This morning is my first time back to the conference since the opening ceremony, my colleague Christine having attended yesterday’s sessions. Stepping into the Hall and taking my seat, I am surrounded by the heightened energy of engaged, animated conversation, a feeling of old friends gathered together.
My attention is drawn to five white panels, covered in colourful bits of paper, that are now hanging up around the Hall. For the benefit of those of us who didn’t attend on Sunday, Antonio explains that these are five altars – one each for love, magic, miracles, the future generations and our ancestors – to which the hopes, dreams and blessings of those participating in the conference have been offered.
After the customary moment of silence, the primal sound of a didgeridoo takes us deep into wild nature, deep into the earth, deep into our hearts. Thank you, Craig Gibsone for the grounding resonance I experience listening to the music you create.
God is within, and in all things. Through elevating the rational we have forgotten this, bringing humanity to the current crisis situation we face. At the opening ceremony, Caroline Myss spoke of her hope that during this week a type of grace would be generated that in turn would generate the type of miracles that we so desperately need now. This morning, Caroline talks about miracles.
Struck by sacred lightning — Caroline Myss
One of the pillars of Caroline’s work is her background in classical mysticism. She recognises as an inherent archetype in the human being a fundamental cord of awe and the desire to be ‘struck by sacred lightning’, to hear God call our name. Yet as Caroline points out, we fear this the most and experience a push-pull between the ego and the soul.
Intrigued by the mystical life of saints, who had managed to pierce through the portal into the soul and radiate an illumination that the ego was unable to produce, Caroline looked to what was common amongst these men and women that might be clues for us living now to follow.
Many of the saints, especially those with whom we may be more familiar – Francis of Assisi, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross – lived before the Age of Reason. They were alive at a time when miracles were common, as was seeing angels and visions. These saints lived in a God-centred world and hadn’t separated themselves from the laws of nature as we have. They lived congruently, standing in the truth, no longer
able to betray their own integrity.
A me-centred world
Caroline speaks of how today we live in a me-centred world, where the expectation is that God should serve us. This attitude of ‘entitlement’ – approaching difficulties as if they shouldn’t have happened to us – is one of two ways through which we block miracles from happening in our lives. The other way is when we take our pain and suffering and abuse others with it, attempting to make them feel bad for us. It is at this point that Caroline offers to us a prayer she uses. Feeling the power of the words she used, I share them here:
“Lord, take me deep down into my own darkness so I can understand why I do what I do to others with the pain and suffering you gave me to deal with.”
Using the story of Jesus’ life as she sees it, Caroline suggests that what Jesus lived on the outside is what we must go through on the inside in order to touch compassion. We become a miracle when we allow grace to run through us in service to another person.
Miracles of healing occur when the laws of nature bend for us. More than once this morning Caroline highlights that the laws of nature are in us. We don’t reach a level of consciousness; we become that level of consciousness. This is what the saints did, and it is in the lives of people who opened themselves to becoming, that miracles occurred.
The Magic of Music, our next session, is presented by Barbara Swetina, with support from Ian Turnbull, Francois Monnet, and Sheila Pettit. Barbara speaks of how powerful music can be, how it can transform us and weave us together as a community even if we don’t know each other.
Barbara’s introduction to the first song we sing together brings to our awareness that what we can know in this year for which many things have been predicted, is that we are here to learn to love. The words of this heart-warming song were written by Phyllida Anam-Aire:
“I am with you, that I might heal
you are with me, that you might heal
We are together, that we might heal
We are healing, that we might love.”
The feeling of being old friends, which I felt earlier this morning, returns with the next song we sing. Through it we are reminded that we’ve all been together before. The melody, which Barbara plays on the accordion, has the lovely feel of a waltz and as I look around while I sing, I see smiling faces and swaying bodies. The room takes on a wonderful warm-and-fuzzy feel that is comforting to the soul.
Encouraged by Ian, Barbara shares with us the story of how music became her passion, and eventually her career. From singing with her mum while washing the dishes to offering music workshops around the world, Barbara seeks to find the connection with divinity and to help other people do the same.
Divinity finding expression
Do you ever wonder what happens energetically when a bird or a human sings? Barbara projects on the screen several aura drawings, created through the collaboration of a clairvoyant and an artist, that show graceful, flowing, and expansive shapes. All these images were drawn in the colours of white, golden yellow, pink and blue – the same colours intuitively chosen for the conference candle. These colours are often associated with love, compassion, inspiration and integration of body and spirit, and it is through these qualities that divinity can find expression.
We end our morning together by going on a journey, encouraged by Francois, to the Singing Chamber located out behind the Universal Hall. What we experience here is the beginning of the magical transformation of willow branches into a bird that will continue throughout every afternoon, the bird becoming an integral part of the completion ceremony on Friday morning.
Before we leave the Singing Chamber, our large group offers a blessing to this labour of love conceived by Ian Turnbull, and completed only just yesterday.
The Universal Hall became ever more colourful this evening as people streamed in to fill the seats and hear the presentation by Andrew Harvey. It took a few moments for Michael and Antonio to quiet the audience for the traditional time of silence. Barbara then stepped into the centre and spoke of the full day with all the input we’re receiving. “Let’s begin with a zesty, Caribbean song, Halleluia, in praise of life,” came her invitation.
Those in the community familiar with the song formed a curve in the centre of the Hall and Barbara led the men in harmony, before guiding the women into higher notes. The sense of joy as people sang and danced created an uplifting tempo for the evening.
Caroline Myss then had the pleasure of introducing Andrew Harvey, one of her best friends for quite some time, “I watched how he suffered through the birth of his vision,” she said. “Witnessing what it’s like to be called to represent a vision that will challenge people to move forward in a world that’s on fire.”
Andrew Harvey turns the heat up
From the moment Andrew stepped into the centre, he commanded the stage like a Shakespearian actor in the throes of passion and for two hours didn’t stop for a single pause. The heat was turned up high and we sat in a simmering cauldron of ideas and intellect.
In the opening ceremony of Saturday evening Andrew had expressed his wish, “That we all wake up a commitment to put love into action, now before the world is destroyed.” This was the absolute theme of his talk on Monday night, expressed with relentless fervour, the mind of Oxford academia merged with the heart of a mystic.
If Robert Holden was yin, Andrew Harvey was yang. The force of his passion was apparent when he recited Rumi, “Love’s horse will carry you home.” One of the couplets he asked us to remember captures the energy of his presentation, “Mount the stallion of love and do not fear the path – Love’s stallion knows the way exactly.” For me certainly it was a wild ride in the Hall, forging ahead into the unknown, being challenged, inspired, awakened into the fire.
“I believe three things in this moment in life that are all inter-related,” Andrew said. “We all know the human race is in a massive, menacing evolutionary crisis affecting the future of humanity and nature; there is a great death of the environment, corporate fascism is dominating the world and the new age is willing people to sleep when people need to be alive and active; as a result of this a massive birth is also taking place, the largest movement of civil reaction with two million NGOs on the planet.”
“Not all of us here are with the birth,” he continued. “We’re fragmented, disorganised and time for the human race is running out. Rise to the challenge with the magnificence of souls on fire with love for God and the world,” came the passionate call to action, which Andrew defines as Sacred Activism.
If you marry a deep, spiritual understanding of the universe with radical, wise action, a holy force is born that turns terror into grace.
He offered a user-friendly definition for people that don’t want to be frightened too much. “If you marry a deep, spiritual understanding of the universe with radical, wise action a holy force is born that turns terror into grace.” Andrew spoke of people who exemplify his point: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Lech Walesa, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, describing their lives of wisdom and love. “We have no excuse not to know,” he said. “Diligence and discipline create magic and miracles.”
Andrew then gave a second, deeper definition, relating to what is really trying to take place. “The birth of a holy new kind of human being, a conscious divine being. This is the evolutionary leap that has to happen. The previous levels of consciousness are unable to deal with the destructive systems in place.”
Passion for God and justice
In a vision that has been central to his life ever since, Andrew described the fire of divine humanity that is born from the fusion between the passion of the mystic for God, with the passion of the activist for justice. A series of mystical experiences possessed him to keep asking questions and he shared a humourous tale about interviewing the Dalai Lama in 1989, the year the Tibetan spiritual leader won the Nobel Peace Prize.
“I was overwhelmed by his presence,” Andrew recalled. “At the end of the interview I couldn’t get out of my chair.” The Dalai Lama said kindly, “I have to go now, I need to collect the Nobel Peace Prize.” For a moment they were breast to breast as they said goodbye and Andrew grabbed this rare opportunity, blurting out, “What is the meaning of life?” His dry wit in the retelling of the tale prompted a great roar of laughter in the Hall. The Dalai Lama became calm and quiet and expressed words that forever changed the meaning of the path for Andrew, “To embody the transcendent.”
“There is just one question. How in this lifetime do we embody the transcendent?” Andrew asked, as he proceeded to speak about his great love for one of the most important mystics of our time, Father Bede Griffiths. “Please plunge in if you haven’t heard of him,” he encouraged, mentioning Thomas Merton in the same breath. “Father Bede gave me the map.”
Andrew then spent ten years writing his book The Hope and six years teaching describing it as, “The most difficult thing I’ve ever done.” I felt intrigued to source a copy, hoping it would expand upon the five sobering truths, the five kinds of service and the five sacred practices touched upon during the evening, that are essential to become, “An agent of loving, transformative, radical change.”
“The only hope for humanity is to take up the challenge of the divine and put this into every arena in the world.” Andrew then posed the question, “What of all the causes in the world breaks your heart the most? Follow your heartbreak of outrage and pain instead of your bliss. What are you prepared to step up and do something about? This is your mission. The only hope for the planet is a grass roots revolution.”
As the evening came to a close, people stood up around the Hall to applause the power of the presentation and it was indeed an extended ovation. Will we now become warrior – lover – servant of the new birth?