My husband and I have conversed in depth on the difference between observing versus being judgmental.
A few years ago, we counted our blessings when a Buddhist monastery took root on 250 acres across the road. The community of Thai forest Buddhist monks practice the art of observing without being judgmental.
Our Dutch friends visited from Amsterdam last year. He’s a journalist and she’s a Pilates instructor. Their 8-year-old daughter embodies both of her parents’ intelligence and especially her Dad’s journalistic curiosity. When we took them across the road to visit the monastery, she asked plenty of questions and was somewhat outraged to learn that they don’t ordain women, only men. Nor are they allowed to even touch a woman. “But if they believe in peace and love, and they can’t even hold a woman’s hand, what’s that about?” she asked me.
I shared her sense of outrage to an extent, but I’d also accepted that it’s somewhat of a boy’s club. I happily cultivate my own spiritual community with an interfaith group that ordains both women and men. But I’m delighted for my husband that he has made friends with these spiritually inclined men who embody compassion and loving kindness.
When this little girl met our 36-year-old monk friend from across the road, she said to him, “So you can’t hold a woman’s hand, you can’t eat after noon, you can’t wear regular clothes (they wear saffron colored robes) what CAN you do?”
With a kind smile, he replied, “I can observe.”
I believe their ideal is to observe while practicing compassion and loving kindness. And it seems to me, they’re quite experienced with this practice. Both with themselves and with others.
It seems that their meditation practice not only develops their capacity to observe, but it also provides them with an awareness of their ego. They seem to practice not being identified with their ego. This is a very refreshing practice particularly when I observe politics these days.
I recently had a conversation with my father-in-law where he questioned me about my understanding of ego. I told him that our so-called president is an excellent example of a person who is completely identified with his ego. And the Obamas represent a great example of people who are aware of their egos.
Of course I’m not saying we don’t need our egos. We do. Our egos can serve us very well. An ego is a wonderful servant. But it’s a terrible master.
From a spiritual perspective, I truly believe our so-called president is serving a purpose. He’s (unintentionally) galvanized women all over the world. Our Dutch friends also pointed out to me that our so-called president is also affecting middle-aged white men. Even if men are not perpetrators in the #metoo movement, many are examining whatever part they may have in creating a misogynistic culture.
When I spend time with our neighboring monks, I often feel that, simply by osmosis, my capacity to observe my own ego is being cultivated. I’ve experienced how it’s possible to not be identified with my ego. This ‘awareness ripple effect’ seems to continue on through me, and through all with whom they come into contact.
Sometimes I wonder if we’re in death throes of the old patriarchal hierarchical mentality where people had no awareness of their own ego. And have we reached a tipping point in the number of people on the planet who are able to observe without being judgmental?
I hope so.
It’s a privilege to be alive at this time in history. More than ever before I’m witnessing so many people interested in exploring their inner-lives.
Rev. Camilla Sanderson, author of The Mini Book of Mindfulness (Running Press/Hachette, 2016), was ordained an interfaith minister in 2014, and awarded her MFA in Creative Non-Fiction Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2017. She is a Guide for the Interfaith Seminary program offered online through the Tree of Life Interfaith Temple: https://www.tolinterfaithtemple.org/overview.html. This program involves a two-year commitment to a daily spiritual practice, an overview study of world religions, and an in-depth study of the ancient Hindu sacred text, The Bhagavad Gita—Hinduism being the oldest religion in the world with a recorded written text. It would be Camilla’s delight, privilege and honor to walk with you through your own spiritual journey as you excavate your inner treasures that will support you in sharing your light in the world.Browse Front PageShare Your Idea
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THank you Camilla. It’s fascinating to hear about the different spiritual paths. There are so many stairways to enlightenment!
Thanks so much Lalage, for reading and responding. And yes, while I often take issue with religious dogma, I deeply love and appreciate the wisdom and truths that may be found in all faith traditions.
I love that your young friend had such confidence to ask big questions. Which to me rings of HOPE. Thanks Camilla for a thoughtful way of starting my day! Observe…okay…gonna try this!
Thanks for reading and for your response, Kimmie! ? And yes, it’s a beautiful thing to witness parents who give their kids the space to be who they are. ?❤️?