Steven Kalas on “finding onself”

http://www.lvrj.com/living/search-for-your-true-self-takes-a-lot-of-digging-187646401.html

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Search for your True Self takes a lot of digging

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I spend the weekend with Father Richard Rohr, a Franciscan monastic. A Roman Catholic priest. Author of more soul-shaking books than I can count. In my “inner circle” of formative, Steven-shaping mentors and heroes. All sponsored by The Stillpoint Center for Spiritual Development, an inspired oasis of advocacy, refreshment, beauty and inspiration that surprises in this desert of caliche, cards, craps and cacophony.

Rohr’s new book is “Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self.” I don’t so much read Rohr’s books as I drink them. Chug them. Like a thirsty man just come in from doing yardwork on a hot summer day.

Already but not yet. This is the paradox of authentic selfhood. I am already Steven, but still learning how to be wholly and authentically Steven. Which is to say that much of what I am reacting to in myself – positively or negatively – is not very important. A distortion of me. The False Me. A collection of images and ideas, most of which were grafted into me by parents and then wider culture. Which is to say my False Self is not my fault. Yet, it is my responsibility. If I’m serious about authentic selfhood, the journey must include radical accountability for the mayhem created within me and around me by my False Self.

So, there are two of me, competing for playing time. I’m like a basketball coach who keeps his best player on the bench while watching his clumsy scrub grasp, claw and flounder.

By the way, all of this is true for you, too. Rohr has his finger on a universal truth here. A paradoxical truth. We are beings, yes, but still learning to be human beings. Everyone shapes a False Self. Everyone must search for (or, if not, eventually stumble upon) a True Self.

It’s not like this is a new idea. Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931) said it this way in “The Prophet”: “But your god-self dwells not alone in your being. Much in you is still man, and much in you is not yet man, but a shapeless pigmy that walks asleep in the mist searching for its own awakening.”

Modern psychology points to this same necessary journey with words such as psychological development, individuation, differentiation, etc. C.G. Jung said the archetype of The Self must be “mined” from the unconscious. Mined? This must be why Rohr used the metaphor of the “immortal diamond.” Wanna find your true self? Get ready to dig for a long time in the dark. There will be some harrowing moments, I assure you.

All major world religions come down to this necessary journey: that the False Self is discarded, relinquished or torn from our grasp by suffering, humiliation or eventually mortality so that this deeper, True Self might emerge. Jesus, for example, kept returning to this admonition of paradox: “If you want to find yourself, then you must lose yourself.”

Sometimes I think spirituality, whatever its “brand name,”  comes down to this: deciding to be conscious and intentional (that is, to participate actively) in a process of transformation that’s going to beset you sooner or later anyway. I’ve worked in hospice. Not a lot of False Selves lying in those beds. Though I wouldn’t recommend waiting until the last two weeks of your life to begin the work of selfhood, I’ve met folks who do. It’s … not pretty.

Every time I see Richard Rohr, he says something that makes me wince, blush, say “yikes,” then I’m filled with relief. This time Rohr says, “When you get your feelings hurt, it almost always means you’re struggling with your False Self.”

And I wince. And blush. And I say “yikes.” I get my feelings hurt a lot. I suddenly see a world with everyone held hostage, walking on eggshells lest they hurt Steven’s feelings. And I see and feel the absurdity of my self-importance in that equation. And then I start to giggle with the relief of knowing. The laughter is healing. Yep, it’s a wonder I have any friends at all!

But I do. And I give thanks for the people who refuse to crumple before the onslaught of my False Self. For now I see my True Self but in a mirror dimly. But the real me is in there somewhere. And I’m not giving up.

I keep on digging in the dark.

 

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-ed-bacon/a-change-would-do-you-good_b_2534070.html

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There’s a well-known song by Sheryl Crow called “A Change Would Do You Good.” It’s about a woman tired of a man whose lifestyle reflects his shallow values, and its insistent and joyful refrain is inspiring. A change would do you good! Yes indeed it would, you sing with a smile.

Yet change is the ultimate challenge.

What happens when you suspect that you are on the wrong path or in the wrong place — whether it’s part of a toxic marriage, an untenable job situation or a religious institution that is not authentic to you? How do you become emboldened and inspired to make changes, even if it means offending people close to you or jeopardizing your financial well being or social standing?

With change there always comes risk. How can we be courageous enough to accept that risk and make the changes we know, deep in our hearts, we need?

Life Is a Transformational Journey

We have a responsibility to ourselves, to our families and to the world to embrace that which is life-giving for our unique, differentiated selves. This invariably means that each of us is on an adventurous, sometimes nerve-wracking transformational journey. We must remain true to that journey of transformation no matter how much resistance we receive from without and within.

Change is frightening. It certainly was for me when I was a young man seeking my way. So many of us would rather stay in situations that we know are not good for us because we are afraid of change. Stasis can be oddly comforting; it is an evil we already know.

But when we accept a situation in which we are stagnant and do nothing to change it, we are shortchanging ourselves, our loved ones, and the world. Ultimately, it’s untenable. Stress will manifest physically or psychologically. Our bodies will eventually rebel, telling us we must change. So we must be courageous and empower ourselves in order to embrace our true potential.

Sweet Pain

Sometimes I wonder if life is not about what kind of pain we are willing to embrace.  There is a pain I call “sweet pain;” this is the pain that is stretching us, leading us to health — a phrase I borrow from my yoga teacher: “Stretch to the point of sweet pain, but no farther.”

On the other hand, there is a toxic pain which comes from living a life that doesn’t have your name on it.

In making decisions regarding our own actions, fear can invade us after Truth has pointed the way toward an authentic, differentiated life grounded in love. That fear confuses us, infecting us with the most perplexing doubts. Yet every time fear tempts us to abandon course, the Beloved again invites us to practice the Habit of Truth and to be open to change.

The pattern of charting our authentic course — marked by wavering confidence and external resistance, and culminating in a deepened commitment to that which has our name on it — has been a familiar experience to all spiritual seekers, including Jesus at the time of his temptation in the desert.

We cannot banish fear and pain from our lives. But if we commit to being awake, we can become conscious of our deepest motivations, thus asserting love’s primacy over fear with this awareness. When we are grounded by love, fear diminishes.

When we tolerate sweet pain to inch closer to a place of health and wellness, we can avoid the excruciating pain of a life in stasis, a life unlived, a spirit unfulfilled.

The Next Step

When you are afraid of change, when you are complacent in the status quo or asleep at the wheel, the very first step you must take is finding Stillness and reaching deep inside yourself to unmask your truth.

You are loved and capable of love, and this gives you immense power. Trust that fear or pain diminishes in direct proportion to the generosity and love you extend to yourself and to others.

Ask yourself this question: Is the risk of alienating someone or jeopardizing financial well being, social standing and personal relationships really so much worse than living an inauthentic life? When we are not true to ourselves because of fear that we will be judged harshly or hurt others, we shrink into a more constricted and constrained version of ourselves. It’s hard to tolerate this for long.

Certainly, be as respectful as you can of the opinions of others, be as kind as you can to those who oppose you, and always stay connected to those who are resisting you as long as it doesn’t mean opening yourself to abuse.

But above all, be yourself and stay the course of your deepest self, maintaining the flexibility to make mid-course corrections.

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chava-tombosky/lance-armstrong-syndrome-do-heroes-exist_b_2518269.html?utm_hp_ref=religion

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Lance Armstrong Syndrome: Do Heroes Exist?

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As Lance Armstrong’s latest Oprah interview hits the network, it has me thinking deeply about heroism and our society’s obsession with labeling people into perfect role models.  While like many I am saddened to hear about Lance’s use of performance drugs, I am far from devastated as a result of not being a particular follower of his. However, I can deeply understand the devastation and loss that comes from the disappointment in being let down by a role model. I’ve been fascinated by the negative and deeply disturbed response he has gotten as a result of his departure from honesty that took away his heroic title.  Mainly, I am interested in addressing one of our society’s biggest hurdles in becoming evolved human beings: the fixation with superheroes.

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I think one of our generation’s biggest problems is the “Lance Armstrong syndrome,” otherwise known as society’s obsession with an unattainable belief in the heroic man. With perfectly airbrushed, high-gloss magazines, super hero movies and commercial ads depicting synthetic perfection, its no wonder we have become skewed in our ability to maintain a healthy realistic approach to human beings who tout heroic titles. We have become obsessed with the belief that certain people who are classified as society’s perfect image are not capable of falling.  And when that fall takes place, after we have worked so hard to elevate that person whom we believe is our hero that now sits high on the pedestal of ideal, we are completely at a loss, devastated and even cynical to heroism as a result.  The truth is I want to have my cake and eat it too. I want to believe the heroic man exists, but I also don’t want to become disillusioned when I’m left disappointed. Does it really have to be all or nothing? Can’t we have heroism without the devastation and the disappointment attached when things go wrong? Is there really one person who can depict it all without contending with their fallible human vulnerabilities? Of course not! Maybe it is these labels causing our own downfall and forcing us to believe in an unattainable simulated figure perfectly airbrushed to sell copy. There must be a healthier way to believe in heroism all together.

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Heroic figures have been rediscovered many times in my life. I have been left angry and other times I have become weary over the possibility of their existence at all. But I think there is a way to look at heroes without all the calamitous emotion rearing its head forcing us to believe it is completely nonexistent. 

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I know I am always inspired by those folks that really mess up their lives but have the guts to take it back even when it seems all has been lost. But what about those who never take it back? What about those who don’t own their mistakes? The lost and disenfranchised heroes who really mess it up for the real ones? How do I stay inspired with those guys around? It is not always easy to achieve perfect. It is complex. I refuse to believe heroism is completely impossible. But I’m pretty positive perfection is. Maybe those figures that have let us down remind us that heroism is a state of mind. If we look deeply at ourselves we can find a little hope that heroes can exist, probably in every one of us, but not as a blanket rule or even as a perfectly high glossed figure devoid of any and all human errors to contend with.

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Rather, heroism should exist as an attitude, not as a person. It should be treated as a condition. Sometimes that condition perseveres, and sometimes it expires. The ones that fall the furthest after being infected by this “condition” have the hardest climb to make. Maybe you can’t take a pill to bring it back, but you can certainly find it again.

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I’m not excusing heroes who fall nor am I defending their mistakes; I’m simply taking society to task on insisting we force our version of heroism down their throats. Maybe if we can re-brand the “hero” title we won’t be so devastated when the next president has an affair, the next golf athlete ruins his marriage, or the next road-racing cyclist takes performance drugs to earn a massive title. Let’s not get stuck on whether heroes exist or not; let’s get stuck on realizing heroic moments prevail, that way we won’t be so disappointed and readily discount it all when the curtain comes down and we see the man behind the hero.

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Maybe a true hero is one who climbs that mountain and then falls, brushes himself off, looks in the mirror, sees his faults, admits them, lowers his head in humility, and then gets back up stronger, more determined, with a little less ego in the mix. Maybe heroism is not one person, but moments in a person’s life that are fleetingly heroic. I haven’t watched Lance’s interview yet, so I can’t judge on whether his words were an attempt to retrieve what little dignity he has left or an honest approach at real amends and rediscovery, but just in case he has decided to do the interview for the sake of making true amends, just in the off chance he is taking this moment to realize his human failings, will I try to glean a small lesson from his moment. Maybe this is his true heroic moment and not the moment he falsely won the Tour De France. For I do believe we all have it in us to become a Lance Armstrong, a hero who falls and then does some Oprah interview in an attempt to better ourselves so we can get back up, if that is indeed his true intent. If it is not, then once again we may have to look elsewhere to find our hero moment from Lance Armstrong.

 

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