goodbye to my elemental friend

I think my relationship with the elemental is officially over.

I went down to their forest today, as I have every few days since I’ve been home. I stood there, gazing into the quiet shaded green, trying to sense anything at all that would show that they weren’t gone. Even just for the sensation of being watched. But I felt nothing.

As I stood there, puzzled and missing them, I asked God why I couldn’t sense them anymore. “Because you have me in your heart, there is no room for anything else,” he answered.

That wasn’t the answer I wanted to hear and I fought him on it. Shouldn’t having him lodged in my heart allow me to have more room for others, not less?

He clarified that I didn’t have that aching hole in my heart anymore. I wasn’t reaching out to the elemental to satisfy my spiritual longing anymore. And then it struck me, like finally understanding a foreign language: he was the one who had brought the elemental to me in the first place.

At the time, I was lonely and not getting the companionship I craved. I was also spiritually starved, but my hatred of the church was keeping me from filling that need, too. I was stuck in limbo, and that spirit proved to be just the kind of friend I needed.

A lump rose in my throat and tears came to my eyes. I still miss my friend, but I am more grateful than ever for the time we had together. Wherever they are now and whatever they’re up to, I wish them nothing but the deepest blessings. And while I don’t know if we’ll ever meet again, I’ll keep an eye open, just in case.

Planning Your Way to Enlightenment

I’ve been trying to manage God.

I want enlightenment so badly. I want to merge and disappear into the Holy Spirit so much it’s almost a physical ache. So I had been trying to plan out how to achieve that, keeping a strict eye on the horizon to make sure that I’m staying on course and that I’m progressing fast enough. As though developing a relationship was as simple and linear as reading a book. But it isn’t.

The only way to achieve intimacy and enlightenment is to do as that old Christian song says and let Jesus/the Holy Spirit drive the car.

The only way to take the next step is to let go. We are finite and we don’t know the path to enlightenment. God does, and he wants us to reach it even more than we want to reach it ourselves.

So do what you know is good for you (ex. pray, meditate, learn, practice), but do it without keeping an eye on your progress.

Trust that if you go where God leads, he will lead you where you are meant to go.

American Church and the “Real Christian”

I’ve been going to a new church with my friends and it is unlike any church I’ve been to.

We lovingly call it “hipster church,” but jokes aside, seeing a church thriving that holds different cultural views than the ones typically associated with church is refreshing. It’s nice to see a church that is quite liberal and still just as serious about seeking and knowing the truth as the conservative ones.

When it’s come to Christianity, I’ve been disheartened by how pervasively sticky culture becomes, how it saturates what we call truth and is then spread around with it as universal, objective truth.

It has been a mission of mine, by spending times outside my culture, to see what in Christianity is purely cultural, and what is true no matter where you go. The two are very different.

There’s nothing wrong with the cultural aspects to religion, but they shouldn’t be welded irremovably to each other. When they are, churches start creating oddly specific sins, saying things like “Real Christians will boycott Disney for this or that reason.” They end up making the price to enter too steep, so eventually people stop entering.

Never mind that God has already invited everyone to know him deeply, even those who like Disney.

Loose Lips Sink Ships (Mainly Yours)

Words have the frighteningly strong power to change our reality.

I didn’t used to believe this, and so I used to speak more flippantly. But recently, I’ve been curbing what I allow myself to think and say, because I’ve seen what harm a loose mind and lips cause.

The reason for this probably has many layers. There may be a spiritual layer, of course, of us putting out whatever energy is moving through us at the time and letting whatever’s strongest ping back (usually negative, honestly).

But another reason our words and their root thought patterns are so important to control is because, most of the time, we haven’t made up our mind yet on how we feel and we wait for our words to solidify it.

We receive stimuli all day. It comes in, and then our brain must make sense of it. Some of it is obvious. “I haven’t eaten, therefore I’m hungry.” But other times, it isn’t as cut and dry. Most things in life are nuanced.

For example, maybe someone at your office never greets you in the morning when they walk past your desk. There could be many reasons for this and while a small part of your brain is a little irritated over it, the rest of it is reserving judgement for when you have time to decide whether this continual breach of etiquette makes your coworker a “bad” person or not.

Your irritation makes you want to complain about their behavior, but here’s the catch: the moment you complain, your brain makes its mind up, because words are inherently concrete. We can’t really express a half-baked thought through words.  The moment they’re spoken, that etherial thought takes form.

In this context, your brain decides to follow your words and suddenly, your whole being has decided that, yes, your coworker is a bad person for not greeting you. Which then determines your behavior and attitude towards them.

Instead, if you catch this irritation early enough, you can choose to give them the benefit of the doubt, or to even just decide it isn’t important and reserve judgment indefinitely.

Mental and emotional flabbiness are dangerous to entertain. When we give in to speaking negativity on a regular basis, it hurts us most of all.

 

Brief but Meaningful

The elemental in the far woods (see this post) has not spoken to me since I’ve been back home.

I’ve visited their forest several times, listening for them, but I don’t even feel them anymore. And I don’t know enough about spirits to know why, or what might be going on.

Did they leave? Have they gone dormant for a bit? Has something changed in our relationship that makes them not want to reach out to me? Or has something changed in me that is preventing me from sensing them?

It’s frustrating and a little sad, but I’ve decided not to dwell on it.

For all I know, maybe our relationship wasn’t supposed to last forever. Maybe they had some knowledge to impart to me and now that I have received it, they have moved on to do something else, somewhere else.

I hope they come back, of course, but only if it is what is best. Sometimes things are only meant to last for a short time.

When everyone’s special..

“When everyone’s special, no one is.” –Syndrome, The Incredibles

I’ve been thinking about this quote a lot lately and specifically how it captures the spirit of a recent trend: the need to out-special everyone around us.

I see it everywhere, as people take on more and more labels that separate them from “normal” society, ranging from reasonable to completely fabricated, wearing them like badges of honor.

I used to do this too, but as I’ve experienced more of life and people, I’ve taken on an increasingly “who cares?” worldview about it all.

At the end of the day, we are all just chunks of incarnated spirit, and we will succeed or fail based only on how we take care of that.

We work so hard to prove to people and to ourselves how great we are but deep down we suspect that we are actually uninteresting and useless. We are afraid of being basic.

The thing is, though, we can’t truly know who we are inside until we strip off all our decorations and disclaimers. When we do, we’ll find that, while our core really is small and quiet, it holds more life than anything we tried to cover it up with.

It’s acceptance of that core that resonates with other people, and it’s that acceptance that allows us to love and enjoy ourselves.

Devoted but not Loyal

I’m starting to get burnt out on church again.

I’ve been going to church every week for the past two months: compared to my previous record of once or twice a month. It was great for a while, but the last few weeks I’ve just felt stagnant. And I don’t know if it’s a stagnancy I need to wade through or one I need to change.

When it comes to Christianity, I’m devoted, but I’m not loyal. I believe that, if God/the Universe/the Life Stream is everything–is the beginning, middle, and end of all that exists–no religion, and definitely no church, owns him. Therefore, if a method of connecting to him isn’t working, there’s no shame in leaving and trying something else.

Before I returned to church, my Sundays were spent quietly with coffee and toast, listening to a sermon or other spiritual teaching while playing video games. On mornings when the weather was nice, or when God had something particularly pressing to speak with me about, I would go on a walk or go to the woods to meditate.

I miss those mornings. But at the same time, when I had those mornings, I missed meeting with other Christians and the spiritual stability that church brings.

I need to find a balance.

For now, I think I will continue going to the church I found in Tokyo because I do have good friends there. I’m only here for four more weeks and I want to make the most of the time I have left.

 

not like this

My best friends’ dad died today. He left a wife and four children, two of them in middle school.

As I was trying to get ready for the day, weeping, I heard God speak. “This is why you are going back (to America),” he said, “to be there for them. Improve your empathy, because they will need it.”

I like finding out what my next step is, but not like this. Not like this.

Acceptance

Reality works like a mirror. Whether you take this as literal truth or just a helpful metaphor, it still holds true.

This is why some people seem to have good luck and some bad, and why people who like themselves often end up being liked by others (and vice versa). There are endless applications of this on every conceivable topic from relationships to health.

For me, now, it has been showing up with regards to my self-image. The more I learn to accept and enjoy myself, the easier it is for me to accept and enjoy other people.

I used to be very prideful and very cynical. I disliked people, as a species in general. (I still do a little, if I’m honest.) And the fact that I was part of this species felt like a dirty secret to me. I always wanted to tack on a qualifier in my mind. “Yeah, I’m part of humanity, but…”, or “Yeah, I’m a girl, but…”

Qualifiers do more harm than good, I think. It’s only in taking them away and accepting what and who I am that I have been able to see more clearly what my true potential is. And by extension, that of other people.