Reading, reading, and more reading is for me a time-tested source of reflection. This week it’s The Practice of Spiritual Direction, by William A. Barry & William J. Connolly. They ask, “Who is God for me, and who am I for God?”
Who is God for me? God is infinity, God is love. God is both remote and inaccessible and also fully present and personal. For me that means God transcends mystery, which can be microscopic or cosmic in nature. God is always present, but not in control.
Who am I for God? Wholly imperfect, fully human, worthy, and loved.
How do I feel about myself in relation to God? Inadequate, imperfect (based on deep-seated, internalized judgments from my father and other humans. Now I remember that they, too, were both inadequate and also imperfect.)
How do I feel about myself in relationship with God? I feel loved for who I am, mortal and limited. I feel challenged to be my best self, not anyone else.
How can I enter into (fuller) relationship with God?
- Stop and breathe.
- Confess my greatest hope and/or my greatest concern.
- Listen to inner wisdom and wisdom of the ages.
- Begin again in love.
Those four steps do not require a belief in a particular god/dess or deity. They require me to tap into the depths of my own knowledge and experience. They remind me to love to the best of my ability day by day. (Reading helps, too!)
How do you maintain a connection with your highest power? In relation to what? In relationship with whom? (Even tentative thoughts are fine!)
I am diving into a three-year course of study through Formation in Direction, FIND. First assignments have us plunging into both eastern and western Christian spirituality, and into personality types (beginning with our own).
The Cloud of Unknowing, written by an anonymous Christian mystic in 14th century England, captures the state of my progress.
Unknowing whatever I thought I knew about God, the unknowable.
Unknowing whatever logic gets in the way of silence.
Unknowing where FIND will take me.
Anonymous begins this book by telling the reader not to read it aloud or copy it or quote from it. Its lessons about contemplative prayer belong to one reader at a time. Until I have read the 75 short chapters and actually followed their instructions, I cannot know the whole of it, nor can I explain it fully by sharing it in part.
How delightful! This unknowing!
As I travel this unknowable path toward an unknowable God, I will come here to this blog from time to time to drop pebbles of uncertain origin. They might help me find my way home. The stones on my desk are inscribed with individual words:
Always Say a Prayer
For now I shall claim them as my touchstones and solid companions to help me find my way home. Let the Unknowing begin!
“Where is God in all this for you now?” It’s a typical question posed by my spiritual director. Here is today’s answer, as always subject to change!
For me God is in my heart along with all the joy and sorrow and especially with the confusion, trying to fan a flame of certainty or certitude or clarity. Then if God is within me and all beings and the universe and bigger than the cosmos, God is the heartbeat of it all; the electrical impulse that keeps us going (until it doesn’t–but then, it’s still pulsing), and of course God is linked to the breath–breath of life and cessation of breath (yet it is still flowing all around us).
In the flow . . . let it all go . . . breathe in peace / God . . . breathe out love / God . . . “all shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well” (Julian of Norwich).
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “I believe in the sun even when it is not shining.” When I pay attention to the breath of life and the heartbeat within everything I believe in the power of God and I believe in everlasting love that powers and sustains us all. Rest in that love.
A new (to me) meditation CD helped me relax so nicely. Psychologist Paul Overman has a series of 10 Minutes to Relax CDs. Guided meditation for about 10 minutes and another 10 minutes of relaxing music (Jim Oliver on synthesizer). It’s a great reminder that meditation does not need to take much time. It just needs the space–your personal space–that will bring you back to your center. Doesn’t that feel so good when you let it happen?
So for just one minute, breathe with me.
Let your rib cage expand, . . .
let your breath come smoothly and easily. . . .
Let tension flow all the way through and out of your body. . . .
Let wellbeing flow into you, . . .
from toes and fingers . . .
all the way through to your head. . . .
Then take this moment with you into your day. . . .
Preparing for travel is one thing. Preparing for 2 very different trips almost back to back takes a different approach. My basic packing list is in my computer, so I have a running start. But my mind starts fibrillating with fleeting thoughts about what to take, what to buy, what to set up. An example of each: take an extra memory card, buy packets of dried fruit for the room, set up Skype for this netbook I’ve borrowed from Donna and Jon. (Thank you!)
Meditation helps me stay centered, but sometimes it also requires a pen and notepad. Normally I would let those thoughts float by and disappear like clouds. This time I feel an urge to remember them. The monkey mind is insistent. So for 20 minutes that’s how the meditation went this morning. Then I was able to sit in stillness, knowing that the latest notes could do the thinking for me.
Now back in Austin after several days on the road, including a Jim Scott concert and a rain-drenched walk on the beach in Galveston, I am more fully detached from my normal routine. Wet clothes are in the laundry and I feel relaxed and ready for the next round of packing, first for Santa Barbara and Pacific Grove, California. I continue to look ahead to the trip to India. Weekly malaria pills start today.
Far more interesting than packing is the perusal of Lonely Planet: India and National Geographic’s The Geography of Religion. I’m reading the sections on Hinduism and Buddhism. Also watching a series of videos called Phantom India. Though the documentary is dated, the traditions it describes have not changed in centuries.
I appreciate the tips by Sateesh and Carrie, who live in Austin and who both know from Indian and American perspectives about what to expect. Tips are appropriate; usually a dollar is plenty. Women are not always allowed to enter temples. Statues of Kali will likely be available and of course, Ganesha will be everywhere!