From a Sermon given Summer Solstice Worship Service June 24, 2018
Code-Switching is a linguistics term. It was originally developed to describe what happens for people who speak two or more languages. As the information age unfolds, the term “code-switching” has increasingly also been applied to the experiences people can have of moving suddenly between different parts of human society, such as what people of color sometimes experience when they go back and forth between their ethnic community and the mainstream world.
This morning I want to talk ultimately about code-switching in a different context. I want to explore switching between different parts of the time-space continuum. It strikes me as potentially very useful if those of us who are actively developing a spiritual perspective can add to our skill set moving through time with greater awareness.
So let’s start by talking about code-switching linguistically speaking.
Language is not as cut and dried as it might seem at first glance. Every language in the world is unique, not just in the way each sounds, but in the way each is structured. And what meaning it actually evokes. Each collection of human beings, every culture has its own energy. Each language arises from a different shared history, an idiosyncratic set of common experiences, what we around here would call a matching set of pictures. These create a unique set of values that guides how that culture operates in present time, and where it attempts to go in the future. These values also shape where the group focuses its attention, how and about what the individual members think, and therefore how its members express itself when its members communicate with each other, and with the rest of the world. The very neuronal pathways of our brains adapt to that to which we are paying attention.
New neuronal networks that are utilized grow and expand, quite literally branching out. The parts of our brain we don’t use fall away, or to use the scientific language, the neuronal connections are pruned. We shape our bodies to a large degree with the help of our brains by the decisions we make in attention. Then often, too often really, our bodies shape us. On the surface, much of this drama gets played out by language.
When one learns a “foreign” language, it is much more than a process of selecting a word from English, and then simply substituting the equivalent word from the other language. If you want to tell a member of the Sami people of Scandinavia and Russia that it has begun to snow, you have to select between 170 words for snow. For these people, understanding the nuances of snow is critical to their survival. They pay a lot of attention to it. Consequently, they have one word for ice that lasts year after year, a different word for the layers of crystals that form when the seas first begin to freeze, and another for when the ice is filled with holes like Swiss cheese but is good for polishing sled equipment and so on.
It’s not just nouns that can’t always be exchanged. If you want to communicate with a native Japanese speaker, you are going to select between many personal pronouns that differ based on the gender, age, relative social status of the speaker and the gender, age and social status of the audience, as well as how formal the setting is where the conversation is happening. These choices are not surprising for a collectivist society with a large population who has had to learn to live together relatively harmoniously on a relatively small island. They have learned to pay attention to the subtleties of the social fabric in a manner that we Americans with our history of living on thousands of acres of land and our resulting “Wild West” mentality have not.
And what about nonverbal language? When someone from India engages in head wobble, how do you know whether they are saying “yes,” “no,” “OK,” or “never mind?” Do you know how many separate cultures, religions, castes, and other human groupings have found their way to the Indian subcontinent? Nonverbal language that can be transmitted between people who speak different verbal languages is pretty important in that part of the globe.
Successful code-switching involves understanding energy. You cannot become truly fluent in a second or third language until you pay attention to what is underneath the surface words. Linguistic code-switching involves understanding that words are symbols. Words point to possible meanings but you still need to understand the larger context, still need to look at what is under the surface if you want to accurately send or receive a message with another human. When you are exposed to the basics of the other group or person’s shared pictures your brain will then have what it needs to create enough similar neuronal pathways to become aware of the meanings beneath the words or gestures that other person or group is using.
Because we are talking here about reading energy, we are talking about a cognitive process that is VERY rapid, typically below the surface of one’s awareness. I like the term code-switching because the switching part is quite descriptive. It’s as if one is immersed in one worldview one second, and then suddenly a switch is thrown and you are part of an entirely different mental universe. It’s not just the addition or subtraction of a few facts here or there. It’s a major shift of consciousness.
God designed our bodies to be able to process a tremendous amount of information but at the present time, only a few individuals have ever mastered enough of their energy system to do what is required to create spiritually through physical matter to the degree necessry to access the broader perspective of which we are all capable. At this point in human evolution, it is enough that some people are learning to switch back and forth between to what they are generally paying attention and perspectives based on a different set of life experiences.
Typically in order to survive, ethnic minorities in the United States have had to pay attention to the values of the dominant society. By contrast, white people have not had to pay attention to the culture of other groups. We can if we want but we have not had to. Many white people have been very confused by the term “white privilege,” seeing it as some kind of intrinsic judgment. I don’t believe it is.
Look underneath the surface. Remember that words are just symbols, and the meaning of any symbol can be controversial. In my mind “white privilege” is just a way of saying that people with European ancestry have the option of not paying attention to the ways our particular history has shaped the national environment. Folks who do not appear European in ancestry have had a different history resulting in a different perspective that requires paying attention to aspects of our society we whites “take for granted,” i.e. do not even notice.
Once you can code-switch, whether it’s from one language to another, or from one culture that shares roughly the same language to another, you can code-switch in multiple situations. The essence of successful code-switching is looking beneath the surface at the same time as tracking what is happening in the outer world.
You all do that every time you meditate. The more time you spend in meditation, the more you hone these essential skills. Code-switching is truly a spiritual journey. Once you train yourself to be conscious of both the outside and the inside, you are on the way home. As Jesus of Nazareth said in Saying 22 of the Gospel of Thomas:
“When you make the two one and make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside and the above like the below . . . then you will enter [the kingdom of Heaven].”
What I am asking you to do now, is consider extending your developing code-switching skills to Time itself. There is not really much of a difference between switching between your own worldview and that belonging to another person; and switching between your own history, your present and your future. Really, you are not the person you were in the past, nor are you the person you will become.
It all comes down to making choices about paying attention. What you seek becomes stronger; and that from which you turn away disappears temporarily or even withers. When it comes to code-switching the time-space continuum though, there are a couple of tricks to keep in mind.
This morning I want to go over two of them.
First of all, recognize that living in the present moment is the goal, the spiritual destination if you will. Many people who speak about spiritual development will stress the importance of learning to be in present time. There are literally hundreds of books on the topic. Present time is a foundational teaching in many religions, particularly Buddhism but many others as well. It is also an important concept in secular circles. The whole mindfulness thing which has become such a huge component of contemporary mental health counseling and indeed, popular American culture, is another version of this viewpoint. Some folks even advance the perspective that to be in the present moment is the whole point of living.
There is some truth to that perspective . . . but it’s not the whole truth. What is vital about the present is that it is where the body lives. Your body really only understands the present.
Many of you in this room have had the experience that as you ground and work with your energy system, things that belong in the past and the future will often surface that need to be cleared. It can be very confusing when one runs across intense emotions that have no basis in anything going on around you.
Experienced meditators can also feel stark sometimes excruciating physical pain for which there is no reason other than you have triggered something that has been lying dormant which the body immediately assumes is happening at the moment it is triggered. The pain can be a trace memory from your past or a piece of energy you as spirit have put in place for future reference. If it is important enough to surface, one must learn to address the issue in present time in one’s meditations. One way of doing this is by recognizing that you are out of present time, then reassuring the body that the discomfort that is being felt is not real, i.e. is not really happening; and then using the meditation techniques you all know to clear what has you in the past or future.
The irony is that you have to be in present time enough to do that much. Otherwise you will just store the out-of-present-time experience in your energy system and any pain or emotion attached to it will come up a different time when you think you might be able to address it. We need to be at home with ourselves, present in our bodies, and slow down enough to notice how our physical form functions and moves around Mother Earth. Grounding is a great tool for helping you be present in your body, as well as giving you a means to release what you have brought up for healing.
There are whole medical diagnoses that fundamentally are about someone as spirit not being sufficiently in the body in present time, things like fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, many types of migraines, and various autoimmune disorders to name a few. These are real conditions with very uncomfortable physical symptoms, but like any underlying chronic illness or disease process they start as energy blocks when spirit is not working enough with its body, such that the body resorts to screaming at us to try and get our attention. Pretty much all of us have a lifetime or two (or three, or six, etc) like this.
For spirit, it is not always a priority to notice what the body is going through in some lifetimes. Other adventures are more pressing. Remember that for spirit there is no time; and remember also that emotions and pain properly belong to the physical world and not the spiritual realm. Therefore, depending on what each spirit is attempting to learn, sometimes it would rather discard the body it has that round, and start with a new one rather than take the time to slow down and work with it.
I hasten to add no one should be criticized or blamed for having heath challenges and failing to recognize the energy component to them. Human societies, particularly in the Western world routinely marginalize and persecute those who attempt to cultivate awareness of energy. The jig is up, though. The time-space continuum is changing. Awareness of working as spirit through matter is becoming a requirement of maintaining life. We can’t keep trashing the bodies we are given. Too many human animals have been doing so compulsively for too long, resulting in an increasingly trashed planet. If we are to survive, we must all learn to be present in our bodies to a larger degree including bringing up and clearing the levels of energy we have stored in the past or the future, however painful.
Second of all, and this may be the new part for some of you, recognize that living in present time is the goal, but PLEASE, pretty please, don’t make a perfect picture out of it. You know the drill. Perfect pictures aka expectations will always slow you down from learning what you need to learn, and get in the way of you going where you actually are trying to go. As long as you maintain the idea of being in present time as a full-time requirement for yourself, you will be beating yourself up every time you notice your mind is in the past or future, and thereby adding more garbage that eventually you have to clear from your system.
Present time is the destination but to get there, you have to make the journey. We’re not there yet, probably not even very close. Those that are fully in present time generally don’t need to be here on Planet Earth. We’d be learning something else in some other part of the universe; or we’re in our final resting place, having fully merged with the heart of God, like the Christ.
If any one of the amazing people in this room had even the majority of their energy in present time, the roof would probably blow off. Literally. Think about it. Present time is where your power is. If all that enormous amount of energy you have tied up in the past and in the future, was sitting at rest within your body as you sit there you could literally as the Christ pointed out, move mountains.
When people sleepwalk through life as most everyone does almost all the time, the experiences that you create as spirit are stored somewhere in your energy system until such time as you are able and willing to process those experiences and come to terms with them as the learning events that they are. We don’t get to just leave the past in the past and truly move on. We can only repress our awareness and pretend to move on until such time as our eyes are open enough to see a path through the learning.
The idea that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it has truth to it for both individuals and groups of people. You can certainly outgrow your history, and at that point, let it fully go. To do that though, you have to face it squarely, with all its pain and all its emotion, and all its glory. You have to milk all the experience for the learning that you set out to do when you created it. Very few people want to do this. Even fewer know how to do this.
Most people prefer to repress the parts of their individual or collective history that is painful and/or that they don’t know how to handle and fall prey to the Maya. Unfortunately then one just recreates the essence of the experience over and over until one is forced to deal with it.
That is why we have so many ungrounded citizens and political figures right now acting out Imperial Rome at its most brutal, slavery of African-Americans in the early days of the United States, Nazi Germany, etc.
These people are caught in a horrific hate-filled purgatory of not having enough presence to actually release the past. Even as we block the spread of their hateful actions, those of us who “know better” need to bring whatever compassion we can muster to these lost souls.
Similarly living in the future can be a trap. Dreaming about possibilities, setting goals, making plans and all is important, but if you have too much of your energy in the future, those possibilities and goals just move farther out of your reach.
Bottom line: What’s a person to do? Be aware of past and future, but honor to the greatest degree the present moment. Visit the future and the past, but live there as little as you can. When you need to dream more, plan more or otherwise be in the future, read science fiction books or listen to TED talks from visionaries, go on travel sites that talk about the places you would like to visit, and immerse yourself in the many artists who expand our viewpoint through painting or other works of art.
When you need to raise your vibration to the next step by pulling some energy from the past, look at old diaries or family photo albums, go to high school reunions, watch the history channel or historically-based dramas or listen to musicians that have accompanied you on your journey in life. Code-switch your perspective as much as you need step-by-step but keep in mind the goal is to be more present with yourself, your body and the indwelling God.
Be in charge of the process. You will know the difference between being a visitor and a resident of past or future if you just pay enough attention. Make conscious choices. If you find your thoughts going to the past or the future when you don’t want them to, get some help. Schedule a healing or a massage, see a therapist or someone else who can assist you to work through emotion, sing or draw or knit, watch a funny movie with your love or spend more time in Nature. It is your God-given body and you can learn when to be more fully in it; and when to take a break.
Do the sometimes-difficult work a little at a time, to find yourself and your place in the awareness of God’s miraculous universe.
Copyright 2018 by Rev. Dr. Resa Eileen Raven