By Ischa Beharry
Sometimes, it just seems like the years and months quickly vanish into oblivion, some being a memory sweet, and others predictably similar or uneventful. This past year, however, seemed different. Despite all that’s been happening around the world, in our own country, and in our personal lives, there are certain things that do not change; for example, the fact that spring always follows winter.
As I think about 2018, the latter part of the year captures my focus. August through December were exceptional at Sunburst Sanctuary: A star-studded cosmic stage on a clear, warm August night found many of us excitedly transfixed on the Heavens, eagerly engaged in a concerted effort not to miss a single shooting star as we camped upon The Wheel of Life Hill. The Perseid Meteor Shower was the night’s highlight, and we were it’s dedicated, entranced audience, ready to explore in our individual imaginings what the evening’s earlier presentation had entailed—a fun, interactive lecture by Sunburst’s own Moksha Badarayan on “Living in Space.”
The euphoria of an incredible evening presentation and observation of the Heavens through powerful telescopes paved the way for even more excitement as we counted upward of 100 beautiful shooting stars between 11:30 P.M.and early dawn! Our star party was indeed a hit!
Mid-September found a group of us enjoying an afternoon of delicacies at the Sunburst Lodge, hosted by Michelle Schaeffer who shared her secret recipes and hidden talent for turning any vegetable or fruit into a dehydrated delight! We excitedly tried our own hands at learning that fascinating process, never mind treating our tummies to a buffet of treats! Emily Wirtz also shared her hidden talent for canning, further whetting our appetites with several culinary creations. But wait, no fun afternoon would’ve been complete without a sumptuous potluck dinner—and that it was!!!
As the cycles of the seasons usher us into their own unique rhythms, so did the end of September find us engaged in a special journey of connection to our soul and the earth through the eyes of a horse! Every participant in the Equine-Guided experience, led by Natalie Riggs, spent an entire day spellbound by the deep and emotionally moving connections they made with the Sunburst horses, and the horses’ abilities to not only help us open our heart centers, but to connect to our souls, the earth, and Spirit, with many participants experiencing amazing emotional and spiritual breakthroughs!
October brought its own special gifts—a Kriya II Meditation Retreat in which one learned the technique of activating the healing power of our chakras. Meditation, periods of silence, and interiorizing of the senses were highlights, paving the way for an even deeper journey within at the Fall Silent Retreat led by Sharon Ray. What an incredible journey of Self-discovery it was! Yoga, guided walking and sitting meditations, visual presentations and enlightening talks by Sharon provided a fitting end to an amazing month of journeying within.
November found us exploring our body’s own sacred geometry at the Celebrate Life Retreat. Craig Hanson led this fascinating workshop of understanding our bodies with the objective of understanding creation. A captive audience expressed its delight at discovering the Divine thumbprint—the sacred geometry that is inherent in every aspect of our bodies, nature, and the cosmos! Our minds and senses fully satisfied, the evening would culminate with Dances of Universal Peace. Two hours of delightful world spiritual dance and song would prove to be the perfect ending to an amazing day!
The journey within that started with the Equine-Guided event in September was reaching a high crescendo as Sunburst celebrated the return of the light at our winter solstice meditation and labyrinth walk. An afternoon of hourly silent meditations proved the perfect prelude to dinner with friends, followed by a warming fire and labyrinth walk with lumineria under the stars. What magic ensued as the beautiful full Moon shed her glorious light beams over the meadow and labyrinth as we gathered around the bonfire enjoying the heightened cosmic energies of a most sacred day.
As I revel in the energy of a New Year and what it might bring, my heart is already uplifted by the blessings of the New Year’s Kriya Yoga Meditation Retreat held on the first week in January. One of the most powerful ones ever, I cannot but marvel at how the incredible energies of the previous six months were in sync with the very rhythm of the seasons they represented. And at how we started our journey inwardly in September just as Nature started her own journey of rest and rejuvenation, in preparation of a vibrant spring that’s sure to follow.
In 1939, an article by Paramahansa Yogananda stated (excerpt):
Intuition is that directly perceiving faculty of the soul which at once knows the truth about anything. Unless you have the power of intuition, you cannot possibly know Truth. It is the knowing power of the soul without the help of the senses or the mind. Intuition can give you knowledge about things which your senses and understanding can never give. Intuition does not depend upon any outside data whatsoever.
Intuition means “soul-perception.” It shows the difference between true and false reasoning. Many books and courses of study are prescribed for students in school, but nothing is taught them about concentration and the development of the sixth sense–the all-knowing faculty of intuition.
By the development of intuition one can outgrow the law of cause and effect in one’s own life. Intuition tunes the mental radio so that it can intercept all vibrations of future happenings which otherwise are deflected by diverse currents.
In India, Lahiri Mahasaya, revived the ancient meditation technique of Kriya Yoga for our era. He is quoted as saying: “Solve all your problems through meditation. Attune yourself to the active inner Guidance; the Divine Voice has the answer to every dilemma of life. Though man’s ingenuity for getting himself into trouble appears to be endless, the Infinite is no less resourceful.”
Sunburst’s teachings, outlined by founder Norman Paulsen, lead us to a life in greater harmony with the divine creative forces. He wrote and spoke of humankind’s evolutionary steps, which include gaining a “moral compass” that Norm says “derives from knowing our oneness with all life.” He goes on: “There will be no doubt of the Absolute Godhead, as every spirit shall see and know God, I Am That I Am, face to face.” There will be “no worry of death, or the future to come.”
O Father, Mother, Friend, Beloved God! I will reason, I will will, I will act; but lead Thou my reason, will, and activity to the right things that I should do. –Paramahansa Yogananda
By Ischa Lea
The backbone of our spiritual practice at Sunburst is the application of the Twelve Virtues in our lives: Charity, Faith, Loyalty, Patience, Honesty, Perseverance, Temperance, Humility, Courage, Equanimity, Continence, and Compassion. This makes for balance, peace, and inner joy — the barometer of all spiritual success. Likewise, the application of these virtues with the Twelve Principles of Permaculture and Permaculture Ethics ensures success in our outward endeavors at Sunburst.
A successful Permaculture project is contingent upon the application of Spiritual Principles, whether we use such terminology or not.
Charity resonates with the Permaculture Ethics of Fair Share and People Care.
Faith and belief in our endeavor creates the motivation for success.
Loyalty among participants ensures steady commitment.
Patience is critical, for even the best designs and objectives in Permaculture are still subject to extremes in environmental conditions.
Honesty is important — As in spiritual practice, we must walk our talk.
Perseverance in meditation and living in virtue ensures spiritual advancement; likewise, perseverance in Permaculture and living in integrity ensures generational rewards.
Temperance in spiritual practice ensures balance; in Permaculture balance ensures that no strand in the Web is broken or weakened.
Humility in spiritual practice ensures that we’re not acting from our lower ego selves; likewise, humility in Permaculture ensures that we are open to suggestions, respectful of other’s opinions, and are able to “hold hands with each other” and work together toward our common goal.
Courage is critical: Spiritual advancement requires courage, patience and perseverance. Likewise, Permaculture cannot survive as a practice without courage, patience and perseverance.
Equanimity in spiritual practice means overlooking obstacles and maintaining even-mindedness in our goal to achieve enlightenment. In Permaculture we are faced with doing the same in order to maintain symbiotic relationships that ensure successful outcomes.
Continence, the practice of self-control, ensures the conservation of vital energies necessary for higher meditational practices. Likewise, self-control is necessary in Permaculture — it ensures that our goals and visions do not exceed our physical capabilities.
Compassion may sound simple; yet, in spiritual practice our ego selves can often propel us into being critical and judgmental rather than compassionate and understanding. Likewise, in Permaculture, without a loving and compassionate relationship with the Earth and each other as we work toward a common goal, there can be no successful rewards.
In the end, Permaculture at Sunburst is Spiritual Practice!
Ischa during Sunburst’s “Permaculture As Spiritual Practice” workshop
By Ischa Lea
Recently, sitting, wondering what I might write about and figuring it would come to me, I decided to lay it to rest for a moment and turned on the tv just in time to see an older man holding on to a young fellow by his collar admonishing him, “I’m gonna get you to add another virtue to your list – how about telling the truth?”
“Wow!” I thought, “That’s what I’ll write about!”
The twelve virtues have been referred to again and again in many disciplines, being expressed also as the predominant energy of its astrological counterpart. Reflecting on the Sunburst teachings, one of the paths of conscious living happens to be Speech. Looking further, I realized that its counterpart among the twelve virtues is Honesty.
Thinking about this and focusing on the topic of “Telling the truth,” I realized that it takes great Courage to be truthful every day—before oneself, before God, and even more so before others. It takes Perseverance to continually practice being truthful. It takes Patience to offer with tender words the truth. It takes Humility to tell the truth, not caring in what light others may cast us for doing so. It takes Forgiveness and Compassion to honor someone who is being truthful, even if that truth may tug at our sensitive nerves. And above all, it takes great Love to be able to rise above the aftermath that truth often engenders.
In the following excerpt, Victoria Raynor writes regarding the great philosopher and mystic, Aristotle:
“He believed that the function of a human was to engage in an activity of the soul in accordance with virtue.”
Reflecting on why certain companies, foundations, and spiritual organizations have endured, grown, thrived and gained respect over decades, one salient feature seems to stand out—that to the best of their abilities, they operated being truthful to their mission—to offer good products and services, operate in integrity, and take good financial care of all those upon whom their success depended. Respect for each other was key. People were more than workers or members; they were invaluable to the long-term survival of the whole.
As this New Year dawned, millions of people made new resolutions. It’s been said, however, that only a tiny percentage of resolutions are actually kept. Thinking about this, I realized that the reason might be two-fold: Firstly, that our old habits of thinking and behaving die hard. And secondly, that if we live truthfully in our lives, the very Universe would bend to our assistance, ensuring that our dreams, desires, and resolutions are fulfilled, bringing us more joy in our lives.
At Sunburst EarthLight Fellowship, a sacred seed ceremony was held to commemorate the dawning of the New Year and a new energy. Beautiful melodies filled the air as each participant offered into the fire the seeds of old habits, old thoughts and old desires. Prayers and seeds of new desires and good habits were also offered into the fire for divine blessings.
What an amazing feeling it was to release the old and bring in the new in such lovely settings, surrounded by loving soul travelers and filled with the blessings of Divine Spirit! How gratifying the thought that the New Year brings another opportunity for telling the truth, and living the truth.
Help me Oh Lord that in truth I may stand
‘Though tattered, worn, disappointed I may be.
I know that perfection yet a myth is to me,
But Lord keep me rooted in truth before thee.
May the good that I seek for myself of use be,
To all brothers and sisters thou hast sent to me.
Help me to carry out thy greatest command,
That with the same love, as for myself I hold,
I may take tenderly each brother’s, sister’s hand.
New Year’s Eve Seed Ceremony
By Sharon Ray
Humility can be a hard thing for Americans to grasp. We’ve been raised in a culture that is competitive, where people are actually applauded for clearly “making their mark” as being better than others. We are raised to strive to be higher than, better than, and to shine brighter than others. The climate of competition leaves some feeling that they have more intrinsic value, and others feeling that they have less. Neither position is true, for the Divine lives in every heart. We are all equally, infinitely precious.
This culture of standing out from and above others is not an exclusively American phenomenon. It is a condition that exists all over the world. It is a human condition that needs the medicine of Humility which dissolves pride into love.
In a valiant effort to avoid self-glorification, often people will take the opposite stance away from pride: self-deprecation. We are all children of God, made in God’s image and likeness, and depreciating ourselves is just as false a practice. It is false to say, or even worse to believe: “I’m really not as capable or worthy as others. They shine and I’m dull. I can’t do the great things that others can do.”
Love, the Mother of Humility, takes neither of these two positions. Love cares nothing about being higher or lower, and wants only to be at one. Love wants communion, to be in relationship with others the way that the fingers on two hands can be interlaced. Humility, born of Love, knows that being higher is separation; being lower is equally separation.
Love lives in the truth. The truth is that we can all shine brightly—bright light is our very nature. Doing wonderful things is the Divine drive of the Soul. The important thing is to give all the credit to the Divine whom we are expressing. St. Paul said to the Corinthians, “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? Let he who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Encouraging us to shine our light, the biblical book of Matthew says, “Nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
So, let’s shine in the image and likeness of the Divine, and do great things to uplift this world, saying, “Thank You, God, for living through my life!”
Ultimately, Humility will be experienced by each of us through God-Realization, and we will perceive, experience, and rejoice that there is only One Doer. We will know, and say, “I Am. I Am. My body is this whole world. I’m not higher than; I’m not lower than; I am every being. One. There is only One. I Am that One. I Am that Love.”
Father–Mother Divine, help me to use this lifetime to uplift this world giving all the glory to You, the Divine Doer of All. I rejoice that we are One. We are the Love of the Universe. Amen.
By Sharon Ray
Our lives have been touched by the Divine. Yes, we have been touched, exactly like the lighting of a candle. Our candle has been lit, now we are the protectors and tenders of that fire. The flame that has been given to us is our most precious possession. We want to build that little flame into a blazing bonfire of devotion that will magnetize the Divine to us; and in that Unity we will feel what Norm spoke of as “God’s unbelievable love”. We will feel the Glory of the Almighty Creator who loves us more than we can imagine. Those who know, say, “God wants us a million times more than we want God!”
Sometimes on the Path I get discouraged. I think I’m not growing fast enough, or I think that for God’s sake, I should be enlightened by now. It makes me feel like giving up, except, I’m really lucky: I know that for me, there’s nothing to give up to; there’s nowhere else to go; nothing else worth pursuing. I know that the pleasures I’ve had can’t compare with the pleasure of attaining the One I am seeking. Those who know, tell us, “God is the most relishable!”
So, when I’m down, loyalty is up, and it says, “Redouble your efforts.” Paramahansa Yogananda said, “Results are found by forgetting about results and going on working for them.”
So, when I want to feel the touch of my Divine Parents, when I want to come closer to God, I have to practice loyalty and STAY with my Lord: I have to give my Beloved more of my time, in meditation, in doing the things that inspire me, in tuning into the Presence throughout the day, that Presence that is always here supporting us, and is always HERE for us, loving us. God is very loyal to US, because that loyalty is born of an intense Love; and as we fan the flames of devotion, our loyalty will grow until we can say with all our heart,
“Lord, there is nothing I wouldn’t do for You.”
Beloved Father, Mother God, teach me to be loyal to the path homeward, to do everything I do for Your sake, to never give up– having faith that you want to merge with me even more than I want to merge with You. Help me find ways to prove my love and loyalty to You by practicing virtue especially when it is most difficult. Help me find the daily quiet time I need to build my relationship with You, giving Your Presence my full attention. May my love for You grow until I can truly say, “Lord, there is nothing that I wouldn’t do for You,” Amen.