Bobbing freely
above the drowning,
briny sea,
they move with
the breeze yet
remain tethered
to solid ground beneath
darkly mysterious
still waters.
I look into those eyes,
such deeply rooted guides
which flow with every mood
yet never become lost
by my winding path.

Seasonal Poems to Warm the Soul

Happy Winter Solstice! I may not be religious in the traditional sense, but I understand and cherish the importance of the “spirit of the season”.

As many of you know, Jesus wasn’t born in December, but his birthday was placed near the pagan Roman holiday of Saturnalia by Constantine to encourage pagans to join the church. The celebration of light and rebirth appeals to all.

Over the years I’ve written various poems for the season. Some are just ruminations on the mood, some are about the solstice, but all, I think convey universal sentiments. I’ve linked to some and printed others in a list here. Enjoy.

Poem, with photo of yellows roses in snow

Rhythms of the Seasons


Sacrificial Tree (two poems)

Jingle Ironies

A Simple Gift

Inspire Beauty

Beauty calls and yearns for your attention,
it gives rise and dimension to your soul,
a reflection of your truest goals.

Lest we forget, our hearts are fueled
by a love enduring beyond our lives.
And beauty is its chaperon,
a spark through the dark nights
on the long walk
to the light of the mountain top.

All we have is each other.

May the comfort of love be with you.

Integral Spirituality, Humanist Spirituality

Another New Age trend? Well, perhaps a New, new age, looking beyond crystals and incense. Why should we think about these ideas?

All peoples from around the world maintain some kind of spiritual practice. It adds meaning and wholeness to their lives. I am included in that bunch. When I started this blog is was about my poetry. Now I realize I was seeking clarity through my poetry. As I age, I need a firmer grasp of the big picture. My search has led me to Sufi poetry, Buddhist thinking, learning Yoga and its philosophy, Taoism, even some mystical Christian poetry, such as Thomas Merton. And it has also led me to read books on consciousness, psychology, biology, philosophy and language.

Religion as it is now ends up creating pockets of belief, quietly held close to the chest, so that only those close to us will hear what we believe. We cannot afford to continue limiting our spiritual practices to these kinds of fenced in beliefs. We all need to look beyond faith to truth; the truth about what all humans need and want.

I want to believe something with everyone else, but history and the current trends of the religious right in the US have forced me to reject the faulty tower of Christianity. Things need an overhaul. Religion in its current state is leaking credibility like a plastic bucket that’s been dragged across a hot asphalt road for 2000 miles. One has to deny to much of reality to believe it. After reading Sam Harris’ The End of Faith, I’m convinced there are no innocent followers of any organized religion based on pure faith and not fact.

So, what am I getting at? I’m not sure. Maybe you can help. Why is it that science and technology, medicine, knowledge, intelligence, education, government, and everything else has progressed with the times, while religion still touts fairy tales? How can intelligent people know so much about the universe and biology and and life and death and psychology and quantum reality and still think there’s a petulant guy with a beard sitting up in the sky wearing white robes watching us and judging and sending some to heaven with harps and some to hell with red horns?

Jesus was a really, really cool guy who wanted us all to feel and know and nourish the incredible gift of consciousness and spirit we inherit, and that we needed some guidelines. But we basically misunderstood most of what he said and eventually blew it all out of proportion for thousands of years, using his teachings to kill and oppress. As for the miracles, there are better special effects these days than any of that hocus pocus. Human spirit is a real miracle, not just the followers of an old book.

We all want to belong. I do, too. There’s a lot of pressure to conform to what everyone else believes. “Can billions of people be wrong?” Heck, yes. The whole planet used to think the world was flat. On a global scale, people want to believe something outside their meager existence, and religion has made VERY good use of that need, and used it to gain incredible power. But there are other options, there really are.

I think Jesus and whatever god there might be would want us to put two and two together and grow beyond the literal words of books written 2 millennia ago by humans, men, with their frailties and limitations, and ‘god’ knows what political power strategies to implement.

We need to move beyond all that outdated dogma into a modern kind of spirituality, one which embraces the human desire to understand the big picture, and one which includes science in that picture. I want to know the larger meaning of my life, how I fit into the universe, why I am alive, what is my purpose. I want answers. I want guidance. I need it. But I refuse to accept that there are no options beyond the current organized religions. I recently asked a very liberal Episcopal Minister why we need to refer to a book which is so full of violence and contradiction. I was told that I just haven’t interpreted the Good Book properly yet. Hogwash. I want a new book.

On the other hand, some of the lessons in the Bible are still valid today. For example, the gnostic Gospel of Thomas intrigues me. It shows Jesus telling us “If you bring forth what is within you, what you have will save you” And…”the Kingdom of God is within you…” Good. I’m bringing forth what’s within me now.

Let’s use these teachings, and add more modern, up to date spiritual answers for the new problems we have: the threat of extinction, overpopulation, global war, destruction of the environment, lack of social connectedness, lack of spiritual unity, lack of morality, hypocrisy, corporate monopolies causing injustice and destruction of cultures and land.

Let’s begin the discussion, or continue where we left off 2000 years ago. What would Jesus do? What would Buddha do? What would Mohamed do? I don’t think they’d approach todays world the same as they did then. Do you?

Who are the living leaders in these religions? I’ve given up on the Catholic Church, so steeped in its own gilded power as to be paralyzed to any change, let alone evolve. And the loudest religious leaders in the US are also hopeless, soaked to the bone in their own volatility, ready to immolate any second, flambé in their own vitriol. We won’t even mention Islam at this point, who’s spiritual goodness cowers behind twisted righteous dogma. The Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh are one hope. Their teachings are the most evolved spiritual guides we have in living people today. But to most people, they’re just wishy washy monks from Asia. That’s about it.

I plan to explore new approaches to the problems of spirituality today. I will share my readings and findings here on my blog. So far, the best description of what I am looking for is Humanist Spirituality, or Integral Spirituality.

Here is an interesting sermon on humanist spirituality by Rev. Bill Gupton of the Heritage Universalist Unitarian Church in Cincinnati, OH. I also just read an outstanding talk, Humanist Spirituality: Oxymoron or Authentic Path to Enlightenment given by Doug Muder, who’s blog is Free and Responsible Search. He reasons that a new kind of spirituality can offer in terms of connection to reality and liberation from its limitations. It is a worthy read.

A blog which explores alternatives to mass religion is IntentBlog. There’s a good article on Empirical Spirituality where the writer, Judi Rall, says “I am an empirical spiritualist because the only way one can know truth is by experience. Observing with our eyes, sensing with our intuition, feeling with our emotions: these are all necessary parts of discerning truth. We must trust them. That is how God communicates with us, by providing emotional, visual and intuitive information cued to the empirical experiences of nature.” Along those lines, I think Pagan Spirituality gets a bad rap from everyone. For the past 2000 years, the Church as been stealing pagan rituals as their own and destroying their credibility, using smear tactics which rival the US Republican Party!

One book which popped up in my searches is Unweaving the Rainbow by Richard Dawkins. He, along with many others who wish to foster a new kind of spirituality, emphasizes the mystery and wonder of the natural world, both inner and outer, and how science has helped amplify the beauty of the unknown, rather than mythologize it. Of course he’s been lambasted by those who feel threatened by the possibility of bringing spirituality up to date. Edmund O Wilson is another truth teller who’s being swamped with venom from small minded thinkers.

More and more people are claiming to be “spiritual but not religious”. What does this mean? Is it possible to feel the pulsing vitality of a great joyous, creative Spirit within ourselves without going to a church and reading an old, self-contradictory book? What do you think? Really, I want to know! If you don’t agree with me, tell me why. Perhaps these new, freethinker, human spiritualists are misguided and will be trapped in some dead end teachings, following a false slimy guru who has a taste for purple koolaid. Perhaps. But that’s why I’m here asking and wondering how and why we might unleash a new of direction in spirituality, something focused and appealing, real and mystical, sensible and enticing. In this age of brilliant advertising and research into mass appeal, I’m sure we can come up with a well researched, sensible, powerful, constructive spirituality.

It is possible to imagine a spiritual tradition where the focusing practices of Buddhism and Buddhist thinking can join with the physical balancing of Yoga and The Alexander Technique, which can then be guided by some moral teachings from Jesus and Mohammed, updated to reflect the rich depth and expanse of modern science and cosmology, (for a REALLY cool, fun, educational tour of the big bang go here) add a dose of climate and ecological responsibility, a heaping spoon of sane technoprogressive perspective, a dash of Steve Pavlina for focus and direction, and mix it all up to form something really useful and relevant to our complex and overcrowded world.

Closing the Gap Between Thoughts and Life

Joined BuildingsThere is often a gap between thoughts and actions, between ideas and the plot of living. Life is a river. If you sit there thinking about it, pondering it, worrying about it all the time, then you are on the bank watching life go by.

I’m not talking about thinking before making a decision. Big decisions need to be considered seriously and deeply before committing to a change. I’m referring here to doubt, self-questioning, just conforming, staying neutral. To live fully you cannot stay neutral. In Yoga thinking, the gap signals dis-union from your true self, in Buddhism, dis-connection from the present.

It’s so easy to get cozy sitting there, quietly, just watching as your life passes. You feel pretty safe. But you do only what you have to, what others require, and what you are used to, the same ol’ same ol’. Politeness and protocol give the feeling of genuine living. But underneath, you wonder if there’s more.

I think many people lead double lives. They go through the day with a smile, never sharing their inner drama, perhaps completely unaware of it. They might even be disconnected to what they’re feeling. I have a friend who will have a conversation with someone, and will later tell me how insulted or hurt she was by what they said. When I ask why she didn’t mention it at the time, she replies, “I didn’t know how I felt at the time”.

Last night at dinner with some friends, Rob came a little late, so the rest of us had started eating. We had also opened a bottle of wine he had given me to share for the dinner. After taking a few bites of the pesto pasta I had made, he remarked how it tasted bitter, but it wasn’t caused by his pesto. (I mixed his pesto with mine in the pasta)

I was insulted, but didn’t show it. Normally I would just swallow it and suffer. A few moments later, I decided to let it out. I told him how obnoxious it was to criticize so rudely and blatantly. We argued a bit, and then he revealed how upset he was that we had opened his wine without waiting for him. Then I understood. We were both disconnected from our real feelings. My outburst had brought to the surface Rob’s real motivation for the petty judgment. Politeness is often foiled by the truth behind the mask. Breaking that pattern may have brought us closer. I know I feel more real with him now.

With earnest attention and lots of practice, we can close the gap between emotions and life, between thought and action. We can bring our intentions to the surface, tie our actions to our hearts and live wholly in the present. Don’t think you can just click a switch. There’s no instant plug-in for this.

Today, as I walked along my daily route, I passed a slim man raking some leaves. He was huffing and puffing. He looked out of shape. I smiled and said, “That’s good exercise, isn’t it?” and he replied with a smile, “Yes, it certainly is”. The house where he raked had recently been sold. He was probably the new owner. Since it’s less than a block form my house, he’s my neighbor.

As soon as I passed I realized I could have introduced myself and welcomed him to the neighborhood. Granted, I was friendly enough already, but in a very generic way, no identity, no real connection. In the back of my mind I had a little movie running as I walked away, a picture of my father, open and very friendly, welcoming him with a meaningful conversation, a personal connection.

Why did I play my standard movie instead of running that “improved” version? No particular reason, just habit, my usual. Next time, I’ll keep the alternate clip right at the tip of my actions and mind. I’ll live right into it, fall into it, like flopping into a pile of freshly raked leaves.

Try it. Just fall into a smile, fall into the truth, blare out what your heart feels. Stop sweating the thinking. Skip the analysis of every action. “Just Do It”, as Nike’s genius ad campaign suggests. People will look at you like you’ve lost your mind, but that’s because they’re content just sitting on the bank, watching life pass them by.

The Edge

Sheer Cliff
Standing at the edge of the cliff
We notice there are two possibilities.
One, we can remain, safe, where we are.
Or we can jump into an unknown future.

On one hand,
we are freed by the possibility of not jumping.
But imagining the flight without experiencing it
is a also a kind of suicide.

Seeing both sides of the view is not one or the other,
but a third angle, floating beyond hesitation and demise.
This is the philosopher’s island of peace.

Yet paralysis and demise are ultimately choices.
Most of us are not philosophers.
We yearn to fly.
Flight implores choice.
Our wings need to be developed as we grow.

Decisiveness resides deep in the body.