Embodying an And Rather than an Or Orientation on Life

Photo Credit: Larm Rmah

Photo Credit: Larm Rmah

I remember when the “Nature versus Nurture” debate had a real moment in the media spotlight. I was in my late teens and I recall raising my hand in social studies class to ask, why are they talking about versus, clearly it is nature AND nurture.

The way this versus thing was so hotly debated had a huge influence on me. I realized that everywhere I looked I encountered the OR that versus implied. In economics, we were limited to the options of capitalism vs. communism.

At the time, I was also turning my attention to spiritual/philosophical questions. A deep longing was moving me to reconcile what I sensed about the nature of existence with the doctrine that was presented to as the right way of seeing the world in my community’s culture.

What I intuited and felt, with respect to spiritual principles, seemed to be in stark contrast to much of the tenants of the Church. What my questioning revealed was that clearly, the dominant view was that religion was a matter of versus (OR) too.

I was also coming to understand that the dominant view was founded upon a literal interpretation of the Bible that established a strong Man versus (OR) Nature orientation. It was awakening to see how this interpretation is used to justify acts that degrade and destroy the environment. I began to see how it is used to justify a patriarchal hierarchical societal structure steeped in Men versus Women, White versus Blacks, Americans versus Non-Americans.

There is even often an OR assumed and asserted in the relationship between spiritual and secular life, which seems equally unproductive and stifling to connection, communion and the common good.

As I came to see the roots of a versus/OR mentality entwined within the mindset I was born into, I came to understand that literal interpretations of texts of all kinds are closely tied with OR orientations toward other people, ideas, cultures and ways of doing things in general.

While I draw upon myriad wisdom traditions that may be seen as having doctrine and dogma associated with them, especially when interpreted through the lens of someone who comes from a doctrinal and dogmatic tradition, I do not discriminate on the bases of which system is “right”.

I consider all systems of thought, spiritual and religious teachings and secular inquiries into human psyche through an AND lens.  

The orientation in my path and offerings is both spiritual AND secular. Ultimately, what contributes to the wellbeing of the soul are attitudes and actions that are creative and positive in their material impact.

Evolving Mindfully is based in deep curiosity about the nature of reality outside of all forms of dogma and doctrine (be it secular or spiritual). It is founded in the idea that ultimately any comprehensive understanding must be inclusive (and) rather than exclusive (or).

Evolving Mindfully is an AND orientation to life that is based in empathy as a practice of being curious about why we/others do what we/they do given the circumstances of our/their lives and how we can connect in ways that support the highest good of all.

I believe working within ourselves to embody an AND mentality is a spiritual practice that fulfills a civic duty. It is also personally and collectively enriching because the intersection of seemingly opposing ideas is where worthwhile and progressive perspectives emerge.

As I continue to expand into an AND way of experiencing the world I feel more connection with everything and all beings. I am better able to soften and open, even when I am deeply challenged by a perspective that is difficult to reconcile with something I feel strongly about or hold as a core value.

While it might seem that being and oriented would mean being permissive to things that are not aligned, in fact, this too is an AND rather than an OR situation. By making space to be inclusive I am better able to hold clear boundaries that are also permeable enough to allow my mind and heart to remain open to the possibility of something new arising in the space the AND holds.

I invite you to stay in this exploration of shifting from an OR to an AND orientation with me throughout this Celestial Cycle. Begin by considering the opinions you express in the next few days and inquiring whether they reflect an OR or and AND mentality.