It’s our souls that suffer.

 

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 In order to survive the planet has learned to nurture symbiotic relationships.                                           Pic By– http://www.terrypond.com

 

“Man’s Capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.”

Rheinhold Niebuhr, The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness (1944)

 

In order to live with one another in any kind of peace requires that each man be willing to give up some portion of his self-interest to the society. Though the soul of man yearns to be free– to be what it is, this yearning is what drives him to create societies that will extricate him from tyranny.

No man can ever hope to be complete and whole without the relationship of all other humans. But it’s that societal relationship that also threatens his autonomy– the very freedom he yearns for. But by his very nature and the nature of all things, both selfish and unselfish impulses struggle with one another for dominance.

What we see in most societies is a back and forth war between self-interest and social interest that often weakens the social agreement and that self-centered justification is then transformed into some collective moral justification that allows him to brutalize his fellow man. With moral justification he can then hide the true character of his collective self.

This back and forth struggle keeps humankind in a constant state of flux careening rapidly between justice and injustice, self-interest and collective interest, and selfishness and selflessness. And here for me is the crux of the problem, societies i.e. nations are basically selfish whereas the individual has within it a kernel of selflessness. It is this selflessness in balance with our selfishness that we each need to nurture. In short, we cannot expect nations to change until we do and we cannot change until we’re ready to give up our need to dominate everything– religiously, geologically, politically, and psychologically.

Right now we the collective people of this Earth in the name of self-righteousness, politically and religiously, are imposing our will above the will of every one else, attempting to change, to bend, reality toward our selfish needs and in the process ignoring what really needs to be changed– our fear-based penchant to dominate in thought and by physicality. When we make our own egos paramount we create the oligarchs, despots, and dictators of this world, we erode our ability to be free, and it is our souls that suffer.

Be the change you seek. Don’t expect it from your religionists or politicians they’ll only change when you do. And don’t use your religion to self-righteously control the hearts of others, use it to find the beauty in your own heart.

 

“God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed, courage
to change the things which should be changed,
and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.”

–Reinhold Niebuhr (1942)

So what gets between us and our divinity? There are consequences for letting fear run our lives.

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In today’s news media we hear about all kinds of mayhem i.e. murder, war, oppression, financial meltdown, high unemployment, ethnic strife, and extreme political partisanship. I’ve also noticed that the more I read, the more anxious and fearful I become and I grow more defensive.

What, I wondered, was causing the seemingly escalating chaos? Could it be something as simple as unchecked fear and was this fear then feeding upon itself? As human beings attempt to deal with their fears, they show up as images in their dreams that sometimes morph into dark and frightening chimera–nightmares. In the Archipelago of Dreams Robert is constantly reacting to his fears and doesn’t know how to effectively deal with them as they come fast and furious and threaten to overwhelm him.

Alas, our typical human response for dealing with that which scares us is to shove it down into the hidden realms of our subconscious mind. In the short run this seems to work and allows us to get through yet another day, but over the long haul the fears become too large to hide and too difficult to manage and we begin to function through our fears as though they were real.

When people operate out of fear their ability to see reality becomes compromised–everything becomes a threat. For those who live in fear, defense–self-protection–becomes the overriding theme of their lives. This posture then fuels their response to their medical needs, leadership, virtually every aspect of public safety, and sometimes even dictates what foods are eaten.

Fear comes from thinking that you are vulnerable to your circumstances and to the events of your life. It is spawned from the animal part of us that reacts instinctively and without thought–the little archaic lizard, or reptilian, brain that hides at the base of the skull. In humans it is incorporated into the ego-self, a construct that imagines itself to be small and isolated and thus vulnerable to the world. The reality is anything but–we are immensely bigger than our image of ourselves.

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However, in a world where the inhabitants are blind to their reality, they build walls around themselves and “things” become important to their defense. How many things and of what kind becomes a preoccupation. As the inhabitants strive to gather more and more things so as to feel safe and secure they themselves become a thing as well and separate themselves even further from each other. And the separation results in each person exploiting the others for what they think will be their personal gain–what they think will quiet the fear.

When you are separated and alone you begin to feel vulnerable and helpless and the fear grows. It is out of that fear that dictators are born, that institutional and religious dogma is created to control the hoards of unpredictable “others,” and where people create points-of-view designed to protect their selves against what is not them. What was born powerful becomes fragile.

In The Archipelago of Dreams Robert leaves behind the fragile ego of his being world and discovers that he is something much more than he ever dreamed of. As he confronts the real cause of his fears, an awareness grows regarding the cost of self-protection–greed, pride, usury, hate, anger, lust, envy, and the ubiquitous self-righteous points-of-view and all of this resulting in overwhelming disruption in both the personal and collective order. The land is raped of its abundant resources and people become objects toward self-centered ends as the bankers, moneylenders, merchants and political leaders use them for their personal lust for safety.

Eventually the scale that is the world tips too far and everything slides off leaving bankrupt institutions and philosophies, wars, political gridlock, and oppression. And the people rail, and wail, and blame, and build their walls even higher. The walls become so high and fortified that the people lose sight of the soul of the world, what the great American Psychologist, James Hillman called the Anima Mundi, and their own soul as well.

It is from this dysfunctional world that Robert comes to the bigger world of the Spirit that we all come from and will all return to. It is in this world that Robert has been tasked to aid in the reconciliation that must take place within a human being in order for mankind to reunite with his soul and his bigger Self, his Spirit Self.

We were meant to be the light of the world and yet we embraced much too much of the shadow. Robert must find a way to reconnect his lost self, our lost selves. But as he learns all too quickly, this will not be easy and much evil conspires to maintain the status quo and to protect the separation. He had to find something within him that he was sure didn’t exist, and he had to find it fast because time was not a friend there, and it didn’t flow in only one direction.

Causes of world unrest: Thinking that only your point-of-view is the right one.

 

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There seems to be so much unrest in the world and intolerance of each others points-of-interest appears to be at an all time high.

Some of my dreams express my own intolerance, points-of-view, and how resistant I can be sometimes to those points-of-view that don’t agree with mine (of course there is a remote possibility that I’m right).

First a few definitions might be in order before we dive into the factors that may be energizing the world’s current unrest.

Self-questioning

noun

  1. examination of one’s own actions and motives, self-contemplation, self-examination, self-questioning, self-reflection, soul-searching.

Intolerance

noun

  1. unwillingness to accept views, beliefs, or behavior that differ from one’s own. “a struggle against religious intolerance” Bigotry, narrow-mindedness, prejudice, bias, partiality, inequality, partisan

Literalism:

noun

  1. adherence to the explicit substance of an idea or expression. Adherence to the exact letter or the literal sense, as in translation or interpretation: as in biblical or religious literalism.

 

Intolerance leads to contraction (vs. growth), insularity (vs. openness), imbalance (unbalanced point-of-view, unbalanced behavior, psychological disturbance) and death. Basically, the soul embraces diversity and the ego does not.

Literalism can cause intolerance and intolerance can sustain literalism and that cuts off any further development and over time leads to a diversion from reality. When this diversion becomes too severe it becomes a psychosis, defined loosely as an “abnormal condition of the soul” characterized by a loss of contact with reality and exhibiting thought disorder. Some who show psychotic behavior exhibit an extraordinary belief in something that just isn’t true, that the facts will not support e.g. women are weak, men are strong therefor men must control and protect women for their own good.

What usually keeps a false belief (or bias) in place is that the mind that has it has been conditioned to not explore the truth or inner motivations and causations behind the belief. Literalism, again, trumps inner or outer questioning and the false belief remains entrenched. Anyone who begins to question thus becomes a danger to the prevailing dogma and has to be either brought back into the system or expunged from it. Many extremists and militants can be said to exhibit delusional qualities even though they themselves can’t recognize it.

So who’s reality are we talking about? Is the mystic psychotic? Is the fundamentalist psychotic? Is the zealot psychotic? How delusional does one have to be to qualify and when does the imbalance become a danger to themselves and/or others? Usually one needs to exhibit the symptoms over an extended period of time and to a great degree. When the delusions take on paranoid qualities and the person begins to act on or against them they can be injurious to others as well as themselves.

Some people experience momentary breaks with material reality when going through an epiphany or have been under prolonged stress or deprivation while some show only mild forms of delusion due to environmental and cultural influences. These don’t usually trigger the diagnosis of psychosis.

Some of the symptoms of psychoses, especially that of delusions, seem to reflect in those having a mystical experience. However, these are temporary. There’s a shift in awareness that persists over time but the disconnect from reality that the psychotic experiences is only temporary in the mystic. The mystic learns to work with the reality of the everyday through the shifted point-of-view whereas a person with psychosis becomes broadly, if not permanently if no intervention is available, delusional and unable to reliably work with reality in a balanced way.

Also under the right circumstances the psychosis of a few can generate a contagious reaction amongst the many and is usually reinforced and maintained through external psychological and sociocultural influences e.g. religious interpretation, regional cultural beliefs.

As I’ve suggested before reality is an expression of our level of consciousness, what we see is a reflection of our inner development or lack thereof i.e. if you only perceive variations of negative, guess where that’s coming from? And until we come to grips with that realization reality will run us ragged with fears and hatreds and resentments and harden our hearts and minds.

Essentially reality will support our level of development e.g. if we are prejudiced, intolerant, fearful and exclusive, the universe, aka reality, will present us with all kinds of experiences along these lines. In other words, if we say “fuck you” to the world the world will return it in kind– put out negative energy and that’s what you’ll get in return– often the energy is not out there it is within yourself. Without self-examination one is doomed to frequent failure (not total failure because even a broken clock is right twice a day).

 

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”

–Socrates

 

Socrates’ statement here might be a little over the top. But he was suggesting that each of us in order to be fully human need to be self-examining otherwise we don’t rise above the level of the animals. I wouldn’t suggest that those who don’t internally question life shouldn’t continue to live or aren’t worth as much as might be implied by such a statement as Socrates’.

But life becomes so much richer and so much less fearful when one examines life while they’re living it. Being free to question life liberates the soul and keeps people balanced while an unexamined and unquestioned life restricts a person’s soul and creates imbalance. As I said at the beginning of this post, “The soul embraces diversity the ego does not.“ Another way of saying that is what rejects diversity is not of the soul, not of the divine that is boundless, but of the small bound-up “skin encapsulated ego” *.

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* A phrase attributed to Alan Watts (theologian and philosopher– 1915 to 1973, though some might say he was an Eastern Mystic in an Englishman’s body). I am suggesting that this socially conditioned “skin encapsulated ego” is the ultimate definition of separateness e.g. what is ‘me’ and what is ‘not me’ and is therefore the foundation for all exclusion, prejudice, intolerance, fear and bigotry.

 

 

To share or not to share

 

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Authenticity: To be real without pretentions. It’s hard to be authentic when you’re doing what you do for acceptance or trying to meet someone else’s expectations. The ego has to be right, look good, be acceptable, and avoid rejection all of which are barriers to authenticity. This need for acceptance might breed pretentiousness and create masks that are worn to give the impression of authenticity.

We have to dare to be our real selves no matter how scary that may be.

When we allow ourselves to be defined by our past it becomes a barrier to being in the present that I believe is the only place that authenticity can happen.

Some believe it’s all about nonconformity but I believe it’s about choice, the choice to conform or not to conform based on what is necessary in the moment. Choice can only happen authentically if one can accept either the positive or negative and then “choose” what is best for the moment and situation.

It’s about allowing our true selves to be seen. But what is your true self? Is it someone who bullies to get his or her way? Is it someone who bends over backwards to please in order to be accepted by others? Is it someone who uses their charm to get his or her way? I believe that these behaviors are of the ego-self and not the deeper self, the spirit that motivates.

True belonging, one of the basic human needs, I believe requires being yourself ego warts and all. To present a fraudulent self separates others from you and affects the real sense of belonging. Should you be accepted as a person with a mask of acceptability, it’s only the mask they love, not you.

To be real means to be vulnerable. This is the birthplace for belonging and for love, courage and creativity. When my goal becomes about safety I can’t be vulnerable and miss out on most of the joy that’s available in truly belonging. When my goal is about seeking approval it is forever empty for seeking outside oneself is an insatiable quest. This is because people give or withhold approval based on their own mood and not as a reflection of who you’re being or who you are.

Every year at our church around New Year’s there’s a basket full of stars with a word printed on each and each of us is encouraged to dip into this basket and take a star and it’s word to contemplate for the rest of the year. My word for the year is “Share”. Try as I might I couldn’t really get excited about this word, after all I already share my butt off. For six weeks I’ve been staring at this word with nothing but emptiness or some contrivance or another so that I could claim some meaningful contemplation. Only none of it has been meaningful. Then a reading group that I belong to came up against the word “Authenticity”. The discussion led to what did this word actually mean for each of us and this lead me to see my word for the year in a whole new light. Perhaps I need to “share” my true self even the self who is pretentious, self-righteous, biased, sometimes prejudiced, sometimes needy, and often self-critical. Perhaps I need to share my struggle to overcome these barriers to expressing who I really am. Perhaps I need to share in order to be real.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you share all your opinions, chances are you’ll be liked by no one after that. What I’m suggesting is that you share who you are and believe it or not you are not your opinions, you have them, but you are much more than them.

 

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Do whatever you do for the sheer joy of it

 

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Do whatever you do for the sheer joy of it and to honor, that which gave you the life to do it.

I had a dream the once where I was watching a small airplane struggling to gain altitude, to free itself from the gravity restraints of the Earth below. The engine sputtered and it looked as though it was going to crash into the side of a bridge. At the last moment it pulled up sharply, did a backward barrel roll, and barely missed the ground as it pulled out. I thought him a fool until I could see the pilot grinning as he turned the plane into a corkscrew roll, climbed and dove again, oblivious to the danger of failure and screaming with joy. Then I understood and grinned with him.

The dream reminded me of the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach*. Jonathan was a seagull who lived to fly. He practiced impossible dives and rolls for the shear joy of the flight. The other gulls frowned in disgust and judgment because that wasn’t appropriate behavior for a seagull, but that didn’t affect Jonathan, because he wasn’t doing what he was doing for the approval of others–Jonathan was doing it for his own soul.

Sometimes I find myself dismayed at how few people show interest in my work with dreams. I keep looking at my blog, book, and website statistics to validate that I’m succeeding. But the real truth for myself is that I do what I do because of the sheer joy of doing it–I do it to free my soul and to let it soar. When I allow the judgments of others to define me, there’s no freedom to soar, much struggle, and no joy.

Yes, it’s nice to get acknowledgment for who you are and what you’re doing, but engineering your life so as to gain acceptance is a trap with no joy in it. Yes, you may need to work toward acceptance in order to advance or maintain a career, that’s a good strategy sometimes, but notice that the people who are flying high sometimes take risks as well and nearly hit the ground time and again. Like Jonathan it is in their nature to soar. Deep down I believe that it is in all our natures to break free of our self-imposed restraints and do a barrel-roll through the clouds.

Deep down beneath our cultural, social, ego-bound, and well-trained personae there is a soul struggling to be free of the gravity of our restraints. The first thing to do is to acknowledge that you have such a soul, such a desire, such a need to be free– to fly as your self and not as someone else’s image of what you should be.

 

“He spoke of very simple things- that it is right for a gull to fly, that freedom is the very nature of his being, that whatever stands against that freedom must be set aside, be it ritual or superstition or limitation in any form.

 “Set aside,” came a voice from the multitude, “even if it be the Law of the Flock?”

 “The only true law is that which leads to freedom,” Jonathan said. “There is no other.”

Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull

 

It won’t be easy, even Jonathan crashed a few times before he got the hang of it, but that gnawing void in him kept pushing to be free.

Practice being free, a little at first until you begin to master its technique. Accept that there might be failures and that from them you’ll learn.

Dedicate everything you do to something bigger than yourself. Over time this will free you from your worry-filled ego-self that wants to be accepted, to blend, and not look too weird. Jonathan may have looked as though he was doing what he was doing just for his own pleasure, but in reality he was honoring the creator who never intended that we should constrain ourselves and become servant to our limited images.

Give thanks to your own wings, your own gifts, and the time you’ve been given on Earth to learn to soar.

 

“You have the freedom to be yourself, your true self, here and now, and nothing can stand in your way”.”

Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull

 

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*Bach, Richard, “Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a story”, Macmillan Publishing Co. Inc., N.Y., 1970

Peace: An expression of the ‘free range’ soul.

 

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If we are to have peace at any time we need to shift the inner and outer dialog from “How do we prevent violence, how do we make things safer or how do we get rid of fear?” to one of “how do we make ourselves peaceful and soulful?” You see the difference, from a focus on the negative to one focusing on the positive.

It’s a moment-by-moment choice to either act out of fear that is out of a negative context, to one where we choose to act out of love, to express our soulful self.

When I use the term fear I’m talking about the fear that one may experience in jealousy i.e. if you show interest in someone else or love for someone else that means less interest or love for me or the fear that if you have more money than me that means there’s less for me (note how close money mirrors love here). There’s also the fear that if you get to be more powerful than me that means I’ll be less powerful or if you get to be right that means I’m less right or even (shudder) wrong.

This is all ego stuff because that’s what the ego is all about. The ego knows that it’s small and weak so it believes it needs to protect itself and it does that by convincing you that you are small and weak and the only way you can overcome that is through protecting yourself from any further loss– after all there’s only just so much love, safety, money, and power to go around– right?

Wrong! It’s unlimited and the only way to access that power is through love, compassion, caring, giving i.e. the continuous expression of the soul.

Acting out of fear only generates more fear– it sells guns, security systems and elects politicians but it doesn’t make for a peaceful world. It only creates a fearful world with lots of guns, walls (both physical and emotional), domination, and hoarding to prevent loss. And because that doesn’t work to make us feel more peaceful we pile on more of the same– more security, more laws, more and bigger walls, and more restrictions– simply put guns never bring about peace, love brings about peace.

So if this were such a simple thing why haven’t we done it yet? Because peacefulness is not something external to us or something or someone we can manipulate to our will as we’ve been led to believe, it’s an internal condition– an expression of the soul. We cannot be peaceful without being in touch with and expressing our soul. And that’s what most of have forgotten how to do, express their soul– we choose fear instead of love, we choose not to find answers to love but to find answers to fear.

When we operate out of love whatever comes our way can be embraced in love– as a way to express love. For example, I don’t always feel love for my wife or my friends but I always try to choose to act out of love. I don’t love a bigoted message or messenger but I can choose to express another way of being that shows love and compassion.

Many in this country, or the world for that matter, have so walled themselves off with fear that they have become soulless. We spend so much precious time talking about banning people, closing doors in their face, building walls around ourselves, and restricting people’s freedoms which is all soulless rhetoric and only serves to rid us of our soul expression, of love, community, and the essence of ourselves and our lives. We need to resist the temptation to embrace the negative thus living our lives in fear.

We need to embrace our better natures and not those of our basal, more animal aspects. We are not what we think we are, what our tiny egos have convinced us we are. We are so very much bigger than that. When we truly get that, miracles happen, peace happens and there’s no need for the walls against fear.

 

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