The spiritual life does not remove us from the world but leads us deeper into it. – Henri J. M. Nouwen
I admittedly struggle in my life’s work as a global educator. The systemic issues of poverty, suffering and inhumane labor practices at times shackle my heart and mind with an unbending futility.
I must constantly move into some form of mental reconciliation, referring to Jesus’ instruction to be in the world but not of it. None of us see, hear or experience the entirety of infinite intelligence at play, what some would call our infinite karmic blueprint. We only see what’s in front of us through our limited physical vision. I falter when responding from "in the world" perspective without partnering with what Ram Dass termed "keeping your heart open in hell". Faith makes the suffering bearable; action helps the sufferer.
The cultivation of a compassionate heart requires it to be both broken and operational. It’s like the monk who is...
I question my self-subscribed theology often. I feel that's healthy. I continue to take into account the evolution of consciousness through us as a species and see how language, nuance, bias, and my leanings towards Process Theology still have incalculable layers. I will never comprehend all wisdom lessons in a one-dimensional body. I want to be forever teachable, and the best I can do is surrender my being, my ego to something I equate as Divine energy. I have experienced a trance state of bliss through the teachings of Hinduism, had my worldview altered through Shamanism and built a career on the study of Rosicrucian/New Thought principles. And with all the above, I still remain loyal to a power filled Truth (I'll call it that) that once remembered and practiced, course corrects me from fear and anxiety to deep rooted exhales of assurance.
All of us are continuously called to remember this Truth through intuition, through clarity found in treasured pockets of quiet....
Ram Dass wrote about visiting death row inmates in San Quentin. He recalled those visits to be equal to visiting the holiest of monasteries. As they meditated together, he described light pouring out of their hearts and how the whole experience was immeasurably profound. Those on death row, he said, “had been pushed into a situation that cut through their melodramas”. It was as if they had discovered the truest form of freedom. When moving to the cell blocks of those given life sentencing, the result, he said, “was nowhere near the same”. These prisoners showed cynicism and doubt, offering putdowns and sarcasm.
He wondered, in the most bizarre paradox of examination, if those in death row would lose that inner freedom if transferred to the life sentence cellblock.
I’m always moved and fascinated by this story for I see my own behavior in those of the prisoners. I often examine the relationship between surrendering and freedom. For me, it seems...
Years ago a prominent spiritual leader shared the story of her first invitation to a high profile political fundraiser. She felt the invitation came due to her strong opened criticism of certain elected figureheads. The attendees would be renowned leaders, celebrities and revered advocates. She invested a great deal of time and money in styling herself for the occasion. Nervous, she roamed the lavish rooms of the host’s mansion where many people she had long admired stood near her. Almost immediately, she described becoming weak-kneed as the most beautiful man she had ever seen beamed at her from across the room. He was immaculately dressed in a tuxedo and seated on the arm of a sofa. She would look away only to look back and be greeted by his intensified smile.
Breathing deeply, she walked towards him.
He immediately greeted her by name then gently said, “Those you condemn and label as warmongers are no different than you. When you speak against them without first...
Over promise - under deliver.
I’ve heard it used to describe the scene of so many of our trust crimes. I’ve used it myself regarding maintenance workers, organizations, health care professionals and the esteemed spiritual teacher or three.
But this week in meditation, I heard it differently.
Over promise – under listen.
When I reflect back on the series of disappointments I’ve felt after an over promise, I realize that much of these situations could have been experienced differently, even avoided altogether, if I had tuned in and obliged my own innate intuition. I would have never made the agreement to begin with had I heeded the uncomfortableness when beginning the transaction. If I had acknowledged the red flag waving due to the way they spoke, if I had noticed my own repeated patterns of control, avoidance, or convenience surfacing, then I could have allowed the listening to lead me to transcending an aged pattern. I would have honored the signal reminding...
In high school English class, we read a short story called The Lottery written by Shirley Jackson. It was first published in The New Yorker in 1948 and is still considered one of the most provoking short stories in American literature. Much of its metaphor was lost on my 1970’s youth but I do remember a sense of foreboding and helplessness when our teacher added a viewing of one of its many film adaptations to our class time.
Its major theme is scapegoating – the action of mob psychology and how people will abandon reason and embrace cruelty if they are a part of a larger group behaving in the same manner. According to Wikipedia, “The story describes a fictional small town in contemporary America which observes an annual ritual known as "the lottery". The purpose of the lottery is to choose a human sacrificial victim to be stoned to death to ensure the community's continued well-being.” In the story, towns people draw slips of paper from a box once a year and...
Ritual has been a part of civilization since the beginning of our primitive existence. What brings it relevance and meaning in our modern world experience is the depth of intention we bring to the activity. This week, as we approach the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, we have the opportunity to engage in such a ritual recognizing the astronomical phenomenon of the shortest day and the longest night. So powerfully embedded is the Winter Solstice in past civilizations that monuments such as Stonehenge in England, Chichen Itza in Mexico and The Temple of Karnak in Egypt were erected to bring sacred depth to their respective cultures beliefs around its occurrence.
These monuments reflect humankind's longing to connect with something powerful in order to be gifted with guidance, in order to be received favorably.
Today, ritual can be less about seeking favor from something external and more about connecting to that guidance within our own selves. Regardless of your...
It’s noisy out there. Divisive and fearful opinions daily sound off like sirens which layer us with worry and a smothering forgetfulness that seems to blanket our innate genius. When we do nothing to filter the noise, then we, as a species, often try and numb it away.
Substance abuse, work addiction and complete avoidance of personal feelings do nothing in transcending stale narratives that only speak of hopelessness and victimization to external powers. But note that the noise that claims how things are worse than they have ever been in human history is untrue. The above sentences describing modern-day challenges are equally applicable to every past era as they are to the present.
And in spite of the noise, I believe we are actually evolving.
As we continue championing other’s authenticity as well as our own, we experience more and more minorities, women, and disenfranchised turning the volume up through civil engagement and thunderous demands for greater...
I was recently reminded of a powerful distinction – the difference between change and transformation. With change, I can make a different choice, but, I can always revert back to old behavior. I can change locations yet return to where I began. I can change my mind about a person, but, I can also revert back to thinking about them as I had before.
Change allows for reversals. Transformation does not.
A butterfly cannot reverse the metamorphosis and shove itself back into the casing of the caterpillar. An oak cannot be reduced back into the acorn. Each are transformed into an entirely different way of being.
It’s easy to laud this analogy when discussing these physical form examples but it is a bit more rigorous when it comes to defining transformation in consciousness. Who among us hasn’t had dozens of epiphanies, been handheld to the banks of metamorphosis only to pull a Lot’s wife backwards glance and revert back to what’s familiar?
Peace is felt in an atmosphere of surrender.
An atmosphere of surrender is available through letting go of the conventional.
Letting go the conventional requires the understanding that there are far more options available to consider than what you've seen modeled by others.
The risk of being labeled foolish will actually nurture peace in your heart.
Playing it safe will not.
I realize that to be in integrity with the demands of transformation within myself, I must risk looking foolish as well as risk other’s judgments and the accompanying feelings of abandonment. Although these human responses can be expected, it is never easy to witness or experience.
My one blazing goal as a teacher and coach is to bridge you from a certain level of thinking to another – to open you up – to show you through example and ability how these spiritual principles that we espouse are modeled and manifested through practice. It is nurturing free from coddling. My nurturing...