East, West, which way to look for that perfect spirituality? Such a quandary for the comfortable with time and resources to spare. No doubt my deep intentions are tilting the universe in a better direction, while in turn, that very same expanse is conspiring for my greatest good. But somehow the rubble still gets deeper in Syria. The thugs paid by the palm oil companies are still burning the houses of peasants in Colombia. And the string of cars belching carbon, clawing their desperate way to the mountains in Estes Park, Colorado, extend the crack in the Antarctic ice sheet.
There are flies all over all of us. What to do? We can rage against the darkness. It’s so easy to blame the stupidity of others for the burden we share. We can wallow in despair, sighing our way to the next tomorrow and the next. We can stick our heads in the sand. If I am comfortable in this moment, why look beyond my bubble? We can work ourselves to weariness with good deeds, shrug, and say we did our best.
But these alternatives share major flaws. They are selfish and disconnected. All focus on how I feel about myself in relation to the problem or to the rest of creation. My anger at others exonerates me from personal complicity and, therefore, action. And yet, especially as one of the world’s privileged, I take no step and breathe no breath without exhaustive and violent extraction from the Earth and all its creatures, including the bulk of humanity.
Despair, of course, is just completely irresponsible. I can blame my inactivity on the impossible size of the task and the exhaustion I experience just thinking about it. Focusing on my own comfort at least gives me pleasure and distraction. But these two options also abdicate responsible participation.
And let’s be real. My good deeds are never enough. I can never run fast enough or jump high enough to save the planet on my own. And the conclusion that at least I tried is just another form of despair, with the gold star of performance pasted on it to relieve my guilt with a little smug pride.
The root error of all these responses is that they focus on me, as though my feelings are what matter, or as though the outcomes of creation are somehow, in a very special and important way, on my shoulders. And when I am focused on me, I am too distracted to be truly useful.
I opened with a less than subtle dig at the spirituality of intention. Perhaps that is unfair. Focusing our intentions for good can, it seems, shift energy with positive outcomes in ways that we can observe, if not yet comprehend. As Masaru Emoto documents in his Messages from Water and the Universe, even a positive word pasted on a glass of water can yield a response of astounding beauty in ice crystals formed from that water. Perhaps on a given evening we could effect positive change if millions focused their intentions completely on the healing of our president. And yet our New Years prayers for universal peace – offered annually all over the world – have yet to tip the balance decisively. Who can say, of course, that they have not at least held us back from the brink of destruction.
What we miss in all of this is that we are not, indeed, ourselves. Nor are we just our intentions. We are intention embodied. We (not just humans, but every particle and the energy that binds it into being) are the hands and feet of Creation. Our intelligence, while seemingly vast from where we stand, is just a speck of something grand beyond imagination. Whether we look big and far to the stars and galaxies or small to the mysterious behavior of the Higgs Boson, we learn that everything is always more and different than we think. Our book of physics is never more than a scratchpad of notes in the library of what we vainly imagine to be the universe.
We are intention embodied, We act within the capabilities and limitations of our embodiment. Granted, that is a statement of blind faith. But what is more blind than the borders of what we think is real? I choose – I invite you to choose – faith that the wonder of all we don’t know is expressing itself continually into the void. And we are part of that expression.
I propose active submission to that greater intention. We can engage the gorgeous paradox of acting, in complete rest, into that intention. There is direction available to us for action. We connect with it when we, as Gerald May has put it so well, eschew willfulness and embrace willingness.
When we submit (read “allow connection of”) ourselves, all our intentions and all our actions, with confidence to Creation/Spirit/Mind/Source (read words I use for God), we move forward, acting with compassion from a position of expectation, the joy and surprise of creation. We are not exhausted. We do not despair, nor do we fear or avoid walking forward.
We cannot know. We do not need to know. Our satisfaction comes in submitting ourselves and all our gifts to the intelligent Whole, being and acting rather than owning and resisting.
Exhaustion and despair are the net of our selfish frenzy under the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Rest and compassionate action join as one for health and wholeness under the Tree of Life. Come with me, dear one, to the place of wonder and deep satisfaction.
© Jerry S Kennell, Two Trees in the Garden. Feel free to quote, as useful, with proper reference.
Jerry Kennell provides spiritual direction in person and by Skype at Two Trees Center for Spiritual Development. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone or text to (970) 217-6078. Click FOLLOW above to be notified of future posts.