Sunday, March 28, 2010

We Grow Into The Unknown

What I am about here is the orchestration of perception. I take the director’s baton and tap, tap, tap, bring into harmonious arrangement the squawking chaos of discordant perspectives by inviting you to speak your truth of the particular part you are to the receptive ear of the whole. Our voices unite us in the oneness of expression when, speaking, we are heard, respected, honored, well received and understood.

Each of you has your own way of seeing, your own way of apprehending and assessing reality. I am not about to talk you into seeing the way I see, into valuing what I value, into thinking the way I think, but. By saying what I see and think, I can force you into reacting to what I say, into thinking about what I say, into thinking for yourself about what I say—and if I can get you to think about your reaction, to dig into it, the exploration can be fruitful. You may well deepen, expand, enlarge your thinking just by thinking about your thinking. Or, you may just retrench yourself in your preferred pattern of thought. Oh well.

But the rule here is to dig where there is water, where there is emotional response to what you see and hear. Opposition is as valuable as agreement. What we are looking for is the emotional level of your response. The more stirred up you are, either positively or negatively, the better. Explore your reaction. What buttons am I pushing? Why are they hot for you? What memories come to mind in relation to that button being pushed? Talk to the reactive side of yourself. Interview her, him. See what she, what he, has to say. Spend time digging down to the heart of the matter. Poke around in the muck. See what is there. What ALL is there.

What I’m good for is waking you up to you, inviting you to meet yourself, your own thoughts and explore where they come from, where they lead. You have to do the work of figuring out why you are responding to me as you are. It isn’t a matter of getting me to be more like you want me to be, to say more of what you want me to say, but of examining your desire to change me. What’s up with that, as they say.

The same goes for your reaction to one another, to what the other is saying. What is going on? You have to do the work required to know. You have to trace things back to the source in order to find and face what is there. It isn’t enough to say, “Oh, I know what this is about,” and letting it go at that. Pretend you don’t know, or recognize that you don’t know all there is to know. Dig into what it is about. Sit with it. See what comes, what happens. What is being asked of you? What response do you need to make?

We are all blind to what we do not want to see, but. What needs to be seen is constantly coming at us in our physical and emotional reactions to our life experience, and in our dreams. Something is trying to get us to see what we do not want to see. We have to learn to look. This is our spiritual work, looking at what we do not want to see. This is the next piece of the puzzle, the next step in the journey. It has nothing to do with agreement or disagreement with what instigates the reaction. It has to do with following the reaction to its source and seeing what is there to deal with, or follow, or serve. What is there? We have to face the demon, to call it by name, and see what happens.

This is called knowing what is true and what is also true, or knowing how things are and how things also are. We do not know what we do not know, and so, we have to be wondering what else is there, what more there is to know. We grow into the unknown, into the unknown that we don’t know anything about, and into the unknown aspects of what we think we know very well, including ourselves.

We are an aspect of the mystery that we do not know. Life is not so much about getting what we want and arranging our lives like we want them to be, but about knowing who we are, who else we are, who all we are, by opening ourselves to what else is there. We open ourselves to the mystery and assist the unconscious, unknown, energies that are calling our name, beckoning us to take up our work of knowing and becoming who we are, doing the work that is ours to do, and aligning ourselves with the life that is ours to live. This is lived spirituality. It is not head stuff, thinking and believing certain ways. It is life stuff, living the life that is right for us, the life that we are created to live, by stepping into the mystery, into the unknown, trusting ourselves to it, singing our own song, and living the adventure that is our life. Amen! May it be so!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Carrying the Imago Dei to Term

We have to do the work required to bring ourselves forth. There is nothing automatic or natural about the process of the “second birth.” It is brought on by the realization of dissatisfaction with the world as it is, of the emptiness and insufficiency of the wasteland that is our life. And if our life does not seem to be a wasteland, if we are breezing right along with everything as it should be and nothing more than the usual complaints about the weather and politicians to disrupt the flow, then there is no reason to question the framework within which we live, or the structure we have been told holds things in place.

It takes an encounter with unwanted reality to shock us into the realization that the way we have been told things are is not the way things are. Without that, things rock along in an acceptable kind of way, and we live out our days without raising our eyes to the possibilities or digging a well to the waters of life flowing beneath our feet.

We have to be awakened to the inability of our life to sustain itself with a diet of physical food and drink. A tree may get all it needs from the nutrients in soil, water, light and air, but it takes more than that for human beings. We have to be grounded, rooted, in a different medium. We depend upon a vibrant connection with life beyond life, beyond the physical, biological, necessities of life—a life that flows with meaning and purpose and the freedom to explore our interests and devote ourselves to the work of giving physical expression to our creative imagination.

We plant things and paint things and build things and draw things. We see how things could be and work to bring that forth in our lives, and that work brings us to life in a way that a proper diet and exercise could never produce. There is something about us, something within us, that needs to become actual, tangible, real, through us in the world. It is not enough to be born. We are born as carriers, as hosts, of a different sort of life requiring a different sort of birth, and we live our lives giving birth again and again to different manifestations of the creative spirit that dwells within.

It sometimes takes a jolt of reality to wake us up to the failure of the things that are supposed to be satisfying to satisfy, and to send us on the search of the things of lasting, one might say, “eternal,” value. We cannot buy the things that matter, but we can buy the tools to produce the things that matter, to do the things that matter. To do that, of course, we have to know, we have to find, the things that matter. Not the things that are supposed to matter. Not the things someone else tells us matter. But the things that matter because we know, we say, they matter. We find those things by taking up the practice of listening to our lives, of noticing our body’s response to our lives, in order to find what “clicks” with us, what resonates with us, and what does not.

Resonation is the key. Too often, we build our lives around the things we are supposed to do, or the things that are supposed to be fulfilling, when we experience dissonance, not resonance, in response to those things. When we ignore the disparity between how we are supposed to feel and how we actually feel we pay a price. We have to be alert to the sense of being out-of-alignment, out-of-sync, out-of-harmony, and move away from discord to accord in order to find the spiritual ground of our lives, the environment where our spirit thrives, and life takes on new meaning.

We are the point of contact between worlds, and our work is always to connect the worlds, to bring forth the inner, spiritual, world into the outer world of normal, apparent, reality. It used to be that the physical world was filled with messages and directives, signs and portents, from the unconscious. Then we came "of age." And now our task is finding our way back to the land we once knew by paying attention to instinct, being aware of intuition. Looking, listening. The process is to look, listen, see, hear, understand, know, do, be. If we get that down, we save the world.

We save the world by being the self we are called to be. The self we are called to be is the Image of God, the Imago Dei, the Christ within. The Imago Dei is a mustard seed, yeast in the dough, invisibly influential. Cast aside by the builders, transforming the world. You. Me. Us. This is the self within we are called to bring forth, to birth in our lives. We are mid-wives here to assist the birthing of the Imago Dei through us into the world. We are the Virgin bringing forth the Bebe Jesus. Our task is always to take the circumstances and conditions of life, of the moment, and imagine how to use them to bring forth the life within. In so doing, we come alive in the fullest possible sense of the word, and, yes, save the world!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

It's A New World

Paul couldn’t know what we know and think the way he thought. For one thing, his idea about the immediacy of Christ’s return in apocalyptic glory to institute the cosmic reign of the kingdom of God would go swiftly out of the window, and he would have to go back to the desert for another three years in order to come up with a newer way of understanding the implications of the life and death and resurrection appearances of Jesus. He would have to make sense of things in a different way. Which is exactly the work that is ours to do. We have to make sense of things in a way that is dramatically different from the way Paul and the apostles made sense of things. What they thought has not been borne out in our experience. We cannot think the way they thought.

This flashes us back to the Wednesday night program this past week. We watched part two in a series about the movement from Jesus to Christ, from the Jesus Movement to Christianity. The narrator mentioned that in the aftermath of the death of Jesus the tradition that had built up around the idea of the Messiah had to be reinterpreted. How many times throughout history have traditional assumptions and expectations had to be reinterpreted in light of events and experience that did not bear them out?

The end is always near. The world as we know it is always coming to an end. We are always having to rethink, re-imagine, re-work, the traditions to take into account the contradictions and incompatibilities between what we have been told and what we experience. We are always coming up against some reality that doesn't square with how we think things are, with how we wish things were, with how we want things to be. That's the end of that world. Poof. Gone.

How many worlds have come and gone? Ways of life, civilizations, ideas about how things are? When the parents divorce, the child's world goes. How many times have the traditions been reinterpreted, revised, to fit new realities, new worlds, incompatible with the old way of seeing? How many traditions, sacred truths, blessed convictions, have dissolved before the advance of a new way of seeing? Don't hold on too tightly to how you think things are! “It’s a new world, Golda!” And a newer one is on the way! Successful religions reinterpret their traditions in light of the new world that has dawned. Unsuccessful religions collapse when their cornerstone beliefs are not sustained by their life experience.

The work of religion is the work of squaring us up with the conditions of the world that greet us at birth. And, at some point in our lives, we have to return the favor and do the work of squaring our religion up with the changing conditions of life which no longer support the beliefs and constructs of our religion. Copernicus and Galileo and Darwin and Jung have given us a world the old religious assumptions don’t fit, and we have to re-think the traditions to take the new world into account, or else.

Always the question: What does this have to do with that? What does this world have to do with that one? What do those traditional ways of seeing and thinking have to do with this new way of seeing and thinking about the world in which we live? What do those stories, that system of beliefs, have to do with this turn of events, this reality?

The movement of soul, the spiritual journey, is always from bondage to freedom—from bondage to the old way of thinking, seeing, being—from bondage to the old traditions—to the freedom of new life, new vision, new ways of thinking, seeing, being. This is the message of Easter, Resurrection, and New Birth. The old has passed away, behold the new has come. And within a generation or less, this new will be old and will be replaced by a newer New, and we will have to move again from bondage to the old way of perceiving reality to the freedom of another new way of beholding the world and our place in it.

Ours is the task of reinterpreting, re-thinking, the old traditions, the old symbols. They are not automatically relevant, pertinent, meaningful. What does that say to this? We have to rework the traditions to make the connections, but, the work is not easy. Who wants to do the work of rethinking, reworking, the old symbols? Who wants to think, reflect, wonder, imagine, struggle to make new connections? Distractions are easier, diversions are more fun. Who has time to spend in the search for meaning and purpose when Wii waits? Wii will have to wait, because no one can re-work the symbols, the traditions, for us. Each of us must do the work for herself, himself. We cannot be told what there is to know, see, understand, perceive, grasp, get. Truth cannot be explained to us. We have to do the work. We have to find a symbol or image that moves us. Listen to it. Follow where it takes us, into the far reaches of a brand new world.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Integrity Is So The Point

Integrity is the highest good. We live with integrity when we live so that outer reflects inner, so that Thou Art That, consciously, intentionally, and the unitive Oneness is apparent, real in our lives. Joseph Campbell says “We should become transparent to transcendence.” He means that we, that our lives, should be like panes of glass through which Transcendent Reality shines. We should live our lives so as to exhibit, express, bring forth, make plain the truth of the transcendent core, or heart, or soul of who we are. There is always more to us than meets the eye, and we are to live so as to bring that forth, giving it birth, bringing it to life in the world of normal, apparent, reality.

This is the work of Incarnation. When we align ourselves with our life, with the life we are called to live, the transcendent source of life shines through our living. We are “transparent to transcendence,” and God is known. This is how we are called to live. This is how Jesus lived: “The Father and I are one. When you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” Or, as Paul says it, “It is no longer I who live, but (the) Christ who lives in me.” That’s it. And what prevents it? What gets in the way of that? Oh, everything. Our wishes, wants, desires, fears, ambitions… Our ideas of how our life should be lived. WE get in the way of that. And so, the work—the spiritual task, quest, journey, path—is to get out of the way!

Our life is not a long list of things to get done—to accomplish, achieve, acquire, amass—before we die, and it isn't a place to hang out until we die, it's where we bring forth who we are born, who we are called, to be. Joseph Campbell says, “Each of us has a track to find and follow.” Our life is our canvass and we are the masterpiece we produce by living it. But that is not something we think up and force into being. We don’t produce ourselves so much as align ourselves with ourselves. We acquiesce to the Self within—the Self we are called to be. WE become transparent to the Self within which transcends our idea of who we want to be. We surprise ourselves with who we are.

It isn't easy, being who we are, living the life that is ours to live. Better to be invisible, to go along to get along, to make no waves. The world blends us into its way of doing things. It's easier when we don't think, resist, react, but just go along like unconscious cows. Yet, to make no waves is to disappear beneath the water, to drown in the great corporate sea of unconsciousness that does what is supposed to be done without knowing what it is doing.

But, it's hard enough finding a parking place, remembering what we need at the grocery store. We have too much already on our minds. The life that is ours to live is on its own. We don't want to have to think about who we are and what is ours to do. Inner work is more than we can manage. And it is essential that we do it!

Inner work begins with paying attention to our body. Joseph Campbell says, “Your body is a vehicle of consciousness.” We are consciousness becoming conscious! We become conscious by becoming conscious of our body and its reaction to our experience. Our body’s reaction to external experience is a bridge to the inner world. When we become conscious of our body’s reaction to external experience, we can follow that reaction to its source in the inner world and become aware of what meets us there. Our experience of our experience transforms our lives. Inner world meets outer world. Who we are is incarnated in how we live.

This is much different from memorizing creeds and believing what we are told to believe out of a book of doctrine. What is within that needs to be brought forth, birthed, expressed, made known? How do we place ourselves in its service? Find who we are? Make ourselves transparent to transcendence? These are the questions which ground us in spiritual reality and save the world.

Our work is to find and live our own lives, to be who we are, who we are called to be, within the time and place of our living. Human beings in primal societies have always understood our true work as being that of maintaining alignment with soul, with the unconscious, invisible, spiritual world. As civilization developed, we set that understanding aside in order to serve our own ambitions, desires, and ideas of what was important. That hasn’t turned out so well, and our lives are empty, devoid of meaning, and our life is a wasteland. Now, we are at the point of finding our way back to listening to what the inner, spiritual, world has to say, and collaborating with it along the way.

How do we consciously make ourselves a partner with the unconscious, with the unknown, with what we don’t know? How do we attend, commune with, the inner voices? How do we honor the inner world and recognize it as a full partner in the work of finding our way along the way? The answers to these questions constitute the work of soul. It is the work of aligning ourselves with our lives, and waits for us to take it up and become who we are.