Love and light in Linden Hills

Lake Harriet Spiritual Community president Gary Persian: “We’re not scary. We’re just regular people.” Credit: Photo by Jim Walsh

On Passover and Easter Saturday, up the street from Sebastian Joe’s and the Heart of Tibet & Sky Door gift shop, Gary Persian stood outside the little church on the corner of 44th and Upton in Linden Hills as a steady stream of soul rubberneckers and browsers took in the third annual Conscious Living Expo at Lake Harriet Spiritual Community.  

“I’ve had people tell me, ‘I’ve lived in the neighborhood my whole life and I’ve never noticed the building before.’ So that tells me that people are waking up to this a little bit,” said Persian, president at LHSC, which bills itself as an untraditional church that gets by on “no scripture, rules, or judgment — just unconditional love.” “Some people think we’re too ‘woo-woo’ to come in here, and others see the church building and won’t come in because it’s a church. And that’s what the Conscious Living Expo is about: Bringing people in here and showing people we’re not scary. We’re just regular people.”

For seven hours Saturday, the cavalcade of alternative healers, naturalists, nutritionists, holistic health experts, shamans, yogis, electric car owners and various other path-less-taken followers spread the gospel of conscious living and what taking care of the planet, body, and self in times of chaos, war, and rapid social and cultural changes can mean to the rest of the tribe. One such forward-pressing business owner was John Kozak, who spent the day introducing all curious comers to BodySound, a new healing method/company that basically amounts to a reclining chair and headphones that induces an instant meditation state via body vibrations and new age music.

“You can’t address the big picture, but you can address each person individually, one person at a time, by raising their conscious awareness,” said Kozak, who has housed his BodySound practice in the church’s second floor since February. “And when that conscious awareness is increased, it’s going to increase people’s capacity for compassion, it’s going to increase their ability to empathize with those around them, it’s going to increase their own recognition of their own greater spiritual self and the fact that we really all are one.

“If you have an understanding that everything is one and we’re all in this together, it makes it really hard to operate in a way that encourages negative things in the world. If we can better express our true nature, it’s going to be better for ourselves, our community, and the world at large.”

The church that is now Lake Harriet Spiritual Community was built in 1916 and functioned for decades as a Methodist church. In the ’50s, it became a member of the Church of Divine Science, but lost the “church” part in the ’70s. The name was changed to Lake Harriet Spiritual Community it 2001, and these days the building — which is undergoing repairs and renovation through a new Kickstarter campaign — acts as an alternative health and spirituality center that houses a yoga studio, BodySound, meditation rooms, an organic foods-themed kitchen and more.

Saturday afternoon, the three floors were abuzz with all sorts of goodies and goodness. Panels included “Shape Shifting in 10 Simple Steps,” “Say Yes to Life with Meditative Movements,” “Balancing Your Brain,” “Unlimited Breath,” and “Celebrate & Energize.” One booth and business owner was Cheryl Downey, a retired hospice chaplain who trained as a shamanic practitioner and who currently works with people going through — sound familiar? — grief and loss.

“Grief and loss hits all of us, at some time; I think the fear that became our everyday reality after 9/11 really did a number on our sense of oneness, and I think that needs to be healed,” said Downey, whose business card reads “minister of sacred works.” “We’ve bought fear as a way of life rather than meeting the fear and releasing it, as difficult as that is. We don’t get any kind of encouragement to do that, and this kind of work encourages us to face fear.”

As a food truck in front of the church hawked natural foods and juices, out in the parking lot, several Car2Go and electric car owners extolled the virtues of fossil fuel-free living. As new electric car owner Tom Theis put it, “My old car used 18 barrels of oil, my electric car will use three barrels of oil. So how many problems have I just helped solve there?”

Difficult to say for sure, but spiritual times being what they are, with all sorts of nonsense and atrocities being done in the name of gods and organized religion and corporate medicine, the times may finally be catching up with LHSC.

“This place has been here for years, and we’ve never connected well with the neighborhood,” said Persian. “So many of the people in this area are progressive and into alternative energies, and all the area businesses are behind it this year. We just try to teach people about living consciously in every aspect of your life; it seems like everything bad that’s happening in the country now is because we’re distracted by things like the Kardashians and people not voting.

“We need to shake people up wake them up and say, ‘We can change things in this country if you just pay attention and do it.’ ”

Jim Walsh lives and grew up in East Harriet. He can be reached at [email protected]