At my recent men’s retreat, the topic was self-awareness. One of the guys brought an excerpt from the book The Power of Focus by Jack Canfield, Mark Hansen and Les Hewitt. The authors referred to a table, first developed by George Addair, which defines several "inner states" or "levels of being."
The levels of being make up three stages, which the author calls Mechanical and Asleep (child stages), Awakening (adult stages), and Conscious and Awake (self-realization stage). I was saddened to realize that I still display behavior from the childlike phase, specifically, judging others.
What fascinated me was one of the behaviors listed in the Conscious and Awake stage, Harmless to All. For the last few weeks, I have been reflecting on what it would mean for me to live up to that value, and I’ve been surprised at what I’ve found.
States of Being
Addair’s scale begins with three states within the Mechanical and Asleep stage: Survival Instincts (lowest), then Safety Instincts, and finally Self-Love and Vanity Instincts. Survival is characterized by possessive, territorial, controlling and aggressive behavior. Safety demonstrates tendencies towards defensive, fearful and jealous behavior. Self-Love and Vanity model behaviors of judging others, rationalizing and justifiyng why life isn’t working.
The Awakening stage consists of the State of Awakening and the Discovery of Love. At the lower Awakening level, people explore win-win behavior, become intuitive, take risks, learn to give more instead of taking, share feelings and reason through situations.
I identify with these behaviors and perhaps live my life here most of the time, when I’m not judging others. At the next stage, Discovery of Love, one learns and practices unconditional giving and love, accepts easily, is forgiving, and begins to appreciate harmlessness. So, perhaps these are aspirational behaviors for me at this point in my life. Since I aspire to live in a higher state, perhaps it is natural that I begin to explore harmlessness.
The highest stage of being, the Conscious and Awake stage, consists of the State of Allowing and the State of Self-Reliance. People in the State of Allowing accept life unconditionally, portray invisible leadership (whatever that is), have personal power, are harmless to all, do not judge, and accept truth without blaming. The State of Self-Reliance is characterized by high self-esteem, internal motivation, following one’s inner voice, being free from all needs, serving selflessly and finally, experiencing no resistance (I know I don’t live here).
It is this idea of harmlessness that intrigues me. It is easy to see the more obvious examples of this idea. But as I dwell on it, it permeates all aspects of life. As I drove home from the retreat, my son-in-law was busting my chops for following too closely. Well, I’ve grown tired of people staying in the left lane of the interstate whether they are passing people or not. We see much more of this behavior as we drive across the country than we ever used to, and it is a pet peeve.
But that morning I was thinking about harmlessness, and I realized this even applies to my driving. Uh oh! No more driving past a half mile of cars waiting for my exit and cutting in at the last minute. No more judging others who don’t drive to my liking. No more type A aggressive driving.
Then I thought about my behavior when waiting in lines. No more quick moves to the newly opened register when I’m not the next in line. No more grabbing the last piece of chicken or brownie at the pot luck when I’ve already had one serving. Gee, this harmlessness stuff has tentacles that run everywhere.
Are there times when I’ve talked about someone without first talking to them about a source of conflict? Well, yes there are. Can you gossip and be harmless? I don’t think so. Triangulation, that’s a no no. Retribution? Out of bounds. Are harmlessness and forgiveness related? Well, I’m left with the fact that I’m a sinner and fall short.
But I can also change my behavior over time, if I set my heart and mind to it.
How does this line up with the idea of growing spiritual maturity? Is there any correlation between these states of being and what Paul describes when he asks us to grow up to maturity in the Christian faith? In Hebrews 5:12-6:1 Paul writes:
In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity.
The Reveal Spiritual Life Survey has identified, through results from over 1,000 congregations, four stages of maturity in the Christian faith. They run from Exploring Christ to Christ Centered and there are specific spiritual beliefs, practices and behaviors that characterize each stage. I am curious to explore further if trying to live into these higher states of being would be consistent with growing towards spiritual maturity. What do you think?