Sunday, January 30, 2011

Keep Your Head in the Heavens and Your Ass on the Ground

Today, Asheville, North Carolina is giving me a big wet kiss in the form of a beautifully warm day; short sleeves and sunshine after the bitter cold and snow. But it is a deep deception; it is a lover who lies. Because it is not spring; it is a momentary respite in the depth of this winter, to keep us from slashing our wrists. I welcome and I embrace the lie.

Accepting the fickle nature of the indifferent weather seems to mirror a shift in my own nature toward a deeper appreciation of the dance between spirit and matter. I was trained, like you, at an early age to separate my spiritual life from life in this body.

The extreme embodiment of this pattern allows you to function however you will day to day, spreading unconsciousness and deceit without regard to the life of your spirit. In this paradigm your spiritual aspect may be attended to only on Sundays, enduring the sermon or confessing in the booth.

I was forced to face this conflict early in my young adulthood when I had the rare privilege of studying with Native American teachers. They would look me squarely in the eye and tell me that in my culture, what we would call “religion” they would call “a way of life”. They did not separate their spiritual life from the rest of their living, and they found it laughable that anyone would try.

I came to understand that everybody has a religion, even the atheist. Your religion is what you do, day in and day out. Your every thought, your every word, your every step is a prayer. And we are always praying.

Now those of us who have immersed ourselves in the spiritual often find that we have become disconnected from our life in this body. Sometimes it seems our practice takes us out of our bodies to journey to the stars and we have lost our connection to the earth.

I am remembering that I do face all of existence when I look at the stars, and the heavens seem to represent my origin and my destiny. But I cannot forget that I am inextricably connected to the earth and this human interlude. It is important. We have chosen this life for a reason, not the least of which is to live completely and to fully appreciate this gift.

We are not just toiling in the illusion until we are called home for supper. We are not sitting down and waiting to die.

Our planet is undergoing a profound shift in awareness. It is not even enough to wake up to the reality of our spiritual nature; we must also wake up to our soul’s purpose in this body. Many of us have chosen a rigorous curriculum in the Earth School and we are working out what it means to be in a body.

So today I enliven my senses. I feel the sunshine on my face. I take the hands of my fellow journeyers, and I appreciate the touch of another. I breathe in the fragrance of the Carolina pine and the piles of decaying leaves. I enjoy the lilting clouds and I bless the earth beneath my feet. It is good to be alive.

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Monday, January 17, 2011


As we merge bravely into the Via Creativa I know that we are all being re-birthed to one degree or another and it feels right to mark this passage with sacred ceremony. 

This morning I sat outside and the chill air was augmented by the blessed sunlight. I smoked a wonderful Cuban style cigar from Miami, gifted to me this Christmas by a treasured friend.  My occasional enjoyment of a good cigar has been viewed by some of my loved ones as just one more bad habit. They are probably right. But it has become a ceremony for me and I’m not ready to give it up.

I gave up cigarettes more than two decades ago, and similarly they held a mystique for me because I had shared the experience of smoking with my brothers after we emerged from the sweat lodge, steam rising off our naked bodies into the chill air on a sacred hill near Wounded Knee in South Dakota.

This ceremony began in Mexico, last July, when I pulled my vintage Airstream down to the Sea of Cortez to camp on the beach with a companion. It was the off-season which means it was hotter than hell and we had no competition for selecting the best campsite.

In the mornings we would drive to the harbor and have fish tacos and beer for breakfast. In the evenings we would nestle into the warm moist air of the evening and split a bottle of good red wine and share one of those Cuban cigars we had picked up from the friendly young man in the market who said he could sell us something stronger to smoke if we so desired.

We had looked at each other with big grins, feeling carefree and dangerous, but deciding the cigars and the wine were quite enough for these two aging pilgrims. We had found some comfort in each other; some joy in re-entering our youth and finding another wounded one across the table; someone who knew your mind without your needing to speak; someone who would drink that bottle of wine with you and pass the cigar back and forth until it was down to a finger scorching nub. We talked deep into the night.

When it was time to leave, we headed back to the Arizona border where a guard yelled at me for stopping on the wrong line, confounding his electronic sensing devices. But he didn’t even want to take a peek into the little trailer which could have hidden any number of sins, but in reality hid only two small wooden boxes of contraband Cuban cigars.

Back home we had several more evenings on the patio passing one of those cigars back and forth. When the summer was gone, so were the cigars, and so was the short-lived pairing of twin flames.

Then on Christmas this year she gave me the humidor and a package of good cigars. And now, far from the southwestern desert, I sit alone in the chill of a Carolina winter and send my smoke into the receptive ether. I observe and I honor the ceremony of wafting my prayer into the heavens with the help of a good cigar.

We have gone deep this time and now we are emerging from our murky and moist method; knowing that this time represents our birthing so we are not all scrubbed and shiny yet. We still carry the evidence of our process: some blood and some mucus.

And we quite possibly have not extracted ourselves completely from that tight opening. But every step along the way is a holy one, so we will bless the journey as well as the destination. And I will have one more puff on my cigar as I pull my last captive foot through the sacred opening.