Recently, during my yoga classes, after we’ve been moving and gotten the blood flowing for a while, I’ll ask students to stop, close their eyes, and feel what they feel in their body and spirit … without labels/names/words attached. I encourage this practice of pure, unfiltered awareness because as helpful and essential as words are, the moment we label a person or experience, we diminish and limit our understanding of this multidimensional being or mysterious moment.
A month ago we bought and moved into a dreamy new construction house with a spectacular view of the mountains. I can’t speak for my wife or daughter, but when I allow myself to just “wordlessly” drink in this spectacle, my soul sings and spirit sweetens in profound ways. Yet, once I shift from gazing to labeling, by mentally attaching words like “beautiful”, “gorgeous”, or “stunning” to the view, my experience shifts from magical and transcendent to simply good.
(The view from our front porch!)
On the topic of labels, consider “conservative” and “liberal”, “theist” (i.e. one who believes in God) and “atheist”, and other often polarized camps of people. It’s super easy for me to learn someone stands in a group “opposed” to mine and instantly look down on and think less of him/her. Do you know what I mean? Talk about adventures in missing the point! Each and every one of us is EQUALLY a precious masterpiece created by a good God who wildly adores us.
Speaking of which, just because I believe in God and a friend doesn’t, doesn’t mean either of us is better or worse than the other, smarter or dumber, or even more or less right. After all, can anyone even know without a shadow of a doubt, whether there is or isn’t a Divine Being? There’s a reason why we call it faith!
I bring this up because I’ve been finding abundant awesomeness in shifting from the divisive, draining, and life-sucking mentality of being either conservative orliberal, atheist or theist, etc. to the unifying, harmonious, and life-giving attitude of being both conservative and liberal, atheist and theist, and so on.
You know how the U.S. is SUPER divided along political and religious lines, among other things? Nearly 2,000 years ago, Saint Paul wrote a letter to the church in Corinth, in part, to help them work through similar splits. “So let no one boast about human leaders.” He wrote, “For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future – all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.” (1 Corinthians 3.21-23)
Do you see the healing power of what he’s saying? We’re all one human family united by one loving Spirit, and ALL the True treasures and titles belong to each of us! Conservative, liberal, theist, atheist, and more are gifts for each of us!
With that in mind, let’s “land” this plane in a very practical way by looking at a gem from each of the four categories we’ve been. Conservatives seek to conserve, because they think the past was better and needs to be held on to. Conversely, liberals work to enrich the future, as it’s where the juice is in their minds. Do you see how both are right … yet also wrong? Why we need both these point of views?
Back “in the day” we used to have a more communal orientation and rhythm to life. Stores, for instance, used to be closed on Sundays and pretty much everyone took that day off to rest. We’ve lost this natural rhythm of work followed by recovery, and the connection with one another it fostered, and are overstressed and overtired because of it. On the flip side, there is also MUCH work to be done to heal past racial divides, cure cancer, end hunger, care better for the environment, and other endeavors that will only come to fruition in the future.
A gift of theists is they see a grand purpose for life, something bigger than and beyond ourselves. Atheists, meanwhile, do well to point out all we know for sure is “this”, this person, place, day, animal, planet, etc.
Living in a place beyond labels, a land of both/and, a space where “all things are yours” is awesome.
While usually I’d try and draw all the threads of this blog together into a neat little bow, today I’m going to try something different. (Wouldn’t it have been funny if that was the end?) I read a book based on three decades of conversations with artist Robert Irwin last year. Not only does its title sum up his lifelong journey in art, philosophy, and religion, it makes a grand ending for this blog: Seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees.
Grace and peace,