SPIRITUALITY CONQUERS HARDNESS

The ascetic Desert Mothers and Fathers

passed their lives in silence/harsh penance/

solitude/prayer/manual labor.

The ascetics were called “Athletes for Christ”

because in Greek “askesis” means “athletics.”

 

Similarly, the Crusades were meant to be super-pilgrimages

and so the pilgrim Crusaders fasted/prayed

before battles/lived lives of austerity/poverty.

 

It is not that they were against sensual living

but like John of the Cross, they considered

the natural appetites to be like little children

always whining to their mother for this or that –

the ascetics/crusaders felt we must purify ourselves

of these restless urges so we can be empty

to be filled/fulfilled/in union with God.

 

Our culture’s rejection of the spiritual life of simplicity/poverty

for the relentless pursuit of material wealth

meant that when Vivekananda, a Hindu holy man

came to the West in 1893 to teach Asian mysticism

and give an address to the first Parliament of World Religions

he found westerners dissatisfied with orthodox/traditional religion

like sheep without a spiritual shepherd.

 

Two keys to mastering spiritual practices:

find yourself a good shepherd/teacher/spiritual director

find the time to practice as much as possible.

 

Whether it is western meditation with Father Thomas Keating

or eastern meditation with some holy woman or man

meditation can help us take ourselves wherever we are:

in confusion/conflict/peace/sanity –

as we rest in the Divine

contemplation allows us to be

in complete acceptance and unconditional friendliness

with ourselves – whether we are broken and lost

or whole and rejoicing in the Lord –

either way Psalm 36:8 says “They shall drink their fill

of the river of Thy delights.”

 

 

EASTERN AND WESTERN WAYS TO GOD

Buddhists should not leave the Sangha, the community

just like Christians should not leave the Church

for it is hard to practice the faith without others.

The Sangha has arhats similar to Christian saints –

both arhats and saints can help us live fully.

 

But Sangha and Church leaders can serve or dominate you –

dominator hierarchies such as caste systems

exploit people and prevent individual/collective growth.

Growth/developmental/actualization hierarchies

lead humans from ego/ to ethnic/ to world/ to cosmos-centrism.

 

Many people, particularly men, are stuck in their lives:

afraid of introspection/pleasure/repressed emotion

disconnected from their bodies

asleep in patriarchal theocracies

but starting to wake up to their vulnerability/sensitivity.

 

Fear of being human

and information overload, a total head trip

is making Western Civilization neurotic –

the Asian belief in the richness of silence/

wordless wisdom/human wonder

is necessary and appealing

but fast disappearing.

 

However, bad discontent and good discontent exist in the West –

discontent with never having enough possessions/

always wanting more

and discontent with all the injustices in the world

that call one to take action.

 

In the East there are three main ways to God:

the way of the head – the way of intellect/knowledge/truth

the way of the heart – the way of emotion/devotion/beauty

the way of the gut – the way of will/action/goodness.

 

To Jurgen Moltmann, a European theologian

Christ’s death and resurrection, according to Colossians

reconciles and unites all three ways/all Creation/all creatures

so that the Cosmic Christ flows through all

and Creation, as Eastern Orthodox theologians say

is deified/filled with/fulfilled through

the Divine.

THE PURPOSE OF ALL THINGS

The only purpose of God in creating the universe

was that it be a communion of souls in love.

Christ is the center/goal/perfection/paradigm of communion

so the meaning of Christ extends to

all people/all civilizations/all planets/all universes.

 

The only purpose of all spiritual practice

is to help you become an awakened human being –

a loving/contemplative sage full of God here and now –

which is the true nature of who you already are anyway –

so the end of the journey is its beginning.

 

Discovering your True Self can be a great relief –

you no longer have to protect/project/promote

an ideal self-image – your False Self.

Your True Self was always there and always will be

so you can relax and be yourself – flaws and all.

 

Awareness that life is flawed is the beginning of wisdom

and the beginning of anxiety is when a flawed being

becomes aware of its future non-being.

 

Today, the “Way of the Cross” involves

becoming aware of our flaws/limitations/sins

abandoning perfectionism/pursuing wholeness/

dying to our ego and finding our True Self

which may be exquisitely painful

but it focuses on growth not transient happiness.

 

Today we are blessed with tools like the Enneagram

which helps us understand

the depths of our darkness

and paradoxically allows us to grasp

the heights of our True Self

the divine image and likeness of God within

which longs to go without

and join others in forming

a communion of souls in love.