Archive for August, 2011

Divine Presence

August 28, 2011

All of us came from the same source of souls – that Divine Presence which is all-that-is. We are the invisible energy that permeates every atom of existence. In my struggles to reconcile the violent nature of our existence, I am seeking to connect with the divine in everything: people, animals, plants, insects, air, earth, water, and objects.

There is a divine presence in a tornado, in an earthquake, in a flood. Each of these can steal away our living essence forcing our souls to move into the next iteration of our existence. The earth holds its own divinity. What appear to be weapons to us are tools the earth uses to sweep its air clean, keep its core stable, and refresh the soils that blanket its surface.

There is a divine presence in the grizzly bear who takes down a hiker. To that grizzly bear that person is a threat to cubs as well as nourishment. There is a divine presence in a wasp’s sting and the bite of a spider. There is divine presence in the fresh water springs and salty ocean depths. Without either of these, humans cannot survive.

Objects are created from atoms – the same atoms that are in living beings. A book, for example, is made from a tree and is imprinted with the life force of that tree. This plastic computer I am typing on is connected to the divine by way of its electric energy – energy that comes from wind, from coal, from oil, from natural gas. Even its battery stores the energy of those sources.

I’ll not be having conversations with books, tables, or televisions, though. My point is to recognize that all that exists has a connection to the Divine Presence that is the universe of existence. Nothing is created that comes from outside this universe. Everything that is destroyed continues to exist in another form within this universe. This is a fundamental law of physics.

Any one of us can die as the earth goes about its business. Any of us can die as humans go about their business. All the while, we are part of and within the Divine Presence. My difficulty is remaining consciously connected with my divine presence as I go about my human business. It is even harder to remember to connect with the divine in another person. There is only an infinitesimal margin of ability when I try to connect with a person who has been violent.

The violence I am discussing here is that which makes the Web headlines and front page news — the atrocious violence that harms other living creatures: our wars, our crimes, our retributions. There are subtler forms of violence such as the emotional warfare that a parent plays with a child to coerce the child into behaving and being in a prescribed manner. I don’t even WANT to find the divine presence in another when that person has harmed me or someone I love. All I can look at is their human failings and fret about how they did not meet my expectations, my prescribed way of being in the world.

I suspect that this kind of violence must come from a complete disconnect from divine presence. How can I connect with people who cannot even connect with themselves? I have to trust that the divine presence in me will recognize and connect with the divine presence in others.

It’s a place to start.

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass

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The presence of violence

August 12, 2011

It is inescapable. Life is a violent affair.

Our violent nature is instinctual. We must be able to defend in order to survive. We must be able to kill in order to survive.

Physical survival is dependent upon violent acts from extremes as mild as that of plucking a fruit from its tree for food to killing another human being defending our lives. But we don’t limit ourselves to just the violence necessary for survival.

We are so enamored with violence we create stories in books and in movies that glorify violence as entertainment. We are not so different from the Romans who fed the blood of slaves and animals to the soils in its famous Coliseum and nurtured the eyes and ears of its audience with the screams and frenzy of the dying.

There is incredible beauty within violent beings in the world. The fox who visits me in our backyard is a magnificent creature. He is tall, lean, and confident. His furry red and orange cloak is trimmed with white and black — he is nature in its finest suburbia clothing. In the eyes of my granddaughter, though, he loses his luster when he captures one of the many chipmunks who feast on our gardens, and trots away with his squirming prize locked in his jaws. I am humbled that I have been granted the role of witness to these events.

There are stories that the Buddha sacrificed himself to become food for starving animals, knowing that he would be reborn again. That one life did not matter in terms of longevity. What mattered is what he did with it.

Yet the violence disrupts me. It brings my concept of God to an abrupt standstill, for if God is everything that exists, God is this violence, too. If all people are manifestations of God, then God is the mass murderer, the rapist, the abuser the same as God is the dying, the victim, the cowering abused. God is the person who turns away and pretends not to see. God is the person who charges and sentences, seeks revenge, and weeps with inconsolable loss.

It makes no sense to my logical brain that we would destroy that which we are. Yet, without destruction, we cannot exist. This tight and silly game has no rational explanation that I can accept.

But I’ve put it out there now. I’ve asked the universe to answer my dilemma. I am a manifestation of God seeking order, justification, and resolution.

We will see how I answer myself.

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass

The presence of nothing . . . and everything

August 5, 2011

Nothing has to happen and everything will.

This phrase found me in the netherlands of meditation about four years ago. The Taoist wisdom in these words is both a marvel and a dilemma. Its infant implementation into my life currently exists of captured moments when I manage to stand still enough to note that nothing that is occurring in this moment has to happen, yet everything is happening. When I get to the end of each moment, everything has happened. There is nothing left that has not happened in its moment.

I get caught up in control: having to have certain specific events occur so that I can have a specific outcome. Moving past my physical survival and my human dependency upon water, food, shelter . . . all of those things at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I am sometimes absolutely frantic to make a specific outcome happen. For instance, I am always desperate to honor my commitments. I am particularly abhorrent to being absent for people who are dependent upon me for their well-being (I’m thinking children here and the occasional grown-up who has asked for a favor).

Practical applications of control include situations such as driving my vehicle, showing up for work, spending my money, and all that. What “has to happen” for much of my waking moments is that I survive intact, not harm others, do my job well, save for my future – all of the activities we call living. My continued breathing in and out must occur for there to be continued life within my body. But there is no rule that says my breathing has to happen for its own sake. In reality, none of these things have to happen. I don’t “have” to do anything at all. The motion of existence will continue regardless.

There are consequences to both action and inaction. In deciding what to do or not do, we all believe we can control the outcomes in our lives. We have a large history to support that belief. We witness the outcomes in other peoples’ lives, listen to their tales of how it happened, and sometimes apply their methods to living our own lives. That’s what self-help books are all about.

I have been testing the inaction of “nothing has to happen” in my life. Watching people I love stumble through their lives, it is so very hard for me to not interfere and try to fix them or their lives. I witness their behaviors, their attitudes, and I can nearly all the time guess what the outcome will be. There are formulas for success, I want to scream at them. But who am I to know what is best for them? Who am I to guess what their path should be? Some days, I note that even I have not always acted in my own best interests.

It is easier to spout wisdom than it is to apply it. I am working on unknowing what I believe I know. The place inside of me where nothing has to happen is wordless . . . a place where my preconceived ideas and worshipped fairy tales lie silent and useless.

If nothing has to happen in this moment, I am leaving space for something else to happen.

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass