Conflict and criticism have always made me anxious and my natural tendency is to avoid them. While this strategy has protected me from some discomfort, it never completely eliminated it. Crouching behind a wall makes you hyper sensitive to possible encroachment and it’s easy to mistake friendly missives for enemy fire. You can miss out on a lot of help and healing that way.
So when Joseph Rogers-Petro, one of the most loving souls I’ve encountered on the internet, wrote that my post “The Bridge to Wholeness” was the first he’d read that disturbed him, my first thought was “Oh, oh!” and my first instinct was to dive for cover. But years of shadow work have lowered my wall of resistence considerably, and I listened with a receptive mind. With his full permission, I’ll share some of his thoughts:
“I can’t be so sure our beliefs about the Divine originate in us—in me. If I choose to believe they do, is that not a belief similar to those who believe the opposite? They’re both thoughts (theories) …and try as I might I have not conclusively figured out—beyond all doubts and with proof— where my thoughts come from. Perhaps they come from the Divine. Perhaps all holy books are inspired. Perhaps everything is inspired. Perhaps my thoughts come from what I ate last night.”
“I was not offended by your post, only surprised by its tone and mode of expression. I guess I did hear within the words the same type of energy as the fundamentalists of organized religion…just a little though…but it was so uncharacteristic in your posts that, for me, it stuck out…”
“I was just a bit taken aback by not so much the sentence about where the Sacred Mysteries originate, but the exclamation point at the end of it. That set a tone, in my way of looking at it, that is final, leaving no room for question marks…The realm of the spirit (and mind/soul/body) is so open…so…different for everyone…and I have come to love the questions…”
“Spirituality can be about believing…in the sense of weaving our thoughts to a set of ideas that we love or find helpful. Belief isn’t the problem…It’s trying to make others wrong for their beliefs that’s the problem.”
There’s nothing here with which I disagree. I truly believe there are as many paths to the Sacred as there are souls, which is why I emphasize the importance of taking our needs seriously and conducting inner work. But Joseph’s right. My spirituality is guided by beliefs too, and behind every conscious belief there’s a shadow reality. I fear I may have emphasized my own path to the point of unduly discounting others, and I see that my unresolved shadow issues with organized religion gave this post a negative tone I did not consciously intend. I feel badly about that and have made a few revisions to soften the tone a bit.
Did Joseph’s observations make me uncomfortable? Sure they did, but his willingness to share his honest reactions in a loving spirit was a true gift. He concluded: “Maybe you and I are saying the same things…I dearly, dearly, dearly hope I have not offended you…please know that I am sharing these words to help me sort it out within me, and to simply suggest a few questions and possibilities. Namaste to you, dear Jeanie, Namaste.”
Like Joseph, I’m still sorting, questioning, and trying to come from compassion and understanding. Now if I can just get over my ducking reflex…
Namaste, dear Joseph.
I too have suffered from despair since childhood. It began at the age of 11 when my father died. To this day there are many occasions in my daily life when I cannot get excited about something because I know it will not last and my pleasure will not last and I will die and nobody will care and nothing I have done will make any difference, and so what?