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Practical Spirituality: Living in the Modern World

Classes Beginning in Spring 2018

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Living as a practical mystic in the world usually requires the ability to hold and tolerate the "tension of the opposites." The Middle Way means standing at the center and consciously choosing after having explored both sides completely. As human beings, we have a tendency to want to resolve our anxiety by choosing one side or disowning another side in order to experience relief. But this relief is at best temporary and truly an illusion, since inevitably the energy of the other side begins to build again.

One very important spectrum of opposites in this dynamic is the spectrum of love and power. Individuals who are primarily based in the material world tend to utilize power to gain what they want in order to alleviate their anxiety, usually at the expense of love and fulfilling relationships.

But spiritually-identified people are equally imbalanced when they always go to thinking positive thoughts and love and light, seeing power as 'bad' or 'unspiritual.' Both of these extremes are equally destructive in their own way and can lead to great challenges if not brought to consciousness. Every beautiful creation in the world, even the creation of a new child, requires both love and power. Love is the sustaining essence, but power is the life force, the movement, the action in the world. Power is the creative energy that builds the vision. Love without right use of power leads to illusion, delusion and frequently a sense of victimization. Power without love leads to destructive relationships, abusive patterns, and sometimes violence. If we disown our power side, it will have to come out in a more hidden way, usually taking the form of judgment and criticism in order to place a boundary. Judgment becomes a false substitute for power, and rather than creating a protective boundary, it creates fear, self-hatred, worry and doubt which separates us in a false way from the perceived problem. Right use of power, on the other hand, eliminates the need for extreme judgment and criticism. Power says, "You cannot do that." Period. It is neutral. There is no hatred, no criticism, no judgment, just "no."

So why do we spiritual people so frequently judge power as bad? Probably because it is too often used in its extreme without the balancing force of love. But every sacred text known to man is filled with stories about the powerful side of the Divine. We cannot reconcile this by turning our backs on every sacred text and, as Carl Jung says, creating figures of light in our minds. This only pushes it further underground. Some of us cringe at that thought of such power being written into a sacred text, or we rationalize the writing as a document for a different time or generation. But in reality, every great mystical teaching has various qualities of God that are about strength and might and power. The Kabbalistic tree of life has a Mercy side of the Tree, a Severity side of the Tree and a central column. All three columns in equal balance are what defines well-being in this modality. So why is it that we have so much difficulty with this aspect of the Divine? Probably because we see it used and abused without the balance of love and mercy. This does not make power unspiritual, but merely imbalanced.

If we are to be practical mystics, we must make peace with the fact that we live in the physical world, a world that requires the right use of power in order to heal and survive. We cannot just escape to the mountain top. We must live with our feet on the ground and look at life squarely in the eye. Yes, with mercy, yes with love...and also with strong, balanced power and the ability to say no and have clear and direct boundaries. We must walk the terrain of understanding the disowned power voices inside our head or else we risk the possibility of those aspects being expressed in much more difficult and traumatic ways. If we do not explore these power aspects of ourselves, we will have to hide them and find ways to cover them over and keep them from being known to both ourselves and the people in our lives. Yet if we explore these aspects with our eyes wide open , we can come into the center and truly create a strong vessel that can carry the tension of the opposites. We will find we do not need to choose one or the other, but can remain in the center, embracing both, seeing the value in both and utilizing those qualities in amounts that fit the situation appropriately without feeling that the power streams are bad or need to be somehow eliminated, which in fact is not a possibility, at least on this earth anyhow. We can develop and practice the quality of being lovingly direct.

Power with Love is the most life-affirming, life-giving quality we can embody and manifest. Only when we can value the exquisite creative force that power brings, the safety of the 'no' that power brings, the ability to protect and take care of that which we love and cherish that power brings, can we be practical mystics living in the modern world of the 21st century. When a ferocious animal is about to pounce on our children, love alone does not suffice. This is not to be understood as a teaching around creating fear, but around understanding the energetics of the world we live in. Some day, as we evolve as a planet, the side of love/mercy and the side of severity/ power will come together in the center. The mystics believe this is what happens in the higher realms of spirit. But we do not live there and we must not confuse those realms with the realm of the physical world. Power exists in the physical world and is necessary. It is not better or worse, and we must find a way to hold power and love at the same time. This creates a third state. A state that is not one or the other, but a state that can hold both, and can live in way that is productive, nourishing, satisfying and creative.

For as long as we live in a physical body, we are rooted in the life of duality. To ignore such a fact is the cause of great suffering, illness, turmoil and misunderstanding for those of us who identify ourselves as spiritual people. But there is another possibility. That possibility is to live in the world of bearing and carrying opposites, by going to our hearts, bringing all of that beauty and love that we have inside and wrapping it around our inner power. When it is time to say no to what does not feel right, safe or in the highest good for ourselves or our family, we can use both love and power to be direct and strong and compassionate at the same time. Our inner heart always knows the truth...always. We must learn to differentiate between our lower self and the true heart, and once we know that, to have the great courage to listen, to act, to take our capacity to be powerful,  wrap it in our heart of love, and say 'no thanks.' When we have the full ability to say no, we also have the full ability to say yes, and we can dissolve ourselves in the true surrender of a life that is safe and solidly constructed. With that strong vehicle and that capacity to have complete permission for no, we can have complete permission for a yes as well, thereby living in the world with a deep ability to love while also feeling strength, health and safety.

Wishing you deep love and nourishment, and the ability to carry the tension of the opposites with courage, grace, and strength.

© Shemsi Prinzivalli  2017

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