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non-polar thinking

Non-dual thinking is a way of seeing that refuses to eliminate the negative, the problematic, the threatening parts of everything. Non-dual thinking does not divide the field of the naked-now, but receives it all. This demands some degree of real detachment from the self. The non-dual/contemplative mind holds truth humbly, knowing that if it is true, it is in its own best argument.

Non-polar thinking (if you prefer that phrase) teaches you how to hold creative tensions, how to live with paradox and contradictions, how not to run from mystery, and therefore how to practice what all religions teach as necessary: compassion, mercy, loving kindness, patience, forgiveness, and humility.

—Adapted from The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See, Richard Rohr

For whatever reason, this really caught my attention when I first read it. It reminds me of Peter’s message:

Beloved friends, if life gets extremely difficult, with many tests, don’t be bewildered as though something strange were overwhelming you. Instead, continue to rejoice, for you, in a measure, have shared in the sufferings of the Anointed One so that you can share in the revelation of his glory and celebrate with even greater gladness!” (1 Peter 4:12-13, TPT).

It’s a jolt to remember that we should not be too surprised when life goes sideways at times. In fact, that is the perfect proving ground (agitation, life pangs, disappointment, failure, rejection, etc.) for the manifestation of the things that Rohr mentions:

compassion, mercy, loving kindness, patience, forgiveness, and humility.

Those things are very much a part of the “Fruits of the Spirit” package, and that can’t really be faked very well while under pressure. Either you ooze the juice of the fruit—or you do not.

If the truth were to be known, marriage or covenant partnership might be the most perfect proving ground for what’s really inside us. Patti and I have been married 45 years, and even after all these years, we still have “come to Jesus” talks where we must be painfully real about how the relationship is going. It’s not always pleasant and I don’t always like how I respond to the process, but I always feel that we come out stronger and clearer in what we envision for our life together. Fortunately, we’re never too surprised that we get crossways with each other. We’re both strong, we’re both somewhat opinionated, and we’re both certain that we’re right in our positions. Like I said, those seasons of stretching are good proving grounds for what’s really in us. Fertile soil for good growth has all kinds of critters in it. The contemplative and the willingness to listen beyond words forces you to get good with the messy and complicated.

Recently, I’ve been pondering two questions that I think fit loosely into the genre of Rohr’s article. I don’t necessarily like the questions, but I think it might be important to face them from time to time. I wish the first question was “unthinkable,” but because I don’t want it on my plate or anywhere near my table, I’m willing to consider it’s all too often reality. I truly think it’s important to look at them and bring an honest response.

QUESTION ONE: If my mate (i.e. husband, wife, partner, significant other) announced that he or she was leaving the marriage without warning or negotiation, would it be justified at any level because of my actions, lack of actions, abuse, infidelity, lack of care, or love?

I realize that what would be considered “justified cause” would be dependent upon the individual wounded in the relationship or the damage done by some abuse or neglect of either or both parties. Real integrity with the question would probably trigger us in our culpability in what “justified” would mean. To be fair, I’ve been guilty of things that could be considered justified means. These are things that I know I’ve done that were not helpful or edifying to the relationship. But grace, and my wife’s love for me, saved the day. Just saying.

QUESTION TWO:  What would need to change in me that would validate trust (again) and promote the perpetual promise that I made when we cut covenant in marriage?

I’ve always been told that you can’t fix the “other” in your relationships. That means we only have real control or leverage with ourselves, and that’s where the work needs to happen.

Why these two questions? The only thing I got here is, why not? If I’m better for my [spouse, life partner, mate, soul mate], who is 50 percent of me, and better for myself when I’m oozing those fruit juices, especially while under strenuous pressure or complex issues, then it’s another chance to shine the goodness that resonates from my center. Honestly, facing these questions can be helpful to anyone who sincerely wants to uphold his or her side of the covenant. Even if your marriage is good and healthy, the questions make their way inside of us. If you’re aware of potential “just cause” issues, take the time to own and deal with them, repent of them, and say whatever needs to be said to the one wounded by such actions. This is the work of covenant. It should be normal, and it’s definitely necessary.

And, it’s not always bold and outrageously obvious. There can be danger in the hidden, vague and fuzzy gray. This is the crux of non-polar thinking. It appears to be imperative for healthy relationships of all kinds. —MDP

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Lisa Spitzer
    August 31, 2022 at 8:51 am

    Always sharing thought provoking articles.
    Thank you,

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