Chronicles of an Awakening Mystic
Don't let the title of this blog post scare you! Keep reading...
A few months ago, I developed a Bible study from a book called "Living in the Freedom of the Spirit" by Tom Marshall, and taught it at my church. This book goes into great detail about our spirit, our soul, and our body, the functions of each from a biblical perspective, and how each of them interact with each other. I had read the book years ago but writing and teaching a study of the book helped the material to make it from my head down into my heart. To say that it has enhanced my relationship with Jesus Christ is an understatement!
What impacted me the most was the deeper understanding of the Holy Spirit's activity in my spiritual walk. This learning led to a continued study of metaphysics within Scripture. The term "metaphysics" has scared many Christians for a while, even to the point of abstaining from the very use of words such as "meditation" and "contemplation" whether they were in scripture or not. Jesus said that God is spirit and that to worship Him, we would have to worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24). How can we worship a spiritual being with our spiritual being if we don't acknowledge that our world, and ultimately our very reality, is spiritual? That's what metaphysics is.
So much of the Bible incorporates metaphysics: the involvement of angels, casting lots with runes, significance of crystals and precious gemstones, miracles by laying on of hands, miracles performed at a distance, reliance on prophets and prophecies, high priests performing rituals for healing/cleansing, the transfiguration, people seeing visions and receiving messages through dreams, use of stars for guidance and prophesy support, Jesus Christ Himself being a divine being in a human body, people ascending to heaven without dying, God speaking through objects (burning bush) or animals (donkey) or taking physical form as a person or things (pillar of fire/cloud, bright light), the entire concept of: eternity, spiritual warfare, heaven, spiritual life, living in the Spirit, spiritual gifts, prayer, resurrection from the dead, etc., etc.
Around this time, I discovered a Facebook group called "The Metaphysical Christian" started by Rev. Dr. Katy Valentine, as well as her YouTube channel. She is an ordained minister, a senior pastor, and has a PhD in New Testament. Her videos have been helping me see the metaphysics in scripture....and it's everywhere!
As I learned more, I read about being an "empath" and this struck a cord with me. I got a book called "The Empath Experience" by Sydney Campos. This book helped me to understand why I struggle so much with social anxiety (because I absorb other people's energy and emotions and feel them as my own). This made so much sense to me and really helps me understand some of the "why" questions I've had over the years. This book also has a lot of exercises and journaling prompts.
I had begun reading and studying the practice of self-compassion, which is basically treating yourself as you would a good friend: not saying anything to yourself that you wouldn't say to a good friend, showing yourself grace and kindness, etc. Not only did it resonate with me, it also helped me see myself the way that God sees me. As I learned more about self-compassion, I noticed other quotes and philosophies from Buddhism showing up. This intrigued me so I picked up some more literature written by Buddhist monks, one in particular, Thich Naht Hanh. I soon discovered that so much of Jesus' teachings and Buddha's teachings are very similar. In fact, Thich Naht Hanh wrote a book called "Living Buddha. Living Christ". In this book, he draws on the similarities of the two and shares how both Jesus followers and Buddhists could improve, primarily in our responses to each other. He calls for all people to partner together in love and mutual concern in order to bring peace and harmony.
One of my favorite aspects of Buddhist teaching is the idea of inter-being. It was explained like this: when we read a book, we can see all the pieces of the universe that fit in that single book page. There has to be a seed, a farmer, sun, water, earth, maturity and growth, the lumberjack, saws, manufacturing factories to prepare the wood and make it into paper, the book-binding company, an author, designer, illustrator, publisher, editors, printers and printing machines, ink, the book store, and the buyer/reader. When we stop to see the inter-being connectedness of all things, it helps us to pause, understand, have compassion for difficult people, and work together to end suffering. This concept is so powerful and something that we as Christ-followers should be doing automatically.
The other idea that I have begun to instill in my own journey is mindfulness. As humans, we spend so much of our time pulled between the past and the future when our only true reality is this moment, here and now. It is our breath that brings our often distracted and overwhelmed mind back to our body:
* Have you ever been walking along thinking about something you have to do tomorrow, going over all the details in your mind, making mental lists of everything you need to get at the store or accompplish ahead of time? Your body is in the moment but your mind is thinking ahead.
* Have you ever been standing in the shower thinking about something that happened yesterday, wondering if what someone said was what they meant, whether your response was appropriate, whether they misunderstood you or you heard wrong? Your body is in the moment but your mind is in the past.
When we live this way, we miss out on the beauty, and relaxation, and attention we need to be giving the moment that is most pertinent...this one. This is also very helpful for those of us with chronic stress: when our minds are stuck in fight or flight or in a triggering memory. if we will take a deep breath and allow our mind to think about the breath, our brain is able to stop replaying or charging forward and can focus on right now.
I could share so much more but I'm going to pause for now. My hope in sharing this journey with you here is so that you will perhaps find helpful tools through my experience. No one can make your journey for you. So take a deep breath, remember that you are never alone, and take each step of your day in awareness and mindfulness of the present.