Everywhere I go, I find evidence of a growing hunger in many, many people for a direct experience of the Absolute, of the Holy One...
This hunger finds little consolation or hope within the framework of the established religions. So, like pilgrims of old, we stop and offer homage at every wayside shrine. Yeshua, Mother Mary, Siddhartha the Buddha, Radha Krishna, St. Francis, Rumi, Mother Teresa, Yogananda, and Hafiz are among the many favorites who receive the flowers of our love and devotion. Still, that same hunger persists...
Even on the streets of America, even in the midst of incredibly deep pain and suffering, the same search goes on. One might even say the search on the streets is more open and honest than ours precisely because of the evident brokenness everywhere. Addictions are many things including, perhaps, a blind searching for the Face of God -- for Home -- at the bottom of the Vodka bottle or the end of the crack pipe.
After decades of work on the streets, I have concluded that transformative experiences of the Holy One are not primarily found in our devotions or acts of piety. Rather, they are more likely to be found in those oftentimes unacknowledged and ignored places of emptiness and interior brokenness that we have learned so very well to keep hidden from others, and usually from ourselves as well. Yet our human condition of brokenness is the only real access point of our minds, hearts, and souls with the Divine. All other religious expressions, exercises, and experiences are, as it were and at best, but opportunities for "preparing for the way of the Lord" -- the acknowledgment that it might be time to ready ourselves for the real work.
So, from that secret place within, and known only to us, the real work begins. It is in our minds, in our habitual thoughts of unworthiness, ugliness, and un-love-ability that we must work. This is the grunt work that will make possible sobriety. In mystical terms, "sobriety" means non-attachment to, and renunciation of, our false perceptions of reality and our false definitions. We are and always will be how and who we were made: perfect, worthy, and loveable images, or "mirrors", of the Divine. As we cultivate the interior fields of our lives with affirmations of beauty and truth, we will begin the process of our radical transformation into 'who' we were all along.
The liberation of our personal stories, perceptions, habits, and addictions into Truth is that which our bodies, minds, hearts, and souls hunger for. This "Real Reality" can then be nourished by the daily practice of the Way: "Love everyone, serve everyone, and remember the Holy One" (as taught to Ram Das by his guru Neem Karoli Baba). With these daily practices as the flowers of our devotion, our visits to the many shrines of the Way will become great and purposeful endeavors, just like volunteering in a soup kitchen or organizing for social justice. This pilgrim, at least, thinks it is time for the many religions of the world to submit to the renewal of One Love. Only that One Love is genuinely worthy of our surrender, our service for justice and nonviolence, and our poetry and dance!
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.