Archive for the 'transformation' Category

Elephants reconfigured

July 21, 2014

Back in April I posted a picture of a broken cup:

Broken Item

It had been broken in transit, during some portion of its journey from original vendor to me.

There’s a mosaic studio down the street, and I brought the pieces of the broken cup in.  The co-owner of the studio and I discussed what might be made out of the pieces, and she started cutting the pieces with a very impressive tool.  She observed the cup was made from good china as she cut.

I left after we had reached a pretty good understanding of what she would make out of it.

Here’s how it turned out:

elephant cup project photo1


Pretty wonderful  —  by which I mean, very wonderful.

It’s for hanging necklaces from.

I had told the co-owner I would like the elephants to be “on parade.”  We had agreed on hooks of some sort underneath — she had thought for hanging keys, I had suggested for hanging necklaces, instead.  When she told me over the phone about how the project was going, during the intervening week, she said she was using “cup hooks” to hang the necklaces from, and I pictured those little metal hooks with a convex shield against the surface the screw goes into — I didn’t realize she meant handles from real china cups.  So I was pleasantly surprised — kind of thrilled — when I went down to pick up my reconfigured broken cup today and saw the real cup handle hooks.

In any event, this sort of thing is a version for me of making lemonade from lemons, of recycling, of finding a way to create from something broken.  I did, though, defer to the co-owner for the actual craftsmanship, although she had offered to teach me how to do it myself.  I’m sure there’s some significance there, it just hasn’t yet occurred to me what it is.  And it took her, a person experienced in this kind of craft, 4 hours to do it, and over the course of a week –twice as long as she anticipated.  So I may not have been incorrect to defer.



Treading carefully

July 13, 2014

“The significance of Jesus’ wounded body is his deliberate and conscious holding of the pain of the world and refusing to send it elsewhere.”  This is from Father Rohr’s Daily Meditation for today.

I see this — what Jesus is described here as having done — as a step.  A brave and courageous step, but a step nonetheless, one in a series.

Yes, it’s a big deal not to spew out all that pain back into the world, but all that pain has to go somewhere.  It needs to be discharged, albeit safely.

For that I think there are techniques — including the tried and true, “Dear God, I can’t do this myself, please help me.”  Which can also be expressed as a request to the universe for dilution of dense negative energy or for sending it where it can be transformed and recycled into new life and positive energy.  It goes not back into this world of ours but elsewhere.  I suspect it is a step that requires outside help, that humans (incarnated spirit) can’t do it on our own.

I think it took someone of Jesus’ make-up to take the step of capturing the pain, but I am not convinced his step was the end of the process.  Vacuuming all that up may have been helpful, and he may have done it as well as it could be done, but I don’t think the outcome of that step was the final phase of the process.  I could see it as a watershed moment, but not as an ultimate one.

I actually more often see it as a template for what more of us can learn to do ourselves, although, as I say, I see capturing pain as only a step in the process of draining our swamp.  Whether we can also take the step of discharging the pain safely is another matter, and if we can’t, the next athlete in the relay will take that step, the way I see what’s going on.



May 9, 2014

I have an old scented geranium that resides on a potting bench inside during the chilly weather but takes its summers out of doors.  Its leaves smell great.  It rarely flowers, hasn’t flowered for probably a decade.

Just now I was talking on the phone and during the conversation I noticed flowers opening on it.  Wow.

I had actually been pondering a different kind of regrowth issue, one I’ve probably written about before:  when a plant involving a graft dies back to the root stock and then regrows from there.  The regrowth is less “ornamental” — straight shoots instead of curly, a more common petal color or arrangement, and so on.  I was wondering if we sometimes have a hard time letting go of the ego self we have developed and all its ornaments and don’t want to “die back” to a simpler, core version of ourselves and regrow from that.  We liked the ornamental look, perhaps, or maybe it went unacknowledged or underappreciated, and so it was held onto in a wait for that acknowledgement and appreciation from others.

The re-flowering of the geranium presents a different image, of something beautiful that was dormant coming forth again.  That’s an easier image, perhaps an easier process to accept.

In any event, my sons and I were discussing Mother’s Day, and they wanted to know what I might like.  I mentioned, among other things, that flowers might be nice.  I got some already, so it seems.

How much?

April 15, 2014

I suppose it is not necessary to believe we have through reincarnation multiple opportunities to develop spiritually to believe that it may be preferable for people to do what they can in terms of what Father Rohr’s tradition calls “dying to the self” instead of aiming to do more than they can safely accomplish.  In the reincarnation model, we can think of it in terms of laying a strong foundation (for future layers), but even without multiple opportunities, we could think of it in terms of progress made — how far we have come from where we started — and see “delta” (change) as what we are looking for.

I have concerns about everybody feeling they should be able to achieve it all, and hence not trying at all or trying in a way that actually results in harm, such as regression or implosion.  I’m in favor of taking solid steps, however small, towards becoming aware of what about us is flawed and ephemeral and what about us is timeless and stable.  Rome was not built in a day.  Every stage of development is important and having people at different stages of development is important.  I would rather see people moving slowly in a helpful direction than not moving at all or incurring too much damage from tumbling backwards after trying to take too large a step on difficult terrain.

Where I do see privileging one stage of development above others is in being able to see a bigger picture and being able to encourage others not to get stuck in limited thinking, in mistaking a part for the whole, or in clinging to a stage as if it were a permanent resting place.  Being able to suggest an overview can be helpful, but the actual nitty-gritty of coaching individuals, in terms of where they are and what may be helpful to their progress, I think is something else.


March 6, 2014

I was reading Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation and its emphasis on how inadequate development of the self during the first half of life may undermine spiritual development later.

What I have seen as a problem undermining spiritual development later is unacknowledged damage to the self.  This  tends to lead to regression, rather than to progress, when people are faced with the challenges in their lives that might deepen and develop the spiritual aspects of themselves.  Some such damaged people “break” beyond what they can put back together themselves when confronted with the challenges that might expand them spiritually, other people survive the experience sufficiently intact but end up with only a partial spiritual awakening, or so it seems.  Some of this last group seems then not to want to get back up on the diving board to try again, in order to finish the job, but want to act as if they have finished the job sufficiently.   It can be that the damage has not been addressed because of reluctance to revisit the issue or discuss it with others.  Of course, the person may think their psyche is perfectly healthy — that may be part of the problem, that they have internalized a view that will not hold up in the throes of huge challenges, but they don’t realize that in advance.

Partial spiritual awakenings I think are sometimes less dangerous to the partially awake person than they are to others around them.  Other times partial spiritual awakenings result in severe distress to the person themselves, a sort of spiritual emergency.

I sometimes think that maybe we are all like Persian rugs, with a necessary flaw in ourselves which keeps us embedded in the material world.  I think it helps if that flaw is not of such a kind that it incapacitates us either spiritually or socially (or physically).

Broken rules

March 5, 2014

I read with interest Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation about “The Importance of Law.”  It talks about the need for firm externally imposed limits at an earlier stage in life in order to be able to move beyond such a dynamic later.

But it also talks in terms of the person later being able to know how to break the rules appropriately, and not inappropriately, later in their life, and I am surprised to hear it discussed in the active voice of breaking.  Maybe we are talking about way later.

Because what I think comes next is when those systems of law no longer are sufficient to one’s situation, when needs are not being met by the system as advertized, when the social compact has been broken, when one’s own contribution, however adequately made, is not producing what is needed or what the system says it will produce.  One’s relationship with the system, I think, does break down, but I don’t think it’s through direct action by the person.

This may be what Henri Nouwen is referring to in his emphasis on brokenness.  I think we get broken as much as break the system, and once we are in that position, we either implode or explode, retreat into what our society calls psychosis, or we expand our direct connection to the spiritual realm — we expand our connection to the divine beyond us and the divine within us.

I think atheists haven’t in their current lives been in this position, I think many people who espouse religiosity through the realm of cognitive ideas haven’t either.  I think people who who have done this before may not accurately remember what they went through to get to their current level of understanding.

Yes, there is brokenness, but it is ours as much as it is the social system’s.  We experience its limitations and we need and are ready for and reach out for what lies beyond it.

That, at least, is my impression of the transition.

I’ve read enough of Richard Rohr that for all I know I got these ideas from him as much as from anything else (including experience and Henri Nouwen), and for all I know he will in coming days say something similar.  But I was surprised by what I read today.

Transforming another

January 13, 2014

“Transformed people transform people.”  That’s in Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation today (which for some reason arrived in my spam folder).

In my humble experience, with my deceased friend Martin, you become transformed by a transformed person (only) when (1) you have rid yourself of enough ego attributes that you can receive the flow unimpeded, and (2) you give of yourself completely, unstintingly, no holding back, thorough-going willingness — and not willingness for union, but rather, to do that which serves the greatest good.  Then that union happens.  (And for me, we remained distinct persons throughout, and it felt as though I were experiencing “his” joy at the union, in case there are any reporters in the audience taking notes.)

You have to get yourself sufficiently out of the way, but that must be done through a process that accomplishes that indirectly, in a sense.  You can’t want the union, you instead have to be willing in a general way, and I think it actually helps not to be too aware of the possibility of union — that, at least for me, would make me too self-conscious to be sufficiently out of the way — for me, it was easier to stumble into union.

As I write this, sunlight is streaming in on the Standing Buddha statue in my foyer.  The sunlight is coming in from the dining room,  through an angled window there, and it’s especially bathing the Buddha’s legs.

The other side of the roast beef sandwich issue

November 28, 2013

I figure if I have had a hang-up about a guy doing me wrong and withholding something from me (see previous post), I (or the person whom I am helping) probably did something that was perceived in a similar way by a guy.  Here’s a spiritual story that shows a fundamental, spiritual version of this part of the paradigm.  (There’s a version involving sex and what turns out to be an underage girl, but we’ll pass over that one.)

A girl is recognized as having potential to develop as a mystic, and her younger brother feels left out and envious of her training and status in the community.  To placate him, she promises to “bring back” whatever she learns and experiences from her good fortune.  Unfortunately, once she has had the learning and experiencing, she realizes they are not something that can be had vicariously or by proxy.

Of course, her brother doesn’t understand, when she is not forthcoming with what she had promised him.  He feels wronged and betrayed, and here we go with a long and damaging feud.

Evening out the highs and lows

September 20, 2013

I don’t disagree with the idea that suffering and love, and great suffering and great love, are related.  I read about that in Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation.  I agree that great suffering can break open a human heart, and that as a result, that heart can encounter, and access, great love after.  It’s quite a roller coaster.  Lots of drama.

I don’t, though, think that’s a helpful place to rest ourselves for too long, in that stage.  I think we need to even out those highs and lows, through detachment.  I think Buddhists talk about this a lot.  I got cued to this piece (by Pema Chödrön) recently, and I really liked the idea of “no big deal.”  She writes,

This was one of the biggest teachings from my teacher, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche: no big deal. I remember one time going to him with what I thought was a very powerful experience from my practice. I was all excited, and as I was telling him about this experience, he had a look. It was a kind of indescribable look, a very open look. You couldn’t call it compassionate or judgmental or anything. And as I was telling him about this, he touched my hand and said, “No . . . big . . . deal.” He wasn’t saying “bad,” and he wasn’t saying “good.” He was saying that these things happen and they can transform your life, but at the same time don’t make too big a deal of them, because that leads to arrogance and pride, or a sense of specialness. On the other hand, making too big a deal about your difficulties takes you in the other direction; it takes you into poverty, self-denigration, and a low opinion of yourself. So meditation helps us cultivate this feeling of no big deal, not as a cynical statement, but as a statement of humor and flexibility. You’ve seen it all, and seeing it all allows you to love it all.

I think it’s what I’m getting at here.


March 8, 2013

I was amused that a number of people replied to a comment I posted to David Brooks’s column about orthodox Jewish community.  I had questioned why, if the law is found to be so helpful and is so welcomed, as the column celebrates, work-arounds to particular provisions are developed, as the column also celebrates.

Most of the replies explaining to me the lack of contradiction assume I am concerned about whether the work-arounds are consistent with the law and the idea of adhering to one.  That assumption to me is evidence of the problem:  legalism.  That’s what I think is actually being celebrated (legalism), not the embracing of a particular set of rules.  There’s a difference between loving a set of rules and having a relationship with them that requires their adjustment.  That was my point.

And I think it’s a difference that makes a difference.  The attitude with which a person relates to a set of rules makes a difference to the internal development of the person, regardless of whether it makes a difference to their behavior.

I worry that the focus on adherence to Jewish law distances too many people from the main events of spiritual life.  In Judaism, those main events, I think, are to be found in Jewish mysticism, which I am also under the impression is off-limits until people have mastered the law business.

I’m all for making sure people don’t take on more spiritual challenge than they are ready for at the time, but keeping people at bay from mysticism through keeping them occupied with laws and codes reminds me of insisting on mediation through others to access one’s spiritual life — an obstacle and a barrier.

I think learning to think legalistically is interesting.  It allows for a certain lens through which to filter and translate inchoate ideas that I might understand through other forms of mental activity.  But I don’t think it’s the main event, and I think getting caught up in it as if it is keeps us from realizing our potential.

In this life I’ve certainly learned to think legalistically, so I can’t dismiss it as irrelevant to my own perspective, but if it was necessary for my spiritual development, it certainly wasn’t sufficient.

Another response (other than legalism) to coming up against a law that one wishes to gloss is to think about why one wishes the gloss and then to adjust the self, not the externalities of law or facts (milk-free “cheese” products, for example).  That would, I think result in a different development in thinking, a kind shift in perspective towards acceptance, perhaps.

But I am thrilled that in responding to my reply, which was in its own way dualistic, people used the kind of mental process that finds harmony in seemingly opposing concepts — that, I think, is good practice for spiritual growth.