“I had always imagined God to be in the same general direction as everything else that I valued: up. I had failed to appreciate the meaning of the description of God as the “ground of being.” I had to be forced underground before I could understand that the way to God is not up but down.”
– Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak
Yogis and gurus have it easy, I figure. No mortgage to pay, no lover to argue with or long for, no groceries to pick up. No parking tickets. Detachment must be a cake walk when devotees are bringing you food and cash.
You want to show me evolved? Then get a j-o-b. Navigate inter-office conflicts, hormones, interest rates, and family holidays with meditative calm. I dare you.
I’m being facetious, of course. Ascension can be a bitch. And there are many spiritual masters who have earned their silky cushions and well-supported lifestyles … to whom I deeply bow.
But for me, the aim to transcend has proved to be a distraction.
Maybe enlightenment is not attained with out of body experiences, or astral travel, or rising above the mundane, profane and banal of everyday life.
Perhaps, as activist Parker Palmer puts it, God is down, not up. Perhaps God has temper and likes Her meat rare. Maybe He hangs out with crazy people and likes a bargain.
Perhaps God is waiting to be found in the things we try to avoid.
The hours I’ve logged in the lotus position have expanded my mind, and even sweetened me. Examining cosmological concepts has sharpened my intellect and fueled my charisma. My higher pursuits are decent. But my life always calls me, sometimes wrenches me, back down to the ground. Back to my little home, like a million other homes on earth, filled with minutiae and temperaments and soft tiny experiences of joy.
My greatest lessons have not come from my time in Ashrams or on retreat. Retreats are where I go to process what I learn from everyday living. My greatest growth comes from the black mucky fertile mess of my relationships … when I do the hard work of loving someone the way they deserve to be loved. When I go down into the sensuality of the present. When I go…
Down into surprising self-hatred. Down into feeling helpless in the face of Gaza and Sudan and ignorance and toxins and homelessness.
Down into deep sex and smells and hedonistic funkaliciousness.
Down to nuzzle a crying friend or baby.
Down into the dirt to lift branches and clear space, and carry boxes into a new little home, like a million other homes on the earth.
Maybe God is something you need to “get into” rather than aspire to. When I retired from rising above my life and just “settled” with being here and being human, something amazing happened: I stopped feeling guilty for being…me. If you’re not ascending you’re stuck with yourself, and that’s much more fun than I ever thought possible.
Life is messy. Dig deep.