Saturday, April 08, 2006

"Getting off the meat wheel"

It has been a while since I posted. Getting ready for holy week, weathering the storms of a special diocesan convention and absorbing the wonders of the end of Lent have kept me spinning. But now, oddly, things spin down. As I posted around Christmas, as the holidays draw near I notice that the missives break off, meetings grow sparse and the hours of the day open up a bit. Of course, I have 18 liturgies to get through in the next seven days, but hey, you give a little to get a little, right?

Today was the day-long mindfulness retreat that is the culmination of Jeff Harrison's eight week series. I have only missed one session, and I have to say that although it has made my Lent a bit more hectic than usual; I am truly happy to have had the chance to experience the training. I have done work in Zen, Native American, Christian and Shinto prayer and meditation, but the past eight weeks have really opened up mindfulness to my Christian perspective.

One thing from today: Jeff was leading us through a Tibetan tandem breathing exercise, and he had a great quote. The practice had us paired off, with one person lying down and breathing. The other would sit over/near the one breathing and watch over them. The job of the watcher was to breathe with them, in their tempo, and let them know that you are with them. True empathy. The Tibetans use this to assist people in the dying process, when, according to their tradition it is inappropriate to touch the dying person.

When the person is dying/just dead, the Tibetans believe the self is deciding if it is going to leave the cycle of rebirth, or return. Touching them reminds them of earthly attachments. If they are left to their own devices, says Jeff, then they just might decide to "get off the meat wheel." He was referring to the never ending cycle of rebirth that all sentient beings are bound to until they decide to release attachment and suffering to embrace nirvana/enlightenment.

Thing is, I found myself thinking about Holy Week. There is no more important season in the life of the Church than these next few days. We walk with the Christ from the gates of Jerusalem to the foot of the Cross. Each moment is a lesson in community, in service and in the life we strive to live the other 51 weeks of the year. Yet, too many of us don't see it that way. Sometimes I don't see it that way. Jesus is showing us how to set aside attachment, and how to struggle with it. He commends his spirit to God on the Cross. He wrestles with his "cup" and asks that it pass from him in the Garden. He submits to the will of God and laments the loss of his companions, when they desert him for the illusory safety of the shadows. Each moment gives us an opportunity to surrender attachment and agenda...

And yet...And yet, do we accept the challenge? Sometimes. Sometimes we strive to see things from all angles. Sometimes we learn by opening up and releasing attachments. Sometimes we don't. We get caught up in conflict, drama and distraction. We get consumed by worry. Interest rates are going up. Crude oil is soon going to cost as much as bottled water per gallon. Local communities get caught up in being over-wrought. It is the way of things. Lay up on that all our cares and worries, and well, who knows?

So, as Christians, this next week is crucial to us. We set aside all the bits and pieces. We step off the "meat wheel" of attachments. We get into the moment and join Christ in his journey to a place beyond the sufferings and samsara. We go to the dark places of our own grief, travel through them and open up to something beyond. A celebration. A hope. A life that is true life.

Good times.

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