Kundalini Splendor

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Saturday, May 29, 2004

A Tribute to Lisel Mueller 

Note: Lisel Mueller is one of the most outstanding poets of our time. Her work is characterized by great exactitude of language and a cautious approach to all questions of ultimate reality. The beauty and insights of her writing create a compelling vision where nothing is taken for granted. I admire and honor her profoundly for her honesty and craft.

for Lisel

Of the midwinter blooming,
she said it was
"out of phase, like an angel
strayed into time, our world."
And after listening to the concert
(Shubert by Brendel),
she felt she had for two hours
been in "the nowhere
where the enchanted live."

She herself prefers not to overstep,
not to be torn
by the storms of passion,
the earthquakes of revelation.

And so she flirts with it,
the delicate border
where the contraries meet,
this familiar sensed world
and that other, reputed realm
of the unqualified sublime
which beckons, like Avalon,
always just out of reach
in the mists of the never fully revealed.

By nature, a bit shy,
her language is her honed instrument
of exploration,
exposing the hidden unexpecteds
lurking in the midst of the usual.
Words measured, nuanced,
like a sudden small rainbow of light
which chooses to dance,
momentarily, over a flower
just about to open.

copyright, Dorothy Walters

Friday, May 28, 2004

Only If 

Only If

(written while walking around Sloat Lake in Golden Gate Park)

Only if you have been
to the well.

Only if you have sent your bucket down
to the cool depths,
where the water darkens,
and clears,
and darkens
and clears again,
and then brought your bucket up
and let it touch your lips
and drunk a deep draught
of that utterly pure liquid
letting it glide down
your throat
like sweet fire made of air,
like caught light descending
until it illumines even
your most distant places,
only then will you know,
be ready.

copyright, Dorothy Walters

Thursday, May 27, 2004

The Way 

The Way

(after Denise Levertov)

If you think
we are going to go there
like celestial beings floating upward
in their diaphanous
see through gowns,
all air and gauzy light
throaty organs playing near,
then know that yes,
you will arrive,
but change the scene.

Picture worn sandals,
weary feet,
heavy legs lifting
again and again,
stone upon stone layering the rising trail,
an occasional stumble,
the clouds sometimes parting
to reveal a hazy glory
up ahead,
ourselves ascending
step after cautious step,
always wondering, is this the way?
Is this the route
we were asked to travel,
how we were meant to go?

copyright, Dorothy Walters

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

On the Longing for Robes 

On the Longing for Robes

Ah, these monks and their robes,
when will I have done with them.

Always they are there,
dream images floating
at the corner of the eye,
the ghost on the stair which vanishes
as you turn.

One summer in Kansas, I followed
a wine red robe down a busy street,
heat hovering over the asphalt
like souls of the dead ascending.
He pondered the text in his hand,
and I stared at him in amazement--
where had he come from?
Who had set him down,
unlikely visitor
in this out of the way place?

And once, in Boulder,
as we together intoned the full moon chant
(feeling all naked in our robeless state)
they arrived, the invisibles
softly rustling in,
clad in dark gray and maroon,
delicate presences
sensed, not seen,
as they mingled among us softly
side by side
and the room filled
with the scent of love.

I knew they were there,
and why they had come.
We had called them down
with our ancient rite.
We had done this together, all of us,
countless times before
and now were joined again
to salute the turning worlds
and the swollen yellow moon
pregnant once more
with the season yet to come.

copyright, Dorothy Walters

Monday, May 24, 2004

Schroedinger's Cat 

The Moment Which Changes Everything

By now, we all know it
by heart. . .
that scientific tale of the
reputed cat in its theoretical box
which could be anything--
black or spotted,
here or there,
alive or dead,
until someone popped
off the lid and
peered inside,
and--voila!--there she was--
a real cat
in all of her feline glory
snowball or tiger,
prancing bronze or calico,
already purring
and dancing for food.

Think about your life.
How one day,
after so much constant repetition
of the weary familiar,
the unexpected happens,
something you had never
dreamed of
nor factored into your
something strange and startling
which takes over and becomes
the leitmotif of your life,
the Dominant Theme,
all possibilities collapsed
into a single
grain of expectation.
Everything thereafter
is colored by its hue.
This is called
"the moment which changes

copyright, Dorothy Walters

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Poetry which Nourishes the Soul 

The Able Poet
(for Mary Oliver)

She has won everything.
And why not.
She is skilled in her craft,
gifted like a blind
woodworker, who can polish and scale
his creations in the dark,
can tell by the feel of the surfaces
what is complete or needs
attending to.

Sometimes her expertise
takes our breath away,
the image so dazzling
we suck in an "Ah"
and inwardly lament

oh why didn't I see this
before, necessary conjunction
of the unexpected, yet
so fitting, so exact?

We read on, held and unbelieving
at the marvel of the just right,
the rare attainment
of the totally apt
like a gem curved and perfectly shaped
glinting confidently
in the circling light
with no flaws,
none at all.

copyright, Dorothy Walters

Thursday, May 20, 2004

What Calls Us Relentlessly 

A Golden Haze or Halo

I know you are there, waiting to find me,
to take me in your heavy jaws,
to gulp me like a morsel
or cough me up like
a briar.

For I am covered in thorns.
No, that's not so.
I am slicked over, oiled,
like something disguised
for a celebration.
I have made myself
an easy prey,
something to be quickly swallowed
and digested
or else spat out in disgust.

You keep calling,
I keep looking the other way.
I beg my responsibilities,
my serious obligations.
You hear none of my
they are irrelevant, weightless as air.

You sit back on your great haunches,
swish your tail,
make a warning growl in your throat.
I no longer remember how long
you have been there,
when you came.
Each time I scanned the landscape,
you are always what I saw.
Your mane floats like a golden haze or halo
around your unfathomable face.
Now you are pacing again.

from Marrow of Flame

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Are We Afraid to Awaken? 

Imagine a camera, the old fashioned kind with two images you have to bring into alignment in order to get a proper focus. These two images, seeking to unite, represent the being you think you are and the Being which is your true self. Only when the two are one, will you transcend tne polarities and awaken to the knowledge of your own essential nature. This state is called Enlightenment.

We have heard these words many times from various teachers. They tell us to let go, release all petty concerns of the personal level, the irrelevant issues and hang ups which prevent us from proper realization.

Yet we cling. We hold on desperately to what we think of as our "identity"--that persona which society and our own choices have created as our "being vehicle."

What holds us back from the leap of faith demanded to enter the longed for state? Why do we not release our ties to samsara, the "unreal" world of material existence, and enter the transcendent realm of the realized ones?

It is above all fear which holds us back. Fear of losing those things which most define us in the everyday world--our professional identities, our family and social roles, friendships, our entanglements on all levels. Even our failures and unresolved conflicts help to tell us who we are. And, in our innermost being, we hold them tightly, for without them, we lack definition and thus may become nothing.

To make the transit to the next level, where the small and higher are fused, we must release our tight grip on the false image, letting it flow into the ether, and in the state of perfect openness, accept the infusion of something unknown, yet uncannily familiar. We must be willing to remove the barriers, if necessary tear down the doors,and let in the god waiting outside. Only then will our fears fall away, our obsessive cravings shrink, and our true nature be revealed as beings of limitless wisdom, compassion, and love.

At this point, we do not leave the world, but become more fully in it, able to walk freely offering gifts of service and beauty,secure in our newfound knowledge--that to become no one is to become all things and everyone.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Reflections on Enlightenment 

I am going to be very bold in this reflection, for I am going to speak from the perspective of the enlightened being. It may seem (indeed is) strange, even a mark of extreme hybris, to assume such authority. Yet, for the moment, this is what I propose.

I make no claim to be enlightened, but I think I have in fact had a taste of this wondrous state, and that provides a starting place. I also draw upon whatever I may have gained from having lived in this world and both experienced and witnessed it in its many manifestations for over seven decades.

I use the question and answer format, touching on issues which concern all of us who pursue this topic.

Anything I say is, of course, personal speculation, based on private intuition and inner reflection. It is a foray into the mysterious, an experiment in exploration of the unknown, and hence fully subject to revision and restatement.

Q. Why does enlightenment take many lifetimes? Why can't we simply leap to that peak of knowing quickly, effortlessly, in the present moment?
A. Enlightenment involves the complete evolution of the entire being. All levels must be dealt with, emotional, psychological, mental, physical, as well as spiritual. All emotional issues must be resolved, whether major or minor. Abuse feelings must be healed, ego inflations and self-rejections likewise brought into balance. Such full self-understanding, correction, and acceptance can occur only over many lifetimes of immersion in the world, in a variety of circumstance, and diverse milieus. One travels the razor's edge, where one shifts too far now this way, now that, seeking a balance which seems eternally elusive.

Q. Why do so many encounter extremes in their incarnations--horrific suffering of self or loved ones, or else seemingly unmerited wealth and ease of circumstance?
A. Extremes of suffering are not necessarily karmic retribution for past misdeeds, nor something bargained for ahead of time. They often seem unjustifiable within the framework of a benevolent universe. But they do serve a purpose. That purpose or result is to yield insight into circumstances well beyond the "norms," the safe parameters of ordinary existence. One who has suffered deeply is significantly more able to empathize with the pain and sufferings of others. This in itself is an important advance toward enlightenment. This is true compassion--to know at the heart level what is happening to the victim, the patient, the innocent captive of circumstance and not turn away.

Such extremes of painful experience do indeed carry us more swiftly toward the final goal, and some may actually choose this path before birth to speed the process of spiritual development during incarnation. These too are fully deserving of sympathy and help for the pain they endure is real.

As for those born to a life of ease, if they remain in their comfortable niches, and never sally forth to face the challenges or ordinary life, they forfeit their chances for progress in this lifetime, and prolong their overall process of spiritual evolution.

Q. What does it mean to say someone has had a "taste of enlightenment?"
A. It means that the person has had a glimpse, has entered temporarily into an awareness that all things are but minute parts of a dynamic whole, and that individual identity itself is an illusion, since nothing exists apart from the cosmic reality. We can never know the latter in its fullness, for that would kill us--we dare not look God directly in the face, even in moments of high transcendence. But we can experience this divine presence in exquisite moments of stepped down expression--small bits and fragments of the totality itself.

However, no one can live permanently in that exalted (yet diminished) state on earth unless he/she breaks all ties with common reality as we know it. The world of practical affairs and the planes of transcendent truth are not compatible, though they do impinge on one another and occasionally interfuse to some extent.

Further, at this time particularly, there is great need for persons willing to act for the benefit of society at large, and forego desires for personal enlightenment. Service itself becomes their vehicle for progress. They are the true bodhisattvas, who put the needs of others ahead of private goals.

Q. Must one sever all personal connections (as with lover, family, friends) to enter such advanced states?
A. At some point, one must experience these relationships, with all their complexity and frustrations, in order to encounter and transcend the emotional toll they exact. One must experience them in order to go on. One must not prematurely reject such human experiences, for then the feelings themselves become frozen, and the person is like a icicle frozen in the snow. The point is to open to such experiences, savor their fruits, and then go on to other levels, either in this or another lifetime.

Q. How does one know whether one is progressing or nearing the goal?
A. As one moves forward, the center of personal gravity shifts--one is less absorbed on the egoic, personal level, and more attuned to the needs of others, whether large groups or individuals. One seeks not to take from this world, but to discover what one has to give.

Q. What is the role of ecstasy in all of this?
A. Ecstasy is one of the final tests. It, too, must be received with joy and enthusiasm. However, the more susceptible one is to rapture, the more open one is to pain. They may follow one another in swift succession, often in intense manifestation. Again, the purpose is to bring the self into balance, to endure one or the other without being overwhelmed, to maintain balance and equanimity even in the grips of extremes.

Q. If one achieves enlightenment, what purpose will have been served?
A. One will have returned to or joined with one's true nature. One will have come home and know at last who one truly is. One's final longing will then be fulfilled.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

India and the Ayuhauscadero, Part Three 

My first inclination of India's influence was in what I brought with me for my ayhuasca journey. I have been a practitioner of native traditions for over twenty-five years. I carry a medicine pipe, run sweat lodges, engage in four-day fasts once a year and study shamanic traditions with native elders. It is my spiritual base. However, when called to bring sacred, personal items to place on the altar and use for our journeywork, I left my medicine bag, pipe and feathers at home. Instead, I carried a crystal Ganesh, and a silver medallion and Goddess card from Sri Lalitambika ashram. I also brought vributti (sacred ash). All this was most unusual for me, and a portent of things to come.

India blew me away, opened me up and shifted my worldview. It seemed the unfamiliar in everything I was experiencing put me into an immediate altered space. The daily devotion of hundred's of millions of people, the confluence of grand and profane, the impact of daily personal prayer, silence and meditation and sickness all helped to open me up. I was moved by our bus driver who touched his deities before driving, the deaf man at the Ganesha temple whose eyes went skyward when given some money, and the people of Thannirpalli who showed me their temple deities as if they were introducing us to friends at a cocktail party. It was the immediate and accessible nature of it all. God, prayer and our connection to the divine was something all could partake of in a very personal manner. Like Christians who ask, "Do you have a personal relationship with Christ?" India seemed to have a long history of billions pointing their finger inwards when asked the question, "Where is God?" Witnessing and experiencing this devotional process put me into a highly receptive place. This receptivity allowed me to sit longer, move more slowly, and listen with greater attention and less attachment. In essence, India put me in touch with the Goddess and her power and wisdom in all things.

As a consequence, this became my intention for my ayhuasca journey. I wanted to see the divine more deeply in my life, and especially my marriage. Jane and I have a wonderful relationship, but I am continually yearning for greater ways to connect. This was a direct result of the most significant moment of my entire trip to India--a dream. The last day at Shantivaanam, the ashram that Bede Griffiths started many years ago in Southern India, during our meditation session in the hall, I fell asleep (big surprise). In my dream, I was standing in front of Bede in his hut, and I asked him, "How do I deepen my marriage?"

"It's easy," he said. "Just love your wife with all your heart."

This question of what does it mean to love my wife "with all my heart" seemed to be the fundamental intention of my ayhuasca journeywork. I was not disappointed.

The Inuit say, "In the beginning is everything." If this is true, then I was in for quite a ride. The ayhuascadero (a term used for a teacher/user of ayhuasca), warned me that because of the high amounts of Cipro antibiotic and Malarone malaria medication in my system, and because I was still at the tail end of a sickness, I could be in for "a rough ride." Though advised this specific medicine was "sweet", its tendency to cleanse could lead to a "deep scrubbing." Or, I could feel nothing. Or, who knows what else. Thus it was with no small amount of trepidation that I ingested my dose. Within ten minutes, I started to feel the effects (the usual response time is an hour). Within fifteen minutes, I was having full-blown hallucinations. And within twenty I was running for the bathroom for an explosion of diarrhea. When I stumbled back to my seat, I was overwhelmed with fear. I was having trouble remembering how to breathe! Our ayhuascadero advised that when the on-set of the medicine came, we would learn about how we deal with change and death. Great. I was going to learn by doing. I was terrified. Taken outside by my wife, Jane (who had elected not to partake for health reasons), and helped to breathe, I immediately started a one-hour violent vomiting process. "Deep scrubbing" was right. I was going at my insides with a Brillo pad. Fortunately, my vomiting took my attention from my breathing fears, and I actually relaxed into the experience.

When I returned to the room, I was in an amazingly heightened state of awareness. I could feel and see everything. If the ayhuascadero came near me, I would immediately start to vomit again (this became a point of great amusement). I could sense in profound ways the energy in the room, and actually had to sit on the stairs to avoid its intensity. When others took an additional dose, I felt what they felt, and saw what they saw. Even the question, "Do you want a booster?" to another participant, sent me rocketing off again. The thought of someone getting more was enough to move me to another level.

The only thing that kept me remotely grounded was looking at my wife. She looked like a goddess, and her image calmed and centered me. She was my lifeline and I kept my eyes and prayers focused on her. The longer I looked at her, the more beautiful she became. Jane became, in front of my eyes, the incarnation of the Divine Feminine, and my heart opened more and more. Suddenly, it became incredibly obvious. It's not how much love I can receive--it's how much love I can give. And in that moment, I resolved to love my wife with all my heart--no matter what. No matter what she says or does, no matter how I am feeling--"no matter what" means without condition. It's one thing to say, for this notion is as old as relationships, but this time I felt it in a way and manner that was new. Bede was right. It was the secret to deepening my marriage.

As a result I began to pour love from my heart, to envision it continually opening, sending bright light to my wife. I was in bliss. I was experiencing full-hearted love as I watched Jane across the room, I could see a dancing Ganesha between us, removing obstacles from my marriage. My joy was barely containable. I took my silver medallion from the Sri Lalitambika ashram and placed it on my third eye. It was brilliant silver and glowed with energy. I prayed for it to remove any and all impediments to my loving--to help me choose love over fear.

What followed was my second big insight of the day. I saw that what kept me from a deeper loving nature was my fear of death. This immediately took me back to India, and the intense preparation that is done to ready oneself for life's ending. Ram Das once said, "I wish you a good death. For your death will be the single most important event of your life." I was clear on one thing. I was not ready to die. I was still scared of death, still terrified of heights, still fearful of suffocating. Open-heart surgery and its near-death experience had helped move me forward, but Ganesha knew there was work to be done.

Of all the images of death that to this day haunts me the most, it is of the people stuck in the World Trade Center Towers on 9/11. Choosing to jump, rather than suffocate and burn, they held hands and leapt together as their final action. This image is the one that always gets me. So, in my heightened state of consciousness, I saw myself on top of a burning World Trade Center, choosing to leap to my death. I was terrified. Doing ayhuasca, made every sensation almost real. I could envision myself falling until impact and the...nothing. Once completed, I immediately did it again, and again, and again. I lived out my death-jump over twenty times. Then I envisioned myself holding Jane and jumping with her--over and over--holding her with every leap. And each time the fear and pain got less, till all I could feel was peace and love in the arms of my wife. I suddenly truly understood that I probably will never be able to choose the time or manner of my death, but I can choose how I die: still and holding the image of my beloved wife in my heart
I then imagined myself walking down an alley about to be shot by a mugger, but instead of fear I was peaceful and calm. Then I saw myself in a car about to be hit by a truck, but felt nothing but love for Jane. I kept playing out scenario after scenario, until I was done. It was, to say the least, profound. I ended my medicine journey in prayer and gratitude.

Full Circle

The following morning, I awoke on India time, i.e. 4:00 a.m., and went outside to sit in a hot tub by a flowing stream. The setting was gorgeous, and in the moonlit sky, I sang and prayed every devotional song I could remember from India. And then I sang every devotional song I could remember from my past. I wanted Jewish songs, and Christian songs, and Hindu songs, and Muslim songs. I sang to the Goddess, and to the Creator, using words from Native American peoples and Sufi traditions. I sang for over two hours, occasionally standing to face the rising sun, and bowing in deep reverence. It was the closest I have ever felt to that day over thirty years ago in Jerusalem. I came to relearn what I first discovered at the Wailing Wall. It is the same lesson that Hinduism reminded me of time and time again. It is simple but it is everything--all paths lead to God. Bede gave me this in India, as well as one more essential lesson. The most direct of all choices one can make is love.

For that, and for so much more, I will always be indebted to Mother India.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

India and the Ayuhauscadero, Part Two 

The Struggle

I have always been comfortable writing. Though not my life, writing is not a fear, and I can convey my point of view easily and without too much struggle. Thus, it was quite a shock that I found myself dry and uninterested in writing when I was in India. This seemed quite peculiar, as it went hand-in-hand with other passions that also held no interest or energy for me during our time.

I love birding. It is a major avocation. India represented a whole new country with a wealth of unexplored possibility. Before I left, I was chomping at the bit to see Indian birds. Birding? No interest. Picked up my hauled-along, expensive binoculars once for half an hour.

Photography? I brought along my digital camera with dreams of capturing terrific images. After all India is a photographers dream. I love photography, and always record my travels with great enthusiasm. I took six photos the first day and put my camera away, never to touch it again.

When my bags were lost en-route, it was more than clothing and mosquito repellant that was removed from my intentions and well-considered packing list. It seemed like India was beginning to strip away old parts of my identity, getting at a more essential version of who I was. The sadu process, one of renunciation, seemed to be playing havoc with my personal possessions and interests. If I wasn't doing what I liked, with my stuff, what was I going to do? Who was I going to be?

This wasn't a problem while in India. I liked not being attached to old, familiar ways. I reveled in leaving my stuff behind. I was curious about who I could be without my familiar attachments (noting that I was still keeping balloons close at hand). But when I returned and began to start my paper, I found I still couldn't write about India. I sat and stared at my computer a lot. I tried to write three or four times. Nothing was coming up. Absolutely nothing. This was not good, for the only thing standing between graduation and me was my paper. Damn! Was this some kind of cosmic joke?

The Breakthrough:

Months before leaving for India, my four dearest friends, wife Jane, and myself made plans to meet in Philadelphia, to work with a medicine woman a few days after my return. She was going to lead us through a two-day ayhuasca journey. Ayhuasca, meaning "vine of the soul" in Quechua, is a powerful, and sacred medicinal plant for many South American indigenous peoples. It is also a very strong hallucinogen.

Obviously, this didn't seem like good timing. Four days after returning home, I was driving seven hours in a car to blow the top of my head off? Was I nuts? I am as game as the next person for an experience, and I am not unfamiliar with these realms, but still? I am a long way off from my early days and consider myself to be a very sober guy. I drink ten glasses of wine a year, never drink beer or coffee, smoke pot about once every two years and am highly selective and very sparing in my use of traditional medicinal plants. I always journey with my wife, and my last was two years ago. That's about my average. As a consequence, I am typically the group-designated driver. So this was quite a leap in good judgment. Besides, I was still sick from my travels.

The Journey

What occurred during my journeywork was a direct reflection of a very recent trip to India. I was broken-open and propelled like a rocket along a path that began with our pilgrimage. The "other half of my soul" cemented itself in profound ways--my journey didn't just reflect India, it was India. The lessons of our pilgrimage, the meaning of certain dreams, the actualization and transformation of key behaviors all occurred because of India. Ayhuasca didn't necessarily give me anything new. Instead, what occurred was a deepening and sharpening of what I had already experienced. It is why I am writing about this event as my post-paper. Bede Griffiths, the great Benedictine monk, started an ashram in India as a way of blending East and West. He went, to "find the other half of my soul." Catholicism was quite well versed in the masculine, but Bede felt strongly that Hinduism, especially in India, was a balance of the mystical feminine he could not find in the West. I was able, in a smaller way through ayhuasca, to blend my own struggling parts in a never-before realized personal level. And like Bede, my journeywork was deeply influenced by the divine feminine.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

India and the Ayuhauscadero, Part One 

The writer of this account is a successful businessman and a very serious seeker on the spiritual path. He is also a very dear friend of mine. This experience took place quite recently, and I am delighted that he has agreed to let me post his narrative on this site. (Dorothy)

Authors note: For obvious reasons, I have omitted my name from this piece, and changed the name of my wife. The ashram, and all other experiences described are as I remember them

The Beginnings

I remember the first time I recognized God was talking to me.

I was thirteen, and my parents had sent me to Israel for one of those all-good-Jewish-boys-visit-the-Holy-Land trips. Sitting on a hot and smelly bus, crammed in with the rest of my jaded peers, I shuttled from ancient Jewish monument to important historical sight. Fresh from my bar mitzvah, I found that, in truth, Judaism was little more than a painful obligation.

Religion represented nothing to me other than a failed promise. My rabbi, a famous modern Jewish figure, had told me that Judaism was this rich, moist chocolate cake--gooey and delicious. It was supposedly filled with mystery and depth. My traditional Hebrew school education made sure I never got that meal. Instead I was served a freeze-dried version of my faith, devoid of any real taste or delight. My religious training was boring, rote, and sadly disconnected from anything meaningful. I did not respond well. My rabbi tells me I am one of the worst students he has ever had. Surprisingly, I am quite proud.

The only time I detected passion like this in Hebrew school was during the monthly lessons on the holocaust. The lectures consistently drummed, "it's us versus them." At the time, I assumed this is what religion was all about. It was disappointing and, in truth, consistent with the experience of my other Jewish friends. I was disconnected from spirit and barren of any understanding regarding my place in the world of mystery. In the dry cake of that experience, however, lay a small light of hope. At thirteen, I was yearning. I didn't know where or what that meant, but I did know one thing: I wanted more. In the most unexpected way, this desire was fully met on one spectacular afternoon in Israel.

It is Friday late afternoon, just before Sabbath, and I am at the Wailing Wall. Not knowing what to do, I close my eyes and listen to the dahvening, the ritualized prayers of the devout. The intensity of this singing starts to carry me along. As the sound deepens, I feel myself taken further and further into someplace I've never been. I hear an old man start to sing the Shema, the most sacred of Jewish prayers.

Just then, like magic, to my right I hear church bells ringing clear and unadulterated. Then I hear to my left, one of the daily calls to Mecca from a minaret, piercing and resolute. It is stunning. In no other place, no other city in the world, could this happen. Jerusalem. I am breathless. I have never forgotten that event and the three sounds working in consort changed my view of the world forever.

It was my first mystical moment. With it an important notion came into my head. This idea has served as a guiding principle ever since, one that in my core belief system, fueled by this first spiritual experience, has been driving my search for spiritual connection ever since. It was what initially piqued my interest in UCS.

It is this: You don't have to do anything. Just wait. Trust. Breathe. You are not alone, because we are all one. As Hindu's say, "All paths lead to God."

A friend says, "If you believe that everything has meaning, then it's a short leap to everything has being. And if you believe that everything has being then it's a short leap to everything has something to teach us." This notion of commonality, that we are more similar than different became the lens with which I went to India.

I was, however, unprepared for what I was to experience.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Friends of Silence 

An inspiring newsletter called Friends of Silence is published monthly in Vermont by Nan Merrill (author of Psalms for Praying and other books). The header for this "mini-magazine" asks, "Is there enough Silence for the Word to be heard?" Nan does all of the work on this project herself; it consists of thoughtful quotations from various spiritual writers as well as lovely reproductions of artwork she finds within the public domain. She distributes her publication free of charge by regular mail to over 5000 individuals and groups, though contributions will be accepted from those who wish to help support her project.

Nan is another "worker behind the scenes," one who has chosen to share her talents and gifts to the world without thought of financial gain or personal fame or recognition (though, in fact, she is now known to many through her contributions.) You may subscribe simply by sending your name and address to:

129 Skunk Hollow Road
Jericho Vermont 05465

Here are some quotations from recent issues:

At the center of our being is a point of nothingness, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God. It is in everybody and if we could see it we would see those billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun.

Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

The light of splendor shines in the middle of the night. Who can see it? A heart which has eyes and watches.

Angelus Silesius

The light that flows through your system is Universal Energy. It is the Light of the Universe. You give Light form. What you feel, what you think, how you behave, what you value and how you live your life reflect the way you are shaping the Light that is flowing through you. They are thought forms, the feeling forms and the outer forms that you have given to Light. They reflect the configuration of your personality, your space-time being.

Gary Zukov, The Seat of the Soul

Prayer is a way of sending our love everywhere at once.

Robert Lax

I know in my cells that prayer permeates a sick body, makes it shimmer as the new life comes in, making the cells remember how to respond to the harmonic whole. Music is like prayer--a mystical bridge between heaven and earth.

Marion Woodman, Bone

We will never know how the quality of life has been enhanced somewhere in the world through our silence and prayer. Yet, may we continue to offer our silent prayer as seeds of healing and peace sown with radical trust. When the prayer energy of silence is united with Love, the soul consciousness of the world awakens in equal measure.

Nan Merrill, Friends of Silence

Meditation, regarded in virtually every spiritual tradition as the gateway to transformation, teaches us how to detach our sense of selfhood from the egoic feedback loop and open ourselves directly to the infusion of divine life. . . . At first it feels like "a place we go to," this heart of God, the still point in the turning world or our being. But more and more it becomes "the place we come from," the light of God within which replenishes our being from its own endless source.

Cynthia Bourgeault

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