I am finally “growing up” maybe? I didn’t know it but I began learning this at Wheaton College under both the spiritual and theater /acting guidance of Dr. James Young — Jimma, as he was called. I shared this today with the folks who were part of that world-changing time of mine today in a group called “Workout”, and thought someone in my other “worlds” might need to hear this today.
In that theatre group, after warming up with yoga exercises ( back before any one in America knew anything about yoga but weird theatre people!), we would often do an exercise called “Yes/ No”. One would go off into a “private” place in the currently empty, cavernous room, the space in waiting for the future set and theatre creation, and we would each stand in a moment of contemplation. Then one would take both hands and “gather” from the bottom of the torso, the “self”, and raise hands all the way to the mouth where one would let either a “No” or a “Yes” be flung out, vocally and with the hands. Gather. Rise hands to face. Fling forward one’s hands into Space. And let go a loud “Yes!” or “No!”. This “throwing out” or “giving to” from one’s very inner core, was a way of accepting both the negativity or positivity that was in one’s being at that moment. It was also a way to let go of holding on to negativity or of sharing with the Universe, the “mindless”/ Mindful positivity. I realized today after reading Richard Rohr, I need to start practicing this exercise again in my own search for freedom to let go of negative thoughts as quickly as possible and to dig deep and create a more lasting “rut” in my soul of positive love and energy.
I am realizing how both ahead of his time, our dear Jim Young was and also how very connected to the historically Ecumenical, true spiritual essence and truth of the God-given world since the beginning. Jim is now practicing “No/Yes” theater exercises in eternity with his Savior. I wish I had not wasted so much time in doubt and negativity, but today I can do better. And that is a glorious “Good News”. This today, in my mediation, from Richard Rohr in “The Universal Christ”:
“We are ruled by automatic responses most of the time toward the “negative”. The only way, then to increase authentic spirituality is to deliberately practice actually enjoying a positive response and a grateful heart. And the benefits are very real. By following through on conscious choices, we can rewire our responses toward love, trust, and patience. Neuroscience calls this “neuroplasticity”. This is how we increase our bandwidth of freedom, and it is surely the heartbeat of any authentic spirituality.”
“Most of us know that we can’t afford to walk around fearing, hating, dismissing, and denying all possible threats and all otherness. But few of us were given practical teaching in how to avoid this. It is interesting that Jesus emphasized the absolute centrality of inner motivation and intention more than outer behavior, spending almost half of the Sermon on the Mount on this subject. We must — yes, MUST– make a daily and even hourly choice to focus on the good, the true, and the beautiful. A wonderful description of this act of the will is found in Philippians 4:4-9, where Paul writes, “Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS”. If you are tempted to write this off as idyllic “positive thinking”, remember that Paul wrote this while literally in chains. How did he “pull it off”? You might call it “mind control”, but many of us call it “contemplation”.
So how do we first see and then practice this “Original Goodness”?” We find Original Goodness when we can discover and own the three “attitudes, the “things that remain”– faith, hope and love, or love, trust and patience. (paraphrased from Rohr) “For the planet and for all living beings to move forward, we can rely on nothing less than an inherent original goodness and a universally shared dignity. Only then can we build, because the foundation is strong, and is itself good. Surely this is what Jesus meant when he told us to “dig and dig deep, and build your house on rock”. When you start with “Yes” (or positive vision), you more likely proceed with generosity and hope, and you have a much greater chance of ending with an even bigger “YES!”. To try to build on “no” is, in the imagery of Jesus, to “build on sand”.
If our postmodern world seems highly subject to cynicism, skepticism, and what it does NOT believe in, if we now live in a post-truth America, then we “believers” must take at least partial responsibility for aiming our culture in this sad direction. The best criticism of the bad is still the practice of the better. Oppositional energy only creates more of the same. All problem solving must first be guided by a positive and overarching vision. We must reclaim the Christian project, building from the true starting point of Original Goodness. We must reclaim Jesus as an inclusive Savior instead of an exclusionary Judge, as a Christ who holds history together as the cosmic Alpha and Omega. Then, both history and the individual can live inside of a collective safety and an assured success. Some would call this the very shape of salvation”. (from “The Universal Christ”, by Richard Rohr)
I don’t know who might need this today, but I sure do. Yes! I claim, “Yes!”. Thank you Jim Young, Richard Rohr, all of you my brothers and sisters in Workout and in “faith, hope and love”. They do remain. Yes. No to fear, impatience, dis-trustfulness, prejudice, and exclusivity. YES! to trust, hope, and inclusive, Original Goodness Love!