Tuesday, July 20, 2010

In the Field Beyond Labels

Christian, evangelical, liberal, progressive, fundamentalist, Buddhist, Hindu, Jew, Muslim, theist, deist, atheist, post theist, pantheist, panentheist, naturalist, religious naturalist, humanist, spiritual humanist, spiritual, spiritual but not religious, religious and not spiritual, spiritual and religious, neither spiritual nor religious..........there are enough labels flying around these days to start a philosophical supermarket.

When it comes to human beings, labels have limited value. Store items need their labels fixed firmly in place. People are better off keeping a loose hold on labels. You and your thoughts are so much more than any one, two, three or four word label could ever capture. Better to write your labels in pencil because they are likely to change over time. There is no need to feel trapped in a label from the past.

In fact some of the desire for labels comes from an egoic need to be special and marked. We end up in our own philosophical brand label competition – my label is better than yours, my label is more popular than yours, my label is more elusive and ambiguous than yours. Who are we kidding? There’s no lasting self worth in a stick-on label. Eventually the adhesive wears out and usually before you are ready.

My motto is to be open to everything and attached to nothing, including labels. This is the path to freedom and inner peace. I take truth from where it presents itself and keep moving towards the light. If a label nudges me along for a while, I use it. If its effect begins to fade, or it begins to make me feel smug, I leave the label for the open roads of possibility. At my best moments, I am at peace with my true self which is beyond any label because it doesn’t depend on any particular thoughts or feelings for verification. It is my born identity, and like the amnesic superspy Jason Bourne, I sometimes struggle to remember its origins. It is my unchanging essence that is one with the source of life.

It’s in this space between the labels that I am most at ease. It’s also in the space between the labels that the best human interactions take place. We can genuinely connect from a place of openness and without defense. We have so much more in common than our labels can even hint at. The poet Rumi described it like this-

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field.
I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn't make any sense.

For now, I choose the label that simply reads, “I am.” What is the way? “I am!” Where is the truth? “I am!” Who is the life? “I am!” Of course, you are too. Many “I ams” make a powerful “We are”, freed from territorial defense and related at the most intimate level.

Ps- Just a reminder that Meg and I have launched our website, Soulseeds, and we invite you to check it out. You are sure to find something that inspires and encourages you.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Spiritual Beings Immersed in a Human Experience

We just celebrated the birthday of the woman who caught my eye and stole my heart 22 years ago. From the minute I saw her, I knew that this was meant to be – this was a match made in heaven. It was as Paulo Coehlo described in the Alchemist, “When two such people encounter each other, the past and the future become unimportant. There is only that moment, and the incredible certainty that everything under the sun has been written by one hand only. It is the hand that evokes love, and creates a twin soul for every person in the world. Without such love, one’s dreams would have no meaning.”

Of course, as was true for the Spanish shepherd boy in the Alchemist, there were a few details to sort out before this love at first sight could be consummated. We both had to untangle from other relationships. One of us had to finish high school and move to Sydney. But these were mere details in serendipity’s match making plans that surprisingly brought us to the same place at the same time. Two people from different worlds and no logical reason to meet, and yet here we were locking eyes across a crowded room like a scene from a Jane Austen novel. There was something fateful about that first meeting. It felt like the beginning of a grand adventure. Little did we know that it would bring us three kids, take us around the world and land us in the center of a transformational world movement for a new spirituality.

We didn’t know the details, nor did we ever imagine the challenges, but even our earliest conversations had an intensity and focus about them. We wanted to be part of something significant together. This meeting was no accident. We would make sure this meeting was no accident. When we contemplate the sacrifices of living so far from home, and when we go through hard times, whether because ego intrudes or because of the slings and arrows of outrageous Fox News drama, we remind each other of the serendipity of our meeting all those years ago. The calling is stronger than the challenge. The commitment is greater than the loss. The times of trial are also no accident. Taking the path with heart is rarely easy, but the joy of living authentically and boldly outweighs any challenge by far.

Living Your Higher Calling

Do you know what I’m talking about? I know you do. Whether it’s a new love or a relocation or a new idea, you know what it means to be captured by a vision. It’s not so much that you are living life. It’s more that life is living you. You are the mouth piece of a greater message. You are the disciple of a greater calling. You are the hands and feet of a higher power. By any name or understanding you are the way that God remains anonymous in the world.

The incredible thing for Meg and me is that this higher calling brings us to America. Just as it is no accident that we are here, it is also no accident that you are reading this or connected to us in some way. If you were looking to go through the motions of religious obligation, you would be connected to church as usual. As it is, many of you never imagined you would be connected to any church. Some of you are pinching yourselves right now that this is actually happening. Yes, you are participating and you are beginning to believe in miracles again.

This is no accident. Make sure this is no accident. This is love at first light. Spirit is tapping at the window of your consciousness. All you need to do is open the window. You are participating in a new spiritual community. Spirituality that is free and responsive to higher callings is not new. It’s been there all along. What is new is the fact that millions of people around the world are simultaneously waking up to their co-creative partnership with spirit. And so many of us are doing it outside of organized, mainstream religion.

There is a fascinating episode recorded in Luke 17;20-21. Jesus draws a distinction between religion and spirituality. The religious response is often to look outside of yourself for wisdom. The religious people of his day were saying, “Look there” or “look here” as if you can point to God. The spiritual response is to look within. Where religion often attempts to hold spiritual authority over its followers, the new spiritual movement encourages people to realize their own spiritual power. Where religion teaches its followers to search for spiritual experience within a tightly bound range of what is holy, the new spiritual movement invites you to see all of life as an incredible miracle and to see yourself as one of the lead actor in spirit’s play.

Religion is great for some people, but it doesn’t have a monopoly on spirituality. Religion has marked its boundaries too possessively and heavy handedly and people are looking for alternate ways to participate in spirit’s adventure.

As Teilhard de Chardin once said, “You are not a human being in search of spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being immersed in a human experience.”

What is spirituality? You won’t find it by saying, “Look here” or “look there”. Spirituality is within you awaiting your attention. You can’t look for it. You can only wake up to it. When you wake up to the fact that you are a spiritual being immersed in a human experience, everything becomes holy, all beings become your kin, every moment becomes your teacher, and you realize that your life is part of a much greater whole.

Everything you do, every choice you make is significant. You are participating in the evolution of life. And you know that you can’t do it alone. You need to find other kindred spirits to create change, and that’s why your participation is no accident. You are aligning with other spiritual beings. If changing the world sounds too large and removed from daily life, consider the human experience as first and foremost concerned with changing your own world by changing the way you see the world.

When you live as a spiritual being, you are open to the most outrageous change in direction at any moment. You don’t have all the answers, and you don’t have the outcomes all locked in place. If religion is too focused on status quo, the spiritual adventure is all about status flow. Life lives through you and all you need to do is get out of your own way.

Spiritual Healing

I heard a beautiful example of healing in the flow of life. Two individuals, a man and a woman, arrived at C3 in the past year. Both came from traditional religious backgrounds, left that behind and never imagined they would end up in church again. Both were coming out of torrid divorces less than a year ago. They were both strangely drawn to C3. One arrived here a year ago. The other came for the first time three weeks ago. After his first gathering, the man went for a walk around the building and his heart stopped when he saw her at the top of the stairs. They stood looking at each other, speechless. This was the first time they had seen each other since the torrid divorce. They had been married for over 20 years until last year. After a few awkward moments, they embraced and began a conversation that lasted the rest of that day. Transformation and healing began. I’m not saying all was immediately roses. It was different. After all you can’t cross the same river twice. But something new had emerged out of a chance meeting. Two spiritual beings immersed in a human experience, find their way to C3 to heal and put to rest some of their demons.

That’s the sort of healing that takes place when you are open to what has life to offer rather than imagining that you have it all mapped out. When you are open to surprise, healing takes place. It is a central part of our higher calling to participate in healing, whether it is personal healing or global healing.

Following a Spiritual Path

It was a typical Sunday morning in 2003. I was leading an Anglican service at my downtown church in Auckland. One man stood out in the crowd that day. Being a downtown church meant that we always had interesting visitors from all over the world. But this man stood out because he was wearing running gear and he was sweating up a storm. I met him after the service, and it turned out he had literally run a marathon and come straight from the finish line to church. He was surprisingly chipper. He told me he was from America. I told him that I was considering a job in America. I asked him where he was from in America. He said Michigan. I told him the job I was considering was in Michigan. I asked him where in Michigan. He said, “You wouldn’t know it. It’s a small place in West Michigan.” I said, “Really. The job I am considering is in a small place in West Michigan.” I asked him where in West Michigan. He said, “You wouldn’t know it. It’s a small town called Saugatuck.” I said, “You wouldn’t believe it, but the job I am considering is in Spring Lake not 40 minutes from Saugatuck. I ate a meal in Saugatuck only 3 weeks ago while visiting the Spring Lake community.” He even knew of C3 and its history.

We made the decision to move here a few days after meeting Pedro from Saugatuck in his very short shorts and singlet top. I’m not saying we moved here because of Pedro or that Pedro knew what he was doing when he turned up in Auckland. But I like to think that Pedro was God’s way of remaining anonymous. This was life’s way of taking me by the scruff of the neck and shaking me out of my habitual mindset. There was something about that meeting that reminded us that life is mysteriously connected, the world is incredibly small, and all people are related. After such an encounter, the past and the future become unimportant. There is only that moment, and the incredible certainty that everything under the sun has been written by one hand only. Life was happening through us. We had to flow with it and not resist.

We moved here to tear down some of the boundaries that divide people and to be part of bringing people together across all manner of difference. We moved here to be part of something that couldn’t yet be named. We now name it an Inclusive Spiritual Community.

Last week I spoke about the inclusive part of the name. We reach across boundaries that divide and celebrate our common humanity. This week I am speaking about the spiritual aspect of the name. Spirituality can be defined in so many ways, and you no doubt bring your own spiritual perspective. I encourage you to do so. One way or another I speak about spirituality each week here. Today I want to pain the broadest picture of spirituality.

Without getting hung up on the names we use or the way we dot the ‘I”s on our spirituality, we are all part of something miraculous and beautiful. Life is happening through us, and as soon as we surrender to the flow of life, you can say “look here” or “look there” and all you see is heaven reflecting your true nature to you. You join others and live the change you want to see in the world. When you get to the end of this human adventure you can feel pleased that your life had integrity. The law of karma tells me that the heaven you find after life is a direct reflection of the consciousness you realize in this life. So wake up and immerse yourself in the heaven that is ever present.

Spiritual community! There are so many different directions I could have taken with that theme, and over time I will. But for now, let me leave it at this. We have a higher calling and we have found each other at this time in history for a powerful purpose. This is not an accident. You are here to wake up to your spiritual essence, to live your core values and to join with others in bringing healing light to the world.

Thank you for being a piece of my heaven. I honor the ways that God remains anonymous in my life because of you. Namaste.

For Further Reflection

Do you believe that there are any accidents in life?
What experience have you had of serendipity, and what meaning did it have for you?
What does spirituality mean for you?
How are you aligning with others to seek healing and transformation in the world?

Books and Resources
The Phenomenon of Man by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin