The Most Important Resolution We Can Make

“The feast of Christmas is the celebration of divine light breaking into human consciousness…. The joy of Christmas is the intuition that all limitations to growth into higher states of consciousness have been overcome. The divine light cuts across all darkness, prejudice, preconceived ideas, prepackaged values, false expectations, phoniness and hypocrisy…. The kairos, ‘the appointed time’ is now.… Now is the time to risk further growth. To go on growing is to be at the cutting edge of human evolution.…”  Thomas Keating, The Mystery of Christ

This is the calling of every human. To paraphrase the popular wisdom of Richard Bach: Here is a test of whether your consciousness is done evolving: if you’re alive, it isn’t.

The quote above by Thomas Keating was from one of his early books.  Late in his life he spoke at a conference as if continuing the thought:

“Jesus goes on to say…, ‘Everybody who’s a human being is a candidate for this and has the resources to do it, if they will take the trouble to learn how to…let God be God in us.’ And so he says, ‘Anyone at all who brings himself or herself to nothing will find out who they are….’ Who are we at the deepest level? Have we a self at all, or are we really the manifestation of the Divine…? So, the plan is to be God in the humblest kinds of ways. That seems to be the program for this life, so why not…put everything into it that you have?”   Incarnation Continua, from the 2015 Return to the Heart of Christ Consciousness Conference, Boulder, Colorado

We need to put all we have into the transformation of our consciousness right now.  It is a matter of life or death for our nation, our species and all life on earth.

The reason why is that “Transformed people transform people,” as Richard Rohr says.  Transforming ourselves is the place to start in our efforts to transform the world.

World transformation is of the utmost urgency.  We need human civilization to evolve to fulfill the wisdom of all the spiritual traditions that agree on certain fundamental principles that make life ethical and sustainable like the Golden Rule, love of neighbor and universal compassion.

We need to evolve to a new collective consciousness that sees the oneness of all people, creatures and ecosystems on this planet and that recognizes our need for justice, equity and a sustainable harmony between all people and between humans and the earth, as the Earth Charter describes.

Therefore we need to evolve to that consciousness ourselves as individuals.

The seasons of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany in the Christian calendar are all about that evolution.

The secular celebration each December 31st includes the ritual of making resolutions.  The most important resolution we can make right now is to dedicate ourselves to the process of personal and world transformation. In other words:

Resolve to evolve.

The wisest have been calling for this since the days of the Hebrew Prophets, Greek philosophers and spiritual teachers in Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Taoist and Indigenous traditions.

Gus Speth quotes many recent voices including Vaclav Havel, Aldo Leopold, Erich Fromm, Thomas Berry and Mary Evelyn Tucker in his lead essay in the book, The Coming Transformation: Values to Sustain Human and Natural Communities.

Gus says, “What these authors and many others are saying is that today’s challenges require a rapid evolution to a new consciousness. That is a profound conclusion. It suggests that today’s problems cannot be solved with today’s mind.”

So how can we evolve as quickly as we must, both as individuals and as a global culture? Continue reading

This Time Asks Us All to Be Heroes

 

Photograph by Jon Gilbert Fox

William Sloane Coffin was a hero with a great soul, which is one definition of a saint.  His courage, hope and faith led him to risk his life as a Freedom Rider. They led him to jail in protests for justice and peace. They engaged him in one struggle after another in his “lover’s quarrel” with his nation.

This photograph shows him being a hero of another kind.  It was taken in the year after his son, Alex, died in a car accident.  Bill described coming into the United Church of Strafford in paralyzing grief and playing music until he had subdued the inner struggle enough to return to his outer struggles.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a similar hero with a great soul.  He wrote in his book The Strength to Love, “A positive religious faith does not offer an illusion that we shall be exempt from pain and suffering, nor does it imbue us with the idea that life is a drama of unalloyed comfort and untroubled ease. Rather, it instills us with the inner equilibrium needed to face strains, burdens, and fears that inevitably come.” (from Chapter IV)

We need that inner equilibrium today because we are living in a fearful time that asks us all to be heroes with great souls.  Human greed has raged out of control while human technology has gained planet-destroying power.  Social injustice, economic inequity and environmental destruction have brought us to the brink of an inevitable revolution.

On the one hand, the side of greed with its ego-driven fight for its self-interest cannot continue without a revolution against democracy and nature.  On the other hand, it will take what King called “a revolution of values,” a change of cultural consciousness, in order to reverse humanity’s self-destructive direction.

It will take heroes with great souls to change our consciousness, not only because we are up against the most powerful corporate and media empires the earth has ever seen, but also because the source of the problem—the fearful, selfish ego—is in us all.

We all are tempted by self-interest.  It takes a hero to win that inner struggle enough to love a neighbor as our self.

It takes a hero to follow the Golden Rule and to care for the earth as our common home.

It takes a hero with a great soul to live as an altruistic citizen of a democratic republic, which is why John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” He said unregulated avarice and ambition “would break the strongest Cords of our Constitution as a Whale goes through a Net.”  As we are seeing every day.

How can we be the heroes and great souls that America and the earth require?

Bill Coffin said in a Riverside sermon, “Human unity is not something we are called on to create — only something we are called on to recognize.”

This contains the key wisdom we need.  King put it this way: “The Holy Spirit is the continuing community creating reality that moves through history. He who works against community is working against the whole of creation.”

The Holy Spirit is the name we give to the impulse that moved the first single cells of life on earth to form communities with other cells. Four billion years later, that same Spirit is at work trying to overcome the ego-driven forces that divide human from human.

We do not have to create our unity with one another and with the earth, we have only to look deeply into the reality of nature and our own heart and find there the Spirit that created the universe, and align our values with its values, and take its will as our will, and use its power as our power.

This is why Mahatma Gandhi led his followers to spend two hours in meditation, prayer and the singing of hymns every day.  They were emptying themselves of the ego’s control and opening to the Spirit’s guidance.

It is what made them the heroes, great souls and saints they had to be in order to change the consciousness of their culture and create a nonviolent movement that could overcome the most powerful Empire in the world.

Which is exactly what we need to do today.

We need to free ourselves from whatever paralyzes us or keeps us stuck.  We need to open to the Spirit’s inner transformation so we can transform the world.

That is what the photographer Jon Gilbert Fox caught William Sloane Coffin doing at the piano in the Strafford sanctuary that summer day.

It is what we each are doing when we play music or meditate or pray or walk in nature or have a deep heart to heart conversation with a wise friend.  We are listening, changing our consciousness, recognizing more clearly the sacred way, connecting more deeply to the Spirit’s guidance and power.  We are becoming the heroes, great souls and saints this time requires.

Our Task

If you haven’t seen this beautiful short film, please give yourself a treat and spend a half hour immersed in its quiet drama and wisdom.  You will be glad you did.  It puts the rest of this post in proper perspective.  The earth is tiny, it is our one and only home, and we will survive only if humanity realizes this and acts as one people, at one with our planet, making it a safe, healthy home equally for all.  If we can undergo that transformation of our heart and consciousness, as these three astronauts did, we will transform the world.

 

Our Task by Thomas Cary Kinder

Dedicated to Gus Speth, who formulated the wisdom on which this post is based in his essay in The Coming Transformation: Values to Sustain Human and Natural Communities. The concept and structure of sections i. through vi. are his, the words are mine.

Prelude: We Responded

Let future descendants of the human race say
that when our generation saw the unfolding ruin
of the stable earth that had made life possible
and the rising threat to the free,
just, equal, democratic societies
that humanity had evolved over hundreds of years,
we responded by laying down our lives to save
all that goodness, and to become better.

i. We Shared Our Awareness of the Threat

We were crisis-driven, and aware that to change course
we needed to change hearts and minds.
We were aware that our established ways had failed
and the spiritual wisdom of the right way to live
had become not an ancient distant dream
but an urgent practical necessity.
We saw that the past visions of an ideal future
had to be fulfilled in our present moment
or life on earth would not survive.
We used our voices, nonviolent action
and all forms of art
to raise awareness of the threats
and to unite ourselves
in shared compassion and concern.

ii. We Chose Wise Leaders

The leaders we followed sought not self-aggrandizement
or partisan advancement, but humble wisdom,
aware that no one person or side could solve this alone,
that we needed to work together across divides,
and that we needed more than human power,
we needed a higher power, the spirit of life,
the way of nature within and around us, to help us evolve.
Collective wisdom showed each practical step of the path;
courageous leaders led us boldly down it.

iii. We Gained New Vision and a New Story

We realized humanity could not make needed changes
without a changed consciousness that could see our oneness,
an enlightened way of perceiving ourselves and all life and earth,
a deeper understanding of what the meaning of life is
and what humanity could become.  We needed to discover
how we could fulfill as a society the ideal love of neighbor
that spiritual and philosophical leaders had taught
for three thousand years. We needed a new story
of the journey of the universe rooted in ancient traditions,
letting their shared dreams guide and inspire us,
and tapping into advanced social, physical and life sciences,
opening doors of pragmatic possibilities unimagined until now.

iv. We Formed a United Movement toward a Shared Goal

We saw ourselves as one people on a journey
out of exile across a wilderness to a new Promised Land.
We saw that we were working toward the same goal,
whether our first concern was one ecosystem or another,
one cause of justice or another, one tribe or another,
we were one people, one movement,
and we needed one another.
We could get there only as one.

v. We Communicated Compellingly

We used all the skill and technology that we had.
We communicated the new positive vision and story,
the urgent calls for action, tirelessly, creatively, by word of mouth,
by example, by broadcast and book, by worldwide web.
We shouted it from rooftops, from street corners,
from every pulpit and lectern. Children found their voice.
They led when adults remained dumb.

vi. We Created Working Models, Living into the Vision

We lifted up existing models.  We created new models.
We began living as if already in the Promised Land,
as if already one, as if already nonviolent, harmonious,
just, equal, compassionate, loving, kind.
We began building a golden civilization
brick by brick by the golden rule
and we did not stop until the ancient dream at last
stood gleaming on a restored and rejoicing earth.

Postlude: “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for…”

Let future generations look back from that renewed world
and say that we were the ones
who made the change, who made it possible,
who threw off the shackles of selfishness, of ego,
of competitive pride and greed,
and who took the leap into the realm of love
that humanity was born to create.
Let them say that the crises of 2020
were the final labor pains of a new world,
the final push.

That urgent push is our task.

If you only 60 days to save the world…

Less than 60 days now…

I invite you to look deeply into this photograph.  I’ll reflect on it below.

The spirit of life is in every cell of this morning glory with its drive to survive and thrive.  The spirit of life is in the roots and leaves and it is especially in the golden heart of the flower where the seeds of the future take shape.  Solutions to life-threatening problems evolve in that golden room such as innovations the plant must undertake to deal with a changing climate or persistent virus. 

The innovations humanity needs to undergo are not genetic, but they, too, need to come from our heart’s core.  That is the place within us each where the spirit of life inspires the collective evolution of human consciousness to meet our life-threatening problems.  We need to look deeply into that golden room, listen to the still small voice of the spirit and act on what it guides and empowers us each to do.  That is our greatest source of hope for this time.

Thousands of registered Life Planners around the world begin each life plan by asking three questions in the EVOKE process that my brother, George Kinder, developed:

  1. I want you to imagine that you are financially secure, that you have enough money [and time] to take care of your needs, now and in the future. The question is…how would you live your life? Would you change anything? Let yourself go. Don’t hold back on your dreams.  Describe a life that is complete, that is richly yours.
  2. This time you visit your doctor who tells you that you have only 5 – 10 years left to live. The good part is that you won’t ever feel sick. The bad news is that you will have no notice of the moment of your death. What will you do in the time you have remaining to live?   Will you change your life and how will you do it?
  3. This time your doctor shocks you with the news that you have only one day left to live. Notice what feelings arise as you confront your very real mortality. Ask yourself:  What did I miss? Who did I not get to be? What did I not get to do?

Today Americans need to reframe that second question.  Instead of having five years to live, we have less than 60 days to save our democracy and save the world.  We have until Election Day, Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020.  Many people on both sides are framing this election as a matter of life and death, and I believe they are right.

So the urgent Life Planning question now is, if you have only until November 3rd to save our democracy and the world, what will you do in the time you have remaining?  Will you change your life, and how will you do it?

Take a few minutes or an hour to think about that, and then if you feel inspired, please share with us your intention for these days by clicking on the Comment button below and writing in the “Leave a Reply” box that will appear.

Then consider the third question, once again reframed for our situation.  The shock is not that you have one day to live, the shock is that you wake up on November 4th and learn that the side lost that you believe could have saved our democracy and world.  Take a minute of mindfulness to note carefully the painful feelings that arise.  Then ask yourself: What more do I wish I had given?  What more do I wish I had done?

The original 3 Questions have both spiritual depth and practical power.  George Kinder is a Buddhist teacher, a student of psychology and literature and the first winner of the Financial Planning Association’s Heart of Financial Planning Award.  He has been named “One of the top Icons & Innovators in the financial planning industry,” and “The first of 15 transformational advisors whose vision most changed the industry,” and he has been inducted into the Financial Planning Magazine Hall of Fame.

Accolades have come to him for one reason: these three questions and the actions we take based on our answers have the power to change our lives, and have done so for tens of thousands of people.  They lead us to our deepest heart’s core to find what the spirit of life is calling us to do and be.  They release our creative and entrepreneurial gifts.  They motivate us to help life around us improve and evolve in ways that lead to greater life and love—exactly what you would expect when the spirit of life is freely flowing through us.  The results of these questions have changed the world.  Now, perhaps, they can save it.

I hope and pray that you will listen to your heart’s core and that you will make the changes necessary to give all the time, energy and resources you can in this time of greatest need.  Please use the days left before November 3rd to save our democracy and world.

If you have questions about how to fulfill what you feel called to do, feel free to use the comment feature below and ask for what you need. Thank you!

 

How Can New Consciousness Evolve Now?

The Tree Sprouts New Branches, Human Consciousness Evolves, the World Is Transformed

One year there was solid bark, the next year a new branch had burst through where no one could have expected it.

I was clearing a field once and liked where a maple tree was growing, but it had been shaped by the old thicket and was bent over toward the light.  A neighbor knew trees better than I did and insisted I was foolish to think it would straighten up and flourish, but I was happy in my foolish hope and left it.

He was right, the old trunk did not change direction entirely, but it sprouted a new branch like the one above, and that branch grew straight up and soon became the new lead trunk.  The old, bent trunk diminished to be a side branch.

We face a crisis in human evolution that threatens to destroy the world that has carried us to where we are today.  We are in danger of turning our planet into a habitat in which humans cannot survive and, along the way there, turning our civilization into a crucible of survivalist fear and violence in which the human spirit cannot thrive.

We do not have at this time the collective will to change our ways and act for the long term well being of our habitat.  We do not take the necessary actions as a society even when we hear the urgent cry of scientists, see the first stages begin of the suffering to come and acknowledge the wisdom of the religious traditions calling us to care and act.

Our hope is that the human spirit can rapidly evolve to have that collective will.

We know it is possible because humanity has evolved through crisis points in the past.  Whole new branches of insight and understanding and new ways of living have sprung from the solid bark of old ways.

We have hope, and that hope resides in our hearing the calling within our hearts as we look at what is happening in the world, and then exploring where that calling leads.  The hope is for our individual transformation that will give us the wisdom and power to transform the world. Continue reading

Introduction to the Calling/Exploration Category

This is one of a series of introductions that bring together two ways of describing a path that leads to the transformation of ourselves and the transformation of the world around us.

The first word in each dyad is from stages and chapters in The Golden Room writings.  The second is from my brother George Kinder‘s methodology of Life Planning.  (The first five are from Life Planning’s EVOKE steps, the last two, Understanding and Aloha, are from the Seven Stages of Money Maturity.  George’s began working primarily with the financial industry, but Seven Stages and EVOKE both are heart-centered, spiritually grounded and used by clergy and coaches.)

If you have not read about The Golden Room Writings, these introductions will make more sense when you have.  You can read about them at Introduction: The Vision Behind This Site, and More Introduction to this Site: We Need Metaphors.  Here are the seven introductions in this series, listed in order, with links to them.

Calling/Exploration
Siting/Vision
Clearing/Obstacles
Digging/Knowledge
Building/Execution
Dwelling/Understanding
Returning/Aloha

The Golden Room Writings and Life Planning Writings are both categories on this website, and they share these seven dyads as subcategories.

Calling is the earliest stage in the building process when the feeling stirs that creating a structure could be desirable and possible.  It corresponds in the vision of The Golden Room to the sense that something is about to happen, a heightened awareness, an attentive listening for guidance.

It could also be the sense that something must happen, as many of us feel in the world today.  We are waiting and watching as that something begins to emerge and grow clear.

The EVOKE Life Planning process “Exploration” stage is extremely powerful in the hands of a skilled Registered Life Planner.  It helps us discern callings that may have been hidden from us or that we may have discounted as impossible dreams.

The posts in this section will explore the topics of callings and discernment as well as Exploration, both for Life Planners and for anyone seeking their own calling for this stage of their life.

The Calling to the Golden Room

Sometimes it takes many calls to convince us of a calling.  The Hebrew judge and prophet, Samuel, needed three callings and the help of old, wise Eli to work through his confusion.  Jonah needed God’s voice, a storm at sea and the belly of the whale to overcome his resistance.

The Rev. Samuel Schaal, a Unitarian Universalist minister from Texas, approached me at a Life Planning workshop in the fall of 2011 where I had shared the vision of the Golden Room.  He asked me if I would write it down for him, because he felt it could be useful for others.  It was just one more in a long series of calls spanning two decades, but it was the one that finally convinced me that I had a calling to bring this project to life.

It came along with a growing sense of urgency.

Photograph by Lesley Wellman

Continue reading