JOSEPH CAMPBELL – THE HERO’S JOURNEY, PART 3 – THE ABYSS

“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure. The very cave you are afraid to enter turns out to be the source of what you are looking for. The damned thing in the cave that was so dreaded has become the center. You find the jewel and it draws you off.”

~ Joseph Campbell

In Parts 1 (LINK) & 2 (LINK) of this series, I wrote about the first two stages of the Hero’s JourneyThe Call and The Initiation. In this post, I address The Abyss, where we Find the Jewel for which the first two stages have been a preparation.

Abyss - botticelli_hel

The Abyss of Hell by Sandro Botticelli

The Abyss is the dark place of limited consciousness which must be traversed in order to find the Jewel, which is the higher consciousness within you. The Jewel can be called Christ Consciousness or Buddha Mind. It is what the Holy Grail represented in the Arthurian Legends and in the Indiana Jones movies. It is that most perilous part of the journey, where the most is asked of you, and where it is easy to fail. The legendary stories are metaphors for an inner psychological and spiritual journey.

“Most heroic journeys involve going through a dark place – through mountain caverns, the underworld, or labyrinthine passages to emerge, finally, into the light.”

~ Jean Shinoda Bolen

These metaphors are guides to the Hero’s Journey. In our culture, we have lost much of our ability to understand symbols and metaphors, but they are there in the epic stories and legends of the past and present. Perhaps the great demand for the comic book heroes in cinema today is a longing for the true heroes of the stories of the past, not the wounded heroes so prevalent in our modern literature. The deep work of personal transformation requires a positive sense of the hero as an aspect of self which can strengthen you through the challenges of the journey. After all, what is at the center of the Jewel is your own destiny, a greater idea of yourself which is ready to express in your life.

“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

Sometimes, a Hero’s Journey can happen while you sit in a beach chair over a weekend in deep contemplation. Or it can be at a spiritual retreat where a process helps to crack you open emotionally and make something deeper available to you. Or it can be a decades-long struggle with addiction or poor self-concept which goes through many forms of The Abyss experience. There is no single version of the journey.

“The purpose of the journey is compassion. When you have come past the pairs of opposites, you have reached compassion.”

~ Joseph Campbell

I have written about compassion (LINK) before, and it comes up in Campbell’s motif of the Hero’s Journey as well. Remember that true compassion requires a consciousness of Oneness where you see the other as being one with you. So, moving beyond the “pairs of opposites” is an essential step of the journey. And it is always possible to expand our acceptance of Oneness, so there is always more of the true self to express. This means that we have more than one Hero’s Journey on our agenda.

Patanjali Quote - Pairs of Opposites

Moving beyond the pairs of opposites means moving beyond our own limited beliefs, which are guarded by our ego’s fear-based emotional system. So, there is a fight to break through those guardians of the gate to our true self. Of course, all of this happens within us. We may give up, fail to gain the Jewel, slide back into our lives without the benefits of the journey. This simply means what we will have another Call, another opportunity to grow, but we may not answer that Call after the defeat in this experience.

The legends and stories tell us that entering the Abyss is the greatest challenge, and that our experience in the Wasteland with our teachers, positive and negative, have prepared us for this moment. However, we may still fall back. There is no escaping the need to stand strong in confronting our demons – the beliefs which hold us in bondage and necessitate the Hero’s Journey to begin with.

Heroes Journey Graphic

What we seek is already within us. What we seek is some aspect of ourselves which we have not yet expressed and is being called forth by some aspect of ourselves to face some challenge or to heal some condition. We are ALWAYS up to the challenge in potential because everything we require is always already within us. We do well to remember that basic truth.

“The hero’s main feat is to overcome darkness; it is only the long-hoped-for and expected triumph of consciousness over the unconscious.”

~ C.G. Jung

In Part 4 of this series, I will cover The Return, the final critical stage in The Hero’s Journey.

Copyright – Jim Lockard 2019

 

I will be presenting an online program in the Spiral Dynamics™ Model beginning in May. SD1 covers the basics of the model; SD2 leads to certification to use the model in teaching and consulting. The basic info is in this graphic. For more information and to register, email me at DrJim-Lockard@ATT.net and I will send you the complete information.

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JOSEPH CAMPBELL – THE HERO’S JOURNEY, PART 2 – THE INITIATION

 ‎”I asked myself, ‘What is the myth you are living?’ and found that I did not know. So… I took it upon myself to get to know ‘my’ myth and regarded this as the task of tasks…I simply had to know what unconscious or preconscious myth was forming me.”

~ C.G. Jung

 Here, Carl Jung writes about entering the Hero’s Journey voluntarily, answering The Call (LINK to Part 1) as a choice. That is often the way it happens, and once the call is answered affirmatively (or there is no choice but to continue), we cross the barrier between what is known and what is unknown. This second leg of the Hero’s Journey is often called The Initiation, or the place of challenges and temptations.

Heroes Journey Graphic

“Once having traversed the threshold, the hero moves in a dream landscape of curiously fluid, ambiguous forms, where he/she must survive a succession of trials. This is a favorite phase of the myth-adventure. It has produced a world literature of miraculous tests and ordeals. The hero is covertly aided by the advice, amulets, and secret agents of the supernatural helper whom he/she met before his entrance into this region. Or it may be that he/she here discovers for the first time that there is a benign power everywhere supporting him/her in this superhuman passage.”

~ Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces

Here, after crossing the threshold, we are in the unknown, within and without. We must find our way in unfamiliar territory – think of the recruit entering boot camp or the student entering the university for the first time; the young person who has just come out regarding sexual identity; the pilgrim entering the first day of the pilgrimage. We will meet guides, some of them positive, some negative and we must learn to make our way forward. We will be tempted to go back to our comfort zone, tempted to take side journeys off of our pathway, and tempted to lose ourselves to various distractions and addictions.

Indeed, we must find our way forward by developing our inner wisdom and strength to stay true to our journey. We must discern how we are being guided and resist the temptations to give up or to sidestep the process. We must identify our teachers as such and learn whether they are positive or negative examples.

“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

 

Both Jesus and Buddha have stories of initiation – Jesus goes into the desert and is tempted by Satan with super powers and earthly delights; Buddha is tempted with pleasures of the sensual self – of fear and desire. Neither succumb to the temptations. They continue their journeys as examples of the courage it takes to stay true. An initiation is a rite of passage from one stage of consciousness to another. Without this passage, we remain immature and we are not up to the increasing demands of life; life expects us to mature, to grow. When we do not, we suffer personally, and we are diminished in our abilities to express our inner gifts to the world. Most of the traditional rites of initiation are gone or have become very tepid, offering no real challenge to transformation.

“The hero journey is one of the universal patterns through which that radiance shows brightly. What I think is that a good life is one hero journey after another. Over and over again, you are called to the realm of adventure, you are called to new horizons. Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There’s always the possibility of a fiasco.
But there’s also the possibility of bliss.”

~ Joseph Campbell, Pathways to Bliss

When we leave the known and cross the barrier into the unknown, we have to develop our inner wisdom to recognize what in the outer environment can help us. We must learn the lessons, positive and negative, on the journey so that we can put ourselves into position for the great challenge ahead of us. Often, on our Hero’s Journey we meet people who are corrupt in some way. False leaders, spiritual and secular abound, however, each has something to teach us about ourselves. Our lessons may include experience such as betrayal, illness, and being victimized. We may go through a series of negative relationships as we try to find our authentic center and realize that we bring something valuable to others and deserve value in return. But we will also encounter positive teachers who encourage and support us. The Hero’s Journey is always a process of loss and gain, of release and acceptance.

 

‎”I have treated many hundreds of patients. Among those in the second half of life – that is to say, over 35 – there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious (spiritual) outlook on life.”

~ C.G. Jung

Jung’s reference is to those who have failed to heed The Call or who have failed to learn the lessons of Initiation on their Hero’s Journeys. Sometimes, the hero is called to perform a deed, but more often the journey is about spiritual development. We seek to find our way through the Initiation phase by learning to relate properly to our teachers and guides. Perhaps along the way we learn when to trust and when to be wary; when to surrender and when to resist the urge to give up; how to read people better to see what people are really saying to us. It is important that one not turn back here. The purpose of the Initiation phase is to prepare us for the great quest or challenge that is coming – the finding of the jewel of inner consciousness which is the heart of the Hero’s Journey. I will cover that in Part 3 of this series.

 “There is a certain typical hero sequence of actions, which can be detected in stories from all over the world, and from many, many periods of history. And I think it’s essentially, you might say, the one deed done by many, many different people. There are two types of deed. One is the physical deed; the hero who has performed a war act or a physical act of heroism. Saving a life, that’s a hero act. Giving himself, sacrificing himself to another. And the other kind is the spiritual hero, who has learned or found a mode of experiencing the supernormal range of human spiritual life and has then come back and communicated it. It’s a cycle. It’s a going and a return that the hero cycle represents.”

~ Joseph Campbell

 As always, your comments are appreciated below – feel free to share this post with others and, if you are so inclined, Follow this blog by entering your email in the Follow section.

 Copyright – Jim Lockard 2019

 

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

 

 

 

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

“I’m restless.

Things are calling me away.

My hair is being pulled by the stars again.”

~ Anaïs Nin 

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

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

Vertical Horizontal Slide Image

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

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

Cartoon - Control Issues - Calvin

Calvin & Hobbes

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

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

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

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

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

~ Leigh Shoju Loesch Macaro

sabbatical

 Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

THRIVING SKILL: FINDING THE SWEET SPOT BETWEEN CERTAINTY AND UNCERTAINTY

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

~ Hugh Mackay 

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

~ Ernest Holmes

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

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

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

~ Voltaire

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

Poster - Old Ways New Doors

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

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

~ Matt Cartmill

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

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

~ Austin Kleon

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

social-media-shouting

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

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

~ Carl Jung

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

Meditate.

Pray.

Develop your Emotional & Spiritual Intelligence.

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

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

the affairs of this world are really nothing into nothing.

Still though, we should dance.

~ Hafiz 

Beautiful Dance

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

 

 

 

WHEN THE SPIRITUAL LEADER IS TOXIC – PART 3

In Parts 1 & 2 of this series (LINK), I wrote about the nature of toxic behaviors in a spiritual community, some of the consequences and how those affected by a toxic spiritual leader can respond. In this post, I look at what the spiritual leader who is drawn to toxic behaviors can do to facilitate healing for themselves and their community. It is rather long, but I believe that the topic warrants it.

help-button

 

“Physician, heal thyself.” ~ Luke 4:23

Spiritual leaders are human beings and subject to all of the issues, flaws, difficulties, illnesses, and character flaws which come with humanity. Many come to believe that their role as spiritual leader carries with it an imperative to exceed that humanity – to be an exemplar of some kind of spiritual perfection. This is something that they may have come up with on their own, adopted from the opinions of others, or been taught in ministerial education programs or by other spiritual leaders. And while it can be said that it is important that a spiritual leader be able to teach spiritual principles at a level that allows the members of the community to learn, AND that the spiritual leader should exemplify the level of spiritual realization that she has reached. None of us will do this perfectly; we bring whatever is unhealed within us into leadership and, ironically perhaps, by assuming such a role, we call what is unhealed into awareness.

In his writings about the Shadow as an element of repressed human dynamics, Carl Jung wrote: “How do you find a lion that has swallowed you?” The difficulty of finding and admitting to our own flaws can be daunting, because of our human tendencies to deny them and to see our actions as being better than they actually are. We rationalize our behavior through a process of self-justification driven by an inability to face the truth of ourselves.

Healing ourselves requires humility at a minimum, and ideally, surrender. Humility gives us the power of honest self-examination; surrender opens us to whatever it will take to facilitate our own healing. Without a sense of humility, we in New Thought can become blind to our own issues and simply repeat positive affirmations that do not really connect with our emotional self – so nothing changes. The hubris of seeing oneself as spiritually enlightened to the extent that no one else can possibly help or even understand us is, unfortunately, all too common a trait in New Thought spiritual leaders. This leads to toxic behaviors.

One reason that spiritual leaders become toxic, by which I mean significantly out of alignment with Source, is that they respond to the actual and perceived pressure of their position in unhealthy ways. Unresolved Shadow issues operating below the surface of consciousness often sabotage the best of intentions and produce distorted behaviors. Fear of how one is being or might be perceived can drive one to create a false persona so as to manipulate others into seeing one in a certain way. This need to be seen in a certain light is the opposite of humility; at the extremes it becomes narcissism.

When the spiritual leader who is out of alignment is truly challenged by a difficult personal or professional situation or trauma, he may have no one to turn to for support. This can create an overwhelming sense of loneliness and separation – it can all seem so unfair.

“Try to let what is unfair teach you… What is unfair can be a stern but invaluable teacher… You can be shaped, or you can be broken. There is not much in between. Try to learn. Be coachable. Try to learn from everybody, especially those who fail. This is hard.”

~ David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

At one end of the spectrum of toxic behavior in spiritual leaders is what Jungian James Hollis calls “reflexive niceness.” This is the state of being reflexively unwilling to say or do anything that might cause distress or disagreement in another person. This makes holding others accountable very difficult, if not impossible; it allows emotional bullies or those who express excessive neediness (a reverse bully) to have their way in a spiritual community. It can also lead to an atmosphere where people are afraid to speak up for fear of upsetting the spiritual leader, or where people feel that they have to support a needy spiritual leader. So things get repressed until the pressure builds, often resulting in an explosion of anger, followed by feelings of shame.

“The opposite of reflexive niceness is integrity.”

~ James Hollis, Jungian analyst

At the other end of the spectrum are behaviors that are clearly harmful and even illegal. Every spiritual leader of any denomination who has engaged in harmful behavior has been aware of what they were doing – at least at some level. One does not have a sexual affair with a married student or take funds out of the treasury without authority and not know what he is doing. So the question remains – why is the decision so often made to go ahead with the act and the subsequent cover-up rather than to seek healing support?

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Some point to a lack of organizational support for spiritual leaders who might be in crisis or who are engaging in harmful behaviors, or considering doing so. Indeed, across many denominations, there is inadequate training in self-care and deep self-awareness in ministerial education; and there is a failure to develop a culture where seeking help is seen as a strength, rather than a weakness.

Some denominations have structures of authority that allow a central authority to intervene in local issues when there is toxic behavior; some have assistance programs to minister to spiritual leaders with significant problems. New Thought, with its tradition of near-autonomy of local member communities, often lacks the authority to take quick and decisive action in such cases, and does not have adequate assistance programs in place even if a spiritual leader does seek help. Ethical complaints must be received and, in actuality, can only be investigated fully with the cooperation of the local community, including the spiritual leader. Permission may be delayed or even denied, and in extreme cases, local spiritual communities have left an organization rather than submit to an investigation.

Often, the best option is for the spiritual leader to take action to resolve his/her own issues. While some will do this, others, as we know, will not. This means that there will be dysfunction and even harm done within spiritual communities where the spiritual leader is unwilling or unable to take healing action on his own behalf.

mentor

Here are my suggestions about what a spiritual leader who finds himself or herself behaving or being tempted to behave is ways that are out of alignment with spiritual principles can do. Such behaviors may include a range of things from the highly destructive (abuse of self or others) to the merely incompetent (such as failing to hold community members accountable; mismanaging resources, etc.). I will write this section in the second person.

  1. Increase and amplify your own spiritual practices. Make them conscious again. Do them rigorously and regularly. Go deeper. Work on forgiveness of yourself and others.
  2. Seek help. For many issues, a mentor or coach might be what you need. Someone to give you honest feedback, someone you trust enough to be truthful with about what is going on with you. Perhaps you need to consider therapy or analysis for issues relating to compulsive behaviors or to thoughts or actions which harm others.
  3. If you have addictions that affect your spiritual leadership, get into a program and onto a path to whatever kind of sobriety that you have lost.
  4. If you are guilty of serious ethical or legal violations – strongly consider admitting this to the appropriate authorities. Begin the process of getting your integrity back – within yourself first, then with others. Decide to have no secrets.
  5. If you are confronted with an organizational investigation, cooperate. This is your pathway to renewal and to making amends.

These are suggestions, and they all make the assumption that a spiritual leader is fully aware of her/his issues and willing to move toward a healing resolution. I know of many colleagues who have reached out to me and to others to help them deal with issues that are of concern to help them to get back on track before things get out of hand.

But some will continue down a destructive pathway for a long time. Some of us need to “hit bottom” or to flirt with true disaster before a course correction will be attempted. For those cases, the organizations must develop and apply the kinds of investigative programs and remedial actions that can ensure the safety of members of the spiritual communities affected, and, which have the authority to hold those spiritual leaders to account while working to find a healing solution.

Even when things might be falling apart, there is a possibility for good to emerge.

“Wholeness does not mean perfection: it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life. Knowing this gives me hope that human wholeness — mine, yours, ours — need not be a utopian dream, if we can use devastation as a seed bed for new life.”

~ Parker Palmer

The healing process may be long and difficult, but it is the only way through. We cannot simply leave a situation unhealed and expect that the community will thrive – it doesn’t work that way. When a spiritual leader is toxic, there is great stress put on the entire communal system and everyone in it – including the spiritual leader. It takes courage to move from such a situation into a path of healing. But that is the way forward.

As always, your comments are welcome – however, I am asking that any comments about specific cases not include specific identifying information (names/places), for what I think are obvious reasons. I am available for personal consultations – contact me at DrJim-Lockard@ATT.net for that purpose.

 

Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard

OUR ADDICTION TO OUTRAGE – AND HOW TO MINISTER IN A HEALING MANNER

A child somehow enters the enclosure housing a male gorilla at a Cincinnati zoo. Employees shoot the gorilla; the child is rescued. We have all heard the tragic tale of Harambe. Social media is flooded with stories, comments, theories and – OUTRAGE!!!

1Harambe

The sanctimonious tone of many of the stories and comments in this case (and, of course, in dozens of others), sound as if everyone is suddenly an expert on gorilla behavior and zoo protocol.

WHY DO WE EVEN HAVE ZOOS IN THIS DAY AND AGE?!?!?!?!?!?!

Oh, and on parenting, where one’s sense of expertise may come even more easily.

How is that child’s mother not in prison, for crying out loud?!?!?!?

“Obviously, losing track of a child doesn’t in itself reflect poorly on anyone’s parenting ability. It’s basically a cliché that children are the world’s greatest escape artists. All of them, little Houdinis, wriggling out of whatever contraption you put them in and just vanishing.

But Outrage doesn’t care. It isn’t a question of what’s true, but rather a question of what will satisfy its appetite.” ~ Eric Dorman (LINK)

At times like these, our sense of self-righteousness arises and often becomes “The Beast called Outrage.” When we believe that we are right AND that our rightness has a strong, unassailable moral underpinning, we do not hold back; we do not respect the “false opinions” of others. Often, we lose sight of the humanness of others and the distinct possibility that we may not have the whole truth at our disposal.

“We blame the mother not merely because we think we’re better than her. We do think we’re better, but sanctimony is just a symptom. We blame her because we need a fix.” ~ Eric Dorman

1Outrage

We become addicted to our self-righteousness and sanctimony and to their expression in the form of outrage. We see this in our political opinions – the vilification of anyone who is not our chosen candidate who is the ONLY ONE who can deliver us into the only possible future that we can live with. Those addicted to sanctimony will not compromise because compromising does not deliver the fix, it is a let-down.

“While there are many drawbacks, self-righteousness can also be heady, seductive, and even… well… addictive. Any truly honest person will admit that the state feels good. The pleasure of knowing, with subjective certainty, that you are right and your opponents are deeply, despicably wrong.

Sanctimony, or a sense of righteous outrage, can feel so intense and delicious that many people actively seek to return to it, again and again. Moreover, as Westin et.al. have found, this trait crosses all boundaries of ideology.

Indeed, one could look at our present-day political landscape and argue that a relentless addiction to indignation may be one of the chief drivers of obstinate dogmatism and an inability to negotiate pragmatic solutions to myriad modern problems. It may be the ultimate propellant behind the current ‘culture war.’” ~ Dr. David Brin (LINK)

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Our politics is one place where those who strategize campaigns have found it to be very effective to get supporters to see themselves as being better than the supporters of their political opponents. They use the media very effectively to build self-righteousness and sanctimony in supporters and to encourage resentment toward and de-humanization of opponents – to show outrage at anything the opponent or their supporters say or do. The evidence shows that they do this all too welladdictions are easy to feed..

I have no doubt that every spiritual leader reading this post has people in their ministry who fit this description, or who are affected by people who do. Often, as a result, the spiritual leader avoids the issues at hand – politics or anything controversial become  forbidden topics from the pulpit or in the classroom. Because how are we do deal with those who jump into outrage in a spiritual setting? Isn’t it better to avoid the outbursts that may infect others and perhaps cause people to leave the community?

So walking on eggshells becomes the norm; avoidance of anything controversial becomes the standard; and fear becomes the most powerful force present in the ministry. How easily it happens!

As in all cases of negative behavior and addiction, this one results from a failure to learn and practice New Thought principles. Someone who does not regularly attend services and classes; who does not have a regular, vibrant and creative practice every day; who allows their mind to dwell on fear based thoughts; who does not pay attention to their thoughts and feelings as they occur and change direction where warranted; such a person is ripe for addiction to self-righteousness and the attending outrage.

So that covers pretty much everyone in the average spiritual community, doesn’t it? Not that all of them, or even a majority will succumb, but there will be at least a few, and they can hijack a ministry.

The answer is to minister to these people, and to the entire community – because all are affected by this – with a determination to teach principle, to promote spiritual practice, and to encourage compassion. This means that transparency is part of the community’s way of being – when there is an issue, it is spoken about in the most loving and supportive way possible, but it is neither avoided nor ignored. Of course, this requires that the spiritual leader take a look at him/herself for signs of such an addiction. We are not immune.

So-What-Am-I-Supposed-to-Do-HEADER

When addictive patterns are present, effective ministry encourages deep personal questioning so that the problem can no longer be denied. This is done best not through confrontation, but by opening to awareness. Only then will someone in an addictive pattern have the possibility of moving toward healing. Grace (radical self-awareness) enters when there is a tiny hole in the wall of denial. Self-righteous sanctimony builds a strong wall against other ideas and opinions, and it must be gently but firmly approached so that the opening for grace can occur. The issue here is the addiction to self-righteousness, not the rightness or wrongness of the position itself.

The idea is to get people to see others, with different views and opinions, as people like themselves. To open to the possibility of seeing beyond dogmatic rhetoric (often gleaned from other sources) to the realization that there is much in common. And ultimately to see that their well-being is not dependent upon any opinion or candidate or political platform or idea about parenting, but on the realization of the spirit within.

This is the essence of New Thought teachings, and when we forget it – and we all do from time to time – it is important that we be reminded. This political season will be challenging enough without spiritual leaders failing to minister to those who are so impacted by the fear and negativity of it all. The idea that at least some of the anger that we see is driven by an addiction is, I think, a compelling reason to act. Our calling is demadning more of us.

Beautiful Stone Altar

Thank you for reading my blog. If you are so inclined, follow it regularly by clicking on the FOLLOW button on the right side; feel free to share the blog with others who might be interested. And I’m on Twitter as @JimLockard

“Good blogs aren’t focused on the vapid race for clicks that other forms of social media encourage. Instead, they patiently inform and challenge, using your time with respect.”

~ Seth Godin

Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard

 

Spiral Dynamics - new spiral

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Investment: $59 for the Full Course

To register: Go to – http://www.cotterconsulting.net/spiral-dynamics-online

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ARE YOU A FORM JUNKIE? SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP AT A CROSSROADS – Part 2

In Part 1 of this series (LINK), I wrote of the human tendency to become attached or addicted to forms. This basically means to become so attached to things being done in a certain way that you –

  1. Do not look at other ways of doing them.
  2. May become blind to the fact that the way you are doing things isn’t working well anymore & that there are other options.
  3. You may refuse to believe any messages that contradict your attachment.

We in New Thought have an advantage in dealing with this kind of thing, or at least you would think that we do. Our advantage is that New Thought principles include the need to look at reality without attachment, to see deeply into our own motivations and to stay centered and focused on what works in our lives, and to recognize change as something that happens from within.

Given that these principles are strongly associated with New Thought, you might expect that our spiritual leaders would not be as likely as others to fall into the attachment/addiction trap.

But I see it happening all the time.

Without going into a litany of what is not going well, let’s just say that there are an awful lot of New Thought spiritual communities in various stages of struggle.

The attachment/addiction trap, in its many forms, including the ones described in this series, arise because we do not attend to our spiritual work, which inhibits our ability to be effective in the world. Too often, we fail to do deep Shadow work, we fail to do consistent (in every sense of the word) spiritual practices, we fail to hold ourselves accountable to the development of our own self-mastery. And we also often fail to examine the world around us and the evolutionary implications for the future of our ministries.

Change is nothing new. Religion, spirituality, churches and all of the trappings have changed over time. The difference today is the rate of change. The movement from one form of being in spiritual community to the next used to take hundreds, even thousands, of years. Today, it is taking decades – and things are speeding up. We, of all people, ought to see ourselves as masters of change.

“At the point of mastery, when there seems nothing left to move beyond, we find a way to move beyond ourselves. Success motivates. Yet the near win — the constant auto-correct of a curved-line path — can propel us in an ongoing quest. We see it whenever we aim, climb, or create with mastery as our aim, when the outcome is determined by what happens at the margins.”

~ Sarah Lewis

In the past 50 years in the United States and Canada, the rate of church attendance has been cut nearly in half – even more among some age groups. This means that what used to work – basically, opening the doors of a church or center – is no longer a guarantee of success.

Spiral Dynamics™ and other models tell us that this change is driven by the evolutionary nature of human cultural development. Since all evolution represents both a move toward greater complexity AND a means of adaptation to an environment, this current cultural evolutionary process can be seen as evolving at a faster rate than ever before in human history. What used to take a long time, now happens very quickly. The model tells us that the evolution of human thought toward greater complexity is driven by the rate of change of the world around us. That rate of change is speeding up, hence, we are being called to adapt to change more quickly than in the past.

Another effect of this speeding up of the rate of change is that there are few, if any, models to show us the way forward – we have never been here before. New Thought’s founders made reasonable decisions in following the established models of western Christianity in designing the forms through which spiritual community would function. They opened churches and people came in, in part, because just about everyone went to church and it seemed familiar, even if the message they heard was not.

But times have changed, and rates of church attendance are much lower than before. Another evolutionary change is that there is no longer much if any social stigma to not going to church. In fact, in some places, it is the opposite – there is a social stigma if you do go to church. These impacts are more significantly felt by younger people.

While those in the Baby Boomer generation may be comfortable with ministerial robes, stoles, choirs, and the like, the Millennial generation sees these trappings as old-fashioned and irrelevant to their lives. And by the way, the Baby Boomers and Generation Y’ers are leaving spiritual communities as well. These phenomena are not isolated to a single age group.

Those spiritual leaders who observe this phenomena and do not see a need to at least begin to explore alternative forms of ministry and spiritual community are going to have a rough road ahead. But we have covered this ground before.

What to do:

You might begin by doing a little research. There is a big picture element to this and there is a small, local element to this as well. You may be in a location where Sunday attendance is steady or growing, or your community may be an exception – growing in attendance while other local spiritual communities are getting smaller. I recommend that you look at the larger picture as well, because you, and your area, may be a temporary anomaly in a larger wave of change that will come to your doorstep eventually. I would look at the data. The Pew Research Center website is a good place to start (LINK).

Then I would begin to have conversations – with your peers, with your members, with anyone interested in the topic of change – and see what you can learn.

Be open to looking at different ways of doing ministry, both inside and outside of your organization. As I said before, we do not know what is coming next, we have to make it up as we go along. It is likely that the next few decades will be a time of great confusion and many ideas, most of which do not gain traction. In other words, a time of great creativity. You can be in the midst of this or on the sidelines.

Are you vision-driven? Do you have a clear purpose for your ministry that is not attached to the form through which it is expressed? Is your vision real, or are you just going through the motions? This is important for you to know.

One thing is certain. To the degree that you are attached or addicted to the current form of your ministry, you will find it either difficult or very difficult to be open to change. And change is already here.

Now for a few tough questions that will no doubt be on your mind. They are here to get you thinking about all of the contingencies involved in major transformation:

  • In thinking about new models, we have to consider whether the ministry is the source of income for people – minister(s), staff and others. What portion of your community’s income comes from the Sunday service?
  • What would it look like if much of that income went away?
  • Does the business model for your ministry require that it be the sole or primary source of livelihood for people? How many people?
  • What income do you need to generate to pay those people?
  • If the Sunday service diminished significantly, what would happen to your business model?
  • If your service went away, would your real estate needs change?

Ask questions of your organizational leadership. What are they doing at the organizational level to prepare spiritual leaders for an uncertain but creative future? Are there plans in place; courses in the ministerial education programs; segments of conferences and conventions, and at regional meetings and in online forums; are they researching the trends and looking outside the organization to capture great ideas and bring them to you? If not, why not?

Finally, look at your Sunday service experience, which isn’t going away, at least for a while. Is it fresh? Does it have a good mixture of vibrant and quiet elements? Does it reach a wide spectrum of people in a meaningful way? Do you change elements fairly often to get people used to change?

What is the purpose of your Sunday service? Are you looking at the Sunday service as a means of developing the culture of your community AND as a way to help people deepen their spiritual awareness and practice? Or is it just a show with live music?

Try to see it through “new eyes.” If that is hard for you, ask a few people who do not come to your community to come and give you an evaluation. Be ready for them not to like it, but listen to what they have to say. Note that asking your existing members to evaluate your service will most likely result in some people liking some things and others liking different things, and no one wanting anything they like to change. Chalk it up to human nature.

Can you reasonably say that your Sunday service will be a good bridge to whatever is coming next, not something that will slowly (or not so slowly) wither and need to be replaced before resources run out?

So there is much to review, to give your attention to, and for you, as a spiritual leader to do. This is where to start.

“I have no interest in the justification of circumstances or producing guilt in others by assigning obligation. I am interested in providing an opportunity for people to experience mastery in the matter of their own lives and the experience of satisfaction, fulfillment, and aliveness. These are a function of the self as context rather than thing, the self as space rather than location or position, the self as cause rather than self at effect.”

~ Werner Erhard

Next, we will explore the relationship of the calling to ministry as a factor in how we respond to change.

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