Seven Blessings For Your World

Essay by Freya Secrest, "Moment of Gratitude" Touch Drawing by Deborah Koff-Chapin

The blessings that we offer the world are not always obvious to us. They can feel so simple and natural that we do not recognize the impact they have. In this season of giving thanks, we invite you to recognize the daily ways you naturally offer your gifts of love and light in the world - thereby enhancing the interconnectedness of all living beings.

The Blessing of Your Attention - "I see you" is a powerful gift of perception that we offer in the world. To focus upon another creates a connection that can empower, uplift and strengthen both the object of your attention and yourself.

The Blessing of Your Respect - Listening or attending deeply to another usually brings us to honor their uniqueness. In our differences we may not always agree, but we can respect other's individuality as well as our own in appropriate, kindhearted ways. Honoring those around us helps to grow the blessing of healthy, nourishing relationships.

The Blessing of Your Appreciation - Appreciation recognizes the part another plays in our interconnected universe. It recognizes someone or something for their qualities and the connections they make in the world. Appreciation shapes a space where differences can work together to co-create blessing.

The Blessing of Your Engagement - When we participate in life, we more naturally invest in and care about those around us, including our homes, our communities and the natural world. We bring our willingness to make positive change into service. We shape intention into action. Committing ourselves to engage, we weave the blessing of shared presence.

The Blessing of Your Trust - Trust emerges out of an honest assessment of our own unique strengths and weaknesses and a recognition and acceptance of those same qualities in others. We offer our real selves and we create the opportunity for others to offer themselves. Trust is a blessing that opens a space for new possibilities to emerge.

The Blessing of Your Joy - Joy touches our world with the gifts of life and vitality. When we are joyful we resonate with the basic song of creation and naturally amplify that life energy to everything about us. Our joy extends the blessing of Beingness itself.

The Blessing of Your Love
- Our daily lives are the field we have in which to discover the essential energies of love. Those energies run wide and deep, smoothing the surface and nourishing the depths of life. We refresh this blessing of love moment by moment as we explore our individual connections within our world.

This holiday season we want you to know how grateful we are for you. We recognize and honor the many ways you reach out to bless and touch our world. Thank you for your participation in Lorian's work and service! Happy Thanksgiving!

Time Presence: Part 2 of 3

Art and Essay by Mary Reddy

A memoir takes a lens to selected moments in a life. More forgiving than an autobiography, memoir acknowledges the possibility of shapeshifting memories. But in either format, the leading player is time. Several of my more vivid childhood memories touch on the concept of time. Let me take you back to when I was seven.

Summer blows through the classroom windows. Six broad wood-framed windows, half-open, allow the breeze to clean our desks and play with our hair. We sit in slightly less orderly fashion than usual, wriggling under the call of freedom and the outdoors. The nun chalks the last few words on the blackboard and for the last time passes back the little booklets with our corrected exercises. It is the final day of second grade, the day before summer break. I will never be in second grade again.

I am suddenly conscious, through the medium of the balmy weather, of moving outside time. I feel myself pulled into a vaster self, looking at time as though I were outside or above it. From that perspective, my state as a seven-year old feels like an important brush stroke in a larger canvas or a fragment of colored glass essential to the makeup of a beautiful stained-glass window. My adult future sends warmth back to me. How wonderful to feel affection and support from my own future self! When I inevitably and all too soon lose that expansive consciousness, I find myself treasuring the present bright afternoon and feeling a swell of relief that the tortures of second grade will soon be history. And some curiosity lingers about the adult I will grow into.

Why are moments like these rare? I’ve always felt that it stems from the necessity of immersion. We need to feel the emotions, the responsibility, the capacity to choose and in that way alter the course of our future. One of my favorite songwriters, Jason Isbell, said it this way when asked about a song he’d written called “If Were We Vampires.” He spoke of re-examining his notions about mortality. “I realized that to write a love song, you have to write a death song. Love doesn’t mean as much without death. If I agree to marry someone, that’s a big risk, because I only have one life. … I’m giving her the most valuable thing I have: my time.”

The consequences of our decisions occur in time. We manifest our wishes in time. We long for love and peace. And in the imagining of what that love might feel like, we create a vector toward the future. All this while navigating enormous numbers of small moments, thousands of interactions with others, millions of intakes and outflows of breath. This time-bounded state seems to be intimately connected to being in bodies. Our hearts hold us in time, keeping time with each beat. Our bodies place us in a ‘where’ as well as a ‘when.’ Whenever I have felt pulled out into an expansive timeless state, it began when I was fully in my body and fully in the present moment, with the breeze lifting my hair, in the stillness of a starry night, or feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin.

So incarnation, embodiment, and time are intricately woven together. In pondering our relationship to time, I began to see us humans as time magicians. If only because that phrase implies the immense creative power we wield in living each moment. Another favorite songwriter of mine, Joanna Newsom, in “Time as a Symptom,” sings “But stand brave, life liver, bleeding out your days in the river of time, stand brave. Time moves both ways.” We are brave, to take on this life! And each moment that we wield our sword or our magic staff—whether gently, in happiness or in sorrow, whether fiercely, in anger or grief—we magically amend the past and alter the future.

-

One of David Spangler’s subtle colleagues confirmed that time is a powerful incarnational tool, kindly sharing these thoughts:

“Time is a gift given to those in incarnation. It is a mode of perception that allows for an intensification of experience and fine management of outcomes. I don't know exactly how to explain the difference to you between time as I know it and as you experience it, but in a way, it's as if it allows you to enter into the wholeness of an experience and perceive its innards, so to speak. The experience of time is much slower for you than it is for us as it is broken down into moments in ways we do not experience. If events were food, it's as if we absorb it directly and immediately whereas you have to cut it up and chew it into small bits and then digest it before it becomes part of you. We are both nourished by the food in our own ways, but you experience it differently and in greater intensity.”

As incarnate humans, we are invited into the wholeness of each moment, whether its meaning is mundane, exalting, challenging, or traumatic. Incarnational spirituality properly emphasizes our presence here on earth, encompassing relationships within ourselves—with our personality and our own soul—and outwardly with the human community and the earth of which we are part. Imagine adding the element of time to this conscious affirmation of our place in the world. Being present can mean simply being here, not elsewhere. But being present in the moment adds the quality of knowing where we are in time. These two awarenesses are inseparable. If we detach from the present moment, especially if it is to flee the full experience of something painful, how can we claim our presence? We are no longer here.

These musings on time can get convoluted. Because, of course, in some present moments we must be considering future plans. Stepping into and out of the flow of moments may be part of that very human “fine management of outcomes’ that David’s colleague described. This is the magic we wield: being fully our presence in the present. This moment is your life.

Time Magicians: Part 1 of this essay can be found here.

Walking With Giants: Experiences From the Co-Creative Spirituality Conference

By Freya Secrest

Over 200 people participated in our recent conference, Co-Creative Spirituality: Shaping Our Future with the Unseen Worlds, co-sponsored with the Findhorn Foundation. There were an additional 50 people who joined us through online streaming. It was rich and energetic event.

Each morning during the conference, we took time to stand in our own “inner light” and invite our colleagues of the subtle, unseen realms to join us in the day’s exploration. I found I had a clear sense of these unseen attendees which heightened as the conference unfolded. It was not a visual or auditory experience, but I noticed them through a lightening of spirit, an increasing sense of joy and a more expansive awareness.

The conference was structured as a journey into different realms of our Gaian field, to allow each participant to shape more of a felt experience of our subtle partners. Morning plenary sessions introduced different territories - the Sidhe world, the nature kingdoms, and our human constructed worlds being the main "continents" one could "visit". Then the afternoon workshops, or passport sessions,allowed participants to further explore a particular area of interest to them. Individuals could work in the garden, try out a new approach to connecting with the angelic or devic realms of nature. or explore portals of sound and music to shape a connection to the Sidhe realms. Or they could journey to learn more about communicating with animal and other shamanic realms or discover ways to understand our connection to the techno-elemental world. The possibilities were wide and rich.

One of my experiences with our unseen planetary colleagues occurred during a presentation by Vance Martin, President of the Wild Foundation, and Timothy Hass, Lorian Teacher who partners with Vance to integrate work with the subtle realms and on-the-ground environmental activism. They shared a short video on elephants done by Ian McCallum and First Light Films. It brought the essence of elephant so strongly into the Universal Hall. It was not a documentary, it was an ‘a-tune-amentary’, connecting us with the world of elephant and allowing us to share in a felt experience of their connection with the world. The script was this poem by Ian McCallum:


Elephants *

To walk in the wake of elephants,
To be small in a world of giants,
To learn the spore of silence and the deep, rumbling eloquence of kin.
To move in the skin of elephants.
To feel the alliance of sand, the contours of land and the far-reaching pull of water,
To be alive to the sway of elephants
To remember the songs of seasons, ancient lines of migrations and loosen your reasons for fences.
To wake up the web of intelligence, to the wild origins of sentience.
To find your voice and raise it, that others may raise theirs for elephants.


Between the rhythm of the poem and the rhythm of the elephants, I was brought closer to the world of elephant and they were brought closer (energetically and subtly) into ours. The room was quiet for a moment. I felt we were all touched by our exchange of energy and spirit with this Gaian neighbor. To me this exchange of love is so much the heart of any subtle encounter, any co-created experience. Wonderful too that technology could help to co-create such a deep meeting!

Another specific moment of flow between unseen and physical worlds happened for me when Kurikindi, an Ecuadorian shaman, led our closing blessing. He used only a rattle made of leaves and gentle vocal sounds and whistles. I had a sense we were joined by many beings of the rainforest in blessing our gathering’s co-creative intent. I learned after that a number of people had a similar sense of specific beings who came present. What felt important to me was that we all together built a field that gave space for a collective offering to the planet.

In the midst of the expected intermingling and networking amongst attendees throughout the conference, there was an underlying spirit of fellowship and well-being. As the days unfolded, an increasing sense of joy blossomed in the overall field of activity in the conference. The energies of hope, appreciation and connectedness were anchored through the directed attention and intention of a whole conference of people in concert with beings of nature and other life. Our pathways of connectedness were heightened with the support of our unseen colleagues. I noticed it in myself and heard others speak to the same experience. We were all more available to each other as planetary co-creators.

I left the Co-Creative Spirituality Conference feeling strongly that a more active practice of honoring and appreciating the life within Unseen Realms will allow our collective planetary wholeness to shine forth. We are connected. Each morning began with the invitation for each of us to “stand on our own inner land”. Bringing those lands together throughout the day in our awareness and attention, even for that short time, multiplied creative energy on all sides. Now back at home, those creative connections continue to weave into my life activity as I notice and harmonize with the rhythms of life around me and attend to and appreciate the uniqueness and tempo of my own note in the world’s song.

*
Click here to watch "In the Tracks of Giants." Also, if you're interested in viewing recordings from the Co-Creative Spirituality Conference, Findhorn Foundation is currently offering the livestream package at half-price. Click here for more details.

DAVID'S DESK #138 - ZOMBIES

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 ©2018 by David Spangler. If you no longer wish to receive these letters, please let us know at info@Lorian.org.

I want to write about zombies. Why zombies, of all things? A couple of reasons. First, I thought you might like to read about something different from all the social and political upheaval and conflict going on this month here in the United States. And second, I’d like to celebrate Halloween, one of my favorite times of the year. In an election season that seems filled with nothing but tricks, it’s nice to think of giving away treats!

I realize that Halloween is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I have always loved the spookiness of it, the dressing up in costumes, the groups of children trick or treating, the decorations that can turn an ordinary house into a borderland between the realm of the living and the subtle regions beyond the physical world.

Since our children have grown up and gone on to homes of their own, we don’t decorate as lavishly as we used to. A few ghosts and skeletons strategically placed in windows here and there, and that’s about it. Nothing as elaborate as the zombies I once had clawing their way out of graves we’d created on our front lawn.

Ah, zombies. They’re very popular these days. “Zombie apocalypse” has become part of our cultural lexicon. The Walking Dead is one of the most popular shows on television. One can make, and many have, all kinds of analyses about what this means in our collective psychology and the metaphorical significance of the surge in zombie-ness as it relates to popular sensibilities. Simon Pegg, the British actor, has produced a classic zombie satire, Shawn of the Dead. In one brilliant scene in the movie, you see dozens of commuters going mindlessly to their jobs, and in the next scene, the zombie apocalypse having struck overnight, you see dozens of zombies moving mindlessly about—and there’s no difference between the two groups! The same blank stares, the same aimless motions, the same lack of vitality and life characterize both.

Modern zombies, though, are not the same as the ones I encountered in classic ghost stories when I was growing up. In those stories, part of the horror lay in the fact that you didn’t know what was animating the dead. What mysterious force brought corpses back to life? It was supernatural, through and through. Further, zombies didn’t arise in mindless hordes, seeking human brains as a late-night snack. The zombies I read about were solitary for the most part and, like a heat-seeking missile, were aimed at a specific person or group. They rose for retribution or to right a wrong. They were payback for someone who had violated justice in the universe. They were instruments of karma, rebalancing something that had gone out of whack due to someone’s actions. The laws of life and death were overturned because someone had done something to overturn the moral laws governing creation. (A classic, and wonderfully understated, example of this is "The Monkey’s Paw", a short story by W.W. Jacobs, first published in 1902.)

Modern zombies, though, are a disease. A supernatural or moral reason for the dead to rise doesn’t fit well into modern sensibilities. We want a rational cause, a technological explanation. We’ve banished the supernatural as a cause for fear and substituted science and technology in its place. Therefore, the zombie apocalypse is a pandemic.

It used to be the zombie was a force of nature, left unexplained. When a child on Halloween dressed up as a zombie, he or she became a supernatural creature. Now, they’re just a plague victim. The modern zombie is someone infected with a virus. Further, unlike the classic zombie who returns to the grave once justice has been meted out, the modern zombie can be cured or at least stopped, if only the right antiviral medicine can be discovered. The misuse of science visits horror upon us, but the right use of science can restore order and normalcy. All very rational.

This makes zombies a medical phenomenon, strange and horrible, yes, but ultimately explainable. Science and technology may have gone wrong, but they are familiar, part of the world we know. The modern zombie is frightening and dangerous; it can kill you. But so can cancer, or ebola, or the flu. It’s a danger that can be met and understood and potentially overcome with the right knowledge. We may be threatened but our worldview is not. The classic zombie, however, was a force of mystery from another world altogether, one beyond reason and science. This made it far more unsettling, for it demanded a revision of our worldview. It proclaimed the existence of the irrational and the unexplainable. Society doesn’t think in these terms much anymore, which is why our modern zombies are, well, pedestrian and ordinary, products of moral relativism even while being decaying and horrific.

I’m writing in generalities here, and I’m hardly an expert on zombie literature and films. But these are my impressions. I bring them up not simply because I’m getting into a Halloween spirit, but because I think this shift tells us something important.

The zombies I read about growing up were agents of a living universe. They could exist because in some manner the world itself was magical and alive in ways humans didn’t fully understand. The modern zombie, though, truly is the walking dead because we see the world itself as dead: unliving matter to be used however we see fit and never mind the consequences. Now, with climate change and other environmental challenges, we see this “dead” world rising up to confront us.

Our image of apocalypse, whether caused by zombies or something else, is one of destruction and collapse. The familiar world is torn down, and yet, fundamentally, it remains the familiar world, though with a new element—the walking dead—within it. These zombies are a disease, and we can think of them in those terms.

But the word “apocalypse” originally meant “revelation,” the gaining of new knowledge that changed how we thought and saw the world. An old order based on different conceptions might come to an end as a result of this new knowledge but not necessarily in destructive ways.

We face challenges in the world—poverty, corruption, a dehumanizing greed, terrorism, disease, climate change, to name a few—that are more horrible than anything that will knock on my door today and yell “Trick or Treat!” Meeting these challenges calls for a true apocalypse in the form of new ideas, new vision, new knowledge, a different way of understanding ourselves and our role in the context of a living world. This would be less a “zombie apocalypse” than an “awakening to life” apocalypse, as the argument could be made that we are the zombies now, shuffling towards the end of a civilization and eating our own brains as we go.

Time Magicians: Part 1 of 3

Image and Essay by Mary Reddy

Lately I have been pondering time. I’m old enough to look back on decades of experience. And I long to distill the essence of certain moments in my history as an offering to my children. So I am writing a memoir. The way women once constructed quilts out of patches of old worn garments, I am snatching time here and there to describe memories that are lodged in my heart. Someday, I hope to string these moments together, like a rosary of beads tracing the story of my life.

In one of my life fragments, I am five or six years old, squatting on the edge of a suburban Texas curb, my arms wrapped around my legs. The land and houses and concrete stretch out around me like flat bread baking in the Texas sun. I see brown grass or unplanted dirt yards, newly built ranch houses, newly planted young trees—not another person in sight. And above it all an endless blue sky—not a cloud in sight.

Maybe it was the sensation of all that space, hot and still. I don’t know but suddenly I was simultaneously aware of my own legs, the curb, the street, the heat of the day—but also of a vaster self inhabiting a very different space/time. The sensation was powerful, there and then gone again. I had just experienced “more” of me, beyond the little girl I was, beyond the hot summer morning slowly drifting toward midday. I remember staring up toward the endless blue and wondered where was I before I was here right now?

We humans live in time but how much do we know about time, really? The sun and moon count out the rhythm of our days and nights and their positions around our earth dance us through the seasons. Because we live with intimate awareness of the ticking of the clock, can talk about our plans for the coming week, and can name where we were the moment we heard about the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers, we proceed as though we understand time. We don’t waste time wondering about it. What we did yesterday is written in stone, what we’ll do tomorrow is a guess—though perhaps a well-informed one. If we wonder about time, it may only be to wonder how much we have left. Is there more sand in the bottom of our hourglass than at the top?

Over the centuries, scientists and philosophers have examined time more intently than those of us just trying to keep our schedules straight. To put it simply, Aristotle proposed that time does not exist independently of events. If nothing happens, there is no time; time is change. Isaac Newton, on the other hand, described an absolute time which ticks away in a void even in the absence of any event. Is time really that definite, irreversible, and inescapable? Albert Einstein cracked open the established wisdom by describing the relative subjectivity of time. Our clocks appear to tick at different speeds in different places.

Mystics know time differently. Shamans enter altered states where they travel into the past, forward to the future, or into worlds where our time does not apply. The plasticity of time has been a common thread over the centuries—for example, in stories of human-faery encounters, where a person’s hour-long visit to the land of the faery might actually take years in human time. And in dreams, in mystic reveries, or sitting on a curb in a Texas suburb, we can feel as though we’ve left time behind to enter other realms.

A theoretical physicist, Carlo Rovelli, has been studying how to join a quantum-physics view of time with Einstein’s relativity. In his book, The Order of Time, he suggests that there are no things, only events. Ephrat Livni reviewed the book and put it this way, “Even what might seem like a thing—a stone, say—is really an event taking place at a rate we can’t register. The stone is in a continual state of transformation, and on a long enough timeline, even it is fleeting, destined to take on some other form.”

Rovelli believes the more you widen your scope to look at the universe, the less relevant your human sense of time becomes. As I understand it, the more micro you go, down to the levels of unseeable particles, the less you can measure time. The same seems to be true of the macro. In Rovelli’s eyes, the time we all agree on and experience daily is a human construct.

In my eyes, rather than a limit to struggle against, time is an instrument we can play with creatively. Maybe time is one of our magic powers. In this moment—now—our identity, sovereignty, and presence engage in relationship with the rest of the world. How we interact with each moment of our lives constitutes how we wield that human tool of time.

I picture it like this: I am a time magician. I funnel my lived time through this small cylinder or tube which is the present moment. I hold that small cylinder in my hand. A great flood of all potential past events must narrow itself enough to fit through my cylinder. Coming out the opposite end, the narrow stream of the present moment expands vigorously into a flood of all potential future events. As I move this cylinder high or low, here or there, I alter not only the direction of the flood coming out in front of me (the future) but I alter the direction of that coming in from behind (the past). The slightest shift in my conscious engagement with the present moment can magically alter the flow of what comes next.

This excites me—every ‘now’ that I encounter carries the promise of change. Will I move the cylinder in the direction of great delight and wonder? Or is it a moment where I must hold it steady to channel grief over an acknowledged loss? Where can I direct the flow? How much love can I tap into Now as I channel the flow?

I reached out to David Spangler to see if he had a unique IS perspective on time. Several of his subtle colleagues came forward with comments about how we experience time in a uniquely human way. I will share their comments in future blogs. In the meantime, I’m eager to hear your time stories and/or your emotions about time, dear readers.

DAVID'S DESK #137 - EM-POWER

There is a power that each of us has which can make possible a positive and abundant future for all of us and for the world as a whole. There’s nothing magical or esoteric about it. It is available to us every day, and many people do make a point of using it. But it can be overlooked because it operates on a different scale and in a different way from how we usually think about power.

I think most of us would understand power as the ability to accomplish something, a force to make something happen or to get something done. This might be muscular power to physically implement one’s will, or intellectual power to persuade and compel. It might be the power that wealth brings or political or social status. It might be power granted by an organization such as the government or the military.

Whatever its source, power is seen as a capacity to impose, to compel someone or something else to do what I want. Power becomes a commodity that is not equally shared in a zero-sum game where there are winners and losers. Some people have it and some people don’t, and in most human societies, the latter are far more numerous than the former, which, of course, leads to abuses and imbalances in human relationships.

Because of the consequences that can follow when one is on the receiving end of power in the service of dominance, we seek after it so that we won’t be subject to those consequences. This quest for power can itself become fraught with destructive and hurtful results. We can descend into a social-Darwinian mindset in which only the most powerful can survive, much less prosper. We favor competition over cooperation.

The power to impose is inherently insecure because the foundation on which that power rests can change or disappear. As a commodity, power can be won or lost. I can amass a fortune and then lose it. I can be elected to a political office and then be defeated in the next election. I can work out in a gym and develop a powerful physique and lose it to an accident or illness. I can occupy a favored demographic position and then lose it to changing population dynamics or social norms.

The power that I’m referring to, though, is different. For one thing, it can never be lost; we always possess it. We may choose not to use it, but we cannot lose it. For another, we all possess it equally. Some do not have more of it while others have less. It is not based on wealth, social status, organizational membership, race, religion, gender, or any of the many other means by which we usually measure the presence of power. It is not a commodity, and its use is not part of a zero-sum game. It does not produce winners and losers, only winners.

Broadly speaking, this is our power to choose how we relate and connect to others. The results of such choices always affect someone else or the world around us. The scale of the effect may seem small, but it is never inconsequential; in fact, the consequences can ripple out widely, often beyond our ability to foresee or to know.

We are constantly affecting each other through our thoughts and feelings and the behavior towards one another that they inspire. I don’t have to have a dollar in my pocket to give you a compliment that may brighten your day, for instance. I don’t have to have any special social status to treat you with kindness.

While a competitive society bids us struggle to be “in power,” a holistic society that can bring wholeness and healing into the world bids us to develop the skill to “empower.” This means using the power of my presence to enhance your experience of the power of your own presence.

I like the word “empower” to describe this capacity we all have to engage with one another in mutually supportive and beneficial ways, ways that make each of us a winner. However, when we think of being empowering, I would like us to think of it as more than just giving something—our own power, perhaps—to someone else or of doing something beneficial for them. These things can certainly be helpful, but there’s a deeper potential at work here.

To describe this deeper power we each have, let me introduce a hyphen to “empower” and turn it into “em-power.” This could be seen as short for “emergent power.” This is the power—the capacities—that emerge when two or more people connect through mutual respect, sharing, and cooperation. This power doesn’t belong to anyone but arises within everyone. It is the power of synergy, a power of wholeness. It draws out the best in all who participate.

This is not an abstraction by any means. Anyone who has been part of a successful team knows what this is like. Being part of a group whose members mindfully and deliberately work to support each other and draw out the best in each other is a joyful and profoundly empowering experience. Now imagine if the team was humanity itself, all of us learning to both stand in our individual sovereignty and power and be empowering with each other, allowing a power of wholeness to emerge from our connectedness.

The ability to em-power is always part of us. We exercise it when we choose to honor another and deal with him or her respectfully and with a desire to discover the power we can unfold through our cooperation and kindness. We lose it when we seek to dominate, to go from being empowering to being in power.

The shift from struggling for power as a commodity to enjoying and nourishing emergent power in which everyone is benefitted is the shift that I feel humanity is struggling with at this time in our history. Empowerment—or em-powerment—goes beyond how we relate to each other and defines how we relate to and empower our world. It is what I call a holopoietic power, the power to create wholeness. Nothing, it seems to me, is more needed on our planet today. The important thing—the hopeful thing—is that we don’t have to seek for this power; it is not available only to a few. It is always present in the heart of each of us.

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.

Lessons in Mirror May Be Closer Than They Appear

Last week I nearly lost my car — and in the midst of discomfort recovered some valuable lessons in being human.

On Tuesday evening, thieves broke into my 2006 Subaru. I awoke to a broken hood, disabled alarm and the car’s ignition switch dangling from the steering column. All things considered, I’m lucky I woke up to any car at all! Ironically, at the beginning of this month I moved from an apartment complex in a deteriorating part of my community to a private garden level on the other side of town.

On the surface the situation unfolds as one might expect: expensive repairs and unexpected delays, not to mention the need to purchase an immobilizer to ward off future theft attempts (apparently older model Subarus are blue light specials to thieves because they deliver high value in the stolen car market and are relatively easy to steal).

No one appreciates a violation of their personal space, and I’m certainly no exception — but at the same time, as a person who looks upon the world with spiritual eyes, I cannot help asking the question, “What might I learn from this situation?”.

I tend to approach all difficulties, especially unexpected life occurrences, as opportunities for reflection. Having said that, this situation in particular has not been easy. For one thing, it’s been a long year. Seems like one life-learning opportunity after another has steadily piled itself outside my door.

Though it pains me to admit it, on some level I’ve been waiting for all of these unexpected deliveries from the universe to magically dematerialize so that I could shake off the dust, all lessons learned. If pressed, of course I would never suggest that there ever comes any point in time when people, no matter how spiritual, become immune to occurrences of life. Did I buy into the idea that the spiritual path might itself be a protection against upset, inconvenience, pain — even temporarily?

When I confessed these feelings to a friend, she said, wisely, “Drena, I think you need to...expand your perceptions.” So I did.

For the past several days I’ve been sitting with the situation, reflecting upon it and allowing it to communicate with me as I would a loved one. The opportunity to expand our perceptions is perhaps the real gift of any difficulty we face. In my case, widening the view has revealed some unexpected insights.

First off, the practical, grounded view — everything is a tradeoff.

In connecting with my new neighbors, I’ve learned there’s a higher rate of car theft in this safe, upper-middle class environment. Vehicles are regularly trashed and tousled for valuables. “No matter how safe, this is still urban America”, a new acquaintance offered wryly.

Conversely, the working class complex I left had a higher rate of social violence. In fact, safety became the decisive issue inspiring my relocation. So now it seems I’ve traded one concern for another. With full awareness I can assess and accept this new risk because it was my choice to move, just as it is my choice to live in such a large city to begin with. Grounding my perspective in the particular details of my environment allows me to stand in a space of empowerment, rather than victimization.

Which leads to my second, more spiritual view — choice is the apex of Incarnational Spirituality.

If we strip Lorian principles down to their wires, then we must acknowledge that, at the core, every being reveals the power of incarnation. Every person inherently possesses a spark of the impulse (that some call God, Source, the Sacred, the Divine, Big Bang, etc) which infuses creation.

But if this is true, then how do we account for the seemingly endless list of examples of human beings misusing their spark? What separates the villains from the saints?

Actually, Julie Spangler and I debate these finer points on occasion, and this is the place where we inevitably get stuck. If everyone and everything reveals the sacred impulse of God, then at what point does Incarnational Spirituality become a practice rather than an idea?

Simply stated, at the point of choice.

Choice is the crux of sovereignty. We each get access to an assortment of decisions and possibilities. My spiritual practice is revealed by how I carry myself through the world, not by how the world interacts with me.

Especially in the metaphysical community, I think there’s an assumption that the more spiritual we are, the smoother our lives tend to flow. Or, stated another way, the better we are at our spirituality, the less impact the material world will have on us. We tend to approach the difficulties of life as symptoms of spiritual “dis-ease.” If we’re sick, it’s because we have unresolved childhood issues calcifying in our bodies. If we’re poor, it’s due to unreleased beliefs around scarcity. If bad things happen to us, then we’re clearly doing something wrong, and there are any number of meditations, reflections, tinctures, readings and healers to help us get back on the right track! Certainly, any and all situations can be opportunities to heal, to improve and to reassess — but as the old saying goes, “The rain falls on the just and the unjust.”

So what if difficulties are occasions to practice making choices which ultimately can inspire us, and those around us, to live meaningful, more purposeful lives?

Which culminates into my final, aerial view: how we choose to interpret and live in the world mirrors back to the world.

Regularly, I do check-ins with colleagues on the healing path; this past weekend we connected and I opened up about the car theft and other recent stresses. It was pointed out that I have difficulty receiving. “You are someone capable of giving, but you don’t allow yourself to receive from others. You need to learn how to ask for help and to let others care for you.”

Confession: for a moment I thought, somewhat sardonically, So...the universe let my car get broken into and nearly stolen and now I’m saddled with a thousand dollars in repairs so that I can learn how to...receive?

But I shook these thoughts off because, well, the universe didn’t cause anything to happen to my car. Life happened to my car. (Or, rather, thieves happened upon my car conveniently located on the corner.)

In considering the point my colleagues made, though, I had to admit that it’s true I don’t like asking for assistance. Needing help does make me uncomfortable. Initially, waking up last week to a stripped car felt like the final straw. More so than a violation of space, it seemed like an attack upon my independence and ability to take responsibility for my own needs so that I could…

avoid reaching out for others?

So, relaxing into this discomfort, I gazed into the proverbial mirror held up before me and noticed a number of peripheral blessings:

Upon learning about the break-in and attempted theft, my boyfriend immediately rearranged his schedule to be of assistance.

I had to cancel several appointments at the last minute and my clients and friends were kind and understanding.

I received a referral for a towing company that offered a generous rate; also, in spite of the damage and state of the car, the tow itself went smoothly, without any glitches.

My regular mechanic kept the car for several days and ultimately wasn’t able to get the parts to complete the repair; yet he helped me get the car to a specialty Subaru shop and did not charge me any fee.

The Subaru shop loaned me a Forester to drive while they repair the damage.

Last week I chose to park my car on the street outside my new apartment. Last week car thieves (thankfully, unsuccessfully) chose to steal it. Ever since then friends and clients and mechanics and tow truck drivers and colleagues have made choices that continue supporting me. And I get to choose to receive these blessings and hidden gifts.

I also get to choose to interact with this experience in a way that affirms the world, not as I wish it to be, but as I want to be.

From this vantage point, it seems impossible to not recognize the truth that how we see the events of our lives impacts the quality and care we bring to every moment. Ultimately I think the point of an incarnational spiritual practice is to willingly partake in the risks of being human and in the process to recognize that we can change the world by giving it the opportunity to impact us.

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

Fullness of Incarnation

By David Spangler

Editor's Note: This blog post is an excerpt from the upcoming issue of David's quarterly journal Views from the Borderland.


There is no question that we are living through a challenging time in our history. Climate change alone would be a major danger to deal with, one demanding our full attention and response, but there are so many other problems confronting us as well. I don’t need to enumerate them; simply watching the evening news for a week shows us a world struggling to find balance, struggling to change, or just plain struggling.

What I want to explore in this issue is how we can navigate this time in partnership with the subtle worlds. More precisely, I want to share how I navigate it personally, given the worldview I’ve been sharing these past seven years in this journal. Of course, our individual situations, capabilities, and connections in life are unique, and we each need to discover what works for us. My approach may not work for you. But like cooks sharing recipes and cooking tips in the kitchen, it can be helpful when one person shares his or her “tricks of the trade” with others.

To be clear, this issue is not about subtle activism per se. We’ve talked about that in past journals. It is certainly a related topic, and you can find more information on it in my book, Working with Subtle Energies. Lorian also has classes on that subject.

What I have in mind here is something both more personal and more universal, not focused upon any specific event, need, or opportunity in the world. The question underlying this issue of Views springs from letters I received this summer asking me generally how a person could make a difference, or more simply, cope with what is happening in the world.

Although these letters were inspired by specific events happening in the world over the past few months, the question their writers asked is one I am often asked, usually by people feeling both overwhelmed by the seeming immensity of the problems facing us and, at the same time, called to be of service. It’s a question I face in my own life, and it’s one that I’ve put to my subtle colleagues as well from time to time.

In this issue of Views, I’d I want to begin, though, with a few thoughts about Incarnational Spirituality.

Incarnational Spirituality

The development of Incarnational Spirituality is something to which I’ve devoted my entire life. As those who have read my memoir, Apprenticed to Spirit, or have followed my work over the years, know, Incarnational Spirituality is the externalization of a project within the subtle worlds. The primary purpose of this project is to liberate people from thought-forms of limitation and separation based on being in embodiment and to empower them to recognize, celebrate, and use sacred resources that are inherent within them as incarnate individuals. As such, its unfoldment and manifestation in the world are the product of many minds and hearts both here and in the subtle realms, not all of which are identified with Lorian or with Incarnational Spirituality as I present it. It is at heart a proclamation of a human heritage and identity, something that belongs to everyone.

Lorian already offers a plethora of books and classes, with more on the way, on our approach to Incarnational Spirituality, so I’m not going to go into details about it here; it’s also been the subject of previous issues of this journal. But there are three ideas I want to share as they provide a context both for the comments of my subtle colleagues and for my own insights and perspective.

The first is that incarnation—the act of a soul taking on physical embodiment—is fundamentally a sacred act. That is, the principles and powers that enable it to happen are the same as brought the universe itself into being, stemming ultimately from an act of love and will. This makes each person a manifestation of sacredness whatever the expression or outcome of their life may be. Each of us matters! Each of us is valuable.

The second idea is that we come into life with a toolbox of subtle and spiritual resources. Love and Sovereignty—our ability to choose and to express agency—form the key that opens this toolbox.

The third principle is that the world we incarnate into and therefore inhabit exists in both physical and subtle dimensions; consequently, our incarnation embraces both these dimensions as well. There is no such thing as a purely physical incarnation. All incarnation is “bi-dimensional,” a taking on of an integrated system that is a combination of both a physical and a subtle body. By forgetting or denying this, we operate as partial people, stumbling in the dark even as we think we are seeing where we’re going. Learning to engage with subtle energies and the subtle environments around us isn’t an excursion into an other world; it is a reclamation of our other half.

The fullness of incarnation is to embrace all aspects of our presence on Earth, not just those of our physical and psychological natures, as long as we do so with integration and balance.

Curious about more of David's perspective on the subtle worlds? Click here for more information and to subscribe to Views from the Borderland.

Questions

By Freya Secrest

When I was in high school I didn’t like questions. Asking a question felt like showing my ignorance and that made me uncomfortable. My home environment had put more emphasis on finding answers. A good question was one with a specific and defined response that I could produce quickly.

That changed in high school. I remember my 11th grade Government class discussions where the favored question was one that evoked a dialogue. “Good” questions in that classroom were those that moved beyond a specific and obvious answer and invited discussion. I distinctly remember the sense of accomplishment I felt when I finally asked a question that was given the label “a good question.” It generated a dialogue around our experience of a democratic principle rather than an answer memorized from a book.

Then in college I was faced with questions that had no objective answer or goal of dialogue, but aimed to evoke more of an individual subjective reflection. That is when I first was introduced to this quote from Rainer Maria Rilke in his book Letters to a Young Poet:

…I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

Living into questions – that was a whole new connection that my previous schooling had not really developed. I was intrigued, but it was still just an idea and a bit mysterious. I wasn’t particularly good at asking questions with patience and certainly not good at taking time at that point of my life to live into them, as Rilke suggests.

My ease with questions has grown as I have gotten older.  It has become more of a life-long process than I anticipated. I have developed more appreciation for the distinction between the inquiry that a "dialogue" question could help to shape or expand and an "answer-oriented" question which could lead to a solution for an immediate issue. And I have gradually found more ease with taking the time I need to acknowledge my questions and to “live with” them.

What I notice now as a growing point for my questioning is the way in which I am learning to not just “live with” my questions, but to “live into” them in order for an answer to emerge. This process, living into questions, is becoming clearer for me. I have observed the process requires that I am clear about what is true for me currently in a situation and then standing honestly and openly in that place. From there I can let myself be curious about what else is around. This has built a new relationship with questions and it unfolds from a place of curiosity and my own interest in newness, rather than from meeting others’ expectations.

This new connection to questions is helping me to find my way of living the answers. In this connection the focus shifts from a relationship to the question, into testing my relationship with an answer and noticing if it increases a sense of coherence in me. For example, my husband and I have been looking for a new house to be closer to family. In visiting houses for sale, I hold the question, “How does the envisioned image of living in this house and neighborhood feel in my body? Does it bring a sense of openness or hope?” With the understanding that there are many possible responses, this living into a question helps me to recognize and in the end expand my place of ease with what is true and coherent for me.

Also, I am noticing my attention focuses around the connection between the questions themselves and answers that emerge; there is an attitude of possibility that holds them together within a wider field of interest. To really hold a question over time requires me to entertain a spirit of invitation to both question and answer– a spacious field of potential within myself that facilitates something to emerge from their interaction.

At this layer of inquiry, I find I hold more of a frame of “we” rather than “them” or “me”. There is an ecology of question and answer that is made up of all aspects and participants in an issue. I am interested in letting new information emerge both within myself and within another and any answer must somehow include all involved. In the example of my search for a new house this means I am not focused only on the house itself, or my perceived needs. I begin to think of the way I can relate to the world when living in the overall environment of that particular house; the natural world in that location; animal and human neighbors; what I can contribute to the overall ecology; and what I can learn and how that new relationship will shape my activity and my attention. With this I am called to live into the whole ecology of an answer and with the ripples that reverberate (as far as I can see and feel) from that particular configuration. It involves relating to overall facts, to where I can stand and contribute, and to how I can recognize and support other needs and truths in the situation.

This third layer of questioning is the one I am actively exploring in my life right now. Such questions do not shift me away from a responsibility to settle upon an answer and take action;instead they widen the circle of resources and responses I can draw upon. I have come to understand my questions now as invitations that serve to open up possibility for my future. And answers are about discovering the ground I can stand upon to build that future.


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

Reconciling India

By Susan Beal

My husband, David, and I, went to India for two weeks in December. Siddhant, a beloved exchange student we hosted many years ago, was getting married. His family arranged for us to spend a week with them for the wedding festivities. We decided to spend a second week at a spiritual community planned around utopian ideals that we hoped would be restful after the wedding week.

There is little to rival the beauty and splendor of an Indian wedding. It was an overwhelmingly sensual experience – food rich with ghee and spices, henna paste painted in intricate designs onto our hands, trumpets and drums beating out wedding cadences, riotous dancing in the blazing sun, dazzlingly embellished clothing – everything swirling and teeming with colors, sounds, flavors and textures so unlike our quiet life in rural Vermont.

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As Sid’s “American parents” we were welcomed as honored guests and treated like family. We participated in pre-wedding rituals we barely understood, were fed more Gujarati wedding food than we could handle, and were loaned traditional clothing so we were properly attired. Everyone wanted to meet us and tell us stories about Siddhant and his family or ask us how we liked India. Despite cultural differences between traditional Indian and American weddings, there were enough similarities to provide context and give us an emotional anchor. Through it all, we felt supported and protected by the warm hospitality of Siddhant’s family. And had we returned home at the end of that week, our trip to India might simply have been a delightful, if at times overstimulating, experience.

But as soon as we left for the Chennai airport and boarded the plane for Pondicherry, we had no one to mediate or interpret the intensity of India for us. I hadn’t realized how much the energy field of Siddhant’s family had buffered us from the psychic and sensory extremes of India. The sheer sensory overload began to catch up to me as soon as we left, not only from the wedding week, but from the scenery that flashed by us in disturbing polarities: ancient temples, ornately carved; gaunt, hard-faced women cooking meals for their children on rubble-strewn sidewalks; waves glittering on the Bay of Bengal; waiflike child beggars tapping on car windows; glossy cows strolling majestically through green fields; mounds of plastic trash tangled in the roots of banyan trees.

I suspect many of the readers of this blog, like me, are very sensitive to energies and environmental influences. I’m particularly sensitive to sound. I’m used to mostly natural sounds in Vermont—wind, birds, the sound of the brook, an occasional passing car. India was teeming with people, colors, noises, and smells unlike anything at home. The racket in India exacerbated the difficulty of taking in so many unfamiliar sights. The cacaphony of two-stroke rickshaw engines, diesel engines, blaring horns, barking dogs, rattling air conditioners, cement drills, and jack hammers made it hard to find my own center.

Despite my sensitivity, David and I are easy-going people. Normally we’d have taken such things in stride as an expected part of adventure in a new place. But we also knew we’d need down time to maintain our equilibrium. We thought we’d arranged for just that—a quiet, contemplative week to digest the wedding experience. Instead, the community we’d hoped would be peaceful and welcoming was opaque and almost impenetrable to casual visitors. We’d envisioned a serene setting, a meditative oasis, but the same scenes of deprivation and suffering were everywhere on the outskirts. Our guest house room, though clean, was stark and ill-lit, and filled with curry fumes from the kitchen exhaust fan below our glassless window. Hot water and electricity were intermittent. To top it off, we’d both picked up parasitic infections in the first week – the infamous Delhi belly. It seemed fitting that my digestive system was roiling along with my emotions. 

The morning after we arrived at the community, we came upon a tiny puppy lying, unmoving, in the heat of the sun by the side of the road. The owner of the café nearby said the puppy been hit by a motor bike. He seemed unconcerned, and his apathy was understandable. Why worry about one little dog in the midst of so much other human and animal suffering? The wall my heart had built to cope with the grief and intensity of India started to crack. I wanted to help the puppy. I wanted to walk away and not face the tide of utter helplessness I’d felt since we’d arrived. I didn’t want to drown in that tide I’d held at bay, and I struggled as I stood there, between opening my heart or closing it, trying to help or turning away. I struggled with my American assumptions in the midst of Indian realities. Suddenly it felt like a test, my heart being weighed on a scale.

Hesitantly, I asked the café owner for a bowl of water and a towel. I washed the puppy’s wounds, nestled her in the towel, gave her an energy healing with the help of my inner colleagues, and blessed her. Though I didn't think she'd survive the night, I resolved to find out if there was an animal shelter, or at least a concerned person who might help. I couldn’t do anything for the begging children, or the women raising families on landfills, or the skeletal cows eating trash, but I could do something for this puppy. I clung to her welfare in the midst of my overwhelm as a tiny act of love I could take to buoy my drowning heart.

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I teach a form of meditation called Yoga Nidra, which means yogic sleep. It’s deeply restful and restorative, but one of the most powerful practices within it is called playing with opposites. First you focus awareness on, say, an emotion like fear, noticing how it feels in the body. Then you focus on the opposite emotion—perhaps safety. Then you move back and forth, noticing differences in how the body responds. And then you hold both opposites in awareness simultaneously— hard to do intellectually, but revelatory when you surrender to it as a felt sense in the body.

We tend to think of opposites as, well, opposite; but in practicing yoga nidra, I’ve discovered that sometimes they’re the same energy in the body, just interpreted differently by the mind or psyche. For instance, joy and grief feel strangely similar – a strong sensation of energy in the heart, although, given my different associations with them, they moved differently in my body. Grief feels stuck and lumpy; joy shines and flows. Yet when merged, they melt into each other and become a radiance in my heart center.

No matter how much we might try, we can’t escape our cultural and individual biases and the way they influence our perception. In these times of increasing sensitivity to the flashpoints of prejudice and privilege, all I can claim about my experience of India is that it was mine, and it was up to me to integrate its extremes within the context of my own life. One day, while leaving the elegant courtyard of our inn, I almost stumbled on an old man lying in a heap of rags on the sidewalk. I looked at him and then around the street. People – Indians and white tourists alike, were streaming past. I steeled myself, and walked past, but my heart tore apart. It took the little puppy to help me find a way to back to my center. Tending to her helped begin to reconcile the opposites of India in my heart. All the love and kindness I’d experienced during the wedding, all the horror and helplessness I’d felt in the face of so much deprivation and suffering, narrowed down to a single point when I decided to try to help that little puppy.

She made a seemingly miraculous recovery by the next morning. She was up and about and wagged her tail when she saw me. Even the café owner seemed surprised and happy by such a turnaround. But alas, we didn’t save that puppy. We had gotten the name of a member of the Auroville community who worked at the animal sanctuary and promised to search for her. He never found her, although he found several others while searching and brought them to the safety of the sanctuary. 

Our bodies can make sense of what to our minds may seem like irreconcilable differences. But because our intellects often resist what our bodies understand, the body often reconciles such extremes through illness or injury. I was nauseous and utterly without appetite for over two months after returning from India. I lost 15 pounds and felt anxious and haunted. I cocooned in my safe, quiet bedroom for days on end, grateful for silence and stillness in which to slowly decompress and integrate. The whole trip to India—the joy, the pathos, the beauty, the horror—seemed to pivot on the moment I decided to help that puppy. All I could do was surrender to my body’s slow and steady healing, and wait for my appetite and energy to return.

What I’ve learned from the practice of playing with opposites in yoga nidra is that wholeness springs, in part, from the willingness to embrace it. Wholeness is implicate and ever present, waiting for us to recognize it, but our resistance to bridging differences and our love of neat categories can make us blind to it. It’s a common belief that beauty and joy are fragile, and even obscene in the face of suffering and degradation. We in the West seem to need dichotomies to make sense of the world. Our legal system is built on duality, as are our political and religious systems that define right and wrong for us. But the funny thing is, when you hold space for seeming opposites, when you really feel them in the body and the heart, the mind quiets down and paradoxes collapse. It’s not unlike eating food, in which something that is entirely separate from us, through digestion, becomes part of us.

One morning in India, while stopped in traffic in our taxi, I saw a toddler in the meridian, tied by her ankle with a strip of plastic to a shrub. Trucks, cars and auto-rickshaws whizzed past her on all sides while she poured water from a plastic bottle into the dirt and patted the mud onto her bare legs. She looked happy, utterly absorbed in play. A woman I assumed was her mother was knocking on car windows ahead of us. Just beyond the woman, a young boy and girl dressed in tatters were trying to cross the busy highway. Arms linked, they skipped and danced between cars, advancing and retreating across lane after lane of chaotic traffic. They were laughing as if it was the best fun in the world to make it safely to the other side.

I cannot know what lies ahead for that mother and her children. It’s difficult not to judge their lives from the standpoint of my own, and I feel many varieties of guilt and confusion. But the obvious joy of those children is what stays with me the most. It is there, in that innocent union of joy and suffering, where wholeness lies, and our divided hearts heal.  

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

From the Archives: The Fires of Joy

By David Spangler

Editor's Note: From the Archives features reflections by David Spangler that are out of print or not readily available to members of our community. This essay was first published by Yes! Magazine in May of 2004. You may read the original post here.

Part of my spiritual practice is to “stoke the fires of joy.” This seems to me especially important at a time when the antithesis of joy is unleashed upon us and upon the world once again.

There are many images I could use to describe what I feel here. One that comes to mind is of a lighthouse. When the storm breaks and all is fierce winds and lashing waves, it is a lighthouse that penetrates the darkness and keeps the ships from crashing into the rocks.

Now that war has come, we are on stormy seas. The rocks of despair and depression, anger and fear threaten to sink our inner energy and vision.

There are many dangers—new diseases, famine, pollution, starvation, and so on and on—that confront us with stormy inner seas and challenge our humanity.

Yet, around all this and permeating it, is the presence of what I think of as the sacred, and it has power, too. Its power is rooted in love and in the sheer joy of life, of engagement, of making connections, of being part of wholes larger than ourselves.

I think of joy as an inner quality that is like medicine within the world. It is healing and restorative, vitalizing and protective. In the days ahead, the spiritual forces will be called upon even more for healing and grace, regeneration and blessing. They in turn are empowered by the inner medicines we supply—the joy, the love, the vision, the forgiveness, and the gratefulness, the light that we can produce.

I believe we forget the power of joy at our peril, for when we lose it, we can sink beneath the waves and become, to switch metaphors, breeding grounds for the forces of despair and destruction, frustration and fear. We become part of the storm, not part of the lighthouse. I don't have an exercise or specific practice to recommend here. We each know what brings us joy. But there are two elements I would offer.

The first is simply to allow joy to be in us. I may feel in the midst of a world of sorrow and pain that it is somehow wrong or shameful or at least selfish to feel joy. But does my anger or fear or hatred or despair or depression remedy the world's pain? Perhaps there are situations in which they can be of help by motivating me to change or to create change, but most of the time, they drag my energies down.

We may think of joy as selfish, but anger, fear, hatred, and certainly depression and despair are infinitely more selfish and self-involving. Joy is a quality that by its nature reaches out to more than just ourselves. It enlarges us, expands us, gives us a reason to keep on living and striving. Joy gives wings to my heart. Depression and anger are stones that weigh it down.

Will I become insensitive to the needs of others or the suffering in the world if I am joyful? No. I can be selfishly happy but not selfishly joyful. Joy does not blind my eyes to others. But fear, depression, despair can make me insensitive. They can lead me to denial. I try to escape into pleasure, distraction, addiction to avoid the pain, to blunt the suffering, to take the edge from despair.

Joy does not lead me to escape. It leads me to embrace the world with all its suffering and all its wonder and creative powers.

So do I have a right to be joyful? In a world of war and despair, do I have a right not to be? Shall I deny the world the gift of a buoyant heart and mind that can attune to the powers of spirit, the powers of love, the powers of the sacred, and the power of humanity to change and to grow?

Joy is not denial. Joy is not placid or resigned acceptance. Joy is a passion for the well-being of all and a courage to shape the world on behalf of that well-being. So the first step is to give ourselves permission to be joyful.

The second is to pay attention when life brings joy to us. It is a cliché, but still true that little things like sunsets and children's smiles can bring joy. A flower can bring joy. Being with a friend can bring joy. For such a powerful force, joy can enter our lives in such small and trivial ways. Pay attention!

Keep alert! Joy can ambush us at any moment. It is a fierce warrior that wants our hearts as its captives, so it can liberate them to new possibilities and to a power to heal and transform. Surrender to its claims. Be open to its arrival. At a time of war, we should welcome the joy that is power, the joy that is peace, the joy that is medicine for the ills of the world.

There's still time to sign up for David Spangler's upcoming class, Fiery Hope:Forging the Creative Path. In this week-long forum (May 17-23) David will explore hope as a spiritual force that can be harnessed to transform one's experience of life and positively impact those around us. For more information and to register, click here.  

Love Song

By Goeff Oelsner

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What is precious is distilled at dawn

as sun peeps over the transom of morning

as newborn light burnishes your body

GAIA

with your migrant cloud-herds

vagrant tribes of upper air

with your azurite necklace of lakes

tangled skein of rivers

with gushing knots of ice melt

drip of thin rivulets over stone

with your maze of hairy roots

heft of hoary branches

with transparencies of cricket song 

bird song inlaying silence at dawn

with your spired and lucid crystal choirs

O blue jewel swaying on a stalk of sunlight

GAIA

What is precious is distilled 

each dew wet dawn 

we are dew-wed with you

If you have a story you’d like to share of your personal experience with Incarnational Spirituality, please email drenag@lorian.org.

An Encounter with Stones

Essay and Photos by Akiko Mizutani

“Wow... I know this.”

It was a breathtaking moment, looking at the "Howe”, the first card that came out of the box of “Card Deck of the Sidhe”. And each time I placed a new stone card in front of me, I felt unique energy flowing. Holding the "Altar” card, I understood this was what I had been waiting for.

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Some years ago, I encountered hidden “iwakura” stones at a privately owned land on the top of Mt. Rokko, a highest mountain in Kobe, Japan, where I live. “Iwakura” is a general Japanese term for megalithic structures such as pyramids, dolmens and stone circles like Stonehenge in England, which were probably made or arranged in ancient time based on some sacred intention and purpose. Some iwakuras are mythologized; others are hidden and forgotten.

I instantly fell under the enchantment of these megaliths seemingly without reason and  became a member of the conservation group protecting them. Every weekend for over two years I participated in activities like tree thinning, mowing, removing soil from the stones and measuring them. During this time I met many iwakura researchers and enthusiasts and heard a lot stories based on their research in archaeology, animism, mythology, and shamanism.

Some say these stones might be over ten thousand year old; others says these megalithic structures might be only a part of wide spread stone structures in these “sacred” mountains. Nobody knows the ancient truth but everybody has their own inspiration and sense of awe towards iwakuras and their hidden history.

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 There are many iwakuras around Kobe. As I became more familiar with them, I felt like I was one of the people who first designed and built them with inspiration and guidance.

Gradually my inner voice started asking, “What were they trying to do? What kind of wisdom and power did they use? What kind of contacts might they have been trying to make? What can I do in order to reactivate that now, in this materialistic world?”

These internal conversations and fascination for iwakura led me to other preserved megalithic structures scattered over other regions in Japan. Generally speaking, they are usually hidden deep in a mountain, erected on the tip of a cape or enshrined behind old temples; therefore visiting iwakuras means to travel countrysides and walk around in sanctuary areas. This search naturally refined my sensitivity and connection with nature, with the subtle realm, and with the spirit of Gaia.

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Two years later, in 2015,I quit my full-time job and shortly thereafter I got a “call” to create flower essences in Mt. Rokko. During the year I created 13 bottles of essences — 9 from wild flowers and 4 from the field of iwakuras — following my inner guidance and inspiration. I named them “Coming Home Essences” because I felt that they would offer energies to people that would help them remember their own Self-Light and Sovereignty.

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As a “mere” housewife, however, I struggled to find words to theoretically describe the energy of these essences. Even though I needed to talk  about them as they gradually became popular among my friends, I couldn’t find suitable explanations or descriptions in the field of the more traditional flower essences. This struggle propelled me to dive deeper into my own spiritual journey and led to an encounter with the Transformation Game from Findhorn Foundation and my dear teacher Mary Inglis. In turn this led me to Incarnational Spirituality and “The Cards of the Sidhe”. 

Now I am exploring an alchemical way of using these Cards in combination with my essences — now the series has 22 bottles — and am excitingly awaiting what comes next.  Thanks to the Lorian Association for this wonderful opportunity to share my personal encounter with Stones and the Sidhe.

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Akiko Mizutani will be attending Co-Creative Spirituality: Shaping Our Future with Unseen Worlds starting on September 22. This collaboration between Findhorn Foundation and Lorian Association serves as an invitation to step toward a new human identity which fully recognizes and honors our partnership with the subtle world. If you'd like more information about this upcoming event taking place at Findhorn, please click here.

The Evolution of Incarnational Spirituality

By David Spangler

Editor’s Note: The Lorian Blog is currently featuring posts on the topic, “Lorian: Who We Are, What We Stand For.” Blog contributors are regular writers and also newer voices who have been exploring Incarnational Spirituality in their own unique ways

The development of Incarnational Spirituality has been in every respect a collaborative adventure. It never has been the product of just one mind. Over the years, it has been a collaboration between me, a variety of non-physical individuals in the “subtle” worlds, and my fellow Lorian colleagues and associates. Incarnational Spirituality has also been enriched and broadened by contributions made from many of the hundreds of people who have studied it in Lorian classes.

Incarnational Spirituality, or IS, began with a challenge. One day, around the turn of the century, I was out for a walk and was reflecting on the many challenges that humanity was facing. As sometimes happens on such occasions, I was joined by a subtle being who kept pace with me for a while, obviously listening to my thoughts. I said something to him about the problems we faced as incarnate persons. I no longer remember precisely what I said. But I remember his response very clearly. He said, “The challenge of humanity is not that you are too incarnated. It’s that you’re not incarnated enough.” Then, apparently feeling he had planted a seed, he disappeared.

This statement was wholly unexpected and surprising. I remember standing by the side of the road, trying to make sense of what my invisible companion had said. How could we not be incarnated enough? How could we be more physical than we are? Upon reflection, though, I realized he didn’t mean that we needed to take on more physical matter. He meant that humanity wasn’t properly or sufficiently connected with its world in energy and in consciousness. In some manner, our incarnational process, whatever it might be, wasn’t as complete as it could be or needed to be.

This idea so intrigued me that I wanted to understand more. I felt that this being was challenging me to look more deeply into the incarnational process—the dynamics of energy and consciousness by means of which a soul takes embodiment in the physical world—in order to find insights that would be helpful to people seeking to make contributions to human spiritual advancement. So, I began using my connections with the subtle worlds to research the nature of incarnation.

I already had some information with which to start this research. I had known of the principles of Sovereignty, Self-Light, and Generative Identity since 1965 when, as described in my book, Apprenticed to Spirit, I began working with a partner from the subtle realms, a being I called “John.” He also introduced me to the realization that we did not simply incarnate into a body but into a field of energy that embraced the body but much else besides. I called this our “Incarnational System.” At the time, these ideas were not presented as elements of the incarnational process. Rather they were important parts of my training to work from a position of wholeness and integration with a variety of beings from the non-physical dimensions. However, I realized when I began researching incarnation itself that these ideas and principles were integral to that process as well.

I also had had an experience when I was seven of remembering the steps my own soul had taken to become embodied in the physical world; I awoke to and re-experienced my own incarnational process. Although each person’s incarnation is unique, there are patterns we all share in common. Therefore, this memory gave me a place to start.

The research process largely consisted of turning my mind’s eye clairvoyantly upon some stage or aspect of the incarnational process and then working to interpret and articulate what I was seeing. In this, I had help from my subtle colleagues, who would from time to time make their own suggestions or offer helpful information. I felt that we were exploring the topic together, each of us coming up with insights. I’m sure they could have simply said, “This is how incarnation works, David,” but that was not their way. They were not interested in transmitting information—revelations from on high—but in fostering understanding. That understanding was more than a collection of mental concepts; it was a lived experience.

One of the principle tools of this research was through my classes and workshops.  I used these events as opportunities to test what I was experiencing about the incarnational process, seeing if the way I was understanding and articulating it was helpful or even understandable to anyone else. At the same time, almost every time I held a class, one or more of my subtle colleagues would take it as an opportunity to suggest an exercise or two to see what the results would be.

I was upfront about this process, even whimsically and affectionately calling the group of people who regularly worked with me in road-testing these concepts and exercises as the “Guinea Pigs of Light.”  Their insights and reports contributed much to the shaping and deepening of IS.

Likewise, my Lorian colleagues, using the basic principles of Incarnational Spirituality, began teaching their own classes and bringing their own life experiences and expertise to further expanding the development of IS. This has been vital to the growth of IS. After all, I see things from a certain perspective and bring my own history, biases, and experience to the way I describe and explain Incarnational Spirituality. Others bring different perspectives, often seeing things I do not or going more deeply in areas where I have no training or experience. This enriches the whole body of IS knowledge and practice, giving greater dimension to insights I have had while offering new insights I could never have produced.

My subtle colleagues have been very clear over the past fifty years of the objectives of this work. Fundamentally, it is a work of fostering wholeness within both the person and the planet. Their primary goal is to contribute to the many ways humanity must learn and is learning how to live and work in harmony with the Earth. The wholeness and well-being of Gaia and of the community of Life that shares this world is the goal.

This wholeness cannot be manifested by physical means alone since the planet is more than just a physical entity. There is a vast subtle ecology at work as well, one in which humanity participates even if unconsciously. Further, many of the connections that need to be made for us to be “more incarnated,” as my contact said years ago, are made using subtle energies and tools operating within the subtle dimensions, as well as in the physical world. Being able to partner and work collaboratively with the subtle worlds is a critical element both in bringing wholeness to the Earth and in bringing wholeness to our own incarnations.

But working with the subtle dimensions requires being able to stand in one’s integrated and balanced identity, in one’s sovereignty and personal wholeness. It’s at this level that there is work that each of us can do, and it is the nature of this work—and how to do it—that is the focus of Incarnational Spirituality. Ultimately, we are asked to be “Gaianeers,” able to work in harmony with Gaia to bring wholeness into the world, but we begin this task by fostering that wholeness within ourselves and in our connections with each other.  That is the immediate work of Incarnational Spirituality.

The nature of this work is that it cannot be done—nor even defined—by a single person. It arises out of a collaborative, collective effort. It’s a bit like farming. A person might start the process by providing some seeds, but then it is up to all the farmers, working in the unique conditions of their own land with their own climate and soil, to plant and nurture these seeds in their own way. And as they do so, more seeds are created and more new knowledge is generated on how best to plant and grow them.

I have been privileged in working with my subtle colleagues to produce a few seeds, but now everyone who plants them in their lives, who begins living and experimenting with the ideas and principles of Incarnational Spirituality and finds new applications for those principles in their own environments and work, is a vital part of IS’s development and evolution. It’s this that makes IS alive, dynamic and relevant as a calling to be the generative and radiant individual we truly are.


If you have a story you’d like to share of your personal experience with Lorian and Incarnational Spirituality, please email drenag@lorian.org.

 

Finding Sanctuary in the Subtle World

By Karen Johannsen

Editor’s Note: The Lorian Blog is currently featuring posts on the topic, “Lorian: Who We Are, What We Stand For.” Blog contributors are regular writers and also newer voices who have been exploring Incarnational Spirituality in their own unique ways. Today's blog writer, Karen Johannsen, is a Lorian colleague and author of Full Moon Magic: Invoking Spiritual Energies for Personal and Planetary Transformation, available in the Lorian Bookstore.

In the mid-eighties I think the universe must have conspired to catapult me into a whole new level of consciousness. Several life altering circumstances converged to expand my concept of the world. The first thing that happened was I came across the material put out by Machaelle Wright and her research center in Virginia, called Perelandra. I began using her flower essences and reading about the deva kingdom. She introduced me to the concept of co-creating with nature. That nature is a living intelligence and that we are hardwired to work in cooperation with these living beings. That they hold the blueprint for our evolution and they desire to work with us to assist us in our own processes of expansion. This was a completely new idea to me. At first, I have to admit, I resisted it because I suddenly felt overwhelmed that I now had to consider nature in making decisions…about my garden, about how I treated the earth, about my life. It seemed like just too much to take in.

About the same time I came across the Findhorn experiment and started reading Dorothy Maclean and David Spangler’s work. It reinforced this idea that the subtle worlds were real and accessible. My resistance vanished and I realized that I carried a deep longing to be more in sync with nature and her cycles.

About this same time I decided to go to graduate school to get my Masters in Transpersonal Psychology. I wasn’t at all clear about what I would do with an MA degree, but I felt compelled to begin this study. With young children at home I studied part time and it took me five years to complete my work. During that time there was another huge expansion of consciousness for me as I began processing and looking clearly at my own life. I emerged committed to begin a practice as a psychotherapist. But as I unraveled some of my own issues I began to see the dysfunction in my own life and my marriage.  

Three years after graduating, in 1990, I ended my 33 year marriage. Terrified and uncertain, I began to use some of the tools elucidated in the Perelandra work. I connected with a MAP team, beings in the subtle realms, who worked specifically with me and whatever issues were coming up for me. I would enter these sessions full of fear, doubt and uncertainty and would emerge 40 minutes later in a complete state of calm. Nothing external had changed. Internally my whole perspective was transformed. With the understanding that I had learned from David’s work and the Perelandra material, I was even more convinced of this field of subtle energy. And connecting with these special beings several times a week strengthened my belief and washed away any lingering resistance.

During this transitional time another practice I incorporated into my life was connecting to trees. I had always loved walking in the woods and now that I understood the true nature of that world I began walking in a different state of consciousness, really noticing the trees, asking to be connected to them, asking to be blessed by them. I decided to pick a tree that was along my walking route and just sit with my back against its trunk. Every day I would go there in so much anguish and fear and would feel the energy of the tree filling me with strength and solidity. I would visualize the roots of the tree supporting and grounding me. That earth energy was palpable and healing and sustained me through this life transition I was experiencing.  

Each of these practices helped me to deepen my faith in this unseen world. I began to long to be in sync with nature, to somehow honor and participate in her changing seasons. I began a practice of going out each morning to sit with my bare feet on the earth, giving thanks and sending gratitude to the overlighting deva of the land and blessing the angel of my hearth, feeling my connection to the subtle worlds deepen. I could then begin my day from a place of peace and alignment.  

My longing also led me to begin holding full moon meditations in my home as I was drawn to a practice that would align me more deeply with all of nature’s cycles. I have been holding these ceremonies now since 2002.

It is through these monthly gatherings and the practices inspired by my work with the subtle realms that I am strengthened and empowered. Each month I feel the qualities of the astrological signs pouring into me. Consciously receiving them, I strive to express them from my highest nature.

Before every full moon gathering I invoke the four directions, the astrological energies, my MAP team, the deva of the land and the angel of my hearth and other beings of light I work with, giving thanks for their participation. I ask that they bless each person who enters my home, that they may feel welcome and safe and receive whatever they might need. I have heard from so many people that entering my home feels like being in a sanctuary. One day my daughter came to visit and I was not home. She sat in my meditation chair and as she meditated this is what came to her.

May all who enter this house feel truly welcome, just as they are.

May all who enter this house dwell in ease of body and mind.

May all who enter this house feel the comfort of belonging to family.

May all who enter this house receive that which truly nourishes.

May all who enter this house be inspired to communicate that which is honest and true.

May all who enter this house know that in this place they may rest, free of judgment, scorn or expectation.

May all who enter this house feel the trees, the sky, the light and the birds surrounding and supporting them.

May we all take the strength and goodness we receive here and

Share it with the world.

This is my prayer to those unseen beings every month when we meet and I am forever grateful for their presence in my life and in my home.


If you have a story you’d like to share of your personal experience with Lorian and Incarnational Spirituality, please email drenag@lorian.org.