Light on the Path
(Remember to begin with the Opening Meditation and the recitation of the Three Jewels as in Mindfulness Trainings One through Five -- scroll down in theburninghandblog for this.)
"In the Name of the Holy One, Boundlessly Compassionate, Boundlessly Merciful... Beauty within Beauty within Beauty...
Sixth Mindfulness Training:
Aware that anger, fear, and a delight in power disrupts communication and causes suffering, we are determined to recognize their roots that lie deep in our consciousness by mindful breathing, meditation, and by cultivating an attitude of "before-giveness".
How the heck does a positive attitude protect one from the dis-ease of an intensely negative person or life situation? How does "before-giveness" contribute to a better world when confronted with the deliberate poison of one (or a group) who lies, distorts, manipulates, and destroys every opportunity for harmony, tolerance, and community through a mad addiction to power? How can one avoid retreating from these situations and experiences into either anger or fear? How does one resist these very same temptations that are within every person? Is it enough to propose "mindful breathing, meditation, and 'before-giveness'" as a solution?
What is the REAL ALTERNATIVE to the dominator paradigm that infests every mind and social institution? Where lies the NONVIOLENT POWER for transformation? How do I build the life I dream of? How do I build a community that thrives in goodness, kindness, and passion? How do I sustain my / our hope in the midst of certain defeats and failures?
What do you think of our list of questions that begins this sixth "Light on the Path" reflection? What questions would you add? It seems to us that every life and great purpose begins with a question, or series of questions... every life and great purpose is a quest... it is that quest that makes life so incredibly interesting! Mother Teresa is quoted as having said, "You have not been called to success... You have not been called to failure... You have been called to fidelity." We would alter this statement somewhat and instead say, "We have each been called to the fidelity of our quest"... One more question: is there a quest that is common to every human person?
Our answer is a resounding "yes"! So, what then is this quest and how do we actualize it?We've been following this meandering river of questions to propose two basic answers -- kind of like a patchwork quilt a great-grandmother would have made to keep all the kids warm on a cold wintry night... Our first proposed answer to our questions we found in our reading of The Grapes of Wrath (if you've yet to read this novel by John Steinbeck, get yourself into a library or bookstore and get to it!). The trek of the Joad family in the novel is always toward their place, their work, and their purpose, all of which is their Promised Land: their Home. The sweet irony of the novel is that by book's end they have yet to arrive at their goal. But in one of the most stunning conclusions to any novel, a marginal character, the Rose of Sharon, is presented with a moment of "sudden" grace and transformation and "suddenly" becomes the point of the book's revelation: we will only find our purpose and our home when "our finding" is no longer about "our arrival" -- but instead, it becomes the "welcoming home of the Other". (And it also seems to us that this is what we have forgotten as a people, as a nation... The Grapes of Wrath articulates the great American vision of "welcome home and justice for all". Isn't this the challenge before us now, to leave no one behind or out on the margins of human community and possibilities?)
So if our first answer to our list of questions is, in its essence, "Welcome Home", then what is our second answer? Are you ready? Ecstasy! Okay, we can see we've got a bit of explaining to do! Instead of looking to the news for insights, we're going really weird: we're looking for the dictionary... We'll start with "home": the Random House Dictionary lists a number of definitions including "The place in which one's domestic affections are centered"; "any place of refuge"; and "a principal base of operations". And for "ecstasy" we find that the word's root is Greek "ekstasis": ek, out; stasis, standing or stoppage. So, ecstasy or a great joy and feeling of delight proceeds from having gotten "unstuck" and back into the flow of life, wonder, joy, and "surprise". The great alternative to power is creative ecstasy and the practice of beauty (a gracious yet radical harmlessness in daily life).
Yeshua said something once, something like this: "Love is all around, but still you do not see." Talk about a Mindfulness Training! We live, move, and have our very being immersed in One Love -- Who is everywhere and everything... Who is the Only Reality -- nothing exists independent of "This". If this is true, then ecstasy is the path forward into this revolutionary delight. Rumi talks about the reed pulled from the stream bed and of how it longs to return to its source. This longing for intimacy and identification with the Beloved is the key for unlocking the treasures of the heart and for the ecstasy that will power the transformation that this moment in time holds out for us. Ecstasy is the conscious, deliberate cultivation of sacred imagination for the liberation of this Planet and the life that it supports. And ecstasy, as the activating energy of creative imagination, even offers the possibility of the redemption of Time itself by un-creating "evil", the negative, the destructive, and the "ugly" (in the long run, so much for the dominator paradigm and its practitioners...).
Ecstasy, as "the Way", means to cultivate the plaintive longing of the reed: it means to risk everything for the chance / opportunity to love! This bowl of soup freely given with no expectation of "results" or "success" is enough. This deep bow of respect for the "other" is enough; this welcoming of the illegal immigrant, of the LGBT, of the Palestinian as equal to the Jew and the Muslim as equal to the Christian, is enough. This kind word, this momentary embrace of a wounded being, this counsel in distress, this uplifted thought, it is all enough. Ecstasy is the deliberate removal of barriers in our own minds and hearts, and then outward into our communities. Ecstasy can activate a sustainable revolutionary movement with which this precious blue Planet can be saved... Ecstasy is understanding that at the sub-atomic level, everything is very "loose". It all interpenetrates. It makes the rounds from star-seed to life-seed... we've all gone from algae, to this moment, and to the brink of ecstasy (who knows, but maybe we'll all go back again)...
On the metaphysical level, the Divine Whole is the one reality of which everything is. This Love beckons with all the ardor of a secret lover wanting out of the closet! This Love shares the ecstasy of remembrance: this glance, this word, this touch, this kiss... this act of service, kindness, compassion, justice... this moment is pregnant with the possibilities of a revolutionary transformation: and here's the key, "Only One". In every way let this become your prayer, your politics, your passion, and your play. The sufi way of putting all of this is "La Illah, 'Il Allahu"... which is another way of saying you are in a car going down the road. But the road is inside of you, and you've already arrived home... so get loose, get out of your skin and out of any other boundary or box in which you have placed yourself, and rejoice...
An Alternative Sixth Mindfulness Training:
Aware that I am alive and of the preciousness of time, I am choosing to live with ecstasy and to serve others, and all life, with compassion, kindness, and holy joy.
Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. -- Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There
I find the older I get, the greater power I have to help the world. I am like a snowball -- the further I am rolled, the more I gain. -- Susan B. Anthony
Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm. -- A. Lincoln
To leave mass suffering unattended is to signal that life itself is without value. Our children will be safe when children everywhere are safe, and when they are empowered to pursue their hopes and dreams. How thrilling that we can be part of that transformation. --Jeffrey Sachs
Come out of the circle of time and into the circle of love. -- Rumi
It is. We are it. We forget. We remember. -- Rev. Ellen Grace O'Brian
Question of the Week (as if you really need one more):
How can we guarantee equal rights and equal opportunities for women, for racial and ethnic minorities, for ALL minorities?
Practice for the Week:
Write a letter to someone you love; write Kiss More on your forehead in red lipstick and wear it for a day (just kidding)... but do schedule an ecstasy hour, family meal, or community celebration during this next week... plan on making ecstasy a plank in your personal revolutionary platform...
Urgent Message from Mother, by Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D.
Hoodwinked, by John Perkins
The Great Turning, by David C. Korten
The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
With love and New Year's Blessings,
Michelle and Robert
"In the Name of the Holy One, Boundlessly Compassionate... Boundlessly Merciful... Beauty within Beauty within Beauty..."
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.