I am on FB/social media daily and interact with a number of creative people who are free-spirited and artsy: craftspersons, lovers of music and dance, writers, poets, painters,photographers,animal lovers,  yoga teachers…. and political activists in this chaotic time of challenging social priorities.

However recently this past year, showing up in my feedback stream are a number of posts (or comments) by persons of fundamentalist religious beliefs who are ardent about particular issues that they feel are dangerous, sinful, against God’s will or threatening to their biblical or dogmatic faith teachings. These passionate concerns include issues around pro-choice vs pro-life legislation, transgenderism, gay relationships, emerging women’s voices with access to public power for change, to name a few.  Let me say that altho we may differ vastly on what we think about these issues, both they and I have a common right to think what we will.

Debate that can often lead to arguments as to who holds the “Truth” are common although I try not to engage in that way, beyond stating what feels right to me…for me. What I ardently resist is the attempted legal imposition of fundamentalist  belief systems upon the rights of others to choose for themselves how to live a sane and hopefully moral life.

And I do not hold that there is only one valid spiritual path that is the one true faith for all and that that one path is a cure for all of societies ills.

As the prophetic priestly Matthew Fox often says of the world’s spiritual Wisdom traditions :  “One River, Many Wells”.

I teach a variety of courses at a local University and one of them, a course I describe as “a retreat in an academic setting” focuses on three words (plus one) from a poem by the Celtic poet John O’Donohue.  The three words are Silence, Stillness, and Solitude. I added the “plus one” as Simplicity. These words are practices that help us to discern a deep ability to access a personal  spiritual conscience leading to right and just decision making personally and in society.

A meditative exercise we do to demonstrate open-ness and respect for the many ways of finding a healthy inner guidance system without judgementalism born of fundamentalist hubris is the artistic creation of our Soul Mandalas.

Each person receives a black and white image of a complex mandala design. Everyone receives the exact same image (ONE RIVER). In quiet meditation to soft music, everyone colors this image. At the end of the exercise we display our creations and are awed at the diversity (MANY WELLS) and all and each one is beautiful, whole and unique. Yet the original pattern is identical. Each of us, given free will (and a set of colored markers) must personally create a life, a spiritual path, a Voice for what we stand for without demanding that everyone else believe as we do or denigrating others for standing up for justice from another angle. We each color in our mandalas without demanding that they are colored in the same way.

Often then a challenge comes back such as “well is MURDER a valid life choice, or GREED or LYING or Terrorism? And should we accept those? ”  Common sense and decency can answer that one. The issue here is about intolerance of diversity in how people make life choices that lead them to whom they were meant to be in the Creator’s plan for service and inspiration for others.

It is vital in today’s complex society filled with so many forceful “opinions”,  judgments and and sometimes “righteous” religious hubris, to craft honorable discernment through personal spiritual work and the humble practices of Silence, Stillness, Periodic Solitude, and Simplicity.

And it is also vital to keep the image of these multi-colored mandalas in our imagination and the wise teaching of One River, Many Wells.

OLLI Class photo

From Christine, the Greening Spirit

OLLI peace

 

 

 

 

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