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8 September 2017 0 Comments

Spiritual Practice, Sensitivity, Self-Observation & Socialization, Part 3

Spiritual Practice, Sensitivity, Self-Observation & Socialization, Part 3

continued . . .

One of the primary meditations that my Teacher recommends is to breathe in the all pervading life in space; breathe in the energy and life force, the wonder and beauty, and everything, and aim to feel that life force as an actuality, in one’s body. The results of practice are the little beginnings of this change, which I am tasting and talking about. Then we breathe out, focusing on the heart. Out of all the different energies and impressions, we focus on love, then intentionally select divine love, and breathe that divine love out of the heart., feeling it This is a powerful and beneficial way to meditate. It’s very direct and cuts out intermediate IMG_7789or unnecessary steps in development.

Of course—as with everything in this sphere of experience—there is a danger of doing the practice just in the mind; thinking that we are doing it instead of doing it with full body experience, energetic connection and emotion.

Working with breathing in and out the qualities of the different elements—earth, water, fire, air and ether—and sensing the differences between those modes of experience builds muscle when it comes to experiencing different energies directly, through the body. These modes of experience (symbolized by the elements) of course are always happening simultaneously in every moment, although the exact balance between them differs to shape each moment. By separating them out and doing them one at a time we can begin to get clear about each one and feel them more directly.

It is good to remember that there are certainly likely to exist many other elements that we may not have defined, just as there are dimensions we do not experience.

This type of practice is very helpful. The most difficult aspect of practice is to be able to sustain genuine self love. If I criticize and judge myself for being at the place that I am on the path, I will recoil and shut down. My self observation will stop, and I will be just like anybody on or off the golf cart, distracting myself and staying busy, or numbing myself to keep from managing the strong feelings and sensations that come up. If I can ALLOW the strong feelings to come up, and maintain self love, and the importance of tuning into and sensing my essence underneath all of the personality traits and fears, etc, then it should be a lot easier to do the same thing with other people. And with strong winds and moving clouds.

I’m sure I’ll still need ample time alone to manage my sensitivity. And that’s fine, because it allows me to fully open up. We need to wear some layers when we are around other people, and to be aware of the socialization that allows these animals that are also human to exist with one another. We all have coverings of socialization over the natural animals that we are underneath—all the instincts and drives that accompany having a mammalian body. Socialization has an important value, to help mediate these instincts and drives. We can respect the purpose of socialization without losing our self awareness—either of the instinctual self or of essence. This balance allows us to be, as they say in some spiritual circles, “In the world but not OF the world.”

It’s an adjustment to be able to see and recognize social conditioning for what it is without identifying with it to the extent that we lose our ability to truly observe ourselves as we are, or losing parts of ourselves to it. In other words: having a choice.

As I write this, using the voice memo function on my phone, several people have come by. It’s been fine; I’ve been comfortable because I took up those layers again. It’s key to be able to intentionally shift into the layer of experience that works for what we are doing at the moment. For the most part we get a lot of practice with the socialized parts and less practice with the parts that generally remain in the unconscious or superconscious. It takes time, openness, love, and often silence to access these layers in pursuit of wholeness and unity.

How do the habits and compulsions of your socialization impact your ability to be in touch with your deepest motivations? (For example, can you watch your responses to things openly without shutting down if you think they are not “nice”?)

In what ways do your socialized skills and habits impact your ability to be in touch with your unadulterated core essence?

1 September 2017 3 Comments

Spiritual Practice, Sensitivity, Self-Observation & Socialization, Part 2

Spiritual Practice, Sensitivity, Self-Observation & Socialization, Part 2

continued . . .

I’m contemplating these things and up over a little hillock comes a golf cart with a couple of people on it. I feel something recoil a bit, and I watch myself and ask myself, ‘Am I judging something? Am I making anything up?

I intentionally stay open. I watch and notice what I feel is an enormous welter of different impressions, all coming in. I’m not referring as much to my impressions of people as much as reading the energetics that show up along with them. And I’m not TRYING to read the energetics—I’m just feeling the energetics of the people through my being, and it feels intense. There is nothing wrong with these two people; they seem just fine. At the same time, I feel overwhelmed experiencing their layers: of mental assessment, egoic levels of P1150339artifice, and layers of social conditioning that stem from how they need to carry themselves based on what they tell themselves and what they have been told by other people and how they think they should be, and all the basic stuff—which I have too, but I may be less conditioned and more aware of it.

At that point I feel a little bit of distance from them, a little bit of alienation, a little bit of sadness about feeling those things. At the same time I know that this kind of thing is something that anyone who is truly a mystic goes through, at least from time to time. I want to feel more love. This feeling of wanting to experience unity is not only about wanting to feel love in the abstract, but of course I want to be comfortable embracing people as they are. At the same time, when the people at hand don’t really know themselves or love themselves, the divine Unity and essence within those people is being hidden by all those layers of derivative experience. By “derivative” I mean that it is derived by some process of thought as feeling as opposed to being a direct and complete experience in and of itself, like the bird, or the way a Zen master experiences things. The things we tell ourselves and what we derive from others make up layers or veils by which the divine in each of us becomes hidden from ourselves. It takes so much love to embrace all that and still keep love primary!

At this point I start thinking about my spiritual Teacher because he’s someone I’ve seen do this in practice, not just in theory; embracing everyone on the inside and experiencing unity with them. I know this not from words but because I’ve sat with him eye to eye in direct attunement, feeling one another with the simplicity of that little bird.  Moreover, after spending time with him I’ve experienced some of the things that he talks about and apparently experiences.

After my last retreat with my Teacher, I wrote the poem “The Rose,” which I put in my blog post on May 7th. I was walking the streets of San Francisco and I felt connected with everything and everyone in a loving way. I did not feel this discomfort about the layers. So there was no sense of alienation at all in my sense of mysticism in that specific state of Being. I ask myself, “What does it take to generate and sustain that kind of a loving state for myself?’

Of course, doing my spiritual practices regularly will aid in that direction. Various fears come up, about how a major shift might change the particulars of my life. I know that fear is normal at this spiritual juncture.

What fears come up for you when you consider immersing yourself deeply in spiritual practice?

To what extent does this fear influence how or whether your practice?

25 August 2017 0 Comments

Spiritual Practice, Sensitivity, Self-Observation & Socialization, Part 1

Spiritual Practice, Sensitivity, Self-Observation & Socialization, Part 1

I took a few days out in nature to hike by myself. While I was walking I did spiritual breathing practices that work with the elements—earth, water, fire, air and ether.

I’ve noticed that when I do my practices regularly, they do produce changes in my consciousness. My awareness and my sensitivity both expand. Sometimes that makes me stop doing the practices, because I become uncomfortable. I’ll describe a poignant experience:

I was getting ready to go for walk before going home, collecting my belongings. My interior Guidance chimed in and asked me to sit for five minutes. This directive was not something abstract or particularly subtle, so I was a little bit surprised. I sat down in a chair by a window. The room where I was staying P1150330overlooked part of a golf course. So I sat and just looked out the window without doing anything—which is unusual for me.

After breathing exercises and other practices in nature the day before, I naturally started to sense into the elements and into the space outside me, where I could see trees, and mountains in the mid-distant range, and a big expanse of air and atmosphere in between, birds darting around though it. I thought about a practice my Teacher likes: “Consider the plenum to be your own body of bliss.”

The plenum is everything that is out there; the fullness of all things in creation. I kept my sensors open, feeling out into all that space, and everything within it. A little bird landed on the corner of a nearby roof. I’m not too much of a bird watcher, but I could see her surveying the same territory that I was surveying. I was wondering what it was like to see it through her eyes, and began feeling her little heart in her feathery body, beating really quickly as little bird’s hearts do. She was so earnest, so simple, and so sweet. And she was sitting there waiting, watching, pausing before taking off in flight—much as I was doing myself.

I was noticing that when I expand into the space like that, sometimes even the movement of the wind, particularly the movement of clouds and sometimes strong wind churning through trees seems very stimulating to my nervous system. The movement of clouds can be so enormous and relentless, and so absolutely outside ones ability to control anything; a force, not an object. When I feel that way I scan myself to see whether I WANT to control something. Usually I do not. The feeling is like, ‘Something is happening and I’m not doing anything, and it feels powerful and intense, and beautiful in an awe-full way.’

I think it’s important to feel awe; to remember our place in the universe. I know other people feel this way sometimes, but I don’t know if it feels so intense in their nervous systems, if they take it in. I understand making one’s self busy so we don’t have to feel life so directly—because it’s so huge and can be overwhelming!

Of course stillness is the basis for much meditation and spiritual progress. It increases our ability to be at one with everything. I feel a bit cowardly or remiss when I feel an inclination to shut down or pull away. I’d love to have the courage to fully take on feeling deeper states of unity, but we have to simultaneously be able to feel solid in ourselves and dissolve our sense of self to do this.

Have you ever become sensitized to some type of experience or sensation after doing intensive spiritual practice?

What did you learn about yourself or your practice from this experience?

26 November 2016 0 Comments

Travel Experiences 11: Working the Wound, Part 5: Deeper Layers

Travel Experiences 11: Working the Wound, Part 5: Deeper Layers

Spiritual development is not a straightforward process. Even as we gradually gain mastery of some skills, the level of difficulty of simple tasks can telescope as we go more deeply into experience.

Using Divine Names in spiritual practice can address a vast array of issues at multiple levels of experience. We keep yielding deeper results if we employ them sincerely over a period of time. This post further illuminates the synergy between the practices Raqib (loving attention) and Hafiz (respect and protection), continuing from prior posts.

Effective spiritual practice can evoke deeper layers of the same issues that the practices soothe. Over time, practice eventually alters life experience and behavior. Initially, focusing on change often stimulates and evokes the issues we attempt to change. This can make practice difficult to sustain. Following through anyway allows us to uproot and resolve the issues and alter our img_4755responses to stimuli.

Meher Baba said, “True spirituality is not for the faint of heart!” Our essential unity with all Beings becomes easier to realize as we learn to face all that we turn away from. Some of our inner landscapes can be more challenging than what we experience outside ourselves. We resist seeing ourselves in certain ways. Spiritual work, intelligently sustained, ultimately works down into our defenses and identity-related processes, which often resist awareness.

Using my recent experience as an example: Among crowds, I was judging others for inattentiveness and lack of heart. I understand the origins of this reaction in my personal history. Understanding is a good step—but on its own, understanding may not dissolve reactivity. It does, however, form a basis for useful self observation. When I can bring loving attention (Raqib) and protective respect (Hafiz) into my self observation, my energy begins to change, helping to actually dissolve old constellations.

A classic antidote for judging is to find the same in one’s self. Let us consider the old biblical saying: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

Noticing everything that we react to in other people and looking to the cause of that reaction in ourselves is a good place to start. It is a useful operational premise to consider that when we judge others we have something to work on in ourselves. I used to think this was about my annoying flaws and the flaws of others. It can just as easily be about vulnerability, excessive-compassion, and other less-obvious imbalances.

As a young person, I found it easy to rationalize this way: “Viewed objectively, I have sawdust while they have the plank.” It was usually true. This was still an attempt to protect myself from my own exacting criticism. Even when the other person has the plank, this doesn’t work. What I needed to hear was that the next step is to find real compassion for how the sawdust and the plank arise and learn to express that compassion for both myself and the other person.

No bypass or defense, however well rationalized, enlightens. Awareness is key. (Ya Raqib)

By normal standards I am hyper-aware. Even though awareness is always a goal, I found it a bit scary to call in greater awareness with Ya Raqib. In img_4762actual fact, my practices took me into areas I had inadvertently resisted seeing, such as whatever was left of my inner wounds.

The places we have shut down are strongholds of ignorance. We instinctively protect wounds. Instinctual defenses often prevent exactly what we need from coming in. This is why we continue to need it. It is the thing that hasn’t been available, owing to our patterning.

Relaxing defenses does not mean walking around in states of excessive vulnerability. It means being observant without prejudice. This includes being open and willing to accept whatever protection (Hafiz) may be available.

Protection is not defense. Protection can show up as a form of grace, with which we move through the world, respecting things as they are. Awareness, for example, of a dangerous step, place, or person or circumstance need not evoke fear or defense. Respectful attention allows us to walk through or around danger without arousing it.

How does intensified attention differ from hyper-vigilance?

Focused attention does not stem from reaction. It is not embroidered by patterns from the past, or fear. Unlike hyper-vigilance, attention supports a steady condition of healthy orientation within the zen of reality.

Ultimately, spiritual practice develops the ability to stand in the dignity of Connection with Life, whether or not the people around us have enough heart to receive us.

How do your defenses keep out what you need?

What do you judge yourself for, and how does this judging keep you from resolving the underlying issue?

22 April 2016 2 Comments

Manage Your Energy Part 80: Spiritual Growth: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished? Part 2

Manage Your Energy Part 80: Spiritual Growth: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished? Part 2

Continued from previous post:

My Teacher told a story about a friend who takes about half an hour to enter a swimming pool. “That’s what we do,” he continued. “We come up on these thresholds. At every threshold of Awakening, there is a resistance at the threshold, and we get across into it and then we don’t STAY there, but we have the light of that experience. Now it’s in our cells. It’s in our body of light that we carry forth. It’s in our soul. Those are the things the soul doesn’t forget, because the soul can learn a new thing and have insight into it, and the next thing, it’s out of it’s vision . . .

“So that’s what we try and go through at first. You step over the threshold and you come back, and you have whatever experiences you have and you don’t lose heart—you don’t lose heart!

“And you don’t lose trust in your practice, but you don’t try and force it. You don’t achieve this by ratcheting up your will. You achieve it by trusting and letting go, and by moving very naturally through it. . . .P1000436

“So go across the threshold, but tell that unconscious part of yourself, if that’s what you’re working with—it’s just my intuition—‘Ok, I’m just taking a step here. I just want have the condition to do this. This is not a destructive activity on my part. This is providing That in which one lives forever. You’re not being threatened by this, except just in your control. You have to let go. I need you to let go. But you can only let go at the speed at which you’re willing, so let’s stay in touch about all this. I’m going to still continue my practice, and I’m not going to let that fear that happened as a result of having entered into this state, and now—okay—I’ve gone into this kemal state and now everything is different.’

“Sure things are going to strike you differently under certain circumstances. Under other circumstances everything we do, having come out of that state, everything you do will be perfect. No matter what happens, it just is perfect. So I can’t generalize about it, except to say that we all are unique in our configuration. Even our souls are unique. Even every time you say a wazifa [name of God] it is unique, even in the repetition.

“Everyone has a different terrain to deal with, and in so many ways we are alike. So that’s as much as I can say about it. I think a number of us have had that experience, of being afraid of some state that we’ve gotten into, because there’s a part of us that is geared up for survival. Geared up big time in a certain way. And that feels threatened. So we have to have a communication with that and say, ‘We’re not really dying now. This is something we do, and it’s not that it’s dangerous. Can you give me the support to let this happen?’ And sometimes you run into a voice of yourself from some previous age, and you say ‘How old am I?

“‘How old is this part of myself that is communicating? Am I nine now, or five, or fifteen, or what?’ This is all part of the adventure. So this is not like ‘an enlightenment intensive.’ I don’t even know what they are anymore. But when you come: ‘Now you’re enlightened!’ and we tap the magic wand.

“Sometimes there is just an instance when something happens. It was just a glance, it was just a moment. It never died. It’s still alive. —But that’s usually after many years of this and that or the other, and it just opens for you. It’s not that you cut the Gordian knot [a metaphor for an intractable problem]. Sometimes you have to cut the gordian knot.

“So I don’t mind taking questions. I hope it’s not boring for others, listening to other people’s questions. Generally the questions people have are not just for themselves. How many people felt a resonance with her question?”

At least a third of the people in the room raised their hands.

“If something comes up, go into it. Go into it. Explore it, don’t just take it as a random thought. If something really grabs at you, and it grabs at you several times, go into it. Stop what else you’re doing and take that inquiring breath and say, ‘What’s in here? What do you have for me? Why are you interrupting me? What do I need to know here from your presence.’ And you may get some surprises from doing that.”

Someone thanked me later for being brave enough to bring up the topic.

Which aspect of this discussion stands out for YOU the most?

What does it speak to in you?

What do you think it means to “provide That in which one lives forever”?

15 April 2016 3 Comments

Manage Your Energy Part 79: Spiritual Growth: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished? Part 1

Manage Your Energy Part 79: Spiritual Growth: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished? Part 1

At the spiritual intensive I recently attended, I continued to address the theme we were discussing before the last post, about the ins and outs of spiritual growth.

On the first day of the retreat, my spiritual Teacher (I’ll just call him W. in here) read a passage from Inayat Khan, who brought our lineage to the West. The quote refers to achieving a certain state of balance that maintains powerful opposites at the same time—“kemal”.

W. said, “I’m reading this because some people take one idea and walk down the road with it, and it may not be so helpful to them.”

I love that he said this! Spiritual growth is so NOT about finding some particular rule and living by that!

Here is part of the quote, in all its thought-provoking intensity: “The kemal temperament is found only in the holy beings who are living dead, who live in God, not in themselves. Every action, when it reaches kemal ceases to exist. And every person, and every plane of being, after reaching kemal, has a falling. Therefore those who study the nature of life, and who value the unchanging nature of life, drink the bowl of kemal, however bitter it may appear at the time. This is a bowl of poison.”

“So what do you think of about this?” my Teacher asked the group. “The kemal sounds pretty bad doesn’t it? Pretty extreme. However—there is a lot more to it.”

I asked, “Is this something that happens only to advanced adepts, or does it refer to the processes that happen to all of us along the path.” W. said it was the latter.

“It is the gift presented with the gauntlet,” he said, “You get something you desire—but it comes with a challenge. When you unwrap it, there is work you have to do, and it’s not what you expected.”

So much to contemplate here, but the group moved on.

I brought the topic up again the next day: “I’m still chewing on this reading you did yesterday, about drinking poison when you get to the kemal state.”

W.: “Well that’s only one place that it goes.”

“Right,” I paused to acknowledge that. “I had an experience during which my spiritual practice was intensive and consistent, bearing positive results, followed by a series of events that precipitated a prolonged dip into P1000434whatever was still left of almost every trauma I have endured in the course of my life. I found myself afraid to do my practices after that because I don’t want the consequence of having to drink the poison.”

“How do you feel about death?” W. asked.

“Well, dying seems a lot better than suffering. I’ve been thinking some about dying.”

“You could drink a cup of poison,” he said, laughing, and the group joined in.

W. knows I have a sense of humor about such things. I said, “Maybe I’m just not drinking enough! I could drink more and die instead of just suffering!” Most everyone was laughing now.

“You’re running into some ground floor conditioning that is fighting back.”

I asked whether the practice we had just done as a group—practice to surrender into allowing the personalty to die and our essence to be resurrected—would be useful at such junctions, or bring about additional suffering: “Is this a good practice to do if one is afraid of going into practice because one does not want to bring the karma on faster? Is it advisable to try and push through it by being willing to sort of die into the states, and head right into that pain and suffering?”

W.: “I understand what you are saying, and it’s a good question, and it’s a question you need to consult your own sense of Guidance around, because some people are conditioned to be martyrs, and they will jump right into the fire. —But it may not be their fire to jump into. And so, if you know what I mean, you don’t want to just jump.”

His response continues in the following post.

Have YOU ever noticed that intensive movement forward is often followed by a difficult passage?

What would you consider to be “the unchanging nature of life”?

18 March 2016 4 Comments

Manage Your Energy Part 76: Creating Your Reality?

Manage Your Energy Part 76: Creating Your Reality?

“No sooner does man become the creator of the drama of his dream state through the projection of his dormant impressions, than this very projection of his own dormant impressions reflects his past as if it were really his present, and man, finding himself involved in this drama, gets absorbed in his past while still maintaining his past to be his present.”  ~Meher Baba

This quote may initially seem convoluted, while it is actually quite lucid. It is structured in the same way the energy kind of bends when we are DOING what the quote is about. That energy structure makes the description more vivid, once we can wrap our perception around it.

Perceiving this evokes some of the elements of looking at the bottom half of your arm and hand under water. You see the illusion of disconnection between body and arm as the image is displaced by the view through water. The hand seems to be the wrong size and angle. It’s a bit confusing. At the same time you can SENSE P1120995that your arm and hand are in correct relationship with your body.

When we are involved in our pasts and taking them to be the present, a certain amount of distortion of the current reality occurs. This displaced reality often feels normal or continuous. We might say this is what happens in a dream; things that are bizarre when awake seem normal. Unlike correctly sensing that your arm in water is still straight and continuous, the illusory, shifted past-in-present can be a compelling “reality,” displacing the fresh, clean, present moment and casting that awareness into the background of perception.

As we begin to wake up into Presence, we may begin to notice when we are becoming absorbed in the past, replaying things that happened before and projecting them out like overlays upon the faces and events around us.

Have you noticed yourself doing this?

Re-live your awareness in that moment. Note that you can tell The Observer part from the parts of yourself, and of your experience, that you are observing.

What do you notice about when you are present to this awareness?

12 February 2016 5 Comments

What is Genuine Love?

What is Genuine Love?

“How few understand what love really is, and how it arises in the human heart. It is so frequently equated with good feelings toward others, with benevolence or nonviolence or service.  But these things in IMG_0108themselves are not love.  Love springs from awareness.  It is only inasmuch as you see someone as he or she really is here and how and not as they are in your memory or your desire or in your imagination or projection that you can truly love them, otherwise it is not the person that you love but the idea that you have formed of this person, or this person as the object of your desire not as he or she is in themselves.

“The first act of love is to see this person or this object, this reality as it truly is. And this involves the enormous discipline of dropping your desires, your prejudices, your memories, your projections, your selective way of looking . . . a discipline so great that most people would rather plunge headlong into good actions and service than submit to the burning fire of this asceticism. When you set out to serve someone whom you have not taken the trouble to see, are you meeting that person’s need or your own?” ~ Father Anthony de Mello

Contrast this understanding of genuine love with your conditioning about what it means to be loving.

What do you discover about yourself?

5 February 2016 0 Comments

Corrective Insights About Being “Religious” Post

Corrective Insights About Being “Religious” Post

A friend wrote the commentary, below, on my last post, and another friend shared an insight about the topic. I appreciate and welcome these loving and expansive viewpoints, and would like to share them:

“My religious conservative family in Arkansas and many conservatives I know abhor the word spiritual. It has been constructed as the other, much like the word liberal. Folks like this would say they are religious (period) and are offended by the term spiritual (again, think liberal). To the religious, there are specific forms of practice and these forms are required to be called a person of faith.

I grew up in that world. It worked well for me when it worked, and there came a time in my life when everything I had been taught fell apart. But for the rest of my family, it did not fall apart for them. It still works and be careful, because they have experiences of their faith. Experiences, just like Sufis have.IMG_0261 So you cannot divide believers from mystics around experiences. They both have experiences of their faith but they come to them through different means. Both are valid, even if I do not understand how it works for others who are not like me.”

Since thought and insight cannot themselves be Truth—which is ineffable and cannot be rendered into words—every insight opens itself to what is called “a corrective.” A corrective is another insight or truth that does not diminish the first, but augments and modifies it in an important ways, increasing perspective.

It was my intention to stimulate inquiry into the way rigidity of thought can make us uncomfortable directly exploring the Greater Whole. I like my friend’s comment because it makes my own thinking more flexible and comprehensive. It decreases the inadvertent “other” in my previous post.

A few reflections:

—Hypocrisy comes in both spiritual and religious flavors, as do all human issues.
—Superficiality and rigidity have many different types of packaging.
—Dedication to depth and direct exploration of personal experience are more likely to lead to growth than hand-me-down beliefs we do not actively engage through life experience, no matter what we label our experiences or call our belief systems.
—Either/or thinking limits us and exacerbates “other.”
—When there is an “other” group, each group is likely to project what we don’t like in our own group onto the “other,” just as individuals project inner material that is difficult to own onto other people.

The second friend with whom I discussed my last post shared another valuable insight. He said that some people who become “religious,” in the sense of having a rigid and codified way of managing reality, have emerged into this way of being only after living in unmanageable chaos. In this case, sorting reality into manageable categories is a big life improvement. This is one reason people may go from drugs to Jesus.

It is important to allow our beliefs to be flexible, to reach for experience, and to allow our experience to change as our hearts continue to unfold. Then again, we can only start where we are. Rigidity may compensate for fear, overwhelm, uncertainty, or shame.

Behavior and ways of thinking that are an advantage for some are severely limiting for others. The hermit crab needs a shell that is not too cramped and not too big to get around and stay safe. We are like hermit crabs in the way we view and take on life. We cast off beliefs that are too tight and take on the next bigger size, only to jettison that one as we continue to grow.

Whatever perspective we maintain, broadening it is of spiritual benefit—but we can only do that when and as we are able to do so and remain relatively stabile. Maintaining compassion is more important than maintaining any particular point of view.

When you are set in a particular view, what makes that view resistant to change?

How is this resistance structured inside you?

29 January 2016 2 Comments

What Does it Mean to Be “Religious”?

What Does it Mean to Be “Religious”?

I have a friend who uses the word “religious” differently than most people do. At first I had trouble understanding what she meant. She is a self-aware therapist, a shaman, and a highly insightful elder. I have been contemplating what she means when she describes someone this way—particularly those who are not involved in or interested in religions. Through my meditations on it, I have come to find her use of the term enlightening.

Let’s unpack what she is describing:

Spiritual people who are comfortable with the universal energetics and insights that underlie and lead to the development of religions are not “religious” in the sense I am about to describe–and probably already understand.

The word catholic means “broad-based, diverse and liberal” when it is not capitalized. It is used largely to refer to a person’s tastes. The same word refers to the Catholic religion when capitalized. Similarly, my use of “religious” here is like an antonym or opposite for catholic. It refers to tastes or habits of mind that are narrow, based on either-or thinking, and rigid. In this case “religious” specifically refers to IMG_1056belief that is mind-based, garnered from something one has been told to believe, instead of upon direct personal experience.

Here is an example: Someone I know was listening to a transformational speaker and became fixated on the fact that the speaker mentioned that he likes a particular country. Instead of paying attention to the transformative value of the speaker’s offering, she went off on a mental tangent, judging him for supposedly tolerating atrocities she associates with that country. Obviously she had no way to know the speaker’s standpoint on the problems. This thought-based, emotional reaction was irrelevant to the main thrust of the talk.

The content of the talk applied directly to life issues she was too fearful to take on. In this incident, judging the speaker and taking attention away from what was being said constituted:

–a defense, preventing insight from getting in
–a way to stay stuck, avoiding life change
–a conceit, owing to the use of moral superiority to hide behind

We cannot say someone is “religious” based on one incident, any more than you can say someone is Catholic if they attend one Christmas Mass. The habit of thought I am talking about is consistent. It is a defense against insight.

Implications of “religious” and characteristics of people the term fits:

–narrowness gussied up as idealism or Rightness
–judgment of other people under the veil of moral superiority
–black and white thinking
–trying to navigate life from a set of rules instead of sensing what is going on and making a fresh and principled response

Let me unpack this in more detail: Unfounded, mind- or belief-based, idealism is “religious.” It is unfounded on experience, impractical, unpracticed, or even unpracticable in actual life. Movements or political actions based on concepts that spring from judgments, reactions, and suppressed personal emotions create, at best, ancillary problems. This can be seen as a naive attempt to solve a problem without appreciating the context in which the problem exists. I will skip making an example here to avoid inadvertently stirring up reactivity, taking those who most need to hear this off on a distracting tangent.

From the perspective of learning personal balance by working with the Elements, being “religious” can be described as: too much Air (thought), heated up by Fire (passion), in the absence of adequate Water (emotion—this kind of reactivity is out of touch with personal emotion and uses reactivity as a substitute), with the Element of Earth being both deficient and stuck (Earth represents grounding in reality. When it is stuck, people become rigid and resistant.).

From another point of view, being “religious” is almost the same as being controlling. The person is seeking security and stability by being Right. Like all psychological defenses, this behavior protects the person from insight and change until he or she is ready and able to face life’s paradoxes and inconsistencies more directly.

A lot of people who are spiritual dislike anything religious because they lump it in with the “religious.”

Similarly, many good hearted people resist spirituality because they associate it with control issues and hypocrisy, including wars and outright abuse, supposedly founded on religions. Those who have openly explored numerous religions understand that the universal and spiritual heart of each religion stems from something lovely. The “religious,” unable to grasp the heart of it, become fanatic and sometimes perpetrate upon others. Again, that is a conceit and a defense.

None of us are totally free from limited thinking or judging others. Excessive resistance to religion can show a “religious” reaction toward those who are religious. :)

People being people, there is no group anywhere that does not contain individuals who are “religious.” Wherever we have beliefs, we have people who grasp them with their minds and become passionate, without yet being able to live these beliefs from day to day. This is a call for compassion.

It serves us to look inside and see where we are being “religious” ourselves.

What are YOU “religious” about?

How does this play out in your life?

What persons or groups show up as “other” when you hold this view?