What does it say that when I decide to teach Ishvara Pranhidana, surrender to God, that I rub up against a deeply angry feeling of abandonment . . . and a lusty longing for passion?
Songs run through my playlist without the worshipping lull of glory, but with electric guitars, heavy riffs, and wailing vocals. Fury, rage, loss, and love intermingle like a barbed wire relationship; what does this mean for my perspective on God?
And what is spirituality without God? Is not God the driving concept of spirit? Is not spirit one with God?
God is . . . everything. It’s too big to put into a religion, to define with a song. The experience of God is to surrender into the depth of emotion and feeling that lies beyond and within and outside of everything that makes us human.
God IS longing. God is rage. God is connection. Love. Loss.
God is the experience, and what ties it together, and what lies beyond. We are an embodiment of God, an iteration of feeling, living, breathing consciousness that by the very act of existing is expanding what it means.
So often, we hear that God is Love. This is true. At least . . . it’s true when we define God as such. My true experience of the divine has been ecstatic blissful connection. Lightness embodied, or out-of-body ethereality.
But this is not the “God” for which I thought I was searching for so many years. As a child, my life was lonely, violent, ugly – and I looked everywhere for love and light. I found churches, and devoted myself wholly to the Biblical God within that story.
He was a male god of vengeance, judgement, and conditional love. This is particularly true of pre-Jesus God. But, man, did He love those who chose Him. Then, Jesus came and said, “I have/Am a new way.” He said that to follow love, and to forgive, is the only path to salvation – to bliss – to connection with God.
And, man, did I fall in love with Jesus. Here was passionate divine connection! Wholeness. He was the embodiment of love – of light – of connection. Then the Church/Government (kind of always been the same entity, hasn’t it?) brutally killed Jesus, and then He came back, and then left, and then the Church/Government decided how to tell the story.
That story goes: “Jesus was tortured and killed for our sins. Because we are so impure and separate from God, such damnable screw-ups, God threw us a lifeline by sacrificing his only Son – the most perfect and loving One who will ever live – and, if and only if we accept this as truth, we may now have a connection to God.”
It broke my heart. Exquisite pain and longing for my Jesus ensued. I knew his Love, and devoted myself to sharing it with whoever I could find. People had to know about this divine love!
As I shared it, I came upon some hard edges in people, and in myself.
Jesus was great, we could mostly all agree, but all this other “God” stuff and most of the Bible were still pretty damning.
And then there were plenty of people who had Saviors of their own – who, I learned, were also damned.
Christianity became less of a relationship to light and love and more of a tool for further separation from the Source of love – from God. But I didn’t realize that until much later.
Instead, what I came to know and feel was that religion was a tool, like any other, that could be wielded for growth or damage. It brought me solace, comfort, and community when I most needed it. But as my heart and mind expanded, as I grew and thirsted for more, I found less within the binds of the Bible (or any other Book – I read many).
I closed myself off to the idea of God entirely. My prayers were hollow and my heart was broken (for a number of reasons, admittedly, which I won’t get into here). It seemed that, to experience God, I’d eventually need to find another religion or return to Jesus, and I suppose I held space for that inside my head for a while.
After a few years of very visceral living – like, 3D physical, emotional life – I began to heal. Healing, this time, came from within. I found my breath; I felt my body. Prayer was meditation. God was the sunshine, the pulse of the sea, and the light inside of my soul. I started to find my own inner divinity, and as I leaned into that I found a sense of peace and wholeness.
One day, I walked a labyrinth and poured out my angst. My spirit shouted into the ether all the angry, accusatory abandonment I felt around the idea of God.
“You were never there.”
And, by the time I got to the middle of the labyrinth, I was emptied of rage. I had left it on the path beneath my feet. Nothing but profound silence met me. I tilted my face toward the sun and was blinded by the light.
In that instant, I heard/felt/knew God. My chest and body broke open, and I was the sun – it was me – and I was everything and nothing. The message was clear:
“I am here.”
Not out there, but *here* in that bright light space, within and around me.
Surrendering, in that moment, was not a tearful admittance of self-loathing.
It was the opposite of recognizing unworthiness.
I did not feel like the dirt of sin was being scrubbed from my soul.
I broke open and released the grip I had on my Self. Long-clenched fists uncurled, and light spilled into and out of every crevice of my body/mind/spirit. Surrender was fullness.
The world shone, then, more brightly than before. I heard the breath of the trees, felt the spirit of the stones, and floated around my body as well as inside of it.
When I am connected to God, the perception and experience of the world is that of divine beauty, just like it was as I exited the labyrinth that day. I do not call it “God” anymore – not because it isn’t true, but because it isn’t enough. My lips, heart, eyes, and mind cannot form the concept enough to articulate the love and light that is bliss-source-love-god-everything.
Ishvara Pranidhana: surrendering to God. Surrendering to self, I think, is the first step here. Recognizing human-ness. Feeling separate, allowing the longing, experiencing the heartbreak. I do not know if I could have ever been filled so completely if I hadn’t been so desperately emptied.
Maybe that is the story of Jesus, after all. Maybe his yoke – the journey of love – is offered from a place of utter fullness and acceptance because he knew desolate separation. I know, from experience, that accepting that yoke can be a fulfilling experience. A tool of love.
May we all find our path to God, and may the light flood into and out of each of us. May the world shine with divine brilliance.
And may the experience become less dense, less arduous, as we allow our light to shine. The path needn’t stay shadowed. The time of necessary suffering has come to an end, as the great prophets, elders, and Books have known it would.
God is here.