Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Placing Myself - in the Intersection or dying by the Roadside

Bear with me, this post might be tedious.

Yesterday I wrote the beginnings of a whiny poem in my other blog after talking to Jen and thinking I was ready to man-up and finish this semester. Today I journaled about how angsty I'm feeling. I talked myself out of quitting school by remembering that I don't want to work retail forever. It's okay in your early twenties, but after that it doesn't make sense. I need to at least graduate by 23 (that gives me an extra year to mess with).

I started following a fellow young poet's new blog and remembered the days when my blog used to be happy and insightful, or at least insightful. So I went back and looked at old posts of mine.

The most recent insightful post was October 29th. I wrote about living in the "I am" rather than the "will be." And I found a way to be comfortable with who I am. I tried that approach last night and it did not work. I absolutely hate who I am, because who I am has no intrinsic value. I am just a shell waiting to give birth to what will be.
October 11th was both insightful and optimistic. I had an idea of what I wanted and how to get there. Sadly, that "how" burnt itself out as the time passed.
September 25th was a good one. But the thing that makes it different and maybe vaguely irrelevant is that I used a principle found in a book that my friend Kendal thinks I should throw out. If you've read very much of my stuff, you've seen me reference this book time and time again: The Lotus Still Blooms by Joan Gattuso. In that post, I quoted her: "What you focus on expands," and said that I was smiling a lot because I focused on grace and possibility. I would argue that the book helped me keep a good outlook.
September 16th had a lot of ideas and plans. I was still optimistic then.
But I think the fact that I have forgotten, or rather completely rejected, what I wrote on September 9th is the reason I stay so upset. In that post, I quoted Rainer Maria Rilke who I internet-researched after reading a couple of chapters in The Lotus Still Blooms. "Try to love the questions themselves, Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now because you would not be able to live them." (Rilke) And then I said,"success is a process, not a product and life is a journey, not a destination." I realized, "My spirit is getting stronger - probably because I am becoming more sensitive to it. Yoga does that. I am in pursuit of Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. I am in pursuit of the balance between belief (in Christian principles) and understanding (of the innerworkings of the Universe)." Now I'm sure that I have more than one Christian friend, my pastor included, who thinks it's imprudent to let my spirit rest in a text (Lotus) that calls itself the intersection between Buddhism and Christianity, but all I can say is that when I was practicing like a person who lives in that intersection, I was happy and now that I'm trying to be a complete, 100%, no-holds-barred, no teraphim-listening (Zechariah 10:2 in the King James Version) Christian I am back to thoughts of wanting to quit.

The inflexibility of Christianity makes me want to give up. Last night I cried hysterically and told GOD I couldn't do it anymore. Today, I have managed not to cry but I still want to to quit.
To be fair, I was warned about this. Pastor said there would be a time when I wouldn't want to push anymore (using the birth metaphor), but if I stopped that something would die or at least be permanently damaged. The only thing I have right now is a fear of damaging the dream that GOD gave me to give birth to. I want/need that dream to become reality, but I don't know how to make it through the process without referencing The Lotus.

"What the Buddhists teach is a soul science. 'Buddhism promotes understanding, not belief. Christianity promotes belief, not understanding'" (Robert Thurman).  
"'All the effort must be made by you; Buddha only shows the way'" (The Dhammapada)
"Right effort is knowing that the only sacrifice is to give up that which has no reality."
"We all need to engage techniques and formulas that appeal to reason and lead to higher states of awareness."
"For this material to have any true meaning, it must be embraced intellectually, because it is reasonable, psychologically sound, and it just makes sense."
The Five Aggregate Exercises
The Four Immeasurables
The Eight-fold Path

Oh my gosh...Just typing out those things that I've read several times before makes me feel better. The idea of giving up that which has no reality sets lightly on my spirit. It makes sense.

The problem is that Pastor says, and Kendal agrees, that things like that book are teraphim.
Zechariah 10: 2 "For the teraphim have spoken vanity, and the diviners have seen a lie; and they have told false dreams, they comfort in vain: therefore they go their way like sheep, they are afflicted, because there is no shepherd."
Pastor explained teraphim to be evil beings dressed up as angels of light. Idols that take the place of GOD, ideas and thought patterns that subtly counteract the truth.
In the first part of that verse, the instances where I struck words out, the teraphim are obviously the bad guys. The second part, that I underlined and italicized, depicts people being led astray by the teraphim, afflicted because there is no shepherd.

So my confusion/irritation/uncertainty lies in the fact that I take comfort in something, The Lotus Still Blooms, other than Bible. It is sometimes contrary to the Bible and sometimes it quotes the Bible and makes what seem to be perfectly acceptable parallels. My book fits Pastor's description of teraphim and yet I find the following of this particular teraphim easier, better, more constructive than the angst I feel without it.

This is a pretty weighty discussion. I understand if you opt out, but if I tag you on Facebook, please know that it is because I want your scholarly, or faithful, opinion, not because I'm trying to bring you around to my way of thinking.

1 comment:

  1. Najah! Sorry that it is now May, but I'm just now catching up on your past brilliance. I've got a couple of thoughts here, based on my current reading (Finding Our Way Again, by Brian McLaren). They may be half-baked, but I'll forget them if I wait to respond.

    You keep talking about spirituality (especially as seen in Buddhism) and Christianity as two seperate things. Are they? Should they be different? WHY are they seperate? I feel like Jesus was a pretty spiritual dude, and not at all religious or strict or stifling.

    I'm willing to bet that early Christians practiced a lot of spirituality very similar to The Lotus stuff, with the exception of total self-denial; that would be the Gnostics' creed. God created all things to be good -- body, desires, and spirit... they just got corrupted in the Fall and must therefore be maintained.

    Other cultures still ebrace some of the ancient practices.

    But modern Americans have no place for them. Why? McLaren would say trace the reason to our cultural movements -- we are just coming out of an austere, logical, era in which everything is based in logic and science, and because of this science, there SHOULD BE an answer for everything... thus dismissing the need for the Questions, and the Journey, and the Waiting, and the Being.

    Unfortunately, we live in a postmodern age in which we value traditional practices, and Being, and Questions - in fact, we HATE HATE HATE answers (especially when they're black and white), and the American church hasn't caught up. I think this is where a lot of the dissonance is coming from, and why the 'religious' answer-sh, Sunday-schooly part of Christianity is so repellant to so many of us.

    I guess what I'm trying to say with waaay too many words is: you are exactly right to be asking questions and pushing back. Parts of Christianity are just as man-made as Lotus, etc., and it is foolish to accept it without working it out for yourself (Phil 2:12). On that note, as Paul himself says, EVERYTHING - Christian or not - has SOME truth in it. (See Romans and Titus.) I think Buddhism has some strengths that modern Christianity has forgotten.

    Ultimately, it is a heart thing, and a devotion thing, and a God-thing. And I think God far exceeds anything we could make Him to be.

    Press on.

    - Natalie
    (Your Biggest Fan :D)