“…we must call our spirits home, lest we forsake our origins, and lose hope, meaning, health, and the ability to serve and participate in the greatest change that history has ever known.” Jean Houston, The Search for The Beloved
We live in very challenging times, to say the least. Bombarded with negative news on a daily basis, 24/7 demands of a hyper-connected business world, striving to do the best by our families and children. We wear many hats in a day.
Take a moment to consider if you feel energized by living authentically, without masks, expressing your talents and values daily – or not. If you are not, one way to fuel yourself is to take a look inside, and explore your many dimensions, including those you hide. How do you even begin to think about such a topic?
Jean Houston advises us to “call our spirits home...to serve and participate in the greatest change that history has ever known.”
While on a call with sacred activist, Andrew Harvey, last week, in the wake of the heart-wrenching North Carolina Muslim killings, he urged us to “find our deep and powerful place to stand with dignity and inner resolve” even during these horrendous times. He continued, “The only essential task of life is to find out who you are and enact it.”
Who are you then? Are you your professional bio, the roles you play (sister, parent, professional, etc.), your passions? How do you encapsulate these many dimensions?
There is an archetypal pathway to our individual evolution. Joseph Campbell calls it “The Hero’s Journey;” Richard Rohr calls it “connecting the right dots” in his February 12 blog of the same title; Jean Houston names it “the search for the Beloved.”
The Hero’s journey is a pattern found in drama, stories, myth, religion and psychology, dating back through the millennia. From the first written story on the human journey, The Epic of Gilgamesh, the pattern has entered our collective consciousness.
The hero starts out on an adventure, feels fear of the unknown, befriends a seasoned wise person on his outer adventure. The hero then crosses the threshold from the ordinary world into the visionary world, where he is tested, finds allies, confronts death or a deep fear and triumphs, then returns transformed and ready to share the treasure with the ordinary world.
Steve Jobs and Ghandi epitomize this journey, although Jobs’ leadership style was fear-based rather than inspiring. Job's vision, however, was inspiring.
In Falling Upward: A Spirituality for Two Halves of Life, Rohr speaks of natural stages of development. One could even call it personal leadership evolution. He says, “In the first stages of life, you find identities and boundaries, not by who you positively are (you do not know yet), but by what you are or are not against.”
In the first stage, we first create the ego identity, the container of our academic progress, life accomplishments, etc. For most of us this represents our first 25 years of life. Yet, this is just a part of our totality; it excludes a full spiritual identity, the contents. You surface this by getting out of your daily grind and asking what content do you want your container to hold. “It is when we begin to pay attention, and seek integrity precisely in the task within the task that we begin to move from the first to the second half of our own lives”(Rohr).
Through conversations with “20 somethings” I am finding that many younger people are heading for the second half earlier than the previous Baby Boomers.
Jean Houston approaches this topic of deepening in a similar way to Rohr. Houston speaks of three archetypal realms in her book, The Search for the Beloved: Journeys in Mythology and Sacred Psychology. The most familiar realm is that of “This is me.” It is the everyday reality, “guided by habit patterns, cultural codings, and personal conditionings…structured by definitions…all of which terminate upon your death.” This is me is the mask we wear in the persona of our everyday existence on a linear timeline. This is the level at which most of us operate.
The second level is, “We Are…the place where the self joins its polyphrenic possibilities, including the gods.” Whichever wisdom being we most resonate with, be it Jesus or Krishna, we strive to experience their divinity and humanity in unison. It can be a path to personal illumination and transformation.
In this realm, nature plays a large part, showing us cycles of death and rebirth. Renewal and social transformation are birthed from this level. Richard Rohr, in his daily meditations, recently named “Nature as the First Bible.” He notes that monotheistic religions such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam, assert that “there is one Creator God who made all things," and that they have over-intellectualized their sacred books. Native religions such as Jains, Buddhists, and Indigenous peoples honor other creatures (all sentient beings) and the natural world.
In is the realm of We Are, we, as individuals, can bring forth our personal creativity and join it with a larger story. Otto Scharmer, senior lecturer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management, taps into this unity principle in his books Theory U and Presencing. When we merge with spirit, through our faith or meditation path, we are much more able to release limitations and bring forth innovation and potential as we emerge through the other side into conscious awareness.
Sitting in a class with Dr. Scharmer, a group of us accessed this “presence” by molding play dough scenes of past, present and future. Lost in playing with children’s toys, we shifted our normal thinking patterns, quieted our minds, and brought forth new insights for ourselves.
Life elements such as dreams, prayers, and reflections come together in this realm in such a way that bursts of insight surface at the most unexpected time, even while washing up the dishes or running. This is what Scharmer touches on with Theory U – leaving the daily mundane, disconnecting, finding wisdom in this separation from normal reality, then emerging again with newborn ideas. This realm is additive to the “This is me” level.
The final realm is, “I am,” divinity and God as the Unity of Being. This is me, merges with We Are, and Divinity to become I am. The emerging question becomes, “How do I place the Local Self in service of the Higher Self, where the Immanent God resides?”
The merging of “This is me” with “We Are,” where you experience a numinous energy and prescience, takes you deeper into the mystery and jolts you out of the mundaneness of your days. When you feel that mystery, your ego states and separateness fade; you feel stronger, more able, and resilient in the face of challenge. Going deeper into your essence then, empowers you to better handle these tumultuous times. Instead of learning new skills, competencies, or external models of the way “we should be” in order to succeed, we become our own guide, wise person and hero.
Leadership development consultant and CEO, August Turak, spent many years on retreat with Trappist monks, separating himself from his daily grind in order to gain perspective and renew. He noted that from an attitude of service to a higher purpose, the monks produced outstanding, sustainable, long-term business results, while remaining happy and healthy. He sums it up well: “Although all human motivation arises from a longing for transformation, there are three different types of transformation. When a thirsty man drinks, he transforms his condition. When a poor man hits the lottery, he transforms his circumstance. And when Mr. Scrooge wakes up on Christmas morning an utterly new man, he has experienced a transformation of being” (Secrets of The Trappist Monks, by August Turak).
Our fall 2015 Scotland retreat is an opportunity to renew through immersing yourself in nature, history, sacred sites, and laughter. It is an opportunity to do some inner work while playing and exploring 4,000 year old wisdom located within rugged landscapes. Join us.
How does who you are keep you strong? Share your experiences with us here.
Part 3 – Emergence – serving your higher self. How do you actually do this?
Sheila Armitage helps individuals and organizations adopt everyday resilience practices that boost work, home, and health.