About a couple of years ago, I read the book How God Changes your Brain. It was really about meditation and structuring your brain in such a way that is evolutionarily advanced, or at least that's how I remember it. One statement that really etched itself in my memory went something along the lines of this:
The way you see God matters. If God, to you, is a judging, angry tyrant, it's going to cripple your brain.
It didn't really blatantly say that, but that is what I remember most from the book. That and meditation is good...and yawning on purpose--this I am skeptical about. It's an interesting read, so if you're into that sort of thing, check it out!
I'd been meditating sort of off and on before I read the book and continued to do so, then suddenly, a little over a year ago, meditation sort of clicked. After settling into the practice of mindfulness, I spent a week trying to center in with myself and my monkey mind, and then, *SNAP* there it was. All of a sudden meditation was changing the way I approached life.
Suddenly I was braver, and more sure that I wanted to face my darkest secrets and fears and just get on with life already. And so I did. That, in a nutshell, was 2012.
I had no clue when I was making those decisions just how radically the way I approach the world would change. I had no clue that new people, lovely, wonderful, heart-centered people would show up with so little fear and so much love and would drop hints about this book or that book, each of which invariably loosened the grip of the old conditioning in my mind and began planting seeds for new growth. This latest read, though, put the nail in the coffin of the old conditioning.
I've written fairly openly here about my journey away from fundamentalism, which last Spring seemed to be reaching its climax after 5-6 years of studying religious history as well as the wide array of human thought on spirituality. For the rest of the year, I focused on developing a new sacred walk, one that honored the vastness and limitlessness I'd begun to associate with the divine.
Something always seemed to be missing, though I could not say what. Like something wrapped up tightly with bubble wrap, it was safer, but not accessible. The full fleshing out of the sort of skeleton of understanding I'd laid out as I'd stripped away the lies one by one wasn't feasible yet because that last layer of protection was getting in the way. Let's call it the last stand of the old conditioning, which was being challenged and pricked at every day; a bubble here and bubble there.
Even with the new approach to and ideas about the sacred, I was still experiencing a seemingly endless span of questions that started, sometimes ended with, "But, why?" Intuitively, I knew there was still something I needed to learn to come full circle to a new beginning. That last layer was going to have to come off, but the tools hadn't shown up yet.
Over Summer and into Fall, a friend kept encouraging me to check out Riane Eisler. I was intrigued, and then when both she and her husband suggested reading The Chalice and the Blade in the same week. I finally checked to see if it was on paperbackswap.com, which it was, and promptly ordered it.
Reading the introduction took an entire month. Not because it was long or anything, but because I always tend to be reading lots of books at once , and my hands kept gravitating toward the other books on the "in process" shelf. Then, last week hit. I picked it up over and over again. Over the weekend our three year old walked into the kitchen where I was reading while watching over dinner on the stove and promptly stated, "Mama, you always have your nose in a book." Indeed, Little One.
It is far too much book to even summarize in a blog post, but what is most important is that in its pages I found my missing piece, my bubble wrap removing tool set:
A bit of pre-history that in all of my reading I'd never happened upon beyond short references that I just routinely breezed over since they were far outside the realm of my conditioning.
Recently I'd run across many references to Crete and to our ancient ancestors who, rather than being beastly beings needing to be tamed by religious and social reformation, were peaceful agrarians, creative and devout, passionate, intelligent, and well-evolved (not Utopian, though, we're still talking humans here).
They also, it turns out, revered the divine as feminine, as the goddess Nature. In time, they were taken over by rogue, violent, male-god worshiping tribes from the outskirts of their civilizations who came in with their might and power, stripped away the rights of women, revised sacred myth to demonize women and the sacred feminine and to celebrate the masculine, warrior god. Thus began modern history, from which we are taught that women have always been objectified, have always been "weaker vessels," and have been the cause of the downfall of man from Eden. Now, this is terribly, terribly simplified, and I would encourage every human being alive to read The Chalice and the Blade themselves.
As I was nearing the mid-point of the book, I began to realize how my ideas about the divine had shifted over the years, and about how it had transformed my life from one of fear and domination to one of joy and liberation. I thought about how my mind had been molded, how I'd been taught sometimes subtly and sometimes not so subtly about the greater weakness of women and my secondary, limited role in the world as one.
The sections on Christianity were absolutely painful to read. Of course, I'd read before about the Gnostics and the equality of women within the early church and about how that, too, was torn to shreds by power hungry men, but in this context, it finally hit home.
It became alive through honest history. Whole history. Not the history of man, but the history of humanity. Ancient history, dug up from under the earth. It reached in, confirmed, cleaned and aired out old wounds then sat me back squarely in the present moment having transformed and organized the ideas and questions in my mind into a living breathing realness. It was the mother of all validations.
It finally all made sense--disturbing and frustrating sense, but sense indeed. And what also made sense is that as my ideas about the divine changed, so did the way my mind works. Ten years ago this book would have had my scared, powerless self in a fetal position wishing I'd never read it (if I'd even been able to understand it at all).
Today, I am grateful to be standing where I am. I am thankful to my former self for being so brave and asking the big questions. For making the transition even when it was painful and frightening and seemed to be moving at Snail's pace (or Cheetah's). For listening and watching for guidance along the way. For trusting my intuition and trusting that unseen guidance to this person and that person, this book and that book, this place and that place.
I am grateful to the person who said to me, "God is not afraid of your questions, Anna." I am grateful for the archaeologists that uncovered destroyed civilizations. I am grateful for honest, brave historians and physicists. I am grateful for people who walked away from institutions and then told the truth about them. I am so grateful.
I trusted then that it would be worth it, and can confirm today that it was.
It so was.
Of course I am not done yet. That is the beauty of things. We are never done. I'm so glad we're travelling together.
Anna Turner is the woman behind Little Hearth. She's an ordained interfaith minister, a writer, a believer in purposeful living and healing, a perpetual student, and a full time feminist mother.