Joseph Anderson

Sparkles on the water

When I was a boy my family often vacationed at Pacific Grove, near Monterey, California. The mornings were usually foggy and cool, which did nothing to temper my delight in clambering over rocks and inspecting the crabs and sea anemones. But sometime during the day the sun would break out, and that watery world was suddenly transformed into a shimmering paradise of golden ripples in endless shifting play, mesmerizing and transcendent. Ever since, sunlight on the water has been one of my primary joys of living.

In addition to being a pure physical delight, such experiences also make a nice metaphor for my experience of the sacred. In one sense the Real abides in the dark depths, its full nature hidden and mysterious. Then again I could say the Real is above us, obviously present but also blinding in its brilliant self-manifestation, and so also inaccessible, overpowering, too vast to really comprehend. But in the sparkles on the water, the overpowering light interacts with the surface of the depths and creates a magical and entrancing interplay – pointing to the sublimity beyond but also human scale, giving my consciousness a way to begin engaging with what lies beneath, and above.

I have been having some good conversations with old friends the last few weeks, each of whom happens to be a deeply committed practitioner of a single traditional spiritual path. This is causing me to reflect on the nature of my own journey and what it says about the inclinations of my soul. After years of trying to settle on “the way”, it is finally dawning on me that it is my nature and purpose to be in love with a multiplicity of spiritual paths. Recently at the Toutle River I was given the insight that there is a Big Three for me (Buddhism, Jesus, shamanism) providing me with a core of stability and focus. I am happy and excited to have “just three” to work with–but it’s not hard to see that those three very quickly branch out into many additional vital precursors and successors (tantra-Taoism-kabbalah-Sufism-many-paganisms-esotericism and on and on). Such an assemblage of inspirations and wisdoms, always seeking to diversify itself even further, is part of my path and my calling.

This love of diversity mirrors my lifelong attraction to the sparkles on the water. In both cases it’s the infinite glorious recombinant play that draws me in and sustains me.

Stepping back from public view, as I have for most of the last three years, has given me a chance to understand and more fully embrace my love affair with the dancing sparkles of spiritual expression – stimulated especially through the vivid fizz of shamanic trance experiences, but going on from there into a deep reconnection with Jesus (particularly in his role as healer), through our unforgettable tour of Japanese Buddhist temples this spring, and manifested in a dozen other important ways in poetry and songwriting and artmaking and more.

Since I launched this website just about a year ago, and my blog and the Soul Cartography class last February, my intention been steadily moving toward making my healing work and my teaching more visible. And as I reflect on that, I recognize that it’s a lot harder to see dancing sparkles than it is to see (to borrow metaphors from various other traditions) a lighthouse, a city on a hill, or a watchtower. Or, as the Sufi imama Jamal Rahman told me (in one of those conversations I mentioned above), “there is a message that needs to be delivered!” The comfort I take from those metaphors is that there is a purpose driving this intention to be seen: I can remain in full integrity with myself as I find effective ways to share what needs to be shared.

So the good news is that I get to (need to!) remain myself as I learn to stabilize the way I appear to others so they can actually see me, and find their way to me in order to benefit from the help I have to give. The stabilization provided by the Buddha-Jesus-shamanism “tripod” is a step in that direction. The Soul Cartography teaching is certainly a step in that direction. There is more to come. But I’m pretty sure that whatever form that stabilization takes, the sparkles that I so dearly love will be a part of the story.