July 9, 2017
Letting Newness Enter the World
Bill Isaacs: How does newness enter the world? Human beings are great recyclers of old stories and familiar perspectives. These are tenaciously held onto, frequently for generations. Such stories and outlooks are passed down, and with them, habitual ways of functioning—of thinking, feeling and behaving. Everyone has experienced the magnetic pull of such patterns, whether we grew up in a small town, were part of the fraternity in a university, are members of an organization, or are connected to a spiritual tradition. Our families are also primary conveyors of these inherited habits and cultural memories. These become crystallized and land in our experience not only as dominant but also as taken for granted. They are often not even seen, or if they are, no alternative seems safe or obvious. Embedded in all of this invariably are also distorted habits and attitudes, which are also taken for granted. As it was once put, the sins of the fathers are visited upon the sons (and daughters). We've each been the recipients in our own lives of these norms and traditions.
Human beings are in a peculiar situation. We live in a world of undivided wholeness, an already existing state of unified Being. And yet humanity, ourselves included, have operated without much direct experience of this state, in part because of the accumulated weight of inherited ways of thinking, feeling and behaving. It all acts as a veil that blocks awareness and direct contact with Being. We, along with many others, are learning to emerge out from under this condition to gain vision, to begin to be aware of the fact that there is a fundamentally different possibility for human beings. The compulsion to uncover a new state flows ultimately from the source of Being itself, present within each person, actively working its way to the surface through the dense pile of wet leaves that has preoccupied human consciousness.
There is a larger unfolding process moving, a step-by-step process of awakening. The emergence of an enlarged perspective, which is ultimately the perspective of Being, doesn't really need to be cluttered up by complex or obscure language, dense weighty thoughts, obscure secret rituals and so on. The mystery is being dispelled in this age; the mystery of the natural, already existing true identity that is each one's birthright. Now while this is very easy and simple to state, for many people of course it still seems quite obscure and out of reach. The route to this expanded experience for each of us is the continuous acceptance into experience of the new view, in every moment, and at whatever age and stage of life.
The artists have an angle on this problem of the emergence of new understanding and insight. The challenge of seeing with new eyes and speaking with a new voice was embodied in the myths of old as a muse—a goddess who would come and bring inspiration. The poet William Stafford writes about this in a poem called "The Muse":
I glanced at her and took my glasses
off—they were still singing. They buzzed
like a locust on the coffee table and then
ceased. Her voice belled forth, and the
sunlight bent. I felt the ceiling arch, and
knew that nails up there took a new grip
on whatever they touched. "I am your own
way of looking at things," she said. "When
you allow me to live with you, every
glance at the world around you will be
a sort of salvation." And I took her hand.
How does uniqueness, newness, enter the world? While our minds may not know in advance, what we can know is that our very Being, our unique point of differentiated Life, is the source of newness in our worlds, in every moment. I Am the source of newness. In a world that recycles and grinds and struggles, our unique presence opens the door.
Now this is not an arrogant way of seeing things but exactly the opposite. The humility to recognize that what is present in oneself bears honoring is the trust that must be for each one relearned. The traditions and habits human beings have lived under have led to the view that what is to be trusted are sources of authority that are received from the past or are external to oneself. Taking a different approach requires humility, but it also requires backbone. To remain consistently present to the unfolding current requires a continuous reinvention of oneself, a continuous willingness to let go of what one thinks is necessary, and to listen to the potential that has yet to emerge. I find myself constantly challenged to do this and find myself often with opportunities to invite others to do the same thing. Yet I only have as much to say about this as I have lived it in myself.
There is a choice to be made in each moment, one that requires at times some courage. This could be described as the process of learning to live in heaven on earth. Human beings have lived in the twilight, in the shadows. There many stories of creatures who enjoy the dark more than they trust the light. I think it is no coincidence that there has been a proliferation of novels and films about this.
One dimension of the relearning process has to do with relinquishing habits and long-standing orientations that are anchored in our emotional attachments. We tend to be fixated on our emotional states. Yet the willingness to do something about how we feel—to not accept the recycling of our own feelings is an essential component in this transformational process that must take place inside each of us. And while awakening to the reality of one's unique voice is a step, what comes next, and is ongoing, is the continuous purification of one's own heart.
I'm sure you've noticed that sometimes just when you think you have everything all figured out, the rug gets pulled out from under you. The process of moving towards mastery was once described not as a matter of living in a permanently fixed state of pure Being, but of discovering more rapidly and recovering more quickly when one is off center in order to move with clarity. The continuous adjustments that are required to learn to live in an awareness of the wholeness of Being while also in the world requires moment by moment attention and typically willingness to let go of one's latest bright idea—humility in other words.
There has long been the view that if one were to experience a more transformational or transcendent state one should not be much involved in the world the way it is with its earthly material orientation and distractions. One should go instead to isolated meditation centers located in high mountain sites, to places apart. These were sought and perhaps needed to allow new consciousness to emerge, and no doubt still are. However the new awareness seeking to find its way through willing minds and hearts is the fact of the oneness of heaven and earth. Whatever level of investment we may have had in the more "practical" end of things or the more "spiritual" end of things, our mission is to discover and to make real within ourselves the reality of oneness in moment-by-moment experience.
I find myself increasingly in contact with people who are attracted to and magnetized by the notion that they could function in a fundamentally different way. They are seeking to provide leadership for their own consciousness. One way to put this is they are seeking to be in the world but not of it. Sometimes this has been understood to mean being out of the world—to have very little real contact with the world. But I don't think that's what was meant by this phrase. To not be of the world is to not be controlled by the dominant traditions and patterns, the history of one's own heredity or organization or national pattern and yet to allow something new to emerge within it just as it is. The acceptance of each circumstance exactly as it without judgment and yet with perspective begins to open a portal into which newness can pour.
There have always been individual leaders who have carried the flame of integrity, who have sought to bring a new energy into the world, and who represented to their highest vision the things I've been taking about. What is unusual in this era is that there are many more people who have begun to step into a place of genuine authority, of real openness and interest in the source of their own Being. As much as we emphasize the individual dimension of leadership, we are in an era where a collective precedent is being set, an era where people are discovering that we are in this together. We are far more aware of one another through the medium of social media in ways that were never before possible. Much of that is superficial and often quite crude. There is a generation of people, the so-called millennials and younger ones, who are growing up with digital media and instant connection at their fingertips. They have altered their consciousness to live within what they imagined to be a pattern of wide relatedness. All of this is reflective of the underlying reality of wholeness.
The reality of that experience can emerge easily. People can feel deep connection to one another, often instantly, and do not need a lot of explanation as to why. The opportunity beyond this however is to listen for and discover what might be possible and multiplied as a result of more than one of us practically carrying the understanding of Being. The use to which our shared awareness might be put by the Whole is an emerging frontier. It's not a solo experience. There are dimensions of consciousness yet to be unlocked that are part of the state that is seeking to show itself again and which we now have the privilege of experiencing. That awareness includes certainly the whole of the planet, all living animate and so-called inanimate forms and much beyond that too.
Ultimately the manifestation of this reality when it comes to human experience is the opposite of friction and tension and conflict. It is the emergence of the reality of love, something as natural as awareness of a broader perspective than what first appeared. The conditioning of human consciousness, the dense pile of leaves that we each inherited, is dissolving and as that occurs we find ourselves truly together.
We are the source of newness in the world. This is not because our minds particularly know what is supposed to happen next but because of the humility and willingness to listen, to be present, and to love. What does emerge has authority, and is quite able to handle the apparent power of the dominant state. There is a notion that the true authority of love is somehow weak or "nice." I recall words to the effect that we are here to bring a sword, not peace. The sword is the sword of truth, a flaming sword. The Tone of Life is intensifying in human experience and with it the fire of transformation. That brings change—in us and in the world around us. I bring this to my own consciousness to compel it to do what it is here to do. I don't know what anybody else has to do. I have my hands full right here. We could each say that.
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