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Metnaoia

The Kogi tell us, “You mutilate the world because you don’t remember the Great Mother. If you don’t stop, the world will die.” Please believe us, they say. You must stop doing this. “Do you think we say these words for the sake of talking? We are speaking the truth.”

-From: ALUNA the movie: A MESSAGE TO LITTLE BROTHER
by Charles Eisenstein

Metanoia, the transliterated Greek word often defibig_gaianed as “repentance”, has frequently been explained as turning around to go in the opposite direction. Actually, that understanding corresponds with epistrepho, and metanoia means more of a change of mind, a change of heart, a transformation. When one experience metanoia, one’s understanding and knowledge has changed and the result is a revelation which leads to “epistrepho” or repentance.

When Paul talks about spiritual things being undecipherable to the unspiritual or “unbelievers,” he’s basically talking about those who have not experienced metanoia. Metanoia is beyond our reason, our intellect, or our will. It takes place on a purely spiritual plane.

This may help explain why I find it so frustrating when discussing the care of our planet and the collective responsibility we have in caring for God’s Creation. Not that I am a spiritual guru by any means, that’s hardly the case, but, I do realize after some transformation over the years that we are brutal to our world and each other.

Along with this transformation or metanoia, one begins to remember. It’s an ancient memory, one passed on through us from the generations before, that we have been given this beautiful orb in which to live, and we have neglected our duty to care for it.

Therefore, it appears that to engage in argument about this, frustrated and angry about what seems so apparent to me, is to pray and meditate, and to also do so collectively,  I will be better off in redirecting my energy into my own understanding of the transformation that continues in me, and opening windows and doors for others to view or step through to their own experience of metanoia, than to engage in soul-sucking arguments. Building trust, not animosity will unite us more quickly, for it is, indeed, a grim situation. Perhaps we begin with bringing back the stories about the Great Mother.

(credit is given to Tammy Pruitt for her Greek lessons)

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You Are That

“As a tethered bird grows tired of flying

About in vain to find a place of rest

And settles down at last on its own perch,

So the mind, tired of wandering about

Hither and thither, settles down at last

In the Self, dear one, to whom it is bound.

All creatures, dear one, have their source in him.

He is their home; he is their strength.

There is nothing that does not come from him.

Of everything he is the inmost Self.

He is the truth; he is the Self supreme.

You are that, Shvetaketu; you are that.”

Excerpt From: Easwaran, Eknath. “God Makes the Rivers To Flow.” Nilgiri Press, 2012-04-10. iBooks. 

You ae that; I am that. The journey of what “that” is is a long one. It is our life on this plane. Settling one’s mind to discover that the Creator of the Universe resides within is probably the most important spiritual work of one’s life.

We all, as this Chandogya Upanishad speaks to, have our source in the All. Some call it God, or the Universe, or Christ, or the Source, or the Creator, and it goes on. It is hard to name this source that is beyond a name for once it is named, it is therefore captured and no longer is. But, in a finite world with the limitations we have to work with to seek this God, we use the words to try to communicate the unknown. The Christian Scriptures even describe Christ as the Word, the Logos. For me, this source is named Christ.

There are many traditions, many spiritual practices that are taught around the world, depending on where one is born in the world, that speak to the innner work of the Self. Most teach a form of meditation or prayer as a daily discipline, but specifically this must be to find God in the quiet, in the stillness. “Be still and know that I am God,” say the Christian Scriptures. 

There are two practices I find the most challenging that are important disciplines in the journey to the source within. Slowing down and practicing one-pointed attention are increasingly difficult in a world where we are having to pass laws to stop people from driving, listening to the radio, and texting all at the same time. I want to eat my breakfast and check my email at the same time. The damage my brain has suffered from years of multi-tasking as a full-time working single mother is becoming more noticeable as I age.

But, the peace I encounter by slowing down and paying attention to one thing at a time is nourishing and freeing. I will admit that detaching from these bad behaviors is a bit like recoviering from an addiciton, and like recovery, one must always stay vigilant becase the tyranny of the urgent is always beckoning to us. It is seductive and the brain will resist the practice of one-pointed attention as it fights to stay in control.

The spiritual life is a life of discipline, but it is not one of constriction and bondage. These practices free us, the real Self emerges and finds the Christ within, the life-giving Source. It is here, like the Upanishad says, that we find our home and our strength. We become no longer the tethered bird.

imageThe term, Mother of God, seems to have first been used in ancient Christian Egypt.  It appears in ancient prayer from the third century. It was a term already used for the Egyptian goddess Isis, and although it caused a bit of controversy, it was defended by Patriarch Peter of Alexandria and in 431. The term Theotokos was sanctioned by the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus explaining that since Christ was both Divine and human, that Mary, his mother was, therefore, the Mother of God.

As many people are still very uncomfortable even in this age of the concept of the divine feminine and female leadership in religious institutions, it isn’t surprising that the Mother of God is only partially acknowledged at Christmas. It’s hard to get away from the fact that Jesus was indeed born on the earth, and, therefore, that it involved a woman. We all like mothers and new babies, so we make it sweet.

But, the Mother of God takes on stronger implications than just an innocent young girl giving birth to a baby she didn’t expect. There is power in that term; wisdom and influence. A woman raised this little God into manhood. No mother merely feeds and clothes and bathes her children. Mothers instruct, guide, heal, comfort, discipline, and form their children. The Son of God took instruction from Mary. Changing diapers and bathing this boy, she was possibly the one person who was the most intimate with Jesus. (Unless, of course, he did have a consort or wife).

Jesus nursed from a woman’s breast, turned to her when hurt, allowed his body to be bathed by her, and she tended to his ilnesses. Did he learn the gentle touch of healing first from her? Did he understand the hidden power of a woman to form a child for his future life? Did he turn to her for understanding in his own confusion over the unfairness in life?

Was this what caught the interest of Julian of Norwich when she referred to Jesus as our mother, when she writes:

Thus our mother, Christ, in whom our parts are kept unseparated, works in us in various ways.

Even St. Anselm discovers Christ as his mother in a prayer he wrote:

Christ, my mother,

you gather your chickens under your wings;

and again,

Mother, know again your dead son,

both by the sign of your cross

and the voice of his confession…

 God, and the Divine Christ, are neither male or female, but embody both masculine and feminine traits. Christ is both our mother and our father. And in that we,who are disciples of this Christ, we are both mother and father to others. It is not only Mary that guides us, but that very Mother that is created by God and with us in Christ, as well.

Simple Union

O seeker, the simple union is the best.
Since the day when I met with my Lord,
There has been no end to the sport of our love.
I shut not my eyes, I close not my ears,
I do not mortify my body; I see with eyes open
And smile and behold his beauty everywhere:
I utter his name, and whatever I see,
It reminds me of him; whatever I do,
It becomes his worship.
The rising and the setting are one to me:
All contradictions are solved.
Wherever I go, I move round him.
All I achieve is his service: when I lie down,
I lie prostrate at his feet.
He is the only adorable one to me:
I have none other.
My tongue has left off impure words;
It sings his glory, day and night.
Whether I rise or sit down, I can never forget him,
For the rhythm of his music beats in my ears.
Kabir says: My heart is frenzied
And I disclose in my soul what is hidden.
I am immersed in that great bliss
Which transcends all pleasure and pain.

Kabir

While Kabir, a fifteenth-century Indian mystic and one of the world’s great poets, is claimed by others to be either Hindu or Muslim, he really is neither. He is of that place beyond the conscripts of religion, and has found God to be the Absolute One, who happens to be all and none of the world’s religions.

Mystics from all traditions talk about “union.” While language and titles may differ, the messages are the same, we are to move our lives to union with God. Sacred Scriptures unveil this revelation in the terms of each religion in order to get the seeker on the path, but eventually even the language transcends the written word and exposes the seeker to truths that rise above the world of pleasure and pain.

This poem exudes with a love that is inexplicable, but often rendered into the language of the lover. Similar poems in the Bible, the Song of Songs, speak to the union of a lover of God with God.

The seeker grows into this union and finds that it truly is to become one with, or to find the One already within, in such a way that Christ is the branch and we are its branches, we are the rocks of its foundation, we are parts of its body of which Love is the head. St. Paul uses the Phrase “in Christ” twenty-five times in his letters, referring to the unity of Christ being so intimate that it is within, not an external, superficial experience.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna speaks the same words of love as Christ:

Still your mind in me, still yourself in me,
And without doubt you shall be united with me,
Lord of Love, dwelling in your heart.

I think it is critical to listen to those on the outside of organized religion (which I do think still serves a purpose for the new seeker), and heed the mystics in their call, repeatedly throughout the centuries and which continues today, to see us as all a part of the One, The Lord of Love, and our undeniable union one with another in the God of the Universe.

Perhaps Rumi, the Sufi mystic speaks to the unity of all best in his poem, One Song, in this excerpt:

What is praised is one, so the praise is one too,
many jugs being poured into a huge basin.
All religions, all this singing, one song.
The differences are just illusion and vanity.
Sunlight looks a little different on this wall
than it does on that wall
and a lot different on this other one,
but it is still one light.

Mantram: The silent repetition of a Holy Name or a hallowed phrase from one of the world’s great religions; practiced whenever possible throughout the day or night. Ecknath Easwaran

images

The mantram is a powerful prayer tool that keeps one’s mind and heart focused the Absolute, and delivers us from rash thoughts and actions. Many spiritual leaders have taught this practice, and Western Christians are re-learning it more and more as the practice spreads. Desert mothers and fathers taught the ceaseless prayer of the heart to John Cassian, the Eastern Orthodox churches repeated the Jesus prayer, St. Paul talks about “prayer without ceasing” in his letter to the Thessalonians, and Christian contemplatives today often use the ancient Aramaic mantram “maranatha,” meaning, “Our Lord comes!”

This form of prayer keeps the ego out of the formula and avoids the emotional deceptiveness of working oneself into a froth. It links the soul to the heart of God, but I could not begin to tell you how. I can only encourage daily and constant repetition. Do you hate standing in lines? Repeat your mantram. Are you so angry that words you may regret are going to spew out of your mouth? Go for a brisk walk and repeat your mantram until calm returns to your brain. You will be much more likely to address the situation objectively. Can’t fall asleep at night? Repeat your mantram each evening, stopping the incessant chatter of your brain.

Eventually, with regular practice, the mantram begins to repeat itself. You find you are praying at every opportunity, even while doing something else. It becomes the prayer without ceasing. Your heart is constantly in prayer, and one finds that fear, anger, worry, and impatience no longer control the mind. When these troubles do return to knock on the door of your heart or mind, one quickly knows by instinct to begin the mantram.

Here are some suggested matrams, but you may find one that suits better elsewhere. Just remember, find a mantram and stick to it. Don’t change it or the spiritual progress will be very difficult. Be patient, this practice is developed and continued throughout one’s lifetime. If you are only praying for a quick fix to personal problems, you might as well search for those empty promises elsewhere. This is about drawing closer to the Divine–with the ego out of the way. Yes, life may seem to be easier to manage, but that is a byproduct, not the purpose. The purpose is the I AM.

Another suggestion:  consider choosing a mantram from a faith tradition you know well. We too often think another practice is more exotic than the one we were born into or have practiced for years, but I am afraid we are too often enchanted with the other and westernize or consumerize other’s traditions and it can be a bit offensive. For example, if you are not Native American, there is very little chance that you will truly understand the spiritual practices of the First Nations people. Not to say that you cannot learn one from another, but Westerners have a bad reputation for trying on different cultures like changing clothes. We cannot buy or steal our spirituality. Let it emerge and learn to accept where you are and what you have been given. Conversely, if a mantram is given to you, receive it.

Mantrams:

Jesus (the Holy Name is Christian tradition)

Ave Maria (Christian)

Lord Jesus Christ, Have mercy on us (Orthodox Christian)

Rama (Holy Name in the Hindu tradition–Ghandi’s mantram)

Om (Hindu symbol of the Absolute)

Om mani padme hum: (Buddhist tradition,  “the jewel in the lotus of the heart”)

Barukh attah Adonai(Jewish for “Blessed art thou, O Lord”)

Maranatha: (Aramaic word in Christian tradition)

…and many more

Meditation

I have come to believe more and more that we are what we think. We can create chaos or peace by giving way to the control of our minds or by training our minds so that we are in control of our thoughts.

I find that the first thing I say to people who enter my office with sorrows or troubles or worry, asking for help, “Learn to meditate.”

There is a very definite purpose in prayer, especially corporate, and worship, but for ones own spiritual development one must spend a dedicated amount of time daily, twenty to thirty minutes, in meditation. And I recommend learning a spiritual passage or prayer from one of the world’s mystics, memorizing it, and bringing the mind back, and more gently back, each time it wanders. It requires discipline, but you will find freedom.

The tyranny of my thoughts of fear, worry, and misdirected anger has plagued me and I have always turned to God for guidance. And the simple answer is always, meditate. You will learn to still the mind and its relentless harassment, and you will also become the prayer you repeat over and over again.

The only work is keeping that daily appointment. Simple, yes, but oh how the mind puts up a fight! It can be daunting at first, but hold steady and do it anyway. Meditate rain or shine, happy or sad, tired or full of energy. It is the path to freedom and it is the path to the still small voice of God.

cup of waterLast Wednesday was one of the most amazing days of my life although no one thing was exceptional. I had had a month of the doldrums, my usual after the holiday blues, and had struggled to regain my schedule and discipline of prayer and meditation.

I began the day very early to drive an hour and a half to my weekly art class at Glassell School of Art in Houston. Then, I was going to head to work, including an evening rehearsal, and a scheduled dinner with a co-worker. I anticipated being drained by the time I got home late that night.

But, as the day progressed, I began to think, “Something really weird is going on here. There is just a little magic to every ordinary event of the day.” I can’t really explain that “the sun is just a little brighter, the light a little more crisp, the sounds just a bit more harmonic” thing that happens but she it does, I’ve learned to sit up and pay attention. It’s rare, but unforgettable.

So, I wake up with my glass empty, and drop by drop, it’s overflowing by the time I went to bed. And nothing happened that would make headlines or even a Facebook post, but it was magical, drop by drop.

An unexpected kind remark as I leave the house, a call on the way to class from a friend, meeting new students from around the world in class, an unknown woman who spoke only broken English dropping off $17 to give to someone in need, thoughtful actions by co-workers, praise from my boss, intellectual intrigue with another co-worker, the joy of practicing music with a bunch of quirky folks whose only joy in the week sometimes is playing with the band, saying goodbye to a friend that turns into a stimulating conversation that completely abolishes me feeling sorry for myself and, not by any effort on my part, turns into a joyful sending off and affirming of my own calling, coming home to laughter. Drop by drop by drop and my cup was more than full.

So? I still can’t explain it, but each little thing I mentioned (and there was much more) was really nice, but there was something around the edges, a sort of “are you paying attention, because I am going to blow your socks off with what you might think are ordinary occurrences.” A sense of magic around the edges. That’s the only way I know to explain it, so by mid day when I am looking at the receptionist at work and she’s staring back at me and we’re both wondering if we had just encountered an angel because the interaction with the woman who had just walked through the door from the street was so, just so “magical,” I knew I was being reminded that drop by drop, one little tiny kindness, or laughter, or joy, or phone call, or comment, can be the next drop in someone’s cup that makes it spill over.

God can make the most mundane of days a magical experience that is really inexplicable, but absolutely amazing, if we pay attention. And for no other reason, sometimes, than for the sheer joy of catching our surprise when we notice our overflowing cup.