Silence, Stillness and Speaking Out

I wanted to offer something this week in this potent moment in our cultural landscape, our societal landscape, our political landscape.

There is a lot that is surfacing and has been for a long time. As I have been sitting with all of this, I have really been taking the opportunity to weave in the practices that I offer in many different settings.

Recognizing that we all have places and spaces in our lives that we are silenced and have been silenced, much more silenced than we actually realized. The presentation of the things that are out there right now can be very triggering, people are having re-traumatization.

My orientation with Evolving Mindfully is to support you to feel into your own lenses and own layers of experience around anything, so that you can find inner silence, stillness, and from there become very clear on what your “Speak Out” is in this moment.

Each and every one of us has a valuable perspective.

So much in this moment is about the idea of discernment and deliberation. This Supreme Court role is one where we are expecting whomever who occupies it to be above and beyond. To have developed their skills of discerning and deliberating to such an extent that they can approach something that really considers all of the different layers with respect to a higher standard, the intention of the Constitution. The Constitution lays out the values that it intends to provide a framework for the realization of those ideas and values.

That is really what Evolving Mindfully is all about. It is about us, as individuals, really being in tune to what our personal Constitution is. What are the values and the intentions that we are measuring, our own internal responses to things as well as external things.

It is with that in mind that I wanted to provide a short exercise that would support you, if you really want to explore what is coming up in this moment or what is coming up for you in another area of your life, you can use this exercise to apply to anything.

I recommend having a pen and paper at hand. The idea of this is to take a moment to draw back, to be silent and to silence yourself and take this stillness to look within.

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.

Being as an Act of Peaceful Revolution

Being as an act of Peaceful Revolution

One of the great ironies of modern society is that for all the wondrous “advancements” the West has packaged and sold the rest of the world, our quality of life continues to decline. On the whole, we are increasingly overworked, stressed, exhausted, ill, anxious and depressed.

So many of us strive and strain only to find ourselves unfulfilled by our work place dynamics; out of balance in our relationships with ourselves and family; bewildered by our culture; estranged from the environment and even our own bodies.

As Newton noted in his laws on classical mechanics, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. During the decades that Western material and cultural exports have been streaming abroad, Eastern Philosophies and Practices have been quietly flowing into the West.

While they may seem "foreign" or "strange" to a Western perspective, many curious minds find actionable means to break out of draining and detrimental patterns in these wisdom traditions.

A basic tenet of both the Yogic and Buddhist philosophies is as simple as: being with the breath. This cornerstone of these traditions takes shape in myriad methods of pranayama (breath work), meditation/concentration and asana practices. When the quality of awareness experienced in these methods is sustained while we are engaged in the activities of life, it is often referred to as mindfulness.

The emphasis on being contrasts with the Western orientation toward doing. Being places emphasis on focused presence and observation, which is a radical act in a culture that is preoccupied with fixing, numbing, coming, going, striving, celebrating and moving on to the next best thing.

Being falls outside of the mainstream paradigm because it directs our attention away from the common marketplace that orients us toward comparison and longing toward inner space where we get in touch with what we truly feel and need, with respect to our holistic wellbeing.

Being is rebellious in that it calls us to shift from an external orientation (in which we refer to others for our sense of self) toward an inner understanding of ourselves. 

In being with ourselves we learn: who we are; what we deeply need and desire; why we are here; and what gifts are ours to develop and share. 

Several key benefits of practicing being are:

 Self-regulating our nervous system to experience less stress

Awareness of our minds

Finding more balance in the different areas of life

Empowered understanding of our and others needs and desires

Higher quality and more intimacy in relationships

Greater inner peace

Practices of presence is a term I like to use for a variety of exercises (including myriad form of meditation, mindfulness, journaling, breath work…)  that center and ground us in intention and bring our attention to a point of clarity.

Those of us who commit to simple consistent practices of presence experience a place of inner connection. Developing the ability to be fully present to ourselves through simple age old practices enables us to engage with our bodies, minds, emotions and souls holistically.

With practice we experience how whole bodied being brings a depth of presence to ourselves and our world that connects us to our own soul’s perspective. Then, from this place of inner awareness we can meet others on a more soulful level.

The deeper empowerment in being is that it ultimately leads us to profound soulful engagement with ourselves and others, which supports processing the lessons in our life experience, expression of our authentic gifts and a quality of fulfillment we all desire.