Posts Tagged ‘Spirituality’

Outrageous Love

February 17th, 2014

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As a long-time participant in the Wisdom School offerings at Shalom Mountain, I am excited to share with those of you who may not yet have had the opportunity to experience the depth of community and the breath of love that is experienced in our Wisdom School weekends, the following invitation from Marc Gafni to join us this March 27-30.

–Victoria Myer

FROM MARC

Dearest Beloveds,

I am inviting you in this moment – in the name of all the great masters hidden and revealed, to our weekend March 27-30 - Loving Your Way to Enlightenment: The Path of Outrageous Love.  This weekend is about the search for the beloved. It is about the actual lived process of falling in love with the divine, your beloved and everything else. It is about the lived process of awakening into your Unique Self Enlightenment through writing your Sacred Auto-biography. It is about taking a radically sexy and awake dive into the deepest intimacy that we know- all the way and all ways. It is about falling in love with the divine in a way that is so potent, powerful and profound -that is so simple, straightforward and sincere, that your life becomes a sacrament and a service.

We live in a world of outrageous pain. The only response to outrageous pain is outrageous love.  We live in a world of outrageous beauty. The only response to outrageous beauty is outrageous love. 

What you want in your deepest source is not ordinary love. It is not an ordinary relationship with reality or with the beloved, divine or human.  What you want in your deepest essence is Outrageous Love.  Do not settle for anything less!

One direct and highly practical inquiry will sit at the core of all of our sacred play this weekend!   What does it take to be “lived as love” as the inner quality of your daily life? But not just as ordinary love. Not tepid love.  Outrageous Love!  During this weekend, you are invited to a level of practice, insight, and aliveness, which can potentially transform the rest of your life.

At the core of the whole thing is one practice:  Loving Your Way to Enlightenment.  Enlightenment doesn’t require heavy effort and asceticism. Enlightenment only requires that you choose love in all circumstances. Making this simple insight alive and real in your life is the change that changes everything. Something deep within us recognized that this is the secret.  But you can’t just decide to love. You need to find out how to ignite love in yourself. You need to learn the great practices for arousing love. To learn the way of the outrageous lover you need a “users guide to love.”

  •  There are three faces of love
  • There are three levels of love
  • There are three verbs of love
  • There are three languages of love

These are the four quadrants in your love map integrated from the great mystical traditions as well as from the deepest insights of modern science and psychology.  And you need a way to keep igniting your love core—through meditation, through chant, through contemplation, and through “outrageous acts of love” that change not only your relationships, but you yourself.

This weekend, we’ll open the doors together to the experience of outrageous love.  You will learn:

  •  How to ignite the experience of outrageous love within yourself
  • How to access the different qualities of outrageous love, including
  • Outrageous love as radical perception
  • Outrageous love as radical activism
  • Outrageous love as quivering tenderness
  • Outrageous love as radical self challenge
  • Outrageous love as radical  self- acceptance
  • Outrageous love as artistic self creation
  • Outrageous love as awakened imagination

Together with meditation, yoga, chant, and leading edge work with your inner psyche we will also share explore the next level of core practice which opens up the path for you as the outrageous lover.

  • Three Levels of Living your life as an Outrageous Love Letter
  • Learning how to write Outrageous Love Letters
  • And much more

A set of powerful insights, meditative transmission, and the practices we’ve created together, will make this weekend a profound experience of aliveness, joy and transformation for yourself and for the evolution of love on all levels of reality.

With much love

Marc

Register Now

www.iEvolve.org
UniqueSelf.com

MarcGafni.com

 

Eros Blooming

April 5th, 2013

 

by Vyana Bergen

Yesterday, I saw a crocus in the front garden of Shalom Mountain . . . no buds yet, just a green shoot of things to come, a glimmer of spring. I love that spontaneous surprise, after the long winter wait, when a fresh, newborn causes my heart to sing with joy. This season reminds me that each moment holds the potential of rediscovering the wonder of life, like the crocus which reminds me of the vulnerable beauty of the whole planet.

Gazing into a beloved’s eyes, seeing depth of their soul and the reflection of my own is another way to spontaneously awaken to the sacred. Throwing a ball for my eagerly bouncing dog, who has boundless energy to fetch, teaches me that the whole game of life is actually for play and fun. Calling a friend in need to offer consolation and warmth, and discovering it was me who was in need of giving love because my heart was feeling so full.

These are examples of opening to eros – the powerful force of love – in each moment. The erotic is not something that is meant to be limited to the bedroom, rather it meant to be discovered throughout the day . . . in every part of our lives. To build an erotic partnership is to practice and deepen with one’s beloved so that we can make love to each moment, to each crocus with our hearts, to each fetching dog with our laughter, to each friend with the warmth of our souls.

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If you are interested in exploring the erotic in your life and partnership, consider Erotic Partnership:  A Sacred Sexuality Retreat for Couples, May 2-5, 2013.  Led by Vyana Bergen, Cristian Graca, Shelly Reichenbach and Jeff Hilliard a sacred space will be created to explore Eros and the Divine through sacred partnership.  Call or email Shalom Mountain:  845-482-5421 or email@shalommountain.com with questions or to register for this couples retreat.  Shalom Mountain is located in the Catskill Region of New York.

Wisdom School Update

September 24th, 2012

Victoria Myer

 

By Victoria Myer

The Wisdom School at Shalom Mountain is an esoteric mystery school dedicated to transmitting and evolving the deep teachings of the spiritual traditions in service of the continued evolution of a world spirituality that spans and expands the wisdom across spiritual practitioners and religions.  The Wisdom school was co-convened by the Shalom Mountain leadership and Dr. Marc Gafni.  Marc brings an incredible depth of knowledge and wisdom from a lifetime of immersion in the study of the great spiritual traditions, along with continued deep conversation with current thinkers and philosophers of the modern world.  The Dharmic transmission that he brings to the Wisdom School is a process of teaching which brings to the student an understanding and experience of the essential elements of reality and expanded consciousness.  At the Shalom Mountain Wisdom School, he has also coordinated with Shalom leaders to integrate process work into the workshops to ground the teaching experiences.

Shalom Mountain has at the core of our own tradition been a community of seekers ultimately dedicated to the “journey to God”.  The deep personal work done at Shalom is the individual’s doorway to living into one’s unique contribution to the larger evolution of god consciousness in the world.  The commitment to honoring and understanding the sacredness of spirituality and sexuality as a core expression of God has been a place where Shalom has held a leading edge.   The Wisdom School with Marc Gafni, has offered our next step to a much greater level of depth and expansion in evolving our journey to God and evolving our love and expression of the erotic and holy.

Many of the leaders at Shalom Mountain have been part of the core committed members of the Wisdom School and some are also private students of Marc.  As the work has been so transformational at a personal and professional level, Shalom is receiving the benefits of the work being done at the Wisdom School in a wider context.  I recently attended a couples’ retreat in which much of the work was informed by teachings from the Wisdom School.  I was thrilled to experience the couples’ work unfolding at a new level of exploration that transcends gender-based exploration of sexuality and holds the work in the context of an integrated masculine and feminine dance, individually and within relationship.  I felt that once again Shalom has stepped into the next level of consciousness that is arising.   The teachings of the Wisdom School have also touched the Mystic work, the Tantra work, and even the broader context of deepening the Shalom process work .

Marc is the director and Scholar in Residence for the Center for World Spirituality, a think tank which is writing a series of groundbreaking books and creating new templates for spiritual practice, education, and community. An integration of the leading-edge emergent evolutionary insights taught by spirituality, psychology, and the sciences, World Spirituality paves the way for the next stage of spiritual evolution.  The work in the world is focused in three areas: leading-edge scholarship, publications, and programs.    Marc holds the center of the teachings and the organization, working along with a group of respected spiritual teachers, leaders, authors, and activists on the Board and Wisdom Council, who are creating publications, programs and trainings to expand and inform the work of mental health organizations, personal growth organizations and spiritual communities across the world.   Five Shalomers are on the board of CWS.

The Wisdom School at Shalom Mountain is an example of a place where the work of World Spirituality is taking place.  Marc has met 9 times with a growing and committed group of people who are studying and living into the teachings, and in the process actually become the vehicles that are practicing and evolving spirituality.  Marc has also been working with a small group of leaders at Shalom to develop a weekend curriculum that could be offered as a signature retreat of the Wisdom School.  Shalom leaders would lead these retreats for the larger community.  As part of developing an accessible library of the important work that is being done, the audio recordings of Marc’s teaching sessions from around the world are being collected.  All his sessions at Shalom Mountain have been recorded, edited and filed and will be made publicly available.

The Wisdom School at Shalom Mountain is thriving with attendance beyond maximum capacity, personal commitments to living the teachings in the world, development of new programs, and the delight of a group of fellow journeyer’s in the act of transformation from the personal to the cosmic.

Wow!

June 27th, 2012

By Elizabeth Helen Bullock

How often do you say, heart as wide as the sky, standing in your essence, ‘Wow!”     Here is your chance to say that often and with new notes of delight – the Path of the Mystic on Shalom Mountain begins in one week.  As my beloved friend and founder of Shalom Mountain Jerry Jud says, when mystics get together they sit around and talk and play and say, ‘WOW!’

I love mystics!  Mystics are fun, curious, deep and of course, full of mystery.  My own mystical experiences I trace back to my childhood, often coming through the dreamtime.  An early love and connection with Spirit paved the way for a new exploration of the Divine from the time I saw the words ‘God is Love’ on a sunday school wall.  I explored non-dual consciousness at a young age through a Christian mystical tradition and was drawn to the Mysticism of the East by age 13 – Tibet, China, Japan and then India.

For all my individual, personal transcendent experiences through my life – many ecstatic experiences have been when I am in community with other mystics.

This summer’s Path of the Mystic is this kind of opportunity – whether you consider yourself a mystic or not – whether your language for spirit sounds like quantum physics or the Sufi poets – whether you find mystery in the stones and trees or in a temple – come and join us – you may just find you have extraordinary, unmeditated experiences of the Divine!  Let’s explore our individual and collective part of the fabric of the whole, each fractal part of the hologram – each unique perspective as part of the seamless whole.

From an Introduction to the Upanishads by translator Juan Mascaro:

“Thus the momentous statement is made in the Upanishads that God must not be sought as something far away, separate from us, but rather as the very inmost of us, as the higher Self in us above the limitations of our little self.  In rising to the best in us we rise to the Self in us, to Brahman, to God himself.

According to the Upanishads, the reality of God can only be apprehended in a consciousness of joy that is beyond ordinary consciousness.”

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If this is the time for you to explore and celebrate your own relationship with the Divine, come join us for the Path of the Mystic retreat, July 3-8, 2012 at Shalom Mountain.  To register, call or e-mail:  845-482-5421 or email@shalommountain.com. You can also register online at http://shalommountain.com/wp/contact-us/registration/.  For more information about the Path of the Mystic retreat see our website:  http://shalommountain.com/wp/programs/spiritual-journey/.

Piercing the Veil of Dogmatic Belief

May 29th, 2012

John Bottone interviewed Tom Goddard to get a glimpse into his emerging leadership for the upcoming Path Of The Mystic retreat in July with Nance McGee.  Tom provided a fascinating history of the significant steps of his personal mystical journey and his perspective of the mystical path at Shalom Mountain.

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John: What are you willing to share in terms of your own mystical journey?

Tom Goddard

Tom: I think the path of the mystic began for me with the recognition that dogma and various belief structures have their limitations, and once you let them fall away, one can actually encounter the sacred directly. This goes back to when I was eleven, and I was living in Turkey, which is almost entirely Muslim;  and a Baptist Sunday School teacher taught that if you are not saved by Jesus Christ, you will go to hell and burn for eternity.  Here I am, surrounded by wonderful people for whom that made no sense.  I went home and asked my mother, “Can this be true?”, and God bless her, she said “No, that’s not true”.   Once I did that, then, all of a sudden, Christianity stopped being a dogma, because I couldn’t interact with it at that level.  I had to interact with it at the level of the Cosmic Christ instead of at the dogmatic Christ.  Since then, it’s been a 4 ½ decade adventure in piercing the veil of dogmatic belief and seeking out the direct experience of what Jewish mystics call “being inside the face of God”.

John: Say more about some of your major turning points, steps or openings.

Tom: I would say a big turning point for me, John, was when I encountered, in my senior year of college, Buddhism for the first time, and particularly, Zen Buddhism, which is that subset of Buddhist thought which rejects dogma.  By the time Zen was created, Buddhism was a thousand years old, and saddled by dogma and meaningless ritual, as any religion can be after a thousand years. The Zen Buddhists came along and said, what we are really interested in is a direct, embodied  encounter with Reality.

John: Is this direct encounter with Reality what is commonly called “Awakening” or “Enlightenment” and what is your perspective on the nature of these very commonly used terms?

Tom: I would say “Enlightenment” is a level of realization of the identity with God, and what I’ve come to realize in my more adult years, quite recently in fact, is that “Enlightenment” has at least a couple of meanings that relate to this relationship with God. The eastern “enlightenment” is about the realization that there is no separation between me and all else; there is no distinction that has any particular meaning between me and God, or between me and you; that it is all seamless. The more recent realization, facilitated certainly by the Unique Self Enlightenment teachings of the Jewish mystics, including Marc Gafni, is that in addition to that, not only is there no separation, but there still can be uniqueness.  I may not be separate from you, but my vantage in the Universe is unique, and is different than yours even though you and I are not separate.  So, for me, “Enlightenment” or “Awakening” is simply awakening to what IS so, and has always BEEN so, that there is no separation, and that I occupy a unique perspective in the Cosmos through which God experiences all else.

John: In my own excitement, I think I jumped ahead of what where we were going, and I’d like to get back to the progression of personal stages you experienced in your mystical path.

Tom: Sure, sure.  Well, I studied and started practicing  from a Zen perspective from my 20’s into my early 30’s, but, truth be told, I was really far more focused on the making of a living, finding a bride, making children, the kind of activities that young people get involved with.  It wasn’t until I was in my mid-thirties that I really re-engaged with the “Great Question” as my Zen teacher often called it.  And it happened that I joined the church of long-time Shalom attendee Robert Close, who had a Presbyterian church in Northern Virginia.  Robert’s Sunday School classes were not at all about teaching dogma, they were about engaging directly in our own embodied experience with the relationship with God.  What I didn’t realize at that time, because I had never been to Shalom Mountain, was how much his work in that Sunday School class was informed by the work we do here (at Shalom).  It was where I first encountered the poetry of David Whyte, Mary Oliver, and Rumi.  It was where I first encountered embodied practice other than sitting on a cushion in a spiritual context.  It involved breath, it involved guided meditation, it involved music, and it was like no other Sunday School class I had ever encountered.  It was also a community experience.  It was a tiny church with only 200 people or families, and 40 people every Sunday would be in Robert’s Sunday School class. We would start with Biblical texts and then move quite easily and immediately to questions that were life transforming like “What is the nature of Love?”, “Who am I in all of this?” and “What is my relationship to God, personally?”.  That was the big turning point.  I recognized in Robert’s class that I was fundamentally a material man with a spiritual life, and that my deepest yearning was to fundamentally be oriented around being a spiritual man who also operates in the material world.  By declaring that to the community, I started a process two decades ago that is still ongoing.

About 8 years ago, there was a lot of turmoil in my personal life that Shalom Mountain seemed perfectly suited to continue my spiritual education, so I shifted my energies to Shalom Mountain.  I continued the bulk of my spiritual practice at Shalom, but not all of it.  I continued with Vyana and Rudy’s Tantric classes, and started diving more deeply into the work of Ken Wilber, which I encountered in my late thirties and early forties.  Getting involved with Wilber and the Integral Community was a big deal because it allowed me to  weave together the Eastern and Western traditions that were by now, deeply in my body and in my practice.  The Integral model helped me to see they were not at war with each other.

John: At what point did you get involved with Genpo Roshi and the Big  Mind work?

Tom: That was part of my immersion in the Integral world.  I was involved in the founding of the Integral Institute 10 years ago, with Ken Wilber and a bunch of other folks, and shortly after that, Genpo Roshi unveiled his advances on voice dialog into the Integral world.  Basically what he did was take Hal and Sidra Stone’s voice dialog work and turn it into a vehicle for transcendence of egoic structures into the unitive, non-dual experience.  What I did was, I found him online, in a series of Integral Institute  sponsored videos doing the process, so I sat down, and wrote down every word he said in leading the Big Mind process, and then I started leading the process myself.  I did it with friends, I did it with a group of Shalom people in the Washington area who started the Community for Spiritual Living (CSL), at a Men’s Gathering with 65 men at Shalom Mountain, and since then I’m done it a whole bunch of times.  And now, I consider it an important part of my practice, an important part when I do counseling, it’s an important tool and I continue to lead what I now call “Boundless Heart” – which is my own now, because I do it my way and not his way. And it is a non-dual experience; it provides an opportunity for a direct experience of unity with the Divine.

John: So where are you now?  What would you say is the nature of your journey present day?

Tom: The big and most recent turn happened 2 years ago.  I first met Marc Gafni several years ago at a conference in Denver that Ken Wilber hosted, and we corresponded sporadically over the intervening years, but I attended his July/August of 2010 Shalom Mountain Wisdom School offering that weekend, and knew by Friday afternoon that the dharma that was unfolding in that weekend was utterly perfect for where I was in my path, and as profound as I’d ever encountered.  By Saturday, I knew I was going to be asking him to take me on as a private student.  By Sunday, which was my 55th birthday, I asked him, and he said, “Yes”, which was as good as a birthday present I could have asked for.  So, I’ve been studying with Marc since September of 2010, and moving into what he is calling Unique Self Enlightenment.  It moves beyond Eastern enlightenment, which realizes we are not separate, and into the deeper reality that says, “Yes, I am not separate, AND the perspective I have is unique”.  The significance is, that as I walk around, I realize I am God having a Tom experience, as Marc might put it.

This is the nature of the unfolding, the nature of the awakening that is present for me in my life currently.  My daily practice is rooted in that orientation of Unique Self Enlightenment, which has a deep Judeo-Christian lineage for me, and I am studying the Kabbalistic  masters from hundreds of years ago.  I am connecting more fully to my own Christian upbringing and integrating all the Eastern, Tantric  and Buddhist learnings over the last 35 years.  And Marc and I are co-authoring a book about practice from this perspective: Unique Self Enlightenment Practice.  So we’re engaged in a deep dive into practices, because that has always been my focus, even back to high school: “What are the practices?”  I am far less interested in the texts and the dogmas. I am far more interested in “What do I need to do?” This is the question I remember back in the 1970’s and it’s now becoming a book we are calling “The World Spirituality Practice Guide” that we hope to publish in 2013.  So that is a lot of the focus of my practice, and a lot of my focus in the world these days.

John: Since you are leading the Path of the Mystic retreat in July with Nance, I have 2 questions for you:

1-      What is the nature of the mystical journey work at Shalom?

2-      What would a participant be entering into on this retreat?  What would that be like?

Tom: The precious gift that Shalom Mountain offers which is perfectly suited to mystical exploration is that Shalom has a fundamental structure built around love, and a clear understanding of the Skills and Principles of Loving. It is my belief that the mystical journey is really the journey of the evolutionary lover:  how can I learn how to love and to know my identity AS love more completely?  The fundamental, even psychological underpinnings of Shalom as a structure for fostering the evolution of love is perfectly suited for mystical work.

Another fundamental orienting principle around Shalom that works beautifully in concert with mystical retreat is its emphasis on embodied process.  We are a process oriented community, we don’t do lectures!  What we create is opportunities for people to step into their bodies; step into the energy of their lives, and learn about themselves.  That is ultimately, as Robert Close once said, it’s all a question of identity, and we’re not going to get our identity from someone telling us how things are.  We’re going to discover our true identity, our true selves, by experiencing ourselves in our fullness, in our full glory.  And, of course, that’s what this community has been doing for years in both mystical and non-mystical retreats.

The distinction between the mystical retreats and the more psychological retreats, which have profound importance – it’s very difficult to do the mystical work if you’re still crippled by psychological wounding that you haven’t dealt with.  But the distinction (between the two) seems to me to be the focus.  The mystical retreats really do start to focus on the question of “Who am I?” and “Who am I in relationship to God?”, or for those who are uncomfortable with the word “God”,  “Who am I in relationship to this Cosmos, this Universe in which I live?”

In terms of my own leadership, what I have always strived to lead has always been entirely mystic retreats, whether it has been Integral Intensives, more recently with my work with Jerry Jud in the 2011 Science and Mysticism retreat, or at the Men’s Gathering.

John: What would you say to someone who might be reading this and is curious about the Path of the Mystic retreat, to entice them to come?

Tom: Like so much of the work at Shalom, it is open to everybody, and not for everybody.  I’ll tell you who this is for.  This is for those who feel a deep call to an intimate relationship with God which is still in the flavor of yearning … I want more of this … have tasted the sweetness of what it is to be alive, and want to go further into that sweetness, and are not quite sure how to do that.  For people who experience the yearning to live their life with “juice”; with juice and ease; that being alive can be like tasting the most glorious meal, or hearing the most glorious music you can hear.  This is a laboratory for exploring yourself in relationship to God.

John: Beautiful… wonderful.   Thank you, so much Tom.

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For more information or to register for the Path of the Mystic retreat, July 3-8, 2012, call or e-mail Shalom Mountain:  845-482-5421 or email@shalommountain.com  You may also register at our online registration page.


Tom Goddard has been a member of the Shalom Community since 1997, and co-leads the Men’s Gathering, the Path of the Mystic, and retreats on consciousness at Shalom Mountain. He serves as Director of Land Use and Development of Shalom Mountain. Tom is the CEO of The Integral Company and Integral Healthcare Solutions. Tom is a Vice President of the Center for World Spirituality. He received his doctorate in psychology from George Mason University and his law degree from the University of Arizona.

The Wisdom of the Ants

May 20th, 2012

Emma Wrigley

By Emma Wrigley

It’s spring in Livingston Manor, and that means the ants are on the prowl.  No matter that my apartment is on the second floor.   The ants will come, and there’s very little I can do to stop them.  After several weeks of ant traps and vinegar, I have made the decision that waging war on the ants is not actually worth the time or energy, and I’ve started to observe them, instead.

They’re rather remarkable creatures, these ants – relentless in their pursuit of nourishment, seamless in their community collaboration, and their work ethic would put even the most dedicated workaholics to shame.  So far, this spring, they’ve managed to teach me quite a bit about flexibility.  It turns out that the gorgeous daffodils that drew so many ants to my kitchen table look just as friendly and welcoming on my front porch instead.  And those cashews I bought specifically for a recipe I’d planned to make next week?  Well, once the ants got rinsed off, it was easy enough to put them in more water and soak them overnight to get turned into cashew cream the next day.  Not only will the cream work for the intended recipe, but it will freeze beautifully and last for several months.

The ants have also brought home, again, a truth that has been a theme for me this past month: the importance of containment.  Turns out the only sure-fire way to save my food from their tiny, devouring mouths and impeccable nourishment-radar is to properly contain it.  If there is even the tiniest opening, you can bet your buttons there’ll be ants inside before you can blink.  I find myself taking extra care with my food, now – where a rubber band would’ve sufficed in the winter, it’s now a band-and-a-bag-and-a-box.  And it’s got me thinking…how much attention do I pay to my energetic container?

Shalom is a place where I’ve seen container building done very well.  In coming together as a community with a commitment to skillful loving, we weave bonds that can hold amazing amounts of energy.  So I understand how to go about building a container in a group of people.  But what about individually?  How do I contain my own energy field?  Where are the holes that let the proverbial ants inside to leach away my life-force?

As I pay attention, and continue to watch the ants, I begin to find answers to these questions.  Attention to my own nourishment is turning out to be a big part of my container.  Eating well, sleeping well, and keeping to a schedule seems to offer me a structure within which I can flourish and grow.  Spiritual practice is another component – sometimes a meditation practice, sometimes mantra, and lately dance, the discipline of spending time internally helps strengthen my connection to myself.  After all, isn’t the basis of the container we build at Shalom love?  I think it follows that the container within is based on self-love.

Inside of a strong container of self-love, I find I’m able to thrive, creatively and authentically; to show up as all of who I am with myself, which in turn spills out to others.  And so I’m choosing to thank the ants, for all that they’ve taught me…and to ask them, respectfully, to please steer clear of my kitchen counters!

The Eros of Spring

April 6th, 2012

Vyana Bergen

by Vyana Bergen

Yellow daffodils dance in the woods behind my home, the myriad of birds bring a cacophony of song, and the frogs have already begun their peeper mating cries – it’s spring in the Catskills! Someone said to me that it felt like spring had arrived in a sheer explosion of sight and sound this year, a sure reminder of Eros moving its life force through the manifest world.

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary reminds us that the word Eros has Platonic roots and defines it as “a fundamental creative impulse having a sensual element.” Sight, sound, smell, touch and taste drive our lives as we move through life in these bodies created to explore being alive.  So why when we hear something described as erotic do we automatically think of sex? Perhaps it is because sex contains some of the greatest teaching for being fully engaged in our lives.

Marc Gafni describes sexuality as a place where our erotic nature is at it’s most intense, but this potency of the sexual realm is only pointing toward something  much more universal and essentially sacred.  Here are some of the faces of Eros that Marc distinguishes:

  • Interiority, which is to be deeply connected to oneself – to really experience the divine presence within. In this place, we loose the distinction between ourselves and God and we are one with the divine.
  • Fullness of presence, which is to be really awake and alive in the moment. If are with another, we might attempt to see who is really there, hear what is actually being said, honor what the other is thinking or feeling, we might commit to really staying with the other’s process (hmmm .  .  . sounds familiar).
  • Yearning, which is really our desire to love and be loved (again, I think I have heard this before somewhere). Our desire in its deepest form is sacred and we can trust that it will take us to God.
  • Interconnectivity, everything in the universe is connected, we are part of a larger whole.

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If you are interested in exploring how your sexual desire and erotic nature can inform and transform your spiritual journey, whether it is with a partner or with the divine itself, you might consider joining us for retreat on sacred sexuality.  Two retreats are upcoming on our calendar.  The first is  “Erotic Partnership:  A Sacred Sexuality Retreat for Couples” May 3-6, 2012 led by Vyana Bergen, Cristian Graca, Shelly Reichenbach, and Jeff Hilliard.

The second opportunity is the Sexuality and Spirituality retreat, June 18-24, 2012 with Vyana Bergen and Cristian Graca.

For more information or to register for either retreat, call or e-mail Shalom Mountain:  845-482-5421 or email@shalommountain.com.

Holy Unknown

January 23rd, 2012

Roger Cramer

by Roger Cramer

I came to Shalom Mountain in shambles, locked into work and expectations that totally exhausted me each day.  If there was a key to get out of this prison, I had no idea where to find it.  The therapist who suggested I go to a Shalom Retreat said that the work I would do and experience at the Mountain would be the equivalent of 100 hours of talk therapy.  It would spring me forward in my spiritual and emotional journey.  The thought of it scared me to death, – and yet, and yet what alternatives did I have?  This dark cave of apprehension coupled with the urge to spring forth reminded me of Anais Nin’s words “And then the day came/when the risk to remain/tight in the bud was/more painful than the/risk of blooming.”

That was 12 years ago.  And since, I have found the community and work of Shalom Mountain to be a delicious, deeply loving springboard into a new and creative life.  The community that gathers at a Shalom Retreat or a Winter Mystic, or a Men’s or Women’s Gathering is profoundly supportive, loving and challenging.  The processes used in the service of healthy life are stimulating and eye-opening, the leaders are charismatic and yet genuinely personal.  Each gathering seems to be a labyrinth of energy in which the whirlwind of Spirit moves in daring ways and people come alive to their own essence in ways that are almost beyond imagining.  It’s an amazing journey of self-discovery and self-love, where individuals and couples learn to honor themselves and find joy in the love of others.

One dimension of Shalom Mountain work that has been powerful for me over these 12 years is the Mystic Retreats, – Mid-Winter and Summer.  I came to the Mountain feeling constrained by elements in my faith that did not seem to match both the Light and the Doubt that I was experiencing within.  How could I give up beliefs, then crumbling, which had anchored me for so long, and been the legacy of my family, and yet were slipping away?  What I experienced on the Mystic Retreats was permission to explore new expressions of the spiritual life, learn from other wise journeyers, dance my spirit rather than think it all the time, dive deep into the Holy Unknown, find comfort in the loving embrace of community.  It has made all the difference in how my spirit grows today.

This next weekend, January 26-29, Nance McGee and I will lead a new Mid-Winter Mystic Retreat entitled “Gloriously made, yet stumbling toward home.”  It will be another rich opportunity to plumb the depths of Spirit and Joy in our lives.  Give a call, and come and join us.  At the Mountain the daring dance with God is like bread for the feeding of all who care to gather.

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Roger Cramer is an Episcopal priest, in retirement, living in the wild lands of his life’s transitions. A self-professed Mystic wannabe, for more than 30 years Roger has led spiritual processes and rituals, has been a spiritual director to many people, writes poetry as well as being a talented studio potter by avocation. Roger is a long time member of the Mystics community at Shalom Mountain and is delighted to continue to participate in this community through his leadership.

For more information or to register for the Mid-Winter Mystic (Jan 26-29, 2012) or Path of the Mystic (July 3-8, 2012) retreats, call or e-mail Shalom Mountain:  845-482-5421 or email@shalommountain.com.

Slowing Towards Grace

November 23rd, 2011

Nance McGee

by Nance McGee

“To be grateful is to recognize

the Love of God is everything . . .

Every breath we draw is a gift;

every moment of existence is grace.”

~ Thomas Merton ~

I do well with planning and agendas and structure so even as I promised myself a few days of relaxation and connection with friends, in the preparation to load the car and get on the road I feel the pull to get one last thing done . . . and it seems “one last thing” begets one last thing!

Oh to just slow down and allow myself to notice ~ like the lingering scent of freshly made cranberry relish.   As I allow that scent to enter me, I feel the fullness of heart that this time of year inevitably brings.  The simple recognition of slowing down and noticing “every moment of existence”.

In this particular ‘moment of existence’, as I write this note, a small, black puppy demanding my undivided attention becomes my imperative.  So it is in this moment, as I resist “one last thing”, there is grace.

I wonder how often I am attentive to what is right in front of me demanding my attention and when I’m too busy with something else and miss the moment of grace?

So for this morning, I am slowing down.  I’m noticing the leaves have fallen from the branches and the natural world is moving toward sabbath and silence.  This moves me toward “meditation on a fallen leaf” . . . and then I notice 20 minutes has passed; my estimated time of departure has passed and though the urge toward getting on the road plays in the background, the voice I listen to this day is; “stay, just a little bit longer”.  And so I do.

As I prepare to travel on what is apparently the busiest travel day of the year (USA), I find myself slowing toward grace ~ breathing in the abundance of my life, knowing that I belong and practicing the sacrament of gratitude.

In this season of gratitude, may we all know moments of thanksgiving.

May we reach out to our beloved others in celebration for their loving presence in our lives.

May we embrace the coming season of sabbath and silence and allow the presence of grace . . . sometimes dressed as a small, black puppy!

In gratitude and grace,

Nance

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Nance McGee is the Director or Programs & Operations at Shalom Mountain.  Nance is a body-centered, process-oriented therapist in private practice and has led retreats and workshops at Shalom Mountain and in communities in the U.S. and abroad. Nance has extensive experience working with addictions recovery, family systems and has specialized training in the healing of complex trauma (Somatic Experiencing). She is passionate about the power of loving community, the joy of being a woman and in deepening the journey to God.

After the Ecstasy, the Chicken Coop

October 10th, 2011

Elizabeth Helen Bullock

After the ecstasy, the chicken coop.  Before the scoop on the coop, an inquiry.  How often do we find that just as a rhythm of practice begins to solidify, flow, ground us in the routine of devotions and ritual, just at that edge where we may be comfortable in the uninterrupted rhythmic dance of our morning routine – an interruption.  Travel, visitors, a retreat, a friend stopping by, a hurricane, an early phone call … an interruption.  We step out of rhythm – what do we step into?  How do we surf the interruption wave?  What of our practice, our prayers, our meditations come with us as we ride the wave?  Do any?  Do we drop each one as we focus on the event at hand?  Or do we use the new unfolding circumstance as a place to learn more about our practice, to give it a new platform from which to experience astonishment, clarification, joy?

Two days ago, an interruption.   Part of my morning is to ‘let the chickens out.’  I notice on this wet morning that the coop needs cleaning. Desperately, or so it appears to me, as I peered past the black and grey feathered hen who is now ‘brooding’.  A milder fall day, grey sky, threat of more rain, heavy air of wet leaves on too tall grass, dying fern, sweet and rotting apples nearby from a tree that must be ancient.  My zafu, unexpectedly, became shovel and trowel – my alter space the bowels of our small, 10 hen, coop.  Smells that nearly overtook my post-coffee, pre-breakfast stomach.  A far cry from the Celestial incense usually burning.  Shovel, shovel, shovel.  Shovel – empty. Shovel – empty. In-breath, out-breath.  Rhythm.  A prayer, an ode to these egg laying hens, life, abundance.  I begin to push now as it begins to feel endless – get this done.  I notice – rhythm has become tension – so I begin again.  Shovel – empty. Shovel – empty.  The brooding hen does not move.  An egg is nestled in her chest feathers.  How many are beneath her? Trowel – empty. Trowel – empty.  A young hen enters the coop, clucking her complaint.  She hops into a newly cleaned nest box checking out the fresh wood-shavings, hops down, walks out.  Trowel – empty.  Shovel – empty.  The brooder broods.  The young ‘un returns, clucks, and squeezes beside the brooder facing the opposite direction.  The fresh smell of wood shavings, the promise of fresh eggs, deep stillness.

Glorious bounty we collect each day – eggs warm with bright yolks.  They feed us, the young couple who live on this land, and our near neighbors.  Beautiful chicken feathers lie amongst queen anne’s lace and cattails and on the small patch of grass surrounding our home.  Yet, again, after the egg-stasy, chicken shit!  In-hale, ex-hale.  One of the older hens walks across the stone step and shits all over it as she walks across.  Really?  You have 24 acres and you choose this stone?  The one place I must step to come in and out? In-hale.  Ex-hale. Egg-stasy.

My morning began, on the edge between the dream state and the awake, with the words whispering in my ear, “pray without ceasing.”

It has been my intention, my meditation, my prayer to live in practice whatever unfolds.  Oh, what a beautifully interrupted morning it was.