Dying Every Day

I’m kind of into Easter this year. And by Easter I mean the overdetermined cultural phenomenon that includes Pagan celebrations of spring rebirth as well as the Christian holy day honoring of Jesus’ resurrection, with some woo woo “it’s the season of renewal” thrown in too. (And maybe one or twelve Reese’s peanut butter eggs. Wait, where did they go?)

Maybe I’m extra turned on about Easter because I spent so much of 2016 so far being ridiculously sick, and now that I finally feel like I’m solidly BETTER, I am about as excited and energized as if I’d literally crawled out of the cold earthy grave, dragging crocuses behind me. It’s also renewal time at home: we’re redoing some rooms, and I’m getting my own bedroom/office/studio, something I’ve been longing for over the past several months. My outer space is being repurposed, or in a sense, reborn. Maybe it’s putting me in the right frame of mind to tune in to this seasonal energy. 

On a different level – a heart level, not a head level – I have felt drawn back to the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. 

I’ve been attending Althea Center for Engaged Spirituality for just under a year – I started going soon after the big Easter service last year. Apparently it’s traditional for them to have the Queen City Jazz Band come and lead a jazz-gospel service. !!!!!! What an incredible treat that was! 


And as part of the service, some scriptures were read that I haven’t heard for yeeeeaaaaaarrrrrrrrrs. It has been a while since I heard these passages straight from the Gospels, rather than the paraphrased modern version of events. And my heart being already an open state, the words went in deep, like a long needle, sharp and healing at the same time. 
This being an inclusive, interfaith community with a mystical orientation, the story of Jesus’ last moments was told not as an example of what a perfect being is like, but as a teaching about how WE can be — more humble, more trusting, more forgiving, more welcoming — and closer to God. 

There were lots of things said that I will be taking away to mull further. The most striking for me, though, was the phrase said to be Jesus’ last words as a human-embodied person:

And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Having said this, He gave up the spirit. 

Luke 23:46,  Modern English Version

The minister said something like, What would it be like to begin each day with this declaration of faith?

But I also wonder: What would it be like to say this in each moment?

A Sufi perspective might be that we die with each exhalation of the breath. Who we were, dies. What was, dies. And to the extent to which we are aware of each moment, to the degree to which we are present and alert, we can let go of anything that shaped or controlled us in the past, and we can become new. We can be, in each new moment, innocent, childlike, free. 

If you want to be reborn, you have to die.

Of course most of us don’t want or need to experience total ego death in every moment. But in each moment, we do have the opportunity to die and be reborn. And there are some moments when, believe me, I am so grateful for that opportunity. I tend to take it only in extreme situations. But I think I would be a lot lighter, a lot less encumbered by useless mental and physical baggage, if I died more often. 

In some ways I have so much trust in the will of the Divine. Any seeming tragedy or hardship that befalls me – a heartbreak, a loss, an illness, a financial setback, a dream that dissolves into impossibility – even in the midst of my tears, I find myself saying, But it is God’s will, and I am learning so much from this right now. This is truly taking my soul where it needs to go. I don’t know where this dark path is leading, but God does, and I trust God. 

The external stuff, I’m often cool with (sooner or later). Everyday internal business, though, is a different story  … What am I doing here? I’m wasting my life. I’m ignoring my calling. I don’t even know what my calling is. Will I be able to pay my bills in the future? What if I never write a book / see the world / have children / make enough money to retire? What if I get sick or disabled when I’m old? I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing, but I’m sure it isn’t this. I’m going the entirely wrong way. I’m such a failure.

Into Thy hands, Father, I commit my spirit. 

When that verse was read, I thought of diving into unknown waters, leaping head first off a dock into a lake that might be freezing, that might have sharp rocks on the bottom, or be polluted with dangerous germs. This is something I regularly do. Though I can be very nervous, even scared, standing on the edge of that dock, the pull of the water on my spirit is so strong that I know I can’t do anything but dive in. To overcome my fear, or my resistance to leaving the “known” behind, I’ll often invoke a name of the Divine as I jump. 

Life can be like this. In so many moments every day, in big and small ways, I resist leaving the safety of what I know from the past. (The future, the moment that’s coming next, is scary. I could die. Or I could experience pain, and maybe I’ll WANT to die. Literally ANYTHING could be waiting to attack me in the moment that’s coming …) Instead of diving with a prayer on my breath into a stream of time that calls my soul inexorably onward, I hang on to the boards and have to be dragged off by the current while I distract myself from what’s happening. Because either way, it’s happening. But one way is exhausting, while the other is exhilarating.

Since Easter is all mixed up with multiple traditions anyway, I’m going to make an Easter resolution — or maybe call it a seed I’m planting in the wet, fertile soil: That I’ll remember this verse, this prayer, this mantra, that I’ll repeat it and try to remind myself of it whenever I’m afraid of the future. I’ll begin now. 


Pink Aura

Yesterday I went to a day spa to use the gift certificate I got for my birthday from my partner’s wonderful sister (I guess I can’t say sister-in-law, even though that’s how I think of her, because “in-law” is exactly the one way we AREN’T related!) two months ago.  And man was I ready for it — I work in a spa so I see the fancy ladies come in for their multiple services and float out the door five hours later looking absolutely blissed out.  A month into the semester I was ready to be blissed out too.

But sometimes when I do things like that, i.e., go to the spa by myself, I DON’T leave floating on a cloud; instead I feel like the cloud is inside my head.  And it is: my negative thoughts, my undeserving thoughts, my recurrent thought that I am doing everything (even relaxing) all wrong.  I had really been looking forward to this day and I really didn’t want to sink myself with self-criticism.  So while I sat in the waiting room I tried to think of a mantra for the day — something I could direct my mind to whenever it started to go off on an unhelpful track; something my brain could hold onto like the hand can hold a pebble, to ground it when it starts to worry.   The mantra I chose was simply “I love you,” repeated on the in breath and the out breath both.  Later, when I was, indeed, so relaxed that my posture resembled that of a cooked noodle, this writing came out:

I love you I love you I love you I say — to myself, I love you as I breathe in, drawing this truth up from the ground beneath the floor beneath my slippers beneath my feet — finding the love in the energy that radiates from the earth — the Earth is the “I,” the mother Gaia.  I love you I breathe out, filling the bubble of my aura with this phrase — now I am the “I” and the “you” is me too.  I just want to fill my own field with the pink glow of loving but I know that as it fills with light it will shine those waves out and have an influence on the air, the crowd, the trees, and the earth all around me — so really I am breathing out “I love you” to the whole world.


Learning to Pray

I feel like a dork sometimes, admitting the things I don’t know how to do.  Like, for example, praying.  I am learning to pray.  Last night I went to Bible study at my church for the first time (the first time I have been to a Bible study since college) because I was drawn to the topic — “Purpose, Power and Practice of Prayer.”  It was described as being for anyone who wants to improve and deepen their prayer life in any way.  When I saw that, I thought, Cool.  That’s me.  I want to improve and deepen my communication with Spirit.

Last night’s study was a beginner’s lesson in praying, addressing common fears and hangups that tend to block people’s growth and risk-taking in that area (which I never would have even thought about).  The study leader (the pastor of the church) talked a lot about the ways that some people make prayer out to be very difficult, tricky, or complicated, with specific skills required for the prayer to count, and he emphasized instead simplicity and the need to find the right way for you personally to talk to and with God.  I would say that over the past few months I’ve been becoming more comfortable talking to God in a heartfelt, sincere, and conversational way, spontaneously, with words coming from my heart. 

Something I have not really understood, though, is how to pray in a group, as they do in the church I go to — what is the attitude, the intention one should have, how do I align myself with the person who is praying aloud?  Do I silently repeat the words they say, in my head?  Do I mentally and with my heart respond, “Yes, yes, yes, yes…”?  Sometimes I felt like I was pretty much saying to God, “What she said,” and I felt like I just wasn’t getting it.  I wasn’t feeling satisfied with the experience I was having, wasn’t feeling linked up.

Tonight, after choir practice ended (with closing prayer), I was pondering this question and something came into my mind which helped me to connect with the practice.  When praying as part of a group, being led in prayer, the person can join with the circle — truly become part of it.  Become no longer the individual self.  Then the circle or the gathering becomes as one body, praying with the voice of the person leading as the voice of the body itself.  It came to me that the more I can feel the reality of being part of one body, united on a deep level in the act of prayer, the more I (or anyone) can touch the edge of the experience of the elimination of the illusion of separate selves.  It is an opportunity to communicate with God as a larger, many- souled being.  That kind of blew my mind when I stopped to think about it — the idea of a many-souled being, and being a part of that.

So that’s the way I found in to group prayer, and it resonated with me as a way to express myself in prayer with God in a way that is right for me.  I offer it in case it resonates with anyone else in a helpful way — just a different take that turned my head as it was passing through! 

Blessings and love to all, and may you all have an ever-deepening and ever-evolving relationship with Spirit!


Heartland Soul

As all the trees together are one forest ... (This is at Split Rock in MN)