DAVIDS DESK #118 – FLYOVER STATES
DAVIDS DESK #118 – FLYOVER STATES
Back in the days when I was regularly traveling to give lectures and workshops, I always tried to drive to wherever I needed to go. If time were an issue, then I would take a plane, but otherwise, I loved road trips. I loved seeing the various parts of the United States and getting to know my country from the ground up; after years of cross-country trips, there are only three States I’ve never had occasion to visit. The United States lives in me in my memory of all the different landscapes that I’ve seen. When I think of America, it’s all there for me, from Maine to California and from Washington to Florida.
As my family grew, my travel time diminished. I didn’t want to spend so much time on the road away from Julie and the kids. So, I began flying more. I enjoy flying, too (or I did when it was a more comfortable and less harried and crowded experience). There was a thrill to looking down and seeing countryside through which I had previously driven. Still, I missed the closeness with the land and with places and people that I experienced while driving. I had become a “flyover” person.
I don’t know when the term originated or started to become popular, but I became aware of it last year during the Presidential Election: “Flyover States.” These are the States in the middle of the country that air flights between the large urban centers of the East and West coasts regularly fly over. To be a Flyover State is at one level a simple description of a fact of life as more and more people live on the East and West coasts and take non-stop flights back and forth. But especially last year, the phrase took on additional meaning. Flyover States were the homes of the “forgotten Americans,” the ones whose opinions and activities were not as important when compared to what goes on in places like New York, Washington, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, the large metropolises on either side of America. To be a “Flyover State” carried connotations of being ignored, overlooked, not seen, or even disdained as being of lesser importance. Certainly, if a person’s only view of America is from 30,000 feet, he or she is not seeing and connecting with the country in the way a person does who is driving from one coast to another.
There are commentators who describe one of the divisions in this country, of which there currently appear to be many, as that between the heavily populated and generally more liberal metropolitan areas of the Coastal States and the less populated and often more conservative Flyover States. I’m sure there’s a truth to this, and the last election would seem to confirm this, showing again the intent of the Electoral College to give political power to States with smaller populations.
However, when I think of Flyover States, it conjures up an entirely different image for me. It seems to me that one of the many challenges facing us in this country, and for that matter in the world at large, is how easy it is to step into a “flyover state.” Such a state is not a place but an attitude that can arise when we encounter someone who is different from us. This difference could be political, religious, ethnic, racial, economic, or something as trivial as a difference in hairstyles or clothing. Unless we are compelled for some reason to engage with this person, we can “flyover” them in our minds and hearts. We can fail to encounter the territory of their life; we can fail to make connection.
I’m sure we’ve all experienced this, both as the one doing the flyover and the one being “flown over” and overlooked. We all live at one time or another in our daily lives in a flyover state. The cumulative effect is that we come to know each other less and less, and spend more and more time clustered mentally and emotionally with those with whom we agree. “Flying over” pushes difference out of our lives or at least diminishes its impact. We see only what we want to see.
I believe that our hope lies in our ability to connect, and this requires that we walk into each other’s territory, at least enough to appreciate another even if we don’t agree with his or her positions and beliefs. Turning each other into flyover states will not help us going forward. The future depends on understanding. The major problems and challenges of the world are systemic and cannot be solved except through collaboration and cooperation. If we can’t go so far as to love each other, we must at least know and respect each other. This requires looking at our differences directly, up close and personal, and not dismissing or ignoring that with which we do not agree.
At this time, our country is embroiled in problems caused by our various differences. If we hope to solve them, we must work to connect and live in our hearts and minds in united states, not flyover ones.
Join Julie Spangler and Susan Sherman, with guest David Spangler, for Journey Into Fire. During this six week online class behind held on our Educational website, participants will explore their unique, human journeys and practical ways to experience the sacredness within. For more information or to sign-up, click here.
DAVID’S DESK #120 – PAPER
These days, at least twice daily, I stop whatever I’m doing and take a moment to stand in peace. It’s a simple thing to do. It’s certainly helpful to me, and given that we’re all part of an interconnected, interdependent world, I believe it’s helpful in the larger scheme of things. I would like to invite you to join me in your own way, but more on that in a moment. First, let me describe what “standing in peace” means to me and how I go about it.
As I indicated, I experience that we live in an interconnected world; we are part of a whole planetary system in which every part has an effect on every other part. Increasingly we are learning to appreciate how important understanding this interconnected wholeness is; indeed, our survival may depend on it.
I view peace not simply as an absence of conflict but as a heightening of connections which improves the health of the whole system. It allows for an increase in clear communication, cooperation, and coherency— three qualities important to the well-being of the world. Conflict, on the other hand, frays and severs connections. There are times when this may be necessary; it is possible to form unhealthy connections that need to be broken up, like removing a growing tumor from a body through surgery. But there’s only so much surgery one can perform before the body itself dies. Much better to strengthen the whole system by improving and strengthening the healthy connections that promote harmony and collaboration.
In my experience, this is what peace does.
My purpose here in this short essay is not to delve into the metaphysics of peace and conflict; one could write a book about that! I simply want to share a practice with you that I find helpful and that I believe, given a perspective of the interconnectedness of life, is also helpful on a wider scale. When I stand in peace, I am adding to a process that improves connectedness rather than diminishing it. Given what is going on in the world today, every little bit helps!
My practice can be broken down into five steps. These are Pause, Appreciate, Presence, Embrace, and Release. Together they form an acronym that makes them easy to remember: PAPER. Here is the PAPER process:
PAUSE – The first step is to pause whatever you are doing. Be sensible about this, of course. If you are in the middle of an activity that can’t be paused, like doing surgery, then wait until you’re finished. But all of us have moments during the day when we can stop what we’re doing and just pause, becoming inwardly still.
APPRECIATE – The second step is to look around, see where you are, whom you’re with, what you’ve been doing, and appreciate these things. I originally called this step Awareness, which is also an “A” word, but I realized that for me, it’s not just being aware of my surroundings but of how I am aware. This is where appreciation comes in. If my purpose is to stand in peace, I don’t want to be in conflict with my environment. I may not like where I am in the moment, but I can honor it and honor my being there. I can find something to appreciate, maybe even love, about where I am, and this spirit of appreciation translates into being at peace.
PRESENCE – My third step is to honor and appreciate myself, which gives me a sense of presence in the moment wherever I am. We are each a generative source of positive qualities and actions if we allow ourselves to be. We matter in the world. Who we are is important; for many of us, we are more than we give ourselves credit for being. By standing in Presence, I am affirming that I have something to offer to this environment and that I’m capable of offering it, even if I do so in silence with my spirit blessing to what’s around me. Another way of thinking about this is that through affirming my Presence and its value, I am not in conflict with myself. To stand in peace, I need to go beyond conflict with where I am (the Appreciate step) and conflict with who I am that may arise from negative self-imagery.
EMBRACE – Standing in Presence allows me to open my heart, blessing and embracing where I am, heightening my connections with my environment. Here, too, I originally used another word, Engage, for this step, but as with Awareness and Appreciation, I wanted to emphasize how I engage. Since peace for me is an active process that builds and widens connections, standing in peace means doing just that with my immediate surroundings. Embrace, for me, captures this felt sense of reaching out from my Presence with love to connect with where I am and who I’m with, thus generating peace.
RELEASE – The last step is to release the quality of peace—of heightened and harmonious connection—out into the world. I ask that those spiritual forces that hold humanity and the world in their love receive my peace and let it be wherever it is needed. I trust that what I generate in my small environment can be a seed that can grow to bless and affect much larger environments.
You will note that I don’t try to “send” peace anywhere. Projecting peace to troubled areas can become just a mental exercise; I’m “sending” an idea of peace rather than peace itself. Perhaps this may be helpful in its own way, inspiring others with that idea, but my approach is to create the experience—the felt sense—of peace and to offer the substance of this experience to the Powers That Be. To stand in peace, I want to be peace; I want to be a force for heightening connections and allowing harmony to unfold. For this to happen, I can’t just think about it. I need to do it. This is what the PAPER process is all about. It’s about generating peace into the world by doing peace and being peace in the concreteness of my surroundings.
Being and doing peace doesn’t have to mean resolving a conflict. There may be no conflict in my environment when I do the PAPER practice. But remember, peace in my definition is about fostering, heightening, and strengthening connections. This is what we do when we resolve a conflict; we create new connections that now promote harmony instead of disharmony. But I can heighten connections anytime, anywhere, around me and within me, through pausing, appreciating, being a presence, and embracing. By widening my definition of what peace does, I can see ways of doing peace in my world besides just being a “fire-fighter” putting out the flames of conflicts. I can build peace into my life and into my world that can prevent conflicts from arising in the first place. Where connections are strong, communication is clear, and collaboration can emerge, the whole is benefited and conflict is avoided.
I said that I wish to invite you to PAPER the world with me. Heaven knows we need it. This is not something we have to do at the same time every day. Each of us can PAPER in our own way, in our own time. You need to discover the best way you can do this practice, making it your own. But the more of us that do stand in peace by pausing, appreciating, becoming a presence, and embracing, releasing the results into the world, the more our world will grow the connections it needs to transform the broken conditions that fill the news with stories of suffering, conflict, and danger. Be your peace and let us PAPER the Earth together.