Thursday, August 13, 2015

Unity Does not Mean Uniformity

In Part 1 of this series on cultural diversity we introduced and generally defined the topic of cultural diversity and in this post we’ll explore its practical implications for CSL as an organization. Part 3 will place all of this in the context of the Global Vision. 

The question we’re exploring today is:

If we believe in Oneness, should we even be noticing differences, much less celebrating them?

As a practical matter, the Leadership Council of CSL has created the Diversity Commission in direct response to a failure to notice difference in the form of marketing materials for the 2011 Gathering in San Diego that showed a picture of “us” that included only white people. 

This raised a variety of concerns regarding how the organization sees and seeks to portray itself and how it in turn is being perceived. Clearly the decision has been made that we wish to project images of ourselves that portray diversity and inclusivity; but how does that fit in with our belief in Oneness?

Unity is Not Uniformity 
Unity does not mean uniformity, Ernest Holmes repeatedly affirmed.

We know that our being all One does not mean we are all the same. We are each unique expressions of the Divine, just as the entire manifest Universe is made up of a multiplicity of expressions of the One. In this way we are simultaneously All like EVERYONE else AND like NO ONE else.

Culture is the arena of expression in which we are all like SOME others. Race, gender, ethnicity, national identity, sexual orientation, class, physical ability, and religion are all expressions of the way we are like SOME people. 

What Unites 
In fact, cultural expression occurs across the entire spectrum of human relationships. Your family of origin has a culture. Centers for Spiritual Living has a culture. Your Center has a culture. Perhaps your Vision Statement articulates it. In any event, something has knitted you together and become the water that sustains you as community. The possibilities for how we express as like some people are endless.

Where Do We Go From Here?
This brings us back to Dr. Holmes explanation in the Textbook regarding objective and subjective mental activity:

“The objective, or conscious, mind is the spiritual mind…”(SOM 112:3) “When we think, we think from conscious intelligence, or Spirit. The thought then becomes subjectified; it goes into the subconscious mind” (SOM 124L4).

The question for us, then, becomes 

“Is our culture reflective of who we intend to be in the world?” 

Does it match our Vision, Mission and Values? Who else might need to be here in order for us to fully manifest God’s highest idea of who we are called to be? These questions become particularly important as we consider how they – and we – relate to the Global Vision. That is the topic of our third and final installment of this series.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

What is Water?

Introduction to Cultural Diversity
by Rev. C.Michael Woodstock

“To see what is in front of one’s nose requires a constant struggle”
George Orwell

Story of the Fish
One day as a group of young fish were swimming along they encountered an older fish swimming in the opposite direction. Passing by, the older fish greeted them saying “Hello there; how’s the water?” After the younger fish had gone some ways farther one of them piped up, “What the heck is water?”

Photo Courtesy of UnitedYAM
This story is meant to illustrate that, just as fish don’t see water because it is so ubiquitous it is taken for granted, so too are we surrounded and immersed in a context that is typically invisible to us. We live and breathe in a sea of assumptions that operate like default settings in a software program to govern our responses to our environment. We are constantly making choices and responses throughout each day based on these default settings as we navigate our environment.

This is Water
How do we acquire these default settings? From our early childhood upbringing, schooling and socialization and ongoing relationships with family, friends, neighbors and the rules, regulations and values of the community and society in which we live, written and unwritten, explicit or implicit. In these and countless other ways we are getting feedback from our environment about how successfully we are meeting the expectations of our parents, teachers, and others in our community and society.

Another word for this is culture. It is the learned behavior people acquire that makes it easier for them to know what to expect from each other as they live, work, play, worship and engage in countless other human activities together. It is the collective understanding of common sense.

Or as Albert Einstein once famously put it:

“Culture is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.”

The Blink of an Eye
None of this is good or bad, per se. It is how human beings are wired to quickly make decisions based on information stored in our subconscious (past training) plus minimal new information. In short, we literally pre-judge in order to make rapid decisions. This has given us a distinct evolutionary advantage, AND it get us into trouble as Malcolm Gladwell points out in his book, Blink:

“[Research] suggests that what we think of as free will is largely an illusion: 

Much of the time, we are simply operating on automatic pilot, and the way we think and act – and how well we think and act on the spur of the moment – are a lot more susceptible to outside influences than we realize. 

The answer is that we are not helpless in the face of our first impressions. They may bubble up from the unconscious - from behind a locked door inside of our brain.

But just because something is outside of awareness doesn't mean it's outside of control."

Though our biases are nearly automatic, we have the opportunity to change the patterns that have formed...

... if we can become conscious of the water we have been swimming in.  

COMING UP - Does Unity mean Uniformity?
Next week, we'll continue the series on Cultural Diversity.  The practical spiritual implications of this will be explored in Part II of this series, "Culture, Diversity and Inclusivity."

About the Author
Rev. C. Michael Woodstock is an ordained minister of the United Centers for Spiritual Living and a graduate of the Holmes Institute for Consciousness Studies with a M.A. in Consciousness Studies. He also holds a B.A. in Business Law, and Office Administration from Michigan State University. 

Rev. C. Michael is a cultural diversity trainer and has facilitated trainings both in the corporate world and in CSL. He is currently a member of the CSL Diversity Commission.

"Rev. C." as he is known to those working closely with him, currently lives in Hercules, CA with his wife Robin.