Tag Archives: spirituality

Sifting and Seeking Truth

“This above all: to thine own self be true…”
 William Shakespeare, Hamlet

But strive first for the realm of God and God’s righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well.

– Jesus’ Teaching, Matthew 6:33

Above Palisades 3How can we talk to each other about what we know to be Sacred? I’m often at a loss for knowing how to connect with others because our spiritual understandings vary so widely.

Perhaps we have a particular tradition in common or spiritual teacher, master, guru, or writer whom we may reference and point towards. We may point to inspirational stories, words that have offered comfort, or a moral guideline which we feel is essential and then we can discuss our similarities and differences, doubts and confusion. More often, though, we have widely varying beliefs and have few people to talk to about these things. The teachings we bump into are all over the map.

Each of us has our own way of “knowing” and understanding, we each have different life experiences, different levels of openness to new thought and differing barriers or obstacles. At a certain point we reach an impasse with, well, everyone – unless we value unquestioning faith and blind trust. There is probably no one person who believes exactly as we do.

My ultimate Guide is an internal one, connected to Spirit. We each are born with a sort of inner GPS which helps us to navigate and find our way. Another metaphor that might be more helpful is that of an “inner filter.”

We take a particular story, lesson, or belief and pass it through the interior filter. For instance, though I have studied religion, philosophy, and spirituality in great depth, all of those classes and each of those teachings have to first pass through this filtration system before any material makes it into my archive of Truth (and truth today is not always truth for tomorrow). Words, beliefs, moral standards must pass through the following filters:

  • Who is telling me this story, experience, belief, or moral teaching? Are they a person of wisdom and integrity? Or innocence and truth? Are they without guile, self-interest or bias? The scriptural phrase that comes to mind is, “By their fruits you shall know them.” Is the source of the information a truly good/wise/truthful one?
  • How does this story, experience, belief, or moral teaching interact with my foundational beliefs? (Beliefs such as, “Love God with your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself.” Or “Do no harm to yourself or others.” Or “Treat others as you would wish to be treated.”) Does it promote goodwill and well-being for all or does it promote harm/oppression/injustice/rigidity/ selfishness/fear (etc.)? Note: Some of our ancient religious teachings don’t meet this standard. Just because it made sense in one time and setting, does not mean it unquestioningly applies today. The Sacred calls us to keep filtering.
  • Then – perhaps the most subjective of filters – does this story, experience, belief, or moral teaching contain an essence of Living Spirit, God, Highest Consciousness or my Higher Power as I define that Power? Does it resonate with my experience of that Spirit/God/Consciousness/Power in my life? Perhaps we are presented with dogma or rules or beliefs that are part of a religious, moral or political tradition that don’t meet the highest values or truth of this same tradition. We must set those inferior or untrue teachings aside. Perhaps there is a layer of truth, but other false teachings have been added to it, then we must sort this out. Does it align with the One we seek prayerful guidance from?

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My mind keeps turning away from spirituality to the world of politics as I’m writing because this filtering process obviously applies there, too. But my primary purpose today is to talk about our spiritual growth process – mine and yours. This bright light of spiritual truth, once filtered, is the beacon we need to shine on social, political, relational situations as we seek the right path.

I don’t know about you, but I am easily distracted from spiritual growth. That’s not a problem though, because if the distraction grows and I ignore my path, I become so miserable that I’m forced to return. This has been the basic road map of my spiritual walk. Hopefully, you’re not as easily set off-course as I am.

Once we are on our path, here are some basics:

  • Spend time connecting to Living Spirit every day, and seek to sustain that connection throughout the day.
  • See everything that comes your way as an avenue of spiritual learning and growth, whether you’re cleaning the kitchen, fixing the car, meditating on a mountaintop, listening to an upsetting political speech, or sitting in a dull meeting.
  • Stay with those deep Truths, the ones that have lifted you again and again from the muck and mire of life. Stay with what you know from your own experience to be true. When it becomes blurry, seek the guidance of Spirit and of trusted friends and mentors.
  • Send everything (including your own beliefs) through the filtration system.
  • Soak in the Love and Light of Spirit as often as you can – through whatever avenues lift you (silence, music, nature, prayer, writing, companionship, play, creativity, and so on).
  • Give thanks for every small or large miracle, gift or grace in your life. Share these stories with yourself and others again and again. Gratitude and joy are close companions.
  • When all else fails, start over with the first step (return to your Source).

P.S. Moving out of the purely spiritual realm and going back to politics – to be clear and not vague: If all of this light, love and filtration is applied to the teachings of Neo-Nazis (or traditional Nazis), or to the teachings of the KKK, obviously these land in the “rejected beliefs” pile. Right??? I’ve been reminded again lately that it is our job to share love and light AND to speak up for others who are the objects of hatred or injustice, even when it seems too obvious to need articulating. To be passive is to passively agree or accept the words of haters. In the process above LOVE WINS everytime!

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Swimming in a Sea of Sacred Stuff

The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age:
the landscape, like a line in the psalm book,
is seriousness and weight and eternity.

What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights with us is so great.
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names

Rainer Maria Rilke, from “The Man Watching,” Trans. Robert Bly

IMG_2953I guess the planet, Mother Earth, is saying that it is time for us all to dive in and deepen our journeys. This is a time of great spiritual expansion. So much going on. So much light, love, and connection being shared upon the globe. Perhaps it is the balance to the many other things taking place where energies which are not creative, loving, or constructive are dominating attention. Many of us, however, are choosing to focus elsewhere.

I have two friends who, like me, felt called to start a women’s group – delving deeper into expansion, providing a sacred space for each other to share life journeys and amplify the sacred Feminine. I call this “soul support.” We all need it so much at this time (I know I do). How are you bringing or magnifying the love and light that is needed?

The Circle of Grandmothers and the net of light (netoflight.org) are quietly capturing attention and bringing the support of the sacred to those who feel they need additional support and clarity. Magic is happening where the Grandmothers are working with groups and individuals to anchor the net of spiritual light and love for our planet. I call on the Grandmothers many times each day.

My forays into the woods, the mountains, and the mystical right now are so rich. I’m hearing from others that this is the same for them. Growth, connection to the Sacred and to Mother Earth seem to be accelerating.

In my life, it has also been a time of grief and transition. Others are also opening to their own grief (both old and fresh), and learning how to let it rise to the surface, hold it, observe it, and hear what it may have to say to them. The journey is a deepening one and very expansive – connecting us to all beings. (This article by Jack Kornfield is lovely.)

IMG_3012Solstice has just passed and we are heading toward the full Buck Moon (or Thunder Moon). In August, a total eclipse of the sun is attracting solar tourists and driving prices for lodging way up due to the number of people who want the “best seat” for this event.

Each of these occurrences serves to remind us of greater forces all around us. Perhaps their message is to look up and out, or dive deeper – beyond the hubbub of distractions to what is greater than we are. Look beyond what is clambering all around you to see the cosmic backdrop, the sacred sea stretching out beyond the horizon. As a trusted guide recently said to me, “Pay attention.” The Sacred is right in front of us if we just open our eyes to see.

Let’s dive in together,
Karen

Learning how to shine in dark times

“The world today is challenging and life so confusing that sometimes you feel overwhelmed by its seeming craziness. This is the Kali Yuga; you are living through the depth of negativity foretold in scripture thousands of years ago. It is true that you are living in difficult times, and… it is also true that you signed up for these times. You signed up because you wanted to serve the light. You wanted to perform work of great value
and so your being alive at this time is no accident.

You were called to earth to hold light steady in an unsteady world. You answered the call. And once you responded to the call, there was nothing more for you to do.
From The Circle of Grandmothers, netoflight.org, “December 12, 2016 Newsletter”

Circle of Light“You were called to earth to hold light steady in an unsteady world.” That task is both awe-inspiring and a daunting. Right? It is so easy, these days, to be swept into reacting, into darkness instead of holding steady and radiating light. I react every time I open my Twitter feed and read the latest news in the world of politics. Ugh. I allow myself to indulge in this for a limited period of time – and some days not at all. If I am feeling depleted, it is far better if I focus on what I love and the beauty I am surrounded by, and try to be of some help to my fellow humans on this planet.

Most days, though, a primary reason for allowing myself to RT on Twitter and voice my daily opinion, is to be of support to those who are out there doing the hard work of keeping a close eye on things – investigating, planning strategies, and basically seeking Truth and justice. I’m not one who is called to be on the front lines of that process these days, but I do my small part to say “thank you” to those who are so called.

Pasque FlowerI’ve been loving my spiritual path as it unfolds lately – lots of light has been streaming through – gathering “sisters” in a circle at my home, venturing out to meditate with mindful Buddhists, drumming Kirtan-style down near Denver, playing with profound, wise and crazy grandkids, reflecting and hiking (soaking in earth energy) with my soul mate and chatting with soul friends. When I am engaged in this way, it feels like I’m doing my bit to channel the Light.

Some reassuring words from the Circle of Grandmothers state, “As soon as you said ‘Yes’ to us, you became an instrument for light. So now, at every moment, light and love are flooding through you. Unfortunately sometimes you become so distracted by the drama surrounding you that you lose awareness of this. But the truth is, you are channeling light – you are always channeling light. Even when you feel tired, discouraged, and lost, you aren’t really lost. As soon as you answered, ‘Yes,’ we stepped in to fill you, to guide and direct you, so that now you are never alone. Never! We are as close to you as your breath.” (From The Circle of Grandmothers, Sharon McErlane, netoflight.org, “December 12, 2016 Newsletter”)

I love this reminder. Our connection to the universal powers-that-be is greater than the strength of the earthly ones who seek to spread darkness. Thank goodness. The forces of Love and Light uphold us always – whether we can see or feel them or not.

And so I’m giving thanks today for earthly sisters and brothers, near and far – you are each bright lights as you anchor your point on the net of light. Thank you for being out there! Love you.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes

 

“My love is on the high seas”

On a quiet evening at the beginning of May,
When the bat was in the skies,
I heard a tearful young maiden

Singing beneath the shadow of the green branches…”
– “
Tha Mo Ghaol Air Àird A’ Chuain,”
as arranged by Julie Fowlis, Kris Drever & Iain MacDonald

img_2209Julie Fowlis performs a traditional Gaelic tune about being parted, lost love, fear, grief, and joy. It has a magical, mystical quality to it.

My daughter, a mom, visual artist and illustrator (who is often at home caring for her daughters as her partner – and true love – travels), was inspired. She collaborated with Julie to create this video – “Tha mo ghaol air àird a’ chuain” or “My love is on the high seas.”

img_2203I love the air of mysteriousness and both the fear and love of this woman set side-by-side. It captures the longing we feel when our hearts are reaching out to what is most dear for us…but still we can’t quite “touch” it. Finally, the love and longing manifest into reality – from darkness, joy emerges. Her true love touches her hand and the spells of grief and longing are broken at last. Joyful reunion begins.

Life is like that sometimes and we treasure the miracles that are beyond words. These are the tales that only music and art can help us to capture and even then only partially.

img_2206Most of us know the feeling. Some reunions we experience in full now, others we still long and wait for – holding vigil in our hearts. But hope continues. We can feel the presence and connection that love provides in life and beyond. We know the truth: though we can’t always see it, love abides and lives.

Hope you enjoy it. Share it if you do!

(Shared with permission of Julie Fowlis and Courtney O’Connell Carlson.)
“Tha Mo Ghaol Air Àird A’ Chuain” English/Gaelic Lyrics and information

Courtney O’Connell Carlson illustration website

Memorial Day: It’s Complicated… 

As I’m doing research on family ancestry, I’m finding a very high percentage of our family’s forebears who served in the Civil War (both north and south); quite a few Revolutionary War veterans, and several WWI AND WWII military. We have a couple of career military relatives who are currently serving who have been brave, earnest and dutiful in their service and we are proud of their sincerity.

I’ve both spoken and written in opposition to various wars and have filled many care packages for those serving overseas. It seems there is rarely “one right way” to view war and peace. I’ve been about speaking against misguided military intervention but honoring and respecting our soldiers. Kind of confusing.

In another case, I feel passionately that it was right to intervene with Hitler’s activities in WWII. But the internment camps for Japanese Americans during the same war was a misguided exercise in fear and racism, not unlike the attitude some hold toward “all Muslims” today (post-9/11 and post-Isis terrorism). And certainly the use of the atomic bomb demonstrated that there clearly are moral limits to the use of indiscriminate force.

On holidays like Memorial Day, I often wish I could just be patriotic or just be completely against it all. It would be simpler, more fun for the moment to feel morally certain.

Unfortunately, we somehow have to keep walking the less popular road of the not-quite-middle-ground. It can be a lonely road in today’s political climate. To live a deeply spiritual life in our complex world means seeing the Sacred in every person and having compassion even for those whose point of view would choose to obliterate our viewpoint. Ugh!

It is easier when I watch birds fly, feel the wind in my face, pray and meditate at sunrise, look out on vast oceans and deserts, see the sunset over the horizon or hike up a tall mountain to view wilderness. It is easier when I let go of “us vs. them” and focus on oneness.

There is so much more to this universe than our own perspective. So I will lift my gratitude today for the triumph of love, unity, respect, diversity, kindness, and courage. I will celebrate the passage of time, moments of healing and reunion, and I will honor ancestors who sought to do their best – whatever their beliefs – and seek compassion and forgiveness for us all.

Our own melody…

 Some dark days, it is necessary to be a conjurer of beauty. We must compose our transformational tune – creating a melody that begins with sorrow and pain and which then transmutes it into gritty, defiant joy. That sort of joy is the stuff of sages, mystics, and even children. These wise ones know that with a shout, a skip, and a burst of undaunted love, a nightmare may give rise to a heroic and colorful journey.

– Karen Gatlin, December 2015

Illustration: Kay Nielsen, East of the Sun, West of the Moon

Shifts in Perception: The Subtle and the Extraordinary

Arches morning

What is extraordinary and eternal does not want to be bent by us.
I mean the Angel who appeared to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when the wrestlers’ sinews grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers like chords of deep music.

Whoever was beaten by this Angel (who often simply declined the fight)
went away proud and strengthened and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape….
– Ranier Maria Rilke, The Man Watching (trans. Robert Bly)

I am just home from a two week road trip visiting family and friends – visiting beauty here and there. It is also three weeks since I received my Level One and Two Reiki attunement and certification. And today I’ve been just soaking in the gratitude for all of it and for being home now, with my wonderful husband and partner.

The light has changed since we left on vacation. The morning we left, there were a dozen or so white-tail deer in our front yard as we headed down the driveway. Only a few yards away in the neighboring meadow, I said, “I think that’s an elk!” As we got closer, there she was, and there was the rest of a small herd eating grass behind her in the pine trees…they had been camouflaged. About seven miles down the road, we saw a larger herd of elk by a little stream and later that morning we saw a group of mountain goats. We were in awe. That set the tone for our trip. For the rest of our journey, we were soaking in the beauty – of creatures and fall colors, of the ocean, of spectacular geology, of our loved ones.

And now we are home.  The sun is shining at a different angle and there is a chill in the outside air. We turned on our heat for the first time. There has been a shift: of light, awareness, and vibration.

The day of my Reiki I and II attunement I was so excited as I drove there with my friend! I thought big dramatic things might occur over the course of the day. Instead, big subtle things happened. I felt the Reiki energy in the room as we were attuned and as we worked on each other – learning hand positions, mantras and symbols. I realized that the whole experience was not at all unfamiliar – it simply amplified or magnified a resource with which I was already familiar. And as we met our “guides” (which some call Reiki Masters or angels) – mine was very familiar – a being on whom I rely daily to assist me in keeping my balance. No new revelations there! My world view and perception shifted dramatically, however, the day I first “met” or became aware of her a couple of years ago. I had to open my mind to things I had previously dismissed.

Next week, I will experience advanced Reiki II, and in December, I have the opportunity to receive the Master level attunement. What am I learning? That the universe is filled with loving assistance and support for us. That love and life-force energy has the power to shift what we may have previously believed could not be shifted. It alters the unalterable. And it is all available right here and right now.

Perhaps not by coincidence, I have been preaching that message for years (literally). I am now learning that it is simpler and more profound than I previously dared to imagine. If we open to the Sacred, the Source, we are transformed – sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically. In the process, our reality – our world – is transformed and shifts with us.

It is worth overcoming our doubts and fears. The miraculous is in our midst.

Windows at Arches NP

The “Other” Way Counts

I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.

                                   – Walt Whitman

The words of the poem, above, were printed on a poster that hung on my wall during high school. I think they were somehow emblazoned on my teenage soul, too, and have stayed with me.

I have so many friends and relatives who, in one way or another, deal with being “other” everywhere they go. They don’t quite fit. They don’t have a traditional career or any career. They are retired, but they don’t fit with the bridge group or the church circle. They are part of a spiritual tradition, but they don’t feel comfortable. They are not part of any spiritual tradition, but they know there is something more to life than what meets the eye, something deeper.

It isn’t a coincidence that my fellow sangha member, family members, classmates, acquaintances, and neighbors fall in this category. So do I. My life has been a richly woven tapestry – its patterns and circuitous routes often seeming without a unifying scheme. Good and bad, up and down, try this, now that, and so on. But as this website indicates, there is a common thread that runs through it all. I call that thread my spiritual path.

These days, I am integrating all kinds of things that I have learned from all kinds of places. I see the golden thread between traditions and non-traditions sparkling like crazy. One friend calls this “energy.” Yes. That’s it. Another friend calls this “God,” another “Vibration,” and another “Goddess.” Yes. Yes. Yes. Another says it is silence, mystery. One of my less spiritually-oriented friends calls it health and fitness, another “art.” Many call it nature. A teacher calls it the landscape of our dreams.

Each of these people is sorting out what it means to live in such a way that his or her life is in harmony with a higher purpose. They have each tried the traditional path and often it didn’t work, or some part of it doesn’t work. They were miserable. I say, “Yay, misery!” Very often it is a gift that sends us in our new direction.

Sequoia hikeYesterday, I was part of a discussion in which a room full of people shared this sense of “social dis-harmony” – or being out of step with traditional values. I could hear the struggle, which is often my struggle: the challenge to believe that our Way counts. Maybe a person gets paid for what he/she does, or maybe does not. Perhaps a person has a degree of fame or appreciation and maybe they’re completely unknown to the world. Is their way valid? Perhaps they have a plan or goal or perhaps they don’t. Maybe, instead of a goal, the present moment, lived mindfully or peacefully or with joy, is the whole reward.

I know that one thing I’ve learned on my circuitous route is that it IS real, it does count. I know this, because my pay is in my inner well-being, not cash. The real currency of this journey is good vibration, grace, peace, wholeness. Whatever our higher path or purpose, living true to it affects EVERYTHING.