Thursday, November 26 2020
What a year! A worldwide pandemic. Fires and hurricanes raging in record numbers. A painfully polarized nation. Suffering and loss abound! All around us, there is so much grief, fear, outrage, mistrust and despair. So much turmoil. So much heartbreak.
What do we do with our hearts on a day dedicated to gratitude? For many of us, the losses are so overpowering and discouraging that it may be hard to muster much in the way of giving thanks.
And yet, opening our hearts in gratitude is just what this day asks of us. It is harder this year. So we need to dig deeper and look closer. We need to open our hearts even wider to see the bountiful – the love and heroism around us, the gifts of family, friends and all our relations, the gifts of shelter, health care and nourishment for body mind and spirit, the gifts of critters, trees, flowers and the awesome beauty of Mother Earth. When we look more deeply, we see that, along with our grief, we are graced.
We don’t need to rid ourselves of grief in order to be grateful. Gratitude can accompany grief. Our hearts are big enough for both.
This challenging year invites us to soften and stretch our hearts, to release this center of love from its protections and confinement, to make room for all that we feel and experience, to make room for each other and see how deeply we are connected to everyone and everything.
In spaciousness of heart, gratitude flourishes!
Happy making room. Happy thanks-giving!
P.S. I apologize for my unannounced sabbatical. Your gentle encouragement of this writing has partnered with an inner prompting - nudging me back to the keyboard. I’m grateful.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Friday, April 10 2020
Good Friday Musings
For many years, Good Friday has been for me a day of fasting, meditation and reflection. Often that has meant spending a good part of the day with Jesus.
On this Good Friday, I reflect on what is, for me, the central theme of Jesus’ teaching: We are all part of one Consciousness, the essence of which is Love. This Universal Consciousness – God - is our origin and our destination.
Our destination is not out there somewhere. It is not separate from us. Jesus says the Kingdom of God is within. Within each of us there is a quiet spaciousness at the center of being, where individual consciousness meets Cosmic Consciousness, where love meets Love, where human meets Divine.
So, how do we access this spacious center of being?
Meditation practice helps us travel toward inner spaciousness. We set our intention to enter the deep quiet. We soften and relax. We let go of effort. As a mercy to ourselves, we gently disengage from busy mind, with its worries, rehearsals and judgments. We follow the outbreath toward stillness – gently inviting ourselves back to breath, again and again, gently and persistently re-orienting toward stillness.
There is no need to struggle or search. This practice is a matter of allowing and trusting. We simply let go and let ourselves be guided down a natural pathway to the deep quiet at the center of being. It’s our home. It’s our nature to spend time there. We know the way.
It’s so peaceful there - so nourishing and restorative. When we plant ourselves in fertile emptiness, even for a moment, we grow.
With practice, this natural pathway becomes a highway. The quiet inner spaciousness becomes ever more familiar, ever more expansive – connecting us ever more deeply to True Self and All That Is.
On this Good Friday, as I soften and surrender in ever-deepening trust, I sense God guiding me to God. I feel Love leading me to Love - Love, the extravagant Wellspring of Mercy and Compassion that, with permission, flows freely within and among all beings.
Thank you, Jesus. It is a good Friday.
Monday, March 30 2020
I awoke one morning last week with the thought that the Corona virus is a mirror for humanity. Its devastating spread mirrors humanity’s devastating approach to this planet we inhabit.
Mirrors invite us to take a look at ourselves – hopefully an honest look. I can square my shoulders and tighten my tummy as I face myself in the mirror – and may likely come away with the false reassurance that I’m looking good and don’t need to make changes. Or I can stand sideways, relax the belly and see what is. That honest perspective, painful as it is, invites me to re-consider how I approach the body I inhabit.
COVID mirroring, painful as it is, invites us to consider how we approach the planet we inhabit – its atmosphere, its waters, its land and soil, its forests and ecosystems – as well as how we approach all beings, with whom we share this planet.
Corona virus sickens and kills its hosts. We humans are doing the same to the earth – our host. Corona produces a fever. We humans are producing a planetary fever - global warming.
The COVID mirror can show us beautiful things about ourselves – our heroism and heart. It invites us to see our interdependence with all fellow inhabitants and with earth herself. In this web of connection, we are a global community. Whatever affects one, affects all. COVID invites us to see this fundamental truth and to embrace our need to work together – in healthy harmony - as a global community.
We are not alone and we are not separate. We are family. We have a mother - and billions of siblings and countless cousins.
Let’s honestly peer
In COVID’S mirror.
Look not with fear.
Move toward revere.
Sunday, March 01 2020
Awakening to Interconnectedness
In Pocketful of Miracles, Joan Borysenko, one of my favorite teachers, offers an inspiring message and a short meditation for each day of the year. In the entry for February 21, she ties together themes of interconnectedness, beginner’s mind, mindfulness in the present moment, and opening to the flow of Love.
“A man who had a near-death experience following a heart attack returned to his body, and the first thing he saw in the hospital room was a rose. He experienced seeing a rose as for the first time, realizing that he was intimately connected to that flower. Now, when he walks through the forest, he feels as though he is one with the trees. He has realized directly his participation in the web of life. The secret of happiness, he says, is twofold: to realize that all things are interconnected, and to send love along those connections.”
Awakening to interconnectedness invites presence and awe in the moment-by-moment flow of Love, where all is one.
Thursday, February 13 2020
With Valentine’s Day approaching, I’d like to share some conclusions I’ve reached after years of pondering the mysteries of Love.
· Love is a field of energy that inhabits every atom and every space in the universe. It’s a flow of energy within and between us. As evolving humans, our job is to surrender, moment by moment, to Love’s flow of receiving and radiating. Releasing resistance, we step into the river of life and are carried in its current.
· Love is universal and unconditional – a quality of being within each of us. It makes no judgment about the worthiness of who or what we love. No external person or circumstance controls Love’s flow within us.
· Love-consciousness emerges in the quiet spaciousness of presence-in-now. Softening to that inner spaciousness connects us, experientially, to the flow of Love.
· Love is the most powerful healing force in the universe. When we flow with Love, wholeness happens. When we bring Love into any situation, things improve. Collectively, with enough of us radiating Love, we can heal our planet.
· Every human experience can be transformed by Love - and transmuted into Love. For example, if I’m worried about my children, I can hold my fearful self in the healing presence of Love – a transforming experience that allows me to replace the negative energy I was radiating and transmute worry into Love. Better for my kids. Better for me.
· At the level of soul, we are completely in Love with all beings and all that is. A verb and a noun, Love is what we do and who we are.
· Romantic love - imperfect as it is in its conditionality, angst and emphasis on the beauty/goodness/value of the beloved – is one of the ways life guides us toward our authentic Love Nature. Life humbles, deepens and seasons us - like sandpaper, gradually wearing away all that is not Love.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Monday, January 06 2020
According to tradition, January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, marks the day the Magi found Jesus. In common parlance, an epiphany is a new insight - a shift in how we perceive things.
In the spirit of the season, and after some hesitation, I’ve decided to share two personal epiphanies I’ve experienced. As in the Magi story, these epiphanies have connected me more deeply to Jesus and to Christ Consciousness.
While my connection with the person of Jesus was strong during my eight years of preparation for Catholic priesthood, that sense of connection gradually faded after I left the seminary. I studied psychology, served in Vietnam, studied even more psychology and then immersed myself in the practice of psychotherapy. Though still spiritually orientated, I moved away from what I perceived as an overly self-sacrificial ethos at the center of the Christian message. I explored eastern and indigenous spirituality – and the mystics of various traditions.
About 20 years ago, I met Master Chunyi Lin and began the study of Spring Forest QiGong, a powerful approach for healing oneself and others. In Spring Forest practices, we are invited to identify a personal master, whom we call upon for help and guidance at the beginning of any healing encounter. Chunyi would suggest possible masters – like Jesus or Buddha – but I usually just reached out to universal energy. The idea of a master didn’t resonate with me.
In 2003, I participated in an advanced QiGong retreat, which involved extended meditations. During one 2-hour meditation, Master Lin moved among us, offering each of us a healing. I was lying on the floor, with my eyes closed, in the midst of a quiet, peaceful meditation, when I felt his touch, brief and gentle, on my right cheekbone. Instantly – almost like an explosion - the face of Jesus appeared in my imagination, just inches in front of my face. Immediately, I knew: There’s my master.
Since then, when I’m having a difficult time in a session with a client or any time I’m doing healing work, I call upon Master Jesus for help. I make a little quiet space, and help arrives.
The irony of a Chinese Taoist facilitating my re-connection with Jesus still makes me smile.
The second epiphany occurred two or three years later. I was with my spiritual growth group in a two-hour journeying meditation. With powerful drum rhythms reverberating in the room, we were sprawled on blankets around a large candle, like spokes of a wheel - heads at the center, feet out on the periphery.
Halfway through the meditation, out of the blue, I said to myself: “I’d like to see the face of Jesus again.” Instantly, just like before, a face appeared, inches from me. This time it was my face! My laughing, jubilant face!
Shock was immediately replaced by a fierce clarity. In one intuitive grasp, I knew: This is not about me. It’s about all of us. In some fundamental way, we all are what Jesus is. We all are God's offspring, human/divine beings, temporary and eternal, inseparable from God/Allness – just like Jesus.
I have come to view this epiphany as an experience of Christ Consciousness – a deep awareness of our divine nature and oneness with the universe, a truth we share. Jesus, I believe, claimed this truth for all of us, not just for himself.
Since that experience, whenever I speak or write about the Divine Within and similar subjects, a powerful sense of peace comes over me – even as I struggle to find words for this mystery. And even though a young part of me sometimes worries he’ll be judged a heretic - or a lunatic.
Over a lifetime, most of us experience a number of epiphanies, paradigm shifts that transform us – in ways big and not so big. Sometimes, the full impact is immediate. Sometimes, effects unfold gradually.
Epiphanies gift us and grace us. They arise – unexpected and unbidden – from the quiet spaciousness inside us, sometimes triggered by external encounters. We don’t control how or when they arrive.
We simply open our eyes, open our hearts and make room in the inn.
Wednesday, January 01 2020
Pocketful of Miracles, by Joan Borysenko, one of my favorite authors and teachers, is a book of prayers, meditations and affirmations to nurture the spirit. For each day of the year, she offers a couple of inspirational writings. Here is one short prayer/meditation, written for January 1.
“You have known us, Divine One, since before the foundation of the world. You are closer than hands and feet. Truly, as it is said, in You we live and move and have our being. Yet so often we feel alone, like strangers in a strange land. Although the mind may forget its Divine birth, the heart yearns ceaselessly to remember.”
May we all remember that, along with the goofiness we see within ourselves, there is also within us something beautiful and timeless - gently inviting us to remember who we are.
Happy New Year! May its unfolding bring us all a little closer to 20/20 vision.
Friday, December 27 2019
Room in the Inn
In the tradition where I was raised, the birth of Jesus is celebrated as the Incarnation – God taking human form in the person of Jesus.
I’ve often wondered when that realization of oneness with God happened for Jesus. Was it a gradual dawning or a sudden inspiration? At some point he knew – not as an abstraction, but fiercely, in his bones: God lives in us; we and God are inseparable. This knowing is sometimes called Christ Consciousness.
Huston Smith, an author who has immersed himself deeply in the study of world religions, has concluded that there are four approaches to God: Pantheism (many Gods), Atheism (no God), Monotheism (one God) and Mysticism (all is God).
Jesus was a mystic. I believe that his claim of oneness with God included all of us. His radical message invites us to see ourselves as he saw himself – and as he sees us.
In the traditional Christmas story, there was no room in the inn for the birth of Jesus. For me, that story urges us to make room in our inns – our hearts – for Christ Consciousness.
What reverence might then we bring to ourselves, to each other and to this planet!
Peace on earth. Good will to all.
Sunday, December 15 2019
Whyte on Friendship
The lyric line, “I get by with a little help from my friends,” - written by Paul McCartney and famously sung by Ringo Starr – is one of my favorites.
David Whyte explores this theme more deeply in an essay, entitled Friendship, from his book, Consolations. I share this excerpt for your edification – and mine.
"FRIENDSHIP is a mirror to presence and a testament to forgiveness. Friendship not only helps us see ourselves through another’s eyes, but can be sustained over the years only with someone who has repeatedly forgiven us for our trespasses as we must find it in ourselves to forgive them in turn. A friend knows our difficulties and shadows and remains in sight, a companion to our vulnerabilities more than our triumphs, when we are under the strange illusion we do not need them. An undercurrent of real friendship is a blessing exactly because its elemental form is rediscovered again and again through understanding and mercy. All friendships of any length are based on a continued, mutual forgiveness. Without tolerance and mercy all friendships die.
“In the course of the years a close friendship will always reveal the shadow in the other as much as ourselves, to remain friends we must know the other and their difficulties and even their sins and encourage the best in them, not through critique but through addressing the better part of them, the leading creative edge of their incarnation, thus subtly discouraging what makes them smaller, less generous, less of themselves.
“Through the eyes of a real friendship an individual is larger than their everyday actions, and through the eyes of another we receive a greater sense of our own personhood, one we can aspire to, the one in whom they have the most faith. Friendship is a moving frontier of understanding not only of the self and the other but also, of a possible and as yet unlived, future.
“Friendship is the great hidden transmuter of all relationship: it can transform a troubled marriage, make honorable a professional rivalry, make sense of heartbreak and unrequited love and become the newly discovered ground for a mature patent-child relationship.
“The dynamic of friendship is almost always underestimated as a constant force in human life: a diminishing circle of friends is the first terrible diagnostic of a life in deep trouble: of overwork, of too much emphasis on a professional identity, of forgetting who will be there when our armored personalities run into the inevitable natural disasters and vulnerabilities found in even the most average existence…
“Friendship transcends disappearance: an enduring friendship goes on after death, the exchange only transmuted by absence, the relationship advancing and maturing in a silent internal conversational way even after one half of the bond has passed on.
“But no matter the medicinal virtues of being a true friend or sustaining a long close relationship with another, the ultimate touchstone of friendship is not improvement, neither of the other nor of the self, the ultimate touchstone is witness, the privilege of having been seen by someone and the equal privilege of being granted the sight of the essence of another, to have walked with them and to have believed in them, and sometimes just to have accompanied them for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone."
Thursday, December 05 2019
Mother Earth Qi Healing
Yesterday morning, I enjoyed breakfast with my friend Jerry, who is a QiGong Master. He told me about an exercise he learned from our teacher, Spring Forest QiGong Master Chunyi Lin. I tried it in meditation group tonight – and it went so well, I thought I’d share it with you.
The exercise draws on the loving/healing energy of the earth, Mother Earth Qi, and involves moving light of various colors up through the main, vertical energy channel in the body – from the perineum at the base of the torso to the crown at the top of the head. This can be done lying down, sitting or standing.
First thing in the morning, before getting out of bed, Jerry practices Mother Earth Qi healing. He touches the perineum with the fingertips of his left hand and the crown with his right-hand fingertips. According to Jerry, the physical touch helps, but is not necessary. The energy can move just fine with only visualization/imagination.
The twilight time just after awakening can be an especially powerful time for healing/transformation. Other times can also work well.
Here is the sequence Jerry suggests. Note that it includes seven healing colors and (for the last five colors) the organ system and healing emotion that correspond to the color.
Gold – a powerful, all-body healing color
Purple – a color for spiritual transformation/healing
Green – heals the liver system – happiness energy
Red – heals the heart system – joy energy
Yellow – heals the stomach – peace energy
White – heals the lungs – contentment energy
Blue - heals the kidneys – gratitude energy
The practice can be done quickly – opening the perineum (with touch or visualization to signal the intention to open) and imagining each color moving up the main channel between the perineum and crown – not focusing so much on the specific organ systems or emotions.
The meditation/exercise I guided tonight took a good 45 minutes. We spent time upfront connecting with Mother Earth. We lingered with the movement of each color. We bathed each organ system in its corresponding light and healing emotion. We moseyed. With plenty of quiet time, the process deepened naturally – and powerfully.
Some final thoughts:
1. I found it helpful – but not necessary – to coordinate the upward movement of energy with my in-breath.
2. If you decide to try this practice, please don’t work too hard. Don’t aim for perfection.
3. Feel free to adapt this exercise in any way that suits you. For example, you can spend more time, or even most of your time, in a particular area where healing light is most needed.
Mother Earth Qi is an amazing resource. Enjoy!