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11 September 2015 3 Comments

Managing Your Energy, Part #61: What IS Personal Development? & Guidelines for Whether to Remain in Difficult Circumstances

Managing Your Energy, Part #61: What IS Personal Development? & Guidelines for Whether to Remain in Difficult Circumstances

“When a defect becomes common, it is considered as the normal state by the generality.” ~ Inayat Khan

These behaviors indicate the kind of personal development I have been referring to in the last few posts:

—the ability to accurately self observe
—familiarity with one’s defenses and ability to see them in action
—having a healthy relationship with power
—the ability to observe everything one does not like about one’s self without losing at least partial objectivity or self love, including any abuses of power
—having established an observing center of consciousness that is present and operates like the hub of a wheel, like the still point within all personality manifestations
—the ability to be consistent over time, when choosing to do so
—a high degree of personal congruence between thought, speech, and action
—being able to observe and acknowledge lack of congruence or inconsistency without activating defensive behaviors
—knowing where one’s blind spots are and being willing to recognize and explore them if someone points them out
—the ability to intentionally produce authentic positive states
—the ability to observe one’s reactive emotional states without overly identifying with them, while simultaneously in touch with parts of Self that are not in reaction

Obviously, if someone cannot self assess accurately, they will be unable to evaluate their relationship with the above capacities.

Again, we are not consistent. We have aspects of ourselves that are more developed, and aspects which are less. We are susceptible to conditions, circumstances, physiology, and many other influences that can conspire to activate hidden places we have not mined, or push us P1140113beyond our ability to cope. For those on a path of development and awareness, it can be said that these stresses not only SHOW us what we are made of, but BUILD who we become. 

Given that the pressures of life assist in bringing out who we are and in forming who we become, by what basis do you determine whether or not a difficult set of circumstances serves you? 

Comfort may keep one embedded in habitual conditions that do not support Awakening. 

How do we determine whether or not a stressful situation serves us? Here are some useful questions or potential guidelines for your consideration:

—Am I able to learn through the distress this situation brings up?
—Does this distress further my development?
—Am I discovering something new, or repeating something?
—Am actively in the process of learning how to engage with the same circumstances in ways that do not evoke distress?
—If the situation is resistant to change, are there any elements of the situation that CAN be modified, that will take pressure off of it? What would I need to do to enact this change? How can I enable myself to do so?
—Does my intuition support remaining in the situation?
—Do I sense a karmic aspect to this situation? If so, what does it call for?
—What would I need to do or learn to create a sense of resolution?
—Is remaining in this situation the Highest Possible Option at this point in time?

While they can certainly help, even clear guidelines do not always transfer into the messiness of life itself. Especially in moments of overwhelm, we may make choices that do not serve us. The more we seek to learn from these experiences and aim not to repeat them, the more reliably we can use them to enhance positive values.

When a situation becomes static and is not changing, it is time to do something different. Flatness or a deadened heart must not become a status quo. With the exception of conscious, living ritual, repetitive, scripted or patterned interactions usually consume time and life energy without offering much in return.

How do YOU sense whether a stressful set of circumstances is useful to you?

How do you make use of stressful circumstances?

What does it take to keep you engaged if the conditions are difficult?

4 September 2015 13 Comments

Managing Your Energy, Part #60: Challenges of Intermediate Spiritual Development, Part 2

Managing Your Energy, Part #60: Challenges of Intermediate Spiritual Development, Part 2

“Truth alone is success, and real success is truth.” ~Inayat Khan

“Reality itself is its own evidence.” ~Inayat Khan

Last night I had a delightful discussion walking with a dear friend. He’s a psychotherapist, highly involved in spiritual and self development groups. I suggested that we discuss “the specifics of the personality’s defense structure in relation to an individual’s capacity to self observe.” We had fun with that one.

I can’t say how relieved I was when he synchronistically brought up the exact conundrums I’ve been chewing on in this post series. He spoke about several spiritual traditions, and their descriptions of the perception and behavior that accompany different levels of initiation.

Models are not necessarily important to me. What is important to me is experience and resolution of distress.

I know, accept, and agree that in ultimate consciousness we are all, already, God. That is a cosmic truth. Simultaneously, on human planes of experience, we DO have different capacities to perceive, to self observe, and to express mastery within our lives.

Over the last few posts I’ve been building a context for several key points. I am seeking to communicate how difficult it can be and what it feels like to be fairly developed and to interface intimately with people who are P1130939not as self aware as they THINK they are. This is not about ego. It is not about being better than someone. It’s about trying to sort myself out and get clear about who I am, rectifying self observation with actualities.

I must assume that some of you are in your own processes about this.

If I were to lay out the body of knowledge—which I do not know—about levels of initiation and their related criteria, this would objectify the context. I might also lose most of you. I still begin to glaze over when my walking friend goes into the details.

It was frustrating and made me sad when I could not get through the leader’s defenses at the recent retreat. My walking friend described exactly how the defenses work in those who teach spiritually but have not resolved them, and which layers of defense persist the longest as one develops. I felt relieved and understood.

I am still chewing on Therese’s comment about 5 blogs back: I totally agree that we must accept where people are at, and be able to step away. I also perceive value in the ideals and processes that make me choose engagement over disengagement more often than it serves me.

I need to balance my passionate values and willingness, with applying my good discernment to CHOOSE whether to engage or step away from moment to moment.

Working with what Life gives us to manage is another value that yields important rewards in facing parts of ourselves we would not otherwise encounter. Balancing this value with a genuine need to step away is a delicate art. Such a choice is best made from our highest motivations, from not habit, policy or merely to avoid discomfort.

A friend just called me. Her partner (also a friend) said something that hit a sort point. It was readily evident to me that his comment was shaped by his defense structure. It had nothing to do with her. She was confused because he tends to be highly aware and emotionally appropriate.

In a conversation about the topics over the last few blogs, he pointed out: “We can be highly developed in many areas while other parts of ourselves lag behind.”

It can be confusing when someone who is usually self aware makes a comment from of a part of themselves that is less developed.

Self awareness is both subjective and objective. Self observation provides a degree of objectivity toward our subjectivity. In result, we do not become consumed by or fully identify with our emotions or states. This confers perspective and supports growth.

Advanced self awareness is not about what we THINK we are, it rectifies experience with actualities. We need reflection and interaction with actual peers or those who are more developed than we are to achieve this. As we develop, there are fewer people who can reflect us accurately.

Relating gets complicated when people we interact with project onto us what THEY are or think—especially if they do it with a lot of misguided conviction. Sometimes I still get confused when I receive ‘reflections’ that are not aligned with who I know myself to be—or perhaps even who they are themselves! When one is sensitive to energy, the person’s conviction and sincerity can create confusion about who we are as we take that in. This compounded when the person does not know who THEY are and lacks continuity from moment to moment.

I described to my healer an interaction during which someone was making demands of me that had no basis in the reality of who I am. His concepts of where I was coming from, what I was doing, and how meeting his demands could play out in actuality were skewed. My healer smiled gently and said with compassion, “It’s like he’s asking you for a square football.”

What is the difference between THINKING you are developed in some way and actually BEING developed in that way?

What causes a gap between the two?

How it is possible to address this gap?

21 August 2015 7 Comments

Managing Your Energy, Part #58: Do We Have a Civic Duty to Speak Up?

Managing Your Energy, Part #58: Do We Have a Civic Duty to Speak Up?

“Right and wrong depend upon attitude and situation, not upon the action.” ~ Inayat Khan

Some spiritual schools encourage students to remain together in situations that spawn conflict. Aspirants develop by finding some way to come to real peace while remaining in relationship with the people around them.

As a powerful person who tends to speak out, I still suffer when I step on someone’s toes. Some years back I went so far as to bring this up with one of the world’s top humanistic astrologers. I wanted to start this blog, and was worried that I might offend people. I asked him to look at my chart and tell me how I could step into a more public view without evoking irritation or causing distress.

His response shocked me. He said that waking people up–even to the extent of being somewhat abrasive–is part of my purpose on the planet. He went on to say that the problem was not that I stir things up, but that I feel bad about it afterward. He cited this backlash of oversensitivity as the problem, not boldly expressing my views. He went on to mention people who enjoy celebrity status precisely FOR the kind of behaviors I was hoping to eradicate.

The more powerful we become and the more developed we are, the more our actions require balance, compassion, and discernment. Since I believe that it is important to speak out and do not have a thick skin, I must develop mastery.

I believe in feedback. I believe that if we all speak our objections, respectfully, when companies act in ways that cause large numbers of people unnecessary stress, that this will eventually a difference. I believe that P1140304when a company or an individual acts in ways that are offensive, we serve others by speaking up. Participation and involvement are important, and can be civic-minded.

We have different natures. We are not called upon to act identically. The saint accepts everything without complaint. In contrast, those on a path of mastery seek to adapt the world to the highest common denominator. Both paths are valid.

I do not believe in moving to the lowest common denominator to keep an awkward semblance of harmony when I might be able to inspire or create something greater.

Some may say it is arrogance to think we can know what this may be, but I will say this is the way the world goes round and how we learn. I seek to move from my heart instead of imposing some idea out of a mental judgement or a false sense of superiority; to remain in a spirit of unity and service. I would rather make mistakes than to fail to act when I am moved to do so.

I don’t want to burn myself out with the ‘unreachable dream’ racket. I aim to move from inspiration, not compulsion. I want to be lucid about what is mine to do and what is not.

I do not believe in cookie-cutter solutions that rely on rules instead. In addition to the particulars of the moment, whether or not our actions are of benefit depends on:

—our motivations
—whether we are acting from strength or from perceived weakness
—our willingness to self observe
—how successfully we can stay in our hearts
—the physiology, tensions, and conditions that influence our body language
—how skillfully we have apprehended the actual situation
—the exact timing of our actions
—the capacity of others to respond within this timing

I believe that the world is a better place when we bring forth our authentic voice and contribute our views–with the caveat that we do so as kindly as we are able.

What do YOU believe?

What is our civic responsibility?

What is our spiritual responsibility?

When and how is helping wake one another up part of our karmic purpose?

14 August 2015 13 Comments

Managing Your Energy, Part 57: The Shadow of Respect

Managing Your Energy, Part 57: The Shadow of Respect

“Those who try to make virtues out of their faults grope further and further into darkness.” ~ Inayat Khan

I recently overdosed on platitudes about respecting people. I would like to explore a counterbalancing perspective—stating the things we just don’t say.

What does it really MEAN to “respect” someone?

In my last post I described one of the things that respect means to me, among friends. It has to do with honoring one another’s ability to hear and receive insight, through open interaction.

The rest of the world isn’t necessarily thinking the same thing when they talk about respecting people. P1140314Respect is one of those words, like love or god, that carry a lot of freight and mean different things to different people.

I have a sneaking suspicion that often enough, that when someone talks about treating someone with respect, underneath this honorable and sincere intention there is often a shadow. This shadow will be reflect an internal struggle, or in the ambivalence that made them think that more respect might be required. If respect was already present, what called forth a need for respect? Can we own what is going on inside?

In support of wholeness and integrated growth, let’s get past being too politically correct or spiritually correct to look at how we really operate and feel inside. Coming to grips with that makes our values authentic.

Most of us are fairly versed already in all the nice parts of what we mean by respect. Let’s explore more of the shadow side:

What if treating someone as they want to be treated amounts to being asking to respect something for which we do not have inherent respect?

Abusers, for example, often demand “respect. What they often mean is to allow them to control you, or to overlook their behavior. They also mean not to hold up any mirrors. It may also be necessary to pretend one is not in distress.

This reminds me of a brief passage I read decades ago in an Ursula LeGuin book: “The giant Groff was hit in one eye with a stone. That eye turned within. He died from what he saw.”

I love that quote! It speaks eloquently to the Achilles heel of the part of us—which is so often HUGE—that can be aggressive and problematic. The only thing that can bring it down is self-awareness. And how mightily one may resist.

Lots of people take respect to mean, “Don’t disturb me with a view that would expand my understanding.” They will not, of course, TELL you, or even tell themselves that this is what they mean—not in so many words—but it bears out in conversation.

Obviously, there is a difference between respecting someone as a person, and respecting their behavior. We generally do not respect all of our OWN behavior. When we respect someone but do not find their behavior respectable, they may take objection to feedback to this effect. This opens a can of worms. I’m not planning to dive into that can wholesale, but I have a few further comments, which I will make in subsequent posts.

For someone in the business of furthering Awakening, it can be a dance to respect (to have sensitivity to) the defense structures of an individual, while intentionally expanding his or her perspective. Professional boundaries simplify interaction. Day-to-day interactions with persons who are not actively pursuing spiritual growth are more complicated. More complicated still are interactions with persons who believe they are pursuing growth while simultaneously resisting it.

What makes YOU feel respected?

What do YOU do when you respect someone but cannot respect some of their behavior?

7 August 2015 2 Comments

Managing Your Energy, Part #56: What do You Mean by Respect?

Managing Your Energy, Part #56: What do You Mean by Respect?

“There is no action in this world that can be stamped as sin or virtue; it is its relation to the particular soul that makes it so.” ~ Inayat Khan

Let’s talk about respecting other people. We can get caught up in assumptions about what it means to respect someone. At the risk of being a bit controversial, I want to broaden the context of respect. We can get too ‘spiritually correct’ and become rigid and rule bound instead of using our personalities as vehicles for development of the soul.

Respecting others does not necessarily require silence, feigned agreement, or withdrawal. Personally, I do not feel respected by these behaviors. I feel respected when someone cares enough to engage with me, and even to challenge my views, especially when they do so to discover me, to explore

together, to advance mutual understanding, to bring forth more comprehensive values, or to resolve discomfort. Such engagement, whether or not we agree, is often an expression of love.

I am thinking of my best friends. We respect and trust one another enough to engage in healthy dialectic. This means that if we do not agree on something, we each hold and expose our views, exploring back and forth, influencing one another’s views in the process. I have gained depth and perspective by engaging like this with people I respect.

Someone who does not have the strength and confidence to hold a differing point of view, or who uses apparent (not genuine) agreement in an attempt to be liked, or who retreats from P1140337those with whom they disagree misses out on this richness and development.

Disagreeing with people can be an expression of real respect. In respectful disagreement we let another person know that we consider them strong and flexible enough to take in a different point of view. We are actively or tacitly inviting their views. We are opening ourselves to dialectic.

Americans tend to be conflict avoidant. This is not true of most native New Yorkers–many of whom enjoy playfully criticizing people who are indirect. When I have visited, I have taken comfort in knowing just where people stand, and received active appreciation for the same.P1140245

In rural India, I have witnessed people standing a spread-hand-width apart, engaging in loud, animated voices. They’d exchange a few sentences, reach a conclusion, waggle their heads and say the equivalent of ‘okay’ in a quieter tone, then turn and be on their way. I witnessed trust, respect, and a lack of self consciousness that gave them the freedom to quickly resolve their concerns.

In my late twenties I spent a few weeks in Europe at a large camp with people from several countries. They actually criticized me–and Americans in general–for not bringing forth clearly defined views and opinions in conversation. They found conversing with Americans boring. They were accustomed to EXPLORING their points of disagreement. Whether or not they appreciated and enjoyed their differences, honest expression contributed to understanding, being on solid ground, and to enjoying a more distinct sense of identity.

Even controversy, when handled with respect, allows us to explore the edges, peaks and valleys of a topic, clarify who we are, and to learn to exercise our values and ethics.

Conflict is necessary to develop a sense of self. Conflict need not spring from anger. It can spring from passion about important values.

If anger arises, and we are open to learning, we discover what is important to us and what we need. The key is to keep the heart open, especially when angry.

Anger is a powerful force, which can be used destructively, or to create boundaries, clarity, decisive action, and even to inspire greater values. Conflict can be used in the same ways.

Those of us who become overly passionate in behalf of other people do need to learn to refine our expressions and allow people to make their own choices. Feedback helps us learn this. Meanwhile, those whose toes we may step on have a chance to learn to put forth their boundaries and to speak up.

I suspect that some conflicts are part of what could be called the Divine Plan. We can use them to stimulate insight and to master our rough edges. We may be challenged to accept ourselves if we overstep, but accepting some conflict is healthier than hiding in the corner for fear of causing offense.

What do YOU mean by respect?

When is engaging in conflict more loving then stepping away?

When is remaining silent a missed opportunity for love?

19 July 2015 15 Comments

Managing Your Energy Part 54: Musings on Self Realization, Part Three: Learning to Love those we Cannot Love

Managing Your Energy Part 54: Musings on Self Realization, Part Three: Learning to Love those we Cannot Love

“Shatter your ideals on the rock of Truth.”  ~Inayat Khan

The urge toward self realization, actualization, self awareness, and awakening is a major driver in the Universe. It supports so much of what I hold dear because it gives meaning to human endeavor.

While not the most evolved stance, when someone who is important to me eschews what I most value and hold as right and good, it rankles me. I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

I’ve been thinking about just what it is that I find disturbing about unconsciousness. When someone SEES and ADMITS their foibles, this often makes them acceptable to me. This intrigues me. Is it because I can accept it when they do?

When we do not accept ourselves, it is harder for others to do so.

One of the key drivers of the Universe is the urge to become Self aware. It strikes me that when we RESIST awareness, we are moving away from this primary spiritual impetus. It just seems ‘off’ to me. It heckles my truth-sensors and aggravates my values and sense of honor.

So does standing in judgment of those who are less evolved. I am seeking to come to peace with the fact that much of humanity lives in the darkness of our own ignorance and denial. This peace is not coming easily.

I’m finding it useful to explore what it is about unconsciousness of self that I find offensive. Let me avoid listing attitudes that support atrocities, and stick to the mundane expressions of ignorance—although they are cut from the same cloth. Denial and overlooking one’s abuse of power may play our trivially in daily life. This ignorance is still of the same nature as that which some act out in damaging ways on the slate of an entire country.

We separate ourselves from others when we wall ourselves off to defend ourselves from insight. Then we can act in ways that cause harm without realizing our essential unity with others. The unity exists, yet we ignore it. That is ignor-ance.

I’ve been asking myself, “How do we love and bond with those who are not particularly developed?”

Paradoxically, we need to be able to NOT bond with them; to stand clear and solid in our own knowing of Self. As we are able to keep from being confused, or selling out parts of ourselves to go into unhealthy bonding, we have real choice. Now we become able to bond AND to un-bond and stand on our own. From this stance of inner freedom we can enjoy various points of commonality with others without becoming confused with them.

My spiritual tradition regularly sends the benefits of deep spiritual work to all of those in need, with the aim to aid, bless and awaken. This kind of Work allows us to experience Love and spiritual unity with P1060832others, regardless of their level of development. I greatly appreciate having role models who demonstrate what this Love feels like, so that I can participate while I am learning to generate and sustain it on my own.

Learning to love those we cannot love is one of the most personally and spiritually expansive endeavors we can undertake. It can confer meaning on difficult situations, allowing us to use them to our spiritual advantage.

When we bond with the One-in-All, inside, we find that others are no longer separate from us, whether or not they are Awake.

What traits do YOU find hard to love?

Do you have a need (like connection), a value (like Truth), or an ideal (like self awareness) that underlies this?

How can you reformat your ideals to expand your ability to Love?

12 July 2015 8 Comments

Managing Your Energy Part 53: Musings on Self Realization, Part Two: Important Questions

Managing Your Energy Part 53: Musings on Self Realization, Part Two: Important Questions

“The hardest thing on the spiritual path is to become fully human.” ~Meyer Baba

I am in deep contemplation before joining at an event with a spiritual teacher, seeking to be open to him after a set of group experiences during which he resisted self awareness. He is a Friend I have always loved.

I am asking myself what it is about resisting awareness that disturbs me. I am asking myself whether I am judging.

I am discovering that I am not judging, but I am disappointed. I will explore this here because it is a valuable inquiry.

I am not one who requires that a teacher or leader be perfect in my eyes. If I have ever prided myself on something it was this: A mentor I once told me I was the only person he had mentored who transitioned to a P1060813friendship instead of finding some pretext to make him wrong or reject him, once they were powerful enough to no longer need him. I did not have to push him away to realize and sustain my growth.

A teacher’s mark of high success is to have students grow beyond them.

I am willing to see humanity and foibles of my current Teacher without allowing them to interfere with my enormous respect. This gives me the security that I am not likely to feel let down or foolish down the line.

Several people I have mentored have ‘discovered’ my own humanity, and taken objection. This is ironic since I have always been forthcoming about my flaws and challenges. When they retreated, their projections continued, flipping from positive to negative as they sought to come to grips with the issues were driving these views. I find it sad when someone feels they must withdraw to stand as a equal. I always aim to demonstrate gratitude to my mentors by standing BESIDE, as I become able.

What marks the difference in being able to accept the humanity of a teacher, friend, or fellow human, and becoming disappointed in them for their shortcomings?

Also, how do we hold OURSELVES with a respect that is not subject to erosion by our own shortcomings?

Contemplating my ability to accept my own and other’s humanity, I have to start with my spiritual Teacher and my healer. They provide the clearest mirrors. I respect them easily beyond any issues they may have. They are well aware of their shortcomings and are committed to Truth.

I also consider my work with clients. I can hold space for their growth with love, and support them without feeling superior or judging them for the issues they are so brave to confront.

When I plumb my experience and ask myself why I have difficulty with the shortcomings of some while accepting those of others, I realize that what matters to me is that the person is actively pursuing and working on becoming self aware.

Now I see that my distress regarding the Friend I will see shortly stems from the fact that he repeatedly resisted what he was being shown about himself in and following the incident that occurred.

Why did this leave me feeling so distant?

I felt shut out.

Truth is the meeting hall for Essence, where We meet when we are in touch with and moving from Essence, together. This is the sacred ground where we really connect. It has nothing to do with theory, belief, opinion, speculation, or the mind. It is the actuality of Connection we experience together when we meet heart to heart without concepts, in the simple authenticity of feeling.

When we defend and deny, we close the doors to the meeting hall. Reactive emotion without the presence of neutral self observation blocks insight exploration, and connection. It keeps us in personality, unable to access Essence.

Willingness to do one’s Work is often the fulcrum upon which relationships hinge.

I am looking for space in my heart to connect from Essence with my Friend and others, without allowing any incident to block stepping into shared Truth in another moment. I have confidence in my ability to do that, and I hope he lets me in as I remain open to him in his humanity.

How do YOU feel about connecting with people when they are not open to seeing what they are doing?

What conditions do you hold for engaging fully with others?

Is there something you can supply for yourself that can allow you to release your conditions and still remain emotionally healthy?

5 July 2015 2 Comments

Managing Your Energy Part 52: Musings on Self Realization, Part One: What Is Self Realization?

Managing Your Energy Part 52: Musings on Self Realization, Part One: What Is Self Realization?

What does it mean to realize Self?

The more developed we become the fewer people are able to fully take in who we are, or recognize where we are coming from. Since we are social animals, we instinctually tend to bond by becoming like those around us, to fit in. This urge toward social adjustment is most intense during youth. It is limiting. Teens, for example, may conform rigidly in their group’s particular brand of nonconformity.

Individuation is a step toward Self Realization. Individuation—becoming a fully developed individual—challenges us to step into our uniqueness. As we do so, we may well find that our values, preferences, and ways of spending time are out of step with the herd. Our insights may be intolerable to those who live more superficially.

In this context of personal development, self realization can mean:

–Becoming who we genuinely are
–Making ourselves real
–Bringing forth our essence and expressing it in the outer world
–Realizing—as in having insight into—who we are

It can be strange to be around people—perhaps even stewing in the energy they are putting out—and realize that they do not and cannot recognize where we are coming from, how we feel, and what is important to us.IMG_0658

After the difficult process of separating the fibers we have entangled in group, family, or couple identity to weigh in as our authentic and unique selves comes figuring out how to relate all over again. How do you realize who you are without viable reflections from the people around you?

One way is to develop friends, healers, and/or spiritual associates who are at or beyond your own level of development. Relating being-to-being, in a two-way flow is a blessing. We all need accurate mirrors. Love, clarity, support, and co-creation bless such encounters. They enhance insight, clarity, fortitude, purpose, and confidence.

Until we stabilize authentic self knowledge, the way we experience ourselves may be markedly different among the projections and misconstructions of those who are unable to mirror us, who may in fact oppose or obstruct us. Those of us who are empathically open are often challenged to maintain our realization of who we are, feeding clarity, understanding, and love back into our Selves around confusing input. This process is an opposite of seeking to bond with a group that requires conformity. It may take some practice to learn to bond with groups open enough to encourage authentic participation.

The urge toward self realization, actualization, self awareness, awakening, and so forth is a major driver in the Universe. It provides the impetus to grow, supplies meaning, and gives us myriad processes that develop character, substance, positive values and mastery in the personality. Holding this aim, no matter what we call it, offers us the chance to take whatever experience we have and to dignify it by applying it toward something of ultimate value.

How do we become real to ourselves?

How do we become self aware?

What stands in the way of becoming self aware?

20 June 2015 3 Comments

Managing Your Energy Part 50: Spiritual Saving for Our Ultimate Retirement, Part I

Managing Your Energy Part 50: Spiritual Saving for Our Ultimate Retirement, Part I

“In order to become myself I must cease to be what I always thought I wanted to be, and in order to find myself I must go out of myself, and in order to live I have to die.”  ~ Thomas Merton

Questioning the purpose and value of our lives need not be morbid. It arises from a longing for something more, something important. Beyond distraction, looking to relationships for belonging, or seeking to diagnose these feelings, they can be seen as a call of the soul for meaning.

Let me make a quick aside and say that belonging is meaningful, but does not substitute for being able to create an internal and a more universal sense of meaning. I am saying that if our only source of meaning depends on belonging with specific persons and groups, this may be insufficient. We can lose people and groups can disband. In addition to belonging with people or groups, we need to develop a sense of belonging in, of, and as our Selves, as citizens of and participants with the Universe.

As we mature emotionally, we learn that life purpose is not all about what we do in the outer world. We P1040289learn that meaning supplied by external situations and relationships is transitory, and can be eroded by life’s inevitable losses. This realization can hit hard around retirement. I have also seen it arise in the young and brave, the profound, and in those struggling with illness.

When we are truly able to know that we will die, how we spend our time and what it means to us become vital.

While we may well have meaningful projects and purposes in the world, daily life is our foundation—and may eventually become all that we can sustain.

When we do not create and imbue our days with a sense of meaning, we feel hollow and unsatisfied. Daily life can become like going through the motions, or even drudgery. We seek something to make it worthwhile.

Enacted with Presence and Love, taking care of day to day needs is inherently meaningful. Our experience is a matter of what we bring to it.

Remembering that we will die supports living fully.

Suppose we consider death our Ultimate Retirement. There is much we can do to prepare, and this particular type of Inner Work has inherent meaning and value. Living well in preparation to death has similarities to planning for retirement. Unlike planning for retirement, planning for Ultimate Retirement does not involve putting things off or holding things back for later. It consists of doing things now that will appreciate over time in addition to making daily life more meaningful.

Earning for retirement supports hope for a golden period. Whether or not that period is indeed golden will depend in part on these preparations. It also depends on being able to support a sense of meaning without the organizing principles and structures of work life, and in the face of unavoidable losses that accumulate through the course of life.

What makes retirement happy and helps us to decline with dignity and grace?

Part of preparation for retirement or death depend on coming to grips with losses; taking joy in having had experiences in our lives, even if they are no longer be available. Part of it is also gratefulness for what we are able to experience in the moment. We can learn to appreciate the past, but still release it—without being bitter or destroyed by the difficult experiences or angry about losing the pleasant ones. Without denial or being insincere, this means practicing surrender to the realities of life. It is never too soon to do this Inner Work.

Short of a near-death experience we rarely become suddenly able to accept life and death gracefully. It takes practice and intention. It is meaningful Work. This Work begins as soon as we are able to do so.

Think about those you have seen who are preparing for death. Many become bitter, regretful, contracted, and fearful. Some bring forth a precious courage and generosity of spirit that inspire the living.How and when do we become like that? 

Do you have any role models for aging or dying positively?

How do/did your models inspire you?

How do YOU create a sense of meaning during daily activities?

3 April 2015 3 Comments

Managing Your Energy, Part 41: Spiritual Growth Amidst Conditions and Circumstances

Managing Your Energy, Part 41: Spiritual Growth Amidst Conditions and Circumstances

Life conditions and circumstances can be excruciating. The spiritually advanced people to whom I have been exposed have not had easy lives. They do not flinch from the hard realities. Neither do they become enmeshed in difficulties. They learn bring peace into the world by cultivating peace internally, in the midst of life.

One spiritual teacher I know teaches learning to maintain one’s spiritual attunement through life’s conditions and circumstances. He maintained his rhythm, practice, open heart, and positive approach in the face of financial crisis, loss of a son, and cancer, all three within about eighteen months. (Remind me not to teach that!) He deepened admirably, inspiring his community.

Those who are spiritually advanced are not necessarily better people. Owing to their experience, they make useful role models. Addressing the wounds, resistance, fears and challenges that keep us from fully participating in life is an ongoing process. It takes time, intention, and courage. And under some conditions we just can’t bring those resources forth. If we can still practice generating wholesome energies, such as compassion, forgiveness, and peaceful power, our process becomes easier.

Acceptance of life as it is is not something we arrive at and then own. Acceptance is an active and living accommodation. Acceptance is supported by practicing discernment, and developing a stream of Guidance that helps us to sense what is ours to do and what is not. When we recognize what we can and cannot do, it is easier to IMG_0020release the things over which we have no direct influence.

Involvement in life is as much a matter of Being in ways that make a difference than of engaging in external projects and events.

If we view participation only with respect to what we DO, we miss much of importance. As we age, for example, we can aim to radiate love and wisdom, whether or not we are able to engage fully in external affairs. Our value is not determined by Doing. BEing matters at least as much as what we DO.

Feeling and caring is Being. Prayer, everyday habits that support the planet, and breathing in ways that create a calm or loving atmosphere can be just as important as taking up service to a cause. If we take up too many causes we dilute our ability to do good, exhausting ourselves and dissipating the energy that underlies our positive influence. Living with intention, resting and nurturing our bodies, and accepting our limitations are ways of Being that serve the world too.

Spiritual growth can and does result from what we think, choose, and enact. It is perhaps most greatly expedited by intentionally cultivating particular types of energy. Meditation cultivates calm, even, positive energy. Meditation on Beings who have become spiritually illuminated is even more direct—if one is drawn to it. There are numerous ways to cultivate positive energy.

As we grow spiritually, it helps to keep power and love in balance, by developing them alternately. When love is stronger, compassion may make it painful and overwhelming to keep an open heart. More power is needed. When power is more prevalent than love, we may become insensitive or strident, calling for increased love and compassion. Although not linear, this aspect of spiritual growth is like climbing a ladder, hand over hand, with alternate rungs of love and power.

The more mastery we have over our own energy—and hence our state—the more power and influence we have. This power must be tempered by wisdom if it is to be of benefit without causing problems. As wisdom matures through life experience we realize more vividly how vital it is to sense when to act and when to reserve action and temporarily surrender expressions of personal will for the Highest Option for All Beings.

Do you feel your value when you are BEing, or must you DO to feel you are worthwhile?

How is your current balance between power and love?