Midweek Faith Lift
May 5, 2021
Awakening From the Trance
Rev. Deb Hill-Davis
REPENT, THE END IS NEAR!
REPENT AND PREPARE TO MEET YOUR GOD!
These are the words of the apocalyptic preacher who wants people to be baptized, saved and to turn away from a life of sin and accept Jesus as their personal savior. Now if we were to rephrase that in Unity and New Thought speak we would say:
WAKE UP, WAKE UP!
YOU ARE NOT WHO YOU THINK YOU ARE!
WAKE UP AND PREPARE TO MEET
THE BELOVED AND CHRISTED BEING THAT YOU ARE!
I do think that if I stood on a street corner in Ames shouting this version of the end times, people would look at me as if I were just as crazy as the wild eyed, apocalyptic “End is Near” preacher! It would be kind of fun to try that out, kind of like a “Candid Camera” episode if you remember that old TV show.
This is a real question for us, however, the question of “Are we living in apocalyptic times?” What end is near, anyway? Before you answer that, let’s explore a bit of what “apocalypse” actually means as we are inclined to think of it as disaster or calamity, like the sinking of the Titanic! Richard Rohr describes apocalypse in his Monday, April 26, 2021 BLOG: “Apocalyptic Hope.” He says:
What apocalyptic means is to pull back the veil, to reveal the underbelly of reality. It uses hyperbolic images, stars falling from the sky, the moon turning to blood. The closest thing would be contemporary science fiction, where suddenly you’re placed in an utterly different world, where what you used to call “normal” doesn’t apply anymore. That perfectly describes this COVID-19 event.
So hear this word rightly—it is meant to shock: this is an apocalypse, happening to us in our lifetime, that’s leaving us utterly out of control. We’re grasping to retake control, by things like refusing to wear masks and defying boundaries at potential super-spreader events. But I think we now know in a new way that we can’t totally take control.
Knowing that we cannot totally take control is not something new. Knowing on such a large scale and for such a long time and for the full range of humanity, now that is a new place for us to be! We are literally waking up from a trance, an illusion, perhaps a delusion. And we are collectively resisting it that is for sure. What are the lessons of the profound changes that we have been forced to collectively experience during this past year of pandemic? Seeing the lessons, the ones we have accepted and embraced and the ones we have resisted are part of facing the apocalypse that we are living through.
Each of us has had some kind of lesson during this past year and we have collectively had lessons, too. We all have those dreams, the dreams where we don’t belong, or where no one will help us or where we are ignored and don’t matter or we are trapped in a futile struggle trying to get somewhere. Dreams are windows to our unconscious fears, worries and dilemmas. Tara Brach in her book Radical Acceptance calls this the trance of unworthiness. In our waking times, we often feel the same things: inadequate, unworthy or like we are not accepted and that we don’t really belong! During this past year, there has been a lot of that kind of energy flying around in the public domain, in race consciousness, that is for sure, and we may have been feeling it individually as we have been so separated and isolated from one another, helplessly watching so many people die of Covid.
Tara Brach also speaks of the flip side of this in that sometimes people get caught up in adulation and seeking approval and attention from others. That is the flip side of feeling unworthy in that unless we have that feedback and approval, we are unworthy! Ministers and those who are in the public eye can experience this kind of trance! She says on page 8 of Radical Acceptance:
Convinced that we are not good enough, we can never relax. We stay on guard, monitoring ourselves for shortcomings. When we inevitably find them, we feel even more insecure and undeserving. We have to try even harder. The irony of all this is….where do we think we are going anyway?
Well that has been are really good question for us during the Pandemic, because most of the time, we have been going nowhere….to the store, to Target, to the bank and then home. All that usually defines us, entertains us, amuses us, distracts us, restores us, enlivens us has been missing or greatly diminished.
But the huge question we are left with is what is it we are seeking anyway with all our activities and efforts? How do we awaken from this trance and see ourselves as what and who we really are? The answer from Tara Brach, a Buddhist therapist, is what she calls “radical acceptance” which “reverses our habit of living at war with experiences that are unfamiliar, frightening or intense.” It is an antidote to our patterns of treating ourselves harshly, judging ourselves or being driven from within to try and escape this moment’s experience. If ever there has been a time when we have wanted to escape our present experience, this past year into this present moment is surely it! When we are willing to accept what is in this present moment, that is “radical acceptance” and true freedom.
Now Tara Brach wrote Radical Acceptance in 2003, well before our present pandemic circumstances. What is even more remarkable is what our own Myrtle Fillmore was writing back in 1895-1931 which is when the content of How to Let God Help You was written in the form of letters to all those who corresponded with her through Silent Unity. This was during another time of great change, the apocalypse of the Great Depression and also the Spanish Flu, another pandemic. What does Myrtle tell us about the end times, the apocalypse or “underbelly” of reality, as Richard Rohr called it?
In Chapter 9, “The Mind Receives” Myrtle Fillmore notes that our mind receives from two sources: the Universal Mind of Being which has its outlet through your consciousness” and the intellectual activities of the individual minds around you which have both “conscious and subconscious phases of expression.” (p. 54) What Myrtle comes to is a question for us, asking which is the source to which we direct the receiver that is our own mind and heart? When we direct it solely to our intellectual capacity, then we limit our true capacity for understanding of what is good, true and beautiful. It is one way to know what is true, but it is not the way to know “Truth” or the larger Reality of Spirit.
When we are in an “underbelly” experience of apocalypse, we may feel that we are in a kind of “hell” but Myrtle assures us that “hell is a sort of reaping of what has been sown—not a punishment, but rather a cleansing and purifying process which results in the individual’s being set free from them and their effects.” (p.58) She also says that when you find yourself in hell:
….just close your mouth, smile, hold steady, and give thanks that God is there, Jesus Christ is with you, raising you out of the false beliefs and the effects of short comings, and helping you to abide in the pure and free Mind which expresses in you as joy and sweetness and the ability to bless and free others. (P.59)
I love the first line: just close your mouth, smile and hold steady and give thanks! If I could just master the “close your mouth” part, I would be way out of hell!
While you acknowledge your difficulty, and feel the pain of what has happened to you or as a result of your choices, the pattern is to not belabor or brood about it, but to find your way through it so that you don’t stay there! Lament if you will, but then find a way to move on so that you can be fully present to what is now here, or you will miss out on the really good things of life. Or as a classmate of mine said, “if you find yourself in hell, don’t purchase any real estate!” As Myrtle says, “just know that there is a stairway leading from hell to heaven.” (p. 59) And she said that long before the song!!!
The “Truth” is that the falling apart of an apocalypse is a kind of hell that is designed to wake us up to a greater Reality. Falling apart is for the sake of renewal, a positive step in our collective and individual awakening. Realizing that we truly are a global community, that we are all in this together, and that what I think, say and do matters for the whole are all new lessons for many of us. We may have understood these on one level, but we are getting it on a much deeper level in a whole new way. When what feels like hell has lasted as long as this has, it helps me to just see it as a measure of the collective lesson that we are all learning, one person, one step and one consciousness at a time. We truly are all in this together, even if we don’t want to be!
I want to share a Spiritual Practice from this week:
The fastest way to know God is to serve the God in someone else.
— Peter Reinhart in Bread Upon the Waters by Peter Reinhart
To Practice This Thought:
Acknowledge the preciousness of others by treating them with courtesy.
And I will revise my apocalyptic preacher outcry from the beginning:
WAKE UP! WAKE UP!
YOU ARE MORE THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE
LEARN TO LIVE FROM THAT CHRISTED BEINGNESS
THAT YOU ARE! THAT IS TRULY HEAVEN!
Blessings on the Path,