Community Views

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.

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.

What is Lorian to Me?

By Greg Dinunzi

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

I am a relative newcomer to Lorian, but a relatively talkative one, which has earned the me honor of being asked in different times, ways and places: “What Lorian is to me?” It is a challenging question if we are to take it seriously and give it the service it is due, and especially so if we are to avoid describing Lorians in the vocabulary one only gains with exposure to their ideas and practices. So with that disclaimer, my first attempt would be:

Lorian is an emergent association which nurtures and offers practices on how to come into relationship with our own sacred individuality within the context of a living and sentient universe. And further, this sentient universe has great interest in having a deeper, more loving relationship with us in return. At least, that's what it says.

Simple enough. Now that I have cleared that up, I can move onto bigger things.

I had been exposed to David Spangler's early work some 25 years ago. I went out to Findhorn following the wake of his life and had important experiences there, but I was curious as to what had developed more recently with him. So I decided to open myself to learning the newer landscape. I can now report that after a few years of engagement through books and online classes, I have a crude map of Lorian, and I have found it the experience both meaningful and surprising.

What Lorian is not, firstly, is a factory intent in replicating some 'brand' of dogma. They seem quite serious about cheerfully nurturing the loving sacred spark within each of us, regardless how that may choose expression from person to person. No easy task, I imagine, but I agree in the end no one can know better how our gifts can express the sacred than we ourselves. I learned that I was to come to peace with myself as a sacred expression of the divine, and there followed a number of simple exercises which presented me the opportunity to allow this self-image to gain foothold within me. This is embodied in what is called Incarnational Spirituality, which is at the core of Lorian, and is better thought of as a practice than a collection of ideas. What drew me in personally was that the content of the exercises was not emphasized, but my experiences while practicing the exercises were. Incarnational Spirituality is experiential, not dogmatic. And I was to bring all of me into the arena, even the parts I was uncomfortable with, because one must be present and open to allow full body experiences to happen.

Another important idea offered is that Spirit and Matter need not to be thought of as opponents, as so often portrayed. I came away with the experience that a Human Being is one of the things that happen when these two "lovers" marry. One can learn to honor the physical, material world as a partner in selfhood, not bear it as a punishment, nor mistake it for the totality of what we are. I am not suggesting that I was required to believe this, I am saying that as I worked with the exercises and ideas that became my experience of being human. This is a great gift in my eyes, and one for which I am thankful.

So this idea of a living, sentient universe—Not only are we alive, but the entire jungle is, as is the ground beneath us, and sky above, and the stars above that. How does a modern person of the west begin with that? The sky lives? In the west we have been presented a world view where the earth is more or less a dead stage, to use David's analogy, and we are the living players on it, free to use the stage as we see fit. But if we take the time to allow an actual experience of it, which is the essence of the practice of Incarnational Spirituality, is that what we experience? Again personally, I found it hard to maintain the 'dead stage' view of the world.

Now, first I admit, I was drawn the beauty and poetry of the idea of a living world, not the logic of it. Then I practiced allowing it to become a full body experience, not a mere thought exercise, something called “felt-sense” in Lorian terminology, and I found that I not only liked the idea, but it granted me access to an emotional experience of being connected with a living world. I was shocked to note, I had not really had that experience before. I found myself beginning to fall in love with the world again. There was no particular Lorian class in this, it is interwoven in much of Lorian's work, but the class Journey Into Fire was my first exposure to it. “Fire” in this case being the loving, sacred spark of one's own self. So the world became more alive to me in my own eyes, and I found it beautiful. But was it sentient? At this point it was still unclear to me personally, but the idea of “breaking up” with the world to return to the dead stage view was not only depressing, it actually felt somewhat dark and unnatural. Why withdraw a beautiful emotional connection— out of habit? For logic? Did logic even speak for a dead stage world view? If we examine that idea we find it does not- not well, if at all. So, okay then, I'm a sacred expression of the divine, and I'm in love with the physical world. Better than being king of a dead rock, don't you think? For me, anyway, it was enough to move forward. Small bites.

So I also said that the sacred universe has expressed a great interest in having a deeper, more loving relationship with us. How do I know that? Well, should you decide to delve into the swirling fields of intelligence which hold themselves together under the name Lorian, you will not be long before you begin to hear terms like "Subtle Worlds" and "Subtle Beings" and you may want to know what these things are. Well, at the start of my exposure to Lorian, I had some knowledge of David's writings and the personal experiences he has shared about his interactions with Subtle Worlds and Subtle Beings. (I'd recommend his book Apprenticed To Spirit if you have no exposure to any of this.) I always found them both beautiful and intriguing, and I indeed was drawn to Lorian with this interest. But it was never only that there was contact between David and these beings, the issue for me was the content of the communications between David and these beings. It was simply captivating, deeply intelligent and compassionate. It would have been equally captivating had David received this information it from a Yogi or a Scottish taxi driver. David refers to the subtle worlds as a second ecology of earth, and if we allow this two-tiered living planet to come alive in our imaginations, we might call it Gaia.

Lorian offers many courses, including “Working with Subtle Energies” and workshops with “The Sidhe”, a race of beings which are known to many cultures other than ours, who live mostly invisibly and someplace parallel to us. All quite mystical and glamorous, indeed. In order for me to allow myself the experience, I chose to file it all temporarily in the “Neither-Believe, Nor-Disbelieve-File” and see how close to the “elephant in the room” (the Subtle realms) I could come before fleeing for the hills (Which is, of course, an Old Irish Elephant tradition). So after a few courses, and reading a number of works on the topics, I came to breathe with the idea that imagination, like logic, is a powerful tool and it can be used to deliver us to places which are, for lack of a better word, quite real. Imagination moves a part us which we might not realize we have. What I personally discovered in the exercising of these new muscles is that it is not so much where we end up which is the meat of the issue, but it is how we prepare to engage what we find: that is where the work is. Here Lorian teaches that the way to relationship again is with love, honor and respect of other. Fair enough. Lorian does not directly teach how to get to the other world as much as they teach you what you can do if you happen to find yourself in one. The great and magical irony is: if you know what to do when you find yourself there, there's a surprisingly good chance that you might actually get to go. (I'll admit the mechanism of that is a bit beyond my pay grade, but so is, say, Gravitational Theory, yet I utilize gravity fairly well in daily life.) In this way Lorian is more about the practicalities, than the theories. The connection to my own sacred individuality is that all of this is a part of “me”, which I may not have ever recognized without doing the work. Working with Subtle Energies and the Sidhe work have taught me that there is a part of me that Imagination can move, some aspect of myself can ride imagination to new places, and that part of me is part of the wholeness of our sacred and living universe. No small lesson there, in my opinion.

And so, have I come to the conclusion that the universe is sentient? Well, because as I have began to approach our living universe with love, honor and respect, and honor my own experiences in this practice, I can say, “Yes” without reservation, for I have found as I keep nudging it with my primitive stick made of Love and Imagination, the universe is not passive, it is clearly responsive. The more love I bring to it, the more responsive I have found it, which is even logical, if you think about it, and even works with much smaller forms of life than a living universe. The more imagination, honor and love I offer the universe, the more living, loving beings have come to populate it. So I have indeed come to believe there is a great, beautiful sentient universe seeking a deeper relationship with me, because as I hold that to my heart, the universe responds in ways I can not overlook, if I am going to bother honestly looking at all.

So this is my story, and again, certainly no promise that your path will be like mine. Yours may be far more wonderful, and will certainly be personal for you. I venture to say that if you are willing to imagine this as an personal invitation to deepen your experience of being yourself in a sacred and living universe, then let me suggest that you allow yourself the luxury of a peaceful openness as to what sort of felt responses you may receive. They could be soft as a feather, gentle as a whisper, or bold as a hurricane. Importantly: don't hurry, and have the courage to trust your own experiences.

So for me, in Lorian, I have found a safe, wise and caring community to support on my journey towards myself- a welcome new way of being me. I wish for you that your path, whatever it may be, also be wondrous and full of light.

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.

I Am Only Human

By Freya Secrest

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

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

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

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

I am reminded of this poem by Fernando Pesso,

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The Gift of Darkness

Essay and Watercolor by Mary Reddy

Someone I loved once gave me

a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand

that this, too, was a gift.”

--Mary Oliver

“Darkness rises and Light to meet it,” says Snoke, the Supreme Leader and super villain in The Last Jedi. This Star Wars tale and a thousand other legends are steeped in the eternal battle between good and evil. And the ultimate goal is eradication of evil, right? Oh boy, do we human beings struggle with that one. “Good has to win!” we worry, “but will we see that in our lifetimes? Or can evil actually prevail?” We must stay in the Light we think, but what good does it do if we armor ourselves in it and depart from the world? Throughout the ages, countless folk tales and magical legends have obliquely touched on this difficult conundrum of life on earth.

I’ve been considering the ways the Star Wars movies have satisfied (or failed) my craving for a good magical story. One thing I love, that repeatedly happens, is that the good guy goes to meet the bad guy. He goes into the very bowels of hell, into the Death Star to stand face to face with evil. In other stories, say, a classic Western shoot-em-up, the hero goes to meet the villain in order to stop him and destroy him. But a different ethic comes into play in the Star Wars stories. Though stopping the bad guy is desirable, going to meet him is first and foremost a crucial step along the way of the hero becoming fully himself. Standing in the power of the Force, the good guy must confront and acknowledge how much he has in common with the evil one. Fearful of what will ensue, the good guy nevertheless musters his courage to go and face himself.

In this latest Star Wars episode, the classic struggle of good against evil morphs into a different kind of story. No longer requiring exclusively male pronouns (hurray!) to describe the hero’s tale—the story pluralizes into a number of tales of diverse heroes. As I watched, I followed two new threads with growing fascination: the overturning of beloved icons and the waves of ambiguity washing over the dichotomy of good and evil.  

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That we live in time and experience change over time almost ensures that inevitably some beloved person, truth, manner of expression, cultural practice, or favorite way of seeing ourselves must pass away. What feels different about this time on earth is a growing sense of urgency around that necessity. We almost need to take apart and recreate what we love best (democracy, community, our place in nature) in order to avoid losing it (and ourselves) entirely.

We all instinctively understand the hero’s journey. What’s more difficult is how to see the path in the midst of the storm and fog of daily life.

I was privileged, in my life, to experience a complete breakdown. It was hard to go through, it was hard on my family, and at times it was hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel. But having emerged from it more whole, more balanced, I have a deep appreciation of the prize at the end of a descent into the shadows. I met myself. I now have an increased appreciation of all the elements that came together to form my life. And I feel deep gratitude for the love and assistance of the ones who stood by me as I fell apart. And even now, years later, I am better able to love and appreciate people who appear to be acting from a place of darkness.

My life is no longer about a dramatic descent and upward climb and it’s trickier to see the path toward dramatic growth. These days, I find my growth pushing me toward more engagement with others, with community wherever I find it. I see so many of us (and our communities) living with uncertainty. We watch as the world wildly careens from one threat to another. Understandably, we may find ourselves instinctively holding fast to old icons.

I’ve been trying instead to entertain that uncertainty. How can I pause before rushing to judgment? I wonder if the unquestioned duality of the moral universe needs re-examining. Polarization, the duality, the either/or, the extremes, they overwhelmingly claim our public discourse and infect our ability to imagine solutions. What once worked as a dialectic (thesis, antithesis, synthesis) never proceeds to the synthesis. Maybe it’s because we need more than just two sides?

What if I were to go into the bowels of the earth to find myself by confronting the dark? Maybe my shadow is not so extremely dark; what if I am so many shades of grey? Instead of struggling to surface The Shadow, what if I discover a collective of lights and shadows that spin kaleidoscopically into consciousness and out. What if our imagined victory over the present crises cannot take shape until we crush the iconic opposition of two sides—why only two?

“Good has to win! Or can evil actually prevail?” Erase that blackboard. Let’s start with a clean sheet and the first thing we write on it is Love. Inhabiting a cellular, systems-drawn, neuron-firing, sometimes wave/sometimes particle-based, complex Gaian being such as ours, how many “sides” will Love call forth?

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On Saturday, February 17, join Lorian Colleague and Subtle Activist leader David T. Nicol for Sacred Destiny: A Revolutionary Method for Serving OUR Collective Liberation through YOUR Personal HealingDuring this free online event, David will guide participants through a sacred process of group healing for the purposes of collective liberation. David will also share about the power of unified group consciousness to bring next-level personal and ancestral healing, while also being a genuine force for change in our world. This call will involve a potent group practice to transform our personal and ancestral timelines. Learn more and register for this free online event here:http://sacred-destiny.net.(Click here to read an interview with David Nicol and Lorian blog writer Susan Beal.)

The Purpose of Light

By Drena Griffith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Journey Into Fire

By Julie Spangler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Everything that Incarnational Spirituality has to offer stems from the recognition that there's a light within each individual life. As the new year begins, consider exploring your inner light by joining us for Journey Into Fire: Awakening to the Light of Self. From January 10-February 13,  Lorian Faculty Member Julia Spangler will gently guide you through practices and processes to understand and attune to the power of being yourself in this world.