Thursday, February 21, 2013

School for Living: Cultivating Critical Feedback

Next week in the School for Living we will be considering the third discipline: Cultivating Critical Feedback. None of us likes to be criticized. Many of us are our own harshest critics. Why would we want to encourage criticism?

The goal is not to open ourselves to put-downs, but to open ourselves to a closer understanding of what is real. You will recall that we have defined a perspective as an aspect of our interior awareness that is composed of the focus of our attention, the locus of our identity, and the lens or the map by which we create meaning. It is this lens or framework we are seeking to clean and clarify.

We will be able to act with the greatest power when we are most grounded in what is true…what is real. We cannot fully know all of what is, but we can expand our awareness by seeing from the perspectives of others and utilizing their maps.

Sometimes we reject the frameworks that others use to make meaning. Sometimes we do that even as we know that our own are not leading us to choose in ways that create what we need. We have faulty maps but we are unwilling to abandon them. We are clinging to what we refer to as “cognitive distortions.”

We typically do not abandon our distortions easily. Sometimes we have to get a figurative 2x4 up the side of the head to begin to see what is. These blows that bring us to our senses are in the form of critical feedback from those who know us and care to help us see. It helps them to help us if we are able to invite their help.

Friday, February 15, 2013

School for Contemplative Practices: Tarot

Tarot is an esoteric system which helps us to connect with what is, especially with what is going on in the spiritual dimensions of our lives. It is not a tool for predicting the future, though the more clearly we see the present, the more the likely future can be made apparent to us.

Three skilled Tarot practitioners are collaborating to introduce us to this ancient science. On March 2, 2013, as part of our series in the School for Contemplative Practices, they will give us background on how to understand the cards and the layout or “spread” and then will give us each a chance to experience the various decks and to see what it is like for them and for us to invite the cards to guide us into deeper insight into our Selves.

One of our presenters, Jacki Richardson, is someone I have known for many years but I only recently learned of her interest in Tarot. She asked me what it was about Tarot that appealed to me most. I think my answer may be of interest to others as well, but first I want to address more fully what we are trying to do in Sacred Soup.

A central assumption of Sacred Soup is that all wisdom is one. If it is true, it is true for all everywhere. Religions differ over how they speak of truth or which aspect of truth they focus on, but all truth is one. This is known philosophically as Perennialism or as the Perennial Philosophy. One famous articulation of this perspective comes from Aldous Huxley in his book, The Perennial Philosophy, a short summary of which is that all reality is an expression of the Divine Source, humans are a material expression of this Source, and our greatest purpose is to discover and act from an awareness of our fundamental union with this Source.

With this in mind, Sacred Soup is a community to which we all bring our own truth and offer it up to enrich the awareness and practice of each other. This is exactly what Jacki did when she asked about doing a presentation on Tarot.

I will admit to a certain caution when she suggested that idea. Tarot is an esoteric system that doesn’t appear to have roots in any major world religion. There are some aspects that resonate with the Kabbalah, a mystical branch of Judaism, and there is evidence that Christian monks used the system five centuries ago, but it certainly isn’t something the Bible speaks of.

Nevertheless, in practice it is much like the use in Eastern Christianity of icons as a focus for meditation. Each card is an icon. It represents an aspect of the universal relationship between the Creator and the Created. It has relevance for issues of power, relationship, and choice. While there is something ultimately arbitrary about the 78 cards [the I Ching uses 64 pentagrams for a similar purpose] that is far more aspects than most of us hold in our awareness. This system is quite literally mind-expanding.

While it is universal (all decks have 78 cards) it is also personal in that one can choose between many decks (while they have the same cards, the art and to some degree the emphasis may vary between decks) and there is a relationship that grows between the person and their deck. The deck becomes a trusted confidant and, as the relationship grows, the power of Tarot to inform our awareness grows with it.

Join us on March 2 as we learn from Jacki, Jason Turner, and Josh McMichael about how they use Tarot in their own lives and offer us a peek into how it might inform our own spiritual journey.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Hold on Passion:

We are meeting for the School for Living this Thursday for a guided conversation about the second discipline of Creative Conflict Resolution, the Anger Workout.  This will build on earlier conversations but you needn't have been to them to benefit from the discussion.

It has been three weeks now since we talked about the Bothers Me Log.  While we will talk about our experience with that discipline, I don’t want anyone to be embarrassed about not having done it consistently.  I will be surprised (though delighted) if anyone has been able to do it more than half the time.  As I said, it is too simple to be easy.  If you weren't at the last session or you need a refresher you can review at this link.

There are two reasons why we want to get a hold of passion.  One is that when we are overwhelmed by strong feeling we are likely to make choices we will regret.  The other is that when we try to do new things that will work better for us, the feelings we have about trying something new or addressing something we have been avoiding will throw us off and we will fail to act the way we intend.  Strong feelings can get in the way of right action.

On the flip side, right action can often be really hard to manifest.  It is often action done in the face of strong opposition.  We will need a lot of energy to overcome our inertia and act.  A primary source of the energy we need to be able to act is from the strong feeling itself. 

So we will be looking at how we can harness the energy inherent in strong feeling to propel us to act in ways that generate what we need without acting in ways that are harmful to others.