*Brian Wilcox. 'the feel of water'. Flickr
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A continuance of encounters with a sage who did not see himself as a sage, but others did; from Brian K. Wilcox. "Meetings with an Anonymous Sage."
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What were you seeking when you first started meditating?
After meditating for a short time through exploring varied means on my own, without a guide or teacher, I was sitting in a group with one of my first spiritual guides. We, a group, were sharing in a training in Centering Prayer over several months, meeting once a month and spending the weekend together. On this night we were led in a silent listening exercise. We each were to see our self following Jesus as he walked along a road, our following, as some of his disciples did in a scene early in his public ministry. These few disciples had just met him, having been disciples of his cousin John the Baptist.
Jesus turns around, and he inquires, "What are you seeking?" I had read that a number of times over the years, but never did it strike me how important that question was now, for me. I had read it more as what had been asked those followers, rather than what he was asking me.
We were to see ourselves seeing Jesus look back at us, asking the same question, and, then, being silent, to listen to the response that would arise. We were not to seek a reply, the mind was to remain quiet, trusting Spirit to give the reply.
This I did, and the spontaneous answer came, "Peace." There was the inner conviction that I had come to that place and time for peace, mainly. I knew this was not merely a peace of absence from inner conflict, but one that would flow from relationship with the Divine, so I was present to grow into deeper communion with the Supreme, and from that would grow inner peace.
Some would say that's self-centered? How do you understand that?
We come as we come. That is how I understand that.
What awakens us to the need for Grace, that awakens us. All beings desire peace, our innate longing is for inner harmony. We come, however, with different longings, or tones to the one longing for Life, not mere duration of time, but fullness of Life.
So, we can come with selfish motives?
Sadly, the opposition between selfish and unselfish is treated as though there is a clear difference. There is not. Anyway, whatever leads us to the Alter of Love, how can that be selfish. And what is selfish about wanting a better life or to be more fulfilled as a human being, having a more whole experience of what is innate to our being as expressing Truth?
Then, those motives change over time?
Yes, even what we call pure motives will be seen differently. All qualities of Grace are seen differently as we are drawn closer into the Heart of Grace. Desires that lead us to Grace, they change over time by Grace, unless we block the natural emergence of the path, its deepening and the transformation that goes along with that.
A telling scripture from the Bhagavad Gita reads...
There be those, too, whose knowledge,
By this desire or that, gives them to serve
Some lower gods, with various rites, constrained
By that which mouldeth them. Unto all such~
Worship what shrine they will, what shapes, in faith~
'Tis I who give them faith! I am content!
What is important to see here is how Krishna, seen as a manifestation of Brahman, or God, relates to lesser motives and ways of worship, for the Gita contends not all ideas and forms of faith-worship are equal, not all lead to the same awakening from the self to the one Self. Yet, and this is what stands out, is Krishna says, "I am content!" Absolute Love respects however we come to Grace, to Life.
All paths, all motives, are equal, then?
All paths, all motives are not equal, yet all are equally embraced in unconditional love by Love. An old hymn from my childhood spoke of this coming to Grace, however we come: "Just as I am, without one plea." That is the only way we can kneel at that Altar. That is the only way, also, that we can live, as we are each day, each moment, until the end. Richard Rohr, in his Falling Upward, did a play on the word perfection, taking away from it its impossibility, saying, "Perfection ... is the ability to incorporate imperfection! There’s no other way to live: You either incorporate imperfection, or you fall into denial." Yes, true, yet at some point, you realize you no longer think about or feel the imperfect-perfection, it just is, it is one with who you are, who God is, what life is. You are no longer trying to be perfect in some idealistic way, and you are no longer paying attention to your apparent imperfection either. You just keep living "just as I am" without trying to decide what that is, as though you can know anyway - you can't!
Why can't we?
Too much of our apparent imperfection is hidden from us. In a single act, no one can access or assess the potential many motives behind it. We, also, are prone to misinterpret our motives, usually in a manner that favors us. Yet, again, over time, we come to accept this is so. We are no longer checking the self-account, arriving at the surpluses and deficits. We stop going into the confessional of self-assessment. Taking a daily inventory is over. We know it could never be accurate, anyway, and we would never know how far from accurate or how far from inaccurate. Earlier, that may have helped, later it becomes a useless distraction. If Spirit needs you to know something of that nature, Spirit will show it. Leave it to Spirit.
This acceptance of mixed motives seems radical, not what I usually hear from religious groups, or even spiritual gatherings.
Grace is radical, for being so loving, so accepting of us as we are, even with our mixed motives. That can be insulting to persons who think they are part of a special group, who think they alone have approached the Altar of Grace with motives that fit their being received, but that others Grace is not content with, not glad to receive just as they are. We all kneel at that Altar as we are, or we do not truly kneel at that Altar. This is a humbling message, this we see in the Gita, as well as many stories and sayings attributed to Jesus. Only the humble receive Grace, for not that Grace withholds Itself and is not given, but only the humbled and humble have the openness to receive. Pride, including self-righteousness, closes the hands to the freely-given Life. The Sun shines, but if your eyes are closed inward on self, you cannot enjoy the seeing of the Light. Still, again, as the Sun never withholds itself, God never withholds God's-self, which is Grace.
So, the key of approaching the path is not the motive, but being humble.
The posture of the heart is what is most important, not only when we say "Yes" initially but in our continuing to say "Yes." We begin humble, and that humbleness goes with us, day-by-day, moment-by-moment, year-after-year. There is no other posture by which to live with the Inner Sanctum. There is no recess from this reverent modesty in the Light. The whole path is on the knees, with open-hearted readiness to receive grace by Grace. You realize how precious you are in the Eyes of God by becoming nothing in your own eyes. Then, you can truly reverence yourself as the means of the Spirit of God, in such reverence, you reverence God, being one-in-God with everyone ~ most just do not know it.
That sounds like one has to have a major low self-esteem problem to enjoy Grace.
No. Self-esteem is a psychological term. Self-esteem can be a block to kneeling at the Altar. At the Altar to see that you are nothing in yourself is insight. You see that apart from Grace you are Grace-less, in Grace you are Grace-full. The question of esteem does not arise, for this is not about you as a psychological being, as in how you feel about yourself, but about your realizing yourself as a being in the one Being, and that Being-is-Grace. So, you are Graceful. How wonderful!
*Brian Wilcox. 'Kuan Yin ~ Bodhisattva of Compassion'. Flickr
(C)Brian K. Wilcox, 2019
*The theme of "Lotus of the Heart" is 'Living in Love beyond Beliefs.' This work is presented by Brian K. Wilcox, of Maine, USA. You can order Brian's book An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, through major online booksellers.
*Quote from Bhagavad Gita from Sir Edwin Arnold, Trans. Bhagavad Gita.