I am excited to share another guest blogger. I was connected to him when he started following my blog I had the opportunity to read about his. His name is Jack Saunsea. He is motivated to set up opportunities in communities for people to pursue and practice contemplation. He is also working to provide resources for people who may need places to stay and food to eat.
Below he took the time to answer some questions that I feel we all ask in life. He has been kind enough to share what his journey and experiences have brought to him.
When I emailed Jack his questions his response was: “Thank you for your questions. Questions are such a vital aspect of forming friendships.”
VERY TRUE STATEMENT ABOVE!
Okay here are my questions and his responses.
What was the defining moment or moments that caused you to take an inward journey?
The only moment there really is, is the moment of now. However, I suspect this question is requesting information about a past experience. So, I will offer the experienced memory which first comes to mind. As we grow within a culture or society we are taught who we are and what we ought to do. This conditioning is an aspect of the role we play in this life. However, when many of us approach that time of life we call “becoming adult,” we often begin to consider those teachings of childhood and youth to discern for ourselves who we are and what makes sense to us. This time, for me, came toward the end of high school. I was raised in the “Bible belt” of the United States and performed various activities within Christian church leadership. A good friend and I would stay up late into the night discussing ideas and concepts of the universe, and as we contemplated what we had been taught, in comparison to simple observations of nature we would make, what we had always been we ought to believe didn’t seem to quite add up. With each question that would arise, we found little explanation from others in our community and church, other than “the Bible says so…” which isn’t a very useful explanation when one is asking questions on the relevance and “literal word of God” being the Bible.Through contemplating the ideas I had always believed, I asked God “why do I believe you exist?” God responded, “because you don’t want to go to hell.” Therefore, at that moment I placed my idea of God and what the word “God” means on the shelf, neither rejecting nor accepting a particular belief about God, but beginning a journey for understanding.
How do you practice solitude and compassion?
That is a very interesting question. A question which for me inspires the question of what is solitude? Solitude is defined as being “the state or situation of being alone.” Now, if we are to use this as are definition, I would say there is no such thing as real solitude. Last summer I spent about a month walking the Oregon Coast Trail. I walked through the woods and on the shore of the Pacific Ocean, but did I ever feel alone? No. I was at all times surrounded by the sound and nature of the earth. I would occasionally follow hikers or cyclists and shared many wonderful conversations, meals, and wine. It may have appeared at many times that I was in solitude, as hours of walking were spent without any other person to talk to. But I never had the feeling of being alone.
Compassion is defined as being concern for the suffering of others. Therefore, if there were such a thing as solitude, there would be no compassion as there would no “others.” It is only because there are “others” that compassion is a necessity of life. When we see who we are as being essentially the same as who others are, we are enabled to practice compassion. If I saw myself as essentially a separated individual, as though who I really am is a secluded identity from other identities, I cannot practice compassion. I may try to practice compassion by doing things I presume to be acts of compassion towards others, but those acts will have a certain disingenuous quality as they are a natural flow out of the understanding that I am directly connected to every person which my conscious attention presumes to “other” than me. Seeing our direct connection and relationship to others, allows understanding and compassion to flow.Can you describe your personal definition of trust?
Trust and faith are very similar. A quote by one of my favorite philosophers, Alan Watts, says “beliefs cling, but faith lets go…” (Jack I love this previous statement-faith lets go) In the same way, trust gives up control. I hear many people say “trust in God” and what in many cases this means is alleviating your own worries onto something viewed as other than you. Which may work for a time, but as long as God is viewed as being something other than who you are, “trust in God” is used as placebo-pill taken to temporarily cure an ill without getting down to the root of what caused the worry in the first place – the belief that God is something “other” than you which restricts your ability to ever really trust yourself. Of course, when we hear “trust yourself” we often think of this to mean trust in your conception of yourself being encapsulated within your bag of skin. This will also act as a placebo and will reinforce the belief that who you really are is “other” than everything else. But when we see that who we really are is everything there is, we are enabled to trust.Have you ever found yourself feeling like you are hanging by the thread of life? If so, what brought you to that point, and what kept you hanging on?
In one of my articles titled “Panic Attacks from the Sensation of Disappearing” I discuss an event of feeling and believing the sensation that I was disappearing. This experience actually lead to what I might call a certain type of liberation or, breaking me out of a negative time in my life. It launched me out of my routine which had grown depression and into stepping into doing things I really wanted to spend my time doing: traveling, connecting and working with the homeless, and living in the present.Due to your interests in solitude and silence, I feel that you are a man who values honor and keeping things sacred….do you have religious beliefs? What is your personal definition of religion?
Sacred is an interesting word. I think for many, that which is considered “sacred” is something taken very seriously. Something that should be revered and defended against defilement. Many who hold something as sacred become offended when what they hold so dear is mocked or joked about. I do not share this sense of the sacred. In my philosophy, the universe, God, life, etc. is playful (so interesting!). Perhaps I might say there is a sincere playfulness that is “sacred,” which is quite different than seriousness (Great perspective!). When we are in relationship with others around us, honor is a product of what it means to love one another in friendship. Honor shows each other that we value others as we value ourselves. We show honor for one another by listening compassionately, asking questions to gain deeper understanding of each other, and sharing generosity.
Religion is a very funny word which has been defined and redefined so many times it is often difficult to know what someone is really talking about when we use this word. I hear Christians say “Christianity is a relationship, not a religion.” Which I think is more about the negative connotation the word “religion” has received. In discussion with those who make such a claim of Christianity not being a religion, I quickly hear so many doctrines and dogma that I see little evidence of Christianity not being a “relationship, not a religion” although I understand what Christians who use this catch-phrase are attempting to mean by this statement.
Personally, I define the word “religion” to mean one’s viewpoint as to the nature of life, the universe, or God. In this definition, “science” would be included as a means of gathering information contributing to one’s “religion.” I also view the world as being largely a cultural distinction. Many claim a title of a certain religion yet also claim they do not practice that particular belief or traditional viewpoint. In this sense, the word “religion” refers to a heritage of a particular group of people, similar to how I might say that through my roots I am “English.”Who have been influential people in your life family, authors, etc?
My father was a pastor and minister for the vast majority of his life. Growing up I attended churches of a wide range of beliefs, from the very conservative to the very charismatic. With every new idea I was learning my father always held a very balanced approach and would usually respond with something like “Yes, there are those who believe that.” Never really rejecting, nor accepting the idea, but encouraging me to continue my own investigation as to what I really saw as being truth.
What is a quote you live by?
“I am alive because of love; therefore, I am alive to love.”
Thank you so much for sharing Jack. I value your story and find a lot that resonates with my personal journey.
*Disclaimer: This blog shares others opinions and does not want others to feel they have to believe or think a certain way. FInd freedom in creating you and transforming your own definitions*