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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My Mother Is in Hospice

On a normal morning, my regular practice made sense. Stretches and meditation were part of a comfortable routine. The world seemed stable, perhaps hinting that small corners of life were controllable.

But since mom fell, nothing has been normal.

For the past month, my days have turned upside down. My mother, 86, has not recovered well from her broken hip and pneumonia. Despite steroids, antibiotics, and respiratory treatments, the infections worsened, her lungs filled with fluid, and her breathing capacity eroded to a shallow spot at the top of her chest.

The fall and the hip surgery were traumatic; the struggle with pneumonia has been tortuous; and now the decision to enter hospice has been a gut-punch, hitting my father the hardest as he watches his sweetheart of 70 years slowly recede. This family emergency has me flailing to find a handhold.

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A Place Where I Could See

There are times in life when our eyes are opened, when we cross a threshold into a new way of seeing.

That happened to me when I was a boy, climbing the towering silver maple behind our garage. I had a moment when the big world seemed to coelese and became smaller, more understandable. These moments can happen at any time if we are open to them.

A Place Where I could see

I should have been afraid, but friendly holds 
made easy climbing, even for a small boy.  
I looped my leg at the highest limb,
hooked my foot against the trunk and watched my town
soften in the dusk.

Head above the canopy, I had a view like Cortez, or Galileo,
beyond the school, the railroad tracks beside the
church, the spider webs of roads and cars,
the banks of trees in folding light lost in waves 
across a Midwest ocean.

Next morning, walking into school, I looked ordinary, 
no one suspecting I knew the secret way things really look.  
High windows and heavy doors took on their true proportions.
I’d been to a place where I could see how light expands and 
where the world curves over. 

Photo by Jackson Simmer on Unsplash

Prayer for 2024

Although prayer is often thought of as the making of a request, it’s much more than that. A deeper practice enters prayer as a conversation, a way of being in relationship.

Prayer deepens our relationship with our inner world. It allows us to assemble our vague, unstated gratitudes and longings into a coherent expression, revealing hidden meaning about what is important or troubling to us.

Prayer deepens our relationship with our outer world. It brings focus to the state of our relations with people and events, showing where and how we are connected or disconnected.

And prayer deepens our relationship with the field of consciousness that houses our individual awareness. It reminds us we are more than separate beings trying to live and thrive among other separate beings; we are the tips of the waves of an ocean, small eddies of individuality swimming in a giant sea.

Each of our prayers is vitally important because it is a unique expression of universal themes. No other voice has our singular nature, quirks, insights, life history, or personal slant on the cosmos. Stating our prayers out loud collects our separate identities and joins them into a greater body.

And so here is mine, a prayer for 2024, in hopes that my voice will join with yours and a sea of others in the grand fellowship to which we all belong.


Prayer for 2024

Spirit, I invite you to me.
Let me open to you and feel the power of your presence. 

Ground me in my body, here and now,
In this space and time, fully available in this moment.
Fill me with your energy and potential.

Expand my senses, uplift my heart, reveal my higher self to me.
Let me sense the community of souls who share my longings,
Who strengthen me, who connect me to the whole.

I am grateful for the blessings in my life, for the material comforts
I enjoy in a world where so many go without, for the kindnesses
I receive, for the ability to feel joy, and for the boundless capacity
To give and receive love.

I acknowledge that the world can feel chaotic and dangerous.
I am troubled by the current of the times, with war, destruction,
Discord, fragmentation, and the senseless suffering of innocents. 
I am often left confused, searching for clarity and relief.

Strengthen me. Help me know that I am capable of meeting
Life as it unfolds. Be with me when I am fearful, when my desire for
Certainty makes me forget that the future is unknowable.

Show me where I have a part to play. Let me be moved to act in
Ways that nudge the coming changes to the good. Not action
Formed in anger, for there is already too much anger and poison
In the world, but action that is antidote.

Guide me to the stillpoint, the calm amidst the motion, the quiet
Peace where I can find my breath and see more clearly the
Trajectory of my decisions. Center me in silence where a
Softer and more generous wisdom will inform my better actions.

And give me hope.
Open me to trust that the roadway of this human project,
Though strewn with the devastating litter of our mistakes,
Is advancing toward something worthy of our efforts. 

In service to our common good,
In surrender to what comes,
By the grace of all that is,

Amen


What gratitudes and longings do you have? What prayer would you voice for the coming year? The roadway continues, a patchwork of stones laid out before you, ready to be walked upon. 

I invite you to offer your voice in the comments below. Our thoughts are more potent when declared and shared.

Photo by Jacob Bentzinger on Unsplash

Why Spirituality?

Why do we pursue a spiritual path? What is the spiritual impulse that fuels our seeking? What are we trying to achieve?

Spirituality is personal. It touches everyone differently according to their understanding, nature and season, so we each engage these questions in our own way. Let me offer my response with the following possibilities.

I want guidance in walking this impossible human life, a paradox both extravagantly abundant, delicious and fulfilling, and supremely challenging, grievous and painful.

I want to grow. I know there is a vast potential beyond my current boundaries that wants to emerge. I want to discover and express the core of who I am.

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A Jarring Scene Shifts Me Into My Higher Self

Near my neighborhood is a three-lane frontage road that parallels the freeway, a main thoroughfare for zipping across town. I was driving there recently, speeding along to or from some nondescript errands, when the traffic slowed to a crawl.

I felt a surge of annoyance. I was on a roll, my internal settings on “go.” I didn’t want to step on the brake. I quickly scouted a lane change to keep up my speed. Then traffic stopped. My impatience bloomed. I was pissed and slammed the steering wheel.

As we approached a major cross-street, I saw the reason for the delay. In the right lane, a one-eyed sedan with a crumpled hood had been spun around, facing in the wrong direction. A police officer was talking to a woman sitting on the curb, another directing traffic past the broken glass and dislodged headlight.

There was no other car. From these momentary images, my mind tried to reconstruct the scene. A hit and run? A missed red light? I couldn’t tell from the expression of the women on the curb.

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Wise Words – A World in Chaos, or the Birth of a New Consciousness?

Just before [an airplane] cracks the sonic barrier, there’s increased vibration and greater resistance . . . In our present state of evolutionary development, you might say we are flying just beneath the sound barrier of consciousness . . . On the other side of the sonic boom, we discover heightened connection, transparency, integration and resonance – more unity. 

People all over the world are experiencing decidedly tumultuous times.  Perhaps this is a sign that we’re moving closer to the “speed of sound” – closer to new consciousness. Of course, the faster we travel, the more volatility we meet – until we have breached the membrane and exceeded previous evolutionary limitations. What a beautiful boom that will make.

Thomas Hübl, from his book, Attuned


We live our lives in the day-to-day, so it’s easy to miss the longer view. In the day-to-day, we attend to the details of living life. The coffee pot, the kid’s breakfast, the list of appointments, errands, deadlines, and obligations, these all have their rightful place and deserve our attention.

We usually view the news while in the day-to-day mode of attention. Each item appears on the screen as a separate event and taken together, they sometimes paint a distressing picture. Extreme weather events, shootings, scenes of war, political gridlock, social unrest, hateful displays – we absorb the parade of disturbing headlines and react to each, feeling our emotions and grappling to make sense of it. 

And it seems to be getting worse, each day more extreme, the suffering amplified, our bodies more fatigued, and our emotions more numb. The speed of it is disorienting. We want it to slow down, for the madness to stop, for things to go back to normal.

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Stop, Look, and Let Your Eyes Adjust

I live in Sacramento, a good-sized city. Light pollution from buildings and parking lots clouds the night sky, making star gazing a limited adventure.

I recently went to Crater Lake, Oregon, high in the Cascade mountain range, far from any population centers. At night, the sky was spattered with stars, like confetti littering the street after a Superbowl parade. I could make out the Milky Way, a faint background haze stretching across the black from horizon to horizon.

I was amazed, speechless, mesmerized. Now I know what they mean when they say “star-struck.”

I walked along the rim trail walk away from the lodge, the only lighted building nearby. When I felt the darkness around me was complete, I stopped and did nothing but look for several minutes. As I stared upward, my eyes continued to adjust, and the whole starlight show slowly unfolded. More sparkles appeared with each passing minute. They filled in the spaces where I had thought there was only black. I began to think that if I could see it all, there would be more light than dark.

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What Is the Spiritual Response to Gaza?

The war that ignited last week in the Middle East has left me deeply distressed and confused. Distressed that heinous acts and the rageful reactions they provoke are feeding a murderous cycle; confused as I struggle to find a meaningful spiritual response.

I see the wheel of violence and revenge rolling forward, ages old, and I desperately want something to change, to make this time different, to free us from the macabre theater that will play itself out over months or years until our capacity for carnage is exhausted.

I am confronted with the bloodshed and atrocities of war and the prospects for a widening conflict destabilizing the region.

I am staggered by the devastation of cities and homes, the sickening loss of life, the oceans of grief, and the trauma that will last for generations.

I am paralyzed by the cultural and geopolitical complexities that fog our collective vision as we seek a path out of the bramble bush.

I am consumed with a desire to distinguish right from wrong, to understand what drives people to commit slaughter and to fathom a reply that does not match its depravity. I long for a clean line that separates good from evil, that labels which acts of violence are justified, even as I realize that the maelstrom of war eventually blurs and breaks those lines.

And I yearn for guidance. I cry out for answers in a landscape where answers don’t make sense.

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