At Home in the Cosmos with David Spanglerby Sophia Frowert
One of my earliest and most vivid memories of David Spangler is seeing him standing on the speaker's platform of a beautiful conference room in North Carolina with the light streaming in through the windows behind him. He held a blue-green ball representing the planet Earth in his hands. To illustrate life's interconnectedness, he stepped off the platform saying, "When I step over this edge, all of creation steps over with me." That was sixteen years ago.
Largely as a result of my studies with David since that day, I have come to experience more fully a feeling of connection -- not only with other human beings, but with the rest of creation as well. I've come also to value my humanness, to be more present to the experiences of my life, and to begin to know them as sacred. Through David's teachings, I've learned, too, the skill of directly experiencing the divine and bringing that energy into the activities and creations of my daily life.
David Spangler is a philosopher, writer, and educator whose work deals with incarnational spirituality: the development and integration of spiritual awareness within the context of ordinary, everyday life. He has written and lectured widely on this subject. From 1965 to 1969, he taught classes in human relationships and self-development in the San Francisco Bay area and was a teacher for the San Jose Adult Education program. From 1970 to 1973, he served as a co-director of the Findhorn Foundation community in northern Scotland.
As a result of his work at Findhorn, David became one of the leading philosophers and spokespersons for the New Age movement. From 1978 to 1984, he designed and taught classes for the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee in future studies, community development, leadership, the "new science," and emerging new paradigms. He has also designed and taught online computer classes. His books include Emergence: The Rebirth of the Sacred, A Pilgrim in Aquarius, The Call, and Everyday Miracles.
I interviewed David recently on his latest thinking.
Sophia: David, when speaking of your current work, you use the phrase, "being at home in the cosmos." Could you say more about what that means?
David: I think of home as a place to which I feel connected in an empowering and nourishing way. It is a place where I can find support. It is a place that is a part of me, even as I am part of it through acts of mutual co-creation. There is an intimacy about a home, a sense of belonging.
Often these feelings of intimacy and belonging are lacking in our relationship with our world. There is no question that we each are part of the universe, part of this world, and that we emerge from it and are sustained by it. But all too frequently, we may feel alienated and overwhelmed by it. We might feel as if we are, to borrow Heinlein's phrase, "strangers in a strange land." We can also feel as if we are sojourners, visitors, even prisoners, and the result of this is a loss of energy in our lives.
There is no question that life can be tough, but by losing our sense of belonging in the world, we can only make it tougher. As a friend of mine once described this feeling, it is as if we have been dropped without support behind enemy lines. With such a feeling, we must feel fearful, constricted, and wholly on our own. Such a feeling is not conducive to experiencing a creative and empowering flow in our lives.
Therefore, discovering how to be at home in our world, at home in the cosmos from which we emerge, seems to me a major step in rediscovering and realigning with whatever innate sustaining power we have within us that we can use to connect with the world around us.
Sophia: What are some of the factors influencing us today that can keep us from experiencing this sense of belonging?
David: First, many of us come from a religious tradition that views the world in some way as enemy territory. The world is either the playground of the devil, a place of temptation and testing, or it is illusory and deceptive. We are told that this is not our true home, that we come from and belong elsewhere, and that we are on a journey to return to that better place. We are told that the qualities and characteristics of the body and of nature are limiting and potentially evil. How can we not feel alienated in the world if we are on guard against the very flesh and matter that are our substance?
Second, most of us live in urban settings that encourage a sense of anonymity. On the one hand, this may be pleasant, but on the other, we may feel like a faceless member of a herd. Certainly, as governmental and corporate organizations grow, we can feel treated by them as if we are just a thing and not a person. Indeed, interchangeability has been a hallmark of the industrial era: the sense that every part and everyone is replaceable. Today's job market, filled with downsizing, rightsizing, and re-engineering, can only emphasize this sense of not being personally important, that at any time we can be replaced.
Third, we live in a very complex time that is only getting more complex, a time that is changing rapidly, when old certainties and familiar terrains are changing. It is like living in a constant psychic earthquake in which the solid ground beneath us is constantly shifting and flowing. Where do we find security in such a situation?
When we feel personally insecure, caught up in change over which we have little control, and brought up in environments that subtly or overtly teach us to distrust and disown the world, how can we feel at home here?
Sophia: What are some of the consequences of this feeling of alienation? David: We feel disempowered. We can feel a loss of personal energy and a loss of meaning. We can lose a sense of community and connection with others. We can be more vulnerable to anger, to defensiveness, to thoughts and acts of incivility -- and even violence -- through which we seek to reclaim some measure of control, dominance, and personal significance by exerting our power over someone else.
We can lose touch with our innermost spirit, which, because of its holistic nature, embraces the world fully. If we say, "This world is not my home," we simultaneously cut ourselves off from that inner part of us, which is a very powerful and deep part, that does see itself and the world as part of a wholeness.
Sophia: How might our lives be different if we felt more at home here? David: We may not necessarily find that our lives have suddenly become problem-free or that all obstacles have vanished, but we can feel an inner relaxation and sense of connectedness, which in turn is a prerequisite for experiencing a greater sense of creative flow. We may be better able to attune to a stream of life and power moving through the world. We might be more enthusiastic, more involved, more open. We might find allies in the world that we may not have suspected existed before, both physical allies and spiritual ones as well.
When we feel at home in the cosmos, we inhabit our bodies differently. We inhabit our lives less defensively and more joyously. There can still be effort to accomplish what we want, but we have more resources -- of energy, wisdom, intuition, and community -- to draw on to make that effort. And, at times, effort disappears, and we find ourselves moving effortlessly to accomplish and attract what we wish. We find ourselves at the center of everyday miracles.
Sophia: What can we do to foster a sense of connection and belonging in our lives? David: One of our greatest allies is our body and its senses. By learning to use our senses in new ways, or by being more mindful and paying more attention to what our senses are telling us, we can be more present in the moment. This in itself is very liberating and releases energy that is bound up in distractions and thoughts about the past or the future. If I assume I am in enemy territory, I am predisposed to interpret everything as potentially dangerous. But if I really pay attention and am mindful in the moment, I can discern more clearly what is truly dangerous and what is actually a potential ally or resource.
We can change our attitudes by changing our knowledge base. Learning more about the wonder of the world in which we live and how we participate in it, even in simple physical ways, can give us a deeper understanding on which to base a sense of being at home in this cosmos. A study of science, even in a very general way, is often very helpful here.
We can explore spiritual insights and teachings that foster this sense of belonging and connection. Not all spiritual traditions teach that we are aliens in the world or that everything is illusion. There are other spiritual perspectives available to us. We can also deepen our understanding of those traditions that do see the world in a suspicious or alienating way. By going beyond the surface of their teachings, we can discover in their depths what they may really be trying to teach us. Learning to separate the valuable from the distracting is another way of discovering our sense of belonging.
Sophia: What skills and tools can we learn to help us feel more at home in the cosmos?
David: We can learn how to tap, harness, and express our power in ways that also empower others. We can learn the ways of serving our world and ourselves. We can learn how to be connected and mutually co-creative. We can learn how to appreciate this world and how to laugh with it and within it, and how to have fun. We can learn how to play in appropriate ways, for home to me is always the place where we can play and re-create ourselves.
The tools, and the people offering them, are out there in the public arena. Just ensure that the tools you choose and the teachers you listen to respect and empower you, that they help you unfold yourself in new and richer ways, and don't just use you to help themselves feel at home as teachers and experts.
There are no experts in being at home in the cosmos, only fellow family members whose greatest power is the ability to welcome each other in unconditional ways.
David will present a workshop September 26-28, "Everyday Miracles: Incarnational Spirituality and the Art of Manifestation," the first in a series entitled "Being at Home in the Cosmos." It features presenters addressing the theme of co-creating with the spiritual power within everyday life. For information, contact the Stonehouse Center, (425) 883-7825; see display ad in this issue for more details.