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I Am Only Human

By Freya Secrest

Editor’s Note: For the next several weeks the Lorian Blog will feature posts on the topic, “Lorian: Who We Are, What We Stand For.” Blogs will be written by regular contributors and also newer voices who have been exploring Incarnational Spirituality in their own unique ways. If you have a story you’d like to share of personal experiences with Lorian and Incarnational Spirituality, please email drenag@lorian.org

Incarnational Spirituality honors life on earth, human life and consciousness, nature’s life and sentiency, and the life of other subtle realms and qualities. I am drawn to the way it celebrates the wonder and diversity of daily life on earth, the way it looks to understand and affirm the sacredness and beauty in incarnate form. Working with the principles of this worldview has supported me in coming to stand simply and honestly in my life and discover my value as a human being here on earth. It speaks to an internal impulse that has called me to look for the sacredness of all life, my own and that of the world around me.

My quest to learn to embrace myself and the world in this way began when I was a teenager. I can remember a friend in high school using the phrase, “I am only human”, when grumbling about something he was expected to do. Somehow that phrase set me on edge, like fingernails squeaking across a blackboard. I realized I had heard it used in this same way before as an excuse for a mistake. It suggested to me that our humanness was not a useful resource to be proud of. Something inside me felt that to be human was something to celebrate, but this phrase undercut that idea. After that, any time I heard it used I would launch into a heated defense of that person’s value. Unfortunately, that did not seem to move the person I was lecturing away from apologizing for their humanness.

As I see it now, it is this phrase and my reaction to it that set me looking for my place as a human in the world and brought me to my work with Lorian. What was an unclear impulse back then has gradually become a more focused backdrop to my life. I want to be able to affirm myself as a person and not apologize for my humanness. I want to uphold others in their pride-of-self and what they contribute in the world. I want to know the whole of my experience, including my mistakes, as integral and valuable.

I am reminded of this poem by Fernando Pesso,

“To be great, be whole;
Exclude nothing, exaggerate nothing that is not you.
Be whole in everything. Put all you are
Into the smallest thing you do.

So, in each lake, the moon shines with splendor
Because it blooms up above.”

I’ve “put my all” into my search for the value of being human in various ways over the years. In high school I explored more traditional avenues of “good works” and social service such as becoming a Big Sister and participating in local humanitarian projects. As a young adult in the 60’s and 70’s, I engaged ecological actions, feeling the need to integrate the value of all life, not just my human life. I saw it important to extend the same generosity and recognition I wanted for myself to the interconnected ecology of our planet.

All this in turn led me into an exploration of different spiritual understandings – Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Earth-based, Esoteric. Each of the disciplines I looked into had something to offer. But none of these perspectives held a full picture of the value of being human. The future they imagined did not portray time on earth itself as a cherished or valued part of human life. It was only a school which prepared one for a “real” or meaningful life elsewhere. Something inside me still needed to know how to say a wholehearted “yes!” to the value of my personal incarnation as more than a means to an end.

In the spring of 1971 I arrived at the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland and met David Spangler and others who became my colleagues in Lorian. Findhorn’s demonstration of collaboration with nature provided a rich field for exploring the value of human expression because it seated me in a view of a community of life that honored all elements of its diversity. Awakening to embrace the truly infinite variations in life, my quest found its center. I was no longer isolated in order to define my humanness; as a being who is human, I was one contributing part of life discovering itself.

I have helped to foster Incarnational Spirituality ever since that time because its approach to the value of humanness celebrates a person as a part of the rich web of life. It honors the gifts of human curiosity and creativity that can literally generate new space. It invites us into the connectedness of belonging, where we bring the spirit of hospitality to the diversity of the world. Instead of the lecture about being human I gave in my teens, I have found questions to share that connect and activate my humanness as an asset. “What joy does this bring me and others in the world?” Am I creating a space that invites others? Does this celebrate the sacred in life?” Questions such as these help deepen my ability to choose, invite and create a space of potential. They let me celebrate my humanness in the large and small acts of daily life that weave my unique perspective into the world. An incarnational focus holds that a human life is to be celebrated in its everyday activity of being and doing. With this perspective “I am only human” becomes “I am human” and apology is changed into a statement of honor, intention and new possibility.


On Saturday, February 17 at 10 AM, join Lorian Colleague and Subtle Activist facilitator David T. Nicol for Sacred Destiny: A Revolutionary Method for Serving OUR Collective Liberation through YOUR Personal HealingThis free online event introduces an upcoming online program starting in March that will feature David Spangler as a guest teacher. Learn more and register herehttp://sacred-destiny.net. (Click here to read an interview with David Nicol and Lorian blog writer Susan Beal.)

The Purpose of Light

By Drena Griffith

“People are absolutely worthless,” the young man said with fierce eyes. “Total f–ng scum. Nearly everyone in this world if given the choice would willfully inflict pain upon others for their own selfish gain.”

Surprised by this high school senior’s opinion of humanity? He is the best friend of a student I teach, a very likable, intelligent young adult with definitive and surprising opinions about topics ranging from net neutrality to politics (he’s a Libertarian) to the best way for the US to handle the situation in the Middle East. He grew up on the west coast attending parties with the well-known and wealthy. And he attends a private religious high school, though he’s definitely not a believer–thinks religion is a Ponzi scheme, actually. Once he shared his strong views on humanity with a teacher at his school and she, alarmed and suspicious,made him take an implicit bias test online. His responses showed no bias, he told me (hers, however, did–which brought him great validation.) His belief is pure and untainted by selective disregard–he holds all of humanity equally, on the bottom rung.

I share these details to paint a picture of this nameless eighteen year old walking around in our world. On the outside, he jokes and smiles. He’s not dripping with evangelical guilt and shame. From an upper middle class family, he has seen the best and the worst that life has to offer–and somehow the worst has stuck. And sadly, he is not alone in believing that humans are worthless.

He could be driving the car passing us in the left lane. He could be our son or grandson. He is helping to create our future.

In some ways, his dissatisfaction amplifies a moral dilemma: at its core, Incarnational Spirituality holds that to be a human being on Earth is a sacred calling. At our core we have an ability to shape and transform experience–to birth dreams as powerful and transforming as stars. An orientation to our potential, rather than to our myriad failures, can in and of itself reveal much about our inherent sacredness. Yet it’s one thing to believe in the potential of human life in a meditative stance and quite another to communicate that message to others in the world, especially when the machinery of the world diminishes people in general in order to sell us products and services to help us cope with our imperfection.

For many at Lorian, that challenge itself seems existential: Self light, sovereignty, holopoiesis (wholeness)…these are not simple concepts. They are terms embodying a lived experience that lies beyond the realm of the language entrusted to convey them. For many of the founders of Lorian especially, the subtle reality, a world that all terminology mirrors darkly, is the only reality they know and have ever known. Disenchantment and other trappings of worthlessness perhaps visited but never quite made a cave in their consciousness. It’s not that they take for granted that human life has intrinsic value. Of course it does–that’s the reality. May it be so for all–but it clearly isn’t so for many.

Even in my administrative role at Lorian I hear from those for whom human life seems a prison, as they seek teachers in order to overcome their limitations. Or they look toward alliances in the subtle world  (or gurus who can more easily move through those realms) because they believe that ascended masters and otherworldly beings have something that we humans do not. That other world–with its faeries, disembodied spirits and other glamorized beings– holds the beauty, the mystery. At its worst, our world is a penal colony located a short walking distance from hell; at its best, it’s an alternative school with a lifetime of lessons and opportunities to “evolve” so that, when we finally “graduate”, we get to go somewhere else next time!

These are, of course, extreme examples. More commonly found on this path are the gently detached, ones who’ve endured varying degrees of isolation and ostracism to be their real selves (because belief in subtle reality in general seems so far afield by mainstream standards). It took so much energy to break the mold in the first place–what’s left to remold what’s been lost? Compared to skeptical relatives and polite acquaintanceships, subtle colleagues are much easier to work with. Even metaphysics is not immune to the disenfranchisement of humanity.

For those who come to Incarnational Spirituality to affirm their belief in subtle realms, they often desire to advocate for unseen voices unable to directly speak to the impact our day to day human decisions have on all sentient beings who call this Earth home. But as advocates overall of an approach to life, an awareness, that values the individual as we do, I wonder how much easier it would be to support a shift in consciousness toward the subtle worlds if we also simultaneously fostered dialogue that encouraged people to reconsider the way they feel about their ordinary lives.

How does that self-light inherently within sustain itself and become bright enough to see oneself by in the day by day reality of life in a harsh world? How does that inner light become bright enough to guide those walking on conflict-torn streets or wrestling with the paradoxes of life on Earth and finding themselves drifting to extremes to cope?

Which leads me back to the face of the broken hearted young man–who would no doubt object to being called broken hearted. He strongly believes that he has a firm grasp on the way life really is. Is he right?

If anyone has been paying attention–as I’m sure we all are–there are not enough words to describe how right he seems. An understatement—things are really bad! We’re fighting openly on all fronts now–ecological, political, social, ideological…Reminding the world who she inherently is–reminding human beings who we really are–it’s not a task for subtle beings. It is a task for wounded healers, for those that life has broken completely open who will say yes to loving the world anyway. And ground that love into actions that both mirror and sustain the worlds without and within. It’s a task for those who have truly connected with and embraced this most basic human truth–human life is divine life–and who can remember this and hold fast to their own inner truth while also loving their feet in the soot.

As the leader of the Native Lodge I attend recently told me, it’s the people in the darkness that most need to see others’ light. Those called must trust their own light enough to enter the dark. They must have focus and patience–they must remember the purpose of light.

In 1972, speaking at the Toronto Youth Corps in 1972, world renowned psychiatrist and author Viktor Frankl vividly shared his philosophy on the value of humanity that still resonates for me today: “If we take man as he really is, we make him worse. But if we overestimate him …you know what happens? We promote him to what he really can be. So we have to be idealists, in a way, because then we wind up as the true, the real realists…”

Imprisoned in Nazi death camps during World War II, losing most of his family and nearly his own life there, Viktor Frankl’s work in the world afterward truly embodied the spirit of remembering our highest selves in spite of–perhaps even because of–the odds against us. He endured an atrocity exposing the worst humanity was capable of at that time–and walked away believing that the spark of light he called “meaning” could redeem and help us reclaim our sanity, wholeness and basic goodness.  

Perhaps the spark within the young student whose story introduces this piece will yet emerge through the circumstances influencing his perspective. (For those who may be curious, he and I may soon sit down to discuss and share our different views on humanity. I’ll let you know how it goes.)


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.

Journey Into Fire

By Julie Spangler

I was recently asked about my spiritual journey: where did it start and what led me into the work I now do with Lorian?  I don’t usually like to talk about myself… my journey into fire.  These things are so personal and internal, and to me, seem pretty ordinary. Unlike many I know, I had no great shattering opening, revelation or transcendent, out-of-body experience.

My birthplace, New England, is covered with old colonial churches, one small version of which stood up the path and across the road from my family’s converted barn.  Its wooden pews were made a little more comfortable by the long, wine-red velveteen cushions, but for me, the soft southern voice of Reverend Greene did not soften the harsh tones of the words he used. To my young heart, God was a loving Presence, but this was not the God that our church presented to me. During my confirmation class, I asked the assistant pastor, “If God is a loving God, how could He condemn anyone to eternal damnation? This is not an act of love.” He basically patted me on the head and told me I was too young to understand. Not a good answer to give a teenager.  I was stubborn enough to trust my inner knowing, and truthfully, I suspected he didn’t know how to answer my question.

Around this time, when I was fifteen, I had an insight. I was sitting at the kitchen counter listening to my older sister and my mother discuss various ideas — in particular they were wondering about the possibility of reincarnation. To me the answer seemed an obvious yes, this is possible. Living more than one life made perfect sense to me and I couldn’t quite figure out why they were questioning the issue.

Sitting there listening with a strong affinity to the question, I nevertheless wasn’t inclined to join their exploration, and as I wondered why I heard a voice inside clearly say, “It is not time”. With that came an understanding that my work at that time was to continue growing up, to stabilize my personality, and that I would know when it was time to explore further spiritually. There was no doubt that this was truth for me. I neither questioned it nor thought to tell anyone about it. It was simply an unshakeable foundation of knowing coming from deep inside my core. Looking back, I can’t say why hearing an inner voice did not shake my world. Why didn’t I shout it out? I just felt so completely at home with it.  The whole experience seemed somehow normal and trustworthy and deeply part of who I am.  I went on about my life without questioning the source of this voice or its message. I knew that one day I would look for spiritual insight, and that I would know when it was  time to start. What is noteworthy, looking back, is that sense of ordinariness this experience had. This was not remarkable. It was normal. And it led to the next time I experienced an irrefutable knowing.

In February of my sophomore year at the University of Washington, I learned about a place called the Findhorn Foundation, a spiritual community in Northern Scotland.  My sister, who was visiting there with her husband, had sent me some booklets by two of the community’s founders, Dorothy Maclean and Eileen Caddy. I was curious, but Findhorn had little connection to my busy university life, so I only gave this reading material a quick glance. Even so, in the core of my being it felt that when the time came this was where I would go to begin my spiritual explorations.  No question – just a sense in my body of an open flow toward Findhorn which my mind translated into a “knowing”.

That time came on my 20th birthday. After my sophomore year at the University of Washington in Seattle, I took a summer job with Seattle Parks and Recreation. Each week I led a group of inner city kids backpacking in the mountains, which also fed a deep need in me to be surrounded by the peace and beauty of the natural world (accented though it was by the loud, boisterous enthusiasm of a bunch of young teens).  On my day off, to celebrate my birthday, one of my friends took me sailing on Lake Washington and again, I had that sense of directed flow. It felt like an inner door had opened, and I knew the time had come. Instead of continuing my studies at the University,  I would head out to Findhorn, and I had a feeling I would not be coming back.  This is not something I could tell my friends or family — how can one explain such a sense? But like the initial insight at 15, I just knew it deep in my inner self,  in my bones.  It is like the flow of a river that knows its banks, natural and directed and home.

When I arrived at Findhorn a few months later, I found it to be a spiritual home that spoke deeply to me. It was partly the everyday, joyous acceptance of the living spirit in ourselves and in everything we do – an affirmation of the fact that each one of us has a personal relationship to the God within – and partly the wise and mind-expanding words of David Spangler who was living at the community then and gave a talk every week during the summer. In Findhorn I found a way of being in the world that was founded on Love, Light and Wisdom, as one of Findhorn’s  three Founders, Peter Caddy, would say. In David’s lectures and writings, I recognized a description of my own inner experience, and  I found myself empowered to continue trusting my own spiritual connections. I heard the words of Christ unencumbered by impositions of guilt or exclusionary judgments. There was an affirmation of the potential in each soul to be an expression of the Sacred in the world, a creative source of service in partnership with Spirit. We were not perceived to be children who needed to be punished, but rather sparks of the divine walking on the land and learning how to integrate into the limitations of an earthly embodiment. This called forth a sense of responsibility and creativity for how I expressed that living spirit through my everyday choices.

David’s talks often focused on our wholeness, integrating the transcendent parts of ourselves with our personalities. In fact, he did his best to avoid using hierarchical terms like higher and lower when speaking of spirit and the self.  Yes, our personalities need conscious direction, but they are not less valuable than our soul. Our personalities are expressions of our soul’s intent and the emphasis on our wholeness and capacity to be a source of light in the world spoke deeply to me.

Peter Caddy, one of Findhorn’s founders, used to say, “Love where you are; love who you’re with; love what you’re doing”— and live a life of service.  The two years I lived in Scotland anchored this practice in my mind and heart and into the activities of everyday life. As I returned to  America, I joined some colleagues I had worked with at Findhorn to help found the Lorian Association with the intent of bringing a recognition of these same values out of the purview of intentional community and into normal mainstream life.

My sense of inner flow has become an everyday experience, which has drawn me to lead a class called Journey Into Fire: Awakening to the Light of Self.  It offers experiential practices which invite us to redefine ourselves as expansive beings rather than as limited ones. These exercises help me know how better to stand in the core of my being and hold a stable center. I then have a greater capacity to hold love and to act out of that love even as I may feel buffeted by disturbances around me. I have noticed a difference in my engagement with the world when I stand in my core, an inner stance which is both in my body and also expansive. It allows for both an acknowledgement of oneness and also an appreciation for my individuality. There is more capacity for love and a sense of empowerment and generativity. There is a sense that I can feel the transcendent, and it can walk in my feet on the land. The Sacred is not separate from me, far out of reach and unknowable. It is within and all around me. It is my home and from this home my life flows.

This, I think, is what I was looking to understand all those years ago in my youth. It is the gift of human incarnation to the planet. Incarnation is not easy. There are experiences which traumatize us and can shatter our identity. But the world is unbelievably rich with so many different cultural traditions supporting healing and wholeness, leading us into light, each one offering tools to support individuals in expanding their sense of identity — each one potentially leading to freedom.  If we are attentive, our whole life becomes a path toward a greater capacity to hold the sacred. The particular gift that Lorian offers to this mixing pot is one of expansiveness, breaking out of the constrictions of dogma, and each finding our way of connecting to the living spirit, the mystery of the world we live in and the beings we share the world with – our unique way of connecting to the sacredness within it all.  This is what the journey into fire is all about.


Everything that Incarnational Spirituality has to offer stems from the recognition that there’s a light within each individual life. As the new year begins, consider exploring your inner light by joining us for Journey Into Fire: Awakening to the Light of Self. From January 18-February 21,  Lorian Faculty Member Julia Spangler will gently guide you through practices and processes to understand and attune to the power of being yourself in this world.

 

Thinking Like a Planet

By Freya Secrest

“Think like a planet.” What does it mean to think like a planet? David Spangler has used this idea to introduce a way to access the stance of partnership and participation that will help us create a more whole future.  But I can be so immersed in my own daily events that I cannot even begin to imagine the thoughts that a planet might use to organize itself. How can I develop the capacity to hold such a wide perspective?

On a recent plane flight looking out the window with a vista from 30,000 feet up, I found at least a partial answer to that question. I found myself marveling at the folds, patterns and shapes of the land we were crossing over. I could see the movement of time and relationship as mountain evolved into foothill and from there into valleys with fields and towns.

My felt experience in nature often allows me to find the vocabulary that helps to navigate more conceptual understanding. Most often that wider, more expansive understanding comes when marveling at a detail like the pattern of bark or the color of a sunset.  But the view of our world from 30,000 feet up brought me to see and feel a wider range of our evolving planet from a new and very accessible viewpoint. It brought me from an image of a planet as a neutral hunk of rock to a more intimate experience of its relationship to aliveness and joy.  

Let me try to invite you into the picture as it engaged me.

First, imagine yourself gazing out the window of an airplane. The sky is cloudless and you can see clearly the mountains and foothills below. You are moving fast enough to recognize the progression in the landscape below but not so fast as to miss the relationship between its elements.

So close that they feel touchable, notice first the jutting peaks of mountains. Rock – just the weight of the word communicates its to-the-point honesty.  The word brings a satisfying felt description of the base layer of our planet.  It is solid; it will not be pushed aside. Rock can be cold and slippery and hard but it also upholds. And with time, rock gives way to water and wind, allowing itself to be rounded and softened.

Flying on, your view softens into foothills where the flows and patterns of rock become more entwined. The word Earth comes to mind. It brings a different quality, varied and not so singular.  Earth has learned to be collective and interactive. There are more shades of light in the ground below.

And now between the hills you see spaces of green – valleys where earth has softened into a seedbed. By honoring its relationships it has become Soil, nourishing, sustaining fertile ground for other lives. Soil blends and integrates to form a physical field of emerging life, an energetic field of invitation.

The scope of this awareness is wide. Rock speaks of identity and being.  Earth speaks of relationship and Soil to renewal. They speak to thinking like a planet.

[Come back to an awareness of yourself. Do you notice a deeper sense of the life of our world?]  

I am moved to be both a witness and a part of this majestic progression of life. I wonder what I can possibly contribute to the breadth of this planet-scaled experience.  A response comes up in me. I have an image of Seeds and a thought that says, “You add seeds, seeds of possibility that offer new harmonies to the song. New seeds to grow and shape new stories of life and your attention to the husbandry that will integrate that life into the joy of our planetary aliveness.”

Thinking like a planet needs me to accept the invitation to become part of the progression of emergence on this planet, embrace the connections that shape the field of life, and welcome the changes that time and relationship bring.


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.

Readers Respond to Rock Talk

Several weeks ago The Lorian Blog published a post by Mary Reddy entitled “Rock Talk.” (Click here to read it.) We received a number of responses from readers and would like to share some of their delightful experiences with rocks:

“Mary Reddy’s “Rock Talk” essay struck a chord with me. I came to an appreciation for rocks through my practice of geomancy using Israel Regardie’s “bowl-of-stones” method. I spent a couple of years gathering just the right set of stones along our dirt road during daily walks. New Hampshire is known for its quartz and granite, so I also collected semi-matching examples of that at the same time. I set them on a window sill as a kind of “altar” overseeing my working library of tarot books. I also created a rather Freudian piece of art with them. Here are some pictures.”— Wayne Limberger (Ed. Note: All photos below are from Wayne’s collection.)                                             

“My own experience with rocks has been a mystery but delightful nonetheless. About 8 years ago I felt a strong connection some acreage of land in Western Australia. The pull was very strong and I eventually purchased this land. Over time I noticed that certain rocks had ‘arrived’ on the land, noticing the way they sat on the land, I knew they had perhaps ‘arrived’ within the last 24 hours. I noticed if rocks had been there for a long time, they sat in the ground and underneath them was soil and perhaps some insects. Those that arrived more recently still had live green grass underneath which bounced back when I picked up the rock. There seems to be a certain magnetism on this land. For a very long time I have loved rocks and have travelled to many places where there are ancient rocks, eg England, Scotland, Ireland, Egypt, Bosnia, Africa and of course my own beloved Australia. What messages do they have for me I wonder?” SF

“I began “communicating” w/stones, stone-persons, in the ’90s, but had always been drawn to stone, especially the feel of sculptured stone; the intuitive me knew clearly that as artists & others have said–the piece to be revealed IS w/in the stone, awaiting the hands to assist in its being shown. when walking I was drawn to certain stones, then taught to hold them & meditate on them, their energy, what messages or teachings they had to offer. As a result, I have a collection of stones from various places over 30+ years.
 
While i’ve never had the joy of engaging standing stones, i have no doubt whatsoever that I’d be flying, too! what joy that must’ve been! I believe the stone persons want to engage with us, want to be understood for the gifts they are, bring, such as the waterfall. I’ve felt such support at times when leaning on stones (after asking if it’s ok) and so enjoy their beauty.” — LVM
 
 
“It was a delight to read of (Mary’s) delight to connect with stone sentience! My book Awakening to Home: A Partnership of Sidhe Star and Stone (which documents my work with David & Jeremy’s Card Deck) speaks to this – both from a giant (mountain) perspective as well as a modest (pebble) perspective. I often ‘hear’ stones calling to me as I hike the Alps (‘See me! See me! I want to help Gaia too!’).

If they’re small enough I bring them home for blessing with Love’s Light, to then offer in healing to the fractured places of the world. With a large glacier erratic, the blessing occurs within their (adopted) ‘home-space’. In German we call them ‘Findling’ which (translated) is the same as ‘Foundling’, a child abandoned on a doorstep. It’s this ‘mother-love’ that I bring to my embodied relation with stone (standing or otherwise), which has opened me to the ‘mothers’ of Gaia, a very precious collective of crone wisdom …”— Anne Gambling

Much gratitude to all of our readers who took the time to share stories or just dropped us a line to say they enjoyed reading Rock Talk and other blog posts. Please keep your emails coming.


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.

Rock Talk

By Mary Reddy

During my apprenticeship to a shaman, I learned how to journey into the non-ordinary reality of the lower, middle, and upper worlds where I met with power animals, nature spirits, deities, and all manner of beings for which I had no name. My first attempts were tentative yet soon enough I was surprised by some very real alternate realities. When going to the upper world for the first time, I expected to see ethereal castles and cloud cities. I thought I’d meet austerely other-worldly teachers. Instead, I wandered as though in a fog and began to worry that I would fail to see anything. Suddenly, I found myself in the presence of an old crone of a woman with wild hair and wilder eyes. I appeared to have startled her. She turned from something she was working on, took one look at me, and yelled in consternation “Go talk to rocks!” Her hoarse voice and peremptory command shocked me back home. Journey ended. Message received.

I followed her advice. In the beginning, I would touch into a rock and get a clear sense of its intelligent but foreign-to-me nature. Eventually, my rock communions expanded to include something like rock emotion. For example, I once leaned into the cliff cradling the Baptism River as it rushed down a gorge into Lake Superior. The Rock Being I connected with exuded a rocky delight that I cared to visit and proceeded to convey wordlessly how much it enjoyed shedding its minerals into the river, tinging it a copper. Part of its earthly mission was to hold the swift-flowing water on its course to the deep lake. I still believe it had much more to “tell” me if I’d had the patience of a rock to listen for hours.

Another time, touching an old standing stone in Ireland that was carved with tree runes, I heard a delighted voice that said “Ah, you’re back!” Then I felt as though I was atop the rock and we were flying through the night skies. I can’t explain what that was about, but it moved me to happy tears. 

Here on Whidbey Island, I go for walks in a Buddhist nature reserve known as the Earth Sanctuary where they have created a standing-stone circle using slabs of Columbia Gorge basalt. I walk the circle, greeting each stone. Every time I perform this ritual, I am struck by a peculiar sensation when touching the stone slabs. I feel the exact opposite of grounded and immobile stability. I feel a watery current, a rushing and waving motion moving through dark space. Some of the standing stones convey this energetic feeling more strongly than others; with one, the sensation is quite strong ( the 11th in the circle proceeding clockwise). It reminds me of the flying sensation I experienced with the stone in Ireland. I can journey to stones at a distance, but the physical touching of stone is precious to me. 

We humans have interacted with stones for eons, performing ceremonies in standing stone circles, carving runes on stones and painting wild animals on cave walls, using hot stones for physical healing or crystal stones for concentration of light and intention. Someone told me once that stones hold memories. Our histories and the history of the planet may be stored in stone. I wonder if it’s possible for humans to co-author stories with stones? Is that what happened with the ancient standing stones? Was the meaning embedded in sacred stones through human beings collaborating with stones, angels, or Sidhe? Or were the messages generated by other beings to communicate with us? Whether collaboration took place in the past, perhaps it’s time to experiment with it now. 

It’s been years since I learned shamanic practices. Later, discovering incarnation spirituality, I realized a key difference between the two approaches to journeying or attunement. In shamanic journeying, I learned to leave the body behind. My consciousness departs the surrounding environment to enter a full-on trance state. Incarnational spirituality, with its joyous acknowledgement of embodiment, encourages me to involve my whole self. I retain awareness of my body and invite my environment to accompany me in fellowship. Thus, the touching of stones physically carries a powerful charge for me, as it works on a Gaian wavelength.

I’d love to hear from you about your experiences with stones. And if this is new to you, I invite you to “Go talk to rocks!” (and bring your body along with you!)


 On September 28, join Lorian teacher Susan Sherman for a free webinar on Energy Tending. In this one hour interactive webinar on Zoom, you will learn a simple and effective practice that can shift your inner landscape towards a more welcoming, loving and connected way of meeting the world in your daily life. For more information and to register, click here.

Excess Baggage

By Susan Beal

A sense of urgency always overtakes me when I get to an airport, even when I am in plenty of time. It’s the overall vibe, I suppose, of a seeming non-place—everyone there is rushing off to somewhere else or working to get people from here to there. The muffled, sub-sonic vibration of jets overhead and the smell of diesel that permeates everything adds to the unsettled feeling.

The process of going through airport security adds to the stress. One day a few years ago, my husband David, and I, were flying home from Sea Tac. He had gotten TSA pre-check and I hadn’t. I waved goodbye to him as he sauntered off to his special check-in point—no line there—and I paused to fish my wallet and ID out of my backpack. Just then, a gaggle of Japanese school girls sashayed past, and all at once I was at least 20 people farther back in line than I would have been moments ago. It wasn’t a big deal, since we were in plenty of time and it hardly mattered if we waited here or at the gate. But I smoldered as the line barely inched forward. I saw David collect his bags from the conveyor belt, clear of security. It was so unfair!

I told myself I was being silly. Our flight didn’t leave for two hours. Everything was fine. Yet everything rankled and my nose was out of joint. What was wrong with me?

The morning had started off well. I had just finished the second of four weekends that were part of the Lorian ordination program. I had been in a fine, even inspired, mood. And although airport security is tiresome at the best of times, I’m generally laid back. Even if I get upset, I can usually summon a sense of gratitude to lighten up. It’s fun to get a hassled security officer to smile, or to share a sense of amusement with fellow passengers at the mild indignities we were all enduring. I also like to recognize and say hello to the life and sentience within the airport building, the monitors and machines, the subtle beings and energies at work alongside their physical counterparts, unseen and rarely acknowledged.

On this occasion, however, I couldn’t summon the least smile. To make matters worse, after I’d been in line for fifteen minutes or so, a TSA officer ushered everyone just behind me into a new, shorter line. I escalated from petty annoyance, to robust anger, to simmering rage.

As I looked around me at the mass of people being processed by armed, uniformed officials, my mood shifted into something darker and more troubling. Suddenly, we were not air passengers having our bags checked for bombs and knives, we were refugees being herded into camps, prisoners in a gulag, illegal aliens captured for incarceration and deportation. The scene around me was superimposed in my mind with images of Jews being unloaded from cattle cars and sorted on train platforms, of women in headscarves being harassed by military troops. On top of anger, I was flooded with grief about the cruelty humanity visits upon itself. Clearly these weren’t all my own thoughts and feelings, but why was I picking up on them so strongly?

I shook my head. I needed to get a hold of myself. I gazed around me and reoriented to the present. Amidst the hubbub, a woman in the cylindrical x-ray machine raised her arms. A guard ran a beeping scanning baton over a man’s pockets. A mother bent down to help her young daughter put a Dora the Explorer bag on the conveyor. Tall, potted ficus trees presided calmly over the crowd. Sunlight filtered down from skylights high up on the ceiling. I could see blue sky through the glass, and clouds drifting past. I breathed in, I breathed out. But I was still mired in anger and grief.

I collected my stuff and put everything back into place, then found David, who was smiling as I approached him. I thought, “Fine for him to smile! He didn’t have to wait in line!” We decided to grab lunch before heading to the gate. After we ordered food I ran through various techniques for grounding and calming myself, but I couldn’t regain my equilibrium. Things didn’t improve on the plane. We were in the last row, in seats that didn’t recline because they were up against the bathroom wall. The smell of bathroom disinfectant wafted over us and the man in the aisle seat crunched noisily through bag after bag of smelly bag of onion sour cream potato chips.

Finally, somewhere over the middle of the US, my mood began to lift. Hurtling through space in a winged aluminum cylinder, subjected to bad odors, limited personal space, minimal oxygen, and an accumulation of annoyances, I started to feel better. They say angels can fly because they take themselves lightly. Maybe it works the other way around, too—when you fly, you take yourself more lightly. My mood lightened—not entirely, but I no longer felt hijacked by rage and despair.

Flying always makes me aware of the angelic and elemental beings who assist the material world. It’s not just physics that keep planes aloft, but the assistance of angels and sylphs. And the view above the clouds reinforces a sense of celestial collaboration. Also, I find the enforced inactivity of being stuffed into a plane seat conducive to meditation and self-reflection. When I fly, I review my life. What effect it would have if I went down in a plane? How would my family fare? What messes and blessings would I leave behind? It puts things in perspective.

The plane landed, thanks to the human and subtle teamwork. Once home, the peace and familiarity of our land and house embraced me. I sat down to center myself and do some energy work to ground and transmute the psychic gunk that had thrown me off. Despite, or maybe because of my sensitivity, I often don’t make a distinction between energies that originate with me and energies that are no more mine than the rain falling from a cloud or the exhaust from a tail pipe.

I reviewed the morning’s events from a clairvoyant perspective. I saw the emotional residue of thousands of people’s irritation, fear and frustration accumulating in the check point area, like an ecosystem overburdened with toxic runoff. There were vague shapes moving among the heavy residues, perhaps a combination of projections and thought-forms left behind by travelers, and more autonomous beings who find nourishment in such an environment, like rats in a garbage-strewn lot.  

I felt stupid and chagrined for having been thrown so far off center. What kind of a Lorian priest would I make? I asked my inner guides for their perspective and all at once I was flooded with a new understanding. I often take on difficult energies from other people and places. I used to feel vulnerable, even victimized by my sensitivity, but I’ve learned through the years how to cope more effectively and safely with discordant energies. In this case, the subtle cleaning crew at the airport had recognized I had those skills and had handed me a bag of psychic trash to recycle when I got home. Apparently I’d agreed to it on a subconscious level. Yes, I’d gotten whammied at first by “leakage” from the bag, but I’d contained it until it could be properly transmuted, and my subtle courier services were much appreciated. I smiled as I thought of the constant warnings played over airport PA systems about not accepting bags or packages from any unknown person. Little did the TSA know it was happening all the time in ways they hadn’t imagined!

Since then I’ve learned to be a more conscious partner in such work.


On September 28, join Lorian teacher Susan Sherman for a free webinar on Energy Tending. In this one hour interactive webinar on Zoom, you will learn a simple and effective practice that can shift your inner landscape towards a more welcoming, loving and connected way of meeting the world in your daily life. For more information and to register, click here.

Formative Forces

Essay and Photos By Freya Secrest

I spent a day in the northern section of Yellowstone National Park this past summer. It was a brief visit, but nonetheless powerful in connecting me with the formative forces building our world.  There were geysers spewing out hot bubbling minerals not safe to be touched by human hands, powerful rivers cutting channels in the landscape and various microbial life-forms wearing down rock. My day’s experience was an amazing window into the forces that tirelessly move, meet and mold a world.

Going into the Park I recalled several National Geographic documentaries of Yellowstone which shared the beauty and the rawness of life in its mountains and valleys. But as we traveled by the mineral geysers, the Yellowstone River canyon, and a wide valley with a vista that dwarfed its resident buffalo, I was aware of the vast energies that sculpt and give shape to our planet. Those documentaries had not given me the felt sense of the power in wind and sky and molten chemicals that underlie its unique landscape of bubbling springs and delicate wild flowers. Images could point me to a tree growing close to sulphurous upwellings or a wild creature who made that world their home, but they didn’t fully capture the spirit of determination and joy evident when standing in their presence.  

On the way home to Michigan, I found myself considering my own relationship to formative forces, not looking to those powers of nature outside myself but to those powers available within my human stream of action. Standing, Partnering, and Generativity – these are not geologic forces but human-centered formative forces that I can direct— each elemental and powerful in their way.  They work with elements of creation different from the geologic forces, but they are no less potent to the life of Gaia.

Back now to my daily life, I wonder how to better focus my formative actions. I do not always see the impact of my life in the world, do not always recognize myself as a formative force. But the choices I make, the relationships I foster and the way I invite possibilities to emerge in my life help shape the wider world. My awareness of the possible impact of my actions leaves me feeling daunted. How do I know my individual actions contribute to the dance of life in a way that leads to a more whole and coherent world?

The answer that comes to me in this moment is that we don’t always get to know our impact. We cannot control the end result of our contributions in life except through Love. The understanding we bring to our actions and the choices we make from Love create a field where connection, possibility and respect enhance mutual unfoldment, where results foster wholeness and a vitality of life. As a formative force, it is my responsibility, my opportunity to step into Love as the controlling factor.

I have to admit that love has been a bit of a mystery for me, not so much in the specificity of personal love or the spaciousness of love for the Sacred in life, but in the mystery of how to bring them together. How does personal love expand to touch the universal and cosmic love reside in daily connections? How do they come together into a wholeness of love that is a life-enhancing, formative force?

What comes to me as a path into answering this question is to live with the same determination and joy as does the nature I connected with in Yellowstone Park – to stand and celebrate my life as a feast , to partner deeply, joyfully, lovingly with myself and the people and life around me, to be generative as a spring is, bubbling out the fullness of myself from wellsprings of love, a resource freely available for co-creative interaction with my world.   

After millions of years of interaction and relationship, many large and small acts of beingess, Yellowstone is a landscape manifesting a presence that touches its visitors with integrity, beauty and coherence.  It is a whole greater than the sum of its parts. No one element could alone imagine its current shape and vitality, but each element is a formative force in creating it. The same is true of each in our own lives; we are a formative force in connection with other forces and together we shape a more whole and beautiful world.


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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