Friday, January 25, 2008

Unveiled gazes

When I was a little girl, I read books about Betsy, a plain girl with brown hair who liked to read books. I like to read these books by Maud Hart Lovelace because not only did Betsy read books, but she also had friends. I lived vicariously through her.

I used to recreate many of the things that she did in her life, except I did them by myself. I built a little seat in the crook of a tree in the backyard with a cigar box to keep my treasures in. I tried to peel apples all in one swoop to see if I could figure out the name of my future husband from the shape of the peel once it fell to the table. I wrapped my hair in rag curls. I made my own calling cards from my father's old business cards.

And I walked through the house pretending that I was walking on the ceiling by looking down into a mirror as I walked around.

I am currently at a conference being hosted by Father Richard Rohr about Jesus and Buddha. As a result of the subject matter, he talks a lot about non-dual consciousness. I think what he means by that is that we are not really separate from God. "I am in you and you are in me" kind of stuff. He says that as Western society, we spend all of our time reading books and having conversations and going to school to learn about God with our heads. But he says, "It's a different medium in which you access spiritual things. God id unable to be known as an object of consciousness." At this point, he made a gesture with his hands to indicate an object and then pantomimed stuffing it into his head. He keeps saying that we need to know God at a cellular level. He calls it participatory knowing. (Incidentally, e also mentioned that women tend to be better at knowing on a bodily level.) He says that we give and take communion to remind us that you are what you eat. "When Christ passed the bread to the disciples, he didn't say, 'Take this and think about it.' The body of Christ is medicine we keep feeding you so that one day you'll believe" that you are not separate from God.

To help us know God a little better in this way, all 900 of us were sent out on a walking meditation through the neighborhood, traveling wherever the spirit led. He gave us mirror medallions: circles of mirror about 2 inched in diameter strung on a cord to go around our necks. One side was purely reflective and the other side was also reflective but also had a picture of the inner eye and the words of a verse from 2 Corinthians: "Our unveiled gaze receives and reflects the brightness of God." He took us to wear the medallion with the blank side facing out and the inner eye facing in towards our hearts. A mirror can only take in what it sees, without bias; this represents the unveiled gaze. While we walked, we were supposed to meditate on the image of God coming in through the mirror and being transferred into our hearts, then reflected out of our eyes. Knowing God bodily.

I found myself meditating on what constituted an unveiled gaze, practically. I think it means that we should try to be objective in our observations but I also think that unveiled means that we should be open to others. Vulnerable. Honest. I also found myself singing a meditation song from a particularly powerful experience on the island. "There's a river of birds in migration: a nation of women with wings." I also repeated the verse like a mantra while I walked. I thought about much my dad would like Albuquerque, with it meandering park paths, little streets, public sculpture and museums. I looked at the mountains and relived playing basketball and looking at the same mountains with my friends Dan, Doug and Bill in high school when we were here on a mission trip. I also remembered wandering into the foothills after dark to find the Native American cemetery, which is one of the only times that I have felt truly sacrilegious. I forgot that I was was even wearing a mirror until I saw the setting sunlight flash onto a cactus next to the sidewalk. I was a little shocked at its unexpectedness.

This made me look down at my mirror which made me remember walking through the house all by myself looking down into a mirror, pretending I was walking ont he ceiling, just like Betsy, Tacy and Tib. But as I dropped my head to look into my mirror that lay flat on my chest, the muscle memory brought up the words that my yoga teacher uses every week. When you bow your head, raise your chest up to meet it because this is symbolic of the seat of the mind bowing to the seat of the heart: the intellect giving way to the spirit.

So, I raised my chest, bowed my head and walked on the ceiling to learn bodily that I am in God and God is in me.

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