The Emerson Center for Spiritual Awakening, Redwood City, Calif September 16, 2001
Join me today in affirming for your self:
"Blessed be this day and this place." --Kahlil Gibran
"The thing that matters is not what you bear, but how you bear it."--Seneca
We do not move toward God by understanding.
As long as we cling
to what we can understand,
imagine, or even desire,
especially as long as we depend
on our own efforts,
we will not reach God,
who transcends all that we are,
all that we can achieve.
We must move
from knowing to unknowing,
from daylight to the night of faith.
Our spiritual ascent
is a journey by night.
Faith is our only light.
Therefore we must begin our ascent to God
with minds and souls emptied
of whatever images, whatever ideas of him
have come through our senses.
The light of faith
does not improve our human intellect;
it overwhelms it.
--St. John of the Cross
"Be still and know I am GOD. I will be exalted among the heathen. I will be exalted in the Earth."--Psalm 46:10
"I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are really good inside."--Anne Frank
"With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope."--Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
"I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy...but anywhere is the center of the world."--Black Elk
"God himself culminates in the present moment, and will never be more divine in the lapse of all the ages."--Henry David Thoreau
When I was a kid I used to mix up Albert Schweitzer and Albert Einstein. Both smart men, both men who contributed greatly to the collective consciousness. But I don't think that is why I mixed them up. I think it was that both of their names violated the "i before e rule" and I was a competitive speller--and they both had bushy white hair in the pictures I saw as a child. It wasn't because they were both Albert. Later I became a great admirer of Schweitzer because of his amazing commitment to being of service. Later I found the following quote that explains the underlying idea that reached out and touched me when I was a small girl,
"Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing."--Albert Schweitzer.
Clearly, today we are a nation that will require of each one of us that we be of service in getting through recent events. Schweitzer also said "I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know, those among you who will be happy will be those who have sought and found how to serve."
As we look around for ways that we can help those who seem so far away, let us not forget these words of two of our former U.S. presidents, "My faith demands--this is not optional--my faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I can, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference."--Jimmy Carter. And Abraham Lincoln said the same thing in another way: "I do the very best I know how--the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing so until the end."
We have the say of how this thing turns out, and one of the primary ways that we can express this is through loving service to one another and to the very world itself. We are not alone in this tragedy and I would suggest that we remember that we might give up the isolationist view and notice that there is tragedy all around us that needs to be alleviated. We cannot put our heads into the sand and forget the suffering of the rest of the world. Just as after a massive earthquake here in California, a Hurricane in the tropics, a tornado or a flood, we have to return to our sense of groundedness and safety. We have to trust our homes and the earth on which we live again. I suggest to each of you that in seeing to the feelings of safety and belonging of one another we regain those same securities within ourselves. The world joins us in our suffering but it will be ours to see and choose to come out of this experience conscious of our co-creative abilities.
Thinking of recent events, I am reminded of an occasion when I was participating in some mountaineering events. In the past I have not done very well with edges. In this particular event I was trussed up like a chicken with all manner of straps and carabineers and I was to walk out on this platform, lean forward and ride a zip line downhill on an 1/8th of mile long steel cable. This was about as likely as my becoming an astronaut before that day. Yet I did step out on the platform, lean forward and ride down to the bottom. I kept my eye on the place and people where I would arrive. I saw security all the way there. At the time I wouldn't have thought I was keeping my eye on God, but the level of trust and confidence I had in my cohorts was that same trust that we must place in God.
I also knew when I stepped off that I would never have to do this event again. There would never be another first time and I wanted to create a memory of courage to which I could refer. So I did step forward, lean out and ride down that mountain on a little pulley hooked to a steel cable. And I did it again on at least six other occasions. The last time I did it I noticed the guide who I saw I noticed danced around on the edge of the cliff as if there wasn't a 500 foot drop inches from her feet. She was like a bird and I was still nearly as frightened as the first time I had done it.
I asked her how it was that she could dance along the edge like a bird, I wanted to know so that I could experience that freedom. She said if I had done it 5000 times I too would dance along the edge of the cliff as free as a bird. We have to choose our own challenges and responses. I wasn't going to go down that zip line 4,994 more times. But I took my guide's lesson in mastery with me and have applied it in my life. Sometimes we have to step forward, lean out and ride down the hill. There is still a moment of choice and a moment of faith that what one is stepping out into will support us securely and deliver us.
While I thought I was finishing my Sunday talk, I remembered a sage bit of advice from Dr. Domenic Polifrone, one of the founders of ANTN. I can still see him standing in front of the stone fireplace at Lake Arrowhead, with a twinkle in his eye, and in a deep mellifluous spiritual intonement, bringing down the house with: "Everybody goes through Hell sometimes. (Pause) You don't have to stop and build your house there."As we move through this experience of great national tragedy, I am grateful to be so reminded. Great leadership stays with us and arises like a warm mist when we need it in the years to come. Sometimes it is Spirit moving so directly through us that we just feel its arising and are informed of its presence within. Sometimes it arises in a memory such as this one. I wish to Thank you Dr. Domenic for being such a great teacher and such a fine leader, I find your example coming out through me from time to time and I am grateful. Each of us seeks to serve in whatever way that we can. I know that in these times of challenge we remember our teachers and the mentors who have blessed us and empowered us to do our perfect work in the face of things we could never have imagined. I am so grateful for the time and the studies and spiritual practice with all the teachers I have been so fortunate to have known. What we shared embraces and uplifts me now. I hear Rev. Scott Foglesong saying "You are not now, nor have you ever been alone." I hear Dr. Bill Little saying "This too is God!" and I know that it is without doubt. I feel the signal that Rev. Rick Moss taught me how to recognize when I am feeling the Truth in my body and it confirms what I know in my heart and in my mind. I feel the deep love that we all share for spiritual community, for the thrill of what is within each and every one of us. I am excited about the possibilities that lay ahead of us.
Frederick Douglass, was born into slavery on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and managed to escape to freedom. He went on to be instrumental in the triumph over slavery and worked to aid this accomplishment of other slaves in Rochester, New York, where he was a stationmaster on the Underground Railroad. Douglas was a very wise and eloquent man who wrote and spoke in the interest of liberty before the Civil War and after the war he moved to Washington, DC and served the interests of liberty there in a variety of capacities. He is a true American hero. Douglass wisely said "If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation.want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will." I believe that he was right. If we look to Nature for an understanding of God, as was suggested by Thoreau and Emerson, we find that many plants will not thrive if you do not disturb the soil around their roots. That the nourishment of the soil and water is not available without such violence and destruction of the status quo is apparent. But as human beings, often we resist such change, we become attached to what has been and then we begin to fear tomorrow when we are so busy trying to make the present like yesterday. In this we fail to experience and develop the potential of the present, and thus, we fail to see the past clearly. We lose the ability to glean the gifts of the past to the degree that we resist living in the present.
"The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit, the second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are."--Marcus Aurelius
In our current national crisis there is so much to learn, but we have to turn from thinking first of the past, we have to turn away from our fears, we have to consider each and every thing we encounter newly if we are to find the wisdom in this current situation. We have to know that we are facing toward God when we "look things in the face and know them for what they are." No matter how wise what we have known may be, and what courage our prior experience might have instilled in us, each new experience presents the opportunity of a new and present wisdom, and new courage, a new experience of intelligence and an opportunity for cocreation that we have not met before.
"When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us."--Helen Keller
Without disrespect for those who suffer the greater losses in this crisis, we as a national family need now to look for the door that has opened. In the coming weeks and months we need to keep our eyes stayed upon God who stands on the other side of this new doorway. We must do this in memory of those whose lives have been lost and whose lives have been irretrievably changed. We honor their memory by continuing to glean the possibilities of the sacred lives we are given.
I heard Tom Costa quoting Rev. Jack Boland at my first INTA conference: "Don't let the good interfere with the better and don't let the better interfere with the best. I am not all I could be and I am not all that I want to be, but thank God I am not what I used to be. How many times I have thanked God that I am not what I used to be." I add to that a hearty THANK GOD! And so it is!
We all know the movement we have made in our lives, and we have an inkling of what progress lay ahead of us. Let us be glad for the progress we have made, grateful for the lessons we have learned, and the teachers we have met. Let us employ the various spiritual practices that support us through these challenges, and thank God for the lives that we have shared and the courage with which we have met what life has presented us. Perhaps something I have said will have been useful to you today and in the coming weeks as together we grieve our losses, find ways to be of service and move on with our lives with a new found humility. Love is the source of our being, let us honor and exemplify it always.
"I am that living and fiery essence of the divine substance that glows in the beauty of the fields. I shine in the water, I burn in the sun and the moon and the stars." Hildegard of Bingen
Thank you for being here today!