I have learned a great deal from the world’s religions and spiritual traditions. I’ve read the Tao Te Ching, the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, some Buddhist materials and sutras, and tons of Rumi and Kabir, as well as many of the great spiritual thinkers like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Jiddu Krishnamurti.
Of course, I was raised Christian and have returned to a community church here in California as an adult, so I’ve spent more time by far with the Bible than any of the other texts.
These far-flung and varied inquiries have made me who I am today.
This week, one verse really stood out. It’s Romans 12:2, from the Christian Bible:
“Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
Since I know some of you probably abhor anything religious, I’ll leave that out of it and apply it in more general terms.
The world as a whole seems broken: wars, fear, diseases of body and mind, massive collective shame, poverty, pollution and environmental destruction, starvation, and all manner of other evils. (Just reading that list might ruin someone’s day!)
This is not the way it’s supposed to be. We’re biologically and spiritually wired for love and joy, and to live in a beautiful, harmonious world. Anything less than that damages us in a very real way — both physically and emotionally — so we should not settle for less.
Still, we can’t remove ourselves from the world and live on mountaintops or in caves (or suburbs) removed from the realities of suffering around us. We can’t pretend that nothing bad happens. That won’t solve anything.
On an individual level, if we were to just avoid every problem, it would be called repression, and that can lead to a host of psychological issues from psychosomatic pain disorders to anxiety, depression, and dissociative personality disorders.
If we apply this to a global scale, why should the macrocosm not reflect the microcosm? Repression within the collective of humanity causes problems, too.
Neither will it help to become cynical and defeatist, quoting Nietzsche, smoking cigarettes and drinking too much.
Nor will it make any sense to deny all pleasure and take vows of poverty or abstinence until all creatures on the earth are freed from suffering.
So how does this get resolved? We stop living the way we’ve done for so long, in the ways that have made this world such a broken place, and we transform our thinking.
We stop shaming and hating ourselves and begin to love instead. We stop fueling negative thinking in general, and start to see solutions instead of problems.
We consciously choose what inputs we allow into our minds – and what to engage with.
We examine ourselves thoroughly and expel the illusions and lies of our conditioning.
We imagine the world as we want it to be and refuse to let go of that vision until it is realized, even as we live with our feet on the ground in the world we’re working to improve.
Certainly this may sound a bit idealistic. But idealism is where great change starts. People feel the call for change in their hearts, and they respond. As they do, more people feel it and join in, and the movement within the hearts of humanity grows until the change cannot be denied.
Neuroscience has now caught up with the fact that our thoughts literally create the reality in our bodies (for just one example, an intersection of spirituality and neuroscience, look up researcher Dr. Caroline Leaf). So why should that not extend to the broader world, if everyone begins to seek the same things and combines that with real actions toward those goals?
I choose to renew my mind, to create consciously in my little corner of “all that is” instead of pretending to be a victim of life. Because I know without any doubt that if we can just renew our minds, we can create heaven on earth.