Tag Archives: Anthony de Mello

Healing when healing doesn’t come

I’ve been considering a talk I’m giving on Sunday about healing. It’s a challenging consideration as I wonder how to approach this, especially along the lines of grief and being hope free. Currently, I am sitting with two different aspects of healing. They are real, I would guess, to each of us, and they are connected. I’ll shoot a few arrows up and see if they land by the end or if they make sense. If not, that’s ok… maybe after a week’s time or maybe at some point before the end of your life.

The first aspect is that healing happens and it doesn’t happen, and often we don’t know why. Often healing happens to those who have done everything “wrong” and it doesn’t happen for those who have done everything “right.” Now I’m tempted to throw the whole framework out the window, but it is worth diving into because it is so real for so many people. Jesus says in Matthew 5, “God causes his sun to shine on evil people and good people. He sends rain on those who do right and those who don’t.” I wish he didn’t preface that saying with “You will be children of your Father who is in heaven” because honestly, it doesn’t really make me want to have that kind of father. The truth is there, though. The sun… the rain… they are indiscriminate of evil and they are indiscriminate of good. What about the sun that burned so hot, with no rain on so many parts of our country while fires burned homes of so many of our fellow earth brothers and sisters? Indiscriminate? And what about the rains that have fallen on Texas and Florida and all the destruction that was wrought there? Iniscriminate. And what about the rain that fell on the people in Las Vegas from the window of the Mandalay Bay hotel? Indiscriminate. And what about the drip, drip, drip of the medications that have no effect on people I see every day in the hospital. Again… whether they are do right or whether they don’t. It doesn’t seem to make a difference.

The author of Ecclesiastes writes,  I’ve seen it all in my brief and pointless life—here a good person cut down in the middle of doing good, there a bad person living a long life of sheer evil. So don’t knock yourself out being good, and don’t go overboard being wise. Believe me, you won’t get anything out of it. But don’t press your luck by being bad, either. And don’t be reckless. Why die needlessly?” (I love this version from the Message). So wisdom… over rated. Being good… over rated. Being bad or reckless… over rated.

Mary Oliver seems to have a response.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. The world goes on and no matter how lonely, how distressed, how broken down, this same world that continues to go on, offers itself to your imagination and announces your place in the family of things. You belong. The rain falls on you and the sun shines on you. And we are held, as one amongst the many, in the midst of our sadness and sometimes anguish of not finding the healing when we would give everything to receive just that.

This leads me to my second wondering, is there healing even when there IS no healing? As a chaplain, this is, of course, a rhetorical question. Anthony de Mello tells a story:

To a distressed person who came to him for help the Master said, “Do you really want a cure”
If I did not, would I bother to come to you?”
“Oh yes Most people do.”
“What for?”
“Not for a cure. That’s painful. For relief.”
To his disciples the Master said, “People who want a cure, provided they can have it without pain, are like those who favour progress, provided they can have it without change.”

De Mello taught that healing comes from dropping sickness… getting rid of that which is causing the sickness. Our natural state is health. So when someone has an infection, we want to get rid of the infection. When someone has cancer, we want to get rid of the cancer. We don’t add anything to be healed and we don’t add anything to be happy. So just at health is our natural state so is happiness. Happiness comes from dropping our illusions… our programming. This is the natural way of things. We are as natural as the world around us and where it is natural for us to be in a state of health, so it is natural for the world to be in a state of health. The world doesn’t need us to survive. The world will go on just fine without us.

Interestingly enough, the author of Ecclesiastes concludes his reflection on the overratedness of striving with the consideration that “it’s best to stay in touch with both sides of an issue. A person who fears God deals responsibly with all of reality, not just a piece of it.” This is why earlier, I said I would rather just throw out the whole paradigm that healing might happen to some and not to others. Reality demonstrates otherwise.

Our healing comes from embracing the reality and the paradox and letting it transform us. We are meant to grieve. We are meant to feel the absolute heartbrokenness that comes from those who do not experience the healing they so desperately desire. It increases our love which opens us to more and more areas in our world that desperately need healing. There is always healing that can happen and there are always things to grieve. And as we embrace, we heal, and the world heals, and we see that the more grief we can hold, the more joy we can hold as well.

Listen carefully to these words by Kahlil Gibran, and hear how closely this resonates to all I have been saying so far:

Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say to you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily, you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at stand-still and balanced.

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What is your face? or place? …either way, let it flow

In a recent conversation with a directee, we discussed the nature of finding one’s identity… as a self, as a child of God, and as a follower of Christ. Our conversation helped me put the following core ideas together for me.

I was reminded of Eugene Peterson‘s book, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. I have not read the book, but I have heard from those who read it and I find the title alone to be a transformation of thought. I am sure that it is not Peterson’s main point, but the title speaks to me of the reality of Christ’s presence in all that is. Christ really does play in ten thousand places. Not just in the church, not just in one set of beliefs or theologies, not just in one type of person. And he plays! He is not in all things to judge, to condemn (“…and the son of God did not come to condemn the world, but to save it”), to say who’s in and who’s out… he recreates. He finds joy and delight in revealing himself in the cosmos!

I also like to think that Christ dwells in ten thousand faces. Meaning that there are so many flavors and so many individual expressions of Christ’s presence. All the people I meet… Christ. I remember Jesus, himself, saying, “Whatever you did to the least of these, you have done to me.” Not to say they all use the same language for Christ incarnate. Many have a deep chasm to cross, high hurdles to climb over, when it comes to words like “Jesus,” or communities like “Christians.” What they perceive is their experience, not perhaps the reality or the true expressions of these.

So if Christ dwells in ten thousand faces, or he plays in ten thousand places, the questions I have to ask myself are, “What is my face that I show to the world? Who am I as a beloved son or daughter of God? What is my expression?” It seems to me that until I know this truth and allow it to be real in myself, I will never see it in others. I will always be prescribing a face that I believe is the right face to others. Most likely, it will look like what I think it should look like… probably me, or my set of ideals. This was one of the most difficult yet freeing things I have ever learned… how to be myself as Christ has made me to be, not to be the “Christian” that the Christians say I should be, or the “man” that the men say I should, or even the person that I idealize myself to be. Coulda, shoulda, woulda… that’s what I like to say.

Anthony De Mello teaches,

If you want to live, you must have no permanent abode. You must have no place to rest your head. You have to flow with it. As the great Confucius said, “The one who would be constant in happiness must frequently change.” Flow. But we keep looking back, don’t we? We cling to things in the past and cling to things in the present. “When you set your hand to the plow, you cannot look back.” Do you want to enjoy a melody? Do you want to enjoy a symphony? Don’t hold on to a couple of notes. Let them pass, let them flow. The whole enjoyment of a symphony lies in your readiness to allow the notes to pass. Whereas if a particular bar took your fancy and you shouted to the orchestra, “Keep playing it again and again and again,” that wouldn’t be a symphony anymore.

My wise and beautiful wife said to me yesterday, “I’m through not loving myself. I’m done with it. I am just going to love all of myself from now on. I love myself! I even love that I am weird.” She loves the flow. We all need to love the flow. We need to find that unique face of Christ that only we bring to the world, and live it… love it. The rest flows…

The Golden Egg

A STORY as told by Fr. Anthony de Mello:

A reading from the scriptures:

This is what the Lord says: There was once a goose that laid a golden egg each day. And the farmer’s wife, who owned the goose, delighted in the riches that those eggs brought her. She was an avaricious woman, however, and could not wait patiently from day to day for her daily egg. She decided to kill the goose and get the eggs all at once.

Thus far the word of God!

An atheist heard that text from the scriptures and scoffed: You call that the word of God! A goose that lays golden eggs! It just goes to show the absurdity of your scriptures.

When a religious scholar read that text, he reacted thus: The Lord clearly tells us that there was a goose that laid golden eggs. If the Lord says this, then it must be true, no matter how absurd it appears to our poor human minds.

Now you will ask, as well you may, how an egg, while not ceasing to be an egg, can, at the same time, be golden. Different schools of religious thought attempt to explain it differently. But what is called for here is an act of faith in this mystery that baffles human understanding.

There was even a preacher who, inspired by that text, traveled through towns and villages zealously urging people to accept the fact that God had created golden eggs at some point in history.

It is better to teach people the evils of avarice than to promote belief in golden eggs.

A simple story for 2011

Yesterday, I had a truly wonderful 2-hour conversation with my father. We covered God, Christ, creation, the cosmos, scripture, life, questions, faith, and more. I realized that while my ideas of God and our connection with life are indeed complicated and thought-through, it really is practiced in a simple way for me.

In closing, as I told him that our understanding of how we are united with God has to inform and feed our sense of unity with all of the earth, he asked me, “Nate, if people were to look at all that you are writing and sharing, what percentage would they find related to connection with the earth and with life… and what percentage would they find related to faith, belief, and relationship with God or Christ.”

“100 percent and 100 percent,” I said. “They cannot be separated.”

So with that, I have been reflecting on a story for weeks now… again from Anthony de Mello, from his book The Song of the Bird.

A tale from Attar of Nishapur:

The lover knocked at the door of his beloved. “Who knocks?” said the beloved from within. “It is I,” said the lover. “Go away. This house will not hold you and me.”

The rejected lover went away into the desert. There he meditated for months on end, pondering the words of the beloved. Finally he returned and knocked at the door again.

“Who knocks?”
.”It is you.”

The door was immediately opened.

To be a Friend of the Divine!

Such a beautiful story from Fr Anthony de Mello

Malik, son of Dinar, was upset about the profligate behavior of a youth who lived next door. For a long time he did nothing, hoping someone else would intervene. But when the youth’s behavior became intolerable, Malik went to him and insisted that he change his ways.

The youth calmly replied he was a protégé of the Sultan, so no one could prevent him from living as he wished.

Said Malik, “I shall personally complain to the Sultan.” Said the youth, “That will be a waste of time because the Sultan will not change his mind.”

“I shall then denounce you to Allah,” Malik said. “Allah,” said the youth, “is far too forgiving to condemn me.”

Malik went away defeated. But after a while the youth’s reputation became so bad that there was a public outcry about it. Malik decided it was his duty to reprimand him. As he was walking to the youth’s house, however, he heard a voice say to him, “Do not touch my friend. He is under my protection.” Malik was thrown into confusion by this and, when he was in the presence of the youth, did not know what to say.

Said the young man, “What have you come for now?” Said Malik, “I came to reprimand you. But on my way here a voice told me not to touch you, for you are under his protection.”

The prolifigate seemed stunned. “Did he call me his friend?” he asked. But by then Malik had already left his house. Years later Malik met this man in Mecca. He had been so touched by the words of the voice that he had given up his possessions and become a wandering beggar. “I have come here in search of my Friend,” he said to Malik, and died.

God, the friend of a sinner! A statement as dangerous as it is effective. I tried it on myself once. I said, “God is far too forgiving to condemn me.” And I suddenly heard the Good News – for the first time in my life.

We are indeed the beloved daughters and sons of the Divine!