Meaning and Relationship

The following selection is condensed from an interview with Rob Lehman of the Fetzer Institute, by Kate Olson and T. George Harris      

Arnold Toynbee said "The ultimate function of civilization is to serve the unfolding of ever deeper spiritual understanding." That deeper understanding tells us that the spiritual dimension must be integrated with the rest of life. It requires that we learn to live in relationship to the deepest and most sacred parts of ourselves and at the same time learn to live in relationship with others and with the breathing world around us. Our action and service then arise out of a much deeper and truer motivation than those which are motivated only by ego.

Relationship to ourselves: As we learn about the deeper, more interior parts of ourselves, we discover that there is an entirely different set of measures for success. Instead of the idea of perfection, we learn to seek wholeness: the ability to see not only our light, but our shadow side.  Living in relationship to our selves is a matter of becoming more complete, rather than becoming more "good."

Action: There is an ancient contemplative maxim: action follows being. We need to recover this truth as the golden rule of the post-modern world, and bring the practice of reflection, of contemplation — the practice of being — into ordinary life.

Relationship to others: How does a person or community become awake and open to deeper levels of their own inner life and being?  Through being challenged in your belief systems and relationships and being pulled and tugged and twisted and turned, answers Lehman. Real collaboration with others requires states of minds that are open: to self examination, to growth, to trust, to mutual action — co-creation. Human collaboration that draws on the resources of mind and money, but not on the resources of grace and the spirit, will only rearrange the furniture. Some form of faith that there is a larger reality, a larger transcendent and immanent reality with which we can cooperate is the core commitment. Without that reality, anything we do will just be on the surface and self-defeating. It’s a common sense understanding of faith that has been totally lost in modern society.

We may be moving from an evolution of consciousness based on the individual to one based on community. Thich Nhat Hanh says "When the second Buddha comes (he) will not come as an individual but as a community." We need to trust that others who are in relationship, conscious or unconscious, are also working to connect the inner world of being to the outer world of action. That’s where we do the work; we create it right at the level where we trust that each of us is on this journey and we support each other along the way. Relationship, not the individual, may be the new unit of spirit.

Relationship to the community of life is indeed the larger community on which our lives and spirits depend.