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Eastertide, the 'Great Easter Fast.'


Holy Week is over, Easter has come, and now we are in the subtle season of Eastertide, known in the liturgical tradition as the “great fifty days.” It is another particularly thin time. The time when Jesus is back on the earth in his more subtle spiritual being body—kingdom of heaven, imaginal realm, second body—to appear to his disciples, encouraging and empowering them to go forth in the world walking the path he revealed to them through his life.

Each year during these liturgical seasons I find myself returning to Cynthia Bourgeault’s book The Wisdom Jesus. In it, she calls these fifty days the 'Great Easter Fast' and considers it to be a time of training “to deepen our capacity to receive the intense spiritual energy available to us during this sacred season as a catapult to our own transformation.” Just like athletic training but in this case “our whole embodied being can be tuned up to support a spiritual aim we wish to achieve…our physical capacity to be available to truth at a subtle and much more intense level.” It is a time of leaning out nourishment at the physical level so that our hearts, the organs of spiritual perceptivity, are able to listen more deeply and our “subtle energetic body might feast directly on the flesh and blood of the divine Word stirring to life within.” Jesus, who is still available to us now, reassures us we do know the way, we do know how to walk this path, and he nudges us, just like his friends, to move toward a new level of subtlety on this path in our own lives. (p.126-127, 131)

Last week during the Holy Week retreats we explored and worked with four different postures that Jesus and Mary Magdalene, his student who really understood his teachings, embodied both inwardly and outwardly in the way they showed up to life and especially throughout the passion drama. These same postures are postures we can continue to work with throughout Eastertide (well our whole lives really). I am calling them postures we can take because postures are positions in which we hold our body as well as particular ways of dealing with or considering something. They are attitudes, that we can assume for a purpose, in this case to be available to truth at a much more subtle and intense level.

The first inner posture we explored and which we can take is the posture of being grounded and rooted in our two realities: In the reality of our ordinary being existence, our planetary body often referred to as the horizontal dimension of our reality with all of our planetary resource needs for sleep, food, shelter, clothing, connection, relationships, etc. (acknowledging that having these needs met is indeed a privilege). And in the reality of our divine / kingdom of heaven / imaginal being existence, our second body often referred to as the vertical dimension of our reality and which lives by and needs different resources beyond this world for sustenance. These needed resources, as Cynthia so often reminds us, are drawn from wellsprings of spiritual fruit or food, mystical substances and nourishment such as, but not limited to – faith, hope, love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, perseverance, steadfastness, self-control, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, courage, trust, etc.

We experience these two realities, and both are good. It is good to commit, as Gurdjieff says in his first obligolnian striving, to have in one’s ordinary being existence everything satisfying and really necessary for the planetary body. This means fully embracing our human nature by tending to our mind, emotions/nervous system, body/physically, personality, etc. as best we can and as we are able. To appreciate and enjoy the simple pleasures of being human. There is so much pain, so much delight, so much violence, so much addictive pleasure to be had. Our survival instincts are strong. Our egoic consciousness is needed but is also loud. We live in the midst of conditions that are constantly activating our survival responses physiologically and our technology has evolved faster than our nervous systems’ capacity to process it. We not only see this all around us but we hear about it constantly and we see it on our devices, tvs, phones, computers. When we live in reactivity and/or overwhelm our capacity to see the truth that we also have this divine being existence becomes diminished. We forget that God lives in us, and we in God, and that we can always participate in this inter-abiding relational field of love.

Thus, it is also good to as is stated by Gurdjieff in the second obligolnian striving, have a constant and unflagging instinctive need to perfect oneself in the sense of being. Perhaps understood as divine being existence, the kingdom of heaven body. Essentially we forget that we are children of God, that we exist as a part of a God saturated world, that we cannot fall out of this relational field of love and that we can and indeed must feed from the abundance of spiritual nourishment that does not derive from this world. It is essential that we receive and drink deeply of these abundant resources that Jesus speaks of when he says, “but whoever drinks the water I will give him/her/them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him/her/them will become in him/her/them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14).

These two being realities are not necessarily separate and yet, we experience them to be so and it is useful to accept and understand this reality we know all too well. I refer once again to something Jeanne de Salzmann says in her book The Reality of Being which speaks to this experience. “I begin to see that I live torn between two realities. On the one hand, there is the reality of my existence on the earth, which limits me in time and space, with all its threats and opportunities for satisfaction. On the other hand, there is a reality of being that is beyond this exis­tence, a reality for which I have a nostalgia. It calls to our conscious­ness, across all the disappointments and misfortunes, to lead us to serve Being, to serve the "divine” in ourselves. If my life is lived only to subsist, the essential being is veiled, obscured. Even if I subsist in an intelligent, reasonable way, I do not see the true sense of my life—I have no direction. I am entirely drawn toward outer existence and thus prevented from becoming conscious of my authentic being. On the other hand, if I feel another reality, under the force of this impression I forget my life and withdraw into isolation. Thus the world claims me without caring about inner life, and my being calls me without caring about the demands of worldly existence. These are two poles of one larger Self, one same Being. I need to find a state in which I am more and more open and obedient [or listening] to an essential force in me, and at the same time able to express this force and let it do its work in the world.” (p.135-136)

Often when we see this reality, we see it from our current mental structure of consciousness (according to Jean Gebser) which relies almost exclusively on the intellectual center (the thinking mind) and does not see polarities but rather polarizations. I realize 'we' are not a homogenous group but we all live in the West and it is the cultural milieu we swim in, the water we don’t always see, as well as the way the human brain functions. The natural tendency, to no one’s fault, is to polarize these two natures within us and around us. . . to give more importance to one OR the other.

Typically we give more importance to the ordinary being existence, either through fighting against it and rejecting it or through over indulgence, becoming drunk on all that the horizontal world has to offer. Either way this can lead us to be so occupied by starvation or satiation from worldly things that we are blind to our hunger for something more. Logion 28 in the Gospel of Thomas speaks to this, “Yeshua says... I stood to my feet in the midst of the cosmos, appearing outwardly in flesh. I discovered that all were drunk but none were thirsty, and my soul ached for the children of humanity, for their hearts are blind. They cannot see from within. . .”

We might have thought that fasting was just for Lent but if we consider Cynthia’s suggestion that this season of Eastertide, the Great Easter Fast, could be a season of training, what ordinary being existence/physical planetary body need might we consider leaning out on in order to feed the reality of our spiritual being existence and to see from within?

With Great Love,

Heather

 

From a few of the Pauses : MApril 7th, Good Friday with Tom:

Sky-Circles

The way of love is not a subtle argument.

The door there

is devastation.

Birds make great sky-circles

of their freedom.

How do they learn that?

They fall, and falling,

they're given wings.

"Rumi: The Book of Love," translated by Coleman Barks

April 8th, Holy Saturday with Tom:

When Jesus entered the realms of the dead (sheol, hades, and the mythical realm of hell), Jesus didn’t fix, judge, or redeem hell itself. According to Cynthia Bourgeault, “he just sat there surrounded by the darkest, deepest, most alienated, most constricted states of pained consciousness; sitting, if we can imagine it, among all those mirroring faces of the collective false self that we encountered earlier in the crucifixion narrative: the anguish of Judas, the indecision of Pilate, the cowardice of Peter, the sanctimony of the Pharisees; sitting there in the midst of blackness.”

His love went into the darkest and deepest places of darkness and blackness, but reconnected the darkness to the whole so that “in Him all things hold together”.

— Reflection on the 'Harrowing of Hell' from The Wisdom Jesus, p. 119

April 9th, Easter Sunday with Tom:

Vijaya – Victor

When everyone else was meditating, I’d be outside circling the hall.

Finally I went to confess. I’m hopeless, I said.

The elder nun smiled.

Just keep going, she said. Nothing stays in orbit forever.

If this circling is all you have, why not make this circling your home?

I did as she told me, And went on circling the hall.

If you find yourself partly in And partly out – If you find yourself drawn to this Path And also drawing away – I can assure you, You’re in good company.

Just keep going.

Sometimes the most direct path isn’t a straight line.

— adapted by Matty Weingast from The First Free Women

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