By Rev. Liz Mirante
One of the aspects of our Science of Mind teaching, and I would suspect any spiritual teaching that “goes deep,” that I have both a love/hate relationship with is paradox. It seems that the deeper we go, the more frequently we will encounter Truths that seem, at first blush, to be contradictory.
My human mind can certainly head in a right/wrong-true/false direction - in other words, dualistic thinking. But as I sit with the seemingly contradictory ideas and surrender the mind that needs to know the right answer (do you have one? I hope it’s not just me!), I can feel a rising up of a vision that includes both. This is transcendence.
One of my sisters-in-law is a conservative Christian motivational speaker. She is funny, loving, and curious. Years ago, while vacationing together, she was trying to get an understanding of our teaching, and her way in, so to speak, was to try to get the position on issues such as divorce and abortion: OK or not OK?
Naturally, I couldn’t give her the definitive answers she was expecting. The simplistic answer was “it depends”. The deeper answer was, what is really going on with the person? Is the decision something that “leads to more life”, as Ernest Holmes might say, or is it an avoidance of doing deeper work, and/or part of a pattern that is not working for them? And, of course, we know, ultimately, every path eventually leads to God; it’s just how many detours do we really want to keep taking? Which even then leads to a paradox: who is to say that EVERY seeming detour isn’t vital to the development of our soul? Yikes!
Beginning the reading of Everyday Ubuntu smacked me right into another powerful paradox. On page 14, author Ngomane tells us that while “there is certainly a time and place for self-examination…ubuntu teaches us to also look outside ourselves to find answers.” Whaaat? As an extrovert, I already have the tendency to look outside myself for answers.
A huge part of my spiritual discipline—that I am still working on—is going within, trusting that there is that within me which knows. Our boomer generation has spent much of its time embracing the idea of “self-care”, anathema to our parents, who were of the self-sacrificing generation, especially, I daresay, our mothers. So, doesn’t ubuntu way take us backward, to looking to others for how we should be, denying our True selves in the process?
Guess what? As with other seemingly paradoxical ideas, it’s both/and! I would venture to say, at this precise time on the planet, especially in the U.S., it’s time for the pendulum to swing toward the way of ubuntu! It’s time for us to recognize that we exist in community, and we cannot truly thrive unless the entire community thrives.
My spiritual development means nothing if I do not walk in the world in a wiser, more compassionate, and loving way as a result of my practice. I happen to believe that one of the reasons we incarnated in this world where it looks like there’s so many of us, and so many of us with different appearances from each other, and different opinions from each other, and different beliefs from each other, is because it gives our souls greater workouts than if everybody thought and looked the same.
It is not news to any of you that the polarization that is currently going on, especially in your neighbor to the south, is not healthy and not a path that leads to a “world that works for everyone.” As easy as it is for me to get caught up in anger against those who feel very differently than I do about safety measures to take during the pandemic, as well as those who think racial equality and justice has already been “handled”, I think it’s high time I started being willing to “put myself in the shoes of others” and learn to listen more deeply. Is my seeing those on the other side of the political spectrum from me as “other” really any different, let alone any more “enlightened”, than those who see people of color as “other”?
So how do we deal with these paradoxes - that we are One (that’s what we teach, after all), but seem to be so many; that it seems prudent to take certain precautions during this pandemic, to not blithely say, “Oh, it’ll all work out, I’ll just stay home”, but not fall victim to fear; that we must go within, but we must also look without. I think it takes a willingness to sit regularly in contemplation with paradox, with seemingly disparate questions.
Here are some examples:
* How do I be True to myself AND connect more deeply with my parents/siblings/partner?
* How do I stay True to myself AND understand somebody else’s radically different point of view?
* How do I take care of myself AND care more openheartedly for my neighbor? For my community? For the world?
* How do I stay awake to what is going on in the world AND remain at peace?
* How do I stay centered AND take action in the world?
As far as I know, the best way to engage with any of these is to get still, focus on the breath for a few minutes, remember your connection with the Divine and sit; sit in your chair and sit with whatever question/paradox is most “up” for you. Yes, we can read books and articles, and you probably have, but all that information can just swirl around in our heads and make us feel even more conflicted. In our sitting, in our contemplation, in our seeking to connect with that Divine Intelligence which neither struggles nor strives, we can find Peace, Love, and maybe even some answers!
Blessings to you all.
About Rev. Liz Mirante Reverend Liz Mirante has been a minister with Centers for Spiritual Living since 1999, receiving her ordination in 2003. Rev. Liz hails from the Seattle area, where she did her ministerial training and served on the staff of CSL Seattle for 14 years, as well as raising her two daughters. Between two several-month stints teaching for the Center in Ukraine, Liz served as Senior Minister of the Monterey Center for Spiritual Living from 2008 through 2013. Liz is delighted to be back in the Pacific Northwest as of June 2018, not retiring, but “rewiring”. A quote from the Sufi master Meher Baba encapsulates the theme of Liz's ministry: "Where love is present, the path to Truth is joyous.”
About the Centre for Spiritual Living White Rock We envision a world that naturally expresses Love. We’re on a mission to awaken humanity to its Spiritual Magnificence. We offer tools for transformation, authentic self-expression, and conscious living. We believe that spiritual community is key in living a life of purpose and meaning. We gather to inspire, support, and invite heartfelt connection that empowers the soul.