A prayer of surrender

I had to rewrite the prayer Richard Rohr quoted, of surrender to God, as I am not sure I believe God exists separate from human beings. I am clear that the ego, the petty-self, produces little people, and there is a real self, a core within, which can liberate itself in the great struggle for maturity in mid-life- or younger, if the person is blessed. This is the way to do- not-do with the Tao, to flow like water.

Rohr quoted Joseph Campbell- Where you stumble, there lies your treasure- and the Prayer of Abandonment, by Charles de Foucauld:

Father,
I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me
and in all your creatures—
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.

I rewrote it. I am not sure I am able to pray this. The second stanza may be the real self responding, or the conscious mind’s best perception of that real self:

Inner light
You are my truth and my will
without you I can do nothing
yet I block you because I judge you
as stupid or wicked.
I believe: help thou my unbelief.
I need to surrender, and my fear is terrible.
This is the perfect human
whom God created.
Help me let go.

I am worthy of life.
I am soft, gentle, peaceful.
I am alive already in my own acts
I am beautiful, if only I saw it.
I am wise, if only I trusted it
I am perceptive, and my fear is a blindfold

Rohr’s summary of the Word of God, God’s message for humanity, is beautiful:

Listen to your body.
Live in the Now.
Love all that is.

He also says “Slow down”, which I don’t think quite captures it: lose the frenetic, but be capable of swift decisive action in the right moment. That anxiety and stress gets in the way when you need to act. Shed the anxiety- chill out- to be capable of action.

There is the spiritual reality, the created Beauty of the human being, and there is the difficulty of acting in the world, amongst other human beings. More on this tomorrow.

Job

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b5/Behemoth3.jpgSatan visits God. God boasts of Job, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil. Satan- not Milton’s character, or even anyone in Revelation- says Job only worships because God has increased his possessions: if God takes them away, he will curse you to your face. God allows Satan first to take away Job’s children and possessions, and then his health. They agree that being good and retaining integrity mean worshipping God. Job refuses to curse God.

There is a strong strain in the Bible saying that the good prosper and the bad suffer. Well, Basher Assad is richer than the refugees in Lebanon, not all of whom can be more wicked than he, but we read Deuteronomy 28: If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands that I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. Psalm 37:25:

I was young and now I am old,
yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.

It is echoed when Jesus heals the man born blind, in John 9. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus.

The book of Job refutes this view. Job’s comforters assert it:
‘Consider now: who, being innocent, has ever perished?
Where were the upright ever destroyed?
8 As I have observed, those who plough evil
and those who sow trouble reap it.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/37/Blake_Book_of_Job_Linell_set_14.jpgGod numbers the hairs on my head- a beautiful, caring image– but here, God will not let Job swallow his spit. God’s presence and constant interest becomes a threat.

Job’s dialogue with his friends descends from intuitive integrity in Job and sympathy from his friends, to embittered self-justification in Job and outrageous accusation from his friends at the end (ESV Study Bible). Dramatically, this sets the stage for the appearance of God: the Elihu passages, also asserting that

He repays everyone for what they have done;
he brings on them what their conduct deserves.
It is unthinkable that God would do wrong,
that the Almighty would pervert justice.

are probably a later interpolation, by someone who missed the point. In the end, God answers Eliphaz, telling him to ask for Job’s prayers, but does not mention Elihu.

Then God speaks. Initially I wrote that he starts with his creation of the world, and then his operation of it, but he does not. Instead, he asks questions. Did you create the world? Do you rule it? This so masculine God, yet with a womb, bullies Job with irony: Surely you know, for you were already born! You have lived so many years! Job is silent. But that is not enough for God:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5b/Blake_Book_of_Job_Linell_set_16.jpg

Unleash the fury of your wrath, he says.

I am God.

I can do what I like.

Who the fuck are you?

Have you ever prayed, God, what are you playing at? This resonates with me. This is a God I recognise.

Job submits and repents.

Probably the writer believed the world did not move- of course it doesn’t, if it did we would fall off, how could we not feel the world moving? How could he imagine the world moved? That theory started with Aristarchus. Job is restored to prosperity- God does it– though there is no suggestion that mitigates his loss, or the deaths of his children.

Oh, Violet, your target is so puny! Biblical literalists, forsooth, who may indeed believe Job is historical, even that his conversation with his Comforters was couched in precisely that poetic language. Read the book. It is beautiful. Faced with the ludicrous idea that good people prosper because God rewards them, it refutes it utterly.

Prayer

So I asked,
How may I lay down my burden of pain?
For the pain of my past is pain for me now.
And I heard, Know it is past.
Today is a new day.
Today need not be exactly the same as yesterday.
And I asked,
How may I respond in power,
rather than react in weakness?
And I heard,
Know that you are powerful.
And I cried,
I get everything wrong,
and everything is Wrong:
Why parrot, "All shall be Well?"
And I heard,
Notice that it is well, 
and it is.

Note: “When you react you are giving away your power ….When you respond You are staying in control of yourself” is a facebook meme attributed to Bob Proctor.

Practice

You would think, hitting someone, that “throwing” a punch would make it stronger. The shoulder goes forward, the body goes forward so that there is a straight line through the arm, shoulder, torso, leg, back foot, rooting the punch in the ground. But no. As I punch, I keep my torso vertical to keep in control and able to move in whatever direction I wish. Tempted to put my shoulder forward, as I would pushing open a stuck door, I learn that this is weaker, twisting the torso: instead I keep it straight, shoulders parallel with hips, and move my hips. This brings the power of hip, thigh and calf into the punch. The jargon: hips off, one hip toward the opponent; as I punch I bring “hips on”, my whole front facing the opponent, my fist at his stomach or face or side.

This morning we were feinting with the left to the face, and as the opponent’s blocking left knocks that out of the way we punch the right to the unprotected side. So, instantly after blocking above we must block below. As it is an exercise, we match the punches and blocks together beautifully. The blocker then comes forward with a stomach level punch. I was with the beautiful Alex, 6′ and 16 with floppy curly hair, who floats like a butterfly in sparring. We were practising that as well, launching forward off the back foot to punch then pulling back out of range. I have skinned my big toe, landing on it. Aiming, keeping torso vertical, leaping in and out, it is too much to bring in hips off hips ON as well.

It is a spiritual thing. We seek no-mind, the relaxed state where the body uses the muscles necessary for the move without tension, and responds to the opening or the blow without conscious thought. And, we have rules and techniques to learn, and others to do it with.

Centering prayer, on the other hand, my mind goes all over the place. I would like an understanding. I want to do it right, and while I realise that it will take practice, I do not want to spend half an hour at a time if I am not Getting Somewhere with it. So I asked Facebook: You meditate. Your attention wanders, and you draw it back to your breath, the Mystery at the heart of the Universe, whatever.
Are the thoughts merely distractions, or are they ever Useful?

One response which I love is that, of course thoughts are useful. But they are a tool,  and one can get into unhelpful thought patterns: so it helps to have the life-skill, developed through meditation, of stepping back from the thought, realising it is only a thought, and choosing how I wish to think. “It helps to not get annoyed with the phenomenon and stay compassionate to onesself”.

So, I may enjoy the practice, if I become conscious of my breath, and luxuriate in appreciation of my wonderful body and its functioning. I also love the idea in meditation of, when realising I have been thinking rather than appreciating the Breath, of thanking the thought, which has done its job, rather than getting irritated with myself because I have been thinking, I have not done it right. I am assured, though, that meditating without thought is possible.

Allow, accept, appreciate. I may enjoy my breath. I may accept the thoughts, appreciate them, and see them, and then I may enjoy them. Rather than fighting to keep my attention on my breath which does not interest or motivate me, hungry for moments of enjoyment, judging all my “failures”, I can just do it, so enjoy it all. I may even get “better” at it, if “better” has any meaning.

Next day I am stiff all down the legs, so that I waddle rather than walking, and have skinned my big toe painfully- I should land on the ball of the foot, not the toe. It is good to learn and improve. In the Quaker meeting, I find myself thinking on an old sore, so I leave the meeting room, lie on the floor and cry. That is what I had meant by the thought being useful- it came up in a safe space, and was healing. And- while out of the meeting room, I put on the kettles so the water is boiled for tea.

I have improved the look of my site, with parent pages and sub-pages, which means I can have more pages: Polemic on arguments, and Photography organising the pictures. Have a look at my new page, “Gorgeous“. I had lots of portraits of me before deciding to transition. They reassured me that I could appear female. Alas the HTML which allowed me to emphasise some words with the font Pristina is not currently working.

Biodanza

I had not done Biodanza before the twenty minute taster at L’s birthday party. Her friend S teaches it. She had a colleague calling up the music. I thought, well, I have done 5Rhythms, this should be OK. S talks us into an in-the-moment place, heart open. I flick into that immediately, which is a useful skill, then find myself thinking, get on with it, as she carries on talking us there. Intriguing. How would you get people in this state, in your group? How would you know they were there?

Actually, in other groups, leaders have used dancing as a way of getting us to relax into that state of Presence. Perhaps S could just trust the dance, if she had longer to demonstrate. Or perhaps she needs us there first, so that when we do the dancing we get its full effect.

There is a great deal more instruction than in 5R. There is some couple work, we move in concentric circles making eye contact. Again, with L’s friends, this is easy enough. We are into that eye-contact thing.

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I held the weight in my hand, arm extended sideways. “Are you lifting it with your Qi?” asked H. Mmm. Actually, I can see it could be called that, but I would explain what I was doing in a materialist way: often lifting a weight I tense up, and I was seeking to relax all the muscles apart from the ones actually needed to hold the weight up. It is a lesson I took from my handful of yoga lessons: relax into the pose. The tension does me no good. If I screw my face up as I try to twist the lid off a jar, how might that help?

File:Vishnu Kumartuli Park Sarbojanin Arnab Dutta 2010.JPGI had not known the “spiritual” explanation could be given for the technique (though, possibly, those who would “lift a weight with their Qi” are doing something different). I do not know what value it has. It sounds like obfuscation.

Thinking as I write: if I told you that it was possible to lift the weight with Qi, and that you should simply relax and do it, would that enable you to lift the weight unconsciously? We are so good at self-consciousness. We overthink everything. Perhaps I could limit my consciousness to telling my body and my unconscious mind to do its thing. That might feel like Spirit or Qi doing the work.

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Law of attraction seems so fitted to a materialist explanation, stripping away all the taboos and fears holding us back from decisive action, that a spiritual explanation seems otiose. Could I “manifest” something other than by my own actions?

I still want breast growth. I can manifest that easily, paying a surgeon to stuff them with silicone. Then again, after eleven years on the Sweeties, I would have thought any growth I was capable of would have happened by now. So, just as a game, I will seek to manifest it Spiritually. I will use my Qi. I will pray for it. See what happens.

Picture credit.