…It sounds like the start of a bawdy joke. But honestly the only bar in this story is the one that has been raised, not one that purveys drinks.
Some housekeeping notes to start: I don’t tend to write extensively about my spirituality. I find spirituality to be a sensitive topic, and while I certainly don’t shy away from it in posts that deal with difficult topics, I don’t tend to try and impart my personal spirituality directly to others. There’s a basic reason for this, which is that I often feel like the least-qualified person to write ABOUT spirituality specifically. When I have tried to write specifically about spirituality, it often ends up feeling very flat to me.
This is why I was surprised recently to be invited to a writing group being put together by a pastor in Portland that I knew as a teenager and have interacted with (largely via Facebook) over the years since then. Pastor Marc has gathered such an interesting group of people that I couldn’t help but try to join in, as much to be a part of their conversation as for any specific insight I have to offer.
This week’s writing assignment is based on a sermon that Marc gave recently. The entire sermon is available here on youtube. The topic is actually something that I have always had an opinion on, and though I’m a couple of days late, this was a pretty easy topic to tackle. Marc’s topic, and the topic at the heart of this blog post, is the role of women in spiritual leadership.
One man’s opinion about women leading spiritually after the link…
“The silence of sitting will tell you everything you need to know.”
It was the kind of fortune-cookie bullshit you hear a lot of at Zen meditation retreats offered in Northern California by Northern Californians. Actually, that’s not fair. You get that kind of bullshit in Portland or Seattle or Denver or New York too, but this dose of bullshit was the first cohesive collection of words I’d heard in what felt like forever – and it wasn’t helping.
There’s this point in an intensive meditation retreat where you’ve been actively concentrating on your breathing and your posture and how your knees are now made of concrete and that the small of your back is the all-consuming heart of a great vortex of pain that is actually absorbing the pain from all living beings for hundreds of miles around you and compressing it into a perfect symphony of agony composed in a language of utter suffering that you will sing through clenched teeth until you finally embrace the sweet release of death.
I had passed that point something like a lifetime (or at least forty-five minutes) ago, and what I was not prepared for was a lesson on sitting in silence. I was ready to flex my legs, stand up, bend backwards until I cracked my back like a machine gun, and then reconsider the life choices that had led me to think a three-day retreat in the middle of nowhere between Ukiah and Clear Lake California was “exactly what I needed.”
Truth be told, I had no idea what I needed.
Zen and the art of divorce and self-discovery after the cut…