This means shadow work, delving into my discomfort to bring light to it and to reintegrate what I have rejected about myself earlier in life into a healthy adult self-concept. For I realize today that my self-concept directs the consciousness expressing as me in whatever I enter into.

Often, my repressed energies deal with my own body, my sexuality, my identity. We are taught to separate our connection to sensuality and put it out of our socially approved range of experiences. We compartmentalize, and the repressed energies continue to express through the “back channels” of our psyche.

“Don´t condemn sensuality. It has been condemned by the whole world, and because of their condemnation, the energy that can flower in sensuality moves into perversions, jealousy, anger, hatred — a kind of life which is dry, with no juice. Sensuousness is one of the greatest blessings to humanity. It is your sensitivity, it is your consciousness. Consciousness filtering through the body is what sensuousness is.”

~ Osho

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My expression of life is limited to the degree that my primal energies have been caged rather than harnessed; they have been imprisoned rather than disciplined. When this is so, they rebel in their desire to be a part of the expression of a healthy being and emerge as destructive behaviors, guilt, and shame. Deep inner work and daily spiritual practices are the path to returning these inner energies to a healthy state of expression.

“The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline. . .. That is real freedom. That is being educated and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.”

~ David Foster Wallace

Spiritual Mind Treatment, or affirmative prayer, is a form of affirmation and visualization to train my mind in ways leading to the constructive expression of the complete array of primal energies within me. For all of these energies are creative and are essential in living a fulfilled human life. I cannot contribute the fullness of my potential to others unless I am realizing that fullness in my own life experience.

We are, of course, aided in this process by a universe which unerringly cooperates to meet our need for positive development. This is so because, as I noted earlier, all consciousness, including my individualized consciousness is part of the same thing. Our experience of our own different inner manifestations of consciousness and the mingling with the expressions of others is Universal Consciousness knowing and interacting with itself. Because this is so, we are continually in a place of opportunity to realize what we need to do to move toward an enlightened way of being – meaning a consciousness which is individualized as a high self-concept. Natasha Dern puts it beautifully in this quote:

“So, what is enlightenment? How about coming down from that mountain and putting your unity consciousness to the test amidst mortgage payments and credit card debt, divorce lawyers and aging parents, nasty bosses and health problems, wars and poverty? Such conditions, as the alchemist knows, burns away the dross to reveal who we are not. Yes, in the midst of the madness we awaken, grow comfortable with our dualistic nature and develop mystical stamina so that we can handle our sobriety. Illusions are like drugs and enlightenment is like rehab.”

~ Natasha Dern

Caterpillar - Image of Butterfly

As individuals, being aspects of a larger expression of Universal Consciousness, we seek both unification and healing so as to return to a sense of Oneness with our true nature – our God Nature. We are assisted by the unfolding an expressing universe and have everything we need to make our life journey one that leads us toward greater and greater fulfillment. Our struggles are part of this process – it is all the unfolding of consciousness. There is nothing else happening. I cannot think of a more encouraging way of seeing our lives.

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

~ Ernest Holmes

HAVE A WONDERFUL 2019 –

MAY YOUR LIFE BE FULFILLED.

 

As always, your comments are appreciated. Please share this post with those you think might find it of value.

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

 

MORE ON GRIEVING – AS TIME PASSES, LESSONS EMERGE

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

~ J.R.R. Tolkien

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

Beautiful Angel Sculputure 3

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

Beautiful Angel Sculputure 5

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

~ James Hollis

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

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

~ May Benatar

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

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

The Dakini Speaks:

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

~ Jennifer Welwood, The Dakini Speaks

Beautiful Angel Sculputure 4

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

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

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

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

~ John Campbell on Twitter

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

VMEMEs Simplified

The Values Systems (vMEMEs) of the Spiral Dynamics Model

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

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

~ Kylie Stedman 

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

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

Poster - Change is Good - You Go First

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

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

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

~ James Hollis

Beautiful Beginnings

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

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

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

 

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

 

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

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

~ Mahatma Gandhi

diversity

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

Poster - Diversity Inclusion

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

VMEMEs Simplified

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

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

~ Clare Graves, originator of Spiral Dynamics

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

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

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

~ Dr. Howard Thurman

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

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

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

~ Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

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

 

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

LOOKING FOR HAPPINESS? TRY SPIRITUAL PRACTICES!

 

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

~Maha Ghosananda

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

~ Jim Lockard

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

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

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

~ T. Harv Eker

 

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

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

~ Arthur D. Saftlas 

Happiness Five Miles

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

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

~ David Levithan

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

 ~ C.G Jung

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

Poster - Rumi - Eyes Are Open

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

~ Richard Rohr

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

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

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

~ G.K. Chesterton

 

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

 

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

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

A CALLING IS NOT A JOB, IT IS A VOCATION

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

~ Parker Palmer 

Calling to Ministry

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

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

~ Joseph Campbell

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ Mary Oliver

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beautiful Staircase

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

 

MILLENNIALS IN NEW THOUGHT – AN UPDATE – PART 1

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

Savanna

Rev. Savanna Noel Riker

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

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

CSL Next Gen Retreat 1

Rev. Abigail at NextGen Retreat.

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

CSL Next Gen Retreat 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NTE Blog: Thank you, Savanna!

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

CSL Next Gen Retreat 2

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

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

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

 

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

 

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