#10 - And the Light
💫💫💫 “You cannot be the light and hold another in darkness.” ~ The Guides, through Paul Selig ~
Recent research unveiled some disturbing numbers, and yet, they aren’t remotely surprising. 42% of the people in each political party in the U.S. believe that their opposition is “downright evil.” Nearly 20% of both Democrats and Republicans believe that their political adversaries “lack the traits to be considered fully human - they behave like animals.” 20% of Democrats and 16% of Republicans are convinced that the world would be better off if large numbers of the other party died.
We need to disabuse ourselves of these delusions that we create with this toxic us vs. them paradigm. We labor under a misapprehension that certain kind of people are lost causes, beyond hopeless, and utterly irredeemable. Fuel that hatred fire, and those flames will quickly engulf and consume you, as you’ll become indistinguishable from that which you loathe. As Selig also channels, what you bless blesses you, and what you damn damns you right back.
Rediscovering the human element in all of this is critical. Our common humanity must exceed our interesting differences. We’re all connected. The human race is like a giant superorganism that works together - and as a whole, we are undeniably sick. One of the ways we can get better is by not denying our common humanity. To the contrary, that's something we need to embrace.
You’d be hard-pressed to have been at the Sanctuary and not have learned those lessons. One of the special parts of our gravitational pull is how people from an insanely broad spectrum of ages, countries, ethnicities, professions, walks of life, and backgrounds come together and bond as one family at SpiritQuest in such a short window of time. don Howard appropriately calls it “global familyism.”
Interesting differences are cool. I have everyone that comes to SpiritQuest introduce themselves to the group and share three interesting things about them. I have a theory that every person alive has at least three interesting things about them, and when it comes to SpiritQuest folks, three trillion interesting things about them seems more apt. A few highly interesting things about participants from our recent retreat included the following: fleeing from the Tamil Tigers; surfing all around the world; smooth-talking to escape some nefarious Hezbollah henchmen, all the while being completely hammered; building an entire house from scratch; foraging for all kinds of mushrooms; and tapping maple trees to make maple syrup.
But the interesting differences fade rather fast while people are at the Sanctuary. Certain common motifs appear time and time again. Compassion while your fellow sister or brother is neck-deep in a don Rober certified purge bucket. The vulnerability - and tears of love - displayed in group talking stick circles or elsewhere. Gaining additional clarity. Discarding lots of unnecessary baggage and dead weight. (As don Howard has said, "We've all got some $#!t to dump.") The “Aha!” moments. Flashing an ear to ear grin and the initial fluorescence of self-love that had been dormant for decades. That sense of connection and fellowship with other hermanos y hermanas. The willingness to face the challenge of the final ceremony, feeling physically/emotionally/psychologically/spiritually drained, but maintaining that courage to show up with an empty cup seeking truth and leaning into confrontation. And maybe most important of all, leaving the Sanctuary with extreme enthusiasm and overwhelming gratitude to go down one's particular path.
One recent grad recapped the profundity of the experience, succinctly writing to a friend who had asked about how the week went, "God is definitely a thing. Death is nothing to be scared of. Have a great week!" He later reflected, “I was shown all the good, all the bad, and all that’s missing. What I experienced is beyond my ability to describe in words and has changed my life. I am profoundly grateful for what was revealed to me.”
According to don Howard, “Think of SpiritQuest as a kind of social experiment. When we can see the love, sisterhood/brotherhood, and sacredness in ourselves and with the other SpiritQuest travelers that visit the Sanctuary with us, we can form as close to a utopian culture as humanly possible. That kind of culture revolves around loving, sharing, tolerating, and being compassionate and supportive of one another, and we'd like to see the world do so on a larger scale. When we consistently achieve that at the Sanctuary in only a week’s time, and how people from all kinds of backgrounds and walks of life from all over the world so quickly become one family, we are empowered and optimistic to do our part to ensure that the world replicates that model.”
The ripple and radiation effect from the various lightbulbs that get turned on following SpiritQuest are palpable. A thousand points of light is an enlightened statement. Every light lights another light, which lights another light, which lights another light. That's how you light up the world.
Socrates stated that, “I know nothing but the certainty of my own ignorance” and he was far wiser than I could ever aspire to be. I haven’t figured anything out. I don’t claim to be the light, or 100% light. I have both a dark side and a light side. I strive to identify with that beautiful, sentient, conscious light side. It’s a practice, but there are times where I practice the wrong thing.
Infinite striving to be the best is not only a person’s duty, Gandhi said, it is also its own reward. I strive to be a clean instrument. I strive to be a transparent instrument. I strive to be better than I was yesterday. And I strive to be kinder to myself when I fail to make the mark.
One of our recent alums had an experience on la medicina where he felt like he was launched on an alien spaceship into the cosmos. Our work is extremely holistic with occasionally interesting side effects, and isn’t about the pyrotechnics. But when that cosmic, white-knuckle sleigh ride hurls you into the cosmos, it's essential to witness and allow, which is what he did. He went to a place and was given carte blanche to see whatever he wanted to see or do whatever he wanted to do. His choice was an illuminating one. He wanted to “see the light”, but only under one condition; if he could be with everyone else in the group while doing so.
That really struck me. He wasn’t selfish about it. He didn’t employ a scarcity mindset. To the contrary, it reflected an abundance and affluence heartset. Looping in fellow kindred spirits to witness that light was non-negotiable.
When I once told don Howard I wanted to do my small part to see his mission continue, he corrected me. “It’s not my mission, brother. It’s our mission.” The “our” did not mean don Howard and Parker’s mission; rather, it was infinitely global and inclusive.
That mission isn't a cakewalk. It's challenging. A cascade of resistance is always going to be on the menu. I'm reminded of the exchange between Anthony Hopkins and Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible II:
Commander: So you think the mission will be difficult? Ethan Hunt: Very. Commander: Well Mr. Hunt, this is Mission Impossible, not Mission Difficult. Difficult should be a walk in the park for you.
We want everyone on board the "Para El Bien De Todos" train. We need to activate every player on the game board and empower them to contribute. Let’s continue to collectively bring more light and consciousness to the world and make it a better place. It’s a mission we all share and we all have our means and unique gifts to contribute to the mission. Starting right this very second, let’s walk forward together in new ways.
Be that light. Be that positive example. Be that model for what you want the world to become. And remember that we can’t be that light while holding others in darkness. That’s the don Howard way. That’s the SpiritQuest way. That’s our way. 💫💫💫
Much love, -Parker