Tag Archives: bhakti

Spiritual Scars

Our dog of two years, Alfred, has been with us since he was approximately ten weeks old. Alfred sees virtually every long-handled tool–brooms, mops, shovels, rakes, not to mention those mechanized beasts, vacuums–as a threat.

Spirituality

A broom can be resting, immobile in a corner on our deck and, if Alfred takes an interest in it, he will rush the static broom, nipping at its inactive bristles, until the long-handled tool finally comes crashing down.

All alone. By himself. Alfred has created an animated, demonic creature bent on getting him. And, sometimes, when he nips the bristles just right, the broom does smack him as it lands in a crash on the deck.

Before we had Alfred in our home, he spent two interim weeks in the home of a woman and her son, who were fostering him informally. They had collected Alfred from his birth home a few blocks away where, according to his foster mom’s report, Alfred was being abused. The children of that home/neighborhood were taking turns (politely) throwing Alfred (abusively) against an outdoor cement wall which ran along the edge of their yard.

Given Alfred’s singular relationship with long-handled tools, we postulate that this poor dog was most likely abused by an implement such as a broom or mop during his initial weeks on the planet. This is an experience held deep in his memory.

One reading of this narrative renders the mental image of a dog battling his inner demons by taking on an inanimate mop or broom almost comical; although, it is not comical. In reality, this is a profoundly heart-breaking story. As Alfred’s roommate, it is difficult to witness  Alfred’s continued struggles with the live ghost of a memory which is over two years old.

Yet, in a larger sense, this is a tale about the manner in which many of us live our daily lives, battling the demons and ghosts of memories long gone by. How we view and interact with the world is not only impacted by our basic disposition, but it is also filtered through our deep and multi-layered life experiences.

As adults, the most important work we can do is to ensure that our old injuries heal over. Then, once healed over, we have an obligation to massage the ropiness out of these deep tissue wounds. It is the only way to emerge from the fire of life intact and be able to release the desire to do damage to someone or something else as a result of the pain we carry inside.

Spiritual Silence

Outside of a large, indoor flea market, near the metal railings around the expansive entryway, I stop unlocking my bicycle to look up. A middle-aged man is approaching, climbing a steep grade up from the lower-level parking lot. He is accompanied by three, young adult children. Everyone is fresh from church and dressed to the nines.

It is Sunday afternoon. My bicycle trip is a spontaneous break from the intensive gardening I was about all morning, designed to help me get the kinks out of my overworked arms, legs and spine.

Spirituality

Walking about four to five feet apart from one another, the family that is approaching me is so replete with the Light of God’s Grace that the space about them is suffused with a brightness akin to the light of the sun. My mouth opens involuntarily as I observe the spectacle of so much Light gathered about this one family.

Then, I watch as the protector of this group of amazing souls stiffens at the intensity of my gaping gaze, sure that my unkempt gardening clothes, mode of transportation and the dissimilarity of our backgrounds, our ethnicities, may also be putting him on edge.

I want to tell him about what I am seeing, so much Light; the love that each child holds; the radiant Grace present in their family; and, most especially, that his children are blessed and will be further blessed.

But, I say nothing.

Our physicality gets in the way. The physicality of our apparent dissimilarities shuts my mouth. The hurdle of inequitable social treatment silences my voice. Instead of inviting direct contact, I say a prayer of protection for this man and his children, asking God to keep these individuals out of harms way and to help them fulfill their holy blueprint.

Errands

Spirituality

Very late one Friday afternoon on a cold day while driving near the center of town, a friend who is accompanying me on errands comments on the twenty-five-plus people congregated with their bags near the edge of a parking lot.

“They are homeless,” I reply.

“But so many?” my companion asks in disbelief.

“Yes. They are probably waiting for a ride to a local shelter. Because of the profoundly Christian nature of this community, there are several shelters operating here. People in this area take serving the homeless quite seriously,” I explain.

“But where do they go during the day time?”

“Many of them spend their time among the various library branches. From what I have been able to discern, most of them are looking for ways to change their circumstances. They search for jobs, try to reconnect with family who might take them in or attempt to take care of more serious medical concerns via email and telephone.”

“That is an awful lot of people,” my companion comments.

“Yes it is.”

The Spiritual Kiss

On a hot, muggy day in late spring, I was standing on the dais of the speech teacher’s classroom, emptying my end-of-the-year, school folders.  Luke Saufield sat at the back of the otherwise empty classroom talking with me.

It was our last day of high school.

Luke and I had shared a few Advanced Placement English classes, as well as working together on some extra-curricular projects.  Luke had an amazingly jocular and mature personality at eighteen. His laugh, when it came on, was hearty and full, capable of rolling through an entire room and out into the hall.

Spirituality

Luke and I were mid-conversation when another graduating senior, Mick Jackson, walked into the room, striding purposefully toward the location, where I was standing at the front of the room on the dais. Without pausing to say anything, Mick stepped up onto the speech platform and, taking me into his arms, bent me over one–now folded–knee.

Mick proceeded to kiss me in the most intimate and passionate manner possible.

Then, just as suddenly as I had been kissed, I was standing up again, watching Mick stride away without ever looking back or saying anything. Standing in stunned silence, I watched quietly as the door closed behind Mick–to peals of Luke’s hearty laughter echoing through the speech classroom.

“What was that?” Luke finally asked me, during a break in his encore of mirth.

“I don’t know,” I said, still trying to comprehend what had just happened.  “Mick and I only ever had one class together and that was this past fall–in this room.  We sat near one another, but I never got to know him. He never said anything to me. He is so very quiet.  I didn’t even know he liked me or think that we had anything in common.”

“It sure seems like he likes you now,” Luke continued to chuckle.

“If only I had known,” I concluded.

Divine Love sometimes shows up in our lives in much the same way. There is the thunderclap, as the French might say, or “the wave” of passionate affection and then the vacuum of Love’s absence.  It is the memory of Love’s bold steps toward us that allows us to keep moving forward–even as we experience stunned, unfathomable silence.

Spirituality & Sacrament

Delivering our family’s recycling to the Municipal Recycling Center, our young son–in a moment of playful fun–steps onto the Center’s aluminum-recycling scale, a large steel plate recessed directly into the concrete floor.  Still in junior-science-teacher mode, I proceed to tell my son “how much” his body would be worth on the raw chemicals market, breaking his physical frame down into its discrete chemical components.

The African-American man working the Center’s scale gently counters me with a heart-felt statement of firm conviction, “You are priceless, because God gave you life.   Life is a precious gift.”

Spirituality

At the time this happened, I was involved in a spiritual practice where I had been counseled to treat the words of would-be strangers, acquaintances and friends as if they were the words that the Divine would deliver personally to my ears and heart. This man’s words stopped me cold.

I had to ask, “What am I teaching my son?  Is it a notion that I want to propagate?  True or not, is this idea or belief damaging?”

Like it or not, I had relayed to my son that in chemical, physical and fiscal terms “life is cheap” and, more specifically, “your life is cheap.” In my heart, I knew this was not true.

Moving through my days, I began pondering the boundaries between the attitudes of things held dear and objects quantified, the sacred and profane, those fully present and those disengaged, as well as gratitude and ingratitude. While observing my own emotional chart and where I seemed to travel or rest, I began mapping where I was “living” on the majority of days–and in most moments.  A clear picture began developing.

Then, one day, during clean-up after a lunch with a group of spiritual friends, a woman began relating a story to me about the lifestyle of one of her closest friends, who had a home out in the country.  On this country woman’s property, profanity–involving common anglo-saxon pejoratives–is forbidden because the acts that these words describe are considered to be a sacred part of nature and living by this specific woman and her family.

Soaking this concept up, I begin examining my own attitudes while engaged in the simplest of acts.  Am I behaving emotionally in a manner that renders this act profane or sacred?

What I learn is this:  Cultivating a relationship with the sacred is a matter of shifting gears internally to foster consistent responses of gratitude and reverence for both what we choose to be doing and that which life delivers to us.  Sacraments–life’s sacred rituals–need not be rarified, reserved or confined to specific locations or institutions. Sacramental living becomes available to each of us daily through our ability to hold gratitude and presence in our hearts.

Spiritual Marriage

More often than not, when we think of marriage, we are describing a formal commitment between two people who enter into a promise to celebrate and support one another through life’s many passages.  This is one of the external, social forms that marriage may take. There is another form of marriage, more ancient, arguably more difficult to maintain and guard the sanctity of, and which is sometimes considered or recognized in but a few of the world’s dominant cultures.  This marriage is the internal, sacred and spiritual marriage we enter into at birth—between the body and the Self.

Spirituality

With birth into the body and into the physical realm, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that we are our highest Light, pure Spirit, holy Consciousness.  And, with physical birth, there is a prearranged pairing—or marriage, created between the physical frame and the Light.  Our Light is that which drives the body.  Yet, how many of us forget, through the course of our social engagements, that we have a Supreme driver, to call upon daily, as we maneuver life’s rural expanses, twisting back alleyways or busy city streets?

Calling upon the Self.  Interestingly and paradoxically, the most efficient path, perhaps, to a balanced and healthy internal, spiritual marriage is effected by respectfully tending to the physical frame.  Spirit is a delicate, resilient creature, benefiting from the upkeep of a solidly working and cherished home.  And, it is when we are actively addressing the issues of the body through regular self-care, that we are able to continue to forge, recommit and strengthen the internal marriage between body and Spirit.  Thus, anytime we are engaged in any respectful, life-affirming activity, we are able to request, of the Self, clear and accurate guidance about how best to proceed with integrity and in relationship with the wide variety and aspects of Grace we are privileged to encounter and live among.