When faced with a significant loss – the loss of a loved one, an ideal or dream, or even the loss of safety or one’s home, one of our most basic instincts is to try almost anything to get the thing we cherished back into our lives. In some ways, this stage is very much linked with denial in that we can’t see that all of our efforts are not going to return life back to “normal” – that there will be no “normal” in the old sense…we must create a new “normal”.
In this third session of a 5 part series we will explore how bargaining that stems from loss and grief shows up in the world and in our own personal lives. From the company that “green stamps” their products while secretly dumping toxins into local water supplies to terrorist regimes that use violence as a way to retain control when they know they do not have it, we can all see how bargaining affects World Peace. But what about our own personal peace? Maybe it is the voice that says “maybe if I was more agreeable, my relationship which has recently soured won’t end” or maybe it is about facing how you may be taking steps to make positive changes in one area of your life, so you can ignore another area in your life that really needs attention. What ever it might be for you, please do share as your experience helps us shift these patterns for the greater whole in a positive way.
The full schedule for the “growing through grief sessions” is:
Please fill out the survey below to proxy in and to provide your insight into how bargaining is affecting world peace.
I wanted to share a personal account that was stirred up as part of an Ecosattva (like Bodhisattva for the suffering of the earth) course I am taking with One Earth Sangha, I hope it breaks your heart a little - in the profound way that Mary Oliver so gracefully names.
I left my career in the international non-profit sector when I burned out after spending 4 years living and working in Mumbai, India. When I think of my burnout, two big struggles I faced really stick out in my mind:
1) When I worked in Ghana I visited a slave port where they had a church built on top of quarters where they kept slaves calf-deep in their own filth while they waited to ship them off. I have a visceral stomach-turning reaction to this whenever I think of it. What is equally disturbing was my experience in India of this “ghostly slave ship” that still exists today. The community I worked with in Mumbai lives in filthy and polluted environments and recycles garbage, some of which is turned into plastic pellets that are then shipped to China and turned into things like our cellphone cases. We give someone a barely living wage and then stop calling the role they are allocated in our system “slavery”. We are so distanced from the realities of this when we make our everyday consumption choices. As gut wrenching as the image of a church on top of slave quarters is, it is more honest than the system we are ensconced in today. There is something direct to fight against and get angry and sick about. Today we don’t know and don’t see the hardship that lives behind our way of life.
2) Another huge emotional challenge for me in Mumbai was the extreme dichotomy of life there. I worked during the day in the slums and then in the evenings and on weekends was absorbed into a class of privilege due to my work position, the color of my skin and my educational background. I started to find huge divisions in myself that eventually became irreconcilable, leading to a mental breakdown. On one hand I was extremely intrigued by the ideas and potential found in the elite classes – I was more intellectually stimulated in Mumbai than even in my graduate program – but I had a hard time stomaching some of what I judged to be superficial and egoic aspects of that society. This was especially difficult, because I could not say “that is them” as I found these things to be in me – attitudes of entitlement and the hedonistic appreciation of privilege. What I found is that my internal struggle both cut me off from the population I was serving – out of guilt and shame – and from the social circle I was a part of – out of judgement, recrimination, and even self-hatred.
And so I broke down.
And in breaking down that logical and professional part of me had to give way to a more raw, real and direct experience of life.
I love the Mary Oliver quote about breaking the heart open. This is very much what I still feel on a daily basis – a rawness of a heart that has been broken open. And I thought that this made me weak. I mourned that I no longer could be the analytical professional I had been, because from a heart level I could no longer see people as statistics and quantify personal impacts and objectives with objective precision.
And I share this with you because I am coming to a new realization about the power and strength of the emotional tenderness I feel. I got a glimpse of this yesterday as I participated in a Peace Pole dedication ceremony. When we were asked to share what we were bringing to the dedication, all I could bring was my tears. As someone who is used to being eloquent, it was deeply humbling to be so caught up in emotion that alI I could share with the community was my raw emotion. But I now see that those tears were a necessary and powerful element of the dedication ceremony. They took the discussion of peace out of the clouds and earthed it into the reality of our hearts.
When we hold our hearts wide open, while weaving in our analytical understanding, we partake in a yogic path of transformation... an evolution of ourselves as conscious beings and together as a conscious world. This is a yogic path that Thomas Merton wrote much about, and lived in a way that can be a guiding lamp. I feel this transformation in me viscerally as parts of my emotional body and mental body are transformed through this internal struggle to hold “the more”.
And if I am feeling uncomfortable I know I am on the right path. To me this feeling of discomfort means that I am on my growth edge. It also is part of the process of creating a “spiritual metabolism”, meaning that life can throw just about anything at me and with a good “spiritual metabolism” I could process it mind, body, heart, soul in the most compassionate and profound way for the highest good of all.
So let us all break our hearts wide open, and take the next step towards becoming the wildly compassionate beings I know we are!
speaks in tongues
we cannot translate
is its preciseness
it stirs pots
that mere words
what cannot be woven
by earthly minds,
do I not make sense to you?
drop your sense
so that your heart may listen
here you'll find
more than the pennies of our logic
here you'll find
a treasure beyond
this moment's impermanence;
a gift of something timeless
*Original poem by Summer Starr - August 2015
I hope that it is okay for me to post such a long selection from a book on my blog (please let me know if you know of otherwise, so I can amend), however below is such a complete definition - and redefinition - of Spirituality that I could not bring myself to cut it down.
I have always defined my spirituality as my "fire" - it is that thing in me that motivates me to live and do and breathe and create in the world. I never thought that spirituality is actually HOW I deal with the fire in me to live, do, breathe and create. I love that Ronald Rolheiser takes spirituality out of the mystical and into the every day of how we choose to live our "one wild and precious life" to quote another wisdom figure, Mary Oliver.
Here is the excerpt:
"For many people, the term spirituality conjures up images of something paranormal, mystical, churchy, holy, pious, otherworldly, New Age, something on the fringes and something optional. Rarely is spirituality understood as referring to something vital and nonnegotiable lying at the heart of our lives.
This is a tragic misunderstanding. Spirituality is not something on the fringes, an option for those with a particular bent. None of us has a choice. Everyone has to have a spirituality and everyone does have one, either a life-giving one or a destructive one. No one has the luxury of choosing here because all of us are precisely fired into life with a certain madness that comes from the gods and we have to do something with that. We do not wake up in this world calm and serene, having the luxury of choosing to act or not act. We wake up crying, on fire with desire, with madness. What we do with that madness is our spirituality.
Hence, spirituality is not about serenely picking or rationally choosing certain spiritual activities like going to church, praying, or meditating, reading spiritual books, or setting off on some explicit spiritual quest. It is far more basic than that. Long before we do anything explicitly religious at all, we have to do something about the fire that burns within us. What we do with that fire, how we channel it, is our spirituality. Thus, we all have a spirituality whether we want one or not, whether we are religious or not. Spirituality is more about whether or not we can sleep at night than about whether or not we go to church. It is about being integrated or falling apart, about being within community or being lonely, about being in harmony with Mother Earth or being alienated from her. Irrespective of whether or not we let ourselves act in ways that leave us either healthy or unhealthy, loving or bitter. What shapes our actions is our spirituality." - Ronald Rolheiser in "The Holy Longing"
Join me in an exploration of how successfully navigating grief can actually empower us and create a larger global change in my next installment of my World Peace Hologram series on September 13th.
In this session we will explore how our collective and personal grief over the state of the world shows up as anger...and how we can shift this.
Please add your words to the dialogue by filling out the following survey: http://goo.gl/forms/wzIxiWL5Xp
A bit of inspiration: the below clip is froma powerful wisdom figure in the world of grief. It speaks to how we actually embrace life in new ways when we confront the reality of loss and death...especially in a culture that is dying.
“Oh, don't take it so personally” - I cringe when I hear this statement. Many times this is used to invalidate someone's emotional reactions. In a world where we are rarely encouraged to really hold and interact with our emotions, this can be the opposite of what we actually need for our emotional development.
This statement is usually used to encourage more socially acceptable behavior that is deemed more “mature” in a society whose idea of maturity is one of control and perfection. But what if we redefined our idea of maturity...to a definition that is more mature?
Real maturity requires a deeper reflection process when difficult emotions or interpersonal dynamics arise. We must learn to “see through” the immediacy of the situation to what lies beyond, but also remain firmly engaged with what is, how we are feeling about it, and how it is showing up very personally in our lives.
This mature way of being connects to the Truth of the statement “it is not personal”, but still requires us to take the situation very personally – which is actually a gift, our personal “way into” working with the particular issue that has arisen.
We are in an age where we are waking up to the reality that we are a product of generations of inherited thought and behavior patterns that are part of larger collective archetypes in a “collective consciousness” that influences our personal conscious experience. This unitive consciousness is partially held in our natural and social environment and as both become more disturbed in the modern world, we find ourselves experiencing more of the extremes that exist there.
It is my belief that this is why we have so many more “bipolar” diagnoses – we are experiencing the extremes of the psyche in much more profound ways than in the past. The “veils” to the collective and sub- conscious are being tossed aside as our collective ship becomes more rocky.
This is where we can see that things are really not personal. Someone's reaction to us and our reaction to them and our combined reaction to the dynamics that arise – these things are a part of a much deeper programming that has a lot of history and much larger forces behind it – many of which are subconscious.
But if we stay at the level of “oh this is the injured divine feminine showing up,” or “this is our collective mother separation wound” then we miss the cream – our personal experience of this larger injury is actually our window to addressing that much deeper issue not only in our own psyche, but on behalf of the collective consciousness as well. The work that we do is a gift to larger society and future generations – as well as liberates past generations that were mired in these dynamics.
This is Rumi's “untying the knots.” Our generations of patterning and current social conditioning can be considered the “knots” that tie up our True Being. And somehow by seeing how interwoven our personal experience is with the collective experience, when we do the work to really deeply look at the things that personally tie us up, we help facilitate larger collective shifts.
And we see the various wisdom traditions recognizing this process and dynamic. Richard Rohr has re-interpreted the Christian idea of "sin" to be the false thoughts and behaviors that keep us from behaving in a way that is True to our True Self. In this way the "sins of the father" are really born by the son as we bare the burden of generations of false understanding. And the Christian idea that death is a result of sin is actually speaking to the necessary death of the false self that is caught up in these knots.
The work of untying these knots is about naming and witnessing the Truth for ourselves and holding that understanding with compassion for the sticky situation we find ourselves in. We create change by simply being with this situation with compassionate equanimity – radical heart-felt acceptance of what is.
The most powerful shifts are the really subtle ones – a shift that no one notices, but everyone feels. This is an allowance for each to be as they are, but with an awareness that this is all falsely constructed and there is a larger potential. This awareness provides a bit of breathing room. It provides a sacred space for knot untying to take place all on its own. You may have felt this with a trusted friend or healer who provided you with an accepting presence rather than giving you advice. If we say “oh yeah, I'm feeling – you are feeling too – and what we are feeling is huge – but also totally understandable” – in that mutual understanding something else is created without even creating anything tangible.
This is hard for our society to see as change. It doesn't immediately look different on the outside. It doesn't have a particular agenda, action, activity or timeline that can be measured. It might even be viewed as complacency. However, it is much more active than complacency. It is an internal shift – a posture or stance that one can feel on the inside. It usually leads to tangible shifts – like slowing down and localizing your activities and consumption. It allows for shifts in others that may never be associated with you or shifts in you that were gifts from others. It allows for us to take responsibility, but also share that responsibility in an empowering way. It is the real process of creating a new paradigm - something authentic for us to collectively entrain to which is real social change.
All of these words to say “its not personal, but take it really personally and then let it unfold.”
The following poem was written while making a new flower essence at Tree Frog Farm as part of a course by Diana Pepper. We were re-making Fairy Rose and our upgrade of this essence has wonderful properties to help work with energetic and spiritual blockages to the collaborative creative process - very much an issue that has been on my mind as of late!
The Heart of Connection
hold true to
your own charm
speak the words
deepest in your soul
and let what separates
- from purpose
from community -
and what does not fall away
becomes gifted work
you do not do alone
it is OURS
it is generations
it is a network of beings
and worlds so great
it fills and overflows the imagination
and your simple point
in this great web of connection
is a welcomed place of choice
make the choice
to support the larger work
of all the universes
and you will find
of open arms
like a sweet song
for love and peace
*original poem by Summer Starr, July 2015
that is all that is asked;
seems like a simple instruction
for such a tall order
to be in the face of
these things take a different kind of talent
this requires a rawness
most do not want to feel;
it requires a dedication to authenticity
our social constructs have constructed barriers against;
we find we have to take sledgehammers to walls
that have been built unconsciously
admittedly built as a survival instinct
in a world that makes love
we add to these conditions with our checklists
of what we want to achieve
of what we want to experience
for who we want to love,
thinking that these things will somehow
give us a better life
we don't see how this restricts
life becomes effort to achieve
some item on all those lists
and we actually forget
to actually be
in the moment
with this breath
with this beautiful person
that stands before us
or even as us
There is a lifetime of mystery, wonder,
adventure and creation here
but this place too often gets passed by
for that place
when will you dive more deeply into
and trade all of that effort
for more of this existence;
an acceptance of what is now
that is not apathetic
but rather insightful
and comes directly from the here
from the now
*original poem by Summer Starr, July 2015
This video from Harvard University's Natural Sciences lectures demonstrations site and to me is a great example of how humans can intentionally create resonance using natural laws. They specially engineered this pendulum to allow for the patterns you see to emerge. The key is our effort and intention...nature provides the outline and also the vehicle for the rest to unfold if we learn to listen and cooperate with her.
Wild Lotus Living is me, Summer Starr. Here I share my personal musings and resources on my own path of unfolding