The key is the discovery
So, as I reflected on last month, I turned 70 at the end of September. We observed the occasion by hosting another couple here at our home, a couple I have known since First Grade. My wife Linda has gotten to know them and to like them these last 17 years of our marriage. It was a time of nostalgic sharing of stories. The most humorous of my greeting cards came from my older brother Jim. On the front you see a man and a woman at a high end restaurant table. Both are dressed in formal wear. Each is holding a glass of red wine. The man is saying, “Ah, yes. I believe this particular kind of wine is known as the red kind. You can tell by the redness.” Inside it says, “Another year older, another year closer to making up crap.”
Some of you may find this reminiscent of my columns!
I find that there are some people who get what I write about and are enthusiastic about it; there are others who are simply perplexed. All are good folks and friends of mine or people I have a friendly rapport with. I find that the difference lies in how much inability people have to let go of their religious assumptions and really open to exploration. The ones who “get” my message began that exploration long ago. Since most of my friends are present or former Christians, I think those who are mainly perplexed feel uneasy about how Jesus , or church authorities, or their inner parents, might react to open exploration. There also seems to be a generational component. Generally speaking, I find folks of my own generation, even though they be kind, generous, loving people, carry a good deal of baggage from their religious upbringing. I wonder if perhaps there is an inner conflict between the teachings they were brought up on and what they actually think and feel based on their own education, inner authority and life experience. People seem to find it very challenging, or even unnecessary, to break free but in my own experience it has led to a great deal of healing and inner freedom in my own life. The key is the discovery, not just in the head but in the heart, that whoever is at the source of our existence, even if it be a field of energy sometimes referred to as Spirit, we are either totally, unconditionally loved, if it be other than ourselves, or totally unconditionally immersed in, and a part of, one with, this Love.
I find my students at Shepherd University do not seem encumbered by handed down doctrines. They find it quite natural and preferable to seek ultimate meaning and truth through inner exploration. They seem unimpressed by the idea that a religious teaching has been around for 2000 years. They want to find its authenticity within themselves through direct experience.
Since August we have done a rather thorough investigation of Buddhist psychology and compared it with Western psychology. Now we have just begun to explore shamanism in the same light. When I explain that Jesus’ time in the wilderness, when he was “with the wild beasts” (Mk. 1.13) is a description of a shamanic Vision Quest and so Jesus was a shaman, I see their eyes light up with recognition. My own generation tends to react either with a look of consternation or by rolling their eyes. Nevertheless the statement of medieval Christian mystic Julian of Norwich holds true: “All shall be well. All shall be well. All manner of thing shall be well.”
(Bill O’Brien is a spiritual mentor. he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)