This week, like all weeks, Robert requests some introspection from his listeners. What makes this week stand out is his additional ask, not to just reflect on self, but to reflect on the institutions that act as our spiritual guides through this life. Topics include the seemingly natural interconnectedness of religion, spirituality, and humanitarian work. Robert takes us ever further down this thought path to delve into the original spiritual premise of loving your brother and sisters as yourself and the joy there is when we can share our excess and see the well-being in others.
Some questions to reflect on personally are, am I living in balance as it relates to my relationship with money and giving? Does this balance between myself, my family, and the world take into consideration the dangers we currently are facing? What does giving mean now when you compare it to other periods? Robert explains how when we are financially free “the sweet spot” fulfills and inspires us in a natural way without guilt to give and take care of ourselves and others. Join us in this thought-provoking episode of The Missing Conversation.
Mentioned in this episode
The Global Bridge Foundation
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The Missing Conversation, Episode 47.
Robert Strock: (00:03)
There’s a sympathetic joy because there is a feeling of connection with those that we’re giving to and a feeling of expansion when we’re doing it.
On this podcast, we will propose critical new strategies to address world issues, including homelessness, immigration, amongst several others and making a connection to how our individual psychology contributes and can help transform the dangers that we face. We will break from traditional thinking, as we look at our challenges from a freer and more independent point of view. Your host Robert Strock has had 45 years of experience as a psychotherapist, author, and humanitarian and has developed a unique approach to communication, contemplation and inquiry. Born from working on his own challenges.
Robert Strock: (00:52)
Thanks so much for joining us again at The Missing Conversation where we do our damnedest to address the most pressing issues that the world’s facing today and where we look for the most practical, inspiring programs, people and ideas to support a greater chance of survival for our planet. Today, we’re going to focus on the seemingly natural interconnectedness of religion and spirituality and humanitarian work and how this isn’t as obvious when we really stop and take a close look at what’s happening. Whenever I think to myself about religions and spirituality, I always think, well, obviously the dominant work is going to be an encouragement for people as much as they can afford to be humanitarian. All the original root teachers were saying, love your brother and sisters as yourself. That’s what humanitarian means and somehow that got lost throughout history. And the actions and the donations toward the disempowered just doesn’t seem to have been carried forward in the synagogues or the churches or temples throughout history. In fact, as we all know it all too frequently led to war.
Robert Strock: (02:40)
So, it’s very important that we really separate out the brilliance, the core compassion of the root teacher and the institutions and the messengers that are carbon copies of the original teachers. And the carbon copy is a really ironic word with carbon in the atmosphere might be a good way to remember that just like the presentations today are a carbon copy. It’s like carbon in the atmosphere. My experience with humanitarian organizations that at this point is quite a large number, they are following much more closely the core principles of spiritual and religious teachings as it relates to serving your brother and sister as they are yourself. And it doesn’t mean that they necessarily, their hearts are open. It doesn’t mean they don’t have blind spots in other areas, but when it comes to their actions, they are really following the principles. And that has been deeply nurturing personally for me.
Robert Strock: (04:10)
And I think for many of you who have followed or are following religious or spiritual pasts, you may want to see that it would be a perfect augmentation, a perfect extension, not only for you individually, but maybe to even bring up as part of your congregation to consider being more involved. Now, one of the examples that is probably a great example of a religion that’s very wealthy that does give a percentage of its wealth to the poor, to education, to missions, but that percentage and I’m guessing that percentage is not much more than about 3%, but it’s still hundreds of millions of dollars. And so it’s very deceiving, just like it’s deceiving when you have billionaires that are having a building in their honor or they have a wing of a hospital in their honor, they appear to be very generous and they’re really given a lot of credit by society, but it might be 2% of their net worth.
Robert Strock: (05:39)
And so, it’s so important that we all individually focus on this question, am I living in balance as it relates to my relationship to money and giving and giving to myself and giving to my family? And am I in touch with the dangers of the world at 2021? And what does giving really mean now when you compare it to other time periods? Now, I’m not saying other time periods didn’t need it as well, because they all time periods needed, but now it’s life and death. So, the stakes are much higher.
Robert Strock: (06:22)
Now the evangelical movement would be another movement where it appears to give various programs that are helping the poor, but the percentage is so small and it’s able to ride on that small percentage. And it even has political views that are actually antithetical to the origins of Jesus and their teachings. Now, there are thankfully some great exceptions. There’s a woman named Gurumayi in India that has vast humanitarian projects. I already mentioned Project Plenty. There are nuns and monks that are of nothing but service throughout the world.
Robert Strock: (07:19)
So, we’re not trying to paint a black and white picture, but we are trying to paint a fairly dark picture of the connection between spirituality and humanitarian, giving that as we talked about in the last episode, in a way, even the word giving, if we break it down is utterly perverse. It’s like when you really know the spirit of giving, you know that you’re not giving to the other more than you’re giving to yourself. So, it’s like making love and you’re giving to your lover, is that not as pleasurable to you as it is to them? So, the very source of what it means to be united, to be interconnected is something that religions and foundations somehow need to find a way to merge or I would say, especially spiritual religious traditions need to find a way to merge with foundations if they aren’t actively doing that themselves.
Robert Strock: (08:40)
And I would say to some extent and to keep questioning, I’m not here to judge because it would be no way to judge, even if I wanted to because one size doesn’t fit all what anyone can afford, but I don’t think any of us can afford not to keep questioning what would be balance for our religion and spirituality to be congruent with a core root teacher that we’re following or professing to follow. As I mentioned, there are certain churches that are actually anti-black, anti-voting rights, anti-other religions, prejudice against minorities and yet they still are claiming to be religious or spiritual. This spirit, which is really the spirit of God or the spirit of compassion is something that does not involve sacrifice. It’s one of the biggest misnomers that is here in the world, because we are taught that we’re separate beings versus interconnected beings.
Robert Strock: (10:01)
So, I’m going to make up a figure, and it really is. I’m spontaneously making up a figure, let’s call it 25%. And let’s say that we have enough wealth that we could afford 25%, that 25%, if that was right for us, that would be the sweet spot of union, of togetherness, of maximizing our outer and inner world exactly the same. We would gain that 25%. It’s not that we would be giving it away. It would hang with us. It would be part of our being. Now that might sound like a philosophical premise, but I have met hundreds, if not thousands of people that experience it that way. And they know it is their greatest joy to be able to share their excess and to see the light shine in others. Now, it’s a stepping stone to be generous. So, I still would want to encourage humanitarian work if it’s coming out of the belief that it’s out of generosity to the other, but it’s only a stepping stone. And I think the insight is a very important insight.
Robert Strock: (11:35)
And frankly, for those that are in that place, they’re robbing themselves of the gift to their own heart. Ask yourself, doesn’t it seem natural to you that if you are spiritual or religious, that you naturally want to be sharing your excess and more accurately, you naturally would be sharing your excess. And it is because we were raised with this sense of otherness and sacredness of our self and our family that’s not obvious. Now, it’s more obvious when we give a down payment to our child, to a house that we get a reward, because we love their joy. We have what the Buddhist call sympathetic joy. And that’s really what we’re talking about. There’s a sympathetic joy because there is a feeling of connection with those that we’re giving to and a feeling of expansion when we’re doing it.
Can you distinguish between people that genuinely don’t have at least, economic offerings and how they can participate in what you’re talking about more clearly? And also distinguish that from people who do have, but have a view of themselves and their family is not having it, when they really do?
Robert Strock: (13:15)
So, people that don’t have money are living a life of purpose when they are centered in taking care of survival for themselves and their family and they have an attitude of caring. That’s every bit as generous, every bit as heroic when they’re disciplined, when they’re focused, when they’re doing their best, as it is for someone that gives money that has an overflow of money. I could make a very good case either way. I’d be happy to take the debating position on either side of it as to which one is more generous. And especially if the person that’s giving money away is a small percentage. Actually, in that case, I wouldn’t want to take either side because then I’d clearly be on the side of the person that doesn’t have the money that has the good attitude.
Robert Strock: (14:19)
Now the person that has the money and has the wealth and has the security and doesn’t believe they do, has been living and is living in a dream. And they’re living in a dream of false wisdom and their false wisdom had told them that you need to prepare for emergencies. Now, there are many people that have survived trauma in prior generations where the wisdom has been passed down the ages. Put money away for a rainy day, always prepare for a tragedy, always prepare for health, always take care of your family no matter what always plans for the future. A penny saved is a penny earned. There’s endless amounts of false wisdom. Now it doesn’t mean that there’s not an element of truth in that, but not relative to what you’re asking. For those people, they believe they’re wise. So, what needs to be penetrated and as I said earlier, in a prior episode, they may have the advantage of being in a sense forced to see it because they’re feeling threatened that they might die if they don’t or their kids or grandkids might die.
Robert Strock: (15:53)
So, moving in another area, if you ask me if I’m more touched by people doing any kind of a ritual, going to church, praying, meditating, believing in God and they don’t go out of their way to help others or vice versa, I would choose the people that are going out of their way to help others. Now I’m making it black and white, just to highlight the point. Obviously, it would be very rare that it would be that extreme, but there is such an emphasis on the practices, but not necessarily the actions or the exhibiting of attitudes or the generosity of sharing wealth. How much do we see in our religious and spiritual traditions, the sermon or the teaching being about raise your hand today or send me a note or let’s look for inspirational stories as to how much we have joined with others in our generosity, and maybe even extra credit or extra points, if it’s for generosity, for people that are not in our faith.
Robert Strock: (17:28)
How much do we see that versus an emphasis on now, we’re going to meditate. Now we’re going to pray. And I want to really emphasize, I am a prayer. I am devoted to meditation and have been both of them for 50 years. I am a profound advocate of that. But if you’re looking at the proportion, which is what I’m attempting to do right now of emphasis on one versus the other, the emphasis is in the wrong direction, from my vantage point, in a very high percentage of religious and spiritual organizations. Now, obviously the presumption is there that is a means to an end. If I go to church on Sunday, that’s going to inspire me. If I meditate, that’s going to inspire me to be generous, if I’m going to pray, that’s going to make me more generous. And in many cases it does, but in most cases, it doesn’t. That’s my experience.
So, I want to take this moment to reflect. And I know we’ve been talking about, again to reiterate humanitarian, spirituality, religion values and I hope the listeners are also aware of the other podcast, Awareness That Heals and the book written that reflects that. Because I think it’s really important if I’m sitting in church, sitting in temple and I’m really just angry because something just happened to me on the way in that I may get a certain comfort. I may even hear the sermon or whatever it was stated to me or the relationships I have support me, but it’s also about looking inside. And I think that those values, especially the ones that are offered on awarenessthatheals.org, the qualities, those values, there’s a very direct overlap here in what’s aimed for and what supports being humanitarian and caring about the people around you and yourself so that you can do that.
Robert Strock: (20:00)
No question. Awareness That Heals podcast and book really emphasize the critical importance of identifying your most challenging emotions. And when they’re suppressed, whether that’s guilt or greed or anger or competition, inadequacy, failure, when we suppress those, it allows us to ignore these higher aspirations because a lot of those feelings are there because our subconscious recognized we’re really self-centered and I’m not the one judging us. Our subconscious has a place inside it that is neutral and that neutral place knows when we’re selfish. And so being able to mine into our shadow feelings, our darker feelings are absolutely critical to becoming attuned to these spiritual, humanitarian religious values. And it is utterly paradoxical that if we do not stay in touch with our difficult feelings, then it’s very likely we’re going to develop almost inevitable, we’re going to develop a persona of generosity, of wellbeing, but we’ll be suppressing our sadness, our grief, our anxiety, and we will be living a life in illusion.
Robert Strock: (21:50)
So, there is a partnership between our psychological awareness and it being sources of inspiration for us to wake up to our needs, to follow these values that our root teachers and foundations are there to remind us of. So, I’m the first to say or I’m a tide for first say I value looking at my dark side, my difficult feelings, my challenging feelings with my friends, with myself, as much as I do the inspiration. And when they’re there, it’s not just looking at them, it’s asking the question after you’re looking at them, how can I care for them? And how can I care beyond them and what are they trying to teach me? So, our challenging emotions and Awareness That Heals, which the second part of the title is quite important, bringing heart and wisdom to life’s challenges is attempting to do exactly that and that heart and wisdom is the heartbeat of the foundations and religions and spirituality.
Robert Strock: (23:08)
And what we see is that being conditioned into believing that success, recognition, wealth, power are really going to make us happy, fame. We need to recognize that we’re hypnotized. Even if we know we’re hypnotized, we’re hypnotized more than we know. I know I’m hypnotized more than I know. Now I also know, I don’t know that how deep it goes, but I’m curious. I want to keep looking. I don’t have any illusion of arriving anywhere other than I know I have the intention to keep looking and asking myself, how do I come closer to the values that I believe in? How do I come closer to the roots of all spiritual pass and the roots of all religious and humanitarian pass? And do I deserve credit for that? No, I don’t deserve credit for that. Nobody deserves credit for that. What really happens is it’s way, way, way better than credit it’s like credit is what you get when you didn’t really receive the reward.
Robert Strock: (24:34)
That’s the stroke on the head, pat on the head. Is the pat on the head anywhere near as valuable as an energetic boost, as an expansion of bursting of the heart, an interconnection with other human beings. It’s like I harken back to the time of my most difficult 10 years of being in hell at most levels all day long, following the kidney transplant and the reaction on the medications and the sleep deprivation and the joy for me was borrowing another person’s nervous system as a client. Let, being honest about where I was, but I had the intention to join them, to be them as much as I can and still to be a supportive influence while I was living in an emotional hell. But the reward was them. The irony is the reward was the others. The reward was me borrowing from them for a period of time.
Robert Strock: (25:40)
And I’d have a great time, once I got into being able to join them enough and into that intention inside. And when they left the room, I crashed because on my own, I couldn’t carry it through. That was the proof in my life of how much we need others to become bigger, expanded selves that belie the language of self, because it’s a self that’s beyond the self and being able to expand in that way where the heart and the qualities of the heart that are identified. And I do want to refer you again, to the introspective guides, on awarenessthatheals.org, the introspective guides that are free, that have 75 qualities, that those are all rewards. Those are the payoffs of life. We were taught that the payoff was a payoff of money.
Robert Strock: (26:43)
The payoff is quality of life and how do we get quality of life? We recognize that we’re interconnected with life and we expand more into life. And that is what all the root teachers saw from the best that I can see. My dearest hope is that we see this interconnection between the humanitarian past, the spiritual past, the religious and the passive of integrity, and that we want to ask ourselves, how do we in our unique way, no matter where we find ourselves, even if the expansion means or maybe even, especially if the expansion means I need to stay focused on finding food for my family, I need to stay focused on finding shelter. It doesn’t matter where we are on the spectrum. This humanitarian spirit is I want to feed this body. I want to feed the bodies that I can care for.
Robert Strock: (27:52)
That spirit doesn’t measure itself based on wealth, as Jesus says, the meek shall inherit the earth. It’s based on that intention that we all share down deep to want to interconnect, to recognize that our fate is either interconnected or separate. And we’re at that crossing point right now, we’re being given a blatant opportunity to see if we can all find that place that wants to expand some percentage. Then we will be rewarded not having to wait for the kingdom of heaven. We will be rewarded right here on earth. So, my wish is that we all stand that questioning no matter where we are in the spectrum of our spiritual, religious, humanitarian, or wealth life, that intention itself is holy ground. Thank you all for your attention and even greater thanks for your retention.
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