Defiantly Hopeful

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In the face of a world in crisis, I dare to care. In the face of materialism, consumerism, and me me me – ism, I recognize that I am because you are, that without you and you and you – plant animal mineral macro micro organism human- I would not exist. That we are all part of a brilliant multi hued tapestry, that we all add to the warp and weave and woof, that we all have a fierce light.

In the face of irony, cynicism, jadedness and despair, I choose hope. In the face of narrow empiricism, the confining corridors of quantification, of dogma of any stripe-rational, political, spiritual or religious, I choose to light a match to the fuse of possibility, and blow up all boxes, sending the church of reason, the church of ideology, the church of churchiness, into the air, with a deep and satisfying boooooom, so that emptied of their arrogance, these churches might offer us freedom, not more walls, love, not more hate, understanding, not more separation.

In the face of hatred, anger and fear, I choose love, compassion, and celebration. If I can’t party in your revolution, don’t put me on the guest list.

In the face of my own vulnerabilities and limitations, I choose to go easy on myself. I am not perfect, I am human, and that is a wonderful thing. My stumblings and fumblings make me real. I am simply doing my best.

In the face of my ego, which is always feeling either smalled or bigged, I smile gently and give it a little pat on the head, a kick in the butt, a nudge in the ribs and say,”hey we’re doing fine, we’re doing just fine. Get up off the ground, get down off of your pedestal and stand in the place of the real, neither inflated, nor deflated, just be yourself. That’s good enough.”

In the face of a sunny day, I cry out,”thank you! Thank you for this amazing world, thank you for 14 billion years of hard joyous miraculous work to get us to the point where we can really appreciate this magnificence. I’m going to stop pissing in my own pool and start truly loving this incredulous place, from the bottom of my toes to the tip of my tongue, gonna celebrate this one precious life, this next precious breath, this precious precious moment. To hell with the nay sayers and doomsdayers, the cynics and the pisspots, I will blow up the gates of the gatekeepers and storm the citadels of the power brokers with pure, unadulterated Love. Nothing-not anything- will stand in my way, not even myself. It’s the least I can do to say, thank you, thank you, thank you for the wondrous wonder of creative creation. And in case no one has told you this today, Universe: you rock!”

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A Respectful Rebel in an Orthodox Land

Meteora Monastery

Sitting in a cave in Meteora Greece, a few days after Fierce Light has screened at the Thessaloniki Film Festival.  A soft rain has driven me off the purple, yellow white flower speckled mountain trail.   Like Mount Athos, Meteora is a land of towering ancient greek orthodox monasteries. Unlike Athos, women are allowed here, and there is even a convent,  named St. Stefanos.  

Although I am not a Christian (I was raised a Baha’i, used to call myself a sufi buddhist baha’i punk rocker, but now I simply say I’m a divine human, being),  I have a deep sense of respect for all things holy, and the impetus behind the religious calling.  I make a point of trying to cut through the dogma, to the deep devotion that often resonates profoundly in places of worship. I seek the true mystics, the ones who’s hearts are on fire, who have transcended the rigidity of structures to that place beyond concepts where the source of all that is sizzles. 

Mary

 But always, irony abounds-for example, the orthodox religion were the ones who invented the word dogma (not to mention the word Orthodox).  And of course, for them,  the word  has a positive connotation: it means to be faithful, and to follow the precise pathway to God -just so.  Dogma is seen as a divine security blanket that keeps us from falling astray.

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It is ten years since my previous visit to Athos.  At that time I was wide eyed and innocent, in many ways, a naïve pilgrim embarking on a new journey of discovery.  It was far from the beginning of my spiritual search, but the beginning of my  first hand investigation of the worlds holy places, seeking a path, a system, a doorway into divinity, as I circled the planet, visiting everywhere from the Avebury Stone Circle, Lourdes, Athos, Konya, Jerusalem, Bodh Gaya, holy native sites in North America-a wide journey into the heartland of many of the worlds beliefs systems.   In each of these places, I took time to really steep myself in their wisdom, spending time in spiritual retreats inspired by each of the faiths I encountered.

I left that journey with a clear understanding, articulated in Fierce Light:  it is the essence of the worlds religions that matters to me, not the particular form.  Spirituality is beyond form. Way beyond.

A few days later, I find myself wandering through Meteora, where the monasteries perch high atop pinnacles of rock, safe from invaders.  In the past, the only way to enter the monastery was to be hoisted up by rope.   Perhaps too, the devotees feel closer to God, up in the clouds.  

After hours of winding through the awe inspiring moss covered pinnacles, alongside sparkling glades, I climbed the spiralling staircase to one of the monasteries that clings to the rock steeple, impossible stone acrobatics.

Velcrow Meteora

I entered the church, it’s byzantine dome painted with ornate frescos, glittering gold halos and angel wings.  I was greeted by an Orthodox monk dressed from head to toe in black.  I told him I had been to mount athos, an excellent icebreaker in these parts, and asked him to remind me of the greeting: evlogites, which means “bless me!” To which one replies, akirosos (no doubt spelt wrong): I cannot bless but God does, through me.

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He showed me around the church, explaining the significance of the many ikons.   I asked why so many figures are dressed in red, and he explained that red is the god colour, and blue is the colour of the earth, except in the case of Mary – then red is the colour for earth and blue is the colour of God.  Interesting for me, as I am shooting a film called Redvolution: Dare to Disturb the Universe.  It is about the path of  what co-director  Sera Beak calls “red” spirituality – becoming your own spiritual authority, being a spiritual outlaw, truly knowing yourself, your authentic Self.  It is about  embodied spirituality-a passionate, sexy, spirituality that isn’t afraid of ecstasty, that celebrates life, being human, that sees God in all things. 

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Panagea

Meanwhile back in the church…

Transfiguration…metamorphisis….extasis…theosopis…greek words were flying about.  My new monk friend explained that to him extasis -ecstasy-was the stuff of other religions, like the eastern religions, and it was an escape.  Much like our induglence in the “sweets” of life, like women.  Yikes. Clearly the orthodoxy was created by men.  

The orthodox path is about transfiguration, he explained, and metamorphosis-through the correct rituals, prayers, divine love and grace, one clears away ones heart and allows God in.  It is about theosopis, not extasis.  Joining with God not escaping into ecstasy.  

I didn’t argue-I never argue with the faithful – but between you and me, I have to beg to differ.  For me, God is also human, God is also creation, God made all of this amazingness, and I have a hunch She wants nothing more than that we celebrate this magnificence. Her magnificence.  With depth, and divinity, for sure, but celebration nonetheless.  And that  celebration can be joyful, it can be ecstatic, and it can be quiet, it can be sober.  It can be both/and.  God doesn’t fit well into boxes of this not that.  God has a bigger palette than that.  God wants us to go for it, to burn bright, to be fully embodied and fully ecstatic, all at the same time, in waves and particles, particles and waves – both/and.   That’s my two cents, just the tip of my tongues worth.  But I kept it there, on the tip.  It’s not for me to argue with a monk, but to listen respectfully, and take what he has to offer, and leave what doesn’t fit behind, in that holy place.  With respect for his calling, his commitment and his sincere love.

As we were leaving, I told him perhaps one day I would return to Mount Athos-it is a beautiful, holy place.
“Yes”, he said, “but the real holy place is right here”. He tapped my heart, “wherever we are.”

I couldn’t agree more.

“Pray for me” he said, as I stepped outside the monastery gate, into the sunshine. 

Now, as I walk through the stone trails, lined with purple flowers, sun glistening, flocks of birds swooping and gliding, I can feel the presence of divinity everywhere.  It is in the very air. As I walk in the midst of the sublime beauty of creation, it is clear that this is my communion.  And that for me, as a spiritual rebel, I will always be a little, and sometimes a lot, unorthodox.

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Ecstatic Activism

“Mysticism is creation seeking its source” —Stuart Davis

 

Velcrow Ripper phot in Tasmania of Fern

Pump up the volume. Turn up the burner. To 11. Move over Spiritual Activism – let’s talk Ecstatic Activism. “It goes beyond tree hugging,” says Spiritual Cowgirl Sera Beak, “ecstatic activism is more about tree humping.” It’s about being utterly and completely in Love with this divine planet we live on, this astounding multi~verse we’re born from, this incredible unfolding kaleidoscope of life, of ever changing energy, shuddering with the orgasmic after shocks of G~d’s Big Bang. It sets your hairs on end and electrifies your Soul. It’s the rich ripeness of those moments when you dare to open Your heart and plunge face forward into the Mystery.

To be an ecstatic activist is to be a Love Warrior, fierce and fiery…diving into both the light, and the shadows, reveling in all that it is to be divinely human. That means all the mess too – it’s the creative friction that propels us to grow, and growth is what it’s all about, least it is for my being. One of my sacred symbols – I’m wearing a version of it around my neck right now – is a spiral, amongst the Maori known as the “Koru”, and modeled on the unfolding fern frond. Ecstatic unfoldment of life. You can feel it pulsing through you – it’s eros, it’s erotic, it’s hot. It gets me out of bed in the morning, makes me want to change the world, change myself, open my heart even wider, and go out and hump a tree or two. Make love to my morning bagel. French kiss G~d with every action. Dance the dance of Fierce Love.

Course this kind of intensity ebbs and flows in our life – there are times when I am a still pond, and other times when I am a turbulent sea. At the moment (in case you hadn’t noticed) it’s one of those times when I’m feeling the fire. Might have something to do with having just come back from another film shoot, this time for Redvolution: Dare to Disturb the Universe. It’s Fierce Light Films new feature documentary project, and it’s all about ecstatic activism in it’s many forms.

This time around it was a short shoot – four days in Boulder, but as always when it’s Redvolution time, a few days feels like a month. My co-director and co-conspirator in the project, Redvolutionary Sera Beak (who’s based in San Fransisco) and I, met up in Boulder to film and interview twisted mystic and punk monk, Stuart Davis, host of a new television show called “Sex, God and Rock n Roll.” Sera was a featured guest on the taboo smashing show, which dares to disturb the pants right off the universe.

Here’s an episode from Stuart’s previous show, “The Stuart Davis Show”…

 

 

 

“One could say that Davis’ work mediates between sensuality and spirituality. Davis practices meditation in a Buddhist tradition (and he has recently taken Genpo Roshi as his teacher), but he believes that religious traditions ultimately fail to transmit the transcendent events from which they spring. He has identified Ken Wilber, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Ramana Maharshi and Aurobindo as influences, and his work displays a deep understanding of Zen and Sufism.

Davis’ songs are populated by alcoholics, atheists, bulimics, drug addicts, egoists, false prophets, fetishists, sadists, masochists, narcoleptics, pedophiles, pornographers, prostitutes, rapists, sexual predators, suicides, swingers, and terrorists. But his lyrics also describe angels, artists, gods, gurus, messiahs, mystics, prophets, psychics, and saints.

This tension points to the profoundly integrative aspect of Davis’ thought—on his view, the theme of sexual deviance does not contradict the spiritual themes. His perspective is wide enough to coherently include much more of the human experience than most. Thus it is possible to see Davis as a mystical poet like Rumi, Kabir, Basho, Ikkyu, Rilke, or Emily Dickinson.”~ Wikipedia

 

“There’s a light bulb in everyone
bright enough to swallow the sun
Earth and sky are all One taste
there is just the Original face

—Stuart Davis, “Original Face”

 

Spending three days with Stuart was akin to standing in a bucket of water and putting my finger in a light socket and throwing the switch. Stuart is a phemomenom unto himself, the embodiment of Crazy Wisdom, but all the madness is rooted firmly in his big open heart.  

Chögyam Trungpa, a brilliant (and crazily wise) Tibetan Buddhist teacher, founder of the Naropa institute in Boulder, describes “crazy wisdom” as an “innocent state of mind that has the quality of early morning—fresh, sparkling, and completely awake. From this profound point of view, spiritual practice does not provide comfortable answers to pain or confusion. On the contrary, painful emotions can be appreciated as a challenging opportunity for new discovery.”

For the ecstatic activist, everything that life throws our way is a divine Koan, a chance to dive further into the mystery. Sometimes we learn through joy, and ease and sunshine, and other times it’s through what Liyanna Silver, (www.redefiningmonogamy.com), another guest this weekend on Stuart’s show, calls AFGO – Another Fucking Growth Opportunity. It’s all part of the sacred puzzle, and too often we ignore the shadow – I was one of those light obsessed seekers myself. Problem is, the shadow doesn’t go away, but instead percolates below the surface, where it is much more dangerous.

Stuart Davis is a trickster in the temple who brings our collectively unconscious shadow out into the light, with the power of humour and rock and roll, exploding our preconceptions and programs, all in the name of Love.  Walking home after the show on Saturday night, he pointed to the sky and cried, “look, the moon! Look at it, if you dare!”

What about you – do you dare to look at the Moon? Do you dare to stare at the Sun? Put them together, and what do you get?

 

 

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Trees humping.