HOPEFUL THINKING: Check Your Bellybutton
There’s actually a word for it. Omphaloskepsis. Omm-fallows-kep’-sis. It is the spiritual practice of navel-gazing. Not necessarily a visual inspection of your lint trap, but a breathing through and awareness of the navel area of our bodies as a meditational practice.
Today, the term navel-gazing has come to mean someone who is selfish and self-absorbed or in a constant state of rumination and worry. But that definition is biased. It’s a criticism of the self-aware spiritual practice. It’s a form of ridicule by faith systems who would rather you did not look within to find your higher power.
Who can blame them, really? At the risk of being over-blunt, even unintentionally disrespectful, organized religion is a business with a product just like any other. I say that without criticism, just an objective recognition of the facts. And like any other business, organized religion has and can operate with or without integrity or true value. When a business provides true value, human enrichment, community awareness and fellowship, that’s where I will do my business. I can get that at my local hardware store, too.
So it’s not at all surprising that self-contemplation would get a spiritual smack-down by most organized religions. What happens to the middleman if you can get the product directly? The middleman prefers to control the market and the message. And just like my local hardware store I can either be fed a line or purchase one. But churches don’t give themselves enough credit. Through their criticism of the multiple paths up the mountain, they are forgetting the teachings. They are spending their energy on protecting the past when there’s a beautiful future ahead of us. Yes, for churches too. We just need to shift our product’s principle focus from the teacher to the teachings.
When we participate in a spiritual community we expect certain things. We expect to be accepted into the flock. We expect to enjoy a sense of safety and protection. We expect value for our time and talents. We expect inspiration and satisfaction in the act of communing with God through a platform managed and maintained by an organization designed for the purpose. Namely, a church, or its equivalent.
The irony is that unless integrity is present, self-contemplation is anathema to churches. They want no part of it.
Parishioners have been made to feel uncomfortable about navel-gazing as if it were a competitor. But in the process they have literally forced you to be in competition with yourself. They would do better to facilitate connection freely rather than stand as a tollgate operator. What is the purpose of contemplation? The origin of the word contemplate means to mark out space for observation. But in a world with so much to observe, what should get our attention when it’s time to bring it all in? Your navel is more than the former location of your umbilical cord. It is the literal center of you. And just behind it is the second chakra, the orange. It is considered the intersection of your temporary biology and your permanent non-physical self. Think about that for a moment.
You’ve just considered your navel.
What happens when we do that? Into what are we tapping about which we know nothing? We only have a massive amount of religious speculation, really. Nothing fully provable. Is there purpose in that, too? Hopefully. Perhaps, there’s a point to needing to discover things on your own. The development of discernment. Maybe there is a reason for God to have given us rules too numerous to follow them all. Just maybe there is a purpose to all the contradictions in scripture. We have to ultimately decide for ourselves. We have to test it against that part of us which already knows the direction to turn. We have to test the world for resonance with our inner truth. But we must first know it. Or at least trust it enough to believe that the bell is ringing even if we can’t yet hear it. Listen for it anyway. The act of listening is the entire point. Listening to the intersection is omphaloskepsis. Let no middleman try to sell you to you. There is no aisle for that at the True Value.
Spend time merely thinking about what it means to be a spiritual being having a human experience. Where is the intersection between the two? The center, always.
Wil Darcangelo, M.Div, is the Spiritual Coordinator at First Parish UU Church of Fitchburg, where he speaks on 1st and 3rd Sundays, and the founding director of the Tribe Mentorship Project. Email wildarcangelo@ gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @wildarcangelo. His blog, Hopeful Thinking, can be found at www.hopefulthinkingworld.blogspot.com