Dissolving into the Primal Ecstasy:
Into the Breath,
Into the Silence,
Into the Music,
Into the Water,
Into the Garden:
Everything fits exceedingly well...
(from "Sevens In The Rain" by RS)
For many in the Christian West, the "mind" is the primary avenue to an acceptable expression of faith: giving voice to the mental acceptance of an idea, or series of ideas as in a Creed, is considered essential to the Catholic-Christian experience. Similarly, the scriptural literalist, while professing faith as a matter of the heart, still considers the "mind" as essential to the same Christian experience: only from this perspective, the correct interpretation of sacred scripture is now the key ingredient.
While both of these perspectives have a certain "initiatory" validity, neither can elevate consciousness into the mystic or "Unitive" experience. Both can be good "places" from which to begin the journey of faith, however as destinations, neither can provide that for which the soul truly hungers... That which is true for the Christian West is equally true for each of the other major world religions: one need only give a smidgen of attention to the news to become aware of how religious believers excel in constructing webs of justification for every sort of means of domination and cruelty...
The Unitive or mystic path, though, is first of all a remembrance of our essential humanity: we are beings with bodies, consciousness, and "soul" or "heart-essence" that encompasses or penetrates every aspect of our being... We exist within a cosmic rhythm of expansion and contraction: we exist as "particles" of One Love that is Earth-Being: the stars, planets, and moon don't just exist "out there" for we are also of the very same "stuff" and Imagination that is the Source and Energy of everything... the ocean tides ebb and flow within our breath, as our breath ebbs and flows within the Rhythm of the Holy One... By following our breath we can set aside the hypnosis of "right thinking" and recover our primal ecstasy... and discover the entrance to the Garden of Eternal Delight...
"When you make the two, one, and when you make the inner as the outer, and the above as the below, and when you make the male and female into a single one, so that male will not be male, and female not be female, then you shall enter the Kingdom." (Gospel of Thomas, Logion 22). "Right thinking", which is always according to someone's definition, requires separation into "this" and "that"; "good" and "bad", "beautiful" and "ugly", and "right" and "wrong". But the mystic path of the Unitive is the reconciliation of opposites as described in the Gospel of Thomas. The essential characteristic of the Unitive is the Divine Feminine: the Mother as the revelation of the original and new Solidarity Paradigm: the Mother refuses to choose between her children and opts instead to love without limits: distant stars, this precious blue Planet, the sacred ecology of inter-being: everything and everyone, without the distinctions required by "right thinking"... perhaps one could say, liberation is a "leftward" leap into "Only One"... "where everything fits exceedingly well"...
"The Unity and the Energy
Commingle in the Breath:
Breathing in -- the Unity -- the One Source...
Breathing out -- the Energy -- the Creative Juice...
Non-existence and Existence both
Are within every breath...
Awakening is "Only One".
(From "Sevens In The Rain" by RS)
"Natural human being" -- one might say, "primitive" -- lives within a consciousness of Unity: her essence, mind and soul, not only encompasses her body (which is sacred), but also "co-mingles" with every existent thing within her experience: tree, wind, water, mountain, soil, plant, cloud, sun, star, moon, animals, and other humans... The "Unity" is a lived experience of inter-relationship, of inter-being, and of inter-consciousness: there is Only One Reality: we are It, It is us: All of Us...
Most basically we interpret our experience of reality from the twin perspectives of Pleasure and Fear: or Love and Hate. The interpretations of the meanings that we apply to Pleasure and Fear inevitably become for us something beyond the personal: they become a myth, which in turn may become a religion... Much drama circles around and through the dance of Pleasure and Fear: we ascribe divinity to that which tends to elevate our possibilities for More Pleasure and The Pleasure of a return to Oneness or Unity. By the same token, we recognize all that divides us, interiorly and exteriorly, personally and collectively, and compels a spiraling descent into suffering and the pain of division: from ourselves, each other, nature, and divinity: and we come to know That Fear...
Only the recovery, or remembrance, of our "natural mind", unencumbered by the cultural accretions that inevitably follows the "civilization of technique", will liberate us into the rEvolution that is the destiny of the human being and all of creation... Yeshua's "love one another" was the directive of remembrance and expansion: not of technique, but of consciousness: not of domination, but of compassion: and not of fear, but rather of Pleasure... Infinite Pleasure...
The incredible "juiciness" of "love one another" is the revelation of our desire for the Unity that sourced us and continues to attract us: like a new life with our most desired Lover: with that One we entrust our blemishes and our Lover responds with unlimited caresses and kisses: and just when we think we can't take another touch or kiss without leaving our skin behind to merge with the entire cosmos, we are teased into a new turn of possibility for mutual delight and adoration... endlessly... this: This is the birth of the Mystic for All People and All Creation: There are now no limits to the wonder the opened heart can embrace... there are no limits to the bliss of opened hands in service for justice and peace...
The most creative act of the new, Natural Mystic, is the release of soul into the "everyday-ness" of life: rising, eating, drinking, working, playing, creating, practicing, sexing, sleeping: everything is One Act: love flowing through opened heart and opened hands into a world torn by division and the worship of Fear: love flowing in a flood of soul to kiss the essence of every human, every being, and every thing: love flowing in the release of Pleasure for the sacred rising of Bread, Roses, and Holy, Holy, Holy: thou art always and forever: Holy...
"Feeding the hungry is a greater work than raising the dead."
-- St. John Chrysostom
Many years ago, a number of months after the beginning of our Catholic Worker House in Salinas, we had finally run out of both food and money. I woke up in the morning wondering, and fearing, that our "experiment with truth" (Gandhi) was going to come to a screeching halt. I got depressed real quickly...
The first of the day's volunteers finally showed up -- I broke the bad news to them. Anna Marie suggested that we say a prayer, and Kevin said that he would pick a scripture passage to read: he read the story of the Miracle of Loaves and Fishes: where supposedly this ragged-preacher wandering the hills and towns of Roman-occupied Judea, became aware that the thousands of people thronging to hear him speak had no food to eat. According to the story, there were around five thousand men present (not counting women and children)... since women tend to be more interested in religion than men (especially a preacher talking only of kindness, mercy, and love), we can assume that there were probably ten thousand women... and since there was only the day care of moms and family, the women all brought along their children: say around fifteen thousand more hungry mouths to feed...
So the preacher tells his companions to feed them all: don't send them away, but feed them all yourselves! Astounded, they protested they had only two fish and five loaves of bread... The preacher then blessed the food and gave it to them to serve: sort of a "soup-kitchen-without-the-soup"... the story concludes that everyone ate their fill, and there were many baskets of food left over! Now a lot of folks had problems with this abundant "Godspell" on the loose -- then as now...
So, back to my story: Kevin reads this most unbelievable scripture: we gather in a small circle of five people, hold hands, and say the prayer that that same itinerant preacher had taught centuries before... that was it and that was all... About ten minutes later a white, unmarked, semi-truck drove up and parked in front of our House. We opened the door as he asked, "Would you like some bread? If so, could you help me unload the truck? You can have as much as you want."
We unloaded the truck: bread was three feet deep across the sofa: bread was everywhere it could be stuffed in a house... everywhere except the bathroom... we had just finished unloading the truck: I walked through the bread-stuffed living room into the kitchen: as soon as I stepped into the kitchen, the phone rang: I turned to Bob, the volunteer on my right, and said, "God, I hope that's not a donation of more bread!" It was a fisherman calling from Moss Landing: would we like 400 pounds of fish on ice?
True story: it's a true story because feeding the hungry is a greater work than raising the dead. There I was thinking my dream had died... so the Holy One made a joke at my expense and lack of faith... we served a fish chowder and French bread that day to the hungry who had gathered for our assistance... with enough left over to walk around our neighborhood giving it away to the migrant farm worker families living in our area...
Every good thing begins with a simple, "Yes... I am ready: I will try... Don't forget to help me, though!" It is this very same simple response that creates the opening for another story and another miracle...
"Every human soul has more meaning and value than the whole of history with its empires, its wars and revolutions, its blossoming and fading civilizations."
-- Nicholas Berdyaev
Nicholas Berdyaev was an important influence in the thinking of Peter Maurin, co-founder with Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker Movement. His importance to Maurin was his radical personalism: he believed that social institutions exist to serve the person: to the point of each person's full development and liberation. This philosophy is the stunning opposite of the "Darwinian" economics and politics of the dominator paradigm.
For me, the philosopher Simone Weil most clearly and profoundly articulated the essence of radical personalism with this statement: "We were created by Love, for Love, to become Love." There you have it in a nutshell: both the vision and the plan of action: nothing less than a total "rEvolution"! And this is a "rEvolution" that recognizes every "you" as field general: who are you going to help? What will your course of action be? How will you engage? Will you recognize the mutuality of your liberation in mercy and justice? When will you begin?
Radical personalism is the "bread and roses" of the new solidarity paradigm which is -- right now -- coming into being. As the corporate state maximizes its power (and yet scrambles in fear and delusion), a new world of equality, justice, kindness, earth reverence, and love-in-action is already being born in countless hearts and lives. This "sanctity of passion" is the finest tribute any human being can render to the Holy One: to live in such a way that body, mind, and soul are fully alive and engaged in the transfiguration of time and place into the "beautiful now" of the New Creation!
It seems that one of the unfortunate hallmarks of the "new age" spiritual search is the cost involved: retreats and initiations are very big business -- and the retreat-goers and initiates both are increasingly limited to only those with enough extra money to "devote" to a spiritual search: how often does a single mother living with her three children in a housing project have the opportunity to even imagine the possibility of a vacation -- let alone a retreat or a "spiritual initiation"? This same mother is lucky indeed to be able to attend a basement "church" somewhere near her home... and keep faith a hope in salvation: she has no time for the work of liberation, either in justice or self-realization...
Most of the folks I've known in my life struggle everyday just to breathe -- never mind hope for a better life: and this is the lot of most people on this precious blue Planet! Moving "up" the economic ladder just a bit and one finds here the majority of those persons who fill the churches, temples, and mosques: only those without a terrifying poverty shadowing their every move have the energy for spiritual exploration. (It's the folks, the ones right on the edge and afraid of going over, who most often fall prey to fundamentalism or fanaticism and quickly follow their "leaders" in judging, blaming, or condemning the "others" of their choice: Satan, blacks, immigrants, feminists, gays -- and alternatively depending upon one's "anti-persuasion", Muslims, Jews, Hindus, or Christians, etc.)...
Since "yoga" is on the map -- and all over the place -- perhaps we can intentionally design a "Yoga of Illuminated Poverty": thinking first of that single mom struggling with a reality that denies her access to all the "cool yoga's" in their "hot studios" uptown... what would that yoga of illuminated poverty look like? Have you ever pondered the spiritual divide that is so obvious in America? Is a definite amount of leisure an essential requirement for a spiritual / philosophical life? Since most national cultures -- following the examples of the main world religions -- foster various "us against them" attitudes and policies, can a "new age" spirituality come to serve as a bridge of reconciliation and unity?
What do you think?
i n e s s... why must we "work" on happiness... Shouldn't we be "playing" on happiness instead? Shouldn't life be like a ride on a swing: shouldn't we be throwing our heads back with wild abandon and glee? So, the question then becomes, why not?
Back a few years ago when I was working with the homeless in Chinatown - Salinas, I was staffing the Day Room in Dorothy's Place Hospitality Center -- until a late afternoon meeting at the City Redevelopment Agency. I worked the day anticipating a "BOO!" moment (this is a fun way to go through your day, everyday: plan for serendipity: the active playfulness of the Holy One)... Anyway, as the story goes, after the meeting "Tom" asked if I wanted a ride back to Dorothy's. I gratefully said yes and took a few steps with him toward his car, and suddenly felt inspired to say, "I changed my mind. I think I'll walk."
Walking past the downtown cinema onto Market Street, heading for the railroad tracks, I came upon Rita -- whom I hadn't seen in the Soup Kitchen for a number of months -- and she was desperate for someone to talk to... I recognized that moment to be the "BOO!" that I had been anticipating all day... and it was triggered by changing my mind... You see, happiness is not only our destiny, but it is also our very nature: we all want to be happy: we all want to live happily: and yet, and yet... (here's the very core of the problem of happiness: we want to be happy: but genuine and lasting happiness is always about the other: we in fact only become happy to the degree that we give our happiness away...)
So to be happy is, first of all, to change our minds! How many negative thoughts fill our minds? Whew! To change is to start -- right now -- chucking them out (but don't toss that negativity towards anyone -- no one needs to collect any more)... Begin to replace the disappearing negativity with positive affirmations and constructive actions... Build everyday your home of happiness: cut out the blame, cut out the judgments, cut out the intolerance, cut out the gossip, cut out the temptations to prejudice, anger, injustice, and violence... Practice beauty instead: be gentle, be kind, be just in all your business dealings, be a volunteer, be a walker, be a companion... Do something unexpected: like flying a kite, painting a run-down house (for free), create something and give it away, smile often, look for the good and know that you will find it, sing when the sky is overcast: become a rainbow bridging the unhappiness of the folks around you with the certainty of their own possibilities: live as a "possibilitarian" and happiness will sneak up on you everyday with one "BOO!" after another!
Robert Daniel Smith was privileged to serve the homeless and marginalized for 30 years in Salinas, California. Together with his wife, Michelle, they founded an intentional community called the 'Companions of the Way', also in Salinas. Robert and Michelle are community organizers, Catholic Worker renegades, sacred activists, writers, poets, artists, Divine Mother devotees, and practitioners of Kriya Yoga as taught by Rev. Ellen Grace O'Brian of the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment. Michelle is also a Montessori public school teacher. Robert is also an ordained Interfaith Minister.