Wednesday, September 9, 2009
"Practice of the Presence of God" is a book by Brother Lawrence, one of those classics of Christian Spirituality. My friend Dave reminded me how using the one word mantra of 'presence' each day could help to get oneself out of one's head and back into the moment of awe. The idea is to thereby be God's eyes, mouth, ears, experiencing life rather than one removed, experiencing the experience of life. The latter is the 'critic' always on guard waiting to 'approve or disapprove'. Not like children who trust and learn at miraculous rates with surprisingly few catastrophes given a child's immense curiosity and faith.
The 'critic' is a common offshoot of our present society of consumerism where such emphasis is placed on 'passivity' and the 'omnipotent child' perceives his role as emperor accepting or rejecting life that is brought 'to' him. He or she doesn't participate or go out to life and certainly doesn't hold 'service' as the highest value. Unless you have the job of the emperor's food 'taster' then the job of 'critic' is less altruistic than narcissistic. Yet there is a role for the critic so long as the 'approval' rating outweighs the disapproval. In 'approving' we put ourselves at risk as we are thereby identified with that which we approve of. Those who relish disapproval seek to cowardly distance themselves from life itself and feign superiority, which of course isolates them in a web of their own imagining and self glory.
In practicing the presence one is grateful for all God's creation. While one might discern that a rattle snake is not to be played with as a puppy, the snake is not 'disapproved of' but rather, my participation in playing with it, is. Further, I may not choose to play with the snake but accept that others who may be trained in playing with snakes might well enjoy that past time. I don't disapprove of them or their participation in this odd behaviour to me. Indeed I might be fascinated.
My friend Kirk and I had coffee in Starbucks last night and discussed our belief that the negativity in the world we each know personally reflects the negativity we have not weeded in ourselves. I had more difficulty understanding this when I first encountered the idea in my 20's but now know so well that my own fearfulness on a late night street will indeed attract the predator. If instead I walk as if I have God's protection or a hidden weapon I'm least likely to be attacked by opportunistic cowardly predators. My projections, that which I put out to the universe, how my world view sees and selects from my environment attacts to me more of the same.
Having a very vengeful Jewish friend, having just seen a vengeful Jewish movie, I was about to think of Jews as collectively vengeful, forgetting for that instant all the most forgiving Jewish people I've indeed personally known. Historically there's the most forgiving of all, Jesus, a Jew but before that in the Old Testament there's the classic story of Joseph. His brothers envying him his 'coat of many colours' beat him and leave him for dead but he lives and forgives them.
Only yesterday too I met a man who ate some bad food at an ethnic restaurant so swore to me that he would never eat ethnic food again. That would certainly fix the experience for certain without chance of rebate.
I commonly know people who have a bad sexual experience or relationship and rather than move on looking to avoid the pitfalls inherrent or learn through therapy how they might change they empower the other with blame and remain fixed in the past of their trauma. I meet so many people who stopped "loving" or forsook 'intimacy' and live what Thoreau called "lives of quiet desperation'. Freud described these as 'neurotics'. It was such a very fine word for the anxiety ridden whose fears controlled and limitted their lives more than any others. Paul Simon's song, "I am a rock....I touch no one and no one touches me. " came to mind. The 'safety" of the Howard Hughes and more recently Michael Jackson is just more of the same.
I reminded Kirk of an Auschwitz survivor I'd heard of. She was an experiment of Mengeles and had had the long bones of her legs removed. She carried around after the war telling her story but carrying the message of forgiveness teaching was 'evil' didn't lie just without but 'within'. As above, so below. She was concerned that what had occurred in Germany could occur with any people so long as they projected their own paranoia, fears and hatred onto others.
Kirk was saying that he had to expell his own petty jealousies and negativities and the world he lived in would become a better place. As Scott Peck would say, this world is our kindergarden. Once we learn a lesson, we move on. The lesson of our own anger and fears keeps us trapped in a world of anger and fear until we calm our own passions. We are trapped by our petty fears and rages.
Kirk reminded me of the genius of the "Q" series in Star Trek. Ideas becoming reality. By practicing the presence of God we become calmer and quiet the reptilian brain and the animal brain that are forever scanning for danger. Calm we come in contact with the most human of our nature, that which at peace can know the peace within the universe and share in the celebration of life.