“Listening”, from cover of art journal, 2013
This past weekend I went on a silent retreat at the local retreat center. It was on Deepening Centering Prayer, and was sensitively facilitated and gently hosted.
It was wonderful: deep inner rest; blessed silence; groundedness; the silent companionship of the others.
Words don’t work very well in sharing with you what it was like. Mystery, companioning, the Holy, mystery deepening me. .. even if I don’t have words to adequately describe this movement of spirit, I am ever more fully convicted that attending (from the Latin, tendare, “to stretch”: a stretching toward) —- that attending to an inner live is valuable, meaningful, and compassionate to one’s self and others.
Though there was mostly silence, there was some talk of God. But the more I hear this word, the more I honestly don’t know what it means. What does it mean to say, “God told me. . . .”? Yet after 30 plus years of wrestling with the angel, I do have a glimpse of what “God” can mean for us humans — an opening and unfolding toward a magnitude, a plenitude, a fullness not unlike a womb about to give birth . . .
But “God” is such a loaded word. Lots of me wants to drop it out of my vocabulary entirely, not only because it’s so confusing and ambiguous, but also because entire indoctrination systems claiming authority based on that word, “God”, have caused such oppression, such suppression of critical thought, so many “oughts” and “shoulds” that have controlled and paralysed free souls. And because people of “God,” mostly men, but women, too, have abused, tortured, and tormented so many boys and girls. So many young souls have been internally colonized, soul-raped, lost, many for their entire lives. “God” has “should” all over this earth, especially over the souls of otherwise conscious, beautiful lights.
I don’t want to be a part of all that; I don’t want to be associated with that. To say I ardently hate all of that is a profound understatement. I know that of course, it’s people who have perpetrated the evil, and that I “should” not blame “God” for this. I don’t blame “God”, but I do hold responsible those people who have claimed to be His (“His”?) spokesmen.
Yet, for many centuries, the only home for soul wisdom has been these traditions. In the west, Centering Prayer has carried the tradition of inner mystical growth. And so I mine the “God” traditions for what treasures they do hold.
I want and claim my inner life as a radical and political act, and I want to radiate, as much as I can, the soul virtues of love, light, compassion.
With much warmth,