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Rev. Nelson is a life coach and ordained minister. She can be reached by e-mail at RevJillNelson --at-- or through her website at Don Ross is the Queen Bee of Heresy, webmaster of his interfaith and, a GLBT business directory . You can email Don at Don --at-- Both serve on the Board of Directors at the A. Austin Amerine Retreat Center in Lake County. To learn more about AAARC, subscribe to our newsletter On Board the AAARC (join below).

Only When the Earth Moves

Copyright by the Rev. Jill Nelson and Don Ross of the Amerine Retreat Center, August 2007.
This article was written for's Spirituality column.

Eavesdrop on a conversation between Don (neo-pagan Buddhist) and Jill (progressive Christian) as they chat about Queer Spirituality. Both are Board Members of the A. Austin Amerine Retreat Center in Lake County.

[Jill] Just a little more then a week ago I returned from a family vacation to the big island of Hawaii. After all the unpacking was done and the work all caught up, say about 4 days ago, I realized that Don and I hadn’t yet decided what to write about. As we were discussing possible topics, Don innocently (not sure he is capable of that, but anyway…) asked, “So, did you have any spiritual experiences in Hawaii that we can talk about?” Hummm… where should I start?

Should I start with the earthquakes or the hurricane that happened while we were there? Or with the three days we spent snorkeling with sea turtles? Let’s start with the sea turtles. I would wake up with the sunrise, sit on the deck and sip my coffee as the sea turtles would pop their heads up just 20 feet away in the channel. I could hear them snort each time they surfaced- and it was, well spiritual. Then there was my first ever scuba dive experience. And I must say that there is something about being completely out of your natural element (air) that really shifts reality. And of course we traveled to the top of Kilauea, home of Pelé the Hawaiian volcano goddess so that I could offer up a lei, which is said to appease her and keep her from erupting. If that isn’t a spiritual experience, I sure don’t know what would be. In fact as I reflect on my time there and this whole idea of having spiritual experiences, I find myself wondering- what exactly constitutes a spiritual experience? Is it context? Is it mental state? Or are all those just artificial barriers when in reality every moment is a spiritual experience whether we realize it or not? Does the breath of God flow only when we notice, or does it flow like Pelé’s lava fingers whether you feel it or not?

[Don] Oh Pelé! Goddess of Volcanic Flows! When we were on the Big Island with your wife a few months ago, we too offered our leis into the mouth of Kilauea on the day of Deb’s pastoral installation. It was fabulous. Wind caught each lei as it was offered up, spinning in the air, gently floating into her craterous mouth (see photo).

Surely such moments spiritually soar over other moments; times when it seems like we can touch the mind of God, or perhaps snatch a whiff of Plumeria flowers from Pelé’s lei? Can this moment of Oneness ever truly last forever? Or is such an elevated state only possible in the afterlife?

I believe that this is one part of what all the great mystics of humanity have taught. Have faith that step by step, moment by moment, to bring forth an awareness of the integrated nature of Reality is possible with our intentional thoughts, words and deeds. It is not always easy, but it’s possible. Do good. Refrain from evil. Polish the mind. Such at least is my approach to practice the Buddha way.

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