Tag Archive | Maturity

Leading Edge of Evolution?

I am reading two books right now: Stephen Levine’s A Year to Live and Ken Wilber’s Integral Meditation. I wonder if these two authors have read each other.

They both talk about the two tracks of growth, emotional and spiritual. We need both. We all know secular, emotionally mature people, people that prove conclusively that one can be good without any belief whatsoever in a transcendent deity. And many of us, including myself, are all too familiar with spiritually advanced people lacking basic emotional maturity (ego-maniacs, sleazy televangelists, child-like monastics, happy-clappy philanderers, etc.).

Wilber says that those of us who spend our time growing into the 7th and 8th level of emotional growth and who pursue an integrated spirituality are the leading edge of evolution.

If I am part of the leading edge of human evolution, humanity is in big trouble.

Perhaps I am just ridiculously cynical. Okay, I know I am. I just have a deep suspicion of trusting emotional states as reflecting anything other than an individual’s personal needs. I’ve had huge spiritual experiences in the past and am now convinced that they were just what I needed at that particular time. That doesn’t make them bad, just individualized and hard to assume that they apply to everyone. One of the more advanced stages is having feelings of profound unity with all things: non-duality, advaita, whatever you want to call it. What makes those feelings any more trustworthy than some of the more Pentecostal, holy-roller, ecstasy on display every Sunday in thousands of churches? Lots of Christians just know that the phony baloney they believe whole-heartedly in is the truth. They know it “in their heart.” I was one of them. Self-deception has no limit.

I’m just glad that various authors are finally agreeing that both are important: growing up and waking up. This is one of those missing pieces humanity has been looking for. As Wilber talks about, every phase includes and transcends the previous phase. Each progressive phase is more whole and comprehensive than its predecessor. People include organs, which include molecules, which include atoms. Nothing is negated. Everything is integrated.

I’ve always been interested in wholeness and healing. What is healing? The integration of the things that have been separated and/or rejected. I’ve learned to not be picky. Healing can come from New-Agey modalities, modern medicine, faith healing, personal experiences, and a gazillion other sources. I want as much healing as possible before I die and I don’t care where it comes from.

Today is very interesting time to live in. We have people from all the different levels fighting each other. And each of them feels they are representing the one and only truth.

The challenge is to accomplish this growth while keeping the boat afloat, so to speak. Meditation has to be scheduled around paying the bills, taking people to the doctor, doing yardwork, etc. People that don’t have to function in the real world can focus on experiencing various states of consciousness, but they may be falsely convinced that they have overcome various emotional issues that they have not actually touched on. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche even had a term for it: spiritual bypassing. It’s when we try to skip normal stages of emotional growth in favor of using spirituality as a way to impress people or ourselves. I know I’ve done it. The big thing I’ve learned over the years is that you don’t get to skip steps! You focus on growth in area A and make progress and go back to area B and find it exactly how you left it. The dishes didn’t do themselves.

Is one lifetime even enough to deal with everything? I know I can make progress, but holy crap, this is hard and time consuming. Use me as a role model at your own risk.

Approval and Adulthood

“Care about people’s approval and you will be their prisoner. Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity.” Tao Te Ching, Chapter 9, Stephen Mitchell translation

These are words to live by, but I still needed other people’s approval until just recently. As a female, I was not raised to be emotionally independent. My mother couldn’t give me what she didn’t have.

I could have saved myself years of church attendance and emotional manipulation had I not been so willing to be someone’s prisoner. There is always the seductive lie: “Obey me and I will take care of you.” The truth is much simpler: “Obey me and waste years of your life and keep our dysfunctional system going. Oh, by the way, we never intended to take care of you; you were always on your own. Your needs didn’t get met? That’s your own fault (for being stupid enough to believe the lie in the first place).”

I’m a little bitter, but mostly I just feel duped. My emotional needs advertised themselves to authority figures and made me an easy target. Christians refer to my upbringing as “training,” as in “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Buddhists refer to this emotional hell as “conditioned existence,” the source of much suffering and precisely what we are to depart from to achieve emotional freedom and adulthood. One philosophy encourages perpetual childhood; the other promotes maturity. I so lost myself in Christianity; I only hope I can find myself before I die.

Not a Child

“What is it to return to, discover, and completely embody today? People and situations can’t save us. It’s easy to see how tempting that is: to want to be saved. It’s like the mind of the child, who, in the right situation, is saved by the parent—a child is provided for every day; she is protected. All her big problems are solved, so she can just be a child. But what about when we’re no longer children?”

Tending the Flame, Dharma Discourse by Geoffrey Shugen Arnold Sensei, Book of Serenity, Case 53, Huangbo’s “Dreg Slurpers”, Featured in Mountain Record 29.1, Fall 2010

Where was this when I was in such emotional pain and wanting to be saved? I have spent many years seeking salvation, desiring to be a child. I felt like I had little guidance growing up and was willing to do anything someone told me to do, if they were willing to mentor me.

I have learned, the hard way of course, that others are more than willing to “save” me, as long as I give them my eternal unquestioning obedience. They promise protection but provide abandonment. Then, when I balk, I am chastised for “never having been committed” in the first place. Really? You avoid any type of relationship with me and criticize my lack of fidelity?

This is for all those women/girls looking for someone to take care of them: you may be “lucky” and find someone, but the price is always too high. Instead of being taken care of, you will be doing the caretaking. If you should ever complain, you will likely be labeled as “uncommitted” or “selfish”. Be “selfish” now. Don’t fool yourself to begin with. Take care of yourself now. If you find an organization or relationship that demands conformity, keep going. Don’t walk. Run! Your sanity, emotional health, spiritual health, and maturity depend on it.



Intellectual Independence

“When we participate in social metaphysics, we sacrifice our own intellectual independence. You said that “As a species, our mind is the tool of survival. When we choose to avoid intellectual independence, our policy is one of self-abdication.” That was so poignantly said.

If we don’t think for ourselves, we create a void. We have to be guided by something. If we don’t think for ourselves, basically two options are left. One, we live off the beliefs or thinking of somebody else, and two, we are run by our feelings or emotions. People do a mixture of both, more often than not. This is why it is so important for parents to teach and encourage thinking in young people. One of the great disgraces of our school system is that clear thinking is not taught from an early age. Nobody should graduate from high school without being trained to understand logical fallacies.” The Path of Self-Reliance, An Interview with Nathaniel Branden by Mary Nurrie Stearns http://www.personaltransformation.com/pdfs/Issue22.pdf#page=19


“Social metaphysics” is a great term. It clearly communicates the gist of religion: spirituality requiring other people’s approval.

Parents and teachers need to teach children how to think, not what to think. Being told what to think is “indoctrination,” fine for joining a cult, but not so great for creating a functional adult.

Self-abdication is always a temptation, one I have personally fallen into repeatedly to my great chagrin. My life would be falling apart on some level and, lo and behold, I would find a conservative religion to join. I lean toward the personally conservative because my brothers had drug and alcohol issues. For example, I came extraordinarily close to becoming a Mormon. Instead, I became a conservative Protestant. Then, I became Greek Orthodox.

Part of me has always been desperate for a mentor, some form of guidance. Growing up, I felt my family was out of control. I knew there had to be a better way. People in my family never seemed to connect the dots when it came to their actions and the consequences they experienced. I remember one brother saying, “The boss doesn’t like me.” I was like, “Duh. You think, maybe, just maybe, it could have something to do with the fact that you show up late all the time and sometimes are high when you do?” But speaking out in my family was “inappropriate” somehow. Being stoned? Boys will be boys. Speaking up? I should really know better. Needless to say, there wasn’t ever anyone in my family (then or now) that I look up to and admire. I love my parents. They are good people. Salt of the earth. Just not that bright in some ways. They think I’m a genius. I am not a genius. I just think things through.

To me, the ultimate evangelization is when you look at someone’s life and say to yourself, “Wow. That’s what I want to be like. What do I have to do to be like them? Sign me up!”

My challenge at this stage of my life is that I am beyond most people’s intellectual level. I have an MBA. For someone to be past my level would require a doctorate. School has sharpened my thinking, making mindless obedience a thing of the past. I now know how to think. I am so alone.

Accountability and Spaciousness

“Pema Chödrön: Accountability, as you’re talking about it, is my understanding of the spiritual path. With Trungpa Rinpoche, my feeling was that all he was doing was getting people to take responsibility for themselves, getting them to grow up. He was a master of not confirming. Talking to him was like talking to a huge space where everything bounced back, and you had to be accountable for yourself.

Personally I feel that the role of the teacher is to wean the students from dependency, and from taking the parent/child view of life altogether. That’s what I think of as non-theism. Theism doesn’t just have to do with God; it has to do with always feeling that you’re incomplete and need something or someone outside to look to. It’s like never growing up.” Cultivating Openness When Things Fall Apart  by bell hooks and Pema Chodron as published in Shambhala Sun

Accountability is about taking responsibility for yourself, which is the true spirituality. Too many spiritual and religious figures encourage emotional dependency. Emotional maturity in a student is the ultimate threat because then the person no longer needs their approval.

I love that Pema talks about her teacher as a “huge space” where everything bounced back. Inner spaciousness is a recurring theme in Buddhism. It is all-inclusive and beautiful. There is room for human imperfection, rough edges, compassion, anger, being fed up, all of it. When you are large enough to contain chaos, power is there. Walt Whitman said something like, “I am vast. I contain multitudes.” There is no need to avoid anything. He who accepts the most goes the least crazy. From that acceptance comes the stability to do something productive. Isn’t that what the world needs most right now?