I have a question for you. When was the last time someone loved you for YOU? Let me break that down further: when was the last time you were completely vulnerable, completely yourself and experienced love from someone else or yourself?
In Richard Rohr’s book “Everything Belongs”, he mentions a bit of graffiti written in an area where homeless people lived and it read: “I watch as how foolishly man guards his nothing—truly keeping us out. Truly, God is hated here”. How much do you feel hated by yourself? We are all caught in this system I described earlier that is an expelling system with winners and losers, saints and sinners and all that distracts us from the hunger to connect with ourselves on a deep level. So where does someone begin to engage with their real self?
Richard Rohr gives us a great starting point although he doesn’t intend to. I love his book but it is a bit of a hodgepodge of wisdom and it is why I am parsing it out for you to become workable, transformative pieces. This great starting point for us is something he calls having a beginners mind. Though we don’t want to be trapped in the mind, it is good for us to begin there because it is our mind that is reading these very words. Our mind has thoughts which trigger feelings that go in and out of us like a grand central station. The older we are, the more experiences we have, and the ego can easily say “I heard that before'“ and “Been there, done that”. I will never forget when I first learned about the Christian concept of grace through a lady named Val. She was super excited for me to learn about grace in a new way through a pastor on a particular radio show. When I heard him for the first time, it broke me out of a severe depression. However, in sharing the news with her, Val was happy but also remarked (almost in a fashion of a kid kicking a stone) that this was further proof something was wrong with her. In prying further, she said she had “heard” all this before and it still did little for her.
It all really does come down to having a beginners mindset because transformation will both tickle your fancy and kick your fancy-ass. The way to start? You have to start by putting your protective parts of your ego at ease. The protective parts of the ego will say change is too scary, stay where you are so you don’t get hurt. Another part will be one that wants you to remain productive and not waste your energy. It tells you have heard this before. You don’t have time to waste when you could be doing a whole host of other things—like watching that show on Netflix! I don’t want to get into demonizing the ego too much, at least not here. Our protective parts should be heard, validated in their concerns and comforted. Only you can do that best. You need to be in touch with all your experience and your age to let those parts know on a real level that you got their back and that you won’t let any harm or huge waste of time happen. Otherwise, these parts will keep you from going forward the best they know how.
You won’t learn anything new if you are not open to seeing what you may have missed along the way. Jesus himself said we must approach life with the attitude of little children. Children are curious, open to new things and happy for an adventure even if it involves old territory as long as it is shown to them in a new way. How willing are you to learn again? IF I told you that there was a much more freeing way to drive your car, cook your meals, put your shoes on, how interested would you be? You have to be that kind of ready because some of what you will need to hear may cover old territory that a part of you may resist. The key is not to resist back but comfort that side of you and promise to address those concerns as they come up.
Richard describes a beginners mind as “a posture of eagerness” and “spiritual hunger”. Characters like Jesus and all the great mystics only spoke kindly to those who had a “I want to see” posture. They also had harsh words for those who claimed to “have seen” with a haughty and lascivious posture. We must not just start with a beginners mind; we must keep a beginners mind our entire lives! We must always be willing to change but also be willing to see what we have already seen anew.
We have to be willing change. This willingness, Rohr states, comes with the realization that we are both a mixture of light and dark—that the world itself is of the same mixture. It is important to emphasize here a controversial notion in light of our religions, I believe. Our religions instruct us, if not demand of us, to separate out the light and dark and to condemn the dark parts of us. Richard and others impress upon us that this is not our job to do. It will short circuit getting to YOU and self love. We will get into this more but here’s an interesting quote from “Everything Belongs”: “We can’t think our way into new ways living.. We must live our way into new ways of thinking”. In other words, all the wonderful rule setting, standards in the world, and even positive mantras will not necessarily have you living the new life you seek. You have to rebel a little against religion and live life. You are not rebelling against God, you are throwing yourself into God’s hands and out of man’s. By living life, you gain the wisdom for a new way living. God meets us in the living not in strict adherence to words in a book.
Richard claims that Jesus will do the separating (using the example of the wheat and the chaff) while Cheri Huber of “There Is Nothing Wrong With You” encourages us to not pick and choose that which to cherish about ourselves and that which to eliminate but embrace it all. There is a bit of difference there and similarity between the two authors. Where Richard says leave it to God to do the separating out, Cheri says to let love take its course. Not a huge different but a little. The main take away I see is that we are not to judge it but embrace ourselves as we are. Richard calls this “hanging in the balance” of having both wheat and chaff in us. He makes an interesting correlation to this with Jesus hanging between the two thieves on the cross and forgiving them on the spot. So we too must use patience, compassion, forgiveness and love rather than some kind of standard of perfection or being blind to our faults as we live life. As a deeply religious young man myself, I thought I could escape that by playing by the rules that I felt God outlined in my religion. Even the deep theological nice sounding ones like sanctification and grace and holiness. I lived a tortured, young life envying everyone else as they lived life while I prayed for Christ’s return so it could all be over with before I failed yet again by being too human. What an absurdity! Can you imagine a God who made us as we are and then commanded us to seal ourselves away from the world and try our best to not be the humans we were born to be because it is “bad”? Bad, when in Genesis God calls it all good?
What will short circuit the beginners mind? Richard says taking away pain too quickly, a fixation on “answers” and “solutions”, stimulation, quick fixes, entertainment. Cheri says what will disrupt this same kind of mindset is separation by desperately holding onto what we love and trying hard to eliminate what we hate about ourselves instead of embracing it all.
One last thing about the mind is what I call a tale of two minds. A small mindset and a big mindset. Neither is bad but it is important we be aware of them. Rohr describes the small mind as detail orientated, wanting to attach and figure things out and then control them. It is into the “parts” and problem solving. The big mind is more whole world connected, it is focused on openness and clarity. Where the small mind is focused on the “parts”, the big mind is focused on the “whole”. The big mind is the knower (even when we don’t really admit that we know). The small mind is the problem solver, puzzle solver.
Here’s the deal. We need both but we can’t be trapped in either of them. Rohr states, “We need the full truth of the big mind and the patient truth of the small mind but we can’t get trapped in either one”. Again, there is this message of being in a space in between two realities and not controlled by either. You can see this by people who don’t accept any mystery in life and are caught up in the rational small mindset while others are so lofty and fluffy they lack a certain realness and authenticity about them in the big mindset. Richard states “we need a contemplation that is socially engaged, tied to the earth”. Contemplation engages the big mind while social engagement and the earth engage the small mind. We must hold a balance in between both. Contemplation is the key and will be a big part of upcoming posts.
How do we begin? Back to square one. Start with a beginners mind. Are you ready to learn how to dive deep to your center and be transformed by encountering the real YOU? To become a “centered” person who travels in and out of mysteries and voids where you are required to hang in the balance of silence? Places you dared not go before because the silence and not knowing scared you off? IF you are, then hang with what you learned here for a spell, and stay tuned for more in this series coming soon!