Peaceful Conflict Resolution
Vol. 6, July 2003
Even as a little child, I sensed that feeling anger at someone would hurt me more than the other person, so this awareness taught me to forgive and forget. Being in or near the winds of conflict caused great suffering in my body-mind, and as time passed, my rigid resistance to conflict drew it to me.
In recent years, spirituality, meditation and the guidance of my still, small voice have diminished this conflict with conflict by revealing ways to unite my heart and mind in co-creative partnership: that is, with mind serving heart, heart serving soul, and soul serving Love. And these days, with our busy lives rotating faster and faster, conflict erupts often enough that we can see it for what it is: an opportunity for healing.
Even so, it’s not easy to stay balanced while being unfairly judged and condemned, verbally attacked when open-hearted and joyous, or rejected and dismissed by a beloved family member. I have experienced just these conflicts in recent months, all from different sources, and yet, by returning to the peace and perspectives of my soul (which also led me, in perfect timing, to two enlightened teachers), I am surviving nicely and have acquired some insights to share with anyone struggling to live and breathe peace.
We create conflict, I was taught, when we make each other wrong in order to make ourselves feel better. Last month, while stressed by the emotions of others, I caught myself just before doing this to someone: my mind, aware of my heart’s unmet needs, voiced unkind opinions of a loved one; in turn, my heart, upset by the mind’s diatribe, closed against the loved one to escape the conflict. Ordinarily, the body-mind rids itself of inner strife by projecting it outward. It is this inner conflict, visited upon others, which is at the heart of the world’s pain and suffering.
In his book, Touching Peace: The Art of Mindful Living, the gentle Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn shows us simple ways to become mindful of inner pain and resolve it at its root. I could have retreated to a quiet place, asked to see the nature of my pain and soothed it by breathing mindfully and lovingly saying to myself, "I breathe in and become aware of my heart. I breathe out and smile to my heart." After this meditation, I could have respectfully asked the other person to help me resolve my unmet needs.
Instead, I did what works equally well for me. I went to my meditation room, listened and heard the call of my soul to love, which always heals our anger or sorrow and eventually the other person’s as well. So it did for me and also cured my unmet needs!
If you want to try this, just go to a quiet place, focus your attention on your breathing and, when deeply relaxed, pick up pen and paper and allow your heart or mind to ask the other a question in dialogue. You will be surprised by the clarity of both when they are patiently allowed to say what hurts and how to heal it. Go deeper to listen to your soul. Just focus on the breath and relax longer. Wait patiently and write down anything you hear until a kind, loving voice emerges to teach you the laws of love.
Unity minister Gary Simmons shows us how to live this love in the wholeness of the spiritual self, which can be present to, yet not be diminished by, any life situation, no matter how it looks or feels, just as the eye of the storm is present to every aspect of the storm, yet expresses only calm, clarity, peace and equanimity. Gary’s illuminating book, The I of the Storm: Embracing Conflict, Creating Peace, invites us to say to the conflicted person (or self), "Tell me more" until the real need emerges and can be resolved with love.
In these challenging days, many inspired teachers are coming to help us transit into a new love for humanity and the Earth. In this Aquarian Age, we will shift our authority from external sources to the divine spark of wisdom and guidance that is within us.
While listening to our deepest selves in open, receptive meditation, we grow peaceful enough to bring peace to the world. Our minds and hearts grow brilliant with light. Broken points of consciousness are united and made whole, so that life takes on new color and joy flows out of us into a world needing love.
Here is the spiritual awakening awaited by so many for so long: it takes place within our souls, reaches out to serve the world and is the only peaceful path to the lighted torch of freedom that is just within our grasp.
Over the past year, and throughout my life, conflict has been my worst enemy and best friend. If you, like me, are a hypersensitive "psychic empath," as intuitive psychiatrist Judith Orloff terms us, then during conflict you feel everyone else’s emotions and struggle to allay the gasping, heart-stopping adrenaline that surges through your body (just like a panic attack). Over the years, in dealing with this, I’ve discovered a meditative state of detachment that enables me to serve as a loving and sympathetic "holy observer" who is open-hearted and present to the needs of others.
When I forget or refuse to do this, my red-headed temper jumps into the fray and afterwards I am drained of energy and feel very sad. This rarely happens when I meditate daily, which is my favorite pastime. I love the divine currents of energy flowing through and healing my body, and I thrive on the higher perspectives which assure me that every life event comes with a lesson to advance us along the journey to peace. So I accept and welcome this journey, knowing deep down that when I master my inner conflict, all outer conflict will cease.
Here are a few other ways to stay in your quiet, holy self in the midst of an avalanche of conflict:
1. First, remember who you are and why you’re here. The meditative insights in the article below are an eloquent reminder of what we all know, deep down, to be true.
2. If your adrenaline starts to surge, rub your thumb and forefinger together and fix your attention on this motion until your upset subsides. You could also focus on your breath (count to 10!) or anything else that draws your immediate attention away from the situation and into yourself. If you don’t connect with the quiet holy observer at the core of your consciousness, ask the other person to give you a timeout and shift your attention to getting a drink of water or taking a walk. If that’s not feasible, you can always explain to the other person what’s happening to you and just walk away for now, or for however long it takes to disabuse your body-mind. Later on, practice the art of moving into your core consciousness, which no one else can penetrate unless allowed.
3. If you must stay present to the conflict and your willingness to listen does not calm the other person, you can protect yourself by visualizing a white light around your body; its presence may quell the other person’s rage.
4. An excellent technique taught by psychic Linda Schiller-Hanna is to visualize mirrors strung around your waist and pointing at the other person. This will keep the craziness where it belongs. You don’t add anger or superiority to it, but neither are you obliged to absorb negative energy.
5. The best device, for me, is to focus on my heart and feel love for the other person. If you really want to love them, this technique will work instantly to open your heart to love. Just watch the dynamics shift!
6. If you can’t seem to love the other person, here’s a trick given by the Dalai Lama of Tibet in the book, "The Art of Happiness." Just focus on the other person and find one thing to love, like his/her eyes, hair, teeth, cheekbones, tone of voice, or anything else. Once you find that one thing, ask yourself if there’s any reason why you can’t love that one thing. If you can, then do so with all your heart. This will shift your feelings in a profound way, and if that’s slow in coming, try to find something else to love about the person. This wonderful meditation will open virtually any closed heart.
7. In his workshops on peaceful conflict resolution, Unity minister Gary Simmons, author of The I of the Storm: Embracing Conflict, Creating Peace, urges us not to resist conflict, since this gives it power, but to be present to it and the gift of enlightenment that it holds for us. Perhaps your gift is holding your peace to teach someone else this skill, or perhaps it’s finding out that you, too, are upset about something that needs attention. Either way, Simmons teaches us to easily see the source of the conflict: it’s not about us and is about the other person until we feel emotionally upset enough to fight back. Then it’s about us, because we’ve stepped out of our wholeness. Sometimes we draw a boundary line that needs to be set, but if you’ve blown up while defending yourself or trying to make the other person wrong, then it’s time to take a few deep breaths, sense the location of the upset in your body and, later on, connect with it and ask your inner teacher what your turmoil is about and how to resolve it. This is a gift that keeps on giving.
8. If you don’t know how to "check in" with yourself to discover the root of your upset, go to a quiet place and, as Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn suggests in Touching Peace: The Art of Mindful Living, simply ask your heart to tell you. Focusing on your breath, wait in silence until your thoughts slow down and drop away so that your heart can reveal its truth.
9. I like to do this with pen and paper at hand, to write down what I hear, see, feel or sense. I call this meditative writing and have written a book about this process and the amazing guidance and wisdom of the still, small voice within us all. It’s easy to do if you’re a good listener like a writer or musician, which I am, but anyone can learn this skill with practice. My book will show you how, and if you’re really interested, you could contact me by e-mail about a workshop in your area. In the meanwhile, try it alone by listening receptively until a word or two bubbles up into your mind. A stream of words will follow and if you focus on only the words and don’t let your mind interfere, you will tune in to a wise, kindly voice that is your still, small voice of love, wisdom and guidance. If you’re a visual person, tune in to this voice with a drawing pad and colored pencils; if you’re kinesthetic, dance slowly or with the quick grace of a whirling dervish. Your soul will tell you what to do to obtain any information you want to know, if you just open your heart and listen patiently.
10. While in this listening mode, stay open and receptive to synchronicity: that is, through people and events supplying just what you want and need exactly when you’re ready to receive it. The definition of synchronicity, according to Carl Jung, is "a meaningful coincidence of inner and outer events." Your feelings will distinguish "magical thinking" from synchronicity, a sign that you’re in the flow of spiritual manifestation. Trust your heart to know what is true; it is the vessel of love manifested on Earth by your soul.
A martial arts expert and ordained Unity minister, Gary Simmons is a pioneer in the psychodynamics of conflict and how to resolve it peacefully. Director of Peacemaking Services for the International Association of Unity Churches, Simmons has spent 10 years helping New Thought churches and spiritual organizations across the world heal their wounded pasts; in turn, these organizations are teaching individuals how to manage conflict in the hope of a more peaceful and humane world. In 1993, Simmons began to synthesize and test his theories on conflict management, and in 2001 these became the basis of a powerful self-help book published by Unity House, The I of the Storm: Embracing Conflict, Creating Peace. It is a must-read for anyone on a path of healing and transformation.
I spent a week in his Peace Worker Training for clergy and lay people, and deeply enjoyed the brilliantly insightful perspectives of this funny, down-to-earth teacher. Simmons' core belief that nothing and no one is against us is a startling perspective, caught up as we are in shame, blame and separation. A San Francisco native now living in Fayetteville, Ark., this gentle peacemaker calls upon us to shift our vision from fear to love and see that the source of all discord is the "missing pieces" inside us. It is these, he claims, which disconnect us from the whole, happy and joyful spiritual beings that we really are.
Judith: Your book, The I of the Storm, refers to an I that is not the ego, but who we are at our core. So let me just ask you first to define the qualities of this "I."
Gary: The I, first of all, is our spiritual identity, the same "one presence and one power" that lives in all of life. It is that place within us where we can be present to any life situation, regardless of how it looks or feels, without being diminished by it, just as the eye of the storm is equally present to every aspect to the storm, yet expresses the attributes of calm, clarity, peace and equanimity.
J: This spiritual self operates out of the clear understanding which seems to be the basis of your teaching that nothing is against us?
G: Right. It's only when we step out the interconnectedness that is the basis of all life and our spiritual nature that we find ourselves in the disconnect, where situations and circumstances appear to be against us. That appearance is created by the disconnect.
J: We don't usually, as a civilization, live in awareness of our interconnection, do we? I wonder why this is so. What do you think is missing for us? Do we all just come here broken and on a mission to fix ourselves? Or are there societal factors that predispose perfect little children of God to become broken?
G: Well, in my opinion, it's because we're born into an imperfect caregiving environment. By imperfect, I mean that our caregivers were unable to be present to us in every moment when we needed love or protection. And no parent can, of course. But, the consequence of that predicament is that we make assumptions about ourselves based upon that experience of not being loved and protected when we needed it, and we build a way of relating to life that seeks to protect us in moments when life looks and feels against us. Those ways of relating attach themselves to our coping strategies, insofar as our wanting to avoid what looks and feels bad and to hold on to what feels comforting and secure. Ultimately, those strategies end up reinforcing a lifestyle of separation, avoidance and of making our well-being and worth contingent upon what's happening outside of us.
J: This is how and why we personalize and pathologize situations and events, but really, as you wrote in your book, there is no ill will in the energy field of God. So it's the disconnect that creates the four winds of conflict: competition, misperception, separation and defensiveness?
G: That's right. When we live in the disconnect, we inadvertently create conditions that support the storms in our lives. Separation, competition, misperception and defensiveness become the basis of how we relate to life in order to manage our discomfort, because life does not always show up to make us feel safe and okay. Ironically, when we manage those moments of discomfort by separating ourselves from each other or the world, or relate to life based upon how it looks and feels, or try to get what we need at the expense of others, or live a lifestyle of defensiveness, we perpetuate the very disconnect that we're seeking to overcome.
J: And presumably, as we become driven by emotions like hurt and disappointment, the separation increases.
G: Yes. We become hypervigilant to how life looks and feels, and so, in order to manage that kind of vigilance, our strategy then becomes rooted in needing to be right, needing to be in control, or having to have things be a certain way, or some resistance or strategy that helps us avoid the opening of old wounds.
J: These emotional dynamics, which I've experienced myself, are so pervasive and destructive that I really appreciate your distilling them into models that we can get our minds around. But changing ourselves is an enormous task, isn't it?
G: It is, because we're really in relationship to dynamics. We're in relationship with a kind of virtual reality which reflects, as a mirror, how we are showing up. We show up either connected or in our disconnect. We're also in relationship to a kind of universal omnipresence which at its core is the connection, interdependency, all-ness, the oneness of life. Yet this reality, the spiritual dimension, is veiled by our being hypnotized to how life looks and feels. We are unable to see what there is to see, if we had but eyes to see the interconnectedness, divinity, intelligence, synchronicity of all energy fields. Because we're so caught up in the reflection and because we seek to manage our comfort level in trying to fix the mirror instead of looking at how we're showing up which creates the reflection to begin with we find ourselves lost in a house of mirrors instead of empowered to transform the world by transforming ourselves.
J: So how do we see through the mist of confusion? What can we do to increase our wholeness?
G: Well, first of all, wholeness is. Wholeness is a life orientation, a way of relating to life as life really is, as a field of infinite possibilities in which nothing and no one is against us. A way of seeing through the confusion is to ask yourself, "Who do I have to be in order to have this experience that feels against me?" Or, "What belief, message, or myth must I accept as true in order to have this experience?" You have to be unworthy, inadequate, not okay and so on, in order to have an experience look or feel against you. When you are being who you have come here to be, as a spiritual being, you can find yourself in a difficult challenge and not be diminished by it. So if we understand that our experience is in part related to how we are showing up, how we are relating, then the experience of someone or something being against me is simply a mirror unto who I am not: my unworthiness, inadequacy and so forth. Our essence (who we really are) lives out of who we have come here to be and the difference we can make by being present to challenging circumstances.
J: So I think I'm hearing you say that through awareness and attention, we can use these mirrors in our lives, even the conflict, to better understand what our own missing pieces are.
G: Right. It's necessary to understand that life is like a mirror, that our experience especially what we're making our experience mean reflects how we're relating to our lives, how we are being unto it. If our experience looks and feels against us, we must be relating to the situation from a part of ourselves that is in the disconnect: unworthiness, inadequacy and the like. A mirror can only reflect how one is showing up. When our strategy is to try to fix the mirror because we are uncomfortable with what is being reflected, we fail to address our own sense of separation. When we are clear that how life looks and feels is a dynamic of perception and meaning-making, we will no longer attempt to change the mirror in order to manage our discomfort. Our discomfort will become a signal that we are relating to life from who we are not.
J: But, of course, some of our experience is wrapped up in the delusion of who we think we are. So I wonder if it would be helpful to either belong to a spiritual community where there are some values which can orient us to a higher viewpoint, or whether you could suggest for the secular seeker some books in addition to The I of the Storm?
G: Well, first of all, just let me respond to the idea of participating in a community of those who share an intention to be on the spiritual path. The value of this is that authentic spiritual community can reinforce the spiritual practice of sitting before the mirror of our own divinity, which is what prayer and meditation are about. These disciplines cultivate the sensitivity necessary to notice when we have stepped outside of our wholeness. Community life can reinforce those practices which give us that capacity. The learning that occurs through books, workshops and retreats also gives us tools to implement those practices in relationship to our own challenges and our own unfolding. The books I've found to be most helpful are The Magic of Conflict and Journey to Center by Thomas Crum, and Nonviolent Communication by Marshal Rosenburg. I've read lots of books, and there are lots of good books, but books aren't the primary way I learn.
J: For most, if not all of us, the best way to learn anything is the way we are here to learn, and that's through direct experience, as painlessly as possible. But it doesn't generally pan out that way, does it? So I'm wondering if you would share with us how the "I of the Storm" paradigm came out of your own experience. What was your own growth process?
G: In the book, I mentioned that I had a consultation with a pair of Hindu astrologers who offered me a reading in appreciation of a speaking opportunity at my church, and in that reading, when they informed me that nothing and no one is against me, it really shook me at my depth: How would my life be different if it's really true that nothing and no one is against me? I had to integrate this principle into who I was already: a martial artist and a Unity Truth teacher interested in conflict management. This awakening integrated all of those disciplines into a central principle inherent in all of life: that in our interconnectedness, nothing is against us. That's the "I" of the storm. And so, how do I manage the exceptions that I notice in my life: Do I manage those exceptions by trying to fix them, or by seeing them as reflecting my own disconnect? That was a pivotal place for me, and over the years it became a matter of testing that principle in my relationships, marriage, work and ministry to recognize that whenever I felt a kind of discomfort in my relationship, that discomfort was reflecting my own disconnect. I would ask myself, "Who do I have to be in order to feel this disconnect?" and then I would do what I call "aware-apy" on myself, which is to become aware of the way I've created this very experience that feels against me. Because the truth is, it's not against me. So I have to be someone I am not, in order for life to feel against me.
J: What other kinds of experiences have been pivotal for you?
G: Well, I've pioneered four churches, primarily in the South, and I've had some amazing relationships. As I mention in my book, I've been blessed with many "past wife" experiences. But another thing that's been helpful to me is that I'm a private pilot and an experimental aircraft builder. In the process of both building an airplane and flying it, you're in relationship to the principles of aviation and these are unforgiving. You have to conform to the principle, or the feedback creates consequences to that misalignment. So if, for instance, my wing has a little twist in it because I haven't paid attention to how I built it, just as my life has a twist in it because I'm not paying attention to how I'm relatingin fear, unworthiness or some kind of inadequacywhen I'm flying this plane it has some deformities that are exposed by not flying straight or by having other strange flight characteristics. There are consequences associated with our misalignment of principle, and this has taught me about my way of relating to life. My discomfort, my hurts, are consequences of how I'm relating. There's nothing in life that is penalizing me; I am a victim of circumstances only in how I'm relating, as opposed to how life is.
J: So we come back to the concept of attention, awareness and the ancient injunction to know thyself. It's really about seeing life as that mirror, seeing that everything is symbolic of an underlying issue, and looking for the issue, the missing piece, in us.
G: Yes, and seeing that what's reflected in the mirror is not you. We need to understand that we're in relationship to the mirror, but the mirror is not us. The mirror only shows how we show up. In order to see what is us, we have to look beyond the mirror, and in order to do that, we have to let go of our fixation on the reflection. Because we get hypnotized by what we see in the mirror. Seeing what's in the mirror is helpful, so that we understand what's getting reflected, and it's important to take responsibility for that. But ultimately, we have to look beyond the reflection because it's not us.
J: We have to look into the deeper truth of who we are.
G: And into the deeper truth of our presence: our capacity to make the difference through our relationship with life. It's who we've come here to be that's us, and this is what the reflection sometimes eclipses.
J: Is it really possible for people to learn and live these peace worker teachings? What would it take, another 10,000 years? How fast could this evolution move?
G: I believe that children already get it, that they have to unlearn this in order to be adults. That at the core of everyone's being is this knowledge that everything's interconnected, that their presence matters. But somehow, our society and our educational process, even our religious organizations, cause us to unlearn this. So I believe it's about intervening in that kind of society, lifestyle, paradigm, to bring people back into value and respect for themselves, the planet and all of creation, to teach them about the interconnectedness of all life and the consequences of living in the disconnect. And then applying those same principles to the challenges of growing up, fitting in and knowing your own worth, and building on that.
J: And, from the get-go, knowing who you are and who you've come here to be.
G: Yes. Just think, if a child goes through a process and knows who they have come here to be and is encouraged to hold that before them and have parents who hold that before them...I believe it's possible.
J: I believe it is, too. If you'd care to say, who are the people whose qualities you most admire?
G: The names change sometimes, but the qualities remain the same. Albert Einstein. My late wife, Nan. I have a few mentors and teachers such as my Grand Master E. C. Ahn. The people I've listed in my book are people who have gifted me with a glimpse of my own worth. The list grows more and more. You begin to have awesome relationships. You find that you're in awesome company as you begin to notice that you make the difference.
J: What soul qualities, then, represent who you came here to be?
G: Peacemaker, creativity, intelligence, fun, revolutionary.
J: What, then, is your impetus as a teacher and visionary? What is your desire, your hope, for this world?
G: I see that part of my purpose is to teach people that they make the difference and that the difference they make is significant enough to transform the world. Part of the struggle I have had is in demonstrating that for myself, and I've learned that everyone has the urge and ability to make the difference. So my life is about helping people rediscover that this is the outcome of who they've come here to be.
J: So, ultimately, you feel that there's hope for this mad, mad world?
G: (Laughter) Yeah. Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world," and there are aspects of the world that will continue to reflect the craziness. And there is a kind of urgency, because the consequence of not showing up is really a part of the invitation for more and more people to show up. So you can't buy into the idea that there's no hope, because with God all is well. There's a sense of urgency and at the same time a sense of possibility. That's where God-dependency comes in.
J: All things are possible, only believe, as the Unity song goes?
J: You've said that the way to dismantle what looks to be against us is to love, bless, do good and pray. That's a wonderfully simple formula that anyone can put into action, and it does align us, instantly, with the higher will. You pointed out that this is Jesus' injunction to the world, but I know that you're also very attuned to Eastern religion and philosophy. Do you find that these four steps will bring us back to our sense of wholeness and connection, whoever we are and whatever we believe?
G: Absolutely. You can take those four steps and make them psychological or spiritual. They cause us to be in the kinds of questions that shift how we're organizing our attention and awareness in relationship to whatever looks and feels against us. So, if our tendency is to push away what looks and feels against us, love means to draw closer. If our intention is to make this mean that it's against me, then to bless means to look for the good in everything. To do good means to take authentic action. To pray, in the context of how Jesus used that, is to lift ourselves into the awareness that everyone's doing the best that he can. To release those who are co-creators in our struggle to transform our lives, our suffering, we have to release those who are the apparent offenders because they're really caught up in the same dynamic as those of us who feel like victims.
J: And as you've said, the bottom line is that we're either the way of God or in the way of God, because God requires a field of infinite possibilities to work in.
G: Yes. The moment we require life to be a certain way in order for us to feel safe or okay, the field of infinite possibilities collapses. There is no denying the difficulties inherent in our spiritual unfolding. Yet, with God all things are possible. The key is finding comfort in the principle: while nothing and no one is against us, everyone is our Way.
Insights from Soul:
How To Flow With
Your Own Highest Good
Sometimes the ego fights the intentions of soul, much like a headstrong child, and puts us in conflict with our own highest good. What’s a body to do?
This happens less often for the person with a regular meditation practice, in which the busy little ego of the thinking mind gives way to the creativity, intuition and unity of the subconscious and unconscious minds. In other words, when we become more peaceful, the "little me" defers to the "big me." In this higher, expanded consciousness, we are able to look beyond appearances and perceive what is really true about us, our relationships and the nature of life here and beyond.
I am forever amazed at the different viewpoints held by my ego and my superego: it’s like night and day! So I keep going back to my soul for the truth, which makes life a lot easier to navigate. Recently, in the midst of ego conflict over a key relationship (stay or go, go or stay?), I asked my still, small voice for guidance and was gently reminded of why we are here.
You might also enjoy these insights on intolerance and judgment; the deepest dynamics of mind, heart and soul (which were entirely new to me); how these aspects of self attract our experiences; and how soul interfaces with Soul and universal Light to bring about personal enlightenment. Let me know what you thinkum, feel!
Q: Is this issue worth fighting over? What does it mean to my soul growth?
A: Nothing hinders the flow of good through thy life but holding on to fears of insufficiency and loss.
See how life moves forward into its destiny and becomes a testament to the Laws of the Universe, always attracting what is held in mind and what is desired by the soul? So it is with each life, so that only the persons, places and events change in accordance with the needs and desires of mind and soul.
Q: So we are serving one another?
A: All are serving one another, in some or many ways, for this is the Law. One sees in another what is in self or what has been and lingers still as a shadow of its former existence, yet still contains the energy of this beingness.
See how this works in particular. The yearning heart sends a message to mind, which begins to think of what is needed or wanted. Mind, in focusing on this issue, even if only on occasion, stores the idea in the deeper levels of mind, where it is held until it attracts like substance in form. The form comes, like a magnet, to the energy of thought and feeling, which recognizes its form unconsciously and welcomes it as a friend or foe.
Indeed, it is both, for the magnet consists of a positive and negative pole. Neither is the truth of the magnet, for it is both. The truth is its ability to be both: to push and to pull, to attract and repel toward or from it. It is the choice of each as to whether the lesson wanted and needed will be accepted or denied, according to the mastery or lack of mastery of the soul receiving it. The soul is ready for the lesson, for its message to heart was heard by the heart and carried into the mind. But there is always the potential and possibility that mind and emotions, fearing pain or loss, will reject the lesson. This is a choice. If the lesson is rejected, it will return in another form if it is needed and wanted by soul and the purveyor of its needs, the heart.
Q: Where are the emotions? Only in mind?
A: Nay, for the heart encompasses mind. Mind’s emotions are felt in the heart, whose energy declines or rises according to the attitudes and beliefs held in mind. These two share a common desire, on the deepest levels, to serve soul. But at times, feelings of fear and loss, held deeply in the frightened mind, create such deep-seated emotions that the heart, too, blanches in fear, on its lowest levels, and creates a physical effect that must be addressed.
Q: What do I seek, on a soul level, in this relationship?
A: The depths of intolerance within each human being and the extent of the denial that cushions it. Here is the root cause of all violence, hatred and war, not facts or events, but what exists underneath each soul’s perceptions of these. In each mind is the perception of being good and right, just and true, and yet if this were so, all would be in accord with self and the Father.
This is not so, for within each lies the shadow or the actual manifestation of an ill which corrupts the purity of the soul. It is this corruption which brings the soul here, into an environment of great disruption of the natural harmony. Each soul brings its own corruption and comes into contact with corruption of all kinds: resolved and unresolved.
Each life turns to Light, as the Earth to the sun, and becomes enlightened by each revolution. But see that darkness is equal to or greater than light much of the time: here the healing takes place, as the soul comes face to face with its own darkness and knows itself, eventually, to be greater than darkness and able to climb out of pain and corruption and does so in the Light.
For many, enlightenment is a slow, grueling process that cannot be tempered or hastened at all. The pain of learning is dimmed by substances, so that the learning is lost. For others, the pain creates a yearning for the Light that draws the soul into the Light of other seekers, where teachers are found.
Each soul, then, either fails or succeeds in its mission on Earth and either rises into greater light or greater darkness. Here is the summation of life on Earth: one becomes more of what one desires to be, on the mental level; more of what one is, on the physical level; and on the level of Spirit, becomes the summation of what mind and heart will allow it to be, at this particular point in its evolution.
Soul, therefore, is limited only by itself. If it is by nature stubborn and rebellious, the heart, mind and body will be this. If soul is a seeker of light, it will find light here, while the stubborn soul will find darkness.
But see, also, how soul is helped and aided by others operating in the fullness of Light and in soul’s own existence in the highest reaches of Light. When soul is in communion with Soul, then, all growth is possible and unavoidable, for the Light supersedes darkness as it is carried into the Earth plane by the intentions of mind and heart and the willingness of these to surrender to guidance and lessons called into being by Soul for its own sake.
Q: And my lesson here?
A: To be attached to nothing of the ego and only to the mind of the Soul, which sees no differences and only the Oneness in all things.
For, to allow this separation brings into being intolerance and judgment. These are the beings of darkness and of no use to the seeker of Light. Instead, allow soul to see the Oneness and to lead others to this Oneness, so that war and strife cease altogether on Earth.
Q: Are there instances in which we fight to be honored by others learning their lessons?
A: Not fight, dear one. We model the goodness attained and lived. We teach by example. If we fight, we teach that we ourselves have not learned to be peaceful by every meansan infinite array of kindness, consideration, softness, gentleness, love and compassion.
Q: And if we find ourselves in constant conflict with one particular person?
A: Then we are either being taught by soul and that person, or we are helping to teach, or both. Here is the tolerance in thy life: to teach and be taught in circumstances of great difficulty. When this lesson is truly learned, enlightenment will be obtained.
Q: Is this the last step of enlightenment for each soul?
A: It is, for peace in the face of turmoil and attack contains within it the ability to love and be compassionate in any situation. This is truly the absence of darkness and the presence of only light. Here is peace for each soul: a soul without fear, vengeance, unresolved hatred and hurts. Only when the body-mind is clear of all inner conflict may outer conflict cease. Here is the sign, the signal of enlightenment: a quiet joy, a love emanating toward self, others and God, flowing outward into the world and giving itself without burden and only great ease.
Q: Anything else?
A: Only that love is increased by inner silence and attunement to the guiding Higher Self. Here is the clearing work best done: first by harmonizing self with self. Make peace with the past, find hope and faith for the present and future. In these, treasure and enrich one’s love for self and humankind by giving and receiving the goodness in all of life. These are the harmonizing factors. Allow them to set thee free.
When the musical Joanne Rowden, spiritual leader of Unity in Edinboro, asked for the name of my Sunday talk at her church in western Pennsylvania, the words "The Awakening" leapt to the tip of my tongue. In that instant, I knew that this would be my own awakening into my singing soul and I would do it by talking, playing my guitar and singing songs and chants to illustrate our musical journey into Godto me, the Divine Harmonic.
This was no small aspiration, as my guitar skills are amateurish and except at a January retreat for 10 people, I’d never played in front of anyone but my family, much less sung solo on the stage of a beautiful church attended by superb musicians!
It’s funny, though, what you can do in service to God. The ego vanishes and the soul’s song just flows out of the body with a mind of its own. And so it was for me, in my musical awakening at this wonderfully welcoming church, where I also gave an all-day Saturday workshop on self-love, titled "The Heart of Love."
The workshop was a heart-opening experience, too, and I’m delighted to have been invited to return to Unity in Edinboro (unityinedinboro.com) on Oct. 18 and 19 to present a workshop on peaceful conflict resolution (Gary Simmons’ The I of the Storm) and also a Sunday afternoon workshop, the milepost in my Pathways to Consciousness series, "Letting Go of the Past, Weaving a Joyous Future."
If you’re courageous enough to listen to my song, performed Sunday, June 22, inside this beautiful, historic church, check here in early August for a link from this article. Namaste.
Emerson’s Best Advice
"Be yourself; no base imitator of another, but your best self. There is something which you can do better than another. Listen to the inward voice and bravely obey that. Do the things at which you are great, not what you were never made for."