Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Desiring happiness is unhappiness

“Blessed are the peacemakers,” says Jesus in Monty Python’s film Life of Brian. Someone in the crowd says; “Cheesemakers? What’s so special about them?” Then someone else replies; “No, he must mean anyone working in the dairy industry.”

A modern-day sermon on happiness would sound more like; “Blessed are you with loads of stuff, the sexy, healthy, respected, popular, productive, growing richer.”

But all this just puts conditions on happiness, and God forbid it would mention God either, while Jesus’ teaching on real happiness, the beatitudes’, the blessedness-es, which Luke, focused on humility, calls sermon on the plain, and Matthew, focused on Moses, calls sermon on the mount,is about our unconditional happiness.

For this, you have to stop wanting anything less than the I am who never changes throughout all the conditions of our lives, the I am who is always here, the I am covered up by the conditions of the world, the body, and the mind, and give up, turn back, repent, surrender all, rest, in One I am.

If I confuse who I really am with I am 32, or I am 54, or I am 76, I am well thought of, or I am tired, I am searching, I am loved, I am lonely, I am scared, I am in an intimate relationship, I am in a special state of mind, I am feeling a substance in the body, all this is to mistake who I am for a passing state, a changing, and a forever fading away. Happiness peace and fulfilment are nothing to do with these.

Jesus said; “Blessed are you who are hungry now, you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, you will laugh,” because he is telling you to dis-identify with changes, and everything changes, it really does, even gender changes nowadays.

I heard Lord Chartres, former Bishop of London explain how at London School of Economics he heard someone advertise what sounded like G&T’S, and thought he would get Gin and Tonic, only to find the adverts for GNT’s, gender neutral toilets.

Jesus’ I am statements, like I am the bread of life, the true vine, the good shepherd, the way the truth and the life, mean I am is unconditional happiness. The prodigal Son admitted defeat and came home from the world body and mind back to the source from which they came, which is religion.  He gave up searching for conditional happiness to submit to our Father, or as one 14th century mystic once put it; “I travelled so far in seeking God, but it was only when I gave up, and turned back, that I found out there he was, present, in me.” This is awareness.

The Sea of Galilee, where Jesus taught the beatitudes, is a very large still lake in a peaceful fertile place, like our conscious awareness is. Our thoughts are like ripples on the surface, our feelings like currents in the water, but we are not these because a wave cannot find peace and fulfilment in another wave, or a different part of the ocean of consciousness, it must give up and sink into itself, the depth of the ocean where there is no motion, mind and heart silent, still, and we cannot learn this new understanding unless we are humble, so Jesus said; “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” Pride doesn’t do it-humility might.

Jesus also said; “Blessed are you when people hate you, exclude you, revile you, defame you on account of the Son of Man, rejoice and leap for joy, surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets."

A truly religious man or woman does not rely on approval or react to criticism, reputation isn’t who they are, and only they can turn off their light, but people to whom God isn’t central cannot see this, and they will lash out harder if you turn ever more intensely to God as your source, which is a test, but there is a story about a monk who slept outside with a stone for a pillow and was criticised for needing a pillow at all.  He threw it away and used the earth, then he was mocked for throwing it away just because someone criticised him. So the monk decided to please God alone, not other people’s perceptions of him, and found heaven in his heart and the whole universe. The saint overcomes the tribulations of the world.

I hardly dare say it, even in torture, Jesus said Father forgive them, they know not what they do. The Aramaic Idiom he used when he said blessed are those persecuted for the sake of righteousness means deeply and firmly happy are those in whom the urgent desire for justice and salvation is so strong they cannot sleep at night.  This righteousness such beings are filled with is saving union with God, in a Biblical context, absolute, goodness with no opposite, no form, no limit. Such longing for God is like being in a lake with someone holding your head under water until you gasp for air; the kind of intensity of longing which leads us to realise God by giving up our search. Incidentally this is exactly what John the Baptist did to people, in the Jordan, in the days before the health and safety executive and personal liability insurance, so maybe he was John the Drowner, and he lost a few.

So Jesus also said; “Blessed are those who mourn, they will be comforted.” One who mourns loss or loneliness indicates a deep sense of emptiness that can only be filled with One true Self not confined to anybody, to any thought, or to any world.
A consciousness in whom all our small seeming consciousnesses actually partake.

Jesus said; “Blessed are the meek, they will inherit the earth.” The gentle have earth for a heritage because they overcome the delusion of ever being able to possess it, they are free from an idea that anything really belongs to anyone, and in self surrender, maybe with possessions but not with possessiveness, they lose a sense of ‘me’ and ‘mine,’ God’s servants, entirely dependent, yes, and not independent, but strangely happy, finding they gain everything in the best sense.

Jesus said; “Blessed are the merciful, they will be shown mercy.” To find God, be God-like in mercy even for those who are harsh and unhappy. Humans remember hurt, the sin persists in their eyes, but not in God’s.  Mercy is the fruit of an inner calm in which one is an empath who feels and shares joy and sorrow of all beings.

Jesus said; “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” To know who you are, desire and fear must dissolve, pain and pleasure, passion and craving must pass, as St Paul says; “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” This process purifies, simplifies, calms the mind to attend to God’s purity, your nature.

Finally, Jesus said: “Blessed are the peacemakers, they will be called children of God.” His Aramaic idiom means; “firmly and deeply joyful are the peacemakers,” because a peacemaker does not worship his or her own human idea, brainwashing him or herself with a text, but different body minds are illuminated by One God.

Jesus was a Jew, a teacher, a Rabbi. In the Jerusalem Talmud, the central text of Judaism, Rabbis say every sacred text is written in black fire on white fire, the black fire is the diverse tracing of all our thoughts, and the divine white is the silent inscape of present and immediate experience, an ecstatic reflection of existential reality, the mystical understanding of a faith, any faith, which is trust.

To be happy stop desiring happiness, which is unhappiness. Let go, let be, accept what is, deconstruct conditions, we are One being in different conditions, just like Father, Son and Holy Spirit +

Friday, 25 January 2019


‘There is a story about a drunk man searching for his keys under a lamp-post despite losing them inside his house. “Why are you looking for them here?” he is asked. “Because there is much more light here than in my house,” the drunk man replies. 

The point is that we tend to seek where it is easy rather than where we lose the inner light of God, in the difficulties, where our attention is captured, where we feel uneasy, uncomfortable, isolated or separated.

So my apologies to anyone who has already heard this story about three forgetful friends playing bridge.

One of them suddenly says, “Sometimes I catch myself with a jar of mayonnaise in my hand in front of the refrigerator and I really just can’t remember whether I need to put it away or make a sandwich.”

A second friend agrees, saying he often pauses, befuddled, on the stairway, unsure of whether he was going up it or down it, and why.

The third friend, a recent widower, says; “Oh no, not me, I don’t have anything like those problems at all; and a very good job too, knock on wood (and then he does)….. Oh! There’s the door, whose going to get it?”

Most of us are like this, we don’t even know our attention is habitually lost so we are asking the wrong questions. I have not done a Eucharist for four years without spending one hour in silence first because when you do not know how to be present, you cannot access the Presence who is real, so lost are you in the transitory mind and emotions....
....and there was the man whose memory was so bad that when he awoke, he couldn’t remember where he had put his clothes the night before. He was so worried about finding his things on waking up, that he couldn’t fall asleep.

One evening, taking pencil and paper, he wrote down where he had placed each item of clothing. Placing his notes by his bed, he fell asleep, confident he would find it in the morning. And he did. He woke up, took the notes and read: 'pants—on chair back; and there they were. He put them on. ‘shirt—on bed post;' and there it was. He put it on. 'hat—on desk'; and there it sat. He placed it on his head. In a few minutes he was completely dressed, but then… a great dread came upon him once again.

‘Yes, yes,’ he said aloud. ‘Here are my pants, my shirt, and my cap; but where am I?’ He looked and looked and looked, but now he couldn’t find himself, and that’s how it is with most of us us too. Only when you are present, will you be able to stop identifying with problems and know Presence.

It is that simple and that difficult, and too much religion encourages you to be unconscious, absent, and search for your keys where it is easy rather than in the dark where you will need the inner light of God who really is. God respects you too much for this, which is why “Today” is the first word of Jesus’ public teaching. “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21) And the last words he spoke to his apostles, in the Garden of Gethsemane were these... “Stay awake.” (Matt 26:38) Today, stake awake.

Think about it: where am I? Where are you? I’m standing here! And you’re sitting there, of course! It’s obvious. Or is it really obvious? At some point, especially if I keep droning on long enough, you may look at your watch and say ‘What time is it? When does this end anyway? I wonder what there will be to eat later on?’ And if you can catch yourself at that very moment, then where are you? Are you still here? Or have you been lost? Suddenly looked at your watch and left this moment in favour of some other?

Similarly, you could be sitting here listening to me, and suddenly remember that you forgot to return an important email, or you could remember a fight you had with a family member. Again, are you really here, or are you now lost? In either case, have you actually left the chair? Physically, of course not. But in every other sense—you have left. You’re gone. You’re missing this moment, the only moment that’s really happening! And that is why being present to God where we lost God is important, which is the great task of religion, to keep you fully awake, alert, and conscious. Then you know what you need to know in your context.

The reason atheism and agnosticism are so common is that we no longer teach people how to be present, to stay awake, in the places they lose the ability to do this, which are usually the places it hurts.  Nowadays we educate distract or entertain the mind or emotions, we very rarely drop into the heart and just be in the body.  Presence is a full-body experience, not an idea in the mind. The mind we identify with can only reprocess the past, judge the present, and worry about the future.  With one foot in the past and one in the future we completely miss the point, which is the presence in whom we live and move and have our Being (Acts 17;28) and knowing that thou art that, the source of body and mind and creation.  

Instead, we become blind to who is, captive to what was, oppressed by what might be, unavailable to those we love, to the needs of the world, and absent to our Self. That is not the life to which Jesus calls us. The freedom to be and become fully alive, fully human, fully Christlike, can only happen here and now, in embodied compassion in the present moment, because Jesus neither reminisces about the past nor forecasts the future. “Filled with the power of the spirit” and “anointed to bring good news to the poor,” he comes “to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,” and we are the poor, captive, blind, oppressed, those seeking favour.

In the midst of our inability to pay attention, our poverty of love, hope, or meaning, our emotional and spiritual blindness, it is easy to run away, get stuck in the past, fixate on the future, but Jesus comes today, here, now, embodied, not lost in our past or hidden in an unknown future. The only place we meet God is here and now.  Today is when God brings good news to the poor, proclaims release to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, frees the oppressed, and proclaims the year of the Lord’s favour. Only presence of Christ today can heal our past or prepare our future.

This is made real to the extent we admit powerlessness to stop resisting, or fighting our addictions to thoughts, things, behaviours, and just say Welcome, welcome, welcome. I welcome everything that comes to me today because I know it’s for my healing. I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons, situations, and conditions. I let go of desire for power and control. I let go of desire for affection, esteem, approval, pleasure. I let go of desire for survival and security. I let go of desire to change any situation, condition, person, or myself. I open to the love and presence of God and God’s action right within and beyond this body.

Which brings us to politics. When I say politics I am not talking about the unending nightmare of Brexit but the challenges of living in community or relationship. The opinions we hold, the decisions we make, can only be right when we are present and the mind surrenders to the heart in openness and receptivity, embodied, boundaryless. 

Jesus’ political identity begins not with his individuality, role, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, nation, party loyalty, or tribe, but with baptism. “You are the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” From knowing he is the Beloved, Jesus is led by the Spirit in the wilderness where he overcomes the corrupters of politics: materialism, power, narrowing self-interest. Empowered, he worships and teaches in synagogues where he grew, to people who know him, and reads this from the Prophet: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

Those words describe the politics of Jesus. Good news to the poor, release to the captive, sight to the blind, letting the oppressed go, declaring God’s favour. They are not campaign promises for the future but a present reality. “Today this scripture has been fulfilled.” From here on everything he does is grounded in a politics of release, sight, freedom, divine favour, healing the sick, casting out demons, forgiving sins, feeding the hungry, raising the dead, being open to pain, suffering, rejection, to death resurrection and ascension, which is why we are all here, and could apply to us too.   

At the heart of Jesus’ politics is an unspoken ever-present question to us: Where does it hurt? Because; “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” (Matt 9;12) So where does it hurt? Where do you keep losing attention? Where do you become obsessed? You only find God if you look for God where you lost and lose God. 

Jesus’ political agenda is not determined or influenced by who is good or bad, insider or outsider, it is the politics of presence. Where are you poor? Good news to you. Where are you captive? Release for you. Where are you blind? Sight to you. Where are you oppressed? Go in freedom. Divine favour is not given to the poor, captive, blind, or oppressed because they are good or righteous, but because God is good and righteous, and they are now open to God’s presence, rather than trying to avoid it.

I could quote so many scriptures about stillness silence and presence we would be here for hours, so instead just let me ask you this. Are you open to this presence, or lost in personal politics? Are you aware the scriptures are encouraging you to be present and vulnerable to God as your true Being, your inner light, not lost in the personal issues? Are you present to God, or thinking? If you are really here, sensitive, embodied, present, in the sacrament of this present moment, you will notice that all boldily sensations are transient, continually passing away. “That is why St Paul said “Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom 7:24-25).

With Jesus as our teacher we are awake to fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Cor 4:18).  We look for the keys where we lost them, using the light within.   

We stay present, to what is eternal inside, and this is a release.  The past is history, the future a mystery, but the eternal in our bodies is a gift. That word gift is why the present in called present, and only the present is here.


Thursday, 17 January 2019

They have no wine?

At the end of a busy day, a man and a woman are sitting on the veranda in the quiet twilight, broken only by the sounds of gentle wind, and swash of the waves.
They are enjoying a glass of wine together. As the sun slowly sinks below the mountains, the woman breaks the soothing silence to suddenly say, “I love you so much I don’t know I could ever live without you.”

Completely surprised at this, the man asks her, “Is that you or the wine talking?” But she explains that she was actually talking to her glass of wine, and not to him.

Despite such personal disappointments, there is someone closer than a person could ever be, someone impersonal, someone intimately within and quite beyond our experience, and someone we literally cannot live without. It takes brokenness to become intimate with this real being in relationship before you die. Nothing, an 18th century Jewish mystic said, is as whole as a broken heart. And it was the 21st century singer Leonard Cohen who said “There is a crack in everything, and that is how the light gets in.”  So  if you really want to be whole, get a feel for your brokenness.
When Mary says to Jesus at the wedding at Cana (John 2 1-12) “They have no wine,” she speaks a truth about persons who believe they are separate from the divine.
If we believe we are a separated body/mind, we resist marriage to God. And then the wine gives out. The glass is empty. The party over. Life seems dry. The day wears on, we become increasingly aware we cannot replenish the wine with our separate resources. Despite our best efforts, our good intentions, our hard work, the wine of our own life is always giving out. This is the truth. We refill our glass, it becomes empty. There isn’t enough. We may live, but we will be less than fully alive, unaware of our true nature. We will, as Mary tells Jesus, “have no wine”. And that's OK.
As separated beings we cannot be recipients of a full life and we might even resent the creator. If we believe in the self-sufficiency of being a separate body mind there will be no vibrancy or vitality, nothing grows or ferments, the bouquet of life is colourless, tasteless. The failure of our belief in our own power might seem like a disaster, an embarrassment, or a failure, as it did for the bride and groom at the Canan wedding, but it will confront us with truth old as creation, new as eternity, open to the eternal.

It may come on the day of a diagnosis, the death of a loved one, the loss of a friendship or marriage. It might be a search for love and acceptance, thirst for meaning and significance, guilt, disappointment, regret, fear, failure, self-doubt, depression, longing for something we can’t name, or unanswered prayer that brings it. But really, every single moment we ever resist is all our ‘having no wine’. 

Because we come to the wedding at Cana every single day, none of us guests or spectators, all of us participants, ready for union, intimacy and wholeness, our marriage to God.

As Jesus said, I and the Father are one, I can do nothing without the Father, as he and I are One, may they be One in us. So the day our wine runs out is a miracle, it is the day we let God be God and realise at last that as individual body minds we are only God’s empty jars. We have this treasure in empty jars, as 2 Cor 4;7 says, which means we realise we don’t own or control our glasses so Christ does not simply refill them, we are transformed into Christ.

This being in Christ begins to be fully experienced when the wine gives out and we accept our emptiness.  The being in relationship at the source of all existence can’t be realised unless our wine runs out.  And even then, some of us are sorely tempted to look for a substitute by working even harder, doing even more, or smashing our glass altogether.

If we try to escape experience we shrink. If we give that effort up and share God’s divine nature as our birth-right in God’s image, we know the truth - Christ the eternal vintner and chief steward is pouring Godself into everything there is, every sensation and thought, right here, and now. Mary knows, when she says “they have no wine,” that running out of wine is no failure, disaster, shameful calamity, or tragic end we believe it to be, it is openness to the only real Self.

If there had been enough wine, the participants at the wedding would have had to settle for something inferior and illusory and transient. But they received God in their midst, the best wine, by knowing they had run out of their own.

As people with nowhere to turn we realise we are recipients of God’s experience, not separated finite body/minds.  Just as Jesus waited until the cheap stuff ran out before he took water and made 180 gallons of the best wine, God waits until our illusion of self-sufficiency runs out, and we empty ourself of ourself, to allow us to know God’s fullness as all there is. Psalm 36 says this of God - you give them drink from the river of your delights. So, if the wine has run out...

Good.  It isn’t about your separate personal experience, it is about the priceless being whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere, and is so close you hardly usually notice it. As St Augustine said, God is closer to you than you are to yourself. So then let yourself go to find God.

A poem describes gladly letting the cheap wine, your limited searching, finally run out. “I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown. He replied: Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way. I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. God led me to the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.
In all life's circumstances, no matter how they feel, open up to the One at the centre of the experiences, the infinite reality of God, the only fine wine, is love flowing in you, as you, and for you, making human and divine one in you if you don’t resist what is happening, and this wonder beauty love potential and peace passes all our understanding.

But it is the truth, of One real being, in relationship.


Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Why every single day is Christmas

In the beginning was the word (John 1:1) because speech stands for creative wisdom, as in let there be light” (Gen 1:3). In the beginning was creative wisdom, it became flesh, and your flesh.

If it is tempting to see evidence of creation as random, difficult, meaningless, look deeper, as Franciscan Giovanni Giocondo wrote in this letter on Christmas Eve 1513.

I salute you. I am your friend, and my love for you goes deep.  There is nothing I can give you which you have not. But there is much, very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take. No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today. Take heaven! 

No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant. Take peace! The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. There is radiance and glory in darkness, could we but see.  And to see, we have only to look. I beseech you to look! Life is so generous a giver.

But judging its gifts by their covering, we cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard. Only remove the covering, and you will find beneath it a living splendour, woven of love by wisdom, with power. 

Welcome it, grasp it, and touch the angel’s hand that brings it to you. Everything we call a trial, a sorrow or a duty, believe me, that angel’s hand is there. The gift is there and the wonder of an overshadowing presence. 

Your joys, too, be not content with them as joys. They, too, conceal diviner gifts.  Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty beneath its covering, that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven. 

Courage then to claim it; that is all! But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are pilgrims together, wending through unknown country home.

Giovanni’s letter says fleshy problems are in wisdom.  It may be tempting to think of Angels as irrational, but as a renaissance man, he looked to the Greek fathers of the faith, philosophers, who valued reason and had their own idea of evolution, the 'hierarchy of being'.

Stones, plants, animals, and angels, humans, and creative wisdom emanated from One source, the Good, God. This is why the Bible says in him all things were created: visible and invisible, he is before all things, in him all things hold together (Col 1;16).   

No-one has seen God (John 1;18) but a mysterious invisible whole, here to teach us. Teach us what?  What Giovanni said...
As a child, on Christmas day, I didn’t get presents until I had been to hospital. What transfixed me wasn’t nurses, or Mickey Mouse painted windows.  My Dad was a paediatrician, as others opened presents, played with toys, slept, over-ate, drank, watched tv, I peered transfixed into the incubators on the special care baby unit.

Tiny babies fighting for their lives had hands like birds’ claws, oxygen tubes in tiny nostrils, and knitted hats on tiny skulls. Year by year, the idea of God as a baby was given form in these premature, fragile, injured lives. Some of them had been injured by people, because people, as confused animals, can be disappointing and very difficult. The world disappoints us.

My Dad had to provide evidence of abuse in court cases resulting in children taken into care, and I eventually ended up working with the abused myself, and the abusers, often the same person, since we all learn what we experience. 

In his difficulties, Jesus experienced a sense of intimacy with, not distance from, the creative wisdom of God. In him, and us, creator and the creation can become one. 

The Church disappoints, I disappoint.  And yet, if we go a little deeper, the I who looked into the incubators is not the I who writes this. There are similarities over time, but one 'I' is years older than the other 'I'.

There are processes that we call 'I', like perceptions, feelings, personality traits, physical parts, hands and heart, but 'I' as a continuing thing with which we all identify is a fiction we all construct, a mask, a role, which is what persona means. 

We are interdependent. None of us at all are given a lead in the cosmic drama. If we cannot see this, there will be pathological desire and anxiety to preserve the fiction of 'I', rather than the Holy Spirit of courage, compassion, creative wisdom, forgiveness.

Despite being abused and tortured, Jesus experienced a sense of intimacy with, and not distance from, God, and we can.

We don’t have to be good enough, which is what grace is. We fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3;23) but creative wisdom enters into the physical, to embrace, to redeem, and to heal it from within it all.  If we can only realise this, everyday is already Christmas.

Reifying 'I', we think it is less weird to do only a bit of God, to keep a safe distance, like lighting a firework. This doesn’t make any of us human, but sub human, because it cuts us all off from One creative wisdom.

Working in hospitals, people told me they didn’t believe in God, so I asked them to describe God, and I agreed. God isn’t a man in the sky, separate, angry, abusive, indifferent, violent, punitive, God suffers these things, and spoke to us by the Son, through whom he created all the worlds. (Hebrews 1 1-2).   

There are many worlds, and inner worlds. More galaxies beyond the milky way than there are stars within it, every one of them like an island universe with billions of suns. God, an inner self, boundless timeless and invisible, does save us from mortality. 

This is why, in the film Dr Zhivago, to the question, 'Are there things in the world that claim our fidelity?', he answers “Very few.  We ought to be faithful to immortality, which is another name, a richer name, for life, and to Christ.” Why Christ?  Because once upon a time a maiden in silence and in secret gave life to a child who gave the world the miracle of life, that is, your life. 

Don’t think only your difficult little life is life. You are not just human, you are divine, the word became flesh means the real you in creative wisdom is lifted up inside the divine who did not avoid the messy, birth, failure, vulnerability. You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, for your sake became poor, so that you, through his poverty, might become rich too (2 Cor 8;9). Today, you really are.