Namaste. This greeting has become almost common place. So common in fact that we forget the true meaning and intent of the greeting. Many express the greeting as the divine in me greets the divine in you, but we’re so busy and often self-absorbed we don’t pause to truly see the divine in ourselves let alone the divine in the other people we’re greeting. The intent of this greeting is the personification of the topic of my service today. If we approach each moment with wonder, curiosity and awe we can get past our fear and stories we tell ourselves to our divine core or higher self. Seeing others with curiosity and awe we can get past all the noise in our heads and truly see them. See they have pain, fear and love just like we do. We can see they’re divine core. I can hear it now – “That’s a nice idea Brian, but how can we get there?”
First, we got to start with a good foundation. My foundation is the first principle. I don’t believe in original sin. I don’t believe our natural inclination is to sin and we must constantly fight to be “good.” I agree more with Taoists and Unitarian Universalists. Our first principle says we believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Similarly, Taoists believes that at our core we are good. Lao Tzu says it this way “The snow goose need not bathe to make itself white. Neither need you do anything but be yourself.”
I think we often lose sight of our innate goodness. As we grow and experience life, we make decisions about how life is. To remind us of our decisions we collect memories. We use these memories and emotions tied to them to remind us of our view of life and the world. Who we are. Our place in the world. Our relationship to others. How other people are. When we approach new events, we bring out these memories to remind us what we expect from ourselves and others. These memories and stories can become self-fulfilling prophesies – bringing about the same experience over and over again. To get back to our divine core we to break out of these stories from our wounded or ill self. I’m proposing that if we approach new situations with wonder/curiosity we can get past these memories or stories and get back to our divine self.
This past year I read “Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. In this book Tolle presents the idea that we should “observe ourselves” – what we’re thinking, how we’re feeling, what we’re doing. He states that by doing this observation we can realize that we’re not our thoughts, or our feelings, or even our actions, that our “core” or divine self is separate from all of these things. The fact that we’re not our thoughts or feelings can be liberating. This means we can look at, analyze and deconstruct our stories and find new meaning within and it these acts of self-analysis will not change who we truly are.
Described another way, observing our thoughts and feelings is a form of Mindfulness. When I first read about mindfulness and observing ourselves, our thoughts and feelings, without judgement I thought it was “robotic,” disconnected, and inhuman. I was really attached to my feelings and beliefs of my own woundedness, that I repeated to myself over and over again. As I’ve grown, I’ve become less attached to identifying myself through those negative thoughts and feelings and being more open to see other viewpoints.
As we observe our stories or our self-talk that underly our feelings and actions it’s good to remember a saying from Al-anon. They say, “fear is the chief activator of all my character defects.” Which in this context means that many of the stories I tell myself are based in fear. They are trying to mask a fear belief I hold or prevent me from experience a fearful experience again. These fears can take many forms –
- Not good enough
- Being seen
- Making mistakes
Knowing these stories are based in fear we can wonder or ask ourselves – what fear is behind this story? What are the lies in this story? Is this story still true? Is this story the only view? Does this story fit with who I want to be?
Becoming aware of the stories we tell ourselves allows us to see trends or themes in our lives. These themes can help us find our purpose, our message for the world and areas of learning. In curiosity we can ask ourselves, What are our defining moments that we hold on tight to? What are the repeating experiences and events threaded throughout our life? A couple of questions to help with our purpose is what are my unique talents/experiences? Beyond my fear, what drives me, what excites me, what calls to me?
I’ve talked a lot about analyzing ourselves, but we don’t live in the world alone. We don’t live in isolation and solely looking inward can be a lonely and isolating affair. Turning outward can build our connection with the rest of humanity, the rest of the world, the rest of the universe. To truly connect we first need to look beyond the stories we’re telling ourselves, the blinders and filters we’ve put on our own eyes about everyone, everything else in our lives. Looking at others with wonder and curiosity can help us see below and beyond our self-talk. Asking questions such as What is being triggered in me by this person/experience? What is the story I’m telling myself? Are there alternatives to this story that honors the other person’s inherent worth and dignity, believes they have the best of intentions – believes they are divine? And considering ourselves – what fear is this story masking – if the fear wasn’t in me, how would I see them? How would I treat them?
Sometimes seeing the world around us with wonder and awe can lead to a needed change in perspective. While preparing this service I read an essay titled “Face to Face With Mystery” by Christine Robinson, minister, First Unitarian Church of Albuquerque, New Mexico wrote:
So, you’ve got a bunch of really pressing, life-changing, love-soaked problems, and you’ve tied yourself up into knots of anxiety. Desperate for relief, perspective and a change, you take yourself to the foothills to walk. You stump along for an hour, rehearsing your options, your anxieties, your angers and fears, and finally you drop into an exhausted inner silence.
You mount the crest of a hill and notice, down the path a ways, a family of deer close enough that you can see their beautiful eyes. You come to a startled halt, and for one moment every fiber of your being is simply present. The deer look at you; you look at them. A smile plays on your lips—perhaps the first smile in days. A weight drops from your shoulders and you watch in wonder, feeling somehow deeply related to these companions and their peaceful ways.
The deer amble off. You resume your walk, but it’s all different now. The weight is gone, the anger and anxiety lessened. You find yourself thinking, “It’s going to be all right. Whatever happens, it will be all right.” There’s no logical reason for you to think this; your problems are just as dire as they were an hour ago. But you have no doubt of this larger wisdom.
And so, the most important part of your problems—your reaction to them—has changed, and you are content to simply do what seems best and await the outcome.
A mystic is a person who, first and foremost, relies on their own inner experience to decide what is true and meaningful in their lives. For that reason, mystics are looked at with some suspicion in traditions that value priests, scripture, and tradition. Mystics often find themselves accused of heresy. That is to say, they are guilty of choosing their beliefs based on their own inner authority rather than relying on external authorities. That’s what “heresy” means—choosing—especially, choosing what people (who think they have authority over you) tell you is wrong. Think Joan of Arc.
But you know, it seems to me that mystical experience is right down the UU alley. We give religious and spiritual authority to individuals and ask each person to look at their own mind and heart, at their own experience of life, to choose how to express their own beliefs. We believe that the divine speaks uniquely into the hearts of individuals, and that those encounters with mystery and wonder form one of the bases of our faith. Very heretical!
Of course, mysticism, like any kind of rabid individualism, can lead you astray. There are other kinds of inner experiences that arise out of our wounded or damaged or ill selves, and it can be important and helpful to confide in others to get their perspective when we have questions. But very often it seems that mystical experiences feel and indeed are true to the one who has them. Often, they change lives for the better.
View your own stories with wonder and curiosity. Look at others see beyond your stories born in your ill or damaged self. See the miracles around you. Find the divine. Travel your mystic path. May it be so.