The American Airlines ticket office in Fort Worth, Texas, was picketed by a group called "Uglies Unlimited." They were upset because the airline advertised for good-looking people when hiring. Apparently a lot of companies do this, advertising for "attractive receptionists" or "pretty secretaries." The president of Uglies Unlimited, Danny McCoy, says they just want to be accepted for who they are, instead of what they look like. Mr. McCoy estimates that up to 10% of all American[s] are widely considered to be ugly.
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So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view [according to the flesh]. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view [according to the flesh]. How differently we know him now!
*2 Cor 5.16 (NLT)
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Everyone I meet I'm already in Love with Most just don't know it, yet
Different faiths have different words for the essence of who we each are. Hindus refer to the soul in us each as jiva and atman. We Christians often speak of the soul or the True Self or the spirit.
Margaret Truxaw Hopkins, who has worked in chaplaincy and in Hospice, in "The Healing Power of Being Deeply Heard," writes of a listening that helps bring healing - not necessarily a cure - to the other. She requests from us the following: "Suppose the need to define one another as other melted away."
Christine Longaker, also a leader in the Hospice work, writes of this compassionate listening, in "Listening with Presence, Awareness, and Love." She gives as a fruition of spiritual practice the reduction of "selfishness and territoriality."
I visited an aged woman in the hospital. I was not ready for what I was to see. Just two weeks before, I had visited her in another facility, and she looked very well. Now, she lay alone and sprawled on a hospital bed, without her body being fully covered. Her state of mind was markedly confused. The sight of her condition challenged my ability to be present. I was aware of the struggle, and I brought my open awareness into the moment. I used words to anchor my presence and move through, as best I could, resistance, and, otherwise, to be aware of the resistance - or difficulty with the situation.
What was I doing? I was seeking, prayerfully, to dissolve the selfishness and territoriality between the woman and me. This is a subtle selfishness that leads us not to want to see the reality of the suffering of the other. We erect mental and emotional barriers - territoriality - as a protective mechanism for the ego. Oh, we might not leave, but we are not really there.
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One way to work with this territoriality is learning to look through the physical aspect of the other into his or her soul. You can do this through the eyes and opening your whole self to the mystery of the other. He or she is not "according to the flesh," not in spirit; and you can connect with the soul through your soul. Of course, to do this consistently, you will need to practice staying in touch with your soul through spiritual practice. And you may need to work through personal issues that trap you in ego defense-mechanisms, blocking the flow of Love from you to others.
Another way of speaking of letting ourselves see the soul of the other is sensing into. We do not strain to see the essence of the other: that only blocks the experience of essence. Rather, we surrender into the mutual-being-with, and the result is a sensing into the essence of the other.
I took a retreat-workshop "Preaching with Presence." This was a training in how to use the preaching event as a means to express the authentic self of the preacher. Then, he or she is doing something more important than the verbal content of the message; he or she is communicating an inward essence through the words, facial gestures, ... The speaker is, literally, expressing the soul.
Mark Brady, editor of The Wisdom of Listening, introducing Longaker's writing, says, "We ourselves are arguably the most significant factor in any human exchange." This is true, and this significance is heightened when we offer our soul and receive the soul of the other.
We have labels to seek to define others and ourselves, and ourselves against others. These very labels blind us to the soul of the other. The great mystics and saints follow in the footsteps of Christ, showing us a Love that sees through the flesh and traits of the other to a oneness in which we all share, in God. We are not our traits, or the sum of those traits - we are.
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All of what I have said here might enlighten to how contemplative practice helps prepare for this sensing of the soul. This same process applies in contemplative prayer, where we sense into the Presence of Love as Love, not "my" love or "your" love or "our" love.
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*Longaker and Hopkins' articles cited herein are in Mark Brady, Ed. The Wisdom of Listening.