Monthly Archives: August 2008

The Weave of Words

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One of the most profound spiritual experiences I ever had was during a guided meditation led by Andrew Harvey. I was taking a class from him on my way to earning a doctorate, and the instruction he gave us was quite simple but changed completely my orientation to Spirit.

Basically, we went on an inner journey through a specific landscape, and then got to a place where we came face to face with our image of the Divine. Being asked the question, “What does the Divine look like to you?” threw me into complete confusion. I had a whole Rolodex of images of God/dess, beginning with the Christian God of my youth, and extending into all the Deities I had encountered and worked with over many years. I literally imagined rifling through the card file, trying on each image in succession. Brigid? No. Jesus? No. Lugh? No. Yemaya? No. Snowy-bearded God guy? No.

This was getting interesting. None of the faces I knew of deity fit when I tried to imagine that fire at the center of my heart, which felt like my connection to Spirit. So what was it, that connection? What was I connecting to? When I focused on the sensation, gradually a wholly unexpected image drifted to the surface of my mind. It was a golden, shining being, androgynous, more light than substance, and shifting so that I could see all those other images in it, but none could encompass it. Compared to this Presence, my whole Rolodex was like a closet of used clothing.

Somehow I had managed to reach forty years of age while avidly studying, learning, and teaching others about spirituality, without being asked or asking myself that simple question. How was that possible? What other tremendous insights was I overlooking, by not taking the time to ask seemingly obvious questions? I had no explanation for this bizarre oversight in my spiritual education, but that experience taught me the importance of starting at the core and proceeding outward, rather than beginning on the outside with a story or image and bringing it in.

I have had the pleasure recently of lingering with a book that asks these seemingly obvious questions in a probing yet open-handed way. Like Catching Water in a Net: Human Attempts to Describe the Divine, by Val Webb, is a very readable, thoughtful consideration of why and how we name our experience of Spirit. Webb, a theologian, scientist, and Religious Studies lecturer in Australia, digs deep into Sufi, Buddhist, Hindu, Mesopotamian, Hebrew, Aboriginal, and Christian texts and images to illustrate some of the ways humans have answered those big questions over time.

Webb’s writing style is very clear and straightforward. She weaves together history, scripture, philosophy, and theology in a way that does not favor the academic or the  poetic, but rather draws both to the table. I recommend this book highly to anyone who would like to delve more deeply into their own conceptions of Spirit, and those like me who have always been curious about the genesis of certain religious ideas and assumptions, but were looking for the right book on the subject to come along. This is the book.

Best Waking Dream of the Week(end)

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It was a perfect day. The breeze was steady, bringing up whitecaps on the water, and the sun shone through it revealing all the shades of color in the sea. Breakers of pale glass-green gave way to aqua where the water deepened, interspersed with the heaving browns of kelp beds. The tendrils lifted and swayed in the surf, playing with the eye by sometimes appearing as weaving fronds, sometimes as the bobbing heads of seals lazing in the sun-warmed water.

After a long drive up the coast and lunch in Timber Cove, we got back into the car and headed home. I felt sated and relaxed, happy, at ease. Thinking of a perfect day tossed up like a jewel from the sea, I said, “Life is good.”

He said, “And it’s going to get better now,” with a finality that made me turn my head. I felt all the levels at which I needed to believe that was true. A parade of responses floated across my mind’s eye: denial jokes, teasing banter, changes of subject. I let them all go by, and finally said, “I have that on tape,” as though daring him to take back those words.

Without glancing from the road, and in a quiet, deep voice, he simply replied, “Good.”

This is my Lammas harvest. Old stories are wiped clean from the slate like prayers sent off into the ether, while the answers to our dream questions slowly emerge, taking shape in the flesh, on the page, bursting through the soil of night and into the waking world.

A Modest Accomplishment

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Amazingly, those items on my to-do lists keep getting crossed off. It takes me longer to get things done than I think it ought to, and I tend to get impatient with myself. In times like these, two things come in very handy. One is keeping those completed lists on my desk for a few extra days, so I can remind myself of how much I have actually accomplished. The other is to remember what it was like working for other people.

When I did administrative work, it was nearly impossible to complete any major task because there were constant distractions, both from my employers and from other employees. The same to-do list that I nearly completed this week in my own office would have taken me twice or three times as long to get through, if I were still working for someone else.

Still, the writing suffers. Every task that I can possibly think of comes before I sit down to write. I know that eventually I will just have to knuckle under and do it, but meanwhile I did manage to do one writing-related task. I found all the blog posts I have written here about Reclaiming, and created a page which lists them all.

I have amassed quite a collection of Reclaiming posts, as it turns out, and it was kind of fun to sort them all out and add commentary to each one. The beauty of writing, of course, is being able to control the narrative of any given event. In this task I was also able to dictate the meta-narrative, which is even more thrilling.

So while this isn’t an earth-shattering post by any means, at least it will serve to alert friends and foes of Reclaiming that there is now, over on the sidebar just below the blogroll, a helpful index of all my supportive, and not-so-supportive, comments from the past few years. That should be worth at least an afternoon of procrastination for anyone working in an office or, Goddess forbid, on writing projects of your own.