When Religion Gets Sick
with Dr. J. Pittman McGehee and Dr. Wes Eades
Friday, March 31, 2017 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m
WPPSC is pleased to host J. Pittman McGehee and Wes Eades for a day of training. Participants can earn either 3 CEUs by attending either session and 6 CEUs by attending both (Wes’s workshop will count towards 3 ethics CEUs).
Pittman McGehee, D.D. is an Episcopal priest and Jungian analyst in private practice in Austin, Texas. He is widely known as a lecturer and educator in the field of psychology and religion, as well as a published poet and essayist. He is the author of The Invisible Church: Finding Spirituality Where You Are (Praeger Press, 2008),Raising Lazarus: The Science of Healing the Soul (2009),Words Made Flesh, and The Paradox of Love, now available for sale through The Jung Center of Houston’s Bookstore, Amazon.com, and other fine booksellers.
Wes Eades, Ph.D. is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in Waco. His doctorate is in the Psychology of Religion. Wes has spent his 30+ years in practice seeking to help clients explore how their personal spirituality both helps and hinders them in life. He has coauthored, with his friend Milton Horne, Whirlwind: Journeys with Job through Grief, Anxiety, and Pain. A free hard copy of Whirlwind will be provided to everyone who enrolls in Wes’s workshop.
Location: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 515 Columbus Ave, Waco, TX 76701
- 8:30 – Coffee and Pastries
- 9:00 – Pittman McGehee Assessing Healthy and Unhealthy Spirituality (3 CEUs)
- 12:00 – Box Lunch from Jason’s Deli
- 1:00 – Wes Eades Addressing Spirituality in Ethical and Effective Ways (3 CEUs)
- 4:00 – Evaluations and Closing
- $49 for either workshop ($39 if registered by March 15)
- $89 for both workshops ($79 if registered by March 15)
- $29 for either workshop for students and ministers who do not require CE credit.
- Credit Card: Please click here. (You will directed to Wes’s personal website since WordPress does not support PayPal scripts.)
- Checks: Mail checks made out to WPPSC to PO Box 2421, Waco, TX 76703
Questions? Please email Wes at WMEades@gmail.com
WPPSC was first formed in order to promote conversation on the role of spirituality in mental health, and to subsidize the cost of counseling for persons who could not afford it. The board’s original intention was keep things simple by not actually hiring clinicians to work for WPPSC. However, as we’ve become increasingly aware of the limited options in Waco for counseling and social work internships, the board has shifted this policy. Interns in the area of social work are required to work for an organization, as opposed to within a private practice. In January of 2013 the board approved my recommendation that WPPSC be allowed to hire interns to provide services which meet our mission, provided they have proper supervisory relationships related to their fields.
Although this adds a bit of complication to WPPSC’s bookkeeping, we have our own CPA board member, Lisa Hull, who has already provided guidelines for this shift, and has agreed to oversee the implementation.
The board and I are very confident that WPPSC is going to be extending it’s work significantly thanks to this shift in policy.
We remain grateful to all of you who have been supporting this work since it’s inception.
The Waco Partnership for Psychological and Spiritual Care and Hope for BPD are pleased to bring Dr. Shari Manning to Waco for a day of training in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy on August 3, 2012.
Dr. Manning will also be available for informal conversation and book signing on Thursday evening, August 2. The general public is invited, and there will no charge for this evening event.
Dr Manning has worked closely with Dr. Marsha Linehan, the founder of DBT, and has written extensively on the treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder and related psychological challenges. She provides training, supervision, and consultation world-wide, and it will be an honor to have her in Central Texas.
The details of this workshop, along with the registration link, can be found HERE. Registration will be limited, and discounts are available for early registration.
This entry marks the end of our study of Ekhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. He returns to the central them of surrender…
Chapter 10 – The Meaning of Surrender
Acceptance of the Now
- “Surrender is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to rather than opposing the flow of life.”
- Surrender is not the same thing as resignation. One can surrender to the reality of a situation and still take steps to create a different path.
- “If you find your life situation unsatisfactory or even intolerable, it is only by surrendering first that you can break the unconscious resistance pattern that perpetuates that situation.”
- Tolle uses the term “surrendered action” to describe the process of letting go of judgement while seeking change.
- The concept of “motivation” is very important in psychology. Tolle challenges the assumption that acceptance will lead to a lack of motivation. He observes that we can experience a more effective motivation when we surrender (wme: This is what I would call the difference between motivation via anxiety and motivation via vision).
When Disaster Strikes
- For a majority of people, some sort of disaster, or “limit-situation,” is required to break through the hard shell of the ego. (wme: Two paths toward transformation – suffering and intention.)
- When disaster strikes, the path towards peace requires surrender.
The Way of the Cross
- Tolle asserts that the common understanding of the Way of Cross is misguided. He says that it is not the suffering that is redemptive, but that suffering creates the opportunity for surrender.
- The way of the cross is a complete reversal. It means that the worst thing in your life, your cross, turns into the best thing that ever happened to you, by forcing you into surrender, into “death,” forcing you to become as nothing, to become as God—because God, too, is no-thing.
- At this time, as far as the unconscious majority of humans is concerned, the way of the cross is still the only way. They will only awaken through further suffering, and enlightenment as a collective phenomenon will be predictably preceded by vast upheavals.
The Power to Choose
- Tolle notes that we commonly misuse the word “choose,” as in someone chooses a dysfunctional relational. He insists that choice requires consciousness, and that our impulse towards suffering is due to a lack of consciousness… to an identification with mind.
- Choice begins the moment you disidentify from the mind and its conditioned patterns, the moment you become present. Until you reach that point, you are unconscious, spiritually speaking. This means that you are compelled to think, feel, and act in certain ways according to the conditioning of your mind. That is why Jesus said: “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.
- Nobody chooses dysfunction, conflict, pain. Nobody chooses insanity. They happen because there is not enough presence in you to dissolve the past, not enough light to dispel the darkness. You are not fully here. You have not quite woken up yet. In the meantime, the conditioned mind is running your life.
- Tolle closes this book with the following exchange with the interviewer:
- When you surrender to what is and so become fully present, the past ceases to have any power. You do not need it anymore. Presence is the key. The Now is the key.
- How will I know when I have surrendered?
- When you no longer need to ask the question.
A consistent theme in all great spiritual traditions is the struggle the human has brain with accepting that there might be something better than happiness….
Chapter 9 – Beyond Happiness and Unhappiness there is Peace
- The Higher Good Beyond Good and Bad
- Accepting things as they are is a first step in experiencing peace.
- Move beyond the dualism of good and bad, and assume that every circumstance, even the painful ones, can move us toward peace.
- It seems that most people need to experience a great deal of suffering before they will relinquish resistance and accept—before they will forgive. As soon as they do, one of the greatest miracles happens: the awakening of Being-consciousness through what appears as evil, the transmutation of suffering into inner peace.
- The End of Your Life Drama
- Most “bad” things in life are created by the ego’s need for control.
- We can create drama when we battle with other egos, and we can create drama on our own, battling with our own ego.
- When you live in complete acceptance of what is, that is the end of all drama in your life. Nobody can even have an argument with you, no matter how hard he or she tries.
- WME – For the conscious person, competing points of view are simply information.
- Most people are in love with their particular life drama. Their story is their identity. The ego runs their life. They have their whole sense of self invested in it. Even their—usually unsuccessful—search for an answer, a solution, or for healing becomes part of it. What they fear and resist most is the end of their drama. As long as they are their mind, what they fear and resist most is their own awakening. When you live in complete acceptance of what is, that is the end of all drama in your life. Nobody can even have an argument with you, no matter how hard he or she tries. You cannot have an argument with a fully conscious person. An argument implies identification with your mind and a mental position, as well as resistance and reaction to the other person’s position. The result is that the polar opposites become mutually energized. These are the mechanics of unconsciousness. You can still make your point clearly and firmly, but there will be no reactive force behind it, no defense or attack. So it won’t turn into drama. When you are fully conscious, you cease to be in conflict. “No one who is at one with himself can even conceive of conflict,” states A Course in Miracles. This refers not only to conflict with other people but more fundamentally to conflict within you, which ceases when there is no longer any clash between the demands and expectations of your mind and what is.
- Impermanence and the Cycle of Life
- Although physical pain can be a reality, all suffering is created by the ego’s resistance to accepting things as they are.
- There are cycles of up and down in all of life. It is the ego that defines such things as good and bad.
- The down cycle is absolutely essential for spiritual realization. You must have failed deeply on some level or experienced some deep loss or pain to be drawn to the spiritual dimension. Or perhaps your very success became empty and meaningless and so turned out to be failure. Failure lies concealed in every success, and success in every failure. In this world, which is to say on the level of form, everybody “fails” sooner or later, of course, and every achievement eventually comes to naught. All forms are impermanent.
- All the great spiritual traditions speak to the importance of not becoming attached to the cycles of life, and of defining the goodness or badness of life in terms of these cycles.
- When we begin to move with the cycles of life, we find an “ease” to life.
- The happiness that is derived from some secondary source is never very deep. It is only a pale reflection of the joy of Being, the vibrant peace that you find within as you enter the state of nonresistance. Being takes you beyond the polar opposites of the mind and frees you from dependency on form. Even if everything were to collapse and crumble all around you, you would still feel a deep inner core of peace. You may not be happy, but you will be at peace.
- Using and Relinquishing Negativity
- The ego uses negativity to try and manipulate reality.
- Tolle says that humans are the only life form on earth that knows negativity, and we use it to pollute our environment.
- When we sense negativity arising, we can choose to be present and “wake up,” and let go of the mind games.
- Tolle encourages us to be mindful of the little irritations that crop up in life. He notes that when we examine these irritations we will discover they are manufactured by the mind, and serve no useful purpose (I would say that some if not many irritations are indeed useful. They might point to important information about something that needs tending. For instance, that irritating sound I hear when I drive my car might be signaling a problem with the car that can be repaired.)
- When you begin to accept what is, then every moment becomes the best possible moment.
- The Nature of Compassion
- Some believe that detachment can lead to disconnection from others. Tolle insists that the opposite is true. When we are free of expectations, then we become free to move towards others with genuine compassion.
- True compassion goes beyond empathy or sympathy. It does not happen until sadness merges with joy, the joy of Being beyond form, the joy of eternal life.
- Toward a Different Order of Reality
- This is a difficult section to summarize. Tolle acknowledges that there is deep suffering in the world. For example, there are large numbers of people who are starving. He recognizes that it is valuable to address these practical issues, but insists that we will never make headway unless we recognize that the core issue is the general state of unconsciousness He refers to several spiritual teachers who refer to the salvation of reality as some form of universal consciousness.
Chapter 8 – Enlightened Relationships
A great deal of the suffering we inflict upon ourselves involves relationships. Our culture constantly bombards us with the message that we are entitled to great relationships (especially romantic ones), and that we can never be happy without them. It’s no surprise, then, that Tolle pushes us to consider how we allow relationships to pull us away from Now, and toward ruminating over the past and the future.
- Enter the Now from Wherever You Are
- People think of relationships as one of those future experiences that will “save” them – especially romantic relationships.
- “True salvation” is a state of freedom from a sense of insufficiency and fear. Tolle reminds us that there is nothing we can achieve or experience that will get us closer to this freedom than we already are.
- Love/Hate Relationships
- “Unless and until you access the consciousness frequency of presence, all relationships, and particularly intimate relationships, are deeply flawed and ultimately dysfunctional.”
- Tolle observes that the mind creates a love/hate cycle with all relationships. This cycle creates a sense of drama, and aliveness, that can become addictive (wme: We come to despise those whom we’ve assumed would heal us.).
- Tolle asserts that this cycle has nothing to do with “True Love,” which arises from beyond the mind.
- Romantic love is actually much more like addiction. (Rohr: Addiction is misplaced spiritual energy.)
- Addiction and the Search for Wholeness
- “The reason why the romantic love relationship is such an intense and universally sought-after experience is that it seems to offer liberation from a deep-seated state of fear, need, lack, and incompleteness that is part of the human condition in its unredeemed and unenlightened state.”
- Tolle expresses a perspective in sync with marriage therapists: We are drawn to a person based on our wounds, and are ultimately disillusioned by the other’s failure to heal those wounds.
- “Every addiction arises from an unconscious refusal to face and move through your own pain. Every addiction starts with pain and ends with pain. Whatever the substance you are addicted to—alcohol, food, legal or illegal drugs, or a person—you are using something or somebody to cover up your pain. That is why, after the initial euphoria has passed, there is so much unhappiness, so much pain in intimate relationships. They do not cause pain and unhappiness. They bring out the pain and unhappiness that is already in you. Every addiction does that. Every addiction reaches a point where it does not work for you anymore, and then you feel the pain more intensely than ever.”
- One of the more sinister lies the Mind can accept is that our spiritual path depends on another person.
- However, there can be great power in a couple agreeing that the relationship will be a part of their spiritual practice.
- From Addictive to Enlightened Relationships
- Relationships activate the pain-body when we are disillusioned.
- To “heal” we must dis-identify with Mind and connect with Now.
- Relationships as Spiritual Practice
- “If you stop investing it with “selfness,” the mind loses its compulsive quality, which basically is the compulsion to judge, and so to resist what is, which creates conflict, drama, and new pain. In fact, the moment that judgment stops through acceptance of what is, you are free of the mind. You have made room for love, for joy, for peace. First you stop judging yourself; then you stop judging your partner. The greatest catalyst for change in a relationship is complete acceptance of your partner as he or she is, without needing to judge or change them in any way.”
- “If your partner is still identified with the mind and the pain-body while you are already free, this will represent a major challenge—not to you but to your partner. It is not easy to live with an enlightened person, or rather it is so easy that the ego finds it extremely threatening. Remember that the ego needs problems, conflict, and “enemies” to strengthen the sense of separateness on which its identity depends. The unenlightened partner’s mind will be deeply frustrated because its fixed positions are not resisted, which means they will become shaky and weak, and there is even the “danger” that they may collapse altogether, resulting in loss of self. The pain-body is demanding feedback and not getting it. The need for argument, drama, and conflict is not being met. But beware: Some people who are unresponsive, withdrawn, insensitive, or cut off from their feelings may think and try to convince others that they are enlightened, or at least that there is “nothing wrong” with them and everything wrong with their partner. Men tend to do that more than women.”
- Why Women are Closer to Enlightenment
- Tolle echos Rohr’s contention that women are naturally closer to enlightenment than men because they naturally live closer to their bodies.
- “As a general rule, the major obstacle for men tends to be the thinking mind, and the major obstacle for women the pain-body, although in certain individual cases the opposite may be true, and in others the two factors may be equal.”
- Dissolving the Collective Female Pain-Body
- Tolle asserts that the female pain-body has a collective element due to the subjugation of women across time. This is another element of human history that Rohr insists place women further down the spiritual path than men.
- Tolle invites women to consider the degree to which they have identified with their pain-body. He says that the degree to which she is identified will reflect the degree to which she resists letting go of the pain.
- “So do not use the pain-body to give you an identity. Use it for enlightenment instead. Transmute it into consciousness. One of the best times for this is during menses.” (Have you read The Red Tent ?)
- Give Up the Relationship with Yourself
- Being does not contain the elements of male and female. Therefore, when we are able to connect with Being in the Now, we develop the capacity to rise above the need for the opposite sex to fulfill us. Being contains all we need.
- “If you cannot be at ease with yourself when you are alone, you will seek a relationship to cover up your unease. You can be sure that the unease will then reappear in some other form within the relationship, and you will probably hold your partner responsible for it.”
Chapter 7 – Portals into the Unmanifested
In this chapter Tolle invites us to consider different ways of connecting to the “unmanifested” presence of the Now that we carry with us at all times. He notes that there are times with this energy can break through unexpectedly, but there are also ways for us to nurture these portals. After the last class I had conversations with a couple of people who’d discovered a portal of their own.
One person is a woman who’s children are grown, and who has suffered tremendous loss and heartache. However, one day she was asked to keep a two-year-old boy for a friend. She told me that being with this little boy… pulling out children’s books that had been packed a way… finding her kids old toys… had opened her up to a kind of simplicity and purity she had not felt for years.
The other person is a retired man who has taken up the art of crafting violins. He recently completed his first instrument, and listening to him describing the focus and joy that filled him in this work allowed me to experience a taste of this portal with him.
Tolle points us in the direction of these experiences, but if you have discovered a portal he doesn’t mention, please pass it on!
Here’s an outline of Chapter 7, Portals into the Unmanifested
- Going Deeply Into the Body
- Tolle recommends we practice being present to inner energy for 10-15 minutes at a time.
- He encourages us to move past the awareness of body to the an awareness of energy.
- The Source of Chi
- Tolle offers an explanation of Chi as the flow of energy from the Unmanifested to manifested form.
- He says that as we develop the discipline to take attention away from the external world and experience the inner energy, we open the flow of Chi.
- Dreamless Sleep
- Tolle asserts that we enter the Unmanifested during sleep, but that it is not liberating until we enter it consciously.
- Other Portals
- Conscious awareness of the Now is the main portal.
- Cessation of thinking is another portal.
- Surrender – letting go of resistance to what is – is a portal.
- Tolle identifies silence as a particularly important portal since all of our manifested experience is shaped by the interplay of sound and silence.
- He recommends that we pay particular attention to the silence between sound.
- Tolle also asserts that space is similar to silence since space is the emptiness among the atoms of form.
- We can “study” that which is manifested. We can only be present to space.
- You cannot think and be aware of space—or of silence, for that matter. By becoming aware of the empty space around you, you simultaneously become aware of the space of no-mind, of pure consciousness: the Unmanifested. This is how the contemplation of space can become a portal for you.
- The True Nature of Space and Time
- Tolle offers thoughts on the nature of space and time.
- Hence, the ultimate purpose of the world lies not within the world but in transcendence of the world. Just as you would not be conscious of space if there were no objects in space, the world is needed for the Unmanifested to be realized. You may have heard the Buddhist saying: “If there were no illusion, there would be no enlightenment.” It is through the world and ultimately through you that the Unmanifested knows itself. You are here to enable the divine purpose of the universe to unfold. That is how important you are.
- Conscious Death
- Apart from dreamless sleep, which I mentioned already, there is one other involuntary portal. It opens up briefly at the time of physical death. Even if you have missed all the other opportunities for spiritual realization during your lifetime, one last portal will open up for you immediately after the body has died.
- I’m reminded of Rohr’s contention that all people make peace with death. Unfortunately many only do so a few seconds before they die. The younger we are when we make peace with death, the more years of rich living we have.
Our study of Chapter 8, Enlightened Relationships, coming up on October 27, should be particular interesting. Tolle will be inviting us to consider how the power of Now can shape, or reshape, our relationships with the people to whom we are closest. You can register for the class here: Power of Now Study.
May all that is Sacred within you, encourage you to let go, and forgive. May you grasp the Grace that is all around you, not so you let others or yourself off the hook, but so that you may take another step towards the freedom that awaits you.
Here’s a summary of my opening thoughts on the this chapter, and an experience I led the group through
- Tolle’s greatest contributions are his simple observations (i.e., Over-identification with mind invites suffering). As with many gifted observers, he also has a need to explain why things are the way they are. This is where he begins to walk into the trap that he has so wisely warned us of. I understand this, but I find myself wanting him to show more awareness of it… Perhaps he does, but I’ve missed it.
- Body is our closest connection to animal life.
- Animals live instinctively and reactively
- The more we befriend our bodies, the more we are able to live intentionally
- Virtually all religions have some strain that is very anti-body.
- The body is seen as dangerous and in need of severe control.
- The tool of choice is repression, rather than transformation.
- Tolle underlines the importance of present attention to Body
- I would add the important ingredient of curiosity
- My guess is that those who overcome addictive impulses most successfully are those who are willing to be curious about sabotaging behavior.
- If you have impulses that are clearly self-destructive, plain old willpower and accountability are important.
- However, a person who never gets around the curiosity angle, and listens to Body, is not likely to get too far down the transformation road.
- This evening I want to invite you to explore what Tolle presents as a key body issue, forgiveness, in three stages.
- First, we will engage an 8 minute relaxation exercise from TolleTV.
- Second, we will reflect on a key paragraph in Chapter 6.
- Third, I will lead a meditative exercise related to forgiveness
- If I ask you to forgive someone in your past or present, who comes to mind?
- Imagine this person.
- Be aware of your feelings… Mad, Sad, Glad, Afraid
- What would it cost you to forgive?
- How might it serve you to forgive?
- If I ask you to forgive yourself, what situation or issue comes to mind?
- How do you finish this sentence, “It is time for me to forgive myself for…”
- Be aware of your feelings… Mad, Sad, Glad, Afraid
- What would it cost you to forgive yourself?
- How might it serve you to forgive yourself?
- Closing affirmation: May all that is Sacred within you, encourage you to let go, and forgive. May you grasp the Grace that is all around you, not so you let others or yourself off the hook, but so that you may take another step towards the freedom that awaits you.
Section by section summary of Chapter 6.
- Being is Your Deepest Self
- The physical body can be a point of connection with Being.
- Connection with the body can help us overcome the “sin” of self-inflicted suffering.
- Look Beyond the Words
- Tolle acknowledges how mind can over-react to words like “sin,” and invites the reader to look beyond the word symbol to the reality under-girding the symbol.
- Finding Your Invisible and Indestructible Reality
- Mind can overtake virtually all awareness.
- One way of moving past Mind is to simply attend to the body.
- Connecting with the Inner Body
- Tolle invites the reader to stop for a few moments and pay attention to the sensations present in the body.
- Transformation Through the Body
- Our bodies are our closest connection to animal life. Human bodies serve exactly the same functions for us as animal bodies serve for animals.
- Tolle surmises that our need to see ourselves as different from animals led to a theology of body denial.
- Tolle says, “The fact is that no one has ever become enlightened through denying or fighting the body or through an out-of-body experience.” (He would certainly get arguments on this point.)
- He key point, though, is “Transformation is through the body, not away from it”
- Sermon on the Body
- “Do not fight against the body, for in doing so you are fighting against your own reality. You are your body. The body that you can see and touch is only a thin illusory veil. Underneath it lies the invisible inner body, the doorway into Being, into Life Unmanifested. Through the inner body, you are inseparably connected to this unmanifested One Life—birthless, deathless, eternally present. Through the inner body, you are forever one with God.”
- Have Deep Roots Within
- Tolle encourages us to develop and maintain body awareness.
- Tolle recommends we use moments of waiting (i.e., standing in line) to practice body awareness. These are moments in which the mind typically offers irritation and impatience.
- Before You Enter the Body, Forgive
- Tolle seems to be saying that the body offer us clues regarding grievances we are carrying. So, he turns to some discussion of forgiveness.
- Forgiveness is to relinquish your grievance and so to let go of grief. It happens naturally once you realize that your grievance serves no purpose except to strengthen a false sense of self. Forgiveness is to offer no resistance to life—to allow life to live through you. The alternatives are pain and suffering, a greatly restricted flow of life energy, and in many cases physical disease. The moment you truly forgive, you have reclaimed your power from the mind. Non-forgiveness is the very nature of the mind, just as the mind-made false self, the ego, cannot survive without strife and conflict. The mind cannot forgive. Only you can. You become present, you enter your body, you feel the vibrant peace and stillness that emanate from Being. That is why Jesus said: Before you enter the temple, forgive.
- Tolle is equating temple with body.
- Your Link with the Unmanifested
- Tolle gets a bit more esoteric in this section.
- He says that the Unmanifested is the same as Being.
- Slowing Down the Aging Process
- Tolle says that the inner body does not age, and that our connection with it will slow down the physical aging process.
- Strengthening the Immune System
- Tolle sides with many approaches to holistic approaches in asserting that the lower stress that a connection to Being brings can strengthen the immune system.
- Let Breath Take You into the Body
- Tolle affirms the benefits of conscious breathing.
- Creative Use of Mind
- Connection with Being via the body enhances creativity.
- The Art of Listening
- Listening to Body elevates the capacity to listen to others.