Tuesday, January 26, 2010

We think we're big...



Back once again from China, landing safely in the home nest. My apologies for the inevitable gap in postings which is imposed every time I go on trips.

This morning, I collected myself to sit in my usual place, rather than a hotel room. It was one of those sittings when the inner state was right on the edge of receiving something significant; not quite a moment, if you know what I mean, where one actually smells the perfume in the air, but a moment when you know that there is perfume.

What struck me this morning the most was how tiny I am.

When I was speaking about it with my wife Neal this evening, I was belatedly reminded of something I heard in a sitting 15 or 20 years ago. Peggy Flinsch led that particular sitting, and she began it by saying, "we are tiny little creatures." She said it in that crisp, objective tone of voice that has still not left her at 102 years old. It penetrated into me and has stayed there ever since. In addition, as I sit here tonight, I am reminded of something my old group leader Teal Brown used to say to the effect that we are amazingly arrogant, thinking we can achieve anything in this inner enterprise we work at.

In an aside, moments after I wrote this, my screensaver -- which randomly picks up photographs from my collection and displays them -- pull up a picture of Teal which was taken as a youngster, probably when she was in her late teens or early 20s. It's a sobering thing to see the young face of this mentor in front of me, less than a year after she died at the age of 88.

It brings me just a tiny bit closer to this work I wish to see within myself.

Our very tininess limits anything that might be possible for us, and yet almost all of us live with the absolute conviction that we are big, significant creatures. We are convinced that we are powerful, capable, and can affect things around us in a meaningful way. The fact that most of what man has done in terms of affecting things around him in a meaningful way is to destroy them may be evidence of some capability in that direction, but it is pretty meager. Nonetheless, with few exceptions each human being is convinced, in one way or another, of his or her own extraordinary significance.

The age-old teachings passed down through every religion state that men are tiny, weak, and insignificant relative to God. Those teachings are increasingly forgotten in a world where technology and media deliver a steady and utterly ruthless stream of mass hypnosis, largely designed to convince us that we are significant--and will be even more so if we do what we are told, and buy what we are told to buy.

It's only once in a while, when a smackdown event like the earthquake in Haiti takes place, that we are reminded of how helpless we actually are -- and we are helpless not just in temporal matters, we are also helpless in terms of our ability to open ourselves and receive something higher.

To be sure, it is possible for us to receive something higher. And that is the ultimate form of recognition. In fact, no other form of recognition actually matters, although I see that -- at least in my own case -- I am fundamentally convinced that ordinary, temporal recognition is what I want, despite the fact that I definitely know better.

Today, I had to ask myself why I continue to be attached to -- to cling to -- to be identified with -- this need for temporal success, for recognition from my peers for my art (well, let's be honest about it, after 40 or more years of being an artist, that's less interesting to me than it used to be), my music, my poetry, and so on and so forth.

Why do I care about that, when I already know that the only kind of recognition that matters is for the higher to see me and help me? Compared to this, all temporal activities are relatively meaningless. In a certain sense, I engage in them only to mark time while I wait for contact with an angel. (Assuming, that is, that the word "angel" is adequate to describe such an encounter -- and perhaps it is not. Substitute a special word of your own, if you wish!)

So I think I am big. And I think I need ordinary recognition here on this planet. I constantly forget--even with the eternal and daily companionship of a higher, inner force that can help me--that I am mortal, that I am tiny, and that my first aim must always be to develop my inner work. The shocking thing is that even with the taste of God firmly in my mouth, I still find myself constantly distracted by the nonsense that life relentlessly shovels at me.

So, "how can I refocus?", I asked myself today.

First of all, I must constantly remind myself that my work comes first, the devotion to God comes in front of any other activity, and that that devotion cannot be formulaic or ritualistic. That devotion only comes by standing in front of life and taking it in -- or, more accurately stated, seeing how I usually don't take it in.

Second of all, when my desires and my wishes attach themselves to temporal things, I can accept that... I can understand that... and I can even go with it, but I must know that these desires and wishes are partial, that they are uninformed and incomplete unless they are connected to the experience of an inner force which will remind me of where the actual value in life lies.

Third, I think it's a good idea to remember that I am small. Operating within that context, instead of thinking that I am some big force that can do amazing things, helps me to keep my horizon close enough to myself so that actual work can be done, instead of drifting off into dreams of the beautiful mountains in the distance.

Thoroughly jet lagged, and a bit abstracted, I think I will wrap this post up right here, lest the temptation to ramble lead me further off into the briar patch.

May the living light of Christ discover us.

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