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Community Views

Incarnational Spirituality in Daily Life

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Shine Through All Time – An Image for the Equinox

By Deborah Koff-Chapin

One of the joys of my creative life is to share my Touch Drawings online for the solstice and equinox, and at other moments that I feel call forth an image. Because I have an enormous archive to choose from, it is a somewhat intuitive process to choose an image that feels aligned with the time. As this equinox approached, I began to peruse some recent drawings. My focus was not the change of seasons but the balance between the light and the dark. I try not be ‘northern hemisphere-centric’!

This image just popped out at me.

 

I noticed the bright shining beings on the bottom, and their ‘ghostlike’ form on top of the page. They seemed to carry the sense of balance I was looking for. Then it was time to find the words to go with it.

I meditated upon this image in my inner vision. What felt strongest was the sense of shining in the people woven through the light and dark areas. I played with the words “shine” and “time” until they settled into a rhythm that felt right. Once complete, I realized it had become a statement about timelessness rather than time.

Shine Through All Time.

The same presence radiates within the light and the dark. It is there no matter the season, no matter the changes in our world.  With the overwhelm of challenges we are collectively moving through, this message to shine through it all has resonated in my being. I hope to take this message I send out to heart in my own life.

Shine Through All Time.

These days, an endless stream of images pass before our eyes. We are stimulated with so many alluring sights, but when do we slow down to take in a single image? Spend a few minutes gazing at this drawing. Let your eyes take a journey. Notice the textures, the shapes, the symbols – without trying to think of meaning. Rest into the image. Just be with it. Notice the ways your body responds. Notice the ways you align internally as you continue to gaze. Then close your eyes. Notice its after-effects within you. This might be visual or a felt sense. Allow your own words to arise in response.


The Vernal Equinox was Monday, March 20, but the emerging energies of spring are still unfolding. What images or insights come to mind as you reflect upon this Touch Drawing? We would love to hear from you in the comments below. 

Me and My Shadow

By Mary Reddy

I once was wildly attracted to a man who was my teacher. But I resisted acting on the longing this man stirred in me. Because he reminded me so much of everything I had loved about my brothers—mind you, I had spent years running from men who carried the same qualities as my brothers, the intellectual drive and curiosity, a dominating male confidence covering a deep vulnerability— I loved him wildly from the first moment. And that terrified me. 

“Prism” – Original Sketch by Mary Reddy

This discomfort, this powerful swing between desire and fear, warned me that my shadow was at play. To describe Carl Jung’s shadow concept in my own words, I’d say my awareness shines like the sun on all the parts of my personality that I knowingly present to the world. But this light of awareness casts a shadow on the parts I learned to reject in growing from wild child to responsible member of society. Jung envisioned a descent into the darkness of the shadow as a journey toward wholeness, becoming aware of and then integrating the outcast elements.

I was already on that descent when I fell in love with my teacher. I had recently emerged from a broken marriage and was painfully re-breaking myself in order to reset the bones of my heart to heal properly. I was questioning everything about myself at the time and I sensed this man was not what I thought him to be. He was a wonderful person, no doubt, but the real man was hidden beneath the shimmer of what I projected upon him. I saw in him those qualities that had lived in the heart of my family identity, all that I had known of love in my childhood. Awareness of my shadow saved me from pulling him into an inauthentic relationship.

When we project onto another, we unconsciously surface a shadow element by assigning it to another. Such projection can be positive as well as negative. Perhaps we buried a vital talent of ours because we were scolded for appearing to be better than others. Then we lend that positive trait to another, elevating them to a pedestal that must inevitably topple. Whether positive or negative, projection generates discomfort all around. 

An early memory comes to mind where I struggled with projection, though I was too young to give it that name. My parents’ friends had brought their toddler to a gathering—an adorable curly haired girl just a few years younger than I was. She became the center of attention and the adults exclaimed over her. I started following her around the room, mimicking her every move. This made her uncomfortable. She turned to look at me with fear in her eyes and then began to cry. The adults yelled at me to stop. I was astounded. Who was I to make a little girl afraid of me? Why had I behaved like that? Wasn’t I a good little girl? I always tried to be good! I could not understand at that age that I endowed the other little girl with the lovableness I could not own in myself. My shadow had sneaked out and taken over.

Once I met the shadow while reading the Bible. I became obsessed with Judas Iscariot, the man who betrayed Jesus to the Romans for thirty pieces of silver. I was in grade school then and I loved the rituals of the Catholic liturgical year. Holy Week was particularly intense. Praying at the stations of the cross, contemplating Christ’s every encounter, each painful wound, was both oppressive and mesmerizing. That Good Friday ritual followed the previous evening’s retelling of the Last Supper, when Jesus says that one of his disciples will betray him. He turns to Judas and says, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” 

I worried a great deal about Judas. Hadn’t God placed on him the burden of being the betrayer? Surely, someone had to create the circumstances leading to Jesus’s capture and ultimate sacrifice on the cross. God must have asked this of him and then forgiven him, I reasoned, otherwise it would be unfair. Maybe I worried that some part of Judas was in me. Unwittingly, I carried my family’s shame. That shame in me recognized the shame in Judas. I knew what it felt like to be the outsider, to be judged harshly, to be left on your own to figure out what little of value you could grab. I was hungry for love and convinced on a deep level that it was my fault that I went wanting. Now I wonder, was Judas the shadow side of Jesus? He was an indispensable part of the drama, yet he was the part that everyone wanted to disappear. To feel safe, I tried to disappear in my family but then I worried that I would be forever invisible.

In spite of my difficult childhood, I still grew up believing in and continue to live out my own hero’s tale. As is true for anyone, I am at the center of events. I am the core actor, the Rosetta Stone, the sifter of meaning for everything that happens in and around me. In this central position, I project an image that fulfills what I believe about myself. I may shift emphasis, for example, pushing forward logical thinking and suppressing whimsy or intuition if the situation calls for it. But generally, this is the sphere of what I know and consciously acknowledge about who I am. I used to just barely tolerate this face I presented to the world. It was not the best of me. I believed that my better self lived in mystery, in my art, and in my dreams. But by just tolerating who I was in the world, was I not depriving myself of my own love, even as I’d felt deprived in childhood? What is the shadow of disliking who you are? I had always assumed it was an overweening egotism. Perhaps it’s actually true compassion and love. 

Something magical happens when I consciously acknowledge my own worth in all its complexity. I begin to soften into myself.  Accepting both the rough and the polished sides of my personality leads to a great curiosity and openness around who I am—beyond, behind, and within my public-facing self. I begin to love myself, resting more firmly in my incarnate self, in this life of mine. The more openness and compassion I offer to myself the more I am able to offer the same to others.

Now I watch for my shadow out of the corner of my eye. I open up to my possible selves. I posit the opposite of what I know I am feeling, to test the flavor, to see if I actually carry it as well. I imagine holding a brilliant prism up to the light. The facet facing me is my personality. Teasing out what’s hidden in my shadow is like turning the prism this way and that. The quality of the light shifts. Each band of rainbow colors takes on more or less emphasis. Both white and multicolored, both whole and differentiated.


 Views from the Lorian Community publishes essays from a team of volunteer writers expressing individual experiences of a long term, committed practice of Incarnational Spirituality (and the general principles shaping such a practice.) Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the sentiments or thoughts of any other person in Lorian or of Lorian as a whole. If you would like to subscribe, please visit our website and click on Follow Our Blog Via Email. Or email the editor:drenag@lorian.org

 

Conditions of Sun and Shadow

By Freya Secrest

Knowing of my interest in trees and nature, a friend gave me a lovely book this Christmas, The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohllenben. In it Wohllenben shares his experience in forestry, and as a manager of an ecologically friendly woodland in Hummel, Germany. His stories illuminate the lives of trees and other observations of the interconnected ‘social’ and ecological dynamics that help a woodland thrive. It includes many thought-provoking discoveries but one in particular struck me as I was reading:

“Scientists have determined that slow growth when the tree is young is a prerequisite if a tree is to live to a ripe old age.”

Wohllenben’s supporting facts for such a claim were enlightening. “Under natural conditions, trees of 80 – 120 years are no thicker than a pencil and no taller than a person. Thanks to their slow growth (brought about by growing in the canopy shadow of the larger/older trees), their inner woody cells are tiny and contain almost no air. That makes the trees flexible and resistant to breaking in storms. Even more important is their heightened resistance to fungi, which have difficulty spreading through the tough little trunks.”

I am struck by the idea that shadow and growing slowly contributes in an important way to the health of the trees. I wonder if this principle applies to humans as well. How might slowing down deepen our vitality? How does embracing all of our life’s conditions – sunny and shadowed – strengthen us? What might this mean for us as individuals and how can we flow with our life systems to allow for the most resilient conditions of self in meeting our future?

Several years ago I wrote a short essay comparing the slow food movement to a “slow spirituality.” I noted then that the slow food movement advocates attention to the natural and essential qualities of food. A cook highlights those qualities by taking the time to purchase fresh, local products and then draw out the inherent nutrition and flavor through thoughtful preparation and presentation. A Slow Spirituality suggests that we focus on the inherent and essential qualities within ourselves and honor the natural field of life experience that molds those capacities. We can then direct our time and choices to bring our uniqueness into mindful service through our lives.

What is interesting for me to notice is that whether it is in the woodland forest, in the slow food movement or in ourselves, there is a delicately balanced interconnected system that facilitates the overall field of health. Slow or deep growth is not a single intention that limits focus, but a widening embrace that accepts and includes. All of life grows as part of an interconnected ecology that includes sun and shadow, soil and water, limits and opportunity. When we embrace the full range of our life experience with a respectful attitude, we are like the mature and shadowed forest community that prevents young trees from growing quickly. It is when we engage the whole system of interconnected life experience that we develop the most strength, vitality and sense of fulfillment. Slowing down to listen to, honor and participate in this interconnected field – the subtle and physical web of consciousness that is the wholeness of our planet – may have actual structural implications for each of us as it does in the health of the trees that Wohllenben observed.

The shadow of a dense and diverse woodland community slows growth and creates a condition that strengthens a tree’s core and contributes to its longevity and to the overall health of all trees in the forest. I find myself considering what conditions encourage me to grow “in”, densify my core, and slow my one-pointed movement to build flexibility, strength and vitality so that I too contribute to the overall health of my community.


There’s still time to join Julie Spangler and Susan Sherman, with guest David Spangler, for  Journey Into Fire. During this six week online class, we will explore our unique, human journeys and practical ways to experience the sacredness within.  For more information or to sign-up, click here.

Ashes

By Drena Griffith

March 1 was Ash Wednesday and, for the first time in a long while, I attended Mass. For the past several weeks I have felt a strong stirring to revisit the Catholicism of my childhood, yet as a Lorian Priest representing Incarnational Spirituality and also a member of a local Native community, I’m not entirely sure how to integrate all of these multifaceted, jig-saw pieces of my spiritual experience. It’s all still unfolding for me. Regardless, the first day of Lent felt an especially appropriate time to lean more deeply into this exploration.

Lent is, for me, a time for remembering, for focusing on important things inadvertently forgotten or lost in the details of living a busy, stressful life. It is also an opportunity to “re-member”—to call back the scattered pieces of myself and listen to the quiet voice of soul. Lent is about centering and returning to right relationship with the world. This year it seems I have more scattered pieces than I realized.

As a child I loved being Catholic. Regularly I memorized songs and prayers and reenacted the sacred rites in playtime. I was also rather precocious spiritually and had very high expectations: of myself, of God…of life in general. So I asked many questions of God and the nuns at my church and as I got older those questions became more intense. The pat responses I had accepted at ten stopped making sense. It wasn’t that I had any agenda or attachment to particular answers, but I desperately needed my faith to have a certain stability and solidity that looking back I can see my earlier years in general lacked. When a classmate at college insisted that she had found that assurance I was seeking and invited me to attend an evangelical service, I was skeptical, but curious enough….See, I never really consciously intended to leave the Catholic church, but when the fundamentalists promised me answers, promised me peace, I believed. Then the shackles came out…and on that story goes, for a decade. By the time I found the exit door, apart from one or two good friends, I didn’t leave with much I’d ultimately decide to keep. I swore I was done with Jesus, Faith, and Answers. Well, that clearly didn’t last. At least not the first two, though my relationships with both have definitely evolved.

As has my connection to Mass. Sitting in the sanctuary on Wednesday morning felt both familiar and completely foreign. For one thing, the church of my childhood was a hermitage compared to this labyrinthine structure. Hundreds of people were in attendance, and that service was one of a half dozen offered throughout the day. The rituals were, thankfully, the same, though some of the recitations have changed. I felt awkward. Exposed.

As a holy day of obligation, Ash Wednesday takes its name from the ritual marking of parishioners’ foreheads with ashes. This symbol of penance demarcates the season. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” said Father Felix, marking my forehead with a sideways cross that covered nearly all of my brow with soot.

After so many years of renunciation, was repentance and reconciliation possible now? Perhaps more importantly, what was I even attempting to reconcile? I realized that the last Ash Wednesday service I had attended prior to my unconscious abandonment had been when I was eighteen, a senior in high school. Was I attempting to reconnect, not just with an old faith, but with an old me? An old me with wide eyes that attended Mass week after week alone—without parents or sibling—prompted by nothing but the stirrings of her open heart? An old self with soul-stirring dreams and seemingly limitless potential? Well, that was definitely a long time ago, before I lost faith in myself and became so consumed with finding the right spiritual answers that in the process I willingly gave away everything I felt in that open heart to be true. Well, way leads onto way….as Cherokee Strong Eyes said, “We can’t go back. The bridge is gone.“

Even so, I obviously attended Mass looking for something. For that matter, what do I go to Native Lodge looking for? And how does Incarnational Spirituality which celebrates the individual life as inherently sacred integrate with a faith where any discussion of the individual starts with sin and ends with the need to apologize? How does a Lorian priest wear a forehead covered in ash?

According to my Native elder, Coyo, this time of the year is known as the Void. We’re nearly through the dark of the year, so our minds and spirits are turning toward spring, facing forward with resolve toward fresh growth. Yet winter isn’t quite done with us yet. The seeds within are still turning. It’s not quite time to us take action. Instead, we sit with our desires and longings, sit with whatever stirs and strives within us. Then we allow those stirrings and strivings themselves to be cut open, revealing the wounds beneath and the hidden paths waiting to be reclaimed. If we move too quickly to action, we disrupt the process. So we must patiently and gently hold the seeds. We must attend to our inner needs so that what our souls want to grow can most fully align with the conditions of our lives when the time for growing comes. In spite of the stirrings of transition, now is not the time for decisions or answers. We are still incubating our new selves in the dark.

I was reminded of Coyo’s words as Father Felix gave the homily: immediately following Christ’s baptism, this most sacred spiritual initiation, he was led by God into the desert where he fasted for 40 days and nights. Isolated. Exposed. Incubated. Even Christ had questions and doubts. Even Christ experienced the void.

Bare bones honest: as a teenager and young adult I was never going to find the assurances I was seeking in my childhood faith, but there’s no way I could have known that then. The issues weighing on my heart at that time weren’t questions of belief so much as questions of life that I was making God responsible for because I didn’t know where else to turn. At eighteen I felt powerless and like so many vulnerable, lost souls, I placed my trust in someone, in many other someones, who, in order to save me gladly took from me the power I didn’t realize I had. But even my odyssey into evangelical Christianity was a sign of a deeper misalignment. I was never going to find answers in any religion, really, because that’s not what religion is for. We can only find our answers in direct relationship with the Sacred— in deep, abiding connection with ourselves. Faith is the tool we use to express our innate understanding of sacredness. Ironically, I have heard this core message, in one convoluted form or another, in nearly every church and spiritual center I’ve ever been part of. I am only now beginning to understand.

Ash Wednesday turned out to be a day full of great meaning and insight. And for the 46 days and nights of Lent, I will be paying attention. Sitting in quietude and stillness, I will, as Rainer Marie Rilke suggests, lean into and learn to love the questions stirring within. In spite of the darkness of the void, I feel open to releasing the jigsaw puzzle of my past to this newly emerging self still sleeping in her seed.  


 Views from the Lorian Community publishes essays from a team of volunteer writers expressing individual experiences of a long term, committed practice of Incarnational Spirituality (and the general principles shaping such a practice.) Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the sentiments or thoughts of any other person in Lorian or of Lorian as a whole. If you would like to subscribe, please visit our website and click on Follow Our Blog Via Email. Or email the editor:drenag@lorian.org

Your Calling is to be Here

By Julie Spangler

“Your calling is to be here. There is no higher mission, for each of us is a gateway that can open to allow the Beloved to step through. To give expression to the Beloved, to be that gateway, is why the universe appeared. It is the ultimate Call.” —David Spangler

One day when my daughter Kaiti was about 5 years old we were driving home together, just the two of us. As often happens at such times when we are alone with our children, our conversation was more intimate than usual. Sometimes personally, sometimes philosophically, sometimes answering questions. . .. The question that came up that day was “Who is your favorite child?”

Anyone who has more than one child does their best to not play favorites. For me, with our four kids, there was not one that was better than another. Sure they were all different from each other, and each provided his or her own challenges designed to push parental buttons. But each one is equally treasured for who they are, unique and individual. And each child reflected his and her own individuality even before birth, each one coming in with their own personality and their own different individual needs.

So I was always aware that this particular child came in with a need to feel special. Kaiti once told me that she, the third among four,  should have been an only child. I thought this recognition of her need for complete attention was a remarkably astute bit of self awareness for one so young. (And I reminded her that in that case she should have chosen a different family, as her brothers were here first. . .which gave her pause.)

So this day, on this drive, when this child asked me, “Who do you love the most?”. . . many responses ran through my mind:  the diplomatic “I have no favorite, of course!”; the tease, “Aidan!” (wink, wink), the affirming, “You are my favorite.”, or even the tuneful, “The one I am with.” What I did instead was ask her a question back. “Are you wanting me to say you, sweetie?”

Her answer surprised me a bit at first, but then it didn’t. “No!” she said, tearing up, “Because I would feel bad for the others if you loved me more!” We went on to discuss the different ways we love and the ways we can love different people. The love may not be exactly the same, but it is quantitatively just as much.  

We all need to feel that we matter. Some traditions liken this need to egotism, an over-inflated sense of self which we must guard against: “I need to be more important than everyone else.” It is maybe there in some part of the ID or even part of the survival coding in our DNA. But I think the need to matter is also embedded in the inborn function which creates identity— that part of us which can say not only “I AM” but also “I AM HERE”. It gives rise to the need to be seen, to be loved,  and is a response to the deep innate need to be part of something that is bigger than us.   

In his book The Call, David Spangler says that we matter because we are here and especially when we can be fully consciously here. The call to be part of something bigger than ourselves is actually the call that was answered by us when we took life. And that call is, to quote David, ” the call to treasure and value and love one another and all the other creatures and things of the earth. It is the call to acknowledge and to act from that knowledge that each person is just as valued and just as loved as the next, and all are invited to participate in the communion of that love. . ..”

A deep call from spirit may not be a call to do something specific and spectacular. It may simply be a call to show up and love. In our home, which ever of our children shows up when the front door opens and they come in, a warm and loving shout of greeting meets them. When we show up, love is there to greet us, and we matter.  

“The call actually comes from the person standing in front of you, who in their heart of hearts is saying “Will you …value me?…Will you see the sacred in me, the sovereignty in me?  It is my action in response to that call that draws me into a loving space.  It is what opens me to experience the background call of the universe.”  —David Spangler


Do you feel that you are of value to our world and that you have something to contribute? Would you like to deepen your understanding of how you matter? Join us on March 1 for a free teleclass on The Journey Into Fire, where we will explore our unique, human journey. For more information or to sign-up, click here.

    

Work as an Act of Love

By Freya Secrest

“Work is Love in Action”. . ..

Findhorn Garden photo, courtesy of Freya Secrest

This phrase came up during a breakfast conversation when my children were home visiting during the holidays and has been very “alive” for me since then. It is a phrase that comes from my time at Findhorn. It was the principle through which we were encouraged to engage our daily work (in the garden, kitchen or office) and pointed to the attitude at the heart of Findhorn’s co-creative explorations with nature as well as within their human community – let all your work and effort be a loving act. It was a good lesson for me in my youth and has interwoven itself through my life as a useful attitude to bring to every enterprise.

During that morning conversation with my children, ‘work is love in action’ was connected to exploring new entrepreneurial ventures they were each starting. What brought juice to their commitment to day to day duties – often very mundane, but so necessary to get a new business venture going? How does one bring enthusiasm and meaning to daily and repetitious responsibilities? What might help their initiative to root and succeed, bringing fulfillment in both present effort and long-term goals?

We all agreed that doing something we loved increased energy and stamina; but to choose to make any chore-like activity an action of love stretched their idea of work into new territory. Talk of love was not unfamiliar at our family table, but for these new entrepreneurs it suddenly had new relevance. That their goal to create a successful business could be furthered by expanding their view of love created an unexpected resource of energy and power for them.

For me, that conversation has inspired a New Year’s re-assessment: where do I bring love into my habitual actions; where do I forget to? Where can I polish my love-in-action skills and improve the odds of success in my own projects?

In this, David Spangler’s reflections on Spectrum of Love have been helpful to me. He posits a view of love as a continuum that at its simplest expression is honest perception, in which I am willing to just see another, draw them into the field of my conscious awareness and know them to exist. From there David’s spectrum recognizes a series of stages expressing love as connection – acknowledgement, honoring, appreciation, caring and affection and beyond. Any one of these experiences are part of his spectrum of love – each one gives shape to a different depth of connectedness with the surrounding world.

This spectrum of love model affirms different entry points in my ability to connect with others in my world and creates an attitude of respect where I can focus my love-in-action intent in any given situation. For example, with someone who has social values widely different from mine, I look first to connect through the doorway of perception or simple acknowledgement. By allowing myself to acknowledge the person as just themselves, I can look for a connection point beyond our differences, finding perhaps a common interest in a hobby or family activity. I look to enter the spectrum of love at a place where engagement and connection is possible and honest to each of us. (For someone more familiar to me, I have a wider range of experience to build upon. If I feel disconnected through a thoughtless word or deed, I can reestablish my connection by recalling something I appreciate about them from another situation.)

Making my daily activities an expression of love-in-action in this way has been ongoing since those early Findhorn days. It is a choice to bring the juiciness of connection, joy, and pleasure into the daily tasks before me. It creates a spirit of partnership and has encouraged me to give that mysterious force called ‘love’ a working definition, a handle that allows it to inform my world. At this point, “Work is Love in Action” becomes MY work to put love into action. It is a moment-by-moment choice I make to connect and to make that connection go as deep as possible within the scope of a particular situation. It is an attitude that seeks to support the best in myself and the world around me.

That does not mean I am always passionate about an activity in itself, or deeply resonant with every person I work with, but it does mean I look to honor a personal standard of how I engage with each person or activity in my life. Making my work an act of love-in-action is my responsibility. It is a strategy of connection, a path for participation in a loving and living universe.

Though it takes some courage and determination, success in work through making it our love-in-action emphasizes ease and not pressure and builds from a yes-and attitude. It refreshes and regenerates our lives with enthusiasm and joy, and flows out from there. It is with interest and respect that I see my children step forward thoughtfully to make their work now an act of their love, caring and commitment.


 Views from the Lorian Community publishes essays from a team of volunteer writers expressing individual experiences of a long term, committed practice of Incarnational Spirituality (and the general principles shaping such a practice.) Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the sentiments or thoughts of any other person in Lorian or of Lorian as a whole. If you would like to subscribe, please visit our website and click on Follow Our Blog Via Email. Or email the editor:drenag@lorian.org.

Be Still–But Don’t Freeze

By Mary Reddy 

I live in the north. It is winter. I wake up hours before dawn and think about what it means to begin anew. The house is especially quiet on winter mornings. No open window means I hear no birds clamoring to announce the sunrise, no soft soughing of wind through the woods. Through my window, I cannot yet see the mountains on the horizon, but I know they are heavily wrapped in white, resting meditatively beneath a chilly cloud cover. 

Stillness belongs to winter. I look to these quiet morning hours for insight, a time to reflect. How do I want to re-orient my life? Everything seems possible at this still point of winter and yet, in the habitual march of the minutes and hours of my days, I see everything old continuing. Each moment replicates a history of daily moments that stretches back for years. The way I move to brew my coffee, the way I choose to sit in the same spot to drink it, next to the reading lamp near the big window that opens in these pre-dawn hours onto darkness. The way I greet my husband when he rises, the handful of breakfast foods I choose to eat, the particular sweater that I am drawn to wear this morning out of a handful of sweaters whose colors comfort me. I am woven into a net composed of so many repeated moments, of actions and interactions. Sometimes I feel them like a weight on my shoulders. How much can I truly change?

But that heaviness is fleeting. I recognize it as part of a cultural story we tell ourselves every January about self-improvement through discipline and making resolutions for change. That story posits a never-ending tug-of-war between habits or routine and desires to improve and begin anew. Instead, I think in terms of course corrections.

What do we know about change? In our human experience, we may say change requires a certain kind of movement through time. Let’s say its opposite is inertia. Yet inertia is not necessarily a state of immobility. I learned to my delight in high school physics that it’s the tendency of matter to continue as is, whether resting or in motion, until or unless an external force intervenes to change. Everything old continuing is a kind of inertia. 

Seems we cannot hold completely still, ever. My brothers and I used to play a game when we were young. Out on the grassy lawn on a long summer day, we’d start spinning like tops, spinning but also trying to move laterally as well. Zig-zagging around, trying to avoid a collision with a tree or each other, we’d laugh out loud with dizzy delight. The more frenzied the movement, the better. Then one of us would yell “Freeze!” and we’d stop abruptly, desperately trying to hold whatever contorted position our spinning body was in at the moment the command was issued. Of course, utter stillness was impossible. The winner was the one who only wobbled a little but stayed upright, the one who did not fall down. 

The stillness of winter still contains movement. It’s only a veil covering the energies of change that continue to move and work their magic. Outside, the cold darkness knows it will give way to a wintry, filtered sunlight. The apparent silence of trees belies the low chanting of their roots, which will in time become a singing up into the boughs. The plants in my yard, invisible at the moment, will face daylight in faded amber and dun colors against an evergreen background. Their activity, though invisible to me, is no less vital than the above-ground growth in spring. And inside, the house waits for me, for the call-and-response of the coming day, when I’ll clatter about while my table calmly holds stacks of things to read and my rug continues to talk to me about medallions and pomegranates.   

Movement, time, inertia, the external forces that shift course, disrupt inertia and thereby create the new—how does this play out in my life? Inertia cannot resist an external force. The force I apply to the habitual march of the minutes and hours of my days is one of presence and love. To be in relationship with the boiling water, roasted coffee beans and coffee cup, with my favorite sweater, with my sleepy husband, with the lovely imagery of the rug and the patient window awaiting dawn’s light—to be present to all opens me up to wonder. Wonder invites hope. Hope stirs longing. My exquisite longing for a loving and peaceful world stands in contrast to its current chaotic state.

Sometimes, course corrections are all that we need. But these days threaten an upheaval. Events are disrupting the possibility of “everything old continuing”; globally, the prospect of chaos looms, whether in uncertain international relationships or challenging shifts in weather patterns. Rudolf Steiner, in his agriculture lectures, said, “If ever we want to make the forces of the cosmos effective in our earthly realm, we must drive the earthly as far as possible into a state of chaos.” The apparent stillness of winter may itself be an incubator of chaos, of the dark formless precursor to the seed’s bursting forth into a new form of being. Apparently frozen in a polarized state of increasing hate and conflict, we teeter on the brink of something new. I recognize in that frozen state our so-human resistance to change. Going out to meet the change breaks the ice. Hope teaches us how to balance on the chaotically shifting floes. Balance, like hope, is internal.

David Spangler recently wrote, “Hope doesn’t arise from what’s happening around us. It arises from us, from who we are, from what we can do and how we can engage the world.  We are the creators of possibilities and potentials; we make the opportunities for something new and better to emerge in our world.” In the face of this uncertain year, I find stillness in the eye of the hurricane. I connect with the power of my own hope for a better world. And it’s not a passive thing. I am charged with the power to meet change with love and a vision of a new world. Poised in the still center, I am ready for whatever it takes. 


 Views from the Lorian Community publishes essays from a team of volunteer writers expressing individual experiences of a long term, committed practice of Incarnational Spirituality (and the general principles shaping such a practice.) Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the sentiments or thoughts of any other person in Lorian or of Lorian as a whole. If you would like to subscribe, please visit our website and click on Follow Our Blog Via Email. Or email the editor:drenag@lorian.org.

 

The Knight Of Fiery Hope

By David Spangler

A Visitation

I was sitting on a sofa in my home reading when a non-physical being abruptly appeared in the air in front of me. While this in itself was not unusual for me, the appearance of this being was. He looked like a knight out of a storybook, clad in shining golden armor, his face hidden within its helmet. On its chest burned a flame, as bright and radiant as a piece of sunlight. He said clearly, “I am a Knight of Fiery Hope! I speak to all humans. You are not entering a darkened age. You are entering a time when the Light of your creative spirit can manifest new vision and new life. Be what I am. Let fiery hope, not despair or fear, shape your world.” Having delivered this message, this being then disappeared.

As always when dealing with subtle beings, the felt sense behind an encounter or communication is at least as important, and sometimes more so, than the actual words that are used. The thought processes of such beings are invariably dense with interconnections and meanings, far more than can be accurately reproduced in a few lines of linear text. In this case, I was aware that what this being was saying had little to do with the future. He wasn’t saying, “Have hope for the future” or “Have hope because everything’s going to work out and your planetary problems will all be solved.” Rather he was describing a creative presence and potential within us—something “fiery” in the sense of being active and dynamic and something that holds open the door of possibility.

The Nature of Hope

Hope does not depend on external or outer events. There certainly can be and are hopeful things happening in the world that are seeds of change, of goodwill, of compassion, of vision and creativity. But many of the events reported in all the various media that now bring news of the world into our lives are not hopeful and can lead people to feel hopeless and helpless.

No, hope doesn’t arise from what’s happening around us. It arises from us, from who we are, from what we can do and how we can engage the world. We are the creators of possibilities and potentials; we make the opportunities for something new and better to emerge in our world.

Hope that lives in an individual because that person has a powerful vision and understanding of his or her generative and sovereign nature is important. It’s the kindling from which Fiery Hope takes flame. But the “fire” of Fiery Hope, that which enables it to be a force for change in the world, is fed by connection and relationship, partnership and collaboration. It is a flame rising out of what we do together as well as what we do as individuals. 

A holistic vision of the world that includes acknowledgement of the subtle realms expands the possibilities of partnership to include not just other humans but the realms of nature as well, and it expands them to include not just physical beings but non-physical allies, too. It offers a scope for collaboration that is truly breath-taking. In so doing, it holds up the potential that the creative, life-changing, life-affirming “flame” of Fiery Hope can burn more brightly and more powerfully than we may have ever imagined before. We become participants in a world of Hope, bringing it into being, rather than victims in a world of hopelessness.

Fiery Hope

“Fiery Hope” is an affirmation that we are a source of hope because we are—or can be—a source of change and new vision. A particular course of events may be inevitable, but our response to it is not. We can respond in ways we could not have predicted or that a simple description of the event would have predicted.

Hope isn’t a wish; it’s an inner capacity, first to be open to possibilities for action and vision that refuse to be circumscribed or defined by circumstances and which thus can be transformative in the moment, and second, to add our energy to bring those possibilities to life through action of some nature. It is “fiery” because it taps into our passion, our commitment, our intentionality, our spirit.

Hope can change the future by opening us to new possibilities and choices which can make a difference; but just as importantly, hope can change ourselves. It can change how we meet events that cannot in themselves be changed for one reason or another but which can be altered in their effects by how we respond, especially by how we work together and care for each other. Hope can make us resilient as well as creative. It is “fiery” because in honoring ourselves and what we are capable of doing, we can burn away hopelessness and the sense of helplessness that comes with it.

Those of us of a certain age will remember Ecotopia, a utopian novel published in 1975. It tells the story of a new country formed when Washington, Oregon, and northern California break away from the rest of the United States in order to create a nation founded on ecological principles and technologies. It was hugely influential in the burgeoning ecological and environmental movements of the time. When its author, Ernest Callenbach, died, he left behind a farewell letter. It discusses the many ecological challenges and other difficulties facing humanity. He then asks the question, “Although we may not be capable of changing history, how can we equip ourselves to survive it?”His answers include mutual support, teamwork, altruism, working on behalf of the common good, and the “enormously creative” power of collaborative thinking, all things I’ve discussed over the years in various writings. But the number one survival quality on his list is hope. Hope makes all the other things possible by opening us to them.


Views from the Lorian Community publishes essays from a team of volunteer writers expressing individual experiences of a long term, committed practice of Incarnational Spirituality (and the general principles shaping such a practice.) Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the sentiments or thoughts of any other person in Lorian or of Lorian as a whole. If you would like to subscribe, please visit our website and click on Follow Our Blog Via Email. Or email the editor:drenag@lorian.org.

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