This week’s episode of hide & seek rambles all over the map, as I attempt to hold myself accountable to hiding less and sharing more of my seeking (and hiding). But of course, as I mentioned last week, podcasting remains an odd choice for me — because not only don’t I listen to podcasts, but I’m also not really clear what the whole podcast deal is all about. . .
A few weeks ago, Saturday Night Live spoofed the Barack Obama — Bruce Springsteen podcast and, in the way that SNL does at its best, spoke the obvious in a way that makes us laugh. Or at least it made me laugh.
When the Barack Obama character was asked what made his podcast interesting, he said: It’s real, like listening to a couple of guys talking.
And Michael Che said, Uh, isn’t that what a podcast is? A couple of guys talking?
Yeah. A podcast is people — or a person in my case — talking. And other people listening (at least theoretically) to people, or a person, talking.
The interesting question is why? Why have podcasts become so popular? And perhaps even more relevant, why do all of us think we have something to say AND feel the need to say it into a microphone and then post it out into the universe in the hope that other people will listen?
Well, maybe it’s because we’re not encouraged to speak about the things that really interest or matter to us in school or in our jobs. Or maybe it’s because we’re scared to speak about the things that really interest or matter to the people we’re closest to — families, friends, partners. Either way, we all have things that really matter, that we love or trouble us, that we have learned to hide. And yet, we are all seeking answers about those things, or ways to incorporate them more into our lives. And to do that, we need to share those things with others.
And that’s what this podcast is all about hiding and seeking and sharing.
The other day I went on a hike with some new friends. Two couples. Listening to them talk ahead of me on the trail, I learned that they all attend the same church . So I took a risk and asked them a question about the Bible as it relates to a character in a book I’m finishing up. That led to a really interesting conversation, in which I told them that the number of churchgoers — or people who identify with any kind of religion — has dropped below 50% for the first time in American history. All of them then shared some of their own history — one grew up as a minister’s daughter, two grew up Southern Baptist and left and one grew up outside of traditional religion — and also some of their favorite books reconciling the challenging stuff around religion and faith and love. To be able to have that conversation outside of an organization that invites those kinds of conversations felt so liberating to me. I love having spiritual conversations with anyone, but I usually never open my mouth. I live inside a spiritual closet.
But after last week’s podcast, I risked coming out of hiding. You see, last week, I promised to hold myself accountable to whoever is listening to this podcast in sharing my attempts to find balance between my instinct to hide and my constant desire to seek.
That’s why I had to try talking about my spiritual practice to these new friends. I don’t want to join their church, but I do want to be able to find the common ground and hear them even as I hope I can be heard. And it happened. It felt so liberating!!! All because of this podcast.
You know, many of the people to whom I am closest, with whom I enjoy talking the most or spending the most time, identify as atheist, agnostic, church haters (having been so damaged by church damnation) or possibly as spiritual but not religious.
I myself am not a fan of organized religion — at all.
As a general rule, I believe that organized religion has tried to codify individual spiritual practice into something that benefits the the people in power — and it, like politics, becomes less and less about the people and more and more about power and privilege and prestige and personality. And those of us who don’t fit in or try to speak out are tarred and feathered or cursed to damnation or excommunicated. And then we learn to hate everything associated with religion, including the original message. Which in the case of many spiritual traditions is the exact opposite of the message of the churches purporting to spread the word of those traditions. Love become hate. Unity becomes division. Joy becomes fear.
So in light of that, I’ve been asking myself: How do I talk about the spiritual ideas and practices that matter most to me with people predisposed to shut their ears and minds to those things?
Well, that’s the thing. Talking is never going to do the trick. Because that’s what preachers and politicians do. They talk and talk and talk — and unless you agree with what they say — you are going to become at best an outsider and at worst injured by their talk. So talking is pretty much the worst thing I can do. And yet, here I am, talking to you through this podcast.
But remember, this is podcast about heart-centered practice. Or at least a podcast about the paradox of my trying to become a more honest heart-centered practitioner by living Love instead of hiding. So it’s a podcast about the heart-centered practice of paradox. A paradoxical heart-centered practice podcast. A practice of heart-centered paradox in a podcast.
Who knows? Certainly not me.
But what I do know is that talking isn’t going to cut it.
My friend and colleague Peter Fuller and I lead cultural tours. And one of my favorite tour memories took place in Norwich, England. On the night we arrived, we did a ghost tour. Now, I’ll be honest. I thought it was going to be incredibly hokey. And also, since it was November, incredibly cold. It turned out to be one of the most fun and memorable nights I’ve ever had. The guy who led the walk was a fantastic storyteller — and he took us all over beautiful and historic Norwich in the dark, told us true ghost stories that also helped us learn about the plague and plague pits and the history of Norwich and of its citizens and government and church. Plus it was gorgeous seeing all this incredible architecture in the dark.
The next morning I got up early and took a long walk around the town by myself and saw all the same things in the daylight and felt like I’d had an experience not everyone gets. It was fantastic. Then we met up with our group and took them to a place I’d been eager to see. The anchorage of a woman named Julian of Norwich.
She lived in the East of England in the mid-1300s, during a time when women had precious little power or influence and when people were dropping like flies from the plague — specifically the first and second waves of the Black Death, which killed up to 50% of the population. This led to something called the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381, which ended with suppression of the rebels by King Richard II. In short, tumultuous times.
She underwent a mystical experience and ended up being healed after almost dying. She not only wrote the one of most famous books ever by a mystic, but she ended up living in a tiny cell attached to a church where she prayed and meditated as well as talked with people about their problems.
When she was dying and having the visions that healed her, she got a very clear message: “All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
Why? Because we are always the loved of Love. That’s what her message was — and sharing that message after coming back from the dead was something other people needed, wanted to hear.
So I took my horror friends to visit the cell where she lived. Fifteen of us crammed into this tiny anchorage, and I shared how the visions she received were as gruesome and graphic and bloody as any of the horror films my traveling companions love. Which made sense in an era where people were dying right left and center from the plague, some of them even — as we’d learned the night before in our ghost walk — buried alive in plague pits. We also talked about her being a woman in an era where women had no voice and no power. We talked about the close link between what some people call miracles and what others call the paranormal or supernatural. And we talked about how her coming back from sure death to deliver a message of Love changed her community and how she sat in this little space and shared this message of living Love to people who stood outside her little cell to hear it.
After I shared that, everyone in that room shared how important the message of Love was, but how they’d gotten that message of Love WAY more from the horror community than from their churches or their schools or their communities growing up. They honestly shared their damage from religious organizations and other groups that are supposed to be loving. And we all ended up agreeing that something had gone very wrong if the organizations that are supposed to make us feel loved and safe don’t and a community of people who like watching scary things feel like our family and our community and the people who live love the most.
That’s certainly what I have learned from the horror community. I have learned acceptance and kindness and love from this group way more than I have from any church people.
The introduction to my book, Living Love, is called Where is Love?. I’ll share some of it next week. Meeting and becoming friends with horror fans gave my one of my first real human answers to that question — Where is Love? I have always believed in the Higher Power of Love. But I have experienced and felt the manifestation of that Love much more from my horror friends than I have from most religious folks. And because my horror friends listen to me just with such open hearts, they’ve taught me how to listen to them, with none of us trying to be more right than each other.
THAT is living Love. I’m not right. They’re not right. We’re all just people living Love. They love horror, I love spiritual practice. And their spiritual practice of creating community has helped me feel loved just as I hope my spiritual practice of really listening to why they love horror, and what it means to them, and how it has shaped who they are, helps them feel heard.
That’s all living Love is: Showing up and sharing from our hearts instead of promulgating our own power-based agendas from our judgmental heads.
The invocation of my book is a quote:
“I think when we wake up in the morning, we can choose between fear and love. Every morning. And every morning, if you choose one, that doesn’t define you until the end. . .The way you end your story is important. It’s important that we choose love over fear, because love is the answer.”
Who wrote that quote? The Dalai Lama. Jesus Christ. Buddha.
Nope. Guillermo de Toro, the Oscar-winning director of The Shape of Water. A Mexican director in a country that often treats Mexican immigrants in monstrous ways. A man who identifies as a monster kid. Someone who has always felt like an outsider. . .
About five years ago, I was given an award that has meant more to me than any award I have ever won: Monster Kid of the Year awarded by horror fans from around the world. That award meant so much to be because I don’t even like horror movies, and yet horror movie fans understood that I love them and their love of the genre they love and that we are united in that love and the love — theirs and mind — of the man called the King of Horror. My dad.
That’s how Love works. It brings people together.
In the 1960s, Jesus freaks recognized that Jesus specifically didn’t go seeking out religious holy people. No. He understood that those people felt protected by their religion and most of them had lost their hearts. No. Jesus spoke to the freaks and the outsiders and the supposed sinners and taught them they were and always will be loved.
That was his whole message. And now, ironically, Jesus is used to divide people by religious folk who make him out to be someone he never was. . .
We’re all so divided lately — and the only way we can come together is to find the common ground in Love. In living Love toward one another. That’s why my book is about, that’s what I’m trying to do, that’s what horror fans teach me every day, and that’s what this podcast is about. Coming out of hiding and trying to love myself and everyone I meet a little more. That’s my heart-centered practice of living Love.
So thanks for listening to this week’s podcast. You can find my latest book here: Living Love: 12 Heart-Centered Practices to Transform Your Life or in your local bookstore or online with the digital behemoth of your choice.
I also post some short videos on Facebook and Instagram each week about this journey of coming out of hiding. You can find me on social media as @imvictoriaprice.
Stay tuned for next week’s episode, as I share my journey of hiding and seeking.
And thanks for listening to hide & seek!