Friday, July 24, 2015


         The next paragraph you read will look rather odd at first, but it's not a mistake. I can't cite the source, because I don't remember where I first found this particular excerpt. But I invite you to read it because it demonstrates an important concept:

          I cdnuolt blveiee that I cluod aulacity uesdnatnrd what I was rdanieg. Tahts the phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mind. Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch sutdy at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in what oredr the ltteers in a wrod are perensetd, the olny iprmoatnt tinhg is taht the frist and lsat lttesres be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can still raed it wouthit mcuh of a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the hmaun mind deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig, rghit?


            Yes, we humans are truly gifted with the ability to find patterns in our environment and create a sense of order in the midst of seeming chaos. And it's not limited to recognizing, reading and writing words. It turns out that our capacity for seeing beyond the immediate details and filling in missing bits of information is a very wide-ranging and highly useful skill, one that serves us well in a wide variety of contexts. Since the time of the earliest hunter-gatherers, our aptitude for filling in the dots has made it possible for us to scan for predators, seek out prey, make plans for tomorrow and make sense out of yesterday - simply by being able to look beyond what is immediately visible and focus on the bigger picture.


            Nor is this capacity limited to the physical plane, for we have unlimited potential for using this ability on multiple levels of the metaphysical plane as well. By turning within through contemplation and meditation, by embracing our intuition, by invoking the Presence within and around us, we can see beyond any of the seeming limitations on our time, talents and treasure. And from this place of peace and power, it's possible to discern the next step forward from any juncture.

            I'm not saying anything new here; I'm just revisiting this metaphor to remind you (and mySelf) that we are always free to face and embrace our current circumstances fully - and see beyond them, too. To employ our potential for filling in the blanks, connecting the dots and feeling a sense of order in any given situation. Not on our own, but in concert with a deep sense of the Sacred that flows through all of creation.


            It takes time to learn these skills. The successful completion of the little reading exercise you read above was possible, in part, because of this innate human capacity for seeing beyond the visible. But it was also because earlier in your life you learned the ABC's, as well as the basic skills of spelling, reading and grammar. And you probably didn't learn these on your own, but with a teacher and a roomful of fellow students, engaged in the learning process together.

            That's why I'm delighted to be walking alongside you within the context of the Celebration Circle as we travel this path of deepening our spiritual skills, learning to see beyond the visible and trusting the deep connections that support us in living lives of purpose, peace and power. At least, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

 With gratitude and blessings,


PS: Speaking of making connections... below is our latest brief video containing the Declaration of Interdependence that we shared on Sunday, July 5th, followed by a guided meditation I lead, focussed on our Oneness. Thank you, Eddie Wise, for another wonderful audio/video production!


Saturday, July 18, 2015


          It's a been a truly delightful week in our household, due to the fact that our beloved daughter, Sarah, and granddaughter, Aiko, are here for 10-day visit from their home in the Netherlands. Sarah is particularly interested in spending as much time as possible with my father, Benny, because she is eager to mine his rich store of memories, stories and Harst Family lore in order to frame her own understanding of who she is and where she came from.
            At age 36, she is becoming more appreciative of our family ties; at 63, I'm deeply grateful to have developed a loving relationship with her, despite the many miles and years between us when she was a child. At 91, Dad is still sharp as a tack and his memory as detailed as ever, but we're all aware that the window for sharing his complex, multi-cultural, trans-continental heritage with us is clearly beginning to close.
            So here we are, sitting in the living room once again, four generations of hearts, dancing through our memories, taking a chance on opening up to each other, one question, one smile, one glimpse into the past at a time...
            I look forward to sharing some of the stories, photos and lessons we uncover sometime in the near future.  In the meantime, here's hoping that you and your loved ones are enjoying your summer time together, too, in whatever shape that takes for you.

 With gratitude and blessings,


PS: Speaking of making connections... below is our latest brief video containing the Declaration of Interdependence that we shared on Sunday, July 5th, followed by a guided meditation I lead, focussed on our Oneness. Thank you, Eddie Wise, for another wonderful audio/video production!

Sunday, July 12, 2015


Last week I received a lovely and inspiring e-mail from a new, long-distance friend, Jo Campe, a minister who recently retired from serving a liberal Protestant congregation in a metropolitan city and moved to upstate Minnesota. Several months ago, feeling hungry to receive additional spiritual food in the remote, rural area near the Canadian border where he and his wife now live, he began following the Celebration Circle online.



            Jo wrote in response to the Circle video of my Summer Solstice talk, and as it happened, his email arrived just as I'd returned from a disturbing visitation session with a friend serving time in Bexar County jail.  I was feeling very disheartened by the palpable feelings of sadness and despair that had permeated the air in the visitor waiting area once again. There's something deeply disturbing about being surrounded by such graphic demonstrations of our society's failings, watching a leaden bureaucracy in action, witnessing the overwhelming percentages of poor and disadvantaged people who populate our prisons, the only well-heeled individuals in sight being the lawyers and bondsmen plying their trade in the hallway.



            That was my dull-gray state of mind as I opened Jo's email, with its uplifting reminder about the regenerative nature of life in the midst of fire and destruction. I couldn't help but but smile in reading how the latest Circle video had enriched his day, causing him to respond positively and lift my day in return. So now, I'll share this little story and the bulk of his text here, in the hopes that it might help brighten someone else's day - maybe even yours:


            Summer in the pines and birch trees has finally arrived in Ely, Minnesota.  Church today was particularly inspiring [as I sat] in my study along with my partner, Kit, and Lena, the wonderdog, where we watched and listened to your summer solstice and co-creator meditations on our computer.  It was as though you were speaking to the innermost memories and inspirations of my own history and journey. Co-creation - and looking at the many faces of the way we might find that Spirit - is certainly the journey of this day.  

            The winds have brought smoke all the way from the territories of the North West arctic. For so many years we were the folks of 'Smokey the Bear' - [putting out forest fires and inadvertently] putting out the regenerative spirit of forest fire. Today, the woods burn throughout the north so that new growth is inevitable. As the smoke covers the sun to give us overcast [skies], I am reminded this morning of the symbol of The Recovery Church, which is a jack pine cone. Jack pine trees need the intense heat of forest fire to open the seeds of the pine cone. 

            As a forest fire consumes the remainder of underbrush, it also provides the heat that melts the tight glue holding the seeds together in the jack pine cone, and they appear to raise from the dead.  The small seeds explode and fly to the rich ash to start new growth. They were there, ready to create, even before the fire, but now in the heat of the moment, they joined the creative power of new and beautiful life. 

            Ah...such rich theology that you gave us this morning to pause and reflect on for this day. I am so grateful to have you in our home [today] to remind us of the myriad ways that the power is alive in this rich soil. On the edge of the Canadian border we pause to say thank you, Rudi, [knowing] that distance is only a figment of imagination [and] there is no distance between us. We are thankful for you this day.



            Thank you, Rev. Jo - and thank you, dear reader, for being among the supporters who make it possible for the Celebration Circle to extend its reach from the bowels of the county jail to the Canadian border. May you, may we, may All Beings be blessed by our willingness to experience and express our belief that "We Are One." 


With gratitude and blessings,


PS:  Please consider clicking here make a donation to Celebration Circle in order to sustain this weekly e-newsletter, our Daily Inspiration Circle, our weekly audio/video recordings and the many other resources we offer, both online and face-to-face.  Thank you!

Saturday, July 4, 2015


          Since our very first Celebration Circle gathering in January 1992, we've begun each Sunday morning by consciously opening to the Four Direction of the compass as a group while singing our invocation: "O, Great Spirit, earth, sun, sky and sea; you are inside and all around me."

          It's our take on a very powerful, age-old practice shared by various spiritual traditions and aboriginal groups since time out of mind, and re-interpreted in the 1980's within the context of Creation Spirituality. Invoking the Four Directions is a meaningful process, but as with any ritual, there's the possibility for it to become rote and lifeless with repetition, unless care is taken to review and renew it periodically. So, as part of my preparation for our almost-annual Interdependence Day celebration this Sunday, July 5th, I'd like to spend some time-sharing my evolving understanding of how and why we invoke the Four Directions in the Circle - and invite your reflections on this practice.



          We begin by facing South, the direction of Summer and the mid-day sun, the direction of action, abundance and blessings. In doing so, we open our awareness to the many ways in which we enjoy the goodness, abundance and well being which is the fabric of our lives. It is a way to recognize that we have so much to be thankful for, knowing that our needs have been met today and trusting that they will continue to be met at every step along the way. (Although it's possible to begin with any one of the directions, we begin our Sunday Circles by facing South because that's how our seating arrangement is oriented at Say Sí).



          Then we take a quarter-turn to the right (clockwise) and face to the West, the direction of Autumn and the setting sun, which invokes our willingness to embrace the constancy of change, the inevitability of death and the mystery of unanswered (and possibly unanswerable) questions that are part of the human condition. We are also facing up to the inescapable fact that even the brightest, richest day must surrender its treasure to the falling night; so, too, nothing is "ours" to keep: all the objects, relationships and conditions that we think we own are just temporary, and must be released at some point.



          Now we continue to trace the path of the sun moving through the sky by taking

another 90 degree turn clockwise to face North, the direction of the cold winds of Winter and the pitch black of midnight. This represents the transformation that occurs as we stand our ground in the midst of the challenges and struggles we all must face in life. Despite our modern, societal emphasis on creating and sustaining the trappings of safety, security and certainty, if we scratch beneath the thin veneer of culture, we humans fundamentally remain physically fragile and insecure beings.

          But, one of the deep gifts of opening ourselves to the Four Directions ritualistically is that as we stand and face North, we can experience a renewed sense of security, simply by acknowledging our human frailty, while simultaneously re-affirming our faith, our strength and our divinity, too.



          Turning once again, we come to the East, the direction of Spring and the rising sun, the perpetual promise of renewal and new beginnings. In doing so, we give thanks for the possibility of a fresh start each day, each moment. Whatever might have happened last year, yesterday or this morning, we have the capacity to let go of it in consciousness and experience whatever is waiting to unfold in our lives right here and now.



          And then it's time to spiral inward to face the Center of the Circle, which represents the Center of our Being, the Middle of the Mystery which is Spirit, fully presnt right here and now - and in all times and circumstances. While facing the Center, we remember that we are always in the process of being born, while always dying, too; always living in the midst of abundance, while always facing losses; always in motion, always standing still. Centered in this awareness, we feel our inter-connection with all of life, which we affirm by speaking/feeling the peace of knowing:  "We Are One."



          I believe this ritual is particularly well-suited as the invocation for our Circle gatherings, because it is such a palpable and physical way to remind ourselves that this moment is a sacred time, this place where we're standing is sacred ground, this collection of individuals is a sacred gathering. But this same quality also makes the Four Directions ritual a powerful way to start the morning at home, or take a short break in the middle of a work day, or before going to bed - in order to reconnect with the larger story of who we truly are and what we are really here to do.  At least, that's my current understanding, and I'm sticking to it for now. 


With gratitude and blessings,