Archive for April 2015

Touching the Sacred, Part 2   Leave a comment

[Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4]

In Part 1 I wrote about the approaching Festival of Beltane and our longing to touch or encounter the Sacred. It keeps calling to us, and will not be ignored.

Here I’ll talk about how we fulfill the call inside us to touch the Sacred.

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Zora Neale Hurston, from her novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God”

One way to understand this call is as a sacred vow that our lives require each of us to fulfill. Being born means we agreed to it. Don’t remember making the vow? Each of us promised to make good on it. “Will you do what only you can do, because only you live your life? Will you listen to what there is for you to hear? Will you keep growing? Will you remember to celebrate all that can be celebrated?”

Our lives ask us such questions, and we answer with how we live. We honor the call, the sacred vow, when we’re fully alive. We catch intermittent glimpses of this in our lives. This joy is for you, it says.

Often we don’t trust it. A girl I was serious about before I met and married my wife was convinced we shouldn’t trust it. Every happiness has to be paid for with sorrow, she said.

Or we see it, this joy, in the lives of others. A light seems to shine around them, and in their presence you feel better, more balanced, more you. They seem to practice the sacred like a dance or song. That can be a powerful way to live. Life as practice. Not as a thing to be perfected. Life’s bigger than perfection, it seems to say. More ornery, stubborn, lovely and changeable.

But it’s something we can also study, perform, explore, try out, test, demonstrate, play with, give away and take back. Sometimes with each breath. Sometimes over nearly a century. Perfection’s a dead thing. Not alive, slippery, mysterious and intoxicating. Try out what lies on the other side of perfection. Not just play the hand I’m dealt, but take or drop a card. Reshuffle. Paint my own deck. And sometimes, change the game.

Right, says the skeptic. You just believe that if you want to. But ignore such hints and outright shoves, and likewise we can often feel both restless and spiritually dead, a truly wretched combination, when we’ve done less than our lives ask of us.

We all know this intimately, too, in one form or another. It prods young (and older) people to find themselves, it burns in those who are spiritual hungry to go on inner and outer quests that may take years or their entire lives, it launches many a mid-life crisis, a dark night or decade of the soul. It slaps you upside the head, and will not stop. It passes go, it drives up onto the sidewalk, it drops you off on the wrong side of town. Or it slows down, even stops, parks in a driveway, kills the engine, offers you the wheel — then tosses the keys into the bushes.

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And the call troubles some people enough that they retreat into things in order to try to hush the call, to drown it out because they despair of ever being able to answer it. And the things — possessions, pleasures, addictions — being finite, can’t replace the call either. They just rub it raw. Who needs the sacred if it’s such torture?! No thanks, I say. These aren’t the droids I’m looking for.

Fortunately the sacred doesn’t just sit around waiting for us to find it like the fabled pot of gold at the rainbow’s end, like the toy in the bottom of the cereal box. It bounces and squirms and growls and seeks us out, constantly breaking through into our awareness. Hence the difficulty of avoiding the call, and the frequency with which we encounter it.

These Festivals like Beltane, or even newer observances, like Earth Day today — they don’t come out of nowhere. Sure they do, says your friendly neighborhood internet troll. OK: who ya gonna believe?

Where do we find the sacred — or where does it find us?

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“Human Beauty”/Jano Stovka

We may touch the sacred when we experience beauty. And beauty not only meets us in familiar ways that marketers box and package and try to monetize, but also in less conventional ones, if we pay attention. And sometimes even when we don’t.

Experience beauty and we’re lifted out of ourselves, stopped in our tracks, slapped, arrested, pierced with Cupid’s arrow — the language we’ve used throughout history in poems and songs to describe the experience can sound violent, because we may not expect beauty, or recognize it when we face it, or want it when we do recognize it.

Or we do all of those things, and our hunger for it just grows and builds. Or it makes us weep or laugh, or act in other ways that don’t fit or which leave us uncomfortable. Wait, say our lives. You thought this was going to be easy or simple?!

Encounters with the sacred can come in isolation, too, of course — away from others. We may turn our backs on people who disappoint us or who are simply so loud in our lives that we need silence, or at least other sounds. Wind, crickets, birdsong, water. We set out by ourselves, convinced this is IT. This is the way.

Walk alone and some cultures, at some times, will understand and recognize and support you. They’ll assist the solitary walk in unique ways that other cultures may not be doing at that moment. Time, space, acceptance, easing the transition in or out.

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Stairs at Oominesanji, Kii Mountains, Japan

No single culture does it all — culture’s a human thing as much as anything else is. But the natural world is a powerful ally — what we’re born from, where these bodies end up after a few decades. The in-between, where we convince ourselves we’re not a part but apart: the natural world offers remedies for that illness that we recognize every time we let it.

In Part 3 I’ll look at some more ways we touch the sacred.

[Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4]

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Images: years that ask; addictionOominesanji Stairs; human beauty/Jano Stovka

Beltane 2015 and Touching the Sacred   1 comment

[Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4]

Here we are, about two weeks out from Beltane/May Day — or Samhuinn if you live Down Under in the Southern Hemisphere. And with a Full Moon on May 3, there’s a excellent gathering of “earth events” to work with, if you choose. Thanks to the annual Edinburgh Fire Festival, we once again have Beltane-ish images of the fire energy of this ancient Festival marking the start of Summer.

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You may find like I do that Festival energies of the “Great Eight”* kick in at about this range — half a month or so in advance. A nudge, a hint, a restlessness that eases, a tickle that subsides, or shifts toward knowing, with a glance at the calendar. Ah! Here we are again!

For me, that’s regardless of whether I’m involved in any public gathering, or anticipating the time — because it’s never anything as rigid as one single day, but rather an elastic interval — on my own.

Yes, purists may insist on specifics, and calculate their moons and Festivals down to the hour, so as not to miss the supposed peak energies of the time. And if this gives you a psychological boost to know and do this that’s worth the fuss, go for it.

Below is Midnightblueowl’s marvelous painted “Wheel of the Year” (with Beltane at approximately 9 o’clock). With its colors and images, it captures something of the feeling of the Year as we walk it — a human cycle older than religions and civilizations. Or the cycle helped make us human, changing us as we began to notice and acknowledge and celebrate it. Try looking at it both ways, and see what comes of that.

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Painted “Wheel of the Year” by Midnightblueowl. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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For today I take as divination the message below, which got promptly diverted to the spam folder: “This page decidedly has whole of the information I precious astir this dependent and didn’t make love who to ask.”

O crazy spam-scribe of the ethers, you stumbled onto one of the Great Paradoxes, best stated by William Blake, with his “infinity in the palm of your hand, eternity in an hour.” In that sense, yes: this page “decidedly has whole of the information” though it is also what it is, a finite thing. Like each of us, like the tools we use to connect to What Matters, like the sneaking suspicion that will not go away that there’s Something More. (Even if it’s just an explanation of what’s up with all these capital letters, anyway?)

And since Beltane’s approaching, there is indeed a “precious astir” at work as the energies swirl.  Who or what is “dependent”?! The writer of the spam, not knowing “who to ask” and even acknowledging he “didn’t make love.” And all of us, dependent on the earth and each other.

I bless you, oh Visitor to this e-shrine, workshop, journal — the many-selfed thing that blogs can be and become. Who to ask? you inquire. Your inward Guide, always present and waiting for you where you are most true. Or the face of the Guide as it manifests again and again in your life — stranger at the market who smiles at you, bird that catches your eye, tune you find yourself humming.

How to get there, that place we all long for, that colors our thinking and follows and leads us in day- and night-dreams? Place that Festivals and holidays and time and pain and love and living all — sometimes — remind us of? Ah, you mean The Question! Love, gratitude, service — all things any of us can begin today; all things, it’s important to remember, we already do in some measure, or we would die. Too easy? Or you already know that? There’s also ritual — finite, imperfect ritual, our human dance. Mark, O Spirit, and hear us now, confirming this our sacred vow … 

What’s your sacred vow? Don’t know yet? Got some work to do? Tune in to the next post for more.

[Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4]

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Image: Beltane Edinburgh Fire Festival; painted Wheel of the Year by Midnightblueowl

*The “Great Eight” yearly festivals with their OBOD names: Imbolc, Alban Eilir/Spring Equinox, Bealteinne, Alban Hefin/Summer Solstice, Lughnasadh, Alban Elfed/Autumn Equinox, Samhuinn, Alban Arthan/Winter Solstice. Many alternate names exist, and almost every one has a Christian festival on or near it, too.

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