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.