Rational Thinking With Respect to Spiritual Mysteries

We might say that practical answers are important according to context.

For example, I want to bake bread and make soup for dinner.

It helps that there are bread and soup recipes. It helps there is a coop nearby that sells vegetables, flour, herbs and spices. It helps that I have homemade bags in which to store what I buy.

The recipes, the coop, and the bags are all made by people. People used language and engineering and design plans to put these things together and then sustain and share them.

seeding the garden . . . that time of year . . .

In our home, we put a lot of thought into gardening and animals. We think about fencing, pastures, veggie rotation, when to plant and when to harvest, how to better age compost, putting food up, bartering with neighbors . . .

This sort of rational informed thinking and planning is very useful for gardening and creating a safe, local, sustainable food supply.

Is it as useful for awakening? Or enlightenment? Encountering nondual experience? Whatever word or phrase we want to use?


If we agree that there are many paths up the mountain, then one of them must be the way of rigorous scholarship, intellectual effort and rational thinking. That is, one of the ways up the mountain is the same as the one that allows us to make and sustain a homestead.

But in going up the mountain this way, we have to take care not to disparage paths that are characterized less by reason and more by, say, devotion. Entering into personal relationships with idealized Christs, writing Rumi-like paeans to the Goddess, worshiping on our knees, and so forth.

There are folks for whom that kind of approach to spirituality works. I don’t want to ignore or otherwise denigrate it by pretending my way is superior.

If all paths lead to the summit, then all we can say of a given path is that it is effective relative to our perspective. Because we want all beings to have the same freedom we have, we must recognize that other folks will choose other paths, and those paths will be effective relative to their perspective.

Yet even as we take these varying paths, we are on the same mountain, and our passing-through affects all of us.

Our garden is not separate from other gardens in the area. For example, by including many flowers, we nurture local bee populations, which strengthens other gardens (as they, in turn, strengthen ours). By composting literally everything that can be composted, we minimize waste (and waste removal costs and energy) and build up the soil for the gardeners and homesteaders who will come after us.

In a similar way, our commitment to growing and raising food on our homestead, supplementing that production through a network of local farmers and homesteaders, and shopping locally for the balance, ripples in non-trivial ways across local, regional, national and global economies.

mulch hay in the garden
mulch hay ready to be scattered through the garden as planting begins in earnest . . .

We do the work we are doing, with the understanding that its effects do not end with whatever limits we impose on our collective human experience.

In a sense, I want all people to be as thoughtful as is possible with respect to conserving and nurturing natural resources. Being aware of how we consume seems to make the world safer and more productive for all lives. But the way in which folks do this – their readiness, their willingness, their access (to land, cooperatives, income et cetera) is not uniform. Love obligates us to see and honor this.

So in all things we do what we can. A reasonable goal seems to be to make our doings as coherent and loving as possible. This is true for our so-called spiritual practice as well. Give attention to it. What works? What doesn’t? What do you wish would work but can’t seem to make work? What issues keep coming back? Who is helpful in your process? How do you define “helpful?” and so forth.

We are already awake. Nonduality is the ground of our being. But distractions abound. Sometimes rather than walk our path we defend it. Or try to force others to walk it. Sometimes we close our eyes and then complain that we can’t see. Sometimes we are content with what is given. There is no law that says you have to climb a mountain, or go all the way to the summit. It’s okay to not worry and be happy. It really is.

Most of what distracts us goes away naturally when we slow down and respond to life as it appears without making a big deal of it. In a sense, one comes to the realization that not all mysteries have to solved. Some of them we can just enjoy.

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  1. Your theme came up in my satsang yesterday. “Oneness is trying to get Its separate-experience to choose the choicless choice as though it chose it itself.” Respecting others’ paths is kind of a watershed point of this “persuasion” (can’t hear what’s for you while busy persuading others). The experiencing of “this” center doesn’t need allies or to compete with what it HAS projected as other centers that are doing that (come to realize, admit, that is what was and still is possibly happening). Coming to accept that a separate-experience has to be a given one, and not managed and controlled (for Peace’s sake!), is a big deal for being able to “slow down and respond to life as it appears”. “My” path then IS the mountain and it’s a little more curious about listening to and opening to what’s coming “across” it. Seems to be working – “give” me more!

    1. Thanks, Mike . . . I am always so grateful that you read & share . . . not managed or controlled for Peace’s sake is a lovely phrase . . . I may borrow that! 🙂

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