Mike Morrell continues storytelling around Trinity’s Place’s current emphasis together – this was shared on the 10/14/12 gathering.
The last time I shared here about eating God, I suggested that we go through a three-step process of tasting divinity, de-toxing from our internal contradictions, and finally digesting God – we are what we eat! In coming weeks, we’re going to look at how digesting God, living as Jesus in the world, can affect how we share meals, how we throw parties, and what kind of food and water systems we co-create here in the Triangle and on planet earth in this 21st century.
But first, we have to get there. Today, I want to return to this three-step dance of tasting, de-toxing, and digesting. It’s not a linear process, do it once and we’re done, but a life-long journey. I believe it’s the life-practice that Jesus taught his apprentices some twenty centuries ago.
Tasting God is something I daresay we’ve all experienced. If I were to go around this room right now, I’m guessing we could each tell stories of a startling encounter, an unexpected love given, or a moment when the beauty of the everyday somehow entered our hearts in a way it usually doesn’t. The rain of grace falls upon the dull and the awake alike; we all have peak experiences.
De-toxing, however, usually requires intentionality. We don’t just stumble into it. I don’t just stumble into it. Everyday life is beautiful, but there is also a lot of unconsciousness going on – do you know what I mean? Hurt people hurt people, and when I’m hurting, feeling lonely, or misunderstood, I’m wearing my ‘stuff’ on my sleeve.’ I then crash into other people and their stuff, and it’s on! The most mundane conversations can contain TNT…they can cause a train wreck. I sure that no one here can relate to what I’m saying.
I would like revisit our Sacred Reading text from earlier.
There is a Garden, a Paradise-in-process. There are Trees planted here, one of Life and one of Knowledge. Partaking of Life is encouraged; partaking of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is forbidden. And while this it’s outside of what we’ve read today, I’m sure you all know the next part of this story well: Adam and Eve are tempted to sink their teeth into knowing Good and Evil as a shortcut to omniscience; they partake of that fruit, and they are exiled from Eden.
This, in essence, is the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition’s most primal myth. It’s the way we narrate how we got to this place of inner turmoil and contradiction and toxicity that seems so ubiquitous these days that we often refer to it simply as “the human condition.” In the book I’m finally finishing up, Eat God, I refer to our present “normal” state of being as that of four-fold alienation:
- We feel alienated from God, or our sense of the Sacred.
- We feel alienated from each other, strangers in a crowded world.
- We feel alienated from our own bodies, from a sense of vitality in our skin.
- And we feel alienated from our environments, be those our home or work environments, or nature and more expansive ecosystems on the whole.
I don’t want to leave this as a vague “we” – perhaps you don’t feel alienated in these ways, but I do.
I often do.
And it hurts.
When I can’t pray, or I argue with Jasmin, or I look at the scale again, wondering why it only ever seems to move up…when going outside seems to provoke a vague anxiety in my chest…I know that I need a path of tasting, de-toxing, and digestion. It’s my only hope if I am to live a whole life and serve a healing function in the world.
I come to you today as a wounded healer.
I’ve discovered that de-toxing requires intentionality. As pastor and writer Eugene Peterson puts it, A long obedience in the same direction.
Now: the good news of the Gospel is, we already have everything we need. God, our faith informs us, has already made all the moves to reconcile any alienation – and it’s only ever a felt-alienation. The God revealed in Jesus Christ is a God who is in a good mood. The God Whom Jesus discloses in action, teaching, and parable is further a God who dwells within us – someone we can’t escape because, in some core way, we are One with this God.
The journey of de-toxing, then, is the journey to real-izing who we already are.
This real-I-zation comes about when we take up any practice that helps us taste God, and we enter into this practice, consciously and consistently. My go-to practice is Centering Prayer. Most recently – this morning, in fact – I’ve started a 10-week process known as the Presence Process, designed to gently guide participants in becoming present to ourselves, each other, our world, and our sense of the Divine. What its originator, Michael Brown, says I can expect on this journey is what Jewish, Christian, and Sufi Muslim mystics have told us for ages:
As we make regular contact with Awareness, with Surrender, with Consciousness, with Forgiveness, all of the toxic, un-integrated parts of ourselves are going to rise up. All of the stuff that I engineer my life to forget – the stuff that normally comes out sideways as irritability, anxiety, flashes of anger or discomfort that I then numb, bury, outburst or self-medicate away – this is precisely the stuff that comes up in the unconditional Presence of a Nourishing God. This, my friends, is the Tree of Life. This is the anointing of Christ that we’re invited to partake in.
Pre-packaged religion – pretty much the opposite of what we’re going for here.
If Tree of Knowledge consciousness is constantly judging for myself what is right or wrong, acceptable or unacceptable, good or evil, in myself and especially in others, then Tree of Life consciousness is activation, awareness, acceptance, and joyful surrender to the present moment – to whatever is unfolding, just as it is. Living in moment-by-moment awareness of what is unfolding does not lead to a passive, resigned, victim-ed life. On the contrary we see a world transfigured into the very image of God; life goes from being wrong to being exactly what we need. God goes from being distant to holding us, in and as each moment. We begin to recognize, as Ram Dassso beautifully put it, that “The world is perfect as it is, including my desire to change it.”
Tasting God on a regular basis via a practice of love, awareness, surrender, and astonishment;
De-toxing from our instinctual projections of un-integrated pain by accepting all of the wounded and fragmented elements of ourselves, re-integrating them into our lives, and
Digesting the very marrow of divinity within our physical, mental, and emotional bodies will give us the open-hearted and clear-eyed perspective we need if we ever hope to actually heal others and our wounded planet. This three-fold rhythm – and a community like Trinity’s Place where we can practice it together with humor and grace – can tangibly bring salvation to our planet. Not a pie-in-the-sky, by-and-by kind of placebo salvation, but here-and-now transformation that roots heaven where it’s always belonged: here on earth.
Because of all the practices and responses we’ve packed into today, “participation” is looking more like practicing together than talking amongst each other. I really do want to hear what everyone is thinking, and I hope we avail ourselves of that when we share food together in a few minutes. For now, my friend Adrial is going to share an awareness exercise with us. It’s really cool, and if we’re lucky, we’ll co-create a peak experience of unconditional Presence together, right here in this room.
Remember, though, that it’s what we do alone and together when we leave this room that’s going to support our long journey of de-toxing to that promised land of divine digestion. Is this something that Trinity’s Place is interested in taking on for the long haul? I hope so. We can discuss specific practice ideas soon, over this delicious food that we’ve brought to share tonight – appropriately enough!
For more of Mike’s reflections on these themes, see Evolution & the Two Trees in the Garden on his blog.