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Practice Accentuates Oneness

“If you want to be a champion you’ve got to feel like one, you’ve got to look like one, you’ve got to act like one.”

—Red Auerbach

John Kohtala was the best jump shooter I ever met. If he could get his right elbow above your left defensive hand, he was going to shoot, and it was, most likely, going to go in.

He was also, for me, the essence of what basketball was all about in the 1980s. Everybody who played basketball in Maine in those days knew, or knew of, John Kohtala. He grew up on a modest family blueberry farm in Vienna, southeast of Farmington. He went to Mt. Blue High School, where he led the state in scoring his senior year, and then played at Maine Central Institute prep school, University of Maine at Farmington, and University of Maine at Machias.

I remember watching him play at the Portland Expo in a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics regional championship game. The arena, which then included traditional wooden bleachers, was sold out. I was standing in a corner near the baseline the entire game, knowing exactly what he was going to do each time he touched the ball. I predicted his shots before anyone on the other team knew what was coming.

Swish.

Swish.

Swish.

How did I know what he was going to do before anyone else, except perhaps his brother Ed?

Because by then I had played with and against him more than five hundred times. In addition, I had shot jump shots with him (just the two of us) perhaps an additional five hundred times.

Where did one thousand basketball experiences with a single player occur?

Mostly at Hoop Basketball Camp on Pleasant Lake in Casco, where John and I worked together for eight summers during college, and then as coaches beyond that. I would often lovingly tease John that no one worked at Hoop Camp longer than he did because no one took longer to get through college than he did. (Not because he wasn’t super smart—he was—he just took his time and enjoyed it!)

Anyway, John was not only the best jump shooter I ever saw, but he was also the hardest-working preparer I ever saw. I practiced a lot, but I never saw anyone practice more, or harder, than John.

In those days you practiced by yourself. Today, in the age of the Amateur Athletic Union and travel leagues, that’s a foreign concept, but back then you practiced by yourself or with perhaps one partner. It was just you, a hoop, and a ball. No one watching. No one coaching. No one correcting. No one cheering. Just you, alone, practicing. And no one did it more consistently than John.

***

I could go on and on about John, but here’s the point in the context of seeing the oneness that surrounds, connects, unites, and differentiates us all: The very concept of practice is human evidence of oneness.

How do you become world-class at shooting a jump shot, playing a violin, flying a fighter jet, guiding elk hunts, performing ballet, engaging in forestry, or tossing a Frisbee?

You practice. And then you practice some more.

What is practice?

I had done it my whole life without ever thinking about its implications with respect to the fundamental connectivity that governs the universe. Practice is synchronizing your body with other elements of the universe by virtue of your repeated interaction with those elements.

A jump shot requires intimate understanding of a leather-wrapped, air-filled ball. Your fingertips are the only points of contact. But each ball, despite the quest for consistency, has a little more or a little less air than the next—or it is newer, cleaner, or dustier than others.

Additionally, you must intuitively come to know your space on the court and how far that places you from the hoop. Each hoop is designed to be ten feet above the playing surface, but some are ever so slightly higher or lower. How tightly the rim is secured to the backboard determines how much “give” or bounce that rim will provide. I played college ball at Bowdoin, and the east-facing rim was always less forgiving than the west-facing rim. How did I know that? Thousands and thousands of shots at both rims.

Practice brings the one who does it into alignment with elements of nature beyond your own body. You synchronize with them over time through repetition and focus. You become one with the ball, the court, and the hoop.

This is how the world works. We constantly connect and intertwine ourselves with other elements, both animate and inanimate. And, through practice (focused repetition), we create our own futures.

John Kohtala, coming from a rural blueberry farm, created a future in which he was the best jump shooter in the State of Maine.

How did he create that future?

First came a mental (conscious) choice to dedicate himself. Then came practice.

Practice accentuates oneness.

***

John has since crossed over to what the Sioux refer to as the “world that lives beside this one,” but thanks to the oneness of our universe, I’m with him regularly. I see his smile, hear his voice, feel his love, and cherish his values.

John back in the day with Amy.

***

Thank you for considering my thoughts. In return I honor yours.

Every voice matters. Nestled between our differences lies our future.

www.thebusinessofsharedleadership.com




Two Thousand Years of Propaganda

The burial ground at the Wounded Knee Massacre site on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Go ahead and hate your neighbor

Go ahead and cheat a friend

Do it in the name of heaven

You can justify it in the end.

—One Tin Soldier

Why has acknowledging our universal connectivity and oneness been downplayed for so long?

The answer has two parts. First, only recently has scientific understanding advanced far enough to provide a glimpse at the underlying connectivity that binds everything in the universe through quantum physics and the study of matter in its smallest parts. Second, and today’s focus, is the fact that the existence of oneness challenges virtually all the propaganda deployed for centuries by emperors, executives, pious leaders, and politicians—call them the empire builders who consolidate power by emphasizing division and separateness.

Since the days of the Roman Empire, political, economic, religious, racial, and regional clusters of humans have banded together behind leaders who spin a narrative that says their group is special (and that other groups are dangerous). That imaginary “special” status is then used to justify taking dominion over others.

“Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.”

—Martin Luther King Jr.

To see oneness is to recognize that everything that exists in the universe (both known and unknown) is related and interconnected—including yourself. The Sioux tribes of the northern plains call this understanding Mitakuye Oyasin,which translates as “All things are one thing.” Separateness as we experience it does not actually exist. It’s an illusion.

The presence of an ultimate creator source of the universe has long been identified by virtually all religious and spiritual disciplines as sacred and powerful. Too often, however, that “source” has also been described as separate, detached, and superior. But if it turns out that the source of this energy is present in all things, well, that means all things are also equally sacred and powerful. This would include all humans—regardless of sex, race, religion, or place of origin. If one human is sacred, then all humans are sacred. Conversely, if one human isn’t sacred, then none are. It’s all or nothing because everything is connected.

But that’s not the story you’ve most likely been told. It’s not the tale you’ve been spun. This natural truth of oneness is why it takes so much propaganda, rule-making, weapons, and fences for any small group to lead by virtue of their claim to a special status. That claim, it turns out, runs against the very fabric of the universe, to which we all belong.

“We have men sold to build churches, women sold to support the gospel, and babes sold to purchase Bibles for the poor heathen, all for the glory of God and the good of souls.”

—Frederick Douglass

Oneness shines light on the infamy of slavery.

Oneness exploits all rationale for genocide.

Oneness then pivots and defeats the cries for revenge.

Oneness melts any justification for centralized control and bureaucratic rule by a few over the many.

Oneness calls for dispersed power, shared leadership, and respect for all voices.

***

What change is required for the awareness of our shared connectivity to emerge as our primary organizing principle?

The answer is shared leadership and respect for all voices.

For the age of oneness to fully blossom, existing “leaders” must lower their own profiles and voluntarily distribute power. Everyone is sacred, powerful, and capable of leading.

In return, those who may feel destined to be followers must change as well. When the truth is revealed—that everyone is powerful—no one can sit on the sidelines and abdicate control.

Oneness demands engagement from everyone.

There won’t be any trumpets blowing

Come the judgment day

On the bloody morning after

One tin soldier rides away.

—One Tin Soldier

 

__________

Thank you for considering my thoughts. In return I honor yours.

Every voice matters. Nestled between our differences lies our future.

www.thebusinessofsharedleadership.com




#14 | RESURRECTING MARY

“Jesus’s inner circle of disciples includes both men and women on an equal footing. There is no distinction made between a male group of disciples and a female group of camp followers.”
—Cynthia Bourgeault

In AD 313 the Roman emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and with a single edict elevated a banned set of spiritual teachings to official state religion. One man atop a great empire legalized Christianity with the wave of a hand.

Twelve years later the newly empowered church hierarchy convened at Nicaea to consolidate the differing stories under the Christian umbrella that had been passed down by countless, diverse clans across the empire and beyond since the time of Jesus. If Christianity were to expand, it needed a consistent narrative defining its faith and history. It needed a single story.

By AD 367 the twenty-seven “canonically authorized apostolic writings” that would eventually become the official New Testament were selected and approved. All the participants in that process were male and would be for a long, long time to come.

Those men, and their male-dominated societies, would, over time, systematically marginalize one of Jesus’s most trusted, loved, and respected apostles.

Why?

Because her name was Mary . . .

* * *

The first class I ever attended at Bowdoin College was Religion 101 taught by the esteemed William Goeghegan.

Moments into the experience I was asked a question I had never before contemplated.

“Mr. Hancock, what is your religion and why have you chosen it?”

I had no answer beyond saying I was a Christian.

As I left historic Massachusetts Hall and entered the Quad I remained consumed by the question.

Three buildings down from the old white house I grew up in stood the Casco Village Church. It was the only church in town and it was where everyone I knew went on Sundays. My Dad went there as a child as did his parents before him. That congregation was affiliated with the United Church of Christ, which made me a Protestant. That’s the entire story behind why I was Christian.

As a child in that white, wooden Church with steeple, the Bible was referenced each week and I neither questioned nor consider who edited, compiled, and sanctioned it. To me it was the direct word of God. There was no recognition at the time that it was carefully assembled by a small group of white men who, like all humans, had an agenda.

Awareness, in and of itself, is a powerful act.

* * *

Unlike the celebrated male apostles, Mary was the only one to witness Jesus’s crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. In fact, Jesus chose to appear to Mary alone after his tomb was found empty.

“So Mary went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord, and this is what he said to me.”
—John 20:14–18

I learned of Mary’s unique role as the “apostle to the apostles” only recently and initially I was surprised. Why would such a central figure in Jesus’s life and teachings play such a minor role in the Bible itself?

Could it be no more complicated than a woman as Jesus’s closest confident didn’t fit the stories that helped justify the male dominated order of the Roman Catholic Church?

What if, as the Christian researcher and spiritualist Cynthia Bourgeault concludes, the stories that ultimately became the Bible missed or underrepresented essential components of Jesus’s life and teachings? For example, as Bourgeault writes,

  1. “Jesus’s inner circle of disciples includes both men and women on an equal footing.”
  2. Mary Magdalene was not just “first among apostles in a chronological sense (because she was the first on the scene at the resurrection), but in a more fundamental way, because she gets the message. Of all the disciples, she is the only one who fully understands what Jesus is teaching and can reproduce it in her own life.”
  3. And finally, that Mary was “clearly in a relationship with Jesus that is in some way special: a ‘beloved disciple.’ ”

What if the most sacred religious scriptures of the Western world had featured these components, telling a story of sexual equality and the necessity of embracing the sacred feminine in order for a world full of LOVE to blossom? What if Mary was the one who best understood and manifested Jesus’s message? What if man and woman as co-equals had emerged as a dominant theme of Jesus’s teachings? How might the Western world have evolved differently if led by that story?

And what if, despite these potential truths, she was later sidelined.

I have no way of knowing with certainty, but I do have a hard time picturing a supreme God source that would intentionally anoint only men as apostles.

* * *

The Bible, like all sacred texts, is a collection of stories written, and rewritten, by humans. Those humans, by virtue of their direct engagement, became creators themselves.

And what does all of this have to do with the “Business of Shared Leadership”?

A lot, as it turns out.

Those with the most power often overreach and one common manifestation of that overreaching is exercising the power of the pulpit and throne to select and refine the stories that will define the society they rule.

For me, Jesus’s teachings are about “power dispersal.” Everyone is sacred and holy. A divine light dwells within us all. Love is the unifying bond, and it does not choose favorites. Men, women, people of color, and people of different faiths . . . they are all God’s children, and as such, are all worthy of an equal footing and the same respect and love. It takes an equal dose of male and female energy for humanity to be whole. This makes Mary’s presence in Jesus’s story a leading role.

To re-examine, not recite, my Christianity is to revisit one portion of the circle of identity that defines me thereby expanding my view of a world filled with stories that differ from my own.

 

“What happened to the Divine Feminine? Why has SHE apparently disappeared from Judaism, Christianity, and Islam? In the Gnostic Gospels, we learn that Mary Magdalene was probably the closest disciple of the Christos, the one whom the Master taught the most arcane esoteric wisdom. She was and is the representation of all wisdom.”
– Laurence Galian

Research for some of the ideas explored in this essay came from the following sources:
The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity by Cynthia Bourgeault (Shambhala, 2010)
Gnosticism: New Light on the Ancient Tradition of Inner Knowing by Stephan Hoeller (Quest Books, 2002)
* * *
Thank you for considering my thoughts. In return I honor yours. Every voice matters. Between our differences lies our future.

____________________

This is the fourteenth in a series of short essays to be posted by Kevin to www.thebusinessofsharedleadership.com in 2021. Kevin is dedicating these writings in honor of Black Elk, the Oglala Sioux holy man who was escorted as a child on a sacred vision quest by the 48 horses of the four directions to visit the six Grandfathers. My horses, prancing they are coming. They will dance; may you behold them. On that journey Black Elk understood the sacred power that dwelled within him and lives within us all. He also recognized that this power could be used for good or bad. Intentional we must be about the path we walk. To invite others to join The Business of Shared Leadership and receive these posts, just pass this link along. The more who join, the deeper the energy field of engagement will become! Thank you!



Seeing The Deeper Lessons of Coronavirus

In this article, Kevin Hancock writes about the lessons that the coronavirus uncovered. He writes about how during the pandemic, people were forced to slow down and begin looking at aspects of their lives that were not normally. By seeing that people are looking inward, Kevin notes that he hopes it will bring a deeper sense of community and connectivity between people, much like what he saw on the Pine Ridge reservation.

Click here to read the full article.