8/06/2016

Confessional

I entered the confessional, because I was trying to get rid of some bad habits. The confessional was deep inside my own chest.

There I met the Master, a white haired 2nd Century desert saint named Theodorus. "Father, I need help with some bad habits. I keep making excuses and back-sliding. I'm beginning to think it might be part of a bigger problem. Come to think of it, more often than not, I do what I ought not to do, and I do not do what I ought to do, and I'm afraid there might be something terribly wrong. Do you know what it is?"

"Yes," said Theodorus. "Are you ready to hear it?"

"I'm pretty sure," I said. "Pretty sure."

"Well then," he said, "here it is. You lie to yourself about everything all the time."

I was silent for quite a while. Then I said, "What was that?"

"You lie to yourself about everything all the time."

"I'm not sure I get your drift," I said.

"Every thought you think is a lie," Theodorus answered.

I breathed a sigh of remorse, which was also a sigh of relief. It was the sweetest breath I ever offered.

Then the old saint said, "A thought is an idol. Even the most brilliant thought is a falsehood, because it is only the shadow, the image of a reality you refuse to live with total commitment. A thought is a veil you wear because you are afraid to stand naked before your Beloved."

So I observed my thoughts for awhile, those veils, that mirage dancing upon the stillness of my soul. Then I said, "Please teach this mind to be silent."

The saint replied, "Just let your thoughts arise and dissolve without grasping them, until you sink into the groundless abyss of pre-existence, transcending the very idea of being itself. That is the un-created No from whom every fleeting Yes is born, the dark womb of light, our Mother."

"But how can I understand this?" I asked. "I am a Christian. This sounds like Zen or Vedanta. There is nothing like it in my tradition."

"Certainly there is," Theodorus answered. "Why do you think Jesus died on the cross? He was crucified at the center of a paradox, where opposites converge. He was crucified to show you the Way to the center."

"What Way, Lord?"

"If you would be free, then crucify your mind."

"This is a form of Christianity I never knew about before. Tell me more."

The Lord answered, "The Medieval mystics called this the Via Negativa, 'Way of Negation.' Those who practiced the Way lived in utter simplicity, witnessing every thought arising and passing, even the most beautiful or truthful thought, without clinging to it. They simply remembered that whatever appears in the mind is not who I Am, not who I Am, not who I Am... They crucified every image, even the image of Jesus, even the thought of 'God.' "

"What is that cross?" I asked.

"Those who follow this Way dissolve at the infinitesimal center-point of No-thing. Here, a boundless Now expands, enveloping the beams of past and future, heaven and earth. This is the cross they must carry moment by moment. But their burden is light. Their cross is weightless as a feather in a zephyr of grace, because they dissolve.

"Beholding a new and resurrected earth with every breath, each creature as it is, unadorned by labels and thoughts, they free the object of perception from the story of its past. They illuminate all that they perceive in the pure light of Presence.

"Christian mystics called this clear perception 'quiditas,' which in Latin means 'whatness.' Can you see the 'quiditas' of a caterpillar on a twig, the 'whatness' of a moving cloud or fallen snowflake? Can you gaze at the world without name or story, through the sparkling transparency of your own unfathomable awareness, in whose abyss no 'God' appears, because God is Awareness itself?"

I pondered these words quietly. Then I asked, "Is there no divine Beloved whom I may adore?"

The Lord replied, "She is pure and imageless. She is deeper inside you than your soul. Prior to any conception of name or form, She shines as the Conceiver, like a perfect mirror. That is why we call her 'Virgin.' She is eternal silence. When you awaken each morning, before you conceive your first thought, She is your own blue sky."

The Master ended his words and dissolved into a breath: my own breath. For the entire conversation had only been the whisper of an inhalation, passing through the wind-harp of my heart.

I went to a priest to seek confirmation about all this; he told me to go to church more often. I went to a rabbi; he told me to read a book. I went to a Buddhist monk; he said it was time to chant the sutras. I went to a therapist; he asked me about my sex life.

Then I understood how lonely and sweet, how passionate and solitary, how empty and radiant, how full of beauty and courage this path must surely be!

Abandoning every temple and church, I went into the meadow. I visited a lady bug on the tip of a grass blade. I asked her for further instruction, not in words, but in the overflow of transparency that glistens as crystal silence when you pay complete attention to the tiniest creature. She spread her wings, and led me through cathedrals of clover and dew, into the kingdom of the Ordinary.

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