“So many scriptures talk about this experience of joy or bliss and grief being the same, that they work the same depth in our heart.” – Maureen Cotton
Storytelling is often the best tool for comprehending the incomprehensible. Think about it. For such a secular period in time, most of us are likely acquainted with a story or two from The Bible, Torah and Qur’an, even if our recall leans closer to misheard lyrics than educated retelling. Stories help mere mortals get comfortable with the meaning of life, love, loss, and death. I say “get comfortable” because we don’t know what’s on the other side until we walk through each door ourselves.
All this to say that I’ve lately found myself having conversations about certainty––or uncertainty if you like. When philosophical words fail me, I express my meaning by sharing life experiences from the mundane to the mystical. Reverend Maureen Cotton is good with words. She also happens to be great with stories. So many profoundly moving stories in this one! A few trippy ones, too, as well as a flip-the-script moment when the guest casually questions your host.
“I’m no psychic, but I definitely embrace that uncertainty,” says Maureen, an interspiritual minister serving the spiritual-but-not-religious and non-dogmatic people of faith. She’s also a soulful conversationalist who distills “faith” into real life without judgement or authoritarianism. “All the traditions teach about compassion, and all the traditions give us ways to move through life’s thresholds.” Ultimately, she defines faith as how we choose to live what we’ve learned from those traditions (either firsthand or in the abstract), not picking the “right one.”
While she began her ministerial career assisting families and their loved ones in death, Maureen’s since shifted her focus to wedding/commitment ceremonies. Still, death is never far removed from her ministry. “Weddings bring up grief,” she says, so even on the happiest day of a couples’ life (pause for another side-eye directed at the wedding industrial complex), Maureen counsels participants on integrating their deceased loved ones into the ceremony in whatever way feels right. In that way, she’s restoring balance to the processes of celebration, death, and grieving that our emotionally fearful modern life has stunted.
All religions and spiritual practices can trace their traditions back to when communities experienced a member’s death more intimately. What we’ve since lost is our ability to speak of love and loss in the same breath. Maureen holds space for all the mysteries. Grief, after all, is the price of love. And understanding it is less about uncovering definitive answers than being present in the unknown, honoring each other’s experiences and sharing empathy over merely expressing sympathy.
MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions – by His Holiness the Dalai Lama & Wayne Teasdale
GUEST CONTACT INFO & BIO
Reverend Maureen Cotton is an Interspiritual minister, serving the spiritual-but-not-religious and non-dogmatic people of faith. Her true title is “thresholder.” She helps prepare people for life’s transformative times, in particular weddings and death & dying.
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