Saturday, March 20, 2010


As it turns out, I have given up church for Lent. 

Will I go back once Lent is over?  I don't know.  I have no idea what's going to happen next in any area of my life.  I'm out of control.  (I looked all over for it - I'm definitely out.)  Hurray!

Giving up attachment to stories.  Surrendering all goals except awakening, the paradox being that to awaken, even that goal must be surrendered.

Learning to say Yes to everything.  As someone very wise once pointed out, Yes is surrender.

I started out by giving up bitching for Lent.  That was the surface goal, but I recognized that to truly do this, I had to give up the negative thinking that leads to bitching in the first place, otherwise it would just be a sorry attempt at control.

When I announced my intention on my blog, Dan recommended Byron Katie and The Work.  I began to explore that website, then mentioned what I was discovering there to Jennifer, who suggested I also read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.  From there began an amazingly rapid process of unraveling:

To give up bitching I had to undo negative thinking.  To undo negative thinking I had to look at my beliefs, which led to examining the stories I tell myself, which led finally to seeing that all stories are untrue.  Even the good ones.

I came to the edge of this forest once before, a long time ago, but I wasn't ready to enter then.  There were still stories I wanted to believe, and I didn't understand that one doesn't come to Reality by denying the body (or the world) and its stories, but by fully entering into them with an alert and embracing yet questioning mind.

To see the world as illusion or Maya is not to blow it all off and sit in your head.  It's merely to perceive the deeper Reality that is the Source.  (I feel like A.A. Milne, using all these caps.)  That was one of my biggest stumbling blocks when I tried to come to this before, and I ultimately found myself lost.  That's when I turned to the Bible and church.

In adopting a biblical worldview, one of the greatest joys was in experiencing the earth and myself as Creation, as real.  (Now I'm thinking of The Velveteen Rabbit.)  Reading the Bible, especially some of the beautiful nature imagery in the Psalms, and shifting my worldview this way turned me into an environmentalist and a social activist, because I finally had permission to care, to love Creation and all of its creatures.  Before that, when I saw the world as illusion, as something to be transcended, I didn't see it at all let alone feel that I wanted to care for it.

And so I entered a new paradigm, one in which there was a true Presence and Creative Intelligence who loved the earth, who made it and continues to make it in every moment, and who - could it possibly be??? - loved me.  Forgave me.  A Being who I didn't have to keep trying to climb some endless ladder to get to, who was instead reaching down to me, just where I was with all of my flaws.  I spiritually relaxed for the first time in years, maybe ever.  I accepted the gift that I now saw was always being offered, and realized that this was all I'd ever had to do to be with God.  In Christianity, that gift comes in the form of Christ.

I had spent so much time and energy trying (and failing) to connect with a formless, distant God, that it was an immense relief to embrace the incarnate version.  So much more accessible.  The Son became for me the access point to the Divine and to my own incarnation, the intersection of the ineffable and the tangible.  This is one of the most important symbolic meanings of the cross for me.

It makes perfect sense to me that if there is a God that God would take the form of a human to be able to communicate in a language humans can hear and comprehend.

Now, as this most powerful and unexpected Lenten journey winds down toward Easter, I find myself considering anew the Resurrection.  There are those who never seem to get to that part of the story.  There are others who try to jump straight to it and miss the point of the way of the cross, which is about surrender, the ultimate Yes.  Without that Yes, resurrection is impossible.  However, the Yes can only happen because it sees the deeper Reality that makes resurrection not only possible but inevitable.

Asking if (or stating that) Jesus and the Resurrection really happened loses all importance when one comes to the point of view that nothing has ever really happened, no story is true except in the telling.  Anything with a beginning, middle, and end necessarily falls into the realm of illusion because the present moment is the only ultimately real thing, and the Being within it.

And so, as I contemplate the Jesus story during a time in which all stories are dissolving, what I see, the true beauty of this and any good story - which is any story rightly perceived - is that the point is to go beyond the story into the Yes, the surrender, the all-encompassing Now that is eternal reality.  In that Yes are both the crucifixion and the resurrection; in this one moment they occur simultaneously, and are seen for the stories they are. 

Gradual change occurs in an instant.  And now, all that's left is love.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Today is St. Patrick's Day,
I have no ritual, no essay. 

What was his story again?
Something green, about snakes
and the Christ.  The only interest
this holy day holds for me
now is the Breastplate, the invocation.
I arise today
Through the strength of Heaven 
My stories are dissolving, fading out,
like the last scene of a movie
when the landscape goes
out of focus until all is golden light
filling the screen. 
Light of the Sun
My stories are riding into the sunset,
they are getting married, and I am
giving them away,
they are dying in their sleep
of old age.
Radiance of Moon
I am turning
to poetry.
Splendor of Fire
The question has been posed:
Your desert island book?
For me, a very large anthology
of sacred poetry spanning
all times and places.
Speed of Lightning
My back is to St. Francis and my stories
go down with the sun behind him.
I am facing Sister Clare, and even she
has nothing to tell
but Shine.
Swiftness of Wind
All the stories are a trick of mirrors
and light.  Forget the mirror -
who needs it, when you have the source?
Depth of Sea
I have told the story of why
I joined the church,
of the horrors of self-made religion,
wrong-headedness and failure, the need
for cleansing.  Yes.
But this is only the part
that happens in front
of the audience, there is
also the backstage,
the fear of glimpses
of utter reality, absolute freedom
and emptiness, which sitting
in a church soothed for a while.
Four walls, a safe structure,
a place to lick wounds,
a well-lit path at the edge
of a forest that can never stop
Stability of Earth
I see the forest and the trees
as I stand among them
with no exposition,
no tale of bread crumbs, bears, or witches
to frighten, console, or instruct,
with in fact nothing
but an endless poem
that both does and does not
need me to get itself heard.
Firmness of Rock

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Conjunctive Mood

Recently my son was having trouble with his laptop; it was processing slower than he wanted it to, so I showed him how to defragment the hard drive.  While looking at the defrag screen together, he was confused, and asked how it works.  I said I wasn't entirely sure, but that it's a way of moving files together so there's no wasted space.

The analogy I used was that of a bookshelf, on which the books are disorganized and randomly placed, some standing, some in piles, with unused space in-between.  Defragmenting is like taking all the books and standing them up together to create more usable space.  It's a way of organizing.

I've been reading Eckhart Tolle's miraculous book, The Power of Now, and later that day I came across a passage that made me go deeper into the defragmentation analogy.  He says that the inability to feel connected to Being (a word he uses in place of "God") causes you to "perceive yourself consciously or unconsciously as an isolated fragment."  And I thought, when we feel this way we are like a book askew and alone on the shelf, unread, undusted, just taking up space.

Or we are like an instrument in the orchestra when the musicians are tuning up and there's no harmony.  Each instrument makes a sound with no connection to any other, and the result is discord, cacophony.

I have not been blogging much lately, partly because my outer life has become quite busy of necessity, but even more so because my inner life has been shifting radically.  I have been undergoing a defragmentation process.  The orchestra has stopped tuning up and the first few notes of coherence and harmony have begun.

This is happening because of some recent life events that have urged me to move away from the negative thought processes that have kept me fragmented.  Some of these events have been by choice, such as giving up bitching for Lent, and some of them have come from the "outside."  In conjunction with these events is the reading I've been doing of Tolle and of Byron Katie's book Loving What Is.  At this point, I must heartily thank Jennifer for directing me to Tolle and Dan for directing me to Byron Katie.  The fact that I was turned on to these amazing resources at the same time blows my mind.  Literally.  Because the purpose of these books is in fact completely aligned, and that purpose is undoing the egoic mind, bringing the Self into awareness and acceptance of reality in the moment.  Embodied in this is the realization that the mind is an instrument, yet only one in the whole orchestra.  It has its uses, but when it's allowed to run the show, the result is discord.

Within a few days of applying the principles of these books, I was experiencing and responding to life significantly differently.  (I will post more about this soon.)

Around the same time, I also drew a card from The Kabbalah Deck, and pulled the Hebrew letter Vov (or Vav), which means "and."

Edward Hoffman, the creator of The Kabbalah Deck, says that Vov "reveals that things seemingly separate and even contradictory...can be seen to comprise a higher unity.  With the right attentiveness, we can perceive the nature of that unity and thereby resolve conflicts."  This sounds uncannily related to the practice of Negative Capability (see my About Me section for the definition of this term.)  This quote shows why Negative Capability is important, and not as abstract and esoteric as it seems.  It's a practical process resulting in defragmentation.

And.  Such a little but powerful word.  The supreme conjunction.  And is the solution to fragmentation.  It is the empty space, the gap, the silence and stillness between things.  It's a powerful and always accessible koan. It's the reason I make collage, the very nature of it.  It joins all things.

Black and white.
Fire and water.
Male and female.
Inspiration and expiration.
Inner and outer.
Yes and no.
Past and future.

To meditate on the and is to truly apprehend the things it joins, but also to become less attached to them.  To see that higher unity, which cannot be understood by the egoic mind because its mantra is "or."

Interestingly, Vov is also associated with the ability to reverse past and future tenses in Biblical Hebrew.  According to, "the power of teshuvah  [repentance or returning to God] to completely convert one's past to good, is the power of the vav to invert the past to the future.

I see a connection here to English grammar's conjunctive mood (more commonly called the subjunctive mood).  This is a way of joining past, present, and future tenses, but can be done for different purposes and with different effects.

It can emphasize the present as the place where past and future meet, or in the case of expressing a wish, for example, it does almost the opposite.  It reaches to the past and the future with no real recognition of the present.  This is very fitting, since wishing by its very nature reaches to the future with no regard for the present.

But the conjunctive mood is also used for blessing, a way of coming fully into the present and allowing it to extend into the future.  For example, the conjunctive mood phrase, "Peace be with you" is for right now, but also a continuation into the future.  Same thing with "God bless you."  It's subtle, because the emphasis is on the present, as it should be.  The hint of future enters with the implied word: "May."  (May) peace be with you, (May) God bless you.  If the word was included, the emphasis would be on the future, but because it is not, the present-tense form of the verb is in the spotlight.

Interestingly, this type of construction is falling out of usage, and (according to Wikipedia) especially in the UK, for some reason.  In fact, there its usage is actually being fought.  What does this change reflect, I wonder?   

I like this construction; I like contemplating that even the ways we use language reflect our spiritual condition.  It is another vehicle for practicing Negative Capability, specifically with the paradoxical and mysterious nature of time.  I find myself living in a conjunctive mood these days.  And my favorite koan-ish conjunctive mood phrase, appropriate to end this contemplation with is:

So be it.


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