Archive for September, 2012

Faith Has Contempt for Fear

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

“Faith has a contempt for fear and is therefore risk-taking.  In monologue risk taking involves deep trust of the self, but little risk with others.  As alienation from others decreases we pass through the stages from technical to resistant to confronting communication.  When we risk involvement with another we enter into dialogue with him.” from Monologue to Dialogue by Brown and Keller, p. 206.

Faith requires a genuine acceptance of self embedded into the divine.  We thrash about in our craziness, continually reeling in and out of our sense of ‘enough-ness’.  Keller and Brown emphasize how, depending upon language as we must, we construct a life out of ‘abstract values by which we direct ourselves’.  I recently had a local congressman tell me how ‘divine Providence’ to him means listening and voting according to ‘his values’.  I didn’t confront him on how his values were vastly different than mine.  Yet, this is where the real work is:

“We rest our lives on our values, the vaporous wings of a prayer.  These values must be confirmed by others or they die and we die.  Research has demonstrated time and again that each of us is unique in our perceptions, there being no more alikeness among friends than among strangers or enemies.  Friends are united and confirmed in their common ideals.  Society exists in common aspirations.  Therefore dialogue between people both develops and depends upon trustful openness among people in search of common ideals and hopes.”  p. 206

So what happens when the closed mind of authority refuses to listen to those of difference?  We have seen that a fire can burn when great despair is mixed with faint hope.  When we refuse to listen to one another, locked in our notions of ‘right values’, we rob opportunity from others’ participation and create conditions for conflict and revolution.  In an article entitled “The Rhetoric of Confrontation”, Scott and Smith describe the underlying feelings as:

  1. We are dead.
  2. We can be reborn.
  3. We have the stomach for the fight, you don’t.
  4. We are united in a vision of the future.

These feelings are what feed revolution.  As humans, we desperately seek to be heard.  Yet, caught in our notions of greed, ego, fear, and a sense of separateness, we consciously and unconsciously ignore those who appear to have different values from us.  Yet, the human story says our real peace is found in our courage to listen to one another in ‘trustful openness among people in search of common ideals and hopes.’  This mission of faith would certainly change the climate in the realms of politics/economics and religion/spirituality.

In faith, surrendered from fear through divine Providence, we can let down our obstacles to dialogue.  We can explore ‘common ideals and hopes’ with flexibility and open minds.  We could move from the ‘win/lose’ mentality of monologue and debate to collaboration.  We could move to meaningful dialogue when we find real intent beyond our notions of ‘thinking’ we’re right.  Brown and Keller speak to the language of confidence, noting how dialogue may sound weak on the surface in order to insure accommodation from the other party.  Yet, language that is firm and inflexible, on the surface sounds like it comes from strength, allowing only one interpretation.

“…it is the flexible man, seeing the possibility for several or many interpretations, who is strong, strong enough to accommodate, perhaps, his less flexible conversant.

When we are too sure of our words we are not listening to them or the words of others.  We are listening to the fears which are demanding firm and legal definitions.  Legal language is abstract, logical, and technically correct.  But the language of dialogue is spontaneous, free, noncritical, tentative, reflective, searching—based on faith and tolerance.  When people meet in dialogue, their language is not an analysis of the rights and privileges of each other, but a mutual participation of the lives involved.”  p. 204

How does this relate to immediate events?  A couple days ago a worker was released from a local printing company.  He proceeded to shoot and kill his boss and several co-workers, eventually taking his own life.  I would suspect this man reached a point of ‘not mattering’ that broke his spirit.  It would be interesting to examine his last weeks of life and the communications he had at the work place that led to such disaster.  I suspect there was what Paul Newman coined in a famous movie, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”  I’m sure that today there are several employers taking greater care in dealing with their downsizing, doing what they can to listen to employees they may have to let go.

The big international news showed the leader of Israel calling for forced action against Iran for it’s failure to stop development of a nuclear weapon.  The rhetoric of conflict was at it’s peak when he literally drew an explosive red line, calling for military action.  Common sense would ask why they should stop if Israel is not willing to give up their nuclear weapons.  An open commitment to dialogue would result in a wisdom circle in search of ‘common ideals and hopes’.  The first question would be, “Who here wants to end the world through nuclear war?”  Or perhaps, in faith, we could find common ground  for the respect of life and the reduction of suffering?  These dialogue, wisdom circles could be carried on international media so we could really see the intent of those in power.  We all know that when it comes to nuclear weapons, no one wins, yet we carry our rhetoric on the assumption that someone will.  This is perhaps the most extreme notion of monologue lunacy.

In a couple days we’ll have another presidential debate.  Both candidates will set out with the intent to defeat the other.  The set up is designed to create monologue and a refusal to listen.  Yet, the highest office in the land necessarily depends upon the skills and capacity to listen with flexibility and openness.  We’ll hear the media spend days in meaningless speculation about who won, in effect pronouncing who’s better at fighting with words.  Any notions of trust or faith are removed from the table as the polarization of the country increases.

Perhaps our most immediate need for dialogue is found in recent religious turmoil brought about by a film denigrating the Muslim faith.  This is a time where our leaders must show greater courage in stepping forward with flexibility and skill in speaking to those of multiple faith.  The notion that one particular group has the ‘right’ faith/myth has been the cause for the most violence throughout the ages.  Politicians steeped and trained as attorneys who focus on monologue and win/lose paradigms desperately need the help of spiritual leaders who can effectively speak to interfaith issues without inflaming any particular group for their values.  Our real security will come from a larger faith, one that has contempt for fear and the courage to dig deeper in respect and willingness to offer mutual participation for the lives involved.

The greatest antidote to unhappiness and anxiety is gratitude.  When asked, “Gratitude for what?”, Brother David Steindl Rast replied, “For the opportunity to participate.”  The key to harmony is to allow participation.  The fuel for violence is to take it away.  Monologue, words of certainty and claims of ‘right’ oppress the process.  Dialogue, in faith and contempt for fear, steward us to a better life for all with least harm.

Can We Get Bigger than ‘Thinking’ We’re Right?

Friday, September 28th, 2012

Faith is a ‘feeling’ of being supported, and with prayer and meditation, it grows deeper.  Our beliefs are thoughts that we attach to. Faith finds the courage to surrender these thoughts to the deepening process.  We can deepen our felt faith through opening the mind, allowing our beliefs/thoughts to soften, as we get bigger than our temptation to lock into being ‘right’.  Our forefathers seemed to understand this well when they directed us to place full reliance upon divine providence in the Declaration of Independence.  They recognized the value in surrendering our intellectual answers to the mystery in faith that something better can come up.

This past week I attended an American Public Media event hosted by the famous interviewer, Krista Tippett.  She’s been captured by the current frustration with our polarized monologues, our failed dialog and the lack of civility in our communications with one another.  This has led her to create a project called The Civil Conversations Project.  This week’s program was titled “Pro-Life, Pro-Choice, Pro-Dialogue”.  My curiosity led my attention, particularly in noticing the use of a word seldom seen these days, dialogue. The program featured her interview with pro-choice representative, Frances Kissling and pro-life representative, David Gushee.  Ms. Kissling  seemed to best describe our current best-effort communications as “common grappling”:

“The only way I can be credible is to give up the hard political side.  It’s not to change others, but to change myself.  I want to be changed all the time.  I try to be transparent about my values so as to not veil where I come from.  I’m not talking about common ground, but common grappling.”

“We have to learn how to not be advocates, but to ask more questions, and I like people to ask me questions to help me go deeper.  Intelligent conversation isn’t rewarded politically in our society.”

This sense of “common grappling” seems to be what the program was about.  It didn’t really challenge the participants to suspend their belief system in aim to fully hear the person of different opinion.  Krista referenced a five year program where people agreed to “common grapple” , only to find they were firmer in their belief systems than when they started.  Dialogue necessarily commands a larger process.  It’s not about trying to win, to persuade,  or to change.  As Ms. Kissling said, “It’s finding courage to be vulnerable in the face of those you’re so in disagreement with.”  This is what faith is.  It’s what surrender to divine Providence is about.  When we can suspend our thoughts/beliefs, touch the human experience, and see what comes up, we’re more often than not, blessed with a better course of action.  In an article on the elements of dialogue, H.M. Lynd writes:

“The creation of symbols in language is a characteristically human ability that can bring unconscious creative forces into relation with conscious effort, subject into relation with object, can give form to hitherto unknown things and hence make possible the apprehension of new truth.”   On Shame and the Search for Identity, pp. 249-250

When we sit together with open minds, in faith to bigger things coming up, we allow the divine to respond.

In his book The Presence of the Kingdom, Jacques Ellul fully recognizes the problems we get into when we lock into fixed beliefs and closed minds:

“In the intellectual sphere, in connection with political and social spheres, we need a complete revision of all our positions, a new beginning, and this reconstruction cannot be the work of one man alone, it cannot be exclusively the work of man.

This work is necessary, not only for the intellectual, but for all men, for if Christians do not do this work, they cannot have any hope for all that concerns their attitude in the social or political world, all that they will be able to do there will be puerile, useless, and out-of-date at present day.  It is disastrous to see Christians embarking in all the social and political boats of this world, entirely unaware of all the preliminary questions which they alone could examine.

Christian intellectuals must go forward to this great process of questioning, for the world, which is wandering about in a labyrinth made by its own hands;  and for the Church, which should now at least break through all its ready-made intellectual categories, and for the other members of the Church who ought to receive genuine teaching in the life of faith.

The work of Christian intellectuals is not done in the abstract, it is effective participation in the preservation of the world, and in the building up of the Church.  This is why we cannot act here simply in a free way; this is not an intellectual gymnastic to which we are called; it is, above all, in prayer and meditation that intellectuals will rediscover the sources of an intelligent life rooted in the concrete.”  pp. 135-136

When we have faith in the full support of the universe, of the divine in all things, we find strength and stability to open and face the ever changing conditions of the apparent concrete.  We find a sense of stewardship that’s bigger than our small self interest.  We surrender notions of winning and losing to just being our best.  We speak less and listen more deeply.  We suspend judgment, thought,  and fixed beliefs to allow something bigger to come in.  Brown and Keller, in From Monologue to Dialogue, stress the importance of faith, a faith based on one’s heart and entrusted to the other person in the exchange of communication.  It’s a deep concern for the other person, described as the maintenance of an “I-thou” relationship.  There’s an agreement to not use the other for one’s own personal gain, an agreement to not control or take advantage.  They describe the courage to “walk at the edge of our knowledge and our security” in openness and willingness to listen.

“In dialogue we make our life complete, give ourselves our sense of meaning.  A common consequence of real dialogue is the response, “I didn’t know you were like this.  I never really knew how you felt.”  Then perhaps to the self,  “He is changing, and so am I.”  p.  203

They stress that dialogue strengthens faith and faith is the source of dialogue, and to me, this is what Jefferson was getting at by gluing the Declaration of Independence with a faith command to surrender fully to divine Providence.

I’ve been asking some of our politicians just what this means.  Yesterday I had the good fortune to explore this with my U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachman and my Minnesota Rep. Bob Dettmer.  While I have little agreement in their policy platforms, I appreciated their willingness to “common grapple”.  They seemed unwilling to enter an arena where beliefs were suspended, but respectfully listened to my take on it and gave meaningful responses to their understanding of the directive to rely on divine Providence.  We stepped from needing to win to hearing one another in a civil conversation which I suspect changed us both, just a little.

My Vote

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

I will not vote for greed and capitalism without moral conscience.

I will not vote from fear and anger.

I will not vote from the illusion that we are separate from one another.

I will not vote for the closed mind that ‘thinks’ it has all the answers.

I will not vote for those who think their religion is the only right one.

I will vote for shared pain and gain.  I prefer to call it kindness and opportunity rather than the currently accepted label of ‘entitlement’.  I will vote for health care and educational opportunities for all and for the preservation of human rights from those who would oppress those freedoms.

I will vote from a sense of stewardship and faith that we’re safely held by the whole universe, whatever label we may use for this.

I will vote from reliance upon divine providence, from what God would do in the best interest of the planet, the international community, the nation, the state, the community and the family.

I will vote for bigger understanding to the challenges of today’s changing world, for open minds and for dialogue over monologue.

I will vote for the candidate skilled at speaking to today’s challenging and fast changing religious climate, for the candidate who heals our global community rather than the one who inflames anger through arrogant notions of having the ‘right’ answer.

Ancient Hawaiian spirituality calls it “best for All with harm to none”.  It’s a high standard to aim for, but one that’s been directed from the core of all spiritual traditions.  I will vote for this candidate when he/she shows up.  And finally, I will allow you to vote for what and who you feel you must vote for without attempts to change you.  Please allow me the same.

Holding Faith Through the Free Fall

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Yesterday I went to an air show and was amazed at the stunts the acrobatic pilots were able to pull off.  I was most impressed when they built speed in a dive only to throw the plane into a vertical climb, maxing out in a held static position until the plane stalled and free fell like a leaf.  These pilots took the plane from complete control to a full surrender.  The plane would tumble several hundred feet and then it would capture enough airspeed where they could throttle up and fly out of the plane’s overwhelmed condition.  These pilots had faith in the realm of uncertainty and apparent overwhelming conditions.  I’ve interviewed many top athletes known for pushing new maneuvers and have always been curious about that ‘moment’ when they left familiarity, entering a new zone of performance outside their previous experience.  It’s almost unanimous that they systematically work up to the moment of surrender with days, months, and sometimes years of practice.  Yet, there’s a moment where they step beyond our typical notions of time and space, almost in a foreknowledge, completing the surrendered procedure before initiating it.  Katagiri Roshi describes it beautifully in Each Moment is the Universe:

“…time becomes supreme time, beyond any concept of past, present, or future; place becomes supreme place, beyond any dualistic concept; and person becomes supreme person, who is melted into the universe.

That situation is unknowable with our consciousness.  It’s impossible for me to express it in words.  But maybe you can feel that this is true, that this activity is something that could appear in you life in the future.  If so, that feeling becomes a kind of prediction, foreknowledge, or hope.  That is big hope.”  p. 145

He talks about how hope just comes up, we do something with complete devotion and focus, from the whole heart, we forget our self (separation), and we change the structure of time and space.  Even though people may not see this, they ‘feel’ it.  There’s a felt sense of the bottomless nature to life’s mystery that brings us to our knees in wonder and awe.  It’s what gives us the courage to free fall ourselves when moments of uncertainty inevitably arise.

At the same air show, I by chance, met up with one of my favorite sailing friends.  He’s an ER doctor working one of the Duluth hospitals and was giving his time to cover medical emergencies at the event.  We spoke about those life situations where we’re brought to our knees from ‘not knowing’.  I had told him how this was our topic of conversation at a recent meeting I’d attended for a group at Rush City Prison.  I told him how some inmates described the free fall from ‘no hope’ and others described it from faith.  We briefly discussed the life experience of overwhelm vs. the courage to surrender in faith to life’s next surprise.  He then went on to describe his experience in treating attempted suicide patients in his ER.  I recall him saying how most surviving suicide patients radically change their spiritual journey once they’ve lived through their attempt to end this physical life. He had seen a major transformation that he said was hard to explain.  My sense was that they felt ‘caught’ from the free fall.  This seems to be our journey.  So often we can slip into overwhelm with feelings and thoughts of ‘not enough’, guilt, shame, and conditions not turning out as desired or expected.  Yet, when we surrender to divine Providence, when we can ‘let go’ our attachment to what we ‘think’ should be, faith grows through the experience of knowing we can never be alone.  We break the illusion that we’re separate and we find the strength and courage to enter what I call ‘I don’t know land’.  As Katagiri wrote, ‘we’re melted into the universe’.  He also describes it as knowing that wherever you ma be, your life is sustained and supported by the whole universe.

The night before this air show I had the great fortune of watching some friends creating music at a local club.  A couple who’s been deeply in the depths of ‘I don’t know land’ from a serious health condition intensely stepped up to meet the moment, hitting the presence of each arriving note.  Their sense of ‘aliveness’ brought a vitality to their music that touched us all.  We could ‘feel’ big hope in the moment, in supreme time and supreme space. They communicated the feeling of being supported by the whole universe.

The conversation changes when we can step out of our small ‘knowing’ minds to embrace the wonder, awe, and surprise found in our ‘unknowing’.  This week the great story teller, Garrison Keillor from A Prairie Home Companion, eloquently told a story about the suffering we cause from our small judgmental minds, especially during political election years.  While our media feeds on trying to grow conflict from polarization (Fox News vs. MSNBC), Garrison told a heart touching story that’s possibly familiar to us all.  He described a relative who carried a wonderful humility when returning to his Minnesota home even though he was famous in Texas.  He knew this gentleman held radical right wing political views in opposition to Garrison’s views.  He described our typical behavior of holding silence on these topics when we believe they’ll only lead to anger and further conflict.  He then went on to describe how this man he was tempted to objectify thrust a butcher blade through his heart from despair when he discovered his wife was having an affair.  He captured our need for compassion, even to those who may think different political or religious thoughts.  He challenged us to the vast mystery of life and humbled us to never be so arrogant to ‘think’ we’re right and others are wrong.  Life is too big.  The Divine is too mysterious.  It’s why we’re repeatedly instructed to love one another, even those of different world views.

It’s so easy to become distressed by the ‘con men’ trying to gain our confidence in ‘their’ thinking.  Noam Chomsky has said there is always underlying violence whenever we try to persuade others from our notion of being right.  It’s why our actions are so much more important than our attempts to debate or change others.  I’ll never forget the Dali Lama leaning over to a fellow Buddhist who was enthusiastic about explaining one of the teachings.  He said, “You’re not trying to push Buddhism, are you?”  Or the ministers who were trying to push their notions/beliefs on traumatized Virginia Tech students who were in free fall from a mass shooting.  We just need to cultivate our faith through the courage to face the surprise of the next moment with kindness.  We don’t need to agree in our heads.  We’re just hear to touch each other’s heart, just as my musical friends did, just as my ER doctor friend has done, just as the acrobatic pilots did.  When we can do our best in meeting the next arising moment, giving our full devotion to our activity, others can ‘feel’ it.  Big hope says this is what we’re here for.  It’s what we do for each other, feeding big hope and faith to those who may experience overwhelm…to those who’ve lost the feeling of being caught.

In the free fall, we need the courage to receive grace, to make space to find the gift in what’s given, and to break through the illusion that we’re alone.  Every act of kindness grows this feeling.  Every act of silence in the the face of attack grows this feeling.  Every act of love given to those in overwhelm free fall heals us all.  Today’s campaign screams ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’.  No doubt, difficult economic times challenge us now as they have in the past and will in the future.  Yet, we know that no amount of material accumulation will bring us lasting peace.  Actually, most spiritual traditions describe how our growth comes from meeting suffering and loss with faith, a knowing that we’re supported by the whole universe.

For me, I’m waiting for the messenger who addresses this ‘free fall’, not trying to sell confidence in them, but in something much bigger than them.  It goes well beyond the strategy and mechanics of the campaign talking heads.  We all want confidence and it can only come from the spiritual journey.  Change happens constantly.  Everything wears out.  Suffering comes from our attachments to what was or what we have.  Our freedom, growth and evolution will come from our kindness to one another.  Our careful stewardship of the planet, nation, state, community and family will forever come from the mandate to do what’s best for all with harm to none.  Our courage to meet each other in our differences, with open compassionate minds/hearts, surrendering to what divine Providence has to offer up, is where we’ll find our healing.

This isn’t about the ‘right’ nation, the ‘right’ race, the ‘right sex, the ‘right’ religion, the ‘right’ political party or the ‘right’ economic strategy.  It’s bigger than that.  We all know we’re in free fall.  Our vitality is fed through our open mind and heart and our willingness to embrace uncertainty through complete reliance upon divine Providence.  Our forefathers got it, including it as the glue to our Declaration of Independence.  We print it on our money, “In God We Trust” (if the word God is a semantic trigger, use the word that best points to the ‘feeling’ of being caught).   If you’ve been awake enough to notice all the times grace has touched you, it’s a dis-on-grace each time we fail to communicate how we’ve been caught.  We’re all caught.  We can’t not be caught.  To rely on others is to be uneasy.  To rely on divine Providence, on everyone being caught, is to open to surprise and our blooming.  Our closed minds evidence lack of faith.  Our open minds, willing to refrain from judgment on others, feeding kindness, is where we’ll find our healing.

This morning I read a post from my son about our grandson’s evening insight.  He said, “Nobody knows anything except God and Santa”.  This openness to bigger mysteries is so evident in the five year old mind.  It’s a release from our arrogance of ‘thinking’ we know.  It’s a deepening in our spiritual journey to forever discover the surprise that God, Santa, Universe, or whatever language you use to point to this feeling, has in store for this next arising moment.  When we crack open our closed minds we can let in the light and wisdom provided from that that’s much bigger than our small mind thoughts and belief systems.

Just a Little Humility Please

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Life is so much more complicated than our small minds could ever understand.  It’s why we’re continually directed by all spiritual traditions to humble ourselves in the vast mystery.  Once we find our stillness we can only rest in gratitude for the gift of the given.  Once we kneel to the Divine we can see our journey is to surrender in confident humility to divine Providence.  Today’s gift is a rapid acceleration of interdependence.  Globalization is happening at a rate that overwhelms the reasoning mind.  Yet, we have political and financial interests doing whatever can be done to try to control this.  Whether it’s racial, religious, sexual, economic or age diversity, it’s happening at a rate never before seen.  All the while, as the train of change speeds up, we seem more and more lost in the quagmire of technological thirst.  It now seems normal to claim spectator sports as ‘our religion’.  There seems to be no outrage with political influence given to the highest bidder/contributer.  A social politics of oppression, the very thing our forefathers came here to get away from, seems to be accepted.  It seems that policies to oppress voter rights, to oppress marriage to limited social standards, and to dictate personal body choices in matters of life and death, are gaining momentum.  These attempts to limit our freedoms have been made before, and ultimately, divine Providence has us as a nation, ending in justice.  Eventually, women and blacks were allowed to vote.  Eventually, kindness and understanding made it legal for mixed race marriages.  Eventually, the Supreme Court ruled that women have rights over their bodies.  Eventually, we were brought to our knees, humbly asking how we can best support one another without causing harm.

Our fear, greed and ignorance to this rapid change/interdependence has us in a dangerous position.  Caught in our ego’s notion of ‘being right’, we tend to close our minds to change.  We refuse to sit in a collaborative circle to see what divine Providence would offer up.  Yet, it’s this open, humble attitude that opens us to solutions that are bigger than our small minds and special interests.  It’s the small mind that’s insensitive to others’ spiritual journey.  It’s the small mind that tries to ‘push’ it’s notion of ‘rightness’ on others.  And it’s certainly the small mind that would inflame religious followers with derogatory attacks on a particular religion.  Today we have a presidential candidate who criticizes those who would apologize for the harm caused from an inflammatory movie created in our country.  This is arrogance.  This is harmful pride that refuses to open to the challenges of globalization.

Today’s leaders, more than business sense, must have a deep respect and understanding of the world’s various religious traditions.  They must be eloquent in finding common ground and common sense solutions to an increasingly challenging world.  The notion that we can somehow separate religious views and values from the debate is naive.  Today’s world commands an open mind, flexibility to fast moving conditions, a solid grounding in basic spiritual truths, and a capacity to communicate with impeccability, reducing the risk of conflict.

The inflammatory rhetoric of Romney and the conservative right wing has us going down a path of escalating conflict.  While not the perfect surgeon of diplomatic language and action, Obama is light years ahead of Romney.

I want a candidate who understands the spiritual principles of gratitude, humility, moderation, kindness, empathy, and grace.  I want one who can document training in listening skills rather than business practices that disregard harm.  I want a candidate well versed in international experience.  How many countries have been visited, in what capacity, how long, and what languages have been learned?  What’s the candidate’s real understanding of the American experience?  Have them describe their experiences of ‘not having’, of ‘faith’, and what ‘divine Providence’ means to them.  Ask them about their views on capital punishment and how that washes with their spiritual tradition.  And most importantly, let’s see them in situations where they actually can demonstrate their capacity to listen and accurately restate what they heard.

Our future will be determined by how carefully we traverse the present.  This can only be accomplished through deep, mindful listening and collaboration.  The degree to which we push our agenda on the world without regard to harm will only accelerate the  train of conflict.  It’s time for wisdom, gratitude, and humility for grace given within this moment of opportunity.  May we have the strength to always ask forgiveness for unintended harm done, whether through drone missiles or insensitive media.  Our universal spiritual command is to love one another, to reach out to our neighbors, to wish good will and blessing on all peoples and things, and to surrender in deepest gratitude to the gift of divine Providence.  Just a little less pride and a lot more humility, please.

Surrendering to the Grace, Rhythm and Harmony of “This” Arising Moment

Monday, September 3rd, 2012
Opening Doors of the Mind, Entering the Heart

Opening Doors of the Mind, Entering the Heart

We have a choice.  We can fill ourselves with pride, feeding our ego with notions of being ‘right’ and of ‘knowing’.  We can humbly surrender to the vast mystery of the Divine, allowing the perfection and surprise of each moment’s gift.  We’re all creative artists of life, either nurturing this unfolding with deepening awareness to the pure heart or moving in fear, greed and ignorance from the pure heart.  The first requires an open mind that’s pliable under the influence of the Holy Spirit (Divine, Source, etc.).  The second is filled with notions of cleverness, intelligence or subtlety of mind, and other ego feeding notions of pride in separation from the Divine.  Rev. Jean-Pierre de Caussade says we must practice “a passive acceptance and yielding, like metal to the mould, canvas to the brush or stone to the chisel” p. 74 the sacrament of the present moment. He stresses that God is in and of all things and our work is to surrender to the gentle care of all, humbly listening to the heart for direction.

Yesterday I heard a Lutheran minister eloquently speak to this broader sense of belonging.  He suggested that whenever we separate we are sinning.  I like the origin of “sin”, which suggests it’s when we’re “missing the mark”.  Spiritually, can we say we’re missing the mark whenever we separate from others?  When we fill our minds in judgment and small belonging, whether through racial, economic, religious or ethnic discriminations, aren’t we missing the mark?  When we complain about the gift of ‘this’ moment, aren’t we missing the mark?  The heart doesn’t seem to know this separation.  Yet, the mind draws us to notions of pride, cleverness, greed, fear, and our ignorance to this interdependence we have to all beings and things.  Spiritual wisdom would say the Holy Spirit lives in all things, beyond any possibility of division.  It would say everything matters, so we must be very careful in our response to each moment.  When we are, we cause less harm, leaving a wake in life that’s more in harmony and rhythm to Divine action.

Today’s politics are filled with extreme, polarizing division.  A few extremely wealthy individuals and corporations spend billions of dollars attempting to influence an outcome that will place more benefit to them without regard to harm for others.  The Divine has challenged us with extremely difficult issues, asking us to explore with flexible minds, surrendered to Divine Providence, responses that come from a pure heart rather than a fearful, clever mind.  Whether dealing with complexities of how we handle birth/death policies, immigration, social safety nets, health care, or education, we’re being asked to let go our self interest in pursuit of a bigger solution.  When facing big problems, we have to get bigger than the problems.  We’re directed to sit with open minds, rooted in faith to the gift of Divine Providence, confident and humbled in knowing a better answer awaits when we still our dissonant minds from anger, fear, greed, and small belonging.

Each time I hear a politician trying to buy my confidence for a plan that’s trying to be sold or claiming credit for a policy that seemed to cause success, I lose confidence.  My life has been filled with every kind of con man you could conceive of.  And yes, they are me and I’m them.  My work is to not judge their journey, but only deepen my awareness to the tremendous carnage that’s left in the wake of selfish actions.  It’s Divine Providence that they came into my life so I could now write this.  It’s not chasing after our wants in desire but embracing the gift of each moment, in suffering and in celebration, in pain and in joy.  It’s about Big Hope, fully settled in the pure heart, mind stilled, filled with joy from the very grace of this arising breath.  This is harmony.  This is rhythm.  This is the music of the creative artist found in the hearts of all beings and all things.  This is why we must practice with an open mind, in faith, peace in every step, fully aware of the wake of our thoughts, emotions and actions.  This is ‘hitting the mark’, something we can all aim for.