Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Expanding Our Sphere

A minister was giving what I call an “audition sermon” at a church, in hopes of being called as their pastor. After the sermon, members of the congregation were invited to ask questions. Like many churches, this one was becoming smaller and grayer as the members aged. One person asked the minister what he would do to “grow” the church. He responded, “That depends on what you are willing to risk. Everyone like you is already here.” 

This is true for many of us in our individual lives as well. We seek the comfort of familiarity – with people, events, ideas, beliefs. We shun whatever causes us discomfort. Pause for a moment and consider what might fall in that category. Take an honest inventory. Something might surprise you. 

For example, I found that in certain circumstances, I was more concerned by what other people think than I realized. Even more, I was concerned by what I thought they might think. Since I generally see myself as someone who boldly marches to the beat of my own drum, I felt a little disappointed. That disappointment also caused some discomfort. I can also get impatient with people who do not behave the way I think they should. And I can feel awkward, and sometimes envious, around people who have what I describe as an “artist’s eye” on the world, a perspective that often seems mysterious and incomprehensible to me. 

My list can go on indefinitely, but what all these things have in common is that they create in me a sense of unease, dissonance, misalignment, distress – sometimes insignificant and hardly noticed, sometimes overwhelming and threatening. 

They are all on the edge, or beyond the edge, of my sphere of acceptance. We mistakenly believe that if we can exclude those things from our sphere that cause us discomfort, we can rest in peace within our safe boundaries. But this is what I’ve found. None of those rejected things actually cause my distress. It is the rejection itself that is the problem. It is my struggle with reality, trying to make reality conform to my desire, that creates the conflict that disturbs me. And a struggle with reality is always doomed to failure. Every time.

So what happens if I stop defending the borders of my sphere and instead allow my sphere to expand to include whatever arises in my awareness? Nothing is denied. Go back to my list. Can I allow within my sphere my occasional concern with what other people think? And my related self judgment? Can I accept that I am sometimes impatient or awkward? Can I recognize my absence of control over what other people think or say or do? And my attendant frustration? If I’m unable to embrace what I reject, can I embrace my rejection? 

Expanding our sphere of acceptance to include what is, as it is, doesn’t mean we like everything. In fact, our dislike and can be within our sphere too. It just means that we are not denying reality. And that is when true peace is possible. 

A moment of radical acceptance is a moment of genuine freedom. ~Tara Brach

9 thoughts on “Expanding Our Sphere”

  1. That was a wise question- kind of the flip side of the one I've been working on- :How many 'that's just me' s do I need to get rid of…"

  2. We all have our ideas, beliefs and conceptions of reality, honed over time and experience. It would do us all good to step out of our comfort zone to listen to others who come from a different place and accept them just as they are. I wish this nation would embrace such a notion. I'm not talking about compromise of faith and belief, but of being generous in love and spirit, even if things are not resolved.
    Blessings, Galen!

  3. I've been thinking about this idea also. I am expanding my sphere by trying to do 101 New Things this year and am updating my progress in my blog. We all need to embrace different ideas and people to broaden our own lives and experiences.

  4. – Can I allow within my sphere my occasional concern with what other people think?

    "You can. Otherwise you would be a stone Buddha."

    – And my related self judgment?

    "Isn't this central to all of our journeys — from self-condemnation/judgement to the light of tenderheartedness. We slowly come to understand the uniqueness of our own suffering as a narrative universally shared."

    – Can I accept that I am sometimes impatient or awkward?

    "There are few better teachers than impatience. Impatience continually reminds us of the cosmic struggle of being human, and supernaturally opens the heart to a deeper rooted empathy. Yes, it can suck, but on the other hand, appears to be a key teaching tool of Source. And the awkwardness you mentioned? Ha. Klutziness, my middle name! Maybe awkwardness functions like the backdrop of blackened velvet highlighting an exquisite stone resting upon it. The stone being the trust that fuels us into this wondrous mystery we call Life."

    – Can I recognize my absence of control over what other people think or say or do?

    "Indeed! There are times we choose to swim upstream. That is perfectly acceptable, but exhausting! There's a Taoist story of an old man who accidentally fell into the river rapids leading to a high and dangerous waterfall. Onlookers feared for his life. Miraculously, he came out alive and unharmed downstream at the bottom of the falls. People asked him how he managed to survive. "I accommodated myself to the water, not the water to me. Without thinking, I allowed myself to be shaped by it. Plunging into the swirl, I came out with the swirl. This is how I survived."
    In the New Testament one writer explains the 'absence of control' this way, "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."

    – And my attendant frustration? If I’m unable to embrace what I reject, can I embrace my rejection? 

    "Without question. Your essay has shed light on a most profound and incomprehensible human dilemma — its called "paradox." I can only imagine a Happy Hotei Buddha overseeing all of this — well aware of the impossibilities we face – with nothing less than a radiant smile."

    I salute you and your efforts (No Way cafe) from the core of my being.

  5. Great to hear from you, BK. And thanks for your wonderful comment — your comment is much better than the original post!

    By the way, I like the updates on your website — still a wild abundance of wisdom and resources. It always amazes me. I am finally preparing to take the step of having a website. Content will be different, but I told my web designer that when people come to my website, I want them to feel the way I feel when I go to yours. Thanks for stopping by and for the time you took to share your wisdom.

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