Saturday, January 23, 2010


One of my favorite books is Zoom, by Istvan Banyai, a truly unique book with barely a word in it beyond the cover page. It opens with a drawing of a rooster. On the next page, however, our vision expands just a bit to place this rooster, no longer center stage, but within a larger context. The picture on the following page places that context within a larger one still.

This process continues as each subsequent image incrementally enlarges our vision, often taking us in surprising directions. An object becomes part of a toy village, the village a placard on the side of a bus, the bus embedded within other scenes viewed eventually from an airplane~~and then beyond even this heightened perspective. We think we know what we’re looking at~~until we turn the page.

And thus, a powerful truth is conveyed in a very simple way. Our viewpoint is limited. At any time, we are seeing so much less than all there is to see, and what we do perceive is colored by many factors and subjected to instantaneous and largely unconscious interpretation. As I seek to bring my own vision into alignment with the message inherent in most schools of spiritual thought, this simple book serves as a reminder and suggests an approach to handling life’s challenges.

For example, if I respond with hurt and anger to the actions of a loved one, I can remain frozen in that scene, or I can consciously “zoom out” to a larger perspective. I can expand my vision a bit to see the other person within the context of his or her life, temperament, and personal struggles. I can also regard my own responses in a similar light.

I can enlarge my viewpoint further by seeing this incident within the fullness of our entire relationship, including the potential growth we consistently offer one another through smooth times and difficult.

I can extend my awareness again, seeing our interaction as a particular example of the human dilemma experienced by all who work to blend personal perspectives with the needs of a relationship.

Expanding further, I can recognize the play of opposing energies contained within this incident as one expression of the tension~~the yin and the yang~~which runs through all aspects of life and nurtures new possibilities into being.

And I can zoom out to a place beyond my powers of comprehension and touch at least the edge of the Mystery often called God. From this vantage point, although I cannot fully understand it, I can choose to see the small and seemingly insignificant incident that provoked me as one reflection of that vast, unknowable Force which lies beyond and within all things. And I can also choose to rest here for a time, nurtured by the Ineffable.

While playing with my viewpoint in this way could be an effort to avoid hurt and anger, I can also zoom out in order to place these emotions within their true context. My reactions are not nullified; they are honored as part of a greater whole. Anchored in this larger perspective, I am more likely to take helpful action when I choose my response. Regardless of the outcome, though, this incident has already taught me much through this process of progressive expansion.

Reaching for the largest perspective we can attain allows us the best chance of acting consciously, of choosing wisely. This, it seems, is all that is asked of us.

Zoom, zoom!

Loanne Marie

Monday, January 11, 2010

Divine Immanence

As I write this, I’ve just returned from the hot springs. While it was a delightful day from start to finish, there were certain moments that were particularly precious. In each, I was transported~~not to some place far away~~but directly into the here and now.

The first of these occurred several minutes after entering the sauna. The temperature within that small room exceeded 160 degrees, and an intensification of my own internal heat was underway. As all manner of toxins were being released, a moment arrived when I could no longer think. I was pulled abruptly into the present and was transfixed.

Another moment came while sitting in the hottest pool~~108 degrees of pristine water, naturally heated from deep within the earth. Steam rising, mountains surrounding, turbulent sky enclosing, and a substance that looked like hail, felt like snow, and sounded like rain began to fall. I dropped again into this dazzling present, recognizing it as holy.

A bit later, when I was too hot to remain in the water any longer, but too cold to sit out in the frigid air, I laid on my back across the top step that runs along one edge of the pool. The back of me submerged in that searing water, the front touched by icy air, I watched large white clouds lazily shape~shift against the deep blue of a now otherwise clear mountain sky. Again, I was awakened to a present that was infused by the numinous.

And riding home in the backseat of my friend’s car after our soak was done, a CD of kirtan, a form of Indian devotional music, played. As my own joy~filled voice joined in the chanting, I opened once again~~and again and again~~and knew myself blessed.

Four seemingly separate occasions, one experience. It’s hard to imagine that these four instances reflected anything other than a sudden perception on my part of that which is always there.

Does God transcend this world of ours, or does the Infinite permeate and infuse each and every facet of creation? To me, both appear true. It seems that our task, though, is to open to the sacred within our daily lives. To do this, we must transcend the world of our own making, the busyness of mind and personal preoccupations which unknowingly convey the assumption that God is only out there, beyond.

When Jesus urges us, in Mathew 13, to see with our eyes, hear with our ears, and understand with our hearts, I believe he’s encouraging us to recognize the immanent God, the holiness that is right here, if only we would open to it.

We are sometimes given, as I was today, moments of grace when the veil lifts and we stand awe~struck. Echoes of this grace can remain with us long after the initial experience starts to fade. We may begin to thirst for more. Perhaps we might even be inspired to commit to consciously enlarging our capacity to perceive this divine immanence.

Devoting ourselves to such a path is indeed challenging, especially when life is difficult. Yet, it brings with it many gifts, not the least of which is a deeper experience of the sacred as it weaves its way throughout our lives.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. wrote, “All is holy where devotion kneels.” May we each kneel often in the coming week.

Loanne Marie