Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Heart Surgery

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 Rohr
I 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.  


  1. What a seminal this post is for me, polli! Thank you for the book and all the thoughts. I know the anxiety right on the heart chakra very well and have had it for years. Well, it comes and goes, rather, and I am not always sure why it is there. I have grown better at linking it to a thought however. I like your idea of blessing. Until you mentioned this, I used to breathe in the fear and release peace...
    There is much here for me to ponder. Thank you again.

  2. Pollinatrix,

    this is such a profound concept - and there is so much here in your post that I'm certain I didn't get it all on the first read through. So, I'm about to head back and re-read, but first I wanted to let you know how much this topic and your experience and reactions really struck a chord with me.

    As you know, my recent depression has me considering many, many things, not the least of which is the connection depression has with heart trouble (and how there's a need to connect with the heart's desires in order to heal). Thankfully I don't currently manifest disease symptoms, however it was awareness of heart-(un)-ease that has me on a path of really trying to assist my heart in the job it does as cosmic-connector in addition to physical-pump.

    I'll mull over what you've written here, look up the book, and keep working toward such a blessing practice.

  3. I relate to this for so many reasons and on so many levels in my life. And I want to write and say more - it is just hard for me to formulate the words as I too am unhinged.

    And within it all there is beauty - which is amazing...

    I am very interested in this book you speak of here.

    I am with you dear friend.


  4. p.s. I forgot to mention that I love the collage. :)

  5. I just wrote a long comment back to each of you individually, and the Internet ate it. I just don't have it in me to write it all again, so I will just say thank you to all of you for your visiting, and I'm glad this post resonated with you. It warms my heart, so to speak.

  6. The blessing practice sounds brilliant! And challenging, too. I practice mehta (loving-kindness) but my teachers always said it can't be forced. If you can't feel it, then don't do it. Some days ...

    What color and word did you work with last year? Also, what book are you reading (about the spiritual journey)?

  7. Reya, the hard part of the blessing practice for me is just getting into the focused state. Once I'm there, though, it's a lot easier to feel it than I thought it would be, even when I'm blessing someone I'm less than pleased with.

    Last year was orange and "quiet love." It was an interesting combination, which on the surface might seem incongruent, but actually had a profound effect on me.

    The book I'm reading is The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, by Sue Monk Kidd. It's about her slow transformation out of conservative Southern Baptist-ism into celebration of the Sacred Feminine. I have mixed feelings about the book. Parts of it are very inspiring and thought-provoking, and it's packed with interesting research, but that's not always woven in with the story in a fluid way, and a lot of it I already knew, so at times it reads like a primer on the Goddess for a completely ignorant audience. Also, she's a bit didactic at times, and a little too much on the "ism" side of feminism, if you know what I mean.



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