Sacred Communication Workshop–part 2

Yesterday I participated in the last of a series of workshops called Sacred Communication that was put on by Rev. Henrietta Byrd at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Park Forest, IL.   The purpose of this post is to describe the series of workshop in general, because  it has been a very positive force for my spiritual development this year.

1.  Introduction

The purpose of Sacred Communication was to show ways in which we can make our internal communication stronger and more authentic, so that we can then communicate with others in a more authentic way and manifest our abilities in a stronger way.

2.  Sacred Communication–Principles

As Henrietta Boyd explained the workshop, the ideas behind Sacred Communication are as follows:

  • You cannot have authentic communication with others unless you have authentic communication with yourself.
  • You cannot have authentic communication with yourself unless you separate those thoughts and emotions which come from your deepest aspirations, as opposed to those you have been conditioned to assuming by the environment in which you live and the experiences you have encountered in your life.
  • The ethical basis with which you treat other people must be the same basis that you treat yourself.
  • Authentic communication comes from treating yourself with the ethical basis of compassion.

3.  Forms of Spiritual Communication

Some of the people in the workshop came from an Eastern religious perspective, where everyone is imbued with the divine spark.    This is the first-person perspective of divinity, which is a religion of ultimate identity with the divine..    Others came from a Western religious perspective, where you can have a relationship with the divine, but the idea of identity with the divine is the ultimate heresy from that perspective.    This is the second-person perspective of divinity.  And then there were others in the workshop who were agnostic or atheist, where the principles of ethics derive from rational principles:   this can be seen as a third-person perspective of divinity, which doesn’t recognize the traditional idea of a deity at all.    This perspective is just as important in the history of our country as the second-person perspective in the form of Christianity.
Here’s a piece of evidence:   the original wording of the opening to the Declaration of Independence was “we hold these truths to be sacred.”    However, Benjamin Franklin suggested that “sacred” be changed to “self evident” so that those who do not believe in any particular deity could still be included as supporting the principles of the declaration.    So the workshop could have been called “Self Evident Communication” instead of “Sacred Communication.”    I think it is important in the interfaith movement to aware of the different “spiritual languages” of the world and to be able to understand that on the surface, they seem different, but they all have the same “deep structure” which leads to the ethical precept of the same Golden Rule, no matter whether it is stated in the Bible or in the philosophical writings of Immanuel Kant.
4.  Dealing with “the Shadow”
Many traditional forms of spiritual practice deal with harmonizing the body, mind, and spirit.    The Sacred Communication workshop deals with a different component, the psyche, in particular something which Ken Wilber refers to as “the Shadow,” the emotions and desires our conscious minds have refused to recognize and which show up in disguise either in dreams or in projections onto others.    One of the most interesting exercises we did was when Dr. Henrietta Byrd had us answer the following question:    “what is it that irritates you? “
We answered that question by listing those things which bother us about other people.    Notice the question does not specifically mention other people.    But when that question is asked, we answer with regard to other people by default.    When we all looked at our lists of what bothered us in other people, through a series of exploratory discussions, we all realized that what bothered us about other people really was what bothered us about ourselves, but in disguise.
This was a perfect illustration of the shadow principle.    Now it is not always a negative that gets projected onto others.  I found myself always admiring those members of my family that have been in the military, and I wondered why it was I found myself holding them in such high esteem, when I knew that they were, after all, ordinary people like myself.    I found that the reason why was because I assumed that they were disciplined because they were in the military, and I did not have a self-image of myself as being disciplined, so I took what I refused to recognize in myself, namely, that I am indeed a disciplined person, and projected it onto those in the military, albeit in an exaggerated fashion.    Once I recognized the fact that I was also disciplined, my admiration for my military relatives didn’t cease, but it was no longer in an exaggerated form like it was before.
What benefit does reclaiming the “shadow” elements of one’s psyche produce?    First of all, it reclaims the energy which was separated off from your own conscious mind.    That’s probably the biggest benefit.    The second benefit is that your relations with others are more authentic because you are reacting to what is really there in the other people rather than “shadow-boxing” and reacting to what you are projecting from yourself.
This in itself would have been worth the price of admission to the workshop, but additional workshops have gone into other aspects of internal communication, and I will describe these in future posts.
For those in the South Suburbs of Chicago, you should look at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Park Forest website and look up the next Sacred Communication Workshop–it’s a worthwhile investment of your time!

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