Sometime later I amended the statement: "Unity is for Christians who want to be Buddhists but not quite ready to give up God." It would probably be more truthful to say the statement transformed itself, and it was kind enough to let me be a witness. I almost wished I could unsee it, because it became something else entirely. I was less entertained and increasingly anxious. Give up God? Why give up God? Should I give up God? Even if I wanted to, could I give up God? When I said God, I thought I meant any human attempts to describe and articulate that which is beyond description and articulation, even Unity's 1st Basic Principle and foundational definition of God: One Power, One Presence. But then it went deeper: Do I even give up on that which is beyond? Now I was filled with dread. The experience of the beyond was what I had spent my life seeking! And in that moment I realized with startling clarity that I would never experience that which I desired to experience as long as I was attached to experiencing it.
So playing the lead role in my own self-fulfilling prophecy, I soon found myself sitting on a cushion in a Buddhist center listening to Dharma talks on Non-Attachment. It's an elusive concept this non-attachment thing. It essentially asks us to recode our human programming. Our entire lives, literally since birth, has been a journey of cataloging our experiences into two broad categories: that which makes us feel good, and that which doesn't. We generally accept that we will encounter that which doesn't make us feel good, and our goal becomes avoiding those things, and holding on to the things that make us feel good.
Those of us on the journey of spiritual transformation (and with a healthy dose of emotional intelligence) eventually learned to accept the power that our own perceptions have on our experience. We saw that the meaning of anything was what we gave to it. The things that once provoked us to see red now lost their sting. We took a breath and dropped to our hearts. Becoming provocateurs of Peace was much more satisfying than being Ronin for rightness. Yet we still had preferences, from small ones to the life-altering variety. But certainly preferences aren't a bad thing? I prefer vanilla over chocolate but no harm in that right? Unless a friend invites me over for a slice of cake and it's double chocolate fudge and he takes it personally that I refuse to eat his made-from-scratch creation and then we're not speaking for days which turn to months and... I could go on but, it appears that preferences are a subtle danger onto themselves. That is, unless we detach ourselves from them and fully appreciate the experience of the present moment.
This is the true gift of non-attachment. It is the ultimate release from the anxieties born from the knowledge that some of life's miseries will find their way to us. Paradoxically, it also frees us from the obsession with bliss and the angst of descending from its highs. The Dalai Lama said, "Most of our troubles are due to our passionate desire for and attachment to things that we misapprehend as enduring entities." Sticking closer to my Christian roots, it is written that Jesus said, "The Kingdom of Heaven is among you." Intertwined among the roots of every religious philosophy is what I have dubbed the Pure Present Principle: It is in the pureness of the instant present, before we attempt to comprehend, before we attach meaning or preference, before we assign a value, that we experience what lies beyond...that we are released into God.
Now when I’m asked about Unity, I skip the punch line. Instead, I talk about how I learned to find God by letting go of it all.
This post was first printed in Unity Magazine as a contemporary response to a classic Unity writing. Subscribe to Unity Magazine to read the entire article