No one knows how to do it: The mystery of being human

by Terry Patten

Last Sunday, I was joined by poet, author and philosopher of the soul, Mark Nepo for a dialogue entitled “the Practice of Being Human: Seeing with New Eyes in the Best and Worst of Times.”

I appreciate Mark’s intense fidelity to some key values — life as a process and a practice which is all about learning, without end; felt experience and inquiry (as contrasted to solutions and answers); and a compassionate relationship to the ordeal of being human. Another is his poetry — his eloquent, evocative, vulnerable and candid sharing of his own deep experience in ways that so often resonate.

In his thirties, Mark was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma, and his struggle of healing helped to deepen his soul and shape his commitment to experiencing life fully while staying in relationship to an unknowable future. It also opened him to accept healing from all spiritual approaches and today he calls himself a “student of all paths,” studying both the common threads and the unique gifts that each school has to offer.

I asked Mark to share his way of practicing with the daily news in this “best of times and worst of times,” within the context of Beyond Awakening’s animating question:  how can higher consciousness enable humanity to rise to the challenge of our world’s increasingly urgent, complex and intractable crises?

Mark pointed to the perennial wisdom of Aristotle: “We have a right to censor a work of art or information if it makes us experience pity or terror without an inner necessity to do so.” Part of the best of these times is that we have instantaneous access to information and images from around the world. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but when catastrophic events such as 9/11 are replayed over and over, the effect on us can be numbing, paralyzing and destructive.

He also noted that it is always the “best of times and worst of times,” and the nature of the universe is for things to come together and fall apart. However, things that fall apart make the most noise. Things that come together, usually do so quietly. Everything is coming together and falling apart as it always has, but our media’s negativity bias has us transfixed by the misleading constant ruckus of things falling apart.

I thought it was important to acknowledge that while the nature of the universe is for things to come together and fall apart, there does seem to be a greater scale of crises at hand than we’ve ever faced. So I asked Mark to press a little deeper into the idea of being moved by the “experience of pity or terror” into compassion or action, rather than shut down.

Mark agreed with the necessity of action, and then spoke about residing in a balanced view of reality. One of the first practices he learned from Buddhism was the notion of seeing things as they are. This means seeing what is coming together as well as what is coming apart, neither through rose-colored glasses nor through the cloud of fear and anxiety. Until then, we don’t have the eyes to see what right action might be.

One of the richest parts of our conversation was when I asked Mark about the fact that he never seems to offer techniques or solutions as a part of his teachings. He points not so much to outcomes or ideals, but to ways of being with experience.

Mark explained this approach by saying that the most mysterious, amazing thing about being human is that no one knows how to do it, despite all the great literature and teachings. Therefore if we are humbly, fully “here,” we can start an honest friendship by admitting to each other that we don’t know, that in fact we don’t have a clue. But we can share our experience, when our heart broke, or we lost someone, or we stepped into wonder.

He quoted the mystic Mechthild of Magdeburg, “A fish cannot drown in water, A bird does not fall in air.” For human beings, whose gifts are so mysterious and varied, part of our journey is to discover what our “element” is. When we discover this, our gifts will manifest.

In the meantime, our dreams are there to exercise the heart and inspire it to inhabit its aliveness.

I invite you to the listen in to the full recording here.

Mark Nepo joins Terry for Beyond Awakening’s 100th Show — The Practice of Being Human

by Terry Patten

I’m excited to be joined by Mark Nepo this Sunday, March 29th for a dialogue we’ve titled The Practice of Being Human: Seeing with New Eyes in the Best and Worst of Times. I’m especially grateful and touched because this will be Beyond Awakening’s 100th episode, and Mark epitomizes the kind of teacher and thought leader who can illuminate the way beyond awakening to transforming the world.

Mark Nepo is beloved as a poet, teacher, and storyteller. He has been called “one of the finest spiritual guides of our time,” “a consummate storyteller,” and “an eloquent spiritual teacher.” His books have been translated into more than twenty languages. In 2013, Mark’s Two-Part Interview with Oprah appeared on Super Soul Sunday on OWNTV.  In these interviews, Mark discussed the lifelong lessons from his cancer journey twenty-six years ago, and why he believes listening with a full heart is the key to living a vibrant and meaningful life.

Though he has gone deeper than most both as a poet and as a spiritual teacher, he no longer separates these two identities. He considers himself “a student of all paths.” During his cancer journey he gladly accepted help from people of all faiths. If a Catholic priest offered to pray for his healing, he gratefully said yes, even if it was on the heels of having received spiritual support from a native American healer or prayers from his Jewish family members. He now feels called, “to illuminate and praise the common center of all paths” because he feels that every person today needs to develop their own personal practice.  

Mark is concerned with the enormous environmental, social and political challenges of our time, but he still believes that the whole human experiment is innately hopeful. He resonates with Vaclav Havel’s way of talking about hope — not “as the belief that things will turn out well, but the conviction that everything will have meaning no matter how it turns out.”

After contemplating the animating question of this series — how can higher consciousness enable humanity to rise to the challenge of our world’s increasingly urgent, complex and intractable crises?— Mark quoted Charles Dickens’ opening to A Tale of Two Cities, saying that our time, like every time, is both “the best of times and the worst of times.” 

As one thing intensifies, it all intensifies. He points out that life comes to us whole, not neatly sorted into piles. The joy is inextricably bound to the pain. Somehow being human is just hard enough that we need each other, ensuring the journey of love.

But what we are challenged to do, individually and collectively, Mark says, is simply to really be here, to truly inhabit ourselves. It is only right here that we can find the source of our trust, courage, joy, and compassion.

I’m very happy to be diving into honest conversation with this deep student of the process of walking the human journey of the soul. I hope you’ll join us!

About Mark Nepo

As a poet, teacher, and storyteller, Mark has been called “one of the finest spiritual guides of our time,” “a consummate storyteller,” and “an eloquent spiritual teacher.” His work is widely accessible and used by many and his books have been translated into more than twenty languages. He has published fifteen books and recorded nine audio projects. Recent work includes The Endless PracticeInside the Miracle, his latest book of poems, Reduced to Joy, cited by Spirituality & Practice as one of the Best Spiritual Books of 2013, a CD collection of teaching conversations based on the poems in Reduced to Joy, and Seven Thousand Ways to Listen, which won the 2012 Books for a Better Life Award. He became a number one New York Times bestseller with The Book of Awakening. Mark has appeared several times with Oprah Winfrey on her Super Soul Sunday program on OWN TV. He has also been interviewed by Robin Roberts on Good Morning America. The Exquisite Risk was cited by Spirituality & Practice as one of the Best Spiritual Books of 2005, calling it “one of the best books we’ve ever read on what it takes to live an authentic life.” Mark devotes his writing and teaching to the journey of inner transformation and the life of relationship. He continues to offer readings, lectures, and retreats.

HOW TO PARTICIPATE:

Sunday, March 29th at 10:00am Pacific; 11:00am Mountain; 12:00pm Central; 1:00pm Eastern

*Find Your Local Time

Please Note: There will be a limited number of lines available on the live conference call, so we encourage you to listen online if possible. To make sure you can get through by phone, we encourage you to dial in early.

ACCESS INSTRUCTIONS

  • To listen live by phone, dial: 425-440-5100 (alternate #: 501-707-0312)
  • Then, enter Access Code: 272072#
  • To listen live online go to: http://InstantTeleseminar.com/?eventid=64394724
  • To download the audio after the teleseminar is complete go to the Beyond Awakening Audio Page

Join the Dialogue: About one hour into the dialogue, we’ll open up the lines and you’ll have the opportunity to interact with us directly over the phone or via instant message. Here’s what to do:

To interact live by voice, dial into the conference line number and wait until we ask for a question from someone in your region, or

Send us your question via instant message in the teleseminar window on your computer

Send us your questions and comments before or during the live dialogue by posting them on our Beyond Awakening Community Facebook page

We look forward to your attendance!

Sincerely,
The Beyond Awakening Team

Where’s the light when higher functions start to fall apart?

by Terry Patten

Last Sunday on Beyond Awakening, we broadcast my conversation with Thomas Hübl entitled, Higher Consciousness Under Fire: Where’s Your Samadhi When the Bombs Start Falling?

Thomas Hübl is a fresh and original contemporary spiritual teacher. His work focuses on what he calls “spiritual competence” — increased awareness and freedom in relation to the subtle animating energetics that create the gross world and everything we experience. He works with both individual and cultural shadow with a special focus on inner cultural healing. He has organized and led several large healing events in Germany focusing on the Holocaust, bringing together thousands of Germans with many Israelis, including Holocaust survivors, to acknowledge, face, and heal the cultural shadow left by the Holocaust.

He lives in Israel with his partner, Yehudit Sasportas a prominent Israeli artist, and their baby daughter. When I learned that he had experienced a series of air raids during last summer’s 50-day war between Israel and Hamas, I felt relieved that he and his family had come through safely. And also curious. I wondered how a practitioner like Thomas, whose work is about tuning into and evolving individual and collective spiritual competencies and healing cultural shadow, had processed the experience of being under bombardment.

The hope for practitioners like me has always been that these predicted crises will open up windows of opportunity for positive change. But what if the disruption is so overwhelming that instead we respond from the least free, most contracted part of ourselves?

During our dialogue, Thomas and I explored this topic transparently through his experiences during the 50-day war, where he sometimes awakened with just 90 seconds to gather his wife and toddler and get them all to safe shelter. I’ve highlighted a few of Thomas’s observations below, but I also invite you to listen in to the full recording here and consider this soberly inspiring perspective on what it takes for higher developmental stages to hold in times of global crisis.

On applying his own teachings to himself during the air raid:

I could feel in my system how the existential fear starts to jump and at the same time there was a sense of presence—years and years of contemplative and meditative practice…I experimented with how much of my work I could use in this situation, keeping an open field, grounding the situation first in myself and then in my surroundings and also staying connected to the collective dimension. I was able to stay present and not dissociate.

On the power of the collective field to lower the center of gravity in us all:

I’ve never experienced such a collective survival instinct and…contraction in the following weeks—the seeming polarization in politics, in demonstrations, and in the way I heard people speak about it. Some people could manage to keep their value system and perspective quite high, [but] the higher functions of inclusivity, compassion, taking someone else’s perspective started to fall apart.

On the stability of higher developmental stages in times of crisis:

The question I’m asking now after this situation—is it really true that stage developments are so robust? Or do they start to crumble? How stable is that perspective if it’s fairly young, versus “primitive” functions that have been there for thousand of years?

On our ability to deal with collective, large scale trauma:

When you are in these conditions for a long time…there is a deep impact in the human energy that has serious consequences…this crystalizes itself and generations and generations of lifetimes are needed to deal with this. We need to find more effective ways of working with these things on a collective basis. We are still in the Stone Age with how we deal with collective wounding.

On the practices we need to hold our higher stages under collective duress:

The shadow work and the integration work is so important so that we can really trust that the foundation that we live on is stable, [also talking] to emotionally mature people around us who are able to take responsibility in those moments; and to have a higher practice in place that will enable us to stay open and connected and combine the inner science with the outer science so that we are able to do all the actions and projects that are needed in order to establish another way of living together in communities. At the same time to be able to get the energetic work going that helps us to transform situations, to break cyclic patterns.

On what makes the Wise Hero:

Being heroic means that my presence is stronger than my fear and being wise means that my light is stronger than my fear, so if light and presence (the causal and the higher subtle functions) are still on while I’m in a crisis as a human being, that’s what I think makes a wise, heroic leader.

 

Higher Consciousness Under Fire: Where’s Your Samadhi When the Bombs Start Falling?

by Terry Patten

Last November I asked Thomas Hübl to share what he learned in Tel Aviv during last summer’s 50-day war between Israel and Hamas. On Sunday, we’ll be broadcasting that conversation in a dialogue that we’ve entitled “Higher Consciousness Under Fire: Where’s Your Samadhi When the Bombs Start Falling?

Thomas and I have held public conversations on Beyond Awakening twice before, so many of you know his extraordinarily spontaneous way of working with consciousness and subtle energy — particularly his capacity to tune into and uplift the collective field, the We-Space.

He’s been living with his family for the past several years in Tel Aviv. When I realized that he’d experienced a series of air raids, I asked him about it. I learned that he was sometimes awakened with just 90 seconds to gather his wife and toddler and get them all to safe shelter. He told me what he observed about the way this affected the collective psychic field, and he described some of the fascinating and troubling dynamics of how the subtle field responds to existential threat. Just chatting informally, we realized that we wanted to bring this to others in a public dialogue for Beyond Awakening, and I’m excited to share it with you now.

We both realized that this was a rare opportunity, a teachable moment, and a shared inquiry. How did a life-long practitioner like Thomas, whose work is about tuning into and evolving individual and collective spiritual competencies, process such an experience of personal and collective trauma? How was he affected? In what ways was he free? And what did he learn?

On Sunday, you’ll hear Thomas describe this moment—when years of contemplative and meditative practice co-existed with existential fear when his family was under bombardment, experiencing the visceral immediacy when their fragile human lives could be changed or ended by an errant missile. Thomas says that in some ways it was an extraordinary moment for him because of the learning and insight that emerged. As the missiles exploded, he stayed present without dissociating, observed what unfolded before him, and investigated the questions about inner development that came up as he watched a city under bombardment. Some of those questions were:

How stable are our higher capacities in extreme life situations?

How stable is my inner connectedness, my expanded worldview in these situations?

Do they disintegrate and collapse both individually and collectively?

Are “higher developed” individual practitioners dragged down to the lowest common denominator by the existential fear of the group field?

When we consider our global crisis, including global warming and the predicted food shortages that may result, these questions become especially crucial.

In the aftermath of the bombing, Thomas observed how collective fear arises and reinforces—and even boosts— individual existential fear. He saw an opportunity to discover more consciousness and spiritual resilience in the face of collective regression. There are practices that can help sustain higher levels of consciousness even in such extreme conditions.

Both Thomas and I teach practices for stabilizing higher stages of consciousness to both create healing on the planet AND to keep the center of gravity “higher” in times of crisis. Thomas will be offering a free online seminar The Mystical Principals of Healing: Integrating the Past—Presencing the Future which taps into healing as a cultural activity and its potential for working with and transforming collective shadows and traumas. You can learn more about that here.

I had a wonderful time talking about our lifetime journey into living more and more completely as love, our very engine of survival, in my free online seminar  Activating the Integral Heart: 4 Keys to Unlocking the Hidden Powers of Your Heart Intelligence.  In it I led Stephen Dinan in a 5 minute (or less!) daily Integral Heart Practice that was created to help you activate and integrate all the dimensions of your being from the heart, so you can stabilize the higher states of innovation, creativity and inclusiveness that your heart intelligence generates. You can access that here.

Integral Theory shows that higher states of consciousness naturally come and go while higher stages of consciousness are robust structures. But there are many intricate connections between our states and stages of consciousness. I invite you to tune in to Sunday’s broadcast as Thomas and I explore the soberly inspiring reality of what it takes for higher developmental stages to hold in times of global crisis.

About Thomas Hübl

Thomas Hübl is a contemporary spiritual teacher of uncompromising clarity, which brings the enlightened potential of a new “Culture of WE” into the light. His workshops and trainings invite people to experience a deeper dimension of self-awareness and individual responsibility. Radical transcendence of ego opens the door to deeply authentic expression, service to the world and stable relationship with the absolute. Experiencing a driving inspiration to evolve, people give their gifts to the world in concrete ways.

Thomas Hübl was born in Vienna in 1971. As a 26-year-old medical student who was also very interested in bodywork and related therapies, he felt a strong inner calling. He took the radical step of following this inner wish, abandoning his studies and spending the next four years in retreat in the Czech Republic. During this time he did almost nothing except meditate and explore the spaces of inner consciousness. Looking back on this time, Thomas speaks of a fundamental opening that took place.

After returning to Vienna, he started offering one-to-one sessions. His ability to touch people very deeply and encourage them to take a look beyond what they usually see soon led to invitations to lead larger workshops.

He founded the immensely popular Celebrate Life! Festival and has organized and led several large healing events which have brought together thousands of Germans with many Israelis to acknowledge, face, and heal the cultural shadow left by the Holocaust. He founded the Academy of Inner Science whose programs teach not only on personal transcendence, but also active responses to the postmodern challenges of the human condition.

HOW TO PARTICIPATE:

Sunday, February 22nd at 10:00am Pacific; 11:00am Mountain; 12:00pm Central; 1:00pm Eastern

*Find Your Local Time

Please Note: There will be a limited number of lines available on the live conference call, so we encourage you to listen online if possible. To make sure you can get through by phone, we encourage you to dial in early.

ACCESS INSTRUCTIONS

  • To listen live by phone, dial: 425-440-5100  (alternate #: 501-707-0312)
  • Then, enter Access Code: 272072#
  • To listen live online go to: TO BE ANNOUNCED
  • To download the audio after the teleseminar is complete go to the Beyond Awakening Audio Page

Join the Dialogue: About one hour into the dialogue, we’ll open up the lines and you’ll have the opportunity to interact with us directly over the phone or via instant message. Here’s what to do:

To interact live by voice, dial into the conference line number and wait until we ask for a question from someone in your region, or

Send us your question via instant message in the teleseminar window on your computer

Send us your questions and comments before or during the live dialogue by posting them on our Beyond Awakening Community Facebook page

We look forward to your attendance!

Sincerely,
The Beyond Awakening Team

The Passionate Cry of Love and Freedom

by Terry Patten

This past Sunday’s Beyond Awakening featured my recent conversation with scholar/mystic Andrew Harvey entitled The Ways of Passion and Illumination.”

Over the past year I have been engaged in a series of “sacred conversations” with Andrew which have led to our deciding to teach together March 4-8 in Berkeley California. There’s a wildness and a joy in our connection as two passionate mystics and activists who feel called to convene a sacred, ceremonial ritual at this time and in this space.

This latest sacred conversation is an exploration of what is organically emerging for us both including the true nature of Love; the (mostly) not talked about spiritual controversy between the ecstatic mystery teachings vs. the “cooler” nondual approaches; and the extraordinary new model of teaching that is emerging that will inspire our March teaching event.

You’ll probably be drawn to have a moment of solitude after listening to this audio, in order to integrate the intensity, the passion, and the insights you may have had. I invite you to be in that solitude with the self-compassion necessary to truly connect with the sense of possibility that opens up in sacred conversation; and the willingness to see innovation and creativity in that space and to choose it for yourself. That is the ultimate meaning, the destiny of both the illuminated mind and the passionate heart.

I’ll share some excerpts of our conversation below. But I invite you to listen in to the full audio.

On the primacy of love:

The task of a whole lifetime is to grow in our capacity to love. Love is not just something to say “yes” to, and to affirm. It’s the sternest master that asks everything of us and that you never fulfill completely. On our deathbeds we ask…did I love enough? This apprenticeship is never going to end. I will die still learning to love better. But oddly this makes me feel incredibly loved.

-Terry

You can’t begin this love affair with the Love that is creating everything and think that you’re going to remain in control of anything, or even know who you are by the end of the love affair. It is going to change everything, every single moment of your life.

-Andrew

On the risk of spiritual bypassing by the “cooler” nondual approaches:

A great deal of the way in which they’ve constructed the path is as an avoidance of it. At the core is the denigration of the sacred feminine. That’s why the path that they are on, wise though it is, is so potentially dissociative and disembodied; and so not concerned with the burning agony of injustice in the real world, so turned away from the screams of the poor and the broken animals and burning habitats and polluted seas. It is time in the name of the divine mother that we reclaim the…sacred passion of the awakened heart.

-Andrew

On teaching together:

There is deep, sacred work to be done with one another. It is this passionate meeting of hearts in the subjective domain in which we come alive as illumination and come alive as loving passion. That becomes the sacred marriage out of which we become activists and that is what we want to share with people. That’s why we decided to teach together.

-Terry

Inspired by Leonard Cohen’s song “Love Itself”:

Radical freedom and awakening has tended to be the basis, it seems to me, for a profound and culture-wide spiritual bypass of love. And that’s why we’re advocating so strongly for love even though on another level we simply open the door and “let love itself be gone.” Both are true .…

-Terry

The more I live, the more I worship the heart of the Buddha and the heart of the Christ together. I try and attune my evolving heart to the depths in both so that a marriage beyond anything I can control can take place within me of ultimate detachment to ultimate care.

–Andrew