Speaking of the Importance of Putting the Via Positiva First!

We are talking about the Four Paths and about how we begin our spiritual lives—and renew them—with the Via Positiva–which is so often dismissed or forgotten both in religious discourse and in activist movements.  NOT in this article however!  Here Helena Andrews-Dyer, who tells us she “needed to read an article about joy—and this is it” celebrates  black mothers and the Via Positiva with gusto! 

“I am a 40 year old mother-to-be and I am embracing not only this life growing inside of me, but the beauty I finally found within. Embracing my flaws with grace!” Self-portrait by Shelly Shell on Unsplash

This article is medicine for all those who are tempted to despair in our challenging times.  It is elixir.  It is saying so much.  It recalls the Original Blessing that our lives are, that a forthcoming New Life is.  Motherhood celebrated.  Life celebrated.  No denial of the VN is involved–just a reminder of our origins which are in Joy and which we need to remember if we are to be warriors fighting the good fight of human and planetary survival and the rest.  This is mature and advanced spirituality. 

I am reminded of two other encounters in my life.

“Mother’s Love” Photo by Andrae Ricketts on Unsplash

Recall that in Daily Meditations August 20 and 28 we listened to both Hildgard of Bingen and Rabbi Heschel teach how important remembering the Via Positiva is in a time of darkness and struggle.  Here a contemporary mystic and prophet, Helena Andrews-Dyer, teaches the same with great verve, vitality and application to everyday life as black mothers experience it.

Lorna Byrne is a remarkable Irish peasant woman, now in her sixties, a mother and grandmother, illiterate, who has been experiencing angels from her earliest memory at two years old.  It was my privilege to interview her at Grace Cathedral in May, 2014, and when I asked her about evil and angels she said she does not like to talk about that because evil always grabs the headlines anyway.  “It gets too much press and visibility at it is,”  she declared.   

“Dance of soul” Photo by Ahmad Odeh, Unsplash

Rev J. Alfred Smith Sr., pastor of Oakland’s Allen Temple Baptist Church, once lectured at my master’s program and began his lecture by holding up my book, Original Blessing, and declaring: “My people need this book more than they need jobs!  Because what was taken away from us by slavery was our dignity.”  What Helena Andrews-Dyer shares here is all about dignity in action–and original blessing too!

I am also reminded, on reading this wonderful article, of the words of Alice Walker: “Tough times require Fierce dancing.”  Thus grows the Via Creativa from the Via Positiva and Via Negativa.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Confessions: The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest, 160f.

Banner Image: “Dancing” Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

For Deeper Contemplation

Read this wonderful article:

This Isn’t Another Horror Story about Black Motherhood.

—be prepared for drinking in the marvelous pictures as well!  Do you agree that this is the Via Positiva in action?  And it has nothing to do with denying that the Via Negativa struggles of life are also with us.

Recommended Reading

Matthew Fox’s stirring autobiography, Confessions, reveals his personal, intellectual, and spiritual journey from altar boy, to Dominican priest, to his eventual break with the Vatican. Five new chapters in this revised and updated edition bring added perspective in light of the author’s continued journey, and his reflections on the current changes taking place in church, society and the environment.

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4 thoughts on “Speaking of the Importance of Putting the Via Positiva First!”

  1. Avatar

    Inspired by these Daily Meditations and Original Blessing, i wrote and recorded “A Place to Start” to capture a sense of living in a world with many wounds but also to live from a place of deeper ground where wonder and joy are felt and shared. If I may share it here as an offering of gratitude A Place To Start by Brent Thomas Ladd https://soundcloud.com/btladd/a-place-to-start on #SoundCloud

    1. Gail Ransom

      Dear Brent,
      Thank you for sharing your new song, “A Place to Begin”. It celebrates the Via Negativa, the questioning, the mystery in the dark, with a positive attitude. It can take quite a bit of work to get there, still you are making it your place to start. I like this circular effect. Please write a song about any Creativa answers that come to you while you are in the Negativa.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditations Team

  2. Avatar

    This day’s meditation is a real gift. I live in the DC area and never heard about the gatherings of these beautiful black Mom’s. Their stories are so full of joy, even though the risks are in their minds – and I love seeing such healthy children. Thank you Matthew for your deep wisdom in sharing your insights.

    1. Gail Ransom

      Dear Patty,
      Thank you for responding to this meditation on how fiercely we can dance the Via Positiva. Helena Andrews-Dyer has shown how to ignite each other’s joy, celebrate our dignity, and “dance fiercely during tough times.” (Alice Walker). I admire how these women stepped up and created a powerful event about that concerned them and achieved more than they expected. These mothers have given birth in more ways than one!
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditations Team

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