Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Building a Strong Container/Becoming a 'Vessel'

What does it mean to become a vessel--to open myself to be a container for what wants to come through, what is pushing into the world through me?

What do I do, how do I behave, when I sense that these interior walls are being shored up, fortified--and that soon, so soon, something molten and pure will be poured into the space that I'm holding in the world?

What do I do?

How did I imagine that being filed with light would be an experience of bliss? Why, when in reality, it is a constant burning, a hot dry wind that turns my parasol inside out and blows the papers I've so carefully, so artfully--so spiritually-- arranged, off the tabletop, scattering them like these useless thoughts across the lawn?

Oh, where did it come from--this idea that enlightenment would end all pain and struggle, and the need to learn, to cope, to grow? What was I thinking? Did I really think enlightenment would make me immune to suffering? To death?

How terrifying it is, this realization: That I am being asked to live fully, to fill my place in the world!
How marvelous and thrilling, at the same time.

In her book, Spinning Straw into Gold, Joan Gould writes, "To be a good 'vessel' is a term we deplore these days and apply only to women, as if it implies passivity, but the opposite is true: to be a good vessel requires willfully emptying oneself of everything but a single intention. It requires stillness. And it demands constant vigilance to protect the virgin self--the contained and therefore continent self--against intrusion. Contents, no matter how valuable, are useless without a proper container."

As God commanded Moses, "Do not look upon me," each of us faces this challenge when we choose to become "enlightened." When we ask God, Make me an instrument--pour your light through my life--this is the challenge. For how do we, knowing what is trying to push into the world through us, build a strong enough container to hold it all? How do we let it in, let it through, let it shine without withering to a husk--to a pillar of salt--in its brilliance?

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