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I have been doing some paper-and-pen writing lately, this is why blog posts have dwindled to nothing. There is something about scratching marks on wood bark that is meditative in itself.

I just finished listening to Sounds True interview with Ken Wilber – all 12+ hours of it (http://www.soundstrue.com/store/kosmic-consciousness-5113.html). Very good. I read Wilber back in the late 80s, and frankly had forgotten most everything about his system.There is a, well, cosmic (or kosmic) feel to it that is quite amazing.

One thing struck me though – never in that whole conversation was the topic of grace raised up. The interviewer did ask Wilber about “love” or lack thereof in his system. frankly I felt he skirted the issue. No place for love in the system. Not in a satisfactory way. Also no concept of grace – it is all levels and waves and quadrants.

We can, and we should, spend time consolidating and unifying whatever level we are at. This is the call to wellness in its broadest sense. It is not only about reaching level 5 or level 6 or level 4 for that matter. It is also about being a better level (4-5-6) you are at. This is work we can and should do. It requires, as Wilber suggests/recommends both spiritual practice and therapy. I am 100% on board with that. Get well. Do that work. That is your work – and it is holy work.

But changing levels – that is Holy Spirit work. That is grace. You cannot lift yourself up by your bootstraps. You are lifted up. Then you got to do more work to integrate the new level into all parts of your life and world. And the more integrated you are at your level, the greater the chances you will be raised.

But – and this is clear to me – you will be raised, you will not raise yourself.

So, for now, I am working on consolidating insights – and I find that writing on paper, with my horrible handwriting and my crazy doodles and diagrams, is much better for that kind of work. It is slower, and of course more embodied. So it becomes therapeutic.

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Relationships

Questioner: What relation has the observer, my observer, to other observers, to other people?
Krishnamurti: What do we mean by that word ‘relationship’? Are we ever related to anyone, or is the relationship between two images which we have created about each other? I have an image about you, and you have an image about me. I have an image about you as my wife or husband, or whatever it is, and you an image about me also. The relationship is between these two images and nothing else. To have relationship with another is only possible when there is no image. When I can look at you and you can look at me without the image of memory, of insults, and all the rest, then there is a relationship, but the very nature of the observer is the image, isn’t it? My image observes your image, if it is possible to observe it, and this is called relationship, but it is between two images, a relationship which is nonexistent because both are images. To be related means to be in contact. Contact must be something direct, not between two images. It requires a great deal of attention, an awareness, to look at another without the image which I have about that person, the image being my memories of that person how he has insulted me, pleased me, given me pleasure, this or that. Only when there are no images between the two is there a relationship. (Collected Works, Vol. XVII,7, Choiceless Awareness)

——————————————-
Oh Mr. K what a load of hogwash! I love K but his stuff on relationships betrays his lack of them.

Let us just take one small quote: “When I can look at you and you can look at me without the image of memory, of insults, and all the rest, then there is a relationship”

Actually the opposite is true. Or let’s say it another way – if I look at you and I know nothing about you there is absolutely no judging on my part (maybe) but there is also no relationship. It is, to use his own terminology, all images. It seems that K. is suggesting that the highest level of relationships are the anonymous ones.

In fact, had he a long term relationship, a true marriage let’s say, then he would know that what is infuriating about a true relationship is that the other does not for long remain an image. Thus the insults…because if I expect something from you then it is not very insulting. I am insulted when you act in a way that I did not predict, or say something I did not expect, and that something is, furthermore not pampering to my ego. You have, in fact, cut through the image.

It is actually even more powerful – you not only cut through my image of you (by not agreeing with me) but you also cut through my image of myself (thus hurting me).

There is a deeper dynamic of intimacy which takes years to evolve, and which allows for true imageless relationships. This is earned through many hurts. It is actually the opposite of K’s suggestion.

​ I would take his final statement and reverse it: to look at another through the whole of me, my thoughts, my feelings, my memories, in short with all my heart and mind and soul and body, to look at them with and through our shared history how they have insulted me, pleased me, given me pleasure, this or that. Only when I “see” them is there a relationship. “Seeing” is the gestalt of completing a picture based on the few lines available – seeing the triangle from the few clues we have from the other – their past behavior.

The trick, the gestalt trick, and our responsibility is to come to this other-image looking for the invisible triangle – which is the imago dei – and not to stare at the givens. You need to look at the unseen and watch its shape. But this is tremendously hard to do if you deny even the possibility a long term relationship in the first place.
Of course we can all come up with countless examples of image-only relationships. But I want to propose that those relationships are a failure in awareness, not a failure in relationships. The participants might deliberately seek others who will enable them to remain asleep. This is quite possible. But it is a broken and unhealthy relationship.
Still, eventually, you stay with a person for a long enough time and nature and the cosmos being what they are, the barriers between false selves will begin to break. Unfortunately, or wisely, this is also when people decide the relationship is not working and it is time to separate.
Posted in Thoughts

God-comprehending unfolding

I don’t know anything about God. Further I will say with some strong degree fo certainty that no one knows anything about God either.

There are theories, propositions, intuitions about God. There are suggestions, concerns, queries and questions about God. There are sketches, rondeaux, intimations of God.

All those things seem to me interesting exercises in imagination, in engaging the totality of who I am with something which is more than I can possibly be.

This is not a trivial thing, but it is not knowledge.

1280px-FlammarionKnowing God is like knowing the Sun. I can know about the Sun, and in fact I know a lot about it. Scientifically I know about size, shape, weight, temperature, etc. Artistically and poetically I know a lot as well. Starting with the Flammagorion and going through lots of Van Gogh’s paintings and Munch’s The Scream.

 

 

Or in poetry with Larkin’s closing stanza in “High Windows”:

Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:
The sun-comprehending glass,
And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows
Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.

Or e. e. cummings’:

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

Yes I know a lot about the sun. But the sun, the sun itself, exploding within the chalice of its own gravity well…not so much.

Jesus knew God because Jesus knew himself. Can I use some sort of Euclidean spiritual geometry and say that Jesus knows God. I know Jesus. Thus I know God? Or am I, truly, hyperbolic held to non-Euclidean principles and positively defective triangles?

This matters because if I think Reality is FLAT, then I can hold on to the Fifth Postulate (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parallel_postulate). But if it is not…

While I want to get God right, I find that if I am honest the best I can do is to get the experience of Godliness right. This is different.

But how do I know this experience or that experience is godly or not without some sort of premise which will allow me to discern godly influences from non-godly ones? Does this not require that I search for some position on the Source?

e. e. cummings suggests a solution and that is to become like the “sun comprehending glass” – what does that mean? The glass comprehends the sun because the glass lets the light shine through. That in me which blinds me to God is the same thing that complains its inability to know God.

So the work is to unfold into god-comprehension. This probably requires work. But it is negative work: it is a work of removal, a work against work, a work against results, against goals, against purpose even. It is about becoming as sun-comprehending as the glass.

So that would be the “why”. The next question is where can this work be done? How is it to be done? And what, precisely, is to be done? To these questions there are no satisfactory answers, especially to the “what” question. As I suggested above the god-comprehending work unfolds in non-Euclidean space, and the 5Ws are very much players in traditional Euclidean space.

Posted in Thoughts

Watch that door

I like to think of myself as a rational individual. In fact, “cold as a snake” was a constant refrain by the non-Trekkie members of my family who would, had they been smarter and prettier, have called me Spock (obviously much to my delight – so maybe they were onto something…but I digress).

I have found solace in trying to think through things more times than feeling my way through them. And while I have frequently thought wrong about things, both the number and severity of the mistakes were much smaller than when feeling through them.

If there is a heart, mine is logical.

But…as you grow older you get to go deeper into some things. One of which is the nature of thinking itself, my own thinking in particular. An unexamined assumption is that “I” (that atom, least divisible part of me) is both rational and attempting to maximize my well-being.

Two powerful influences disrupt, distort and destroy such a beautiful idea: cognitive biases and social influences (peer pressure and family history). They twist reason into prejudice and rationalization, and they bend my goals for my well-being into a set of learned behaviors which are labelled The Good Life.

These are not two things which are either easy to identify or to correct. Of the two cognitive biases are by far the simplest to do something about. A few hours spent at Clearer Thinking will give anyone enough tools to begin the work.

Social influences are much more difficult. I imagine that spending considerable time alone would help weaken those effects. But what kind of solution is that?

Turns out that the Ancient Faith has a plethora of practical advice and exercises to help you deal with the less-than-rational parts of yourself.

To begin with there is the need to train your attention to begin to notice all these “external” voice – I was going to say artificial, and that might be closer to the truth. For example, there is My Mother’s Voice , and I am quick to cry that it is not “my” voice but rather her. But is it really? In reality she is not standing behind me whispering (or shouting) what I should do….it is an internalized set of instructions. Yes, there probably was a time (or many times) when she did tell me just what I am hearing in my head now. But it is all in me.

So I need to spend sometime developing the capacity to catch myself doing things which are learned behavior. In Biblical parlance I have to be nepsate, gregoresate (1 Peter 5:8-9, “sober and watchful”). All. The. Time.

As a secondary step try choosing some non-important task to repeat all day. A really good one is to promise yourself you will be aware every time you cross a doorway. Surely a simple task! Hah! You will be shocked how much you wonder around completely unaware, focused only on your own thoughts and your own little world.

Again, not sober and not watchful. I know the Peter passage is about spiritual warfare, but honestly, if I cannot even pay attention to obvious things like doorways, what hopes do I have of dealing with diaphanous things?

Over time this attitude of awareness and sobriety becomes second nature, or it has for me. Not that I am perfectly aware at all times! It is more like being able to switch from peripheral to tunnel vision.

The sobriety part comes from not acting like a drunkard – really! I tend to stumble into (emotional) situations completely unprepared. Before I know it I am getting angry, upset, and making everyone around me miserable. Had I been sober, and not intoxicated with my own daydreams and fantasies, I would have been able to engage the situation soberly and with sufficient watchfulness to not hurt anyone, not get defensive, etc etc.

Simple, baby steps, but much to work on.

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Politically Engineered Scarcity

How much are my fears based on a perception of scarcity? If I see that something is limited does it automagically arouse feelings of greed, lust, gluttony? Is this a trained behavior? Most likely.

Since we are small the lesson is repeated ad infinitum: things run out, get ’em while you can!

I can see it very clearly. In fact I see scarcity everywhere. It takes a lot of imagination, patience and training to learn to un-see scarcity.

The first step in an analysis of my perception of scarcity is to realize how it is politically engineered. By political I mean not only the standard idea of politics and legislation (those are important as well) but a broader concept of politics as something that involves a group of people talking with each other. Basically politics happens whenever two or three are gathered together!

If in the group there is one Kingdom person, their language will be so at odds with the others as to make them sound downright crazy!

Scarcity is bad Kingdom theology. Full stop. It is difficult to see how Kingdom life can be reconciled with lack or want.

But there is a difference between artificial scarcity and true lack. I don’t know any wooly-eyed Kingdom freak who denies that deserts lack water. I also do not know anyone crazy enough to believe we will eradicate poverty – apart from those uber-rich in Hollywood – what does that tell you? We will always have the poor, says Jesus. This is true scarcity.

I read that to mean, we will always have work to do. We will always have to be vigilant and listen carefully to those around us, to spot the weeds of injustice and cut them out. It is like gardening – there is never going to be a time when we have arrived.

But the good news is that we are quite a lot further along. Life is better. People are less tolerant of injustice and oppression. No we still do not have good mechanisms to deal with those things, but the sheer fact that we notice them at all is a monumental step forward.

Talking of monuments, Pinker has written a gargantuan book called “The Angels of our Better Natures” (clocking in on 1000+ pages) with lots and lots of obscure data showing that things are not only better than they were, they keep getting better.

But somehow no one wants to believe that.

Lent is a perfect time to begin the task of uninstalling the programs of scarcity which cloud our vision. Think of it as a good time to focus on whittling away that log in your eye. Why should we do that? because there are people out there, with true eye problems, specs that really hurt them, and the compassionate heart should do everything possible to help alleviate their pain.

But it is hard to help with a big old log sticking out a mile in front of your face, banging into everyone.

Posted in Thoughts

God and Mammon

Jesus has a few things to say about serving multiple masters, most especially he singles out wealth.

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be loyal to the one and have contempt for the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matt. 6:24)

“Wealth” is the correct translation of mammon, of course. But how do we serve wealth?

First let’s think about service. We live in a predominantly service economy – we all serve one another in expectations of payment. We talk about soldiers serving their country. In our minds, especially in the US, “service” means “paid work”.

From a spiritual perspective service is never to be done for remuneration. In fact, a spiritual teacher that charges for their “services” is one step away from charlatanism. They certainly are falling for the spiritually dangerous error of corruption, by effectively taking bribes.

Yes, I am well aware we got mouths to feed etc. But someone who serves for a salary is not a servant in the deeper sense of the word. This does not mean that there are no professions which are noble and great and involve serving people for a salary.

The point here is to read these teachings of our Lord with an eye for spiritual development. It would be much better if there was a separate term for “service” – one in a simple material plane, where there is a transaction, and one in the level of spiritual teaching where the only currency is love.

Unpacking Jesus’ words a little more, they can mean something like this: if you start expecting people to pay you to perform certain actions, then you will be focused on how much you can get paid. You will begin to look around to see who pays more. The further you go down this road the more likely you are to focus on yourself and not on others. You will expect to see your worth as synonymous with payment.

Spiritually this is dangerous because the love offering component of service is lost.

What to do if your job is in offering spiritual service – a counselor for example, or a priest?

That is tricky, but I would recommend that a person spend sometime in their mind and in their hearts separating the paid part from the love offering part of their activities. A priest, for example, could see their salary as tied to their good and wise management of the church resources, being a good steward (which in fact it is), but to understand deeply that their preaching, for example, or their visiting people in the hospital, is a love offering – something they do for free, and which they would continue to do for free even if they were accountants, let’s say.

There is a second part to this equation, and that is the giving of gifts. Many women supported Jesus’ ministry. This means they gave money, food, etc. These contributions allowed the fishermen, for example, to leave their jobs and continue to have money to buy food. Gift-giving is a time-honored way of responding in kind to spiritual work given.

The only problem arises when there is an expectation from both sides. One side expects to be paid for a great sermon, while the other side expects a great sermon, or (much more common) private access to the spiritual leader for a price, a donation of a certain amount.

This is moving the whole thing from a prodigal interaction based on the abundance of love to one of limited resources being traded for mutual profit.

It is important as well to realize that wealth is just an example. Any activity which is not a freewilled love offering stops being profitable (hah!) for our spiritual lives.

There is a reason why in the Lord’s Prayer we are instructed to “forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors”…even if you use “trespasses” or “sins” instead of debts, the point being here that we need to be very careful to not pass up opportunities for doing good. More importantly, not holding other people for ransom (emotionally, spiritually, if not monetarily) is work that everyone needs to do daily.

Should we expect payment for doing good? Should I get closer to the good by donating larger sums? Doing good is a freewill love offering to another and to God.

Posted in Thoughts

The Deeper Way

I am trying to put some thoughts in order and trying to unpack what a Jesus-shaped spiritual life could/should look like.

Obviously as the title suggests “deeper” means more work! Sorry but there is no bucking that. It means that more is asked of me on all levels. It means pushing past discomfort. It means that if I am shy and introverted I have to step up and speak before crowds, while if I am self-assured and extroverted I will be asked to go into my closet and do things seen only by God.

There is deep reasons for this, but most importantly is that we must work really hard to become like Christ.

Important here to keep in mind: it is a choice. It is a daily choice. People who have been married for a while know this. You can choose this.

To choose something it is better to have a goal in mind. In this case the goal is similarity with Christ. Buddhists are always going on and on about being Buddha-like. In the church we do not talk much about being Christ-like. Why not? Are there not ways to do this?

You will know if you arrived if you are comfortable with saying: “So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, you should do it all for God’s glory. Don’t offend either Jews or Greeks, or God’s church. This is the same thing that I do. I please everyone in everything I do. I don’t look out for my own advantage, but I look out for many people so that they can be saved. Follow my example, just like I follow Christ’s.” (1 Cor. 11)

This deeper way calls all persons into a continual personal transformation by grace in every area of life. It rewrites experiences and it renews relationships. This way calls on disciples to live out the deepest meaning of “respecting the integrity of every human being.” Perhaps even the integrity of all creatures – human or not.

This deeper way can recognized by a regular practice of prayer, reading scripture, worship, servanthood, mission and simplicity. Disciples will not only be those who do these things, but also who do it in community with other disciples.

This deeper way is consciously, exclusively and intentionally Jesus-centered. Jesus is the center and the boundaries. It is a spirituality that takes the study of Jesus seriously, but not dogmatically.

Practices

1) recognize you are plural – not a single, solid block.
2) recognize that you have limited energy, limited power. But that you have much more energy than you are used to spend. People who start exercising are frequently surprised that even though at the beginning they had less energy (body tired, had to cut some sleep to work out in the morning etc) they soon find themselves with more energy than before. it is not that they have “more” energy – it is that they have unlocked more of the energy they always had but were not using!
3) recognize that you are living by auto-pilot, and do very very few things intentionally. The usual term for this in spiritual books is “sleep”. Some of you wish you could get some more of this sleep people keep talking about (I am looking at you mothers in the crowd) but, this is spiritual sleep here.
4) recognize that the automatic responses (non-intentional actions) are mostly fearful reactions to inaccurately assessed experience: fear of the past coming to light (shame, depression), fear of the future happening (anxiety), fear of lack (not enough, food, money, fame, sex, coffee), fear of pain and suffering (aging, disease), fear of death.
5) recognize that the reactions from fear are always demanding payment – you are making the whole world owe you.
6) recognize that each one of these fears were at one point a legitimate response to a specific situation, an accurate response to reality. A baby cries when it is hungry. that is a good response. But an adult being angry because dinner is late by half an hour is childish.
7) recognize that at any time some suffering is necessary, but most of it is not. When exercising, some muscle pain (suffering) is good, but injuries are not! Same thing with thoughts, with feelings. Some discomfort at learning a new language is worth the effort. Some discomfort at letting go of an old grudge is also good. Being in an abusive relationship is not!
8) recognize that no two situations in life are the same. Life is turbulent which makes living a creative act. It requires all our energies to respond creatively and navigate the white waters. Sometimes you his a good patch with low turbulence, but pretty soon you are back in the rapids. Most people will want to remain going around in circles in the quiet parts, but this is not possible in life.
9) recognize that you cannot use old responses to new events. Upgrade to Windows 8 and had to re-install my programs, get patches. Some programs just flat will not work with the new system. Same with life – but we get a new system to operate in every minute!
10) recognize that you can stop a program, and quit it, even if halfway through, by refusing to give it any attention and maintaining inner silence. If you refuse to “talk” with the miscreant reaction it will die down. Best way to teach dogs is to praise good behavior – the same with children, spouses, mothers-in-law!
11) recognize that you can choose a better way – by dropping all unnecessary suffering you free up the energy required to grow.

How to go about it

1) Every morning set your intention to live your day patterned by the Lord’s Prayer.
2) Read over the Sermon on the Mount every single day. Memorize it if you can.
3) Pray always for God’s will to be done and for the Holy Spirit to enlighten and guide you. No matter what.
4) Every night review your day. Look for moments of automatism and re-write them.
5) Try to be conscious during the day (awake!) by recalling that every event is your “daily bread”.

Posted in Thoughts