Category Archives: The River and the Bridge

The River and the Bridge X

St. Teresa of Avila once wrote of seeing Jesus with the ‘eyes of her heart’. Was she deluded? Was she just the casualty of malign suggestive thinking, a thinking that had somehow colonized her psyche thanks to too many years spent living in sixteenth century Nunneries? We know better now don’t we? The Modern Mind is free of such misadventure, isn’t it?

I wonder what would happen if more of us became less identified with our rationality and allowed the heart – that deep place of mind – to rise up more and more into consciousness. Yet how can we let it happen if we don’t know how to let it happen? Are we trapped in rational explanations and evidence at the expense of the balance that heart can bring?

We are human beings – spiritual, rational, and emotional. The path of life is about coming back to the integration of these. For some of us experiences happen on this path, experiences that others may name as completely irrational – and irrational for them means delusion. Yet for others the irrational can mean, on occasions, experiences that cannot be explained rationally, experiences that do not need to be explained rationally.

The Enlightenment has made the embrace of the ‘contemplative vision’ a courageous act, an act of foolishness. And yet, for Christians, the Risen Christ lives on.

X

I see her again.

Neediness moves in me

 It craves love and attention

It is not the freedom of Love.

.

I must be alone

 To sit with this,

 Away from compulsion.

I go to the chapel.

 Alone I feel a longing for Love mingle with craving.

Am I loveable, am I worthwhile?

.

Time passes.

I sense the presence of my Brother.

My spirit sees Him and knows who He is.

‘What do you know?’ He asks.

‘I know you can heal me.’

‘Then let it be done.’

.

I open as best as I can to allow Him.

I sense His embrace in my chest.

Gently He holds my needy heart.

I feel the warm healing of His holding.

.

 I allow.

.

After a time I sense His embrace in my head,

I feel there the warmth of His Love.

Gently He loves the feebleness of my thinking,

He heals my fearful disorder

 .

 I allow.

.

In the silence there is focus on His warmth.

He heals me from the battle for living and from what brings the battle on.

Neediness recedes,

Disorder unbinds.

.

Jesus, my Brother, my Master – thank you.

.

‘You are my disciple, you are my brother, and you are my friend.

 We have journeyed long into the depths of this life.

I am so very proud of you.’

.


The River and the Bridge IX

As we grow we lose innocence, or at least lose touch with it. We begin to become more aware of ourselves, our actions, the impact we have on others and the world. We begin to fear. We begin to compromise. We make decisions, mostly unconscious, about how we can best be loved; about how we can best fit in. The child in us, those experiences and memories of earliest being, can be lost. Childhood becomes covered and exiled, deemed no longer relevant to a life that must now grow into responsibility.

What is responsibility? Part of it is the re-learning, the re-discovery of our own innocence and openness to the gift that is life. New parents and new grand-parents can tell us something about this re-discovery. And in the playfulness of lovers we often see children emerging from deep sleep.

The seeds of innocence can sprout again in the vulnerability at the heart of our most intimate relationships.

Divine Love is in all of this, calling us home to a full experience of a human life. When we are aware and quiet enough we can see that this Love  makes an Icon of Creation. Creation, all of it, is soaking in what our hearts desire the most. Becoming as little children is seeing this, experiencing this, again and again.

IX

I remember as a child being scared of imagining what I wanted.

 If I imagined, would it happen,

 Or would the world of imagination reach into the world of stuff

and steal what I wanted the most?

.

I feel a child’s desire to be at the river again,

Before I begin to think too much,

Before distraction lures attention away,

And again I lose conscious sight of Love.

.

I listen and walk back to the valley.

I climb through The Eye,

Down the steep gully,

To the bank below.

.

In the presence of the river wonderings settle.

 There is calm here.

 It’s flow helps me come back to the flow within.

 Soon I find myself, again, in the presence of Love.

.

Grey clouds begin to fill the sky.

 The day darkens.

 Thunder echoes in the valley.

Blue and grey become one.

.

 Soon rain falls on the river.

 As water hits water light explodes on dark green surface.

The face of the river looks like the night sky, flashing and twinkling.

I am in awe.

.

 I lay back and surrender to the flashing and twinkling of Love.

 The river has become my Icon.


The River and the Bridge VIII

If our experience of Love is to be true and full, it will be about more than just our own self. Love is forgetful of self and is happy to be so. The flowering of this self-forgetful Love in our lives happens only because of Love’s presence and activity.

For all of us some self-focus is a part or our living into Love and is necessary. We are human after all. However self-focus is not the natural end point of Love. Love’s nature is one of other-centered expression and care. Compulsed self-focus is loved by Love however it is not of Love.

If we do find it a challenge to look beyond our own lives and challenges, then perhaps this is because Love has not yet finished with its other-centered focus on us. This is okay. It’s a dynamic that will last – to some extent – for all of our lives. At these times we are invited by Love to practice the opening of our humanity to the action of Love. This opening is a natural human response which Love itself can help us with. With time and healing, we find ourselves joining more and more with Love’s other-focus and embrace of the world. Our attention finds a natural home in Love’s other-focus because we are created by this Love and for this Love.

VIII

On the walk back from the bridge

I feel deep contentment.

The River of Love flows deeply within,

Filling vulnerable places.

.

Soon I flow with Love for the people around me.

At Mass the old priest forgets the words

And anxiety spreads across his face.

I see this and my heart fills with Love for him.

.

I see an old woman walk slowly across the lawn.

I stop ready to help.

Love flows from my heart,

A love for her and the dignity of her years.

.

I see beauty with blue-grey eyes.

In the silence she sits next to me,

And the longing for companionship grows.

Amid this longing, Love for her flows.

.

I look upon all those with me,

I smile and tears well in my eyes.

This is how God looks upon us every moment of our lives: with nothing but Love.

God is Love

And there is nothing to fear.


The River and the Bridge VII

On the journey into Love’s experience we can reach moments where our experience of Love begins to challenge the influence we allow fear to have over us. In these moments our experience of Love moves against the grain of fear and the limitations that fear can impose. We grow restless, we feel anger, resentment, longing. Finally we come to enough is enough. In this dynamic Love and Love’s experience stand with us as we slowly turn against the patterns that fear has worn into our minds and hearts. In these moments of grace we allow grace to support and transform our minds and hearts. In time and with enough of these moments, we can grow in Love, and we can find ourselves acting with Love even for fear itself. We come to discover and name the ways through which fear has attempted protection and dominion over us. It may be that we have to keep re-visiting these moments of tension between fear and Love until fear melts enough. Each time we do we move a little more from fear’s influence while moving gracefully into Love’s embrace. In this Love our humanity is let loose to experience the communion between our being and God. In this union of Love our being shines and the world notices. We live more deeply with Love for the world.

 

VII

Fear tries to tell me that here on the bridge I am safe,

far above the unpredictability of life and love.

‘What if you can’t handle a life of love?’

‘What if God asks you to do something you don’t want to do?’

‘What if you don’t want what you think you want?’

Fear is the hall of mirrors man,

the one who would have me in the safety of confusion.

Again frustration and anger rise within me.

I have at last had enough of fearful rendezvous.

I snap.

‘What do you want from me’ I yell at fear.

‘Nothing seems good enough for you.

How dare you come between me and the River, between me and Love!

I will love my deepest desires, they are loved by God.

I will be happy in the living of them!’

‘Don’t go down there,’ (he points to the valley below).

It’s a big scary world and you’re not good enough for it.’

I turn to him seething.

‘Stop coming between me and life!

Stop bringing me here!’

I stop.

Fear falls silent.

I feel compassion for him.

‘Look we both know how hard at times my life has been.

You were at my side when it seemed that no-one else was.

You looked after me the best way you could – by getting me to fear everyone and everything.

Thank you for all you have done and for all you will try to do.

But you must understand that you do not speak the truth to me with Love.

Yes there are times when you do speak truth,

that is why I listen.

But you do it only with fear because that is who you are.

There has been no compassion in you,

no Love when you speak.

Too many times you speak to me only from this bridge.

This is where we have lived apart from Love and apart from my heart.

Or at least we did.

For I have gone to the River with you,

I have faced you with Love.

You were not able to stop me from experiencing Love more deeply.

I know now that there is nothing to fear from Love.

You will not stop me from flowing with the River.’

I turn from fear and walk away.


The River and the Bridge VI

Sometimes we can over think things. Sometimes the best thing to do is to just let something be, to simply experience something without searching for some deeper meaning or intent. Perhaps a meaning will reveal itself only later as life is lived.

Sometimes a mind caught up in creating meaning and purpose by itself can miss the deeper meaning and purpose within an experience. This something deeper has a life and timing all its own. A life lived with spirit is about learning and living into this deeper life and timing. Sometimes a pre-emptive curiosity, a prideful ego, anxiousness or fear can all stop the head and the heart from working together.

Spiritual life and timing is about the head and heart working together. It is part of the graced journey towards wholeness, towards integration.

VI

In the day that follows, the experience of Love at the river begins to engage my curious mind.

‘What does it mean?’

‘What will happen now?’

‘Did that really happen?’

Curious consciousness seeks to know.

With mind seeking its own answers

I slowly begin to wonder apart from Love.

I lose touch with the valley and my heart.

Mind falls from the present moment.

Unanswerable wonderings move beyond the light of grace.

They become ‘I don’t know’.

‘I don’t know’ feeds doubt.

This doubt, now apart from Love, feeds fear.

I withdraw again with fear to the bridge of rational mind

To analyse new uncertainty at a ‘safe’ distance.


The River and the Bridge V

The inner movement from head to the heart often requires an outer journey. For many fear can keep us in our heads, while the God of our hearts invites a journey downwards. This journey can take our whole lives. On this journey we are drawn, more fully and deeply, into our hearts – the place of connection, relationship and longing. On this journey to our hearts we can encounter Love and experience something of Love’s divine character. We discover that Divine Love is the profoundest Love.

On this journey of our consciousness into Love, God respects our freedom. God never forces. As awareness journeys downwards deeper into our hearts, we experience a God of gentleness, tenderness, and infinite patience. This Love respectfully and faithfully heals us into a clearing vision and true experience of who we really are.

Love wants to move within us, unrestrained by fear, to sweep us ever deeper into the Love life of God. It is us who limit God and all that God would want to do. All we need do is ask Love ever more fully into our lives – into our hearts and into our conscious minds. As this happens we come to truly understand that fear is not divine.

God would have us experience the liberty that is the absence of fear, a liberty in which we are re-introduced again and again to our own hearts. Love knows our hearts and would never act in ways contrary to them. God keeps our hearts safe. We reveal God as Love when living out of the liberty of a human life that is being love-filled and growing in fearlessness.

V

And so I walk again and I curse You!

‘Who are You, what do You want of me?’

‘I thought I knew what I wanted. Answer me!’

Tears of anger and longing flow,

Enough to ease the tension in me.

The walk is now prayer.

Awareness moves downwards.

I come again to the valley with the river below.

Now the rocky edge is too far from the river.

The River within seeks the river without.

I know deep down what needs to be done.

Will I be faithful?

Through the cool of the Eye of the Needle I descend,

In search of the river, in search of my heart.

At the bottom of a gully I come to an expansive cave

Formed by water and wind, water long gone on its way down.

Is this close enough to Love?

I see what the water has done,

Worn down the rockface, propelled trees and boulders in its wake.

Sometimes Love can be unrestrained,

It can show its strength,

It can leave its mark.

The water has shown the way down

And feeling the River’s pull anew,

I now see a new path to descend.

As I begin again a new resolve claims me:

‘If it’s what I really want to do, I’ll do it!’

I feel the force of this resolve, it is real

And I embrace it.

Prayers form my descent:

‘I am a man of courage! Help me not to run from myself, from You.’

‘Help me to see what I really want.’

‘Please uncover what might be hidden.’

‘If I really want it, I promise I will do it!’

The going down takes its physical toll,

And all the while I feel the River’s draw.

On and on I push engaged in a Holy Quest,

A task of faithful endurance,

Of faithfulness to Love and to myself.

I see it emerge from behind the trees: the river.

I come to its bank.

It is smooth, engaging, graceful.

Light reflects on its surface.

I feel the movement of the River within me.

I lay on its bank, far from the bridge, and I wait,

Too exhausted to think.

Time passes.

I feel like a kid again.

Down the river people jump from Tower Rock and into the water.

Playfully I entertain the same idea.

I feel like a kid again.

‘I would’ve done it you know’ I say.

‘I would’ve done it if I really, really wanted to.’

Love knows and Love revels in my faithfulness.

Peace and joy flow from the gut.


The River and the Bridge IV

We are made for love – to be in it and expressing it. And so we are made for God – to be in God and expressing God. For this to happen God is always inviting us to know God. Indeed we are invited by God to be growing in conscious union with God. For the Christian this means becoming one with Jesus Christ.  This growing in union with Christ is at the heart of Christian spirituality. As this happens we find ourselves giving our hearts, our minds, our lives more and more to the Divine. In this is our greatest happiness. In this we discover how we can love, who we can be.

The movement to union, however, is a movement of trust. Many of us feel great tension and perhaps confusion when a longing for God and life is being experienced concurrently with a fear of what this God and life could do with us. Because of this tension the movement towards union with Christ can at times be filled with uncertainty, fear and anxiousness. We move back and forth between experiences of fear and experiences of Love. This is an understandable dynamic in the dance of human deification. God wants us with God. We struggle and resist. We long for God and are afraid. But God knows our heart and never forces. When we trust enough to say yes, having been worn out enough by our own struggle, something happens: God can show us the desires of our heart and offers saving help so that we may live into them. As we accept God’s saving help, we can grow in relationship and union with the Divine. In this way the living into our heart’s desires also becomes a living into God. And in time we may discover that the desire for God and the desire to know our heart are the same desire. Why is this? It is because the deepest desires of our heart are for a love that only God can provide. God offers this love simply by being God’s self: Love. An opening heart cannot resist the Love it was made for.

The Divine is the profoundest Love – gentle, tender, respectful, ultimate, and faithful. Fear is not divine. In the end there is nothing to fear.

IV

But surly there is logic in discerning life from a distance?

The bridge oversees all and is safe enough,

Away from the river’s murky depths.

And yet –

Is it the place from which to truly live?

Is being safe enough, enough?

What is the greater risk: distance from life or depth in life?

Where does my heart call me?

It calls me to the river below, to the River within.

Fear rises again,

Like the great concrete legs

That rise from the earth keeping the bridge far from the valley.

Fear takes me away, as it often does,

Away to the ‘safety’ of this distance.

And in the safety of the rational only,

Far away from my relational heart,

I stand on the bridge.

But how I hunger for the depths of the River,

To lose fearful awareness at the bottom of You.

To fall past Your shimmering,

And into Love.

I feel my deep longing for You.

And I fear what Love may have for me.

I fear what Love may uncover in my heart,

How life could change when lived with Love.

The experience of fear and the longing for Love

Create anxious tension in me as old as the human walk itself.

What will I lose if I embrace my heart?

Frustration builds and anger flares,

Energies that must be expressed,

Or I will lose myself to blackness.


%d bloggers like this: