An Appreciation of George Kinder, April 2, 2018

My brother, George Kinder, is a map-maker—he has been working on maps to the transformations that we need as individuals and as a world for decades.  I am celebrating his birthday by republishing this analysis of how his life work is contributing to changing the world for the better.

George has been recognized in national publications as one of the 35 most influential people in financial services, one of the top Icons & Innovators in financial planning, and the first of 15 transformational advisors whose vision most changed the industry.  He has revolutionized financial advising over the last thirty years, training over 3000 professionals in 30 countries in the field of Life Planning.

George is a spiritual teacher as well, and although his maps have been designed with financial Life Planners in mind, they have broad applicability. Hundreds of financial planners are now helping clients from all walks of life explore their deep heart’s core, their Golden Room.  The clients are living in, from and for the dreams or callings that they find there.  (A 2016 New York Times article described how people are following the Life Planning map to a meaningful retirement.)  Often these Life Plans contribute directly or indirectly to a healthier family, community or world.

George’s maps can be applied equally well to all facets of our lives and across the spectrum of our developmental lines or multiple intelligences, not just the financial realm.  All his maps lead us through the Golden Room of inner transformation to the transformed culture he calls the Golden Civilization.  Below I will look at the contribution that four of his books make to that movement.

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Introduction to the Returning/Aloha Category

This is the most important stage of the journey.  It cannot happen without all the other stages, but this is the reason why we have sought and built the Golden Room into our lives.  The purpose is not for us to feel the bliss of being there.  The purpose, as the vision showed, is to take what we find within and deliver it to the world.

An essential part of dwelling in the Golden Room is returning to the world, living not just in our heart’s core but from it, in order to serve with whatever gifts we find there.  Usually a Life Plan contributes gifts to others, whether to family, our workplace, our local community or the wider world, even if the plan is to sail solo around the world or enter a monastery.  There is almost always sooner or later a gain for others in our fulfilling our Golden Room life.  The calling in our deepest, truest core comes from the universe that created us and is not for ourselves alone.

We return to the world, and then return to the Golden Room and then return to the world again, until that cycle of returning is resolved in the highest nondual or integral developmental stage of consciousness, when we see that the universe and the Golden Room are one and we do not need to return because we are always at home wherever we go and whatever we do.

We will not have reached the truest, deepest core of the Golden Room until we have attained this universalizing stage of oneness with all creation.  The heart’s core gives rise to a self-giving, unconditional, all-forgiving, universal love that does not differentiate between worthy or unworthy or friend or foe or this recipient or that, but loves for the sake of loving.

No matter how partial the love we find within, our task is to return with even the smallest sliver of its golden light and deliver our gifts to the part of our world where we find they are needed.

“Aloha” is where George Kinder’s Seven Stages ultimately lead.  The meaning of Aloha is far more than hello or goodbye.  It is a personal quality of generous-hearted lovingkindness.  It takes simple joy in bestowing gifts to the world, whether random spontaneous acts or larger life works.

Aloha is a returning of blessings to others out of the knowledge and gratitude that we have been blessed by the universe to have this time on earth.  It has nothing to do with a sense of obligation or self-esteem, and it may not be true Aloha if we have not mastered some degree of the Understanding Stage.  True Aloha rises naturally from the heart.  It blossoms when we attain freedom from inner obstacles that block us from the integrity of living in, from and for our Golden Room, the way a hyacinth blossoms after struggling up from its buried bulb through the dark earth, at last releasing its inner truth of sweet scent and beautiful hue.

Introduction to the Dwelling/Understanding Category

When do you begin to dwell in the Golden Room that you are building, whether it be the spiritual center you are nurturing or the heart’s core vision (the “Torch”) of the Life Plan you are implementing?

Once it is completed and you move in and you never return to your former dwelling?

No, at some point you awaken to the fact that you began dwelling in your Golden Room the moment you inclined your heart toward the faintest calling.  To seek the site, to clear it, to dig, to build are all to dwell in that place.

Even more so, of course, is to move in and change your mailing address, to rest after all the striving and be still and fully present to the moment of arrival, to look with wonder at the beauty of the Golden Room and feel the peace and joy of being in your true home.

You may find forgetfulness taking you back onto your old street, falling into old habits, straying from your heart’s core and dream life, but as soon as you waken to that fact and long to return to the Golden Room, you are dwelling there again.

Whenever you are aware of it, whether you feel you are there or not, you are dwelling in it.  Doing spiritual practices designed to lead us to the Golden Room keeps us dwelling there, however far it may feel from finished and furnished.  Working on the logistical steps to put the new life in place is a real form of dwelling in it.  To live in relation to the Golden Room is to live in it.

“Understanding” is the pivotal phase of George Kinder’s Seven Stages.  It is the moment when we gain the capacity to dwell within our inner truth with acceptance and peace, and to live as we choose to live, with freedom and integrity, no matter what inner or outer turmoil is swirling around us.

We have heard a calling to a new way or level of living, we have cleared and dug deep and gained the knowledge we need, everything is in place, but in order to dwell in that newness and be our true, authentic self we need to have a psychological and spiritual breakthrough, we need to emerge fully from the hold of our old self-limiting ways of thinking and acting.

The Understanding stage requires mindfulness, inner listening, the ability to let thoughts go and let feelings be, the capacity to dwell fully and freely in each present moment whatever experience it may bring, and choose our path through it.  The result is a tremendous release of creative and entrepreneurial energy, a vigor that is in the service of our deepest, truest self, which has altruistic love at is core.  The more we dwell in it, the more we contribute to the well being of the world around us.

The posts in this category will be about what we need to do to dwell in the Golden Room wherever we may be on the journey there or in the process of building it.  They will be about mindfulness and the contemplative life and the Understanding Stage ability to find freedom and integrity within the present moment.

William Blake wrote,

I GIVE you the end of a golden string;
  Only wind it into a ball,
It will lead you in at Heaven’s gate,
  Built in Jerusalem’s wall.…

This Dwelling/Understanding category is about how to keep our fingers on the golden string that leads to and through the Golden Room.

Introduction to the Building/Execution Category

Building puts new habits and practices in place where obstacles were blocking us before.  We begin to see the beauty of our dream coming to life.  We see the building’s emerging outline define a space, and we step into it with wonder and excitement as it evolves.  We create borders and boundaries, a sheltering structure.  Our perspective changes as each new development reframes the view.

We find ourselves no longer descending in the vision of the Golden Room through utter darkness, claustrophobic and scraping our skin with no end in sight.  We can see now the glow of the Golden Room ahead, and every step on the ladder brings it closer.   We shift from moving away from our old reality through a painful exodus to moving toward our destination with joy.

In the journey of Dante’s Divine Comedy we have gone from being lost in the woods to descending into hell to working through purgatory, and now at last we begin to ascend in paradise, the realm of light.

The Life Planning “Execution” stage is where we implement the architectural designs of the plan, we build the logistical structure.  We carry out the action steps for every solution to every obstacle.  We start to see immediate results as the building rises.  We begin to live into the new life.

Posts in this category will be about putting in place all the needed elements to live the Golden Room, heart’s core life.

Introduction to the Digging/Knowledge Category

Digging continues the process that clearing began, the preparation of the site to fulfill the calling.  We dig in to the project, and lay the foundation that the building needs.

It corresponds in the vision of The Golden Room to the long, painful descent down the ladder.  This is where the challenges begin, and where many people give up.  It is no longer theoretical.  We have to get our hands dirty.

Kenosis, the process of self-emptying, becomes more intense. Thomas Keating, the teacher of Centering Prayer, talks about “the unloading of the unconscious” that contemplatives go through as their meditation practice deepens.  We need to bring up the junk, the old rocks and roots that will get in the way of solid footings.  The great song for spiritual renewal, Psalm 51, prays, “Create in me a clean heart, O God.”  Digging works toward the wide open heart that we need in order for a new and right spirit to rise in us.

The EVOKE Life Planning “Knowledge” phase applies expertise to the Obstacles we find as we dig.  It researches what we need to create a strong foundation for our new life.  How can we move buried boulders, how can we work with immovable ledge or a high water table—what logistical groundwork or architectural design work do we need to do, whether financial or psychological or relational or some other form, in order to implement our Life Plan?

Introduction to the Clearing/Obstacles Category

We need to prepare the ground once we know what we are called to do and where we are called to do it.  This is the clearing stage.

We may need to remove some trees or rocks for a building.  Logistics may challenge us like building permits or bank loans.  We will need to remove whatever inner and outer obstacles are in the way.

The Greek word kenosis means self-emptying, clearing out the old attachments and addictions of the false self so that we can begin to develop the true.  We need to confront our fears, we need to get past those inner voices that threaten to withhold the building permit, we need to assess our inner and outer resources and obtain whatever we are lacking to make our vision come true.

The lid of the chest needed to be lifted in the vision of the Golden Room, and encumbrances needed to be let go or stripped away in order to climb down the tight tunnel.

The EVOKE Life Planning “Obstacles” phase is designed to help us brainstorm solutions and actions that can clear the way for us to live our heart’s core dream life.

Clearing/Obstacles can be the most dynamic and creative of times as the landscape reveals its hidden needs and demands, and we respond.  The calling is sharpened and siting refined as we make the heroic journey to overcome everything that could block us from reaching our goal.

Introduction to the Siting/Vision Category

Calling forms a sense deep within us of what we need or long to do.  Siting happens when we begin to develop a clearer sense of where that impulse is leading us.  We start to walk the literal or metaphorical ground to decide exactly where our structure will stand.  We may try several different sites before we find its place on earth or in our life, and make many tweaks after that to get it just right.  We will need to use all our knowledge and wisdom and powers of intuition before we can be sure.

Siting corresponds to the moment when the vision of The Golden Room began with the instructions to go to the chest, open it and climb down.

The “Vision” stage in the EVOKE Life Planning process hones the sense of calling into a crystal clear, inspiring picture of what our heart’s core life would look like in the near term.  Once we have that image, called a Torch, we can start living into it by envisioning it coming true and letting it move us and instruct us how to take the first steps.

Posts in this category will look at the process of forming a vision of where our heart’s core is located and how to approach it, a vision of what it would mean to live in, from and for that Golden Room.