Saturday, September 30, 2017


      People often complain about how busy they are, how little time they have for themselves, how few opportunities there are to do what they love to do; because they've got so much that they "have to do." Many of my peers are retired now, and almost all of them have told me something like "I'm busier now than I ever was when I was working!" - and they're only half-joking.

     I'm not criticizing; because I sometimes hear myself saying similar things, although I do my best not to do so, knowing full well that what I focus on expands. Instead, I chose to focus on the power of Sacred Rest, knowing that there are many benefits to be gained by pausing from busy-ness periodically in order to turn inward. Taking time to become fully present, relaxed and re-energized by allowing the free flow of Life to move through me, to me and from me. Plugging into the vast field of energy which is readily available when we stop Doing long enough to inhabit our Being.
     Maybe you recognize yourself in one of the two preceding paragraphs. Maybe you're planning to attend our upcoming weekend retreat on October 13-15, which will be a wonderful, extended opportunity to get some Sacred Rest in a beautiful nature setting. And if you can't make it for the whole weekend, perhaps you'll consider coming for the Saturday only option (see details below). You'll be really glad you did!

     But, I also know that it isn't necessary to go anywhere or do anything special in order to get some Sacred Rest. It's available right where you, wherever you are, whenever you are ready. I had a particularly amazing experience of that just a few days ago, when seven friends came to our house to help us haul a huge, 35-foot tall hackberry tree out of our backyard.
     It had been knocked down by the winds associated with Hurricane Harvey, and a kind neighbor had used his chain saw to cut it into manageable pieces, leaving a ton of heavy branches and logs that needed to be carried out to the curb for city pickup. It was Big Fun to work alongside these generous friends for a couple of hours, but it was also hard, sweaty work for a desk jockey like me. Most of the heavy lifting I do usually involves moving a pen across paper! 

     Halfway through the process, panting from the effort of dragging yet another heavy branch across yard, I stopped in my tracks and stood in sacred rest, drinking in the view of my kind-hearted pals working alongside me, sinking into my breath and really feeling the sweet ache in my sweaty arms and back - and experienced an extraordinary swell of energy zooming through my spine, pouring into my heart and gushing out into the world. It probably took less than a minute of chronological time, but seemed to last an eternity, and left me feeling totally energized, renewed and imbued with quiet joy that made the rest of the work just fly by.

     I'll be exploring this process of Sacred Rest in more detail during the next two Sunday Circles, as well as at our Retreat weekend, and it would be great to see you there. But, I also invite you to join me for a few moments of Sacred Rest, right now, right where you are, just as you. Turning within, with eyes closed, or eyes wide open, resting in the rich, sweet sacred space that is Now.  And Now...and Now...  That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

With gratitude and blessings,

     PS:  Thanks, too, to all the generous artists, volunteers and donors who helped make our 14th Annual Sacred Art of Altars art exhibit and silent auction our most successful one yet! It will be several weeks before we will know exactly how much we raised, but the level of artistry and generosity of all involved was truly extraordinary! 

Friday, September 22, 2017


     I'm writing this near the end of ten days spent alone, housesitting at a friend's isolated Hill Country cottage, mostly cloaked in sacred silence. What a blessing to be here, tucked into this quiet valley located fifteen miles from the nearest town, surrounded by many acres of green space, far enough away from neighbors and roads that very little human noise ever intrudes on the stillness.
     Spending time in "sacred silence" involves limiting communication with others unless an urgent need arises, and choosing instead to focus on paying attention to my surroundings, and the "still Small Voice" as it emerges out of the void created by unplugging from human contact and electronic media. Mostly I sit quietly, simply watching thoughts come and go without attachment, periodically punctuated by small acts that feed the moment: making a cup of tea, journaling, taking a walk, listening to the breeze singing its song in the treetops. I know this time is a gift, and I do my best not to take it for granted.
      One of the more wonder-filled aspects of being here is a chance for this city-dweller to get re-acquainted with the way the ever-shifting sunlight illuminates the earth, thanks to the sheer size of the vast horizon. It's particularly mesmerizing at sunset, when blazing swirls of orange and purple clouds seem to arise out of nowhere to dazzle the eyes, then quickly dim to yield the stage to the first evening star as it blinks into being out of the gathering darkness. A few moments later, that solitary "star" (which is actually the planet Venus on most nights) is joined by two or three others stars, before scores more make their sudden entrance. Within a few brief minutes, the deep dark skies are filled with zillions of other lights, in a display that takes me by surprise each time I stop to watch it unfold.
     It's stunning to realize once again, as if for the very first time, that those stars didn't just appear suddenly; they've been there all day long, "hiding" in plain sight, obscured by the light of the sun. Just because I couldn't see the stars in daytime doesn't mean they weren't there. Of course, I already knew that as a scientific fact I learned in elementary school, as you most likely did, too. But re-experiencing it so vividly in this spectacular setting provides a pointed reminder of the metaphysical Principle of Perception: that what we see, touch or believe to be "real" is actually just a small fraction of what there is to be seen, touched and perceived.
     I feel both humbled and enlarged by the reminder, dramatically punctuated by a shooting star zooming briefly across the sky, as if to underscore the point: let go of your attachment to your thoughts and judgments, and be amazed again and again, by the richness and variety of experiences that Life has to offer, far beyond the boundaries and limitations of your thoughts and beliefs. 

With awe and gratitude,

Saturday, September 16, 2017


I just came home from seeing the documentary "Walk With Me - On The Road With Thich Nhat Hanh". Maybe you were there too. If not, I hope you get to see it sometime soon, because the filmmakers have shared a unique insight into the monastic life. The personal interviews and the respectful observational eyes of the camera provide a thoughtful look into the commitment involved in mastering the art of mindfulness, as demonstrated by Thich Nhat Hanh, who at age 90 is still teaching this practice he brought to the Western world since he was forced into exile in 1966 over his attempts to bring peace to the Vietnam War. This film is not about those efforts but about the three years the filmmakers, Max Pugh and Marc J. Francis, spent at Plum Village, the French monastic community he established in 1982 and following them on a speaking tour to New York.
The movie drew me in and made me feel like a fly on the wall (or maybe the ants on the meditation mat) with a brief glimpse into the lives of these monks and nuns. Slow shots of candles on the pond, clouds in the sky or across the moon, storms rolling in and ladybugs crawling all brought the focus to the here and now.  The warm voice of Benedict Cumberbatch quoting the lyrical words of the master from his Fragrant Palm Leaves: Journals, 1962-1966 provide another powerful invitation into the stillness.  And watching the seasons change on the screen, the children play and question, the young monk yawning and twitching during meditation, the families connecting all brought emotions of joy and sorrow.  As I left the theater someone asked me what I thought and my response was that I felt my body. Frequently called back to breath in scene after scene and brought to stillness by the sound of the bell, I could not help but breathe into the experience.
Filmmaker Alejandro G. Inarritu, who won Oscars for "The Revenant" and "Birdman" says about the documentary "I loved how [the filmmakers] capture and convey, cinematically, the sometimes inexplicable state of being awakened. It gives a hint of that quiet voice so underrated today and ironically so needed in this time of fear and ignorance."
I am grateful for this opportunity to be reminded that we can breathe ourselves into the moment. That this practice of mindfulness is as simple as sitting or walking or cooking or smiling. Thich Nhat Hanh is an inspiration for his peaceful approach to this world and for his sense of social responsibility. This film gave me hope for our world and hope for my own potential. May we all remember stillness each time we hear a bell ring.
In joy,
Zet Bear

This week, I am on a solo retreat in the Hill Country, focused on Sacred Silence. I look forward to sharing my reflections in this space again next week - and at the Autumn Equinox Concert in the Cave Without a Name on Saturday, September 23, and the special Equinox Celebration we'll share the next morning in the Sunday Circle.
I am deeply grateful to Zet - and to you and the many others in the Circle community - who have made possible this time of Sacred Silence.

With gratitude and blessings,
Rudi Harst

Saturday, September 9, 2017


     For the fourteenth year in a row, our altars have been hung in the Bijou Theater Gallery with care - in hopes that lots of folks will go see them there. And what a great show it is!  As wonderful as each of the past thirteen Sacred Art of Altar exhibits have been, I truly believe that this the most colorful, delightfully varied collection of all. It's so much fun to look down that long gallery hall and see them virtually dancing on the wall!
     A large part of the magic of this annual event is seeing the transformation of dozens of plain, identical, handcrafted wooden boxes become such diverse, richly-detailed and highly-individualized expressions of creativity. I can think of no better physical demonstration of the paradox inherent in our Oneness and Diversity.
     But, as much as I enjoy contemplating the aesthetic, spiritual and philosophical dimensions of this annual Circle exhibit, it's even more fun to hang out in the gallery and watch the faces of the unsuspecting moviegoers faces as they drift from the lobby toward their movie screening room, only to encounter the multi-dimensional magic of the altars. These folks are there to see a film, then unexpectedly find themselves first surprised, then captivated by the mystery, majesty and oblique spirituality of these sixty altars hanging in a row on the wall, in the middle of a mall setting. Personally, I think of this as being a kind of "sacred sneak attack" on the sensibilities of innocent bystanders -- a gentle, but penetrating way of sharing the Circle's purpose ("to honor and nurture the Sacred in all creation") with the broader community. It's sort of like guerrilla warfare in reverse: instead of a violent, explosive provocation, it's a gentle, inclusive invitation into the wonders of life.
     I really hope you'll also get the chance to see them in person sometime during the next two weeks. Make a date: bring a friend or two, buy them a tasty beverage or snack and give yourself the time to really view the exhibit deeply, walking slowly down the hall, examining each one for a minute, maybe more -- and then go back and spend at least 3-5 minutes of silent time with The One Altar that spoke most directly to you; allow it to draw you in and make you look deep within yourself for a few moments... And then take a few minutes to express, explore and expound with your friend(s). 
     Perhaps you will join us for the Closing Reception on September 28th, which promises to be another upbeat celebration of our shared energies. (see details below).
     However, If you live outside the San Antonio area or just haven't been to see the show yet, you can view photos of the altars on the Circle's gorgeous website photo gallery, thanks to the generosity, energy and technical wizardry of Penny Malone, Karl Franklin and Jeff Chestnut, simply by clicking here. 
     Thanks to all the artists who created these amazing pieces - and the valiant crew of volunteers who helped collect, transport and hang them. What great work you did in providing us with this stirring visual reminder that, truly, "We Are One."

With gratitude and blessings,
     Rudi Harst

PS:   This Saturday night, September 9, I will be hosting and singing at JOINT EFFORT COFFEEHOUSE, along with my good friends and musical cohorts, Patti + Rod Radle; Dana Clark, Piper Tilton and John Whipple. Rousing songs will be sung, a meal will be served and Big Fun will be had. Dinner, conversation, candle light and crayons -- all for a suggested donation of $8, more or less (children free). It's a real deal and promises to be a great deal of fun, too. Doors open at 7:00 and buffet dinner served; music starts at 7:30 at the Inner City Development Center, 1300 Chihuahua Street. All proceeds support the ICDC programming. 

Friday, September 1, 2017


     Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to the many, many Gulf Coast residents whose lives, homes and safety have been affected by Hurricane Harvey. Sitting here in the comfort of our home, it's hard to comprehend the devastation being caused by this historic storm system, no matter how many stories we've heard or videos we've seen.
     Our house (as well as the Circle office) is located in a rain-sensitive flood plain, just 50 yards from the San Antonio River, so there's a good chance that if Harvey had continued just 30 miles further inland, our neighborhood would have been flooded. As it was, the only physical damaged we experienced was that a strong wind knocked down a 40-foot hackberry tree in our backyard. Had it landed 20 feet in the other direction, it would have crushed our living room. These are just two of the many things Zet and I have to be grateful for, and among the many reasons for wanting to reach out to those who are less fortunate.
     That's why we will be collecting donations on behalf of the Texas Red Cross in the Circle this Sunday. We encourage you to bring nonperishable food items, bottled water, baby food, diapers, flashlights and batteries, hygiene items and cleaning supplies to the Circle, and we'll take them to the Red Cross. We'll also be offering metaphysical support this Sunday by lifting up our collective prayers as part of the official Day of Prayer in Texas for the victims and responders involved in the flooding. We hope that you can join us in these efforts.
     In hindsight, it may not have been necessary to cancel last Sunday's Morning Circle gathering at SAY Sí, since the worst of the storm had already passed through San Antonio by then. But in the face of uncertain local weather conditions on Saturday afternoon, Mayor Ron Nirenberg had requested that area residents stay home and off the streets over the weekend if possible, so it seemed like the right thing to do when we cancelled.
     One totally unexpected benefit of not meeting with our Circle family was that Zet and I spontaneously decided to hold a Circle gathering by ourselves in our living room, and broadcast it to the community through a Facebook live-stream video on the Circle's Facebook page. Despite little planning and an abundance of logistical challenges, we had a wonderful time celebrating together, accompanied only by Circle Band percussionist, Carl Rush, and our next-door neighbor, Jose Mojica. We had no idea what to expect, so we were pleasantly shocked by how many Circle folks joined in with us online. We reached 473 people on Facebook during the live broadcast, with 130 watching all or most of the video, and 63 people posting comments! And in the days since then, that video has reached more than 1,100 people, which is pretty amazing, considering that this was our first time - and since our attendance on most Sundays varies from 60-85 folks.
            The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with numerous requests to continue live-streaming our Sunday Circles. So that's what we'll do, beginning this weekend, when Zet and I will be joined by our guest speaker and dear friend, Susie Monday, a well-known visual artist, writer, art educator and long-time Circle supporter. It's particularly appropriate to make this available via online video, because Susie will be sharing her insights into creative living, along with a colorful Power Point presentation demonstrating her creativity - and encouraging YOUR creativity.
     I'll also be cooking up some new music, accompanied by the Circle Band, with Adam Tutor sitting in on saxophone, so it promises to be an especially lively Sunday morning gathering, whether you join us live or on Facebook, as we launch into this newest iteration of sharing our Oneness. I look forward to the possibility of sharing it with you, one way or the other.

With love and blessings,
     Rudi Harst
PS If you haven't our Facebook Live Video from last Sunday, you can still see it on our Facebook page by clicking here.