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Metalineage
25m

Metalineage

Discover how to realize greater fullness and freedom in life.

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Hello, my name is Thomas McConkie, you're listening to Mindfulness+, thanks so much for listening. Oh, wait, I gotta do that again, there's a formula here. I can't remember what I say to introduce the show. Okay, I'll get it, I'll get it. I just gotta relax, it'll just come out. I remember now, okay. Do I need to clap again? Okay. That's for Christine. Hello and welcome to another episode of Mindfulness+, I'm your host, Thomas McConkie, thank you so much for listening. Lovely to be back with you all, I've got a nice one cooked up for you this week. I wanna talk about metalineage. What is metalienage? Let me break the word down, then I'm gonna tell you a little story, then I'm gonna bring it all together. Meta, this prefix, the Greek, meaning to go beyond, in some cases to go through or transform, something to that extent. Lineage, in this case, I'm referring to any tradition, lineage, that informs you, that shapes the way you feel, and think, and approach life, approach the world. If you're familiar with Mindfulness+ and if you're familiar with me, you'll know that two lineages that have deeply informed me are Buddhism and Christianity. But when I talk about lineage I'm certainly not limiting our purview to the so-called sacred traditions or the world's religions. We could talk fruitfully about Western science as a tradition, as a lineage, that, in fact, deeply informs all of our world views if we're alive today, whether we like it or not. When I talk lineage, I'm talking about sacred and secular, ancient and modern, any tradition that deeply informs who you understand yourself to be and what this life means or doesn't mean. Metalienage is talking about, what is the lineage beyond lineages? In other words, the lineage that we might all have in common apart from our unique lineages. Some are Muslims, some are agnostics, some are Christian, some are communist, etc., etc., religious identities, political identities. Why metalienage? Well, this has been a meditation of mine for many years and I wanted to just open it up on Mindfulness+ today. And if you're interested, we have an online course that gets really deep into metalienage in a way that I feel will leave you more human on the other side of it, but I'll get to that later, metalienage. First, the story. I'll say, in my personal experience, growing up in a Christian environment, specifically Latter-day Saint, I found myself totally captivated by the Buddhist tradition from a really young age. And with my youthful, innocent heart, I threw myself into it completely. And took up a daily Buddhist practice for many years, one that I continue to this day and continues to be very meaningful to me. Somewhere along the lines, I think I've talked about this moment in another Mindfulness+ episode. I can't think of which episode but just putting that out there, you can seek out more details if you're curious about them. But what I wanted to point out was that there was a point in my Buddhist practice and my Buddhist experience where the Buddhist term is emptiness. I had, you could say, an experience of emptiness. And without mystifying you too much, the experience of emptiness was so empty, it was not even an experience. It was that empty, but I digress. Experiencing emptiness, or rather, experiencing the other side of emptiness, I had this really surprising intuition. It might have been a little over 10 years ago in my life, where all at once, this tradition that I didn't have a lot of exchange or commerce with, which was Christianity. In a moment, I had this intuition in my heart, deep in my heart, like, what the Buddhist call emptiness, somewhere in this mystery, I saw Christ. I mean, I didn't see him with my eyes, I felt his heart, it was as if Christ's heart and my heart were one heart. And that totally shocked me as a, you could say, as an Orthodox American Buddhist, I was not expecting to meet Jesus in the depths of my meditation. I stuck with the curiosity though, I was honest with it and faithful to it. And I got interested, I got so interested, I wandered into a Christian Church not long after that and started to investigate. The point is, I had a really rewarding life, spiritual life, spiritual practice up to that point, and identity as a Buddhist. And out of nowhere, you could say, Jesus blindsided me, that old one two-knockout punch, love bomb. And for the last 10 years of my life, I've just really done my best to keep my heart open to the Christian tradition. And it's changed me profoundly in ways that I think are good, and I hope my wife and my loved ones think are also good. I hope it's making me a better person, but it certainly feels like it has. And this is where I wanna get back in the metalienage here. That little anecdote there, that's my kind of personal testimonial of metalienage. Which is that, when I encountered Christianity in the depths of Buddhism, it did not erase my Buddhism, it actually made the Buddhism more poignant. It actually filled out and filled up my sense of emptiness, I appreciated more than ever the Buddhist teachings what had led me to that moment of insight. However, on the other side of the coin, you could say, as I investigated Christianity more deeply, I appreciated so much the nooks, the crannies, the details, the perspectives, the nuances of the Christian tradition that I didn't encounter properly in Buddhism. When we talk about metalienage, I mean, it's a weird word, we're not all familiar with it. But when we hear it, we might think of something like, "Oh, that's that thinking like the perennial philosophy." The, "All roads lead to Rome kind of quality." Like, if I'm on this path, then they'll eventually take me to the same path that the Shivas take, or the Shintos, or the... so on and so forth. And what I love about metalienage, this practice, is that it preserves the uniqueness of the traditions. It really honors the genius of each tradition, the virtues, the qualities that these different paths and traditions help us cultivate. It's my opinion that in the 21st century, as we interface and come into intimate contact more than ever with different ways of life, with different philosophies, worldviews traditions, that metalienage is our future. Or if I say that less prophetically and more just on a personal level, I hope metalienage is our future. Because the practice of metalienage, it invites us to get really curious about the other, it invites us to get curious about other worldviews, and assume that there's a gap in my own worldview. That my tradition can't possibly comprehend the totality of the cosmos, the mysteries of reality. And so, I need to engage the other, I need to engage other forms of thought, other systems, other practices, even lineages, in order to better understand my own. It's a total paradox that Buddhism cannot be complete without Christianity, Christianity cannot be complete without Buddhism. No contained system can be complete without co-arising with all other closed systems. Something like that, which means in the end, all closed systems are actually open systems. But that sounds a little heady, let's turn to a passage. There's a metalienage practitioner, I don't know if he thinks about himself that way, but I regard him as that. His name is Father William Johnston, and he was a Jesuit priest in the 20th century who did service in Japan. And it wasn't long before, when he was in Japan, it wasn't long before he realized that there was something in the depths of Buddhist meditation. It was Zen, particularly in the Mahayana School of Buddhism, that captivated Father Johnston. And he thought to himself, "There's something here for me." It shook him up in the sense that, you know, historically, the imperative in Christianity is to baptize and convert the natives. But here, William Johnston was finding himself converted to Zazen, finding himself converted to Buddhist meditation and the mysteries that lie within that practice. I got a classic book here, "The Still Point," by Father William Johnston. And he writes, I'm gonna read this passage at length. He says, "The Christian with some depth in prayer and experience of the things of God will find himself in wonderful sympathy with the monk who has practiced Buddhist meditation. There is undoubtedly something in common between John of the Cross and the Buddha. And the Christian will find interior guidance in much Buddhist literature, just as John of the Cross points out the way to not a few Buddhist. This is because the psychic life of man is everywhere the same, his fundamental aspirations vary but little." I wanna read this last sentence here, "The psychic life of man... " human beings, "... is everywhere the same, his fundamental aspirations vary but little." To me, this is a beautiful insight in the 20th century from Father William Johnston as he was deeply encountering Buddhism as a Jesuit priest. And I can only imagine what trouble this got him in, in the Jesuit order, in the Catholic Church. We're still at a point, from my point of view, in history where really intimately engaging with other traditions, not from the outside. Not at the distance where we ask them what they believe and we smile politely, then tell them what we believe, then we go our separate ways. But the Johnston style of bidirectional missionary work where he goes so deep into Buddhism that he comes out the other side as a different Buddhist, a different Christian, a different being. This kind of metalienage practice, it asks us to take a lot of risk, we risk letting go of the ideas and the identities that are so precious to us. But when we do that, we end up with something even more full, even more complete, even more rounded out than what we started with. That's the practice I want to point to here with metalienage, that's the message. That we have our own faith identity, we have our own human identity, intellectual identity, philosophical identity. There are ideas, constructs, beliefs that create the known world we inhabit. And we're living in a time where we've never been so intimate with different systems that challenge who we think we are. metalienage is something, to use a technical term, a kind of epistemic humility, which is to say a humility that we might not know as much as we think we know. And in fact, to really know more, we must let go of what we thought we knew, and engage the other more deeply. metalienage, to me, it's the future, it's the 21st century of really deeply encountering one another. Of letting go of our defenses to whatever extent we can, and receiving the unique gifts of each tradition so that each tradition is able to bring each other tradition to a greater fulfillment. It can sound abstract when I try to put words to it. And in fact, it's still difficult for me to talk about, I think I'll be wrestling with this term and what metalienage means the rest of my life. But it lies in that simplicity of the story I shared with you earlier, that I was sitting on a cushion, I was doing Zazen, I started from the other end of the spectrum. Johnston started out as a Christian missionary, I started out as a Buddhist in this story. And somewhere in the depths of that meditative practice, I was struck by the power of another tradition altogether. And 10 years later, as I've done my best to embrace both Buddhist and Christian identities that reside in myself, the Buddha's teachings ring more clearly and the heart and mind of Christ love more achingly. It's all more beautiful, I'm the better for it, and my hope is that together we can continue to walk this path of metalienage. What is metal lineage? It's something like this unnameable territory that we all share in our common humanity, and the very spirit and intelligence that gives rise to the unique traditions that we give our hearts to. So let's meditate with that. Start with an orienting practice. Three questions. Where am I from? Who am I? Where am I going? Just feel into this, you can think your way through it, feel through it in your body, your heart. Just give it a little space, your sense of where you're from, your sense of who you are, your sense of where you're going. What's it all for? What's this crazy life about? Any lineage that influences us, any tradition that has formed us will have some response to these questions, some idea, some vision. And as you feel into these questions, I want you to also just feel the unique sense of you. The very distinct sense you have of being yourself. You breathe, relax, it's okay if you have indigestion. You don't have to be feeling amazing, just feel how you feel and feel the you in it. And for fun, as you feel into the you that you feel yourself to be, imagine living on the planet 1,000 years ago. What a thought, the year 1022. How might you have thought about yourself differently? Feel free to elaborate on this as much or as little as you'd like, but just to get an appreciation for how differently we humans used to think about things not so long ago. What about 1,000 years into the future? Year 3022. What manner of cyborg, transhuman, intergalactic species might there be. In our sense now, in 3022, of where we're from? Who we are? Where we're going? What mysteries will have been solved? What new mysteries will have been revealed? Above all, I want you to appreciate just how mutable our sense of self, our beliefs, our ideas, our philosophies, all that shapes our sense of who we are and what is. Feel how plastic, feel how mutable, changeable, interchangeable, evolving, transforming, all of these seemingly hard structures are. Feel into your own timeless depth in this moment who you know yourself to be at the deepest level. And appreciate how the lineages, the traditions of the world are like so many waves on the surface of the ocean rising up, crashing back down into the infinite depth. In a sense, we're none of these lineages, and we're all of them. All right, Mindfulness Plussers, thanks so much for practice. This is metalienage, it's an ongoing inquiry and adventure. If you're interested, my organization, Lower Lights School of Wisdom, just launched a lengthy online course that deeply engages this question of metalienage, as well as the fruits of Buddhism and Christianity. It's a course called Gospel Meets Dharma, we'll put a link in the show notes if you'd like to deepen your own inquiry around this. In the meantime, thanks for listening to today's show, we'll be back next week with more here at Mindfulness+.

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