The foundation of Spiritual Reality is Emptiness/Stillness/Silence/Solitude—which are essential for Clarity. Emptiness is emptying ourselves of fear, desire, duty, agendas, opinions, beliefs, ambition, and all of the things that interfere with our being here, now. It is the space between breaths. Where connections are made, and awareness and realization come to life.
Stillness/Silence/Solitude (Marianne Moore said, “The cure for loneliness is solitude”) create the space necessary for hearing/seeing to happen. We have to separate ourselves regularly from “the noise of the world,” in order to know what’s what and what needs to be done about it in the present moment—in each situation as it arises—all our life long.
Our spirituality depends upon and flows from Emptiness/Stillness/Silence/Solitude/Clarity. Nothing happens until that does.
The ground of spirituality is experience—not belief, not faith, not tradition, not the Bible, not theology, not doctrine, not dogma. We encounter the Sacred, the Numinous, the Ineffable in nature, art, music, and resonance with some aspect of wonder at work in our life, synchronicity, perhaps, a dream, a conversation, a poem… Something touches us, we touch something, and become the moved in response to the Mover, the known in response to the Knower, and things shift for us, in ways we could not have designed, created or produced. And we become the seeker/servant of More Than Meets The Eye.
Jesus is an inkblot; God is an optical illusion. So is the Tao—an ink blot, and an optical illusion. So is the Buddha. What we see depends upon how we look. Now we see it, now we don’t. Now it’s like this, now it’s like that. Sometimes it’s this way, and sometimes it’s that way. Everything is a mirror, showing us ourselves. Or not. Projection, reflection, it’s all the same to eyes that see. Eyes that see, see into the heart of things, and know how things are and how they also are, and what is happening, and what needs to happen in response, and what we need to do to assist with what needs to happen in each situation as it arises—which is what knowing what’s what is good for, that is: Doing what needs to be done. Spirituality sees/hears/knows/does what is important, what needs to be done.
Prayer is the soul’s expression of, response to, the truth of its own experience, the truth of the way things are and the way things also are, its experience of the oppositional nature of truth, of what it is to be alive in the time and place of its living, of the experience of life, living, and being alive. It is the meditative, mindfully aware, attitude/perspective/environment in which we go about our life.
Don’t think that you can say anything about Truth that won’t be opposed—and deepened, enlarged and expanded—by something else you say about Truth. Truth is more than facts. Is more than words can say.
Truth is true only so far as it goes. Nothing is so true that it never clashes with a contradictory truth. “Yes, but…” is always the response by those with eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart that understands. And, if you are one of those people, you are saying “Yes, but,” about now.
When our heart is in what we are doing, we are one with the center. But, perspective shifts with time, and we see things with new eyes, and do things differently in time. There is more than one way to see things, do things. Things do not stay the same forever. We do not think the way we have always thought, or do what we have always done. Those who see things clearly, see things differently over the course of their life. Changing our mind about what is important is one of the skills we have to develop on the spiritual journey—is the essence and nature of the spiritual journey—is the journey.
To see what needs to be done, and do it in the way it needs to be done, at the time it needs to be done, is to be “on the beam,” and “in sync with the Source.” We may do things differently next time. The beam is not rigid, unchanging. “The spirit is like the wind that blows where it will.” The Source is fluid, dynamic, alive. And, “A path that can be discerned as a path, is not a reliable path” (Martin Palmer).
We interfere with our ability to see by having plans and agendas, and imposing them on our life—by willing what we want, by wanting what we have no business having. We have to separate ourselves from ourselves in order to see ourselves, hear ourselves, know the disparity at the heart of ourselves—which is the disparity of Adam and Eve—the dichotomy at the center of existence, “On one hand, this, and on another hand, that.” We are, at once, who we are and who we also are. And we walk two paths at the same time—really, more than two paths. We do that by walking this path while keeping our eye on the other path. All of the time. It is Yen/Yang all the way down.
When we enter into, or create, situations that have never existed before, we have nothing to guide us in knowing what to do, and we avoid the discomfort of not-knowing by making up rules and policies that don’t fit, and saying what nice rules and policies they are, and forcing everyone to abide by them. It takes time to figure out what is required in response to the impact of a new thing. There has to be leeway for flexibility, and making things up as we go.
There is “in sync,” and there is “out of sync.” Out of sync may well be in sync with ultimate sync-ness, and it will take time to see that it is so. A child growing up can be out of sync with her, or his, parents’ ideas of how she, or he, should be. The child has to be willing to be seen as out of sync in order for ultimate sync-ness with the child’s own heart to shine through. Harmony, oneness, is everywhere—though it may not always be apparent. “Yes” to this is “No” to that. “Yes and No” are like “In Sync and Out Of Sync.” And like “Good Luck” and “Bad Luck.” And all the other dichotomies there are. Leading someone, I forget who, to say, “All of our dichotomies are false dichotomies.” There is wholeness at the bottom of the pie. And all things depend on each other being exactly as it is.
The art of life is knowing when to give ourselves over to the Great Sea of Life, and allow it to carry us where it will—is knowing that we are afloat upon the Great Sea of Life at all times, in all places, being carried about as it will, so that we do not “give ourselves over to it,” so much as “recognize what is going on,” and “give ourselves over to that,” in a “Thy will, not mine, be done,” kind of way (With the “Thy” being the Great Sea of Life).
· The sage does things as they should be done. Which is to say that things are usually done as they should not be done. Which is to say it is better to do things as they should be done, than to do them as they should not be done. But even the “should not be” fits into all things being exactly what it should be in time. We are partial to the sage. Wisdom is preferred over folly. Why then do we persist in folly? Why do we nor make it our life to do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, where it needs to be done, the way it needs to be done, because it needs to be done, with nothing in it for us beyond the joy of doing it, and the satisfaction of having done it using the gifts/daemon/genius/shtick/virtues/talents/etc. that came with us from the womb (Our original nature)—in each situation as it arises, throughout the rest of time? There is nothing beyond this to seek, or do, or want, or get, or attain, or acquire, or have. This is Lived Spirituality: Who we are connected with the conditions and circumstances, the here and now, of our life in the physical world. Living in balance and harmony, Mythos with Logos, Psyche with Soma, Soul with Body, day by day, situation by situation, all our life long.
Don’t worry about it, just live your life, the life that is yours to live, in the time and place of your living, and let that be that. Let your detractors be your detractors, and your critics be your critics, and your supporters be your supporters, and your fans be your fans… Let those who are against you be those who are against you, and let those who are for you be those who are for you, and don’t be undone, or impressed, or distracted by any of it. Live on! Live on!
We know enough. We don’t have to know everything. Live toward the best you can imagine based on what you know right now, in light of what is called for in the situation at hand. What more you need to know will become apparent over time.
We work with the givens (With our original nature and the resources available to us) in doing what needs to be done, which is perceived by those with eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart that understands, in each situation as it arises.
It takes a lot of looking to be able to see, a lot of listening to be able to hear, a lot of asking, seeking and knocking to be able to understand. It takes a lot of living to be able to be awake, aware and alive. Don’t wait until you have it down. You won’t live that long.
Stepping aside, and letting life have its way with us, is a test of faith, of our capacity to trust ourselves to life unknowing, confident only that stepping aside is the right thing to do at that point in our life.
Oneness is the fundamental presumption. As is emptiness. As is nothingness. Quick! Which is it?
It is said, “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.” What isn’t said, but is also true, is that those who don’t live by the sword, die by the sword, or by those who wield the sword. Existence is violent. “Life eats life.” Peace hinges upon the cooperative, unilateral, good will of all concerned in the work to produce and maintain peace. If you think that’s easily arranged, try pulling it off in your family of origin.
What is this “No!” to violence from those who say “Say Yes to life!” and “Everything moves in oneness,” and “Nothing in the world is separate, unworthy, or lost”? Violence, harmony, impartiality, indifference—all is a part of the path. When to be violent, and when to be non-violent, is the question. Both violence and non-violence have their place in the field of action. To embrace all is to embrace ALL. It is to say, “Yes!” to “No!” And to do what needs to be done, regardless of what that might be.
Respond to your circumstances by doing what is called for in the situation as it arises! That’s the plan for the rest of your life
The sage doesn’t worry about it, but the sage knows about it.
What do we want? What is it that we cannot get enough of? What is the need that goes unmet, and sends us forever crashing into the limits of our life? What are we after? How does that interfere with what is being asked of us? With what is important? With what needs to be done?
Trying to have more than we can have—or have any business having—ravages the countryside, and rends the hearts, in every country. n do we have what we need? When can we be content, satisfied, rest easily, not worry, trust ourselves to our life, assured that we will always have what it takes to deal appropriately with our circumstances? The way that is the way is not the way to what we want. To have all that we want is to have more than we have, always. Trying to have more than we can have is the end of the world as we know it.
Balance and harmony are not achieved, done and that’s it. They are not steady states of being. There are no steady states of being (I say that a lot to drive home the point). Life is movement. Compensation. Adjustment. Readjustment. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. We live in the service of what needs to happen here and now, without preconceived notions of what that might be. Sometimes disruption. Sometimes chaos. It is ad-lib all the way, and we are surprised to find ourselves doing what we do, having done what we have done, in the work of balance and harmony.
The sage doesn’t have to have things be different than they are, but has eyes to see what is possible, and assists in the movement-to-the-good that is a potential in every moment. We live toward the best we can imagine in the situation as it arises, and let nature take its course.
Some futures are better than others. Some things are to be preferred over others. All states of being are not equal. It matters how we live, and what we live toward, and what we live away from.
· Those who are alive, are alive in and to the time and place of their living. They see what is possible, and do what needs to be done in the service of a good that is greater than their own good. They do what is theirs to do without thinking about what they stand to gain or lose, or who is watching, taking names, keeping score. Whose advantage is served in doing what is right, now? It doesn’t matter. “Just do it.”
Right/good in terms of what? In terms of Truth, Justice, Equality, Freedom, and the true good of all concerned. Balance and harmony, Kid. Balance and harmony. Balance and harmony are/is the highest good. Just living in accord with the Tao. Just being who we need to be in the time and place of our living. Just being who we are as “one thus come,” as the Buddha was, as Jesus was. This is to be the Christ, doing what needs to be done according to what is called for in the here/now–which cannot be determined apart from the situation in which the need for action arises. We live with integrity and sincerity in response to the need of the moment, beyond morality, beyond ethics, aligned with the Tao, unconcerned with what people think.
Some things have no business being. The child molester cannot be allowed to be himself, herself. The alcoholic, the psychopath, cannot be allowed to be who they are, as they are. Control and interference have their place, else why try to control the controlling power of those in control, or to interfere with the interference of those who interfere? Always we live to serve balance and harmony within the here/now of our living.
· The trick is that each thing has to be itself in caring relationship with each other thing being itself. We are to be true to ourselves in caring relationship with others. We are to meet our own needs and express who we are, without interfering with anyone else’s ability to meet her or his own needs and express who she, who he, is. This does not make for peace and harmony, and easy living around the table. The Yellowstone caldera blows, being true to itself, spewing discord and chaos for thousands of miles. No one thinks, “How wonderful the smooth accord of natural things.” “This” means “That.” And “That” has implications for all concerned. Working it out means bearing the pain of life. It does not mean having our way. “Smooth and easy” does not come around often or last long. We have to “let come what’s coming and let go what’s going,” all our life long. Understanding that and letting it be because it is, is the real achievement of the Hero’s Journey, as we work to balance out the excesses and the deficits in harmony with all the contrary needs and desires.
· The catch is that all things must be themselves in relationship with all other things/selves. That’s the rub that results in the mess. The fox’s way of being clashes with the rabbit’s way of being. Everything has its own idea of how things ought to be. Everything has to make its own peace with how things are, and respond in ways appropriate to the occasion. And bear the pain of the consequences. Bearing the legitimate pain of life throughout life is a lost art, and a necessary one to recover. Nothing happens until that does. We have to do what needs to be done in each situation as it arises no matter what!!! Like it or not.
· Whose good is served by the good we serve? Whose good should be served? How good is the good we call good? Good for what? For whom? For how long? The debate over what is good here and now, and what needs to be done about it, is the quandary of the ages. Who is to say? We are, and we have to be right about it, and that is the pebble in the shoe on the Hero’s Journey. Only time will tell if we are right about it. That is the give to hindsight. We see after the fact, and apply what we know then to what is coming next, and gradually get things right over time.
Once virtue becomes desirable, it ceases to be virtuous and becomes destructive. Seeking some end, we no longer listen to the moment, or offer what is being called for in the situation as it arises. We serve our agendas, follow our plans, assume the outcome will be what we want it to be, wonder what happened, where the mess came from, and look for someone to blame.
We are free to do what we want—to live like we feel like living—as long as we can get away with it. When we can no longer get away with it, we have to adjust our living to take the limits into account. All paths walked with awareness lead to the center. Awareness leads to the center, not the path. Awareness is the path. The center holds the tension of all the contraries/contradictions/dichotomies/incompatibilities/mutually exclusive polarities. It is a hell of a place to be. We have to be able to bear the pain to live at the center and maintain the tension that keeps the whole in place. Wholeness is as much sorrow and sadness as it is joy and gladness. Hold the tension! Bear the pain! In a “This, Too. This, Too.” Kind of way.
Receiving what comes without judgment, conditions, expectations, agendas or opinions, opens us to the possibilities inherent in each situation, and enables an appropriate response, situation by situation.
Live with direction and preference, and without judgment, will or opinion! And do what needs to be done, anyway, nevertheless, even so! And let what needs to be, be!
The inner stillness permits perception into the heart of things. Knowing how things are enables us to understand what is called for within the situation as it arises, and allows us to offer what is needed in the moment of our living. Emptiness, stillness and silence are the way of the Hero’s Journey. Clarity and direction arise and flow from there.
To be in accord with what is needed in the situation as it arises, we only have to get out of the way with our judgment, will and opinion. Our place is to cooperate with what is trying to happen, as midwives assist with the birth of a baby. We do not impose our will on the situation, but listen, look, to see how we might best assist in the process of bringing forth what needs to come forth.
Those who know, know they cannot say what they know. They don’t know, did not come to know what they know by hearing it said. The light comes on of itself in the darkness of not-knowing, not-seeing, not-hearing, not-understanding, empty, still and silent, waiting for the light to come on.
· Every step forward is tentative, uncertain. Certainty and conviction are false turns leading to dead-ends. Do not go there, or follow those who do. Mistakes are the way of the Journey. We learn what to do by learning what not to do and doing something else instead until we find what works—knowing it may not work next time.
All knowing is tentative, conditional, specific to this here and this now, and things are always shifting, changing, calling for something different in the next here and now, or the one after that. Rules, recipes and roadmaps are of no use on the Hero’s Journey. A Guidebook that starts out, “Listen to yourself all the way, and when listening to yourself (Your heart, your body [symptoms], your dreams) leads to a dead end, keep listening to yourself to get out of there and back on the path,” is the best guide there is. Keep consulting it to remind yourself of the importance of remembering to listen to yourself.
Live the contradictions! Dance with the contradictions! Embrace the contradictions! Reconcile the contradictions! Integrate the contradictions! And bear the pain of the contradictions that cannot be reconciled or integrated. This is the way of life. Life is conflict/contradiction/complexity management. Do not think about, much less long for, smooth and easy. That will just get in your way and slow you down.
· The “transcendent function of the Psyche” (Carl Jung’s term) is also the transcendent function of the conscious ego in sync with the Psyche. The conscious ego recognizes the fact of co-existent, and mutually exclusive dichotomies, and bears the agony of “This” and “That” (the polar opposites) being true at the same time—and transcends the awful truth of contraries at the heart of life, by acknowledging that truth and choosing to live in light of it, by acting in ways that lean toward one extreme “here,” and toward the other extreme “there,” as the situation and the circumstances dictate. We decide which values will be served as is appropriate to the occasion, and do not decree “this” to always be Right, and “that” to always be Wrong.
We walk two paths at the same time—sometimes multiple paths at the same time—by walking on This path and keeping our eye on That path simultaneously, never forgetting what path we are on and what path(s) are also valid and necessary to life here and now. Knowing that “sometimes it is like This,” and sometimes it is like “That,” and sometimes it is like “That Over There, and Over There…”
Accommodation, adjustment, acquiescence repeated over and over throughout our life is the nature of life. And the process of maturation. Which is assisted and made possible with grace and compassion all the way.
· Step into your life with your eyes open. What’s hard about that? Besides the pain, I mean.
We have to get used to the pain, and to bearing the pain. The Hero’s Journey is the Sisyphean Task of rolling the rock up hill, following it down hill, to roll it back up hill forever. We bear the pain to bear the pain and keep on going forever. That is the nature of the Journey, bearing the pain, growing up, maintaining our jolly perspective and our hope, and our determination, and our joy, and our good cheer through it all—doing the right thing in the right way at the right time with the right attitude in all times and places, no matter what.
Keep the horse from stopping to eat grass, and it finds its own way home.
There is no nice little trustworthy formula for living, “If you do this, that will happen.”
The essence of bad religion is, “If you do this, that will happen.”
What does it mean to “live successfully”? Who is to say? You are! But you can only say it about your own life. And you will have to change your mind over time.
The sage has to insert herself, insert himself, between the strongly opinionated, the powerful, the influential—those who know how the people should be living—and the people. And the sage has to protect the people from themselves. And protect himself from the people. Crucifixion is always in the hands of the people, who never know what to do with it, and who use it to kill those who say what they do not wish to hear, instead of understanding that we all must die to ourselves in order to live to do the good that must be done, often at the expense of ourselves, in each situation as it arises throughout all the times and places of our living. We die in the service of the Journey. And grow up thereby. Resurrection always follows the right kind of dying. Only to die again and be resurrected again, on the Sisyphean Task of doing what needs to be done, here and now, forever.
· We are to do what needs to be done in the situation as it arises, in every situation that arises, as long as there are situations that arise, no matter what, like it or not.
Whose idea was this, anyway? It was nobody’s idea. It is just how things are. The Tao of Life and Being.
The trick is that when we give ourselves to the Sisyphean Task of doing what needs to be done anyway, nevertheless, even so, magic happens. Joseph Campbell talked about doors opening where no doors exist, and help coming for out of nowhere just when help is most needed. “Where you stumble and fall, there is the treasure,” he said. And, “That which you seek is found far back in the darkest corner of the cave you most don’t want to enter.”
Giving ourselves to the Task is the secret to the joy of doing it and the satisfaction of having done it, that no one can give us, but that we must discover for ourselves.
You are going to have to take my word for this. You will never believe it until you experience it for yourself. And no one will believe you when you tell them about it. That is another burden of the Journey. Oh, well. Walk on! Walk on!
I'm retired, and still finding my way--but now, I don't have to pretend that I know what I'm doing.
I retired after 40.5 years as a minister in the Presbyterian Church USA, serving churches in Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina. I graduated from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, in Austin, Texas, and Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. My wife, Judy, and I have three daughters and five granddaughters within about twenty minutes from where we live--and are enjoying our retirement as much as we have ever enjoyed anything.
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