Category Archives: Community

The One thing I would tell everyone

Kat asked me last night what I think is the most important thing that people need as far as spiritual, emotional, and health support. This is something we think about a lot in our soul crafts of spiritual support (me), yoga teaching (her), and resilient community building (both). I thought long and hard about what I have learned so far in my many, many conversations with patients and spiritual seekers, people in pain and people who are thriving.

There are so many stubborn people. Men and women who desperately cling to how they have always done things, how their church tells them they should think and believe, how the supermarkets advertise, or how their families pressure them. They resist change and they suffer. I want to grab their faces in my hands and ask, “Do you really feel this way? Do you really think that? Does eating this or that really make you feel good?!? BECAUSE YOU DON’T HAVE TO!! Listen to your heart. Listen to your body. Follow it’s lead.”

People need to be affirmed, honored and celebrated that they can trust their heart, that they their personal experience of Divine love is valid and worth something. Ironically to follow the crowd, to feel the pressure of the system or the hierarchy to think and feel a certain way without the affirmation of one’s uniqueness is a profoundly lonely experience. How many pastors really want to say the things that they feel they must say so as to not make their parishioners too uncomfortable? Why do we twist, bend, argue, and force ourselves to believe in a God or a way of living that when we really listen to our hearts doesn’t feel good or compelling at all?

Your unique and personal experience of your soul, of Spirit, of transcendence, is worth something. It is important and valid and true to you. It is written on your heart. I want to know about it. I don’t want to know what someone else has told you that you have to believe, I want to know what you feel, wonder about, and live by. And I hope that at least in my company, you will feel free, unfettered, and fully welcome.

May you recognize in your life the presence
Power and light of your soul.

 May you realize that you are never alone,
That your soul in its brightness and belonging
Connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe.

 ~John O’Donohue


Why I’ve started to dislike Easter

I think Easter is supposed to be the cornerstone holiday of Christianity, at least that’s what I grew up thinking in my Evangelical upbringing. After all, Jesus died to pay the price for all our sins and then he rose again, finalizing it and making it clear that God approved of the sacrifice. It’s a great opportunity to remind us all how important it is remember our sins and to commit our lives to him and to believe that he really did do this for us.

I don’t really like going to church on Easter anymore. I mean, I’ve heard this same message a hundred times… Easter doesn’t make it any more real to me. I just end up feeling like the pastor is using the opportunity of a packed church and a suffering savior to get more commitments to follow Jesus. But I don’t think there was anything in Jesus’ death and resurrection that was saying believe that I did this and you will go to heaven. There was nothing in his death and resurrection accounts where he said follow me and make me your God.

I also don’t really like working in the hospital on Easter. I have done this the last two years. Last year, I spent most of the day with a family of 30 or more relatives waiting to hear whether a 14 year old boy, who had a completely unexpected stroke, was going to die. And prayed with a man who held his newborn child who had died in delivery. This year, I had to talk with a family whose father and husband, most likely dying from full body shut down, after the doctors found a softball size tumor on his last day of checkups after pushing through metastasized melanoma. We talked about letting go, about grieving, about the fact that he might not go home.

If I had to choose between the hospital and church on Easter, I think I would choose the hospital. To me it feels closer to real life and rings truer to what Easter is all about. Granted, God’s presence is as present at church as it is in the hospital, but in the hospital people have to wrestle with it more… and God’s presence, the work of Christ in the universe, the person of Jesus should be wrestled with. Always, and without exception. I guess I’m just not into “Hurray for Jesus” anymore. I’m not into easy answers, or sealed in blood, or done-deal salvation. If Jesus is the “blue-print,” as Richard Rohr often mentions, if he is the full representation of God, or the ultimate archetype of truth in the universe, his death and resurrection are not a series of facts that must be believed for eternal salvation. His death and resurrection are not a story to be told with much theatrics and passion with the hopes of getting a few more Christians to add to the Book of Life.

If Jesus truly is the revelation of the Divine in humanity, his death and resurrection are a cosmological statement that says, “See, this is what God is like. Death happens. It is a necessary part of human life, it is a necessary part of the spiritual life. And when we die, God comes through with hope and new life. It has been this way, it is this way, and it always will be this way. If you are afraid to die, you will not face the new life.” My sin did not put Jesus on the cross. The reality of life put Jesus on the cross, just as reality of life raised him from the grave. And is it a unquestionable proven fact that he rose? No. But then again, sometimes archetypes say more about truth than fact does anyway.

Community, nature, and chaos

The church community I am a part of often shares meals together as a community. I have been noticing something that has given me cause to wonder. There is always a direction given before we start getting our food: “Women and children first.” Granted, I recognize this is a matter of respect and an effort to affirm their worth, but something else happens. The men hang back, and sit with, the other men, and the women find their places with the other women and children. It is a pattern that separates us into specific roles and ways of being as a community.

So I thought, what if the men went first with the kids? That would mix things up! Maybe make for some uncomfortability, maybe some new and creative ways of taking care of each other. Maybe a little chaos and disorder even.

Nature requires chaos and disorder for resiliency… is it any different for human communities seeking resiliency and health?

M. Scott Peck, in his book, In Search of Stones, writes in his chapter on Adventure that he loves storms. And not just small thunderstorms, but massive, dangerous Category 1 tsunamis. The thing he likes about storms is that they demonstrate the power to throw humans out of their element. Nature takes control for a while. It is the way of nature that chaos, disorder, and diversity are necessary and inevitable. I think also of forest fires and how our human efforts to control them have been a detriment to the natural life cycles of forests.

All nature requires chaos, disorder, and diversity to create resilient ecosystems and earth communities. Is it not the same for human community as well? We need to mix it up, to diversify the places that we gather, the rhythms that we participate in, the food that we eat, and the people that we spend time with. This is truth… a basic psychology, anthropology, community-building given. Don’t let each other get too comfortable. As one who is passionate about community resiliency, I for one will be promoting this till the day I die.

Boys who need a tribe to initiate them do not care if that tribe of elders comes from blood relatives, from nonblood elder friends, or from institutions, or, most likely, from some combination of them all. Boys are simply hungry to become the best men they can be. A good way to monitor whether our boy is getting his initiation is by monitoring just how much we are hoping someone else will give it to him. If we’reconscious enough to wonder, we’re probably the person(s) who needs to take the initiative. Any of us can initiate them if we devote ourselves to being a part of a healthy group and bringing boys to that group. (Michael Gurian – The Wonder of Boys)

I’m sorry… it does exist.

This afternoon, I was in the backyard, with some dear friends, enjoying the day and each other’s company. The dogs lounged in the sun, the bees buzzed in the sunflowers, the chickens pecking at each other and squawk, squawk, squawking. We shared a raw smoothie and got to talking about life, society, and the worldview that we bring to it.

It was then that one friend said, “All this messed up thinking, all these politicians and big businesses, this selfishness, this suffering… I’m not living in that world anymore. That is not what life is about. Life is what I make of it… all those other things don’t even exist.”

I am paraphrasing, but I think I get the general idea.

“If we can live in such a way that those negative views and ways of living don’t even enter our consciousness,” she said, “it will spread and grow and eventually the world will be a better place.”

“But suffering and pain and greed and capitalism do exist,” I said. “We can’t just act as though they don’t, can we?”

“Yes! We can… we don’t have to acknowledge their presence at all. We don’t have to engage them.”

I get these ideas, and I can imagine the logic here and how we can make a difference simply by living our “conscious” lifestyle, while the world spins madly on. But I’m not sure that it is realistic. Or practical.

Frankly, I don’t have the luxury of living as though these negative parts of our world don’t exist. I have a child. I have a wife. My life is not just about the way that I want to live it. I have to be present to other people’s depression, their suffering, their financial hardship. Daily, sometimes in my own home. I can’t pretend that it doesn’t exist or that it doesn’t effect me.

The wise elder and psychologist, James Hillman did an interview with Sy Safransky of The Sun where he talked about the insult and outrage of meditation as the means and end of the spiritual person disconnected with the world:

Safransky: You’re rather an uncompromising critic of spiritual movements and everything called “new age.” You once suggested that meditation is a fascistic activity, that people who meditate are as uncaring as psychopathic killers.

Hillman: I did once remark that meditation, in today’s world, is obscene. To go into a room and sit on the floor and meditate on a straw mat with a little incense going is an obscene act… I was saying that the world is in a terrible, sad state, but all we’re concerned with is trying to get ourselves in order…

Your question is very legitimate. I don’t want to be locked into an antimeditation position. I think every consumer – for that is what we actually are – needs a lot of neutral time, a lot of turnover time: idleness, fantasies, images, reflections, emptiness; not necessarily disciplined meditation. But when meditation becomes a spiritual goal, and then the method to achieve a spiritual goal – that’s what worries me.

Safransky: And the goal you are suspicious of is transcendance.

Hillman: Yes. The quest to flee the so-called trivia of the lower order seems misguided. Personal hangups, fighting with the man or woman you live with, worrying about your dreams – this is the soul’s order.

Safransky: What if the goal is merely a few minutes of calm?

Hillman: If that’s the goal, what’s the difference between mediation and having a nice drink? … Or writing a long letter, a love letter? … I think we’ve locked on to meditation as the main method for settling down.

It’s better to go into the world half-cocked than not go into the world at all. I know when something’s wrong. And I can say, “This is outrageous. This is insulting. This is a violation. And it is wrong.” I don’t know what we should do about it; my protest is absolutely empty. But I believe in that empty protest.

“It’s better to go into the world half-cocked than not go into the world at all.” This is it. Most of us go into that broken, hurting, economically segregated, politically divided, untruthful world every single day. Then many of us come home to it too. Then we turn on the television or check the news and there it is again. Very few of us are going to engage that world as having reached enlightenment… unaffected and un-phased. If we wait till then, or we simply stay home or drink “consciousness” smoothies with our consciousness friends, we are not being honest. See when my son is screaming and his diaper is full of shit and all I want to do is yell at him to “Shut UP!! STOP! PLEASE!” I realize that a lot of that darkness is right there inside of me… Like I said, I don’t have the luxury of pretending that the negative doesn’t exist.