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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.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Chaos Theory

“One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche

“Our real discoveries come from chaos, from going to the place that looks wrong and stupid and foolish.”
– Chuck Palahniuk

“Let others bring order to chaos. I would bring chaos to order.”
– Kurt Vonnegut

“Chaos is a friend of mine.”
“I accept chaos. I am not sure whether it accepts me.”
– Bob Dylan


Monday, November 26, 2007

Coffee Mystics

I’ve started a new discussion group on Facebook: Coffee Mystics, a group for caffeinated mystics and contemplatives, or anyone who appreciates both mysticism and fine coffee. Each week we’ll post a quotation about mysticism or an insight from a mystic (of any faith tradition, or none) on the discussion board. Everyone is invited to participate in the discussion (even tea drinkers – we’re an inclusive group).

Coffee and mysticism have been linked from the very beginning. Legends tell of an Ethiopian goat-herd named Kaldi who noticed how his goats danced about after eating wild coffee berries. Kaldi tried some coffee berries for himself and found they had the same effect on him. Other legends credit a Sufi healer/sage named Omar the Dervish with discovering the healing properties of brewed coffee. Coffee soon became known as “the wine of Islam” and was used by Sufi mystics in Yemen and elsewhere, helping them stay awake longer for Zikr (sacred chanting) and whirling.

Because of its association with Islam, coffee was initially banned in Europe until Pope Clement VIII (1536-1605) “Christianized” it by infallibly decreeing, “This devil’s drink is so good, we should cheat the devil by baptizing it.” Soon thereafter, Christian monks began using coffee to stay awake for their prayers. Cappucino is named for the Capuchin monks, whose habits contain similar shades of brown and white.

In later years coffee came to be associated with radicals, “heretics,” and freethinkers, to such an extent that coffeehouses were actually closed by law during some periods of history, both in Europe and in the Middle East. Coffeehouses were associated with espresso-sipping existentialists during the 1920’s and with poetry-spouting Beatniks in the 1950’s. Even today, coffeehouses (especially ones that are independent and locally-owned) are the natural gathering spaces for mystics, postmodernists, and others who just can’t bring themselves to drink bad coffee.

So sit back, enjoy your coffee, and join us!


Friday, November 23, 2007

On a much lighter note...

Those of you who are obsessed by the TV show Project Runway (and I know I’m not the only one!) might want to check out a blog called Project Rungay – “Project Runway from a VERY gay perspective.”

Tim Gunn with the fabulous Sarah Jessica Parker,
guest judge on this week’s episode

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Healing Light

This past Sunday I conducted a Universal Worship Service for our monthly gathering of the Sufi Healing Circle of Atlanta. This was my “inaugural” service after returning from Sarasota, Florida, where I completed the 12-month program in Spiritual Caregiving and advanced from an Associate Cherag (minister) to a fully-ordained Cherag. (Scroll down to the entry dated October 11th to read more.)

The service on Sunday was an experimental form, with a focus on healing. A candle was lit for each religion represented on the altar (each candle lit from the same “God candle” in the center), but instead of reading from each tradition’s scriptures, we focused on the healing gift that each religion offers.

For Hinduism, we invoked the healing light of Divine Wisdom.
For Buddhism, the healing light of Divine Compassion.
For the Zoroastrian religon, the healing light of Divine Purity.
For the Native American traditions, the healing light of Divine Nature.
For the Divine Feminine and Goddess traditions, the healing light of Divine Love.
For Taoism, the healing light of Divine Harmony.
For Judaism, the healing light of Divine Covenant.
For Christianity, the healing light of Divine Self-Sacrifice.
For the religion of Islam, the healing light of Divine Unity.

After each candle was lit, we paused to let that healing light be kindled in our hearts. We asked ourselves silently what areas of our lives were in need of that particular healing quality. Then, as we felt comfortable sharing, we spoke aloud those prayers.

It was an amazing time of sharing in prayer together, a time of getting to know the hearts of each other. The service concluded with a Sufi blessing in dance form, led beautifully by Jacob Kabb:

May the Blessing of God rest upon you;
may God’s Peace abide with you;
may God’s Presence illuminate your hearts
now and for evermore. Amen.

And then – everyone just sat there. No one wanted to leave when the service was over, and no one did leave for quite a while. The spirit of blessing was as strong, as palpable, as it had been a few Sundays before, when I had been ordained as a Cherag in Sarasota. I feel tremendously blessed to have experienced it, and I feel very grateful that our Sufi community in Atlanta is so open-hearted and receptive to such a comforting and healing Presence.

I feel like we were able, for a wonderful moment, to experience the deeper Reality behind the different religions represented by the candles on the altar.

That experience, to me, is the heart of true mysticism.

My dear friend Carl McColman has recently signed a contract with a publisher to write a new book on Christian mysticism. (This is great news; it has been way too long since Carl has written a book!) He recently asked the readers of his blog, The Website of Unknowing, what mysticism means to them. This was my response:

Mysticism is that which enables us time-bound creatures to experience, for however fleeting a moment, the eternal.

Mysticism is the experience of “eternity in our hearts” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Mysticism is the Reality behind the dogma, the deeper Truth beyond our creeds.

Mysticism is that which enabled the Dalai Lama and Thomas Merton to meet in the 1960’s and to recognize each other as brothers.

On this Thanksgiving Day, I find myself grateful to have friends and loved ones – Sufi, Christian, Pagan, Jewish, Buddhist, and “other” – who are in touch with that Reality and who bring such blessing to my life.

Grateful Bear

The Meister Eckhart quote above is from explorefaith.com