Eileen Fleming - Author, Reporter, Baby Boomer Activist - Health, Wellness, Spirituality
Last Wednesday morning’s Yin class was exactly what I needed before boarding an evening flight to Nashville by way of Atlanta.
I departed MCO feeling no pain, but returned on Easter evening accompanied again by burning pain in my neck, down my shoulders and halfway down my arms to my elbows.
I overed this latest exacerbation of end-stage osteoarthritis in my shoulders by Monday after seven hours of uninterrupted sleep, which followed an hours soak in a hot whirlpool bath and 30 minutes of gentle Yin asana/poses and 15 minutes of shavasana/corpse pose.
I made the trip foremost to help my daughter for multiple reasons and to reconnect with Karl Meyer, who I introduced in What Dorothy Day might say to President Nuclear Free World Obama.
During the four days at my daughters, I schlepped fifteen loads of laundry down a hill, up a hill and up and down two flights of steps. Sometimes I also lugged a two-gallon jug of laundry detergent.
As I moved, I breathed the way I learned at yoga classes- slow and deep through my nose and exhaled twice as long through lightly pursed lips. Before the next deep inhale I also paused a moment and have learned this simple conscious breathing helps me remain cool and calm.
Being a natural hot-reactor, I have ‘discovered’ breathing that way is not just beneficial for me it makes me easier company to be with!
My day of complete rest and refreshment began early Saturday at Karl Meyer’s Nashville Greenlands non-sectarian community, which is affiliated with the Catholic Worker movement; but is not based in prayer or religious doctrine.
For a season Karl was a Catholic, but defines himself now as an “atheist agnostic” who through many years of personal association with Dorothy Day and deeply shared ethical and social vision of The Catholic Worker Movement, has gone on to explore and demonstrate the Movement’s vision of an “ecologically sustainable way of life within a city, based on agricultural use of open land, and a simple common life to minimize our consumption of world resources. We also practice radical direct action for justice and peace, and use our houses and land for education about peacemaking and the nonviolent life we seek to develop.”
Photo of a photo of Karl Meyer and The Peace House on the Road
Karl Meyer and The Peace House, 19 April 2014
Karl and Pam Beziat own four houses in Nashville’s inner city, “with about an acre of arable land and housing for a total of seventeen community members. Each household is semi-autonomous.”
My ten hours with Karl went by like ten minutes as he put me in mind of the hospitality I have always received in Palestine: warm, friendly company, abundant simply prepared fresh nutritiously dense food with political and often philosophical conversations.
After a long walk in the woods across the homestead with canine companions, Naja and Muscogee, Karl fed me from the land with figs, blackberries, gooseberries, applesauce, chestnuts, red and green leaf baby lettuce, green onions, garlic, string beans, edamame and eggs from the coop.
Before we sat down to his homegrown feast, Karl pulled a small bag from the refrigerator and said, “These cannabis cookies have been in here for over a year and I haven’t been able to find anyone to share them with” as he pulled out two small unappetizing round clumps.
A Nashville Greenland’s visitor had gifted Karl with all he had to give; but Karl had yet to find anyone to share the gift with.
I said I would be happy to break cookies with him in honor of something Dorothy Day [who was the reason we had met] wrote:
“We cannot love God unless we love each other, and to love we must know each other. We know Him in the breaking of bread, and we know each other in the breaking of bread, and we are not alone anymore. Heaven is a banquet and life is a banquet, too, even with a crust, where there is companionship.” ― Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness: The Autobiography of the Legendary Catholic Social Activist
AND because in Genesis 1:29, God created all seed bearing plants and said they were good!
Karl and I ate and talked, argued without anger and laughed a lot. I almost broke a tooth on the cannabis cookie but I didn’t get a buzz and Karl “wasn’t sure” if he had or not!
One thing Karl and I disagreed with is my contention that he is a Stage Three Soul.
In the 1987 classic, The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace, Dr. Scott Peck defines the spiritual life as fluid and that one may pass back and forth repeatedly through any of the four-probably more-stages of the soul.
Stage one upon this journey -that begins from within-is essentially our infancy in the spiritual life. Like a wild child, a person in this stage reflects the inner chaotic and anti-social, unregenerate soul that is interested only in its own self-satisfaction and ego, much like the stereotypical spoiled child.
Stage one people may claim to love others, but their behavior reflects they love their own pleasure, money, power, prestige, and security above any other. For stage one people, it really is all about them.
Stage two souls seek to "let their light shine" and will live virtuous lives and do many good works. They also can be judgmental of others, self-righteous, rigid of thought, cold of heart, legalistic concrete literal thinkers and may even be guilty of a lukewarm faith.
They want to do right and they even may desire to love and please God, but have not yet fully opened up to the Inner Light, as Joan of Arc did when she challenged church and state and persisted that she had intuited God within -even while being fried.
Jesus said, "You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free." -John 8:32
Stage two souls have not yet been set fully free and prefer the security of a higher human authority than themselves for guidance. They submit to institutions, scripture, dogma, ritual, ministers, or gurus. This is the most appropriate stage for older children and most adults who live busy lives just trying to keep bread on the table and a dry roof above.
The difference between a stage one and stage two soul, is that a one wouldn't even notice a neighbor in need, while the two has awoken to the fact that we are to be our neighbor's keepers and they will respond to a friend-and like the good Samaritan, even to a total stranger in need.
Most theologians would agree that the opposite of faith is not disbelief: the opposite of faith is fear.
Stage three souls have not just fearlessly awoken, they have evolved! This evolution has led them to the realization of what Christ was really talking about in the Sermon of the Mount/The Beatitudes which sound like crazy promises, but are all about waking people up to The Divine within themselves and all others!
A stage three soul may well reject Christ as God, but often agree with the philosophy of Jesus, which Thomas Jefferson laid out when he weeded out the miracle stories from the gospels and clarified the teachings and ethics of Christ in: THE LIFE AND MORALS of JESUS of NAZARETH
1. Be just: justice comes from virtue which comes from the heart.
2. Treat people the way we want to be treated.
3. Always work for PEACEFUL resolutions, even to the point of returning violence with COMPASSION.
4. Consider valuable the things that have no material value.
5. Do not judge others.
6. Do not bear grudges.
7. Be modest and unpretentious.
8. Give out of true generosity, not because we expect to be repaid.
9. Being true to one's self in more important than being loyal to one's family.
10. Those who think they know the most are the most ignorant.
A stage three soul will see that a neighbor is everyone on the planet and not just those who think and look the same and are born in the same geographical location.
Stage three's are seekers, doubters, skeptics, agnostics and frequently adults who grew up disenchanted with institutionalized religion. Their inherent intellectual curiosity leads them to seek their own way towards the Mystery of the Divine through philosophy and the study of multiple faith paths choosing and discarding according to their "inner light."
Stage three souls often become activists for social justice and reform and the increasing wave of humanitarian secularism verses the bondage of religious dogma just may be the way to change the world as we now know it.
It has been said we are all called to be mystics in the market place and a stage four, such as Thomas Merton and Rumi give voice to that experience of the curtain being lifted and seeing through the glass a bit less darkly. A mystic can best be understood as one who is in love with the divine mystery and is viscerally connected to the unity of all creation.
Mystics are not navel gazers, they feel the pain of the world within their hearts and grieve at what humans do to the other when they have no clue that The Divine is within the other as much as within themselves. Mystics have detached from their concepts of God-not by their own efforts, but by the invitation and action of God upon a willing and simple soul in love with Pure Being, AKA: God for lack of a better word. The mystic fool, Saint Francis, the leper kisser of Assisi, was so head over heels in love with God in everyone and all of creation that most people of his time considered him crazed, or at least, extremely eccentric.
One needn't be a mystic or move beyond stage two on the spiritual journey to do what is good and right just because it is good and right. On that foundation alone people of faith, agnostics and even atheists can surely find something to agree upon.
Or would only a mystic see that?
I don’t know, but I do know Karl has been looking for a young family, who are committed to ecological and social values, and would be interested in becoming heirs to the land and vision of the community.
Karl has practiced Personal Responsibility all his life and is looking to freely pass on all he has to others who share his vision and work!
Karl Meyer and The Peace House photos featuring those whose vision and values he works at: Gandhi, Rev. MLK, Malcolm X.
CONTACT Karl Meyer
2407 Heiman St. Nashville TN 37208-2415