About the New Paradigm
What's a Paradigm?
Every human change and growth method is based on a set of beliefs about what people need to change and grow. Taken together, these beliefs form an overarching belief that's sometimes called a paradigm. Every method for personal growth and change that you've ever tried--meditation, visualization, affirmations, chanting mantras, or psychotherapy--is based on some overarching belief about how to best support people to change and grow.
The Current Paradigm
The current paradigm behind many human growth and change methods goes something like this: there are good or positive parts of you (your higher, true, or authentic self) and bad or negative parts of you (your ego, lower self, negative thoughts and emotions). To change and grow you have to fix, manage, get rid of, surrender, or rise above the bad or negative parts.
This paradigm is based on an idea that's been around a long time, a worldview that we might call the archetype of good and evil. Intentional presence started out firmly rooted in this paradigm. We saw certain parts of ourselves as loving and kind and others as negative and unhelpful.
The New Paradigm
In recent years, intentional presence has embraced a new paradigm: the idea that all parts of our consciousness are valuable and important. The new paradigm sees everything in nature as sacred and useful to the whole. Just as there are no bad parts of a flower, there are no bad parts of the human psyche. In this view, it's not emotions, the ego, needs, the lower self or any other part of our consciousness that creates our suffering.
What Creates Suffering?
If emotions, needs, desires, the ego, and other such forces don't create our suffering, what does? In our view, it's our lack of knowledge about how to work skillfully with our emotions, needs, beliefs, and other aspects of our inner awareness that creates suffering. Hating some parts of ourselves and liking others creates suffering. Unseen beliefs that we don't know how to identify and change create suffering and limitation in our lives. In short: it's not anything bad or flawed or wrong inside of us that keeps us stuck. It's our lack of knowledge and skill in working with inner forces like emotions, needs, desires, and beliefs that creates suffering in our lives.
How the New Paradigm Supports Inner Wholeness
The psychologist Jung once said that all living things strive towards their own wholeness. We've found that the new paradigm helps people to love and accept themselves more fully, and feel more whole and at peace with themselves:
It's easier to work with your emotions, needs, desires and other inner experiences if you don't view them as negative, destructive or unspiritual.
It's easier to love and accept yourself if you don't divide yourself into good and bad selves, or higher and lower selves.
It's easier to get to know your own inner world--and your own deepest self--if you let go of the belief that there are dark, dangerous forces inside of you that you've got to push down, hide, or whip into shape.
Intentional presence isn't the only approach to human change and growth that's embraced the new paradigm, but this way of viewing human consciousness isn't well known yet. We've introduced it here because we want you to know a bit about the guiding principle at the core of our work. If the idea that every part of your consciousness is valuable, intelligent, useful, and creative resonates with you, you might want to further explore the skills that intentional presence teaches.
Read more about intentional presence
If you want to change the world,
you have to change the metaphor.
- Joseph Campbell
My First Glimpse of the New Paradigm
Decades ago, my first two spiritual teachers spoke about the beauty and wonder of the whole of our consciousness, but frankly, their message fell on deaf ears. When my teacher Paul Twitchell said that emotion, desire and belief were creative forces that we just didn't know how to use properly, I knew better: I knew that they were negative, destructive, lower forces that I needed to command and control. When my teacher Seth waxed rhapsodic about the beauty and power of emotion and thought, I knew better: I knew that emotions and thoughts were the enemy, the bad guys, my misguided lower self.
Oddly enough, a flower was the first teacher to open me to the expansive view of my inner world that my earlier spiritual guides had tried to communicate. I now call this view "the new paradigm." Simply put, it's the notion that all parts of our consciousness and all parts of ourselves are beautiful, purposeful, intelligent, and essential to the whole.
One day while staring at a flower, I fell into a state of absolute ecstasy, marveling at how perfectly nature had designed it. I delighted in the fact that flowers have roots for taking in water and nutrients, bright petals for attracting bees, leaves to take in light. I was wowed by their intricate pistils and stamens and seeds, and how perfectly they worked together to create new flowers. "Flowers are absolute perfection!" I thought. "Every single part of them is essential to the whole!"
As I rode this wave of ecstasy and awe, a tiny little thought tumbled out: "Wow, if nature designed every part of a flower to be useful to the whole, all of the things I think of as bad inside of me must be useful as well: my emotions, my desires, my ego, and all that other stuff that I think of as negative and unspiritual."
That tiny thought created the first little crack in my belief system, a paradigm that defined some of my inner awareness as "good guys" and the rest as "bad guys." Later I discovered the psychologist Carl Jung, who believed, as I now do, that no part of the psyche is wrong our bad. Jung thought of the different parts of ourselves--the many voices inside--as psychic "organs" that each played a specific function within the whole, similar to the body's many organs. When a new part of himself arose--be it angry, shameful, sad, joyous, or fearful--Jung gradually developed the humility to say: "What have you come to teach me?" In time he learned that instead of fighting with different parts of himself and pushing them down, he could consciously and creatively collaborate with them.
I'm thankful for the small band of teachers who patiently led me to the new paradigm, but I think I'm the most grateful to the teacher who never spoke a word to me. From a seed planted by a single flower, a whole new world has blossomed inside of me: a self of incredible mystery and majesty, a self that I can finally love with all my heart.
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