Friday, May 27, 2011

Valters-Paintner: spiritual discomfort can be a good thing...

My friend Jan Hilton, sent me the link to Christine Valters-Paintner's rich article on "The Spiritual Practice of Being Uncomfortable", and I am so thankful.  I have already passed it onto a friend in emotional and physical grief over the finality of relationship.  I am going through a similar disconnection with someone I cared for deeply and thought the feeling was mutual.  Nothing hurts more than when someone breaks up with you with an email from another state, deciding that YOU are not the right person for them but they want to be friends.  Nothing quite so devastating as losing a loved one who is still very much alive.  Did I want to be in love?  Yes, at some point but not yet.  It goes to show you that we are all fallible human beings, that two people contribute to misunderstandings that lead to more difficult situations.  No perfect world here.  We all just stumble along and maybe the dice will fall into a favorable set where things work out and the building of relationship can start anew.  That has been my hope, but even in hope we must be careful, as I have come to find out.  I still hope that at some point in time, when the storms of hurt and anger settle themselves, we can find our way back to discussing Buddhism, what it is to be an Episcopalian, an eco-conscious person, mindful of our world, large of small, here in America or the outer reaches of Nepal or the vastness of the Sahara, or mountains of  South American.  Mindfulness of just how fragile we are, and that even in our most caring moments, we can wound without intention or unknowing with gestures, tones of voice [or tones of email messages], and silences.  And silence becomes distance where once the well-worn path with its fine earthen dust used to be delightfully disturbed but has since become overgrown with slender grass, and the path is barely perceptible, yet you know it's there just waiting for one of us to take the first step and cross over.

I find that I am a very forgiving person; perhaps too much so for my own good.  Yes, yes, I know what Christ says  about forgiveness and grace, but when the pain is raw and the edges of the wounds are jagged and torn, in need of tending.  I'm in health care so I know how to patch myself up in most cases but when it comes to wounds of the heart, I'm not so good. Sure, I can make some progress; there are balms that help alleviate the emotional, mental and physical toll such grief and pain can take, but the real healing comes when there is someone who has been in that "place".  Maybe they have been "there" 3 or 4 times, or even more.  And those of us that do, we manage and limp along, knowing in our hearts that the healing another brings is another way of seeing, and revealing us in ways we had never seen ourselves before.  And kindly with deliberate care, they--being the ones who brought the grief to us--can be instrumental in our return to wholeness if they are the kindly souls we have always hoped they would be: caring, compassionate, in a helping profession, some who has walked our journey, struggled on our path, and though we may not have cared about their advice at the time, we eventually see some wisdom in what they have been trying to say all along.

I am at the place where I can acknowledge  I wasn't there a  week ago, but I am newly arrived at the possibilities where I find my heart and mind and spirit open to new ideas and ways of being and doing.  We have this ideal or idea of what God is regardless of our faith life, past or present.  A benevolent, strong but gentle "father" or "mother" or "sister" image.  But the author of this article I bring to your attention courtesy of my Texas friend Jan Hilton who sent it to me as a love offering, which I enfolded to my being because it spoke and whispered and occasionally shouted the wisdom it offers.

In the suffering of physical pain we experience a lot mental and emotional pain; they go hand in hand.  It is easy to dwell on the physical because it is tangible and made manifest in our physical selves.  Our physical well-being is strongly linked to our emotions and how we think and perceive our grief, this current pain that affects everything.

So I offer to you, you of all faiths and backgrounds and beliefs, this group of words of wisdom.  Simple and easy to comprehend. From a spiritual seeker writer and creator of marvelous spirit art and though I give you the benefits of spiritual discomfort:

So much of what passes for spirituality these days is about making us happy and having positive experiences. But sometimes, I would argue, we need to be uncomfortable.

By Christine Valters Paintner, May 24, 2011


Love wants to reach out and manhandle us,

Break all our teacup talk of God.
If you had the courage and
Could give the Beloved His choice, some nights,
He would just drag you around the room
By your hair,
Ripping from your grip all those toys in the world
That bring you no joy.
Love sometimes gets tired of speaking sweetly
And wants to rip to shreds
All your erroneous notions of truth . . .
The Beloved sometimes wants
To do us a great favor:
Hold us upside down
And shake all the nonsense out. ~ 
Read the rest of this enlightening article here.  You will be glad you did...

This is my offering to you because it was an offering to me in my time of relational grief.  May you glean from it ways of coping and doing and moving forward; we all have so much life to live, let's not grief here too long.  Raise a cairn to it's memory but dwell not upon it forever, or you will lose yourself to what you cannot have or hope to attain.  Gradually set it aside, so it will not get into your way as you go along your journey to joy and peace where serenity awaits us all, even me.