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

 

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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

 

IS NEW THOUGHT ORGANIZED RELIGION?

new-thought-logos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cartoon - Religion - Organized Infallible

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

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

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

~ Ernest Holmes, “The Seminar Lectures”

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

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

 

IS NEW THOUGHT 2ND TIER?

“If you realize that all things change,

there is nothing you will try to hold on to.”

~ Lao Tzu

We hear a lot of talk in New Thought circles about moving into 2nd Tier (at least I do). I would like to look at that possibility and what it may involve for us individually and collectively. First, New Thought is perfectly suited to 2nd Tier thinking as a spiritual philosophy; it is in no way stuck in old beliefs that would inhibit its use as adherents move to higher levels on the spiral. Second, movement along the spiral does not change the basic principles of New Thought teachings – it changes how people relate to the principles and to one another. Each vMEME acts as a container for the principles seeing them through different levels of complexity and different values systems. More about this later in the post.

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

~ Ernest Holmes,

Sermon by The Sea, Asilomar, Saturday, August 15, 1959

2nd Tier is on our agenda. We are moving in that direction, the world getting more complex (the human cultural aspects and our abilities to see through an increasingly complex lens). This calls forth from within us the emergence of greater levels of adaptability to that complexity.

By my observation, New Thought has individuals centered from Blue to Yellow/Turquoise on the spiral, with most centered at Orange and Green. You might wonder why the Yellow/Turquoise Level thinkers aren’t recognized as such? I will give you two reasons”

  1. You can’t see what you don’t recognize – 1st Tier thinkers can’t recognize 2nd Tier thinkers as such unless they understand the dynamics of cultural evolution and have sufficient self-awareness to see that they tend to project their own level beliefs onto others – thus seeing 2nd Tier thinkers as some form of their own level.
  2. Since all 1st Tier Levels will reject the values of levels different from their own, they will also see 2nd Tier values as something to reject. When in the 1st Tier (where the clear majority currently reside), one will see 2nd Tier values as dangerous and/or wrong. Remember in the motif of the caterpillar to butterfly transformation (LINK) that the old immune system of the caterpillar initially kills off the imaginal cellsthe forerunners of the butterfly, the new form. So, we will tend to do that with values emerging in others from higher on the spiral that we may currently be.

Currently, I am unaware of any New Thought organization or spiritual community which is operating at 2nd Tier as a community. This is most likely because there are not enough at 2nd Tier in leadership in any particular place yet. You are, of course, welcome to let me know if I need to be corrected in this regard in the comments section below (but first, read this entire post, and the (previous post LINK).

Poster - Toffler Quote

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

~ C. Otto Scharmer

 

The models show us that movement into 2nd Tier is a great challenge, and how that movement happens is not well understood. The gap between the Green & Yellow Levels is much wider than between any two 1st Tier Levels. It seems individuals move first, and their organizations may follow if conditions are optimal. Frederic Laloux (LINK) believes the minimum requirements for operating at 2nd Tier as an organization are that the CEO-equivalent AND the board of directors-equivalent are both centered at Yellow or Turquoise. The presence of 1st Tier thinking among top leadership would have the effect of bringing fear into the mix and creating or continuing systems which attempt to reduce that fear.

We also have strong indications that unless one is centered at the Green Level in a healthy way, movement to 2nd Tier is unlikely, if not impossible. Integral-Yellow and Holistic-Turquoise are the first levels which are not fear-based. At these 2nd Tier Levels, there is a sense of empowerment and a healthy self-concept; one does not expend energy in ego defenses (such as worrying about how others perceive you). One must be at the Green Values System in a healthy way before the move to 2nd Tier can occur in a comprehensive way.

This suggests to us that a major focus now in New Thought can be to develop healthy Green ways of being. I have blogged about that here (LINK) and here (LINK) and here (LINK). Healthy Green contains a high capacity for complexity to see large patterns and connections. Those at Healthy Green have a greater willingness to incorporate a variety of viewpoints, cultural influences, and unique characteristics among membership without losing the capacity to hold fast to basic principles. Unhealthy Green, by contrast, can become authoritarian when its values are questioned, and has great difficulty holding others to accountability out of a fear that feelings will be hurt. A sense of peace is very important at Green, and unhealthy Green will take this to an extreme level“no one should ever feel bad about anything.” The result of this is usually everyone feeling bad about everything, but feeling that they cannot show it.

The rigor with which we teach our spiritual principles and with which we hold ourselves and others accountable for expressing them clearly and faithfully, will be an important factor in the future health of our New Thought organizations and spiritual communities, regardless of the level on the spiral that any of us happen to occupy.

“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

We are all living in a mystery accelerating toward the unknown. The idea of seeing ourselves as amateurs is a powerful one. The reality is that no one knows what models of spiritual community, or anything else for that matter, will be the most useful in the next decades. We do know that the “Sunday-go-to-meetingmodel is in decline as people evolve, but we do not know what will replace it. Perhaps a single, compelling model will be “discovered” and adapted by others; perhaps a dozen ways of being in spiritual community will emerge; perhaps none of the foregoing. We are, indeed, in the mystery.

We must be willing to be guided by principles, but not be bound by form.

Poster - Troward - Principle 2

The past cannot be our primary guide any longer.

“Anything from the past, like an idea of what man of this or that culture might or should have been, is now archaic, and the transformation we are experiencing is really of the whole sense of humanity; what it means to be a cultured and world-related human being. This is a whole new thing. And so, we have all of us to leave our little provincial stories behind. They may guide us as far as structuring our lives for the moment, but we must always be ready to drop them and to grasp the new experience as it comes along and interpret it.”

~ Joseph Campbell

The models of cultural evolution are helpful to us if we learn them, but they are not complete, and not predictive beyond a certain point. Our unfolding evolution as a spiritual movement of individuals and communities must be conscious and intentional to the highest degree possible. We cannot intend to go backwards, the universe doesn’t work that way; nor can we intend to stay where we are since evolution goes in one direction, so there are limits to what our intention can accomplish, unless it is aligned with Reality. We can, however, be conscious of who we have been, of who we are, and of who we intend to be in the future; this will require the courage to be unattached to anything that does not serve us in evolving toward a greater expression of Life.

“The spiral of life is upward. Evolution carries us forward, not backward. Eternal and progressive expansion is its law and there are no breaks in its continuity. It seems to me that our evolution is the result of an unfolding consciousness of that which already is, and needs but to be realized to become a fact of everyday life.”

~ Ernest Holmes, The Science of Mind

Spiral Kids

In closing, there is nothing about our New Thought spiritual principles which would limit the ability of anyone to move into 2nd Tier and to thrive there. The principles announced by the various Founders are timeless. However, the principles will be viewed according to the cultural development of the viewers.

As an example, the Principle of Oneness can be understood at every level on the spiral – but it will be understood differently at each level. The degree of complexity to which one has access is a factor (at Traditionalist-Blue and below, it will be taken on faith; at Modernist-Orange, there will be a lot of analysis; at Postmodernist-Green, greater complexity plus a re-emergence of Purple provides a richness to the understanding; at Integral-Yellow, it is easier to see universal connections). The Principle of Oneness is the same in each, but each level will have a different understanding and experience of the principle.

It is often these differences that lead to a sense that we are not all on the same page when we discuss our principles. And yet, it is natural for each level to have its own understanding and experience of things. In fact, there can be differences within a level – not of the capacities to see, but in the individual influences that are brought to that seeing.

There is no danger that New Thought Spiritual Principles will be lost at 2nd Tier. The real questions are:

  1. How do we engage our development along the spiral, including the eventual movement from 1st Tier to 2nd Tier?
  2. How do we manage the differences in the ways that each vMEME, or Level, emerges and expresses within our organizations and spiritual communities?
  3. When do we choose to incorporate cultural evolutionary models and evolutionary leadership principles and practices into our various leadership training programs?

How we approach these questions will determine our future ways of being in our internal and external relationships in the coming years – years of great uncertainty. And with great uncertainty comes great opportunity for creative expression.

As always, your comments are welcomed – encouraged even!

 

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

 

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

 

 

GETTING CULTURE RIGHT IN A SPIRITUAL COMMUNITY

Navigating a culture

towards conscious impulsion

with unshakeable vision

while at the same time

honoring its sacred heritage

is not for the faint of heart.

~ Unknown

 new-thought-logos

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

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

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

~ Ancient Hermetic Philosophy

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

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

~ Dr. David Ault

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

Poster - Culture Quote - Nehru

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

Four ways to improve customer service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ Jim Lockard, CREATING THE BELOVED COMMUNITY

Poster - Included Inspired Involved

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

Beautiful Tree in Lake

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

 

 

Here is where you can get my book

CREATING THE BELOVED COMMUNITY:

A Handbook for Spiritual Leadership,At

in paperback or Kindle editions

(LINK TO AMAZON.COM)

(LINK TO AMAZON.CA – Canada)

And at DEVORSS.COM

WHEN ACTION IS NO LONGER A CHOICE. THE THEOLOGY OF DIETRICH BONHOEFFER AND NEW THOUGHT SOCIAL ACTION.

“Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness, and pride of power, and with its plea for the weak.

Christians are doing too little to make these points clear . . .

Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now.”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

You cannot read Dietrich Bonhoeffer (LINK) and remain comfortable in your inaction. One of the most profound theologians of the 20th Century, he died in a concentration camp in 1945 at the age of 39. His was a time of transition – Germany between the World Wars, where he saw the moral degradation of his society and the combination of inaction and complicity by his church. He became one of the great moral voices of his time, calling those of his faith tradition, Christianity, to step up their game, spiritually, morally, and actively. He escaped to the U.S., only to return to Germany at the height of the war – he saw this as a moral duty.

Bonhoeffer 2

Bonhoeffer

Insert New Thought in place of Christianity in the quote above and you get my point about moral clarity. For a relatively young faith tradition, we in the various branches of NewThought seem to have some calcified belief systems in place. Discussions about social justice and taking principled positions which may be political controversial often bring into question the “right” of a spiritual organization or the leadership of a spiritual community to take stands or request action beyond thoughts and prayers.

It is my belief that our failure to develop a culture of clarity around issues relating to social justice and well-being, and to translate that clarity into actions which become elemental to how we make our presence known, is a reason for the stagnation of our movement. We are too much talk, much of it inconsistent, and too little action.

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Here, Bonhoeffer reminds us that there is no such thing as inaction. I am reminded of the great New Thought teacher, Raymond Charles Barker (LINK), who called indecision a decision to fail” in his classic book, THE POWER OF DECISION (LINK). Is Bonhoeffer’s statement above any different in meaning or clarity from Dr. Barker’s? The essence of the matter is that when we live only in our mind and do not engage with the world to bring our principles to light, we are, essentially, acting in opposition to our spiritual principles. We are keeping our principles hidden at great cost to those who would benefit by their expression, and possibly, at the cost of a more just society overall.

“The ultimate test for a moral society is the kind of world it leaves to its children.”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Bonhoeffer - Dietrich

We in New Thought often stress cause and effect, saying little about morality. Yet we are guided by principles, mainly love, wisdom, and compassion, from which our society’s moral values arise. For us to do affirmative prayers (Spiritual Mind Treatments) for the world is certainly a powerful way to activate cause; but if this is all we do, expecting others to arise and carry out the effects of our prayers in the world, are we being honest with ourselves about how the creative process works?

In other words, can we seek to elevate ourselves above the chaos of acting in the world, do our affirmative prayers, and await a positive outcome? Isn’t that what spiritual bypass is? Carl Jung has a statement about this:

“People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own souls. they will practice (sic) Indian yoga and all its exercises, observe a strict regimen of diet, learn theosophy by heart, or mechanically repeat mystic texts from the literature of the whole world – all because they cannot get on with themselves and have not the slightest faith that anything useful could ever come out of their own souls. Thus the soul has gradually turned into a Nazareth from which nothing good can come. Therefore, let us fetch it from the four corners of the earth – the more far-fetched and bizarre it is the better!”

~ C. G. Jung. Collected Works, Vol 12

Sitting on your prayer mat or meditation cushion while exploring the spiritual practices of the world and never leaving that cocoon of safety, is a form of spiritual malpractice. It is a way of avoiding the work of the soul.

I serve on the Centers for Spiritual Living Committee on Spiritually Motivated Social Action. Our role is to assist the organization and local member communities to understand the guiding principles from our Organizational Design Model (ODM) and to apply them where appropriate in making statements and taking actions relating to social justice. Those who serve on this committee are very sensitive to the viewpoints for and against organizationally or local community-sponsored actions (and even statements). Again, I cannot speak for the dynamics relating to this in Unity – perhaps someone can in the comments section.

Some feel that as Religious Scientists, we should not be telling anyone what to do or how to live their lives; and certainly, not have organizational positions or actions. That should be up to each individual. This is a viewpoint that very likely would have been nearly universal in the movement for most of the 20th Century.

But times, and worldviews, have changed. In the originating documents which formed the basis for the Centers for Spiritual Living in 2011/12, the ODM contained values relating to being active in spiritually motivated social justice issues and causes. Here is some of the ODM language, which won over 98% of the vote at that time:

From Section Two – Our Global Vision: We envision a world where personal responsibility joins with social conscience in every area of the political, corporate, academic, and social sectors, providing sustainable structures to further the emerging global consciousness.

8.12.2. Cultural/Social Issues: CSL and its Member Communities are spiritual in nature; however, there may be a call for our principles to be expressed in contexts wider than one’s personal life and to be applied to collective and global issues.

To add a little Bonhoeffer gem here:

“We are not simply to bandage the wounds of the victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I, for one, am very tired of this so-called “debate.” Those who wish to operate from the worldview of the last century are welcome to do so, however, they might at least acknowledge that the issue is settled as far as the Centers for Spiritual Living is concerned. I am more interested in becoming an effective actor in the world, using my New Thought principles to guide me in making a difference. I am interested in speaking out against the regressive politics that currently dominate the US political landscape. I want to be a positive, and loud voice for good.

“Sometimes we just need a firm kick in the pants. An unsmiling expectation that if we mean all these wonderful things we talk about and sing about, then let’s see something to prove it.”

 ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Let my voice be clear and compassionate, my actions timely and effective, and let all be guided by the principles of the great New Thought teachers. I want to do so from a deep realization of those principles (LINK). Otherwise, what is the point?

 Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

 

Here is where you can get my book

CREATING THE BELOVED COMMUNITY:

A Handbook for Spiritual Leadership,

in paperback or Kindle editions

(LINK TO AMAZON.COM)

(LINK TO AMAZON.CA – Canada)

And at DEVORSS.COM

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

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

 Spiritually Mature Subject Matter

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

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

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

FIRST, LEADERSHIP

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

~ Parker Palmer

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

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

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

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

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

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

SECOND, LEADERSHIP MUST BE EVOLUTIONARY

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

~ Stephen Covey

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

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

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

~ C. Otto Scharmer

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

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

~ James Hollis, Jungian Analyst

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

Leadership woman

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

THIRD, A PATH TO DEEP SPIRITUALITY.

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

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

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

~ Bruce Sanguin

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

 Baby reading Deepak

 

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

MUSINGS ON CUBA, US POLITICS, AND THE POSSIBILITY OF LOVE

Last weekend, Dorianne and I joined six thirty-somethings (i.e. millennials) for a weekend in Havana, Cuba. I have been especially interested in Cuba since my days as a police officer in Miami-Dade County, working alongside many Cuban-Americans. I never thought I would visit Cuba in this lifetime, but, things change and we went.

Cuba is very enigmatic. There is great poverty visible in Havana, but also a great spirit. People were generally open and friendly; music streamed out of nearly every home, no matter how impoverished. Despite being a communist country, there is plenty of entrepreneurial activity – taxis, restaurants, bars, etc., where business is transacted. My sense is that if the current trend toward greater openness is continued, the country will transform in coming years toward a more free and prosperous society. And yet, most churches are either closed or converted to performance spaces, as is the one pictured below.

Here are some photos.

 

Returning from Cuba, I must say that I find the current state of US politics very disturbing. It is as if the two nations are going in different directions. Our newly elected federal government is taking an approach that seems to violate both progressive and conservative principles (LINK). There is little sense of respect for humanity, nor is there a sense of government as being public servants. The initial White House budget proposal drastically cuts many essential services and unnecessarily (IMHO) builds up the military budget which is already bloated (and for conservatives, no balanced budget in sight). And, of course, The Wall must be funded. Historians will note that this is a pattern that every declining society has taken since the Romans – taking funds from arts and citizen support programs and pouring money into the war machine.

That said (full disclosure: my viewpoint is progressive), the US is a nation divided and many people (37% in a new Gallup poll ) support the actions of the new administration.

So, what is a spiritual leader to do?

First, he can remember this quote from Mark Twain:

“In religion and politics people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand and without examination from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.”

~ Mark Twain

Second, she can remember this quote from Bertolt Brecht:

“The worst illiterate is the political illiterate, he doesn’t hear, doesn’t speak, nor participates in the political events. He doesn’t know the cost of life, the price of the bean, of the fish, of the flour, of the rent, of the shoes and of the medicine, all depends on political decisions. The political illiterate is so stupid that he is proud and swells his chest saying that he hates politics. The imbecile doesn’t know that, from his political ignorance is born the prostitute, the abandoned child, and the worst thieves of all, the bad politician, corrupted and flunky of the national and multinational companies.” 

~ Bertolt Brecht

Third, he can remember this quote from Tariq Ramadan:

“You can’t say ‘I don’t do politics,’ because silence is a political statement.”

~ Tariq Ramadan

And fourth, she can remember this quote from Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee:

“Do we have the courage to hold the grief that comes with the end of a story? You can only hold the beginning if you are prepared to also hold the grief for what is over, otherwise a certain maturity is lacking. At this time, we are called upon to recognize the bigger story—which is not the story of supermarkets, not the story of politicians, not even the story of religious fanatics—but the story of the earth at this time.”

~ Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

1a politics

Spiritual leaders cannot, must not, attempt to be apolitical, for there is really no such thing. Often the spiritual leader does not want to upset or alienate someone in the membership who holds different beliefs. Would this hold true if there were a Nazi or a Maoist in the membership? Is it an absolute position or is it a matter of degree? Or they do not wish to get into the coarseness of the political realm; but that is the nature of that realm at this time, and the level of discourse can only be elevated by reasonable voices for compassion. Where are such voices going to come from?

And if the spiritual leader is teaching the importance of spiritual principles being applied to the larger world, and some public figure or institution is, in the judgement of that leader, in violation of those principles, is not speaking out really an option? Can we fail to speak out or to act and still see ourselves as not being political?

My readings of The Science of Mind and other New Thought philosophies make it clear to me that ours is a politics of Oneness, Love, and Compassion. Also, the teachings say that through the realization of our own inner Power we can make our own way in the world. This can be seen as a conservative element of New Thought, in alignment with the American conservative ideal of the “rugged individualist.” It is often used to justify cutting programs for the poor, for instance, out of the belief that if the program is not there, the poor person will be more likely to realize his or her own inner power sooner.

But the founders of New Thought saw themselves as Christian, too. To them the idea of holding someone accountable for a level of consciousness that they had not actualized was wrong. This was why Christian Science, with its expectation of high consciousness from all, even those new to the teaching, as reflected in a dogmatic prohibition of medical care, was never a part of the New Thought family.

We in New Thought also bring something else to the equation – the idea of unlimited possibility, available in full in each moment, accessible to anyone who becomes receptive to it. This critical aspect of New Thought philosophy comes with a very steep requirement – that we be willing to release anything – ANYTHING – that does not serve the emergence of the new possibility. This statement from Abraham Lincoln speaks to this idea from a time before our New Thought Movement existed:

“It is not, Can any of us imagine better? but, Can we all do better? The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise – with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”

~ Abraham Lincoln

And from Ernest Holmes, the developer of The Science of Mind:

“We shall often need to announce that the Truth which we announce is superior to the condition we are to change. When the inner consciousness agrees with Truth, then – and not until then – a demonstration takes place.”

~ Ernest Holmes, The Science of Mind

Our politics is Oneness, Love, and Compassion. It will be brought about through principled engagement in the world around us. Can we be silent to a world that cries out for healing?

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

 

Here is where you can get CREATING THE BELOVED COMMUNITY:

A Handbook for Spiritual Leadership,

in paperback or Kindle editions

(LINK TO AMAZON.COM)