SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP AND FOLLOWERSHIP IN TIMES OF TRANSFORMATIONAL CHANGE – PART 2

“Don’t judge Religious Science by Religious Scientists.”

~ (the late) Rev. Dr. William Taliaferro

If you read Part 1 (LINK) of this series, and the two recent posts from Harvey Bishop’s Blog, entitled “Don’t Look Behind the Curtain,” (LINK to Part 1) (LINK to Part 2), you know that these series were initiated based on how some Centers for Spiritual Living (CSL) spiritual leaders have treated practitioners who were unwilling or unable to meet requirements set for them, usually about financial giving. If you have not already, you might want to catch up on those posts before you continue.

While Bishop has focused on the treatment of some practitioners using unskillful, even shaming leadership tactics, my focus as also included the aspect of good followership – the accountability of members of a spiritual community, particularly people in positions such as staff ministers or practitioners to both the leadership and the community as a whole. I see followership not in any diminished sense, but in the realization that every organization needs both leaders and followers who are as healthy and accountable as possible. In CSL, staff ministers and practitioners are actually in both roles, serving in followership to the spiritual leader(s) and in secondary leadership to the membership.

 

I have also focused in Part 1 of this series on issues that so many bring into their roles – psychological and/or emotional issues from earlier in life, issues which have not been resolved and which affect current thinking and behaviors. When we have unresolved issues, we are often incapable of being our best, particularly when we feel under pressure or in fear. This might show up as taking an unskillful approach when confronting a practitioner about being out of integrity with some agreement (financial or otherwise). It might equally show up as feeling a burning sense of shame when reminded by the spiritual leader that one is out of integrity with an agreed upon expectation, even when that reminder is skillfully expressed in an appropriate manner.

Naturally, the higher the position of authority one has, the more accountable one is for one’s behaviors. But we are all accountable for our own behaviors, are we not? Now, I am in no way saying that the stories shared in Bishop’s blog are inaccurate. As described, they reflect a failure of appropriate leadership at a minimum. They seem to illustrate a lack of emotional intelligence, which almost always results in failed interpersonal communications.

 

But I wonder.

I wonder how many of those practitioners approached the spiritual leader(s) of their community and shared that they would be unable to meet the expected level of giving? Or did they leave it for someone else to discover? I wonder whether the spiritual leaders communicated the policy regarding giving to the practitioners AND had they created an atmosphere in which it felt safe for practitioners to let the leaders know if and when they were unable (or unwilling) to meet the expectations in the policy?

In my time as a spiritual leader, we usually had giving expectations which were both clear and flexible; and I had situations where practitioners or others on the leadership team did not meet the expectations. Some told me about it as it unfolded, others did not. While I can understand their embarrassment, I cannot approve of their lack of accountability in not approaching me for that conversation when I had encouraged them to do just that. Of course, their lack of accountability did not give me permission to be unskillful or to shame them – it also did not give me permission to ignore the problem.

Perhaps we are talking about two different things here (although they are often intertwined). One is how often those of us in spiritual leadership fail to be the best version of ourselves when we feel pressured (and how easy it can be for us to feel pressured); indeed, how many in spiritual leadership lack necessary temperament and competencies for their positions. The second thing is the too-frequent breakdown of an atmosphere of accountability and support among the leadership teams of our spiritual communities, usually due to failure to address issues proactively.

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

AND: what are WE supposed to do?

“Not responding is a response –

we are equally responsible for what we don’t do.”

~ Jonathan Safran Foer

Deep-seated personal issues on which we have not done deep spiritual work are unlikely to be resolved until we engage with that work; this is true for both leaders and followers. However, there are some things that leaders can initiate to create an environment of trust, safety, and accountability.

  1. Have you explored the pros and cons of having required giving expectations? Why or why not? What are the costs and benefits, both financially and to the culture of the spiritual community? What does having such a policy say about prosperity consciousness (or lack thereof)? And if you have such a policy, how and when is it communicated? Is it written into bylaws or policy manuals? If not, why not?

  2. Leaders should promote the overall mental and spiritual health of the leadership team and the spiritual community. Have the conversation often: state expectations clearly (put them in writing where appropriate); speak about openness and accountability; create space for people to share what is bothering them – either in groups or one-on-one. Make it safe to have personal problems or concerns about policies. Do this with your board and your ministerial/practitioner teams regularly.

  3. Ask people how things are going and do so when there is the opportunity to respond truthfully – not during fellowship time or in other inappropriate situations.

  4. Leaders – show your own vulnerability from time to time. This is healthy. It can, however, become unhealthy if it becomes your default way of being. If you are a leader, you have the accountability to lead and to set an example of integrity and compassion. Finding the proper balance is a sign of emotional intelligence.

  5. Followers – you can best support your leaders by being honest and open with them. Being an accountable follower means that you are supportive, but not in lockstep with the leader(s). It does not mean always getting your way or never disagreeing, but it may mean supporting an approved policy with which you do not agree. If leaders are not open to hearing you, or if they are toxic (LINK), you must protect yourself; do not remain in an unhealthy situation – if you can’t influence it in a positive direction and it is toxic, your best option may be to leave.

  6. If there are ethical violations occurring, use the ethics process. Ethical standards and procedures for Centers for Spiritual Living are described in Section 7.1 & 7.2 of the Policies and Procedures Manual. It is advisable to review this before making a formal complaint if you are a minister or practitioner. If you are not, you probably do not have easy access to that document. The contact information for ethics complaints is below. I am sure that Unity has a similar set of policies and procedures.

Centers for Spiritual Living
Rev. Barbara Bue, Licensing and Credentialing Manager
Email: bbue@CSL.org Phone:  +1 (720) 279-1634
573 Park Point Drive Golden, CO 80401, USA

These are particularly challenging times for leaders of all kinds. We are facing tectonic shifts in cultural evolution and issues such as the worsening climate crisis, among many others. As Nora Bateson has written:

“Whatever leadership used to be — it used to be. Now, it has to be something different. Now, we all have to be more than we were. The kind of leadership that I want to explore may not be identifiable as leadership at all.  I am interested in a kind of mutually alert care and attention to the well-being of all people and ecological systems. This kind of leadership cannot be found in individuals, but rather between them. It cannot be found in organizations, nations, religions or institutions, but rather between them. I have called it Liminal Leadership to highlight the relational characteristics.”

~ Nora Bateson

 

I think it is obvious that leaders facing these kinds of transformational challenges which affect the very nature of leadership itself must improve their ability to have positive interpersonal relationships with everyone, especially those in their inner circles. New Thought Organizations can only do so much for spiritual leaders in this regard – perhaps better psychological testing at entry level and better support for those in service, but spiritual leaders have to be open to such interventions, and that has too often not been the case. Additionally, no one wants a heavy-handed organization intervening too often. Most issues are best resolved at the local community level – and taking personal accountability is a significant and necessary first step.

The organizations do need to improve their ability and knowledge to develop and support healthy and competent spiritual leaders – focusing on emotional and spiritual intelligence as understood today would be a good start. Many issues within a spiritual community do not rise to the level of ethics violations but are extremely destructive. Blaming the larger organization usually misses the point – accountability lies with each of us to be in the highest and best integrity in our roles, regardless of the behaviors of others.

There may be more to come on this topic but let me close this post with a quote from a distinguished citizen of my new hometown, Lyon, France. I think that Ernest Holmes would agree.

“You must begin by assuming responsibility. And you alone are responsible for every moment of your life, for every one of your acts.”

~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

As always, your comments are welcomed!

Copyright 2019 – Jim Lockard

 

 

COMPASSION MEANS EXTENDING THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT

“We need to strengthen such inner values as contentment, patience and tolerance, as well as compassion for others. Keeping in mind that it is expressions of affection rather than money and power that attract real friends, compassion is the key to ensuring our own well-being.”

~ Dalai Lama XIV 

 The Dalai Lama’s statement is true at both the individual and collective levels. If we are to move forward as humanity, we will have to find ways to be together which are life-affirming, sustainable, and imbued with wisdom. Finding our way forward in the face of so many challenges (climate collapse, racism, sexism, nationalism, slavery, rogue capitalism, and so on) seems daunting as people harden their worldviews and so often demonize those who see things differently. Polarization is increasing in many places resulting in greater difficulties in connecting across divisions of value systems.

What separates us is our fear and ignorance – of ourselves and of one another. What separates us is our response to our woundedness and the sensitive emotional (and sometimes physical) scar tissue which we have developed, too often making us blind defenders of our worldviews. We so often fail to see that our knowledge is always limited and at least a little bit misinformed, and this is true of those with opposite worldviews as well. At a minimum, we need more self-awareness so that we can at least see others more clearly and less as reflections of our own repressed energies.

To have compassion is to see from Oneness, to feel genuine empathy for others, to practice ongoing forgiveness of self and others, to hold others harmless and to wish them well, despite our disagreements. It does not mean that we let others harm us, in fact, people who are self-compassionate do not abuse others and they REFUSE TO BE ABUSED themselves. Until we develop self-compassion, our sense of connection to others will be but a projection from a wounded self – and not very substantial.

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

~ Bruce Sanguin

I am currently in the final month of a nine-month program, teaching a group of private students what I call “metaphysical psychology.” A key element of the program is a deep dive into Shadow and emotional work. There is no coming to consciousness without this kind of work. Sorry, but that is the case. Deep spiritual work is essential to deal with our inevitable sense of being wounded in our lives. Until we heal our emotional selves, we will project our fears, hurt, and anger onto others, making compassion impossible and prolonging our state of human conflict. Giving the benefit of the doubt does not release one from accountability, it simply acknowledges our humanness.

Forgiveness is an essential element for developing compassion. Ongoing, daily, moment-by-moment forgiveness of self and others is a practice worth pursuing. Again, this does not mean a denial of accountability, but it does mean a refusal to diminish self or others with guilt and shame. Being at our best means being in a state of forgiveness. Otherwise, we continue to project our woundedness onto others.

Forgive Stone

We are not, at base, malevolent creatures, although when wounded, or when our sense of desperation exceeds our understanding of our true nature, we can act in malevolent ways. When we are healed and when we are compassionate, malevolent actions are impossible. The saying “hurt people hurt people” rings very true in this regard. We can do our best to express love and compassion to all, and we can learn to be unattached to how they respond. True compassion is never conditional. It is our natural way of being, given freely, without regard to its acceptance. The work is getting back to that primal state which exists within us, just below the scar tissue. It awaits us patiently as we do our work. It is the process of remembering who we really are and our true nature.

Have compassion for everyone you meet
even if they don’t want it. What seems conceit,
bad manners, or cynicism is always a sign
of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen.
You do not know what wars are going on
down there where the spirit meets the bone.

~ Miller Williams, “Compassion in The Ways We Touch”

 Developing the awareness that human dysfunction is not a natural state, but the result of fear, ignorance, and wounding is a rare quality in today’s world. It is, of course, also a way that we are given opportunities to learn and grow – but we must respond positively to those opportunities. Most people see behavior as a direct indication of who a person is, rather than the result of how the person has integrated their experiences into a personality. When we KNOW that there is a compassionate being in there beneath the fear and wounding, we can more easily be empathetic ourselves. Once we have developed true compassion, we will do this automatically and speak to the compassionate being inside the other person. This may be disconcerting to them, and it may also influence that aspect of the other person to come closer to the surface.

“Compassion is an unstable emotion. It needs to be translated into action, or it withers.”

~ Susan Sontag

Acting from compassion, even when automatic, can be frightening. Compassion leads us places where the guarded and comfortable will not go. It sees through appearances of fear and ignorance more easily, and it calls us to action rather than to complacency. It requires regular practices to keep it in mind and heart.

Chaos Compassion Bubble

To be godlike, to imitate Christ, to express Buddha consciousness, to be true to Islamic principles, and to embody the Science of Mind all require one to develop compassion. It is both the root and the destination of all spiritual practices across faith traditions. It is also the goal of the atheist. It is our ultimate destination as human beings. Today, humanity is calling out for compassion, but mostly unknowingly. We arm our nations’ militaries and reinforce our personal inner departments of defense (anger, hatred, buying weapons) when what we really want is to live in compassionate societies. In our ignorance and fear, we so often do exactly the opposite from what we need to do. If we really want #AWorldThatWorksForEveryone, we must do better.

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.

If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

~ Dalai Lama XIV

Only those with the awareness of these truths will seek out their expression. So, if you are aware, you have an assignment – find your compassion, first for yourself and then for others. Do your spiritual work, daily and minute-by-minute. This is not just to be happy, but to be happy, fulfilled, and a contributor to the greater good. Become who you came into this incarnation to be and be a true force for expanded love and compassion in our world. Spirit has your back.

“When we practice generating compassion, we can expect to experience the fear of our pain. Compassion practice is daring. It involves learning to relax and allow ourselves to move gently toward what scares us. The trick to doing this is to stay with emotional distress without tightening into aversion, to let fear soften us rather than harden into resistance.”

~ Pema Chödrön

 

Copyright 2019 – Jim Lockard

Register now for this great conference in Geneva this August!

Embracing Change:

A Pathway to Growth and Transformation

Lisa Ferraro and I are keynote presenters and there will be wonderful workshops from international presenters all in a gorgeous setting on Lake Geneva in view of the Alps!

LINK to info and registration:  https://www.icsl-geneva.com/ 

Online Marketing Piece 1

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:

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.

heros-journey-project-details-1-638

“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

 

WHEN SPIRITUAL BYPASS BECOMES SPIRITUAL MALPRACTICE, PART 1

“Spiritual bypassing, a term first coined by psychologist John Welwood in 1984, is the use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid dealing with our painful feelings, unresolved wounds, and developmental needs. It is much more common than we might think and, in fact, is so pervasive as to go largely unnoticed, except in its more obvious extremes.”

~ Robert Augustus Masters, Spiritual Bypassing: Avoidance in Holy Drag

“There are people who have an amazing knowledge of themselves…. But even those people wouldn’t be capable of knowing what is going on in their unconscious.”

~ C.G. Jung

I offer two maxims to guide the reader through this series of posts, which will cover some difficult and uncomfortable terrain.

  1. We are more driven by unconscious patterns and impulses than we realize.
  2. Spiritual Bypassing is common in New Thought spiritual communities.

The first maxim is one which can be seen as limiting some of what we are often taught in New Thought – that we can bring everything to conscious awareness and direct (or re-direct) any aspect of our lives using positive thinking. While our ability to change our unconscious mind is real, it is not an absolute; that is, we cannot empty our unconscious of its contents. The unconscious is too vast to bring fully into conscious awareness, and aspects of our inner psyche which affect everything from our perception to our decision-making, will remain beyond our awareness. At best, we can bring up what most needs to be healed and make the needed changes to develop a consciousness which is more of a representation of our best selves.

This brings up the idea of free will, and the degree to which we are completely free to perceive and decide, with no unconscious conditioning or biases affecting our seeming freedom to choose (LINK to Scientific American Article). As the most recent research shows (LINK), our unconscious conditioning has a greater effect on us than we realize – and must be considered as we do our spiritual and psychological practices. We must look deeper and more closely at ourselves or we miss the evidence of our unconscious conditioning and biases.

“Consciousness, no matter how extensive it may be, must always remain the smaller circle within the greater circle of the unconscious, an island surrounded by the sea; and, like the sea itself, the unconscious yields an endless and self-replenishing abundance of living creatures, a wealth beyond our fathoming. ”

~ Carl Jung, Psychology of the Transference

Ernest Holmes emphasizes the importance of using our conscious mind to program our unconscious, because the objective (conscious) reflects the subjective (unconscious) mind.

“The objective form to which we give our attention is created from the very attention which we give it. The objective is but the reflection of the subject state of thought. Life is a blackboard upon which we consciously or unconsciously write those messages which govern us. We hold the chalk and the eraser in our hand but are ignorant of this fact.”

~ Ernest Holmes

The first maxim is important in helping us to both understand the essence of the second maxim and to create a practice of compassion around our approach to it. Almost all spiritual bypassing is unconsciously driven; bringing this to the awareness of someone engaging in bypassing must be done compassionately to have the best chance of meeting a willingness to change within that person or persons. As we begin to address the second maxim, I encourage the reader to hold this in mind.

Regarding the second maxim, I am guided here, at least in part, by two articles which awakened something within me – some of which I was aware, and some of which I was unaware. In other words, more of my blind spots (LINK) became apparent. I think they are worth addressing here, both for my own benefit and for the benefit of those who read this, so an increased level of awareness may result. They are (both titles are hotlinks):

Spiritual Bypassing: Avoidance in Holy Drag by Robert Augustus Masters, PhD (he also authored a book with the same title)

and

When Spiritual Bypassing Meets Racism Meets Gaslighting, by Camille Williams – this article will be the focus of Part 2 of this series.

“Spiritual bypassing is a very persistent shadow of spirituality, manifesting in many ways, often without being acknowledged as such. Aspects of spiritual bypassing include exaggerated detachment, emotional numbing and repression, overemphasis on the positive, anger-phobia, blind or overly tolerant compassion, weak or too porous boundaries, lopsided development (cognitive intelligence often being far ahead of emotional and moral intelligence), debilitating judgment about one’s negativity or shadow elements, devaluation of the personal relative to the spiritual, and delusions of having arrived at a higher level of being.”

~ Robert Augustus Masters, PhD

With this definition of spiritual bypassing in hand, we can begin to explore how it manifests within a New Thought setting. It is helpful here to have some knowledge of Spiral Dynamics, especially the Green Level of Existence (LINK). Although bypassing can occur at any stage on the spiral, Green, because of its feelings-based nature, is particularly prone to several of the manifestations noted in Masters’ quote above, especially “overemphasis on the positive, anger-phobia, blind or overly tolerant compassion, weak or too porous boundaries.”

So, spiritual bypassing is the opposite of authenticity. It is the often-unconscious desire to have everything appear to be what one desires at the expense of dealing with inner and outer realities. It can be used to stifle conflict or differing viewpoints (as in calling a group to prayer-treatment at the first sign of conflict); to deny realities such as financial lack or a decline in the capabilities of aging leaders; to maintain unconscious patterns of discrimination; or to create a false sense of security so that one or a group does not have to face a difficult reality or decision.

At its core, however, spiritual bypassing is a refusal to do the deep work necessary for true spirituality to express in a person or community. We are all, to one degree or another, terrified of the power within us. Bringing it forth in a more complete and authentic way, which most of us claim to desire, would also cause chaos in the order of our present lives. Nothing would be safe. Those in spiritual leadership are not free of this fear, nor are they necessarily more spiritually authentic than anyone else (LINK). In fact, much of what goes on in spiritual community is going through the motions of a surface piety to some theological principles while being careful not to upset the comfort zones of ourselves and others.

“True spirituality is not a high, not a rush, not an altered state. It has been fine to romance it for a while, but our times call for something far more real, grounded, and responsible; something radically alive and naturally integral; something that shakes us to our very core until we stop treating spiritual deepening as a something to dabble in here and there. Authentic spirituality is not some little flicker or buzz of knowingness, not a psychedelic blast-through or a mellow hanging-out on some exalted plane of consciousness, not a bubble of immunity, but a vast fire of liberation, an exquisitely fitting crucible and sanctuary, providing both heat and light for what must be done. Most of the time when we’re immersed in spiritual bypassing, we like the light but not the heat, doing whatever we can to distance ourselves from the flames.”

~ Robert Augustus Masters, PhD

To be sure, everyone in a spiritual community is unlikely to want to live at that level. There are lots of reasons for this and finding even a handful of people who are willing to go deep into themselves and stir up shadow selves is a challenge. A spiritual community which can accommodate that smaller group within its larger community will have a source of richness missing in most communities. To do this requires attuned leadership who have credibility with those on a deeper and more authentic spiritual pathway. Such leaders are also rare.

“Is not the shadow of a group more than the sum of individual shadows, and might it not create a whole new dimension of unconsciousness?”

~ James Hollis, Author & Jungian Analyst

What is important to gain from this post is that spiritual bypass is common, it is mostly unconscious, and it is a big turn-off to those who seek authenticity in their spiritual leaders and spiritual community. It is also an obstacle to achieving significant mission-centric expression. Here is where we get to utilize our free will to direct ourselves in a more authentic direction. Leaders can empower their members to speak up when they suspect spiritual bypass, and train themselves and others how to compassionately respond when others are not being authentic. This approach will go a long way toward aligning a spiritual community to create #TheBelovedCommunity.

“To truly outgrow spiritual bypassing—which in part means releasing spirituality (and everything else!) from the obligation to make us feel better or more secure or more whole—we must not only see it for what it is and cease engaging in it but also view it with genuine compassion, however fiery that might be or need to be. The spiritual bypasser in us needs not censure nor shaming but rather to be consciously and caringly included in our awareness without being allowed to run the show. Becoming intimate with our own capacity for spiritual bypassing allows us to keep it in healthy perspective.”

~ Robert Augustus Masters, PhD

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

~ James Hollis, Jungian analyst

In Part 2 of this series, we will look at the more destructive elements of spiritual bypassing, the things which can tear a spiritual community apart.

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 used several quotes by Robert Augustus Masters 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

 

 

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

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

 Spiritually Mature Subject Matter

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

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

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

FIRST, LEADERSHIP

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

~ Parker Palmer

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

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

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

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

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

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

SECOND, LEADERSHIP MUST BE EVOLUTIONARY

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

~ Stephen Covey

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

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

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

~ C. Otto Scharmer

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

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

~ James Hollis, Jungian Analyst

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

Leadership woman

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

THIRD, A PATH TO DEEP SPIRITUALITY.

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

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

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

~ Bruce Sanguin

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

 Baby reading Deepak

 

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

DEEP CALLS UNTO DEEP – WHAT THEY DON’T TELL YOU AT SUNDAY SERVICES, PART 3

Spiritually Mature Subject Matter

“It is entirely conceivable that life’s splendor forever lies in wait about each one of us in all its fullness, but veiled from view, deep down, invisible, far off. It is there, though, not hostile, not reluctant, not deaf. If you summon it by the right word, by its right name, it will come.”

~ Franz Kafka, Diaries

If we are going to change our results in life, we must change our relationship with Source – our Inner Genius that is an individualized expression of the Universal Intelligence. Nothing is being withheld from us – our good lies in wait for us to evolve and develop to the point that we become welcoming conduits for its expression. If our current experience of life falls short of the ideal possibilities, then we have work to do – and we all have work to do.

Deep calls unto us – calling us to awaken to a greater Truth and to become welcoming conduits through which It can express fully. When enough of us have done this, the experience of humanity will be transformed. This series speaks to this idea in the context of committing to deeper spiritual practice and psychological development, so that we express more and more of our spiritual potential.

“People decide to live a spiritual life, they think it’s going to be all flower petals and incense; but really it’s much more like ‘I can’t eat my dinner because I’ve just learned something upsetting about myself.’”

~ David Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D., Transcending the Mind

 This kind of deep spirituality involves the pain of self-discovery, as David Hawkins notes. As we arrive at each discovery, we inhabit our current levels of awareness and development, which determine our experience of the discovery. Pain and sadness are often on the pathway of spiritual awakening and deepening. Going deep is never easy for us. Where we are developmentally on the spiral will have a lot to do with whether and how we continue forward.

VMEMEs Simplified

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

~ Clare Graves

Spiral Dynamics™(LINK) shows us how the evolution of human consciousness (as complexity of thought and evolving values systems) creates the dynamics of our development. As we move up the spiral (assuming more complex external living conditions are present), we can display our values constructively or destructively. Each level on the spiral can be expressed in healthy or unhealthy ways. The depth and consistency of spiritual practices has a significant effect on this process.

Every spiritual community has several Levels of Existence (vMEMEs) present. It may be two or six. The levels generate dynamics within themselves and with other levels. The degree to which the levels present are healthy or unhealthy generate additional dynamics – it can get very complicated. When spiritual leaders fail to understand the nature of these dynamics and levels of existence, they make assumptions based on inadequate understanding – and often exaggerate or misdiagnose the problems and opportunities present.

The greater the degree of surface-level spirituality, the greater the degree of dysfunction present. We must create a healthy pathway for those at different vMEMEs to evolve and to go deeper within our spiritual communities, or we miss so many opportunities for spiritual realization.

“While genes evolve slowly, the decision systems formed by vMEMEs are always on the move. vMEMEs can be so dominant they seem like archetypes and are easily misinterpreted as ‘types’ of people. When several are in harmony, vMEMEs resonate like the notes in a musical chord. However, vMEMEs in conflict lead to troubled individuals, dysfunctional families, corporate malaise, fractured churches, and civilizations in decline and fall. Since they are ‘alive,’ vMEMEs can ebb and flow, intensify and soften like a string of Christmas tree lights on a dimmer. Several different ones may line up in support of a specific issue, idea, or project because they share the values contents. At other times, people with essentially the same vMEME decision-making frameworks may disagree violently over details of beliefs and what is ‘the good,’ degenerating into holy and un-civil war.”

~ Don Beck & Christopher Cowan, SPIRAL DYNAMICS

 While understanding the vMEMEs present is not a “magic solution,” it can lead to a greater awareness of the issues and dynamics at hand and how they are given meaning within the community. New Thought teachings are about transformation and change. Most people are evolving along the spiral all the time, and there are some common values emerging along the way. Also, levels alternate between individual and communal values systems – which has a significant effect on how we show up, both in their own spiritual growth and in spiritual community.

Each of the 1st Tier vMEMEs has its own positives and negatives when it comes to the issues of personal spiritual development, spiritual community, and the interplay of the two. As I have noted before (LINK) and in my book (LINK), the main vMEMEs or Levels of Existence present in New Thought spiritual community are Traditionalist-Blue, Modernist-Orange, and Postmodernist-Green. 2nd Tier, Integral-Yellow may also be present in small numbers. Lower levels on the spiral, Beige, Purple, and Red influence how higher levels show up as well, but tend not to be dominant values systems in modern communities.

Church - Blue-Orange-Green

Blue, in its healthy expression is likely to engage in deep practice if that is what the relevant authority says it should do. Unhealthy Blue may rebel (expressing Red) or follow a counter-authority. Healthy Orange will engage in deep practice if it is seen by them as being personally beneficial – remember, those centered at Orange are all about themselves. Unhealthy Orange will run roughshod over others and show up as competitive in a toxic sense. Healthy Green will seek an egalitarian and communal approach to practices, and will go deep if there are enough members of the community willing to participate, so long as it does not appear that others are being left out against their will. Unhealthy Green may demand deep practice of others, but find ways to avoid it themselves; they may also express judgmental attitudes toward others. Also at Green, there is a reawakening of Tribal-Purple, with its love of ritual and spirituality based on symbolism.

Face - stressed-out

The Frustration of Not Understanding Cultural Evolutionary Dynamics

Spiritual leaders may find themselves wondering how to organize these disparate values systems into something cohesive – in fact, this is a major challenge for spiritual leadership. Modern progressive spirituality, such as New Thought, is not exempt from this issue. The days when Traditionalist-Blue thinking dominated are gone, except in fundamentalist communities – meaning that people will not automatically obey authority any more (have you noticed?). Orange wants their needs met or they leave; Green insists that leaders ensure that everyone feels good about everything (and is anti-hierarchical as well, so suspicious of authority). Orange wants you to tell it like it is and Green wants you to tell it so no one gets upset.

“The growth of multiculturalism and globalization brings us rising levels of complexity and nuance. The ability to hold tension is absolutely essential. Fundamentalism—strict adherence to one’s view of the world as the only right way—is essentially a refusal to live in tension.”

~ David Livermore

I include a Spiral Dynamics view here because it can bring a greater depth to our overall understanding of the need for a deeper approach to spiritual growth, and the dynamic tensions involved both in our personal growth and in our spiritual communities. It contains opportunities for greater understanding of the dynamic processes affecting us as we develop. When we apply ourselves more fully to our practices, we reveal more of our inner splendor and genius, we are more fulfilled personally, and a greater contributor to all of humanity.

 

In Part 4 of the series, I will explore ways to create greater opportunities for deep spirituality in New Thought spiritual communities.

Beautiful Garden

 

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

Here is where you can get my book

CREATING THE BELOVED COMMUNITY:

A Handbook for Spiritual Leadership,

in paperback or Kindle editions

(LINK TO AMAZON.COM)

DEEP CALLS UNTO DEEP – WHAT THEY DON’T TELL YOU AT SUNDAY SERVICES, PART 1

Spiritually Mature Subject Matter

This series speaks to the issue of spiritual maturity and deep spiritual work. The contents are not meant to offend or intimidate anyone. My intention is to speak to a deeper level of spiritual realization. In most of the world’s spiritual traditions, some teachings were kept secret from anyone not ready to receive them in a healthy way. In our modern tradition, we put warning labels on things.

You cannot hope to grow spiritually unless you are prepared to change. Those changes may come in small ways to begin with, but as you move further and further into the new, they will become more drastic and vital. Sometimes it needs a complete upheaval to bring about a new way of life. But it is amazing how soon you can get used to change as long as you have the courage and conviction that the changes which are in place are all for the very best. Let perfection always be your aim. Keep stretching. Keep reaching up to the seemingly impossible. Keep growing in wisdom and understanding and never at any time be content to remain static. There is always something new and wonderful to discover in this life, so expand your consciousness and your imagination to make room for it. Keep open and receptive so you miss nothing.”

~ Eileen Caddy

How many of us are willing to be open and receptive to such transformational change? How many are willing to go beyond mere lip-service and to do the deep spiritual and psychological work of radical self-discovery in order to experience radical self-acceptance? If you were told how much deep inner work, emotional development, psychic pain, and time would be required to achieve spiritual realization and master the important aspects of your life the first time you visited a New Thought spiritual community, would you come back a second time?

The Easter/Passover season is a good time to reflect on this question, as the deeper meaning of this time is transformation, or massive change. See my previous post on Holy Week (LINK) for more detail on this.

Cartoon - You Have to WANT to Change

While learning how to think affirmatively is an essential step in your spiritual growth, it is but one of many steps. Each of us carries shadow aspects (LINK) which we have been accumulating since our infancy, and these aspects have been repressed into our subconscious. We are not directly aware of them, but they are active in our lives – they affect our emotions, our worldviews, and our decision-making. We project these aspects onto others automatically and unconsciously. Ultimately, they form a barrier to further spiritual growth, as we develop much of our personalities in such a way as to avoid conscious awareness of our repressed selves.

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

A typical scenario can look like this: someone enters a New Thought spiritual community and learns how to think affirmatively, to visualize, to mediate. They practice these techniques and notice that the circumstances of their life improve. They continue for some time at this, taking classes, reading and so forth; and there is the benefit of being in spiritual community as well. After a year to 18 months, however, they notice that they have hit a wall in their growth – negativity seems unmoved by their efforts and spiritual growth appears to stop. What has happened is that they have used their newfound practices to attend to the aspects of their lives which were not bound by shadow aspects. But the shadow self remains untouched. Now the real work can begin.

Shadow Cartoon

The Shadow is Everything You Have Repressed About Yourself that did not fit your Idealized Self-Image

Unfortunately, this is the point where many give up, deciding that the teaching does not work. Some will leave, seeking guidance elsewhere; some will stay, but not pursue any deeper level of growth. Every spiritual community has long-term members who have not grown spiritually or psychologically since their first year or two of participation. Even more unfortunately, many New Thought spiritual leaders fail to guide their students through this inevitable stage of development. You don’t hear about this at Sunday services.

“You seem to harbor a deep negativity towards negativity, as something not to face but something to ignore.”

~ John Hogue

We get nowhere by ignoring the negativity in our lives. Likewise, we get nowhere by dwelling on the negativity in our lives. We only get somewhere when we begin the long journey toward replacing the negativity in our consciousness with something more positive. Some of this work is done at the surface level – by thinking more positively; but much of it is done by digging down deep into the psyche to root out the unconscious patterns we have developed, patterns which are largely immune to the occasional positive thought, or even to steady positive thinking that does not address them. Our teacher(s) can help guide us to this realization, but they cannot do the work for us.

“Nobody will save you but you. You alone have to engage your own contemplative development. . . . If you do not engage this development, and on your death bed you confess and scream out for help to God, nothing is going to happen. Spiritual development is not a matter of mere belief. It is a matter of actual, prolonged, difficult growth, and merely professing belief is meaningless and without impact. It’s like smoking for twenty years, then saying, ‘Sorry, I quit.’ That will not impress cancer. Reality is not interested in your beliefs; it’s interested in your actions, what you actually do, your actual karma.”

~ Ken Wilber

Each of us must do our own inner work – once we learn how. And as we move forward in our spiritual growth, we may learn additional truths and tools to use. The wise teacher is one who assists the student in learning and using the appropriate level of spiritual teachings and spiritual tools. Our developmental growth must go in a certain order. We may be able to absorb a great deal of information intellectually very quickly, but our practice must follow a more deliberate path. The psyche is not the intellect; it has different rules, demands different approaches. Where intellectual learning is the absorption of information and the occasional “AHA moment,” the psyche is moved forward by emotional growth and deep practice – in a nonlinear manner.

“I have always believed myself to be possessed of two souls, one that lives on the surface of life, pleasing and pleased; the other as deep and as unfathomable as the ocean; a mystery to me and all who know me.”

~ Adah Isaacs Menken, 1862

The purpose of all these efforts toward spiritual growth is to open ourselves to our divine heritagelove, compassion, and meaning. This divine heritage lies just beyond the obstacles we have placed in our psyches during our lives – most unconsciously and unwittingly; but there they are. When we realize more of this heritage, we are ready to do the serious work of engaged spirituality to create The Beloved Community.

In part 2 of this series, we will further explore the way forward if we are to be healed at depth. And, while all in good fun, that warning label will still apply.

Beautiful Forest Stream Scene

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

 

Here is where you can get my book

CREATING THE BELOVED COMMUNITY:

A Handbook for Spiritual Leadership,

in paperback or Kindle editions

(LINK TO AMAZON.COM)