CENTER COMMUNITY NEWS
Newsletter of the Center for Sacred Sciences
Vol. 34, No. 3 • Summer 2021
Tribute to Matt and Hiromi
Matthew and Hiromi Sieradski, who have been an integral part of the CSS community for over 16 years, have recently resigned as CSS teachers. In addition, Hiromi has resigned from the CSS board. Below is a letter from Joel that pays tribute to all the ways they have served the Center and thanks them for their service, followed by letters to the community from Hiromi and Matt.
Dear Matt and Hiromi,
I want to express to you both publicly and privately my heartfelt gratitude for your participation in and service to our CSS community over the last 16 years — first as students, then as teachers giving talks, leading practitioners groups and retreats, and, finally, you Hiromi as a member of the CSS board of directors in charge of activities. These included organizing fund-raising events, supervising parties and celebrations, and, most important, finding suitable venues and booking biannual retreats for our members. I know this wasn't easy, especially during the last year-and-a-half in the midst of all the corona craziness. But, you left us in good shape, ready to go when the pandemic is over.
I was also deeply moved, Hiromi, by your blossoming as a student and a teacher, from your bravely bearing witness on a Zen street retreat, to your recent swerve towards a bhakti path, which prompted you to learn to sing, chant, and play the ukulele, practically right before of our eyes! That's selflessness in the flesh! And Matt, from the very beginning, you brought an expertise in body-mind skills and practices — Qigong, Taiji, working with subtle energies, etc. — that our Center sorely lacked and will now sorely miss (although I trust you will continue teaching these practices somewhere where CSS members can still find you and benefit!). Also, I know from direct feedback how many of our members were helped immensely by your wise, personal counseling and insights.
In short, we will all miss you both as official teachers and leaders of our community, but we do understand that, as Dr. Wolff used to say, "change is the law of this world," and that we all have to go where we are called. Nevertheless, I hope you don't go too far, either physically or spiritually, and that you always consider yourself part of our greater CSS community!
Blessings & Peace, Joel
Letter from Hiromi
Hiromi and Matt
Dear CSS Sangha,
The cooling autumn breeze feels delightful after the intense summer heat. I hope you are finding ease and simple joy in your lives, as we all have had to learn to slow down on many levels.
I am writing today to share the difficult decisions I made, and my gratitude.
First of all, the Center for Sacred Sciences has been my home since my family moved to Eugene back in 2005 with our then 8-month-old baby boy. Matt wanted to move back to Eugene so he could study with a spiritual teacher, namely Joel Morwood. I moved mainly knowing Matt's parents are in Eugene so we would have a closer relationship with our kids' grandparents, since all my family still lives in Japan.
My journey started with a newborn and a toddler. The CSS sangha welcomed our family with an open heart. I must say all of you helped me grow as a young mother and spiritual seeker by holding a safe place. We received the nourishment we needed as a young family and survived that intense period of our lives. Thank you for saving me from ending up in a psych ward! Eventually I took on the event coordinator and the activity director roles. I enjoyed serving my community organizing events, including retreats. I had a safe and loving environment to explore and practice what I was learning. As a board member, I learned about the organization through the decision making I participated in. I am so grateful for being selected to be part of the board and witnessing the dedication, effort, kindness, and love that went into running this organization.
I experienced trust as I have never felt elsewhere. You, the CSS sangha trusted me to take a role and appreciated what I brought. Experiencing gratitude and love healed me greatly. Gradually, I have learned how to see things through all the mystical teachings. Now I can say I was preparing for the biggest fall of my life, which happened on the Fall meditation retreat almost five years ago. I fell on my way to breakfast on the second day and did not walk for three months. Suddenly I was given “golden opportunities” to practice. Not able to fill any of the roles I was comfortable with helped me to recognize many of my attachments in this vulnerable state. I received full support from the CSS sangha to nurture myself back through the kindness network. It truly was a network of kindness that I leaned on heavily. My family would not have survived without the support of the CSS kindness network. Thank you for creating and keeping that service all this time. It was a lifesaver for my family.
Since I turned fifty last year, I have been pondering my life's work, even as I took a break from teaching. I discovered that I am not suited to engage a long time in the online set up I was hoping to continue with. Meanwhile, CSS is doing what they can and serving in a way that responds to our sangha's needs by offering Zoom meetings. I am happy to see our sangha getting their needs met this way, although I started to wonder what this meant for myself. Joel taught me that you don't have to do anything, life will show you and remind you over and over what you need to engage with. I intentionally obey this teaching.
During this year, Matt and I started to experience meeting young people who wanted guidance in their meditation practice. We have started to receive requests to teach a meditation class frequently. These are younger people who are in different phases of life and who are not afraid to meet in person. We recognize that CSS serves mostly a retired and older population. Now that it is the second year dealing with the pandemic, we know this situation is not going to change that quickly. We have been continually asked to teach meditation, and our hearts accepted this request. We feel that the Beloved blessed us by offering this opportunity to do what the CSS sangha did for us. All Love, nothing but Love. We are going to follow St. Francis' path. We will go outside of our own church to spread the dharma we experienced and learned at CSS.
Also, as parents of teenagers, we have decided to home-school them. We are taking this matter into our own hands and creating the education we want our children to experience with like-minded parents. We have been noticing our teenagers are not quite children anymore, and not quite adults. They still need more direct ways of guidance to become resilient human beings who will survive and carry on in this challenging world. I am going to take a more active role in organizing this new path, and I will need all my energy to support my children's education.
Another important thing for me personally is that I felt that I didn't belong to my family when I was growing up. I felt my parents never understood or nurtured me, and I felt like an alien in my family. For me to really focus on being with my children closely now is part of transforming my karma. My ancestors' line of deep resentment and belief in not having choices is the biggest work I am engaged in. Everything I learned from the CSS teachings is showing me a green light and urging me to go ahead to plunge deep into this work with a full heart. I am allowing Shakti to lead me. All my cells long to feel union by practicing for close connections with my children so they won't feel the same way as the majority of modern humans feel. In fact, just hearing our teenagers say we are decent parents and better than any other parents they know made me feel I am on the right track. I know I am making the right decision to be with them in this critical time before they leave our nest.
At the same time, I have started to struggle with what the government agencies are recommending. I don't trust what I am seeing in mainstream media. Personally, I experience enough discrimination being a small Asian woman that I choose not to place myself where I might be asked to enforce questionable mandates. I take responsibility for my own health, and trust my own natural immunity. I will continue to hold this view which is very different from what we are witnessing and experiencing in the public discourse. My heart aches to see many business owners and organizations forced to follow these guidelines. Earlier last year, the CSS board decided to follow the CDC and OHA guidelines. It has become stressful to not share my truth and I've realized that I must recognize my need to let go of my attachment. In this case, I need to come clean and clear with my sangha. I do not feel comfortable continuing to get involved in any way that questions one's constitutional rights and medical freedom, especially in a place of spiritual practice. I feel it will serve better for me to step down from all my roles at CSS so I won't be creating more challenges for myself and for the sangha. My stepping down will offer others opportunities to serve.
To make the situation clean and simple, I have decided to step down from being an activity coordinator, activity director, and a teacher, effective immediately. It is bittersweet and I am ready to leave this loving nest for now to soar in the vast sky and fly with my children. I now know that I have everything I need to navigate thanks to you. The CSS teachings helped me recognize myself as a divine instrument. Now I'm ready to surrender myself and let myself be played.
I hope this shift I am making is not taken as a permanent absence from the CSS community. Matt and I would love to continue an honest and open relationship. We are going to start our own small sangha to support the young and whoever wants to study with us directly. We will continue to refer to CSS as a place where spiritual seekers can explore the mystical teachings. We would love to be considered to be welcomed back when the situation is different in the future. If you see us in town, please say hello. We would love that. I am aware that my letter is longer than what I intended, but I feel it is important to share my truth clearly before I launch on a new path. Thank you for all your love and guidance. Peace be with you.
With all my love and gratitude,
Hiromi Y. Sieradski (Myogetsu-Wondrous Moon)
Letter from Matt
Dear CSS Sangha,
By now you have heard that Hiromi and I have stepped down as teachers from the Center for Sacred Sciences. We did not make this decision lightly. The reason for our departure is simple: We have been called to focus on our own ministry project, Heaven Earth Circle, in service to those who have been coming directly to us for support and instruction since the Covid pandemic began. We love CSS and will miss being directly involved in the Center community on a regular basis. However, we vow to continue to support the healing and awakening of all beings.
The Center has been so important in my life that it would be impossible to find words to do justice to the impact this community has had on me. When I found Joel, I was looking for my final guru, and I was not disappointed. I watched Joel over the past sixteen years carefully, gently, and brilliantly guide all who came to him for spiritual sustenance. From tirelessly and humorously repeating the basic meditation instructions every Sunday, to deep and timeless expositions on various aspects of mystical practice and realization, to navigating inevitable misunderstandings with ease and grace, he has ever been the selfless servant of Truth. Likewise the compassionate wisdom of all of the CSS teachers and sangha members has left a great and glowing impression in my heart.
Even more importantly, as I began to come into my own spiritual maturity, the support and encouragement that Joel and the other CSS sangha members gave me was invaluable in my development as a father, husband, and teacher. I have always felt myself to be an odd duck, but at the Center I was accepted and appreciated. Moreover, the actions of Joel and the other elders at the Center has always been of the highest moral caliber and kindness. I strive to maintain the commitment to virtue embodied by these exemplars. God willing, I will fail well.
I have learned, after much meditation and divine grace, that I am an angry, resentful man. In order for me to find redemption, I am called to protect and defend those who otherwise may be vulnerable. This led me to the path of the healer. My experience of Covid is different from many. I see it as an opportunity for us to reclaim our blessed inheritance of conscious cooperation with all life on earth. The mainstream response to Covid is not this, it is something else and I do not trust it. Each of us, however, has the opportunity to choose wholeness over toxicity, love over fear, and creativity over despair. With Hiromi's support, I feel that I can make this sacred choice and transmute my anger into a benevolent force to help foster a harmonious, regenerated world that I intuit is beyond the current social chaos and disintegration – at least in our small corner of it.
Thank you all so much for your support and generosity. I am blessed to call such good people friends.
Peace, Love, Light, & Levity!
Center Continues Meetings via Zoom, Non-local Sangha Grows
As we look forward to autumn, the Center is continuing to offer Sunday meetings and weekly practitioners groups. Although many of us who live in the Eugene area have missed meeting in person, the Zoom format has shattered separations of time and space, opening participation to dear and distant friends transcending both state and national borders. And recordings of the meetings allow those in other time zones to watch at a later time. In addition, two of our teachers, David Cunningham and Andrea Pucci, who live in Washington and California, have become regular Sunday teachers and are leading practitioners groups as well.
Looking forward to a day when we may again open our doors to in-person meetings, we are making plans to allow hybrid meetings that allow both in person and remote participation. Meanwhile, we are also hoping to soon offer contactless library check-out service from our amazing library of mystical treasures. Stay tuned for details!
Honesty, by Andrea
When we practice the precept of HONESTY — Not to deceive myself or others by word or deed — then we become more and more acutely aware of our inner agendas and habituated faults, our desire to manipulate situations, and how much of our sharing and communication is mostly in the service of maintaining egoic identity, by influencing others to agree with us, or to accomplish our desired outcome, which is often self centered. Defensive ego energy often occultly debases others to elevate oneself.
We need courage and deep honesty to not conflate sharing 'vulnerability' with sharing in the service of ego getting what it wants out of a situation.
What you may initially think is 'sharing’ is often an attempt to manipulate and elicit a desired response from others. Recognizing this is crucial to breaking through habituated communication in the service of separateness.
The greatest gift a teacher can offer, is to point to, and to be a mirror to, both your true nature and your potential, AND also to the ego games running on automatic that are preventing you from realizing your true nature.
If you are willing to recognize, acknowledge and purify (offer), you will swiftly progress on the path, because your intention to end suffering becomes stronger than your defensive habit of separation.
You practice honesty and purification internally, silently with yourself. THE SACRED PAUSE.
When we place our attention on changing the behavior of others — rather than on exposing our own hidden agendas — we are continually creating and enforcing duality instead of recognizing, offering our ignorance, and using that liberated energy to brighten our wisdom mind and wisdom subtle energy flow in our body ( vs feeling stuck, closed, rigid, fearful, defensive). That is true personal power — the fruit of practice.
We can only feel SAFE when we acknowledge our own hidden feelings, reactive tendencies, deceits, faults, shortcomings, agendas, hopes and fears, obstacles — to ourself without any self justification, excuses, deception, or self rejection.
Then we don’t need to project onto others what we dislike, reject, and don’t accept about ourself — and it is not necessary to convince anyone else, or to require feeling “safe” with others.
We need to feel safe with ourselves.
When we are being mindful and working to uncover our own fears and self deceit, we no longer worry or expend any energy or have to defend ourself from others — who may see through our selfish agendas. We celebrate our power to recognize and release (renounce, offer) that which keeps us separate and stuck in duality. That offering opens the non-dual experience of Spacious Emptiness, Clarity and Compassion Radiant Presence with ourselves and whoever we are with.
The precept — "not to deceive myself or others by word or deed” — makes interaction and communication profoundly simple and pure. We have nothing to pretend or to hide from ourselves or others. We are devoted to the practice of recognizing, exposing and releasing all that keeps us separate.
Self centered rigidity and separateness becomes transparent and obvious to those who do the work of freeing themselves from their own fears, rigidity and self deception When we recognize, expose and offer the causes of our own inner suffering, then we become acutely aware of when others are acting out defensive isolation. We can feel it.
We are either working in the service of separate ego identity and a world of duality OR we are practicing recognizing, offering, melting into non duality with every momentary phenomenal experience of our habituated mind, and feeling our reactive gross emotional energy body, and allowing those gross energies to flow and settle and morph in the space of our tender awareness with our momentary experience.
That is why we must be mindful of our energy centers in our body, which always reflect our mental and emotional defensiveness OR Liberated Energy Bliss can arise as our defenses dissolve, instead of habituated suffering, which just becomes cause and condition for additional suffering.
Happy Days of Practice,
Light of Truth Day: Six Pointers to Truth
Six Pointers to Truth
According to tradition, Joel delivered an annual Light of Truth Day talk in August on a topic related to Enlightenment. In this year's talk, Joel invited us to contemplate six direct pointers to Truth, drawn from the teachings of Aua (Iglulik Eskimo Shaman), Lao Tzu (Taoist), Teresa of Avila (Christian), Ibn Arabi (Sufi), Lalleshwari (Hindu), and Franklin Merrell-Wolff (American mystical philosopher). After reminding us that the Ultimate Truth is beyond experience and cannot be grasped by the thinking mind, Joel pointed out that mystical teachings can nonetheless be valuable as "fingers pointing to the Moon" as the Buddhists put it. The six pointers included common themes of entering silence, emptying ourselves, and then being graced with an ineffable realization of nothing which is Absolute Fullness. Joel then guided us in a meditation inspired by these pointers.
Calamity of the Mind, by Merry Song
Merry Song holds a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and is a teacher with the Center for Sacred Sciences. She leads spiritual writing workshops using creative writing as a tool to illuminate "The Story of I" and cultivate awareness. "Calamity of the Mind" is an example of Fragmentary Literature using the second-person point of view. She wrote the entire piece as daily journal entries during a long canoe trip on the Green River of Utah.
Calamity Jane was your hero when you were nine years old. Calamity — this gun toting, hard drinking, tough cowgirl who did whatever the hell she damn well pleased. You couldn’t imagine anything better. You wanted to be as free as all that. But you were a nine-year-old girl, and your mother, even though she let you wear your brother’s hand-me-down corduroys, kept telling you to act like a lady.
Act like a lady. It was an act all right. In fact, everything seemed like an act to you. You could act this way or that way — maybe you should be an actor. People would ask you, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And you would say, “An actor.” Or was that actress? Why were there two names for the same thing?
Why were you two things for the same name? Perhaps you could use the name Calamity, too. Just sometimes. Just to name that part of you that could not act like a lady. You could keep it quiet — just call yourself Calamity. Especially those times when you knew Calamity was dressed up as someone else.
* * *
Perfect Presence. That’s your name on this canoe trip. Every year you canoe the Green River in Utah, and every year you like to change your name. You’ve always liked changing names, as though you can find your truer essence in a different name. From childhood you've changed your name. And now you exist with several names at once.
Perfect presence. It’s what you wish for — absolute awareness in each moment. The name implies that there is an imperfect presence, too — the state you mostly reside in. A state that is made imperfect by the thoughts that pull you away from your immediate experience. You watch yourself all day in the canoe — drifting down the calm river and thinking up stories to involve yourself in. But see this: you DO catch yourself. You do cut the thought and return to the very sightsoundtouch before you. And you marvel at the mind for its intent to lead you away from the herenow.
Is it really the mind that chooses the names? Is it the mind that must name and rename every thing? Is it only the mind that gets to name itself? What you really are may well be unnameable. But you’re not ready to give up trying.
Names. You’ve always liked to name things and people — or rename them. Some of your renaming of friends has stuck; some has not. But you go on naming and renaming, as though it is your business. For plants, animals, birds, trees, you do not like names. You prefer not to know the names of flowers. Someone says, “What kind of flower is that?” And you say with some satisfaction, “I don’t know.” You used to be embarrassed that you did not know the names of the trees in your town. A visitor would come and say, “What kind of tree is that?” And you’d squirm a bit. Was it a maple, an oak, an elm, or something else? Was it a Douglas fir, a juniper, a ponderosa pine or something else? Now you can just say, “I don’t know. I don’t remember the names of things.”
But people you like to name, including yourself. It’s fun to use a different name for different situations, and it seems more true. Why use only one name? If you’re going to be named why not be named over and over? Sometimes this name, sometimes that name.
You wonder if someday you will come to a place of no name at all. No name will fit. No name will be true. You will be the nameless — the unnameable. Although you like to rename yourself and other people, it’s namelessness that really interests you. The unnameable is what you seek.
* * *
Suppose your life were a movie. What would you name it? The Adventures of ______? Well, you’d like to be original, that’s for sure. You don’t want a name that is already used. It could be a one-word title like River or it could be something long and promising like The Amazing Extraordinary Discoveries in the Valuable Life of a Midwestern Mystic.
Whatever the case, it’s a name that should stand out, like the person you always meant to be. You meant not to be a run of the mill blind sheep, and times you’ve caught yourself being one, you’ve cringed. You’ve wanted to step out of the ordinary search for happiness and step into the extraordinary search for happiness. They say that the extraordinary search for happiness turns out to be the most ordinary or most simple search of all. You sense that it’s true, but it all seems so complicated and mystifying now. You like the word mystery but you don’t want to be associated with those murder mysteries that have the same addictive effects on people’s minds as the soap operas. No, it’s the truer sense of mystery you’d like in your title. The Mystery of _____? Well, you will think about it, and you will come up with hundreds of variations. And in the end you’ll let it go and decide it’s a ridiculous game to try to name the unnameable.
* * *
The Catastrophe of the Mind would be a good title for your movie. That’s what you think. You like the word catastrophe. It’s a lot like calamity. How about The Calamity of the Mind? You’d like to get out a dictionary and compare the meanings of the two words. But you and your partner are miles into your wilderness trip on a canoe you’ve named Perfect Drifter. Could there be such a thing as a perfect catastrophe or a perfect calamity? Could Calamity Jane have been Catastrophe Jane equally as well?
One time more recently you read about Calamity Jane. The book implied that she was a cross dresser. She could pass for a boy. She may have even served as a scout in the military. Could she have even danced with the saloon girls?
One thing you like about this wilderness trip is that you can wear anything — even nothing at all — as well as call yourself anything. You’re a cross dresser too in that you don’t want to stick to any one thing. However you’ve never been very feminine (although some would disagree) and you doubt that Calamity ever was. You grew up being called tomboy and you think they would have called Calamity that too if the expression existed 150 years ago. Did it? Who knows what she was called? Is it true that she loved Wild Bill Hickok as the legend says, or did she love the dance hall girls? Maybe both. Is it possible to ever know?
All you really know is that there was this wild west woman whom they called Calamity Jane. She wasn’t tame like Annie Oakley. She was out of anyone’s control — that’s what you’d like to think — because that’s why she was your hero (let’s forget that word “heroine”). She was your hero after your folks took you to Deadwood where they put on these street shows with the sound of gunshots and sheriffs in badges and gunslingers and dancehall girls. And there she was, Calamity Jane. Kind of wild and nasty and talking loud. She was in no one’s control — except they tried to make you believe she loved Wild Bill and that her love controlled her. But you prefer to think that part was made up. She was, you think, Perfect Presence. Just like you. On the outside she appeared to be a calamity, but on the inside she was pure spontaneous response to life regardless of social norms and names and all that. She was free to be male or female, human or animal. You wanted that freedom too. Your mom and daddy even called you Calamity Jane after that show in Deadwood, and you felt, Yes! That’s right. Call me Calamity.
* * *
On this canyon river trip, you like the smell of your own sweat. You never break a sweat in your usual life, but here you drip from the brow and let out loud echoing burps that crash against the canyon walls and make you laugh like a little kid. You can whoop and splash and pee standing up if you feel like it.
You can cry and laugh any old which way with no limitations. That’s what you love about the wilderness. It brings out the natural wild in you. The natural calamity in you. You can be Calamity Jane and do justice to the name.
* * *
Yes, you grew up with the name tomboy which you rather like. Tomboys could climb trees and practice the Tarzan yell. Out here in the wilderness of the canyon you let your tomboyness permeate your soul. You climb across steep ledges, tramp into unknown bottoms with tiny frogs leaping away from your feet. You’re not afraid of bats and spiders. Why be afraid? You thank God for bats and spiders that eat up mosquitoes and flies. You’re strong. That’s what you are. That’s what you’ve always wanted to be. You have a holster that carries one liter of water on your hiking trips. Wearing a holster reminds you that when you were a kid you liked to play Cowboys and Indians.
You can’t remember any Indians. Must have been all cowboys. You liked to be the sheriff or marshal like Matt Dillon. The good, the brave, the strong. You also liked to be the outlaw. The desperate, the vulgar, the one destined to die in the shootout. You were never a saloon girl, although you liked Miss Kitty. What was she doing in there? She owned the saloon, that’s what. Your folks said one time Matt Dillon went upstairs with her and then the scene ended. They thought that was funny. You didn’t know what it meant.
* * *
Out here you can wear the same shirt three days in a row — or no shirt at all. You can walk around the sandbar completely naked except for the muddy sand covering up your delicate toes. This is very different from when you stand up in front of classes wearing neatly pressed trousers while you discuss the difference between the right word and the almost right word. Like the difference between lightning and the lightning bug — thanks to Mark Twain for that thought. You can scrabble down a red rock wall on your bare butt or almost bare butt. You can squat and shoot a stream of pee over the bare cliff. You feel a sense of accomplishment in that, but you’re lousy at spitting toothpaste into the river. It dribbles off your lip onto your bare breast.
* * *
You wonder when your last breath will come. You think about it for hours. You wonder what it would be like not to be able to get one more breath. So you name yourself Gravedigger and dig a big hole. You bury your head in the sand. You feel your lungs close in on themselves. You don’t let yourself die.
* * *
Suppose Matt Dillon met Calamity Jane. Or, suppose Calamity Jane met Miss Kitty.
* * *
When you were a kid growing up in the Midwest, you spent a lot of weekends on your aunt’s farm. One time they had a litter of kittens there. Your cousin named them Matt Dillon, Miss Kitty, Doc, Chester, and Festus. (Doc later turned out to be a girl.) You wanted to bring Matt Dillon and Miss Kitty home but your mom said you already had too many cats. You only had one cat, and it did not feel like enough.
* * *
Now you scan the river washes for arrowheads. You want to find an arrowhead but you’re afraid to find an arrowhead. What would you do if you found one? It’s illegal and morally reprehensible to steal artifacts from protected wild lands. You’ve known morally correct wilderness lovers who’ve found ancient baskets, axe heads, pottery shards — and left them where they lay. (Or so they say.) How impossible that sounds to you! Did they really leave a thousand-year-old basket in a crevice in some remote sandstone wall?
One year on this river trip, you hiked with your partner into an unnamed side canyon. You knew you’d have to name it. You crawled into a crack near a majestic red slot on the hidden side of a huge sandstone wall. That’s where you found it. No, not an arrowhead. Nothing Indian at all. It was a cowboy artifact. A pair of horseshoes, more than 100 years old, nailed together with those old fashioned nails. You found something!
You are so lucky! To you it feels like the find of the century. You’ll take it home to show everyone. That’s when your partner says something about leaving things where they lay. You feel guilty. Yet you covet the find. You imagine some cowboy (male or female) coming across that river bottom a long time ago. He/she climbs way up to that red slot but decides to stash the spare shoes in the crevice to the right. Safe keeping. But the cowboy never returns. Gets shot down in a barroom brawl in town maybe. Or gets bit by a rattlesnake and dies from exposure. Who could ever know?
Sadly, you leave the horseshoes hidden in the crevice and name that piece of river bottom Horseshoe Canyon.
The next year you return to Horseshoe Canyon. You’re eager to see if the horseshoes are still there. Did someone else nab your discovery? You race breathlessly to the red crevice, and with joy you find them again! You’re determined to take them this time because somebody who ought to know told you it’s OK to carry out white man’s trash. You don’t like the name White Man’s Trash, but you’re overjoyed to get the permission to hoard them.
So you nab the rusty shoes, place them in a cloth bag with a drawstring, and carry them all the way back to your little non canyon-colored apartment a thousand miles away. But none of your friends are impressed by your find and then your mother says there’s some just like that out in the barn. You go and look, and hanging up on a hook are some old pairs nailed together, but not canyon-colored like yours.
You begin to feel sorry for the horseshoes. How could you steal them away from their canyon home — their sandy, rocky, hot and frosty red rock paradise? You feel bad about it for a whole year. You keep the find of the century silent inside the cloth drawstring bag.
Finally you go down that same stretch of river again. It takes you days of slow drifting to get to Horseshoe Canyon, and you have to break through a wall of snapping mosquitoes and horseflies to get to the protected crevice. But you don’t care how hard it is. You’ve got a job to do. You’re going to return the horseshoes to the very spot you found them.
And you do. You cover them up with red rock shards so that they aren’t exactly visible.
Up in Cowboy Heaven someone might be giving you a wink.
The whole next year you remember the horseshoes hiding in the red crevice. You think maybe the next time you go down there, you’ll take them again. Why not? The horseshoes can come visit you for a year and then you’ll bring them back again. You’re not sure that’s a good idea. And what if someone else has climbed up there and found them and stolen them away? You would never see them again.
You decide you must go back and look. So you do. That’s this year — right now. And there’s no wall of mosquitoes and horseflies because it’s a low bug year. It is well over 100 degrees in the scorching afternoon sun, though.
Mindfully trudging across the baking river bottom, you look out for those little rattle snakes you’ve heard about, and you’re careful not to kick the prickly pear cacti. As you approach the red rock slot, you wonder how someone could NOT find those same horseshoes. All these years and you’re the only one?
And then, there they are — just where you left them. This time it’s obvious to you that this major discovery of the century belongs right here.
So you leave them again after turning them over and over in your hands, and you vow to visit Horseshoe Canyon again. It’s your special place. You and that long gone cowboy (girl?) have something in common.
* * *
It’s getting close to the end of this river trip. You’ve been having dreams of old lovers you still love and old friends you don’t see anymore. The most memorable dream wasn’t about that. In this dream you are all worried about your appearance because you have to get up in front of people and say something. You think that there’s time to race home and put on better clothes. But you can’t find your car! You’re running across town on foot, ducking in and out of neatly fenced backyards. You even run through other people’s houses! That’s when it happens. You see these two old people — a man and a woman — sitting at a kitchen table loaded down with pages of writing. You notice with curiosity that some of the handwriting is your own. The older couple is grieving over their long lost daughter. That’s when you remember: Perfect Presence. You heard a very wise woman once say that the best you can ever give anyone is your perfect presence. You drop your anxiety about getting better clothes and you just stand there and grieve along with the mother and father.
* * *
You are fast asleep in the tent dreaming when there is a sound. It is the perfect wild cry of some animal mother — you feel sure of that. But is it feline? Canine? You’re not sure what it is. The wild thing keeps crying out as if it’s mad at you. What are you doing blocking the way to the river? She’s got babies to feed!
So you get up in the darkness and look outside. That’s when it happens. You are permeated with fear. No, it’s not the wild animal that scares you.
You are standing perfectly naked in the moonless night and the sky is so full of stars that you are shocked. You are trembling. You see the stars for the first time in your life.
Back inside the tent, the wild thing keeps calling and you say to yourself, You are alive in this moment. There is no name for this.
Mission and Programs of the Center for Sacred Sciences
The Center for Sacred Sciences is dedicated to the study, practice, and dissemination of the spiritual teachings of the mystics, saints, and sages of the major religious traditions. The Center endeavors to present these teachings in forms appropriate to our contemporary scientific culture. The Center also works to create and disseminate a sacred worldview which expresses the compatibility between universal mystical truths and the evidence of modern science.
Among the Center’s ongoing events are Sunday public services with meditations and talks given by the Center’s spiritual teachers; monthly Sunday video presentations; and — for committed spiritual seekers — weekly practitioners groups and periodic meditation retreats. The Center is accessible. We are a welcoming and inclusive community.
The Center maintains an extensive lending library of books, audios, videos, and periodicals covering spiritual, psychological, philosophical, and scientific subjects. In addition, the Center provides a website containing information and resources related to the teachings of the world’s mystics, the universality of mystical truth, and the relationship between science and mysticism. The Center also publishes this newsletter.
The Center for Sacred Sciences is a non-profit, tax-exempt church based in Eugene, Oregon, USA. We rely chiefly on volunteer staff to support our programs, and on donations to meet our operating expenses. Our spiritual teachers give their teachings freely as a labor of love, and receive no financial compensation from the Center.
About the Center Community News
The Center Community News is published on the CSS website several times a year. Its primary purpose is to help foster a community of spiritual practitioners by sharing original teachings, experiences, reflections, artistic expressions, and reports among members of our community.
To submit your original spiritual reflection, report, poetry or art to the newsletter for publication, please use the newsletter submission form.
To subscribe, unsubscribe, or update your existing subscription to the Center Community News, please use the subscription form.
Center for Sacred Sciences • (541) 345-0102 • General contact form
Mailing Address: 1430 Willamette St. #164, Eugene, OR 97401-4049 USA
Meeting Address: 5440 Saratoga St., Eugene, Oregon, USA