Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Loving Wastefully November 6, 2010

I first heard the term loving wastefully in a speech by John Spong, a retired Episcopal bishop who sees this kind of love as an attribute of God. Like Jesus, this spiritual pioneer who has long been an outspoken proponent of feminism, gay rights, and racial equality has severely upset the applecarts of many traditional believers by actually practicing what he preaches. So much so, that he has received 16 death threats: all from Christians. What’s wrong with this picture?

I know; I’m preaching to the choir in this blog. So instead of ranting on about something we all agree on, I’ll try to add something new to the mix. What we fail to realize when we raise incredulous eyebrows in a not-so-subtle display of self-righteousness is that there’s nothing really new or unusual about the illogic of people believing in love and living with hate. In fact, if we stop to think about it, most of us know and regret times we have acted in hateful ways and felt secretly justified in it.

The reason for this is psychological ignorance, or unconsciousness. We humans simply can’t see ourselves objectively in the same way we can see others. In our well-intentioned desire to transcend our limitations and become better people, we gravitate toward groups, activities and ideals which we hope will inspire and heal us. We try to make sacrifices without complaining; we try to give without expecting anything back. We pray, study, learn, theorize and engage in spiritual practices in the hope of becoming mature spirit people. Meanwhile, we keep on hating and fearing ourselves and projecting our hatred and fear onto others.

Why? Because thinking, idealizing and learning can only take us so far. What we forget, what we don’t even want to know because the knowledge makes us squirm, is that we have an unknown shadow side composed of uncomfortable instinctual needs, unhealed wounds, basic assumptions and powerful emotions that we haven’t a clue how to restrain. And these very real parts of ourselves are absolutely brilliant at finding sly ways to escape our ego’s carefully constructed boundaries without our knowledge or consent.

Some years ago a few women and I founded an organization to create programs we hoped would make a difference in the lives of women. As we worked intimately together over many years, we learned to trust one another well enough to risk taking off our oh so civilized masks. As our egos felt safer, our despised and carefully hidden shadows occasionally snuck out and stirred up trouble. Being the exceedingly well-intentioned women we were, we deliberately faced and dealt with our conflicts in carefully-crafted sessions of active listening and truth-telling.

After years of mental striving which had kept me distanced from my true self and others, trying to recognize and express uncomfortable and uncontrollable emotions in this sacred circle with as much patience, kindness and love as I could muster was one of the most profoundly healing and life-changing experiences of my adult life. In trying to make a difference in the world we also made a difference in ourselves. We grew more conscious of our shadows.

It’s not just thinking noble thoughts in our heads that connects us with what’s Holy: it’s also daring to feel, face and expose the secrets of our inner Other.  This is what creates a loving heart, our threshold to the Sacred. As Gregg Braden reminds us, the feeling is the prayer.

 

Making a Difference November 2, 2010

From a human perspective, life is unjust. Hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, fires, landslides and tsunamis wipe out people, homes, animals and vegetation. Corporations pollute water and air, rape land, annihilate species, and deplete natural resources without conscience. The greedy and cruel abuse the innocent and helpless. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. We lose our jobs. Accidents happen.  Politicians lie. Ads lie. Big business lies. Religious authorities lie. Friends and lovers lie. How are we to handle the injustices of life?

Some escape through optimism, utopian fantasies, or denial. Some through addictions to work, food, exercise, drugs, alcohol, shopping, sex, television, religion, the internet, or video games. Some grow bitter, cynical, or deeply depressed. A few commit suicide. Others dive into activism and take stands, stand in picket lines, join humanitarian missions, lead movements, raise funds, build houses, endow foundations, make donations, or volunteer in schools, hospitals, soup kitchens, nursing homes and political campaigns.

Obviously, addressing injustice directly is far more beneficial than ignoring it, but even social activism has a down side. One danger is that our cause can become a way of escaping our shadows. Have you ever known someone who can cry about the starving children in Africa but ignores her inner child who is starved for kindness and affection? Another danger is becoming so obsessed that we neglect our loved ones and responsibilities. Or we can experience physical burnout and a weakened immune system. Some sensitive souls absorb too much trauma and become overwhelmed with morbid fear and crippling anxiety or apathy. Others grow increasingly rude, hostile, and abusive. Where is the line between taking a stand and standing down? Here are a few thoughts. I invite you to add some of your own.

When we experience injustice I believe the most important thing we can do is allow ourselves to feel the normal emotions of rage, grief, helplessness, fear, frustration, or revenge without immediately acting on them. It takes enormous awareness and self-restraint to tolerate the pain and tension of injustice for very long, but if we act too quickly we risk hurting or taking advantage of others. Our first goal is to see the beliefs, attitudes and choices that led us into our situation because these are things we can change. For this we need time to rest and reflect until we feel clear-headed and emotionally stable enough to be objective. Only then will we be able to create a practical, ethical plan that serves self and other, justice and compassion.

If we observe injustice we need to find ways of helping that suit our gifts without betraying our conscience, trampling on anyone’s rights, or needlessly causing others pain. And unless we feel drawn to martyrdom, (and very few are genuinely called to go down that self-destructive road), we need to use methods that do not jeopardize our own lives, families, or livelihood. We need to listen to our bodies, know our limits and protect our boundaries; and we need to center ourselves in a meaningful practice that renews our energy and generates a loving, peaceful attitude.

May you trust the life around and within you to lead you to the unique contribution only you can make to righting the world’s wrongs, and may we all be part of the solution to injustice everywhere. Namaste.

 

 
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