I was 4 when I banished God from my life. I know the moment that I unleashed a rage that I felt at the inequity and powerlessness of my young human life. Somewhere inside I knew that I had been pushed into form, into matter and separated from the womb where nourishment WAS existence and total freedom was mine. Even at that young age I felt I could not suffer a lifetime of injustice and separation. It was rage of an unbelievable potency and power and in that moment, I used it to severe my ties with the living force that guides life. I chose to forget God.
Of course I was not fully conscious of that experience, but in my lifelong search for wholeness I was forced to become aware of and then confront what I had done to myself.
I spent the next 40 years trying to find my way home, but looking for wholeness outside myself. Trying to find love, belonging, approval or unity in what I did, what I looked like, what I had or who I was with.
But I found that life is persistent... there is a demand for wholeness at the root of things so I was to stumble along and get the experiences and situations that I needed to come round right.
I was in India when I finally understood what I had done to myself. I had spent months in meditation facing down and trying to befriend fears and misguided beliefs about my life. One day, in the quietness, I was in a dialog with my 4-year-old self and I saw or rather, was immersed in the moment this banishment took place. I understood to the core of my broken heart what I had done to myself. I was not a victim, God did not put me here and then abandon me, I had done it to myself... And in that moment the bottom fell out. Something inside had broken. I could not breathe, but spontaneously out of my mouth I bellowed, "please forgive me!" And from this deeply wounded place, I did this over and over for hours until morning.
The next day... though exhausted, I felt extreme gratitude and humility. It seemed that through grace, I had taken a step towards reunion and the creation of a long term relationship which could guide me on the road towards freedom. This experienced forced me to see and begin to reckon with the lies I had told myself at a fundamental level. Some things I believed or thought I knew, were completely false.
This was a profound insight for me in two ways. It changed my relationship to life. I had initiated and propagated my own deep injury. ME! I was the victim of myself. In order to live from this new understanding I had to learn (still a practice) to stop blaming "other" (parents or whomever was teaching me a painful lesson at the moment.) And you know, this is no easy task.
But equally profound was a process of atonement that began to unfold. From that moment to this, I begged for forgiveness when I made errors in judgment, when I disrespected the core of myself or others, when I tried to take credit for something that was not mine or when I forgot to be thankful for all I had been given. This also became my practice in the outer world. When I saw on the news, refugees, oil spills, greed, gluttony, disrespect for other human beings, destruction of our earth and animals. When I get caught in one of those moments, I fall to the ground, feel remorse for what is being disrespected and ask God for forgiveness.
For a long time I did not want to let it in... feel the despair of what was happening to our world because it was immense, daunting and heartbreaking, but as a caring and sensitive person, how could I not? It is there and cannot be denied. Now, I purposely watch all the hell on the news, for it is my practice.
So for 10 years this has been a practice of mine. I feel such a deep responsibility as a human living at this time in history for the damage we have done. I know that I am part of the problem. I live in this world. I drive a car, I use gas, I buy clothing from the Gap, I eat food that has been shipped here from Latin America... I go unconscious and want what I want, here, there and everywhere. It is unavoidable to be part of this unconscious and greedy culture because we are it.
What does God have to do with it?
In every major religion that I know of ...there is a practice of atonement, or repentance. In Greek the word is katallagé which means reconciliation or restoration. In Arabic the word is kaffarah which means "what is paid to redress an imbalance" and in Hebrew the word for atonement is kaphar, which literally means an outward action that covers over the error.
Our ancestors felt this was a powerful practice which they did when the rains did not come, when the flocks were dying, when war was upon them.... It seems to me they did so because they knew there was a relationship between our behavior and the living universe. They understood that disregard engenders disregard.
Maybe you are wondering if this practice of atonement has any impact? Does it do a damn thing? I can only say this. I have become right in myself. I have found a love that comes from inside my heart and a level of compassion that was unknown to me before. I still feel helpless at times, but I feel also that I am doing the work I came to do. I am not running away. I can give love to others and I am doing it in a way that matters deeply to me. As a matter of fact, I think this way of giving actually nourishes me. But my sense is that I need to do it, not for myself... but for the love of life.
But to the point. I feel that because of this practice, I was given a great gift. The gift of being able to give.
I tell this deeply personal story because I wonder if this practice of atonement can work at the level of the collective? Actually, it is my belief that it would, since I am simply the microcosm of the macrocosm and so are you. What if we collectively fell down on our knees and asked for forgiveness? Can you imagine the impact? Frankly the idea gives me hope.