Archive for September, 2020

The Fruitful Margins of the Empire

September 30th, 2020

Mystics and the Margins

The Fruitful Margins of the Empire
Wednesday,  September 30, 2020

On the margins of the Roman Empire, Ireland and Scotland helped hand down the Christian contemplative lineage. The Romans had conquered much of Europe by the time of Jesus’ birth; though they ruled Britain, the Romans never occupied Ireland or parts of Scotland. This allowed the Celtic culture and Christian monks the freedom to thrive independently. They weren’t controlled by Roman practicality or Greek thinking. When Christian missionaries arrived by the third century, the Celts blended their pagan or creation-based spirituality with Christian liturgy, practice, and structure. As a result, Celtic Christianity was still grounded in the natural world, and they had much easier access to a cosmic notion of the Christ.

Perhaps we can think of Celtic Christians as an alternative community on the edge of the inside of organized Christianity. Lacking the structure and support of the organized church, radical forms of Christianity never thrive for very long. Without the Irish monks, much of Celtic practice and thought would not have been passed on to us at all.

Like the Desert Fathers and Mothers who influenced them, Celtic mystics focused on rather different things than the mainstream church. The Celts drew on their own cultural symbols and experience to emphasize other values than the symbols of “Roman” Catholicism. For example, Celtic Christianity encouraged the practice of confession to an anam cara (soul friend) more than to an ordained priest.

They also saw God as a deep kind of listening and speaking presence, as in “The Deer’s Cry.” I invite you to read this excerpt of St. Patrick’s traditional prayer slowly, and to allow yourself, like the ancient Celts, to become aware of the presence of Christ surrounding you through all things.

The Lorica of St. Patrick (The Deer`s Cry)

I arise to-day:

vast might, invocation of the Trinity,—
belief in a Threeness
confession of Oneness
meeting in the Creator. . . .

I arise to-day:

might of Heaven
brightness of Sun
whiteness of Snow
splendour of Fire
speed of Light
swiftness of Wind
depth of Sea
stability of Earth
firmness of Rock.

I arise to-day:

Might of God for my piloting
Wisdom of God for my guidance
Eye of God for my foresight
Ear of God for my hearing
Word of God for my utterance
Hand of God for my guardianship
Path of God for my precedence
Shield of God for my protection
Host of God for my salvation . . .

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ under me, Christ over me,
Christ to right of me, Christ to left of me,
Christ in lying down, Christ in sitting, Christ in rising up
Christ in the heart of every person, who may think of me!
Christ in the mouth of every one, who may speak to me!
Christ in every eye, which may look on me!
Christ in every ear, which may hear me!

I arise to-day:

vast might, invocation of the Trinity
belief in a Threeness
confession of Oneness
meeting in the Creator. [1]

Mystics and the Margins

September 29th, 2020

Freedom in the Desert
Tuesday,  September 29, 2020

When Christianity became the established religion of the Roman Empire, something remarkable and strange took place. A whole set of people began to flock to the margins of the Empire to pursue God. They went to the deserts of Palestine, Cappadocia, Syria, and Egypt. This is the emergence of the ones we now call in a collective way the Desert Fathers and Mothers. These individuals in the desert sought to reflect more deeply on the Mystery of God and God’s will through work, prayer, and study of the Scriptures.

Thomas Merton (1915–1968) describes their movement this way:

Society—which meant pagan society, limited by the horizons and prospects of life “in this world”—was regarded by them as a shipwreck from which each single individual had to swim for their life. . . . These were people who believed that to let oneself drift along, passively accepting the tenets and values of what they knew as society, was purely and simply a disaster. The fact that the Emperor was now Christian and that the “world” was coming to know the Cross as a sign of temporal power only strengthened them in their resolve. [1]

Benedictine Sister Laura Swan has written about the spirituality of the Desert Mothers, and describes the quest for wholeness and salvation for which these seekers thirsted and could find only outside the mainstream society:

Desert spirituality is characterized by the pursuit of abundant simplicity—simplicity grounded in the possession of little—and the abundance of God’s presence. Yearning for complete union with God, desert ascetics sought to remove all obstacles to the deepening of this relationship. Obstacles included unhelpful attitudes and motives, thoughts that stalled their pursuit of God, and emotional ties that complicated their inner journeys.

The desert ascetics’ relationships were nonpossessive: They cared for others while leaving them free. Concern for reputation was discarded. Feelings were acknowledged and listened to for their wisdom but were subjected to the discipline of the heart’s goal to seek God. The desert ascetics sought to mortify disordered passions that distracted them from their deepening relationship with God and actively to cultivate a burning love for God.

Although the journey began with giving away possessions, desert ascetics understood that what possessed them was greater than the sum of goods owned. All that owned them, all that possessed their minds and hearts, their attachments and compulsions, must be healed and reconciled. Desert ascetics called this process of moving toward inner freedom detachment. Detachment allows for greater direct experience of the Divine Presence as the seeker is attached to fewer distractions.

Desert ascetics understood that the cultivation of inner freedom was vital to the deepening of their experience of God. As they deepened their interior freedom, all aspects of their false self were removed and a clearer understanding of their truest self emerged. It is this true self that dwells deeply with God. In the abundant simplicity of our true self, we experience deepest joy. [2]

A Church on the Margins

September 28th, 2020

Mystics and the Margins

A Church on the Margins
Monday,  September 28, 2020

We’ve tended to soften Jesus’ conflict with the system, or the established powers, but Jesus’ ministry took place on the margins! In the year 313 A.D., with the Edict of Milan, the Church dramatically changed sides and Christians officially became the Church of the establishment. Before that decree, the Church was by and large of the underclass. It identified with the poor and the oppressed, and the Church itself was still being oppressed and persecuted. The early Church read and understood its history from the catacombs—literally from underground. Such a position will always give us a different perspective than that “found in palaces” (see Matthew 11:8).

I’m sure the Emperor Constantine thought he was doing Christians a favor when he ended official persecution and made Christianity the established religion of the empire. Yet it might be the single most unfortunate thing that happened to Christianity. Once we moved from the margins of society to the center, we developed a new film over our eyes. After that, we couldn’t read anything that showed Jesus in confrontation with the establishment, because we were the establishment, and usually egregiously so. Clear teaching on issues of greed, powerlessness, nonviolence, non-control, and simplicity were moved to the sidelines, if not actually countermanded. These issues were still taken seriously by those who fled to the deserts of Egypt, Syria, Palestine, and Cappadocia. Their practices grew into what we now call “religious life” as observed by monks, nuns, hermits, and anchorites who held onto the radical Gospel in so many ways.

As long as the Church bore witness from the margins in some sense, and as long as we operated from a minority position, we had greater access to the truth, to the Gospel, to Jesus. In our time we have to find a way to disestablish ourselves, to identify with our powerlessness instead of our power, our dependence instead of our independence, our communion instead of our individualism. Unless we understand that, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7) isn’t going to make any sense.

We see in the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus intended for us to take the low road. He intended us to operate from the position of “immoral” minority much more than the moral majority. When we’re protecting our self-image as moral, superior, or “saved” persons, we always lose the truth. The daring search for God—the common character of all religion—is replaced with the search for personal certitude and control.

As soon as people are comfortably enjoying the fruits of the established system, they don’t normally want any truth beyond their comfort zone. Yet those who are not enjoying those benefits, those who have been marginalized or oppressed in any way, are always longing and thirsting for the coming of the Kingdom, for something more. The Gospel always keeps us in a state of longing and thirsting for God. Grace seems to create a void inside of us that only God can fill.

Mystics and the Margins

Margins Create Liminal Space
Sunday,  September 27, 2020

When we are content and satisfied on the inside of any group, we seem to suffer from a structural indifference. We do not realize that it is largely a belonging system that we have created for ourselves. It is not until we are excluded from a system that we are able to recognize its idolatries, lies, or shadow side. It is the privileged “knowledge of the outsider” that opens up the playing field. People can be personally well-intentioned and sincere, but structurally they cannot comprehend certain things. In his ministry, Jesus quotes the call of Isaiah to describe this collective social disregard: “You will hear and hear again, and not understand, see and see again and not perceive . . .” (Isaiah 6:9; Mark 8:18). Insiders are by nature dualistic because they divide themselves from the so-called outsiders.

I believe it is for that reason that so many saints and mystics and even everyday people have chosen to live their entire lives at the edges of most systems. They take their small and sufficient place in the great and grand scheme of God by “living on the edge of the inside.” They build on the solid tradition (“from the inside”) but from a new and dynamic stance (“on the edge”) where they cannot be co-opted by a need for security, possessions, or the illusions of power.

People such as Francis and Clare of Assisi try to live on the margins so they will not become enamored by the illusions and payoffs of prevailing systems. They know this is the only position that ensures continued wisdom, ever-broadening perspective, and even deeper compassion. Such choices may be seen in the lives of monks, nuns, hermits, or Amish communities. There are softer forms, too, like people who do not watch TV, people who live under the level of a taxable income, people who make prayer a major part of their day, people who deliberately place themselves in risky situations for the greater good. It is ironic that we must go to the edge to find the center, but that is what prophets, hermits, and mystics invariably do.

I want to acknowledge that there is a difference between being marginalized—forced (usually by prejudice and systemic discrimination) out of the common benefits and goods that come from living in mainstream society—and choosing to live on the margins. Both can be privileged places for spiritual growth and transformation. This week we will offer examples from the broad tradition of Christian mystics and communities who sought or accepted their location on the margins as a place of creativity and interior freedom. Through their insights, writings, rituals, and art, these men, women, and movements inspire us to cease protecting the surfaces of things and fall into the core of our own souls and experiences.

Our Common Heritage

September 25th, 2020

Interspiritual Mysticism

Our Common Heritage
Friday,  September 25, 2020

Today’s meditation continues with reflections from interspiritual mystic Bede Griffiths who I introduced yesterday. I invite you to read his words with an open mind and heart.

It is only today that these different religious traditions are beginning to mix freely all over the world and are seeking to relate to one another, not in terms of rivalry and conflict, but in terms of dialogue and mutual respect. One of the greatest needs of humanity today is to transcend the cultural limitations of the great religions and to find a wisdom, a philosophy, which can reconcile their differences and reveal the unity which underlies all their diversities. This has been called the “perennial philosophy,” the eternal wisdom which has been revealed in a different way in each religion. . . .

The different world religions—Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—have themselves to recover the ancient wisdom which they have inherited, and this has now to be interpreted in the light of the knowledge of the world which Western science has given us. . . . [1]

According to the Letter to the Colossians, in Christ “all things were created, in heaven and on earth . . . all were created through him and for him” [1:16]. This is truly a cosmic vision embracing the whole created world, which we now know to be an integrated whole, and this forms a body, a living organism, which is capable of embracing all humanity. We have therefore the conception of a universal community capable of embodying the universal wisdom and uniting all humanity in one body, one living whole, in which the “fullness,” the whole, of the Godhead dwells. . . . [2]

The Second Vatican Council said that “the Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in [other] religions.” [3] There is truth and holiness in all genuine religion. . . . It has been our experience in the ashram that the more we open ourselves to the other religions, to Hinduism in particular, the deeper our Christian faith grows. Our aim is the deepening of our own faith, which then becomes more open to others. . . .

If you go deeply into any one tradition, you converge on a center, and there you see how we all come forth from a common root. And you find how we meet people on the deeper level of their faith, in the profound unity behind all our differences. . . . The grace of Christ is present in some way to every human being from the beginning to the end. [4]

Bede Griffiths draws his theological insights from the teachings of the Catholic Church to which he remained committed and the Christian Scriptures, which he never stopped reading and interpreting as the word of God, yet now as a part of the perennial tradition. He is an example of how interspirituality can strengthen our Christian faith by deepening our capacity to love and respect the other.

Interspiritual Mysticism

September 24th, 2020

A Christian Ashram
Thursday,  September 24, 2020

It is only in prayer that we can communicate with one another at the deepest level of our being. Behind all words and gestures, behind all thoughts and feelings, there is an inner centre of prayer where we can meet one another in the presence of God. . . . If we could learn to live from that centre we should be living from the heart of life and our whole being would be moved by love. —Bede Griffiths (1906–1993)

The interspiritual teacher Bede Griffiths was born in England, became a Catholic after college, and soon entered Prinknash Abbey in Gloucester as a Benedictine monk. After almost twenty-five years in this community, he went to India in 1955. He recalled:

I had long been familiar with the mystical tradition of the West, but I felt the need of something more which the East alone could give; above all the sense of the presence of God in nature and the soul, a kind of natural mysticism which is the basis of all Indian spirituality. I felt therefore that if a genuine meeting of East and West was to take place, it must be at this deepest level of their experience and this I thought could best come through the monastic life. [1]

In 1968, Bede was asked to take over Shantivanam (Forest of Peace) Ashram, which was founded in 1950 by two French Benedictines. Thomas Matus, who lived with Bede at Shantivanam, writes:

The liturgical hours, tuned as they are to the cosmic rhythms of sunrise and sunset and the seasons of the year, already link the prayer of Christian monks to the religious and even mystical sense of the cosmos which is an essential characteristic of Hinduism. . . . The Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, and Sufi texts, read at the beginning of each Hour, are seen clearly as a preparation for the Christian prayer, which opens with the sign of the cross and the invocation of the Holy Trinity. [2]

It was in India that Bede discovered a different way of thinking:

The Western mind from the time of Socrates and Plato had concentrated on the development of abstract, rational thought which had led to the great systems of theology in the Middle Ages and to the achievements of modern science and philosophy. But India had been nourished from the beginning by the truth of the imagination, the primordial truth, which is not abstract but concrete, not logical but symbolic, not rational but intuitive. So it was that I was led to the rediscovery of the truth which the Western world has lost and is now seeking desperately to recover. [3]

I have deep respect for the courage it must have taken Griffiths as a Catholic monk in the pre-Vatican II era to follow the calling of the Holy Spirit to live and worship in the East. He not only taught a nondual consciousness but embodied it in his life, remaining faithful to Christ while embracing the wisdom and practices of Hinduism.L

Story from Our Community:
Six years ago, after being raised in a conservative tradition, working for a decade in the church and then attending a liberal seminary, I walked away from the committed faith I had always known. Then my dad tragically passed away in April (during COVID-19) and I was left reeling, needing faith of some sort and not knowing where to turn. Father Rohr’s books and daily meditations seem to be written just for me. They speak to the deep knowing of my soul and have given me a voice to once again believe, pray, hope, and even wrestle with the eternal. I miss my dad tremendously, yet [I] am finding my second knowing in a much more loving and loveable God. —Kelly H.

An Interspiritual Awakening

September 23rd, 2020

An Interspiritual Awakening
Wednesday,  September 23, 2020

Today, I introduce you to my friend Adam Bucko, who is a devoted Christian contemplative, Episcopal priest, activist, and friend to the poor. He collaborates with spiritual leaders across religious traditions and mentors young people, helping them discover a spiritual life for the 21st century and live in the service of compassion and justice. Here he reflects on what he sees as a spiritual awakening in younger generations.

For younger people, many of us, it’s very clear we see God as present in all of the traditions. . . . Not only do they believe that there is one underlying reality at the foundation of all major world religions but they are also convinced that different traditions and their unique approaches to God complement each other. . . .

But it’s also important to say, a lot of young people don’t actually identify with a tradition any more. . . . Many of our churches, synagogues and mosques are freaking out when they hear this, thinking that young people are no longer interested in the sacred. But to me it is clear that young people are not necessarily rejecting God, they simply feel that many religious organizations lost touch with reality and are too concerned with money, power, self-preservation, maintaining the status quo, and ‘having right beliefs’. As a result, they tend to view them . . . as organizations that are spiritually bankrupt, that are no longer able to speak to and address some of the big questions of our time. And it takes deep insight and spiritual courage to see that. It is for this reason and many others that I don’t think of the rise of the ‘spiritual but not religious’ among our youth as a sign of spiritual decline but rather a new kind of spiritual awakening. . . .

We have to acknowledge that when people hear about spiritual and not religious people, they often immediately think that these are people who are just shopping around and not really that committed. . . . But when we look at some of the people who come from that group, we realize that actually many of them spend more time [in spiritual practices] than regular churchgoers.

Richard: I can honestly say that I have observed many of these same things in my work with young people at the CAC. I do not see a lack of spirituality and good faith in many seekers of the next generation, but an abundance of it and a deep desire to live with integrity and in alignment with their values. Such people are not satisfied with a faith simply handed to them by an institution or the previous generation. They insist on investigating what is truly important for transformation and a more just and compassionate world.

Engaged Love

September 22nd, 2020

Tuesday,  September 22, 2020

Engaged Love

While interspirituality is not for the faint of heart, or for dabblers who merely want to appropriate the clothing, language, or customs of other faiths, sharing in the spiritual heart of a different religious tradition can be a genuine vocation, bringing much needed peace and healing to the world. My friend, author and spiritual teacher Mirabai Starr, offers a compelling invitation to engage in the work of interspirituality:

As a spiritual writer and translator of the Spanish Christian mystics, a religious studies professor, and a practitioner of many spiritual traditions, I have spent my life responding to the call to honor diversity and celebrate unity among all paths that lead us home to love. . . .

America is the Land of the Consumer. . . . We are conditioned to treat the spiritual life as another commodity, rather than as a discipline of inner transformation with a corresponding commitment to alleviating suffering in the world. Yet, authentic engagement with the perennial wisdom that lies at the heart of the well means we must leap from the lip of the vessel and dive into the unknown.

The late Brother Wayne Teasdale [1945–2004] coined the term “interspiritual” to describe “the shared mystic heart beating in the center of the world’s deepest spiritual traditions.” [1] This perspective encompasses a much broader scope of shared religious experience than does its predecessor “interfaith” movement, which focuses more on the dialogue between the established institutionalized religions than on an intermingling of their common heart. Genuine interspiritual dialogue demands that we draw deeply on our inner knowing and show up for the hard work of understanding. It requires that we not only study and discuss religions other than our own, but that we commit to a disciplined practice in more than one tradition, immersing ourselves in the well of wisdom they offer, allowing these encounters to change us from within.

The sacred scriptures of all faiths call us to love as we have never loved before. This requires effort, vigilance, and radical humility. Violence is easier than nonviolence, yet hate only perpetuates hate. The wisdom teachings remind us that love—active, engaged, fearless love—is the only way to save ourselves and each other from the firestorm of war that rages around us. There is a renewed urgency to this task now. We are asked not only to tolerate the other, but also to actively engage the love that transmutes the lead of ignorance and hatred into the gold of authentic connection. This is the “narrow gate” Christ speaks of in the Gospels [Matthew 7:13]. Don’t come this way unless you’re willing to stretch, bend, and transform for the sake of love.

An Unspeakable Name

September 21st, 2020

Interspiritual Mysticism

An Unspeakable Name
Monday,  September 21, 2020

Remember what God said to Moses: “I AM Who I AM” (Exodus 3:14). God is clearly not tied to a name, nor does God seem to want us to tie Divinity to any one name. Which is why, in Judaism, God’s statement to Moses became God’s unspeakable and unnamable identity. Some would say that the name of God literally cannot be “spoken,” only breathed. [1] Now that was very wise, and sometimes I wish we had kept it up. This tradition alone should tell us to practice profound humility in regard to God, who gives us not a name, but only pure presence—no handle that could allow us to think we “know” who God is or have the divine as our private possession.

The Christ is always far too much for us, larger than any one era, culture, empire, or religion. Its radical inclusivity is a threat to any power structure and any form of arrogant thinking. Jesus by himself has usually been limited by the evolution of human consciousness in these first two thousand years, and held captive by culture, nationalism, and Western Christianity’s own cultural captivity to a white, bourgeois, and Eurocentric worldview. We have often missed the ways Jesus reveals himself, because “there stood among us one we did not recognize” (John 1:26). He came in mid-tone skin, from the underclass, a male body with a female soul, from an often-hated religion, and living on the very cusp between East and West. No one owns him, and no one ever will.

Jesus clearly says naming God correctly is not the priority, “Do not believe those who say ‘Lord, Lord’” (Matthew 7:21; Luke 6:46. Italics added). It is those who “do it right” that matter, he says, not those who “say it right.” Yet verbal orthodoxy has been Christianity’s preoccupation, at times even allowing us to burn people at the stake for not “saying it right.” We ended up spreading national cultures under the rubric of Jesus, instead of a universally liberating message under the name of Christ. What I call an incarnational worldview is the profound recognition of the presence of the divine in literally “every thing” and “every one.”

I would go so far as to say that the proof that you are a mature Christian is that you can see Christ everywhere else. Authentic God experience always expands your seeing and never constricts it. What else would be worthy of God? In God you do not include less and less; you always see and love more and more. And it is from this place that we lose any fear we have about entering into discussion, prayer, and friendship with people of other faith traditions.

Interspiritual Mysticism

Solidarity Instead of Judgment
Sunday,  September 20, 2020

In our one small and interwoven world, the great spiritual messengers of all the sacred traditions are a universal human treasure, to be received and reverenced with the respect due an attained being, an exemplar of a higher level of human consciousness. —Cynthia Bourgeault

While many Christians are familiar, and possibly even comfortable, with the idea of interfaith dialogue, few have had exposure to the discipline of interspirituality. While the first tends to be a respectful exchange of ideas; the second is a shared journey into the depths of the heart. Most Christians have been discouraged from exploring the teachings and practices of other religions, but I believe the loving and universal scope of Jesus Christ provides us with a model of how to recognize and celebrate truth on the many different paths to God.

Through Jesus Christ, God’s own broad, deep, and all-inclusive worldview is made available to us. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the point of the Christian life is not to distinguish oneself from the other world religions, but to stand in radical solidarity with everyone and everything else. This is the full, final, and intended effect of the Incarnation—symbolized by the cross, which is God’s great act of solidarity instead of judgment. This is how we are to imitate Jesus, the good Jewish man who saw and called forth the divine in Gentiles like the Syro-Phoenician woman and the Roman centurions who followed him; in Jewish tax collectors who collaborated with the Empire; in zealots who opposed it; in sinners of all stripes; in eunuchs, pagan astrologers, and all those “outside the law.” Jesus had no trouble whatsoever with otherness.

If we are ready to reclaim the true meaning of “catholic,” which is “universal,” we must concentrate on including—as Jesus clearly did—instead of excluding—which he never did. The only thing Jesus excluded was exclusion itself.

After the incarnation of Jesus, humanity could more easily imagine a give-and-take, relational and forgiving God. Christians had a very good model and messenger in Jesus, but many outliers actually came to the “banquet” more easily, as Jesus often says in his parables of the resented and resisted banquet (Matthew 22:1–10; Luke 14:7–24), where “the wedding hall was filled with guests, both good and bad alike” (Matthew 22:10). What are we to do with such divine irresponsibility, such endless largesse, such an unwillingness on God’s part to build walls or create unneeded boundaries?

We must be honest and humble about this: many people of other faiths, like Sufi masters, Jewish prophets, many philosophers, and Hindu mystics, have lived in light of the Divine encounter better than many Christians. And why would a God worthy of the name God not care about all of God’s children? (Read Wisdom 11:23–12:2 for a powerful Scripture in this regard.) Does God really have favorites among God’s children? What an unhappy family that would create—and indeed, has created.

Transforming Our Pain

September 18th, 2020

Wounded Healers

Transforming our Pain
Friday,  September 18, 2020

If I were to name the Christian religion, I would probably call it “The Way of the Wound.” Jesus agrees to be the Wounded One, and we Christians are these strange believers in a wounded healer. We come to God not through our strength but through our weakness. We learn wisdom and come to God not by doing it all right but through doing it all wrong.

If you were going to create a religion, would you think of creating, as your religious image, a naked, bleeding, wounded man? It is the most unlikely image for God, the most illogical image for Omnipotence. None of us in our wildest imagination would have come up with it. It must expose a central problem of human existence, for God to come into the world in this form and in this way. Sadly, we Christians have become accustomed to the cross—perhaps we have domesticated it—and we no longer receive the shock and the scandal of all that this image of failure is saying. Being wounded, suffering, and dying are the quickest and most sure paths to truly living.

Using a scapegoat is our much-preferred method. We deny our pain, sins, and suffering and project them elsewhere. This ancient method still works so well that there is no reason to think it is going to end or change. Until we are enlightened by grace, we don’t even see it; it remains safely hidden in the unconscious where it plays itself out. Once we spot and stop the pattern, the game is over. The cross of Jesus was a mirror held up to history, so we could spot the scapegoating pattern and then stop participating in it.

Only the Great Self, the True Self, the Godself, can carry the anxiety within us. The little self can’t do it. People who don’t pray can’t live the Gospel because the self is not strong enough to hold the anxiety and the fear. If we do not transform our pain, we will always transmit it. Always someone else has to suffer because we don’t know how to suffer; that’s what it comes down to.

Most people are like electric wires: what comes in is what goes out. Someone calls us a name, and we call them a name back. That is, most people pass on the same energy that is given to them. Now compare an electric wire to those big, grey transformers that you see on utility poles. Dangerous current or voltage comes in, but something happens inside that grey box and what comes out is, in fact, now helpful and productive. That is exactly what Jesus does with suffering.

That is what Jesus did: he did not return the negative energy directed at him—not during his life nor when he hung on the cross. He held it inside and made it into something much better. That is how “he took away the sin of the world.” He refused to pass it on! Until the world understands that, there will be no new world.

Wounded Healers

September 17th, 2020

Healing Is a Process
Thursday,  September 17, 2020

I have been recently introduced to the work of Lama Rod Owens, a Black, queer, American-born, Tibetan Buddhist teacher, who was raised in the Christian church and graduated from Harvard Divinity School. Perhaps it is because of his many identities that his teachings on love, self-compassion, and justice seem to be drawn from the perennial wisdom of Reality itself. He writes here of the needed work of healing our own wounds so that the healing can be passed on:

Healing is being situated in love. Healing is not just the courage to love, but to be loved. It is the courage to want to be happy not just for others, but for ourselves as well. It is interrogating our bodies as an artifact of accumulated traumas and doing the work of processing that trauma by developing the capacity to notice and be with our pain. If we are to heal, then we must allow our awareness to settle into and integrate with the pain and discomfort that has been habitually avoided. We cannot medicate the pain away. We embrace it, and in so doing establish a new relationship with the experience. We must see that there is something that must be befriended. This is the true nature of our experience, and in finally approaching this experience we contact basic sanity. . . .

Healing is movement and work toward wholeness. Healing is never a definite location but something in process. It is the basic ordinary work of staying engaged with our own hurt and limitations. Healing does not mean forgiveness either, though it is a result of it. Healing is knowing our woundedness; it is developing an intimacy with the ways in which we suffer. Healing is learning to love the wound because love draws us into relationship with it instead of avoiding feeling the discomfort.

Healing means we are holding the space for our woundedness and allowing it to open our hearts to the reality that we are not the only people who are hurt, lonely, angry, or frustrated. We must also release the habitual aggression that characterizes our avoidance of trauma or any discomfort. My goal is to befriend my pain, to relate to it intimately as a means to end the suffering of desperately trying to avoid it. Opening our hearts to woundedness helps us to understand that everyone else around us carries around the same woundedness. . . .

Perhaps what I have come to understand, finally, is that somehow I have become the one I have always wanted. This is why I do the things that I do. There is a fierce love that wakes me up every morning, that makes me tell my stories, refuses to let me apologize for my being here, blesses me with the capacity to be silent, alone, and grieving when I most need to be. You have to understand that this is what I mean when I say healing.

May all beings be seen, held kindly, and loved. May we all one day surrender to the weight of being healed.