A difficulty that shows up in relationship is not voicing our considerations to another person. If we don’t speak such things, we may stop talking and lose affinity. The quality of relationship does not depend on the circumstances or the content of the relationship. It depends on what we create, the promise we make about it. There is often an assumption that there is a problem if we disagree about things, but the disagreement can be there without affecting the overall quality of the relationship. When there is disagreement, we can engage each other—unless one person is committed to being right and is not interested in listening and conversation. Being with what comes up in relationship takes training, practice, and effort and is different than trying to fix it. Werner Erhard described relationship as a clearing where love can show up. This can happen in any relationship. Transformation is very different than change, which is connected to the past. It has to do with not living by our history. There is power in promising or committing to produce what’s missing in relationship. We can create the space for trust to show up, rather than needing a person to prove they are trustworthy. We can also train ourselves to communicate in a way that doesn’t bring about defensiveness. When there’s affinity, mistakes can be seen as mistakes and not an indication of untrustworthiness. Communication creates affinity, which comes through sharing about things that matter. Matthew facilitates groups that support people to look deeper into their process, formulate their own questions, and become responsible for their choices.
Good company is that which we experience with those companions who are a beacon of light by nature of their vision, commitment, practice, enduring love, and personal sacrifice. It feeds our deepest essence and longing and can keep reminding us of what the necessity is in our lives. Good company is a mood, a context that creates and sustains an energetic field that is necessary for any work on the path. It is an experience of the nature of elegance, service, kindness, compassion, and generosity and of being with those who are reliable about these commitments. We can derive great benefit from those who care enough to tell us the truth, as can happen in 12 Step groups. We need to find our own answers, but we cannot do it alone. We don’t remove ourselves from loving relationship with others who are not good company, who do not share our purpose and commitment; we just don’t associate with them as much as we used to. Relationship exists with ourselves, others, and a power greater than ourselves. We can observe ourselves--the way we are--without judgment. We all have buffers that protect us and our survival strategies, which keep us from observing what we don’t know about ourselves. In good company, interpersonal conflicts can be engaged in a loving, pragmatic way that encourages self-honesty. With attention to our thoughts, they begin to lose their control over us. We are not always good company for ourselves, but the more we are the more we can be that for others. Spiritual life is like being in a foreign land where we chance upon each other, take the opportunity to relish a few moments together, and speak of longing for our home. Tom Lennon, Ph.D., is a cultural resource consultant with a deep interest in environmental conflict resolution. He leads groups with the intention of supporting the spiritual process in others.
When there is misunderstanding, hostility, and aggression, the question is, “Why?” We would like to think that we are not capable of such things as occur in war, but we can consider that “what’s going on out there is what’s going on in here.” There are qualities such as vigilance that are needed in war that are also needed in spiritual work. A feeling of self-righteousness tends to go along with aggression; it can be like being possessed. The practice of self-observation is perhaps the most powerful thing we can do in our work. Internal conflict is a universal experience. One way to appease ego is to project our conflict onto others; then we don’t have to think about the negativity in ourselves. We tend to seek the resolution of a final solution, which can make us easy to manipulate. The way to try to build a world without war is to take responsibility for our aggression and be the change that we want to see. It can be helpful to recognize that much of what we feel may come from the world outside of us. Also, hurts that we’ve buried from childhood can continue to have power over us. We can rely on our practice—whatever that is for us—to help us get through. In this way, we can become more sensitive to subtle forms of aggression. Aggression can arise out of fear. If we’re going to evolve, we have to be vulnerable, present with fear, willing to endure discomfort with others who are different from us. We have more opportunity to practice at times when things are not going smoothly. Self-observation is about becoming conscious and out of consciousness, our choices change. If our hearts are connected to the suffering of others, it gives us a bigger view and keeps our reactions in perspective. The real way of a warrior is to prevent slaughter; it’s the art of peace. Bandhu is author of Creative Life and an internationally recognized glass artist and teacher.
We’ve got to have necessity to cultivate spiritual maturity. The foundation that we need for maturing is always being built stronger. What do we expect from our spiritual practice? What are we willing to pay for it in terms of our attention, time, and necessity? When we cultivate spiritual maturity, we open up senses we don’t even know we have and develop the capacity to “eat” the “substance” of necessity. What kind of risk can we sustain—not to our life—but to our comfort zones, beliefs, opinions? We may say ‘no’ to many things, but we can say ‘yes’ to a one-pointed aim up until our last breath. We become a bit alchemical as one substance (ourselves) changes into another. The universe will not take us seriously unless we take our sadhana (spiritual work) seriously. It can also be helpful to find something to do that delights us and to develop being rather than doing. We can work with the mantra, “I welcome that which You would have me serve. I welcome that which You would have serve me.” We can develop three things to increase our capacity: holding our seat, being invisible, living long and strong. At some point we will need help, as in any artful endeavor. We could look around, relate to, and “borrow” from those who have a practice that has produced fruit such as wisdom, being, and common sense. We want to deepen our practice but don’t really want to change. The teacher-student relationship is a type of apprenticeship. What most people call the “guru within” is the voice of our comfort zone. Good company is priceless and can help us to refresh the stagnant condition of our comfort zone. Lalitha is a spiritual teacher residing in British Columbia, Canada, who has been a disciple of the Western Baul Master, Lee Lozowick, since 1982. Her teaching style is rooted in the activities and responsibilities of ordinary life. Her most recent books are Waking to Ordinary Life and Cultivating Spiritual Maturity.
Writing is an inroad into our deepest self. Sometimes it is painful because we all have wounds and obstacles that we work with over a lifetime. There is a healing quality to writing—we can tell the truth about our experience. Developing or honing a writing practice, whether we are skilled writers or not, is an invaluable means of telling our stories and bringing greater objectivity and insight into our journeys. If we can fully digest and integrate our experience, it becomes wisdom. When we write we take refuge in our creativity. We can tap into a flow of life that opens doors to wonder and a direct experience of reality. We find out that we know things, that there’s wisdom in us that we didn’t know was there. Writing can ground us in times of change and uncertainty. It can bring us into the present moment and be a vehicle for finding our own voice. A blank page and a prompt to write about something can affect our mood, clarity, devotion, and intention. Writing can unfold and fan the fire of our love; it can articulate the deepest need of the heart. Two writing exercises are offered in this presentation. Participants list pairs of opposites in their lives given that the tension between opposites is alchemical. They also write prayers for the world. The consideration is made that writing can have the same transformational possibility as prayer. Angelon and Regina are editors, workshop leaders, and authors who have written extensively about the spiritual path. Angelon’s books include As It Is, Under the Punnai Tree, Enlightened Duality (with Lee Lozowick), and The Art of Contemplation. Regina’s books include Only God, The Woman Awake, Praying Dangerously, and Igniting the Inner Life.
We live in the world of duality, the linear world of opposites, and non-duality, the non-linear world of unity outside of time and space. Paradox is when two things seem to contradict each other but are both true. In order to grow, we need to be comfortable with paradox, embrace it and live from it. Paradox holds the key that shows us that life works if we let it. Duality is both real and illusion. When we view duality from paradox it allows us not to identify with what is happening in duality and for a much more magical existence than we ever could have imagined to unfold. Suffering occurs when we view duality from within duality. Paradox is something that the rational mind cannot understand, but it can be understood prior to mind. Practical examples of family and work situations are discussed which make these principles useful and not just theoretical. We can experiment and be responsible in duality, take a step in the direction we want to go in, see what comes back to us, and then take the next step. We stay stuck in duality by defining ourselves, identifying with emotions, being attached to what we want, and comparing ourselves. We can commit to something fully until it’s obvious it’s time not to commit to it any more. Rumi said that we are not a drop of the ocean, we are the entire ocean in a drop. Without people like Rumi, this could be just philosophy. Every part of a hologram contains the entire image in it. When we pause from identifying with emotions and remember we are connected, suffering can become overwhelming love. Juanita is an artist and writer/producer of interactive mystery entertainment. She has been a student of the spiritual path for over 35 years.
True hospitality is emotionally powerful and touches something very deep in us. As hosts, we drop mechanicality about how we should do something and are present. A statement by the teacher EJ Gold is discussed: “Hospitality is the greatest law given to man. If he knew how to obey this one law he could overcome his imperfections.” It is not limited to food or drink, but also involves giving our attention and time for energetic exchange. The highest law in the Moslem tradition is hospitality. Hostellers who provided hospitality in Christian monasteries were chosen for their understanding that they were welcoming visitors as the great Guest. The Indian Master Papa Ramdas spoke about welcoming everything in the form of Ram (an incarnation of the Divine), which includes suffering. A Buddhist view is that there is no individual self and so the guest is not other than who we are. It’s not just hospitality to a person or group that we offer; it’s hospitality to life. We are offered hospitality by Mother Earth. If we do not recognize our role as guests we are not in alignment with the law since we are not in relationship to what is. Law in this sense refers to the way the universe works. The consideration of hospitality has the possibility of leading us to a complete shift of context in our lives. Regina is the editor of Hohm Press, a workshop leader, retreat guide, former Catholic nun, and author of The Woman Awake, Igniting the Inner Life, Praying Dangerously, Only God and other books.
This talk references teachings from the writings of Carlos Castaneda and material from the book The Five Invitations by Frank Ostaseski. Holding on to things goes against nature since everything ends. In our culture, we seek to have death affect us as little as possible. Another option is to look at and show up for death when it crosses our path so that it informs our lives. If we push death away, transformation is not possible. Suzuki Roshi said, “We die, and we do not die.” How are we to understand this? On one level we are terrified of death and on another we encourage it. We can practice with little deaths, with accepting what is, relaxing ego, and acting as needed every day. Stories are recounted which illustrate the five invitations: don’t wait, welcome everything, bring your whole self, find a place of rest in the middle of things, and cultivate don’t know mind. Any consideration about avoiding dying raises the consideration of avoiding living. Our problem is that we think we have time. Are we holding on to something which keeps us from forgiving? How do we hold back from giving our whole self to life? Through loss, feelings of love become transformative. When we surrender to grief, we learn to give ourselves to life. People who are dying offer us a great gift. It’s too important to wait until the last moment to contemplate the mystery of death. VJ is the organizer of the Western Baul Podcast Series and author of Shadow on the Path and Father and Son.
It is difficult for us to relate to cosmic forces and energies, and so it is useful to see them personified in human form. Myth helps us to make the leap from ego, from our small window on the world, to a much bigger reality. In the Hindu tradition (as in others including the Celtic tradition), the Divine is inclusive of three primal forces—creation, preservation, and destruction. These forces are associated with the three primary deities in the Hindu pantheon and their shaktis without whom they can do nothing: Brahma and Saraswati, Vishnu and Lakshmi, and Shiva and Parvati, who assumes different forms such as Durga and Kali. During the nine-day celebration of Durga Navaratri, different aspects of the Goddess are worshipped. The Egyptian myth of Isis and Osiris and the myths associated with Black Sarah in France and Smashan Tara in Tarapith, India are discussed. The Goddess brings us to work with our unconsciousness and to embody what we have learned because she is us and we are her. Grace and mercy is everywhere, moving us toward the totality of awakened oneness that always exists. There is a healing power in darkness, which is why deities are sometimes represented as dark-skinned. A seed will not sprout if not in darkness. We have been trained to avoid the unknown, but we can invite the Goddess into our lives. The message of the Goddess is to be fearless even when there is fear. Angelon is a workshop leader, editor, and author of As It Is, Under the Punnai Tree, The Baul Tradition, Caught in the Beloved’s Petticoats, Enlightened Duality (with Lee Lozowick), Krishna’s Heretic Lovers, and The Art of Contemplation.
A conversation with Bono about the meaning of U2 lyrics is parodied in this talk about the spiritual search. Matthew wants to know why Bono still hasn’t found what he’s looking for. The search is rooted in dissatisfaction, a feeling that something is incomplete or missing—whether it be about mundane things like money or relationship or the spiritual search for God. We can lament or be proud of the search, which can be a racket that we enroll others in. It is a human condition that seems normal since everyone is involved in it, but it perpetuates suffering. We can’t search for something that we don’t know already exists. The body is always in the present, which is why it’s useful to be in touch with it. We can perpetuate the search in spiritual practice—for example, by meditating as if that is going to get us somewhere. We may not see clearly that we are seeking, but seeing what we are doing is needed in working through the knot that keeps us searching. Something happened for great Realizers and the search ended. We cannot stop the search by force of will. The only thing sillier than searching is pretending that we’re not. The search is not a mistake; its origin is the Divine itself. Carrying our own cross involves taking responsibility for every aspect of our lives. Matthew facilitates groups that support people to look deeper into their process, formulate their own questions, and become responsible for their choices.