I continue now with this challenging task of organizing the thoughts of Richard Rohr’s “Everything Belongs” and Cheri Huber’s “There’s Nothing Wrong With You” into some kind of cohesive staircase leading all my readers to another level. Perhaps another level of living above the fray in what can too often be a cruel world. It certaintly seems with the rise of tech giants which harvest our information for the use of people with evil intents to create world systems based on racism, elitism, cruelty, and division that we are fighting against a force we aren’t used to. A new enemy. A minister I heard once used to say, “New level, new devil”. It is so true. As we seemed to had been entering this age of Oprahisms, Depok Choprah grins, and Obama Care, we’ve been hit in the gut with a new level of resistance. A real underbelly we didn’t know was still there. So, it’s of upmost importance as we face this daily onslaught of cruelty disquised as patriotism that we not also be hindered by this weight of shame that there is something inherently wrong with ourselves.
Ontop of this external stress, many of us struggle with this inner stress because rarely are we ever taught how to love ourselves. A basic human need, such as self love, has been seen as “too selfish” by religious standards and “a given” by society’s standards. We have already talked about how Richard describes this 'imperial culture’ as dividing us into victors and victims, winners and losers, fatty’s and models, famous and ordinary (gays joke about this as “being basic”). We talked about the three mind sets and how this can work for us or can work against us. We know one glitch, that trickiest of variables, will always be the ego and the mind—society has played them against us.
However, to counter that, is something Richard Rohr hints at in “Everything Belongs” as true religion. If you don’t like that term, you may change your mind in a moment. Nevertheless, it really only has to do with an awakening. So, how do we position ourselves to awaken our deepest and most profound self?
One of the interesting things about Fundamentalism is it calls to you with this idea that you are so special you need to seperate yourself from others and the world in every way imaginable. While they sing of piety and whole-i-ness (holiness), they give us an ego-centric God whose children isolate themselves from the rest of the world and become, as the saying goes, “no earthly good”. Yet, Rohr, would contest fundamenalism, and I would agree. It’s taken me decades to unravel. To do so, we must be “living and fully accepting our reality”. Now, this doesn’t “feel” spiritual and is where most people run, according to Rohr. For what this means is I am to bear the mystery of both suffering and joy inside me at any given moment. This is where things like Law of Attraction, Buddism, and the Prosperty Gospel run into error. That is that suffering is something that shouldn’t exist and your mission is to either eliminate it from your existence through better faith or eliminate it as a delusion of your mind.
Ever been around people, who in the midst of your great suffering, just have to offer a solution? (guilty here!) Or tell you how lucky you are that you aren’t suffering more? Or take what you say, and turn it back on you that “there’s a light at the end of the tunnel”, so their help isn’t needed? Be blessed now you hear! And off they go leaving you under your rain cloud. Let’s face it, we are uncomfortable seeing others suffer because it mirrors our own suffering that we don’t want to face as a reality. It shows us we aren’t in control as we would like to imagine we are. Joy often comes in miracolous mysteries we gladly accept. Suffering is a mystery of God we contest. We tell ourselves that I don’t think it should exist and if it does than it means there is something wrong with me or with God. Let’s face it: Suffering scares the shit out of us. Yet, Rohr says this, “experiencing the outer edges of us, fully suffered and enjoyed, leads us back to center and essence”. It is the only way we will move through the pain to progress. Otherwise, the pain just returns magnified the next time around, as we stuff, and stuff or use mind and soul tricks to block it out, which drives us to all sorts of funky behaviors.
Recently, in August, I went through a fairly dark depression of sorts and all my tricks failed me. I was one moment a way from checking myself in somewhere. I contemplated ending my life for the first time in a long time. What got me through it? Tears. I have a hard time crying. I distract, I get busy. I laugh and joke and get “entertained”. But even that wasn’t working. I work with a therapist who does inner parts work and so that helps me to cry. It was the only thing despite Rohr and Cheri Huber that got me through. Well, not the only thing. Practicing loving myself too and putting myself around loving people when I could. Taking the energy from the anxiety of what people could no longer give me and giving it to myself is a hard lesson to learn but I’m learning it in my 40’s. Better late than never.
Besides living through our joys and pain, other helps are things like intentional solitude, prayer, yoga, walks, forms of meditation and for others sacraments that offer reflections. This positions the eyes and ears of our soul for hearing, and renewal. I know journaling works for me as well to get me to place of contemplation, reflection and centering. You might consider this as “centering”, which is a popular term. Rohr says that we only see and experience God through our humanity. Most religion either despises or dismisses our humanity. It often screams at us to seperate ourselves from our humanity as sinful and says see life only through some etheral other world. It also gives us this subtle message that God has to put on some pair of Jesus sunglasses covered in his blood to even look at us. But, that is no way to live a life. The shame of it is exhausting. To live that way, speaking from experience, you are destined to hate yourself, others and eventually God too. It doesn’t work.
Ego isn’t necessarily bad-it’s just a senstive, vulnerable part of us that our culture capitalizes on to sway us. Rohr makes this interesting comment: “You have to have an ego before you can let go of your ego. Maybe that’s why Jesus lived 30 years before talking.” Funny and true.
Rohr likes to use Jesus as an example. Whether you believe in Jesus or not, Jesus is quite a character. The only religious character that presumes to say “God is in here”. A God who moves this idea of golden temples to walls of human flesh. A god that comes in human form to experience the fullness of humanity and eventually be called “Son of Humanity” is something only other religions come close to.
God is not only here with us. We are here too. Now. We are not in the past and we are not in the future yet. Neither is, as Rohr suggests, God’s presence something to be attained in any of those realms. It is already here too. The only thing absent in us is our awareness. Rohr describes this in his other book, “Falling Upward” as though we are born with a certain amount of amnesia as to who we are and who God is. I think of it as spiritual or soul dimensia. It is through living, through joys and pains, that if we let it, will lead us to “center”, to God, and to our essence. We can’t attain it any other way, not even by reading. But, the good news is part of living are things like I mentioned: intentional solitude, prayer, mediation etc. These things all help us. Books like Rohr’s and Huber’s help us but they still won’t replace to living it out. I join you in the sadness of that reality.
In your essence, and in God’s presence, we enter a different world, where there is no time and rules don’t apply. Only listening does. It is a place of grace where striving for spiritual success doesn’t work. There is no cosmic game of “crime and punishment”, laboring for acceptance get’s you no where. It is not a certain prayer but rather a posture, suggests Rohr. I like that. It is a stance. A position. It’s not so much words; it’s listening. It is a beholding of the universe, of God much like a child beholds a parent or something charming and new. It is a stance that doesn’t say, “I know” and “I see” but is ever looking to see. Longing to hear and to be revealed in the revelling. It is about relationship with this part of ourself and God. It is not focused on results. It is only focused on relationship and connection with this mystery.
So, when Richard Rohr says “we must live on the outer edges”, he means we must be in the here and now of our humanity. Not in some form of denial that good is being withheld from us because we are bad or that heaven is only in the “by and by”. When whatever we experience comes up, we must live through it, not solve, excuse, or distract it away. We must love ourselves through it. Sometimes, I have to say, there is no one who can do it for you like yourself. Probably more often than not. There is nothing wrong with you. Only society and tainted religion has given us the message that there is something wrong with us to keep us in a fear based congo line that profits their institutions in one way or another.
So, my friends, get into this stance. Look, seek to listen with new eyes and ears. Remember what I shared earlier about the beginner’s mind. Have that mind within you. Find places where you can live through suffering with support from others but also from yourself! All you have to do is take a look at Instagram to see just how much others care what your day is like as compared to their own. Take the energy that you want to use to beat yourself up with and the energy you want to beat others up with for not meeting your needs and use it to love on yourself. Speak, pray, as a parent might to a child but now to yoursellf. Make a promise right here and now that you will love this part of yourself that feels ashamed and deeply troubled by the lack you feel and the void you are afraid of. That you will lead and love the part of you that is scared and wants answers into this new stage of your life. Speak to and comfort this side of yourself and know that tears are not only welcomed, they are encouraged.
I love this quote in “Everything Belongs” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky “If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things … you will love the world with an all-embracing love”.
If you like this series, let me know. We aren’t done yet by a long shot!