I want to keep my spirituality deep inside. I want to spend more time in prayer and meditation, in dreaming, in self-healing. I want to take more time to study the writings, and open those energy centers. I want to gaze into my wondrously unfolding inner universe.
But to take my spirituality out into the world, to use it as my fuel to change a system, this is perhaps the most difficult spiritual challenge of all.
I tell myself I don’t know enough yet, I am not healed enough yet, I’m not wise enough yet. I say I don’t know where to start, and the problems are so huge it will only take the intervention of God to fix them. I tell myself I am not the one making the problem – others are the ones who need to change.
But I know all of this is a shield against taking the action I know I must take if I am to be honestly spiritual.
I am lucky to have three influences in my spiritual life. One is 25 years of shamanic study, most recently focusing on the Celtic world. The other is academic – my master’s degree from the seminary. The third is my 15 years as a playwright. I carry three bits of wisdom from these influences:
A play is not a play on the page. You can only be a playwright if your writing moves off the "internal" page and onto the physical stage.
I was told by one of my shamanic teachers long ago that all the people drumming and journeying to the spirit world is all fine, but what makes a shaman a shaman is that they do something tangible for this world. Visions are candy.
My years of reading stacks of Western theology and writing long erudite papers taught me that yes, deep thought is important, but it’s easy to get drawn into blabbing endlessly about The Holy as a defense against embodying and living it.
I keep these thoughts in mind when I feel overwhelmed by the enormity of environmental challenges, when I feel confused and afraid to change things, and when the temptation to meditate and drum and work internally is so compelling. And when I hear myself blabbing in workshops and ceremonies about how we must love the earth.
I carry something else with me: the beautiful Celtic notion that the body has three cauldrons, or spiritual energy centers. To be balanced and healthy, we attend to all three. If you are familiar with the chakras from the Yoga tradition, the cauldrons are similar, but frankly easier to grasp.
The cauldron of "Warming," located in the belly, relates to our instincts and basic life force. The cauldron of "vocation" or "calling," in the chest, is how we connect what we love with what we do in the world. The cauldron of "Knowledge" are the spiritual gifts given to us by the Divine. The cauldron is an expansive, gorgeous image of all kinds of things: the womb, the universe, the spirit world, the psyche, the earth, the soul.
But while mythically minded folks like me tend to think of the cauldron as a spiritual tool or a poetic image, its basic function is to cook food – real, body saving, strength-enhancing food. That food must be served, or the cauldron has not achieved its most basic function. So while there is a mythic aspect to all three cauldrons, there is a fundamental "action" element underlying all the myth.
Inside all of this are two more realizations I try to hold onto, and act upon. The first is that in cooking and writing a play, we work in small bits. We chop one thing at a time and pour it in. The same is true of writing. We don’t write a play all at once. We write one small bit of action or dialogue, and then that opens the next bit of dialogue and action, and after a time, an entire world has been created.
Bit by bit, we work. We read, we study, we pray, we meditate, we make ceremony, we heal each other, we laugh and grieve and fear together bit by bit, and bit by bit we take action together. Action has to be part of the spiritual path, as eating must be part of the spiritual path. This is how we become the "hands of God."
My annual autumn equinox retreat, Earth Ecstasy Retreat, is based on these ideas, articulated in part from Joanna Macy:
This world is alive.
All life is interconnected.
Our true nature is far more ancient and beautiful than our current religious and cultural orthodoxies like us to believe.
The experience of reconnecting with the earth unblocks our pain, fear and inertia.
The experience of reconnecting with the earth builds our powers to act on the behalf of the web of life.
It is our task as spiritual beings to become the hands of God.
No person, group or nation can solve the environmental crisis alone. Our entire species will need to decide over the next few generations whether or not human consciousness will change and make the environment a priority.
As spiritual and ethical beings, we can refuse to not act. We can refuse to remain blocked by fear, pain and confusion. We can choose to do even one small thing. We can choose to add a few drops into the ocean of consciousness change that we wish to see.