Conscious walking and grounding practices
in “Service, Society, and the Sacred.”
“Helping the human family move toward the next step of human evolution in love is the most urgent and challenging task of contemporary spirituality….God wants creation to become fully conscious that it is imbued with divine love and living in that love.”
-Richard Rohr, “Evolving in Love,” November, 8, 2018.
“We can know God only through sensation. Pure sensation is the name of God – pure, burning sensation. The body is the instrument for experiencing this.”
-J. deSalzman, Reality of Being, p. 226
Now that we are approaching 2/3 of the way through “Service, Society, and the Sacred,” we come to what for most students is the most crucial point. My argument all along has been that your intended destiny as a member of the human race is to live a satisfying life of self-understanding and authentic service to society. But to do so requires a journey of discernment to find your particular niche in the matrix of life in the 21st century. The path towards this destiny is to wake up the body and heart centers that have lain dormant for most of you for some time, and to integrate these with the overdeveloped faculty of the mind. Most of you have come to a better understanding of your specific strengths and areas of imbalance through the course, culminating in the personal application of the Enneagram to your life circumstances. The crucial next step of this process, then, is to choose a spiritual practice that aims to rebalance your personality type’s habitual patterns of thought and behavior that ill-serve your quest for a life well-lived.
It in this context that I want you to think about the role of the body in your choice of spiritual practices as your journey towards wisdom continues.
A Moment of Epiphany about Love
Let me share an amazing description of someone who did gain a moment of realization that has guided her career. Take a moment and enjoy reading this profound paragraph by Jing Lin, a professor of education at the University of Maryland, who shares this anecdote in the acknowledgments of her book Love, Peace, and Wisdom in Education: A Vision for Education in the 21st Century:
“I came to know that there is an all-encompassing love in the universe only after I met Dr. Yan Xin and began to cultivate an authentic, traditional Chinese qi energy cultivation system. Opening myself to all life forces and the energies in the universe, I experience the interconnectedness of all people and all existences. My most astounding experience came one day when, after visiting the Great Wall, I literally heard the pounding of a great heart in the universe. This heart was pumping into all existences a love so profound that it is utterly beyond description. The whole universe pulsates with this love. I was completely awestruck and moved beyond words. As the love penetrated my cells, I was transformed and realized we need to reveal this essence to others. I realized that we have solutions to all of our major problems if we choose to love each other as our beloved brothers and sisters – rather than hate each other – and if we care for nature like we care for ourselves. Since that day, all people I meet, regardless of their race, gender, and cultural background, appear to me like my own family members.”
If we could synthesize all the world’s wisdom teachings into a single word, it would certainly be love. For those who have experienced love, as Jing did above, they are left with a certainty that this is what life is all about, the greatest of all forces in the universe. Consider this comment from Franciscan Richard Rohr:
“The most powerful, most needed, and most essential teaching is always Love. Love is our foundation and our destiny. It is where we come from and where we’re headed. As St. Paul famously says, “So faith, hope, and love remain, but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).”
When Sufi teacher Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee was asked what was the most important lesson he has learned on the spiritual path, he responded:
“I have been surprised by how much we are loved. I would never have believed when I began this journey half a century ago, that one could be loved so completely, totally in ways that are bewildering in their intimacy and intensity. I never believed that love could infuse every cell of the body as well as becoming a living presence within the heart. I had imagined that love was only to be found between people, parent and child, loving partners, but I discovered a loving and a landscape of love that belonged to an invisible beloved, a love that permeates everything, even more than the air we breathe. And this love grows and endures, bringing sweetness, intoxication, ecstasy, as well as a deep inner knowing that we belong to love, have come from love and will return to love.”
Even when I was writing the literature review in my dissertation –a typically dispassionate exercise – in the area of social conscience, I couldn’t avoid enthusiasm for this topic,
“A final word of this chapter is left to a recurring theme in the social conscience literature: love. If the goal is transformation and the method is making connections, then the empowering source for humanities teachers is love. For Mustakova-Possardt (2003, p. 2), ‘love for truth, beauty, and goodness is the missing link’ that activates a field of classroom energy that can connect wide-ranging goals, materials, approaches, and motivations of the social conscience classroom. The love for ideas is matched by a deep love for people, both for students in the classroom, as well as those being studied in the curriculum (Cronon, 1998). For Halstead (2005), ‘love is the most valued underlying principle in [people’s] personal lives’ (p. 293). Love is capable of motivating people to care for others as one would care for oneself, for through the lens of love the lines of self and other become blurred. The binding force of the web of connections in the social conscience classroom emerges out of an attitude of deep love for human beings, for the world, and for life (Freire, 1970)” (Schmidt, 2009).
For those who have loved, of course, prose surrenders to poetry. When we aim for discernment, purpose, or wisdom, we need to swim in the ocean of love. Or let’s switch metaphors, this one drawn from visionary mystic-scientist Teilhard de Chardin:
“All the images associated with fire – the glow, the spark, the flame, incandescence and shining splendor – are used in his works over again and again. They stand for the fire of love, the energy of the spirit, the breath and body of the living God….(King, 2015, p. 18). ” Or let’s jump from the sacred to the seemingly profane – and consider modern rock classics: “All You Need is Love,” “Love is in the Air,” “I’m All Out of Love,” “Somebody to Love,” “To Love Somebody,” and “Love Will Keep Us Together,” to name a few that spring to mind.
Love, love, love! To have a profound experience like Jing’s of literally sensing at a cellular level the cosmic power and pervasiveness of love – and then to live out of that energy in one’s career – seems to be a textbook case of living a life of wisdom.
What about me, I hear you ask. All of us wish for such an experience to know love as the heartbeat of the universe. So what can we do?
Cynthia’s Teachings on Jing’s Experience
Re-reading Jing’s experience reveals that this epiphany did not emerge out of the blue; rather, it was in the context of her intentional cultivation of the universal life force. Her mentor led her through various practices which enlivened her “chi,” only the most dramatic example of which occurred after visiting the Great Wall.
My dear spiritual teacher Cynthia Bourgeault, who has written two of her eight books on the energy of love, sheds light on Jing’s experience in teachings she gave on a spiritual retreat I attended with her in New Zealand on the topic of the early Christian desert fathers and mothers. Summarized for ease of reading, here is her advice about how to prepare to experience love like Jing did:
“To paraphrase that great father of the desert monastics, St. Anthony, the body itself has a natural aptitude for the spiritual journey. What this is saying is astonishing. There is a profound understanding that the goal is not to beat up, humiliate, or negate the body, but to train it so that it can serve and follow its natural inclination. (Eat your heart out, original sin! It isn’t here yet. What about original goodness do you not understand?) A person living in balance – who is turning to the divine and following the natural movements of the body – will not eat herself or drink herself or snooze herself to death. Not because you can’t, but because it is revolting. Once you have lived in a sense of balance, a life of excess is not on. So these things are not forbidden fruits, but rather you will have no need or want of them. A body that remains in alignment will be more and more continuously in an inner state of vigilance – of awareness and presence.”
Just as we found with our field trips to Kinesiology Asia or the gong bath, the body is our ally, partner and homing beacon in pursuit of physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. As Jing opened her body to chi, love began flowing into her – gracing her with a moment of visionary seeing with the eye of the heart. So, too, with us. Our spiritual practice trains the body to be alert and attentive to energies that have been present but unreceived – like a staticky radio tuned to the wrong frequency.
Listen to spiritual teacher Cynthia Bourgeault, as she turns her attention directly to our theme of love:
“Spiritual practice rewires your nervous system, raising your electrical circuit from 110 to 220. When a deeper stability is attained, the miserably low and entropic energy level gives way to the power, strength, grace, and profundity of the divine life flowing through us, like the bush that burns but is not consumed. The ego drops away, and a fully attentive, fully alive, and fully present human being emerges. As William Blake said, “We are here but a little while to learn to bear the beams of love.” The desert fathers and mothers were not worried about their salvation, but how their bodies can become all flame to do the work of compassion in the here and now. There is a burning bush inside of each one of us, and these Christian monastics used the desert as a laboratory to learn how to become all flame.”*
If we are going to experience cosmic love, we need to prepare the body to handle the energies – to rewire our system to receive a higher electrical current. Keep this in mind as you do your spiritual practices that you are training the body to “learn to bear the beams of love.” What an inspiring thought as you continue your practice!
I share these teachings with you because this has been my experience over the last 6 years that I have followed Cynthia’s work. There has been a surplus of energy running through my system which is a contrast to the existential angst that I had been slipping into in the years before meeting Cynthia. In fact, this spiritual turning point was precipitated by a health revolution in my own life. Then, as one example, several Christmases ago during an Advent service I heard the pastor at my church say the word, “Emmanuel,” which means, “God with us,” and at that moment I felt an actual physical sensation – something organic reaching up and out of my physical heart – an example of that leap from 110 to 220. Everything in a living spiritual tradition is not only a story of the past (God was palpably with Jesus 2000 years ago), but a moment-by-moment realization in the present (that God-in-Jesus energy is available to me too).* This is the spiritual activation energy in a tradition, which is what I believed happened to Jing as well.
As you head into the final 1/3 of this course, I hope you understand that the body-mind-heart exploration that we have embarked on this semester is sensitizing your three brains to more subtle energies. All of our conscious walking, chanting, loving kindness meditations, body scans, and letting go practices aim to raise your energy. All traditions speak of this energetic upgrade: in Christian terms, we can say we are consenting to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives; in Jing’s Taiost context, she spoke of cultivating chi in her life. As you open yourselves, be aware that this universal path to inner awakening may very well manifest – perhaps unaware to yourself but visible to others – as you carry your new body-mind-heart self into life.
Cronon, W. (1998). “Only connect…”: The goals of a liberal education. The American
Scholar, 61, 73-80.
DeSalzman, J. (2010). Reality of being: The fourth way of Gurdjieff. Boston: Shambhala.
Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Herder & Herder.
Halstead, M. (2005). Teaching about love. British Journal of Educational Studies, 53,
King, U. (1999). Pierre Teilhard De Chardin: Writings Selected with an Introduction by Ursula King. Mary Knoll, New York: Orbis
Lin, J. (2006). Love, Peace, and Wisdom in Education: A Vision for Education in the 21st Century.
Mustakova-Possardt, E. (2003). “Is there a roadmap to critical consciousness?” One Country, 15, 2. Retrieved October 28, 2018. from http://www.onecountry.org/e152/e15216as_Review_Consciousness_story.htm
Rohr, R. (2018). “The most essential thing.” Center for Action and Contemplation website, October 28, 2018. Accessed on October 28, 2018.
Schmidt, M. (2009). Teaching for social conscience in Hong Kong secondary schools. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia.
* These two paragraphs were taken from an earlier blog that I wrote on my retreat with Cynthia in New Zealand.
Comment from Jing Lin:
Richard Rohr on November 7, 2018 paraphrasing St. John of the Cross on love
You give a piece of yourself to the other.
You see a piece of yourself in the other (usually unconsciously).
This allows the other to do the same in return.
You do not need or demand anything back from them,
because you know that you are both participating
in a single, Bigger Gazing and Loving—
one that fully satisfies and creates an immense Inner Aliveness.
Simply to love is its own reward.