Advent Reality

Dividing the holiday landscape up into two separate paths in the first place is one way in which we set ourselves up.  What if we simply saw reality as it is?  What if we surrendered and let go of our expectations of how we think the holiday season is supposed to be and instead we embraced our experience just as it is.  What if, along side our efforts to deepen our spiritual lives, we at the same time accepted ourselves just as we are?

Christ is to be found in the mess and through the mess.  Things really are simply the way they are.  And thinking that they are supposed to be any different, may be an enticing thought, but is not likely to take us very far.  In fact, taking that road any distance at all will get us very lost.  Remember, Jesus was not born in the Bethlehem Hilton.  He was born in a crummy stable that the reeked of animal excrement.  Although Christmas cards can whitewash that fact and make it quaint and cozy, it was not.  It was, in fact, the least likely place in the world for our Lord to be born.  But perhaps, so too are we…

The message for which we prepare during this season of Advent is not that Christ will come when we finally get more spiritual and when we get our lives in order.  He is coming right now, and he will be present in our lives just as they are.  He is no stranger to mess, to pain, to suffering, or to any of the other dark and difficult expressions of the human condition.

The bottom line is this: Christ is not coming for some future time in your life—a time when you might be more spiritual, more worthy, or more ready.  He desires to be born in you right now. He desires to be born in your life just as it is.

Daily Inspirations: 2013

The Syracuse Post Standard, March 2013

1. Deep, Deep Abundance

There is something mysteriously paradoxical at the heart of life.  While everything around us tells us that we must grab what we want, even if we have to wrest from someone else, there is a deeper Wisdom.  When we are willing to share—when we are willing to give ourselves away in love—only then do we discover the profound abundance that emerges from the depths of life and that gives to us unstintingly.

2. To Be Fully Alive

Fear and anxiety desire to freeze things in order to control them.  But Wisdom knows that there is nothing in life that is simply static, nothing that is merely mechanical, and nothing that is not alive.  When we can move beyond our fear and anxiety, that description should fit us as well.  That is, we are constantly flowing with the divine and creative drive; we are not inevitably imprisoned by our history; and we express our truest and deepest nature in our willingness to love and to be fully alive.

3. Intentional Integration

Life is made up of complex, self-organizing systems that are continually re-creating themselves. All parts are parts of wholes and those wholes are parts of other wholes, and the whole business is constantly changing. But this process is anything but random. It moves toward greater complexity and integration. Can we say the same of ourselves…?

4. We are the Whole

It seems safer and more comfortable for us to view life through a lens of distinctiveness and separateness.  Indeed, it seems to give us some control.  We define one thing based on its being different from something else.  And while this is one way of seeing life, the saints and mystics of our spiritual traditions perceived life in another manner.  They saw everything as connected—everything as a whole and part of a larger whole.  Quantum physics has confirmed the veracity of this perspective.

5. Direct Encounters

Human nature seems such that once we have a name for something, we think we understand it.  We do this because the alternative, that is, to intuit the vast non-linearity and unpredictability of life, is truly frightening.  But instead of living in categories that seek to control life, what if we could experience the freshness of life simply by encountering it more directly?  What if, then, we embraced change instead of trying to avoid it…?

6. Creative Change

Creative change in our lives is limited by our perspective.  When we restrict ourselves by utilizing habitual ways of seeing that only work with pre-established mental models, we become blind to emergent possibilities.  To participate in truly creative change we must be willing to let go of that which is familiar and comfortable and venture into the mysterious unknown.  Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Unless we are willing to venture into the unknown, we are destined to perpetuate the problems we have already created.

7. Change, an Everyday Opportunity

The beginning of the calendar year often brings with it thoughts and intentions of change–almost as if turning the page of a new year delivers some much needed momentum for the things we need to either add or subtract from our lives. How silly, though, to reserve change to a particular time of year for every day, every minute, really, brings emerging changes to our lives, even if we don’t always recognize them. Indeed, change is the only constant in life. Or, put the other way around, any time we think we have reached a final conclusion about anything–a conclusion from which nothing can be added or taken away–a conclusion that is no longer open to any new information or evidence–then we have truly relinquished the most accurate perspective in life, and we are choosing to live in self-delusion. Wisdom asserts that life is open-ended and so too must we be.

Does this mean that there is nothing in life that is stable enough for us to bank on? By no means! It does, however, suggest that we learn to hold things lightly–especially ourselves. It seems that most all of our spiritual traditions encourage us to move beyond grasping and clutching at what our small selves insist we need or must be conclusively true. Even though we cannot fully articulate or explain it, there is a larger reality, a larger mystery, to which we all belong, the whole of which we are only a part. While continuously emerging with fresh newness and creativity, this mystery sustains us in this ongoing change. And not so much a “What,” this mystery is better described as a “Who.”