Introducing the Center for World Spirituality’s new blog with a global vision based on Integral principles

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

Spirit’s Next Move is moving!

Thank you for visiting, a spot which has been the home of the Center for World Spirituality’s new blog for the past several months. As part of our organization’s web presence reorganization, we have moved the contents of this blog and will no longer be posting here.

You can find the new Spirit’s Next Move daily blog, better than ever, on the Center for World Spirituality’s main site at You can find new daily material on the left sidebar of the site. Thanks once again for sticking with us … we look forward to seeing you on the new site!

To improve at your sport, always be in a state of leaning in


By Kristen Ulmer

If you really want to improve at your sport, it’s important to always be in a state of reaching, or leaning in. You may be surprised by what that means.

The simple part is: You play tennis on your front foot, not your back. Great skiing happens when you’re reaching for speed, not resisting speed. If you’re running and sense the wind pushing you back, you’re not leaning in. Lean in and you’ll sense the wind pushing you forward.

Leaning in is all about yes; to everything. And here’s where it gets hard. Everything means … everything. Lean in to all of life, not just the good stuff.

I know you love your sport, what about leaning in to those times when you hate your sport? How about reaching for frustration when it comes up? Reach for disgust. Boredom. Arrogance. Reach into the lessons of your injuries and pain. Reach for what ever is true for you at any moment. Each moment then passes and there’s a new experience revealed.

In this, passion remains. Not always the passion for your sport, but the passion for your life as it evolves and unfolds, faster than the speed of light. In this you will remain open and available to learning and improving.

Resist any of it though, and learning and improving stops immediately. You become stuck.

The most common way athletes become stuck is by repressing or leaning away from their emotions: such as fear, anger and sadness. If you try to block these emotions out, that effort may free you for a day but it will lock you into a war with that emotion.

Imagine a base jumper trying to resist gravity. Crazy! Humans trying to resist emotion is the same. Embrace that emotion, and land a few minutes later having had a great and quick adventure. Avoid and the emotion will torture you, sometimes for decades.

Another example: Consider a deer. If a deer is feeling fear, she startles and runs. She doesn’t argue with herself about whether the fear is justified, or tries to get rid of the fear, or wishes she didn’t feel the fear, she simply expresses it and uses it for strength and motivation to run magnificently through the forest. Then the fear is gone and she’s back eating in a meadow 2 minutes later. She doesn’t get emotionally stuck. She doesn’t need therapy. And she doesn’t get sick or have knots in her shoulders because of the effort to repress her fear.

So lean into it all: Passion and boredom, glory and pain, love and hate, and you will always grow, effortlessly express yourself, improve and evolve.

Each experience and emotion is like a drop of water. Let them flow and you’re on your way to becoming a mighty river …

If you want a lifetime of happiness, never be satisfied


By Kristen Ulmer

One of my clients admitted the first gold medal he won in the Olympics made him feel happy and satisfied for about six months. His second gold medal he was satisfied for only a few weeks.

Sounds like a bummer, actually. All that work and subsequent glory is supposed to lead to ‘happily-ever-after’ right? The bragging rights alone should carry for decades.

Yet here’s my advice: If you want a true lifetime of happiness and love for your sport: Never be satisfied.

At first, we figure happiness and satisfaction will be found externally. If I make enough money, get the cool job, find the right partner, get fit, become famous, etc. we think, then I’ll be happy. We get super motivated in this belief. I’ll work my butt off to get what I want! If I win the gold metal in the Olympics it will have been worth all this effort! If I run today then I will look and feel good.

And it works — at least a little bit. Get rich and famous, run today, win the gold medal … great stuff. Then it fades quickly. Being rich or famous doesn’t lead to happiness — everyone knows that. Why would I have thought glory or money could make me happy?

Then we hear “true happiness is found internally.” Well, of course! That’s the truth! So we mediate, do more yoga, and look within for our passions and motivations. If I can become one with my sport and not make it about medals or validation, no ‘selling out’ or ego trip, I will finally be at peace within myself. This is certainly the right path.

Ten days into a silent Vipassina meditation retreat and sure, I find peace and happiness. The solo weekend climbing trip certainly feels holy and reverent. But by Wednesday I’m back to being dissatisfied again, dammit. And we think: those hippies were full of $#@%. Two weeks after the gold medal even, which I devoted to world harmony and the love I have for mother and I’m back to angst, already.

So where is peace actually found? It’s not found externally. It’s not found internally. Aahg!

Peace, my friend, is found in the effort. Peace is found in the struggle. And the more dissatisfied I am, the more I keep moving, seeking and efforting.

I always say: you want to torture someone? Give them everything they want.  Become satisfied, and I have no purpose. No purpose, no happiness.

The best athletes, are the ones who know this. The best athletes are the ones who remain never satisfied. I am enjoying my suffering right now and it feels good. I failed and have fresh motivation to do better next time. Two gold medals are simply not good enough.  I enjoy the struggle and the journey, not the destination, because frankly, there is no destination.

Photo Credit: Miss Barabanov

Man changes name to Tyrannosaurus Rex, citing desire for distinctiveness


How much is having a cool, unusual name worth to an entrepreneur? Enough to change Tyler to T-Rex. The socio-economic value of distinctiveness is highlighted in a story today by NPR:

Tyler Gold of York, Neb., is now officially named Tyrannosaurus Rex Joseph Gold, the local York News Times reports.

But there’s no sign that Tyler … er, Tyrannosaurus Rex … is rethinking his choice because of any breaking news about breaking wind.

According to the News Times:

“In Gold’s official filing with the court, he said he wanted to change his name ‘because the (T-Rex designation) is cooler. Also, as an entrepreneur, name recognition is important and the new name is more recognizable.’ He verbally repeated his reasoning during the court proceedings, while on the witness stand [Monday].”

Commenting on the Good Men Blog, Joanna Schroeder adds:

Folks these days are naming their kids more, shall we say… creatively. has a great list of the top 20 unusual celebrity baby names that includes my favorite: Pilot Inspektor, child of Jason Lee.

Personally, I love it. I like that kids don’t get teased for their names being unusual anymore – because almost all the names are unusual.

Our names are all written together in the Cosmic Scroll, to use an image popular with Marc Gafni and other students of Kabbalah. Meaning, in other words, that the Cosmic Scroll, seen as our True Self, is only manifest in the world when it appears with a Name, with a Unique Self.

Each name is already unique, whether it is John, James, Mary, Patricia, or Tyrannosaurus Rex Joseph. But T-Rex’s decision demonstrates spirit’s next move: as individuals strive to build careers for the 21st century, defining their personal brands in a crowded marketplace of individuals with impressive resumes, they are looking to milk value out of every unique, distinguishing characteristic in their portfolio.

Whether T-Rex is just a gimmick or if it will turn Tyler Gold into a mammoth entrepreneur is hard to say. But if the name captures something essential about his Unique Self that lets him be more fully who he is in the world, then let’s bless him on his journey. And then let’s get out of his way…. quick!!!

Photo Credit: Billings Productions, Inc.

What does a post-consumerist society look like?

Yvon Chouinard

Yvon Chouinard

By Joe Perez

One of the huge gifts that an environmentally conscious World Spirituality brings into the conversation around green living is its understanding that people are more than consumers, and that identifying with any limited conception of ourself is the bane of health spirituality. If what we value is something beyond our Self — consumer products, for instance — then we are headed away from our Unique Self. If what society values us for is something other than our Unique Self — then society is leading us down the road to perdition.

But for many of us it’s easier to see how we can change our own outlook, or progress in our individual consciousness. How can we possibly change the way that society drives, defines, shapes us? The answer, I think, begins with a twofold response. First, we are all leaders, and called to leadership. Of course there’s a role for following in some areas of our life, but we must be leaders where it really counts — in the ways that we are uniquely called into leadership. Through this leadership, we can do our own role to change the way that society squashes our fullest human potential.

Second, we must all see ourselves as part of a “We Culture” which is collectively responsible for being the new good global citizens that the world needs. We must lead by example and take the initiative to create a world that values the Unique We that is our collective Self. We must look for ways in which our organizations and institutions can honor more and deeper parts of our humanity in everything they do, instead of treating us like idiots, numbers, or cogs in a machine.

This is all so abstract, one might say. But actually there are abundant examples that I would point to to show how leaders today are birthing companies and doing business in ways that are advancing a World Spirituality. Patagonia, the green clothing company that also forays into territories such as salmon jerkey, sees the light at the end of the darkness of a world economy driven mainly by consumerism. In article appearing in the May 2012 issue of Fast Company, the Patagonia founder and green living pioneer Yvon Chouinard is asked:

You write about the ideal of a “postconsumerist society.” What is that?

We’re not citizens anymore; we’re consumers. The government views us as consumers, and our economy is based on us consuming and discarding. That behavior is destroying the planet. How can we use the power of consuming to do some good? I introduced the concept of the sustainability index, and Patagonia is working with 40 clothing companies, including Walmart, to implement it. In the future, customers will be able to zap their iPhone and find out just how a clothing article was made. The index will give a grade, and suddenly the consumer is armed with information. Some jeans, for example, will have a score of 10, some a score of 2. I think it’s going to be the start of getting away from consuming as recreation.

Now this is just one small example, but think of it if it were ever radically implemented. Before we buy any product, we could easily find out more about the human, spiritual values of the people who built and sold the product: we can learn if they support causes we object to, or whether they used environmentally friendly methods, or if they donate to charities that we support or behave in other socially responsible ways.

In such a society, it would be so easy to be socially responsible in our behavior that we would just take for granted that buying a product is an expression of our most precious human values. If we want to support a business that makes a lot of non-biodegradable trash and toxic waste, then we know that that is an expression of our self-image. But if we know that our precious worth is not trash, but more like gold, then we can look for companies acting from a place of genuine love and compassion and responsibility to the planet.

In this society, “buying” would no longer be an activity separated from Who We Really Are. What we would be doing is “buying in,” fully to our most radical humanity. We would be living in a post-consumerist society, closer to a genuine “We Culture.”

On the Omnologist’s Manifesto of Howard Bloom


By Joe Perez

Here’s one manifesto, The Omnologist’s (see below), that I can wholeheartedly sign aboard. Were I to defer on a particular, it would be over the manifesto’s emphasis on thinking over doing, words over deeds, science over art.

Not sure about the ending of the word “omniologist,” either. tells us who the -ists are:

The -ist is a suffix of nouns, often corresponding to verbs ending in -ize or nouns ending in -ism, that denote a person who practices or is concerned with something, or holds certain principles, doctrines, etc.: apologist; dramatist; machinist; novelist; realist; socialist; Thomist.

The one -ist I wholeheartedly embrace is To Exist. It is not the self that studies the omni; it is the Self which is Existence which does what it does, looks around and through itself, writing every manifesto before tearing it down and building it again. It is the True Self of the Omni which is that which I embrace, as it is logically linked and physically embodied in each particular self, uniquely.

I embrace the manifesto with appreciation. As I see it, the Ommnologist’s Manifesto is a look through the Eye of Spirit, the King of Existence telling the story of its own Sovereignty.

* * *

Howard Bloom is the author of The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History and Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind From The Big Bang to the 21st Century. In “The Roots of Omnology,” published on, he proclaims:

The Omnologist Manifesto

We are blessed with a richness of specializations, but cursed with a paucity of panoptic disciplines—categories of knowledge that concentrate on seeing the pattern that emerges when one views all the sciences at once. Hence we need a field dedicated to the panoramic, an academic base for the promiscuously curious, a discipline whose mandate is best summed up in a paraphrase of the poet Andrew Marvel: “Let us roll all our strength and all Our knowledge up into one ball, And tear our visions with rough strife Thorough the iron gates of life.”

Omnology is a science, but one dedicated to the biggest picture conceivable by the minds of its practitioners. Omnology will use every conceptual tool available — and some not yet invented but inventible — to leapfrog over disciplinary barriers, stitching together the patchwork quilt of science and all the rest that humans can yet know. If one omnologist is able to perceive the relationship between pop songs, ancient Egyptian graffiti, Shirley MacLaine’s mysticism, neurobiology, and the origins of the cosmos, so be it. If another uses mathematics to probe traffic patterns, the behavior of insect colonies, and the manner in which galaxies cluster in swarms, wonderful. And if another uses introspection to uncover hidden passions and relate them to research in chemistry, anthropology, psychology, history, and the arts, she, too, has a treasured place on the wild frontiers of scientific truth — the terra incognita in the heartland of omnology.

Let me close with the words of yet another poet, William Blake, on the ultimate goal of omnology:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

Photo Credit: xalamay

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

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.

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.

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.

Daily Wisdom No. 9: Happiness is responsiveness to your deepest self

Happy Chef

By Marc Gafni

From Daimon Comes Eudaimonia

The novelist Honoré de Balzac wrote, “Vocations that we wanted to pursue, but didn’t, bleed, like colors, on the whole of our existence.” If we do not pursue our particular call, then the ghost of that call will pursue us, like a haunting that stains our days.

For when you respond to cues that are not yours, when you’re a police officer instead of a painter, ultimately you can’t be happy. Happiness comes from being yourself in the most profound way possible. The ancient Greeks referred to happiness as eudaimonia. “Daimon” is the word for calling. You are happy only when you are responding to your daimon. Your daimon calls you to realize your Unique Self. Your happiness lies in your hands, if you would but take it.

To be happy, then, is to be responsive to the call of your deepest self. To be happy is to wake up in the morning and feel that you have a mission in the world that no one else can perform. To be happy is to know that among the billions of people on this planet, you are irreplaceable. This is true for every human being on the face of the globe, for what we share in common is our uniqueness.

The Western notion of the sacredness of every human life bursts from the bedrock of the biblical-myth ideas that bring forth the idea of the Unique Self. The prospect of happiness exists for us only because the call of Unique Self animates the Universe.

Five stages of business and the emergence of the Unique Business

Business Group

By Marc Gafni

There is a parallel between the emergence of business and the emergence of self is both fascinating and highly instructive in understanding the narrative of conscious capitalism. Both the evolution of self and the evolution of business go through five core stages, which in large measure parallel each other. These five stages unfold in the historical emergence of the self and business even as they may also unfold in the life of the individual person or business. This highly conceptual account is necessarily quite simplified. Nevertheless, this framework is offered as a way of looking at conscious capitalism that adds to the discussion.

Level One:

At the first level, both the self and business begin in what we might call a pre–personal stage. At this stage, both form their identity in relation to the large context that holds them. In the pre-modern period, the idea of an independent business which served it’s own prosperity did not exist. Nor was there a notion of self as a self-justifying unit. For example the king (or queen) or the church formed the corporation in the Middle Ages. The corporation served the interests of the king and church. It did not have independent capital or will. Rather, it was defined in relationship to state or church. The individual was in the same situation. He was a subject of the king and vassal of the church.

The word self did not yet exist in the dictionary. A person’s definition was first and primarily as a loyal subject of king or obedient adherent of the church. The profits of the corporation enriched the king’s coffers. The king and state had the arbitrary right to seize the wealth of the corporation. New initiatives were capitalized by church and not by the investment banking firms. The modern notion of private capital did not yet exist. In the same vein, the assets and even the life of the individual are owned by the king (or queen). The subject is actually obligated to give up their life for church and crown.

Level Two:

At Level Two both the self and business emerge from the shadow of king and church and evolve into their own independent identity. Self emerges from the pre-personal to the personal stage. As the Renaissance dawns on Europe, the word ‘self’ appears in the dictionary. The separate independent self has emerged as a self- justifying unit. Self fulfillment begins to makes sense as a term. The self seeks to fulfill not the will of the crown or the dictates of the religion, but rather to fulfill itself. In the Renaissance and in the Romantic Movement that follows it, the rule-based Neo-Classicism of church and monarchy are replaced by intoxication with the individual. The individual’s destiny, journey and life become self-evidently valuable in the eyes of society and of the individual himself.

At the same time, business emerges as a self-justifying activity, which seeks its own fulfillment. As the post-Renaissance and Romantic writers are extolling the virtues of the independent individual guided by his own voice, Adam Smith is writing about the invisible hand of the market which self-regulates and guides the market place towards its own fulfillment. The corporation’s charter is no longer to profit the Crown or Church. The corporation serves itself, which is constituted by its owners or shareholders. The healthy corporation serves the financial interest of the shareholders. The healthy ego of the self serves the productivity and happiness of the individual self. The self –interest of the individual is to promote the survival and flourishing of the individual. The independent separate self and the independent separate business have emerged and their creative force is unleashed in the world.

Level Three:

At the third level, shadow elements of the individual and business emerge and give legitimate cause for concern. The self of the individual person and the individual business show signs of pathology. Instead of realizing the healthy differentiation with the larger defining environments of Church and King, self and business begin to disassociate from the their larger contexts. Self begins to slide into a selfish obsession with self. Healthy self-interest becomes narcissistic as the person fixates at an ego-centric stage of development and is only able to feel genuine empathy for himself or those necessary for his survival or flourishing. All others become objects to his subjects. He sees the others as a means to his end. Filling the ego’s greed becomes the primary human need. The individual begins to worship at the altar of his own self-gratification, and the things that gratify him are only the ego enhancers, which support the reification of the individual.

A similar process takes place in business. The healthy business becomes greedy. The robbers barons of the American expansion become the new archetype of business. Corporate greed emerges as a motive force in the public sector. Along with this, the narrative of the ‘evil corporation’ is born, which indicts the idea of business itself. Both the individual and business begin to be defined in terms of their shadow. Both are seen as only serving the financial enrichment of shareholders or separate self. Both are seen as being willing to oppress and exploit other for the sake of self. The selfish individual and the selfish business become fixed givens in the mental furniture and life worlds of modernity.

Level Four:

At level four various strategies are developed to deconstruct the ego of the individual person and the individual business. As a result of the excesses of both produced by greed as described above, the self validating person and business are demonized as the sources of personal and social evil. Theories are introduced, old and new, which support the complete undermining of the personal self and shareholder driven business.

Two well-known phenomena which give example to this level, but which is rarely seen from this vantage would be socialism and classical enlightenment. Both demonize the self, of business and the person, as being lost in a dangerous delusion of separation and independence. The independent business is said ignores the larger context of stakeholders in its actions and moves only to satisfy it’s own most pressing needs for gratification. The separate self becomes lost in the grasping of the ego for transitory fulfillment. It seeks to fill the shallowest needs for power and status, which are disconnected from genuine realization or achievement. Classical enlightenment sees liberation from the suffering inflicted by the go in the realization of no self. No- Self in most enlightenment teaching is the new consciousness of reality which involves the letting go of the illusion of being a separate self and realizing that one is an inextricable part of the whole. In no self you realize that you are not separate, either from god, nature, or any of the larger contexts of society. This is the movement from what we have called separate self to what we will now term True Self. The total number of true selves in the world is One. This is a clear movement beyond the limited experience of separate self into a larger field of consciousness in which the separate self is effectively deconstructed.

In a different expression of this same movement religions and governments enact rigorous regulations, which serve to at least curtail the greedy excesses of separate self and direct the energy of the separate self to what are seen to be more noble and exalted ends. In the world of economic exchanges and business the separate self-business, which serves its own ends and the ends of its shareholders, is targeted by Marxism as the core source of evil. Marx suggests that only the introduction of some form of socialism, which is business’s version of no self, will save the world from the evils of the corporation.

Level Five:

The evolutionary emergence of level five is form pathology to mythology. At the fifth level the movement is from the pathology of the self, both of business and the person, to the mythology of the individual person and business. At this level of consciousness we witness the evolutionary emergence of the Unique Self and the unique business.

At the level of true self one self-experience is as being an inextricable part of the seamless coat of the universe. At the level of Unique Self you realize that the coat of the universe in which you are a part is seamless but not featureless. You are a unique feature of essence even as you are not separate from essence in any way. You life in a deep realization of your larger context in the larger schema of reality. You are not apart but a part of all that is. However you realize that you are a unique part of all that is. You are a unique expression of essence. You are the personal face of essence. This is not the personal at the level of separate self. Separate self does not have a felt experience of being an indivisible part of essence.

Unique Self is obviously part of essence and just an obviously an utterly irreducible and unique expression of essence. Unique Self realizes that she has Unique Gifts to live and give that are not merely creative forms of expression but are sorely needed by all that is. Unique Self is true self-seeing through a unique set of eyes. Unique Self has a unique perspective on the world, which creates a new space of insight, which creates new possibilities and new knowing. In fact one might accurately say that True Self plus perspective = Unique Self. The same is true of the unique business.

The Unique Business has a unique perspective on the world, which creates its ability to give Unique Gifts. The Unique business does not superficially imitate competitors but rather turns inwards and outwards to self understand its own unique gifts of service or goods to the market places. The sense of that Unique Gift is the essential energy that guides and directs the business. The Unique business cultivates it’s particular set of eyes to gain unique insight into the market place and the customer which yield new opportunities to give is unique gifts in ways which serves the highest interests of all parties involved. The marketplaces feel the signature uniqueness of the business and reward it with the kind of attention and loyalty, which creates prosperity.

Just like Unique Self naturally realizes his or her larger context so does Unique Business.

For that reason precisely the unique business moves from a shareholder model to a stakeholder model. Unique Business understands that it is naturally constituted not only by investor shareholders but also by a host of other essential stakeholders, which are part of the larger eco system of the business. These stakeholders include employees, vendors and suppliers, families of employees, vendors and suppliers, communities that hold and interface with the business, and even include the environment and future generations. All are part of the true context in which the business needs to both survive and thrive.

Unique Self and Unique Business are each evolutionary emergents, which are just now being recognized. Each are aligned with the unique evolutionary impulse that lives in them as them and through them. Each are sources of iconic evolutionary creativity which creates greater and greater depths of compassion, love and value.

Photo Credit: seekingthomas