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cswforum

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Reply with quote  #1 
To My Spirit at Work Community....

It's a bit hard to talk about this, so publicly. Yet if anyone is likely to understand, it’s people like you, in a group like this. It’s also something I want to encourage in our network, i.e. telling our stories. So here goes...
 
Thirty five years ago, I was working in the environmental field – communicating new ideas like recycling and the Blue Box, and bringing them into the mainstream. And I loved it. I would go anywhere, anytime to talk about them. At the same time, I was in great turmoil. I feared the problems I saw growing in the world, and wondered why they seemed to keep getting larger. I was also in deep personal conflict, in my young marriage and with others in my field. My whole being was calling out for help. And it was this search for answers, and inward peace, that led me unexpectedly to a teaching called A Course in Miracles - and the start of my spiritual journey.
 
This was not something I relished, however. The Course brought me face to face with my fierce resistance to God, Christianity and anything religious. It also challenged my scientific worldview and basic concepts about reality; my ideas about how to create change, how to see other people and deal with the conflicts in my life. You might say it confronted me on every level. And yet... through daily spiritual practice, I found that it worked; it really did create healing and positive change in my life. 
 
Wanting to share these new insights with others, I tried to communicate them. But my fumbling attempts to do so met with huge resistance from those around me. I ached from the hurt, the rejection and embarrassment. So I made a decision:  to never communicate these ideas again. My new way of seeing the world (from a spiritual/consciousness perspective) seemed so strange, so radical, so unacceptable to the average person, I believed there was no way I could ever help people to understand. Then, inwardly guided to leave my field, I went into virtual seclusion from expressing my core work and ideas. That was 1982.
 
It took over 20 years to just crack open my “spiritual closet”, i.e. begin talking about spirituality one on one, then publicly. Plus another decade to continue healing and face the many other issues I had also suppressed (including the “Course”). But this year, I finally did it.
 
On January 15th, in Vancouver, I told my full story. For the first time, I shared why I’d left my field; my questions about the roots of our problems and why they keep growing, how to deal with our conflicts and create change more successfully; and “the consciousness shift” so many of us say is needed, but don't know how to get there.
 
It was truly a liberating moment. A time of finding my voice and sharing my truths once again. Reconnecting with the work I’d once valued; yet now with some answers and experience to back them up. And, quite literally, starting my career all over again... all this, three days before my 60th birthday.
 
It’s been a long time ‘coming out.’ I’m still feeling a bit shaky on next steps. But I am deeply grateful to have finally come home again...

Eric Hellman
Director
Centre for Spirituality at Work
Rex

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Reply with quote  #2 
Hi Eric,  Second post!  I was attracted to this topic because, like you, actually living an authentic life seemed to be such a struggle that I also tried to deny it.  So here is a snapshot of my story.
Born immediately post WWII to an ordinary family with an older sister and subsequent younger brother we lived in humble circumstances in a temporary Nissen Hut shelter.  Four years later we were moved into a small apartment where I shared a bedroom with my brother.  Shortly after we arrived there I was playing in the lounge, a rare treat, when something unexpected happened, I stepped off the back of the sofa and for a fraction of a second did not fall to the ground.  I was aware of hovering in space before I fell and then carried on as if nothing had happened.  That night as I lay in bed I thought about what had happened and reasoned that the only reason I fell down was because I believed that was what should happen and if I didn't believe it, it wouldn't happen!  My thoughts continued with this line of logic - so the only reason things happen the way they do is that we are told that is what happens, and if we don't accept it then we can change what happens.  But if that is so then anything is possible, which means I would know all that is....  So why don't I know all that is?  Because if I did I would go mad as there is so much to know....  So being as young as I am now maybe knowing only a little is helpful, and as I grow older I can change the boundary to what I know to encompass more... That seems a good way to grow up.  So now I know that there are no boundaries but it is helpful to have some to keep me feeling secure and I can change that whenever I want to.  Good, I can go to sleep now then....

I forgot this experience for years until I was a paramedic in a Commando Group in North Borneo, living with a tribe of aboriginal head-hunters.  For some inexplicable reason I had decided to only speak to them in their language, which was difficult because they didn't speak English and we could only communicate directly in Malay.  The tribal chief agreed to my request to learn their language and every day spent hours with me teaching me words.  After some weeks he said that I had learned sufficient words to speak to them but words alone were not enough, I needed to know how they loved and thought, so with my permission he would adopt me as his son and I would live with them to learn this.  I was rooted to the spot with emotion as he said this, it was such a profound truth and insight it shocked me, and so humbling to be so welcomed.  What they taught me was  beyond words, it was an awareness and sense of being beyond western imagination that shook my Christian mind-set.  I had been sent to Sunday school and church by my parents and became an alter boy at age 10; yet what I was taught and what actually happened created conflict due to the hypocrisy of the congregation.  I readily accepted the pagan philosophy as more consistent with my own true values and beliefs.

I did not really understand what the chief had really taught me for many years either as I realised later, so much of what he imparted was unconscious, it was a way of life that was so respectful and integrated with this planet and life, everything has a spirit if we are open to that.  Some 15 years later I was the manager of a medical facility in the Royal Navy when the head of the women's detachment suddenly said to me as we passed in a corridor "have you ever read Jonathan Livingston Seagull?  you should!"  I hadn't and bought it straight away and read it.  It stopped me in my tracks, poleaxed! I read it several times as it seemed to be screaming something to me - "WAKE UP!"  By then I was married with two sons and this book just shook me to the core, I needed space to begin to understand what it was saying.  We had rented our house and moved to Scotland to stay together as a family in this posting but the rental fell through and my family reluctantly moved back home to give me space to work put what was happening to me.  I still didn't quite get what was going on in my life but it did seem someone was trying to tell me something important!

Some years later and I decided to leave the armed services and start anew.  I was released to head up a newly constituted health care organisation that had 9 hospitals and 41 health centres and clinics serving some 300,000 people in Southern England.  Everything was new to me and I had to learn very quickly how to operate in this new environment.  It seems I was selected because I was a Commando (the elite force), a Commanding Officer, and they expected solid military discipline.  What they didn't realise is that special forces are very different from the standard military, we were far more participative in our "leadership" style.  Suffice to say that within a short period five organisations that were forced into one became coherent and highly successful as we operated as a "swarm" of bees, communicating freely and acknowledging our commonly developed and shared values and beliefs.  Some 5 years later we won the UK national training award for our management development programme that delivered "impossible" performance levels.  The auditors said something that hurt me because they said they couldn't put it into their report.  What they said was that, "blindfold if you put us into any facility we could tell if you were responsible for it because there was a tangible sense of joy and happiness in each of your facilities".  This was the most powerful testament imaginable, and an endorsement of the real development we had all achieved but they still felt embarrassed to say it!  I knew that my efforts were merely to create the environment for the success, it was everyone else who achieved it by their hard work and wiliness to change, trust others and open up.  The impact was astounding with staff turnover minimal and recruitment unnecessary because we had waiting lists for every job.  We also broke every rule in the book that we felt impeded our progress.

And yet I still couldn't  speak about the underlying reason for this transformation in me and that I could enable others to make because I didn't understand it.  I made similar transformations several times more in other health and social care organisations with equal results and yet I was sacked from each job because others were jealous and threatened by the performance that resulted from such changes. It was strange because I couldn't explain how we did it, or why we were so successful, I just know I was acting in accordance to a feeling within, and I didn't fight when other CEO's attacked me.  What saddened me was that every time I left the phone calls and messages from the staff broke my heart as they said that things had reverted to the way it was everywhere else, bullying and directive management who didn't listen or understand.  I wondered why I did what I did and whether I should stop.

I finally reached the age of 60 when redundant yet again I realised that my path had left me with a failed but happy and successful career, and sadly with a failed marriage as by then my spiritual journey had begun and I was being described as weird because I no longer wanted to embrace or value the material over those things which began to become ever more meaningful.  I spent several years seeking ways to revive my marriage but although I was prepared to change my wife said that I was an embarrassment in company because I was so open about my changing beliefs and values.  After an acrimonious divorce I felt free to reflect and realise what had been going on in my life.

Somehow the spiritual had always guided me, I finally recognised those moments when I had heard and listened to that ever quiet and soft voice that guided the most important decisions I had made, that shaped my life and put me into the situations where I could learn and share the real and rare beauty of life.  I spent time in silent retreat and discovered the profound depths possible that help you realise what is possible if you have the courage to do them.  What has remained a puzzle is why I have struggled so much to share this aspect of my journey, I have wanted to write for may ears but never found the right words or context to do so.  There are so many stories along the way, some other-worldly, some very ordinary.  I still work by offering to facilitate learning in business managers at a business school but this needs to change too.  A last story from a day when I was still puzzling over who I really was and what I was here for:

I was asked to help facilitate at a seminar for business people at the hunting lodge of the last Austrian Emperor way up in the mountains and forests of Austria.  I arrived early and wanted to familiarise myself with the lodge and surrounding area.  It was getting dark and there had been a very heavy snowfall that covered all the trees and ground in a dense deep carpet of snow.  I had been told it was a 30 minute walk to the nearest other habitation so left the lodge to find out if it was true.  I began to walk into the forest and after some 10 minutes realised that it was completely silent and only lit by a feint light from the moon. I also suddenly realised that the forest was wild and there were wild boar packs that inhabited the forest, and they were fierce if the felt threatened.  I felt my pockets and jacket and realised I had nothing except a handkerchief with me, no torch to shine at boar, nothing.  It was very cold and I was defenceless, I could turn back now and be safe and even get something for protection, or I could trust the universe and carry on, what should I do?

I decided to go on and sure enough some 20 minutes later I could see some light through the trees to know I was near the few houses.  I didn't want to go to them so turned 90 degrees and walked for some few hundred metres before turning back towards the lodge.  Shortly after this I became aware that something had changed - it seemed that everything was enhanced and as if I could see everything down to the smallest detail.  I looked around me and saw not just snow but every snowflake, not just trees but every pine needle and cone and seed, and even the insects crawling on the bark.  The stars were brilliant and the moon in the gaps of the treetops was a silvery disc shimmering in the distance, it was truly magical.  As I walked on I realised just how beautiful the forest and all within it was and wanted to tell the forest this.  I thought, how do I tell the forest how beautiful it is, and that soft quiet voice said, just open your mouth and say it, so I did.

I told the forest that it was the most beautiful forest I had seen, I shouted it out so that it really heard my thoughts.......and then I was shocked when after a few moments the forest replied and reduced me to tears and a sobbing wreck.. It whispered in my ear the one thing I did not expect t hear from it...
"and so are you!"  

- Rex Barker
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