I blame Buddha. I blame meditating. All this encouraging to open up has made me too… open. Vulnerable. It has made me anxious. Buddhism (in my readings) is about opening up. Not having any place to hide. Not pretending that what is happening is not happening. Actually, like, living your life as you go. It sounds reasonable.
Christianity is much more self-protective. Much gentler. Because you have a God who loves you, you can open up. Although I’m a practicing Christian, sometimes I prefer the harsh treatment of Buddhism, because I’m rather masochistic.
Am I really thrown to the winds, naked as the day I was born? Do I really have to face my mortality, and the scary thoughts that feed my recent panic attacks? No logic, no emotions, no fakery, avoidance…. Maybe, after many years of meditation. Right now I need something to wear, at least right now. At least through the holidays.
Our reading last week at church mentioned the “armor of light.” (Romans, it was.) I had heard this talk about armor in the Bible before. But suddenly I was paying attention. What is available in the “Christian armor” department? I started pulling quotes.
Truth, as a belt. Actually, to “gird your loins” with, which just sounds dirty. In various eastern traditions, the “loins,” the lower abdomen, is your center, your soul. Your generative organs, the parts of you that could make another human, and the place where you sit and are grounded. If your heart is the center of your emotions, and the head the center of your thoughts, then this lower place is your soul.
To “gird” something is to enclose it, and to prepare for action, and to put power and strength into (thank you, dictionary.com). So with the truth, you wrap up your soul (like so it won’t fall out or get broken), get it ready to go, power it up. That sounds good. The truth might actually have some power. I’m not just shedding falsehood– I’m wearing truth.
Another piece of available armor: a breastplate (boobs! dirty again!), righteousness and faith and love, depending on where you look. So over your emotions, your heart, your crazy way of freaking out and hurting. This is where my panic is. My head will get into the act, and my body does its part, but mostly my suffering is in the breastplate area. The concept of “righteousness” is a kettle of fish I’m not about to start spearing here. Very complicated. I’m unclear about “faith,” too. If I had faith, I wouldn’t be freaking out. Love works better. Love you can put over your heart, for sure, and smother it quiet.
The problem with the other armor, self-protectiveness and telling yourself stories and avoidance, is that it isolates you from other people. It even separates you from your real self. I liked the phrase “armor of light” because it is protective without separating. Like a clear plastic air bag. People can see you. You can touch them. But you’re not actually, totally, scarily naked. There’s no covering, but a little padding. As encouragement, just before he gets into the “armor of light,” Paul writes, “Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.” I do believe naked, although it feels like death, is actually closer to salvation.