The Wise vs. the Wayward

Hey honey? I want to tell you something that bothers me. Something that really gets my goat. Something that has lain heavy on my heart for a really long time, and heavy on the hearts of so many people, but it just seems like there’s no easy fix, so we all just buck up and dance around the situation.

The Bible seems to be written specifically for a man.

I’m a storyteller, and an avid reader, and an academic professor, and I’ve taught literature for a number of years. I know the way we read things. I know how to unpack words. I know how to read between the lines, and I facilitate discussions about the meaning in texts, the way we assume things, the problems that exist in our minds, the motivations of individuals.

And it just gets me mad when I read stuff in the Bible that is considered sacred, and it doesn’t line up with what I know in my heart to be true.

So what’s more important?

My heart. Always.

But let’s take this example. Because we’re going to do this Bible thing differently. We’re going to play, we’re going to mold, we’re going to interpret in a way that HAS NEVER BEEN INTERPRETED BEFORE! Or something. Maybe my ambitions are too high (which is typical!). How about we just try some things out.

Yesterday I was directed to read Proverbs, and the passage was about the “wayward woman.” And damn, that got me. Because I’ve started this intimacy coaching business (more on this later!), and a woman who talks openly about sex in the Christian tradition might be mistaken as evil. A woman who references body parts might be crass. A woman who tells you your body is beautiful, and there is nothing inherently wrong or shameful about sex, might be considered an “evildoer.” Because these traditions of thinking of women as temptresses, as the ones who get men off track, go deep. We have to battle many demons when it comes to spirituality and sexuality to find the truth. Many, many demons. We have to peel our shadows away, do a lot of inner work, which I’ve done. And it’s been hard. And glorious. But God and I are like this, and the Great HeShe has been showing me the way for a while now. The Great HeShe has been saying, “Shit is fucked up, Jana, do something about this, this is your ministry. Help people heal.” And so, I go.

Proverbs is a really beautiful book, and all throughout Wisdom is personified as a “she.” And so we have all these messages addressed to the son from the fathers, telling the son how to operate on his path. The same way we have Arjuna struggling in the Bhagavad Gita to make his way. What to move toward, what to step away from. But damn, there is that wayward woman rearing her head. The woman who tempts the son, like Eve, I guess.

“For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey,

and her speech is smoother than oil;

but in the end she is bitter as gall,

sharp as a double-edged sword.

Her feet go down to death;

her steps lead straight to the grave.

She gives no thought to the way of life;

her paths wander aimlessly, but she

does not know it.”

And I was reading this, and I’m like damn, how are people going to receive me in this intimacy work? It is very, highly possible, that someone who has been shaming himself for years, whipping himself, embodying all this painful messaging about lust, is going to point to me and say, “Adulterous woman! Don’t listen to her! Her words drip honey!”

Because fear, baby, that catches on like a forest fire. And what most religion has taught women and men, but particularly men, is that their desires are wrong. That their desire for sex and pleasure and beauty is a problem to be overcome. And so men bury themselves in dark places, thinking they have to figure things out alone. And they try to get their needs met in other ways that are not always healthy. And they drop into darker and darker corners until they don’t know how to get out.

And then I arrive, with my picture of bright, colorful birds, and I’m throwing out words like “pussy,” and I’m really here to help, but I don’t fit into what we’ve been taught a good woman looks like. What was the phrase in Proverbs? “A loving doe, a graceful deer.” Yeah, I’m no kind of deer. I’m Wisdom herself, maybe. I curse, I dance, I say what’s real, I go in the dark places and I pull people out, and I say what’s on your mind but you’re afraid to say, and I don’t fucking care who’s watching, because I do what’s right and not what some higher-up false leader told me to do. God is my witness, God is my guide. And I know God, baby. I know Her well. We’re fucking close.

How do we know evil from good?

Can you make a list of what a good person is like, and what an evil one says or does?

Because I’ve been around some pretty evil narcissists, and they’re super-convinced they’re right about everything. But call them on one of their accusations, and they just get all red in the face, because those stories are flimsy. They don’t have the words, the examples, the substance to back up what they say. They just yell. They just accuse. They’re these great big balls of fear and obsession, and it’s ick.

So how do you, as all the passages in Proverbs say, choose wisdom? How do you follow her path? If you are discerning between a wayward woman (or man), and Wisdom, how do you know which is which?

The wayward person says things she or he can’t back up. The wayward person doesn’t live what he or she says. The wayward person likes talking, and conceptualizing, but can’t actually, when the situation arises, do what he says he believes.

Wisdom is the person who is in alignment, or working to be, in every way. Wisdom is usually the exception, not what’s common, and sometimes Wisdom acts in a way that is hard to understand, because she comes from a deeper, more rooted place than the grasping nature we’re accustomed to seeing in everybody else, a grasping nature we’ve begun to believe is true. Wisdom plays the long game, while the wayward focus on power and domination and fitting in. The wayward are all about the rules. The wise know better.

So baby, find  your wisdom within you, that brilliant feminine energy inside you who opens up and lets go and knows things you don’t often want to listen to, because it feels harder to choose the narrow gate instead of the doorway everyone is walking through. Find your wisdom around you, in the people you choose to spend time with. Be wise. Do what you say, speak how you feel. Get yourself aligned.

*Check out MotherJana Intimacy Coaching to learn more about loving your body, accepting your full self, and loving your current or potential partner in a deeper way. 

 

Photo by James Lee on Unsplash

God Is Not a Capitalist

Some years ago, when I was delving into Buddhism (which I love) and reading a lot of Pema Chodron, I found my way to Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s book, Cutting through Spiritual Materialism. It’s a hard concept to get around, and a somewhat difficult book to read. It requires some pretty intense focus, and can only be fully understood, I think, if one has done a lot of meditation, has developed a practice for several years.

Because “spiritual materialism” is a way of understanding that people who want to be “spiritual” often apply a capitalistic framework to a life of the spirit, to our concept of what God, or the Universe, is. We are so bogged down by the way money is made in our world, by the material fabric and transaction of a man-made society, we begin to think that a life of the Spirit works that way also. In essence, spiritual materialism is the thought, “I do this, I get that.” Something like, I meditate, I get external reward. I become a spiritual person, and I get accolades and attention and respect from other people for being “wise.” I study the Bible, or other forms of Scripture, and I become an authority. People come to me for answers. I am above.

So, just to clarify, this is all bullshit, and not the way a true spiritual life works.

What Rinpoche emphasizes is that the true spiritual path, the path of the warrior, is a process of uncovering layer after layer of label and disguise, the stories we tell ourselves to function in daily life. We strip away the ego and get to the core and truth of existence.

For example,

“This rationalization of the spiritual path and one’s actions must be cut through if true spirituality is to be realized. ([Notice he says “realized” and not “attained.” –JR]) However, such rationalizing is not easy to deal with because everything is seen through the filter of ego’s philosophy and logic, making all appear neat, precise, and very logical. We attempt to find a self-justifying answer for every question. In order to reassure ourselves, we work to fit into our intellectual scheme every aspect of our lives which might be confusing. And our effort is so serious and solemn, so straight-forward and sincere, that it is difficult to be suspicious of it. We always trust the ‘integrity’ of our spiritual advisor.”

He says some other things after that, but they’re pretty complicated, so I’ll save you and just go from here.

Essentially, the point here is that the True Spiritual Path is not about “attaining” enlightenment, or becoming elevated above other people. The True Spiritual Path, the path of the warrior (I just love that phrase), is about wading through bullshit narrative after bullshit narrative, with love and kindness, and getting to golden core that is the essence of all things, the gem of the soul, which is love and pure being and generosity.

I don’t know if I’ve described that in a way that makes sense, because it sounds so pretty. But it is the truth.

And honestly, and without judgment, I don’t know how you can do this kind of thing without meditation. Because other parts of your body, other energy centers or chakras, can heal and evolve and breathe and change and grow, but the mind is quite a rascal, and there are more and more and more and more layers to that thing. We want to make sense of our world. We want to fit everything into a neat little framework. We want structure and orderliness. We don’t know how to live.

So, let’s look at SexyJesus.

The Wisdom Tradition of Christianity, which many people don’t know about, and which is on the rise through people like Richard Rohr, Cynthia Bourgeault, and the Center for Action and Contemplation out in New Mexico, blends this more eastern, egoic-framework-problem into our understanding of Jesus’s teachings, which is really healthy and such a relief.

The way that mainstream Christianity has taught about Jesus is very simplistic, and very spiritually materialist. Do good deeds, and get your reward in heaven. Therefore God is a kind of transaction. Serve God, and you will be relieved with eternal glory and pleasure later on. Accept Jesus as your lord and savior, and you’re good to go. Relax. Sit back. Just tell other people about him and suffer your trials and you’ll have your cake and eat it too when you die.

As you know, this isn’t working. And people are flocking to any sort of philosophy or spiritual practice that feels more holistic and better so we don’t have to be aligned with this scary way of thinking. Such as the idea of “manifesting.” Do your work internally, and something will “manifest,” you’ll get your reward.

A true experience of God, however, is debasement. It is humbling. It is recognizing, Shit, no matter how much I try, I truly cannot dictate the world around me. Something weird is always going to happen, and I cannot know the higher plan, or if there is a higher plan. No matter how much I wish for it and pray for it, the thing I want that looks and acts and smells all the ways I want it to will not appear.

And only then can you learn how to be present, which is what Life is, which is all you can really know.

So SexyJesus teaches this too, in the Gospel of Luke:

“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.”

Because we have a mixed-up sense of what God is, and because we are mainly driven by ego, and because so many of us are anti-authoritarian and live in a country run by crazy people, a passage like this might make us pissed. Who is this fucking God guy who tells me I’m a servant? Puh-lease. Fuck you, dude. I’m going to go watch a good show on Netflix. I’m going to find someone to have sex with on Tinder. I’m going to go to happy hour and have fun. Servant my ass.

The point that SexyJesus is trying to make, though, is not that you are powerless, necessarily. He is just showing, in one parable of many, a spiritual truth. Just because you commit to a spiritual path does not mean the Master (God, I suppose, or we could just call this the Reality of Life), gives you all these rewards and makes it so you don’t have to live anymore, or that you can just sit back and relax. God is not like, Oh, wow, you’re soooo amazing, you’re not a servant anymore, now you’re God, too, and you can do all the things God can do!

It’s more like what Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna, the young, struggling warrior who has a lot of shit on his plate. Krishna says, Do your duty, and let go of the outcome.

This is a very complicated blog post.

 

“The Ones” by agross96 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Success in Relationships

Success is something I’ve thought a lot about, and something we all want. But I think we haven’t really broken down the parts of what it means to be successful in life. Because really, success means happiness, and we’re not always sure what’s going to make us happy unless we do a bit of soul-searching.

The Latin root of success is successus, which means “advance, coming up, a good result.” We all want a good result for our efforts, but we’re not always sure how to get there, because what we consider the “finish line” is awry. (Is it a certain amount of money? Is it a house or a certain kind of car? Is it marriage, a beach house, a particular title in our career?) We have to consider what success means in different areas of our life, what our end-goals are, and why we have those end-goals. Are our goals based on resistance in some way to what we don’t want? Are our goals based on what someone (or others) with influence has told us should be our goals? Are we just doing what the wider, often sick, culture has told us to do without knowing what we really want, what makes us happy opposed to what works for someone else?

My desire in life is to be happy, and to help others. It is to grow deeper and wiser and share that wisdom with those who seek it. It is not tied to a particular abode, a particular car, a particular partner or a particular bottom-line in my bank account. And yet all those things matter, too, because I have to engage with the realities of life. I have to make decisions about where to live and what to drive and where to travel, who to spend time with, how to raise my kids. And even with raising my kids, there are so many unknowns. When they are older, I want them to be happy, too, but that isn’t always tied to a high-paying job or a certain kind of relationship. Mostly I want them to be kind and generous and know how to take care of themselves in all kinds of ways. I want them to have faith and gratitude. I want them to have good, solid character, and ask for help when necessary. I want them to be able to discern truth from a lot of muddy waters. In essence, I want them to feel free to be fully themselves in every way possible. That’s what it means to be whole.

We need more whole people in this world.

In the dating arena the past few years, because I come in contact with people I wouldn’t meet otherwise, I have been able to glean that a relationship doesn’t often work when two people have different versions of success. A lot of the men I’ve come in contact with (because I’m only dating men, currently), think that to impress a woman, they need to have a high-paying job. They think spending a lot of money on a woman is showing love. (And maybe it is, for some women, but what kind of woman is that?) Often, the men I meet haven’t learned from past relationships what went wrong, what they can do better next time. They don’t know how to talk to a woman, and instead of learning how, they just move forward blindly, repeating all the same mistakes again.

I, personally, don’t want anyone who goes through life making the same mistakes. I am only interested in someone who invests in his long-term growth, so that he becomes wiser and more knowledgeable about himself, what his needs are, what sparks his interest and turns him on long-term. Only then will he know what he has to offer a woman, and he has to be able to communicate that effectively.

The unfortunate thing is, no one is teaching men what turns women on, and I fear men don’t know how to listen, either. I’m not saying that men are inferior to women, or that they’re more in the dark. I know lots of great men who have made their relationships work. (Although I’m not a marriage counselor, so who knows what people are settling for behind closed doors.) I think that generally, we are in an age where women are the ones seeking more depth, more intensity, more uncovering and understanding. Women are stepping in all kinds of waters, attending workshops and events and learning more and more about ourselves and our bodies and what it means to be connected. We want the kind of sustainability in sex and love that can last, because we haven’t been treated very well for the last couple hundred centuries.

Feminism is not a problem—it’s just a stage. It has been a stage that helped women advance politically, so that we could start walking into those boardrooms confidently, so that everyone could see women’s faces in government and politics. So while feminism is good (and I am, by definition of the word, a feminist), it is not all. It has not taken us to this next step, which is a spiritual kind of unity, and that spiritual unity happens beyond the voting registration booth. This spiritual unity of the sexes starts in churches and works its way outward. Because the way a person feels about God speaks to the deepest, purest, most impressionable place in all of us. And this impacts our interactions, our relationships, our decisions every day. If we can find a spiritual unity between the sexes in that vulnerable place, we’re in good shape for the rest.

And when I talk about spiritual union, I do not mean we all have to think the same things and live the same ways. I’m talking about a unique, Self-driven path of practice and daily meditation, that helps us uncover who we really are and what we really want. But the core of all that is what we believe to be true about the divine and the universal. The core is whether we believe everyone, and everything, comes from the same essence, and deserves the same level of respect.

If we have faith, and we really believe Love is the essence of all things, then we would have no problem letting people be completely themselves.

The important step on the spiritual path, and for any sort of long-term, meaningful success in life, is uncovering who you really are. It is in recognizing you have freedom to make choices, and you try things out to see which choices feel right for you, which lighten your spirit.

When you search for who you are at your core, you might be surprised at what you find. Or you might not. But it’s a good practice to do some searching to make sure that how you act, what you’ve always wanted, the trajectories you’ve set for yourself are really yours, and not somebody else’s imposition.

The wisest people in this world did not become wise because they listened to all the rules, or trusted everyone else to make decisions for them. (Jesus turned tables in the marketplace for good reason.) The wisest people have plunged and explored their depths and surfaced again to offer the world the gold they have found. The wisest people do not blindly follow.

 

“Gold Ira Rollover” by Jeannette Sarah is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0

The Happy Idiot and the Tortured Soul

A man I once knew intimately had a particular question he liked to ask:

Would you rather be a happy idiot or a tortured genius?

This became the question I asked on dates, my little test to see if someone was worth my time.

Because, to me, this is a question not about what you are but how you want to live. The trick is in the adjective.

Do you want to be happy, or tortured?

Do you care more about the names other people call you, or how you feel on the inside?

Me? I’ll choose happy idiot, all the time.

The more I study the Wisdom Tradition of Christianity, the more I’m awakened to the realization that living a full and vibrant life is not about acquiring prestige, material goods, or accolades. Instead, it is about a constant “dying to self.” It is about the how and not about the what. 

Would you rather have a ton of money and lots of people who look up to you, but feel miserable inside?

Or would you rather have no one know your name, enough money to get by, and wake up every morning feeling eternally blessed and happy?

The problem with much organized religion, specifically Christianity, is that it has failed to be the salve for our tortured souls, and instead is often the cause of our suffering. Many Christian traditions teach kids from an early age, You are bad. You are wrong. Something is terribly broken in you. It is only through this man who died on a cross that you are saved and can potentially go to heaven. Now say the following words….

And so we are brainwashed in our vulnerable, impressionable minds, that there is something fundamentally unfixable and broken within us, that we don’t deserve to be happy, that life is about duty and obligation and listening to those guys.

Oy vey!

Original sin is original suffering, that’s all. We are born into this human life suffering. It was really nice and warm and perfect in that womb, but we had to come alive, and with that was an awareness of just how strange and difficult it is to be human. And so our job in this life is not to beat ourselves up and tell ourselves we’re bad and do all the right things to get into Heaven when we die. Our job is to free ourselves from the bondage of our minds. Our job is to heal and love, and create a world full of love, so that there is no barrier between the earthy existence and the heavenly one.

Unfortunately, what Christianity has done instead is elevate woundedness to suggest that we must be addicted and attached to our wounds, to our pain. It points an ugly finger and says, You deserve pain. You deserve suffering.

No. Oh, oh, oh, no.

You deserve happiness.

Only, happiness may not be what you think it is. This is where surrender comes in.

Long-term happiness is not “achieved” through acquiring things, or acquiring followers, or through aligning with the status quo. Of course plenty of things can make us happy in the short-term, but we all know that fades. (How long does that new-car smell last, for instance?) And so if we keep grasping at external things to make us happy, we are simply chasing the wind.

True happiness relies on letting go. And that doesn’t mean you have to sell all your things and walk barefoot on the grass. (Though walking barefoot is so lovely!) It means that you recognize those things are just things that can pass away at any moment, and they no longer have so much power over you. Your power comes from within, in the act of surrender, in your warrior heart. And the biggest thing many of us need to give up is the damaging belief we grew up with.

You are not worthy. You are broken and bad. You are unlovable.

You are not nothing.

Oh, honey. That is just not true.

You are everything.

If you can let go of that damaging, hard-hitting belief that says you are not special, that you are not lovable, that you are not deserving of goodness, then you can finally begin to live a full life.

You don’t earn heaven by acquiring good deeds. You are heaven. You just need to brush all that dirt off that got in the way of seeing the real you.

Unlearn.

Be a humble, wide-eyed, happy idiot.

Say it with me now.

I am beautiful. I am special. I am here for a reason. I have so much to offer.

That’s right.

See?

I told you you were glorious.

 

“My heart”by JosephGilbert.org is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0