From Unity to Separation to Unity

The spiritual journey goes from unity to separation to unity

I want to let the false narratives, the tired stories I’ve told myself about myself, to fall away. I want to touch my true nature, the core that holds my inherent goodness and connects me to the Cosmos, and let it shine.

That’s what the spiritual journey does. And when it hits the sweet spot, it takes me to a mountaintop where I can see farther and feel deeper. I am changed for having walked the miles below.

But if it’s so good, why is this journey so hard? If my spiritual desire is so strong, why am I constantly knocked off the path by the problems, challenges, and distractions of daily life?

Maybe it’s because the spiritual journey is embedded in the physical journey. Maybe we don’t walk the path to escape the woes of the physical world, maybe the physical and the spiritual are woven into the path together, interdependent vehicles that enhance each other so that our walking takes us naturally from unity, through separation, and back to unity.

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Always Forgetting, Always Remembering

Maybe the world ends when I do.

(Go with me on this thought experiment.) Maybe it all evaporates at the instant of my death, the sun and all her sister stars spread across the eons snuffed out in a whisper.

Maybe my consciousness is the sum total of consciousness. All the events and people I have known or heard about, all history, literature, language, science, culture, were just props in my stageplay. Joan of Arc, Shakespeare, the Great War, quantum theory, Impressionism, migratory birds, interstate highways, ice cream cones, and all the rest were curated artifacts presented to me so I could craft this one life.  

And when my eyes close for the last time, the final curtain falls on everything. No more thoughts or fears, no symphonies or street crime, no conversations in coffee shops or late night bedrooms, no playing children, no morning sunlight. Maybe it was all a parade hung in the sky for this one small spark of light that was me.

Pause and consider for a moment; what is your reaction to this scenario? I have two thoughts.

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Faith Is the Bird That Feels the Light

“Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.”

Rabindranath Tagore


I feel the light, too. And I am sometimes confused by it.

The light I feel is good. It is goodness itself. I want to be immersed in this light, drenched, consumed. I want to open my chest and let it enter me, to unfold myself in its brilliance and fly or sink to wherever it is going.

I trust the light without knowing why. Without good reason, without proof, even though it makes no logical sense, even though I can’t be certain. But my trust is stronger than knowledge or reason or proof or logic or, most brittle of them all, certainty.

Living in the modern world, I have been taught to believe in the power of knowledge, reason, and logic, and to strive to make things certain. I acknowledge the value of these human capacities and I express abundant gratitude for the many benefits they bring to modern life:  electricity, indoor plumbing, antibiotics, chemotherapy, communication satellites, bridges that don’t fall down. And because my trust in the light is more intuitive than logical, more felt sense than geometric proof, I am sometimes confused that my trust is so strong.

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Living Life With an Open Window

I spend too much energy trying to curate my experience, as if I could choreograph my days to linger over the pleasures and hurry past the disappointments.

This is perfectly understandable. Our human tendency to shy away from discomfort and gravitate toward pleasure is universal. But blindly following this instinctual drive has a cost.

It lessens my contact with the world by building a shell between me and the throb and pulse of life. It decreases my sensitivity to the full reality of the objects, events and people that show up around me. It fosters a false belief that I can distance myself from what I don’t like and embrace only the sweetness of things.

Over time, it distorts my perception, stunting my perspective like a sapling bent by the wind. It programs my antennae to look for threats and predisposes me to judge each experience according to my preferences, directing me to approach or avoid.

There is a different way to be.

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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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Cultivate a Calm and Healing Presence

I know people who can walk into a room and bring a sense of calm. Others might be nervous or upset, but these people seem to bring a peaceful presence just by showing up. 

I want to be more like them.

If I’m agitated, other people pick can up on my emotions and become agitated too. We humans tend to do that because we are socially attuned to each other’s moods. Likewise, if I can center myself, others can sense that and become more grounded.

When I’m open enough to listen deeply to someone without agenda or needing to counterpoint or defend, I create a space where they can feel heard, and they are more able to release their need for agenda or counterpoint or defense. Creating a space of deep listening brings the healing quality of connection, but it is not easy to do in stressful conversations.

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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

I’m Not a Very Good Mystic

I’m not a very good mystic.

I spend most of my time absorbed by the tasks and routines of the day. I would call this my ordinary state of consciousness, where I am focused on my perspective as an individual, moving through the world as a separate being. Periodically, something shifts my state. It could be a passage I read, even a single word, like “grace” or “love.” It could be a comment I overhear about someone’s troubles, or a patch of color that catches my eye from a flower bed or a shaft of light.

In these small moments, I shift into an expanded consciousness. My senses widen and I drop into a more vibrant world. I feel the current of life pass through me as everything becomes unreasonably simple and clear, and I remember I am part of something larger. The shift sometimes feels abrupt, leaving me amazed at how I could have been satisfied with the shallow perception that filled my attention just a moment ago. I wonder, “How could I ever leave this more expanded, peaceful, connected space?”

But leave it I do. I am usually pulled back into ordinary reality fairly quickly.

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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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