Sunday, September 12, 2010

Non-Parental Images of God: Wise Mentor

In my previous post, I explored why I find that parental images of God do not match reality. In this post, I will explore an image of God that I believe does: that of Wise Mentor.

In my previous post, I mentioned that, while an image of God as parent with ourselves as children does not match reality, perhaps an image of God as parent with ourselves as adult sons or daughters does. In a good parent/son or parent/daughter relationship, an adult son or daughter can go to his or her parent to share experiences and to hear the perspective of someone older and wiser. The parent is no longer responsible for the son or daughter and knows that the son or daughter will make his or her own choices, but the parent is happy to share his or her experience, perspective, and wisdom. The parent functions, now, as mentor.

I believe that God can be seen as Wise Mentor. Actually, when in need of wisdom, I find that I can take any of several approaches. (Certainly, these approaches are not the only ones, but these are the ones I like to use.)

Mother God. I can talk to Mother God as her adult daughter. Mother God does not protect me from life in this world or from the consequences of my own actions. When I feel tired or discouraged or overwhelmed, though, she does provide comfort. She also offers wisdom in any particular circumstance. She answers questions. I hear Mother God through my own thoughts. When Mother God communicates something to me, it feels like a simple thought, but a thought that I would not ordinarily have. These thoughts from Mother God can come while I am communicating quietly with her or in the midst of other life activities - while am riding my bicycle or cleaning my house, for instance. Certainly, I cannot prove that these thoughts are communications from Mother God. They do, however, seem to me to be communications from Mother God, and I choose to believe that they are.

Irma, Mike, Sandra. My deceased mother, Irma; my deceased father, Mike; and my deceased sister, Sandra are also sources of wisdom. I sometimes have thoughts that seem to come from Irma or Mike or Sandra. The idea of a family soul and of healing family soul wounds (which I have explored elsewhere on this blog) seems to me to have come from Irma or Mike (I can't now remember which one). Sandra once sent me some clear emergency thoughts on a specific occasion when my thoughts were escalating in a dangerous direction. The thoughts from Sandra were like this: No. Stop. You're about to go over a mental cliff. Just stop. Good. Now back up. Back up with your thoughts. Keep backing up. Keep stepping back. Good. My own thoughts had been heading for a black hole of depression, and I was able to just stop and then to back up to a place of enough mental light so that I could go to bed and sleep peacefully. (This happened at night.) Since then, I have been able to use Sandra's technique successfully on other occasions. I realize that I haven't fully explained the technique, but here I just want to suggest how I receive wisdom from my mother, father, and sister in the spirit world.

My Holy Guardian Angel. I believe that I have a Holy Guardian Angel. Sometimes I ask my Angel for help in opening myself to wisdom. I believe that my Angel knows me quite well and can provide help in ways that I may not fully understand. In other words, my Angel can help in opening my receptive channels for wisdom, but I don't know exactly how my Angel accomplishes this.

My Own Deepest Self. I believe that I have a deep store of wisdom within myself. What I call my deepest self is the core part of me that wants to connect with God, with Being, with Compassion, with Justice, with Beauty, with Joy, with Generosity, with what is Deeply Right, with what is Life Giving and Life Enhancing. This is different from my surface self, who wants to strike back at people who hurt or irritate me, who wants to hoard and hide things for fear that I may otherwise not have enough for myself, who shuns risk-taking in favor of security, whose goal is to get from here to the grave as painlessly as possible. I find it very helpful to simply stand in my place of deep inner wisdom to consider a situation. There, I can see and understand the desires of my surface self, I can acknowledge those desires and have compassion for my fearful surface self, and I can choose to act - not from the surface fear or anger - but from the deeper place of wisdom and compassion.

These are ways that I can connect with Mother God, Irma and Mike and Sandra, my Holy Guardian Angel, and My Deepest Self.

  • Communicating mentally. I quiet myself by breathing deeply, imagining myself breathing through my heart. I picture myself sitting in the presence of any of the above and telling my situation. I then listen quietly. Listening has to be done without expectations, though. It doesn't help to strain to hear an answer. The answer may not come right then. It may come later while I am engaged in some other activity. Sometimes it doesn't come. When an answer doesn't come, I believe that I am not ready to hear the answer or I am not asking the right question.
  • Writing. Writing is a powerful way of accessing inner wisdom. Something about the process of writing brings insights to consciousness. If I write out my conversation with any of the above, I often find insights flowing onto the page or computer screen. In fact, asking my Holy Guardian Angel for help in opening my receptive channels to wisdom and then simply writing about a situation can be very helpful.
  • Just living. Sometimes an insight will simply come to me in the form of a thought without my having asked. The thought just comes as I'm going about the activities of living.

Our Images of God Must Match Reality

The way we picture God has to match reality. I find that parental images of God do not. Or at least parental images of God combined with child images of ourselves do not. God as parent with ourselves as adult sons or daughters - perhaps. God then becomes more of a mentor.

The problem with imaging God as parent - as all-loving Father (or Mother) watching over his or her children (us) - is that this image simply does not correspond to reality. Look at our world, the people in it, and the events that happen. Do you see God behaving as all-loving parent? I do not.

If I were a parent and loved my children, I would NEVER behave as God does. I would NEVER, for example, allow one of my children to hurt another. If I saw my older and stronger child beating up my younger child, I would put an IMMEDIATE stop to it. God does not do this.

God allows the weaker to suffer at the hands of the stronger. Hitler and his henchmen tortured, starved, and killed millions of Europeans for no other reason than that these Europeans were not pure Aryans. Far too many human parents beat, punch, kick, and burn their own children for no other reason that that the parents are in a "bad mood." Far too many men rape women for other reason than that they can. Far too many corporations lay off their workers and send families into financial disaster and even homelessness for no other reason than to give themselves higher and higher profits.

God does not lift a finger to stop the abuse and end the suffering. This is not the behavior of an all-loving parent.

Perhaps there is a final reckoning where the bad will be punished and the good rewarded - but this punishment/reward idea is not good parental policy. In fact, I suspect that our images of heaven and hell represent human attempts to "explain" God's failure to step in and prevent some of God's children from hurting others. God does not step in on earth, so there "must be" a final reckoning.

Well, if I were a parent, I certainly would not find a reward/punishment system to be ideal. I guess I could punish my older child for beating up my younger child and comfort my younger child with a treat. But is it not far more important for me to look beyond the surface behavior to the deeper cause of what happened? If I find that my older child is beating up my younger child to exert power or perhaps to get my attention, then whoa, something is quite wrong and needs to be corrected. As parent, I would be responsible for correcting the deeper problem, not just punishing the surface behavior.

SO, bottom line, if we look at the reality of our world, we find that God does not prevent the suffering of God's children - whether the suffering comes through natural circumstances or at the hands of others - as I certainly believe that an all-loving parent would do. True, a good parent does not hover over his or her children and anxiously remove every possible cause of suffering, preventing the children from engaging with life on their own. But neither would a good parent allow excruciating suffering if he or she could step in to prevent it.

This image of God as all-loving parent causes people to turn away from God when undeserved suffering enters their lives. They are furious at God for not behaving as they believe a cosmic parent would. My uncle is a case in point. My uncle's only son died at age six of a childhood illness. My uncle felt absolutely betrayed by God. If God is an all-loving parent, how could God possibly allow this? My uncle turned away from God for years.

To my mind, the idea that God is an all-loving parent and we are God's children does not match reality. Let us not expect God to behave like our cosmic parent. God does not do this.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Pain in the Butt - Insight

My previous post explains how I pulled or tore my gluteal muscle and now have a pain in the butt. In that post, I also explore some of the effects this pain in the butt is having on my life.

In this post, I will take one of those effects and explore it for further insight, namely the effect that I've called A Gray Pall. I find that the pain in my butt casts a gray pall over my life and detracts from my enjoyment of normally enjoyable activities.

It is said that the way one does anything is the way one does everything. If you want to know how a person lives his or her life, look at the way he or she does any one activity. In other words, the way I am responding to this pain says a lot about my approach to life.

One way I am responding to this pain is to enjoy life less, largely because of anticipated pain. In my previous post, I described how I find a movie less enjoyable because of the anticipated pain of standing up from my seat and starting to walk after the movie.

It strikes me that this is a question of focus, and focus is a question of choice - as well as of habit formed from many past choices. Essentially, I am choosing where to focus my attention - on future pain rather than on the present movie. Of course, because I have a habit of thinking like this, it seems inevitable to me that anticipated pain would spoil enjoyment of a movie. I don't seem to have any choice about it. But the fact is that anticipated pain spoils the movie because I have chosen many times in the past to let anticipated disaster spoil otherwise pleasurable events, and I have made this a habit. Habits are repeated choices that have become automatic. The automatic quality makes the thought pattern feel inevitable rather than chosen. It is certainly possible to enjoy the movie and to deal with the pain later. It is also possible not to awfulize the pain.

In approaching life, I have often wondered, How on earth is it possible to enjoy life when something horrible can happen at any moment? There was Christopher Reeves, for instance, enjoying a horseback ride - and suddenly he takes a tumble and finds himself completely paralyzed for life. There was my sister Janet preparing for an early morning nurses' meeting - and suddenly she has an excruciating headache that turns out to be an aneurysm that has left her brain-damaged for life. There was Peggy K. taking her twenty-year-old daughter, her only child, Wendy, to have a cast removed from her leg with plans for a celebratory lunch afterwards - and suddenly the doctor emerges from the procedure room to inform Peggy that Wendy has DIED during the cast removal. There am I engaged in a childhood game - and suddenly my father descends upon me in a terrifying rage.

Okay, so I can see where my tendency to anticipate disaster comes from. And I have continued to anticipate disaster to such an extent that it interrupts my enjoyment of life. I have continued to accumulate "proofs" that life cannot be enjoyed because of impending doom - Christopher Reeves, my sister Janet, Peggy K. - and countless others.

Again, it is a question of choosing my focus. Will I focus on an enjoyable airplane ride or on an imagined possible plane crash? Will I focus on the many enjoyable aspects of my teaching position or on an imagined possible job loss? Will I focus on the joys of daily life or on an imagined possible illness or injury or financial disaster?

The plane might crash, so how can I possibly enjoy the plane ride? I might lose my job, so how can I possibly enjoy my work? I might become severely ill, or become paralyzed for life, or become brain damaged, or be sued for something, or be arrested falsely and put in prison, or lose all my money, or become homeless - so how can I possibly enjoy my life?

Because disaster COULD happen, I seem to really believe that enjoyment of life is not possible. What is interesting is that there are people who do enjoy life in the midst of each of the disasters I've mentioned. Christopher Reeves continued his acting profession while completely paralyzed. My sister Janet truly does enjoy life with her family and friends and simply works around her limitations. Peggy K. grieved for her daughter and eventually went on with her life. Roma G., whose fifteen-year-old son committed suicide, has many interests, enjoys life, and has been active in suicide prevention and in support for those whose loved ones have committed suicide.

SO I have a habit of not enjoying life because I focus on an imagined anticipated disaster that can descend at any time. And this is what I'm doing with the pain in my butt - I am not enjoying normally enjoyable activities quite so much because I am focusing on the anticipated pain in my butt.

Pain in the Butt

I have a pain in my butt. Literally. I have pulled and probably torn my gluteal muscle.

Here's how it happened. I decided to get back into yoga and purchased a ten-class pass at a yoga studio. The odd thing about this yoga studio is that even the classes called introductory have turned out to be difficult. Probably these classes are easy for twenty-year-olds but not for sixty-year-olds. That dog pose is NOT easy, and neither is that cute movement of HOPPING from right leg stretch to left leg stretch. To say nothing of the twisty warrior pose and the really awful triangle pose. I actually felt more stressed AFTER some of those "introductory" yoga classes than before!

I kept trying, though, and I did find some gentler classes. And along the way, I seriously over-stretched my muscles. Oddly, I didn't realize I was doing this. I wasn't actually in pain during the yoga poses, but I was exerting myself. I know that you're supposed to avoid exercise that is painful, but I thought that you WERE supposed to exert. Anyway, clearly, I over-exerted.

SO I woke up one morning about a week ago to find that my butt REALLY hurt. Which it still does. My butt hurts when I sit, when I stand, when I walk, and even sometimes when I lie down. It hurts most when I go from lying or sitting to standing. That initial movement of standing and beginning to walk is quite painful.

I can't take those over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Ibuprofen, as those drugs are contraindicated with the low-dose medication I take for my heart arrythmia. And I most definitely do not want to start a round of doctor visits for this problem. It's a pulled/torn muscle, I got it by over-exercising, and it will heal eventually. Unfortunately, eventually means a couple of months.

Now I'd like to spend a little time exploring how this pain in the butt is affecting me.

A GRAY PALL. I find that this pain in the butt colors my whole life. The color is gray. Things that I would normally enjoy are not so enjoyable because the accompanying pain pulls down the enjoyment level.

For example, let's take the idea of going to a movie at the Prytania Theater, which I love to do - normally. The thought of how it's going to hurt when I stand up from my seat at the end of the movie does detract from my enjoyment of the movie. This seems odd, but it's true. You might think that the movie would distract me from the pain - and part of the time it does - but that anticipation of the coming pain of standing up is there in the background.

What must it be like for people who live with much more serious injuries and pain levels? I think of people undergoing painful physical therapy for an injury. I can now imagine that it must be hard to enjoy the normally enjoyable events of a day because you know that a painful physical therapy session awaits. That anticipation of pain is always there in the background.

And what about people whose pain is constant and high-level? I simply cannot imagine how there could be any enjoyment in life.

I do want to point out, though, that as for myself, my color is gray and not black. The pain in my butt does detract from my enjoyment of life right now, but it does not eliminate it. And we might notice that I am certainly enjoying writing about it!

PULL TO BLACKNESS. Yet I also notice that it is well to be careful not to let a certain undertow take over. It's easy to think, It sure will be nice to be dead, where there is no more pain. Even with my relatively minor pain level, that thought bubbles up. I find, though, that I can acknowledge this thought and turn away from it. I can recognize this as one of my old thought patterns, and I can fairly easily remind myself that this pain level is not overwhelming, the pain is diminishing, the injury is not serious, and the whole thing will eventually heal. I also realize that this is an overly-dramatic thought for my situation.

I can absolutely understand, though, that a person in tremendous constant pain could decide to end the pain by taking his or her life. In fact, I understand that suicide is fairly common among burn victims.

TIREDNESS. I certainly do feel tired more easily. A pain in the butt is an energy-zapper! It's hard to get very excited about an evening activity. After a day at work, I feel ready to hit the sack!

GRUMPINESS. Besides having a pain in the butt, I think I AM somewhat of a pain in the butt. It is even harder than usual to maintain patience in trying circumstances. My store of patience gets exhausted more rapidly.

SYMPATHY. I'll have to admit that I do enjoy sympathetic expressions from others - from friends and from strangers. Yesterday at one of my favorite cafés, a man at the next table noticed that I was having difficulty going from sitting to standing, and asked, "You okay, Bé?" He really was concerned, I recognized him (and probably he me) as a frequenter of that café, and he was exactly the sort of New Orleans man to use the term Bé (or Bébé, or Babe) in a simpatico (to mix languages) way.

BETTER SLEEPING. Believe it or not, this pain in the butt has helped me to sleep more comfortably with my sleep apnea machine! For the last couple of years, I've used been sleeping on my side, since sleeping on the back is not recommended if you have sleep apnea. I've also been finding the machine apparatus somewhat uncomfortable and hard to keep on.

Now, with this pain in the butt, I have to sleep on my back. (Sleeping on either side is more painful.) So, because it's not good to sleep flat on your back with sleep apnea, I've been using lots of pillows to lie on my back but at a higher angle. Lo and behold, suddenly the sleep apnea apparatus is a lot more comfortable, I fall asleep easily, and it stays on. This is a wonderful improvement!

I do have the problem, though, of the pain keeping me awake, but this is diminishing. At first, I go to sleep easily because I have a warm bath just before bed, and this soothes my butt. Eventually, though, I awake in the night to use the bathroom. By then, the soothing effect of the bath has worn off and the effort of moving from lying to standing and then walking aggravates the pain in the butt. When I get back into bed, the pain sometimes keeps me awake, though I do eventually doze off.

Well, that's my pain in the butt story! In my next post, I will explore a particular insight from this pain in the butt experience.