Aware of the sacrament of conversation, I am committed to maintaining an attitude of humility and a spirit of kindness in my family, associations, and communities. I will look for ways to honor, engage, and serve the "Other" by the practice of Beauty and Compassion.
The essence of the Mindfulness Trainings is the subtle, yet powerful, awareness that every "other" is a trinity of being: her / himself, 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" instead 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. 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 a 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 squeal 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."
But only minutes later, as I lay in bed, 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 street. Seeing the force of their 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 youth on the street, I dance around him, all the while pleading, "In the name of Jesus, stop!" A car turns the corner and stops. The driver jumps out and also begins to kick the downed youth. I'm wondering what the hell is going on -- while silently begging the Holy One 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 youth 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 compassion" had created a little space for the sacrament of conversation..."
Toes To the Line
Michelle and I look at each other in a deep appreciation for our opportunity to listen to 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 and following the many trails of a wandering conversation. We wonder at how we all might overcome our addiction to fear -- and all 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 remember those volunteer meetings at the Soup Kitchen in which we are "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 failings. 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 enter the race: we are supposed to try to beat God in Kindness, in Generosity, in Mercy, in Smiles, in Good Conversation, in Loving!"
"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
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.