Oh My God

Dearest Readers,

One of the things I enjoy most is having meaningful discussions. Small talk is okay but I’d much rather have Deep Talk. Why chit-chat about the weather when we could be talking about the Meaning of Life?

My all-time favourite subject is God. Whether we talk about ‘God’ as a word that soothes or rankles or ‘God’ as a deity who exists or doesn’t, everybody is going to have something interesting to say on the topic.

On a recent outing with a friend, he mentioned a phone call he’d had with his mother, a spiritual person who relies on God for guidance.

“She’s always talking about God and I’m like, Mom, I don’t believe in God.”

I’d previously had all kinds of spiritual conversations with this person so I was curious as to what he really meant. Did he mean he didn’t believe in a man with a beard directing human activity? Did he mean he didn’t believe in religion? As I’ve written here before, language is key, and finding the right language can open the door.

“You don’t believe in God and yet I’m wondering if you experience the Universe as participatory,” I asked him.

He thought about it for a while and then said, “It’s my experience that sometimes it feels like I’m getting kicked around and other times I feel like I might be being guided.”

At that moment we passed a church with a banner that read, “What about God and Science?”

“I think it’s worth noting the appearance of that banner right now,” I said, pointing up at the oracular question looming above us. Hmmm…

Another conversation with a friend who identified as a ‘militant atheist’ in one breath and a ‘very spiritual person’ in the next prompted me to interview him to ask him more about his dichotomous stance. During the interview he ended up saying, “I am God. You’re God.”

I knew what he meant. He didn’t mean that he’d made the world or that I had but rather Whatever Made The World was currently operating in us, present in us. We aren’t It, per se, but we are of It. The Quakers have an apt way of putting it: “There is that of God in Everyone.”

Later, the friend who’d said he didn’t believe in God but did feel, to some extent, that the Universe is participatory, texted me his appreciation for our conversation.

“I think it’s cool that you are constantly expanding your definition for the human journey beyond any spiritual/religious lexicon,” he wrote.

He’s right about my ‘constantly expanding’. There was a time when I was positively evangelical in my views, which made having any kind of meaningful spiritual dialogue near impossible. Coming up against my own rigidity has forced me to move beyond language and labels because I’ve learned the hard way that the more I cling to my own beliefs as ‘right’ and my own labels as ‘true’ then the less any kind of real connection can take place.

And that is what I am looking for. Real Connection. Yes, it is much easier to dis-connect. To hide away and disengage. Even when I’m in the presence of others I can cut myself off. Because it takes real effort to make a Real Connection. Being Present requires a certain amount of letting go and a certain amount of waking up. Either way, it’s work. And sometimes I don’t want to do the work.

But I do it anyway. And I keep on doing it. Because if the Universe is participating in my life then I’d like to participate right back. We are still evolving here. Our current experience is just a blip in the Evolutionary Time Span. If the God conversation lands us in a debate about religion or embroiled in a dogmatic argument then we have missed out on an opportunity to find our Common Ground.

What is our Common Ground? It’s pretty simple. We all belong to one species: Homo sapiens and we are all made up of trillions of atoms. All of us. We are all made of the same stuff: Energy.

What is Energy? Why does it exist? We don’t know. But we all get to decide our own answer. We all get to interpret Energy or God or That Which is Beyond the Intellect however we darn please. And as long as we don’t get caught up in thinking we have the right answer or the best interpretation, then we should be able to unite in our Common Ground and move forward together. I can think of nothing more pressing in today’s world.

From the fires of love,

Celia

The Agony of Nothing

This blog post is the last issue of The Healing Journey, the letter I send out to subscribers. You may subscribe here to receive the email.

This past August my parents and our family suffered the loss of Maggie, our beloved Great Dane, to bone cancer. A few weeks after Maggie died my mother announced that she was getting a new puppy. I was surprised. When Maggie was deteriorating my mum had stated very clearly that she would never get another dog.

“You said you weren’t going to get another dog,” I reminded her.

“I know,” she answered, “But I can’t bear the agony of nothing.”

“The agony of nothing,” I repeated, impressed by her ability to name so aptly our existential human emptiness, “That’s it. Right there. That is what it all comes down to. If we cannot learn to bear the agony of nothing–”

“We’re doomed!” she interjected.

That wasn’t exactly what I was going to say. I was going to say that if we cannot learn to bear the agony of nothing then we are destined to get a puppy to make the pain go away. But what happens when the puppy dies and we are once again left with that “deep-down, black, bottom-of-the-well, no-hope, end-of-the-world, what’s-the-use loneliness”? (Thank you, Charlie Brown.)

Well, we can always find something else to temporarily relieve the dread. There is no shortage in today’s world: shopping, sex, TV, booze, dope, chocolate cake. On and on it goes.

Eventually those things stop working, too, and the Black Hole returns. What then? How do we bear the Agony of Nothing?

By spending time with it.

Yup. When when we stop trying to a-void the Void, when we make friends with the thing we fear most, it becomes transformed. Solitude is no longer lonely and Silence is no longer empty.

It takes great courage to do this. Exploring the foreign territory of our inner lives can be terrifying. It is the Great Unknown, after all. I myself have uncovered a hundred forms of fear living inside of me. By getting to know these fears intimately and confronting my terror head-on, their power has been massively reduced. And I’m happy to report that I have been liberated by at least eighty-seven of them. Maybe eighty-eight.

This is how healing actually happens. Interior freedom occurs when we walk through the fear rather than run from it, work with the pain rather than alter it. Entering fully into the Agony of Nothing creates, miraculously, the Possibility of Something. That Something is better than a puppy. Because it is, in fact, Everything.

Thus begins the astonishing process of living from our Everythingness instead of from the agony of our nothingness. And it is a process. And puppies are most definitely allowed.

From the fires of love,

Celia