Animas Valley Institute -  Guiding the Descent to Soul Since 1980

Waking Up, and Co-creating 
Life-Enhancing Society

This Musing and the following seven are adapted from Bill's talk to the International Coaches Federation at their August 2008 Montreal conference. 

Artwork: Doug Van Houten 

Friday, June 16, 2017
The initiation process that leads to full-fledged adulthood, according to nature-based people, is one of dying, psychologically and spiritually, and then being reborn. We die to our adolescent personality and are reborn, rooted in the mystery with which we came into this life, our souls.

I should say a bit about what I mean by soul. Soul, for me, is our ultimate place in the more-than-human world. The human soul -- an individual's human soul -- is their individual, unique, and ultimate place or niche in the more-than-human world. Soul is not something inside us. It's more like something outside of us. It's a place in the world -- not a geographical place, but something like a niche: my role in life, or my position, or the quality or gift that I can bring into the world in a way that no one else can in quite the same way. It's my place in the world. Another way to refer to it -- the way I think of soul -- is that it's the largest conversation I am capable of having with the world. And, like everyone who has discovered such a conversation, I enact it through a cultural role -- a vocation or a social role -- but this role is not at all the same thing as that conversation or that niche. From the perspective of soul, a vocation, like coaching, is actually just a delivery system for the mystery we're born with.
The initiation process is a lengthy one. It usually takes many years to discover what the mystery is that I was born with. After this discovery, I then need to determine how to embody it among my people and through the cultural roles available to me, based on which culture, which century, which gender, which weaknesses, which strengths I have, and so on. Is this making sense?
I began this talk with the theme about waking up. My work is to help people wake up from the mainstream Western trance. Maybe as coaches, some of you -- maybe all of you -- have a similar understanding. Perhaps you work toward a similar goal -- helping people wake up. And what we wake up to is, as I say, the dream or the vision or the revelation. And our individual dream or vision is a special case of Earth's dream. Each one of us, every living thing on the planet is dreaming into the world its little strand or piece or dimension of this larger dream, which is the dream of the Earth. I borrow this phrase from one of my teachers, Thomas Berry, and his book The Dream of the Earth. [1] Thomas Berry is the great cultural historian and eco-theologian of our time. Actually, he calls himself a geologian, and he just turned 94 last week.
The dream of the Earth is a special case of the dream of the Universe.

So I, like a lot of people, like to think of the Universe as an immense, imaginative dream that's been unfolding now for something like 13.7 billion years. And Earth is part of that unfolding, and each living being on the planet is a part of that unfolding. We are dreaming the world into place. But as far as we know, we humans are the only species, on this planet anyway, capable of refusing the place we were born to take. All other beings naturally take their place, but aren't self-conscious about it. We have this special form of consciousness -- sometimes called reflexive self-awareness -- that affords us the magnificence and uniqueness of being human, but also affords us the possibility to completely fail at what we were born to do. And I imagine coaching as a field of helping people discover and embody what they were born to do.

Here's a poem. It's by one of my favorite poets, contemporary British-American David Whyte. I'm going to help you out with this poem a little bit before I recite it. It's called "What To Remember When Waking". He's referring to waking up, but not just in the every morning way we wake up, but also in the sense of how we wake up to the deeper life that is ours to live. We wake up from the trance. We wake up and return to the world from which we came. And in many cultures we understand the world we came from as being below the world we live in. We come into this world from below. And to go through the initiation process I've been speaking of, we must return for a while to the world we came from in order to discover the story -- the larger story -- we were designed to live, or to discover the image that lives in our heart, as Michelangelo put it. Then we come back from the depths to offer that gift, that mystery -- into this world. So that's what I believe the poet is talking about -- what he's saying we're waking up from. "What To Remember When Waking":
In that first
hardly noticed
in which you wake,
coming back
to this life
from the other
more secret,
and frighteningly
where everything
there is a small
into the new day
which closes
the moment
you begin
your plans.
What you can plan
is too small
for you to live.
What you can live
will make plans
for the vitality
hidden in your sleep.
To be human
is to become visible
while carrying
what is hidden
as a gift to others.
To remember
the other world
in this world
is to live in your
true inheritance.
You are not
a troubled guest
on this earth,
you are not
an accident
amidst other accidents
you were invited
from another and greater
than the one
from which
you have just emerged.
Now, looking through
the slanting light
of the morning
window toward
the mountain
of everything
that can be,
what urgency
calls you to your
one love?  What shape
waits in the seed
of you to grow
and spread
its branches
against a future sky?
Is it waiting
in the fertile sea?
In the trees
beyond the house?
In the life
you can imagine
for yourself?
In the open
and lovely
white page
on the waiting desk? [2]

So our psyches -- something actually greater than our minds -- our psyches come from a realm much deeper than the modern mind. In order to experience our deepest human fulfillment and to provide a service or contribution to the world that is truly beneficial, we have to once again root our individual consciousness into these deeper realms. This is the initiatory process.

So when we're coaching people to awaken (in the sense that I'm talking about), it's essential they awaken from the contemporary cultural trance. It's essential we learn how to help them root their lives into this mystery.
But waking up in this way is possible only at a certain stage in life. That stage is the stage of late adolescence. I don't mean our teen years. I mean the psychological stage of late adolescence, which I'm going to talk about here. After a certain point in life, after early adolescence, "what you can plan is too small for you to live." Up through early adolescence, we do our best to figure out our place in the world and to plan. To "live wholeheartedly," however, you must draw upon and be sourced in something other than the strategic mind. "Strategic mind" is another phrase for the ego or the everyday conscious self.

One thing I believe -- I bet a lot of you believe the same -- is that the strategic mind has certain purposes, and there are certain other purposes it doesn't have. We tend to think, in the Westernized worlds, that the strategic mind is all we've got, and that anything worth doing is something that has to be figured out first with the strategic mind. But I believe -- I bet a lot of you also do, maybe all of you -- that the strategic mind never knows what's worth doing in life. It's not designed for that. The way we discover what's worth doing in life is by cultivating a relationship with what I call soul or Mystery. And through that kind of experience, through cultivating that kind of relationship, we discover, in non-cultural terms, in psycho-ecological terms, what it is that we were designed to do in this lifetime.
The strategic mind's job is to implement our soul's passions.
The strategic mind is an implementer, not a decider about what's really worth doing in life. 

To read part one click here.

[1] Thomas Berry, The Dream of the Earth   (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 2006).
[2] David Whyte, "What to Remember When Waking," in The House of Belonging (Langley, WA: Many Rivers Press, 1996), p. 28. 

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