Saturday, November 19, 2011

Where Freedom Begins

                                                                                                                                      Freedom is really a spiritual state, although it can be reflected at lesser levels. And it is only in freedom in the deepest sense that the riches of the Spirit can manifest themselves.

                                           -- Sri Ram

     No nation has ever made a louder hullabaloo about "Freedom" than The United States. It's our justification for military intervention around the globe; our troops are lauded as "heroes defending our freedom," no matter in what fractious, oppressed, poverty-stricken corner of the Third World they're deployed. Freedom of expression provides the legal rationale through which the pornography of violence and the violence of pornography inundate our media and infect our consciousness. Unregulated freedom from all constraint or control is the unrelenting rallying cry of ruthless, uber-competitive corporate capitalism. And yet, by the profoundest definition of freedom, in reality most of us are abject slaves.

     If my spirit is in chains, what does it matter if I have license to exercise all these other so-called "freedoms" and a hundred more? As Kabir said " will simply end up with an apartment in the City of Death." Where does true freedom begin? Paradoxically, only with complete surrender. One of the numberless names of the God I encounter at the innermost core of my being is FREEDOM! Unless I achieve unity with this Radiant Source; orient my fundamental indentity to this Universal Truth, I will always remain a slave, a craven addict of soul-devouring idols. True freedom can never be won by any political means if it's not first awakened  in the liberated soul.

      There is only one way to be truly Free--become supremely empty. As long as the little, deluded, superficial "I" of worldly self-importance runs the show--projecting its fears, promoting its desires, defending its image--you remain a slave, whatever seeming power and prestige you possess.

      Real Freedom means utter surrender to That which alone is utterly Free--the Eternal Spirit streaming invisibly through all created things. Here is the Source and Center of your deepest Self, the Cosmic Breath that fills your whole being, until it stretches out tautly like a great sail billowing in the wind!

        -- from my book As The Spirit Moves: Teachings of the Angels, 1999.

     Consumer society materialism is one of the greatest obstacles to real spiritual freedom. Let's say I'm standing in front of the toothpaste section at my local supermarket. Look at all the different brands, sizes, prices, flavors, special features, so many possible choices--what freedom! No, only the delusion of freedom--like those "painted cakes" which can never satisfy hunger. Meanwhile, as ever, my attention is seduced and focused outside myself--momentarily possessed by but one of ten thousand ersatz epiphanies in this All-American "scrimmage of appetite" we call "the pursuit of happiness." But the American modernist poet Marianne Moore wrote this:

       "The very bird,
   grown taller as he sings, steels
his form straight up. Though he is captive,
his mighty singing
says, satisfaction is a lowly
thing, how pure a thing is joy.
        This is mortality,
        this is eternity."

     How pure a thing is joy! Here's how I know that at last I'm truly free--I'm infused with sheer Joy! Such Joy is never secondary and contingent--dependent on anyone or anything in the world outside me. On the contrary, it is always primary and unconditional, beaming forth from the Divine Beacon at the secret epicenter of my soul. Once we've tasted this ultimate Freedom, anything less which masquerades by the same name will be exposed as what it always was--just another glitzy disguise for slavery.

     Joy gave birth to the galaxies. It is the Source of every atom of your being. All creation exists because of Joy. Joy is where you come from. Joy is where you are going. Joy is the triumphal hymn of the universe! Your deepest agony is the distance you have traveled from Joy. Your highest hope is the promise of return.

     You have heard the sparrow. It sings for Joy! Joy curls in the wave breaking, and Joy is the glistening of the shore. Sunlight blazes down for Joy, and with Joy the earth receives it. The eagle soars, the mole burrows, the deer leaps, the fish swims, the grass grows, the bud opens, the seed begins--for Joy, Joy uncontainable, eternal Joy!

                           -- from As The Spirit Moves.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Keeping Hope Alive

Everything is plundered, betrayed, sold,
Death's great black wing scrapes the air,
Misery gnaws to the bone.
Why then do we not despair?

                               -- Anna Akhmatova

     Why then, indeed? Right now I'm facing into the abyss of my brother's possibly fatal illness. It's part of a Perfect Storm which also threatens the loss of his job and foreclosure on his house. Even if he eventually makes it out of the hospital, he might not have a home to come home to. And all this is just the tip of the iceberg! Here I am, half a continent away, struggling to do whatever I can to help, but I feel like I'm trying to siphon an ocean of trouble with a flimsy straw. Lying in bed sleepless again last night, staring at the ceiling, it seemed to me his situation was hopeless, and that I was helpless to change that. Finally, I did manage to drift off to sleep; and when I awoke this morning I realized there's yet one more thing I can do; one more reason not to give up hope. I'd looked into the gaping maw of the abyss, but something inside me still cried "Nevertheless!"

                     THE PASSWORD

"Nevertheless" is what I meant to say
                           when the worst came down,
after the Scud Missile of pain
                      struck its target zero in your soul.
"Nevertheless"--a defiant quip
just as the firing squad raises its guns.
It's that storm-battered tree
                                 far above the timberline,
the grin on the face of the homeless outcast,
the salmon's leap against the thundering falls.

"Nevertheless" is the cry I meant to praise
          no matter how many haters curse you out,
                  how many hammers bruise your bones.
It's a death row reprieve at the final hour,
the worm that turns, the impossible comeback,
                                  the incurable healed.
"Nevertheless" befuddles logic, hornswoggles fate.
It's the heroic password I meant to teach you.
            The Spirit's anthem.
                                   Destiny sealed.


     One of the hardest lessons to learn is that no matter how dire the circumstances, how daunting the odds, my ultimate power doesn't depend on any outer vicissitudes. The source of my true power to transcend, and therefore of my unquenchable hope, resides within me. The human spirit is indomitable!

                     RALLYING CRY

Begin now, begin in the teeth of the worst loss
you've suffered, begin to praise. Begin now, begin
anew, no matter what. Take the first, hard step
and then take another, and still another, until
the Spirit chimes within your bones, indomitable.

Start over, from the bitterest taste of ashes
burning your tongue. Start over, though clearly
everything you've hoped, prayed, yearned for,
lies crushed. Start over, grope without a clue,
buoyed by what disdains surrender, indomitable.

Keep growing, when nothing left seems alive,
not even your heart. Keep growing, break free
from that old, petrified shell, the dead past
clogged by phantoms and shadows. Keep growing--
beyond whoever you dreamed you were, indomitable.

Love again, despite the grief gutting your soul.
Quarry it out, rage after rage, tear after tear.
Love again, love unflinchingly, till you reach
a place where love consumes your cruellest fear.
Love again, and you will rise again, indomitable.


     I don't know if my brother's going to make it. I don't know how much I can do for him, how much is even humanly possible. But I do know now that, nevertheless, I will never stop trying. Am I not my brother's keeper? Aren't we all?

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.

                                 -- Jesus  (Matt. 25:36)