In what’s becoming an annual trip to the Kananaskis region of the Alberta Rockies I finally have a moment to reflect on an experience I had last weekend at a workshop entitled “The Soul of Christianity”. The heavy rain outside our little trailer creates the impossibility of much activity, my attention turns inward, and I see that there is much to say. Lead by Atum O’Kane, a spiritual teacher and Jungian Analyst from Seattle, I was drawn to participate by a trusted friend who assured me that the nature of this retreat would be one of depth, meaning and inner work. She was right. And although we touched on many themes –grace, archetypes of the Bible, the Immaculate Heart of Mary and many more –what sticks with me now is that of resurrection. More specifically, the resurrection of the Christian faith out of the ashes of literalism, dogma and the patriarchal abyss it has occupied in my heart most of my life. When Atum asked us to use crayons to draw symbols of the Christian story as we experienced it currently, I drew a faceless woman nailed to a cross, staked at her heart and her womb. It is a fierce symbol that I know is a projection of my own interaction with Christianity’s shadow side. But, this has been the predominant internal template I have had for Christianity, one that has been reinforced time and again. And yet, something has always called me to the figure of Jesus, who smiles at me with deep compassion for my human struggle when I imagine him. Taking this workshop was me, smiling back at him. After years of disappointment in my Christian experiences I took the hand of the gentle figure in my heart who occupies the role of a sacred and beloved friend. I’ve neglected this friend for some time, unable to find a mode of communication that allows for a dynamic, living conversation to happen with him and all he represents.
Atum talked about the way that Christianity has a strong sense of the “what” of spiritual life. This means it describes clearly what characteristics a good Christian may possess. But, sadly, it lacks the “how” that these characteristics actually arise. It is not enough to act out the virtues of compassion, love and forgiveness – how is it that they become living realities springing from one’s true nature? The Eastern traditions, such as yoga, have always placed a strong emphasis on the“how” of spiritual living and I have been perplexed and frustrated at being unable to connect to this “stream” in Christianity. It is, after all, a piece of my own spiritual pie that has been missing. After this workshop, however, I am satiated and craving more. The Christian tradition is rife with symbols and metaphors waiting for me to consume and be nourished by. A living dialogue has begun, and I am excited about this new season in my spiritual journey. In my next few blogs I will explore some of the themes of the workshop and how I experienced them personally and how they relate to my familiar spiritual path of yoga: Christ as the archetypal figure of the wounded healer, and the holder of the opposites (human/divine), the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the notion and experience of Grace. For now, I’m just resting in the new relationship I have to a faith that I have abandoned, if not scorned, for most of my life. I do not feel born again, but rather new possibility for connecting to Spirit has been born, and an essential piece of my journey has been resurrected.