We Are Here

The heart is sacred
Just as you and I are sacred

Two years ago at about this time of year I made my way to a weekly meditation class and paused beneath the cloudy New York City sky to marvel at the sight that appeared above me. In that moment it seemed as though I had never before seen a cloud in the sky, so strange were the shapes, depth, textures, colors, delicateness, layers, and vastness of the clouds. After class as I walked with my teacher to the subway station, I recounted to him my experience with the clouds, still amazed and troubled at the intensity of the experience. He listened in silence and then encouraged me to continue “seeing” the clouds for as long as I could, mindful that the experience was likely to fade. The confusion of the experience passed but the wonder remained with me, and to this day every time I step outside to walk my dog the first thing I do is look to the sky and then to Dante before we begin our journey together.

Just like the stray dog
Just like the wrinkles of an old woman’s face
Just like the sweet refuge of calm waters
Just like the branches of an ancient tree
Just like each and every breath

Wonders exist all around us, if only we could see them. The life we know as we pass through this world is greater than any dream or fable, and yet most of us are unable to see it that way until we have a child. Once a mother or a father looks into the eyes of their child, they behold the miracle of an entire family made present in that one beautiful, helpless being. In the eyes of that one insignificant being already destined to die one day, the mystery of every life that will ever exist anywhere is revealed. They find a family worth dying for — and more importantly, a family worth living for.

On the tree of every family, of every people
There are many branches
Some are foolish men, others wise women
Some are hopeful children, some cynical elders

If there are beings like us elsewhere in the Universe on planets or moons orbiting stars, it seems likely that they share our experience of family, even if their biology dictates forms of mating and reproduction that differ from ours. Life as we know it arises within a community, continues by means of community, grows by means of a community, and endures by means of a community. That’s the entire purpose of family. In certain circumstances we even look beyond our own flesh and blood to others and regard them as part of our family. If we encounter beings like us from some distant place in the Universe, they, too, might wish to become part of our family and we might wish to become part of theirs. And if for reasons of physics or biology we are never able to be directly and physically present to each other, by the very fact of communication and shared experience of the nature of life we still might call each other family.

There are farmers and beggars
There are peoples of the forest
There are peoples of the sea
There are peoples of hate and war
Some are deaf and blind
While others are oracles of an impossible future

Once we thought we were alone in the Universe. Today it seems unlikely that we’re alone. We have yet to understand what it means for us if there are other beings like us somewhere in the Universe. We will need a novus habitus mentis, a new way of thinking and relating, if we wish to befriend such beings. The task of developing a useful novus habitus mentis will take time, patience, and love — rare commodities for any of us individually but practically infinite when we come together for a great purpose.

The embrace of a grandmother
The compassion of a tree
The infinite expanse of the human heart
These will endure forever

There’s no reason our species should have survived on this planet, since the vast majority of species that ever existed on Earth are all extinct. Our survival was not inevitable and yet we are here. We ourselves are more amazing than dreams or fables, and if we ever encounter beings from some distant place in the Universe, surely they will recognize that.

Even if we don’t.

~BT Waldbillig
June 15, 2017

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From Friend to Family

The life of every great spiritual hero is a story of struggle and discovery that transforms for the better not only the individual in question but also countless others. It is the story of a human being who becomes a Friend to those in need of friendship and a Father (or Mother) to those in need of family.

Such a Friend and Father dedicates his life completely to those he loves, so that they, in turn, might dedicate themselves to one another like fearless warriors who never abandon one of their own. Those who once were strangers come together as a spiritual family and meaningless lives give way to purpose and mission.

Before such a family enemies flee. Before such a family mountains bow and oceans cower. Before such a family the heavens themselves offer homage.

Canticle of the Family
Our Tree is a tree of suffering
It is a tree of life and hope

Under the shade of its kind boughs
We take refuge

From the scorching sun
And from the torrents of rain

Whether alone in silence
Or surrounded by the many peoples

Its roots are watered with tears
Its roots are nourished by blood

Though we are tired and weak
Its noble trunk holds us aright

And its many mighty branches
Reach out to the infinite multitude of stars

To proclaim: WE ARE HERE

~BT Waldbillig
June 6, 2017

From Afar and From Within

On the Arising and Return of the Spiritual Impulse
The religions, spiritual traditions, and transformative social movements of our world begin with historical events that unfold in the lives of actual human beings.

Inspired men and women understand their experience in uncommon and extraordinary ways that remain mysterious to most of us.

They inspire their brothers and sisters to live life with previously unimaginable purpose, meaning, beauty, kindness, joy, mercy, compassion, and love; this is no insignificant reality.

We who experience life at a distance from the events that transformed those greatest of human beings have no choice but to use the words, images, and ideas the arise from own understanding and experience of the world.

We do this in our attempt to make sense of our own lives while communicating something that is at heart difficult to communicate or even beyond human words altogether.

The custodians of religions, spiritual paths, and transformative social movements often get lost in their endeavor and lose sight of the actual, original source of inspiration.

They create systems, institutions, schools of thought, spiritual rules, canons of sacred writings, etc. as useful tools, though at times even the most useful of human tools can become burdensome hindrances.

Mystics, spiritual weirdos, heroes, Titans, prophets, gurus, enlightened beings, saints, and the like create their own paths and often leave the rest of us behind.

Perhaps we, in our day, will find new, concrete ways of understanding those ancient sources of inspiration and make them useful to the challenges of this present moment.

We needn’t jettison that which came before this present moment, but we do ourselves no good service if we make the past our graven idol.

On Spiritual Family
A spiritual family is entirely capable of accomplishing even the most impossible of tasks.

Normal human modes of judgment — around good and evil, the sacred and the impure, the one and the many, the self and the other — will, at unforeseen times of extreme crisis, both serve us and hinder us.

A spiritual family, to the mind of the ancient ones, embraces both the mighty and weak, the noble and ignoble, the just and the unjust, the worthy and the unworthy.

Every member of a spiritual family is dedicated to the true purpose from which the family arose.

On the Tree
In ancient times, a grove of trees was considered sacred not because each and every tree was holy, but because of the presence of a single noble Tree; such is the power of a worthy tree.

It is said that the many ordinary, common, and profane trees serve to hide, protect, and honor the one Tree whose life and presence make sacred the entire grove.

Let us, then, love the Tree as it manifests itself through leaves, shoots, seeds, roots, branches, bark, sap, shade, might, beauty, immovability, agility, life-giving power, wisdom, and self-sacrifice.

The Tree ascends to the highest heavens and descends to the darkest pits, embracing the sky above, the Earth we wander, and also the underworld.

The Tree is our sign of enduring hope, for every time it is destroyed and annihilated, it is again reborn, living, and life-giving, just like the mythic Phoenix or like the Awakened One.

When our ancestral family fell from the heights and safety  of a tree, it carried trees to the cave, and later built weapons, tools, homes, and great ships from trees; so long as our family exists in some form, the Tree will live and give life.

~BT Waldbillig
January 13, 2017

Ultimate Purpose and Supreme Joy

This past week I experienced a first health scare with the dog, who had ingested a hard plastic condiment container that caused a partial blockage of his digestive tract. Luckily, the problem resolved itself without the need for surgery and Dante is well again. When yesterday arrived, I felt more than ready for my usual Christmas Eve ritual: parking myself on the couch next to the dog and watching repeats of Doctor Who all day long.

When I was a kid, I had quite a different routine for Christmas Eve. That was the day when Grandma Carol would arrive for her holiday visit. The house would be thoroughly cleaned and the guest room prepared by the time she arrived in the early afternoon. Luggage, Christmas gifts, and holiday sweets would find their way into the house. While the adults sat in the kitchen sipping coffee, we children would arrange the gifts around the Christmas tree and begin speculating on what might be in the packages.

I’ve been thinking about my grandmother a great deal over the past year. By pure coincidence, asteroids passed by Earth on her Halloween birthday and again on Christmas Eve this year, bringing her memory to the fore of my consciousness even more intensely.

The embrace of a grandmother
The compassion of a tree
The infinite expanse of the human heart
These will endure forever

We could almost say that both the ultimate purpose of life and the supreme joy of life is the continuation of life itself. Yet, the continuation of life is always enshrouded in uncertainty, precariousness, and pain. Despite this, we choose to carry on in the great endeavor of life and, from time to time, we even find happiness.

~BT Waldbillig
December 25, 2015