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.

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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

 

 

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DEEP CALLS UNTO DEEP – WHAT THEY DON’T TELL YOU AT SUNDAY SERVICES, PART 2

Spiritually Mature Subject Matter

“I would be remiss if I did not sound a warning concerning the dangers associated with a radical change of consciousness.”

~ June Singer, Jungian Analyst

 This series is looking at bringing greater depth to spiritual teachings in New Thought. I realize that not only will some have no interest in this topic, some may even find it superfluous. But such is life.

The journey to spiritual realization is one made over time. There are no short cuts – not in the sense that permanent transformation (deep change) can come easily. Time is an essential ingredient. Even when we have some cathartic experience, whether an “AHA moment” or a major life event, the resulting changes must be integrated deeply into the psyche over time in a mellowing process. The deeply conditioned self is very stable – it does not change easily or quickly. We may feel changed at depth after a powerful workshop, but how often does that change translate into a truly new direction in life?

“It’s hard to leave any deeply routine life, even if you hate it.”

~ John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Those of us who are students and teachers of New Thought ought to be especially cognizant of this – we are in it for the long haul, not the quick fix. Ask any long-time spiritual leader what percentage of her students have evidenced deep, lasting, transformative change in their lives. The numbers will be small. “Many are called, but few are chosen.”

How many have done serious shadow work; how many have examined the depths of their psyches even to the point of recognizing their own destructive subconscious patterns? How many have proven this by showing a mastery of even the basics of living a life? How many exist in a space where all their energies must go toward physical, financial, and social survival? How many have little or no energy left for the pursuit of the inner life of the mystical domains, where spiritual realization must be cultivated? How many have even developed consistent patterns of positive thought and emotion, regardless of in what circumstances they find themselves?

“To find your own way is to follow your bliss. This involves analysis, watching yourself and seeing where real deep bliss is – not the quick little excitement, but the real deep, life-filling bliss.”

~ Joseph Campbell

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Every great spiritual teaching has elements that are inaccessible to the average consciousness. As a single example, the opening of the Gospel of Thomas (LINK) refers to what follows as the secret teachings, which are only to be made available to those who are ready to hear them. The danger in exposing an unprepared mind to great spiritual teachings is that they will be misunderstood and misused. It was a duty of a spiritual teacher in these traditions to determine what the student was ready to receive, and to give him or her only that much. Spiritual awareness is a process, and everyone isn’t at the same level of readiness at any given point. When we fail to include this truth in designing and teaching spiritual curricula, we set people up for failure – or, at minimum, place unintended obstacles in their path to spiritual realization.

Our inner integrity is always there, fully intact, in our deepest self. We have buried it, to one degree or another, through the accretion of false and limited beliefs over our lives. Spiritual development involves the gradual removal of this layer, the false ideas of self, and the revealing of that buried inner integrity with the goal of bringing it fully into our lives. We remember who we really are over time when we do the work of spiritual realization with rigor and determination. But at the beginning, we are ignorant, we think that our false and limited beliefs are the truth, and we fail to thrive. We seek what does not serve us, we dwell in anger and depression, we resist our teachers (and good teachers are essential in this process) and deny our true nature.

“The ego wants containment and control. It is only the soul that wants meaning and mystery. In fact, that is how I can know whether it is my ego that is leading me or the ‘brightness and the Holy Spirit.’ If I have not found a way to hear and allow that deeper level of soul, I will use all my roles, my relationships, and even my religion to fortify my ego and my private agenda.”

~ Richard Rohr, Dancing Standing Still

We begin our spiritual journey directed by our ego – the self-created aspect of the psyche which supports our current belief system. The ego is not a bad thing – think of it as the skeleton of the psyche, it will support whatever our dominant beliefs are. Our work is not to eliminate or destroy the ego, but to create a belief system or consciousness that is enlightened. We need to learn how to delve into the deep subconscious and eliminate the fear-based beliefs, replacing them with Truth. Our spiritual teacher(s) must have mastered this in her own life, and mastered how to teach it – two different things. And there is the fact that most people are not really interested in this level of spiritual growth – those who will go deep are few in number.

“Very few people ever mature. It is enough if they flower and re-seed. That is all that nature requires of them. But sometimes in a man or a woman awareness takes place — not very often and always inexplainable (sic). There are no words for it because there is no one ever to tell. This is a secret not kept a secret, but locked in wordlessness.”

~ John Steinbeck

If we are not changing, actually transforming over time, we are staying in place, maintaining the same belief systems while simply adding some spiritual-growth jargon to our vocabulary. The question of this blog post is – are New Thought organizations and spiritual leaders aiding and abetting this kind of spiritual malpractice? Or are they doing everything in their power to create environments where transformation of consciousness is not only likely, but expected? Or are they sacrificing serious students of deep change to serve a larger group interested only in surface change?

Chart - Comfort Zone

Spiritual leadership of spiritual communities is a complex undertaking. One must be concerned with any number of aspects of operation of a community organization. However, there must be a focus on developing core deep spiritual principles within those students who are willing to do the work. This not only perpetuates the teaching at a high level, but provides a significant spiritual influence on the entire community. Where mastery is taught, and emphasized, all benefit.

In Part 3 of this series, I will address how this shows up on the spiral (LINK), and give some guidance as to how to encourage a deeper approach to spiritual education (and in my book (LINK), I thoroughly examine this); but for now, let’s just say that currently we in New Thought tend to take a very egalitarian approach to our spiritual education – there is little, if any, rigor with regard to determining readiness for advanced materials, and, for the most part, our “professional-leveleducation has drifted more toward job preparation than to the development of significant levels of spiritual realization and psychological health. It may be time to expand our conversation.

Beautiful Flower Lotus

 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)

TO BE OR NOT TO BE: WHAT IS A SPIRITUAL LEADER TO DO?

“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

In a recent conversation with a colleague, they asked this question (paraphrased), “I’m tired of complaining, what can spiritual leaders do that is proactive in our movement and our organizations?”

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Since I began this blog, I have written on several topics relating to spiritual leadership and how there is a general lack of growth (to be generous) in the New Thought Movement that mirrors what is happening across the religious landscape in North America. People are departing, communities are struggling, organizations seem slow to move to provide support, and, in addition to the usual leadership challenges, spiritual leaders are confused about how to make their way through uncharted cultural territory. My series on “Is the Church Model Going Away?” (LINK) gives a good summary of my thinking on this issue.

There are also other issues, such as with branding. Several Centers for Spiritual Living (CSL) communities have changed their logos (in violation of their Affiliation Agreements with CSL, and putting the brand trademark of the organization in jeopardy). I think that this is reflective of a general tendency on the part of local communities and spiritual leaders to become more independent of the larger organization. It is also a sign that CSL has not maintained and upgraded the brand trademark, so people are voting with their actions. There are some similar dynamics in Unity as well. These are signs of a general feeling of not being served in meaningful ways by the organization.

“People in any organization are always attached to the obsolete – the things that should have worked but did not, the things that once were productive and no longer are.” 

~ Peter F. Drucker

This quote rings even more true when those served by the organization do not speak up for what they want to see happen and do not engage with leadership in productive ways. Necessary change is most often catalyzed from the grass-roots in an organization, not from leadership – they tend to become involved in organizational maintenance behaviors and putting out fires.

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

I have a limited understanding of the organizational dynamics in Unity, so I will focus on CSL.

Given a tendency for attendance and financial support to be down or flat over several years or more for many member communities, what can spiritual leaders do to energize proactive measures at the organizational (or regional) level? Here is a partial list – any other ideas are welcomed in the comments section:

  1. Get Clear About What You Want. Do you want to be a part of a larger, unified organization, or do you want to be a lone ranger? We have too many who seem to want some of each – getting what they can from the organization and then ignoring the rules and many of the issues that affect other communities. For example, using titles from accredited classes and then making most of the class about things that are not in the accredited curriculum, then having no issue with submitting the students for credit under the original title.
  2. If You Want to be a Member, BE A MEMBER: Pay attention to what’s going on; read communications from Home Office and the councils; volunteer to serve on a committee or two; attend or organize events with other regional spiritual leaders; subscribe the organization magazine and promote it in your ministry. Be proactive.
  3. Support the Organization Financially: What can I say? Tithe or give consciously in a generous fashion. What do you tell your members about financial support? Follow that advice for your community’s (and your own) support to the organization.
  4. Show Up and Lead the Way: Attend conferences and events to the degree that you can. Encourage your members to attend. Run for office and encourage your practitioners and lay members to do the same. Choose to be a positive voice in setting the organization’s direction. I noticed a request for people to run for the various councils – not enough names have been submitted. This is a sign that there is little or nothing to be gained by volunteering in this capacity. Maybe the councils need to review their own purpose and mission. What could they be doing that would better serve and create a more compelling reason for people to seek to be on the councils?
  5. Demand Accountability: I keep hearing that CSL leadership is not responsive to some of the issues that are affecting our communities and spiritual leaders. I have never known the leadership not to respond to calls for greater accountability and/or for specific actions when they come from the field. Too many spiritual leaders would rather complain in private or on one of the various list serves than to reach out of the leadership, either in a public forum or directly. I would say that rather than being unresponsive in any intentional way, many in leadership are not evolutionary leaders (LINK) of the type that are needed today.

When you say what you want from the organizations leadership, when you offer solutions – better yet, when you offer solutions and offer to help bring them about, the organization grows stronger and more effective. Also, let the appropriate people know when you do not get the kind of service that you are supposed to from the organization. If you stay silent when things don’t happen the way you want them to, you are just reaping what you have sown – and setting the table for the next person to get poor service. I know that some of you have reached out and not gotten what you desired, and there are no guarantees in this kind of thing – take the accountability to present your case in such a way that others are likely to agree with you.

  1. Finally, If You Want to be a Lone Ranger, BE A LONE RANGER: Take your community out of the organization if you cannot be a member in integrity OR if you simply don’t want to support the organization any longer. I say this not to be harsh or flip – I say it from a place of desiring a deeper sense of integrity and well being for all of us who have taken on the mantle of spiritual leader in New Thought. Dysfunctional relationships ultimately do not serve either party.

lone-ranger

We may or may not need an organization to carry our teaching to the world. Some will say we do and some will say we do not, and the truth likely crosses both possibilities. But I suggest that if we are going to have one, it should be the best possible organization, inspiring support and generating all the things that an organization can bring forth help spiritual communities to thrive. It should be a community of beloved communities, with highly developed evolutionary leadership, and a membership who engages at the organizational level. Otherwise, what’s the point?

“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

 Poster - Teillhard - Community

Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard

WHAT COMPASSION IS, AND WHAT IT IS NOT

“The bottom line is that we are called to lives of compassion. We are called to the work of liberation through love. That calling is the only thing in life worth suffering for.”

~ Lynice Pinkard, “Dangerous Love”

As it happens, compassion is an element of this week’s theme in the Centers for Spiritual Living Global Vision schedule of topics. As they say, the Universe has great timing. I’ll be speaking to the topic at the Center for Spiritual Living Fort Lauderdale on Sunday.

Regardless of where you find yourself in relation to the U.S. elections this past week, I am going to take this opportunity to call you to compassion. And that begins with yourself.

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”

~ Siddhartha Gautama

Beautiful Angel Sculpture

Compassion is one of those words that can cause a visceral reaction in us, often an unpleasant one. Surrender is another such word. In both cases, it is because we have very likely been taught a limited or inaccurate definition of the word, one that does not include its metaphysical meaning. We tend to think that compassion means “being kind,” and while that may be an element of compassion, it is by no means the whole definition.

Compassion is seeing yourself and any other as one, and responding to anyone else’s needs from your deepest love and wisdom. (My definition)

As this chart from Cindy Wigglesworth’s Deep Change.com (LINK) shows, compassion sits atop other ways of being with yourself and others. It is a way of being that must be developed – true compassion is not something that everyone can express, or even understand. It must be developed as an element of one’s consciousness. True Compassion can be the basis for selfless service, for true love of self and others.

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“The principal of compassion is that which converts disillusionment into a participatory companionship. This is the basic love, the charity, that turns a critic into a human being who has something to give to – as well as to demand of – the world.”

~ Joseph Campbell, Pathways to Bliss

Compassion may well be kind, but it can also be harsh. Have you noticed that sometimes you do not respond well when people kindly suggest that you need to change in some way? That sometimes, you need a push? And sometimes, you just need to be left alone? And sometimes, you need a shoulder to cry on? The response to any of these can be expressions of compassion.

On the other hand, do you have anyone in your life whom you can count on to tell you the unvarnished truth as they see it? That takes two things – such a person must be in your life, AND you must give them permission to upset you when you are in need to some “consciousness raising.” And I will add another thing that must exist – that person must be capable of compassion. Otherwise, their words to you may just be a way of satisfying their own ego needs.

It gets complex.

“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

“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”

~ Pema Chödrön

With all the recriminations going on in relation to the elections – gloating, scapegoating, and placing blame – I am seeing little compassion. I am, however, seeing lots of spiritual bypass being recommended – “Everything is in perfect divine order!” – “It’s ALL GOOD!” – and other head-in-the-sand comments. Well meaning perhaps, but not compassionate. Every species that has gone extinct, every human killed in wars, every oppressive act can be (and often has been) lumped into the “perfect divine order” barrel at one point or another. While that may be metaphysically true, we still must make our way through this human life, for which the impersonal Universe cares very little if you look at the evidence. Sometimes, you just have to stand up to that which is not in integrity and speak up. Sometimes you have to say NO as a compassionate response to destructive behavior. Sometimes you have to realize that their is no safe space available, especially when different value systems are present, and you have to respond from a compassionate heart with courage (cour = heart).

“Having compassion does not mean indiscriminately accepting or going along with others’ actions regardless of the consequences to ourselves or the world. It is about being able to say no where we need to without putting the other out of our hearts, without making the other less of a fellow human being. There is a difference between discerning & sometimes even opposing harmful behavior & making the other wrong – less than we are, less a part of that presence that is greater than ourselves – in our own minds & hearts.”

~Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Ernest Holmes said and wrote over and over various versions of this idea – Spirit can only do for you what it can do through you. Pretending that everything is okay is not helping Spirit to do its best work. It is not compassion, which knows that everything is NOT OKAY, but can see a way forward, the way of love.

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 “Real compassion kicks butt and takes names, and it is not pleasant on certain days. If you are not ready for this fire, then find a new-age, sweetness-and-light, soft speaking, perpetually smiling teacher, and learn to relabel your ego with spiritual-sounding terms. But stay away from those who practice real compassion, because they will fry your ass, my friend. What most people mean by ‘compassion’ is: please be nice to my ego. Well, your ego is your own worst enemy, and anybody being nice to it is not being compassionate to you.”

~ Ken Wilber, One Taste

Wilber may be a step or two into hyperbole here, but his point is sound. Compassion can only arise and be expressed from a spiritual warrior’s consciousness – from one who has been tried by fire and found herself sound. Whether your candidate won or lost has nothing to do with your capacity for compassion. Ironically perhaps, having your candidate lose might do more to help you expand than capacity than having things go your way – that’s just the nature of how compassion develops. Compassion is an evolutionary and developmental aspect of being human.

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Perhaps this election experience and the way our collective future unfolds in the near term will ignite the fire that strengthens your consciousness so that you can step forward as a compassionate heart on this earththe spiritual warrior’s heart. We need all of them that we can get.

“May this suffering serve to awaken compassion.”

~ A traditional prayer to Kwan Yin, Bodhisattva of Compassion

Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard

NOTE: A new Ministerial Coaching Program will begin after the first of the year. Private message me at DrJim-Lockard@att.net if you are a minister or ministerial student interested in participating.

WHEN THE SPIRITUAL LEADER IS TOXIC – PART 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

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

“The opposite of reflexive niceness is integrity.”

~ James Hollis, Jungian analyst

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

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

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

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

mentor

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ Parker Palmer

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

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

 

Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard

WHEN THE SPIRITUAL LEADER IS TOXIC, PART 1

This is a difficult post for me to write and publish.Especially right after my most recent post – WHY I LOVE NEW THOUGHT (LINK). I guess it is a case of divine timing.

It was inspired by a comment to a previous post on spiritual leadership (LINK). In my professional life, I have served for 24 years as a police officer and for 21 years as a minister of Religious Science. I say serve, because both roles are service if done properly – if approached from a consciousness of giving of your best self to something bigger than yourself. So I have served, imperfectly to be sure, but I have been able to give of myself in a variety of roles and have, for the most part, avoided the sense of separation that affects so many in the “service” professions.

integrity-2

From many in my law enforcement family today there is a sense of indignation that the citizens that they serve(d) would see them as harmful, even as casual assassins. But rather than a recourse to deep inner exploration, there is an angry retort, a “HOW DARE YOU!” attitude accompanied by a refusal to give an inch in the grand debate about relationships with citizens of color in the United States. This is a response from fear, from a tribal sense of us vs. them that has been cultivated over time in the police culture. It is the result of our (yes OUR) collective failure to teach things like emotional intelligence and the Shadow (LINK) in our culture. I include this information because my experiences in law enforcement have helped to frame my viewpoints about leadership integrity.

When I see the long line of spiritual leaders who have failed to show emotional intelligence (LINK) or spiritual intelligence (LINK) in their work, I weep. From the Catholic priests who abused children (and others) (LINK) to the televangelists who scam their emotionally unintelligent flock, to the New Thought ministers who have run afoul of ethical standards, we can see the difficulties inherent in positions of “service.”

Some years ago, since I had a background in law enforcement, I was asked to help revise the then RSI/ICSL policies regarding ethical complaints and investigations. In order to see what was needed, I reviewed a number of old cases (which I will not reveal here). What I saw was a number of very sad and disturbing cases where ministers or practitioners preyed upon or took advantage of those in their circle of influence.

What were the main drivers of these ethical and legal violations? The same ones that I saw in police work:

  • Money
  • Sex
  • Power

Actually, when sex was involved it was usually about power, not just sex. All of these issues arise from a sense of separation and a lack of self-value of one sort or another. Our New Thought teachings and their emphasis on positive thinking can form a mask, or create a spiritual bypass, over our inner fears, hatreds, and dysfunctions – even when they appear out in the open. The spiritual leader who becomes toxic (not in essence, but in actions) will often attract into his circle people whose own inner needs make them enablers of the dysfunctions of others. The Law of Attraction (LINK) works here to create a situation where harm can and does occur.

integrity-5

In many of our spiritual communities, we are conditioned to believe that the spiritual leader has the deepest knowledge of the teaching and that his knowledge should not be questioned; then, we may observe dysfunctional behavior and have to decide what to do about it. If we are lacking in emotional and spiritual intelligence, we will likely form a mindset that makes what the leader is doing acceptable and understandable, or we will deny it entirely. Those upon whom the toxic leader is preying will often come to be seen as the ones who have done something wrong.

The kinds of behaviors that occur in such cases can include relatively common ones, such as the spiritual leader being needy and creating a group around her who enable her neediness by trying to give her what she is not providing for herself. This can include attention, money, companionship, even romantic relationships, etc. Such a situation can upend the vision and core values of the community and put all of the community’s energy into serving the spiritual leader.

Another version of this is the spiritual leader with an autocratic streak, who insists on complete fealty from members, including board members and other leaders, to his authority. Often, people are bullied and trampled emotionally by such a leader. Trust quickly evaporates in such conditions and those members with a healthy sense of self-value will likely depart; leaving behind those who are inclined to be the victims and enablers of such behavior.

There may be no obvious great harm in this, at least not in the short term, however, the spiritual community who has such a leader will expend most of its energy in “supporting the spiritual leader” rather than in developing spiritually intelligent members.

Poster - Jung - Shadow Warrior

Other behaviors can be more damaging – such as a spiritual leader who borrows money from members or lets members pay for his expenses on a regular basis; or who takes “advances” on future earnings from the community bank account; or who embezzles the spiritual community’s funds.

A spiritual leader who takes advantage of others sexually through relationships established in classes or in counseling settings is another example of such seriously harmful behavior. Such abuses of power are always out of integrity – even though some have led to marriages which have endured. It is a paradox – but one that more often has a sad outcome for the spiritual leaders’ “romantic” victims.

integrity-1

So what are we to do when such situations occur? The spiritual leader is expected to be the living example of integrity and spiritual intelligence. What do we do when he or she is not?

In Part 2, I will explore what resources exist for such issues within the spiritual organizations, and what options members of a spiritual community whose leader is expressing toxic behaviors have in creating a healing outcome.

In Part 3, I will explore healing options for the spiritual leaders who find themselves out of integrity.

As always, your comments are welcome – however, I am asking that any comments about specific cases not include specific identifying information (names/places), for what I think are obvious reasons. Comments which include such information will not be published.

I am available for personal consultations – contact me at DrJim-Lockard@ATT.net for that purpose.

Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard

SELLING OUT VS. STANDING IN TRUTH – HOW IMPORTANT IS INTEGRITY TO YOU?

“Every time you use waffle words, back off from a clear statement of values and priorities and most of all, think about what’s likely instead of what’s possible, you are selling yourself out. Not just selling yourself out, but doing it too cheaply. Own your dreams. There is no better way to make them happen.” 

~ Seth Godin, On Owning It

Seth Godin’s (LINK) quote says a lot. It says so much that it is easy to skip over it and blithely go about one’s life as if what he wrote had not really been seen. The first time I read this quote, even though I copied into my quote file, I didn’t really SEE it. I saw it for the first time today when I came across it in that file while looking for something else.

One of the great challenges of spiritual leadership is the tension between trying to keep people happy and being a true teacher of spiritual principles. There are many occasions where being congruent with principles requires discomfort. If there is a lack of congruence between the actions of the spiritual leaders (or members) of a spiritual community and the principles they espouse, then the spiritual community will spend most of its energy in conflict or in simply trying to maintain the organization. This is a waste of energy, when that energy could be put toward the development of a community of love and compassion.

accountabilty-cartoonAnother way that this congruence can be distorted or lost is when the spiritual leader(s) opts to be “nice” instead of holding people accountable. Kindness is a wonderful spiritual quality, but failing to hold people accountable within a spiritual community can be, well, disastrous. And one can be kind when holding people accountable. The problem tends to arise when whoever is being called to accountability, be it a volunteer who has not honored their commitments or a student who is not doing their work, reacts to being held accountable in a negative way.

I cannot tell you how often spiritual leaders, in response to being challenged, cave in, choosing “niceness” or backing away entirely from holding the person accountable. This practice of avoiding difficult conversations is all too often present in spiritual communities.

“You can’t make everyone happy. And someone shouting at you doesn’t mean you’re wrong. What matters is maintaining your integrity.”

~ Henry Cavill

I am not speaking about political correctness here; we should always honor the essential nature of people and never speak in a way to diminish them. What I am taking about is honoring the person while criticizing behaviors that are out of congruence with principles and practices taught within the spiritual community. As a  spiritual leader you do your students no favors by failing to speak up when they are out of congruence or integrity.

Integrity is more than good ethics; it is an essential inner sense of strength that holds a person on course. Integrity is essential to trust, and trust is essential to community. The erosion of integrity in when a spiritual leader fails to hold people accountable can be very rapid and vast. When spiritual leaders waffle and fail to be clear in their expectations and accountabilities, then the spiritual community tends to lose its rudder, so to speak. Integrity, the capacity to hold together toward a vision, is an essential element in spiritual communityloss of integrity can be fatal – the community may continue to exist, but like a ship at sea without sails, it will go nowhere.

integrity-word-cloudIntegrity leads to congruence and congruence leads to harmony.

“The opposite of reflexive niceness is integrity.”

~ James Hollis, Jungian analyst

A spiritual leader with a strong sense of integrity will  work to develop a strong sense of kindness – a kindness that is bound in firmness. One does not lose one’s temper every time someone fails to do something; instead one kindly but firmly helps that person back on track – or, if the person chooses to leave, one lets them leave. One is kind but enforces well-communicated boundaries and practices that have been developed for the good of the whole community.

integrity-compassMembers of a spiritual community will tend to mirror the behaviors of the spiritual leader. If the leader is seen as being out of integrity in any way, she is giving tacit permission for others in the community to do the same thing. A spiritual community without healthy boundaries is a community open to conflict and disharmony. Honest conversations need to be the norm, rather than the exception. So often we move to stop anything that sounds negative or loud, without realizing that we are silencing the woundedness that needs to surface before it can be healed. When the spiritual leader is afraid to speak her truth for fear of upsetting someone, she is, in effect, selling out to her fear and teaching others to do the same. It takes courage to stay congruent with spiritual principles, and members have a right to expect their spiritual leadership to be courageous – to stand in truth.

“We live in a bourgeois cocoon of niceness and anything that breaks out of that is very threatening and disruptive to people. We have to work towards having honest speech with each other. When we have honest speech we have to speak out about the things that are unjust and unfair. We need a more honest and abrasive speech to bring our talk into connection with our social reality. Any intent to curb that kind of speech is a desire to not have reality pointed out to us. But if we don’t have reality pointed out to us nothing will ever change.”

~ Walter Brueggemann

A spiritual community of adults should speak and behave as adults. There should be an ongoing conversation about boundaries, accountability, clarity, and conduct.There should be ongoing Shadow work and spiritual practices aimed at deep healing and the awakening of the inner power to which we all have access.

People should expect to be held accountable and expect leadership to speak clearly and openly about such issues. This takes spiritual leaders who are, themselves, in integrity. May we all support one another in this endeavor.

“We will not refuse to help the helpless or lift up the fallen, but we will refuse to wallow in the mud because of our sympathies.”

~ Ernest Holmes 

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard