Saturday, May 2, 2015

Into the Darkness

"Humble yourself before the Lord and He will lift you up"
James 4:10

     I have had a half written blog post sitting here for about a week. It was the result of the feeling of disconnect I get when I see that 77% of Americans call themselves Christians and my judgment that our country is not moving in the direction of  humble servanthood and agape love. I don't believe our words and actions are in sync as a nation. I tried a thousand ways to try to make that blog sound not judgmental, but I couldn't because it was. And, of course, I followed the classically ironic route of judging myself for being judgy. If truly I looked at the world thru eyes of love perhaps I would not get so agitated at the divisions in our country, is what I told myself. Where is the line between judgment and discernment is the question I tried to answer. But I wasn't quite successful because I was too busy being caught in judgment. Remember I wrote years ago in the beginning of this blog that I would have more questions than answers? Over the years the questions have grown and the  answers are few and far between!

     But what I do know is that in my meditation practice I often encounter challenging emotions that at one time I may have called "dark". A little anger arises and then a case of the "I Shoulds" rains down on me and, of course, judgment. But through some miraculous scenario this morning I was able to remain a compassionate and curious witness to these emotions. Comforting emotions are lovely, but it is these darknesses that arise that wear the face of Teacher. And staying with it I found underneath my anger a desire for love and underneath my case of "I should" a deep desire to have a meaningful life. And so it is that I look at the judgment I feel around our country and I discover a desire for community. That is all. I did not need an entire blog to rant about the United States going to hell in a handbasket. What I needed was to not push away the fear and not aggrandize the fear, but to sit with it compassionately. What I needed was to remember that in the black heart of a lump of coal is a diamond waiting to reflect the light. At the heart of my sadness and judgment lays a deep love of country and community. We can be a great nation.

     What is it that you are judging about yourself today? What characteristic do you loath in you? These shadows are rich and fertile ground for growth. When you feel an emotion that you would rather not, ask yourself: where is it in your body? What thought forms accompany your darker emotions? I know it is tempting to avoid them, to have a martini, to binge watch Netflix, I know it is tempting to suppress them, deny them, ignore them but what we resist truly does persist. And a great deal of life's lessons come cloaked in darkness. Can you just sit with your darkness as a curious witness? I feel like a cliché blogging about exploring our shadow sides. I know many far advanced of myself have journeyed through these "dark night of the soul" scenarios and emerged on the other side. Hell, Disney has even told this story in "Beauty and the Beast" But in this moment it just feels so true to me that at the root of all our negativities and insecurities lies a rich river of love. We just have to keep digging, keep looking with eyes of love at the depths of our soul and these living waters will bubble up.  So, yes I may discern properly that lots of fearful people are not acting in accord with their professed religion, this is not contained in Christianity but rather in humanity. So, instead of judging them (and myself) I just feel into the soft space in my heart that desires community and connection. I also feel into the space in me that is filled with the love of Christ. To me, being a Christian means following Jesus and he did truly model love for us. Love for ourselves, for our neighbors, for our country, for the world and for our God. So it was a loving act to delete my ranty blog post, but it is also a loving act to challenge you and me to line up our lives with truth.

     The trendy "what would Jesus do" bracelets a few years ago kinda annoyed me but really the question is so huge. I don't believe Jesus would do anything other than cultivate love when he was confronted by racism, homophobia, angry hopeless protests, partisianism, income inequality, the knee jerk self righteousness in which many of us hold our beliefs. So what does "cultivate love" even mean? Perhaps it is simply releasing fear,  the fear of our dark sides, fear of people who are different, fear of really questioning our beliefs. All fear is contraction, our worlds get smaller, our bodies get tighter when we operate out of fear. None of us like to think of ourselves as fundamentalists, but watch how you react when someone questions or challenges your beliefs. Where do these beliefs come from? Are they based in love? If we are humble enough to truly question our beliefs then we become fertile ground in which love can bloom, but if we clench our beliefs tightly with unseeing eyes and unhearing ears we only become hard and stony ground. Isn't it about time you bloomed? Let the sunlight of loving awareness into the dark corners of your soul and be brave and at your core you will find that your essential nature is love.  Let your shadows point you to the light and bloom dear ones. It is time.

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