Integral Enlightnment: What Motivates Us To Evolve? - Postcard from Week Six
- Dear Friends,
I'm writing this "postcard" from the sixth week of my nine-week course Awakening To An Evolutionary Relationship To Life.
I hope you've been enjoying coming along with us for the ride. It's hard to believe we're two-thirds of the way through this journey!
So far in the course, we've learned to distinguish between three different parts of the self -- the ego, the transcendent self and the evolutionary self.
We've also practiced specifically stepping into the perspectives of these different parts of the self -- in order to better understand how the world looks when we see through their "eyes."
Through this, we've come to recognize that each of the parts of the self we've now experienced has a very different orientation toward the events and circumstances of life.
This is important because it enables us to see that our responses to life are largely determined by the perspective we're holding.
I'm sure you've seen this in your own experience. We all respond very differently when we relate to life from the narrow, limited perspective of the ego than we do when we're relating to life from the expansive perspective of the evolutionary self.
Simply put, when we learn how to move between these different "selves," we discover that our relationship to life changes radically when we align with a more enlightened part of the self.
But there is another, equally important discovery that emerges when we learn how to move freely between these different parts of the self.
We discover that we have a choice as to which part of us we're going to align with in each moment.
This may sound simple and, in some sense, obvious. But it's implications are far-reaching.
It means that, even when our ego is "triggered," even when we are experiencing strong emotions and internal confusion, we can choose to realign ourselves with a higher, more enlightened perspective.
In other words, we can choose to live and act from the evolutionary self regardless of how we feel.
And this changes everything.
In realizing that we can choose which part of the self we're going to align with, we come upon an extraordinary sense of freedom and empowerment.
We discover a capacity to stand free from the ups and downs of our feelings and the ups and downs of life.
We learn what it means to no longer be a slave to the ever-changing whims of our ego.
We realize that, in every moment, we can actually choose to live our life in alignment with a more enlightened part of the self.
And this is where we bump into yet another interesting point about our human nature.
At this point in the journey, many of us are surprised to find that, even when we begin to clearly see our potential to choose enlightened responses -- and to say no to our less evolved motivations -- we aren't so sure we want to leave behind the comfort and security of our familiar habits.
Hard as it may be to admit, we may continue choosing to act from the patterns of our unenlightened past -- even when a better choice becomes clear.
For example, we might become aware that we can choose whether to express a bad mood or strong emotion, shrink from a healthy risk or challenge due to fear, or react defensively to feedback. And yet even after we've become conscious of an enlightened alternative, we may return to "business as usual."
Then we have to face the fact that even though we're free to choose a more conscious response, we're not always motivated to act on the best and highest choice. Standing at this new crossroads, we find that comfort and familiarity often prevail.
And so the question that next presents itself is: at any given moment, how do we get the motivation to consistently make the more enlightened choice, whether we feel like it or not?
This question isn't exactly foreign to most of us. It's really the core question of spiritual life -- in fact, it's threaded throughout every area of life. "Where do I get the motivation to do what needs to be done, to act on the highest good I can see?"
Many of us are especially familiar with this question in specific contexts, such as "How do I motivate myself to make the best food and exercise choices?" "How can I motivate myself to leave this toxic job or unhealthy relationship?" "What will get me to prioritize my art?" or "What will get me to speak up (or keep quiet) when I know I should?"
In the context of our own growth and awakening, we find that this critical question applies to all these choices and many more: Where can we get the will, the energy, and the passion to stand strong in the face of this ancient momentum of ego that's been compelling humanity forward for eons?
And at this point in the course, most of us are staring this reckoning squarely in the face.
Fortunately, there is a place we can go to find a higher, more compelling motivation.
In my experience, the deepest and most powerful motivation awakens when we learn how to step beyond the motivational center we're used to -- that of the ego -- and into a much more profound and resilient source of motivation in ourselves. That's what we spend all of Week Six exploring.
The simple truth is that the motives that put us on our spiritual or personal growth path to begin with are probably not enough to get us to actually evolve all the way beyond ego. To go beyond this point, we need a far more compelling purpose.
Up until this point on our path, most of us have been driven by what we might call "personal motivations." In our spiritual seeking, when we get down to it, most of us are seeking some kind of deeper self-fulfillment.
We want to be more peaceful and serene, happy and joyful, centered and grounded, or even more "successful" -- however we define that for ourselves.
As we engage in spiritual practices and do our personal work, we may catch glimpses of meaning and purpose beyond those goals -- possibilities of awakening to a much higher purpose and a much deeper source of meaning. But most of the time, we fall back into a spiritual striving aimed at our own gains.
In and of itself, it's natural to want our own betterment, for our own reasons. And yet, if this is our only motivation, we run into a crucial problem when we attempt to bring about genuine evolution beyond ego.
Because the crux of the matter is that most of us will not make that radical, giant leap only for ourselves.
If we're primarily driven by a desire to simply feel better, achieve inner peace, or make a better life for ourselves, we won't be willing to make the stretch that's really required to live this fully enlightened existence.
Why? Because even though we may know it's in our deepest spiritual interests, it often won't feel very good to make that choice a lot of the time. It might feel hard; in some cases it might feel counter-intuitive.
Ultimately, of course, being aligned with your highest self all the time feels better than good. But in a given moment, the enlightened response might ask a lot of you -- much more than your smaller, personal perspective is comfortable with.
From the perspective of the ego, being asked to let go of familiarity and certainty, take risks, or face every truth in order to live with radical authenticity will feel quite daunting.
When "the right thing" requires you to speak up, take a leap, or not get your way, it might be uncomfortable indeed.
For some part of us, the most enlightened choices may always feel like the "wrong" thing. So, to make them, we need to be rooted solidly in an intention that extends beyond our personal desire to grow and change.
The good news is that this deeper intention is already part of the perspective of the evolutionary self. And, as we've clearly established at this point in the process, the evolutionary self is already a part of us -- one that's available and accessible at any time.
The evolutionary self already contains within it all of the enormous care and passion for goodness and truth that's needed to propel us to higher choices. Its perspective is firmly grounded in priorities about what really matter in this life -- priorities that naturally supersede the "smaller" preferences of our comfort-seeking ego.
What we need to do in order to guide us to enlightened actions and choices is to vividly experience and connect with these riveting, resonant, undeniable motivations of the evolutionary self.
And to support our direct connection to these potent motivations that live in this part of us, in this week of the course we go on an experiential journey that penetrates to the heart of them.
Our vehicle for this journey is something I've come to call the Four Spheres Of Enlightened Motivation.
These "spheres of motivation" are four distinct dimensions of the evolutionary self that I've identified. We could call them "motivational centers."
Each of the four represents a particular viewpoint on what life is about and what's most important. Each is a different way of seeing and exploring what we care about most when we take on this perspective.
In the course session, we "unpack" each of these four spheres. First we examine its perspective (what it cares about, what matters from its point of view, what it prioritizes in life). Then I invite everyone to step fully into that point of view with me.
From there, we explore questions about each one, deeply reflecting on life from the vantage point of that "sphere."
To give you a taste of this process, in today's "postcard" I wanted to introduce you to the first of these four spheres, which I've come to call Awakening to our Interdependence.
The concept of interdependence or interrelatedness is something that most of us can probably relate to. It's an idea that, as spiritually-minded people, we probably already understand or believe in to some degree.
There are certainly many ways to think about the interrelatedness of all life. In the physical realm, we know scientifically that the biological world is a highly interdependent web of ecosystems; we know that each species can cause a ripple of impacts on many other species.
Many of us also already believe that we're in some way interconnected at the level of consciousness. From our deepest spiritual moments to glimmers in everyday life, we've all had windows into the reality of our "oneness."
We may experience other people's feelings and emotions empathically, and we can feel the transmission of a spiritual truth from another person. And from a practical point of view, in today's world it's fairly natural for most of us to view ourselves as a "global village," knowing that whatever happens in the world impacts our whole planet.
But in spite of all this, how deeply have we considered the implications of this truth? Although most of us probably have considered and already support this idea, do we really live it -- day to day, moment to moment? What would that mean?
If we wholeheartedly embrace the reality of our interconnectedness, and allow its implications to "get under our skin," it can powerfully influence our choices. But all too often, we don't. Instead, it remains a nice conceptual ideal.
If we look honestly at it, we recognize that for all of our spiritual beliefs, most of us still tend to relate to ourselves as a separate entity negotiating life with other separate entities.
As a result, we tend to think that our lives are basically our own to do with as we please, as long as we don't do any real serious harm to anyone else. We think this life is our life.
Yet when we look deeper, we see that we are always profoundly interconnected, interrelated and interdependent -- in both visible and invisible ways. And, therefore, everything we do is always having an impact one way or another. We're all affecting the whole all the time.
In terms of the visible ways this is true, for example, think about what happens when you go out into the world in a bad mood. It comes through in your tone of voice and your facial expression, and anyone you interact with experiences that mood and is impacted negatively by it.
Conversely, when someone enters a situation in a very open, awake, conscious, and positive space, we feel uplifted. Most of us have had the experience of how another's energy and presence can really move us in one direction or another.
That's just the tangible, visible part. If we also acknowledge that consciousness is interrelated, then this awareness gets subtler and deeper still.
We begin to realize that even the internal choices we make -- the thoughts we identify with, the emotions we empower, the motivations we align with -- are having a very real impact on the whole.
Something truly profound happens when you allow yourself to take in how completely and extensively we affect everything by how we interact with life.
When you fully grasp the extent of our effect on the whole, you might even say that, in a sense, there are no private moments. There is no "time off" from being and acting as a conscious human being -- if that's truly your aim.
Since you're always impacting the whole, your life is not your own to do with as you please -- not if you want to live a fully enlightened existence.
I realize this may sound radical. But just consider this viewpoint in terms of its power and potential regarding our motivation.
If you were to take on this point of view wholeheartedly, what you would discover is this: any choice to stay rooted the perspective of your small self, your limited beliefs, and your personal compulsions doesn't impact just you. It impacts the whole world.
This means that choosing to contain or consciously manage our less enlightened impulses -- so that they don't get out into the world and do harm -- is a momentous choice indeed.
What's even more exciting and empowering is that this works both ways. Just as we have the potential to affect everything negatively (and the choice to temper that), we can also use this power of choice to be a force of unimaginable goodness and enlightenment in the world.
That's the potential of aligning with this motivational "compass." And if we really allow ourselves to be touched by the immensity of our potential impact, we begin to be compelled from deep within to change in profound ways -- for reasons that are far beyond ourselves.
It's important to understand that taking on this perspective doesn't mean you don't have a personal life where you do most of the normal things we all do in our lives.
But your entire life can be lived through a new lens, framed by the question "Am I adding momentum to the upliftment and evolution of the whole, or am I adding momentum to the habitual unconsciousness of our unevolved nature? Am I impacting the world in an elevating, evolutionary way? Or am I responding in a less enlightened way, and impacting the world from there?"
This focus on our interdependence is just one of four "reflective lenses" through which we begin to consider our impact -- so deeply that we're compelled to shape our actions and our lives around what we see.
Through every one of these motivational perspectives, we can discover an overwhelming care and passion that opens possibilities that might have otherwise been out of reach.
Best of all, the power of these motivational sources is completely accessible to us in every moment. And through ongoing reflection and inquiry, they can be cultivated.
The more we reach for them, stretch to embody them, the more powerful our intention becomes, and the greater our momentum becomes for making that choice.
If you want to take this into your week along with my class, I invite you to try this exercise.
As you go through your week, begin experimenting with the truth of our interdependence. In conversations with others, tune in to any sense of separation you might notice. See if you can see through it to the deeper reality of our permeability, our shared consciousness.
Allow yourself to rest in this truth of interdependence. Allow it to become your perspective and feel the motivation that arises from it. See if you can sense into the reality that "my life isn't my own. There are no private moments. I'm always affecting the whole, for better or worse. Everything I do matters in a much larger way than I can even imagine."
Ask yourself when you're standing in this perspective:
See how your experience of life begins to change from this perspective.
- What's most important to you? What do you care about most?
- How does this perspective shift your sense of the importance of your life, your choices and your actions?
What do you feel compelled to do? How do you feel compelled to live?
I'm really enjoying hearing about your experience of engaging these inquiries from the "backstage" view of this journey. Please continue to connect with us on our Facebook page. If haven't already, simply click on the "Like" button and let us know what's happening for you.
It's a pleasure to share these insights from the course with you, and I really appreciate your interest in conscious evolution and our work.
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'May we live in peace without weeping. May our joy outline the lives we touch without ceasing. And may our love fill the world, angel wings tenderly beating.'