I’m here to change the way you think (and you, of course, are here to change the way I think). Now you were all happy when I was talking about being here to change the way the church of our experience thinks. Change the way they think, sure, let’s do it. We can all clamor aboard that wagon. But, I’ve “quit preaching and gone to meddling” when I talk about changing the way you think. But, that’s the deal. You don’t think right. I have to change it.
Here’s what I mean. Even though you’ve had it with the church of our experience, that’s the only model of church you can envision. You don’t even want to use the word church when you think about what we are doing here. Never mind that the word church, ecclesia, simply means gathering (or “gathering of those summoned”). Like a gathering of sojourners. There is nothing churchy about the word church except by way of what goes on in your heads. I have to change what goes on in there. I have to change your thinking.
I have to change your thinking about what we are doing here. You have the old model of church in your heads, and you think what we do here has to be based on that. Particularly, you’re thinking of programming, and programs, and what we do to perpetuate ourselves and our thinking through the long generations of those that will follow us. We have to know what we stand for, you know. And be able to teach it to others. And design programs, curriculum and study guides, in order to convey what we want them to know and how we want them to think. I have to change your thinking about that. We want them to think what they think. I want you to think what you think. And, I have to change your thinking about what you think to get you to think what you think.
That’s beautiful, isn’t it. Contradiction. Paradox. These are the things life is made of. Learn to love them. Embrace them. Relish them. Delight in them. I have to change what you think about your thinking in order to get you to think what you think. Where are you going to go to beat that?
There is no program to tell you how to think. The only thing to tell you is think what you think consciously, with awareness. You think about your thinking when you say what you are thinking in the company of those who receive what you have to say without debate or argument (which only solidifies us in our thinking by forcing us to defend, excuse, justify and explain what we think) but with acceptance that seeks clarification, deepening, by pushing you to think about your thinking and asks you questions (like a good clearness committee) to get you going. There is no program. There is only intently interested, and hence interesting, conversation. There is no program, there are only people listening carefully to one another. And bringing to light the contradictions, the paradoxes, in what they hear us saying.
Process Not Programs. Could be a bumper sticker. We are engaged in creating a process, an atmosphere, an environment in which and through which we might grow up. No kidding. That’s all there is. Growing up. Becoming mature. Waking up. Being aware. Being conscious.
Karen Najarian is a breast cancer survivor who has a solid grip on the kind of attitude we are developing here. She says, “Get a pick and a shovel (and maybe a camera) and dig deeper into your life. THAT's real medicine. John Muir said it best: ‘Between every two pine trees lies a door to a new life.’” You can’t be clearer about what we are about than that. Digging deeper into your life. How deep can you go? We’ll never get to the bottom of it. There is enough life there for each of us to keep us busy for the rest of it, even if we work hard at digging deeper every day. We are here to help each other dig deeper into our lives.
We all drink the same water, but we dig our own wells. You can think of life as the water we drink, or God, or The Mystery… It can be all of these things, and other things, all things. But we can’t drink someone else’s water. We have to dig our own wells. Thelma Foster says, “Each generation has to come to its own understanding of God.” And K Misenheimer says, “God doesn’t have any grandchildren.” They are both saying that we have to dig our own wells, by digging deeper into our own lives.
There is no program to tell us about God, or life, or The Mystery. No shortcuts. No doctrine. No list of things to believe. No creed or catechism to memorize. No sacred book to study forever. “Get a pick and a shovel (and maybe a camera) and dig deeper into your life.”
Where do we start digging? Anywhere, really. One good place is by looking in a mirror. We can’t wake up without facing ourselves. When we wake up, we wake up to ourselves, to who we are and how it is with us. To who we also are and how it also is with us. Where’re you going to start? How about with your feelings, your moods, your reactions to the events and circumstances of your life?
In the presence of any strong feeling, emotional response/reaction, to our environment, we have to ask, af-ter James Hollis, “Where have I been here before in my life?” “This reminds me of what?” “This triggers what in me?” “What experiences does this stir in me?” “What am I defending myself against here?” Everything wakes us up to something else. The web of connections is vast within. Our responses to the events and circumstances of our lives are memories stirring. Our reactions are wounds that still need healing. Remembering is healing. Knowing is healing. Consciousness is Gilead’s balm for the soul. But our fear is great before the door closed to pain.
When you are stunned by life into not being able to breathe, see if I have this right. Life just planted a big juicy wet one smack on your kisser. Is that it? And winked? And told you there was more where that came from? When you can't breathe, it's life on your chest, laughing. It's great, isn't it? Where would you go to beat it? Who coulda thought this up?
There is nothing like a healthy dose of reality to wake us up. Disturbance clarifies. It’s the only thing that does. Discomfort is the prelude to, and the price of, growth. Think the seed is happy to become a plant? It’s death. Death to the seed is life to the plant. And, look what happens to the caterpillar. Who is in charge here? Who’s idea is this, anyway? Of course, we are the ones who oppose us. We oppose ourselves. As Walt Kelly observed, “We have met the enemy and it is us!”
We cannot run from our fear, from our anxiety, and wake up. We have to wrestle with the angel of death if we hope to be alive. The blessing is life, you know. If we are going to dig deeper into our lives, we are going to have to face the thing, the things, of which we are most afraid. Walk right up to it and plant a big juicy wet one on its kisser and wink. And say, “There’s more where that came from, Sweetie.”
What I’m saying here is that the conscious recognition of feelings—emotional responses to the experience of life—and the concomitant reflection, exploration, acceptance, experience and appropriate expression of them is the path to True Human Being-hood. It’s called bearing the full impact of life in the world. We can’t do it alone. We have to share the load, grieve, cry, laugh and rejoice together. Human Being-hood is a participation sport. We cannot be True Human Beings by ourselves.
This is where the church as the right kind of community comes in. A gathering of those summoned by the task of life. A gathering of sojourners. A gathering of those who have taken up the work of soul, the work of digging deeper into our own lives, the work of becoming awake, aware, and alive, the work of growing up, waking up, being conscious, and present for the good of one another in the moment of our living. We help one another wake up, grow up, see, hear, and understand.
Look at everything in your experience as a Rube Goldberg device that your soul has put together to wake you up. Everything that has happened, and is happening, and will happen is as it is to wake you up. To shake you awake. To stir you to life. So that you might be consciously alive in the time left for living. It’s all about you. Your life is the Truman Show, and the real point is Truman leaving the show, leaving his life, and stepping courageously into his life. You are Truman. So am I. Here’s to us.
We cannot live without trusting ourselves to ourselves, to our lives, to one another. Yet, all is not worthy of our trust. Part of the task of life is learning who is trustworthy and who is not. And, the learning is not intellectual, logical, rational. The learning is spiritual, of the soul. We learn to wake up, to be aware, to be conscious, and to lis-ten to what resonates with us and to trust ourselves to that knowing. And even when it proves to be not trustwor-thy, we don’t see that as evidence of the untrustworthiness of the way of resonation, but trust it to get us out of the situation it got us into. We trust ourselves to the way of resonation, to the way of awareness, to the way of consciousness, all the way to the finish line.
And, we have to come to terms with the facts that limit our lives. Life will not be like we want it to be. Certainly not for long. What are we going to do about that? Dance with it! Do what we can with it! Wake up to it! Square up to it! Live with it! Live in and around it! That’s part of the work of being alive.
Our lives may never be what we wish they were. If we can come to terms with that, make our peace with that, we have it made. To the extent that we can have it made. We cannot do much about the things that matter, but we must do what we can. We must do what can be done. We must live in the service of the best we can imagine within the terms and conditions, context and circumstances of our lives. We cannot acquiesce to death before we die. Everything depends upon our being alive in the service of the best we can imagine in the time left for living.
The point is to be as awake as we can be. The point isn’t to build pyramids or change the world. The point is to be as awake as we can be. That’ll change the world.