By Adam J. Pearson.
Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows that I’ve had quite an adventure of a spiritual life. Over the years, I’ve prayed alongside Christians of many denominations, chanted with Sufis as dervishes whirled, sang with Jews in a synagogue, bowed alongside Muslims in Mosques, sat in Zen meditation with Buddhist monks, and practiced jnana and bhakti yoga with Hindu Gurus. People who know all of this naturally tend to want to know how I ‘identify’ now. Where has all this brought me? Where do I stand?
Last night a friend asked me this question directly, “so what is your religion at this point, Adam?” It was a good question and I thought about it carefully, while my friend waited patiently. In the end, this is what I answered:
“Love, forgive, share joy, integrate, and be present in peace. That’s my religion.”
I could tell that my friend wasn’t extremely satisfied by this response. “Uh… that’s it?” he asked. “That’s cool and all, but like.. what’s your religion? Are you a Buddhist? A Christian?”
I laughed and said: “You know my view on separation, namely that it isn’t real. And you’re asking to treat it as real by taking on a label to separate myself. I can’t do that, brother. As I see it, all people, whether Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, atheist, or agnostic are my brothers and sisters. Differences in belief don’t change that.
More than that, though, we really only appear to be separate from one another. In truth, we’re all united as the One. We’re Oneness joined to Oneness. Perfectly. You are me and I am you. So, if I attack my brother, I attack myself. If I judge him, I condemn myself. If I withdraw love from my sister, I withdraw it from myself. If I’m unkind to her, I’m cruel to myself. Separation makes us afraid; realizing Oneness fills us with love. And if we really live that and let that love pour out, we will forgive, be kind, and choose to be present in the peace within us. Being present means mindfully centering our awareness in the now, where life is, rather than obsessively agonizing over the past and endlessly worrying about the future.
We practice being present in peace because there’s no conflict in Oneness; there are no two separate things to attack each other. Of course, we tend to forget that and treat each other like we’re separate. That’s where forgiveness comes in to save us from our innocent mistake, restore us to peace, and remind us of love. When we’re loving, we feel joy, and we want to share that. So, it all comes together.”
In short, my practice these days is all about directly experiencing Oneness, discovering peace, love, and joy within, and then living accordingly with an emphasis on constantly forgiving and seeing others through an attitude of love rather than judgment. This is a practice. We’re not going to get it right all the time and that’s okay; even when we mess up and fall into judgment, we just forgive and try again.
And here’s the thing: every spiritual path and every religion has some useful and important valid partial truths to contribute to an integral worldview or understanding of the world. If I call myself an ‘-ist’ of one ‘-ism,’ I might close myself off to what the other traditions have to offer. As I see it, they all have strengths and weaknesses, advantages and disadvantages. Our views, if they are to be realistic, must be in harmony with as much of reality as possible. To me, that means that there is value in integrating the insights of all the premodern spiritual traditions, the magical-animistic voices, the modern scientific insights, the postmodern intersubjective contextual understandings, and the holistic integral vision that is able to hold all of these in consciousness together.
So, when I say ‘integrate,’ that’s what I mean: include all valid partial truths from all perpectives as soon as we grasp them. I also mean integrate our shadow content by working through our emotional and psychological issues with a view to developing greater inner harmony, vulnerability, authenticity, and a deeper sense of inward peace and all-inclusive love. I mean seeking integration in all things, practicing developing all of the lines of development which humans can pursue in our lives (e.g. physical, emotional, intrapersonal, interpersonal, romantic, sexual, spiritual, kinesthetic, visual-aesthetic-artistic, musical, mathematical-logical, and so on), and dedicating ourselves to growth and understanding as sincerely as we can. Or, to make a long story long:
“Love, forgive, share joy, integrate, and be present in peace.“