By Drena Griffith
Editor's Note: Beginning this year, Views from the Lorian Community will regularly feature members of our community, sharing through our diverse backgrounds how Incarnational Spirituality impacts our lives and those around us.
Formally trained in experimental psychology, research methodology and statistics, James Tousignant, from Chemainus, British Columbia, currently works as Executive Director of the Canadian Mental Health Association – Cowichan Valley Branch. James is an ordained Lorian priest who combines his study of Incarnational Spirituality with a "direct-experience" integration of practices from Tibetan Budhism, Integral Yoga and Sufism called The Way of the Heart.
James and I spoke recently about his spiritual practice which he calls Inquiring Mysticism, his experience of the Sacred and particularly about the challenge of bringing the mystical experience of God home to his personal life.
DG: How do you define the Sacred?
JT: All that is. Seen and Unseen.
DG: How do you define the Sacred as it manifests in your life?
JT: Well, it is my life. It’s not a part from my life. And it is me and it’s not apart from me.
DG: What is your biggest challenge in your relationship with Sacredness?
JT: Forgetting. Forgetting that the sacred is my life and my self and my world, all that is happening around me.
DG: How would you describe your spiritual journey?
JT: I’ve always been aware of energy and vibration. When I was growing up I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy and the world was alive. And I was very creative with a strong imagination and very much interested in awareness of consciousness. And I went into university and that was my first introduction to schools of thought apart from Roman Catholicism. I became intrigued with Eastern Yoga, then went right into the Upanishads. A little bit after that I was introduced to Integral Yoga. Then I explored Carlos Castaneda’s work and the indigenous First Nation teachings. I never really connected strongly with that, though. I connected more with the Eastern teachings.
That was my edge at the time. I was studying to be an experimental psychologist. I started Tai Chi, still in the Eastern tradition, but I had to put all of that on the wayside when I had kids. I still had a focused practice, but living and house-holding was my primary focus. There was a hiatus of about fifteen years or so when I’d read something, put it down, read something else, put it down.
It wasn’t until my kids got older that I began to understand Eastern talks about phases. I was in the house-holding phase. Kids and diapers. School and work. But as my kids were growing up and as I was divorcing my former beloved, I started working with a teacher who taught something called soul-centered living. She was an empathic individual who was comfortable working with energy and that’s when I started developing my skills. It wasn’t spiritual in a sense, but it opened up other doors into being human.
It was later when I was reintroduced to Integral Yoga that I started asking: Who am I? Why am I here? What does that mean? Who am I becoming? This opened up what has become my spiritual path, Inquiring Mysticism. The practice is inquiry. The path is the direct experience of the divine, of the beloved, of God, as myself.
DG: What does your spiritual practice look like?
JT: In my experience, first I do the practice--I set my intention to remember and open to the possibilities of life; then the practice does me--I notice that I am noticing more moments of enchantment throughout my day, without looking for them.
And finally, I become the practice. I am remembering - remembering the One who sent me, remembering the importance of leaving the world a better place for having been here, and doing the things I came here to do, with the people I most enjoy working with, in the way the world most needs it done.
The best description I have right now is one of David Spangler’s poems:
I am the vessel that earth has made
To hold the wine of God.
And I am the wine that God has pressed
To fill the cup of Earth,
And I am the one who sips this new wine
And is filled with its sparkling life,
And I am the one who lifts the toast
To the beloved of all life,
And I am the one who sees anew
The rhythms and flows of God
From Heaven to Earth and from Earth to return
In the Oneness of life.
DG: What drew you to Incarnational Spirituality?
JT: I started taking classes with Lorian around eight, ten years ago. But I'd already been attracted to David’s teachings. They were so clear and accessible. Incarnational Spirituality works with exercises. It points out, but it doesn’t tell you what to believe. The initiatory path is not one that I follow, where you have to go through formal initiations to become the next thing. You already are the next thing. You’ve never not been all that you are. It’s more like an unveiling as opposed to a rewarding. And you have to realize that. And it sounds so simple. It’s not.
How do I un-awaken myself? How do I un-enlighten myself? It’s already there. How do I put myself back to sleep? How do I forget? That’s the path of inquiry. And David’s teachings are a direct personal experience of the self as a sacred being and also why we're here on this earth. He answer these questions in ways you could consider are quite ordinary. David is an individual who lives his awareness and lives his realization. My saying yes to the ordination process was a way for me to formally recognize my desire to live my realization.
DG: You once spoke about being called “down from the mountain.”
JT: My experience of life started changing about ten years ago and at that time the practice I had been doing and the work I had been doing allowed me to easily shift my awareness so that I didn’t have to experience some things that I may have needed to experience in my body. It’s a flavor of spiritual bypassing and it’s very easy for me to shift perspectives. So when I say I was up on the mountain, it was like I was sitting in a meditation cave watching the world go by and I was more connected with watching than with living.
It’s the weirdest thing to talk about now…when I look back at how I was I laugh. And so yes, I was in a cave, literally inside myself. And the realizations I was experiencing were true and significant--and not relevant! Not relevant in the sense of the teachings of Incarnational Spirituality. Very relevant for some of the lineages I was working with at that time. But so what?
It took a while for me to say, okay, now go live that! It took pain. It took pain and suffering, my own and some of the people around me for me to realize that was one of the shoes that needed to drop. I had to step into the other side and come back, and come back in a way that my life expressed my realization-- and that’s why it’s tied to the teachings of individuals like David and a few other people I have met who live their realization.
It's nowhere near finished, but I’m far more in the valley, in the village now that I’ve ever been and a lot of that has to do with the Lorian ordination and making it real in this body in this time in this moment…so for me it’s the spirituality of life: continually seeing God appearing as my life, as my self, as the people I’m with…just remembering that, coming back and touching back into that.
And when I remember, the world again comes alive.
How has Incarnational Spirituality impacted your life? Please e-mail your IS stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.