Last week we spoke of the practice of self-examination inherent in this Lenten season. This is a very subtle practice really. It is easy to assume we know what it means (because of our ability to have self-reflexive consciousness, to stand outside of ourselves and to watch ourselves) and how to do it. Yet, we soon discover how quickly it can become the work of the ordinary self with its many parts all trying to examine and assess whether what we are doing is good or bad and trying to change our personality and behavior rather than listen deep within for a deeper impulse. This can be helpful but it is not a way that leads to genuine seeing, transformation and growth of Being. We wish to see and to see from somewhere deep within, consciously. Jeanne de Salzmann talks about this wish to really see and the importance of having impressions of ourselves beyond the superficial based on associations and thinking which don’t change much of anything. Real impressions are food for our transformation and for Being. In her book, The Reality of Being, de Salmann says,
“If I really want to know something, to be sure of something, I first need to be "impressed” by the knowledge. I need this new knowledge. I must be “impressed” by it so strongly that I will at this moment know it with all of myself, my whole being, not merely think it with my head. If I do not have enough impressions, enough of this being-knowledge, I can have no conviction. Without this knowledge, without material, how will I value things? How will I work? There is nothing to provide an impulse in one direction or another. There is no possibility to act consciously. So, the very first thing I need for conscious action is impressions of myself, both in quiet conditions when I am more open to what I am, and in the midst of life when I try to see myself being lost. Until I have a certain quantity of impressions, I cannot see further, I cannot understand more. We think of impressions as lifeless, fixed like a photograph. But with every impression we receive a certain amount of energy, some thing alive that acts on us, that animates us. I can feel this when I have a new impression of myself, an impression entirely different from the way I usually experience myself. I suddenly know something real in myself in quite a new way, and I receive an energy by which I am ani mated. But then I lose it, I do not retain it. It goes as if taken by a thief. And when I need it most, when I wish to be present in front of my life, there is no support to help me and I lose myself. I begin to see that impressions of myself are food, that they bring an energy which must be received and must be retained. We need to see what is in the way, and we need to understand why receiving an impression is so difficult. It is not because I do not wish to receive it. It is because I am not able. I am always closed, whatever the circumstances of life. At times, maybe for a flash I am open to an impression. But almost immediately I react. The impression is automatically associated with other things and the reaction comes. The button is pushed and this or that thought, emotion or gesture must follow. I cannot help it, first of all because I do not see it. My reaction cuts me off from the impression, as well as from the reality it represents. This is the barrier, the wall. In reacting, I close. What I do not see is that I lose all contact with reality when my habitual functions take charge.”
We waste much of our energy co-opting self-examination into a self improvement project in which we try to be something or someone other than the totality of what we are in the moment. We react to what we see and who we think we are (but is really just the surface, the conglomeration of smaller selves). If, however, we can re-member our Self—that in our core what we are is good and that we cannot effort this goodness because it simply is so—then we can stand in our seeing and re-cognize ourselves in the Wholeness. Lenten Love, Heather
From a few of the Pauses : Monday with Henry: Listen, O drop, give yourself up without regret, and in exchange gain the Ocean. Listen, O drop, bestow upon yourself this honor, and in the arms of the Sea be secure. Who indeed should be so fortunate? An Ocean wooing a drop! In God's name, in God's name, sell and buy at once! Give a drop, and take this Sea full of pearls. — Rumi, translated by Kabir Helminski and Camille Helminski Wednesday “There is in our age, a special need for contemplatives to be present in the world. Their hearts are required by those who seek wholeness, joy, and inner peace. There is need everywhere of responding to the immense suffering we constantly encounter, to be a sign of love and hope to those who are so vulnerable in this difficult and indifferent world.” — Wayne Teasdale Thursday with Catherine: Blessing the Body This blessing takes one look at you and all it can say is holy. Holy hands. Holy face. Holy feet. Holy everything In between. Holy even in pain. Holy even when weary. In brokenness, holy. In shame, holy still. Holy in delight. Holy in distress. Holy when being born. Holy when we lay it down at the hour of our death. So, friend, open your eyes (holy eyes). For one moment see what this blessing sees, this blessing that knows how you have been formed and knit together in wonder and in love. Welcome this blessing that folds its hands in prayer when it meets you; receive this blessing that wants to kneel in reverence before you – you who are temple, sanctuary, home for God in this world. — Jan Richardson
You do not need to be whole said the nomad. I am happy because I am often unhappy and accept this. I am free because I know uncertainty’s friendship and embrace it. I am fully alive because I am acquainted with loss and welcome the absence with open arms. The darkest sides of yourself you dread are also lovely sources of light leading you home. Doubt is an honest admission things might be other than they seem. Anxiety and fear are only a brother and sister inviting you to belong to the strangeness of it all. When you are truly lost and willing to admit as much you see lost and found are mere labels you will flourish without. There is nothing to seek, and nothing to fix, only the splendor and beauty of the broken you being here now.
— David Auten
Saturday: Remove from us these hearts of stone and give to us a heart of flesh Remove from us these hearts of stone and give to us a heart of flesh pour out, pour out, pour out pour it all out — Alana Porteous words to the chant inspired by Cynthia consistently voicing the resonance of Ezekiel 36:26 Sunday with Catherine: “I am, you anxious one. Don’t you sense me, ready to break into being at your touch? My murmurings surround you like shadowy wings. Can’t you see me standing before you cloaked in stillness? Hasn’t my longing ripened in you from the beginning as fruit ripens on a branch? I am the dream you are dreaming. When you want to awaken, I am that wanting. I grow strong in the beauty you behold. And with the silence of stars I enfold your cities made by time.” — Rilke I, 19, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy