Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What if We Don't. . .

I want to invite you to play with an idea, a question offered by the Grandmothers in my dreams that has challenged me deeply. What if I don’t take a position? What if- for the next five minutes, or just this day, just on one particular issue that feels important to me, in one particular conversation- I just. . . . don’t argue (even inwardly) for what I'm sure is right, don’t review all the dire consequences of what someone else is advocating, don’t dig my heels in? What if, just for this moment, I don’t take a position?

I am not advocating disengagement from our conversations about our shared life (on the private, community or global levels.) I have very strong feelings and opinions about a number of personal and social issues. I'm guessing that if I didn't the Grandmother's never would have suggested the question in the first place. I didn't take it as a criticism but, rather, a gentle challenge to an habituated response.

What’s interesting is to watch my reaction to the question. My mind sputters in indignation at the idea of letting go of taking a position for even a moment. Why? Surely I don’t believe that what others think, the choices they make or the policies enacted are relying on me holding a position in every moment of every day on every issue. Surely I could put down my inner placard for a moment. And if I did, how might it affect how I read, listen to, or see those who take a position that is different than my own? Would I be freer to listen with real curiosity about why they hold their position, why they see the world as they do? Would creative solutions that have a hard time getting through the bulwark of my position suggest themselves?

Here’s the thing: it takes a lot of energy to take and hold a position. We become defended even when no one is attacking. And it’s hard to listen or choose words that really connect with another human being when we are building or maintaining defenses.

But. . . but. . . but. . . what about the people on the other side- the ones who take a position that is different, in opposition to mine? They’re not going to let go of their position, even for a moment!

I want to be clear- I am not advocating failing to take action that will have an impact, when and where we can. And I am not talking about remaining silent or letting others abuse us in any way. But I can take action- can simply walk away from an abusive conversation- without taking a position. I can lend a hand, brainstorm ideas, listen deeply and open my heart without taking a position.

I am talking about not always being in fight mode- with ourselves (on what we “should” be doing, not-doing etc.) or others. I’m not talking about becoming less involved or engaged in life. I am talking about not taking a position for five minutes, five breaths. Maybe just while we're alone in our room, considering an issue, contemplating our life or the world. Don’t worry, I’m sure we can take turns so that the important positions are being held by someone, somewhere, all the time.

Mostly, I’m suggesting that we just consider not taking a position and see what happens – what thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations arise. It’s about just watching ourselves to see if we have real choice about where and when to take a position and where and when to lay it down, to open ourselves to possibilities we have not yet considered.

As I said- it can be a challenging idea. But that’s all it is- an idea to approach with curiosity; an idea that might help us listen and reply in a different way, a way that might be more easily heard, a way that does not slide easily into dividing our home, our community, our world into "us" and "them."  Because it's all us, and most of us are usually pretty busy taking and defending our positions. Maybe we could consider trying something else for just a minute or two. 

Oriah (c) 2013

30 comments:

  1. This is a tough one, Oriah, but it really resonated with me and I want to give it a try. Most of my resistance is because my mother always labeled me "opinionated" as a child, which really meant that I was smart and engaged and wanting to explore intellectually, and this was frowned upon. My main objective was to be "sweet" and reticent, like a lot of good Midwestern Catholic girls.

    But I do feel that I'm too critical and opinionated as an adult (or is that just my mother speaking?)

    Anyway, this is a tough one. Thanks for posting this! Much food for thought as always!

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    1. Oh Amy, I can relate to this- I was told I was a know-it-all (although I was asking questions as often as I was expressing qualms and opinions- but they were questions that disturbed others' positions.) Positions are opinions that have become entrenched, unexamined and pop up as default window on reality whether or not they apply or help us co-create. Mind can't help but have opinions- and discerning what we want to do with them (where we want and can act and where we don't) is really what this is about. :-)

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  2. In response to your invitation, I'd like to share the motive and intention I set for this current lunation as food for thought...

    I am enough

    I am enough to be
    in a place where all things are possible
    and none are necessary.

    I am enough to be
    where all love is.
    It is all. It is undying. It is enough.

    I am enough.

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    1. Lovely Jennifer and it makes me wonder how much of our unconscious compulsive position taking is based in a belief that we are not enough.

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    2. Very perceptive, Oriah. I had not considered this line of thought, but it feels accurate. We are deeply steeped in a society, a culture, that values "doing" and action above all else, and anything less is seen and judged as not enough all too often: by self and others. However, there is great value in the holding of space, of being the sacred that All is, of being in that place where all things are possible and none are necessary. This place is often unseen except by those who choose to tune in to it. And it is not an easy place to be. It is the mandorla, that liminal space in between the connected circles where the tension of all possibility exists but is not yet manifest, not yet necessary. It is the center of love.

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  3. I call this temporarily under- reacting. It takes a ton of restraint, but I am almost ALWAYS glad I did.

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    1. Patricia- oooo, I like that: temporary under-reaction. Yes, I mean- what do we have to lose? If we need to we can reschedule over-reacting at any time! :-)

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  4. What a lovely idea. How well it might help us to listen, yes really listen to others reactions, thoughts and perspectives which may well lead us to a better understanding of them. Thank You.
    Susan

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    1. Susan- yes, and it occurs to me reading your comment that not taking a position about what we "should" do or be might help us also listen internally to the body-heart wisdom we need.

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  5. Hi Oriah...Great post. I think of all the times I have felt the need to argue with someone when the outcome of the discussion really did not matter. With my step-mother, for example, at a family get together. The times that I have let something go, or responded with a less definitive tone, it has felt liberating. I have also found that if I can trust things to work out, I don't feel like I NEED to convince everyone around me that my view is the correct one. It is such a relief when I can do this. Kim

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    1. Kim, lovely and courageous to look back and see where we have caused at least some of our own suffering- and where we were able to alleviate it also. And yes, I think you're right- when we have a foundational trust we feel the freedom not to have to convince the world of "the right thing" in every moment. :-)

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  6. Challenging. A couple of months ago on a visit to the US I spent a couple of days with people whose political and religious views were basically anathema to me. But they were good, kind, hospitable, generous people. To argue when these issues came up would have seemed discourteous in the extreme. I therefore had to let go of my positions for those 2 days and I think that doing so helped me to see the truth of my hosts and to deeply appreciate all that we share rather than what separates us.

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    1. Anne- wow- that must have been a challenge, and yet it sounds like you were able to see your hosts for who they were and not just the positons they held. I find this very encouraging.

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  7. Dear Oriah, So many weeks I make tea and sit down in peace to relish your words and SO often they resonate
    deeply with issues I am considering in my life at the
    same time. Are you keyed in to some kind of global telepathy with others?

    This morning (before the tea) I was walking and praying at the same time as turning over in my mind the possibility of non-reaction. There is sometimes a kind of chaos outside of us in our dealings with others (and sometimes in our own moments of contemplation) and I have realised that it is often the EGO that is reacting in that 'knee jerk' way. I am observing myself at these times as well as attempting to say a big 'YES' to each situation/conversation/dilema - a deep YES to LIFE ~ just as it presents itself in each moment. I have learnt that when you really do this, and stand firm in the deep silence within, the answers, the guidance, whatever you need to know about your way in the chaos, comes to you so very clearly. It takes more courage to do it this way, and it's harder but the clarity and wisdom that return to you is like an act of grace. Surely to do this is part of our evolving towards a higher consciousness as a species?

    Many Blessings to you for a joyfilled 2013,
    Annie

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    1. Annie- Saying "a deep YES to LIFE"- a lovely foundation upon which to explore all the other questions, dilemas, issues of our lives and our world.

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  8. I am going to meditate on this later once the chaos of the kids and their day has ceased, i am all too quick to take a position these days, I know this and it isn't always a good or becoming quality in me. When I was younger I would listen without speaking much more and think a lot more on things, I don't know why with age I haven't become wiser but as this year I am intentionally choosing to try and reawaken aspects of my pre-mamahood self this is timely and thought provoking. thank you Oriah, brightest blessings x

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    1. Rose, I don''t know if this is the case for you but when I am overly busy and weary (which was particularly true when I had small children) I tend to shoot-from-the-lip more than I listen. Hard to carve out rest and quiet time during those years- may you be gentle with yourself.

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  9. Your idea releases me from a lot of pressure I feel about some very difficult social and political questions. I always think I have to have an opinion but recently found that there are issues where I simply don't know what to do or what is best. Even experts don't know. So it is a relief to let go and admit freely: "I don't know. Perhaps I will know later on, but now I don't know, and I'm allowed to."

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    1. Nora- ah yes, how liberating it can be to say "I don't know."(which, I find is often the case.)

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  10. Pat Mary from LondonJanuary 31, 2013 at 9:00 AM

    Ooh I love this...love the inner placard! I have become aware of a whole parade of them, jostling about within.
    What to do with them? Allow them to transform themselves into prayer flags for just a few minutes?
    i guess we need both - and all sorts of other ways of communicating too - letters, songs, silence...
    I think that I need to learn about which, where, and when. I know I have sometimes used my placards unwisely. Thank you so much for this, Oriah.

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    1. Pat Mary- Allowing our inner placards to transform themselves into prayer flags for just a few minutes- brilliant! And yes, we do need a wide variety of communciation methods- and timing is indeed everything.

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  11. Terrific and timely.

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  12. Beautiful Oriah!

    From what I read, you are now willing to let go! That is great. That is one of the thing I like about you: you always renew yourself.

    Thank you for the teaching.

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  13. This evening I was journaling about a major decision on a transition I am thinking about making at this time in my life. I took a break as the answers I was seeking did not present themselves. That's when I found the post about not taking a position and I felt such a renewed feeling because it is such a true option I had never considered. The feeling of peace presented itself. Thanks for shining a light.... You do that quite often.

    Smiles, Mary Ann

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    1. Mary Ann, so glad the post was helpful- thanks for taking the time to let mek know :-)

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  14. This post really resonated with me and in fact what prompted me to comment is this: "Try an experiment today: What would happen if you did NOT try to "cover all the bases" in your relationships and duties?" this was my enneagram thought for the day also! Something is trying to tell me something!! BTW I am a counter phobic six on the enneagram - so anything that encourages me to "not take a position" or let something pass me by expecially if I feel strongly about it reminds me of the direction of my wholeness.

    Carole

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    1. Carole, love the sychronicity with the enneagram thought for the day! Thanks for sharing.

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  15. I just had the chance to read this post and comments. Interestingly, the day you posted this I was driving through sand dunes in S. Calif. and went immediately to my anti-off road rant, in my head. I suddenly realized that rant was keeping me from enjoying the beauty of the dunes. I wonder what else I've missed in similar circumstances.

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  16. "I am talking about not taking a position for five minutes, five breaths. Maybe just while we're alone in our room, considering an issue, contemplating our life or the world. Don’t worry, I’m sure we can take turns so that the important positions are being held by someone, somewhere, all the time."

    I feel like I have waited my whole life to hear this. I am so used to having a hundred different 'I shoulds' swirling around in my head, I should be exercising more, I should be eating healthier, my husband should...My Students should...The government should...Teachers should...etc
    It's a heavy load to carry.
    And, I LOVE the idea of starting with taking 5 minutes - 5 breaths - to Not take a position, to just Be instead of thinking what Should Be.
    Thank you Oriah.

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    1. Thank you Amy- your comment on this brought me back to it today- and I reallly could use a few 5 minute breaks from taking a position today :-)

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