Saturday, December 19, 2009

Both/And: Forgiveness as a means to non-dual thinking

I spent quite a bit of time on the phone yesterday with a neighbor who wanted to rave about the play I'm in. He happened to see it the night we had to stop production and turn on the lights because the curtain had gotten caught on one of the pieces of scenery, and he was proud to claim he'd led the round of applause when we were finally able to untangle things and roll out the missing wall.

For him the whole evening was an opportunity for rejoicing: he is new to our little community, delighted to be a part of it, and thrilled with the intimacy of our theater. At intermission he raved about the production to the man behind him -- only later realizing that the man was our director -- and yesterday he was joyfully listing all the things that impressed him: the actors, the sets, the costumes...

And with that I balance the report of my daughter, who, though she claims I was the best part of the play, left at intermission because she was so put off by the stiffness of the other actors and the poor quality of the dancers. (Granted, she's become a bit of a dance snob, attending the college known for producing Martha Graham).

Some of the difference between these two viewpoints can be traced to age, of course: at 21, most anything that happens in your home town is dust you want to shake from your sandals. But much of it is because of how they see. Which is why I post this picture I found in my files this morning, a picture that probably belongs with the set of images I had in the Women Behind the Lens show last month. I found the subject in a local junkyard. And while most people, looking at it, would only see one of those old rubber welcome mats from the 50's, I saw -- and loved -- the pattern.

Yes, this image -- like my play -- is both/and: both a flawed vehicle and a thing of beauty. And to appreciate either the image or the play, you have to hold the both and the and in a kind of creative tension, both accepting and appreciating what is, and forgiving what is not. Which is really what we do when we choose to live fully present, in the moment. It's all about non-dual thinking, about choosing not to declare that one thing is good and another bad -- or as Richard Rohr says, it's about choosing to eat from the Tree of Life, rather than from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Rohr writes about this beautifully in this morning's chapter from The Naked Now:

"Whenever we can appreciate the goodness and value of something while still knowing its limitations and failures, this also marks the beginnings of wisdom and nondual consciousness. Most humans are not very good at such "allowing;" it often feels like what Paul calls "groaning." Perhaps a more familiar word is simply "forgiveness."

The struggle to forgive reality for being exactly what it is right now often breaks us through to nondual consciousness.
...You cannot bypass the necessary tension of holding contraries and inconsistencies together, if you are to live on this earth. These earthly experiences, these daily presentations will teach you nonduality in a way that is no longer theoretical or abstract. It becomes obvious in everything and everybody, every idea and every event, almost hidden in plain sight. ...

I think this creative tension, this "opening and holding pattern" is the very name and description of faith...the balancing act is itself the very way we go deeper, just as in marriage or other relationships. It is the work of "and."

...When you are concerned with either attacking or defending, manipulating or resisting, pushing or pulling, you cannot be contemplative. When you are preoccupied with enemies, you are always dualistic... Dualistic people use knowledge, even religious knowledge, for the purposes of ego enhancement, shaming, and the control of others and themselves, for it works very well in that way.

Non-dual people use knowledge for the transformation of persons and structures, but most especially to change themselves and to see reality with a new eye and heart. They hold and "suffer" the conflicts of life instead of passing them on or projecting them elsewhere. They do not get rid of life's pain until they learn its necessary lessons. Such a holding tank that agrees to hold it all, eliminating nothing, is what I mean by living in the naked now and being present outside the mind.

For some reason I can comprehend this more clearly now that I have the specific example in mind of this inherently flawed production (and my flawed performances in it). I guess that's why Jesus taught in parables -- it's so much easier to understand when we can relate what He's saying to instances in our own lives.

So what in your life gives you the opportunity to practice this balance, this holding good and evil in appreciative, creative tension? Rohr says we get lots of opportunity to practice, including "irritable people, long stop lights, and our own inconsistencies." So I guess the answer is -- well, Duh! Everything!


Maureen said...

We're having this amazing storm here on the East Coast. I no longer can see the wheel wells of my car. Some are so irritated today, the last Saturday before Christmas. I'm reveling in the peace of watching big flakes fall, pile up, make us stop; of writing; of reading; of hearing poems. Today's one of those days that gives the best opportunity to practice balance, to watch, listen for, and find what really matters. Perfect for Advent.

Dianna Woolley said...

I never even thought to ask the question - what is the picture - I only thought about the color, texture and composition - I wonder what that says about my singlemindedness, my openness, my lack of inquiry? I love the photo:) and the post makes wonderful sense!


Joyce Wycoff said...

"The struggle to forgive reality for being exactly what it is right now often breaks us through to nondual consciousness."


Diane Walker said...

Ah, Maureen -- on of our cast members has family in DC so she's been getting storm pix on her iphone -- amazing!

Thank you all for finding time to read and comment in this busy season. Someone (a mom of a fellow cast member) asked how I was doing at getting ready for Christmas this evening. With no car to shop in and kids just starting to arrive, all I have is a tree and a living room full of boxes (containing unmounted decorations). No presents, especially no WRAPPED presents, no creche yet... we've got a LONG way to go; snow could really help!

Diane Walker said...

And a PS to my Sunrise Sister -- I think it's GOOD that you didn't see what it was, only what it COULD be.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much.