Here is a link to an article on the deal between China and the U.S. to reduce carbon emissions. Despite how modest it is, some politicians have found a way to oppose even this small step toward being environmentally responsible. Unreal.
From Bishop Spong’s book A New Christianity for a New World.
On this blog I call myself a “subversive mystic.” One thing that this means is that I feel very deep compassion for and solidarity with those who suffer. The intensity of these feelings can be difficult to navigate. There is anger at exploitation and abuse by those with power. There can be feelings of depression, desperation, and anxiety. It can be easy to either buckle under their weight or to turn away from them and try to ignore the terrible reality of suffering. As a Christian, I take solace in the prophets. They sought to channel these feelings into a holy fire. They felt God’s word of justice burn. With much inner struggle, they let it lead them into action, activism, protest, and truth telling.
“Mystical experience is generally described as an experience of ecstatic oneness with creation (or with God) and as being characterized by a profound sense of peace and an apparent illumination about the meaning of existence” — Michael Thalbourne, 1991
This evening I was reading the first chapter of a friend’s dissertation. She is researching transliminality. Transliminality refers to people who have a crossover of three intense phenomena: mystical experiences, creative genius (and volatility), and some form of psychosis. It’s quite intriguing to me, and I think her work — and the work of others in this regard — is very important. The above quote from Michael Thalbourne provides some good food for thought for those of us interested in the mystical or spiritual side of life.
I went to sleep in Alaska and woke up in California.
Soon I will be taking a shower again. On the downside, I can’t step into the bushes to piss anymore. Tradeoffs. I left McCarthy this morning to fly to San Jose for a few months. Entering urban life is a bit of a drag after nearly five months in the splendors of the wilderness, but I am very excited to see family. Some little rug rats are waiting for Uncle Jon. Hopefully Uncle Jon will navigate the cities, avoid getting smushed by traffic, and successfully merge again with civilization……I am looking forward to a few months of writing. I just finished up the first chapters of my book, an exploration of my spiritual journey. I shipped them off to some readers to get early feedback. The writing process has been fun and full of energy. I have much on my mind and heart, so thus far there has been no writer’s block. Not even close. Crossing my fingers and hoping for a productive few months of writing in the Bay. With any luck, I’ll be back up in Alaska early this year — maybe March.
I don’t view things like meditation and prayer mere “spiritual” activities. They are not abstract, esoteric activities. In the modern world of increasing virtual reality and stimulation, we need to intentionally do things that do not stimulate us. Sitting still and watching my breath opens up a completely new dimension for me precisely because I simply have to deal with one thing: myself. No distractions. Same thing with liturgical prayers or walking a labyrinth or other contemplative exercises. It changes our brains. It breaks us out of the stream of endless stimulation. It centers us in what is, and gives us the ability to simply be. Imagine — your life has no screens, no electronic entertainment of any kind, and yet you are never bored, content only with life as it is.
“Whatever forms of meditation you practice, the most important point is to apply mindfulness continuously, and make a sustained effort. It is unrealistic to expect results from meditation within a short period of time. What is required is continuous sustained effort.”
Mindfulness is simply being aware, being here, now, in the present. It is an effortless form of concentration.
Last night at the beginning of sunset. Out for a climb up onto the glacier at “the toe.” Overlooking the valley where the town of McCarthy sits.
Most days, I use the Lord’s Prayer as a meditation tool. It is a prayer of provision for my well being and the well being of others: Give us this day our daily bread. It is a prayer of compassion and forgiveness: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And it is a prayer to end the cycles of abuse, coercion, and exploitation: Deliver us from evil. Like all meditation tools, it can be used for deeper contemplation into specific things that we feel the need to explore more thoroughly.
Keep working for change, friends. People know that our country has a lot of problems and that the cliche political answers and typical quick fixes of the major parties haven’t worked.
In the 1880s and 1890s, a prairie wildfire swept through American politics. The generation of pioneers that had taken the risk to head out west and take advantage of Abe Lincoln’s Homestead Act, where our government literally gave away free land to any poor and working class people, had successfully battled terrible weather and intense loneliness. They had worked their butts off to become farmers and ranchers, and made a good life for themselves. But when railroad barons, Wall Street bankers, and oil monopolists began to squeeze them and make it tougher and tougher to make a living farming and ranching, they rose up and started organizing a populist movement that changed American politics and policies. States like the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma rebelled against pro-big business politicians, and much of what they demanded- breaking up the big corporate trusts, tougher financial regulations, easier credit, Social Security, a minimum wage, an 8 hour work day and no child labor, women’s suffrage, stronger labor unions- eventually became incorporated in the reforms of the Progressive era of the early 1900s and the New Deal of the 1930s.
Prayer, meditation, and other spiritual disciplines are acts of silence and solitude. However, silence and solitude have driven many to insanity. On the other hand, quiet isolation has been the vehicle for many seekers to achieve serenity and greater self awareness. Intentionality is one of the key differences. Forcing someone into a prison of solitary confinement is torture, and it is quite likely to bring the madness. Yet I have read stories of medieval Christian monks who built up four solid walls around themselves — with no doors or windows — so as to devote themselves to prayer, meditation, and a life of contemplation. Here in McCarthy, Alaska, the two dozen or so locals who winter here do so, in large part, because they enjoy the quiet serenity of the winter mountains. Extended time spent in solitude and isolation brings us into contact with some tough internal shit. However, by daily engaging a spiritual practice — gently, intelligently, and at a safe pace — it is possible to confront and move past the inner demons and the difficult parts of our personality that trouble us.
My writing quote of the day.
Once we find a spiritual practice that resonates with us, we must commit time, daily, in order to really benefit and grow. One of the things that is necessary for a daily practice is faith, which is simply trusting that the practice will work. But faith and trust are difficult to come by for modern folks. We have incredible and unprecedented access to information and knowledge, which gives us the ability to study all about a spiritual practice, as never before. That is a good thing, but with knowledge often comes cynicism. It is hard for us to open and to really trust in anything when we learn about all the ways that governments, corporations, politicians, religious institutions, priests, pastors, gurus and spiritual teachers have all grossly abused their power and position. We are not naive, and so trust can be hard to come by, and understandably so. For me, however, having open-hearted faith in my practice has been absolutely essential in motivating me toward dedicating the time to daily meditation. And with time it gets easier for me to trust the practice, as I experience the benefits of my daily sittings. It just takes patience and time.