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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?

1 January 2016 4 Comments

Managing Your Energy Part 72: The Big Question About Spiritual Unity

Managing Your Energy Part 72: The Big Question About Spiritual Unity

Underlying some of the distress that can accompany intermediate personal and spiritual development is the following situation:

As we become more able to experience Unity, we may be treated as “other” by those who cling to the confines of what they can categorize and define. Those who cannot see where we are moving from, because it is outside of their experience, tend toIMG_0070 make up something they understand, or feel unsettled.

If being seen as other bothers us, we will be inclined to perceive those who ‘other’ us as other. This disrupts our current potential to experience Unity. It is on us, therefore, to be able to accept being othered so we do not other others.

How do we manage to see those who other us as ourselves, yet maintain the boundaries required to establish and maintain a spiritual resonance that invites the experience of Unity?

Do YOU ever experience being “othered”?

Please share your personal reflections on the topic.


25 December 2015 6 Comments

You Do Not Deserve God’s Love ;)

You Do Not Deserve God’s Love  ;)

We have it backwards: “You don’t get love by being good, you get good by being love.” ~TD

Issues about whether or not we deserve love are relics from childhood. Divine Love is not earned. Some might call it a birthright. I agree—but with prejudice. “Birthright” language evokes entitlement, which is often toxic. It also presupposes that we are separate from Source. Having the right to something brings Cosmic Teaup the sense of not having it, and having to demand it.

But where would we demand Love from? This again smacks of childhood wounding.

From an energy perspective, to invite higher Love we need to resonate with it. To resonate with Divine Love we become it. This means finding, sensing and feeling the quality of such Love inside—and amplifying it. Doing this is an act of creation. This does not mean it relies on fantasy. Fantasy is a sidetrack. The path is to locate the resonance of Love inside by learning to focus and call it forth from within. Then we blow on that like an ember. This takes spiritual work. Anything that stands in the way must be embraced—but not allowed to stand as a distraction.

When we have something, we can give it away. If we do not have it, it is not ours. Having Love means receiving it first. When we seek that in other people we are bound to be disappointed, as we probably were in childhood.

We do need to generate love for ourselves—but we need to catch the perfume or resonance of it somewhere in order to really grasp just what it is we are seeking. Finding Source can be very abstract. Most of us need one or more human role models to get a sense of how to ‘run’ that Love in our bodies.

The role model we choose is less important than learning to bring forth Love. Since I am writing this on Christmas eve, I would be remiss not to say that Christ could be one such model. Owing to various conceptions and experiences, that name aggravates some people, and many have belief systems that cause them to recoil from religion.

A current of Love and truth underlie and run through religions, but codes of belief do not in themselves produce the miracle called Love. Whether or not we are attracted to one or more religions, we take great benefit in identifying someone, somewhere, some time, who represents to us the possibility of being a human who is capable of experiencing and expressing the vibration of Divine Love. The word “God” can be too abstract, and also laden with freight. “Source” is abstract as well.

From where do we receive the impressions that stimulate in us true inspiration?

This is a wonderful question to ponder in this inward time of year, when we long to bring forth true joy, blessing and generosity.

Ideal Love will be a little bit different for different individuals, depending exactly which vibration of the rainbow of all love is key for that mind, heart, and soul to take the next step toward becoming it oneself. The being, saint, prophet, person, spiritual teacher, or element that inspires us may even change as we develop. It is important to learn to identify and allow our hearts to be impressed (like soft clay) by real Love when we see it, and to own as our privilege in being human, our right to enjoy and express that Love.

Having God’s love (change the g-word if it bugs you) means having it flow through us to others and into the world. It is not something we earn and then receive like an award for being a self or being good. It is something we cultivate and practice over many years or even lifetimes. Seeking to GET it enhances ego issues about deserving. We get more of it by giving. I am not talking about over-giving, driven by old wounds, I am talking about expressing from your heart.

No matter what is going on with us it is okay to allow Divine Love to come though us. If this depends on mood or being in a particular way, we will withhold it. When we let Love touch us despite our shortcomings it will help us to move beyond them, gently over time. Even if we do not move beyond them, our lives will have meaning and value because we have been vehicles for Love. There are no prerequisites. Concentration, attention and intention invite it. Noticing and making room for it when it comes helps sustain it. These are aids. There are no prerequisites.

Please feel free to comment.

I send you love in this traditional time of calling forth Light.



10 October 2015 0 Comments

Managing Your Energy, Part 64: The Inner Mechanics of Forgiveness

Managing Your Energy, Part 64: The Inner Mechanics of Forgiveness

P1070144“The first step toward forgiveness is to forget.” ~ Inayat Khan

“That is to say, remove all remembrance of the act from the mind. The one who has done wrong does this best by a complete change of attitude, so great a change that the mind will not again succumb to a similar temptation, will not permit the ego to sway it in the wrong direction. Those who have been wronged should steel themselves against being wronged again. In the first stage, one completely erases all recollection from the mind or ceases to regard the deed as an evil one–especially if one has learned a living lesson through the experience. This prepares one for the higher condition which is not to be insulted, not be wronged or hurt by another. This shows real spiritual advancement on the part of a person, that he or she is not affected or harmed by the acts, thoughts, or words of another.” ~ Murshid Samuel Lewis

The second quote is Murshid Sam’s commentary on Inayat Khan’s quote. I would like to share my reflections of them:

–This practice requires being in several internal places at the same time; able to be in touch with negative emotion without being run by it, so as to pick the Highest Option.

–Steeling oneself from being wronged again is an interesting construct. Paradoxically, doing this requires memory. This quote is like a tongue twister for the mind. How do we steel ourselves against being wronged? Doing this requires correct assessment of the situation, personal responsibility without blame, an intelligent readjustment to circumstances via a change in behavior, and the memory and mastery to maintain this adjustment going forward.

This being done, it is possible to “forget” the negative impact that occurred, knowing one has taken action to prevent it from occurring again. As we practice this we are moving toward a state of clear observation and understanding of the actual capacities of others, from which we are not likely to be surprised or offended by what they do. Once we remove any behavior on our own part that invites an inappropriate response, they do what they do because of themselves, not because of us. When we become fully responsible for our responses and vulnerabilities we see what others do without taking it personally and are less apt to feel harmed, or to place ourselves in positions in which harm may occur.

–When open-heartedness outpaces personal mastery, we find ourselves forgiving without learning how to keep from being wronged. The wounding that sustains this condition becomes circular as we place ourselves in situations or fail to support ourselves adequately and become wounded again and again. Intelligently managing this wounding can open the heart. Inability to do so leads to the perceived need to hold on to and remember what has wounded us, in an attempt to avoid further wounding. Turning painful episodes into living lessons breaks this circle, making it safe to forget and making our pain serve spiritual and emotional growth.

–Think of “forgetting” like this: Suppose you have something important on your list of things to do. Knowing it has yet to be done makes it stick in your mind. Once you have accomplished it, you can forget it because it is done and in the past. You know you have done it, yet it is empty of charge.

–How do we cease to regard as evil something that caused us harm? We may practice with less charged issues to learn this. By seeing into and accepting the human motivations that drive another person’s behavior we release judgment. We do not then view such behavior as ideal, but this can release the intensity of the charge we carry about it. When we recognize such motivations clearly we trust ourselves to avoid being harmed and our charge lessens further.

–When we have done wrong ourselves, making a clear distinction between our ideals–the Highest Option–and the dictates of ego initiates change of attitude. Engaging our hearts with our ideals and using positive remorse without guilt helps to realign intention. We release any claims we hold against ourselves when we are certain that we will not do the same thing again.

How do YOU manage forgiveness?

What does it take to be around people whose behavior is offensive without taking harm?

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?

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?

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?