In feedback from my last post about anthropomorphism I was struck that two commenters pointed out a connection to the kinds of jobs and livelihoods that the current system makes available, and more specifically how these modern jobs are miserable, monotonous, and demeaning Continue reading “Work and Jobs”
anthropomorphic: ascribing human form or attributes to a being or thing not human, especially to a deity. – – Dictionary.com
I’m at mass in a Catholic church: a beautiful, modern church filled with flowers, warm wood panelling and richly colored stained glass. Continue reading “Anthropomorphic”
Images of Madam Pele, the Hawaiian Goddess of Fire, resemble the flames seen in flowing lava. When she erupts she is passion incarnate, bringing destruction and creation at the same time.
“When you don’t know you are connected and one, you will invariably resort to some form of violence to get the dignity and power you lack. When you can become little enough, naked enough, and honest enough, then you will ironically find that you are more than enough. At this place of poverty and freedom, you have nothing to prove and nothing to protect. Here you can connect with everything and everyone. Everything belongs.” [from Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, Monday September 18. His topic is Nonviolence]
When we think of nonviolence we usually think of how it applies to our relationship to other humans. When we think of helping those in need we think of people suffering. Certainly our human relationships are important to consider, but I think we also need to see that all of life on earth belongs and deserves thoughtfulness and consideration.
The soul of earth shelters us all.
If you stop in the woods, or move unobtrusively, and make a point of noticing, you discover there’s a lot going on.
It takes a few minutes, like eyes adjusting to the dark, before your senses re-tune. There are birds and rustlings, and puffs of air across your skin. Your nostrils open to the cacophony of scent. After a while longer, maybe an hour, a kind of spatial synaesthesia has taken over. The area around you is abuzz with conversation. In all directions stories are unfolding, on various temporal scales. Insects whirr and trees sigh. The ripples from your presence on the scene are noted and are fed back to you, and you become aware of that too.
You experience these stimuli as intimately as if your surroundings have become an extension of your body. It feels awesome. The woods themselves are your organs of perception. They and everything that’s in them seem to be doing the thinking for you. What’s left is a kind of heightened sixth sense. Like waking into a lighter and immeasurably more alert state.
Is that how it is for the wild ones, all of the time?
It may have been an effort at first to “notice”, but when it’s time to trudge back to normality you find it’s almost a greater effort to switch off that enveloping hum, to shut your senses down and buckle into the familiar mental harness. There’s a boundless dialogue of life going on out there and the denizens of the wildwood are all a part of it. But we, the tamed ones, mostly blunder through insensate, having fenced ourselves off mentally and physically.
Why would we do that I wonder? How much was really gained in return for all that we lost?
Spirituality came easy for me, being “normal” was hard. As a child I was allowed to wander alone in the woods, old farm buildings, pasture, and along the creek. We lived in the small house on my grandparent’s farm, while my grandmother and uncle lived in the big house. I would tell my mother I was going over to Grandma’s house and head off exploring. Thinking back on it I realize it was probably odd that a four year old would be allowed to wander alone, especially one who tended to be on the adventurous side.
I remember one beautiful sunny day sitting on the sand along the creek entranced by the sound of flowing water and bird song. I remember being intrigued by the concept of God I’d heard about in church. I was curious about what this God might be. The sunlight was reflecting off the water and it seemed to dance as it sparkled. The longer I watched it the more mesmerizing it was. At some point I began to see the sunlight as simply energy, and then as I shifted my focus I could see the water itself was the same energy. As I continued to shift my focus closer and closer, I could see that everything I looked at was all made up of this same energy. The sand on the beach, my foot, my leg, my body, everything around me, the entire world, was made up of this energy. I thought, “Oh, this is God”.
Right at that moment it was like my mind just opened up. I’ve heard it described as “seeing behind the curtain” and it is probably a good analogy. This chain of simple realizations opened up my mind to a sense of belonging, a full and total acceptance between me and the universe. I was filled with a feeling that for a long time I described as “God smiling” upon me. I felt truly and completely loved, “a child of God”. That realization has never left me.
Over the years I’ve come to describe such moments as “mystical experiences”; things scientists would say are not reproducible. I think everyone has them whether we accept them or not. They can be life changing, but not always in ways we find blissful. Early mystical experiences led to years when I struggled to understand what my life was meant to be, what I should be doing with my life. I’ve gone in many missed directions, and had to retrace my steps. I learned to quiet my mind and strengthen my concentration through the practice of meditation and it helped me calm the storms whirling in my life.
Over time, my understanding of “God” matured and changed.
Theism focuses on an entity labeled God/Allah/Brahma etc. I think we go through a phase of human development, a time when we need to believe in a spiritual “parent” to guide and protect us. This was when I prayed to Heavenly Father/Divine Mother for guidance and support. Non-theist religions look inward at personal development, letting go of ego identity. This was when I worked to understand “who am I?”
I’ve come to believe that at the heart of every religion we are taught to follow moral precepts; how to live a good life, how to treat others decently. Unfortunately, religious beliefs can also be an excuse for intolerance, prejudice, violence, and atrocities. I think of the world’s religions as different paths, like the spokes of a wheel all leading to the center. Life spins around and around at the periphery, where we are searching for meaning and answers. Now and then we reach for the center, the calm where the storm ends or rather a place from which we can view the storm as opposed to be caught up in it.
I think each of us is on a journey, finding our own personal authentic spiritual truth. For me the path I followed explored mysticism from many different religious teachings including Christianity, Hinduism, Jainism, Taoism, Sufism, and Buddhism. For others, one path is sufficient. Every path taught me in some form to have “Reverence for all life”, to respect life, to love ‘other’ as well as ‘self’. For me truth is that life is interconnected and sacred, every person every creature is sacred and spiritual. I think for some it is easier to see the sacred or spiritual in the beauty of the natural world. It is harder to see the sacred in the messy and sometimes painful human world too often filled with greed, anger, hatred, or violence. Seeing the sacred requires that our “eyes and heart” are open.
There is that Zen saying “Before enlightenment, we chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, we chop wood and carry water”. When we are fortunate enough to see behind the curtain, we come back and the mundane world looks the same, but now we know there is a curtain. Look long enough and the curtain itself is revealed as ephemeral, there is no true separation. It’s all energy, it’s all sacred, it’s all mundane, and it’s all here for us to experience in a myriad of ways, every moment of every day.
Life is a mystery we accept, not explain. Words like spiritual or God are not the whole truth, for “the Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao”… Words and ideas, secular or sacred, will never capture the entire truth, no matter how reproducible nor how much we believe them to be true. They can only ever be stepping stones across a stream.
“I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.” D. H. Lawrence.
Michelle wrote : That kind of acceptance of the world is an amazing thing to contemplate.
Somewhere along the road to finding deeper spiritual meaning in life I was taught to believe the path to self-improvement required looking inside and finding my true “self”. My inner self was unique, separate from others around me. Only in finding my true self could I find the way to improve my life. But over years spent looking inward I’ve come to realize the faulty premise of this idea is the existence of a separate ‘true’ self. There is no separate self. There is only awareness of being alive, in relation to others.
Michael Puett and Christine Gross-Loh wrote an article titled “Forget mindfulness, stop trying to find yourself and start faking it.” Puett teaches Chinese Philosophy at Harvard. They wrote ‘We are multifaceted, messy selves who develop by looking outward, not inward. Our personalities are formed through everything we do: how we interact with others, our reactions to things, the activities we pursue. Each of us is a complicated being bumping up against other complicated beings all day. Each encounter draws out different aspects. Who we are consists of behavior patterns and emotional ruts we’ve fallen into over time – but that means we also consist of numerous possibilities of what we can become.” Dr. Puett summarizes these ideas in a TED talk [Why it’s better to stop searching for your true self | Michael Puett | TEDxNashville].
I’ve come to realize the validity of his message, perhaps the same thinking D.H. Lawrence expressed in the quote above. When we look at the world we experience as being connected to instead of divided from others, life emerges as a flow of energies ever-changing and dynamic. We stop feeling that we are separate and divided from others. Each moment who “I” am is changing…my feelings about what is happening are changing, my thoughts and ideas about what is happening are changing, and my relationship with others is changing. The belief that there is an eternal “I”, distinct and separate from others is false. We are not something separate from the world we live in. Others around us are not something to conquer or overcome, to win against in competition. We feel most alive through our connections with others. Our relationships give the richest meaning to living.
The bird does not feel sorry for itself, because it does not see it’s self as separate. There is no “self” for whom to feel sorry. There is only the cold, the branch, and the release into death. That kind of acceptance is an amazing thing to contemplate!