Spiritual sustenance, naturally.

Posts tagged ‘Mysticism’

Fire and Spirit

After officiating at a beautiful wedding on this gorgeous Spring day, I added a “Fire and Spirit” post to Temple of the Cosmos. Check it out!

Every Blossom a Chalice

Twice recently this poem from Hafiz has come to me from friends, which has led me to share it here. Rain and light. Beautiful.

GOD POURS LIGHT

God

pours light

into every cup,

quenching darkness.

The proudly pious

stuff their cups with parchment

and critique the taste of ink

while God pours light

and the trees lift their limbs

without worry of redemption,

every blossom a chalice.

Hafiz, seduce those withered souls

with words that wet their parched lips

as light

pours like rain

into every empty cup

set adrift on the Infinite Ocean. ~ Hafiz ~

Photo by Seth Rockmuller

Our Ecstatic Identity

Picture this:

* a morning in early spring, crisp air with new sunshine, long-awaited respite from a fierce winter season in the North Country, near the Canadian border.

* a winter-beaten field at last free of snow, surrounded by bushes and small trees behind a white frame house, near the edge of a quiet village.

* a small girl of seven or eight, dressed in a  navy blue wool coat, matching hat and snow-pants.

She walks slowly, daydreaming, into the center of the field, idly examining and poking with the toe of her boot the swirled and crumpled patterns where the pressure of the winter’s snows flattened the tall grasses and weeds of her previous summer’s explorations and adventures. The low hummocks of grass and straw are now dry and crunchy under her boots, but give slightly under her step, as spring begins to thaw the ground beneath.

Suddenly she drops to her knees, then lies face down on the grasses, sun warming her back, and chilly air tickling her face. She closes her eyes, pressing her ear and cheek to the bleached brown stubble, sniffing the rich scent of awakening earth through the sweet smell of dried grasses. Her eyes closed, she feels the firm support of the earth beneath yet can almost sense movement, and is slowly flooded with the feeling of being held, while being one and the same with the air, the sun, the earth, boundaries dissolving.

*     *     *

The snow that has been overwhelming various parts of the country recently has reminded me of my childhood home in the “North Country,” which is how people there refer to St. Lawrence county in northern New York State. I was fortunate to grow up in a loving (yet eccentric) family, with parents who taught biological sciences at St. Lawrence University. At that time there was a Universalist theological school at St. Lawrence, where my father was sometimes asked to present the atheist position in their debates, which he did with vigor and enthusiasm. With my mother and sisters, I attended the Universalist Church.

The earliest “religious” experience in my memory did not happen in church, but in my own back yard. The great outdoors was my home during my childhood summers, and my earliest memories of spiritual awakening have to do with experiences in nature. At a conference I attended about ten years ago, the workshop leaders asked those of us in attendance questions about our formative spiritual experiences. Lo and behold, the majority of people related nature experiences.

There are powers at work not only throughout Earth and the universe, but also within every one of the cells in our bodies. We “incarnate” these powers, and when we are conscious of them, our identity expands. Most of the time we struggle to realize our shared identity with other people, never mind animals, plants, rocks, the sun, or the stars. But with the development of our cosmological imagination, our identity can be stretched, and indeed must be, in a world both torn apart and deadened by difference and alienation. Yet we are capable of living ecstatically, finding new energy and joy in life. Some traditions speak of something akin to this “incarnation” and the consequent expansion of our identity in terms like Christ consciousness, or Buddha nature.

Brian Swimme, in his book The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos, has a naturalistic, yet transcendent understanding. He wrote,

“We were born out of the Earth Community and its infinite creativity and delight and adventure. Our natural state is intimacy within the encompassing community. Our natural genetic inheritance presents us with the possibility of forming deeply bonded relationships throughout all ten million species of life as well as throughout the nonliving components of the universe.” (p.34)

“We need to put our energy into inventing cultural forms for initiating ourselves into an ecstatic sense of involvement with the community of beings that is the very universe.” (p.36)

People have been doing just that. A Google search on the words Universe Story will bring up plenty of information about earthy and cosmic play and celebration. It’s one thing to read it, and quite another to experience it: in a field or forest, climbing the rocks, under the stars, at the water’s edge. Or maybe in your own back yard.

Up-Close and Natural

Because we are part of the natural world, our earthly story can offer us inspiration, healing, a sense of peace and balance, or a profound feeling of belonging. What is happening now outside your window? As I look out, I see that once again a soft blanket of white covers the ground and rooftops. The new snow clings to the tree branches, creating a fairyland in the ravine behind my house. Once again, the world has been reborn.

Today I will take a walk and look for messages. These messages may take the form of a sharp cold scent on the breeze; the sound of some water trickling beneath the snow; bird calls; animal tracks in the snow; the soft kiss of snowflakes on my face; the winter light, with its gray, blue, and sepia shadows; the shape of the bare tree branches against the white sky. My walk will be different from any other time, and though the place may be familiar, it will be new.

To dive even deeper, I may take out my loupe, a lens that goes with me everywhere, nestled in its tiny, wine-colored pouch. It allows me to see a world that is usually hidden from our everyday eyes. Through the loupe, a tiny area becomes an entire world from an insect’s point of view, evoking images, memories, and inspiring art and poetry.

We will do this together, looking for messages, exploring the outer world up close, seeing what that experience evokes in our inner worlds. The listing with the date and time for this gathering will appear on the Services / Gatherings page of this blog.

The Path of the Mystic

Do you like categories? Do you enjoy taking psychological – personality-type tests? Are you ENFP? Where are you on the Enneagram?  On those types of tests, I usually come out in the center between two choices, and I have a very hard time with black and white answers. My world has more colors than that. I’m not big on such tests, but I had to take plenty of them in seminary.

Well, that said, on a lark I took a Spiritual Types Test from the Upper Room website, and my result was Mystic. I’ve posted a version of the result below.

You are a Mystic, known for your imaginative, intuitive spirituality. You value peace, harmony, and inner silence. Mystics are nurtured by walking alone in the woods or sitting quietly with a trusted friend. You may also enjoy poetry, meditation, wordless prayer, candles, art, books, and anything else that helps you connect with the Sacred.

Mystics experience the holy best through rich images and symbols. You are contemplative, introspective, intuitive, and focused on an inner world as real to you as the exterior one. Sensing the divine in life is more important to you than speaking to God. Others may attribute human characteristics to God, but you see God as ineffable, unnamable, and more vast than any known category. You are intrigued by this mystery.

Mystics want to inspire and persuade others, and need to live lives of significance. At times you push the envelope of spirituality, helping the rest of us imagine who we might become if we followed your lead.

Sometimes you may feel a bit guilty about your need for solitude and silence. If so, you probably have bought into the American myth that says being alone and doing nothing is lazy, antisocial, and unproductive. Stop it — now. Give yourself permission to retreat and be alone. It’s essential for your well-being.

On the other hand, don’t get so carried away retreating that you become a recluse. That only deprives the world of your gifts and deprives you of the lessons that come from being with others. Some Mystics may have a true vocation for solitary prayer, but the rest of you need to alternate retreat time with involvement and interaction.

Definitely! Retreat time alternated with action! The other types mentioned at the Spiritual Types site are The Lover, The Prophet, The Sage. I could discover parts of myself in each of the descriptions. Maybe you will, too. Have fun with it!