THE CHALLENGE OF DEVELOPING A MORE DIVERSE & INCLUSIVE SPIRITUAL COMMUNITY, PART 4

“Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

~ Lewis Carrol, Alice in Wonderland

In Parts 1, 2 & 3 (LINK) (LINK) (LINK), I explored the issue of diversity & inclusion in New Thought spiritual communities from society-wide and local spiritual community cultural viewpoints. This final post is about how our individual psychology, if not properly understood, can create unintended barriers to creating successful programs. And no, spiritual communities where there is diversity and inclusion are not impossible – even in the suburbs!

 

beloved-community-i-have-a-dream

There is a concept described by the Spiral Dynamics Model (and in other places) called transcend and include. This means that as we develop to more complex levels of thought and values, we transcend our former levels, but they are included within us. This is true of any developmental perspective of human growth. We are all familiar with the Inner Child concept – where the unresolved issues of our past remain active in our subconscious and cause us to act from that unhealed perspective if not continually, at least from time to time.

“The more ‘enlightened’ we believe ourselves to be, the vaster we discover that which remains unconscious.”

~ James Hollis, Jungian analyst

We have within us the vestiges of thousands of years of humans living in tribes – groups of less than 100 people making their way in the world, some as nomads, some settled in place, but all with a fierce loyalty to the tribe and fear and suspicion of anyone not a part of the tribe. This tribal consciousness, identified as Purple in the Spiral Dynamics Model, is not only part of our collective past, but is also a stage in our individual human development. We have tribal relations with our family, our schools, etc., and this remains true in varying degrees for much of our lives. Spiritual community can bring forth tribal feelings of connections and being unique from other groups. It can unconsciously activate our desire for intimacy, protection, and safety among trusted companions. Centered around a teaching and/or a teacher/leader, spiritual community can carry many aspects of a tribal culture.

This unconscious aspect can act in a variety of ways on individuals, ways that may well result in subtle or not-so-subtle resistance to different people showing up to join the tribe. Even though at a conscious level, we may recognize the value of diversity, our subconscious may resist being truly welcoming and inviting diverse people into the heart of the community.

 

Such a response to diversity, or to the idea of diversity, may not even be at the level of conscious awareness. There may well be a sense of “why aren’t we more diverse?” or “Why don’t others stay around long?” But, if you ask a newcomer who is different from the other members, say someone of color or LGBTQIA, you may be surprised by what they are experiencing. It often takes some deep personal exploration of one’s unconscious patternsbiases and fears – before we allow ourselves to see these repressed aspects. While there are certainly people who are consciously biased and bigoted, it is likely that most of us simply have not done the personal work necessary to dislodge old tribal patterns of thought and therefore harbor impulses and fears which lead to behaviors signaling that we are not open and affirming to those outside of the tribe. When this is the case, we simply do not pay attention to the issue at a deep level, for our repressed aspects tend to control our perception – we don’t see what others see.

This tribal consciousness, combined with a human tendency to accept whatever goes on when we are children as “normal,” has led to an American culture where things such as white privilege can exist for centuries. Our innate biases tend to make us (white people) reject the idea of such a concept when we hear about it (LINK). Accepting that such things are real and are the result of conscious cultural behaviors can be very difficult, but necessary steps in our cultural awakening.

“Stark honesty, however painful, is needed on this journey toward the Self; the unconscious will not tolerate anything less. One must be willing to face many cruel truths, those we keep hidden from the light of day, and those we keep hidden from ourselves.”

~ Marion Woodman

 

 

The repression of both negative and positive instincts and feelings into the unconscious causes them to inhabit a shadow realm. While ego attempts to continue to censor the shadow impulses-the very pressure that repression causes is rather like a bubble in sidewall of a tire.”

~ Clarissa Pinkola Estés

These quotes strike at the heart of the issue that we face. No matter how willing we say that we are to open our communities to different people, our dominant consciousness will determine our behaviors. Putting up a rainbow flag but not being comfortable about LGBTIA people communicates a mixed message – and a mixed message is not a welcoming message. There is a learning curve across some differences in personal and cultural backgrounds which is much more difficult to traverse if we are bound by unconscious biases and fears.

Ultimately, each person is responsible for their own inner work – its degree, its depth, its sincerity. Certainly, spiritual leaders can and should be encouraging such work – and doing their own work in this regard. The culture of the local spiritual community, as described in Part 3 of this series, can have a significant effect on the personal spiritual and psychological development of its individual members. Is deep personal inquiry actually valued here – or just given lip service – or ignored completely?

Is spiritual leadership aware of the larger macro trends and dynamics affecting all aspects of spiritual community including diversity and inclusion, as described in Part 2 of this series? And if so, how is that awareness being integrated into the local spiritual community’s activities, planning, and ways of being?

And finally, if diversity is present in the community, or if it is a currently unrealized goal of the community, are there concrete ways of including diverse people in the heart of the spiritual community? If not, why not? A good beginning might be a very frank conversation among the community members and leadership about this issue and what may be getting in the way. There are consultants who can assist with this process, and there are programs within the New Thought organizations to provide guidance, support, and assistance.

Transformative change is never a painless process. But clear intentions and people who are doing deep work can work what would otherwise appear to be miracles.

“Only people with petty minds indulge in racial hatreds and distinctions. God’s perfect idea of man is the basis for every living soul, and we must believe this and act as though it were so. When we dislike people and groups, we are bearing witness to our small and limited viewpoints. The people in whom we fail to find good are born of the same Mind, operate under the same Law, and express the same Life as we do. Our inability to see their divine origin is our self-created stumbling block. Often, we are held back by our petty dislikes of other people.”

~ Ernest Holmes, “Guide to Richer Living”

 I have asked Tracy Brown, author of the recently published book, STAINED GLASS SPIRIT (LINK), to be a guest blogger here and to add her inspired thinking to the conversation. Look for that post in the near future.

Copyright 2019 – Jim Lockard

I am pleased to announce that my two books, SACRED THINKING, and CREATING THE BELOVED COMMUNITY will soon be available in Spanish. I owe thanks for this to a number of people who I will mention in the near future.

 

 

 

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

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

~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

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

Cartoon - Diversity - my-kinda-church_2

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

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

Cartoon - Church Diversity

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

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

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

 

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

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

~ James Hollis, Jungian analyst,

Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life

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

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

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

~ William Sloan Coffin, Jr.

 

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

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

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

diversity

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

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

~ Rumi

Inclusion-strategy

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

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

~ Ernest Holmes, The Art of Life

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

Copyright 2019- Jim Lockard

 

MY BOOK ON AMAZON:

THE CHALLENGE OF DEVELOPING A MORE DIVERSE & INCLUSIVE SPIRITUAL COMMUNITY, PART 1

“Our knowledge is not reliable; it is partial and undermined by the fact that the unconscious has a separate truth dimension, of which we are mostly oblivious. Ironically, the deeper truth resides in what we habitually dismiss as illusion, fantasy, myth and distortion.”

~ David Tacey

As I introduce this multi-part series, I will say right up front:

  1. I wish to see diversity & inclusion succeed in every way possible in New Thought organizations and spiritual communities.

  2. I am an old cis-gender white male and I recognize that “my people” have done great harm with regard to all of us recognizing our Oneness. I am no longer in active ministry either, and you may take what I write with appropriate skepticism.

  3. My purpose is not to discourage anyone from doing work to increase diversity & inclusion. Rather, it is to aid in the likelihood of success by helping everyone to realize that this issue is more complex than it may appear. It is not just a matter of inviting those who are not already in your communities to start coming; it is also about recognizing the larger dynamics involved and being willing and able to make what may well be significant personal and organizational changes to increase the likelihood of your invitations being welcomed, and that once diversity is actualized, inclusion happens naturally and organically.

 

Diversity Inclusion Montage 1

The addition of diversity as a value and the creation of the Diversity and Inclusion Commission are signs that Centers for Spiritual Living is serious about making our organization more inclusive and diverse. In many parts of the organization, this is a major part of the conversation, not least among our younger ministers. I am sure that equivalent steps are being taken in other New Thought organizations as well. After all, how can we create #TheBelovedCommunity without diversity and inclusion?

When I travel around and visit many of our member communities, I notice that while diversity may be a value, it is not necessarily a reality. In most of our member communities, one would have to be told that diversity is an organizational value – it would not be obvious. I also note that in most cases, where you see diversity – of race and ethnicity especially – it is in areas where diversity is present in the larger community. Even then, the leadership of local spiritual communities must make efforts to create an environment where diversity can flourish, where people are welcoming to those who are different, and where those differences are not invisible, but are recognized, honored, and included in the life of the spiritual community.

I am writing this series of posts to do at least two things: first, to encourage greater diversity of all kinds in New Thought spiritual communities, and second, to help spiritual leaders understand why actualizing greater diversity can be challenging. Most spiritual leaders who have engaged with this issue have come to realize there is a difference between what people say that desire – greater diversity and inclusion – and what actually happens.

In this series, we will examine the different factors which affect the makeup of our spiritual communities. These include large demographic factors happening nationally and internationally, local demographics and cultural factors (values systems as in Spiral Dynamics) where a spiritual community is located; the psychology and culture of the spiritual community itself; the individual psychological factors involved, such as unconscious patters and biases through a Jungian lens; and, New Thought principles and how they allow us to interact with these other factors.

Actualizing greater diversity and inclusion (which are two different things, by the way), is more than just a decision. It involves a number of dynamics across a spectrum of human values systems, patterns of belief, and behaviors. Many well-meaning efforts fail to address these issues and do not result in the desired level of diversity – in fact, they may make things worse.

Malcom Gladwell’s statement “Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind,” is one of those quotes that people may agree is true for different reasons. Those who have accepted the value of diversity and inclusion as welcome, even essential, may see it as a call for those who have not to come to accept the wise world view already accepted by some. Those who do not see diversity and inclusion as all that desirable may see it as a call for those who are so self-righteous about the issue to stop badgering them and “wake up and smell the coffee.”

The human tendency to feel more comfortable with one’s own kind is ancient and ingrained in us to a significant extent. For our tribal forebearers, inviting diversity into a community could well have been a death sentence for a variety of reasons. Banishment from the tribe, was likewise akin to a death sentence. This tribal values system is a part of each of us, and while it may be more intelligent to move past it in our postmodern world, there are reasons why not everyone will be on board – or at least not at the same time.

On a more individual basis, when diversity and inclusion are treated like a pill which must be swallowed, the natural tendency of many people will be to resent both the need for the pill and whoever is administering it. Statements of justification, however valid, will run up against ingrained values systems and beliefs in the unconscious mind (meaning that they are inaccessible to direct conscious intervention). This leads to resistance. Telling me that something is good for me is not the best way to get me to eat or drink it – “eat your spinach!” My personal programming from childhood tells me to immediately be suspicious that it will not taste good. So, I will resist and perhaps demur. As an adult, I can fairly easily overcome this resistance and take a taste, but the resistance is there, nonetheless.

“Resistance blooms naturally in the presence of change. You will encounter resistance in attempts at ascendance, physical or spiritual.”

~ Gregg Levoy

If you tell me that it is mandatory that I taste the “good for me” substance, I may well review my agreements with you and/or your organization to see if I have other options. I will do this even if I agree with you that the substance may well be good for me. I don’t like being told what to do and I especially don’t like being told what to value. I will unconsciously rebel, at least to some degree, in such circumstances, even if I agree with you on a conscious level. How this resistance is responded to by spiritual leaders and other community members is critically important. If those who resist are belittled or shut-down, their resistance will likely harden. The breakthrough may never come.

The other morning, as I opened my French language homework (Dorianne and I are studying French) and saw what the assignment was, I recoiled and briefly considered leaving the course of study. Now, I am not going to do that. I will “eat my spinach,” but I won’t be entirely happy about it. I will do it because, as an adult, I see the value in continuing, despite my discomfort. It is helpful that I am continually reminded of the value of knowing how to speak with my neighbors here in France.

The value of diversity and inclusion, on its own, may not be a strong enticement for some. We in the United States live in a nation which elected Donald Trump as president, and the values associated with the worldviews represented by that choice – among them being a desire for less diversity – are clearly prevalent enough for its adherents to gain political power. In the UK, the Brexit vote was made largely out of a visceral desire to make that nation less diverse. Similar electoral results in Italy, Austria, Poland, Germany, Brazil, the Philippines and other places should get our attention. Diversity and inclusion are not currently universal values of humans in developed nations; in fact, they are relatively new to the scene in human cultural development. Spiral Dynamics (LINK) can be helpful in understanding these dynamics.

You may respond, but this is New Thought, and we are different – we are more conscious, more loving, more open than the average in our larger culture. And I agree with these statements, in general, people in New Thought spiritual communities are more likely to see diversity and inclusion as values worth supporting. This is critically important, because an openness to a different way of being, even if not universally supported, is necessary for any community to be willing to go through the ordeal of actual change required to actualize such a value where it is not currently manifest. Because we also know that saying that we want diversity and inclusion is different that actually making the changes in behaviors, both collective and individual, which are necessary to make greater diversity and inclusion a reality.

Diversity Inclusion Montage 2

To this I add the very important and often forgotten concept of how change occurs. We recognize in all New Thought teachings that in order to manifest something different in one’s life, one has to effect a change in consciousness, which leads to a change in conditions. As Michael Beckwith has said so many times, “What must I become to manifest my vision?” So, this question can be expanded to say, “What must this spiritual community become to manifest our vision of greater diversity and inclusion?” When I see and hear discussions about increasing diversity and inclusion, I rarely hear this approach. More often it is something like this, “We are already welcoming and affirming, why don’t we have greater diversity?”

This second statement puts the power outside and seems to indicate a belief that my experience of life will change without me changing. In other words, this statement is at best a misunderstanding of New Thought principles.

In the next posts, I will explore diversity and inclusion efforts from the macro to the micro – from the society at large, to the culture of the spiritual community, to the individual psychology involved. Then, in the final segment, I will explore how to effectively apply New Thought principles to each of these areas in order to increase the likelihood of creating and maintaining successful diversity and inclusion programs.

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

 

Copyright 2019 – Jim Lockard

I am again honored to be a presenter at the Inspired Writer’s Retreat: March 23 & 24

at the beautiful Château de Bossey near Geneva, Switzerland.

Chateau de Bossey.jpg

For more information and to register:

INSPIRED WRITER’S RETREAT (LINK)

WHEN SPIRITUAL BYPASS BECOMES SPIRITUAL MALPRACTICE, PART 2

“Racism and spiritual bypassing are harmful in and of themselves, and their combination compounds the harm. Add gaslighting (LINK), and you’ve got an exponentially toxic brew. In this case, the manipulative elements and dizzying doublespeak were staggering. There were acknowledgements that racism had in fact occurred, followed by denials that it did, round and round. There were fauxpologies followed by defending, round and round. There were expressions of caring for those who had been hurt, immediately followed by not-so-subtle digs at them, round and round.”

~ Camille Williams,

When Spiritual Bypassing Meets Racism Meets Gaslighting (LINK)

GASLIGHT - American Poster 6

The term GASLIGHTING comes from this film.

In Part 1 of this series (LINK), we explored the phenomenon of spiritual bypassing and its effect on individuals and groups. I referenced the article by Robert Augustus Masters, PhDSpiritual Bypassing: Avoidance in Holy Drag (LINK). I encourage you to read Part 1 and the Masters’ article before reading this post, which follows up on ideas already presented.

The focus of my book, CREATING THE BELOVED COMMUNITY (LINK), and of much of this blog, is to promote healthy spiritual leadership in New Thought (and other) spiritual communities, in part by writing about the difficult, often overlooked areas which deeply affect how spiritual leaders operate, and how followers perceive leadership. For a spiritual community to be in alignment with the creation of #TheBelovedCommunity, it must have both healthy leadership and healthy followership.

The second article referenced in Part 1 is a powerful one by Camille Williams, a blogger and essayist. In When Spiritual Bypassing Meets Racism Meets Gaslighting (LINK), she takes a dive into some of the most difficult places in spiritual communityracism and Gaslighting, as affected by spiritual bypassing. Her article focuses on an online exchange on spirituality, but one can easily see the same dynamics in a spiritual community of any denomination. Note that all of these negative issues arise from a lack of emotional and spiritual intelligence in one or more of the parties involved. Healing is needed and involves deep personal work, both individually and within the community.

“Willingness to push past our discomfort in these situations (spiritual bypassing & racism) is literally the rock bottom least of our responsibilities, considering the risks, abuses and indignities black and brown people and other marginalized groups live with on a daily basis. I think it helps to give some thought beforehand to different ways we might respond, so that when it happens we can think on our feet and not freeze in deer-in-the-headlights fashion.”

~ Camille Williams

When you read Ms. Williams article, note the many resources at the bottom. She also writes:

“If spirituality is an important part of your life (as it is for me), and/or if you place a high value on positive thinking, and especially if you’re a Law of Attraction enthusiast, please read about spiritual bypassing beyond the paragraph definition. . .. We need to understand the nature of this thing so we can actively avoid it, especially if the thing being bypassed, denied or oversimplified is the reality of systemic oppression and how it impacts people from marginalized groups. Side benefit: understanding this can help us deal with everything else in our own lives more skillfully, too”

~ Camille Williams

Those of us in New Thought can be particularly susceptible to spiritual bypassing for a few reasons.

  1. Our emphasis on positive thinking and how our thoughts create our experience of reality can lead us to fail to recognize unhealthy behaviors and attitudes. It’s easy to live in denial by saying things like “It’s ALL Good!
  2. Our unconscious biases can easily overlook the experience of those outside our race, gender, or class. Privilege exists in the unconscious and often manifests in New Thought as a failure to take into consideration anything beyond one’s thoughts as cause to their experience. Instead of, or in addition to, the common question, “What about a baby born with a disease?” we might also ask, “What about someone born as an oppressed person, or into a subculture with no access to New Thought principles?” To fail to consider this is to diminish the experience of many people, triggering feelings of guilt and shame and perhaps “otherness.” It might help to explain why New Thought is less diverse than it could be.
  3. In New Thought curricula (as far as I have experienced) we do not teach opposing points of view, except perhaps to denigrate them. A prescient post by Harriet Hawkins speaks to this (LINK). Unlike, say, the Jesuits, we are not taught to be critical thinkers regarding our teaching(s) as they relate to other worldviews. This can lead us to become unquestioning and refuse to see the limits of some aspects of our philosophy.
  4. We want everyone to feel good all the time, so we often refuse to acknowledge issues and experiences which do not reflect that desire. We tend to have a high tolerance for dysfunction and a low tolerance for ambivalence and we tend to want to see all worldviews as equally valid, even when there is evidence to the contrary.

None of this is to say that all spiritual bypassing leads to serious dysfunction, although it is produced by dysfunction. But, serious dysfunction will rarely occur in an atmosphere of spiritual authenticity. The reasons above make many of us more open to spiritual bypassing to avoid what is unpleasant or difficult. It can also reinforce our unconscious biases, leading to behaviors which marginalize othersracism, sexism, or “otherness.” These are very often major factors when spiritual communities go into crisis or decline.

“All great spirituality is about what we do with our pain. If we do not transform our pain, we will transmit it to those around us.”

~ Richard Rohr

 

“One way of measuring ego-strength and maturity of personality is to assess a person’s capacity to tolerate ambivalence. This capacity is closely related to the ability to feel empathy. It is all about tolerating otherness.”

~ Heidi M. Kolb

All of this comes together as a self-perpetuating system of unconscious behaviors, limiting our ability to really see ourselves and others, to feel empathy and express compassion, to be deeply present for others in our spiritual community and elsewhere.

SHADOW – PROJECTION – DENIAL – SPIRITUAL BYPASSING – NEED FOR CERTAINTY – EXCLUSION OF OTHERS – DENIAL – SHADOW – PROJECTION – DENIAL . . .  THE CYCLE CONTINUES.

Until we interrupt it.

While this must begin within each person, it is also a systemic issue – our culture is weighted with limited thinking and spiritual bypassing. It is time to face this and begin the process of leaving this particular set of limitations behind us. We will never be perfect at this, but we will get better at it. We know that we have no fear of a greater Truth being revealed – we welcome the healing potential of spiritual disruption!

As always, your comments are welcomed below. Please feel free to share this post with others who may be interested. If you like, you can sign up to follow the blog above and receive an email whenever a new post is published.

 

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

 NOTE: I referred to an article by Robert Augustus Masters, and to several quotes from that article in Part 1 of this series in this post. At the time, I was generally unfamiliar with his work, other than an article on spiritual bypassing. I have since learned that he has admitted to abuse of students and members of a group which he led. I will not be referring to him or to his work again. – Jim Lockard October 2018

WHEN THE TRUTH GETS REALLY UNCOMFORTABLE

“If the Truth makes free when it is told, and we are not free, then the Truth has not been told. The Truth that the Good belongs to us is greater than the idea that we might give our time, our labor, our life, and all we are to the Good, and still never satisfy it. To tell how impossible it is for us to give enough to God breeds rebellion at existing orders. To tell that the Good asks nothing of us but to receive its substance, will rest and comfort the people.”

~ Emma Curtis Hopkins, Scientific Christian Mental Practice

1a Michelle Wolf

Michelle Wolf – NYTimes photo

The uproar over comedian Michelle Wolf’s appearance at the Washington Correspondents’ Dinner the other night is the latest example of how our differing worldviews (NYTimes – LINK) (RedState -LINK) and our insecurity about them can mushroom into something both ugly and filled with potential. Our idea of truth is always influenced, if not wholly determined, by the worldview which we bring to any situation (as can be seen in the articles in the links above). This is something that we usually ignore or deny. We have had many such moments of contested “truth” across the globe in this time of disruption – this time of movement along the Spiral where the upward movement is driven by the creation of increasingly complex systems of technology and social structures. The concepts and worldviews we bring into changing times are insufficient to carry us through those times. We must adapt, creatively and, ideally, in healthy ways.

“One prerequisite for originality is clearly that a person shall not be inclined to impose his preconceptions on the fact as he sees it. Rather, he must be able to learn something new, even if this means that the ideas and notions that are comfortable or dear to him may be overturned.”

~ David Bohm

The usual responses from the political left and right emerged quickly on social and regular media, with many in the press being caught in the middle, fearing a further erosion of trust in them and their institutions. Everyone, it seems, has an opinion and no one has room for a different opinion than his or her own. The details of the situation are less important than how the incident reflects on the national and international mood these days – we are in a culture war, and a few shooting wars as well, and every position must be defended with volume and righteousness, despite the lack of evidence of many minds being changed on any side.

The complexity of life is an essential part of the evolutionary processes by which we, and the entire universe, develop. Complexity is a sign of growth, something to be nurtured, adapted to, and embraced. It is not to be confused with being complicated, which is something else altogether.

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

~ Nora Bateson

Perhaps this is a good time to reflect on my own worldview(s) and to notice my reactions to things said and done, whether in actuality or on social media. This advice applies no matter my position on any issue, by the way. We could all do with a bit more honest introspection about our beliefs as well as our sensitivities to dissonance and discomfort. The world around us is struggling to grow toward a greater capability to support humanity on this planet, and this will require expanded capacities from us.

“You can get sympathy, or you can get better, but you can’t get both. You can be in your comfort zone or you can have growth, but you can’t have both. You can be interested, or you can be sold-out-committed, but you can’t entertain both. You can have excuses or have results, but you can’t do both. Choose the path that develops your visceral fortitude.”

~ Mario Cortes

Here, Cortes hits the nail on the proverbial head. We all design our response systems – the ways that we automatically react to behaviors and ideas – and we too seldom examine whether these systems are working for or against us. Once we have programmed our habitual ways of reacting, we are at the mercy of what we experience – the locus of control shifts from within to without – and we are at risk of continual disruption of our power to act wisely. We do this, mostly unconsciously, as a way of avoiding fear and discomfort – natural things to want to avoid. But in doing so, we often redesign our response system to avoid growth, because nothing new grows from comfort. Comfort is overrated.

“The invitation to accept the diamond of life is not an invitation to safety and comfort. It is an invitation to live life fully and completely, which is never safe and is often uncomfortable…’If I am safe enough, then I can relax.’ I am talking about recognizing that you can relax right now, even though you aren’t completely safe, and you never will be.”

~ Gangaji

Spirituality is not an invitation AWAY from life, it is an invitation TOWARD life. And the fullness of life is messy, glorious, uncomfortable, joyful, terrifying, and challenging. We are designed to adapt upward along the Spiral (LINK) toward greater and greater capacities for living fully in a complex world. There are, of course, times when we need to retreat for a time, to heal or to rest, but such times are the exception, not the norm. Thriving requires alignment of mind, heart, and action toward the greatest possible expression of personal potential. We serve creation by living fully, creatively, and with courage.

I Affirm

My affirming statement regarding this is:

I am free of the need and the capacity to be knocked off balance by the comments or actions of others. I see the need for all kinds of expression by those who are on their own path, or who may be trapped by unconscious biases. I help where I can but take no responsibility for the behaviors of others. My life is an unfolding affirmation of possibility. I do not react with fear, I respond with love. I am comfortable with who I am and willing to be uncomfortable in the fact of what I do not understand. I know that my good is not affected by the limitations of others unless I give them that power. I hold my power within, I continually scan my responses to ensure my consciousness is one of love, power, peace, and compassion.

Make your own version of this and repeat as needed. We who are on a spiritual pathway are called to be part of the ongoing resolution of humanity’s growing pains. We recognize the struggles of birth and know that they are a natural part of our experience. We resist nothing and accept only the good. All is well. Incidents such as Michelle Wolf’s comedy need not do anything other that lead us to take a deeper look within ourselves to see where we can express greater compassion.

Let us use our spiritual communities as places where we affirm all of this for ourselves. Let us put our energies into creating spaces of care, love, compassion – but also courage, strength, and engagement. Let us learn to be examples of how to be in the face of fear, fake news, narcissism, greed, and other examples of human frailties. Let us make a difference for good in some way, every day.

“I want to get more comfortable being uncomfortable. I want to get more confident being uncertain. I don’t want to shrink back just because something isn’t easy. I want to push back and make more room in the area between I can’t and I can.”

~ Kristin Armstrong

As always, your comments are welcome!

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

 

WHEN YOU FEEL OVERWHELMED

“I’m worried about everything.”

~ Michael Ian Black, @michaelianblack on Twitter

It is easy to become overwhelmed these days. The increasing complexities of everyday life are being compounded by a litany of social ills, chaotic and corrupt politics, and the breakdown of trust in our institutions. There is terrorism, mass shootings, racism, sexism, and more in our society. We are blasted from all sides by fear, anger, and calls for attention to this or that issue. The media and social media are filled with examples of natural disasters, crimes, corruption, and tragedy – and now theses things spread farther and faster than ever before. I see friends driven to crowdfunding sites to pay for healthcare or basic expenses, and others for whom “retirement” has become a distant dream. As I sit writing this, news is breaking about a fifth bombing in Austin, Texas and a new school shooting in Maryland. It seems there is no break from “breaking news.”

Breaking News Fear

One result of these issues is that New Thought is beginning to turn outward so as to engage more fully in the issues of the world. While this is an essential, and perhaps inevitable, consequence of our cultural evolution, it nevertheless puts additional stress on us, as change always does. We are called to bring forth a higher version of ourselves and our teaching into the world. This process of emergence adds to our stress levels even as we see its rightness and necessity.

“We grow from challenge. We grow from taking something on.”

~James Hollis, Jungian analyst

While our Power is internal, we are activated by our environment. We must respond to what we find in our lives, both at the macro and micro levels. Emergence of new qualities and possibilities comes as an adaptive mechanism to changing life conditions. It seems that we in the western societies, particularly in the United States, find ourselves in conditions which demand a spiritually based response. We must do more than sit in meditation and prayer-treatment (although both practices are necessary for our personal sense of stability); but we must act from a place of spiritual poise.

“Only a person who has lived through a time that threatens his life and that valuable substance, his individual freedom, with war, power, and tyrannical ideologies – only he knows how much courage, how much honesty and determination are needed to maintain the inner self in such a time of herd insanity.”

~ Stefan Zweig

Complexity and Chaos

The apparent chaos of our current times can be seen as a reaction to rapid increases in the complexity of our living conditions. Many people have not adapted to these increases in complexity for a variety of reasons. They are frustrated, and that frustration is increasingly showing up as fear and anger. They want to bring what they see as a runaway social system to a halt and return to some version of a better yesterday when life seemed more manageable.

What we see termed “nationalistic” or identity politics is a version of that desire to reign in change. When we fail to adapt to greater complexity, we will naturally see that complexity as wrong in some way. Nationalistic politicians, ironically often using very complex psychological methodologies (LINK), will tap into this frustration and resentment to gain power – the power to try to turn back the clock in some way, usually by gaining control over the society’s institutions. We are in such a cycle now, and it appears that there is a great deal of chaos in our future as the larger societal structures adjust to these dynamics. It is easy to be in overwhelm and to seek to join in this apparent battle for the values of our culture. Better to rise above that approach and to engage via the compassionate heart.

compassion-heart-inverted

“That we go numb along the way is to be expected. Even the bravest among us, who give their lives to care for others, go numb with fatigue, when the heart can take in no more, when we need time to digest all we meet. Overloaded and overwhelmed, we start to pull back from the world, so we can internalize what the world keeps giving us. Perhaps the noblest private act is the unheralded effort to return: to open our hearts once they’ve closed, to open our souls once they’ve shied away, to soften our minds once they’ve been hardened by the storms of our day.”

~ Mark Nepo

When we are overwhelmed, we need to take time to heal, to rest. There is nothing wrong with needing some time away from the chaos. But in that process, we must work to keep, or to regain, a positive frame of mind. We must do our praying, our meditating, our affirming every day. Our spiritual practices are essential to the development of true spiritual poise – to a consciousness of empowerment and to the compassionate heart.

Spiritual Practices Kit

“No greater good can come to you than to know that the Power already within you is the power to live, the power to create.  Not only to create for yourself, but to create for others — the power to do good, the power to heal, the power to prosper.”

~ Ernest Holmes, YOUR INVISIBLE POWER

Our teaching tells us that no outside condition is stronger than our internal potential. We are called to rise to the occasion, to embrace and thrive in changing times, to reveal the Truth of our being in each moment. We are the ones we have been waiting for – it is our turn to step into the world around us and bring a powerful, realized consciousness of healing and love.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

~ Marianne Williamson

 As always, your comments are welcomed. Feel free to share this blog with others who may be interested.

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

 

CAN SPIRITUAL PRINCIPLES OVERCOME FAKE NEWS?

“There is no such thing as harmless disinformation; trusting in falsehood can have dire consequences.”

~ Pope Francis on Twitter

Fake News is nothing new. We human beings have been twisting or ignoring facts determinedly seeing the world through our values and worldviews, accepting information which affirmed them and rejecting or ignoring information which contradicted them.

Meme - Fake News

At the same time, we have evolved along the spiral through various values systems (LINK to Spiral Dynamics post), including values systems which value truth as a moral imperative (Traditionalist-Blue, which emerged about 4,000 years ago). Violating such a values system was wrong, and many of our institutions developed out of the Blue Code felt a duty to be honest, as did individuals within that values system. You may be old enough to remember when CBS News Anchorman Walter Cronkite was considered “the most trusted man in America” in the 1960’s.

Pope Francis represents the Roman Catholic Church, an institution with Traditionalist-Blue values at its heart. The Church is struggling in the developed western nations where Traditionalist-Blue values are being replaced with Modernist-Orange values. Modernism is a Code which values the individual at the expense of the masses – so within this values system honesty is less of a prime value than self-interest; only in so far as healthy Blue Code values have been retained will one put his or her own self-interest in a secondary position to the truth.

VMEMEs Simplified

When a society is at Blue, a liar stands out as being wrong or evil. When a society is primarily at Orange, a liar may be seen as simply protecting his own self-interest (as in court, for example, where putting your case in the best light for yourself is at least equally important to getting to the truth).

When our institutions become the source of Fake News, it is a sign that truth is not valued as it should be. This is a time when spiritual principles become more important than ever in guiding us in our actions and in our reactions.

“The truth may be puzzling. It may take some work to grapple with. It may be counterintuitive. It may contradict deeply held prejudices. It may not be consonant with what we desperately want to be true. But our preferences do not determine what’s true.”

~ Carl Sagan

 

 

In our increasingly complex world, where trust in institutions is eroding, it becomes more difficult to determine what is true and what is not. What is different today than in the past is that the use of misinformation to deliberately affect social and cultural life has expanded greatly. Getting to what is true requires greater discernment (LINK) than in the past. There are no Walter Cronkites, who have the trust of most people, any more.

“People say: ‘Let the facts speak for themselves’; they forget that the speech of facts is real only if it is heard and understood. It is thought to be an easy matter to distinguish between fact and theory, between perception and interpretation. In truth, it is extremely difficult. When the level of the knower is not adequate to the level (or grade of significance) of the object of knowledge, the result is not factual error but something much more serious: an inadequate and impoverished view of reality.”

~ E.F. Schumacher, A Guide for the Perplexed

I don’t know about you, but I feel a need to go in a thousand different directions to be responsive to the world that is unfolding around me. There are so many causes, so many outrages, so many sad and deplorable things happening that it is hard to keep up, much less act in an affirmative and effective way. I can only imagine what it must be like to face all of this without a sound set of spiritual principles on which to base my thoughts, feelings, and actions. I am afraid for our nation, for our world, for nature, and for our planet.

“Fear is a natural consequence of moving closer to the truth.”

~ Pema Chödrön

The New Thought spiritual principles that I have studied and embodied, and am still working to embody more deeply, give me a foundation of belief and trust in a Power Greater than myself. If I do my work to come into alignment with a greater Truth, and to clear myself of the fear and ignorance which cloud my judgement and limit my ability to see clearly, then I can live a life that is both personally fulfilling and of contribution to the world around me. If find that this work is best done in harmony with a spiritual community of evolutionary souls who seek to express their own best selves – a New Thought Spiritual Community of any denomination will serve that purpose. We need to be in community, in part because human beings are “relational animals,” we need connection. In the giving and receiving of support in following our spiritual pathway, we accelerate our progress when in community. We see that we are not alone.

Naturally, my personal inner work is of paramount importance. In challenging times (and times of rapid change are always challenging) I must build a strong foundation of radical self-acceptance of spiritual principles. I must be strong enough and wise enough to discern reality from Fake News; clear enough and powerful enough to speak from my authentic voice and be a champion for Love and Compassion.

Also, I must be flexible about the form things take, while being firm about the application of spiritual principles. Change means that things will look different – forms change to accommodate a higher idea of the application of principle. In this closing quote, Dr. Holmes is speaking about the essence of Truth in principle, not the form which it’s expressions will take. Fake News cannot withstand the application of True Principles.

“Stay with the One and never deviate from It, never leave It for a moment. Nothing else can equal this attitude. TO DESERT THE TRUTH IN THE HOUR OF NEED IS TO PROVE THAT WE DO NOT KNOW THE TRUTH. When things look the worst, that is the supreme moment to demonstrate, to ourselves, that there are no obstructions to the operation of Truth. When things look the worst is the best time to work, the most satisfying time. The person who can throw himself with a complete abandon into that Limitless Sea of Receptivity, having cut loose from all apparent moorings, is the one who will always receive the greatest reward.”

~ Ernest Holmes, The Science of Mind, page 283

 

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

 

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A NEW YEAR’S REVOLUTION – SOME THOUGHTS AS 2017 ENDS

“It’s the end of 2017. Time to start making a New Year’s Revolution.”

~ Michael Ian Black on Twitter

I keep edging toward a realization that what we need – in New Thought spiritual community and in the larger world – is not just change but transformation. Think of change as rearranging the furniture and transformation, or revolutionary change as building a new house. We need revolutionary change, because the complexities of the world have grown and continue to grow at a rate which is outpacing our ability to effectively manage them. We are losing whatever coherence we have had with the rate of cultural change, and our organizations and communities are dissipating (coming apart). If that dissipation continues without evolutionary leadership to help the new emergence of what is next, then . . .

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

If 2017 has taught us anything it is that our manifestation of New Thought philosophy has often been inadequate to the challenges of our times. We are losing ground in many ways. A quick answer to this might be something to the effect of “Good! The system is breaking down – it NEEDS to break down – and we will keep doing what we are doing until the new system replaces it.”

While that answer may be both quick and satisfying, it is woefully inadequate. The earth is moving beneath our feet – tectonic changes are emerging in cultural evolution and those who are not riding the crest of change are falling farther and farther behind. Those people are angry, they are speaking out – sometimes violently, and they are even more inadequately prepared for what is coming than those “crest-riders” mentioned above. 2017 has shown these things in definitive fashion.

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

~ Stanislav Grof, Shift Magazine, June-August 2004

One way to transform our thinking is to see the “manifestation of symptoms” as an early stage of healing. This is true in cultural terms as well. We collectively face challenges which include political corruption, mass poverty, ecological devastation, terrorism, the refugee crisis, structural racism and sexism; the root causes for all of these issues are deeply and systemically cultural. The symptoms of these challenges, and the social and economic discrimination related to them are evidence of a deep universal pattern of healing attempting to emerge. Just as we often personally react with denial when symptoms arise, our culture fights the appearance of symptoms, delaying or denying any healing which may take place. Our Shadows, both individual and collective, hold us in place, driving us to try first to “return to normal” – an impossibility, but when we are in denial we lack clarity.

Poster - Jung - Shadow

“Any serious spiritual work brings up the shadow, the rejected parts of your own psyche, which have to be faced and accepted. It’s the process of inner purification. Other spiritual paths may focus on purification through diet or yoga or good living or correcting bad habits. Our particular Sufi path has a very strong psychological element, and the purification is analogous to Jung’s ‘shadow work’ in which the rejected parts of one’s psyche come to the surface to be confronted, loved and accepted. This begins the process of transformation. As Jung said, ‘One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.’ Then he humorously added, ‘The latter process, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular.’”

~ Llewellyn Vaughan Lee

There is a temptation for students of New Thought philosophies to express their fear and denial by practicing a form of magical thinking – something to the effect of “it’s all good!” The confusion here is that while it IS all good at the level of Spirit, we are the ones responsible for manifesting good at the level of our own reality. The world is not going to heal itself without a shift in consciousness, just as you are not going to heal your own issues without a shift in consciousness. And any shift of any real depth is not going to happen without some profound and rigorous psychological and emotional work. Our real challenges are not surface challenges, they call forward our deepest selves.

“There is a lack of spiritual leadership in the world right now, so we shouldn’t be concerned what the world thinks of us. We have a religious concept that will revolutionize the world and we just need to stick with it.

“Persistence will bring success, but it is a positive persistence that keeps affirming spiritual reality in spite of material effect. This means continually using ‘constructive rather than destructive conversation,’ seeing the Divine in every person and surrendering the mind in complete abandonment to the idea of success regardless of relative condition or opinion.”

~Ernest Holmes, 1933 Commentaries: Lesson Seven

Here Dr. Holmes uses persistence as a term for rigorous and continual work. It is not merely “holding a positive thought,” in fact, we are taught not to hold thoughts at all – they must flow. What we seek is a continual and persistent stream of uplifting and powerfully emotional thoughts which flow into the creative process and become our belief system. Then, we naturally act from this new belief system and our experience is transformed.

“Living a life of fulfillment that offers something of value to the world starts with radical self-knowledge, self-awareness and self-acceptance. Our task is to be who we are at the deepest level of being “

 ~ Oriah Mountain Dreamer, THE DANCE

 

Beautiful Dance

We keep doing our spiritual work to elevate to the next level of development, and the next, and the next. There is no arriving, there is only the journey. The journey is either going somewhere or staying in place, and the universe does not accept staying in place, does it? The key role of spiritual community today and in the future is to be places where such deep transformational work can be done in a safe and supportive environment. What the world needs now is empowered and realized evolutionary souls to contribute to an expanding consciousness of compassion, love, and service. It needs a #NewYearsRevolution.

“The 20th century was the Age of Introspection, when self-help and therapy culture encouraged us to believe that the best way to understand who we are and how to live was to look inside ourselves. But it left us gazing at our own navels. The 21st century should become the Age of Empathy, when we discover ourselves not simply through self-reflection, but by becoming interested in the lives of others. We need empathy to create a new kind of revolution. Not an old-fashioned revolution built on new laws, institutions, or policies, but a radical revolution in human relationships.”

~ Roman Krznaric

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

 

NOTE: I am honored to be a keynote speaker at BE THE VOICE FOR POSITIVE CHANGE GATHERING, an event in San Diego, California – January 19-21.

Here is a link if you are interested:

http://www.lornabright.com/gathering/

Positive Gathering Jan 2018

 

A TIME FOR HEART-CENTERED COURAGE, STRENGTH, AND PERSONAL TOUGHNESS

“Tough times never last, but tough people do.”

~ Robert Schuller

For many people on our planet today, times are tough. Even in the United States, among the most prosperous nations on earth, many are suffering in serious ways – from poverty, disease, discrimination, and the like. Others are finding the political turmoil of current times to be very difficult to live with – they are feeling increasingly hopeless.

We can look at all kinds of reasons for this – but that is not the point of this post. What I wish to address here is how to apply New Thought spiritual principles to our lives at times like these – including being careful how we label such times. We are in the midst of vast emerging change driven by cultural evolution. It is critical that we stay deeply and consciously rooted in our spiritual nature so that we remain strong and effective in directing our lives.

“Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. I use the word love here not merely in a personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of grace —not in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.”

~ James Baldwin

There is more to you than meets the eye; more than you can even imagine. You are born out of and remain within an Infinite Spirit and your good, your peace of mind, are not determined by external factors, by who is in what political office, unless you allow them to be.

whitelion

New Thought teachings are about the realization of an empowerment, a birthright, which has always existed and never been diminished. It is not a teaching about how to hide from harsh conditions – it is a teaching about how to transcend them by transforming consciousness.

“Stop worrying about your identity and concern yourself with the people you care about, ideas that matter to you, beliefs you can stand by, tickets you can run on. Intelligent humans make those choices with their brain and hearts and they make them alone. The world does not deliver meaning to you. You have to make it meaningful…and decide what you want and need and must do. It’s a tough, unimaginably lonely and complicated way to be in the world. But that’s the deal: you have to live; you can’t live by slogans, dead ideas, clichés, or national flags. Finding an identity is easy. It’s the easy way out.”

~ Zadie Smith

There are, of course, times when we are seriously wounded, times when a retreat is necessary for healing, however, such times are relatively rare when you think about it. I hear people saying they just want to go and hide until everything is better. These voices are more numerous today, driven by the antics of the current administration in Washington, or by some other more localized difficulty. These issues do not warrant hiding or retreating, they warrant standing in our full power and integrity. We are all capable of crafting creative change in our systems – all of them. This requires the deep realization of inner strength and a practice of being in dominion emotionally – even on Facebook and Twitter.

“People need to be encouraged. People need to be reminded of how wonderful they are. People need to be believed in—told that they are brave and smart and capable of accomplishing all the dreams they dream and more. Remind each other of this.”

~ Stacey Jean Speer

Most of life is challenging in one way or another, and we have our own devices to make it more challenging than it needs to be much of the time. It’s called self-sabotage, and it is yet another proof of our power over our experience, isn’t it? Metaphysics tells us that everything that comes into our experience contains the potential to bring forth something new and more useful from within us. What is being called forth from you in these times?

“Be patient and tough. Someday this pain will be useful to you.”

~ Ovid

Toughness is something that is rarely talked about in New Thought circles today (in my experience anyway). We talk about being loving and heart-centered and often speak of these qualities as if toughness were not an important aspect of their expression. I think that in trying to move away from the perceived authoritarianism of our past (and of our own personal pasts), we have become so non-authoritarian as to be largely ineffectual in the world – and, I suggest, this is also too often the case in our own lives. The pendulum has swung a bit too far in the opposite direction – there is little to no authority in our organizations today – and too little in how we practice our teaching. (LINK to posts on the Green vMEME) We are called to find a more balanced approach – to express our authority in ways that are both clear and compassionate.

 

“Your problem is how you are going to spend this one and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.”

~ Anne Lamott

There are limits to our ability to apply our principles. We may not like to hear this, but it is the truth. Those limits may be conditional – I may not have developed the consciousness to simply think peace on earth into existence yet – but I suspect that many are more than conditional. I believe that we do not single-handedly create realitywe influence external reality, which we co-create with others. We are the sole creators of our experience of that reality. This means that we must find ways to cooperate with others to change things beyond our individual capacities to heal.

The word courage means strength of the heart. Loving peopletruly loving people – are very tough – they do not abuse others and they do not allow others to abuse them. Toughness in a heart-centered person respects boundaries, speaks Truth to power, holds themselves and others accountable, and expects the best from themselves and others. They live courageous lives, which, when practiced regularly, becomes a natural way of being.

“We must combine the toughness of the serpent with the softness of the dove, a tough mind and a tender heart.”

~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

I question I often ask myself is “How does a student of New Thought refuse to engage the outer world when so much of that world is in pain?” Aside from personal fear, which is normal and can be overcome, how have we come to align with belief systems which propagate suffering and inequity, or which believe in scarcity and lack? How do we not stand for justice, help the needy, spiritually educate those willing? How do we bicker, argue, and engage in endless circular conversations on social media (including our list serves)? How do we fail to do our own spiritual practices in a rigorous way – leaving our fears not soothed, our wisdom and strength not energized?

 

I plan to focus the remainder of 2017 on crafting a new vision for my life in 2018 – to be more present, more authentic, more focused on being my True Self, and more of a contributor to the world around me. And to be a better husband, father, friend, and citizen (of the world). I can’t think of a better way to spend my time.

“You must be willing to change. You must be willing to break the deal you made with the devils within. You must be willing to leave the past and not be tempted to rebound when times are tough. You must be willing to let go of everything and anyone that takes you back to your mistakes. You must be willing to have hope. You must be willing to have hope that you can change and that you will and that you will be better. You must believe you are worthy of change and you are worthy of improvement and you are worthy of being the best. You must be willing to set aside your negative notions about life, about hardships, about people, about things, about yourself. You must be willing to stop feeling sorry for yourself while looking at the world move around you. Get up and make something of yourself.”

~ Jack Barakat

Your comments are welcome in the section below. If you find this blog to be of value, please consider following it – you will get an email whenever a new post is published.

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

I will be speaking at a special event in La Jolla, California in January – the information and registration is at this link: http://lornabright.com/gathering/

Positive Gathering Jan 2018.png