For over a year now I’ve been describing myself as an Esoteric Christian. I adopted this terms before I fully understood what it meant, but I also knew that it was the best description of where I am in my faith journey. Whenever people ask me what an Esoteric Christian is, I jokingly respond, “it means I’m a Christian who’s into weird shit.”
Like many, I watched in horror as America elected a narcissistic bully as our next president. Like many, I was overwhelmed by despair, panic, and grief, and astonished by the intensity of my feelings. A serene voice in my head repeated, over and over, “There, there, things might not be that bad. We don’t know the future. Maybe he won’t be a complete unmitigated monster.” And yet I couldn’t curtail the horror, disgust, and panic that was rising within me. I couldn’t sleep, I drank too much, I was a morose basket case. I couldn’t get out of my head the circus of obscenities that we had all been exposed to: the abuses, the lies, the disregard for the beams of democracy, the Caligula-like grandiosity of Donald Trump. Now we are to live with such disgust – and whatever other follies may come – for the next four years.
In her book Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, Madeleine L’Engle writes,
When I am constantly running there is no time for being. When there is no time for being there is no time for listening. I will never understand the silent dying of the green pie-apple tree if I do not slow down and listen to what the Spirit is telling me, telling me of the death of trees, the death of planets, of people, and what all these deaths mean in the light of love of the Creator who brought them all into being; who brought me into being; and you.
This questioning of the meaning of being, and dying, and being, is behind the telling of stories around the tribal fires at night; behind the drawing of animals on the walls of caves; the singing of melodies of love in spring, and of the death of green in autumn. It is part of the deepest longing of the human psyche, a recurrent ache in the hearts of all of God’s creatures.
Every so often, a book appears that changes everything: the way you see God, yourself, and the world. The past two years have been my Season of Reading Consciousness Changing Books, but none have had such dramatic effect on me as Meditations on the Tarot by Anonymous.
American poet Mary Oliver begins her poem Wild Geese thusly:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Every so often, I find myself meditating on these lines. They represent a shift in my consciousness, a sea change in my faith and worldview. These words have been the theme of my growing up; of moving from boy to man.
“Wow” said the man, “you are still working at this store. I’m impressed. Most people with higher IQ’s don’t stay here very long.”
“Thanks?” I said, ringing him up.
“So what are you really doing with your life,” said another older gentleman as I bagged his groceries, “because clearly you’re just playing here.” I stared at him, irate.
This morning, as I was scrolling through my feedly app, I came across a particular post from an ex-gay blog called Your Other Brothers (they would probably object to being labeled as ex-gay, but that to me seems the best approximation of their work.) Much as I disagree with the guys on the blog, I enjoy reading them. They are figuring life out the best way they can, and I relate to their journey – mine was very similar to theirs before I came to fully embrace being gay. the post in question was a discussion about Trey Pearson, the Christian rockstar and frontman of Everyday Sunday who recently came out as gay. One sentence read, “I can see his heart behind coming out, coming to terms with his sexuality, and all that. But it’s all heart. He’s leading by feeling in lieu of fact.” The simple fact being, I assume, that the Bible is clear, and that no amount of human suffering should dissuade us from that clarity. This is clearly seen as a strength among many Christians, but I see it as anything but.
I have to be honest: I hate going to church. Lately, my sponsor has been encouraging me to pick up church attendance again, and I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about why I hate it so much: why I find it, at best, intolerable and boring, and at worst, painful and overwhelming.
I am at the Abbey of Gethsemeni as I write this: home of Thomas Merton, and one of the great mystical and ecumenical centers of the world. The Abbey has a plain, simple beauty about it, and is transfixed in a perpetual silence – a silence so deep it feels like a physical substance. I am taking this time to rest and reflect, to process the past year and prepare myself for the new, and to open myself up to the presence of God.
I started practicing yoga in college because I was curious, and because I was a voice student, living the typical life of a music major. I was a sensitive soul surviving in a highly competitive and physically demanding field, taking anywhere between 8-12 classes every semester, performing nearly once or twice every week during certain seasons, and getting next to no rest.
I was driven to yoga, desperate for some kind of glue that could hold my fracturing life together. I heard that yoga could help with the stress, so I tried it as a last resort.