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A group of men gather to talk about the importance of divinity in our lives and one man stands up and says…

“The best way to show respect to God and foster connection is to wear a small round piece of cloth on your head… and if you are particularly religious, you wear it at all times and your wife must wear a head covering or wig in public.”

The man next to him stands up and says…

“Ridiculous… the best way to show respect to God and foster your connection to him is NOT to wear anything on your head whilst in a house of prayer. Only the clergy can wear a head covering and the more senior the clergy, the bigger the headpiece … and if you are devout your wife must wear a headscarf.”

The man next to him stands up and says…

“Doesn’t make sense … the best way to show respect to God and foster your connection to him is to wear a small piece of cloth on your head, but not like the first guy, ours is different, it is more of a cap… and wives must wear a headscarf in public but the more devout will wear a head covering all the time and some wear more elaborate head covering or full face coverings in public.”

The man next to him stands up and says…

“I don’t see the difference between you and the first guy … besides, the best way to show respect to God and foster your connection to him is to take a long piece of cloth and wrap it around your head multiple times until it forms a large head wrap… and my wife must also wear a head scarf.”

The man next to him stands up, wearing a robe and says…

“Please don’t be fooled by such attachments… the best way to show respect to God and foster your connection to him is to completely shave your head.”


It is strange how we fight over the best symbol of connection but don’t unite on the fact that there is a need for connection in the first place. Maybe that is where we get it wrong – we place more importance over the symbol than the need to make this connection in the first place and seeing what might flow from there.

It is what is lived that counts.

No amount of paraphernalia, regalia, religious practice or iconography can substitute for what is actually lived, both in public and in private. It’s not just what you wear or do in public but how you are in the home, even with yourself, when there is no one else around.

How many ways do we blindly follow the symbology of a brand, club, ideology or theology, without taking it back to the deeper question about what is lived?

If the message is peace, then let me see it in the communities and families that espouse that teaching. If the message is sportsmanship, then let me see it on and off the field; if the message is quality, then let me see it in your products, your boardroom, your staff room and your balance sheet. If the message is health, then let me see it in your body, before you try and treat my body.

Words are just word, symbols are just symbols. When we assign meaning to rituals and objects and then filter our experiences of life through that assigned meaning, we put our own version of life ahead of how life actually is, which makes little sense, if at the same time we profess a desire to understand life.

It is what is lived that counts and that starts with our connection to our own essence.

Living and acting in a way that builds this connection seems to be the goal of almost all religions and spiritual practices, BUT there is a big difference between the body following the mind’s assigned meaning and starting with connection to the body, with no attachment to how this is achieved day-to-day and what meaning reveals itself once connection is established.

This seems to be the critical flaw in our current approach. We place our assigned meaning ahead of what the body might otherwise be telling us. If we assign meaning to a certain flower, our feelings about that flower will come from what we have already pre-determined we need to feel. Roses are good, dandelions are a weed etc. Yet a dandelion has its own visual and even medicinal qualities that are there, regardless of our assigned meaning.

Observe something without a predetermined meaning and we might get an entirely different understanding of life.

This is easy to say but are we willing to lay down our assigned meanings and trust what we feel?

To do this we need to be willing to be wrong about the ideals that we hold most precious if it leads to a deeper understanding of life.

While societies the world over profess to want to understand truth, laying down our assigned meaning is the one thing we struggle with the most. We place our collective evolution and wellbeing behind the need to cling to the ideals that we hold most precious. Even though that preciousness is an assigned meaning. We end up marginalising or even trying to eradicate populations in the defence of our own assigned meaning.

The fact is we can learn to trust what is felt. This is where our ability to build conscious presence comes in. Conscious presence, is the ability to bring the mind’s activity in line with what the body is feeling and respond to that, rather than putting the mind’s assigned meaning in front of what the body should be feeling.

It is about putting the mind in the position of becoming an observer of how the body moves through life, rather than becoming the architect of life. This change lies at the heart of relinquishing religious zealotry and racial intolerance. Our minds can create any kind of story, meaning and emotional response to justify our position. The body, however, lives the reality of its own fragility, its own sensitivity, its own mortality and its own communication about how healthy and loving we are being. Every human, regardless of gender, age, culture, geography, wealth, status or education, has a body that is sensitive, mortal and constantly communicating – but NOT every human listens.

If we are really interested in understanding life, we need to be willing to rebuild our conscious presence so that we are observing first and then talking about what we observed and felt. It is in the expression of these shared experiences we can come to a more unified understanding of life.

Rather than doing battle over whose assigned meaning is right, we allow the quest for understanding to establish a more contemplative and open demeanour.

Let’s not spend any more years and wars arguing about what hats we should or shouldn’t wear, or even our need to tolerate people of different hats … let’s see the vitality of what is lived and then compare notes.

Filed under

EssenceConscious presenceReligion

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