Dreams and Mountaintop Visions

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18 KJV)

“He has allowed me to go up to the mountain.  And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land!” The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. concluding his final speech, April 3, 1968, Memphis, Tennessee

Visions of a goal ahead guide us when we are lost.  They encourage us with the hope we need when we are ready to give up.

Our dreams and visions are not for ourselves alone.  King received multiple death threats every day for years. He had been stabbed and his house had been bombed. Yet he kept going because he knew that the Spirit that gave him dreams and visions needed them to be shared.

King explained why when he said, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly”

Jesus shared the same vision of oneness.  He saw that his real enemy was not Caesar or the Pharisees. His enemy was the selfish fear and greed of the individualistic ego that is incapable of seeing our true oneness. It was the life of the ego that Jesus meant when he said we have to lose our life to save our life.

Jesus said that the source of all evil is in our heart, but so is the source of all good.  He saw that humanity could grow beyond the ego’s immature level of consciousness to have a heart and mind led by the Spirit within us.

This is the evolution we need to undergo now if we are to survive the crises humanity faces.  The Spirit within us sees what the ego cannot—the oneness of all people and all life on earth. The Spirit leads us to have compassion and serve the common good.

Martin Luther King Jr. had an ego, but we revere him because he was willing to lose that life, he was willing to lay it down out of a greater love. Dozens of leaders made the same sacrifice, and hundreds of thousands followed them. The Spirit rose to ascendency over the ego in the 1960s nonviolent Civil Rights Movement. Individual lives were transformed and they transformed the world.

But the ego struck back in the 1970s. Continue reading

You Know the Way: The Torch in the Golden Room

 

Jesus said, “You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Thomas said to him, “Teacher, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”  (John 14:4-5)

You know the way.  You know the way to the place that Jesus was trying to help humanity reach, the realm of God on earth, a society that lives by the Golden Rule, love of neighbor and compassion for the vulnerable and oppressed.

Maybe you can’t envision how our current society could possibly get there, how big business and the super-wealthy and the governments they try to control could be transformed, or even how individual hearts could rise above the base selfishness that too often drives our thoughts, words and actions.

But Jesus is right, you do know the way, and the secret of how our society can get there is waiting within you.

The 2016 film Arrival imagines [Spoiler Alert!] that an advanced civilization visits earth with spacecraft scattered around the globe.  They have the ability to see the future and realize that they are going to need human assistance in 3000 years.  They have come to help humanity move to a new level of consciousness and oneness so that life on earth will survive.

An American linguist is trying to understand their message.  The turning point comes when the higher beings say essentially the same thing that Jesus told his followers: you know the way.  (You can watch the scene below.)  Like Jesus, they have taught her a new way to see and think, a consciousness that enables her to solve intuitively the problems that are keeping humanity from evolving and becoming one.

The film reflects reality.  A higher being is trying to help us do the same things.  Our higher being is the Spirit of life that has taught the human race many times before how to evolve and work together as one.  That Spirit desperately wants the life it has created to learn how to live sustainably and harmoniously, without hurting other lives and without destroying the life-support systems of earth.

This higher being is the Spirit that Jesus had in him, and the Spirit he said we each have in our depths.  Jesus listened to the Spirit in his heart and it led him to his vocation, which was in part to teach the rest of us how to find the Spirit in our own hearts, and how to live by the guidance and power we find there.

Humanity has brought itself to the brink of its own extinction, but at the same time it has arrived at the brink of the evolutionary shift it needs in order to survive.  We are learning to listen to the Spirit.  Cynthia Bourgeault says in her book, The Heart of Centering Prayer: Nondual Christianity in Theory and Practice, that we are now making a transition to a new level of consciousness, traveling an ancient path by means of an abundance of new methods in a “sudden awakening to…interiority.”

She writes, “Whether through psychotherapy, men’s work, AA, yoga, mindfulness for stress reduction, enneagram work, dream work, soul work, or a host of other modalities, contemporary men and women are awakening to the realization that life is indeed an inner journey as well as an outer one.” (p. 173)

The Life Planning movement is another in the long list of ways that we are learning to hear the higher being’s voice in our hearts.  A trained Life Planner acts like a spiritual director or friend who listens empathically to help us explore and discover what the spirit is calling us to do with our life.  The end result is a vision of our calling spelled out in detail.  Life Planning calls that vision statement a “torch.”

We each have a place within us where we find the presence and gifts of the Spirit, a “Golden Room.”  We each have a torch in that golden room that shows us the path that the Spirit is calling us to take in the next stage of our life to contribute our part to a healthy, harmonious earth.

The future of the world depends on us each turning to the light of the torch in our golden room and following where it leads.

The Spirit in Jesus speaks for the Spirit in us.  It says, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6) If you know that Spirit, you know the way.

 

Below are two videos.  The first is the scene toward the end of the film Arrival where the linguist, Louise Banks, finds her torch in her golden room with the help of a “heptapod” higher being.  The second is a fascinating analysis of the film’s deeper meaning.

Notes on the first video (more spoilers alert!): Louise has entered for the first time the place where the  heptapods live.  Their twelve spacecraft are about to be attacked by fearful human armies, and in fact one heptapod is dying because of an unauthorized attack in which it saved Louise’s life.  Louise alone understands that the heptapod word translated “weapon” actually means tool or process and is not a threat.  Louise has come to ask the higher beings to send a message to the humans at all twelve sites around the world telling them that the heptapods are on earth to help, and that humanity needs to work together.

 

The “weapon” turns out to be a new consciousness, a new way of being. Louise gains the heart and mind of a heptapod the way the Apostle Paul calls us to have the heart and mind of Christ.  The scriptures and ancient teachings of the Christian tradition accept that our intended destiny is to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds” into higher beings who create the realm of God’s love on earth, a society of oneness, justice and peace.  That is our great hope and our great task.

Stay in the Light: Defense against Dementors

Staying in the light feels harder than ever right now.  How can we do it?  This reflection is grounded in ancient wisdom but its main metaphor comes from modern literature. J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books are about the struggle between darkness and light, between hate and love. In the scene below that struggle is between “patronus” and “dementor.”

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.  The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Ancient myths portray the struggle between forces of darkness and light.  The metaphor has always represented the conflict between the way of hate and the way of love, the way of oppression and the way of freedom, the way of destruction and the way of harmony—the choice between what sucks the life out of our soul and what fills us with meaning and purpose.

Of course real darkness is full of blessings, and is an integral part of a whole and healthy life, and darkness and light are bound together in a beautiful way as the Taoist symbol so brilliantly portrays.  We need to recognize that the classic metaphor is as limited and incomplete as it is useful and true.

The metaphor also includes some irony: the crusade of white supremacy for domination has been a force of soul-crushing darkness, and the great dark-skinned leaders for freedom like Gandhi, King and Mandela, or Diane Nash, Ella Baker and Fannie Lou Hamer—or Jesus, the Buddha and Mohammed—have been among the most light-filled humans in all history.  And yet many white Christians act with hate toward people simply because of their dark skin.

The same dominant, oppressive culture has treated nature as a threatening darkness.  Instead of lovingly tending and stewarding earth as a gift of light and the source of all life, it has subdued, exploited and destroyed it, sending all species including our own to the brink of eternal darkness in extinction.

We need to see that we are part of the same struggle for light and love as those who created the earliest myths and all the liberation movements of the past.

We have tremendous diversity of roles to play, but we each need a way to keep in the light when the darkness threatens to overcome us.  I find this metaphor useful, so I share it in the hope you may as well:

The Dementors We Face

Dementors are instruments of darkness that block us from the light or suck the light out of us.

J. K. Rowling describes dementors in The Prisoner of Azkaban saying, “They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope and happiness out of the air around them…. Get too near a dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you.  If it can, the dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself…soul-less and evil.” (page 187)

We can find dementors lurking in the news, on social media, in certain relationships or recurring situations, at home, at school, at work, in our community—they can appear anywhere and will be different for different people.

Our dementors are not external, though, they are internal.  They reside in the response we have to the world.  They breed in our darkest thoughts and feelings.  The Nazi death camps were designed to suck the soul out of people and render them hopeless and turn them evil, but as Viktor Frankl shows in Man’s Search for Meaning, the dementors were inside each death camp inmate, which made heroic those inmates who found within them an even greater power of light.

The Patronus: The Defense against the Dementors

J.K. Rowling defines the “patronus” as “a kind of anti-dementor—a guardian that acts as a shield between you and the dementor…. The Patronus is a kind of positive force, a projection of the very things that the dementor feeds upon—hope, happiness, the desire to survive.” (p 237)

A patronus harnesses the life-force of light and makes it available to humans who are trained and practiced in its magic.  It comforts and guides as well as empowers—three of the qualities attributed to the Holy Spirit in the Gospel of John.

A patronus is what it looks like when we are instruments of the Spirit of light flowing through us.

The Patronus Charm is the way people learn to work with this force of light and let it flow.  The charm is made up of two parts—first, tools and practices; and second, the focus of our intention and attention on the light.

The equivalent for us of Harry’s wand, word and motion includes a vast array of inner resources that help people who are struggling with anxiety or depression, like Cognitive Behavior Therapy or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, each with its own set of inner tools and practices.  These are more elaborate than a flick of a wand and the words, “Expecto Patronum,” but their effect is comparable.

For example, if something in the news fills you with darkness and despair, you can go into nature or sit in your most comfortable chair and look around you and notice in detail the beauty and feel the relaxation of that moment of peace, or you can examine your thinking to clear cognitive distortions that are feeding the dementor, distortions like ignoring the positive or blowing the negative out of proportion and “catastrophizing.”

Talking with a good friend or counselor can also help, or feeling solidarity with others who are with you in the light.  There are many different tools and practices, and different ones work for different people.

The most important part of the Patronus Charm, though, is the focus of attention on, or complete immersion in, the light.   This focus has two steps.

First, we need to turn down the volume on the dementorish thoughts and feelings.  Skills like mindfulness and meditation give us the ability to keep our attention focused on the light when dementors attack.  In the Christian contemplative tradition these practices include heartfulness, Centering Prayer and the Welcoming Practice among others—they are all ways to self-empty and open ourselves to transformation by a higher power of light.

The second step in J. K. Rowling’s formula is the specific light that we invoke.  It is not enough to be nice or fun, it has to be a heart’s core connection to a central part of the meaning, purpose and hope of our lives.  We need to focus until that light fills our heart, mind, soul and body with its power.  In the film clip above it is a memory of Harry’s parents.

In Centering Prayer and the Christian mystical tradition this has a fascinating twist.  The way to focus on the most powerful light is to unfocus.  It is to enter into the darkness of “a cloud of forgetting and a cloud of unknowing” leaving our awareness simply open to the unseen presence of the light that shines in the darkness, the light of God.  We cannot access that highest power except through our deepest, unfocused openness.

We cannot do any of this without the discipline of study and practice, but the more we master our inner patronus, the more powerful a force of light we become in the world, and the more our own life is characterized by light.

This is what the world most needs from us now.

Introduction to the Clearing/Obstacles Category

This is one of a series of introductions that bring together two ways of describing a path that leads to the transformation of ourselves and the transformation of the world around us.

The first word in each dyad is from stages and chapters in The Golden Room writings.  The second is from my brother George Kinder‘s methodology of Life Planning.  (The first five are from Life Planning’s EVOKE steps, the last two, Understanding and Aloha, are from the Seven Stages of Money Maturity.  George’s began working primarily with the financial industry, but Seven Stages and EVOKE both are heart-centered, spiritually grounded and used by clergy and coaches.)

If you have not read about The Golden Room Writings, these introductions will make more sense when you have.  You can read about them at Introduction: The Vision Behind This Site, and More Introduction to this Site: We Need Metaphors.  Here are the seven introductions in this series, listed in order, with links to them.

Calling/Exploration
Siting/Vision
Clearing/Obstacles
Digging/Knowledge
Building/Execution
Dwelling/Understanding
Returning/Aloha

The Golden Room Writings and Life Planning Writings are both categories on this website, and they share these seven dyads as subcategories.

This is one of a series of introductions that bring together two ways of describing a path that leads to the transformation of ourselves and the transformation of the world around us.

The first word in each dyad is from stages and chapters in The Golden Room writings.  The second is from my brother George Kinder‘s methodology of Life Planning.  (The first five are from Life Planning’s EVOKE steps, the last two, Understanding and Aloha, are from the Seven Stages of Money Maturity.  George’s began working primarily with the financial industry, but Seven Stages and EVOKE both are heart-centered, spiritually grounded and used by clergy and coaches.)

If you have not read about The Golden Room Writings, these introductions will make more sense when you have.  You can read about them at Introduction: The Vision Behind This Site, and More Introduction to this Site: We Need Metaphors.  Here are the seven introductions in this series, listed in order, with links to them.

Calling/Exploration
Siting/Vision
Clearing/Obstacles
Digging/Knowledge
Building/Execution
Dwelling/Understanding
Returning/Aloha

The Golden Room Writings and Life Planning Writings are both categories on this website, and they share these seven dyads as subcategories.

We need to prepare the ground once we know what we are called to do and where we are called to do it.  This is the clearing stage.

We may need to remove some trees or rocks for a building.  Logistics may challenge us like building permits or bank loans.  We will need to remove whatever inner and outer obstacles are in the way.

The Greek word kenosis means self-emptying, clearing out the old attachments and addictions of the false self so that we can begin to develop the true.  We need to confront our fears, we need to get past those inner voices that threaten to withhold the building permit, we need to assess our inner and outer resources and obtain whatever we are lacking to make our vision come true.

The lid of the chest needed to be lifted in the vision of the Golden Room, and encumbrances needed to be let go or stripped away in order to climb down the tight tunnel.

The EVOKE Life Planning “Obstacles” phase is designed to help us brainstorm solutions and actions that can clear the way for us to live our heart’s core dream life.

Clearing/Obstacles can be the most dynamic and creative of times as the landscape reveals its hidden needs and demands, and we respond.  The calling is sharpened and siting refined as we make the heroic journey to overcome everything that could block us from reaching our goal.