Fresh Thinking, Inspiration, and Vision on the Process of Spiritual Transformation
There is an instruction in some circles that goes like this: Do your work. Like any truth, it is possible to hit other people over the head with this. But the statement has a lot of implications. One of them has to do with the necessity of doing our emotional work; dealing with the emotional factors that arise in our own experience rather than demanding that our world and the people in it resolve our emotional distress.
I’ve come to see that there is a truth in the statement. We each have work to do. And it is most creative if we do that work consciously and on purpose and responsibly. It’s hard to escape the emotional work that is ours to do. As it’s said, we can do this the easy way or we can do this the hard way. The hard way is to do our emotional work in an unconscious, sloppy, projecting, going-down-the-tubes kind of way. That’s the sloppy way of doing emotional work. It’s a path, but a hard one for us and for the people around us. There is a conscious way to do our emotional work. The conscious way is a responsible, on-purpose, deliberate, creative, and ultimately uplifting way to do our emotional work.
What is the nature of that work that we each have to do? The work is like cleaning out a basement. We each have a basement, of sorts. We have subconscious emotional material that comes along with our human makeup. In that context, it makes a lot of sense to clear out our basement, to do our work. If we commence that work, there will come a time when we realize that there are underground tunnels that connect us to everybody else’s basement. Our subconscious is part of the mass subconscious. That’s an overwhelming thought at first, because you may have the idea that there is a limited range of stuff in your own human package, and if I just get through that, it will be clear sailing. When you realize that your basement is connected to everybody else’s basement, the cleanup job can seem overwhelming.
So how is emotional work really done? And what is the real nature of the work, anyway? It is the work of transformation and ascension. It is the work that takes what’s present in consciousness and allows it to be held in the transforming power of love. We can be about that work in everything we do. As we do our physical work, we can do the work of transformation and ascension. We can do our work when we work consciously with the more subtle emotional and energetic levels of our experience.
The work is done because there is sacred space in which it may be done. We’ve been considering the creative process as described in the Seven Days of Creation. On day two, there is a firmament, an atmosphere. That atmosphere can be a sacred space where transformation and ascension occurs. That is what I so enjoy about our Sunday mornings together. We know we are coming into sanctified, sacred space. As the verses in Genesis say, the waters are divided from the waters—there are the waters above and the waters below. Yes, we know there’s the large expanse above, and we touch the wonder of invisible God. We know there are strong emotional currents moving in the basement. Our work is in the conscious space in the midst of all that. It is in that conscious space, that firmament, that heaven, that we can do our work.
The work blends what is above and what is below. But it’s a blending that isn’t willy-nilly. If we are doing the work creatively, we don’t allow what’s sloshing around from below to just come in and overwhelm us. That’s the messy way of doing our emotional work. And we don’t just get lost in the wondrous heavens above, the waters above, forgetting our place of holding sacred space where we are in the world.
It takes care to maintain that place in consciousness. It is a place of communion for what is above and below, so that it can all come together and there can be creative thought, for one thing. Our creative thought is essential if we are going to do our work.
We can do our creative work when there is a sacred place in consciousness—a firmament from which we can work. So if we are really going to do our work, we have to be keepers of sacred space. We have to do that for ourselves, and we have to be keepers of sacred space for other people.
So what happens when there is sacred space? The next verse speaks about day three of the creative process, when the dry land appears. But something else is happening on day three: the waters are gathered together to one place. “The waters” have a lot to do with our emotional experience.
Where there is sacred space, those waters can be held and they come together in one place. That is how the process of healing occurs. Any true healing involves the waters of emotional experience. So if we want to bring healing, we have to be keepers of the sacred space that allows the waters to come together—our own waters and the waters of our friends. It takes sacred space, held consciously, for that to happen.
How clearly, how strongly, how long do you think you will have to hold sacred space in your life so that what needs healing can be healed? How much will it take from you to hold sacred space for your world? And I don’t just mean the big old world out there. It’s hard to measure just what it takes from a person, but here is my experience: It takes more than I think. I think I have underestimated what it takes to hold sacred space. In fact, in some ways I’ve fallen short in my work because of that underestimation. So I’m sharing my experience, and you can ponder how it is for you. But I’m suggesting the possibility that we may have underestimated what it will take from us to hold sacred space. At the same time, we may have underestimated the benefit of doing it.
To hold sacred space, we have to be willing and able to dispel what doesn’t belong in that space. I want to close with this thought about what doesn’t belong, which we may describe as “evil.” Here are two ways of thinking about it that are quite familiar. One is original sin—you were born evil, and so was everyone else. You were born with something bad, wrong, dysfunctional—evil. That’s original sin. There’s another view that seems to me to be almost contradictory—the devil made me do it. If you gave me a choice between the two, I like the second one. Here is why.
People are inherently not only good and not only spiritual. We are divine in nature, an aspect of God. We are not inherently flawed; we’re inherently perfect, each one of us. If there is something dysfunctional happening, by whatever name—something evil, bad or wrong—it is because we have let a dynamic that is not our nature enter into what should be our sacred space.
People tend to believe that there is something inherently flawed about them; and, if you think that, it is likely that you hold a similar view of other people. Do you ever think that way down deep there’s something bad about you or others? It’s not true.
If you go down deep to the core of what another person is, you will find nothing but goodness there, nothing but gold. If there is something that’s dysfunctional, something uncreative, it has crept in from someplace else. It’s not them. It’s a pattern, a constellation of habit and emotion and thought that has crept in, that has somehow infected a person.
Holding sacred space, we open the possibility that the destructive patterns that are present subconsciously can be dispelled and replaced by another habit, another pattern born out of the invisible reality of a person’s being—what is above.
Our holding of sacred space—for ourselves, for those around us and for our world—lets the magic of transformation and ascension occur. Healing happens in our presence as we are keepers of sacred space.