Posted by: MC | October 28, 2012

Matters of Spirit before the Election — and a second podcast —

Last night there were fireworks in the rain for the last game of the season for the Portland Timbers — our professional soccer team.  The season ended with a tie between the Timbers and the San Jose Earthquakes.  I wasn’t at the game.  And, true confession, I didn’t know about it.  But the sound was enormous for 20 minutes or more.  My imagination ran the gammut, but I remembered my friend Dia saying she’d just gotten a hefty parking ticket for leaving her car near the stadium on the one of two days during the year when you’re not allowed.  Bummer for Dia — and a help to me as my mind jumped about interpreting the sound.

It’s sadly amazing how easily first thoughts go to terror and attack these days.  Maybe that’s just me, but I’m guessing lots of people around the globe find their first interpretation to be one of catastrophe.  Likely it’s the fight/flight reflex — that essential lower brain response, the startle that can move a body quickly out of harm’s way.  Unfortunately, this response does not necessarily lead to peace and relief following the frightening event.  For so many reasons, we human beings have developed a heavy cache of trauma  over many of our lives and over the generations of our ancestors.  Together with the ceaseless stimuli of the 24-hour news cycle, for example, our systems are now spending way more time than they ought to in red-alert.  This is a story neuropsychology has come readily to tell of late.

But all is not lost — part of how I was able to get to the more real and certainly more harmless interpretation of, “Oh, fireworks at the last Timber’s game — cool.  Loud, but cool,” has to do with the way my brain has been fortunate to spend time in spiritual activity.  Mark Robert Waldman talked about this on TED back in the spring of 2010.  His language on it was, “God will change your mind.”  And he was speaking directly to the circumstances of chronic stress to which contemporary living exposes so many of us.  Waldman and his colleagues show through their science that contemplation of “God” by any name (i.e., via religion, spiritual practice outside religion or even more athiestic ponderings) is such an enormous idea that the practice forms massive dendritic systems that are notoriously protective in the face of things like stress.

Today is the third day of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage of millions of Muslims to Mecca.  This nearly incomprehensible convergence of so many people from throughout the world is one of peace.  It is of ancestral tradition and it is in devotion to “God.”  Today is also Sunday — the day many who align with Christianity, also globally, attend worship.  Yesterday was Shabbat and many times during the week people of Hindu, Buddhist and other Eastern spiritual traditions as well as people of indigenous traditions engage in their practices and observations of  this mystery that finally cannot be named.

Perhaps the contemplative tendency of human beings explains in part what I learned and keep learning from the 100 Voices.  They are for me consistent reminders of our better nature — of the enormity and reliability of that nature even in sharpest contrast, these days, to the derision and contention around the Presidential election.  In sharp contrast throughout recent years to the stories of terror and hate that pervade the media teaching the brain to be afraid — overly.  “God” by whatever name or by no name at all — the mystery represented by every day in a life — by birth and by death — by the turning of seasons and the shifting of circumstances — by the raging intensity of hurricane Sandy and the placid waters off San Diego — this mystery is a balm to the brain, the heart, the body, the mind, the spirit.  It’s worth remembering.  It’s worth trusting.

So, here’s the link for the second podcast of 100 Voices.   It’s called VOICES FROM CALIFORNIA.  From what I can tell, these voices are directly from that mystery.  They are part of what is changing our brains in ways that make for ongoing community, that make for love.  See if you hear this, too.  Check it out for yourself.

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