J. Randall Stewart
21 - Into the Energy Flow - Part 3: Energy and Awakening
How am I doing so far? Have I lost you? Is any of this making sense? I hope it’s speaking to you in one way or another, and I hope that it’s helping you feel a lot more hopeful about this God character than you have in a long time, even if you don’t really agree with or grasp everything I’m saying. It’s taken me a long time to get here, and I can’t say I fully understand everything I’m teaching and reaching for in God either. I’m not trying to claim to have all this figured out, or to even be practicing it well. But I can tell you that this is not a message to me, it’s a way of life, and more than anything, I’m striving to live the truths I’m also striving to put into words. And that’s the point. So much of how God has changed me would be difficult for me to put into words, because it was not an intellectual experience of words in books. It was an experience of God in my whole being, because that’s the preferred way God desires to meet us, from the fullness of one being to another. God never operates in a compartmentalized way, from a partiality of being, and so naturally starts to awaken our whole being by his/her whole being. That’s just the natural consequence of starting to become connected to God. God exists in a state of full connection. Reconnecting with God pulls us back into that same kind of full connection too, with ourselves, the cosmos, and God. There is a wholeness in God which can’t help but birth a wholeness in us. That’s why I prefer to think of this God character as an energy flow instead of a spatially limited personality. But I guess it’s equally interesting and ironic that my journey of becoming more connected to this holistic God helped me get more in tune with all my parts, individually, at least at first.
I never would have understood anything about the disconnected, compartmentalized self I was living out of if God had not first pointed to all my parts, made them more visible to me, and helped me see them separately before beginning to help me put them back together into a whole person. I believe, the more disconnected we are from God, the more we will fracture and retreat into our parts, becoming smaller and smaller as we identify with less and less of our whole self. In a way, that is a kind of death, to grow less and less who you are really meant to be. That’s why many spiritual teachers call this the small self or the false self. And conversely, that is also why the journey out of this small self naturally begins to reveal all the parts of ourselves, as we come back in contact with all of who we are meant to be, through this restored connection to God. God will never leave us to the hell of our smallest self. Out of love, and in honor of how he/she created us, God will always engage us as he/she see’s us, and never in the smaller view of who we are attempting to be in our diminished, ego-centric self. That’s why it’s not uncommon for some initial encounters with God to be disorienting, because we are literally experiencing things in ourselves which we never have before. I know it may sound strange, but waking up to your fullest self is not always a walk down the primrose path with singing birds and beautiful blue skies. Sometimes it feels more like going through a dark storm than a serene walk in the park. You have to remember; we have retreated into ourselves out of fear and hurt. To come back out, we have to confront that fear and hurt in order to overcome it. We have deemed the world too unsafe to encounter without some kind of coping filters. For God to begin to remove those protective walls can be scary. I know this first hand. Given the choice, I don’t know if I would have chosen to go through what I had to in order to get to where I am now. It’s been excruciating, even though I now see the good effect of that difficult journey. Beginning to experience this God energy in all our parts can be painful before it becomes a pleasure. To get through, we must hold onto the hope that all this will bear out for our good, even though it can feel very bad in some of those growing moments. We have to learn how to operate in parts of ourselves we didn’t even know we had, and before we can begin to do that, we have to become aware of those parts. That awakening is not always pleasant. Sometimes it can be very shocking. Picture a baby getting born. That's a common metaphor of Jesus, and many other spiritual teachers. It’s not a fun or pretty site. It usually entails a very frustrated, scared, screaming baby who has no idea what the hell just happened, and only wants to get back to that comfortable, cozy place they were before. My wife and I have raised four babies now, two biological and two foster, and I can only describe the first few months of a baby’s life as recovering from the PTSD of getting born. I mean, pretty much everything we did to comfort them could be described as trying to recreate the environment of the womb experience. From rocking, to swaddling, to just holding them close to the chest, it all had to do with the previous stage of life they were in before this crazy birth thing happened. And it’s no different for us when we wake up spiritually. We can often, suddenly realize that we are much more aware of a much bigger world than we were before, and that can be scary, and frightening, enough to cause us to simply want to return to the comfort of the smaller world we were in before we woke up. Doesn’t sound like I’m selling this spiritual awakening stuff very well, does it? I promise, I’m not trying to dissuade anyone from a God-connected life. It really is a better life. But I am trying to prepare you for the journey. I’m not going to sell you short on the difficulty that all this entails. It’s always worth it, but it will test and stretch you, as any good growth should.
So, what is this spiritual awakening like, and to what can we compare it? It can be like a baby learning to crawl, then walk. Like a toddler learning to run, and a child riding a bike. Like a kid learning to swim, or climb a tree. Like a teenager learning to drive, and taking their first ride in a plane. Like an adult learning to skydive, or jumping off a cliff into the water. Spiritual awaking always comes in steps and stages, and always keeps us moving along in a kind of whole person maturity that moves us from the ego-centric tantrums of the me-focused baby stage to the other-focused selflessness of true, spiritually mature adults. In experiential terms, it is learning to become more sensitive to the world around us in and through all our parts. As we grow through our experience of this God-energy, we get more in tune with how that energy feels and energizes us in our three Knowing and Being centers. Imagine something like a movie scene, where the main characters have crash-landed on some alien planet, and are working hard to their ship patched back up and ready to fly again. They have to work through all the different systems, repairing the damage, and getting each powered back up again so the whole ship will work. Our Centers are all like the different systems of our being, which have been damaged by the dysfunction of a broken world, and must go through the process of getting healing by coming back into contact with the power source of God. Each has its unique function and parts, and each will have its own unique path to recovery and repair. But the main goal is an increased awareness in all our parts of reality of this God-energy in the world, because it is this God-energy that enlivens and binds all things together. It's like the force in the Star Wars movies, in some ways. Remember Luke learning from Obi-wan how to become more sensitive to the energy of the force. Obi-wan said, "A Jedi can feel the force flowing through him," and instructed Luke to “Stretch out with your feelings." The energy of God in the universe connects all things to each other, and so allows for a connectedness in all things and to all things. But it doesn’t have to be so strange and trippy as all that, though it might seem so at times. The reality is that, when we are connected to God as we are meant to be, we will start acting towards all this God-creation as we should. Disconnection breeds destruction, while connection brings healing and wholeness. When I understand my place as a part of the universe, and when I am turned on to how I effect it, then I can feel the good and bad of what I do, and will not be able to act in detached ways that allow me to do harm. When we are all turned on in this way, the world will experience true peace. If I cannot hurt you without it hurting me, I will no longer hurt you, because I will understand that we all have a shared experience through the shared connection of God. But this all comes through a long journey of reconnecting our whole self back to the wholeness of God. And this reconnection can best be described as an increased sensitivity in all our parts.
As a kid and an adult, I was told a lot that I was too sensitive. It was seen as a problem, maybe The Problem. And it’s actually true, in a way. In a broken world where we are all numb to the negative effect we have on others, being sensitive is a problem. It can cause us a lot of pain. So, the common sense solution in such a world is to just become less sensitive. There, problem fixed, right! Getting numb does fix the problem of feeling the painful results of others insensitivity, but that insensitivity is, itself, the actually problem. That insensitivity has allowed us to create this broken world. But, guess what, God chooses the remain sensitive in an insensitive world, and calls us back to the same state of being. Why is it so important to be so sensitive? Because sensitivity equals connection. Can you imagine a God who was not acutely aware of how his/her actions affected us? A God with the power to create the material universe who is also emotionally, mentally, and spiritually detached from that universe would be a cruel and demanding tyrant, expecting from us things we couldn’t possibility do. Then imagine a God who is sensitive enough to know, feel, and touch every single part of our entire being, who knows exactly where and how we are broken, and how to get us back to wholeness and healing. That is the God I want, and the God I’ve found that is really there, and a tender sensitivity is the key. It is that same kind of sensitivity that God is trying to reinstate in us, because it is how we were intended to live. As we come back into contact with this God, we are coming back to a greater sensitivity within ourselves to the world around us. But guess what that sensitivity can feel like? It can feel like anxiety, fear, confusion, anger, frustration, and tension. Why, because we are coming back to a deeper awareness of a very broken world, even a greater awareness of our own broken self. The process of any step forward into greater spiritual maturity always begins with an increased awareness, which usually just reveals the deeper dysfunction before it resolves it. That’s why I’ve already spent a little time talking about the essentialness of suffering in the contemplative process, because we have to learn how to suffer the tension of becoming more aware of our own dysfunction in order to be more invested in the process of becoming more whole. I often call this process "Reveal and Heal". Imagine it like this. You are like a container that holds all of who you are. Then imagine that God expands that container a little bit, and now there is new space in your life. At first it feels very disorienting, because you have always seen yourself as that smaller container, and now there are elements in this larger container you have never before seen or touched. Like discovering new inner territory, there is a process of learning how to step into, search out, and discover this new expanded version of yourself. But eventually you go through the process, get more comfortable in your new skin, and find that this expanded container of you gives you more space to live and be more free. Then God does it again. He/she expands the container, and you have to go through the whole disorienting process again. You have to feel smaller all over again, as the old container gets constantly dwarfed by the ever-expanding identity. This is why spiritual progress can feel like regress, because revealing new problems shakes you out of the comfort of feeling like you had it all together, as God gets ready to do yet another work of healing and reconnection. So, we must be prepared, in the journey of spiritual progress, to experience the pain and disorientation of healing in each new process and phase. And we must understand that at first, each new step towards greater sensitivity will often feel uncomfortable, because we are becoming more aware, more sensitive in an insensitive world.
I had so many experiences of the "Reveal and Heal" process, especially in that first year of recovery after my breakdown, that felt like dying over and over again. In fact, Jesus likens spiritual progress to the process of death, burial, and resurrection. He literally set that example in his own life. There’s a Mexican proverb that also speaks to this; “They tried to bury us; they didn’t realize we were seeds.” Jesus also said it like this, “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it cannot be reborn.” A little over a month after my breakdown, I was riding in the car with my brother, and he was talking in a negative tone about something that was bothering him. I was so sensitive to that negativity, it felt like he was spewing a black cloud of coal dust from his mouth into the car. It felt so oppressive in my heart. I was literally feeling the heavy weight of that oppressive negativity, and it was building like a crushing pressure within me. Finally, feeling like I was about to explode, I told him to stop talking. It was an awkward rest of the car ride, as we sat in silence, staring straight ahead. It wasn’t like me to be so forward or demanding, and I’m sure my actions seemed rude. But I couldn’t take it any longer. I was just too sensitive to that negativity. In time, I learned how to handle it better, without feeling so oppressed, but the first part of the process was just becoming more aware of that negativity. We all carry around our negativity. We all spew it out into the world. Is it better to be numb to that, or is it better to be more aware, so we can feel the awful consequences and begin to stop? What I learned through my own recovery was to see my own negativity, in a painful way, in order to see it resolved. That's the point. The goal in this transformation process is not numb ourselves to that negativity, or even fight against others negativity, but to work on changing ourselves. Then we can be at least one less source of darkness and negativity in the world. Any religion or system of personal transformation that emphasized the need for you to change everyone else is focused in the wrong direction. The energy of God in the world always draws us back to the change we need to work on in ourselves, and that change will always birth an ever-expanding capacity to bear with the brokenness of others, because we know that we’re dealing with the same kind of brokenness in ourselves. The more aware you are of your brokenness, the more patient you’ll be with others. It’s what Christianity commonly calls grace, and why attitudes of condescension, condemnation, and judgmentalness are all strongly condemned by Jesus. We’re all in the same broken boat together, trying to patch up and repair all the systems of self in order to get back to the kind of healing that breathes more love and positivity into an already overly negative, insensitive world.
The key to all this is a growing awareness through greater sensitivity, which will naturally reconnect us to ourselves and God in ever expanding ways. We need to learn how to die to our old insensitivity and get constantly reborn into the bigger container of a more sensitive self. As we mature, we'll move along on the spectrum of transformation from selfishness to selflessness. Are you ready? Are you ready to suffer a little to grow a lot? I hope so. It really is worth it, but you have to keep going to find out. So, just keep going, and trusting that God is doing something good through the process, even when the process doesn’t always feel so good. We have to remember, the process may not feel good, but the end result always is. The question is, how do we hold on during the dying process in order to get reborn? How do we allow for the plowing and planting in order for new seeds to take root and grow? When we're in the flow, even in the hard times, we'll still be able to feel the positive nature of what God is doing. Good, hard, growth still feels like growing. A good death of the bad things in our lives still feels like coming alive. I know I've just begun to introduce these ideas of how this God energy works to bring us back to life. So don't worry if this isn't making much sense yet. We'll continue discussing these ideas in our next series, as we look at how this God energy works in all our parts. So, hang with me, and hang in there. Things will get better, if we just keep walking together towards greater healing and growth.