It is impossible not to grow in awareness and fondness of nature in general, and birds and plants specifically, while living in a town like Ann Arbor. I’ve been learning things organically, without a need to study deeply, or have a specific interest in plant life (which I admit I don’t). We lucked out with a house that has a huge backyard with many trees, a small pond that hosts a snapping turtle I’ve seen only once in the eight years that we’ve been here. Ignorance got me close enough to get this photo of her.
I was pretty convinced that my wild woman would be of the earth, probably covered with some dirt, have long un-styled hair, and maybe, bit of a crazed gaze that warned the beholder that she is not to be messed with. That she is to be feared even. Western society has burned even the tamest of wild women (wise women and healers) for centuries to make sure there is no question that our psyches equate wild with dangerous. In fact I am bewildered more than anything that this archetype has survived and is coming through in our imagery at all given how long and hard mankind worked to eradicate it.
Have you been to a redwood forest? Or laid flat on your back watching the stars? Or seen a person that you’ve never met, that you are certain that you “know”? There are so many ways that people feel connected, and conversely, so many ways that we forget we are connected and tell ourselves that we are all alone.
Over the past several months, I’ve had several conversations around sacred, ritual, and safe space. Some conversation were with others, and many were with myself in deep contemplation. I think in these times of rapid evolution and redefinition, it is important to revisit our thoughts, ideas, and understanding about some basic principles. For me, this inquiry is both pragmatic and philosophical.
A fire is dying to rose-colored embers in a brazier. A sound like branches being broken drifts down to us from high overhead. We cannot see the blue heron flying above us. It calls, wrapped in folds of night, and its dream touches ours.
According to Sophie Egan in her book Devoured, March 2015 was a watershed moment in the eating lives of Americans: for the first time since the government began tracking our spending habits around food, we spent more money on food prepared outside the home (restaurants, takeout, etc.) than on groceries that we cooked at home.
What if taking a Sabbath actually made all that is on your plate easier and relationships more fulfilling? Instead of a full plate feeling heavy, it could feel nourishing. I used to feel resistant to taking a day off, and now I don’t know how I could live without a Sabbath. If you are thinking that by Sabbath I mean a highly rule-oriented day of do’s and don’ts based on a religion, please keep reading because that is far from what I mean. Yes, a Sabbath does involve slowing down and refraining from constant activity, but it is more about a state of mind than said actions or non-actions.
There is an important lesson in these lyrics that goes beyond growing healthy veggies. It also applies to our spiritual growth. In Buddhism we believe that each person is a piece of fertile ground that can be cultivated to produce the fruits of joy, equanimity, love, and compassion.
One thing you quickly learn about Haju is that she loves walks. On many occasions, when we were having a check-in about practice or a conversation about temple business, Haju would suggest taking it on-the-go, and we would end up somewhere around town — the Arboretum, the law school quad, or the track down the street from the temple.
Have you heard the saying, “A light shines brighter in darkness?" Is it possible to take the darkest moments in your life and use them to deepen the quality of your life? As you approach death, it is easy to find the darkest times in your life. Ironically, this is the best time to have a deep spiritual experience.
Gurudev Shree Chitrabhanuji is a 92-year-old Jain Master, who is the spiritual advisor at the Lighthouse Center. He has been guiding me on my way since our first meeting in 1992.
Rev. David T. Bell
Forgiveness is one of the most important tools in raising one's consciousness. It is a critical necessity in moving out of the past and dwelling in the present moment. Many live outside the present moment, either reliving past woundings, resentments and traumas, or fretting about future problems that have not yet arisen.
By Nirmala Hanke
Retirement is an adventure every day, yes. Some days, however, are more surprising than others. Take the Sunday afternoon a couple months ago, March 16th: I was with a friend watching Nebraska at the State Theater. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me . . .
In his 1999 book “The Mystic Heart,” Brother Wayne Teasdale proposed that we could discover a universal spirituality in the depths of the wisdom contained in the world's religions. He said, “Humanity stands at a crossroads between horror and hope. In choosing hope, we must seed a new consciousness, a radically fresh approach to life . . ."
For those of you who read my last blog post, how was the foolishness of the Fool’s energy these last couple of weeks? What did you notice as you explored the idea and feeling of being the fool, or acting foolish, or maybe just letting the innocence of creative exploration have you for a little while? I fell back in love with the little dog, and that feeling of loyalty and love that leads and follows me as I leap into life and it’s possibilities. Dog — God spelled backwards.
Questions often arise about the validity and wisdom of reading channeled materials. Is there an unimpeachable source? Sorry to say that there is no definitive answer. The materials that I have encountered run the gamut from extraordinarily helpful to not worth bothering with. How is one to decide?
By Brian O'Donnell
I want to say more about what it takes to access this “inner doctor,” which can wisely guide us in whatever health crisis may come our way. In my last blog entry, I spoke about re-framing the issue from one of seeing the health crisis as an enemy to one of seeing it as an ally. In this perspective, I was pointing out a conceptual shift.
Today, I want to address the energetic or emotional dynamics and shifts that foster the emergence of the “inner doctor.” Basically, it’s how we meet fear. Learning how to meet fear in a constructive way is the medical school curriculum for accessing this “inner doctor.” This, obviously, isn’t only applicable to health crises but to everyday threats to our apparent security. So what we can learn about ourselves in meeting health fears can serve all aspects of our life.
Most of us have an unholy relationship to fear. We deny it, exaggerate it, project it, submit to it, revel in it, squash it…. Fear often elicits a contraction and a desire for control. We want to get on top of it, to rise above it, and to manipulate it. Cramping seems a better course than imagined annihilation, if we were to dare feel it. There are two basic energetic forms of manipulation or control that all of us use to defend from any undesirable feeling. One is to restrict the feeling. We attempt to control by squeezing the life out of it. The other maneuver is to amplify the pain, to make it larger than it is. We dramatize the pain or feeling as an attempt to force life, God, or the other to submit to our will. Our real task is to observe the emotional manipulations and to begin to allow the spontaneous flow of fear (or any feeling).
Fear calls for a sense of safety, yet true security is nakedness to the moment, not some constructed edifice of protection. We don't need protection from real feelings. Fear, sadness, anger — any expression of real feeling — cannot harm us. What truly harms us is our defending against pain, vulnerability, and helplessness.
To meet fear without defense or obstruction gets to the heart of our fundamental view of life. Do we see life in its ultimate nature as chaotic, destructive, or evil? Or do we possess a sense of life as wholesome, trustworthy, and loving? This is where our spiritual orientation shapes our basic response to life. My experience is that evil or destructiveness does exist on the relative plane of reality and that it is a function of resistance to pain and suffering. So to the extent we can allow all feeling — undesirable and desirable — without repression or exaggeration — we can enter the consulting room of the wise “inner doctor.” We also get a taste of heaven on earth.
I end with a quote from one of my teachers - the Pathwork.
“Through the gateway of feeling your weakness lies your strength;
through the gateway of feeling your pain lies your pleasure and joy;
through the gateway of feeling your fear lies your security and safety;
through the gateway of feeling your loneliness lies your capacity to have fulfillment, love, and companionship;
through the gateway of feeling your hate lies your capacity to love;
through the gateway of feeling your hopelessness lies your true and justified hope; through the gateway of accepting the lacks of your childhood lies your fulfillment now.”
— Pathwork lecture #190 ; © Pathwork Foundation
Brian O’Donnell, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist in private practice in Ann Arbor. He also teaches the Pathwork, a contemporary spiritual course of self development. (He was interviewed about his work in the January thru April 1997 issue of the Crazy Wisdom Community Journal, available at the bookstore.)
By David Lawson
Now that I have your attention, let me tell you what a wonderful practice it can be to acknowledge to yourself that you and everybody else in this world are going to die! You may say, “Well, of course, I already know that. Why is it necessary to dwell on such a morose topic?” But as it turns out, we don’t really act as if we know it, do we?
By Richard Gull
I said at the end of the article "Esalen at 50: A Memoir About America’s Spiritual Reformation" that Esalen’s gnosis is nature mysticism. But this must be understood in the context of “a religion of no religion.”
By Lenny Bass
For those of you have read my previous essays about the on-going conversation I’ve been having with a Spruce Tree stationed in upstate New York near the heart of the Allegheny Mountains, I am inclined to further elaborate on some of the matters that were touched upon during these — how shall we call them — “episodes” of intra-species lucidity (others might be more inclined to call them “anthropomorphized psychosis”...to which I have little defense...)