Dark Days 2, What’s Your Compass?

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It is staggering to discover how many people go through life feeling like crap all the time. People adapt to anxiety and depression long before they ever acknowledge them. Many will adopt feeling bad, depressed or afraid as part of their personality. They define themselves by their problem. This is our first clue that the problem goes beyond brain chemistry.

Our first step forward is to orient ourselves. We need to find the “mall map” to determine if we are next to Cinnabon or Nordstrom. Life is too precious to live in a lost state.

If you navigate solely off of the compass used by our modern world, then you will orient yourself using the DSM-5 (Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition). Once a medical professional has given a diagnosis, or a label, you are on their particular path. I will call this the clinical or traditional path.

This path is well researched with solid treatment plans that have helped many people. I’ve learned much from the best in this space. If you are on this path, it is not my intention to get you to change paths, especially if you are taking medication. There is no way for me to know the severity of your reality, so I can only speak in a general sense, and my experience may not be typical. It’s sad I have to qualify my statements, but there are powers and people who will diminish and harm any alternatives.

How many people do you know that are not thrilled with their outcomes? I’ve seen medication help some folks, while it completely ruins others. What are the options for someone who is skeptical of the clinical path?

If you are able to receive it, there is another path. The Greek word for soul is Psuché, from which we derive our word Psychology. Ironically, the clinical path is governed by psychology and brain science which focus on brain chemicals and behaviors and says nothing about the soul. These modify our behaviors and experience by manipulating brain chemicals. It is a philosophy based upon externals. You can learn more in my book; Getting Better When You Can’t. It’s a philosophy that says we ARE our chemistry. This is true, but it is not all that is true.

To orient ourself we must determine if the problem in our brain or in our consciousness? Does the brain produce consciousness? Does consciousness produce the brain?  What if its both? Dualism hurts us here too.

The soul or psuché is more than a brain, it encompasses non-physical aspects of the whole person. I will prove that non-physical/spiritual realities are impacting our physical well-being. Word always becomes flesh (John 1:14).

Dark Days 1: Good News, You’re Depressed!

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The National Institute of Mental Health states that in a twelve month period, nearly 7% of Americans (14.8 Million) will have a severe episode of depression. This is higher among whites, particularly women, and particularly those in the age range of 18-49. Even more startling is that one in every six people you know suffers from anxiety.

I have personally suffered with anxiety since I was in my late twenties. Once I figured out what was going on, I began to learn all I could about it. It started getting to the point where my world was shrinking so much that it was interfering with many things I wanted to do in life. My internal Boogey Man was such that my doctor asked if I wanted to try medication. I elected not to. I would go into a funk and it felt like nothing was going to get me out of it. Each time it felt like I was hitting a new low. It sucked and I hated how I felt.

In my search, I learned something that incrementally turned everything around. I wouldn’t say I’m completely free, but the 900 lb gorilla on my back is more like a little sock monkey with bad advise.

In this series, I will be sharing what I’ve learned. I hope I can enter your dark place with just enough light so that you can orient yourself and find your pathway out. I hope you will share this with others you know.

Please remember that I’m not a medical nor mental health professional. I am however, an expert in the soul. I will show you that the soul is not distinct from our brain or behavior, but encompasses all aspects of our humanity. Thus the mental health empire doesn’t completely own this space.  The soul is our true self.

I no longer suffer from anxiety though I may have occasional moments. I rarely find myself in a funk anymore, and to this day I have never taken any prescription medication for my condition. If this kind of change is possible for me, then it must be possible for others. 

Most people are not aware of alternative ways to approach anxiety and depression. If we don’t see the success we desire, we will feel hopeless and stuck. I will provide you an alternative consideration that doesn’t see our dark days as a problem to eradicate, but a purposeful process through which we become our very best self.

Imagine that! Its good news that you are depressed. What if depression and anxiety are side-effects of refusing to become our true self?  For that to be good news, we will need to orient ourself, and we will begin next week.

 

Competition as Heart Disease

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Truth is always disappointing. Since we don’t possess all that is true, when we first encounter truth it is never what we expected. For some this post will be resisted because they cannot imagine transforming this aspect of their life.

We live in a competitive culture. We are taught early about this binary system. We are taught that winning is the penultimate achievement. The world thus comprises winners and losers. The win / lose paradigm is in sports, business, education, cooking, politics, dating and religion. Its all about being better, more, faster, richer, stronger, prettier, smarter or more powerful than others. Competition requires a scarcity worldview in order to exist. It needs a zero-sum game where ONLY one can win. This fuels competition as the means of survival. For many, competition gives them an identity. It is their maker.

I’m fully aware that aspects of competition are actually very good. We know that competition drives teams, businesses and individuals to become stronger, to work harder, to innovate, and to go the extra mile in service. Comparing performance is important and fun. The problem is not whether we compete or if our performance is being evaluated. The problem resides within the disposition (heart) of the individual. Thus competition when it is bad is revealing a spiritual deficiency. It’s a disease of the heart.

Our culture has mistakenly linked survival to being better than others. We need to question this. Only ego and pride survives in this way. If we follow that train of thought then the elimination of others is how we thrive. (Seems like a German in the 1940’s had the same idea.) We like to think of ourselves as better than this, but honest introspection usually proves otherwise.

We actually need others to rise up. If rising comes at others falling, it isn’t really a rising, it’s a distraction from ultimate reality.  Is the winning team, car, politician, or side really that much better? Is our biggest opponent really that different from us?

The solution is not the abandonment of competition. We are not better off giving everyone a participation trophy. Everything changes the moment we replace the binary system of otherness, with respect (love) for all others. We need not diminish others with less skill, or puff up as if our skill was not given to us. We don’t lose skill by giving it away, instead it potentiates abundantly.

Our binary, competitive world says that I am not you and you are not me. The new world emerges when our hearts say; “Though I am not you, I am also not other than you.” When either/or is replaced with and, then heart disease is cured and competition is redeemed.

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Church and State, part 2

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Last week I gave a simple act that each of us could do that could create a cataclysmic shift in our political system. If enough people simply change their voter registration, our binary, dualistic, two-party, otherness-based system would lose power. It would have to shift it’s story and focus toward the center rather than the poles in order to maintain its feeder base.

This will not likely happen. Like I said last week, church and state exist for themselves and  as soon as a shift started happening, the storytellers would be enacted to place doubt, fear and threat in order to maintain their base.

Our country is divided, but strangely united within either church or state. Make no mistake about it, church and state are the same machine. They work together to validate our binary facade. Within either camp, people find a sense of unity, at least on the surface, and this makes us feel better about life. But its not real unity.

There is no unity without diversity. Would you consider street gangs to share unity? No one is more similar to a blood than a crip. Yet despite this, they cannot find unity despite having very little diversity. Unity is the dissolution of otherness. As I showed you last week, church and state feed on otherness.

Perhaps the most visible display of this shift is occurring within the church. Within most urban areas, less than 30% of the population attends a religious service more than once a month. That figure is in decline at about 1%-2% per year.  The church attributes this to the secularization of the world. This is not really the case. Most of those leaving their religions are still maintaining an undefined spirituality, only a minority are turning to atheism. The fastest growing faith category is not Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist, it is spiritual but not religiousThis is the category where unity and diversity exist in peace.

This is the message found in all mature religions and was the hallmark of Jesus teaching. He didn’t require anyone to leave their religion, but they would have to relearn it in a new way. He modeled a faith that is internally experienced, not externally imposed. It unified all comers by eliminating otherness. But in order to possess this freedom, it will cost us something that we all have-we must trade in the life provided by the system, for our true life, and that won’t happen easily. Let’s not forget that church and state are the powers that put Jesus on the cross.

In order to be united, we must leave our establishments of otherness and enter the exile. It’s a desert place of spiritual, emotional, financial, or relational aridity. The exile is the moment we realize that to truly live we must leave our formative containers. (Jesus said we would hate our own families Luke 14:26). We must be repotted or we risk losing our true self (Luke 9:25) as our roots suffocate us. The ideologies, traditions, and expectations that were given to us by church and state no longer satisfy the questions that have outgrown them. We all go in exile alone, but we each follow a voice that inspires us onward despite the pressures of the herd to return. It’s a well worn path that we walk single file. It is a spiritual path.

On the opposite side of exile awaits our family reunion.
This is always a spiritual process that plays out in everyday experiences. It is how we all grow up and expand our awareness and consciousness.

I know that I am critical of church and state, some might even say harsh. All of our structures are delivery systems and not destinations. These are structures that must go through deconstruction before they can be reconstructed. Richard Rohr says we start with form, then move to deformation, then to reform. The meta-narrative of the bible says we came from a garden, enter a desert and end in a city. Whether personal, societal, or global, we are all in one stage of the process. There is no skipping the deconstruction phase.

So if I come across like a deconstructionist, you must know it is for the purpose of reform. Likewise, our transformed self will emerge in like manner once we enter the exile of our own cross-bearing. I tear down so that people can be free and find their way to the other side. It is the process of reform. The passion story depicts the destruction of the externalized temple. It’s new location is within us all, there is no longer a separation between God and humanity (Mark 15:38, Eph 2:14-17). The picture in heaven is one where NO TEMPLE exists:  bummer for the church. The government is one of inspired self-government:  bummer for the state.

Deconstructing in order to build THE city is what this newsletter is all about.

We never know freedom in the garden, it only points us in the right direction. Our institutions inoculate us and anesthetist us and give us just enough of a life so that we keep the big machine running. I know it’s scary to question them. I know the desert exile is arid, arduous and uncertain. Yet that is where we learn to know and trust the voice that removes us from our formative containers, deconstructs the surface self and ultimately completes us via incremental renewal that is totally worth all the struggle (2 Cor 4:16-17). That is freedom. That is salvation if you can accept the term.

Church and State can only mold us to serve their own end. Like a mold they press us into a particular shape. That works great until we know and trust our own unique shape, then the form stops serving us and starts pinching us. We all go through life trying to discover our shape and we try on different molds of church and state. Fidelity to our true architecture comes at great cost to the old form (external self). It is the death required for life. Only the exile can mold us into the united people that we all aspire to be. It is the path of all of life and faith.

I hope you will see this newsletter as a tool for those in exile who long for reform. It is my hope and deepest prayer that these words reflect a voice that is found deep within you; deep calls to deep (Psalm 42:7). I wish only to be a beacon that sends out our collective message. It is a weekly reminder to all sojourners that we are not finished yet. I yearn to empower that part deep within us that still dreams, still hopes, and still has enough in the tank to take one more step. Our lives and our energy is precious. Let us not waste it on anything but the rebuilding of each other. Learning to live out of love is the only path (1 Cor 13:2).