Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Pillars of the Path

     I have never really understood the seemingly contradictory ideas in Christianity that God wants everyone to be with Him and sent Jesus for the benefit of the whole world. But then there is alot of emphasis on "the path" being narrow. I know I am supposed to believe that the narrow path means that only those who repeat the words "I accept Christ as my saviour" will be the ones with God in Heaven. This does not settle well in my heart. Either God loves the whole world or He waits for us to mutter this phrase then we're in. Nope not buying it anymore. My God is bigger than that, big enough to love everyone who seeks Him whether that seeking takes them to mass or to temple, to a remote mountain or a sweaty yoga class. I believe that everyone who is seeking God is called by God. And while my path is to follow Jesus both as a saviour and also as a darn good role model I respect it when you faithfully walk your path. So what's up with the emphasis on a "narrow path"?

       Well, I believe the path is even narrower than we imagine. That the path to spiritual growth can only be found in this second. Remembering yesterday and predicting/planning tomorrow may have their uses but spiritual growth is found in the here and the now. In Thessalonians 5:17 God tells us to pray "without ceasing". This seemingly impossible direction is made a lot more accessible when we begin to work with using the breath to bring us into present moment awareness. At any moment in your life no matter where you are you can stop and notice your breath. And when you consider that it is with one big inhale that our earthly life beings and one last exhale that changes our form then this breath in this moment can become a holy prayer and we pray without ceasing. One of the two nonnegotiable pillars of a healthy spiritual path then I contend is Present Moment Awareness. The good news about this is that awareness (being awake to spiritual truth in this moment) is cumulative. I started my awareness journey years ago by meditating 3 minutes a day and while I slowly added on to my seated meditation time over the years the more important fact is that those mere 3 minutes began to lead to moments of awareness in daily life. This is not unusual, it is just how it works. You introduce mindfulness to your life in any amount and it begins to grow and wonderfully infect all areas of your life. Jesus was an awesome meditator and He tells us to follow Him. A quick online Bible search turns up 25 instances of us being told to meditate in the old and new testaments. So what are you waiting for? Don't just sit there and do nothing:meditate!

     The second nonnegotiable pillar of human evolution is compassion. Remember the answer to the question "What is the greatest commandment?" "To love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as you love yourself". So what if you don't like yourself? What if you hate your neighbor? Well, these are just emotions and all emotions are just thoughts that we have written a story about. Compassion has very little to do with emotion! Compassion is cultivating a friendly open curiosity towards yourself, God and people. Compassion is listening to someone without writing a story about their story. Compassion is noticing when our own behaviours disappoint us and sitting with that disappointment without judgement. Compassion is simultaneously saying no to our ego and not demonizing itbut remembering that we must love all parts of our self.
Who is more compassionate the person who writes you a love poem or the person that listens to your worst sins and still walks by your side without judgement? Can we be this person for ourselves? I find that when I am teaching a class if I have prepared for it with a self compassion moment the people in the room seem softer and more open. If I am compassionate with myself as I grocery shop sometimes a person will make bright and loving eye contact or the checker may sense the compassion waving off you and stop for a deep breath.

     So no matter your path, your religion or your spiritual practices are you will find that the twin pillars of Presence and Compassion are the legs that walk you down that path. I love this because these two holy states are available to us always and everywhere. Maybe three minutes is too much for you today, how about three breaths? Maybe self compassion is overwhelming and too uncomfortable to consider right now. How about cultivating compassion for your ceaselessly beating heart or your hardworking feet? There is a seed of Presence and Compassion available for you to grow in every moment. And when your present moment life begins to unfold before you, you discover the truth of Acts 17:28 "for in Him we live and move and have our being" . You are never alone but rather surrounded by Loving Presence. When your compassion begins to mature it makes your easy moments sweeter and your challenging moments softer.

When you learn self compassion you are Love; When you cultivate Presence you are living in Love.
Let's begin here.
Let's begin now.

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