The Encouragers (Community Suit)
This month we look deeply at the nature of Spiritual Partnership, its qualities, benefits and challenges. I see Spiritual Partnership as a subset of Friendship which was the topic of my February essay. https://www.martibeddoe.com/blog/2018/2/15/friendship
While writing you, I was reminded of how the thoughts I think and who I associate with have such a powerful influence on my happiness and success as a human being. Consequently, every essay is meant to honor my many Teachers and to pay forward the blessings of their wisdom and lovingkindness.
This essay is a special tribute to the beloved friends who are my Hallelujah Choir/Believing Mirrors/Spiritual Partners, the ones who have brought me so many riches. Thank you for the beauty, happiness and encouragement you have given me!
I hope each of my readers finds my reflections and practices to be useful and meaningful in your daily life. When you share this essay with your friends, please ask them to subscribe here. Thank you for joining the conversation by adding your comments below.
LOOKING DEEPLY AT ALL MY RELATIONS
Winter 1984, Chicago, Illinois, Empower Your Career (EYC) Seminar
“There are two kinds of people, the Greek Chorus and the Hallelujah Choir.” My wise no-nonsense mentor Robin Sheerer was speaking about Creating Support, one of the Four Pillars of Success. She emphasized the importance of being conscious of our relationships and how they may undermine or support our dreams and character.
In ancient Greek theater, the Greek Chorus stood on the sidelines and in unison commented about the protagonist’s life, generally from the view of the society’s establishment. Members of today’s Greek Chorus (GC) see life as a Soap Opera/Reality Show to be “shared” and judged via social media. The more angst-filled the drama, the better! They are quick to agree when you collect evidence for why you cannot create the life you want. GC folk wring their hands and agree with your secret inner voice that insists, “Ain’t it awful. I’ll never be able to do/have/be…”
GC people project their own fear-filled, self-limiting views onto your life. They enable you to conform to social norms and to play small in life. They also enjoy telling you their sad stories, doing their duty to reinforce your painful soap opera. They are like the proverbial crabs in the bucket pulling you down with discouraging words. Ironically, many GC people sincerely have your best interests at heart. It’s just that they have never learned other more supportive ways of thinking.
In contrast, the Hallelujah Choir (HC) people are those who see your potential to do/have/be. They encourage you to keep on going. (To get a sense of their beauty, listen to Handel’s Messiah sometime.) When you are blinded and unable to see your own greatness, HC folk are the ones who insist you dream big. They get you out of your comfort zone and urge you to create the life you dream of having. They challenge your inaccurate, imbalanced crazy, stinkin’ thinking. (“Oh come on, sister,” chides my heart-sister Cha in a gently mocking tone that snaps me right out of my groundless self-doubt.)
HC folk comfort you during hard times. They remind you that “This too shall pass.” They are practical, helping you to problem-solve and remain on course to your vision. HC people do not join in when you want to have a pity party. They insist you remember your dreams and your capabilities. They are faithful in reminding you of the truth, that you are the Predominant Creative Principle in your own life.
In the Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron calls the Hallelujah Choir “Believing Mirrors.” She says these are people “who mirror us back to ourselves as powerful, strong, and in our most positive light. They are valuable people in our creative lives.”
PRACTICE: Inventory Your Relationships
In Robin Sheerer’s Empower Your Career seminar, we actually made an inventory of all our relationships and then discussed what we might want to do about our discoveries. Here is the practice:
First, make a list of every relationship you have in your life at this time. Include family, friends, acquaintances, relatives, colleagues at work, clients and peers in your professional life, neighbors, those you worship with, those who serve you in your daily life.
Second, review the list. Quickly and intuitively write GC or HC beside each name, assigning the person to the GC (Greek Chorus) or the HC (Hallelujah Choir). Copy the results into two columns on a sheet of paper. With as much objectivity as you can muster, look at the names on each list.
What do you observe?
Where are you surprised? Shocked? Encouraged? Discouraged?
What do these two lists tell you about the kind of support you currently have for your dreams and values?
Third, create an action plan.
Look at the Greek Chorus list.
How many close relatives are on this list?
Circle the names who could potentially become members of the Hallelujah Choir.
How would you go about “converting” some of the Greek Chorus people to Hallelujah Choir People?
Have you outlived certain relationships and do you need to let go of these ties?
Or can you at least be objective and aware of their impact on your dreams?
Do you need to formally resign from your own Greek Chorus? How might you do this ritually?
Look at the Hallelujah Choir list.
How many close relatives are on this list?
What’s the ratio to Greek Chorus?
Do you need to expand or shore up your Hallelujah Choir?
Are you aware of people you’d like to invite into your Hallelujah Choir?
Are YOU a member of your own Hallelujah Choir? If not, what new thoughts do you need to cultivate to become your own best Encourager?
And as importantly, whose Hallelujah Choir do you belong to?
Lastly, do some soul-searching. If you find that your Hallelujah Chorus members are few and far between, it’s time to take a hard look at your current associates and commit to finding some Believing Mirrors!
MY INVENTORY, 1984
Thirty-four years ago when I did this exercise, there were 3 times as many Greek Chorus people than Hallelujah Choir people. This accurately reflected the lack of support and encouragement I had created in my life. What a revelation!
The influence of the Greek Chorus can be minimized if you are willing to take a stand for your dreams. Robin told us that many GC people want the best for us but are full of fear themselves. (Parents are often in this position about their beloved young adults.) Their fear then spills over into how they relate to us. Often the GC will be headed up by close family members who simply want to protect you from harm. Perhaps they’ve unconsciously fallen into the Victim role and want company.
It’s up to you if you want to keep GC people in your life. Remember, we teach people how to support us. It is in your power to convert them to the Hallelujah Choir by teaching them new ways to support your dreams.
In 1984, heading up my Greek Chorus was my dear 66 year old mother June. I depended on Mom for so much support as I struggled to survive as a single mother. I committed to “convert” June into my Hallelujah Choir. The first step was to commit to changing how I communicated with her. Because I dreaded her discouraging critiques, I’d kept things superficial, often withholding any information about my tender private dreams. I risked sharing these goals and directly asked June to use her formidable skills in helping me move towards them. Every time she expressed her fear, I gently asked her to be my Encourager.
And I began asking Mom about her own dreams now that she’d been widowed six years. With my encouragement, she went back to work at age 70 in a fabric store where she was thrilled to advise brides about the design and materials for their dream wedding dresses. Often she received invitations and photos of these events. Slowly and surely, June and I changed our old ways of being together. There was a new sense of joy and ease between us.
Gradually I found the courage to see all my relationships more clearly and to eliminate the toxic ones. I learned to steer clear of Greek Chorus folk and to put my energy into being an Hallelujah Choir member for others. Not surprisingly, more Hallelujah Choir people showed up in my life.
SPIRITUAL PARTNERSHIP AND ANAM CARAS
In 2000, my husband Harry and I attended a weekend with Gary Zukav in which he introduced the concept of Spiritual Partnership, defined as “a partnership between equals for the purpose of spiritual growth.” Any two people can form a Spiritual Partnership. Here Zukav describes the new paradigm. Zukav says that Spiritual Partnership requires Commitment, Courage, Compassion, Conscious Communication and Action.
I will always be grateful for to Gary Zukav for giving me a new name for what I was experiencing with Harry and close friends. I also had to look deeply at what “being equals” and “spiritual growth” looked like. For the most part, I had outgrown my immature habit of placing others on a pedestal high above me. I hungered to grow spiritually and to associate with others who shared that desire.
Over the previous 16 years, I had taken to heart Robin Sheerer’s teachings about the Greek Chorus and the Hallelujah Choir. By this point, another inventory was due. I was delighted to see how many wonderful Hallelujah Choir members had come into my life and to feel the joy of belonging to so many Hallelujah Choirs!
Looking with a new lens, I discovered that most of my relationships could be called Spiritual Partnerships. Except one: my mom June. We’d slipped back into a more superficial way of being. Often I dreaded our weekly phone calls, now filled with gossip and trivia. I wanted more. During her annual visit over Christmas 2001, I summoned the nerve to tell my mother the truth. I asked her if we could try something new in our interactions. I gave June several of Zukav’s articles about Spiritual Partners and asked if she would be willing for us to try it out.
Initially, there were tears and long silences. June was hurt and embarrassed not to be The Good and Perfect Person she aspired to be. I felt guilty for offending her and yet I hoped that this very important person in my life would become my Spiritual Partner. Ultimately, June’s open-minded Aquarian nature allowed her to consider some brand new thoughts.
We decided to study John O’Donohue’s book, Anam Cara which is all about being a “Soul Friend.” Our weekly calls changed significantly. Instead of talking about who won at bridge, the latest gossip about her social circle, fashion trends, or complaining about politics, we discussed a new chapter in Anam Cara.
Thus began the last and very best chapter in our life together. June and I had the great blessing of sharing from our deepest souls. Our calls were among the most stimulating and elevating interactions of my entire life. A miraculous intimacy grew between us. Mom and I became genuine Soul Friends, living out a deep, beautiful, honest, and peaceful Spiritual Partnership until her last breath on April 13, 2003.
Give yourself some quiet time with your journal. Reflect on:
How do you define “equals”?
Who are the equals in your life?
How would you think/feel if you truly regarded others as equals?
What does “spiritual growth” look like?
Who are your Spiritual Partners?
Who would you like to invite into this way of being?
What are you waiting for, dear friend?
I am forever grateful for the life-changing principles I learned from Robin Sheerer and Gary Zukav.
Thank you for reading this essay celebrating Spiritual Partnership.. If you would like practical coaching for creating richer relationships, please contact me at email@example.com.
May you walk in Beauty today and all the days of your life,