We do not understand that life is paradise, for it suffices only to wish to understand it, and at once paradise will appear in front of us in all its beauty. -- Dostoevsky (The Brothers Karamazov)
Now, imagine paradise: a world of peace, equality, and justice. Imagine a city in which the marginalized are brought in from the edges into the heart of a community. Imagine each of our individualized lives focused on the daily practice of beauty. What would all of this look like? Imagine: there is no news on the internet, in the newspapers, or on the TV about suicide bombers or terrorists anywhere! They have all been transformed into radical possibilitarians who jump out and surprise us with street theatre and random acts of art and compassion. Imagine: multinational corporations divesting and investing in local cooperatives, family farms, indigenous cultures, and technologies with a "human face". Imagine: religious leaders hightailing it out of their power centers and earning their living among the people and teaching peace by being peacemakers on the streets. Imagine: every political operative and propagandist everywhere suddenly changed into animators of the common good. Imagine: the grand human purpose of creating paradise on earth, with peace and justice for all, inspiring, motivating, and guiding all the days of our lives. So, is your sacred imagination going to make you live with all of your passionate possibilities fully engaged?
A Simple Story
Imagine a Soup Kitchen, a Day Shelter, and the daily gathering of addicts and dealers, the dispossessed and abandoned, a motley crew of volunteers, a few Catholic Workers, on the streets of Chinatown... could be just about anywhere, U.S.A. But it's not anywhere, it's John Steinbeck's East of Eden, his Grapes of Wrath, and Sweet Thursday and Pastures of Heaven all rolled into one in Salinas... still... onto this scene, into this group, there's the hope of a dozen or so of folks waiting / wanting to "Come Home"... There's a Hawaiian kicking bad attitudes and a long hard story... a Philadelphia lonely heart, a couple of drag queens, a few lost souls scrounging around for some dignity, moms who've lost kids, a other men with resentment and anger up the wazoo... well, you get the picture... Now, add to that mix, some children and community volunteers all leaving Chinatown together for a retreat in the Santa Cruz redwoods at the Quaker Center... ah! It should all have been filmed!
It is a misnomer, though, to write of this as a retreat when it was an advance through and through... Fifty miles after leaving town, ump-teen foul words, plus a few threats and bad jokes later, we arrived... rooms were assigned, instructions given... and the week-end began... Imagination did Herself real good that week-end: you know when Imagination has hit a home run when everyone comes to believe the "impossible" is an exciting opportunity to work some magic... just roll up the sleeves of your heart and set to work. Walks, talks, music, yoga, art, cooking, eating, relaxing, and dreaming together... from "homeless" to "welcome home"... List all the possibilities and all the fears and all the histories of smashing defeat... in each other's hearts we discover our secret identities and the truth of "no difference" and "Only One" and into "One Love"... Meditation: and re-birth into miracle... as is our wont, we massaged a meditation into a "Being Home Exercise"...
We gathered in our circle, and we began, and we began, each person within her / his own heart: "May I be happy, May I be safe, May I be healthy, May I be wanted", following the words deep inside... and next, turning to the person on one's left, "Tony", "May you be happy, May you be safe, May you be healthy, May you be wanted"... and then, again, back inside each one, focusing on an "opponent" or "enemy": "May ... be happy, May ... be safe, May ... be healthy, May ... be wanted"... Finally, together again, we bless everyone and this entire precious blue Planet, "May all be happy, May all be safe, May all be healthy, May all be wanted"...
We hope that this simple story will stay with you -- but especially that this "Being Home Exercise" is something that you will practice, share, and teach in every circle to which you belong... and if there is one over-arching theme to these reflections, for us it is "Welcome Home": whatever your grief, your pain, your life experience has been, "welcome home"... whatever you dream of, hunger for, or your life's work has been, "welcome home"... all of our human stories are scripture, sacred scripture, and we bring them all with us, from our acres and acres of desolation and hopelessness, into the deep green goodness of our "welcome home" into the paradise of "Ah! the puzzle pieces do fit!"
Finally, here's the thing: every "other" is another manifestation of the Holy One, the One Love: every LGBT, every "illegal immigrant", every Muslim, every Jew, every minority, every person of "color", every child, every woman, everyone on the margins, is Divinity Incarnate! Every institution must be transformed to serve justice. Every institution or organization is legitimate only to the degree that it serves the full development and liberation of every person. Every person lives under the obligation to work -- to struggle as needed -- to transform their home-life, their work-place, their organization, their neighborhoods, communities and cities, their faith communities, their social clubs, their educational institutions, their cultural associations, their economic policies and practices, and their political institutions in accordance with justice, equality, kindness, compassion, equal opportunity, and equal access to the forums and means of power. This is true faith and genuine religion! This is the love-in-action that thrills the Sacred Heart of the Holy One! This love is the turn-key to direct mystical experience. This love opens the door to a radical interior transformation into identification with the Holy One -- until there is Only One, One Love! This love is the meaning of life! Live! Live! Live fully alive!
The Fourteenth Mindfulness Training
Aware of the graciousness of the sun and of this precious blue Planet and of Her great and abundant life, I will live in gratitude and with enthusiasm for the opportunity to love, to love so profoundly that I might become Love myself. I will honor those on the journey of life with me by my steady practice of kindness and remembrance. I will strive to Kiss More and Laugh Often!
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.