Monday, May 3, 2010

Silence of Mountains

It is time for another departure from Christianity. One of the more spiritual experiences I have sometimes that does not involve Christianity is the Annual Men’s Conference, created by Robert Bly. I happen to live very near to where it is held. Robert has kept alive the practice of story telling and its application. The application part is much more complicated and beyond the scope of one blog post.

Through this conference, I had the pleasure of meeting Malidoma Some. Malidoma was born in Africa some 50 or so years ago in a tribe that practices the indigenous spirituality of that part of the world. He was also educated at the prestigious Sorbonne University in France. It is a great joy to hear him speak and play his drum. When he is holding a cigar he reminds of Bill Cosby, but with a French accent and in African native dress.

Exactly what happens at a Men’s conference is also beyond this scope and not something that is simply told like any story. It unfolds differently for each gathering and for each man. You can get some sense of it from “A Gathering of Men” with Bill Moyers. The Men’s Conference is welcoming to many spiritual traditions and in some ways is an alternative to the modern America religious culture. Malidoma is one of the best I know of at bridging the modern and the traditional.

In one talk he gave, he said something to the affect of “all religion is evil”. He may have been referring not only to the evil that has been perpetrated by such institutions as the Inquisition, but also to harsh lessons his tribal leaders taught him, sometimes taking advantage of their positions of power. I can’t say for sure. I did notice that statement won applause from the men (not that Malidoma said it for the applause). I took it to mean that religion is always an imperfect expression of the source that it claims to represent.

A few minutes later he was speaking of what each of us individually can and should be doing to accept, acknowledge and connect to that source. He spoke of rituals such as drumming, attitudes of mindfulness, and he spoke of prayer. This did not rate so high on the applause meter. Such is the nature of a talk like that, there are the emotional hot points and the parts about discipline and practice.

The question of just what prayer is has been one that I have been asking for many years. If you use Google to get that answer, you will find many answers with Christian God language in them. That may not be what you are looking for, but I think much can be teased out of those lessons from Saints, and philosophers of old.

Plato said, “Thinking is the talking of the soul with itself”

just what he meant by soul, we can’t know, but we don’t need anything more than a secular definition to continue thinking about this.

St John Vianney said, “Prayer is the inner bath of love into which the soul plunges itself.”

and Fulton J. Sheen, “Prayer begins by talking to God, but it ends by listening to Him. In the face of Absolute Truth, silence is the soul’s language.”

and what is meant by capitalizing all of those words? What I get from Fulton is that there are things that are beyond our ability to express in words.

Malidoma Patrice Some, puts it this way, “Peace is letting go - returning to the silence that cannot enter the realm of words because it is too pure to be contained in words. This is why the tree, the stone, the river, and the mountain are quiet.”

and when Google doesn’t give you the solution to whatever you are looking for,

“You always carry within yourself the very thing that you need for the fulfillment of your life purpose.” – Malidoma Some

If you want to know about Malidoma, here is a good introduction:
Video of an interview with Malidoma, "How to Be a Man"

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