I enjoyed a nice break over Christmas and New Year’s. When a heavy snowfall slowed the world down even more, I noticed what it feels like in my body to relax, knowing nothing urgent needs my attention. Now that I’ve resumed my work, I can recall that felt experience of spaciousness when I’m tempted to rush or feel the impulse to schedule one more thing into my day.
What I experienced deepened my understanding of this quote from The Cloud of Unknowing written by an unknown author in the fourteenth century.
If you were now restored by grace to the integrity man possessed before sin, you would be complete master of these impulses. None would ever go astray, but would fly to the one sole good, the goal of all desire, God himself… It is God , and he alone, who can fully satisfy the hunger and longing of our spirit which, transformed by his redeeming grace, is enabled to embrace him by love… Truly this is the unending miracle of love: that one loving person, through his love, can embrace God, whose being fills and transcends the entire creation.
Here’s what I heard this time.
The “integrity [wholeness or completeness] man possessed before sin” is not just a time long ago that I can never return to. It’s here and now in the core of my being, that place of unity with God untouched by trauma. When I return there in meditation, I live more fully out of that place throughout the day. I’m more able to be “the master of my impulses.” I find more freedom to choose what’s loving and life-giving for me and for the world.
When I first read about the unending miracle of love and imagined myself embracing God, I was moved to tears and still am. That’s what drew me to centering prayer which is what The Cloud of Unknowing is all about. In the meantime, I’ve also been learning how important it is to be present in my body. But when I tried to incorporate more body awareness into my meditation practice, it felt mechanical, like I was leaving God out of my prayer.
But now it’s all coming together. As I pay attention to my breath and sink into my body, I sink down into that place “before sin” in the core of my being. That place of union with God is not abstractly out there somewhere. It’s in my body. My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. I can visualize and feel the sensation of myself flowing down into and occupying my toes, feet, legs, belly and on up to the top of my head. Feeling myself there, God, “whose being fills and transcends the entire creation,”including my body, is in my embrace, and I am in God’s.
God’s embodied presence is where I’m invited to return to throughout my day. When I realize I’m somewhere else, I can pause and sink down into the felt reality that God is in me and I am in God. My mind gets there instantly. My heart and body take a little longer to arrive. But once there, grace restores me to the integrity or truth of my wholeness. Reconnected to My True Self, I’m not so easily led astray by impulses or fear.
That’s the theory, anyway, and what I’m testing out these days. To that end, I’m being faithful to a daily practice of meditation and yoga and have set an intention to observe what’s going on inside me during the day.
So far, I’ve noticed more peace and calm. I’ve also noticed worry and reactivity. I noticed the impulses that arise. Sometimes, I paused and returned to my body. Other times, I impulsively reacted and said or did things I regretted. That was disappointing.
But I realized I could pause there too and remember that I’m human. I offered myself compassion and forgiveness. Messing up reminds me that I’m being restored to live more out of my True Self, not out of a perfect self. That non-existent “perfect self” is who I think I need to be to be loved or feel good about myself. My True Self knows I’m loved just the way I am.
So I offer myself patience. Restoration is a process, a life-long journey with an opportunity to arrive in each moment.
I will be with you, day after day, to the end of the age.
–Matthew 28:20 (Voice)
∗ ∗ ∗
“If you or someone you know is in need of fresh produce, dairy, and more, we invite you to visit our Community Fridge! We have a fridge and pantry in our Community Room that is stocked daily with fresh foods that are available for free access. Come by to pick up some food or for a chat and some coffee! This is a welcoming space for all,” says Cariboo Road Christian Fellowship in Burnaby. What a gift! They are located at 7200 Cariboo Road, Burnaby. Hours of Operation: Tuesdays 12-4pm, Thursdays 4-8pm and Sundays 7-9pm Recommended Bus Routes: 101 Bus from Lougheed Station or 22nd Street Station (get off at 7200 Cariboo Rd).
Credits and References:
“Falling Snow” by Dawn Perry. Used with permission.
The Cloud of Unknowing edited by William Johnston,1973, p.50.
“Black-Capped Chickadee” by Ron Bulovs. Used with permission.
Photo of poster from Cariboo Road Christian Fellowship by Gloarina Di Giovann,. Used with permission.