O Holy Solstice Night! The shortest day has now passed, its lovely light bringing brief but bountiful blessing. Now we savor the long and languorous evening, the deepening and deepest Dark. And here we find rest, comfort, the silent caress of your sacred embrace. A Most Sacred Time; bathing those who waken to it in wondrous deep quiet. Care for all, beyond description, emerging from the soundlessly singing stars, our undescribeable, unremembered, yet powerful dreams, still dwelling within. The bliss of unspoken union, when not-seeing brings awareness, objects and moments blend together, and we “see” their constant unity, beneath and within the distinctions and differences made “apparent” in the light. We feel in your Darktime, and see more deeply than physical eyes perceive. All these, and more, beyond our signs and sights, are your gifts to us, O Holy Solstice Night! Praise to you, Queen of all Evenings, Monarch of Fullest Darkness! Your often-hidden throne comes forth! Glory to the Sacred Darkness!

In this season of Earth’s turning, as the days have approached this Holy Day and Night, I have savored more than in any Sun-year I have yet known, the Beauty of Darkness. As the dark grew and the nights lengthened over these past months, as summer waned and autumn advanced, as the fruits from the trees changed in the markets and the energy flow and tasks of work and life shifted, I sensed, more and more, the Beauty of Darkness. As the outer world convulsed, and the Empire trembled, and manifested its dying groans, its vile injustices, its post-capitalist pathways birthing, the Dark peoples of the Planet, the struggling ones everywhere of every tribe and tongue, sang and cried and marched. And again, more and more and more, there arose the Beauty of Darkness. Natural rhythms, rising souls, new songs and old anthems, all converged in my own consciousness, and the Beauty of Darkness was more and more apparent. Its Beauty, but also its silent unquenchable Power.

Being attentive to Nature’s ways, the steady growth and shared dance of light and dark, night and day, rain and sun, rising and falling, is essential to all spiritual growth, empowerment, and ascending soul-progress. The path we tread, while in this physical form, is always on the Earth, in its turnings and flowings, its spinning around the Sun and through the Infinite Cosmos. As we walk with discernment, and delight in what is under our feet and over our heads, we can savor the steady shifts of cycles and circles of time on this Homeland we all share. The coming and going of Sunlight and Nighttime; tree leaves emerging, changing color, and then falling to the ground; our rising up and lying down, going out and coming in; life’s basic rhythms, in their simplicity and constancy; all becomes known for what it always is: a deep power, much stronger than the time-clocks and ill-perceived necessities of external forces, of dominating demands, of apparent humanly-constructed “greatness.” What appears so important in our schedules and our scurrying after externals fades before the wondrous discovery which comes in our movement with the dark and the light. We are in tune with the silent music of the Universe! And it moves, and comes to fruition, in us and around us, constantly, consistently, unfailing, every blessing, ever blessed.

Such are the further gifts of this Holy Solstice Night! Time, time, time! Not slipping away, not lost or gained. But rather a turning, a steady deepening, a lifting and releasing. As time turns, as the Earth turns, as the Sun and other Stars shine, and then fade, only to return and fade again, we see our cycling in time as a growing through time. As time circles from year to year, day to day, moon phase to moon phase, our souls expand and open – if we listen and observe.

This year, numbered as 2014 in the reckoning some use for counting, this Holy Solstice Night and the New Moon arrive together. Both holy lights which bathe our planet, one shining with fullest light during each Day, the other reflecting from its sacred stones during the darktime each Night, are at their darkest ebb.

Thus, Holy Darkness has blessed us with a double-caress. All journeying so far has brought us to tonight’s doubled darkness. Darkness cares for us twice! It reaches its peak, doubly, all at once. Not a loss or a lack. No! Darkness this Holy Night is silent assurance, readying us for richer sleep, sustenance unseen, Uncreated Deep, now known in Holy Time.

As Darkness flows and fills time and space to its height, after this Night, slowly, daily growing, noticeable yet never sudden, will come the Light. But for now, let us taste of the Beauty of Darkness, and know that as Light grows, Dark is ever-present, nurturing the seeds in the soil of the burgeoning beautiful yet-coming future.

O Holy Solstice Night! We are grateful that you, and the nights before you which have led to you, have taught us well: to walk wisely and watchfully on the Earth. And to trust and savor the Beauty of Darkness.

Here, since little introduction is needed, is a post from a long-time friend, James Oscar. Since he’s given me permission to do so, I offer his recent testimony in Montreal here on this blog. His speech and heart will make plain who he is. His response to past and recent spirit-movements, killings, and deaths, is worthy of our contemplation.

THE STORY OF THE HOLE BY JAMES OSCAR : DELIVERED AT HANDS UP DON’T SHOOT SOLIDARITY MARCH IN SOLIDARITY MONTREAL FERGUSON – MICHAEL BROWN MARCH REGARDING VICTIMS OF RACIAL PROFILING NOV 29, 2014 Thank you for having me. I am here today to speak about a timeline, a timeline that goes from Dec 24, 1968 to the very present moment. On December 24, 1968, my uncle was murdered in cold blood by a policeman on the Caribbean island of Trinidad. His murder was the result of one policeman’s jealousy over my uncle’s girlfriend, the result of abuse of power, and the result of complete impunity. This police officer was acquitted. This cold blooded murder remains one of the stains on the nation of Trinidad and Tobago. Calypsos and much talk have been written about this murder.It has become a tarnished part of folklore. My family went into exile, as result of this murder. I thought the story would stop there. In 1987, I was at the scene of the aftermath of the murder of Anthony Griffin by a policeman, here in cold blood at a police station I delivered newspapers to, here in Montreal. Anthony Griffin was one of those guys I saw around the neighbourhood. Anthony Griffin’s murder in Montreal, remains one of the emblematic initial symbols of police cold blooded murder in our nation. I thought the story would stop there. I spent my whole childhood scared to death of police. I cried the day I got into university in Toronto and could leave this place behind. As I said, I thought the story would stop there. Are there certain anchors that follow us or are we just living in a nation of lawlessness? I thought the story would stop there. On Dec 24, 1990, exactly 22 years to the day after my uncle had been beaten to death and left to die in a cell, I was thrown up against a window by the Montreal Police on the street I walked up and down my whole life. I was on a visit back home from Toronto. Very serious guns were drawn against me and I was shoved into a squad car. I was racially profiled. I was accused of a very serious crime I did not commit. I sat in a cell for 9 hours. The psychological implications are serious even in such a short period. I began to descend a very frightening hole. I SAT IN A CELL IN THE VERY POLICE STATION I DELIVERED NEWSPAPERS TO MY WHOLE CHILDHOOD UP UNTIL THREE YEARS BEFORE! From 1968 to 1990 to present. THIS ALL IS A STORY OF A HOLE- woman and man’s greatest fall from the common link, into a hole into further and further disgrace. We all at times look away/ look down in shame at a ground which further and further opens. Many of us are not brave enough to jump into this hole ( of the break of our union) . We often look at the gaping chasm- awed, disillusioned, and trying to find ways to patch the hole while only some decide to report and speak about it (the hole). The hole widens, the illusion grows, the masses yawn and many begin to also not see a hole , not even seeing the patched up land (which covers the hole). The break of the union leaves that hole. The hole begins to be there for time immemorial and more often than not, people walk right near to it, people walk right next to the hole – forgetting that below this patch (which hides the hole) hides -a-history, that this patch hides a history of a break, a history of woman and man’ s refusal to accord history. The patch hides woman and man’s proper reflection. One looks at this growing machinery set in motion to preserve the forgetting of the hole, to group, the nation’s people, to “train”, indoctrinate and feed the principle of revisionism. The hole is hidden, a revisionism is put into practice, the nation comes to placate and protect the lie of the hole at all costs. There are different groups that approach the hole. Many come to memorialize the hole- but their memorial to the hole that broke the union (of civilization) is quiet and subdued but yet with beautiful convictions. There are others who do not even see such tributes and refuse to acknowledge that a hole had ever been there. There is yet another group- yes these OTHERS decide the tributes to the hole created in the fabric of their civilization MUST BE GREATER, LOUDER, MORE PRONOUNCED, MORE OF A FIGHT TO STOP THE DAILY WAR OF SOULS. THESE ARE THE BEAUTYFUL ONES! For the hole and the denials it sets in motion become small ticks, extra motions,and even exaggerated absurd movements. Many as I succumb to the SILENCE OF GENERATIONS regarding the hole. Why reel in surprise, why swallow the hot buttery bullet? They expect at all costs to keep us quiet, to revel in the assault, to know the will of the beating brunt against the beating brunt. TO BE SILENT IS A LUXURY OF PRIVILEGE TO BE SILENT IS A LUXURY OF PRIVILEGE TO BE SILENT IS A LUXURY OF PRIVILEGE I have been silent since 1990. My family has been silent and this causes very serious iimplications. I AM NO LONGER SILENT! Please become one of the beautiful ones and speak openly to all people in all your walks of life about this hole at the heart of our civilization. Those who stop the daily war of souls and speak about the hole ARE THE BEAUTYFUL ONES!

After the recent refusal of the (in)”justice” system in the United States to charge two police officers for obvious murders of unarmed black males, as a spirit-seeker who yearns for justice and transformation, I am left saddened, angered, pained, and yet energized. The Spirit of the Nation remains deeply ill. The way we treat each other, on the surface and on a daily basis, is completely corrupt and unacceptable. And yet, under our feet, in the movement of bodies and minds, in the sobs and shouts and screams, our voices, in the inner reaches of our souls, and the flows of wind and rain, the Coming New World is being born.

Beyond this, now, I post only a poem written many years ago, by one of the finest wordsmiths our land ever nurtured: Langston Hughes. He expressed, in a former time, what I and many feel now: America is a broken promise. But yet, it will be. There is no better song, for these days, than this:

Let America Be America Again
Langston Hughes, 1902 – 1967

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

In every part of the United States, unarmed black males are killed by police, with Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO the most well-known recent case. In Eastern Ukraine, a US-backed government increases its “assault on separatists,” and the numbers of civilians dead or displaced from their homes numbers in the thousands. And the “hideous atrocity” (Noam Chomsky’s description) of Israel’s ongoing attack on Gaza has led to hundreds of thousands being homeless, massive destruction of homes, schools, hospitals, mosques; over 2000 Palestinians are dead, the vast majority women and children. Numerous other examples, from Egypt, Syria, China, Colombia, to the Congo and beyond, could be mentioned. The violence of governments far exceeds anything that so-called “terrorist” groups do.

What is to explain this increasingly insane and brutal behavior at the collective level? How is it to be understood spiritually?

First, it is worth exploring the word “violence.” (I always find that the past history, the “roots” of words, help us discern their ongoing spiritual meaning and power). Our English word “violence” comes from a Latin predecessor, “violentia,” which means “vehemence, ferocity.” The verb related to this is “violare,” “to injure or harm with violence,” “to outrage.” Essentially, violence is about VIOLATION, the attacking of another person or party with extreme physical force. As a great imperial power, the Romans knew that violence is powerful, and that it is at bottom ferocious, strong, outrageous. When individuals use it, they are no longer reasonable or reasoning beings. Instead, raw physicality, striking the body of another, replaces any attempt to hear, listen, speak, or think. And when State Power utilizes violence, the intent is to injure or kill, to violate or eliminate a group’s perceived enemy.

Spiritual awareness shows us that all human beings are capable of violence. Our bodies and emotions are great gifts to us, and contain reservoirs of vast and powerful energy. When this energy is released, it can be overwhelming in its effect. We are not meant to hide or suppress our feelings or power – but to utilize them. Our power is the outpouring of our spiritual energy, the manifestation of our inner reality. It is a wondrous thing – supremely worthwhile. But to harm or violate others with our power is problematic: using of the gift of who we are, and our physical strength, to wound another body-soul, not to bless or heal it. Violence is not wrong in all cases; but it is always a sign that peace, balance, health, and joy are departing or absent.

Nurtured in the linguistic soil of violation and ferocious outrage, much of today’s violence arises from the desire to dominate or control. If we affirm that all human beings are our Breath-Kin, fellow incarnations of the Divine, dust of the Earth shaped into form and made alive by Spirit-Presence, then the domination of one person by another, of one group by another, cannot be affirmed. Since all souls are born from the same Spirit-Source, and breathe the same Spirit-Breath, we are truly “One in the Spirit.” Thus, domination and violation of others is, most deeply, a violation of oneself, a violation of the Unity and One-ness which links all living things at the spiritual level.

Yet, there are individuals and groups that seek to dominate others, or maintain oppressive relations and social arrangements of domination. Our socio-political world-system contains many levels and layers of oppression, imbalance, and illness. And like all unsustainable structures, these forms of domination are disintegrating, due to their own internal contradictions.

As I view the spiritual terrain of our current social realities, it seems that, in these days, we are witnessing the final and ultimately failing attempt of the Powers of Domination to maintain their structures of control. At the same time, the Spirits of Freedom are steadily rising, and are uncontainable and undefeatable. Souls can be harmed or wounded, bodies can be killed – but life and love, the energy and power of Spirit, cannot be crushed or eliminated. Violence is rampant and widespread; but this is a sign of the demise of Domination, not its victory.

Whenever violence as violation appears, this shows that the Dominator has lost control of what they seek to dominate. In personal interactions, if one person strikes another, the perpetrator of the violence is the one who has lost power and dominance, and is now seeking to restore it by force. But the use of force reveals a Great Truth: the attempt to suppress Freedom and Joy has already failed. When Power becomes violent, it reveals its weakness, not its strength.

At every level, this is so. The increasing frequency of violence against women has appeared because male patriarchy can no longer control women. So certain men, possessed by the Spirit of Domination, seek to control women by violating them. But they cannot suppress Woman-Power. It is rising everywhere on Earth, and grows in strength, beauty, and energy with every passing day. The hyper-militarized white police response to black peoples’ protests in Ferguson, MO and elsewhere in the US is actually the result of White Americans’ fear of black people and their spiritual power and presence. White police use Humvees, armored vehicles, and assault rifles against unarmed black youth because they fear the Spirit-Power of African-descended people. Yet White Power is fading. Some US Whites consider children who arrive here as refugees from Central America to be “carrying diseases” or “criminals.” Yet, this sentiment appears because those who espouse such ideas are, themselves, sick and criminal souls, wayward and wounding spirits. Israel attacks Gaza and its defenseless people because it fears the fearlessness and fortitude of Palestinian steadfastness. US foreign policy becomes completely militarized, because the world system once dominated by US elites is shifting and crumbling.

The Powers-That-Be are losing. They know this. And so they lash out, more viciously and violently than ever. But the Spirit cannot be quelled. Spirit cannot be killed. It always grows, because it is the power of growth. It always heals, because it is the power of healing.

How are we to respond to these times of great violence and violation, of great Spirit-Rising and Spirit-Power? Obviously, a frontal assault on the Dominating Powers cannot succeed. As the Tao Te Ching taught us long ago, “Good weapons are instruments of fear; all creatures hate them. Therefore the followers of Tao never use them.” The Power of Domination only has physical weapons that attack and kill at the physical level. But the power of Spirit is different, and greater, than the power of physical violence.

Continued cultivation of our spiritual gifts and graces is essential. Nurturing our inner lives and the power that comes from within; building relationships with others who are aware; maintaining our own inner balance when the world is unbalanced; finding ways to sustain ourselves wisely, without dependence on larger systems; watching and responding creatively to situations of destruction or decay: all these can help us in the coming times of transition, turbulence and transformation. One suggestion comes from Belgian musician Melanie DiBiasio, of a “New Way to Pray,” in which we sing and dance our Way through what surrounds us and what lies ahead.

However we choose to proceed, the Spirits will guide us. We are already creating a New World. As the great Indian writer Arundhati Roy says, “The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling . . . their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability. Remember this: they need us more than we need them. Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

Our previous post explored ways to heighten spiritual awareness and growth, being attentive to essential aspects of our lives: our breath, our bodies; silence, sights, and sound. Once our practice becomes attuned to the beauty and power of Spirit in these seemingly everyday realities, we are ready to enter experiences of even greater depth and wonder:

The Realms Within.

The space within ourselves is apparently infinite. It rests in Darkness, but constantly comes forth into the Light. Most of who we are is unconscious, untapped, unrealized, yet it is ever arising into consciousness, into our awareness, into form and shape. Though what surrounds us, on the Earth and in the reaches of the Universe, is surely vast and wondrous, the Realms Within also await us. They are the substance of our Self, the mountains and valleys, flowing rivers and vast oceans of Our Own Truth, our Deep Resources. These are the lands of imagination, of dreams, of memory, of vision, of depths and heights, of birthing darkness, of sweetest bliss, of intense energy and rich rest.

How do we enter, experience, and explore such territory? There are various images spirit-seekers from the past have used.

One is a house or dwelling. A door is seen; after offering a password or turning a key or handle, the explorer passes over the threshold and into a room or hallway. Other rooms lie to the side, and ahead. The spiritual explorer enters any room of their choice; the further one’s journey into the Inner World, the further into the house one travels; the Inner Rooms are the Inner Chambers of the Soul – and more rooms, with much to discover inside them, are present on the Way ahead as the inward journey continues.

Another inward pathway-image is the Deep Well or Cave. One sees an opening in the Earth; we climb downward, perhaps on a ladder, or simply clinging to the wall. The surface recedes as we head deeper; at various levels there are caverns or chambers. Each contains its own riches, inhabitants, forms, shapes. As we go on, ever downward, into what lies below, images and energies emerge: fire, water, lights, figures. All are gifts; all come from within us.

Still another is the realm of Water. It may be a large lake, a coursing stream, or the sea and its moving tides. We can ride on the liquid’s surface in a boat, and savor the sights we see as the water carries us. Or, we plunge beneath the surface, and swim among the fish and flowers which live in waters below. Again, as we proceed further downward, more emerges; the depths offer gifts that arise from the Water we explore.

Some make journeys upward, climbing a Mountain. We begin at the base, walking around the lower elevations. But, when ready, we begin to ascend, carefully, step by step, treading upward, watching where our feet fall on the rising pathway. From time to time we stop, and gaze at what lies beyond us: up ahead, in the surrounding atmosphere, in the valleys below, which we have left behind, and which we see now in new ways, from above. As we continue, more images appear – and we may meet various beings as we climb: animals, human figures, angels or demons, lights or a pulsing presence. And still we ascend further.

Each person will have their own path, image, or Realm(s) which emerge as the door of imagination and inner space is opened. But what is needed, is to Enter.

When ready, we close our physical eyes. Sound and sight recede; our breath is our anchor, gently blessing us. We turn our attention inward, to the darkness within. The first poem of the Tao Te Ching offers us how to begin: “darkness within darkness, the gate to all mystery.” Allow yourself to see the Door, the Gate. Open it. Go in. And follow the path that opens its Way to you.

It is always fruitful to allow your imagination to guide you. You have entered the space of your own Divine Creativity and Creation. However, wishes and desires should be set aside. The ego and its attempts to control or manipulate must be kept from interrupting or distorting. Simply go through the entryway, and continue with what flows easily from within you. Do not judge it or block it. Allow the journey to occur naturally, unforced, freely. You will travel in a way that is more focused than random daydreaming or fantasizing – and you can surely probe more deeply than the realm of dreams which bless us when we sleep.

The Mandukya Upanishad, from the blessed sacred texts of ancient India, speaks of four realms of consciousness. The first, and most shallow, is waking conscious life, where we distinguish between ourselves and the objects around us. This is where we begin.

The second is the dreaming state. Here we still experience ourselves as distinct from other persons or objects. But we also know that it all takes place within ourselves. Though subject and object are distinct, they are unified, both present in us.

The third is what we experience each night as deep sleep. Deep Bliss (what is more blissful than being deeply asleep, in deep rest!?). Here, there is no subject or object. All is one, in deep dark, a complete whole. Conscious, Unity. “This is the lord of all, this is the knower of all, this is the inner controller; this is the source of all; this is the beginning and the end of beings.”

The fourth is called, in Sanskrit, turiya. It is beyond all conception and consciousness – yet ever-present. “Not that which cognizes the internal, not that which cognizes the external, not cognitive, not non-cognitive. Unseen, incapable of being spoken of, ungraspable, without any distinctive marks, unthinkable, unnameable, the essence of the knowledge of the one self, the peaceful, the benign, the non-dual.”

All of these “ways of conceiving inner space” are always available. All the time! We simply need to take the time to enter, to pass through the Gate, to explore, and to allow blessings to emerge and appear.

The Realms Within are where the Divine in us resides. Our God/dess self is there. S/He is waiting to greet us, to guide us, to bless us with power. Let us enter this inner territory, with care and gratitude, awe and courage. The darkness is ever-blessing us. May we come to know the blessing-power further!

As each of us enters the Inner Realms, feel free to share, if you wish, what you discover there. May Spiritual Exploration bear fruit, in each of our inward journeys, and in what we share on the paths ahead.

If you’d like to offer a response to any post here, just click on the small numeral under the blog post title, next to the date it was posted.  A screen will pop up. At the bottom you can type your response in the box marked “Leave a Reply.”  Please do that!  We look forward to further conversation and collaboration.  May the Spirit continue to bless us all, richly!

What does setting out on the spiritual path really entail?  When we practice Spiritual Exploration, we consider, taste, nurture, and probe more deeply certain basic elements of lived human experience.  When we travel the path of meditation and growth from the Source, I see the following aspects of Our Life as vital for myself and fellow Spiritual Explorers, we Seekers of the Spirit and its Power and Gifts:

Sound

Silence

Breath

Body

The Realms Within

Sound

After finding a time and place to sit quietly and comfortably, close our eyes, and settle into an attentive attitude of mind and heart, we become aware of the sounds around us.  For the purposes of spiritual exploration, however, we are blessed by the question of Zen Master Wumen: “Does the sound come to the ear, or does the ear go to the sound?”  In any time of spiritual exploration, rather than allowing ourselves to go towards the sounds with our minds, we can allow the sounds to come to us – to note, honor, and savor sound, rather than being swayed or consumed by it.  Especially if we live in an apartment building or other urban setting with nearby neighbors or passing vehicle traffic, there will always be sounds which we hear.  Yet, as we enter spiritual awareness and reality, we can simply let the sound arrive in our ears – and note the effect the sound has on us.

It is definitely true that the sounds which we allow or cultivate in our life-space affect our spiritual state. Having soothing sounds in our life space, such as flowing fountain water or the calls of nearby birds, is always a sweet gift.  Musicians and music lovers know that music is perhaps rightly known as the most spiritual of the creative arts; it creates realities which are unseen, yet which have powerful effects on our bodies, minds, and souls.  Music which is harsh, garish, or shocking will produce predictable results in our inner space: disturbance, tension, lack of ease, imbalance, even anger.  Sounds which are soothing, gentle, and warm will bless us inwardly with exactly the same qualities.  Our souls, truly, are marked and moved by the sounds which enter our physical ears.  The sound frequency of the music we hear shapes the energy-frequency of our inner spirit.  When beginning, then, we can deliberately create a mood, with music, which makes deeper exploration fruitful.  Finding music which is relaxing and calming, and playing that as we consciously enter spiritual terrain, can be a blessed part of our spiritual practice.

Singing or chanting a resonant tone can also be VERY fruitful as part of spiritual practice or meditation time.  Mantra, or spiritually powerful speech and sound, has long been known to have great benefits for the inward journey and the enrichment of the Soul.  Finding a tone which echoes the energy of one’s own inner space seems to work best.  The content may vary; various traditions use various words or phrases as sacred sounds.  Humming a content-less tone can be very fruitful – as long as it arises naturally and echoes the energy present in body, mind, and inner space.  The classic word/sound “OM” works well for many people when sung on a note harmonious with one’s mood and surroundings.  But each soul will find its own Way.  Experiment, and discover what the most “spiritually beautiful” sung sound comes forth from you.  It will surely bless you!

Music is the unseen unseeable powerful art.  Spirit is an unseen powerful reality.  Music echoes in our Spirits.  Sound is a primal element of Life, and of Spiritual Exploration.

Silence

Within the sounds, however, is Silence.  Sounds arise from Silence, and return to it.  After beginning, and allowing sounds to bring blessings to our ears and our inner energy, in order to enter deeper truer spiritual reality we must approach and acknowledge the Silence.  It is the Dark Mother – the Quiet within all outer comings and goings.  Little can be said about it – but it is always present.  As we hear or emit sacred sounds, and head further inward, we can turn our heart-minds to Silence, which is the Source.  Let the dark place within, the Silent Inwardness, be what we savor, become more familiar with, and cherish.  Silence brings comfort, blessing, peace.  If we do not reach it at first, allow the sounds to come and go, to rise and fall.  What always remains, what is always pulsing in us, patiently, is the Silence, the Dark, the Ever-Near.  If we do our spiritual exploring in the dark times of the night when the world is quiet(er), the Silence becomes more present, a well-known Dear Friend.  It is Our Within, shared with all things.  Silence, like solitude, is sweet.   Let us taste it – and each time we do, we will experience how Silence is the Inner Sacred.

Breath

One of our earlier posts deals with Breath and its spiritual primacy at some length.  Reading “Primal Constant Focus: The Breath” will give all of us new or renewed sense of the Breath’s relation to our spiritual balance, awareness, and growth.  Since Breath is Spirit, being attentive to the Breath is to be aware of our Spirit-Reality!

One way of breathing as a spiritual practice has been particularly fruitful for me recently, and for many people over the centuries.  A full description of this, known as “Sung Breathing,” is found in Damo Mitchell’s superb book, Daoist Nei Gong: The Philosophical Art of Change (which I would recommend to EVERYONE interested in deepening their understanding of Taoism as a spiritual path).  Mitchell devotes an entire chapter to breathing and its practices and benefits.  However, its basic components are:

#) Sit in a relaxed position with the spine upright.  I find that sitting cross-legged on the floor is best, since this naturally sets the spine at the most healthy and fruitful angle.  However, some people may need or wish to sit on a chair or couch.  Just make sure that, if you are sitting on a piece of furniture, your feet are flat on the floor, and your spine is perpendicular to the floor, not slumped or misaligned due to leaning against the furniture.

#) Begin to breathe by being aware of inhaling.  However, BE CERTAIN to consciously allow your lungs to fill up completely with air.  Most of the time we breathe very shallow breaths, using only a small top part of our lungs.  For spiritually powerfully breathing, allow the breath to expand into ALL of the lung.  Don’t try to force a deep breath; just allow the breath to fill the lungs fully and naturally.  The diaphragm, below the lungs, will drop downward as the lungs expand.

#) Continue by allowing the lungs to slowly and completely release the air you have drawn in.  The diaphragm will rise as the lungs release and contract.

#) With each breath, become more and more aware of when you are breathing in, and when you are breathing out.  Each breath will become longer and slower.  The diaphragm will also fall and rise more easily.  There is no need to force the breath to be longer or shorter; it will naturally become deep and strong the more time you sit quietly and allow the spirit to completely fill the lungs, and then depart.

#) If thoughts arise, just note them, and let them pass.

Concentrate on the breath is it enters and leaves your lungs.  This is the Spirit blessing you, and going forth as a blessing from you.  With each breath we are blessed, and we bless the Universe.  As we breathe, we receive, and are, a spirit-blessing!

Body

An earlier post also mentioned the body, but only briefly.  (Scroll down and read it if you like!).  For now, we can simply savor and sense more attentively the spiritual reality of our physical form.  After noting sounds and silence, and settling into a deeper state of mind by breathing naturally and fully, we can allow ourselves to sense the blessedness of our body.  Allow the breath to caress or flow through various parts of it.  Each part of our physicality is miraculous!  Bones, Blood, Flesh, Organs, Skin, Senses.  I often find it useful to allow my out-breath to touch various regions of the body as I sit on the floor: the base of the spine; the groin; the belly; the heart and lungs; the throat (along with the shoulders); eyes and forehead; the top of the head.

Continue to rest in the growing sense of your Spirit.  It flows into you and out of you with each breath; it pulses in every bone and blood vessel inside your body; it sparkles on every cell of your skin and hair; it shines through your eyes.  You can savor this as long as you like!

The Realms Within

After exploring sound, breath, and the sacred spirit-presence of our physical bodies, we can prepare to enter Inner Realities.  This is an important part of each person’s own soul-exploration and growing empowerment.  It can take many forms, with various energies, images, and powers arising.  Therefore, it seems best to devote another post to this.  Just rest in this: the True You, deep and vast, wonderful and powerful, awaits you – and is already emerging.  Journeying into the Inner Realms allows us to experience and activate this . . . it cannot be described.  It is You: the Dwelling Place of the Divine.