Interspiritual Meditation - Taoist Meditation
Some say that my teaching is nonsense.
Others call it lofty but impractical.
But to those who have looked inside themselves,
this nonsense makes perfect sense.
And to those who put it into practice,
this loftiness has roots that go deep.
I have just three things to teach:
simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and in thoughts,
you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.
-Tao Te Ching, tr. Stephen Mitchell, chapter 67
(Image courtesy of Wikipedia.org)
The Second in a Series of Interspiritual Meditations
“Subhuti, if anyone gave to the Buddha an immeasurable quantity of the seven treasures sufficient to fill the whole universe; and if another person, whether a man or woman, in seeking to attain complete Enlightenment were to earnestly and faithfully observe and study even a single section of this Sutra and explain it to others, the accumulated blessing and merit of that latter person would be far greater.”
“Subhuti, how can one explain this Sutra to others without holding in mind any arbitrary conception of forms or phenomena or spiritual truths? It can only be done, Subhuti, by keeping the mind in perfect tranquility and free from any attachment to appearances.”
“So I say to you –
This is how to contemplate our conditioned existence in this fleeting world:”
“Like a tiny drop of dew, or a bubble floating in a stream;
Like a flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
Or a flickering lamp, an illusion, a phantom, or a dream.”
“So is all conditioned existence to be seen.”
Thus spoke Buddha.
-Diamond Sutra: Chapter 32
The first in a series of interspiritual meditation experiences. Enjoy!
We recently returned from a beautiful experience at the Spiritual Directors International Conference in St. Louis, Missouri. The final plenary session involved interspiritual readings from seven religious/spiritual traditions.
A bell was rung, a practitioner of the tradition read the excerpt, and the bell was rung again.
We want to share the experience with you during the next week – daily we will post one of the sacred readings. You may want to practice passage meditation, lectio divina, or slow readings of the texts. You may want to have a bell or chime beside you as you read.
(As much as possible, we have tried to stay true to the translations read, and we may have taken liberties when the exact source was unknown.)
1. O doves that haunt the arák and bán trees, have pity! Do not double my woes by your lamentation!
2. Have pity! Do not reveal, by wailing and weeping, my hidden desires and my secret sorrows!
3. I respond to her, at eve and morn, with the plaintive cry of a longing man and the moan of an impassioned lover.
4. The spirits faced one another in the thicket of ghaḍá trees and bent their branches towards me, and it (the bending) annihilated me;
5. And they brought me divers sorts of tormenting desire and passion and untried affliction.
6. Who will give me sure promise of Jam‘ and al-Muḥaṣṣab of Miná? Who of Dhát al-Athl? Who of Na‘mán?
7. They encompass my heart moment after moment, for the sake of love and anguish, and kiss my pillars,
8. Even as the best of humankind encompassed the Ka‘ba, which the evidence of Reason proclaims to be imperfect,
9. And kissed stones therein, although he was a Náṭiq (prophet). And what is the rank of the Temple in comparison with the dignity of Humanity?
10. How often did they vow and swear that they would not change, but one dyed with henna does not keep oaths.
11. And one of the most wonderful things is a veiled gazelle, who points with red finger-tip and winks with eyelids,
12. A gazelle whose pasture is between the breast-bones and the bowels. O marvel! a garden amidst fires!
13. My heart has become capable of every form: it is a pasture for gazelles and a convent for Christian monks,
14. And a temple for idols and the pilgrim's Ka‘ba and the tables of the Tora and the book of the Koran.
15. I follow the religion of Love: whatever way Love's camels take, that is my religion and my faith.
-The Tarjuman al-Ashwaq, by Ibn al-Arabi, tr. Reynold A. Nicholson
Here at SGTI, we've just completed the second Residential Institute for our 18 mos. certificate program for interfaith/interspiritual guidance. Key to our learning about how to hold presence for and engage in sacred listening with people of any and all religious, spiritual and secular philosophies is interfaith immersion.
We maintain that it is not enough to engage in "book learning" about traditions other than our own to keep our hearts open and our listening skills fluid. It is not enough to have speakers come to talk about various traditions either. In order to build and maintain interfaith and interspiritual understanding, we need hands-on experience--immersion.
While in Chicago this week, we had two interfaith immersion experiences: at the Bahai House of Worship of North America in Wilmette, IL, and IMAN—the InnerCity Muslim Action Network located on the south side of the city. At each site, we had the unique opportunity to participate in religious services and to speak one on one with members of each tradition. At IMAN we also shared a meal which is always one of our hopes with any immersion experience.
Our students were especially touched by their experience at IMAN. They rated it as perhaps their favorite experience so far. This is likely because our students are deeply caring individuals whose hearts are social justice oriented. We learned about IMAN's community outreach efforts: a low cost/free family health clinic, the Beloved Community Ceramics Studio, behavioral health counseling services and "Green Re-Entry." "Through Green ReEntry, IMAN provides transitional housing, life skills education, and sustainable construction training for formerly incarcerated citizens in Chicago."
When we connect this way--heart to heart—interfaith merges with interspiritual and we learn just how similar we all are, especially within the context of spiritual values. Our practices and rituals may sometimes feel different, yet, we are able to connect on a deeper level by cultivating appreciative knowledge, one of the other core principles of our unique SGTI curriculum.
At IMAN, there was the call to prayer in Arabic, a "sermon/message" on gratefulness, and a felt sense of sitting on holy ground with one another, Muslim and non-Muslim, to experience the Sacred. The women students of SGTI were warmly greeted and spent time after the Friday prayer service with the physician's assistant of their health clinic. Her joy of service was evident and contagious. And inspiring!
Why interfaith immersion? Because by engaging in this way, we become deeply aware of how much alike we are. We all want to be happy, to feel safe and free, to do meaningful work, and to worship in our own way. And because, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "The end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the Beloved Community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opponents into friends. It is this type of understanding and goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age."
In August of 2017, SGTI's first cohort met in Chicago, Illinois, to experience its first Residential Institute. We've just posted slide shows from this stellar, interspiritual experience. They present a more in-depth look at our training, Interfaith Immersion experiences, along with Cultural Appreciation, and contemplative practice opportunities. Enjoy!
SGTI co-founder, Jan Lundy, has had an article published by Spiritual Directors International on their blog. Her piece, "Celebrating Spiritual Difference: Curiosity, Connection and Hospitality," features "5 Steps to Fostering Interspiritual Hospitality."
She writes, "I sense, however, because our rational minds are habituated to dominating every conversation, even the most mystical, that we may have to unlearn and relearn new ways of welcome; of holding presence for and being in Presence with others whose traditions may differ from our own. Let us consider the following ... (read more)
SGTI cofounder, Jan Lundy, offers this reflection on a powerful spiritual practice that can be engaged in by any person of any spiritual tradition. She provides an interspiritual breath prayer (peace inducing!) you might find useful for your inner life, as well.
This piece is currently being featured on the blog at Spiritual Directors International. View it here:
When it comes to accessing inner calm, my "go to" practice has always been connecting with my breath. As a young yoga student, I was amazed at the power of breath to take my mind off current stressors and into bodily ease. Even with that, I had a sense that "something" was missing when it came to a breath practice.
According to the Pew Research Center (Religion and Public Life), approximately 40% of millennials do not consider themselves religious and are not affiliated with any form of tradition religion. But does this mean that millennials are not spiritual? Or religious? Not necessarily.
Phil Couseneau, director of the Global Spirit series that airs on Public Television, presented a program recently titled, "The Power of Community - The New Monastic Movement."
In this powerful video segment, we see millennials, along with kindred others, forming dedicated contemplative communities, exploring their inner lives in a more interspiritual way. And, at the same time, bringing these values to the street, literally, through acts of altruism.
Enjoy a segment of the video here:
Learn more about the Global Spirit TV series here.
Nestled among hills and farms is a beautifully interspiritual and inter-religious city in southwest Michigan. Home to fewer than 10,000 people, Three Rivers hosts an intersection of three waterways: the St. Joseph River, the Rocky River, and Portage River. Since First Nations people first lived on the land, there has been noticeably significant spiritual energy. It is a gentle and peaceful energy that invites you in to silence, solitude, and connection.
In the area, there are five spiritual retreat centers, all neighbors and within walking distance of each other. These include St. Gregory’s Abbey, the Hermitage, Gilchrist, EarthSong Peace Chamber, and Apple Farm Community. One of only a few Episcopal monasteries in the US, St. Gregory’s Abbey is the oldest center in the vicinity, founded in 1946. The Hermitage is a Mennonite retreat center specializing in silent retreats, Gilchrist is an inter-religious retreat center operated by Fetzer Institute, EarthSong Peace Chamber is a First Nations retreat center where Nature and the inner world intersect, and Apple Farm Community is committed to psychological exploration in the vein of Carl Jung. Each center offers a unique contribution and retreatants may spend anywhere from a few hours to a month or more there.
Legend holds that “ley lines”, which are spiritual and mystical alignments of landforms, cross through the area. Each of the five non-profit organizations encourages seekers to wander through each other’s land and participate in open services or ceremonies. At St. Gregory’s you could attend one of seven daily liturgical services; at the Hermitage you could join retreatants in a silent sit or communal prayer time; Gilchrist has group meditation; at EarthSong you could participate in a drumming circle or fire ceremony; and at Apple Farm you could join a discussion around a topic about humanity and consciousness.
Most recently, while I was staying at the Hermitage, I took a walk through the property and made my way to the beautiful grounds of Gilchrist. On its land, Gilchrist has several sacred outdoor spaces with different religious and spiritual sanctuaries. These pictures reflect the diverse, yet unified spirit present in the in/visible world surrounding the five retreat centers.
Jeanette Banashak, PhD, EdD.
As I sit in the non-violent communication (NVC) training, I am pondering any difficulties that I have with anyone who is not like me. I ask myself if there are individuals or groups of which I’ve made “static assessments” or written off because their differences seem too great for me to resolve. According to NVC, every action an enemy takes is an expression of feelings and needs. When my needs are critically unmet, I can make an enemy of others. Maybe I have lacked in historical competence because I do not know their cultural history. Or perhaps I lack understanding or hope for change.
Rather than humanizing the other, I have demonized and diminished them, creating distance between them and me. Accessing empathy and self-empathy lessens the distance and creates connection to meet both of our needs.
Non-violent communication (NVC) was developed by Marshall Rosenberg in the 1960s. At once a communication practice, a spirituality practice, and a peace organization, NVC is deeply interspiritual. NVC practitioners see the other as sacred and having dignity; they see themselves in the same way. They practice mutual seeing – hearing each other at the core – and mutual assisting – giving and receiving without coercion and with freedom and gratitude.
The main intention of NVC is greater understanding and connection with the self and others related to needs. NVC defines needs as qualities that contribute to the flourishing of life – needs are ultimately the point of connection. A non-exhaustive list of needs has been created that fall under categories such as connection, physical well-being, honesty, play, peace, meaning, and autonomy. The key is being aware of my needs, being aware of your needs, and believing and living like each of our needs matters.
NVC is an interspiritual practice that offers a way to communicate what is alive in me (self-expression), connect with what’s alive in me (self-connection), and connect with what’s alive in you (empathy). It is a movement away from judgments, labels, demands, no choices, and towards inter-connection and intra-connection.
Even though I don’t fully comprehend the depth of compassion that exists in me, in you, in the world, I believe that what is required in this new era is, as Wayne Teasdale wrote, for religious and spiritual traditions to “pool their treasures of the spirit”. To any historical or current enemy: What gem do you bring to our open table?
Jeanette Banashak, PhD., EdD.
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Deepening the understanding, practice and importance of spiritual guidance across traditions.
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