“When the existence and marvelous power of the deeper self is recognized, the “Know Thyself” of the Delphic Oracle acquires a new and profounder meaning. It no longer means only “analyse your thoughts and feelings and actions”; it means study your most intimate self, discover the real being hidden in the depths of your soul, learn its marvelous potency.” ~Roberto Assagioli
Assagioli goes on to say that this is not about deifying the Self, but about finding that place in the Self that is in touch with God or a Higher Power of some kind. There is something about this idea that is both eminently satisfying and eminently frustrating. If we all have within us this potent, amazing being, yet we only see it in brief, transcendent moments, it can be challenging. It seems almost painful to know that this beautiful, powerful calling is within us, yet only sometimes can we hear it.
But isn’t that what we’re here for? To listen for the calling, and follow where it leads us?
I was reading over at Ask Mormon Girl, and the question she was addressing was about prayer. And it made me think about how challenging I feel the idea of prayer can be.
When someone asks for prayers, or mentions a death/illness/difficult time I often offer to keep them in my thoughts, or send positive energy/light their way. Because for me, that’s more comfortable than saying “I’ll pray for you.” There are a number of reasons…one is that it would be dishonest – rarely do I speak concrete prayers, and I can’t remember the last time I specifically prayed FOR someone. I also think that prayer can feel very transactional – if I pray, then such and such will happen. And that’s not the way that I feel like the universe works. And as a reiki practitioner, my training tells me that the energy will go where it’s needed, and that when we ask the universe for energy, it should be for the greatest good of the person we are treating – which isn’t always what they want it to be.
I think it’s hard to think of prayer that way, but it’s realistic – if I hold someone in my heart, send them energy, pray for them, whatever I want to call it, I shouldn’t be the one to decide what they need and ask for that. It’s about putting out the thoughts/energy/idea that I hope that whatever is for their best overall good will come.
“In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.” ~Gandhi
“Why do we need to feel virtuous? When I feel self-righteous, am I in the mode that can produce terrorism?” ~Madeleine L’Engle, Bright Evening Star
Back to the question of being “right” again…I can’t get away from it. When I need to be right, am I any better than anyone else who needs to be right? Of course, I’m not, but it’s so easy in those moments to convince myself that because the causes I fight for are just and focused on inequality, it’s okay for me to close my mind to what anyone else has to say. And it isn’t any better…but it’s so easy to just turn off that little voice that says that sometimes being right doesn’t make things any better…and it can definitely make things worse.
My friend K. writes a blog about parenting, and she wrote a few days ago about how people judge other parents by their own standards of parenting…and how this turns people against each other. We all want so much to believe that we’re doing the right thing for ourselves, for our families, for our Gods, for our causes, that we convince ourselves by shutting out the rest of the arguments. We try to yell louder than everyone else.
And so, when I read the quote from Madeleine L’Engle that opened this piece, it really hit me how true it is. As I struggle with what it means to be right, I’m also struggling to find the balance between war and peace, destruction and creation. So much of what destroys in this world comes not from the goal of destruction, but from the goal of proving once and for all who is right. And I don’t want to be right if that’s the cost.
But in those moments of self-righteousness and indignant political/religious/social anger, it can be really hard to remember that…
“Hate has erased all the normal barriers…Hate is contagious. We asked ourselves how immune we were…” ~Madeleine L’Engle, Bright Evening Star
I am a Christian. But I am not a Christian. I am living in the space between. There are a lot of people who can’t understand this. There is a lot of pressure to choose one side or the other. But there’s a lot of truth in the in-between spaces.
Some of my dearest friends are Christians – the kind of Bible reading, church-going, sincerely praying people who many envision when they think of the word Christian. And I love that about them. I love that they are so committed and empowered in their faith, and that it gives them strength. But I am not that person.
Some of my dearest friends are atheists. Secular humanist, science based realists, who think that belief in God is a crutch. And I love that about them. I love that they are so secure in their humanity, so committed to living in the here and now. But I am not that person.
I have friends who are Buddhists, Jews, Catholics, seekers, spiritual-but-not-religious, and Wiccan. I have friends who believe in heaven, hell, reincarnation, karma, one life, many lives, and life ever after.
And I live in the space between. I believe in spirit, energy, connection, love and something that ties us all together in something bigger than ourselves. And sometimes I call that something God. And sometimes I call it Jesus. And sometimes I don’t. Because right now, what is true for me is the journey, and the space between faith and reason, here-and-now and everlasting.
I spent the past day and a half at a Reiki I training. Friday night, after meeting my teacher and classmates, I was treated to a guided meditation and attunement. Basically this means I got to relax and let healing energy flow in and around and through me as my body learned how to channel it. I felt like I was sparkling last night. I felt loving and open and warm, and it was wonderful.
Today, I learned more of the history and philosophy and guidelines of the practice, and how to give Reiki treatments to myself and others. I gave a treatment and received one. And in giving this treatment, I feel like I understand a little bit better what happens when people are filled with the holy spirit, or blessed in some way, or feel the presence of a higher power…in the words of my beloved musical Godspell (and so, yes, also the Gospel of Matthew) “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light.” My whole body felt full of light…
With this new, cleansing energy in my life, I can’t wait to see what else comes next…
The story this week, readers, is in the questions.
I am a 26-year-old returned missionary, have a temple recommend, serve in the Elder's Quorum presidency in my singles ward, and am attracted to men. Without detailing the entire melodramatic saga, I've been dealing with this issue my entire life, but it has really consumed a lot of my attention, energy, and vitality in the last four years.
“I come to you with strange fire, I make an offering of love, the incense of my soil is burned by the fire in my blood. I come with a softer answer to the questions that lie in your path. I want to harbor you from the anger, find a refuge from the wrath.
This is a message of love. Love that moves from the inside out, love that never grows tired. I come to you with strange fire.” ~Indigo Girls
Easter brings out the Catholic in me – but it also brings out the pagan in me. There’s a love of ritual that is awakened with the birth of spring, and the Easter vigil.
Someone asked me to make plans for the night of the Easter vigil, and out of nowhere, my soul said no. I have to go to church. This is something that I don’t say to people very often, because, well, I don’t really go to church.
But the Easter vigil, where the greens of last year are burned and the new fire is blessed, where the paschal candle is blessed with fire and water, where we begin in the dark and welcome back the light – this is ritual at its best.
Ritual is why I loved being a Catholic for so many years. Ritual is why I am drawn to ancient rites and historical holy places and times. Ritual makes me feel whole again, cleansed, and complete and part of something much bigger than myself.
And once a year, no matter where I am, no matter what my journey has brought in the interim, I need to spend two hours immersed in this familiar and powerful ritual. I can’t wait for next Saturday.
The first time I ever went to yoga, I came out with a migraine. I swore that it was not my thing, and would never be. When people see me at work, they often notice that I rarely sit still. I bounce from room to room, making notes, observing behavior, weighing in. When I teach, I need a pencil in hand, even if I’m not the one doing any writing. I have never been comfortable with stillness.
My initial attempts at meditation have been on-again, off-again forays into body scans, and sitting meditation, and breathing…and I can do it sometimes. But my favorite way to meditate is authentic movement…spending twenty minutes just listening to how my body wants to move or be still, in its own time, in its own rhythm, and my mind clears in a way that no silent sitting still has ever done.
So why do I keep trying to sit? Because it’s hard. Because even though once a week I stretch, roll, curl up and intuit my way to mental stillness, I know that I have miles to go. And if I can sit for ten minutes on Monday, there’s no guarantee I can sit for another ten on Tuesday. But I can keep trying.
Meditation is not a contemporary Christian practice. It’s not something I learned at my church, but it’s also not something that separates me from my Christian roots. Anyone can meditate, no matter what their beliefs. Growing closer to yourself, and opening your mind can also bring you closer to God. But it isn’t easy. And it shouldn’t be.
Psalm 46:10 tells us to “be still and know that I am God” - and for me, the knowing is easier than the stillness, and it always has been. But both parts are important. Being still is not enough by itself. Knowing God (or universe, or infinity, or peace) is not enough by itself. Because that moment where we can find stillness and peace with ourselves and the universe – that’s rare, and precious and worth striving for. Even though it will always be hard.
“There is a great temptation to suggest to myself or others where God is working and where not, when God is present and when not, but nobody, no Christian leader, priest, or pastor, no monk or nun, and no spiritual director has any ‘special’ knowledge about God.” ~Henri Nouwen
So, there’s an election going on. And while my vocal, political, feminist voice wants to shout to the rooftops that certain candidates who claim to know what it means to be Christian, or right, or moral, are anything but, I’m learning that it’s more complicated than that. My cousin commented one day on Facebook that she hates how Christian has become a word that people use as if it’s bad, tainted, ruined by those who are in the public eye and claim to speak on behalf of Christians. And I want to say that they don’t speak for Christians, I do…but I can’t. Because as much as I want to say that I’m right, I’m moral, I’m Christian, it would be just as untrue as when the other side says it.
No one can tell what mysteries God has planned for us. Whether we call God by the name Allah or El, Inanna or Vishnu, Earth Mother or Adonai, or any other name, none of us has the answer. None of us is right. And yet we all are.
And the high-achiever, the A-student, the reader of books in me wants to rail against this. Wants to scream and cry that there must be a right answer. That’s why I like math so much – there’s a right answer. But here, there is only being in the moment, listening, and exploring. There’s no answer key for this.