Light on the Path
We begin: "In the Name of the Holy One, Boundlessly Compassionate, Boundlessly Merciful... Beauty within Beauty within Beauty..."
The Holy One speaks: "Come to me my Beloved, my Love, dearest one of my Heart. Come to me..."
We rest in these words, at-one with both the whirl of atoms and the spin of galaxies... everything has its being within this Call, "Come to me, my Beloved..." This Sacred Mystery expands and deepens as the Call of the One, becomes the Call for the Many... The Holy One speaks: "Come to me my Beloved... and bring All the Others with you. Leave no one behind, for I would abandon no One -- and so you must bring everyone with you."
The whirl of atoms and the spin of galaxies become as a soup-ladle, lifted up and poured out upon the Bread that is your Body, to likewise be lifted and given to the world, given to those who hunger for justice and who thirst for hope... everyone will find their safety, their health, and a joyous homecoming for their heart, lifted up by the wings of the Holy One, "Come to me, my Beloved... everyone is Wanted..."
Centered within this Holy Secret, relaxing into the pregnancy of breath, we breathe in "I love You" and we exhale "I thank You". We let that awareness deepen and expand to include our loved ones, our communities and regions, all living beings and all inanimate things, until our awareness has included this entire precious Planet. We let that awareness then receive the terrible weight of all suffering within our lives, within our loved ones, our communities, regions, all living beings and all inanimate things, until our awareness has included all suffering on this precious Planet. We breathe in "I love You" and we exhale "I bless You"... we breathe in "I love You" and we exhale "I will remember You"... we breathe in "I love You" and we exhale "I will give You reason for hope"...
Recite the Three Refuges: "I take refuge in the Holy One. I take refuge in Love. I take refuge in Service for Justice and Peace." Why "refuge", what does it mean? The meaning of the word reveals the answer. Refuge: 1. Protection or shelter, as from danger or hardship. 2. A place providing protection or shelter; sanctuary. Life is hard for everyone -- should it be any different for the mystic / activist? When doubt assails, when triumph is overwhelmed by tragedy, or simply on those days when getting out of bed in the morning is a struggle, we have a "place of refuge". When our minds are captured by doubt, we can embrace that doubt and shout into every fierce wind a proclamation of our sacred identity: "I will not be turned aside! I take refuge in the Holy One! Kindness and Beauty are what really matters! I take refuge in Love! We are all, every last one of us, all the way down through blood and bone and into naked soul, worth loving! I take refuge in Service for Justice and Peace! The blanket of my sacred dream of harmlessness covering all the Earth is worth my struggle and my every breath!"
We take up the Mindfulness Trainings because in our moments of Awareness we know that we will forget... and in our frequent states of forgetfulness we need light on our path... we search out many sources and they are all true, deep, and good: Yeshua has stories and counsel, Rumi has poetry for the mid-night soul, Dorothy has a strong hand and a potato-peeler to share... Thich Nhat Hahn, our brother, suffered war and exile and the blessedness of return and teachings of peace -- from the once-napalmed forests, fields, and villages of Vietnam (napalmed by American planes and chemicals), came the liberating insight that we are all One, that with this precious Planet, we all exist in the steady state of "inter-being"...
Third Mindfulness Training:
Aware of the suffering caused by the imposition of our views on others, we are committed not to force others to adopt our views as we learn the inner meaning of nonviolence and encourage everyone to a deep practice of the "sacrament of conversation".
A quick review of the first three mindfulness trainings and these words jump out at us: fanaticism, intolerance, attachment, opinions, perceptions, imposition, and force. Whew! Do we take the time to scan the headlines for proof positive that these seven words succinctly define the current state of human relations on this Planet? And how scary it must be, to be a kid looking out upon a world of too many mad adults who are so skilled at justifying anything! Nevertheless, we have to look -- for mindfulness must be grounded in the genuine living experiences of people not precepts: "Syria kills 60 fleeing soldiers"; "As Romney's firm profited in SC, jobs disappeared"; "Ohio shooting of girl in Amish buggy a homicide"; and, "I'm freaked out: student vanishes after call"...
The essence of this mindfulness training is the subtle, yet powerful, awareness that every "Other" is a trinity of being: her / him self, you, and at the same time another manifestation of the Holy One! This awareness is meant to shock us to the very core of our being. This awareness is meant to rip our minds apart. This awareness is meant to shatter every single one of our temptations to "think" intead of "live" the truth of "form without attachment". Ah!
"I gave my heart and soul. My fortune too.
I've no flock anymore,
no other work in view.
My occupation: love. It's all I do" (St. John of the Cross).
"What is the life of the guerrilla fighter like?
His normal life is the long hike" (Che Guevara).
Awakening is not a "movement" into a unique, personal experience. But rather, it is a total, radical, self-emptying into EVERY OTHER as sister or brother, as servant and lover. Awakening is the discovery: "Hey! Everyday grace will see to it that there is less and less of me and more and more of You!" This "long hike" becomes something of a slow, beautiful, unveiling. Peeling potatoes, comforting a lost soul, listening to the scrambled words of an addict, organizing for justice, scrubbing the toilet, writing a paper, washing the dishes, teaching a class... everything becomes foreplay... everything becomes holy... everything becomes the deep practice of the "sacrament of conversation"...
"There is no sudden illumination. There is only a certain calmness, an empty-fullness, that is content with a moment of sacred space, of consecrated time.
A car speeds by. Tires squeel as the corner is turned. Dogs bark and gunshots penetrate both the night air and my interior silence. Words slowly form in my mind and my voice surprises my ears: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
I blow out the candle. I need to sleep.
But only moments later, I hear shouting and the rustle of many bodies coming from the street. I jump from bed and rush to the window. I see a crowd of young men wailing upon someone sprawled upon the the street. Seeing the force of their constant blows and kicks, I know that their victim's life is in danger. I grab my pants and run outside. Attempting to get in between the many attackers and the man on the street, I dance around him, all the while pleading, "In the name of Jesus, stop!" A car passing by stops. The driver jumps out and also begins to kick the man on the street. I'm wondering what the hell is going on -- while silently begging God to not let my pants fall down (in my rush outside, I had only buttoned the top button) -- I know that what little moral authority I had would quickly disappear if my pants fell down! Finally, all the attackers stepped back and then started to walk away. One of them pulled a gun out and fired half a dozen shots into the air... alive, yet with skin as gray as the road and covered in blood, the attacked man begged me to drive him away before the police arrived. We went about a mile into a neighborhood "safe" for his gang... a long story to get to the "sacred conversation" part: About a year later, there was a knock at the door in the dead of night. There stood a young man, and a young woman holding an infant. The young man asked me for a ride to a neighborhood safe for him, his bride and their baby. He knew that I recognized him as one of the attackers from the year before. As we all squeezed into my small car, I also recognized the strange "pregnancy" of that moment. He knew he could come to me for help, as I knew that a scary "dance of kindness" had created a little space for the sacrament of conversation..."
We look at each other in a deep appreciation for our opportunity to listen and adore another human being! Such splendor and delight in loving! We talk and tease each other of our favorite positions -- laughing loudly, we agree that it is holding hands and walking together. We wonder at how to overcome our human addiction to fear -- and all of the oppression and theologies that support it? All we know is that what we can do, we must. But with as much kissing, humor, loving, and talking as is humanly possible!
We both suddenly remember those volunteer meetings at the Soup Kitchen in which we're "training" our guest volunteers. Somewhere along the line we ask them, "Do you think there is a God?" They all agree that they are hopeful... even in the midst of their addictions and "sins". We ask them to describe their picture of God's characteristics. They all agree that the word "All" is good: "All Powerful", "All Knowing", etc. We ask, "How about All-Fast?" To the collective, "Huh?" we respond, "Get up Bustar! Put your toe to the line. Race me to the front door. Ready? Set. Go!" Bustar barely moves, he's not convinced we're not fooling him. But the explanation is forthcoming: "Okay, let's say that God is All-Fast. Our job is still to put our toe to the line and "race" God! Try to beat "Him" in Kindness, in Generosity, in Smiles, in Good Conversation, in Loving!"
An Alternative Third Mindfulness Training:
Aware of the sacrament of conversation, I am committed to maintaining an attitude of humility and a spirit of kindness in my familiy, associations, and communities. I will look for ways to honor, engage, and serve the "Other" by the practice of Beauty and Compassion.
The truth of liberation taken seriously is a way of life and of suffering resistance to the powers, my whole life in the service of truth. -- James W. Douglass
I will bow and be simple,
I will bow and be free,
I will bow and be humble,
Yea, bow like the willow tree.
I will bow, this is the token,
I will wear the easy yoke,
I will bow and be broken,
Yea, I will fall upon the rock. -- An old Shaker hymn
Love calls -- everywhere and always.
We're sky bound. Are you coming? -- Rumi
We were created by Love, for Love, to become Love. -- Simone Weil
With love and December 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.