Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mystery of The Burning Bush

I've always loved trees.  I've always felt every child needs a woods.  Once in college I recall the train pulling away from the station, moving into the countryside, seeing forests of trees, when suddenlyI literally felt I could breathe better - drinking in those trees which seemed to surround me.  

Now comes proof.

I think I always felt a sense of identification with trees.  

And this brings me to something I have hesitated to write about.  An image that came to me nearly 30 years ago.  That transformed as I drew it. That holds so much, I am still drawing from it as from a well. "So deeply held inside"- like a line from that poem I've just linked - that I hesitate to share it.  My only spontaneous drawing as an adult.  And I wish I could show it to you as it emerged.  But I'll describe the experience.  And then provide a link.

I woke up that morning with an insight into myself.  As if, for the first time, I knew myself.  As like a flame.  Like a spark of the Divine.  And I had to put that down somehow.  I grabbed crayons left over from my time as a teacher of young children.  Put crayon to paper.  Allowed the images to flow.  First the flame, then a surrounding darkness, with a circle of fire around the darkness - as if flowing out from it.  And a blue space, then more flames.  And finally a green bush aflame - encasing the inner drawing.  And candles in the bush, like you'd see on an old time Christmas tree.  And tears flowing - as if the bush were also weeping.  Roots of the tree in a river, into which the tears were falling.  And when I looked at what I'd drawn, it scared me.  Like the awe that we call the Fear of God.  And I thought:  "Oh, my god, a burning bush - like Moses!"

And a sort of poem came.  Or it should have been a poem.  I've tried and tried over the years to do this justice in poetic form.  Images in words to express my thoughts/feelings at the time:

Deep down.
Burns darkness.
Flames of Love and Joy.
Into the Burning Bush of myself.
Green and Alive.
With roots sunk deep in the river of life.  
Nourishing itself and other selves.
With weeping tears.
Lights candles for the world.

So here's the link to a photocopy of my drawing.

I knew at the time that the experience was precipitated partly by the experience of learning psychotherapy.   Learning to give up oneself - on behalf of another.   As well as the intensity  of trying to reach one particular person, who was so unreachable.  (How that process opens one up.)  Someone who over and over fogged the "window" through which I tried to reach her - just as we'd nearly cleared a way through.  A challenge on so many levels.  And it also relates to the pain being tapped into when trying to reach someone,  hurting from other relationships and inflicting it on the one who tries to help.  And the suffering inside me - awakened by that.  Suffering transformed.  Into Love.   I came to see all those things.  And more, for of course this also goes way back.  But here I write only of the immediate experience and its connection with personal growth and spirituality.  Indeed, how one's spiritual life is so often catapulted into another dimension, based on experiences of being stretched, turned inside out, challenged in "other" areas of one's life or work.

Recently I came to see all of this in a new and different way.   I was on retreat at a monastery.  And someone mentioned the image of Mary as the Burning Bush.  That was new to me.  So I asked.  In Orthodox Christianity,  it's been an image of Mary in Prayer: "The God Bearer" - on fire with the Spirit.  Like an image of deification or theosis.  What Jean Marie Howe terms "spiritual priesthood" - and interestingly some Icons show Mary in the Orans position - with hands up as in (priestly) prayer.  One of the most profound things I learned was this:  Everything she is called to, we are called to.  Yes!

Now, I'm not claiming anything special for this picture.  Because I honestly don't know.  But it's been a very personal kind of self-portrait for me.  Revealing me - to myself.  Helping me to ponder and wonder.  Perhaps even like a prophecy or a kind of call.  (Though I certainly did not think that at the time.) In retrospect it relates to a lot I've written down in this blog.   So I offer it here - as one more experience that's been a gift.
The Burning Bush itself?   I love that story!  I love the "take off your shoes for this is holy ground" part.  I love the "I have heard my people's cry" part.  I love the revelation of "the name" - the ones Jews NEVER say, saying instead "Hashem" - The Name. 

Long ago I read something by Kallistos Ware.  Well, I read it so long ago that he was then publishing under Timothy Ware.  And it went something like:  Until we experience truths (of the faith) as our truths - we have not yet grasped them.  I think that's true.