Thursday, May 05, 2016

"I Came Alive with Hope"

Celebrating 10 Years of The Wild Reed

I can think of no better way to mark the tenth anniversary of The Wild Reed than by sharing the following message I received from a young man in Ghana. With his permission I reprint (with added links) his January 12, 2015 message, accompanied by photos he subsequently e-mailed me.

Hello kind soul,

My name is Atsu Gadri, from Ghana.

I was researching about the dancer in the Alexander movie and was led to your blog. I was immediately drawn to your essays on dance and Sufi life.

I am a dancer myself, though I ceased dancing in 2011 due to depression. After reading the article on listening to the voice of the soul, and the other dance related articles, I came alive with hope. I found the balance you wrote about; I could get out of bed and take my daily class. I continued all the things that made my heart and soul soar.

You opened my eyes to another Catholicism, a sympathetic one.

I turned 24 last December, and my resolve to obey my calling to truly live with humility and colour was fired by accidentally coming across your blog.

Thank you, Mr Bayly, for making me dance again, for making me know how to feel again.

Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you, Atsu!

And my heartfelt love and gratitude to all who have contacted me over the years so as to let me know how much The Wild Reed has meant to them; how it has served as a source of strength, validation, and hope – a conduit of the transforming love of the Sacred Presence within and beyond us all.

I am deeply grateful that my writings – and my life and journey from which they emerge – have been such a conduit; that my creative endeavors have in their own unique ways embodied Jesus' "good news" of hope, compassion and human flourishing, of "life to the full."

And thanks again to Atsu for bringing all of this so beautifully and vibrantly to my awareness.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
One Thousand!
A Message of Heartfelt Gratitude
Better Late Than Never
The Soul of a Dancer
Soul Deep
Somewhere In Between
Liberated to Be Together
20 Years Stateside
The Australian Roots of My Progressive Catholicism
Michael Bayly: Changing the Church from Within
In the Footsteps of Spring
The Oak and the Reed (The very first Wild Reed post – May 5, 2006)

Images: On March 31, 2015 Atsu wrote: "[Recently] I performed as a dancer while painters worked on murals around the School of Performing Arts in the University of Ghana. A photographer captured some of the moments as, using music from The Rite Of Spring, I used movements to express an agonizing release from behavioral addictive patterns. This has been my first performance since I wrote to you. I hope you find them thrilling. Stay blessed. Cheers!"

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Called to the Field of Compassion

. . . to be both prophet and mystic.

I can't recall where I found the image above, but it's one that I really love. It shows a dervish standing in a flowering field. He looks very intentional, don't you think? I see him as preparing to dance a prayer of praise and surrender to the Divine Presence.

Part of this image's appeal is to do with the fact that for quite some time now I've understood myself to be a dervish – as one who stands, metaphorically, at a doorway – on the threshold of something. This something could be a new experience, a new phase of life, the next stage of a journey in awareness about oneself and/or life. It's something that usually contains both positive and negative aspects. For example, it generally feels uncomfortable, even scary to consciously move toward that which we know will change us, will transform us, even as, at a deep level, we know that such transformation is of divine origin and is what we long for. With all this in mind, I understand myself as not only a dervish but also a mystic, as one who desires and seeks intimate union with, and thus transformation by, the Divine Presence within and beyond us all.

I've come to trust that our individual and collective union with the Divine is changing humanity. I believe increasing numbers of people are living and serving as a collective dervish for humanity, ushering in a new way of being, a new level of consciousness.

In her book Field of Compassion, Judy Cannato explores this paradigm shift of which humanity is in the midst. It's a shift into a new level of consciousness, of awareness of our interconnection with and interdependence of each other, the planet, and the Divine Presence that imbues all things. She calls this type of awareness cosmic or unitive consciousness. Others refer to it as Christic consciousness. I believe it can also be understood as what Albert Einstein said in 1949 was that “new type of thinking . . . essential if humanity is to survive and move toward higher levels.”

This thinking has always been with us, but at this point in human history it's becoming the predominant way of thinking and being. For many, that's very hopeful and exciting. For others it's very scary, prompting them to fearfully retreat into a fortress mentality and embody lower level of consciousness, such as tribalism. One way we're seeing this being played out is in the rise of Donald Trump, with all its attendant fear, racism, xenophobia and violence.

I think it's true to say that Donald Trump and his supporters do not embody unitive consciousness. Nor do they display an openness to the paradigm shift taking place around them. But others – many others – are open to it, and are embodying it in their thoughts and actions. Following is how Judy Cannato describes the characteristics of such people and their relationships. Perhaps in this description you'll see yourself and/or the people and types of relationships that inspire you and give you hope. I know I do! (See, for example, here, here, here, and here.) And what with all that's happening in our world at this time, we surely need such inspiration and hope.

Imagine that the new human being – one with cosmic or unitive consciousness – has already arrived on planet Earth. . . . What characteristics will be both descriptive and essential? What will relationships look like? How will institutions look, and what will they be about? What will life on planet Earth look like when the new consciousness takes hold?

[I believe] that the new human being and its morphogenic field have already emerged. . . . The characteristics of the emerging human consciousness are not startlingly new. They flow out of the old and have been part of our consciousness for a very long time. Yet now they are named and spoken with a newfound conviction and urgency.

The characteristics so often named include love, care, compassion, freedom, courage, unity, simplicity, solidarity, belonging, diversity, empowerment, harmony, equality, and hope. Images that keep repeating are the circle, the spiral, and the dance. The new human is intuitive, has a sense of the whole, lives with integrity, has the ability to make sacrifices on behalf of the whole, is discerning, and takes risks. Relationships are based on mutuality and respect and genuine concern for the common good and are inclusive of everyone, including Earth itself. The new human is both prophet and mystic. The prophet is engaged in the material world, sees with great clarity, and calls the species to grace. The mystic is engaged in the transcendent world, drawn toward incomprehensible holy mystery and unafraid of grace. But far from being separate engagements, the prophetic and mystic roles entangle and have a unitive flow about them.

. . . The new humam who manifests a Field of Compassion not only receives grace but becomes grace. Once we enflesh it, we join with the Holy as co-creators who manifest grace in the world. It is not that we have never done this before – we are always living, breathing manifestations of grace. But most of the time we have been unaware, and awareness, clarity of vision, and the ability to focus – these are essential as we enflesh grace consciously in his moment of cosmic history. This work is at the heart of our capacity for self-transcendence; indeed, it is the fulfillment of self-transcendence itself in our time and in our day.

. . . The more whole we are, the more vital will be our relationships. We will bring into our being with others a sense of self in which egocentric need is diminished and the ability to connect whole-to-whole is possible. I think this is perhaps where the life of Jesus is so helpful for us. We see the wholeness in his strength, conviction, and courage. He never seemed to relate to others except from a place on integrity, mutuality, and love. He taught with an authority that came from the knowledge of the Holy Unity, not from any need to control. Those who listened and were caught by his message responded authentically – because he himself was authentic.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
In the Garden of Spirituality – Judy Cannato
Why Jesus is My Man
Jesus: Mystic and Prophet
“Joined at the Heart”: Robert Thompson on Christianity and Sufism
Sufism: Way of Love, Tradition of Enlightenment, and Antidote to Fanaticism
Michael Morwood on the Divine Presence
Genuine Authority
Gospel Leadership
The Model of Leadership Offered by Jesus

Recommended Off-site Links:
Judy Cannato: A Remembrance – Sharon Abercrombie (National Catholic Reporter, May 31, 2011).
Field of Compassion: A Review – Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat (Spirituality & Practice, 2010).

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Monday, May 02, 2016

Beltane and the Reclaiming of Spirit

Yesterday was Beltane, the Gaelic May Day festival. In ancient times it was generally held throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man at some point halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice and marked the beginning of summer. It was the time when cattle were driven out to the summer pastures and when rituals were performed to protect the cattle, crops and people, and to encourage growth.

In modern day Britain, Beltane continues to be celebrated; and, as you'll read below, is considered by some as a path to "rediscovery of what it means to be a human living in the world."

I see in festivals like Beltane an opening towards a new paradigm, a rediscovery of what it means to be a human living in the world. For the past half a millennium, our culture has placed more and more emphasis on the individual. We’ve separated the individual from the community, just as we’ve separated mind from matter and nature from culture. In doing so, we’ve separated consciousness from the physical, and carved up the world into a mathematical model where value exists only in numbers and everything is leveled down. We belong everywhere and nowhere, existing paradoxically as both masters of nature and as insignificant specks in the universe. There is no room in this worldview for the sacred. “God is dead” said Nietzsche, as this era began to culminate, “and we have killed him”.

Of course, there have been wonderful benefits from this rise of materialist individualism – modern science, medicine, technology, on the one hand, democracy and educational opportunity on the other. Yet as we push this paradigm through to its logical conclusion, we also encounter a darker side, epitomised by neo-liberal capitalism and the accompanying exploitation and environmental destruction, as well as a yawning gap in our souls, a lack of meaning that cannot be filled by shopping or by the 9-5 cycle of busywork and bar-hopping that is offered by the modern economy.

I see festivals like Beltane (and not only Beltane) as some of the first footsteps towards filling that gap. In that sense, we are not a ‘modern’ festival, and certainly not postmodern, but neither are we (nor should we, nor even could we) returning to some previous era. Yet in acknowledging the roots that ground us, exploring pre-modern ceremonies with modern eyes, we become pioneers of a new, un-named era.

The reclaiming of spirit that I see in Beltane is not a resurrection of old gods, but a way of understanding that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, of something which is more than the sum of its parts, in a way that transcends intellectual understanding. It’s a way (and not the only way) of experiencing magic and transcendence without playing make-believe.

By celebrating the season’s turn, we tune ourselves into the land around us. . . .

– Josh
Excerpted from "When We Dance Together, We Dissolve"
Beltane Fire Society
April 30, 2016

Song of Beltane

I am the calm, I am the quickening,
I am the intoxication and the force,
I am the silence, I am the singer,
I am the stallion galloping to its source.

I am the bright pavilion and the feasting,
I am the wedding couple and the bed,
I am the morning chorus and the heartbeat,
I am the goal to which all paths are led.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Return to the Spirit
"I Caught a Glimpse of a God"
Integrating Cernunnos, "Archetype of Sensuality and the Instinctual World"
The Body: As Sacred and Knowing as a Temple Oracle
The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
The Devil We (Think) We Know
The Pagan Roots of All Saints Day
Celebrating the Coming of the Sun and the Son


Sunday, May 01, 2016

Our New Possibility . . .

Earlier today I attended the 42nd annual In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre's Mayday parade in Minneapolis.

This year's Mayday theme was "Radical Returnings," and was all about "turning towards each other rather than away from each other, repairing our relationships and the earth, finding redemption and freedom in tune with the turning of the earth and the return of spring."

The two images I share today were part of the parade story entitled "Reparations on Our Soul." Lead artists of this section were Angie Courchaine, Jordan Hamilton, Junauda Petrus, Dee Henry Williams and Amm-Ra Seka. About this parade section the Mayday Celebration program says the following.

Our ancestors were never slaves. Even though they were stuffed in the bottom of boats with pregnant bellies and terrified hearts in awe of evil that would shackle soulful humanity. Some of them jumped off the boat and whisper still from the bottom of the Atlantic. So don't act like you forget. Blackness is our wild and resilient magic. It is time to pay back the debt to our souls.

Sweet ancestral resiliency is our magic. And Wild Seed is our new possibility. Black soul shapeshifts and we alchemized into Prince, Malcolm X and Collard greens, James Baldwin, Basquiat and Angela Davis, Rock and Roll and Toni Morrison, Candied yams and Hip Hop, Mae Jemison and Serena Williams, agricultural advancements, Paul Robeson, Alice Walker, James Brown and Nina Simone and the Nay Nay, Phoenetic Ones and Bro Suns and infiniteness.

More images of Mayday 2016 coming soon!

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
"And Still We Rise!" – Mayday 2015 (Part I)
"And Still We Rise!" – MayDay 2015 (Part II)
Mystics of Wonder, Agents of Change (Mayday 2014 – Part 1)
"The Spiritual Dialectic of WONDER?!" (Mayday 2014 – Part 2)
See the World! (Mayday 2013)
The End of the World as We Know It (2012)
"Uproar!" on the Streets of South Minneapolis: Part 1 (2010)
"Uproar!" on the Streets of South Minneapolis: Part 2 (2010)
Getting Started: Mayday 2009 (Part 1)
Celebrating Our Common Treasury: Mayday 2009 (Part 2)
Mayday and a "New Bridge" (2008)
The Time is Now! (2006)

Images: Michael J. Bayly.