God has to work on your soul “in secret,” according to the saints and mystics. If God gave you any idea of what God was doing, which is always radical surgery, you would do one of two things: you would try to stop it, or you would try to engineer it and take control of the process. God has to operate in darkness to get the job done. ~Richard RohrI chose the word bless as my word for the year because of a book that friend, author, and fellow blogger, Jonna-Lynn gave me. This book is called The Gentle Art of Blessing: A Simple Practice That Will Transform You and Your World and was written by a man named Pierre Pradervand. The premise of the book truly is simple; it's the idea of practicing blessing any- and everyone who (literally or mentally) crosses your path (including yourself). And in terms of freeing the mind from negative and obsessive thoughts about the self and others, it really works. For it to work, however, the blessings must be sincere, they must come from the heart, and this of course is the hard part. But I've discovered that if I am the least little bit willing, and can muster up just one simple blessing-thought, it quickly blossoms into more.
With this blessing practice combined with green as my color for the year, which is the color related to the heart chakra, I already feel enfolded in an intense gentleness, energized by a vibrant airiness, circulated by a lush bright flow.
And yet, there is something else going on too, something I've been having great difficulty putting my finger on. When I tried to write about the feelings I've been having in my journal the other day, I kept seeing the image of cutting up a chicken, and thinking of the word "unhinged," and a Bible verse came to me, Hebrews 4:12: "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." This is the best description of what's been happening within me that I have found so far.
I have been slowly replacing the word "God" in my vocabulary with "Being." Eckhart Tolle points out in The Power of Now that for many people, "God" as a word has become too tired and overused (and even abused) to truly point to what it points to anymore, which is far more mysterious than anyone can fathom. The word "Being" however, is very open-ended; an atheist could probably use it comfortably, and it points to the great mystery of sentient presence, whatever you believe its origins to be.
My point in saying all this, is that for me, "the word of God" is any manifestation of Being that I pay close attention to, which is to say, anything at all. By this process of blessing and by simply practicing presence in the moment as I have for several months now, things have become loosened within me, and lately I have this sense of being unhinged. When negative thoughts try to take over my mind these days, I experience it far more intensely in my body than I ever used to. Specifically, I feel it as a trembling and weakness and acute anxiety in the area of my heart. However, it's also much easier for me to recognize and move out of such negativity. Moving into blessing is one way to do that, putting my attention on how I feel inside my body is another. Sometimes all I need to do is breathe.
The dividing of soul and spirit mentioned in the verse above I read as the division of the temporal and the eternal, the self that uses mind to operate in the world, and the selfless spirit that is the eternal witness. According to these definitions, I can say that by practicing watching my self/soul, I have become more aware of the spirit, the one who watches. All of these words are inedequate; I have no way to really explain this. I'm always relieved when I find a metaphor to express such things, and yesterday morning as I sat in meditation with these deeply disturbing physical/emotional sensations, I finally landed on a metaphor that fits, and the moment I did, I felt centered and calm: Pruning. Green surgery.
Back in June, I discussed pruning as metaphor in a post called The Ruthless Gardener, but back then, the pruning was about outer situations and relationships; now it's more intimate. It's about thought processes, cherished mental habits and beliefs, and so on.
Somehow, by envisioning limbs being cut off a tree, I came to peace with the loss of control I've been feeling. Which has resulted from a greater and greater recognition of the illusion of any such control, that the thought-habits the mind cherishes are its always futile attempt to make control real and grasp it forever.
Yikes! That's way too convoluted. Let's try this instead:
The spirit prunes the soul; Being prunes everything that interferes with Itself.