ou know that moment when the sand at the bottom of the hourglass starts to cave in toward the center? And it seems like suddenly the grains start to quicken, to pick up speed. But it’s an illusion, right? They don’t really move any faster, do they? Time doesn’t speed up if we have less of it. Or does it?
2012, The Year of the Dragon (my birth sign) is coming to a close and I was told to expect both profound “promise and demise.” Looking back on this year, I suppose both of those things are true. On one hand, I wasted most of the year — beating around the bush, hesitating out of fear, trying on old habits, instead of taking a deep breath and stepping onto the end of the diving board. And on the other hand, I also took my time and I meditated. I’ve finally come to a decision, deliberately and purposefully, about what my next steps should be. Something in me has been building steam for quite a while, and it’s high time that I tell everyone what I’ve been up to. Not just to share the news with you — my friends and family — but in hopes that by giving voice to my intentions, by articulating my plan, I will help to further realize it in my own heart and mind.
I am forming a non-profit, religious organization called the Integral Church. Something that is, in the eyes of the Internal Revenue Service, a brand new religious denomination. Something that until very recently, hasn’t existed.
Religion means so many things to different people, that for our purposes here, we should make an attempt to define it. “Religion,” in my opinion, is not just dogma, doctrine or creed — which all refer specifically to passages of scripture, koans, mythology, mantras, law, ethics, etc. These are parts of religion, yes. But they are not the whole story. Religion, to me, relates to the way an individual understands their own consciousness, it is the method in which they are self-aware, and it is the way that person struggles with or attempts to answer life’s big questions. The big questions like, “What is my purpose,” “What (or who) is God,” “Where did the universe come from,” “What is the nature of time,” etc. These questions can be tackled by personally investigating the nature of the self and the universe — by doing the experiment and seeing with your own eyes, they can be contemplated and interpreted through mythology and storytelling, or both. But the big question is usually centered in the “I.” How do I relate to the universe/God? What happens when I die? And it’s through the exploration of these questions that a spiritual practice and ways to honor the cosmos or God are consciously developed (or not).
You don’t have to tell me — religion has been a less than perfect solution for a lot of things. But that’s why now, more than ever, we need to build something new. Something that the world has never seen before.
The reason for starting a religious organization, and not simply another community non-profit, is the next logical step in a personal journey that began in the woods of Central Wisconsin as a teenager. That is where I experienced my first epiphany — a vision of the universe as a spinning record, and myself as the needle. I was nudged down this path when asked by a dear friend of mine to officiate my first wedding (I have grown to further appreciate and understand the deep importance of ritual in family life and have since performed my sixth wedding, a memorial service and countless fatherhood rituals). An intellectual seed was planted when I discovered the writings of Arthur Koestler and Ken Wilber, and began to sprout when I realized that their life’s work was a continuation of those who came before them — Sri Aurobindo, William James, Aldous Huxley. When I finally discovered the writings of the modern Catholic reformers — those who had been exiled from the institutionalized religion that they loved for demanding further reform and more inclusive liturgical structures (i.e. Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox, Bishop John Shelby Spong, and Fr. Richard Rohr) — I began to see the forest for the trees. I also saw the path that cut straight through the archaic wilderness to the heart of a post-modern center. I understood that we needed to build something new.
But none of this justifies the foolish act of starting a religion, does it? Starting a religion is a crazy thing to do, right? Especially in Florida. Nobody does that.
Let me be perfectly clear: the reason for this undertaking is not just because we need a new vision of the world, a world where religious tolerance is the rule; where religions are not seen as warring tribes, but as neighboring families that each contain their own spectrums of consciousness — from traditional conservatives to modern progressives. A world where believers and non-believers alike can find a common language and a sense of context. There are too few places where compassionate atheists and humanists can get involved with environmental causes or helping the less fortunate. Our vision of the world includes the creation of — and access to — these types of programs. But, it also includes children being taught mindfulness and modern (peer-to-peer) informational literacy, it includes cities being built (or re-built) around biodiversity, community farming and cooperation. It is a world where everything is a Holon¹ (a whole and a part) and where “spirituality” is understood (and practiced) in very real terms, knowing that there is indeed an energy in me that is identical to the energy in you. In an integral context, that means an individual approach that at once includes meditation/contemplation, exercise/nutrition, sustainability/environmentalism, and community service/civic engagement². In this new world, being open-minded is celebrated, “transcending and including” is the new norm and those who change their mind can more easily imagine a changing world³.
The reason is also not simply because many of us are finding that we have a shared set of beliefs — a belief that God is beyond gender (neither male or female), that human gender roles and sexual behavior do not exist discretely as male or female but as points along a continuum†. A belief that science and philosophy are tantamount in answering life’s big questions. A belief that new gender-balanced mythologies (that have yet to be written) are necessary for our modern age — stories that take into account how we interact with the technology and computer networks that we’ve built to encircle our planet and how we use these networks to communicate with other nations and nationalities around the globe, sometimes on a daily basis. And, finally, a belief that the First Cause that created the universe is simply unknowable and that love may very well be all you need‡.
The reason for starting a religious non-profit — for building a “ministry” — is to spread the message that we change the world by living in it ∞. That our personal unfolding, our continually-expanding consciousness, the ability to take more and more perspectives, the primordial drive toward increasing biological complexity, is directly related to the evolution of the entire cosmos. We — our interiors and exteriors — are all part of that whole. It is one action. In fact, it is Spirit-in-Action. Continue reading
1 Comment | tags: Aldous, Arthur Koestler, Atheism, Aurobindo, Bishop John Shelby Spong, Buddhism, ceremonies, Christianity, community, community service, consciousness, enlightenment, evolution, farming, First Cause, Florida, gender, God, holon, Humanism, Huxley, IRS, Islam, Jesus, Ken Wilber, Kool Aid, literacy, love, Matthew Fox, meditation, ministry, mission, Mohammed, morality, Muslim, mythology, new age, non-profit, nutrition, paradigm shift, perspectives, philosophy, reality, religion, Richard Rohr, science, service, sin, Socrates, Sri, St. Petersburg, sustainability, Taoism, technology, the way, tolerance, tribes, Trivial Pursuit, Volunteering, William James | posted in Integral
Why is everyone talking about juicing and why should you care?
Integral Church is proud to be a sponsor of this upcoming workshop alongside Enliven Wellness Works. The workshop will be led by our good friend Kelly Lessem (Squeeze Juiceworks, Kelly’s Yoga and Massage Garage).
Join us on Saturday, November 17 from Noon – 2 p.m. for a discussion on home juicing, cleansing, and what the heck it all means. See a live demonstration of real, raw food being juiced and taste the delicious results. A Q&A session will follow with some socializing, snacks and refreshments.
Register here / RSVP here on Facebook.
Juicing 101 [Workshop]
Saturday, November 17
Noon – 2 p.m.
First Unity Campus – Friendship Hall
460 46th Avenue North, St. Petersburg, FL 33703; (727) 527-2222
$10 in advance; $15 suggested love offering at the door
TESTIFY: Read Joran’s transformative daily journal from his five-day juice cleanse.
Leave a comment | tags: events, health, juicing, nutrition, St. Petersburg, wellness, workshop | posted in Events, Tools for Transformation
Let me paint the picture of myself before the cleanse.
I’m a 36-year-old father of two — a performing musician for around 10 years, with an energy level that tended to naturally (or so I thought) peak around 8 or 9 p.m. I love coffee — no cream or sugar, just coffee (Cuban, Tanzanian, the bolder, oilier and more locally-roasted, the better) — and I would pride myself on making the best pot of it. I drink beer occasionally — usually craft-brewed, hoppy IPA’s. I’m around 5’10” and at the time I began the cleanse, weighed 195 lbs. Not obese, just a little flab around the middle (I hadn’t been on the treadmill in a few months). I quit smoking (again) around five months ago and haven’t looked back. I don’t have a desk job, but I don’t do manual labor, either. I cross the bridge from St. Petersburg to Tampa every morning, and my work at a local media company keeps me on my toes and relatively active (climbing stairs, lifting, working at events, etc.)
But I was tired a lot, and I attributed this to being old. I would make excuses to my friends as to why I couldn’t go out at night (smoky bars, the temptation of just one more beer) but the fact was — I was exhausted. And sitting on the couch with my family in front of the television is all I wanted to do. Sure, there was coffee and sugar (read: donuts) to create huge chemical spikes that would carry me through the day, but they would leave me groggy and sluggish in the morning, forcing the cycle to start all over again. For a time, I thought that nodding off at the wheel (even after getting a full night’s sleep) was normal. I thought I was just “tired.”
Now my wife, Jennifer, on the other hand, has always been more intuitive, more healthy and more courageous than myself. She has a background in retail management and was a massage instructor for a time. She’s currently running a corporate wellness company and is enrolled in a nutritional coaching course. So, we watch a lot of food and health documentaries. And we’ve been talking about this juicing thing for a while.
The idea of juicing itself seemed a bit silly to me at first. A bit extreme. I mean, I was making small adjustments already. A year ago, we stopped drinking bottled water — because of the chemical treatment of the water and its impact on the environment — and started eating primarily non-processed foods. I cut out Pepsi, which I’d been addicted to since adolescence, and replaced it with organic cranberry juice — and I exercised portion control when I could. I thought I was making good choices, even though my energy level hadn’t changed and I hadn’t made any effort to lose the added weight. I’d also planned on cutting back on my dairy intake, as I more and more noticed a slight congestion after having milk or cheese — which is so very bittersweet for someone born and raised in Wisconsin. It cuts me deep, actually.
A few months ago, we purchased a juicer of our own, and I would occasionally taste Jen’s concoctions, nodding or grunting approval and partly hoping this was just another of her passing phases. But when a friend of ours made the leap and started her own juicing company, offering personalized blends and delivery service, Jen wanted to give her service a try. In part, to support our friend in her new endeavor, and partly because it would be easier for us if there were no excuses (“it’s too late to shop for vegetables,” “there’s no time to juice”). We would stock the fridge with 3 days of pre-made juice and if we wanted to extend it to 5 days (or longer), we could pick up and carry on with our own juicer.
With only some reluctance, I said yes.
I’d done a 2-day liquid fast for a colonoscopy a few years back, and it wasn’t that bad. 1) I figured I could save some money by not eating out for lunch every day, and 2) I have a hard time saying “no” to my wife. We chose to begin on a Saturday, so there wouldn’t be any work-related temptations (like that endless line of bagels and cookies on the break room counter), but not a Saturday with a big event to work that would require a lot of energy.
I was given only one warning by people who had already done the juice cleanse. Wean off of caffeine BEFORE you begin. I was told there would be sensations within the body as it adjusts to operating on purely raw food, and it would be advantageous to know the difference between a symptom of withdrawal to certain vitamins or minerals as opposed to the full-on rage of a caffeine detox.
DAY ONE – Thursday before the cleanse
I limited myself to one cup of coffee (with one raw sugar), down from the usual 2.5 cups per day. As the day wore on, I sensed a slight headache in the occipital region of my head and neck. I took 400 mg of ibuprofen and my daily 24-hour antihistamine.
I reduced my morning coffee to half-caffeinated (no sugar), and again had an onset of headache in the late afternoon. I repeated 400 mg ibuprofen and my antihistamine.
No caffeine. No sugar. No wheat. Jennifer made me a green tea in the morning (which had a bit of caffeine, but none of the oil or acid found in coffee).
We decided to go out with a bang (and break a couple rules) by getting down at The Refinery in Tampa for our last solid meal. We enjoyed an appetizer of potato and andouille sausage, roasted chicken, and a “Brimley Burger” complete with sharp cheddar pimento cheese, homemade “spam” gravy and Yukon Gold fries. Yes, indeed. Out with a bang.
DAY FOUR – The juice cleanse begins!
Our refrigerator was full of Mason jars, labeled with a numbering system for each of us (Joran 1/1 = Meal one, Day one; Jen 3/2 = Meal three, Day two) and that morning everything looked to be going according to plan.
And then, it happened. Tropical Storm Debby was brewing outside — a consistent horizontal rain with trees creaking and bending — and out of the dark blue, I snapped. I got angry. I have issues with power and control to work through, and all the caffeine in the world can’t help something like that. I yelled at Jennifer and I made her cry. I hadn’t seen her cry in forever. I felt horrible. Over stupid things like the fact that she was watching a food documentary while my stomach rumbled. Over the fact that I needed some quiet time to do some writing, and her food doc wasn’t helping. Over the fact (I claimed) that I didn’t really need to do this and was just playing along. Me. Me. Me.
3 Comments | tags: body, change, coaching, family, health, juicing, mind, nutrition, relationships, spirit, transformation | posted in Tools for Transformation