Communion is the trunk of the Tree of Life on the Periodic Table of Spiritual Elements. Everything above this element is about it, or works towards it. Each element leading up to it can be a means or a manner of Communion with other living beings and with the Divine.
When a person is able to be in Communion on an ongoing basis, this becomes synonymous with awakening. Upon awakening, we are in Communion with Divinity. When this happens, we enjoy all of the spiritual abundance that comes with it. Many of the characteristics exhibited by the Spiritual Elements spring from us naturally when we are awakened. We live in our Truth. We have Equanimity. We flow with Gratitude and Humility. The list goes on.
At the top of the Table’s Tree of Life, we have the elements of Divinity, Humanity and Trinity, which are also about Communion and an overall integration of our Divinity with our Humanity in a manner that achieves awakening (see the Trinity element).
You may recall from the Introduction section of this book that the trunk and the overall tree shape of the Table happened when the automatic return function on my computer inadvertently created this shape seemingly “on its own.” Previous to this fortuitous event, the element of Communion was located as the last element on the line of “Action” elements. With this adjustment, the Table now had a sturdy trunk upon which all the elements rested.
Staring at this seeming mistake, I eventually realized that, with the addition of the trunk of Communion, the Tree of Life/ Periodic Table had in fact come full circle. Divinity was at the top of the Tree and Communion was at the bottom. They are the alpha and the omega. Now I know that the entire Table is in fact about Communion and/or coming around to our Divinity. More specifically, it is about taking action with the intention of Communion when one is expressing each of the elements above it.
For example, when we express Gratitude, we set an intention or allow ourselves to do so in a manner where we are in Communion with Divinity when we do it. Conversely, the very fact that we are in Gratitude opens us up to Communion with the Divine. Likewise, when we undergo Healing in some way, we do so with the intention of Communion with the Divine. As those wounds become healed, the separation from God we may have previously felt is healed as well.
Communion opens doors to Divinity. Communion also removes obstacles to joining with Divinity.
As the last Action Element and inadvertent trunk of the Tree of Life, Communion is about creating the intention and performing acts of Communion with almost everything we do. Even small actions of our life are acts of Communion or joining with God.
Communion, as the symbolic Tree trunk to the Table of Spiritual Elements, joins Earth and Sky (i.e. that which is Earthly with that which is Celestial and Divine). Communion is life-giving connective tissue. It grows thick and strong through first bending and then yielding to outside forces like a sapling.
It is through constant Surrender─ bending and yielding─ that Communion, this Tree trunk of strength and connection with the Divine is achieved, as it cannot be forced. It is harmony of mind, Body and spirit. It unity with the Divinity of others and all that surrounds us. Communion is belonging. It is grace.
With Communion we are sitting at God’s table and taking our place in the Tree of Life. It is a return to where we belong, a homecoming.
“Spirit calls humans to return to the community of creation as participants, not dominants.” -Will Taegel
Yoga as a Philosophy of Communion
When we think of yoga, we tend to think of the physical practices of specific postures─ bending over and touching our toes, doing Downward Dog, etc. The actual word “yoga” can, in fact, be loosely translated as “Communion” (the literal translation is “to yoke” or “to join”). Additionally, there are said to be Eight Limbs of Yoga, another Tree metaphor of which the physical postures are only one.
Like the Tree of Life/Table of Spiritual Elements, everything on the Eight Limbs of Yoga is about learning to move towards Communion with Divinity (the eighth and final limb). The other limbs focus on other issues like ethics, personal discipline, breath, equanimity, concentration and devotion. Several limbs are broken down further into more specific practices. They encourage actions which open doors towards Communion or which remove obstacles to this element, encouraging us to fold or bend into Communion versus trying to make it happen.
When I started my own practice of physical yoga, or asanas, I had already been a meditator for many years. I thought that I had achieved some level of Mindfulness. The physical yoga served to shed light on what work remained, however. With the asanas, my mind started racing with thoughts like: “I will hurt my back,” “I can’t do this,” “I hate this pose” or “Why am I even doing this?”
I was mindful enough to notice all of these thoughts after a bit. At some point, I noticed that the contents of my thoughts shifted to a classically more competitive stance of wanting to achieve goals. “I will touch my toes. I will touch my toes. I have got to be able to touch my toes!”
I then experienced setbacks when I actually did set off an old back injury while doing a forward fold. Despite this, I was driven to continue with yoga once I healed up. In general, I notice that Communion attracts us. We seek it and it seeks us, as the poet Rumi divined. And so it was with physical yoga. What could have been construed as a masochistic activity to a guy with a bad back “drew me in.”
Working as a counselor, I saw “bending into Communion” as an analogy for the hard work and tough ground the people I worked with had to cover in order to heal emotional injury and remove obstacles to their awakening. When we are doing deep personal work, there is a part of us that wants to avoid it, or even quit altogether. At the same time, however, there is also a greater power that drives us forward. Somewhere within us, we know that our work, although difficult, will bring tremendous Healing and growth and will bring us closer to Communion with our True selves and with the Divine. We make great strides when we Surrender and bow into our Healing work, letting it happen without resistance and without forcing outcomes.
With my yoga practice, I surmised that as I pushed myself in the physical postures, I was pushing to “make something happen,” like touch my toes. It was an aggressive, yang energy that I was employing in the practice. From what I knew about Meditation, aggression and forcing of any kind just doesn’t work. We can’t force a meditative state to happen. We can set up an environment that is conducive to it occurring. We can let our Breath take the lead. Then we can Surrender and bow into what occurs. And so it was with my physical yoga practice. Once I realized this, my mind became quiet during asanas. I learned to Surrender into a pose and let gravity take place. I learned to hold no expectation of the end product (i.e. of touching my toes). I learned that there was a balance between pushing forward and not forcing outcomes.
And wouldn’t you know it─ before long I was, in fact, touching my toes! I had achieved some sort of Communion with my own Body through asanas. My mind, Body and spirit had come into synch and had achieved harmony. My overall Mindfulness was enhanced. My ability to exercise the action of Surrender was honed. I could feel more Joy and Equanimity with my yoga practice from that moment forward.
Even if you never partake of the physical practice of yoga, it is the concept of yoga as a philosophy of Communion that I would like you to embrace. I want you to realize that you can seek Communion through many avenues, many elements, or many “Limbs of Yoga.” One element or limb may resonate with you more than another. Several practiced together may have greater cumulative impact. Some may not resonate or serve you that much at all or will at a different time. Engage a philosophy of Communion in almost everything you do and you will find your own path to it as it pulls you towards it.
“What you seek is seeking you.” –Rumi
Yoga as Mr. Miyagi
Mr. Miyagi was the teacher/mentor character in the 1980s film, “The Karate Kid.” As part of that story, Mr. Miyagi “tricks” his protégé into learning instinctual karate moves by having him engage in mundane tasks such as waxing his vehicle. Mr. Miyagi tells his student “Wax on, right hand. Wax off, left hand. Wax on, wax off. Breathe in through nose, out the mouth. Wax on, wax off. Don’t forget to breathe─ very important!” His student sees no connection to learning karate but all the while the mundane actions were instilling key karate moves into his muscle memory.
Physical yoga is like Mr. Miyagi to me in that it “tricks” us into imbedding key Communion- oriented actions into our soul-memory. We have to relax in yoga and turn off our “fight or flight” systems. We have to integrate with Breath and come into our Body. Mindfulness stops mental chatter that might conflict with poses and Surrender allows us to let gravity happen and fold into each pose instead of forcing it. We can throw a slew of spiritual elements into the mix like Gratitude and Nurturance too, everything combining to come to a place of yogic Communion.
Yoga is Mr. Miyagi for me in terms of Communion. What a kind and great teacher!
Lover and Beloved
It is interesting to note that Communion with the Divine has often been referred to in intimate terms in various early religious texts. I have seen references to Communion that utilize the metaphor of a “bridal chamber.” The classic Dark Night of the Soul poem by St. John of the Cross, described by its author as a rite and passage of Communion after an arduous process of purification and purging, can read like a poem about lovers.
Here, he is talking about Communion with God:
“Oh night that guided me. Oh, night more lovely than the dawn, Oh night that joined Beloved with lover, Lover transformed in the Beloved.”
Communion is intimacy. It is an act of allowing vulnerability, trust and exposure in expressing Love. It is a lowering of all walls and a letting down of one’s guard. It is an act of Surrender.
A later stanza continues: “I remained lost in oblivion. My face reclined upon the beloved. All ceased and I abandoned myself, leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies.”
When we let go of all of who we think we are and recline upon our Faith in Divinity, we are in Communion. This is not a measured act. There is no reluctance or hesitation within it.
As noted by St. John, the ability he had to “recline into God” and become lost in that position came only after much trial, tribulation, purification and purging. The ability to allow Communion can only come after removing obstacles to it and opening doors that invite it to enter.
“At any moment you have a choice that either leads you closer to your Spirit or further away.” -Thich Nhat Hanh
True intimacy here on Earth between two adults in love can be an act of Communion in a sacred and Divine sense as well. Intimacy in this sense can include the sexual act or not. What matters is the act of Surrender to the moment with Love, whereby all barriers to union between two people are removed and the Divinity of each person is allowed to arise and unite them. When there is trust and a feeling of total safety, Joy, and Bliss, then Communion is present.
This form of intimacy can be carried forth, explored and expressed in various ways in a relationship. It can be a way of being in it and it can also be a way of being with other people in general when no sexual activity is ever involved or intended.
Fear of intimacy is a common issue in our society since many people have been harmed in their initial intimate relationships with caretakers. Many of us were trained by our families to keep our barriers up for our own protection. We avoid intimacy or undergo the dance of being attracted to it and then backing away just when true intimacy is about to unfold.
It takes much personal exploration and work to undue the conditioning from which this fear arose in the first place. The payoff of such work is a capacity to be truly intimate with others and enjoy the fruits of such labor, such as unbounded, fearless Love.
I discuss the idea of intimacy between two people as a form of Communion with Divinity because this kind of relating can be a great training ground for Communion in general. It is only by removing our barriers to love and true intimacy that we may be in Communion with Divinity.
Who is to say what may come first─ Communion with another or Communion with the Divine? Gaining intimacy with others may help us to open up to Communion with the Divine. Gaining intimacy with God may open us up to allow intimacy with other people or with a life partner. Both are Healing endeavors.
Whichever way we go, removing barriers that may be centered around our fears of intimacy in general is likely the first order of business of our Self-Awareness and Healing work. Either way, practicing opening ourselves up to Communion on a daily basis in everything we do may help us to engage the skills that will allow true Communion.
“The value of the personal relationship to all things is that it creates intimacy…and intimacy creates understanding…and understanding creates love.” -Anais Nin
Creating, being in and engaging with a community of like-minded people through any number of varied venues, where Divinity is the connective tissue, is Communion. Conscious beings who have done personal work to remove barriers to Respect and connection with others (and who continue to do so) will tend to find each other (and, of course, the converse is true as well). There is a joyous, blissful Energy achieved by those who practice Communion. This is what some might call an “energy of higher vibration.” This energy is Healing. It is positive and attracts others with the same vibration to it.
When you reach a point where you are living your Truth─ another form of Communion─ you will inevitably find your tribe. You will naturally attract and be attracted to people of like mind and like Energy who will serve to support your Truth. You will know that you are not alone on the path that drove you towards Communion. The mere appearance of people of like-mind in your life will serve to confirm your actions and Intuitions up to that date. They will see the Divinity within you, validating what you already know. These members of your tribe are each unique threads in the greater Divine fabric. They consciously acknowledge and connect with their place within it.
Your tribe will still challenge you, as egos flair and personalities clash. This is simply the nature of human relationships. And you will still relate to others not in your tribe on some level, as you should. The difference is that your tribe will provide a sense of Communion and community for you. In your most trying times, when Communion does not seem present, your tribe can support you. You can see their struggles, the paths they have taken and the obstacles they have overcome. You feel their Communion with the Divine and their struggle will normalize yours. Everyone is in some state of returning home, attaining Communion. It is the natural order of this greater tribe called Humanity to be like salmon in the stream, always seeking a way to return home.
I once heard a tale of Hell portrayed as a place with long spoons. A person there, with a banquet before them, cannot eat as the spoons are so long that they cannot functionally bring the food to their mouths. People here suffer as they literally starve in the midst of a feast. As a contrast, Heaven is when these same people figure out that they can eat by extending the spoonful of food to their neighbors, reciprocally. Here, Heaven only happens when we Commune with each other.
“There is an almost sensual longing for Communion with others who have a large vision.” -Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
As Rumi says: “There are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” Likewise, there are a number of ways, and elements, that support Communion. Each of us may find that a particular element supports us more so than others in being in Communion with Divinity. For some, yoga or other forms of physical Body movement such as Tai Chi or dance may play a large role. For others, communing with Nature is Communion with Divinity and will act as the catalyst for intimate connection with the Divine. For me, Meditation and Mindfulness play a large role in achieving Equanimity. This is the equivalent to Communion for me.
At first there may be a path of acknowledging and working towards the removal of barriers to Communion. This work might involve calming the mind (i.e. Meditation and Mindfulness) in addition to work in Self-Awareness and Healing. From there, we might go towards engaging any and all heart-opening elements, such as Gratitude.
Devotion, Faith, Humility and Surrender may also play a large role for many, since Communion is an act of joining with Divinity in Respect for what it is and in a manner that is not forced. These elements all foster a Yin-based acquiescence which facilitates the Divine union.
- Mindfulness, Meditation and the use of Prayers and Mantras are powerful tools towards Communion.
- Explore each of the Spiritual Elements so as to determine which best facilitate Communion for you.
- Pay attention on any issues of fear of intimacy and seek professional counseling for Healing and resolution.
- Develop listening and Empathy skills so as to be in tune and connected with others in conversation. Do not simply waiting for others to stop talking so you can speak.
- Make love with your intimate partner— without intercourse. Pay attention to connecting with breath and touch.
- Handwrite letters to loved ones with the intent of sincere connection.
- Find your tribe. Are there people in your life right now that lift you up and with whom you feel a deep, intimate connection? If so, acknowledge them in some way and make an effort to cultivate those relationships. If there is no one in your life like that, journal about what you ideal tribe would look like. What would these people look like, speak like, be like? Have fun in describing your tribe in a journal or notebook or draw a picture of who these people are.
- Do the physical practice of the yoga, especially the position of Child Pose.
I Value and Seek My Connection to the Divine.
I am pure Energy, Peace at this moment, Courageous and Willfully Present.
I know who I am; I am Humble and Grateful before the Universe.
I Am Connected with All; I am in Unity with the Divine; I seek Divinity in Everything I do.