Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Breath: The Spirit of Life

Mt Shasta California, ink brush sketch by Bob Hare © 1999

Meditating on my breath this morning I came away with a few insights on the importance of conscious breathing. We rarely think about our breath until it is taken away from us by disease, accident or death and then it may be too late. Our word "spirit" comes to us from the Latin "spiritus" which means breath, soul, courage or vigor. Every culture and religion seems to equate breath with spirit. Our individual lives begin with our first startled in-breath at birth and end with our last ex-spiration at death. In between birth and death the spiritual umbilical cord of breath animates, organizes and vitalizes the cells, organs and systems of our body. Breathing is far more than an oxygen delivery and carbon dioxide exchange system. Breath is the vehicle for the exchange of psychic life energy known in India as "prana", in China as "chi", in Japan as "ki" and in Polynesia as "mana". Food feeds our physical body but breath feeds our spiritual being—our very consciousness.

In Genesis 2:7-8 the Bible makes it clear that there are two levels of life creation and sustenance—the physical body of becoming and the spiritual body of being: “…then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.” So our vital breath umbilical connects us in the vertical plane with our Source, Sustainer and Goal. If we try to live our lives solely on the horizontal plane of material becoming our egos can find no lasting satisfaction or meaning—for this is merely existence and we all know that our physical existence is limited by the mysteries of time, loss and circumstance. 

The daily news feed shows us an endless world drama of equally-desperate victims and victimizers of ego ignorance, greed and violence. Our astounding levels of mental illness and addiction testify to the anxiety and meaninglessness of modern material life—however abundant the consumer offerings. We also see how we are destroying the diversity, beauty and vitality of the Earth itself through human ignorance, greed and violence. Materialism, commercialism and egotism kill soul-life. In trying to follow the ego’s demands to look good, be right, and be in control we create pollution, war, injustice and grid-locked politics.

The antidote to this ego alienation and self-created suffering is regaining our soul-life. And the first step in regaining our soul-life is learning how to simply “be”—be thankful, be satisfied, be happy. We have forfeited our birthright as human beings to become "human doings.” Lasting happiness is never about having or doing it is about simply being. Our breath is a direct conduit to our state of being. When we are anxious our breathing is shallow and quick. When we are depressed it may be heavy and labored. Unconscious breathing locks us into any negative state we are in. Conscious deep belly breathing opens up the channels of spiritual energy flowing into us to heal mind, body and soul.

With healthy conscious breathing we become aware and thankful for the gift of each moment. We become present to the in and out flow of our lives. Our body is vitalized, our heart is happy, our mind is stilled and our spirit is awake! We can then give back to Spirit in celebration through our voice, our songs, and our shared cries, prayers and laughter the Love we are given in each divine breath.  

Monday, April 21, 2014

What the Hummingbird Told Me

Trochilid-Trillium Triangle, Scratchboard by Bob Hare © 1977

Dear Friends, I've been attempting to write a one-pager summarizing my philosophy of life if you will and was having difficulty doing it. A hummingbird in my garden told me what to write...so I quickly came inside and put it down. If you're interested read what the hummingbird told me to say...

My philosophy is this Anna’s hummingbird hovering like a fantastic jeweled dream before my eyes. My religion is this tender kiwi leaflet emerging next to the skeletal veil of last years’ leafings. I often get lost in the maze of words and ideas about this world but the astonishing ever-renewing miracle of nature always brings me back into the Garden.

In this Garden I don’t notice myself anymore. I am stilled, quiet, freed from worry and doubt. The past falls away. I have no future. I come to my senses. This ruby-flashing bejeweled and winged miracle dipping its beak into the scarlet trumpets of my just-flowered sage bush and my sentient body are who we are together. I’m trying to convey a subtle but striking difference in perception and being. Most of the time I’m not in the Garden; I look at things and people, I judge them and compare myself to them, I’m outside, separate, alone. I’m too often in my head alienated from my body, breath, senses and nature. The world looks flat, a mere stage where I live out my personal drama of desires and fears—too often a mundane monotony punctuated by challenges to my will. But then a hovering hummingbird shatters this madness and opens a window onto the Infinite. I exit this contracting personal perspective and am ushered quietly into the panoramic view of transpersonal awareness. This transition is always humbling but silently joyful. It is truly coming Home--back to where I know I belong.

The leading edge of the 13.8 billion year-old evolving story of this universe is hovering right here before my eyes. These human eyes and ears taking in the flash and hum of hummingbird eyes and whirring wings are coevolved with the hummingbird’s. We are relations relating. We belong together. We live together—leaf, flower, rain, soil, sun, bird, human. Separate and related. The many and the One.

It is this One that we all come from, are sustained by and return back into to leaf out once again in a new form. It is the Grace of this Great Mystery—this Nameless Ever-Renewing but Never-Changing One—that reveals itself as and in and through all relations: hummingbird-sageflower-human. Seeing, feeling, hearing, tasting, smelling—knowing this we are in the Garden walking and talking softly with the One in the cool of the evening. We were never expelled from the Garden except by the development of our mental ego that thinks it is separate. We can have both. We can take our very useful conceptualizing ego into the Garden but it can no longer be in charge of our awareness. Something far greater and more miraculous is in charge.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Greatest Strength

April 17, 2014 Gulfport-Biloxi Airport and Easter Sunday in Elk Grove

The greatest strength is absolute surrender to this Life—this great mystery of universal evolution.  In the face of Great Mystery the fearful ego withdraws from identity with the powers of Life—shuns surrender and seeks control beyond its wisdom and ability. All human evil, all self-created suffering, stems from this fear-based hubris and ignorance of trying to control the Uncontrollable. When we realize that the universal currents we swim in are the essence of who we are, we can surrender to the Mysterious Power that births, sustains and receives us at death. Having relinquished the ego’s demands for godlike control through accepting life’s daily losses and ultimate physical death we gain the absolute freedom of mystic participation in this Divine Play. Through surrender to the Powers of Life we put ourselves in alignment with Life and become the agents of Creation. The Courage of Life replaces the fear of death. The question is, do we die a thousand small selfish deaths or take on the single big death of surrender of the self-centered ego to God-Great Mystery?

But how does one come to the point of absolute surrender? How does the human ego transcend its existential impulse to fear the other, to constrict and control in order to survive? The models for us to follow are the great mystics whose exemplary lives have birthed the great world religions. On this Easter Sunday our thoughts and lives turn to the image of Jesus dying on the cross and resurrecting three days later. Of all the great teachers, Jesus’ sacrifice is the clearest demonstration of surrendering in mystic participation into the suffering of life. Though Jesus’ suffering was great and his death horrific, millions of humans have had or are now experiencing equal or greater physical suffering. What is exemplary in Jesus’ passion play was his choosing a humiliating and painful death in order to demonstrate how the Courage of Love defeats the fear of death. Broken-bodied Jesus looks down upon us from the cross with eyes of compassion realizing that in our ego ignorance and fear “we know not what we do”. The teaching of Jesus’ death on the cross is that Great Love can be awakened in our own lives through our own willing acceptance of our own necessary suffering. We are all crucified on the crossbeams of Time and Space, change and loss. Like Jesus, we too can see in each moment with eyes of compassion and love born of our own willingly borne suffering. We can witness in full participation the pain of our own lives reflected in the lives of those around us—whether they be human, animal, or plant. All beings and all things are joined together in this mysterious round of Joyful-Sorrow we call life. The key decision is whether we embrace the inseparability of Life-Death or whether we choose to reject life on its own terms.

Resisting that which we cannot change is simply the little ego believing it could design the Universe better than God-Great Mystery. This is the hubris of Icarus, the Greek whose father devised a way for him to fly but who flew too near the sun melting the wax that held his man-made wings together. Ego-hubris goes before a great fall. Surrender to that which we cannot control is identical with faith in Life and the understanding that Life is fundamentally beyond our understanding and control. Yes, we control the very important options that are ours to manage but ultimately Life is about love and celebration and not about control or survival.

Despite the often fearful appearance of life—all is well. In its own way everyone and everything is moving toward willing and conscious participation with the One—perhaps over untold lifetimes. The eternal One is in love with the individual forms of time and each individual miracle being longs to know the One. Behind every longing, addiction and effort is the pain of the individual that feels lost, alone and cut loose from the reedbed.

There is no end to the Pain of Life just as there is no end to the Compassion and Wisdom that spring from this pain. They are inseparable pairs of opposites—this Great Love-Loss. In full conscious participation in the Life of the One this universe realizes its One Desire—knowing Itself as the Courage-Love of creature, creation and Creator.