It’s been a good summer for spending half hours standing on a beach with no shoes.
Back in July, while I was in San Diego for an annual conference, I managed to stop by the Pacific the day before I left. I hadn’t planned out the beach trip at all and was wildly overdressed.
But a friend and I took off our sandals and sneakers, I rolled up my jeans, and I dug my feet into the wet sand and washing tide.
It was unsettling. Transitions usually are.
Yet the longer I stood, settling myself regardless of the motion of the waves, and grounding myself in the rhythm of the water and the earth, the more peace I made with standing still in sinking sand.
It was probably a good workout for my thighs!
The spirituality of change
This Sabbath I was with the community at CityLights, where, over the last three weeks, Gregory Loewen and Samir Selmanovic have been teaching on spiritual principles for successfully crossing life’s thresholds.
That’s where I learned about this model.
Selmanovic describes an integral view of life, life as an interconnected whole that includes a manifest, visible, external realm of experience and a latent, invisible, interior realm as well.
I’d explain the distinctions this way.
The manifest realm is called the field, where we literally and metaphorically sow and harvest. The latent realm is called the shadow. In the shadow realm, we go inward, discover our hidden facets, meet the monstrous and heroic aspects of ourselves, and choose which aspects to bring out to our work in the wider world.
In the manifest realm, we live, work, play, interact with others, and post on the internet! In the latent realm, we remember, dream, interpret the outer world, and build meanings that we can turn into action in the field.
A green arrow curves below the threshold, representing the process a person will move through as they leave the obvious and external for a trip into change and the suffering that change often entails. While this culture has a complicated relationship to suffering (and so do I), Selmanovic argues that all parts of life are sacred. Field, shadow; manifest, latent; rainbows, midnight—it’s all sacred, he says.
Rising to life
My grandfather, now 103 years old, has been meditating on a verse that the CityLights community discussed this weekend:
Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over.” —John 12:24 (The Message)
Christians traditionally read this verse in terms of the life and death of Jesus. But one of the interesting things about it is the last part: the death of the grain of wheat isn’t the end of its story.
In the Christian narrative, not only is Jesus raised to life himself; he also empowers his followers to go out into the world and share good news with the rest of humanity. A story that begins with one man has become the story of billions.
Trips through shadow and suffering aren’t where our stories have to end either. The arrow arcs up and we get to return from the womb or tomb of the shadow realm into the sunlight that helps grains of wheat to grow and into community with other people who can tend and harvest that wheat with us and perhaps even help us turn it into bread.
This Friday evening, I’ll eat some bread and other tasty things with Samir Selmanovic, Vince Anderson, Doug Pagitt, and a few other of Samir’s friends at the first event of a new community initiative, Common Good Christians.
Join us by web conference at 5 p.m. Pacific/8 p.m. Eastern!