Sunday, February 2, 2014

The curse of "boomeritis"...

Fr. Richard Rohr of New Mexico is doing some really creative and
insightful blogging these days. I have been particularly taken with his description of the spiritual journey as the ever deepening descent of both faith and wisdom.  This work is never about MORE, but rather DEPTH. His weekly summary puts it like this:

So many of our problems can be resolved if we realize that people are at differing levels of awareness and wisdom.

+ Step One:  my body and my self-image are who I am.
+ Step Two:  my external behavior is who I am.
+ Step Three: my thoughts and feelings are who I am.
To move into step four, Rohr notes along with other spiritual masters, that we must experience a great love that includes great suffering, a major defeat, a significant shock to the ego and/or a staggering humiliation. Without this encounter, we will be unable or unwilling to embrace the power of our shadow.

I spoke about this during worship today, too in our conversation about humility. We love to believe and act like we are special - special losers or special winners - but special, unique and unlike any and all others. The sobering reality, of course, is that such narcissism is bullshit. On our plane trip back from Tucson, there was a person near us reading a book called something like Buddhism without Beliefs. On our ride home the next day in the car, Di asked, "Did you see that guy's book? Give me a break! Why not just invent your OWN religion so there isn't even the pretext of depth or sacrifice or mystery?" (Amen and amen! I was thinking something similar.) Rohr goes on to amplify the implications of this insight like this:

If you can stay in the liminal space between Stage Three and Stage Four, if you can suffer the shock, humiliation, and necessary failure of your game falling apart without regressing to earlier, more dualistic thinking, you will ideally move to Stage Four.

I describe Stage Four as this: My deeper intuitions and the felt knowledge in my body are who I am. People who have been trained to keep the heart and head spaces open and to live grounded inside their own bodies and feel their real feelings are able to pass to Stage Four because they have the greatest capacity for presence, and presence to what actually is!

For some, this is such a breakthrough, so enriching, grounding, and self-validating after wallowing around in ego and confusion for so many years, that it feels like enlightenment itself. Thus, very many become stymied here and think it’s the whole spiritual journey. They have “depth” compared to all these hopeless others around them! This can lead to individualism, self-absorption, and inner work as a substitute for any honest encounter with otherness or with The Other. 

In such a place, there is little real social conscience (beyond verbal political correctness) and usually a lack of compassion or active concern for what is happening on this earth. This kind of spirituality is all about my enlightenment and my superiority.

But if you are authentically present at Stage Four, you will begin to see your shadow self in sometimes humiliating ways. Without humility, you will run back to Stage Three, and many do. You’ll see your phony motivation: that you are not as holy as you think you are; that you are largely doing this for your own self-image, to think of yourself as moral, aware, and enlightened. Politeness and political correctness pass for actual love. Ken Wilber calls it “Boomeritis” since it is so true of a certain age group in America and Europe.

Yet this struggle and humiliation is what is going to lead you to real non-dual thinking: when you face the enemy and the enemy is you, and you recognize that you can’t project evil onto other religions, races, classes, political parties, or genders. I’m the problem. I’m petty, needy, self-absorbed, or whatever it might be. If you are unwilling to do some shadow work, to wrestle with the shadow and see it in all of its humiliating truthfulness, you will not go to Stage Five. (check Rohr out at:

Humility born of suffering and humiliation changes us and seems to be an essential part of the journey before we are able to live consistently as people of compassion and justice.

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