Saturday, March 20, 2010

Backstory

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.

19 comments:

  1. Lots to think about here. I consider myself to be quite spiritual, but left both the Lutheran and Episcopal Churches (was a member of both). This post pulls me in to consider why it is I left, why I don't want to go back, but why others find such meaning in Christianity. It's a good conversation, a good search to have within myself. I like your thought about how it would make sense for God to speak a language humans could understand. God to me seems like it must be so much grander than a human mind could fathom, but bridging that gap to be accessible to humans does follow a certain logic.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm sorry. I had to take a moment to come to this page with a clear head and really process it as it was intended. I found it transcendent. The turmoil, your ever-deepening quest to accomplish your Lenten goals (and the Nancy Drew-like investigation it led you on); your transition from Father to Son; powerful stuff, well worth the consideration you've given it. I'm afraid I can't offer any further insights, or dissect or discuss your statements as they deserve, not being part of the religion; I will say that I find this a sensible and informative discussion of practical relationships with the divine.

    (One thing I always appreciated about my Lutheran friends at college, in fact; they focused less on the flighty, insubstantial, and intangible and more on the straightforward, moralistic, common-sense, hands-on and incarnate approach to their faith.)

    Your writing here, also, is transcendent. Eloquent. Superb. You've outdone yourself this time:

    "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."

    Move over, Kant. And get thee to a cathedral.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Lovely, thoughtful post.

    I don't think the Church fathers would want their parishioners to give up church for Lent. But it could be a god idea. I meant good idea, i think.

    "Gradual change occurs in an instant." That reminds me of a friend of mine who's worked 35 years as a failed musician who's at this moment at the cusp of some notoriety. He says he's now, after 35 years of obscurity finally about to become an "overnight" success.




    You finish with a sublime thought---

    "And now, all that's left is love."

    Perhaps Love is all there ever really was.

    Even in church.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hello Polly

    an epiphany?

    Happy days

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thoughtful and lovely writing indeed. I'm looking forward to the next steps in your journey.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I cracked up at you new twist on "out of control." Love it!!!

    I love when Pema Chodron says, "Drop below the story line." It is a constant reminder for me. When I allow that to happen I find it to be true...what you said..."all that's left is love."

    ReplyDelete
  7. "...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."

    Profound. Yes! What came first, the chicken or the egg? Negative thinking leads to bitching.

    I am at war with this myself, as you well can imagine.

    I'm coming back to read this post over when I'm not all hopped up on cold medicine.

    Miss you tremendously.

    ReplyDelete
  8. All i know is that i want to touch the nail scarred hands and feel the real embrace of his body when the time is right.....i'll bank on that...

    i loved this very much.

    '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.

    ReplyDelete
  9. "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!"

    I love this paragraph! Wonderful.

    When awareness of real RIGHT NOW reality came to my attention I was fickle at first, it has come full circle for me - and so I am where I am, and I am okay whether I am or am not there! : ) I'm just glad to really be where I am wherever that is anyway!

    I smiled a lot reading this and still...I am smiling.

    ReplyDelete
  10. You are definitely undergoing a rite of passage, an initiation. The unraveling is always such a relief.

    I hope you'll design for yourself some ritual of re-birthing, maybe Easter is the right way to do it. Or maybe you'll need to unravel further. I've done a lot of initiations personally and have been a guide for others on the path. If you want to know more about what I think helps the process along, pls. email reaysdottir@verizon.net.

    Or just have a great time unwinding! xx & congrats!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Maybe Easter is the right DAY to do it.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Suddenly, I remember James Fowler's The Stages of Faith and Bishop Spong's Jesus for the Non Religious. Not I am suggesting that you read them.

    You seem to be in a great place, the place of not-knowing, the place where we each are if we are honest with that point at the center of us. When it all boils down to love, who wants more?

    It is exciting, Polli. And inspiring as well!

    Blessings.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I would think that to see the world as an illusion or maya is to recognise it as transient, momentary in the scale of the universe.

    Somehow the thought of permanence about anything can induce stress in handling, but if it were a mere illusion we might still be able to put up with it.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Wow. I clicked over from Postman's blog, not knowing that I would find traces of mySelf, both in your writing and in that of your commenters.

    I, too, am in metamorphosis. Each surrender seems to be deeper and more intense than the last. In digesting your thoughts, I recognize that I'm barely past a particularly intense struggle phase, and that quiet and rest are to follow.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, you truly are a connector, a bridge, a pollinatrix. Thank you. I'll be back.

    ReplyDelete
  15. DG - My evolution seems to be that while I continue to find meaning in Christianity, I'm becoming less attached to church involvement.

    Postie - Once again, you've outdone yourself with the comparisons. Nancy Drew and Kant? Ok. I'll take it. I was a huge Nancy Drew fan as a girl; I really wanted "Titian" hair.

    Dan - I love your pun.

    Yes, I believe that's it - Love is all there ever was or is, underneath the noisy phantom of our minds.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Delwyn - More than an epiphany, or at least any I've had before. Or it's like all the epiphanies are finally being truly integrated.

    Tess - Thank you. Oh - I just realized I've been meaning to thank you for my book. It arrived in the mail the other day.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Jenny - I adore Pema Chodron. She's the cutest little powerhouse of wisdom ever.

    EC - I hope your cold is better.

    Todd - Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Jennifer - You make me giggle. Your comment reads a little like Dr. Seuss, and is delightful in the same way.

    Reya - Yes, the relief of unraveling - a great way to put it. Thanks for the suggestion/offer. Part of the whole thing right now though is that the big rituals are giving way to little spontaneous momentary ones.

    Claire - Thank you. I have not read either of those books, although I read one about Mary by Spong. I liked it.

    Anil - That is an interesting perspective. For me, it's been more the opposite. Seeing the transitory nature of things I've wanted to cling to has caused me stress.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Rebel - Welcome, and thank you! I'm glad we've found each other. I look forward to visiting your blog when I have a little more time than I have lately.

    ReplyDelete

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Search This Blog