“Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth, that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning; that there is always another dawn risen on mid-noon, and under every deep a lower deep opens.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
I keep returning to this quote seen last week. Of course this is truth I’ve noticed/heard of/known for years…but do I really know it? Do I really believe it? “Under every deep a lower deep opens.” There is this tendency towards comfort and safety. When the dust settles from the latest shaking, the ego stamps its feet, feeling for solid ground. Find a new truth – polish it – study it – make of it your new ground…this has been the way of wandering. Always looking for safety and security. For certainty. And then the next shaking comes. My aspiration is to come to a place of living contentedly in groundlessness. This feels to me like the truth of the journey: the ground is an illusion. Let go of the need for the ground to be there and endless possibility erupts in its place.
I lift up the edge of the veil. What lies beyond? Can I know it, can I taste it and be taken by it as I release my fear and the need for certainty? This isn’t just a metaphysical exercise, it’s a way of living with an open heart. The is the container whose spaciousness makes it possible to welcome my life, regardless of the circumstances.
I consider my heart’s attitude toward God, toward there being a “something other”, to the concept of Source, of Universe with a capitol U, to the idea of an inner guide or witness, to the thought of what, if anything, is beyond intellect, emotion, ego. It’s tempting sometimes to see my journey into Christianity as a detour, a getting lost for almost two decades. When first I turned from the church, I felt such disappointment, betrayal, and loss. It was crushing and I turned my face away from the idea of God in any form, away from the idea of there being anything other than the accident of life. I set myself to the daunting task of learning what it is to live a life that will end.
Over the last decade, I’ve gradually come to see that my strong emotions, my fear and disappointment, were causing me to throw away the baby with the bath water. This has been my path and I am who I am because I walked it.
From the beginning of my time as a Christian, I was passionate in my pursuit of God. There are those to whom religion is a dull ember; in me it was a raging fire. There were many good things birthed in me – changes in who I was that were healing and empowering. I began the journey of self-discovery that defines who I am today – for that alone the years were well spent. My longing for union with the Beloved brought a fire to my very soul; my personality and sense of self were shaken. I learned to look at myself more and more honestly and was humbled and destroyed by what I saw. Yet, I also learned the beginnings of another defining aspiration – an affectionate, nonjudgmental friendship with myself.
I don’t think it an exaggeration to say that I became a better person in those years; at the very least a better person to be around. I became kinder, less angry, less selfish, less fearful. I softened. My words shifted from cutting sarcasm to gentle encouragement, both to myself and to others. I woke to the commonality of our weaknesses and flaws. I began to see the suffering of others more clearly, to feel the pain we shared. I began to want personal growth – not just for myself, but so that I could love, so that my heart would be more open, so that I could bring succor and aid.
These qualities and aspirations were begun in those years of chasing and hungering after God. I soaked myself in the bible, reading it cover to cover again and again, spending hours, days, weeks and months lost in the study and contemplation of a book – Song of Songs, Job, Psalms, the red print. I developed a love of spiritual poetry in those years that has never abandoned me.
This is not to say that there hasn’t been a deconstruction. Oh, my! Sifting through it all, pulling up what no longer resonates, what sought to diminish me, what sought to sanitize me, what was taught in fear or intolerance or just a brokenness that tainted and twisted the truth…so much deconstruction. I have often wondered if it will ever be finished.
But even this has brought a gift. The strong need to learn the process of deconstruction has been invaluable to the necessary deconstruction of wrong beliefs and thoughts of all kinds, ingrained for years, for my whole life. It has been especially helpful in habitual responses, conditioned thinking, judgmental or fear-based beliefs. It’s helped me to dismantle walls built of wrong perspectives, illusions of protection. It’s helped untie knots in my soul, knots tied by other people, by circumstances, and by my own many mistakes. It’s helped most of all in the learning to fall in love with myself, to let go of the negative self-talk and the emotions of self-loathing and shame. Deconstruction brought on by my time in the church taught me that perspective is everything and that it is a flowing thing, always and constantly changing with new insight. I learned that my perspective is as fluid as all of life…and that life is not solid, not set in stone or bound by certainty. It is messy and fertile and juicy and confusing and uncomfortable and blissful and precious. And how I see life, and myself, greatly impacts how I receive the gift that resides within each moment.