Do not fret. Peace. Let not your heart be troubled; neither let it be afraid. Here is why these scriptural commandments are so important today and for the future world.
“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” Isaiah 30:15
The soul of the nation had fallen into rampant self-interest, materialism and greed. It neglected and oppressed the poor. It strayed from the sacred way of love of neighbor and love of the ways of spiritual wisdom. Its politics had become corrupt, its alliances unholy.
The prophet Isaiah warned the nation, because “you put your trust in oppression and deceit, and rely on them…this iniquity shall become for you like a break in a high wall, bulging out, and about to collapse, whose crash comes suddenly, in an instant.”
Isaiah’s words have spoken to many nations over the past 2,500 years, not just because of their warning but even more importantly because they show that there is a path out of that imminent destruction.
The sacred way of the Spirit that created the earth and all life is merciful. It is infinitely forgiving of those who turn back to its ways while there is still hope of recovery.
This proved true for Isaiah’s society and for others throughout the ages. We need to listen and follow its wisdom today: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quiet and in trust shall be your strength.”
The path back begins in returning to where the Spirit lives within us all, the golden room of the heart’s true core, and resting there. Strength comes in quieting the ego’s selfish, agitated human thoughts and listening instead for the wisdom that arises from the Spirit through our silence and deep trust.
As I write this, America is voting for its President and the composition of Congress and state governments. The outcome will shape our future in many ways.
But whatever the outcome, we still will have the same enormous challenges that threaten our democracy and the survival of the human race and all living species. We still will have brutal social, economic and environmental injustices that must be changed and healing that must be undertaken.
The wisdom of Isaiah says that we need more than just the right politicians in office. No matter who is in these positions of power, we need a shift of cultural consciousness, a change of heart and mind that can come only one way—in returning and rest, in quietness and trust.
We need to break the obsessive, compulsive, white-knuckled, gut-clenched mode of being that many of us have developed over the past several years of political turmoil and several months of intense election anxiety.
We need to break the addictions of the ego to anything less than the Spirit’s ways of right living.
Whoever is in power, we need to be the change we wish to see in the world from our deepest heart outward, starting today. We can live from that calm refuge even here in the agony of fearful uncertainty.
We have a new world to create, the fulfillment of the ancient prophets’ dream. We need rested, strong and quiet souls that are trusting in the Spirit’s guidance and power in order to fulfill that hope.
So take a deep breath. Take a break from the news. Go outside and notice the beauty. Connect with a dear friend. Read some eternal spiritual wisdom. Listen to music that connects you to your depths. Best of all, meditate or pray. Return. Rest. Quiet. Trust. That is where the path begins to the strength we need to save and renew our world.
William Sloane Coffin was a hero with a great soul, which is one definition of a saint. His courage, hope and faith led him to risk his life as a Freedom Rider. They led him to jail in protests for justice and peace. They engaged him in one struggle after another in his “lover’s quarrel” with his nation.
This photograph shows him being a hero of another kind. It was taken in the year after his son, Alex, died in a car accident. Bill described coming into the United Church of Strafford in paralyzing grief and playing music until he had subdued the inner struggle enough to return to his outer struggles.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a similar hero with a great soul. He wrote in his book The Strength to Love, “A positive religious faith does not offer an illusion that we shall be exempt from pain and suffering, nor does it imbue us with the idea that life is a drama of unalloyed comfort and untroubled ease. Rather, it instills us with the inner equilibrium needed to face strains, burdens, and fears that inevitably come.” (from Chapter IV)
We need that inner equilibrium today because we are living in a fearful time that asks us all to be heroes with great souls. Human greed has raged out of control while human technology has gained planet-destroying power. Social injustice, economic inequity and environmental destruction have brought us to the brink of an inevitable revolution.
On the one hand, the side of greed with its ego-driven fight for its self-interest cannot continue without a revolution against democracy and nature. On the other hand, it will take what King called “a revolution of values,” a change of cultural consciousness, in order to reverse humanity’s self-destructive direction.
It will take heroes with great souls to change our consciousness, not only because we are up against the most powerful corporate and media empires the earth has ever seen, but also because the source of the problem—the fearful, selfish ego—is in us all.
We all are tempted by self-interest. It takes a hero to win that inner struggle enough to love a neighbor as our self.
It takes a hero to follow the Golden Rule and to care for the earth as our common home.
It takes a hero with a great soul to live as an altruistic citizen of a democratic republic, which is why John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” He said unregulated avarice and ambition “would break the strongest Cords of our Constitution as a Whale goes through a Net.” As we are seeing every day.
How can we be the heroes and great souls that America and the earth require?
Bill Coffin said in a Riverside sermon, “Human unity is not something we are called on to create — only something we are called on to recognize.”
This contains the key wisdom we need. King put it this way: “The Holy Spirit is the continuing community creating reality that moves through history. He who works against community is working against the whole of creation.”
The Holy Spirit is the name we give to the impulse that moved the first single cells of life on earth to form communities with other cells. Four billion years later, that same Spirit is at work trying to overcome the ego-driven forces that divide human from human.
We do not have to create our unity with one another and with the earth, we have only to look deeply into the reality of nature and our own heart and find there the Spirit that created the universe, and align our values with its values, and take its will as our will, and use its power as our power.
This is why Mahatma Gandhi led his followers to spend two hours in meditation, prayer and the singing of hymns every day. They were emptying themselves of the ego’s control and opening to the Spirit’s guidance.
It is what made them the heroes, great souls and saints they had to be in order to change the consciousness of their culture and create a nonviolent movement that could overcome the most powerful Empire in the world.
Which is exactly what we need to do today.
We need to free ourselves from whatever paralyzes us or keeps us stuck. We need to open to the Spirit’s inner transformation so we can transform the world.
That is what the photographer Jon Gilbert Fox caught William Sloane Coffin doing at the piano in the Strafford sanctuary that summer day.
It is what we each are doing when we play music or meditate or pray or walk in nature or have a deep heart to heart conversation with a wise friend. We are listening, changing our consciousness, recognizing more clearly the sacred way, connecting more deeply to the Spirit’s guidance and power. We are becoming the heroes, great souls and saints this time requires.
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.
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 post includes two four-minute clips from the classic 1992 Richard Attenborough film, Gandhi. The first sets the context for the Salt March that was a turning point in the Indian struggle for independence. The clip at the end of this post shows more of the March itself.
“There comes a time when an individual becomes irresistible and his action becomes all-pervasive in its effect. This comes when he reduces himself to zero.” (Mahatma Gandhi, quoted in Eknath Easwaran’s book Gandhi the Man p114)
The Indian National Congress issued its declaration of independence on January 26, 1930 and raised a new national flag. The masses of the Indian people were ready for an uprising. It was a conflagration waiting for a match.
Yet the British Empire did not flinch. The Indian National Congress made demands and pursued negotiations, but it was clear that the British were not ready to give up or even compromise significantly.
The pressure for change among the people was gaining in intensity. Everyone knew that either a massive nonviolent action would take place or violent revolution would break out. All eyes turned expectantly to the ashram and humble rooms of Mahatma Gandhi, but no word came forth. Days stretched into weeks, and Gandhi made no indication of what would come. The media accused him of playing his cards close to his chest, of purposefully building suspense to get the world’s attention.
But Gandhi was telling them the truth when he said he did not know what action he would take. He was praying and waiting. He was meditating, listening, asking for God’s guidance, and he would not do anything until he felt a clear calling from the Spirit.
My brother, George Kinder, is a map-maker—he has been working on maps to the transformations that we need as individuals and as a world for decades. I am celebrating his birthday by republishing this analysis of how his life work is contributing to changing the world for the better.
George has been recognized in national publications as one of the 35 most influential people in financial services, one of the top Icons & Innovators in financial planning, and the first of 15 transformational advisors whose vision most changed the industry. He has revolutionized financial advising over the last thirty years, training over 3000 professionals in 30 countries in the field of Life Planning.
George is a spiritual teacher as well, and although his maps have been designed with financial Life Planners in mind, they have broad applicability. Hundreds of financial planners are now helping clients from all walks of life explore their deep heart’s core, their Golden Room. The clients are living in, from and for the dreams or callings that they find there. (A 2016 New York Times article described how people are following the Life Planning map to a meaningful retirement.) Often these Life Plans contribute directly or indirectly to a healthier family, community or world.
George’s maps can be applied equally well to all facets of our lives and across the spectrum of our developmental lines or multiple intelligences, not just the financial realm. All his maps lead us through the Golden Room of inner transformation to the transformed culture he calls the Golden Civilization. Below I will look at the contribution that four of his books make to that movement.
It takes a complex set of tools and practices to make a simple basket, moving from log to woven splints to its bent and polished handle. Every tool in this workshop has been carefully chosen by the master craftsman. He requires that it be powered by the human body, be beautiful as well as effective, and be proven by traditional use to do the job required. The integrity of every detail of the process and the practiced skill working with these tools are reasons why you can find this basketmaker’s work in the Smithsonian. The timeless beauty and ethic of care are why you can find people walking through his workshop with a look of joyous wonder on their faces. Watching him work inspires creativity and hope. A magical inner transformation takes place. George Kinder writes, “If you want a golden civilization, you must start with what is golden inside of you. If you want a civilization that will thrive for a thousand years, you must start with what is timeless inside of you.” The workshop of Golden Room and Golden Civilization needs to be like this workshop of golden baskets. We need to have the same kind of integrity and beauty in our process in order to work the same kind of magical transformation.
The Golden Room, A Golden Civilization: Four Steps toward Saving the World
Here is the outline of this series of related posts:
The premise of this series is laid out in Step One, expressed through the words of many leaders confronting a range of issues that threaten our civilization and life on earth. Here is another voice that sums up their consensus: Vaclav Havel said, “Without a revolution in the sphere of human consciousness, nothing is going to change for the better.”
If all these voices are saying that we cannot make the progress we need to save the world and transform human civilization until we have a new consciousness, then doesn’t it make sense that we all focus in a serious, smart and expeditious way on attaining that consciousness? No one is at too high a level today—we all could help the world by maturing further.
Steps Two and Three have talked about what would be needed to move the necessary percentage of the population to this new consciousness, and how we could get there. Step Four completes the series by suggesting tools that can “facilitate the process of inner transformation,” in Thomas Keating’s words.
The tools and practices listed below vary in how much they require of us in order to be effective. Some take an investment of time, energy or money initially and then become incorporated into our daily lives with minimal additional exertion.
They all require a degree of commitment and discipline. This is a movement. Movements for social change require only small groups of citizens to change the world, but they need to be committed citizens. There is no getting around that. We see that this work is needed. We could be one of the ones to do it. The choice is forced upon us. We each need to decide to be part of the solution or not.
Below are some of the tools and practices that can help raise us to the new consciousness, higher developmental stage and deeper spiritual state the world needs. Continue reading →
Morning glory blue–that is what my eye looks for on summer mornings, a flower or many flowers opening on the vines. I wake up thirsting for more. It diminishes the day, it dims me, when I cannot drink in that pleasure I am craving.
The wide open sky of the flower draws me in, but it is the light at the heart’s core that is the destination it has in mind for me. It hopes I am not one of those who flies by or settles for petals. It prays I will be a pollinator and dive into that light and help it seed the world with more of the beauty we are all born to share.
I confess that I often see only the blue, only the lovely surface. I rush on drunk from one sip, calling it more than enough. It takes time to move to the core. Look deeply into this photograph and see what you feel.
It feels to me as if there is a sun down there in the center of all that sky, a powerful force and source of life.
It feels as if there is something waiting in that tunnel that wants to come forth, something the world needs. I feel its urgency to make fertile the seed. I want to help.
I feel that this tunnel leads to the light that dwells at the heart of all things, and if I dive into it here, I could swim anywhere in the universe. If I help this light, I help all light. If I know deeply its light, I know better your light.
I want to find that glow inside myself, inside every moment. Where is it in me? Where is it in this moment?
I want to help you find yours, too. There are proven ways to do it, and we live in an extremely exciting time because ancient ways are being revived and new ones are evolving, blossoming from the intertwining strands of the old. Here are two ways we can find our heart’s core light: Continue reading →