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Self-Examination.


At the start of this Lenten Season we focused on how the practices of fasting, praying, and giving are truly in service of Self-remembering. Another practice that is inherent in this season is that of self-examination and it too can be seen as directly related to and in service of self-remembering. On this wisdom path, we wish to know and see ourselves accurately, as God does. Jeanne De Salzman speaks to this wish to know ourselves in her book, The Reality of Being, when she says “Behind all my manifestations, there is a wish to know myself, to know that I exist and how I exist.” We have an honest yearning and yet this can be quite a challenge. She goes on, “But in my contacts with the world, an image of “I” is formed at the same time as the contact. I am attached to this image because I take it as being me. I try to affirm and protect it. I am the slave of this image. Being so attached and taken in these reactions, I have no attention left to know that I am also something else.” We would not be on this path if we did not have some attention left to know that we are also something else, if we did not recognize that the image(s) of I are not the entirety of who we take our self to be. We know that another Self exists in us that is does not live exclusively by preferences and self calming. A Self-hood that is free from identification that we can continue to nourish and feed. Through self-examination we can continue to develop a connection between these different natures of self, gaining self-knowledge and learning to see ourselves differently, perhaps in ways we have not seen before. We can practice examining the image of our ordinary self, of “I” that is formed as we make contact with the world. De Salzman says, “I try to see how I am in a state of identification, to experience how I am when I am identified. I need to know the enormous power of the force behind identification and its irresistible movement. This force, which sustains us in life, does not want self-remembering. It drives us toward manifestation and refuses the movement inward.” There is a great pull towards identification with the world and yet part of our ongoing work is to recognize the capacity to access something else. We can practice examining the deeper level of Self-hood that exists within, De Salzman says, “In order to face the force of identification, there must be some­thing present that attends—an attention that is stable, free and related to another level. I wish to be present to what is taking place, to remain conscious of myself and not lose myself. My effort is made with some­thing that does not belong to my ordinary means. I need a certain will and desire unknown to my ordinary self. My ordinary “I” must give up its place. Through maintaining the attention and not forgetting to look, perhaps one day I will be able to see. If I see one time, I can see a second time, and if this repeats I will no longer be able not to see.” When we practice self-examination we have the chance of recognizing our ordinary self or “I” as well as it giving up its place in order to remain conscious of myself. Rather than being quick to change that which is seen, which all too often becomes another attempt to be other than what we are, we can stay in the struggle a little longer and open to another possibility. She says, “In order to observe, I have to struggle. . . I must choose the struggle to be present and accept that suffering will appear. There is no struggle without suffering. Struggle is unacceptable to our lower nature; struggle upsets it. This is why it is so impor­tant always to remember what we wish— the meaning of our work and our Presence. In going against a habit, for example, like eating or sit­ting in a certain way, we are not struggling to change the habit. Or in trying not to express negative emotions, we are not struggling against the emotions themselves or struggling to do away with their expres­sion. It is a struggle with our identification, to allow the energy other­wise wasted to serve the work. We struggle not against something, we struggle for something.” This last part is really important, we do not need to be at odds with what we see when we work with the practice of self-examination. With a gentle, stable and free attention let our practice of self-examination be threefold. First, by examining some of the images of “I” we strongly hold to, our identifications. Second, by exploring that another level of Self-hood exists within us. And third, by accepting that we struggle not against something but for something. Lenten Love, Heather


 

From this week's Pauses: Monday with Tom: BELOVED IS WHERE WE BEGIN If you would enter into the wilderness, do not begin without a blessing. Do not leave without hearing who you are: Beloved, named by the One who has traveled this path before you. Do not go without letting it echo in your ears, and if you find it is hard to let it into your heart, do not despair. That is what this journey is for. I cannot promise this blessing will free you from danger, from fear, from hunger or thirst, from the scorching of sun or the fall of the night. But I can tell you that on this path there will be help. I can tell you that on this way there will be rest. I can tell you that you will know the strange graces that come to our aid only on a road such as this, that fly to meet us bearing comfort and strength, that come alongside us for no other cause than to lean themselves toward our ear and with their curious insistence whisper our name: Beloved. Beloved. Beloved. —Jan Richardson Tuesday you let yourself be called hennablossom appletree in whose shadowround I should rest bundle of myrrh your maiden calls you her fingers are full of your scent on the lock of her door as she swings it open wide If henna, then just as well chamomile If the crocus blooms in the Tels of the Wadis and the wastelands through you’re coming then also the boulevards slums and parks shopping malls docs and trains and backstairs, elevators and rooftopterraces of our skyscrapercities scent of jasmine you speak to me in the firethorn and in the grain and golden wine I should eat you and drink Oh you my Utmost-Inner what only will the world and me in the end be — Silja Walter, The Seven Transparent Days, p. 52-54 Wednesday “This physical earth is neither illusory nor unreal. It is dense, yes, ploddingly, binary, and ponderous in this way. It moves always stepwise. The seeing heart cannot run it instantly. But this density is not a punishment for falling this, but rather, the exact and only condition in which the holiest of the holy of all miracles can unfold: the full revelation of the divine heart.” — Cynthia Bourgeault, The Corner of Fourth and Nondual, p. 37-38 Sunday: “[We begin Lent hearing] the words of the prophet Joel: "Return to me with your whole heart." Lent is an invitation toward whole-heartedness. The heart is an ancient metaphor for the seat of our whole being—to be whole-hearted means to bring our entire selves before God, our intellect, our emotional life, our dreams and intuitions, our deepest longings. Many of us feel divided, in internal conflict between what we most desire and how we live our lives. The ancient monks described the "cave of the heart" as that inner place where we encounter God and wrestle with our inner voices. Instead of resisting these voices, and dividing ourselves, the desert mothers and fathers invite us to be fully present to them, to create a welcoming space within. All of our "negative" feelings have something to teach us about ourselves and even about God when we stop running and create room in the cave of our hearts to tend to what is really happening in us. We become aware of our interior dynamics and slowly becoming attuned to the promptings of our inner wisdom and respond to life through this lens, discovering God in each moment both within and without. Lent is a time when we consider the commitments we want to make to cultivate our whole-heartedness and the things we want to let go of to make more room for presence to God. The desert journey is one where our comforts are stripped away so we can see more clearly.” — Christine Valters Paintner

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