Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Remember and Be Thankful

What comes into being in the Father is knowledge, which appeared so that forgetfulness might be dissolved and the Father might be known.  Forgetfulness comes into being because the Father was not known, so when the Father comes to be known, forgetfulness, from that time on, will not exist.  - The Gospel of Truth(1) 

Forgetfulness is common human experience.  It is sometimes caused by an organic brain issue such as Alzheimer's or other form of dementia.  Far more common, however, is intentional and unintentional forgetfulness.  

Intentional forgetfulness is that which is purposely used as an excuse for not following through on one's word and commitments. It is the type of the classic young child who one moment says, "Yes, I will clean my room."  Then, when confronted at day's end by a parent for the room still being messy the child says, "I forgot." 

Unintentional forgetfulness is that which occurs when we aren't being mindful; we simply aren't paying attention to what is happening.  Anyone who has parked their car absent-mindedly while trying to talk on the phone and write down a last minute item they need in the store and then come out and can't remember where they parked knows about unintentional forgetfulness.  

When our awareness steps into the Light of God's intimate connection with our soul, that knowledge is not easily abandoned. We can never again say that we haven't known God.  But, then, one or both types of forgetfulness may set in.  We find our "old life" too difficult to give up and so we pretend to be forgetting about God so we can retain all our old habits that are like a pair of falling apart old comfy slippers.   Or we may just get pushed and pulled from so much life busy-ness we just forget - lose our mindfulness.   

In rituals of Communion we are called upon to remember.  "As often as you eat this bread or drink from this cup, remember me."  Remembering is key to finding the Home in which we belong.  When we forget how much God loves us and actively wants us "home," the result is often a gathering dark cloud of being displaced or disconnected.  We become separated from our gifts, talents, and feel disconnected from ourselves.  Depression, anger, and anxiety often creep in.  Frequently, when we have gotten lured by external success, by society, culture, friends, even family into being who they want us to be rather than who God intends us to be, we may find we deeply miss "who we are." The way back to our true home is through remembering, reclaiming the home of many rooms where we are unconditionally accepted just for who we were originally crafted by God to be. Any of the 8 tools in prior posts can help to provide links to this reconnection of remembering.  Finding a good therapist who can supply an accurate mirror to see yourself as God sees you may help immensely as well. Most importantly, remember God and be thankful for you.

(1) "The Gospel of Truth" from The New New Testament: A Bible for the 21st Century Combining Traditional and Newly Discovered Texts, edited by Hal Taussig, c. 2013, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co., New York, NY.     

Monday, December 14, 2020

Another Spiritual Tool for Resilience: Mountain

 In those days Jesus went up a mountain to pray....Luke 6:12

Mountains are one of the more resilient creations on the planet.  Unless they are a volcano that erupts, they remain relatively steadfast.  Even when a volcano stirs and wipes out a large portion, like happened with Mt. St. Helens in 1980, (and as this photo taken last year shows) - they retain their steadfast stubborn existence.

If we consider all the extremes of weather and seasonal changes that take place on mountain peaks over months, years, and centuries, we might let our thoughts take flight to imagine.  Imagine yourself as a mountain.  This is a mountain meditation adapted from one created by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Mountain Meditation

Begin by envisioning one of your favorite mountains.  If you have a picture of it or can find a photo on the internet of it, this might help you "go there."  Put yourself on that mountain in your mind, or if you have climbed it, remember being there.  

Recall the sights, the silence or other nature sounds, the smells, and experience being there.  While remembering/envisioning, breathe deeper and more slowly.  Imagine the fresh air filling your lungs and settling your being.  Spend whatever time you desire connecting with that reality, which really does exist out there on that mountain's slopes right now. 

To move deeper and personalize this further, let yourself imagine you becoming the mountain.  Feel your feet become grounded in the very deep bedrock of the earth's core.  Imagine your body becoming that of the mountain - solid, unmoving, resistant to everything.  No matter what the stress - ice, snow, wind, rain, fire, flood - nothing substantially impacts who and what you are. You draw your strength from the core of the earth itself.  You have nothing of which you are afraid. People and creatures alike bless you for your beauty and constancy. Continue breathing while all stress, worry, and strains of life flow away from you in the streams that have their headwaters on your highest slopes. Stay here as long as you have time.

When you are ready to end this meditation, place yourself back on a large rock outcrop; perhaps kneeling or sitting as Jesus did when he had gone up the mountain to pray.  He climbed there to escape the stresses and anger being directed at him by the religious authorities.  Their words and actions had now drained away.  Silence and peace filled him as it now fills you as well.  As you breathe your way back to awareness, repeat these words from Julian of Norwich while breathing: 
All shall be well.
And all shall be well.
And all manner of thing shall be well.

Amen.  And may a blessing go with you wherever life may lead you this day.


Monday, December 7, 2020

Another Tool for the Spiritual Toolbox: Welcoming Practice

Finally, beloved, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is anyything worthy of praise, think about these things.  -- Philippians 4:8

The world's circumstances are enough to knock most any of us out of our comfort zones.  When we fall into stressful situations, its not uncommon for brains to fabricate stories that can exaggerate woe.  So called negative emotions can also be called depleting emotions because they tend to zap us of our energy.  But the negative energy causes ripple effects on physical health such as decreased muscle mass, increased brain cell death, impaired mental function, disturbed sleep, impaired memory, accelerated aging, decreased performance, and fatigue. Stories we tell ourselves in stressful times frequently don't bear any resemblance to truth or reality. Regrounding ourselves starts by letting go of what takes over our thinking along with the stresses that trigger it.

Cynthia Bourgeault introduces us to the Welcoming Practice that facilitates this process.  The welcoming practice involves 3 steps.

First Step:

Become attuned to how and what you're feeling and locate in your body where you are feeling those emotions in your body.  Emotions find a home in various places in our body.  Oftentimes the aches, pains, diseases we carry are related to the emotions those places hold.  So, whether you are experiencing pain, illness, or negative emotions focus on relating them and being conscious of the connections.  Name the feeling/pain.

Second Step:

Welcome the feeling/pain.  Simply say to yourself, "Welcome ___________."  In the blank use the name you came up with in step 1.  Gather it in and welcome it, afterall, you have been holding it for a fair amount of time and whether you want it or not, it has been a tenant with you for awhile.   Welcoming changes the internal relationship with that feeling and our perception of it. Spend the longest time on this step.

Third Step:

Say to yourself: "I let go of ____________."  Use same name you've found in steps 1 & 2.

A helpful closing litany may be:

  • I let go of my desire for security and survival.
  • I let go of my desire for power and control. 
  • I let go of my desire for esteem and affection.
  • I let go of my desire to change the situation.  (With letting go, the "fix" will present itself.)