I see Him and He sees me

I’ve identified myself as a mystic but up until now haven’t tried to explain what God means to me in concrete terms. Explaining God is a difficult thing to do. The definition of a mystic is someone who has experiences of the unknowable aspect of God. Unknowable generally means unexplainable. All the prophets and many Christian saints have had mystical visions. With few exceptions, these people heard what God had to say and tried their best to make practical sense of that message for all believers. In this essay I take up that task.

“I see Him and He sees me.” This saying isn’t mine. I don’t know where it came from. I associate it with St John Vianney (1786-1859). A good friend of mine who had deep knowledge of Franciscan material said that John Vianney didn’t say it. John Vianney and I have something in common (besides the fact that we’re both Third Order Franciscans). John Vianney was a great fan of Eucharistic Adoration. I’ve spent a fair amount of time alone with the Blessed Sacrament.

I’ve spent a few moments considering how to explain the Eucharist as a Sacrament to fundamentalist Christians and gave up on that idea. When I was a fundamentalist, I went to an Episcopal church. I dismissed the rather elaborate version of the Lord’s Supper as ‘ritual’. After that initial mystical experience doing yoga at age twenty, I went back to the same Episcopal church and took communion. What was previously ritual was now liturgy. It was like someone had thrown a switch in my heart. I will leave the understanding of the difference between ritual and liturgy to the fundamentalists.

In many Episcopal churches and most all Roman Catholic churches, a small part of the consecrated bread and wine is put aside and kept in the church for use communicating sick and dying parishioners. This ‘reserved sacrament’ brings a holy presence to the church where it is kept. When I was a new Franciscan, I spent a fair amount of time in this church or that visiting the reserved sacrament. That time in my life, when I was a new Franciscan, was a time of serious change. It was in one of these visits that I came to the conclusion that ‘He sees me and I see Him’.

Mystics are first and foremost disciples. The essential aspects of living life as a disciple revolve around obedience and humility. Jesus calls and a disciple responds with ‘Yes Lord’. The path of discipleship can be difficult.

Jesus called a number of Galilean fishermen to be disciples. For most of Jesus’ disciples answering that call meat that they would:

  • Leave home, family and job
  • Wander around Judea and Samaria and other areas with Jesus
  • Strive as best I could to understand and implement Jesus’ teaching
  • Experience Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection
  • Become an apostle and evangelist for a new religion
  • Die a martyrs death in a foreign land

This list doesn’t describe how hard it can be to live the life of a disciple, but it’s probably close. There are other disciples who never leave home, whose entire spiritual battle is inside their own persons and inside their own communities.

Humility and Obedience are spiritual graces. They are gifts from God. But the life of a disciple is a life of service. Service without humility and obedience looks like something else.

The faith of a mystical disciple is renewed by contact with the Lord. St. Francis described this contact as equal parts sweetness and pain. Until recently, I would describe mystical contact as equal parts sweetness and terror. In the present moment, My Lady mediates these contacts. She is very gentle with me. I can’t speak for all mystics, but contact with God tends to be transformative. People go into such a contact one person and come out another. Activities before the contact that seem reasonable and worthy are no longer adequate.

One of the truths about Jesus that comes from looking at these issues is that continuing intimate contact with Jesus is transformative. The change from Galilean fisherman to martyr makes perfect sense when Jesus is part of the story.

And then there’s Judas.

I can’t help wondering what happened to Judas. He was there with the other disciples. He must have washed Jesus’ feet. He must have experienced Jesus’ soul touching gaze. I’m not sure what happened with Judas. The only thing that makes sense is that Jesus wouldn’t go along with whatever program Judas was proposing.

Judas’ story is certainly difficult to hear. Judas’ failures are human failures.

There are several insights into Jesus’ person and the nature of discipleship that come out of Judas’ story

  • The story of Judas says it is possible to say no to the blessing Jesus offers.
  • Jesus knew Judas had turned away from him and Jesus loved Judas anyway.
  • Jesus cared about the issues Judas brought to him. Jesus was focused on other issues. Jesus is the Good Shepherd – the shepherd of souls.
  • Finally, what I want from God isn’t what’s important in the special relationship Jesus and I have. What’s important is what he wants from me.

The church is empty.
The lights are off.
It’s just me and Jesus in this holy place.
I see Him and He sees me.

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The Kingdom of God – Continued

I’d rather these essays not be about my ongoing personal spiritual journey. If you want to know more about me, look in the ‘about’ section.

I have a soul friend. He fits the definition given in the Celtic saying “A man without a soul friend is like a body without a head”. My soul friend and I have a continuing theological discussion about the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God intrigues us. We want to understand it more thoroughly. We both recognize that it is the primary concrete result of Christ’s ministry. At the same time there is a element of mysticism in the definition of the Kingdom of God. Most of the descriptions of the Kingdom of God are presented in parables. I think Jesus deliberately left some vagueness in the definition. My guess is that the purpose of the vague definition is to allow the reality of the Kingdom of God to be flexible enough to embrace changing human needs.

The other day my soul friend said “The Gospel of John puts words in the mouth of Jesus”. This is a perfectly reasonable thing for someone who has studied the biblical scholarship which supports the idea that the Kingdom of God is central to Jesus’ ministry. The biblical scholarship which supports the idea of the Kingdom of God comes from a group of scholars that have been loosely described as ‘the Jesus Seminar’. The Jesus Seminar’s criterion for understanding the sayings of Jesus is that a saying has to be present in more than one gospel. When this criterion is applied to the gospels the Kingdom of God comes to the fore as the primary intellectual/spiritual content. At the same time, the Gospel of John recedes into the background. Very few sayings of Jesus in the Gospel of John have parallel readings in the other gospels.

My first encounter with the Kingdom of God as a theological/spiritual concept was in a book lent to me by a fellow parishioner. That book was “The Heart of Christianity” by Marcus Borg. This book knocked me on my heels – and that’s saying something. I’ve been studying the Bible since I was a child. I haven’t been to seminary, but I’ve had the next best thing in theological education from the University of the South’s theological extension course Education for Ministry. After I finished the book, I went back to my friend and fellow parishioner and pointed out that some of the content in this book was so radical it couldn’t be preached from the pulpit. Such preaching would drive people away from the church. My friend agreed that was the case. But, I said, we can present the content of the book at the church in a class as part of our continuing adult education.

The class was a huge success. We decided on six classes, with each class covering three chapters. The first class had about sixteen people. With each class, the number of people grew by about half. After the third class we had to move to a small auditorium. The final two classes had about sixty people.

I wish I could give a definitive reason why our class was so successful. But I can only guess. Marcus Borg is a talented author who presents difficult subjects in a easily digestible fashion. Beyond that, I believe the intellectual and spiritual content of the Kingdom of God as Borg presents it is very satisfying to intelligent, believing people. The widely accepted alternative interpretation of the Bible is the interpretation used by Christian fundamentalists. Christian fundamentalists believe every word in the Bible is literally true. There are a fairly large number of intellectual objections to biblical literalism. Until the Jesus Seminar put forth the concept of the Kingdom of God in my experience there had been no easily accessible way of interacting with the Bible that allowed an intelligent believer to retain an intelligent point of view. The intelligent believers in our adult education class were being fed spiritually in ways that they (and I) had come to believe were impossible to achieve.

I used to work in a computer chip manufacturing plant. When we found a better way to do things (such discoveries were often accidental), we tried our best to make that better way permanent. We would say ‘how do we institutionalize this wonderful new thing’? The obvious question for Christians and for my own church in particular is how do we institutionalize the Kingdom of God? I’m reluctant to say such an action is impossible. But it is almost impossible. To make the Kingdom of God a continuing reality in our lives, we have to be the people God wants us to be. Human beings are that good from time to time. But mostly, we’re not that good and the Kingdom slips through our fingers.

For the hardy few who will take up the task of creating the Kingdom of God in this present moment, it is necessary that you be ‘wise as serpents and harmless as doves’. The wisdom is necessary to deal with existing spiritual/political systems. There is a vast amount of energy invested in protecting existing systems. The Kingdom of God is a radical, revolutionary reality. The ‘harmless as doves’ part is needed for the extraordinarily fragile people who will want to be part of your new life.

My spiritual director says the Gospel of John puts words in Jesus’ mouth and I agree with him. The most egregious example of this speech is the ‘I am’statements. In these statements Jesus says ‘I am the ______’. There are seven ‘I am’ statements in the Gospel of John. A complete example of an ‘I am’statement is ‘I am the Good Shepherd’ (John 10:11).

In the original Greek, the ‘I am’ part of these statements is read as ego eimi. During the first century, there was a Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint. In the Old Testament, when Moses asks God what name to call him, God responds with YHWH. YHWH is a Hebrew word that Christians have translated various ways, most commonly as Jehovah. In the Septuagint, the name YHWH is translated as ego eimi. So, in the Gospel of John, when Jesus says ‘I am the Good Shepherd’ people fluent in Greek during the first century would hear ‘I am the God of the Old Testament’ and ‘I am the Good Shepherd’.

The seven ego eimi statements are some of the most powerful scriptures in the Christian Bible. In them Jesus describes who he is and what functions he provides to people who believe in him. The descriptions have such accuracy and beauty that the addition or subtraction of a word would diminish the content of the description. The problem with these seven ego eimi statements is not their beauty or their metaphorical accuracy, but that Jesus most likely never said them.

How the Gospel of John came to be the way it is deserves some attention. The general thought on how most of the canonical scriptures were written is that each book (in particular the gospels) was a collaboration with an older person who was actually one of the original disciples and a younger person who performed the manual aspects of collecting and writing down the oral tradition provided by the older person. Both the older and younger persons are devout Christians. In the case of the Gospel of John, the younger person had wonderful literary gifts as well as a mystical understanding of Jesus. The older person may well have been the disciple John, the beloved disciple.

The problem for this writing team is the same for both persons on the team. The disciple met Jesus on a regular basis when Jesus and the disciple were both alive at the same time. Every time the disciple met Jesus, he had an experience of the divine. Jesus wasn’t just present, he was teaching, journeying from place to place, interacting with all kinds of people in all kinds of situations. The disciple’s memory of Jesus is that all of these interactions were also God-filled. The writer is a mystic and has a continuing relationship to Jesus through the Kingdom of God. We should also expect that the writer also has a private mystical relationship with Jesus.

The question here is “What does a writer do when words don’t suffice?”.

If the writer is going to stay with the written word, poetry is often the solution. Add to poetry a kind of prose to get what has been called ‘poetic prose’. This kind of writing is not literally true. The writer is using metaphorical images to illustrate the truth. Instead of presenting a truth similar to 1 + 1 = 2, the writer is saying listen with your heart and hear what the Holy Spirit has to say.

The first twenty years of my life I was a Southern Baptist. I may not have been a typical Southern Baptist, but that’s where my family and I went to church. When I was in high school I had a part time job after school. The bookkeeper at my part time job was a member of the Church of Christ. When he found out I was a Baptist he strongly suggested that I should join the Church of Christ because that was the name of Christ’s church in the Bible. My response to this attempt to proselytize me was that I didn’t believe the Bible should be read in such a literal fashion.

Going forward, my friend the bookkeeper began to look at me like I was some kind of spiritual degenerate. One day, when we were on our way out to eat and the bookkeeper was part of our group, I decomposed the 23rd Psalm. Very simply put, if you decompose the 23rd Psalm by trying to find literal meanings for every word and phrase, the result is a pile of rubble. I said I didn’t want to believe in the pile of rubble. I would accept the metaphorical meaning of the 23rd Psalm. I further said that I believed the metaphorical meaning was that God cared for me and would watch over me even in the face of death. The bookkeeper was moved by my analysis, but refused to change his position on biblical literalism. I said I wasn’t trying to convert him, but was just trying to make my position clear.

The Gospel of John can also be decomposed into it’s constituent parts with a similar result. I don’t read the Gospel of John like a literalist would read it. I read it with my heart. My heart overflows and my whole person is lifted toward God. I don’t want to give up the Gospel of John.

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St. Francis and Holy Poverty

Occasionally, because I’m a Third Order Franciscan in the Episcopal Church, I get asked to explain who St. Francis was and what he did. The following essay is something I’ve created to satisfy that request. There is a significant back-story to my membership in the Third Order of the Society of St. Francis. I’ve gathered up those thoughts and added them to the ‘About’ section of this blog. If you don’t want to read all the other material in that section, just search the text in the ‘About’ section for ‘TSSF’.

St. Francis of Assisi was born Francesco Giovanni di Pietro Bernardone. His birthday has been narrowed down to some time in either 1181 or 1182. He died October 3, 1226. For his time in history, St. Francis lived an unusual life. At the beginning of the 13th century, sons followed a fathers’ profession. The obvious exception was the church where vows of chastity were required for priests and monks. St. Francis eventually ended up in the ‘monastic’ category, but he lived a monastic life in a way that nobody had done before. At a time when nobody did anything out of the norm, St. Francis did almost everything differently.

St. Francis was a mystic who devoted his life to prayer. And yet he was a practical Christian who lived a non-cloistered life. Every person who has tried describe St. Francis’ life and ministry comes up against these two polar opposites and has to find some way to combine Christian mysticism and a Christian life lived in the world in a very practical way.

My solution for solving the multi-dimensional corundum presented by St. Francis is to focus on Holy Poverty. Holy Poverty recommends itself for several reasons. St. Francis elevated the holy poverty we find today in monastic vows to the status of a person. He called this person Lady Poverty. He then said he would ‘marry’ Lady Poverty. The idea to personify Holy Poverty and then bind himself irrevocably to that person came at the beginning of his ministry and is typical of the revolutionary processes St. Francis used.

Holy Poverty isn’t part of our common global discussion of serious intellectual subjects. It’s not even part of the larger Christian Theological discussion. Today’s society doesn’t see the value of Holy Poverty. It’s difficult to imagine someone starting his career today by saying ‘I think I’ll take Holy Poverty as my bride’. In modern society, if you are poor, you are perceived as a failure. It’s just that simple.

Francis takes Monastic Vows

St. Francis’ first encounter with Holy Poverty was with the traditional vow of poverty taken by a monastic. Francis continued to have mystical experiences during his teenage years. These experiences began to convince him that God had some special job for him to do. The content of God’s task wasn’t clear to Francis until he heard the crucifix over the altar at San Damiano Church tell him to ‘Rebuild my church’. San Damiano was in a very poor state of repair. St. Francis had a very literal mind. He understood this mystical vision to be telling him to fix that particular church – San Damiano.

Throughout his life, St. Francis had a very direct way of solving problems. In the case of rebuilding San Damiano, he took several bolts of cloth from his father’s store and sold them. Then, he took the money from the cloth and tried to give it to the priest at San Damiano to pay for the needed repairs. When the priest found out where St. Francis had gotten the money, he refused to take it.

Meanwhile, when St. Francis’ father found out what St. Francis had done, he was livid, because he made a lot of money as a cloth merchant. His hope was that he could somehow purchase a noble title for St. Francis. When St. Francis was young these ideas of nobility and chivalry were particularly appealing. As St. Francis continued to have mystical experiences, he re-framed the ideas of nobility and chivalry into concepts that were God-centered.

When Francis’ used his father’s money to rebuild San Damiano, the father-son relationship was damaged beyond repair. Francis’ father took him to the city magistrate and asked the magistrate to make Francis behave. Francis’ father pointed out that Francis didn’t own anything that his father hadn’t given to him, including the clothes on Francis’ back. Francis, with typical directness, took off all his clothes and gave them back to his father. He declared that from henceforth, the only father he would have was ‘Our Father in Heaven’. It was understood from this statement that St. Frances was taking monastic vows. The magistrate had no power over someone in monastic vows. As far as we know, St. Francis’ father never forgave him.

When next we see St. Francis he is in Assisi, his home town, begging for bricks to repair San Damiano. He was an object of ridicule. He had been a rich young man about the city. And now here he was begging, wearing beggars’ clothes with a rope tied around his waste for a cincture. When St. Francis begged for food, the people of Assisi laughed at him and gave him garbage to eat.

St. Francis made a success of his monastic vocation. He continued to live vows of obedience, chastity and poverty in ways that were radically literal. He continued to have mystic experiences and he began to share those experiences in charismatic, extemporaneous sermons spoken mostly outside traditional church settings. The largest sermon was St. Francis himself. He lived his monastic vows outside of a monastery, right among the people to whom he was preaching.

Francis Writes a rule for the Little Brothers

St. Francis’ personal success brought him a small group of men who wanted to live life with the same simple spirituality that Francis preached and lived. Soon there was a religious order, which Francis called ‘the little brothers’. It was because of his order that Francis had his second profound encounter with Holy Poverty.
Francis’ order was like nothing else in that early thirteenth century society. Traditional monks who also took vows of obedience, chastity and poverty, lived in monasteries. The monks weren’t rich themselves but the monasteries had endowments and were frequently large landowners. St. Francis’ followers lived in the world. Their first house (San Damiano) was and still is owned by a local Benedictine Monastery. St. Francis, during his lifetime, required that his order not hold money or own land. His little brothers were supposed to earn their keep by working or begging their sustenance each day from the people among whom they lived. The Franciscan Order went through a period of explosive growth, large enough that provinces were defined, each with its own minister.
Because Francis was the founder and spiritual head of that order, the church eventually required him to write a rule of life for his ‘little brothers’. Francis resisted writing a rule. He said that the Bible was the rule for his brothers and that was good enough. Eventually, Francis did relent and write a rule. This rule was distributed to the provincial ministers. Very shortly the provincial minsters tracked down St. Francis and asked him to take the rule back because it set such high spiritual standards that the ministers felt nobody would be able to keep it. St. Francis was very angry. He told the ministers to ‘go join some other order’ and walked away from them. Eventually, Francis again relented and wrote a second, easier rule which the ministers found acceptable.
When Francis wrote the second rule to fit the provincial ministers’ requirements, he lost practical control of the order to the ministers.

Francis Receives the Stigmata

St. Francis continued to lead the order he founded with an increasingly austere ascetical life. He continued to preach both to the general public and to his brothers in the order. He helped St. Claire found the Poor Claires and encouraged the formation of the a third order for secular believers who wanted to live a Franciscan life without taking monastic vows. All the Franciscan orders continued to grow. There was and still is something immediate, practical and satisfying about the spiritual life St. Francis shared with the world.

Toward the end of his life Francis received the stigmata. Franciscans understand Francis’ stigmata as a justification of Francis’ life and ministry. In his lifetime many people thought Francis was a living saint. Francis’ stigmata removed all doubt for the people of the early thirteenth century. St. Francis and his entourage became something of a religious side-show. Everyone wanted to see his wounds.

Francis didn’t simply receive the stigmata and then die. He lived another six to eighteen months. He had punished his body throughout his life with ascetical disciplines. He was blind from an eye disease he acquired on a trip to the Holy Land. The medical care available in his life was very poor. And finally, there was some real concern that the people of Perugia (a city near Assisi which was intensely competitive with Assisi) were plotting to steal St. Francis’ body after he died. To avoid the Perguian plot, St. Francis was randomly moved from place to place.

All accounts say that St. Francis endured his failing health, the stigmata and the poor treatment he received with grace and humility.

In Conclusion

St. Francis blazed a trail of uncompromising Christian discipleship. Previous similar examples of radical discipleship were lived by monks or nuns in monasteries. People who live in monasteries are purposefully withdrawing from the world. St. Francis’ life was lived in the world among ordinary people. In the world he told the truth about Jesus, God, Holy Poverty, Christian charity and any other worthy subject to whomever would listen. In all the things St. Francis spoke about, he backed up his talk with a life lived. The practical yet passionate preaching of religious truth and the humble poverty of his life made St. Francis loved wherever he went.

Because of St. Francis I can be an uncloistered mystic. I have a spiritual home, spiritual brothers and sisters who tell me the truth and with whom I am equally truthful. Because of St. Francis the Path grows clearer.

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The Kingdom of God and a Prostitute Named Mary

A large number of books have been written about secret knowledge taught by Jesus to one disciple or another. This special knowledge and the conspiracy theories that surround the dissemination of the knowledge began shortly after Jesus’ death, with Gnostic New Testament writings. The mystery continues to this day as evidenced in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. I believe there is secret Christian knowledge presented in the Gospel narrative.

The hidden truth in the Gospel message is the message of the Kingdom of God. When Jesus’ disciples asked him to teach them to pray Jesus said:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your Name,
your kingdom come, …

In recent times, scholars have looked at the Gospels and applied the same standards a newspaper reporter would apply to try and discover what Jesus actually said. A surprising number of authenticated sayings have to do with the Kingdom of God. I’ve been studying the Bible for about fifty years. This scholarship has opened up a new way of looking at the Bible message. There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus was actually preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God.

The most immediate problem with Jesus and the Kingdom of God is that almost all Jesus’ descriptions of the Kingdom of God are in parables. These parables of the Kingdom are open to many different interpretations. There are some common features of Jesus’ teaching on the Kingdom such as:

  • Jesus was purposely trying to get his listeners to think about their relationship with God in a radically different way. There is something infinite about the Kingdom of God. A person can find the true meaning of life in the Kingdom of God.
  • Spiritual and physical healing a present in the Kingdom of God.
  • The Kingdom of God included Jews from all levels of society who wanted participate in the religious life that Jesus was offering. Gentiles were not encouraged but not excluded either.
  • People in the Kingdom of God live spiritually virtuous lives and have a deep energy to spread that spiritual life to other people.
  • The Kingdom is a meritocracy, but with a large dose of humility present in the people who have been asked to lead.

I have some ideas about the Kingdom of God that are of my own imagining but which fit the information we find in the New Testament.

  • Jesus was the Teacher, the ‘Rabbi’ of a school of religious thought.
  • Jesus’ school was semi-portable. He took his disciples with him when he traveled. There were wealthy people who were attached to the school who took care of Jesus’ food and shelter needs.
  • The place where Jesus stayed would become the de facto school room, refectory and possibly common bedroom.
  • Jesus’ disciples (both the inner circle and the larger group) shared a common life.

My understanding of the Kingdom of God is based on both what I surmise and what I actually read in the Gospel narrative. Every time I hear Scripture read in church, I apply my understanding of the Kingdom of God to that Scripture lesson. One Sunday I gave this peculiar attention to what was being read from the Gospel of Luke:

One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 37 And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. 38 She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him-that she is a sinner.” 40 Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “Speak.” 41 “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” 48 Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the wo

We know these things about the context of this lesson:

  • Pharisees were among the rich people of the Jewish first century. One demographic study describes the ratio of rich to poor as 1 to 99 percent of the population. The middle class didn’t exist.
  • Pharisees were serious students of the Law. They kept all the ritual observances and all the dietary requirements. It was very difficult to ‘keep the law’ unless you were rich. When one of the High Priests said of Jesus “We know this man is a sinner,” the High Priest was placing Jesus among the 99 percent of Jews that didn’t have the material resources to keep the law.
  • I’m making the assumption that the ‘woman sinner’ was a prostitute. Likewise, I’m assuming that her name was Mary.
  • The common method for moving goods and people in the first century was some kind of animal. Horses, donkeys, oxen, cattle all carried loads or pulled wagons. These animals defecated in the street. There were no city workers who cleaned the streets. People who walked from place to place as Jesus did wore sandals. Sandals and any kind of foot perspiration plus the overwhelming presence of fecal material meant that pedestrians would want to wash their feet upon arriving at their destination.
  • Servants provided foot washing for their masters. For a Rabbi like Jesus, these duties would have fallen to a member of Jesus’ school. The host, Simon, should have provided a servant to wash Jesus’ feet. Jesus didn’t have a disciple with him when he went to dinner. Jesus didn’t assert his right to a servant to wash his feet. It’s as if Simon had decided he wanted to hear what Jesus had to say but had already decided not to believe what Jesus said was true – so it didn’t matter to Simon that he had been a poor host.
  • By washing Jesus’ feet, Mary was proclaiming her discipleship.
  • Finally, in first century Judea, it was impossible for someone who was a prostitute to give up that profession. Such a person wasn’t just a sinner because they weren’t keeping the law. A prostitute was an active sinner. She would be fundamentally unclean in a way that could not be repaired.

Mary’s Story

The thing that interests me the most about this Gospel lesson is Mary. I believe there is a ‘back story’ to Mary’s actions. If I gather up all the bits and pieces, both known and assumed, I come up with this result.

Mary was a prostitute. She didn’t want to be a prostitute any more and may well have retired from that profession. She could have no social interactions, even in a retired state. She heard about Jesus’ school. She heard that there were disciples in his school that were ‘notorious sinners’ – one in particular would have been Zacchaeus, the tax collector.

Mary undertook to perform Jewish rites of purification commonly used by Jewish women. She dressed herself as a woman who had just been to a rite of purification. She went to Jesus’ school and stood in the back by the door – she expected to be asked to leave.

She heard a discussion about the Kingdom of God led by one of the senior students. Jesus wasn’t there – having been invited to dinner elsewhere. After the discussion there was going to be a common meal.

Mary turned to leave when someone said ,’Come and eat.’ Mary was stunned. And then, there was a general chorus of people asking her to stay and eat.

Mary sat at the table still stunned. The conventional thinking was that her presence at a common meal would ‘pollute’ the meal, possibly even polluting the people at the meal. Mary ate, but ate very little. She spoke, but spoke very little.

When she finally recovered herself, she asked where Jesus was. When she found out where he was eating, she excused herself from the table. As she left the building that contained the school, she began to weep tears of joy. She ran to the dinning room where Jesus was and began to wash his feet with her tears and dry them with her hair.

The ‘punch line’ to this story has been preserved in the Gospel lesson. The story would be told down through the generations of believers of the outrageous way that Mary became a disciple. The rest of the story told here is my conjecture. I believe the rest of the story was common place. People who lived in Jesus’ time, who were ‘unredeemable’, would come to his school and be invited to the common meal.

Everyone, even a notorious sinner, was welcome at Jesus’ school.

Finally, Mary’s Story brings the Kingdom of God into focus. Kingdom of God as a real place, with real people. I believe this allows us to go to the next step and say that the people who were in Jesus’ school were trying their best to live the Kingdom of God as Jesus explained it to them and that the Kingdom of God became concrete reality for them just as it became a concrete reality for Mary.

The Kingdom of God also brings Mary into focus. Mary was irretrievably on the outside looking in. But Mary had faith in a God who involves himself in history for the salvation of believers. Mary and Jesus share this faith in the God of Abraham. Mary’s faith saved her.

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Christian Fundamentalism and Spiritual Certainty

This post took a long time to write because every paragraph brought up three other ideas that begged to be written. My wife suggests I should write all these other ideas down elsewhere and continue with my writing. That’s not the way I work. Nothing would get done at all if I tried to write that way.

My wife deserves credit generally because she edits what I write. Once upon a time she was a professional editor. Beyond that she is my soul-friend. I talk to her about all these subjects and her reflections are invaluable.

I sometimes wonder if I ever was a Christian Fundamentalist. I did make a profession of faith at the age of eight. I was and still am a diligent student of the Bible. I attended church almost every Sunday during my high school years. But somehow the fundamentalist part never really took hold. The profession of faith and subsequent baptism did take hold – I’m still a Christian. A story from my junior year in high school will explain Christian Fundamentalism better than any theological or philosophical argument I could present.

I had a Sunday School teachers, Fred and Mary, who were a married couple and who were both graduate students at the University of Illinois. Both Fred and Mary had undergraduate degrees from Baylor University. My relationship with these two very fine people went beyond teacher and student to friendship. All of a sudden they disappeared from church altogether. Nobody would tell me what had happened or where they went. After about six months they returned to church but weren’t teachers any more. I asked them what had happened but didn’t really get a satisfactory answer.

Then one day Fred and Mary and I ran in to each other at church. Mary said she wanted to ask me a question. Her question was about biblical inerrancy. Fred and Mary had a co-worker at the University who was a Roman Catholic. The work relationship they had blossomed into a friendship. Fred and Mary eventually brought religion into the relationship probably because they felt that their Roman Catholic friend wasn’t “saved”. The religious discussion—and whether the Roman Catholic would convert to Southern Baptist—revolved around the Bible and if every word in the Bible were literally true. Mary and Fred said, of course, that every word in the Bible was true, thinking that the Roman Catholic was on the verge of conversion.

The Roman Catholic then asked Mary and Fred to explain a certain verse in the Bible. That verse is John 6:53: “Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.’ ” Fred and Mary were asked if they believed this scripture to be literally true. They said no. The Roman Catholic co-worker said he did believe the words to be literally true. Fred and Mary had a crisis of faith. Biblical inerrancy was one of the foundations of their belief system.

The person who hasn’t been exposed to Christian fundamentalism and biblical inerrancy will probably find the belief system professed by Fred and Mary to be absurd from an intellectual point of view. Having been on the inside looking out (Fred, Mary and I shared much of this belief system), I think I can make sense of what was happening here and in the process shed some light on a number of issues.

The most important content in a Christian fundamentalist’s life is their conversion experience. That conversion experience tells them that Jesus is alive and is spiritually present in their lives. The second most important thing in a Christian fundamentalist’s life beyond the new relationship with Jesus is the Bible. The Bible contains all the information needed to live a redeemed life. Biblical inerrancy is introduced as the surest way of understanding what the Bible says. Biblical inerrancy has an added advantage in that it can be presented as a non-theological method of understanding the Bible. Both the conversion experience and a literal interpretation of the Bible provide a profound sense of certainty. We live in uncertain times. We live in a time when almost everything is changing at once.

There have been other times in history when society experienced radical change. The Renaissance, the Age of Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution are three such ages. Living with radical change is unpleasant for most of us. Some people thrive in such environments. The people who don’t go crazy and who take appropriate risks can make a lot of money. A more normal, even rational, response to radical change is to look for certainty. Religion has always been been a place where people have looked for certainty.

For me, there is something deeply wrong about Fundamentalism as a religious expression. My wife points out that “if you have certainty, why would one need faith.” One possible way to enter into a genuine religious journey is to walk from faith to doubt and back several times. Such faith journey need never end.

In my own experience I found the certainty provided by Christian fundamentalism and Biblical inerrancy to be unsatisfactory. My spiritual journey didn’t end with my conversion experience. The situation above with Fred, Mary and their Roman Catholic friend illustrates that people choose what they want to believe is true in the Bible. Those choices are formed by unconscious theological and philosophical points of view.

And yet, my understanding of how the Holy Spirit works is that she responds to a person’s deepest need. If certainty is your deepest need, and you ask for it with your whole heart, you will receive certainty. But certainty by itself is not enough. The kind of certainty I’ve found among Christian fundamentalists tends to express itself in rigid responses to new situations. Any spiritual gift brings with it the responsibility to use that gift with love and compassion.

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My Sister Laughs

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans — John Lennon (of all people).

First, my wife’s best friend came for a visit.
She and I cleaned out the garage. My wife had stored a large number of papers out there.
Some papers were notes from therapy sessions. Every piece of paper was reviewed. It took one and a half days.
My wife’s friend left Monday and I started cleaning house.
Then #2 son called and wanted me to pick up grandson #2 after school because of an early release situation.
I brought my grandson home and baby sat him until his mother came to pick him up at 4 pm. I only had him Monday and Tuesday afternoon.
Yesterday I had a endoscopy of my esophagus.
And, the first week my wife’s friend was here, we had the outside of our house painted.
This last Friday my wife’s twin brother and his wife are came to visit and my wife is taking a vacation to spend time with her twin.

One of my younger sisters died in a freak automobile accident. My sense is that she is in heaven laughing at me.

She left behind a lot of Buddhist objects that she used in her own personal spiritual journey. I’m not willing to throw these items away. To me they have spiritual content. I want to find the appropriate person for each item. I’m looking for people who will see the spiritual value in what I have to share – I want to match the individual items to the person who receives the item.

A set of forty four laminated Tibetan Buddhist icons has been the most interesting of all the things my sister left behind. My best instinct was that these icons were very powerful spiritual entities. It seemed obvious that the best thing to do would be to take these icons to the local Tibetan Buddhist center.

The Emaho Buddhist Center is in a part of my metropolitan area that has strange street numbers. Several cities run together and it can be very difficult to find an address. I have to admit I wasn’t functioning very well either. I felt very vulnerable. I have been doing a yoga style mediation for about forty years. But, I’ve never really had a teacher who really knew what he was doing in terms of yoga practice. The person I was going to talk to at the Center is exactly such a teacher. So, I had a hard time physically locating the Center because I really didn’t want to find the Center.

Having eventually found the Center. I met Geshe Jampa Khechok. Geshe has the equivalent of a PhD. in Buddhist Theology and Practice. He was the opposite of all my fears. The only agenda I can ascribe to him is that of a compassionate listener. He didn’t know my sister personally but was willing to pray for her soul. He patiently listened to my peculiar personal story as a yoga practitioner. He was glad to have the Buddhist icons. And finally he and I went into the sanctuary at the Center and meditated together. My time spent with Geshe was like a spiritual homecoming.

I scheduled a second visit with Geshe so that my son who is a new Buddhist practitioner could visit the center and meet Geshe. I told Geshe that I would send him an email with questions my son and I would like to discuss. As I began to write the email, I realized that Geshe would completely understand my personal efforts in yoga if I told him I had been meditating on Shiva energy for the last forty years. When we got to the center, Geshe’s response to the explanation of my yoga practice was once again very relaxed while I was somewhat agitated. I was imagining all the negative critiques he could give. His simple suggestion for my meditation practice was that I should combine the negative Shiva energy with the positive energy that is found in Beginner’s Mind. He agreed that Shiva energy was an ‘ultimate reality’. We all had a good laugh when I suggested that there was a kind of peace in Shiva energy – the kind of peace that is in Shiva energy just isn’t very peaceful.

Geshe’s suggestion opened up a new way of looking at the opportunities I have in mediation. I’ve changed my meditation practice to include the integrated mode suggested by Geshe. Mostly this change is accomplished by using different visual images. For example, in the part of my mediation where I practice pranayamic breathing, I imaging two snakes going up my spine. One snake is translucent blue, the other translucent red. The two snakes twist around my spine as the pranayamic energy rises.

Visiting Geshe Jampa Khechok at the Emaho Center was just one of the actions my sister’s death caused me to take. I did feel a spiritual compulsion to find appropriate homes for all the spiritual items she left behind. I found each situation where I gave someone a spiritual gift from my sister’s legacy, that the person receiving the spiritual gift gave a gift of loving energy in return. I feel blessed.

Thinking about these issues and my forty year flight Christian fundamentalism has brought me to some interesting conclusions. For many reasons my sister who died was engaged in a continuing search for some kind of spiritual certainty. In some ways, she and I shared this search. Toward the end of her life she seemed to have reached some conclusions that satisfied some of her spiritual needs. She never had the kind of certainty that I have found meditating with Shiva energy. My sister and I shared a dislike of Christian fundamentalism. It didn’t satisfy for either one of us. I have to admit I felt superior in my certainty as I watched her struggle with uncertainty. Now, I wonder if my flight from Christian fundamentalism caused me to substitute the certainly found in Christian fundamentalism with the certainty of Shiva energy. I wonder if certainty isn’t over-rated.

And, finally, I have the continuing feeling that my sister is in heaven having a relaxed sort of chuckle as I work through the opportunities presented by the totality of her spiritual legacy.

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In the Grip of T’ai Chi and Beginner’s Mind

From time to time I’ve been asked why I began the practice of T’ai Chi. The answer is that I need regular exercise and I have bad knees. My left knee will swell up if I do any kind of exercise that compresses the knee joint. Removing knee joint compression from my exercise efforts excludes running, tennis, basketball, handball, jump rope, soccer, football and a number of other activities that I might enjoy as an exercise activity. Swimming doesn’t hurt my knees, but it bothers my shoulders.

The reason why I began to practice T’ai Chi and the reasons why I continue to practice T’ai Chi are very different. Back when I first started meditating I managed to scare myself witless with the reality I found through meditation. I desperately wanted to integrate the reality I found in meditation into my life – but doing so was driving me crazy. I took up Hatha Yoga for a time after that first difficult experience with meditation. Essentially, Hatha Yoga let me meditate without meditating. I could keep in touch with the ultimate reality I found in meditation, but I was able to look at that reality from a much more constrained viewpoint than the viewpoint mediation provided. I find T’ai Chi to be like Hatha Yoga. When I do T’ai Chi I get in touch with the reality I found in meditation – but in an indirect way.

I like T’ai Chi better than Hatha Yoga. Almost all Hatha Yoga postures are static. Hatha Yoga postures and T’ai Chi forms share a common use of the whole body. This ‘whole body’ approach to exercise may not be immediately apparent in a Hatha Yoga practitioner’s practice unless the practitioner is a master. With T’ai Chi it’s quite clear from the very beginning that the practitioner has to engage fully with body, mind and spirit. T’ai Chi is a form of moving mediation.

T’ai Chi is a martial art. It is considered a ‘soft’ martial art. Soft martial arts often express their martial aspect by redirecting an attacker’s force in a way causes the force of the attack to be used against the attacker. The ‘hard’ martial arts more often oppose force with force. There is a serious continuing discussion in T’ai Chi circles about the validity of T’ai Chi that is taught without the martial aspect of the T’ai Chi art. I agree with the people who hold that removing the martial aspect from T’ai Chi turns T’ai Chi into a strange kind of exercise based on T’ai Chi. Every position in T’ai Chi can have a martial application. Most T’ai Chi teachers can demonstrate several different applications for each T’ai Chi position. The martial application for a position/movement in a T’ai Chi form gives validity to the structure of the position/movement. When the structure is correct Chi can be expressed. When the structure is correct, students describe a sense of wholeness present when they practice T’ai Chi.

My own journey with T’ai Chi began with Yang style slow set. This is the traditional 108 step form. From the very beginning, I could tell that T’ai Chi was something I wanted to explore with passionate intensity. Unfortunately, after about ten years, my Yang style work slowly closed due to asthma. I just couldn’t physically perform in a way that I felt was appropriate to the beauty of the discipline presented by the form.

I didn’t immediately get help for my asthma. But I did get help. When I realized I could be physically active again, I looked for a T’ai Chi class close to home. I found a former senior student from the Yang style school I had attended teaching nearby. The only problem I could see was that she was teaching Chin style T’ai Chi. Chin style T’ai Chi is the source for all the other kinds of T’ai Chi, including the Yang style that I had studied. But, Chin style and Yang style are very different at the practical level.

My Chin style teacher suggests that I need to ’empty my bowl’. If my understanding of T’ai Chi is totally based on what I learned from Yang style – that understanding isn’t going to work for Chin. Most of the Yang style knowledge that I acquired in ten years’ daily practice will have to be discarded.

As I learn the Chin style Old Frame form, I see and understand much of the fundamental structure of what is happening in the Chin style class. Many of the fundamentals are the same between Yang and Chin styles. I do my best to absorb all this information. That absorption task is impossible because there is more information than I can possibly retain. I have to hit a mental ‘reset button’ several times in each class. Occasionally, I just go sit down and watch the class. I’m making slow progress learning the Chin style Old Frame form. I feel like the proverbial child with his nose pressed against the candy store window.

It seems that I’ve come back to Beginner’s Mind. I do associate hitting the ‘reset button’ with Beginner’s Mind. The beautiful and difficult truth of T’ai Chi is that every step in the form presents a new opportunity for Beginner’s Mind. I’m very fortunate to have such a profound spiritual challenge presented to me. I feel certain that I am engaging this challenge in a way that will achieve a positive result.

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Beginner’s Mind Continued

Beginner’s Mind keeps touching my spiritual journey in ways that make me think there is something in the Beginner’s Mind reality to which I need to pay closer attention. It’s hard for me not to try to figure out why Beginner’s Mind is so attractive. More on that in another blog entry.

First I have had some additional insights into Beginner’s Mind:

  • The room in which my son’s design team works has white boards on all the walls.
  • For a while I could see Beginner’s Mind from inside an imaginary full face motorcycle helmet. The helmet was black. The Beginner’s Mind image came when I looked out through the visor. I often wake up in the middle of the night. Instead of getting up so I could restart my sleep cycle, I would reach out and throw on this imaginary motorcycle helmet. Beginner’s Mind is a very peaceful image on which to focus in order to get to sleep.
  • Sometimes life sends a sucker punch. A normal reaction to such a difficult life situation is to curl up into a ball and cry. An alternative to the crying solution is to look at the Beginner’s Mind image. If I need to curl up into a ball and cry, I probably am facing a radical life change. Beginner’s Mind works really well with new beginnings.
  • I meditate each morning before the day begins. One of my meditations involves trying to discern my Path. I want to see the Path clearly and then my goal is to take one step down the Path. As with any other beginning, Beginner’s Mind is a totally appropriate state to be in before taking that one step on the Path.
  • It seems to me that Beginner’s Mind is a state of internal balance. I am a T’ai Chi practitioner. Balance is one of the fundamental attributes of good T’ai Chi work. The intersection of T’ai Chi and Beginner’s Mind leads me to an article I wrote several years ago which had a section on T’ai Chi and balance.

As an elaboration on this last insight, I am including in the next few paragraphs portions of my article on T’ai Chi and balance. The Yin/Yang image that’s included with the article is a graphical explanation of all of the polar opposites presented in the article and in general of all polar opposites. The image shows that within each yin quality there is a little bit of yang and in each yang quality there is a little piece of yin. Here’s the excerpt:

It may not be obvious that the idea of balance can be an archetypal form. For westerners, the concept of balance is pretty simple. Either something has physical balance or it doesn’t. The Taoist idea of balance is somewhat larger in its scope. On page four of Master Da Liu’s book T’ai Chi Ch’uan and Meditation the following sentences are presented. “On the largest scale, heaven is yang, while earth is yin. Day is yang, while night is yin. Bright and clear weather is yang; dark and stormy weather is yin. On the scale of living things, male is yang, the female yin. Spirit is yang, body yin.”

A recent study on senior citizens and T’ai Chi reported that seniors who do T’ai Chi have better balance than those who don’t. This finding may have surprised some physical therapy practitioners but I don’t think it surprised any T’ai Chi people. T’ai Chi is very much about balance. One of the main moves, repeated over and over again, is to sit on one leg, extend the second leg, move the hands to the desired position, then step forward onto the second leg, shifting the body’s weight to the second leg. A person who stands on one leg with the knee bent will develop better balance. Adding movement of the second leg and arms requires a great deal of attention and a great amount of balance. It is an exaggeration, but just a very slight exaggeration, to say that T’ai Chi is completely about balance.

The balance point in slow set is one type of balance. The balance point in fast set is another type of balance. There are T’ai Chi forms that combine slow and fast movements. There are two-person, three-person and four-person forms. Each T’ai Chi weapon (sword, broadsword, fan, and staff) all have a different balance point. The more T’ai Chi I learn, the more I learn about balance.

T’ai Chi balance extends beyond the physical into emotional, intellectual and spiritual levels. My teacher tells his classes that the T’ai Chi practitioner doesn’t respond to an attack with the fight or flight mechanism. Instead we are supposed to respond by relaxing. As we relax we are supposed to listen through the physical contact of the attack for the energy expressed in the attack. As we understand the nature of the attack, we can decide how to respond. If I am fearful of being hit, I will not be able to use my T’ai Chi training to deal with the attack. The ideal state is to be emotionally, intellectually and spiritually neutral while in a state of physical balance.

In this training, I see another metaphor that can be applied directly to my life. It is pretty ridiculous to think I could take a T’ai Chi sword to work and use it to deal with office politics (no matter how much I might want to take that action). On the other hand, I can take the balance lessons learned from T’ai Chi to work and directly apply them. If I’m under verbal attack at work, I need to maintain my inner balance and listen to the attack, to understand the source of the emotional energy released in my direction. After I understand, I have the opportunity to decide how to respond. The alternative of responding in kind to an attack without thinking doesn’t meet my needs. I want the opportunity to be able to decide how to respond after I understand the situation.

I’m trying to lead a virtuous life. It’s like walking a tightrope while people are pushing and pulling on me. It is absolutely necessary that I maintain my physical, mental and emotional balance while I strive to reach my goal. T’ai Chi is helping me become the person I want to be by providing me with a practical mechanism to become profoundly balanced.

Finally, I think that the Beginner’s Mind mediation is the antidote to the internal chaos I feel from forty years of meditating on the Abyss. The Abyss as I have experienced it is a roiling mass of light and heat. Beginner’s Mind, on the other hand, is peaceful, organized and balanced. It’s hard to imagine two more opposite realities. As I considered these two polar opposites in terms of the Yin/Yang symbol, I immediately realized that the Abyss contains a small spot of peace and order. There is nothing preventing order from emerging from chaos. Looking at the Yin/Yang symbol again, it was hard to see the small spot of chaos in the Beginner’s Mind reality – until I realized I was the small spot of chaos.

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Beginner’s Mind

My youngest son is very serious about becoming a Buddhist. It’s a heartfelt quest on his part. I’m happy for him. Buddhism will provide him with a depth at his center that has been lacking so far. As his father, I get to ask him questions. This is somewhat like asking an eighteen-year-old the meaning of life. People of such age are typically certain about all such questions. Occasionally, an eighteen-year- old will give an interesting answer to a meaningful question.

So –

I remarked to my son that when I feel miserable I generally want to point Buddhist Mindfulness at the miserable feelings. My experience is that this kind of Mindfulness just makes me significantly more miserable. He agreed that this was the case. Then he said I was supposed to meditate my way out of this misery. He knows I’ve been meditating since I was twenty. I told him that I had never done such a thing as part of my meditational practice. This seemed to surprise him.

On later reflection, I realized I had used the ‘Abba’ mantra a couple of times when I was very definately and painfully off my spiritual path. This interested my son, but still wasn’t the answer he was looking for.

I then told my son the story told to me by a friend who is a former T’ai Chi teacher. The story goes that amongst his many travels in his own quest, my friend visited some Buddhist monks at a monastery somewhere in the Far East. One of the monks invited him to come to a meditation session. (I get the impression this wasn’t just my friend and the inviting monk, but my friend with a larger group of monks.)

My friend remembers this mediation session as being over in five seconds when it actually took two hours of normal time. He also remembers encountering a sense of infinite whiteness. The monks thought my friend was a natural. They invited him to stay at the monastery (permanently). My friend was very unsettled by this strange experience and was interested in leaving the monastery as quickly as he could.

I then recalled an experience of my own where I had the opportunity to briefly meditate with Geshe Jampa Khechok at the Emaho Foundation. My sense of what his meditation looked like was the same infinite whiteness my friend had experienced at the Buddhist monastery. At this point my son says “Yes! That’s it, Dad! It’s like a white grease board that has been completely erased.” My son is an engineer. He uses such grease boards to design products and make project plans. Such a grease board is also a very useful teaching tool. A grease board is rarely completely blank. But, it’s not unusual to erase all the information on the board at the beginning of a new project/design.

At this point I’m beginning to understand that my son is talking about the Beginner’s Mind.

So I told my son that my mediation over the last forty years was about the Abyss. The Abyss is a valid representation of the Ultimate Reality – it’s just a very difficult, painful, insanity-producing representation. The metaphor I would use to explain my mediation is that of touching a hot stove. Initially, I was desperate for any kind of expression of the Ultimate. I reached out and found the stove and set my hand down on the burner for about five seconds. I acquired a permanent burn from this experience. I was able to validate that Ultimate Reality does exist. My meditation since has been to reach out and very briefly touch the stove to remind myself that it’s still there and still hot.

I have one topic that I haven’t discussed with my son. The white grease board metaphor presents the Beginner’s Mind as an external reality. My studies down through the years on mystical systems say that the Beginner’s Mind needs to be an internal, integrated reality. We’ll see what my son has to say.

Subsequently, I was able to talk to my son. I presented the following visualization on the Beginner’s Mind and his white board image. These four points came to me like a series of pictures.

  1. I visualized the white board as a circle the size of a room.
  2. Since visualizations are not limited to normal real world physics, I visualized part of the circular white board sitting vertically in my head, resting there, from my ears up.
  3. Then I visualized the white board sitting vertically on my spine and exercised pranayamic breathing with the visualization.
  4. I allowed the circle of the white board to grow very large.

My son liked the visualizations I shared with him. His only comment was that I hadn’t erased the white board before I started my visualization. I said I had started with a clean white board. In my son’s experience white boards are almost never clean.

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