Quaker Pathways Forward and Inner landscapes communities of practice participants have self-selected and sought out the practices. Enthusiastic practitioners are drawn to, or feel passionately compelled to dive into self-transformation in service to the whole. Vetting has been organic and 99% practitioner-driven.

The communities-of-practice are not for everyone however. A few people have opted out of the community over the past year due to:

  • cognitive challenges that emerged, or,
  • fear (s) generated by the prospect of continually looking deeply and working on “self” and “Self.” Fear often lurks under the surface of other expressed reasons. The most prevalent fear is of how our lives necessarily transform as self-awareness grows. Participants, having reached their personal “edge,” withdrew gracefully.

Glass Brimming Over (GBS) Syndromeglass of water surface tension

There have only been three situations to date when a person’s leaving the community was healthy and essential for all involved due to “glass-brimming over syndrome,” GBS.

GBS is an internal “tug of war” state of being. A person in this state has a voracious hunger for deeper self-awareness. However, it’s as if the aperture of their throat is so constricted that it won’t let nourishment through! (The “hungry ghost” phenomenon in Buddhist and Taoist traditions  is the metaphorical extreme of this situation.)

Some people simultaneously, resonate with the work of the community yet they’re like a glass of water that’s filled to the brim by all that they’re absolutely certain they already know and have mastered. They are full of answers. There isn’t really anything else that their state of consciousness allows them to take in.  An old Zen tale recounts this truth:

A university professor went to visit a Zen teacher. While the unassuming teacher quietly served tea, the professor waxed long about Zen. The teacher poured the visitor’s cup to the brim, and then kept pouring. The professor watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself. “It’s full! No more will go in!” the professor blurted. “This is you,” the teacher replied quietly, “How can I share Zen with you unless you first empty your cup.”

One way their internal conflict shows up in a group is as stubbornness, resisting the practice, which can slow collective progress or have a chilling effect on others. So, with heartfelt compassion we wish them well on their journeys.

A second manifestation of “glass-brimming over syndrome,” has all of the hallmarks of GBS mentioned above. However the syndrome in this instance is accompanied by an additional heavy, unresolved sheathe of internal pain of which its bearer may or may not be consciously aware. Their suffering shows up as a reflexive, mean spirited, passive-aggressive lashing out which taints the atmosphere for everyone in the group.  Stewardship of the community requires that they too be released to pursue that which they need.

May all beings attain happiness and its causes.

May all beings be free from suffering and its causes.

May all beings never be separated from joy that is free of misery.

May all beings abide in equanimity, free from bias, attachment, and aversion.

Pamela Boyce Simms, 3. 9. 2018

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