Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Harrowing

Yesterday's post -- about trekking down into the shadows -- surprised me a bit. First of all because it took a while to figure out why that image was the one I'd settled on, and then because, well, Lent is over, right? But this didn't feel like Lent, exactly -- no breast-beating, no mea culpa -- more like a determination to explore.

So of course this morning Laurence Freeman (I am almost to the end of Jesus the Teacher Within, I promise, though it is so amazingly rich that I'm sure I'll be reading it again) has something to say about this. It's the chapter after his chapter on meditation, and he calls it Labyrinth, to signify that we pass the same way many times over, but at different levels of awareness. And what spoke to me today was a discussion about a point in meditation where

"we become sharply aware of the ego-barrier...the "naked awareness of your own existence" as The Cloud of Unknowing calls it, reveals existential sorrow. It is not depression, guilt, grief or low spirits, but something more ancestral, closer to the shame of Eden after the Fall. We are afflicted by a sense of personal need and incompleteness...Uncovering this deep, clinging sadness people will often painfully see the shadow cast by the ego across all their most precious and sacred relationships and ideals. They will ask themselves if they have ever really loved, if they have ever known transcendence, if even what they once thought their best deeds were really good. The ego's kingdom of separateness shows its resilience and defies even the most powerful of loves."

It sounds harrowing, doesn't it? But it is Spring, after all, and because I live in an essentially rural environment, I'm thinking of harrowing in that good way; the "pulverizing and smoothing of the soil" that must occur before a successful planting. In class earlier this week we talked of the habitual furrows and ruts our brain gets into, and I tried to write about those in yesterday's poem: that way we have of feeling ourselves along the walls, the panic we feel when a new path opens up and there is nothing to hold onto or lean against.

What I am learning from Freeman today is that the harrowing is a promise: that with God's help and our willing hearts we will be able to break the old patterns, be given a smooth playing field; the old ruts and ridges will be gone and we will be free to explore new ways of being. And the good news, says Freeman in his incredibly poetic way, is that

"there is nowhere we can go where we will not find He has been."

And so, Freeman continues, "even in our deepest and darkest night of the soul, in the depth of hell, or in the shame of our ego's hurt pride and rejection of God, Jesus is there knowing what we are suffering, and extending compassion to us. Hope is not false consolation... we must pass through the sadness of existence before entering the joy of being."

And the song playing over and over in my head, the melody in my brain this morning as I write, is that same David Byrne piece I first paid attention to a few days back:

I'm primitive and selfish
I'm childlike and I'm helpless
Well I got that way because of
My love for you

My love is you
My love is you

1 comment:

kimquiltz said...

"there is nowhere we can go where we will not find He has been."And thank you, God, for that!

I've been wondering about my own feelings of going over the same spiritual ground over and over again lately. What you have said here brings me comfort. Not only and I not alone (other people are on the same path), but I'm not alone (God is with me).

Beautiful!