THE MANY BRANCHES ON MY TREE THAT LED TO THE 72 ANGELS...
So here is a little of how I got here...and the people and events which carried me forward into "the arms of the 72 Angels."
God and the Bible-belt bathwater. I was never an "Angel person" particularly. I would have been unlikely to go there since I threw God out with the Bible-belt bathwater when I was a kid. I wouldn't realize until my late 20's that the god I ditched back then was just other people's versions of God, people who weren't all that nice either! I was more interested in the dreams and longings inside me -- and later in everyone I met. I devoured books, especially biographies, trying to understand things in myself I couldn't define, and what would become a lifelong search for truth began to be seeded within me. Like so many of us have felt in our childhoods, I sensed that I was born to do something important, something better than the life that was happening to me as a kid. So my big dream was first to get out of Kentucky and go see the world. And so I did that, winding up in New York City after my first summer-long trip to England with a college friend, and then cathedral-hopping on my own across Europe and wondering why I was so deeply drawn and moved by ancient monasteries, Gregorian chants and decaying cemeteries. Still banishing the notion of God from any consideration, I kept searching for meaning -- not realizing, as St. Francis said, that what I was really looking for was the one looking.
Eventually, my inability to either define or find "it" began to take a toll on my experience of life at every level. I had probed my own heart and mind and possibly a thousand or more books and conversations by then -- but I still had no clue that I could decipher to take me the rest of the way. And then one day, staring into the void on a street corner in Manhattan, everything changed as a semi-truck barreled down the street too close to the curb and everyone jumped back but me.
My brush with death and a new life. So no, the truck didn't hit me, but it literally brushed the hair forward on my arms as it swerved just the right amount at the last second. I was just watching it all as if in a dream, unblinking, unmoving. As soon as my imminent death did not happen, something stirred in me and I realized that the next time it likely would because something inside me was already dying. In that next moment, that "something" woke up and whispered a little four-letter word I had never said in my whole life..."help." The next day, I began to experience a four-month series of remarkable spiritual encounters on the streets of New York with a litany of strange and magical people, a daily parade of homeless and other down-and-outers, including an extraordinary encounter with a homeless drunken priest who had been a Trappist monk at Gethsemane monastery in Kentucky with Thomas Merton. Wise strangers would suddenly approach me and say the most amazing things out of the blue. Keith Sherwood, who would later become a renowned spiritual teacher in Europe, was one of those who shepherded me through that remarkable time. Many others would serve as momentary guides and spiritual "steerage," some of whom needed my help in ways I had never given. What connected all these experiences was a "Christ-presence" through which I was being taught how to love in a deeper way -- not only others, but also myself.
Truth is a many-traditioned thing. [image of multi-tradition symbols] That beginning spiritual time in my life was wonderful, challenging and utterly compelling. One of the long-term effects of my "soul-awakening" was that I began to receive/hear inner teachings, both waking and sleeping, leading me to explore the world's spiritual traditions and see the sameness in their mystical hearts under their diverse contexts of culture, creed and vocabulary. Several years of study, writing, dreaming and spiritual contemplation were then summarized one afternoon in these two inner teachings, which would shape my personal path from then on: (1) "All roads lead home for any heart willing to come," and (2) "Let not my words as they proceed from the holiest books or the saintliest lips come before My Word at the altar of your own heart." I knew in that moment that every bit of knowledge or wisdom that came to me from other individuals or traditions must be measured against the "inner tuitions" and wisdoms of my own heart and soul -- which also meant I would need to be aware of my own biases, rationalizations, preferences, hopes and limiting thoughts and beliefs. A lifetime curriculum! And because I used writing as a way to chronicle the teachings and to conjure more of what I wanted to know rather than what I already knew, it was through the writing that I would, and still, continue to hear and learn.