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St. Paul: We’re All Capable of Transformation

Each year in January we commemorate the Conversion of Saint Paul. It is a time for us to reaffirm our deepest belief in the limitless transformation of all beings, no matter how wretched we may sometimes believe ourselves or others to be.

It’s a beautiful practice to do with a group. Here is the liturgy that each person reads in our ceremony:

 

Inspired by and grateful for the example of St. Paul,

I reaffirm my deepest belief in the limitless transformation of

all beings, including myself.

I pledge to faithfully reject cynicism towards myself and others,

bearing in mind that such

transformation is possible at any moment,

and is the very purpose of our life on Earth.

I am happy to begin this pledge by affirming that:

(looking at each person in turn)

I believe in your spiritual transformation.

(group says “Amen” each time)

I believe in your spiritual transformation.

I believe in your spiritual transformation.

(etc. around the circle)

May the One Holy Force which converted Saul of Tarsus

bless and convert us all into servants of the Living God. (“Amen”)

Group sings “Amazing Grace”

I’m moved re-reading a message from Bo written in 2001 during his year of silence. Please enjoy:

Hi folks,

Just wanted to say a few words about the annual tradition we’re about to celebrate. The liturgy I printed out is self-explanatory — we are using the example of a terrible man’s conversion to remind ourselves not to be even subtly cynical about how “far” we may be from deep change.

But this year I also encourage you to tune in to another aspect of that diamond — the potential and necessity to abandon all the connections in your minds between “who did what to whom” all through your lives — to let every single person in your lives totally off the hook for all your concepts of how they may have harmed you or what they should have done that they didn’t, or what they did that they shouldn’t have, etc. To make St. Paul’s day a fresh slate, standing firmly on both your own feet on the exact spot of ground you find ourselves on, claiming full and complete acceptance of everything that has ever happened to you, everything you have ever done, every hard lesson you have needed to learn. To say “all the concepts and projections about why things happened, who owes me remorse, who is to blame, are abandoned as of this moment. I am what I am because I needed every moment of it to be exactly what it was, and I release all beings from any imagined debts I have held on to.”

If you are truly able to abandon, to disconnect, the dots between causes and effects for anything that is in the past, it will be an enormous leap into being free in the present moment. Like the human body that seems so solid turns out to be 99% water and empty space, that’s how misleading our definitions and histories and projections always are — about who we are, what our lives have been like, and why.

It’s really all just as it is because it IS. Personal history seems so solid, but it is actually just empty space. Saul was literally born again after his desert experience. We have the same opportunity every day, if we cease to hold on to the mind’s ceaseless “accounting and filing.” So you may wish to reflect on this, or you may even wish to declare a vow or intention to square all accounts and purge all files so that you may begin life anew this year and not define yourself in old ways with old needs and old patterns. At some point or other, there is no way to come into the present moment without simply doing it. And it requires discarding the concepts that perpetuate your mistaken thought, “I am me, this is who I am, this is why, this is what I need, this is what I fear…..”

You can emerge from the St. Paul’s ceremony with no more than “Here I am, and I have the ability to respond to life according to my present beliefs and practices.” The ability to respond is true respond- ability, it’s finally taking full responsibility for your spiritual journey, shaking off all the ghosts of villains past. There have been no villains and no misfortunes. There has been only your karmic slate being fulfilled, bringing you what you need for transformation.

You may want to think back to the deepest, most sincere prayer you have ever made, and then try to understand that most of the time since then, you have been fighting its fulfillment with most of your energy. I heartily recommend spending a little more time with the last chapter or two of Siddhartha, as it is such a perfectly-written description of the surrender I’m talking about.

Bo

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