Conduit, not Vessel

4:53 PM


art by Rachael Ibanez
Back in the 80s when I was offering music in churches, I used to sing a sweet devotional song called, “Make Me a Vessel,” written by David Baroni and D. Goins.

The chorus, below, repeats a request for transformation:

"Make me a vessel
Emptied of my selfish pride
Make me a vessel
Then pour your spirit inside"

The song's cry to be filled up resonated with my intuitive sense that I was so very empty. From an old journal, and a poem called,"Of Men and Boys," 1996:

"The depth and the weight of being near me
is like living with a bull in a barn full of feed
Hungry, hungry, I know what I need
especially when I see it, or feel it, or touch it."

My relationship to the space I refer to as the Empty has evolved, but in my twenties I experienced it as terrifying. With mental imagery that depicted a vase-like clay pot that was dry and useless, it seemed that this soulish container must have been created to be filled, right? Clearly, I felt something was missing, but I had no idea of the inherent selfishness that is conveyed in the vessel metaphor.

Fill me, Spirit of God , that I may...feel full?                                                                                           

In my mind, I have always been defined by my appetite(s).With an eating disorder, addictions, and debilitating anxiety issues, I grew up spinning the baton in the “not-enough-stuff" parade, evidenced in “Ghostlands,” an angsty but honest piece I wrote in DeSoto, TX, around 1997:

"I'm searching the Ghostlands - life without living
Touch with no sensation - food, without filling
Comb the dry sands for an honest feeling
For the cold slap of life against my skin, I'm coming in."

Aware of my own deficiencies both in giving and receiving, I spent decades just refining my definition of what I perceived to be the problem. Yep...I’m stuck, empty and depressed. The first step, as they say, is admitting you have a problem.

The truth is, I didn’t know what to do, so I kept filling the empty any way I could. Of course, some of those choices were temporarily satisfying, but destructive. Whether it was Froot Loops or eventually, Norco, there was never enough, and I am, by nature, a hoarder. I would instinctively try to bury myself in a treasure trove of Nestle’s Crunch (or whatever) to ensure never-to-be-depleted back-up supplies, but every step toward “more” led me deeper into the ghostlands.

After a frustratingly circular-yet-finally-effective decade of therapy, I jumped off of the merry-go-round, admitting myself into a pain treatment center to assess whether my perpetual pain, and daily use of prescribed pain medication, was due to a serious physical condition (which I feared more than anything), or whether the pain was more somatic, echoing psychic damage from years in a traumatic relationship. Of course, either way, I had decided: the Norco was out.

My retreat literally changed my life trajectory by magically, spiritually, shifting my focus. I came back to my beautiful home town and found a program to learn how to behave like a grownup. I also quit stuffing Lucky Charms (a metaphor) into the void. Most significantly, I engaged in a seedling meditation practice that teaches me to be where I am, and to be content. On the road, but I still had a long way to go.

Continually uncomfortable, I began to gradually become aware of, and address, my attachments and unhealthy behaviors. Months after my new game plan was in play, I wrote "Twist the Leaky Valve."

Twist the Leaky Valve
July 2013

Consider the distance in time
between longing and satisfaction

Time is tubing, or transport,
influenced by atmosphere, 
pressure, position
volume and mass, and

if we knew the right combination
to initiate release...
wouldn't we climb, run, dive, lift
and hold our attention as long as it takes?

And what price wouldn't I pay
to twist the leaky valve,
throw back my head,
and open my mouth?

It was yet another look at the Empty. In my mind's eye, the creative inspiration was that of a leaky old rusty kitchen faucet with a slow, steady drip that promises the existence of water, but is so far, frustratingly stuck. Eventually, it occurred to me that pipes with valves don’t really contain a thing, like a vessel would; pipes are more like channels. Conduit. How had this escaped my attention before?

I had been struggling with meditation and prayer, distracted by the aftermath of past relationships and damage that I had participated in, and couldn't...undo. After writing about the leaky valve, sitting on that pillow in front of my fireplace, I allowed myself to just sit with regret and sadness, profoundly and permanently aware that there would be always be scars, scrapes and scratches. A moment of acceptance...and the valve opened up a little. I sobbed, grieving my losses and pouring out stuffed emotion that had been blocked while I was still trying to "crack the code," to solve the puzzle of the past like it was a Rubric's Cube. Watered, and surprisingly at peace, I felt more free, and in the days following, I even think I was able to be more present. The channel had had widened just a bit.

I remember writing my friend Dave Brisbin, rattled and excited, as if I was the first person to see this. I told him that it seemed to me that conscious contact, or true spiritual connection, must flow very much like water. It isn’t about containing the flow; it’s about surrendering to it, letting it move through us. He was kind enough not to refer to the canon of spiritual literature that already exists on this topic.

And what price wouldn’t I pay to twist the leaky valve, throw my head back, and open my mouth? 

Well, it isn’t exactly a transaction, and now, the target is to try and stay as open as possible. That presence isn't mine to control or contain.

                                            Copyright © 2019 Laury Boone Browning

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