Archive for the 'spiritual marriage' Category

Buddha

December 28, 2013

A local store thought it had lost its lease and I was able to pick this up.

standing Buddha horizontal_no_flash

Actually, it weighs a huge amount, it is very dense — made of ironstone — I did not literally pick it up, at all.

It is, among other things, my contribution to righting the wrong of the destruction of those beautiful large Buddha statues destroyed by the Taliban.

It’s around my birthday, too, so I am thinking also of this in terms of that.

Then I realized, after siting the Buddha statue where I did for a host of other reasons, that it stands directly opposite a small statue of Kwan Yin (maybe someone can correct my spelling) which sits atop a fountain (no longer in use) that I gave Willy for his birthday the year he turned forty.  They are gazing at each other, in a sense, which seems to me quite right.

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Opportunities or losses?

October 3, 2013

Clearly, both.  A loss is painful, but it is also, often, an opportunity to reach further into ourselves and the divinity within us (or out to the divinity outside us).  It can be the proverbial broken eggs needed to make an omelette, a spiritual omelette.

(These are my thoughts after reading today’s Daily Meditation from Richard Rohr.)

I think one of the reasons this reaching is done within the structure of an organized religion is that, without that context, we are left as individuals to counter other people’s negative interpretations of us and our lives when we develop a spiritual approach to our temporal lives and make progress in our spiritual lives.  Not only can that negative feedback be painful in itself, it can also have a negative impact on our ability to maintain our new perspective and continue to enjoy its gifts.  The advantage to doing it as an individual, however, may be that we can expand even secular people’s sense of consensus reality — if they don’t write us off as daft, or worse, first.

The other thing I would add in addition to the traps of self-pity and resentment is the trap of feeling like a victim and entering the cul-de-sac of feeling more virtuous than others, of lording it over perceived perpetrators.  I think that, too, cuts us off from ourselves, God, and others, and is an impediment to our own progress.

Happy endings

August 5, 2012

I thought I should post my understanding of the resolution to the “Spare My Children” story.  After many incarnations after having experienced the crash, the protagonist figures out that the key is to remain celibate.  No sex, no children, no social obligations of that sort, no exceptions to willingness, no resistance.  And that leads to a spiritual marriage with another human being, I want to say like the one between Ramakrishna and Sarada.  Finis.

Equipment and technique

April 4, 2012

Gita says that my mind is constantly in motion, and implies that this is difficult for some other people to deal with.  I think of it as being something like a car battery in an engine that wouldn’t turn over and has been jump-started, and you keep the engine running because you’re not sure whether the battery can or will hold the charge.

If a person “hooks up” with higher ways of understanding the world, that hook-up is like a one-shot connection, I think, and I think we try to maintain that connection by keeping our mental engine running.  I think that hook-up may be the same thing people mean when they talk about spiritual union with God, I’m not sure.  But I am pretty sure that we don’t engage in that hook-up through our willing it, that it comes through a combination of willingness to serve, to do what serves, and to accept and learn from a whole lot of experiences in life other people might try to escape or control.  I don’t think it’s compatible with a lot of what most people want to have in their lives.

That hook-up is, I think, what develops the equipment we have in a nascent form; I think it’s kind of like a leaf unfurling, a flower opening, a balloon inflating, a Mars land-rover deploying after landing.  So, I think we lack the equipment in a useful state if we lack the hook-up, and that many people do lack it.  (I think some people have experienced the jump-start for its instant but have not been able to maintain the connection it allows, perhaps because they had not first readied themselves.)

My sense is that a person has to develop mental equipment and then technique, in order to engage in some kinds of understanding.  That’s what I was getting at in my comment to Ross Douthat’s blog post.  I think plenty of smart, well-educated people learn technique, but I think that without the “hook-up,” the technique applied produces a flattened view of a multidimensional scene.  And most people don’t want to do what it takes to experience the hook-up, in part because that sort of a life is antithetical to many of the things they wish to do with the ability to understand profoundly — the ambition undermines the very things they need for the experience and maintaining its aftermath.

I used to think that people who have developed the gift of understanding through such a hook-up could themselves connect with other people, people who don’t have it but have something else, like a means of communicating the understanding to a wider audience.  Kind of like components to old-fashioned stereo equipment, I think, with its amplifiers and subwoofers and such (I may have the technology misunderstood, but my point is different units networked together to produce the sound for the audience).  I even think the stereo analogy may not be unrelated in content, because I sometimes think I have developed the equivalent of depth perception in part through my connection with another “viewer,” whoever that may be, as if we were two eyes seeing together, and hence in three dimensions instead of two.

So, I used to think, I think, that one of these people/eyes got the vision, the other provided the translation and publication, in some kind of partnership.  And maybe it’s so.  I don’t know.  I used to have a sense of how it might work, but in trying to move closer to it, I feel less sure of it.  Maybe that’s just an artifact of getting up close to the object, no longer seeing its totality, like seeing less of the earth as the airplane gets closer to landing.

But I’m not sure.  Part of me thinks my collaboration model was wrong, and that in the past it produced unhelpful and damaging results that needed to be walked back.  And so I wait to get some clarity, trying to remain open and loving to everyone involved, and intending no harm.

Binker and the bodhisattva

December 19, 2011

I know I’ve mentioned A.A. Milne’s poem “Binker” before, maybe in the context of imaginary friends and God.  I was thinking today more about its narrator — maybe I should have called this post “Binker’s narrator and the bodhisattva.”

I’ve wondered from time to time what distinguishes the concept of a bodhisattva from that of a really talented enabler in a dysfunctional relationship.  I got to thinking about this again after reading this week’s “Ethicist” column in the NYTimes, about siblings who bully, and the comments it inspired.

There’s this spiritual story about two sisters (probably actually half-sisters or maybe even step-sisters — different mothers, in any event).  The paterfamilias-type figure (the male head of the household) is told by some sort of fortune teller that one his daughters is destined to be a special personage, a princess of God.  He and the wife with higher standing don’t understand that this means something like “nun.”  They think it’s about being part of social and material royalty.  They then assume it must be about the daughter they conceived together, who is slender and graceful and beautiful, and also happens to lack empathy and a conscience.  The other daughter is a “little person” of some sort, and very gifted spiritually.  But they’re thinking of princes and bride price and clan alliances, not of service to God and enlightenment, so they choose the wrong daughter and marry her off to some more prominent clan.

The whole thing is a debacle.  The chosen daughter ends up married to an old man and then the (abused) wife of his sociopathic son after he (the old man) dies.  She implodes from the abuse and commits suicide.  The other daughter ends up being sold off in effect into prostitution and abused.  She copes by using some interesting techniques like dissociation.

Many reincarnations pass, and the “other daughter” manages to get back on her spiritual feet, but her sister remains in a state of regression and what we would call mental illness.  Since part of the genesis of the whole mess was the chosen sister’s being incorrectly selected and for the wrong kind of “marriage,” the “other sister” figures she can put things back to rights by merging spiritually with her troubled sister and then making spiritual progress for both of them — kind of like carrying a person who can’t walk on one’s back while hiking out of the wilderness.

Now, my question is, can this kind of maneuver possibly be one that could serve?  Can one person in this way live another person’s spiritual life for them?  And is this at all related to the concept of bodhisattva?  I think of Binker and his host because the host is telling himself and others that he is eating the second chocolate for Binker, that somehow this is effective.

I’m wondering what happens when, as would naturally occur, the healthy one, the “teacher,” makes progress and the regressed one doesn’t.  Then the “teacher” would have to go back again to pick up the next piece of the spiritual puzzle that needs to be polished, work on that, complete it, go back again, and so on, piece by piece, without the regressed one ever being affected by the progress.  The teacher would not have the benefit overall of any incremental progress, she would keep putting the finished pieces in the bank as she completed them and then going back to work on another unfinished piece of the puzzle.

In the story, the teacher accomplishes this unorthodox task.  She can perfect each piece against her already finished puzzle that she previously achieved for her own enlightenment, and she doesn’t mind going back into that burning building many times to carry out additional pieces.  She therefore often has the experience of seeing the same thing again, of repeating the experience of an understanding, and she contemplates a number of times that she knows that these are just stories we tell ourselves in a kind of a language that allows us to understand more abstract things, and that the story never ends, we just stop needing to tell it or to hear it.  She also wonders whether what she is aware she is doing is actually what everybody does on their spiritual journey, it’s just that she has conceptualized it using two distinct people, instead of thinking about two strands within the same being.

The regressed sister eventually has a full bank account.  I’m not sure whether she is ever aware of it or how it got that way, and she is still waiting for that fairytale version of her life with the “happily ever after,” instead of experiencing enlightenment and being able to live life as it is with a different perspective (something like compassionate detachment).  But the story within the story does end, and so the spiritual story does too, and so also this post.

Send/receive

December 5, 2011

I experience prayer as dialogue.  I wouldn’t exactly characterize it as call and response, more like a wide receiver signaling to a quarterback whose pass protection is always adequate and who has an infinite number of foot balls to throw, that he’s open.

I got to thinking about this after going to Friday night services again.  This time I made an effort to see where in the prayers what I’m looking for might be found or at least where I could try to engage a little in the kind of praying I prefer — I like to throw out a line, so to speak.  And during the Shema I could do that, and I enjoyed that, and again I enjoyed the currents in the room during the Amidah.  But what I noticed this time even in this praying that I could sort of get in step with with my own praying is that while it was about calling out, it didn’t seem to have much of a space for listening for the response.   I’m aware that within the experience of praying as dialogue, the spaces inbetween can be protracted and irregular. But if we just call out to God and the universe with our best cry from the heart and don’t wait to receive love back, that’s not only kind of like assuming an unrequited love but also in a sense rejecting God’s love for us.

Beyond the issue of how our listening, or not listening, for God’s response and being open to it impacts God, there’s also the issue of our needing what is in God’s response to help us expand into our potential.  As I pray something like, “Here I am, here we are, please be with us,” I also kind of reach up and try to pull in what is made available and “listen” (as in, be open to) to how that feels.  I think it makes a difference in what I get out of the rest of the service or the rest of a meeting involving other spiritual practices.  I feel enhanced in my understandings and emotionally more at peace, and I notice others in the service or at the meeting seem to reflect something similar in their words and behaviors.

This all relates to my sense that how we conceptualize God is important, and that this cranky remote authority figure is a limiting concept.  A loving parent, spouse, or child as a way of thinking about God is helpful for accessing our love and being open to receiving love back, but I think if we stay with that concept too long, it becomes limiting.  Ultimately we need to establish that loving relationship with the part of ourselves that is, so to speak, divine, not just focus on a separate entity — I think this is the point of the Brahmin/Atman concept in Hinduism, but I’m no expert, so I may have that wrong.  If conceptualizing God as a family member keeps us from doing this, since within a mentally healthy physical family we have boundaries (it’s interesting how a familial relationship with a narcissist who thinks of the other as an extension of themselves might actually be parallel were it not for the incapacity for empathy and compassion), we need to take our experience of receiving God’s love through this conceptualization and then segue to a new one.  I think that’s where many of us in the west get stuck:  how to hold onto that ecstatic love while broadening it out to something wider and more inclusive and less personified and more abstract but still immediate and intense.

I think a first step is to identify the exchange of love as somewhat distinct from the interaction with the physical person.  The relationship can then be shifted upwards, to the higher reaches of that person’s soul.  And eventually there is the experience of some very pure love.  A love that is immediate and passionate becomes more remote, from the point of view of the other, more human partner, and a disparity between what each partner understands about the world develops, as if the more elevated partner has gone off to college or joined the armed forces.  On the other hand, that more elevated partner no longer has so many needs of their own and is more open to the needs of the junior partner.  The junior partner eventually becomes aware that what they are relating to in the more elevated partner has merged with what they think of as God.  And they find that by the same token they have been transformed, as well.  I think this path allows some people to end up with a more intimate relationship with God than they are able to achieve through more rigid spiritual techniques that may work for others.

Welcoming a stranger

November 10, 2011

I wrote something last night, in a comment to the David Brooks-Gail Collins “The Conversation” piece in the NYTimes on the Penn State scandal, about the apparent lack of ability of the personnel to put the children’s needs ahead of their own.  I said something about learning to do things we don’t want to for people we don’t know with consequences we can’t foresee.

This morning that thought turned into recollecting how someone came to me for healing, about eleven years ago.  He said he knew me, but I didn’t remember him.  People I talked to advised me to send him on his way, to professionals, if need be, but I didn’t.  I’m not sure I didn’t take their advice for any particularly admirable reason, but I didn’t take their advice.

Actually, that was not the first time he had come to me.  He had come to me at least three previous times, but this other time was the first time I was ready and he had presented himself in a way that didn’t profoundly scare me.

If he had told me of the consequences of my accepting him, I’m not sure I would have had the courage to engage.  On the other hand, I don’t regret having done it, difficult consequences and all.

What I do struggle with now is how to play the roles in reverse, given the lack of symmetry.  I know that the universe with its various resources can provide me with what I need in other ways, but I need to make sure I am oriented towards where those resources actually are, regardless of where or how I want them to be or where others say they are.  I realize I am as capable of pushing away a gift I don’t recognize as such, of doing the equivalent of not welcoming the stranger in need by not accepting the offer of a host who is offering help to me, as I am of wishful thinking.  I think that until I can figure out what’s what, I will just have to sit tight and temporize.

Un-personifying ourselves

September 6, 2011

What I mean by this, by “un-personifying ourselves,” is cleansing ourselves of the stuff that gets between ourselves and God, that gets in the way of our interfacing as completely as a human being can with the divine, that is also analogous to the scent added to natural gas, as I conceptualized our personification of God in my previous post — it’s the flip side of what I was writing about there.  One confusing aspect of this issue on this side of the equation is that we spend most of our time identifying with this “personifying” stuff in ourselves, and using it as our means of interacting with others (maybe this is why we generally reserve stripping it all off to the time we are alone in prayer or meditation), so we may have even more difficulty leaving it aside.

To be more specific about what I think we need to put aside in order to grok God:  it’s our desires, our fears, our emotional distortions arising from our baggage from our pasts.  It’s even our pleasure at our status and accomplishments, I think, or our disappointment with those things.  It includes our vanities and our embarrassments, too, I would add.

I think the process of setting these things aside at least temporarily is kind of what twelve-step programs are getting at in steps four through seven, what is meant by detachment in some eastern religions, what I suspect lies behind the rituals of confession and penitence in some western religions, and perhaps what lies behind what observant Jews are encouraged to do in the period before Yom Kippur.  I am sure there are similar processes in other religions as well, but these are the ones I am most familiar with, or at least come to my mind first — no offense intended for not having included others.

It starts with self-awareness, I think, and I think it’s a process we’re never done with — kind of like the need to run one of those virus scans periodically on our computers.

What I think what eventually happens is that the divine within us is able to reunite with the divine outside of us, with “us” in our usual sense present as bystanders, as a quiet audience in the bleachers to this merger.  But we do get to experience vicariously the joy that this “marriage” produces.  I think we’re never the same afterwards, even though the moment fades into a memory we recall with a more mundane part of our minds.