- notes by Kathleen Edmison from a workshop with Dr. Michael Lipson
(22-23 September, 2012 in Barrie ON)
We live in a world fraught with incredible stressors and often lead harried lives, so much so that we've forgotten to stop long enough to learn how to just 'be'. This question lives within each one of us. We are human beings, after all, but what does that actually mean?
What does it mean to 'be'? It is the process of reaching our highest potential. How can we do that? And more importantly, what tools can we utilize to assist us on our journey?
This workshop presented a profound exploration of these questions. Dr. Lipson suggested that a desire for understanding and a willingness for interaction and dialogue was all that was required because the marvel of Being itself would be our guide, remarking that.... only the work matters and not the answers. He quoted Georg Kuhlewind who declared that... being is not a theme....it just is.
As he guided us through a series of meditations, Dr. Lipson reminded us that we can learn to quiet our minds and combat the thoughts that so easily distract us. An object or a sentence on which we focus our minds appears to expand. However, what actually expands is our attention. A valuable schooling in attention unfolded for each participant through meditative exercises and lively conversation over the course of our two days of intense group work.
Cultivating a disposition of I don't know as regards the great questions of existence was also recommended. This approach could bring a measure of freedom - to our thoughts and therefore to our lives.
Gratitude is a precursor for 'being' and has a unifying effect. Dr. Lipson suggested we make a practice of giving thanks that the world exists when we awaken in the morning.
More questions arose...Why are we here? God wanted to show what He could do. The etymology of the word God is rooted in the word pour. Our minds are always 'pouring'....could the chatter in our heads begin to give way to an effortless streaming of consciousness that is of a higher intuitive order? Ease rather than effort is the watchword here. Everything in the world is pouring towards us eternally and it echoes in our stream of consciousness. To be happy is to be in harmony with the happening of the universe, remarked Dr. Lipson. He also memorably said, Effortlessness takes work and You cannot be somebody until you know you are nobody.
There was a great deal of discussion about biblical references to Being, Lord and I AM. In the Hebrew scrolls the word for Jehovah is the ancient form of the word to be. Other examples cited were: I will dwell in the house of the Lord (Being) and Where two or three are gathered together (to the point of Being), there I AM (Being) in the midst of them.
It became clear that we are in beginning in the understanding of these concepts. Lipson pointed out that we generally trade low level but manageable concepts for the living mighty concepts that imbue our sacred texts. We have to stop reducing the meaning of life to what we can most easily manage.
What is a person? A Being? We were asked to consider that a person is a being who can be in touch with the tenderness of their humanity and is no longer hampered by fear or self interest.
So this 'being' is an art form and takes practice.
Novalis said, God wants Gods. In light of this how do we live our divinity? Dr. Lipson explained that being human includes citizenship in the 'pour' of God. Christ poured out his life for us. This is our example. To see and accept both the divinity and humanity in each person we encounter is a measure of our own humanity as I understand it. Working in the group as we did, sharing our struggles, brought this realisation home to me. Participants brought many insights to bear. I resonated very strongly with an observation that our mission is to fully incarnate into this world and in this way to experience what it means to be 'born from above' or 'born again.'
Our final consideration was the last line of Rainer Maria Rilke’s 9th Elegy:'existence beyond reasoning springs forth in my heart' also translated as 'being in excess wells up in my heart.' These words expressed a goal of self realisation to which I will continue to aspire.