"I am the Breeze that nourishes all things green." (Spirit Song, Hildegard of Bingen)
Our ability to delight in little things has as much to do with solving the environmental crisis as the regulation of industry or the introduction of new technologies.
Let us widen our capacity for the small. When we nurture the heart's joy, the mind is quiet enough to find sacraments in the ordinary -- a breath of wind on our cheek, the sound of raindrops, the taste of a locally grown strawberry. This will diminish our consumption of earth's resources as much as any restriction imposed by government. The capacity for small delights is the fruit of an inward spiritual practice that is essential for sustainable living.
Green is the color of the abundant heart, the heart of contentment. When the heart is green, the mind does not grasp for the wealth of the world.
Our environmental crisis is a spiritual crisis. We consume our earth, desecrate wilderness, and make war on nations to fill our tanks with energy. But the tank that must first be filled is the soul. Most wealthy Americans suffer a secret fever of lack. Beneath our designer labels, make-up and cologne is the physiognomy of enervation, stress, and drain. Conspicuous consumption is only a symptom.
Environmental activism is nourished by inner stillness. A renewal of contemplative spirituality is crucial to the environmental movement. Through daily meditation, the green activist charges her soul with Inward Light. The Inward Light is a green radiance. Hildegard of Bingen, the 12th Century mystic and prophet, called it "the greening power of the Holy Spirit."
Only as we taste the wild green radiance of the Spirit will we cease devouring the earth. Only when simple necessities become sacraments rather than disciplines, can we live in harmony with bees, salmon streams, ancient forests. To be content with less is not a virtue imposed by looming disaster, but the dividend of meditation in a heart overflowing.
If Americans walked more gently on the earth, we would have fewer enemies. George Fox, founder of the Quakers, wrote: "Walk cheerfully over the earth, answering that of God in every person." Sioux elder, Black Elk, said: "Let every step you take upon the earth be as a prayer."
When we touch our own land, we can allow Muslims to recover theirs. People who live in relationship with their soil are not interested in empire.
Breathing from the souls of our feet, we remember how to walk. Slowly and delectably, we listen to the inquiry of a cricket, a bell thrush, the sun-dappled cottonwood leaves rattling in the afternoon. Walking barefoot, breathing, noticing the vast wealth of the small: this is world-changing political action. The central question for our world leaders is: "Do you know how to take a walk?"
Friends, there's a relationship between our politics and our spirituality. If our spirituality is unearthly, our politics are as disconnected from the world as our souls. We are violent, exploiting and disinheriting other human beings from their native soil. But when our spirituality is rooted in the earth, our political systems aim to recover lost relationships between land and people.
A clash of civilizations? This clash has more to do with our relationship to the earth than with our relation to Islam. The West wants to own and sell the Arabs' chief natural resource - oil. Arabs no longer agree to be corporate serfs. Is that so hard to understand?
In truth, every "terrorist" attack is seen from the Arab perspective as an act of self-defense. When Western oil companies act as business-partners instead of feudal lords, Arab hostility will abate, for Arab citizens hate and fear us only in proportion as they feel disenfranchised from their own land. They do not "hate our freedom and values," as Neocon propagandists claim. They want their own freedom back. They want to walk on Arab soil.
People uprooted from economic relationship with the soil grow desperate and angry. When white Americans disinherited Native Americans, natives fled their pain through violence, alcohol abuse, and the peyote Church. Now the West is doing the same thing to the people of the Middle East, exploiting the resources under their feet.
Because we have disenfranchised many Arab citizens from any politically meaningful and economically viable land-relationship, young Arab intellectuals express their alienation through Wahabi Islam or radical Shiism. Despairing of any reconnection with the earth, dwelling like aliens in a land once theirs but now controlled by Western profiteers, they compensate for that lost land-relation by seeking an unearthly paradise. They make a violent sacrament of their final disconnection - as suicide bombers.
Will Americans learn to walk prayerfully upon the earth? Will we learn to use the land for meditation instead of fuel? Could we live in bigger hearts and smaller houses? To our Third World brothers and sisters, might we be stewardship-partners rather than landlords? May we walk beside them instead of driving over them in humvees?
Terrorism will cease when a Muslim, bowing in prayer, no longer feels an American boot between her forehead and the soil.
Churches are burning, temples are falling,
mosques exploding from inside.
Priests, rabbis, imams make war.
It's revelation time!
Time for a newer testament,
time to spill the ark
and see what God really has to say;
time to rip off the temple veil
and gaze into the Holy Empty.
But this time, let's keep it simple:
No scripture but your sighing -
no temple but your heart -
the Master's form, Awareness itself -
the Master's word, I Am -
his anointing, your fingertips
on the petals of a rose -
his Spirit, your breath -
his Kingdom, your body -
his Second Coming,
If you're not ready,
wait another thousand years
and I'll tell you the same thing.
This is what you do
0n patrol in the woods,
Fort Lewis, Washington,
when no one is there:
You happen upon a trillium
white and secret as God in a shadow.
You bow down saying,
"Thank you for showing me
Six months later
on patrol in Fallujah
you happen upon a girl
three days dead in the rubble,
her body cut nearly in half
by American fire,
your fire, my fire.
Her large intestine blossoms in the desert sun,
a terrible sweetness in your nostrils.
You bow down saying,
"Thank you for showing me
It is your last war.
"The Glory of God is humanity fully alive!" (St. Athanasius)
In scripture, a "new Jerusalem" descends from the clouds. But the new energy that transforms our world will not descend from above: it will emanate from the atomic structure of your body. Your body will radiate the New Creation. Your radiance will transform the earth.
Our religions have all shared a mythological hope of leaving the body for a "higher" world. But in the age now dawning, there is communion through sensation in the body. In the Lord's Supper, we taste a tiny portion of bread and wine. The central religious rituals of Holy Eucharist, Jewish Sedar, Hindu Puja, are prophetic meals. Their symbolism foreshadows this age: God is here, now, in the ordinary sacraments of daily work. Let us value this human body as the temple of initiation. We need no other church. In Jesus' words, "Your whole body will be filled with light." In the most ancient cosmology, the Vedic scriptures of India, one of God's original titles is "Narayana." "Nara" is the Indo-European root of the English word, "nerve." "Yana" means "control." God is not beyond the body, but the "controller of the nervous system."
"Honor every sensation as an angel of light...."
We can abandon the old three-story house where soul, mind, and flesh form a hierarchy both ontological and moral. What was "low" is now exalted; the body is as good as the spirit. Greek philosophy and Christian asceticism regarded the body as the "prison-house of the soul." But our body can be a shrine where we honor each firy atom as the Holy of Holies. Our flesh is sacred ground where Moses meets God. This brain-stem is the Burning Bush, lit with the Lord's electric "I Am." This nervous system is the Tree of Life in a garden of Paradise. Honor every sensation as an angel of light.
The practice of body awareness is not sensuality. Sensuality was in your past, before you started meditation, when your awareness was annihilated in physical experience. Your consciousness went to sleep in the body. You needed more and more crude stimulation to feel anything at all. This is the chronic drowziness of him who has no spiritual practice, or the workaholic who is functioning on auto-pilot. This state can become a downward spiral of compulsiveness, depression, or addiction. But body awareness frees you from such patterns of sensuality and dullness. Attending mindfully to sensations, you need less stimulation, not more. Sensation can be refined and purified by consciousness, until just dwelling in the body is ecstatic.
"Attend sensation in the present moment... dwell more in the body and less in thought."
Dwell more in the body and less in thought. You will attune to the energy that irradiates the planet as earth passes into a new region of the galaxy, where there is a much higher sub-nuclear vibration than earthly matter has ever felt. This new frequency will vibrate"up" through the atomic nuclei of the body, not "down" through the soul or the mind. Those who do not attune to it through their bodies will experience chaos and confusion. Those who practice body awareness will experience a smoother transition.
The nucleus of a single atom contains boundless energy. Each particle of your flesh is a portal to infinity. The light of God and "the light of the body" are one light. Therefor, in times of transition, trust the sensations that emanate from your body, not the fearful imagery of your thoughts. In Matthew 25, Jesus warned, "When you see the abomination of desolation prophecied by Daniel, stand in the Holy Place!" The Holy Place is the energy-field of your own body. When you sense the chaos of the world around you, shift your attention inward: not to the mind and its thoughts, but to the vibrancy of your nervous system. Rest there and be sustained by the Manna of an unexpected delight...
Beware of the mind. Mind is destroying the earth. We look to intellectuals and technocrats to save us, but mind is the problem, not the solution. See what chaos the think-tank PHD's have brought upon the earth! Do you really believe that the world will be saved by the Harvard School of Business, the Project for a New American Century, the Heritage Foundation? Ideology drives humanity to war and makes excuses for the exploitation of the innocent. The time of the intellectual has passed. Blessed are the intuitives: they shall inherit the kingdom.
"Envelop each sensation in a glow of awareness, as a flame envelops a candle's wick."
Those who dwell primarily in ideas will know great anxiety and mental illness in the coming years of transition. But at any moment you can shift to body awareness and avoid much suffering. In meditation, attend sensation in the present moment. Apply consciousness to the body without intervening thought. Envelop each sensation in a holy cloud of pure awareness, as a flame envelops a candle's wick. Divine light will flow up through that sensation. Sensation will dissolve into prayer....
"To dwell in this body is a political act..."
Being consciously and intentionally in the body leads to the age-old goal of political philosophers: “the simple life.”
The simple life is the good life: a life content with nature and her necessities, without greed for extraneous luxury, hoarding of wealth, class envy, or addiction. A deepening awareness of the body is the key to these long sought Utopian goals.
Being fully aware in the body is not "materialism" or "sensuality," which are, in truth, obsessions of the mind. Materialism, addiction, and lust occur in persons who are profoundly OUT of touch with their bodies. The simple life of body-awareness is a profoundly spiritual life, a sacramental life where each sensation is infused with radiant attention. In this state, a person's body becomes the body-politic: a harmony of personal needs with the needs of the earth.
What is the political consequence of living a simple life, a life in which just dwelling in the body is happiness? Imagine millions of Americans gladly forfeiting their habits of energy-consumption, addiction and waste, content to live moment by moment in the wonderful sensations of this body!
When we are spiritually alive to the joy of this body, we are alive to the body politic. Each breath connects us to the atmosphere of the planet. Each tear is a measure of the ocean’s health: we weep when the water is not pure. Each tree cut down needlessly is a nerve in our body. Our bones feel the harrowing of coal and copper from mines. Without abstract theories or statistics, the body teaches us to conserve and cherish the earth’s resources. In every sensation we learn what ideology can never convey: to dwell in this body is a political act.
The level of body-awareness in most Americans can be described as numbness. Most of us are as disassociated from this body in our waking life as we are in our sleep. Our attention is primarily with thoughts in the mind, not sensations in the body. Mental images of the past and future mesmerize us. Deadlines drain our joy and empty the present moment of significance. Unconscious of the air in our nostrils, the soil at our feet, the breeze on our cheeks, or the song of a bird, we function on auto-pilot. Busily multi-tasking in our thoughts, we haven’t the slightest clue what is actually happening right here, right now, on earth. We cannot see reality: only the reflection of reality in the mirror of our thoughts.
This state of semi-conscious living, absorbed in disembodied thought, falls easy prey to the hypnotic imagery of TV, radio and internet, all of which are used by the corporate media to fill us with desires profitable to their agenda. Our thoughts entrain to their chatter, which repeats one word over and over through a thousand images: “Buy!”
Mindfulness of the body is a political act because it is a rebellion against this consumer hypnosis. When we are truly awake in every cell, corporate propaganda can no longer find room in our brains, manipulating our fears and addictions. This is the beginning of freedom.
Just breathing is joyful, a glass of water is thrilling, the touch of earth beneath our feet is ecstatic. Our addictions diminish. We no longer need to consume expensive food, waste money on trendy clothes, dull our nerves with loud entertainment, drink an excess of wine, or cruise the mall searching for the momentary thrill of a purchase. Conscious sensation is never addictive: it diffuses the power of addiction by weakening the force of desire in the mind. The truth is, we are addicted to our desires, not to our sensations.
Citizens who are truly incarnate form an enlightened body politic. Let the words of the ancient Mundaka Upanishad define it: "Heaven is her head, the sun and moon her eyes, the four quarters her heart. From her feet came the earth, from her eye the sun-illumined sky... In the landscape of her body, the seas and mountains arise. From her skin spring the rivers and the herbs... Her own life is the one life shining in the heart of every creature."
Can we take responsibility for the world in our bodies? Can we sense the ecology of the whole earth in the quality of a raindrop on the tip of a twig in our own back yard? Then we will be citizens of the Kingdom, "on earth as it is in heaven."
Arguing the primacy of science or religion is a waste of time. It is like arguing whether Spring is more important than Fall, whether music is more important than words, whether the right foot is more important than the left.
It is desperately silly for a scientist to claim that God does not exist. It is even sillier for an evangelist to disclaim the mechanics of evolution based on chapter one of the Bible. Just as a laboratory experiment can never determine God's being, the fundamental equations of physics will never be solved by a hymn. Science and religion are not conflicting but complimentary realms of human experience: particle and wave, the apple and its flavor.
When we engage science and religion in debate, or argue that one should explain the other, we forget that neither are bodies of fact. They are, rather, methods. They are utterly different ways of seeing. A human being who wishes to be whole must learn to use both, just as we learn to see with two eyes.
There are those who claim to have "proof" in either camp. They have data proving the existence of God, or data proving humans to be the bastard children chance; data proving creation in seven days, or data proving multiple random universes. We must once and for all get this point: we can always find data to support our prejudices. In the realm of faith, proof is meaningless.
Science is a not a method to prove or disprove religion, but a method to arrive at laws and techniques for transforming our physical environment. To achieve this pure material end, science sets up rigorous tests under "laboratory conditions." The laboratory method is a tool to satisfy our need for food, warmth, shelter, bodily health and protection. Science is no more, no less.
But laboratory method cannot explore phenomena such as rapture, compassion, prayer, or the light of self-transcendence. Science must kill these experiences in order to study them - like frogs in freshman biology. Science dissects what is on the table, not what is outside the carefully constructed boundaries of the experiment. Science may analyze the human brain, but can never know anything about the consciousness who analyzes that brain. For as soon as the scientist turns his attention from the brain on the table to his own awareness, he ceases to do science and begins to do meditation.
It is equally true that rapturous, self-luminous cosmic awareness will never solve the equations of string theory, or run the engine of my car when I need to get to the hospital.
Let the scientist meditate before entering the laboratory. Then she might better decide whether to use her research for peace or for war. At the same time, let the man of faith study physics to enrich his wonder for the incomprehensible majesty of God's creation.
Science and religion will only converse when they take up the invitation of the poet:
Out beyond the boundaries of right and wrong,
there is a field:
will you meet me there?
This new dimension is Awareness. It has always been here, in the background of our thoughts. But now pure Awareness - clear, empty, boundless, unlimited by the contours of a single thought - must emerge from background into foreground as our fundamental experience.
Human beings have been using Awareness, but have not been living the experience of Awareness. When a threshold percentage of our population finally comes to rest in the direct experience of their own Awareness, they will cover the earth with blessing. A new dimension will dawn, through which unexpected solutions will emerge in such a spontaneous way that people will declare, "Why of course! Why didn't we think of this before?" But these solutions will not come from our thinking. They will emerge from an inner silence deeper than thought. We call this phenomenon intuition.
Complexity is not resolved in the political, economic, or scientific theories of the intellectual. The intellectual remains fixed on the level of the problem, answering complexity with complexity. A complexity at the level of the problem is only resolved by a simplicity at another level. Einstein wrote, "A problem cannot be solved on the same level of thinking that produced the problem." That is why, when we get stuck in an intellectual quandary, it is usually solved only when we abandon it. We go for a walk, or we go to sleep, or we have a talk with a child. Suddenly, the solution dawns from an unexpected source.
In the coming Age of Awareness, world problems will solve themselves through the joyful interactions of intuitive people, in anonymous sacraments of the local and the ordinary. Global crises will dissolve as a matter of scale, when Awareness confronts the vast in the commonplace, a world in a grain of sand.
The Sabbath is perpetual. It is the silence underlying every moment of our lives, the silence of Awareness itself, at rest in its own pure space.
Perhaps the seven days of creation described in Genesis 1 are not seven consecutive periods of time, but seven frequencies of energy enveloping each other in layers whose center and core is the zero-point vacuum of pure silence, which is the mind of God.
Each successive valence shell of energy is more grossly condensed than the one inside it. Yet all the inner frequencies pervade the grosser husk, as dissolved sugar pervades sap, and sap pervades the flower. The gross external layer of energy is what we perceive as the physical earth: but its present density was never intended. This density of physical matter is symbolized by the animal skin coat put on by Adam and Eve after their fall from grace.
Creator intends us to live in a more ethereal earth, a plane of energy that is at once sensuous yet responsive to our goodwill. In the original innocence of Eden, work, struggle, and competition are never necessary, for our needs are supplied by mere intention without tools or intervening technologies. Through the mere power of the word and the intention of the will, humans could design their environment. This is symbolized in the story by Adam's ability to name the creatures. As God creates through the subtle power of the Word, so humans could re-create the world through that same power. But this covenant between our intention and the material world is only valid as long as our will is suspended in the grace of God, conforming to the will of Nature. We broke this covenant, and the breaking of it affected even the laws of physics.
Self-will, directed toward pleasing independent ego rather than community, made our earth dense. The density of matter directly resulted from our shame. Shame is the consequence of living for the ego.
How can we restore the earth to the state of Eden, where matter is subtle, radiant and responsive to positive intention? The new earth will never manifest through technological achievement or political policy alone. This work requires the refinement of our consciousness. Science and political action must be supplemented by practices of meditation and healing breath.
Genesis, chapter one, is not a model for "creation science," but for earth-centered consciousness. Before creation, there is silence. The Biblical term, tohu wa bohu means formless and void. It describes the abstract vacuum of energy which modern physics reveals to be the source of matter. This living emptiness is pure consciousness. Out of the depths of this divine mind, all the layers or days of creation manifest as sovereign acts of intention, words of God. Creation ex nihilo means that matter is produced from pre-existent consciousness. Consciousness is not produced by the interaction of pre-existent material particles.
After the sixth day, God rests. This is called Sabbath. In Hebrew, Sabbath means stop. This indicates that a field of restful silence surrounds creation, burnishes and finishes it, just as silence lies at creation's source. Before the first day of creation, silence, formless and void. After the last day of creation, silence, conscious and restful. The universe is permeated and enveloped by the Sabbath rest.
Every moment of our daily experience in suspended like a dissolving drop of sugar in restful silence. Effusing the silence of creation's source into manifest experience is the purpose of our life on earth. Eternal rest underlies each moment of activity.
Creation is always all finished. So be at rest in the stillness of God all day, every day of the week. Wherever you are, whatever you do, bathe in the completed fullness of divine silence, ever present in the depths of you, as awareness itself.
“I know more than the greatest philosophers because I know that I don’t know anything.” - Socrates
“If I doubt, I know I do not know… If I am mistaken, I must exist.” - St. Augustine
Don't confuse enlightenment with understanding. In truth, there is nothing to understand and no one there to say, "I get it!" Of this I am absolutely certain because I don't understand.
To say, “I don’ get it,” is a sign of nobility. Getting is possessiveness. It reaffirms the owner, this little "I." “Getting it" perpetuates the illusion of ego. If enlightenment were something to get, then "I" could go to a university and "get" a PHD in enlightenment. But enlightenment has nothing whatsoever to do with thinking.
Enlightenment is an ocean of Silence, where awareness rests in its own bounty. On the surface of this sea, thoughts arise and dissolve like bubbles. Each of these bubbles is accompanied by a little "I" who "gets" it. But the sea itself has no "I."
Let these bubbles play and dissolve, appear and disappear. Just watch them. It is so interesting to watch our thoughts, our little concept-bubbles, each with its own little "I." A thought arises as a disturbance, a ripple, in the ocean of Silence. The wave of thought is polarized into a subject and an object. If there is a thought-wave, then there is a thinker who arises in that wave to think the thought. Every thought gives rise to its own momentary thinker.
When the thought-bubble bursts, its “I” dissolves with it. But our memory holds these bubbles together like beads in a necklace called "me." We sustain this illusion as long as we want to do the work of carrying around the precious bejeweled necklace. Its gemstones are very heavy. Most of us waste the greater part of our energy working at this task, perpetuating the illusion of a permanent self, a string of memories. This so-called self is a stream of infinitesimal "I's" that accompany instantaneous bubbles of thought. Not one of them has any actual continuity or substance.
The effort to give continuity to a momentary “I” as it arises with a thought is the cause of our suffering.
Stop trying to force the ocean into a bubble of understanding! You are the ocean. You are indefinable, limitless, indivisible, eternal and pure, and so simply available to yourself that there is nothing to understand.
Look at the ocean: every wave at its crest is an individual object, but at its base the wave is the whole sea, and includes every other wave. This is not mysticism but simple physics.
How playful and luminous the world becomes when there is nothing to get, and no one to get it! No you, no me, just the oceanic dance of We. We are sparkles of each other on an ocean of awareness.
Enlightenment can never be "mine" or "yours". In every faith tradition, the holy Spirit is not an individual but a We: a Cloud of Witnesses, a Sangha, a gathered Meeting.
Enlightenment is the noble freedom of playfulness, where nobody has to get anything.
When I discovered the lump,
you looked into my eyes and said:
"Everything will be all right."
The biopsy was positive.
But you gazed at me that way again:
"Everything will be all right."
Chemo began. I sat on my bed
wondering if I could stand up
You sat down beside me.
Your eyes swam into mine
and spoke again.
But in six months, I was ready
to give up. "Go ahead, give up,"
you said. "Everything will be all right."
For a year I whispered, "I'm OK."
Then I looked in the mirror:
cheeks like smoke that veils
the surface of a distant planet.
I turned to meet your eyes, those
gentler mirrors. The final night,
I was a paper lantern without a bulb.
They had me on a morphine drip.
I couldn't wait for the animal
in my throat to stop sucking.
You came into the room, sat down
beside me. "She can't hear you,"
they said. "Yes she can," you said.
My eyes were somewhere else,
but you found them and spoke:
"Everything will be all right."
Now there is no mirror but a sea
of swelling glittering transparencies.
All day, all night my gaze
breaks in lovely waves upon you
like this, and I am whispering,