Articles: On the Path
On The Path: Kindred Spirits
In this amusement park of life, I’ve come to know something: this world needs all of us to be explorers of the inner realm.
During the last three decades of my life I’ve been riding in the front seat of a macrocosmic roller coaster. The early 70’s was a big time for all of us old enough to really go out and play and I certainly had the first major peak of my liferide in the early years of that decade. I founded the Cherry Grove Retreat Center outside of Portland, an amazing adventure all by itself. I was teaching yoga and meditation classes, and my son was born there. A big high . . . Then I plunged down into divorce and single parenting. That shattered a worldview or two.
The ride back up began in 1984, when I taught seminars on “The Art of Friendship” and entered the Tunnel of Love of my marriage. A few years later, I hit my all time low when I was rear-ended and seriously injured. Now I celebrate each day that I’m above ground.
In this amusement park of life, I’ve come to know something: this world needs all of us to be explorers of the inner realm. I am committed to searching the evolving “edges” of this realm on a full time basis. One of the edges I am exploring now is being 52 years old and struggling with not having the physical energy levels of my youth. But I have to admit the compensation is good—my spiritual instincts are much stronger as a result of a lot of life-experience.
Another edge is “interdependence,” a virtue I am consciously working to develop now. Though I enjoy exploring alone, there are times I feel lonely on the edge and need to come in from the cold. Interdependence is that quality of being that strikes a balance between the profound awareness honed in solitude and having more fun in the company of others.
I am learning, “No one heals alone… no one grows alone.” These days, I surround myself with people I resonate with. I seek relationships with those who want to be mutual mentors. I desire seven chakra friendships with people who can meet me full-on. The wonderful truth is that there are many fellow explorers in this world, people dedicated not only to the good but to intense creativity. They teach me about friendship, passion and compassion. I enjoy pretending that everyone I meet is a great spiritual mentor with a unique lesson I can learn only from them. I’m learning all the time.
I want to keep expanding my spiritual community. When we nurture each other our spirits grow. All of the world’s problems can be improved by increasing love and consciousness. The human spirit is evolving, and through that process we are evolving as a species. We are Kindred Spirits.
I realize every day that my spiritual well-being is affected by my external environment. The path is a circle. I care for myself, I care for my friends, we care for the Earth and the Earth cares for us. I think of the Earth as a one-of-a-kind species in the universe, and I honor it. I know that my life makes a difference. I feel the wisdom I am acquiring contributes to a critical mass of consciousness. I am convinced that I have the power to change the world, one friendship at a time.
On the Path there are no rules, no experts, no right answers, no guarantees, no maps. The only way to move forward is to live free of fear. The alternative is to not grow—and that is just too painful. I’m committed to jumping over, tunneling under, knocking down or going around barriers to my progress. I trust that resources will appear once I step forward. Being fearless means accepting the consequences of my actions. When I am judged or misunderstood, it is often a sign that I am ahead of my time. Exploring the edge is always a mix of adventure and struggle.
I am not required to change anything on the outside, but I know from past travels that I may be called to change everything on the inside. I vow to get rid of everything that does not serve me. Transformation means to transcend existing formations. My main obstacles are conditioned or self-imposed limitations.
In the past I was satisfied with casting pebbles into a pond to generate ripples of change. But chaos theory teaches that the flutter of a butterfly wing in one part of the world can be the catalyst of a great wind someplace else. Just so, what we do spiritually and socially may seem local, but in fact contributes to the evolution of our species of Kindred Spirits. My current mantra is: “Set my life on fire and seek those who fan my fame.”
note: fame was a misprint by the editor… who fans my flame!
Bob Czimbal is co-author of Kindred Spirits: The Quest for Deep Intimacy
On The Path: Conscious Love
During the past month several men and women have asked me to consult with them about finding a mate, a life partner, a lover. Each of them has reached a high level of spiritual development and is a multidimensional person.
Sabina summed up what they were all feeling: “It seems that since I have done my healing and growth it has become harder to find a mate whom I can be peers with. I am a beautiful being and I want someone to share my joy. Having reached this stage of my life I will not settle for less. I feel stuck in a new age dilemma. How do I find my mate?”
I began the quest for my mate by developing a customized list of qualities I wanted in a mate. I began with two questions: What are the personal qualities that set me apart from others? and What do I desire in a partner?
I was surprised to realize that the top ten profile answered both! Then I saw that it also reflected what I sought in my deep male and female friendships.
Possesses a high level of self-love.
Has worked to heal old wounds and values personal growth.
Loves to spend time exploring nature.
Has good friendship skills and invests in quality relationships.
Follows a spiritual path.
Is passionate in many areas of life.
Enjoys being physically active and is health conscious.
Has a well-developed sense of humor & makes time to play.
Is committed to love and intimacy.
Has a spirit of adventure.
In the past I was repeatedly disappointed in relationships because I wasn’t clear about my needs and wants. When I was starved for affection I made bad choices. Besides, being too needy scared potential mates away. This list repeatedly helped me as a reality check that kept me on my path. Also it saved me lots of time and energy by helping me to distinguish whether a person was more a friend-and-lover or a potential mate and co-parent. Once on a date with Cheryl she said,” I’ll show you my list if you’ll show me yours.” Our lists were so different we realized we were not mate material for each other.
This time I was looking for someone with the emotional maturity for lasting love, a conscious love I believe I deserved. I gave copies of my list to all my friends to help me find my heart’s desire.
After ending a seven-year relationship, I had to rekindle the art of flirting. I practiced upgrading my skills every chance I got. I became a good listener. I improved my ability to ask meaningful questions as a way of learning more about a new person. If the interest seemed mutual, I would express that I wanted to spend more time together. This was more an offer of friendship than asking for a date. I found this to work better than asking someone to go out on a particular night to do a specific activity. This way we would decide what we wanted to do together and when.
My strategy was to be as full of love as possible while looking for love. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of creating meaningful, supportive friendships while on the quest. It took two years to find the one who fit my profile. I was a little discouraged. Then one hot summer night, when I least expected it, I met my future wife, Maggie, dancing at a dear friend’s birthday party.
So, where are the “good ones”? The research shows that 90% of the time, people find great jobs and great mates via people they know. Your circle of friends will be the best place to find the “good ones”. I recommend that you carefully select events with the highest likelihood of having great people attending. Use parties, gatherings and seminars to practice your mingling skills. Many couples I interviewed reported finding each other by being involved with groups that met regularly. This setting was safe, provided a shared common interest and the opportunity to get to know someone over time. To be successful in your quest you must be where the eligible partners gather. By doing what you love you will increase the possibility of finding love.
Conscious love is about conscious choice. First, become aware of who you are. Then, make the commitment necessary to find who you are truly looking for. My commitment resulted in finding Maggie. Twenty years later I realize how well our lists matched up —and new additions to the list keep unfolding. Do whatever it takes. It’s worth the effort. Email me with your suggestions so I can pass your insights to others.
On The Path: Commitment Ceremony
Clearly the hardest struggle for me on the path has been parenting, as a step-parent and as a father. My son, now in his mid-twenties, resides in Australia. Over the past years we’ve had little contact and I feel sad because I miss him. But during these same years I’ve been developing a fantastic friendship with Tony, who is just a little older than my son. One day while working at home I heard my door bell. I was unprepared when I opened the door for the surprise that awaited me. There was Tony, ablaze in a self-made Native American costume he had created for a powwow. It was amazing enough to see him in his primary-colored splendor—but he also happened to be perched on a unicycle and juggling. He was grinning and asked, “Can we be friends?” YES!
Tony is persistent in reaching out and expressing his desire to deepen our friendship. Together we dance, hike, go to movies, cook, attend seminars, vacation, work on projects and double date. At the end of our visits Tony always says “I love you and I appreciate having you and Maggie in my life.”
A few months ago, Tony asked our help in planning a party for his upcoming 30th birthday. He shared that since he has little contact with his birth family he wanted to adopt us as his family-of-choice. It was clear that we had reached a stage where we were ready to honor the love we felt for each other. Our intention was to treat our friendship as sacred. Becoming Kindred Spirits would be a rite of passage where we would gather our circle of friends and publicly express our oath to be kin in spirit. I suggested we include a commitment ceremony and volunteered to write a draft of it. There is power in spelling out your statements of intention.
Midway through Tony’s party, we sounded a gong and signaled our friends to gather round. They were expecting us to begin singing Happy Birthday. Instead, Tony explained that the present he wanted most tonight was the birthing of his new spirit family.
This would be our first ceremony of this kind. We spread a blanket on the floor to establish sacred space. In the center was a tray with three candles and a bowl of floating flowers atop an altar box. We handed out copies of our Certificate of Commitment.
We formed three overlapping circles with ribbon as a symbol of our union and our individuality. Each of us brought a lighted candle to the center of the circles and our intention was read.
“The three flames represent our spirits. Our light burns brighter together. A third entity—us—is being created; a new spirit. Our commitment binds us together as we wrap our candles with a ribbon. We ask you to focus your love on our union and recommit to love. The three of us have reached the point on our path where we choose to honor the sacredness of our friendship. We are deeply committed to being involved in each others’ spiritual evolution. Please witness our mutual commitment and support us as we make these sacred vows.
We will push the edges of generosity, continually strengthening our spiritual bond and showing respect for our differences. We pledge to be mutual mentors and guardians of one anothers’ spirits. We promise to bring out the best in each other, live in abundance, deepen our intimacy and cherish our friendship. We declare we are Kindred Spirits from this moment on. By the power of our love we are now family. Encircled by our friends, we seal this union with a kiss.”
The three of us were then wrapped in a prayer shawl. Tony gifted us with a hand-made talking stick of red, yellow and blue macaw feathers individually wrapped in buckskin and adorned with shells and a spray of buffalo hair. We then opened the alter box to find a spectacular dessert Tony had prepared. He requested that all in attendance feed each other this communal dessert. I will always remember the smiling faces of our friends as they fed each other. The ceremony was bonding for all of us. Two people thanked us for germinating the idea and inspiring them to create a family-of-choice commitment ceremony of their own.
Later on, Maggie and I gave our parents a picture of the three of us and a copy of our ceremony. I hope to be able to introduce Tony to my relatives someday. In our home we have created a new shrine with three candles, pictures of the ceremony and the certificate of our commitment.
I hope, when I do have contact with my son again, that my heart will be healed and open to him. My love for Tony has been a creative alternative for the love I cannot express directly to my son. Thank you Tony for being in our lives.
On the Path: Celebrations
The year 2000 has been full of amazing co-created parties, celebrations, rites of passages and ritual events. The New Year’s Eve Millennium Celebration was a peak experience as we danced around the wheel of time to honor its passage. The midnight invocation was a magic parade of giant puppets and ten archetypal floats which rolled out of a wall of smoke, dazzling the crowd.
Valentine’s Day guests brought a video clip of their favorite movie love scene cued up to play. Categories included comic, tragic, romantic and sexy. Selections were intimate and revealing. It was great fun making comments and laughing together, behaviors that would be forbidden in a darkened movie house.
In March a couple hosted a Rites of Spring party. Their home was transformed to delight the senses. Hundreds of candles lit the room, as fruits and chocolates glistened. We feasted and dressed each other up with glitter and tattoos to the backdrop of music and incense. We danced and chanted as a means of discovering the divine in ourselves. The evening promoted new friendships and deepened old ones.
Forty men and women attended the third Annual Prom Dress Disaster Party. All were required to wear a prom dress of some sort. Finding a dress was half the fun. This was the first prom for some and the first time in a dress for many. My wife gave me a lovely wrist corsage to complement my dress. Being brave enough to wear prom dresses, the men were richly rewarded by women fussing over them all evening long. The Prom King and Queen were selected by the volume of applause & laughter of the group.
One sunny day in May, we assembled to honor the death of one of our community members. Dozens of family and friends worked hard for days to create an artistic funeral befitting the man. People were invited to share thoughts about how this being had touched their lives. I reminded myself that not one of us standing there knows how long we have left above ground.
The 22nd Annual Summer Solstice Healing Retreat at Breitenbush was a delight for anyone lucky enough to attend. Our multicolored tents sprouted in the meadow like mushrooms. Tribes come together to celebrate our connection to each other and the Earth. Saturday night’s talent show provided home-grown entertainment at its best. The kids’ parade and giveaway circle characterized the peaceful culture we invent here. The world needs more gatherings like this. The community blossoms, then scatters, like seeds, to the four winds to take root again elsewhere.
I was invited to a wedding this July that was hand-crafted and symbolized what the couple valued most: honesty, integrity, family and community. For many who attended this was their first “new wedding.” Unsure of what to expect, most were moved by the beautiful service. We all felt honored to witness the couple’s commitment to each other and to their community.
As the abundance of each summer comes to an end, a group of us likes to have one last party at the beach. We paint our bodies, dance and have a parade. The human body is a great canvas for color and designs. Art class was never this much fun.
I was invited to a close friend’s birthday party in September. The birthday “child” specifically requested our presence, but no presents. We honored her by sharing how she had made a heartfelt difference in our lives. She was glowing inside and out by the time forty people had spoken.
Of the four Halloween parties I attended, I especially enjoyed the “Day of the Dead” ritual. We were each asked to bring a token that reminded us of an ancestor. We evoked the name of the dead relative and told a story about them. I could feel that we were all linked together through those who lived before us.
Thanksgiving was the best ever this year. Eight of my Kindred Spirits, family of choice, lived together for four days of slowing down and enjoying the simple life. Story time, cuddling by the fireplace and savoring the pleasure of each other’s company was even better than the delicious food we had carefully prepared.
For the Winter Solstice ritual we darken the room, then light a single candle. Each person in turn makes a wish and lights the next person’s candle. When the circle is complete, the room is ablaze with bright faces & good wishes for a return of the light.
We’ll continue to gather through the next four seasons, in small groups and large, to hold the intention for an even brighter future. I asked a friend, Erica, what she thinks makes these gatherings so special. She said it best: “The love!”
On The Path: Alternative Ministry
One of my very first childhood memories is being in church one Sunday morning. I started LAUGHING uncontrollably, (I can’t remember what possessed me). Then, all at once, I noticed that everybody was staring . . . at me. The priest and altar boys glared. I got frightened and it occurred to me that something I was doing was very wrong. In my innocence, I didn’t know what, but I hushed up. The priest turned back and mumbled in Latin to the nearly naked man nailed to a cross wearing a crown of thorns. I noticed his side was pierced by a spear and his head was slumped over like he was dead. Then and there I decided that I’d better stay on the good side of these people who worshiped this tortured person, or I might end up like him.
I grew up going to that same neighborhood church, but that was the last time I ever laughed in it.
The very last time I set foot in the church was when I was a high-school senior. I stepped into the cool dark of the chamber to confess. “Bless me father for I have sinned-” I whispered. “My last confession was a month ago. I touched myself impurely three times.” The priest didn’t take it well. He started yelling, telling me I would burn in hell for eternity if I committed such sins. I was shocked. He was treating me like I’d murdered someone! I stood up and walked out. I vowed, then and there, that I would never again expose myself to such religious abuse.
In the 30 years since then, I’ve undergone a complete religious conversion. For me, it has been a great healing. These days, on Sunday mornings, I attend “Sweat Your Prayers” at Body Moves Studio to dance my spiritual practice. Now, instead of kneeling with a congregation in sober silence, I join my community as we laugh and cry and work together. Church doctrine taught that sex was dirty and sinful. Today I live a life in which sex is sacred.
Being self-employed most of my adult life has allowed me the freedom to follow my path full time. Spiritual expression isn’t limited to church on weekends. Every time I look around my home office, what I see and experience is a temple. My office is adorned with sacred objects honoring the diversity of paths I respect. My altar there has a statue of Buddha, Kwan Yin (the goddess of compassion), Mickey Mouse as Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and a meditation bell. In the window hangs a beautiful hand-painted silk banner of the goddess; definitely not a virgin. Native American artistry includes a drum, a dream catcher and a northwest Indian carving. Even my iMac I see as a part of my electronic spiritual window to the world.
My home is graced with images from the natural world. I see photographs of eagles, dolphins and wolves as I brush my teeth. An image of giant sequoias is a reminder to honor the oldest living beings on the planet. All of the Earth is sacred ground. The refrigerator displays photos of my Kindred Spirits-living saints who are inspiring reminders of all the love in my life.
I have replaced the priestly vows of poverty, chastity and obedience with abundance and my vow to be of service to the Earth. I was taught young that praying was talking to God. Now I meditate which I would characterize more as listening to God. As a child entering church, I blessed myself with holy water. As an adult, I treat all water with reverence in its many forms-a soak in a hot springs, my morning shower, a swim in a mountain lake, kayaking down a stream, snorkeling in warm tropical waters, walking in the rain, even drinking a glass of water.
Since 1980, I’ve enjoyed transforming the Seven Sacraments of the Church into the basis of an alternative ministry. Baptism has become naming ceremonies. When I hear confession in my role as a counselor, I generally recommend pleasure, rather than penance. I’ve always enjoyed communion so I organize events for people to share communal food and drink as celebration. When I was confirmed in the church, I became a “Soldier of Christ.” Now I am a dedicated peacekeeper. I especially love to help couples create and experience uniquely personal marriage ceremonies. I’ve also been asked to perform divorce/parting ceremonies. And instead of administering last rites, I have assisted in creating memorials and funerals to honor the life and mourn the death of loved ones in our community.
I believe we are called to be of service, to create heaven on Earth in our lifetimes. We can shape our own forms of ministry.
On the Path: The Wonders of Bamboo
My first experience of bamboo was as a young boy when my dad bought me a fishing pole. I loved its smoothness and lightness when I saw its slender tip yield as I caught my first fish.
Several years ago, while walking in my neighborhood, I noticed a beautiful green stand of bamboo in a dry, narrow curb strip. The bamboo measured one inch in diameter and was fifteen feet tall. When I went for a return visit, I was shocked to see only stumps. I knocked on the door and inquired whether I could dig up the special roots, rhizomes, to see if I could get them to sprout. The family said their grandfather had just died and they had to sell his house. I learned that he had transplanted himself and his bamboo from China in 1901. With pick & shovel I sweated for hours and loaded the rhizomes into a grocery cart for a ride up the street.
I planted the bamboo in my backyard. Once the rhizomes became established, bigger and bigger shoots came up each year. Every spring, they break the surface at full diameter seeking the light. With extra care, my bamboo is now three inches in diameter and thirty feet tall. You can watch it grow a foot a day in the summer!
There is an equally amazing growth occurring silently just below the surface. The rhizomes can sprint long distances as they travel underground before emerging. The system of interlocking roots gives the individual pole the support it needs to grow. The canes stand alone yet are deeply connected. Their network of roots adds stability to soil during floods and earthquakes.
Their speed is matched by their determination to grow. Many varieties can tunnel under and over most barriers. I’d been warned that my bamboo could not be easily contained. It took years of secret plotting for my bamboo to find its way out. Once out, it sent a forty foot long probe into my basement before I discovered it. First I was angry with the bamboo for invading my house and causing me much extra work. Then I became mad at myself for the mistake of letting it escape. Eventually I learned to laugh at myself as I came to accept the nature of a being that grows in any available direction. Once my upsetness subsided, I realized that all these new rhizomes could be cut into sections and planted in pots. I dug a deeper trench surrounding the grove and doubled the thickness of the barrier. As I patrolled the new enclosure, I could sense the bamboo watching me and plotting its next escape.
Bamboo is inherently sturdy and its strength is enhanced by its flexibility. I have seen it bow gracefully to the ground from the weight of ice and snow. The kitchen skylight provides a great view for watching the leafy tops moving in the breeze. The invisible wind spirit might otherwise pass unnoticed. As the wind picks up the tempo, the canes are like dancers swaying in several directions all at once. Then, as if on cue, they return to stillness.
There are a thousand varieties of bamboo that have learned to adapt and flourish in many environments. Besides the roots in my basement, I have noticed bamboo in every room of my house. Bamboo thrives in the kitchen as chopsticks, a tea strainer and a can of edible shoots. In the living room hangs a Chinese scroll of a panda bear who eats only one variety of bamboo. On the dining room table bamboo has been fashioned into a vase I made myself. Soap dish and laundry basket bear evidence that bamboo has climbed to the second floor bathroom. In my home office is the logo for my consulting business, a calligraphied depiction of it. The beauty and practicality of this plant are limitless.
Every day as I wash my dishes, I enjoy looking through the window at the slender, green poles. I experience a sense of peace and I am reminded of my kinship with life. Poems have been written that praise the plant’s virtues of nobility and simplicity. Bamboo represents the qualities that I admire and hope to manifest.
If I wish to grow, I need to be nourished and supported by my community. To grow FAST, I especially need to be open. I must not allow any barrier to stop me from fulfilling my destiny. To be truly strong I must also be flexible and graceful. Activity in life needs to be balanced by time for stillness. To thrive, I must adapt to many different environments. The tendency to get caught up in the practical matters of life can be offset by an awareness of beauty.
One hundred years ago a man traveled to a new country with some bamboo, a symbol of his homeland. His one action triggered a sequence of events culminating in many of my friends owning an offspring of the original start, complete with instructions on care and handling of this wild being. I’ll be curious to hear of the lessons the new owners glean from their bamboo.
On the Path: Erotic Spiritual Play
The first time I wrote the phrase Erotic Spiritual Play, I wondered why I had never seen these words together before. Now they were almost touching each other, separated by just one space on the page. While their proximity suggested blasphemy, I imagined a world with an abundance of sensuality, sexuality, joy and spirit. These qualities evoked a desire for physical, spiritual and emotional intimacy—with myself and my Kindred Spirits.
For fun, I decided to dramatize the themes of Erotic Spiritual Play by sketching out an improvisational play entitled “The Temple of Ecstasy.” It was very intense asking our friends if they wanted to play a part in a bold, live theater production. The vast majority responded with “Yes, how can I help?,” but a few declined gracefully. The artful invitation stated “come with an open heart and an untamed imagination.” The goal was to create an environment where passion coexisted with consciousness.
After a month of preparation, the cosmic stage was set for the premiere. The cast ascended a lighted stairway and entered the inner sanctum through a curtain of sheer fabric. Their eyes were met by the beauty of the temple, accented by hundreds of candles, flowers, lush carpet and pillows.
The divine parade of costumes revealed the diversity of tastes of the cast members: floor-length velvet capes; long silk tunics of different colors; belly dancing outfits with billowing harem pants and jingling jewelry; sarongs and saris; sexy form-fitting evening gowns; a stunning Japanese kimono with obi sash; and a Hawaiian shirt adorned with an orchid lei.
In the opening scene, we thanked all for their willingness and courage to participate. Each person shared intentions, wishes, hopes or fears with the group. A shrine was assembled with significant items like gongs, statues honoring various spiritual traditions, toys, natural artifacts and erotic artwork.
The next scene featured all of us as temple dancers. We created free flowing movements to earthy drums, sexy vocals, powerful rock beats, heart-opening lyrics, and slow, cosmic rhythms. This scene provided the dancers the opportunity to explore conscious connections and levels of mutuality with each partner. The dancing raised the energy and celebrated the body as the sacred temple of our spirit. Dance has always been a pathway to access the erotic, spiritual and playful within us.
A set change found us in the dining room for the feast. We circled a gorgeous banquet table overflowing with painstakingly prepared hors d’oeuvres and treats. The silent blessing was interrupted by the collective gurgling of our stomachs and intermittent giggles. The directions were simple: we could only be fed by another. This would serve as a symbolic gesture of our interdependence and the need to nurture and be nurtured. The level of messiness escalated till there were peals of laughter—major healing of food taboos occurred there.
Following a short intermission, the second act featured time for each performer to be center-stage. Each would have a turn as the lead in a scene of his or her own design. Just figuring out what to ask for was an experience in itself! The requests were beautiful and simple. One person asked us all to chant her name while being lifted overhead and paraded around. Another wished to lie below the skylight with the full moon as a spotlight and be the center of the universe. A man requested having his karma cleaned with feathers and furs. My request was to be part of a pod of dolphins dancing in the water. Several requested massage from the entire cast. Imagine the deep healing generated by ten minutes of loving attention by twenty supporting actors!
During the closing scene we marveled at the living work of art we had co-created. We bowed to each other in appreciation for our awesome performances. Everybody spoke of the sense of trust and connection that resulted from sharing like this. One man revealed, “This evening has changed my life, like a landslide that alters the course of a river. The abundance of love and laughter possible is far greater than I ever imagined.”
Feedback from the cast was unanimous—all wanted parts in future performances of “The Temple of Ecstasy.” That feeling of “blasphemy,” about combining eros, spirituality and play, isn’t the truth-it’s like an old habit passed down to us from fear-based forebears. Passion, spirit and joy are paths to higher consciousness.