Posts tagged ‘Choices’

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.

Therapy for the Uninitiated and Intimidated: 9 Things to Expect in Counseling – Gideon Killion

If you’ve never tried counseling or psychotherapy before, you may be a little worried about what it will be like. You may even be a lot worried. Will it be awful? Like a job interview, but with more crying?

You do not have to cry. Not if you don’t want to. But if you do, it’s okay. Counseling is certainly a good place for crying; your counselor won’t think less of you (and has a box of tissues ready). But… crying is not a requirement.

So, what can you expect?

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There are many different sorts of counselors, and many different sorts of therapy, but you can be fairly certain of a few things:

 1. There will be a counselor.

2. There will be a chair. Or a couch. Something for you to sit on, anyway.

3. There will be some talking.

Feel better? Not yet? Ok, here are some more things to know about counseling:

 4.You do not have to do anything you do not want to do.

Everything that happens in counseling is voluntary. The counselor may ask you questions, or suggest that you do things, but it’s up to you. You can say “Yes,” and you can say “No.” Of course, how much you get out of counseling will depend on how much you participate.

5. You can ask questions.

If you’re wondering why the counselor is asking certain questions, or suggesting certain activities, or if you want to understand your counselor’s methods in general, ask! By law, you have the right to ask for and receive information about the theory, process, and methods your counselor uses, as well as his or her qualifications.

6. The counselor will ask you questions.

The counselor will ask you about the issue that brings you to counseling. He or she will probably ask you talk about its history and impact on your life, as well as the steps you have already taken to resolve it. The counselor may ask about many different parts of your life, such as work, income, education, ethnicity, medical history, substance use, family history, relationships, and so on. It may seem nosy, but the counselor is asking because your issue is probably connected to other parts of your life. To serve you well, the counselor needs to discover these connections.

 7. The counselor will probably want to talk about feelings.

The counselor will probably want to discuss many things that go on inside you, such as thoughts, beliefs, physical sensations — and yes — emotions. Some counselors will focus on them more, some less, but you’ll end up talking about emotions at some point during counseling. Whether you think emotions are what make life beautiful, or are the only things stopping you from becoming Spock, your counselor will see them as information about what is important and meaningful to you.

8. The counselor may suggest exercises or activities.

Counseling is not just talking. Many kinds of therapy involve specific exercises that are intended to create insight or foster change. For example, a counselor using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy may ask you to keep a “thought journal,” while a counselor trained in Gestalt techniques may ask you to speak to an imaginary person sitting in an empty chair.

9. The counselor will listen to you and care about what you are going through.

It may seem strange that a person you have only just met would actually care about you, but it’s probably true. Most counselors do what they do because they find satisfaction in supporting and caring about other people. You should expect genuine empathy, understanding, and support from your counselor.

 

Gideon Killion is an intern counselor in the People House Affordable Counseling Program. He also has a private counseling practice at www.lifecraftcounseling.net.

Growing Pains: The Buffet of Life – Lydia Taft

There are lots of things that are not my business today, and yet I keep trying to draw myself into discussions about them.  I’m walking through the buffet of life and purposely selecting everything that tastes horrible and feels irritating.  I am working to make irritating the flavor of the day.  The more I dwell on irritating things, the more quickly I can find other things to be irritated with.  The momentum is building and I figure if I want to experience anything other than irritation today, I had better get myself a new menu.

Do I like feeling irritated I ask myself.  Well, I pause… the truth is no.

What do I prefer to feel?  What do I prefer to taste from life? 

I enjoy sweetness I think.  And I further consider the idea of my life as a buffet of items to select from and wonder what else I might like tasting.  And then I imagine breakfast sitting in front of me.  It is 8:30 am, after all.  I think how much I enjoy things that feel substantial.  I like to have a breakfast with eggs, bacon and potatoes.

And what would that dish feel like in life? It would feel like something that would fill me up.  It wouldn’t Untitled-1leave me hungry and restless and aching and wanting for more.  So I prefer substance, I think.  And what would my sweet item be?  For a breakfast treat, it might be a Danish or pastry. But if there were something else that looked more appealing, I might choose it… like maybe French toast or pancakes.  I recall eating pancakes the day before and I still feel full from them.

And then I realize that I am saying that I don’t like to have too much of the same thing all the time.  I like a bit of variety.  Yes, I think.  That is true.  I have never liked eating leftovers.  I like to eat things that are new and fresh.  I pause for a moment in this idea.  I like life experiences to feel new and fresh.  New things make me feel excited.  And excitement tastes like hope and expectation.

Considering breakfast some more, I begin to imagine a delightful and playful swirl of whipped cream on top of fresh berries.  Fresh and naturally sweet berries.  Yes, I’d enjoy that feeling right now.  My mind continues to thrill at the wonder of all the many tasty breakfast ideas that could be laid out before me.  And I am reminded of the blueberry muffins from my childhood that were made with canned blueberries that had a lovely blue juice that stained the batter.  I can now recall the feeling of joyful anticipation I had as a child.  There are unlimited wonderful things to taste at this buffet!

I never have to select something that tastes awful. 

I think this morning I will serve myself something fresh with a touch of sweetness.  I think I will find something new and interesting that will stimulate my senses.  I will seek to taste warmth and nurturing and caring.  I will seek to taste comfort.  I will fill my senses with joy and laughter and the light heartedness of childhood.  And I will add a side of clarity for my overall health and wellbeing.  Yes.  This is right.  I realize these particular feeling selections fill up my senses and I am prepared for a joyful and very tasty day.

People House: a Center for Personal and Spiritual Growth