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Monk in the World Guest Post: Will Boesl

I am delighted to share am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series. Read on for Will Boesl’s reflection Nonduality and Nonbinary.

For as long as I can remember, I have been told that I am not manly enough. I’ve been picked on, ridiculed, teased. Middle aged men have even used this argument in trying to win over my spouse, saying things like “you could do better.” There’s something about my sensitivity, kindness, and interest in a different kind of expression that throws people off. It’s strange to them that while I present as a man, I would rather listen than talk, or care and serve than dominate.

Though the more I zoom out, the more compassion I have. I can recognize that this has nothing to do with me and everything to do with our culture: we wholeheartedly believe in these imaginary gendered boundary lines.

Here are three things I think nonduality has to teach us about the gender binary.

Wholeness

Nonduality, meaning “not two,” is a kind of wisdom teaching found in all of the world’s mystical traditions. It reminds us that at the core of our being, we are whole. However, nearly all of us have been told that we are in fact not whole when we don’t conform to imaginary gender standards.

“You need to find yourself a real man” said the drunk to my spouse at a local bar across from the town shopping mall. Where does it lead us as a society if the equation of “a real man” equals an absence of femininity?

Wholeness implies that being a real man has absolutely nothing to do with sex or gender. Regardless, we are all invited to integrate all that is within us. To cultivate a capacity to hold many things at once. Wholeness says: Everyone wins as we move away from gender binaries.

In each person there is both masculine and feminine, and most men repress the feminine. I have done that to a very considerable extent…Because God is mother we have to balance the masculine and the feminine in our nature. We must be aware of how we are repressing one aspect of our nature; by allowing it to come up we become whole. – Bede Griffiths

All things carry Yin
yet embrace Yang.
They blend their life breaths
in order to produce harmony.
- Tao Te Ching

Inclusivity

The essence of nonduality is inclusivity. While the word “nonduality” has its earliest roots in Eastern religion, the meaning is by no means absent in the West. Whether spiritual lessons are taught via Zen koans or Christian parables, the “answer” to life’s biggest questions are often presented as a both/and.

The shame that I’ve experienced in regards to gender is so deep that it’s actually quite difficult to share these stories. Childhood messages tell me it’s safer to hide than to be seen. However, with the help of a lot of people, I’m fortunate to be at a point where I’d rather be seen for who I am than be accepted for someone I’m not. Nobody should have to hide their true self.

Inclusivity tells me that my feelings are valid. Regardless of our sex or gender, this radical acceptance reminds us that even darkness and sadness belongs. Inclusivity says: To live beyond the gender binary means to welcome all parts of ourselves and others.

There is a space within the heart in which all space is contained. Both heaven and earth are contained with it, both fire and air, both sun and moon, both lightning and stars. Everything that exists is contained in that “City of Brahman”, all beings and all desires. – Chandogya Upanishad

Uncertainty

Nonduality is a release from the gripping control of our dualistic mind which feeds on certainty. Sadly, certainty leads to unkindness.

If it weren’t for family obligations, there would’ve been absolutely no chance that my spouse and I were at this bar. We were visiting my hometown for the holiday and accepted a family invitation to go out late one night. Days after my experience with these “real men” a friend of mine asked, “Why didn’t you reach out to your family for support?!”

As someone who identifies as gender nonbinary, the reality is that it’s not safe for me to share this with everyone, including family. While I don’t want to hide who I am, I also need to protect myself. It’s really hard to comprehend, yet it’s something I have to hold.

A dualistic mind cannot fully understand God, love, or even family. We cannot reason our way to peace. It has to be an experience, a shift in seeing and being. Nonduality gives us the permission to not know.

The measure of one’s spiritual maturity is their comfortability with uncertainty. Instead of needing an answer for everything, what happens when we lean into uncertainty? What happens when we recognize the limits of gender and simply live into a new way forward, heart first? Uncertainty says: Sometimes, your mind is the last to arrive.

When you forget all your dualistic ideas, everything becomes your teacher, and everything can be the object of worship. When everything exists within your big mind, all dualistic relationships drop away. There is no distinction between heaven and earth, man and woman, teacher and disciple. – Shunryu Suzuki Roshi

May you truly love yourself and others,
express yourself in ways that are true to you,
and be seen for who you are and not what you aren’t.

For more, listen to my song Blue and Pink


Will Boesl, MA (they/them) is a spiritual director and musician. They earned their Masters in Spiritual Formation with a focus in spiritual direction and creativity from Seminary of the Southwest (Austin, TX). Integrating their vocation of deep listening, Will is passionate about the connection between spirituality and creative expression. 

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