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Stephan Vosloo
Aug 11, 2022
In Practical transformation
The most well recognised icon of the Christian tradition is also an icon of intense suffering. But Christians do not major on that aspect of the cross. They major on what the death of Jesus on a cross bought them. The suffering represented by the icon is largely overlooked and often not a popular topic. Could it be that suffering as a tool for transformation has been largely ignored as a subject in the Christian tradition? It is as if the Christian tradition tends to major on the positive, the victorious, the "afterlife" and downplay suffering as a very real aspect of living this life. I think it has some connection with the doctrine of "life after death". Christians tend to live for the life after this life, for the "Second Coming"of Christ and tend to major on ways to escape the suffering of this world and to obtain fire insurance for the life after this one. Suffering is not a tool but a burden and God is a giant cosmic servant employed to reduce pain and suffering. The effect this has on the way Christians live is obvious. We tend to minimise this life and this earth and everyone who is not a Christian to a means that will be justified by the end. Buddhism, that does not have that perspective, major on suffering and how the correct approach to suffering can transform the way we live this life. For them, suffering is a tool, for Christians, suffering is something that must be avoided at all cost and that should actually not be part of our life-experience. Something we are entitled to escape based on our relationship with a loving Father. Christians employ various instruments like prayer, service to God, evangelism and sacrifice to obtain favour with God and through that escape suffering. Buddhists do not have an external being to appeal to, so they have to transform suffering itself into a tool to reach perfection. In the light of those thoughts, the questions below that I have received from Tracey can become guiding lights in a healthy discussion. Let's see what we can do with them 1. Do you think all human suffering leads us to the same outcome? 2. Does suffering ultimately cause growth and is growth suffering. I see suffering as such a negative process if I don’t see it in the light of growth. 3. If everything is in love, through love, can suffering be a form of love? 4. Does suffering depend on my mindset, is it connected to my ego and or my attachment to an expected outcome?
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Stephan Vosloo
Dec 24, 2021
In Practical transformation
Most of us have heard of the terms "True Self, False self, separate self". In this forum we will explore these terms and discover practices that can help us to use the concepts to become better at living. I hope that it will produce an in depth and practical discussion from which we can all learn. Joe de Swardt posted this in a recent blogpost: [1] “I (We) have many masks, personas, or facets - but we have one face. The face, true self, acts as the director and pivot, the unifying centre, for the other parts to congregate and integrate. Events, experiences, covenants, words, and decisions split parts off this self, like an axe splits a log. The splitting is a sacrificial offering of a part, so that in that moment, I can cope. It becomes the I for that occasion, commeth the hour commeth the I. If those types of occasions frequent, these splits can mature into a fully formed alter ego persona. The persona is there to shield, protect, cope, and help the deeper me. It acts to protect me. So, after years, me becomes a legion of ‘I’". I commented on his post from my own personal experience that confirmed his own: "I think waking up to the “Real Self” provides the safe environment where we can handle the fact that we have been living from various identities most of our lives and that it was okay". I was introduced to the concept by an article by Beatrice Bruteau. Here are some small extracts: “…we think we know who “we” are, and on the basis of this secure knowledge, we debate whether we are weak or strong, good or evil, capable of changing ourselves or not, and many similar topics. … in the course of a developing prayer life, we realize that we have been making certain assumptions about our identity that are not true, not deep enough, not dynamic enough, or otherwise too limited…. We take on … a set of artificial faces. We present ourselves to the world under our various titles, our roles, our functions, our relations … The question is whether the spiritual self should settle its identity-location in any of them, whether the very heart of selfhood should find itself there. The suggestion is that when it does so settle, locate, and identify itself, it mistakes one of its functional or artificial faces for its natural face. The business of the spiritual life is to remember and return to identifying with our natural face.”[2] I have asked Andy Lyde, Joe’s spiritual director (mentioned in his blog post) to introduce us to the principles of Psychosynthesis. He kindly agreed to participate and will respond on the forum. Here is a short bio for Andy from his website www.forimpactcoaching.com: “Andy has spent his career leading organizations and helping people who impact the world through their work to lead out of an authentic self. He understands the isolation and loneliness that can come with the mantle of leadership, especially during times of crisis and transition. As a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) by the International Coach Federation and Psychosynthesis Life Coach, he has spent hundreds of hours walking with leaders from around the world in their own times of transformational learning.” [1] Blog post by Joe de Swardt; The Great unification October 21; www.contemplatively.org [2] Article by Beatrice Bruteau Prayer and Identity; From The Sewanee Theological Review; article by Cynthia Bourgeault 2007.
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Stephan Vosloo
Oct 26, 2021
In Incarnation and evolution
From my blog post: "Do you want to join the ultimate dance?" For me, these questions remain: "Did I love unconditionally? Do I love disregarding the desire to find a reason, a 'because' before I love? Am I committed to stay the course until the unconditional and unreasonable love of God in me shows up to bring me into his/her purposes?" This is really challenging but has to be done if we want to make an authentic statement to people who are asking genuine questions. When we are confronted by honest questions, the place to start is to know that we don't know and to be honest enough to confess it. We are learning to honour people who think differently from us, and to learn from them. But to do that we have to accept and love questions, learn to live with them and allow them to become our teachers. Can you imagine a Christian church where that happens? Many fundamentalist Christians shoot their wounded and they believe that they are justified for in their minds their god does that. They believe he banishes the wounded (those who have not "accepted" Jesus as their "personal saviour") to hell forever. In that light it becomes easy to dismiss a person when her questions become uncomfortable. Just send them to hell. I am so glad that Jesus and Paul did not have that attitude. "Father forgive them ..." Those of us who have come to know the "other God", have begun a revolution that will include and care for every person we see as wounded and imperfect (including ourselves and those who do not agree with us). We are joining the Dance of the Trinity and reaching out to touch one another and be together. There are more and more people from all traditions who are joining the revolution and when a tipping point is reached, we will live in a world where the Unseen is manifested, where Love is real and the Dance is the main attraction. All I have to do right now is not break relationship ... Love will do the rest. Joe de Swart commented brilliantly: We are at this moment right in the middle of a reformation. A reformation that is going to shake off hundreds of years of theological and interpretational dogma adherence. If our very root spiritual exchange (dance) is with the living, then any version of stagnancy cannot be truth. Hold on to the version of software and hardware dating back to Luther, and irrelevance, first inward to ourselves, then outward into our relationships becomes the ossified into crystallised state. And we go nowhere. We cannot live in the 21st century with the theology and faith of the 16th century. It is dishonest. All around us, we see people giving up. But, what are they giving up? Giving up on something directing, informing and guiding people from another century. In today's world, it may as well be people from another planet. All reformation adopters first grow tired of the construct (how of doing - current and prevailing method and structure). Once the construct is gone, we find that it is actually not the meetings and structure that was the only burden, but the whole thought package. Brave people, then dig deeper, and find that all's not well in the spring behind all the thought dogmas. That spring itself is good (intentionally) but insufficient (compared to the vastness possible). Then the struggle ensues against the narrow portal, the closed spigot, the frozen tap. As we try to open and broaden it (the real One is limitless), we go through anxiety, rejection (first of ourselves, then by others), uncertainty, doubt, fear... But, it is impossible not to press on. So we do. And all this is built on the revolutionary nature of Jesus himself, who tossed over the tables of tradition. We learn to re-evaluate who our neighbour is (all those "other than us" ones), how God relates to us (in more ways that we ever imagine), how broad love is (much broader than we feel comfortable) and how much grace there is (for more than we decree worthy). All of our post modern angst, the culture wars, the political wars, the so called woke wars, are all part of the reformation. It asks us to use the teachings of Jesus to re-evaluate who are our neighbours? Who do we need to learn to love and accept (Jesus and tax-collectors, adulterous wife, the prostitute and the blue collar workers), to us it challenging to see the marginalised and the rejected, offensive ones and see if we should not throw our arms open to such? We are moving from bible reading, preaching, karaoke singing, arm flapping and tithing, into something new (drawing from the margins of the past) but it really is not some modern day St John of the Cross stuff (that ship has sailed), we are just seeing the our previously dear history, had some margins, and those margins are very interesting. We are not resuscitating Theresa, Fenelon, Guyon or Lawrence. We are looking upwards, inwards and outwards for the fresh 'now' stream as it unveils in human imaginations. God peeling of another layer. There are two community archetypes: Let's call the one the Amish, the second we call BB King. The Amish community works because it solidified so much of the daily questions already in the past. Shall we use a motorised car? No, we need to live closer to living things, at a slower pace. Do we want to wear Prada or Nike? No, check shirts and modest frocks are our uniform and makes us all similar. Etc. Democracy works in a community with a very long tail of tradition. Don't like the tradition? Go somewhere else. Daily discussions are off a very limited agenda sheet. Decisions are micro-evolutionary with few dramatic changes. Stability and certainty assured. But it starts to be very alien as time goes by. Don't get me wrong, it is good! We can learn much from looking at this living museum, but museums do not solve my issues of now and will not cover this earth now. People rooted and faithful to the long tail of history and culture. Secondly, BB King. BB looked to surround himself with people with a great gift and mastery in music. He could not care a fig about the tradition, the culture or the origins. It was the expression, the demonstrated ability, the flow. Meeting up, delighting and playing with as many 'others' helped him to do his thing ever better. Overtime everyone wanted to play with him. He was attractive, inventive and humble. Working with him made other people shine in ways the never could otherwise. But, this community of BB, was a short-tail community. It did not care about your origins and history, it valued your musicianship. Not that history did not matter, its just that these people acknowledged that history for you may edge your jazz skills, for another classic skills and a third it formed the blues. All is good. But music itself transcends all genres. If you want music, then make the history tail short. It looked forward, chasing that new sound, and fresh innovation. BB worked with people that were drug addled, broken and even desperate. His friendship and invitation for collaboration micro-rescued many, maybe for only a few days, maybe for ever. BB judge not. We oscillate in ourselves between these two poorly illustrated bookends (make your own parable if mine offends), the long-tailed and the tailless relationship options. I think that we are moving from Amish to BB, and the Amish don't like it. Even the non-Amish on the outside, still want us to be rather Amish, they bought the postcards.
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Stephan Vosloo

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I look at life from both sides now, and still ...

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