Tag Archives: god

miscellaneous thoughts – addiction, books, and new years resolutions

oh boy, i haven’t posted in ages! let’s have some random stuff here then:

stuff #1 – we are on vacation in arizona right now – on our last leg, in a tiny place called congress, which is close to wickenburg with the huge population count of 5,000. supposedly, wickenburg is known for its fancy addiction treatment centres. i had a quick look at the websites of four of them but so far nothing looks like something i would recommend. as much as i think the 12 steps are great, i have a problem with them being a required part of a treatment centre. that’s not how the 12 steps work. and i have a problem with a treatment centre where the only books you’re allowed to read are AA’s big book and the bible. but i guess it works for some people.

stuff #2 – been thinking a lot lately about how to keep blogging and partaking in social media. to what degree do i want to contribute to the overwhelming symphony (cacophony?) of virtual voices out there? how will i help make the world a better place if i do that?

stuff #3 – the second edition of my poetry book is out. should i have a l(a)unch party? oh, that’s so much work. i totally don’t feel like organizing ANYTHING right now. but you know what, that book is darn good. it was fun to look at it four years later and to spruce it up a bit.

stuff #4 – i am reading – i am reading – i am reading – ok, i’m gonna say it, i am reading eat pray love right now. yup. i finally did it, grabbed the book off my sister-in-law’s shelf and went to it. it’s actually not that bad – there are a few neat ideas in there so far. for example the petition to god. will it make my “best books of 2011” list? no.

stuff #5 – oh, but HERE is a book that will make the list – alistair mchoag’s rollercoaster memoir invisible driving about his life with bipolar disorder. holy razmatazz! no need to be interested in mental illness to read that book, all you need is a love of reading. a review is coming up, and i’ll have to gather all my half and quarter wits to come up with something interesting after all the rave reviews he already has.

sleepingstuff #6 – resolutions. resolutions? i don’t know. i engaged in a bit of a rant against the typical approach to them in an interview with CBC parenting columnist michelle eliot the other day. more and more, i prefer themes rather than resolutions – ideas or actions i wouldn’t mind pursuing in the coming year, without going crazy about it for three weeks and then slacking off (“i will exercise of 60 minutes every day!”, “i’ll stop smoking forever!”). so two themes i’m proposing for this year is to slow down, and then to slow down some more. and extermination. of guilt.

aaah. slowing down. maybe i should stop now and go to bed.

and you?

on god’s sweet leash

Tichvine Mother of God Russian late 17th century Egg Temperua on wood panel with gold leaf Detail 2

i breathe god in and breathe god out
eat god and shit god
drink god, piss god,
taste god, smell god, sweat god, hear god
see only god

god weaves through me and whispers me
god boils my blood and cools my voice

my walk is god’s, my hands are his,
my eyes are hers, my lips belong to it,
my mind treads the mysterious paths
of gods, goddesses, allah, angels
and of those gods who lie,
crossless, prayerless,
enshrined in science and in emptiness

i breathe god in and breathe god out
and like a little poodle
i walk along on god’s sweet leash

this poem is dedicated to my friends n. and a.  it came to me as i was waking up this morning. and then i went to my first quaker meeting.

st john of the cross

a few days ago, i went to a fabulous workshop with rob des cotes of the imago dei community about st. john of the cross. i’d like to share my notes with you.

but just a bit of an intro. maybe this post could be prefaced with another preface, written by r. kirkham at amazon about another christian mystic book, the cloud of unkowing

it seems only proper to begin a review of this book with the warning given by the anonymous author in his/her prologue. my paraphrase of that warning goes something like this, “in the name of the father, and the son, and the holy spirit, and in the bond of love i beg you not to read, copy, or look at this book unless you are ready. furthermore i beg you not to copy it, loan it out, or give it to anyone else to read unless they, too, are ready for this depth of spiritual growth, lest they misunderstand the things written herein and fall into error.”

what follows is of course not nearly as important as what was written in the cloud of unknowing; however, what i want to get across is that this experience was in the spirit of mysticism, which means that the words and ideas expressed need to be seen from a point of view of that is curious, open, wondering; and at the same time, it needs to be infused with wisdom. so when there is talk of surrender, for example, it should not be seen as the oppressive surrender that, for example, the highly politicized catholic church of the 16th century wanted to see in its believers in order to use them better as pawns in their machinations. rather, i invite you to see it as the strange, awe-ful, incomprehensible surrender that accompanies the moments of first falling in love …

here are my notes.

st ignatius asks: what’s god’s job, what’s mine?

st john of the cross: passive purification – letting god do the job. there’s nothing for me to do but accept god. it’s god’s initiative. i make myself as nothing, and present myself to god. god gives us freedom – and invites us to submit. let myself be created. jesus says, “your job is to remain in my love”

we cannot “do” contemplative prayer. st john: “contemplation is none other than a secret, peaceful and loving infusion of god, which if the soul allows it to happen, enflames it in the spirit of love”. the best way to start praying: lord, show me how to pray. the illusion is: “when i don’t pray, prayer isn’t happening.” in truth, god prays us.

“the dark night of the soul” – the darkness an owl experiences as she flies into the light. darkness is good. darkness is faith: you don’t need to second guess. in moses, there is talk of “the thick darkness where god is”

embrace the poverty of spirit. very different from the idea of enriching our spirit that is practiced today. we strive to become less so that god can fill us up. take me back to my emptiness.

most of us have a spiritual sweet tooth. we like the hymns, the icons, the lovely feeling of relaxation in meditation. then we mistake the sweetness for god. are we following god or the warm fuzzies? our sense of god can eclipse our relationship with god. “i’ve lost god” can mean “i’ve lost the feeling (the warm fuzzies) for god”. similar with art. art can be the garment of the spirit. just don’t confuse the garment with the spirit. in the end, even st john is just a garment.

the life i live is not my own, it is god’s life. i want to be possessed by god, commingled: “i in you, you in me“. if i give myself to god, i will lose myself and at the same time gain myself, just like the trinity is simultaneously unified and distinct

withdrawal into god as a martial arts move: rather than fighting, i step aside and “let god”. go blind to our attachments, don’t react to them. the dark night of the senses – sometimes when our appetites http://www.ocd.or.at/ics/john/dichos.htm get too big, god quenches them by taking them away. the dark night is a good thing. it lets us fall into god’s abyss. trying to grasp it causes us to lose it. go deep, descend into god.

we have access to our senses, we don’t have access to our soul. according to scripture, the soul is (approximately) the place where i reflect god (in a clean window, the light and the window appear as one)

“if i just get angry enough with myself, my relationship with god will get better” – no. better a blind faith that is not defined by how we feel. how much energy are we spending editing ourselves? why are we striving? why are we tiring ourselves out?. rest in the trust. no need to immediately snap into problem solving mode. just trust. just allow it to play out. we take a good thing and add too much to it. let it die. if it’s meant to be, god will resurrect it. god makes us restless until we rest in him. give god free rein to be god. let’s get to the point where god’s actions prevail. “shouldn’t i be doing more?” <– leave that alone. how does the apple ripen? it just sits in the sun.

the seeking for god is love for god. it is god who gives me the desire for god; i can pray for the desire.

single and simple minded: cultivate the beginners mind, over and over again.

the ticket: the recognition that we need to be saved. saved – salvation: making whole. we come to god to have him set us right.

the new covenant eclipses the 10 commandments.

my thoughts after all this:

christ and hekate ARE one. julian of norwich and majaraj-ji ARE one. iaveh and lugh ARE one. bill w. and st john of the cross ARE one. meister eckhart and eckart tolle ARE one. robert mugabe and i ARE one.

curious how this very christian workshop strengthened my conviction that god IS one.

and

the stream that brought me here,
strong,
gushed me out at the mouth of your river,
the mouth that opens
wide
to your sea.
your stream, your river, your sea.
me, a loose bag of
drops,
spending myself
into your stream, your river, your sea.

god is community

i like to think about god when i wake up in the middle of the night. i had just finished deepak chopra’s new book on mohammed (review coming up soon). the many stories about the tribes, the complicated family relationships, the exchange with jews and christians, the interdependency with slaves – maybe that’s what made me come up with this idea: god is about community and cooperation. or maybe: god IS community and cooperation.

  • love your neighbour as you love yourself, says jesus.
  • give alms to the poor, says mohammed.
  • respect your parents, says the god of the old testament.
  • we are all one, says the buddha.
  • do not kill one living being, say they jain.
  • ren, a key concept in confucianism, is represented in chinese characters by the image of “human being” and “two”.

religions are, to a large degree, rules for living together. (i know, that’s not a new thought).

“if there were no god, it would be necessary to invent him,” voltaire said. who knows what a god is, whether god exists, and what it means for a god to exist. in my mind, these questions are often not that interesting – clearly, there are important levels at which god/gods exist.

however, i can see how it is through community and cooperation that gods could have been invented. evolutionarily, humans were desperately dependent on community and cooperation. we didn’t have the size of woolly mammoths, the adaptability of the cockroach or the fierceness of the sabre toothed tiger. huddling together, dividing labour, learning from each other as we developed tools were our only chances to survive. (banding together for raids and warfare apparently seemed like a good idea, too). building powerful rituals and stories around these communal means to survive made us stronger.

no wonder there is a god.

alcoholism and everyday addictions

the 12 steps of alcoholics anonymous are sometimes summarized in these seven words:

i can’t
god can
i better let god

these pithy words come from the first three steps:

1. we admitted we were powerless over alcohol, and that our lives had become unmanageable
2. we came to believe that a power greater than ourselves would restore us to sanity.
3. we made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of god as we understood him.

depending on one’s interpretation, that can sound quite defeatist (“i can’t / i’m powerless”) and cultish (“i better let god / turn over our will”).

in my occasional musings on how the 12 steps can be used outside of traditional addiction recovery (for example, here are some thoughts on step 3) i’d like to propose that these seven pithy words and these three steps can be useful for anyone as a guide in their lives.

we admitted we were powerless over alcohol, and that our lives had become unmanageable.

it may not be alcohol, it may not be drugs, food, work, cigarettes or caffeine – but the truth is that there are a lot of things inside and outside of ourselves that we are powerless over, and that feel totally overwhelming. i have no power over the traffic, you have no power over your boss, joe has no power over politics. but it goes deeper than that – it is our reactions to these things that truly trouble us – the feelings of helplessness, the endless worry, the anger. we hate these feelings, so we run to do something about them – TV, romance novels, potato chips, blackjack chips. at the root of that are fear and pain and avoidance of fear and pain through escape into instant gratification. so how about:

step 1: we are run by fear and pain and avoidance of them, and that the endless cycling between those two is exhausting and overwhelming – it is insanity.

we came to believe that a power greater than ourselves would restore us to sanity.

is there something greater than fear and avoidance of fear? god? maybe for some. how about for those uncomfortable with or plainly disinterested in the idea of god? the 12 steps are informed by underlying principles such as honesty, hope, courage, integrity, love, justice and service – all positive, life-affirming, values that are greater than our little egos and ids, our inner factories that constantly crank out more fear and fear avoidance. here is my proposition, then:

step 2: we remind ourselves that by holding on to our values, we can rise above fear and instant gratification and leave insanity behind.

we made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of god as we understood him.

the awareness that there is an alternative to fear, pain and instant gratification is a good start but it is not enough. a lot of us are aware that there are problems. we need to make a decision to do something with that awareness. this decision, by the way, needs to happen on a daily, hourly, sometimes minute-by-minute basis. fear and pain and our desire to escape them are incredibly strong; if we want to let go of them as prime motivators for our lives, we need to counter them with our values, virtues and beliefs on an almost constant basis. one of my favourite quotes is freud’s about us having but a “thin veneer of civilization”. i firmly believe if we are to keep this world going, maybe even make it a better place, we need to do everything we can to make this veneer stronger and thicker. we literally need to become more civil. isn’t that one of the main goals of democracry (a concept deeply informed by civility): to create and nurture an environment where citizens need not be governed by fear? just as we need to keep working on and fighting for democracy, we need to keep building our own personal virtues and values. here is my suggestion for step 3:

step 3: we decided to lead our lives by our virtues and values.

i would be very interested in hearing your thoughts about this.

journaling – what works for you?

today, please visit marie at coming out of the trees.    about her blog she says

i’m passing along a collection of excerpts from my personal and therapy journals to whomever needs to read them. i’m sharing my story so that those of you who are on a similar journey can know that you aren’t the only one – and so you can know that there is a way through. it is my intention to tell my story with both authenticity and dignity.

the title of my blog comes from a phrase i penned in the fall of 2007:

“i feel like i am walking through a thick forest and i don’t know where i’m heading, i only know to follow the compass. i believe someday i will come out of the trees and into a clearing. i believe that, when i enter the clearing, i will finally know my primary life’s calling. until then, i have to walk in faith.”

marie gave me the great honour to comment on one of her journal entries what works for you?.  in that entry, she talks about her relationship with god; i concentrate mostly on the journal writing process – a topic, as you may know, that interests me quite a bit – see journaling for healing, creative writing: waking up from our routines,
women, therapy and blogging, journaling: a dialogue or blogging yourself home.

problems: holding them up to the light

why not hold our blunders, failures and defects up to the light? yes! like they are gifts. god (the universe / allah / buddha nature) will take them as gifts and transform them. there is beauty in them, in strange ways, but there is beauty.

i am reminded that sometimes the word “fault” is used to describe the thicker strands in certain types of raw silk. the irregular thickness of the threads contribute to the beauty of the fabric.

god, please take my beautiful fear that i won’t have enough energy. take my glittering procrastination. take the jewel of my forgetfulness. i hold them up to your light and put them at your feet, a gift to you.

scriptio divina

in a guest post at alison’s blog writing mental illness, i discuss the idea of scriptio divina, or spiritual writing. here is a little excerpt:

i don’t think it’s possible to truly connect with ourselves and with the divine (whatever you want to call it; from the traditional christian god to the new age universe to the values held dear by atheists) without connecting with what’s going on in the rest of the world and engaging in some sort of social activism, however modest.

you might also enjoy a little poetry in that post.