This is the sixth and final entry for "Encountering the Spirit", the required blog/journal for Kwok Pui Lan's class in "Contemporary Spirituality" which I'm taking as part of my work as Proctor Scholar here at EDS.
There is yet a final presentation and a paper due May 16. I am working on a concise presentation of the Spirituality of Coming Out, which will compliment one of the projects I've been working on as Proctor Scholar.
The assignment for this journal entry reads, "... the last entry will be a reflection of your spiritual life in light of what you have learned."
We are to do that in 2-3 pages.
Those who have been following this blog know that I have thoroughly enjoyed all of the assigned readings, from the work of the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh's teachings on love; the fascinating work being done on Brain Science and how that impacts spirituality; the exploration of the intersections of sexuality, spirituality and art; Marjorie Thompson's 'Soul Feast'; and finally - and, for me, most importantly, Lebacqz and Driskill's Ethics and Spiritual Care.
It has been a rich, abundant feast, enhanced by powerful class presentations and conversations in class as well as after class. I have been richly blessed.
In my first journal entry, I wrote:
"For me, the spiritual journey is my spiritual home. It's where I belong. It's where my heart sings and my spirit soars in the wanderlust of the landscape of the Spirit. It is also where I can weep and lament, where my anger is holy and my tears are a sacred gift.While that is all still true, I have discovered that the spiritual journey is also the place where I can dance.
It is a place where the well is deep enough for me to drink from when I thirst, the sky rains down manna when I hunger, and the stars illumine my path when the world gets cloudy or dark. It is a place that offers healing when I am bruised and broken, and hope always beckons to me from the horizon.
It is a place where I can find companions on the journey, to share bread and stories, despair and hope, laughter and tears.
The spiritual journey is where I can become more of who God made me to be."
Last week, it was my turn to provide the closing ritual for the class. It has been our practice that Pui Lan begins the class by leading us through a silent, centering meditation, using the music of Kitaro The Silk Road, after which someone reads a poem.
The visual focal point for our meditation has been a centerpiece of the artifacts of individual class members. After the meditation and poem, the person who has provided the meditative centerpiece talks about what s/he has brought in as way to talk about his/her spiritual journey.
At the end of the class, one of us leads us in a closing ritual. Last week, my ritual was a reflection of what I have learned about being a Spiritual Leader in this course which was contained in a dance. I'd like to summarize that presentation here as a way to close out this journal entry on "Encountering The Spirit".
First, here’s a story behind the story. This was told to me by my friend, Rev. Lauren Stanley, who has been a missionary to Sudan and is now missionary to Haiti:
During World War II, a musician by the name of Larry LaPrise served in the European Theater. After the war, LaPrise and his friends formed a band called the ‘Ram Trio’ that entertained the crowds coming off a day of skiing in Sun Valley, Idaho. One of the songs he wrote – or so the story goes – is one that all of us know: The Hokey-Pokey. You know this song, right? Most of us have sung it and danced to it, usually as kids and then again, for some unknown reason, at weddings.
The words “Hokey Pokey” come from the words “hocus pocus,” which most of us know are the words you speak when you’re doing magic. The words “hocus pocus” come from the Latin phrase, Hoc est corpus meum – “This is my body,” – the words the priest speaks when he or she elevates the bread during the Eucharist.
In the early years of the church, when the priests would celebrate in great stone cathedrals, they would turn their backs to the people, and sing the Mass: “Hoc est corpus meum!” Their voices would reverberate throughout the cathedrals, and as the echo moved throughout the cathedral, what they would be signing – “Hoc est corpus meum” – would sound like Hoooo-cuuussss pooooocuuuuus . . . . . . .
From that term – “hocus pocus” – LaPrise came up with the “Hokey Pokey” (although there are some who claim that the song and dance existed in England during the war). In 1949, LaPrise and the Ram Trio recorded the song and it soon became nationally known.
Now, someone is asking, "What has any of that got to do with an encounter of the Spirit, much less, with spirituality?"
Well, think again about the words of the song: "You put your whole self in, you put your whole self out, you put your whole self in and you shake it all about. You do the Hokey Pokey and you turn yourself around."
That’s what it’s all about!
That, for me, is the spiritual journey. It is a dance of mystery - but there is no 'hocus pocus' involved. It is a dance of trial and error, of turning yourself around to discover the Holy that is hidden in plain sight.
To deepen your sense of spirituality, you try something out - rosary beads, meditation (sitting, walking, centering, guided, musical), Tai chi, Qigong, Lectio Divina, - whatever it is that flutters over your mind or heart or soul and beckons you to a more disciplined, deeper awareness of God.
You put one part of yourself in - decide you are not so sure - and then take it out. You do that with various parts of yourself, until, one day, you are able to put your whole self into to a philosophy or technique that works for you.
And if, at some point, that gets stale or ineffective, you just try something else, something into which you can put your whole body.
I have come to understand that spirituality is at its best when it flows from an authentic place in your soul and is embodied in your life.
"Hoc est corpus meum!" That's the ultimate message of spirituality.
"This is my body". It is a holy temple, a vehicle in which and through which the spirit flows. It is magical and mysterious and yet profoundly simple and completely attainable by even those who would protest that they are not 'spiritual'.
At the end of my presentation, I had the whole class do the 'hokey pokey' as our closing ritual. It was great fun.
The spiritual journey, like the hokey pokey, is the place where you can put your whole self into the dance of life and 'turn yourself around' in order to become more authentically the person God is calling you to be.
I will leave you to consider these things as you listen to Kitaro's Theme from The Silk Road, which I will take with me from this class as the siren sound of an encounter with the Spirit.