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followed by the Multiplex Archives

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This section, followed by the Multiplex Archives, keeps you updated on the latest videos, audios and media articles concerning Interspirituality.

The subsequent Archives house many of the other Articles linked throughout the Multiplex

all rights are reserved by the authors and/or publishers and we thank them for their permission to link or reprint

 

ARCHIVE OF PHOTOS

from The Dawn of Interspirituality Conference 2013

http://www.satyana.org/conf-gallery.html

 

*****

Live Videos & Audios

at www.thecominginterspiritualage.com/media

 

updated 2014:

New Video Links

 

Interview on Barnet Bain & Freeman Michaels' very popular program Cutting Edge Consciousness
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLzqJKtxX-g


Interview with Dr. Michael Wayne on Quantum Revolution’s The Leading Edge

http://www.quantumrevolution.net/interviews-with-the-leading-edge/interviews-with-the-leading-edge-kurt-johnson-ph-d-co-author-the-coming-interspiritual-age/

 

 New Discussions on YouTube:

  

Videos on Interspirituality at the YouTube Interspirituality Channel:

Doug King, Ken Kitatani, Adam Bucko, Diane Berke, Denise Tangney, Rory McEntee, Michael Holleran, Kate Sheehan Roach, Mike Morrell:

http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCv1rOchwi6HWJm9kgNPkYeg

  ___________________

By or wih Kurt Johnson

 

Dr. Kurt Johnson and Doug King (Presence International) on Interspirituality in the Global Context

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpeaYF9WRAc

 

Dr. Kurt Johnson and Doug King (Presence International) on what Interspirituality is

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81b75TPtpnw

  

Dr. Kurt Johnson and Doug King (Presence International) on the Background of Interspirituality

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVm2ExcdiTM

 

Dr. Kurt Johnson speaking about The Coming Interspiritual Age

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ifa-nJJgYCk

 

Dr. Kurt Johnson and Doug King (Presence International) on The Coming Interspiritual Age

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0V7PFYI9qTE

  

Dr. Kurt Johnson speaking on Religions Going Beyond Form

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jF0dKOcddlQ

  

Dr. Kurt Johnson speaking on “What is Interspirituality?”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxiJhHWu7hE

  

New AUDIO Links

  

Dr. Kurt Johnson and David Robert Ord on NEW CONSCIOUSNESS REVIEW

http://www.ncreview.com/interviews/the-coming-interspiritual-age-with-kurt-johnson-and-david-ord

  

Dr. Kurt Johnson and David Robert Ord on RADIO AMERIKA

http://archives2013.gcnlive.com/Archives2013/sep13/AmerikaNow/0914131.mp3

  

Dr. Kurt Johnson and David Robert Ord on UNITY RADIO

http://www.unity.fm/program/Soulstream

  

New Articles by Johnson and Ord

 

SHIFT NETWORK “CATALYST

 Kurt Johnson and David Robert Ord

“Global Oneness and Interspirituality”

http://theshiftnetwork.com/blog/2013-10-19/global-oneness-and-interspirituality?inf_contact_key=fa0661d96449c0a0ed5129cff49d3a6835f1e0dabe16aa68c2c67f7f5dd7fb49

  

THE INTERFAITH OBSERVER

 Kurt Johnson, Adam Bucko and Robert Toth

“Merton, Griffiths, and Teasdale:  Pioneers in Hindu-Christian Interspirituality”
http://theinterfaithobserver.org/journal-articles/2013/9/15/pioneers-in-hindu-christian-interspirituality.html

 

Kurt Johnson and Diane Berke

“A Different Approach to Higher Religious Education:  “Interfaith Seminaries” Chart New Territory
http://theinterfaithobserver.org/journal-articles/2012/9/15/interfaith-seminaries-chart-new-territory.html

  

CONTEMPLATIVE JOURNAL

 Kurt Johnson and David Robert Ord

“Hope for Humanity:  The Deep Undercurrents Propelling our Interfaith and Interspiritual Movements”

http://contemplativejournal.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=66

 

Kurt Johnson and David Robert Ord et al.

The Coming Interspiritual Age Ezine:  Archive Edition

http://www.contemplativejournal.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=71:the-coming-interspiritual-age&Itemid=961

  

NAMASTE INSIGHTS

 Kurt Johnson and David Robert Ord

“Introduction” to The Coming Interspiritual Age Edition of Namaste Insights

http://tinyurl.com/brg5amk

 Kurt Johnson and David Robert Ord

“Global Oneness and Interspirituality”

http://issuu.com/yorkmin/docs/holiday_ezine_2013/1?e=0/5568903

  

KOSMOS JOURNAL

 Kurt Johnson and David Robert Ord

“A Spirituality for the 21st Century:  Inevitabilities and Possibilities”

Winter Issue 2012 http://www.kosmosjournal.org/kjo2/toc/f2012-toc-page2.html

  

WISDOM MAGAZINE

 Kurt Johnson and David Robert Ord

“The Emerging Universal Spirituality and The Coming Interspiritual Age”

http://wisdom-magazine.com/Article.aspx/3284/

 

 

 

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Multiplex Archives

Articles referenced the most within the Multiplex (usually centering on the Brother Wayne legacy)  have been  placed first.  Articles by Andrew Harvey and Russill Paul have been placed at their dedicated pages (see the Chicago and Austin hubs, respectively)

 

  Kurt Johnson

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www.mulitplex.isdna.org

(from One Spirit Journal)

 

The Journey from "Interfaith" to "Trans-traditional Spirituality", "Interspirituality" and "Awakening"

by an ISD Co-founder, based on my conversations with Bro. Wayne

         I am often asked about the differences between a conventional “Interfaith” experience, a more developed “Trans-Traditional Spirituality”, Wayne Teasdale’s term “Interspirituality”, and how these relate to spiritual “Awakening”.  The following short comments have proved helpful to many, especially those who have “shopped around” a bit on their spiritual path. 

If one’s spiritual growth began more or less in the context of organized religion’s view of religious experience or spirituality, there is actually a natural evolution here.  This evolution moves from denominational, or tradition-oriented, spirituality to an “Interfaith” experience.  Then it proceeds to “Trans-Traditional Spirituality”, further deepens to “Interspirituality” and, finally (with a little grace and luck) to whatever it is that happens with spiritual “Awakening”.   In short, this is also the journey from the “dual” to the “nondual” (to use spiritual “lingo’) and also embraces the nondual’s inherent relationship to concern for world transformation.  (Hereafter, for clarity in this article, I will continue to capitalize these four terms).

The term “Interspirituality” was coined by Bro. Wayne Teasdale in his now classic book The Mystic Heart:  Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions (1999).  He developed it further, in 2002, in his book Bede Grifftiths: An Introduction to his Interspiritual Thought.   The question arises, then—what, in simplest brief terms, is the core message of Interspirituality and how does it differ from traditional Interfaith, a more developed Trans-traditional Spirituality and, finally, Awakening?

From Denominationalism to Conventional Interfaith:

           Most people come into their interfaith experience from one or the other of the traditional world religions or denominational experiences—Christian, Jewish, Moslem, Buddhist, Hindu, agnostic, atheist etc.

           As these people begin to taste other religious experiences (and “experience” is the key word, not just creeds or beliefs), and the rich historical backgrounds behind all these, they find themselves in an Interfaith experience.

Interfaith, or conventional ecumenism, starts with its “given” that our planet has various (and apparently different) religions, and religious experiences, each providing a different narrative or story about reality-- who we are, where we came from, and where we are going.  Each religious experience naturally considers that its understanding is most likely “true” or normative, and since they do not agree with each other, the interreligious predicament arises.  Interfaith, or conventional ecumenism, is a discussion among these varied views with a hope for mutual understanding, tolerance, world peace, and so on.  However, what remains is overriding concern with differences and disagreements, all stemming from the ultimate question “who is actually right” (and not only this but about “who is actually in control in the ‘spirit world’”, the so-called world of heaven and hell).  

From Conventional Interfaith to Trans-Traditional Spirituality:

           As a person’s spiritual path matures more, they begin to harvest and enjoy the riches of varied religious experiences and points of view.  Valuing this richness more than just that of one tradition is “Trans-traditional Spirituality”.  Trans-traditional Spirituality begins with generally the same assumptions as Interfaith, but moves toward emphasizing the value in sharing all the varied experiences of the world’s traditions.  It emphasizes less the interest in deciding, ultimately, who is actually “right” or “wrong”, although this consideration still lingers in the background.  That concern lingers in the background because this religious experience (actually the heart in this experience) remains shallow enough that there is still a “mental” concern about who is ultimately “right” or “wrong”, a concern linked actually to deeply hidden fears about ultimate rewards or punishments.   The experience of separateness is still not lost enough to allow the understanding that, at the depth of mystical understanding, simple “right” and “wrong” (and thus rewards and punishments) are no longer really at play since Love itself has become the arbiter.    

From Trans-Traditional Spirituality to Interspirituality:

           As people develop in Trans-traditional experience, they begin to understand that there is a common and deep shared “knowing” at the deepest core of all religious experience.  This experience-- of a deeper holistic spirituality, interconnectedness, unconditional love and non-separation-- becomes the basis of “Truth”, not the mental concern about which religious narrative, story, interpretation, speculation, prophecy, practice, method, leader, Messiah etc. is ultimately “right”.   This is Interspirituality, a great step into the freedom that grows into Awakening.

Thus, Interspirituality’s assumption about the phenomenon of religions in our world is different than either Interfaith or the Trans-traditional experience.  Interspirituality steps back into a deeper, more profound, viewpoint.  It sees the entire religious experience of our species as one experience which has simply been unfolding through many lines and branches.   These are, together, one unfolding experience moving toward an eventual culmination-- as what the spirituality of our species will be at its highest and most complete point of evolution. 

           Thus, Interspirituality is actually about the common experience within all spirituality.  It acknowledges both a shared origin and process and a shared maturing experience—generally known as the “Awakening” process.  In true “Awakening”, a human being actually loses the sense of separation and becomes aware, instead, of a profound interconnection and continuum among all things-- and all that this implies.  Thus, for Interspirituality, this common experience is (in a sense) the “Absolute Truth”. 

           Consequently, in practice there is a sense in which, for Interspirituality, history is irrelevant.   Interspirituality’s primary experience is about what is “right here, right now”.  This is why it is so profoundly connected to the “Awakening” process. 

Yet, because we also live in a manifest three dimensional world, there is a “history of religions” characterized by varied points of view and even outright conflict.  Accordingly, a secondary aspect of Interspirituality involves healing these apparent differences through dialogue, sharing, and especially co-experiencing.   This matter of “primary” and “secondary” is something Brother Wayne never published, but something he spoke about with his friends in the year before his transition in 2004.  The “secondary” here does not mean lesser in  importance; it was simply called secondary because it is mental-- it comes wholely from the past and people’s memories of the past.  

This “rubbing up against each other” in this unfolding of religious experience is a part of what Brother Wayne called the “existential convergence” of the world’s religious experiences which is an inherent part of its ongoing evolution toward ultimate emergence in deeper Consciousness and Heart. 

From Interspirituality to Awakening-- and the Movement Toward World Transformation:

           There would appear to be only small steps between the description of true, mature, Interspirituality and Awakening.  However, there is much subtlety, even mystery, in the difference between these two words. 

Perhaps the greatest distinction between Interspirituality and Awakening is the degree to which Interspirituality (if understood only mentally, even if profoundly) differs from what is involved in truly living it as experience in all aspects of Being.  The latter is true “Awakening”.  The distinction is real because  different kinds of phenomena occur or arise at different levels of Awareness.  As a result, it is quite impossible for persons to communicate precisely about phenomena they have not mutually experienced.  This itself is a major challenge to the collective Awakening process for our species.

Fortunately, true Awakening, with embodiment of all its aspects, is a stepwise and ongoing (in fact most likely never-ending) process.  Generally, the manifestations of true Awakening will be seen in (among other characteristics) extraordinary love and kindness, although at this stage of evolution there are still  persons of major clarity who may not yet manifest a full complement of those fruits.   In view of that, perhaps we can have some patience with the phenomenon that some will, with complete empathy, recognize a difference in depth of experience (distinguishing “Awakening”) while others will interpret that same recognition as a condescension.   This impasse about “Awakening” right now seems to be part of the evolving process.

There is a deepening understanding today of the difference between “visiting” clear states of awakenedness (or “unitive consciousness”, to use Brother Wayne’s term) and the living out of these fully as “permanent traits” (or, to use other terms, as more permanent “structures” or “platforms”).   The latter would imply Transcendent Truth fully embodied in all aspects of the manifest, three-dimensional world.  Moving Awakening into all of these aspects of existence is precisely the challenge of our time it seems, and one that involves a maturing process

In many ways, it is generally acknowledged that this mystery, and its attendant challenge, define much of the “threshold” our species has reached today.  Not only is the awakened experience trying to emerge worldwide, it is simultaneously trying to emerge at the individual level of being as well as in the shared (or collective) “We” of the wider human interpersonal community.  And, if this is true, it will also evolve further from the interpersonal “We” to the embrace the very complicated and complex dimensions of our institutional and social systems, or (as Brother Wayne said in The Mystic Heart) to change the very structures of the world in which we live.

This is why, at One Spirit (www.onespiritinterfaith.org) and other places I teach (www.isdna.org), along with this entire journey from Interfaith to Awakening we emphasize inherent connection to, and full engagement with, the manifest, three-dimensional, world of form.  Formlessness and form, Heart and structure, were never two to begin with.  This maturing realization is driving the world transformation movement so closely linked with the phenomenon of Awakening.   A major result of this linkage at One Spirit and ISDnA is our simultaneous emphasis on examining emerging, and profoundly skillful, models for our world’s future (as in the vision and work of such writers as Don Beck, Ken Wilber, Willis Harman, Eckhart Tolle, Paul Ray, Paul Hawken and many others).

 

 

Johnson, continued

 

Why (and How) we Teach Wayne Teasdale and Ken Wilber together at One Spirit.

by an ISD Co-founder, based on my conversations with Bro. Wayne

Many of you reading here have probably watched the videos of Wayne Teasdale and Ken Wilber at YouTube.  This particular discussion was one of the last public appearances by Bro. Wayne.  He was very ill at the time and his friends urged him not to tire himself with this trip in Colorado.  But he insisted.  

There were a number of threads that Wayne was tying together in the last months before he was eventually too ill to travel and essentially "homebound" with friends and caregivers in Chicago.  Along with his professional caregivers, Gorakh Hayashi, Russill and Asha Paul, Martha Foster, among others, were able to spend significant times with him during those last months.  In those last months, after our InterSpiritual Dialogue program together at the Parliament of World Religions (for which Wayne was too ill to attend) I basically received short notes from him, or messages passed on through Martha Foster (or sometimes alsofrom Gorakh Hayashi), noting Wayne’s regrets that either he was “too ill and neglecting the association in New York” or that he “must concentrate on tying up [his] affairs”.    

Wayne’s last individually authored book , which he was working ambitiously to complete even in failing  health, was Bede Griffiths:   An Introduction to his Interspiritual Thought.  The text of this book had been his doctoral dissertation in Theology at Fordham University.  Wayne noted that although he desired to rewrite the text for a wider audience (as written, the dissertation was aimed at his doctoral committee, who were mostly Christian theologians) he was too ill to do so.  He said he would have to settle for making sure the book was published—so that a long important thread of Hindu/Christian intermystical dialogue would not be lost.   Look at the Photo Archive of interspiritual pioneers here at the InterSpiritual Multiplex, in the row beneath Wayne and Bede’s photos, and you’ll see the important Jesuits and Benedictines who preceded Bede and Wayne in straddling eastern and western “awakening” while living in India.  This is the “lineage” that eventually led to the founding of Shantivanum ashram there.  Among others, Russill and Asha Paul, Andrew Harvey, and Wayne were a part of that community, although not always there at the same time. 

I mention this regarding the linkage of Bro. Wayne’s vision and the Integral work of Ken Wilber for two reasons.  First, you’ll note that Bro. Wayne did not begin mentioning the work of Ken Wilber until the later years of his published writing.  He invited Ken Wilber to write the Foreword to A Monk in the World although he mentioned "integral" only in a generic sense within that book.  More substantial mention of the integral map itself came in the Bede Griffiths book, his last (other than the co-edited anthology with Martha Howard, dated July 2004).  As I have said, completion of his last two, singularly authored, books occurred within a narrow time frame because his progressing ill health.  But the mentions in these two last books reflected Wayne’s emerging vision about the importance of the Integral map.  That was also why Wayne wanted to honor the chance to have the video chats with Ken Wilber toward the end. 

As many know, when Wayne came to New York we often went to Prospect Park in Brooklyn and sat to chat or, if it was winter, because I was an officer of The Ethical Society we could go to its meeting house (which is across the street from the park).  Often we chatted for many hours because Wayne was very concerned with the questions about praxis voiced by the readers of The Mystic Heart.  And, he had “thrown in his lot” with this group in New York City, associated with the UN non-governmental agency community, from which he hoped his envisioned interspiritual “association” might emerge (this was InterSpiritual Dialogue, the precursor of ISDnA) and, eventually, his Universal Order of Sannyasa (p. 248-250 of The Mystic Heart) eventually founded in 2010.   The “association” had been incorporated in 2002 (to fulfill requirements of the UN Department of Public Information) through a group of New York residents as incorporators and Wayne, an Illinois resident, as “Founding Counselor”.    

Wayne only began to talk about Ken Wilber (at least to me) in the last two years of his life, consistent with the date of Wilber's Foreword to Wayne's A Monk in the World.  That book's issue date is May 2002 in hardback (October 2003 in paperback, the last time Wayne was well enough to visit me in New York City).   He had been busy shepherding the Bede Griffiths book through publication during his first instance of cancer (that book's revised edition is dated May 2003) and his compilation of the short Interspiritual biographies (co-edited with Martha Howard) is dated July 2004.  By this last date he was very ill again. 

Much of the connection of Bro. Wayne to Integral was in reaction to the most common response that Wayne had received from the public after the success of his book, The Mystic Heart:  that is,  “great book” but now “how do we accomplish this vision?”. 

Wayne seemed to share very different kinds of conversations among his varied friends.   At the Tribute Event to Wayne, after his transition, it was apparent that, for some, Wayne’s basic topics of conversation included personal or spiritual things.  However, with others, and particularly the group in New York (which Wayne referred to as “the association”), it was more about “business”—his vision and what he hoped could come of that.  Some of this had emerged because of a conversation Wayne had had with Lama Surya Das (that relationship flowing from Wayne’s close friendship with His Holiness the Dalai Lama), who had visited Wayne in Chicago to chat about the InterSpiritual Dialogue vision after it was formed in 2002. 

Wayne had often told me that one of his (Wayne’s) concerns was the he was not an “organizer”.   But as Lama Surya Das had told him at that meeting, and the three of us had discussed before, all I had done for 25 years (first in the Christian religious life and later the corporate world) was work as an administrator.   Of course, I was a research scientist too (with my PhD in that and working at the American Museum of Natural History) but basically I made my living in administration.  In fact, Lama Surya Das and I had met, back then, when he and I were part of organizing a big charity event for the Cambodian holocaust in New York City.  So when Wayne wanted to talk about the “structures and institutions” he wanted to see emerge to support the interspiritual vision  (p. 248 of The Mystic Heart) that dominated much of our conversations.  And, one of the first things we had set our taskings to was the program that InterSpiritual Dialogue planned to do with him in Barcelona in 2004.   By then time was already running out for Wayne.  Although he says at the end of his Bede Griffiths book that he was celebrating his cancer being in remission, that remission was short-lived. 

This returns us to the conversation about Ken Wilber and Integral theory because it seems to be a simple fact, to which many in the “awakened consciousness” arena will attest, that awakened awareness recognizes the Integral Map as “darn close” to its natural language.  So, similarly, it is no surprise that the more Wayne became familiar with Integral (and that was not an easy task given what had been written about Integral spirituality in 1999-2000 compared to now [Integral Spirituality was published in 2006 significantly after Wayne’s transition]) the more Wayne started to also recognize the skillfulness that the Integral vision had for the manifest world.   

As Gorakh Hayashi and I point out in our retrospect on Bro. Wayne’s vision in Vision in Action (see link directly below this article) there is another profound natural synchronicity between “Wayne and Wilber”.  Wayne wrote in an inspirational style—so inspirational, in fact, that often the structure of his thinking and vision ends up hidden within all the stuff that is moving in the heart of the reader.  Meantime, Wilber’s work in high on structure, high on comprehensiveness, but some find it less “spiritually inspiring” or a “tough go” intellectually.  So, we have one voice (Wayne’s) being profoundly about the spiritual intention and transformative mission inherent in mature spirituality, while the other voice (Wilber’s) gets down to profound skill sets on how to get it done.   As I said above, it is not that all of this could flow together quickly.  Wayne begin talking to me about Wilber in 2003-2004 and I have no personal contact with Wilber until 2006 (and at which time I myself had not had the time to sufficiently immerse myself in Integral—that only came later when I could “retire” from science and business three years ago).  But obviously there is profound synchronicity between Wayne’s prophetic voice from the Formless dimension and Wilber’s comprehensive skill maps for the dimension of Form.  The syncronicity is there for everyone to see (and it is clearly there in the “quadrant” map of Integral, and that is only the “tip of the iceberg”). 

So, this is why we began teaching “Wayne and Wilber” together at One Spirit Interfaith Seminary and Learning Alliance three years ago and now continue to build more comprehensive relationships between the Wayne (ISDnA and others) communities and the many gifted teachers emerging today in the Integral world.   When Michael Pergola, Loch Kelly, and I began the program in Integral Spirituality at One Spirit Spirit we simply used Wayne’s vision to set up the “Diagnosis” of the planet’s ills (the whole story about “separation”, disjunction and dysfunction among all the realms of discourse and action in the world) and the Integral “Prescription” that might get it right (to get it re-balanced integrally).   Anyone who reads Integral Spirituality (2006) will see a profound navigation of these two worlds— what has gone wrong in the world of form due to lack of congruence with the high consciousness/ formless and how we might get it rebalanced and re-integrated.  So, as we say at One Spirit, we use “Wayne” to “set up the problem” (and this moves people in the heart) and “Wilber” to “project a solution” (and this gives people satisfaction in the realm of head and hands). 

That being said, there are many ways that this congruency is skillfully weaved but this is the basic historical reason for the synchronicity and why I report it here.  Bro. Wayne’s early interest in Integral (although he had very little time to explore it in any depth before he was too ill to continue his work life) was consistent with his trying authentically to respond to the many questions about his vision in The Mystic Heart.  To put it simply, by 2002 he was also having to ask “how?”.  And, on this we had many significant discussions, the last of which, in person, was during his final trip to New York City at the time we were planning the program for the Parliament of the World’s Religions.  That was October of 2003 when, as Gorakh Hayashi and I reported in our Vision in Action article, Wayne shared his “Omega vision” with us. There is much more to say about all this.

Hayashi and Johnson at Vision in Action:

http://www.via-visioninaction.org/via-li/ArticlesEssays.php

 

 

  

Loch Kelly

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Awakening 

www.lochkelly.org

 

"A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive." (Albert Einstein, 1954)

Awakening is not limited to any one religion or philosophy.    If anything, awakening is discovered to be of the “Human Being lineage” that we all share.   It is equally available to each of us, as each of us, connecting each of us.  In a simple sense, awakening begins with a shift of awareness.  If it is here now then why does it seem so elusive?  If it is closer than our own breath then why is it so hard to access?  We have missed it primarily because it is not a thing. Awakening is the shift into the direct experience of a reality that had been obscured by a kind of ignorance or delusion.  The ignorance turns out to be a habit of perceiving through our dualistic mind in a way that creates an ego identity that feels separate, solid and really real.  When we wake up to this we realize that the “optical delusion of consciousness”, as Einstein called; it is simply a case of mistaken identity.  The other reason we have missed it is that the one we take ourselves to be, the one who is seeking awakening, is itself an obstacle.

The word awakening is used because many who have experienced this shift have tried to describe it to others by saying the experience is similar to awakening from a dream which seemed real only to realize it was not the whole of reality. 

More and more people are waking up these days. When we are seeing and knowing through reflective thinking we are always viewing reality as an image or a story and at least a half second out of the now.  Ego Identity is not the real identity, it is a temporary state and stage which can be grown beyond.

Awakening is different than a mystical or spiritual experience.  What we call a spiritual experience is the highest experience of an ego identity.  “I am one with the universe.”   What we are wakes up from the seeker and feels life from a more inclusive perspective rather than one small point of view of the mental emotional constellation.  No person is enlightened.  Enlightenment is enlightened.  The awareness realizes this and includes us.  It's not about the ego identity having a more pleasurable experience.  “Always awakeness always unfolding.”  There is a paradoxical nature which is one of the reasons it is called non-dual.    Everything that is happening is an appearance of the same thing.  That thing that is the most important thing is not a thing.  The root word svi is “the invisible life force in a seed that makes it grow into a tree.”  Full awakening is a shift of the perceiver so that the old center has been shifted out of.  The seer becomes the seen.  This is easier.  This is not esoteric.   This becomes the new normal.  This is why awakening is called “ordinary mind.”  

When you awaken, you awaken from the point of view that was called "you".  This limited, isolated, aperture on a camera lens cannot close down completely but can go into the larger background where some dimension of being is discovered, uncovered, recognized and realized to be who I am.

What most of us have tried to do in order to relieve suffering and find happiness is to get rid of or control negative thoughts and feelings and increase positive thoughts and feelings.  The approach of awakening is radical because it’s not about what thoughts and feelings are arising. It’s about who or what thoughts are arising to.  

We start by finding the awareness that has been hidden in the background and recognizing that it is also in the foreground. It means finding that which is already free, awake, and connected, whether our thoughts are positive or negative.  There is a shift of knowing and of Identity, discovery of an awareness that is prior to thought and awake.  This awake awareness is the root of our identity which is a shift from looking for identity through thought or roles in the world.   Indian scholars and mediators identified four natural states of consciousness: sleep, dream, everyday consciousness, and awake awareness.  We in the west recognize only the first three, so to us awake awareness may be a new distinction. This fourth state of consciousness suggests being awake and aware without being identified with everyday consciousness, or with sleep, or dream. 

In ancient wisdom traditions the term awakening is used because the experience resembles waking up from a dream. In a dream we believe that what is happening is real. When we wake up another dimension of conscious becomes primary and from there we can see: “Oh, that was only a dream!” 

Waking up from a dream, the dream world is seen as only a part of reality and the perspective when we were identified with the dream character is now seen to be limited.  Waking up from everyday consciousness, the external world remains externally the same, but our identity changes to a similar degree as it did from dream to everyday consciousness.  We wake up from being fully identified with the separate self as an solid ego encased in a limited to a body mind. The small ego concerns now appear like dream images; the self-centered obsessions about are no longer central.

When this shift of identity — the waking up — happens, it extends to our deepest doubts and fears. The feelings of “I’m not good enough, something’s wrong with me, I’m unlovable” are no longer convincing.  We may feel as though we’re coming out of a movie theater after an emotional drama. What seemed threatening before to the small sense of self is seen to not be a real danger.  When we wake up we stop the cycle that generates suffering through confusion.

Awakening is the shift into the direct experience of a reality that had been obscured by a kind of ignorance or delusion.  The ignorance turns out to be a habit of perceiving through our dualistic mind in a way that creates an ego identity that feels separate, solid and really real.  When we wake up to this we realize that the “optical delusion of consciousness”, as Einstein called, it is simply a case of mistaken identity. 

The word awakening is used because many who have experienced this shift have tried to describe it to others by saying the experience is similar to awakening from a dream which seemed real only to realize it was not the whole of reality.  It is a realization that who I am is not a solid separate thing.  And with this comes a profound new sense of connection and freedom.

There is an abiding in this but not a landing in any state.   It is a stateless state and a centerless center.  But it is also ordinary in that there is a feeling of being comfortable with things as they are, and, just being who I am as a limited human as well part of the living universe.  

 

 

Gorakh Hayashi

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website: (Chicago Circles, in progress)

 

A Remembrance of Bro. Wayne Teasdale

Given by Dr. William (Gorakh) Hayashi (Professor and colleague of Broth. Wayne at Columbia College, Chicago and a co-founder of ISDnA) given at the Tribute Event to Brother Wayne Teasdale, The Crossings, Austin, Texas, December 7-9, 2005

I am so happy and honored to be here at the Crossings participating in the third annual Common Ground gathering, Common Ground on Higher Ground focusing on the amazing faith of Texas.

I also feel privileged to be able to share something of our late friend and brother, Brother Wayne Teasdales' vision of the "interspiritual age," a vision of hope in these "the best of times, the worst of times." I was really delighted to receive a copy of that remarkable book, The Amazing Faith of Texas, from Joyce and Ken. I was deeply moved by it, particularly by the personal stories of faith, of Spirit, from so many traditions, and also by the photographs which reveal so clearly the Light of God within the faces and bodies of its narrators.

This inspired me to flesh my comments this morning in the form of stories also, both of Wayne and myself, and to discover in what ways these stories could be seen as signs, images holding deeper worlds of integrated meaning and feeling, like the eyes of those Texas seekers within the book communicating truths far beyond the conscious mind.

In Troilus and Cressida, Shakespeare uses the phrase, "There you touched the life of the design." I hope my stories and images will point to essentials, evoke universal and archetypal patterns and truths, even as do the shining eyes of Texas' amazing faith.

I found as I let my thoughts and feelings pour out in this way, I spontaneously created a for me new prose-form, something like "spoken word," music without strict meter, poetry with freer perimeters. And because the wording is precise and consecutive, I'm going to indulge myself in reading them, Although I am doing so from deep inside my inmost Heart.

I'd like to begin with a story of being welcomed by the Southwest. Some weeks ago, I attended a conference on Sound and Healing in Santa Fe. I flew from Chicago to Denver and took a connecting flight from Denver to Santa Fe. I hadn't realized this would involve a tiny two-seater, quite exposed and vunerable in its non-jet/old propeller status. To distract myself during the short flight, I took out Amazing Faith and zoomed in hard. I soon lost myself in the stories and in the images. At one point, glancing up and out the window, I was greeted by the most splendiferous of sunsets- deep golds and roses and purple violets- it was radiant with glory and I was truly transfixed. I couldn't take my eyes away and it continued to bestow blessings until we landed in Santa Fe. In some deep way, I knew I was being welcomed to and by the Southwest.

Later I realized this welcome involved your native peoples, their deep sacred legacy of Spirit and Heart; it involved the vastness, openness of the land and sky themselves; it involved the stark truth of things simply being what they are. It radiated Spirit, that which is most alive, most inspired, what cuts closest to the core in people, land, history, and time. And I knew again why Wayne always said that Spirit goes far beyond men, women, children, involving all sentient beings, all elements of nature, the earth, the stars, the planets, other universes, galaxies, departed beings, angels, deities, infinite realities beyond the beyond.

I know Wayne would have loved The Amazing Faith of Texas, and he would have wanted sequels; The Amazing Faith of Illinois, of New York, Europe, China, of Earth, the Milky Way, the infinite All-Pervasive. And he would have wanted to include photographs of artists and politicians and educators and scientists, of animals and plants and rock formations, and he would have tried to get illustrations of aliens and extra-terrestrials whom he was convinced were doing their part in the evolution of our destiny.

Thus, inspired by Roy Spence's wonderful book, I grasped at a whole other level what Wayne might have intended by the Interspiritual Age, what he might have included as vital and intimate, akin and aligned, one with the Totality, one with each of us, in Spirit and in Adoration.

The Way of the Mystic

I'd like to organize my comments this morning around three aspects of Wayne's vision, Wayne as mystic, as contemplative and as prophet, almost Biblical in their implications.

First, Wayne as mystic. A mystic is one who sees "into the Heart of things," who seeks the unity of all life, who lives as the One holding the many. Wayne himself described a mystic as "any individual with a direct experience and awareness of the absolute, the divine, or boundless consciousness." For Wayne, the common ground of it all is Consciousness, the great Light of Awareness. There is always subject and always object, yet without subject, who or what would perceive object? When it's dark at night and our eyes are closed, what's the source of the Light that illumines our dreams? And when we sleep like a log or a rock throughout the night, who or what recognizes that we didn't move one little iota? What's the difference between our thoughts, our brains and our Consciousness? Who or what is the Knower, who remaining ever still and unmoving yet grounds, differentiate and connects our ever changing emotions, cognitions, perceptions? What is taking in these words, these ideas, these images right now inside our many different heads, our varied histories, and somehow weaving a collective consensus of understanding?

This is the original Mystic, joining us together in awareness of Awareness. This is what the quantum physicists mean by the Ultimate Observer. And for Wayne, this is the ground of all Being, the ever present Source of the One in the many, fully Sensate-Awareness ever pulsating as vibrating, cognizing Substance, multi-leveled frequencies of information, Consciousness and, above all, Compassion.

For Wayne, it particularly mattered that we apprehend this apparent many as the essential One in religious and spiritual institutions and practices, the storehouse of the world's sacred treasures, the perennial wisdom, the lifeline of Spirit. Like blind men in narcissistic isolation mistaking the trunk, the tail, the legs and the tusks of an elephant for different and separate animals, we need to stop indulging our solipsistic proclivities and instead apprehend the underlying gestalt, the one inclusive integral Body bonding all faith traditions, all individual spiritual seekers, into one quantum field of all-pervasive, ever-changing, Super-Elephantine Consciousness.

And now for a personal story. For Wayne, who lived much of his life as a mystic, there was still some resistance to the complete embrace of non-dual Reality when it came to his own physical demise. He had so many books still to write, so much work yet to do. He wasn't quite ready to leave it all and merge into common ground. He held on to the hopes of western medicine, submitted to intense chemo therapy for his cancer. After one particularly excruciating session, we meditated together in his hospital room. Sometimes the meditations (and the medications) worked, sometimes they didn't.

This time he went deep and awoke with a puzzled look on his face. "Bill, I think I've had a vision. I saw myself in a mountain monastery in Tibet. I was wearing the robes of a Buddhist monk. Somehow I got too close to the edge, and suddenly, found myself catapulting downwards. At first I was afraid and fought the fall, but then I grew quiet and just let go. When I hit the bottom everything was fine. What do you think it means, Bill?"

I paused and listened deep inside.

"Well, Wayne, I think it means that you've done so much great work for the Lord, that when it's time for you to go, He‘ll catch and hold you in His embrace."

When I left, Wayne was inward and still. Somehow in this meditation and vision, our brother had gone beyond the dualistic and resistant mind and grasped again the fundamental unity of all things. He knew himself as both a Buddhist monk and a Catholic priest. He felt the interconnectedness of life and death. He lived the co-simultaneity of past, present and future. And some days later when they found him, his Spirit departed, with a smile on his face and Light pouring into the room, We all knew he had returned to that unity. His Lord had gently come, caught and carried him back to where he belonged.

For Wayne, we embrace our mystical core. Through following the path of the Heart. For the mind, everything is binary, this or that, true or false. The Heart, however, can contain opposites, welcomes paradox. We can be ready to kill those whom we most love.

During one of our last visits together, I asked Wayne whether he had any yet unrecorded teachings he wanted to share with others. He paused, reflected and wrote down two. The first was this: "The Divine is infinite sensitivity." "The Divine is infinite sensitivity." Sensitivity is a quality of the Heart not the head. It feels, intuits, apprehends; it does not analyze, dissect, figure out. It takes in, receives with wonder, gratitude, appreciation and wants to co-create. It does not broadcast, control, judge, and need to dominate.

Wayne says, "It is a quality refined only in the mystic heart, in the steady cultivation of compassion and love that risks all for the sake of others." It is both a feeling and a discerning. It is a never-ending wellspring of responsiveness, support, and blessings. To develop sensitivity would be to bring awareness into the cave of the Heart and to empathize, resonate, feel at One with all life, all vibratory frequencies, all unique and wonderful expressions of Spirit. It would share in the unfathomable generosity of Christ: "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do," And the supreme offering of Self: "Take, eat, this is my body broken for you." It would mean to be infinitely responsive to the fall of a single rose petal and to the footfalls of each and every ant. It is through the cultivation of such a Heart that one becomes a Mystic, that one can, indeed, own the Mystic Heart. Only then will we be able to look into the mystery of all things and discover there a holy mirror reflecting back to us our own face beaming out in infinite beauty, wisdom and blessedness.

There was so many times when I would see and hear this sensitivity in Wayne. Whenever he would call our home and leave a message on the answering machine, he would always say, "And many blessings to all the Hayashi's including Precious (our poodle-terrier mix), the other sentient member of that wonderful household." I knew he was reminding me to never forget the delicate sensitivity of Precious' loyal, sometimes disobedient, especially when hungry, often times needy soul.

I would also see this sensitivity in Wayne's kind and respectful treatment of street people. He would always know them by name, always pause, conversate, authentically engage, and then move on with a smile. He would never ever condescend, never patronize. I remember being in his apartment one day deep into a conversation on Spinoza and transcendent substance. The buzzer rang and it was James, one of the street folk Wayne often invited into his home. He said, "James, I'm with a friend now and we're having a heavy conversation. Come back in an hour and we can talk then, brother." Limit-respecting love, but always with such grace, such discerning sensitivity.

And lest we be deterred from our own embrace of such clarity and refinement, feeling ourselves too small, too worldly, too unprepared to put on the mystic's robes, let us hear Wayne's gentle words of counsel and assurance:

"We don't need to enter monasteries to become mystics or to cultivate our spirituality: We are all mystics! The mystic heart is the deepest part of who or what we really are. We need only to realize and activate that essential part of our being." (p.12, M.H.)

For Wayne then, we just need to relax, let go into our natural state, simply rest in what is most common and most fundamental in us all. And then, behold, we become living Grace in its infinite variety!

The Way of the Contemplative

The second dimension of Wayne's vision of the mystic path is the way of the contemplative. Often, as Wayne indicates, we don't need to leave the world and retire behind cloistered walls to engage in contemplation. We simply need to shift the center of our focus from outside to inside, from the world without to our hearts within.

We need to begin addressing such questions as, "Who am I really? Why was I born? Where am I going? What is my life purpose? How truly am I honoring it?" Wayne very much loved the writings of Saint Teresa of Avila. He was particularly fond of her "Interior Castle" and the image she uses to describe the human condition. Teresa metaphors the human body as a castle. She says within this castle there are many corridors, many rooms. At the very center of this castle, there is a chamber filled with silence. Most people, however, have not ventured very far into the interiors. Most of us live on the parapets of the castle, walking round and round always looking outwards: diversions, opportunities, dangers, entertainments Occasionally we have a life crisis, start a little therapy, begin to explore some of the outermost passages and rooms.

But very soon we become distracted, an argument, a problem, a desire, and quickly we rush outside again to see and engage. And Teresa says this is very sad, for if we but ventured into that innermost chamber, if we would but enter and pause, we would find in its stillness and sweetness all that we seeking so desperately on the outside.

And for Wayne, this is why we contemplate, why we meditate, why we take some time each day to come back to ourselves, re-connect with our inwardness. For Wayne, to do this we must engage in daily spiritual practices, whatever those may be. As an intellectual, he understood full well the dangers of mental diversions and substitutes, why he encouraged hard core practice.

As the Zen proverb asserts: "A point of practice is a worth a ton of theory."

Or as my teachers say, "Meditation. Do it. Contemplation. Do it."

Of necessity, these practices must involve the body, must incorporate and awaken the Heart as well as the mind. We need to feel, know and enjoy through all our bodies, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. For Wayne, it was particularly effective to share practices with others, either in one's own tradition and thus create a collectively enhanced energy field, or across traditions, interspiritually, to learn from and co-create a more diverse, rich and novel container of Bliss. For Wayne, champion of the Heart, practices shared in community, particularly diverse community, were simply "the best thing since sliced bread." He ever emphasized the importance of friendship, of encountering the full being of another with your own inner and outer totality.

We need to stand before one another in our wholeness and realness, offering to and greeting each other through out naked authenticity. He felt that institutions could preserve order and traditions but that friendship and intimacy created and bonded families of Spirit. He knew that shared practice was the fastest and most direct way to that collective feast.

This is why he so often encouraged interspiritual projects and pilgrimages. When people travel and work together, they share hearts, minds, bodies and souls; they come to know each other in their fullness and complexity, discovering unexpected beauties and greatness even in the midst of hidden shadows and fears. We gratify the longing to be known and accepted not as stranger, not as associate, but as sister, brother, friend and Beloved.

My wife and I teach a course together at Columbia College Chicago called Spirituality and Empowerment. We share practices and rituals together with our Gen Y students. We begin each class with a round-robin discussion of a time during the week when we each experienced Spirit in our own way. The responses are often surprising and usually filled with power.

Taking an hour long shower, relishing each minute of it, noticing the snow falling in the park across the street, really, truly listening to a friend in need, discovering miraculously that Spirit can come alive though taking in the Eucharist through new eyes.

Each week different students present a personal altar, choosing 4 cherished objects to represent 4 different passions which inspire and uplift them. They also select an object from nature, a light source, and a sacred cloth to hold and honor their sacred symbols and passions. We've had Puerto Rican flags, thread-worn baby blankets, much handled stuffies, candles, strobes and camping lanterns as light source, shells, sand, leaves, grass and countless flowers from nature , engagement rings, photos of family and friends, favorite books, films, dvds and video games, along with the occasional White Sox cap that grandpa, now deceased, would always wear to the season opener. And everyone writes a note of gratitude honoring one thing they particularly liked from the altar to be hand-delivered to the presenter like a personal valentine. My wife then guides the students in a half hour of hatha yoga.

They moan, groan, bitch, sweat, and do it.

And after sun salutation, warrior I & II, mountain, cobra, downward facing dog, they lie down for 5 minutes in shavasana or corpse posture, their minds and bodies really still for the first time in decades, allowing themselves to simply rest in Being and Silence, they usually don't want to get up but instead stay forever in that peace that passeth all understanding. And they realize, sometimes for the first time ever, that there is whole other way besides constant doing, technological efficiency and digital fragmentation to be and to live, and that something deep inside themselves already knows this, indeed, hungers for it. And then we usually don't have to work all that hard to introduce meditation,get them to consider the "awakened life."

In the first half of the semester we explore teachings and practices from different world faith traditions: Hinduism, Lao Tsu, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Sufism and Krishnamurti. Kiyomi and I choose these texts and guide the discussions and experiences. The second half, however, the students choose their "sacred texts" and share them with all of us. These have to be short, xeroxable and have touched their hearts in some deep way. We get some scenes from films, an occasional poem, a piece of philosophy but generally and most often, lyrics from songs that have changed their lives. They type out the lyrics for all of us to follow, play the songs and offer up personal commentary. And this is where we have recognized the deep wisdom in Wayne's suggestion to exchange practices.

It is in their music that Spirit most comes alive for these young people. Their songs are truly their scriptures. Their music is the heartbeat of their souls. It was the words and beat of a Dream Theater Heavy Metal song that kept one Girl, Stacy, alive during really hard times. She says she played it over and over again for three months straight.

Another boy, infinitely sensitive, plays us a folk melody about when kids are young and innocent and see the wonder and light in it all, and how they find a bird dead from flying too hard into a window and how they bury it together with a popsicle stick cross and made-up prayers, and then they go to school and learn to play the kid games of rejection, bruises and picked last, and growing up, they find it's the same old kid games only tougher and harder, and to stay intact and true, they have to find ways to believe in something, even if its just writing your names with a friend in hardening concrete, to hold onto something permanent and lasting and good. And then Frank, dear, dear Frank, tells us his own story of how he gathered his friends together in his basement and played this song for them and made them listen to it over and over again, and how they all got inspired and jammed together and co-created some music that he wanted to share with us all, and then he told how in the midst of it, one of the guys got inspired to hold the mike outside the basement window and that's why we would hear birds singing in the background, and that maybe, just maybe it was still "all good."

In retrospect, we realized this young man had created his own community ritual in that basement and was sharing it with us in our classroom right here, right now, and that we had all entered into, become part of his "sacred space," the classroom transformed into "virtual temple."

Another girl, Mindy, reads a poem she wrote about what her music is for her and for her friends. She named it "There's a song:"

"There's a song
That you hear, and what I like to say is that it hits you like a ton of bricks.
That you're hearing for the first time or the thousandth time but either way it's the first time.
You're really listening. And the lyrics are the words you never could get out.
And the music is the sound your synapses make when they release endorphins. Or adrenaline. And the vocals are like angel's wings. The chorus feels like home.
And the sounds reach in and take your heart in their hands and everything is slow motion and you can't breathe. It's all a little too real right now and you weren't prepared for this.
And you cry.
And you hit repeat. And it's the only song you listen to for days and days because you cannot imagine what life was like before you knew someone else knew.
And you're not alone for once. This is the theme song to your moment. This moment.
It's yours.
And you get a little scared that maybe, just maybe, this is what God is like."

Then there was the Christian rock song that Lauren played when her grandpa died, the only person who had ever given her unconditional love, and how she too had pushed the replay button and did so over and over again. It started out soft and gentle, a little bitter-sweet, but then got louder and stronger and started to shriek and wail like heavy metal and I couldn't hear and understand the words any more but only feel, just feel, and I let myself do that, fall into it, get off on it; and when it was done and everything was quiet, I felt totally spent, released and alive.

Another student, Elisha, gave feedback. She said she liked the way the song communicated the feelings of the loss, sad, sweet, deep, but then confused and angry and hurt and frustrated, and that it was good Lauren could feel all her feelings and get them all out; and I understood for the first time ever why this music is so hard, so loud, so in your face; it's the only way this generation can express their pain, their outrage, their frustration, their hope.

And again I thanked Wayne for his wisdom in suggesting we exchange practices across traditions, indeed, across generations. It's the most immediate and direct way to share Spirit, to open to one another and forge community. It breaks down barriers and lets in understanding, empathy, love. We discover we are one Heart singing one Song, one Light Body embracing the whole rich music of humankind. So it is through this path of shared contemplation, through contemplating, meditating, studying texts, offering service, moving our bodies, chanting and singing together that we recognize, honor and celebrate our diverse Oneness.

And it is from this space of compassion, unity and courage that we enter the third and final dimension of Brother Wayne's vision of the Interspiritual age, the role of prophet and visionary.

Wayne Teasdale was, indeed, a prophet, a visionary, a radical. He fearlessly challenged and confronted the Catholic church, indeed, the papacy, for its treatment of Tibet, for its silent condoning of Chinese imperialism. He stood at the forefront of those criticizing the church for its provincialism and exclusivity, boldly demonstrating his solidarity with His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, indeed with all faith traditions in championing Interspiritual dialogue and action. He left behind the cloistered walls and identified himself as a "monk in the city." He welcomed as brothers and sisters all sentient beings, all forms of life, including the impoverished and marginal, all birds and animals, especially endangered species, all angels, saints, and departed beings of Light, and, most definitely and passionately, all extra-terrestrials.

Again, for Wayne, the Heart was of the essence.

Only through the Heart can we both know and feel what we must say and do.

Only through the Heart can we apprehend the deepest truths, truths grounded in One Life, One Spirit. The Heart alone can provide the courage and the motivation to follow through with what we must do and say. Only the Heart can name the Truth and persevere until it is realized. And the Heart alone can say and do it in the right way, in the way of love and not anger, cooperation and not competitiveness, as blessing and not curse.

As my teacher, Swami Chidvilsananda, puts it, "Leaders must learn the art of diplomacy. Diplomacy is learning to speak the Truth without using words as a knife and a sword."

The Way of the Prophet

Earlier, I mentioned the first of Wayne's summary teachings: "The Divine is infinite sensitivity." The second is equally profound: "In God there are infinite possibilities, and the greatest of these is to will love."

I reflected on these words for a long time, indeed, continue to do so.

It is one thing to understand the meaning of words; it is another to "grok" their significance and put them into practice.

What does it mean "to will love," why is that so important and so very, very difficult?

I began to think of the different times I have been angry, hurt, wanting to strike back or simply withdraw, contemplating just why it is so hard to "will love" in these moments: the driver who cuts YOU off and gives YOU the finger, the teen-age son who will not stop text-messaging when you want to speak from the heart with him; the students who never ever have time to prepare fully and appreciate the texts you want and know can change their lives- I let each of you fill in the blanks for yourselves.

What does it mean, require, demand for each of us in such moments to pause, consider, weigh, and choose the path of Love and not of fear?

Definitely it asks that we cultivate patience and empathy, deepen our faith in God and man, choose understanding over blame, have the humility to recognize our Truth and the courage to execute it.

The final story I would like to share with you this morning is how this final teaching of Brother Wayne made the ultimate difference in my continuing existence on this planet at this time, in effect, how it helped me to choose and manifest life.

In a strange set of karmic circumstances, visiting Wayne daily in his hospital room during his clearly transitional days, I myself had an intense dizzy spell in my school office. I informed Wayne that I would not be able to come see him as planned the following day since I needed to go and see the doctor myself. I had an EKG at the doctor's office, was sent to see a cardiologist, was informed I needed open heart right away and was scheduled for major surgery the following day. Ironically I had called Father Thomas Keating, Wayne' spiritual advisor and mentor, to come to Chicago and offer a mass for him.

I had planned on picking Thomas up at the airport and taking him to see Wayne on the very day my surgery was scheduled. I began to somewhat morbidly joke with myself about which one of us, Wayne or I, would exit our physical bodies first? As I began to reflect and try to pray about all of this, I realized that it was, indeed, no joke. My mother had died on the operating table of unsuccessful heart surgery when I was 14 years old.

The night before she died, she grabbed hold of me and hysterically asked me to pray to my Jesus to save her. Since I felt very close to Jesus, I asked Him to do me this favor and was quite sure He would comply. When He let Mommy die on the operating table instead, I felt horribly betrayed and alone. In that one moment, I lost both my mother and my faith in God. For many days afterwards, I tried to understand just why this had happened, what could possibly have gone wrong? Then one day some years later, I read a book called "A Man Called Peter." In it, Catherine Marshall, wife of Presbyterian minister, Peter Marshall, shares the story of how when her husband was having a heart attack, she went inside and found the strength to offer it all up to God. She prayed, "Thy will be done, Father," and really believed that it was through her willingness and complete faith in leaving it totally all up to God, that Peter made it through his crisis. Immediately I knew why my mother had died. I had been selfish, unsurrendered, lacking in faith. If I had simply been able to turn it over to God and gotten my personal fears, needs and desires out of the way, my mother would more than likely be alive at that moment. So here I was, once again, in a real quandary, in a real pickle. Here I was again in a life and death situation, wanting life, this time for myself and especially my wife and 10 year old son, but afraid to ask for it for fear of jinxing it, being punished for being selfish and lacking in humility, surrender and faith. I really didn't know what to do.

As my thoughts fixated on this issue, I remembered Wayne writing out his second teaching and handing it to me: "In God there are infinite possibilities, and the greatest of these is to will love." The greatest of these is to "will love." And I began to ask myself, what would Love will in this situation. I thought of my wife, so sweet, so pure, and so unprepared to make a living for our son and herself. I thought of my 10 year old boy, so much in need of a father and a guide, so sensitive and so vulnerable at his age. I thought of not being there for his high school graduation, his violin performances, for his eventual marriage, and my heart exploded in longing and in love. And I knew, absolutely knew,that it was ok to ask for life, to choose and to will Love. And then I began prayingdeeply and from the Heart, began asking with clear resolve and absolute faith for the gift of Life. I stated it as a personal "preference" rather than as a demand or "fait accompli," "Beloved, I would prefer to be around for a while particularly for Kiyoshi and Kiyomi." And I somehow knew that God was listening and responding, somehow I sensed He understood and cared.

One of the things that had haunted me for days after my mother's death was the image of her going to sleep on the operating table terrified that she might never wake up, and, indeed, never doing so. One thing that I clearly intuited was that when I went under the ether, I could not question my return or be afraid I would be forever lost in the shadow realm. I knew enough of the "Tibetan Book of the Dead," to realize that this would not be good. And because of the clarity of my intention, faith in a benevolent Higher Power, and taking the support of Wayne's teachings solidly to heart, I never even thought about not coming back or needing to negotiate or even pray in that moment of losing Consciousness. Like Wayne, I simply let go into Love. And it all worked out perfectly. I recovered immediately and was back in the classroom within 2 weeks time having just received 5 by-passes. My colleagues thought it was a "medical miracle;" I knew it was a much deeper one.

So I learned from my own experience of illness and recovery that to be a prophet, to see and manifest a desire, a vision, at this time on the planet, we need to enter deeply into our hearts, contemplate honestly and bravely what it is we really want, what will make us truly happy, all of us, all others concerned in that decision. If we then ground our clear conviction and intention in pure Love and absolute Faith and send it out into the universe without expectations, worries or questions, completely letting it go, like a butterfly into the sky, it will manifest in some form, sometimes different, always greater than any we might have imagined.

This is the secret of being a prophet and manifestor in this the Interspiritual age.

In closing, let us hear the words of our friend and mentor, Brother Wayne Teasdale, words he uses to conclude his seminal text, The Mystic Heart:

"Spirituality, finally, is awareness and sensitivity, and sensitivity is itself awareness-in action. It is this quality that we most require in our time and in the ages to come, but it is a quality refined only in the mystic heart, in the steady cultivation of compassion and love that risks all for the sake of others. It is these resources that we desperately need as we build the civilization with a heart, a universal society capable of embracing all that is, putting it to service in the transformation of the world. May the mystics lead the way to this rebirth of the human community that will harmonize itself with the cosmos and finally make peace with all things." (M.H., p 249-50)

And so it is. World without end.

 

 

 

Anne Scott

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http://www.dreamweather.org

[we apologize for minor formating problems in this piece; it was received in a computer template that did not allow complete re-formatting to the Multiplex styles]

 

Women, Wisdom & Dreams

The light of the feminine soul

 

 

I can see as clear as daylight that the hour is coming when women will lead humanity to a higher evolution.– Hazrat Inayat Khan, 20th century Sufi mystic

 

 

Introduction

 

     During a difficult time of my life, I had only my dreams to guide me. As I began to understand them, I saw how the shift in consciousness that the dreams brought me became reflected in changes in the circumstances of my life. These personal dreams were followed by more universal dreams, showing how women can give birth to a sacred quality of being that heals and transforms their lives. 

Dream

I am told that war is everywhere. And, that an antidote is found within women. I then see a vibrant, healing green stream that runs through women from head to toe. I am told that women need to find this stream and recognize it in themselves, so that it can flow out into life.

 

     From these dreams and from my own life and work, I came to realize the power that lies hidden in women, a power that is often released when an experience such as a dream, a loss, or a shock, opens her to a new dimension of consciousness. If heeded and tended to with love, this opening awakens her feminine nature.

     The work I have done for 20 years has allowed me to listen to women’s dreams while conducting retreats, women’s circles and gatherings, and collaborating with women from diverse spiritual and religious traditions. Over time, this work was tested in the field of women’s lives. But it wasn’t until I had worked with women who had lived through the wrath of Hurricane Katrina, that I realized that this model of healing and change was effective even in the midst of devastation.

      I was scheduled to give a retreat in Baton Rouge a few days after Hurricane Katrina. I thought the retreat was going to be canceled, but I was asked to come anyway. I stood in the room there feeling somewhat helpless in the face of the catastrophic conditions this group of women, some from New Orleans, now faced. What could I offer to them?

     I realized that I could share the dreams that I had gathered from women around the world. These dreams offered potent images that spoke of a deeper reality connecting women as one. At the end of the day when the women were asked what they received from our time together, a response of hope echoed around the room.

     A year later, when I returned to Baton Rouge to give another retreat, a woman spoke about her experience as a lactation nurse when Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana. Towards the end of the retreat, after listening to the dreams of other women, a new clarity broke through the beliefs that had confined her life.  

“I was in the women’s hospital during Katrina. Overhead I could hear the sound of helicopters transporting babies from a hospital in New Orleans. The hospital was darkened due to limited electricity, and I was in a small dimly lit room with a mom and her newborn. On the other side of the room the father was asleep on a cot. I was teaching this young woman how to nurse her baby, when I heard an inner voice that said, “This is what it’s all about.” All that mattered was to be aware of the sacredness of that moment, although I didn’t realize its meaning until today, a year later. I can now see how the separate fragments of my life—relationships past and present—are all connected.”

 

     From my experiences in Baton Rouge, I decided to write this book to make the dreams of women available to many other women, and to provide tools for understanding the language of dreams. For we must each offer our deepest attention to the glimmers of new life that beckon to us – whether our own, or those we see and hear from those in our communities.

     We are each so valuable in this infinitely bigger scheme of things. Our dreams and stories speak of what is coming alive and awakening during a time of great uncertainty that affects us all.

     This book is designed to help women, and men, access and make conscious their forgotten or hidden wisdom, and their potential for self-healing. This is vital work. For when we heal ourselves, we heal and nourish all of life. Reclaiming the language of dreams, cultivating states of awareness and stillness in our outer lives, and gathering in groups to share from a deeper place, offer rich ways to reconnect to the joy, love, and creativity that is our birthright and our contribution to life.

                                                                                        --Anne Scott 

Why We Need to Listen to our Dreams

     Our modern culture has lost its understanding of the inner world, and as a result the unconscious becomes something to be feared, rather than a fertile garden. We forget that at night, when we close the door to our daily activities, we can rest in the infinite and be nourished by our dreams. Instead, many of us lie awake, worry or wonder about the next day, or the next problem, instead of resting in the creative abode of silence.

     Dreams and meditation are valuable tools to help us bridge the unconscious, to access our own innate wisdom. Dreams, in particular, help us touch the wellspring, the creative spark of knowing, which is a gift from the divine. Each dream, like a poem, is a kernel from the inner world. The simple turning of our attention inward, and learning to value our dreams, can help us heal what has separated us from our wholeness.

 Dreams as Guidance 

     Dreams are a precious doorway through which the energy from the inner world can be made conscious, ultimately guiding us towards healing our wounds and reviving life. Dreams often provide hints as to how we can go about such healing. And because we are all different, for each of us this process is uniquely our own.

     To receive the wisdom of dreams, we don’t actively delve into the unconscious. The messages emerge as they will. We can learn to hold a space in which our rational mind does not interfere, where the deepest part of our self is held sacred and can speak to us.  

Dreams Give Voice to our Longing

      A woman carries the wholeness of life within her, even if she isn’t aware of it. When she begins to look within, a deep longing can arise which may not be understood. This longing to reconnect with our wholeness is the root of life, the root of our existence. If the roots of a tree are cut, the tree will wither and die from lack of water. Sadly, this has been the effect of our Western culture, which for centuries has valued the rational world and denied the inner world of the feminine. We have learned to see everything as separate, thereby cutting ourselves off from the flow of grace from inner to outer. For this we are crying in our depths.

     Many women experience this longing and think it is a problem, one of depression, isolation and loneliness. We don’t realize it is a call from another place, a call for help, maybe a cry for help. The danger becomes that we try to fill the lack we feel with food, drugs, alcohol, or more activities, without learning about life itself; this understanding is not reflected in our culture. But dreams and meditation can reconcile this separation. When we realize that life needs our attention, we can listen to what it is asking of us.  

Dream

I see an ancient bird in the sky. It is so unsightly that I am repelled by its appearance. Then it falls to the ground and when it touches the earth, it turns into a woman. She is emaciated, with barely any skin on her bones, and I cannot even look at her for more than a second. But a voice tells me that I have to take her in and care for her, and that after a year this woman will be healed. Then she will work with me and care for my house.    

     The bird is an ancient symbol for the soul, or consciousness. The earth is the ground from which we create our lives. If a bird appears in a dream as hungry, or dying, we know that somehow we have lost our way and need to align with the deeper needs of our soul.  This dream suggests that with a willingness to face her ‘wounding’ and bring it down to earth with compassion, the dreamer can heal her soul, her feminine nature, and be able to join with and nourish life.  

Dreams Give Access to the Feminine Soul

     When did a collective shame over the rejected feminine soul take root? This has taken place so gradually, over centuries, that we don’t quite realize the devastating effect this separation has had on how we perceive women, the receptive aspect of life, or the earth. But we must now relearn this lost language of the soul, as our full consciousness is vitally needed in order to bring new life at a time such as ours, when the old structures are falling away.

     Every young girl somewhere knows wholeness, the state of union with her soul. She may not call it God or the sacred, but when she looks outside at night and sees a star, in that moment she has touched her own essence, and felt connected to all of life and the spirit within it. That moment comes as grace. Too often this magic is forgotten.

     Yet our dreams give us access to the forgotten wisdom that we need for our lives and for life itself. Once we turn our attention to them, we learn to adjust to their cycles, how dreams come and go like the seasons. Sometimes we hunger for their nourishment, for that reconnection to the inner world, but at times they seem to leave us alone in our outer life. At times, after confusing dreams, it can seem we have lost a connection altogether. But with faith in our deeper wisdom, a dream will eventually come, a dream filled with simplicity and clarity. We begin to trust the process of allowing dreams to unfold in their own time, with their own rhythms.    

Gathering Together

Imagine columns of light that reach from earth to heaven. That is who we are. We need only come together from our different communities,

and in the space between our differences

 oneness can nourish the earth.

 

The Spirit of Change

     There is a value and strong need for individuals and groups to come together now, to witness and practice the healing work which transforms not only those of us who commune for the sake of the inner life, but which transforms the collective as well. This is how women have worked in ancient times. Today, we can remember in a new way the significance of restoring the link between feminine spirituality and social change.

     When we come together without judgment, creating a sacred space for this place of truth in each of us, love pours through our differences and creates new pathways. We become the vehicles for an awakening which can take place in our own lives. There is a beauty to this that has nothing to do with our problems. Within it are the qualities of peace, healing, and nourishment for life.

     As I listen to the dreams of women from different parts of the country and around the world, one consistent message is this: women need to come together. When we gather together to sit in silence, to share our dreams, to speak about our lives, we are nourished from within. We make a space for the soul. 

      I began to hold groups of women in this way many years ago. A teacher of mine told me simply, “Learn to hold something and nothing at the same time.” I had to learn to create a space, and not impose anything on a group, but to listen, and to not want anything for myself. This way of being was initially frightening, mostly because it was unfamiliar. I had the following dream at this time: 

Dream

 I am preparing for a women’s group when a great wind blows through my house. It’s so terrifying that I jump into bed and pull the covers over me. My husband says, “You need to stand up or else the wind will destroy you.”

      What is the wind but the spirit of change, of healing, which serves the soul—which serves life? I had to learn, through mistakes, when I was trying to do something in a group, and how to simply be present, attentive, and to listen. My dreams helped me to align with this feminine way. Most of all, I found it required trust, which can only come with time and experience. This can be difficult for women who have been hurt, and who have created patterns of protection against life.  There is an old Sufi prayer: Please empty myself of all except Thy presence. This is the feminine way of being—receptive, open, alive with our natural devotion.

     A woman from Germany had a dream that helped to deepen my understanding of this practice of being:

Dream

A wise old woman tells me, “When enough come together, the world will change. This must be done in the way of women.”

      It has been valuable for me to work with women of diverse cultural and spiritual traditions, because I have seen how the energy of love flows through our differences. We  need these differences. Leading groups with women friends such as a Zen Buddhist lay-ordained nun, a community leader from Mexico with Catholic and Aztec heritage, a Sufi with Pakistani and British background, an Episcopal priest in Georgia, and a Blackfoot environmental scientist from Canada, I have seen that although our paths are different, what we have in common supports us to help strengthen and giving confidence to women to live from their true self.

     Each woman stands in the center of her own life stream. Once we know our true value, we are not so quick to judge ourselves, or to see others through comparisons. In a group, the open-hearted sharing heals our fragmentation or isolation. This work of both attending to each other and to the silence, with heart and presence, builds a bridge to the greater Circle of which we are all a part.

     Carl Jung wrote that when women are restored to wholeness, generations before them and after them also are healed. All unnecessary obstacles are cleared out of the way of the life-stream that is meant to flow through us.  

Dreams of Women and the Earth

I see an aboriginal man coming towards me out of the darkness. He says, “It is time for the women to care for the earth.” He then recedes back into the darkness.
                              -Social worker from Australia, a few days after 9/11

I am standing on the ground, and look down and see that my legs from the knees down are inside the earth. I look more closely and see that my legs have become roots that interconnect with the roots just inside the surface of the earth, all around the world. These interconnecting roots are feminine and belong to all women, but there are areas not lit up, still in darkness. I understand that these areas are where women still do not value themselves and each other.

                            -Clinical psychologist with Pakistani and British heritage, England

I wake up hearing these words from a dream:

A song to the earth of joy.                                                          

                                                -Restaurant waitress, South Carolina

 

Dreams of Healing

It was right after 9/11. I am in a desert and a Native American man walked towards me with a stick. I ask him, ‘What can we do about this?” He hits me on the head with the stick and blood pours down me, into the cracks on the dry earth like rivulets. It flows all across the country, and wherever it touches I see that flowers grow out of it. It flows all the way to New York and right to the feet of a fireman. His face is exhausted and he is in despair, but a flower grows out of the blood that has flowed to his feet. This flower gives him hope and the blood nourishes the whole land.

                                              - Maori healer, Australia

I see a woman with no specific features who is clothed in a flowing burnt orange garment.  The woman is bathed in a radiant light and cradles in her arms an ancient globe of the world from which a red heart pulsates. 

–A grandmother and psychotherapist from the Midwest who works

with women, including spouses of returning Iraq war veterans

A woman tells me, “You can no longer remain silent. You can no longer bow your head in silence. You must hold your head high and speak from the deepest part of yourself. Even in front of the king.”

                                                                                       -Author’s dream  

Dreams of Oneness

I wake up from a dream in which I hear, “The problem is that people have forgotten they are one.”

                                                                  - Business development manager, Virginia

I am walking in the pitch-black night of the world, like all the darkness in the world right now. As I am walking I see a beacon of light that is surprising to me. Then, as I keep walking, I see, one by one, thousands of lights stand up out of the darkness – beacons all over the world. Each one a person, holding their own portion of light in the darkness. I get the sense that each of these beacons is outshining the darkness…and is more powerful than the darkness. The lights are lighthouses or beacons for the souls on the world to gravitate to – they will be attracted, so to speak, to the light. 

– A mother of four children and founder of a catalog company, Washington

 

My whole body seems to become the universe and there are fibers of light, interconnecting everything with everything else, like the delicate threads of a dandelion seed.

                             

                                 -Minister and children’s book author, England

 

 

 

Rafael Nasser

 

EMERGING TOWARD HIGHER SIMPLICITIES

 

Before Rafael was eleven years old he had already lived in four countries and spoke five languages. These formative years conditioned him to constantly adapt to changing cultural realities. In retrospect this coping capacity has become an asset, but as a teenager he struggled to acquire what his peers took for granted: a conventional identity.

Three events helped him consolidate an expanded sense of selfhood.  The first event happened when he discovered meditation at the age of twenty two.  Within a few short months he unexpectedly underwent a life-changing spiritual transformation. This experience enabled him to recognize the “ineffable” aspect of his being that lay beyond his childhood programming and cultural conditioning.

The second event took place a few years later when he encountered the work of Integral pioneers Ken Wilber and Don Beck. This expansive body of knowledge enabled him to contextualize his cultural “shape-shifting” as the ability to whirl up and down the Spiral of human emergence. He realized that in fact, he had already developed a strong identity, only one that was post-conventional, dynamic, growth oriented, and global in scope.

Meeting a Qigong master named Robert Peng constituted the third life-altering event.  Robert's extraordinary spiritual powers represented higher functions latent in human beings that lie dormant like seeds waiting to be awakened. Rafael befriended Robert and became his student in order to learn how to integrate, refine, and empower his own spiritual potential.

Over the years these and other developmental strands have “twined” together to form the qualities that now define Rafael's presence: he is a compassionate catalyst adept at finding elegant ways to transform lower level complications into higher level simplicities, in virtually any kind of human context.

To contact Rafael, please email him at rafinasser@gmail.com.

Rafael is a graduate of the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, has trained under Dr. Don Beck and worked with him in the Middle East, is certified as a Qigong instructor under Robert Peng, is a certified evolutionary astrologer under Steven Forrest, and author of two books, Under One Sky and the upcoming Qigong Master co-written with Robert Peng. He writes, lectures about a host of topics, and counsels individuals seeking to actualize and consolidate their evolutionary potential.

 

 

 

Chris Hebard

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www.stillnessspeaks.com

 

On Awakening

Awakening and teaching are two entirely different matters. Being awake does not qualify one to teach; being a teacher does not mean one is awake. 

I have no interest in teaching; I point.

There is only one teacher.   May you find him now.

________________

Awakening can start with an experience and then be followed by knowledge, or it can start with knowledge and end with an experience.  Both approaches are valid.

The journey here began with an experience.

There was no interest in advaita, meditation, new age, non-duality, yoga or enlightenment before the experience.

Some seem to be born with a core intuitive understanding of the nature of reality; others must be hit over the head with a baseball bat, a dark night of the soul. Here, it was a baseball bat squarely to the back of the head.

This experience was an unexpected organic reaction resulting from complete resistance to the present moment.

In other words, this jiva had a burning desire to be absolutely anywhere but in the present moment.

The resistance ultimately resulted in a complete "collapse", followed by an "opening" into a "spaceless space" where what was formerly called "I" witnessed Chris's thoughts spontaneously appearing at a great distance.

This revelation came with the very obvious question:

"If what I am was witnessing Chris's thoughts from afar, then who was I?"

This was a completely destabilizing initial experience.

I thought that, perhaps, I was going mad.

Thus, began the seeking. Along with seeking there were more and deeper experiences. A profound samadhi became the beacon of Truth as knowledge caught up with experience.

We are all hardwired for happiness. It's absence is the driver of all action. The search for happiness can not occur without unhappiness, or suffering. It is this desire to complete ourselves, to make ourselves whole and complete, this notion that we are incomplete as we are, that motivates everything we "do."

In the end, it is realized that happiness can never be found in an object, that this search for happiness is the exactly the same as the search for our true nature, which was always right here, right now. It is the true nature of all of our seeking, be it for money, fame, relationship, sex, vanity or, more subtle enlightenment.

In the end, it is the realization that the seeker itself is the illusion, apparently separating the seeker from the sought. It is ALL the only journey ever occurring: the journey home.

To call this journey a shift is an understatement; it is the absolute and total dismantling of all boundaries, containers and the core sense of limitation until there is nothing to shift at all; infinity has no other.

Until the subconscious  depths of avidya and belief in mentation (arisings) is seen clearly for what it is, there can be no true happiness.

Maya is mentation and ignorance is belief in Maya.

How can one realize how grand it all is without complete willingness to investigate the Truth of our experience and the clarity of seeing, actually seeing, that there is no substance whatsoever to this so called "solid" world; it's substance is nothing other than us, the gift of the creator to itself.

In the beginning, there is no such thing as grace. During the sadhana, sometimes, there is  grace. In the end, all is Grace.

Absolutely nothing is personal but everything is Love.

 

 

 

Philip Hellmich

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www.sfcg.org

 

Love & Conflict:

Insights from Africa on Transforming Self and Societies

 

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries.

Without them, humanity cannot survive.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

 

For nearly 25 years, Africa has been an integral part of my spiritual journey and an ongoing source for exploring and experiencing Love as a powerful, transformative force that is essential to personal, societal, and global evolution. I have made over 20 trips to African countries, including: Angola, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, Rwanda, and my beloved Sierra Leone. Almost all of these countries haveexperienced violent conflict, so it is often hard for people in the United States to comprehend the level of sadness and, at the same time, incredible inspiration I have encountered on these visits.

In this essay, I will share some of my insights in the hope that others may benefit from what I have learned from the people of Africa.

Africa: My Spiritual Journey Begins

After college, I left my family of 10 siblings and hometown in Indiana and joined the Peace Corps. I was assigned to Sierra Leone, where I worked for four years to overcome water shortages and prevent deadly diseases like diarrhea. I lived in mud huts in remote villages: the first two years in Kagbere and then two more years in Masongbo. There were maybe 30 houses in each village, which meant there were approximately 300 people in each community. There was no running water, no electricity and no telephones. While living in these bush villages, I  grew to Love many people, such as the Conteh family of Masongbo. Like many Peace Corps volunteers, I found that what I learned from my friends far outweighed my contributions.

The Contehs welcomed me into their family. I often fished with the brothers at a nearby river and together learned how to make fishing lures from sticks and wires. We ate dinner collectively, usually from the same plate. And we would pass the nights telling stories or playing drums. They tried to teach me how to drum – a futile exercise that always ended in laughter.

For all its lack of Western conveniences, the Masongbo village was rich in social connections. There were frequently three or four generations of family members living together in the same huts. The elderly were respected for their wisdom and life experiences and helped take care of the younger ones. I often marveled at how each person seemed to know his or her place in their family and village. This was in part because of the education provided by the

“secret spiritual societies,” traditions that were hundreds of years old and that existed right alongside Christianity and Islam. There also was a deep sense of spirituality that came from a daily connection to nature.

As subsistence farmers, the people followed the rhythms of “hungry season,” when previous crop yields were low and it was time to plant, and harvest season, when there was abundance.  There also were rainy seasons and dry seasons, and the cycles of the moon. On nights with a new moon in the rainy season, it was dark and people went to bed early. When the moon was full in the dry season, there was lots of light and the children laughed and played throughout the night.

And, ultimately, there was the cycle of life and death. When Pa Conteh, head of the Conteh family, died, people grieved openly, and for days family members arrived from around the country for the funeral. When I went to see Pa Conteh’s body, he had been dead for three days. The hot, humid weather had turned his vibrant face and twinkling eyes into a skull wrapped in dry brown skin. The pungent odor was so strong it was difficult to breathe. Finally, PaConeth’s body was wrapped in a white piece of cloth and placed directly in the ground.

As I pondered Pa Conteh’s body being consumed by the Earth, the village began a huge celebration! This caught me completely off guard, as I was still grieving. The entire village danced, sang, ate, and drank… well into the next day. It was during this death celebration that I noticed the music contained rhythms from nature like the calls of birds in the bush, and the dancing reflected movements of daily life such as pounding rice or making love.

It would have been easy to romanticize village life if not for the fact that Sierra Leone was, and still is, one of the poorest countries in the world where one in every four children dies before the age of five. Decades of government corruption had all but destroyed the infrastructure.

The country had vast natural resources of diamonds, gold, and rutile (a major ore of titanium), but these riches did not benefit the villagers. There was a huge contrast between rich and poor. Government officials and wealthy businessmen drove expensive vehicles while my friends were lucky to have sandals on their feet.

Meanwhile, signs of Westernization were ever present, and usually in bizarre ways. Throughout the country, even in the most remote villages, people wore t-shirts and other used clothing from the United States. When the fashion trends changed in the United States, Sierra Leone and other countries got the hand-me-downs. I frequently saw people wearing clothes that looked utterly comical from my perspective – such as an elderly man who wore a shirt that read

“baby on board.” Nevertheless, the social tapestry of Sierra Leone appeared to be holding together under the strain of poverty, corruption, high infant mortality rate, and onslaught of Western influences.

Reverse Culture Shock: Going Inward

It was when I returned to America that I realized how much I had changed while in Africa. Suddenly, I was aware of the wealth, material abundance, and incredible waste in my home country. Electricity was accessible 24 hours a day with the flip of a switch, so that the cycles of the moon went unnoticed. Safe drinking water was readily available without having to carry buckets of water. Stores were filled with everything a person could ever want. I remember pausing at the pet section of my local grocery store and counting over 50 varieties of cat food. I found myself translating the cost of everything into cups of rice and calculating how many members of the Conteh family it could feed and for how long.

American abundance literally bombarded me. Everywhere I looked, I saw a culture obsessed with youth, beauty, sex, and various products designed to enhance these goals. Therealso was unbelievable violence on TV and at the cinema. I remember the first time I saw a person killed in a movie – I flinched – and then was disturbed to see that the people with me did not seem to notice anything wrong. Even now, I am sensitive to seeing people killed in the movies.

After returning home, it didn’t take long for me to experience a deep crisis – a void.  People seemed too busy to connect as deeply as my African friends and I felt alone. This void jolted me and then sparked me to pursue a conscious spiritual journey through a daily meditation practice. My inward exploration intensified as I watched Sierra Leone succumb to a terrible war.

All I wanted to do was help. My body was in America but my heart and soul were in Africa. So in 1997, I joined Search for Common Ground, an international conflict transformation organization. Since then, Common Ground has sent me on numerous African missions. Each of my trips would begin on a Sunday morning, when I would go to my favorite meditation center. I enjoy meditating with others, as I have found that it is easy for me to experience deep states of peace, bliss, and Love when with a group. After service, I would go home to Arlington, Virginia, finish packing, and then fly out from Washington Dulles International airport. Within 24 to 30 hours, I would land in Monrovia, Freetown, Kinshasa, or some other war-torn city in Africa.

The contrast between the peacefulness of a meditation hall and the impact of deadly conflict is shocking, to say the least. My meditation practice trained me to be present, open, and in many ways vulnerable. This was both a blessing and a challenge, as it meant I would be more open to the depth of suffering of people around me, especially of my friends in Sierra Leone.

My first trip back to Sierra Leone was in April 1998, as part of an assessment team for Search for Common Ground. There was a lull in the on-going civil war, so I was able to reach my friends in Masongbo. I had mixed emotions about returning to the village – while I desperately wanted to know if my friends were okay, I wasnervous about seeing the impact of war on people I loved.

Needless to say, when I saw the Conteh brothers I had a deep sense of relief! They, too, were astounded to see me suddenly appear. We hugged, looked into each other’s eyes, and smiled.

The entire village gathered around, hugging me, laughing, showing me the babies named after me, children conceived during the war. I could not help but notice how emaciated my friends looked – people I remembered being lean and strong from farm work. Now, their hair had a reddish tint from malnutrition and the children were more frail and vulnerable than before. Moses Conteh and his cousin Sanpha told stories of how they almost starved, surviving at times by fishing, using the methods we learned together when I was a PeaceCorps volunteer. While telling these stories, the  Contehs offered me a live chicken and palm wine, traditional gifts for a special guest. Children handed me mangos and coconuts, while the The Contehs’ love and generosity was overwhelming, especially when they had so little. Here Sanpha, the Conteh’s cousin, offers a 30 pound fish and home-made fishing lures. The village chief gave me kola nuts, a customary greeting which means: “He who gives kola, gives life.” Later, the Contehs went fishing and caught a 30-pound Nile perch using a lure they made themselves – enough fish to feed their families for days. They were so happy to offer the fish as a gift.

The Love I shared with the Contehs and their village opened my heart. Their generosity, when having so little and surviving so much, still moves me beyond words. A few weeks after this visit to Sierra Leone, the civil war surged and the village of Masongbo was once again sacked by rebels, known as the RUF. During this horrific period, I had no way to contact the Conteh family or my other friends. I watched in dismay as the news from Sierra Leone became increasingly bleak. The reports about the number of people killed or mutilated were not like other bad news stories. No, these were people and communities I loved deeply and who loved me. I would later learn that the RUF unit that raided Masongbo was headed by a teenage boy named Colonel Rambo. For nearly two years, Rambo and his “men” held the Contehs and others hostage, taking whatever they wanted from the villagers who livedon less than a dollar a day. The RUF even took young children from the village as new recruits.

And a dear friend, Adama Conteh, who had daughters named Peggy and Patience, died giving birth to her third child, having been denied medical care by the RUF. My meditation practice became a life raft as I struggled with frustration, rage, and sadness. I desperately wanted to know how to bridge the refuge of inner peace I experienced in meditation with the outer world of conflict and peace building. Often, I would look to His Holiness the Dalai Lama as a source of inspiration. He dealt with enormous international problems with China annexing Tibet. His people suffered tremendously and, yet, His Holiness constantly came from a place of compassion and Love, using meditation as a source of strength. His example helped me to keep my faith and topersevere.

A Breakthrough in Love

A breakthrough came in May 2000. The United Nations had peacekeeping troops in Sierra Leone and Search for Common Ground had just received the funding needed to start a program there. Meanwhile, my supervisor and two other colleagues had just left the organization for a start-up dot.com company. I was suddenly promoted to oversee our West African programs, including the new one in Sierra Leone.

I was in Monrovia, having just left Freetown in Sierra Leone, where I had hired some staff members and a contractor to set up our office. I was scheduled to fly back to Freetown, but Members of the Conteh Family & the author during a return visit. During the war, their village had been sacked by a teenage boy named Colonel Rambo.

A friend called hours before the flight. He strongly encouraged me to stay in Monrovia, because Foday Sanko, head of the RUF, was planning a coup in Freetown. Sure enough, the coup attempt did happen and the house where I would have stayed was caught in the crossfire. As a result, I stayed in Monrovia, which had survived numerous attacks during its own civil war and was a bombed-out city with no running water or electricity. After making the decision not to go to Sierra Leone, I remember going back to a bare apartment and meditating.

This time, I entered a meditative state besieged by new responsibilities, wanting to help people in Sierra Leone, but not knowing what to do. Generally, I do not talk about my meditations; however, they were evolving dramatically. On that afternoon, a wave of ecstasy came shooting through my body. I was overcome by an intoxicating amount of Love in which I experienced a profound connection with everything in all directions at the same time. In that state of Love, I felt at home and trusting. The Love went on and on, lasting for hours, until I finally passed out.

The timing of this blissful event was incredibly powerful. Just as I was feeling helpless and distraught, an invisible presence enveloped me with a deep level of comfort. I was confused at first, wondering how so much Love could exist next to so much pain and suffering. Love was leading me somewhere… I just did not know where yet.  I needed help navigating these inner terrains and the range of emotional reactions I was having to the deadly conflicts in Africa. I had a meditation practice and a larger meditation community as a foundation. Still, I wanted a mentor. After creating this intention, I met Dr. Rick Levy, who later published Miraculous Health: How to Heal Your Body by Unleashing the Hidden Power of Your Mind. Over a seven-year period, while going back and forth to Africa, I went to Rick for advice. Having studied spiritual practices from around the world, Rick accompanied me on a trip to West Africa, where he assessed what role indigenous spiritual healers might play in the Sierra Leone peace process. Moreover, through our one-on-one sessions, Rick helped me release the negative emotional reactions I was having to the atrocities in Africa. We would go into meditation together, then shift the focus of my consciousness to the inner realms of my being – to my soul.

This took me into even deeper states of peace and Love that rejuvenated me and enabled me to continue working in difficult situations without getting “burnt out.” The work with Rick and my daily meditation practice became means of “purifying my consciousness,” helping me realize from an experiential perspective that my true inner state was peace and that I am connected to and part of a larger source of Love. I started to envision the negative thoughts and emotions as waves – natural reactions to a troubling world – that would rise and pass away if I allowed them, not part of my identity.

I began to fall in Love with Love itself, to write ecstatic poetry, to study the mystics. Paramahansa Yogananda once described Love as “the divine power of attraction in creation that harmonizes, unites, binds together.” With this lens, I started to see Love permeating everything:   the Love I felt for my parents and siblings; the Love they expressed for me; the Love felt with friends; the Love between my cats and me – it was all Love expressing itself. I listened to a radio station that played Love songs. I substituted “the Love” for the object of Love in the songs and the songs took on a whole new level of meaning.

On a practical level, I could not maintain this state of intoxicated Love indefinitely, but I found I could cultivate Love in my daily life by removing barriers that held me back from connecting with other people and nature. For example, I practiced being fully present and focused on a person when greeting him or her. Could I see the other person as a soul whose essence is Love? Could I listen to his or her every word, I mean really listen? Sure enough, my familial, personal, and office relationships all began to shift through this simple exercise. The question became: How much Love could I handle?

Ultimately, I concluded that the amount of Love we experience is based on our openness to connect. Invariably, ever deepening connections bring old fears to the surface that need to be released. In this way, I discovered that openness to Love is an integral part of the purification process and the inner transformation necessary to create harmonious and loving environments.

Separation: Root Cause of Conflict

A human being is a part of a whole, called by us “universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

Albert Einstein

My personal exploration of Love as a transformative and unifying force provided me with a new perspective on how to contend with deadly conflicts and peace-building efforts in Africa. For instance, the very idea of Love presupposes duality, as there is an exchange between two entities. As described by many spiritual teachers and implied by Albert Einstein above, it is the illusion of separation that is the root cause of conflict, including a sense of separation from God, Spirit, or Universe (whichever word works for you).

Michael Singer, author of The Untethered Soul, describes this idea by saying each of us has within us a soul that is part of the larger Spirit, filled with bliss, peace, and Love. Intuitively, we know that these exalted states exist, but instead of looking inward to experience them, we look externally in an attempt to create peak moments.

Tara Brach, a psychologist and meditation instructor in the Washington, DC area, explains this phenomenon by saying we identify with our thoughts and emotions and then believe they are real. This starts a process whereby we separate from others and everything around us. With separation comes fear, which in turn gives rise to the “wanting self” (e.g.: I want to be happy and avoid suffering). Everyone on the planet has this basic operating software package running – we are all trying to rearrange a constantly changing world to avoid suffering and get what we want.

Conflict is inevitable, as a result. It also is a natural part of the human experience, as we bump into other people trying to avoid suffering and create happiness. A child wants a toy to be happy and will fight with another child to get it, adolescents struggle over identity and romantic relationships, and adults continue the drama with even more involved conflicts. In a warped way, we can see that the people who sold AK-47s and RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) to the RUF were doing so to make money so they could be happy.

Meanwhile, humans are governed by three basic spiritual laws: the first one is choice or free will; the second is cause and effect or karma; and the third and most subtle law is evolution.

Often, free will is usurped by emotions, societal expectations, or cultural norms. Still, we slowly learn by trial and error and by reaping the fruits of our actions how to choose behaviors that benefit us and those we Love. In this way, we evolve.

Eventually, we learn to look inward, to reconnect with our souls to find the bliss, peace, and Love we long for. Once in touch with our soul, we sense our oneness with others and all of nature. This connection gives rise to the highest qualities of the human spirit, such as tolerance, compassion, forgiveness, and Love. Then, our outward actions are qualitatively different – they express our unique gifts without the need to get anything in return.

Accelerated Pursuit of Happiness: Creating Complex Problems

Unfortunately, the Western model for happiness is based on individual consumption, which I find terribly disturbing after living in Africa. To me, it is clear that the Western pursuit of material satisfaction has created a global spiritual crisis that now threatens human survival. There literally are billions of people striving to avoid suffering and be happy through massive consumption, all of which is being accelerated by technological advances. Yet somehow, we do not see the cause and effect impact of our collective individual actions on the environment, people who live thousands of miles away, or geo-political struggles for resources.

Although the global economy may be weaving together humanity, without the unifying power of Love greater and greater global conflicts will arise. Also, the individual pursuit of happiness through consumerism usually results in less human connection, less connection with nature, and, ultimately, less experience of Love. This in turn creates isolation, suffering, and an inner hunger that leads to more craving and consumption. It is no surprise that many of the topselling prescription drugs sold in America deal with depression and anxiety. Material progress without Love and compassion leads to suffering.

With all this said, my colleagues at Search for Common Ground often remind me that most conflicts in the world are handled peacefully or at least non-violently, a fact easily forgottenwhen traveling to war-torn countries or watching the evening news. They also point out that conflict is an engine of growth and transformation when handled constructively (or, as I now believe, with Love). I see this in my own life – close friendships deepen after an argument if we are able to communicate openly. And my own spiritual journey has been enriched as a result of the inner conflict I felt after returning to the United States from Sierra Leone. 

However, when conflicts are handled destructively, fear becomes the driving force. People become polarized and their extreme positions drive the agenda. The people with the loudest voices often use fear as a tactic to unify their group against “the others.” As fear increases, people narrow their multiple identities (such as father, mother, musician, artist, sports fan, farmer, teacher), down to just one – whether an ethnic group (I’m a Hutu and you’re a Tutsi), a religious sect (I’m a Muslim and you’re a Jew), or a political party (I’m a Republican and you’re a Democrat). Instead of seeing what they have in common or what connects them, they see only how they are different and what separates them. In Rwanda, this dynamic played out to an extreme level. In the early 1990s, radio programs amplified the fear and mistrust by fueling ethnic tension. As fear increased, people became more polarized, thinking in terms of “us and them.” Tutsis and Hutu moderates were identified as the problem. To get rid of the problem, the radical Hutus believed it was necessaryto get rid of the Tutsis and even te moderate Hutus. As in all destructive conflicts, the aggressors created an atmosphere where it was possible to strike out and kill – first stereotype and then dehumanize “the others.” Thus, Tutsis were called dogs, since it is easier to kick a dog than a human. Then, they were called cockroaches, as it is easy to kill a cockroach.

The Common Ground Approach: Transforming Societies

My colleagues at Search for Common Ground did just the opposite in neighboring Burundi, a country populated largely by people with Hutu and Tutsi ethnicity. Burundi was teetering on the brink of all-out violence immediately after the genocide in Rwanda. Quickly, my colleagues assessed the situation and then established a radio studio where Hutu and Tutsi journalists worked side by side. They produced programs that provided balanced information and which rehumanized both groups.

I remember the first time I went to Burundi. I was nervous because the Rwanda genocide was such a hallmark of horror. But I was amazed to walk into the Common Ground office and see a large team of people busily producing radio programs, all committed to working together.

One of them was Adrien, a tall, soft-spoken man with deep compassionate eyes. He was a Hutu and in his youth Adrien missed school one day – the day his entire class was massacred by Tutsis. In the office next to Adrien was Agnes, a powerful robust Tutsi woman who had lost 79 members of her family to the ethnic violence. Indeed, everyone on the staff had a story of personal loss, yet each was willing to take a stand, together, for a new way of resolving conflict.

Coming from a large family myself and having seen the impact of war on the Conteh family, it was both mind and heart boggling to imagine working side-by-side with people from an ethnic group that committed atrocities against loved ones. Adrien, Agnes and others across Africa became my teachers on the practical ways to embody compassion and Love, and how to promote those values across multi-cultured societies.

Their techniques were similar to what I learned in meditation. For example, my meditation training taught me to look at and accept the realities of a situation, no matter how difficult. I did not have to like the situation; just accept it. This could be an outward state of affairs, such as the war in Sierra Leone, or it could be the anger and sadness that arose as a response. Tara Brach calls this approach “radical acceptance.”

All of Search for Common Ground’s programs face harsh realities head-on, accepting that such situations exist. There is nothing “Pollyannaish” about our work. The idea is to shift the focus from what separates people from their perceived enemies to what they have in common – their common humanity.

The Common Ground approach is based on an implicit trust in the human spirit. When there is recognition of common humanity, innate spiritual qualities of tolerance, compassion, forgiveness, and Love can be awakened. With these positive human qualities present, it is easier for people to shift their mindset. A new consciousness arises, one where they can face problems together instead of attacking each other. In essence, our approach is similar to a meditation practice: We help a person move beyond fear, expand their identity or consciousness, and experience a sense of oneness or connection with other people and nature. This process opens people to their innate spiritual potential and allows them to create win-win solutions.

This may sound simple, but it is profound. Meditation teaches that wherever you place your focus, that is where your energy and consciousness goes. Scientists now theorize that the physical world arises out of consciousness, something yogis and sages have taught for centuries.

Many motivational speakers and spiritual teachers talk about the power of positive thinking and positive affirmations. One teacher says if you want to reduce the power of negative influences, do not battle the negative; rather, increase the positive. Yogananda once said, “If you want to change your circumstance in life, change your thinking.” This may sound idealistic when a society is facing potential genocide, but this is exactly what our staff employed in Burundi – we helped an entire society change its consciousness.

One of the Common Ground radio programs produced in Burundi was a radio soap opera called Our Neighbors, Ourselves. It told the story of a Hutu family living next to a Tutsi family.  Like all good soap operas, it was filled with laughter, tragedies, drama, and Love affairs. Through more than 1,000 episodes, the program helped rehumanize Hutu and Tutsis to each other by highlighting what they have in common. Nearly 90% of the population listened to the show. It became so popular that during a break in programming, a General in the army came to our office and demanded a copy of the next episode! He said his men were anxiously waiting to hear what happened next.

The core message of Our Neighbors, Ourselves was pretty close to: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Adrien, Agnes and other staff were modeling behaviors taught by the great spiritual traditions and they helped reweave the social tapestry of their society with compassion and Love.

Steady Bongo and the Cultural Heroes

During my travels in Africa, I met hundreds of people like Adrien and Agnes, people who bravely risk their lives to promote the search for common ground or common humanity. While their stories and situations may differ in detail, they possess a distinctly similar focus – a commitment to bridging the walls of separation that divide them, their communities, and their countries. In this sense, and without relying on any religious affiliation, they promote the universal expression of Love, drawing together and healing fragmented parts of the whole.

Sometimes, this search for common humanity can take unexpected twists and turns that lead to joyous celebrations, even in the direst situations. An example of a surprising outcome involved a Sierra Leonean pop musician named Steady Bongo. A year after our program started, there was a tenuous peace agreement between the government and RUF rebels. The RUF heldmost of the Northern and Eastern regions of the country while United Nations and British peacekeepers controlled the rest.

Word came to Frances, our director in Sierra Leone, that the RUF were harassing UN workers who were trying to get humanitarian aid to the region. Steady Bongo was visiting Frances at the time, and Frances had a hunch that Steady should go with her to the front lines. Keep in mind, the RUF had committed terrible atrocities – people were terrified of them and rightly so.

Frances and Steady drove more than 12 hours across the country. When they arrived at an RUF checkpoint, teenage boys wielding AK-47s started harassing Frances. She calmly asked if they liked Steady Bongo’s music, to which they replied, “Yeah sure – he’s our man.” Then, she pointed to the back seat. When they saw Steady Bongo, the combatants went from being thugs to young boys. They danced and sang, “The war is over, Steady Bongo has come!” Then, the gruff, hardened commanders met Steady; they went from being terrorizing combatants to starry-eyed fans in seconds. The RUF commanders asked Steady to play some music and Frances jumped in, sensing an opportunity.

Ultimately, the RUF commanders agreed to give safe passage to Steady Bongo and his band, provide security, pay for half the expenses, and allow Search for Common Ground staff to interview people for radio programs, which we broadcast across the country. Steady Bongo and his band the Cultural Heroes did a peace concert tour across the RUF area, helping to open the lines to humanitarian aid. They were greeted by enthusiastic combatants and civilians alike, and our national radio program broadcast voices of young RUF combatants, who said they were tired of fighting and wanted to end the conflict. Our interviews started to rehumanize the RUF rebels, allowing the slow process of reconciliation to begin.

After supporting Sierra Leone through the tenuous peace process, disarming combatants, reintegrating refugees, and holding national elections, we now are addressing the root cause of the war – poverty and corruption. We also are giving a national voice to those who have been marginalized, like women and children. Sierra Leone, like Burundi, still faces incredible social and political problems, such as a lack of opportunities for a generation of youth who grew up with violence. These countries are evolving, slowly growing out of difficult periods. The ongoing challenge is to reweave the social tapestries and integrate the best of traditional African cultures with the positive aspects of globalization. The new social fabric will need tolerance, compassion, and Love to withstand all these pressures so that people can explore creativesolutions without resorting to violence.

Universal Lessons – Global Challenges

In a sense, the lessons from Africa are universal to the human experience. Humanity is facing complex problems, such as global warming, that require us to look beyond our individual and national identities. If we start to view all of humanity and nature as being interconnected and interdependent, we will be able to move beyond behaviors that are fueled by a sense of separation and fear. Then, cooperative solutions will come at an unprecedented rate and scale.

But first, we must reevaluate how we individually and collectively pursue happiness. As Einstein prescribed, we must widen “our circle of compassion.” 

In Africa, the human spirit has proven to be incredibly resilient. From direct experience, I know it is possible to cultivate Love on an individual level through spiritual practices such as meditation, and on a societal level by applying emerging methodologies of conflict resolution such as the Search for Common Ground approach. The next step will be an evolutionary leap: To weave a new global tapestry based on the universal principle of Love.

While this global challenge may seem overwhelming, I have found that if I focus on my immediate environment, I am empowered. In meditation, the idea is to “be present.” I believe that my contribution to world peace starts right now, with every breath, choosing to be present in my own humanity and honoring the humanity in whoever is in front of me. This simple exercise allows me to connect spiritually with people all around the world. And it enables me to be open to the unifying and transformative power of Love.

When I look back on my many journeys to Africa, one of the most important lessons I have learned is simple: slow down and “keep time” – a Sierra Leonean expression for being together and connecting with others. Surely, our collective future depends less on science and technology and more on the art of cultivating compassion and Love.

Contact: Philip M. Hellmich – phellmich@sfcg.org; 1 (202)777-2202 or 1 (703)887-5636

This essay will appear in The Oracle Institute’s upcoming book The Love: Of the Fourth Spiritual Paradigm and an

edited version will be in Kosmos Journal. 

 

Diane Berke

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www.onespiritinterfaith.org

 

 In Dark Times

(from One Spirit Journal)

 

Part of my spiritual practice includes doing what I can to keep myself inspired on a daily basis, often through reading. Not long ago, I came across this passage, written by progressive historian Howard Zinn, who died a few months ago. It is from Zinn’s article “The Optimism of Uncertainty,” published in The Nation magazine in 2004.

“An optimist isn’t necessarily a blithe, slightly sappy whistler in the dark of our time. To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places – and there are so many – where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.” (quoted in James Baraz & Shoshana Alexander, Awakening Joy, p. xx) 

For me, one of the reasons for being optimistic and hopeful in the “dark of our time” that has included the rise of religious fundamentalism and religiously-inspired conflict and violence, is the concurrent emergence of what Wayne Teasdale, in The Mystic Heart, termed “interspirituality,” or “intermysticism.” Interspirituality refers to the sharing of the interior resources, the spiritual treasures each tradition has developed to directly and experientially access the underlying unity of being that is the deepest revelation of all authentic wisdom teachings.  

Throughout the more than 20 years I have been teaching and training interfaith/interspiritual ministers, one of my guiding principles has been this teaching from A Course in Miracles: “A universal theology is impossible, but a universal experience is not only possible but necessary.” (ACIM, C-in.2:5) And so I was deeply moved when I read in The Mystic Heart:

“The real religion of humankind can be said to be spirituality itself, because mystical spirituality is the origin of all the world religions. If this is so, … we might also say the interspirituality – the sharing of ultimate experiences across traditions – is the religion of the third millennium. Interspirituality is the foundation that can prepare the way for a planet-wide enlightened culture.” (The Mystic Heart, p. 26) 

There are three aspects of the interspiritual “emergence” that especially give me hope. The first is what I consider one of the most wondrous developments of our time: that the great mystical and transformational teachings and practices of all the spiritual traditions and paths are, for the first time, widely available to anyone with the desire, determination, and commitment to seriously explore them. This kind of exploration makes possible a spiritual life that is authentically inner-directed and rooted in the deeper wisdom available through integrating multiple perspectives.

Cultivating a mature spirituality means taking responsibility for our own inner journey, recognizing that our own path is unique. Thomas Merton likened the spiritual life to the search for a path in a field of newly fallen snow: we walk across the snow, and that is our path. Similarly, Teasdale wrote, “Interspirituality is open to growth in perspective; it implies a commitment to always push forward toward a more adequate understanding of the source, the meaning of life, and the best methods of proceeding in our spiritual lives.” (The Mystic Heart, p. 28)

Another expression of interspiruality that has encouraged and inspired me has been the coming together, in community, of sincere and accomplished teachers and practitioners across traditions, not only to share experiences and insights, but to begin to discern together how the unique wisdom of the mystical, contemplative perspective can be brought to bear (both individually and collectively) on the considerable challenges that confront us in our world today. I feel deeply privileged to be participating in the emergence of two such communities: the Global Peace Initiative of Women’s Contemplative Alliance, which held its first gathering in Aspen in November 2008 and sent a delegation of spiritual teachers and leaders to the Climate Change conference in Copenhagen; and the newly formed Universal Order of Sannyasa, based on a vision articulated by Teasdale in The Mystic Heart. Participation in UOS is something that will be open to the larger One Spirit community, and I look forward to sharing more about it with you over time.

The third aspect of the interspiritual perspective that gives me hope is the emergence of my friend Andrew Harvey’s teaching on “sacred activism,” clearly and powerfully articulated in his book The Hope. Unlike much of traditional activism which, though born of a sincere passion for justice, often grows out of and reinforces the adversarial “us and them” consciousness that gives rise to many of our most intractable problems - and which so often leads to burn out – sacred activism marries this passion for justice with a deep commitment to mystical practice that grounds us in the unshakable, inexhaustible love and joy that arise naturally when we directly experience the underlying unity of all life. Through this marriage, our lives become a force of transformative love in action, to serve the healing of the world and midwife the next step in conscious evolution, what Andrew calls “the birth of a divine humanity.”

To support and participate in the emergence of interspirituality - with all that I believe it makes possible for our world – is, for me, the heart of One Spirit’s purpose … that we may be a living part of the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different – and more life-affirming – direction together. 

 

 

 

    Simon Sherman

 

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(translating Vladimir Serkin from the Russian)

About Vladimir Serkin (above, right):

http://www.nibbe-wiedling.de/serkin/english/titles_en.htm

 

DIALOGUES WITH THE SHAMAN

Introduction to “Dialogues with the Shaman”

Excerpts:  Shamanic Laughter; and Shamanic Forest

Prepared for revised abridged English edition

Author:  Serkin Vladimir

Translated from Russian by Simon Sherman

 

Excerpts:

 

SHAMANIC LAUGHTER

 

July 16th 2005

I do not know where they came from.  I glanced back after the Shaman did so and I saw a man and two women with the sunset background.  The man had a short spear.  I never saw such a spear before.   His spear’s blade was like the double-edge blade of a large knife.  The spear’s point was obviously made out of iron.

One woman had a bow behind her back with relaxed bowstring made out of deer sinew.  Arrows were probably in a bag.   Their faces seemed as harsh as their fists.  They were dressed almost completely in skins.  The one with a bow had a sweater under her skins.  The second woman had a military winter hat.  They probably trade with shepherds or probably robbed someone.  Their stature was straight and proud.  Maybe they are people and maybe not.  I felt something foreign and strange.  From the first look it is obvious why the Evelns avoid them.  In the Evelns conversations, they are referred only as “they”.  I silently called them ‘Dark” and not because of the color of their skin.  Their tanned and weathered faces are not darker than the Evelns faces.  It felt as if the evening became darker and heavier in their presence.  I would not like to meet these people without the Shaman nor in their territory where no civilized person has ever visited.  This is territory under four thousand kilometers (about 2.5 thousand miles) between Magadan and Yakutsk.  They may not be cannibals, but…  They communicated only with the Shaman.  They ignored me the way people would normally ignore a neighbor’s cat.  I also tried not to look.  God forbid offending these.  They would tear you to pieces first and think about it later.  Ne-e-e, they would not think later either.  Their language was a combination of the sounds and gestures, as if gestures were equal to sounds.  Their sounds were hoarse clicking with short vowels and strange tones.   They waited for the Shaman to create a mixture for them, and than they nodded, said something hoarsely and left without looking at me.  The evening suddenly lightened up.

-           Are those “The Twilight People”?

-           Yes.  It was them.

-           Why are they so gloomy?

-           They are most ancient.

-           Even more than the local Evelns?

-           They older than any people here.

-           How do you know?

-           By their language.

-           What is so special about their language?

-           The older language gets more primal it gets.

-           How is that?

-           With primary language all words are literal.

-           I do not understand.

-           For example the word “bear” translates to “formidable sleeps all winter”.

-           What about their gestures?

-           “Bear” is pronounced as: “threat” as a sound, “sleep” as a gesture, “winter” as a sound, “always” as a gesture.

-           This is great.  A new concept.   What else?

-           This is not new.  All languages started as this one.

-           Please tell me more.

-           The Tambourine sounds like “goom-denn” by the sounds a tambourine makes.

-           Can you demonstrate with gestures?

-           (The Shaman made a gesture meaning he is too busy now to deal with language lessons.)

-           It is difficult to communicate with people using such language.

-           But their spells are much stronger. (The Shaman laughs.)

 

July 17th 2005

We climbed to the highest peak of this shore.  We placed a gift to the Mountain spirit and rest.  The view is like outside an airplane’s window.  We are probably the first people to ever climb here.  It is possible to get here by only using special mountain snow shoes.   In the summer this place is unreachable due to the thick growth of cider stlanik.   In the winter skies would brake on rocks under snow.  I brought expensive snow shoes from Alaska.  They have a metal frame and sharp teeth and all this under 3 kilo (6.6 Lb).   I remembered the “Twilight” people.  By now they have to be about 60 kilometers (37 miles) away from us, going home.  

-           How can they walk through those mountains using wooden snowshoes?  They must break daily.

-           Right now they rest.

-           How do you know?

-           They have to go for a few hundred kilometers, many days.  They are conserving their strength. 

-           What, later in the darkness they use less strengths?

-           This time of year light is not important, but snow.  Later in the evening and at night the snow becomes frozen and harder.  It is easier to walk almost without sinking into it.  At about noon to 8 pm the snow is soft because of the sun.  You use up a lot of strength and walk a shorter distance.

-           Somehow I did not notice it.

-           We walked on the mountain ridge, the snow here is hard.  We would encounter soft snow by 6 pm.  You would notice than.

-           Why had no one ever discovered the “Twilight People”?

-           They do not want to be discovered.

-           Who cares what they want.   Others have been discovered.

-           Their speech is stronger than our.   It would be the way they want.

-           What does their speech have to do with anything?

-           Speech creates the world.

-           What makes it so strong?

-           I told you, their speech is primal.   They have much less separation between a word and an action.

 

SHAMANIC FOREST

 

November 06th 2005

This morning the Shaman was sitting on his bench, for a few hours, somehow differently, turned to the left.   Another practice?  

-           What is it?

-           Not everything in my city life went the best way.

-           You are remembering it?

-           I was correcting it.

-           You corrected the past?

-           Only my own.  Who am I to be involved in someone else life?

-           How can you correct something which is over?

-           Little by little.  I create a different image of the situation.

-           But you can only remember it.

-           I remember because the situation can influence thought process.  But the thought process can influence the situation, too.

-           But is this situation over yet?

-           It is over and it exists forever.

-           How come forever?

-           Now it will not disappear.

-           It disappeared already.

-           Did the past disappear?

-           Yes… But you think now, and your situation is in the past.

-           Firstly the situation is extended until now, since I thought about it.  Secondly, you forgot about the world of ideas being outside of time.  You yourself teach it to your students.

-           I teach them by Plato only.

-           And I practice by Plato.

-           Sure, you are Plato yourself.  (We laugh.)  This way everyone who is not too lazy can change the past.

-           All people do it but not very effectively because they do it unskillfully and they are not systematic enough.

-           But this is … chaos.

-           Do not get upset.  The world is a self preserving system.  Otherwise it would not have lasted all this time.

-           Then here is another danger.   By trying to correct the past a person can be destroyed by placing himself across the world’s flow.

-           Write this down.  Better not to practice than to practice unintelligently.

-           So, what do you do?

-           Everyone decides for himself.   Most people pray.

-           So, to correct the future it is needed to turn to the right?

-           This is irrelevant.  What is important is the correlation to your concept of time.

 

January 22nd 2006  

For the last few years in the area of Magadan here is plenty of wildlife again.  This is understandable.  From my generation of all the people I know, I am the only one who hunts.  A generation ago it used to be every second person.  When I told my thoughts about it to the Shaman, he just laughed.

-           The locals used to live by hunting professionally for thousands of years and they got more meat than any layman now.   But there was no shortage of animals.

-           Really. Why?

-           Contemporary hunters kill animals in barbaric ways and the locals behave in a civilized way hunting.

-           What is the difference?

-           The locals killed only by necessity.  They followed rituals for the hunting and slaughter of animals, so the soul of the animal is not offended and again can reincarnate in the same locality.

-           How are hunters today offending animals?

-           For those who need the meat as necessity for a family budget there is no real offence.  This kind of hunter thinks about his children, we can say that he thinks about life.

-           What about the others?

-           Many contemporary hunters kill animals for a sport.  This is an offence.  They kill without asking for forgiveness.  They do not follow any rules and treat the carcasses badly.  After such treatment the soul of an animal does not come back for a long time or goes to other places.  Sometimes it even goes to the other worlds because of the offence.  It may also lead other animals away after it.  It may improve in Magadan, but what about other places?

-           Yes.  This is barbaric.   At least it is good that animals do not take revenge.

-           The Spirits of the locality take revenge.

-           How?

-           They mark anyone for wrong killing with a killer mark.  This sign is recognized in almost any world.  It natural for the killer to meet more hostility everywhere until the end of his life.  As a result he lives worse and for shorter time.

-           But many nonprofessional hunters do not suspect it.

-           What is important is not the knowledge, but the actions. When a hunter repents, the mark is removed, but the years lived worse under a killer mark nobody can reverse. 

-           But a human being does not know!   He is not guilty, but the education system and the system itself.

-           (The Shaman parodied a guru.) “Everyone born into a specific system not accidentally, but all who are born can improve”.   (The Shaman smiles.)  Do not bother me anymore with questions, whose answers exist in a thousand books.  Master stopping your questions…

  ____________________________________

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