Leaderless teacher

Not for the first time Dr Bill Wooten set me on the trail of another good book today – and I’ve tracked down Ecopsychology a collection of essays that includes one on The Way of Wilderness by Steven Harper. I’m looking forward to its arrival here in a day or two – having a sense that I’ll be as taken with the collection as I was when I read the late, great Dr Gerald G May’s The Wisdom of Wilderness seven or eight years ago.

It’s Lent, of course, and every year, and for that reason, I have an eye out for some new insight on wilderness and what it might have meant for the Hebrews, and later for Jesus of Nazareth, and might mean for any of us, wherever in the world we are, in our own personal growing, in fractious, stirred and evolving times, physically and metaphorically – refugee camps and modern-day exiles in mind on the one hand, and the miracle of the International Space Station on the other!

Harper is writing about opt-in experience of course – a privilege not presently granted to refugees, who are where they are because they had little or no other choice. Dare we hope that the “leaderless teacher” (again, physical or metaphorical, outer or inner work) may instil something of “faith, hope and love” in any and all who encounter her? I need to hope and so dare I must …

When we are truly willing to step into the looking
glass of nature and contact wilderness, we uncover
a wisdom much larger than our small everyday selves.
Uninterrupted and undisturbed nature takes care of
itself. One of my favorite guidelines for facilitators
comes from Esalen Institute’s cofounder Richard Price,
who used to make the same distinction I am making here
between therapy and practice with respect to Gestalt.
Price liked to say, “Trust process, support process,
and get out of the way.” He frequently added, “If in
doubt, do less.” Personal evolution then becomes like
nature; instead of being a struggle, our process,
uninterrupted and undisturbed, becomes unfolding
growth. Wilderness is a leaderless teacher; there is
no one preaching change to us. The only personal
transformations that occur arise from within ourselves.

Steven Harper
Ecopsychology

And that’s how the Hebrews, and the man from Nazareth, and many others before and since, came upon such a deal of Wisdom to be shared – on the other side of wilderness encounter.

Velcro or Teflon?

I’m a long-term devotee of Franciscan friar Richard Rohr’s many books and (enthusiastically recommended) daily meditations. He’s currently writing a series under the banner Alternative Orthodoxy and today’s piece hits a large nail squarely on the head. I hope that this “taster” will encourage readers (of all faith traditions or none) to follow the link to the full piece, and maybe go on to subscribe to the daily emailed Meditations.

Dan O’Grady, a psychologist and Living School student,
told me recently that our negative and critical thoughts
are like Velcro, they stick and hold; whereas our positive
and joyful thoughts are like Teflon, they slide away. We
have to deliberately choose to hold onto positive thoughts
before they “imprint” …

Neuroscience can now demonstrate the brain indeed
has a negative bias; the brain prefers to constellate
around fearful, negative, or problematic situations. In
fact, when a loving, positive, or unproblematic thing
comes your way, you have to savor it consciously for at
least fifteen seconds before it can harbor and store
itself in your “implicit memory”; otherwise it doesn’t
stick. We must indeed savor the good in order to
significantly change our regular attitudes and moods.
And we need to strictly monitor all the “Velcro”
negative thoughts.

Excerpt from Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation
Alternative Orthodoxy: Week 2 – Turning toward the Good
Thursday, February 18, 2016

This is game-changing stuff, I think, if we reflect a bit on the fact that the world’s contemplative and / or praying traditions have long intuited instinctively what sticks – and what doesn’t, what makes human persons feel positive, happy and fully awake – and what doesn’t.

Whilst some undoubtedly continue to think of prayer as ceremonial, or as a shopping list, or “Life” insurance policy, many, many others around the world have recognised, and are recognising the literally immeasurable benefits of savouring something ‘consciously for at least fifteen seconds’ so that ‘it can harbor and store itself in your “implicit memory”; otherwise it doesn’t stick.’

What a difference 15 seconds, or 5, 10, 15, 20 minutes-worth of conscious savouring could make to everyone’s daily life. How did humankind manage to get something so fundamental to personal and corporate peace and concord holed up in exclusive religious institutions and complex commandments for so long? Consciousness-capability is an already-present charism or gift, in and for everyone. Let’s teach our children that, early.

It’s truly no wonder that the great teachers – the Prophets, the Buddha, the Eastern mystics and Jesus of Nazareth, together with the Dalai Lama and Pope Francis in our own time, and all the other great bodhisattvas, gurus, natives and sages through the ages – have been a bit suspicious of religiosity. Each, in their own way, has pointed humankind to the obvious fact of our evolving and growing.

Loving “success” in the growing process will involve appreciating (giving worth to or worshipping), considering, contemplating, feeling, hearing, knowing, meditating, praying, remembering, seeing, sensing, smelling, tasting, touching, uniting and velcro-ing-in goodness!