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We are knee deep in a river, searching for water. We are part of an invisible river, but we are so distracted by outer things and what we imagine they could mean to us that we lose contact with the source of our own Being. When we are caught in desire, in form, in externals, we are pulled out of ourselves into a fantasy world, a desire world. We lose touch with the invisible river, the waters of life, through our identification with unconscious inner processes and with outer demands. — Kabir Helminski, Living Presence, p. 25
The story of Jacob wrestling with the angel (Genesis 32) means more and more to me the older I get. He’s an anxious mess as he awaits the arrival of his brother, Esau, whom he assumes is seeking revenge. He sends his family and possessions across the Jabbok stream, and then finds himself in a wrestling match that leaves him with a life-long limp.
Jacob sends the externals away. Without his family and possessions there to define him, he has to wrestle “a man.” And then he limps. Water is always somewhere in these stories… I see Jacob limping through that water that he’d earlier sent his family across.
Helminski talks about the struggle to balance the inner and the outer. We really DO have external obligations. Many seekers over the centuries have assumed that the externals are such a distraction that we must eliminate them all by becoming hermits, buy rejecting culture, by moving in to the monestary. However, the Sufism of Helminski, and the Christianity that I embrace, insists that we are called to unpack who God created us to be without rejecting the externals.
It seems we always underestimate how difficult this is to do. It seems we have to grow exhausted, depressed, and anxious before we will stop and ask, “What’s going on here?”
Do you need to take a moment to consider the external pressures that most define you, and hence terrorize you?
We are knee deep in a river, searching for water.