All scream for I’s Creme: An Ode to our Rocky Road

     When she was young, she did not care for chocolate. She wanted only the sweet, creamy, relative purity of vanilla: the succor of Mother’s milk, the manna of her creator.

     Chocolate was sweet mixed with bitterness: the sweet medium of divine manna mixed with the bitterness of separation and earthly contrast; it was a taste acquired by  numbed faculties coping with the black coffee harshness of an “adult” world.  Chocolate’s stimulant properties were just too much for her early-depleted adrenals, making her feel pressed forward beyond her pace and nature, as if hooked and prodded in the kidneys by the cattle-catcher of a speeding commuter train.

     It was only after life’s complications– the mind’s complexities– were well established that she developed a taste for chocolate. And now, decades on, quite ironically, she finds that the harsh, edgy stimulation of chocolate is required to lift her out of the coffee dregs of her circumstance, her body’s history, her psyche’s cargo, into the light of harmony and the vanilla embrace of peace and unity and inspiration.

     Such is the work of the Holy, subsuming life’s bitterness, back into the gentle denouement of vanilla, relinquishment of the KooKoo for Cocoa-Puffs  dream. Such alchemy can only happen here in Hell’s Kitchen, and it happens as we willingly take the hat and apron of the Holy Spirit.

     We see 31 (million) flavors of ice cream, feeding both our addiction to difference and our hunger for God. Ice cream: the number one comfort food, substitute for mother’s milk; imitation manna.  Difference implies choice, which gives the illusion of control. But it’s all ice cream, all vanilla underneath. The decision is already made.  Hallelujah! I’ll have a triple scoop.

Happy New Year, everyone! Binge responsibly!

 

 

Be the Light of the World: No Batteries Required!

 

The Primal Anointing–“Christening”–of all matter with Spirit, which began in Genesis 1:1-2, is called “the Christ” in Christian shorthand.

The mystery of cosmic incarnation eliminates any radical distinction between things, peoples, and creatures because Christ existed in all matter from the first moment of the Big Bang.

The Christ is God’s active power inside of the physical world.

From Richard Rohr

 

Last Sunday I was scheduled to lead the service –or Spiritual Happy Hour—at the Santa Fe Center for Inner Truth church. The theme was to be

“Happy Christness!”

It was to be a consideration of the Christ in each of us. In these darkest days of the year, Christmas commemorates the birth of Jesus, who embodied the Christ, and the Solstice marks the returning of the solar light in our Northern Hemisphere. Both symbolize the coming again of another Light.

            The night before the service, I just couldn’t connect to the conceptual material I’d prepared and I gratefully relaxed into letting experience speak for itself, both in the meditation I would lead, and in relating three accounts of what I would call interventions of the Christ Mind, prayers answered and received. I will detail those three brief narratives in a separate, related post, so as not to disrupt the flow here.

            The service was to be humorous, not ponderous. I remembered a few jokes I knew about Jesus, and found countless more on line. But this irreverently reverent reverend could, herself, come up with only one quip about the Christ: Be the Light of the World—No Batteries Required! I found not one Christ joke on the Internet. How do you joke about a formless and nearly indescribable emanation which infuses all creation, but which does not itself walk and talk and present distinct attributes and circumstances that can be lampooned? To lampoon unity, one must first separate from it.

            The Christ cannot be nailed down, if you’ll pardon the pun. In fact, in my experience, those who try to “pin down” and imitate too literally the body who was nailed up tend to be fearful and humorless; while those who truly live from the Christ tend to be free and infectiously mirthful.

 

            I say I was scheduled to present the service because the event was cancelled after a snowstorm prevented this Minister from leaving her driveway. In a way, it was a relief. For, in preparing for the service, I’d stirred much in my being that needed integration. And the Christ-child within was still tender and glowing swathed in the manger of my heart, not ready to channel a laser of truth capable of bending itself into words, manning the megaphone and pointing to an invisible sun.

           I suspect this liberated all who might have attended to rest into a more leisurely and genuine way of receiving the Christ message. As the marshmallow fleece of snow blanketed the land and quieted our hearts, it evoked the appearance, purity and innocence of the Lamb of God, conjuring outwardly what swelled to meet it from the center of our being.

            In other words, it seemed right to be inward that day, to let each find the lamb within rather go out wearing the imitation pelt of personality and proclaim what cannot be named, only lived and let shine through us.

 

In the hours and days after the service would have occurred, more insights trickled in and coalesced. So it is that I came to type a few out to see how they might braid themselves together.

            In investigating the etymological origin of the word Christ, I was reminded of how it came to mean the Anointed One, and to understand how it could have come to mean “chosen one.” I read that the original root came from a word that referred to rubbing with oil, specifically dowsing the heads of sheep with a medicated oil that would prevent a parasitical worm from boring into their ears and brains and killing them. Thus the word came to imply caring for, protecting, even keeping as special, an innocent and valuable creature.

            It evokes an interesting metaphor. If one is anointed, one is protected for a purpose. And if that purpose is to be an instrument of truth and light in the world, then one’s head/mind would need protection from the ear worm of the egoic voice, which whispers in our ears of limitation, fear and separation and obscures our true identity and the nature of all we perceive around us.   Jesus, in that way, was anointed, and so are we all when we join in his identity and purpose as Christ.

            So, follow me here, if we are all anointed with the potential to awaken to our unified origin, this Christ mind melts away all that is not Love. That is the meaning of Forgiveness, the Cosmic Solvent.   

            Later I read that one title for God in Islam, Al Ghafir (The Forgiver), as well as a pair of the 99 Beautiful Names of Allah that are both associated with Forgiveness–

Al-Ghaffar and Al-Ghafur—share the same root (gh-f-r) with the word for ‘helmet’. So Forgiveness is something else that protects the head, the mind, from the illusion and consequences of Evil or Sin.

            Then today, I received an email from the Society for the New Message. While their messages carry a bit more doomsday portent, the vocabulary and content greatly overlaps with A Course in Miracles.

            To end this post, I share an excerpt from that message. It should be noted that the “Knowledge” referred to there-in is not knowledge from books or worldly perception, but the ineffable apprehension of the unified Truth behind, beyond and within. Let go of the words; get the transmission.

Happy Christness everyone.

 

From the New Message Folks:

                  Christmas represents the emergence of Knowledge in the individual. This is exemplified in the life of Jesus, who beyond his own understanding even, a Greater Power emerged within him and overtook his life—uniting him with the Unseen Ones, who guided him and led to the expression of his great and significant ministry.

                  His demonstration, then, though greatly misunderstood and misappropriated, remains today as a symbol of the emergence of Knowledge within the individual. Though Jesus has been idealized, though his life has been made to be unique and unmatched by any other life, though he has been placed on a pedestal above and beyond every other person, in truth, his life represents the emergence of Knowledge within the individual.

                  This emergence is possible for you. It represents your greater destiny and your higher purpose in life. This is not to say that your demonstration will be equivalent to that of Jesus’, for he was an extraordinary individual, and his demonstration was unique. But your demonstration will be unique as well, though … not as visible as his. And as he was part of a Greater Order, the expression of Knowledge within you will unite you with a Greater Order as well.

                  You are not, then, to compare your life with his, but instead to learn of the meaning of Knowledge, the greater Spiritual Power within you, and how it relates to life around you and to the greater spiritual forces which are at work in the world, who were at work in the world at his time and who are at work in the world today.

                  Jesus is now amongst the Unseen Ones, who guided, counseled and comforted him in his time as a person on Earth. Now he is part of their greater association. Now it is your time on Earth. Your demonstration will be different from his because you live in a different era, in a different kind of world. Though many of the human problems [that] were evident then are still evident, humanity is now facing the reality of the Greater Community and the necessity and the difficulty of becoming a one-world community.

                  Jesus did not have to address these problems in his time, and therefore his ministry was different, meeting the needs and the evolutionary development of his time. But now you must meet the needs and the evolutionary development of your time.

                  You cannot do this based upon the strength of your ideas. You cannot do this by being an adamant person. You cannot do this by rebelling against society or by attacking its institutions. You can only do this with Knowledge, and you can only do this with the power of the Unseen Ones, who will come to assist you as Knowledge begins to emerge within you.

                  Only Knowledge has the strength to move other minds. Only Knowledge has the potency to create a lasting impact. Only Knowledge can foster good and good intentions. Only Knowledge can counteract fear and hostility. Only Knowledge can bless the world.

Your promise, then, is to become a man or a woman of Knowledge—a vehicle for Knowledge; a person through which Knowledge can speak, act and move; a bringer of Grace, but also a person of action who can effect change, but with a greater spirit; who can speak the truth, but with a greater authority; who can reveal error, but with a greater compassion…

                  This is your Christmas now. It is not simply a commemorative holiday. It is not simply a remembrance of Jesus. It is not simply a remembrance of family and friends. It is not simply a time to give gifts and to be giving for a few days out of the year. Though it may include all of these things, the meaning of Christmas is greater. Let it be greater for you. Let it be a time, then, that you remember that you have a greater purpose in the world and that you have been sent into the world to reclaim this purpose—to accept it, to experience it and to follow it so that it may be contributed.

                  Let this be a time that you remember that your life is greater than simply being a person in the world who has basic needs. It is this greater part of you—this greater calling and this greater purpose—that gives meaning to all the lesser aspects of yourself and unites them harmoniously and fulfills their roles…

This is Christmas for you. It does not happen only once a year, but it is a reminder that beyond all of your personal needs and immediate difficulties, you have a greater mission. And like in the life of Jesus, you must come to find this. You must feel it and allow it to emerge. You must recognize that alone you cannot fulfill it because it is not for you alone.

                  You will wander in the desert, you will experience the temptations of the world, and you will feel the conflict between this greater emerging part of yourself and your personal wishes, preferences and fears. For, like Jesus, you must allow this Greater Power and greater purpose to eclipse your life, to envelop your life and to reorganize and redirect your life. This is Christmas.

Answered prayers; post script to Light of the World post.

 

Three Interventions of the Christ Mind

 

The following is a footnote to a companion post, Be the Light of the World—No Batteries Required!    As mentioned there, I couldn’t connect with the concepts I’d prepared to present in the Spiritual Happy Hour service I was going to lead. Relief came the night before with the decision to let experience speak for what cannot be adequately described. These three different moments of redemption came to mind: prayers answered and received.

The first is the best known. Elisabeth Gilbert’s bathroom floor salvation moment in Eat, Pray, Love . I found this excerpt on the Web of her describing how she had:

…reached a state of hopeless and life-threatening despair, and it occurred to me that sometimes people in this state will approach God for help. I think I’d read that in a book somewhere.

What I said to God through my gasping sobs was something like this: “Hello, God. How are you? I’m Liz. It’s nice to meet you.”

That’s right—I was speaking to the creator of the universe as though we’d just been introduced at a cocktail party. But we work with what we know in this life, and these are the words I always use at the beginning of a relationship. In fact, it was all I could do to stop myself from saying, “I’ve always been a big fan of your work …”

“I’m sorry to bother you so late at night,” I continued. “But I’m in serious trouble. And I’m sorry I haven’t ever spoken directly to you before, but I do hope I have always expressed ample gratitude for all the blessings that you’ve given me in my life.”

This thought caused me to sob even harder. God waited me out. I pulled myself together enough to go on: “I am not an expert at praying, as you know. But can you please help me? I am in desperate need of help. I don’t know what to do. I need an answer. Please tell me what to do. Please tell me what to do. Please tell me what to do …”

And so the prayer narrowed itself down to that simple entreaty—Please tell me what to do—repeated again and again. I don’t know how many times I begged. I only know that I begged like someone who was pleading for her life. And the crying went on forever.

Until—quite abruptly—it stopped.

Quite abruptly, I found that I was not crying anymore. I’d stopped crying, in fact, in mid-sob. My misery had been completely vacuumed out of me. I lifted my forehead off the floor and sat up in surprise, wondering if I would see now some Great Being who had taken my weeping away. But nobody was there. I was just alone. But not really alone, either. I was surrounded by something I can only describe as a little pocket of silence—a silence so rare that I didn’t want to exhale, for fear of scaring it off. I was seamlessly still. I don’t know when I’d ever felt such stillness.

Then I heard a voice. Please don’t be alarmed—it was not an Old Testament Hollywood Charlton Heston voice, nor was it a voice telling me I must build a baseball field in my backyard. It was merely my own voice, speaking from within my own self. But this was my voice as I had never heard it before. This was my voice, but perfectly wise, calm and compassionate. This was what my voice would sound like if I’d only ever experienced love and certainty in my life. How can I describe the warmth of affection in that voice, as it gave me the answer that would forever seal my faith in the divine?

The voice said: Go back to bed, Liz.

I exhaled.

It was so immediately clear that this was the only thing to do. I would not have accepted any other answer. I would not have trusted a great booming voice that said either: You Must Divorce Your Husband! or You Must Not Divorce Your Husband! Because that’s not true wisdom. True wisdom gives the only possible answer at any given moment, and that night, going back to bed was the only possible answer. Go back to bed, said this omniscient interior voice, because you don’t need to know the final answer right now, at three o’clock in the morning on a Thursday in November. Go back to bed, because I love you. Go back to bed, because the only thing you need to do for now is get some rest and take good care of yourself until you do know the answer. Go back to bed so that, when the tempest comes, you’ll be strong enough to deal with it. And the tempest is coming, dear one. Very soon. But not tonight. Therefore:

Go back to bed, Liz.

(Read more at http://www.beliefnet.com/Inspiration/2007/08/Hearing-The-Voice-Of-God-On-The-Bathroom-Floor.aspx#W6lAbA66fb2qBp9P.99)

 

The second is an account from the memoir The World’s Strongest Librarian, by Josh Hanagarne.   As a Mormon just emerging from highschool, he, too, has come to a befuddled crossroads and a crisis of faith. He has literally driven in a deluge to the end of a road in a neighboring state and stopped, sobbing:

 

I cried embarrassingly hard. There was a set of Scriptures under my seat…. I opened the books at random, settling on Section 6 of the Doctrine and Covenants, a series of “revelations” to the prophet Joseph Smith and others. Section 6 was a revelation given to Oliver Cowdery, [Smith’s scribe]. Verse 22 is allegedly Christ speaking to doubting Oliver:

“If you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things.”

I ‘d said hundreds, if not thousands of prayers, simply going through the motions. I knew the words. I knew the actions, and the reverent posture. I knew how it was supposed to work and how it was supposed to feel. But I didn’t know what it meant to really cry out in my heart.

…. I started talking. “I need to know. I don’t know what to do. I have no idea what’s going to happen to me and I have no idea how strong I’m supposed to be before I deserve help from you. I don’t even know if you’re there. I hope you are, but I don’t want to believe things because they make me feel better. I want to believe them because they’re true. Is it possible to know that? Is it?”

The wind stopped. The rain stopped. Despite the goose bumps that stood up on my arms, I was warm and calm inside, as still and peaceful as the weather outside. If you’ve ever lost control of your body to sobbing, you know it’s hard to calm down until you’re cried out. I’d been in the thick of that, nowhere close to drying up. And yet it happened. One moment you might have thought I was weeping at my mom’s coffin. The next…[his ellipses] everything was fine. Clarity and calm flooded through me. Part of me watched this happening from a distance and said, ‘Now hold on…is this really an answer?’

But it was a small part of me. The rest of me marveled at how different I suddenly felt. I wish I could describe it better. I would tell that to a bishop later and he would laugh as he said, “Why should you be able to use mortal words to accurately describe something divine? …

 

The last account is my own. I’d had infusions of the Christ Peace before, but this one stands somehow in the same way the above do.  

           I was trying to make the best of my one week in New Zealand, tacked onto two months in Australia—this despite a virus that my body was barely keeping from plowing me under. It had long since sapped my strength and any enthusiasm. But here I was in Rotorua, a geothermal hotspot, like our own Yellowstone. I had walked to Saint Faiths Anglican Church, a chapel on Lake Rotorua. It was a wonderful place, poignantly blending Maori craftsmanship and indigenous spirituality (in the hand-carved wooden pews detailing the local deities) with Christian lore and iconography, exemplified stunningly in a picture window to the right of the nave, on which was etched an image of Jesus, walking toward the beholder, wearing Maori garb and a fur mantle. From the viewing area, it appeared that He was walking on the Lake behind. It was brilliant in concept but also literally, as the sun poured in and illuminated the frosted glass image. Breathtaking.

            But wonder was not a sensation available to me, and my breath was already hostage to the virus. There was none left for the physical experience of awe.

            I was very cranky and depressed as I entered the church. Angry and pissy, I uncharacteristically snapped photos even though signs respectfully forbade it, because none of the affordable images for sale were doing the place justice in my judgment. And judgment was about all I could feel beyond the din of my symptoms, and then the added hiss of shame about my nasty mindset.

            I absorbed all I could and then left, in order to spare the place of my toxic emissions (psychic more than physical). I walked the grounds and snapped more photos (permitted here). I was going to leave, head back toward the hostel, but as I passed the angel sentry overlooking the entrance, I was drawn back in through the exquisitely carved doorway.

            I plopped down on a pew and gave up. If I spoke I don’t remember. But I probably seeped a few exasperated tears of self-pity and tried to meditate. I handed over my burden, and, in some way, silently (perhaps even wordlessly) pleaded to be freed from this angst, forgiven for my meanness, and maybe given strength to appreciate my time in this implausibly green and pleasant land.

            Next thing I knew, everything felt different. Like the others, I am challenged to describe it. But all was well and all was forgiven, including “me.” …Although now “me” was bathing in an “I” with far more space, Grace and Wisdom and aware of a grateful, warm, beating heart.

            Afterward, the body still trudged thickly up the hill through town, but colors were more vivid and I knew I was not alone.

 

 I’m sure many readers will have had a  comparable experience at some time. I hope so! What these accounts have in common is that each person had come to a crisis point and cried out with that desperation that makes for very focused and powerful prayers, and each of us had given up on “our own” resources.

            This raises the question Can we live, walk our path, so that these moments don’t require the prerequisite nadirs of desperation? How do we live surrendered enough so we do not have to go through these spiritual crisis periods, with the obligatory charge of resistance and arrogance building to a crescendo of existential cramping and then collapse?

            It may be that our nature as humans makes this necessary, and that in cultivating the surrendered life, we must go through the labors of shedding our habits of mind and the conditioning of a culture of competition and self-definition.

            We as a species have been going through the growing pains of collective terrible twos and self-absorbed adolescence into maturity. And maybe many of the technological advances that now allow more refined evolution were made possible by those darker stages of myopic “forgetfulness.” Luckily, we have not lost our helmets* in the process—in the Jihad of the Inner Christ.

        Awakening is a melting away of the dross, which employs both the invincible flame of light and will within, as well as the invisible support of that same invisible sun shining from everywhere in creation.

            There is nothing like experience to show us that, each of us, and each of our lives, is a temple. And as we mature, we recognize that, in tending the temple, daily maintenance avoids the most explosive messes and the impossible cleaning jobs born of neglect. Some sort of daily prayer or focused intention keeps the boat on course in the sweet spot of the river.

            That doesn’t mean the winds don’t come and the termites of doubt don’t gnaw at our hulls, but we drift less perilously toward the rocks, and we drown out the many siren songs with our own.

* reference from other post