I know a lot of people for whom the spiritual journey is the major focus of their lives. It naturally comes with the territory of being a healer and minister, participating in spiritual circles, going to seminary, and spending a life as a “seeker”—or as I often prefer to call myself, a “finder.”
A good part of the last two decades has been spent walking the proverbial razor’s edge between the desire to live a life wholly devoted to spiritual pursuits, and the need to deal with details like having a roof over my head, a functional vehicle, health insurance and the like.
I am not alone in this. Most of my independent ministerial and healer colleagues report the same. Sometime after we graduated seminary in 2004 I penned a musical parody called “Keep Your Day Job,” a warning to would-be ministers and healers who are part of the starry-eyed “lightworkers” navigating this treacherous territory better known as The Real World.
(Excerpt from Keep Your Day Job)
Now it is true, as you have read, to trust Me to provide
But get it through your airy head
And brand this on your hide
Before you jump without a net, seeking greener grass
A lot of ministers like you have ended pumping gas
Keep your day job; I need you right now where you are
Keep your day job: it makes the payments on your car
Keep your day job; even Jesus had a job
Until the time when I told him: Now go and feed that mob”
(Keep Your Day Job, ©2006 Rev. Nettie M. Spiwack)
My main mentor in this arena, Rev. Dr. Ron Roth, who had a 25-year career as a Roman Catholic priest before leaving the Catholic church and launching an inclusive healing ministry, once exhorted his ordination students at a Family Day: “For heaven’s sake, just because your brain squeezed out an extra pheromone, don’t quit your day job and hang out a shingle as a healer!”
I noted that this was spoken by one of the most powerful healers of his time, who had left his “day job” of being a Catholic Priest wherein all his worldly needs were provided, and entered the Real World as a monastic without a monastery or a church to support him. He encouraged his students to first realize their ministries in the life they were living, whatever that was.
In India, the Mother Ship of Spiritual Realization, there is a many-thousands years’ tradition of renouncing the world to be a Swami or Swamini (feminine) dedicating one’s life to the Quest for God. In its most austere form, this renunciation involves a loincloth and a begging bowl, and sometimes not even these. Renunciation of different kinds has parallels in monastic traditions of other faiths; but the image of going to the forest or the cave to block out all worldly distractions in the single-pointed pursuit of God comes to us directly from the Mother Ship.
From time to time since the 1800’s (and perhaps before), along comes an Indian Master who is told by his own Master to stay in the world as a householder as an example to the masses who struggle with daily life that Realization can indeed be attained while living a life in the world. A well-known example of this is Lahiri Mahasaya of the SRF lineage (Yogananda’s Guru’s Guru), who was given those instructions by the immortal Babaji.
Still with us today, Sri M of Madanapalle—who this month is launching the 18-month Walk of Hope across India, lived three of his young adult years in the Himalayas with one of those legendary Masters—also a Master in the Babaji lineage—and then, to his utter dismay, was sent by his Guru back to the plains with instructions to live a married life, find a career and work for a living like any other person. Else, he was instructed, how could he understand the problems of the many who were destined to come to him for advice in our modern world? Sri M wears no robes and looks, for all intents and purposes, like anybody else. Except, that could not be further from the truth*.
My own preceptor, Sri Sathya Sai Baba, had a maxim: “Hands in the world, head in the forest.” This is the same as the biblical injunction to be in the world, but not of it. Sai Baba said that in this age, it’s greater tapas (austere spiritual discipline) to live a spiritual life while doing your work in the world than it is to go to the forest to perform ritual austerities as a renunciate.
Sai Baba’s many years were spent building enormous free hospitals, universities, providing clean drinking water for millions and millions and countless other Real World activities.
He once reprimanded an older university professor who wanted to resign to earnestly pursue spiritual disciplines (sadhana) full-time: “As long as you keep making the separation between spiritual and worldly life, you won’t achieve your desire (liberation) in thousands of lifetimes.” (paraphrase). The teacher stayed on and became a beloved font of wisdom to another generation of students.
In other words, not just Keep Your Day Job, but Your Day Job IS Your Sadhana (spiritual practice) and your “ministry.”
I have been aware for a long time that all distinctions between “real life” and “spiritual life” are artificial. In fact, I hold myself to a failing grade on the Enlightenment Report Card according to the degree to which I experience that they are different. Some semesters in this Graduate School are better than others. Some years I surely need special tutoring.
Intellectual understanding and actualization still have an 14-inch road to travel from the head to the heart. That’s why realization is called Realization. You have to make it real in your own experience.
I know a few colleagues who live at this level of making no distinction between their spiritual and worldly lives. The majority of them, like myself, have lived a professional life in the world of corporate consulting. As I mostly do in my highest Self, they view everything they do as a form of healing. “I’m a corporate exorcist”, I used to joke.
Most traditions, though not all, have teachings about dedicating all your actions in service to God, and relinquishing attachment to any “fruits” of your labor.
It’s a continuous, often tough spiral mountain path. For those who make their sole living in, or have tried to make that leap into the world of personal healing arts or ministry, the Graduate Curriculum can be especially intense. It remains a razor’s edge walk.
Being in the world while not of it is a great training ground for releasing the sense of ego-self. Ram Dass famously said: “If you think you’re enlightened, go spend a week with your family.” That quip could as easily be: “Go spend an hour in a team meeting or doing performance reviews.”
For those who have been touched by the true Presence, the desire to spend full time—or at least a lot more time—of one’s working life in communion with that Presence can be overwhelming. Most do experience some sense of duality in that regard. It’s a part of the journey.
May those who are yearning for it achieve Oneness of realization of vision, where all is alike, regardless of the form.
(*Get Sri M’s priceless autobiography here. I’ve already read it three times. There are also great interviews on YouTube.)
People who get on a plane and travel to the remote location outside of Brasilia wherein lies the Casa de Dom Inacio generally have either a pressing medical condition of the variety that cannot be effectively dealt with through traditional Western medicine, or they have a desire to experience the reality of the sacred and the holy spirit realm in a much more palpable way then our American way of life allows. Or, they have some combination of both.
The Casa exists to demonstrate the healing power of God, and many other things as well. One of these is the unarguable (after you’ve been here, if not before) existence of the spirit realm, and many things about that realm. Because of the commitment of St. Ignatius and the other beloved Encidades (spirit Entities) who serve here (and who number in the tens or hundreds of thousands), few, if any, leave this place unchanged for the better. The guiding Entities, under the direction of St. Ignatius, (better known here as “Dom Inacio”) work through the medium known as John of God. Joao (his name in Portuguese) has put in over 50 years of tireless, endless service. Day in and day out thousands pass in front of him, where the Encidades, working through him, orchestrate the course of healing for each individual. Because of the commitment of the Casa to demonstrate this help, they often arrange for dramatic experiences that can attest to the spirit level on which the work is happening.
One of the ways in which that happens is through “spirit photos.” The advent of high-speed digital photography has made this a more and more common occurrence. Some people are gifted by the Encidades with the ability to capture a huge amount of these kinds of photos, and one of these people has been with my group over the past few days.
Last night at an open multi-faith communion service, she shot a continuous series of pictures that show a startling phenomena. As Rev. Paul Funfsinn blessed the host for communion, you can clearly see the descent of a line of firey light right toward the plate that held the hosts. By the third or fourth picture, the plate itself is awash in a flaming light! If anyone thinks that it is a meaningless ritual, these photos would suggest otherwise!
SInce the pix are in someone else’s camera, it will be a while till I get them, but I will post them when I do. Suffice it to say, I saw them within minutes of their having been taken; there were no photoshop opportunities.
We spent the rest of the evening on a “shooting spree” of the spiritual kind, and I can’t wait to share some of the amazing results.
There are times in your life when you can see everything coming together in a way that is so perfect and so fluid that you can only stand aside and watch the pieces fall into place, knowing that only divine Grace could so direct the play.
Two years ago, on the night after my mentor Ron Roth died, I had a vivid dream visitation; a dream in which my friend Rev. Susi Roos and I were dressing in ministerial vestments in the vestry of a Catholic church. Ron Roth, in full priestly regalia, came charging down the aisle of the cathedral, holding his bishop’s staff and scolding us loudly in his most annoyed tone.
“Where are you, I’m WAITING for you!” he said impatiently.
He turned back toward the altar, and Susi and I fled down the aisle after him, practically running to keep up. He mounted the platform and we slid into seats behind him and looked out at a vast crowd.
On August 9th, that dream came to life when Susi and I got into our ministerial vestments in the vestry of St. Catherine of Siena Roman Catholic church in Rialto, California. And though Ron was not there in body, he certainly was fully present for both of us and for the people of the parish in the San Bernardino area who came in droves to attend the seminar and healing service Evicting Cancer, which, two years ago when I had the dream, was not even a glimmer in either of our eyes.
When I first floated the idea for doing this interfaith educational and healing event past Fr. Steve Porter, whom I had met in Brazil, I did some rapid math in my head. I knew his parish was large, and I figured that among 9000 people, many lives must be touched by cancer. How many would turn out on a weekday or weeknight to hear two unknown female ministers was at best a gamble—I figured anywhere from 10 to 100. But the Holy Spirit had other ideas.
Unknown to me when we had first spoken of the idea was the fact that Fr. Steve has conducted regular healing services at his church for years, and had everything and everyone in place to hold a large-scale event that otherwise would have taken a huge amount of logistical arrangements if we were truly starting from scratch—which we weren’t. With Fr. Steve’s enthusiastic support, the first of two events that day had around 300 people in attendance at 10:00 a.m.
A wonderful musical ministry team gave their time to support the services, and to provide translation during our talks as well. After we were introduced in English and Spanish by Fr. Steve, Rev. Susi, who works as both a nurse and a mind/body specialist at a leading cancer treatment facility, spent the first hour talking on the three biggest mistakes people make when addressing cancer, and gave easy and practical things people could do to greatly assist the effectiveness of their treatment. She put all the medical information into a spiritual context, touching on some of the concepts from her in-depth teleseminars and home-study programs.
Then it was my turn to open people up to a higher energy transmission through teaching and leading worship (something I’ve done many times on a scale larger than 300 people) and in the laying-on-of-hands healing (something I’ve done in smaller events).
Fr. Steve had arranged with one of the prayer groups to provide support, and in accordance with the way they conduct healing services at this church, every individual is personally escorted by a healing minister to come for laying on of hands; the minister stays with them if they go “down under the Power of the Spirit” (involuntarily fall gently to rest on the floor while healing is done on an unconscious level).
Our spiritual assistants also functioned as translators as the vast majority of those attending had Spanish as their primary language.
I knew one thing: don’t prepare too much, because whatever you think will happen, it will surely be something different. And so it was.
I was ready to lay hands on people in blessing, but shortly into the personal blessings I was led to look at them in the eyes, and as I did, thoughts would come flooding in, differing from one person to the next, such as “have courage!” or “you are loved…” There was clearly an energy being transmitted through the gazing, and all I had to do was get out of the way and let it happen. I also found myself clearing much “junk”—removing invisible energy blocks before passing people on to Susi, who then anointed them with oil. As she blessed them, many went down under the Power. Fr. Steve moved amongst the people and between us, lending energetic, logistical and prayer support.
The morning, scheduled to go from 10:00 – 12:00, continued till 1:00 p.m., as people waited patiently in line for their turn.
The evening event began at 7:00 pm, and saw many more people fill the church. This time it was clear to Fr. Steve that at least half were not his parishioners, but those who had heard about the opportunity through friends or through the local Spanish radio station, and had come with hope in their hearts, some bringing children, some with older people in wheelchairs, some holding pictures of loved ones.
As the evening went on, the Divine energy in the church became electric; people were open, full of devotion and enthusiastically ready to receive Grace. Reflected on many faces as they approached, was much fear, pain and suffering, and devotion as well. But just under the surface lay a hunger and thirst for love, hope, and most of all, peace—the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The service started promptly at 7:00 and didn’t end till after 11:00. Fr. Steve estimated that we had over 1000 in attendance and about 700 who came up to be personally blessed. I had no idea how many; I could only see the person in front of me, and Juvenal, the human angel who was assisting me, pointed me where I needed to go in the cases of the elderly and wheelchair patients.
This time, as the evening went on, as I looked at the person in front of me, I knew within seconds who was physically sick and who was there for emotional reasons. If I asked, they would verify the information and give a few words about their situation. As expected, there were many with cancers, but there were many other conditions as well, often advanced and serious, as well as those seeking help with emotional problems.
People come to healing services hoping for miraculous help. And what they mean is, on the physical level, they want their cancers to disappear; their ailments—many of which took years and years to establish—to vanish immediately. I’ve been in this world of healing long enough to know that this indeed happens at times, and I believe that when it happens it’s to build faith not only in that person, but in all who know them.
More often, a new kind of journey is initiated. Susi quotes her first patient in this field who begged for her help, sensing Susi knew things that could help her, even though the doctors had told her they couldn’t do any more: “You turned my death sentence into a healing journey,” she later said.
While I’ve experienced that journey in my own life and witnessed it in so many others—some near and dear to me—that night took everything I’ve ever been through in the world of spiritual healing to a whole new level.
I stood at the center of the healing vortex and I could see, feel and know that an energetic transformation had happened for many attendees; that infusion of Divine energy would revitalize them; some in the physical, some in the emotional, some in the spiritual, and some in all three.
An infusion of energy always alters that which it touches; it’s a physical law. What’s less well-known is that it is a spiritual law as well.
As a result, I know that not only the people who came were changed; I, too, am changed.
For almost 30 years I have resounded with the quote from George Bernard Shaw that starts: This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one…
On August 9th, I was fully used by that purpose. There is no better place to be. For that privilege, I am grateful to God.
Our gratitude also goes to Fr. Steve Porter for making this event available to the people of his community, with whom we now share a profound sense of love and blessing.
While visiting Julio, (my friend of more decades than I care to admit) at his house in Florida some dozen years ago, I found in the guest bedroom—a room that vaguely resemble a monk’s cell if you don’t count the opulent bedspread and plush mattress—a single book with browning pages. It bore this intriguing title: “The Incorruptibles”. While it sounded like a 1950’s movie starring a gang of teens, it turned out to be a captivating account of many Catholic saints whose bodies were documented to have been found intact years or centuries after their death. I stayed up late into the wee hours, reading the somewhat grisly details of various body parts or even whole bodies in inexplicable states of preservation; no mummification required.
Around that time we were planning a trip to Italy. I was also studying with the mystic, healer and former Catholic priest Ron Roth, whose main guide was the 20th-century mystic and Capuchin priest, Padre Pio. So when I floated the idea of a detour down the Italian boot to San Giovanni Rotundo to visit Pio’s home-base, Julio’s eyes lit up as did his face with his (paradoxically) devilish grin: “I’m there, baby! I love chasing saints.”
Julio has a gift for such bon mots. The phrase made me laugh aloud, and it stuck. As it turns out, the two of us did chase saints across Italy, or as we later joked, Padre Pio chased us across Italy. In years after, we went on to chase saints halfway round the globe.
When I was growing up as a Jewish girl in the Bronx, in a secular Yiddishist environment, such a notion as saints would bring puzzled laughter. I remember my mom making humorous comments from time to time, like: “It’s the building next to that church, you know: ‘Our Lady of Ten Thousand Mitzvahs.’ ” In a largely agnostic/secular/atheist environment, the idea of devotions to deceased mortals and their representative statues was an inexplicable phenomenon of a culture diametrically opposed to our own.
It took many years of study and experience for me to begin to understand the world’s attraction to saints, and my own as well.
The first big piece of news for me was that those regarded as saints are found in every faith, and devotion to them is not limited to Catholicism. There are even those who could rightly be regarded as secular saints. The second was that there are among us today many who by any regard fit that description.
I’m fortunate enough to have been in the presence of some of the greatest of our time. It’s been my encounters with the living ones that gave me the understanding of the intense devotion to those who no longer walk the earth.
So, I think for a while, I am going to run a periodic series of reflections on sainthood; what it means for us in this era, and some of my personal experiences with those whom we may hold in this regard.
I leave this post with my favorite quote from one of my most powerful influences: the writer, Jungian psychologist and perhaps saint himself, Robert A. Johnson. Anyone who has heard one of my talks knows I am fond of quoting him, and this paragraph from his autobiography: Balancing Heaven & Earth: A Memoir of Visions, Dreams and Realizations sums up one of the most important and least understood aspects of this rich topic. Having once been invited to be the saint for a rural village in India after he spent several weeks there, he later wrote his reflections on the experience, which, while he kept in humble and humorous perspective, clearly affected him deeply. While I have come to appreciate other aspects that distinguish saints of all backgrounds, this unique perspective provides a good jumping off point:
I have meditated on the subject of sainthood many times since this experience, and I find a bit of wisdom in understanding that saints are people who suffer the projection of unlived holiness from a group of people and are made to serve in this strange role whether they like it or not. It is only the other side of the coin of scapegoating, in which a group chooses an individual to carry the dark side of their own personalities, which they are unwilling to own for themselves. This idea has been borne out by careful examination: every group I have ever experienced has done this living-out-by-appointment of the human elements that are too good or too bad for an ordinary person to accommodate in his or her own life. The group gives that overwhelming characteristic to some person nearby. God help the poor person who is landed with either of the excesses that humankind finds equally difficult to bear.
Love and blessings,