Archive for November, 2009

Of course, we live looking ahead.  We rehearse what it is we expect. We love to muse about the possibilities of tomorrow. We predict and prophesy. Some even bet on those futures and invest their hard-earned money on a hunch.

Be that as it may, we are, in truth, so much more alive by virtue of a storied past. Reading our blog entries an/or our handwritten notes in a journal gives us the chance to see our own story anew, with different eyes, and those things that happened “once upon a time” may reveal more of the secrets hiding inside.

This is also the counsel that Alice receives from the Red Queen in Wonderland:

“That’s the effect of living backwards,” the Queen said kindly: “it always makes one a little giddy at first—”

“Living backwards!” Alice repeated in great astonishment. “I never heard of such a thing!”

“—but there’s one great advantage in it, that one’s memory works both ways.”

“I’m sure mine only works one way,” Alice remarked. “I can’t remember things before they happen.”

“It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,” the Queen remarked.”  – from Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll

Self-analysis is a vital part of living the good life. Thumbing through the pages of what we’ve written long after we’ve forgotten that we did so, and maybe what we said, is a gift to oneself like few others. Like walking into a room at a favorite art museum, we draw close to a piece of art and read about it, and look at the finer details (as we are close to our own thoughts and emotions in first writing a blog). Then, after we’ve done that, most people step back and look at what hangs on the wall from a distance. [ That’s why the museums put those nice couches and benches at the center of each room.] From a distance, we are better able to experience the gestalt, the larger sweep of the artist’s imagination, mood, and message.

So it is with “living backward.”

We catch a glimpse of the wider sweep of our own lives, and we clarify the message from the watcher within as we revisit the work of our own hands. Henri Matisse summarized this so beautifully. I quote from him:

” Then I found myself or my artistic personality, by looking over my earliest works. They rarely deceive. There I found something that was always the same and which at first glance I thought to be monstrous repetition. It was the work of my personality which appeared the same no matter what different states of mind I happened to have passed through. I made an effort to develop this personality counting above all on my intuition and by returning again and again to fundamentals.”

May your own re-reading of the story of your life and mind bring you illumination.

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Why spend the money to go see a movie and be tempted by the over-priced, unhealthy and obscenely sized snacks, and then subjected to unwanted, irritating advertisements?  What redeeming value does a trip to the cinema have to offer anyway?

Costs, ads, snacks, and the poor bathroom hygiene of the public aside, the time in front of the big screen is a study in the archetypes of psyche.

The image, consciously portrayed and unconsciously fed, is a central force in our spiritual lives. It is an externalization of the “Imago Dei,” the image of G-d Within. The work of Joseph Campbell in comparative mythology bears witness to the powerful imagery that replicates certain iconic patterns that cut across the global history of art. The moving image captures, even more compellingly, the dynamic qualities of patterns of images, the organizing systems of Mind, or the fields that cause structure, form, and meaning.

Case in point: we just took in “New Moon,” and we enjoyed it very much. The mythos of vampires and werewolves have exercised their power over imagination for a long time. Besides the splendid cinematography, the average acting, and the quite well composed and orchestrated soundtrack of New Moon, nine sets of signs and symbols, the imagery and its archetypal roots, struck me as particularly interesting.

The opening sepia moon: Representing the feminine aspect of the male unconscious, the new moon image anticipates the unleashing of dark forces and their conversion into something redeemable by virtue of love. It is a symbolic foreshadowing of Bella and Edward’s complete vulnerability as they abandon themselves and their fears to their overwhelming need for each other. The archetype of the vulnerable lover, taking whatever risks necessary for his/her beloved, reminds us of the great power in us all that is paradoxically only released when we are  totally opened; a time, also, when we are most susceptible to getting hurt. The tension here, from the very opening scenes of the movie, is between the unleashing of the feminine unconscious, and loss of control to its power, and conscious choice and control.

The red robes of the townsfolk of Volterra, Italy, on “St. Marcus” Day: The red robes of the fictitious “St. Marcus” Day, celebrating the expulsion of all vampires from Volterra, Italy, offers allusion to blood, passion, sensuality, and royalty (intimating power), anger, and, paradoxically, the red vestments of joyful Holy Days, especially the red vestments of Christmas. The tension, in this instance, is between the celebration of new life, freedom and redemption through love, amidst the threat of being “undead,” or annihilated by the forces of dictatorship, the will of the cruel and powerful (e.g., the Vulturi) over the weak (the townspeople and Bella), and narcissism.

The tall trees of Forks: The tall trees of the Northwest territories conjure up reflections on great age and long life, strength, deep roots, seeing far and wide from the tree-tops, self-sacrifice (the tree of the cross), the tree of knowledge (and the costs of knowing), and the tree of life (or living large, and deep).

Anger as the trigger for conversion to werewolf: The Janus head in monstrous guise, the werewolf has two faces, one by day, another by the light of the moon. It symbolizes a hidden evil, hidden stirrings, forces of undoing, and the potential for hurting those we love in acting out when we are not in touch with our deep emotion, inner rage and the unintegrated darkness.

The enmity between werewolves and vampires: In the case of vampires, the predatory instinct is played out in full consciousness. The werewolves, on the other hand,  commit evils incited by forces beyond their own control. Those forces are  animal and primal. The tension here is between the forces of destiny, and our freedom to choose: a dynamic tension played out throughout Twilight and New Moon.

The Allure of the Vampire: Capable of bestowing immortality and, especially, perpetual youth, but at a great price, as one is also consigned to being forever a parasite. Even here, the archetype of blood-union, made by those to whom we are forever bound, conjures an extreme intimacy: a radical level of self-abandonment to the other.

Bella’s Physical Pain Over Separation: As if having been dealt a mortal blow, Bella is stricken with interminable and inconsolable grief for many months after Edward leaves her. The archetype of being abandoned and lost is powerful, and it triggers our own deepest fears of being alone, cut off from those closest to us. The tension is between loving one so much we can let them go, and holding on with every fiber of our being. New Moon is largely an homage to this existential dilemma.

Adrenaline Rush & Seeing the Beloved: High risk sports such as sky-diving, cave diving, scuba diving, flying, bungee jumping, or, as in the movie, cliff diving, attracts many people. The link to “seeing” one’s Beloved is a striking series of moments in the film. Bella intuits Edward when she confronts her fears. She takes up motorcycling to “see” him and then, ultimately, takes a near fatal leap from a cliff to force a reunion, mystically, with her beloved. The myth of Orpheus and Euridice embodies the underlying archetype. Orpheus travels into Hades to see Euridice whom he loves. This is an allusion to complete self-abandonment, throwing all caution to the wind for love, and, in submitting totally to one’s passion, we catch a glimpse of what we seek. Ironically, however, the glimpse is very fleeting. The tension here is between living safely, comfortably, surrounded by what we know, and striking out into the unknown, engaging with adventure, and discovering possibilities yet undisclosed. Bella also dives into turbulent seas as waves break on the shores and the rocks violently. Added to this scene, the vampire Victoria, bent on killing Bella, swims toward Bella just before Bella strikes her head on the rocks, and is unconscious and at risk of drowning. Our worst fears and the greatest of adventures are the one’s authored by the collective and personal unconscious.

Wanting Immortality, Envying Mortality: Bella wants Edward for all eternity and is willing to give up her mortal life to join him as a vampire. Edward pushes back recognizing what he lost in not being “normal,” and living out a regular life, with all of its pleasures and its limitations. From the Epic of Gilgamesh on, literature and art is replete with allusions to our thirst for eternal life. Much of the world’s religious traditions are preoccupied with the pursuit of the promise of life beyond the grave. Yet, at the same time, life’s finitude and limitations add significance and urgency to how we use the time we have. This is a central tension running throughout the books and the movies. It reminds us of  the archetype of the living waters of eternal life promised in scripture and about which we dream and mythologize. The tension is between the urgency and savor of life’s moments, and the fear of the loss of who and what we think we are. This one archetypal thread deserves many pages of refection as it also is a pivot point around which our unconscious and conscious energies obsessively revolve.

Our love affair with the cinema is far more than mere escapism. It is an opportunity to live vicariously in a sea of archetypal vibrations that awaken deep stirrings in the unconscious. It is a complex retreat to the Platonic world of forms that dynamically shape all phenomena and noumena. A night at the movies makes them manifest in visual and acoustical imagery and is an excursion into the realms of Mind that we may otherwise make little time to transit.

See you at the movies.

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Spiritual living is all about setting things in right order. We must  persistently and patiently clear away the dust and smudges that gather on the lenses through which we look at our lives. Then, it’s all about holding on tightly to the central threads that define what and who we are. I think back to all the many aspirations of my youth and how, so many twists and turns later, the story of my life emerges as one part plan and many parts happenstance.

The defining moments were events that seemed random at the time but that set in motion a whole range of  changes. All those moments had another thing in common. They called on me to make a choice, to commit myself without reservation, and to take a leap of faith.

As I look back, what is interesting is that I made the most significant of those choices in an instant without much pondering or analysis.

  • I met my wife as an undergraduate sophomore in a liberal arts college. I took Russian Art history, as did she but at the last moment after being closed out of another class she had hoped to take instead. We met in September. I proposed in November. We married in May. That was 35 years ago. I left school after marriage to work and support us. It was hard and the jobs not to my liking, but we were together, and that’s all that mattered. What governed all of our decisions was what we meant to each other. The vow was unconditional, and life-long. It was the necessary and right thing for us. It was somewhere written that we would grow older together and my good fortune is measured by a mutual love as constant as the Sun.
  • Nine years into our marriage, our son was born: A wide-eyed child who came into the world looking astonished, curious, and thoughtful, as if surprised by the sudden change of scenery. At 26 years old now, he has a very active and incisive mind, and an abundant eagerness for life experience and adventure. He remains astonished, curious, and ever thoughtful. He asks challenging and probing questions and strives for intellectual honesty. I take great pleasure in our deep conversations, and I am very proud of the person he has become.  Now he assumes his rightful place in the hero’s journey to uncover his special mission. In good and troubled times,  I have stood at his side, having vowed to be a father that would always be there believing in his capacity for greatness without reservation. My love for him is the second great constant of my life.
  • Nineteen years ago, our second child, our daughter, was born: An exuberant, passionate, affectionate, and adorable girl with eyes that shine with joyful expectation. She too is a lover of ideas, especially as they relate to the ways  people and nature are connected, and how she can be a presence for good in bringing out those connections. She is a natural counselor and coach and will make a very fine therapist. She has uncommon empathy for other people, deep emotional intelligence for someone her age, and a warmth that is constant and fueled by a very large heart. She is all about being with people and her choices already have put her on a glide-path to making that the core of her professional life. She is the third precious element in my life.
  • Beyond these three pillars, there are my  sisters who hold very sizable claim on my heart and to whom I have also vowed to be a supportive presence. With beautiful families of their own, I remain a blessed older brother ever watchful and prayerful that they find joy and happiness.

As an outgrowth of these primary vows, I later said yes to a call to the Priesthood, and then the episcopacy. Taking these vows  was more authentic by virtue of the ones that came before. The lifelong vow of the Priest is to commit to a radical doctrine of unconditional love and the continuous purging of the baser instincts and crude attachments, addictions, and preoccupations.

My choices led to non-traditional channels for priesthood and this is still an unfolding mystery. The one clear reality is that all these vows revolve around one primary quest, one central yearning, one powerful force opening up a path from among the innumerable possibilities. I do not know how the road will run from here, where it leads, nor how it will end, but I know it is mystically guided.

Beyond these principal people, there are, of course, many others, friends and relatives, colleagues and acquaintances, that have enriched my life beyond measure. Yet, all my choices are footnotes to those first powerful commitments. While the anchoring constants are those closest to me, defining who I am and what my life means, it’s a great paradox that solitude invariably reasserts itself.

My business and professional travels take me away from my home and wife.  Having graduated, my son has now moved to South Korea for a year to teach and, at least physically, couldn’t be farther away. My daughter, a sophomore in college in the midwest, is pursuing her dreams and is now out of the house for most of the school year. This is as it should and must be, but everything is changing so fast. My wife and I now are rediscovering how to be a couple again, and this is the next phase in living the vow we took to one another so many years ago.

These are bitter-sweet times. They are hard. I think of my wife, son and daughter every day, wondering what they are doing, learning, and experiencing. It occurs to me that the joy of being close and the pain of being separated all amount to the same thing: recognition that the meaning of our lives is powerfully defined by those special, relatively few moments, where we make a choice and take a leap of faith. These are acts of courageous commitment rooted in a gut sense of the force of destiny.

I recall that the Aymara Indians of Central America have no personal pronoun nor a singular voice in their language. An Aymara married man, physically away from his wife, will answer the question: “Where is your wife?” by answering ” We are here.” In our language, the personal pronoun often injects distance between ourselves and those we “love”.

There are those who choose a more tentative and tempered life arrangement with  pre-nuptial agreements and trial periods to test the waters. I see this hesitancy as affectional agnosticism. It is eros but often without agape. It is rational but potentially bloodless. There is no authentic and deep love without the great leap and the sonorous yes in the face of uncertainties and the inevitabley winding pathways of life.

Whether separated from those that mean so much to me or right there by their side, my life is forever defined in terms of what we mean to each other. Our thoughts in each other’s absence, and the energy we spend to keep the hearth burning and the lights lit is a constant beacon guiding them home. They stand as living testimony to the perpetual inner flame of true loving.

The Cosmic Beloved speaks to us in all of this. The hero’s journey demands  firm choices, bold and gutsy vows, and an assertive, heart-felt march into the dark woods with  frequent recollection of what it was that inspired that first “YES” and the will to cross the first threshold.

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Poet William Longfellow wrote: ” Listening is the rarest of events among human beings”. When he wrote that life was nowhere near as frenetic as it is today.

With distractions mounting daily, it’s a wonder we listen at all. Add to this the qualitatively different forms of  listening and we at once begin to see both the clear and more subtle shifts in our modes of  listening. As in all things, a closer look at phenomena brings into sharper relief the variations that at a molar level may go unnoticed.

For example, how many forms of snow can we name?

Just bringing our attention to the question reveals the considerable variety that we experience, each different in how we relate to it.  There is the light fluffy stuff, and the heavier, large flakes, good packing snow, and the states of slush, fine powder, sleet, drifting, flurry, blizzard, ground blizzard or blowing snow, snow pellets, and hoar-frost. In a similar vein, I considered the varieties of silence in an earlier post.

Listening also varies across an intriguing spectrum of quality, mood, texture, depth and focus.

For starters, eight come to mind today along with a poetic allusion to their texture and color:

Split-screen listening [tile, gray]:

This is another kind of multi-tasking during which we appear to be listening, good eye contact and head-nodding, while actually mulling over unrelated issues or performing other tasks. The listener experiences this as an intermittent reception keeping comments general enough  to not betray his or her loss of the thread, and to reassure the speaker. It is often seen by the speaker as half-presence and disingenuity.

Anxious listening [knotted, dark blue with red accents]:

At times, we listen with nervous energy, tempted as the other speaks to interrupt with questions, deflect the conversation another way. Inner tensions revolving around some negative expectation or worry distract us. As a result, we may also, be bleeding a great deal of energy away from being present as we anticipate what to say next.

Fearful listening [ torn thick knitting, black]:

Very similar to anxious listening, the fearful mode is distinguished by a readiness to defend, counter-punch, argue, or dodge critique or personally challenging commentary.

Romantic/ devotional  listening [ satin, American Rose] :

This form of listening is the opposite of anxious. It is highly focused and undistracted. All concentration is on one’s beloved. We become entranced with listening to his/her voice, mannerisms, physical features, eyes, and expressions. All else in the surrounding landscape is out of focus and trivial by comparison.

Critical/argumentative listening [metallic, rosewood]:

Like romantic listening, this mode of attention is very focused, but instead of being watchful for that which attracts and enchants, the focus is on finding the blemishes, the omissions, errors of reasoning, and points about which we disagree.  It often combines with anxious or fearful type listening.

Appreciative listening [ wicker, red violet]:

This is a close cousin of romantic  listening, but is less passionate and emotional. It is typified by high order of vigilance with priority given to things being said that delight us, with which we agree or about which we offer encouragement, positive regard, and celebration.

Expectant listening [glossy, smooth, phthalo green]:

In listening expectantly, we are listening not in the here and now, but instead are anticipating and predicting where the speaker is going with his/her commentary. It is projective listening and tends to be marked by frequent declarative statements from the listener who attempts to leap ahead to the presumed end point of the speakers narrative.

Political listening [ canvas, camouflage green]:

In listening with a political ear, we orient toward retro-fitting the speaker’s comments, as we hear them, to set the stage for a redirection to a set of talking points that we are intent to communicate. This is the “staying on message” directive of political operatives.

In discursive private and communal prayer, we aren’t listening at all. We are  asking, telling and/or praising, and one wonders how the Spirit can “get a word in edgewise”. Mindful, then, of the various textures and modes of listening, it is a useful practice for me to tune into the changing face of my listening ( i.e., to ” listen to my listening”) and assess its character, breadth, depth, focus and intent.

What are the variances in your own listening, and how do you experience them as distinct ways of being with another?

The meditation that accompanies this practice focuses on the question:

Who is it that is listening when I turn my gaze toward doing so, to whom am I listening, and for what?

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Rene Descartes announced with bold certitude, “I think, therefore, I am.” The Cartesian dictum has had profound effects on Western thought and practice, and, as far as it goes, has propelled our movement from magical thinking to science. All things, however, have a downside, and the inherent liabilities inevitably surface. Thinking without feeling, or the other way around, falls well short of the heights of conscious experience to which human beings aspire.

Among Carl Jung’s greatest and most important contributions and discoveries is recognition of the need to integrate the feeling, thinking, and instinctive functions. The Self is an amalgam of these functions. For each person, one of the three is often better developed than the other two.

Thinking types show clear preference for rational analysis, weighing of pros and cons with systematic discipline, and they value integrity of argument. Feeling types place a premium on emotional impression, a reading of morale, mood, and the enablement of psychological safety, and supportive and encouraging environments and relationships. The intuitive preference measures reality against experience and invests in neither analysis nor emotional tone, but in a gut sense of what seems best given precedent.

The goal of meditation, prayer, self-analysis, and formal analytic psychotherapy is to draw attention to the intersection of the three functions. Giving full expression to the Self emerging at that nexus is the heart of the care of souls.

Feelings of sympathy without reflection swiftly degrade to sentimentality, whereas reflective feeling is authentic attunement to others. For example, on hearing that an acquaintance has lost a loved one, many express their condolences in Hallmark language and with cliche expressions: s/he – has gone to a better place, is beyond suffering, or, the most inane, “looks good” on attending a wake with open casket.

When his wife Joy died, C.S. Lewis responded to such well-intentioned and awkward assurances by saying:

“Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolation of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand. The conclusion is not “So there’s no God, after all” but “So this is what God is really like, the Cosmic Sadist. The spiteful imbecile?”

Thinking without feeling, however, is cold calculation, impersonal, and detached. While science prizes this attitude, mature science begins in imagination, and is increasingly dependent on dialogue and collaboration, and comes with ever greater responsibility to consider consequences.

“The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.” Albert Einstein

Unfeeling rationality appears daily in the roll-out of new technologies. Too often, we introduce the “next big thing”  simply because we can. We invent it,  manufacture it,  and then make money on it. More often than not, we do all this with hardly a thought for the human and environmental consequences of doing so.

Ongoing research on the  impact of genetically engineered plants on insect communities (e.g., honeybees) is one case in point. Cell phones are another. Besides the ways in which addiction to them have forever displaced civility in public places, cell phones emit electromagnetic radiation that may affect the brain by increasing the risk of tumors from frequent exposure to cell signals ( especially when they are weak) when phones are held up to the ear, or when Bluetooth headsets are placed inside the ear: http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/135974/Mobile-use-is-linked-to-brain-tumours

Nuclear fission and fusion have certainly led to advances in nuclear medicine along with threatening us with the modern nightmare of nuclear Armageddon. While it has been repeatedly argued that the destruction of Nagasaki and Hiroshima saved lives, there are many who think otherwise. It’s undeniable, in any event, that the 21st Century specter of portable nuclear device detonations in a post-9-11 world is all too plausible.

The epitome of humanity is not the exercise of reason while dismissing feeling, nor is it about feeling unexamined in the light of reason. Reasoned feeling coupled with intuition reconditions the Mind. The fruit of this alchemical shift is authentic rather than, what one zen master has called “idiot” compassion. It is fellow-feeling rooted in genuine insight. Acting in the service of peace is a telling sign of mature consciousness. Even a casual glance at a newspaper or a few hours of evening news presents more than enough evidence that this maturity is in short supply.

Carl Jung deeply explored the need for integration of the feeling and rational functions. His recently published private notes, The Red Book, stands as clear evidence of Jung’s life-long study of himself, including the analysis of his own dreams. His own private struggles with self-knowledge was the most important aspect of his ability to peer into the world of the psyche, (conscious, unconscious and collective unconscious).[http://www.amazon.com/Red-Book-C-G-Jung/dp/0393065677]

Throughout his work, Jung puts a  premium on facing the shadow, and integrating it into the ego. In doing so, one lives more fully, freed of otherwise imprisoning fears and neurotic compensations (complexes). Thus unburdened, we can reconnect to the archetypes that inform, shape, and guide the Psyche. We come into more direct contact with the great mystery at the Center of the All as we look at the imagery that surfaces in our thoughts and dreams.

Heidegger and Hegel, both philosophers of Being and Mind, arrived at the conclusion, in their later years, that the language best suited to Knowing is poetry. Poetry (whether rhyming or prose) is a more fluid language that invites a blending of the three functions of psyche. For example, we can speak in rational narrative of the structure and physiology of plants and talk about their lives in an antiseptic and clinical manner, or intuit the mystery of plants by reading Michael Pollan or a poem by Dylan Thomas ” The force that through the green fuse drives the flower ….,” and look upon them more as subject than object.

The practical implication is that our own spirituality is well served by keeping a daily journal of our own moments of fear, anger, attraction, and avoidance, relating to them through our poetic intelligence and aesthetic insights. This offers us a divine sanctuary into which we can retreat each day. In this way, the Mind can realize unfettered sight, crystal clarity, and union with the Divine.

By taking a little time each day, we get to live our lives in many more dimensions. Time doesn’t merely pass, but it takes on breadth and depth. Revisiting our journals further insures that we are not living life as just an endless listing of activities. Instead, our experiences and the thoughts and feelings they inspire converge. We cultivate a new sense – a spiritual 6th sense. A sense that represents the next evolutionary stage of consciousness.

This is the Knowledge of the Heart, the prayerful study of the Beloved Within Us, an intelligent and alive devotion to the Real and the all; the one in the many.

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Hysteria is once again in the air. We don’t know if we’ll make it to 2012 but, supposedly, another “Y2K” moment is upon us. What I love about these “End of Days” fugue states is that the prophets of doom and gloom are never deterred by the failure of their predictions. They just adjust the date to some other convenient supposedly even more portentous one. I do admire their tenacity and resilience in the face of all that experience!

Well, I just saw the movie that is surely benefitting from all the mania over the end of the Mayan calendar: 2012. If you’re looking for special effects, it’s excellent. If you are looking for acting, dialogue, plot and meaningfulness, take in Pixar’s “Up” instead.

As for the Mayan calendar conundrum, yes, it is ending on December 21, 2012. So what?! Ask a Mayan descendant and you’ll get the straight scoop. I did. I had the distinct honor of meeting one of the Thirteen Grandmothers of the matriarchal Mayan culture. The answer is: One era is ending, and another is beginning.

There is no more chance of cataclysm on December 21, 2012 as on December 21, 2009. Both dates for the end of times are conceivable though improbable. Cataclysmic geological and solar events have and will continue to occur. So, what fascinates me is all this fascination with the idea of terminal dates. What’s behind it?

In large measure, a root catalyst is psycho-spiritual monotony, boredom, and the correlated thirst for adventure and an adrenaline rush. It’s the same motive force that drove Achilles, Agamemmnon, Odysseus, ( and, jumping ahead in time) George Bush and Dick Cheney, and many others.

Without the catastrophic we need to find the thrill inside: in Mind, in imagining, in uncovering the root of mysteries all around us. It seems a more fruitful and salutary source of authentic adventure.

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Bon voyage!

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A physician and I were talking today about the biochemistry of diabetes. He specifically referred to the gate system by which insulin acts to bring sugar into our cells.

The cell membrane contains insulin receptors that are unlocked, so to speak, by the presence of insulin, allowing sugar to flow into a cell.
In Type II Diabetes, insulin does not act efficiently and sugar builds up in the bloodstream with unwelcome consequences.

In treating diabetes, even 30 minutes of brisk walking per day gives great benefit. Cardiovascular exercise increases the number of insulin receptors on the exterior of cell membranes. As a result, less insulin goes a longer way and is better used by the body.

I left our conversation intrigued by the analogous way in which Spirit acts on the psyche. We need the daily exercises to build up our “receptors” to the Divine Light. As we increase receptivity, the Light all around us gets through to our core, and so we are better able to experience authentic illumination.

As mind and body are one, there is no reason to expect that soul acts in contrary ways. I fully believe they mirror each other. Receptor chemistry offers an interesting perspective in analogical thinking about our state of readiness to receive the grace and love that is ever-present and freely given.

I am in awe of the exquisite configurations of our life-space from morphology and physiology to the sacred echo of such schema in Mind and Spirit.

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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If a GPS device could be metaphorically strapped to the “waist” of our soul’s travels in the noosphere, what would the course of the overall journey look like on a moving map?

Would it be, as is generally presumed in Western thought, a more or less straight line of progression with frequent stops, side trips, obstacles to maneuver around, and an ample mix of retrograde motion?

Or, would we instead find that the geometry of sacred wandering was more like a circle, as it is often depicted, or an ellipse perhaps? Would it be better characterized as a series of parabolic cycles with ramping up time in practice followed by a peak experience, and then a falling back toward the “ordinary-verse” of our usual routine, and the daily hum-drum?

How about a series of S-curves with a rapid stepping up of spiritual energy, then a peaking followed by a refractory plateau phase with an accompanying pursuit of the next S- curve!? So far, the S-curve image feels right as I hold the metaphor up against my own experience.

Thinking about this today a fair bit, I have actually settled, for the moment, on the image of a helical spiral. As we progress along our chosen yellow-brick road, energy generally feels like it’s mostly gently spooling up with occasional spikes up and down.

Assuming a commitment to daily practice, that energy should on average continue to move in spiraling cycles. Carrying the metaphor forward, the helical spiral doubles back toward earlier points but at a different energy level and with a different spiritual signature. We may in the spiraling process stumble upon “old” relics of meditations and ruminations past, yet see them suddenly with new eyes and as if for the first time.

Marcel Proust once wrote: ” The journey of discovery consists not of finding new lands, but having fresh eyes.”

Practically, this means that we need to keep a journal of our daily contemplative experiences, recording what happened, what we saw, what we felt physically, what was familiar, what was new, and what was familiar yet somehow new. This gives us a chance to anchor different vistas that we see from many vantage points as we spiral forward on our winding path.

Those anchor points are profoundly reassuring and remind us, in the dry periods of sameness and boredom, that every movement along the helical spiral is relevant. A seeming back-slide is just a cycle around the back side.

What’s the trajectory and geometry of your journey? How would you diagram your experience?

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


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It’s been a long time since we’ve gone bowling. We recently found a place with some of the most modern lanes I’ve ever seen with surround music video projected on the side walls, and dedicated attendants to take orders for drinks and food.

I quickly found myself well out of good form. After a few gutter balls and wild throws, things started to get back on track. What was most interesting was to watch the wide range of physical movements people use to improve their own game, and trying on many differnet approaches myself.

It’s been said that the ball goes exactly where you throw it. So, being mindful of the body is critical: center of gravity and balance, speed of approach, swing of the arm, timing of release, and the spin and speed of the ball. What you’re thinking is also a key factor. Expectations of a bad throw raises the odds of one.

It took two games to get limbered up and in half-way decent form. As my game improved, so too was the degree of focus that I was bringing to the alignment of smooth body movements, focus on the intended trajectory of the ball and personal confidence.

Everything that happens, all events that occur and all that we do and think is intended for our enlightenment. Bowling is an especially demanding test of how just present we are in the moment while also providing a chance to have a great time with friends.

Having returned to the game after so many years, I think I’ll be going to the lanes a bit more often.

Happy Bowling.

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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The crowning achievement of the scientific method is the doctrine of falsifiability: “The supreme triumph of reason is to cast doubt upon its own validity,” Miguel De Unamuno.

The goal is to formulate an hypothesis and then do everything possible to find at least one instance where it fails. If only this same logic were systematically applied to everything we think. Imagine it: All is hypothesis. All of science, therefore, is a grand koan asking: What is it that I know and how do I know it?

Proportionately speaking, we utter more statements of opinion than inquire in ways that invite exploration. We need science to keep us from flying off willy-nilly into realms of abject fantasy. So, one might ask, how can belief ever be reconciled with the virtues of science? Easily, really.

It is in forming a powerful hypothesis, informed by all available experience and with an ample measure of creatively anticipate possibilities, that belief has a place. Then we subject it to a rigorous test to keep from the sin of narcissus: falling in love with our own reflection.

Can there truly be a marriage of spirituality and science? Absolutely. Absent that marriage, science is cold and irrelevant. Witness the history of science and the moments of discovery. They were flights of imagination tempered with discipline resulting in a tearing of the time-line in our understanding of how things work.

It took a Copernicus to envision a heliocentric solar system, a Kekule following the lead of his  “waking dream on a London bus” of atoms grouping themselves, Einstein’s life-long fascination with light and how one can travel on  it,  and the discovery of transcendental numbers ( requiring only that one look more deeply in-between the numbers we took to be the final story).

It is pure nonsense to say that science, religion and spirituality are incompatible. On the contrary, the one feeds the other when both are mature. If motivated by arrogance or fear, neither does any good whatsoever, and, in fact, can do a great deal of harm.

As much as from sacred scripture, science, logic, and mathematics are replete with Koans in the form of paradoxes and befuddling challenges that require an authentic metanoia: a shift not merely in what we know, but how we know it.

Posing one for this evening’s meditation:

American logician John Myhill wrote: ” No non-poetic account of reality can be complete.”

How do I account for reality completely?

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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