It’s been a challenging summer in many ways. Terrorist attacks around the world, racial unrest and violence, divisive and destructive political campaigns, economic and social upheaval, and the list goes on.
For the last few months, I’ve been speaking and writing about this time as the “Great Breaking Open.” While many people feel that the world as they know it is breaking down and falling apart, I believe that the systems and structures of our world are finally breaking open. And when something breaks open, we can’t help but see and acknowledge what has been hidden deep inside. Sometimes what we find inside is beautiful; at other times, it is deeply troubling. In the Great Breaking Open, I believe we are finding both.
We’ve been holding the various systems of our world together for a long time, even as more and more cracks have appeared in their foundations and structures. For some among us, supporting the system has been their top priority. Others have passively gone along with the system, avoiding touching that place deep inside where they somehow knew things weren’t right. Still others have fought hard against the systems, feeling like everything was rigged against them.
Perhaps what most of us have in common, however, is that we’ve been doing the best we could to hold ourselves, our families, our businesses and organizations, our countries, and even our world together through rapid change and unsettling conditions.
However, the pressure from within the systems for change has become too great. The systems and structures are all cracking open. Viewing what is happening as breaking open instead of falling apart offers a different perspective—a perspective that many people tell me gives them a more helpful and productive way of looking at things, as well as greater hope for our future.
Yet there is a deeper and more important breaking open that we aren’t openly acknowledging. I believe that at the root of the Great Breaking Open is actually the breaking open of the human spirit.
I also believe that, if we will pay attention, it is this deeper breaking open of the human spirit that holds the power for our future. I am confident that if we focus beyond the struggle and upheaval, we will find a bigger vision of our world that has been waiting for us for some time. And with all that is happening of late, it seems that both the human spirit and the bigger vision have grown impatient. The time is now.
The breaking open of the human spirit is not a comfortable place to be. And what makes it even more uncomfortable is that we are not just witnessing it; we are experiencing it. All of us. Granted, some are on the front lines more than others. However, no one remains untouched in some way. The breaking open is just manifesting in different ways for different people.
Many people are experiencing the breaking open of their fundamental survival spirit, driven by their basic human need to be shown dignity and respect. Think of the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing their home countries and risking their lives and their children’s lives for the chance for something better. Think of all the people enduring repression or prejudice due to the color of their skin, their gender identification, or their ethnic or economic background.
For others, their suppressed rage, pain, resentment, and fear can no longer be contained. As their rage and pain explodes, the result is violence or fanaticism. They have not felt seen, respected, or valued. They believe that they are being cheated by systems designed to “keep them in their place.” And there is evidence that, in some cases, they’re right.
Yet others are feeling their hearts breaking open to the awareness that everyone and everything is interconnected. They can no longer separate themselves from the pain and suffering of others. Increasingly, their compassion is moving them into service. Whole communities have responded to the refugees with enormous outpourings of support. People have opened their homes to strangers from far-away lands and sponsored refugee families. People from all over the world have traveled at their own expense to provide aid in war-torn regions or places that have experienced catastrophes. Others have been deeply involved in peaceful social action movements or have regularly volunteered their help in soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and other service agencies.
It’s not the first time that this has happened, and it won’t be the last. Yet it’s critical that we pay attention now. The human spirit is stronger and more powerful than many of us have ever imagined. It’s much bigger than any national spirit or the spirit of any political party, religion, or economic class. The human spirit has no economic, political, or religious affiliation. It has a human affiliation. And it has a strong sense of its place within a more-than-human world. The human spirit is breaking open to let us know in no uncertain terms that we have been dreaming too small a dream, holding too small a vision. The next iteration of our world is waiting to be born.
The Great Breaking Open has brought us to a powerful moment of choice: Will we continue to feed the small dream, or will we stretch the very fiber of our being to discover the bigger dream that is waiting for us?
Said another way: Will we continue to push down the collective human spirit in service of protecting our own personal, family, business, or national interests? Or will we focus our attention now on creating a world in which everyone has the possibility to provide for themselves, their families, and their communities? Will we create a world that works for all or just for a select few?
We are faced with these choices every day on every level of society, from the personal to the global. Pay attention to what is happening on every level. The Hermetic Principle of Correspondence says, “As above, so below; as below, so above.” The fundamental energy behind whatever is happening in the bigger world is also manifesting in some way in your personal world. At the same time, the energy behind whatever is happening in your personal world is manifesting in some way in the larger world.
The Great Breaking Open is asking us to stretch our perception, our beliefs, and our worldviews. It’s asking us to push beyond the boundaries of our imaginations and begin to sense the new world that is waiting for us. Something more wants to happen.
No one person can see or sense that bigger vision alone. It will take all of us together to dream the bigger dream and then bring that dream to reality. The very act of dreaming together and responding to the dream will itself be the beginning of the healing process for the human spirit.
We may not see the full healing in our lifetimes. It’s taken us a long time to get to where we are now; it will also take time to birth the new world that is waiting to be born. That doesn’t matter. Transformation happens through process, not through outcomes. Through our process together, step by step, we can discover a new level of wholeness within ourselves, and in turn, we can create a new level of wholeness within our world.
The Great Breaking Open continues all around us. The human spirit has broken open. There is no turning back. What comes next is up to us.