Friday April 19, 2013 7:45 p.m.

Question and Response

Gratitude – how can it be misused?

You can’t go wrong with gratitude. The simplest spiritual practice in your life is to flip things around and look at your life through gratitude rather than entitlement and deprivation. However you get there, the world transforms.

We experience so much grief because we come with such an attitude of entitlement. We expect it should have gone better than it did. Once you look at things from an entitlement perspective, it’s just one body blow after the next. Find the place in every situation where you could look at it from gratitude.

It is a powerful force. If you can find something you can genuinely see from a gratitude perspective it will begin to change things.

Directly experience how much life is holding you up.

The only place to keep an eye out is when you compulsively replace negativity with positivity. This can be a form of stopping, when everything has to be restated in a positive form so the worst situations can’t be named because you are afraid of negativity.

A genuine dose of gratitude always connects you with wholeness.

We are often better at letting go of our anger than we are at letting go of our peacock feathers. We like to go back and dwell on when things went so well. It is ok if that is a source of renewed gratitude. But it is kind of a bad habit. If you really want to do spiritual work then develop the capacity to let go of things labelled good/pleasant and things labelled bad/negative with equal  readiness.

Be dead to praise and blame if you would inherit enlightenment. Doesn’t mean you can’t receive it gratefully, but don’t need to dwell on it. Develop quality of equanimity which allows you to welcome all moments as they come, but allow them to pass on.

The via negativa seems a joyless path. 

I wish we could have a moratorium on via negativa and via positiva.

The via negativa or apophatic is not the same as the ascetic path. The ascetic path says form and our faculties are not able to perceive reality. It is the path of letting go of sensate data.i

The via positiva or the kataphatic is merely a path where you work with the faculties of the soul.

Once we take away the confusion we are free to fully and gratefully receive the goodness life has to offer. This discipline of the moment is to accept the fullness of what’s there.

But when we use pleasure as addiction, we are into another form of escapism.

We need a more embodied and joyous spirituality. The biggest problem Jesus’ first followers had with him was that they expected asceticism and instead of hanging out in the wilderness he was in town having a feast. The disciples of John the Baptist were confused by this.  Jesus understood what incarnation means. It means to fully embrace and be with life.

As quickly as you receive it, you let it go. That is the asceticism of the path of full incarnation. Jesus was opposed to hoarding and clinging in any form not to receiving fullness and joy. The capacity to reach into life, embracing the moment, bringing as little baggage as possible, but not to get stuck in nostalgia and comparison. We are given these gifts to hold them in our hands with delight and then to let them drop.

Asceticism is the fruit, not the means, of transformation. After a while if you can get yourself to what you feel is a wonderful body tone in your body, adopt a relationship with your body and food and life that is long range sustainable and your body comes into atunement, then you come before a meal that is terribly heavy and sweet and you don’t feel the desire. You know it will dull your senses.

Asceticism is what life looks like lived good, whole, and simply out of that quiet engaged listening of your being.

Imaginal realm

The main teaching on this is in Henri Corbin writing on Islamic culture. The difficulty with all that writing is that you have to tease it apart to see how it has some Christian underpinnings.

Lyn Baumann believes that Jesus’ teachings already emerged out of a familiarity with imaginal teaching. There was a great bank of Jewish transformational mysticism.

People are re-discovering the imaginal realm. Arthur Versluis Wisdom’s Children.

There are different creative modalities by which a larger more spacious and unboundaried reality dialogue and dialect with the finite reality that is us comes into play. Just sense it rather than trying to define it. Go into your own experience bank and see what feels true. There is some current that does not abandon us. There is a knowing that comes out of nowhere. It is where you know that you know.

We can all find ways we know our life seems to be in dialogue with the full of the moon behind the sliver. The imaginal is that full of the moon. Your being is growing from as well as toward some other dimension of materiality which is of lighter density but of greater vibrancy. Become an intentional dancing partner with that partner. The real things you want in a sense of coherence and meaning are satisfied at that level. If you know those things experientially you don’t really need to involve yourself in definitions which become too ideological.

Hope and faith

The first distinction I want to make is between faith and belief. Faith is not a pre-programmed doctrinal system but the willingness to take the next step ahead.

Faith is seeing in the dark, not leaping into the dark.

Faith knows that coherence lies there. Faith is the capacity to follow that inner resonance of coherence that is imprinted in you. It precedes a doctrinal structure it does not come out of a doctrinal structure. The problem is that the church today has a lot of beliefs but not much faith.

Faith and hope are very much defining the same quality but hope comes from the moving centre, faith from the feeling centre. There is something about hope that is visceral; it bubbles up and is directly perceivable in the moving centre. Faith belongs primarily to the emotional centre. Upon this you can construct belief using the thinking centre. Faith and hope are the infusion of the same reality bubbling up in your centre.


Elizabeth MacKinlay

Identity which comes to us is preserved always. It is what we will be given back when our body falls off.

Is there a way to help people take a leadership role in their communities?

There is a lot of shallow conversation going on. To create spaces where serious conversations can take place.

How do we help people get below the surface?