Category Archive for 'Practices'

Embarking on the Spiritual Journey: Mindfulness and Depth Psychology

  Pema Chodron has written: “Embarking on the spiritual journey is like getting into a very small boat and setting out on the ocean to search for unknown lands.” This quote beckons to how mindfulness and depth psychology serve complimentary journeys, in that both invite us into active agency with our inner landscape and a […]

The Creative Dance of Mindfulness and Depth Psychology

The Creative Dance of Mindfulness and Depth Psychology

New Year Blessing

Center of all centers, core of cores, almond self-enclosed and growing sweet– all this universe, to the furthest stars and beyond them, is your flesh, your fruit. Now  you feel how nothing clings to you; your vast shell reaches into endless space, and there the rich, thick fluids rise and flow. Illuminated by your infinite […]

Imagery International Conference Oct. 21-23, Villambrosa Retreat Ctr

Imagery International Conference 2016

Namaste

Upcoming Presentations

I just came back from having conducted an experiential workshop on the Image of the Desert at the Jungian Society for Scholarly Studies conference, which was truly a pleasure to attend. Here are a couple of upcoming conferences at which I will be co-presenting. Yoga Meets Depth Psychology Conference, Pacifica Graduate Institute Public Program, July […]

Gifts of Life

gifts of life

Sacred Earth

http://www.sacredearthfound.org/#!about/c24cg

May You Be Peaceful

  May you be peaceful

Imagine Forgiveness: My Appearance on Dr. Kim Taylor Show

I thought I might include a statement I recently sent to a student who connected me to another radio interview that included Cornell West. Her gesture was in reference to a discussion that took place in class regarding the horrendous massacre in the Charleston church and about authentic forgiveness.

During our class discussion, I did not want to make assumptions about the authenticity or non-authenticity of gestures that others make, but to open the window to some discussion about forgiveness in the face of heinous acts and to honor the “practice” of forgiveness regardless of whether it is fully realized or not. I perceive forgiveness as occurring in a spiral-like process, with ebbs and flows along the way and I generally consider it to typically involve a long process that includes acknowledging and addressing both anger and grief.

In many cases throughout our history as a human species, people have been murdered based on the color of their skin. The sense of superiority and separateness that drives these types of acts is a horrible failure in our emotional, intellectual, and spiritual development. The violence that pervades our society is OUR violence. Not one of us can stand away from it and point the finger at “them,” because if acts of violence are in our human bandwidth, then this is our problem systemically. As John Beebe said once, if we could come up with an accurate definition of evil, it would be the “undermining of others.” It is exceedingly despairing to see, over and over again, the undermining, torture, and murder of others in so many different contexts, including but not limited to color, ethnicity, religion, philosophical or theoretical orientation, disability, sexual orientation, gender, property… the list goes on.

I will quote from journalist, Ericka Schiche, who shares some of West’s views, but adds another element. I believe she frames the quagmire astutely with “Well intended forgiveness is actually being manipulated, as it always is, when a black person dies so violently for reasons which suggest black skin is itself perceived as a weapon. Forgiveness in itself has unfortunately been twisted into a narrative; not by the families, but by mainstream media, the systems in place, politicians, and the public. Forgiveness, which is a right and also a necessary component of healing—a moral bridge between devastation, solemnity, and true peace with freedom attached—should never be used in the way it’s being used now; as an escape hatch to a neverland where the deep rooted problems of this county are never fully confronted and never resolved.” (www.salon.com “Why America Needs to Reject the Charleston Massacres as Dangerous Narrative of Forgiveness”

One of the things that stands out to me in her appraisal is her statement that the avoidance of confrontation and bending of personal experience are being done “not by the families, but by mainstream media.”

Yes, the gesture calls us to something deeper, as was discussed on the radio interview. West is a man who, based on his own skin color, can speak for himself regarding oppression, prejudice and implicit and explicit violence regarding race. He is also in a position to speak from a place of critical and academic authority, given his scholarly background as well and strong stance of advocacy and educating others about cultural history and disparities. In the radio interview, West advised against engaging in thinking that is “uncritical.” It was intriguing to hear his thoughts and his worthy consideration of the “question of timing” and that he felt that the forgiveness was “premature.” However, to take these families’ tender state and label the spontaneous gestures that emerged as “pathological empathy” or as “cheap forgiveness” rather than “deep forgiveness” seems a bit ridiculing and insensitive to the families, as if he is mocking them. I had not considered that the intention to move into a place of forgiveness, immediate or not, might be considered a form of Christianity that, according to West, attempts to “try to tame black people”. In this context, I certainly get his passion and I do appreciate his intention to courageously speak out to challenge the status quo and express advocacy. In fact, I had a visceral reaction when I heard that, as I was hit by a sense of guilt and shame for having overlooked such a possible contextual phenomenon in my initial valuing of the families’ social gesture. It is also my sense, though, that West may be crossing a fine line between, on the one hand, speaking up for an issue that truly needs to be addressed (which is commendable) and on the other hand, possibly undermining individuals’ and their families as if they don’t have the intelligence to speak for themselves in the context of their own meaning-making around Christianity and forgiveness.

For some people, it is difficult to conceive of experiencing appropriate rage, grief, uncertainly, despair, fear or feelings of revenge while at the same time wanting to make a social acknowledgment of the intention to engage in the practice of forgiveness. Many fear that if forgiveness takes place, abuses will be forgotten, trivialized, dismissed or even worse, condoned. Thus, any actions that do not support this assumption are viewed as counterfeit. Might we consider that some people, regardless of color or creed, work hard on themselves for many years to deepen their relationship to spirituality (as well as their relationship to themselves and others) such that they may be already functioning from a forgiveness meme or worldview, or as Ken Jones, the Buddhist activist, might call it, a “higher third”? Alternately, might we consider that in a brief moment when the heart is split wide open, individuals might leap into a deeper and more expansive layer of complexity that defies logic, particularly within the numinous and energetic resonance of a group engaged in prayer and meditation? My personal opinion is such that if we can explore our own comfort level with ambiguity and uncertainly and stay away from absolutes, we are less inclined to be “uncritical” in our thinking.

It is unfortunate that our media often sensationalizes events and distorts the essential meaning of things. With that said, I see that there are two sides to the media hype coin around the families’ responses to the Charleston violence. On the one hand, there is the obvious exploitation, yet again. On the other hand, because of technology and the media, we have opened to larger dialogues, as difficult and diverse as they may be, about symbolic representations and sociopolitical frameworks from which to reconsider meanings and take action regarding the renunciation of representational objects such as the confederate flag.

In the radio interview, Reverend Amy Butler had some good things to say as well, such as considering that to “speak publicly with grief” may well encourage the “voice of remorse from a nation” in regard to the pervasive racism in our society. Have Dylann Roof and his family (and others who choose violent proclamations and actions based on beliefs of supremacy) been “let off the hook” as some suggest? I don’t think so. Are any of us, in the larger spiritual scope of things and the context of profound unconsciousness regarding our shadows, “let off the hook”? We really don’t know the answer to some of these larger questions. Was the gesture of forgiveness in Charleston offered too soon? Perhaps… Perhaps not…
Life is complex. And grace does happen!
I will close with inviting us to ponder a quote from the mystic and poet, Rumi:
“There is a way of breathing
That’s a shame and a suffocation
And there’s another way of expiring,
A love breath, that lets you open infinitely.”

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