I’m sorry… it does exist.

This afternoon, I was in the backyard, with some dear friends, enjoying the day and each other’s company. The dogs lounged in the sun, the bees buzzed in the sunflowers, the chickens pecking at each other and squawk, squawk, squawking. We shared a raw smoothie and got to talking about life, society, and the worldview that we bring to it.

It was then that one friend said, “All this messed up thinking, all these politicians and big businesses, this selfishness, this suffering… I’m not living in that world anymore. That is not what life is about. Life is what I make of it… all those other things don’t even exist.”

I am paraphrasing, but I think I get the general idea.

“If we can live in such a way that those negative views and ways of living don’t even enter our consciousness,” she said, “it will spread and grow and eventually the world will be a better place.”

“But suffering and pain and greed and capitalism do exist,” I said. “We can’t just act as though they don’t, can we?”

“Yes! We can… we don’t have to acknowledge their presence at all. We don’t have to engage them.”

I get these ideas, and I can imagine the logic here and how we can make a difference simply by living our “conscious” lifestyle, while the world spins madly on. But I’m not sure that it is realistic. Or practical.

Frankly, I don’t have the luxury of living as though these negative parts of our world don’t exist. I have a child. I have a wife. My life is not just about the way that I want to live it. I have to be present to other people’s depression, their suffering, their financial hardship. Daily, sometimes in my own home. I can’t pretend that it doesn’t exist or that it doesn’t effect me.

The wise elder and psychologist, James Hillman did an interview with Sy Safransky of The Sun where he talked about the insult and outrage of meditation as the means and end of the spiritual person disconnected with the world:

Safransky: You’re rather an uncompromising critic of spiritual movements and everything called “new age.” You once suggested that meditation is a fascistic activity, that people who meditate are as uncaring as psychopathic killers.

Hillman: I did once remark that meditation, in today’s world, is obscene. To go into a room and sit on the floor and meditate on a straw mat with a little incense going is an obscene act… I was saying that the world is in a terrible, sad state, but all we’re concerned with is trying to get ourselves in order…

Your question is very legitimate. I don’t want to be locked into an antimeditation position. I think every consumer – for that is what we actually are – needs a lot of neutral time, a lot of turnover time: idleness, fantasies, images, reflections, emptiness; not necessarily disciplined meditation. But when meditation becomes a spiritual goal, and then the method to achieve a spiritual goal – that’s what worries me.

Safransky: And the goal you are suspicious of is transcendance.

Hillman: Yes. The quest to flee the so-called trivia of the lower order seems misguided. Personal hangups, fighting with the man or woman you live with, worrying about your dreams – this is the soul’s order.

Safransky: What if the goal is merely a few minutes of calm?

Hillman: If that’s the goal, what’s the difference between mediation and having a nice drink? … Or writing a long letter, a love letter? … I think we’ve locked on to meditation as the main method for settling down.

It’s better to go into the world half-cocked than not go into the world at all. I know when something’s wrong. And I can say, “This is outrageous. This is insulting. This is a violation. And it is wrong.” I don’t know what we should do about it; my protest is absolutely empty. But I believe in that empty protest.

“It’s better to go into the world half-cocked than not go into the world at all.” This is it. Most of us go into that broken, hurting, economically segregated, politically divided, untruthful world every single day. Then many of us come home to it too. Then we turn on the television or check the news and there it is again. Very few of us are going to engage that world as having reached enlightenment… unaffected and un-phased. If we wait till then, or we simply stay home or drink “consciousness” smoothies with our consciousness friends, we are not being honest. See when my son is screaming and his diaper is full of shit and all I want to do is yell at him to “Shut UP!! STOP! PLEASE!” I realize that a lot of that darkness is right there inside of me… Like I said, I don’t have the luxury of pretending that the negative doesn’t exist.

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My Third E-Newsletter for Spiritual Direction

My anticipation has been rising in leaps and bounds for our upcoming Modern Monk Retreat at Breitenbush hot springs (October 26-28). If only my spiritual life was growing and expanding at such a rapid pace. I have been contemplating a possible slogan for our retreat. “Modern Monk – I’m not so good at this and so can you!” And isn’t this the case for so many of us? Yes, we have our shining days, but so often we just feel like we aren’t quite cutting it.

The answer that I have been hearing so clearly from Spirit these days is how little performance really matters compared to my desire. It is desire that  the divine wants from us, not performance. So I ask myself daily, what do I really want? What do the things I say, the way I spend my time, the things I put in my body say about what I want? I hope to ask this every day of my life… and at least be honest when maybe I don’t want to be so disciplined or pray right now. What do you want? A good question for the modern monk.

The other thing I have really been led to by the Spirit lately is gratitude. My family and I have started to go to church this last month… WHAT?!? Church? It’s been a long time, but I am seeing that sometimes gratitude and worship of the Creator can be the last rope to hang on to when things get shaky. If we can’t express gratitude, I am quite confident that we are far too attached to our own wish for control or our own self focus.

Please check out my 3rd Spiritual Direction E-Newsletter HERE… Enjoy the articles and links below. They have been challenging and special to me this last month.

And if you want to  receive my monthly newsletter, please follow this LINK.

Where am I safe?

Whew… found this from 2008. How poignant in our election time, once again. A little angsty, so not quite where i am now, but a voice from the past (or from us all?) that deserves to be heard…

Longing, looking for that safe place
That Space where I don’t have to hide,
Where I can face Others
with honesty and presence

Real

Growing up… starting on this journey
Hoping to find it in the family
Inherent in the blood that runs between us
The first confusing messages

Doing the best we could…
But wounds and patterns of thinking run deep

I look to those of like mind
Ones who are supposed to be following Jesus…
or so they say. Safe? Real?
Aware of the pain that I so often Feel?

Thanks for the guilt and the easy answers
The judgment and the stones

Times I’ve been tempted to find it in the government
Those talking heads on the tube
Telling me everything is going to be better
That they can keep me safe within these walls.

The enemy is out there somewhere
As long as we have freedom… there is nothing to fear

If anything, my own home should be a refuge
From what’s happening out there.
Hole up, hide, duck back, close the shades.
They can’t get me here…

But I forget about myself.
Alone, I have to face myself… often far from safe.
Questions doubt fear uncertainty guilt unknown confusion
Get away…

To where?

And God, aren’t you supposed to be safe
Predictable and easy to please?
Aren’t good things supposed to come to those who wait?
Or to those who love you?

Apparently, you are not safe all the time either…

What now, then? Where is the safety? Why so elusive?