With so much going on in our world, we can sometimes feel like we are dropped into a rabbit hole, deep in Wonderland. Like Alice, we can find ourselves into a place of non-sensical things, strange things, and things of creatures who seemingly have many powerful magic tricks. But not all that sparkles is gold. And not all who look like saviours, are.
There’s been a lot of change in the past few years, and it can be hard to make sense of the strange new world into which we have unexpectedly and suddenly fallen into. It’s wicked. Wicked not in a sense of “evil” per se, but in the complexity of the multi-layers which keep on unfolding the more we dig into things – to the point that we ourselves become confused and/or lost.
In planning and policy, a wicked problem is one which is too difficult and even impossible to solve, because of its complex nature of interconnectivity and interdependencies. There is no right or wrong solution for it, and it requires a multi-disciplinary approach. The more we delve into it, the more aspects, layers and other problems emerge and reveal themselves – and even new problems are created. There is no single solution, because it isn’t fixed: it is comprised of many complexities and nuances. Solutions aren’t based on right or wrong, evil or godly, true or false, this or that: they are only a matter of better or worse, for the current moment. And there is no stopping rule – it keeps on going and going. Wicked problems are what geo-political, economic, and environmental issues are. Things like poverty, corruption, pandemics, wars, homelessness, injustices, trafficking.
This is where we’ve fallen. Into wicked land. It’s not something new, but it is more in our face now.
Like we discussed in Riverwalking, the word clarity has two meanings: one ancient and one modern. The Latin word clarus meant clear sounding – a ringing out like a clear bell in the middle of the night. So in this ancient sense of the word, for something to be clear it had to be of lustrous, splendid, radiating light. Like the moon. When she’s full and high and bright – paving a way through the twists and curves of the wildlands, as we are led by our intuition amidst the unknown dark lands. Signal fires, falling snow, and trumpets too are other examples of the ancient clarity. But this ancient meaning of clarity is today obsolete.
The modern meaning is something slightly different, less poetic, though important and needed just as much – clarity today means transparent, free of dimness or blurring that can obscure vision, free of doubt and confusion that can cloud thought.
We need both.
We might think that our world is about one truth, one view, one bladed sword which would cut through deception and illusion and that anything not rationally or scientifically explained isn’t worth understanding anyway. But this is at best, a failure of courage to dive deeper into the unseen yet.
Truth is a more subtle thing.
Clarity is often times an inner word, an inner language. And especially when we are in the murky waters, in the wicked lands, when we can’t see through the obscure views – we need the radiant light to guide us forward. This radiant light is from within us – it is our heart.
We must have discernment.
Otherwise, we’ll get lost.
When people think of spiritual God-given gifts, they often wish for, or desire to have, intuitive abilities, psychic abilities, and creative talents. But what they often fail to remember is that discernment is one of the most powerful spiritual gifts that God may have given us. And it is, indeed, a gift. In the old days, people would often pray for the gift of discernment, among all other gifts they could have, as it was the gift of true wisdom and clear insight. And the truth is: Without discernment, not much else can be made or had. Ideas matter, but outdated ideas can be dangerous.
When looking at our world, we take information from anywhere and everywhere – we absorb it, perhaps process it, and then choose what to make of it. Some people choose to do nothing with it. Others choose to dig deeper for a more well-rounded picture to appear. And it is because of this choice that they then expand in their understanding, vision, and ability to see beyond the veils; it is because of this choice that they then make smarter decisions in life, and have a healthier more-balanced understanding of the worlds around them, both personal and global. They may seem like they almost have a supernatural ability to tell who is trustworthy and who isn’t, and to have a magician’s advice on what one should do, or how far to go – but these are no supernatural abilities: It is unique wisdom.
This gift is called discernment.
And it is this kind of unique wisdom that comes as much from the divine as it does from the self efforts of learned experience and knowledge. In Christiniaty, it is known as one of the highest gifts from God one could be blessed with; it comes directly from the Holy Spirit and it is a way of having crystal clear insight in determining the true nature of things, people and situations.
What is discernment?
Discernment is the beautiful marriage between clarity of mind and clarity of heart. It is wisdom. It is the ability to grasp the essence of something, and comprehend the obscure from vision. It is an act of perceiving what is beyond the veil. It is clear insight. It is a deep unique kind of wisdom. It is a freedom of heart and spirit, so that one is not controlled or manipulated. It is the ability of fairly analyzing information, so that one has a healthy balanced understanding of the world around the, even when, and especially when, they find themselves deep in Wonderland. It is knowing the way out and forward.
It isn’t “judging” in the sense that most people use this word. For most people judging refers to deciding whether something is good or bad, from a place of personal prejudice, bias and ignorance. In these cases, judging reduces. Discernment is the judgment coming from a state of deeper understanding, wisdom and fairness – it is the ability to apply wisdom, knowledge and information in a relevant way. Discernment allows us to evolve and expand. Discernment understands the essence of things and has the ability to see that there are two sides, and then, even more sides.
Here is a story. Once upon a time many monks sat around an elephant. Each one was asked to describe what they saw. One saw the legs, another the trunk; one saw one colour, the other saw a different one because of the way sunlight touched the skin of the elephant. Who was right? They all were – a leg is a leg, but the context matters. And understanding this simple truth – that a leg is a leg because of the view, but it is also merely a part of an elephant even if we can’t see it nor imagine it yet – is important. All perspectives are needed in life, and truth is subtle. Because what I’ve unfortunately noticed is that many people have the tendency to negate, dismiss, refuse and completely reject anything that may challenge their own narratives or versions of truth.
When we are faced with a view different from ours, it is important to receive it, question it, research it on our way, and then decide whether or not that’s something to consider further. Otherwise, we come into an environment of dogma. Dogma is essencially a deferral of thought – it is a state of rigidity, and we become like furniture.
Absolutism causes nuances and complexities to sink into the water like stones. And we miss opportunities for deepening, for love and for meaningful growth. We lose kindness and our humanness too.
As human beings, we all see from different angles, different perspectives, and discernment recognizes this, acknowledges this, and can yet still see the essence of matter amidst the surrounding environment. And yet it always knows how to tell real from false, good from harmful.
Discernment isn’t about fancy words, intelligent books or mystical texts, it is about the ability to apply relevant knowledge in an insightful way, especially to different situations from that in which the knowledge was gained. It is the ability to make a decision which combines knowledge, experience and intuitive udnerstanding. It is the ability to know and to apply spiritual truths towards our human inter-relationships and situations. It is about judging, yes, but judging fairly and well, with clear insight and vision, while understanding the complexities of the nuances and subtleties, and while navigating through the intuitive pathways. It is seeing the essences of things, people and situations, beyond the veils, beyond the roses painted red.
One of the most famous stories about discernment is the story about King Solomon. Overwhelmed from all the responsibilities when given the throne, God came to him and offered him anything that he wanted. The man had one simple wish: “Grant me with discernment, God. Grant me with the gift of wisdom, to know good from evil in this world.”
And so he was given this gift, and much more. Solomon became known around the world for this great wisdom, and for the ability to solve the most complex of problems. You see, we can’t solve problems from the same consciousness and perspective from which the problems were created. So essentially, discernment allows an opportunity for an deepening, and for an expansion.
In many other stories we see how God gave Solomon the understanding of human nature to discern which woman had true love in her heart, which had malice, and how to exact the truth.
Through discernment, we see the essence of a person, thing and situation. We see into the heart of matter, into the soul of matter.
Alice in Wonderland, 1933
When we are in Wonderland.
The time for discernment is now, dear ones. Because in many ways, we are in Wonderland. It can be hard to move and navigate and make sense of this new strange world we’ve fallen into. And each day, it’s a new movie scene.
What I find problematic is the amount of censorships going on, which in all fairness have been going on for many years now but it was more subtle. The problem with this is: We lose yet another ability to discern because we need diverse perspectives to see a fuller picture and make up our own free minds about a situation. Remember the elephant.
Simultaneously, there is also an overload of contradictory information. With the internet, we have access to a lot still, but it only serves to confuse people even more, and they just shut down not learning more about the topic. Many consider themselves experts on things they know nothing about, they come across a meme assuming that’s all they need to know, then they voice their ignorant opinions of this or that, right or wrong, and go to bed. The more access to information in the last decade has made people lazier and more ignorant. Ignorance is dangerous. It spreads around like a virus. It begins softly and subtlely, as an idea, a thought, incomplete, based on little to no brain cell usage, under the disguise of “Wow, I am so smart now!” – and then it becomes a monster, a beast, not just a thought, but a behavioural pattern – it becomes a perpetuity of stupid actions creating a chain reaction to even more stupidity.
Ignorance is a choice. People choose to be ignorant, they don’t want to learn. When humanity makes this choice over and over again, it begins to be rotten at its core, it begins to be less human.
We understand that we live in complex times that demand complex thoughts and conversations. And these demand insight and discernment, which in turn demand time and space that we unfortunately have little of. The comfortability and illusion of limitless connectivity has taken us away from the nuances of in-person conversations, cutting away so much information, depth and context of meaning. It’s an endless cycle where moments and opportunities for depth and wisdom slip away, and we have fewer ways to actually find each other.
Online social media platforms capitalizes on our natural interest for others, while hijacking our humanness by desentizing, and making a commodity of vulnerability. Of course I am not anti-technology in any way – it is a beautiful thing and allows me, at this very moment, to connect to you. But we must be mindful because it often times is about buying and selling our attention, ignoring the essence of things and the real issues at hand. And surely, there is a financial incentive to keeping us distracted, in states of fear, anxiety and confusion, numb of feeling with poor attention spans, too tired or demotivated to learn more on our own or self-care because there is already information overload. We must be discerning. We must be deeply rooted in our heart and core within.
We need to learn to see with wide open wise and soulful eyes, and discerning hearts. It could be challenging to tell what’s true and what isn’t quite, to perceive the bigger perspective and to discern such intensities in our world. And yes, of course it takes effort – a lot of effort. It is also about, perhaps more than anything else – emotional awareness and being strongly rooted in our spiritual core.
This overload of information also numbs people emotionally and disconnects them from their hearts and feelings. Behind the screens they forget how to be human and to remain strong in heart. We need emotional awareness. We need emotional intelligence. Otherwise, we become susceptible to the commodification of vulnerability and feeling little to no empathy about other people. All these will essentially affect people’s mental wellbeing. It is easy to say “follow your heart, follow your intuition” but the truth is that when people are not in a clarity of mind, their intuition itself is not of clarity. We are like a vessel – our body is a vessel through which energy flows. In order to perceive our intuition and higher guidance, we need the vessel through which it comes to be clear – we need to be balanced mentally and emotionally. Otherwise, it will be skewed.
This world isn’t new. It’s always been that way, full of contradictory information, wickedness and a lot of confusion. The difference today is that with so much of our lives online, the greater access to information actually demotivates people to truly learn, question and dig deeper on their own. In fact, attention spans have descreased so greatly that people don’t even want to learn. The priority has become to look like they know and care, but not to truly know and care. Discernment itself is a word that has made it to the extiction list of modern day qualities.
“Only a few find the way, some don’t recognize it when they do – some… don’t ever want to.” – Cheshire Cat
People often ask, in a great frenzy, “What do you think of so and so? Who is right and who is wrong? Is it this or that?” And yet this is where it ends. The initial response to the confusions is to project outward, and then choose one thing, one person, one idol or one outlet, for our inspirations moving forward.
We need to reconsider how we learn, how we discover, how we digest, ingest and relate to the constant influx of information, that ultimate feeds us into contraction or expansion. We can no longer just scoop things into our feeding, we need to think for ourselves. We must learn to anchor in our soul to truly know whether something is for us or not.
Times of high strangeness are usually just indicators that we need to shift our perspectives, and how we relate to each other, and how we integrate information. Don’t believe anything you hear or read – don’t believe me neither – just research on your own, question things and make your own decisions of thought and action. If we don’t develop the skill of discernment, we risk being drowned in narratives that are not for our best interest and well-being, and we will be perpetually looking outside projecting old wounds. True discernment takes the courage of the sharp sword of clarity and decision, and the softness of heart to see beyond the veils with humble acceptance.
Our modern world is not in a state of openness and expanding. Many people are battling themselves through others, re-playing and re-living their old wounds and narratives through others, and are just more interested in arguing and resisting. Many people are unstable in their inner world, disconnected from self, and so anytime someone speaks a truth that challenges their own narrative, they react in an aggressive way.
In general, as human beings we tend to believe most in those who are directly impacting us; whether they serve us food on the table or provide us shelter. This is the “house” or the “matrix” that sustains us and it is deeply psychological; it is natural human behaviour. Whatever that “food and shelter” are – we naturally will believe in that thing that sustains us, even if it’s “bad” which is clearly proven through the Stockholm Syndrome. What this means is that we have a really hard time perceiving or considering anything outside of our realm of comfortability. It would take a lot of self effort and self awareness to be able to see beyond that.
Ever since we are born, we form and shape our beliefs, and our whole selves, according to our environment. You may remember how as a child you’d wake up in the middle of the night and go to your parents’ room. According to psychology, children do this not out of worry to see whether their parents are there – but rather, to make sure that they are there. They want to make sure that they themselves exist. We start believing that we exist because of who sees us. And we shape who we are because of what others tells us. Now stop reading, and think about this for a minute or two.
How hard would it then be to perceive a reality beyond others; to perceive truths beyond ours, that we’ve never even known before? Of course, a collapse of our reality is something that we instinctively will self-protect against. Meaning: we will reject and refuse most things that don’t align with our versions of truth, unless we are more conscious and aware. The more we grow and evolve spiritually, the more our perceptions expand, and thus, the more things we can perceive, receive and consider as valuable or invaluable perspectives.
When society is in a state of fear, anxiety and instability, discernment is needed even more than ever, because confusion wraps around us and we can’t see anything clearly anymore – which means – we are more likely to be taken advantage of. When we are deep into the rabbit hole feeling confused, terrified and even powerfless:
What is illusion and what is real?
The only way to navigate through false and true information is to develop the third eye – which means to be able to see illusions, and then to see beyond the veil.
There’s also the responsibility that comes with truth – which is that once we find new insights that inform us, we must also change our own behaviours. Only knowing something wouldn’t lead us anywhere and we’ll get stuck in just digging deeper and deeper without ever incorporating what we have already learned. We need to find ways on how to adjust our patterns and beliefs to incorporate truth.
As human beings, we often want to avoid the uncomfortable process of discerning truth from a lie because we lean on convenient truths and comfortable truths; it is earth shattering to have our stability shaken. Furthermore, facing the shadows and corruptions in society automatically brings us to the unhealed shadows within our own selves and we begin to strongly resist it.
We must shift this mindset and use this time as an initiation to discern and create a healthier world, within and without.
Discerning a truth from a lie is an initiation process. It is almost a ritual of the mind and our spirit in which we initiate finding out.
To do this, we need to have a very strong spiritual core, knowing who we are, because as we dig in deeper, we will eventually find out, among other things, that the external world doesn’t define us. And then, we’ll be left in a space of reality collapse of “who am I, why am I here, what does it all mean, so what matters anyway?” This is a scary place indeed and can sway us in many directions, uprooting us completely.
The initiation process, and what we must be asking ourselves as we navigate through information, is: What part of this is true? Is the person sharing this balanced mentally? How can I apply this in my own world and perception?
To have a strong spiritual core means that we are grounded within ourselves; we know who we are on an inner level, on a soul level, and we have a strong sense of our unique self-expression, authenticity and our purpose. Only then – we can navigate through the illusions of the world without losing ourselves completely.
Part of knowing ourselves is also knowing who we are not, and knowing our own energy level. If we are low on energy, if we are feeling depleted, anxious, depressed, fearful or sad, then we shouldn’t dive into too much information all day or all night long because we’ll just be going down the rabbit hole further. This is why developing ourselves holistically, taking care of our body, mind, emotions and spirit fully, is so important; so that we are in the right frame of mind and more capable of taking on new information without being overwhelmed. And also – try to find out people who speak of the truth in an empowering way and a balanced way – offering ways of how we can actually make a change rather than just sharing dark negative “truths” that leave you feeling helpless and terrified. At the same time – we must recognize that often times, we are being triggered because of our own unhealed shadows and we need to spend more time in self-care and self-development. Running away from the truth just because it makes us feel sad or uncomfortable will not be a long-term solution.
Clear discernment is making sure that we are in a clear mind and heart. Don’t assume that your intuition is crystal clear at all times – it isn’t. Because we must create a clear channel for it to be clear – which means – we need to match the clarity of its higher energy to understand its messages correctly. Negative emotions and states of mind distort our ability to intuit the world around us and discern information. Take time to develop the needed receptive state for clarity to come through, so that you can make more enlightening adjustments. Feel strength in fluidity and diversity, accepting nuances despite the dogmatic environments that are often times forced upon us.
Develop your cognitive edge. Find the uncomfortable edge like a yoga pose – where you are uncomfortable enough to stretch further than before and yet you are not giving yourself to it, not completely lost in it, not hitting the ground, not abandoning yourself. Once you develop this cognitive edge and you are also standing strong in your core – you will be better at discerning, sensing truths right away and then moving forward.
Free thinking makes society fertile and creative; this is the key to expansion.
Deep in Wonderland, Alice meets many characters. Some are neurotic and even delusional, while others hold wisdoms and truths despite them looking seemingly non-sensical, strange and weird. Alice descends into this strange world to awaken her higher abilities and integrate a higher consciousness, so that she is able to traverse the realities, accessing and understanding deeper truths. The thing about descend is: it requires caution, strong self and discernment because not everyone who took that road came back to the surface. Towards the end of the story, as she had walked a path of the hidden corners of her own psyche integrating aspects of herself with her inner light, Alice realizes the truth within her own heart and is aligned to the core of her values. She stands against the “off with the head” and decides to come back to the surface of reality.
It’s a choice she makes.
It’s a choice we all make.
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Cover art by Boyana Petkova.