Patterns of Development — dealing with the mind’s cobwebs
This second article has to do with emptying the mind. But before we can explore a western take on the eastern idea of emptiness and how to use mindfulness, I want to talk about how fear and anger contribute to blocked or stunted growth.
If you’ve explored back issues of Into the Centre, or looked through the Bodywork section, you’ll know that there are a couple of human development models that I agree with. In this article, I want to discuss three. Next article, as we explore Mindfulness, I’ll pull it all together.
Maslow, Myss, and Peck
Sounds a little like a law firm, right? Some years ago, I developed a ten-session Bodywork series based upon the Chakras, plus sessions of full body and erotic massage work. For the brochure, I created to following illustration:
Now, in a sense, the chart ought to be the other way around, as we move ‘up’ from ground to ‘heaven,’ and of course that’s how it looks in Maslow’s hierarchy.
In both Maslow’s hierarchy and in Chakra Theory, we begin at the lowest level and develop (or not!) from there. In keeping with Ken Wilber’s idea mentioned last article, the goal is to “[tag]transcend and include[/tag]” each stage of development.
Why Most are Stuck at Level Three
The first three levels are physical, and are each about safety, belongingness, and escaping abandonment. Infants learn from the first to do what is necessary to keep the food flowing and the physical contact coming. Most people are highly ‘physical reality based,’ in that they fear actual, physical loss and/or abandonment.
A perfect illustration of this is how quickly people will abandon their ‘selves’ when someone threatens to leave them. Or they might think they are going to be fired. Principles fly out the window as the person seeks to save the relationship.
We learned to do this as children—staying a member in good standing of the tribe seemed to be ‘life and death.’ (My e‑book, “Living Life in Growing Orbits” describes this process. Have a look at the free sample pages.)
The Flavours of Fear
The two main flavours of fear are ‘fear of loss’ and ‘fear of change.’ Abandonment, for example, could fit into either category. Now this might be obvious, but think about advertising. Virtually all advertising targets one or the other of these fears. We’re conditioned to use the same products and the same methods for gaining safety and security. When in doubt, buy something!
The Marketing of Fear and Lack
Marketing is directed at the largest demographic, and caters to what “moves” them. We are thus bombarded with lack, loss, and fear-based ads, movies, TV shows, etc. We are told that if only we will buy in to the western consumerist lifestyle, we will have it all. We will be safe, popular, and smell nice. Yet, it just doesn’t seem to work out. Various starlets and singers like the strangely disturbed Hilton, Lohan, and Spears regularly give us a look at what a drug and drink induced mega-lifestyle looks at (as well as endless views of the crotches, but that’s another article…)
And yet, we look, transfixed, the way we slow down and look at a highway accident.
The smaller ‘vocational’ demographic, above, starts at the transition point between ‘physical’ and ‘spiritual’—and it’s simply a change of focus, orientation and direction.
Now, knowing this and doing something about it are two different things. In the next article, I’ll spend some time looking at Buddhist concepts for dealing with the fear messages that occupy our minds at all hours of the day. For now, I just want you to “get” how they are implanted.
M. Scot Peck and the Stages of Faith
Peck says that everything follows these stages—physical, psychological, mental, and spiritual development, in keeping with our theme.
He suggests that chaos is so unstructured that it breeds an intense desire for order and rules, and fundamentalism is perfect for this. There are always people around that want to tell others how to live, after all.
For most people, fitting in and following the rules is all they want. Anything else is just too scary. Therefore, their effort is put into buying a house, having kids, getting raises and moving up the ladder at work. At the end of their working lives, most are exactly as Thoreau described: living lives of quiet desperation.
The stage beyond fundamentalism is doubt. This is the stage of questioning our beliefs, norms, goals, and directions. It’s the stage of moving from home, moving out of town, doing something different and challenging everything. Many people get just a taste of this in College or University, before they settle back in, sell out, and buy the Beemer.
Doubt is the Exciting Stage
There’s nothing more freeing than questioning your assumptions. It’s deadly not to. I have a client we’ll call “C”. She sees this, and yet is firmly stuck in her fundamentalism. Her belief is that everyone hates her and treats her badly, and she is angry at ‘all of them.’ She goes on at great length, listing the sins committed against her, and can stop for a minute and see that listing sins gets her nowhere. But the pull of her belief that she is hard done by trumps doing things differently. Doubt would require that she doubt her belief, and so far, it’s far too much fun to be a victim.
Doubt leads to questioning and mis-trust—just the opposite of what society wants of good, loyal sheep. Doubt that is informed and guided by mysticism does not seek to change the system. It seeks to redirect the attention of the individual to the only thing anyone can do anything about—him or herself.
Gandhi, for example, did not change England or India. He changed himself. He sat, he spun yarn, and he talked and he walked. He said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” and “Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well.”
I suspect you’ve read this far because you are sick and tired of being bored, confused, angry, and turned off. In the end, there is only one way out, and it is the path of doubt leading to a change of heart, mind and direction. Our next articles will address these changes.