God Dog

posted September 1, 2009

Many of you have asked about our garden. A picture is worth a thousand words, so I have taken a picture of our two, count them 2, eggplants. We harvested them because Tom says eggplants need heat, and it looks like the heat part of the summer is gone with August. So tonight we are going to make ratatouille with our two little fruits. It will be a small portion.

Just to show you the scale, here is Elle holding the larger of the two eggplants.

About vocation/avocation: I believe that once we are in the habit of telling ourselves the truth all the time, in every circumstance, Life takes us by the hand and guides us gently but firmly on the path we’re meant to go down, and that this path will always take us to our best possibly destiny. This path ends up being both one of service and also one of great joy, and we begin to see that we can’t have one without the other.

But it’s hard to always tell yourself the truth. Oy, that’s the rub. Harder still is to consistently come from love and not fear. Last week, I was in despair because my writing groups weren’t filling up the way they were supposed to. How do I know how they were supposed to fill up? Well, I thought I knew because in the past they always did; in the past, I have had wait lists. So what’s changed? Maybe, just maybe the fact that I added a third group where there had previously been two. Or maybe the economy. Or maybe everyone is content writing by themselves, or maybe everyone has found a writing buddy. All of these would be good explanations for the part of me that lives in the fear that I am one meal away from food stamps. (I call this part of me Liz Newton. Martha Beck says this part of us, programmed for flight or fight is just the amygdala, a part of the brain we share with lizards. Get it? Liz Newton?)

So anyway, I was being a good little self-coach, gently asking myself why I had these fears and what were the thoughts feeding them, and I kept breaking it down to a core belief which was, “If they knew me, they wouldn’t love me because I am basically unlovable. The writers have known me, and naturally, they have found me out.” This is an old threadworn thought, one I had thought I was done with years ago, but apparently I wasn’t, or at least Liz Newton wasn’t. So I sat at my meditation alter (AKA the pillow at the head of my bed) and tried to meditate. Instead I prayed: “God, what the F??? Help! How do I love myself? I am sick and tired of not loving myself! I have been trying to love myself for years and years and obviously I STILL DON’T!!! Help me out here.”

What came back, quick as a flash was a genial voice saying, “Why don’t you try loving me?”

What a needy God. But whatever. I scrunched up my face and said, “Okay. I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!” And immediately, I felt a WHOOSH. The big black hole, previously empty except for a few empty beer cans rattling around inside, was filled with that love, the love we all want and think we lost when we left infancy. More than that, I felt as though my heart had turned into a three dimensional puzzle piece and was suddenly plugged into its rightful spot in something much bigger than me. I felt whole.

This all makes sense, now that I feel it. I have known cognitively for ages that in order to feel abundant, I need to give; in order to feel helped, I need to reach out a hand, and in order to feel loved I need to love. When I exercise that muscle (and it is a muscle) I get strength. Come to think of it, in yoga, when I exercise my back muscles by doing cobra, my back pain goes away, much more quickly and permanently than it does when I get a massage. Strengthening= strength. Or to use another physical analogy, I found that the knee pain that kept me from running completely disappeared once I started running (and stretching the leg muscles) on a daily basis.

But back to my meditation cushion AKA my pillow: I was so shocked by the force and suddenness of the revelation and the change in my attitude that my eyes flew open and I shouted, “Tom! Tom! I’ve discovered the secret of the universe!!!!!” I tried to explain to him what had happened; like many who have had a “religious” experience, I was an instant evangelist. He smiled at me and gave me the equivalent of a pat on the head. That was okay, too, though. After the ecstasy the laundry and all that.

What I got from that moment was something I remembered from reading the wonderful Catholic priest Henri Nouwen, one of my all-time favorite spiritual writers. He writes in his essential book Life of the Beloved: “Coming home and staying there where God dwells, listening to the voice of truth and love, that was, indeed the journey I most feared because I know that God was a jealous lover who wanted every part of me all the time. When would I be ready to accept that kind of love?” And: “I want you to hear that voice, too. It is a very important voice that says, ‘You are my beloved son; you are my beloved daughter. I love you with an everlasting love. I have molded you together in the depths of the earth. I have knitted you in your mother’s womb. I’ve written your name in the palm of my hand and I hold you safe in the shade of my embrace. I hold you. You belong to Me and I belong to you. You are safe where I am. Don’t be afraid. Trust that you are the beloved. That is who you truly are.'” See here for complete text.)

God can be like a jealous lover, which comes as a shock to me. I try not to, but I can’t help imagining God as The Big Celebrity in the Sky; sure He loves everyone, but if He loves everyone, then why is it such a big deal if He loves me? He loves me, but He loves six billion other people plus plants and animals and insects and all the space creatures from other galaxies. Big Fat Deal.

But in my moment of revelation, I got that God just might be more like a little dog who follows you around trying to get your attention all the time. Play with me! Love me! Pay attention to me! And no one but me (you) will do.

We each have our own little God dog. Mine happens to eat raw catfish and occasionally other gross things.

My writing groups still aren’t full, but I imagine that’s because God wants me to have light groups so I can better serve those writers who are coming. And maybe because I need more time to write my half of the book Katryna and I are working on for Shambala (interesting that our book publisher is most famous for publishing books on Buddhism and yoga, huh? Coincidence?)

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  1. Nerissa,

    What a great blog! I totally can relate to what you said about God and how His/Her love can get us through anything. And it’s not just God that loves you; your husband and kids and sister love you, and I love you as well. In fact, just last night at supper my husband and I were talking about amazing people we know, and I mentioned you and said how fortunate I am that I get to work with you and have the chance to get to know you. You are a person I admire greatly and consider a role model. And I hope you know that I would sign up for your weekly writing groups if only I didn’t live so far away.

  2. Seconded joining a group if we lived closer! It would fit our lives much better than retreats now that we have a little God dog too. He has challenged me to become more confident and outgoing, which is of course just what I needed. But luckily he mostly likes to cuddle.

  3. My eggplants are still growing even though in seattle we just had days of pouring rain and cold and cloudy before that. That does not mean that they are too much bigger than yours, but they seem to be still doing thier thing. I love that perfect little “elle” sized one! -moorea

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