Healing Time

I’ve been working my way into the LA Full Contact Improv community since last November. The experience is markedly different from LA Ecstatic Dance, which is guided by facilitators and DJs. The Improv Jam is introduced by Jeffrey, the organizer, and occasionally accompanied by the astral strains of the resident guitarist, but the goal and tenor of the experience is open-ended. People glide, skip, spin and roll around the dance floor until they feel a connection. Between friends, that may advance immediately into an embrace, unfolding through a lift or tumble with bodies entwined. For those yet to be awarded that intimacy, there’s a slow inward spiraling that concludes with a gentle touch. For me, that induces a sudden stillness while muscles feel their poise, broken by a release into a caress or the playful exploration of flexibility and strength.

With another recent newcomer, I explained that the challenge I often face in managing this engagement is getting people to let it feel good. Rolling over one another can be like a mutual full-body massage. Having gotten into that space with another dancer, I stilled suddenly as I felt a tension release from deep within him, and I muttered into his ear, “There can be healing here.”

So when Jeffrey announced at last week’s closing circle that he would be offering a facilitated healing experience every Friday night at 8:30 and prior to the Jam on Sundays at 4, I was prepped to jump right in.

It turned out to be really rewarding.

For the last fifteen years, I’ve been interpreting my spiritual experience through a model of physics that leads me to the conclusion that we have three kinds of experience available to us:

  • an experience of “life” that binds spirit to body, allowing us to wrestle with selfishness,
  • existence in pure spirit that frees us from the constraints of space and time, but limits our capacity for growth, and
  • release into a realm of unconditional love that seeks only to facilitate and safe-guard our relation.

So imagine my reaction when Jeffrey explained last night that we live in a material reality in which we struggle with our “me”-ness, navigate slowly into an astral realm of pure knowledge, and finally surrender the pursuit of goals to experience godhead.

This wisdom, offered in what seemed to be a Vedantic framework, came with a set of practices. They are unusually constrained: rather than engaging the deeply rooted powers of the Chakras, we began by opening the meridian gateways at our fingers and toes. Jeff then asked the group to offer whatever insights arose. We listened in witness as we “time traveled” with the speaker, offering our shared energy as support. Jeff asked whether the speaker could see that the emotion of the experience was itself the gateway to healing.

A young man last night, struggling with his conditioning, led us into an analysis of self-actualization and karma. Jeff shared his past frustration in trying to create outcomes through his practice (which allowed us to time travel with him – that was nice!), before realizing that he was forcing his experience to conform to his ideas, rather than the other way around. Subtle wisdom, and it didn’t sink in immediately, so I offered:

The reason that we suffer with each other in this life is because we are missing parts. Trapped here in our bodies, we can’t reach the source, so we try to steal them from each other. When we surrender our self-concern and focus on healing another, we are able to serve as a conduit for missing parts. True power and freedom arrives as we become accepted as a trustworthy provider of parts.

My intimates all complain that my writing is too abstract. I complain that they won’t open their hearts to me. I think that I’ve finally found a method for bridging the gap.

And even better, I left with ears full of the testimony of others that have found comfort and strength there. Come one, come all!

Taking Up the Cross

While Christianity is filled with joy in the certainty of Jesus’s promises, those promises are balanced with assurances that we will face suffering. In fact, suffering seems to be tendered as a condition of our Christianity, for Jesus says [NIV Matt. 16:24]

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

It’s hard to avoid the impression that if we don’t find a cross to carry, we can’t call ourselves a disciple of Christ.

Now the obvious thing about the cross is the pain involved. But if the experience of pain was a condition of grace, Jesus would have come into the world a cripple, and shown us how to overcome that deficit. And to be healed would be contrary to grace, rather than an act to be celebrated – as Jesus so joyfully did – as a demonstration of great faith.

So we should be cautious against ascribing a long illness as a cross to bear, nor a difficult relationship or financial challenges. Jesus presented us another tool to use in overcoming those difficulties: an openness to the unconditional love tendered from the divine source, and a sharing of its riches with those around us. It was a message of truth that both revealed our nature, and the grace of the relationship that God seeks to share with us.

It is this observation that leads us into an understanding of the metaphor as Jesus offered it. The cross was not just the place of suffering – it was a tool wielded by the rulers of the age to prevent Jesus from sharing his message. Those authorities achieved their position largely through fear. In the case of the Romans and Herod, it was fear through threat of violence. In the case of the Temple priests, it was fear gained through the threat of spiritual corruption.

To take up the cross, then, is to offer the world the experience of our love, and to be harmed by those who use fear to control those to whom we offer hope. It is to speak truth to power, to do it joyfully, and to make courage born of faith a demonstration of the weakness of our persecutors.

There is no place in which it is more important to do this than in our churches. Consider: the only direct assault Jesus mounted against the rulers of his age was against the money changers in the Temple – the intermediaries that profited by standing between the faithful and the healing love of God.

So do not make too much, fellow Christians, of finding that we have pain in our lives. That is not what qualifies us in the eyes of Jesus. We find certain grace as Christians only when our pain serves to overcome the institutions that stand against love: either the perfect love of God, or the love that we offer each other.