18 August 2010

What About God?


Last night I was a Guest. Friends served a light supper consisting largely of vegetables fresh from their own garden. We sat at a beautiful wooden table in their dining room, sipping chardonnay and watching the sun fall into the Pacific from high in the Oakland Hills. Every detail of the experience was exquisite.

We haven't seen each other since I left Oakland in 2004. By dinner time, my historical narration had advanced to discussion of my recent introductions to the Landmark Forum and Non-Violent Communication (Search on any of these as keywords to access earlier relevant posts). Somewhere during the unfolding of "Life is empty and meaningless" one of my hosts confessed that she is "a worrier." She said "Horrible things happen in the world and it's not because I make them up or call them "horrible."

We talked for awhile--me offering examples of horrible events that could be viewed in a very different light by another set of eyes with a different history or driven by a different combination of needs.

Out of the blue (from my perspective), she asked "What about God?"

I don't remember where the conversation went from there, but the question returned to me this afternoon. I called a friend whose strongly Buddhism-based spiritual practice is evident even in the outgoing telephone message I heard when I called him around 4. In a calm, natural tone, his voice said, "Good Day to you. Thank you for calling. Let me know what's on your mind by leaving a message and I will get it. Thanks."

After leaving a brief invitation to come with me on Sunday for the service I will do at the Petaluma Unitarian Universalist church, I hung up and reflected on all the work both of us have done in churches--mostly UU for me; mostly Catholic for him. We are both primarily musicians. We've both had love-hate relationships with a variety of faith traditions. We've both had periods of hard-core theism and adamant agnosticism over the years.

I wrote a thesis on my personal theology as a final assignment in the Bachelor of Arts Completion (BAC) program at the CA Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) over 10 years ago. I wonder if I still have a copy of it...

A great deal of insight and inspiration are currently pouring into my life. If God is a set of beliefs in a concept that produces a feeling of safety and brings purpose and meaning to life, then I could say I am having a close encounter with God these days.

There is no sense of a distinct entity of superior intelligence or power. No question of right or wrong winds through my sensorium. I feel simultaneously held and free, in a vast, intimate unfolding.

Trainers and participants shared a ritual one night during the retreat. Various objects--dry leaves, empty bowl, silk scarf--were placed on the floor on a large cloth. Those who wished could take a turn and engage with the objects in an expression or prayer. On my turn, I was profoundly surprised to hear myself invoking "hope" verbally while feeling "full of hope." It is not a sensation I have felt for a very long time. For years, "hope" appeared in my language as "I don't do 'hope'".

"There is no safety." "I don't do 'hope'."

That's been my byline.

This afternoon, as at the retreat ritual, I'm flooded with a new sensation: I am safe and full of hope. I see my own fingerprints on the suffering of my life. I feel my heartbeat and hear my voice in the choices I make and the events of my life. I am alive. I am part of everything. These points of awareness feel like Divine presence. Like there is no further proof needed and I can breathe and smile. I am free.

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