When I have quiet time or am engaged in some activity that doesn’t require my whole attention, like washing windows or doing the dinner dishes or scrubbing the bathroom shower, my mind wanders to thoughts about how to live in this world of conflict and division and violence and suffering and disrespect. Sometimes it is hard to hold a spacious mind and heart and pull back far enough to glimpse the Big Picture - - to actually see if there is meaning in what I experience as a kind of insult or assault on my sensibilities with each day’s headlines or news reports. I wonder if we are on some irreparable path of destruction from which we will not recover or are we on a long and tortuous path to some kind of wholeness, the end point of which we cannot yet see.
As if in dialogue with my inner musings, the daily meditation that I receive in my morning email from Richard Rohr (Center for Contemplation and Action) gave me some more verbal tools for the inner wrestling:
Jesus says, “There’s only one sign I’m going to give you: the sign of the prophet Jonah” (see Luke 11:29; Matthew 12:39, 16:4). Sooner or later, life is going to lead us into the belly of the beast, into a place we can’t fix, control, explain, or understand. That’s where transformation most easily happens—because only there are we in the hands of God—and not self-managing. Suffering is the only thing strong enough to destabilize the imperial ego. The separate and sufficient self has to be led to the edge of its own resources, so it learns to call upon the Deeper Resource of who it truly is (but does not recognize yet): the God Self, the True Self, the Christ Self, the Buddha Self—use whatever words you want. It is who we fundamentally are in God and who God is dwelling in us. Once we are transplanted to this solid place, we are largely indestructible! But then we must learn to rest there, and not just make occasional forays into momentary union. That is the work of our whole lifetime.
Whew!! Maybe that thought expands the picture too much and too quickly! Just getting my head around the notion that we may be in the “belly of the beast” - or in the “refiner’s fire” (to use a different metaphor from Malachi 3:2), part of a grand process of cleansing and redemption that will take us to a deeper level of “humanity aware of its divinity” is a bit mind altering to say the least.
I went with a friend to see a one woman performance titled “ETTY” last night. An hour long glimpse into the life and thought and spirit of Etty Hillesum, taken from her diaries while awaiting her fate as a Jewish woman during WWII in Holland in 1941.
This is how Etty describes the indestructible nature of the True Self in the midst of all the horrors of the Westerbork transit camp, a staging ground for the deportation of Dutch Jews during the Holocaust:
This morning, while I stood at the tub with a colleague, I said with great emotion something like this: “The realms of the soul and the spirit are so spacious and unending that this little bit of physical discomfort and suffering doesn’t really matter all that much. I do not feel I have been robbed of my freedom; essentially no one can do me any harm at all.” 
Another mind bending take on the transformational possibilities of immense suffering.
Each week as I return home from Shabbat services on Friday and Saturday and then from Sunday morning worship, I feel gratitude for the communities in which I find grounding and strength for living through the coming week and healing for my spirit of the spiritual wounds encountered in the prior week. The morning meditations from Richard Rohr are another resource for each day. Buddhist reflections on simplicity and loving kindness from Christina Feldman are an ongoing source of inspiration.
I am seeing that my hunger for community and for spiritual strength and wisdom are part of a transformational process that is going on in me in response to the daily unfolding of events in the headlines. Maybe my ego is truly undergoing a gradual process of “dismantling” as I recognize “the teacher” veiled in the grubbiness of the social and political milieu.
Now, if I could only stand back far enough to be able to see and know whether the vast social, political, ecological, economic and spiritual suffering on this planet is indeed working a collective transformational process that “destabilizes the imperial ego” of systems and politicians in the service of the human spirit. I am impatient for some reassurance that this is so. But maybe witnessing and acknowledging my own process will have to be enough for now.
 Etty Hillesum, Letter (June 29, 1943). See An Interrupted Life: The Diaries, 1941–1943 and Letters from Westerbork, trans. Arnold J. Pomerans (Henry Holt and Company: 1996), 287-288 cited in Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation from the Center For Action and Contemplation, October 21, 2018
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