Saturday, August 1, 2009

Free Will & Other Dangerous Concepts to Enjoy!

(Launching right in...)

- As we observe our mental and emotional flow over a period of disciplined time, we recognize that we largely create our own experiences. I know this is embarrassing and some of us deny it, but it's true. We have the power to decide what each moment means and how we will respond to it. We have the power when we know we have the ability to respond freely. We can decide if we're going to respond to something hatefully or lovingly. We can decide to attack or ask for the gift of forgiveness, or at least the gift of understanding.

(This is so very, very true in my own life-experience ... though I came to it the long and hard way. Not sure I've come to anything the *easy* way, come to think of it! I've heard it said, "it's not what happens to us that hurts us, it's what we *think* about what happens to us that hurts us." Learning that one is way-liberating. Learning how powerful our thoughts are, learning how we're actually co-creators with our thoughts, is a critical level of self-awareness ... one I believe God is leading many of us - potentially all of us - to see.)

- When grace is no longer an experienced reality, it seems the realm of freedom is lost to. It's easy, too easy to demonize the other side ... Negative identity, shallow as it is, comes more easily than dedicate choices. It is frankly much easier to be against than to be for, Even in the church, many have no positive vision forward so they lead the charge backward or against. But note that Jesus' concept of the "Reign of God" is totally positive - not fear-based, or against any individual, group, sin, or problem. Even though admonition not to fear is the most common one-liner in the Bible, our system never called fear a sin. We reward it, as all organizational system will ... fear offers control to those in management.

(Fear is the second-most powerful force in the universe -- second only to Love. We don't really believe that God is love -- we "buffer" the concept with "well, God is also judgment and wrath"... as if a God of love is TOO good to be true, too dangerous to entertain...! Nor do we believe that love really is that powerful -- when someone reveals that they believe in a God of Love, the words bandied about are "light and fluffy" as if the God of Love were not Omnipotent in His love. So we settle for remaining at the beginning of things ... where fear is the beginning of wisdom - but it's not a place we're meant to set up camp upon.)

- We have defined freedom in the West as the freedom to choose between options and preferences. That's not primal freedom. That's a secondary or even tertiary freedom. The primal freedom is the freedom to be the self, the freedom to live in the truth despite all circumstances.

(Yes! Even if one looses all friends, one by one ... even if others say all manner of evil against one falsely ... even if one is considered to be dangerous, crazy and heretical ... even if one is ostracized and shunned ... even if one is misunderstood, and given no opportunity to clarify. The joy that comes with living in the truth is *enough* ... it's even enough to enable us to show compassion and understanding to those who cannot ...)

- In the silence of contemplation, we will observe the process whereby we actively choose and create what we pay attention to. That's why the first twenty minutes or so are usually so terrible. For the first twenty minutes only primary agenda shows itself. My mind just starts going: what I need to worry about, what I'm going to do today, what this person is thinking because I haven't answered their letter. On and on and on. When that's the case, how can we see clearly the rest of the day? We won't see things as they are; we will see everything as we are. We're often just living in reaction to others. There's something strangely sweet about negative or accusatory feelings. It's a strange way to achieve moral superiority to feel right because someone else is wrong. We keep thinking until we've maneuvered ourselves into a position over somebody else. It's another dead end. We have to train ourselves to recognize how we're giving an "affective change" to an offense, how we are getting energy from mulling over someone else's mistakes. We can build a case against that person with no effort of all. We wrap and embellish and by the time our twenty minutes of "prayer" are over, we have a complete case. The verdict is in: the other person is guilty. And wrong besides. And because the other is wrong, we are right. "Scapegoating is when we displace the issue and project it over there, instead of owning it here, too. Conscious judgment is a necessity -- we know that reality is not all sweetness and light, even though it is ultimately good. But unconscious judgment of something that appears bad (because it threatens our ego) is called repression. It is humiliating, after all, to find the freedom to say, "We have found the enemy and it is us."

(Whew! That really hits home for me ... I must confess -- I really, *really* have a hard time with meditation and contemplative prayer -- even as I REALLY recognize my need to learn to do it. I'm open to any suggestions...! And I also have to confess that I do know that "strangely sweet" feeling that comes with accusing another ... or feeling morally superior to them -- man, can the ego ever be subtle in that regard...! Nothing quite like getting proud of my humility! The notion of the "enemy" being us has become a significant reality to me in recent years ... I believe it was always the case, but we indeed scapegoated our "stuff" onto the ultimate overlyl-personified "other" ... satan.)

- According to Lawrence Kohlberg, who wrote on levels of moral development, we are incapable of understanding a stage more than one beyond our own. A third-level person can't make sense of what someone on the fifth level is saying. It is meaningless. Jesus, in this schema, is a sixth-level person. Most people have not done their first-, second- and third-level work of conscience. They have some growing to do yet. Jesus really meant it when he said, "Forgive them, they know not what they do." The vast majority of people, according to Kohlberg, remain in the first levels of moral development.

(Hmmm... this dude would be a fascinating person to read about ... while I abhor labels, I find it helpful to better understand how we think, how we grow, how we develop.)

- If we're not willing to be led through our fears and anxieties, we will never see or grow. We must always move from one level to a level we don't completely understand yet. Every step "up the ladder" of moral development is taken in semi-darkness, by the light of faith. The greatest barrier to the next level of conscience or consciousness is our comfort and control at the one we are at now.

(Can I get an AMEN?!? The past five years have been an ongoing state of stepping out into semi-darkness for me ... how nice to read it here, and realize it's *normal* -- or as close to normal as I'm ever going to come...!)

- Our first response to anyone calling us to truth, greatness, goodness or morality at a higher level will be increased anxiety. We don't say, "Isn't this wonderful." Instead, we recoil in terror and say, " I don't know if I want to go there." At the edges of medieval maps was frequently penciled the warning: "Here be dragons." We confront these dragons when we approach the edge of our comfort level. "He must be wrong. That's not true." That's our usual first response when we're called to a higher level. But if we haven't been trained to recognize our fears and let go of them, we will feed them.

(Ohhhhh, yes! I've experienced those dragons ... "but if I don't believe in a God who torments people in hell forever, then I'll end UP in hell, being tormented forever!" "There's a special sort of hell for folks who believe that God is too loving!" Recognize any sort of circular reasoning going on there? The fear of the unknown was swallowed up by the fear of what I'd traditionally been taught .. and finally perfect love had it's way, and fear is being swallowed up completely ...!)

- The most distressing letters I get are from people who feel they must put you back in their box. They try to dismiss or shame anyone calling them out of their comfort zone. For if you are right, they think they might have to change or admit they are wrong. But of course, they're still thinking egocentrically in terms of right/wrong and win/lose. No wonder they can't find the truth. How wonderful if we are free to say, "Could 10 percent of what she is saying perhaps be true?" That would be a win/win situation. So let's ask for that kind of openness, to see more fully. God alone seems capable of guiding us through these transitional and dark stages. We, by ourselves, will always panic and run. So we need to recognize those initial anxiety responses and what that affective charge feels like.

(This is written right out of my own life...! For the past year, I've been involved in an ongoing situation wherein I changed my theological views, and this threatened some folks we were in fellowship with, in a fundamental way. Out of fear, their reaction was control and manipulation ... trying to get me to see why I was wrong, and punishing me, by withholding relational connection, unless and until I'd see the errors of my ways. They so badly wanted me back in their box -- which, to be fair, was my own former box. My change seemed to threaten them into thinking I was trying to change them too -- heels were dug in, lines were drawn in the sand, conversation slammed to a halt, and it became a "one of us is wrong - facts are facts" scenario. Dead end. No consideration of there being even a smidgen of truth in what I was sharing -- in what was transforming me and exciting the snot out of me! It was never about "winning" for me, never about converting. As my friend Kevin Beck says (a lot!), I want conversations far more than I want conversions (conversions aren't my busines, but the business of the Spirit). I wanted mutual respect for each one's journey ... being free to share, being free to consider each other's view, for our own enrichment. Not a debate, not a contest, not a competition. I'm grieving over watching this once-close relationship die a slow and painful death ... watching as each bridge I extended got turned into a wall ... and it didn't have to be that way.)

- We need to understand the kinesthetic, the bodily knowing. Body-responses are not always as obvious as sweat under the arms. They often involve getting in touch and starting to trust and feel.

(This is so very easy to repress! First, because we're taught that our bodies are "bad": flesh=body=bad. Second, because we're taught to distrust our own feelings - the heart is deceptively wicked, who can trust it? Yeah, right -- but it's where Jesus lives, in this stone-turned-flesh heart -- oops, there we have God declaring something of flesh to be good..! There He goes again, mucking up our theology...! Third, this is an area men have traditionally been taught to dismiss, as Richard is about to unpack so very well!)

- Women tend to be much better at bodily knowing than men are. We've joked about it as women's intuition, but I think it is simply the state of body and mind in union. That's been more damaged in the male, I have no doubt. We men have a harder time. Be patient with us. I suppose we separated mind from body for centuries to survive as hunters and warriors and slave laborers. To win in the patriarchal game and to succeed in the win/lose strategy, one must separate body, mind, and soul for the sake of efficiency. Men have been put in this game for centuries. To put yourself in the front lines of war you need to dissociate. That's the price men have paid for "power." We surrendered our kinesthetic knowing, and, unfortunately, much of our soul.

(As a mama of 5 men/boys, the wife of a man, and the friend of very many men, my heart goes out to all men, who have been just as much damaged as have been the women they confusedly-suppressed..! We all so badly need integration, as individuals, and as all mankind!)

- In our prayer, compassion becomes com-passion - feeling with. In prayer, we increase our sensitivity to the stupidity of what we're doing to people. Silence and suffering seem to be necessary teachers in all traditions, but most of us, frankly, would sooner just have some laws to obey. But the truth will feel outside the law at times. It is more grounded in reality than the law, so it will always feel dangerous. Law gives good information, but it cannot give spiritual strength or transformation (read the seventh chapter of Romans if you think this is a new, liberal idea). Without God's Spirit, we all stay inside our comfort zone and pull everything down to our own level.

(yes, this very much explains the reaction I often receive, when I share something I'm seeing, in a more traditional setting ... it's almost anticipatory, as if a script were being followed... having once lived there, I do understand, even as I abhor the damage that's done, both to and by those who hold to such a view...)

- The spiritual world is perfectly hidden and perfectly revealed in the physical world. The material world is the hiding place of God. If we get it in Jesus, we get it. God is perfectly hidden, but once the scales have been taken from our eyes, God is also perfectly revealed and we see the divine image in all material things. If we don't, we will continue to pollute the earth, exhibit unhealthy sexuality, and probably hate ourselves. God is hiding in physical reality, in politics, in feelings, in childbirth and death, in everything of this earth.

(yes - and as we were told, the day was coming in which we would see that everything is called "holy unto the Lord." Why don't we believe what we've been shown..?)

- The belief that God is "out there" is the basic dualism that is tearing us all apart. That's why we've raped the earth, why we have such poor understanding of our bodies, our economy and our health. that's why we live such distraught and divided life. What is worse is that Jesus came precisely to put it all together. He said, "This, the human, is good. the material, the physical can be trusted. This world is the hiding place of God, and the revelation of God." This bodily self, this physical world, participates in whatever it is that god is doing. Now even the new physics tells us that matter is merely the manifestation of spirit, but spirit, consciousness, relationship itself is the real thing (see "Quantum Theology" by Diarmuid O'Murchu). We used to think all the energy was in the particles of the atom; now it seems that the energy is, in fact, in the space between the particles!

(According to Jesus, God is not "out there", but in our midst ... within us. What other Source of Life do we imagine is in operation...? He breathed life, His life, into us -- there is no other life beyond the life of God. All life is God's life.)

- The only people who grow in truth are those who are humble and honest. A humble person is simply a person who is brutally honest about the whole truth. Growth is not accomplished by the acquisition of something new. In reality our growth is hidden. It is accomplished by the release of our current defense postures, by the letting go of fear and our attachment to self-image. Thus we grow more by subtraction than by addition. Once our defenses are out of the way and we are humble and poor, truth is allowed to show itself. It is not acquired. It shows itself when we are free from the ideology, fear and anger. "I know" won't get us anywhere. The truth is, I don't know anything! Similarly, meaning is not created;it is discovered. Our universe is an enchanted one; there is nothing new under the sun in terms of the soul. The great patters are always the same. It's either fear or love. It's either illusion or love. It's either self-protection or love. All we can do is get out of the way.

(Such core-level beauty...! Once upon a time, I had an "absolute truth" list a mile long, backed up by plenty of proof-texts and group-think. Over the course of the past five years, my list of "absolutes" has shrunk, incrementally ... until now, it comes down to very little: God IS love. God IS omnipresent. God IS omniscient. God IS omnipotent. I know that no one comes to the Father unless the Spirit draws them ... I know that Jesus said He would draw all men to Himself ... I know that Jesus said the Spirit would lead us into all truth. And y'know, that's about it. The rest strikes me as fluff and human-interpretation. At this point of my journey, I can just sum it up with: God IS. And because I've experienced Him, because I know Him, that's MORE than *enough*...!)

Shalom, Dena


graham old said...

I don't know how you keep coming up with such good stuff!

'We have the power to decide what each moment means and how we will respond to it... it's not what happens to us that hurts us, it's what we *think* about what happens to us that hurts us.'

You've pretty much summed up 90% of Buddhism there.

' be the self, the freedom to live in the truth despite all circumstances.'

I'd want to quibble with that - though I think it's a significant quibble - and say that the primary (in fact, the real) freedom is the freedom to be. I'm not sure we need to add a qualification to that 'be'. My concern is that if we say it is the free to be the self then we make that freedom an intrinsically (and primarilly) individualistic thing.

Of course, my Buddhist friends would say that the self is an illusion. I don't know if it is or not. (By definition, an illusion is pretty convincing!) However, that might be another reason that I quibble with putting 'self' as the central genuine freedom. I don't want to define them out of existence! :-)

Tracy said...

Dena, is this all from Richard Rohr's Everything Belongs? I just ordered that book. You and I are SO much on the same page....very refreshing to me :). I've had extremely similar experiences to what you describe in your blog and our journeys are on similar paths as well. Keep on writing, woman!

MysticBrit said...

God is and I am. We're All One. There's enough of everything for everyone. There's nothing we have to do. What we believe creates Who We Are. We are all unique expressions of Love. Jesus is cool.

That's my Extended Creed at the moment, but it might change in the next 24 hours;)

Thanks again for all your fine stimulating stuff, Dena!


Dena said...

Graham -

Ah, we all have connection to the same Source of Good Stuff...! I just seem to need to share in order to deeply process the good stuff. Perhaps it's because I have 8 children, and my poor brain is pooped -- some folks seem to absorb it at first-glance, and others, like me, challenged by life-events, seem to need to mull it over, underline the snot out of it, take notes, journal, discuss it, and then write it out. I can be annoying -- ask my husband.

I do like how so many truths, including those revealed through Buddhism, say the same message. It just seems so clear to me -- it's everywhere! I just no longer deny and suppress it as I thought I had to, as a good and myopic Christian.

I totally get your "quibble" ... and, as I'm seeing it, it's about dismantling-in-process ... I find the "illusional" language to be helpful ... though sometimes prefer "seen and unseen" rather than "real and illusion." Fact is, God has put me IN this physical and 'seen/illusional' world, and I'm to be IN it, though not OF it. I'm intensely desirous of learning to meditate, so that I can better tap into the unseen ... so that it's more experienced than *thought*. I do a lot of thinking ... but I want to go deeper.

I'm with you -- learning about the self/Self. I figure there's likely a deeper truth to be found in the balance of East/West, rather than fully gravitating to either/or. In fact, that's what I'd planned on blogging about today! Can't wait to see what comes out-of/through me!

(& btw, nag me about getting this blog more efficient ... I'm ready!)

Dena said...

Tracy - yes, this is from Rohr's book "Everything Belongs". I've been really enjoying it -- as well, "Things Hidden". To me, they go hand in hand with what Marcus Borg is writing ... both "Meeting Jesus AGAIN for the First Time," and "Reading the Bible AGAIN for the First Time."

Same basic message, through the experiences/minds of two very different men. Methinks they could be buds. If they haven't yet met to schmooze, they should.

Thanks for your encouragement -- I'll keep writing (tinkering with the notion of expanding into a book - tantalizing thought that's just crazy enough to intrigue me!). SO glad that our journeys are similar enough to resonate! That's so fun, no? To find someone else who sees as we do? Lovely of God to lead us that way!

Shalom, Dena

Dena said...

Harry - I love your "creed"...!

I'm no longer a creed-hugger, but there are a few succinct phrases that seem to encompass the joy of what I'm experiencing!

Thanks for sharing yours!

(you show me yours, and I'll show you mine, LOL!)

Shalom, Dena

MysticBrit said...

Dena - notice it's my 'Extended Creed';) The short version is the same as yours - God Is. That's Enough, but I like to flesh it out a little sometimes...

And then again, words don't ever even begin to encompass the stupendous Reality of what I find opening up gloriously, gently, powerfully within me. It's on a level such that I'm quite content to just Let It Happen, while also co-operating in the Opening.

All Truth is One, as we are All One. And Truth is being Soul-Hugged by Love, Who is All There Is.


PS What's inefficient about this blog? It's just Very Long;)

Dena said...

Yes, it's very long ... believe it or not, I try to keep it "short" LOL!

Graham wants to show me how to get the blog "out there" a bit more ... to connect with other like-minded, awakening folks.

He knows these things.

I be ignorant.

MysticBrit said...

I directed my brother John to you recently, Dena, and he said he thought there was plenty 'to chew on';). He's very much like-minded - he supplied me with all the Conversations with God books. I'm surprised he hasn't commented yet!

Yes, this wonderful stuff needs to be more widely known, and every chance I get I'll try to nudge people in your direction.

You read so widely, and are able to distil what you read so well, that you're an excellent 'portal' for anyone needing to know more.

We'll work on it;)


Dena said...

Well then, welcome, John! Chime in if/when you desire!

All this will unfold as its meant to .... and I trust I'll be prompted to respond with my part.

MysticBrit said...

Oh, I think we can trust you to respond in your inimitably honest, open and loving fashion, Dena. And lotsa laffin';). This is a Safe Place for all enquirers...

Now I'm hitting that ol' Slumber Trail, taking me down to Dreamsville....

Good to have this brief chat, Sis!