Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Illusion is That We are Not Loved

Eww. I inadvertently came across a troubling account of a popular spiritual teacher on the internet. I read the whole thing and even taking it with appropriate skepticism—it being one-sided and all—it left me feeling nauseous. One of the most disturbing aspects of “spirituality” is the teacher’s dark side. Whether the teacher is a New-Age pimp or the descendant of a revered Buddhist lineage or a smarmy Protestant tele-evangelist or a pedophile Catholic priest, spiritual teachers possess a dark side. Because they are human. And humans are both dark and light, from birth til death, we all cast a shadow. (Unless of course you’re Lily Dane … hehe!) Whether the teacher is ordained upon their own authority, anointed by a master (who was anointed by a master…), or blessed by a religious hierarchy, all spiritual teachers are human. Always a good thing to remember. Best not to sit at their feet.

Anyway … on top of that, I got halfway through Sri Aurobindo’s The Integral Yoga (which is quite long!) and was like, okay, enough already. I need to take a break from all these other people’s thoughts and ideas and get back into my own reality! So, this is going to be my last Sunburned post of the year. For I don’t know how long, more than a couple decades, I’ve taken the last couple weeks in the year to contemplate the year that is ending. It’s time for me to set aside researching, etc. and do just that.

I’ll leave you with one of my current beliefs (a newer revelation for me, and one I’m still integrating): The illusion is that we believe we are not loved. In truth, we are deeply loved by God, Our Creator, Source, The Cosmos, The Divine, THAT THING, whatever you want to call it. In fact, we swim in a cosmic soup of love. However, because we’re conditioned to seek love (approval) from our parents, siblings, friends, lovers, husbands, wives, children, teachers, bosses, etc., who will always fail at loving us perfectly because, well, that’s not their purpose, we fail to create a relationship with the source of unbounded love that is always available to us.
Our purpose is to manifest the truth of who we are individually. (Yes, that’s my current belief, and has been for awhile!) In that endeavor, we will love. But none of us will love perfectly. Best to remove that pressure from ourselves and others. And know that the more we are able to experience the love of the divine, the closer we will come to being the human we were born to be. (That at least, is one of the things I’ll be going off and contemplating for the rest of the year … and probably for a long time thereafter!)

Yes, the post on the Christian mystics is coming! Most likely in January. So until then, peace, love, and joy to you!

Friday, December 11, 2015

My Discovery of Sri Aurobindo

Okay, I had planned to begin the discussion of the Christian mystics today, but I want to take a small detour. The last Buddha at the Gas Pump (Batgap) interview I watched was with Craig Holliday. And let me make a disclaimer right now. I love Batgap. I think what Rick Archer and his wife and the volunteers who help them are doing is totally awesome. However, I have to confess, there is no one he’s interviewed—more specifically, whose videos I’ve watched (I think 17 now)—that I agree with 100%. I’m usually in for the first hour/40% and then the disagreements begin to bubble up within. Not surprising, really. One of the things I strongly believe about the spiritual path is that it is a highly individual one. It would not be TRUE for everyone to have the same experience/perception. So, my disclaimer is: I listen to the Batgap videos to stimulate my own journey, but I discard everything and anything I hear that doesn’t resonate as truth with me. You should too! Hah! Like you needed me to tell you that!

Okay, one of the spiritual teachers Craig Holliday spoke about in his video was Sri Aurobindo. I had never heard of him before. However, I have never gone to a satsang (spiritual talk—unless you count going to church and sunday school when I was younger) by someone who claimed to be a spiritual teacher. So it is likely that there are many spiritual teachers I’ve never heard of.  But, what I did like about Craig’s interview was his insistence that the spiritual journey is a progression. I (and probably most people) believe that. Claims of insta-AWAKENING (whether or not proceeded by years of spiritual practice) where “you’re all enlightened and done” are highly suspect. Well, come on. We all know that’s just not true! But … okay, I’m not going to harp on that today!

So. After watching Craig’s interview I did the ole internet search on Sri Aurobindo, because I wondered how much he influenced Craig’s perspective. I have to admit I was immediately intrigued. I’ve done yoga since my twenties. Not with intense devotion, mind you, but as a routine adjunct to my life. Sometimes I’m doing it everyday and sometimes I’m not doing it all, but it’s been part of my life for a long time. I’ve danced around the “spiritual aspects” of yoga. Mostly danced away from them. On the outset they appear quite complex, and then there’s all that language. I did go through a period about ten years ago when I was involved with Bikram Yoga for about three years and dove a little deeper. But that experience didn’t lead me to anywhere that resonated with me, so I dropped it.

So even though this Sri Aurobindo intrigued, and I was curious about his writings, for awhile I danced around whether or not to buy one of his books. Then I did. And I started reading it, and honestly I couldn’t put it down! Why not? Well, he says quite a few things that I totally agree with, but I’ve never really heard anyone else say before.
As a spiritual aspirant, my own journey is quite private and personal, and at this point, pretty much the only person I discuss it with is my husband. I do meditate, and I do have awarenesses, experiences, insights, what have you, but I don’t really talk about them with anyone else. (Perhaps that’s a chief motive of this blog, just to share some of my thoughts about this area of my life, that has been a big part of my life—well, always! Reading a blog is optional. If you want to read this, you can, and if you don’t, that’s great too. It keeps me from inflicting my views on my family and friends when they’re uninterested in them, radically opposed to them, and or certain that I’m going to hell because of them!)

Whew! I thought this was going to be a short blog post!

Okay! So remember in my last post when I said that I could not be persuaded that the journey we take on this planet is an illusion? Well I couldn’t help but smile when I read this in The Integral Yoga by Sri Aurobindo:

I do not agree with the view that the world is an illusion, mithyā … If Shankara’s [another spiritual teacher] conception of the undifferentiated pure Consciousness as the Brahman [the Hindu name for the supreme God] is your view of it, then it is not the path of this yoga that you should choose.

The path he’s talking about is his “new yoga” where he calls into question some of the views of past sages. The book is very long, and I haven't read the whole thing, but so far, I haven't disagreed with any of the dogmatic views he calls into question.

And, when I read the following passage:

In my explantation of the universe I have put forward this cardinal fact of spiritual evolution as the meaning of existence here.

(in fact, his whole book is about this spiritual evolution toward Truth-Consciousness) I couldn’t help but think of this passage from The Book of Umbra in Half Faerie:

Foundation: Consciousness is the purpose of the Whole.

In this regard, two fundamental principles exist:

1. A dynamic equilibrium sustains the metaphysical energies between the mortal and enchanted worlds;

2. The Whole forever seeks the conservation of psychic energy, e.g., consciousness.

Within this framework, the purpose of mortal life is to bring the soul’s essence to fulfillment. Various qualities inherent to mortal existence challenge this purpose: a certain spiritual density (seemingly unique to mortals), a propensity to relinquish individual thought, a tendency toward mental and/or physical sloth, to name a few. A relatively small number of mortals ever achieve their destiny in a single lifetime; thus, upon death, few are released to the Unknown Beyond.

Cool! See, when I went about creating the Daughter of Light cosmology I wanted to create a realm where the spiritual journey, the evolution of consciousness, was framed beyond any current religious beliefs. But, I do passionately believe the evolution of our consciousness IS the spiritual journey and that that is the dance we are here to dance.

Sigh. I’ll get to those Christian mystics, I promise! There is some fascinating stuff there too!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Nonduality ...

Before I began writing this post, I did a quick internet search on nonduality. I came across varying degrees of “oneness” to be experienced/believed in for one to claim nonduality.

Although I came across a definition of nonduality that included a sense of connection with the divine/the universe as being nondual, I’ve always understood it to be a much broader claim of a more comprehensive ONENESS, i.e. that we are also the ONE, a single unified consciousness, and as a result, this life (of separation) is an illusion.

Maybe I’m misunderstanding what is really meant by nonduality, and trying to make it too simplistic, but for me the limitations inherent in all religions is equally present in the nondual tradition.

I do believe there is something divine, something intelligent, that animates all of creation. I do have a slight grasp on quantum wave-theory, i.e. that matter is mostly empty space. However, I just don’t get a sense that because matter in all its form doesn’t endure, that this is all an illusion. Nor do I have a sense that I AM the something divine, something intelligent that created/creates this world, universe, that we exist in.

I know, I’m not AWAKENED!

But in that regard, I really have no desire to be AWAKENED!

Because my experience, sense of life, tells me two points that I’m very hard to be dissuaded from:

1. As to we are all ONE: For me it’s that we and all matter is animated by a ONE, entity, energy, what have you. We’re free to connect, disregard, identify with, ignore, worship that ONE, but I just don’t see any evidence that any human that’s ever been born is actually the ONE. So the ONE is in us, but we are not the ONE.

Again, I know, I’m not AWAKENED!

2. As to this is all an illusion: Everything we experience, effects us. Every smile, every tear, every moment, etches a blip on the matter/spirit matrix that we are. If this was all an illusion, our journey through materiality would leave us unaltered, after all, none of this real, right? That’s not what I see or experience. The being we are at the moment of conception and the being we are at the moment we take our last breath is completely different, altered by the journey we’ve taken on this planet. I just don’t believe an illusion could transform us so completely. For me, ephemerality does not negate reality.

Okay, so maybe my grasp of nonduality is way off! But I find it as limited as any other existing religion or spiritual belief system. Because what I really believe is this: If anyone had really figured out: THE TRUTH, we would be living in a different world. Oh, so now you say, it’s because not enough people are AWAKENED to the reality that they are the ONE or to the reality that this is all just an illusion.

I’ll just have to respectfully disagree, because I think the reason more people haven’t AWAKENED in THAT WAY is because it’s not really THE TRUTH.

I do strongly believe that the ONE and the UNIVERSE and EACH of US is EVOLVING. I think there is definitely a dance between the animator of creation, the creation, and each one of us.

But I’m just not convinced that any one of us living today, or in the past, has really figured it out. More and more it seems to me that THE TRUTH is more about aligning, harmonizing, syncing ourselves with the never-ending movement of life. That all this other stuff, well, it’s just a lot of blather!

Which as always … leads me back to mysticism …

My next post will begin a discussion of Christian Mystics.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Buddha at the Gas Pump

One of the richest resources I’ve discovered on the internet regarding the spiritual boom of our times is Buddha at the Gas Pump, Interviews with “Ordinary” Spiritually Awakening People. I found my way there by searching for more information about Kiran, Mystic Girl in the City.

A skeptic and wide-eyed innocent exist side-by-side within me, so after I finished listening to many of Kiran’s videos on her youtube channel, and musing over her rather sensational story of AWAKENING, I wanted to see if I could find out if she was: real or a fraud! That search led to Buddha at the Gas Pump (Batgap).

At Batgap, Rick Archer has been interviewing the AWAKENED since February 2010. There are now over three hundred interviews on the site.

When I watched my first Batgap interview, Rick’s evident skepticism irritated me. However, as I continued to watch more of the videos, I came to value his pointed questions. After all, anyone can claim to have an AWAKENING, right?

The other thing I really enjoy about Batgap is the variety of AWAKENED interviewed. Although the name of the site embraces Buddhism, and some of the interviewees I’ve listened to have experience with Buddhist spiritual lineages and practices: Adyashanti, Father Thomas Keating, Frances Bennett, and Loch Kelly, not everyone does. Although they all embrace nonduality (I think I’ll do a post on that before I proceed to the religious mystics!), the beliefs and spiritual experiences of the AWAKENED on Batgap are incredibly varied and fascinating.

One of the most interesting (and longer) sessions on the channel is the Group Discussion at Sofia University posted this month in two parts. (Find them here: Part 1Part 2 ) A group of fifteen AWAKENED healers, teachers, therapists, writers discuss the ever popular question of “what constitutes an AWAKENING?”, fallen gurus/spiritual teachers, beings/entities from other dimensions, and healing vs. awakening (humanity vs. spirituality).

If you have any spiritual curiosity whatsoever, I highly recommend you visit the Batgap youtube channel. I’ll leave you with this excerpt from About Batgap taken from their website:

Ordinary people everywhere are undergoing a shift to an Awakened state of consciousness which is transforming their understanding of themselves and the world. For some, this shift has been abrupt and dramatic. For others, it has been so gradual that they may not have realized it has occurred. Such shifts, or “awakenings,” are not new: Christ spoke of the “Kingdom of Heaven within,” Buddhists speak of Nirvana, Zen masters of Satori, Hindus of Moksha, but these traditions generally regard these states as rare and difficult to attain.

Many people are therefore skeptical of claims of higher states of consciousness. They find it hard to believe that apparently ordinary friends and neighbors might be experiencing something extraordinary. Maybe they expect Enlightenment to look as remarkable on the outside as it is reputed to be on the inside.

This show will attempt to dispel skepticism and misconceptions by week after week, allowing otherwise ordinary people to relate their experience of spiritual awakening. The terminology is tricky, because there are no universally agreed upon definitions to describe this experience. Also, enlightenment is not something that an individual person “gets”. It’s not even something that the mind can grasp. It’s an awakening to that which contains the mind and all other things. So it’s not surprising that language is inadequate to convey it.

Perhaps those listening to these interviews will become convinced, as I am, that genuine and permanent spiritual awakenings are not just a pipe dream, but are real and are becoming relatively commonplace.

Next Tuesday, I’ll touch on the concept of nonduality before moving on to those religious mystics!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

And Then There was Light: Windstorm 2015, Part 5

NOTE: Avista Utilities worked around the clock from the evening of Tuesday, November 17th thru Friday, November 27th to restore power after the windstorm. This is Part 5 of a five-part journal about our 6-day experience without power. 

Monday, November 23, approximately 4:00 pm

We bring home our new heater. We lug the propane tank upstairs. It feels weird to have it in the house. We read the heater’s instructions and proceed step-by-step. After we push the IGNITE button, nothing happens. It’s currently about 47 degrees in hour home. With snow and dropping temperatures in the forecast, it will probably drop below 45 degrees tonight. One thing we’ve learned, every degree counts.

We re-read the instructions. There’s no reason to panic because the pilot didn’t light. We just need to keep trying it until it catches. On the third try it does. We’ve place the heater in the part of the house where we’ve been hanging out the most. It’s the smaller heater and specs to heat a 200 sq. foot area. It's going to take awhile.

Monday, November 23, approximately 5:30pm

I head down to the most freezing part of our home to feed cats and meditate.

Situated on my meditation bench, wearing my now-usual several layers of clothes and coat and mittens, I close my eyes. I hear a low rumble. My eyes flutter open. I see lights out the window. Yellow and flashing. Probably an EMT vehicle, not uncommon in our neighborhood, as there is a long-term care facility on our block. I close my eyes.

What if it’s not an ambulance?

I jump up and run out the door in my socks. The truck is driving very slowly down the wrong side of the street. I think I recognize the Avista logo on the side panel. But it’s quite dark, so I’m not sure. I tear down the sidewalk, waving my arms. After I’ve passed a house, it stops.

I run up, out of breath and overexcited.

The two men inside are quite approachable. I blurt out: “Are you here to fix our power?”

Not exactly.

But they pull over anyway.

Two more trucks, also with flashing yellow lights, turn the corner and line up with their headlights facing the truck that just stopped.
One of the trucks is enormous, with a motorized bucket. Men start vacating the vehicles and follow me through our neighbor’s unfenced yard. I point out the downed tree. One of the linemen flashes a light at my feet. I’m standing on a cable. But it’s so thin, I hadn’t noticed. He tells me to move. I jump back. He follows the swirl of wire with his light. I keep back.

The men are talking among themselves, sweeping their high-powered lights up and down the line. I can’t make much sense of what they’re saying. Really, all I want to know is: Can they fix whatever is wrong?

Kernels of emotion: hope, excitement, fear ping through my like popcorn in a popper as I wait for their verdict.

Their assessment: “We can get this done in less than an hour.”

I want to jump up and down like a gameshow contestant, instead I just beam. After more than 144 hours w/out power an hour is a snap of the fingers. I’m ecstatic, overjoyed, praising whatever benevolent powers exist in the universe.

They drive the biggest truck in through the opening in the yard. Right up to where that downed tree is laying on the wire. Enormous lights are rigged and they get to work.
I don’t want to get in their way, but I’m on a natural high and that always makes me chatty. This particular crew has been working 3 pm to 7:30 am shifts since Tuesday night. They’ll keep working those hours until all the power is restored. They’ve already been told they’ll be working on Thanksgiving. I don’t envy them, but I’m immensely grateful for what they’re doing. Many of them have been going home to their own cold homes at the end of their long double-shifts.

Watching them work is fascinating. They’re very focused and seem to have no doubt about what they’re doing. They’re working on the tree and two different poles, including the main one around the corner. By this point, I’m running in and out of our house, updating my husband. I watch out my back window to stay out of their way. I want to do something to show my gratitude. However, we don’t have much in the house. We cleaned all the spoiled food from our refrigerator and freezer the night before.

I examine our pantry and round up two containers of Trader Joes chocolate almonds. Maybe they’d make a good snack later in the evening. I grab them along with (hopefully) enough small bottles of water for everyone working, and throw it in a bag. I take it out to where they’re working.

My heart feels really happy when they see what I’ve brought. The water seems to be welcome and they open one of the containers of almonds and start passing it around.

I force myself to go back inside and wait.

After about half-an-hour, they’ve pulled out from the neighbor’s back yard and the whole crew has relocated around the corner. Once again, the bucket has been raised and a technician is working on the box. A groan soon follows.

My heart plummets.

They’d turned on the power and down the line a spark flared.

They have to move the trucks farther down our street, to the neighbor on the other side. Again, the crew shines their lights, scanning up and down the lines. This time, even though they can drive the larger truck with the bucket onto the lot, there are too many structures: a garage, a trailer, a shed, and trees, around the pole for them to use it.

Two linemen shimmy up the pole and get to work.

At first, I plant myself on the corner of my garage. But the moon is out, and I see an opportunity for a great picture. I walk over again and after making sure I won’t be in the way, I get as close to the pole as I can. I got this great shot, that I shared on Twitter that night.
Then the magic moment came.

Perhaps it seems like a small thing among the disasters, horrors, and problems in our world. But that’s not how it felt. It felt huge. I wanted to grab every single one of those guys and give them a huge hug; I refrained. I just thanked them and shared my gratitude on Twitter.

Inside my home, the lights actually felt disorienting. After six nights, I’d gotten used to candlelight and flashlight. It felt odd to have whole rooms without darkness. But the hum of the heater, oh, that was a beautiful sound.

Since we had no food, we bundled up for one more meal out. It would give the house time to warm up.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015, approximately 7 am

There’s snow on the ground, not too much. It’s beautiful. With the heat running in our home, I can appreciate it. But I’m well aware that at least 20,000 people remain without power. My thoughts and prayers go out to them.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015, approximately 12 pm

Driving around town, there seems to be a utility truck on every corner. It’s a welcome sight. Fewer and fewer homes remain without power.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Power has been restored to all homes and business in our city.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

It’s a funny thing, the ripple effect of this kind of situation. I spoke more with (and met more of) my neighbors during the power outage than in all the prior years. In our effort to seek heat during the day, I connected with some of the most interesting people in the coffee shops, gym, and restaurants. The conversations were fascinating and rich. I was left with a greater sense of connection with this city and the people who live here.

I also feel a deep sense of gratitude to everyone at Avista. They worked around the clock, in temperatures that were often below freezing, for ten days to return power to every home and business in the city. No small feat. It took longer—two weeks—to restore electricity to less people after the Ice Storm in 2009.

Almost a week later, my heart is still floating in my chest, and I’m walking around smiling, wanting to hear everyone’s story of: How long was your power out? How did you get through it?

One man showed us pictures of a friend’s home. A tree had literally smashed through the roof, leaving a gaping hole. A woman had been in the next room when the tree fell. I can’t imagine what that would have been like. Fortunately, she suffered no injuries.

Among all the stories, ours is a milder one. But we all have this in common: We survived the Windstorm of 2015. And it was something.

The Storm Hits, Windstorm 2015, Part 1
The First Night, Windstorm 2015, Part 2
Electricity Envy, Windstorm 2015, Part 3
The Hunt for a Heater, Windstorm 2015, Part 4

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Hunt for a Heater: Windstorm, 2015, Part 4

NOTE: Avista Utilities has worked around the clock from the evening of Tuesday, November 17th to restore power after the windstorm. According to their outage map, there are less than 100 customers without power this morning. This is Part 4 of a five-part journal about our 6-day experience without power. UPDATE: Per @AvistaUtilities all power has now been restored!

Sunday, November 22, 2015, approximately 8:00 pm

I hear the sound of engines or motors outside. I go outside and head in the direction of the sound, hoping it’s a utility truck working on our downed line. It’s just a neighbor around the corner running a generator. On the way back home, I see a man smoking a cigarette on his front porch. I ask him if he knows anything about the fallen tree, or anything.
Even though the tree fell on his property, it actually sits in his neighbor’s yard. He assures me we won’t be getting any electricity until it’s cleared away. “All the lines are down on the ground,” he tells me. A sight impossible to see from our home. “I’ve been walking up and down the street talking to the line men.” He points to a red tag on the telephone pole in front of his house. “They put that up this morning.”

I shine my flashlight and see today’s date and other incomprehensible notation on the tag. I hope this is a good sign. I hope it means they’ll be back sooner rather than later.

He asks me how we’re staying warm. By now, most of the people we’ve talked to without heat are staying with family and friends with electricity. We’ve also learned that woodturning stoves, along with actual working fireplaces, are not uncommon in the city. We have none of the above. “We’re not,” I answer.

“Man, you must be freezing!” He shakes his head. “We’ve got an indoor propane heater, but we can’t sleep with it on.”

I’ve never heard of an indoor propane heater before.

Monday, November 23, 2015 approximately 10:00 am

We’re under another Weather Alert. A winter storm is coming. Depending on the way the winds blow, we’ll have light to heavy snow accumulations from Monday evening throughout the day Tuesday. I love snow. This is the first time since we’ve moved to the Inland Northwest that I’ve dreaded it. But the thought of going out to shovel snow and then come inside to a freezing cold home sounds wretched.

When we get to the coffee shop, I sign on to the Avista site. They have icons showing work crew locations around town There are masses of them, but only two in our neighborhood. As soon as I see that, I realize that I've been hoping our electricity will be restored before November 25th at 11:30 pm. Now, it starts to sink in that we might not even get power before Thanksgiving. We need heat. I restart searching the internet for hardware stores.

We call all the Home Depots. Then the Lowes. Not surprisingly, everyone is out of indoor propane heaters (IPHs). We start on the list of Ace Hardware stores. My husband is prepared to buy one from Amazon and pay the extra shipping so we’ll get it on Tuesday, but I just don’t think I can take another night without heat! Especially, if it snows.

We dial the 4th Ace. Unbelievably, they have one IPH left. They can’t take our credit card information over the phone, and they’re very reluctant to hold it. It’s probably the last IPH in the city! I have an appointment at 11:30, and the Ace is more than half-an-hour away.

It’s not a tough decision.

I reschedule my appointment and we head across town.

The heater is there; we snap it up. They’re out of propane canisters, but we want to hook up a tank, anyway. They don’t have the appropriate line. They call around to the other Ace stores and locate one for us. We drive over there and pick it up. We will have—some—heat tonight!

Part 5, the final installment, coming tomorrow …

The Storm Hits, Windstorm 2015, Part 1
The First Night, Windstorm 2015, Part 2
Electricity Envy, Windstorm 2015, Part 3

Friday, November 27, 2015

Electricity Envy: Windstorm 2015, Part 3

NOTE: Avista Utilities has worked around the clock from the evening of Tuesday, November 17th to restore power after the windstorm. According to their outage map, there are less than 200 customers without power this morning. It was wonderful to drive home on Thanksgiving evening and see all the lights on! This is Part 3 of a five part journal about our 6-day experience without power.

November 18, 2015 approximately 8:00 am

It’s cold outside, in the thirties. The temperature inside is 55. That doesn’t sound that cold, but you’d be surprised. I add more layers as I move around the house. After I feed the cats and stare out the windows, I turn on my cellphone. I’d turned it off last night to conserve the remaining charge, less than half. The weather alert is over, but it’s clear no one in the vicinity has power. I find Avista Utilities on line and am guided to the outage center.

Over a 120,000 homes are without power this morning. Wow! In a service area of 180,000 that’s a significant number.

I start wrapping my head around the idea that it might take longer than I thought for our electricity to come back on. In the meantime, the day ahead looks odd. All routines are scuttled. There’s no electricity to make coffee or yerba mate, won’t be cooking any breakfast either. That pile of laundry I’d been allowing to build, the one I’d been planning to tackle today, not going to happen. With our wifi down, I don’t have access to our computer backup, the one where I keep the most current files of my work. Hmmm.

I can meditate.

After that, I start calling the local coffee shops. No one picks up.

I reach a Starbucks farther south. “Yes, we have electricity,” the barista answers. We load up our phones, computers, ebooks, and their respective cords. Maybe we can re-charge some of this stuff.

Traffic lights are still out and most businesses we drive by are closed. We see little evidence of anyone with electricity. We see an amazing number of downed trees. And they're huge, with trunks several feet around.
Some have crushed roofs, gates, and a few have even pulled up entire blocks of sidewalk with them.
Roots that once tunneled ground, are now dead and frozen midair.
When we reach the Starbucks, there are plenty of cars in the parking lot. The line is out the door, and the interior is packed. There are outlets, but they’re all being used. My husband remembers there’s a local coffee shop two or three blocks down the street. He walks over there while I hold our line at Starbucks. I turn my phone back on, so he can call me.

“It’s less crowded,” he calls to tell me a few minutes later.

I gratefully relinquish my place in the ever-growing line at Starbucks and trek over to Revel 77 Coffee. It’s busy, but there’s actually a few seats and—hallelujah!—an outlet where we can recharge our phones. We settle in.

They have no wifi, Comcast is down. We don’t care. Our phones aren’t going to die. I run into a woman I know who works at the Post Office. She tells me the main facility at the airport has lost a roof, gas lines are broken, and, of course, the power is out. They’re working at the branch office with flashlights. The good news is: She’s one of the fortunate ones who never lost power at home. I can't deny the fleeting sensation of electricity envy.

Once my phone is fully charged, I begin searching for any news I can find about what’s going on. The worst power outage in Avista Utilities 126-year history pretty much sums it up. It starts sinking in that our power won’t be restored today. Maybe not even tomorrow.

We drink more coffee than we normally do, meet the head of the Spokane French Club, get some tips on snowshoeing—something I've long wanted to try. Mostly we're avoiding returning home, where we both work. Without any heat, it's only becoming colder with each passing hour. We finally decide to see if the gym my husband is a member of will give me a day pass. I could take a shower, maybe sit in the sauna and warm up.

Before we leave the coffee shop, we check the Avista Utilities site once more. The reported outages are fluctuating. At the same time that some of the outages are being repaired, more are being reported. The number of outages never drops below 100,000 that day. We check the status of our outage and there is no estimated repair date. Cold and grumpy we begin to mentally prepare ourselves for what’s ahead.

Thursday, November 19, 2015 approximately 4:30pm

Our neighbors across the street have lights! We’re ecstatic. Certainly, ours will follow soon. I pace the house, rubbing my arms to keep warm. The temperature in our house has dropped below 50 and I'm freezing.

After an hour of waiting, I finally break down and check the status of our outage. I'm trying to save my cellphone juice for emergencies. We have a repair estimate of Friday, November 20, 6:00 am. It’s the first time we’ve had an estimate. We can last one more night!

We head out for dinner; our ordeal is almost over.

We have to stand in line for 30 minutes at Dickey's Barbecue Pit. We're happy. The longer it takes to eat dinner, the longer we'll be in a heated place. A man who worked for Avista during the Ice Storm of 1996 is in front of us. He no longer works for the company, but I ask him if he can help me understand some of the news updates I've been reading online. He explains the transmission lines (bringing in enormous amounts of electricity from Canada and Montana—they had to be fixed first) and the substations (they break that electricity down to smaller distribution packets—they had to be fixed next). All that's left is walking (and clearing and fixing) 700 miles of line. He also tells us about a young man that died in the Ice Storm, and I begin to understand the repeated messages urging safety.

When we get home, we can’t help but gaze longingly at our neighbor’s porch lights. Electricity envy is blossoming in my chest. We bolster ourselves; maybe our electricity will be on before we wake up in the morning.

Our neighbor comes over and offers us the use of his generator, an LED light, a thermos of warm water. We're deeply touched, but there’s no way to hook the generator up to our heater, and at this point, heat is all we want. Plus, we’ll be getting our power back soon, too, we tell him.

Friday, November 20, approximately, 7:05 am

My cats are looking at me with murder in their eyes. It’s 45 degrees in the house. You’d think that wouldn’t feel that cold, but I’ve got on long underwear, a long sleeve t-shirt, a sweat shirt, a coat, and mittens, and I still can’t get warm.

We don’t have power.

I’m pretty bummed.

But I don’t want to get too discouraged.

The first thing I do when we get to the coffee shop that morning is check our outage status. The internet is back up. Our repair estimate has been changed to November 20, 6:00pm. Less than 12 hours! We’ll have heat tonight.

Saturday, November 21, approximately 6:55 am

We’re freezing. We have no power. Our repair estimate has been updated to November 25, 2015, 11:30pm.

The net numbers of those without power is steadily dropping by about 10,000 per day. By now it’s down to around 80,000. But increasingly, the remaining outages are the ones that are more complex and challenging to repair. Trees have to be cut down and cleared away along with any other obstructions. We’re starting to understand: This is going to take time.

To be continued ....

The Storm Hits: Windstorm 2015, Part 1
The First Night, Windstorm 2015, Part 2

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The First Night: Windstorm 2015, Part 2

NOTE: Despite Avista Utilities working around the clock since the evening of Tuesday, November 17, 2,336 customers remain without power this morning. A teeny percentage of the over 100,000 who were down on the morning of Wednesday, November 18. However, after going for 6 days without power in freezing temperatures, I fully understand that every single customer counts and the moment of Electricity-Returned is a powerful one. This is Part 2 of a five-part journal about our experience without power. I'm writing it as an expression of solidarity with those who remain without heat and power in these freezing/below freezing temperatures, as well as with the utility workers who are working on Thanksgiving Day! Paradoxically, an experience like this often serves the cultivation of gratitude.

November 17, 2015 approximately 5:30pm

By the time we left for Rosauers, our entire neighborhood was out of power. Being winter, the sun had set about 4 pm. Now, our part of the city was almost 100 percent blacked out. When we reached the main arterial that led to the shopping center, the street was completely blocked. An enormous spruce tree had fallen across the road. We had to u-turn and thread our way though the blackness and debris. Every street light was out. A few neon lights flickered in the shopping center. Rosauers was one of the few businesses that remained opened. We hurried inside and asked for directions to the aisle with candles. A frenetic energy permeated the store. There were plenty of shoppers on the candle/flashlight aisle, although not as many as we expected. We picked out three large candles, a couple of small ones, and an LED flashlight. The power in the store went out while we were shopping. Frozen in utter blackness, you catch your breath and think: What are we going to do do if the lights don’t come back on?

Your heart beats louder in your ears.

A long moment passed before the generators kicked in and light returned, although dimmer than before. Nervous chatter and laughter resumed. A lady who’d been certain the power in her home would be back on by midnight turned her shopping cart around and headed back to the candles. On our way to the register we picked up a couple of packages of salami and hard cheese. We had wine and dark chocolate-covered almonds at home. We’d enjoy an indoor picnic with candlelight.
Standing in the checkout line, everyone was giddy with adrenaline. We all joked as we exchanged snippets of whatever news we’d heard about the windstorm. The weather alert had been extended from 7pm to midnight. A woman had died, crushed by a falling tree. Roofs had been blow off and windows had been blown out. Trees and power lines were down all over the city.

At home, we fed the cats and added some layers of clothing before we sat down to eat. Without any heat, the house was already beginning to cool down.

The rest of the night the wind howled and shook the house. There were moments where you were sure the whole structure would be ripped from it’s foundation a la The Wizard of Oz. Unexplained noises crashed in the distance. But without any lights, it was impossible to see what was happening.

The extent of damage wouldn’t be clear until the following morning.

The Storm Hits, Part 1

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Storm Hits: Windstorm 2015, Part 1

NOTE: Despite Avista Utilities working around the clock since the evening of Tuesday, November 17, 9,542 customers remain without power after the windstorm. I’m going to be writing a five-part series about our 6-day experience without power as an expression of solidarity with this who remain without heat and power in these freezing/below freezing temperatures. Paradoxically, an experience like this often serves the cultivation of gratitude. A fitting topic as we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States tomorrow.

November 17, 2015 approximately 3:00pm

I was sitting at my computer doing: what else? Writing. One of my cats wandered into the room and leapt to the windowsill. It was unusual for him to come in at that time of the day and perch there. So I got out of my chair to see what had captured his attention. It was the leaves being blown helter skelter by a strong wind. I often work with headphones on, so I pulled them off and wandered around the house gazing out of all the windows. The wind was wailing and the house was moaning. Outside every thing was shaking, shimmying, or swaying. I didn’t think that much about it because we’ve had strong winds blow through before. I returned to my writing. But the cat stayed on the sill.

I began to hear shouting outside.

Finally, the lights flickered. Uh-oh.

I shut down my computer and wandered out the front door.

One of my neighbors, John, had been walking up and down the block. The winds were ferocious, whipping our hair and tugging at every loose fiber of clothing on our bodies.

“Isn’t this crazy,” I said.

“My wife’s company sent everyone home early from work,” he told me.

I was surprised.

We’re not native to this part of the country, but one thing I’ve learned since we’ve lived here is that folks in the Inland Northwest are hardy. Where businesses and schools closed for a smattering of snow once every two decades in my native Texas, or the freeways came to a standstill under a light rain in California, my last home state, the businesses and people in Eastern Washington State keep going unless the weather is apocalyptic.

John and I walked down to another neighbor’s house; she’d just pulled up in the driveway. “They’re closing all the government buildings downtown. They want people off the roads.”


Even at this point, I didn’t grasp the magnitude of what was happening. We’d had strong winds blow through before. I went back inside. A few minutes later, we lost power. I went back outside. John ran towards me. “That tree over there just split. I heard the crack!” He pointed to a home behind us.

Again, I didn’t fully grasp what had just happened.

At that point, the nine homes on our end of the block were the only ones in our neighborhood without power. All the homes across the street, and at the opposite end of our physical block, were still lit up.

We waited about an hour. It was hard to settle down. I reported our outage to the utility company via my cellphone. With only one small flashlight, matches, and a couple cellphones on low power, we were hardly prepared for an emergency. When it became clear that the power might not be coming on soon, we decided to head to Rosauers for some candles, another flashlight, and something to eat that didn’t require cooking.

To get us through the night.

To be continued ...

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Making Peace with Religion

Before I delve into into the mystics from each religion, I’ll share that I lived with intense feelings of hostility toward all religions, including Christianity, the religion most followed by members of my own family and culture, for over two decades. It’s taken me a really long time to grasp viscerally that before the religion, comes the individual. When you take the time to study any religion in depth, you’ll find many different expressions of its tenets. If a follower is practicing the most offensive expression of their religion, they’ve chosen to.

We’re all free to dive into the depths of our personal darkness, and make the choice to inflict that upon the world; the religious are not immune to such choices.

However, I also want to share that I’ve also come across a handful of devoutly religious people who’ve possessed profound faith, wisdom, and openness. A personal thanks to them, the ones who’ve helped me heal my own religious intolerance and shift it toward something more akin to benign ambivalence.

According to Wikipedia, the most popular religions in the world are: Christianity, 2.2 billion, Islam, 1.6 billion, Hinduism, 1.1 billion, Chinese Folk Religion, somewhere between 750 million and a billion, Buddhism, about 500 million. If that’s at all accurate, 92% (6.9/7.5) of the 7.5 billion people in the world practice some sort of religion. Are they really all stupid and blind, incapable of independent thought and/or obstructed by cultural, familial, political, social forces that demand them to follow belief systems with no inherent truth? Really?

In 1843, Karl Marx wrote: Religion is the opium of the people; in 1797, the Marquise de Sade wrote: This [religion] opium you feed your people. No doubt both were deeply frustrated by religion's power to subvert the infliction of their own vision of the ideal society upon their contemporaries: Marx would have preferred the world to worship at the altar of bureaucratic government, while Sade's spiritual pilgrimage viewed sexual bondage, degradation and humiliation as the holy grail.

See, we all worship SOMETHING.

Religion endures because it taps into that unshakeable sense that above—beyond—behind—below—infusing our seemingly mundane daily existence there is something quite profound and mostly unfathomable about this incredible planet and the journey that each of us makes here.

I’ll be beginning my discussion of the religious mystics with the Christian mystics because they’re the ones I’m most familiar with, and the ones I’ve studied most extensively. But before I do that, I’m going to share a great resource with you on Friday, one that those of you who are feeling spiritually adventurous will especially enjoy.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Are You a Mystic?

If you’ve always trusted yourself, or if you’ve managed to slough off the social conditioning to ignore your inner voice that many of us are burdened with, it’s quite possible you’re a mystic.

Basically, a mystic is anyone who has experienced a one-on-one encounter with Cosmic Consciousness, the Divine, God, or whatever name you choose to give that mysterious energy that animates creation.

So, if you’ve had such an experience or many of them, and you trust the truth of it/them, well, you’re a mystic. (The label itself is unnecessary.)

What mystics know is this: If every book and every word written were destroyed and lost to us forever, Cosmic Consciousness, the Divine, God, or whatever name you choose to give that mysterious energy would not be destroyed in the conflagration.
Because, while all these texts document the esoteric encounters that humanity has preserved since the beginning of time concerning Cosmic Consciousness, the Divine, God, or whatever name you choose to give that mysterious energy, it seems to be a fact, that THAT THING must be rediscovered experientially by every individual who is born into this world. And that’s a personal thing, not a political or institutional one.

It’s popular to profess that there is nothing new under the sun. However, every child born is a unique configuration of DNA, never before seen on this planet. So, really, we are all something new under the sun. Subtle, but oh so powerful.

I just finished reading the biographies of Isabella I of Castile, the Queen of Spain from 1474 to 1504, and her granddaughter, Mary Tudor, the Queen of England from 1553 to 1558. It was discouraging and depressing to read about the religiously-motivated wars that characterized their reigns. I can’t speak to other religions, but before the Bible was translated from Latin into the languages spoken in those times, so that anyone could read it, you could actually be burned at the stake as a heretic for professing to have a one-on-one with the Creator of Life.

Why would any government be so oppressive about a person’s personal spiritual experience?

Well, having a direct line to the Creator could be quite empowering. You might start to question the legitimacy of a monarch’s claim to power. Or maybe you’d refuse to contribute financially to a religious institution. In fact you might see through all sorts of strange rituals and doctrines that were simply meant to keep your attention diverted.

It is curious how much humanity has invested in controlling personal beliefs about THAT THING. It makes you wonder, what will happen on the day when all that falls away and we are each free to have our own unobstructed experience of IT?

The mystic’s dream.

Because as much as mystics know or have learned to trust their own experiences of THAT THING, they are equally free to trust the individual experiences of others as well.

Thus mystics live as the peaceful rebels among us.

The other lovely thing about mysticism, is its transcendence of all the major religions. Every single one has a mystical lineage.

I’ll share a few of those fascinating figures with you in my next few posts.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Blues & Spirituality

“The Blues” most commonly refers to: feeling down and out or a style of music characterized by the tonality of the blues scale, prominent rhythm, and improvisation. I’m no stranger to feeling down and out, and my two favorite bluesmen are B.B. King and John Lee Hooker. But what do “The Blues” have to do with spirituality?

Well, we could start with reality, move on to the deeper layers of Self, pass on through the trinity, and end up at presence. So let’s see how that might work.

On an individual level, reality is what we’re actually experiencing. Basic. Very. However, most commonly, we’re conditioned to restrict and/or suppress our awareness of our own emotional experience. Either we’re taught that emotions like anger and sadness are bad, or maybe it’s the other extreme: we must always be aggressive and on the defensive to make our way in the world. It doesn’t matter so much which specific emotions we’re taught to guard against the outcome is: LIMITED.

Who cares?

Well, if we were created by a Creator or are simply the energetic expression of quantum-waves, by ignoring our full emotional experience we’re moving toward a distorted, stunted version of Self. Emotions are experienced on a spectrum, with blissful, loving emotions on one end, and angry, sad feelings on the other. When we shut out our experience of being down and out, we also shut out ecstatic bliss. “The Blues” really are part of life, and embracing the whole of who one is can lead to all sorts of unexpected and liberating places!

What about deeper layers of Self?

Well, the deeper we dive into to our inner realms, the more richness we can mine. Our superficial layers of consciousness are forever sorting out our “acceptable” qualities to put on display, not only to the world, but—well, to our conscious Selves, too.

I’d argue that the tonality of the blues scale and harmony, as distinct from the diatonic system of Western music, seeps past self-imposed psychological barriers to access a deeper well of being. Major tones and harmonies are denoted as happy and uplifting, while minor ones carry the connotation of melancholy and sorrow. “The Blues” blends major and minor modes into a single, cohesive harmonic system. Thus the musical heritage of “The Blues” is by its nature wholistic.

What about the trinity of body-mind-spirit? I defy you to sit still—physically, emotionally, or spiritually—while listening to “The Blues”. Syncopated rhythms, riffs that sway with sensuality, and lyrical phrasing that defies imposed structure not only enter the myriad closed rooms of our psyches, they settle in, bringing with them comfort, fresh air, and light.

You always feel good after listening to “The Blues”.

Which brings me to presence. Improvisation, a hallmark of the blues, is nothing if not being here now. Moved by the spirit. Channeling the divine.

Enjoy John Lee Hooker and Carlos Santana performing The Healer.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Kiran, Mystic Girl in the City

Kiran, Mystic Girl in the City, is the first contemporary spiritual teacher I’d like to introduce in the Sunburned series. She’s quite refreshing and unique, and always has a valuable insight or alternate perspective to share. She’s also had an AWAKENING.

Here’s how she explains it on her blog:

One day in April of 2005 I died. I died into a bliss. In a moment, sitting on the bed, changing shoes for a date, and suddenly I was gone. A spontaneous and complete awakening into true nature, it later became known as. Three days later when this spaciousness that used to be my body found that body, it wrote, “Such a strange death this is, a suicide, I have died into bliss.”

I know! For those of us who aren’t steeped in seeking enlightenment or striving to AWAKEN, it sounds a bit whacked. It only becomes more so when she describes how she sees reality now: in matrix-like code.


But I’d already listened to her video, 5 Common Pitfalls of Spiritual Awakening, by the time I found her blog and read her bio, so I’d already recognized her gift for expressing spiritual truth in everyday speak. So despite her remarkable claims—which I’ll confess awakened the skeptic in me!—I began poking around her website.

As a teacher, Kiran offers a book, courses, one-on-one sessions, meditations, and some valuable freebies. Most notable of those freebies are her weekly Youtube videos, chock full of straight—spiritual—talk. Each video is in the 5-minute range and titled by issue: Dealing with the Unexpected, This Advice Always Pisses Me Off, Worried About Your Kids? ...  There are more than fifty, and I encourage you to take a look.

I’m not going to break down the whole 5 Common Pitfalls of Spiritual Awakening video—I’ve embedded it below—but I’d like to share the three points she spoke about which were so “opening-the-window-and-letting-the-sunlight-of-the-spirit-gently-flow-in” for me.

1. Making the form very secondary and less valuable than the formless
Okay, maybe that’s not everyday speak! But you know what this is. The belief that your spirit is more important than body. That your desires are somehow dubious. That our lives here on planet Earth are ultimately some meaningless illusion.

I totally agree with this as a pitfall of “being spiritual”. When we condescend to our bodies, we’re basically debasing an incredible gift that we’ve been given. I also believe that our desires are as much a part of our indwelling divinity as anything else that we are; and I just want to jump up and down and shake my fists when anyone trivializes this life because it's not a permanent state! In my way of seeing things, the ephemeral is as important as the eternal. Paradox, after all, is the hallmark of the spiritual.

So when Kiran says: “The only thing that is happening is formlessness coming into form,” I'm like, YES!

2. Mistaking spiritual culture for spiritual reality
I’d never heard the term “spiritual culture” applied in the way Kiran applies it. However, once I heard her put those two words together like that, I was like, YES! (Again!) Spiritual Culture is what drives me nuts. Spiritual Culture is what turns me off.

Spiritual Culture is the sediment that has built up over time and buried spiritual reality.

3. You’ve had a genuine awakening, but fear you messed up somehow, because suddenly you’re experiencing feelings like rage and grief

“Feeling feelings is a big part of waking up."

My third, YES! Because when I experienced my Awakening (not AWAKENING), part of that passage was about five years laced with intense grief. (Yes, there was some rage in there, too.) And though I’ve always seen that period as significant and powerful, I’ve never fully embraced its contribution to my personal spiritual growth.

Because in Spiritual Culture, there IS a hierarchy of emotions: joy and bliss are seen as higher, angelic emotions, while anger, grief and rage are seen as lower (much lower) demonic emotions; in other words, if you’re feeling the blues, you’re NOT spiritually evolved.

Geez. Talk about a third-degree burn!

But listening to the truth radiate from Kiran’s video, I was able to re-visit that long ago period in my life, and reclaim it in a way that was completely affirming.

Then, Joy comes.

The water faerie spoke about Melia as if she weren’t standing a few paces in front of her. “The sooner she allows her tears to wash away the dirt in her heart, the sooner she’ll be able to see clear and find her way.Half Mortal, Daughter of Light #2
Find Kiran:

Facebook | Twitter |  Website |  Youtube

Listen to Kiran’s video, 5 Pitfalls of Spiritual Awakening:

On Tuesday, I think I’ll discuss the spirituality of The Blues!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Talking the Talk

One of the challenging aspects of discussing/writing about spirituality is the secondary language required. Each established religion and spiritual discipline has its own distinct lingo, vernacular, vocabulary. For example:
  • Christian: Father—Son—Holy Ghost
  • Hindu: Brahman-Maya-Atma
  • Nondual: Absolute—Relative—Immanent
Loosely translated, these three terms point to: THAT THING that animates all creation, the creation itself, and the inward essence of the created, respectively.

For the uninitiated, this “spiritual speak” makes things more laborious and/or out-of-the-realm of ordinary experience than they actually are. However, once you’ve been minimally exposed to “spiritual language”, you might just discover that you’ve had numerous spiritual experiences—without any effort at all—throughout your life, or perhaps even had a “spiritual awakening” yourself!

That blissful moment at the peak of the mountain you hiked five days through the wilderness to reach, the precise moment you fell in love with your soul mate, that afternoon you walked past the pet store and that gray tabby kitten stopped You with an extended paw—asking you to adopt it, the rush of your heart at the season’s first snowfall; these moments where we feel intensely connected to the world we inhabit and/or THAT THING that created it are spiritual experiences, awakenings, if you will.
Now, “awakening” is one of those spiritual terms that can point to many different things.
  • awakening: a multiplicity of fleeting yet inspiring direct encounters with THAT THING: answered prayers, experiences of unbounded love, flashes of insight, moments of clarity, prophetic dreams and/or visions
  • Awakening: a shift in consciousness that usually manifests as a significant alteration in the trajectory of one’s life
  • AWAKENING: the ego-ic identity/separate self dissolves into the infinite once and for all


Not unusual for us as a species, we’ve managed to take something quite natural, something inherent within us all, and overlay it with belief systems/complexities/and jargon that—well, makes the skin on the back of my ears burn!—pass the aloe vera gel, please.

Commandments, laws, instructions, rituals, scriptures; we’ve created a great wall of words to disconnect the average person from their most numinous experiences. We hand over the right to determine the meaning of our lives and our innermost realities to religious hierarchies (bureaucracies?) and/or spiritual masters—or reject meaning altogether.

Does it have to be so complicated? So complicated that even to talk about it, we have to learn a veritable second or third language? The thing is: once you really start listening to people from different religions and spiritual traditions talk, you realize they’re often discussing, if not the exact same things, then at least very similar things: The creation of the cosmos, the individual experience of the divine, and the relationship between the two.

Okay, in simplest terms, hehe.

But simple isn’t necessarily bad.

If you start with simple, its easy to add on whatever froufrou stuff appeals to you.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that these topics are fascinating, and perhaps the most vital to our evolution; so I’m not knocking anyone who is driven to invest their energy and life into sorting out all this language. That’s an honorable and worthy path.

I’m just not convinced the froufrou stuff is absolutely necessary to the experience.

On Friday, I’ll introduce you to Kiran, Mystic Girl in the City, who has a gift for translating spiritual speak into everyday language.

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Prayer Cycle

In July of this year, I finished writing Half Mortal. I felt the wonder of that achievement. Then the sense of standing on a precipice swept over me. I was preparing to write the final installment of this “work” that I’ve devoted so many years of my life to. I wanted to move forward, but I also wanted to cherish the final stage of this particular journey. I paused, took a deep breath, and began listening to The Prayer Cycle each morning.

The Prayer Cycle is a nine-part contemporary choral symphony in twelve languages created by film and television composer, Jonathan Elias. I picked up the CD in London soon after its release and immediately fell in love with it.

Here’s a great 4-min clip of Elias discussing the creation of The Prayer Cycle.

And, here’s a video of the first movement, Mercy, featuring Alanis Morissette and Alif Keita singing in Hungarian and Swahili.

The eight other tracks are: Strength (German), Hope (French), Compassion (Latin), Grace (Italian), Innocence (French), Forgiveness (French), Benediction (German), and Faith (German).

I’d planned on listening to this particular choral/orchestral work as inspiration seed for War & Grace for quite some time, and was looking forward to whatever it might open up in me, creatively.

Not surprisingly, after a few mornings of absorbing it’s beauty, a deeper hunger that had seemingly slept soundly for years re-awakened. It soon became clear that I longed to return to the depths that had nourished and sustained me in my twenties.

Although what I experienced this summer was dramatically different than that trying time, I began to realize that I was spiritually depleted. I’d made a promise to myself to write War & Grace in an atmosphere of devotion, joy, and love. But I knew, in order to do that, I’d need to reorient myself at a deeper level.

Tricky stuff, that.

Earlier in the summer, I’d discovered Elephant Journal, an online magazine, and had enjoyed reading some of their articles. It was there I came across a video about 5 Pitfalls of Spiritual Awakening by Kiran, Mystic Girl in the City.

As I sat there that morning and listened to Kiran’s short talk, walls came down.

She was speaking directly to what I’d experienced those five years in my twenties, in a way I’d never heard anyone speak to it before. Back then, whenever I’d tried to share what I was going through, meds were most often suggested.

Because what I was feeling, the grief I was experiencing, was so intense.

I, however, steadfastly ignored the suggestion to medicate myself, just persisted in my blind stubbornness, and more and more, found myself spiraling inward on my own.

In the end, when almost everyone had fallen away, three unexpected but cherished companions remained. And with them, in a place where the sun ruled the skies, and the endless horizon of the desert fed my bereft spirit, dwelling in a city that sat on one of the most humble of international borders, I found that stable center.

Inside of me.

I came to call it my soul flame, that light that burns inside me, that light that burns inside us all, that flicker of divinity that we are free to nurture.

Flora fiddled with her kerchief. “Mortal bodies are dense. Much denser than the bodies of any creature in Faerie—or the enchanted world. If mortals don’t tend rather vigorously to their soul flame, their spirit and awareness gets dampened. Muddied,” she said. “They lose the ability to see clearly and make all sorts of regretful decisions. But when the body falls away in death, if the mortal’s soul flame has any strength at all, it survives."Half Mortal, (Daughter of Light Book #2)

On Tuesday, I'll be addressing how "spiritual language" complicates things.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Spiral Inward

I had my first spiritual shift when I was in my early twenties. After receiving some rather devastating news, the person I knew myself to be up to that point in my life simply fell away. It was abrupt, disorienting and disconcerting, like walls crashing down, and me left standing there, defenseless. When I turned out the lights and crawled into bed each night, a single blazing question haunted me: Why am I here on this planet?

I didn’t know. Nothing made sense anymore. The conveyor built of my lift had broken down. While my peers pursued careers, relationships, and began having children, creating families of their own, I would sit tongue-tied among them. Until I stopped sitting among them at all, because it was simply too uncomfortable for all of us.

I was being pulled more and more inward. But I had no idea about how to proceed. Even so, I applied a blunt stubbornness to this seeming anti-drive consuming me. I say anti-drive because it didn’t appear that I was being driven toward anything, I was only being driven away from everything that I’d thought was normal up to that point.

For the person who I’d been, very focused, very linear, the experience was disconcerting. Everything I’d believed myself to be, every image I’d envisioned for my future, the people who’d formed the core of my life, were gone. No longer available to me. Because an inward force was pulling me away from all that, toward what?

I hadn’t a clue.

At that time, I experimented with returning to the religion of my youth. However, once again, it didn’t take. I floundered through 12 step groups, astrology readings, consciousness raising groups, psychotherapy, depth psychology, new age philosophies, yoga, varieties of bodywork … whatever held out some hope of helping me restore a stable center. Because, really, that’s what I was searching for. Born from sheer desperation, rather than any quality of saintliness or desire to be “spiritual”, I was seeking a stabilizing force.

At the core of that journey was a deep grieving for the loss of the relationship with my mother. The woman who’d taught me to pray at night:

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

My mother and her family were steeped in religion. My father and his family were not. I was always blessed with seeing the merits of both arguments: The one for God; and the one for faith being only a fantastical pursuit which, in the end, would yield nothing.

That inner conflict has always set me at odds with organized religion. On the one hand, I’ve had my own personal experience of the divine (thus, ordinary mystic) but I’ve always found the attitudes of organized religion to be onerous, whether it’s been the use of guilt and/or fear as primary persuaders or the hypocrisy and hunger-for-power of its all-too-human practitioners.

The religious/spiritual landscape more often than not has left me feeling turned-off. Yet I’ve never been able to suppress this yearning, this hunger, completely. And I’m most centered, joyful and productive when I’m engaged with THAT THING, call it whatever you like. In my heart, and in my head, and in my writing, I call it many names: God, the divine, that energy, the infinite, THAT THING.

And yet, I tend to wander off the path.

About five years after my initial shift, I began to re-engage with the external world. The experience of the divine, my connection with THAT THING, eased from the center of my life to the periphery. It never went away completely, but nor did it consume me as it had for those first five years. My life unfolded, and it seemed that the “inner gold” I’d mined in those precious five years, kept me going for over two decades. I no longer searched for a spiritual home. And since I’ve never had faith in spiritual teachers—there are just too many horror stories of students being led astray and/or abused by all too human gurus and/or priests—I was content to muddle along my way, mostly on my own.

And then … (Come back for The Prayer Cycle on Friday!)

Friday, October 23, 2015

It FEELS LIKE a Spiritual Renaissance

If being spiritual is not being weird, it’s at least being uncomfortable. We’re so rational, savvy and technological. Everyone is so mesmerized by artificial intelligence that any open discussion about divine intelligence these days is viewed— at best—as cliched dated quaint trivial—at worst—backwards ignorant politically incorrect unenlightened; regardless, it’s a bullet on a “What’s Not Hot” list written decades ago.

We couldn’t care less who made us or why we’re here.

Wait a minute.

What’s this? All these articles about … gasp! Religion, Spirituality, and things otherwise Ethereal.

Computer Generated Spirituality by R. P. Nettelhorst I’d invite R2D2 and C-3PO to the church potluck.

Godman as Rockstar by Udhav Naig A guru paves a road to Hinduism through Bollywood.

Five Approaches to Interspirituality by Carl McColman I’d add a sixth, spiritual voyeurism.

Oprah Finds Reasons to Believe The same week she acquires a 10% share in Weight Watchers. Just sayin.

Spirituality and the Hookup Culture by Rachel Snodgrass Apparently, the rigidities of casual sex aren’t tantric.

Snapchat Spirituality: How Technology Can Be a Force for Religious Good or Evil by Jonathan Merritt Biceps and Dimples, and Jesus, oh my!

Let’s Stop Being Embarrassed by Spirituality by Jay Michelson A journalist does his mea culpa for writing a book about spirituality. Hugs.

Yeah, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I keep a lid on my own spirituality in my daily life, because:

  • It’s really personal.
  • It’s nobodies business what I believe.
  • I don’t want to offend anyone.
  • I don’t want to open the door to conversion, evangelization, or proselytizing. Really, I just can’t stand that. You know, you just sit there, teeth gritted, while they bear down on you with their quoted scripture. Like you’ve never heard it before.
  • Since we constantly grow and change, but not necessarily at the same rate, or in the same direction, we’re not necessarily going to be on the same page. The conversation could get tricky.
  • I don’t want to step in the shit of your self-righteousness.
  • You’ll probably think I’m weird if you really know what I think about all this.
  • I’m so over westerners ditching christianity for buddhism and then claiming they’re not religious. Dogma is dogma. Indoctrination is indoctrination. No, I did not just say that. But, if the higher ups are wearing robes …
  • I’m so sick of women being 2nd class citizens in otherworldly paradigms that I’d rather stick a fork in my eye than listen to your tired-ass rationalizations for male superiority. I mean, really? Are you kidding me? YOU REALLY BELIEVE THAT?
  • No, I did not just say that, either.
  • All of the above.
  • None of the above.

Really, I’m okay with whatever you believe, as long as you don’t inflict it on me. And I’m okay if you don’t believe what I believe, because it’s very possible that what I believe will change. If not next year, then maybe over the next decade. I’m old enough to know that. I’ve lived it. More than once. Yes, I’m that old.

It’s possible that online affords us just the right amount of distance and anonymity to have the conversations that we don’t dare have in our bedrooms, classrooms, and work places. Check it out … all over the web … all over the world … people are taking advantage of cyberspace to engage in discussions, exchanges, musings, and outpourings about God/not god, the divine, the infinite—THAT THING.

It definitely feels like a spiritual renaissance.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Is Being Spiritual Being Weird?

I made the changes to my social media accounts and website to prepare for the Sunburned blog series on the evening of October 12, 2015. That morning, I realized a new moon was pending, so I searched Youtube for some insight. Astrology often gets a bad rap, and I’m not here to defend it’s limitations, but “on earth as it is in heaven” [the lord’s prayer, christian], “as above, so below” [hermes trismegistus, pagan] … a little spiritual riffing there, hehe … so, on occasion I enjoy listening to the astrological mystics.

And that morning, I stumbled upon this crazy, weird, and completely wonderful video created by Timothy Halloran of Rasa Lila Healing [rasa-lila roughly translates to "the dance of divine love”, hindu], which I’ve embedded below. And as I watched the video with a huge grin on my face—for sure—I thought yes … Yes … YES!

Because, unless you’ve been super busy and/or massively overwhelmed you’ve probably noticed “the times they are a changing” [bob dylan, singer/songwriter].

What was it about this video, on that morning, that so enchanted me?

Well, if I had to narrow it down to a single quality, it would have to be it’s exuberant weirdness! And if there’s one word I’ve fallen back on to describe myself again and again throughout my life it’s: weird. So … I felt a really special kinship with Timothy’s passionate call to embody [I’ll be creating a glossary with my current definition of spiritual terms along the way, soon …] our own special brand of weirdness, because …

"the uniqueness that makes us totally weird is our individual brilliance and we cannot suppress any of that if we truly want to live in harmonious relationships”

I totally concur with this point of view, and it was awesome to connect with such an impassioned expression of it on the day I embarked on a new endeavor … which might be considered: kind of weird!

Other issues Timothy addresses as he walks us through the astrological aspects occurring in the skies are: equality, the divine feminine and masculine principles, our need to listen to others’ points of view to evolve, and what it’s like to live on the edge of profound change.

In the end, he touches on another concept that is near and dear to my heart: Bridging. He addresses bridging on two levels: within the individual—the bridging of our highest spiritual ideals with our mundane, “selfish” desires; and within community—the bridging of the “unique autonomous individual, doing my thing in the world, and my thing that I’m doing in the world is simultaneously contributing to the benefitting of others”

This video is such a great share for kicking off Sunburned, because the essence of what I believe spirituality is:

“By giving my uniqueness I create harmony in the world”

Allow that to settle deep within you.

Thank you, Timothy for helping me kick off this series. Everyone else, take a 30-minute break and enjoy the dance of Rasa-Lila’s vibrant cosmic perspective yourself. I'll be back on Friday.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Why Sunburned?

Greetings, Fellow Travelers!

The end of Summer and beginning of Fall became an interesting time for me. When I settled in to write the final installment in Daughter of Light, there were a lot of questions on my mind as I reflected on the series as a whole.

If you've read Half Faerie and/or Half Mortal, you know that each has a distinct tone, and I intend for War & Grace to continue in that vein. The feedback from readers has also confirmed that each book is better than the one preceding it, and I'm determined that the culmination of Melia's quest doesn't disappoint.

So, I've been digging deeper. That exploration circled me back to the roots of why I began telling this story in the first place; and all the dreams, hope, and love that I've invested in these books since 2008. I want to honor and celebrate all that. Plus, I've made some fascinating discoveries along the way that I'd like to share. To that end, I'm creating Sunburned, a blog series about spirituality to accompany this last phase in my journey of writing Daughter of Light.

Why Sunburned?

Becoming sunburned in the physical sense results from being overexposed to sun-Light. Blistering and painful, tender reddening occurs.

It's not uncommon to become overexposed to religious and spiritual ideals, as well. Being subjected to doctrines and concepts again and again can feel like—and in some instances is—brain-washing. We run in the other direction simply to avoid the parroted language and uncomfortable emotions these kinds of experiences invoke.

On the other hand, spiritual experiences and realities can be mesmerizing. Perhaps, we forget ourselves and play on the beach of other dimensions too long. Losing touch with the mundane, we return to the every day with a different sort of sensitivity.

What about the "Great Awakening?" I haven't had one, but listening to the experience of those who have, the resultant burning away of mind and/or personal identity can leave behind an altered sense of universal truth that can take months if not years to integrate.

And since they speak directly to our inner life, when religious and spiritual ideals are false, they can cause inner damage akin to a burn. We shut down.

For the past two months, I've been immersed in discovering the abundance of spiritual resources available on the internet. It's left me wide-eyed. The internet didn't exist when I had my first spiritual shift. I was both lost, traveling without a guide, and determined, stubbornly and blindly throwing aside every voice except the one within.

But it was hard for me. So I'm thrilled to find that the beliefs I've thought about and questioned and grappled with so much of my life in private, the concepts that fuel my writing, are now being talked about and debated in a very "public square." And I looking forward to participating in the discussion.

Some of the many questions I’ll be exploring in Sunburned are:

  • Is the internet ushering in a spiritual renaissance?
  • Who are the new spiritual leaders and what are they teaching?
  • What’s fueling this spiritual boom?
  • How can these resources support our individual hunger for deeper connection, truth and union?

I’ll also be drawing from themes in Daughter of Light—specifically the spiritual nature of Melia’s journey and the evolution of consciousness as the essence of the Whole—and my own story to expand the discourse.

Please join me and be inspired to pursue your own truth as we tread the road to taking our Selves and our Beliefs more Light-ly.


P.S. If you haven't already, please participate in the POLL!