Tag Archives: surrender

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.

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.

up the down staircase

garden staircase castlethis is a guest post by my blogging and twitter friend alexander zoltai. it’s the story of how, down and out with alcohol and homelessness, he almost … well, read for yourself:

at first, i was trying to push ahead when i really needed healing time.

went from a homeless situation in ohio to florida for my daughter’s wedding. (dear audra! i wasn’t able to help raise her but she loves me anyway.)

was walking, literally, 100 blocks a day to get to my job and back to the salvation army shelter. had miraculously been included in her wedding party but i was not the dude who gave her away.

one month after the wedding, i was homeless again, and deeply depressed.

must have been some turning point in my history of striking out with vigor only to be beaten down, then striking out again. this time, the fire of renewal was gone.

beat down enough to walk the streets of sarasota, florida begging god to kill me.

one of the members of my faith attempted an intervention–not for my psyche but to loan me $3,000 to move into my own trailer.

there was a delay in approval for the place and i slid further down the slope of life.

went to the bank one day and cashed the check, took the $3,000 and went into an alcoholic tailspin. rented a motel room and drank about a case of guinness a day; also smoked pot…

finally had the suicide idea hatch–hell, i’d been sittin’ on the egg a long time!

bought pills that i could overdose on, and proceeded to watch them for a whole day–i had no motivation left at all–even to kill myself.

so, on to sandusky, ohio, my hometown and continued drinking.

my sister had hacked my email account and determined i was alive. oh! i’d written a good-bye e-mail and shipped it out to all my friends.

while in my hometown, i bought two knives and tried slicing my wrist–again, no motivation at all–even to kill myself.

my sister did intervene with love. i went back to florida and stayed with her, went to the VA hospital for psychological examination, got stuck with a chronic depression label, and found out i had hepatitis c!

this is when i was certain something “spiritual” was going on: god, the humorist, was letting me know who was in charge. he “said”: “so you thought you could end your life and i stopped you; but, just to give you a chance to truly repent, here’s a deadly disease.” i told family and friends but they couldn’t understand my delight.

next, six months on antidepressants, quitting smoking, and spiritual recharging–creating a 300-page compilation from a 500-page compilation of powerful spiritual writings.

the day for starting treatment for the hep C arrived and i skidded into eleven months of debilitation, crappy feelings, hair-loss, muscle-mass-loss, flu symptoms, bone aches, anemia–all “normal” for the treatment.

i’ve said before, the poet in me taking center stage, that truly spiritual events have an inherent contradiction embedded in them. for those eleven months, i experienced the contradictory pulls of massive physical degeneration and ecstatic spiritual upliftment–feeling my existence as worth more than i’d ever imagined, as long as i profoundly submitted to god.

here i am 17 days past the end of treatment and resigned to the further tasks of being proactive about depression mitigation and establishing myself in a home-based business.

like i told my VA psychiatrist last week: “before, i’d rise from a fall with conviction of conquering; now, i don’t know what will happen…

just moving ahead with resignation: “in the sense is of making an entry (signum) ‘opposite’ — on the credit side — balancing the former mark and thus cancelling the claim it represents. sense of ‘to give (oneself) up to some emotion or situation'”– we so often consider being resigned to a situation a depressing alternative. however, if the resignation is to cling to the way the universe actually works, it can be a calming and steadying position.

no idea, or could even pretend to guess, what my future holds. but, the captain of my soul shouts, “steady as she goes!”

alexander m zoltai is a writer with roaring flames in his heart, a blogger with a global agenda, and a nutrition entrepreneur.  alexander has also written a beautiful poem that goes with this post.