Posts tagged ‘Acceptance’

Spirituality in Daily Life: Reject the Box – Not the Mystery! || Mary Edwards

By Mary Coday Edwards
People House Featured Blogger

In last week’s blog, I mentioned three items relevant to this week’s:

1. Staying present to your current experience: basically, HOW is your NOW?
2. Not only does this NOW hold valuable information, it’s also where we experience Oneness with the Universe, Divine, Higher Consciousness, Gaia, Brahman, Ultimate Reality, Goddess/God, non-God, Light, Love (space limits the ways this concept is expressed), and
3. Spirituality seems to imply we are seeking a connection with something greater than ourselves.

So, combining those three items, did you experience anything when you read that last phrase of No. 2, words I used to describe the ineffable, the unexplainable, the Mystery? Did any of those limiting words cause a reaction within you? In your body? Is one of your emotions screaming at the edge of your consciousness? Did you stop reading at that point? Or is one rising gently, peacefully? Did a past memory surface, pleasant or unpleasant? What did I leave out that feels important to your experience? Do you believe that some of those words/images are just flat out wrong?

I encourage you to bring your awareness to WHAT you may be rejecting and WHY.

No one can tell us exactly what – or who – this Ultimate Reality really IS. Mystics and poets down through the eons have described their own experiences and thus have given us intimations of what this Reality may look like, but at the end of the day, all these terms are metaphoric variations.

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.

Feminist Christian theologian Sallie McFague says that to think metaphorically “… means spotting a thread of similarity between two dissimilar objects, events, or whatever, one of which is better known that the other, and using the better-known one as a way of speaking about the lesser known (Note 1, pg 15).

Scholar Ian Barbour first studied science and then religion, eventually drawing comparisons and differences between the two, in particular how both used metaphors, models, and paradigms to explain the unseen (Note 2). Barbour says that “Religious language often uses imaginative metaphors, symbols, and parables, all of which express analogies” (Note 3, pg 119).

Models & paradigms: Helpful, but not the same as Reality!

Some of these analogies evolve into models. For example, Western Christians are familiar with the metaphors of God as father, king/conqueror, to the point where the Divine is restricted to this patriarchal-defined reality, leaving analogical language behind. In parts of Latin America, the model of God as Liberator informs reality.

But the New Testament scriptures are replete with other metaphors, such as God as the woman seeking her coin. Although that is mentioned in the same Bible verse as the parable of the good shepherd, how many stained glass windows do you see depicting God as Woman seeking her lost coin? Or Jesus as a Mother Hen, gathering up her chicks under her wings (Note 4)? Neither of those metaphors even made it to model stage.

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And this is not just true of Western Christianity; I’ve seen and experienced this pattern repeat itself all over the world. Every religion, every sect, for the most part, has definite ideas about Ultimate Reality, leaving little wiggle room – in other words, little room left for Mystery. It’s the mystics who shatter the walls of their respective boxes.

Barbour goes on to explain how a model can then crystalize into a paradigm. A paradigm, whether in science or religion, includes metaphysical assumptions and captures the imagination of its adherents. In the process, a paradigm defines reality, determines what sort of questions can be asked, and what sort of tools are used to analyze this reality (Note 5).

“Doubt frees us from illusions of having captured God in a creed.”

We have inklings of this Otherness, but our words anthropomorphize this Otherness. When we say, “God is Love,” our human ideas, images, and definitions of love immediately surface. Whatever negative or positive attributes we associate with love are now imputed to the God we defined as love.

When we reject “God”, what we might really be rejecting is the metaphor, the model, or the paradigm presented to us as the only or primary version of Ultimate Reality.  Perhaps it was imposed upon us in our childhoods and it no longer fits our experience. Our world picture changes as we grow and change.

Additionally, if you’re reading this blog, you’re either my good friend or relative, and/or you’re interested in growing spiritually. As noted in last week’s blog, spirituality conveys the idea of living peaceably with ourselves, with each other, and with our natural environment. The global battle for religious supremacy still rages among us. Thinking metaphorically vs. in absolutes (OUR absolutes) about the Divine opens up a space of humility within us where we can cultivate kindness, gentleness, and compassion for our fellow travelers.

Barbour says that, “Doubt frees us from illusions of having captured God in a creed” (Note 6).

So does thinking metaphorically.


Note 1: McFague, Sallie. Metaphorical Theology: Models of God in Religious Language. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982, 1987.

Note 2: The atoms subatomic construct cannot be directly observed, but based on theories we’ve developed amazing technology, such as this computer I’m typing on, my cell phone, and information available at my fingertips due to the internet.

Note 3: Barbour, Ian. Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues. New York: HarperCollins, 1997.

Note 4: Luke 15:8-10; Matthew 23:37

Note 5: For more information on metaphors, models, and paradigms, see Barbour, Religion and Science; Barbour, Myths, Models, and Paradigms: A Comparative Study in Science & Religion; Harper & Row, 1974; and Kuhn, T.S., The Structure of Scientific Revolutions; University of Chicago Press, 1996 ed.

Note 6: Barbour, Myths, Models, and Paradigms: A Comparative


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.

Growing Pains: Mercy – Lydia Taft

Many years ago I was a Sunday school teacher for seven-year-old children.  I was responsible for preparing them for baptism when they turned eight.  One of the lessons I taught required me to line up chairs around the room in a maze.  I was to walk the children blindfolded through the maze and to a picture of Christ.  As I blindfolded one of the students she looked at me with hesitation and begged, “Please be careful with me Sister Taft.” 

My heart was touched by her simple statement and a truth was revealed to me…

That is my prayer always, every day of my life. 

Please be careful with me Spirit.  Please be careful with me.  I don’t know what road I’m traveling and I’m uncertain about the obstacles laid out before me, but I will allow you to guide me on my journey.  Just please be careful with me.  Have mercy on me in my fear and ignorance.

That day I realized how much fear I carried in my heart about what the future held.  I had based my opinions on many past experiences that I had suffered.  I understood that my life was in my hands. I had the free will to make decisions.  And that was the problem.  I was sitting in judgment about how well I messed up my life.  I was sitting in judgment about what my life looked like.  And I was sitting in judgment about all the pain I had recently experienced, which I hoped to never face again.  I held tightly to the fearful thought that I would continue down the same dark path.  So I asked for mercy from a greater being than myself, hoping I might avoid more pain.

I understand that prayer a bit differently now. 

I have learned that I didn’t need to ask Spirit for mercy.  I was already viewed from a loving perspective.  Love is only ever capable of love.  I really only needed to ask myself for mercy. I needed to find compassion in my own heart for me. I needed to release the judgments that weighed me down.  Yes, I had experienced some painful things, but what I didn’t realize at the time was how much clarity I had also received about the type of future I desired.  In the knowing of what I didn’t want, I more fully understood what I did want. My fear stemmed from my lack of understanding that I was being propelled toward something greater.  I am pleased to realize that I got here despite myself. 

Looking back on that past prayer I see that, like me, it has transformed and grown in clarity. 

My joy and my pain remain in my hands. 

It’s only ever my focus that must be directed, and sometimes redirected.  Today I can acknowledge the love that is always flowing to me, my ability to be receptive to that love, and the truth that is me.  Today my prayer would more accurately say:

I promise I will be careful and kind with me.  I am valuable.  The roads that I choose to travel on will honor my inner being.  I will seek experiences that feel joyful and fulfilling to me.  I will not worry myself about avoiding things that are painful.  When I find myself feeling that I have gone off course, I will seek clarity about the experiences I would prefer.  I will guide myself on this journey with love and compassion. I will walk in trust, acknowledging that all experiences I have enhance and broaden my perspective.  I will seek and find clarity in all areas of my life.  And most of all, I will be merciful with me.

Got Sensitivity? Radical. – Monica Myers

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart”Helen Keller

As a child, one of the messages I received fairly consistently was, “don’t be so sensitive!” and “you’re too sensitive.” Things deeply touched me. I teared up easily—whether it was in response to my older brother hurling insults at me, the suffering of a small furry creature, or the lonely and dejected 12-year-old protagonist in a book. My rich and complex inner life was sometimes mistaken for shyness. Over time, without realizing it, I adopted an underlying assumption that “something is fundamentally wrong with me” and I spent my young adulthood struggling to overcome this weakness.

We can go to great lengths to bury the fear that something is wrong with us and we rationalize it away. We may not even be aware we hold these damaging self-judgments. On the journey to wholeness, though, they will make themselves known, without a doubt.

Before I became a therapist, I taught for many years in the English Department at Front Range Community College. Early in my career, perhaps in my second year of teaching, I experienced a potent moment in class that I can still see with vivid distinctness in my mind’s eye. My Basic Composition students were work shopping polished drafts of their personal narrative essays in small groups. This was a class of struggling “developmental” writers who generally had never been praised for their writing. I wanted my students to realize they had a voice and that their voice mattered, that their stories were meaningful and offered us opportunities for connection.

Untitled-1Toward the end of class, I asked if anyone wanted to read their narrative aloud. After a pregnant pause, much to my surprise, a student who I knew was taking the course for the second time, volunteered to read his paper. Jamie stood up and began with a faltering voice that became more confident as his reading progressed. I looked around to see an engrossed class. He told the story of a drug deal gone very wrong on the hill in Boulder. He was with his best friend and they were young and stupid, he said. Even though I knew the tragic ending to this true story, I still was unprepared for the well of emotion that began arising in me like a wave. His best friend, just a teen, lost his life that night. Jamie stood there humbled and unsure of himself as he finished reading and the class was silent.

I can’t remember what exactly I said that day in response to the courage it took that young man to reveal himself and his pain, but I do know that I was unsuccessful in suppressing my tears. The lump in my throat gave way, and suddenly I found myself crying. In front of the whole class. I was horrified.

In a competitive and achievement oriented society, we are taught that there are certain expectations and best practices around professionalism in the workplace, including rationality. Emotionality certainly isn’t one of them. Of course, I knew this. And I had failed miserably.

Or so I thought.

In fact, my tears did surprise the class, but in a very positive way. The class began to understand how sharing their truth and witnessing others’ personal stories can weave us together. Jamie was stunned to learn that his words had the power to move other people. After I got over my initial embarrassment, the following period the class dropped to a whole new level. We were able to deepen our discussion. Things became more real.

This experience marked the beginning of my resolve to release my self-judgments and work toward accepting my sensitive nature. Because our habitual tendencies can be so ingrained, it takes inner resolve and active training of the heart and mind to change the trance of our negative self-judgments. They are like familiar old friends lurking in the background. We are used to having them around.

I love Tara Brach’s term for this resolve and practice:  Radical Acceptance. She states,

Radical Acceptance is the willingness to experience ourselves and our life as it is….When we practice Radical Acceptance, we begin with the fears and wounds of our own life and discover that our heart of compassion widens endlessly. In holding ourselves with compassion, we become free to love this living world. This is the blessing of Radical Acceptance: As we free ourselves from the suffering of  “something is wrong with me,” we trust and express the fullness of who we are.

I have deepened my appreciation for my own watery nature and now view it as a gift.

I have learned that emotions have great wisdom.

Personally, allowing their full expression gives me a greater sense of freedom. Most of the time, I am no longer swimming upstream anymore. And if the authentic expression of my inner experience gives others permission to do the same, I am filled with gratitude. My sensitivity has evolved from a weakness into strong intuition and emotional intelligence.

I think it’s okay to reclaim human dignity with heartfelt compassion and tenderness. In fact, I would argue, given the stresses of our modern society, we need to offer this to others and ourselves more than ever. In what way could you begin practicing radical acceptance?

Monica Myers, MPH, LPCC is a therapist and educator practicing in both Denver and Boulder. She loves to hear from you—please email your comments, questions, and curiosities to monimyers69@gmail.com

Finding Your Own Rhythm – Monica Myers

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Dancing has saved me many times. I have danced through pain, confusion, insecurity and the blues. I have danced through lost friendships, unemployment, miscarriages, and a broken heart. I have danced alone, and I have danced in community. And of course, I have also danced in celebration, as an expression of joy.

 

I have not always danced. It took my ego a while—probably until my mid-twenties– to get over itself. I was self-conscious about the way I looked. I told myself that I didn’t know how to dance, or that I wasn’t a “good” dancer.  I imagined that everyone was watching and judging me. I sabotaged my body’s natural ability to move by convincing myself that I was awkward. The result was, not surprisingly, self-constraint and awkwardness. But I know now, that the presence or absence of awkwardness is beside the point. Movement invites the expression of the full range of human emotions and experience, and in this way, taps into our aliveness. When we feel our bodies, we are feeling life.

 

We live in a culture that suggests that the arts, including dance, are reserved for a small group of innately talented individuals.  I had to unlearn this cultural myth, in order to remember how to dance. If you have ever watched a small child dance, you can’t help but smile. And you can see very plainly that the impulse to dance is innate within us all. There is a simple joy and a freedom in the physical act of movement. It becomes clear that physical movement is key to unlocking the spirit.

 

Our individual rhythm connects us to the flow of all of life, so that there are no separations or distinctions and we experience a deep sense of belonging and communion.

 

Humans, both children and adults alike, have been dancing for as long as they have been in existence. When I was an undergraduate student, I studied anthropology. Among my discoveries was the prevalence of ritualistic and community dance across all historical tribal cultures. “In many shamanic societies,” Gabrielle Roth stated, “if you came to a medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed,” they would often ask: “When did you stop dancing?”

 

This begs the question today: Have we stopped dancing? In our modern times we lead a dangerously disembodied life.  From our sedentary lifestyles and our addiction to the passive entertainment of TV and the Internet, to chronic health issues like alcoholism, obesity, and eating disorders, there are many manifestations of this. Our achievement-oriented culture encourages us to be more often in our heads than in our bodies; we want to put mind and spirit above body, not fully aware that the two are intimately related.  When we are overly identified with our thoughts and our minds–with rational, scientific and dualistic thought, we neglect our bodies, including the heart. In his article, “Disillusionment and Hope,” Stephen Bennett states, “We might say that as we have become evermore indoctrinated by centuries of rational, scientific binary thought, we have lost our awareness of the heart as an organ of perception” (Bennett, Human Development, 2010).  And when we lose our connection with our hearts and our bodies, we lose our connection with our basic humanness.

 

The wisdom of our ancestors reminds us that the way to wholeness is to fully embrace our incarnated lives, not to attempt to overcome them.

 

“Dance is the fastest, most direct route to the truth,” Gabrielle Roth wrote. Its not just entertainment, it’s a path in itself, leading beyond our habitual ways of thinking and being. It’s a creative process that reveals a map to the soul. Ultimately, what we experience somatically is the mirror image of what we experience psychologically. By engaging in movement, we come to understand what areas of our bodies and psyches need attention and healing. As James Hillman suggests in his book, The Soul’s Code, listening to the body represents “a call from the soul already in full comprehension of our path, beckoning us to some understanding still secret to the ego.”

 

Now, if you are wondering, I am definitely not a professional dancer, and I have never even taken a formal dance class. But in my lived experience, music and dance are tremendously healing and transformative forces—dancing in my living room, dancing at concerts, and more recently, dancing in intentional movement groups.

 

Dancing is a way to get in touch with your deeper self. On the simplest and most basic level, I’ve come to appreciate dance as a form of play. Play is not just for kids, but as adults, many of us are seriously lacking in play time. To tap into that childlike spirit of play is essential to the renewal of spirit. When is the last time you danced? If you need a little inspiration, check out the father and daughter in this YouTube video:

 

Monica uses body awareness with her clients and is currently facilitating a therapeutic movement group for young women. She welcomes your comments, questions, and requests for more information. Please email monimyers69@gmail.com.

People House: a Center for Personal and Spiritual Growth