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Embracing Ideological Difference

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Life has a way of bringing us exactly the experiences that are needed to awaken us (even if they are not the ones we might choose) and we can notice the same process in our collective experiences as participants in our governments and economies.

If you have looked deeply into this for yourself, or if you happen to have read my book Life Beyond Belief you are quite familiar with how the circumstances of our everyday lives support awakening out of our ideas, and into the reality of what is happening beyond our thoughts about it.

One of the collective experiences of our time is in the political arena, whether it be between different political parties or different countries. In politics in America for instance, although we of course remain individuals, many of us classify ourselves as being Republicans or Democrats. This is one more label (not so unlike calling ourselves Israelis or Palestinians) with which we categorize our thinking. Whichever particular category we choose represents particular sets of ideas about how things like governments and economies work. In the present climate of economic downturn, bank failure and unemployment, the outstanding characteristics of these categories are differing ideas about what we should do to set things right.

If we look into both sets of ideas, we can notice that although these categories of thinking are different one from another and go on to discount each others points of view, they also have something in common. Both political categories are the same in that they each consist of ideas only (or call them ideologies) and people who internally categorize themselves in this way are constructing their own mentally derived realities based on those ideas. They are seeing the world through an ideological filter.

So here we are. The economy is messed up and it continues to go in an uncomfortable direction. Its easy to see that we could become fearful over this and polarize further into our ideological corners. That is one invitation life makes–and perhaps we need to further explore our fears before we are ready for another option. If we have looked into it deeply however, we know better than to act out of our fears. We know where that takes us. We know the end result. We see it in all the wars going on in the world. We see it in the ideological gridlock on Capital Hill. Life is showing us something here.

Here in the 21st century, we have somehow now developed a capacity to respond to life in a different way–a way that is not an externalization of our fears, such as war, hatred and self-righteousness have been in the past. We find that there is another possible response now. We no longer are tied into being a Democrat who resists Republicans or visa versa. We are becoming aware of who we are (before thought arises) and are moving beyond this old ideological narrowness into a deeper and more satisfying human experience.

We can begin to see a third optional response to our circumstances being demonstrated by the world around us, in nature and in whatever particular circumstances we find ourselves in. Of course I write this without knowing what is happening in the life of each reader, but I write it nonetheless out of a trust in how life works. Life gives us each exactly what we are ready to see in each moment. I look around and I see morning coming. I see the morning light meeting the darkness without hatred or resistance. I see the pull of gravity pressing downward on the upward growth of my houseplants and the trees outside my window without rancor. I notice the ideas passing through my mind, flowing like water, doing what they do, going where they go, without having to be either right or wrong; without needing to make others right or wrong.

Without categorizing, ideas flow with grace and openness. Life is at ease with itself. Difficulty and opportunity, dark and light, gravity and growth are two sides of the same coin. Discomfort simply guides the attention to what we need to notice in each moment. All is well each moment, and yet action is unhampered. In fact action is freed. The freedom from inner categories, the embracing of seeming opposites in ourselves, seems to imbue our actions with an impact beyond what was previously possible. We fulfill our parts in the collective experience with the vitality of life flowing through us, moving us in unique and perhaps unexpected ways.

by Alice Gardner, author of “Life Beyond Belief, Everyday Living as Spiritual Practice” available at amazon.com.

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