November 1, 2013

Divine Love. ~ Camilla Sanderson

As I witness the crumbling patriarchal hierarchies in education, medicine, politics and particularly in religion, I have a deep thirst for spirituality and Divine Love without the dogma of religions.

And I have noticed that I am not alone.

For me, Divine Love is a feeling of being in flow with life.

A feeling of being in my body as a spiritual being having a human experience, and watching depth and beauty unfolding in both the joy and the pain I experience in my humanity.

Feeling and connecting with Divine Love allows me access to my divinity, witnessing my experience of all of life in my humanity. I feel Divine Love in the deep stillness of my heart, and I connect with Divine Love each and every day in my spiritual practice.

In our infinite wisdom as human beings, it often takes a crisis in love, money or health to precipitate the inner work that leads to spiritual growth and the evolution of human consciousness.

For me, it was when my husband of 19 years was diagnosed in October 2010 with a malignant tumor while we were both in the midst of successful and lucrative New York City careers—his in designing computer software global architecture and mine in publishing.

It was a long and arduous journey through cancer and all that it entails, as you may imagine: through chemotherapy hell, and fear, and rage, and despair, and anxiety and utter numbness to Life. But God, what a relief when Jamie came through to the other side to health, and wellness and vitality again! What an opportunity to learn to appreciate Life again.

Although, I only got to this place of gratitude after he finished his treatment, received his “all clear,” and we both quit our careers, left our gorgeous parlor level, brownstone apartment in Greenwich Village, New York City and moved to our log cabin in the wilderness of New Hampshire.

Just a minor change in our lives, I write with a wry smile.

And how did I find Divine Love, and how has it changed my life? Through a lovely series of synchronicities I was led to a spiritual class at an interfaith temple not far from our log cabin here in the wilderness, where a wonderful teacher engaged me in the study of the ancient Hindu sacred text—The Bhagavad Gita.

I had never even heard of this stunning work before, and being born in Sydney to an Australian mother and an English father, neither of whom was interested in indoctrinating me nor my three sisters with religious dogma, I had never even been exposed much to the Bible, heathen that I am. And yet, I developed a beautiful obsession with the Bhagavad Gita, reading it in six different translations and reading various books based on the sacred text—a favorite being An Ordinary Life Transformed:  Lessons for Everyone from the Bhagavad Gita by Reverend Stephanie Rutt, who happens to now be my spiritual teacher in the flesh.

I love the fact that Hinduism, the world’s third largest religion (after Christianity and Islam) and the world’s oldest religion, has an ancient sacred text focusing on “what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” to borrow the poet Mary Oliver’s words.

The Bhagavad Gita is in part an examination of our dharma for which we do not even have an exact equivalent word in English, but it centers on the concept of our “sacred duty” or “the great work of our lives.”

Along with my study of the Bhagavad Gita, and other sacred spiritual works, I have also been blessed to learn how to cultivate the flow of Divine Love in my life with a daily spiritual practice and, as a self-confessed pragmatic spiritual enthusiast, I want to shout from the rooftops all that I have learned and how it has transformed my life.

All of our lives we are conditioned to look to outside authorities—our parents, our teachers, our doctors, our priests telling us what we should be doing and how we should be thinking; and what I have now learned, is that my daily spiritual practice has allowed me to connect with the Divine Love that is found within.

We are all born with an inner divinity, an inner wisdom, an inner knowing and we are taught not to trust it.

How insane is that?

But I am thrilled to witness, that at this point in our planet’s history, it seems that humanity is getting closer to a tipping point in the number of people having learned how to connect with that Divine Love within.

My personal daily spiritual practice is about thirty minutes long, and consists of a short Sikh breath meditation, and then chanting Gobinday Mukanday—a beautiful Sikh chant, a recording of which can be found on Spirit Voyage’s website, and then about twenty minutes of Centering Prayer—which is similar to meditation, except my experience is that it is more heart focused while meditation has been more mind focused for me.

I learned about Centering Prayer in my class from the classic book Open Mind, Open Heart by Father Thomas Keating, which was originally published more than twenty years ago and I have to say that I experienced so much resistance to the dogmatic religious language he uses in the book.

But I am happy to have persisted through my resistance, as I now find Centering Prayer to be so soul nourishing and a big part of my connection with Divine Love. The chanting is also so very soul nourishing for me—when I was designing my spiritual practice with Rev. Stephanie, she had an idea for a few different chants that would be good for me and she sung them to me.  When she got to Gobinday Mukanday, I was moved to tears. It resonated with me on such a deep level, even though I had no idea what the words actually meant. There is an energetic resonance to certain sounds that is very calming and nourishing to the soul.

Gobinday Mukanday is a courage mantra, and I committed to an intention for my spiritual practice to be:  “Thank you for having the courage to claim my spirituality in the world.”

Over the past two-and-a-half years in our log cabin amongst the trees, I have read an endless number of spiritual books, one after the other, and often many simultaneously and I have found so many books being published recently specifically about learning how to connect with Divine Love. Another favorite is Tosha Silver’s Outrageous Openness: Letting the Divine Take the Lead, which I learned about from the esteemed Dr. Christiane Northrup.

Western trained medical doctors are now recognizing the part that stress plays in illnesses and are encouraging mindfulness meditation as a major stress relieving practice—Jon Kabbat-Zin was one of the brilliant pioneers for this.

Women doctors in particular seem to be able to take the next leap more easily, from mindfulness meditation, to spiritual practice, and learning to connect with Divine Love within. Again from Dr. Christiane Northrup I learned of Dr. Lissa Rankin’s new book Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself.  It lights me up that doctors trained in Western medicine are now opening up to the spiritual aspect of healing. At long last!!!

And of course, this is not to take away from the brilliant and life-saving medicine that saves millions of lives all over the world every day—one of my younger sisters in Australia had a near fatal car crash from another car veering across the road onto her side and thank God for the emergency rooms in two different hospitals that were able to save her life.  Not to mention the advances in cancer treatment that saved my husband’s life.

But when it comes to day-to-day quality of life, our health, vitality and being intrinsically well, we still have so much to learn. And cultivating a connection with Divine Love is a huge step in the right direction.

The truth of my experience is that my daily spiritual practice has also helped me enormously in relieving negative thought chatter and any anxiety that I had felt in the past. I love that I recently read of a doctor who had been prescribed medication for depression and he reported that he decided to swap the medication for meditation.

A daily spiritual practice has also helped me move from a victim consciousness, where I wanted to blame everyone else in the world for any negative feelings that I may experience, to feeling empowered, liberated and free and able to be in constant connection with the blissfully Divine Love within.

Don’t be mistaken though, I can still slip back into victim consciousness and wanting to blame.

But I find my daily spiritual practice is like the keel of a boat—it helps me right myself and find my center again after being blown over in the wind. The inner work required for spiritual growth and evolution of consciousness is not easy, but the rewards of the work are profound and have led me to the blissful experience of Divine Love.


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 Assistant Ed:  Jes Wright/Ed: Bryonie Wise

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