Perpetual Progress

Perpetual Progress

Plotted trees with dying leaves
Life from stars now to dust
A dying breed hollowed by greed
Their integrity from rotting to rust

I’m asked to hope, on a short held rope
Not allowed to see those who save
Politics of distraction, incorporated factions
Taking more than they gave

I’m asked to buy while others die
The myth of famine and feast
We justify our insatiable alibis
But never question the beast

Because money speaks but does not seek
A value beyond the cost
Our Mother cries while Brother hides
All that we have lost

And yet there’s sight, on the darkest night
Once asleep but now awake
The illusion of ‘Them’, is ready to end
Time to rectify our mistakes

We must unite, it is our rite
First through the heart, then the mind
As the systems fall, we must call
To love ours and all mankind

The Laziness of Cancel Culture

The Laziness of Cancel Culture

The tragedy of life is in what dies inside a man while he lives – the death of genuine feeling, the death of inspired response, the awareness that makes it possible to feel the pain or the glory of other men in yourself. ~Norman Cousins

I woke up this morning to the #ThingsWeShouldCancel hashtag trending on Twitter. I know that this hashtag was started with levity in mind and not with the usual manufactured outrage that underpins the cancel culture. But the idea of canceling anything is troubling to me. Humans are complex beings who are facing complex challenges. But the cancel culture requires that we shove people into boxes, flattening them down into one-dimensional characters the can be easily judged and dismissed.

I tried hard not to use the term nuance because along with the words foment and tropes, it has been used so often it’s becoming noise. But it really is nuance that I am talking about. A person or position can rarely be fleshed out in an era of soundbites and social media. I’ve written before about my fear that we aren’t allowing people to be whole humans anymore. A whole human can be messy, irrational, contradictory, but mostly redeeming if we see them in their totality. We should resist the temptation to oversimplify something inherently complex. 

Cancel Culture is Lazy

We, unfortunately, don’t just get to skip to the good parts without doing the work. Not as individuals and certainly not as a society. Besides, there are many differing views on what is ‘good’ anyway. Cancel culture is lazy and reactionary. In a time where we have social media celebrities and influencers with ambiguous societal value, we’ve lost sight of what real change requires (and maybe what the real world is like). Bans, boycotts, cancels provide a short-lived opportunity to gain social currency but don’t catalyze any long term change. People can briefly feel good about themselves while sitting behind a screen. A call-out or cancel lacks the foundation and thoughtfulness needed to avoid unintended consequences. Because we find someone’s thoughts or political leanings offensive doesn’t just mean we cancel them and it goes away. It festers and frankly, recruits. A well-organized rebuttal or in-depth discussion does more for shifting the landscape than a call-out. I think the antidote to talk we don’t like, is more talking rather than canceling.

Inner Work Required

Cancel culture also speaks to a lack of self-awareness and willingness to do some inner excavation. In the spiritual community, we have a name for this type of defense mechanism – spiritual bypassing. It’s when people want to go directly to the love and light without doing the inner work. This way, the person is spared from having to feel any negative ‘vibes’ or emotions. Instead, I think when we are faced with something we are opposed to, it is the perfect time to look at one’s own shit. What are we afraid of? What do we value? Why is someone with a different worldview so threatening?

Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom.  ~Rumi

 The offense or anger that we feel is really a signal of healing to be done. Yes, there are times when being offended is justified, but then our focus should be on dealing with the root causes and supporting real change. People don’t like to hear this because we hold our feelings in such high esteem that we think they should be protected at all cost. Instead of seeing emotions for what they are. They are data points. They are spikes on a graph that warrant introspection rather than protection. They are the messages from our wounds.

Reclaiming Your Power

This isn’t about blaming the victim it is about putting yourself in charge of your own well-being. Not every slight or rude comment or dissenting opinion should be allowed to interfere with your contentment . And if it does, then the story that frames those feelings should be addressed. That’s where the inner work can become so powerful. The more we heal the stories and emotional trauma within ourselves, the more untouchable we become. We don’t become untouchable by never being touched. We get there by facing adversity and using those challenges to understand who we are and how we show up in the world. Sometimes people are just douche bags and don’t deserve our time, energy, or resources. Please understand, I am not talking about real crime, abuse, or neglect. I’m talking about canceling something because it upsets you or doesn’t fit into your worldview. We can learn more about ourselves listening to contrary ideas than we can in an echo chamber.

So I hope that we can move past our screen warrior mentalities and opt for real-world change. While we may be justified in some of our anger, we don’t move past it as a society by avoiding the people or ideas we disagree with. There will always be bad actors with bad ideas, but we challenge those ideas with better ones. That is the only way we really heal. First we look within and then we look without.

Listen in to the Chaos & Light Podcast as we explore cancel culture further from the perspective of freedom and liberation.

 

(c) Can Stock Photo / focalpoint

 

The Curious Case of The Addict & The Victim

The Curious Case of The Addict & The Victim

A recent podcast on this topic. 

 

We all have a little of the Addict archetype in us. It would be hard not to in a capitalist society whose sole purpose is to manufacture need and desire. I know when I say addict, you are thinking of your alcoholic uncle or some using crack who can’t function without their drug of choice. But I’m talking about the Addict as an archetype, and everyone has a little bit in them.

Not convinced?

How many times have you checked your phone today? Facebook? What about binge-watching Netflix? Have you ever found yourself hitting the ‘play next’ button because you didn’t want to wait the few seconds for it to happen naturally? Have you ever called shopping your retail therapy? Or headed for the ice cream after a particularly emotional day? You see the Addict can be as obvious as the junky getting high under the bridge or as insidious as revisiting your Instagram post every time it pings.

Carl Jung described archetypes as universal patterns of behavior that are embedded in our collective unconscious. These models or ‘inherited potentials’ become activated through interactions and experiences. Most of our movies and contemporary literature are shaped after the plight and triumphs of the Hero. Most of our personal tragedies are processed at some point by our Victim. In our collective experience, we witness the Villains, the Bullies, and even a few with a Messiah complex. I won’t mention any names.

It’s worth noting that not all engagements with substances or activities are unbalanced. If you go to a bar and have a couple of drinks to shoot the shit with a friend, that isn’t necessarily the Addict’s work. It is the attachment or the need/desire of something that is used to alter your current experience. If you take a breath and think about it, you know the difference.

You know.

The Addict’s desire has a palpable feel to it, and there is noticeable relief once we indulge. 

My Addict has had different afflictions over the years; some have passed, and some are still at the forefront of my experience. But regardless of the vice of choice, my Addict still holds some sway, though less and less as I figure out what makes her tick.

I realized that my Addict had two main functions in my life. The first being to disrupt order. My Addict thrives in chaos and actively tries to recruit people to join me in it. And trust me, she is pretty convincing. But as I went down this rabbit hole, I realized that employing chaos was just a ruse for the real mission. And that mission was to protect my Victim. It is no secret that people use vices as a means of distraction or escape from despair, trauma, or stress. Humans are uncomfortable being uncomfortable, and the Addict is an expert at distraction. But my Addict, though good at distraction, was really about keeping me small.

I found in my coaching work that people either feared success or feared failure, and the root cause was really the same. They had a desire to stay small. The masculine perversion of this is to remain small so that one stays unnoticed, and there will be no damage to the ego. If you don’t try, you can’t fail or succeed, and either way, there will be no scrutiny and no criticism. The feminine perversion stays small and seeks enablers to join her pity party. This isn’t an either-or proposition, sometimes we have perversions of both. My Addict wanted everyone to hang out in the chaos, so none of us needed to try. And also wished to promote inconsistency and non-commitment to ensure my Big Self didn’t draw any unnecessary attention. Whatever the strategy, my Addict remained the humble servant of my Victim. 

The fun thing about archetypes is that they aren’t all bad. There are empowered versions of them too. Once we reach into our subconscious and explore how they show up and impact our lives, they move from the shadows into the light. They have the opportunity to reach their inherent potential. We gain conscious choice and choice is powerful. The empowered Addict also brings with it a deep sense of compassion. Especially once we acknowledge that its primary mission is protection. We’ve all experienced suffering and trauma at the hands of someone else. We all know what it feels like to want to distract or escape from our pain.

We all make mistakes.

The light side of our Addict knows this and can show support and compassion for those that are struggling.

So the next question for me was, if the Addict protects my Victim, then how do I heal it? When I sat with this question in meditation, the message was simple. Stop protecting it. The only way for my Victim to become healthy and strong was to incrementally put myself out there. To sit with the uncomfortable feelings of scrutiny and potential critique and let it be. And when the sense of ‘not-enoughness’ shows up, I acknowledge it and surrender.

I let in and let go.

And when I feel the itchy energy of my Addict arising wanting to distract or dissuade, I use the tools I have, namely meditation and exercise, to transmute that energy. Those are the jewels of my Victim in her empowered state. She knows how to set healthy boundaries, has tools to deal with difficult feelings, and can re-write her story, so it serves my highest and best self. 

So I will keep my focus and intention on consistency and commitment to those things that serve my Big, and best self. I chose those words because they seem to be the opposite intention of my disempowered Addict and Victim. I know I still have work to do. I just binged watched the entire season of 13 Reasons Why before I got around to writing this post. Clearly,  I’m still a work in progress. But I’ll continue to do my best and use compassion when I don’t. 

 

Who does your Addict serve? And what are they afraid of?


(c) Can Stock Photo / Kuzmaphoto

The Story of Them

The Story of Them

“We are all here to contribute our gifts toward something greater than ourselves, and will never be content unless we are.”

― Charles Eisenstein

Last week I visited Hiroshima. It happened to be the same day that Trump stated he wanted to leave a decades-old arms treaty with Russia. Saying something to the effect that we need to build up our arsenal so there comes a time when we don ’t need them. As I stood at the place where the first atomic bomb dropped all I could feel was hurting in my heart. From where I stood, it seemed inconceivable even to entertain the thought of using a weapon like this again. With all that we know about each other and the world, could it really be possible? Would humanity let it happen?

There is a part of me that wishes we could skip to the good parts. To the place where I hope we are evolving toward. A place where we get along, where we can feed our people and where we see the earth as a living system and not as a resource to be exploited. The thing that seems crazy to me is that most people I know feel the same way. If we were to get out of our heads and into our hearts, most people ache for a better world not just for them, but for everyone. So why are we here? Why are we contemplating another arms race?

The story of ‘Them’ is deeply rooted in our culture. We see it played out in our media, our movies, and our politics. This story requires a hero, an enemy, and a victim. There is a battle to be fought, and there are always winners, losers, losses, and costs. If we really do want to get to the good parts, then we desperately need to write a new story. One with less collateral damage.

Many things have changed since World War II. Our world is increasingly interdependent; international business, tourism and living abroad are commonplace. We indeed are a global village. I can talk to my family while they are camping in Oregon as I sit at my table in Japan. We now face existential threats that can’t be solved by the actions of a single nation or a few banding together. It will take a worldwide effort. We are tied together in ways that aren’t easily untethered. This is also a time of increasing transparency. We are no longer able just to see glimpses of the planet from our little corner of the world that networks and/or governments allow us to see. We can see the whole world and talk to people on the other side of it in real time. This makes it increasingly difficult for those in power to manipulate or maintain a particular message. And with all of this, we are chipping away at the idea of ‘Them’ and looking toward the story of ‘Us’.

The ‘Them’ story is the ultimate game of distraction. It makes for exciting and dramatic television, but it also provides a justification for being perpetually angry, fearful, offended or indifferent. There is also an underlying message of futility that we are doomed to repeat this story over and over. After all, it is human nature, right? So, our only action is to hold tightly to our tribe and rally around the enemy. But I believe that if we took a minute to challenge this story, we’d see that we aren’t that different. That person sitting next to you isn’t the enemy, but rather just another human trying to do the best they can with what they know. I know this because every time there is a natural disaster or wide-scale human suffering – people show up. They show up regardless of their political affiliation or their membership to their tribe. They show up because in their hearts they feel moved to help. Somewhere they understand our connectedness.

The story of ‘Them’ is just a mutually agreed upon construct that we can pull the plug on any time we want. We can choose to stay focused on the enemy, and their contribution to the ills of society or we can choose to interrupt the regularly scheduled programming of fear and divisiveness and witness each other with compassion and humility. And while it seems like we are moving further away from each other, I think it is just the last throes of a dying paradigm. Right now more people are paying attention, people’s eyes are opening, and the reaction is to lash out at what they don’t want to see. The next step is to create what we do want to see. And that requires that we pull the plug on this narrative.

We may not have the same values or skin color or the same reasons for what gets us up in the morning. But we share something much more profound than any of those things. I know that you suffer and hurt sometimes. I know that you care about the world you live in, and you want things to have meaning. I know that you are a person that loves and wants to be loved. So, I choose to extend something more than judgment, fear or distrust. What if the best ‘weapon’ I have against our misunderstandings is not to condemn you but to sit with the notion, that maybe I just don’t understand yet. And until I do, I will just be with our differences and seek out our similarities. 

Our culture’s battle mentality likes to fight wars, drugs, poverty, and illness. People are hailed as survivors and heroes and talked about as allies, enemies, and victims. What if stories of man vs. man and man vs. nature have been done to death (literally)? Maybe the only interesting story left to tell isn’t one of conflict but one of peace and collaboration. The question shouldn’t be who is right and who is wrong, but what is it I don’t understand and where do we align? That is the core of the story of ‘Us’. It seeks the true causes of our behavior and circumstances and allows space for change and growth. We will never bomb our way to a better world or spread democracy through invasion. We could easily fund this new story too if we didn’t need to fund the perpetual battle against ‘Them’. And let’s be real, in the face of existential threats, the story of ‘Them’ has a really shitty ending.

 

The World I Want to Live In

The World I Want to Live In

We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same. ~Carlos Castaneda

In a recent podcast by Sam Harris, he interviewed Jonathan Haidt on his new book, The Coddling of the American Mind. They talked about our current culture of boycotts, call-outs, deplatforming, and outrage. A culture where the social prestige from doing so is a form of currency. Sam Harris often talks about the, ‘what kind of world do you want to live in test’ and do these actions take us to that world. I pondered this question over the past couple of weeks and here are my thoughts.

I want to live in a world where we can still be whole people and loved even in the face of our fallibility. Where a person can fuck up and still be forgiven. Where a person can be vulnerable and intimate and risk not choosing the right words in doing so. Where a carefully crafted response is not a substitute for authenticity. I think of the times that I have been out of line, or irreverent and am thankful I have people in my life who can see all of me. Even see past the unsavory and still love me and call me their friend. I’m scared we are losing the ability to hold space for the whole human, unpolished and raw.  Especially in our online world, we shove people in boxes of pro-life or pro-choice, red or blue and reduce them down to a single cause, group or ideology to determine if they are with us or against us. We now gather and identify in groups not only based in commonality but the common enemy.

I want to live in a world that allows for complex conversations and nuance. A  place where dualities exist and it is okay for people to hold two ideas at the same time even if they don’t fit nicely into a narrative. Where someone can sit with another’s apparent contradiction and not use it as an opportunity to call them out or gain social prestige. A world where nobody is forced to live in a black or white polarity, they can be Christian, pro-gun, pro-choice, and pro-gay marriage and that speaks to their thoughtfulness and self reflection rather than their hypocrisy.

I want to live in a world where people can acknowledge their wounds but not have to lose their agency. A world where we’ve unplugged from the story of our powerlessness and into one of collaboration and cooperation as we build a better one. We lose so much when we choose to rally around victimhood as our path to equality. In viewing things through the lens of our wounds, we create more of want we don’t want – abuses of power and control. Birthing something new requires a new story of empowerment for all, not just a group.

I want to live in a world that is just and not necessarily fair.  In a just world, we own our own will, meaning that we have the right to make our own choices. Fairness, on the other hand, is a subjective opinion on how we think things should be. There is nothing to be gained from forcing people to act in a certain way, not allowing them to speak or shaming them into compliance. Free speech and expression of our own will are hard to retrieve once they have been lost. I’m not prepared to concede to a world that is subject to a certain individual or group’s beliefs about how things should look. We are not entitled to have our feelings protected, however, we are entitled to freedom of speech. We shouldn’t so easily put our wellbeing in the hands of others, letting their words or actions affect us unless it is truly warranted.  I’d rather live in a world where we risk offending someone but can have open, and honest debate, then jeopardize our ability to do so.

I want to live in a world where compassion, kindness, and forgiveness are of the highest value. A place where we extend good faith to others rather than assume malicious intent. I remember reading somewhere that forgiveness is when you are able to pull your energy out of the situation. So when that situation no longer consumes your attention and resources then you’ve shifted into a state of forgiveness. How can we ever do that if we only focus on our past wounding, rather than healing and moving on to construct something better?

In this time of great revealing which I know is a necessary step, I hope we can think about where we want all of this to go. It has to be about more than just revealing – forgiveness and paths to redemption need to be part of the conversation. We have to think about the world we want to create and I don’t know where you hope we end up, but is our current trajectory taking us there?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about the world you’d like to live in.

Moving Beyond Symbolic Consciousness

Moving Beyond Symbolic Consciousness

Symbolic consciousness has seized control of the evolutionary dynamics of life on Earth and deeply impoverished the planetary ecology. – Peter Reason

Imagine a world without language, images or the written word. Imagine an organism with awareness of self, a sense of community and yet no way to share their world with another. An intense inner world fueled by instinct and survival and yet a consciousness that understands our connection. It was out of this that the world as we know it evolved today.

We have always been connected. The same ingredients that gave birth to the cosmos are the same things that we are made of; we are of the stars. If we were to look at the history of the universe in an hour time frame, humans have only existed in the last minute on earth. Yet we have changed the earth in amazing ways. Recently, I watched an eye-opening documentary that helped me to understand how our earth evolved into this increasingly complex world that we now live in. In Journey of the Universe, they answer the question, how did this happen? What was the catalyst that propelled civilization into exponential growth and where do we go from here?

Evolution of the Cosmos

Fourteen billion years ago the universe exploded with life in what some scientists call “Goldilocks Conditions”, any hotter or cooler and the expansion would have quickly imploded or collapsed back into nothing. In these perfect conditions, a universe was born. Around 4 and half billion years ago the earth and our sun were formed. Again, our planet seemingly divinely guided in its creation, as the perfect conditions conspired that resulted in our creation. The earth at this point was governed by what Dr. Frank Heile would describe as a primary consciousness. This is the consciousness that permeates the natural world. If we think of it like a computer, it would be a parallel processor giving rise to the self-organizing dynamic that scientist now believe is the natural order of things. This primary consciousness has a present moment awareness, that created patterns and intelligence that coded all of life. Yet, it wasn’t until the time of man that things began to grow in ever more complex ways as we burst beyond this primary consciousness into symbolic consciousness. While there is much debate about what triggered this, there is one very interesting theory posited by Brian Thomas Swimme in Journey of the Universe

The Birth of the Inner Child

Something happened within the mammals, the divine feminine energies arose and mammals began to nurture and nourish their young. We gave rise to the inner child. As humans, we let our children be creative and playful for many years beyond all other creatures. Some believe that this prolongation of childhood is what led to our exponential complexity. Maybe it was the nurturing of our ‘right brains’ that brought our species to new heights and eventually led to the development of what neuroscientist call our intuitive brain. But there is more to this story. While the prolongation of childhood may have allowed for increased complexity, it was also our development of language and writing that changed the game for our species and what we were able to accomplish.

The Rise of Symbolic Consciousness

Symbolic consciousness is a world created from symbols that evolved to language and writing that allowed humans to express their inner world with the outer world. Just as today, all words are symbols for something much deeper. Our self-awareness allowed us to create a symbolic world in order to pass on information, ideas and mythology. As we began to create the world around us to symbolize what has existed within, we began our journey of symbolic consciousness.

For billions of years, the earth was guided by the principals of self-organization or this primary consciousness. Now instead of just passing along our genetic coding and patterns to subsequent generations, we were now able to pass along our experience. Allowing us to teach each other complex instructions on how to make things by stringing together long chain symbols. As Dr. Frank Heile and some explained, we created a hierarchal structure and/or chains of these symbols, which allowed us to live and thrive in groups. Giving us the opportunity to make tools and pass on information about hunting and the world we lived in without that information being lost from one generation to the next. We began creating energetic exchanges as we moved more and more of our experience in the external world. We identified with ourselves as “I” and “Me”, and in order to understand ourselves, we became something relative to something else. Creating an identity that was a measure of another’s perception, again a reflection of the outer world and less of an understanding of our essence.

Symbolic Consciousness in the Modern Age

In addition to increasing complexity in ideas and thought, this created a positive feedback loop or an amplifying loop. We would see something, identify and integrate it into our culture and then create more of it. With this, our minds focused on rehashing the past and the inventing of the future. And so began our love affair with linear and logical thinking, building one idea on the foundation of the last. As Brian Thomas Swimme would explain it, our collective consciousness was giving birth to more symbols and those would, in turn, magnify our collective consciousness.

How this developed over time is we began to value the external, ‘objective reality’ over our inner knowing. Science then began to dictate our truth; everything we could quantify, and rationalize became our dogma. The qualities of the divine feminine and inner child were diminished. Marketing and commercialization preyed on this externalized reality, creating attachments and suffering. It also created another glaring problem; we used these measures to dominate nature instead of move with it. No longer were we part of the natural world, our aim was to control it for our own benefit.

Coming Full Circle

Since we understand now how symbolic consciousness has propelled us forward exponentially in every way, what is it going to take to come full circle? If symbolic consciousness is the amplification of the external world, it is time to bring it back to our center. What is going on within each one of us when we cultivate an inner awareness? There are so many things that take us out of this space, especially the technology of our smartphones and advent of social media; we need to make a concerted effort to move back within. Dr. Jeffery Martin would call this non-symbolic consciousness.   It is a non-dual awareness, where one consciously embraces solitude, stillness, and quiet contemplation. It is a state that is ripe for mystical experiences birthed from the cultivation of mindfulness.

We have been living life looking through a keyhole, piecing the puzzle together, asking the how questions. It is now time to embrace the why? It is time to rise to a new level of self-awareness. One that can expand large enough to see where we have been, what we have created and reflect on our need to control and dominate. As Brian Thomas Swimme expressed about the self-organizing nature of the universe. “Life learns”. It is time for us to live again in harmony with our world, as sustainability is harmony in action.

5 Suggestions to Cultivate Non-Symbolic Consciousness

  1. Set boundaries around your use of technology
  2. Meditate
  3. Ecstatic Dance
  4. Be in nature
  5. Spend part of your day in silence

(c) Can Stock Photo