Sunday, August 28, 2011

Back to School...

Well, classes begin for my second semester in grad school. I am so excited as I love this program and Loyola University. God has blessed me with phenomenal professors and great friends. How can that be beat?

Tomorrow: Rahner and Tillich with Fr Thomas O'Meara, op; Tuesday: 1st: Psychological Development of the Human Person and 2nd: Liturgy and Sacraments. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, I work in the Institute's office from 1-5pm. Life is good! Lots of reading this semester, which rocks as always.

Loyola is known for training chaplains well; it doesn't matter what faith tradition, or none, from which you come. No doubt in my mind that this is where I need to be, thanks be to God.

It is also a good place to dialogue and witness to the interspiritual path. This is the calling of the Beloved for me. May I, by the Beloved's love, do it justice and light the world on fire!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Beloved Community

Flower of Life

I experienced the Beloved Community last night. This gathering to celebrate returning to a new semester coming up this Monday happened to coincide with my birthday. Three folks I had never met before joined us, but what a blessing. We shared conversation, cupcakes, fellowship, and wine--ritual, yet somehow transcending ritual.

Just about all present were about half my age, but even that was transcended. We shared concerns and joys, got giggly and silly; the present, now, sacred moment. Each person just was himself or herself, allowing his or her own light to shine without pretension.

What joy to be present in a group of people who embody compassion and justice within their religious traditions and the world. It was the ordinariness of this gathering that made it holy, transcending space and time. No forced piety here.

Yes, this gathering was sacramental: an outward and visible expression of Divine indwelling and grace. Those present made it so in union with the Beloved whose presence radiated from all hearts present. Like any well done ritual, we left with warmed hearts, refreshed, renewed, going out in service to the world.

Friday, August 26, 2011

L'Chaim! (To Life)

The Yoster at 4 yrs of age

Life is a BLESSING! It is not to be taken for granted. During the last 46 years since my birth on this day, I have seen ups and downs, like anyone else. I have tried to learn from all, realizing that life is what it is at any moment. Underlying the challenging and the good lies That Which Is, the Beloved who upholds. God connects and permeates everything, if one opens ones eyes.

One thing I refuse to do is cave to cynicism and nihilism. Yes, a lot of evil has taken place since August 1965. Living life means staring it all in the face and still, somehow, saying "YES" without denying the existence of the evils. A lot of good has taken place since 1965's Summer as well, all of which bless us.

If I have leaned anything in my life thus far, it's to strive continually for balance, the center, and root myself in the Ancient of Days, my Beloved, in whom I live, move and have my being. It involves continually emptying myself to allow the Lord of the Dance to whirl me into the Divine embrace, alhamdulillah!

So, this anniversary of my birth, I say THANK YOU to my Beloved, my biological parents (Harry and Mary Anne) and my adoptive parents (Carl and Mary, both of blessed memory) for giving me life. And thanks to all those dear folks who have blessed my life as friends and relatives, especially my beloved, Jim.

So dance, dance, DANCE, and radiate the Light!

The Yoster today

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Flight to Whole(holy)ness

Fifteen percent of the US population now lists "none" for choice of religious affiliation. Stories running in The Huffington Post recently indicate that folks simply are not going to church like they used to do, including the less educated and women. A Pew Forum Study indicates that young people are not drawn to organized religion, but believe in God and continuing life after death. 

Time to panic? Not at all, unless you're vested in the institution surviving exactly as it is. Yes, some of these so-called unaffiliated are agnostics or atheists, but not the majority. It seems to me the spiritual impulse is alive and well among many of today's folks choosing to affiliate directly with That Which Is, God-as-verb. 

This movement out of the pews among some people who do, expresses not disdain for the Beloved or community, but, in fact, a new way of expressing and relating to timeless Mystery. Many are simply walking the Way as the noisy, honking goose-like Spirit leads them. 

So, do we padlock churches and other houses of worship? Hmmm, a sabbath year from religiosity might not be a bad thing, challenging the People of God to experience spiritual transformation in all they do, not compartmentalize it to Sundays or whatever day for their tradition's worship.  But, perhaps nothing so drastic is indicated as many religious folks already allow the transforming action of That Which Is to transform them within, yet beyond, organized structures.

It does seem, however, that religions need to get over themselves and learn some humility. People demand authenticity; their experiences matter, deeply. They are not sheep called to keep silent unless spoken to nor will they blindly accept all that is told them. Where dissonance fractures, people flee to wholeness. Ah, the Buddha giggles with delight!

Quite simply, as the Latin American saying goes: "You can cut the flowers, but you can't hold back the Spring!" 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Lantern in a Dark Night

Amazing how Life keeps flowing and pulsing, being no respecter of persons. Whether a Summer garden bursting and pulsing or a desert baking and parching, for those enjoying a picnic at the beach or those wasting from malnutrition, wanting but some food and water, Life doesn't stop. It simply is, almost mocking humans' illusion of control.

Eventually, everything shall be overturned in the great compost heap of existence, nurturing new life that follows. But this doesn't let us off the hook for trying to right the wrongs in this world,quite the contrary. We should be so aware of this life's finite quality, that we love it that much more and wish to make it better for others and all Creation. 

What's so sad is that many in the so-called First World suffer from Cranial-Recto Syndrome, which prevents them from seeing the light, and, hence, the suffering of others. These folks truly think life's parade is about them in their Mad-Hatter delusion.

Taking a step back and simply listening and looking at the politicos, religious leaders, and various and sundry folks, no longer floors me like it once did. Now all I can do is shake my head, pitying them. It doesn't matter that it's heterosexism or racism, blaming the homeless for their lot in life or women for getting raped, hating atheists or Christians, Jews or Muslims, not to mention Church leaders defrocking priests who stand for justice: hatred of the others so often seems to be the world's oldest profession.

But it needn't be. We need to become aflame with love, not the saccharinized version so prevalent today among the various self-aggrandizing modes of "spirituality" but rather the love that comes with great cost and sacrifice. It's up to each of us to plumb to the depths of our souls, opening ourselves to penetrating transformation at the hands of the Beloved, whether or not we are religious. 

The more of us who do, who are so transfigured, can change the world. I don't know about you, but the God of my being does not do Cecil B. DeMille productions, but, rather, works so silently among and through us, lighting each heart as a lantern in the dark night.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Putting Away Childish Things

How does one become a butterfly? You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.
~Trina Paulus, Hope for the Flowers

Change is not easy. The naysayers in our lives try to throw us off course because they're too terrified to exercise their free will and do it. Letting go of the familiar causes pain; let's face it: it's comfortable. But is it fulfilling?

Often, others are "concerned about you" because you've departed from the established path. Buddha did that. Jesus did that. Hmmm, funny that.

God's Reign supposedly dwells within our hearts. Seems to me, that letting go and following that compass, gets us to where we need to go. Creeds, dogmas, and prayer books get us part way, but each of us needs to grow up 
and trust That Which Is.

On this Journey,we need to be childlike in our awe of God and all that God has made, which, thus, opens us to experiencing the Ground of our Being more fully.We need not, however, remain childish, being fed strained beliefs and mashed metaphors, throwing tantrums when Santa Claus god fails to give us what we want and Vengeful Father god fails to smite our enemies. We need to get over ourselves and let go of that which hinders spiritual maturity.

If we choose to partake,ritual, when celebrated well, can help us approach God as adults with our awe and intelligence intact, opening us more fully to God's work among and within us. Far less words, and much more of the experiential, it seems to me, can lead us more fully into our compassionate hearts,wherein the Ancient of Days dwells.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Removing the Box

Sometimes stepping out of something leads you more deeply into it. It's one of those delicious and lovely Zen-like realities. It's a paradox of the Path, which is paradox itself.

By going beyond ordinary boundaries, I find that "the icon and the idol determine two manners of being for beings, not two classes of beings" (God Without Being, Jean-Luc Marion 8). Getting out from under the crushing weight of regular religiosity, allows truth to flow, unimpeded, all pointing to the One. Lights do not belong under bushels of any kind (Mt. 5:15).

Quite simply, this way of being permits seeing so much as if for the first time. Taking anything for granted, particularly faith, is not good. It becomes moribund and rank. This is not a matter of always wanting something to fresh and exciting for its own sake, but, rather, a deep sense a getting to the bottom of things, the Real. 

This movement in my life presently is not against anything, but rather for or toward something. Where this dance shall lead, I don't know, but dance my heart wishes to do, always in the embrace of the Beloved.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Losing My Religion

Losing My Religion by Billyboy
Now, don't anybody go gettin' your knickers in a knot. Read before reacting, because it's probably not what ya think, okay? Okay.

The Beloved remains nearer to me than my own breath. Wherever I am, God IS, for the Ancient of Days dwells in all things and all things rest in God. She, like a mother, nurtures and empowers us; she's not about conquest and domination. Perhaps she grows with us.

Note, too, that I am not anti-religion, though I despise what too many folks do in its name, hiding behind its power. Personally, I have no use for any faith that's more interested in shoring up control, doctrine, and/or trappings than compassion and justice or one that's so caught up in spiritual pursuits that it neglects this world.Perhaps we're all called to be Rahner's "anonymous Christians" or live Bonhoeffer's "religionless Christianity". 

It's just that religion, which at its root means "to bind" does just that, and gags, too, often enough. Some discard religion because they've never really engaged it, for sure. Others run after some "spiritual but not religious" light and fairy dust routine which neglects the dark (which is not always negative), and, hence, reality; it's a religion unto itself. Some Evangelicals like to pretend that they're religionless Christians, when nothing could be farther from the truth. Far too many use religion as a place to hide and uplift themselves, without looking around them.

Soup kitchens and shelters are needed, for example, but the roots of society's problems must be exposed and handled. Heaven's fine to think about, if you so care to do so, but not when Lazarus sits on your church, mosque, or temple doorstep without any food or shelter (Luke 16:19-31); all too few ask why.

Granted, a goodly number of religious folks do ask. They bless the world immensely. But this goes far deeper than that for this contemplative. Sometimes one senses a call to the desert, no matter where he or she finds himself or herself. It compels the contemplative to stand at the crossroads of here and now, just at the edge of the Real, which allows reflection and speaking to the stuff of life. Some, like Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, did that within a religious framework, but others of us find themselves called to do so beyond it, though rooted in its interspiritual insights. Monastic mentors confirm this call in my case. This in no way makes me holy, that's for damn sure. For some, dropping the concepts allows the truly Real to bloom.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Taking Time

Taking time to see and smell the flowers, and nurture friendships, is of the utmost importance. Technology gets faster and faster by the second, and we get further and further from the flowers and the friends. 

Paying attention, slowing down, appreciating how lovely a flower bud looks, and how magnificent when it explodes into bloom, riotous color transcending the mundane--helps us grow as persons, truly. Standing in the presence of even the littlest flowers in their unique contributions places one firmly in the presence of God.

So, too, with friends. Friendship needs those involved to slow down, and bask in the true soul-deep resplendence of the Beloved shining from the other. Agape must envelope and flow like nectar.

Flowers' intense beauty lasts but a short time before it returns to That Which Is. Ultimately, so do friends in the grand scheme of things. We cannot take either for granted. In the cacophony that is modern life, we need to take that time smell the flowers and love our friends. It keeps us grounded and makes us whole.

Monday, August 8, 2011

St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, nee Edith Stein

St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
nee Edith Stein

Remembering Edith Stein who died in the gas chamber because she was Jewish; she was not in any way a Christian martyr, though certainly a saint. Having grown up as an Orthodox Jew, she was led to Catholicism after a period of atheism. Edith was a brilliant student of Philosophy, but was not allowed to teach because she was Jewish. She became a Carmelite nun in her early forties, being given the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

Disorganized Religion

"Open Cathedral" by Yossi Lopez-Hineynu
Copyright 2008~All Rights Reserved

It seems that the Holy Spirit has led me to practice disorganized religion~right where I am in the messiness of life. When things are too orderly, it makes me twitch in that it gets in the way of walking the Way all too often. Religion in general and religious traditions in particular, often get full of themselves, full of hubris, as if it's all about them. Funny, if one looks around with eyes wide open, it can be seen that the Divine, That Which Is, weaves a tapestry with threads of many colors, not just one.

People who fail to understand this, or choose not to, often label those us who do, and who dance interspiritually, as being syncretists. Nothing could be farther from the truth. For whatever reason, some, albeit very few, people can walk the fine line, diving to the essential, and surfacing, without harming the integrity of any one tradition. Lessons can be learned deeply and integrated into a whole, especially when it's rooted in the Beloved.

This way of being doesn't have to deny the Incarnation necessarily, though as I keep saying, doctrine serves as a springboard into Mysterious waters, not an end in itself. A point comes where one simply must keep silent. And it is there, in that state, that one encounters others who perhaps hear a different harmony to the Melody of Melodies. On the surface they may be Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sufi, but here, they are One.

One of the reasons Jesus draws me continually is that he lived his earthly life as a Jew, and it is there that I meet him, and it allows me to glimpse his ministry through Jewish eyes, wiping away the layers of interpretation put on it. When seeing how profoundly radical his message is, it challenges me to walk the Way.

But is Jesus the Incarnate God? Probably, but this begs the question. When encountering him and the transformation he can have on your life, you will have the answer, but what's most important, is that God is both the journey and the destination. We stand within God's Reign, That Which Is, all the time, right NOW. So do Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims and the like within their own traditions and no tradition is relativized because of it...

So, what may seem disorganized to others, has its own distinct pattern in this contemplative's life, though it's difficult to put into words. It simply IS...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Of an auf ruf and the Jesus Prayer

The Western Wall in Jerusalem

A what? An auf ruf: literally "calling up" in Yiddish. In liberal Judaism, the bride and groom chant the prayers before and after the reading of the Torah portion during Shabbat liturgy. My dear friends Steve and Sunny are to be married next week, so this morning was their auf ruf.

So, nu, what does this have to do with the Jesus Prayer? Well, basically nothing, other than that I watched "Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer" on DVD quite early this morning. It is breathtakingly beautiful. The deep faith of the monks and nuns touches me as well as what they had to say about how the prayer works in one's life.

For those who don't know, I am also a Jew by Choice, having undergone traditional conversion several years ago, and what a blessing. One never is cut off from being a member of the Jewish People after conversion since he or she becomes a member of the People first, then the spiritual tradition. Being in synagogue today touched me deeply with its familiar melodies, standing among my People as the Torah moved among us.

Two deeply moving experiences felt at soul level. The juxtaposition of them raises a lot of questions (told you I was Jewish!) about the nature of things. Who is Jesus: itinerant rabbi, perhaps the first Reform one at that, who came to renew his tradition and remove it from the moribund legalism of his day, or the incarnate Son of God? How does one authentically dance with the Beloved without making his or her tradition and its doctrine and theology into idols, instead of allowing them to point to that which is Mystery? What does it mean to walk with God; is religion even necessary? Do we, perhaps, give too much reverence to a Book written millenia ago, but then, if so, why is this contemplative moved so much when the Torah is removed from the ark or when he chants Psalms? Oy, what to do? Or, does anything have to be done? 

As one whose main spiritual practice is nonsectarian meditation, perhaps nothing needs doing. Seems like that's the best way to go for now, and let other things fall into or out of place as need be over time. Unlike a year ago when a dark night descended, the experience of G!d seems more real to me, but the particulars, not so much. My tendency is to want a solution wrapped neatly with a bow, and that never works with me!

So, no need to rush anything, but rather simply to experience the Beloved's ruach (breath, mind, spirit) as it flows through the treetops tickling the leaves and as it looks out at me as I look at you...

Friday, August 5, 2011

Know Thyself

It's imperative that we know ourselves as best we can. Knowing how we tick, why we do things a certain way can shed so much light on who we are as individuals, though it cannot define us entirely. We are all different, of course, though commonalities abound.

Unfortunately, we waste so much time trying to change others, when it's ourselves on whom we should focus. This doesn't mean to avoid offering constructive criticism when necessary, as long as its offered with openness to the other, giving him or her room to discuss how he or she perceives the situation.

While some folks tend to make their Meyers-Briggs Type Inventory and Ennegram information into a religion defining them solely, this is not what the indicators are about. Each gives basic information about a person, and it can liberate a person to know more about himself or herself and others.

I am an INFP (scroll down on linked page for description), yet a 5 on the Ennegram with a 4 wing, which pretty much means that my life's work is to heal others, minister to them. I am deeply concerned with self growth, and am a free spirit who questions everything. As an existentialist, life's meaning occupies much of who I am. 

A general dislike of crowds and loud noise seems to characterize INFPs (and me) as well. INFPs also need to recharge after being around others and like to spend time alone. The goal in life is to get closer to balance between the various elements.

On the negative side, Type 5s can be arrogant and scattered when stressed...yup, that's me sometimes, but have worked a lot on these, but always room for improvement!

Famous INFPs include Albert Schwietzer, Annie Dillard, J. K. Rowling, Princess Diana, Jackie O, Mister Rogers, Helen Keller, and Audrey Hepburn. Some fictional INFPs: Winnie the Pooh, Frodo Baggins, Edward Cullen, Fox Mulder, Julian Bashir, and Deana Troi.

This is information I share not to draw attention to myself, but simply to share a little of who I am (a very small percentage of folks share these two types), and also to challenge you to look into taking both the Meyers Briggs and the Ennegram. You can take the online versions to get an idea, but if possible, take each with a qualified person trained to administer and evaluate the results. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Essential Being

This contemplative's vocation centers on transformation in the Beloved's embrace; it hasn't changed since yesterday. From what this pilgrim's mentors say, this particular expression of his calling involves being a "Fool for Christ," which most others do not understand, even many Religious. Neither does he all the time. Now this one is not even close to being holy, but this holy madness that embraces chooses some to dance to its seeming (to others) discordant tune.

Tolkien says that "not all who wander are lost," but find themselves with borders not rigid but fluid, yet flowing from the Source nonetheless. The Eucharist serves as food for this one's Journey, rooted gently in the Triune God, but genuine humility teaches him enough to know that the Ancient of Days speaks many dialects and sings various harmonies to the Great Melody. All this contemplative can do is dance!

One thing along this path has taught and spiritual mentors have underscored time and again: if a spiritual practice is not serving, it is time to let it go. If it starts to restrict the heart, as Sheikha Fariha of the NurAshki Jerrahi Sufis and several monastic mentors have taught this pilgrim, it's not feeding your soul. 

Opening oneself to the passionate embrace of Lord of the Dance involves letting him lead, not popular opinion as to how things should be, even that within the Church! A genuine spiritual father or mother realizes this, yet sees the whole picture, and can thus affirm what's going on. 

What's important for him: knowing who he is and Whose he is. No matter where he stands, it is holy, for God is in all things and all things are in God, Who is the One who makes it so. The fire burns but does not consume, so we bow down in awe.