Heresy and Experience: Blurred Lines

gods eye and my eye

“The eye with which I see God
Is the same eye with which God sees me.
My eye and God’s eye are one.
One seeing.  One knowing.  One loving.”

Meister Eckhart

As a young and naïve theology student, I took a course on process theology, and it changed my life.  Faithful adherents of institutional doctrine would say it changed me for the worst.  You be the judge.  This post comes out of personal experience.  I walked out of that class one day and met a friend who asked, “How are you?”  I replied, “Well, currently, I seem to be an atheist.”  Laughing, he claimed that atheists make the best Christians.  Subsequently, I spent several months researching mystics, and I regained God, in a rich and unexpected experience.  God had become my own greatest potential already realized, and thirty-four years later, this is still my experience.

The church branded Meister Eckhart a heretic for preaching that, “My eye and God’s eye are one,” “All that is [exists] is in God,” “We are sparks of the divine.” Eckhart denied the charge.  I have studied and prayed with this profound mystic for a very long time, and I am finally old enough to realize that he was indeed saying at least, that we are growing into our divinity.  Is not a spark of fire, fire?  It may not be the whole campfire, but when a spark flies up and singes the hairs on a camper’s arm, he knows it’s fire!  I believe that God is our own greatest potential already realized, and we unveil it minute by minute, day by day.

By  seeing.  “My eye and God’s eye are one eye:  one seeing.”  Soul-sight differs from soul-seeing.  It comes from God as a package deal, but we have to learn how to see with it.  We can’t see a painting with the eye of an artist without developing an artist’s skills; similarly, we don’t see with our soul-eye without developing spiritual intuition.

By knowing.  “My eye and God’s eye are one eye:  one knowing.”  Most readers of the Hebrew Scriptures understand that Biblical Knowing refers to sexual intercourse.  Adam knew Eve, and they had a son….The meaning can also go much deeper, describing a profound act of contemplation.  There really are not words which adequately describe union with God, but here is an attempt.  Individual sparks unite to make a fire, until they become indistinguishable.  The spark is the fire, and the fire is the spark.  If we are to experience this kind of knowing, we need to identify the lost fragments of our souls, and bring them back.

By loving.  “My eye and God’s eye are one eye:  one loving.”  Knowing leads to loving.  We must learn to love our lost soul-fragments.  When we do, all the pieces will come together in that acceptance, and we will know and love God within our wholeness.  If God is our greatest potential already realized, loving ourselves is loving God.

Blending visual art and words and music are ways to draw us deep into the eye of God. It doesn’t matter if our attempt falls short of expectations. I don’t really know how to draw or compose music. I just let go and do it, trusting that you will forgive my ignorance! Here I have created a mantra and put it to a simple Gregorian chant. When I can catch a space, I sing it repeatedly within the quiet of my soul and it sometimes brings me into contemplation, at least for a moment. Feel free to download this image and make a bookmark of it as a reminder.

my eye and gods eye are one eye 2

God Waits in the Space Between: Silence As A Spiritual Practice

Wall of Words

Silence

I hear my rapid thought-fire
Ricochet off your heart,
Creating a wall of words to
Keep me safe.

Wait.
Wait for the space
Between the thoughts
Between the words.

Wait.
God lives
In the Space Between.

rhk

I spent the first quarter of my life entombed in a womb of words. A tomb, because I was only living on the surface; a womb, because I was still growing. Still. Gratefully, by the time computer technology advanced to the point of a 24/7 stream of words, I had begun a serious journey into the space between the words.

In those first twenty-five years, fear was my tomb and words my shield against perceived- and real- danger. Without space between the words to sustain me, I missed so much:

• The nuances of bird songs
• A loved one’s plea for comfort
• Justice framed in hostility
• So many gifts of insight offered and missed
• Awe, Joy, Love
• The voice of God

Gingerly, but intentionally, I inched out of my tomb and practiced listening. At the dinner table and in other gatherings, I consciously chose to stay quiet, and just watch people and listen. People began to see the deeper me, and their responses lessoned my fear, thus lessoning the need to protect with talk. Eventually silence became more of a habit, and I came to feel at home with it.

In the last quarter of my life I struggle more with how I respond to the avalanche of words coming at me from society, and my responses to it:

• The need to know everything about everything by reading and sharing constantly, both verbally and virtually.
PRACTICE: Choose to limit how many articles I read on one topic, and how much time I spend in analysis. Instead, I try to spend some of the time in quiet reflection on how the topic relates to me, and I pray about it, so it doesn’t remain just an intellectual exercise of my ego.

• Multitasking, particularly with mixed media
PRACTICE: I ask myself, why is the TV/radio on if I’m working on my tablet and not really listening? What good is my split attention doing me or others? When I am at ease with myself, I turn something off. When I still need the chatter, I give in. Hopefully I ask what my need was!

• Monologue vs. Dialogue
PRACTICE:  What did that person just say? I was busy thinking about my response. I chose to lose my chance to respond instead of losing the other’s contribution; instead of losing the emotion, the intuitive request lying between her words.

• An Overcrowded Calendar: Constant activity deprives us of the spaces between. If we are rarely still, we miss the voice of God.
PRACTICE : Prioritize. It helps me to open my calendar to “monthly view” before I make a commitment; to assess my needs first and weigh them alongside the invitation. Often, I need to call back, allowing time to consider the effects my “yes” may carry.

• “I’m late, I’m late, For a Very Important Date”: It is taking five seconds instead of two seconds to upload a website. The car in front of me is traveling at speed limit, and so am I.  But I have to pass it. The “old lady” in front of me in the grocery store line is taking forever. This “old lady” has no place to be, but she wishes the one in front of her would hurry up.
PRACTICE: Slow down. Ask myself why I need to hurry. The question is a choice to live consciously. If I choose to shrug off impatience, I make space for reflection. While I wait for the “old lady,” I can notice that she uses food stamps and I can pray for her. I develop the virtue of compassion; whereas, if I fret, my energy goes into the fretting … What good does it do either of us?

It is not just for the sake of our own growth that we must practice silence. It is now a countercultural activity. The common good dictates that we address injustice in society. Before the prophet speaks she/he waits in silence for the words of truth to come. And when they are born from a posture of silence, they “roll down like a river and… like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24 paraphrased)

Caring for Anger

caring for anger

For Warmth

I hold my face in my two hands.
No, I am not crying.
I hold my face in my two hands
to keep my loneliness warm-
two hands protecting,
two hands nourishing,
two hands preventing
my soul from leaving me
in anger.

Thicht Naht Hanh

Deep-seated, out-of-control anger is a serious illness in need of intentional and consistent ministering to ourselves by ourselves.  Spiritual practice is not a process detached from our bodies.  Because anger is a dis-ease of the soul which ravishes the body as well, our practice must use the body to heal the soul, and use the soul to heal the body…”Two hands preventing my soul from leaving me in anger.”  Thicht Naht Hahn is not just speaking metaphorically.

Of course, good health dictates that we reveal anger to ourselves.  We need to know its cause and its effects before we can let it go.  This is the work of the mind.  To let go is the work of the spirit.  Solid, healthy spiritual practice never labels anger as bad in itself.  As with all human limitations which impede spiritual growth, unbridled anger is released through a process of letting go, letting be, and breaking through to the Godhead (Meister Eckhart’s description.)

It doesn’t work to violently chisel away at our anger, forcing it to go away and leave us in peace.  Violence begets violence.  Instead, we can use a ritual to free ourselves.   Deeply moved by Thicht Naht Hanh’s practice of caring for anger, I have developed a ritual which some of my readers may also find helpful.  This is an intuitive ritual best done apart from the necessary analytical exercises used to determine the nature of our anger.  I choose a quiet space with a meaningful focal point, such as a candle and a symbol.  While centering, I call upon the Spirit to guide me.   I take my face in my two hands and repeat these mantras until I feel ready to move on.  When possible, I journal how the Spirit moved me as I prayed, before I move away from this sacred liminal time.  I set aside time for the ritual daily, until it is no longer needed .  Other times the need for it arises unexpectedly, so I retreat to my “inner room” wherever I am, and say all or part of the ritual to restore my equilibrium.

**First Mantra** Breathe while saying the words.  Soon their rhythm will take you to a sacred place.

I gather the pieces of my wounded spirit in my two hands.

Breathing in        I nourish my soul.

Breathing out    I release pain.

**Second Mantra**

I gather the pieces of my wounded spirit in my two hands.

Breathing in        I protect my soul.

Breathing out    I release loneliness and rejection.

 **Third Mantra**

I gather the pieces of my wounded spirit in my two hands.

 Breathing in        I am filled with peace.

Breathing out    I release resentment.

**Last Mantra**

I stand in peace before the Holy One.

Breathing in        my soul returns.

Breathing out    I become whole.

My face in my two hands holding my soul.   Amen.

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

I first came upon “For Warmth” in a little book by Thicht Naht Hanh, Be Free Where You Are.  It is a collection of meditations he shared with prisoners to empower them in coping with their incarceration.  One can put the book in a pocket or bag and read a page or a line while busily navigating through his/her own particular incarcerations.  I recommend it.

Independence Day: The Whole Truth

Jesus Weeps Over Jerusalem jpeg

My journey to the car wash this Fourth of July afternoon offered up a full spectrum of emotions.  I had just spent an hour studying my friend Matt’s blog post about his experience of picking coffee in Columbia and listening to the plight of farmers displaced by multinational coffee corporations ( http://matthollandsj.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/one-more-cup-of-coffee-fore-i-go/) .  In the car, my mind raced through facts about the injustices to people and environment, perpetrated to a large degree by the U.S.  And my heart ached for the priest Matt said had been mutilated and murdered by the Columbian government because he stood in their way of amassing land from farmers to accommodate the multinationals.  My Fourth hadn’t gotten off to a good start.  Like Jesus, my spirit wept for my sins of waste and consumerism, and for the sins of my country.
First stop: the Shoreline Library, where I scanned the borrowed DVD’s and slipped them into the return bin.  Such excellent films they were, all for free.  There on the bench outside the entrance to the library, sat an aging Asian couple, laptop in hand and completely immersed in a program wi-fied to them, compliments of the library.  Fireworks exploded in my heart.  This is also America, I thought.  Our tax dollars at work on behalf of this immigrant couple who possibly came here from Tibet, in search of their stolen freedom.
Last stop:  a challenge.  The 90’s offered up a biting satirical film starring Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Willie Nelson, and Woody Harrelson.  It was called, “Wag the Dog.”  It seems the president’s affair has hit the newsstand, so his chief of staff hires a Hollywood producer to create a war in Albania to divert attention from the affair.  A “war hero” is conjured up and a patriotic song, “Old Shu,” is composed to rally all of America around the pretend-war effort.  I swear.  They played that song the duration of my tour through Walgreen’s.  I was off again!
So, now for the spiritual practice necessary here.  Never stop thinking.  Never stop weeping over Jerusalem.  But always seek the WHOLE truth, which embodies grace as well as sin.

Happy Fourth of July!