Sometimes it’s said that when God closes a door, it opens a window. We often wonder why certain things are not working out according to our plans, according to our image of how things ought to unfold. We think this way only when we lack the flexibility of perspective and understanding that allows us to see we’re in fact part of the awesome power and the vast design of life.
To what degree do we actually experience this? To understand one must enter into the sacred place of Being in oneself. This place is a sanctuary for the experience of Being on Earth. It’s also a crucible. My consciousness is the crucible in which the transformations that are required can take place. As that happens there’s more space, and so more comes to us to handle. But it all happens right here in me.
Human consciousness has mirrored what has been in the subconscious, which has not allowed much fresh circulation of life. This has produced a contracted and painful state, one where the rational intellect has desperately sought to find the cause of the difficulty. One primary factor that dominates in this state is fear. There seem to be many causes for fear. Some already see another stock market bubble emerging, another looming global financial crisis. There’s much talk now of a “four-degree world”—the amount global temperature might rise—something that would cause devastating consequences to much of the planet. And there are of course many apparent causes for disturbance and fear closer to home.
But whatever the apparent cause, what arises in us is a set of feelings. What does one do with those? The first temptation is to put an explanation on them, to assign a cause. One notion in psychology is that it’s necessary to bring these things out into the open and name factors that produce pain. Often as one does that the feeling can be released. To some degree that can be helpful. But in the end what’s required is something very different.
We need a change not only in our emotion or thinking, but in our experience of Being itself. This change arises as one comes to see and understand the origin of fear. That origin is not in all the external factors we see or imagine have occurred in the past. Fear arose as the result of our moving out of connection and identification with Being, with the Tone, with the Word. The original movement out of that identification, sometimes referred to “The Fall,” was enormously consequential. It introduced fear into human consciousness. It then also produced many other impacts, and there has been a domino effect of reaction ever since.
In human history there are stories and reports of painful traumas and cataclysms which no doubt were terrifying. Every once in a while these recur on the planet. The question arises as to whether there are people now present who are no longer moved by the feelings that arise at such times because they are firmly grounded in the true state of Being, and know that while fear might be felt, it’s no longer in fact in control, and consequently there’s no further attempt to pin a reason on it. As this happens we participate in the wider circulation of life.
What will it take to introduce new dimensions into human consciousness, such that we do not simply recycle the existing mess? There’s an old image from the Bible about a ladder that was set up on the Earth. Its top reached the heaven where, as it was put, “the angels of God [were] ascending and descending on it”—Jacob’s ladder. This image depicts the incarnating of Angels, of Beings into this realm of things, and their subsequent return to the heaven or higher plane in a continuous flow. The image also outlines the ever present circulation between the invisible and the visible. There are many dimensions of this image we might consider. However, what is required of us is to occupy a place of sacredness, the holy place, so that this circulation can in fact intensify.
One of the things that become evident as one does this is that there’s in fact a great clutter in human consciousness—in one’s own to be precise. These are factors that we have allowed to persist. Perhaps they were once appropriate, but now they need to be pruned, removed, released, so that the flow of life can be more full.
Comfort zone and clutter
One of these factors has to do with what we speak of as our “comfort zone.” Every human being creates some kind of comfort zone, most of the time without realizing it. While we might have thought of our experience as particularly expansive, it may be useful to ask ourselves, is our world as large as we think? Is there a boundary beyond which we have been reluctant to move, a limit beyond which we imagine we would experience pain? The challenge is, of course, to step up, to change one’s thinking about the so-called discomfort or pain and move through it. A comfort zone can arise through the habit of clinging to what is familiar. For example, I’m quite certain that there are too many shoes in my closet! The immediate and sometimes “mundane” factors around us are actually a reflection of what’s going on in consciousness. How cluttered is it?
There are other levels of clutter to consider. In each of us there are polarities in which we can sometimes get caught. This appears as the tendency to swing mentally and emotionally from one extreme to another. Sometimes we pass through the middle, but don’t notice because we’re going too fast. The polarities exist in the way we define and frame our experience. Stepping out of our emotional attachment to either extreme can lead to an experience of liberation and relaxation, where we aren’t trying to work out or sort out either extreme. There is no need.
Finally, clutter can arise by our clinging to patterns of relationship or habitual routines. Doing this prevents new patterns of connection from emerging. Being intensely focused on one set of activities, even ones we imagine are very useful, can actually cause us to miss other possibilities. Sometimes what needs to happen is a disturbance in that fixed pattern. Something uncomfortable transpires; sometimes something we imagine is unfortunate. But invariably those shifts, even if they are painful, allow life’s circuitry to make way for something new.
Our ambition certainly is to be more graceful in allowing these shifts to occur. To allow the acceleration of the circulation of life, we need to deliberately make room for it, for new connections and new patterns of activity, and to let the ones that need to pass away actually do that. This does not mean we now should go on a hunt to eject things from our lives! There’s a natural process here, but it only occurs if we make space for it to happen.
Mirror neurons and empathy
Recently there’s been a development in the field of neurophysiology—the discovery of something called mirror neurons. It appears that there’s a certain class of flexible brain cells that act to “mirror” experiences outside of ourselves so that we can connect to those experiences without having to experience them directly. Some are suggesting that these cells may lie at the core of how we know empathy, for instance. Certain neurons fire when we experience something, and then mirror neurons fire in the exact same ways within us when we see others experiencing those things. Some scientists have begun to even suggest that this mechanism is the way human culture evolves—through the building of connection.
However we might see these cells in a different way, as a metaphor for our own function. What needs to be mirrored within the body of humanity is not the horizontal factors of culture and emotional connection (especially if this means we’re recycling factors of fear arising from the subconscious), but new factors emerging from the invisible dimensions of Being—the magic of life. You could say that we individually can act as mirror neurons within the body of humankind, introducing and radiating the intensification of life’s flow. This is an experience available for anyone.
As we are identified with Being and this is our focus we can deliberately relinquish the clutter within our own consciousness. We then know the place of Being, and a deep reassurance in the intelligence of life, the intelligence of love. There’s a generosity in the circulation of the river of life. Relaxing into that we begin to know real power. Things will absolutely sort themselves out on this basis.
|William Isaacs is the founder and president of Dialogos, a consulting and leadership education firm based in Cambridge, MA, and Chairman of the Board of the Dialogos Institute, a not-for-profit action research organization. He is a leading authority on collective leadership, the design and development of organizational learning, and the practice and theory of dialogue. His 1999 book, Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together was featured in Fast Company as a guide to “the secret of good informal conversation,” and has been acclaimed by a variety of reviewers as the definitive guide to profound change through speaking and listening. email@example.com|