Extravagent Stillness

November 27, 2011

Recently, my dear friend Nancy Laupheimer, founder and director of the Taos Chamber Music Group, invited me to write a poem in response to Schubert’s Noturrno to open a concert whose themes centered around this period of darkness and introspection. Here is the piece I wrote and performed last weekend for the program.

Be patient, my heart.
The time of the cave is coming.
The season of quiet.
The deep drink of stillness
you have been thirsting for.
Secret, luminous darkness.
Fruitful, radiant night.

Your access has been paid.
All year you have made
an offering of your life,
Flung your treasures into the
clamoring hands of the world.
You have lost yourself in the lyrics,
Recollected yourself in the silence,
Forgotten again and again
where you come from,
Where you are meant to return.


You have filled your belly
with the season’s harvest,
Grown robust on bowls of chile and beans,
Apple muffins spread with honey.
You have split and stacked your kindling,
patched your cloak.
There is nothing left undone.

Drop the distractions, now,
and head home.
The door is open. Go in.
Deeper and deeper inward.
Enter the womb of the world
and take refuge there.

This is not the season of sorrow,
but of gratitude.
The extravagant, fiery beauty of autumn
heralds the coming of the holy quiet.

Be still.
Be wildly, voluptuously quiet.
Embrace your solitude like the child
you never thought you could birth,
Like the lover
you thought had died in the war,
who parts the curtains
of your innermost chamber
in the middle of the night
and slips into bed beside you.

Interspiritual Quest

November 16, 2011

My first post-grief blog! Not that I am “over it” or “moving on” but rather that I am checking out a world in which I no longer lead with loss, yet rest in the sacred suchness with which death has gifted me.

Here is an excerpt from my upcoming book, GOD OF LOVE, in which I am exploring the distinction between the classic “interfaith” movement and the emerging “interspiritual” quest. Put simply, the interfaith movement is comprised primarily of ordained representatives from established faith traditions who are seeking to impart and acquire knowledge of one another’s religions, to foster empathy and acceptance. The interspiritual quest is more about immersing ourselves in the practices at the heart of various spiritual paths, and experiencing them from the inside.

A little more than a hundred years ago, Swami Vivekananda—beloved disciple of the God-intoxicated Indian saint, Sri Ramakrishna–came to the West and convened the first World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago. This event marked the birth of a global dialogue of faiths, a conversation that has been unfolding ever since. The interfaith movement has been characterized by the sincere effort on the part of religious believers from all the world’s major faith traditions to build tolerance, trust, and mutual understanding. In light of the historical atrocities committed by powerful institutions in the name of God, this dialog has been both liberating and healing.

Now, at the dawn of a new century, it’s time to go deeper. It’s not enough to seek an intellectual orientation toward other traditions. We need to plunge into their mystic heart and let them transform us. (Thanks to the late Brother Wayne Teasdale for coining the delicious term, “interspiritual.”.)

This is exactly what Ramakrishna was up to. He did not politely approach Christianity and agree to tolerate it. He enfolded Christ into his own blazing heart and met him there, in the fire of love. He kept a picture of the child Jesus and Mother Mary on his altar, along with Kali, Krishna, Tara, and the Buddha, and offered incense to them every morning. He repeated the name of Allah throughout the day with great devotion, and experienced a vision in which the Prophet Muhammad merged into his own body. He adored the Divine Mother in every form; it was through her that he experienced all paths reconciled. Ramakrishna actively practiced diverse faith traditions, and their particular objects of devotion regularly brought him to tears of ecstasy.

Immersion in the well of any single spiritual tradition dissolves the forms that limit the Divine. Repetition of any of the Holy Names carries us to a place that transcends all naming, where we rest in the One Reality. Ramakrishna says that it is not necessary to renounce the formalities of religion. When you place your devotion at the feet of whatever spiritual ideal is most natural to you, “formalities of every kind will simply disappear from your being.”