Friday, February 1, 2008

Simply Difficult

My last question was – Is Following Jesus a) very difficult, or b) very simple?
My answer is – it’s circular! Or, more precisely, the journey is a spiral according to the universal mathematical principal of spirals that observes... "Eadem mutata resurgo" "I shall arise the same, though changed."

Polled responses on last week’s blog gave a 60/40 split in favour of the difficulty of Following Jesus. My favourite comment was…”Following Jesus is simple. It’s getting to church every Sunday that’s difficult.” Which led me to this week’s poll above.

I begin, and always end, with simple. What makes following Jesus simple is the powerful presence of Christ that I experience as unconditional love. We followers of Jesus label that feeling as “Grace”. It makes me feel that no matter how many times I screw up, fall down, or give up trying – it’s really okay with God. It’s like God says “Guess what Allan? Yesterday is gone and I’m giving you a brand new hour to start again. And, as a bonus, you know those snakes that you thought you’d slid down in the game? Well, here’s a ladder to put you right back up to the top! You’ve already won the game. So, let’s play again!”

Actually, God thinks the whole Snakes and Ladders game is kinda stupid, but we humans seem to like to play it so…that’s why Jesus gets the job of playing with us humans. He plays along, making the game fun. First he shoots ahead of us getting us all competitive. Then he falls behind with all the other losers. Having the Lord behind us strikes at our funny bone and draws out our humour/humility and compassion.

Okay, let’s try another analogy. I’ve been studying Tai Chi since we moved here. For the first few years I had teachers who made it all about learning the moves with precision and order and getting the full body stretches and muscle tone. It was all about “getting all the moves down and getting it right.” It felt like Church.

Then I found another teacher. He was just as exacting about the precision of the moves, but he added another element. Intent. Mindfulness. Calm. Awareness of the universal energy. He calls it Chi, or Qui. I call it the Holy Spirit. It actually defies labels and explanations – it is all about experiencing, feeling, and sensing its flow.

The practice of Tai Chi begins and ends with this awareness. It is a rooting, grounding and calming place to be. For me, it has the same effect on me as Grace. The apprehension of it is all about new beginnings. IF I can get myself to that place, then, when we come to the practice of the moves, it is a new beginning. Where we are in our practice, is where we belong. There is no pressure to perform beyond our level of ability – and – lots of encouragement to stretch further, perfect the moves, and most of all – become aware and intent upon the flow and power of – you know.

After two years of working with Master Craig Stephens, I can still only move through about half of the 67 moves with him with any confidence. As eager as I am to get the whole thing down - remember the moves and remember what they’re called - he keeps calling the class back to the basics. Relaxing into the simplicity within the difficulty is the goal. And just like with Grace – it’s not about getting to the end of the game. It is all about how each move flows. How my intention comes into sync with the powerful and healing flow of the universe (or for short – God).

Am I just laying my Christian template over a very different Asian spirituality and trying to force a fit? Or, am I experiencing the only spiritual path towards peace that there is and using an Asian discipline to help me as a disciple of Jesus Christ?

Master Craig can perform the most difficult moves and make them look simple.
Can I love my enemy and make it seem simple as playing with my son?
Can I pick up my cross; lose my life, and make it seem as simple as putting out the trash?

What spiritual disciplines have you found that move you deeper, or further, on your journey as a Follower of Jesus?

1 comment:

brenda said...

The practice that most helps me to follow Jesus is refusing to engage those who criticize me, and also sending them positive energy (when I can!) Not engaging negative criticism opens a wider space of grace for me than arguing and persuading.

I totally identify with your Tai Chi learning. I find the same in yoga practice. Inner stillness is my current best teacher, no matter what practice it comes from.