Friday, 29 April 2011

Simple Not Easy

"Simple not easy a price had to paid, it meant destruction of self centeredness."

Bill Wilson claimed that this was required if a "real" alcoholic hoped to be set free from their addiction. Now of course it is easy to misunderstand and misread this statement. It is not suggesting that a persons inner self requires destroying, merely their self centeredness. He and others discovered that the root cause of their alcoholism was in fact their self centeredness. This is why in Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12 Step fellowships it is claimed that through coming into relationship with a “power greater than self” an addicted person is set free from the bondage of their destructive mindset; a mindset that had previously compelled them to continue with their self, and other, destructive activity. Perhaps the greatest myth, perpetuated about addiction, is that the sufferer is somehow choosing to do what they do. Even if they are appearing to do so, they are making the “choice” from an insane mindset. How can this be called a “free choice”? That said many millions of people have been set free from their addictions by a change in heart and mind brought on by a way of life that at its core is the principle of self giving love, or agape.

Self transcendence is not about destruction of “self” it is actually about the discovery of the “real self”. It is the key to “real freedom”. It is not a new idea and is a message found at the root of the great religious traditions, theistic and non-theistic. I like to call it the "Diamond principle". Through self transcendence our “real” nature is fully revealed; what Bill Wilson himself has described as the “Great Reality”, deep down within every man, woman and child and all life for that matter. Some call this the “Cosmic Christ” or “Cosmic God”, what Matthew Fox has named as the “I am” in everything. It is a faith based on change, dare I say transformation, because this “I am” can reshape matter for ever. It is a change that is brought on by the spiritual activity of self giving love and not by “will powered” mental processes.
Self transcendence is “really” about delighting in our very being, by understanding that we exist beyond the confines of ourselves. Keith Ward has described it as “Non – egoist delight in being” Karen Armstrong suggests “For human beings transcendence is part of our experience of the world”. It not only changes how we are as individuals but how we relate to the world. It opens our eyes to a far more universal perspective. It enables us to see the world through the eyes of others and not just from our own narrow perspectives. This breeds compassion and leads to a “real freedom” that transforms the world for ever.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

I Dream of the Ocean

I have just returned from our Unitarian and free Christian General Assembly Annual meetings in Swansea. I had a wonderful time, there was a great shared atmosphere this year. I suspect that this had a lot to do with the warmth of welcome offered to us by the Welsh Unitarians. I have to say that they are just the loveliest of people. Beautiful souls, I can see why they say that Wales is God’s country (I said country not county... we all know that Yorkshire is God’s county).

During my time there I went for an occasional walk on the beach, which conveniently for many of us was across the road from where the meetings were held. I have come to love the sea in recent times; perhaps one of the reasons is that I don’t get to see it very often. When I do it fills me with awe. I love staring out to sea and witnessing its vastness and its simple power. It fills me with awe; it is both awesome and awful. The people of Japan have in recent times experienced how awe-fully powerful it can be. It certainly humbles me, in its power and beauty.

I have been reading a lot of Forrest Church's writings over the last few months. His work has both held and inspired me, during my first steps into ministry. Every morning, after a short period of prayer and meditation, I read for half an hour. This sets me up for the day; it opens me up to whatever life has to offer. I often read something by Forrest, but not always. One of Forrest’s messages, that continually rings in my ears, is that the key to truly religious living and spiritual balance in openness and humility. Therefore by humbly accepting that we cannot fully answer the mysteries of life, death, the universe and everything we can begin to fully experience the joy of living and can be open to the voice of transcendence that never stops communicating.

I have practised staying open to this voice during the din of the annual meetings and from time to time I have heard and witnessed its beauty. That said I have not always followed what it has suggested I have from time to time got lost in other things. I have said and done things that were not as loving as they could be. This is ok, I am human and hopefully no one expects me to be perfect. “Progress not perfection” is a phrase, from another source, that is sustaining me in my ministry and it is a voice that I keep on hearing. I believe that it is a voice that we all need to keep listening to in every area of our lives. It is both loving as well as encouraging and it rises above the din of those who may say either you, or we are not good enough.

I dream of the ocean and the beautiful skies rolling out to sea
I dream of the ocean and the rip of the tide west of Finnistair
The weight of the water pouring down, holding on to me
I dream of the ocean, rising, rising” Lyrics of “Ocean Rising” by New Model Army