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Posts Tagged ‘divine’

Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding:  80                              Consecutive Days Blogging: 81

Today’s Mileage: 4                                              Total Trip Mileage: 671

Do you ever have one of those mornings when you wake early and feel the need to take a walk to help clear you mind, still the swirl of voices, the struggle of feelings?  I had one of those this morning. 

I got up, threw on my jacket and gloves and retrieved my Dictaphone from the car.  As I walked up the street I found the swirling struggle of thoughts and feelings did not diminish!  The Dictaphone would not record and produced only a loud whine.  I pocketed it, deciding that perhaps I was meant to walk and just “be with” nature.  While the stars twinkled overhead, a biting north wind chilled me to the bone.  I chastised myself, as someone who had survived delivering papers in Dakota winters, the howling Alaskan winds and Antarctic storms, I could certainly put up with a chilly breeze. This idea of a walk, was just not working!  I turned around, picked up my pace and a short time later I had returned to the warmth of my studio.

Nine Eleven Taoist Walking Stick

As I ride the bike this morning I have no clear idea of what to blog about.  Yesterday I spoke about the need to sometimes just “be” in the moment.  I can do “just being” quite well when I’m surrounded by nature, standing in front of a fire, or walking in the woods.  I have heard the call of nature as it is the source of much of my creativity (e.g. my nature poems, wall hangings, and artwork) and provides a calming and peaceful respite.  It is a pull that can become so strong it leads people to becoming hermits and mountain men to retreat from human contact.

The Webfooted Taoist Walking Stick

I have heard the call and pull toward relationships with other people.  I have found great joy and pride as a parent watching their child explore, grow and become their own person.  I have felt the intense passion shared by lovers, felt the intense need to seek out friends for conversation during both moments of great joy and deep despair.  I have felt the joy and satisfaction of guiding and mentoring others through “rough times.”  I have also seen and felt the costs of relationships with others.  I have experienced the heart wrenching pain of a parent watching a child “crash and burn.”  I felt frustration as I watched friends and patients make poor choices that destroyed and damaged their lives, their health, and the lives of their loved ones. I have looked into pained and pleading eyes with little to offer.

I have heard the call of the divine, experienced its presence in the world around me, in the people I meet and deep within my being. I have met people who live their faith in positive life affirming ways and act as models for the rest of us.  I have met people who appear to have no relationship with the divine but find meaning in their possessions and accomplishments. I have known people whose relationship with the divine fed their sense of importance and self-righteousness but acted as a wedge between them and others. 

"Bare to the Bones" Taoist Walking Stick

I truly believe for me, the best route is the middle way, a balance between the moment-to-moment gifts of nature and the sometimes joyful dance and often frustrating struggle with human relationships. I have come to realize that relationships should never be easy or at least not all the time.  Good relationships (e.g. child, parent, teacher, lover, and friend) should challenge us to grow.  Growth should be the underlying process, such that good parents should grow with their parenting, good teachers should grow with their teaching, good bloggers should grow with their blogging.

The "Waterstick" Taoist Walking Stick

As we approach the New Year, it is customary to take stock of the outgoing year, to congratulate ourselves for our accomplishments, and resolve to work on our short comings. It is a good time to think about growth!  I will in the coming week steer my bike back onto our virtual path across Florida. I will be unveiling a “retooled” pilgrimage site page and map for my blog.  I look forward to our continuing journey into 2010 and the growth it offers!

The Taoist Walking Sticks are wall hangings I construct out of material and items I find on my nature hikes.  The examples shown included: stick, roots, feathers, deer bones, turtle bones and shell fragments, and remenants of a tattered flag.

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Consecutive Days Riding: 64                               Consecutive Days Blogging: 65

Today’s Mileage: 10                                            Total Trip Mileage: 562

The red line marks our progress.

As I ride the bike this morning I think about the candles burning around the world in temples and churches in celebration.  As I mentioned yesterday, for me, light and fire are symbolic of the divine. They provide us with guidance against ignorance.  They offer warmth against a cold inhumane world.  They have the ability to purify and cleanse, helping heal our wounds. Of course during this time of joy and celebration one does not have to look far to see sad scenes of death and destruction, abuse and hunger, of intolerance and hatred.

I recently received a comment  entitled “Pure and Undefiled Religion.”  The individual quoted the New Testament twice and included the following statements:

“And so it is that most of those who have chosen to follow The Messiah on The Narrow Way have had to “forsake their natural father, mother, brothers, sisters” and all others who will not follow The Messiah, because they “love this wicked world and their own life in and of it. What is declared to be “religion” today is truly the devil’s playground. Hope is there would be those who take heed unto The Call of The Only True G-D to “Come Out of her, MY people”!

He was critical of my blog, quoted scripture with certainty, and ended with the statement “Truth is never ending!” I responded with the following comment:

“I too believe in truth, but we seem to believe in very different truths! In my view the divine is large enough to embrace and love both of us! I choose to accept this “wide way,” if you choose to follow “the narrow way” then that is your choice. A student once asked me why it was that every semester it seemed there was always someone who was trying to “save me.” I just smiled and said: “They are just doing what they need to do to be the Christian they have chosen to be!” I am doing what I need to be doing (teaching, artwork, and blogging) to be the loving, spiritual person I have chosen to be! I appreciate that you visited my blog and took the time to respond to it! I wish you well on your journey… I will hold you in my prayers… as I hope you will hold me in yours. Have a wonderful and happy holiday.

This morning I received a response from him.  Again he quoted scripture, and directed ridicule at all of us “who do not follow the true G-D.”  I followed his comments back to his own blog.  I found that his statements to me were nothing more than a copy of the ramblings that filled his blog. Rants against the world at large, organized religion, and non-believers.

It is no wonder that this person’s comments appeared in the spam space of my blog?  They remind me of the individuals who stand on a street corner and cry out their condemnation of “passing sinner” without any knowledge of these individuals’ beliefs, virtuous actions or their relationship with the divine.  I suspect they view the negative reactions of the passing “sinners” not as feedback, but simply as sign of their righteousness.

It has been my experience that when some religious individuals embrace negative feedback or criticism, they often do not accept it as corrective feedback. Instead they exhibit an attitude of self-righteousness. They view the criticism as a sign they are on the right path. Any criticism or challenging feedback is ignored or ridiculed.  This response may lead them on a course fraught with dangerous consequences for their family, friends and society.

I have featured sunsets on today’s posting as they too are symbolic. They symbolize the end of a day and approaching darkness.  However, with their brillent colors they also plant the seeds for a new day, for a dawning and return of light. I receive criticism and feedback as gifts with open arms, as long as the other person is willing to: try to listen, try to understand and looks for common ground.  Let us hope that our churches, communities, nations and our world will see the sun set on divisive ideas and emotions which serve only to create schisms between us and them, between the natural and the spiritual worlds, between individuals and the divine.

A special thanks to the photographers associated with Panramio for the beautiful scenes from along the roadside.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 51                             Consecutive Days Blogging: 52

Today’s Mileage:  11                                        Total Trip Mileage: 450

Holidays and Holy Days on November 30:

Saint Andrew’s DayChristian observance of the coming of Christianity to the area now know as Scotland. The martyrdom of St Andrew is remembered as the season of Advent begins.

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As I ride the bike this morning I sort through the various blog topics I collected during the previous day. Where do these topics come from? As I go through my day, a word, a phrase, a glance sets me to “thinking” and topics starts to take shape. I feel this process is partly a result of the creative muse (an openness to the rich tapestry of my daily life) and partly a product of facts, teachings, theories, research, trivia, memories, poems and stories I carry within me.  This concoction is constantly stirred by my inquisitive nature and non-critical awareness of feelings and actions. Each time I dip the ladle into this stew, I am surprised with what comes out.  As one of my sons recently stated about a bowl of Susan’s chili: “There’s a lot of good stuff in here!”

My students among the readers will see the title of todays blog and say “heard that one before.”  This “be certain about what you believe, but humble that these beliefs do not fit for everyone” statement contains my most frequently uttered words of advice.  In particular, it is advice I give to students who desire to follow in my footsteps and become a therapist. This approach is almost a requirement if one wants to be an effective and ethical professional therapist.  It  is also related to a question that came up in a discussion I had with a regular commentator  to  my blog.  The discussion was about: how you should view and respond to other people’s questions?

A Question!

We discussed how questions can be seen, especially by teachers, as challenges to their authority and adequacy.  A professor might interpret criticism to mean that he/she has not covered the material properly, explained concepts adequately or made the topic relevant to the student’s world.  Questions can be sent as sharp barbs which attempt to humiliate or establish moral superiority. Yet these very same questions, when filtered through a “certain but humble” prism can be viewed and received as gifts! Every question, regardless of the motive, is a chance to plant another seed!  A chance to further clarify, to share stories and observations; a chance to step back and look at the bigger picture and then dive back in with a new explanation or clarification. Questions are gifts and weather vanes, they tell you how far you may have travelled in exploring the wonderous, sometimes mundane, sometimes frightening world view of another human being.  The reaction to questions tell you whether to proceed or pull back, or return another time.

A Gift!

I have come to realize there are two general processes behind most questions.  Those that seek to arrive at a genuine understanding and insight into another person’s worldview and lead the questioner to develop cognitive and emotional empathy.  The second group are those that are fashioned and delivered in an effort to develop an  “attack plan.”  They probe a person’s belief system for weaknesses, for fuzzy boundaries, for uncertainty.  The purpose of these questions is not to understand the structure of someone’s beliefs to help them, but to cause that structure to collapse.  They ultimately desire to poke holes in worldviews, create uncertainty, and undermine foundations so that they may be there to “help” you rebuild.  They strive to prove that your worldview is wrong and theirs is right!

Unexpected gifts!

How should you react to such questions?  By formulating your own attack, by deflecting and then lunging for their heart? You can do this, but it only leads to struggle, like two warriors with their shields up probing the others defense. The outcome at best is a standoff, most often someone needs to be vanquished. Should you just shut down the conversation, walk or run away?  This only leaves the other standing alone, feeling victorious, self-righteous and “just.”

If you arm yourself with a certainty in “your beliefs,” but the humbleness that your beliefs are not and should not be those of the other, you answer their questions about content (i.e. the names of God, existence of heaven and hell, etc.) with a smile. Treat their question like a gift, like a request for true understanding not a probe in preparation of an attack. Whether it bears a point like a weapon or a look of awe and puzzlement, of new discoveries.

Be a gift, plant a seed!

Let them aim their biting  questions for your heart, let them strike with their best blows if they must.  The blade will effortlessly pass through you with nothing to tear, damage or destroy.  For your certainty, your core happiness and joy, your spirit is made of light, love and personal knowledge of the divine. You smile at the gift and wait for the next lunge.  You have not tried to change them, not played “tit-for-tat”, not become defensive, not called them names or condemned them to hell. You have given them a glimpse of another reality, you have mirrored the divine, you have planted a seed of possibilities!

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 36                               Consecutive Days Blogging: 37

Today’s Mileage:  5                                           Total Trip Mileage: 316

 stage6

     As I ride my bike and we approach our next Pilgrimage Site, I want to speak about mysticism.  Several viewers have asked me to define it and to describe types of mystical experiences.  To answer these questions in the depth they deserve it would take more time and space than one Blog posting can offer.  As such today I will be presenting only a cursory review.

cindy47452

Blazing Sky!

     Mysticism can be defined as: the pursuit of an understanding or relationship with the ultimate reality we call the divine, through direct experience, intuition and insight.  This relationship may include a desire to enter into a communion with, identification with, or achieve a conscious awareness of this ultimate reality, divinity, spiritual truth, or God. A mystical experience may be minor and uplifting, like a walk through a beautiful garden, or it may be profound, intense and a life changing event, such as a near death experience!

daodejing1     Mysticism usually focuses on practices that are intended to nurture this direct experience or awareness.  All of the major wisdom traditions either place mystical experiences at the core of their practices, primarily within the eastern traditions, or have mystical branches within their traditions, such as Kabbalah within Judaism, Sufism within Islam, Christian mystics within Christianity. The mystical branches of these Monotheist traditions are often treated skeptically by the more orthodox branches of the faith due to the emphasis the mystic person places on their direct experience and living realization over doctrine. In contrast to orthodox branches which often look only to the sacred scriptures for revelation and direction.

      Mystics believe these experiences of divine consciousness, enlightenment and union with God that are made possible via the mystical paths, are available to everyone who is willing to follow the practice. No one is denied or excluded from the practices or the experiences that result. While some mystic traditions may exclude the validity of other traditions, most tend to be more accepting than the non-mystical versions of their faiths. In general, mystics are more inclusionary and pluralistic.

 

AlchemicalStar-175

Alchemist's Star

   How are these mystical experiences classified? In general they can first be divided into dualistic, which maintains a distinction between the individual and the divine, often called Theist Mysticism, and non-dualistic, where the distinction is blurred or no distinction exists.

     These non-dualistic experiences can be further divided into those where there is a mystical consciousness of the unity of all reality superimposed upon a person’s perceptions of the world (i.e. when I, as a young boy, stood transfixed in the face of a gigantic thunderstorm as it and all of reality “passed through me” and became one).  This can be called Nature Mysticism and may be experienced in any moment of intense passion, creativity, or connectedness with other people and natural objects.  If the experience involves a “going inward” and the “falling away” of one’s identity to the point of “divine nothingness”, or bliss, this can be called Monist Mysticism.

  julian-holycard1   You might ask: is a person limited to just one form of mystical experience?  The answer is No!  I myself have experienced both Nature and Monist mystical experiences.  I have never experienced the divine as a deity or a spiritual presence.  My partner has experienced all three.

      Depending upon the religious tradition you are trying to conform to, these experiences may be embraced or looked upon with suspicion.  I believe no single type or combination is the true or desirable experience.  You cannot command mystical experiences to occur. However, you can maintain practices which increase their likelihood of occurrence.  You can pray, chant, dance, meditate, do yoga, or take nature walks to name only a few. A deep level of despair may visit a mystic who has lost this connection with the divine i.e. the Theist to whom God fails to speak, the Nature mystic who feels nothing at the feet of natural beauty, or the Monist who cannot penetrate  layers of ego and desire that block the way to the sacred core. It has been said that “Behind every addiction lies a search for the divine.”  False paths to the divine do exist but that’s a topic for another posting.

     Most people I know who have mystical experiences view them as profound gifts.  As with any special gift, one shouldn’t hoard it, but share it with others.  It may be shared when it inspires caring, loving behavior towards others, as inspiration for a poem or piece of artwork or the topic of a discussion.  There are many paths, many experiences that will take the seeking pilgrim to the mountain top, to a knowledge of and relationship with the divine.  Which path is “your path?”  There is no more important question in life!

     For more information the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy at www.plato.stanford.edu  contains a good academic discussion of the topic under mysticism.   In addition, a wonderful movie is available called A Still Small Voice, narrated by Bill Kurtis (of recent “I found the internet” fame) which includes presentations by people who have experienced all three forms of mysticism.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 35                               Consecutive Days Blogging: 36

Today’s Mileage:  7                                            Total Trip Mileage: 311

 stage6

     There are times in life when we are faced with an event that we cannot avoid and for which we have made all of the prescribed preparations.  It might be surgery, a big test, the return of a loved one, or a phone call about a job, to name just a few.  We may have said our prayers and activated our support system of family and friends but then what do we do?  Ruminating, worrying, and making last minute changes to our planned response can be problematic.  Some people will continue with prayer while others might try some distracting activity.  In such situations I often simply “take a walk.” 

     Not only is the movement calming but my attention shifts to my immediate surroundings, to the beauty, the complexity, the activity literally “under my feet” and at the edge of the pathway.  Such walks are not only distracting, but they  act as a reminder of our connection with the larger and smaller worlds around us.  Such walks help us to put things into perspective and to be joyful for what we have… the opportunity to take another step down the path and receive the gifts of the divine!

Mindful Footfalls

bee

Bee with flower

   Cosmic spotlight stretched

    By the lakes reflective surface

      Streams through

        The sparse spring foliage

Lift… Stretch… Drop… One

  Sounds of a distant struggle

    Between a squirrel

chipmonk

Stuffed chipmonk

      And a blackbird

        Rages on unseen

Lift… Stretch… Drop… Two

  Tap-tap-tap

    Of a woodpecker

      Scarring the face of a cedar home

        In search of carpenter bees

 
 
 

flowers

Daylilies

Lift… Stretch… Drop… Three

 

  Who-who-who

    An inquisitor questions

     Is it an owl or a loon?

      Who inquires of my identity?

Lift… Stretch… Drop… Four

  The air is still

    The only breeze

butterfly

Butterfly on Bark

      Barely noticeable

        Is the product of my passage.

Lift… Stretch… Drop… Five

  Winged insects

    Large and small

      Hover and dart about

        In the bright sunlight.

Lift… Stretch… Drop… Six

 Spiders

  Hanging from oak branches

     Dangle motionless

dragonfly

Dragonfly

        On near invisible threads.

Lift… Stretch… Drop… Seven

  Nature’s perfume counter

    The sweet smell

      Of honeysuckle and jasmine

        Fill the air.

Lift… Stretch… Drop… Eight

flowers2

Pink Passion

  A pair of daddy-long-legs

    Climb to the highest vantage point

      Of a young oak shoot

        To view my passage.

Lift… Stretch… Drop… Nine

  All this and

    I haven’t even walked

flowersbee

Not the same bee

      A dozen steps

        On my morning journey.

Lift… Stretch… Drop… Ten

  All this and

    I haven’t even

      Made it to the lake

        And it’s sandy shoreline.

Lift… Stretch… Drop… Eleven

bluebirdthumb by rodney cammauf nps  What sensual feasts

    Lie ahead?

Lift… Stretch… Drop…

     I hope you have enjoyed the poem and the images.  Remember to hold your family, friends and our world community in your prayers and then, instead of waiting for the day to unfold, I suggest you “take a walk!” Tomorrow I will blog on the topic of mysticism as a prelude to our Pilgrimage Site visit on Sunday of the most mystical of all the world faiths.

Special thanks to my student Caroline Carvile for the use of her nature walk photos!

 

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