Religion. If the word turns you off, bare with me for 600 more words. It’s not about whether you believe in God or not. It’s not even about what you believe. It’s about how you access your whole self. Religion comes from Latin religio which means to connect. Getting all our selves in right-relationship with each other, with all others and all creation, is what religion is all about. If it doesn’t result in patience, generosity, humility, kindness, love, open-mindedness and creativity, it’s not working.
Our brains are an amazing complex of interlocking neurological systems. Most of the time our prefrontal cortex makes all the decisions, solving the problems of the day while our other selves sit on the sidelines watching the drama feeling bored or unappreciated.
But when we want to solve a relationship problem, or create, or be in community, or have fun, or when we are feeling lonely, bored, worthless, anxious, depressed, suicidal, or “out of sorts,” we need to mobilize our whole selves.
Bad feelings are opportunities to have a “family meeting” of the brain. Executive Self calls everyone together, making sure that all the Selves are at the table: Relationship Self, Emotional Self, Physical Self, Fearful Self, Abused Self, Embarrassed Self, Inferior Self, Guilty Self, Shameful Self. There must be the empty chair for Jester, like the place set for Elijah at Passover. And Jester must feel welcome. Jester can be kind of shy, and needs to feel her voice is needed. So often when she speaks up, she hears something like, “Nah, that’s stupid,” or “I would never say such a thing,” or “What. Who me?” or “I can’t do that. I have a speech impediment.” (That’s what Moses said when he was called.)
Leading a life is about leading, not just going along. Leading your life is about bringing your whole self to a moment, and letting all Selves feel like equal partners with important voices. The Self that needs the most Encouragement is Jester, and that is where religion can come in. Religion–if it is any good–is good at bringing our spirit out from under the bed where it goes when it feels unwanted. Religion alienates our spirit when it gets too dogmatic: how to name it, how to find it. Each person has to find their own way of hearing its amazing voice…. The name is not important.
- If soul, spirit, Geist, Kama, muse, genius, anima, animus, psyche, Lord, God, Allah, Jesus, Saraswati, Ganesha, Lakshmi don’t do it for you, ask it what its name is so you can communicate.
- If prayer, meditation, yoga, writing, singing, dancing, painting, scripture, myths, fairy tales, dreams or sitting silent in community don’t do it for you, keep looking till you find your own way.
- If you find yourself arguing with someone else about its name, please stop. That is a sure way of driving it farther under the bed, and ensuring that the Peace of the Lord will not be with us.
When Religions get organized they are at risk for doing the opposite of welcoming Jester to the table. Christianity really got screwed up when Constantine adopted Christianity and made Church an instrument of the state. The Death of Hypatia in 415AD marked a day that many followers of Jesus went underground, or kept their souls to themselves, or lost their souls altogether. The Church had stolen religion. We need to relearn hospitality and all learn how to sit at the same table together.
Anyway, this day, every year, I sing:
- “‘Welcome happy morning,’ Age to age shall say.
- “Hell today is vanquished, Heav’n is won, today.”