Over Easter this year I was lucky enough to go to the Christ Consciousness Conference at the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland. There were many interesting talks but Philip Roderick, the founder of the Quiet Garden Movement and Contemplative Fire, particularly touched me. During his talk, he said in a very relaxed way that he had a deep intuition that the events of Jesus’ life had cosmic significance for the evolution of humanity.
I liked his tone. He was not asking us to believe or worship anything. He was just sharing an intuitive truth for himself and inviting people to contemplate it too. I also liked his comment because it reflected my own sense. Brought up in an atheistic home in central London filled with scepticism about religion, as a teenager I too had the same feeling about Jesus. Something happened in Palestine two thousand years ago that was a cosmic shift for the whole of humanity.
But what exactly does that mean?
Many mystics have explored the cosmic meaning of the Gospel story and they tend always towards the same conclusion, which will probably not surprise you at all. In a mysterious way that we do not fully understand, the events of Jesus’ life channelled a cosmic energy into the whole of humanity, blessing us with the potential to be more loving, compassionate and conscious.
This, for many, is the heart of mystic Christianity. The Gospel story is not just about Jesus but suggests the extraordinary idea that Love is an active cosmic agent transforming and manifesting in everything including everyone of us. Isn’t this one of the most profound and precious aspects of spirituality? Surely everyone who has ever given or received healing or been touched by the sheer beauty of existence knows about this Love.
From this perspective the real message of the crucifixion is not about suffering and sacrifice, but is about a Love that is fully earthed into the physicality of our lives. In the Gospel story we can see that this is not a disembodied concept, but is fully incarnate in flesh and blood. This is a crucial, isn’t it? Our spiritual purpose is not to escape away into the bliss fields and heaven, but to bring Love fully down into all people and Earth, creating a harmonious and beautiful human society.
Some readers will be familiar with the symbol of a rose at the centre of a cross, representing how love, the rose, is incarnate into matter, the cross. This powerful spiritual idea that Love must incarnate fully into humanity is also reflected in the Bodhisattva vows of Mahayana Buddhism in which monks and nuns affirm that they will not seek awakening and liberation purely for themselves, but will strive until all sentient beings have achieved the bliss of Nirvana, until Love is universally present.
This great mystic vision, we might feel, is all very well for monks and nuns but as we go about the daily rhythm of our normal lives — pay the rent, clean the house, help with homework — it might seem a bit beyond us.
But there is another crucial spiritual insight that we need to hold in our awareness and in our hearts, which is that the cosmic incarnation of Love is at the core of all of us. Â It is the very essence of our soul’s journey.
Suppose that I ask you, Why do souls incarnate at all? Why is your soul on this journey of incarnation?
You might reply in a very personal way about how you, as a soul, are developing love, compassion and consciousness. Or you might expand your perspective and reply: My soul, like all souls, is part of the cosmic breath incarnating Love into form.
The rose on the cross and Jesus on the cross symbolically teach us that every soul is an agent of Love incarnating into matter. There are also many other spiritual paths that convey the same truth. Over and over again in esoteric and pagan traditions we find teachings about angels, gods and goddesses who fall from heaven but rise again. In some of the ancient mystery schools these great myths were acted out in sacred theatre and ritual, and in all of them the core message was that your soul is the same as these angels and gods. We are all fallen angels and deities, bringing Love into incarnation and manifestation.
And here and now on a practical level, cleaning the kitchen, supporting our family and friends, what can we take from all of this that is practically useful and inspiring?
For me there are at least two crucial elements. The first is that we need to trust that Love is not just something out there, some ideal that we will realise in the future, but that it is already fully within us, part of our very fabric as human beings, souls with bodies. Sometimes I visualise this as being like characters in a Christmas pantomime. There we are on the stage looking for Love — and the audience is shouting: It’s inside you!
The second thing that is crucial for me — perhaps for you too — is for us to remember that our own personal struggle to grow and transform is never isolated. We are part of a cosmic process bringing Love into manifestation and often the easiest way to cooperate is just to relax, stop fighting, drop resistance and yield to it. This is not always easy I know — we can be obstinate creatures — but what a relief it is when we just surrender to Love.
I have a problem with people who spout about spirituality but do not actually do it. My first taste of this was at school where the head teacher and his wife preached a gospel of kindness but behaved like bullies. You probably all have your own stories.
SNAKE OIL SALESMEN
For forty years now I have been involved in the new spirituality that is emerging in our culture. I love it. We can call it new age, or holistic, or contemporary. Like all spiritualities, it has its beauty and it has its shadow sides. One of its shadows and not a new one is the promise of a quick fix. John Diamond, the journalist who died of cancer, once likened new age teachers to snake oil salesmen.
Another problem is the way in which people get fascinated by the promises, the glamours, the reassurances and the entertainment. And then don’t do the actual spiritual work. If you think Im too opinionated, remember that I have tasted more spiritual paths than some people have had hot breakfasts. (Is that a boast or a confession? Should you pity or envy me?) For ten years I co-directed the Alternatives Programme at St. James’s Church, Piccadilly, and experienced the cream of the worlds spiritual teachers. I have personally put on 600 or so lectures plus several conferences.
You name it. I have heard it. There were many inspiring jewels and also some weird ones. I especially remember a Feng Shui teacher who advised audience members to put small pieces of aluminum foil on their shoulders to bring them power and success. My favourite bizarre folk were the Course in Miracles teachers from the southern states of the USA who threatened us with hell if we did not surrender to Gods all embracing forgiveness. That was an interesting mixed message.
THREE CRUCIAL QUESTIONS
One of the beauties of contemporary spirituality is its diversity. We are the first generation ever that is able to look at all the worlds spiritual traditions. This gives us a unique opportunity to see the core practices that they share. Despite all their differences for example, from meditation to ecstatic dance there are great similarities. It is like sport. No matter which particular sport you practice golf, swimming, tennis you still need to practice certain core skills such as fitness, muscle tone and stamina. Spirituality also has its core skills. Let me ask you three simple questions that illustrate this. The answers to these questions will show whether you have the basis of Spiritual Practice.
(But why, you may ask, would you want to do spiritual practice? Because, like piano or yoga or football, you want to get better at it! To become more awake and conscious. To be more connected. To soak in the beauty and wonder.)
Anyway have a look at these three questions and answer Yes or No:
1. Spiritual Connection: Do you connect with the pure wonder of existence?
2. Reflection: Do you reflect on your development and consciousness and seek to guide them?
3. Service: Do you try to live a life is of benefit to others?
If you answer Yes to those three questions then, according to most traditions, you already understand and observe the three core skills of Spiritual Practice. Do them regularly and with consciousness and you actually have an ongoing and grounded rhythm.
So the next important question to ask yourself is this: At least once a day, do you do them? Do you connect with the wonder of life and soak in spirit? Do you pause and reflect? Do you benefit others?
You can do all this in whatever way works best for you. There are so many different strategies and styles contemplative, shamanic, traditional, dance, chant, landscape, healing, psychological and so on. All you need is to take responsibility for yourself and guide yourself into a rhythm of daily practice, so that ultimately it all becomes one ongoing flow of awareness and experience. This requires a great mix of spiritual maturity and continual innocence at the newness of each moment.
Whether you develop your Spiritual Practice in one of my courses or elsewhere, let me share with you what I believe a consistent practice will give you. If you regularly soak in your experience of spirit, and consistently guide the growth of your consciousness and of your usefulness, then you will receive what most people really want:
A sense of personal integrity, not dependent on material success or the opinion of others
Love and compassion
Deepening connection with the pure wonder of existence
A stable foundation for personal and career development
A clear sense of morality and ethics
Friends and family will enjoy your company more
Quiet leadership qualities
The necessary foundation for exploring energy work, the inner worlds and altered states of consciousness
Keeps you alert and intelligent
A sense of being in the driving seat of your life
Genuine enjoyment of life whilst being solidly present to the challenges and suffering
Consistent spiritual growth
Although it can be challenging to maintain a daily practice, look at those benefits! They are the best. Nothing else compares
I feel like ranting and being flip about serious stuff. This is a protest to the Great Joker who set up the cosmos and created a particularly weird outpost for these peculiar little creatures we call humans, us.
Oh yes, I know that we are all supposed to have some level of choice about who and where we are, but I don’t remember ever being asked whether I wanted to exist in the first place. I don’t remember ever being presented with a simple tick-box question. Yes or No. Would you like to enter the time/space dimension? Would you like to become a conscious being? Would you like to be caught in the long suck of time, perpetually drawing you forward into change? Would you like to be a soul that can make choices?
That last question is of course very tricky, because at some point presumably I could not make choices so I could never have chosen to be able to make choices, could I!
But here, for me, is the biggest paradox. It is totally bizarre that as a human being (who was given no choice in having choice) I am able simultaneously to be both a primal self-interested reptilian creature and a soul with cosmic consciousness. Arghhh.
Now I know full well that some of my readers may be squeaky clean and only focus on the Light, always wear freshly ironed clothes and never fart, but sometimes, you know, you just have to let rip! Don’t you? Don’t you ever just go mad and need to scream and rant? (Whats that, missus? You’re nicely controlled and never do that kind of thing? Well, loosen up, sister, loosen up.)
Botticelli: Dante’s Inferno
ONE GOOD MEDITATION
Why all this explosive communication? Because over the last six months I have had the greatest expansions of consciousness and sensations of Love that I have ever experienced and it has shaken me up! They have happened mainly in meditation.
Since my early twenties I have had a daily meditation practice which I love. Most importantly, it gives me the space and time to relax and centre into myself and then let my heart, mind and body, my full consciousness and psyche, be aware of what exists be aware of the rain cloud of knowable things. There is no greater pleasure than to sit like a great radar disk, open, receptive, allowing impressions, sensing the wave fields, beings and dimensions that permeate this wondrous, multidimensional cosmos. As Sogyal Rinpoche once said about meditation, If you don’t come out of it feeling better than when you went in, you’re doing something wrong.
In a good meditation, I can pass through dozens of different states. First, there are all the changes to my feelings and energy field, as I slow down, centre and breathe through my various levels of agitation. Second, there are all the impressions and sensations that belong to my relationships, social life and work. Then I just breathe and witness the flow of the infinite field. No wonder Yogananda in his classic biography stated, One good meditation is worth a years living.
And sometimes what happens in meditation is startling and dramatic. On my website journal in August last year I began to describe a new consciousness I was experiencing, but then I couldn’t write anymore about it. It was too complex, challenging and intense.
On one side, I was ecstatic. I was finally passing through a threshold that I had first felt some twenty-five years ago. I knew this new state of consciousness was there, but I had not been able to expand into it. Trying to achieve it only made it more distant. At last I was calm, soft and open enough that my psyche was able to melt and stretch into a new form of awareness, witnessing the witness, and connecting with new fields of benevolent bliss in dimensions I hardly understand.
This was and is a huge and profound blessing that I am still integrating. But I don’t want to sound as if Im boasting: Look at how expanded my consciousness is! Admire my shiny new awareness and deeper connection!
THE CHALLENGES OF THE CYCLES
I cant boast about it because there is another rougher side to all this, which all of us experience in the cycles of spiritual growth.
When we open, sense and receive new impressions and fields, there are wonderful sensations, expansions, enlightenments and illuminations. But, at the same time, our nervous systems and psyches are more vulnerable. As we open, we also become more raw. New energy floods into us. It is benevolent but it is also powerful and we can become over-stimulated. At the same time too, our usual everyday sense of self may be shaken up, transformed and fragmented and our reptilian survival psychology may become agitated, anxious and taut.
Already vulnerable, the new energy fuels and vitalises every aspect of ourselves. Everything we are is amplified. Not only are love, wisdom and goodwill greater than before, but so too are all our negative patterns of insecurity, defensiveness and aggression. Our soul consciousness is expanded but so also is our primal unconscious. Stuff lurking in our psyches underworld slithers out of the dark recesses of our shadow self to experience light and transformation.
This is the normal rhythm of spiritual growth, initiation and expansion. More energy, more connection, more consciousness will all stimulate challenges.
So here I am, folks. In a new state of connection and awareness and also in a new state of challenge. Luckily, gracefully, I am almost through the turbulence of that piece of growth and I can feel the solid base of integration. Thankfully I have been here before many times and I know this cycle of expansion and challenge. It is normal and healthy. I even teach about it and try to help others with it.
So here’s the gist, brothers and sisters. Be prepared. When spiritual growth surges, new energy flows in and it will vitalise and shake up everything within you. And right now it would be completely inauthentic of me to write about all that in a sweet, poetic prose style. Mystics are also intrepid explorers, aren’t we?
I look forward to the next test on the journey, because it is always worth it. I’ll meet you there, on the next swerve.
THESE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPHS WERE ADDED A COUPLE OF WEEKS LATER
In the above article I wrote about a new dimension of consciousness that I had been trying to enter for over two decades – and how sublime and wonderful I found it. What I do not want to do is set up a hierarchy of consciousness in which my new consciousness is particularly special. It is special – but only to me. It is happening only and 100% in my private, internal reality. It may be, for example, that this new mind-heart zone I have finally entered is one that other meditators comfortably inhabit all the time and take for granted.
I write this partly because one person wrote to me and asked whether she too was about to achieve that level of consciousness as if there were something elevated about it. I did not feel comfortable about that. A long time ago I jokingly commented that meditation was for remedial students. We meditators were just trying to catch up with people who were already naturally nice and had good karma. Sometimes I think that what I said is true. But elsewhere Ken Wilber quotes one of his colleagues as having done some research which showed that if people between the age of 25 and 50 did not meditate, they experienced no spiritual development at all! Ta Ra! Ta Ra! One of the gifts of human beings is to be opinionated and entertaining.
The Mother of the World, the Goddess, the female aspect of divinity, has deeply influenced me. Let me tell two personal stories in order to illustrate this.
One is about a visit to Lourdes. The other involves me hanging upside down and a wet dog . . .
The first story happened when I was in my twenties and driving with my partner across France and Spain in a Volkswagen camper van. My partner was a left-wing feminist and had no time for Catholicism and its worship of Mary, so was not too happy when our route took us via Lourdes and I said that I wanted to visit the shrine. So she stayed and rested in the van while I went in.
Following custom I lit a candle and knelt. I did not say any prayers or even think them. I wasn’t expecting anything. Basically I was just happy to be out of the van and in an unusual and new setting.
Within a few minutes I was having an overwhelmingly positive experience of an atmosphere and a vibration I had never felt before. It was strong and oceanic. It was safe and reassuring and healing. A wave of healing grace enfolded me. In those moments, for the first time in my life, I experienced the full presence of the divine mother. Are those the right words? I am not sure.
Suddenly I understood all the Lady chapels in every Catholic church across the world and the women who light candles and pray in them. I experienced a deep soothing comfort, that of a loving mother whose light touch could never smother or intrude, but would always just be there as a reassuring and healing comfort.
My experience, of course, was not unusual. This is precisely how millions of people experience the female dimension of deity. She gives comfort and healing. As represented in the figure of Mary, she is always delicate and graceful. Her representation in the East, as the Goddess Kuan Yin or White Tara or Lakshmi, is also similarly modest.
Be careful though. Do not imagine that this grace and subtlety are signs of weakness. In Qi Gung and Tai Chi, for example, there is a clear teaching that the softer and more subtle the energy, the deeper it can penetrate into us.
This is one of the great powers of the Mother of the World, the Madonna: surrender to her and she will comfort you completely.
SURRENDERING WITH A DOG AND A CAT
Champ and William (2013)
My other story is very different. It involves one of my dogs, one of my cats and a health device for hanging upside down.
Every morning immediately after I wake up I take my two dogs, Daisy and Champ, mother and son, two big white standard poodles, for a walk. Whatever the weather I really like this walk across fields, along the River Brue, with Glastonbury Tor only a mile away. I have all the right gear and am even happy in the pouring rain. The dogs have rainwear too otherwise their coats can be a nightmare to dry. After the walk I then always do my morning meditation.
On this particular day there had been a light drizzle and I had not put on the dogs’ rainwear, so I dried them with a towel and went to my room to meditate. My back however felt a bit tight and I decided that before meditation I would hang upside down for fifteen minutes. I stepped into my inversion device, fastened my ankles and carefully allowed myself to tilt backwards until I was hanging upside down. This is wonderful therapy for my spine, opening it up vertebra by vertebra, taking all the weight off it and allowing it to stretch and expand. I have used it regularly since a horrible back crisis twenty years ago and it is a wonderful part of my sustained good health. In fact I have a friend who is ninety-eight and hangs upside down every morning for thirty minutes while chanting hare krishna. And he is definitely still sparkling.
As I hung upside down that morning, relaxing and beginning my meditation, I heard the door of my room being pushed open by Millie, one of my two birman cats, who years ago seduced me (I had previously just been a dog person) and who likes to sit on me while I meditate. Of course, she gets confused when I am hanging upside down, so she plodded and prowled around, bonking against my head, rubbing against me, not quite sure where my lap was and why I was inverted. Her tail kept going up my nose.
Then my door was pushed more widely open and in plodded Champ who is a huge lovely and well-meaning boy with a heart of gold and the brain of a dog. He too sometimes likes to lie against me when I’m meditating. He sniffed around me, sniffed the cat (they are friends and often sleep together) and then with great affection rested his head against mine. He was still wet from the walk and smelt. I now had two animals circling, sniffing each other and me, and rubbing against me or leaning on me.
By now I was beginning to smile.
Then Champ stepped away a few inches and gave himself a full doggy shake and I was showered with the excess water from the walk. Millie meowed in protest. I laughed. And then they both came back to me, Champ resting his head on one side of my face, Millie purring and licking the other. While I all along remained hanging upside down.
I loved it.
I loved being part of this playful world of well-meaning, friendly and happy animals. I liked the safety and joy of the affectionate rough and tumble game. I liked being a happy creature with other happy creatures.
Still hanging, I gave thanks and I found myself thinking of all the times that I, as a parent and friend, had played with children, making homes under sheets spread across chairs in the lounge. Face-painting and decorating each other; splashing, bubbles and balloons. Play is wonderful. There is something truly magical when animals play together in safety and happiness.
For me, that joy in our creaturehood is protected and nurtured by Mother Nature. Mother Nature safely holds and supports us. She creates space for her children to play and be joyful.
Mother Nature is also surely the Mother of the World, the Madonna of all life. If you have not done so already, perhaps you might like to call her more fully into your life with a prayer or a candle or a simple thought of gratitude.
Recently I have been having an enjoyable time flower arranging a conference. No, I am not referring to the floral bouquets that you may find on the stage or in reception areas. I am talking about arranging the timetable and the speakers.
I first heard this phrase from a close friend who worked for the United Nations when we were organising the schedule for a conference at the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland. I was trying to decide which speaker should go first and who should go next, and what would be the best flow for the participants.
‘Flower arranging,’ my friend said. It was a perfect way to describe the process. Get the timetable and the sequence right and the whole conference becomes an enjoyable bouquet.
Behind the scenes, this flower arranging can go on almost until the last moment depending on the personal schedules of the speakers. All may look very calm at the front, but backstage organisers can be desperately juggling times and sequence.
But as well as flowing well and looking good, a conference bouquet must have a fragrant aroma too. It has to have a good atmosphere. And that is why I am really enjoying scheduling this conference on Spiritual Care in Glastonbury next May, because all the speakers are both knowledgeable in their own field and also have a loving vibration.
If I mention the names of just two of the speakers you will understand what I mean. One is David Hamilton, author of ‘Why Kindness Is Good For You’ and ‘The Contagious Power of Thinking’. Another is Sister Jayanti, the inspiring United Nations wisdom keeper and European leader of the Brahma Kamaris.
Yes, the conference has a good aroma! (All right, I know that some of my readers are now saying that they have had enough of the floral metaphor. But let me have just one more. How about Sweet William Blooming? Sorry.)
Our conference is all about how spiritual care can best be integrated into education and healthcare and has been inspired by all the emerging initiatives to bring spirituality into the mainstream. One of these, for example, is the recent initiative promoted by Jane Cummings, the Chief Nursing Officer for England, and Viv Bennett, Nursing Director of the Department of Health, to in their words, ‘develop a culture of compassionate care.’
In fact, all across the British Isles in healthcare, in social services and in education, there is a clear understanding that good practice must always include spirituality. Some of you may be surprised to learn that the biggest interest group in the Royal College of Psychiatrists is the spirituality group.
Most of you though will, I am sure, be aware of the recent moves to integrate mindfulness meditation into healthcare and psychotherapy, because of the valuable benefits of being able to pause, step back and witness our thoughts and feelings.
To be truthful though I have always been a bit suspicious of the word ‘mindfulness’ and would much rather that we used a new word like the one I have just made up: ‘kindfulness’.
I’m suspicious of mindfulness because I associate it with some harsh attitudes that I met in my early years of spiritual enquiry. When I first started exploring meditation I once sat in a group for example where the teacher hit my back with a stick in order to sting me into the right posture. I also experienced meditation teachers who harshly barked at students that their minds must be completely empty and silent, not realising the spiritual benevolence and acceptance that permeates true silence and emptiness.
I have often wondered about this harshness and think perhaps that it may be because over the centuries men — not women — have mainly taught meditation; and that many of these men were associated with martial arts traditions, so approached meditation as if it were a fighting skill, requiring discipline, determination and internal ruthlessness.
Also in this particular approach to meditation I have often encountered a rudeness and elitism. For a while in my twenties I too carried this unpleasant attitude, believing that my ability to be a detached witness of all my thoughts and emotions, and a detached witness too of other people, made me superior. Yes of course, the ability to step back and witness is a fundamental tool of meditation, mindfulness and consciousness expansion, but obviously it needs to be done with compassion, wisdom and a warm heart.
From a purely selfish perspective, cold detachment is a damaging trait, sending messages of punishment and anxiety through our neuro-endocrinal system, causing tissue tension and depleting our immune system. And when directed towards others, it can frighten and intimidate.
Hence I prefer my made-up word kindfulness. As a young man, having learned the discipline of mindfulness, I now had to learn to surrender to love and so then gravitated to the many teachings of compassionate meditation.
During this long process I also learnt something hugely important and which will I hope bring a great sigh of relief to many readers. To achieve a state of benevolent and compassionate detachment does not require the discipline of a formal daily meditation practice. A kind and wise heart will also take you to the same place. Â I have met many lovely people who through having a good heart and a kind attitude have slipped instinctively into being able to step back and observe what is going on with a loving and wise temperament.
So I suggest here that there are two parallel paths that entwine, balance and plait.
The first path is that of meditation and mindfulness, which then has to learn to develop and surrender to compassion and love.
The second path is that of the compassion and love, which then has to learn to be wise and mindful.
Of course they may happen simultaneously and they both take us to the same beautiful and enlightened place of spiritual development: awake, connected and loving.
I wish you waves of grace, inspiring experiences and real advances in your spiritual development. At the same time I pray for global healing and a harmonious, sustainable and just society.
Looking forward it might be good to assess how we might achieve change and I want to focus on two particular themes.
The first theme is about how humanity as a whole has peak experiences and how as a global community we experience collective moments of inspiration. Hugely significant and transformational global events do indeed affect all of us.
The second theme is aroundÂ hope. I do not mean wishful thinking, nor do I just mean an optimistic mood. What I am looking at is that deep spiritual experience when we find ourselves in a mystical state of love, compassion and wisdom, and in the words of the 14th century Christian saint Julian of Norwich we experience:
All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.
Those wonderful words about hope come from a spiritual knowing that transcends time and space, that love-benevolence-compassion is the underlying substance of all existence, in the beginning and in the end; and the journey of souls through suffering and pain is ultimately about revealing and integrating this love.
Of course this statement that all shall be well may be provocative to those who see it as a naive way of denying reality. But to be in a state of hope, to experience that all shall be well, is in fact a profound balm. It radiates love into human realities.
Sometimes it is difficult for us to acknowledge the love and wonder of life. Our glasses are half empty and we only see the negative stuff. The lows, the crises, the wars and famines, the ecological stupidity, the religious conflicts, the mad cycles of the global economic system. All this can be demoralising. We may previously have had peak experiences of spirituality and fully felt that God is Love, but worn down by the grind of daily life we may lose our sense of hope.
This is when spiritual practice is so crucial. The daily rhythm of taking time to connect with spirit is essential, creating a groove of connection to see us through rough and challenging times.
Groups, communities and humanity as a whole also experience peaks of inspiration. Have you ever, for example, been to a concert where you were part of a collective high? Could you feel the collective inspiration and joy around the recent London Olympics? Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony was a global blessing wasn’t it! Do you remember the first Live Aid concert when the whole world tuned into the idealism that Bob Geldorf initiated? Do you remember when the Beatles’ All You Need Is Love was broadcast globally and when John Lennon sang Imagine? These were collective experiences.
It was magic too for the whole planet when Nelson Mandela walked free and apartheid ended. Do you remember the fall of the Berlin Wall?
These are all global peak experiences. But would they be possible without the absolute wonders of modern broadcasting, media and digital technology? No wonder that Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the internet, was celebrated in the Olympics opening ceremony. For many mystics the internet is a tangible manifestation of humanity’s essential unity and connection.
There are many collective peak experiences through human history. There are also collective miracles if you choose to notice them.
Three hundred years ago, for example, the vast majority of people in the UK were uneducated and illiterate. Despite an increase in population from six million to sixty million, everyone today can receive education. Three hundred years ago life expectancy was approximately thirty-five years and two thirds of all children died before the age of four. Today life expectancy is passing eighty and children enjoy their childhood. Three hundred years ago running water in your home was a rare privilege and today it is there for everyone. Miracles! And yes, of course, they need to be spread to every corner of the globe.
The Renaissance too was sensational wasn’t it? And what about the Magna Carta? Or the founding of the United Nations and the World Health Organisation? And as students of spirituality, weren’t the lives of Jesus and Buddha global highs?
Is our glass half empty or half full? Do we see what is inspiring and wonderful? Every new-born child is a miracle. Every blade of grass, every cloud, demonstrates the magic of life.
In our personal spiritual lives we know that we have to integrate the high spiritual inspirations through a daily practice of compassion, love and mindfulness.
As a global community the inspiring highs also have to be integrated through careful, intelligent and committed daily endeavour. Education and health for everyone, harmonious societies, require work. It is ongoing daily labour that manifests the miracles in the real world. As Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb, famously said, ‘Genius is one per cent inspiration, ninety nine per cent perspiration.’ Inspiration and peak experiences ground and integrate through labour.
So here is my counsel:
Give attention to inspiration, progress and miracles.
Do practical things every day, appropriate to you and your situation, that build a better and more just society.
Spiritually, maintain an attitude of hope deep in your very core. All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.