Stumbling Mystic Podcast – The Inner Dimensions of Spiritual Practice

It seems like the demands of work and the pace of technology are ever-increasing, adding pressure to accomplish more, process faster, and run madly just to stay ahead of the game.

A spiritual practice with a contemplative component slows the pace of daily living. If we can lift our awareness out of the fog and flailing of activity, we can attune to the dimensions of life that are resting just below the surface. The key to practice is to make it a habit so that its qualities can permeate.

Choosing spiritual practices that work for us is a personal decision. My conversations in this week’s episode show a variety of approaches to practice, including:

  • Differing views on whether meditation is “mandatory” for modern mystics;

  • How to use the body as the grounding vehicle for practice;

  • Use of a tantric sexual practice to circulate energy within the body;

  • Practicing in nature as a way to restore strength and balance;

  • Service as a spiritual practice;

  • Songwriting as a spiritual practice.

You can listen below to Episode 5 of the Stumbling Mystic Podcast, “The Inner Dimensions of Spiritual Practice.” Or, visit the podcast page, or listen on your favorite podcast platform.

Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash

Stumbling Mystic Podcast – Mysticism, Seeing the Sacred Everywhere

If you feel lost in the spiritual landscape of modern society, you’re not alone. Many seekers today feel unsupported in their search, caught between the skepticism of secular culture and the dogma of traditional religion.

Mysticism is not strange or exotic. It is sitting right beneath the surface of our normal experience, shimmering and alive. Ultimately, mysticism is a new way of seeing that makes the whole world Sacred. In Episode 4 of the Stumbling Mystic podcast, “Mysticism, Seeing the Sacred Everywhere,” we talk about:

  • The direct experience of the Sacred that is beyond reason, a mystery that Joseph Campbell says can be known but not told;

  • Mysticism as a path beyond religion and skepticism;

  • Development of our own inner knowing that intuitively understands we come from and return to Source.

You can listen below to Episode 4. Or, visit the podcast page, or listen on your favorite podcast platform.

Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash

Stumbling Mystic Podcast – How Does Traditional Religion Support our Spiritual Life?

What are we to do with traditional religion? As an institution, it has been a foundation for the faithful for eons, and yet is a turn-off for so many spiritual seekers today. Is there a place for religion in the spiritual life of a modern mystic?

In Episode 3 of the Stumbling Mystic podcast, I turned to two long-time friends who are actively committed to their faith to help me understand this topic. In our conversations, I was struck by how profoundly the structure of religion supported their deep, rich spirituality, as well as how much they struggled with conflicted feelings about that very structure.

You can listen below to Episode 3 of the Stumbling Mystic podcast, “How Does Traditional Religion Support our Spiritual Life?” Or, visit the podcast page, or listen on your favorite podcast platform.

Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash

Stumbling Mystic Podcast – Using the Wounds of Trauma to Heal

Whether we have faced severe events like war or physical assault, or the garden-variety insults and wounds inherent in life, we are all affected by trauma. It is the unifying condition of human experience and the cause of much suffering.

One of the reasons we are drawn to spirituality is a desire to heal. Many of us feel that we are broken, need to be fixed, maybe even that we are unlovable. But there are some approaches to spiritual growth that help us encounter pain and some that suppress pain. One promotes healing and the other does not.

In Episode 2 of the Stumbling Mystic podcast, I spoke with therapists, coaches and healers to understand how the power of trauma can hinder or accelerate our spiritual growth. We talk about:

  • How trauma causes us to disassociate from our bodies in order to survive;

  • The need to reinhabit and celebrate the body as the path to healing;

  • How somatic work allows us to release trauma and excavate our true selves;

  • Whether the spiritual journey is one of experiencing pain and joy in order to bring Spirit into the world of form;

  • Why healing our own wounds is necessary if we are to be healers for others.

You can listen below to Episode 2 of the Stumbling Mystic podcast, “Using the Wounds of Trauma to Heal.” Or, visit the podcast page, or listen on your favorite podcast platform.

Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash

Stumbling Mystic Podcast – How Do I Respond to the Spiritual Impulse?

I was drawn to the spiritual flame at an early age. Questions of ultimate concern have always fascinated me.

The spiritual impulse is a pull that feeds me, delights me, frustrates me, and educates me, continually leading to deeper discoveries about my essential self. I want to understand more about this compelling urge that occupies so much of my energy.

In Episode 1 of the Stumbling Mystic podcast, I talk with my guests about how their experiences nurture their spiritual well-being. Their stories and insights are inspiring:

  • How one person’s grief and anger at the cancer diagnosis of her child led to a spiritual maturity that was big enough to hold her volcanic rage;

  • How a young seminarian found solace from depression by lying before the tabernacle in the middle of the night;

  • How turning toward the difficulties and shadow of our common humanity can help us participate in a collective conscious with others;

  • How the spiritual impulse pulls us into a partnership between our ego self and higher self that is the basis for spiritual growth.

I was struck by the courage, vulnerability and resilience of my guests. Although I’ll never fully grasp the nature of this impulse that draws me toward the Sacred, I am grateful for its power and guidance.

You can listen below to Episode 1, “How Do I Respond to the Spiritual Impulse?” Or visit the podcast page, or listen on your favorite podcast platform.

Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash

The Stumbling Mystic Podcast – Food for the Spiritual Traveler

I’m a writer. So why am I publishing a podcast?

Because the road is long and the walking is slow. Because the aim of spiritual growth is to transform our way of being, and that kind of change doesn’t happen in the first few miles.

Because we sometimes forget and need reminding. Because we are often lost and need encouragement. Because on such a long walk, we need to be nourished along the way.

That’s why I write the Stumbling Mystic blog, to remind and encourage and nourish and nudge. My writing is a creative and communal practice – writing the blog feeds me, and I hope reading it feeds you as well.

So, to further this creative and communal endeavor, I interviewed ten of my friends and colleagues to gather their insights on the spiritual impulse. These are thoughtful, dynamic spiritual seekers who have been walking the road for years. They generously shared their time and wisdom for this podcast.

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Wise Words – We Are All Creators

As spiritual seekers, we are all creators.

“The object isn’t to make art, it’s to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable.”

Robert Henri


It’s funny, but I don’t think this quote is about art. It’s about the larger container that holds art but holds everything else as well.

When I sit down to write, I try to settle into a relaxed state that is connected to Spirit and open to guidance. If I don’t drop into this space, I am writing from a part of my brain that feels like the thin outer shell of who I am. The words might be organized, articulate, well-informed, they might even sound good, but the writing isn’t coming from the truth. At some level, it isn’t honest.

To drop into this state, I have to let go of my expectations about what my writing should be. I have to face and walk through the fear that my writing will expose me as idealistic, deluded, ego-inflated, or just plain silly. When I can do that, my consciousness shifts, and I enter the “wonderful state” Robert Henri is talking about. And then I can write.

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Walking the Path of a Modern Mystic

Walking the path of a modern mystic

I want to live fully engaged with the vibrancy of life. And that means something has to change.

I recognize there is a part of me that resides primarily in the physical world, which I call my ego self. It protects me, looks out for my interests, helps me achieve my goals, and serves me well in navigating the details of daily life. I honor and cherish this part of me, and I realize that life in this body would not be possible without my ego self. I like him (most of the time).

But I also recognize a larger dimension of my being that extends beyond the physical, my higher self, which guides my aspirations beyond surviving and succeeding in the world of form and connects me to the Source of all life. I want to live more fully from the depth of my higher self and less from the frantic, distracted worries of my ego self. I want to move freely in response to the spiritual impulse to connect with the Sacred.

That is what I want to change.

But how to move, in what direction, by what guidance? Living in modern society, I am given two mainstream approaches to these questions. Neither is spiritually satisfying to me.

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Wise Words – By Our Love, Not By Our Thinking

By our love not by our thinking

“By our love the Sacred may be touched and held; by our thinking, never.”

The Cloud of Unknowing, Chapter 6


Thinking is not wrong, it just gets too much air time in our hyper-productive, over-stimulated society.

When applied to problems it is good at, its answers seem complete:  How many grams are in a cup? When is the next solar eclipse? How much weight can this bridge design hold? These are questions with definite answers, and logic is ideally suited to deliver them. This leaves the false impression that thinking is a superior pathway to understanding. 

But we humans are multi-dimensional. For all its usefulness, logic cannot reach the parts of life we hold most dear:  the waves of love we feel holding our newborn child or grandchild; the subtle smile in the eyes of our spouse or partner; intuitive bursts of creativity; an inspired refrain of Bob Dylan or Beethoven; the upswept majesty of entering a cathedral. These are sacred experiences and no logical explanation of them is complete or fulfilling. They need to be embraced by another dimension of our being.

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Practical Wisdom is Changing its Name to Stumbling Mystic

Why Change the name to Stumbling Mystic?

I am writing this week to announce that Practical Wisdom is changing its name to Stumbling Mystic. Let me explain why.

Writing is a discipline. To do it well, it has to be truthful. By writing every week about topics dear to my heart, I’ve learned a lot about myself. It has required me to pay close attention to my experience and examine my inner dynamics and intentions with honesty.

Several things have become clear to me. One is that I am drawn to the direct experience of the sacred. A shift in consciousness happens when I pay attention to my attention. My ordinary awareness expands into a wider world that is delicious, vibrant, and always available just below the surface if I drop into mindfulness and allow the shift to happen.

 It is this shift that intrigues me, more than religious philosophy or metaphysical descriptions. Throughout the ages, a word used to describe the path of direct sacred experience is mysticism. 

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