A new José Stevens Article

Bitter or Sweet?

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We all live in a dualistic virtual reality environment taking place on this home planet we call Earth. From the time we are born to the day we die we deal with experiences that range from bitter to sweet and there is no escape from this phenomena except in our minds. No matter how hard we try there is no way to avoid the fact that people and pets that we love die, become ill, or leave us in various ways. Sometimes when we take a bite of something we think will be good we discover that it is spoiled, under, or overcooked. Sometimes people treat us poorly for no reason we can understand or perhaps because they are so unhappy or have a need to project something on us. Sometimes we are punished for something we did not do or are rejected because we are not what someone is looking for in an employee, in a friend, or in a lover. These are what we could call bitter events because they feel loveless or are painful emotionally.

Likewise there are the experiences that we could call sweet like listening to some great music, seeing some fabulous art, listening to a stimulating and interesting talk, or having a tasty meal or dessert. There is nothing quite like a tall glass of springwater after a hot, sweaty, dusty hike or great sex with someone you are really attracted to and who reciprocates the feeling. Perhaps for you, petting your favorite cat or dog is a sweet event and causes you to smile and chuckle in the pure pleasure of their purrs and groans.

We go from one to another experience, bitter then sweet, sweet then bitter and this characterizes our lives. Some people have lives that are almost all bitter. They may live in poverty and violence from the day they are born and for them the sweet moments are fleeting and brief. There are others amongst us who experience life as mostly sweet, in the rose garden with golden goblets to drink out of, with the bitter moments few and far between. On average over the lifetimes our lives are a good balance of the two. That is what it is to be human, and yet, bitterness and sweetness is also largely self-defined. For one person petting a dog is a bitter experience because it only reminds them of the loss of their own dog that was hit by a car. For another person eating a tasty meal only upsets them as they think about so many poor people with nothing to eat. I remember being this person at times in my younger days. On the other hand there are those who experience hardship but somehow manage to feel cheerful or inspired no matter what. The bitterness of the experience barely touches them because the sweetness is in their attitude or perception. I recall being this person at times as well.

Because of the law of attraction the bitterness tends to attract more bitterness and sweetness tends to attract more sweetness. This has way more to do with what you are feeling than how someone else would define the event. It is not a bitter event if you experience it from a sweet place and it is not a sweet event if you experience it in a bitter way. An ability to experience sweetness is not denial or an example of insane idealism when faced with real danger. That may be dysfunctional and is often just a temporary coping mechanism or a cover up job. It does not work the same way as a real ability to reframe something. I have also seen examples of cynics who appeared to downgrade everything but underneath had a real ability to experience the sweetness of life. All is not as it seems and sometimes we have to look a little deeper and see the bigger picture of someone’s experience.

In general bitterness is an experience of the false personality and leads us to an experience or sense of separation. Bitterness is an energy leak of major proportions because rather than energize us it depresses us or leads us to resentment, anger, vengeance and ultimately misery. Sweetness is an experience of essence because it unites, makes us one with, connects us, and opens our hearts to love. Does this make bitterness bad and sweetness good? Not necessarily because one of the purposes of the physical plane is to experience dichotomy, a dualistic experience. By knowing the bitterness of something we can even more appreciate the sweetness of something. By knowing cold we can appreciate hot even more and vice versa. By knowing the illusion of separation we can even more appreciate the experience of love and connection. By letting go of something we can often have it even more like letting go of attachment to a person resulting in more connection with them in the long run.

Whatever your experience be it bitter or sweet there is always something valuable to learn and grow from.  In our foolishness we often wish that life were eternally sweet but that might just lead to taking life for granted and no longer valuing just how good we have it. Perhaps that is what is happening to the Untied States at the moment. Perhaps we have taken for granted our liberties and standard of living and many other advantages that have come with being Americans. Now many feel the bitterness of an ironically dark swamp takeover leading to a loss of environmental protections, a free web, public lands, public safety nets like pensions, access to medical care, balance of powers, a fair justice system, and a host of other support systems long considered basic rights of citizens. What better way to realize their value than to have them threatened with loss? I realize that this is not necessarily what we want but perhaps in our higher wisdom it is what we temporarily need to wake up and smell the fumes of destruction before it completely overtakes and kills us. This is a time when bitterness seems to be in takeover mode.

Will we go meekly like martyred lambs to the slaughter or will we wake up and do whatever it takes to make sure that what we value survives the tests of greed, destruction, and arrogance? Do we acquiesce to bitter or sweet?

The polarizing theme that has taken hold is not an accident but one that has been very much predicted by the Mayan prophesies and others. Not only has it taken hold but it is still building and will continue to do so for another six years or so before plateauing for another eight or so years to complete this twenty year cycle of polarization that started in 2012.  This increase in tensions could lead to violent confrontations and extreme behavior including revenge and out of proportion reactions to any resistance or different points of view. We already currently see attempts to destroy any opposition or resistance to tyranny, dictatorship, and narcissistic ego displays.

Is the best response to ignore, fiercely resist, attack, be in humor, subvert, sabotage, or what? The problem is the age-old rule that what you resist you become. That is what has derailed many a promising revolution. The correct response requires a balancing act of a number of tools in the proverbial survival toolbox. Of course it never hurts to start with a bit of humor realizing that one should never trust appearances and this is all a passion play put on by ourselves to create a very interesting set of life lessons. Access to neutrality is quite helpful in the long run. In the short run anger is not always a negative reaction and sometimes is a good motivator to move to action.  A little subversion here and a little sabotage there can be useful. Ignoring has its place when faced with a blowhard but is not a good overall strategy for the bigger picture, for example like ignoring a broken bone, a serious cut, or cancer; not a good idea.

One must choose their battles at the best time and place and sometimes this requires holding the line and resisting fiercely. At other times a temporary feint at retreating or accepting defeat can be a good maneuver because it throws the other side off guard and makes them vulnerable as is evident in martial arts.

Some battles cannot be won in the short term and should not distract from the overall cause. If anything has defeated otherwise mature people is their tendency to fragment into idealistic factions that then feed into the divide and conquer strategy of the so-called forces of corruption. Some want attention to the environment, animal rights, LGBTQ rights, attention to plight of Blacks, Native Americans, women, right to choose, immigration, Latino rights, and on and on. These are not opposing issues but when they are seen as competing they become an area of weakness for the forces of corruption to take advantage of. When one issue finds a voice and pulls in money and attention and begins to make progress some others feel passed over and want immediate gains as well. This is not practical and good results will not come about this way.  They each require all forces to pull for them when the time is right. Impatience is a losing strategy.

Overall the best strategy is slowly and inexorably building overall strength until the force of change is overwhelming. The other side may win battles but this more gradual strategy masters the outcome of the overall contest. The fuel for building this strength comes from the absolute trust, knowledge, and perception about what is aligned with Spirit and what is not. This is called keeping an eye on the ball and on the door at the other side of the temple of ten thousand demons.

In the end it helps that each person engaged in this revolution or paradigm shift realizes that what appears to be an external war of values is nothing more than a personal confrontation with ones own ego. The opposite hemispheres of the brain must be joined in marriage, the masculine with the feminine at a higher level of perception. Those abhorrent self serving ideas, prejudices, ways of being are nothing more than ourselves over the last thousands of years and we don’t like it any more.

Both the irresponsible, destructive, violent, narcissistic masculine and the manipulative, irresponsible, and equally destructive and narcissistic feminine need upgrading to a higher level of consciousness within us. We need to do it here, inside ourselves first, and then we will see the changes all around us. Bitter or sweet or both?




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José Stevens

José Stevens PhD is an international lecturer, corporate team builder and organizational coach, consultant and trainer. A psychologist, licensed clinical social worker and author of more than twenty books and numerous articles, he is also co-editor for A Journal of Contemporary Shamanism and a board member of the Society for Shamanic Practitioners. He is the founder, with his wife Lena, of the Power Path School of Shamanism and The Center for Shamanic Education and Exchange, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating youth in indigenous cultures. He has completed a ten-year apprenticeship with a Huichol Maracame in Mexico and has studied with the Shipibos of the Amazon and the Paqos of the Andes for the last thirty years.