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In this issue... The Power of Blessing Parenting from the Heart Parenting Q & A: Issues of Discipline The Presence Process Q & A Jesus and Religion: Examining the Difference Awaken the Buddha in You Movies to Grow By: Chocolat When the World Becomes One Book Review: The Coming Interspiritual Age
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From the Publisher
The Power of Blessing Why is blessing so powerful to effect good, and thus healing? When we bless someone, we are extending love and spiritual healing. When we bless someone, we bless from a spirit of valuing and of gratitude. Such appreciation carries immense spiritual power. A blessing from someone to another is a request that God’s grace be poured into the one being blessed. A heart-felt blessing is the power of your love being poured into the other. In Genesis 1, we read that on the sixth day of creation, “God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them. “Then God blessed them, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and conquer it.”
Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam in The Sistine Chapel
God’s very first act for humankind was to bless them, to pour favor and grace into human beings. Let us not forget that we have been blessed by God, and as we live in Oneness with God, our Father, we are carrying this blessing in us and with us to all we meet along our way. Still from Genesis 1, we hear that on the seventh day, after God completed the work he had been doing, he rested. Then, “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy.” Blessing makes holy! Isn’t that a remarkable thing to know? Look at what we hold within ourselves to do. Even if we may not feel holy ourselves, we must be, since we hold within ourselves the power to bless others and make them holy. What a gift! No wonder we are repeatedly asked to bless our enemies and those who persecute us. Often when I speak to an audience about the importance of living a life of service to others, I reference a little known prayer from 1 Chronicles 4:10. It’s called the Jabez prayer. In 1 Chronicles, the Bible gives a long list of those who have been blessed by God. Then, when it comes to Jabez, he is singled out to be given more import because he prayed the perfect prayer.
The Jabez Prayer And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my (service) territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested. Jabez knew what a blessing it is to be of service to others. In blessing, we are blessed. So in asking God for a larger constituency to be of service to, Jabez starts by asking that he be blessed, indeed. How could it be made clearer to us than this? Being able to be of service to others is an amazing blessing. If we too want to expand our service territory, we should ask with all sincerity, “How may I best be of service to others at this time?” And we could say the Jabez prayer daily. In the book THE LEAP – Are You Ready to Live a New Reality? I share a personal experience of one who knew the importance of blessing and took every opportunity to do so. On a trip from Vancouver, BC, to Los Angeles, CA, I had to pass through U. S. customs. It wasn’t busy that morning, so no one was marshaling us into particular lines. Since I could choose whichever customs officer I wanted to go to, I scanned their faces, and one caught my eye. His expression was warm, his countenance inviting. “You marked the purpose of your trip as both personal and business,” he said. “Yes, I’m speaking at a church in Orange County,” I explained. “I am a publisher, and the congregation has read a number of our publications. Given the success story of my small publishing house here in Canada and the nature of our publishing mission, they wanted to hear what I as the Founder and Publisher had to say.” “What areas do you publish in?” the officer asked. “Spirituality and Self-Help, “I said. “Spirituality!” he exclaimed. “That’s what we need. You know, I am not really a customs officer. I am an undercover blesser. Working as a customs officer is a way to meet people. If I didn’t meet you, how could I bless you?” He nodded at a group of people who entered at that moment. “Look at all these people. Look at how many I get to bless.”
“You don’t need my talk!” I responded. “But I sure am going to tell my audience about you.” “Have a wonderful trip,” he said with a smile. This was a United States customs officer! Instead of feeling under suspicion or intimidated, I was received with a welcome and warmth. This officer left me with the reminder of the goodness to be found in the most unexpected places and people. Each day we get the opportunity to bless our food and drink. But do we make use of these opportunities? “Bless this food. Bless this water, this wine, this martini too.” If there would be anything that could be deleterious to our health in our food and drink, could we not eliminate such with our simple but sincere blessing of it? I muse that at some former time, when water in a particular place was not purified and therefore not fit for drinking, the priests in the Roman Catholic Church who held the power of administering the sacraments and blessing knew the power of blessing and that they could purify water by doing this. Blessed, holy water would surely be made pure. Still today when we enter a Catholic church, we will find a little stoup containing holy water on the wall near the entrance into the church where worshipers dip their fingers in before making the sign of the cross. By blessing water in the Roman Catholic Church today, the intent in the blessing is to pour God’s grace into the water so all who bless themselves with it will receive this grace. But no one has a monopoly on blessing. Each one of us can bless water and make it holy. We don’t have to have any special spiritual title or status. The word, as you know. is powerful, and the spoken word even more so. The U.S. Customs officer silently blessed those who came to his kiosk each day. This is mostly what we do too. We mentally say, “I bless you” to others we are moved to bless. It’s important when we do this not to just mentally say the words, but to do so with presence and heartfelt sincerity. On the other hand, the power of the spoken word in immensely more powerful! Don’t be hesitant to bless someone out loud. And ask them to bless you out loud as well. Parent save an amazing opportunity to bless their children by name out loud every morning and every evening. And partners do too!
It’s hard not to share personally when talking about blessing. In our family, our fiveyear-old grandson is given the role of blessing when we sit down to eat together. He has created his own way of doing this. He sits at the head of the table. We are all directed to hold hands then repeat along with him, “I bless you. I thank you. I love you.” We say these words four times. The first time is for the cook, the second for a recently lost loved one, the third for the food, and the fourth for everyone at the table. One of my older sisters regularly pats different parts of her body saying, “I bless you for staying so healthy for me.” And we have the House Blessings posted on a plaque to the side of our front door. It reads: Health. Peace. Protection. Prosperity. These are given to anyone who enters our home or even comes to the front door: the postman, the FedEx delivery person, a canvasser, and I like to believe even also passers by. A wonderful spiritual practice is to keep a running yearly list of blessings that come to you, broken down into monthly segments. That way, it’s natural that when you start into a new month, you review the blessings of the previous month and thereby give thanks for them a second time. How can we not bless, knowing the transformative and healing power a blessing releases—that it actually makes holy anything and anyone we bless? To all of you reading this, I love you. I bless you. I thank you. Namaste.
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THE LEAP softcover
Ty and Linda Teaching Parenting
Parenting from the Heart An Interview with Police Officer Ty Hatfield and Child Development Specialist Linda Hatfield Namaste: Ty, you were a police officer for some thirty years. Then from 1999 to 2011, you and your wife Linda taught parenting courses while you were a police lieutenant and raising three daughters. You retired from the Long Beach Police Department two years ago and stayed on as a volunteer reserve officer with them, which you continue to do today. What was it about your work that drew you into teaching parenting? Ty: For me, the big change began while I was in the middle of my career, thoroughly enjoying my work as a supervisor sergeant at the time. I took a nine-month leadership program, which required me to read books I’d never before been exposed to—such works as Jonathan Livingstone Seagull and Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
During the course we also watched movies about young people who, far from drifting into a life of antisocial behavior, were making a significant difference in their world. For instance, in one case we studied a twelve year old who was having a huge impact. The course inspired me not only by showing me what a child can accomplish with the right guidance, but also to want to do more myself to make a difference. My wife Linda had a background in teaching and child development, so it was a natural fit for me to become interested in helping young people. Linda: Our friends and acquaintances were continually asking me for advice on raising their children. They also wanted to know how we balanced our lives, given the pressures of family and work. So when Ty completed the course he had been taking, he convinced me to begin writing on parenting. To help in the writing process, we both took a class called Redirecting Children’s Behavior. We felt we were pretty good parents, but we wanted to learn as much as we could about the latest proven techniques. After taking the class, we realized that even with my training, there was so much about child dynamics and communication that we still didn’t know—concepts and tools that hadn’t been taught in the training either of us had gone through. Ty: From this point on we found ourselves simply parenting from the heart. As a result, major changes occurred in our own home. For instance, we no longer put our daughters in timeout. We also stopped praising our girls, which we thought we were supposed to do to raise good kids. We learned that it’s counterproductive. When we altered the way in which we responded to our girls, we saw a rapid improvement in their behavior. To the degree that we changed as parents, the girls adopted a more empowered way of approaching the many issues that come up in a family. Consequently, behavior such as sibling rivalry diminished, which meant that our home became a whole lot more peaceful. As the atmosphere in the home improved, all of our interactions became healthier, so that we began functioning as a team. As a result of what we were learning both cognitively and from our experience in our own family, Linda and I found ourselves being asked to teach more and more classes. For instance, we taught the program Redirecting Children’s Behavior for some six years, becoming area directors who trained other people. Throughout this time, and in fact still
today, we were constantly seeking out the most cutting edge insights into how to parent effectively. We started teaching parenting in 1999, creating our own program in 2007. Linda: Following our time with Redirecting Children’s Behavior, I went back to school to earn my masters in spiritual psychology from the University of Santa Monica. My project was to write a parenting program, which became a manual —one, I might add, that’s always evolving as we learn more, such as through reading Dr. Shefali Tsabary’s books. I was studying parenting every day, and I stumbled across Dr. Shefali on YouTube, which led me to her book The Conscious Parent. And now of course she has the follow-up book, Out of Control—Why Disciplining Your Child Doesn’t Work and What Will.
Dr. Shefali Tsabary
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Namaste: Ty, you continue to be active in law enforcement. You are trained in hypnotherapy and the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). Plus, you are a certified Seven Habits of Highly Effective People instructor. Do you see your quite different way of approaching life, especially how we raise our kids, eventually affecting law enforcement, which appears in so many ways to be oriented toward the punishment model? Ty: Law enforcement has changed over the years. Twenty years ago, police departments preferred to hire former military personnel. This was because policing was more focused on physical restraint, which meant ex-soldiers were well suited to the work. Since then, I’ve watched law enforcement evolve considerably, primarily as a result of ongoing education such as the kind that changed my own direction.
These days, training includes the most current research on how the brain functions. As an example of the difference this makes, when a person is in a fight-or-flight mode, they can’t communicate well. If you are a police officer on something as simple as a vehicle stop, you’re automatically going to be in a state of fight-or-flight readiness. In such a keyed-up mode, communication tends to be at a minimum. This makes it difficult to connect with the individual, and therefore difficult to elicit cooperation. Understanding how the brain functions at such a time equips an officer to help the person who is being detained become more grounded, more peaceful, since the officer is also coming from a more grounded and peaceful place. A few decades ago, hardly anyone would have listened to the approach to policing I teach today. Although we still have a lot of work to do on this front, I’m encouraged by the changes I see, which is why I continue to work in the field by conducting law enforcement training. Linda: It might surprise you to hear that the kind of training Ty does comes right out of what we teach in our parenting classes. He discovered that, with just a few tweaks, our curriculum works perfectly for law enforcement officers—or in fact for anyone who operates in a stressful environment. Ty: I find that self-regulation is a crucial aspect of what I teach in law enforcement. If you are in a patrol car on your way to a situation, and you’re on a ten- or even twelve-hour shift, you can become so stressed that you aren’t really aware of just how primed you are. To be in such a state for long periods, with all that adrenaline circulating, has a terribly detrimental effect on your entire system. In such a state, it’s easy to be unaware of how you are speaking to people—how you are coming across. All of which adds to the potential explosiveness of a situation. Namaste: Speak to your own background, Linda, if you would. I taught elementary school for six years. My bachelors was in child development. After Ty and I married, we had three daughters in fairly rapid fire—just three and a half years, in fact. At the time, we were teaching people how to redirect their children’s behavior. However, I increasingly found myself supplementing the basic instruction with the latest insights from science and psychology. It was the fact the field of child development was expanding so fast that inspired me to go back to school for my masters. This worked out perfectly, because of course we had lots of practice implementing what we were learning, since by that time our three daughters were in junior high and high school. It was out of this experience that I wrote our own parenting course, which is an eighteenhour, hands-on course. This was in 2007, and we have continued to update it with the latest research ever since. Like Ty, I particularly found the brain research helpful, in that it
solidified what we had learned and what we continued to intuit from our own everyday experience as parents. When you put the findings of psychological studies, child development, brain research, and temperament styles together, it’s a powerful package. Ty: Our parenting course is especially helpful because it’s truly experiential in its orientation, which means it’s effective whether you tend to be more left-brained or more right-brained in the way you approach matters. It also works whatever your personality type. It’s a huge shift from the old style of autocratic parenting. We call it win-win parenting. It’s a heart-centered approach. Linda: Our girls are now 21, 23, and 24, and we can see the results of parenting this way. The way our daughters operate as young adults in the world is markedly different from their peers. Our relationship with them has been greatly enhanced, which means we communicate very openly and at a deep level. Consequently, I’m extremely grateful for all the things we’ve learned, right back to Ty going to that police officer training all those years ago. The girls were quite young at the time, so it was difficult. But if he hadn’t taken that training, our lives would probably have been a lot different. Namaste: And you are working on a book, right? Ty: Yes, we have the beginnings of a book—a lot of material assembled, waiting to come together in a manner that truly touches people in the way Dr. Shefali’s books have touched us. Our desire is to take the concepts we’ve developed and make them applicable to everyday life the way we live it in our home. Linda: We find a lot of parenting books quite conceptual. We believe we have something truly worthwhile to offer when it comes grounding these concepts in the reality of specific situations. For instance, you may know that it’s counterproductive to put your kids in timeout. But what do you do instead? Namaste: When you think about it, it’s quite something for a police officer to be using gentle parenting skills and advanced tools that reflect the most current parenting concepts! Linda: After they’ve heard us teach, people have said to Ty, “You’re a police officer?” It quite shocks them that he was a lieutenant with the Long Beach Police Department.
At work, Ty’s peers are mostly what I call the “testosterone” group. When he comes home to our three daughters and myself, he enters an estrogen environment. To be in a macho testosterone environment for fourteen-hour days, then to come home to estrogen—a loving, kind, thoughtful environment—is quite a shift. I don’t have to make such a shift on a daily basis, but I see what Ty has had to accomplish when I attend social events with him. A considerable amount of social life occurs in a police department, including of course parties at which we mix and mingle. It’s a very different world from the one we live in at home. Even what I talk to people about is different, since we’re not on the same page. I don’t know how Ty pulled off switching back and forth so eloquently for so many years! He has a gift for being able to both separate and mesh the two worlds.
Visit Ty and Linda’s website:
Parenting Q & A Dr. Shefali Tsabary
Discipline Q. Your book says the whole idea of disciplining kids is flawed. What do you mean by that? Discipline, in all forms, is about attempting to control a child—to get the child to conform. While we all have to become civilized to a certain degree in order to live together successfully, forced civilization is fundamentally different from learning by example. When there is simply a way things are done in a family, and the child is encouraged and helped to pick up on this, they feel part of what’s happening rather than that something is being imposed on them. The key is to encourage them to work into family and society in a way that truly represents them, not one based merely on being pleasing to others. If you think of the word “discipline,” it’s used mostly to refer to punishment. A person has to be “disciplined” for something or other, not only in the home but at work or in the military. The problem is, punishment leads to resentment. Who of us ever enjoys being disciplined? When did it ever endear us to someone or to our work? It’s a turnoff. Even in its more benign form, discipline is associated with the word “disciple,” which has connotations of following someone. We don’t want to end up with children who follow—we want leaders, individuals who know their own mind and heart. Our world has far too many sheep who get taken advantage of already.
The point of parenting isn’t that our children should end up like us. Our aim needs to be to help them find their own feet, their own path. We want foster authenticity, not impose conformity. This is how our children can flourish in life. The reason I’m not in favor of discipline (which, believe me, I tried aplenty before I learned better!) is that my aim is to enable children to become self-disciplined. The goal is to raise our children to be disciples of their own heart and inner being, who order their lives according to their true self without need of imposition. Q. What sort of negative impact does disciplining a child have on them later in life? In the workforce, with their own relationships? Discipline is about being forced to do things. I mentioned a moment ago that one impact of discipline is therefore resentment. A spinoff of resentment is that it undermine’s a child’s own initiative, undercutting their natural tendency to be a self-starter in their own unique way. It’s sort of like having a negative energy (resentment) pushing against one’s natural curiosity and excitement about life. Another effect is to crush a child’s creative, imaginative, inventive spirit. In various ways and to different degrees, the result is that they “lose touch with” themselves. Now they grow up fitting into a mold created by someone else, whether it be family, peers, or the educational system. They live according to others’ expectations, burying what’s truly unique about them. So their contribution to life, since it’s not authentic, is often minimal. Even if they achieve a lot, it isn’t coming from flow, but from being forced as they seek to “make something” of themselves to compensate for being crushed. Needless to say, midlife crisis can be the result, entailing not only career but also relationship problems, since no one can relate well if they are operating only from a persona instead of their essential self. And, of course, conflict with their own children is likely to be an issue, since they won’t know how to value the individuality of their children because they weren’t recipients of such themselves. Also, when discipline involves punishment—often mistakenly called consequences—a state of anxiety develops. This can show up in a variety of symptoms, both physical and psychological, which only become magnified with time unless they are addressed at their root. We have so many disturbed kids, and hence disturbed adults, in our society! And many who aren’t exactly disturbed aren’t truly joyous. Whenever we are forced to betray our true feelings and desires, which we so easily do as kids since we need the approval of our parents, feeling anxious is inevitable. Not just anxious about situations and events, but about our very being. And it doesn’t go away, even when we address the symptoms. It just goes underground. It makes life in some measure indigestible. There’s
just an uncomfortable, ill-at-ease feeling pretty much all the time. We cover it up, but it doesn’t go away. It eats at us, producing a sense of dissatisfaction. Such anxiety about ourselves tends toward self-doubt. However, self-doubt is often covered over by a driven sense of ego. We constantly feel we have to “prove” ourselves. Most of the anxiety people suffer later in life comes from being made to be anxious about pleasing others when they were young. Again, it’s this that produces the phenomenon of midlife crisis, when a person awakens to how their life has been a betrayal of their authentic being. Q. You say threats, punishment and timeouts are off the table. What’s your solution to controlling kids? It isn’t about controlling kids, but about facilitating their own learning. This is best done by example—by a family ethic, such as a routine of brushing our teeth at bedtime, putting our things away, making our bed, hanging our towel up Leaning also encouraged by not intervening to prevent consequences teaching the child— unless there’s risk to life or limb, naturally. Consequences aren’t “given,” as I so often here parents say: “I have to give you a consequence.” That’s not a consequence, it’s a penalty. Consequences are the natural result of our actions, the flow of cause and effect. If you’re late, except in an emergency, after a time or two you miss the party—the parent doesn’t keep on rescuing you. Rehearsing things that need to be learned is important. This is where a parent can really encourage a child to become organized and to feel pleased with their ability to be so. In my book, I talk about role playing things like getting school clothes and the child’s schoolbag ready so as not to miss the school bus. We practice it over and over until it’s routine. Not in a forced way, but playfully, making it an adventure. Q. Some parenting experts would say that not disciplining a child is a lazy approach to parenting. How do you feel about this? Discipline, punishment, timeouts—these are the lazy way. Oh, and repeatedly saying, “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a hundred times…don’t you ever listen?” You know the kind of routine things parents say. These are rote reactions, not authentic, on-the-spot, present-moment responses that truly fit the situation. Reactivity is laziness. Creative response requires a great deal of hands-on effort. To raise a child to be true to themselves requires being truly tuned into the child, listening deeply beyond the words, hearing the heart. It also requires great personal self-confrontation to address the issues the child is triggering within us that are causing us to react. This is an often painful, difficult task. This is real hands-on parenting, attentive in every moment, and ever watchful to enable flourishing but not to control and overpower.
Q. Every parent wants the golden key to raising a well-behaved child. What are the main tips you give parents? Set aside your agenda is my first tip. Get in touch with your child’s agenda. Find out who this person really is. They will show you if you open your eyes and ears. Then work with them cooperatively. Address the needs of the whole family, helping them see how they fit into a system—how they can connect deeply, and yet not lose themselves in the relationship. Parenting consciously is about helping a child discover and develop their resilience, their creativity, their character. It’s all in there—our task is to provide a nurturing environment that draws it out. This is how a self-disciplined life develops. In the story of The Little Prince, the little fellow points out that roses are not only beautiful, but they also have thorns. By thorns, he’s referring to our boundaries. So this is not permissive parenting, whereby we allow a child to walk all over us. No, the parent must have thorns— strong boundaries that we don’t allow our children to violate. Don’t mistake the image of thorns for punishment: the thorns on a rose don’t reach out and stick it to us. They simply form a resolute boundary. When we ourselves are well defined, it teaches a child to develop their own well-defined sense of a solid core self. The key is to keep in mind that being able to define ourselves is fundamentally different from riding roughshod over others. It’s about being true to ourselves, while encouraging others to also be true to themselves.
The Namaste Publishing audiobook that unpacks the powerful meaning of the classic The Little Prince. Click to order.
Click here to watch the two-minute introduction to OUT OF CONTROL
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The Presence Process Q&A The Presence Process is being read and practiced all over the world. Consequently, we often receive questions about the process. While we may not be able to answer every question personally, we select some of wide interest to be answered in this column. Send in your questions and we’ll address as many as we can.
Q. I believe I have a key question to ask regarding week 9 of Michael Brown’s book The Presence Process. If we are able to love ourselves unconditionally and therefore give ourselves the resonance we require, won’t it be the case that we will no longer feel the need to be looking for it elsewhere? For example from others, such as our relationships, materialistic things, even our work. If the above is in fact the case, would people not loose their drive? If we become so happy and loving towards ourselves, and could give ourselves everything we require, would we not find ourselves sitting still? What about doing our part for the community, and so forth? A. At first glance, it might seem that if we begin to meet all our needs internally, instead of looking to meet them externally, we might lose our passion, our drive, our desire to participate in ways that can make a difference in the lives of others and in the world as a whole.
In practice, the exact opposite happens. When we become truly present in our life, we not only find ourselves automatically discovering own sufficiency, but we also become aware of an internal fullness that longs to express itself externally. Let’s look at how this works. The world we grow up in causes us to lose touch with our essential self, the fascinated and fascinating person we were as a child in our earliest days of life—a wonderfully creative and very active person. Look at children, and you’ll see how intrigued they are by things, how curious, how interested in life. But as we grow, we are increasingly made to conform with the wishes of others. Instead of following our bliss, as we originally did (to borrow an expression coined by Joseph Campbell), we now begin to live either for the approval of others or in reaction and resistance to them. We also seek self-approval. That is, we yearn to feel good about ourselves, which in many cases causes us to be driven to accomplish—for good, or for evil, depending on our self-image. How we feel about ourselves is very important to us. We desperately need to somehow justify our very existence, to feel we are worthwhile and have value, and that we matter, even if it’s as a gang member or hit man. Hitler and Saddam Hussein both had this need, as did Al Capone. When we become present, what dies is our need for approval. Not only the approval of others, but our own approval of ourselves. We no longer even think about “how we are coming across” or “how we feel about ourselves.” We are too busy just being to think about ourselves at all. Q. I have seen searching to identify and fix a health problem before it gets worse. What I have real difficulty with is that The Presence Process says just be! I feel if I do this with regards my ailments, I'm giving up. Every day I research and look for fixes or do exercise to improve myself. Should I stop searching for a fix? I consider myself well educated to do research. A. How strange it is that we equate “being” with “not doing.” And yet it’s a very common misconception, not only with The Presence Process but also with Eckhart Tolle’s books The Power of Now, A New Earth, and Stillness Speaks.
I wonder, how would this ezine ever get produced if “being” equated with doing nothing? The authors and editors are doing something to produce the ezine. Michael Brown did something to produce The Presence Process and accompanying materials such as the CDs and DVDs on his webpage on the Namaste Publishing site. He also worked hard answering countless questions in the early days, writing untold numbers of emails, as well crisscrossing North America all the way from South Africa more than once on exhausting speaking tours to make the process available to people. Being is from where all authentic “doing” flows from. Instead of being driven by anxiety, when we come from a state of presence, all our doing flows from our center. For this reason it’s bathed in inner knowing, awareness, insight, wisdom. How different this is from “doing” from a state of anxiety. That “driven” feeling is so very different from flow. Anxiety actually undercuts our efforts, reducing our effectiveness, even causing us to take wrong turns at times. Anxiety is no place to live from. When we contrast being with doing, as if being were inactive, we are missing what being is all about. The whole creation is being, and it’s hugely proactive. This is how the entire universe got here, bursting forth from a state of stillness into enormous activity. The issue is: where are we coming from? Anxiety, or being present with whatever is going on? Then acting in accord with the flow of insight that comes to us and the requirements of the situation. In terms of health, many illness find a conducive environment when we are in an anxious state. So it’s important to address the internal emotional pain we are experiencing, as The Presence Process leads us to do, and as many doctors today recognize is important. Beyond this, we then do whatever research is required and take all necessary action. But it comes from a state of inner rest and tranquility, not anxiety and turmoil. Being is the most proactive reality in the universe! And not just the universe, but our individual bodies, which are at work all the time combatting illness. With the wisdom that flows from within, in a state of calmness, it’s up to us to give them a helping hand wherever we can. The Presence Process is a powerful tool for doing just that.
As Oprahâ€™s 10 Weeks of discussion of A New Earth with Eckhart screen on OWN Network for the first time, Sunday mornings, Namaste staff ask the question many are wrestling with...
Jesus and Religion Examining
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” The interpretation you’ve probably heard of Jesus’ words is that there’s something wrong with us—which happens to be how just about everybody feels about themselves anyway and is the reason they hear his words in such a way. Not accepting ourselves, not believing in our genius, not grasping that we have the ability to solve every problem we face—that’s the way the vast majority are treading, and it’s a mighty difficult and destructive path. If you’ve read Namaste Publishing’s The Coming Interspiritual Age, the thrust isn’t that there’s something wrong with us, but that there’s something fundamentally right with us, which is what has enabled us to not only to survive but thrive. When Jesus speaks of entering into life, he’s talking about coming alive to our true being, so that we tap into our creativity, our power, our resilience,
and navigate our way through the difficulties our planet is facing. The problem is that the whole world is locked into what has traditionally been referred to as “original sin,” which is our belief that we are incapable of helping ourselves. The teaching has been completely misunderstood as if something were wrong with us, when what it points to is that we are all born into a social setting that tells us we’re not okay. It’s as God said to Adam and Eve in the Genesis story, “Who told you that you were naked?” To be a “sinner,” to use this tragically misunderstood term, is to believe the lie that we are less than the glorious reflection of God we were created to be. It’s from this failure to believe in our essential goodness that all the evils in life and the world arise. Salvation, then, is deliverance from this failure to believe in ourselves, so that we can continue our long evolutionary journey in such a way that it leads to abundance for all on the planet—since “life abundant” is what Jesus said he was all about. Namaste Publishing talks about salvation in terms of opening our eyes to see who we are, so that we stop dwelling in all our negative thoughts and emotional reactivity. Instead, we become fully present, aware, awake in our everyday lives—conscious of ourselves as grounded in Being itself. When we stop the self-doubt and start trusting in ourselves, this puts us on the narrow path of being true to ourselves as Jesus was true to himself. We come alive to who we really are but have lost sight of. We stop living like inferior creatures. We’ve been locked into what Eckhart Tolle calls the “pain-body,” which is a more modern and helpful description of what St. Paul was pointing to when he said, “What I do, I don’t understand. For what I decide to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. So it’s no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward person. But I see another law in my body, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my body.” Paul’s answer to this wretched dilemma of being ruled by a mass of pain from our past was Christ Jesus. What did he mean by this term? For it is a term, not a name. The term Christ, Messiah in Hebrew, referred to Israel’s kings, whom they looked to to establish a justice society. When king after king failed them, they began to think in terms of a divine intervention as the only hope of a just society. They called this the Son of Man, or in more modern language the New Human Being. This new human being is pictured descending from the clouds; but when Daniel looks, he recognizes it as the saints of the Most High. So it’s a collective reality, not a single person.
This collective reality is imaged as “one new human being” in Ephesians, in that it unites people of every race and nation. It’s the embodied messiah, or what came to be known among the Greek speaking people of the time as the “body of Christ.” As this idea took root in the Mediterranean world, the Messiah—the Christ—began to be thought of as a potential within all of us. This is what St. Paul and others like him announced, saying in effect, “It isn’t a king, or a supernatural intervention, that’s going to save us. It’s us. It’s a matter of waking up to who we are as divine offspring.” Paul explains, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” He’s saying, in modern language, “Look in a mirror, and what you’ll see is the glory of the divine,” because as the letter to the Colossians puts it, “Christ in you is your hope of glory.” In the Gospel of John, the defining act of Jesus comes when he replaces the temple with what he calls The Son of Man, or the New Human Being in more representative language. He tells Nathaniel, “You will see heaven opened and the messengers of God descending and ascending upon the Human Being.” On the heels of saying this, he cleanses the temple, symbolically shutting it down. After which he announces to a Samaritan woman that people aren’t going to worship on temple mounts anymore, because true worship is in spirit and truth. In other words, it’s a matter of the heart and a heightened consciousness. That’s because we are the temple of God now. And so Jesus says in that passage everyone mistakenly uses at funerals as if it were talking about after death, “In my father’s house are many rooms. I go to prepare a place for you.” The Father’s house was the Jerusalem temple. Its many different rooms were the offices of the priests who came from all over to serve for brief periods. This temple has been replaced by a community of awakened, conscious individuals who know that the divine is alive in and as them. Most religion has been based on trying to fix ourselves, based on our mistaken belief that we’re broken and in need of fixing, and Jesus’ disciples had believed this all their lives. The Jerusalem temple symbolized a disbelief in their fundamental goodness, which is why Jesus set the entire system aside, refounding humanity on an understanding of ourselves as the New Human Being who is an expression of a universal oneness.
In explaining why the temple isn’t important anymore, Jesus says, “Look at me, and you’ve seen God.” He’s referring to the “I Am” at the heart of humanity, the image and likeness of God, which he epitomized for his confused followers. He’s saying in effect, “What you’re seeking isn’t found in temples, as if you needed to somehow get right with God. You are right. We all are. You want to know the way to experience the presence of the divine—the “Father’s House,” in old fashioned terms? God is embodied in me. And just as this divine consciousness has been with you in me, it’s going to be in you as it has been in me. So much so that you’ll take it further than me, doing even greater things.” Jesus was explaining, “There is no other way. This is the real deal, what authenticity is all about. Everything you are looking for is embodied in me. I know you don’t get it yet, but you will. I’m going to be leaving you, but the consciousness you’ve experienced in me will be back in the form of a higher consciousness in each of you. Then you’ll discover in yourself the intimacy with the divine source that you’ve been seeking and have experienced in me.” Spiritual paths are totally transformed by this understanding. They now become not a tool for fixing us, but a means of expressing our wonder, our awe, our amazement at the grandeur flowing through us. Worship becomes that which uplifts. A particular path, or no path, is chosen because it resonates with our desire to celebrate our magnificence. It therefore honors our diversity.
The book that shows how Eckhart Tolleâ€™s teaching meshes perfectly with Jesus.
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Awaken the Buddha in YOU
by David Robert Ord Over the course of two decades of research, a University of Chicago psychologist collected hundreds of descriptions of moments in the lives of ordinary people––rock climbers, chess champions, surgeons, basketball players, engineers, managers, even filing clerks––when they outdid themselves and everything came together in a grand symphony of effortless achievement. The state of peak performance they describe is called flow. The Tao Te Ching speaks of it this way. “Act without doing,” it says, “work without effort.” The phenomenon we’re talking about is illustrated by a cocky young woodpecker who had just graduated from pecking school. Holding his head proudly in the air, he fluffed up his feathers, dived into the air, and headed for his first tree. When he had a firm grip on the bark, he threw his head back and took his first whack. A small chip of wood flew off the tree. “Not bad,” he thought to himself. He leant back, took a second whack, and another chip came loose. He thought he was doing really well. So, cockily, he thrust his head back a third time. Just as his beak made contact, a fork of lightening struck the tree, splitting it from top to bottom and sending the woodpecker tumbling to the ground. “Wow!” said the woodpecker as he lay on his back, dazed, looking up at the split tree. “And to think I did it with only three whacks!” Athletes speak of flow as “the zone,” where excellence becomes effortless, and crowd and competitors disappear into a blissful, steady absorption in the moment. Diane Roffe-Steinrotter, who captured a gold medal in skiing at the 1994 Winter Olympics, said after she finished her turn at ski racing that she remembered nothing about it but being immersed in––you won’t believe the word she used––relaxation. When we’re flowing, we accomplish a tremendous amount, and it isn’t at all stressful. We’re totally relaxed, yet totally engaged.
Perhaps you’ve experienced flow at times. It’s exhilarating, isn’t it? But are you aware that these peak moments open a window onto the possibility of living the whole of life in a higher key? On Arturo Toscanini’s 80th birthday, someone asked his son, Walter, what his father ranked as his most important achievement. The son replied, “For him there can be no such thing. Whatever he happens to be doing at the moment is the biggest thing in his life––whether it is conducting a symphony or peeling an orange.” The Buddha points us toward not just how we can experience times of flow, but a lifetime of flow. To have the Buddha mind is to be in a state of flow. It’s the state Jesus described, using the very word “flow,” when he said, “Out of your innermost being will flow rivers of living water.” Do you know how Diane, the Olympic Gold medalist, described the state she was in? “I felt like a waterfall,” she said. Samuel Johnson urged, “When making your choice in life, do not neglect to live.” So many people neglect to live. Walk down the street and observe people’s faces. There’s stress and strain. There’s a deadness. They are going through the motions, but they aren’t present in what they are doing. They spend their lives instead of living them. By killing time, they murder the opportunity to experience the ecstasy of flow, the wonder of being fully alive in each moment. Paul Cezanne described flow for an artist. “Right now a moment of time is fleeting by! Capture its reality in paint! To do that we must put all else out of our minds. We must become that moment, make ourselves a sensitive recording plate . . . give the image of what we actually see, forgetting everything that has been seen before our time.” The University of Chicago psychologist concluded from his research, “Painters must want to paint above all else. If the artist in front of the canvas begins to wonder how much he will sell it for, or what the critics will think of it, he won’t be able to pursue original avenues. Creative achievements depend on single-minded immersion.”
Flow is maximum presence. Doing things by rote involves a detuned, dimmed state of awareness, whereas flow is heightened awareness. As Henry Miller put it, “The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.” Because it’s a heightened state of awareness, flow enables us to learn from the past without constantly rehashing it and indulging in “if only’s.” It enables us to plan for the future without becoming entangled in “what if’s.” Yesterday and tomorrow don’t lessen the experience of the moment. When “what if’s” and “if only’s” take over, we can’t be single-minded. We’re no longer immersed in the moment. Preoccupied with mind chatter and emotional reactivity, we can bring only limited attention to what we’re doing. As a result, we’re less capable of learning from the past or preparing for the future, and we certainly aren’t going to excel in the present. Never believe that worry doesn’t do any good, by the way. It obviously does. Otherwise, how do you explain that most things we worry about don’t happen? Our anxiety about the past and the future consumes our energy. Without an abundance of energy, there’s no flow. What we do feels forced, not natural, and we tend to become driven. Either that, or we don’t get much done because we’re always tired. Daniel Goleman, who covers the behavioral and brain sciences for the New York Times, says in his book Emotional Intelligence that measurements of brainwaves show that the brain quiets down when we’re in flow. There’s a lessening of cortical arousal. It’s a cool state, devoid of emotional static. You can’t be bored, can’t be depressed, can’t be at all anxious and be in a state of flow, because when you’re in flow you aren’t dwelling on yourself. In flow, it’s as if you forget about yourself. Your mind is wonderfully alert, totally conscious, but in a quite different way from the unproductive mental chatter we engage in so much of the time. This is what it means to become a “buddha,” an awakened person. Goleman says that in the state of flow, your emotions are contained and channeled, and aligned with the task at hand. You are completely absorbed in what you are doing, your attention undivided, your awareness merged with your actions.
“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I think that what we’re really seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonance within our innermost being and reality, so that we can actually feel the rapture of being alive.” - Joseph Campbell
A composer described those moments when his work is at its best: “You yourself are in an ecstatic state to such a point that you feel as though you almost don’t exist. I’ve experienced this time and again. My hand seems devoid of myself, and I have nothing to do with what is happening. I just sit there watching in a state of awe and wonderment. And it just flows out by itself.” Again, the words of the Tao Te Ching: “Act without doing, work without effort.” Because the mentally relaxed person’s energy is available for investing in the moment, watching someone in flow gives the impression that the difficult is easy. With an abundance of energy, peak performance appears natural and ordinary. Most of us never become relaxed enough to enter the heightened awareness associated with flow. Our society promotes fast-paced, helterskelter living that degrades our awareness of the present. It becomes very easy to fritter our days away in activity that seems designed to keep us from ever becoming truly present with anyone or anything. Living and loving and working in flow is like play. Chuang Tzu, the Chinese mysticphilosopher and fellow Taoist of Lao Tzu, described one who lives in the present as one who “plays in the one breath of heaven and earth.” Breath here is the Chinese word chi. It means the life-giving force, the spirit, that gives being to every person, thing, and event in the universe. The life of a person who experiences this total sense of being is carried along by the power and purpose of this force, so that she or he is literally playing. The classic literature of contemplative traditions describes flow as pure bliss. Goleman says that the hallmark of flow is a feeling of spontaneous joy, even rapture. Friedrich Von Schiller once said, and you’ll forgive the masculine language, “Man only plays when in the full meaning of the word he is a man, and he is only completely a man when he plays.”
Playing comes naturally to a child. But as we grow up, anxieties crowd upon us and we lose the ability to be absorbed in play like we once were as children. So we have to go through growing up all over again, this time emotionally as we learn to rein in our reactions and silence our mind-chatter. Are we ready to outgrow our anxieties, our guilt, our wishful thinking? Are we willing to develop the maturity to master our mental chatter and emotional reactivity? Do we have the courage to be fully present in the moment? Are we ready to be a buddha, as for instance Jesus was?
Movies to Grow by
CHOCOLAT A Movie to Uplift and Inspire for EASTER A 2000 release, now on DVD, Apple TV, Netflix, and other sources by David Robert Ord
The movie Chocolat opens with the words of the village priest, "This is the season of Lent. It is a time of abstinence, a time of reflection, and hopefully a time of sincere penitence." Lent––a time to restrict yourself. The Count Delenoe sets the tone of the village. He is a strict observant of Lent. But he is faced with a crisis when the North wind blows in a female and her daughter, both in red capes––symbols of desire, the opposite of Lent. The count is denying himself even normal food, when right before his eyes materializes a symbol of indulgence. Vianne Rosher, unmarried, and her daughter Anouk, open a store that flies in the face of the very essence of Lent. Espying the sinfully delicious array, the shocked count declares to the prudish women of the village, "Have you seen the new shop?" "The chocolaterie?" they ask. "Shameless," he gasps. "Opening it just in time for Lent. Brazen. My heart goes out to the illegitimate child."
The count is terrified of all that this woman's chocolate shop represents. It isn't just the chocolate, it's the desire to live life fully, indulge oneself, symbolized by chocolate. For the count, to indulge his desire would be to admit his marriage is over, his wife long gone, and allow himself to develop a relationship with the church organist, who is in love with him. Christianity as understood by many constitutes a massive suppression of desire, with Lent as the epitome of this suppression. Not only Christianity has a tough time with desire, but many Buddhists also propose that desire is undesirable and indeed the very cause of suffering. Aspects of Islam also have little tolerance for desire, as reflected in the burqua shrouding the female form. For many religions, the path to nirvana, or heaven, is self-denial. They imagine that to eliminate desire is the path to peace of mind and thus the way to be closer to the divine. In direct conflict with this suppression of desire, Vianne serves hot chocolate with chili pepperâ€“â€“an elixir that sets all the senses aflame. The mother of the church organist is a rebel, unlike her repressed daughter, and comments, "It tastes like . . . I don't know. Are you sure you didn't put booze in there? Perhaps you should give it to my daughter who won't let me see my grandson. If only she would let him run, let him breathe, let him live." For much of religion, desire is the original sin. Don't dare live! Through their contact with the chocolaterie, some of the women of the village stop closing their eyes to their desire and come alive to their passion. In defiance of the imposed sanitizing of Easter, they plan a fertility celebration for Easter Sunday. Joyful sex and chocolate are restored to their rightful place as symbols of the wonder and wholeness and magic of desire. With our desire resurrected, we are raised up into the fullness of life. A grand celebration with dancing and merriment follows. Monsieur Le Compte, terrified of awakening to his desire and being liberated from all that Lent depicts, tells Vianne, "The first count expelled all the rebel Huguenots from this village. You and your truffles will be far less of a challenge. You will be out of business by Easter, I promise you that." The Count, deadened to his desire through repression, finds himself acting out the consequences of what he has repressed. As his desire is tantalized by the chocolaterie and the organist, he becomes so angry that his wife has gone, leaving him exposed to the full blast of his desire, that he finds himself in her closet with a pair of scissors cutting up all of her
dresses and undergarments. It would be so much easier to continue burying his desire in convention would she only return! The root of dysfunction is the deadening of our passion. When you deny your deepest self, your desire is going to turn rogue. Denial of our desiring self is the root of all evils in our world. It isnâ€™t desire thatâ€™s sin. Our sin is the denial of desire, the restriction of our fundamental yearning for the full expression of ourselves in every dimension of our lives.
When we conduct our everyday lives as if it were Lent, we are the walking dead, in need of an Easter resurrection. Desire is basic to being. To be alive is to desire. If you didn't desire, you'd die, since the life force functions through desire. In Chocolat, you see the count sitting at his work desk, and his secretary has put some food there. Nothing too tempting, just basic sustenance. Finally, starving, he is forced to eat. Again and again, you see the tension between the count's religious belief that he should deny himself, and his longing for food, conviviality, the fullness of life.
Desire isn't craving that which you don't have. It's this craving, which is neediness because you don't feel complete in yourself, that both Jesus and the Buddha realized causes us grief. A kid on the streets sees the latest pair of Nikes, pulls a gun, and seizes them. That's not desire, that's a sense of emptiness craving an identity. Desire is you feeling fantastic about yourself and wanting to express how fantastic you feel. Desire isn't hankering after something you don't have; it's wanting to be who you are and to invest yourself in life.
The difference between need and desire is the fullness of being that makes possible the investment of yourself. If you don't feel wonderful, you use others to prop you up. You move from place to place when they fail––like Vianne, and like the river rat who comes into her life but leaves again because he tells himself that to stay is too costly. When the Count denies himself normal enjoyment, tells himself chocolate is forbidden fruit––and the organist he’s attracted to is forbidden fruit, even though his wife is truly long gone and he knows it––he sets himself up to crave these things. It's not the wanting that's the problem, it's the craving, which is a quite an unnatural feeling. You're afraid to go for it, yet you can't stand the thought of being without it, and so you are caught up in what we know as lust. Lust isn’t the same as desire. Desire wants the object of one's desire. Lust is what happens when we are in flight from our desires. We borrow the person to scratch an itch for a moment, but we don't invest ourselves. And that's just the problem––we have so many couples who are together without wanting. Bodies entwine, but there's no real connection, no true looking into
each other's souls, no real desiring of the person, no investment of yourself in the person. You want the sensation, but you don't want the person. The issue in our sex-saturated society isn't too much desire but too little desire. There's a lack of desire in most sex. People don't really want each other. It's not desire that's the cause of our heartache, our anguish, our suffering, as so many think; it's neediness that borrows the other for an ego boost but doesn't want the other. The river rat finds himself so deeply touched by Mademoiselle Vianne that his desiring center, until now denied as he flits from landing dock to landing dock, at the end of the movie brings him home to himself and a new life. He's dressed differently, looking like he's cleaned up his act, and he's ready to invest deeply. Lust has been transmuted into desire.
Desire is investing ourselves in that in which we are involved, instead of holding it at arms' length and craving something different. We are fully present in the now, instead of our thoughts and eyes roaming everywhere but where we are, craving something different. When the repressed church organist emerges from the Chocolaterie with a smile on her face and an arm lovingly rested on her son's shoulder, accepting at last the boy's desire to breathe and to run, the count sighs, "All of my efforts have been for nothing." He goes to the church, kneels before the crucifix, and picks up a silver dagger. In righteous rage, he breaks into the chocolaterie and, seeing a chocolate statue of a naked woman, slashes it to pieces. But when chocolate accidentally touches his lips, he is done for. He eats the chocolate woman, gorges himself on nipples of Venus, and satiates his soul with every variety of chocolate. So where does our self-denial come from? Why do we suppress desire? Why can't we simply accept the fact we love life and want to indulge to the fullest? Why can't we celebrate the rapture and the ecstasy that desire embraced makes possible? You watch people coming into the chocolaterie fearful just to buy a chocolate! But it's not really fear, it's embarrassment. They are ashamed to admit they love to give themselves up to
pleasure. I mean, you're supposed to hold back, not surrender to ecstasy. We actually use the term "sinfully delicious" for things like chocolate. It's like, if you really love something, totally indulge your senses, then you feel guilty. You search for fig leaves because you're ashamed of wanting something that's so good. Religion is too often in the fig leaf business. It has a knack for identifying the things we can't hardly stand wanting, and brand them forbidden fruit to let us off the hook so we don't really have to come to terms with our desire.
Underlying this guilt is the sense that you don't have a right to enjoy yourself this much. This is the essence of original sin. Isn't this what the garden of Eden story is about? The way most people read the foundational story of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is that they use it to confirm their inner sense that they don't have a right. It's a story used to let you off the hook, so you feel justified in repressing your desire and holding back from investing yourself fully. This interpretation plays to people's self-deprecation, which is the bait for all systems of control. Says the story, read as most read it, the things you want most of all are forbidden to you. And if you dare go for them, you're going to get it in the neck. Besides which, you're going to feel terrible shame. You low life, you! Suppress your desire. You're not worthy of this much enjoyment. All her life, Vianne has been in flight from the full expression of her desire. Every time she runs into society's disapproval, she moves on, dragging her daughter with her. Her daughter's imaginary kangaroo, Pantouf, is an image of how she hops from one place to another, never settling and facing her fears. As the story unfolds, and she yields to her desire, she draws around her a network of meaningful relationships in which people can connect deeply. They are invested in each other, and in their venture together. Love flourishes. The movie illustrates how, far from being a sign of weakness, it takes strength to embrace your desire instead of running from it. It takes courage to really want. The fearful person is trapped in a cycle of guilt over their most basic desires, compounded with a craving for all that they reject, which tortures them in a living hell. It’s the priest who, on Easter morning, discovers the count sleeping off his chocolate orgy in the window of the chocolaterie. In his sermon that morning, the priest talks about "not measuring our goodness by the things we don't do, the things we resist, the things we deny ourselves, the people we exclude. We need to measure our goodness by what we embrace, by what we create, and who we include." The North Wind, a clever wind, figures prominently in the movie. It’s a metaphor for the way the deep Mystery of Being that draws us toward salvation, which is the full enjoyment of every aspect of ourselves, is at work in our lives, inviting us to the ecstasy of celebrating who we are. Always when the North Wind blows, it makes trouble for us. It wreaks havoc with our usual, normal, mediocre ways of doing things. It breaks open the doors of our lives, bringing an icy blast that gets our attention, stops us in our tracks, and reveals where we are being untrue to ourselves. The count is anything but true to himself. He has bought into an idea of tranquility that isn't peaceful at all. The little town has an air of peace, but it’s born of suppression. Yet the very thing the count, through his moralizing, represses becomes his liberation. His desire is at last unleashed, and by the end of the movie he's even thinking of dating the organist!
When it has blown the false out of our lives, the North Wind is needed no more. The statue of the count's ancestor in the village square, at first frozen and dour, begins to thaw. By the end, itâ€™s smiling. A south wind now blows, bringing connection rooted in desire that isn't suppressed but that is invested in relationships. And it all began with one woman. The entire system, built on the count's repression and maintained by suppression, crumbles because one person refuses to play the games, refuses to be phony, and finally stands tall, true to herself. Vianne brings Josephine, an abused woman in the village, into a knowledge of her true self. At first itâ€™s a borrowed sense of self. Josephine can only make the stand for herself that she makes because of Vianne. But when Vianne wants to run, Josephine questions whether there was any substance to what Vianne taught her.
This is the moment when Josephine comes into her own. She realizes that Vianne may want to run, telling herself nothing has been changed by all her efforts, and she may be totally on her own in her newfound consciousness, but there is no denying she has been changed forever. Josephine's ability to stand tall now impacts Vianne, who at last sheds her self-doubt completely and realizes that her running days are over. As the women own their new identity, the entire village system crumbles and even the count finds his true self. Everyone is transformed as the phony tranquility of the village comes to an end. The tranquil, orderly, everything-in-its-place village of the Count Delanoe yields to a delight with life that births a new kind of tranquility in the village. It is a tranquility of the heart reconciled to its yearnings and longings, instead of the facade of tranquility achieved by suppression.
When the World Becomes
by Dr Kurt Johnson and David Robert Ord
Religious institutions have often considered themselves the only holders of the truth. In contrast, interspirituality offers a deeper understanding of reality. In the past especially, though still in many cases today, religion has been a source of division centered on different claims about absolute truth. Yet when any religion takes this approach, it fails to practice the more basic message of its teachings, which is centered on love, kindness, compassion, mutuality, nurturing, and the value of human beingsâ€”indeed, the value of all life and of the planet itself. Itâ€™s precisely this U-turn back to their roots that some of the religions have been taking in more recent times, and that all the religions must take for the good of our world. If religions emphasize love, kindness, mutuality, nurturing, the value of everyone, and interdependence, they will be part of the solution for the planet. If they continue in the old way of stressing their different claims to truth, they will continue to be part of the problem. At the core of interspirituality is the simple and yet profound experience of the oneness of everyone and everything that exists. This sense of oneness dates back to the earliest spiritualities on the planet, and yet is as modern as the 20th and 21st centuries. For in our time, this oneness has now been confirmed by science, which sees everything in the universe as part of a single fabric. The problem with religions lies in the tendency to layer this fundamental experience of our oneness with a variety of dogmas that, when emphasized in place of stressing our oneness, have a divisive effect. The strength of interspirituality is that it doesnâ€™t generate an us-versus-
them mentality, but calls us all to recognize that, whatever spiritual practices we may personally prefer, they have no more ultimate weight than preferring Beethoven to Bach or the Beatles as a choice of music to enjoy. As a result of the globalization and multiculturalism emerging on the planet due to advances in technology, we are at a point in history when we must either make a bold leap to having spirituality itself become the religion of the future, or “old time religion” with its divisions could well push us to extinction. The real question now, anthropologically, is whether our species Homo sapiens can actually “go global” healthily,or whether our failure to do so will be the begin of a precipitous decline, if not extinction. How our future turns out depends, then, on just how big a step we are willing to take at this time of global crisis—whether we are prepared to actually leap to the extent required at this moment in our evolutionary journey. Evolution generally proceeds on a day-by-day basis in tiny increments—small steps. However, in the past, there’s no question but that some steps forward in consciousness were giant leaps that brought huge benefits. And, as we note in our book The Coming Interspiritual Age, leaps of this kind often occur in response to crisis. For instance, in the book we point to how the end of the dinosaurs enabled the much smaller mammals to thrive, leading eventually to ourselves. The demise of the dinosaurs facilitated a step that was in effect a massive leap. The invention of language, and later of writing, were also huge steps that engendered greater consciousness. So far, all attempts by religion to unite our world have been piecemeal. For instance, those who wanted to have an interfaith experience promoted such, while countless others opted out. The question is whether the conditions are now optimal for a leap into a truly interspiritual age. To our minds, two key factors indicate they may be. The first we have already mentioned— crisis. Whether we are speaking of the spread of nuclear and other destructive materials, the environmental crisis, climate change involving ocean rise, potential drinking water shortages for the planet, or a host of other factors, the scene is clearly set for a crisis that could force us to act collectively and therefore come together as a planet. The second factor, on a positive note, is the spread of technology that is having a powerful connecting effect, enabling people of multiple cultures to better understand each other, as well as to assist each other—such as in the crisis in the hurricane-torn Philippines. Technology is also fueling demands by the masses for change—something never before possible on the scale and with the speed we are seeing today. We are seeing it especially in
countries such as China, India, and throughout the Middle East, where the people now have a powerful means of exerting pressure on government. Religious narratives about who and what we are have played a part in our evolution. Arising in a less scientific era, they helped us make sense of the world around us. But these stories, rituals, and ceremonies now need to be reevaluated and seen in the context of an evolutionary process and the new threshold upon us. The new threshold in consciousness involves recognizing that developing narratives to explain things is a part of our nature, but there is a way they can fulfill a healthy role in our lives and a potentially unhealthy one too. When the world was more isolated into all kinds of national, cultural, and religious boxes, the problem of competition between differing myths, stories, and worldviewswas less apparent. But in a globalizing and multicultural world, differing views must be able to healthily co-exist. The competition of the past must be seen as a pathology. Having said this, we are impressed by the new narratives that are arising based on an evolutionary worldview and our understanding of the oneness of all things from a scientific point of view. We think of books such as those by Thomas Berry, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Brian Swimme, Alfred North Whitehead and the Process theologians and philosophers, and so on, which provide us with the possibility of a new story that’s truly universal in nature. The Darwinian worldview is relatively new on the planet—only 150 years. It takes time for a mythology to become deeply rooted in a culture, let alone to become universal. But through education, slowly the story is becoming embedded. What needs to happen now is for the various religions to embrace the story, which will force a rethinking of ancient mythologies and symbols. It’s also crucial today that the universal ethical values embedded in the world’s wisdom traditions trump the negative connotations of supposed Darwinian competition and “survival of the fittest.” These notions were tacked onto early Darwinism by monarchs and politicians of the early Darwinian era, but
today are clearly seen by science as not the way nature actually works. Overall, nature is balanced and altruistic. Its processes serve the highest holistic needs of the various individuals and communities that comprise it. If nature was really about “kill or be killed,” our elegantly balanced ecosystems would have devoured each other eons ago. Social Darwinism is an unfortunate artifact of the politics of a more negative human past. Today’s science is telling a different story—one of unity and profound interconnectedness. It’s our hope that the new story science is writing for us—a story that meshes well with the core of spiritualities the world over, which is the experience of oneness—will become our primary theme, allowing us to let go of outdated extended metaphors. Our evolving understanding of the vastness and nature of the universe demands that we reimagine what we mean by “God,” “Heaven,” and so on. Deep ecology and ecospirituality— the universe as the body of God—hold great hope for the future, although they are still relatively unknown by most on the planet. In a multicultural world, we must be able to hold, simultaneously, different views and experiences. It’s especially important to recognize that identity involves simultaneously holding a sense of the individual and of the collective. Interestingly, as we note in The Coming Interspiritual Age, it’s precisely this simultaneity of apparent opposites that’s the cornerstone of quantum thinking in the new physics. A half century ago, Time magazine’s cover proclaimed “God is dead.” In the Soviet block, atheism became the official “religion,” as also in China. Today, despite all the efforts to expunge religion, there is a resurgence of spirituality all over the world, not least of which is occurring in those nations that advocated atheism and those that based themselves on materialism. Why this resurgence of spiritual hunger? As some books have shown, the human brain may in fact be “wired” for spirituality. The consequences is that not only individually do we seek meaning—especially when we have indulged in materialism and found it wanting—but collectively, we seek a sense of community.
If the desire to be an individual, separate, able to chart our own course is fundamental—as also is the desire to connect, belong, be a part of—a spirituality that recognizes these basic needs, framed in a modern worldview, is precisely what’s needed today. The problem is that the hunger in the human soul is currently being satiated, at least temporarily, by those with easy answers, such as a variety of fundamentalisms the world over that tend to be divisive. The need is for interspirituality to step into the gap, awakening in people a consciousness of our separateness and yet oneness in a healthy way. We are entering a time of experimentation with where this new global consciousness is leading us. So naturally it will have many permutations. As we note in The Coming Interspiritual Age, this also happened globally during and after The Renaissance, when the new consciousness of the inherent value of the individual required centuries to further define what that consciousness would look like in social and political structures. Just like the post-Renaissance period, the current emerging new consciousness, which seeks to skillfully balance the individual and the collective, will go through a process of defining itself. It will be interesting to watch, especially since the results are not entirely predictable. At this point, it seems to us that an awakening of individuals is the predominant thrust of the new consciousness. But this doesn’t necessarily imply that the collective won’t follow. On the contrary, our experience of ordinary human development suggests that it will. When we come into the world, we as it were swim in an ocean of connectedness, with little awareness of ourselves as separate. By age two, however, a powerful sense of our separateness and emerging individuality has kicked in, which is why the two-year-old’s favorite word is “no.” But somewhere along ages three and four, the longing to be connected returns, as the child pleads when dropped off at daycare, “Mommy, Daddy, don’t leave me!” In the teens, our desire to mesh with another is recapitulated in a powerful way as we awaken to romance and
passion, to be followed by the desire to prove ourselves and develop our creativity in a career. So it is that the whole of life is a dance involving these two pulls—to be an individual, and to be connected. We are ever renegotiating our identity in response to these fundamental drives. I propose that this will also be the case with the development of the new consciousness, leading from an individual experience to a growing collective awareness and desire to bond. The bottom line when it comes to the emergence of an interspiritual age is how we will react to the breadth of the challenges facing us, in tandem with the new consciousness that’s emerging and seeks to skillfully balance the realm of the individual and the collective. Faced with these challenges, some out of fear will become more entrenched in their present modalities, seeking to enforce old norms. Others will push forward with new experiments, even very bold ones. It is likely that polarizations will result as well, as seen today politically across the world. This is what makes such historical bottlenecks so precarious. It’s especially challenging because a new world will require a comprehensive new worldview to uphold and support it. Such a new cosmology will include not only a view of who and what we are, but also the kinds of social structures that reflect that view. In the best case scenario, there will be an emerging cosmology that skillfully balances both our subjective and objective ways of knowing—a worldview that includes both science and spirituality. It’s likely that a less holistic cosmology, one chosing either of these extremes but not honoring both, will lead toward eventual catastrophe, which certainly could happen. The issue here is sustainability. As we become aware that what we are doing is unsustainable, our ability to transcend current behaviors tends to kick in. For instance, we are seeing this currently in the growing awareness of climate change. Long denied by many, the resistance to the need to limit the likes of CO2 emissions is slowly crumbling as we see the telltale signs of a human-driven potential catastrophe. In The Coming Interspiritual Age, we point to our ability to innovate, and this is the key here. Already there is much talk of ways not only of reducing CO2 emissions and pollutants such as mercury in our air, soil, and water, but of actually developing technologies to address these
directly, removing them from the environment. We have ever shown ourselves a species of creative genius. Now, this needs to come to the fore on an unprecedented global scale. That we can change our ways is evidenced, for example, on the economic and political landscape by the coming together of the European nations. Divided for eons, can anyone now envision a repeat of World War I or II? There has been a quantum shift, though with many issues still to be worked through. Similarly, a shift is occurring on a planet-wide scale with regard to the status of women and gay rights. Nations such as Saudi Arabia, which seek to restrict women from driving for example, are on the losing side of history. In all of this, there is a great unknown—and perhaps the final unknown. We really do not know today which is potentially more powerful—the power of the entrenched elite, or the potential power at the grassroots and on the street. It’s almost like watching a science fiction movie about whether Homo sapiens will tend toward expressing our inherent sense of freedom, creativity, and egalitarianism, or fall into global dictatorship of some kind. Despite the dangers, we feel very hopeful. Martin Luther King, Jr. is famous for the statement, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.” From clans and tribes with their powerful leaders, to nations, to kingdoms, to empires, the world has been inching its way toward a global sense of humanity. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was able to interpret even the horrors of World War I and II as the “tightening of the screws” of evolution, pushing us to a new level of consciousness. If we seek to identify a dominant trend that’s global in scope, surely it is the rising of the individual, the revaluing of the average citizen. Though the divide between rich and poor is currently expanding in some parts of the planet, in others there is a spreading of the wealth— and with it, an increasing demand for control and power. For instance, in China the government can no longer ignore the will of the people. In longestablished nations, there is also a transferring of control from the traditional rulers to those with economic power. Evidence is everywhere that the old norms are collapsing about us, in their wake inviting the populace to awaken and demand change—as, for instance, in the current situation in the Ukraine, where the powers that be, seeking short-term advantage through connection with Russia, are at odds with the masses who see their future with Europe.
We feel that much of the hope for the future lies in a coming together of science and spirituality, which must inevitably overlap at the global and multicultural level of what our species knows about itself and our cosmos. As we point out in The Coming Interspiritual Age, the intellectual, philosophical, and logical problems confronting both science and spirituality are the same—essentially how to balance apparent opposites. Just as quantum mechanics balances the reality of apparent opposites, we seek the same balance when we posit the idea of “religious pluralism.” As we note in The Coming Interspiritual Age, it’s spirituality that’s able to hold apparent opposites simultaneously. The insights coming from both science and spirituality—about profound interconnectedness, unity, and the value of the individual—will hopefully mutually push humanity toward this new consciousness. Science and religion have been polarized for some time now, the result of the new view of the universe that has been emerging for some centuries, particularly in the last two centuries. What’s fascinating is to hear scientists speak of the incredible complexity of reality in terms that equate to religious awe. One can only expect our ongoing discoveries to heighten our awareness of the wondrous nature of our universe. But one should not assume that science and religion can readily have a conversation. The disciplines are different in nature. There are areas in which we can exchange ideas, and areas in which the fields are quite separate. The hope is for a development of mutual respect. A new book, available only electronically at this time from Amazon and iTunes, points this out very clearly—Entangled States: Science and Faith, by Nicholas Knisely. The best chance for a meaningful dialogue is for religion to step into the modern worldview, shedding dogmatisms from a different, less enlightened era. It’s also crucial that religion doesn’t hijack scientific terminology, using such terminology as if we knew what we were talking about—a proclivity of the New Age movement. Such simply brings religion into further disrepute among scientists. In a nutshell, science is more likely to respect spirituality when those who engage in religion hold views that are worthy of respect. Although appearing very different at the surface, many of the “outbreaks” of wanting a new way to
live, a new way to be, that we have been seeing of late— like the Arab and Catholic springs, the Occupy phenomenon, and the hundreds of thousands of other populist causes featured, for instance, in Paul Hawken’s bestseller Blessed Unrest— are underpinned by surprisingly similar issues at the level of detail. Even though these upwellings of populist outpouring come from a common source within us, there’s no guarantee that all such upwellings will be either well guided or ultimately transformative. This is the paradox of glimpsing an emerging need and actually effectuating it as a way that builds structures that reflect such values. Integral and Spiral Dynamics point out that this is always the challenge. This is why leadership and communication are so important. To a degree the worldwide web and other modern networks of communication may help guide these kinds of upwellings into a generally transformative mode. As we have said, education is important, together with the emergence of a generally universal cosmology that would more coherently unite people at a global level. We have to be aware that large numbers of young people have a tradition of participating in mass movements, the sexual revolution of the sixties and
the halting of the Vietnam War being just two examples. Particularly, college age students gravitate toward such movements. The problem is that many of the individuals who were “out there” in the sixties are today pillars of the establishment, their revolutionary escapades long buried in social norms.
Nevertheless, while such movements rarely are transformative in themselves, they have the power of inching us toward transformation. The sexual revolution left an impact, albeit an inching toward equality rather than a sustained revolution. We want to point out that many who tout “the new atheism” make the mistake of viewing the emerging interspirituality through the old and wellknown pathologies of religion. These have little to do with the more noble depths available in the world’s wisdom traditions. The new emphasis on atheism too easily discards all these wisdom resources, instead proposing an imbalanced cosmology that’s only about the head and not the heart—a phenomenon sometimes called “leftbrain tyranny.” Often those touting this kind of atheism are coming from anger, usually stemming from a bad experience they had with religion around which they are now acting out. None of this is very transformative. A healthy “atheism” would be an intellectually robust spirituality that helps prevent the information-proof and overly imaginary, overly romantic tendencies in some of the New Age movement. The New Age mistake is to become anti-intellectual, in a sense a “right-brain tyranny” that’s the converse of the new atheism. The fact of the matter is that any of these only partial approaches won’t bring us the results we need in terms of sustainability, human survival, and a healthy future. Alone, they simply won’t be enough. This is why the truly holistic approach of interspirituality is so important. Anti-intellectualism is a major problem—and not only in New Age, but in fundamentalisms of many flavors. The sad part is that many atheists are as rigid in their fundamentalism as fundamentalists of the religious kind. A true “thinking together” that re-envisions our language, metaphors, and imagery is crucial. Words build world. The challenge facing the new generation is whether they can identify the breadth of the landscape needed for a truly holistic approach to our global problems. If so, will they be precisely those “right people at the right time” who create the models of response that actually lead us to a healthy, holistic and sustainable future—one concerned with the actual wellbeing of all, and all things. This is the pivotal historical question.
Ultimately it will be a matter of whether the heart triumphs—that is, whether our sense of our essential oneness actually becomes grounded in our everyday practices, from economics to power sharing. The statement of Jesus that we “cannot serve God and mammon” comes to mind, with “God” being understood as a metaphor for the Ground of Being in which all find their existence. Talking about global unity accomplishes nothing as long as there continues to be a real-life polarization when it comes to people living in the lap of luxury while others have inadequate housing, poor sanitation, and real hunger. Individuality and individualism must be understood as opposed to each other. When we value the individual, we don’t participate in an individualism that fails to care for the other. The truly awakened heart values others to the point of actually doing something about their situation. Only from such a heart can we create a healthy, holistic, and sustainable future in which the wellbeing of all is of vital importance. This is the vision of the coming interspiritual age.
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Book Review by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat Â
The Coming Interspiritual Age Kurt Johnson, David Robert Ord Namaste Publishing Brother Wayne Teasdale was a lay monk who combined the traditions of Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism in the way of the Christian sannyasa. A teacher and activist in building common ground among the world's religions, he also offered us many practical suggestions on living a mystical life of action and contemplation. Although Brother Wayne is no longer with us physically, his vision of the dawning of a new age of interspirituality has been carried on by Kurt Johnson, a scientist, comparative religionist, social activist, former monastic who is associated professionally with the One Spirit Interfaith Seminary and the multifaith Contemplative Alliance. Johnson has now co-authored this encyclopedic book with David Robert Ord, editorial director for Namaste Publishing. Johnson notes that Brother Wayne coined the term "interspirituality" in his book The Mystic Heart, defining the term as "identifying and embracing the mystical core or common ground of the world's religions." This broad definition takes within its embrace solidarity with all human beings, benevolence, self-knowledge, simplicity of life, selfless service, compassionate action, and prophetic voice.
These are noble and important goals but Johnson wants to take interspirituality into even more ambitious and elaborate spheres of interest. After claiming that everyone is a mystic and pointing out how spirituality and religion differ, the author takes us back to the Big Bang and an erudite look at humans as multicellular creatures and the advent of intelligent life; he then swerves into the question as to whether or not we will be facing a biological
The Coming Interspiritual Age received a
Spirituality & Practice Award as a Best Spiritual Book of 2013
endgame or not. Johnson presents the dawn of spirituality before heading off into his own takes on the great advances of human history, the renaissance and European enlightenment, and the rise of modernism. All of this philosophy and history is necessary for us to understand and appreciate what he calls "the coming of a worldwide civilization" with two developments which reanimated spirituality: East-West Spiritual CrossPollination and Holism. Along the way, Johnson salutes the spiritual experience of consciousness, integral thinking, nonduality, new adventures in mysticism, and the end of the futile battles between religion and science. Of course, all of these evolutionary advances in interspirituality are jeopardized by the formidable engines of war, corporate greed, gender violence, consumerism, the growing gap between the rich and the poor, and the refusal to square off with global climate change. Here the interweave between contemplation and action is most needed. We were impressed with Johnson's heavy emphasis on unity consciousness, integral practice, collaboration projects among the world's religions, global compassion, and creative educational ventures in interspirituality. We also agree with his idea that interspirituality is "spiritual maturity." This concept opens many new doors for those of us on this path. That's what good books do and The Coming Interspiritual Age does it with a rare blend of highpowered energy, enthusiasm, and zeal.
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