"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.
We are spiritual beings having a human experience."
Teilhard de Chardin
Three Streams of Meaning
When I began working as a counselor in 1972, it did not take long to notice that those who best weather the worst storms often have a different way of doing things. They may or may not be religious, but each seems to reach a deeper certainty of seeing that puts experience in perspective. It is hard to find the words to address this depth with the respect it warrants. Over the years, though, I have come to appreciate three ways of speaking about the kind of understanding that reshapes our way of being in the world.
Life after Life was first published in 1975, and ignited a firestorm of controversy. The author, Raymond Moody, interviewed survivors of life-threatening events, and summarized his findings in simple, non-religious language. Further research found that about a third of those who have such close calls describe having similar experiences. Profound peace, meeting a being of light, seeing lost loved ones, and undergoing a review of one's life have been reported across many cultures and faiths. The survivors I have spoken with usually talk with awe about feeling as if they had come home, and could never see life the same afterward. Most returned with a sense that they were here to learn to love and grow in knowledge. As a counselor, I want to understand what you know from your own experience.
Experience is also the cornerstone of Christian contemplation. It is in stillness that we can finally find the silent self that waits and remembers, the wiser "I" of clarity and conscience. The part of who we are that knows what is most important. Contemplation is not exclusive to Christianity, however. In the last year of his life, Thomas Merton, our most treasured contemplative, traveled to meet with fellow monks in other major faiths, and was delighted to discover the strong bonds of commonality that transcend differences in ritual and dogma. As a trained spiritual director, I try to listen at a level that appreciates this universality of our personal journeys.
My first stirrings of spirit occurred as a young child, hearing a story and song about the White Buffalo. "The legend says you'll find him, if your heart is brave and true." Tears surprise me as I write this, so many decades later. Funny, how timeless the memories of light might be. The foundation of First Peoples' perspective is the connectedness of everything. It sounds trite in the tellling, but the implications compel attention to the effect of every action, and inspire us to respect all forms of life. When I was adopted into the Chaloklowa Chickasaw tribe, there was a ceremony on the ancestral site that overwheImed me with a swell of eternity. In a way I can't explain, I felt the presence of those who had gone before, who were gathering to welcome us into the widening circle of life. As a pipe carrier, and member of this timeless community, I am honored to walk in wonder, with all my relations, and to bear proudly the name of Wind Listener.
Native American Spirituality