Heart-Awakening 21st Century Spirituality
Traditional spirituality has largely emphasized identity, the absolute and relative aspects of who one person realizes him or herself to be. With exceptions, relationship between two or more people while always inherent in cultures of transformation has not been a priority as a point of contemplation or practice. At the dawn of the twenty first century, the importance of relationship has emerged in a variety of ways, but certainly with the global crisis of: the environment and group-centric violence. There are salient points to be made which highlight the importance of relationship and the implications for individual and collective transformation to address the global crisis.
Regarding knowledge and practices of transformation, we stand on the shoulders of our global spiritual traditions and the significance of acknowledging the transcendent or consciousness as ourselves cannot be overstated. If we are attached to and lost in our thoughts of who we think we are, and merely acting out our fears and desires, we cannot participate in relationship beyond merely conventional or dualistic terms. We just cannot. Each individual person still has to come to terms with, whom and what they are, in and as this existential matter, just as all that have come before have had too.
This responsibility is foundational and profoundly central to our ongoing understanding and response to life. Relationship without awareness of consciousness is superficial no matter how well intentioned and awareness of consciousness, while dismissing relationship or form as merely secondary or worse, is a most egregious form of denial and even violence. We see the effects of these extremes everywhere as our global crisis. The discovery that we are not merely the skin bag, separate and cut off from “all” and paradoxically that we are also a unique body who is interdependent with all, is a most vital milestone in our journey.
For a time we may not want to leave the feeling sense of our new found meditative bliss. We have suffered so long in our perceived isolation that we just want to stop and do nothing! This is understandable and for a while all appears well, but overtime as the mind inevitably objectifies the experience of consciousness even this most ultimate of discoveries wears out and once again we feel the knot of pain, confusion and acute dissatisfaction, accept now it is much worse because we have the strong memory of liberated-bliss to compare it too. We may blame ourselves, feeling that we are weak somehow causing the fall from grace, or think that maybe the whole experience “didn’t really happen”. This is a fertile time in the journey of our growing up.
The vacillation between the experience of liberated-bliss and existential isolation may continue for some time depending on the individual, but one thing is clear: relationship, particularly within a supportive Sangha* can be most helpful, giving support, guidance and needed feedback. Growth occurs in the positive and nourishing container of relationship, this has always been true, since before our birth and throughout our entire lives of childhood, adolescence and adulthood and this is especially true when we address the great matter of life and death at the level of embodied consciousness. We need each other to live and grow physically, psychologically, socially and ever-more holistically.
We are consciousness itself and paradoxically, also in the embrace of consciousness, before we are aware of it and after awareness is true of us. Relationship nourishes our physical and psychological development as well as our self-awareness as embodied conscious beings and conscious relationship with others facilitates growth exponentially as we develop ever-more holistically.
Realizing that we are consciousness is important indeed, but embodying that realization as our life is when we start to grow up and take our stand in giving ourselves for a larger and larger circumference of care.
This often begins with our own bodies. I remember when the bright of consciousness was stabilized in my experience and not interesting as a discovery anymore, then the aches and pains of my body asserted themselves. Being so enamored with meditative insights and blissful flights, it was a revelation that actually my body irritated” me” and not only was my neglect of it obvious, but also the informative genius therein.
This really became clear when all resistance to being here as my body and life, summarily stopped in a final and profound way that was resolutely a heart-based settling into this life, as me. It was not an experience but a ceasing of all resistance, a tacit clarity which notes all experience. The joys and pains of embodied existence became fulsome and at times overwhelming, gratitude and a deep emotional resonance became boldly apparent. All my relationships improved immediately and it became imperative to respond toward myself and others as well as the earth with more care.
As awakened and self-aware beings, we cannot avoid the parts of ourselves that just do not work, especially when we break down in a way that we cannot respond at all, much less with care for someone or something beyond ourselves. The body unlocks our traumas and holdings, which is an endless and unfolding process. As this occurs, we can face and feel them from the inside-out, without the chronically reactive and habitual avoidance. The acute and profound existential disease is felt most deeply, but interestingly there is also deep relief and joy. I became more sensitive and heart fully aware to my own and others humanity immediately and this has only continued to deepen and become more consistent and no doubt will continue to do so throughout my entire life.
The neglected aspects of us, commonly referred to as the shadow or the unconscious become important and key in our understanding and actual living as consciously embodied beings. The goal is no longer to transcend and get beyond all the “bad” stuff like unconscious conflicts, traumas and the like. The “bad” stuff might rightfully be described as fuel for conscious evolution and the more we dive down into our most and most and most (!) neglected areas, the more freed up energy, attention and creative capacity or “good” stuff which would be our golden shadow, we have for life.
Our greater capacity becomes available as and for the whole mysterious and unknowable Kosmos*, which of course includes all people and cultures on the planet as well as the earth itself. A keen sense of universal care emerges which one can no longer ignore and accordingly feels compelled to respond.
Group-centric violence threatens our planet perhaps more than anything else. Recognizing that there is no separation anywhere from the experiential perspective of kosmo-centric awareness, we naturally recognize cultural differences including religious and spiritual differences, without feeling the need to act in a way that rejects another individual or group due to those differences. We feel compelled to work together with others to create new cultural forms which allow more and more people to know and act for a conscious world populace which is no longer motivated by any kind of group-centric fear.
As one might imagine, a supportive Sangha can really help, as my gracious teacher Saniel Bonder and other Waking Down in Mutuality teachers* have said: the more helpers the better during this process of downward reckoning with one’s shadow elements. Auxiliary teachers and therapists, if necessary can certainly be of great assistance to address our traumas and habits of avoidance, like addictions. We become incapable of being consoled by our habits of avoidance, once they are seen as such, the gig is up. We are changing from the inside-out.
Relationship, especially the mutually conscious kind, facilitates this process of downward reckoning in a way that nothing else can and that doesn’t mean that one doesn’t take time cloistered away from others if one needs to, but our friends along the way who share in this miraculous journey can be most helpful, as we to them.
The environmental crisis is a clear misunderstanding of reality and painful breakdown in relationship. We stopped relating to the earth as living and as a result have destroyed a lot. The anecdote to the crisis is not just cleaning up the water but a shift in our perspective which includes the conscious awareness of our bodies and all matter as living and without separation anywhere and indeed worthy then of conscious relationship which is most loving and profound. When we neglect the earth, we neglect ourselves and when we embrace the earth, we embrace ourselves. We have never been separate from her. It has only been our arrogance which has made it seem that there is separation.
We should never neglect our own development, thinking that we are beyond this and that. We are never beyond anything! We will always be developing as ourselves endlessly, so that we can become more capable to respond for conscious evolution. Our own development is always in the picture and humility is a key element in Conscious- Kosmic- Evolution and the process has a way of showing self-aware creatures like us when we are actually deluded and where this self-correcting feedback most often occurs is, you guessed it, in relationship with other self-aware creatures.
Relationship itself is a practice, a crucible for developing our awareness and strengthening our responsiveness for life out of that awareness. All our relationships are opportunities to realize non-separateness and then grow into embodying that realization in and as all situations, then meeting the “other” only intensifies our realization of non-separateness which circularly increases our capacity to be with the other in a way that opens the heart of all, more and more. We grow in our capacity to communicate the language of energy of the gross and subtle for the good of all beings and matter.
Self-aware beings recognizing that they are dependent on all and everything also see that they are the situations they find themselves and hence realize that their creative potential can profoundly impact each moment. This is an enormous discovery and profound responsibility at the same time; all our actions have effects on others and the Kosmos, all actions, every single one.
When self-aware beings come together in collectives they can significantly impact the larger situations they find themselves and this has enormous possibilities regarding the global crisis we are in. We can change course and serve ourselves, the planet and in fact, all matter as our kosmic self-identity, embodied in and as relationship committed to conscious evolution.
1. Buddhism is known for the three Treasures: Buddha, the truth in human and awakened form. Dharma, or law which is the teachings and the universe as it is. Sangha, which is the gathering of people addressing the teachings together in harmonious effort.
2. Kosmos is a Greek word that points to the universe which exists as Heaven and Earth (Consciousness and Matter) as one harmonious whole.
3. Saniel Bonder is the founder of Waking Down in Mutuality, a life way which addresses the hyper masculine excesses of traditional culture and offers mutuality, the art of relationship which is a 21st century innovation which addresses the needs of spiritually minded people skillfully at this time. The community of teachers in WDM are creating a democratic spirituality which has never been done before in transformational cultures.
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