It’s true. I long for transformation. So you can imagine my delight when I stumbled upon 8 cutting-edge techniques. I don’t want to consider the drudgery of living day in and day out as the same person, because I long for the possibility of becoming, rather than just existing. Sometimes this is difficult when done within the confines of our closest relationships, because there is this idea that everything there is to know about me already exists, end of story. But the data is far from complete. Everyone is evolving whether we choose to acknowledge this or not.
I was told by more than one relative that as a child, pre-verbal, I would hold my breath when I was unable to communicate my needs. Most everyone interpreted this behavior as hostile. It was one of those stories that surfaced at every family gathering, “remember when you used to hold your breath, beet red face, eyes bulging, what a hoot,” actually it was totally mortifying, and “no I do not recall.”
It made me wonder why people take such pleasure in keeping poor models of behavior alive, especially the cringe worthy details, often disguised as humor. I realized much later, after having children of my own, how unusual it is for an infant to hold her breath out of frustration. It made me wonder if my needs were so unusual or simply not being met? I was born in the 60’s which explains a lot.
I started to pay attention to the stories that surface at family events. It quickly became apparent how we use stories as shields to protect ourselves. I recently caught myself in the middle of an embarrassing tale about one of my children at a family dinner. OMG, it hit me mid-sentence, but I was able to reconstruct the ending, letting the mud land on my own face. I looked at the storyteller, me, and realized I was trying to shield myself from my responsibilities, as if a magician distracting the focus of her audience, so I could pull a damn rabbit out of a hat. A miserable feat for all concerned.
How can I redeem myself in the wake of this awareness? It is obviously reckless to speak from a mindless space but I like what Rumi advises, “to go beyond the field of right and wrong doing. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.” How do we compassionately encounter each other when we are all drowning in the same massive whirlpool? I call it the human condition. Maybe throw life preservers instead of anchors? There’s a thought.
I’ve come to believe the word repentance or metanoia is the most misunderstood word on the planet. It means to “go beyond the mind” or “into the larger mind.” Cynthia Bourgeault says, “It means to escape from the orbit of the egoic operating system, which by virtue of its own internal hardwiring is always going to see the world in terms of polarized opposites, and move instead into the nondual knowingness of the heart, which can see and live from the perspective of wholeness.” I had to read that five times before it started to sink in, but once it did, it left a gaping hole.
I am irrational by nature, possessed by primitive emotions, and passions. It takes enormous concentration for me to flip a situation, see it from the perspective of other, reserving judgement, with wholeness of heart. This requires mindfulness, when most of the time I’m lazy, and prefer to be reactive. I realize anger is a moral response, but it is an important emotion, because it signals a conflict between what I want, and what is actually happening. The secret is developing the maturity to set aside my own primal desires in order to love you more fully.
I lose half my readers when I talk about Jesus, but stay with me, the best is yet to come. Jesus’ main message was one of ethical transformation through a radical change of heart. They killed him because his ideas were so powerful. What they failed to realize was the potency of his teachings. They remain integral components of change if we take the time to understand them in a modern context. It’s not as painful as it sounds. Famous last words, “forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
I started searching for a new strategy, hoping to enact radical change in myself, only to become willingly indentured to these concepts. If I look at the Beatitudes (Matthew 5: 1-12) from the perspective of radical change they have a highly applicable wisdom. This is based on a chapter from The Wisdom of Jesus by Cynthia Bourgeault. They all start with Blessed are… followed by the result, for theirs is… Simplicity is part of the appeal, there are eight, which means regeneration, or new beginnings in biblical terminology.
1 – Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. If I am full of myself there is no space for God. When I empty myself of prideful, self-serving, egotistical notions I make room for transformation. Humility is the main requirement, the outcome is mindful living, present, open to the things I normally do not see.
2 – Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. This is my heart in a total free-fall, completely empty, desperately reaching for that which has been taken from me, my beloved. Bourgeault says to mourn is by definition to live between the realms. A brutal form of emptiness but this is where you find God. “And just as ice must melt before it can begin to flow, we, too must become liquid before we can flow into the larger mind,” explains Bourgeault. The outcome is comfort.
3 – Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. This is about learning to be gentle, kind, inclusive, “spiritually domesticated,” like pets, but of God. Rough! Rupi Kaur says, “learning to not envy some else’s blessings is what grace looks like.” Celebrating the good fortune of others is an expansive practice but so is holding space for loved ones to grow. “This is how we inherit the earth instead of destroying it,” claims Beourgeault.
4 – Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. This is my desire “to be anchored in God’s own aliveness,” Beourgeault. And guess what? This yearning I have for God is reciprocated. Meister Eckhart says, “the eye with which you see God is the eye with which God sees you.”” I will find exactly what I seek. The important thing to remember is how I connect with my fundamental yearning for God? This is not only how we become saturated with divine love but how we should love each other.
5 – Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. This is a form of exchange. When I receive mercy I am able to be merciful. Beourgeault says, “mercy is not something God has, it’s something that God is.” I can easily understand this beatitude as a parent, but more importantly as a spouse, friend, and member of the human family.
6 – Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. This has nothing to do with purity, chastity, or virtue. Purity means singleness or a heart that is not divided explains Beourgeault. My ability to see God is directly related to my alignment with the will of God. Jesus flagged this beatitude as a core praxis. This is not about sexual abstinence, it about seeing with a clean, and clear lens. Windex to the rescue.
7 – Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God. This happens when I no longer judge others as good or bad, winners or losers, for me or against me, seeking communion with my fellow travelers. A peacekeeper is a source of calm in the chaos of life, subservient to the needs of others, willing to broker connection rather than discord. The outcome is that of a child, full of love, and compassion, one that has learned to breath.
8 – Blessed are the persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. This can be the best teacher of all, when I am being persecuted, but the aggressor is unable to find “me,” because I am one with the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. I love this image. It might be a painfully slow process, letting go of myself, my needs, my desires, but there is a radical sense of freedom that comes with hearts transformed by love.
Change requires intentional practices, fostering mutual love, and connection with one another. Especially our enemies. Oprah says, “work to find common ground, assume nothing,” she says, “at the root of any personal drama lies assumption.” The Beatitudes require an enormous amount of focus, this is not my natural state of being, but an immensely powerful on-going praxis.
I was not born virtuous, this is learned behavior, and the Beatitudes are poignant teachings when it comes to matters of heart. Frederick Buechner says, “see what’s there, not what you expect to see. See what is really present in your life. See yourself, see each other.” It is not possible to move forward when anchored to the past, freedom must allow for growth, without rancor, or judgement. As Rumi wisely stated, I’ll meet you out there.
Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be the miracle. Phillips Brooks
I’m Living in the Gap, drop in anytime.