Saturday, June 30, 2018


     Since our very first Celebration Circle gathering in January 1992, we've begun our Sunday Morning Circles by facing the Four Directions of the compass as a community. It's our way of honoring an age-old practice, used by various cultures around the world since time out of mind and re-interpreted in the 1980's within the context of Creation Spirituality. Invoking the Four Directions is a powerful and meaningful process, but as with any ritual, there's the possibility for it to become stale and rote with repetition, unless care is taken to review and renew it periodically. So, as part of my preparation for our annual Interdependence Day celebration this Sunday, I'd like to re-visit my understanding of how and why we invoke the Four Directions in the Circle, and invite you to reflect on this practice along with me.
          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 goodness, health and well-being woven through the fabric of our lives, acknowledging that our needs have been met today, while trusting that they will continue to be met tomorrow and at every step along the way. (Note: although it is traditional to begin by facing East, we start 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 West, the direction of Autumn and the setting sun. ln doing so, we invoke our willingness to embrace change, the inevitability of death and the mystery of all those unanswered (and possibly unanswerable) questions that are part of the human condition. We are also facing the inescapable fact of impermanence, the awareness that all the objects, relationships and conditions that we think of as being "ours" are actually just "on loan" 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. We experience the power of standing our ground in the midst of the inevitable challenges we all must face. Despite our society's post-industrial emphasis on personal safety and certainty, if we scratch beneath the thin veneer of culture, we humans remain physically fragile beings who are clinging to our illusions of security.
          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 strength simply by acknowledging our human frailty, while re-affirming our faith and divinity, too.
          Turning once again, we come to the East, the direction of Spring and the rising sun, the promise of renewal and new beginnings. In doing so, we give thanks for the possibility of a fresh start each day, each moment. Regardless of what happened, whether years ago or yesterday, when we face the direction of the dawn, we're reminded to let go of the past and look at whatever is unfolding in our lives right here and now with fresh eyes and a grateful heart.
          Finally, we 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 present right here and now, at all times and in all circumstances. While facing the Center, we remember that we are always in the process of being born, while we're busy dying, too; always living in the midst of abundance as well as loss; always in motion, always standing still. Centered in this awareness, we feel our inter-connection with all of life, and rest in a space of peace and gratitude.
          I believe this ritual is particularly well-suited as the invocation for our Circle gatherings, because it is such a powerful way to remind ourselves that this moment is a sacred time, this place where we're standing is sacred ground, this is a sacred gathering. But the Four Directions ritual can be a powerful way to start the day 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 glad to share it with you.

With blessings,
     Rudi Harst

THANK YOU for holding the Circle in your heart by visualizing a generous flow of financial abundance. Thank you for supporting us as we continue our work of fostering a creative, inclusive approach to spirituality. We are deeply grateful.

Saturday, June 23, 2018


     Although I was only four and a half years old then, I still have clear memories of our family's immigration to America in March 1957. It was a typical cold, grey Dutch day in Amsterdam, as evidenced by the woolen clothes we were wearing when we boarded the plane (shown above). It was mighty hot, dry and dusty when we stepped off the train three exhausting days of travel later in the small, rural town of New Braunfels, which, like the rest of Texas, was in the middle of a record-breaking heat spell and seven-year drought.
     I clearly remember feeling overwhelmed and confused by the bright, hot sun overhead, reflected off the caliche gravel underfoot, the puzzling sounds of the language, the odd tastes of the food we were offered by the kind strangers who met us. I can't begin to imagine how frightening it would've been, had we been met by armed guards dragging my parents away, leaving me and my three brothers stranded, totally alone and helpless in such foreign surroundings.
     That's why it's hard for me to be objective about the humanitarian crisis unfolding along the US-Mexico border. I'll spare you the details of my reactions to the stories and images that have been swirling through the media recently, and won't even start on my opinions about our national priorities and immigration policies, because I'm sure you've got plenty of your own.
     But as the adoptive father of a Latino son, and the son of parents who fled from revolutionary violence in their native country of Indonesia, then endured racial discrimination in the Netherlands before immigrating to America in hopes of a better life, I cannot help but lift up a plea for compassion for those seeking refuge in our midst. Thousands of them are literally our neighbors, being held in numerous nearby detention camps scattered throughout South Texas, while the "lucky ones" pass through San Antonio's streets, bus station and airport, dazed, disoriented and confused, having been released from detention and heading northward, usually without any assistance and only limited resources.
     I'm not writing to label anyone as a victim or villain; there's plenty of that going on, and it doesn't seem particularly helpful. Instead, I take heart in the work of the many, many caring volunteers who have generously offered their time, talent and resources to help alleviate the suffering. If you live locally, and are inclined to be among them, but don't know where to turn, is the website for Compassionate San Antonio, a powerful, grassroots network of faith-based organizations (including Celebration Circle), businesses, individuals and educational institutions which is actively working together with local government officials to foster compassion in our midst. Among other things, their website offers a list of local organizations taking specific action to support detained immigrants and their children in South Texas; you can access the website here.
     Compassionate San Antonio is also hosting a Vigil For Humanity this Sunday, June 24, from 6pm-8pm on Main Plaza in downtown San Antonio. I invite you to join me and the many others for a time for interfaith prayer, as well as opportunities to connect with organizations working directly with detained immigrant children and families. Please consider joining us in lifting our hopes, prayers and actions in a powerful, positive way.
     If that's not an option for you, I urge you to find your own way to lend a helping hand and/or open your heart to the strangers among us seeking refuge. Not just for their sake, but for yours. To do otherwise would be to ignore who you truly are, both as a member of homo sapiens - the mammalian species uniquely hard-wired to be conscious, caring and compassionate toward others - as well as the emergent sub-species which some are calling homo universalis, the Universal Humans, the ones who are aware of their inherent divinity and Oneness with all Life.

At least, that's my understanding, and I'm grateful for this opportunity to share it with you.
     Rudi Harst

THANK YOU for holding the Circle in your heart by visualizing a generous flow of financial abundance. Thank you for supporting us as we continue our work of fostering a creative, inclusive approach to spirituality. We are deeply grateful.

Sunday, June 17, 2018


     This week marks the 19th year in a row that Zet and I have spent five days each June leading a multi-disciplinary, multi-generational art camp on the legendary King Ranch in South Texas. Once again, we've done our best to support our students and ourselves in finding new ways to express creatively. The days have been long, and there were often some interesting logistical challenges to deal with, but it's very satisfying work, filled with multiple opportunities to see beyond the horizons of my habitual thought patterns. 

     We arrived home earlier today, in time to get ready for the Sunday Morning Circle, where we plan to bring a bucketful of these creative juices to share with our beloved spiritual community as we celebrate Father's Day -- hopefully, including you. Meanwhile, I'm also preparing for next Saturday's Summer Solstice Concert in the Cave Without a Name, one of my all-time favorite events in 40+ years of being a professional musician. 



      While these events might appear to be very different from one another stylistically, I do my best to remember that my purpose remains the same in each case:  to experience, explore and express the free flow of Spirit moving through me, in a world of prosperity and peace. At least, that's my intention.

     I admit to having varying degrees of success maintaining my balance and perspective during this action-packed time, so it's helpful to have a statement of purpose that I can return to again and again, to help me stay focused on what it is I'm really here to do in this lifetime. Whether I'm working with a bunch of energetic five year-olds jumping willfully around the classroom early on a weekday morning, or the complex details of getting an eight-piece band onstage in a subterranean wonderland on Saturday night or a joy-filled Sunday Circle of spiritual companions celebrating our Oneness, my intention remains the same. 



     I choose to remember that I'm not here to worry a lot about doing things "right", nor am I here to try to control the outcomes in a given situation. Rather, I'm here to experience, explore and express the Oneness of Life, while simply trusting that "all is well, and all shall be well." Everything else is just details, so I'll do my best and let go of the rest. At least, that's my story - and I'm glad to be sharing it with you, while also inviting you to remember to ask yourself:  "What's MY purpose?"

With joy

     Rudi Harst

THANK YOU for holding the Circle in your heart by visualizing a generous flow of financial abundance. Thank you for supporting us as we continue our work of fostering a creative, inclusive approach to spirituality. We are deeply grateful.

Saturday, June 9, 2018


     It can be mighty easy to feel overwhelmed by the violence, suffering and sadness we see flashing across our electronic screens and in the world all around us -- and rightfully so. Humans have long been hard-wired to care about others, ever since Homo Sapiens first evolved 200,000 years ago, and possibly long before that. For most of that time, we lived in relatively small tribes and/or villages containing several dozen people who seldom travelled more than 50 miles from their birthplace in their lifetimes. In that context, if any one person became sick, injured or died, it affected everyone in the community. Consequently, an individual's ability to survive hinged on the mutual survival of everyone in the tribe, requiring a high degree of compassion and cooperation. It's in our nature to care about the suffering of those around us.
     But today, most of us are living in urban settings surrounded by countless strangers, and virtually all of us inhabit a Global Village, electronically connected to billions of others throughout the planet simultaneously. If you're reading this e-letter, it's likely that you, too, spend a significant portion of each day connected to the Internet, where you're frequently deluged with news of the latest disasters befalling other humans all over the planet, within minutes of them occurring. And because our electronic devices and social media are specifically designed to be as attention-grabbing and personalized as possible, each event feels personal, powerful and potentially gut-wrenching, even if it's occurring to total strangers located halfway around the world. 
     We're simply not designed to handle such wide-spread awareness of suffering! So what can we do when we find ourselves overwhelmed with sorrow or sadness in the face of the latest event? For myself, it's not practical to disconnect from mass media, nor desirable to become callous, numb or uncaring about the suffering of others. Instead, I've learned that whenever my heartstrings are being tugged by the circumstances of someone else's suffering -- whether that person is nearby, or appearing onscreen from far away -- I choose to be as fully aware as possible of the thoughts and sensations that arise in my body, mind and spirit. If, in fact, there is some physical action I can take that would be helpful, I try to take it. But more often than not, the most powerful thing I can do is to get centered in the awareness of my Oneness with Life, then open my heart to the suffering involved as I inhale, and then send blessings to the person(s) involved as I exhale - and repeat this process as long and often as practical.
     What I'm describing here is not new; it's basically the ancient Buddhist practice of "tonglen," that combines breathwork with mindful meditation, although some version of being prayerfully compassionate also lies near the heart of all the major faith traditions. Perhaps you'll find this particular practice helpful, too. Or perhaps you have a totally different process or perspective on compassion that has worked for you - in which case I hope you'll share it with me. After all, we're all in this together.

In peace,
     Rudi Harst

THANK YOU for holding the Circle in your heart by visualizing a generous flow of financial abundance. Thank you for supporting us as we continue our work of fostering a creative, inclusive approach to spirituality. We are deeply grateful.

Friday, June 1, 2018


     Of  the many programs, processes and spiritual principles we share in Celebration Circle, I believe that one of the most powerful and important is Affirmative Prayer, a process of praying from God Consciousness, rather than to a God. It is certainly not The Only Way to pray, nor do I claim it is The Best Way.  But it is a valuable, straight-forward, and time-tested way of sustaining ourselves and others in prayer consciousness, and it is the central practice that we use in our Prayer Circle, on behalf of all those who have asked to be included on our weekly prayer list. It's a way of affirming the truth of what is, not "trying" to make something happen, it is a process of being established in the Presence, more than addressing a Being that is separate from you. 
      Of course, it is much easier to say this about Affirmative Prayer than it is to actually practice this process, much less describe it fully in concise words. But that doesn't keep me from trying to share it anyway, because it's one of the most helpful spiritual tools I know, which is why I've spoken about this process a number of times in recent years, and did so again last Sunday morning. In the course of doing so, I shared some step-by-step guidelines arranged in an easy-to-remember list, using alphabetically-ordered keywords that I have learned and evolved over the years, with the generous support of several mentors, especially my dear friend, Rev. Linda Martella-Whitsett, who has written and taught extensively on this subject.  Several people have asked for this list, so I share it here, in hopes that you might find it helpful, too:
AWARENESS: Before praying for others, it is important to become fully aware of yourSelf. Take a moment to remember and affirm your Oneness with Life, before extending your consciousness to embrace another in his/her situation.
BREATHE: Get centered in your breath. Find peace in the specifics of your current location and situation, whatever that may be.
CONSCIOUSNESS: Invoke the presence and power of Spirit/God Consciousness in the way that works best for you. Whatever words you chose, this invocation is about opening your consciousness to the presence of Spirit, rather than asking Spirit to change in any way to accommodate you.  Example: "O Holy One, I open our hearts and minds to the largeness of Life, to the free flow of the Divine Light shining in and through me in this moment."
DETAILS:  Whether you are praying for yourself or a loved one, briefly review the details involved in the situation.  There's no need to linger or elaborate on them too much. Our goal in Affirmative Prayer is to lift the details/names up into the Light, and to see through them to the Truth of the Divine working for the Highest Good of All.
EXPERIENCE: Ideally, you will have the experience of Spirit in action. Some people experience Spirit most readily through bodily sensations, some as emotional movement, some as imagery.  There is no one Right Way. Simply allow yourself to be guided to pray Your Way into the experience of Spirit.  Embrace the names/details of those for whom you are praying.
FOCUS: Bring your prayer to a point of focus in the present tense. Remember, you are not praying for a desired outcome sometime in the future; instead you are silently affirming the power of Spirit moving through the situation at hand in the Now.
GRATITUDE: As your prayer is drawing to a close, take time to express gratitude for the Highest Good For All unfolding in the present moment, and in the days/weeks to come.
I hope you will find these guidelines helpful when praying with yourself and/or for people on our Prayer List. On the other hand, it's also important to remember that these are only guidelines. The most important thing to focus on is your own willingness to be fully present and available to be an expression of the Divine made manifest. Listen for the Still Small Voice and trust Love to lead you through this time of prayer. 

With gratitude and blessings,
     Rudi Harst

THANK YOU for holding the Circle in your heart by visualizing a generous flow of financial abundance. Thank you for supporting us as we continue our work of fostering a creative, inclusive approach to spirituality. We are deeply grateful.