spirituality as expansiveness

a close friend recently shared with me a perspective on spirituality as that which makes you expansive, and it really hit home.

especially in moments like yesterday when i’m engaging and sitting with perspectives much different than my own. viewpoints presented in direct opposition to mine offering critique and criticism.

it’s easy and alluring in moments like these to shut down, close off, or get defensive. to compile a list of reasons my perspective is the right one. but in 2021 america, i understand all too well the consequences of normal people being unable to swim the waters of disagreement together.

so instead, i sat in the discomfort. i stayed open enough to listen. and i let land what did resonate.

at the end of it, i wasn’t a different person. my views hadn’t been dramatically altered. but i did feel an expansiveness that, once the discomfort had subsided, was actually quite relieving. the sense of: i can create space for this person to exist in their thoughts and feelings while continuing to hold space for my own.

which brings me to another sentiment that same friend shared with me: acceptance isn’t agreement.

there is much that the person said that i do not agree with, including criticism that misrepresented ideas or felt half-baked. and if given the opportunity, i’d be willing to offer my own reflections on their views. but if not, i could accept that and move on without distress.

one thing that they spoke to that i think most people who lived through the past 5 years can agree with is, we need to be able to engage with views different than our own without falling apart. which, depending on the opinion, can feel like a nearly impossible order. i mean, when i feel like my humanity or someone else’s humanity is being questioned (immigration) or my access to what to me feels like a basic human right is at stake (abortion), it can be real hard to hit the “agree to disagree” button.

and let me be clear: i don’t think staying even keeled and chill in all conversations is a sign of human evolution. sometimes the most appropriate response is to get hurt, walk away, and maybe never go back. if someone’s views feel like a threat to your personhood, then ya, you get to choose how to navigate that, which includes not being in relationship with them.

but for me, over the past 5 years, i’ve slowly distanced myself from almost everyone who doesn’t align with me politically, because i couldn’t find the patience and tolerance for them. and once again, i don’t need to judge that reaction, because it felt valid and at times necessary for my sanity. and at a point, in order to make progress on a smaller scale of community organizing, we need to have a baseline understanding to move forward.

but if i’m trying to live into the world that i want to be a part of, coexisting with people who have radically different ideas than me is a vital part of that. and turning away from people further insulates and entrenches us in what we already know and believe.

and the thing is, being challenged, being asked questions i don’t currently have the answers to actually puts me in a position to empower myself with more knowledge and understanding. (this is different than responding to someone who’s regurgitating talking points. if someone’s trying to dunk on me vs showing up for a legit conversation, it’s a hard pass)

i’m not seeking an ideological midpoint between my view and another’s, and i’m not glorifying a sense of the middle ground. sometimes there isn’t one. or sometimes there are simply caveats we can agree on. but look, agreement isn’t the goal. it’s expansiveness. it’s a question of: can i make myself big enough to let this be without having to sacrifice parts of myself in return?

and let’s be clear: this doesn’t mean, let’s create space for the racist, sexist bigot. but most people aren’t intentionally racist, sexist, xenophobic, etc. and if i can’t get enough deep breaths in to simply sit with someone’s ignorance (sometimes it’s my own) long enough to settle and offer up the grace and knowledge that’s been offered me time and time again, who’s really to blame for their lack of knowing?

cause at the end of the day, problematic viewpoints are the water we’re swimming in. and to expect anyone to simply understand the deep layers of historical and societal factors at play is its own form of ignorance. (and it’s its own form of privilege to have the time, space, and energy to educate oneself)

so, here’s to finding expansion. because although calling someone an idiot and being done with them is a fave past-time of mine, i actually do want to help my community heal. and i’m tired of treating people as disposable. cause at the end of the day, how is that much different than the perspective of those i claim to be above?

prayer/mantra: may i let go of my self-righteousness long enough to see beyond it. may i find space within myself to grow beyond my defenses and reactions. may i find love in the darkest of spaces, which doesn’t mean excusing but accepting reality as it is. may i remember my own ignorance and blind spots, that i may never forget i am also on a journey of learning and healing.

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