Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Spirituality Bunk

As I have said many times I fear the development of the notion of spirituality has been a way to avoid the religious person’s contact and involvement with the issues of the world, social action, justice and radical change. It doesn’t have to be that way as the great social leaders like King, Tutu, Dorothy Day, Dom Helder Camera, slain Archbishop Rivera had and have a strong life of prayer that they say sustain them.

My prayer life has always been haphazard. I have tried to meditate in many ways and settings and fall asleep, think of sex or when can the damned silence end? Mike Murphy, founder of Esalen Institute has said people are meditating all the time and don’t necessarily call it that.

There is a great emphasis these days on the virtues of silence, emptying the mind and quieting the “monkey mind.” Who says god does not speak to us through the monkey mind? There is the line in the Old Testament about hearing God’s still soft voice. I had an OT professor that translated that as a “crashing stillness.” What I get from quieting my mind and silence is sleep. I have friends who testify about the “high” they get by meditating and having almost out of the body experiences. I rejoice for them but that is not for me nor for many people who just are not wired to pray and meditate in that particular and peculiar way.

I like a lot of time alone and do a certain amount of staring off into space and just let my thoughts flow. When I stand at the Vigil for peace and Justice, I often pray for the troops and the people they kill. I usually think of hostile and mean thoughts about the president, King George the Bush. It is very hard for me to think healing thoughts that he might change.

I pray on the run, for people and issues that I come to mind as I listen to the car radio, swimming my laps at the pool and walking and shopping and cooking.

I think of the intense pleasure of orgasm when mind is focused on pleasure, the mutual pleasure of lovers. To use the Buddhist expression, I sense an oneness with my wife and the universe, and I am not sure of the universe.

I get little pleasure from the outdoors and nature. It is amusing to be in it for a while and the air usually smells good. But I’d rather be home reading, listening to music and writing. I am even envious of Ann. who loves to hike, watch the birds, enjoy the color of the Ocean and feel the breezes. It is OK for me in small doses until I can get home again.

I envy the simple piety of people who can love Jesus, sing the corny hymns, feel the spirit and have a sense of open joy. Not me. I have a romantic notion of the cowled monks and nuns in monasteries worshipping long hours in smoke filled rooms wafting their prayers upward to the ground of all being. But I can’t see myself in such an atmosphere for more than ten minutes.

I do like to look at photographs of my children and grandchildren and I do pray that they are well and continue to be so. I do utter a quick prayer for people when they aske me to do so. I pray for friends and family who are sick and in need.

I have pretty much given up reading the Bible. I know the stories, psalms and gospels so well that I find few new inspirations coming from them. I find the lessons in church services tedious.

I gave up the daily office years ago, especially the saying the little ditties called venite and jubilate, nunc, mag, etc as boring tedious and tiresome. I occasionally like to go to evensong in a cathedral or great church for the sound and sense of worship there, but only as a special treat from time to time.

I do like to take communion with my brothers and sisters of all stripes and colors and conditions. I think of Jesus and his mission and sacrifice. I think of my family, the great Christians of the faith and the saints not of the church like Gandhi, I am in communion with. The everlasting wordiness of the consecration prayers gets on my nerves. Just bless the bread and wine dammit and let’s get on with it. Why do we have to hear the whole story of creation and redemption in order to hear Jesus simple words of the institution?

There are all kinds of ways of praying, I know that. Ann and I do say grace at dinner and I continually give thanks for all the blessings and wonders of this life, and I do this on the run too.

I resent having to pray every time we go to church meeting, clergy conference. I hate having to go to the Eucharist at every confirmation, bishop’s visitation or any time Christians gather.

I have given myself permission to enjoy the prayer life as I live it. I cannot get excited about all the present palaver about the importance of the spiritual life. With all the people I hear about that are spiritual, who meditate, read the daily offices, belong to prayer and healing groups, I see the world the same, old, sweet, miserable, sinful place God has given us to live in. The so-called spiritual renaissance has done little to bring peace and harmony to the world.

So go ahead and pray up a storm, but stop lauding the prayer life as better than another kind of life. I suspect this too will pass like the hot fads of the past like Christian Education, Group Life labs and religious, evangelistic crusades designed to change the church and world.

I can’t wait.


Blogger Not Your Usual Missionary Position said...

Robert, whenever we lose ourselves in something, even sleep (I with a chronic illness that leaves me terminally insomniac-I so envy those who can go to bed and fall asleep instead of spending the hours until dawn knitting or meditating or reading or mopping the floor) I believe that is meditation. That's always sex for me, losing myself and I agree about the universe. A good meal with friends, a great book, art in its many forms-all are transcendent and DO clear our mind as we are focused on something not ourselves. We just drove over the mountains from David to Almirante and I, as the passenger, found myself in awe as almost always) to travel up over the area near the Continental Divide, the place I call "the Birthplace of all Clouds and Fog". I love to take a break at the "lookout" over the abyss and find myself in absolute quiet for seconds to many many minutes, sometimes as long as 15 to 20 minutes--of nothing or water washing down the sides of the cliffs back in the rainforests, or the song of birds and the cool mist and nearly cold, breezy air, away from the muck and mud and constant noise of our little village. If we still had hermits, that's where I'd build my hut, far away from just about everyone and everything--except for Kenny, cats, books, and a firepit! Thank you for your freeing message. I can remember one of THE most powerful Eucharists I've ever attended--it was Gay Pride Parade's end in Panama City and the Eucharistic prayer was a combination of the reason we were there--the combination of celebration of ALL peoples of ALL genders in ALL cultures, especially those oppressed here in Panama's rampant homophobia (yes, and of course in ALL the churches except for Our Lady of The Rainbow, the Church of the Streets and a few homes in which I occasionally meet with GLBT people and we have Eucharist) and the message of Jesus, a very basic amamnesis of the Eucharistic Prayer--less than 15 minutes and less than half an hour with all who came to the Table. Sometimes I just wish we could cut to the heart of it all and yet, here in Panama, where there is NO daily Eucharist, no daily MP or EP by the Episcos, I hunger for that ritual. I guess we miss most what we can't have. No one's spirituality or prayer life is designed to make others feel bad; that's just pomposity and tedium. Ask anyone who's in The Process of how much they are quizzed about their prayer life versus what they do for their body and for themselves and we know most of us lie as we all know the pat answers. I threw in sex for fun and there was enough quiet for 28 hermitages full of silent monks and nuns!! But I am just naughty and sometimes shocking and there is just so much bullshit in THE PROCESS--don't committees have a clue that most of us aren't telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Are they ThAT naive? MEOW.

You just keep right on living your rich full life and let everyone else tai chi on Grace's labyrinths all they want.

I DO pray the rosary in traffic jams, mostly so I won't run screaming from the car or hurl a book at the car ahead of me! As a goddesser, it helps to calm me down but I have a temper so ANYTHING that takes off my edge, I appreciate and honor and make full use of.

oonie in Almirante

4:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do meditate as a daily prayer discipline and sometimes fall asleep. But..more often not and in the discipline I realize the tyranny of the mind. It is a discipline to let God do the talking occasionally rather than just listening to me.

8:31 PM  

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