"Red Sky in the Morning"
-Sunday at the Break of Day-
It's one of those magical moments in the desert as the day breaks on this Sunday morning. Everything is bathed in red and orange. The air is perfectly still. The silence profound. It all seems so ethereal, so other-worldly.
As I sit in my meditation garden in the mystical light of the breaking day, I think about all those millions of people from all over the world who will be going to some church or other on this Sunday in order to pursue and connect with something beyond their own individual selves.
I live in the desert of the Coachella Valley in Southern California. Taking the Interstate, you can travel from one end of the valley to the other in less than an hour. Yet even in this relatively limited space there are "literally" hundreds of "Houses of Worship" of every imaginable kind and of every imaginable affiliation- churches, several synagogues, temples, a few mosques.
There is also another interesting (and growing) phenomenon here in this valley. Just as you can find "Houses of Worship" almost everywhere, you can also find a wide variety of "spirituality centers" that have no connection to or affiliation with any formal religious organization.
There are "Enlightenment Centers," "Zen Retreat Houses," and numerous "Yoga Meditation Centers" scattered throughout the valley. In addition to all the "centers," there are large numbers of "spirituality gatherings" held every week in private homes or school auditoriums -gatherings of people who meditate together, have conversations and fellowship in order to pursue and connect with something beyond their own individual selves- something "transcendent."
There is also a large "spiritual but not religious "Metaphysical Retreat Center" located up in the "Joshua Tree" region of the desert. It has been here for many years- a large facility with several buildings all open to the public for meeting, assemblies, concerts and individual or group retreats,
I have been to the "Metaphysical Retreat Center" several times. It's a stunningly beautiful place, a place of great tranquility. There are little Buddha chapels located throughout the grounds. The bookstore sells all sorts of crystals, stones, yoga mats, books and "New Age" music to help people become more spiritually aware. But there are no "religious" items to be found anywhere in that bookstore - no Bibles, no crosses, no "religious" iconography of any kind whatsoever.
A while back I conducted a religious retreat for a group of "Christian Men" at that retreat center, and I was told that in all the many years since the center has been opened, never once was it used by a Christian group. Upon inquiring as to the reason for this, the Center Director made an interesting comment, "I think we are probably all afraid of one another." I think she's probably right.
Spiritual people are afraid of the religious types who go to a church on Sunday. They are afraid that the religious people will not honor or respect the value or validity of their non-religious spirituality, or given the chance, they will try to propagandize and convert them. And in many ways they have a reason to be afraid of this.
I've gone to church on a Sunday morning for almost all my life- most of the time in an official leadership capacity as an ordained priest. There was a time in my life when I would have scoffed at crystals, stones, mantras and yoga mats - all that "New Age" spirituality that has no substance to it. There is indeed a certain arrogance among religious people who believe that they have some sort of inside track to the divine.
I have also discovered that many of the non-traditional "spiritual but not religious" folks unfairly judge religious church-goers. They maintain that going to church and saying prayers and singing hymns and listening to sermons on a Sunday morning is little more than external ritual aimed at appeasing a superman God up in the sky. So, If you are "religious" you aren't really on a true spiritual path.
As I sit here on this mystical Sunday morning, here in a desert dotted with a myriad of traditional religious institutions alongside the many non-religious "spiritually centers," I think that now may be time for us all to be less judgmental and less afraid of one another.
There is something in the human condition that calls us, every one of us, into "soul-searching."
Believers, nonbelievers, religious people, non-religious people - all human beings are seekers of transcendence. Some place deep inside of us all is that desire to pursue and connect with that which is beyond our individual selves.
So I sit here on this mystical, magical, ethereal, other-worldly moment in my mediation garden, and I honor all the many soul-searching paths people all around me will walk this day as they pursue transcendence in their lives.
I pray that we might all learn from one another and help each along on our way through the wilderness.