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An Enlightenment of Fullness for the rising dawn of the 21st century

Daily Wisdom: It Depends on Love

ShadowyBy Marc Gafni

From Your Unique Self:

It depends on Love

The technology for shadow integration is love.  Shadow causes a transformation of identity.  Love is the evolution–any force that transmutes shadow to light.

The inner magic and mechanism of love makes it the ultimate technology of Unique Shadow transformation.  The nature of that magic and mechanism is an essential sacred understanding necessary for your Unique Self enlightenment.

In order to integrate your shadow, your unlived life acting out and demanding attention, a transformation of your identity must occur. The key Aramaic phrase used by the Unique Self masters to describe the nature of this path is be’chavivut talya milta, “It depends on love.”

Photo Credit: Raphael Borja

The Nightly View: The price of limerence. A good lunch break. What Barack Obama really believes.

Lunch Break

The Price of Limerence

Let’s leave aside for a moment all the mushy poetic and theological language about love. Let’s put on Ebeneezer Scrooge’s worldview and simply ask: how much money is love worth?

Well here’s a short YouTube video that explores that very question. Among the interesting findings: Hearing that someone loves you for the first time is worth the equivalent happiness of $267,000. Being married is the equivalent of receiving an extra $100,000 per year. Committed long-term love live on average 15% longer, so finding a relationship that lasts per life is the equivalent of making another $23,000 to $30,000 extra per year.

The speaker says, “Love is democratic. No matter who you are or how much money you have, people all over the world are feeling it.” Amen.

(Hat tip: The Daily Dish.)

Working at your desk sucks. Americans should take lunches like the French do.

Orion Jones writes on Big Think:

By deciding to take a midday break, and taste the food you are going to eat anyway, you will refresh your mind and have the opportunity to mingle with co-workers. You may even get some sunshine. “By taking those few moments to breathe,” said Levy, “you come out feeling refreshed and invigorated. At work, time spent chatting with colleagues can lead to great ideas and cross-pollination between departments. And if you’ve broken bread with colleagues at lunch, it’s going to be easier to approach them in the professional sphere.” Giving yourself a half-hour lunch will increase your productivity, not decrease it.

Paying attention to our daily routine, making it more harmonious with our True Self — or at least make our ego a bit happier and more well-adjusted — is one of the surest routes to finding divinity in the ordinary.

Want to know what Barack Obama really thinks about religion?

Religion writer Jeffrey Weiss has followed Barack Obama’s statements on religion from the beginning, and he says there’s no better statement of what he really believes than this:

On the one hand, among the oldest and most complete texts are Obama’s two memoirs. Dreams From My Father has a long account of his journey of faith — from the child and grandchild of people who were indifferent or hostile to organized religion to crying in the pew of a Chicago church. The Audacity of Hope has an entire chapter titled, simply “Faith.”

But for me, the uber-source is a remarkable interview Obama gave in 2004, when he was a candidate for the U.S. Senate and long before he was even whispered about as presidential timber.

He sat down with Cathleen Falsani, then a religion reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times. She did a news story off the interview at the time. Later, when Obama became a bit more important than a mere senate candidate, Falsani posted the entire transcript of the interview on her own website. You can read it here.

Here’s how Obama explained his approach to his faith back then:

“I am a Christian. So, I have a deep faith. So I draw from the Christian faith. On the other hand, I was born in Hawaii where obviously there are a lot of Eastern influences. I lived in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, between the ages of six and 10. My father was from Kenya, and although he was probably most accurately labeled an agnostic, his father was Muslim. And I’d say, probably, intellectually I’ve drawn as much from Judaism as any other faith.”

And here is how he explains his attitude toward specific doctrines:

“I’m a big believer in tolerance. I think that religion at it’s best comes with a big dose of doubt. I’m suspicious of too much certainty in the pursuit of understanding just because I think people are limited in their understanding.”

And here is where he starts to explain how his understanding of his faith helps inform his ideas about governance:

“I think it’s perfectly consistent to say that I want my government to be operating for all faiths and all peoples, including atheists and agnostics, while also insisting that there are values that inform my politics that are appropriate to talk about… I can give religious expression to that. I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper, we are all children of God. Or I can express it in secular terms. But the basic premise remains the same.”

For the next eight years, he’s come back to the same basic themes: That he’s motivated by his understanding of the Christian social gospel as an inspiration for his personal service and as a guide for the kinds of policies that he pursues. But he rejects narrow and sure interpretations of religion. And he’s careful to say that government policy must not be narrowly tailored for any faith or none.

But what nobody seems to have done (yet) is to ask Obama about his own spiritual experiences, prayer life, and any mystical intuitions. Has he had any experiences of divinity or enlightenment, and what conclusions has he drawn about that?

Or, if no journalist wants to go on the record asking about that, why not simply ask him: What does “spirituality” mean to you?

Photo Credit: MR MARK BEK

A Bouquet of Truth Tests: Reflections on Certainty and Uncertainty (Part 2)


By Liza Braude-Glidden

Continued from Part 1. 

Reflection Six

An Opportunity and Crisis Truth Test

When uncertainty engulfs the present, how do you respond?

Hot winds off the Mojave Desert engulfed our neighborhood in towers of fire when I was seven. Dive-bombers careened overhead as if we were at war. Our teacher rushed us out of our second grade class crying, “ we must evacuate,” words instilling more fear than understanding in our seven-year-old hearts. Soon our bus rumbled though familiar streets made hellish by black smoke. We huddled together, wondering if our parents had saved our pets. When would we see our families again? Some of us wondered if our parents were alive.

We were right to wonder. My father, for example, stood on the roof of our home with a hose until the water ran out. One third of my friends lost their homes and possessions. Whirlwinds of fire charred the tops of our trees. The Fire spared my father and our home, but it could have gone another way. Miraculously, no one died. Yet in those moments we shared as children it was as if God had suddenly thrown all the balls of our young lives up into the air. No one knew how they would come down, MAYBE not even God.

We call our historical moment “the age of information.” We seem to know whatever we care to know on almost any subject including the chaos and suffering that seem ready to overwhelm our humanity daily. We know enough to be awestruck by the forces in play. Do we know enough to be willing to dance with all the balls God has tossed up in the air?

Reflection Seven

A Solitude/Isolation Truth Test

Am I allowing this truth to isolate me or using it to connect to a larger whole?

Most expansions of consciousness wrestle with shadows of isolation. I am connected with the universe in a new way and suddenly bereft of anyone with whom to share my new world space! William Blake is an example of a visionary who complained bitterly that the gutless cartoonists of his time received glory he deserved. Eastern influenced Westerners may see his rage as a lack of equanimity, yet wrestling with this shadow may have given Blake’s vision greater strength and integrity. One can imagine Blake alone in his workshop by the light of a single oil lamp, working furiously through the night on his engravings of the story of Job.

The shadow, the truth that I am alone in my revelation, is true enough, but not as true as the sense of belonging that knows that every opening to a wider embrace weaves me deeper into the fabric of life and being.

Expansion of consciousness connects. Its shadow dissociates and alienates. This dissociation and alienation is an important shadow truth. In it’s best expression, it aids in the evolutionary process of differentiation. At the same time, truths that connect me, that bring me into engagement with the whole and its parts are truer than those that isolate me from my fellow humans and the universe we share.

Expanded consciousness is sometimes described in terms of increasing self-reference and individuation and this is of course, true. Such beings are recognized by equanimity and lack of fear. And in the truth test I call Solitude/Isolation, an expanding consciousness is described as an increasingly vulnerable, engaged connectedness, thus the apt term, embrace. Such beings are recognized by monumental acts of love.

Reflection Eight

A Mud Hole Truth Test

How much humiliation does it take to humble me where intuition is concerned?

Glastonbury, England, home, some say, to the Holy Grail, has more than it’s share of mud holes. On You Tube, you can see a couple on their way to an outdoor concert disappear when what is beneath the wet, reflective surface of their path is much deeper than it appeared! Soon two thickly coated brown, demoralized beings are shown, struggling out of the depths.

Have you followed intuitions’ path only to land in a messy, inconvenient and perhaps wounding mud hole? Were reflections sometimes misleading? What was revealed in that messy instant that was invisible a few moments earlier? Did you hear, at loud volume, voices that ordinarily mutter in the background? Does the drenching shock of the mud hole discredit the original intuition? How does the baptism of the mud hole inspire your courage and resolve?

Like old-fashioned cartoon characters, we may walk a long way with only intuition supporting us and only notice we have done so when we fall painfully to earth. Does that mean that the steps we take on solid ground are more real than those we take in flights of intuition?

Maybe there is strength and integrity in both. Maybe each informs the other. Mud holes are crucibles of evolution and you never know whom you’re going to meet there. While the baptism of certainty may be water, perhaps the baptism of uncertainty is mud

Reflection Nine

An Authenticity/Complexity Truth Test

How can authenticity emerge from complexity in our historical moment?

Recently an iconic photo circulated on the web of an indigenous man in traditional dress weeping with his face in his hands as he received the news that his tribe had lost the battle to save their entire cultural homeland from destruction by a hydroelectric project. Have you faced an uncertainty that wiped out all knowledge and meaning?

Many of us have experienced a dark night of the soul or considered that God might be dead. It’s still more painful to consider how many of us have come to a moment when it seemed our fellow humans had just executed God. How do we move forward from such a moment? This is one of the deep uncertainties shaking the foundation of our world.

A central task of World Spirituality is to help us respond to such moments in a state of engagement with one another and with All that is Holy, rather than in a state of alienation from one another and flight from the Divine.

How can our personal encounters with truth become a part of this Holy engagement in the face of convulsive forces? How can these encounters become a gift to the Pool of Knowing that connects us with one another and with the Whole? Our power as individuals and as groups comes in our ability to respond.

Certainty and Uncertainty emerge in the most intimate places. What we long for in our romantic partnerships  is often certainty in the face of our almost infinite vulnerability, yet what we discover, both in our own hearts and in our encounters is often uncertainty. Every therapist and pastoral counselor faces endless variations on this dilemma.

In the hearts and minds of seekers of truth resonant questions on certainty and uncertainty continue to surface. Theorists in many fields speak of the importance of novelty, a scientific term for the emergence of stuff scientists can’t predict. Psychologist and Complexity theorist Terry Marks-Tarlow in her new book on clinical intuition in psychotherapy writes:

…clinical intuition is an inner faculty necessary for therapeutic change both in therapists and patients alike. True change requires openness to novelty. This is the bailiwick of the right (and not the left) hemisphere. Transformation during psychotherapy harnesses imagination and creativity. Unless we can conceive of a future that differs from the past, we cannot live one out. (emphasis mine LBG)

What does it mean to us as an emerging global community to conceive of a future that is different from the past? How do we, as a global community address what every psychotherapy patient addresses: Stuff has become unworkable. We need new stuff. Yet self-replicating bots are hard at work in our global consciousness. We need new intuitions (on a personal scale) and new revelations (on a global scale.)

The Traditional Christian Author, Lael Arrington, blogging in the women’s Christian collective, Tapestry, laments that faith in a post-modern era has become a process of sitting with unanswered questions. These questions sit in the post-modern heart where conviction once was. Yet she knows we cannot go back to our old certainties. She quotes Jesus in the Book of John: “• Jn 18:37-38 “…for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

What could it mean, in a post post-modern world to be “on the side of truth”? Arrington reflects: “But how do we do this (testify to the truth LBG) with cognitive humility? Authenticity is the key.” These terms authenticity and cognitive humility lead into a rhythmic engagement with certainty and uncertainty that gives access to both.

Personal truth tests, such as the ones I recounted here, are a source of knowledge of my unique authenticity. Through sharing them and relating them to liberating structures, I am able to know and test both my authenticity and cognitive humility, even in those intuitions where I am currently alone, or in a small cohort of understanding.

Testing personal truth, inquiring into authenticity and cognitive humility invokes the liberating structure of Marc Gafni’s teachings on Unique Self. The emergence of Unique Self in the face of certainty and uncertainty, is, Marc says, a transition from the statement “It is true.” to the statement “I am true.” Through my eyes, God reveals unique and essential features of truth that sheds light on my inner life, my human family, and on the physical and practical world. I reveal myself as a Unique and necessary source of revelation. When I am true, I am making my truest contribution to the Whole. I am offering my unique piece to the puzzle of an emerging World Revelation.

Up until now, revelations of our collective spirit required compromises of each individual spirit, placing every human in an unacceptable dilemma: either narcissism or cream of wheat. Neither makes much of a party.

Can we tune our antennae to the signs of a revelation of the Whole that not only permits but in some sense requires the full expression of each unique human perspective?

Reflection Ten

Care to Dance?

Inviting an important person to dance creates a bit of trembling- will you? Won’t you? Dear Reader, have you found one exquisite detail here that got your feet moving to a rhythm?

We dance best in festive rooms full of dancers. There is music, maybe a live band. Perhaps interesting lighting, firelight, or maybe it’s warm and we’re dancing outdoors. World Spirituality’s invitation to the Dance of Certainty and Uncertainty is an invitation to gather enough inspired certainty and cognitive humility to engage such macro complexities as population growth, climate change, diseases of starvation and overindulgence, the extinction of species and cultures; and to engage intimate complexities such as how to be human and humane in a world of accelerating novelty and complexity.

To dance in affirmative engagement in such a world, each of us must do our best to embody an inner spiritual authority that provides alternatives to literal readings of scripture and fundamentalist ways of knowing. In these ten reflections, we have explored seductive glimmerings of alternatives. We have glimpsed World Spirituality’s challenge to apply liberating structures to our unique encounters with truth. MAYBE, dear reader, you have found renewed enthusiasm for offering your tests of truth as gifts to a matrix of collective wisdom without diluting their unique authenticity.

Some truth tests didn’t make the cut, so I’ll mention two: The truth test of the market place in which my daily life is engaged deserves an essay of its own. Another, as important as any I’ve mentioned is gratitude: How grateful am I for the opportunity of this moment and the consciousness I am able to bring to it? How grateful am I for you dear reader, for your response, whatever it may be, and for the teachings of World Spirituality that brings us together?

As consciousness evolves, we evolve new ways to recognize revelation in ourselves and others. I’m hoping for a good party with lots of dancing. I am grateful to be invited, grateful to remain curious about the unique gifts arising in each moment in you, me and we.

I hope for both Divine and human help in finding the courage to act in the face of uncertainty. For without such action I may not find enough knowledge and energy to contribute to the evolutionary momentum of the Whole. This means being willing to act with the certain knowledge that infinite numbers of God’s balls are currently up in the air. Which will come to earth? Which will hit me on the head? No amount of mapping will provide an answer, yet maps are glorious and needed.

The Integral map is like a pattern of landing lights on a runway. When God throws me up in the air, I use the map to return to Earth safely. I land where important others live, people with whom I can talk, people with whom I can build. Together we find the power to resist easy certainty and MAYBE in that resistance, a revelation of WE is being born.


“Physics Jokes, Number Three”, From, 2012

Life on Mars, BBC Wales, 2009

* It turns out this Einstein quote is a persistent urban myth. It’s likely Einstein never said it. The quote simplifies an insight that Einstein did exemplify. Intuition was central to his process and values. The quote was likely born out of a need to have one simple phrase to express that fact.

Lao Tsu, trans. Mitchel, Stephen. The Tao Te Ching, Harper and Row, 1988, 1

John 1.1, King James Version, 1769

Gafni, Marc, “The Path of Wrestling,” in The Marc Gafni Blog, 2011.

Mark-Tarlow, Terry. Clinical Intuition in Psychotherapy, W.W. Norton and Company, 2012, P.29

New Testament, New International Version, John, 18:37: “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

Arrington, Lael, “Certainty Versus Cognitive Humility, Why Does it Always Have to be Either/Or?”, Tapestry, 2010.

Photo Credit: Liza Braude-Glidden

A Bouquet of Truth Tests, Reflections on Certainty and Uncertainty (Part 1)

By Liza Braude-Glidden


Physics Joke 3:
Q: Why are quantum physicists so poor at sex?
A: Because when they find the position, they can’t find the momentum, and when they have the momentum, they can’t find the position.

To engage with the growing community of the Center for World Spirituality is to accept an invitation to the dance of certainty and uncertainty. The relationship between certainty and uncertainty is one of the key teachings of World Spirituality in the writings of Dr. Marc Gafni, The Center’s teacher in residence. These recent teachings  emerge from Marc’s book The Uncertain Spirit published in Hebrew in the mid-eighties. An updated, expanded version of Marc’s teachings on certainty and uncertainty will soon be released in English. This essay is a series of ten short reflections on Marc’s teachings on the dance of certainty and uncertainty from a feminine and inter-subjective lens.

Reflection One

A Granular Truth Test

How detailed is this truth?

Breeze wafts through my open window. Outside, flower vines bob in a slow rhythm. I feel your eyes looking out on whatever scene is yours to see at present, feeling honored by your presence here, wondering how you will come to know what you know in your moment about what I am writing here in mine. In this moment, dear reader, how are you knowing what you know?

Consider this scene from Science fiction: a man stands joyously on a twenty-story rooftop edge about to leap. He’s certain he’s found a way to prove that the reality around him that seems real, isn’t. He’s confident jumping will show him what’s real. A female character calls him to step away from the edge. Her voice is too inviting. He grasps her hand. “Grit” he says, “I feel gritty sand on your fingers.”

“Yes,” she says, “I touched a broken plaster wall on my way up to the rooftop.”

“How could my mind fabricate that level of detail?” The main character questions, “Perhaps you are real.” Her feminine presence plus the sandy grit on her fingers gave birth to enough uncertainty that he stepped away, at least long enough for the story to continue.

Traditionally, “certainty” and “reality” and “truth” are used in close connection. In Marc’s writings reveal truths of both certainty and uncertainty.

Some of us love to jump; others habitually hang back. Is either choice inherently wise? What kinds of details make a moment more certain than your interior can fabricate? What details in your life might give you what Marc calls” the core certainty of your existence?”

Reflection Two

“Maybe Stories”

Of what, dear reader, are you absolutely certain?

Is there a place in you that rests gently in the natural uncertainty of each arising instance? Is there some uncertain country inside your heart that longs for inspired action? Is there a nostalgic wish for the certain unity of the One True Right and Only Way? Or do you cling ironically to uncertainty, like a post-modern security blanket?

As globally connected spiritual practitioners, compelling and seemingly contradictory texts on certainty and uncertainty call to us from religious scriptures of many eras and cultures. “The Tao that can be told is not the Eternal Tao” is a common invocation of uncertainty stated in the first line of the Tao Te Ching, primary text of the Taoist tradition (Forth Century BCE.) In contrast, in the New Testament, John echos Genesis: “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God. “

Is it possible that two great traditions could differ so completely? Can we see these two perspectives as part of a larger whole? World Spirituality lives into the question:

If consciousness is indeed evolving, our recognition of revelation must also evolve. In a post post-modern world, how can we recognize authentic revelation?

In the quote below, Marc recounts a revelatory process of discovering Maybe Stories, tales of inspired certainty about the central importance of uncertainty:

It occurred to me in a moment of graced intuition that although the word Safek (Doubt LBG) does not occur in biblical text, the word Ullai, meaning, Maybe, does appear. Not once but in seven major pivoting points in the book of Genesis.

It also became clear to me in that moment of grace, that there is a distinct and intentional biblical genre of Ullai- Maybe stories which form the basis of the biblical theology of Uncertainty.

In each of these stories the ability to hold uncertainty and not be seduced by easy certainties is the key to the triumph of the Biblical Hero. (2011)

God, who could be called a biblical hero, died. We attended His funeral throughout the twentieth century, yet for the vast majority of people the thirst for the Divine refused to be quenched. Something in us refused to be seduced by the easy certainty of His demise. MAYBE, our hearts said, the Beloved is becoming more present through the act of dying. MAYBE a death of God in each unique heart sweeps the slate for a flood of Eros, a unified yet multiple revelation of the Beloved. MAYBE God’s heroism is revealed uniquely through the heroism of each and all of us.

MAYBE I will get the job. MAYBE she will say yes. MAYBE I will conceive a child. MAYBE the Arab Spring will bring enduring change to the Middle East. What are the MAYBE moments in your world, dear reader? What is the worthy fulcrum on which your life is leveraged at this moment? What is the heroic challenge? Is there a temptation to be seduced by easy certainties?

Reflection Three

A Bouquet of Truth Tests

How can I offer my personal truth tests as a gift?

On one hand, a field of study with centuries of tradition and scholarship, sourced mostly by male sensibilities, inquires into how human beings know what they know. On the other hand each of us, in an intuitive space and in each fresh moment must make judgments about what is certain using whatever skills and resources we have. In that spirit, beloved reader, I offer this bouquet of truth tests, as an empowerment and blessing for the intuitive leaps your life inevitably asks of you. For, as the title implies, truth is a gift, one that emerges uniquely in each instance of expanding human consciousness.

No one test makes something true or insures that I am able to share my truth with you. Yet a well-arranged bouquet of truth tests helps. The purpose is not to assure ourselves that things are real and solid. They both are and aren’t. Rather, the purpose is to inquire into what inspires us to believe that they are and aren’t. What truths move us forward? How do we come to understand the authenticity of such truths?

Sometimes your truth tests may be the same ones I use, sometimes they may be remarkably different. Do your truth tests tend to be linear or rational? Or do you find yourself relying more on whole pictures, leaps of intuition, and nonlinear juxtapositions? We all need and rely upon both of these styles yet in everyone, one or the other is dominant

Some people assume that linear processes have truth tests while holistic, intuitive processes do not. Some assume that only the truths we share with others can be tested. These assumptions have at least two downsides: first we do not give intuition credibility, and second we do not hold intuitive individuals to the level of integrity necessary to fully integrate them into our most vital conversations.

As our world becomes more complex, we are asked to make more and more leaps of creativity and intuition. As the technology we have collectively sourced demonstrates it’s linear superiority over us as individuals, intuition and the synchronicities it stimulates become our assignment as warm-blooded, wet people. Since the latest research in neuroscience affirms the centrality of intuitive and right brain functioning in all human decision-making, we may as well enjoy it and explore it.

There are few things more interior and personal than how you or I know what we know; yet these inner intuitive tests of truth become truer when we share them. Gathered from wild fields and carefully cultivated gardens within, I offer this bouquet of truth tests, and though I cannot, through the medium of writing, receive your bouquet in return, I hope that in every passage of this writing you will feel my curiosity about what is in your bouquet. How are you engaging your essence by testing your personal truths?

Reflection Four

An Inquiry Truth Test

How can I rest in my questions in a way that evokes ever more beautiful and functional questions?

At one point in the dance of certainty and uncertainty, we may have assumed that the purpose of testing the truth is to find a clear answer. Another way of testing truth is to assess the depth, beauty and power of the questions that emerge from it.

Each section of this essay poses contemplative questions. One way to use them is as starting points for journaling or dialogue. Questions are italicized so you can find them easily. Another way to use the questions is as contemplative tools. Here are some steps:

  1. Read the piece through once with open eyes and heart.
  2. Scan through again, this time underlining the questions that have the most resonance.
  3. Choose three questions and write them, perhaps long hand, on a paper you can place near your bed.
  4. Instead of writing responses, simply read the questions in a quiet, relaxed moment, ideally before sleep. When answers come, bow to them gently, jot a reminder, and keep asking. Sit with the questions.
  5. Out of step four, new questions are born. They will lead your curiosity in important directions. MAYBE to an ever-expanding sense of wonder at the particular flavor of mystery to which your being is most alive.
  6. If you find yourself stuck in inaction, uncertainty may be dominant. If you find yourself exhausted by relentless activity, certainty may be at an extreme. What questions emerge from inaction? What questions emerge from relentless activity? When new questions become rich and resonant, (or threatening and charged) repeat the process with the new questions.

Most stuff is stuff we don’t know. And while it’s vital to be certain and to act, my hope is to do so with humility born of contemplation of how inevitably mysterious and complex any human life is. Each human life unfolds in a Singing Kosmos that makes the greatest human music seem like a nursery rhyme. In each intimate and expansive moment, how can we best listen to its song?

Reflection Five

An Exemplar Truth Test

What do you learn about your own intuitions through exploring those of your exemplar?

Many of my personal truth tests arose as I sang in and studied the choral works of J.S. Bach as a young person. In Bach, complex, mathematically perfect structures refine and amplify personal and religious feeling. As a choir singer I entered the maelstrom of that perfection. Do you remember a watershed series of experiences that occurred perhaps in your teens or twenties that helped you form what later became vital ways of recognizing truth?

In high school and college, my wise, feminine, unstructured presence produced countless songs, poems, paintings and deep conversations under the influence of a marvelous variety of creative women who still influence me including my college mentor, Deena Metzger, Cal Arts Faculty member Judy Chicago, and my grandmother, the abstract expressionist painter and Christian Science mystic, Vicci Sperry.

In the process of obediently following intuition I stumbled into plenty of blind alleys. While nursing bumps and bruises, I had many golden opportunities to become curious about masculine role models of structure and vision that could lend strength, integrity, and direction to my intuitive and empathic gifts. Yet most of the possibilities that presented themselves seemed to want to decimate the pleasure, beauty and energy I recognized as intuition’s life-blood. So, the search continued, who could be my exemplar?

Albert Einstein was a candidate. “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.” He wrote, “We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” * True enough, yet as Einstein knew, intuition also has a Master, a divine one. Einstein was not always happy with the warlike masters his intuitions served, and as I mentioned above, J. S. Bach’s comprehensive expression revealed the beauty and identity of intuition’s Master.

Have you searched for an exemplar of intuition? Perhaps if you are quite masculine and/or rational your exemplar has contrasting qualities. Is there a passage of writing or an interview that describes her intuitive process? What moves you the most about her expression? What grounds you the most? What do you most seek to emulate?

At age eighteen at California Institute of the Arts, singing in a choir devoted to Bach, the meaning, theory, and history behind his choral works became an early touchstone that mirrored important intuitions of the Kosmos and humanity’s place in it. At the same time, I began practices from Eastern wisdom traditions. The choral works of Bach stood out as the most unimpeachable esthetic, spiritual, conceptual and structural authority. Studying and performing Bach gave state experiences of early spiritual practice meaning they could not have had otherwise. For a sizable minority of students and faculty at Cal Arts in the seventies, spiritual practice and musical expression were one fabric. We held both Eastern and Western enlightenment in our intuitive musical rapport.

A seed was germinating: Structures such as those I found in Bach make it possible to exchange and cultivate our knowledge of the filigree of manifest love we call our world. These structures have the potential to give us more freedom and beauty than they require from us, and to serve as evolutionary ladders, not only for those coming up behind us but even for those ahead of us, who teeter on the shaky edge of human possibilities.

Much later as the seed that was my knowledge of liberating structures began to grow, Ken Wilber sat down beside Bach as a living treasure whose integral map helps give intuition an honorable and expanding home.

Now, as my emphasis on individual expression intimates, I’ve become a student of Unique Self, World Spirituality and Marc Gafni, who has given inspired context to these truth tests. “Questioning,” Marc says, “is a right which emerges from intimacy.” In intimacy with myself, I gain the right to question myself, in intimacy with you; I gain the right to question you. In intimacy with truth I gain the right to test it. In Intimacy with God, I gain the right to question God.

What questions have you earned the right to pose, dear reader? How does your curiosity inspire intimacy? How does your intimacy inspire curiosity?

(for end notes, see the end of part two)

Continued at Part 2.

Photo Credit: Liza Braude-Glidden

Daily Wisdom: The Imagination


By Marc Gafni

From my book, The Mystery of Love:

Sex models the erotic, but it does not exhaust the erotic. One of the core qualities of the erotic is imagination. The Zohar, the magnus opus of Hebrew mysticism, says explicitly in many places, “Shechina is imagination.”

In Common usage “imagination” is implicitly considered to mean “unreal.” Indeed unreal and imaginary are virtual synonyms. To undermine the reality of an antagonist’s claim we say it is “a figment of his imagination.” In marked contrast, the Hebrew mystics held imagination to be very real. Indeed it would not be unfair to say that they considered imagination to be “realer than real.”

The power of imagination is its ability to give form to the deep truths and visions of the inner divine realm. Imagination gives expression to the higher visions of reality that derive from our divine selves. Language and rational thinking are generally unable to access this higher truth. But the imagination is our prophet, bringing us the word of the Divine, which speaks both through us and from beyond us. This is what the biblical mystic Hosea meant when he exclaimed their God said, “By the hands of my prophets I am imagined.”

Photo Credit: h.koppdelaney

Prof. Richard C. Schwartz, Ph.D. in Dialogue with Dr. Marc Gafni

Richard Shwartz

By Marc Gafni

In a long discussion with my friend and colleague Richard Schwartz, founder of Internal Family Systems Theory, I shared with him my perspective on the relation of Ego and Unique Self and the larger set of core distinctions that comprise Unique Self teaching. Dick excitedly concurred and added important empirical validation from his clinical perspective and sent me this written communication after our conversation:

Many spiritual traditions make the mistake of viewing ‘the ego’ as the problem. At worst it vilified as greedy, anxious, clinging, needy, focused on wounds from the past or fear in the future, full of limiting or false beliefs about you, the source of all suffering, and something one must evolve beyond in order to taste enlightenment. At best it is seen as a confused and childish — to be treated with patience and acceptance but not to be taken seriously or listened to. My 30 years of experience exploring internal worlds has led to very different conclusions regarding the ego. What is called the ego or false self in these spiritualities is a collection of sub-personalities I call ‘parts.’ When you first become aware of them, these parts manifest all the negative qualities described above, so I understand why this mistake is so widespread.

As you get to know them from a place of curiosity and compassion, however, you learn that they are not what they seem. Instead, they are spiritual beings themselves who, because of being hurt by events in your life, are forced into roles that are far from their natures, and carry extreme beliefs and emotions that drive their limiting or suffering perspectives. Once they are able to release those beliefs and emotions (what I call burdens) they immediately transform into their natural, enlightened states and can join your evolution toward increasing embodiment of your true nature, what Marc Gafni importantly refers to as correctly, your Unique Self.

Thus, if instead of trying to ignore or transcend an annoying ego, you relate to even the apparent worst of your parts with love and open curiosity you will find that, just like you, they long for the liberating realization of their connection with the divine and provide delightful and sage company on your journey toward enlightenment. In this way you will be relating to these inner entities in the same way that Jesus and Buddha taught us to relate to suffering, exiled people.

Richard Schwartz is a leading expert in the field of psychotherapy and recognized as the founding developer of Internal Family Systems Theory, an influential therapeutical model which combines systems thinking with an integrative view of the mind and its discrete qualities.

Nightly View: Good News on Earth Day. Why People Pay Attention to Tragedy.


By Joe Perez

On this, the second nightly column on Spirit’s Next Move, I set gaze on two articles from the World Wide Web: the first, an encouraging word about Earth Day from Integral City; the second, I look at an interesting interpretation of why people are so easily caught up in tragedies such as Anne Frank and the Titanic anniversary.

Earth Day brings greater Integrally-informed global collaborations

Is the Earth going down like Titanic? Not if current signs are just the beginning of global trends. Marilyn Hamilton writes in “Earth Day: Let’s Celebrate Ecosphere Intelligence Arising in Planet’s Fortune100!!”:

TSean Esborn-Hargens one of the leaders at the forefront of developing the whole field of Integral Ecology engages the nested voices of Self, Other and the World in ways that are shifting the whole understanding of ecology. Like Brian Eddy who has mapped the Integral Ecological model of the lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, biosphere and anthroposphere, Sean has been convening conversations with multiple ecological personas in complex cultural and systems environments.

While Sean and Brian are the natural children of the pioneers who opened the paths of the first Earth Day (42 years ago) what other evidence of ecospheric change can we notice on the eve of Rio+20?

Much to my astonishment I listened to CEO’s (and/or their consultants) of the Fortune 100 talk about their sustainability strategies at the Fortune Green Brainstorm earlier this week.

I heard that Coca Cola had invested $1 billion dollars in the mountain farmers of Tanzania so that they could steward the forests in the mountains to protect the hydrological cycle that produces the water that is 98% of the input for Coca Cola’s product.

I heard that Wal-Mart had changed its fleet of trucks to fuel-efficient hybrid 18 wheelers and was using bio-fuel from the cooking fats produced by their restaurants.

I heard that New York City had negotiated a $1 billion deal with the Catskill farmers to preserve the quality of its water sources – rather than spend $6 billion on a new water management plant.

Read the whole post to learn of more surprising good tidings, especially word from the Fortune 100 companies.

Why people look for meaning in tragedies

Ruth Franklin, a senior editor at The New Republic, tries to explain why people seek for meaning in tragedies. The victims of tragedies, Franklin says, remind us that they were once like us, but now emptied of significance on account of their tragic end:

To look at the video of Anne Frank, or a slideshow of the Titanic’s ephemera—an alligator handbag, a water-crumpled top hat and dress shoes—is to know for certain that the girl leaning off the balcony, or the people to whom these objects belonged, were once like us. In their deaths they became myth, but in life they were unexceptional: The video shows Anne Frank, as one of my Twitter correspondents put it, “before she was Anne Frank.” We know that Anne Frank was real; we don’t need a video for that. But we long for artifacts because they seem to offer a route to authenticity, a direct access to the moment of disaster that we obsessively replay. As such, they become repositories of meaning—empty of their own significance, but imbued with it by virtue of their context. And for historical catastrophes such as the Titanic or the Holocaust, the desire for an object to convey meaning is particularly acute, since otherwise the event feels morally empty, and thus dangerous…

I think it’s really hard to make generalizations so baldly as Franklin does. People make meaning of Anne Frank or Titanic relics for a wide array of reasons, pre-modern magical thinking or myth making, modern rationalism, and post-modern existentialism, for example. Franklin’s effort to claim that tragedy victims become placeholders emptied of their own significance, a “route to authenticity,” is a narrowly postmodern concern (I believe), projected onto every possible onlooker.

Thus, I can’t really agree with Ruth’s conclusion, that contemplation of tragedy allows us to “relive” them so as to keep death abay:

An extreme catastrophe affords us a kind of luxury: a comfortable perch from which to reflect upon our own mortality. We don’t know what will finally happen to us, but whatever it is, it won’t be that. We will not go down with the Titanic; we will not be murdered by the Nazis. We speak of the contemplation of these stories—as historical events or as something close to myth—as “reliving” them. But in fact it is death to which they bring us safely closer.

Which is a perfectly fine way to look at tragedy if you are Ruth Franklin. But a more integral perspective must not impose any one rubric for interpreting tragedy for all people — especially if it means elevating postmodern interpretation to the pinnacle of human wisdom. But World Spirituality is not without its own rich perspective on tragedy.

World Spirituality acknowledges a deep brokenness at the heart of Reality — samsara, the Cross of Christ, Original Sin, chaos and incompleteness, what have you — and insists that authenticity to our True Self is to affirm such brokenness by living into it and through it with courage and love … not to deny the brokenness in favor of fake grace or spiritual bypassing. To reflect on an icon of such brokenness — a picture of Anne Frank or the purse of a Titanic victim — is to encounter suffering that is not separate from our own (or to resist the suffering, falling away from True Self, in an inauthentic pose).

I would not say, as Franklin does, that we “relive” tragedies vicariously in order to be brought closer to death, but in a safe way. Perhaps that is so for some selves. But I would say that our Unique Self encounters in a relic of the Titanic or a Holocaust survivor its own likeness in partiality and wholeness, and — unless its feeling is set aside in favor of the False Self — finds freedom from death with each effortless, instantly arising act of continued contemplation.

Daily Wisdom: Being Held in Love


By Marc Gafni

From Marc Gafni’s Your Unique Self:

The experience of being held in love by the gaze of the divine feminine can be accessed in three primary ways. First, the gaze of another’s love can hold you in the gaze of the divine feminine. Second, in meditation, your own Big Heart/divine feminine can consciously hold your small self in the gaze of the divine feminine. Third, the gaze of the divine feminine is the experience of being held by the personal God who knows your name.

This is what we referred to earlier as “God in the second person.” This is what Solomon alluded to in the Song of Songs when he wrote of the divine embrace, “Your left hand is under my head and your right hand embraces me.” This is the experience that you are resting in the divine embrace, held in timeless time and placeless place. This is the deep knowing that wherever you fall, you fall into the hands of God. It is precisely the knowing that you are thus held in love that affirms your goodness. Chant and prayer are the two major spiritual practices for this realization.

Photo Credit: Tambako the Jaguar

Nightly View: The march to spiritual marketization


By Joe Perez

High in the heavens above, the Sun’s sweet sextile with Neptune suggests a universe hospitable to fantasy and the belief that anything is possible. It’s time to inaugurate a new crazy idea: a nightly column on Spirit’s Next Move which follows the hooting of the owls, listening for wisdom, however disjointed and scattered the whos and hoos and hoots may sound, amid the many boughs and branches of the World Wide Web.

Resplendent hues of Sol’s gold and Neptune’s briny green above; on Earth, hues of pastel pink and baby blue. Ever wonder if the preference of pink for girls and blue for boys is universal? Not even close. It appears to be a cultural choice that could easily have gone the other way.

The marketization of color

The Smithsonian writes:

The march toward gender-specific clothes was neither linear nor rapid. Pink and blue arrived, along with other pastels, as colors for babies in the mid-19th century, yet the two colors were not promoted as gender signifiers until just before World War I—and even then, it took time for popular culture to sort things out.

For example, a June 1918 article from the trade publication Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department said, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” Other sources said blue was flattering for blonds, pink for brunettes; or blue was for blue-eyed babies, pink for brown-eyed babies, according to Paoletti.

In 1927, Time magazine printed a chart showing sex-appropriate colors for girls and boys according to leading U.S. stores. In Boston, Filene’s told parents to dress boys in pink. So did Best & Co. in New York City, Halle’s in Cleveland and Marshall Field in Chicago.

Today’s color dictate wasn’t established until the 1940s, as a result of Americans’ preferences as interpreted by manufacturers and retailers. “It could have gone the other way,” Paoletti says.

Today, American retailers are doing more than picking the color palettes to sell to young children, they may also be establishing the limits on democracy.

The marketization of everyday life

According to an article by Harvard’s Michael Sandel at The Huffington Post:

At a time of rising inequality, the marketization of everything means that people of affluence and people of modest means lead increasingly separate lives. We live and work and shop and play in different places. Our children go to different schools. You might call it the skyboxification of American life. It’s not good for democracy, nor is it a satisfying way to live.

Democracy does not require perfect equality, but it does require that citizens share in a common life. What matters is that people of different backgrounds and social positions encounter one another, and bump up against one another, in the course of everyday life. For this is how we learn to negotiate and abide our differences, and how we come to care for the common good.

And so, the question of markets is really a question about how we want to live together. Do we want a society where everything is up for sale? Or are there certain moral and civic goods that markets do not honor and money cannot buy?

Is it really so that the marketization of everything leads to greater class stratification? Will Wilkinson, criticizing Michael Sandel on Big Think, doesn’t think so. But Sandel may be correct, it seems to me. Money buys many things, including the ability to live one’s life without other people around. Having no money, you don’t have that option.

And so on this inaugural expedition of The Daily Hoot, I invite us into a dream-like visualization:

First, everything in the world is “fully marketized,” as Michael Sandel fears, (let that term stir up whatever it does for you). The markets define the conditions of our citizenship and common life together. Almost everything is up for sale. 

One definition of “marketization” is simply “The exposure of an industry or service to market forces.” At a minimum, everything is registered by the market, located within its own value coordinates.

BUT… Dystopia is not the world we find. Instead, we find a Utopian world in which people of all means share a common life and care deeply about their history as a species and as a people, and how they came to live together in peace. Market forces helped to create the delicate balance, because they evolved from the rudimentary capitalist measurements we use today into instruments capable of transferring all measure of value — aesthetic, moral, and spiritual. 

Can we imagine that? Remember that the process towards gender-specific clothes was neither linear nor rapid. The process towards a sort of spiritual and aesthetic marketization will not happen overnight, if it happens at all.

It happens not in the skies but in the choices we make, starting with the choice to let our soul slumber a slave to industry and capital forces or to awaken as a Unique Self alive with the creative power of the stars. It happens in the choice to heed the call of Utopia rather than succumb to fears of Dystopia.

Joe Perez on the evolution of attitudes towards gays and lesbians

Lesbian Wedding

“Given enough time, modernity is enough to show traditional churches that homosexuality is not an illness or disorder, and ought to be tolerated. Given enough time, postmodernism is enough to show modernist churches that they need to accept gays, lesbians, and other sexual and gender minorities for the diversity they bring. Given enough time, an integral wave of consciousness — a World Spirituality — will be enough to show traditional churches that they have held an honorable role by keeping the flame burning which knows the inner divinity of gays and lesbians; it will be enough to show modernist churches and secular organizations the ways in which gay/straight differences in perspective offer many fruitful new avenues for investigation of  the interior life of all sentient beings; it will be enough to show postmodern churches, spirituality-based, and mission-driven organizations the best ways to bring homophiles and heterophiles and all people within whom gender/sexual/energetic polarities exist into a constructive theology of interrelationship, marriage, and social ethics. All this is within our reach in the stratums of pre-modern, modern, and post-modern life-worlds in which we dwell, but it most definitely requires a World Spirituality.” — Joe Perez

Recently on this blog: Towards a World Spirituality theology of gay marriage

Photo Credit: anna and liz

Photo of the Day: Blue Cypress Lake Sunset

Juniper Trees

Photographer remarks: Blue Cypress Lake Sunset 6 … I bent the rule of thirds here a bit, but the sun is just off center enough for my taste. Note the gator head just right of the spectral lighting.

Photo Credit: JMW Natures Images

When spirituality becomes a mask

Leather Jacket

By Mariana Caplan

Adapted from Eyes Wide Open: Cultivating Discernment on the Spiritual Path, Sounds True, 2010. Originally published on the Center for World Spirituality blog in October, 2011.

We become skillful actors, and while playing deaf and dumb to the real meaning of the teachings, we find some comfort in pretending to follow the path.
~Chogyam Trunpga Rinpoche

Given that global culture has been turned toward materialistic values in a way unprecedented in human history, it is inevitable that this same ethic would infiltrate our approach to spirituality. We live in a culture that values accumulation and consumption, and it is naïve of us to assume that simply because we are interested in spiritual growth that we have relinquished our materialism — or even that we necessarily should.

There is nothing wrong with having an “om” symbol on your t-shirt or being an avid practitioner of meditation while also enjoying moneymaking and big business, but it is useful to explore, understand and check your integrity in relationship to your choices. Spiritual materialism is not a matter of the things that we have, but of our relationship to them.

We all resist seeing the ways in which we deceive ourselves on the spiritual path. It is an embarrassment to ego, though not to who we really are, to look in the mirror and see ourselves dressed in spiritual drag. Yet we allow ourselves to be exposed for the sake of greater freedom and to become more expansive through recognizing how we are limiting ourselves in the name of spirituality.

We also use spirituality to gain power, prestige, recognition and respect, and even to avoid our own troubles. And we misuse the very teachings, practices, and all the spiritual things we do and think to increase our awareness to avoid a deeper intimacy with the truth we seek. We use our practices, paraphernalia, and concepts to support ego rather than truth. Even a monk on a mountaintop can be attached to his robes or begging bowl as a way of creating a false sense of spiritual security.

The ego wants to think of spirituality as something it can “have” once and for all, and then we do not have to do the continual work of showing up and practicing moment after moment for the rest of our lives. The ego creates a whole identity around one’s spiritual self. This is part of what we all do on the spiritual path, but it is helpful to learn to see it in ourselves.

There are many forms in which spiritual materialism may manifest:

The spiritual resume refers to the list of important spiritual people we have met, studied with, done a workshop with. At times we might find ourselves reciting our spiritual resume to impress ourselves or somebody else.

Spiritual storytelling takes the form of reciting narratives about our spiritual experiences. While they may be interesting, we often hide behind our stories to shield ourselves from the vulnerability of deeper human connection.

The spiritual high often manifests by going from workshop to teacher to beautiful place in order to stay on a perpetual high and avoid our own shadow, which is a different form of spiritual bypassing.

“Dharmacizing” refers to using spiritual jargon to account for our confusion and blind spots and to avoid relationship. If we’re a dharmacizer and someone tells us they feel tension around us, we might counter with a truism such as, “It’s just a passing phenomenon. Who is there to experience tension anyway?”

Spiritual shopping sprees are characterized by accumulating initiations, empowerments, and blessings from saints the way others collect cars, yachts, and second homes. We need to feel that we are always getting somewhere — that we’re becoming richer and better. Some people unconsciously believe that if they collect enough spiritual gold stars to become enlightened, they don’t have to die.

The spiritualized ego imitates, often very well, what it imagines a spiritual person looks and sounds like. It can create a glow around itself, learn eloquent spiritual speech, and act mindful and detached — yet there is something very unreal about it. I remember going to hear a particularly well-known spiritual teacher talk. He was trying too hard to act and talk spiritually–saying profound things and wearing a certain “knowing” smile — yet his message was empty of feeling and dimension. His ego had integrated the spiritual teachings, but he had not.

The bulletproof ego has assimilated constructive feedback and integrated it into its defense structure. If someone shares an opinion about us we may say, “I know it appears that I’m being lazy and selfish, but I’m actually practicing just ‘being’ and taking care of myself.” A spiritual teacher with a bulletproof ego may justify verbal abuse or economic extortions from his or her disciples by saying he or she is trying to cut through the egoic mechanism or trying to teach them they must learn to surrender all they have to the divine. The problem with people who have spiritualized and bulletproof egos is that they are extremely slippery and difficult to catch — and it is particularly difficult to see how this spiritual defense mechanism operates within ourselves.

It is important to understand that spiritual materialism is less about the “what” and more about the “how” of relating to something — whether it’s a teacher, a new yoga outfit, or a concept. It is not a question of wealth or money but rather of attitude. I have encountered numerous sadhus, or holy men, in India who live as renunciative beggars, yet waved their fists at me when they felt the donation I gave them was insufficient or others’ attachment to the pilgrim’s staff they carried was as prideful as many bikers are about their prized Harley-Davidsons.

As we penetrate deeper into the layers of our own perception, we discover that the origin of all forms of spiritual materialism rests in the mind. We find that we can relate to information, facts, and even profound understanding in such a way that it precludes the emergence of deeper wisdom. At this most subtle level, in which even knowledge itself becomes a barrier to wisdom, our sword of discernment — the deep desire to see ourselves clearly and the willingness to take feedback from others — can cut through our confusion.

When we were studying the subject of spiritual materialism in a graduate school psychology class I was teaching, a young student raised her hand and said, “I know I am really drawn to spiritual life, and somehow what stops me is this really cool black-leather jacket I bought in Italy. I think that if I really give myself to spiritual life, I will have to give up my jacket, and I know it sounds ridiculous, but it really holds me back.”

My student’s leather jacket was a material possession, but we all have something — a reason, possession, or something we tell ourselves that prevents us from looking at ourselves more deeply — that can keep us away from the path for our whole lives. For many of us, in spite of our best intentions, our spirituality itself becomes one more layer of subtle armor behind which we shield ourselves from deeper truth.