Can you have engaged awareness in a world seemingly going crazy?

Is there a contradiction between being socially or politically engaged and personal growth and spirituality? Many traditions point to the evil of humankind’s ways and how we need to turn to “the truth”. Many encourage people to step aside from everyday life in order to do this. Can we have “engaged awareness”?

Laparade view over the Lot valley
Laparade view over the Lot valley

Yesterday my wife and I were on our terrace enjoying the view over the Lot valley in the evening sun, sipping an apéritif, absorbed in a discussion about the state of the world, and suddenly we became aware that we had hardly given the beauty of the view a real look. Our minds were elsewhere. A deep breath was needed!

Mindfulness teaches that such points of awareness are important, to pause, notice, breathe and be present with what is, to notice what our mind is doing, but not be “caught up” in the drama so that we lose our awareness of the bigger picture.

How might such awareness help the engaged?

Awareness and our demons

I would suggest that the distinction commonly made between “everyday life” and spirituality is a false one. Life is what happens every moment of every day, wherever you are and whatever you are doing.

We often refer to the “spiritual bypass”, how people get into some form of personal and spiritual development, adopt some belief system, or go to the mountain top, and can seem very deep and earnest in what they are doing or being. Yet, down inside, there’s a whole lot else going on. They might, for example, be angry people doing a great pretending they aren’t and are being very peaceful and at one. Until something pushes their deeper buttons and out comes some torrent of rage. The deeper unresolved stuff is still there, but denied. I think we’re seeing this right now in the world, big time!

Personal growth can often be the “journey” to identify and resolve these inner tensions, so that they no longer mess up one’s life. Awareness can be to know these different parts of ourselves and accept them. The more we know and learn to let go of them and return to a steady state, the more we acquire some degree of mastery. Being who we are is being who we are, warts and all.

Beware of the false heaven

There are those who make much of the serene heights of “enlightenment” as something only some people “attain” and others have to work at and have lots of these demons to deal with. Somehow only some are deemed worthy enough, have accumulated sufficient merit. It can be a version of the “elect”, those that somehow have it – but oh, no, you! You’ve got work to do! Humans like to make distinctions, to compare, and to put each other down, consciously or unconsciously, and there’s always some people who are deemed better than others.

Except they aren’t really: it’s another ego game, when we’re really all one anyway. Bit silly really!

So some will teach of a rarified heaven, but you’ve got to build up lots of credit to get there, and only certain people have the key. I’d like to say we all have the key. It’s whether we use it.

The world is what we make of it

Thus the world we live in can be presented in a bad way, and if you’re working in it, big trouble. “There’s so much evil!” This is very current at the moment, where there’s a lot of conflict and division. Countries are increasingly at odds with one another. Within countries, there’s an increasing sense, or so it seems, of conflict between different groups. In the West we have the rise of populism and “identity politics”. “Where you are from” seems a big issue. People are hateful towards people of a different ethnicity, or sexual orientation, or religion, or whatever. In Britain there’s a big urge to pull up the drawbridge and pull away from our European neighbours. It’s about “us versus them”. So much anger and hate.

How does the aware person live with this? Even more, from my personal perspective, be engaged in seeking to combat this loss of respect for one another, this separateness, disunity, hate and division.

Again my response is that to make a dichotomy between the way the world is and our personal and spiritual goals, however we define the latter, is to make a false dichotomy.

Dealing with the enraged Brexiter is as much spiritual as it is being at one with the view of the River Lot in beautiful South-West France. “See God in each other”. The world is what we make of it. We are responsible. We have choice. And we can choose to hold to our deeper awareness and be engaged in the world

In fact, I would suggest that we can make a better contribution to others, to humankind and the world we live in, in crisis though it is at the moment, by being being present and aware and engaged.

It’s like to reach down inside to the love that’s really you, and then get out there and make a difference!

Time to light a light for ourselves and for the world

When there’s conflict around us, or we’re caught up in it, and we feel like there’s no light around us, it can seem like all that there is is this stuff going on. We might lose hope and feel like that’s our reality and that’s all there is. Then it’s hard to trust that there is more than this, that there is somewhere that is peaceful, harmonious and contented. What can we do about this? How do we move on?

Right now, in the UK, our politicians are caught up, it seems, in a mega-conflict, and the signs are that much of the population is too. So, the question could be, for the self-aware who also feels caught up in all this, what can we do to move on from this?

How do we move on?

As I’ve written on these pages before, the self-aware person is still human. They can get caught up in stuff too. We might of course be very exceptional and live in constant bliss. But for very many of us, that may not be so, or at least not seem so! We might be so completely caught up in the drama that we’re not aware we are. Self-awareness may have taken a holiday, so to speak! Some holiday! Or, we might be aware we’re stuck in the drama, and carry on with the drama.

It can be like a dream we perversely don’t want to awaken from. The dream has its own pathway and we’re absorbed in it. We know it doesn’t serve us, but carry on we do.

We might feel so strongly about the issue that we won’t let go of it, like a dog with a bone. We’re really determined to see it through. We might feel very self-righteous about it, like we’re the ones who are right and it’s the others that are wrong and they are the ones who are causing problems for us. If they changed, or we forced them to, them everything would be OK.

Or would it? Is this really the path to healing?

What to do?

What is so hard to see in the midst of conflict is that both parties (I’m assuming two here, but there might be more!) need to let go of something in order to come to an agreement. We could work on trying to facilitate that and that can be worthwhile for us. Peacemakers are needed!

However, there’s another space entirely that can get overlooked.

That space is where we let go of it in ourselves, irrespective of the choices others might be making.

This is an internal process, within ourselves, that I am referring to.

This is where we unconditionally let go of things that are keeping us stuck in the drama: like to let go of the attachment to being absorbed in the drama; or let go of the outcome we want; or let go of our ideas about how things are; or let go of being right and others being wrong; or let go of the whole thing itself.

Just give it up. Surrender.

This is not surrender as in giving in to others. It is surrender as in letting go of things, stuff, drama, attachments, emotions, thoughts, attitudes. The whole bang shoot.

Take in a deep breath…and then another…breathe in deep… and as you breathe out…let it go…breathe in again…and as you breathe out…let go of all that stuff…yes, the whole lot of it.

Practice That

And now, instead, choose a positive intention for yourself.

Sit for a while in meditation. You could this today. Light a candle, like this one, a candle in the dark, to bring light to the dark.

Candle flame - light in the dark
Candle flame – light in the dark

The dark is not bad, it’s just not light. The dark can be threatening, or it can be warm and comfortable, infinitely comfortable. It depends how we have it. The light can shine in the dark, and bring light to the dark.

Sit with this light. You can do this while it seems there’s stuff going on “out there”, but for for you now, it isn’t. There’s just you, and the light shining.

Then, close your eyes, taking that light within you, into your inner awareness, to your heart centre, knowing that that light always shines within you as your inner candle flame. Take some deeper breaths, and let go as I have described. Now focus on your light.

Sit for a while in meditation, holding that space.

Then, when you are ready, recall your intention. Then, take a deep breath and send that light and that thought out into the world.

Send out your thought, your light, in a great, big, powerful beam of love.

Send out healing to the world.

It needs it right now.

Healing conflict in ourselves and in the world is needed right now

These are undoubtedly very testing times for very many of us. Countries are beset by political conflict and division. People in the UK are about to be confronted by a very serious political crisis, but they are not alone. In other countries in Europe and America, there are also serious crises. So what does the concerned, consciously aware person do in such circumstances? Is there something that can be done around reducing or healing conflict?

You might feel yourself getting caught up in the conflict, taking sides, feeling angry about what is happening and indignant about certain actions. Or you might want to avoid it all, and try to pretend it isn’t happening, that is of course until perhaps the incoming tide washes at your shores too. I don’t find it easy myself, with all these feelings about Brexit. Yet, there are certain understandings and approaches that can be useful.

Being aware that you are caught up

Getting caught up is what the ego does. According to the understandings used in this blog, the ego is about survival and an identity construct is created to support that. “Who I think I am” is one who is, for example, fearful, and a defence against fear is to get angry. Often these are creations from childhood. As an example, you or I might be afraid of being left alone and abandoned, as a knee-jerk response from that time. So when it looks like there might be terrible upheaval and chaos, my fear might kick in, but masked as anger directed at some perceived “other”. But this is a false construct, my ego. It is not who I really am. I’m pure spirit and light and at essence love, part of the whole. My ego however fears separation from that essence of who I am and the fear of separation often lies at the core of ego.

What we are experiencing at the moment, in my view, is acute separation consciousness, manifesting as division from one another. Over Brexit, whole families and neighbourhoods are at odds with one another, very angry. New enmities are being created. Separation.

Use your awareness

The aware person at this point needs to pause, notice, step back and see, sense, feel, think. Enter your aware state and what we call witness consciousness. From that higher perspective, you need no longer be caught up in ego and separation. You can witness what is going on.

Others may not be doing this, of course, but that doesn’t mean they are not beings of light like you, even opponents. They just aren’t aware of it right now.

Letting go in this way, enables you firstly to release yourself from what’s going on. That doesn’t mean you won’t get caught up again, but you know who you really are, and you can come back to this state whenever you choose.

The key is to practice and to know that place more and more. Hold that inside. Meditate on it. That way it builds, and your confidence, your faith, will grow too.

Extend what you know to others as healing energy

Yet the aware person could do more than that, if he or she so chooses. Does not this world need healing right now? Could we not be standing, as the witness, for something higher than this conflict? People may not consciously listen, but it can help. People can pick up the subtlest of energetic shifts after all, at some level.

You might feel, for example, as I do, that now is the time to be really sending out healing, to be healing conflict.

There’s an excellent book by James Twyman called “Emissary of Light” that describes how a group of people came together in the midst of the Bosnian civil war to meditate and send out healing light. That was right in the middle of it, even when troops approached their building – and passed by not even seeing it!

These emissaries would sit everyday in a circle and meditate for 12 hours. Each would focus on sending energy to a person in the centre of the group who would then channel the energy out into the world. Every day while the conflict lasted. What service!

How to extend your energy – an activity

You could do this too, if you wanted to and were willing to commit to it, as a contribution to healing conflict. For example, you could sit and meditate, and while meditating, say in the last few minutes, do this:

Allow your awareness to focus on a happy memory. It might be a person, a place, a particular occasion or some other way of accessing inner joy. It might be your love, either for a person, animal or something else. Really be aware of that.

Now bring that joy or love to your heart centre or chakra. Very gently allow the energy to build in your heart centre. Really allow it to grow in your heart.

Then imagine there is a door in your heart that you can open to let out that energy to the world. So, when you are ready, just open that door and let out all that love and joy into the world and send it right out there to all beings who are suffering and in conflict. Do it without judgement and any feeling other than what is inside your heart centre. Send every last bit.

Then, when you have finished, bless the world in whichever way you might do that and then bring your meditation to a close.

You can access a download of this process as an mp3, for a limited time, here

What we wish for ourselves, we give to others

After all, don’t we also want healing, love and peace too? All we’re doing is giving to others what we also want for ourselves, healing conflict in ourselves. After all, we are all One.

Being right is a value judgement, not an absolute

How often have you had a disagreement with somebody where you have felt sure you were right? Or how often have you been faced with a choice over what to do, and you’ve asked yourself what the right course of action should be? And how often have people told you what the right thing to do is?

This is worth thinking about. After all, humans have a long history of fighting over it. Apparently it was right, according to the British Prime Minister, to invade Iraq in 2003: “I am right”, he said. We are not so sure now.

In the past I used to tell myself, in the heat of a argument, that “I’m right”, and felt the full force of righteous indignation and blame towards another whom I perceived to be wrong. And all the time, it was not worth all the negative energy. It was more powerful, and served me better, to let go of the need to be righteous so as to open up a space where both needs could be met, or a different, healing solution could emerge. “Being right” hid that space from view. The still space between thoughts, where there is no anger, no thought, is the space of true creativity. Meditators know this. That is why they focus on the space between breaths. When we pause and let go, something else can take the place of conflict and “being right”. Mindfulness helps us know this.

Getting it right

In a previous life I worked for a headteacher whose favourite maxim was, “Get it right”. And that might have been said when someone, somewhere had definitely not got it right. When a team of professional people, say, are closely aligned, they probably have a very clear idea of what that might mean. We certainly did in that school. There were the very clearly articulated and agreed principles for action by which we made decisions about the good education of our students. So, in this respect, being right may be about living by an agreed set of ethical principles. It can be useful.

An absolute or an opinion?

But what about when there’s disagreement? Who is right? It may be an issue of fact: “I’m right because the facts say this”. The trouble with facts is that there is no universal agreement even on facts. Scientists tend to prefer the word “probability” to “fact”. We all agree to call something a bus and we all agree that that is what it looks like. But as we learn more about the mind and how it works, the more it appears that what is really happening is that we are actually applying a joint perception that something is as it is. So, in that case who is right?

The trouble is, people treat “being right” as some universal rule, when in fact it is their opinion.

The social consensus

Then there is the whole world of the social consensus. What is deemed “right” is actually the rules of social consensus. We apply rules to our society and judge people’s behaviour accordingly. Yes, we might need it to be like that so that the society can function. Except that, as we evolve to become higher order beings, even those rules become less necessary as we become more autonomous, self-responsible, totally respecting beings no longer needing external rules to guide us. We have our own.

So, when we react to someone who says, “That’s not right”, it is worth appreciating how much we’ve become self-responsible beings who more and more wish to make our own decisions. Because we are more and more connected with one another, what we decide is also totally appropriate for the other as it is for us. Or we can listen to others and discuss it with them, and agree together what is needed. In this emerging paradigm, managers no longer instruct their direct reports. It doesn’t motivate them. Instead they find it works better to agree it with them after seeking their involvement in the decision.

“Being right” smacks of parentalism, someone older, better (who says?), wiser, more knowledgeable. In that paradigm, you are told what you “should” or “should not” do. Right away this slips into a right/wrong polarity of thinking, with judgement and blame not far behind. In the new paradigm, we seek to step above judgement. Here, each makes his or her own choices. As connected beings we are at once totally respecting of our need to make our own choices in life, and to respect the choices of others.

A legacy of a paternalistic age

“Being right” can take us into the thinking of fundamentalism, where one belief system is deemed right and all others relegated to eternal damnation. It is fascinating for me how many of us today are having a problem with this world-view. This is probably one of the most powerful inheritances from our common past, embedded deep in our consciousness from past ages, where religious and social systems enforced principles of behaviour on a God-fearing population. According to Spiral Dynamics, we are evolving fast away from that thinking and are poised to move en-masse to a far more respectful and inclusive, world-centric way of seeing things.

So, it is always worth pausing when you come across the word “right”. It can be useful, as in human rights, but it can also be an inheritance from a paternalistic age which no longer serves us. And you may be outgrowing it yourself. What would be a more growthful way of seeing the situation? Right/wrong thinking may also no longer serve you as an individual. Consider asking yourself instead, “Is this what I am choosing right now?” “Is this what I want right now?” “Will this serve me right now?” “Is this what I am seeking to create right now?” Here you can step into a far more empowering way of perceiving.

And, when you react to a perceived transgression by someone else, you can instead of leaping to judgement become aware of your feelings, take responsibility for them, let them go and see what other more creative possibility may exist.