Being · Words

Thoughts on transformation

“Chrysalises both inspire and baffle me. The thought that a caterpillar can crawl into a sac made of its own body and dissolve its form and come out as a butterfly is a cliched image of transformation, but holy crap. Stop for a moment and really think about that. Does the caterpillar know this is going to happen? If it does that shows some tremendous trust. If it doesn’t, then that shows some incredible courage. It just hangs out there, isolating itself from the rest of the world and changing in ways it can never understand.”

—from “Into the Chrysalis” by Chris Corrigan

Being · Reflecting · Words

The Meaning of Life

From Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, December 28, 2019

Practice: The Meaning of Life

Michael Lerner is an American rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue in Berkeley, a political activist, and the editor of Tikkun, a Jewish interfaith magazine. Rabbi Lerner has shared my work with his audiences, noting the message of love and justice that flows through all the Abrahamic faiths and touches on all the great religious and spiritual traditions. In today’s practice, Rabbi Lerner imagines an education for the future where students would learn to engage in studies that would prepare them for spiritual transformation. In alignment with our consideration of “incarnation,” one of the topics students would explore is “Meaning of Life.” Lerner explains:

In this stream, students would learn about the various ways people have sought to discover a framework of meaning for life. Students would study art and poetry, music and dance, world literature and philosophy, religions and forms of spirituality. They would be encouraged to consider their own paths for finding meaning, and to develop rituals, poetry, music, and dance that fit the lives they are shaping for themselves or as part of ongoing communities of meaning.

Students would also be exposed to the range of human suffering, projects and strategies for ameliorating or reducing suffering, and the range of responses and attempts to give meaning to the suffering and the attempts to be with suffering without giving it any larger meaning. They would also be exposed to the ways people have sought to find meaning through community action, mutual support, and love. Many students will have already had their own exposure to suffering in their families and communities, but the school situation will give them a different a take: an opportunity to reflect on suffering and its meaning. So, too, students will explore experiences of unity, mystical luminosity and joy that are as much dimensions of life as suffering and cruelty.

Finally, students would be encouraged to prepare of a rite of passage that they, together with parents and teachers as advisors, devised for themselves: a kind of “hero’s quest” in which they were initiated into the realities of some aspect of adult life. Adapting from suggestions made by [Zen Roshi] Joan Halifax, I suggest that such a rite of passage would involve going through a process that would include:

  1. Plunging into some (carefully discerned) arena of activity
  2. Allowing oneself to separate from familiar paths and ways of coping so that one can “not know”
  3. Allowing oneself to experience confusion, fear, and disorientation without jumping into denial or easy resolution of conflict
  4. Healing oneself and incorporating into one’s being the knowledge learned as part of this process
  5. Ending with a firm determination to liberate oneself and the world from suffering.

[While] it could be argued that many students have already gone through stages “1” through “3,” few get to “4” or “5.” Commitment to healing oneself and making a commitment to liberation for self, others, and the world is an essential part of spiritual transformation. [1]

[1] Michael Lerner, Spirit Matters (Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc.: 2002), 264-265.

Becoming Perceptive · Creating

Curiosity

“Everybody is invited. When you say ‘creative people,’ it’s redundant. We are creativity. And we’ve done a great disservice to bifurcate it. And one of the things I’ve been saying a lot to people is that we keep telling people to follow their passion and I feel that that can be an intimidating and an almost cruel thing to say to people at times because first of all if somebody has one central powerful burning passion, they’re probably already following it because that’s sort of the definition of passion is that you don’t have a choice. If you don’t, which is a lot of people, have one central burning passion and somebody tells you to follow your passion, I think you have the right to give them the finger…because it just makes you feel worse. So I always say to people, forget it. If you don’t have an obvious passion, forget about it. Follow your curiosity. Because passion is sort of a tower of flame that is not always accessible and curiosity is something that anybody can access any day. Your curiosity may lead you to your passion or it may not, it may have been for air quotes ‘nothing’ in which case all you’ve done your entire life is spend your existence in pursuit of things that made you feel curious and inspired. And that should be good enough. Like if you get to do that, that’s a wonderful way to spend your time here.” (emphasis mine)

–transcribed from “The Source of Creativity,” TED Radio Hour, “Elizabeth Gilbert: Where does creativity come from?”, December 27, 2019

Being · Words

Incarnation

Inspiriting the World
What I am calling an incarnational worldview is the profound recognition of the presence of the divine in literally “every thing” and “every one.” It is the key to mental and spiritual health as well as to a kind of basic contentment and happiness. An incarnational worldview is the only way we can reconcile our inner worlds with the outer one, unity with diversity, physical with spiritual, individual with corporate, and divine with human.

Every time you take in a breath, you are repeating the pattern of taking spirit into matter, and thus repeating the first creation of Adam. And every time you breathe out, you are repeating the pattern of returning spirit to the material universe. In a way, every exhalation is a “little dying” as you pay the price of inspiriting the world. Your simple breathing models your entire vocation as a human being. Like Christ, you are an incarnation of matter and spirit operating as one. This, more than anything we believe or accomplish, is how all of us continue the mystery of incarnation in space and time—either knowingly and joyfully or not.

–Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, December 26, 2019, From the Center for Action and Contemplation

Love

Love came down at Christmas

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine;
love was born at Christmas
star and angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
love incarnate, love divine;
worship we our Jesus
what shall be our sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
love be yours and love be mine;
love to God and neighbour,
love for prayer and gift and sign.

—Love came down at Christmas, Christina G Rossetti (1830 – 1894)

Being · Reflecting

…to be human?

Ms. Tippett:Yes, yes. I do want to ask you this question, and I don’t ask everybody this question, because it’s enormous. But how would you begin, given the life you’ve lived, the things you care about and see, how would you begin right now to answer the question of what you’ve learned about what it means to be human?

Ms. Perel:I think that what it means to be human — there are many ways to answer it, but what comes up for me immediately is, we all come into this world with a need for connection and protection and with a need for freedom. And from the first moment on, we will be straddling these two needs — what is me, and what is us? The common parlance today is, “I need to first work on myself; I need to first feel good about me; solve me before I can be with somebody else,” and I find that also a strange thought. You know who you are, you discover who you are in the presence of another.

So this constant dance between me and you, between I and thou, is at the core of being human. What right do I have to do for me when it hurts you? How much can I ask for me and not give to you? How much do I give to you until I feel that I have not given enough to myself? How much do I make sure not to lose you but lose me in the process? Or how much do I have to hold onto me but lose you in the process? That tension, that dance, for me, is very much at the core of being human — freedom and responsibility, which probably is kind of the core of existentialist thinking.

–from Krista Tippett and Esther Perel on http://www.dailygood.org/story/2441/esther-perel-the-constant-dance-between-me-and-you-on-being/

Becoming Perceptive · Words

“…deepen this intentionality and this attention…”

“…I was really interested in the way that the “I” deepened the more you paid attention. In Galapagos, I began to realize that because I was in deeply attentive states, hour after hour, watching animals and birds and landscapes — and that’s all I did for almost two years — I began to realize that my identity depended not upon any beliefs I had, inherited beliefs or manufactured beliefs, but my identity actually depended on how much attention I was paying to things that were other than myself — and that as you deepen this intentionality and this attention, you started to broaden and deepen your own sense of presence.

I began to realize that the only places where things were actually real was at this frontier between what you think is you and what you think is not you, that whatever you desire of the world will not come to pass exactly as you will like it. But the other mercy is that whatever the world desires of you will also not come to pass, and what actually occurs is this meeting, this frontier. But it’s astonishing how much time human beings spend away from that frontier, abstracting themselves out of their bodies, out of their direct experience, and out of a deeper, broader, and wider possible future that’s waiting for them if they hold the conversation at that frontier level. Half of what’s about to occur is unknown both inside you and outside you. John O’Donohue, a mutual friend of both of us, used to say that one of the necessary tasks is this radical letting alone of yourself in the world, letting the world speak in its own voice and letting this deeper sense of yourself speak out.”

—David Whyte, On Being with Krista Tippett

Feeling · Love · Words

Do unto…

“But if you stop and think about it, what better way could there be for me to actively pursue the God I did not make up—the one I cannot see—than to try for even twelve seconds to love these brothers and sisters whom I can see? What better way to shatter my custom-made divine mosaic than to accept that these fundamentally irritating and sometimes frightening people are also made in the image of God? Honest to goodness, with a gospel like that you could empty a church right out. Yet this, in a nutshell, is the monumental spiritual challenge of living with religious difference—and more centrally than that—of living with anyone who does not happen to be me. “Love God in the person standing right in front of you,” the Jesus of my understanding says, “or forget the whole thing, because if you cannot do that, then you are just going to keep making shit up.” It took my husband, Ed, and me years to make peace with that truth. I keep thinking he likes cities, but that is me, not him. He keeps thinking I like power tools, but that is him, not me. When he is hurt, he likes to be held. When I am hurt, I like to be left alone until the urge to bite someone passes. Now Ed and I operate by our first amendment to the Golden Rule, which is not “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” but “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them (instead of thinking they are just like you).” (Emphasis mine)

Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others by Barbara Brown Taylor, 2018

Faith · Love · Words

Entanglements

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation

From the Center for Action and Contemplation

Science: Old and New

The Field of Love

Thursday, November 7, 2019

“…I like to describe this phenomenon as the experiential “force field” of the Holy Spirit. One stays in this positive force field whenever one loves, cares, is in solidarity with, or serves with positive energy. In Trinitarian theology, the Holy Spirit is foundationally described as the field of love between the Father and the Son. When people stand in this place and rest in love as their home base, they become quite usable by God, and their lives are filled with quantum entanglements that may result in very real healings, forgiveness, answered prayers, and new freedom for those whom they include in the force field with them. (Is that what it means to pray for someone?) Conversely, there are people who carry death wherever they go; they can pull almost anyone into their negative force field. (Is this hell?)

I know that when I regress into any kind of intentional negativity toward anything or anybody, even in my mind, I am actually hurting and harming them and myself. Each of us moves things along in the direction of violence every time we fail to love. In one of my favorite books, An Interrupted Life, a young imprisoned Jew in Nazi Germany, Etty Hillesum, says straightforwardly, “Each of us must turn inwards and destroy in [ourselves] all that [we think we] ought to destroy in others. And remember that every atom of hate we add to this world makes it still more inhospitable.” [2] It surely follows that each of us moves things along in the direction of healing and wholeness each time we choose to love. It is always a choice and a decision.

We must deliberately choose to be instruments of peace—first of all in our minds and hearts. This is conscious quantum entanglement. God is not “in” heaven nearly as much as God is the force field that allows us to create heaven through our intentions and actions.” (emphasis mine)

[1] For a simple scientific explanation of quantum entanglement, see this brief video from Science News: https://youtu.be/6yfWdb-JOA8.   

[2] Etty Hillesum, diary entry (September 23, 1942), An Interrupted Life: The Diaries of Etty Hillesum, 19411943, trans. Arno Pomerans (Pantheon Books: 1983), 180.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Quantum Entanglement,” the Mendicant, vol. 4, no. 6(Center for Action and Contemplation: November 2014), 1.