It means something to be where you are from. And not just your family, not just your culture, or your religion or your country… It means something unequivocally significant to be an occupier of the land you live upon. I am quite certain that most do not have this sensibility, at least not consciously but perhaps when really pressed, would affirm how important it is to them.
What I am getting at is an extra level down into a deeper sense of one’s place in this world, one’s sense of self, one’s spiritual life, and one’s connection with all that is.
There is meaning to the old saying, “You are what you eat.” In a quite literal sense, our bodies our composed of the food and water that goes into us. What other way is there? This is why, when we lived in Oregon, we drank our water, straight from the land, straight from the spring. No filter, no chemicals. And food… Where is your body connected to if your food comes from thousands of miles away or is processed to the extent that it can only be called, as Michael Pollen terms it, “edible food-like substances?”
So it means something very literally in regard to our physical make-up. But what does it mean to be from the Fox Valley in WI? To have grown up on a farm and lived there your whole life? As a chaplain, living in one of the most “homegrown” cities in the country, it means something to talk to my patients about where they are from and wehter their parents grew up here too. For a person living in city and never having left, to never found one’s self in green space, with one’s hands in the dirt or toes in the sand… This means something to that person. Maybe an ungroundedness or a sense of nature as “enemy.”
There is a profound teaching in observing the greatest tai chi masters (watch a video of one on YouTube). Where do they draw this life force from that allows them to move people without even touching them or to be unmovable themselves?
I have been contemplating the nature of the soul in Celtic Spirituality for quite some time now, and as I work my way slowly and thoughtfully through John O’Donohue’s Anam Cara, I am reminded again of this very precious and beautiful gem of history. Frank MacEowen also addresses this belief in The Myst Filled Path.
The Celts believed that the body was contained within the soul. The soul extends beyond our body and reaches out to connect with other souls. In fact, all things have soul. The trees in the forest, the mountains, the hawk soaring above, the fish in the river, even the rocks under foot. The Earth herself has soul. We can connect and communicate with the soul of the beings around us.
This is very foreign and strange to our Western ears, which for so many of us have heard that the soul is contained within the body. When we were born, a soul was put into our bodies. When we die, the body decays and the soul moves on. A bit like on Loony Tunes, when the white angelic spirit wisps away from the dead character. It is very Western to think in terms of body and spirit, or body and mind. O’Donohue writes that it is the soul that connects the body and the mind. It is the soul that is connected, and connects us to, God-in-all-things.
So I have been sitting with this for quite some time now… because it really is such an incredibly different way of seeing the world and God and myself and my connection to God. I am drawn to a more mystical expression of my Christian heritage. I am drawn to the wild places, the mystery places, the times between times when the veil is thin. I am drawn to knowing Christ in all things.
This notion of the body being contained within the soul changes so many things. I now am drawn to consider how I care for that soul that is holding and enlivening everything within it. I am now faced with that deep connection that I feel in the presence of my beloved or in the magic of the sun-kissed horizon. To do damage to the soul of another being is to do damage to my own soul. Implications… consequences… connections.
I’ve been thinking lately how the differences in economic variance between now and the mystics’ times may affect our feelings towards those who might be mystics in our current culture.
In Bend we have a good number of homeless folks who hang out downtown where I work and for a “small” town they are pretty visible. I was thinking about how many of them really would have trouble getting jobs at this point because of psychological or physical issues and so they end up homeless in a society that can really overlook those of of a lower economic standing.
I began to wonder if in a society where there wasn’t such a huge gap between the rich and the poor, as during the time of the middle ages and monasticism, perhaps those who had mystical experiences, leaving them not able to function on the same level as normal working class, might be more accepted. Many of the mystics have had physical illness or tragedy, which I personally think has shifted there perspective on the world both spiritual and physical. Maybe some of our homeless could really be considered mystics we have just lost our ability to hear them.
So economics and mysticism… are they related?