I’ve started in a book group that’s reading Caroline Myss’ book Entering the Castle — it’s based mainly on the writings of St. Teresa of Avila (along with drawing on other mystics in other religious traditions). The idea of the book is to teach readers how to follow the mystic’s path while living in the modern world — to become “mystics without monasteries,” as she puts it — ultimately to arrive at the mystic’s true goal, the life lived in identification with the divine soul. Which is, in essence, union with God.
You know, within the last couple of months I committed myself, with witnesses, to a path of mysticism and a path of ministry. I did these things because I felt a strong inner call, and praying about it, I felt I received clear and abundant signs that it was the right thing to do. I can admit now that I did not make these commitments with a full understanding of what they would demand of me. I also felt I could not choose otherwise. It was not a question of logical consideration. In fact I find it really hard to explain the reasons why I chose these commitments, and so I am more comfortable keeping them to myself.
I agreed to marry my partner after only two and a half weeks of dating for similar non-reasons — realizing well into the journey that my commitment to this union would really require of me that I grow a lot, that I face my own buried dysfunction, that I learn to think less of my small self, to become more selfless. And to be extremely flexible.
So now that I have been a spiritual bride and taken new vows, first of all, I find all my shit getting stirred up — all that stuff that keeps me from truly being available for service. In the last few weeks I’ve had some really painful experiences of struggling with lack of forgiveness (for myself, others, situations…). Another area that’s been triggered is my old social anxiety, feeling ill at ease and self-conscious in social situations, like I’m always making the wrong move. And of course, writing all this and recalling the ways I have been chastising myself reminds me that self-acceptance remains one of the big areas where I still have a lot to learn.
In the midst of all this, Caroline Myss’ book comes along. I find as I begin to read it that the promises of the introductory chapters comfort me in some deep way — they seem to hold out hope to my soul that there is direction and guidance available — that there is peace that can be found — indeed, by following a path the entry gate of which I’ve already passed through.
They also kinda scare the crap out of me.
I realize that I actually am not a little afraid of going down that path. I’m a little scared of the journey in and of itself. What will it reveal to me about myself that is not acceptable to God? What will it insist that I do? What will it force me to give up? Will I feel those things as difficult or painful, or will they simply arise in their proper time as natural next steps, easy and joyful to take?
How will following this path change me? … I notice that this human life of mine, with its aesthetic arrangement of material comforts, its intellectual pursuits, and its interpersonal relationships organized into the predominating social structures of the day … this small life of mine, put together with so much energy and attention … it’s compelling, it distracts me away from the spiritual path. It pretends to be in competition. My small self reads of the union of the soul with God through the effacement of the ego, and thinks of its comfortable apartment life, and thinks that that would be painful to sacrifice, it would be hard to let go, and my small self is unsure that the metaphysical rewards will be worth the discomfort of growth and change.
I wonder now if this is what The Lord of the Ringsis really about. I’ve been re-reading the series this summer — I read it all the way through several times as a teenager, but haven’t looked at it for a long time, and I just got the urge to revisit it and see what my current self makes of it. I was curious to see if I would find its meanings and lessons changed as I read them from a new vantage point in life. So now I’m thinking about Frodo’s journey as a nice metaphor for the journey of the soul. (I know lots of people have suggested religious interpretations of the series before — I’m not arguing for a critical interpretation — just saying that as another version of the archetypal story of the Hero’s Journey, as a story, it can help us understand that othet heroic journey that is inward, toward the divine spark within.) Frodo signed on for a dangerous journey into a completely unknown wild, answering, when called, from his heart, not his head. He took it on for the good of all — surrendering his own will and accepting that his death was likely with deep courage and faith. There was something in him that was unwavering — that, when he was surrounded by total darkness, and all of his hope was gone, that nonetheless continued putting one foot in front of the other, until there was nowhere further to go. And when he got there it turned out that the goal could not be accomplished by his own power at all, but only through the intervention of a power greater than himself — what might have been called, in the context of the story, destiny.
I don’t think, here in the West, that we really understand the meaning of destiny anymore. It’s only through reading the works of Indian and Middle Eastern writers that it’s even beginning to dawn on me that there is a big gap there in my (and our) cultural understanding. But there is something about both the way I met and married my partner and the way I came to the spiritual path I’m embarking upon today that has a feel of destiny. What that means to me is that I have a feeling that there is some purpose in these meetings, that some piece of some plan is clicking into place, that, to put it simply, some good will come of it. At these times I’ve felt the elusive edge of a sense that all our souls are part of a great … perfection, an extremely complex and delicately balanced story that is unfolding exactly as it should, the only way it ever could, toward our evolution, toward our highest good.
This barely-touched sense of rightness, totally inexplicable though it may be, still gives me enough willingness, courage, and excitement to put one foot in front of the other down the path into the utter mystery.
Thanks to you for allowing me to share this with you.
Love and blessings,