Barbara Ehrenreich on mystical experience

This is an interview with Barbara on her recent book _Living with a Wild God_. The interview is wonderful, can’t wait to read the book!

“Well I think the tragic thing about monotheism—and also about science, as I lump them together here—is they require that the rest of the world be dead. There’s this famous quote from Plutarch where a ship is going by and they hear the cry, “The great god Pan is dead,” and that marks the fact that the pantheon of the Greek gods has now given way, or will give way soon, to the risen Jesus, to this one-or-sometimes-three-part god. So, monotheism, all the other spirits and gods—done. And science! The Cartesian worldview is that the world is dead, except for human consciousness. It was only in the last twenty years or so that science began to acknowledge the feelings and thoughts of animals. And creativity. So I find the two kind of similar. As compared to a worldview more like my own, where it’s not all dead. There’s a lot going on. It’s a happening place.”

The online magazine is interesting also.

Buddhist Christians…

Interesting article on the Buddhist Broadcasting Network – I didn’t even know Buddhists broadcasted! – about Christians finding support for living authentic lives, and support for their Christianity, in Buddhist teachings and practice.

I found this sentence especially interesting:

Sandra turns to Buddhism because she believes that its teaching of no-ego or no-self, when understood experientially and not just intellectually, is itself an essential dimension of the journey to God.

Sandra is a Catholic nun who leads retreats. She says:

“Christianity and Buddhism agree that the spiritual pilgrimage involves an absolute letting go, or dropping away, of all that a person knows of self and God. Indeed, this is what happened in Jesus as he lay dying on the cross, and perhaps at many moments leading up to the cross. Only after the dying can new life emerge, in which there is in some sense ‘only God’ and no more ‘me.’ I see the cross as symbolizing this dying of self and resurrecting of new life that must occur within each of us. Buddhism helps me enter into that dying of self.”

I do think that there are some important theoretical and practical differences between Christianity and Buddhism, but it is interesting to read about these parallels and how non-dogmatic Christians are learning to access these helpful things from the old guy’s teachings!

Sunday, March 11 – an aside re: theism

During morning meditation, it occurred to me that I had just thrown in some rather deep, perhaps controversial stuff in that last post, moving swiftly through the progress of my early life, and that it could be a problem for some people who came looking for meditation help, but with a Christian or other theistic background.

So just a word to clarify and maybe avoid putting too many people off with those comments.

The whole question of whether of not there is something like the Judeo-Christian God that actually exists in some way other than as a concept for us humans is not really germane to our discussion here, not really even important in the context of beginning and pursuing a meditation practice. Not that it’s not an important question – it clearly is in many ways – but it’s just not terribly important to decide what you think or believe about it before beginning a meditation practice. And whichever side you are on or come to be on regarding the question is not that important for your practice.

To me, practice is the most important thing, and it will help in answering all the other questions you confront. And you can develop a meditation practice with or without the concept of God in it, with or without having a belief in God or anything else. Because meditation is not about belief or about connection with some supernatural power. Meditation is about connection with reality as you experience it.

The words and thoughts and concepts used to think and talk about your meditation practice can vary widely from one person to another. Those words and ideas are not the practice. The practice is solely the process, the experiences that you have in your own body-mind, in your own silence, in your own space. When you think of it or speak of it, or hear others speak of it, you should be aware that the word is not the thing. Everything that anyone has ever said about meditation – including all the saints and sages and Buddhas – is just an approximation of the experience, a finger pointing to the moon, they say in Zen. It’s not really it. Nothing is it but it. So the only way to know what meditation is about, what it consists of, what it is, is to meditate.

There are, of course, forms of meditation that are predicated on God and aimed at making contact with God. But it’s not clear that what those people are actually doing is any different than what people who don’t have that idea about it are doing. I’ve read widely in the literature of various kinds of meditation including the early Christian monks and it sounds to me like they are all essentially relating the same interior states. And it is clearly possible to follow any form of meditation with or without a belief in God.

I have learned Centering Prayer, which is a form of meditation or contemplation (those words are used differently by different people) based on ancient Christian teachings and practice, and discovered that the very same principles are followed in the actual practice as in some of the explicitly Buddhist forms of meditation I’ve practiced. I also found that despite my own personal lack of a belief system that supports the theistic concepts, I was able to follow the Centering Prayer practice and experience deep meditative states.

All of which is to say, don’t sweat it. For most of what I will discuss here, your belief or lack of belief will not be a serious concern. As you look deeper into these questions, meditation, however you choose to practice it, will be very helpful in making wise decisions.