Sunday, August 7, 2011

Bill Plotkin/Richard Rohr talk on "Nature and the Human Soul"

I attended this webcast in person in Albuquerque. 11 countries and many states were also watching. This has probably been my favorite talk of the whole internship. The nature and pycho-spiritual direction fascinates me and resonates. Nature has always been one of my deepest teachers, as it is to many.

Here are my notes from the talk:

Bill Plotkin speaking first:
There are nine initiations in life. The first is birth and the last is death.

Healthy cultures provide iniatory processes and rights of passage.

What is a true adult? A person who experiences him/herself as a member of the earth community, of the more than human world, who has gotten to the point in their life where they experience themselves as this member in almost every moment of every day. A true adult is also someone who has had a revelation of their unique place, through a mystical experience, in more than the human world. The third part of being a true adult means acting on that unique place and carrying that gift they are born with to the community.

How do we get there?

- we need a healthy culture. Just as a young elk need a healthy elk culture to succeed and become an adult elk. The need for culture is true of all mammals and birds to become healthy adults. For the other 98% of life on earth, a culture is not necessary. A caterpillar will become a beautiful butterfly without needing to learn how from a butterfly culture. We on the other hand need a culture to weave a phycho-spiritual cocoon for us to emerge from as an adult.

Only 10% of humans in contemporary western culture actually reach true adulthood. And those who do reach it are often in some sub or counter culture.

How do we weave a cocoon? (that works for contemporary western culture)

The way is embedded in our psyches. Healthy, evolved elders are needed to help children/youth grow into healthy adults.

It is about applying yourself to the stages of life between the rights of passage. Rights of passage 1) celebrates what is happening 2) lets the rest of the community know what is happening and that they will be called upon to support the young person who has had to let a part of him/herself die to pass to the next stage. 3) orients the iniator into what this new stage of their life will be like.

The rights of passage itself does not create change, it celebrates the change that has already happened.

Initiation 1) ends with a passage or transition 2) must go through some process before your being shifts 3) process is several months at the least and usually several years (the diagram of it looks like a ball of yarn not a straight line)

The initiation of the iniatory process is called inception. Types of initiation can be social changes such as going from single to married or the types can be psycho-spiritual changes such as child to adolescent through puberty because their entire world changes consciousness and their way of being in the world has shifted.

No process, no passage.

Most people only go through 4 of the 9 passages in life (including birth and death). Only birth is an age-dependent passage.

1) Birth is the first passage of course.

2) Naming. Naming is when a child can say "I". Autobiographical memory shows up. Naming is a change in consciousness. Its a crisis and a change in what the world is. It is not easy for the child and it is not easy for the parents. Every single transition is a crisis because we are dying to who and what we were.

3) Puberty. This is often the last passage that many people in our society go through before death.

We are going to go through these first three passages even with culture failing us. The next stages take culture to help. There are two developmental tasks of each stage. One is culturally-based and the other is nature-based.

4) Confirmation. In adolescence, a person must develop a persona that is both authentic and socially acceptable. Confirmation means you have consciously created a way of being socially present that works. So much of our society is about creating an image that is socially acceptable, but not authentic!

5) Soul Initiation. Where the individual is helped to die to everything that they thought they were meant to be. They find out their place in the ecology of the world they are meant to take, that we are born to take a particular place in ecology that is not culturally or job defined. You don't find out you are a phychologist or a teacher for instance [or a designer]. These are only the delivery systems for the mystery. We need to find the mystery. Its like the poem we were born to be, to live in the world, the conversation with the world.

This marks the shift into the second half of life. The second half of life is being the gift, to contributing to the evolution of the world. If we don't become true adults, there is no give-away and no give back. [that is why our world is in such a dire state]

After soul-initiation is a stage of developing the delivery system for your gift back, to learn how to give of yourself to the world.

6) Induction. The crisis in this initiation is about having to betray some of the most important people in your life. You realize you can't depend on your teachers anymore. You are being called to bring something into the world that does not yet exist. You will feel like you are on your own as you have never been before. You are creating a never before seen delivery system.

In a healthy culture, the elder is the most evolved status. In our contemporary western society, older people are the lowest in social status, and age no longer indicates their adulthood.

7) Croning. Soulwork moves through you, but now, your focus has to be on holding the soul of the world community. So that it sustains the community and helps it to evolve. Its again a crisis of consciousness.

8) Surrender. The crisis is now you have to give up any desire and ambition to do anything. You are a sage. Consciousness begins to be absorbed by you as you embrace universality and you do all kinds of things just by your presence here. Thomas Berry is a stage 8 elder.

9) Death.

Richard Rohr Talking:
Words and books can keep you from the authenticity and deepening of experience. Original participation in nature, from watching and being. From knowing you belong. From experiencing the natural cycles of dark and light, growth and death. Birth and death are the natural spiritual teachers of society. If you've never been present at birth or death you are missing integral experience.

How does transformation happen?

Pre-axial conscousness - pre 800 b.c. Seeing God in everything, seeing anima (soul) in everything. Pagan literally means those that lived in the country. Nature is not an object for consumption. Once you grant subjectivity to the natural world, it changes everything. Nature as subject existed in the Pagan world.

What is axial consciousness? Between 800 b.c. - 200 b.c. The zietgeist in the world at the time was starting abstract, conceptual thinking. Axial consciousness gave the world self-critical thinking, rational thinking, which led to industrialization and also to the birth of self-consciousness. So called civilization became about urbanality.You have to know yourself in order to die to yourself. You have to have created your boundaries to let go of your boundaries. And this is what is necessary to move to the second half of life. When you don't have the mystical levels of religion, you will always define things in moralistic levels such as saying for instance that you are better than them because you are heterosexual and you have not had an abortion. You can't see what you aren't told to look for. When all you have is words and not experiences, all you can do is argue about the words. Salvation itself started to become how "I" get to heaven. This way of thinking reflects individualism outside of the collective we are all part of. If you don't know how to live in crisis, darkness, ambiguity, the unknown, which many of us do not know how to do, we stay in a patho-adolescent culture.

The 2nd axial age: happening as recently as the 1960s. Until then, all was diverging, moving apart for 2000 years. Through globalization, convergence started happening. What is grounding all of us is that we are all standing on the same ground, breathing the same air, that is our connection. Thomas Merton in the 60's asking contemplative questions of creation. The rainbow is the covenant and reminder to God that he is in a love relationship with all that she has created. God creates things that continue to create themselves toward the divine image. This materialization began 14.5 billion years ago! Matter and spirit are friends, two sides of the same coin.

Question and Answer:

Q) Am I in the mystery? How do I get to the winter of life dying as I am at age 60 when I'm not there chronologically?
A) you are there just by the nature of your question. You are in the river already. Don't push the river. Its never too late to delve deeper into the mystery. We are never done learning.

Q) What do you mean by matter and spirit coming together? What is an example?
A) Matter and spirit have never been separate; that is the lie. you can't put together what is already together. Everything is an example. All is the convergence of matter and spirit!

Q) Are there any cultures we can learn from that are maturing their elders?
A) The answer is Yes. The cultures most intact are the ones most remote from the dominate western society. Martin Partel grew up in reservation and Guatemala with Mayans. If we know about the cultures well, changes are our western society has already undermined there integrity. We need to honor, learn from and respect what largely does not exist anymore, not necessarily go back to that way of living, but synthesize that way with western culture. We can't be indigenous people anymore so there is no point in romanticizing it. Don't want to settle for nature romanticism, but to transcend and include.

Q) What books can you recommend that will "gently" explain this to people?
A) Luve - "Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder
Also, books on the universe story as told by contemporary science with the sacred theme.
Books by Brian Swim and Thomas Berry: The Universe Story; The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos; and The Journey of the Universe
The first part of Bill Plotkin's book "Soul Centering through Nature"
Read "Soul Encounters" by Johanna Massey

Q) Give/describe an example of the identity of someone who has found their mytho-poetic identity.
A) Bill Plotkin: It is a series of phases where mystery is always unfolding. Bill's experience doing a 4-day wilderness fast in which a butterfly flew past and he heard his name/title/calling: cocoon weaver

[I think mine has to do with that dream I recently had, about Grace, and it encompasses environment, web as in network, and story design.]

Q) How do we find support in a society that is missing a high percentage of its true elders?
A) We have our own human nature. There are true elders and support in all cultures and societies. The primary teacher is the wild/natural world. Healthy cultures come from nature and we still have nature and wildnerness and our own deep souls. Find our feet in the natural world again and the doors begin to open. All things that God has made support our journey. Only in nature can you find the metaphors to find yourself, to name yourself.

Q) What is the difference between transrational and pre-rational?
A) Prerational has no critical element to it. Might set imagination loose. Can't go back to being 5 years old though, but you don't have to crush it. Transrational means having gone through complete consciousness; knowing things with a combination of rational and transrational.

Bill Plotkin recites from memory the poem "Prospective Immigrants" by Adrien Rich, a contemporary American poet.
"Please note, the door itself makes no promises. It is only a door."

The year beginning conference January 19-22 will be "Nature and the Human Soul" with Bill Plotkin and Richard Rohr in Albuquerque.

A fellow intern shared this with me

It means a lot right now. Reminds me many of us are going through the same. And we come out all right. The threshold is never easy to pass through.

Here is what was emailed to me by C:

"Seeing ourselves clearly

When we begin to see clearly what we do, how we get hooked and swept away by old habits, our usual tendency is to get discouraged, a reason to feel really bad about ourselves. Instead, we could realize how remarkable it is that we actually have the capacity to see ourselves honestly, and that doing this takes courage.

It is moving in the direction of seeing our life as a teacher rather than as a burden. This involves, fundamentally, learning to stay present, but learning to stay with a sense of humor, learning to stay with loving kindness toward ourselves and with the outer situation, learning to take joy in the magic ingredient of honest self-reflection"

excerpt from Rejoicing in things as the are, teaching by Pema Chodron, pg 57

And I get all of this. Last weekend in Red Mesa, I watched myself going back to old habits of withdrawing and not wanting to be around anyone. I felt like I was back in that time in Chile once with a group of people making landart. I had to shut my eyes and pretend to be asleep a lot of the time so I wouldn't get overwhelmed and so I would have the energy/resources for creativity. And I did, and the projects came. But what if they could come without the intense desire for solitude? Or is that just the magic ingredient where the incubation happens?

Anyway, in Red Mesa, I walked along on my own in the opposite direction of everyone else. Then I ran as fast as I could. Then I sat in the car alone and wrote for a while. Why the sudden shift from happy morning to troubled evening? Was it all too much to absorb? It was certainly a lot and I was tired.

I had been in Santa Fe just that very morning waking up so happy to a cool morning in the mountains and beautiful walk where 3 coyotes ran in front of us. From Santa Fe, I went directly into a Deep Time workshop in Albuquerque for 3 hours and wished that I had more time than 3 hours - because I needed way more time than that to go deep. It was more like surface time that gave me glimpses of what was underneath. The course began with the lovely question, what brought you joy this morning? I offered my story of the walk with coyotes in Santa Fe.

I'd had such a great previous night saying bye to some friends leaving NM, sitting on top of La Fonda at the Belltower Bar with the sun setting. There's a certain, strange feeling I have when I go back to Santa Fe now, because there is such an unknowing, but hopeful feeling about returning or ever going back. I'm not attached though, I'm just enjoying being there while I'm there in gratitude. Not being able to take it for granted, certainly does keep my relationship with it fresh.

Once I got to Red Mesa, all I wanted was solitude and to be somewhere no one else was exploring, where no one else knew where I was. I was in that kind of mood and I knew it. And no one else was that way, they were a social way. At least, I just kept quiet and did not say unkind things to people I would have only been projecting those things on them. As they always do, the feelings of irratability passed with time, with surrendering bringing me into a centered place again. The beautiful horses and the much needed rest, since I was fighting off a cold, quickened the process to only being out of sorts for a day.

A Different Way of Knowing

You think you know, but you never do
even when you think you do,
what will unfold for you.
Trust that where you are,
is where you're meant to be,
especially in times of uncertainty.
Reside here beyond fear.
Give up the clinging for security.
Open your heart wide,
and listen from there.
The visible unknowing
is a reminder that
You are never in control.
The phases of vulnerability
come and pass.
Let them
bring you into abundance.
Accept them
as blessings of humility.
lies in surrender.
Slow down
and let go.

- Jeanne 8/4/11