Saturday, March 24, 2018

A Couple of Quotes for Today

     Your pondering-material for today:
Principles invite us to do something about the morass of contradictions in which we function morally.  Principles invite us to clean up our act, to become intolerant of moral laxity and compromise and cowardice and the turning away from what is upsetting: that secret gnawing of the heart that tells us that what we are doing is not right.  (Susan Sontag)
We must dissent from the fear, the hatred, and the mistrust.  We must dissent from a nation that buried its head in the sand, waiting in vain for the needs of its poor, its elderly, and its sick to disappear and just blow away.  We must dissent from a government that has left its young without jobs, education, or hope.  We must dissent from the poverty of vision and the absence of moral leadership.  We must dissent, because American can do better, because America has no choice but to do better.  (Thurgood Marshall)
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Saturday, March 17, 2018

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

May your joys be deep as the oceans,
Your troubles as light as its foam
And may you find  sweet peace of mind
Wherever you roam.

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Saturday, March 10, 2018

A Terrific Book, as an Overview, Part 2

     Last week I mentioned enjoying Eva Wong's Taoism: An Essential Guide.  I did find one section in the book very enlightening, even moving, because it gave the background to a ceremonial practice. Let me explain.

     On a Taoist altar in certain sects, there are six rows of items.  In the back is the icon of the deity, with a sacred lamp directly in front of that.  In front of the lamp are two candles; the one on the right representing the moon, and the one of the left representing the sun.  In front of those are three cups:  the center one holding uncooked rice, the one of the left holding water, and the one on the right contains tea.  In front of these are five plates of fruit of the following colors:  black, white, yellow, red and green, going from left to right.  Finally, in the very front is an incense burner.

     And here's what I didn't know: each thing has symbolic meaning.  The sacred lamp is the light of wisdom, the original spirit.  The two candles represent both the sun and moon in nature as well as the two eyes of the human body.  The three cups, one each of rice, water and tea, have correlations in the male/female duality.  Tea represents yin, or female energy, water represents yang, or male energy.  The rice symbolizes the union of these two energies.  (Is there a Twin Soul link here?)  The five plates of fruit correlate to the five elements in Chinese cosmology:  wood (green), fire (red), earth (yellow), metal (white), and water (black).  And in the very front, the incense burner represents the fire of refinement and purification.

     So this arrangement demonstrates in material form the essential teachings of Taoism.  Progressing backwards from the incense burner, one must undergo the fire of refinement, which then nourishes  the five elements in the body (the five plates of fruit); next, the male and female energies "copulate," that is, become one, a balanced, complete whole (the plate of rice).  This wholeness will shine in the eyes as a golden light (the sun and moon candles), and finally the individual unites with the original spirit (the sacred lamp).  Cool stuff.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

A Terrific Book, as an Overview

     I recently finished reading Taoism: An Essential Guideby Eva Wong, which is a terrific overview of Taoism.  I appreciated the fact that the author tried to explain all the various branches of Taoism, to cover their core tenets, and to give some essential philosophy or practices.  I especially liked how at the end of each chapter she offered additional resources if you were interested in researching that area in greater detail.

     After giving a history of Taoism, with its roots in shamanic practices in China, Wong then covers the various systems of Taoism.  Included in this section are chapters on magical Taoism, divinational Taoism, ceremonial Taoism, internal-alchemical Taoism, and action and karma Taoism.  Really interesting stuff!  Lastly, she presents an overview of some Taoist practices, such as some meditation techniques, how Taoists cultivate and strengthen the body, and certain rites and ceremonies.

     I read one reader's review, a complaint really, that the book doesn't go into enough detail.  I think the author did a fine job of presenting the essences of each practice.  If she had gone into a lot of detail, I don't think I could have lifted the resulted book!  For an overview, this book works well.  Recommended.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

'Tis the Month of Love, Part 4

     Every day is an opportunity to practice love, isn't it?  We have the mission of seeing God within every person we meet.  We have the mission of interacting with our fellow creatures in a holy manner.  We have the mission of treating our Earth Mother with reverence.

     Whatever your religious belief or philosophical viewpoint, we need to dig deeper and get to the essence of how to meet that mission.  Here are some thoughts:
Being a Christian does not mean hating or belittling the non-Christians.  Being a Muslim does not mean hating or belittling the non-Muslims.  Being an atheist does not mean hating or belittling the religious people.  In a civilized society, diversity in religious orientation should be the reason for celebration, not the cause for hatred and differentiation.  (Abhijit Naskar)
Skip religion and the politics, head straight for the compassion.  Everything else is a distraction.  (Talib Kweli)
Kindness is the mark of faith, and whoever has not kindness has not faith.  (Muhammad) 
     So, keep practicing love.  Every day.  For every person, place, or thing you meet.  It matters.

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Saturday, February 17, 2018

'Tis the Month of Love, Part 3

     So far we have focused on loving ourselves, on loving our partner if we have one, and this week, I'm going to ask you to focus on loving those around you.  That means the people that live next door, the ones in city hall, the ones from opposite political parties, and those from different religions. A tall order, I know.  Here's a wonderful quote from Kelsang Gyatso that may put things in a different perspective:
Normally we divide the external world into that which we consider to be good or valuable, bad or worthless, or neither . . . For example, our habitual way of categorizing people as friends, enemies, and strangers depending on how they make us feel is both incorrect and a great obstacle to developing impartial love for all living beings.  Rather than holding so tightly to our discriminations of the external world, it would be far more beneficial if we learned to discriminate between valuable and worthless states of mind.

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Saturday, February 10, 2018

'Tis the Month of Love, Part 2

     For this week, I'm going to have you focus on the love relationship in your life, if you have one.  If you don't, then please re-read last week's post and focus again on loving yourself.

     But if you do have a love relationship, then I ask that you focus on that person.  Really focus.  Pretend that you have just met and study his or her face, his or her words and the topics of discussion, how he or she spends their free time.  Try to learn things that you never knew before.  Ask questions.  Truly listen.

     Maybe you are in a relationship with someone who you have decided is not your Twin Soul.  That's OK.  The Universe has you in this relationship for a reason.  Learn to love the one you're with.

      But if the one you're with doesn't make you feel loved or cherished, or worse, makes you feel diminished or controlled, perhaps it's time to step back and focus on loving yourself enough to make some drastic changes.  That's OK, too.

     Whatever you do, direct your heart to the highest vibration of love that you can, and go from there.  You can't help but soar.

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