Colonial farmhouse, High Falls, NY
When I was first getting sober over 33 years ago, I usually attended a raucous and irreverent AA meeting called the mustard seed on east 37th street in NYC.
There comes a time in inner work where one must realize that one is personally responsible for everything.
The inner teaching becomes subservient to the Lord; this is the point at which one acknowledges that all of the transactions one has sought to broker through various outer forms are null and void. Every spiritual transaction becomes one of essence; each and every action is related first to inner Being and its effect, and only then and afterwards has anything to do with the outward world.
In this way I grow closer to my spiritual core and my personal spiritual truth, which is actually a secret and can't be externalized or communicated to others. I own it in a way that relates to the inner roots that grow within me; and I tend this inner growth, this mustard plant, in order that higher influences (the birds of the sky) can come and roost in me—that is, give birth to a new and higher inner order.
The parable is apt, and the comparison quite exact, because the kingdom of heaven is within us. (Luke 17:21.) When Christ compares it to a mustard seed and plant, he's directly referring to the growth of the tree of the soul. The almost comic, outwardly directed interpretations cited in the Wikipedia entry on this parable show how very little academics can possibly understand about such matters; anyone who has sensed the growth of the Kingdom of Heaven within them will realize Christ's words are quite literal, if properly understood.
Note that the parable says the man takes a mustard seed and puts it in his own garden. His growth of inner Being is intentional; and it is in his own garden, that is, he becomes entirely responsible for tending that inner garden, which brings me back to the first point, that is, one is personally responsible for everything.
This is a most important point, because everyone, almost without exception (there are a few) wants someone else or some other thing to be responsible for their inner work. One wants one's teacher or guru to be responsible; or one wants one's church or temple, priest or minister, to be responsible. One even, at the end of things, wants God to be responsible, even though God's greatest and most fervent wish is that we become responsible for ourselves. If we become responsible for our garden, the mustard seed, and the plant that grows from it, only then do the birds of the air come to nest.
This responsibility is an inner responsibility. It is a grave and sobering action. As long as I am turned towards and slavishly devoted to outer actions and circumstances, to that extent exactly do I fail to water and tend this most precious plant within.
We might ask ourselves why Christ chose the analogy of a mustard plant, after all. It seems a strange and perhaps counterintuitive choice.
I'll discuss that in the next post.