Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Piece of God's Candy

When it was made known that Mother Teresa had a 40-year long crisis of faith, there was an uproar. I am rather comforted by this knowledge. In a letter, Mother Teresa wrote, "...the silence and emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear. The tongue moves in prayer but does not speak. The letter was written just a few weeks before she received the Nobel Peace Prize for her charitable work.

More than 40 other letters, many of which she had asked to be destroyed in her will, show her fighting off feelings of "darkness" and torture." During that time period, Mother Teresa did not feel God "in her heart or in the eucharist."

"Lord, my God, you have thrown me away as unwanted - unloved. I call, I cling, I want, and there is no one to answer, no, no one. Alone. Where is my faith? Even deep down right in there, there is nothing. I have no faith. I dare not utter the words and thoughts that crowd in my heart."

She added: "I am told God loves me, and yet the reality of the darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart?"

She even compared her problems to hell and admitted that she had begun to doubt the existence of heaven and God.

"The smile," she wrote, "is a mask or a cloak that covers everything. I spoke as if my very heart was in love with God, a tender personal love. If you were there you would have said, 'What hypocrisy'." 

Feeling the absense of God is a lot more common in the spiritual tradition than an abiding, non-wavering belief. The poet and Benedictine monk, Kilian McDonnell writes of the common experience of those who, as he puts it, "remember the early days when prayer was sometimes filled with delight," but now feel as if they are "dying in the Sahara, no longer thirsty for God." Still, he adds, they "faithfully search for God, still pray, while wondering if there is anyone out there. Not a piece of God's candy for years." The wonder is in the waiting, which is not passive, but watchful: at its core is an invincible hope.

The waiting. The hope. Bits of candy along the way. Thrown out from a passing clown in a parade? I wonder if there is a way to encourage the candy-throwing. My concept of God is still not well-formed, but I am definitely on a path of discovery and candy-catching.

Twenty-two years ago I started keeping a little notebook of gratitude which provided 'sweet' awareness of continued blessings. Here are some of the entries:

May 18 - Thank you for the blue skirt, green pants, shorts, blouse. Such abundance, comfort (I can't imagine being comforted by green pants today).

May 19 - Thank you for the visit from Columb last night. Kindred spirit - spiritual break-through. Thank you for guiding me to wonderful books. 

May 20 - Thank you for the insight into the physical world I had today. Every action involving something material is symbolic. We live in the world. The earth makes us dirty. We sweat. When we bathe, we remove the things of the world. We are cleansed. I'm going to try to see the meaning daily of removing the stains of my life.

May 22 - Thank you for the Woman's Conference and especially the guided meditation. New ideas. Great possibilities. Choices. Adventures.

May 25 - Got shoes for all three children. Casually mentioned there should be a group discount and the salesman gave it to me. Thank you.

June 8 - Started my period. Thank you.

That was 1988. I think in 2010 I am going to make a conscious effort to see and eat God's candy through gratitude. Already, I am grateful I have an income and excellant health and wonderful friends. There's so much more, I'll have to get another little green notebook.


LimesNow said...

What a beautiful, humbling reminder, GJ. Gratitude feels GOOD. It feels RIGHT. I appreciate you turning my head from some darker thoughts. Happy 2010.

Doozyanner said...

I came upon your blog by way of a random click on LimesNow's. I needed to read this today. Thank you.

standing on my head said...

i remember reading about mother teresa's crisis of faith, and wondering why people were surprised. historically, anyone who is deeply engaged on a path is dogged by doubt. the challenge is in how we use the doubt. do we allow it to pummel us flat? can it be a spur, to urge us onward, inward?
and can we be grateful for it?

Tag said...

I think sometimes we just need to be left alone by god for awhile. its part of the growing process, perhaps learning to stand on our own even though we know that the support is there even when we can't feel any presence. maybe our willingness to let go and let god signals a growing maturity that we may not achieve with constant guidance or comfort. In that case Mother Terry matured quite a bit in her lifetime.

Garlandless Judy said...

Leslie - I need a lot of reminding to be grateful. It's so much easier to find fault.

Doozyanner - You're so welcome and thanks for stopping by.

Standing - You're so right about what we do with our doubts. I tend to celebrate mine a little too much sometimes.

Tag - Do you really think God leaves alone or is it our perception? Interesting and thoughtful comment. Thank you.

Tag said...

One of the most profund questions I've had asked of me was "how do you define god" Some else said "your definition of god isn't big enough". I think the answer to your question lies in the answer to the question asked of me, so I will ask you, how can a God who encompasses "all that is" withdraw from us?

Garlandless Judy said...

Don't we spend most of our lives with the quest for the answer to how we define god? I'm not sure whether God encompasses "all that is." I've left my definition of him so open that these question and the possible answers change as often as my brand of cereal.

standing on my head said...

i've come to think that defining god is an intellectual exercise. it places the divine outside of ourselves, where we will find nothing but the illusion of separation. and separation is the antithesis of the divine.

Tag said...

I love these these kind of questions, and anwers if there are any answers.

Garlandless Judy said...

Standing and Tag - We seem to be in a bit of a discussion here. I'd be interested to know what your spiritual backgrounds are? I know Standing is into Yoga and Eastern-type philosophy, but I don't know where you're coming from, Tag.
Your talk of the separation reminds me of A Course in Miracles, Standing. Have you read this? I know there is a lot of talk around spiritual communities about the illusion of the separation, but The Course handles it in a way that really makes sense, but it also leaves you heaving the book against the wall because it's so inescapably true and what are we going to do with all this?
I also like to read Krishnamurti. Anybody read him? I agree, divinity is within. Krishnamurti goes so far as to say, we make up our Gods. This rattles a lot of people, but given the right kind of spin, makes total sense.

Tag said...

When I seventeen walking to school one foggy day when the skies opened and the light seemed clearer, the colors crisper. I had the feeling that everything was and would be alright. I lost that feeling over the ensuing years through some personal tragedy. About 14 years ago I had a "born again" experience but couldn't handle the small minded christian literalists. I then went on my own search for god and started the discussioons you read a bit of in the Small Talks with God blog. As you see I agree with Krishnamurti we create our own gods. I have also started the course work in the Course in Miracles several times but rarely get past the the first few days. I also lived in Virginia Beach which is home to both Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network and Edgar Cayce's Association for Research and Enlightment. From my desk I can see perhaps 20 books on spirituality, philosophy and religion. I am a bit obsessed.

Garlandless Judy said...

Tag, a similar thing happened to me. I was sitting cross-legged meditating and when I opened my eyes, what I saw before me parted like a curtain, or like a movie screen ripped and something else was behind it. I can't even describe it. It was more than a light. I knew if I kept looking I would be able to see true reality. Then I got kind of frightened and the room returned to "normal." What's normal? It gave me the same sense that there was a realm where everything is alright. I have a lot of friends who have had the same kind of experience you have had in nature. I agree about small-minded Christian literalists. I haven't been able to do the lessons for very long in The Course either, but I love reading the text. All of this is really hard to sustain, as you've said. 20 books? Is that all? There's probably more, you just can't see them from your desk. I'm the same way. I have read everything from Conversations With God to The Power of Now. You name it, I've probably read it. I haven't been able to find a church or gathering place of like-minded people. I've tried Unity, Unitarianism, Church of Religious Science, Inner Christ, etc. I have trouble when it gets all organized and touchy-feely. There was entirely too much hugging at Unity. Maybe it's better where you are. Thanks for responding. I hope Standing joins in.

Tag said...

I like Unity and have been a member for years but I don't attend regularly anymore. Sometimes the affirmations and positiveism gets on my last nerve. I don't care for dogma in any form except the movie. The zen like quality of standings photos and poems appeals to me. I appreciate the serenity of Buddhism.

standing on my head said...

gj and tag-i am loving this discussion! i was raised catholic, from which i ran as soon as i could. i've gone thru more spiritual modalities than i can count. every one has contributed to my living more compassionately in the world (tho some days, that's not saying much!)
i did a year of a course in miracles. it's way too left-brained an approach than my decidedly right-brained preference can handle on a long-term basis. the simplicity, directness and down to earth common sense of buddhism has drawn me ever since i learned about it. yoga and buddhism were once one and the same, so my immersion in yoga is a logical extension. yoga is also a very practical, methodical, tried and true method for enlightenment.

i've had some mind (literally) boggling meditation experiences. i've learned not to attach too much importance to them. too easy to get distracted by the fireworks, and slip up on the maintenance. and boy, do i hate maintenance!

a word about the illusion of separation. obviously, this is not new to a course in miracles. it appears in yoga and buddhism, and every other spiritual path i can think of. according to acim, the ego generates illusion to keep us separate, fearing its own demise. this connects with thread that runs thru most spiritual paths, that of annihilation of the ego to realize union with the one, with which we are already joined. we just forgot!
whew. that's more than enough!
next question: how do we live this?

Tag said...

Standing - your comments on right brain-left brain dichotomy and seperation reminds me of a book I read perhaps thirty years Called the Origins Of Consiousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes - In the book Jaynes speculates (with some good support) that up until perhaps a few thousand years ago there was a split between the sides of the brain inhibiting communication except for godlike pronouncements from the doninant side to be carried out by the body. Interesting reading. here's a link for more information.

Garlandless Judy said...

standing - I would never have guessed that you were raised Catholic. Most people never rid themselves of that. You must have run at a very young age. Good for you. How does one live compassionately? Is it a constant reminding that you do or is it natural after a lot of practice, and I'm assuming it takes practice. Do you ever find that you're being too compassionate and letting your boundaries slip (I'm sure you know what I'm talking about from our emails)?

I know what you mean about the fireworks that can go along with spirituality. I've had friends that have actually levitated when they meditate. My one really smart, grounded friend said, "So what? It doesn't mean anything." Others make a big deal of it and even make videos.

How do we live with this? Good question. I say - just like we are - but with less judgment and more compassion - like you do. And having an observational approach to situations - letting things unfold.

Tag - I like that idea of God-like pronouncements coming from one side of the brain to instruct the body in how it should move, act, behave. It gives a new slant to the God within. I wonder if the integration of the two sides of the brain lessened the God pronouncements and that's why we struggle to make the connection. Is there scientific backing for this?

Tag said...

I haven't kept up with the theory since I first read the book in 1979. Jaynes did a very nice job of using circumstancial evidence to make his case. I'm not aware of any follow up. The link that I posted wasn't as helpful as I first thought. though intriguing in its own right. Especially for a guy who claims to talk to God on regular basis. Vampires aliens and the Holy Ghost. Sounds like a Buffett song

Garlandless Judy said...

...or the bit from The Wizard of Oz: Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh my!

It seems like your discussions on Little Talks With God are like Neal Donald Walsh's "Conversations." Do you automatically write? Is this coming from stream-of-consciousness?

Tag said...

I was inspired by Walsch to to try it. Maybe stream of collective consciousness. I know there's a lot more in my head than of what I am consciously aware. Sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's like pulling teeth to get a sentence put together. I don't think that I am actually channeling anything or anyone other than my own subconscious.

standing on my head said...

gj-i'm not totally rid of my catholic upbringing. it's got deep roots! i just keep digging. i don't think you can be too compassionate. what can happen is confusing compassion with something else. i do know that it doesn't require self-destruction. i'll have to think on that. and i too have friends that levitate-for them, no big deal. just a siddhi (power)that can be a tool or a trap.
tag-here's something you might like. "god and the brain" by andrew newberg, md. it's about the physiology of spiritual experience.

Garlandless Judy said...

Tag - I like the way you talk with God. It's great therapy. I think that's what I'm doing when I write in my journal.

standing - It's good to dig those roots out. We all have to overcome the tyranny of our upbringing.
The compassion and boundary issue is something I have had a problem with. I don't mean to impose it on you. Caroline Myss talks about it alot in terms of being a healer and the psychic boundaries that are important to maintain. In the past, I have let people walk all over me because I thought I was being obliging and service-oriented. But it's hard to be spiritual when you're emotionally exhausted.

Tag said...

It's very difficult to achieve compassion for those taking advantage. I also find it difficult to be compassionate when I'm telling others how to live their lives.

Garlandless Judy said...

Tag - I wonder what you're referring to when you mention telling others how to live their lives. You don't mean your children, do you? I can't imagine you telling anyone how to be. Maybe you're referring to those moments when we think we know what's best for someone else and we lose impulse control and just blurt it out.

Tag said...

Both of these are valid. I do have a tendency to tell my youngest son how to live his life, especially when his decisions impact me financially.
I was thinking more of a royal We than I personally though. We Americans seem to want to have the rest of the world live according to our wishes. I know that's not true of all Americans so I tried to avoid pointing the finger by pointing it at myself.

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