August 2, 2020 | Message by Dr. Benton
Updated: Aug 30
At Home with Mystery
Greetings Fellowship Family! I opened with an image of the whirling dervish that I am often reminded of when I observe my granddaughter. She spins with such passion…such energy…and such rootedness, much like the dervish. Rumi’s poem about the Great Mystery spoke to me as well…the mystery of life. Many of you know that I am awaiting the birth of my second grandchild. It is a time of uncertainty…of mystery rarely experienced so deeply at any other time, except perhaps when someone is expected to die. The birth process is so out of our control. It is a time for us to let go of our own plans and agendas and allow the process to unfold in its own time…we have no choice. Clearly, we prepare and ready ourselves for the new creation, but the actual process of creation remains a mystery. And I think it is this mystery that we are grappling with right now…the uncertainty of our daily existence. We are being confronted with a new and unpredictable virus that we are unable to contain…unable to conquer. Former routines and future plans have disappeared and in their place is a sense of uncertainty that is very difficult for most of us. I hear this from my clients…that the sense of isolation and uncertainty about the future is giving way to some of their worst fears. Some are latching onto conspiracy theories to explain what is unexplainable…some only pray. An article that came to my inbox from author Christine Carter outlining several strategies for coping with the uncertainty of the moment. The suggestions included, 1. Acceptance: Acceptance means that we are able to see the reality of a situation. Rather than remaining paralyzed (or made ineffective) by uncertainty, fear, or argument, we may be able to use our creativity to change it. 2. Self-care and personal growth: Of course any psychologist will tell you to practice self- care and this is important and I am no different, but what most psychologists miss is that self-care is simultaneously care of the whole…the earth and its creatures…the entire cosmos. Personal growth is cosmic growth. 3. Don’t believe everything you think: This is important…just because we have a thought, doesn’t mean we have to believe it. This is where prayer and meditation can come in. We can learn to stop and listen…listen to the flow of the universe…listen to the inner wisdom of the sacred. These are important suggestions and they may help us in the days and months ahead. Still, I felt that something was missing in this psychological approach to dealing with life’s uncertainties. I noticed that there was something lacking…perhaps the spiritual component, for without spirit we cannot create…we cannot transform…we cannot even collaborate on solutions. As a meditation today, I would like to offer a piece of music entitled, “Hymn to Freedom” by Oscar Peterson. Written in 1962, lyrics were later added. They are beautiful lyrics, but I want to offer the music…the pure music that flows from the creativity of the human spirit. As you listen to it, notice what you are feeling in the beginning of the song, near the middle and then at the end.
When I first listened to this recording, I felt as if I were on a mysterious journey. After the grounding elements of the beginning melody, I felt uncertainty and surprise…even at times unease as Peterson worked his creative magic on the piano. I felt some relief as he returned again to the melody but now I felt enriched. I realized that our creativity is perhaps the ultimate way that we face uncertainty in life…the way that we become part of the mystery of creation. My experience of creativity is that the next step is unknown…it is a mystery and its unfolding is the process of creation. Mystics from various traditions (and non-traditions) have reminded us of this mystery…the uncertainty and “nothingness” of the divine presence…the presence that cannot be explained. Meister Eckhart puts it this way: The mystery of the darkness of the eternal Godhead is unknown and never was known and never will be known. God dwells therein, unknown to himself/herself. And this poem by Sufi mystic Rumi:
This is the Great Mystery…something that cannot really be described…cannot really be known. Tell that to the fundamentalists who claim to have all the answers! Eckhart, who was ex-communicated during his time, went further and states: I pray God to rid me of God.
Of course this is in the direction of Buddhist thought…or atheistic thought, which makes our spirituality much more inclusive. Pema Chodron, referring to “nontheism” wrote: Nontheism is relaxing with the ambiguity and uncertainty of the present moment without reaching for anything to protect ourselves.
Imagine if we were able to “relax with the ambiguity and uncertainty” of this moment…without reaching for a plausible explanation in the form of a conspiracy theory…without resorting to hate crimes in order to protect our way of life at the expense of the whole. Of course, that would be a hard sell to those who are actually the target of this hate…this injustice, and that is not what I am suggesting. Where we can find some peace…some relaxation…some acceptance and grasp of our situation is when we listen to the words of seers and prophets…of scientists as well that tell us that, in Eckhart’s words, “The essence of everything is relation.” Matthew Fox continues: …nothing exists in and of itself but only in relation to other things which are themselves interrelated and thus empty of independent existence.
I have to admit that sometimes this is not a comfort. When I think that my own well-being is inextricably tied to the well-being of Donald Trump and others who are acting out their fear of change…their terror at having to give up their delusion…their belief that they are the center of the universe and that others are inferior…they don’t matter as much. Still, I know that this is true…I know that we are all in this together, for if we do not work together toward the healing of our wounds, the Earth’s wounds and the cosmic wounds, we will not be successful. Separation is the tool of the oppressors and it will not bring health and wellness to our world. We need the creativity that our creator has given us. We need to adapt to our situation, much how our ancestors adapted…to an ice age…from the heat of the African savannahs to the icy caves. They did not give up, but instead used their profound creativity not only to survive, but to evolve. And so, into this uncertain moment…this time of mystery and of evolution, I would like to offer one more piece of music to calm and to inspire…a balm for our souls…to highlight both our vulnerability and our strength…to accompany and to act as midwife to the birth of a new creation. May we find our way as a community and as individuals in community to that well of hope…overflowing with the love that gave each of us life.