I've been exploring the practice of centering prayer, or meditation with a Jesus twist. I've had some fairly radical experiences of relaxed introspection that have opened me up to a dumbstruck realization of just how shallow my daily living can be.
I've been thinking a lot about my friend Bob Pino, who lives on the other side and feels here, still.
I've been reading the Bible through a different lense; reading not to find words and phrases and concept to undergird my Christian worldview, but more as a historical text. This is new to me, consistently reading like this - soaking in the text - and I am amazed at the depth and breadth of the story as I encounter it without the encumbrance of immediate and understandable application to Western Christianity.
And last night I had a fascinating conversation with a woman who exudes joy and peace and contentment. You know the kind; you can't help but be drawn to her, even while you remain a bit mystified as to the source of her delight. She seems somewhat "other", in a way that maybe I want to be myself.
We talked for over an hour last night, about current situations and struggles and expectations, and we prayed together as well. It's such an intimate thing, to sit close to someone and speak words directed to an Unseen Being, with the full knowledge that regardless of the connection and shared similarities, we cannot help but be somewhat unique in how we experience God. There is a presumed trust, a straightforward walk into the familiar comfort of a childhood bedroom. There is a shared vocabulary and easy assent.
And yet there is such a difference. In the midst of the closeness, the agreement, the spiritual combustion that remains a mystery, there is yet a slight abstract isolation.
That's another source of my imagination agitation; my brother's blog post about how in spite of all our yearning and yapping about community, we live, ultimately, in isolation. He wrote:
It may sound like a sad or depressing to think of ourselves as ultimately isolated from each other, but it really shouldn’t. I think it’s really simply choosing to accept and to live in the reality that God has given us.And so there is a pressing in on me; not a strain or burden, but as a compression of all that is currently swirling around my psyche and my daily hours of living.
Of life and memories and fresh encounters. Of old words read in a new way and the subtle, unrelenting call that there is more, that the paradigm for which I have settled may well be expanding and stretching, and that there is nothing to lose.
There is nothing to lose of myself. This sense of compression is comforting; it made me feel content to move, to push myself toward clarity, all the while accepting the chaos.
Here's what happened as I drove to work: Something lurking below the surface of my understanding, maybe even apart and away from my very self, prompted this feeble, flashing moment; an effort to make enough mental connection to Understand It All. To wrap my brain around the journey of hundreds of thousands of very human people trudging towards a promise, becoming a community, receiving guidelines for worship. To consider the neurological implications of the very real changes in my body and my brain when I sit still, centered, in prayer and meditation. Remembering how very close I have felt, how connected to the presence of a friend who has been gone from this life for three years now; how his death opened my eyes to believe that the veil between this life and the next is very transparent, indeed.
To hear tales of spiritual beings present in a building and accept that, quite easily, as a reality and a comfort. To believe in what I cannot see. To give a name to a thing I have often sensed.
All these things - none conscious until now, as I remember - but these thoughts and others fused together and I had a moment, driving, where I could. not. grasp. the. miracle. of. life.
And that makes for a ridiculous blog post, for there are no answers here. No encouragement. No fixes for anything.
All I can say is this - any other words seem futile at the moment.
The miracle of life itself. Our bodies. The long, powerful history of people. The DNA that ties my living and breathing in this present moment back thousands of years to very real people with very real lives - and I live completely unaware.
Heaven and angels. The agile ability of my brain to signal relaxation and peace to muscles and tissue.
Death that brings life.
Life that opens wide.
There are things too wonderful for me to know; and yet there is a presence, a beauty, and I catch a slight taste, a fleeting glimpse.
Strength and life and truth and a force for good; salvation and redemption and hope held high.
This life is such a gift, and there is more to come.
Soaking in gratitude, with a whispered 'amen'...