Politicians refer to the “rubber chicken circuit” as shorthand for going around shaking hands and eating meals with an array of their constituents at various local gatherings. That’s an ego’s way of cultivating popularity and votes while avoiding making tough commitments that might cause controversy and lose approval and votes for the politician. Although not openly announced, politicians’ unspoken mantras are “Stick to topics the are safely trivial or trendy and popular.” “Avoid dealing meaningfully with anything that is controversial.” “Get elected or re-elected to office at whatever cost.” Based on the rubber chicken circuit, as much as possible politicians remain amiably bland and elastic much like the chicken they learn to stomach and smile over during their meals with constituents. Nothing really changes. Constituents cease expecting anything to change. Ah, now there’s a sustainable comfort zone so long as the chickens don’t come home to roost too often and cause constituents to wonder how to hold their elected officials accountable for the mess in the barnyard.
As spiritually cloaked politicians seeking favor with audiences who will elect them “Pope” of their gathering and donate money to pay the bills, popular speakers and teachers of popular spiritual constituencies travel around similar circuits to maintain their amicably bland, noncontroversial positions as leaders whom their constituents are willing to follow and keep in office. These “leaders” make sure not to expect “too much” of their constituents and carefully espouse ideas and address topics that allow their constituents and themselves to remain on the circuit as chicken-hearted practitioners of whatever path of faith they identify as theirs. That’s the ego’s way of co-opting spiritual principles as tools for gathering people together in social groups for mutual admiration and self-congratulatory celebrations. The ego is slick. It does not have principles that require it to honor the actual substance of spiritual principles and practices. Its solitary principle is self-preservation. All other supposedly sacred principles may be sacrificed on the altar of ego-preservation. Egos within the leader and constituents silently conspire to lead everyone on circuits of different configurations that have one thing in common, namely that they always wind up back at the same point at which they started. And they manage to dress up that starting point as a new destination and celebrate arriving there. It’s so safe – for the ego but not for the community supposedly served by the leader.
Here’s a web site illustrating how widely varied racetrack-like circular thinking can be while the vast majority loop back to the starting point:
Spiritual evolution does not happen on any circuit that makes continuous revolutions around the same track. If a supposed leader’s role is merely to appear to be ahead of the pack on every lap of the track and keep the pack entertained enough not to notice how repetitive their experiences actually are, then most leaders of most spiritual communities are excelling in their roles. The ego would like us to believe that they are “doing their best” to lead. The truth is that they are doing ego’s best to covertly mislead. To avoid actually allowing us to experience spiritual evolution, the ego’s goal is to keep us spinning our wheels around the same track or switching to alternate tracks as we explore a variety of spiritual paths that distinguish themselves in their details but all race around some form of a closed circuit. No matter how convoluted the loop, it’s still a closed loop. True spiritual evolution progresses along an open path. That’s scary to the ego. Uncharted territory? Rough patches? Going off track may happen? Unexpected developments that require us to use our spiritual principles under extremely taxing conditions so as to enhance and deepen our understanding of our principles through practice? “Heaven forbid!” cries out the ego. But actually such an open path of ascension through unexpected rough patches and off-track exploring is our way to heaven at heaven’s bidding. Not “Heaven forbid” but “Heaven does bid!”
I write this blog simply to bring this matter to your attention. Are you following a leader around a closed loop that leads back to the point you began? It might take a few years to wind back around and there may be window dressing to cloak the old as if it’s new, but what’s really going on? When spiritual leaders rotate from audience to audience are they conspiring to hide the fact that none of their audiences are actually making progress? Dare to ask yourself. Your heart will tell you. Listen closely and watch what your wise heart brings to your attention. Ask for clarity and your experiences will reveal it to you.
Is your organization’s supposed spiritual leadership actually a closed shop of politicians carefully screening their inner machinations from your view? How willing are the leaders to hear your pointed, probing questions and respond with honest disclosures of both the facts and the process by which they lead? Are the leaders typically talking to you about the latest books they’ve read? Are they simply appearing to stay ahead of you by reading the latest teachings of other ego-encircled, ego-circling authors so that you are relieved of the responsibility for finding time to read those books and think about them for yourself? Do you notice any patterns in the process? Is it convenient for you to pay someone else to do your homework for you and keep you feeling smugly safe within the cocoon of your existence rather than to shake up your comfort and stir you to explore on your own?
Watch out for patterns of convenience and complacency. Leaders who allow you to pay their salaries so that you don’t have to do the homework required to make your own spiritual progress are hoodwinking you. Ask to have the blinders taken off and see what’s going on for real. A rubber chicken life is not worth living. In the end, you’ll feel cheated because you allowed it to happen to you. You’re only cheating yourself by being unwilling to ask tough questions and find out how your leaders respond. Don’t chicken out now or you’ll regret it later. Neither a rubber nor a plastic life is anything but ultimately a disappointing exercise in futility. Keep your heart open and see what’s there to be seen. It’s not so much about having eyes in the back of your head as having the sense to listen to your intuition and see with your heart too. Your heart holds a vision for the life you earnestly desire to live. Are you letting that vision lead you or are you perishing without a vision simply because you won’t turn into your heart? Remaining out of touch with your heart and blind to the grander vision is a choice. It’s your choice, a choice you have both the power and the responsibility to make moment by moment.
© Art Nicol 2016