How to start?
Well, I think the key to spiritual renewal is the somatic grasp of the resurrection of Jesus. I think such a grasp removes the need for churches, and grounds a very inclusive spirituality
What do I mean by “somatic grasp”?
Words have the power to change our lives, but for them to do that, we have to let them into our bodies. We can keep words “out.” We can avoid “actually” hearing them. Consider the difference in the tonus of your diaphragm while listening to a “paid commercial message” on television versus its tonus while listening to a well-prepared recitation of the Gettysburg Address… “We are now engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived, can long endure…”
In the first instance your diaphragm is tight, and in the second, much more relaxed. This difference — between a distraction-avoidance response and solemnity-receptivity — is just one example of somatic responses that are going on in our lives all the time. It is important to increase our awareness of them.
There is even, I would claim, such a thing as somatic bias and habit. We set up our lives, and culture sets up our lives to form our somatic responses to external events in a “safe” way. So, if you are a member of a very conservative religious group for example, there are things in the world that you just never actually hear, such as for instance the pronouncements of science. There are groups such as the Amish who do not even go to high school, and groups such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses who draw the line at college. Can’t be having our members exposed to too much “reason.”
But more mainstream sub-cultures also have their filters, and so everybody has somatic habits and biases that control what information they take in. And “criticism” is of course one of the information sources that are most often filtered out. There are not many people who fully appreciate the Buddhist maxim, “Learn from your enemies.” It is a very tough piece of wisdom.
And I would submit that what makes words “safe” is preventing them from being received too far down in the body. If you hear things just “with the top of your head” you can file them away disconnected from all sources of action in your life. As you let them more fully into the middle of your head, then of course they will start using all those mid-brain and reptilian brain connections with the motor and autonomic functions dispersed throughout the body. Any “head-trip” can be fire-walled off from other parts of the body. The completeness of information’s reception increases as it is registered in the neck, the thorax (heart), the belly, and the lowest part of the body trunk (the sexual organs, yes, but even more important, the perineum and the pelvic floor, the seat of the First Chakra and basic survival mechanisms).
My opinion is that there is a lot of cranial grasp of the resurrection of Jesus in this culture, much of it way at the top of the head, some of it more in the middle of the head, but virtually all of it ONLY in the head, and creating the basis for nervous, authoritarian, defensive, bodi-less social bodies.
But not much somatic grasp. Particularly not a grasp that is felt “in the pit of the stomach.”
My second point is that originally the experience of the resurrection of Jesus did have this full somatic quality. That is what made it such a powerful social, historical force. But, it was so powerful that it overwhelmed the unfinished ego-structures of the culture of the time and had to be relegated to the head. [This is, of course, what much of my writing in Resources is about.] But now, I say, ego-structures are generally stronger, fuller, more complete, and so it is a good time to return to the full somatic experience of the original event.
The mechanism for this is very simple. Do a meditation on John 20, 19 “…and the doors of the room being locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst.” Entitle the meditation simply, “What happened?” Use your ability for inner body sensing. Move from the habitual stance of distraction-avoidance and towards the stance of solemnity-receptivity. Expand your body-sense. Breathe. Do the verse from John (an eyewitness account). Let the effects sink down to your pelvic floor.
That is Square One.