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Jean

Spirituality in Jump Time
by Jean Houston, Ph.D.


Tending the gardens of our lives involves a kind of cosmic yoga; we yoke ourselves back to remembering that we are made of the same stuff as the Universe from which we continuously arise second by second. We share its body; we are woven into the fabric of its infinite ecology; the productions of our hands and minds are an aspect of its creation and live in eternity. We know ourselves, then, as resonant waves of the original seed, infinite beings who contain in our body-minds the design of creation itself, planted in the field of this particular space-time and sustained by a dynamic flow-through of cosmic energy.

At your core you already know this to be so. Surely, there are times in your life when you understand yourself to be a reality surfer, delightedly riding the waves of creation, mind opened, heart expanded, the Universe coursing through you. In such states, you are embraced in co-conscious awareness, no longer knowing or caring where "I" leave off and the rest of reality begins, or whether there is any difference. This experience is one of the supreme givens of our nature because the Universe in its operational mode is coded into every one of us. The raptures of the deep self are our native equipment, granted us by our cosmic origins. The only requirement is joy and a willingness to say "yes" to the new epic that dawns, right now, in you and me and those fortunate to be alive in the great today. We are seeds coded with cosmic dreams. Bursting the pods of our containment, we are ready to enter into creative partnership with the Universe and to populate our particular corner of space-time with our unique vision and capacity.

A Harvest of Spiritual Practices

What practices might we harvest from the cosmic garden that can help us enter the flow of continuous creation? What might we all do to participate more fully in the vital renaissance that is the emerging spirituality of Jump Time?

Tell the new story of the evolutionary journey, for it is a tale filled with empowering inspiration, a source of hope and change. The story of the origin and growth of the cosmos is being recounted and discussed in many forms, in books, on the Internet, and at international gatherings. One of the most complete and powerful retellings is The Universe Story by Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme.

At once the oldest and the newest of stories, the Universe Story heals while it unites. I find that when I tell it in my seminars or guide my students through a reenactment of its stages, it reawakens the memory banks of human history rooted in our cells and psyches and brings an expanded perspective to bear on our work, our arts, and our actions. It replaces alienation with a sense of connectivity; loneliness with an expansive and infinite sense of family; and life destroying materialism with a spiritual and humane agenda. A myth for our times, it links the personal-particulars of our local existence with the personal-universals of Great Life.

As scientist Mark Steiner, a participant in the Epic of Evolution Internet list wrote me: "We need to tell the Epic as a whole as well as to tell the individualized stories of our sun, our planet, our moon, our species. We need to tell it in narratives and in dramas. We need to tell it in literal and in metaphorical terms. We need to tell it though art and paintings. We need to tell it in song and in dance. We need to tell it on television and in movie theaters. We need to tell it in comic books, children’s books and novels. We need to tell it in street theater, operas, and performance art. We need to tell it in rituals and reenactments. We need to tell it in church services and workshops. We need to tell it in buttons, bumper stickers, and yard signs. We need to tell it with great grandiosity as well as with the most gentle, subtle, even subliminal of tones. We need to so fill the world with its own story that there is no escaping it. We need to so fill our culture with the story that it cannot help but be transformed. Our job may well be to fill our culture with the story so that it seeps deeply enough into our collective consciousness to create a common, contagious unity."

Find a retelling of the Universe Story that appeals to you and make it part of your personal mythology. Tell the story to your children, your friends, your neighbors and colleagues. Keep in mind that there are those whose religious beliefs may cause them to view the story of the universe’s evolution as a threat. In telling the new story, stress its universal spiritual dimension without diminishing or disrespecting anyone’s creation story. Told as a spiritual practice, the Universe Story has the potential to bring together and celebrate the common heritage of a diverse universe.

Commune with beauty wherever you find it. Spend more time exploring and celebrating the human glories of literature, art, music, dance, theater and the simple wonders of the natural world. Immersion into beauty wherever you find it calls forth inner beauties and brings to consciousness the budding of new realities and the freshness of a world made new, the esthetics of evolution in action.

Artists catch the currents of the Universe and put them into forms that call our emergent selves to heightened awareness. Art makes perception more acute and conception as well. It shakes the mind from its stolid moorings so that you see deeper into the world and time. Active appreciation of nature wakes you up to what is going on around you, heightens your empathy, knits you into a seamless kinship with all living things. Bringing Jump Time knowings to bear, you appreciate the billion-year story that has gone into the making of this rose, that valley, this ocean breeze.

Try it now. Close your eyes for a moment and call up in your imagination three things that enchant you with their beauty—a baby’s face, the green hills of Ireland, Michelangelo’s David. Visit each in turn, allowing your body and mind to become utterly available to—even merging with each. . . .

Even a moment of such appreciation leads naturally to a state of flow consciousness, the dissolving of boundaries between the knower, the knowledge and the known. One of my favorite priestesses of flow consciousness is the New England poet, Emily Dickinson. Caught in the mid-nineteenth century, she managed to bring all time into her own small space, for as she says:

Behind Me- Dips Eternity-
Before Me- Immortality-
Myself - the Term Between -

What happens when you think like Emily and invest each "Term" that you meet—each flower, sunset, prairie, and bee—with totality? Pursued as a spiritual practice, this kind of thinking leads you to a kind of holonomic knowing, which Emily calls "circumference knowing." You allow your mind to wrap itself around its object like a python, but instead of suffocating it, you give it life. You see the before, the after, and the between of things. You catch the glint of glory and the shadows skittering in the corner. Then, like an artist, you burst with words such as no one has ever heard and paint with colors from shores unseen. You dance, like Shiva, the death and resurrection of all, and comprehend, like a physicist, that everything is implicate and resonant in everything else— "stir a flower and bestir a star." A joyous cosmology becomes apparent, a state in which everything is flowing, pouring, bleeding, seeding, and laughing through to everything and everyone else. Emily Dickinson, that spiritual genius, poured out this revelation in words that melt our very margins:

Beauty crowds me till I die
Beauty mercy have on me
But if I expire today
Let it be in sight of thee-

In this state, anything on which you focus opens up—projects, problems, relationships, business, governance, metaphysics, even grand designs. You awaken to the wealth of being that is a given of your deepened human condition and the a-ha experiences keep on coming. You say "Yes!" to life wherever you find it, abandon whining, welcome and celebrate the springtide of change. Living in the grace of the world’s beauty, Grace happens, shift happens, and the mind is prepared to receive Reality in all its many colors.

Decondition old habit patterns that keep us stuck in a state of illusion and forgetfulness. Whether our particular "nonvirtue" is gossip or anger, self-deprecation or toxic thinking, social or business practices that hurt the souls of others, Jump Time spirituality has many methods for bringing such behaviors to consciousness so that they can be replaced by self-nurturing and compassionate ways of being.

Many methods for "changing our minds" begin by helping us to become conscious of the chain of causality that keeps us trapped in a cycle of negative behavior. Eastern mindfulness practices suggest that we notice the arising and passing away of negative impulses, without attaching to them, and by so doing, widen the gap between the self and its behaviors so as to provide for an interval of choice. Other schools of spiritual psychology counsel that we practice catching ourselves when we are about to engage in a negative habit and saying, "STOP!" We then change the imagery around the habit pattern by doing or saying or thinking something else. With repeated practice, we learn to self-orchestrate the mind and its callings with greater skill.

Apart from those negative patterns of thought and action accumulated over our lifetime, which are difficult enough to overcome, are the even more entrenched evolutionary debris of leftover archaic attitudes and obsolete programs wired into the oldest part of our brain. However cultured and urbane we may be, when we feel our territory threatened, personally or as a nation, we still regress to fanged-lip screechings and feral crouches upon only middling provocation.

The cells and systems of our brains and bodies seem to catch these atavisms like flypaper. Our throwback behaviors are given credence by bible belters and behaviorists alike; where one sees fallen nature, the other proclaims the nastiness of our neural fixations. Both exhort us to be dependent on their nostrums for salvation.

Two callings seem to be warring within us. On the one hand, the instinctual drives of habit and conditioning; on the other, the metaphysical calling toward spiritual realization. In this task we have glorious company. The author of the Prapanna Gita writes around 600 BC: "Lord, I know what virtue is, but I cannot practice it; I know what vice is, but I have no power to desist it." Six hundred years later, St. Paul complains notoriously: "For the good I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do."

Of what "evils" are we in Jump Time guilty? Matthew Fox in Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh writes eloquently of the sins of our time, the release of which requires us to go more deeply into the shadow realms of our nature. Each is a violation of the sacred, a damning agenda of our capacity for negative creativity through our collective moral and ethical failings. Each tells us much about what needs to be purified spiritually for the world to move to its next stage.

First among the modern deadly sins, Fox writes, is actively "wronging others," adding to the suffering of an already suffering world. But sin, Fox says, can also be passive, such as selfishly choosing not to see, not to hear, not to feel what is happening around us, as we do when we "ignore" our planetary ecological catastrophe. Our habitual ways of thinking can also be sinful, Fox says. In the sin of "reductionism," we oversimplify complex issues between human beings by attributing them all to sexism, racism, or class conflicts. We are also guilty of "dualism," insisting on either/or solutions to complicated and multifaceted dilemmas. Finally, Fox tells us, we moderns sin by a "lack of passion," as when we distance ourselves from the wildness of nature or put out the energetic fire that can propel us and the world forward. [Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh, New York: Harmony, 1999, pp. 158-9]

The best penance for our personal and collective "sins" may be acts of public service, restorative justice, volunteerism, and philanthropy—acts of kindness on a planetary scale. Take compassionate action and you transcend reductionism and dualism, for you see the larger picture and come to know the richness and complexity of others. Compassionate service engenders passionate concern and sets the life force to flow more strongly in your blood.

Enter the silence or celebrate the fullness by making time for a practice of spiritual connection, logging on to "Universe.org," the God Net of consciousness. We know that the universe is a living system of elegant design that seems intent on providing opportunities for learning through every thought, word, and deed. Change perspective through meditation, reflection, or centering, or shift the bandwidth of everyday consciousness to the divine wavelength, and you discover yourself to be the latest flower on the tree of the cosmos, ready to bloom.

One way of sorting through the various methods of contemplative practice available today is to divide them into two broad categories, which we might term "the way in" and "the way out." "The way in," or via negativa, is traditionally described as the way of negation. On this path, we retreat progressively from the circumference to the center, clearing the muchness to get to the suchness. "The way out," or via positiva, is the way of fullness. This path takes us out into the world to experience its richness, conscious of developing more and more hooks and eyes to catch the Universe.

What’s different in Jump Time is that the spiritual technologies at our disposal can be harvested from the whole world: Christian centering prayer, Buddhist mindfulness and visualization practices, African trance dancing, Tantra and sacred sexuality, Native American pow wows and sweat lodges, shamanic spirit journeys, Asian martial arts, Jungian dreamwork, as well as for some, the neo-mystical study of quantum realities. All of these rework the landscapes of the subliminal mind so that there are channels and riverbeds in which a deeper spiritual consciousness can flow.

In its early stages, meditation on the via negativa tends to require much the same effort as learning to read--that is, a conscious changing of focus. Just as the strange and baffling markings on the page gradually become letters, then words, then sentences, then meaning, so in inward-turning contemplation, we discover a whole new way of apprehending a Reality that is first glimpsed, gradually understood, and finally grasped. As we empty the mind of images and thought, we sink by stages into the great No-thing. Face to face with the substance of all being, the energy of all creation, we discover to our deep joy that the Universe was identical to our own consciousness all the time, regardless of how far or how weirdly we sought it outside ourselves.

The study of quantum physics can lead us to much the same conclusion. The evident structures of matter are pared away, revealing Reality in its pure energetic state, which some mystic-minded scientists think is synonymous with the primary energy of consciousness. Brenda Dunne and Robert Jahn of Princeton, for example, say that consciousness is primary and that quantum events follow: "We do not so much regard quantum mechanics as a metaphor for consciousness, but rather the other way round. We think that the fundamental concepts of quantum mechanics are the fundamental concepts of the human mind." (Robert G. Jahn and Brenda J. Dunne, Margins of Reality: The Role of Consciousness in the Physical World. New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1987, p. 205)

Quantum physics describes reality as a complementarity between waves and particles. Sometimes everything that exists partakes of one form, and sometimes, of the other. I suspect that in the contemplations of the via negativa, consciousness moves away from the particle form of the sensate world and plunges into the wave, the fathomless oceanic depths in which Ultimate Consciousness may reside.

The via positiva turns the telescope around and looks through the other end. By active engagement in art, music, dance, movement, theater, and high play, our perception is extended to the world without and the world within, our senses sharpened so that we bathe in multisensory delight. Through heightening our awareness, bringing more and more content into consciousness, and opening to the entire spectrum of emotions, sensations, and ideas, we come to the realization that all things are interdependent and part of the living life of the Metaverse. We celebrate the particle in order to catch the wave.

Choose whatever forms of innering or expanding practice appeal to you and make time and space for them in your life. Whether you "go out" or "go in" doesn’t matter; the important thing is to get going!

Find a community to support your spiritual practice. "Practice-oriented spirituality," observes Princeton sociology professor Robert Wuthnow, is "a way of imposing discipline on personal explorations." ("Returning to Practice," Noetic Sciences Review, August-November, 1999, p. 37). I suspect that in the future even traditional churches and synagogues will adopt an eclectic range of practices. Human potentials seminars, business spirituality groups, men’s and women’s circles, sanghas and ashrams, retreat centers and body-and-soul conferences, even Internet mail lists, cater to every style and flavor of practice. Their proliferation is further evidence that the spiritual zeit is getting geisty.

But if you can’t find a existing group that suits your taste, you can always start your own. In my book, Jump Time, I write spoke about the importance of teaching-learning communities and give suggestions for starting them. Such communities are particularly important to spiritual practice. Gather a group of like-minded seekers and make a pact to support each other’s regular spiritual endeavors. As Buddhists explain, the three jewels of spiritual practice are Buddha, the teacher; dharma, the teachings, and sangha, the community of fellow practitioners. Without the support of sangha, they tell us, the spiritual path can be lonely and difficult, indeed!

A New Springtime of Spirit

As more and more people adopt practices like these, signs of new growth are everywhere. In contrast to the wasteland of government, grassroots movements sprout, connecting fields of ideas and greening the social agenda with greater community responsibility and inventiveness. Millions of Cultural Creatives are adopting voluntary simplicity and putting economics back where it belongs, as a satellite to the soul of culture, thus restoring the social balance. A new appreciation and celebration of our relationship to Nature is rising, rewriting our covenant with the Earth and acknowledging that we humans are her steward and partner, not her master. Aging baby-boomers are acknowledging that our elderly are critical to the health of the planet, true citizens of Jump Time who can deal wisely and creatively with planetary complexity because they have lived long enough to develop the necessary depth and simplicity.

People are responding to the stress of current issues by going beyond themselves. So many are learning skills they never thought to have, inspired by an undeniable inner urge to take on heroically creative tasks they never thought to do:

  • Joan in Massachusetts, a respected neurobiologist, is leading a revolution in science to bring together brain research and spirituality.

  • Francis, a male nurse and former monk, redeems intractable patients in a California schizophrenic ward with the sweetness of his nature and the depth of his compassion.

  • Teresa, a New York oncologist and a mystic, uses her spiritual presence and healing gifts to alleviate the dread and fear of cancer patients.

  • Vendana, a physicist and ecologist in Delhi, writes and acts to combat corporate piracy of the world’s botanical heritage.

  • Catherine, a Connecticut documentary filmmaker, creates programs for public television that illumine the human spirit.

  • Helmut, a stockbroker in Berlin, organizes relief efforts to bring new hope to the children of war.

In their own ways, these and many more like them are citizens of the Universe, models of Spirit in action.

The world mind, it seems, is forging a new container for its spiritual seekers. Whether it is a new religion or the blending of the best of the old ones; whether it is more universal forms of collective worship or a general intensification of private spiritual practice; something unprecedented is brewing in the Earth’s spiritual continuum. Perhaps the most hopeful sign of Jump Time is just this: the grand company of mystic-minded adventurers, bent on exploring every room in the many-mansioned House of the Holy.

Copyright © Jean Houston.  All rights reserved.  Adapted from Jump Time, (New York: Tarcher/Putnam), 2000, pp. 253-264 passim.)

Jump Time is a whole system transition, a condition of interactive change that affects every aspect of life as we know it. It is the changing of the guard on every level, in which every given is quite literally up for grabs. It is the momentum behind the drama of the world, the breakdown and breakthrough of every old way of being, knowing, relating, governing, and believing. It shakes the foundations of all and everything. And it allows for another order of reality to come into time. 

 



Dr. Jean Houston is a scholar and researcher in human capacities, and for the past 30 years has co-directed, with her husband Dr. Robert Masters, the Foundation for Mind Research, first in New York City and now in Pomona, New York. Their work has focused on the understanding of latent human abilities. She is the founder of the Mystery School--a program of cross-cultural mythic and spiritual studies--dedicated to teaching history, philosophy, the new physics, psychology, anthropology, myth, and the many dimensions of our human potential.

Dr. Houston was the protégé of the late anthropologist Margaret Mead, who instructed her in the workings of organizations and power structures in many different cultures. With the late mythologist Joseph Campbell, Jean Houston frequently co-led seminars and workshops aimed at understanding interrelationships between ancient myths and modern societies.

Additionally, Jean Houston has made cross-cultural studies of educational and healing methods in Asia and Africa. Her principal areas of interest apart from her work are theater, archaeology and the philosophical, societal and other implications of contemporary physics. Dr. Houston's mind has been called "a national treasure".

Among her books are Public Like a Frog, The Hero and The Goddess, The Possible Human, The Search for the Beloved, Godseed, Life Force, Listening to the Body, Manual for the Peacemaker, The Passion of Isis and Osiris. Harper/San Francisco published her autobiography, A Mythic Life: Learning to Live Our Greater Stories.

Dr. Houston's ability to inspire and invigorate people enables her to convey her vision of the finest possible achievement of individual potential and share the excitement of that possibility with her audiences and student all over the world.

 

Visit:
www.jeanhouston.org

 

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