contemplation, divinity, ego, gospels, humanness, Jesus, meditation, psychology, Syro-Phoenician woman, the Now
As I think I mentioned, I’ve been reading Richard Rohr’s, The Naked Now. It was really a foregone conclusion that I would adore his writing, I’d heard enough said about him from a number of bloggers who read him and were praiseworthy. That was plenty of recommendation.
Rohr talks about how to experience the Divine in the way the mystics do, and that essentially is in the practice of “now.” It is a well grounded practice in Eastern faith traditions, and frankly, has a long history in Western faiths as well, just by another name. In the East, the method of practice is meditation, in the West, it is called contemplation.
Both involve letting go of ego and past and future, and centering on the now. This is where we meet God. This is where we listen, open ourselves and wait. This is where we, if we surrender ourselves, find guidance. For all those who have experienced this wonder, whether for a moment or for long periods, it is in some sense indescribable, but pure joy. There is a oneness, a feeling of connectedness to all that is.
As anyone who has practiced either meditation or contemplation can tell you, the effort is hard. There is nothing harder to control than one’s own mind. The ego has a vested interest (it’s own perceived survival) in maintaining control, and keeping things within “known” parameters. To surrender to the Spirit, is to step off the cliff without a parachute. The ego fights mightily, and as anyone who has tried will tell you, the mind fills with one inane and disconnected thought after another, as one, in increasing desperation, tries to “quiet” the mind. But it is never about forcing, it is about letting go.
Living in the now means to be centered in the feelings, and senses fully of what is happening around you. Not thinking of what needs go on the grocery list, not recalling last night’s movie, not rehashing an argument of a week ago. It is smelling the flowers, feeling the sun upon your cheek, hearing the rustle of leaves in the trees, seeing the sparkle of sunlight upon the dew lipped blade of grass. It is being drunk in this moment of time.
While it is a perfect place to be, it cannot be the only place, lest we never get up, never move, and die of hunger and thirst. We must plan at least to shop and clean and it is also valuable to reflect, hoping to stave off repeating mistakes again and again. Still, we strive to be “now” people as much as possible, where we are called to be authentic and to respond authentically and with full attention to the world. As Rohr and others point out, we are Spirit, our job is to become fully human.
One point is made clear, that much of “now” work is non-dualistic. And we in the West, particularly, have a tough time with non duality. We are a right/wrong, up/down, happy/sad type of folk. Nothing brings this closer to home for us than contemplation of the humanity/divinity of Christ.
We by creedal refrain proclaim this belief. We assure anyone that it is true, (at least for most Christians). Yet, in our hearts of hearts, we are nearly incapable of realizing such a situation. How indeed can Jesus be fully human and fully divine at the same time? We struggle with this, and imagine some switch whereby Jesus turned first one, and then the other on and off. One idling in the background while the other surges to the fore. We imagine, as best we can, but we don’t truly get it.
Yet the bible has a couple of stories that help us see it at least. One is the story of the Syro Phoenician woman. The story was apparently well known, used by both Matthew(15:21-28) and Luke (7:24-30). A Canaanite woman approaches Jesus and asks for help in healing her daughter. Jesus at first refuses, until the woman reminds him that even the “dogs receive the scraps from the table.” Jesus then does as she asks.
The story has always been difficult for me. Who is this Jesus who is so rude and dismissive? He has been traveling afoot for perhaps hours, and he clearly wants some peace, without the crowds demanding of him. When the woman approaches, alerting perhaps others that he is in fact the famous Jesus, he responds with “it is not fair to share the food for the children with the dogs.”
This is mighty mean stuff. He refers to the woman and her child as being unworthy, dogs in comparison to the Israelites. He is dismissive. He appears tired and angry at the interruption. In a sense, one can think that Jesus was distracted with other thoughts, and reacted to the woman without thinking.
A similar story is told in all of the gospels about the cleansing of the temple, one of which in John, is replete with Jesus fashioning a whip out of cord to accomplish the task. Many people recoil again, at the anger expressed by Christ.
I think that we find in these stories, that perhaps unknowingly, the writer relates a glimpse of the real humanity of Jesus peaking through. Jesus was perhaps the human being who had transcended more than any other into the realm of perfect unity with the Divine, illustrated by living mostly in the Now. Yet, in his very humanness, he too, from time to time, failed and was overcome by ego. He too let gain purchase the too human emotions of frustration, anger, and perhaps physical exhaustion.
These stories, serve to point out to us, that we are in process. Even Jesus was it seems. His humanness in this is something we can relate to and thus we can truly seek to emulate his way of living. He failed here and there. We fail more than we succeed, yet, we are given courage and strength by his slips.
It is said, that without Jesus’ humanity, there is no point for us. If he is not us, then our efforts can come to nothing. These stories feed our need to feel that the effort is worthwhile. It is well we remember this. Tomorrow is another day to get up, dust ourselves off, and try again. Jesus, and the Creator beckon. Will you enter into the Now with them?