Poorest of the Poor

Gandhi, when asked how we should choose to live our lives, suggested that we ask ourselves “How will our next action affect the poorest of the poor?” In the twenty-first century Western world we still encounter those who are very poor in the material sense of the word, but for many of us, the most pervasive and profound poverty we come into contact with is poverty of the spirit-depression, divisiveness, fear, anger. Whether we look to our current political climate, at our neighbors as they attempt to rush ahead in traffic, into our own homes or even within our own hearts, how easy and comforting it is to be critical of “poor” behavior.

Philo of Alexandria said “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Yet even with the best of intentions, trying to be kind is overwhelmed again and again by our deeper needs and fears. We are all poor before God until we realize our oneness with Her/Him. The essence of our healing journey is the movement from a struggle to understand and improve, to the surrender into contact with the Sacred, the Sacred that is our Essential Self. Eventually being Compassion rather than trying to show compassion becomes our stance in life. Eventually we truly believe Christ’s words that the Kingdom of Heaven is within and is available to each of us right now. Finally we surrender to the truth that we are the Beloved. Compassion is our true nature. All spiritual practice, all psychotherapeutic healing, leads to this fundamental realization. The totality of our passion fully engaged. Yet until we are willing to look death directly and unflinchingly in the face, our passion will be subverted by our fear of death. Fear of death exactly equals lack of spiritual freedom, lack of enlightenment. As long as there is an enemy within or without, the struggle will be endless. How alive are we willing to be? Is anything lacking?

Confronting and eventually healing our fear of death brings us to the joy that transcends happiness and sadness, wellness and illness. Is the tumor in our body that might eventually kill us also a form of the Sacred? Can we become whole without directly contacting the Sacred and realizing our identity with the Sacred?

For many of us in the physically fixated modern Western society, the most direct and accessible route to realization of our oneness with the Beloved is a two-fold path. First, heal our fear of death by coming into intimate contact with death or with our fear of death. Really feel the suffering on the nightly news or volunteer at hospice or get cancer or have a loved one who dies. Do these with as much attention and open heartedness as possible. One of my first meditation teachers, Trungpa Rinpoche, said that one would always remain a dilettante on the spiritual path until one became truly intimate with death. Second, because most of us come from Judeo-Christian roots, which is essentially a devotional tradition, find a practice to cultivate devotion. Pray, meditate, call out, burn. The combination of these two is most potent medicine in these conflicted times.

~ Dale Borglum


By means of all created things, without exception, the divine assails us, penetrates us and molds us. We imagine it as distant and inaccessible, whereas in fact we live steeped in its burning layers.

~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin


I praise what is truly alive,

What longs to be burned to death.

A strange feeling comes over you

when you see the silent candle burning.

Now you are no longer caught

in the obsession with darkness,

and a desire for higher love-making

sweeps you upward.

Distance does not make you falter,

now, arriving in magic, flying,

and finally insane for the light,

you are the butterfly and you are gone.

And so long as you haven’t experienced

this: to die and so to grow,

you are only a troubled guest

on the dark earth.

~ Goethe, trans. Robert Bly