I’ve never really understood how anyone says their way is the only right way, and they know it.
There are two kinds of know. There is the ‘knowing’ that comes from within. This is intuitive and deep. Then there is the ‘knowing’ that comes from our rational, logical mind. This can be proven or seen by many, usually backed up with collective agreement to it’s truth or existence. Each knowing serves it’s own purpose for us in how we move through life.
In the context of physical life at this time in history, we can only ‘know’ in regards to what is seen or proven. The intuitive, deep ‘knowing’ is part of a whole which is completed by the ‘un-knowing.’ Our intuitive ability to ‘know’ is only complete in its acknowledgement of its parallel, the ‘un-knowing.’
It’s this ‘un-knowing’ that allows us to be in peace and creates balance. When we have a sense of something we ‘know,’ it resonates within and speaks a sort of truth to us on a very personal level. We feel connected somehow, even when we can’t prove it. This is faith. When we are practicing or praying in silence, this sense of knowing is often accompanied by the Un-knowing. This is the place we rest in. When I spend time being in the Presence, my soul and mind rest. It’s an emptying of my outer self, which lets the inner self rise up almost organically. The experience of the Spirit or the Presence seems to fill in all around me almost spontaneously as I surrender opinions, beliefs, and control. It is one of the ways I experience ‘the peace that passes understanding,” to quote Jesus. It goes beyond understanding in that it rests in love. This is not the love that feels pity for the person who’s wrong, but the love that knows there is truth in everything, with God and love present too. There are few absolutes in this world.
When reasonable people are making decisions that we receive as hostile or cruel or selfish or greedy, it’s most likely we’re missing something about their story, or their belief system - and missing seeing who they are in this balance. If we were to choose one way as right and the other, wrong - it would be impossible to know the outcomes from either side. We never know what the future holds or what the outcome will be. Not really. All decision making is a complex web, and world views and values are part of that matrix too. These fundamental values that shape our world views are based in primal and collective needs. They will characterize the form of the underlying belief system or worldview we adopt, unless we enter into the practice of thinking non-dualistically. This kind of thinking gives us another way to see, and frees us from operating out of an either/or perspective.
Our culture is not very good at surrendering opinions, beliefs, or control. Culturally, we’ve bought into the idea that we are identified by our opinions and beliefs - and by how well we control the circumstances of our lives seen by others.
Our dualistic brains attach our identity to a series of labels that, together, paint a picture to the world of who we think we are, or who we want to be. Often, these pictures we project are simply pictures of who our parents said they wanted us to be - we are projecting a picture compilation of our parent’s values, or society’s current measure of success or acceptability within the worldview we hope to belong. After claiming our identity, we keep on moving. The keep on moving is the problem too. We don’t stop. We don’t get quiet. We just keep on keeping on, letting noise take over our consciousness and our belief systems define us.
We experience this on Facebook among friends debating topics they are genuinely passionate about. Heated debates about politics or issues like gun control framed in dualistic thinking sets up our mind to think we are in an either/or situation. The view from our windows are so different, and logical. All too often, we carry the flag of whichever fits our picture of the world, or relieves our fears most. Yet, the truth is that we simply don’t know. Our ability to just be in this experience and still be engaged in it is where the rewards of contemplative spirituality comes into play in real life.
Being willing to sit in the silence and unknowing is where peace abides. It’s the place of balance. It’s the present. It’s also a place of love without judgement. This place of spiritual practice lets us release our beliefs, and be in the moment. This, in turn, lets us see things for what they are in their entirety. This is a powerful place to reside within our soul. We detach from what is considered our own needs and desires, and connect to the experience of stillness. If we allow ourselves to become unified to this stillness, we experience ourselves in a different way. It is as if we’re united to so much more, which I can only assume is God.
In other words, it is in detaching (from our minds chatter and endless arguments or beliefs) that we become more connected and begin to see so much more than we could before.
Once upon a time, I was uncomfortable with using the word ‘unattached’ in spiritual practices because it raised my fears about people not coming from love - and not being connected to one another. The connection that comes from the spirit, however, is not from the mind. Detaching our mind’s beliefs to rest in God is a different experience, a transcendental experience. When we are standing in a room of people, and our hearts open to an almost ecstatic love, that is the spirit guiding you. This experience is not of the mind, and so deeply connected to the heart of God. It is in these moments that the detached experience of your mind spontaneously joins your heart to allow the spirit and the Presence of God.
It has always seemed that this oneness between us is what ultimately heals. How can it not be an important vehicle God uses to express who God is, and to heal. I’ve also come to believe the ability to touch this oneness in each other is given to us as a resource for spiritual growth and healing - and freely available if we are willing to see and allow its power. I experience this complete heart opening often when I’m in a group of people, and often wonder if anyone else can sense that. I know some will answer yes, but most would probably laugh at me. This is another thing we don’t know. Some of you will be inclined to believe me because it resonates, while the rational ones will simply roll their eyes and, if kind, laugh it off.
Being comfortable in the un-knowing by releasing your judgements, opinions, and attachments to beliefs or being right doesn’t make you less passionate, it makes you more loving. It relieves you of your need to fix or believe something, and gives you the ability to be fully present with something - with all its sides or parts. It frees you to see the whole, from all perspectives. When we see with these eyes, we lose our need to be antagonistic or defensive, and gain an increased capacity for compassion, listening, and understanding. More often than not, in my personal experience, the outcome is the ability to be purposeful and rational in problem solving. This not only results in genuine peacemaking, but in an authentic justice grounded in love, not political justice.
There are so many things we don’t yet understand about the non-rational aspects of our lives. We cannot explain or essentially ‘know’ anything about non-rational things. We can prove aspects or things contained within them, but we cannot explain them rationally to our satisfaction. Some are life and death, feelings, spiritual experiences, being in love - or any kind of love for that matter, and I’m certain there are a whole host more. There’s a freedom in un-knowing that allows us to receive what God has for us, this includes in whatever way we experience or understand God. We may belong to a particular church with certain traditions, beliefs, rituals that characterize it, and this does not have to separate us from a non-dualistic way of living either.
I will always speak in the context of Christianity because that is the spiritual practice I’m engaged in, but that doesn’t mean my way is the only way - even if others believe this. I do experience this particular church and its people as an excellent way of being and living, and encourage all of us to join into the oneness that is God. It’s taken me years to allow myself to be honest about who I am in this context, and to speak my truth aloud. There are always some naysayers who will still try to tell me how and what to believe, without realizing their insistence only pushes me further away - while revealing their own need to be in control, rather than to love and be open to being wrong. I think some pastors and other church leaders who have been part of the system for so long are simply scared to say it’s any other way. It’s scary to step into their own truth, and dare to step out of the language that defines them.
Here’s the million dollar question:
If I practice contemplative Christianity, and emphasize the importance of ‘being’ and ‘living’ a certain way, rather than believing a certain thing, does that mean I don’t think Jesus Christ is the only son of God?
It doesn’t mean anything. It means that I live and practice the principles and teachings of Jesus to the best of my ability. It also means I don’t do it perfectly. (Which is impossible, btw, because nobody fully understands all of them) It also means that I had a spiritual awakening many years ago in a tent in Harlem, and I have always experienced this as a real and valid spiritual experience that I lived. This leads me to believe that the Holy Spirit exists and what Jesus experienced with his cousin, John the Baptist, was also real. I do think it stands to reason, even if I can’t prove it with Quantum physics yet, that there is a God. That said, I also think each one of us deserves the opportunity to let whatever experiences and truths are meant for them to unfold naturally, on their unique and individual path. This is a spiritual journey, not a prison or bureaucracy. Do I believe in Jesus as the only Son of God? I believe Jesus is the Son of God, yes. Do I believe he is the only son of God? This is a question that requires context and theological understanding. I believe Jesus is the holy son of God. I believe he came to free us from our own
The experiences that organically rose up in me are the ones that have had the most validity, staying power, and rootedness in my life.
I’m always curious how so many rational thinkers became evangelical or fundamentalist Christians. Particularly when many of them are more than willing to believe in the unbelievable, in miracles, engage in supernatural practices like speaking in tongues, prophesying, and interpreting these ramblings, thought to be the direct word of God. If you’ve never experienced such a church, do visit. Those churches contain my favorite memories.
Non-rational vs. Rational Beliefs
Why is it that so many people believe if something is scientifically proven, it knocks it out of the God park for good. This is incongruous to me. Every time I hear of a new discovery that explains how something complex works, or there is life on other planets, or a 10 million year old fossil has been unearthed - I am thrilled. It makes my heart jump.
It’s really simple actually. If there is a power greater than us, and we are a complex system with intricate design that never ceases to amaze us - how could there not be a power much greater than we are behind it all. Clearly, God is not an old bearded man on a cloud, but this Spirit or energy of love, which I call a Presence is the interconnecting force of all that is. To be honest, this is always how God was seen in ancient times.
Ive always wondered why Jesus chose to use the word Abba (Father, Daddy) in referring to God. Jesus clearly knew God was spirit, yet still gave God a familiar name. I’ve always wondered if it could be that Jesus had mastered a contemplative practice and sensed his oneness with God as so unified that it could only be likened to how a child trusts, and almost merges emotionally with a mother - or a parent. He was one with God, yet not. This allowed for a sense of personal relationship in the only way culture understood relationships at that time, encouraging a more intimate, vulnerable, and open experience with God. This kind of trust would only happen in a surrender and a releasing of ourselves (minds) into the consciousness of unity, as is expressed for us in the Trinity. The only way anyone can explain the experience or doctrine of religion is through the use of metaphor. There are no exceptions that I can think of, and I think we’ve become so accustomed to this way of conveying religion that we forget it doesn’t make complete sense to an outsider.
Fighting Over Words
I’ve spent many years working with people or communities to resolve various types of conflict. I’ve also spent a great deal of time moderating conversations on threads for TED, or on Facebook related to politics and religion. The one thing that consistently frustrates me, and I now find also true in religion, is it’s always about language.
We argue about the words. The language and how we describe something is what divides us.
It never ceases to stun me. This simple way of shaping something brings us face to face with our dualistic thought process, and we stop trusting each other. I’m convinced that when engaged in this dualistic mode of thinking that we think its a form of entertainment, albeit unconscious.
When the political debates began on Facebook a few years ago, some people were deeply attached to their particular point of view and came in for the debate with both barrels loaded. These people were well researched and understood the issues from their worldview vantage point. These issues mattered to them. However, many others were occasional commenters, or simply voyeurs because it interested them - and it helped them shape their own opinions, which for the most part, I think are uninformed - not because we’re ignorant or not interested, but because the issues are highly politicized and complex, as we have all become too well aware. The endless arguing became more entertaining than a reality show at the time, but after the reality show of Congress, it seems Americans are finally fed up and have lost interest. As have I.
The bottom line is that it’s all about winning. It’s not really about anything else in the American psyche. We want it to be. We stand for it as if it is. But it’s not. Once we become attached to an idea or worldview, we are not capable of being anything but dualistic. It is only when we release our attachment to being right, and admit to not knowing that we can only begin to see something for what it is. This is when the full picture emerges.
This is also true for religion. Especially Christianity, which is connected to story. No matter whether your understanding of this story is literal or not, we’ve been taught that only if we believe it hook, line, and sinker are we truly part of the club. How can this be? Did Jesus tell everyone he met on the road whom he healed, or prayed with, or declared their sins forgiven required to believe a certain idea or set of beliefs in order to be one with God?
This is not in line with scripture as it is spoken by Jesus. He said the only way to the Father is through him, and if that’s true, does he mean the only way to God is by making him God, or does he mean the only way to God is by following him because there is no other way of touching God at that time in that place. If the Pharisees were so legalistic that they were not connected to the spirit, how could people experience or learn more about God? Is it possible this is what he meant?
But even this gets down to words. Words are the story. Words are how we define ourselves. Words are what paints the pictures that create our worldviews. So, how we shape the story with our words ends up being the way we relate to one another in life. Even traditional prayer shapes how we see ourselves in relationship to God. Most prayer is petitional, or conversational - omitting the direct experience of oneness with God for many. It becomes an out there experience that will, in turn, sabotage an inner communion. We relate to God in this prayer experience as someone who has power over things, instead of one who is connected to all that is.
tormented contemporary artists.
fragment of melody
im not good enough
i cant do it.
Tom talking to the Open Air.
Listen you…You Thing….
Talked to it…..
What is that thing?
transcendent….in a dance. suddenly step through a portal.
lit up on fire…you can see it in them…people knew what it was….
allah. god. allah. god.
curious historical footnote…Moors….took custom with them and the word became….
Allah 0 becme OLE.
the next morning…tuesday and no longer a glimpse of God….
what is that thing?