Writer, mystic, and father of four, David Spangler understands that the birth of a child is a spiritually significant eventa mystical experience. There is a feeling of magic in the parent/child relationship that relies on intuition, total presence, and impulses that come from the soul. The acclaimed author of The Call shares his stories from the trenches, blessings from the day-in and day-out of child-rearing, and encourages us, with grace, wit and common sense, toward the kind of parenting that brings to the world creative, honest, enlightened, and independent kids.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.50(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
David Spangler has been writing, lecturing, and teaching since the early seventies, when he was codirector of the spiritual community of Findhorn in northern Scotland. He is the author of Revelation: The Birth of a New Age; Emergence: The Rebirth of the Sacred; Everyday Miracles; A Pilgrim in Aquarius; The Call; Parent as Mystic, Mystic as Parent, and most recently Blessing. He also co-authored Reimagination of the World with William Irwin Thompson. Spangler lives in Washington, near Seattle.
Read an Excerpt
Three other men and I have taken the morning off to meet in the local Starbucks to drink mochas and lattés and reflect on The Meaning of Life. In another time and place, we might have been tilting our chairs back against a storefront, our feet up on a porch railing, eating crackers drawn from a barrel and cheese hacked off from a block sitting on the store counter, watching the world go by as we pondered the big questions: What is God? What is Life? Just how long have those crackers been in that barrel? We're partaking in a social ritual. Like monkeys grooming each other, we are plucking tasty ideas out of our mental fur.
This morning the ideas have been wide-ranging, but eventually the conversation has turned to what it means to lead a mystically oriented life. What does it mean to be a mystic? As we roll this question around among us, the usual images arise that one might expect: a mystic is someone who seeks communion with the sacred; a mystic seeks the essence of things; a mystic has a spiritual practice of prayer, meditation, and contemplation. For all their familiarity (more likely because of it), I find these images unsatisfactory and incomplete. They do not convey the richness, the intimacy, or the naturalness of what I experience in my own life; they suggest a path that is too otherworldly, too removed from the bone and blood of everyday life. There is a suggestion of a barrier between the mystic and the ordinary Jane or Joe, a membrane separating the spiritual from the mundane. These familiar images are too redolent of the numinous and thetranscendent. Particularly as a parent, I find it hard to relate to them.
Unfortunately, before we can really sink our teeth into this particularly wriggly and lively idea, it is time to go. We all have other appointments and tasks awaiting us, so the resolution of the question will have to wait for another time and another round of mochas. But the question is very useful for me as I return home to continue writing this book. For in looking at the ways in which a parent is like a mystic, and vice versa, as a means of illuminating deeper aspects of both the mystical and the parental life, the question of what a mystic is and what a mystic doeswhat it is that makes a person a mysticis very pertinent indeed.
The word itself does not give us any obvious clues. A writer writes. A plumber plumbs. A teacher teaches. A mystic mysts? That sounds like a computer game or someone who moonlights as a water sprinkler.
However, mystic and mystery both come from the same Greek root, myst, which refers to initiation into the "mysteries," the secret teachings about the nature of humankind and the world that lay at the heart of Greek religion. In this sense, a mystic is someone who seeks deeper knowledge about reality, someone who seeks the essence of wisdom and truth. From there it is not too great a jump to the most common definition of a mystic as someone who seeks communion and oneness with God, who, after all, is the source, the truth, and the essence of all things.
How one does this seeking, however, depends on how one defines God, communion, truth, and essence. In the history of such things, mystics have pursued their inner craft in as wide a variety of ways as people do in any other occupation. Some have been hermits and recluses, living away from the distractions of everyday life, while others have been householders and parents. Some have been quiet contemplatives; others have been teachers, social and political activists, and administrators. Some have been pacifists; others have been warriors. Some have sought escape from the earth; others have embraced the world, seeing it as the body of the Beloved. Some have sought union with God through prayer and devotion; others have done so through study, relationships, sports, work, and service.
To further complicate the issue, the word mystic is also applied to any person who engages in activities that involve the metaphysical. A recent book, for example, The Executive Mystic, essentially offers techniques for developing one's intuitive and psychic skills and offers simple, benign magical rituals to enhance one's competitive edge. But nowhere in the book will a reader find any mention of God, communion, prayer, contemplation, the surrender of the ego, or the transcending of personal desires in seeking oneness with the sacredall of which are part of the classical mystical tradition.
So, although one person may portray mysticism as a set of down-to-earth, practical power tools for getting the job done and succeeding in business, for others anything mystical smacks of obfuscation, superstition, otherworldliness, and unrealistic, irresponsible, head-in-the-clouds thinking (or not-thinking, as the case may be). A Protestant minister once took me aside at a conference to offer me some friendly advice, which was that I should not call myself a mystic because it did me an injustice. "David, you are too levelheaded and practical to be tarnished with the image of mysticism," he told me. "It will give people the wrong impression of you!" I appreciated his kindness and concern, but as you can see, I have yet to take his advice.
If, then, a mystic can be variously seen in our culture as a religious contemplative locked away in a cloister somewhere; a powerful, magical executive succeeding at business through the strength of her psychic abilities; or a misguided, otherworldly oaf, where does that leave someone like me, who doesn't fit into any of these images and whose response when someone asks me what I do is to say, "I am a father"?
What do I do, personally, that justifies the claim of being a mystic?
Do I seek oneness with the sacred? Yes, but I seek a blending and engagement with the world as well, since for me the presence of the sacred is everywhere. Do I honor the spiritual side of life? Yes, but I also honor the bone and blood, the dirt and grass. Life is an energy that reaches from the heavens to the earth and from the bottoms of my feet to the top of my soul, as well as outward into the world. Why favor part of it and ignore the rest? I give equal weight to the sparkling energies of spirit and the juicy greenness of life. Do I spend my life in retreat and contemplation, prayer and silence? With four kids? Hardly! Yet I do take time every day for a quick attunement to listen to my inner self and its connections with a larger universe and to be aware of the sacred in that moment. Do I seek wisdom? As a father, you bet! I can use all the wisdom I can get. (And as for initiation into the mysteries of humankind, I would love to understand what goes on in my kids' minds sometimes!)
In short, while I have my still times of silence and meditation, mostly I practice a running mysticism in which I search for the loving silence and the energy of delight and compassion in the midst of fixing lunches, carpooling, helping with homework, washing dishes, and playing games.
Of course, this is what most parents do. The mystical trick is to see all these activities as woven into a larger whole, like a quilt where each square is separate but all are connected into something that is warm and embracing. What a mystic does is connect. He or she is a bridge between worlds, the point of contact where spirit and matter meet in an eruption of joy and co-creativity or in a depth of insight and understanding. A mystic is the membrane between the worlds of the sacred and the mundane, respecting both sides and allowing love and nourishment to flow between them in mutually beneficial ways.
A mystic turns fragments into wholenesses, pieces into patterns, and connects these with the great underlying wholeness or pattern that I call the Beloved. And the tools for doing this are attitudes of attentiveness, compassion, respect, and delighttools with which parents are very familiar.
A mystic re-members.
It is easy in the midst of an average day to begin doing one's tasks in an automatic, half-awake manner, to allow each event to remain unconnected to any larger wholeness. Our kids go to three different schools, and we carpool to each of them on different days. I have been embarrassed more than once to discover that I have inadvertently started taking one group of kids to the wrong school because I have acted out of habit from the day before. I became dis-connected, something that happens all too easily in our fast-paced culture. I forgot I was a mystic!
Seeing and remembering the patterns and wholenesses of one's life is just a step away from expanding that vision to see and remember the connection one has with the larger wholeness of the sacred, the larger pattern of all life. And when one remembers that larger vision, everything falls into perspective. In the midst of activity, one relaxes, and when one relaxes, love and energy begin to flow naturally.
The traditional definition of a mystic is one who seeks communion with God. But for me, that communion is only the first step. For that communion, in my experience, is not the loss of self but the filling of self to overflowing. One becomes a cup running over with love and delight, a cup that others can share.
The sharing is the essential mystical act for me. That is what a mystic does in the midst of life, just as a writer writes or a plumber plumbs. A mystic brings the love and delight, creativity and compassion, respect and connection to the activities, places, and people around her, allowing these impulses to flow from the strength and clarity of her own inner connection. This flow can be a strong, transformative, healing burst of energy if need be, but more often it is a sense of peace, calm, and loving presence filling a situation like a gentle mist.
(Which, I guess, lets me say that a mystic really does myst.)
Is it this easy to do? About as easy as parenting. Which is to say, not at all, and yes. Parenting is the most challenging, demanding, exasperating, frightening, rewarding, enchanting, consuming, exciting job I can think of. It almost always calls you to your edge and then asks you to go beyond it, in the same way that God calls a mystic to the edge, and then beyond. Parenting and mysticism both are hard on little selves that want their own way; both demand that we mature. Both demand time and attention. Both demand learning and changing and growing, not always our favorite occupations.
Yet, when each of my children was born, I was filled with a love that made me believe I could overcome any obstacle that presented itself. And over the years, in the presence of that love, I have found parenting, for all its challenge and work, still curiously effortlessor perhaps, like a runner, who enters "the Zone," I discover a flow in my parenting that sustains me and makes it seem easy. There is a naturalness, even simplicity, about it that gives me momentum. That naturalness is grounded in such simple actions as paying attention, being available, sharing delight, listening, respecting, loving, participating.
The same has been true for my mystical practice. There is a tendency in our culture to see connecting with the sacred as the gold medal at the end of the spiritual Olympics, a feat of astonishing inner athleticism. In fact, the same simple acts open us to that connection: paying attention, being open and available, sharing delight, and participating in life. The sacred is not in some galaxy far, far away or at the end of a long, exhausting life of religious and metaphysical exercises. It is as close as that which brings us delight and a sense of well-being and love; it is as close as that which opens us up to new understanding and insight, even if that opening may be temporarily painful; it is as close as that which touches us with life and gives us vitality. It is as close as a blue sky, a lover's smile, a child's laughter, a challenging task, another's need.
A child comes naturally to us, born out of an act of great pleasure, intimacy, and love. God comes to us similarly in the intimacy, the pleasure inherent in life. Making the child and making the connection with God is simple when we open to what comes naturally.
What is challenging is what comes afterthe deepening of the relationship and the fulfilling of the responsibilities it brings, along with the opportunities for growth and change and co-creativity. This is true for any relationship, whether between a husband and wife, a parent and child, or a soul and the Beloved.
Fulfilling those relationships is what being a parent and a mystic is all about, but whether we are parenting or mysting, they are both rooted in love.
Table of Contents
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The author presents the information in this book from a personal standpoint, as the majority of his anecdotes are his own experiences as a Father. He shares his perspective on Mysticism as it relates to parenting, by presenting a concept, and then sharing a personal story or two to support his opinion. I enjoyed reading how he approached his role as a father, as well as how he related to each of his children in unique ways. I found the book to be heartwarming and inspiring, but not quite compelling enough to reach for it for a second read. Therefore, I am giving it 4 stars. If you would like a bird's eye view into the life of someone who lives an authentic Mystical lifestyle, read this book. Janet Stephenson, author "Young Bodies, Old Souls" (coming soon to Barnes & Noble) www (dot) young-bodies-old-souls (dot) com