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Blog of the Grateful Bear

ramblings of a freelance panentheist {"all things are in God, and God is in all things"} . . . musings on Emergent spirituality, powerlifting, LGBTQueer issues, contemplative prayer, mysticism, cats, music, healing, and more. I like my coffee and my existentialism dark-roasted.

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Location: Marietta, Georgia, United States

I'm an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor), in private practice in Marietta, Georgia. My writings on queer spirituality have been published in Whosoever and several other magazines. I live in a house-in-the-woods (Bear's Hermitage) in Marietta with Leonidas (Lenny) and Guy, Mighty Warrior Cats, and way too many books.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

“Spirit” in the Mountains

I’m back from the Gay Spirit Visions Fall Conference in the beautiful North Carolina mountains. I was honored to be one of the three main presenters at the conference. My assigned topic was “Spirit” – very open-ended! My presentation combined prayers, poems, and practices from both Christian and Sufi mysticism. It was wonderful to be hugged by so many men (at least sixty!), thanking me for what I had shared.

I’ve gotten several requests for some of the specific poems and prayers that were part of my presentation, so I’ll be posting those to my website soon. Here are just a few . . .

“Gentle Loving God, Mother of my soul, hold me as your own.”
~ a prayer from the Franciscan tradition

“Ultimately it is God that every lover loves in every beloved.”
~ from the Sufi mystic Ibn al-Arabi

All that is born, all that is created,
all the elements of nature
are interwoven and united with each other.
All that is composed shall be decomposed;
everything returns to its roots;
matter returns to the origins of matter.
Those who have ears, let them hear.
~ from the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, 7:4-10

Behold the world entirely contained in yourself.
. . . You are a reflection of Adam, “The Adored of Angels,”
For this cause you are worshipped of angels.
Each creature that goes before you [every other creature in the universe] has a soul,
And from that soul is a cord to you.
. . . The soul of each one is hidden in you.
You are the kernel of the world in the midst thereof.
Know yourself that you are the world’s soul.
~ from a poem by Rumi, in The Sufi Doctrine of Rumi

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Resting Places of the Soul

Camels at the Watering Place, by Jean-Leon Gerome (1857)

In Sufism there is the idea of the maqam, a resting place in the desert, a place to relax and water the camels, a respite for a time.

The soul has maqams. The soul rests in places of beauty.

Maqam (Lit. “station”): One's spiritual station or developmental level, as distinct from one's hal, or state of consciousness. This is seen as the outcome of one's effort to transform oneself, whereas the hal is a gift. “Maqam” is also a term for “scale” or “mode” in Near-Eastern music.
~ from the Dances of Universal Peace Glossary of Terms

What enlivens my soul can change at different periods of my life. I can be drawn to a certain spiritual path or practice, then totally lose interest in it and become interested in something else.

Here's the question:
Am I awake enough to notice? Can I follow my soul?

My heart has become capable of every form:
It is a pasture for gazelles,
And a monastery for Christian monks,
And a temple for idols,
And the Ka'aba of the pilgrims,
And the tablets of the Torah,
And the book of the Koran.
I follow the religion of Love:
Whatever path Love's camel takes,
That is my religion and my faith.

~ Ibn al-Arabi, quoted in Perfume of the Desert,
edited by Andrew Harvey and Eryk Hanuk

Cool Cat, Swinging to Bop

Kato the Gnostic Cat is in love with this new music I downloaded, After Hours by Charlie Christian and Dizzy Gillespie (with a little-known house pianist named Thelonious Monk). It was recorded live in a Harlem jazz club in 1941. First time I played it, Kato jumped up on the desk (where the computer speakers are) and crouched down, staring at the speakers like he was stalking a chipmunk. Then he started to relax, then he curled up in a little ball, purring loudly, listening to it.

One of the tracks is a song by Dizzy called “Kerouac.” The song Kato appears to like the most is a nine minute jam called “Swing to Bop.”

As I've said before, Kato is one cool cat.

Grateful Update: Kato has finally responded to a non-jazz track! It's a 10-minute drum solo from a Grateful Dead show I downloaded from Archive.org.

Both of my blog entries today (this one, and “Resting Places of the Soul” above) originated in an ongoing conversation with my friend Carl McColman.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Silence, Exile, Cunning

“You have asked me what I would do and what I would not do. I will tell you what I will do and what I will not do. I will not serve that in which I no longer believe, whether it call itself my home, my fatherland or my church: and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can, and as wholly as I can, using for my defence the only arms I allow myself to use . . . silence, exile, and cunning.”

~ James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Saturday, September 02, 2006


Why? Read my friend Heidi's