“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 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:
- Plunging into some (carefully discerned) arena of activity
- Allowing oneself to separate from familiar paths and ways of coping so that one can “not know”
- Allowing oneself to experience confusion, fear, and disorientation without jumping into denial or easy resolution of conflict
- Healing oneself and incorporating into one’s being the knowledge learned as part of this process
- 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. 
 Michael Lerner, Spirit Matters (Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc.: 2002), 264-265.
Inspiriting the World
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
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/