Where Does Faith Begin?

Faith

i awoke scared today

of thoughts and what-if’s.

that list of things

that keeps us lonely

even amongst friends.

 

i pondered faith today,

wondering

where and how it begins,

each time in life

in each of us

in me.

 

it’s been said that faith begins where philosophy ends.

if this is true, then faith has nothing to do with knowing,

or rather, nothing to do with the kind of knowing rampant in the world today –

head knowing. i’m-right-because-you’re-wrong knowing.

head knowing. i’m-right-because-this is how i do it knowing.

it’s not that at all.

and it’s not all that.

 

to be with the wish

what would that be like?

the kind of wish that goes beyond what you know, what society knows, or what i know

the kind of wish that resists crystallizing into rigid certainty out of the pure urge for authenticity, reality. honesty.

the kind of wish that grows instead into something different,

something generative and beyond limits.

 

there’s a kind of hope that the idea of faith offers and it has to do with letting go of the very human habit and need for certainty

 

this kind of faith without certainty, ironically, requires immense faith

 

can i do this?

 

 

A Rare Kind of Dialogue

I happened upon the late physicist and author, David Bohm while conducting research for my Master’s thesis. Bohm wrote a ground breaking book called, Wholeness and the Implicate Order in which he introduced his interpretation of Quantum Physics. His writing about the nature of life at the sub-atomic level was lyrical but concrete, rational but intuitive. It captivated my thinking and informed my thesis proposing a non-dualistic way to think about the nature of experience.

Bohm was also actively engaged in applying his insights from Physics to the realm of communication in the form of dialogue groups and conversations with philosophers and spiritual masters. One person in particular with whom Bohm had several dialogues was with the world-renowned spiritual teacher, J. Krishnamurti. Below is one of many of their dialogues, titled “Krishnamurti & David Bohm on The Future of Humanity.”

I watched this and many other videos of his dialogues over and over again each time hearing something new and different than before. Not only did I hear something new with each viewing, but I experienced a change in the quality of my own thinking. I noticed, for example, that in watching Krishnamurti’s and Bohm’s ability to reflect before responding to a question, I began pondering/pausing before responding in a knee-jerk manner to a question.

Watching the two great thinkers interact was refreshing, even inspiring because it seemed to have nothing to do with being nice or polite or smart or better than, (or less than). In other words, nothing typical, in fact, quite atypical. And at the same time, there was something so completely normal and human in the way they conversed.

It planted a seed in me for that a certain kind of dialogue, one focused much more on listening than telling. Or at least, trying to listen more than tell/explain/prove/defend. The challenge I found was not so much to find others with whom I could dialogue, but to experiment and model aspects of Bohmian dialogue myself.

I’ve discovered that at the core of this challenge is the act of listening. It may seem counterintuitive to think of communication in terms of listening, but I’ve experienced it as an essential aspect. And not only that, learning to listen well is an ongoing challenge with infinite learning opportunities. At least it is for me.

 

On Change – An Excerpt from Rumi

Image of ChangeI had a difficult weekend. Still grieving the premature loss of my father months ago. After wrestling alone most of yesterday, I found a gentle place. And then a friend sent me this excerpt from Rumi.

Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?

        ~ Rumi

In fact, I don’t know which side is better – familiarity or the unknown –  and that is as much scary as it is wonderful. Will I experiment that today?

 

What Dancing in Cuba Taught Me About Listening

The following post recounts an experience I had during my first of many trips to Cuba from 1999 – 2012.
Dancing Man in Havana“Quiero una cerveza,” I tell the bartender

“Crystal o Bucanero?” he asks.

The two main beers of Cuba, one on the lighter side, the other, slightly more dark. Dame una Crystal,” I say with the pleasure that comes from being able to make a choice uncomplicated by having too many options.

Pouring the beer into a half-chilled glass, I suck it down. It’s a hot day in Havana. Just then an older gentleman approaches from a nearby table. Quieres bailar?” he asks with subdued confidence.

“Gracias, pero no hay musica,” I tell him, looking around the bar then back at him for agreement.

“No importa. Venga,” the gentleman replies, his right arm reaching out towards me.

Josef is a tall slender man, who looks part African and part Asian. He has strong lines on either side of his mouth that deepen when he grins revealing yellow-stained front teeth rimmed with gold. Despite this and the slight reek of cigar smoke, he’s enchanting. “Bueno,” I nod in acceptance.

He takes my hand and escorts me to a spot several feet from the bar then gestures for me to stand beside him. “Mirame, mira mis pies” Josef says, pointing both fingers at my eyes, then back to his feet. Standing with his feet ten inches apart, he leans forward just enough for his arms to dangle free before him. He takes one step to his right then brings his foot back to its original position. Then he takes one step to his left and brings it back.

This is easy – I got this, I think. “Four steps…that’s it?” I say.

I bend my knees and step right, then back to center, left, then back to center, just like he showed me. After a few more attempts, I speed up, making me believe that I’m doing well. Turning back to Josef, in anticipation of his praise, his expression tells me otherwise. Scratching the back of his head with a perplexed look on his face, he taps his chest and tells me I have to listen to the rhythm from inside. Marking each step slowly, he claps out the rhythm, “Uno, dos….(y)…tres-cuatro-cinco; Uno, dos….(y)…tres-cuatro-cinco.”

I recognize it immediately from my Cuban dance class. It’s a rhythm of the clave – two smooth wooden sticks that when played together provide the foundational pattern for Afro-Cuban music.

Closing my eyes, I try to focus on his voice and the rhythm. Clap, clap, (pause) clap-clap- clap. How am I supposed to keep my belly relaxed and my knees bent at the same time? And my feet, it’s as if they have their own brain. (Now I know how men feel about that other body part of theirs.) This should be easy for me, but it’s not. It feels foreign. And what’s up with this should in my mind? No doubt it’s from my identity as a dancer. A dancer with twenty years of experience! But who cares about all that experience if in this moment, I can’t even follow a simple step.

I wish I could do the step the way Joseph’s doing it – on the beat and with total commitment.

Focus. Relax. Listen. I tell myself. Keep it simple. Breath. Move from the breath in sync with the rhythm. That’s the only task.

I look over at Josef, who looks back at me, bending his knees even more, as if to challenge me to do the same.

I focus on my feet; right, then back to the original position, then left, and then back to center. Breath, focus, sink into the rhythm. For a moment my hips, torso and shoulders seem to move in concert and with the least amount of effort.

Lowering myself even closer to the floor to match Josef, my thighs begin to hurt and my legs shake. I look down, lose focus and almost fall over myself. Josef’s elegant and precise movements are beyond reach for now. Our wordless dialogue continues for a moment before I have to stop and rest. Catching my breath, I ask him, “Que hace a un buen bailador?

With a glint of mischief in his eyes, he says, “Tienes que escuchar a Dios,”

 

Note: While the man in this photo is not the actual Josef I danced with (unfortunately, I took no photo), this gentlemen exudes Josef’s joy and warmth.

The Power of Presence

 

This video caught my attention because I was curious about the person behind the Mr. Rogers of my childhood memory.

I was irritated at first at Mr. Rogers’ slow pace – I went immediately to judgement, thinking, here we go he’s going to talk the same way he does in his children’s show? I’ll never get through this!

But in just a few minutes of listening to him speak something changed. I found that the more I focused my attention on listening, the more I heard both the words as well as the energy surrounding the words. I heard more, something beyond, or before words. Also, in slowing down to listen, I slowed down. Tension that I wasn’t even aware of, lessened. A different, energy replaced it, helping me not just hear what he was saying, but encounter something calmer inside.

It seems that something shifted for Senator Pastore, the person Mr. Rogers is addressing in the video, as well. The power of presence. What is this quality of presence that inspires us to not just hear but to listen?

An Epic Dream

There are many types of dreams, Healing dreams, Recurring dreams, Lucid dreams, Nightmares, etc. One type of dream that’s less common, at least in my 50 years of living and sleeping are Epic dreams.

Epic dreams, sometimes referred to as Great or Numinous dreams are vivid and compelling, so much so, detail can be remembered for decades. They’re rich with archetypal symbolism and leave the dreamer feeling that she’s discovered something precious and rare upon awakening.

I’ve had one epic dream so far in my life. It was in November of 1993, I was in graduate school at the time.

I was in a huge, empty house with many rooms. I was compelled to walk through the house until I reached the last room. With my nose against the wall, I realized that I could go no further. There was a long moment in which I decided that I could move through the wall. To do this I intentionally expanded awareness to the level of my cells. As I did so two things happened: I saw and felt space between my cells and I moved through the wall.

Change

When I woke, the experience shocked me – I’d never before been so acutely aware of myself as a `process of becoming,’ as such. That is, it seemed that the only way to actually move through the wall was to focus attention on both my thinking self and my doing self. Another way to describe this is that to move through matter I had to embody a quality of being simultaneously aware of it self as the observer and observed. I had the strong impression that if I were to identify with one or the other, I’d lose a certain dynamic quality and become inert, making it impossible to move through the wall.

Even more bewildering was the fact that I could not draw upon Cartesian reasoning to further elucidate how change occurred to result in me moving through the wall. That is, if a person changes – both in state and position – how does one explain the occurrence without presupposing a division between Observer and Observed or subject and object? I could not presuppose this division because was not how I experienced it, which would be, ironically, unscientific.

The dream reminded me of encounters I’d had as a dance therapist, an artist, a friend – listening deeply to another or oneself…a kind of somatic experience of inner space.

In this state, it seemed to me that change occurred as the result of a certain quality of attention. I reasoned that if there were a way to understand the nature of change of this quality of attention, then perhaps it could be more accessible…more possible.

I wrote my Masters Thesis starting with the question, How to think about how change happens without assuming originating separate parts? I proposed concepts from David Bohm’s philosophical interpretation of Quantum Mechanics along with concepts from Somatic Epistemology to derive a non-dualistic framework for thinking about non-causal change. That was in 1997.