by CHARLOTTE A. TOMAINO, PHD
Being asked to discuss the question: What does it mean to say ‘God is Love’ in a world of violence and suffering? made me realize that this is actually a very personal question, one we each must answer for ourselves based on the meaning and beliefs we each have developed in our lives. To answer this, you must consider your own definition of God and Love, how you have experienced these, their place in your life and how you understand the meaning / purpose of suffering and violence. There are no two answers the same.
You create your own meaning and belief in this life ~ belief is real and I think it is your greatest power. By doing so you create the new synaptic connections in your brain, and hence, you create how you will perceive the world. The way you perceive the world determines the thoughts you will have, the emotions that will arise, and the actions you will take.
Judy Cannato has created her answer to this question:
In an evolutionary world, nothing ~ as full as it may be ~ is ever final… Everything is unfinished, it’s edges rough, its ultimate refinement lacking.…fulfillment then cannot come from satisfying or accomplishing a goal that rings with finality. Fulfillment must come from the satisfaction of being the kind of human being who is able to cooperate with God’s self-communication in a way that is life giving both to self and the world.
Since God’s revelation has to do with love, perhaps the measure we must use to gauge our own emergence has to be in our capacity to hold love, to allow ourselves to be conduits of love. That is the way we serve God and the world.
Holding love in your awareness changes your brain, how you see the world, and what you contribute to the world.
Spiritual practice is called ‘practice’ because it is the training, shaping ground, and the conscious choice to choose your perception of this evolving world we have. Thomas Keating has also chosen his meaning and belief. He calls the purpose of Centering Prayer the opportunity:
…to evacuate the unconscious obstacles
to a permanent abiding state of union with God.
When you begin to grasp what is going on in your brain, you realize that every sound, sight, thought, sensation, and emotion is shaping how you will experience the world. The human species has now evolved to an awareness from which you can choose among your thoughts, cravings, and impulses. Buddha taught us that. Don’t believe everything you read and don’t believe everything you think. Lots of stimulation will come to your brain but you choose what stays there. You can evacuate the unconscious obstacles (that come to you while living daily life) to a permanent abiding state of union with God.
Thomas Keating goes on to describe further what happens on this transformative journey when we evacuate the obstacles and perceive
…the permanent and abiding awareness of God
that comes through the mysterious restructuring of consciousness.
There is a new consciousness coming forth now. If you are reading this blog, you already know that. The awareness of your inner world of Spirit, the awareness of your physical world of the matter of your brain and body, the awareness of the importance of your participation in the world as we all converge and together create the fulfillment of each day, are all emerging in human awareness as never before.
You train your own brain with each choice you make and have the option available to you to step into this mysterious restructuring of consciousness that is happening around our world.
My own journey took me to the Maryknoll Novitiate in 1965. I didn’t know I was restructuring my consciousness with that decision but three years of silence brought me to a deep, felt recognition that God is Love, which had no words. I have been looking for words to express that perception and make it available to embrace and share ever since.
The wordless perceptions that ‘God is Love’ and ‘Nothing is Outside God’, have guided my life ever since. Words have always been inadequate and probably will be again today. But, without adequate words there are emotions and even more importantly, sensations that resonate with my truth. The sensations of deeply knowing a truth are unmistakably a physical language for recognizing the movement of grace. It’s sometimes deemed an inspiration or intuition or synchronicity, recognizable by the quality of the physical sensation.
New truths are felt before they are expressed;
and when they are expressed for the first time they are inevitably
couched in a defective form.
Appearing at their birth like a gleam in the night,
they strongly attract us.
Yet we do not know in what precise direction
or on what exact level this source of brilliance lies…
(or where it will take us if we follow)
~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
My own effort to create meaning from suffering and violence has been reshaped many times. For me, suffering and violence activate greater desire to sooth and contribute. In many ways it is what I attempt to do as a career treating those who come with brain trauma.
A defining moment for me was my experience of my sister’s brain injury and how it altered all our lives. Evolutionary Spirituality is proving to be my own current source of growth, expanding for me how I can understand my life, the undesirable parts of our world, and play my part in its expansion. Clearly, the suffering of my sister’s brain injury brought me to the service I understand so well.
Grasping that all existence is changing in every moment, because the force of evolution is ever improving on what was, is what I find myself thinking about, and feeling the desire to participate in daily. Listening for the unmistakable sensation of ‘Yes’ enables me to choose among the many options passing through my awareness.
There are only two energies, resistance and attraction, which move us. The resistance energy of violence and suffering ~ from my own experience and observed in others ~ continually makes me desire compassion, new discovery, growth, and change. My own desire, generated by the unwanted suffering, moves me to find my own unique way to contribute which calls forth my talents to offer.
…For a long time we fumble,
collide with many dark objects
and are deceived by many reflections,
before we join the light whose rays are guiding us forward.
Daily I am fumbling to accept this world exactly as it is, even when I collide with the dark side of our political process, our repeatedly judging and condemning each other, the violence in its many distorted forms of entertainment in TV, movies, news…
My observation has been that there are many consciousnesses in this world. Some have more light and love than others. Those that are in the darkness are sometimes screaming at me in the office. But, it has become my belief that if I do not react and join them, they eventually join me. Everyone wants the light.
God is Love ~ which is the essential nature of all existence for me ~ means that there are degrees of light for each of us, no matter the challenge we face. When I engage in the ‘mysterious restructuring of my consciousness,’ I KNOW that and my own light expands, strengthens, and sustains my efforts. But then, there are the days when I am tired, not prepared in my intention, react, get captured by emotion, and return to greater darkness.
The predominant consciousness of our world has a long way to go to understand this. Just look at what is popular in entertainment, politics, and education. Addictions give us relief but control us. We know what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is now but don’t realize we all have it in one form or another as we carry forward the trauma we’ve encountered which is now embedded in our survival instincts. Survival instincts still dominate our world. Can anyone see the tipping point ahead where consciousness of Love will loom larger? When will the majority of us be coming from thriving for all rather than survival at others expense?
We have the capacity for forgiveness to free us, inclusivity to engage us, Love to bind us. As I look to those who have gone before us on this quest, I resonate with Teilhard de Chardin’s words as he answers our question:
…that I may not succumb to the temptation
to curse the universe and him who made it,
teach me to adore it
by seeing you concealed within it.
Daily I adjust my own consciousness to look beyond the resistance I feel and find the Sacred concealed within the darkness I encounter because I believe Love is always there, just awaiting my recognition and is what we all want. If you desire greater Love in this world, less violence and suffering, what are you willing to do about it? How will you return yourself to that perception of light when the darkness descends and for whom will you hold out the light? Belief enables you to focus your brain outside the reality of what is, to the reality of what can be created.
Your ‘New Truths’ are needed by The Whole of Us so together we can move toward a higher, broader awareness and greater effectiveness to create this world in the light. It is in our convergence and solidarity that we renew each other, the light expands and God, as Love, is visible.
The coming of a spiritual age must be preceded by
the appearance of an increasing number of individuals
who are no longer satisfied
with the normal intellectual, vital and physical existence of man,
but perceive that a greater revolution is the real goal of humanity
and attempt to effect it in themselves,
to lead others to it,
and to make it the recognized goal of the race.
In proportion as they succeed
and to the degree to which they carry this evolution,
the yet-unrealized potentiality
which they represent
will become an actual possibility of the future.
~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Charlotte A. Tomaino, PhD is a clinical neuropsychologist and director of Neuropsychological Services of Westchester which treats brain dysfunction and brain trauma: nswny.com. She is formerly a Maryknoll Sister and continues to be active with her former community. Her book, Awakening the Brain: The Neuropsychology of Grace expresses her approach and success in clinical practice for integrating spirituality with neuroscience in recovery and expansion of brain function.
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