There is no governing body outside of us that can heal us. We must be the ones who heal the way we govern ourselves.


“May all of you find here or there a little key, a clarification, a helpful hint so as to shed light on your way, in your struggle to reach the light of truth, to understand your life in relationship to the universe, to understand yourself and therefore life.”

– Pathwork® Guide, Q&A #132

I once heard someone say that the most ideal form of government is a benevolent dictator. If there were such a thing as a perfect parent, maybe that’s what they would be like. A “perfect” parent, however, would need to be well-balanced within, and then also well-balanced with their partner. But getting this just right takes many lifetimes. Most of us parents don’t get everything right.

As for the dictator style of governing—such as we find in a monarchy and in feudalism—according to the Pathwork Guide, it is one of the less evolved forms. And it only works when you have a leader who is fairly evolved. So it’s really prone to eventually involving a dictator who becomes crooked with the rules. Because, I’m in charge, so the rules don’t apply to me! Once such a leader gains power, the rest of us won’t fare well.

Historically, such dictatorial disasters have led humans to develop more equalizing forms of government, namely communism and socialism. But these too go off the rails when—as it inevitably turns out—not everyone makes the same effort.

Which brings us to democracy. Or in the case of the United States, capitalistic democracy. This style of political system offers us the most freedom. But such a valuable incentive comes with a price. The price is that a democracy requires the highest level of responsibility—for all involved—in order to work. Most especially, it asks for more from the leaders.

The outer reflects the inner

Before we look more deeply at this situation, let’s touch on where these various political systems come from to begin with. If you’re familiar with the many powerful teachings from the Pathwork Guide, it won’t surprise you to hear that these three primary political systems—the three main ways we govern ourselves—arise from inside of us.

Why is this so? Because everything does. The Guide frequently said that our perception of the world is backwards—or inside out—from how it actually is. In reality, the world around us is always an out-picturing of what’s inside us. The outside is a mirror of the inside. Our world reflects the collective contents of our psyche. For the micro rolls up to create the macro.

That’s exactly why the world we’re living in seems to be falling apart. For people are fractured and fragmented within. This is the human condition. The goal of life, then, is to work on putting ourselves back together. But if we are not willing to look inward and sort ourselves out, our outer world is going to keep shaking and possibly collapse. Then we will know crisis both within ourselves and in our outer lives.

What’s happening is we are dropping the ball on the two things a democracy demands most from each of us: self-responsibility and compassion. These are the two things we each must be working toward. And they are not easy to come by.

Growing up and waking up

Consider that for thousands and thousands of years, people have been slowly growing. Over time, we gradually develop and evolve. Which is why our styles of political systems have been changing over time. Like it or not, we always keep rolling forward.

Occasionally, as we roll with change, we must go through times of transition. That is what’s happening now. For we are now entering into a new era. A new epoch, actually. This is the last development phase for humanity. We are now fully entering adulthood. (Note, this next phase could take millions of years to get through. It’s really up to us.)

One of the ways life changes when we become adults is that more is now expected of us. For one thing, we must learn to stand on our own two feet. For most of us, this means we will trip, stumble and perhaps fall, possibly quite a few times. Because it takes us a minute to get our bearings. Along the way, we may follow a few dead ends.

It’s like this for most children who get ready to leave adolescence. And humanity, in general, is now stumbling its way into growing up, and waking up. We really have no idea what’s coming. But we can see things are going to have to change.

Two parties, two big challenges

By now, many have tasted the freedom—and also the pitfalls—of finding our own partner, choosing our own job or career path, and settling into our own space. These are the fruits that so many generations worked so hard to gain. Such freedoms are what our evolution as humans has all been about!

Yet at the same time, our primary relationships are often rocky. People are unsatisfied at work. Many work long hours for not enough pay. Lots of children are growing up in poverty. Safe, affordable housing is hard for many to find. Healthcare is wonderful, but fewer and fewer can afford it.

Why are we bungling things so badly for so many?

There are two important things to understand about our two-party democratic system.

    1. For democracy to be successful, people must develop within themselves the key positions of both parties.

    1. A two-party democracy can easily trip over duality.

What are the two essential positions, or platforms, that a two-party system relies upon? In a nutshell, they are self-responsibility and compassion. Of course, there are tons of other factors and positions to also consider. But fundamentally, self-responsibility and compassion are the two main pillars of a democracy. Without both of them, the whole structure will tear itself apart and eventually collapse.

In the end, there will be more and more struggle for everyone, and less and less freedom.

Why we need compassion

Interestingly, self-responsibility is also one of the main themes of all the teachings from the Pathwork Guide. They all keep pointing us back to where the source of all our problems really lives. And it’s always within us. This is why we must always keep turning the aim of our fingers around and searching for our part in every conflict. For no matter how wrong the other may be, if we are disturbed, we are also playing a part.

At the same time, there is a natural tendency to judge ourselves harshly whenever we discover something amiss within. When we find we are in the wrong. Each time we discover how the very thing we really hate lives inside us, the temptation is to turn our hatred toward ourselves.

Because once we see how our destructive outer life is truly an out-picturing of our inner destructiveness, we may turn our hate and judgement onto ourselves. We may want to turn around and destroy ourselves. This is why another main theme from the Pathwork Guide is self-compassion. As we do our work of self-discovery, we must not turn into our own worst enemy, making a difficult path even harder.

Compassion is not pity

The essence of democracy is the search for the common good. For at our core, we are all connected. This means that when I hurt someone else, I also in some way hurt myself. But when I help my brothers and sisters, I also help myself. Having compassion then is a strength, not a weakness.

In the Q&A on compassion versus pity, the Pathwork Guide explained that compassion is not the same as pity. What’s the difference? The emotion of pity feels heavy, so it reduces our strength and the help we can give. When we are involved in pity, somewhere we are negatively involved within. Maybe we are projecting our fear that the fate someone else is suffering will land on us. Or we might have hidden guilt we’re not in touch with.

It’s actually not uncommon for us to feel a certain satisfaction at someone else’s misfortune. Not only do we not have to deal with that same fate, but we like that someone else is being punished and going through difficulties. This doesn’t really make sense, but it does contain a sort of backwards logic: “If other people are also going through hardships, then I must not be so bad. At least I’m not the only one suffering. This makes me glad that others are also suffering.”

An inner reaction like this creates a shock and a guilt in our psyche that we completely repress. Then we overcompensate for this by feeling an unproductive pity that makes us weaker. We mistakenly believe our pity excuses us because it makes us suffer along with the other person. But we are doing so in a destructive way.

Our work is to discover the wrong thinking that lies behind this kind of unreasonable attitude. We start by noticing our genuine reactions, keeping in mind that we are all humans who have many unpurified emotions. Some are childish, others are selfish. Many are shortsighted. The goal is to learn how to accept them without condemning ourselves, condoning our off-base attitudes and justifying our behavior.

Our misguided perspectives will dissolve to whatever degree we really get to know them. Then our pity will transform into compassion, making it possible to give constructive help to people who are suffering. We can do this with our actions or just by communicating that we genuinely care about them.

No one wins

One of the tenets of looking within means we stop looking “out there” for someone else to blame. In truth, there is always plenty of blame to go around. After all, we are all human. But even after we identify how others are at fault, this never does the trick of resolving our problems. For it is only by finding the roots inside ourselves that we can effectively address them.

In the case of our two-party democracy, it’s quite easy for things to go sideways. Because there is always error on both sides. So there is always someone else we can blame. As a result, both sides get to feel self-righteous when they correctly identify the fault in the other side. Then both sides lean into the faults of the other side. Yet neither side takes steps to work on their part.

This is the stalemate that is sinking America right now.

How duality can lead to destruction

Where does it come from, this drive our many leaders have to destroy the functioning of our government? It actually arises when we distort the fabric of duality. Hence, duality is the second big hiccup for a two-party democracy, due to the way it so easily hooks into the illusion of duality.

Briefly, duality is the situation where everything comes in pairs of opposites. Good comes with bad, day comes with night, pleasure comes with pain. Here’s where we get lost: We believe we can live a better life by seeking only the “good” half and avoiding the “bad” half. The moment we start thinking this way, we leave reality and start living in illusion. The illusion is our misguided belief that this can work.

The only way out of this dilemma is by going in and through. The way forward then—and the only way out of duality—is by learning to make peace with both sides of every duality. We don’t do this by embracing darkness, but rather by walking through it. In other words, we must face our inner darkness. This is the way to find the middle of the road of duality.

What doesn’t work is to plant a position and then spend the rest of our life defending it. Look at our government. Look around you. Ask yourself, Is this working?

Where we get stuck

There are two parts of ourselves that are inherently caught in duality. One is the part of ourselves that fragmented when we were young. This happened due to whatever pain we experienced. The other is our ego. For now, we’re going to focus on the ego.

The ego is the part of ourselves that we have direct access to. So it’s the part that takes the lead in cleaning up our inner house. It fills the bucket with water, finds the mop, adds the soap, and starts to scrub. We need to have a healthy ego if we want to heal ourselves.

But because the ego lives in duality, it will never be able to understand the awakened state. In the awakened state, we rest comfortably with opposites. But the ego cannot grasp this concept. Instead, the ego competes and tries to win at life. In its unhealed state, the ego will only look out for itself. Because, being stuck in duality, the ego believes this is a “me versus you” world, and not the “me and you” world it really is.

To be awake is to live unified within. This is the natural resting condition of our deeper, inner self, which the Pathwork Guide calls our Higher Self. In order for us to make peace with duality—and therefore to eventually leave this difficult dimension—we must learn to let go of our ego and live from our Higher Self.

But before we can do that, we must clear away all the obstacles dwelling in our Lower Self. Painting with broad brush strokes, our Lower Self is the repository of all our negativity, destructiveness, rebelliousness, and the like. Waking up, then, is a two-step process. First we must clean our inner house so we can find our Higher Self. And then we must let go of our ego and learn to live from a that deeper place within.

The power of the Higher Self

To the ego’s way of seeing life, this is nuts. We will never win if we do this. But the truth is that the only way to “win” is to let go and discover our inner connection. This is our connection to the divine. And from here, true abundance can flow.

At this level, we are already all connected. From here, what best serves us also best serves everyone. There is enough for all of us. And not because we take from one person and give it to another.

In reality, there is no conflict at the level of the Higher Self. We can each follow the stream of goodness that flows from inside us and gradually come to live in peace and harmony. It is only at the level of the ego that we keep running into struggle and conflict, disharmony and seeming injustice.

The first step on our journey to the Oneness—to living together in peace and harmony—is to develop a strong ego. Because to do this work, we need an ego that is strong enough to let go of itself. For that’s the only way for the ego to learn to listen to the voice of our Higher Self and follow the guidance that flows from within.

When an ego, however, becomes very strong, but doesn’t know the next step is to let go, things can really go wrong. For the ego may know there is a greater power available, yet it doesn’t know how to reach it. Instead, the ego may become obsessed with its own power. This is known as megalomania.

When this happens, the ego is not being guided by the Higher Self. Part of the problem is that the ego has not done the necessary work of clearing away untruthful negative obstacles in the psyche. It also hasn’t learned to surrender itself. So then the power the ego craves—and then wields—becomes distorted and destructive. As such, the person gets a giant thrill from using their power to destroy things.

That pretty much sums up the condition of American politics today.

“It is the same process as, for instance, you know through all spiritual, religious and metaphysical teachings, that love is the key to the whole universe. Yet you have to admit to yourself first in what areas your heart does not know about this, where in your innermost self you feel hate where you would want to feel love.”

– Pathwork® Guide, Q&A #113

Shifting to balancing opposites

The shift that must happen is we must evolve from a world run by outer rules to one run by people ruled from within. This movement calls us to learn to balance opposites, which takes time and effort to master. This brings to mind some advice I was given when I was pregnant with my first child. A friend in my neighborhood held a baby shower for me, and the party game was for each mother in the room to write down their favorite piece of parenting advice. One stuck for life: Lots of love and lots of discipline.

The challenge of balancing these seemingly opposite qualities—in all areas of my life—became a guiding light for me. I didn’t do this perfectly, of course. But I have always kept trying.

Here’s another example of the opposites we must learn to balance: firmness and flexibility. Whereas the ego thinks of firmness as rigid, inflexible rules, in reality the truth is always also fluid and flexible. The way the Pathwork Guide explains it is this: In the Spirit World, the more structure something has, the more flexible it is. So, we must develop firmness—find solid ground to stand on—and also hold our positions with a certain softness.

The swinging pendulum of evolving

It’s clear we’re not ready to give up our laws and rules. We’re not collectively developed enough for that. But perhaps we can look at our one-sided stance regarding any particular topic. Can we see how we are being rigid and one-sided in our position?

If so, our work may be about loosening our grip. What other perspectives are we not able to see? As the Pathwork Guide points out, a good attorney is able to defend both sides of any argument. This is a skill everyone can work to develop: the ability to see and understand all sides.

So at different times, we will need to work with both sides. Because the way of growth follows the path of a pendulum swinging widely from side to side. During each swing, we shift to the opposite side. Each time, we will approach the middle way a little more. Eventually, we will reach the point when we can see both sides clearly. That’s when we truly have something of value to offer.

In short, we must do our own work before we are in position to help others. We simply can’t give what we don’t have. Said differently, until we have learned how to stay in the middle of the road, we will just keep trying to pull others into the ditch with us.

The folly of finger pointing

The current state of affairs is that our society is splitting down the middle, separating into two warring factions. Each side feels self-righteous about their position. But both sides are actually abusing the system.

“How do we manage to abuse and distort capitalistic democracy? One aspect is the abuse of power by a stronger few. These are the more willful individuals who impose disadvantages on those who can’t or won’t stand up for themselves. In truth, disadvantage will be the natural result for people who refuse to fend for themselves; they become parasites at the expense of others.

“But through the distortions in this system, those who exploit others becomes parasites themselves. They use the very ones who want to leach off others. Instead of working to help these people wake up and adopt more fair and appropriate ways of being, they play right into their hands. They end up validating the excuses of those who are lazy and cheating, who say it is an unfair world they live in and that they are victimized by the greedy. Because they are.

“So this system can be abused from both sides. Those clamoring for socialism can become more parasitic and blame the power structure for keeping them down. On the other extreme, those who are strong and diligent, who risk and invest, can justify their greed and drive for power by blaming the parasitic nature of those who are lazy. But abuse is abuse, regardless of how it dresses for the party.”

Pearls, Chapter 3: Exploring the Spiritual Nature of Political Systems

Working all sides

Everyone in both camps is called to develop self-responsibility. Because that is the task of being an adult. But in the camp of those who have the power, the scales are tipped so that more, not less, is required of them. For there is a spiritual law that goes: From those to whom more has been given, more is expected.

This is one of the choke points of democracy. When those who are leading and profiting won’t take responsibility for checking their greed and managing their one-sided self-interest…when they refuse to look within and see how they are contributing to everyone’s struggles…they create a crumbling system.

The other choke point is lack of compassion. For although we are all fundamentally equal, we are not all actually developed to the same extent. Some people have more work to do, while others are further along. And again, for those who are further along, there is an added responsibility to help those in need of a helping hand.

This is why we must add the core strength of compassion to our mix.

Try more, care more

Think of it like this. If we are a person who likes to hold our own feet to the fire—we are always striving to be better, have more, get on top—then we probably don’t need to learn to try more. What we now need to learn is how to care more. We need to learn to look outside ourselves and be of service.

So then if there were two political parties called Try More and Care More, which side would we be on, at least for now? It may seem we belong on the Try More side, because that’s our strength. But in fact, we need to sit on the Care More side for a time. We need to develop our ability to care more. Later, we may move back to the Try More side. But we will do so with less harshness and a more compassionate perspective.

Conversely, maybe we are a person who is forever self-sacrificing, and always putting others first. But if we haven’t finished clearing up all our inner obstacles, then our work is now to Try More. We must learn to look within and stop ignoring our own faults. Remember, we can’t give what we don’t have.

Note, to try more doesn’t mean to try harder. It means to try another way.

The real work Is humbling

Every time we face a disharmony in life, we are being shown something that we can use to learn and grow. And let’s face it, we will never reach the promised land—whatever that means to us—without making mistakes and course-correcting. This turns every conflict into a chance to look within and make a change.

Without a doubt, this is going to be humbling. We’re going to discover that we don’t know everything and we’re not always right. In fact, we must discover this. Because if we were already standing fully in truth, we would be living in peace.

Becoming humble is the antidote to pride. And pride, according to the Pathwork Guide, is one of our three primary faults, along with fear and self-will. It is only by seeing ourselves more clearly—by truly facing ourselves as we are right now—that we will get over this mountain.

“The truly wanting to get answers, to be in truth, is the key. If you truly want it and you formulate that desire and you become more specific in the desire, then you establish this contact with the divine self, with the cosmic truth within you.”

– Pathwork®  Guide, Q&A #172

We have to want it

But wait, aren’t there people who won’t want to try more, or to care more? What are we to do with them? We help them as well. For we were all, at some point in the past, in that same boat. It takes many lifetimes before we figure out that we must make an effort to get the good stuff. That there is always a price we must pay for what we want.

Indeed, many, many people go through many wasted lifetimes, not moving the ball forward by much. God allows this because this also serves a purpose. For eventually such a person may look at the arc of their many lives and realize they are getting nowhere. One day, they will turn around and start to do their own work of healing.

Changing the story

The history of our country is filled with stories of courage and inspiration, as well as challenge and destruction. All of our stories together have brought us to this moment in which we are living. During this time of transition, we have the chance to craft a better ending to our current story.

What we must find is the way to reconnect our fractured selves, to rejoin our wounded parts. To do this, all who are capable must learn to look within ourselves and heal the shattered fragments of our psyche. That’s the only way to heal our fractured nation. There is no governing body outside of us that can heal us. We must be the ones who heal the way we govern ourselves.

We do this by individually searching within for compassion, and by learning self-responsibility. When we develop and integrate both of these inside ourselves, we bring something new and wonderful into the world. This is the only way out of this difficult dualistic dimension. We each must become able to see all sides.

“The answer always lies within the self. For if it were otherwise, man would indeed be lost. The fact that he has himself as a key, which makes it so accessible and so possible to stop fear and to stop uncertainty, that is the beauty and the truth of creation. It is possible to know yourself.”

– Pathwork® Guide, Q&A #130

We must reach and shake

The work of personal self-development goes by many names. The list includes: self-facing, self-finding, self-confronting, self-knowing, self-transformation, self-actualization, self-discovery, self-awareness, self-realization, self-purification, self-healing. All of these point to the same process.

And this process is multi-faceted and complex. Over the course of 22 years, the Pathwork Guide gave roughly 250 lectures, each revealing another facet of this remarkable journey of being human. When he spoke about the same facet he had talked about previously, he illuminated it from a different angle. Each time, the Guide was giving us something new to see.

A few years ago, my husband and I began learning a second language, Portuguese. There is a word in Portuguese, “alcançar,” that means both “to reach” and “to attain.” Indeed, if we want to attain the jewels of self-knowledge—the true treasure of life—we must become willing to reach.

We are also going to need to shake. In fact, a lot of people are shaking on the inside these days. One of the Portuguese words that means “to shake” is “balançar,” which also means “to balance.” So to create a new balance, we are going to need to shake loose everything that no longer serves us. To do this, we’ll need to find some trustworthy teachings to follow.

To this end, I invite you to explore the Pathwork Guide’s teachings. I have organized and rewritten just over 140 Pathwork lectures—always with the Guide’s inspiration and support—to make them easier to access. They are available in the various books published by Phoenesse, with chapters also available as podcasts by most podcast providers.

– Jill Loree

“I will answer your questions to the best of my ability, my dearest friends, and the answers may not always be on the level you expect. They may approach a different orientation, a new level, another angle, but that is then precisely what you need.

“I ask all of you to tune deeply into yourselves, for every question and every answer being presented here can be an aid to all who are present, who can apply every single thing on some level, although the answers will be particularly designed to help the person where he is now.

“Now, who would like to ask?”

– Pathwork® Guide, Q&A #237

All essays in Get a Better Boat are available as podcasts.