by Glen Ford
I am a recently retired cardiovascular perfusionist. For some 39 years I operated a heart lung machine for open heart surgery. This equipment takes over the function of gas exchange for the lungs and the blood pumping function of the heart so the surgeons can work on the heart. It was who I was, or more correctly, it was what I did among other things. Now that I’m retired, I have become aware of how much I identified myself with the job. Since I retired from perfusion I have felt a little lost. Is that all I was? Well that can’t be. I am not that anymore and I’m still here. I’m a husband, on May 22 this year I am married to Wendy for 40 years. I think she’s going to keep me. I am a student of Dr. Strickler. I am a brother, by blood and by law. I am an American, a man, an uncle, etc. but these are not identities these are roles I play, these are the experiences I have.
Recently I took a part-time job working with a company here in Phoenix providing support to adults with developmental disabilities and their families. The purpose of this organization is helping this population to realize maximum independence, meaningful employment, significant social relationships, and full participation in their community.
For decades families of many of these people did not have the knowledge or resources to take care of them. There were no support programs to help them. Consequently, many of these people were institutionalized, stuffed in boxes out of sight, neglected, forgotten, often abused, removed from society as a whole; many never came to adulthood. As late as the 1970’s these conditions were prevalent; as shown in this documentary done by Geraldo Rivera in the 1970’s. I should warn you, this video is disturbing.
Things started to get better as people became more aware of what was happening. Early attempts to get these men and women more integrated into the community were group homes. These were better, but still had their own issues. Over the years since, the situation has continued to make gradual progress.
Today here in Arizona the Department of Development Disability (DDD) 1 provides support through the state to help families keep these young men and women at home. The DDD provides funding for families to get the assistance they need from individual providers and organizations such as the one where I am currently employed. The DDD also has established rules that providers must follow to be eligible for such funding. Article 9 2 provides assurance that Programs that receive funding from the state are providing for the safety and respect of the clients they serve.
In the morning Monday through Friday I drive a van and pick up as many as six members at their homes and take them to the program. In the afternoon, I return them to their homes. During the day I am usually off the clock. Occasionally, as staffing requires, I will stay during the day to help the staff and work with the members. This has been a good experience for me and I hope to increase to full time involvement.
I interact with the members, trying to help them assimilate into the community around them, pointing out what is socially acceptable in personal interactions and making corrections when needed. As this experience progresses, my awareness increases. Their behavior, whether good, bad or indifferent, is a reflection in varying degrees of my own.
In the occult world, likes rather than opposites, attract. This raises the question “Why did the life power put this into my path?” Likes attract, it is said one can neither love nor hate anything in another person that one does not first recognize in oneself. I hear the life power saying that is how I appear. I should practice what I preach. Words aside, what I practice is what I preach! Actions speak louder than words; lead by example.
In trying to work out in my head what to say, what to do, how to explain and demonstrate what is acceptable, a mirror dialog is helpful. Saying things out loud to the guy in the mirror, they often sound very different than they did as internal musings. Sometimes I hear my own voice, sometimes it’s my mother’s voice, sometimes I hear a teacher’s voice, sometimes hear a mentor’s voice emanating from my mouth. Sometimes it rings true; sometimes it’s a load of crap. Sometimes it’s harsh; sometimes it’s kind, sometimes it’s gentle. This is what makes the exercise of value to me. I get to see and hear what I sound like. What I hear causes me to adjust what I say and temper how I say it based on my reaction to what I am observing.
I don’t know what the members hear, how they perceive me. Going forward I will continue to make adjustments based on their reactions in the ongoing dialog and behavioral dance. Then perhaps we can together take another step along the path and both grow a little and each of us come into our own.
The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things, I cannot change;
The Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Wisdom is exercising good judgment. Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment. In order to learn, to grow, I must be willing to be wrong. That is required. I must act in the absence of certainty; Dr. Strickler teaches I can never know until I act. I can learn by argument or experience, both of these are active processes. Live and learn; everything that lives moves.
All of our understanding is less-than-perfect on the physical level. As I am trying to help the members integrate into a community that they have limited understanding of, I can’t help but draw analogy to Dr. Strickler as a spiritual teacher trying to integrate me into the spiritual world of which I have such limited understanding.
That reverberates in my being.
We are alive in a material world but we are not material beings. It was a struggle for me to come to the realization that I am not a material being. Understanding the full ramifications of what that means is an ongoing project. I am not a material being capable of spiritual experiences, but rather a spiritual being having experiences in the physical world. I want to believe. When Dr. Strickler has classes, or as I am drifting off to sleep at bedtime this concept is viewable tonight. Out in the world, when I get into the thickness of things, this truth becomes harder to see and that is what we as occultists are tasked to do, see what is hidden, see beyond the dance of the physically manifest world to the truth that lies beyond.
The Emerald Tablet instructs us:
7. Separate thou the fire from the earth, the subtle from the gross, sweetly with great industry.
My task as an occultist is to separate, the I-dentity (the spiritual being) from the I-density (the vehicle in the manifest world), the subtle from the gross. It is to lay bare the truth of who I am, my connection to the source and what my being is becoming.
It is not about destination. It is about process. It is nowhere I am going to get to. It is uncovering what already is. It is laying bare the now-here.
Copyright © 2016 by Institute of Spiritual Climate LLC