Archive for the 'surrender' Category

Unique music

March 21, 2015

I was thinking about free will this morning, and what I came up with was that we have it in order to make the freely willing choice not to exercise it — and in so doing, we arrange our energy in a way that allows us to find spiritual union.

That arrangement we can call surrender, but I’ve learned that for some people, “surrender” has the connotation of some particular dominance/submissive thing such as we see in certain kinds of sexual relationships.  Surrender to God, to the forces beyond us in the universe, does not feel like that at all.  Apples and oranges.

So that’s why I find the vocabulary of energy sometimes more helpful, because it’s more neutral, got fewer overlays and connotations.

And it has to be a continual willingness to give rise to the relationship of union.  People crash when they initially have the willingness and attempt great heights and then something shifts their trust momentarily before they have finished a particular spiritual experience, and they fall.  Kind of like climbing the rope and deciding it can’t be done while you are halfway up.  Not a good idea.

I have no problem if other people see faith as belief that an unanchored rope can be climbed.  It is a little bit like that, I think, only in the non-physical realm that belief actually makes a difference, whereas within our consensus reality, I don’t think individuals can make radical changes and override its current structure;  what we can do is figure out how to minimize drag and harness force and achieve lift, and we can participate and help achieve a different consensus reality.  (There’s a lot of air flights in physical aircraft every day;  if more people learned how to achieve spiritual lift, I think that would be something.)  Our consensus reality is not the only game in town; we can see mistakes and limitations in a child’s thinking;  I think more of us should entertain the notion that adult human thinking has its mistakes and limitations, too.  With regard to faith, it isn’t faith if it doesn’t include an element of something beyond what we can see and control in the physical world — it must be a rope trick.  It’s just that in things spiritual, the rope trick works.

So if we have free will and we use it to its ultimate capacity, we use it to put it aside.  And if everybody does this, we all end up on the same page and glide along without the high degree of friction we currently have, and the ecosystem of which we humans are a part functions so much better.  I think an impediment we have encountered is that some people who think they like friction, persist in that thinking because they’ve found some way to avoid the feedback for engaging in friction.  That could be through finding an enabler, it could be through bullying, it could be through refusing to see the impact of the downside of friction on others.  The other usual mechanism for ending an infatuation with friction is satiation, and it is well recognized that people with certain kinds of profiles (I would say, with certain kinds of damage) don’t become sated, their hole is bottomless.

But the opportunity for us to have free will and then the further opportunity for us to decide to put it aside, and learn to actually do that, I think creates some unique and beautiful music in the universe.  I just wish more people could lend their voices to that song.




March 1, 2015

I was wondering the other day whether some atheism has roots in the person’s sensitivity to feeling controlled, that their concept of a divine force gets mixed up with a perception that greater power is (necessarily) about controlling others.

I can also imagine some people having a similar problem with what we call “surrender:”  it could get confused with something humiliating or unpleasant, since when humans do it with each other that seems to be a part of what’s involved.

My point is that talking about divinity or surrender won’t make any headway with someone who perceives those things in a negative way, even if that negativity is a product of their own outlook — the point at which the speaker and the audience diverge occurred at point much prior to the discussion of divinity or surrender.

A window into other people

June 21, 2014

I was reading Father Rohr’s meditation for yesterday, and I was quite surprised by the last line, equating surrender and contemplation.

I don’t equate them.  But I don’t dismiss Father Rohr’s understanding either, and I wonder whether for him and for some group of people, surrender is about contemplation, that one gets a particular kind of spiritual experience, and life, if one understands surrender in that way — maybe “serenity” and a serene life?

The kind of surrender I am more personally familiar with is a kind in which one is reminded that one could strive for serenity directly and at one’s own pace, but perhaps what is actually needed to serve the greater good in one’s own life is something else.  Perhaps it is to understand what is going wrong in the life or lives of people who are stuck — to empathically experience how they interface with the world, with themselves, and with others, and to try to join them and perhaps lead them in adjusting that.  One sticks with that development, or reclamation, project, one does not skip ahead of the group one is immersed with, because to do so would lose the point of the project.  But one would also lose the point of the project if one lost sight of the point of the project and of the understanding that the project indeed has a point.

Now, of course, one could get a swelled head and identify oneself in this role as an enlightened teacher, but I think most of us who are willing to do this sort of work recognize that it is true of all human beings that we have the capacity for serenity, the capacity for its opposite (self-exile?), and the capacity for everything else inbetween;  what “level” we live our lives at is a function of a lot of factors — and if we stop thinking of it in terms of levels, and use a concept more like notes on a scale instead, maybe we can understand that sometimes the note that serves the greater good for us to sing is not the tonic.  And sometimes that note turns out to be one that is very difficult to hold, but is necessary for the music to sound full.  One is just another person in the orchestra, functioning as some kind of pitch pipe, perhaps.

To agree to sing  — to be willing to sing — whatever note is needed is my idea of surrender.

Serving or longing for union?

August 1, 2013

I was reading an email announcement from Father Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation about rediscovering our yearning for reunion with God.

That’s certainly part of the journey, recognizing the idea of union with God, becoming open to it, maybe even yearning for it, but I also believe that the sort of union we get through such yearning is not the same sort of union we get when we yearn only to serve the greatest good and our greatest good.

The the kind of union that occurs when all we yearn for is to serve is important, and I think the kind of union resulting from yearning for reunion can be problematic and result in serious “falls.”

These ideas are not original to me, and I even have written about them before on this blog, I think.  I just figured I’d repeat myself.

A friend of mine once said sometimes the thing that one is called upon to do in a particular situation is just to keep repeating oneself.

Flight control systems

June 29, 2013

My father was an electrical engineer by profession, worked for Bendix Corporation his whole career (it got bought by Allied and then Honeywell, so the name changed, but his place of work didn’t).  He worked in aeronautics.  He designed flight control systems for commercial and military aircraft.

That’s about the extent of what I know about what he spent his time doing.  He didn’t discuss it at home, I think largely because some of it he couldn’t, because it involved classified information.  I doubt the flight control systems for commercial aircraft actually did, but I think he dealt with the classified information issue by just having a blanket policy of not discussing his work.  And there was really no reason for him to.

But the concept of flight control systems is something helpful to me.  It helps me understand something I experience in my spiritual life.  (It was also a neat thing to learn about in the aeronautical context, and I was proud and fascinated that my father knew how to do what he did.)

My father once explained to me that what he designed allowed a pilot to steer a jumbo jet with he same ease with which the pilot steered a small plane.  My difficulty is not the same sort — mine is more like needing cross a deep gorge on a bridge without rails.  It can be done, but I can get in my own way if it’s too clear to me what I’m doing.  So I have help that just gives me what I need to know — what I need to know to do what I need to do to walk across that bridge — for all I know I’m walking across a lovely parquet floor in an expansive ballroom while I do it.

My talent is not bridge-walking, it’s trusting, it’s willingness to be guided, and it involves surrender.

When I’ve gotten to the other side, I come to know that I have crossed a gorge, when I am encouraged to learn to modulate my trust with the free will I had largely suspended.  That process leads to an understanding of what I’ve done, as if a curtain is being raised or a veil removed.  It’s kind of like the pilot deplaning and for the first time seeing how big the aircraft he was flying actually was.

I think my father’s job was something important in its own right, but I also like that what he did helps me to interpret what I do.





Teaching issue or learning issue

March 25, 2013

Teaching and learning are obviously interactive processes.  When the learning does not take place, it’s sometimes difficult to locate the source, or sources, of the problem.

Maybe it’s a matter of inadequate texts, or deficient teaching materials of other sorts, maybe it’s a matter of inapt teaching methods or teaching devices ill-suited to the learner.  Maybe we need direct modeling by the teacher of what the student needs to do.  Maybe, even, the teacher hopes they can provide, if not a teaching method tailored to the student’s learning style, some kind of short-cut to the desired goal.

But what if the problem arises out of a lack of willingness on the part of the student?  In spiritual learning, that’s necessary — willingness.  What if the element that is missing is nothing the teacher can provide?  What if all any teacher can do is to try to coach the student into enough awareness to locate their own internal learning device?

I think what we get in this case is too much external intellectual apparatus for what is essentially an internal process involving becoming as simple and innocent as a baby, and, like a baby, crying out for help.


January 5, 2013

This is about a thought I’ve been aware of for a long time but never really registered with me in my, as mother might put it, gizitsky (gut) — wasn’t a visceral understanding until this morning.  (I take that to mean I wasn’t quite ready to deal with its implications until now.)

I met someone some time ago, very briefly, and it was pretty clear to me that he literally had difficulty thinking when I was in (arm’s length) proximity to him physically.  I dealt with that as best I could, because I really did have something I felt I needed to talk to him about and I didn’t get the chance either talk about it then or to arrange another opportunity to discuss it — I just tried to get across the main idea (I thought): you’re barking up the wrong tree, I could help you find the right one, and I could use your help with something else.  I had thought he had indicated that he was interested in all that.

Leaving aside the content of the conversation I anticipated, I am at this point thinking the real significance of the attempt at conversation was to experience this drowning-out of a mental process.  Because it’s quite analogous to what happens when the ego gets in the way during meditation or some other means of accessing the divine, the forces greater than ourselves, the universe.  I can’t hear my guidance or feel my support when there’s ego-chatter and fear, doubt, and insecurity rattling around inside my mental apparatus.  I need willingness and surrender, great openness to the encounter, a clear channel.

I suspect that I needed to show to this person, and to myself, what it’s like when ego interferes with my interaction with the divine, whether it’s my ego interfering or theirs or even somebody else’s.

Just as they seemed to me to make clear when I met them that they did not want to hear what I had to say then or subsequently, I think I needed to see that I need to be free of their ego-chatter and point of view.

I think a different balance could be struck between us, but I don’t detect any willingness to do that.  So in that case, I need to do the “God is husband to the widow,” or a “woman religious,” approach to the issues in my life, and to do that, I need to interact with God without ego-chatter.

I think this approach has a lot to do with how I was drawn to use the name “Ani” (as in, nun) as a screen name.  When I stopped using it and started using my given name online, I felt I would try to make a go of being more oriented towards social interactions and less with my head up in the clouds, so to speak.  Clearly, what I’m looking for is the balance between the two that works for me, whatever that balance turns out to be.

But what I think this encounter and my experience of not being able to hear was presenting as a lesson to me was that if I am going to have to be on my own, I need to hear without interference, just as this other person wants to hear without interference.  I think it was a way of showing me the source of some of the chatter I need to set aside.  Of course, if I am with someone who has less ego-chatter, I can hear better how to relate to them — which may not be cutting a tie that seems to bind.

In this situation, I can’t hear well and I am also not receiving the resources I need some other way.

I am trying to resolve that untenable position, whether dramatically, by going all-in with one method or the other, or by rearranging the balance between the two some other way, perhaps even by receiving the gift of the chatter’s becoming muted, through something my would-be interlocutor learns to do.


Magic Shoes

June 1, 2012

I grew up in part with another family who had a pair of twins six years younger than I (and another child right in between).  I was eight when they moved in, so this story occurred before I knew them but I heard it told many times.

One of the girls (as these twins were called) learned to walk first and was given a pair of shoes.  The other apparently then would grab the shoes when they weren’t being worn and bonk her sister on the head with them.  Somehow the notion that the non-ambulatory sister thought the shoes magically conferred the ability to walk was communicated — I can’t recall whether she called them “Magic shoes” as she bonked her sister or not, but something like that.

Well, the parents quickly decided it was preferable to buy the daughter who was not yet walking her own pair of shoes, even if they weren’t needed and got oddly scuffed from crawling, in order to stop the bonking.  This solution had the desired effect.  I don’t think there was any lasting damage — the earlier walker became a philosophy professor, the bonker a pediatric gastroenterologist.

But I like the story still because I think some people want magic shoes of a different sort.  Their goal is wisdom, and they look to what people they consider wise do and they want to imitate that — have their jobs, read what they read, apply their techniques and ideas.  But wisdom comes through and from a whole life, not from intellectual pursuits.  It is earned in a sense.  In includes compassion and mercy derived from facing hardship and difficult times and allowing one’s heart to break open and working to keep it that way.  There are to be sure other components to wisdom, but hardship and loss seem to be the ones many people want to leapfrog over, and closing oneself off (including through habits of thinking and behaving like bitterness or sophistication) seems to be the other great hazard — if hardship leads to a thickened rather than a pierced shell then I am not sure how the admixture that is wisdom can be formed.

Magic shoes, magic glasses, magic combinations of anything superficial won’t get us there, to wisdom — we have to have our full selves at risk.  It takes willingness and a kind of surrender, I don’t think there’s any way to substitute for that depth of involvement.  And the willingness is not to become wise but to serve however serves the universal good.

On being dutiful

December 18, 2011

It occurred to me this morning that some people may confuse dutifulness, and abiding by canons of rules and codes of law, with willingness, the surrender to forces that is required for making certain kinds of spiritual progress.  I don’t know, maybe to some people constituted in a certain way, the two seem indistinguishable, like purple and blue look the same to someone with red-green colorblindness.  But dutifulness contains an element of willfulness — to be sure, here willfulness put towards “good” ends — but it’s willfulness nonetheless.  And when a person wants to hear without impairment, any bit of desire beyond surrender (that’s surrender to the divine, not to another person) must be shed.

Holding back

December 16, 2011

I started thinking about this issue, and at about the point at which I got to wondering whether love includes the desire to protect the loved one, I decided maybe I should reason this out in less fleeting words.

The “holding back” I was thinking about has to do with celibacy and one of its contrasting states, having a family.  Because my impression is that to perceive the highest forces of the universe through our spiritual apparatus (instead of, say, through measuring them with technology and describing them in equations) without distortions and damage, we have to have a very polished piece of apparatus, one with nothing on which these forces can catch and snag, and part of that has to do with not holding back, with complete willingness and surrender.  To put it another way, holding back is kind of like drag on an aircraft; it’ll bring it down under circumstances in which it would otherwise stay aloft.

I don’t want to say that children and spouses can be a drag (how loaded is that?), but I will say that our love and energy for them is love and energy not being applied to higher spiritual relationships — it’s being addressed to them (the kids and spouse), I don’t want to say “diverted,” but it simply is not going vertically upwards.  Loving children and spouses is a good thing but like the saying “You can’t have your cake and eat it to,” if we love our family members and they absorb our love, we don’t have it for other relationships, including with the divine at the highest levels.  I don’t doubt loving one’s family is compatible with a spiritual life of some sorts, and it may even help people find their capacity for loving and help them keep their hearts open and in these ways help them make progress on their spiritual journey, but at some point, I think we need all hands on deck, all the love we are capable of receiving from God to be gifted back to God if we want to experience God at that level.  I think that’s just the “physics” of the situation, and I could be wrong, but that’s my sense of it.

I think going into an advanced spiritual journey with caveats such as, “as long as it doesn’t harm my children,” is very understandable, even endearing and laudable by some measures, but I also think it is dangerous.  It leads to not looking at God head on, but rather with a glancing, indirect gaze.  If we look at God head on, like looking into mirrors on opposite walls in a room, we are drawn into an infinite regress, and if our egos (monkey minds, desires and fears) are out of the way, this is a very positive experience, perhaps the ultimate positive experience.  But if there’s stuff in the way, like an imperfection in a some kind of glass, I think it/we will shatter from the influx of what is being poured in.

So, I got to thinking about what it is about love for our family members that may be getting in the way.  Because I don’t think love per se is the issue, I don’t think love per se does get in the way.  I suspect we tend to include an element of protectionism in love for our near and dear.  I don’t want to be circular in my thinking, and I do realize I started with, “I want to enter into an advanced spiritual relationship but just don’t let it harm my kids.”  But I know that for me as a parent, there is a strand of my love for my kids that is about protecting them.  It’s most appropriate when they are babies and, at the other extreme, can cross the line into being a helicopter parent or an enabler in a dysfunctional relationship under some circumstances.  But I think it’s difficult to have kids, even grown kids, and not feel some kind of desire to help them be safe and happy.

Now, here’s where I think the crux of the issue is: having the thought without turning it into a desire.  That requires some kind of compassionate detachment (and probably other techniques to rearrange the thoughts and emotions, like bundles on a donkey or items in a suitcase, so that the load is carried differently), and what that looks like probably varies with the age of the child, and will be less or more compatible with having spiritual energy for other relationships.  I suspect it’s why celibacy can be helpful, or even just prescribed, for fostering a spiritual life.  So, I think that the ability to love one’s children may be wonderful, it may lead to an ability to love other people’s children and even all people, but that loving relationship with specific family members itself may be an impediment to being able to have spiritual progress after a certain point.

That’s where I think the way human beings can link to one another comes in handy (this idea is somewhere in Plato’s dialogues).  This way, someone can have that intense and monogamous relationship with the divine and also find a compatible way to relate to the person who is the next link in the chain, and so on down the line until everybody is joined, regardless of how many degrees of separation, or whatever we call distance from the source.  The more people who have that primary, monogamous relationship to the divine, the better, but I think that in theory, all it need take is one.