Kundalini Splendor

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Monday, April 30, 2007

More from the "Twin Flames" 

NOTE: I posted the first note from Bonnie (in which she described her experience of awakening simultaneously with her partner) a few days ago. In a later note she explained that they live in a small town in Canada, and added that they have experienced no ill effects from their kundalini experience. What follows below is a more recent letter from Mark, Bonnie's partner. I am moved by the profoundly respectful attitude of Mark toward his shared experience with Bonnie, as they explore the Mystery together. (Bonnie mentioned that she was especially drawn to birds as a special symbol, so I thought these two winged creatures might be appropriate. And she described their experience as " Super-Twin-Kundalini-Energy-Souls." So I say, WOW! AMAZING! and, finally, CONGRATULATIONS. THIS IS A BLESSING BEYOND DESCRIPTION! (And I certainly have never heard of another one like it, though maybe there are others happening about the world. Things seem to be spreading faster and faster these days.)

Hi Dorothy,

My name’s Mark and you have recently heard from my partner, my fellow traveller and transpersonal explorer Bonnie. The two of us came across your writings; I think first your poetry, in our hunt to try to understand what we were and are continuing to experience together.

We came together in this particular incarnation a year ago; both of us well into our forties, each with very separate histories and narratives but as we have also come to believe; with a history of our own...maybe just not in this lifetime. There...I just went and blew my credibility right out the water... Bonnie is a single working mom with three grown children; a couple of them still at home and I find myself with an ex wife, a shared custody arrangement and two young boys, ages 6 and 9, both still at home ;-)

Over this past year, we’ve had experiences of transcendence, utter rapture, complete disbelief, synchronicity and other moments we’ve yet to fully understand or integrate that have changed both of our lives in ways we could never have previously imagined. We’ve used these words in our lives before...bliss...rapture...nirvana...soul...but only really have begun to grasp them fully in this past year. Previously they were mostly just words and interesting concepts ...now these things are real to us. I imagine you receive letters often from others trying to explain this type of experience or a similar relating of a Kundalini awakening to you.

I imagine you must occasionally smile reading the struggle to put in writing a description of these events...these sudden and life altering shifts...this immediate movement to a completely different plane of experience. The issue for me at least is that I’m trying to use language to convey experiences, thoughts, intense feelings, sensations and revelations that language seems ill equipped to describe. That’s how it feels trying to write any of this to you now. Perhaps a language other than English exists that’s better suited to describe all of this.

What finally drew Bonnie to contact you after following your blog and poetry writing over the past several months was your post of April 24th where you speak of your experiences in your journey with your friend Jeannine, your shared experiences of support and growth but also your shared experience of travelling this journey very much in isolation from most of the world around you. It seems that every account of Kundalini I have read involves an individual experience, some soul experiencing this and coping with this alone and trying to make sense of it with often no one to support them or understand them. We are very lucky and incredibly grateful...gratitude is such a huge part of our experience...in that we are going through this together, and we think that is a very rare and special thing indeed.

Our relationship is intimate...incredibly and rapturously so; for us this newly found Kundalini or just plain old “energy” as we came to call it before we discovered the term Kundalini, is often triggered by our intimacy; for us a kiss seems sometimes more of a portal than a physical act of touching lips, a potentiator that launches us far beyond any physical level of intimacy we could ever have imagined before this...or that one would normally expect from a kiss, no matter how tender, how full of passion. The physical pleasure and the spiritual pleasures...the powerful and incredible sense of union in our energies we experience together...the most amazing and shared sense of “coming home” we feel when we sense this energy rising in us...that captures a tiny piece of our experience. The nature of this intimacy we share goes far beyond the physical and well into the realm of the spiritual, certainly further into the spiritual than either of us has ever travelled before.

The inexplicable wonders that seem to arise out of it are something your average guy or girl on the street would have difficulty getting their heads around. This consensual reality as we often refer to it is just not prepared or ready unfortunately to take this seriously, and that is truly sad as there is great potential in this...great healing potential on a species wide scale we think. But that’s another letter... The absolute intensity of this and the apparent rarity of others who can relate is why neither Bonnie nor I have spoken a word of this to anyone in our immediate circles. Doing so in my case I know would be met by laughter...stares of disbelief... accusations of some weird mid life crisis of unique proportions...quick attempts to change the subject...a total and utter lack of understanding or more accurately a total lack of the framework required for understanding this. The language you use in your writing and your poetry are very welcome and comforting Dorothy.

You have spoken to my heart and soul numerous times in the past year without knowing it...well...I’m here now to let you know it. The potential of this World Wide Web (how fitting) is at work here. There is some good to be found in this strange technology that suddenly can join us with kindred souls we would never otherwise know existed. Thank you for sharing your story and your wisdom and in so doing inviting others like myself and Bonnie to do the same. Both of us have so many probably unanswerable questions Dorothy it’s difficult to figure out what to read next or where to focus in trying to understand this experience and to figure out what we can do with it. So much information suddenly has taken on a significance it didn’t have before this happened. And the more we learn the more we seem to want to know. So, any resources or suggestions you might have, given what little you know of our experiences, would be warmly appreciated. With gratitude, Mark

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Mating with God 

The myths of history are full of it. Semele and Zeus (she was annihilated soon after that fiery union, when she asked to see him in his full glory), Europa pursued by Zeus, myriad examples in the East, and even the Virgin impregnated with the Holy Sperm. Union of human and divine. Wedding ceremonies of the mortal and the god. Even the nun becomes the Bride of Christ and wears a ring to signify that sacred union.

In authentic sexual Tantra, each experiences the partner as divine, in a literal sense, and hence a portal is opened onto that "other plane."

Obviously we long for it. Clearly it is in our genes. What we want is to become "more than human," to be lifted to another plane, to experience "it" in its full intensity, not dulled and diluted by our limited human capacities.

But we don't want to be obliterated in the process.

Kundalini is, in my view, a sign of our need for just this--to become, to feel in our bodies and know in our cells, that we are more, that we too are part of this glorious process which inanimates the universe, which is the source and goal of all our existence.

But we can't think it. It is too vast, far too complex, far too filled with Mystery and the Strange.

Yet we can feel it. And we can experience it daily, though in a much stepped down, more limited form (though it still goes well beyond the level of the familiar and mundane.)

Even in the beginning stages of Kundalini awakening, some have a sense of a literal "mating with the god/goddess." No wonder. And this sense of divine union helps, I believe, to explain the origin of many of the early myths, which perhaps grew out of similar encounters with supernal rapture.

For me, the flow is now (as I have said) infinitely soft, gentle, sweet. It is bliss and yet bliss carries its own ecstatic mark. It is like nothing other in our experience. It tells us that we too are sweet, blessed, gifted with light.

My inner teacher of late seems to be Cambodian. He wears the tiered headdress of coils rising toward heaven. (Is this related to the concept of Buddha with many Buddhas rising from his crown in ever smaller but infinite progression? I don't know. I don't know anyone who can tell me.)

Yet I am led by inner symbols. A few days ago, it was an anchor, which I took to mean: Direct the energies downward to your feet, and I did.

Today it was a tiny yab/yum (god/goddess in union) located in the lower chakras. Why there? Perhaps because of late I have experienced immense pain in that region, possibly from "stuck energy." (I continue to experience intermittent pain of various kinds in the days following the bliss--the price I pay, apparently for tasting transcendence.) I keep forgetting that energy must flow everywhere, and never be allowed to become stagnant or still. So today I "allowed" the image to start a pleasant energy flow in the lower chakras, a feeling which was indeed sweet but not overwhelming, much like what Vyaas Houston (the Sanskrit scholar) calls a "brightening."

And then as the energies circulated throughout, I gently moved my hands in circles about four inches from the body itself. I paid especial attention to my eyes, always a troubling spot. And again I marveled at the sweet rhythms of "light" which danced around my cheeks and ears.

And then I said my prayers for those in need. The bliss itself thus becomes an offering to all named and unnamed who are especially challenged at this time.

Always a different experience. Each time a new affirmation that this is, for certain, real, indeed that for which we came.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Twin Flames 

Earlier, I described how apparently one partner in a relationship "caught" kundalini from the other. Recently I have been corresponding with a couple in Canada who apparently have gone yet another step forward. They are having a "dual" kundalini experience in which they move together through the stages of the process. With their consent, I am publishing some of their comments, beginning with Bonnie's first e-mail and continuing in subsequent posts.

Dear Dorothy,

My partner and I embarked upon the most incredibly wonderful, blissful, completely transforming (or ... transmogrifying, as he calls it ... one of dozens of words that we have created in our attempts to understand, explain, and discuss this experience) adventure that either of us could ever have imagined one year ago. Before we met, neither of us had any idea that anything like this existed. Since then, we have found no lack of information concerning this phenomenon referred to as "kundalini", but have found no other instances of two people experiencing the entire event from the very beginnings of awakening, through to full blown kundalini splendor.
We can relate to nearly every word you write in your Kundalini Splendor blog, but our experience is not identical to yours or to that of anyone else, as is the case with every kundalini experience we read of.
We seem to be experiencing each and every aspect of our awakening and rising simultaneously, however, with no clear indication that either of us began sensing the onset before the other, and no real signs that one or the other is moving forward sooner or later than the other.
We have now reached the point where we feel as though we are in each other's presence at all times, and that many, if not most of our thoughts and feelings and emotions are felt and/or detected by the other. By the way - we live in the same city, but not together.
While in the more profound throes of the vibrating, humming, currents of energy, I have often been struck with the notion that we, together, have formed some type of super-twin-soul connection, built with a mortar of kundalini.
We read your blog frequently, and I've wanted to write to you concerning our connection for many months. I'm off work for a few weeks right now, and he has just sent me a link to your most recent blog ... today is the day that we make contact with you ... and, hopefully, gain a deeper understanding of all that has happened to us over the past year. Perhaps, our adventure in shared kundalini can shed some light on your own experience as well.
Thank you for your regular blog writings, Dorothy - and thank you for listening to me :)

Bonnie & Mark

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Stages of Spiritual Growth 

Although I am not a Buddhist and sometimes reject systems which over categorize and define I am, nonetheless, intrigued by such approaches and think they can sometimes offer valuable insights. I do not pretend that I fully understand the following, but think the commentary offers significant food for thought, particularly in its acceptance of rapture as a component of "right concentration." Of course, I do not know if the writer's definition of "rapture" is the same as what many of us feel in our state of awakened kundalini.

I am especially drawn to the underlying notion in Buddhism that at extremely advanced stages, one moves beyond both pleasure and pain to a state of transcendent equanimity. I certainly have not reached this stage, and, for now at least, am not willing to forego the pleasure in order to escape the pain, though both can be quite intense at times. I prefer to focus on bliss as a universal and unifying factor which will, finally, accomplish the divinization of matter through the union of body and spirit.

The excerpts which follow are drawn from the following site: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/index.html

(This site is titled
Access to Insight

Readings in Theravada Buddhism

Right Concentration is the last of the eight path factors in the Noble Eightfold Path, and belongs to the concentration division of the path.
Jhana is a meditative state of profound stillness and concentration in which the mind becomes fully immersed and absorbed in the chosen object of attention. It is the cornerstone in the development of Right Concentration.


"And what is right concentration? There is the case where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful (mental) qualities — enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation.

With the stilling of directed thought & evaluation, he enters & remains in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of composure, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation — internal assurance.

With the fading of rapture he remains in equanimity, mindful, & fully alert, and physically sensitive of pleasure. He enters & remains in the third jhana, and of him the Noble Ones declare, 'Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasurable abiding.'

With the abandoning of pleasure & pain — as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress — he enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. This is called right concentration."

— SN 45.8


(What follows now is an expanded explanation of the above categories):

[First jhana]

"There is the case where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities — enters and remains in the first jhana: rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought and evaluation. He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal.

"Just as if a skilled bathman or bathman's apprentice would pour bath powder into a brass basin and knead it together, sprinkling it again and again with water, so that his ball of bath powder — saturated, moisture-laden, permeated within and without — would nevertheless not drip; even so, the monk permeates, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born of withdrawal. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal...

[Second jhana]

"Furthermore, with the stilling of directed thought and evaluation, he enters and remains in the second jhana: rapture and pleasure born of composure, unification of awareness free from directed thought and evaluation — internal assurance. He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born of composure. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture and pleasure born of composure.

"Just like a lake with spring-water welling up from within, having no inflow from east, west, north, or south, and with the skies periodically supplying abundant showers, so that the cool fount of water welling up from within the lake would permeate and pervade, suffuse and fill it with cool waters, there being no part of the lake unpervaded by the cool waters; even so, the monk permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born of composure. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture and pleasure born of composure...

[Third jhana]

"And furthermore, with the fading of rapture, he remains in equanimity, mindful and alert, and physically sensitive to pleasure. He enters and remains in the third jhana, of which the Noble Ones declare, 'Equanimous and mindful, he has a pleasurable abiding.' He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the pleasure divested of rapture, so that there is nothing of his entire body unpervaded with pleasure divested of rapture.

"Just as in a blue-, white-, or red-lotus pond, there may be some of the blue, white, or red lotuses which, born and growing in the water, stay immersed in the water and flourish without standing up out of the water, so that they are permeated and pervaded, suffused and filled with cool water from their roots to their tips, and nothing of those blue, white, or red lotuses would be unpervaded with cool water; even so, the monk permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the pleasure divested of rapture. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded with pleasure divested of rapture...

[Fourth jhana]

"And furthermore, with the abandoning of pleasure and stress — as with the earlier disappearance of elation and distress — he enters and remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity and mindfulness, neither-pleasure-nor-pain. He sits, permeating the body with a pure, bright awareness, so that there is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by pure, bright awareness.

"Just as if a man were sitting wrapped from head to foot with a white cloth so that there would be no part of his body to which the white cloth did not extend; even so, the monk sits, permeating his body with a pure, bright awareness. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by pure, bright awareness."

— AN 5.28

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Kundalini and the Elder 

This morning I once again had a rapturous meditation, simply by standing in front of my thangka and bowing a few times, or moving my arms and hands in micromovements. At the end, I bowed and prayed for various folk who need some sustenance in their lives. At the very moment I finished, I got a call from my friend Jeannine, who is gifted with knowing just when to ring me up (other friends do the opposite--invariably they call at some awkward or inconvenient moment.)

Jeannine and I have both been going through kundalini transformation for many, many years. My process has now continued for over twenty-five years, and hers for more than fifteen (or maybe even more.) We are both in out seventies. We have long served as each other's major support "group" in this experience, for there are almost no others we can confide in as freely as we can with one another.

Although our experiences are not identical, we agree on a few basic conclusions: It is a mystery why kundalini happens, why it sometimes leaves us "in the void" (during "dry periods"), why it begins again for no obvious reason. When it manifests, it is as though a switch has been turned on and energy runs instantaneously, as ecstatic bliss.

We feel that those who have not undergone this experience often mistake the reality for metaphor. Thus, people speak of a room or a person as having "good vibes" but they are intuiting rather than actually picking up the vibrations as a biological process within the body. They mistake "ecstasy" for merely a shift in consciousness, and are unaware of the component of rapture. If we had not gone through the process ourselves, we would not understand it either. Now we know that, for example, Bernini's great sculpture of St. Teresa in ecstasy (in a church in Rome) depicts a literal process of intensely felt bodily bliss. We also know that this bliss is difficult to sustain for extended periods of time.

For me, the shift into higher consciousness is like entering a field of extremely high and loving vibrations, which resonate throughout the body or perhaps especially in some special part of the body. This is unconditional love. Jeannine describes this phenomenon as the link between spirit and matter, human and divine. We both look on the experience as extremely sacred.

We both feel extremely blessed that such beauty has entered our lives, which are now certainly not dull. But we both feel much like aliens in the mass culture, which has no sense of what we undergo and could not understand it if we tried to explain it. We are indeed "closeted mystics" for the most part, able to communicate only with those of our own kind.

We also see the increasing spread of "higher consciousness" in the world and feel that we are part of a larger process whose intention we do not yet perceive. Yet we are glad to serve and do our part to further "whatever it is" that is driving this fascinating process.

For Jeannine, kundalini is like having a sixth sense. For me, it is like having an extremely transformed nervous system. We both feel that ecstasy is in some ways similar to erotic arousal, yet it is different--for example, sometimes the bliss flows only in the hands or over the face. The rest of the body is not involved. And, as I have frequently said, kundalini does not (for us) originate from sexual arousal nor does it proceed to a sexual release. It is a "self-validating experience," always different, always affirming the connection with what some people call god, some the goddess, and others simply "the divine."

We both wish we had someone to explain all of this to us, but no one has yet come forth. No major scientific studies have yet explained the origins or biological/chemical components of kundalini. It is for the most part still unexplored territory, a mystery above all to those who experience it.

Both Jeannine and I have suffered significant pain as part of our transformation process. But we are grateful to be included in "whatever this is," and happy to discover that the process does not end with advancing years, but continues, apparently forever. I like to think that what we experience is a foretaste of existence in the afterworld, where, free of the body, spirit will float in infinite space enjoying boundless bliss as it goes about its task of helping those who remain on the earth plane.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Today's Gifts 

Today I saw: two beautiful geese (a mother and father?) with their brood of goslings standing by the water at Stowe Lake in Golden Gate Park; twelve turtles sunning on a log; and three amazing blue herons high in a tree. How lucky can you get?

Friday, April 20, 2007

A Poetry Reading, More Secret Tantra 

Last night, I participated in a poetry reading at Field's Bookstore, the oldest spiritual and metaphysical bookstore in San Francisco. The reading was presented as part of the ongoing celebration of poetry month and also to mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of the store.

I had decided to begin with a brief statement, going something like this: "When I moved to San Francisco many years ago, one of the first places I visited was Field's Bookstore. And there, in the corner by the front door, I met Rumi and we have been fast friends ever since. At that time (some twenty years ago) he was not as well known as he is today, and I had him (I thought) mostly to myself. Now, of course, he is a world celebrity and I must share him with countless others."

Now, I was the second reader. When the first poet, a transplanted New Yorker, began, he said, "When I moved to San Francisco Field's was one of the first bookstores I visited. Here I discovered Rumi who has been a major influence on my writing ever since."

I was more that a little amazed at this coincidence, and told my new friend that he had "literally taken the words out of my mouth."

The reading was well received by the audience of some twenty listeners (a very good number for a poetry reading.) No books were sold (poets are traditionally poor), but I received at least one memorable response. A young man in his twenties came up to me afterward and said, "You were good. In fact, you were the best one. You were really hot!" I took it as a compliment.

I felt a bit of shakti stir in the room during my reading. Then this morning, I detected early on definite energy flows, so I once again repeatead my morning practice in front of my Buddha thangka, and once again the raptures came, in still more refined and delicate waves of delight. At one point as I bowed or repeated certain micromovements (or perhaps just stood still), the sweetness seemed to flow across my shoulders and back, at another energies floated around my face. Once more I marveled at such exquisite pleasure. Once more I felt I had reached a new level of somatic response. And yet another time I wondered what might account for this, and whether others feel something similar.

As far as I am aware, no one really knows the answer to any of this. But we do know that this, or something like it, is in fact happening to more and more people over the world, though each one's experience is unique.

When I finished, I noticed that my head was extremely warm, though not my hands or the rest of my body. I take it that this means that the energies are flowing upward, rather than down, as is the case for most people.

Yes, meditation of this sort definitely changes the nervous system. We do indeed "feel with new senses and respond with revised awareness."

One of the continuing amazements for me is that these rapturous sensations continue even after some twenty-five years of such practice. I am going to write a paper sometime on "Kundalini and the Elder."

I might add that my practice is not dedicated solely to this inner rapture (which as I have often said, I view as a way of communing with the Divine, the Beloved Within.) I include prayers for all I know and also for all I may not know who are in need. I continue to feel that ecstasy and compassion need not be mutually exclusive nor that we need feel guilty for allowing joy as well as pain to enter our awareness. I remember that in the Dalai Lama's Secret Temple on the side of the Potola in Lhasa, there are two wall paintings. One is of the Buddha, the other of seemingly wild creatures in frenzied dance--depicting, I believe, the dual nature of divinity--compassion and ecstatic love.

(I wrote in an earlier entry about the "Secret Temple". If you want to read more, you can check out the "Dalai Lama's Secret Temple" on Google or Amazon.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Mary Oliver 

Last night I went to hear Mary Oliver reading her poems. As always, she was truly magnificent. The auditorium was packed, with many standing outside vainly hoping for tickets.

Mary Oliver presents herself not as a celebrity, but as a real human being. Her sharp wit was evident throughout. When she was asked why she had spent so much time outside as a child, she answered she just didn't want to spend too much time in the house.

When someone asked about the terrible events in Virginia on the campus of the Polytechnical Institute, she answered in words we could all agree with: that in our country it seems that violence is presented as the only solution to disagreement or unhappiness. But she added, that it was up to "us" to keep the song of hope alive even in the midst of the songs of despair.

She also noted that although last year she had turned to organized religion (the Episcopal Church) for comfort after the death of her companion of forty years, she later felt that she no longer desired the liturgy but rather a return to nature itself as her source of sustenance. She added that though her latest book was called "Thirst," that would not be the title of her next one (suggesting, I assume, that her life has taken a new turn.)

Mary Oliver is a master poet, a noble woman, and an inspiration to us all. Few manage to go through life with such unfailing grace and continuing expression of love for the earth and its inhabitants.

She explained that it was not correct to call her an ecologist. She describes herself as one who loves the natural world and is its close observer.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

More on Secret Tantra 

I have decided not to use "Secret Tantra" as my title for the new poetry book after all. A friend pointed out that "tantra" is now a highly loaded word that might mislead some readers.

However, I continue to practice this "secret tantra" on my own. The day following my previous entry on the subject, I was rather ill--again, the perpetual stomach problems which have plagued me for so many years. As always, each high is followed by a low, each up by a down. I have no idea why this cycle occurs for me.

But today, I felt fine, and so did a practice similar to the previous one. Again, I took a hot shower and bowed before my Buddhist Thangka. Again, the sweet subtle energies were swiftly aroused, these somewhat more intense than before. Again, I closed my eyes and Buddha appeared now to my "inner eye," followed by what I took for a Chinese teacher, an ancient elder with thin goatee and long drooping moustache, an image we know from portraits from the past. (I have been reading more on Taoism, so this is not too surprising. My inner "teacher" is usually someone different each time--I wonder if there is a "teacher pool" like the old time "stenographer pool" in business offices.)

At first I felt the sweet flowing energies around my head and face, and then I saw another inner image--this time of an anchor. I interpreted this to mean that I should focus on "anchoring" or grounding my energies. This I did, and soon felt the bliss flow from the root down the legs to the feet. I then tried something I have read about--to send the energy through intention alone into the big toe. I did this successfully on the left foot, but had more trouble on the right.

Again, breathing deeply, I ran my hand (now about four inches away) over various places in my body--abdomen, spleen, heart, and so forth. Again, the exquisite energies flowed, and as always I marveled that this could be. Clearly, I was stroking the energy body or the light body, lover and beloved brought together in sacred embrace.

I cannot explain this. I do not know why it happens or where it leads, other than that this is, for me, my destined path. I include as part of my practice prayers for those in need, both those known and those unknown to me personally. Compassion is the inalienable companion of bliss. I see them in inextricably intertwined, one always accompanying the other, both essential in our lives.

When I was going through so many years of early balancing, I kept a faithful journal of each day's experience. I seldom do this now, but am writing here of these intimate experiences to help others now coming along who might benefit. And, oddly, I think "Unmasking the Rose" might even help me as well, in some later incarnation, when I return (conceivably) to this earth and am wondering what kundalini is.

Monday, April 16, 2007

St. John of the Cross (poem) 

The following poem from St. John appeared on Ivan Granger's Poetry Chaikhana today. Ivan did the English version and also the beautiful interpretation, which demonstrates how the literal terms of Christianity can be viewed in more symbolic ways, and hence removed from the realm of the purely patriarchal. Of course, for John, these terms would have referred specifically to the familiar Trinity of Christianity. Ivan's interpretation is more archetypal or universal.

(After I wrote the above, I received the following information from Ivan:

Actually, John of the Cross very likely did know of other traditions. He lived in Spain not long after the Muslim kings were expelled. There was still very rich mystical, philosophical, and academic interactions between Catholicism, Judaism, and Islam. He lived in areas that had once been strong Sufi and Kabbalistic centers, and likely still retained some remnants of those mystical communities. In fact, some historians argue from intriguing (but incomplete clues) that John's mother was, in fact, from a Muslim family.

So, it makes you wonder how eclectic John of the Cross really was in his understanding of Catholic theology...)

Here is the poem and Ivan's interpretation:

On the Communion of the Three Persons (from Romance on the Gospel)

By John of the Cross
(1542 - 1591)

English version by Ivan M. Granger

Out of the vast love
born of them both,
the Father spoke to the Son
with words of celebration,

with words of such full delight
that none can know;
only the Son, only he took joy,
since they were breathed in his ear alone.

But here is what
can be understood:
-- "Nothing, my Son, pleases me,
but your company.

"If something is sweet,
through you alone do I taste it.
The more of you I see in its reflection,
the wider my smile;

"What is unlike you,
has nothing of me.
In you alone is my delight,
life of my life!

"You are the fire of my fire,
my knowing;
the form of my substance,
in you am I well pleased.

"Whoever gives his love to you, my Son,
to him I give myself,
and him I fill
with the love I feel for you
just for making you beloved,
my Beloved."

Here is Ivan Granger's Interpretation

This is a deep meditation on the Christian mystical concept of the Trinity of the Godhead, in the form of a conversation that delves into the relationship between the Father and the Son, and extending out to all of creation.

Does this feel a bit too "Christian" or "Catholic" for you? Let's see if we can remove some of the crust of dogma in order to see that a more universal esoteric truth is being sung here.

The Father is the Eternal aspect of God. The Absolute. The Mystery. Beyond form. Beyond name or concept. To call this aspect of God the "Father" reflects a limitation of language, since it has nothing to do with gender. We are not talking about some bearded old man in the sky. We are talking about the Source, the Foundation of Being. Other cultures just as naturally name this "Mother". We could use the more inclusive "Parent." In Hinduism, the Father is usually called Brahman, the Absolute, or sometimes the transcendent aspects of Shiva, Krishna, Kali... In Islam, the Eternal is Allah. In Buddhism, the pure spaciousness of Nirvana. Every tradition has the Father, for that is the source and goal of all.

The notion of the "Son" has a particularly Christian feel, but when properly understood, this aspect of God is found in all religions, as well. The Son is the Beloved. This is the personal aspect of God. When the individual yearns for an engaged and compassionate form of God, it is the Son we reach for. This is the face of God that comes to us when we cry out in anguish, whose smile melts all fear and separation, whose story inspires us. It is the intimate mask of God. It is the way we learn to conceive of the Eternal because it has become in some way like us. Through the personal form of God, we learn to see ourselves at one with God.

In Christianity, the Son is, of course, understood to be Christ. Christian dogmatists will take umbrage, but a mystic knows that the face of God smiles through many masks and in all religions. The personal form of God, Ishvara, is equally in Hinduism as Krishna, Rama, Shiva... The Son blesses through Boddhisattvas and guides through prophets. The Son, by connecting the Absolute with the endless diversity of creation, necessarily wears an endless variety of masks, bears countless names, and equally fills church, temple, mosque, grove, and every heart.

The Son understood this way is the point at which tangible creation touches intangible Spirit. It is where heaven meets earth. It is the bridge. The intersection, the crossroads, the cross.

Through this intermediary, the Infinite touches the individual, and vice versa. By presenting a face, Pure Essence or Being becomes specific, and proclaims "You are... the form of my substance." Through the medium of the Son, the Eternal witnesses and experiences the immense drama of creation, declaring "You are... my knowing."

The Beloved is the medium through which the devout experience the Eternal: "Whoever gives his love to you, my Son, / to him I give myself..." But this personal form of God is also the medium through which the Eternal participates in creation: "If something is sweet, / through you alone do I taste it."

This gives us a two directional relationship: Between the individual and the Son, the individual is lover and the Son is Beloved, leading the individual to the Ultimate. But between the Father and Son, the Father is lover and the Son is Beloved, leading the Ultimate to the individual.

And what about the third "Person" of the Trinity? We already have lover and Beloved. What is left? Love itself! The third aspect of this trinity is the "vast love" that is constantly flowing in all directions. It is the "full delight" and "joy." It is the substance that bathes and fills everything, and subtly connects all of creation in a vast, fluid unity.

Try reading that gorgeous final verse again, and see what it says to you now:

"Whoever gives his love to you, my Son,
to him I give myself,
and him I fill
with the love I feel for you
just for making you beloved,
my Beloved."

(copyright, Ivan Granger

Friday, April 13, 2007

A Secret Tantra: Poems of the Inner Journey 

I am currently working on a new poetry book, tentatively entitled:

A Secret Tantra: Poems of the Inner Journey

This morning, I wrote the following as a possible introduction to the book. Many general readers are not familiar with tantra except as it is offered in workshops purporting to "teach" this ancient technique, or perhaps they have not heard of it at all. Thus, this introduction tries to explain some of the ancient practices. For advanced students (and some readers of this blog) this information will already be quite familiar.

I describe my "morning practice" partly to answer those who want to know, "What do you actually do?" It is a fairly intimate account, but I have become accustomed to sharing personal experience with readers in my efforts to spread knowledge about the inner energies.)

Each of us is on a journey. It is sometimes called the journey of life, or the journey of the soul. We are, whether we know it or not, striving to reach a destination, which is the same for all of us. That destination is called by many names: Home, the Source, Heaven, God, Goddess, Being, Reality. Or perhaps Paradise. Whatever we name it, it is the ultimate goal of the spirit which lead us forward, through this life, and perhaps others past and future. It as if we know that our origin is elsewhere, and our lives are devoted to our return.

Tantra, like many other once esoteric topics, has recently emerged into the larger consciousness. Though it is often depicted in purely sexual terms, tantra is in fact a highly complex topic, with many variations and modes of approach. Sometimes, indeed, it is employed in specifically sexual practices, in which each lover envisions his/her partner as a god or goddess. At other times, inner visualization (of such images as the famous figure of the god and goddess in union, known as the yab-yum) may be employed.

But there is yet another form of tantra which is focused on the energies themselves, when sexual aspects are not involved. This is my own form of tantra. Many years ago, I experienced an abrupt and unexpected kundalini awakening. In a single moment, my life was transformed totally. At first, the energies I continued to feel in the days and weeks thereafter were intense and ecstatic. For years, I followed a simple ceremony (a little yoga, a little mantra, a bit of mudra, perhaps some background kirtan) to awaken this flowing bliss and experience a sense of union with the beloved withing. Each moment was infused with a sense of the highly sacred, a purpose far beyond mere personal pleasure. Now, my practice is even simpler. Here is what I did today:

First I took a hot shower (this opens both the physical and energetic body wonderfully, and it also helps my chronically sore shoulder. Then I went into my living room, wearing little clothing, and bowed before my Buddhist Thangka. (I am not a Buddhist, but I feel a special affinity for this sacred image which graces my corner wall. This Buddha has a very feminine face and I think of it as female rather than male. It could easily be either.) Immediately, I felt a sweetness flow within. Each time I bowed, the bliss flows repeated. (I thought of the Jews bowing at the Temple Wall in Jerusalem, and the Sufis who bow in rhythm as they repeat their Ziker.)

Ultimately, I ran my hands in circles a few inches in front of each chakra. Each time I felt the exquisite vibrations awaken again. This feeling is not passionate nor intense. It is a soft rapture, extremely subtle and tender, as if the body were being stroked by long stemmed flowers.

This is my time of love making with the divine. It is not the fiery energies of early kundalini. It is not a wild ecstasy. it is like the echo that follows in the mountains, once the great thunder peal has passed. It is appropriate for who I am at this later stage of life, like a delicate aftertaste.

Apparently, some little known groups of Kashmiri Shaivites follow a similar spiritual practice. I have not met any of these. My own experience is what has come to me through the years. I regret that I cannot offer it or teach it to others. It arises from the primal source of the Great Mystery, in which we all are enfolded, and for which we constantly yearn.

However, "something is indeed happening." More and more people are experiencing major spiritual awakenings, including spontaneous kundalini arousal. Increasing numbers are finding their way back to source, as we together create what Rupert Sheldrake has called a "morphogenetic field," in which each repetition of a process becomes easier for those who follow. Indeed, divinity is contagious, and we are together weaving a network of splendor even in the midst of great planetary ahaos and despair. This is our hope, our necessity for redemption. One observer said, "Kundalini is god (the goddess) moving through your body." May we all open ourselves in the highest way to this universal force of love.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Deeksha, the Celestine Prophecy, Early Indications 

Today in a bookstore, I picked up a copy of a book on Deeksha, the technique I mentioned in an earlier post. Basically, Deeksha is energy transmission from one person to another, the latter then being empowered to offer Deeksha to others. It is presented as a means to transform humanity, as more and more people experience this awakening process.

I learned that when the method was being developed in India by Shree Bhagwan and Shree Amma, followers at first lived in the ashram with the leaders. They purified their bodies for some time by eating nothing but fruit, and received deeksha from the "founders" daily for several weeks. Later the time was shortened to fewer weeks, and finally, today, followers come for a three week stay to receive initiation into Deeksha. The founders aver that ultimately, when they build a great temple to house several thousand followers, an energy field will be developed so intense that one would need merely to walk through to be infused with the sacred energies.

This process strongly suggests the "morphogenetic fields" posited by Rupert Sheldrake many years ago. According to this theory, a process becomes easier to replicate each time it is enacted.

If you look at the website for James Redfield's "Celestine Prophecy," you discover a related notion. He too envisions a spiritual awakening now unfolding in society, leading to a time of "critical mass," when all will recognize that we exist in a field of living energy. Violence and insecurity will disappear when we connect with the divine energy source within.

Redfield foresees a time when humans will move "into higher energy states, ultimately transforming our bodies into spiritual form and uniting this dimension of existence with the after-life dimension, ending the cycle of birth and death." He believes that this spiritual transition can be vastly implemented through prayer power, and therefore he sponsors global prayer sessions, coordinating times all over the globe when humans can as a group focus their thought and intention on bringing about a worldwide shift into higher vibrational states of being.

I am not yet sure how to ascertain the exact time of these global prayer efforts, but I will post any information I receive.

And of course, there are many channelers coming forth, with groups of followers springing up all over the world. It is indeed as if a vast project were underway to achieve transcendence in the midst of chaos. In any event, "something is happening." And, of course, I believe that kundalini is the basis of all of these amazing changes, though it may be called by different names in different contexts.

I am reminded of a passage from "Unmasking the Rose," the memoir I wrote in the early eighties when kundalini was still almost unknown in the West: (this passage now seems to be prophetic of how the movement would catch hold and spread.)

The Transition Period

Those who have deliberately chosen incarnation at this time will act as centers of revitalization of society. They are marked by a sense of special purpose. Their aim is service, not self-aggrandizement.

Some will remember themselves through gradual, ancient paths. Others will have a sharp awakening, to speed the transition.

They will find one another, to give courage and strength..

It will be a rough time--none will know if they are "chosen" or victims of mass delusion.

The beginning will be the hardest; after the movement swells, progress will come more easily. The beginning will come at a time of universal darkness and despair.

Many will say "Nothing is possible," and abandon hope.

Others, in transformation, will say, "If this is possible, anything is possible."

After a slow beginning, this phenomenon will quickly spread.

Indeed, we do live in interesting times.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Matriarchal Churches 

(Note: to me, the above picture suggests how many women's lives are a combination of the mundane and the sublime. Or, as Jack Kornfield said, "First the laundry, then enlightenment, then the laundry." Nancy Pelosi's bringing of the children into the House Chamber at the beginning of the term also illustrates a major difference in male and female leadership styles.)

Yesterday, I spoke about certain male-dominated churches which display a distinct bias against women in all roles, as leaders or members. It is also important to keep in mind that in other churches women are conspicuous both as leaders and participants. The Church of Christ, Scientist (commonly known as the Christian Science Church) was founded by Mary Baker Eddy, whose "Science and Health, Key to the Scriptures" is read daily, along with the Bible, by her followers. Her ideas in many ways parallel those of Emerson, who placed spirit well above the realm of mere matter. As part of their creed, Christian Scientists repeat the following, almost like a mantra: "There is no life, intelligence, or substance in matter. All is infinite mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is all in all." (This to me resonates with certain Buddhist views--the transcendentalists (who were of the same era as Mrs. Eddy) also were familiar with Buddhist thought and it is reflected in their various writings.)

Christian Science services are conducted jointly by two male and female "readers" at the front of the congregation, who take turns reading from Eddy and the Bible. For healing purposes, followers rely on private "practitioners," who use the same texts to induce "mental healing."

The Shakers (or Shaking Quakers, as they were also known) are another sect founded by a woman, Mother Ann Lee. (This group split off from the original Quakers to follow Lee's leadership.) Various researchers have posited that both the Quakers and the Shakers were in fact seized by kundalini energies, which manifested in one of the most common symptoms of kundalini arousal.

Today, there are many women in leadership positions in various denominations. The tone of their churches is often quite in contrast to the earlier, more rigid patriarchal models. Women are more and more welcomed both as pastors and rabbis. A few months ago I attended a bat mitzva service for an adult (female) friend of mine. I marveled at the openness and warmth of the service in this community gathering. We women were even permitted to wear shawls and kiss the Torah. There was music and dancing and, for me, much bliss flowed.

Many other churches (such as the Universalist Unitarian, Unity, and the like) could be listed where feminine values are honored.

And, of course, many male pastors and rabbis reflect "feminine values" in their attitudes and actions within their churches.

The feminine principle is associated with intuition, openness, love, nurturance, and compassion. These abound when both male and female members embrace matriarchal ideals.

Perhaps, more than anything, the feminine is associated with feeling, so long taboo in traditional patriarchal churches. No wonder congregations have been empowered by actual kundalini experience when they participate in truly "matriarchal" assemblies.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Disreputable, Unaffiliated Mystics 

Last night I watched an interesting documentary called "Me and My Mosque." The presentation centered on the plight of certain Muslim women in Canada who are (or have been) either banned entirely from entering the local mosque, or else allowed to enter, but sent into a segregated sections, where they stand behind one-way mirrors, so that they can perhaps see what is going on, but cannot be seen by the males on the other side, or else are placed behind barriers, so that sometimes they cannot even see the service. Apparently some traditionalists believe that the sight of a woman, even one fully covered, will "distract" the males in their devotions. Some of the younger women (and some older ones) who are experiencing such discrimination, are speaking out. One noted that some male friends of her family, who are quite friendly otherwise, will not acknowledge her in the mosque.

As we know and as feminist scholars have amply demonstrated, many, many of the established religious institutions practice blantant discrimination against females. Women still are not allowed to become priests in the Catholic traditions, as well as (I believe) in some Protestant denominations. We could go down the list, adding name after name of churches which relegate women to subordinate roles, thus "keeping them in their place" (for some, that is the kitchen and nursery.) No matter how far we think we have come, there are always reminders that advancement is slow, needed change often absent.

And, of course, there are many other more progressive denominations who keep step with the modern world, and allow women an equal place at the table and in the church.

Male institutions tend to reflect the values of hierarchy, tradition, and subordination of females. War itself is often described as the ultimate expression of (distorted) male values, being fomented and fought almost exclusively by males, often over territorial values. Women and children are now the primary victims of war.

I am by no means saying that all men are bad, all women good. Certainly, the reverse is true. Some females espouse male values even more conspicuously than some men.

Someone has asked whether there is a feminist attitude toward kundalini. Kudalini itself (the energy of the goddess) is neutral, like electricity or any other energy medium. But in certain parts of the world (India, for example) in ancient times, kundalini was primarily a male centered activity. Women were simply used to help males to become aroused, so that they could then send the inner energies into the head. The texts speak mostly about how males can achieve this desired state of "enlightenment." Women were implements, not true participants.

But the goddess is the ultimate representation of kundalini energy, hence kundalini is, I believe, the ultimate expression of the divine feminine.

And, to return to the topic of the mosque, here is a Rumi poem which is most relevant:

Fools honor the mosque
yet seek to destroy those in whose heart God lives.
That mosque is of the world of things;
This heart is real.
The true mosque is nothing but the heart
of spiritual kings.
The mosque that is the inner awareness of the saints
is the place of worship for all:
God is there.

(tr, Camille and Kabir Helminski)

Perhaps it is attitudes like this which have caused the Turkish government to stop supporting the translation of certain Rumi texts. They refused to fund the last of an important series of poems, on the grounds that it in some way challenges traditional religious values.

The mystic is often considered a threat to society. As Coleman Barks said to his audience recently, "We are disreputable, unaffiliated mystics, DUM for short. Don't try to organize us."

I feel that the mystic, male or female, is one who expresses the basic values of the divine feminine--openness, sensitivity, receptivity, oneness with all rather than separation from all, a recognition that all that exists is the expression of the divine nature and thus is to be honored and cherished. This mystical sensibility is to be found at the heart of all the major religions--another name for it is Love.

(By the way, the image at the top of the page is not a mosque, but rather a Russian Orthodox Cathedral which is located just down the street from me. Women are permitted to attend, but not to serve as priests. And they may enter the church only if they wear skirts. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I don't own one of these and hence have not been inside the church.)

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Practicing Nonviolent Dialogue for Peace by Patricia Lay-Dorsey, part 3 

The concluding installment of Patricia's Peace Talk:

So what is the difference between "dialogue" and "debate"?

I see dialogue as an attempt to understand how another person sees things. Listening is its core component.

Debate is an attempt to talk the other into seeing things like I see them. Marshalling one’s thoughts and expressing them effectively are the tools of a debater.

And why do I use the word "nonviolent" to describe the kind of dialogue in which I engaged during those 18 days?

Because I consciously did my best to meet hatred and negativity with respect and love, in a way modeled by Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

These are my principles of nonviolent dialogue:

1. State your point of view in a respectful way;
2. Let the other speak;
3. Listen to what they say, even if it is said with hostility;
4. Find and express that upon which you can both agree;
5. Try to understand where the other is coming from;
6. Respond, even to hatred, with love but do not tolerate verbal abuse. Such abuse escalates the cycle of violence;
7. Stop when the dialogue is no longer productive;
8. Conclude with respectful acknowledgement of your commonalities and wish them well.

Dialogue is more about understanding the other than changing their minds.

Of course it’s ideal if both participants are trying to enter into nonviolent dialogue, but even one nonviolent dialoguer can change the tone of the encounter.

Perhaps the change you make is not in what they think about an issue, but in how they will express themselves in the future.

The quality of your presence is more important than the content of your conversation.

You do not need to change minds in order to change hearts, your own first of all.

Consciously engaging in nonviolent dialogue is transformative. You will be changed in ways you cannot imagine, the most notable being the growth of compassion. If you listen deeply to what is being said, you’ll see that how individuals view the world makes perfect sense, given their life experiences. The same is true of yourself.

Nonviolent dialogue requires that one be prepared to set aside long-held assumptions, prejudices, and paradigms. Like looking through a prism, you will begin to see the world through a different facet. And, judging from my own personal experience, it will not look as you expected.

Thank you.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Nonvolent Dialogue for Peace by Patricia Lay-Dorsey, part 2 

This is the second of three installments of a talk given to the Pointes for Peace group in Detroit on Tuesday, April 3.

The area in front of the White House is a global street corner. Every day, dozens of tour buses bring visitors from around the world to see where the President of the United States lives and works. American tourists also bring their children to see this icon of America. And there’s always a parade of what I came to call "suits" going in and out of those well-guarded gates of power. Not to mention the local, national and international media who swarm around the place like worker bees around a hive.

During my 18-day vigil--what I came to call my "Lebanon Peace Initiative"--tens of thousands of persons from this country and around the world read my signs. Countless numbers made comments in passing, and at least 100 stopped to talk to me, many at great length. These encounters moved along a continuum from peace-filled exchanges of opinions to heated rants where my only words were, "I'm so sorry you are suffering." My encounters with people from Israel were the most difficult and, at the same time, the most rewarding.

I soon discovered that, without knowing it, I had signed up for an 18-day immersion course in "nonviolent dialogue." And I was the only student in the class. For it quickly became apparent that most of the other activists--and there are ALWAYS people holding up signs in front of the White House--engaged in debate not dialogue when confronted with negative responses to their signs. Debates that often degenerated into arguments.

I refused to go there. If someone took issue with the message on my sign--which many did--I would silently listen to their complaints. Often they would accuse me of not knowing what I was talking about, of meddling in something that was none of my business since I was obviously not Lebanese, and of only taking one side by not showing the suffering of the Israeli people too.

When confronted in this way, I would smile and turn my sign to the side with the photograph and say, "I'm here for them, my family in Lebanon." Sometimes people would accept this explanation; other times they challenged my calling these obviously Arab Muslim people, my family. I wouldn’t argue the point, but would simply say that I love them deeply, and to me, they are family.

Another comment I often heard--primarily from Americans and Israelis--was that I should have a sign that said, "Hezbollah out of Israel." As time went on I learned to respond by inviting them to make just such a sign and join me out there the next day. I'd be honored to have them stand beside me. And I meant it.

But I also knew and clearly expressed the fact that it was the Lebanese people I was representing, a people I loved and whose voices I felt needed to be heard. Especially now. For it soon became apparent that, except for a few organized protest rallies, I was the only person standing vigil in front of the halls of power whose sign even had the word "Lebanon" on it.

The day I'd arrived in Washington, the U.S. House of Representatives had passed a resolution 410-8 supporting Israel in its attacks on and invasion of Lebanon. And I'm proud to say that my Congresswoman, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, was one of the eight. The following day, the Senate passed a similar resolution 100-0. The morning of my third day in DC, I awoke to the news that the President had just approved sending an emergency shipment of bunker buster bombs to Israel, bombs they would be using in attacks on Lebanon.

More than ever I felt my presence was needed in Washington, if just to give some balance to what seemed to me was a one-sided view of this war.

So day after day I took my sign and scooted from my hotel over to the White House, or to the Senate and House Office Buildings. I'd park wherever I felt there would be the most foot traffic, lift up my sign, and sit there in the blinding heat. For, as Fate would have it, Washington, DC was in the midst of a heat wave with temperatures in the 90s and occasionally topping 100. I generally stayed at my post 4-6 hours a day.

There came to be a rhythm to my work. I would remain silent unless someone stopped and wanted to talk. Whenever someone made negative comments in passing--which happened frequently--I would simply smile and let them go on. Occasionally I'd ask if they wanted to stop and talk. They never did.

A couple of times, activists who had come over to talk with me, responded badly to negative comments that were made. These confrontations quickly turned into arguments. After unsuccessfully trying to stop, I would scoot away and find another place to park. Minutes later, they would come up shamefaced and apologetic. I would accept their apology, but make it clear that they would not be welcome to stand with me unless they could respect how I did things. And then I would tell them how I would have handled that encounter, had I been allowed to do so.

Through my smiles and body language, I did my best to encourage people to stop and talk. I found that Americans were more comfortable with what I came to call "drive-by sniping" than stopping to engage in dialogue, while Europeans were eager to talk.

And I was interested to see that 100% of the Europeans I met, agreed with my sign. The Washington Bureau Chief for the London Daily Telegraph stopped by one day to interview me, and expressed surprise that I was the only one out there for Lebanon. He said the people in the UK were very upset about this war.

But, out on the streets, I heard all points of view.

The dozens of Israelis I met--even though they had strong reactions to my message--always stopped to tell me how they felt. I'd listen without interrupting and try to find someplace where we could meet, a place of common concern. In practically every case, that concern was that we wanted those we loved to be safe.

When the speaker had said what they needed to say, I would thank them for sharing their concerns with me. If they hadn't already mentioned it, I would ask if they had loved ones who were in harm's way at home. I would then show them the photograph of my family and express our commonality, the place where we could meet--that we all wanted our loved ones to be safe.

Now where we usually differed was how we felt that "safety" could be achieved. Every one of the Israelis I met--with the exception of one young man who identified himself as a Buddhist--believed that war was the only answer; that Hezbollah had to be destroyed even if it meant the country of Lebanon would be destroyed with them. They showed little concern for the hundreds of innocent civilians being killed in Lebanon, but were totally absorbed with the danger of Hezbollah rockets hitting innocent victims in Israel.

This was striking since the total number of Israeli civilians killed during this 34-day war was 44, while the number of Lebanese civilians killed reached 1,187 according to the most conservative estimates. But numbers didn’t matter; what terrified the Israeli people was the sense of being under threat within their own borders.

For I discovered a deep-seated fear among the people who live in Israel, a fear that the Arabs who surround their country want nothing more than to kill them and take over their land. For this reason, self-defense is at the top of their national priorities. And the only means of self-defense they believe will keep them safe is military.

During my 18 days, there were three instances where my attempts to enter into nonviolent dialogue failed. In each of these cases, the rage was too far out of control for dialogue to be possible.

In what I came to call my Final Exam, on the last hour of my last day, I was surrounded by eight Israeli men and boys, one of whom was a Jewish settler who had had to be physically pulled by Israeli soldiers from his home when the West Bank was cleared of settlements. This man was literally crazy with hatred. Hatred unlike any I have ever seen before...and he was right in my face.

But I didn’t allow myself to be intimidated. I continued to hold up my sign and did my best to respond to his rage in a way that would open the door to dialogue.

And for a few seconds, I would succeed...only to see him fly off into another cycle of hate. To be honest, this was the only time I felt at risk of physical harm.

When I requested he give me a few minutes to speak, I told him I loved him even though he was expressing a great deal of hatred towards me. I brought up Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi, and encouraged him to consider the use of nonviolent resistance instead of war and killing to change things. But he couldn’t hear me, his mind and heart were closed. Hatred was all he knew, at least on that day.

Finally I could tell his rage was escalating the longer he was allowed to express it, so I called a halt to our encounter with the words,

"I think we’ve gone as far as we can go today. It's now time for us to stop talking. I hope that you and your loved ones will be safe."

After a few more nasty remarks, he and his friends left.

Two Palestinian-American young men came right up to me afterwards and said they had been watching how I'd handled that encounter. They wanted me to know I was not alone, and that they appreciated all I was doing for them and their people.

As I say, that was my final exam. And I'm relieved to say I passed. But the cost was high. It took me weeks to recover from having been in such a toxic environment. Hatred is like that. But it is no match for love. That much I know.

to be continued...

Friday, April 06, 2007

Patricia's Peace Talk, part 1 

The following presentation is by my long time dearest friend, Patricia Lay-Dorsey. Many of you know that she gave me this blog as a gift a few years back, and has generously continued to help me with it over time. Patricia is the most dedicated peace activist, the most remarkable and talented woman (and in many fields including writing, painting, photography, singing, standing up for her truth--and I could go on and on)that I have ever encountered, or could imagine. Whatever she does, she does with total dedication. What follows here is the first part of her description of her activities on behalf of our world in recent months.

I am deeply honored to have her as a friend and colleague. She is one of a kind, believe me.

As we move into this challenging century, it behooves all of us to be aware of the needs of our outer society as well as our inner journeys. Patricia shows us how.

Practicing Nonviolent Dialogue for Peace
by Patricia Lay-Dorsey

"Serenity isn’t freedom from the storm, but peace within the storm"...author unknown.

I'd like to start with an entry I wrote in my blog on September 20, 2006:

What am I harvesting from the plantings of my life? Especially those plants that showed themselves to be robust and full of flavor late this summer?

What comes most powerfully to mind is the fruit of the nonviolent dialogues I had with persons from across the globe during my 18-day solitary vigil in Washington, DC on behalf of Lebanon.

How I learned to listen, to find the common ground upon which even those who disagree can stand, to ask questions rather than make statements, to meet hatred with love.

I also learned that one person can make a difference. But only if he follows the deepest call of his heart, only if she is willing to put herself in positions where she is not in control, where she can be used in ways she could never imagine.

I learned openness to the adventure of life. I learned not to count the cost, whether it be money, comfort or long-held assumptions.

I learned that every human person--at least the hundreds I met--wants those they love to be safe. I learned that those who are filled with hatred are so sad that it would be impossible to hate them back.

I learned that one is never alone when acting on the behalf of others.

I learned that being a person of peace is more important than any action one could ever take.

For 17 years I unthinkingly followed the paradigm set forth by those who had gone before me in the peace movement. Its fundamental tenet being that peace will come if we can get others to think the way we think about war, injustice and oppression. Our task is to find effective ways to wake people up to the truth as we see it.

The means we use include protest demonstrations, rallies, vigils, teach-ins, talks and presentations, filmmaking, writing books, articles and letters to the editor, contacting our elected officials, leafleting, engaging in street theater, composing songs, organizing with like-minded others, putting up web sites and sending out group emailings. To name a few! Some activists travel to hot spots around the world where they stand in solidarity with those who are personally suffering the effects of war and oppression.

Others intentionally and peacefully act in ways that might lead to their being arrested, in the time-honored tradition of civil disobedience.

But whatever the means, the paradigm remains the same: peace will come when the world's leaders start to think like we think.

It was with this paradigm firmly in mind that I took my sign and drove to Washington, DC on July 19, 2006. The war I was protesting was Israel's war on Lebanon, a country and people I had grown to love during my visit there eight months earlier.

Even before that, Lebanon had become dear to me.

Shortly after September 11th, 2001, I began to volunteer in the art classes of a K-5 school in East Dearborn. For over five years these students, many of them first or second generation Lebanese, have taught me about their culture and religion. Hearing their stories and seeing their drawings have opened my eyes to the richness of their heritage. I have been the student, and they the teachers.

In mid-December 2001, I met the wife and children of a Muslim man of Lebanese descent who had just been picked up and detained by the Immigration & Naturalization Service.

In 1991, Rabih Haddad had co-founded the Global Relief Foundation. As one of the two largest Arab relief organizations in the world, it was now under scrutiny by the U.S. government in their post-9/11 targeting of Arab Muslim groups and individuals.

For 19 months, Rabih Haddad--an imam, teacher and respected leader in his adopted Ann Arbor--was imprisoned. Except for a minor visa violation, no charges were ever brought against him. But it didn't matter; he was kept in solitary confinement for 16 of his 19 months in jail. On July 14, 2003, Rabih was secretly deported to Lebanon, the country of his birth, and two weeks later Sulaima and their four young children were deported to Kuwait, the country of her birth.

During the 19 months of his imprisonment, I was one of hundreds of individuals, including Rep. John Conyers, who worked tirelessly to have Rabih Haddad released on bail, or at least treated justly by the immigration court system. As a consequence, I became very close to Rabih’s family--Sulaima and the children--and to Rabih himself through letters. After they were deported, we stayed in touch by phone. It was this family I visited in Beirut in November 2005.

So on July 12, 2006, when Israeli bombs started raining down on the southern suburbs of Beirut close to where my family lived, and one week later when they made a harrowing escape into Syria, I felt like it was happening to me.

On the Wednesday morning after these horrors had been going on for a week, I read in the New York Times that President Bush had said he would give Israel one more week to finish the job. Within three hours I was in my wheelchair-accessible van on my way to Washington, DC. With me was the sign I'd carried the day before in a pro-Lebanon demonstration in Dearborn.

On one side were the words, "Israel out of Lebanon" with three exclamation marks, and on the other, an enlarged photo I'd taken of Rabih, Sulaima and the children during my visit to Beirut. Hand-printed beside that photo was the question, "Who suffers in war?"

My intention was to be a public witness for the Lebanese people by holding up my sign in front of the White House, and the Senate and House Office Buildings.

For 18 steaming hot days, that was exactly what I did.

To be continued...

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Redwoods by Elizabeth Reninger (poem) 



climb up out of earth's
moist dream

a wild

the quiet breath
of galaxies

a full

flowing along their roots

(copyright, Elizabeth Reninger)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Finally, we took an ax (poem) 

Finally, we took an ax

For years we circled
our hidden room,
seeking a way out.

Nothing sufficed:
Not prayers,
nor supplications,
not knees against stone,
nor heavy penance
of nails and chafing shirts.

Finally, we took an ax
and broke through to god.
At first we were blinded by the splendor,
the majesty and
shining raiment.
We crept closer
and raised our head a little.

That one said,
where have you been,
my dear one?
I have been waiting for you
for so many years.

Then silence.

Then we vanished
into nothingness
and light.

Dorothy Walters
March 30, 2007

Monday, April 02, 2007

I Cannot Tell You (poem) 

I Cannot Tell You

I do not know
if god
is a thing
or a process,
or a being
or a presence.

I cannot tell you
how the world
was constructed,
or when it began
or by whom.

I cannot unravel
the tables
of meaning,
the diagrams
and scales of comparison,
the charts
and the long explanations
of everything
that has ever been.

What I know is this:
this moment,
this kiss,
this infinite longing,
endless loving
and being loved
by no one
who has a name
in a place
that does not exist.

Dorothy Walters
March 30, 2007

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