So you want to do your part to bend the arc towards justice? Then you’d better check you haven’t left some part of yourself out in the cold. You’re gonna want to bring your whole self with you.
A week ago I basked in the company of eleven women ranging in age from their thirties to their seventies. We met to talk about how to mobilize our yearning and practice to bend the arc towards justice. We shared our intentions.
We practiced letting in all the parts of ourselves who showed up.
We started there because we need every bit of our body, imagination and soul strength to bend the arc.
I want to share with you what I shared with them: a few words about inclusion from a nondual perspective. About its origins and power in what I call….
The Radical Oneness of existence, or the Universe, or Reality. Many spiritual traditions view the world in this way. You could call this Oneness God, the One who Holds (as in He’s got the whole world in His hands), The Buddha-Nature, Isness, The Great Kindness, The Garment of Destiny (as Martin Luther King did), the Quantum Field (if you are a physics nerd.) My own roots are in Kabbalah, the Jewish wisdom tradition. I am partial to the Hebrew name Makom, which means The Place.
This is a Oneness so great that it holds every distinction, separation, split, pair of opposites, conflict, suffering, goodness, and every known and unknown. This is a world that is One not because it is has not shattered, but because it includes every shattering and every shard and sliver.
We humans, on the other hand, split the world. It is our nature. Hard-wired. For our survival. We make distinctions: this/that, urban/rural, fashionable/out of style, essential/frivolous, normal, i.e. the norm/deviant. Then we go on to label them as “good” or “bad” and attempt to be/do/associate with the good-only. Or we inappropriately ride over, transcend, or erase differences, as in the view that we are a “post-racial” nation.
We do this splitting as we look out at the world. And we do this splitting as we look inward at ourselves. We tend to include the parts of ourselves that we like – that are up to our standards of behavior or performance or skill or kindness or morality. And to exclude other parts we don’t like.
For some of us, it’s the “good” parts we have trouble including, so we deny or minimize – that thing that I do, it’s not such a big deal. Or diminish ourselves in comparison to someone “better.” Or fall into the mantra, “not good enough, not good enough, not good enough.”
The inner critic manages to keep close track of these. So does the task-master. So does the one intent on personal or spiritual growth, who often teams up with the critic/taskmaster to
– wheedle, charm, or ring self-acceptance out of us
– turn us into an un-ending self-improvement project
– insist that we “let go of,” “purify” or “transcend” or “see it as illusion” or otherwise get rid of/kill off the the parts of ourselves we don’t like
– shame us, a category all its own
Living in this gap between our idealized and our real self is a high-maintenance and exhausting job, all the more-so when we aren’t awake to it.
Nondual practice – rooted in Radical Oneness, turns our attention towards forging a path of deep self-acceptance and dedication to staying at our working edge. We do our best to listen to the intelligence of our strengths and limitations, the parts of ourselves that we like, the parts we hate or despair of, the parts we deny or minimize.
The more we can do this, include each of these parts, come into relationship with them, give them a place, the more wisdom we have access to, and the less our limitations are obstacles in our path. The more we can do this, the more we can be intelligent companions to all kinds of people. We have less compulsion to turn our “opposites” into our “opposition.” The more we can do this, the more we are neither larger nor smaller than we actually are. (This has been one of my specialities, going back and forth between messianic aspirations and goals and helplessness.)
It also turns out that as we can do this, the more that connection and Oneness shine through the multiplicity. The fabric shimmers, even while wet with tears. The more palpable God’s presence becomes in our daily lives. This is the work of healing and awakening.
What does this have to do with bending the arc?
- Pragmatically, materially speaking, we need all the wisdom we can access, and all the wholeness we can muster, to meet life.
- From the standpoint of healing and awakening, we are each born into this world to bend the arc in a particular way: that particular way of bending that we are born for, born to, heals our soul, and heals the world. Inseparably. Simultaneously. The very same life. That is what we are here for.
- And we are not on our own in this work. Reality has our back.
We humans and God: together we bend the arc.