THOUGHTS FOR A NEW YEAR – SEEKING WHOLENESS

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

~ William James

Dali-2 - Egg

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

~ Oprah Winfrey

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

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

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

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

~ Robert A. Johnson

Poster - authentic-self-soul-made-visible2

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

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

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

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

~ Phil Cousineau

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

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

~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

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

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

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

~ Bishop Steven Charleston

End of Year

As always, your comments are appreciated.

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

Copyright 2019 – Jim Lockard

 

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MORE ON GRIEVING – AS TIME PASSES, LESSONS EMERGE

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

~ J.R.R. Tolkien

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

Beautiful Angel Sculputure 3

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

Beautiful Angel Sculputure 5

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

~ James Hollis

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

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

~ May Benatar

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

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

The Dakini Speaks:

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

~ Jennifer Welwood, The Dakini Speaks

Beautiful Angel Sculputure 4

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

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

LESSONS FROM THE DEATH OF MY CHILD

Don’t surrender your grief so quickly,
let it pierce the soul
Let it wail and crack open wide the disbelief
allowing its searing tears to stain your face
Something is missing in my heart tonight,
it has made my gentle eyes soft with sorrow
while my angry voice turns into a whispered prayer
and my tender need of absolution so clear.

~ Joseph Francis Argazzi

Angel Tears

Two of my colleagues in ministry have experienced the death of young adult children in the past couple of weeks. One is eerily like my own experience of the loss of my precious daughter, Caitlyn, on Easter Sunday 2008 to a tragic car accident. Like Caitlyn, my friend’s daughter was under 20 with what was surely to be an amazing life ahead of her. Needless to say, these events have brought up feelings and memories for me as I grieve their losses and, once again, my own, I am reminded that grief does not end. It lies beneath the surface at times, but it can be awakened at any moment. So, I am moved to write this, my most personal blog entry to date.

I have only partial, episodic memories of the three weeks in 2008, beginning just before midnight on the eve of Easter Sunday, California time, when my daughter, Heather, called me from her mom’s home in Ft. Lauderdale. It was already after midnight in Florida where Caitlyn had just died. I remember those first few hours, crying off and on as I called people – my wife, Dorianne, who was writing in our cabin in Montana and unreachable at that hour; my ministerial partner at the time, Dr. Sue Rubin, to tell her the news, pray, and arrange for her to do the Sunday service alone; Delta Airlines, where the person who took my call put me on hold while she cried and spoke to her supervisor so that we could transfer the airline tickets we had purchased to attend Caitlyn’s high school graduation in six weeks – without any fees; and my friend Steven Brabant, for a ride to LAX very early on Sunday morning. If I called anyone else, I don’t remember.

Beautiful Angel Sculputure 2

Of the three weeks in Fort Lauderdale which followed, I remember staying with my dear friend Dr. Charles Geddes (well, arriving at his place, that’s about all I recall), making arrangements with the Neptune Society, bits of two very large memorial services, some connection with friends and family, and a few other things, but not very much. I realize now that what I was doing was grieving and that was, for me, a period of sadness and numbness. Along the way there was anger, despair, more anger, resignation, more sadness – much more. And the gradual realization that this had really happened and my beautiful daughter was gone; and that my life would never be the same. Memories had to be restructured and given new meaning, future plans and idealizations erased. Joan Didion put it well:

“Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect the shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe that their husband is about to return and need his shoes.

“In the version of grief we imagine, the model will be “healing.” A certain forward movement will prevail. The worst days will be the earliest days. We imagine that the moment to most severely test us will be the funeral, after which this hypothetical healing will take place. When we anticipate the funeral we wonder about failing to “get through it,” rise to the occasion, exhibit the “strength” that invariably gets mentioned as the correct response to death. We anticipate needing to steel ourselves the for the moment: will I be able to greet people, will I be able to leave the scene, will I be able even to get dressed that day?

“We have no way of knowing that this will not be the issue. We have no way of knowing that the funeral itself will be anodyne, a kind of narcotic regression in which we are wrapped in the care of others and the gravity and meaning of the occasion. Nor can we know ahead of the fact (and here lies the heart of the difference between grief as we imagine it and grief as it is) the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession of moments during which we will confront the experience of meaninglessness itself.”

~ Joan Didion on Grief from “A Year of Magical Thinking”

A big lesson I learned through my spiritual philosophy, The Science of Mind, which I had been studying for nearly 20 years at that point, was that if I trusted Spirit and my connection, my grief would have a bottom. I could allow myself to grieve deeply without fear that I would lose myself. This was very comforting in helping me through the process (which never ends, by the way). I also had spiritual support from colleagues, friends, family, and others.

Spiritual maturity is the ability to face whatever comes along in life from a place of realization that it’s all divine – meaning that much of what happens is a mystery. The why questions about people dying are ultimately unanswerable. There are aspects of reality at play for which we have no understanding.

So, if I were to offer advice to anyone who is grieving the loss of a loved one (or any other kind of loss), it would be this.

  • Let yourself grieve – your process will be unique in some ways and frustratingly conformist in others. Be with it regardless. Remember, it has a bottom; but it never ends.
  • The memorial service is not the hardest part. As difficult as that can be, the weeks that follow were a wasteland of numbness for me. Life had no flavor, no prospect of joy, as Joan Didion noted above. And after a few weeks, ready or not, people start expecting you to be “normal” again.
  • There is no appropriate time for grieving to be over; but it should become manageable over time. If it doesn’t, get some help.
  • Try to have compassion for those who try to comfort you but do not know how. Next to losing my daughter, the most difficult part of the process was dealing with well-meaning but unskillful efforts to comfort me. Most of the time, the best thing to say to someone grieving is something like, “I don’t know what to say,” because, more often that not, that is the truth. And, of course, people are approaching a grieving person from their own fears – of death, of inadequacy, of sorrow, of loss. Compassion is the only answer.
  • There is more to life than meets the eye. I have had experiences which point me to the realization that this experience of life isn’t all there is. I don’t pretend to have any details about what is beyond this experience and tend not to trust those who tell me they do. But there is more.
  • Finally, show your love to those for whom you care – not out of sense of fear of loss, but rather out of a determination to live in greater joy now.

Beautiful Angel Sculpture

“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get ‘solved.’ They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief and for relief, room for misery and for joy.” 

~ Pema Chödrön

 As always, your comments are appreciated.

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

 

 

SPIRITUAL HEALING & TRAUMA – MAKING A SOUL CONNECTION

“Briefly formulated, the universal doctrine teaches that all the visible structures of the world – all things and all beings – are the effects of a ubiquitous power out of which they rise, which supports and fills them during the period of their manifestation, and back into which they must ultimately dissolve. This is the power known to science as energy, to the Melanesians as mana, to the Sioux Indians as wakonda, to the Hindus as shakti, and the Christians as the power of God. Its manifestation in the psyche is termed, by the psychoanalysts, libido. And its manifestation in the cosmos is the structure and flux of the universe itself.”

~ Joseph Campbell

Healing, which is the essence of New Thought spiritual principles, deals with a triune of realms: the physical and metaphysical realms, plus the realm of pure Spirit. It is a process of revealing the perfection of the soul through a consciousness which has become unaware of its own radiance. It is never solely in one realm or another, it is always holistically present through the whole being – from soul/essence to outer physical being.

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

~ Ernest Holmes

When we view spiritual healing as a linear process (Unhealed Condition → Prayer Treatment → Change of Consciousness → Healed Condition) we miss a greater Truth. Most of what we are is beyond language and calculations about matter – most of what we are is ephemeral energy directed by an intelligence which “thinks” in symbols and archetypes. Our physical being of cells, organs, and systems is also beyond the merely physical; it is a community of beingness with many intelligences converging to become what we call “me.”

The limitations of medical treatments, now or at any time in history, are that they offer linear treatment regimens to a non-linear being. Sometimes, this is enough, but more often there is no healing unless the deeper systems of beingsoul and consciousness – come into harmony with the medical treatment. In New Thought, we recognize these deeper systems as the most important, recognizing that, when properly aligned, they can heal without medical intervention.

However, we do not eschew medical practices, recognizing that they can be beneficial, especially when our consciousness is not able to accept our own healing potentialities.

“In this Science, we believe that man’s life is a drama which takes place on three planes:  the physical, the mental, and the spiritual.  We should have no objections to any form of healing, for anything that helps to overcome suffering is good, whether it be a pill or a prayer.  We believe in any method which produces results, for each has its place in the Whole.”

~ Ernest Holmes, “The Science of Mind,” Page 191

When healing is required, it is necessary that the processes of healing be available. This means that one must know how to facilitate the healing process by utilizing or invoking the three realms. Sometimes, this is not possible. A person may be incapable of aligning thoughts and emotions in a way which allows healing to occur. In such cases, it can be helpful to have assistance from others, who may treat for the person. Another way forward is through ritual, compassion, and other actions which may help the person to move to a salutary state of mind more receptive to healing.

As we learn more about psychology, we are seeing that not everyone may be able at any given moment to create a healing consciousness. This can be due to a number of things, from brain injury, to trauma, to improper chemicals in the body. The condition may be temporary or permanent. Trauma can result in an inability to create mental patterns which facilitate healing.

PTSD Word Cloud

Trauma, resulting in what is currently termed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a condition which is undoubtedly on the rise in our society. Once thought of as applying only to soldiers in combat, it is now realized that any kind of physical or emotional trauma can result in some degree of PTSD or similar disorder. Those affected are often unable to form the mental patterns necessary for their own physical and emotional well-being. They may also fail to understand that their condition is unusual and not seek help.

In a prescient column in the New York Times (LINK), David Brooks (@nytdavidbrooks) speaks to the need to treat the effects of trauma holistically, including soul issues (what we in New Thought would consider metaphysical issues).

“Our society has tried to medicalize trauma. We call it PTSD and regard it as an individual illness that can be treated with medications. But it’s increasingly clear that trauma is a moral and spiritual issue as much as a psychological or chemical one. Wherever there is trauma, there has been betrayal, an abuse of authority, a moral injury.”

~ David Brooks

The sea change necessary to bring our understanding of what it means to be human is underway, but a long way from complete. We have only seen a mind-body connection for about half a century. Incorporating the soul will take a while longer. But we in New Thought are already there – at least we have a teaching which is already there. And we, too, must broaden our vision of how potential is actualized into experience. We must see that there are times when individuals and groups CANNOT know the truth. And, just maybe, we need to expand our spiritual toolkits to include things that might help people bridge the gap. These might include clearly thought-out rituals, initiation rites, and the like, which do more than celebrate something. To be effective at the levels needed they must include no small amount of challenge and a willingness to create discomfort along a path to recovery or to a new level of being.

(Edward) Tick (LINK) points out that most ancient cultures put returning soldiers through purification rituals. The men came back from battle and the terrible things they had done there, and they were given a chance to cleanse, purify and rejoin the community. The community would take possession of the guilt the soldiers may have felt for the things they had to do on its behalf.”

~ David Brooks

Purification Ritual - Japan

Purification Ritual – Japan

Such rituals are also needed for survivors of abuse, for first responders, for spiritual communities where trauma has occurred. We need to facilitate the reconnection with the soul where that connection has been distorted. This will require a new skillset for most or all of us. You might begin by studying Joseph Campbell (LINK). It is a way of working toward #AWorldThatWorksForEveryone.

“I wish our culture had many more rites of passage, communal moments when we celebrated a moral transition. There could be a communitywide rite of passage for people coming out of prison, for forgiveness of a personal wrong, for people who felt they had come out the other side of trauma and abuse. There’d be a marriage ceremony of sorts to mark the moment when a young person found the vocation he or she would dedicate life to.

“It’ll take a lot to make our culture a thick moral culture. But one way or another, nations and people have to grow a soul big enough to enclose the traumas that haunt them.”

~ David Brooks

 

As always, your comments are appreciated.

 

 Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

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

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

~ John Campbell on Twitter

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

VMEMEs Simplified

The Values Systems (vMEMEs) of the Spiral Dynamics Model

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

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

~ Kylie Stedman 

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

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

Poster - Change is Good - You Go First

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

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

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

~ James Hollis

Beautiful Beginnings

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

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

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

 

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

 

LOOKING FOR HAPPINESS? TRY SPIRITUAL PRACTICES!

 

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

~Maha Ghosananda

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

~ Jim Lockard

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

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

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

~ T. Harv Eker

 

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

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

~ Arthur D. Saftlas 

Happiness Five Miles

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

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

~ David Levithan

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

 ~ C.G Jung

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

Poster - Rumi - Eyes Are Open

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

~ Richard Rohr

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

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

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

~ G.K. Chesterton

 

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

 

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

THIS IS NOT A TEST: BECOMING A SPIRITUAL ADULT

“The universe is never testing you, it’s simply giving you an opportunity to practice all that you say you are.”

~ Maryam Hasnaa

The United States and much of the western (developed) world is in the midst of a temper tantrum. The last two times there were big temper tantrums, we had World Wars I&II, so this is serious business. There is a backlash from many who have been left behind by the increasingly rapid rate of cultural change unfolding across humanity. It is not all that surprising for those who are centered lower on the spiral to be reacting in an immature fashion, but we also have many centered higher on the spiral who are also behaving badly.

VMEMEs Simplified

The temper tantrum of the present has been elected into governments across the west, and more mature voices have been loudly criticized. Social media provides a platform for much of this behavior – the treatment of Senator John McCain and his family as he nears death is a good example. Immature and disdainful comments come from across social media and within the White House and no one there tries to silence them. We are institutionalizing immaturity.

To a significant degree this trend in our politics comes as an angry backlash to two things: the failure of political leaders to affect either the rapid rate of change or to find ways for those who do not adapt to that change to feel better about themselves (both impossible tasks); and, more pointedly, the clear disdain shown by many higher on the spiral for those who are centered at lower levels (“Deplorables” anyone?). When immaturity reigns across the spectrum, we cannot fulfill our potential. Maturity is staying balanced, focused, and, above all, compassionate despite the dissonance around you.

“What was overwhelming to the child can be borne by the adult if he or she has grown in consciousness.”

~ James Hollis, Jungian analyst

A critically important part of the process of learning and applying New Thought principles in one’s life is the realization of a more spiritually mature self. As Cindy Wigglesworth (LINK) and others have shown, spiritual maturity is built upon emotional maturity. Both are essential to heal human systems, whether at the national political level or at the spiritual community level.

SQ21 Intelligences Pyramid

From DEEPCHANGE.com

Spiritual maturity reveals itself at each developmental (spiral) level, but always includes a capacity for kindness and an acceptance of ambiguity. As James Hollis says:

“The test of a psychologically mature person, and therefore spiritually mature, will be found in his or her capacity to handle what one might call the Triple A’s: anxiety, ambiguity and ambivalence.”

~ James Hollis

This “test” is not an exam from the universe – it is simply the out-picturing of one’s consciousness – we are either in the range of spiritual maturity or we have not yet reached it. A spiritually mature person can face the realities of being human, which include anxiety, ambiguity, and ambivalence, while staying in balance. Perhaps spiritual maturity/intelligence is in part the capacity to experience sadness without turning it into resentment.

We are not, by ourselves, going to heal humanity or fix the world – we can, however, learn how to live in this world in a spiritually mature way and by doing that, ripples of influence are generated and added to the overall consciousness of humanity. We can become positive influencers by cultivating a presence of love, kindness, compassion, and personal accountability.

“If you’re looking at the world and not grieving…then you’re not Conscious. But if you’re looking at the world and not rejoicing in the miraculous possibilities for healing it…then you’re Spiritually Immature.”

~ Marianne Williamson

compassionate-heart-cloud

The spiritually mature person does not see life as a test, nor the world as a classroom, nor Spirit as some divine test proctor. Our lives are our reality, and we are designed to naturally learn and grow toward a fuller realization of our human capacities. These capacities are significant, and it takes a level of maturity to govern and express them with wisdom and compassion. New Thought principles are the best guides I have ever found for this journey of life, but we must practice them in increasingly expansive ways, for we are expansive beings. Our potential for growth is unending.

We are at choice in every moment – including every moment watching the news or scrolling through our social media feeds. How to receive information and how to respond are both choices which require some workvisualizing, affirming, meditating – to create our consciousness of being from which our reaction come. I want my reactions to be from the highest level of emotional and spiritual maturity which I can manage. Don’t you?

The only choice we have as we mature
is how we inhabit our vulnerability,
how we become larger and more courageous
and more compassionate
through our intimacy with disappearance.

~ David Whyte

Beautiful Beginnings

Until we can look upon our fellow humans (and ourselves) through eyes of love, compassion, and acceptance, we are not spiritually mature. If we make them “other” we lose our awareness of connection, and with it, our capacity for compassion. Seeing oneness means being exposed to sadness, but also to a mature version of hope – one which resonates heart to heart and mind to mind.

I am reflected in you and you in me. We share a universe which is beyond our capacity to know fully. May we bring the best of ourselves to each interaction, to every thought, action, and reaction. May Peace prevail on earth. #TheBelovedCommunity

‎”You are a child of innocence, born to wonder all your days. Do not believe it to be a gift that you lost somewhere along the way, as if the hurts you have done or that were done to you could steal its light from the center of your soul. Innocence is not the absence of pain, but the ability to face truth as an adult while still seeing with the eyes of a child. Innocence is hope. It is vision. It is love. God grant that each of us, for all the darkness we have endured, will always have the grace of innocence: the belief that what is to come will be better than what has been.”

~ Bishop Steven Charleston 

Your comments are appreciated. Thank you for reading. If you know of someone else who may find value in this post, or others on this blog, please feel free to share it with them.

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard