Yesterday, which was Earth Day, was a day of blessings for me. In the morning I had the privilege of offering a blessing to the 1500 runners (that included myself) of a 6.7 mile annual race in the Pound Ridge Reservation, NY, called ‘The Leatherman’s Loop.’ It was the 26th year of this event which attracts runners from as far away as Colorado, mostly because it is much more than a race. For many of the participants it is a symbolic journey, a rite of spring, a celebration of life, a spiritual experience. This energy is palpable everywhere: from the runners of all levels (from national champions to children, and from runners with prosthetics to runners who are legally blind) who help each other across the river and up the sand hill, and pick each other up when they fall in the mud.
I am allowed a moment to introduce the blessing, which everyone has come to expect as an important part of the experience (the runners become amazingly quiet despite their surging adrenalin) in order to frame the experience and connect it to our everyday lives. Yesterday I said something to the effect that one of the reasons that this is more than a race for us is that it allows us to immerse ourselves in the mud, and water and emerging vegetation of spring: to get out of our heads and into our hearts; to let go of the illusions and delusions that dominate our everyday lives – illusions of separateness from the world we share, delusions of ownership over the other forms of life we share it with; to forget ourselves and our anxieties for a while and be free like the children we are at heart. I said that, when we are able to do this, we touch the core of life which is beauty. That’s what our blessing highlights:
Beauty before me as I run
Beauty behind me as I run
Beauty below me as I run
Beauty above me as I run
Beauty beside me as I run
Beauty within me as I run.
I see beauty all around,
In beauty may we walk,
In beauty may we see,
In beauty may we all be.
Beauty is at the core of everything, but we need to be deeply present – immersed – in order to taste it. I concluded that if this experience of beauty were to become a constant awareness it would transform our lives and our world: the way we think and what we do; our habits and our institutions.
Afterwards it struck me that this was the new consciousness I was referring to last week in term s of resurrection: a consciousness that transformed Jesus to the point where it determined the form of his existence in the world. I concluded that this is the purpose of every human life: to evolve to a deeper consciousness and a deeper level of being.
Later in the day I offered another blessing at an Earth Day community pot-luck gathering in our town of Lewisboro, NY where I built on the first blessing by adding that when we come together like this we experience our wider identity; how we are all one living system. We, in fact, are also essentially the beauty that is at the core of everything. What we bring to this unfolding mystery of beauty is self-reflective consciousness. In other words, just as the trees bring the beauty of branches and leaves, and birds bring the beauty of song, and clouds bring the beauty of rain, we bring the beauty of self-reflective consciousness: not simply for ourselves but for the entire world community. Because we are all one living system – this is our essential identity – our self-consciousness is more fundamentally the self-consciousness of the universe. We are the universe in a self-reflective mode. When I am aware of the wonder of things – the beauty at the core of life – it is the entire universe that experiences this wonder. What a trip. What a journey to be on. What a privileged purpose to have.
This coming Saturday we’ll be screening a film called ‘The Journey of the Universe’ which will deepen our appreciation of this mystery and our place in it. I’ll let you know what emerges.