Living Consciously| Spirituality in Daily Life || Mary Coday Edwards

By Rev. Mary Coday Edwards

People House Featured Blogger
mindfulness
As I mentioned in my first blog regarding contemporary spiritualityno one institution or religious practice owns its definition. Spirituality does seem to imply, however, a two-way search: We seek for a connection with something greater than ourselves and at the same time, seek through self-knowledge to live a fully human and integrated life.

How can we do that? Mystics and poets through the ages stress being mindful – to paying attention to your NOW. After all, that’s all any of us have! The past is gone and our future hasn’t arrived.

All we have is this moment. And this moment. And this moment.

Yes, we make plans, but we hold onto them lightly. Our NOW holds the seeds to the future; this is where inspiration hits, where creativity manifests itself, or when answers to life’s challenges break into our consciousness. When we’re ruminating over the past or anxiously planning our future, we miss those revelatory moments.

And speaking of life’s challenges: They are designed to increase our consciousness.

As humans, we automatically have ideas and beliefs about the world and these determine what is important and what is not important to us. This is our worldview or world picture, the way life is and our place in it.

When our worldview isn’t serving us anymore

Often our worldview lies unconscious and unchallenged – we’ve just soaked up what our parents told us or our culture through its various delivery points, such as advertising, social media, TV, Hollywood, government, education, or religion.

Gordon D. Kaufman says,

“A worldview or world-picture is working well when (1) it performs the indispensable task of providing communities and individuals with order and orientation in life, that is, when it is able successfully to organize and interpret the experience of women and men in such a way that they can come to terms with it and life can go on; and when (2) this orientation provides sufficient meaningfulness and motivating power to enable them to continue to struggle even against serious adversities and troubles, indeed catastrophes” (Note 1).

Life’s challenges are intended to wake us up, and by paying attention to our assumed values, beliefs, and attitudes, the Universe presents us with opportunities for to examine our unchallenged way of life. Having lived all over the world with so many people of so many stripes, I’ve had opportunities aplenty!

 

Letting life change us – before we explode!

My journey began in Peshawar, Pakistan, about 25 years ago when I set off to look for universal values. It was also when, at the time unknown to me, cracks were forming in my own worldview. Unaware that these cracks originated deep in my soul as shifting tectonic plates, I spent a long time holding them together with duct tape before I would recognize them as the gifts they were and allow them pull me apart.

Through these past five blogs, you have been the recipient of my resultant changed interior landscape, my upheaval.

I learned to delight in mystery: Blog 2.

picture

Anak Krakatau, Indonesia, taken by Edwards.

 

While living in Pakistan, I was ready to jettison the God baggage, but what I realized was that I wasn’t throwing out God – just the metaphor/model that I had embraced in my late teens, when I joined the Jesus Movement.

A metaphor is used when we don’t know what something is in order to give it some sort of meaning that we can connect the concept to.

Life, as well as every religion’s scriptures and/or holy books as well as science, uses metaphors and models to explain the ineffable. I had God in my worldview, and my metaphor/model wasn’t serving me anymore.  Someone has said that the God we believe in must be compatible with the way in which we understand the fabric of reality.

However, a downside of living with mystery, with uncertainty, can be a weak character, one who takes a stand for nothing. If nothing is completely “right”, then why study? What is the good?  What is justice?

 

Which takes us to Blog 3: Critical realism as a guide to the real.

The meaning of truth is correspondence with reality, but what is reality? We have a pretty good idea, for example, of what’s in an atom – otherwise I wouldn’t be typing on this computer, but not an absolute. We have an inkling also of spiritual realities. Although their experiences are not as easy to duplicate, all of us can relate to some of the spiritual nuances revealed by generations of seers, mystics, poets, and artists.

Therefore, we have a form of realism, in that some aspects of the world are accessible to us, but it is a critical realism because our scientific – and spiritual – constructs are also reflections of the imagination and intuition of our human minds; they are extrapolations.

Consequently, based on the fabric of reality shown by quantum physics, I live my life as if my efforts mattered (Blog 4: The physics of prayer: choosing mystery). At a subatomic level we live in an observer-influenced world.  Compassion for sentient beings might indeed make the world go ‘round – including compassion at a distance.

 

And translating this all into action – why should I care? Why should I exhibit compassion?

Blog 5: Values, Morals – and Quantum Ethics. Because we’re all hitched together, as John Muir wrote in 1911. Father of our national park system, Muir spent time with and in nature and sensed those interconnections just when Einstein’s Nobel Prize winning discoveries were beginning to disturb existing worldviews.  Relationality, inclusive patterns and interconnectedness appear to be deeply imbedded in the fundamental structure of our physical world. Elements in a system adjust themselves to other modifications and system laws develop.

For up to 4,000 years various versions of the Golden Rule, “Do not do unto others as you would not want done unto you”, have appeared in nearly every religion and ethical tradition.

And this was before the Internet, so these great intuitive thinkers for the most part came up with this with little interaction amongst themselves.

In summary – and speaking as a critical realist – mindfully practice your spirituality, comfortable with mystery. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, says mindfulness is “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.”

Be grateful for everything; circumstances wake us up so that we learn to bring all of ourselves to every life event, we show up as ourselves.

This may mean drastic changes to your worldview. Embrace them, mindfully, living the question of “Where is this taking me?”

And tentatively perhaps, base your values, ethics, and decisions on an interconnected world where your efforts matter.

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Note 1: Kaufman, Gordon D. In Face of Mystery, A Constructive Theology. Harvard University Press, USA, 1993; pg. 47.

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About the Author: Mary Coday Edwards is a Spiritual Growth Facilitator and People House Minister. A life-long student of spirituality, Mary spent almost 20 years living, working and sojourning abroad in Asia, Southeast Asia, East Africa, and Latin America before finding her People House “tribe” and completing its Ministerial Program. Past studies include postgraduate studies from the University of South Africa in Theological Ethics/Ecological Justice, focusing on the spiritual and physical interconnectedness of all things. With her MA in Environmental Studies from Boston University, abroad she worked and wrote on environmental sustainability issues at both global and local levels, in addition to working in refugee repatriation.

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