Emptying: the Path to Fulfilment

refiners-fireMost mystical traditions teach an ascension path to oneness with God. The premise is to conserve the universal life force (prana, chi etc.) within oneself and engage in practices that enhance awareness of the Divine.

On the contrary, Jesus demonstrated a very counter-intuitive way of transcending the egoic trappings of this world. Rather than focusing on protecting and preserving his spiritual life force, he gave it away. Throughout the gospels we see him extravagantly pouring himself out. He loved. And he loved. And he loved.

Jesus consistently taught that the way to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven is through the letting go of earthly attachments and living in the Spirit. This approach to spiritual formation takes the flesh and spirit through different types of ’emptying’ experiences.

Accepting the Path

I once belonged to a community where everyone had their tidy little lives set up for plenty of peace, rest and an abundance of alone time to ensure that they were engaging in proper self-care. Most of them didn’t have kids.

After a while I began to seriously feel like I didn’t fit in. I meditated in my bedroom with the walls rattling as droves of children ran by, read enlightening books in the tub to ensure a valid excuse for non-response and practised deep breathing exercises in the 5 minutes of ‘alone time’ between dropping a kid off for an activity and arriving back at home.

Something about my life just didn’t mirror what my friends were experiencing in their tranquil, self-focused journeys. Instead of preserving my life force, I was constantly giving it away by caring for my family and others. My teachers criticized what I was doing, saying it was misguided.

Here’s the deal: you cannot be the sole support caregiver of 4 children plus attend to the needs of a sick parent and not give yourself away. God doesn’t put us on a path and then make it impossible to follow. No. I knew I was doing what was right for me, I just didn’t understand how it all fit together.

Letting Go

Often, I don’t realise how much I pour into others or how much they pour into me. It’s a lifestyle I embrace and most of the time it’s pure joy to love and serve. In giving,  I also receive. But sometimes my flesh gets caught in a downdraft and I crash.

For instance, lately I’ve been feeling increasingly weary and worn out. I thought I’d be real smart and responsible around that and finally book a weekend off for myself, a retreat where people would minister and pour into me a lot. The retreat I was to attend would be free, which was perfect. I made my plans. Got all my ducks in a row.

Just as I finally let my mind begin to anticipate what I perceived as much needed time away, I was sent an email that said, “sorry, we actually don’t have room for you this time.” And that was it…my flesh had a tantrum.

Letting go of egoic attachments has got to be the most agonising experience of emptying in this temporal existence. There always seems to be a reason why I’ll die or go insane without the person or thing I think I need. Nevertheless, it’s essential for the ego to feel abandoned before it will acquiesce to Holy Spirit.  It must be allowed to cry and argue and bargain and feel completely forsaken if healing is to occur. David demonstrated this masterfully throughout the Psalms.

Refining

Here’s where it gets good.

The scriptures talk about the Refiner’s Fire, a process where gold is repeatedly melted down to dispel its impurities. Modern processes use heat, acid and a variety of other harsh chemicals to achieve the same end. It apparently smells real bad too. The resultant product is pure, with enormous value and function.

My fleshly meltdowns are like that; ridiculously intense, ugly processes that unhinge me from my earthly attachments so that I can be free to enter into unity with the Father. When I let go of the illusion of egoic fulfilment, Abba opens his arms so wide that He swallows my little world up whole and for a transcendent holy instant there is nothing but pure Love. Its absolutely indescribable.

If you’ve experienced this, you’ll know it’s worth the existential crisis. If not, I dare you to let go…to allow your soul to purge itself in the sacred safety of Divine love.

It’s impossible to stay in a funk after an experience like that.

Criticize

Hidden Toxicity: Forgiving the Institutions That Hurt Us

treeWhen you think of healing and forgiveness do you think of it primarily in the context of relationships? I do. Psycho-therapeutic approaches, holistic living philosophies and the Scriptures all tend to focus on finding wholeness through the repair work we do with others. I would agree; we heal in relationship. However, I’ve recently realised that I’ve overlooked an entire area of healing in my life. I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

Having grown up in a severely abusive home and community, I’ve attributed my woundedness to the gross error and negligence of my parents, teachers and church leadership. While it’s true that people were the ones doing the hurting, there was something much bigger that created the framework in which all that pain occurred. It was what I perceived as the religious institution of the Christian church. In objectifying the church, I’ve not recognized how insidiously my unconscious bitterness, resentment and blame has been festering toward it and how this is affecting my life.

In my young experience, the Bible was used to justify inhumane actions. Attending church made you good even if your behaviour spoke differently. Religion gave adults the authority to destroy the souls of children and rob them of their creativity, passion and innocence.

So while I feel like I’ve done quite well with healing myself in the context of relationship, I’ve finally been able to see how my toxic perspective on the church has been holding me back from finding true freedom in other areas of my life. The task of forgiving the errors of a ‘thing’ rather than a person seems daunting to me. It’s not as if those structures can reciprocate my desire for reconciliation. Or can they? Or do they need to?

Social structures are the products of the minds that create them, nurture them and sustain them. And behind those minds are people. I don’t know them. I don’t know their intentions. Much of Christianity, as we know it today, was formed around decisions made 1600 years ago. Yes, I’ve explored and questioned the events that led to its origins. None of that understanding does me any good anyway. Understanding is not required for forgiveness to take place.

Forgiveness is something I do for myself. Reciprocity is not a co-requisite. Forgiveness is a shift in my state of mind from perceptions that held me back to perceptions that set me free. A frequent side-effect is that the forgivee is also set free, but this isn’t a requirement.

People make errors, individually and collectively, for reasons that we cannot truly comprehend. They play their roles and we play ours. For me the question cannot be ‘why’, but rather, ‘what now?’

‘What now?’ involves the gentle guidance of Holy Spirit and the application of Jesus’ unconditional love. Can I forgive that deeply and love that big? Yes. The only question that remains is will I?

Yes.

 

 

Recognize

Self-Betrayal

helpI resist the longing to reveal

who I truly am

what I truly believe

for fear that

I will be challenged

I will have to defend

Not that I can’t

Not that I wouldn’t

but that I don’t like how I feel when I do.eagle

To live out of Spirit

is to live in freedom from false-self

and embrace freedom of True-Self

I must not betray mySelf

Resist

Tethered to Love

heart-treeOne of the best things in life is when a scent transports me back to a comforting memory. I especially savor the moments when I’m whisked into a holy instant of unconditional love and acceptance. Do you know what I mean? I hope you do. It’s that place where time is suspended and the soul is lovingly held in the arms of the Divine. It’s where I’m not good or bad, just completely loved. It’s amazing to think that a smell can do all that!

Sometimes, though, an odour provokes a primal response in me so overwhelming that I get sucked into a black hole of hopelessness and despair. Feelings of anger and rage begin to surface and memories that I try to avoid show up uninvited. What do I do?! Do I feel deeply or do I run away and slam the door on a healing opportunity?

For years I’ve been the queen of distraction when this comes up for me. I read, do the dishes, take a shower. I’m very good at shifting my state of mind into a more positive place, which is a good skill, but not when it’s used as a form of avoidance.

I’ve finally learned to allow myself to descend into that black hole, aware that I’m tethered to the infinite love of my Divine Parent. I can allow the hurt and rage to purge itself knowing I can’t get stuck because I have a lifeline back to Love.

Now, I didn’t always know or believe this and there was a time when I would get stuck in the black hole. I needed real, live people in the form of counselors or healers to join me and teach me how to tether myself back to Love. If you find yourself in this position, then please know you are exactly where you are meant to be on this journey. Allow yourself to be guided and nurtured by others as you heal and grow.

Wherever you find yourself today, may you be blessed to always find your way back to Love.

Scent

Should My Ego Educate Yours?

arguingThe question was asked in church the other day, “If someone doesn’t believe in sin, how can you help them see its reality?” My stomach turned. I could feel something in me push back at that this, but I wasn’t quite sure what. As I took time to unravel it, this is what I discovered…

I’m a mediator. It’s not just my job, it’s who I am. Not that I do it perfectly, but it’s my role and my personality in this fleshly existence. I do make judgements, because it’s my egoic nature to do so, but many times I sense a check in my spirit when I have. That check is an invitation back into neutrality and openness with Holy Spirit.

One of my biggest hang-ups with church and Christians in general is this idea that it’s our moral duty to educate others on what the truth is. I’ll address that duty in a moment. First, let’s talk about what usually happens when my ego decides it should tell someone else’s ego that their perspective is wrong and mine is right. Naturally, people get defensive. As soon as you put someone on the defensive, you’ve lost the argument no matter how good or valid your points are. You might’ve proven your rightness to yourself and other like-minded individuals, but you’ve most certainly pushed the other person further away from seeing your take on the truth.

Truth is not revealed to others by egos educating egos, because our flesh-nature is completely out of touch with God and doesn’t know God. Therefore, truth isn’t revealed through opinions, arguments and apologetics. Truth can only be revealed through the Holy Spirit or that part of me that’s deeply in tune with the Spirit called my human spirit.

Here’s the paradox: your human spirit will never feel the need to educate someone on truth. It will only serve to point them to the Divine for revelation. When we walk in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control, people will naturally be guided to the Spirit when they’re around us and they’ll find their answers there. They’ll also own these revelations because they received them directly from the Source.

When I’m coaching someone or working with parties in dispute, it’s never my place to tell them why I might perceive that their ways are flawed. Trust me, I wouldn’t be very successful with that approach! My job is simply to ask questions and share positive insights that’ll help them understand themselves more deeply and that lead them to God for answers.

I Am Not the Holy Spirit (And Neither Are You)

Do you know how many times my ego has secretly thought it knew exactly what someone needed to hear from God (moral base and apologetics included) only to find out later I was completely off track?! I’m embarrassed to say. Think about how many biblical characters made what seemed like bad choices to begin with, only to have it revealed later that they were on the paths that were right for them? Jonah, David and Paul come to mind…just to name about 1% of them.

My children have probably taught me this lesson most deeply. That’s because I judge them more than anyone else, poor dears. Most people jump to the conclusion that kids can’t adequately hear from the Holy Spirit in order to make good choices for themselves. Christian parents tend to take on the fear-based role of being some sort of replacement or interpreter for the Divine in their kids’ lives, telling them how they should behave or think according to God. (Hint: anything you do out of fear is not of God.) In many cases, kids are more in tune than we are. We just don’t give them a chance to demonstrate this.

These days I try to teach my children through imparting principles and concepts, not should’s and shouldn’ts. I try not to interfere with how Spirit is leading them. This lends itself to a lot of judgement from nearly everybody because it’s not a popular child rearing method in the Western World. Fortunately, I don’t mind what people think much anymore.

The bottom line is this:  I am not the Holy Spirit. You are not the Holy Spirit. But when we are in sync with the Spirit and living out of the fruit that this life-style yields, we will always be helpful to others in the best way. You’ll know when you’re walking in righteousness because you won’t feel angry, fearful or like you have to prove a point, you’ll just feel awesome and full of unconditional love!

Replacement

Why Judging Others Hurts You and How to Stop

illusionPerceptions are predicated on judgements. I judge all the time. It’s an automatic thing.

When I came into the world, having the ability to judge kept me alive because it helped my little infant body to discern pain, hunger and appropriate body temperature. As I got older, adults taught me that doing things that made them feel uncomfortable, fearful or reactive was called ‘bad’. I expertly learned to transfer this concept onto everything around me and before I even started school I lived in a world that had been clearly delineated by good and bad.

Challenging Perceptions

Every once in a while I would have profoundly questioning moments in my childhood. Was my hand really called a ‘hand’ or was a word actually irrelevant to the object it represented? If I called it something else, would it still be what it was? Do words really  mean anything and if yes, who decided what they should mean? What if I decide to change their meanings or give things gibberish names?

Sometimes this idea of perception would lead me into seeing a completely different world around me. Even my body didn’t feel like I belonged to it. I’d look at my arm and experience it like something disconnected from myself. If I tried to share my mystical musings with a friend I was sure to get a weird look. I wouldn’t have dreamed of disclosing my thoughts to the adults in my life.

Humor me for moment and give this some consideration: What if some people were time transported from 700 years ago into the present day? Let’s say we did a social experiment and nobody gave them any information about the new and strange things they were seeing. What would they name objects and places and what would they think the functions of these things are? Would they eventually start to see things the way we do or would they come up with completely innovative uses for them?

This little experiment would expose something very interesting about how we judge and perceive. You see, we can only judge something when we have past experience with it. In essence, we are projecting suppositions we formed in the past onto what we see before us now. For example, we judge someone as being ‘fat’ because we know what this is from past experience. And then we take it a step further and judge their character based on how we’ve perceived overweight people before. I use this example because I think nearly everyone can relate to it (just being painfully honest here).

Now let me challenge you…

Changing Perceptions

In the gospels Jesus clearly admonishes people to ‘judge not’. This used to make me feel like a chastised child. I finally realised that Jesus was trying to communicate something much deeper than a simple warning. Let’s explore this a bit.

What if we asked Holy Spirit to guide us in seeing our world  with the eyes of our heart rather than the ones in our skull? In particular, what if we could see people in a fresh new way with no past attached and a clean new slate every time we were with them? How would that change our experience?! No judgements, just pure unconditional love. Impossible you say? Not so. I’ve tried this. With people who’ve hurt me deeply. Guess what? It’s transformed my relationships with them.

When we hold people to their past through judgement and unforgiveness we don’t give them the opportunity to heal and change. This is because we keep treating them in ways that elicit the same unsavoury behaviors from them. We literally reinforce the neuronal connections in their physical brain that cause them to act the way we hate. Basically, we’re part of the problem we think they have.

On a physical level, our bodies completely regenerate themselves every 2 years except for our brain cells. Even though brain cells don’t regenerate, current scientific research has proven that the brain is highly plastic, that means easily changeable! The way you judge and perceive actually follows patterns in your brain and you have the power to change them by choosing (forming a habit) to think differently. These changes, in turn, actually cause the brain to direct changes in the body on a molecular and cellular level. Transformation. This is how mental and physical healing occurs.

Jesus knew that the way we think and judge affects not only our social and emotional well-being, but our individual and collective physical health too. 2000 years ago he gave us a formula to create better lives, but most people never implement it. Will you choose differently? Judge Not.

Automatic