There are times when I just have to walk away from all the information describing the physical and mental damage being inflicted during today’s clash of the titan religions. The struggle for superiority and dominance is resulting in much militarism and collateral damage as the two forces assert their religiously inspired versions of world dominance. It appears like the camps that are religious not spiritual are dragging the rest of us to oblivion. We are left with quarrels of human liberty versus purity of doctrine and few of us are genuinely happy as a result.
For some reason, perhaps the communications revolution, the spiritual violence of clinging to systems and mental constructs has mushroomed into much intolerance. We are busy selling ourselves as conservatives, liberals, libertarians, Christians, Muslims, New Agers, whatever. We are busy “distinguishing” ourselves by separating ourselves through tradition, nationality, and “deeply held” beliefs. Aggressive speech and physical violence over these things are now our daily realities.
Many people are easing away from allegiance to the partiality of political parties, nationalism, religious affiliation, and other ideological constructs. This awareness may also be one of the by-products of the communications revolution. We see the futility of the old, recurring struggles between East and West, believers and skeptics, and other such manmade categories.
These days, more frequently, I take refuge from the tornadic words and violence by going for quiet walks or letting go in meditation. These are not practices of denial. They are ways of becoming more objective and calm. The walks and meditations are not escapes into fantasies or mental utopias. These practices are more or less parts of my spiritual nature. These words are not meant to prosyletize nor recruit people to my way of thinking and acting. They are meant to inspire the reader to contemplate one’s own inner nature.
Yesterday, as has happened many very early December mornings, I stepped out the front door and onto the quiet residential street of the neighborhood. The questions I love to ask, automatically came to mind.
What if I didn’t live in this town? What if I didn’t live in this state? What if I wasn’t a citizen of this nation? What if my native tongue wasn’t English? What if I wasn’t who I believe myself to be?
The choice of negative questions is fully intentional because they are not what they seem, on the surface. The questions are purposely the opposite of comforting affirmations. The affirmations that help define and categorize oneself. The affirmations that validate our specialness and lock in our beliefs. The self-concepts that soon become prisons.
The questioning of beliefs and affiliations is a revolutionary act. The inquiring mind soon discovers that social institutions frown on in-depth spiritual exploration. In letting go, we intuit the nature of our own and mankind’s façades. This explorative journey is not for conformists nor the weak of heart. Social exile is frequently the end product. In some parts of the world, this journey leads to the executioner.
The cold air and slippery streets of wintery weather enable my reality checks better than books about religious thought or philosophy. The harsh conditions are beautiful to me. The sharp cold and unsteady footing discourage cattle-like rumination of thoughts. They encourage mindfulness and alertness to constantly changing conditions around myself. In other words, winter “brings me out of myself”. Going for a walk at 3:00 AM on a cold, icy street requires attention.
The rewards of the walk are beyond the limitations of language. This is especially true when I walk without expectation of reward or spiritual attainment. This nether-world of mentality is not achieved by technique. It happens best through the practice of observation and letting go.
The sharp nip of cold makes itself present on my face, fingertips, and toes. I’m aware of the muscles of the back and abdomen as they tense to generate warmth. I feel the flexing of the lower muscles with each step upon the harsh street. I see the breath as it is highlighted against a streetlight. The subtle sounds of the dark morning are amplified by my awareness of them. This is a great time to feel alive.
This awareness gives me clues about who I am.
Who are you?