Faithfulness and Delight; And Embracing Helplessness
Last week I was drawn in curiosity to my confirmation verse that was given to me when I was confirmed at St. James Lutheran Church in Quincy, Illinois, on May 20th, 1956 – almost exactly 56 years ago. I was 13 and one of a class of 29 8th graders being confirmed at the new St. James church on 17th and Jefferson in Quincy. Actually I was not sure what my confirmation verse was, but I thought it was: “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10).
If this turned out to be my confirmation verse I was feeling divine providence in that this verse was so appropriate for my life. Its meaning for me today was not in the way I or my parents would have understood the verse 56 years ago. Back then I would have taken it as a command to stay faithful to my set of beliefs given me in my church – faithfulness to the bible and to the creeds of the Lutheran Church, which back then would have meant faithfulness to the Book of Concord written during the 1500s during the time of the Reformation led by Martin Luther.
But what does faithfulness mean to me today? What I saw was my faithfulness to Life, to my sense of my Call in life, my undaunted pursuit of Truth in matters spiritual, in pursuit of the meaning of my life and the lives of all others on the planet, and the meaning of life of the Cosmos and of all the levels of consciousness toward which we seem to be evolving, my pursuit for the meaning of the Grand Mystery. To this pursuit I have certainly been faithful for much of my life! I found this realization that my life of 69 years ties back to my confirmation verse enlivening for me.
But was this my confirmation verse? As I recalled the verse was written on the cover page of the leather-bound bible my parents gave me on my Confirmation Day. But last Wednesday I searched in vain for my confirmation bible in the storage shed. In the process of searching however I found 20 or so bibles from different times of my life – the New American Standard, the Amplified Bible, the Thompson Chain Reference Bible, the New International Version. Each of these had served me. Several I had read cover to cover over a period of a year in my devotional time in the morning. Several I had used during my time as bible class teacher at St. Paul Lutheran Church and at a bible class at the SDRC office where I worked. Looking back I saw that these were fond memories. I was not reading these scriptures out of a sense of duty but more out of a sense of devotion and pleasure. And these teachings inspired and grounded my life.
During my 30s and 40s I had several copies of the bible on tape and would play these tapes while driving to and from the office. For ten years I also listened to the sermons of the rising Evangelical Free Church pastor and eventual author Chuck Swindoll and also of John Mitchell from the Multnomah School of the Bible in Portland, Oregon. I could not get enough of this Bible-based material. It fed, nurtured, and grounded my life those days.
And how interesting that this same energy has risen and even more so in my work with the Pathwork Lectures this past decade – even my taking on the task of recording all 258 of the lectures. Yes, there is a faithfulness to Truth as it arises in me through my resonance with these materials. So, indeed, if Revelation 2:10 turned out to be my verse, it will have been prophetic and fitting for my life.
But again, was it my verse? Something told me that my verse was from the Psalms and not Revelation. How could I track this down since I was unsuccessful in finding my confirmation bible at the storage shed? I recalled last summer when Pat and I visited St. James in Quincy. A secretary there was kind enough to show us the records they kept of all the confirmation classes – photos of every class for many years back. So on a lark last Thursday I called St. James Church. To my surprise the pastor answered the phone. I made my strange request and he responded that sure they keep such records. He would look into it and get back to me. I was touched by his willingness to do this.
In a half hour he called back. Indeed he did find my confirmation verse. It was, in fact, as I had remembered, from Psalms and not the Revelation passage above. It was Ps 37:4: “Delight thyself also in the LORD, and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” I shared this with Pat on Friday morning, and she saw the verse as one that fit my life perfectly, and I could see this as well. And we both noted that what was promised as we found our delight in the LORD were answers to the desires of our hearts, not to the desires of our heads or our egos.
But again “delighting in the LORD” was not in the way I or my parents would have held this verse back in 1956. Back then I would have seen as more of a command: “Thou shalt” delight in the LORD (Hebrew Yahweh, or YHWH – the Tetragrammaton). But today I see my delight has been an organic arising within me for matters spiritual, for matters of meaning and purpose, and Truth.
My long history of bible reading, sermon listening, and scripture studying was all a joy. And today this same energy, with even more intensity, arises in me when I spend time with the Pathwork Lectures. Yes, I delight in the wisdom contained in the Pathwork Lectures. Reading them fills me with joy overflowing, inspiring me and nurturing me. So YES this verse from the Psalms given to me 56 years ago defines my life. I do indeed delight in Truth, in wisdom, in all that resonates with that which is deep within my soul, with my divine essence that is my core or real or divine self.
As I began my meditation this morning another verse so familiar to me floated up: Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” So, again in my own way, this verse fits – not as a command but as an organic arising of my faithfulness to my Call, to that which is most alive in me, that within me which has so resonated with the Pathwork Lectures for this past decade of my life.
This also set up those teachers that I most resonate with – here especially looking to my Pathwork helper Moira Shaw and the Mid-Atlantic Pathwork Director of Training Erena Bramos. I had a rich conversation with Erena yesterday, and again find myself inspired by her passion for these Pathwork teachings and her sense of their truthfulness. She was speaking of the three phases of Pathwork – which she herself learned from Moira Shaw and Moira’s husband Bert: Phase 1) One’s relationship with God – that is, the Pathwork begins with GOD, Phase 2) One’s work of Purification, and Phase 3) One’s return to God, to where one began the spiral of growth. Here in Phase 3 one experiences the Grace of Transformation, does the deep work of facing hopelessness before God (not the child’s hopelessness, but one’s adult human hopelessness) and the transformation of negative intentionality to stay separate from God into positive intentionality of uniting with God. I am not even entirely sure what Erena meant by these words, or that I got them down right, but I know intuitively that I want to spend time with such a teacher who holds such wisdom.
And in our call yesterday I could see and share with Erena my sense of this same sequence of teaching Pathwork: beginning our work with Stage 2 Pathwork (The Spiritual/God material), then Stage 1 (The child work, the psychological and feeling work, the work of purification) and then, our vessel emptied of Untruths, a return to Stage 2 where we fill ourselves with Truth and with God. This is the three-stage truth I tried to capture in my PowerPoint Presentation of Pathwork Lecture 131 – Interaction Between Expression and Impression (this presentation can be downloaded in three parts – due to length – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). Erena could celebrate with me that I “got” this key approach to the Pathwork teachings: Beginning and ending with God.
Erena is preparing a workshop at Sevenoaks in August (Living Fearlessly, Loving Unconditionally – August 3-5) — I have already signed up, of course. In addition to this Erena is preparing an advanced Pathwork series of four weekends for this next school year beginning in November – and again, how could I not take these! For me Erena represents a source of wisdom that I want to be around. Answering my Call, being faithful to it, means showing up here with Erena. And I know that I shall delight in being in her teaching space, even when I do not understand her teachings.
With this, I turned to my focusing statement from the Lectures, as is my custom in meditation.
Focusing Statement 1: Pathwork Lecture 80 Cooperation, Communication, and Union, ¶4
The highest and most desirable state in the whole plan of evolution is union. Union on this earth plane does not exist. Some people have a vague idea of union, and in isolated moments they sense or feel the significance of that state of being. But then the moment passes. Since union simply is, it exists outside the law of cause and effect. Therefore there is no point in my discussing it. You could not possibly comprehend me and I could not find appropriate words in the human language to convey what it is.
Perhaps my delight in the Pathwork material and people like Moira and Erena is evidence of my Union with the Divine – a Union which just IS, though I experience this only rarely. Let me just slow down here and be with this as a possible facet of Truth…
Focusing Statement 2: Pathwork Lecture 80 Cooperation, Communication, and Union, ¶5
I will, however, discuss two preliminary stages in the evolution toward union. These two stages do exist on your plane of existence and consciousness. They are, at the lower level, cooperation, and, at a higher level, communication. No living creature can exist without cooperation and communication. Even on the material level humanity could not survive without them. Food, drink, shelter — all that you need for your physical survival — depend on cooperation and communication, although their form and practice may vary. They take a different form in a primitive society where people organize their own communication with nature and the elements. As development proceeds further and the community increases in size, people have to organize communication with their fellow creatures accordingly. The better people get along with each other through proper cooperation and communication, the better will the community’s life function on the most basic material level. This is so obvious that I need not discuss it at greater length.
In dealing with some of my struggles with Sevenoaks I see this paragraph as so key to our very survival – a spirit and attitude of cooperation and communication. And I see movement in our community in this regard. As does Erena.
But in our phone conversation yesterday Erena threw in an appropriate “However.” And her “however” has to do with authority. This is especially important for how we develop our teaching. Teachers cannot teach simply what they want. Rather there has to be some general agreement about what the core Pathwork teachings are and how they are to evolve in a student’s growth through the three stages that Erena identifies for the work of Pathwork. To this end she sees a need for continuing education for teachers – a requirement for CEUs to teach in MAP – a commitment to learning ever more deeply the core teachings of Pathwork, integrating them, and living them from ever deeper levels of consciousness.
As an example of where confusion sets in, Erena offered the following observation for our beautiful Leaders Retreat. Yes, the Leaders Retreat was wonderful and she got a lot out of it – but, in her opinion, it did not go as far as it could have. Yes, we got to our Lower Self aspects on Saturday afternoon – and did so in a profound way. “However” identifying our lower self aspects is not the same as changing our negative intention, which is to stay imprisoned by our lower self aspects, to hold on to being separate, to stay hopeless and helpless. Changing our negative intentionality to positive intentionality is the point of transformation, and for this transformation work we call upon the Divine for help. Although at our Leaders Retreat we spoke briefly of prayer, thereafter transitioning to the higher self ritual in the evening on Saturday, Erena’s wisdom was that we needed to do this transition from lower self to higher self much more slowly.
We needed to feel our insistence for staying separate, our refusal to grow up out of childhood. We do not get to higher self by mere ritual alone. We must go through our negativity, not around it, and this takes time. This transition needs to be felt quite profoundly. Again, while I could not follow all of what Erena was sharing nor do I necessarily have it right, yesterday in our call I was intuitively saying “Yes” to her wisdom on these points.
Erena said she would love to teach what she knows about these Pathwork teachings as well as what she knows about group work – the work she taught her helper training class in March. And as Director of Training she is certainly in a position to do this. But to do this she said yesterday that there needs to be some acceptance of and respect for her leadership and authority within our faculty. While I have that respect for Erena in spades, coming from a deep Knowing, others may not. Some even seem to resist Erena for reasons I do not understand. Some it seems see Erena as bringing in “New York” Pathwork to Sevenoaks and “contaminating” our Sevenoaks Pathwork approach.
What is the Truth here? Can we, as a community, have this conversation? But the faculty has to be open to this conversation. Erena and I both feel a resistance here to take this on and really look at how we teach the core Pathwork principles. And we are challenged by how to handle our end of “communications” – helping ourselves to be heard by those who may not be on the same page that we are on.
I struggle in that I am not even a helper. I give myself this “non-helper status” as an excuse not to lead the faculty, even though, as Chair of the Pathwork Council, this leadership is, in fact, my role. I tend to give everyone their voice, even if I am not in agreement from what I Know from the inside is a higher Wisdom. I am not sure how to offer that wisdom. And when I dare to offer it, often it comes out as in the old Puffed Wheat boxed cereal emblem of the 1950s – “Shot From Guns!” The image compliments of Quaker Oats is complete with a picture of a cannon with puffed wheat being shot out. I become a cannon with my sense of Truth. I go too fast, with too much energy. This cannon shot approach to sharing is, of course, resisted. So once again, feeling non-acceptance for my “cannon” approach to Truth sharing, I back off and withdraw from leadership. As I have always done in my life, I shirk from true leadership, from leading from within. As a result I am not really providing the leadership that perhaps I am being Called to offer the MAP community.
So again I am brought to a place of helplessness – not knowing how to lead. At this point Erena encouraged me to show up just as I am, in my helplessness, as I did on Sunday at the Leaders Retreat when I confessed I did not know what to do – that I felt we were in a state of “Humpty Dumpty having a great fall, and all the kings horses and all the kings men could not put Humpty back together again.” Erena said “Yes! Die into this real helplessness in the face of God. Going through this stage of utter helplessness is the way to true power and true leadership.” Again, not understanding all of what Erena was saying, I had an intuitive feel that this was Truth I need to assimilate. I pray for strength, humility, and wisdom to carry forth with the courage to Show Up, to discern and answer my Call. Can you please join me in this prayer.
Shared in love, Gary