"Being ecstatic means being flung out of your usual self. When you are enraptured, your senses are upright and saluting."
— Diane Ackerman in The Moon by Whale Light
People get ready. The Keeneys are back and they are all revved up and ready to go. They have the energy, the might, and the reverence for Mystery and Spirit to serve as our guides to "the pinnacle spiritual experience that renders you unable to resist shouting, singing, and dancing with joy."
They have come to make a soulful commotion!
They have come to introduce people from every religious and spiritual tradition to ecstatic experiences.
Hillary Keeney and Bradford Keeney are the founders of The Keeney Institute for Healing and authors of Way of the Bushman, Seiki Jutsu, and Circular Therapeutics: Giving Therapy a Healing Heart. This new book is a collaborative synthesis of the spiritual work they have been doing around the world through workshops, intensives, and a mentorship program. Their institute (www.keeneyinstitute.org) is dedicated to the development and dissemination of ecstatic healing and spirituality.
Over the years, they have been invited to join and lead ceremonies on the Kalahari dance ground, the seiki benches of old Japan, the praise houses of the Caribbean, and the holiness black churches of America. What do all these places have in common: they are arenas where people set their souls on fire.
We need these experiences, write the Keeneys. They would agree with Drew Leder who writes in Sparks of the Divine that many of us suffer from a syndrome endemic in modern society: Ecstasy Deficiency Disease (EDD). A good way to address this problem is to bring what the Keeneys call "greater immensity to your life, to release you from any small room bondage and place you upon vast sacred ground." In one suggested exercise, they invite you to "the big room, vast sea, and infinite mystery" of the Kalahari Desert in Africa. "If you wish to set your soul on fire, become spiritually cooked, and quench your greatest thirst, know that you must mystically walk on Kalahari sand." Here's how:
"First, go procure some sand. You will need a little less than a cupful. Spread some of it on the top of a table or surface area that is near your bed. Place your matchbox on this sand while saying out loud, 'In the big room this is sacred ground.' Each morning when you wake up, place the tiniest pinch of sand inside each shoe. Pray a heartfelt request to be in the big room, such as 'Precious Lord, take my hand and bring me home to the big room.' Then walk each step that day as if you are walking in the Kalahari. You truly are if your room is big enough for First Creation to make it so. Remind yourself that since the universe may be found in a single grain of sand, you are unquestionably walking upon the infinite. It's time you mentally appreciate, mystically activate, and ecstatically celebrate the sacred shifting sand — the changing of First Creation — upon which you walk."
Sacred Ecstatics reverences the Great Mysteries and challenges us to each find our rope to God, to sing our own special song, and to move our feet. The Keeneys lay out the three steps on this transformative spiritual path:
- Building Sacred Ground
- Getting Spiritually Cooked
- Reentering the Everyday
Anything can happen when we enter the big room where sacred ecstasies bloom. Turn up the spiritual temperature like Teresa Avila did and you might even feel spry enough to do some somersaults. (Yitzhak Buxbaum in his book Jewish Tales of Mystic Joy writes: "The Baal Shem Tov learned love of God from a shepherd who did somersaults. Some of the early Hasidim, in their ecstatic joy did somersaults for God during worship.")
The Keeneys offer accounts of their dreams and visions which have taken them to "spiritual classrooms." Often they have been gifted with sacred songs, witnessed the anointing of teachers, and received a special spiritual object. They offer advice on discerning when such experiences are authentic.
Given how often they use music in their workshops (Brad is a skilled jazz pianist) and videos, it's interesting to read this: "What is forgotten in non-ecstatic traditions is that spiritual sensing is primarily felt. What you feel is primary, followed by sound and smell, with vision being of lesser importance. In the big room of mystery hearing a song is more valued than seeing an image." The Keeneys have created an eclectic playlist of songs that are so spiritually charged that they magically speak to people who listen to them. Some of these songs have even proven able to softened hearts and work wonders on those who need healing.
In the Epilogue, Bradford Keeney describes himself as a mystic, shaman, healer, improvisational performer, creative teacher, mystery preacher, and formal scholar. Hillary Keeney's background and experience brings to their creative work social activism, dancing, singing, art, mystical gifts, teaching tools, Zen Buddhism, women's studies, qualitative research, and interdisciplinary scholarship.
We've learned from the Keeneys that no "one-size fits all" in the spiritual life. Many seekers assume that the practice of spirituality involves regular periods of meditation, quiet prayer, and calming down in order to invite God into their lives. But shaking, trembling, and other ecstatic experiences are also time-proven ways to sense the presence of God. If you have not considered this possibility, let the Keeneys be your enthusiastic and empowering guides. They come from a long lineage, which they acknowledge at the end of the book: "We bow and shout with deepest respect to honor all the spiritual scouts and explorers who previously walked, climbed and danced upon the holy trail, leaving footprints and tracks for everyone's lasting return."