Saturday, September 25, 2010

Gradual, conscious and sober

"Jesus... did not change anyone's states, either by secret rituals or by esoteric information.  Rather he set his disciples on the only known path to integral transformation: the slow and persistent overcoming of the ego through a lifelong practice of surrender and non-attachment.  His gnosis is gradual, conscious, and sober."

  --Cynthia Bourgeault, in The Meaning of Mary Magdalene

A young friend of our daughter's came to stay with us for a couple of weeks this summer, and last night she and her father came back to the island to take us out to dinner as a thank you for having hosted her while she decided about applying to the University of Washington.

Unfortunately the evening began and ended awkwardly: their ferry was an hour late, and we forgot to watch the clock at the end of the evening so they missed the 9:45 and had to wait until after 11 to get back to Seattle.

I woke up this morning with that queasy feeling in my stomach that always comes with a sense of guilt: why had I not been more conscious of the time?  How could I have subjected our guests to such thoughtless behavior?

Oddly enough, I found the above-quoted passage enormously reassuring.  For some reason, what I hear when I read it is that it's okay that I am not yet perfect (perhaps this is the true nature of forgiveness?).  It's okay that I am not yet always fully conscious.  The process of integration is predictably gradual,  and "a slow and persistent overcoming of the ego" is all that is required of me.  It's okay to fail from time to time, and inevitable -- as the barriers between self and other begin dissolving -- that the ways I fail others will echo all that more loudly in the chambers of my heart as my capacity for compassion continues to grow.

I think this image rose up for me because  it reflects that philosophy: not every day will be sunny, nor will the garden that is my life always be tidy.  But there is beauty to be found even in the fog of confusion and the weeds of neglect, as long as that which we hope to tend in ourselves and others is still growing.  Perhaps today what I need to surrender is my need to do it right, and it's time to release my attachment to perfection...

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