By Grief to Heal

At a Good Friday service, a minister once advised:

There are some sorrows too great for the body to bear, and for this reason we have rituals.

If this is true, then perhaps also the converse is true. To confront our deepest wounds, we strip away all semblance of ritual, and connect to our experience through the simplest practice.

For the final workshop of my Soul Play Fall Fest, I participated in Clarity Breathwork with Ashanna Solaris. The thirty attendees almost filled the space. After a brief explanation of the practice, Ashanna passed a crystal around the room, asking each of us to share our name and a few words that described the goal we hoped to achieve. Seated just to her right, I received the stone last. Held in my left hand, the crystal was infused with the energy cupped in my right as I slowly intoned:

Empowered feminine partnership.

But the Father asserted himself.

We were organized in two rows, heads toward the center with a footpath to allow Ashanna and her assistant to reach easily those overwhelmed by powerful emotion. I positioned myself next to the wall, actually a short space from the others.

The practice was simple: a slow rhythmic breathing, described by Ashanna as “feminine.” The inhale was heard as “ah” and the exhale as “oh.” No pauses between – we were to create a deep, steady cycling of energy.

Whether fighting food coma or afternoon lethargy, for the first twenty minutes I had trouble staying awake, much less maintaining the rhythm. Eyes closed, four times or five I heard a female voice in my ear encourage me to “Keep breathing.” Finally I got the knack of it, enjoying a steady cycle that built energy between my hips and solar plexus.

The voice was not satisfied. “Breathe into your heart. Let it rise into your chest.” Allowing my ribs to expand with the inhale, my back arced away from the carpet as my breastbone lifted upwards, falling with the exhale. The blocked energy washed upwards. Running from shoulder to shoulder, an intense band traced my head.

Sorrow awoke in my heart and built through five or so repetitions, and I was there again. My breath caught on the grief of the experience, losing its rhythm. The voice again ordered “Keep breathing.” I went deeper, and then crumbled in psychic agony. Wracked by sobs that broke into moans, the inhale became a brief gasp. I struggled for a minute, the blood-streaked visage filling my mind’s eye, until the voice commanded, “Breathe, breathe.” Slowly the inhale became longer, the exhale less explosive.

I was astonished by the serenity of the face above the broken body. My forearms just below the wrists began to glow with energy. He suffered, but when the animal reactions asserted themselves, he projected them away. That urge to scream, to struggle against the pins that held the limbs against the wood, to flee the pain of metal grinding against bone, these were suppressed and projected forward, finding their way through two thousand years to me.

I screamed, a long, impossibly slow articulation of agony that stretched out for twenty seconds. As the sound echoed in the room, my amazed intellect observed that the lungs were not deflating. Hands took my head and the voice, less assured, again commanded “Breathe!” I did, but the rhythm was marked by short, choked sobs.

I broke again, long waves rolling through me, hips and shoulders seeking freedom from the floor made intimate by the discipline of the practice. A last paroxysm brought my head against the carpet hard enough to thump against the concrete floor. Intellect stilled me with alarm.

And then the serenity transfixed me. I lost bodily awareness, floating in a space of sacred regard. The twelve elders stood guard around me, finding focus in the twelve apostles. My sacred lady turned her tender gaze upon me. Returning to earth, the glow in my forearms brightened and lengthened, and filled my feet. He thought “Father, I offer these wounds to you.” Pulled skywards, my arms and legs left the floor. Tears came, punctuating the impossible serenity and the compassion that sustained it.

The voices around me broke through, others sobbing in grief. I realized that I had triggered this. I came instantly to alertness, again in the room. Rising up on one side, I caught Ashanna’s eye as she ministered to a woman near me, and breathed the question, “Do you want me to help?”

“Whenever you are able.”

I gathered my legs under me, stretched my palms into the heavens, and washed the room with love.

The woman next to me was the most distressed. I won’t describe in detail. Ashanna’s assistant and I spent several minutes with her. Others needed attention, and left alone I advised. “Feel the love in the room. Breath it into your lungs. Now let it flow into your blood, and gather in your heart. Now let it flow from your heart to the rest of your body.” She steadied, and I offered simple praise. “Good job.”

She gasped “You too. Good job.” Then she turned away to her man. Gathered in his sturdy embrace, she immediately steadied.

Ten minutes later, as I delayed waiting for the others to depart so that I could check in with Ashanna, my coparticipant caught my attention. “Thank you. I never would have done it otherwise. You went for it, and I decided to do the same. You filled the room with this incredible energy, and I just went along.”

I’ve been there before, triggered by the passing of the elements or the words of a song. Eyes filled with awe, people huddled together in groups, glancing over shoulders turned against me.

So this was the greatest gift of the weekend: to be told that in that suffering the seeds of healing could be found. That is why it was done. That was its purpose. It is the only way to make meaning of it.

Victory over Sin

In my previous post, I promised to examine how a limited human perspective causes confusion when trying to interpret the teachings of Christ through the Holy Spirit. I’m going to take one of the most fearsome passages in the Bible, that of Revelation 21:8, in which John interprets part of his vision as a “second death” reserved for those that sin.

When confronted with the reality of sin and the pain it causes, it is natural to use threats to keep it at bay. Our legal system does this, and that is echoed in the Law of Moses that was used in the Bible between Noah and the ministry of the savior. For those that sympathize with this approach, it is natural to interpret the Crucifixion as atonement for our sins, and the terrible destruction John describes in Revelation is interpreted as justice being meted out on the sinful.

But what is sin? I have suggested here and elsewhere (see The Soul Comes First) that sin is found in any act that leaves a wound in the soul. Is the propensity to sin inextricably part of humanity? I see at is something that was carried forward from our Darwinian past. Animals tear and rend unthinkingly, doing enormous damage to the souls of the things that they consume.

In the Garden of Eden, a man and a woman are found in a privileged relationship with God. They were innocent and free from sin. We know from Revelation that ultimately sin will be destroyed. God set Adam – the creature made in his image – to that work, with his true love Eve as his helpmate. As might be expected, sin fights for survival. In both the story of the Fall and Cain and Abel, sin is represented as something outside of just relationships. The serpent comes between Adam and Eve, and God speaks to Cain directly of “sin crouching at your door.” In both cases, the effect of sin is not just to separate humanity from God – it also breaks the trust we have in each other. Adam and Eve don clothing not only to hide from God, but to hide from each other. Cain’s jealousy leads to the murder of Abel, extending the loss of trust to brothers and sisters.

Sin has its way with humanity. It entered into us as an infection. This is indeed how Jesus speaks of it, saying [Matt. 2:17]

It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.

Of course, Jesus’s healing skills are not rooted in knowledge of physiology, but in spiritual authority. He simply commands people to be well, and when they respond, honors their faith. The physical healings are paired to the casting out of sin in the form of demons. These were skills Jesus shared with the Apostles.

This work was interrupted by the ultimate sin, the Crucifixion of the savior. Jesus allows sin to have its way with him, suffering a brutal and painful death. In that process, he reciprocates with love. This is done in fulfillment of the promise that he would die for the forgiveness of sin, but that is only a waypoint on the journey. Humanity had a work to do in Eden, and we failed in that role because sin entered into our relationships. However, that work still remains to be done. Jesus came to restore us to the condition that prevailed in Eden so that we might complete the work that had been put before us.

Why didn’t Jesus just remove sin from us entirely, then? It is because we have free will. We have been convinced by sin, through the serpent and others, that we are at fault, that we deserve punishment. This is internalized to such a great degree that we punish each other for sin, compounding the damage wrought upon human nature. We cling to sin. In dying for the forgiveness of sins, Jesus was trying to break that embrace. He was saying “Humanity, let go of your burdens. Forgive each other, as God has forgiven you.” He resurrection was intended to convince us to rely upon the healing power of love.

We have trouble with that. Sin is wound deep into our spirits, and struggles still to survive. But Jesus promises to come again, and we can rely upon that promise though a day to him be like a thousand years to us [2 Peter 3]. When he does come to help us overcome sin, what will the result be like?

This is described by John in Revelation. He says {Rev. 21:8]:

But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

I remind you that this is a human interpretation. Should we take the passage to mean that all those that sin will die the second death of fire and brimstone?

Well, look at it from God’s perspective: What would be the point in that, for have not we all sinned? No, Jesus’s goal is to preserve that which is good, and no one is purely evil. What John described was the destruction of sin along with the memories of the pain that it has caused. Sinful acts are written in our souls, but Jesus will return to separate us from those behaviors and their consequences so that the pure heart of humanity may be returned to heaven. When John reports people burning in hell, he is confusing the destruction of the evidence and effects of their acts. He sees the events themselves being destroyed. The fire is the fire that purges us of the infection of sin, bringing us liberty.