Mindfulness and feelings

Christophe André’s beautiful book Mindfulness- 25 ways to live in the moment through art uses paintings from Rembrandt, Lucas Cranach, Peter Doig and others to teach presence and control of awareness and attention. As I cease to resist myself and the beautiful world, and become positive, his challenging lessons help me grow in love and appreciation.

I know that my feelings are proper to my situation, and yet I find them difficult. André recognises the confusion and pain. I unlearn suppression of and resistance to feelings, and change the goal of my spiritual growth quest from “never feeling emotions I find unpleasant” to something more achievable on Earth, and doubted the wisdom of his earlier comments: it is one of the hardest processes of mental life to distance ourselves from thoughts saturated with emotion, which we struggle to prevent or dismiss. It is easier to establish this necessary distance by noticing our emotional states than struggling to suppress them. Moods come from suppressed emotion.

Obviously we can’t do it by obeying them- well, sometimes I want to go with my emotion instantly, and sometimes I want to make a long term plan based on a feeling.

He names where I was: hypersensitive patients who have managed to freeze painful emotions, like permafrost in which nothing can grow. This is no longer me. Thanks be to God.

Like a toddler tugging on Mummy’s arm, desperate for attention, feelings may only be quieted by hearing them. Despite the unpleasantness, allow them to be, and observe them. What thoughts do they lead to? What state do they put my body in? What do they make me do? If I acknowledge my anger I need not project it on the situation, and can respond better.

At any moment in the day, take time to feel, gently connecting with our emotional state. Practise introspection in calm and rest, and we can adopt it when we are suffering, without trying to change the feeling.

Having passed through this recognition of the difficulties, his final conclusion that first we accept that suffering and discomfort exist within us, then we can listen to and believe our own words of comfort- it doesn’t really matter, it will pass, etc.

The seeds of serenity can only grow in the soil of lucidity.

This is only one chapter, much richer than my summary, with a lucid commentary on a slightly different Cranach painting of melancholy.

Lucas Cranach, Melancholy

A fbfnd shared Karla McLaren on multiple emotions: allow the confusion, they are all good, but we frustrate this by commonly accepted ideas: there are good and “negative” emotions, the thought that sometimes we are unemotional, imagining we only feel one emotion at a time, and the thought that the only options are acting instantly on a feeling, and suppressing it. She writes on developing empathic skills.

Lucas Cranach, Melancholy detail

How to cure a fanatic

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/6b/Durer%2C_adamo_ed_eva_ad_acquerello.jpg/395px-Durer%2C_adamo_ed_eva_ad_acquerello.jpgWe’re not the bullies. The “Gay” activists are the bullies.

My beautiful friend Pink introduced me to How to cure a fanatic, by Amos Oz. As there is only one fanatic I can cure, I offer this:

God created Heaven and Earth, and made humanity in God’s image: male and female created he us. In God’s image: we are loving, creative and powerful. We are beautiful. Since Creation, God has been tirelessly seeking to communicate with us, to bring us to our highest way of being. There are two principal ways in which God communicates with human beings in the 21st century: the person of his son our Lord Jesus Christ, in personal relationship; and through the words of the Bible.

I seek what is Right, the best way a human being can be, through relationship with God. In this, I continually fail: and God’s love lifts me up and enfolds me. God’s forgiveness cleanses me. I am perfect in my imperfection.

The atheist is also created in God’s image, but is unable to see the way in which God seeks to communicate with him. When they attempt moral argument, it is fatally flawed, because though they seek what is Good they reject the ways our Creator has given to find what is Good: His holy Word, in the Bible and the person of Christ. They are incapable of moral argument, knowledge or clarity. O God! Heal them!

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/09/1584_Cranach_d.J._Colditzer_Altar_au%C3%9Fen_anagoria.JPG/494px-1584_Cranach_d.J._Colditzer_Altar_au%C3%9Fen_anagoria.JPGMale and female God created us, and that creation is beautiful in its complementarity. The man fits the woman as perfectly as two halves of a whole, physically and spiritually. Two people become one flesh. A penis is perfectly fitted for a vagina, and the male character for the female character: Colossians 3:18-19, Ephesians 5:21-33– what makes that submission and tender care beautiful is human Love, a reflection of the Love which is God.

“Gay” people distort and destroy that. In place of the fitting love and complementarity of male and female, they put lust for a disgusting physical action, the misuse of their own bodies. This blasphemes the body made in the image of God.

“Gay” activists seek to pervert marriage, the symbol of the Godly union of a man with a woman, to their demeaning lusts. They demand that everyone bows to their idol: they are not satisfied with living together and pursuing their abomination together, they demand that we call their sin “marriage” and we participate in their “weddings”. They sue Christians who refuse to serve their blasphemy.

We’re not the bullies. They are.

Friends, this is not what I believe. I have taken something which is ridiculous- surely, no-one can believe That??- and made of it something I could almost assent to. I see that someone could assert it, without being a wicked persecutor. Instead she is someone who acts from Love to benefit us all.

Leviticus

File:Lucas Cranach Tempelaustreibung.jpgLeviticus is used as a moral argument against homosexuality. Specifically, it calls for men who lie with a man as with a woman to be stoned to death. Has this book any moral value at all?

It starts with commands to make particular sacrifices at particular times. The NRSV Access bible says its traditions were probably gathered in its current form after the exile in Babylon, and the New Jerome Biblical Commentary agrees that the first seven chapters present the sacrificial legislation of the Second Temple, built around 516BCE. With the end of the Monarchy, there was a need for a focus of unity and the identity of the nation. Sacrifice also atoned for sin: in one, on the Day of Atonement, the sins of the whole nation of the past year were taken away by the Scapegoat. It is reassuring that humans could have a way of becoming right with God; but all Christians would agree that these rules for killing and burning animals are no longer necessary. Christ’s sacrifice supersedes them.

Chapters 10-15 distinguish ceremonially clean from unclean things. Some of these are sensible: pork must be well cooked, or can give food poisoning, so in a peasant economy it might be better not to eat it at all. These rules also distinguish the Jews from the peoples around them. Therefore, the book gives them a sense of solidarity, and identity with a particular culture. But again, now God has called all these things clean and commanded Christians not to call them unclean.

File:Hl-Valentin-mit-Stifter-150.jpgThere are two narrative passages. In Leviticus 10, Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu perform a sacrifice which God has not commanded. Fire issues out of the “presence of the Lord” and they die. Aaron is ordered not to mourn them. This illustrates an aspect of God. God is “abba“, Daddy, but also the Holy God, to be treated with respect. However as we are commanded to pray Our Father, and a father will not give his son a stone when he asks for bread, it is unlikely God kills those who worship incorrectly by blasting them with fire. This too is at least qualified, if not superseded. At 24: 10-16, the child of an Egyptian by an Israelite woman gets in a fight with an Israelite, and blasphemes God’s name with a curse. The whole community stones him to death. No Christian now argues we should stone people to death, though soi-disant Christians in Uganda, egged on by American extremists, seek the death penalty for homosexuality.

All of Leviticus is superseded, then, apart from that bit about men lying with men. The bit in the same chapter condemning sex during menstruation is never enforced.

There is one good bit. 19:18, “Love your neighbour as yourself”, which Jesus quoted. The book has historical value, and it had value for the community which obeyed it, 2500 years ago. It is no basis for any moral law, now.

I have extensively rewritten my page Gay Christians, added some lovely pictures, and reordered it so that the meanings of the passages are explained briefly, then links are provided to more detailed discussion. The new form should make it easier to add new links: if you would like to recommend any, please let me know.

My poor enemy

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ef/Gerechtigkeit-1537.jpgSome blogs say homosexuality is against God’s will, and I go on them to inoculate myself. These things trigger me. I get angry, and my anger ties me up inside. I have withdrawn in fear and terror. I wish to be able to hold and accept my own anger within me. I want to be aware of where I am in the moment- how triggered, how angry, how fearful of my own fear- and hold my ground and function. I would like to do that face to face. Blogs are a practice-ground.

Paul, in his comment here, says gay people cannot have a loving relationship. It is not Love, any more than paedophilia is. Then he says Your side has won the culture war, that should make you happy. Christians are the only group in our society that it’s OK to hate. Mmm. Paranoia and self-pity.

I hear the pain and hurt in his words.

What is he defending? The right to feel disgust at another person, merely for who he is. The right to cling to disputed interpretations of the Bible, when in our lifetime Biblical arguments against the mixing of the races have finally been laid to rest: our understanding of the Bible improves, as our knowledge of God improves. The right to feel better than gay people, to despise some outsider in order to feel better about himself. A cat to kick. Mean, horrible things.

File:Lucas Cranach d.Ä. - Christus am Ölberg (Tokyo).jpgDefending- himself, or at least his self-concept. A shared understanding of the World. A community where he can feel at home, because people think and feel the same way he does. It is because they suppress their other thoughts and feelings, and it is supremely uncomfortable for those so different that they can not suppress, but it seems comfortable enough for most. Humankind cannot bear very much reality.

I can sympathise with that. I find reality, other people, my ain sel, difficult. Jesus challenges that comfort. Matthew 10: 34-39:

34 ‘Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn

‘“a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law –
36     a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.”[c]

37 ‘Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

A man is set against his father because the world moves on, our understanding grows and deepens, and all must separate from their parents and find their own person. This is painful and difficult for both.

If we know our separateness and difference, we can come together, worship together, work together. If we suppress it, our hands are tied behind our backs. Coming to this acceptance of the world as it is, and others as they are; shedding comfortable falsehoods, feels like losing our life- but it is for Jesus’ sake.

Adam and Eve

They saw that they were naked. They hid, because they were afraid.

That is the result of eating the apple of the knowledge of good and evil: self-consciousness. Before, the sinless natural man does his thing, at unity with himself.

Or, before the natural man obeys God, doing as God sees fit, though capable of disobedience; disobedience breaks the bond with God, creates fear and separation.

A wonderful story, dating back to the exile in Babylon, 2,500 years ago- probably not to the time of Moses. Bibliolaters dishonour it by taking it literally. We have two ideals to strive for in the religious life: a life of obedience and submission; or a life of simply doing my own thing, without over-thinking, without internal conflict because it is Natural. Perhaps, they are both the same.