It is amazing to consider how as infants we are one with everything. In time, of course, we learn how to distinguish between ourselves and others, between the world we carry inside and the world we move through. But ironically, the sages of all paths are those who, after lifetimes of experience, try to return to this primary state of Oneness.
When I think of the moments I have felt most alive, they all have the quality of joining all-of-what-I-keep-inside with everything-outside-me in a way that makes me forget myself. They all feel timeless and open-ended. Tenderly, the deepest moments of making love allow us to join in that Oneness beyond ourselves, as do certain moments of being immersed in great music or great open spaces. I have also felt this after long periods of swimming or running, or after long periods of being healthfully alone. I feel it when discovering what it is I need to write. Joy, it seems, is the feeling of that Oneness.
Not surprisingly, it is the risk to love—the risk to give our full attention—that lets what-is-eternal-within merge with what-is-eternal-without. In those moments of Oneness, we, as drops of spirit, join the larger river of spirit.
Sadaya Zimmerle transmits both lightness and spark over the phone, reminding me of her high-energy step as she led the Dances of Universal Peace that I’d attended. “At the Mendocino Sufi camp,” she says, “we get to do the dances for days. Tears come to my eyes, and I feel deeply held and loved and fully accepted. In the midst of dancing and also in chanting, I feel a deep clarity like I’m on the right track, and a deep well of joy. I might come to the Sufi dancing with all kinds of things on my chest, and it’s like that stuff gets sloughed off. Whatever pain I have gets gradually shed toward the surface, and I get down into joy.”
Sadaya’s selection is from Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divine. To see a preview, click on the link and then on the Google preview button.
On this Valentine’s Day, I lift up Dr. Chung Hyun Kyung (center). Dr. Chung has a very big heart, and she exemplifies the compassion of Kwan Yin. In her story in Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divine, she talks about the loss of her biological mother in her infancy, how it left “a big hole in my heart” and how, through meditation, this heart wound was transformed, becoming her biggest strength. “I learned in meditation that my biggest trauma was my biggest power when it was transformed.”
On this Valentine’s Day, as the plum trees begin to bud, may we glimpse the transformations in our lives and allow ourselves to savor that sweetness, even as they change yet again, and again.
Pictured with Dr. Chung is Arisika Razak and Sridevi Ramanathan, also featured in Birthing God:Women’s Experiences of the Divine.
Powerful narratives of suffering, love, and hope that inspire
both personal and collective transformation.
In Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divine, 40 women of faith describe inspirational, Spirit-filled moments: a Korean student feels the hands of God supporting her despite excruciating torture; a grieving pastor walks a labyrinth and rediscovers the Rock of her existence; a human rights advocate re-encounters Allah in an intensely visceral moment in the sun; a Salvadoran peasant woman under fire discovers within herself the God who gives her courage. Each woman’s story invites reflection and the deepening of readers’ own spiritual practices.
The morning I leave the Sacred Valley of the Incas, I take one long look at the mountains rising up around me and see our oneness. I realize that the incredible beauty of this mountain valley is my birthright because I am not separate from it. Here in the Andes or back at San Bruno Mountain near my home in California, I am part of the majestic and ever-expanding beauty of the universe.
Uncovered barely a hundred years ago, Machu Picchu was a temple city for the holy men and women of the Incan nobility, according to my guide. The Incas built their temples close to the sun, but caves were also important to them. Inti Machai is the cave I chose for meditation.
Inti Machai is like a tomb, an entrance into the heart of Pachamama, Earth Mother. After passing under slabs of granite, the same stone the Incas hewed for their temples and terraces, I found an altar and placed upon it my offering to Pachamama. Emerging from the cave-tomb, I felt like a newborn, both tender and strong. Sunlight and the green heights of El Cerro Feliz, the hill the people call Happy, greeted me. Words cannot express my gratitude, the immensity of my joy.
El Cerro Feliz
House tops (without roofs) and the mountain ranges