I Thou Attitude
Spiritual Practice that Changed My Life and Awakened My Consciousness
Far and away the three most common questions I’ve been asked as a writer, life coach, and therapist over the years were “Why am I so unhappy? Why do I have to struggle so much in my relationships with others? And why does my life feel like it’s so hard? “There were many mornings that I got out of bed asking myself these same questions. Many mornings that I realized I was as unhappy, discouraged and frustrated as my clients.
As I unpacked the “story” behind those nagging questions in my client’s lives, and my own, it always led me to the same insights.
Our primitive ego’s need to be right, the assumption that others are wrong when they don’t agree with us, and our primitive ego’s tendency to see everything in the world as “me vs. them”.
I was convinced that I’d discovered the secret to living a happier life. It was clear that these three issues were creating most of the unhappiness in my own life, and in the lives of my clients.
I wrote articles and books on awakening our unconscious primitive ego from its obsessive need to be right, its assumption that others are wrong when they don’t agree with our beliefs, and our primitive ego’s tendency to see itself as separate from the rest of the universe and creation.
The Insight That Changed Everything
And then, one day, I discovered the simple truth that had been hiding in plain sight for so many years. The spiritual insight that changed my life.
It was so simple, I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me so long to figure it out. But perhaps that’s the nature of insight and wisdom in life. The most important learnings are almost always the most obvious. They tend to be the light bulb “duh’s! that light up our consciousness without warning.
What I awakened to that day was not the awareness that my primitive ego was convinced that I was a separate being from the rest of creation and the universe. I’d learned that simple truth very early on in my training as a therapist. For whatever reason, that little piece of knowledge had finally moved from my head into the wisdom of my heart. And it changed everything.
I had trained myself to see the humanity of my clients and those around me. I could relate to them as a “thou”. I could extend compassion and empathy to them. I could hold them in my heart. What I “saw” for the first time that morning was how I’d spent my entire life unconsciously “seeing” everything else in the universe as an “It”. It’s were things I could unconsciously use, exploit, and control. Use to my advantage. “It’s” were things to be studied, examined, cataloged, understood, mastered, unpacked, and labeled. And because I was trained as an engineer, understanding and labeling the universe came pretty naturally to me.
Nature Moved From An “It” To A “Thou”
In that moment, I understood how I had spent my life treating nature as an “It”. I understood why I had unconsciously resisted the concept of mystery and spirit in nature. Sacred and awe were too spiritually “Thou” to fit into a scientific “It” understanding of reality. Too intangible to be examined and replaced by information that could be understood and cataloged.
What I finally understood was the simple reality that every experience we have in life is a relationship with “other” or “thou”. And that “thou” relationship exists only in the present “now”. The moment we try to name, or describe, or capture the sacred, awe, beauty, experience, or truth of the “thou” moment, we turn the spirit embedded in the experience of relationship with “thou” into an “IT”; and ourselves into something that is less than human.
Without mystery, beauty, awe, and the sacred in nature, I saw how easily I had unconsciously turned myself into something less than human. How I had never fully embraced my full humanity. And most importantly, I finally understood why happiness is so elusive. When we attempt to relate to an “it”, there is no humanity present. No compassion. No love. Unlike the “thou” relationship, a relationship with an “it” is dry and devoid of meaning.
Spirit exists only in the relationship space between I and Thou, and is experienced only in the “now” of the present moment. It requires our full humanity and our full presence in the moment of relationship. The spirit that exists in the space between I and Thou can’t be used. It can’t be examined. It can only be experienced for a moment before it disappears. It can’t be summoned. But if we are silent it might return for another moment.
If you have ever experienced the silence of a magical sunset over the ocean, or stood silent beneath the stars on a clear night, you might know the presence of spirit between yourself and “thou” I’m referring to.
In that moment of insight, all of creation, nature, and the universe became a “thou” for me. The mystery of the conscious, evolving, living universe became a “thou” for me
In that moment of insight, my eyes filled with tears. I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness and loss. At that moment I recognized for the first time how much of the wonder and awe of my life I’d missed. How those moments of awe and sacred experience had come and gone without the spirit of “thou” touching my soul.
Since that day of awakening, I have come to recognize that when I move more intentionally into silence, the spirit of awe and mystery that emerges in the “now” of those relationship moments with “thou” happen more frequently. And for those moments, I am grateful.
I try to offer my full presence to the “thou” experience of relationship with “others” more often, even when I experience the “other” relating to me as an “IT” or a “you” to be used or exploited. I understand awakening to the presence of “thou” in a relationship takes time. Sometimes, like it did with me, it takes much of our life.
I will share more of the experience of a “thou” relationship with nature in future Nuggets. The future health of our planet and the well-being of future generations will reflect how successfully we learn to honor the mystery and spirit of Gaia present in a “thou” relationship with Nature.
We are currently facing a great “reckoning” created by our years of living out of right relationship with nature and reality.
Nature writes the rules, not us!
We are part of, not apart from, nature and our universe.
Nature is a “thou”, not an “it”. The universe is a “thou”, not an “it.”
Nature is not a garbage can.
As we learn to live in right relationship with nature and reality, and embrace these simple concepts, our world will become less a struggle for survival, and more a sacred experience of awe and celebration. Life itself will become a relationship with “thou”.
We are running out of time to embrace this wisdom we know in our hearts to be true.