It appears, to me anyway, that we human beings are stuck in a many ruts. Not physical ruts, or insurmountable ruts, just ruts that are different things to different people. Yet, a rut may come from the same source, so while it appears to be a different challenge, it may
all stem from the same origin. Allow me to explain (which means “please continue reading!).
As I observe my own experience, my own practice, and my own perspective I see a vision that envelopes me. This vision looks like the middle of the night. It is dark all around me, but there are enough visible points of light (stars) coupled with a few radiant Beings (the moon) that allow me just enough light to see. The stars have many “names”: Veronica, Gianna, Megan, Michael, Carol, Nancy, Steve, Joe, Lisa, David, Carlota, Chris, Monica, Kris, John, Derek, Vince, Mike, and Tanya just to name a few. Although equally meaningful, some are more distant than others with names like Buddha, Jesus, Wayne, Eckhart, Krishnamurti, Osho, Mohandas, Theresa, Thich, Adolf, Josef, and so on.
I don’t mean to give these stars any particular judgement. They are light, period. Truly some I have an enormous love for as they are close to me, but that doesn’t mean that those further away don’t have similar importance to my journey. They are all equal providers of
light, and help me in their own way to see the light by defining the darkness or to see the darkness by defining the light. Oddly enough, the darkness that surrounds me is of great value to me . It provides the light purpose and allows me tremendous focus on it. I love the darkness for this gift.
Please allow me to say that the darkness does not create this rut we are in. The darkness simply hides it so that we can fall in. The rut is an idea that the darkness hides. Darkness can hide this rut as a “truth”, or “faith”, or anger, or need, or countless other ideas the mind conjures up to hide the source of your suffering. While we focus on those ideas in vain attempts to solve them, we lose sight of the source itself, of the rut, and step into it. This darkness usually presents itself in the form of other ideas; what we commonly refer to as conditioning and faith.
For many of us, we take this plunge into the rut even before we are able to actually walk in the physical world. In this instance, the rut itself isn’t shrouded by our own ideas, but by the ideas of our parents or caregivers. They hide the rut from our eyes and teach us to step into it. It’s not their fault, however, they are in the rut unconsciously themselves and simply have a desire for us to walk in with them. This desire was, often, created by their own parents and caregivers who learned it from, well, guess who. It’s a reincarnation of energy from one generation to the next.
Even if I can’t prove our souls reincarnate, I can prove our ideas do. They have such a tremendous role in our experience that we not only attach ourselves to the ideas of our parents, but often teach those ideas to our own children regardless of how much we felt they were wrong in our own youth. We can’t help it for the most part, such is the depth of the rut. Others may have introduced us into the rut, but we ourselves choose to stay in it. That in itself is an important distinction and realization to make. It is the beginning to freedom.
We have the power to get out of the rut just as sure as we have the power to stay in it. It is easy to see that there is a certain comfort to “staying in the rut”. It’s what we know and ties us to the only familiarity that many of us can take comfort in: the role our parents play in our lives and the comfort we find in it. For some, that may mean showing love whenever possible. For others, it may mean disciplining the children harshly. We act like our parents (or repeat learned behaviors) because there is a certain comfort in it, even if we don’t like the behavior or what it will do to those we love or, equally important, what it did to us.
That leads me to something that occurred to me during my morning meditation on Sunday July 31st, that was expanded a bit on during the day. If I am “in a rut”, how do I get out of it? Oddly enough the answer came to me in a rather bizarre way. I was thinking about this topic while driving and, as I flipped the channels on my satellite radio receiver a voice through it said “God is the answer!” It was a very clear and distinct voice, and it caused me to pause long enough to see that I was on a Christian radio network. Yes, the Universe does work in very mysterious ways.
The statement unto itself is relatively benign to me because I have been force fed it since I was a young lad going through a Catholic School education. I was taught that God is a Being very much like me except far more powerful and much less culpable for his behavior. He gets angry. He will “teach (me) a lesson”. He will damn me to hell and apparently take great joy in my eternal suffering. He will even kill me if he has had enough of me. Yet he loves me, is merciful and is compassionate. Yes, my head spun on its axis much when I was a child with many more questions than there were answers for. This is a condition that is continuing in my adulthood.
I remember those lessons well. They coincided with my mother who would often tell me that she beat me senseless because she “loved me”. I am sure it was something that she had heard in her life as well, yet the impact on me was tremendous. That was a great rut for me, one that I continue to struggle with today in a kind of a “one foot in, one foot out” way. Fortunately, today, I find only a toe falls in from time to time.
So how do we get out of these ruts we are in? In my experience the answer is simple even if the the work is not. See, for me the work entailed a great deal of change. That work led me to a new relationship with God, which of course led me to a new understanding of what a “relationship with God” meant. Honestly, climbing this mountain didn’t happen from reading a book on climbing mountains, it happened from climbing the mountain. I stumbled, I fell, I was battered, bruised, and bleeding. I caused “rocks” to fall on those around me while taking some falling rocks myself along the way. I learned to trust my lifelines, my stars, and my intuition. I learned (and am learning) what works for me and what doesn’t. That, my friends, is the key. You can’t LEARN about life, you have to experience life.
I use this “mountain” analogy a lot. It just seems the perfect metaphor for life. To some who view it as cliche, remember – my experience is brand new to me and is NOT cliche. If that metaphor seems cliche to you, well perhaps you are doing a bit too much reading and not enough climbing. You decide.
Anyway, I have never reached the summit of this figurative mountain. Rather, I have reached a thousand summits. Each realization is a summit unto itself. Each moment is a step toward something, even if it is just into an awareness of Now. Attachment to me is the cause of all failed attempts at the summit. I get hit by a proverbial rock and become attached to the suffering and never take another step upward. I bang my knee and become so absorbed by the bruise that I never reach for another foothold. I look around me and become so consumed by fear that I became fixed in my position. There is, after all, a great deal of security in staying put (or digging in) when fear strikes. Your mind says “I know I am safe here,” and you simply stop growing. You are stuck in a rut based on the idea that you aren’t safe anywhere else but “here”.
This is where God comes in. For me, God is not that magical painting I used to see in Church of that angry old man with a robe and staff pointing in my direction. Because I was taught from a young age that the image of God was that painting (or something like it), it took me quite a while to dissect and relearn what God was. This did not come from a book, it came from experience. I had to remove every preconceived notion of what God was in order to know what God is. That was not an easy task, particularly in a society that has this conditioned understanding of what God is and is rarely able to remove itself from that rut. This is true for both believers and atheists, they either have embraced a conditioned idea of what God is (give to us by books and the experience of others) or they have rejected that idea.
They have rejected the idea, but they can’t reject God. They have embraced an idea, but they can’t embrace God. The embracing of God would suggest that you were once separate from God. This makes no sense in my relationship (experience) of God.
First, the Hebrew Bible states that when Moses asked God for a name, God replied “I am that I am” or, in some translations, “I shall be that I shall be.” I meditated on this reply for some time. In fact, I still meditate on that reply. It has caused an understanding in me.
“God is not a noun, God is a verb.”
Now I dont’ want to beat the ground that has been beaten many times over in religious and spiritual circles for hundreds of years. I simply want to dwell on the response as it pertains to my own experience. If I look at God as a noun, then it is very likely that I am separate from God. God becomes limited as a noun. God is there and I am here. God is watching me. God is protecting me. God is causing great suffering to teach me a lesson. God is going to judge me. God is going to condemn me. God is going to…blah blah blah.
Now, let me change this with God as a verb. See, if God is a verb, God becomes unlimited. As a verb, God becomes something very much a part of me, something that I can do. As a verb, God does not have a religious connotation (you can’t own a verb), but does have a spiritual one. God does not forgive, God become forgiveness. God does not love, God becomes Love. God is not “all around”, God becomes what is all around in the form of energy. After all, what are all nouns at their core if not energy? Every single noun, at its core or quantum level, is nothing more than a verb trying to be understood. Every single person, place or thing is nothing more than an energy (verb) turned into a noun in order to be known. You, my friend, are no different.
Because of this relationship, God can be a method by which I remove myself from a rut. It was the experience of trying to climb out of ruts that gave me my experience (relationship) with God. It was that experience that taught me that God is in me and I am in God because I cannot be separate from my own choice of actions. I found those words in a book, but they spoke to my experience, there were not the experience themselves. God was the action of climbing, the rocks I used to gain a foothold at their quantum level, and the results.
Imagine if we used God as an action in our daily lives and not as a noun. Eliminate all ideas and suggestions of what God is (even the one I just presented) and have the experience for yourself. Recently, while performing yoga asanas, I had a realization that yoga was not the action to God, but the action of God. The inspiration flowed through me as the sweat poured out of me. God is not found at the destination, but in the journey. God is not the burning bush, but the burning that makes the bush known. God is not found in being still, God is found in being. Stillness just highlights the Being and allows us to see it through the haze of ideas, mindlessness and other ruts that permeate our daily existence. What would you be doing if God was the action and not a noun?
I thank you for the opportunity to share this experience. It is not meant to replace your own, just a sharing of the one I am having. Once you realize that you are having an experience, you have found God as I know God. There can be no atheism in this understanding because we are all having an experience even if we want to reject it (then rejection becomes the experience). I am sure I have touched but the tip of this mountain, but as I continue to climb I desire to simply be open to each and every experience that is available to me. Openness is the doorway to mindfulness for me.