Spirituality: Whence the Wind?

"The aim of the Spiritual Growth Network of Kentucky is to empower others to pursue their respective spiritual journeys." We seek to encourage the reader to listen to the inner journey and the promptings of the Wind, wherever, however, whenever. --facilitator is Paschal Baute. SGN of KY is a nonprofit, nondenominational, educational corporation established in Kentucky in 1989. www.lexpages.com/sgn "Be still and know that I am the Lord." Psalm 46:10

Friday, February 25, 2005

In the Flow, Inside the Mystery, Downhill Skiing as a Metaphor, and Listening

What message would you have for young people?” asked Carl Stern of NBC in concluding a television interview with Rabbi Abraham Joshua Herschel shortly before his death on December 23, 1972. The following from a book on Servant Leadership.

“Rabbi Herschel replied: ‘I would say: Let them remember that there is a meaning beyond absurdity. Let them be sure that every little deed counts, that every word has power, and that we can–every one–do our share to redeem the world in spite of all absurdities and all frustrations and all disappointments. And above all, remember that the meaning of life is to build a life as if it were a work of art.’

“...Hershel was a thoroughgoing mystic in his insistence on the primacy of unique present existence, no two moments alike. ‘True insight,’ he once wrote, ‘is a moment of perceiving a situation before it freezes into similarity with something else.”

from Robert K. Greenleaf: Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitmate Power and Greatness. Paulist, 1977.

My Comment:
For me this part of the uniqueness of Jesus, that he could be totally present to the moment, was maybe partly what he meant when he taught us there was a realm of the Spirit already present among us, although hidden from most. Most of us have difficulty being fully present to any person or situation without bringing some expectation or assumption or some readiness to compare it with other experiences. We are so full of our history that experience itself loses its freshness.

[Some personal crisis, either our own, and that of someone close or proximate to us, is often necesssary to snap us out of our ordinary waking-walking-talking-to-ourselves everyday trances: pain, hurt or setback.]

In Buddhist meditation we learn to become aware of our ego-attachments, and Centering prayer can help us do the same. Until we develop this ability to reflect on our experience in the process, we are subject to (and often prisoners of) our reactions, whims, expectations, and all the Blindness of our accustomed way of viewing reality. And we will tend to protect our comfort zones and avoid newness.

Take skiing, for example, standing at the top of the mountain. If I approach this day, this slant of slope, this kind of snow-surface, this weather and skiing with these particular people, with the memories of other fonder experiences, then I am immediately comparing this experience with other and losing the opportunity of experiencing the uniqueness of this very moment.. Don’t we tend to do this with both persons and situations.

To experience the wonder of anything we must be fully present to the experience, inside it, in the flow, not partly outside of it, attempting to judge or compare it with other experiences. The really neat thing about skiing, for us crazies who enjoy it, is that it forces one to be fully present to every aspect of one’s surrounding and company and skill level, and conditions of surface, snow, and one’s own body. And further, to throw oneself into it (with balance), because the natural thing to do when sliding down a hill is to lean back, but as soon as we lean back on our heels, we are more likely to fall. So one must lean forward into the skis, scary at first, actually leaning downhill over the skis.

To ski well one must challenge the environment, push the edge, and ‘no balls–no blue chips, no guts–no glory, no pain–no gain” (and I have had my crashes). Downhill skiing trains one to live in the present moment and to embrace the total Being of the Moment, with total readiness to bend and adapt, outdoors in the snow, surrounded by a winter wonderland, often with good company.

It is such a spiritual experience that I sometimes feel as if the Divine, the Holy, the Sacred, the great Mystery is to be found in every snowflake. My term for this is living “in the flow” of immediate experience. Or simply, Being Present. One can also dance the same way, with the same surrender to the experience, being totally in the flow. One can also learn to live this way.

To live in this kind of flow is to live inside another reality along side the “normal, everyday, surface” reality. It means seeing the miracles in everyday life, always just happening, God’s creativity, always just now happening. When he said that the domain of Godde is within us, and when he had such great respect for his friends that he invited them into this awareness by parables, and metaphors, never forcing it (at least in the synoptics) then I believe, that this quiet sensitivity both to ourselves and to others and to each new moment is already inside the Mystery, is actually part of the Mystery.

When we fully listen to another human being, really, truly listen, in such a way to allow their experience to be experienced here within, as it is, without judgment, we have entered that mystery of Being Present. We can begin to hear the other at such depth that they can begin to feel heard, truly heard for the first time in their lives. When we do this we are living on the “spiritual edge,” inside the flow of the immediate present. We are also most vulnerable because we cannot predict what will happen next. I propose we are most beautiful as human beings, and maybe even most fully human, when we do this. I think Jesus taught us how to do this.

Paschal Baute, 1/21/99, edited 2/25/05