Don’t look down!

As my teacher explains it, in spiritual development, you can only see things as they appear at the level you’re at, or at the lower levels you were at. You can’t see higher than you are.

As soon as he told me that, I realized something about one of my most pernicious faults, which is that I have a creeping, recurring, intolerance for the levels I’ve left behind. When I “look down” at that spirituality, I sometimes (though I hate to admit it) “look down” on the people there, especially their leaders who are “there.”

In any sort of climbing endeavor, the best advice is “Don’t look down.” Looking down causes you to lose your balance. You’re suddenly focused not on present Reality, but past experiences through the distorting lenses of memory. Look up. at the highest thing you can see in this bright fog, the next hand- or foothold within your reach.

Don’t look down.

Overheard

At a church this morning, where the pastor was using the analogy of God as a builder:

Pastor: It’s not like you’re a nail. God’s not interested in whacking you like a hammer.

(From the congregation): A screw?

Pastor: No, He doesn’t want to screw you, either!

The Constant Gardener

Constant Gardner poster This is easily the best film I’ve seen this year. It’s a conspiracy thriller that breaks all the rules: there are no long chase scenes, no fights, no James Bond-esque heroics, no dramatic explosions, no wrenching suspense, and no pat happy ending. But it works, and works brilliantly.

Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles (City of God) weaves languidly in and out of linear story-telling and stream-of-consciousness with flashbacks used in a unhurried, dreamlike way. Rather than just seeing the love that Justin and Tessa Quayle have for each other, we feel it, in meandering sequences of snapshots, home videos, and flashbacks lovingly photographed.

Interspersed in this intimate tangle of images and experiences, is the unfolding mystery: Justin (Ralph Fiennes), an experienced, middle-level British diplomat in Africa, is trying to solve the mystery of the murder of his wife Tessa (Rachel Weisz), whose activism on behalf of Africa’s poor has begun to make many enemies. Even worse, he began doubting her faithfulness to him shortly before she was killed. Read more…

A Cure for Procrasination

Here’s a cure for procrastination I discovered: It’s the
Foxy Tunes extension for Firefox (And c’monóI’ve said it before, but seriously, if you’re using Internet Explorer, be good to yourself and switch switch to Firefox!)

This extension allows to control your favorite music player from the status bar of the Firefox browser. On of the optional controls is an Alarm Clock / Sleep Timer function. If I’ve been putting something off, I’ll select 10 minutes on the sleep timer to do the off-put thing while I listen to my favorite iTunes playlist. (And if I want to listen to more music, I have to agree to do more work and reset the Sleep Timer!)

It’s working for me !

Enso

My teacher (very confidently) tells me that nothing is coincidence. He sees everything as a single great unfolding.

And my reaction is usually to say “Huh?” with quite a bit of skepticism. Sometimes, however, the “coincidences” are just too frimmin’ to be coincidences. For example, Sunday I created the favicon for the site, with an enso as the design. (Enso is the Japanese word for the Zen symbol of emptiness, a hand-brushed circle.

Less than two days after I created the enso favicon for this site, I received an email from a reader in Salt Lake City, who sent me an %enso% of his own, which I’ve included above. Isness works in mysterious waysóit ain’t coincidence.

And tonight in the grocery store parking lot, a great bumper sticker:

That was Zen. This is Tao.

Katrina Photoblog

Here’s a remarkable photoblog of New Orleans taken by an employee of a downtown hotel. It covers everything from the storm preparations to his desparate escape four days after the storm passed. What’s really shocking when viewing the pictures, is that these areas were some of the most lightly damaged in the city.

I’ve wanted to say something about Katrina for some time, but there’s really nothing I can say. It’s just that simple. What can I say?

Wisdom from a friend

Rick, at a newlife emerging, had this to say in his a recent post

In other words, Jesus did not help folks find Godórather, as the face of God, he found people.
God went looking for us.
And when God found us, God did not chastise us,
God embraced us. God reached out and loved us
In a way that when we felt the true touch of God we could not deny
that we had just encountered the One.

Really, that was just what I needed to hear. It’s a consistent fault of mine that I’m so prone to do the “helping folks find God” thing, rather than simply offering God’s love to them.

If Jesus, why religion?

I’ve been thinking about two powerful, life-changing spiritual experiences I’ve had. Both of them were encounters with Jesus. The first one was my “born-again” experience. Most people of faith, including most Christians, grow into faith gradually, and have nothing so dramatic as the “born-again” experience which immediately turns life right-side-up and changes _everything_. Some, from traditions where sudden, radical change is suspect, even doubt where the experience is real. I can only speak from my own experience, but what happened to me when I was thirteen was real.

It came to me after months of searching. When I was twelve, I came to wonder if the only reason I believed in God was that my parents had taught me to. I declared myself agnostic in an attempt to learn the truth. I didn’t know if God was there or not, but I reasoned that he could make himself known to me if he was, and so I began praying, and I began experiencing his Presence. However, the Presence (and the peace that came with it) seemed quite temporary. I was desperate for something that lasted, something that could change me. One day, as I was walking home from school, something broke, and since that day, I have never doubted God’s reality (although many times I’ve fought it!).

With that experience, I was also changedI was healed from deep fears, self-loathing, and given literally a new lease on life. I honestly don’t think I would still be alive here if that magnificent breakthrough of grace never occurred. Also from that time, (and actually a little before it) I became an active, passionate church-goer, an ardent Bible-reader, a dedicated (more often than not!) Christian who was a bit odd in having zero loyalty to denominational brands, and moved freely across all Protestant expressions of Christianity, and eventually into Catholicism.

The second one, which I have never publicly shared before, happened five years ago. Like the first, it also came after months of questing. I had recently discovered the teaching of “theosis”:/faith/theosis.html, which seemed to me to be not only the forgotten core of Christianity, but of other religions too, and very simply the meaning of life itself. For some people that would have been enough, but with me, it opened a can of worms. Slowly, I saw many of the assumptions of Christianity come into question. It was like the warmth of the light was making the fabric unravel. Soon, it seemed that the “Gospel” as it had been taught, was grossly misunderstood, that Jesus came to teach us how to live; how to let God’s light transform us and bring us into “the Kingdom of Heaven” here and now, allowing the work of theosis to change us, and make us as divine as Jesus himself.

One night, as I was at the computer typing my journal, Jesus came to me, wholly unexpected. I didn’t see him, but his Presence was as real as anything I’ve ever experienced. He showed me his heart. He showed me scenes from his life. The beauty and power of his love was so intense, I melted and wept. I also saw he hated the religion of his day. There was something else, too. He showed me that he is completely misunderstood, that he began as a human being, and realized God is his Father and our Father, and allowed that realization to transform him into a walking manifestation of God’s love.

And there was nothing he desired except that we do the same.

To be free. Free human beings, free of the concepts and constructs that separate us and bind us. To become sons and daughters of God. To be one with him as he is one with the Father. To allow the Reality to so penetrate me, that “I” am gone, and only God can be seen. To be both innocent and wise, as sly as serpents but as harmless as doves.

It strikes me that the born-again experience is the experience of enlightenment, with the potential to bring people to full and lasting Awakening. In it, there is virtually no ego, God takes over, and everything changes. But sadly, that awareness and simplicity seldom lasts, although there are often lasting effects. Usually the religion subsumes it. What happened to me, was that I wanted to grow in it. I eagerly sought the advice of preachers and Christian books on how to be spiritual. I took the churches’ ideas of “right” and “wrong.” I put God behind the complicated concepts of religion, drawing curtains between myself and the light, although my “baby Christian” high lasted a long time.

I had a brief spiritual conversation with a man at a Burger King this week. After we talked briefly about mysticism as the direct experience of God, he got up to leave, and said that reading the writings of R. C. Sproul had shown him that he is a Calvinist!

It was all I could do to keep from saying, “I’m so sorry!”

I hurt a friend recently. A young woman, still in the “high” after her born-again experience, yet well on the way of having the pure, light of innocence-wisdom corrupted by the teachings, concepts, and prejudices of the religion. I tried to warn her about it, but it was the wrong thing to do… I got way ahead of the Spirit, and offended her, probably causing her to raise defenses and guards more.

Yet I wonder… If Jesus, why religion? We impose so much baggage on “being clear” on Christ’s nature, we have no desire to follow him into theosis, no concept that it’s possible. We bastardize his words until “the Gospel” means something about saying Yes to God and going to heaven when we die. Why did it take me 26 years from my first encounter with Christ till I was ready for what he’d show me in the second?

Here I’m making the same “why” question that I wrote about earlier forming here, the child’s why?, the spiritual why? I know the answer is in how I will live today. It just seems a damn shame, that’s all. That’s Jedi life in the real world.