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

“In Returning and Rest You Shall Be Saved”

Do not fret. Peace. Let not your heart be troubled; neither let it be afraid.  Here is why these scriptural commandments are so important today and for the future world.

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”  Isaiah 30:15

The soul of the nation had fallen into rampant self-interest, materialism and greed.  It neglected and oppressed the poor.  It strayed from the sacred way of love of neighbor and love of the ways of spiritual wisdom.  Its politics had become corrupt, its alliances unholy.

The prophet Isaiah warned the nation, because “you put your trust in oppression and deceit, and rely on them…this iniquity shall become for you like a break in a high wall, bulging out, and about to collapse, whose crash comes suddenly, in an instant.”

Isaiah’s words have spoken to many nations over the past 2,500 years, not just because of their warning but even more importantly because they show that there is a path out of that imminent destruction.

The sacred way of the Spirit that created the earth and all life is merciful.  It is infinitely forgiving of those who turn back to its ways while there is still hope of recovery.

This proved true for Isaiah’s society and for others throughout the ages.  We need to listen and follow its wisdom today: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quiet and in trust shall be your strength.”

The path back begins in returning to where the Spirit lives within us all, the golden room of the heart’s true core, and resting there.  Strength comes in quieting the ego’s selfish, agitated human thoughts and listening instead for the wisdom that arises from the Spirit through our silence and deep trust.

As I write this, America is voting for its President and the composition of Congress and state governments.  The outcome will shape our future in many ways.

But whatever the outcome, we still will have the same enormous challenges that threaten our democracy and the survival of the human race and all living species. We still will have brutal social, economic and environmental injustices that must be changed and healing that must be undertaken.

The wisdom of Isaiah says that we need more than just the right politicians in office.  No matter who is in these positions of power, we need a shift of cultural consciousness, a change of heart and mind that can come only one way—in returning and rest, in quietness and trust.

We need to break the obsessive, compulsive, white-knuckled, gut-clenched mode of being that many of us have developed over the past several years of political turmoil and several months of intense election anxiety.

We need to break the addictions of the ego to anything less than the Spirit’s ways of right living.

Whoever is in power, we need to be the change we wish to see in the world from our deepest heart outward, starting today.  We can live from that calm refuge even here in the agony of fearful uncertainty.

We have a new world to create, the fulfillment of the ancient prophets’ dream.  We need rested, strong and quiet souls that are trusting in the Spirit’s guidance and power in order to fulfill that hope.

So take a deep breath.  Take a break from the news.  Go outside and notice the beauty.  Connect with a dear friend.  Read some eternal spiritual wisdom.  Listen to music that connects you to your depths.  Best of all, meditate or pray.  Return.  Rest.  Quiet.  Trust. That is where the path begins to the strength we need to save and renew our world.

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.

You Know the Way: The Torch in the Golden Room

 

Jesus said, “You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Thomas said to him, “Teacher, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”  (John 14:4-5)

You know the way.  You know the way to the place that Jesus was trying to help humanity reach, the realm of God on earth, a society that lives by the Golden Rule, love of neighbor and compassion for the vulnerable and oppressed.

Maybe you can’t envision how our current society could possibly get there, how big business and the super-wealthy and the governments they try to control could be transformed, or even how individual hearts could rise above the base selfishness that too often drives our thoughts, words and actions.

But Jesus is right, you do know the way, and the secret of how our society can get there is waiting within you.

The 2016 film Arrival imagines [Spoiler Alert!] that an advanced civilization visits earth with spacecraft scattered around the globe.  They have the ability to see the future and realize that they are going to need human assistance in 3000 years.  They have come to help humanity move to a new level of consciousness and oneness so that life on earth will survive.

An American linguist is trying to understand their message.  The turning point comes when the higher beings say essentially the same thing that Jesus told his followers: you know the way.  (You can watch the scene below.)  Like Jesus, they have taught her a new way to see and think, a consciousness that enables her to solve intuitively the problems that are keeping humanity from evolving and becoming one.

The film reflects reality.  A higher being is trying to help us do the same things.  Our higher being is the Spirit of life that has taught the human race many times before how to evolve and work together as one.  That Spirit desperately wants the life it has created to learn how to live sustainably and harmoniously, without hurting other lives and without destroying the life-support systems of earth.

This higher being is the Spirit that Jesus had in him, and the Spirit he said we each have in our depths.  Jesus listened to the Spirit in his heart and it led him to his vocation, which was in part to teach the rest of us how to find the Spirit in our own hearts, and how to live by the guidance and power we find there.

Humanity has brought itself to the brink of its own extinction, but at the same time it has arrived at the brink of the evolutionary shift it needs in order to survive.  We are learning to listen to the Spirit.  Cynthia Bourgeault says in her book, The Heart of Centering Prayer: Nondual Christianity in Theory and Practice, that we are now making a transition to a new level of consciousness, traveling an ancient path by means of an abundance of new methods in a “sudden awakening to…interiority.”

She writes, “Whether through psychotherapy, men’s work, AA, yoga, mindfulness for stress reduction, enneagram work, dream work, soul work, or a host of other modalities, contemporary men and women are awakening to the realization that life is indeed an inner journey as well as an outer one.” (p. 173)

The Life Planning movement is another in the long list of ways that we are learning to hear the higher being’s voice in our hearts.  A trained Life Planner acts like a spiritual director or friend who listens empathically to help us explore and discover what the spirit is calling us to do with our life.  The end result is a vision of our calling spelled out in detail.  Life Planning calls that vision statement a “torch.”

We each have a place within us where we find the presence and gifts of the Spirit, a “Golden Room.”  We each have a torch in that golden room that shows us the path that the Spirit is calling us to take in the next stage of our life to contribute our part to a healthy, harmonious earth.

The future of the world depends on us each turning to the light of the torch in our golden room and following where it leads.

The Spirit in Jesus speaks for the Spirit in us.  It says, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6) If you know that Spirit, you know the way.

 

Below are two videos.  The first is the scene toward the end of the film Arrival where the linguist, Louise Banks, finds her torch in her golden room with the help of a “heptapod” higher being.  The second is a fascinating analysis of the film’s deeper meaning.

Notes on the first video (more spoilers alert!): Louise has entered for the first time the place where the  heptapods live.  Their twelve spacecraft are about to be attacked by fearful human armies, and in fact one heptapod is dying because of an unauthorized attack in which it saved Louise’s life.  Louise alone understands that the heptapod word translated “weapon” actually means tool or process and is not a threat.  Louise has come to ask the higher beings to send a message to the humans at all twelve sites around the world telling them that the heptapods are on earth to help, and that humanity needs to work together.

 

The “weapon” turns out to be a new consciousness, a new way of being. Louise gains the heart and mind of a heptapod the way the Apostle Paul calls us to have the heart and mind of Christ.  The scriptures and ancient teachings of the Christian tradition accept that our intended destiny is to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds” into higher beings who create the realm of God’s love on earth, a society of oneness, justice and peace.  That is our great hope and our great task.

Stay in the Light: Defense against Dementors

Staying in the light feels harder than ever right now.  How can we do it?  This reflection is grounded in ancient wisdom but its main metaphor comes from modern literature. J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books are about the struggle between darkness and light, between hate and love. In the scene below that struggle is between “patronus” and “dementor.”

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.  The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Ancient myths portray the struggle between forces of darkness and light.  The metaphor has always represented the conflict between the way of hate and the way of love, the way of oppression and the way of freedom, the way of destruction and the way of harmony—the choice between what sucks the life out of our soul and what fills us with meaning and purpose.

Of course real darkness is full of blessings, and is an integral part of a whole and healthy life, and darkness and light are bound together in a beautiful way as the Taoist symbol so brilliantly portrays.  We need to recognize that the classic metaphor is as limited and incomplete as it is useful and true.

The metaphor also includes some irony: the crusade of white supremacy for domination has been a force of soul-crushing darkness, and the great dark-skinned leaders for freedom like Gandhi, King and Mandela, or Diane Nash, Ella Baker and Fannie Lou Hamer—or Jesus, the Buddha and Mohammed—have been among the most light-filled humans in all history.  And yet many white Christians act with hate toward people simply because of their dark skin.

The same dominant, oppressive culture has treated nature as a threatening darkness.  Instead of lovingly tending and stewarding earth as a gift of light and the source of all life, it has subdued, exploited and destroyed it, sending all species including our own to the brink of eternal darkness in extinction.

We need to see that we are part of the same struggle for light and love as those who created the earliest myths and all the liberation movements of the past.

We have tremendous diversity of roles to play, but we each need a way to keep in the light when the darkness threatens to overcome us.  I find this metaphor useful, so I share it in the hope you may as well:

The Dementors We Face

Dementors are instruments of darkness that block us from the light or suck the light out of us.

J. K. Rowling describes dementors in The Prisoner of Azkaban saying, “They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope and happiness out of the air around them…. Get too near a dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you.  If it can, the dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself…soul-less and evil.” (page 187)

We can find dementors lurking in the news, on social media, in certain relationships or recurring situations, at home, at school, at work, in our community—they can appear anywhere and will be different for different people.

Our dementors are not external, though, they are internal.  They reside in the response we have to the world.  They breed in our darkest thoughts and feelings.  The Nazi death camps were designed to suck the soul out of people and render them hopeless and turn them evil, but as Viktor Frankl shows in Man’s Search for Meaning, the dementors were inside each death camp inmate, which made heroic those inmates who found within them an even greater power of light.

The Patronus: The Defense against the Dementors

J.K. Rowling defines the “patronus” as “a kind of anti-dementor—a guardian that acts as a shield between you and the dementor…. The Patronus is a kind of positive force, a projection of the very things that the dementor feeds upon—hope, happiness, the desire to survive.” (p 237)

A patronus harnesses the life-force of light and makes it available to humans who are trained and practiced in its magic.  It comforts and guides as well as empowers—three of the qualities attributed to the Holy Spirit in the Gospel of John.

A patronus is what it looks like when we are instruments of the Spirit of light flowing through us.

The Patronus Charm is the way people learn to work with this force of light and let it flow.  The charm is made up of two parts—first, tools and practices; and second, the focus of our intention and attention on the light.

The equivalent for us of Harry’s wand, word and motion includes a vast array of inner resources that help people who are struggling with anxiety or depression, like Cognitive Behavior Therapy or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, each with its own set of inner tools and practices.  These are more elaborate than a flick of a wand and the words, “Expecto Patronum,” but their effect is comparable.

For example, if something in the news fills you with darkness and despair, you can go into nature or sit in your most comfortable chair and look around you and notice in detail the beauty and feel the relaxation of that moment of peace, or you can examine your thinking to clear cognitive distortions that are feeding the dementor, distortions like ignoring the positive or blowing the negative out of proportion and “catastrophizing.”

Talking with a good friend or counselor can also help, or feeling solidarity with others who are with you in the light.  There are many different tools and practices, and different ones work for different people.

The most important part of the Patronus Charm, though, is the focus of attention on, or complete immersion in, the light.   This focus has two steps.

First, we need to turn down the volume on the dementorish thoughts and feelings.  Skills like mindfulness and meditation give us the ability to keep our attention focused on the light when dementors attack.  In the Christian contemplative tradition these practices include heartfulness, Centering Prayer and the Welcoming Practice among others—they are all ways to self-empty and open ourselves to transformation by a higher power of light.

The second step in J. K. Rowling’s formula is the specific light that we invoke.  It is not enough to be nice or fun, it has to be a heart’s core connection to a central part of the meaning, purpose and hope of our lives.  We need to focus until that light fills our heart, mind, soul and body with its power.  In the film clip above it is a memory of Harry’s parents.

In Centering Prayer and the Christian mystical tradition this has a fascinating twist.  The way to focus on the most powerful light is to unfocus.  It is to enter into the darkness of “a cloud of forgetting and a cloud of unknowing” leaving our awareness simply open to the unseen presence of the light that shines in the darkness, the light of God.  We cannot access that highest power except through our deepest, unfocused openness.

We cannot do any of this without the discipline of study and practice, but the more we master our inner patronus, the more powerful a force of light we become in the world, and the more our own life is characterized by light.

This is what the world most needs from us now.

Gandhi’s Path of Higher Power: From Zero to One

This post includes two four-minute clips from the classic 1992 Richard Attenborough film, Gandhi.  The first sets the context for the Salt March that was a turning point in the Indian struggle for independence.  The clip at the end of this post shows more of the March itself.

“There comes a time when an individual becomes irresistible and his action becomes all-pervasive in its effect.  This comes when he reduces himself to zero.”  (Mahatma Gandhi, quoted in Eknath Easwaran’s book Gandhi the Man p114)

The Indian National Congress issued its declaration of independence on January 26, 1930 and raised a new national flag.  The masses of the Indian people were ready for an uprising.  It was a conflagration waiting for a match.

Yet the British Empire did not flinch.  The Indian National Congress made demands and pursued negotiations, but it was clear that the British were not ready to give up or even compromise significantly.

The pressure for change among the people was gaining in intensity.  Everyone knew that either a massive nonviolent action would take place or violent revolution would break out.  All eyes turned expectantly to the ashram and humble rooms of Mahatma Gandhi, but no word came forth.  Days stretched into weeks, and Gandhi made no indication of what would come.  The media accused him of playing his cards close to his chest, of purposefully building suspense to get the world’s attention.

But Gandhi was telling them the truth when he said he did not know what action he would take.  He was praying and waiting.  He was meditating, listening, asking for God’s guidance, and he would not do anything until he felt a clear calling from the Spirit.

In the end it came to him in a dream: Continue reading

The Role of Contemplative Practice in World Transformation

The amazing thing about this color is that it is always there, we just can’t see it when the leaves are busy with their summer work.  As Psalm 46 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” 
We each have our true color: the unique tint of the Spirit of life as it flows through the lens of our particular heart and mind.  Human society would be as beautifully transformed as a fall Vermont landscape if more of us could let that brilliant color show through. 
The Golden Room is the location of our true self and the Spirit within us, and the stillness and self-emptying of contemplative practice is the ideal way to reach that inner room and release its light. Then the Spirit becomes the guiding and empowering source of all our greening work in the world. 
Recently the Heartfulness Contemplative Training Circle in our church talked about what role Centering Prayer and contemplative practice play in the urgent practical crises we face, like influencing an election that will determine the fate of our democracy and the earth, or like uniting a culture that is polarized so that we can solve problems of social, economic and environmental injustice.
We need our best, most inspired and powerful work in a crisis of such magnitude.  All the religious traditions I know teach that work done from a place of spiritual grounding and connection is far more effective and more likely to lead to an unforeseen creative path forward. 
More importantly, as I often quote Gus Speth saying, “the transitions required can be achieved only in the context of what I will call the rise of a new consciousness…. a spiritual awakening —a transformation of the human heart.”
Gus also said, “I used to think the top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that with 30 years of good science we could address these problems. But I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with those we need a spiritual and cultural transformation, and we scientists don’t know how to do that.”
The practical purpose of contemplative prayer is inherently God’s purpose, not ours, but we can observe what God’s purpose seems to be.  The arc of the spiritual universe bends toward the transformation of the human heart, leading to the transformation of the world into God’s realm of loving compassion, justice and peace on earth.  These transformations bring health, harmony and oneness.  They make possible the fulfillment of the Golden Rule and love of neighbor as our self as ethical laws governing every aspect of our lives, from small communities to the largest corporations.
Ken Wilber, Cynthia Bourgeault, Richard Rohr and countless others point out that contemplative practice is the path we need in order to make the transition as quickly as possible to a level of consciousness that sees from that place of oneness.
I have been rereading Hieromonk Damascene’s Christ the Eternal Tao, which is an Eastern Orthodox book about that path of transformation, and I have also been rereading Cynthia Bourgeault’s The Heart of Centering Prayer.
Here is a quote that comes at the end of Part I where Bourgeault has been giving a superb refresher course on Centering Prayer.  She is talking about “attention of the heart,” a phrase that comes from the Eastern Orthodox tradition and is also a major theme of Christ the Eternal Tao:
“Once you get the hang of it, attention of the heart allows you to be fully present to God, but at the same time fully present to the situation at hand, giving and taking from the spontaneity of your own authentic, surrendered presence.
“Again, this kind of presence is a capacity that has been developing in you as you gradually learn in Centering Prayer to withdraw your attention from its default subject/object positioning and rest in that diffuse, objectless awareness. As this capacity grows in you, it gradually takes shape as a felt center of gravity within you, the place where the pendulum of your being naturally comes to rest.  It’s not so much a place you pay attention to as a place you pay attention from….
“As I see it, the purpose of Centering Prayer is to deepen your relationship with God (and at the same time your own deepest self) in that bandwidth of formless, objectless awareness that is the foundation of nondual consciousness.  There you discover that you, God and the world ‘out there’ are not separate entities, but flow together seamlessly in an unbreakable dynamism of self-giving love, which is the true nature of reality and the ground of everything…. Centering Prayer [is] both a foundation and an access route to the stabilization of nondual consciousness.”
The change of consciousness that is the prerequisite to solve our most dire crises today is nondual, not as an intellectual and theoretical belief in oneness, but as Bourgeaut defines nonduality: “You see oneness because you see from oneness.”
We cannot know what creative solutions we will find from a new level of consciousness until we get there and see from its perspective.  Gandhi as a young barrister could never have imagined what Gandhi as a mature Mahatma would come to understand and do after years of both contemplative spiritual practice and fully engaged social action.  That barrister could never have overturned the most powerful empire the world had ever seen, as the Mahatma did.
This is the kind of Spirit-led creative action we need now.  It is our hope for survival.  Every minute that you spend in Centering Prayer or meditation or other contemplative practices is opening you to the possibility of just the guidance and power you need in order to use your gifts most effectively to transform the world.
OK…now forget all that, because the way to receive that spiritual help is to self-empty, to come to contemplative practice with no agenda other than to make yourself fully available to God’s loving presence and transforming action.  We need to let go of our will and our idea of what ideally will happen, and let the Spirit work in its own way in its own good time, which may be nothing like what we could imagine.  In fact, it may look like nothing is happening.  We need to trust and keep practicing in order to keep the connection to the Spirit flowing.
So sit yourself down and simply let go of one thought at a time, over and over and over for twenty minutes, the humble, seemingly insignificant path of self-emptying prayer that leads toward God’s transformation of your heart and the transformation of the world.
For an overview of some Christian contemplative practices including Centering Prayer click here:
and click here to find many wonderful videos from many of the leading teachers.

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.

This Website’s Purpose Redefined for a New Time

Dear Readers,

The Welcome Page of this website now has a new statement of purpose.  You can read it here.  Please use the share buttons at the bottom of the page if you think people you know would be interested in this.  Thank you!

This Website’s Purpose

Summary:

“Who is there big enough to love the whole planet? We must find such people for the next society.”  E. B. White, “Intimations,” December 1941

This website has a passionate purpose: to help us become big enough to love the whole planet, not just in theory but in practice.  It seeks to help us become citizens who have the vision and the will to create the next society that is founded on a shared love of the whole world.

The passion behind this website is the same that you can hear in Greta Thunberg’s voice, or the Black Lives Matter protests.  We have reached a crisis point.  We have no more time, we cannot pass this on to any future generation.

There will be no future generations if our generation does not reply to E. B. White’s question, “Who is there big enough?” with the answer, “We are!”  But how can we become such people, and how can we change the world quickly enough?

I hope you will find inspiration, support and practical help for accomplishing that here.

The Call to Transform

E. B. White was by far not the only voice ever to call us to transform ourselves to a more enlightened consciousness that can see the true oneness of all life and to transform the world into a place of oneness and love of neighbor as self.

The wisest humans of every culture and spiritual tradition have called on humanity to make this transformation.  The voices began at least twenty-five hundred years ago at the dawning of the Axial Age and have continued with increasing urgency—Greek philosophers, the Hebrew prophets, Buddhist, Taoist and Hindu teachers, Christ and the contemplative Christian tradition, Sufis and indigenous wisdom-keepers.  In the 20th Century Albert Einstein, Dorothy Day, the Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. were only a few of the many who cried out for our transformation.

Today Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousefzai, Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama, Joanna Macy and Mary Evelyn Tucker and thousands more are telling us it is now or never—we have reached the crisis point where human consciousness and society must undergo this transformation or face the real possibility of extinction.

Gus Speth sums this crucial wisdom up beautifully in his book The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability.  Speth co-founded the Natural Resources Defense Council and World Resources Institute.  He Chaired President Carter’s Council on Environmental Quality.  He was Dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.  Here is what he says:

“Many of our deepest thinkers and many of those most familiar with the scale of the challenges we face have concluded that the transitions required can be achieved only in the context of what I will call the rise of a new consciousness. For some it is a spiritual awakening —a transformation of the human heart. For others it is a more intellectual process of coming to see the world anew and deeply embracing the emerging ethic of the environment and the old ethic of what it means to love thy neighbor as thyself. But for all it involves major cultural change and a reorientation of what society values and prizes most highly.”  (To read similar words from others click here.)

We have very little time.  The next decade is our chance to limit the scale of the environmental crisis and create a sustainable, just and peaceful global society.  Much excellent, detailed work has been done to envision what a healthy civilization and planet would require.  Bringing about world transformation seems achievable, but as Gus Speth says, “only in the context of…a new consciousness.”

We may elect leaders who will work on world transformation, but for them to have the power to overcome opposition and make the changes we need will require a new dominant cultural consciousness.  Building that support and political will seems like the harder task.

This website will focus especially on how we can transform our individual consciousness, the foundation for cultural and world transformation.

The co-founder of Centering Prayer, Thomas Keating, says, “If one is truly transformed, one can walk down the street, drink a cup of tea or shake hands with somebody and be pouring divine life into the world…. The essential thing…is the transformation of one’s own consciousness.”  (Mystery of Christ p. 275)

“If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself…. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation…”  Hua Hu Ching 75, attributed to Lao Tzu 

“If you want a golden civilization, you must start with what is golden inside of you. If you want a civilization that will thrive for a thousand years, you must start with what is timeless inside of you.”  George Kinder, A Golden Civilization and a Map of Mindfulness

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