Thank you for visiting Project Conversion. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy:
In the world of faith, folks often point out the obvious fact that God does not belong to a particular creed, religion, race, or school of philosophy. This sentiment establishes the divine as one which transcends divisive terms of affiliation.
But I am here to announce that a brief exploration of at least two religious traditions from both the East and West suggests otherwise.
The image above hosts artistic depictions of two of the world’s most famous and beloved divine figures: Lord Krishna and Jesus Christ, respectively. While the terminology of their carnal nature varies slightly (Lord Krishna is one of several avatars of Vishnu, while Jesus is the sole incarnation of Yahweh), both are believed by their devotees to have slipped into humanity, for some time virtually unnoticed, and altered the lives of millions.
Similar figures from other spiritual traditions notwithstanding, Lord Krishna and Jesus Christ have much to teach us about the Immersionist path as they practiced in its ideal form.
In the Gospel of John of the New Testament of the Bible, the opening verse states that:
“In the beginning was the Word (Logos), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.“–The Gospel of John 1: 1-2, 14
In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna declares:
“Whenever dharma declines and the purpose of life is forgotten, I manifest myself on earth. I am born in every age to protect the good, to destroy evil, and to reestablish dharma.“–The Bhagavad Gita, 4: 7-8
True to the Immersionist Path, we find poetic irony in the stories of Jesus and Lord Krishna. Although they both arrive as God in the flesh, with all the power of the cosmos, the humility of their earthly station dresses them in cognito among their audience.
Like water, they seeped into humanity, and nourished the lives of those around them from the inside out.
In order to understand this more easily, I’ll borrow from the wisdom of that classic Taoist treasure, the Tao Te Ching.
“The highest goodness is like water.
Water easily benefits all things without struggle.
Yet it abides in places that men hate.
Therefore it is like the Tao.“
–Tao Te Chang, chapter 8
Water is an important symbol in Taoist thought as well as in the teachings of Jesus and Lord Krishna. Jesus describes himself as “living water,” and Krishna compares himself with the ocean. Water also holds one of the twin elements within the Immersionist path: Water and Fire.
In the Immersionist path, water is both the element one must emulate, and a representation of each immersion exercise. You must become like water (the ease of flow into another life or point of view) whilst flowing into a particular deposit (the individual or ideal) of water.
The Immersionist Path may require one to explore areas within ourselves and others which prove uncomfortable, however as we see from the Taoist verse above and the example of God’s incarnations, water always seeks the lowest place.
Indeed, Jesus was born in a feeding trough, while Lord Krishna arrived in a prison cell.
Paradoxically then, the Immersionist Path is simultaneously a simple and difficult path. Water does not bind itself from entering the crevasses of life, nor does it discriminate whom its life-giving properties reach. As an Immersionist, we must be willing to go places others refuse, plumb the depths of our darkest selves, and nourish even that which seems hopeless.
Jesus and Lord Krishna arrived to show us the way, and I believe it was the Path of Immersion. In a way, the Lord and Creator of the cosmos is telling us “Come on in. The water’s fine.”
If that’s the case, if they’ve shown us the way by example, what’s stopping you from diving in today?
I did something last night with my wife that we haven’t done in a very long time…
Okay, not from that far back, but it certainly feels that way.
Last night, we had a date night. No kids, no blog, phones tucked away, and all focus on each other.
Well, each other and my pitcher of locally brewed German-style wheat beer.
One-on-one interaction with friends, significant others, a new acquaintance, and even our personal paths is the quintessential form of Immersionism. Indeed, the Path of Immersion in any relational context is the intercourse between persons, feelings, interests, and ideals. This includes date nights with your significant other, going out with your best friend, playing with your kids or pet, time in prayer/meditation, and yes, even a mature debate between two minds of opposing views.
As I journeyed through Project Conversion last year, it was this selfless dipping in and out of the context of others that transformed me and opened my eyes, heart, and mind to the philosophy I hold dear today. When we lower the defenses of our egos and swim freely within the life of another, we awaken the most glorious component of our humanity.
My date with Heather last night helped me realize five ways we can implement the Art of Immersion in any situation:
1) Objectively Recognize the Position of Another:
In other words, see others exactly as they are, not as you’d like them to be.
When my oldest daughter and I jog in the morning, I could easily demand that she keep up with my pace, but in doing so I dismantle the interaction. Instead, I match her pace and we run together while steadily building her speed and stamina. Now, we are no longer just running, but forming a relationship. When I am older and she is in her prime, perhaps she’ll do the same for me.
2) Give Selflessly without Expectations:
James Francis Byrnes once said that “Friendship without self-interest is one of the rare and beautiful things of life.” This is that economy of experience and compassion I always talk about. What would happen if we dove into the waters of another without reservations? What would happen if we set sail on the ocean of humanity without projecting sea monsters lurking beneath every wave? We must stop looking at our interactions with one another as opportunities for profit and more as opportunities for mutual enrichment.
3) Immersion does not Accept Pre-Existing Conditions:
Project Conversion required that I abandon most if not all inhibitions about religion and its various devotees. Had I entered the waters of that experience with my former prejudice, I would have never learned to swim. Although the interfaith movement is growing, inter-religious fear and suspicion remains a deadly cancer in the body of humanity. Much of this fear stems from misunderstanding and ignorance. There are those who profit from propagating such animosity, but I’m here as proof that there are far greater riches in store once we evacuate our prejudices and allow new experiences and information to challenge the status quo.
4) Rivals are the Fertile Soil of Personal Growth:
Healthy competition is one of the best aspects of a relationship. If deconstruction is the cradle of creation, then our rivals are the architects of the cradle. Nothing, not our bodies, minds, or even faith develops without tension and friction. Jesse Owens said that “Friendships born on the field of athletic strife are the real gold of competition. Awards become corroded, friends gather no dust.”
When we lend ourselves freely to that intercourse between ourselves and others, we invariably come away altered. In this economy, each party obtains a piece of the other. We plant seeds and are in turn fertilized with new ideas, new goals, new perspectives, and growth becomes imminent. The ashes of experience is the fertile soil of growth.
5) Sail Uncharted Territory:
John A. Shedd said that “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” In yesterday’s post I talked about how cost is the threshold to the Path of Immersion. What lies beyond my comfort zone? What lies beyond my prejudices, the status quo, beneath the surface of someone’s life? We will not grow, humanity will fall, if we lack the courage to seek one another out in a selfless spirit of love and compassion. But that journey begins where our fears and inhibitions end.
In many cases, sailing these unknown waters means trusting others with your secrets, sins, and fears. If a pool of water has no outlet, the water becomes stagnant, however once we break down those walls, the water flows freely and ushers in life. This means allowing others to immerse themselves in your life as well. Are you ready to cross the line?
How might these points help with your interactions with others? Are there walls and boundaries in your life that need to come down?
Today marks my official declaration of fidelity and discipleship to the Path of Immersion. Along with that declaration, I also invite you to join me in whatever capacity feels the most suitable. The Path of Immersion is not one which demands conversion, evangelism, worship, or exclusivity. Along this path, I am no master, for there are no masters, clergy, or established hierarchies in this discipline, only students. I do however, welcome companions.
Project Conversion was the vehicle by which I arrived at the Path of Immersion, so let’s briefly explore the four steps along that journey, culminating in the present. This path pervades many traditions and can apply to your personal journey as well.
Presentation of Change:
Every good story involves what Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey calls the “Call to Action.” This is the impetus which fuels the abandonment of one’s normative experience and segues them onto a path of transformation. We all receive this call, this presentation of change, at least once in our lives, but not everyone answers. This presentation of change might represent anything, from adopting a healthier lifestyle, to launching a social justice movement, or even the precipice of conversion.
My personal presentation of change came when I realized I could no long hate others simply for harboring religious faith.
Accepting the Cost:
The reason we often refuse the call is simple: Cost.
All change, as is represented in one of my favorite symbols, the phoenix, requires the death or reduction of something in order to manifest another. The phoenix bursts into flames, reducing itself to ashes, only to be reborn. In the Path of Immersion (which involves any degree of change), one must accept the cost of that experience, the transfer of energy toward something new.
This cost might include the suspension of prejudice, inflated ego, a span of time, the risk of losing family, friends, or even one’s life. Nothing in this world is free. Destruction then, becomes the cradle of creation.
The cost of Project Conversion included a year of my life, the patience and endurance of my family, and my former preconceived notions about people of faith.
Taking the Plunge: Immersion:
The Path of Immersion is stepping off the pier of our comfort zone into unknown waters without reservations, and accepting whatever outcome awaits once we break the water’s surface and inhale as a new creature for the first time.
When we plumb the depths of another life or perspective, we invariably swim deeper within ourselves. Humanity then, for the Immersionist, becomes a network–a map–guiding us toward glorious treasures used in the commerce of experience and compassion.
Project Conversion involved completely immersing myself into the lives and perspectives of people I once loathed.
Neo Genesis: A New Beginning:
The waters of transformation are the cocoon in which metamorphosis occurs. That said, just as the butterfly must break free, so must the Immersionist crest those waters and take her first breath as a new creature. This is why the Buddha instructs us to leave behind the raft once we reach the other side of the river. Although the experience of transformation is important, it can become an anchor to our new selves. The Path of the Immersionist then, is a constant cycle of growth and shedding, creation and deconstruction, the phoenix burning and raising anew from the fertile ashes of experience.
Therefore an Immersionist knows that just as there are ever deeper seas to explore, a master in this Path is a student humbled, and therefore perfected.
Above all, the Path of Immersion is a discipline of transformation. Indeed, no science is more subversive, humbling, or liberating as the study of one’s self. The Immersionist goes spelunking into the depths of humanity and the variety of ideals, and with each return gains a larger perspective and a greater appreciation for nuance.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief introduction on the major points of the Path of Immersion. Have you received a “presentation to change”? How do you think you can apply these techniques in your life, faith, or philosophy?