Wednesday, June 19, 2013

June 19th

I'm going to take this blog deeper and will attempt to talk more openly about things that really can't be contained or illustrated in words, so I will fail.

It's good knowing that from the outset. Also, trying to understand these things analytically probably won't work. Think of it as a form of poetry- only it's living or moving poetry.

I'll do this because first of all, He's asking me to and secondly, because sometimes we don't know what we're yearning for until we see it modeled somewhere else, which lets us know that it's possible to reach it- in our own way, on our own time line and in our own inner language.

It might be helpful- possibly or possibly not- for me to talk in somewhat practical terms on the outset. So if you wonder where or in what way I rest in the inner or spiritual life, the answer is, first of all, that I physically rest.

It's always taken me hours to fall asleep, so that is a good time to meditate- I guess I will use this word, though it's not quite the right word.

I have a lot of thoughts and emotions buzzing around my head and those thoughts pull me in again and again, as I go over the day and decisions and regrets and guilt and pleasures that the day contained.

At some point, however, I have to get beyond the tyranny of anxious thought patterns, so I begin to let go of these thoughts bit by bit. When they rise up, I'm tempted to think them through again- what I did, what I should have done, what I will do, but instead, I let them go.

It's almost like a way of dying- that thought wants to live! Thinking it through and planning and regretting feels productive! Surely if I go over it one more time, I'll finally figure it out and all will be right.

Instead, I let it go. Some amount of reflective thought is productive- repetitive, anxious thought patterns are not.

As I let it go, I remember Him and I begin to reflect on Him or on my longing, or on something I learned about Him.

I make myself aware of the weight and warmth of my own physical body as I rest in the bed and I remember that I am a part of the body of Christ. As closely and as naturally as I am knit into and wrapped up in my own body, I am knit into and wrapped up in God. I find that this is a deep, soothing meditation.

I make myself aware of my own breathing, how I am breathing the breath of God and how this breathing goes on, patiently and steadily, even when I am not aware. I do not have to make myself breathe; I breathe naturally, without effort. It's an effortless intimacy with God- I take His breath from His mouth and I give it back to Him.

Also, sometimes but not often, I repeat phrases to myself as another form of meditation. I will say, I'm falling into Love, and let myself do just that. More usually, I will say, Let myself be loved. In my experience, that's quite a beautiful phrase.

Lately, I've used something Jesus said- that when asking for something in prayer, believe that you have it and you will receive it. This has been, by far, the most powerful phrase in terms of opening myself up to His presence. I simply ask for Him and then accept that I have Him, all of Him, right then.

I can sometimes get caught up in intense longing for the full communion that is beyond the veil, without the glass dark as it were- no matter how clearly I see Him in the that inner space, I know that I am not seeing Him as He is, and I want to, very much.

However, this distracts me from the beauty of the present moment and all that it contains, so I try not to fall into that kind of longing too often. I'm with you now, He reminded me once, when I was caught up in thinking about the future.

Usually, by this time, His presence is already all around me and I simply open my heart up to where He is- within me, and I within Him. Usually, at first I am aware that I am breathing, but I'm in His arms and then my awareness opens up from that point.

This being with Him is a dynamic experience- that is, it's subject to change; it's organic. It's never the same way twice, so I let go of attempting control or the need to control and fall deeper into rest- I receive Him as He is coming to me, or I receive Him as He is receiving me- so it's like a dance between Him and I. It requires mutual space, trust and time.

This has gotten easier with time. At first, I was frequently overwhelmed and kept shutting down the experience. Now I'm much better at simply flowing with it, and I think consequently, I see much more clearly and am more expressive and at ease within it.

I spend as much time with Him as I can, until I begin to fall asleep and dream- which can be very disconcerting, because the dreams have a bizarre quality compared to the peaceful inner communion. At that point, I let myself fall into sleep.

Although there are layers of spiritual intimacy, there is no definite line between my "secular" or practical or outer life, and my "spiritual" or inner life. That is a false dichotomy, in my opinion and experience.

I am not cut off from Him while making Keith's breakfast or vacuuming or reading blogs or walking- I'm always aware of Him. It's just that, at night, I can rest much more deeply in Him and focus on Him.

It's very important to me that I never place an incorrect value on "inner spirituality" over practical acts of love and presence in my outer life. For example, it is much more important that I spend time with Keith than it is for me to withdraw and to be "spiritual." I think that would be, for me, a misleading and empty piety.

More than that, I think we are called to express and make manifest the heart of God toward each other, so we open our hearts to His love so that is flows through us toward other people. So withdrawing from the people in our lives, in order to be "spiritual," seems entirely backward.

Once, when Keith's mother was having some health problems, I lay in bed with my arm around a sleeping Keith, praying for him. At first, I prayed that Jesus should pour out His love and care on Keith and then I realized that Jesus is doing this all the time, so it seemed strange to ask for something that was already happening.

So, instead, I prayed that Keith should feel the love and care of Jesus and Jesus said to me: I do that through you. Through you, I demonstrate My love and care of Keith.

And I was all, my goodness! So true! Because we are the body of Christ- we are a part of His presence here and now, in the world, among the people He set us in.

This whole experience requires huge amounts of trust. I just keep handing myself back to Jesus- I keep acknowledging that He is present and that He is loving, faithful and true.

In that inner place, there is nowhere to hide. That is, in my practical life, I can distract myself from Him easily, if I wish. Being busy is a great place to hide.

This is not so in the inner place. There is complete transparency. The only place to hide at all is in denial and it's a not a very convincing denial- it's the equivalent of putting my hands over my face and saying- now You don't see me!

I would be unable to tolerate this level of transparency if He hadn't slowly, over time, proved to me, over and over again, that He saw me completely and was not ashamed of me and that I had nothing to hide and that what He wanted, above anything else, was my authentic self.

Learning this trust took the last two years and more. It was, at points, excruciating. It's so much easier, sometimes, to pretend that God does not completely see me, or that what He wants is my effort- some product, some sacrifice- something I can give Him- something other than me, exactly as I am, right here and now.

I'm still learning all these lessons, by the way. I fail all the time, but there's so much relief to understand that it doesn't matter- it's denial about failure that matters. It's pretending to be something or someone else.

As I've been reading the gospels over again, I can't help but notice how many times Jesus points out hypocrisy- play acting. It seems to frustrate Him very much. This has new meaning for me now, in light of how I have known Him to cherish authenticity and vulnerability.

He is safe- He is the safest Person and the safest place it is possible to imagine. Sometimes I think, if there is only one message I could leave behind, it would be that God is safe. His heart is an open door.

Thinking about all this reminds me of a song I've been really enjoying lately: