Homunculus

This rib cage

pushing outward with the inhalation.

There is this vista within.

 

In my beating heart.

In that fist-sized pound of muscle.

There is a wide open field.

 

There is a wide open field!

See that figure, there.  Not in the center.

The grasses all dance at his knee caps.

 

The clouds roll by slowly so far above him.

In this vista within me.

Where my rib cage opens wide and closes narrow, like a bellows.

 

Zoom in on the man in the field within me.

Close in on the center of his chest.

Pass through the fabric of his shirt.

 

Slide within his chest.

He breathes too.

Find that vista within him.

 

There is a field

There, too.

I stand in that place.

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Just breathe

What if every time we breathed, we were saying God’s name?

Richard Rohr just exploded my brains with this possibility.  (It was quite messy.  Sorry about how my brains splattered the book case, by the way.)  It begins with the word that we often translate as Yahwew.  In ancient Hebrew, vowels aren’t written down; the reader is left inferring whichever ones go in.  So as it is written, God’s name ends up being something like ‘YHWW’.  Apparently, in Hebrew, these are the only consonants that don’t employ the tongue or allow the lips to close; making the sounds is an imitation of breath itself.

This is a small, thing.  Perhaps even a stretch, to go from the sounds to the idea that it is a breath.  But…  BUT!  If it is right, there are so many incredible ramifications of this idea…

Rohr begins with the idea that the first thing we do, when we leave our mothers’ wombs, is to say God’s name.  And the last thing we do, before we leave this world, is to say God’s name.  And the thing we do, millions of times, forever, over and over in our lives: we say God’s name.

He is way smarter than me.  He has probably spoken about the following things, which also seem to flow out of the idea that God’s name is something like breath itself.  But the following observations are my own:

The thing we all know to do in times of panic, is to breathe: we say God’s name.  The foundation of nearly all the great contemplative prayer, meditation, and mindfullness traditions is the breathe: God’s name…

The bible is filled with God breathing into things.  In chapter 2 of Genesis, God brings life to Adam by breathing into him.  How awesome and crazy to think that God would say his name, and that this would bring life to our original ancestor.  One of the things that makes me reel, about this possibility, is the way it paints a picture of God’s self existence; the way it points to the idea that God creates out of nothing; it is only his own very name which gives birth to man.

Going backwards a bit, into chapter 1 of Genesis, there is another event.  It was one of those wierd times when a bunch of translations of the bible all went to have a steel caged wrestling match to determine who’s right.  Because God is hovering over the waters, and sometimes it is God breathing, and other times it is God floating, and sometimes it is the wind.

And this leads to the possibility of the wind!

Wind is a sort-of breathe, of course.  Often a symbol of the holy spirit.  And Jesus is of course a word, a primal word from God.  What word could he be?  Could he be anything other than God’s own name?  Here, maybe, is a snap shot of the trinity, one and three, distinct and indistinguishable: God’s self, God’s wind, and God’s breathe/name…  Am I grasping yet?  Maybe, but I have this whole idea about the verse that says all scripture is God-breathed, or (divinely inspired) Because this leaves us with the paradox that the bible itself is in fact just a thousand-page long statement of God’s name, over and over and over…

Sometimes I feel dizzy and awestruck and just amazed to be in the middle of this crazy creation.

Mindfulness in a “Good” World.

Like any good college student in Southern California, I spent a couple years as a Buddhist.

This was really the first time I was exposed to meditation.  It was a powerful thing.  Sometimes, too powerful.  Incredibly profound spiritual experiences while meditating kind-of scared me away from meditation.  That is a story for another time.

Despite those negatives, I found meditation powerful and helpful.  When I began following Jesus, I spent some time assessing these practices and my motivations for engaging in them.  I have had this on-again, off-again relationship with spiritual practices.  Sometimes, I have engaged in things very much like the old meditations I used to engage in.  Other times, I have pursued other more intentionally Christian disciplines…

If I were to be honest, I would say that most of the time, I haven’t done either.  Most of the time, I have just steered clear of all this stuff.  Some of my reasons relate to myself as a person: I am not sure that the reasons I would do these things are the right reasons.  Some of them are more collective: Christianity as a whole is quite split over what to do with these sort-of practices, particularly when they are borrowed from other religious traditions.  Perhaps an even more important reason is sheer laziness.  To do these things requires a sort-of effort.  Perhaps you are like me.  Even the things that have a pretty quick pay-off, sometimes it is hard to get myself to do them.

Meanwhile, the secular world is starting to grab on to the value of spiritual disciplines.  Mindfulness, for example, is a buzz word these days.   Ted Talks and  newspaper articles continue to list the benefits of creating times in our busy lives where we are not thinking, where we are just be-ing, just breathing.

benefits-of-meditation

I hate it when the Church is on the wrong side of things.

As a Christ-follower, I have always been open about how spiritual practices help me to get closer to God.  Mother Theresa had this mind-blowing description, of what prayer was like for her.  She said that sometimes, she listens to God.  The interviewer asked her what she was listening to.  She answered that she was listening to God listen to her.  I love that: sitting in silence, with God, listening to God listen to me.   Like those wonderful times when you are sitting on a blanket with a good friend, and maybe the sun is setting, or there is a breeze, or the scent of something lovely wafts to your nose, and you are not talking, and you are just filled with the conviction that everything is pretty o.k. in the world.

Budhist, and secular, and other forms of meditation speak a lot about another benefit of meditation.   This is one I continue to feel.  It is not one that my brothers and sisters in Christ are always on board with.  After I am engaged in prayerful meditation, I see the world differently.   It is not so much that they help me to see the world anew, it is something different.  The original, (way better) film version of Willy Wonka features one of his research prototypes.  It is a little piece of gum, or candy, or something, that replicates an entire meal.  The actress does this incredible job, as each course comes in, of helping us to see her joy and excitement as the flavor of each course strikes her taste buds.

Prayerful meditation is like that: I see things, and hear things, and smell things, and taste things in a way that is delightful and surprising.  I feel the surprised joy of the character from Willy Wonka.

I am beginning to suspect that the reason that we don’t want to talk about this benefit of prayerful meditation is that we have perverted the gospel.

I could ramble on for a dozen pages about ‘why’ it seems like this came to be.  I think maybe I will continue next post with this idea.  For now, I will try and be (uncharacteristically) brief.

Their was a conspiracy that broke the meaning of the gospel.  One member of the conspiracy was Greek understanding of the world.  The Greeks, through folks like Plato, idolized ideas and disdained the “dirty” world we live in.  The second conspiracy was a short-sightedness in theology.  We turned Jesus promise of the redemption of all things in to a ticket to some ethereal plane beyond the world.   The third was the political landscape.  It benefitted some people with a lot of influence to mantain their power, position, and prestige.  These folks wanted so spin Christianity in a way that lead to people focusing on the next world at the expense of this one.

The result of this conspiracy is a Christianity that is out-of-balance.  It tries to ignore that when Jesus came back, he did so in a body.  That body ate.  It could be felt by Thomas, who explored its wounds.  It has taken communion, which might have been a hearty carnival for the senses; a feast, and it has turned this into a chomping a flavor-less cracker and drinking a sip of water; it complicates the meaning of pretty straight foreward pronouncements, like the created world is good, and the kingdom of heaven is among us.

I have come to believe that we are born to be in the world.  (God had hoped it would not be broken, though.)  I have come to believe we will spend eternity on a restored and urgraded Earth.  I have come to believe that the biblical injunctions to enjoy the bounties of this world are to be taken at face value.

And when I connect with God he gives me new eyes to see the world around me.  He gives me new ears to hear it.  The world is good, the kingdom is among us, and eternity can began right here, right now.