InterSpiritual: Delving Into Sacred Wells to Stir the Heart Awake

My friend Jamie shares another post about interspirituality. We met in person at a local interspirituality conference and it is definitely a way of being that draws my heart.

Sophia's Children

Underwater cave in a tropical coral reef (Photo from 4freephotos) Underwater cave in a tropical coral reef. Public domain photo courtesy 4freephotos.

Here’s another lovely musing from fellow mystic-writer (etc.) Mirabai Starr.

I recently shared a perspective from her on the Feminine Mystic.

This one is how she describes her own experience of walking the InterSpiritual Way.

Different from interspiritual or multi-faith, Interspirituality is the path of exploring the commonalities and underlying wisdom that can be found at the mystic-heart of many traditions … religious, spiritual, indigenous-ancestral.

Here’s how Mirabai Starr responding to one question in an interview with Tami Simon of Sounds True. You’ll find the link to the full interview just below.

“Brother Wayne Teasdale coined the term Interspirituality, and it refers to the interconnectedness of all the spiritual ways of the world.

The Interspiritual movement is much more about sharing prayer, sharing spiritual practice, sharing those heart-opening and spirit transforming experiences of the Divine that…

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#Blesstival on Love

My friend Jamie of Sophia’s Children has begun a blessing wave for 2016. It is called a Blessing Sadhana or Blesstival and this post is my contribution to the wave.  Everyone is invited to join in! You can read more about it here:

The blessing that I would like to share is Love.

Love with a capital L encompasses all that we love but extends beyond those we know to those we don’t know, to those who came before and those who will come after us, to all creatures, to the earth itself, to the universe.

From my religious tradition, I name this Love “Divine Love” or “God” but other cultures and traditions name Love in other ways, such as Great Spirit or the Universal. Secularists or scientists may speak of the Unified Field or Energy or simply the Universe.

Fans of Douglas Adams may know Love as the real answer to “the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.” Forty-two was just shorthand.

It is a profound sense of connection and unity that has been expressed by religious thinkers, philosophers, and scientists over the centuries.

One of the spiritual authors I have read in recent years is Richard Rohr. He writes an online series of daily meditations and his theme for 2016 is Love.  Here is an example of a recent daily meditation by Richard Rohr on Love.

As I have been contemplating writing this blessing post, I have been noticing Love everywhere, including this piece from Ilia Delio, another favorite spiritual writer.

I have been thinking about the universality of Love more often since attending a conference on Interspirituality, where I was privileged to meet Jamie in person. Whether one comes to it from a spiritual, philosophical, scientific, or secular viewpoint, our connection to one another and to Creation as a whole is profound.

I wish everyone the blessing of Love for 2016 and beyond.

Signing off with Jamie’s usual closing,

Big Love,
I want to spread the Blesstival as far as possible, so this post is also part of Linda’s Just Jot It January. You can find out more here:

Interspirituality on Sunday

Following up on my prior post about the Interspirituality Conference, I wanted to add what happened on Sunday morning.

I attend 7:30 Mass at Our Lady of Good Counsel where we were observing the Fourth Sunday of Easter, which is Good Shepherd Sunday.  Because of the conference, I was especially attuned to the references to Jesus saying that there were other sheep “not of this fold” who also follow the shepherd’s voice, which correlates so well with interspirituality and the core beliefs of religious, philosophical, and humanist traditions toward love, peace, connection, and unity. There were so many other moments during our sung and spoken prayer that spoke of “all” in the universal sense, rather than as all the assembly or all Catholics or all Christians. I am thankful to be here at this time, instead of in the pre-Vatican II days when Catholics regularly condemned those who were not (strongly observant) Catholics. I am also thankful that Pope Francis regularly holds meetings with those of many different spiritual beliefs, as well as those who are atheists, humanists, agnostics, etc., giving public witness to the dignity of each person.

I arrived early at First Congregational for the 10:00 service which was the official conclusion of the Interspirituality conference and was pleased when Jamie came to sit with me. With my daughters no longer at home and my mom dealing with a string of health issues, I most often attend without a companion, so it was nice to have a friend next to me.

The congregation, under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Art Suggs, is very progressive, open, and inclusive. I had not seen such an enthusiastic – and mobile – greeting of one another during the opening of the service since the Ecumenical Christian Church at Smith College when I was a student in the late 1970s-early 1980s.  The hymns and prayers were expansive and filled with light and love. The Scripture passage from chapter 10 of John’s gospel was a continuation of the small section that had been proclaimed at mass and referred back to the good shepherd, which was a beautiful connection for me.  In the passage, Jesus quotes Psalm 82 which says “You are gods.” This passage had come up during the weekend sessions as a millennia-old reference to the indwelling of the Divine in human beings, so it was a natural transition to Kurt Johnson’s sermon, “The Coming Interspiritual Age,” which synopsized the insights shared during the conference and gave hope that many around the world are moving beyond the rigid boundaries separating people from one another and into an emerging Second Tier Consciousness which unifies across religions, philosophies, nationalities, and all else that separates us. I again regret my inability to convey this adequately and hope that people who want to learn more will look for resources such as this website.

I wrote in my prior post about anticipating hearing the organ at First Congregational again. One of the lovely things about the structure of the service is that it incorporated the prelude and postlude within the service itself, so that one can actually listen, avoiding the “accompanied pep rally” experience that especially postludes can become. I appreciated that the postlude registration included some of the reed stops, because I so appreciate the Skinner-style reeds that are full and rich rather than thin and piercing. I managed to only tear up a little as I remembered being at the organ with Searle Wright. Had the repertoire included Franck or Dupré or one of Searle’s compositions I’m sure I would have been sobbing.

In a final Spirit-led moment, at the coffee hour after the service, I joined a conversation that Jamie was having with Heidi, one of the women of the church who had been such a great help to us during the conference. The conversation turned to the organ and I had a chance to share with her some of my experiences with Searle and the instrument. I must have had my poet hat perched invisibly on my head as I was going on about how organs breathe, but, fortunately, Jamie and Heidi were receptive listeners. As it turns out, Heidi’s husband had just been speaking about the need to invest in the upkeep of the organ, so it was particularly meaningful to her to hear me speak about Searle, the instrument, and their place in the history of the church and its ongoing legacy.  I am not sure what work needs to be done, but I am hopeful that the organ will be restored and preserved, not altered, or worse, abandoned. I believe that the Spirit moves and speaks through the organ’s pipes as surely as it does through our human voices and through all of creation.

Interspirituality conference

I’ve spent the last two days immersed in this interspirituality conference.  Kurt Johnson was our main speaker with many members of our local community participating as panelists/presenters.  It is impossible for me to condense two intensive days into a reasonable summary, so I will instead give a series of impressions, connections, and experiences.

I learned a lot from an academic/historical perspective about interspirituality. While it uses a different vocabulary, the concepts were familiar to me from studying spiritual teachers such as Joan Chittister and Richard Rohr who transcend the borders between spiritual traditions and emphasize the universal, indwelling presence of the Divine.

One of the unsettling aspects for me that was articulated by some of the women in attendance was that even at the advanced levels of spirituality and consciousness that were being discussed, the lens was still predominantly and historically male.  When there was discussion of the power of small groups and the advantages of people relating as non-hierarchal circles, I and at least several of the other women in the room were thinking, “Well, of course. This is how we have related, created, innovated, passed on wisdom, supported one another, moved forward together for centuries.”  It was a bit disconcerting to realize that the primacy of love, connection, relation, co-creativity, and the holiness of all creation that are felt so deeply in the hearts, minds, and wombs of women are only now again being re-discovered and brought out into the wider academic world and dialogue on how the world is organized.

That I was at the conference at all was due to connections through women and their circles.  My friend Yvonne Lucia, whose amazing artwork you can see here, was a panelist and passed on invitations to me and other members of sacred circles in which we have participated. I, in turn, was blessed to be able to invite and meet in person Jamie of Sophia’s Children, with whom I had recently connected in the blogosphere.  I so appreciated the enriching conversations that we had during breaks and lunches and a lovely walk along the river that Jamie and I shared after the conference ended a bit earlier than anticipated this afternoon.

The conference followed what was termed as a “loosey-goosey” model, which was fine as it led into unexpected areas and revelations. I was, however, disappointed that we did not do much discussion of ecospirituality, which is becoming increasingly important to me at this point in time.  In all my years of writing commentary on fracking, renewable energy, climate change, and environmental topics, I had to make arguments based on science and economics. Because the anti-fracking movement was being characterized as coming only from a place of emotion and NIMBY-ism, I was careful to work from a fact- basis and to not respond to personal attack. What only those close to me knew was that the energy behind all those comments came from my grounding in the values of Catholic social justice doctrine, which includes care of all creation and an extra measure of protection and care for the most vulnerable, whether an endangered ecosystem or a community left vulnerable to pollution, sea level rise, inadequate food and shelter, or other threat. Now, with the impending release of Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment and my involvement in the newly reconstituted Catholic Peace Community of the Southern Tier, I feel that I can integrate my environmental advocacy with my spiritual values in a more public way, hoping to spread the message in our communities about steps we can take to help our damaged climate before the climate talks convene in Paris in December.

One of the gifts of the conference for me was increased clarity of my own spiritual journey as I continue through my 50s. While I am still grounded in the “big C” Catholic church, although as a progressive feminist within it, what I learned there – the elements of social justice, the sacramentality of life and relationship, the indwelling of God in each person and all of creation, God as Love, Peace, Ground of Being – makes me also and increasingly a “small c” catholic, which mean universal. That is how I am thinking about interspirituality at this point, that universal connection in which all people of good will share, whether they arrive there via a faith/spiritual tradition or through humanism, science, or some other path.

One of the other blessings was the presence and sharing of some from the Millennial age cohort. While some think of their tendency to connect with one another electronically to be a detriment, I think it is one of their strengths. While those of us in older generations were brought up largely in localized boxes, the Millennials have grown up being connected instantly to a wide circle of people. From my two 20-something daughters and their friends, I have learned so much about celebrating diversity. It is a great source of hope and comfort to me that they already know and live some of these things that have taken me much longer to discover. To know that we have their generation’s commitment, broad sense of community, energy, and love already engaged is a great source of hope and comfort to me.

I am an introvert and gatherings of people are daunting to me. In the two days of the conference, I didn’t ever rise to ask a question or speak. I also tend to need a lot of processing time – and then go on to write overly long blog posts! But I will close with one more observation that I am mulling.  There were a handful of people at the conference that I knew personally, mostly people that I met through Yvonne. There were others who recognized me as a poet, a part of my life that has been public for such a short time that it still seems like a surprise when someone identifies me that way. There were also people who knew me by sight from my fracktivist activities or by name because of my public commentary. And most of the people in the room who do not know me at all.

There was, however, a special personal connection that I had within the church in which we met.  When I was in my twenties, it was my privilege to study organ with Searle Wright. First Congregational was his home church and my lessons often took place there. I took a moment after lunch today to go visit the Aeolian Skinner organ, to sit on the bench for a moment, to remember the wonders of Searle playing it, and to recall the time when I was still able to play myself.

I managed not to cry, although I don’t know if I will tomorrow morning when I attend the Sunday service which will be the official closing of the conference.

Update:  I’m happy to share the link to Jamie’s initial blog post on the conference:  It gives you a much better sense of what interspirituality means and you can follow her blog for more of her insights as they come our way.

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