just be it It’s about the work involved in establishing a dedicated practice to feelings of a bigger belonging through practices aimed at increasing feelings of compassion, gratitude and forgiveness

Oxford Dictionary Announces ‘Toxic’ As 2018 Word of the Year

The origins of the word ‘sin’ come from the concept of ‘missing the mark’. So when do we miss this mark? It would seem we miss the mark when we cause harm to ourselves, others, and the environment. When we place concern for our special interests over the harm caused to others, we miss the mark. The core of most spiritual traditions arises from a deeper awareness to the connection of all things. When we can wake up to a ‘bigger belonging’ we’re more careful. We can retreat into our smaller belonging from fear and greed or expand into larger circles of belonging from the felt emotion of compassion and love. When we ‘wake up’ to infusing our actions, thoughts and emotions with a deeper consciousness that periodically smashes the illusion of our separateness, our actions cause less harm. The wake of our life is not so destructive. We leave a gentler footprint that hits that high mark of love. When we sever our sense of belonging, our actions, thoughts and emotions can be toxic. Where our sense of belonging stops is where our violence begins. The root of ‘to heal’ is found in the word ‘wholeness’, to wake up to our sense of oneness.

Toxic was chosen for 2018 because it was so frequently used to describe poisons governments used against humans, the toxic impacts of industry on the air we breath, and the apparent rise of separateness in our cultures as we respond to accelerating changes in technology, climate and global interactions. No doubt, these are very difficult times where multiple options must be explored to determine which actions will best steward the situation and the future of our children. Our options close when we harden to our opinions and beliefs. They expand when we can sit together in silence and briefly touch that space of expanding belonging before we begin to speak.

It’s my hope that the word for 2019 will be ‘stewardship’ or ‘nurture’. As we face impermanence and rapid change, will we come together? Can we move from persuasion, defensive listening and nonproductive debate to dialog? And if we can’t bring ourselves to dialog, can we at least sit together in silence, aiming together to hit the mark, accepting and stating that we don’t know everything? Toxic is that which harms, moving us from health to a lack of ease in living (dis-ease). Can we move to a higher vibration of stewardship, expanding our circles of belonging or will we let fear and greed feed the illusion of our separateness. Will we feed fear and greed, negative thoughts and emotions, and consequent actions that are toxic to others and our environment? Or will we recognize the tremendous gift of our very being and the responsibility we have to nurture others and our planet as ourselves, forever sensitive to impact? Infusing our ‘doing’ with the core of an awakened ‘being’, we are more careful, causing less harm and hopefully contributing to our healing rather than to the wounding.

The Nature of Privilege, Waking Up and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need

Abraham Maslow is often credited as the father of transpersonal psychology. This field was just beginning to bloom in the late ’60’s when I was taking courses in abnormal psychology. It dealt with how we can move beyond normal to higher levels of functioning as human beings. Given today’s climate of violence, it seems helpful to examine the ‘privilege’ of exploring ‘beyond normal’. He studied several people who excelled in human performance and came up with the following basic needs as prerequisite for moving to the highest level, self actualization. Some have referred to this as ‘waking up’.

The basic needs for survival are food and shelter followed by a sense of safety. Certainly, refugees fleeing the chaos of failed states are caught in this basic needs dilemma and we can understand the southern African and Central American migration as our refugee population has exploded to over sixty million people. The next basic need is belonging. We all may know what it’s like to enter a new community without a sense of welcoming. Certain populations now struggle as their tribe seeks belonging into a tribe of difference. In today’s society, with the explosion of technology, the effects of dramatic climate change, and radical changes in markets due to globalization, our capacity to adapt to these changes depends upon our skills at expanding our circles of belonging. There are those today who are filled with fear about these changes. They seek to protect ‘their tribe’ from other tribes. Some have referred to this as ‘nationalism’ vs. ‘multilateral’ orientation. No doubt, change is a huge challenge as our populations explode. Some will attempt to stop this change with antiquated legislation, border walls, outdated military spending, and inhuman methods in providing food, shelter and a sense of belonging to millions of humans suffering deep pain from lack of these basic needs.

I write this as a human of privilege. I wake each day in gratitude for the basic needs of food, shelter, and a broader sense of belonging. I maintain that anyone who has these basic needs met is in the category of privilege. Without them, it’s hard to move on to a larger sense of belonging. He then mentions the importance of self esteem. It’s hard to move to awareness when we’re filled with negative thoughts and emotions. Yet, when we can release our fear of the concept of ‘other’, grow our sense of community beyond difference, and pursue a spiritual path beyond concept or thought, we can begin to touch that creative space of ‘self actualization’. It’s a space where we can empty of attachments to being ‘right’, surrender our notions of the ‘right tribe’, ‘right religion’, ‘right politics’, and truly begin to explore the open mind. Whether in Christian mysticism, the Sufi tradition, a variety of Indigenous practices, Eastern spiritual practices, etc., when we explore beyond the words of religion we wake up to a bigger, deeper belonging. The self actualization is really a sense of the small self (ego) surrendering into big Self. As this happens the human being actualizes to the consciousness of non duality. Effectively, the awareness at this moment moves one from fear and greed to love and compassion. The awareness of interconnection, all things connected, is no longer a linguistic concept. The human can surrender in awareness to inevitable change (impermanence) and experience the felt awareness of Big Belonging. Maslow describes this creative moment as ‘peak experience’. Spiritual teachers describe this as an experience we can bounce in and out of as we continue the journey of self actualization.

Today, as humans push fear and resistance to change, the motivation and intention to ‘wake up’ becomes central to the stewardship of our planet. With the wake up comes awareness to move from complaint and persuasion, from special interest politics, from dogmatic interpretations of government, education and religion, to a flexibility and openness to meet rapidly accelerating changes in our world. The open, creative, flexible mind has the courage to temporarily suspend belief systems with the aim for ‘best for all, harm to none’.

Politics Is Violence

By linguistic definition, anytime we try to persuade (change) someone to our line of thinking, there’s an underlying violence. As we approach another election, as emotions heat up, and as we attach to what we ‘think’ is right, we’re more and more filled with anxiety. So how can we maintain a sense of balance? How can we aim to at least not cause each other harm? How do we return once again to that deeper knowing that we’re not separate, touching the true spirit of all of our great spiritual teachers? No doubt, we’re walking a razor’s edge if we’re hoping to stay engaged in these disruptive, fast changing times. For me, that answer lies in training to temporarily suspend my belief in thinking I know, thinking I’m right and you’re wrong.

Yesterday I met up with a friend who’s dedicated himself to balance training in active lifestyle sports. Twenty years ago I bought a gyro machine from him that helped train my body to throw momentum in various directions as I spun in full axis, all directions. He has worked in gymnastics and has been instrumental in the promotion of the Snake skateboard. He described his work as training people to “deliberately fall without hitting the ground”. It captures the joy of the boardsports and music I play. The real joy comes when the action unfolds outside the verbal mind. There’s an emptiness of mind, a complete letting go, that happens when fully surrendered to the arc of the turn. A famous trumpet teacher once said, “When the mind leaves the tone, obstacles appear.” My latest passion is windsurf foiling and this concept played out beautifully last week. I completed a fluid turn without thought, fully abandoned to any notion of separateness from the event. I had let go the concept of ‘me’. My watersport friend came up behind me and complimented me for the turn. I immediately lost balance and crashed, my ego bringing me back into separation. It seems that most times, when I ‘think’ I’m pretty good, I crash. So how is it that our creative performance comes when we’ve practiced deeply only to ‘let go’?

I heard someone say they like to lead a conversation with friends with the following question, “When you realize all your beliefs have been undermined, what’s left?” That captures the essence of peak, no mind, creative performance. A Zen teacher once called this “Big Hope”. Today’s political climate, a conflict driven news media, and radical change in climate, technology, and globalization challenge us deeply to hold that ‘Big Hope’. There seems to be momentum to give up as we all struggle to maintain a higher vibration. It’s frustrating to continuously fail in our efforts to change one another. Again, by definition, it’s got the smell of violence and most of the time ends in negative emotion, both parties separating in anger. I like the wisdom of, “when the problem seems big, get bigger than than the problem”. This is where real spiritual practice lies, expanding our circles of belonging through the confidence in letting go our fixed notions of ‘thinking we’re right’. Can we let go in a deliberate fall, knowing we won’t hit the ground? That’s the essence of dialogue.

Many of the Eastern martial arts carry this wisdom of letting go. They can be extremely physical, yet in truth, are purely spiritual. Aikido may capture this best with a literal meaning of “harmony spirit way”, or poetically “the way of harmonizing with the spirit of the universe”. The famous author, spiritual and martial arts teacher, George Leonard, writes:

“With ancient samurai roots, it (aikido) is a radical reform of the samurai tradition, seeking not victory over others but rather, in the founder’s words, “the loving protection of all beings”. Its techniques can cause severe damage or even death, but its heartfelt aim is peace and harmony.” from Introduction to “The Way of Aikido”

There were times when politicians knew how to listen deeply for understanding. There were times when people trained deeply to communicate with one another from an open mind, surrendering notions of ‘thinking they were right’. We’re now in a time that challenges us all to find that ‘Big Hope’ that moves us to expanding circles of belonging, beyond the illusion of our separateness. As long as we hold to our notions of special interest and ‘rightness’, violence will grow. Our spiritual challenge is to approach politics as a martial art, forever carrying the intention and motivation to “harmonize with the spirit of the universe”. This is the essence of the higher vibration, what our spiritual teachers call moving to light from the darkness, and what our fore fathers of this nation called our surrender to Divine Providence. We’re all being worked, all being challenged to aim higher than our limited belief systems. Our real faith will be found in our capacity to explore with one another the question of what’s left when we’re deeply looking beyond our beliefs? This is where we can either hold to our notions of ‘fixing or solving the Mystery’ or we can ‘befriend the Mystery’ in full surrendered creative action, thought and emotion.

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