13 February 2012

Change Your Mind :: Dual vs. Nondual Thinking

Change is the cornerstone of Christian life. In Jesus’ first message recorded in the Gospels, he called us to “repent” or “change.” The Greek word metanoia quite literally means “change your mind.” Somehow we didn’t capture the meaning of this then or now. Being stuck in our dualistic religious and cultural paradigms, when Jesus says “metanoia” we hear “change your behavior.” But behavior follows thinking. How we think, perceive and sift reality causes us to live in certain ways. Jesus seemed to be saying that we cannot see and enter the “Kingdom of God” unless our minds are transformed. And this is something we cannot do for ourselves. It is done to us.

What does it mean to have our minds changed and transformed? Could it be the difference between dual and nondual thinking?

Jesus was a master of nondualism. For example, he would say paradoxical and contradictory things like, “The Kingdom of God is within you… in your midst…is coming.” The dualistic mind cannot grasp this. Which is it Jesus? The Kingdom is within me, in my midst or coming? It can’t be all three at the same time.

Jesus’ life seems full of paradox. He said he didn’t come to abolish the Jewish law but to fulfill it. And then he apparently breaks the law by healing people on the Sabbath and letting his disciples pick grain on the Sabbath, as well as other infractions. Which is it Jesus? Do you honor the Jewish law or not?

Nondual thinking is the art of both/and rather than either/or.

It seems Jesus was all the time getting in trouble with the religious people of his day. Confounding them with his apparent disregard or disrespect for Jewish law and customs while simultaneously claiming to be an authority of the law and a religious teacher.

Not much has changed in 2000 years since Jesus walked the earth. We are still struggling to grasp his teaching and let it transform us. We are still more likely to choose religious belief systems and dogmas over people. We still struggle to embrace the Kingdom of God now—within us—looking longingly for a Kingdom that is somewhere out there—perhaps to be finally found after we die.

But Jesus was all about inviting us into the Now, the present Kingdom—offering us living water and abundant life. How can we embrace the mysteries of the Kingdom if not for a change of mind?

Dualistic thinking needs boundaries, security and certainty (law). Nondual or contemplative thinking transcends boundaries, security and certainty. And at periods of time when the Spirit is doing this revolutionary work of “changing our mind,” it feels like our boundaries, security and certainty is being abolished. But in truth it is being expanded.

As we grow in relationship with the Christ, particularly through contemplation, an expansive, transcendent mode of taking in and processing and living moral codes and religious dogmas becomes possible. And this new way of thinking, this changed mind, makes it possible for us to live more like Jesus—the one who unconditionally loves, includes, accepts, forgives, extends mercy and brings unity.