I have been “underwater” a lot in the last week. First I listened to Richard Rohr’s(Franciscan Friar) CD “How do we breathe under water?”* Last night I was reading The Artist’s magazine article, “Under the Surface”** about the San Francisco artist, Eric Zener, who paints large canvases of a solitary person in the act of diving into a pool or swimming under water with bubbles streaming from the mouth or seemingly suspended under water. Then I was doing a collage on paper with fabric and titled it “the womb.” This morning I was swimming laps at the Y and meditating on the theme of water, when I noticed how a pool is set up to guide the lap swimmer: lines on the bottom to follow, lane separators to keep you on the straight and narrow, and, if you’re doing the backstroke, flags over head near each end of the pool and a change in color in the lane dividers to signal the end of the pool.
I write about the “underwater,” a metaphor about the life of the Spirit because the language of poetry and metaphor brings alive what cannot be expressed in words. Even the great mystics of the 16th Century, Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, spoke in metaphors about the life of the Spirit, Teresa of the Interior Castle with its seven levels or of the four stages of watering the garden, John of the Cross of the “dark night of the soul.” In addition to metaphors we need markers, guidance along the way to point the right direction, reminders of dangers ahead, just like in the lap lanes.
All this is given in the life of the Spirit, a womb-like world that provides all that is needed. If we are willing, turning our wills over to God, then we are given every thing we need in this new environment where love reigns. The whole purpose of this new world is to exist in love, to express love, to love each other, to love everything, including yourself. Here is the place where we can be transformed into the persons we were meant to be. Here also is the place where God guides our every effort, from how to pray to him to what we are called to do. As every individual is unique, there is also a unique call for each of us in this minute, in this lifetime.
The Lord, through the Holy Spirit, is the transformer of our souls, the “weeder” of our gardens, the guide to everything in our lives, the Source of all inspiration and love. Our task is to cooperate in everything God proposes, to be open and willing to go along. As we do that more and more, we begin to see how much better our lives work, how the rougher edges of our personalities soften, we begin to look at others with the eyes of love and we begin to live lives full of meaning and purpose.
*Richard Rohr, “How do we breathe under water,” Center for Action and Contemplation, Albuquerque, NM, 2005
**’Under the surface,’ “The Artist’s,” June 2009, p. 25