The second half of the class held in Israel (see last blog, "Holy Spirit in the Holy Land") is coming soon ... For today, other issues have arisen that seem, to me, so essential in human interaction, human growth, and the potential--so far quite squandered--within humanity for peace and "right relations."
I received an email at email@example.com from a very brave, very open woman living in a country (not the United States), where she is learning social work of a rather activist nature, and studying indigenous people and their ways. At the same time, she has discovered the 3 Principles. How do these two worlds meet?
Along with this letter, I have been reading Toni Packer--her beautiful book, The Work of This Moment--and have been struck by how profoundly and deeply Toni questions the many attachments (in Thought) we have to "belonging to a group," to family, religious, spiritual, political, and even cultural or racial (gender!) identification.
How these often seemingly very benign, and even "righteous" affiliations still promote a sense of "self" and "other," and division between the two. Sydney Banks, and all other formless-pointing mystics, spoke often of oneness ... and the problem of ego, which Syd called the "image of self importance," and which I have been calling the "idea of a self."
Can we, do we, consider ourselves somewhat "important" because we belong to a "good" group: be it Buddhist, Christian, Islamic, Eastern, Zen, ecological, culturally sensitive, spiritual or even the "3 Principles" as a group or movement, as a way of identifying?
Do we feel superior because we have "found" the 3 Principles, because we teach the 3 Principles? Or because we belong to any other group, historically oppressed, or historically oppressors? Highly evolved? Progressive? Vegetarian? Democrats? Republicans?
Without dismissing our right to choose how to live our lives, or how to vote, do our affiliations "deaden" our listening to others, create assumptions, in Thought, that may not be true. Do our allegiances close off our ability to see freshly, to learn something new about another or about ourselves?
In conversations with Bill Cumming, of What One Person Can Do & the Boothby Institute, who will be my radio show guest next week, June 8, many thought-provoking questions have arisen for both of us.
"The last thing we need is another movement," Bill said to me--and I took this inside myself, just as I have been planting seeds and tubers in the warming soil in our garden. What will emerge?
At the same time, I notice the varied dynamics in my own little family, the tendency, when feeling stressed, hurt or wounded, to blame and to resort to anger and/or irritation. And then the resulting "guilt." Not always, of course ... But what is this impulse? From where does it arise? ... When I invite the question, I find myself in more gentleness, not wanting to "attack back," nor to attack myself, but to allow space for reflection and wondering.
Hurt, Anger, Blame, Guilt. Identity, Attachment. Here are ripe topics for inquiry, for our natural and "alive" curiosity--Consciousness seeking Itself, always. And of course, the gift of the Principles is to help us to clearly see both root cause, and root solution.
Here is the letter I received from the woman in the midst of social work studies, greatly condensed and edited, along with my own questions, seeds, offered for your and my own reflection:
I’ve come across the three principles at the beginning of 2012, and discovered for myself a whole new dimension of inner wealth. Shortly after, I started my studies and have been wondering ever since how to bring in line my newly found wisdom with asserted ideas of what social workers should be in this world.
We’re being taught to be angry about social injustice and to feel responsible for the suffering of others when we happen to be the privileged ones. But yet I’m very passionate about my studies. I’ve got great teachers and the feeling that everything I’m learning is meaningful.
What creates a question mark in my inner dialogue (and mine wants to be exceptionally vigilant) is that what I’m learning at University and what I understand about the 3P’s seems to be positioned at opposite ends of a spectrum. I’ve been quite upset about this, but just recently I found a way to approach this “issue” with simple curiosity and turn it into a response-ability (your words). This little post of yours [Ami's note: about "responsibility," on my Facebook wall] has really helped me shift paradigms in terms of how I want to address my feeling of guilt for being a _______, for having stuff that others don’t, for being blessed with two beautiful children while my friend is struggling to conceive ... you name it.
I do not know if you sought a response to the above. It seems you are working a lot of this out on your own, and that’s wonderful. However, since you wrote, what occurred to me are the following questions:
What is guilt? It seems to me that guilt carries with it a sense of feeling bad about oneself ... of carrying blame for a situation, of attacking oneself through Thought.
What is the role of guilt in helping to activate us toward social change, or compassion?
Can guilt, in the end, be destructive?
Can it thwart our objectives in “helping others”? For example, if we are helping others in order to make ourselves feel less guilty, or to assuage guilt, then who are we really acting for? Are we helping others as a way of trying to heal ourselves? Is this really the correct order of things?
Without guilt, is there a way to see clearly the horrors of history (as indeed they are), or perhaps even the horrors of our own individual pasts, with renewed vision, and then to act from inspiration, from insight, and joyful selflessness? To share something we ourselves have found, beyond guilt?
(Can we also understand our tremendous privilege and share what we have with joy, understanding that a limit to abundance comes only from the human thought system?)
I know that when I myself feel guilty, I tend to act out in angry ways—feeling angry with myself, and then turning this anger outward. From a 3 Principles perspective, I create a negative thought about myself, which then creates a negative feeling--and from this distorted, negative space, I then act.
Perhaps shame (feeling abashed) has a temporary role to play as we see our past mistakes, and ways in which we may have hurt others. But then, can compassion and love actually co-exist in the same space as guilt? I don’t think so. These are two very different sets of thoughts, the first being impersonal, Universal, and the second being quite personal indeed.
Many of the world’s horrors actually stem from feelings of guilt, turned outward. If this is true, then how can we get to root causes if we continue to carry with us the seeds of violence and repression toward ourselves and others?
I am not suggesting that there is not a place in the world for feelings of guilt and shame, or even for anger and outrage. But I see that hurting each other is a human capacity and habit that spans all cultures and races, and I believe that we must go much, much deeper than guilt to find lasting solutions to such chronic suffering.
[Note: the letter goes on to talk about the indigenous population this woman is studying, and the beauty of their spiritual belief system, with some blame directed toward the government, which is now trying to help in its own, she believes, distorted, paternal way.]
Does the _______ spirituality continue to sustain them? It is quite beautiful, as you describe it, and also, sometimes our spiritual systems and symbols have lost their life, their living meaning. And sometimes we become "attached" the the form of our spirituality, and it becomes another way to hold ourselves up as superior in some way.
The Principles do seem to awaken meaning for people, within their own religions or systems. In the end, however, we transcend all words and all systems, as well as cultural identities. Who and what we truly are is beyond all of that.
Also, I’d like to know, since I’ve just listened to your conversation with Gangaji about enlightenment as a verb (loved it), if you could share the understanding of mental health being a verb? The _______ use a term which means "constant pursuit of well-being."
Unfolding, I’d say. Unfolding mental health, like the Buddhist lotus. We each have an endless reservoir or well of mental health and well-being, and our “unfolding” is finding deeper and deeper experiences of that, less of the self and self-interest, self-concern (the narrow, constricted experience of the small self.)
Beyond the concerns of the self, be they of guilt or identity or self importance, one finds a freedom to move as water moves--over, under, between, around ... not anticipating what may actually come, trusting in its own immense capacity for fluidity.
Perhaps the central question for you now is this: "wondering how to bring in line my newly found wisdom with asserted ideas of what social workers should be in this world."
I support your open wondering, a wonder-full space--without projecting, analyzing or planning, without fear (or within fear!) ... I trust in your own fluid wisdom to lead you exactly where you need to go.
I send my love and support on your journey.