The Wonder of Ordinary Becoming

View from my kitchen window in downtown Toronto

A new dawn, a new fresh day, the sun rising again in our hearts. Our ordinary being in the world is this rich fresh creative occurring into all that is being implied in us and our world (Gendlin, 2018, A Process Model). Good morning beautiful world, thank you for this our new becoming!

Did you know similar themes can be found in the roots of the Christian “Our Father,” the “Lord’s Prayer”? The American scholar and Sufi teacher living in Fife, Scotland, Neil Douglas-Klotz (1990), writes that the first line of this prayer in the King James Bible, “Our father which art in heaven,” is, in the Aramaic Jesus spoke, “Abwoon d’bashmaya.” In the esoteric understanding of the ancient native Middle East, Douglas-Klotz explains, “a” is totality, “bw” birthing, “oo” subtle energy, and “n” manifestation. “Abwoon” is also a play on the word “abba” or “Daddy,” but this daddy is this tender total interpenetrating sacred creativity birthing us and the world in each moment. “Shm” is “shem,” the signature presence by which we recognize a being or process. “Aya” refers to “in every point of time and space.”

Every line and word in such a passage has multiple meanings. This morning, it expresses for me the wonder of contemplating the sense of how interdependent arising creates us and the world afresh in every moment, radiating and smiling through our hearts and throughout the world. In our Touching the Earth session last Sunday morning, someone quoted Rumi, “You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.”

Appreciating the wholeness and creativity of our interconnection is an important theme in contemporary spirituality, and, while not universal, can appeal to folks from a variety of perspectives, whether theistic, pantheistic, panentheistic, polytheistic, atheistic, agnostic or nontheistic. It is interesting to notice Buddhists can fall into any of these “theism” categories. For example, while many traditional Buddhists believe in many gods, secular Buddhists tend to be atheistic, agnostic or just plain nontheistic, and some Christians and Jews combine forms of theism with Buddhist practice.

Both pantheism and panentheism emphasize creative interconnection and wholeness. While pantheism or panpsychism view the divine and the world as one, panentheism views the divine as existing in all of us while also forming a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Many panentheists view God as omnipresent, but not omnipotent or omniscient, since that would curtail the radical creativity in the heart of becoming.

The Buddhist teachers and scholars who have influenced me have tended to celebrate interconnection and dependent arising, reflecting the view that even though all states are dependently arisen, and therefore subject to suffering, those states that are free of craving (i.e., free of grasping, aversion and confusion) are wholesome, to be appreciated and carried forward. An example is Stephen Batchelor, whose influence in the development of emotion-focused mindfulness therapy (EFMT) I described in my (2019) paper on EFMT and, in more detail, in an article for the Secular Buddhist Network.

In contrast, many might be surprised to learn that classic forms of Theravada Buddhism do not celebrate interconnectedness, instead attributing suffering to the contingency of interdependent arising. In an interesting (Winter 2002) interview in Tricyle, the American Vipassana teacher and scholar Gil Fronsdal points out the celebration of interconnectedness and life by the American Vipassana movement, an independent offshoot of Theravada Buddhism that has influenced the development of mindfulness=based clinical practices, seems to be a Western development.