Participatory Mystical Awakening

Discovering and Practicing Mysticism – Part Two

So, how do we practice mysticism?  

Once we’ve cleared up some of the common misperceptions about mysticism, we find that we can approach mysticism from a trans-rational perspective, believing that it is real and something we participate in, experienced in connection to our Higher Self, and deeply connective to others. You can read more in depth about those distinctions in Part One.

Getting past some of those mental hurdles, we now can step into our participatory practice. This is a co-creative process that we engage in with our whole being. While mystical experience can be received in many different forms and ways, we can practice our active engagement into the process by cultivating mystical awareness, learning to sense emergent mystical realities, then interplay dynamically with them and one another in convergent communion.

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Can Anyone Be a Mystic?

Discovering and Practicing Mysticism – Part One

Pew research from 2009 revealed that 49% of Americans say they have had a religious or mystical experience, defined as a “moment of sudden religious insight or awakening.” 10 years later, that number is most likely higher. It has been climbing up steadily from only 22% in 1962. The numbers may be even higher considering that many may have had such experiences but wouldn’t want to put the term “religious” on it for a variety of reasons.

Have you had a mystical experience?

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The Drama Triangle: When Groups Go Wrong

Getting Back to Heart Connections

Sometimes we shy away from group settings because they can be quite messy. Who hasn’t sat in a group and experienced it devolving into something painful? We’d like to believe that spiritual groups devoted to love and prayer don’t have this problem, but we all know that isn’t the case.

This quite often comes from a drama with three different roles that we and others tend to play. This is called the Drama Triangle which reveals dysfunctional interaction originally described by Stephen Karpman. I learned this from him in a workshop forty years ago. It has served me greatly to explain the cycles and patterns of behavior I saw unfold in so many groups and conversations. It also indicated what we should do to get off the Drama Triangle! There are more nuanced approaches for the professional, but I will give the basics here.

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Everything That Rises Must Converge

Why We Need the “We” – Part Three

We are experiencing a great convergence in humanity today. As the world evolves further and further technologically and scientifically, the space is shrinking. Globalization is bringing people together in new ways both profound and troubling. This external convergence is absolutely heightening the need for greater evolution and convergence in our interior spaces: our morality, our values, our education, our empathy, and certainly our spirituality.

When there is a strong convergence, two ranges of outcome are possible: A horrible crash or a beautiful communion.

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Evolving Collective Spiritual Practice

Why We Need the “We” – Part Two

Last week we explored the shift from shoulder-to-shoulder to heart-to-heart, focusing specifically on practice with just one other person. This week we’re going to broaden that out to a community context. Not only do we need to expand our spiritual practice beyond the confines of individualism, but we desperately need to evolve how we gather and practice together.

We also emphasized the importance of the need to further reflect oneness in our spiritual practice. If we seek the experience of oneness with all, and with one other person, what would it look like to seek this experience in a group? And wouldn’t such a group practice be reflective of a more evolved approach to our spiritual gatherings?

How do we get there? 

Let’s start with a very simple picture. Imagine a group of people sitting in rows of chairs (or pews) looking up at a person on a stage. Now picture a circle of chairs with people sitting, facing one another. What difference do you feel? Where in your body do you feel it? Stay there for a moment.

Now picture a glowing heart radiating from each person in the circle. See the spiritual energy and love flowing out of them. As the waves expand out, everyone’s spiritual energy fields are overlapping and engaging with one other, creating a palpable collective field where love, wisdom, encouragement, and much more can emerge. Is this a spiritual reality?

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From Shoulder-to-Shoulder to Heart-to-Heart

Why We Need the “We” – Part One

When you hear the words “spiritual practice,” what do you think of? Perhaps you picture someone meditating. Perhaps you picture a person doing yoga or tai chi. Perhaps you think of a rosary or prayer beads. Whatever it is you imagine, it is highly likely that your image is of a single, solitary figure at practice by himself/herself. If you pictured a group, kudos to you (although the title and picture in this post may have influenced you!).

Even so, the vast majority of our attention is still on the personal. In fact, most of our experiences of group spiritual practice or spiritual community are largely an individual experience. There are just other people around. It’s shoulder-to-shoulder practice.

There is certainly value to this. There is a sense of accountability. A sense of comradery. A side-by-side, working on this together comfort. But there can also be a strong sense of loneliness. An isolation when things aren’t going quite right. An over-orientation on the teacher/authority. A guilt and shame at not living up to the standard assumed by the group. And quite often, a failure to bring about any kind of social transformation. 

Of course we need to practice alone. And certainly some spiritual practice must be tailored to our own individual needs and expressions at various points in our lives. But if this is primarily the only form our spiritual practice takes, then we are missing the vital component of shared, heart-to-heart spiritual practice.

Is it really vital? Would we even know if we’ve never experienced it?

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If You Were an Artist, How Would You Paint the Universal Christ?

Picturing the Universal Christ

A common view of art is that art is primarily a recognizable image. But the Universal Christ is not a recognizable image—it does not “have” an image. Fortunately, art is much more than an image. It is a dynamic connection between form and content. The popular view is that art should require no effort to “get it.” Contemporary art, like the image above, especially eludes this kind of simple viewing.

Here are three points that can help unravel modern art such as Alex Grey’s Cosmic Christ adapted from art historian Daniel A. Siedell:

1.    Modern art is more theologically realistic than traditional art. The awkward, clunky, and strange-looking works of the modern period operate as painted theologies that declare our terror, vulnerability, fragility, and disasters—not pictures of the glory to come and the beauty to which we aspire. They’re not always intended to inspire or elevate, but through their vulnerability, weakness, and fear, they give us glimpses or intuitions of God’s grace.  But they require the viewer to first look beyond the obvious, and second, to be receptive to whatever that painting may make them think or feel.

2.    Modern art Is about truth, not affirmation.

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The Flow of Being the Universal Christ

Whole-Body Awakening in Six Practices – Part Two

Theologian Ramone Panikkar says that Christ is “the Christian symbol for the whole of reality.” Panikkar further points out that the “whole of reality” consists of three seamlessly connected dimensions: (1) the divine (2) the human, and (3) the material. Last week we presented the first three of the six Whole-Body Awakening practices, the personal, individual experience of the Universal Christ. This week we integrate these centers into the outward flow of being the Universal Christ in the world.

PRACTICE FOUR: GROUNDING IN THE MATERIAL UNIVERSE

MEET YOUR FEET

1.    Let your awareness move down to your feet. Stand on grass, stone, sand, or dirt if you can, even occasionally. If sitting inside, place your feet on the floor, if possible, near a window where you can see trees or even an indoor plant.

2.    See your feet spreading roots like a tree into the ground. If outside, hug a tree and feel its amazing energy coming into you. Become aware of a felt sense of being directly connected to the earth and beyond into the cosmos.

3.    Sense the energy of the earth . . . .

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How to Experience the Universal Christ – Part One

Whole-Body Awakening in Six Practices

Theologian Ramone Panikkar, says that Christ is “the Christian symbol for the whole of reality.” Panikkar further points out that the “whole of reality” consists of three seamlessly connected dimensions: (1) the divine (2) the human, and (3) the material. Here is a basic set of six Whole-Body Awakening practices leading to the immediate experience of all three dimensions of the Universal Christ. This week and next we present six practices to awaken the divinity, humanity, and materiality of the Universal Christ in us. The first three this week will focus on each center of our personal, individual movements, while next week will integrate these into our outward, communal movements.

Practice One: The direct experience of
the human dimension of the Universal Christ

START WITH YOUR HEART

Start with the heart because the heart leads. It holds the power to heal our self-centeredness—to open us to all people, our sisters and brothers in humanity. The heart is our body’s most powerful source of divine/human love, and the easiest to access. Here are the steps: 

1.    Drop down from your head space to your heart space. Most of us begin by thinking, just like you are doing in reading this. Therefore we must consciously move our awareness from head to heart. You can place your hand on your heart to help you aim for the target. If you need more help, you can tap on your head on down to your jaw, and then to your heart. Tap there until you sense you have moved to knowing from your heart felt-sense rather than your conceptual head thinking. This is not thinking about your heart, but dropping the awareness that was previously in your head down to your heart.

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