I live on an island across the Puget Sound opposite downtown Seattle. When storms come through with winds higher than 15 mph, or with snow and ice, there are often power outages around the island. We live among wonderful tall fir trees and the soil which is saturated with water sometimes fails to hold them, or the weight of snow and ice pulls them down onto wires. Sometimes it is a transformer that is damaged. And, of course, these are most numerous in the winter when it is cold.
Many folks have developed strategies for dealing with this, including wood burning fireplaces, or propane ones. A few years ago we put solar panels on our roof which produce an abundant of electricity during 6-9 months of the year and they feed back into the electrical grid (we get credit for what we do not use) but they do not serve us when the power is out, so we installed an all house generator. It works great but the downside is that it makes noise. Our neighbors have them, too, so it sounds like a power plant here when the power is out.
The discovery of electricity was/is kind of amazing. We harness the resources of the earth and the sun to provide power that runs most of our daily lives. You can even drive an all electric car. We do, charging it in our garage from the solar produced electricity. And, although in many ways, electricity has made our lives easier (even, some would say, better), it has also made it more complicated as the numerous electronic gadgets that we regularly use have become the norm for daily life. Not having Wi-Fi or phone connection can produce great stress. Even now, this blog is being written on a computer. We all want power.
Many of us have come to realize that this power has come at a great cost. We are not only using up the resources of the planet, we are disturbing it greatly and some would say destroying it. In addition, the human cost is not only from planetary distress in terms of major storms, earthquakes, volcanoes, rising seas, melting glaciers, but it is perhaps much more. Electricity has allowed us to separate ourselves as individuals from each other and from the basic interactions with the earth. The pull of nature is calling us back to the sea, the mountains, the forest, the garden, and the shared common interconnected life that all of these promote.
Power is glorified in our planetary culture. Whoever is the strongest, whoever can impose their will on the most people, whoever can yell the loudest and be the most emphatic in their proclamations, whoever is the richest – these are the people who are held up as leaders and followed. The race to the top of the power heap is a constant. Well, my friends, perhaps that “power pile” is overheating, too.
In more recent years I’ve become much more aware of what I would consider to be a more significant power outage. It’s the power that is inwardly available to all humans. The power of attention, intention, and presence. Some would call this the “soul” of humanity. Another word for it is Being. To quote Cynthia Bourgeault from her many talks on the subject (check out YouTube): Being is not something you have, it is something you are. That quality is a potential that lies within the heart, body and mind of every human being. And it lies mostly dormant unless we are taught to use and develop it. Western culture almost uniformly ignores it, even religious institutions/organizations. We have failed to intentionally develop our Being.
Like many of you I wasn’t even aware of the possibility of developing my Being until I met Thomas Keating in 1998. His very Being was luminous and I wanted to have that kind of Presence in my ongoing life. That put me on the path of practicing Centering Prayer (a surrender practice of Christian meditation) and led me to many retreats and ultimately Wisdom Schools with Cynthia Bourgeault where I learned that attending to my three centered awareness and presence (body, heart and mind) was a path of transformation. The Christian Church, of which I am a part, has not taught or emphasized such a path. We seem to skate along the surface, focusing primarily on the head part of our Being. That leaves us very lopsided and not fully developed at all. I am certainly still a work in process, but hopefully, my whole Being is more present than it was 20 years ago.
Why is this important? Isn’t Contemplative Living (another term for what I have been writing about) a kind of navel-gazing, self absorbed way to make one feel good? Well, it can be. Ultimately, it is a path designed, if you truly follow it, to let go of ego needs and be present in the world in a way that projects the energy of Love. Not the feeling, sappy kind of love, but love that is focused outwardly in the world. The effort to do that is only sustained by the inner work of letting go of our self-centered egoic ways, by acknowledging and learning to live with our shadow side, and by truly being present to whatever is in front of us in the moment.
There used to be a popular song: What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of. Today I would say: What the world needs now is your developed Being. That changes the energy among the peoples on the planet in your immediate community and allows love to flow in ways that are transformative. Aren’t we longing for that?
Quoting Teilhard de Chardin:
Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.
It begins with each of us attending and nurturing the power of our Being from within, together with others who are following the same path. Let’s light that fire and bring the inner fire into the world!