Posts tagged ‘spirituality’

November 16, 2011

No fear in love

A few weeks ago I met a man who is a healer. He teaches yoga, works with essential oils, and leads a meditation group. I met him at an essential oils class. I told him that I have been looking for a meditation group so I can go deeper in my own contemplation, and he invited me to join. Then he gave me a hug. In that hug I could feel a love so deep it scared me shitless, because there was a great power with it. I knew that if I connect with this man, he will influence me in a profound way, but I have not emailed him back to say if I am going to come.

I have been thinking about why I have been so scared of this man and of what he represents. Today I decided that it is because I was taught to fear. From the time I was born, I was told to be afraid, very afraid of anything not connected to the bible. If I wander away from the bible, my parents and religious leaders proclaimed, I will surely fall into dangerous and deceitful doctrine that will rob me of my relationship with God, my salvation, and my ability to see the truth. I will be overtaken by demons, lead others to hell, and be eternally tormented in hell myself. God will send me a “strong delusion to believe a lie.” This, I was told, would be the worst thing that could ever happen to me.

Even when I learned about contemplative prayer, I was told that it could be safely practiced only by Christians. “Only Christians,” my teachers told me, “have God’s spirit inside, so when you contemplate, you are gazing at the God who dwells within.” They didn’t quite say what would happen if you tried to contemplate without being a Christian, but they implied that all sorts of bad things could happen because if you are not contemplating within the safety of Christianity, you open yourself to demons who can take possession of you and try to destroy you.

Though I long ago began leaving the belief system my parents handed down, the fear they and other religious leaders engendered in me has lingered. I have believed in this fear, and it has kept me many times from peaking over certain walls. Or if I did peak, it was with much trepedition, and I had to ignore or work around the fear in order to cross over the wall. Now I am standing on this precipice looking down. I know in my heart that if I continue moving forward, I will have to face this fear head on. I will back down or fear will back down. I can’t keep dancing with fear, moving around it or ignoring it, because the next step is to do exactly the things I have been afraid of my whole life.

The funny thing about this fear is that it is actually disguised as love. If you love someone, you will do anything you can to keep them from experiencing eternal torment. Also, it would be very unloving of me to leave behind a belief system that could keep me and my loved ones from hell. Yet at the same time, when it starts to feel like fear is what is holding me back from living a life of love, I realize that fear is anti-love. It is not unloving to leave behind a belief system that could keep me and my loved ones from hell when I don’t know that belief system to be true, and the very foundation of it is fear, not love.

Thankfully, there’s a bible verse I can rely on to set myself free from all this torment of being afraid of leaving behind the bible. 1 John 4:18. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” All the things I am afraid of have to do with punishment. Fear says, if I try out this other spirituality, I will be punished by all these horrible things happening to me. God will punish me by leaving me. How sick is that? What if instead of hanging onto these threads of fear that have promised to keep me safe my whole life, I simply let go, ask for Love, and let my heart lead me to the places where love might finally have room to grow.

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July 31, 2011

There is a world inside me.

That is how it feels so much, when I connect with my interior life. It is like a link or a portal into another whole world. And that world, I call it the world of the spirit, is the true reality. So the physical world is not as real, or at least, not as permanent. Even though the spiritual world feels fleeting and dim, that is merely because our attention is so often focused outward. When I glimpse through the portal, I get the feeling that what I am seeing there has so much more weight to it than anything I could experience in the outward world.

There is a world inside me, or at least an opening into another world. There is a world inside me, just waiting to be expressed. Just waiting to be revealed. Through contemplative prayer, I dive into that world. And I am there, instantly in the presence of eternity. I become aware of it, but I lapse back, too. I don’t say that this is something I have to do every day. But when I find it, or it finds me, I feel alive. Alive to Reality.

There is a world inside me of vast proportions. Matter flows from it, matter returns to it. It is pure energy, pure life. This is reality. I open the door and let it flood me for a few minutes, so that I become aware. I close the door and go do something else and don’t come back here for weeks. There’s no guilt in this practice, not unless one chooses guilt. I choose acceptance. Acceptance of myself, but also a real feeling that this is me, this is my identity, and in going here I connect with real life. I can do it as often or as seldom as I want.

In church I used to hear people talk about the spiritual world and the physical world. I heard a lot of talk about it, but I rarely met someone who experienced it. It’s easier to talk about than to do. But it is the connecting that really matters. A lot of people I have met are actually scared of the spiritual world. It is funny, because we all have the world inside us. We all have the portal opening into that vast realm where space and time probably don’t even exist. Yet most people would rather get their spiritual instruction 3rd hand and never experience the spiritual world with their own spirits. Sad but true. The spiritual world is not something to fear. It just is. It is reality, and if we choose to live in reality, we can find the most beautiful, wonderful, and amazing revelations of life and love are flowing into us.

So how does one do this? Go lower. Dive down through your heart, which is you, into your spirit in your belly which is connected to the life force that flows through all eternity, connected to God. This is knowing God. Open the door. Walk through the portal. Glimpse reality.

June 27, 2011

Why I stopped going to church

So often in life I have found myself in bondage to something I “should” do. A big one for me has been church. I was raised with the idea that I not only should but must go to church, and not just now and then but to every meeting of my church, and not just any church, but the particular one my parents believed has the “truth.”

Although I left the church I was raised in years ago, I could not get away from the command that I must be a part of some church. Yet my heart screamed an emphatic NO! The mantra “I do not belong here!” reverberated from my heart while my will and reason demanded that I faithfully attend.

illustration by Brian Linn

This internal battle grew to the point that going to church became sheer torture. When I went, the ache in my heart grew to unbearable, almost physical pain. I became panicked, ran outside the building, huddled down in my car, and sobbed. The pain often did not subside until after a good night’s sleep. I convinced myself that these were simply demonic attacks, and I was just lonely. When it became clear that I could not stand going to a certain church even one more time, I would move to a new town and try all over somewhere else. Yet no matter how hard I tried to connect with the people at church, and even after I became very happily married, the feeling that I cannot belong at church would not leave.

In December 2008, I discovered a book that would change the course of my life: The Shack. The funny thing is, I learned about this book at church. While The Shack spoke to me in many ways, what really helped me get free of church was the podcast I found by the co-authors of the book–Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings. I needed to hear that I was not crazy to think that going to church was just not working for me. Listening to their podcast, I realized I am not alone. Lots of people have stopped going to church, and I can too. Wayne and Brad supplied the permission I still needed at that point to leave the church.

I don’t need their permission anymore; in fact I rarely listen to those guys now. When I do hear a podcast it is usually my husband’s new fav: Into the Wildbut sometimes I go weeks or even months without listening to any religious voices at all. I stopped reading the Bible. I stopped praying. I can feel my soul clearing.

Sometimes it scares me that I am wandering so far from my religious roots, but at the same time, I am filled with exhilaration. I no longer am chained to a certain way of thought that demands I put on a certain mask and pretend to be a person who fits in that archaic mold.

One turning point came more than two years before I found The Shack. In my last few days in California, I took a personal retreat at the beach. I didn’t hear much or progress far spiritually; I was actually very distracted. But I did hear one thing: “I would rather have you be yourself than worship me.” Sorry God. I just cannot pretend to be someone else in order to please you any more. The good news is, you never wanted that in the first place.

June 24, 2011

My contemplation goes something like this (at least today):

I sit on the bed, my back cushioned by pillows leaning against the wall, palms open. My eyes are closed. I breathe deeply, follow the word “BE” around and down towards my spirit. My mind runs cartwheels and chases trails of thought. Excitement fills me as I think of this and that project to do, ideas of how something will turn out, what I am going to do today, and my favorite: what I will blog about this contemplation. I realize again that I have been distracted. “Sshhh,” I say to thoughts, and then I remember the word “BE.” I slowly begin to descend again. Now I can feel that vast opening around me. It is the thing I call “eternity” because that is what it feels like to me. I only barely glimpse it this morning, though, but I do feel the familiar pressure on my forehead that comes whenever I am in God’s presence. I think of it as the touch of angels.

My mind doesn’t go blank. (I have found that going into Silence is like exercising a muscle. When you have not done it ever, it is very hard to start because your muscle is so weak as to be almost non-existent. Since I have built up that muscle in the past though, there is the residual memory of how and the ability to do it. But it is very weak and will need to be built up through time.)

So my mind stays aware, but at least is now in listening mode. I consider apologizing and immediately dismiss the idea. But it does make me aware that apologizing is an old habit. I want to come to God apologetic that I have not done enough, come often enough, etc. After all I basically have stopped praying for about 2 1/2 years (with a few prayers interspersed through that). If I should ever apologize for not praying enough it is now. But I don’t. I am not here to apologize, I am here to BE. Then I think of a Bible verse I memorized long ago: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are IN Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men but for the will of God.” I used to think about that as another “should”–I should not feel condemned,but I do–but in this moment I have a glimpse at a beautiful idea from that quote. Being IN God, in this place of contemplation, in this place there isn’t any more condemnation; condemnation does not exist here. Nor does sin. There is no more thought of sin when you are living from inside God, and you are free to only live.
(Now that I write that I see that I have not captured the heart of what I experienced. I glimpsed a freedom this morning, but when I write a Bible verse I worry that it will just become another law to someone. I am sharing this simply to give you an idea of what I experienced. You have to get your own revelation for yourself.)

“So I can be free from earthly desires and live for the will of God,” I think. But then I remember my desire to live out ME. (I decided a long time ago, I do not want to be Jesus, I want to be myself, and I have been beat over the head for a lot of years with this idea of following the will of God.) So I wonder, do I really want to live out the will of God? But then the answer appears: as I stay in God my desires come to life in God’s life intertwined. So from this place, the true ME can be expressed.

Even though it feels sweet, I let go and return to the surface. I do not look at the clock.

June 22, 2011

Welcome to this blog

The last three days I have been rediscovering contemplative prayer. This is a practice I learned about several years ago, and I knew then it was going to be a lifelong passion for me. Lately I have been challenged to think about my real goals, and I realized that my real life-long goal is to BE. To be who I am, to discover myself and God through the inward gaze of my soul upon God.

I decided to start this blog to chronicle my contemplative prayer life. I want to do this to keep accountable to pursing this lifestyle, and I hope that things I discover along the way can be a help to others. I would love to engage in a community of people who are practicing similar types of meditation.

Since the subject of this blog is gazing upon God, you might be wondering what religion I am.

I used to be a Christian, but I don’t know if I am one anymore. Since I left institutionalized religion 2 1/2 years ago, I have been laying my beliefs on the table. I think faith and beliefs are separate. Beliefs are of the mind, but faith is of the spirit; it comes from being in contact with the divine in reality.

I don’t know if the beliefs I held as a Christian are true or not; nor do I know if beliefs of other religions are true. I’m not very interested in figuring all that out either. What I do want and what I set my intentions for in my life is going deep in experience of myself, God, and other people.

If you are a Christian reading this blog, I welcome you. I come from a Christian background with experience in many branches. What I have learned about contemplative prayer in the past has mostly been based on Catholic mystics such as Madame Guyon (who is also embraced by non-Catholic Christians), St. John of the Cross, and others. I hope this blog challenges you to go deeper in your experience and encounter of God.

I hope if you are not a Christian that you do not shy away from this blog. This blog is NOT about spreading any one religion. One belief I do hold to at this time is that God (whatever that word signifies) exists outside of religion. The divine being, whoever that may be, emanates with Love and touches the depth of any person who comes deep to Be. I do not think that God is the property of any religion or that you have to be a part of any religion to connect with God.

Also, whatever your beliefs are about God, you are welcome here. A close friend of mine believes that God is merely an energy, a divinity to which we can all attain but not a separate personality. Even though she uses different words and comes from a different background, I have realized that we both have encountered many similar things. Reality is reality, we have merely glimpsed it from different angles.

And if you just want to live deeply but don’t necessarily believe in God at all, I would love to have you here. I want to meet anyone who practices contemplative prayer-style practices, whether or not you think of what you find there differently than I might.

One challenge in writing will be to avoid the word “he” for God. Obviously, God is not a man and does not have gender. In my past, the use of “he” was automatic, but I think this has been part of my problem with religion in general. I hope this does not make my writing stilted, and I might eventually resort to “they,” but I will not use he/she since that implies gender. I am a proponent of the idea that we need a non-gendered singular personal pronoun in this language and that our writing suffers from not having one.

But isn’t that part of what we realize through contemplative prayer? I just did a web search for Contemplative Prayer Blog, and the post I found talks about how this is a prayer of silence. Words are simply not enough to express reality, so we can encounter a more real essence through silence than through language. In some of my English classes in college, we discussed some of the inherent problems of language. I suspect that that might be a subtheme of this blog.

One thing I want to avoid here is religious debate, especially if it seems to be motivated by the desire to convert others to one’s religion or beliefs. If it happens on my blog, I will delete it. I hope readers feel free to share personal beliefs as a part of sharing who they are and what they are learning, but I am not open to anything that seems to be in the spirit of debate. If you are not open to learning from other people’s experiences but simply want to spread your own view, this blog is not the place for you.

Everyone else, welcome.