Being in Love

An open heart. For me, this was a long time coming. For me, this is an active, continuing endeavor. A grail long sought has begun to show me its shining presence. I am awed by the power that beats in the heart of love.

I know people who love me but whose hearts are well defended. Perhaps the love is no less, but without vulnerability, its power to transform is diminished. I did not see this as a lack until I began to open my heart. In truth, I instinctively valued the shallow plane of exchange we allotted each other, those of us who were afraid of opening more. But now I am finding new ways to love, stepping gingerly outside my fortress walls while honoring others’ need for remaining within.

When I want to conjure the power and vulnerability of love, I see my children. My love for them is fierce, though it has often reached them imperfectly, twisting past my fortress walls. Even when this mother love remained stuck within me, I still felt its vulnerability keenly. The possibility of grief yawns beneath the joy of sharing our lives together. Yet I had learned well the lessons of my culture and my childhood—better not go into that vulnerable place. Don’t borrow trouble.

How do we resolve this instinct for self-protection with our desire to open to love? Not just in our personal lives but especially when considering subtle activism in this world of increasing hatred, violence, and natural disasters? Years ago, I learned a subtle healing technique from my shaman teacher. I found it difficult and have not practiced it often so I may not relate the steps accurately. It involves journeying to your allies, perhaps to a special ally who partners with you in healing endeavors. You request this ally’s protection and assistance. You fill yourself up with love and light and you journey shamanically to the site of a disaster to offer this light to the victims. You are to see the light pouring from portals in your wrists and hands. Those in need will come to you and feed on the light. The idea is to channel this love and light with the assistance of your ally, not to provide it from your own self, for the demand will deplete you.

I performed this exercise right after Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans. Tuning in, I saw a grey swath swirling over the surface of the water-logged land, filled with hundreds of suddenly dead people. I reached out my arms and invited them to come feed on me. Shocked, bereft, or aggrieved, they swarmed toward me. A number of them filled up and were released. But eventually, I needed to end my journey. I left reluctantly--I saw so many more not yet tended to. Of course, they would not remain untended; angels and helpers were probably on hand to help these souls transition. What struck me most after completing this practice was the way it aroused my own fear of loss and death. Not a place of strength from which to act! Maybe this approach should be labeled “Expert practitioners only. Do not do this at home.” I did not venture to do this again.

Years later, Incarnational Spirituality strengthened my sense of sovereignty and gave me new tools for subtle activism. A first step in subtle activism—or actually in any attempt to connect with subtle beings and energies—is to place myself in the state I wish to share. Love is a great starting point. And so I imagine the love I have for my children. And I begin to sense how this love grows and stretches beyond to all sorts of connections. A deeper vein of this love calls to me now. It is the unwalled courageous heart that carries a full sense of vulnerability.

If we read about the victims of mass shootings, if we imagine the pain and fear of the migrant children separated from those they love and on whom they’ve depended for survival and support, the well-trained culturally approved reaction is to allow ourselves a brief moment of feeling that pain and horror. Maybe we can hurl our anger at those responsible, but then we must retreat into learned helplessness. A better option is to surge into political action. Another is to connect with our allies, generate love and healing, and in whatever fashion move that loving energy out to those who need it. Doing this, we never know rationally to what extent we’ve been helpful. And the danger, as I see it, is in a new kind of complacency. Because we’ve performed subtle activism, we can put the horror of the situation aside and go about our lives.

It gets tricky putting things like this into words. Of course, there is value in going about our lives since every act performed with love generates more good than we can imagine. But maybe we can deepen our subtle work by holding the pain and horror in love, without glossing over it, without sinking into it?

Here’s a story that may seem like a sidetrack. Once I was vacuuming the rug in the living room of the off-campus apartment I shared with fellow students. The old Hoover began to groan and whir, so I tipped it sideways to see what was stuck. With all the impracticality of my youth, I foolishly stuck my finger into the vacuum hole without turning it off and was struck by some kind of rotating beaters lurking just inside. My finger was smashed and badly cut; the pain almost caused me to faint. Again the foolish youth, I ran to my roommate’s liquor stash and swallowed a shot of peach brandy, thinking that would dull the pain. It did not. I went to lie on my bed and as it was hopeless to ignore the pain, I went into it. My awareness moved into the shrieking finger, I merged with the intense pain, and suddenly I felt an intense love for life. Like the continuum between hot and cold, how something can be so hot that it feels like freezing, I could no longer tell what was pain and what was the intense joy of being alive, my deep and wild love of life. I told an acquaintance about this later. I did not know how to put it into words so I simply said I’d hurt so much that I’d seen God. He replied, “oh boy, you must be a real masochist.” He did not get it. It was not about enjoying pain. I had been mystically transported to the place where pain and love are one. Vacuum cleaners, peach brandy and transcendence, who knew?

Seriously though, this is a clue to my new direction in subtle work. It’s about not walling yourself off from the pain. It looks like this. First, I partner with my allies and step fully into the intense joy of love. I feel it shining through my little toes, shooting out every strand of hair on my head. I feel it sifting into the air about me, washing over and through my environment. And I feel all the grace and support of the beings in my physical environment stepping up to assist me. Then I imagine the circumstances of the violence or tragedy I wish to attend to. As best I can, I touch into the horror, intense anger, grief, or fear of the people I hope to help. I mustn’t shy away from the emotions and shift to a ‘higher’ plane but feel them simultaneously with that intense love I’ve conjured. That love is capable of infinite consolation, of tender protection, and soul-and-body-satisfying nurturance. And that love can hold those qualities while also letting in the pain. I can shed tears and know joy at the same time. I imagine the pain and sorrow, all the horror and rage, stepping into the shelter of this great Love’s cloak.

As with manifestation, this healing for others works to the extent that I embody it in myself. If I do this well, I know fear but also know that I am safe within that cloak of love. I mirror what I am offering to others. I become vulnerable in my heart while holding fast to an invincible love. I become the cauldron that does not shrink from pain. And amazingly, that great love we all can access holds me safe as I hold, acknowledge, and honor all the feelings. Those suffering pain and loss are not denied their feelings but are invited into the safe holding of love. They can know themselves because they are seen for who they are, in all their suffering and longing.

So many things deconstruct the fortress around our hearts: self love, trust, gratitude, beauty, a child’s gleeful laugh, the awareness of the tender vulnerability of others. What blasts the walls down, for me, is being in love enough to feel it all. When I am in love, I no longer need to shy away from the dark.

Living with Subtle Friends

In the summer of 1965, I met a subtle being whom I called John, as described in my book, Apprenticed to Spirit. Our friendship and partnership inaugurated a work with the subtle worlds that continues to this day. I thought it would be interesting to share what my relationship with the subtle worlds is like today, fifty-four years later.

These days my contact with the subtle worlds and with subtle beings takes four different forms. I think of them in my whimsical way as Colleagues, Neighbors, Randoms, and Essentials.

By Colleagues, I mean those subtle beings with whom I partner and work almost daily. John was the first such Colleague. He said at the time we met that he was part of a group, and since he left in 1990, I have been working with others in this group who came forward to take his place.

What draws us together, unites us and gives focus to our collaboration together is a shared project, one that has its origin in the subtle realms. One of the specific manifestations of this project is Incarnational Spirituality, but its overall objective is to promote collegiality and partnership between the two halves of the Earth, the incarnate, physical realm and the subtle realm, the realm of matter and the realm of energy and consciousness. The purpose of this in turn is to enable a greater degree of wholeness and harmony to manifest in our world that can facilitate a new phase in the planet’s evolution.

Working on this project is my job, and every day I “go to the office.” This means that I place myself in a state of attunement to a virtual meeting place that, over the years, has been co-created by my subtle colleague and myself; this is a state of shared consciousness and energy I call collaborative mind. I am not in meditation; I’m not really in an altered state of consciousness at all, but I am in an attuned state in which part of me blends with the energy field and mind of whichever of my subtle colleagues I’m working with at that moment. I’m perfectly aware of everything happening around me in the physical world, and I can do ordinary tasks, but part of my attention is elsewhere.

For me, this feels like sitting around a table with colleagues and discussing what needs to be done and how to do it. There is a sharing of thoughts and insights. I am an active participant, not simply a receptor of information being passed on to me; there is nothing passive about this relationship. I offer my perspectives, my thoughts, my insights on how to proceed and my subtle colleagues offer theirs, and out of this sharing, something emerges. We are co-equals. Sometimes, I have more insight than they do, sometimes it’s the reverse.

My subtle colleagues are not all in one place. They occupy different levels of vibration and energy; some are more evolved consciousnesses than others. Some have an easier time connecting to and communicating with me than others. Not all of them are human; a few are part of the Devic or angelic lines of evolution. Most recently, some have come from the beings known as the Sidhe. But we are all partners in this project of creating wholeness.

This working group has changed and evolved over the years as the tasks change. Beings come and go. For instance, such a change is occurring right now (though over a period of months). The reason is that the emphasis of our working group is moving away from establishing the theoretical base for Incarnational Spirituality and its main exercises and practices—which has been its main focus over the past decade or so—to looking at application and how this approach may be helpful in meeting the challenges our world is facing. Those whom I think of as the “theoreticians” are stepping back while the “engineers” and “appliers” are coming forward. I’m excited to see what this change may bring.

Much of my work involves writing and teaching, but it also involves holding and connecting qualities and patterns of energy with the physical world around me. My colleagues usually receive these patterns and qualities from higher dimensions of life and pass them on to me, and I, in turn, pass them on to the energetic life around me, but it’s often up to me as the “incarnate partner” to figure out how best to do that. It’s a more complex work than simply being a “channel” for higher energies, though I’ve had the occasion when that has happened as well.

As I said, my subtle colleagues and I meet in something like a virtual meeting space, a place accessible to all of us. John taught me how to create this space, which I call an “alliance space,” and I’ve been doing it ever since. By now, it has become second nature. But it still requires energy. Sometimes, our blending lasts only an hour or so and sometimes it can last for most of a day. Usually these days, after four or five hours, I’m done and need to withdraw.

None of my subtle colleagues are what I would call “spirit guides” in the older, spiritualistic sense. They rarely offer me personal advice, though I am always the recipient of their love. They are working colleagues, just the same as if I went to a physical office and had my co-workers there. It takes energy for these beings to connect with me as well, and when our work is done for the day, they return to their own various levels. They don’t hang around to give me counsel.

However, there are a few subtle beings who are more intimately and directly involved with me as an incarnate person, who are there for me to call upon if I feel a need, and who can offer advice and counsel. I whimsically call this much smaller group my “Pit Crew” as they energetically help to keep me on the road, so to speak. These are beings who are closely related to my own soul and who have volunteered to assist me as a soul in my incarnation.

All of us have such a Pit Crew attuned to us and seeking our well-being.

My subtle colleagues are the most regular of my subtle contacts, and our relationship is defined by the tasks we share. But I have other contacts as well, the most common of which are what I call my “Neighbors.” I’ve been in touch with these Neighbors all my life, long before I became conscious of any spiritual projects or of the subtle colleagues associated with them. They are all the subtle life forms that make up what I think of as the living Commons of which we are all a part. Thus, they may be nature spirits, the Devas or Angels overlighting places and cities, the beings I call “Underbuddies,” techno-elementals (the living spirits within our human artifacts), and so on.

If my subtle colleagues are like the co-workers I meet when I go to the office, my neighbors are just that, the beings who make up my subtle neighborhood and environment. Sometimes they may contribute something to my work, but mostly they are engaged with work of their own, living their own lives. My main relationship with them is to appreciate and honor them, to send them love, and to assist them in their work if I can the way one neighbor might help another in keeping the neighborhood whole and healthy. If I do subtle activism or environmental energy hygiene, working to clear negative energies from the local environment, then I will usually call upon Neighbors to help.

There are subtle beings who simply pop in, as it were, sometimes just to say hi, sometimes out of curiosity, sometimes to offer a bit of information or to make themselves known to me. I think of them as “Randoms” as I never know when they might appear or why.

Finally, there are the subtle beings I call the “Essentials.” These are those beings whom I reach out to for my own wholeness and spiritual well-being and development. My own soul is one of these, but there are others, usually angelic in nature. Often, to call an Essential a “being” can seem too limiting a description, as they can manifest as universal forces, direct aspects of the Sacred—or at least, so it seems to me.

My subtle colleagues, my Pit Crew, my neighbors, even the one-off random contact can all enrich me in various ways, but none of them can touch my inmost core and identity as can those Lives and Presences I think of as the Essentials. They are the most intimate of my contacts. They are the ones I may contact in meditation or prayer; they touch the mystic within me, whereas the others touch my subtle consciousness and energy. If I seek guidance, it is usually to the Essentials, to my own soul and to the Sacred beyond, that I turn.

The subtle environment is a complex ecology to me, even more complex in its way than the physical world in which I am incarnated. It is a vast community of life, a Commons of life, and we can engage with it in a multitude of ways. My relationship to the subtle is shaped by being a partner in a specific work and project, but there is much more, just as there is more to physical life than just one’s employment. On the whole, I see the subtle worlds as a community with which I am in partnership, one based on love and on appreciation of what we all have to offer to each other.

I believe the day will come when working in collaboration with the subtle realms will be a normal and natural part of human life, freed from the superstition, the fear, the glamor, and the mystery that now surround it. I am a participant in a project that seeks to bring that day closer; that participation has defined my relationship to the subtle realms since the day John appeared in my life fifty-four years ago and will continue to do so until the day in the future when I become someone else’s subtle colleague in pursuit of the same goal.

Gaia Strong

I am touched by the images in the news of Dayton and EL Paso as their citizens come together to grieve and uphold each other as a community. I see the signs and hear those interviewed speak about “Dayton Strong” or “El Paso Strong” affirming their resilience to meet and integrate the shock of the recent shootings and heal the rent in the fabric of their lives.

I wonder how to lend my support. Aesop’s fable of the bundle of sticks comes to mind. In his story he told of a father whose sons were often quarreling. The father wanted to show them how their discord would lead them to misfortune. He had one son bring him a bundle of sticks. Then handing the bundle to each of his sons in turn, he told them to try to break it. Although each one tried his best, none of them was able to do so. But, when the father untied the bundle and gave each one a single stick to break, they did it very easily.

Aesop’s moral was, “In unity is strength.”

Through the technology of TV and video I see these people’s tears and grief as well as their affirmations of connection, shared commitment and compassion. Technology brings the images into my room, but I live miles distant. Is there an honest way for me to experience solidarity with their pain and loss of trust and contribute to their energy of resilience? Is there a real way for me to know unity with the loss of these unknown family, friends, and neighbors?

I find thinking isn’t enough. After these days of focused attention, I must go out and move and let the land touch me. I need to walk and smell and hear, letting imagination move into felt experience so I can touch and bring back connection to my immediate world. Walking out the door and down the street, my head begins to clear and thoughts flow. I am conscious of how all the images I have seen, the commentary I have listened to, has overwhelmed and numbed my heart. In an odd way, with all the best intention to be present, attending and listening, I have fallen out of the bundle and broken. The unity that brings strength requires hand and body as well as head and heart.

So I walk and put attention to connections I can make along the way. I am building my local bundle of unity as an offering. I stop to smell a beautiful white rose and admire its fragrance. The homeowner walks up just then and we share in a friendly conversation about roses. I walk on feeling each of us, rose, gardener and myself are touched and a little happier for the exchange. Further along, I notice a woman with a cane tending her plants and offer to help bring in her garbage cans. The woman was very appreciative and I noticed how simple it was to offer that moment of connecting, of “bundling” the sticks. And then, just before I got to the park, there is the woman picking up her mail who was still new to the neighborhood. Though tired, she is delighted and seems refreshed by taking an extra moment of time to share some of her story with a friendly listener.

These were little acts of connection, but each one helped me to strengthen and stay present to myself and the large scope of what I am feeling. For me bundling with the land and trees and what is growing enhances my own reserves of faith, trust and well-being. Kind exchanges with neighbors lift my spirits. I can stand present to a bit bigger piece of El Paso’s pain and Dayton’s loss in myself.

The citizens in Dayton and El Paso are on the frontlines of this tragedy. Unfortunately, there have been and will be other such events around the world in these times of challenge and change. Along with contributing to open conversations and laws that support the structures and services that would best serve, I want to continue to strengthen my ability to stand present as a partner, one stick in a bundle bringing all the strength of my life’s bundles into larger and larger fields of connection.

Light a Candle for Liberty

The other night I joined a “Lights for Liberty” gathering in the nearby town of Sammamish protesting the inhumane treatment of immigrants being held in cages at our southern border.

I cannot help but feel grief and distress at the trauma that is being visited upon people who are seeking a safe haven for their families and an opportunity to adequately provide a home for them. The amount of trauma being experienced by the children is destructive to the mind and emotions of a young child. Trauma and brain development research has shown that children are particularly vulnerable to trauma because of their rapidly developing brain. Traumatic experiences can have a significant impact on a child’s emotional development, future behavior and mental and physical health. There is no doubt the children on our borders are being permanently damaged by their treatment at the hands of our government. I can’t help feeling heartbreak about this impossible situation.

While the right to gather in protest is an invaluable tool of a democracy, I rarely join demonstrations because I don’t always trust the wisdom of a crowd. As a child of the ‘60’s, too often I have seen violence erupting from a crowd being manipulated by angry speakers and leaders. Don’t get me wrong; I believe anger is an appropriate response to inhumane actions, but I don’t feel it usually helps move things along, so I choose other venues for expressing my concern.

But this night I felt a need to bear witness to the situation at the borders, to be seen and counted. We are a country with massive resources and I am among those who feel we can do better to offer compassion and care to others less fortunate! So I stood with my neighbors in a small crowd in Sammamish, Washington to add my voice.

I was ready for angry speeches. I was ready for shouting if that was called for. And that was certainly what was happening in other cities around the country – shaking fists, loud demands for better treatment of the people coming to our country for help, lots of posters. What I found in this small gathering was a lot of love. This group was feeling pain, sorrow and love for the families trapped between a fence and a law. Everyone felt grief and responsibility and helplessness. What can we offer?

There were a few speakers defining the issues involved, and the intent of the gathering. And there were volunteers who read quotes from children caught in the system, heartbreaking statements no one wants to hear but yet must pay attention to. And there was a candle light vigil.

What surprised me was that I was participating in an act of subtle activism with a group that probably had never heard of the term before. This group connected with each other, shared resources with each other, and felt love for the victims we gathered for. The love, the caring, was tangible.

Then a local interfaith minister, Alyson Young, introduced us to a vigil process which included a forgiveness practice called Ho'oponopono. I found this simple prayer deceptively powerful:

I’m sorry
Please forgive me
Thank you
I love you.

In speaking this prayer, I recognized that I am not separate from this situation we gathered to protest. I am complicit simply by living in privilege while others suffer. I live in a rich country fighting to protect its privilege and wealth. I am not doing this directly nor intentionally, but I am safe while others are not – I ride on the suffering of others.

This is not about feeling guilty for my privilege – guilt is not helpful. I am grateful for the blessings of my life. But accepting some responsibility allows me to open my heart to the dance of our world that is both beautiful and tragic and allows me to see where I can help.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for the fact that while my comfort is built on human ingenuity and invention which is miraculous, it is also built on the pollution of my land, air and water. I am sorry that people live in places which cannot sustain them, that suffer war and drought and flood and despair, and need help that I am not there to offer them.

Please forgive me.

Please forgive me for my unconsciousness of those who suffer. Please forgive me for any hurt I have caused rising from indifference, selfishness, misdirected thoughts or words. Please forgive me for my faults and for the cruelty and suffering in the world caused by humanity, of which I am a part. I stand and acknowledge and own my participation, silent and intentional, and ask for forgiveness. I am human and not separate from nor better than any other. Please forgive any negative or destructive thoughts I have had that add to the collective field of fear and anger held within humanity.

Thank you.

Thank you for this opportunity to see and let go of anything that obstructs the clear flow of presence and intent of my soul on earth. Thank you for giving forgiveness and freeing me from constrictions that erupt from separation and self-protection, from fear and defensiveness. Thank you for sharing with me this world we love and the capacity to be in communion with spirit and with each other.

I love you.

In our unity in God and Gaia, I love you. In our shared responsibility for each other, I love you. From all the depths of my being that I am capable at this time of reaching, I love you.

As we stood on the grass in Sammamish, we could not, as a group, be there at the cages on our borders, open them up and take these children and parents into our arms, offering comfort and safety. All we could offer was an inner sense of calm, love, support and hope that may reach and help sustain them in their holding cells. Anyone who has been sustained by an inner presence during times of trauma knows this. We are not alone in our suffering, and neither are these souls on our border. We can stand with them, offering subtle fields of presence they might on some level find comforting and strengthening. God works in mysterious ways.

At the Lights for Liberty vigil, I was gifted by a group of strangers with a reminder that I am not the only one who knows this. Lorian is not the only group who knows this. Whether or not they were aware of it, sustenance and hope were offered to the field of suffering that surrounds these friends on our border and I continue to hold them all in my love, my gratitude, and asking their forgiveness for my part in their struggle for survival.

Following Questions

This winter, six long-time friends came to visit us at our home. No, not all at once and they did not know one another. But for about a month it was like being on a lively merry-go-round of memories, storytelling, shared thoughts and observations, and delicious potluck meals. A most welcome diversion in the middle of a cold spell.

Yet about a week after the last visitors had gone on their way, I found myself trying to pinpoint what it was that was bothering me. And what came to me was the troubling realization that there was a flatness in the eyes of one friend in particular, whom I’ll call James. James has a wicked good sense of humor and always in the past I could tell—even before he said anything—when one of his wicked good darts was on the way. But there hadn’t been any real darts in the two days he and his wife were with us. Halfhearted darts—sure—but nothing with the vigor and spontaneity we’d known in the past.

Then—as I thought about it further—it occurred to me there was a similar flatness, though not quite as pronounced, in the eyes of another couple whom we’ve seen more frequently. We knew they were dealing with a difficult family issue at the time, but the flatness in their eyes called up a line of questioning in me.  

What was I seeing? Exactly when did I notice this expression—or lack of expression—with these dear friends? How did I happen to arrive at the feeling that I was observing something similar in their eyes?


I want to take a detour here to say that, in my experience, questions are among the most amazing wonders in life. I don’t mean just any, or many, random questions here, I mean questions that one feels driven to ask out of intense interest, longing, even out of desperation. I say “intense interest" or "longing” because I know there’s a big difference between questions from my brain and questions arising in my heart.

Questions from my brain are usually need or curiosity questions. These questions are important and can often be answered in physically tangible or material ways. For example, our dog is limping badly and can barely walk. I take an up-close look at the affected leg, explore it gently with my fingers and am baffled. Should I get him to the vet right away or wait till tomorrow?

This question might eventually lead to a heart question. Suppose the dog is truly injured or ill. Suppose the limp is caused not by a pulled muscle or a sprain but something more life threatening. The questions may go further, deeper—deeper not only into what is best for our dog but also perhaps into what is right for us too. With another family dog this inquiry led to having to make the difficult decision to put her down. We held her not only physically but with gratitude and appreciation and sensed she was not only ready but wanted to go and was giving us permission to say good-bye. We actually saw her depart as we looked in her eyes. The answers to our questions were not without sadness but they took both her and us beyond pain, into release and relief.

Not to say that all heart question are big questions like this one was. Yet action—either outward or inward—as in motion, change, a feeling of fluidity or release, indeed movement is an essential part of any real heart question. When the question is answered I know it through and through. There is a rightness to it, a calm, a sense of arrival and of being re-centered.

For me, questions are quests in and of themselves. And there may, in fact, be several different quests occurring simultaneously.


To return to the concern I expressed at the start as to the “flatness” I saw in the eyes of our friends: I asked my husband if he also saw what I saw and he agreed, yes, he could see what I was talking about. This led in turn to the realization I’d seen it elsewhere too, and not just in the couple that visited us after the visit with James and his wife. I’d seen it, and was still seeing it, here, then there, in the eyes of both people I knew—as in at the town library-- and in the eyes of people I didn’t know, as in at the supermarket. When you begin to see something you suddenly see it everywhere. There isn’t just one dandelion poking up, there’s another, and another, and another, and so on. Same with grey hairs, right?

It was as though a jumble of images, thoughts, feelings, observations and little red flags in every day life had lined up within me, forming an understanding of something I’d sensed in my heart but had not fully grasped. With that came the memory of the instant I first noticed the flatness in James’s eyes, when he was talking about Brexit. His wife told me later, privately, how upset she was by how much of every day he spent reading the newspaper on line and listening to the news. Likewise, the other couple had been talking about politics—in that instance immigration—when I saw the flatness in their eyes. I knew right then that the same flatness is in me too. A heaviness, a darkness, a kind of resignation, an inability at times to summon up optimism or any sort of hope or humor. Yup, I really missed James’s wicked good darts! It was the pronounced absence of those which called up the question in me, though I didn’t say it aloud: “James, where are you? I can’t see the YOU that is light, lively, on the move.”

Another question then unfolded from out of the various questions that had arisen in me over a few days, “Are we being drained, are we loosing vitality, even becoming sick, because of what’s going on in the world today?”

I’m, pretty sure friends of ours, including James himself, would answer with a resounding Yes!” And we would agree that limiting the amount and type of news we ingest is a good idea. (My husband sometimes has to remind me of my resolution on this score.) Yet, to come to a real heart response to this question, beyond a perfectly reasonable mental reaction, I believe one needs to let the question, or questions, go yet deeper within, in the way the poet Rainer Maria Rilke described in Letters To a Young Poet:

“…be patient towards all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue… The point is, to live everything. Live the questions now.”  (Emphasis is as given by Rilke.)

This may sound like an unsatisfying response to an enormous question I’ve happened upon, a question I’m sure many others are asking, pondering, and living with too. “If we are drained and loosing vitality, if we are sick what can we do? What should we do? How and where can we find the balm, the cures, the healing?” My point here, however, is not to answer these questions but, rather, to express confidence, indeed faith, in the questioning process.

For I find that when I listen within and hear, or formulate questions, and make space for them in both mind and heart, personal experiences open again and again, even ripen into, understandings. Understandings on the way to go, and keep going. How to live. Or, to be yet more specific, how to move with life.

Following an Inner Call

Editor's Note: The following post is an excerpt from the prologue of David's memoir, Apprenticed to Spirit, reprinted with permission from Penguin/Random House.

When I was twenty years old, in the summer of 1965, I made a choice to follow an inner calling. At the time, my actions were seen as either a bold leap of faith or a foolish misstep in what might be a very short life. My friends and family were about evenly divided as to which it was. Frankly, I wasn’t entirely sure which it was either.

I had been enrolled at Arizona State University, pursuing a bachelor of science in biochemistry. Since entering college in 1962, I had a straight - A grade average, two scholarships, a student draft deferment, and a part-time job working for one of my professors in a laboratory, taking photographs of cell structure with an electron microscope. As a college student, I was a success.

But there was another side to my life. For as long as I can remember, I have been aware of invisible,non-physical beings and the dimensions from which they come. These dimensions have been given many names in many traditions: the Other Worlds, the Inner Worlds, the Higher Realms, the Spiritual Realms. As a child, I never thought to call them anything. The fact that at times I could see and talk with beings who were not part of the physical world did not seem strange. They were just part of the diverse, rich and wondrous world that I experienced growing up.

These non-physical dimensions are vast, much vaster than the physical territory of the earth. I usually call them “inner worlds,” not because they are inside anything - and certainly not simply inside me in some psychological sense - but because I reach inside myself for the senses and capacities to see and engage with them.

In my junior year at college, these two worlds collided. Although I lost none of my love for science, a series of experiences led me to recognize that my heart’s calling was not for the laboratory but to share with others the reality of the spiritual realms.

I had no idea how to go about that. However, I had friends who did….

We were discussing the future when I felt a powerful stirring of energy in the room around us. (One friend) who was not particularly psychic, sensed it. She looked around and said, “Do you feel that? It felt like someone just walked into the room!” And to my inner sight, someone had, preceded by a powerful wave of love and radiance as he moved from his dimension into ours.

At first, all I could see of this being was a presence of intense light. But as I watched, this light coalesced into a fully distinguishable person, looking like a man in his early forties, handsome, clean-shave, with a full head of dark brown hair, wearing a light shirt and dark trousers beneath a tweed jacket with leather patches at the elbows. I remember thinking he was dressed like some of the college professors I’d known. It was a comfortable, familiar image for me, one that immediately put me at ease. Later I learned that that was precisely why he adopted it.

We humans identity ourselves by our names, by what we’re called, but most inner beings in my experience identity themselves by a unique energy or vibration. This can be as distinct as a fingerprint is for us. In many cases this vibration provides a deep and clear insight into that being’s spiritual nature and depth and the quality of its consciousness, what I define as its beingness. That was the case with this individual. I had a clear impression of a very wise, experienced, and very loving presence. Then he said in words that I heard in my mind like telepathy, “You may call me ‘John.'” It’s not my name, as I do not have a name as you do, but I can see it’s a name you like, so I am happy to use it.” I repeated this to (my friend), who could neither see nor hear this being but still could feel his presence.

“Ask him why he’s here,” she said.

John replied immediately. “If you are willing, we have a work we can do together. We have worked together in the past in other lives, and now we have an opportunity to do so again. I am not your teacher. Your teacher is the divine within you, as is true for everyone. But I can help you with the training you will need to follow your calling. I can help you access the teacher within you. As I say, if you are willing, we shall be partners. Think about it. I shall come back in a day or so for your answer.”

And with that, this presence disappeared, leaving behind a very sweet and loving feeling. “Well,” (my friend) commented when I had repeated what John had said. “I guess this answers your questions about your future!” So it did. When John came back in two days, I was ready to say yes.

Though I didn’t realize it at that moment, with that decision I became apprenticed in an invisible school, one dedicated to the realization of the sacredness within us, to empowering the sovereignty and spirituality of our individual incarnations, and so building collaborative partnership with the spiritual worlds in bringing blessings to this one. John often spoke of himself and his colleagues as part of a school on the inner, and though he never used the phrase “mystery school,” in effect he was tutoring me in some of the most basic mysteries of life on earth and the nature of the human spirit. The training I received from him and his colleagues fulfilled the spirit if not always the form of the mystery schools of old.

This partnership and the work we undertook is part of a larger pattern of spiritual unfoldment in our time, one that is calling to all of us as human beings. It is a work of creating wholeness - I call it "holopoiesis” - and of integrating and collaborating more fully with spirit and with the world of which we are a part.

Have You Heard an Inner Voice Lately?

Throughout human history, mystics and gifted teachers have emerged in every culture, expanding our understanding of what it means to be human. We are not simply physical bodies brought to life by an accident of evolution. There is a deeper experience of being human than just thought and emotion that includes our capacity to an expanded awareness of non-physical realities.

It is notable that today in our world, non-physical elements are being talked about more openly - what we in Lorian are calling subtle worlds and subtle beings. They are not new. The subtle worlds have been around and making themselves known throughout time. Ancient books tell stories of encounters with angelic beings. Inspiration and direction from inner sources have always been freely spoken of by religious and spiritual leaders. And I have heard many stories from individuals who have had experiences at one time or other of being nudged from within to do something or go somewhere. We call these perceptions subtle for a reason. We cannot see any particular cause for the feeling, so we may tend to dismiss it as being unreal. But it is my contention that everyone has these subtle experiences, whether or not they pay attention or give them credence.

In my own experience, I have several times heard an inner voice telling me something I needed to know. The first time was when I was a teenager listening to some family members who were discussing spiritual things. I wondered why I wasn't joining in, since I felt drawn to the subject, when I heard a voice telling me that it wasn't time. I knew this voice was right, with a kind of inner knowing that was familiar and peaceful and sure, and I knew also that I would know when and where the time was right - and I did, when I turned 20. A strong inner nudge launched me off to Findhorn, a spiritual community in Northern Scotland, to begin my spiritual education. How did I know it was time? Well, it is subtle! I felt like a door opened that hadn't been there before.

These inner voices may inspire disbelief in us. Are we really hearing someone? Am I imagining this? It can be hard to determine sometimes. We are not usually trained to trust our inner nudges. Some years ago David and I happened to drop in on our friends Fritz and Vivienne Hull just as they were finishing up a week long meditation retreat at the Chinook Learning Center on Whidbey Island. Fritz grabbed us and said, "Come here, I have to show you something!" as he took us across the meadow to where some of the participants had camped during the week. As we walked, he told us an extraordinary story. One of the women in the group had awakened in the night feeling uneasy. She felt like she had to get up and move.

As she lay in her tent in the dark trying to decide if she wanted to leave her warm sleeping bag and go out into the cold night, she heard a loud voice say with compelling urgency, "Get out and run left!" She immediately scrambled out of her tent and went left just as a tree in the forest near where she was camped cracked. The top third of this tall tree speared through her tent and right through her sleeping bag! Just as Fritz finished his story we turned in to the camping meadow and saw what he was describing. It looked like a huge sharpened spear was standing upright in the ground pierced right through the heart of this tent. It must have been about 15 feet tall! The remainder of the splintered tree, about 25 more feet, stood on the edge of the forest nearby. This was a breathtaking and disturbing sight!

But what was this voice she heard? What was the voice I heard in my teens? Is it part of ourselves that perceives beyond the range of our usual senses? Or is it another presence that is giving us aid? Many people have these extraordinary experiences and cannot deny that there are unseen presences which can communicate with us unexpectedly. So how about intentionally? Can we communicate with subtle realms at will?

Some can. My friend, and co founder of Findhorn, Dorothy Maclean did. She did not hear voices as some do, but could connect during her meditations with bright, angelic, radiant intelligences which she called Devas (the term Angel had too many religious connotations for her comfort!) from which she received impressions that she would put into her own words. What she learned through these communications was always new to her, things she would not herself have thought. I saw evidence of this when I was traveling with her once. We had stopped in a California Redwood grove off of Highway 101 which according to the plaque near the grove was being preserved for posterity. We could see that the trees in the grove were dying. Dorothy felt overcome with grief over the toll that human development was taking on the Redwood forests. She took some time while we were there to meditate and communicate with the Deva of the Redwoods. She found herself apologizing for the damage that humans were doing to the trees. The response she got was a surprise to her. She wrote this message down:

Small mortal and great being, we greet you. Come with us, up high above the traffic noise... to where everlasting peace is. Let the 'evil' be as dust on your feet, to be shaken off and returned to itself, while the peace of God remains, the creative peace which cloaks a planet and many forms of life.

What if the trees come toppling down? Their vibrations are forever part of life here and we are glad to have contributed as much as we have. Rejoice, for life moves on, whatever form it takes--and it is one life, as we well know. We are part of you, you are part of us, and so it will always be.

To the Deva consciousness everything is an expression of spirit, and if it was time for the form of the Redwood to pass out of the world there would be another form for its essence to take - the shape of the form did not matter. For Dorothy, this was a reminder that the perspective of the Devic realm was not human in any way but always offered a bigger picture. For me, it was a reminder that collaboration with inner beings can offer us a shift in perspective, a broadening and deepening of how we see our world.

There is a deeper experience of being human that includes our capacity to connect with the unseen part of the world. It is a natural part of who we are, though, as I have said, often a discounted one. It is too easy to dismiss those delicate whispers of intuition that get submerged in the everyday din of our ordinary reality. If we take time to give attention to these inner nudges, to give them a little more weight and recognition, we might find ourselves beginning to come more easily into connection with the subtle worlds. And if those inner nudges become a loud shout, we might want to move on it!


David's Desk is my opportunity to share thoughts and tools for the spiritual journey. These letters are my personal insights and opinions and do not necessarily reflect the sentiments or thoughts of any other person in Lorian or of Lorian as a whole. If you wish to share this letter with others, please feel free to do so; however, the material is ©2019 by David Spangler. If you no longer wish to receive these letters, please let us know at

I have recently been acquainting myself with Julian of Norwich.  I’ve known of her, of course--she is one of the greatest of the Medieval Christian mystics, living in England in the Fourteenth Century—but I’d never delved into her history or her writings before.  As a young man, I was partial to Meister Eckart, a German philosopher and mystic who lived nearly a hundred years before Julian, to Brother Lawrence, the author of The Practice of the Presence of God, and to the Sufi mystics Rumi and Ibn’Arabi, though it’s now been forty years or so since I’ve read any of them.

In 1373, at the age of thirty, Julian became so deathly ill that a local curate administered the last rites to her as she lay in bed.  As he did so, a young boy acting as his acolyte raised up before her a cross on which Jesus hung, crucified. She began to lose her vision, but then Jesus came alive and spoke to her in a vision, the most immediate effect of which was that she was spontaneously cured of her disease. Over the next forty-eight hours, she subsequently had fifteen more visions in which she and Christ conversed.

Eventually she described her visions and their contents in a book, Revelations of Divine Love, which is considered the first book ever written in English by a woman. It has been a classic of mystical literature ever since. It is from her writings that the phrase “all will be well” comes; at one point, when she is speaking to Christ about the terrible things happening in the world, He replies, “All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.”

I’ve encountered this phrase many times over the years without realizing it came from Julian’s visions and writings. It’s often used in superficial ways, like saying, “Don’t worry, things will turn out OK” as a way of helping someone feel better. In Julian’s writings, though, this optimistic phrase is grounded in the absolute, unconditional love of God for all creation and in the realization that goodness exists as a seed state, a potential, within all things. It is not meant to reassure us as much as it is to awaken us to our true state and the true state of the universe, for it is this that ensures that “all will be well.”

This same sentiment is often expressed by my own non-physical or “subtle” colleagues.  I know for a fact that when one of them says to me, “It’s going to be all right,” he or she is speaking from a perception of the Light within all things, a Light that constantly exerts a pressure to unfold and manifest, even if temporarily this means causing some buried darkness to surface ahead of it. They have no doubt about the continuous activity of Light and love within the world, even if these qualities don’t always immediately appear on the surface of things.

“All will be well” was a daring thing for Julian to affirm to her contemporaries as well. Within her lifetime, the Hundred Years War between France and England was raging; there was the English Peasant Revolt; and there was war between two different Popes, one in Avignon, one in Rome, each claiming to be the rightful heir to the Throne of Peter. But most horrific of all, this was the time when the Black Death, the Plague, ravaged across the world from China to England, killing an estimated one third of the population. Depending on which plague bacillus invaded you, you could be dead in seven days, three days, or within a single day— healthy in the morning, dead by evening. If ever there were an apocalyptic century, this was it.

In the midst of this and in spite of this, Julian, recounting her visions and encounters with Christ, said clearly and strongly that God is love, we are loved, and all will be well.

It is certainly true that in the Fourteenth Century, faith was strong, perhaps much stronger—or at least differently experienced—than is true today, another time when many feel helpless in the face of large destructive, corrupt, and oppressive forces in the world. Yet, certainly according to my own inner contacts, the “All is well” affirmation is as true today as it was then for Julian and those who came to her for spiritual teaching and direction.

As I write this, the news is filled with the bombings of churches and hotels on Easter Sunday and the deaths of three hundred or more people with hundreds more injured. It is an immense tragedy, and it takes its place in a parade of news stories about killings, violence, terrorism, corruption, extreme weather, natural disasters, and on and on. It’s hard to see and hear all this and feel that “all is well, and all is well, and all manner of things are well.” If this phrase is to be a seed of strength and transformation, however, and not just a feel-good spiritual bypass, I believe we have to understand two things about it.

The first is that this idea that all is well is not a panacea for worry but an affirmation of identity and the strength that can flow from that. The reason that “all is well” is because we are loved by the Sacred. We don’t have to prove ourselves worthy of that love; being loved is our natural state. Once this sinks in, a whole new experience of self and of being in the world unfolds.

The second point comes out of this. All is well because we each have the power to be and to bring that wellness into our lives and into our world. That is, we can act from an inner reality of loving and being loved. All is well because in the sacred core of our being, we are well, and that wellness can emerge and will emerge, whatever it takes, however long it takes.  What is key here is that through what we choose and what we do, we help determine the “however long.”  We can turn “All is well” from a promise into a reality.

Julian’s voice is as pertinent and valuable today as it was six hundred plus years ago.  I’m glad to be discovering her, even if I am a late-comer to her party!

Angel of My Hearth

Essay and Photo by Karen Johannsen

Sometime in the late 90’s, a few years after my divorce, I began to feel the urge to get out of my house. I wanted to start fresh, in a new environment. I loved my home and fought hard to remain there after separating from my husband, but it began to feel oppressive and somehow not supportive of my energy anymore. So I put it on the market.

As beautiful and affordable as my house was, it didn’t sell. I began to feel like maybe the Universe was trying to tell me something. So I enlisted the services of a Feng Shui consultant and friend and here’s what she told me:

“Just because the energy in your home doesn’t feel right to you doesn’t mean you need to sell the house. All you need to do is shift the energy.”

Wow, that was an intriguing thought. I’d pretty much always known that I could sense subtle energies, but the thought of being able to consciously invoke the qualities that I wanted to be surrounded with was mind blowing!

picture of angel of my hearth.JPG

My friend suggested that I first list how I wanted to feel in my home. Immediately I knew that what I wanted was a home that radiated peace, tranquility, harmony and joy…qualities that my life had been sadly lacking for many years. She also told me to engage with the “Angel of my Hearth.” That was a new idea. There was actually a being that inhabited my home that I could connect with and work with? I began a practice of sitting in meditation each week, invoking her presence, and asking her to help with creating the atmosphere I wanted in my home. One day I looked up at the piece of art I had hanging above my fireplace and realized, there was a perfect representation of my angel. I began standing in front of this image and talking to her, reinforcing the desire for more harmonious energies to fill my home.

After just a few weeks I noticed a palpable shift. I began invoking her before every full moon ceremony so that people who walked in the door would feel welcomed and safe. Many people began commenting that they felt they were walking into a sanctuary, a sacred place. I was amazed and had to agree that things had definitely shifted.

I stayed with this commitment of weekly joining forces with my angel for several months. Then I let it lapse, feeling like we had accomplished what we set out to do. The energy in my house remained harmonious and lovely.

It wasn’t until reading David Spangler's work on subtle energies that I realized I wanted to re-establish this relationship as a daily practice. I began connecting each day with the “Angel of my Hearth”, the overlighting deva of the land that my home sits on, and acknowledging the nature spirits and techno-elementals that were also present. I wrote in a previous blog about how this practice has shifted the way I walked through my days. Seeing everything as connected and sacred. It felt expansive and inspiring. To recognize I was not alone, that I had all this help and that I could receive and radiate this new found connection. I could impact my environment in a conscious way and in return be supported by this field of energy. I began to see myself as a radiatory energy field as I walked to the grocery store, the gym, the gas station.

In a recent issue of Views from the Borderland, David discusses how many of us feel overwhelmed by the environment of chaos and disruption that is our world today. How it is so easy to feel like nothing we do can make a difference. He then quotes one of his inner colleagues.

“Of course you make a difference! Each person does. You are each a thought of God made manifest. How can this ever be inconsequential?”

I began to try to take that in. “I am a thought of God, made manifest.” How would I walk through my days if I really believed that? I began to feel empowered and strengthened in a deeper way. I started watching my thoughts and actions more carefully. Sort of like that old saying, “What would Jesus do?”, I began to think to myself: “How would a thought of God behave? Does my thinking reflect the being that I am, the thought of God that I am? It felt like owning my sacredness.

It’s easy for me, when I have a deepening awareness of something to immediately make it a job. “Ok, now I have to be very vigilant about watching my thoughts, my behavior, my attitudes.” In an effort to somehow be better, be more spiritual, be more aligned, more...whatever. Another of David's inner colleagues came to my aid when he said:

“Humans try too hard to be spiritual. You draw too much on your own inner nature and forget that you have help around you if you will access it. Relax and allow the Light to bear you up and unfold the qualities you seek.” He then went on to use the image of a seed. “The seed’s job is to know what it is. The soil’s job is to enable that identity to unfold and flourish. The seed does not struggle to bring forth its nature. It opens to what the soil and its environment bring to it to nourish its growth and allows its nature to unfold.”

I love this image because it reinforces the idea that we don’t have to always be trying to be better, to be more, to do more. We can just relax and be the sacred seed that we are, and we can connect with the soil around us, the subtle worlds, to assist us in our unfolding, to nurture our unfolding. We naturally and organically unfold into our potential when we are aligned with our sacredness, but we can be supported in our journey by connecting to the help that is available to us via the subtle realms, the angels, devas, nature spirits and elementals.

So the new awareness for me was that these subtle energies that we live in, especially in our homes, can be our soil. We can let go of trying so hard and just allow the energies to assist us.

Whew, can you feel the release in that?

May we always remember the sacred beings that we are.

May we be at peace with just “being.”

May we remember that we are loved just because we are.

And may this awareness create an opening that will allow the subtle energies to fully support our journey.

Opening To An Ever-Expanding Universe

By Julie Spangler

A few years ago my daughter came home fuming with anger. Smoke was coming out of her ears! Her psychology teacher at the local community college had told the class two things that enraged her:

  1. There is no new knowledge in the world yet to discover.   

  2. There is no such thing as ESP or psychic perception.

According to him, humanity had discovered all there was to know and there was nothing more in the universe to learn. Yet the fact that we humans are always learning and revealing new insights about this world and beyond is evident to anyone with the eyes to see.  

Recently, I found an old book in a box of my husband's family treasures. It was a history/geography primer written in 1850, that had belonged to David's great grandfather, Rufus.This was published before the civil war and reveals much about the way people thought of the world and history at the time.

Rufus was taught that there are two continents in the world, the eastern continent and the western. (Australia was considered the largest island.) In those days, a continent was defined as a contiguous landmass completely surrounded by ocean. Today, continents, which we count as seven, are defined by modern knowledge of the dynamics of the geological processes within the earth's crust.

This small primer also espoused that there are five races in the world which were defined as Malayan, African, Caucasian, American Indian, and Mongolian. Since then, anthropological definitions of the differences between people, which were called race, have morphed several times - in 1890 they considered three races - Caucasian, Mongolian and Negroid, and by 1962 Australoid was added - but today, our understanding of the human genome has progressed to the point that we now know that nearly all the variation in the human species can be found within the remotest tribe of humans in the world, and 99.9% of our genetic material is the same in all people.

Looking at this book written 170 years ago from the perspective of our time, we can see how much the world has changed; and each time new information was brought forth, it changed how people saw the world. David's great grandparents were farmers in Ohio. Imagine the world that Great Grandfather Rufus inhabited during his life. Born in the 1850s, he lived in a horse and buggy world where communication was through slow mail, and the telegraph was in its infancy. The transcontinental railroad was only just conceived but not yet built.  He was confined to a local community and change was slow.

The world we inhabit now is vastly different than the one Rufus lived in. It is even vastly different from the world I knew as a child. Every person alive right now over 30  years old spent their formative years in a world without cell phones and internet. Information flow is instant in most parts of the world, and change is so fast that it is hard for our minds to keep up with it! And yet... there is no new knowledge to discover?

I confess to feeling some disbelief that there could be a college teacher in this day and age who could believe we have reached the limit of all there is to know!  

But what about his second point - There is no such thing as ESP or psychic ability? There are way too many incidents of  "other perception" - intuitive warnings, synchronistic happenings, telepathic communications, predictive experiences - to deny that something of a psychic nature exists.

One night when I was about seven years old, I remember my mother suddenly getting anxious and upset. She felt an urgent need to see her beloved 92 year old Aunt Grace. Though it was evening, and there were four of us young children who couldn't be left alone, my father, bless him, recognized that something unusual was going on. He bundled all of us kids and mom into the car and drove 2 hours to the large retirement home where Auntie Grace and Uncle Harry lived.  

We found Auntie Grace sitting in their room crying inconsolably. She said they had taken Uncle Harry away and would not let her see him. Mom, my siblings and I all stayed with Auntie Grace while Dad did the warrior/hero thing and stormed the fortress to track down Uncle Harry.

Dad found Uncle Harry in the hospital wing of the facility, dying.  He came back, got Aunt Grace and escorted her to her husband’s side, pushing past the various nursing officials trying to stop them and asserting that Grace needed to see her husband and they had no right to deny her. Harry and Grace got to say goodbye before he passed over later than night.  

I was always deeply touched by the seemingly magical events that took us on a long drive through the dark to help Auntie Grace. And I have no doubt these kinds of incidents are more frequent than we know. Is this ESP? In my world it is. Is it psychic perception? Maybe that also. It is certainly an intuitive, unseen and subtle world connection between hearts that love.

As of now we can't easily measure subtle worlds or subtle perceptions. We know our perception of the world is changing because we can experience it, but we can't record the changes in spiritual consciousness around us. We often take this for granted. But in every culture, knowledge of subtle worlds and subtle beings has existed. We can't prove their existence, only anecdotal evidence attests to their reality, such as my story about Auntie Grace. But in my household, contact with subtle worlds is a normal part of ordinary life.   

We always have to determine for ourselves what we are open to. Maryn's teacher kept his mind very tightly structured. I understand the inclination. It is challenging to stay open to things that might shake up our reality. But in a world that changes as quickly as ours, it behooves us to keep our minds flexible, open to possibility and ready to welcome our own corroborating experience. Then when we have our own subtle perceptions, to accept them and prove their inherent value for ourselves.


David's Desk is my opportunity to share thoughts and tools for the spiritual journey. These letters are my personal insights and opinions and do not necessarily reflect the sentiments or thoughts of any other person in Lorian or of Lorian as a whole. If you wish to share this letter with others, please feel free to do so; however, the material is ©2019 by David Spangler. If you no longer wish to receive these letters, please let us know at

In many stories, attics are the places where lost or hidden treasures are found. We don’t have an attic, but our garage fills the same role as place where boxes are stored and items go to be lost. While clearing out some of these boxes this past month, my wife Julia came across something neither of us knew that we had, a treasure worthy of any attic. It was a book carefully wrapped in a plastic bag, its cover broken, its pages faded with age. With it came a glimpse into family history and into a world long vanished.

The book, Mitchell’s Primary Geography, is a textbook intended “for the instruction of children in schools and families.”  It was published in 1856, four years before the start of the American Civil War. The name of the owner of this book is on the inside front cover: Rufus Spangler, my great-grandfather. On the next page, originally blank, he has written his name again, followed by the date when he was using the book: 1860.

The book had been found in a box from my Dad’s house, brought back here after he died some years ago. My Dad saved everything, but even so, the fact that this old textbook from his grandfather had survived relatively intact through four generations and a number of moves seems like a miracle to me. While I know a lot about my grandfather, Rufus’s son, I know next to nothing about Rufus himself. It’s been fun imagining him sitting in a one-room schoolhouse in eastern Ohio studying this book as an eight or nine year old boy.

What has been truly fascinating, though, has been reading the book itself. It comes from an optimistic time in American history. It describes Americans as “among the most intelligent, industrious, and enterprising people in the world.” The country has thirty-one States. The “Western States” are those we would now call the Midwest, from Ohio to Missouri, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Everything else further west are various Territories which will eventually be carved into new States, the exception being California. Eight years before this primer was published, the United States had defeated Mexico in war, gaining possession of California; it became the 31st State two years later in 1850.

West Virginia didn’t exist when Rufus was studying this geography. It wasn’t formed until the Civil War broke out and part of the State of Virginia refused to leave the Union.

The book covers more than just America. It is a world geography, describing the countries and peoples that existed then. Queen Victoria was on the throne in Great Britain. The Ottoman Empire still existed. The Tsar was on the throne of Russia. Perusing this book, I think of my great-grandfather Rufus. In 1860, when he wrote his name in this primer, his was a world without electricity. The transcontinental railroad linking the East and West coasts of the United States didn’t exist. Much of the western interior of the continent was still “Indian country.” There had been no “winning of the West” yet. I think of what it would be like for him to time-travel to my world today with its satellites, its jet travel, its computers and smartphones, the Internet and social media. The Tsar is long gone, as is the Ottoman Empire. Great Britain no longer rules much of the world. The United States is a superpower with nineteen more States than when he studied this book of geography and history. He might feel as if he had been dropped on another planet.

Mitchell’s Primary Geography exudes confidence that it knows the world as it is. It states clearly and with no hesitation, for instance, that the planet is only 6000 years old, as revealed by Scripture. In the way this was presented, this was not a religious statement but a scientific one. The split between science and religion had yet to take on the proportions that it has in our day. Darwin’s seminal book on evolution, The Origin of the Species, had only just been published in 1859. The whole perspective of creatures, including human beings, evolving over millions of years of time had yet to become widespread or accepted as fact.

Thinking of Rufus and his world got me thinking about us in our time and the world we know. We are as confident in our modern scientific and materialistic worldview as the writers of my great-grandfather’s geography primer were in theirs, and yet, who knows what my great-grandchildren will think looking back upon my time now. Will the world we know be as strange and exotic—and misinformed—to them as Rufus’s world is to me?

If nothing else, it reminds me to be humble in my certainties about the world I know.


Now a personal note.  With this David’s Desk, I’m starting my thirteenth year of writing these monthly essays. I had no idea when I started that it would last this long! Thank you for your continuing interest and support, without which I would have stopped before this.  I appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts with you and look forward to continuing to do so.

First, Get Real

By Mary Reddy

Once upon a time—or rather for a number of years earlier in my life—fear was my demon.
Fear of falling. I would vividly see myself tumbling to my death when I’d watch my brothers skip across the wobbly tree trunk that had fallen over the creek, me standing at the edge mesmerized by the drop to the swirling water; or while being careful not to step too close, I’d watch the others boldly move to the best vantage point of a high cliff; or when shaking with a clash of fear and longing, I’d place one ice-skated foot onto the ice, wobbly yet frozen to the spot, while others glided past like fish in water.


Fear of bears. In grade school, I read a news report about a woman who remained still as earth while a great grizzly ate her arms to the elbows then wandered away. Eventually, she managed to contact her companions and thus lived to tell. Ever after, every story of the rare bear attacking a tent of sleepers, or the bear who stood its ground  when hikers came upon it, would burn into my memory and surface hotly each time I entered a beautiful wild place.

Fear of ghosts. For most of my life, the first night or two spent in a new place saw me wakeful and alert in bed, dreading what might be in the corners or walking down the silent hall. I sensed rather than saw them when awake. But they came into my dreams and told their stories. They seeped into my feelings and gave me theirs instead. Once, one of them touched my cheek briefly. I felt/did not feel it. After that, I slept with a sheet or blanket pulled up over my cheeks, no matter how close or stuffy the night.

One night when I was six, I lay awake gazing through my window at a glorious full moon, awed by the mystery of the night. Later, a crowd of spirits entered the room as flickering lights. Like lightning in my room, they flashed up in the corner by the ceiling, then again near the closet door or over by the dresser. Impossibly, I could even see flares of light behind my head. I hoped I was dreaming, but I felt that awful wakefulness of unbearable dread, of time dragging. Who were they? What did they want from me?

Once when I was fourteen and babysitting for a neighbor’s child, I was frightened by a loud drumming sound, like a hail of rocks raining violently down on the roof of the house. I froze and waited to see if it would ever end. It lasted about 10 minutes. I could not bring myself to open the door to the dark night to investigate. Hours later, when the child’s father took me home, I scanned the area around the house. No rocks, no hail, nothing to explain the event.

Once, in my adult years, I stopped at a hotel in downtown Peoria that had seen better days. Soon after I fell asleep on the lumpy mattress, a ghost man angrily punched his hairy arm into my dream. I saw the fine black hairs on his forearm, his clenched fist. My dream self shouted, “who are you?”—waking me suddenly. 

One apartment I lived in was so filled with ghosts, it was like Grand Central Station for the disembodied. During the day, I saw them in my peripheral vision as flickers of light or pulsing but invisible exclamation points. They came to me at night, one by one, with requests. Could you contact my sister? Would you tell my husband he has to make up for what happened? Could you please get someone to retrieve my bones from Vietnam? There are gifted mediums who know how to help these post-mortem visitors. But importantly, they also know when to say no. I had not yet learned that was something I could do.

I could relate many experiences about ghosts and trickster spirits. Some people may long for such otherworldly experiences, but I was desperate to escape them. Realizing that I needed to understand their world and my relationship to it, I spent years studying shamanism. The practice of psychopomp in particular gave me  parameters within which to interact with the dead. But it wasn’t until I studied IS that it dawned on me: I could only relate well with post-mortem beings if I knew how to relate with integrity to living human beings. Healthy relationships with subtle beings required that I first work on living in the ‘real’ world.

I needed to redefine the pattern ingrained in me as a child, that loved ones would either invade me or demand I merge with them. Just as the apple seed grows into an apple, I trusted my inner longing to grow into the self that no one could force me to lose. I began to understand and strengthen my sense of sovereignty. My fear of subtle beings dissipated. 

It did not happen overnight! I took the first steps toward healing even before I knew about IS. As I grew into a more whole self, I began to meet beings who did not want something from me. One night I stayed in a rural Wisconsin inn surrounded by birch trees. A river ran nearby and, just outside my window, a field of baby apple trees stretched to the woods. I fell asleep to the gentle sounds of nature, but a ghostly couple stirred me from my dreams.

Old as Methuselah they were. They hunched over my bed, peering curiously at me. The woman’s face was like a dried apple carving, deeply scored with wrinkles. The old man stood tall and skinny and stoic. Suddenly, the woman realized I was looking back at her and she jumped back, startled. And then they both disappeared.

Fully awake, I felt no fear, only wonderment. I did not think they were post-mortem visitors. It seemed to me they vanished in what felt like an overabundance of courtesy, so as not to frighten me, but also out of the sheer surprise that a human could see them. To this day, I can’t place them but I wonder if they were guardians of the woods. For they looked like they had walked out of a fairy tale.

These days I don’t relate that much to the earth-bound dead. On occasion I might help someone who is stuck cross over. I feel more pulled to develop relationships with those beings who are not needy, who look to partner with me and other humans in supporting Gaia’s emergence. Now, I hold my boundaries lightly but securely. I gratefuly draw on the support and community of my land. And I know that my first allegiance is to my embodied self, to my own self love which is the cauldron for my ability to relate to everyone else in all the realms.

Learning To Be "All In" With Life

By Freya Secrest

My new granddaughter, Kaileia, is three months old and beginning to explore her muscle control and coordination. She lives in a world of the moment, actively engaging with all that comes her way. I had the gift of being a partner in her world of discovery recently and the ripples of that experience live in me as an extraordinary example of presence and communication.

That afternoon, she had been playing on her own, thoughtfully, slowly, experimentally, moving her arms to connect with a hanging mobile. Sometimes she touched and grabbed it, sometimes not. Her full attention seemed to be concentrated on that toy but she held no specific idea to do anything with it or to it. Instead it seemed Kaileia was exploring the space around it, feeling into a broader field of engagement.  She was using every physical and somatic sense she could access for her learning.

I picked Kaileia up from the floor and held her in my arms in a position that allowed us to see each other. I was the focus of her attention now and with her eyes, her interest, her body, she directed herself toward our interaction. We started a conversation.  

As I talked to her and entered more fully into the field defined by our eye contact and physical touch, my speech slowed and I focused on key words and sounds rather than long sentences. Her attention sharpened; she was a partner ready to engage. Watching Kaileia respond, I slowed down even further and settled even more into my body and subtle senses.  I noticed her mouth movements as she tasted the air of our communication and began to mimic them, trying to taste it too. Shaping my mouth slowly into an O, I put more breath into it and it became a note of sound; she lit up. I began singing more slow notes and she began to mimic my mouth very specifically. Her eyes were glued to my face as she worked to move her own mouth and make the sounds I was making. And she did it!  And, of course I, and the others around, gave delighted praise. It was a doorway moment for her and for me that recognized our connection.

What followed was several minutes of call and response and deep belly laughs from both of us as we lived into the delight of this moment of conscious communication.  Kaileia was almost ecstatic to feel her participation in the exchange. The world opened up to her; she made a difference. I was in awe of the wonder in the moment, of what was possible within the gift of becoming present. Everyone in the room was transformed with her joy.

What I take away from that exchange, besides my grandmotherly pride in a brilliant grandchild, is an experience of being “all in”, and the value of being somatically alert and responsive to my world. This deeper sense of presence resonates and moves through me as simple, direct, honest, with a fullness of joy that links body, mind, emotion and spirit. Kaileia brings all of herself to her work as a young incarnating soul in the world; she has a task to connect and establish and grow a life. I feel that same responsibility and am appreciating the reminder to bring myself humbly and expectantly to the task.

This state of wonder and magic seems particularly appropriate in my work with subtle energies and a Living Universe. I am inspired to taste the air of my attunements, to let my arms ‘wave’ and reach out to physically give shape to my experiences. Kaileia is my poster child for “all in”. I look up from my computer screen and see my neighbor’s tall pine. My back straightens and head lifts, and I move into a felt sense of height that perhaps is more akin to the tree’s experience. Like my granddaughter, I try to shape myself to imitate its song. In this brief exchange I feel joy coursing through my uprightness. Perhaps this is a moment of tree-speak.

This somatic languaging is a rich addition to my subtle world communication. It has been part of our teaching in Incarnational Spirituality but this experience calls me to further recognize and harness its power. I find a more tangible and accessible sense of where to meet and engage with fellow Gaian beings – both those in physical form and those in subtler embodiment. Slowing down enough to focus with interest on what is in front of me, I stand in present moment. Welcoming the light of multiple perspectives, the present flows with greater clarity and connectedness. Delighting in our connection, we are communicating and the fabric of life is enhanced.

This experience with Kaileia has illustrated a new fullness and aliveness in my life. I have no nouns to describe it firmly yet. But while it is still a mystery to me, the somatic doorway that she modeled is woven more strongly into the fabric of my awareness.

Piercing the Veil

By Drena Griffith

Growing up in the subtropical Coastal South, sun and sea filled my childhood with warmth and reflection. Curious and introspective, I spent many sunny afternoons after school sky-gazing. Though I wouldn’t have been able to describe it easily then, there was something magical about the elements and celestial bodies coming together - sky and sun and endless miles of water connecting, flowing, swirling around great, unseen edges.

This playground of my childhood inspired my first explorations of the inner planes.

One afternoon when I was ten years old, I decided rather spontaneously to go sky-gazing to find God’s “house.” But I wasn’t looking for the Jesus of the Gospels recited at Mass and discussed in Sunday School.  What appealed to me more was the Old Testament story of God’s creation of the world. Even then, I had a love of ritual and structure - and God was certainly thorough and ceremonial as He painstakingly separated darkness from light, air from sea and earth from heaven, then breathed life into animals and human beings.

But where was God before the six days? Was He alone in a vast void of nothingness?! Surely, He was still out there, up there - back there - waiting to be found before going through all the trouble to make the world, and I was going to uncover his hideout!

Slowly, painstakingly, I peeled back the days of creation, layer by layer, looking for the place where God lived before he formed Universe.

Clearly, time was a slippery concept for me to grasp because the idea of God waiting in dark pre-Creation silence seemed quite tangible in my mind's eye. Even so, though I’d like to say that I discovered the Source inspiring such sincere devotion, most days I returned empty-handed, with throbbing temples. But that rarely slowed me down! For many years I played a game of hide and seek with the Infinite.

In my early thirties, after one too many life disappointments and on the edge of leaving Christianity, I wrote the following poem about that early experience:

"As a child I believed in the orderliness of God more so than in his Goodness; I watched as the sky twisted itself from light to dark, from shape to void; that’s where God lives, I told myself, before he formed universe.

My child’s mind never thought to look for God inside my young life; he existed beyond the repugnancy of dawn and sunsets; outside of storm and insomniac dreams. Outside of time, where matter had not yet been forced into cruel shapes, it didn’t matter what love was and where it could not be found no matter how hard I concentrated my focus.

With my childhood sky I had an Infinity that had not yet taken on names. With my childhood faith I had God unstaged.

Now, more than three decades after my childhood vigil, and extensive exposure to a number of diverse spiritual approaches, including Incarnational Spirituality, I see those childhood efforts in a brighter light. They were my first attempt at piercing the veil, peering into the unseen realms that Lorian and others refer to as the subtle worlds. Now, it’s hard for me to not feel appreciation and respect towards an early recognition of what to so many people still remains mysterious and invisible.

But of course now I also know we can do more than gaze longingly across the chasm. Surely we can visit those realms and interact within them as easily as we can our neighborhoods, communities, and childhood playgrounds. In fact, more and more scientific research, including a recent experiment in creating and measuring “objective reality”, lends credence to the possibility that what we consider the known, visible world may actually depend upon the vision of the beholder - something that mystics and children have known for eons.  

As I have progressed on my own spiritual journey, my connection with the subtle worlds remains curiously similar to my early voyages. Though I no longer see God living in a house outside of time, or see myself as separate from Divinity, it’s still enjoyable to gaze lovingly into the subtle skies from time to time, hoping to discover a fresh sighting of an old Friend.


Exploring and interacting within the subtle worlds is integral to understanding Incarnational Spirituality. In fact, David Spangler has written a number of books on the topic, but inevitably questions arise:

“What does it actually mean to interact in the subtle worlds?”
“How do I know if what I’m sensing is real?"
“What kind of relationships can humans have with subtle beings?”
“Why do the subtle worlds matter?”

For the next several months, the Lorian blog will explore these and other thoughtful questions in an Incarnational attempt to demystify the inner realms. Topics include: basic principles of engagement in the subtle realms, developing subtle world awareness, adventures on the inner planes, and even marriages to subtle beings. If you have questions you’d like us to consider responding to, feel free to email

From the Archives: The Ultimate Harmony of All Things

Excerpt by David Spangler, Introduction by Drena Griffith

Over the decades David Spangler has written numerous articles, books and instructional material for classes. Many of these books can be purchased online but what of the wealth of resources no longer in print or readily available? "From the Archives" features excerpts from some of these lost treasures--gleaning past insights from David's vast experience as spiritual leader, teacher and scientist of the subtle realms. Some of these teachings pertain to specific past events, yet are still relevant today. The more the world changes, the more it seems we need to be reminded of core truths. So, in that sense, David's words are timeless.

The excerpt below is from the out of print book Conversations with John, a dialogue with one of David's inner contacts. This book specifically views the socio-political and economic issues of the 1980s through a spiritual lens. But the words also hold an immediate relevance and connection to the world as it is now. If you would like to learn more about David’s relationship with “John”, you might enjoy reading Apprenticed to Spirit. —Drena Griffith

The universe works with you and for you. It is not your enemy. Center yourself in the goodness of the universe, and you will meet the challenges of the future. You do not need a spiritual force to tell you of the challenges that you can see. Of course there are dangers of war evident in your world. Of course there are forces that would diminish your freedom, that would seek to manipulate your consciousnesses and your bodies towards their ends. You do not need a spiritual force to point out that these things exist. All you need is the spiritual discernment of your own wisdom and enlightened perception.

What, then, are you going to do about these dangers? You do not need a spiritual force to tell you to seek peace, to nourish freedom, to embody these qualities, and to offer them as gifts to others. You do not need a spiritual force to tell you that many of the values of your society deal with elements of life which really have no value, which do not serve the overall well-being of the world in any way. You do not need a spiritual force to tell you to abandon these elements, or at least put them into a different perspective.

You do not need a spiritual force to tell you that you should seek out different, more holistic and nourishing values. You do not need a spiritual force to tell you you should live in harmony with the land, for if you don't, it is obvious you will suffer the consequences. You do not need a spiritual force to tell you that you should live in harmony with each other, for if you don't, it is obvious your communities will be torn apart.

What we do offer you is an energy and a vision. We see you as being caught in currents of hopelessness and being mesmerized by danger. We would not lessen your perception of or alertness to what you must do to better your world. We would increase your perception of your inner security, protection, and wholeness. We would increase hopefulness, for unless you can overcome your inertia and fear, you have no hope. Unless you can find the inner strength and joy, the stamina and boundless energy to challenge and go beyond your perceived limits, then you risk your worst dreams coming to pass.

The decade that is ahead will challenge you as human beings on all fronts of your lives: physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, economically, socially, politicially. Yet, in the midst of all this, there will be an increasing number of people who will be essentially untouched, who will be sources of protection, security, and new vision, whose energy will go into exploring and creating alternatives. These people will be those who are vessels of our spirit, and of their own high spirit, saying that there is hope and that the future can be recreated in the image of the divine.

The responsibility and challenge which disciples of light face is how to be aligned with this creative effort, how to communicate it, extend it, share it, and demonstrate it. It is your responsibility as human beings to work out for yourselves how to do this. The new age is the age of your spiritual maturity when you do not need us to point out the obvious nor to direct you in living up to your highest; it is an age when we can each offer each other the best of our perspectives and energies and we can co-create together.

In moving through the times ahead, becoming emotionally overwrought at the sins and ills of the world, becoming sympathetic or guilt-ridden about the damage that humans do to each other and to the world will not help you. These are responses of glamor usually born of your attempts to avoid your own pain and transformative energies by focusing on lesser emotions. What is needed is precise, appropriate, skillful, wise, loving, and serene action, thought, and attunement, filled with power and open to the true pain of your time and to the potentials of healing that pain.

That universal spirit, which I call the Christ, pours its limitless spirit upon all peoples, upon the land, and upon your world as a whole. It is up to you to carry that spirit outward into action, thought, and relationship to the best of your abilities. If in so doing you find yourself entering into conflict or confrontation with people, institutions, or forces outside yourself, then do so without conflict in your own heart and mind. Do so without seeing these people as being less than brothers and sisters, but part of your wholeness. Do so without losing your vision of the ultimate harmony of all things.