I recently watched an interview between Susan Piver and Jonathan Fields.
As both practice shambhala Buddhism, a small part of the conversation was focused on the idea of enlightenment. They clearly had very different ideas about what it meant. For Jonathan, it was transcending the human condition, something beyond ourselves. But for Susan, it was precisely being fully human; being fully present to the experience.
I am sure the nature of enlightenment is probably one of the burning questions in Buddhism. I confess in as much as it is appropriate to use Buddhist terms for my own spiritual practice, I would tend to follow Susan’s line of thinking. With the celebration of Christmas, I find myself wondering whether this does not shed some light on the meaning of the incarnation.
In Christianity we have a similar question – is the meaning of our faith to gain entry into heaven (the transcendent model), or is it that our faith should transform our daily reality. Of course, to present it is as a dichotomy is entirely false. Both must be true. But I think if we focus too much on trying to gain entry into heaven, we miss the point entirely.
To me, the point of the incarnation (at least the point I am focusing on right now) is to show us that profound encounter with God is possible for us in our ordinary human experience. In the person of Jesus we find modelled a deep, dynamic relationship with God. It is the daily practice of living out of that relationship which facilitates personal transformation and, ultimately, redemption.
It is through immersion into our daily reality, embracing the joys and sorrows, the wounding and the giftedness, that we find our hope. This year, that is the invitation to me: To focus on today, to be authentic to my experience of the day – some will be better than others, and to pay attention to myself and to those whom I encounter.
What does the celebration of the incarnation mean to you this year? And what is the invitation you find stirring in the depths of your being?