Fresh Thinking, Inspiration, and Vision on the Process of Spiritual Transformation
As you came here this morning, we gave you a little card. The card says: “It is not so much about what is happening as who is experiencing it.”
I was at a business meeting a couple of years ago where someone was pointing to the importance of purpose. They were saying the most important question in life is “What is your purpose?” He was saying this is more important than “when,” “how” and “where.” Then someone put up their hand—a fine man who knows about these things—and said, “You know, I think there might be a more important question, which is ‘Who am I?’” Good on ya, I thought!
Let us look further into the question “Who?” I am going to do that in three levels.
The first level I want to touch on is simply to note what is important about any activity, which is always: Who is here? For what I have to share here, for example, it would be relatively meaningless if it were not shaped, in a certain way pulled out of me, by you. Obviously, that’s true for a program like The Deepening. We may begin with an outline schedule, and so on, but that does not make the experience what it is. It turns out that what most creates the nature of the event is who’s here. I have found, as I am sure you have in being with people, when one’s heart and one’s eyes are looking to see who is here, you get some surprises—it’s a revelation.
Those participating in The Deepening each took a moment to share some closing comments with each other before we came to this session in the Dome. I know it was my experience—I believe it was common to all of us—that after spending a week with these incredible beings, I was so touched. “Wow…when we started out I had no idea who was here.” So much more of who is here is showing up now from what I had first seen just seven days prior.
Shortly we will have a meal in the dining room. It’s not so important what’s happening—meat and potatoes or millet and vegetables—as who is here. Let us never give up living in that question. In community, for example, can you live in that question with each other? Who is here? So-and-so looks very familiar. I had lunch with this same person yesterday. Still live in the question. Who’s here? Who is here as you and who is this with whom you are relating? If we are open to it, there is always something new.
As we live and relate out of this appetite to see what is pulled out of us by another and for the other to reveal him- or herself—the astonishing character or beauty or wisdom, courage, that’s actually present across that dining room table—we start to find power moving. It turns out that the creative power of God is not so much amplified through our activities, the cleverness of our understanding, or the creativity and skillfulness of our activities. Those may be important but it turns out that, for example, when these people from The Deepening stand here and say, “Something powerful has taken place for me,” it’s because they revealed themselves and they were participating in a revelation of remarkable quality of character with other people. That evokes commitment, awareness of the reality of divine nature, and understanding of what’s taking place internally, on the planet and in our worlds. Showing up, coming forward, has all this—all these things come along with it.
That is the first level of exploring the “who” question.
Second level. It’s not so much about what is happening as who is experiencing it. We each have the opportunity to recognize the challenges, blocks and triggers that may arise for us. It is a myth to think that enlightenment is the eradication of such experiences. We are still human. And part of our work together, when the atmosphere, mutual trust and safety are sufficient, is to work consciously with such things as they naturally arise. We don’t have to force them into the open. Things that may have been inhibiting us for years start to surface and there’s an opportunity to work with them. To let what had been frozen begin to thaw. As was shared by Sara Jones earlier, to let a fear that was previously a cause of turning be replaced by confidence. Not that the fear has to go away, but she knows now that there is something on the other side of it. Every time that same fear arises, it becomes a way to serve. Or a grief that had been enough to make a person small, hesitate and feel badly, and now lives in that person as a signpost that points to their mission and direction in a life of giving.
How does this transformation occur? How does what once was inhibiting and challenging become accepted and welcome? It’s not so much about what’s happening as who is experiencing it.
We teach this as a practice. Three simple steps: Feel the feeling fully; inquire who is experiencing it; and love that one. This is one way of articulating the central practice of spiritual expression. We’ve discovered that contained in this question “who” is a basic shift that opens the door to conscious living.
For example, something may occur where I get triggered because I believe I’m being criticized. And there’s a feeling that goes with that. It’s not so important to analyze what the feeling is and what the story is that’s caused, according to me, this feeling. First step: Engage what’s present. We call this step “Feel the feeling fully.” So there’s no resistance; a relaxing of any attitude that might say, “This shouldn’t be happening to me.” It is here. Be with it exactly as it is. Second step: We do the inquiry. Who is experiencing this? Ah, there’s a twelve-year-old David who didn’t get what he wanted and he’s pouting. Third step: Love that one. Whoever comes forward in the inquiry…love that one. A five-year-old girl who’s feeling lonely because her sister just left home…love that one. Feisty rebelling at injustice…love that one. Proud adult, or whatever your thing is.
As we work with the parts of ourselves, these people who live in us, and give them now the love, the awareness and the understanding they have always craved, then not only does the disturbed feeling tend to melt in the warmth of that care and clarity but we discover that there is a powerful connectedness that happens. Because we all have similar patterns in common, actually. We don’t have our stories in common, right? What triggers this disturbing feeling in me and what triggers it in you may be different. We don’t even feel feelings in the same way—the way you feel a feeling and the way I feel a feeling could be rather different. However, when I’ve loved my twelve-year-old David who’s pouty because he didn’t get what he wanted, and then someone shows up with that same energy, it’s instinctive: I can love that one out there because I’ve loved it within myself.
I was recently engaged in a project with a team of six others. One time our team leader got into this very thing I just mentioned. He initially wanted to go this way, others were sure that we needed to go another way, and he went with them. But he went with them pouting for about two hours. Then later, after that had settled, he acknowledged to us that there was a control freak in him, and apologized. In a certain way you could tell that it still wasn’t clear. It was like he had admitted it, but it was still there—he was still suffering in a way, ashamed, and still liable to go there again. I told him, “Your twelve-year-old that pouts when he doesn’t get what he wants is so cute!” The guy just melted, because the love that was here, which I had proven inside myself, was felt in him and he knew it. He was able to love that one for himself at last.
Most of the time, as these parts are arising in us, are they getting loved? No. We’re blaming ourselves for being bad because we don’t like the five-year-old who’s sad or the fifty-three-year-old who’s angry, or whatever it is for you. There are dozens of these versions of self who live in me, and I don’t think I’m the only one. It’s how I experience being human. It is not in my way. These things are my way of extending God’s love into the world. This is spiritual expression. This is what it means to be conscious.
This understanding about noticing who is experiencing what is happening is highlighted by Hal and Sidra Stone, who are the founders of Voice Dialogue, in their wonderful book Partnering. In clarifying relationships, they train couples and practitioners to notice these parts of ourselves. Couples often show up with stories and feelings and, whether these are experienced as joy or as pain, the invitation is to notice who is experiencing it. They call it “bonding patterns.” My little boy that didn’t get a certain kind of love from his mother is bonding with the mother in the woman, and so on. These bonding patterns, of course, turn out to be very romantic at first, and then they become stifling and painful. It’s not so important what’s happening as who’s experiencing it. Through this work, people are invited to awaken to the aware adult inside that can hold these littler parts without expecting our partner to do it for us.
To live all our relationships consciously—this is love in action.We got very clear here this week that the object of creating a spiritual container, indeed spiritual community, an emerging body of God on earth, is not as a refuge from disturbing feelings. The opportunity is to be deeply aware, instinctively and consistently, so that anything that arises will be held in love.
So, to the third level of this. We do not engage in this just for the parts of us that need love. Living this practice isn’t about somehow trying to label all the parts anyway. Something comes up and you instinctively offer blessing. Please don’t mistake this for some kind of investigation into all the morbid histories of all the different parts of ourselves. That is not necessary. Something arises, your little girl or your little boy gets loved, and a healing current goes out. Pretty soon you find that you have become a server. Because of what has occurred in yourself, you are now qualified to receive that same energy in others. You can be counted on to receive it in that same awareness and that same love.
Here is the real beauty of this: You get to experience who you really are. Not only are you bathed in love but you recognize yourself to be the one who is extending the love. The usual human experience is identified in all these parts that get triggered all the time. That’s me. We usually pick the one or two that are most regularly triggered and say, “This is me. Hello!” We’re relating from some personality or part of a personality that’s been conditioned and molded by our personal history as an individual—engaging that in the other. But now it changes. When I meet you, you may see some personality but you will also meet who I really am, which is the one who is doing the loving. Love itself.
To whatever extent we have done our work, we know instinctively and with confidence that we are bathed in love. Not only that. We know that we arethe love. I am love. Spiritual expression is love in action. It turns out that as we experience ourselves as love, as we show up extending love’s care and clarity, reveal ourselves as that and begin to meet others in and as that, we discover an amazing thing: that there is only one love. This love that I am, that extends now through my human experience and through my relatedness in my world, when I see it in you, I recognize it. I recognize it. That is who I am too. When Amy Cordes dances and there is beauty there, oh, I recognize that—that’s who I am. When Allie Kittel speaks about how the touch of the divine has stirred her heart, I recognize that—that’s who I am. When I see courage, when I see tenderness, and when I see you, I recognize that. That’s who I am.
This is love walking the earth once more. You could call it the Lord of Love walking the earth again. The Spirit of Love is walking the earth again. I know it, you know it; we recognize it. We recognize Him or Her. We don’t wonder anymore: Does the Lord, does the Spirit, does the Beloved, have a body? Yes, Love has a body. First because I know what it is to be love, to live as love in this body, and then I recognize it: it is all around me. No one was trainedinto becoming this. We already arethis. We just settle down enough finally—ah!—to recognize it.
It is good to share this with you. We may touch experiences of love, of divine essence, but what deeper pleasure to share this confident and instinctive recognition that that is embodied. As you and I live this work and recognize that for all that is happening, we see who is present. All kinds of things will happen to us in the weeks, months and years ahead. That is not so important compared to this: who is present. And who is present is the Spirit of Love. It has always been and always, always is.
(Following several comments)
Thank you. When we look out in our world, it’s just the same. It’s not so much about a nuclear Iran, a freedom fighter freed in Myanmar, an economic crisis in a capitalist society, or any of those things. It’s whois present. Those things are happening because incomplete versions of self have been triggered and people got scared, people got greedy, people got this way and that. Why did that happen? Because of who arose.
Here is what we have in common, let’s say, with the people of influence in our world today. We don’t so much share their circumstances. We don’t have multimillion-dollar decisions to make or we haven’t been in prison for twenty-two years in an Asian cell. The circumstances are different but we share our connection to the human condition. As most of you know, I function as a confidant to people of influence. Do you think their patterns are so different from yours? Of course not. It’s not so much about the circumstances that are happening; but when the incomplete parts receive the clarity of love in and around you, hey, do you think that makes a difference? I do. It certainly makes a difference when you meet people who bring this stuff to you. They have never been loved like that or held quite like that before.
It is not just about me or any of us doing this alone. It’s about a body of people living the life of love. Then wherever that body touches the things of this world, all the love that is the identity and being of that body—you could say all that work but it’s not the work; it’s simply the clarity of love embodied in living—all of that is made available through whomever it might be to whom the things of this world come.
So I close by offering this context to whatever diligence you already have in your personal work of spiritual expression and transformation. It makes a difference in ways that are far beyond what any of us can see with our eyes only. Thank you. Thank you from the group of us who have gathered in this Deepening program, and thank you on behalf of everybody, in the whole world actually, who is blessed by the work that you have done to make it easier for us to do our work—and not just you but all those who went before you and down through the thousands of years, actually; all those who have lived the life of love. Thank you. We have got here, and something is possible in this time that was never possible before.