Saturday, December 9, 2017

A Recent Encounter, Part 2

     After I found the house where the blasting radio was, I slowed my car and stopped in front of the man's driveway.  He was dreamily wiping down his pick-up truck, obviously intent on listening to the radio host's diatribe.  I rolled down my car window and tried to get his attention.  "Um, sir?  Uh, hello?  Hi there -- sir?"  That went on for over a minute, and although my car was blocking his driveway, he was completely oblivious to me.

     So, I turned off my car and got out.  Took a deep breath.  Slowly and calmly walked toward the man.  (Why didn't I take the time to change into better clothes?)  I was about six feet away from him, and stopped to try to get his attention.  Spoke again.  Waved.  Waved some more.  So I approached another foot or two.  Finally, the man noticed me.  He frowned and reached over to turn down the radio.

     "Um, hi.  I was wondering if you would mind please turning down your radio?  I can hear it from inside my house on the next block."

     A grunted, "Really?"

     "Yes, it's really loud and I was wondering if you could turn it down."

     Another guttural "Really?"  He was emoting annoyance and some of the anger he had absorbed from the radio show.

     "Yes, sir, I was just asking for a little peace in our neighborhood.  It would be nice if you could turn the radio down, please.  I appreciate it."  I could tell I had overstayed my unwelcome, so I turned on my heel and left.  He muttered something that included an overused profanity, and I muttered back (I'm not proud to say), "Same to you, buddy."  And with that, I left.

     But during the last part of the exchange, I noticed something.

     To be continued . . .

   

Saturday, December 2, 2017

A Recent Encounter

     A few weeks ago, during a beautiful, balmy morning here in the Southwest, I was enjoying a cup of coffee in my kitchen while our four-legged babies were watching the butterflies flit around in the back yard.  Suddenly, the peace was shattered by the sound of someone's radio blasting some angry talk show.  You know the kind -- the male voice ranting about this tragedy or that injustice and how the world is all going to hell and he's angry about it and you should be, too.  Even though the radio was located a block away, I could hear every angry word from inside my house.

     And it made me angry, too.

     Not because I agreed with the radio host, but because I felt his anger and fear and outrage and it felt like someone was hitting me repeatedly in the gut.  It was making me feel overwhelmed and physically sick.  My peace was demolished.

     So what did this empath do?  I got in my car and went to find out who was blasting that noise.

     To be continued . . .

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Are You an Empath? Part 2

     Last week I was listing the characteristics of an empath that Dr. Judith Orloff describes in reference to her book, The Empath's Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People.  How did you rate?  Did some characteristics resonate more than others for you?  Well, here are the remaining descriptions of an empath.  Let's see how you do.
  • Are you afraid of becoming suffocated by intimate relationships?
  • Do you startle easily?
  • Do you react strongly to caffeine or medications?
  • Do you have a low threshold for pain?
  • Do you tend to isolate yourself socially?
  • Do you absorb other people's stress, emotions, or symptoms?
  • Do you get overwhelmed by multi-tasking, or prefer to do one thing at a time?
  • Do you need a long time to recuperate after being with difficult people or energy vampires?
  • Do you feel better in small cities or the country rather than in large cities?
  • Do you prefer one-to-one interactions or small groups over large gatherings?
     While I haven't read Dr. Orloff's book (yet), it sounds like it would be very helpful even if you are only somewhat empathic.  The book has great reviews!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Are You an Empath?

     A while ago I received an email in promotion of Dr. Judith Orloff's online course to supplement her book, The Empath's Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People.  In the email, she sent a link to take a quiz to measure whether one is an empath.  No surprise to me, the results showed I am a "strong empath."  How about you?  Here are the first ten characteristics of an empath that she lists:
  • Do you find you need to replenish yourself in nature?
  • Do you often feel overwhelmed or anxious?
  • Have you ever been labeled overly sensitive, shy, or introverted?
  • Do you become ill from yelling or arguments?
  • Do you feel like you don't really fit in?
  • Do crowds drain you?  Do you need time along to revive yourself?
  • Do you feel overwhelmed by noise, odors, or nonstop talkers?
  • Do you have chemical sensitivities or a low tolerance for scratchy clothes?
  • Do you prefer taking your own car to places in case you want to leave early?
  • Do you overeat (or engage in other addictive coping mechanisms) to cope with stress?
     This book may be for you.  We'll continue with our quiz next week.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

An Interesting Quote

     A couple of weeks ago I was promoting The Second Book of the Tao By Stephen Mitchell.  It's a good book, certainly worth reading.

     The author, in an endnote, was comparing the sentiment found on bumper stickers which states, "If you're not offended, you're not paying attention" with Taoist philosophy.  Here is his version of that bumper sticker, with a Taoist spin:

     "If you don't notice that greed, hatred, and ignorance cause great suffering in the world, and if you're not moved to end the suffering, you're not paying attention."

     Hear, hear.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

A Good Second Book

     Lately I've been re-reading an old friend, The Second Book of the Tao By Stephen Mitchell.  Mr. Mitchell also translated the Tao Te Ching, which is how I became familiar with his work.  While he readily admits that he does not read or speak Chinese, he promotes the idea that his translations are in keeping with the spirit of Taoism.

     I really liked his first book, the Tao Te Ching.  The Second Book of Tao is also good, with the translations coming across as witty and instructive.  But I think it may be hindered in the fact that Mitchell also included some parables and poems from the Zen Buddhist tradition.  To my mind, Taoism and Buddhism do have some subtle differences.  Also, his comments, while helpful in some instances, sometimes come across as a little erudite.  Maybe it's me.  Still, it's a worthwhile book, especially if you are interested in learning more about the Taoist tradition.


Saturday, October 14, 2017

Some Thoughts for Today

Here are a couple of quotes to ponder:

     "Seven billion of us -- and counting -- are all "activists," because we're actively shaping our world.  The only question is:  Are we conscious activists, or unconscious activists?  We see the results of unconscious activism all around us.  Virtually every problem is caused by unconscious choices being made over and over and over again.  To compound the problem, certain people want the rest of us to be unconscious, because they benefit hugely from it. 

    "It's impossible not to make a difference.  Every choice we make leads either toward health or toward disease; there's no other direction.  The question is not "How can I, one person, make a difference?"  The questions is "What kind of difference do I want to make?"  (Julia Butterfly Hill)

==============

     "As you come to know the seriousness of our situation -- the war, the racism, the poverty in the world -- you come to realize that it is not going to be changed just by words or demonstrations.  It's a question of risking your life.  It's a question of living your life in drastically different ways."  (Dorothy Day)

 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

A Small but Powerful Resource

     They say that sometimes good things come in small packages.  It is true in a book I recently read, Celtic Wisdom Book (Book in a Box).  It is part of the "book in a box" series, and the small box contains both a tiny (less than 3 1/2" square) book as well as some totem animal cards.  I have a few other books on Celtic spirituality, but none quite as informative and specific as this one.  Plus, it comes with a pronunciation guide, since the Celtic language, to me, doesn't sound like it looks on paper.

     I especially enjoyed the detailed explanations of the seasonal celebrations in the Celtic calendar.  Matthews does a commendable job of giving the history of the seasons, the animals and winds that are typical of those times, and some ideas of how to celebrate these seasons in a small gathering.  It's very useful.

     It comes with a small deck of totem animal cards which can be used for personal insights and divination.  The last chapter in the book explains the meanings of the different animals and how they may be relevant in your life.  Highly recommended.


Saturday, September 30, 2017

Another Challenging Quote

     Here's another quote to challenge us to act in these challenging times:

     "The question is whether or not you choose to disturb the world around you, or if you choose to let it go on as if you had never arrived."  From Ann Patchett, a writer.

     Let's work for a better world.

(illustration courtesy of pixabay.com)


Saturday, September 23, 2017

A Challenge for Us All

Here's a quote which speaks to us all:

     "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 timeless absence of moral leadership.  We must dissent, because America [or any country] can do better, because America [or any country] has no choice but to do better."  From Thurgood Marshall, U.S. Supreme Court Justice (1908-1993).

     Certainly has relevance for our times, doesn't it?

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Some Insights into Rumi, Part 2

     Last week we were discussing how Rumi, the 13th century Persian mystic, found in Twin Soul in Shams of Tabriz, but later had similar spiritual companionship in two others.  How can a person have more than one Twin Soul?
 
     I believe that Shams was indeed Rumi's Twin Soul, and in that profound awakening, he discovered the union we all have with the One, whom he called the Friend.  Once that happened, Rumi's soul opened up and he recognized that we are all part of the One as drops of water are all a part of the sea.

     I think that Salah and Husam, Rumi's later spiritual companions after Shams' death, embodied that recognition and he celebrated that in his later poetry.

     Perhaps that is the purpose of any true Twin Soul relationship: to awaken us to our soul's connection not only with our other half, but to the divine and indeed to all in the All.  Enjoy this:

     "If you are me and I am you,
      What is this separation between you and me?
      We are the light of God, we are God's mirror.
      So why do we struggle with ourselves and with one another?"


Saturday, September 9, 2017

Some Insights on Rumi

     If you have been following this blog for very long, you know that I am a huge fan of the 13th century mystic, Rumi.  His poetry fills me like cool water on a hot day.

     It was in Rumi's poetry that I found the Twin Soul concept spelled out in beautiful language.  For example:

     "More and more awake, getting up at night,
      spinning and falling with love for Shams."

Or:

     "When union happens, my speech goes inward,
      toward Shams.  At that meeting
      the secrets of language are no longer secret."

Or:

     "Why should I seek?  I am the same as
      He.  His essence speaks through me.
      I have been looking for myself!"

     But I've long been curious as to why, after finding his Twin Soul in Shams of Tabriz, Rumi later talks about two other companions in similar language.  After the death of Shams, he found a new companion in the goldsmith Salah, and after Salah's death, his companion became Husam, who was his student and scribe.  Here is a poem fragment about Husam:

     "Husam, when my spirit completely recognizes yours,
      they recall our being one."

     Is it possible to have more than one Twin Soul?  Or did Rumi discover another spiritual truth?

     More on that next week.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

An Oldie But Goodie

     Once in a while it's good to visit an old friend and see with new eyes what attracted you in the first place.  So it is with Michael Garrett's Walking on the Wind: Cherokee Teachings for Harmony and Balance.  I pulled it off the shelf a little while ago and enjoyed walking with the author for a while.  Ancient wisdom bears repeating.

     Garrett is from the Easter Band of Cherokees.  His father was inducted into the knowledge of using plants for healing, and passed on the reverence for the natural world to his son.  The book reveals that with every page.  It reminded me again how very disassociated our society is from the natural world from which we came.  Do I consider the plants that I tread on?  Do I thank the plants and animals and minerals which provide me with food, healing, or shelter?  Do I live in a state of awareness of my natural surroundings and in deep gratitude for what I receive?  This book instills the importance of those virtues.  A wonderful read.


Saturday, August 26, 2017

Something I Don't Normally Do

     I know from experience that channeling can by misleading in some cases.  I look at channeling as if information is coming from the Universe (hopefully) through a funnel, in this case, the person who is channeling.  The information is only as pure as the funnel.  A tainted funnel will give you information that could be misleading, at best.

     That is why I don't normally recommend channeled information.  However, there is one site that has a weekly vlog (video blog) by Patricia Cota-Robles.  Her messages are uniformly positive, helpful, and encouraging.  You can check out her website here. 

     I know that there are quite a few videos that she has posted.  However, I strongly recommend that you start with the first video and work sequentially from there.  Each video presents teaching that builds on the last video, and to skip one or several would be to miss important parts of the message.  After you have done that, you can sign up for links to her weekly vlogs.

     If you want to make sense of what is happening in our world, if you want to learn how to overcome your own bad habits and negativity, and how to transform yourself and your world, you would do well to check it out.

(photo courtesy of pixabay.com)

Monday, August 21, 2017

Some Thoughts on the Eclipse

     If you live in North America, did you skip your normal obligations and sneak a peek at the solar eclipse?  It was something, wasn't it?  Other than the fact that this is a relatively rare event, I think it was important for other reasons.

     Remember that the sun represents the male principle and the moon represents the female.  Having the moon cover the sun, even for a short while, represents to me the idea that the female principle is on the ascendancy.  It comes at a good time.

     Second, tonight is also the start of the new moon cycle, where the moon will gradually gain strength in the night sky.  To me, that underscores the resurgence of the female principle.

     And third, the days are getting shorter and the nights longer as we head toward fall and winter.  Again, the female principle is gaining power.

     What does this mean for us?  Well, for too long, the male principle has been dominant.  It is shown in tribalism, exclusionary actions, rankism, predatory behavior, greed, and detachment from our Earth Mother and her creatures.  Perhaps you can think of at least one national leader who fits this description.  But before you point fingers too much, look at yourself.  Do any of your (or my) actions betray that attitude, even a little?

     It's time for all of us -- all of us -- to open our hearts and lives to the sacred feminine.  Welcome her in.  Let's achieve balance.  Our world needs it.

(photo courtesy of pixabay.com)

Saturday, August 19, 2017

"Again, Again, Again!"

     Have you ever been around a young child who really, really likes something?  What do they say?  "Again, again, again!"  They love the repetition and find the same delight in the activity the thousandth time as they did the first time.

     That was my reaction upon reading Derek Lin's The Tao of Daily Life: The Mysteries of the Orient Revealed The Joys of Inner Harmony Found The Path to Enlightenment Illuminated.  "Again, again!"  What a delightful and profound book.  I read through it once, and was so taken with its wisdom that I immediately started over again.  I typically read one chapter before going to bed, and it is a wonderful way for Taoist philosophy to seep into the unconscious mind.

     Each chapter tells a story from the Taoist tradition, or quotes from the Tao Te Ching (but without citing the sources -- a pet peeve!) and then Lin expounds and explains how it relates to everyday life.  Unpretentious, helpful, wise writing.  Get this book.


Saturday, August 12, 2017

A Good Book, But . . .

     Have you ever been excited to read a book and then discovered it wasn't what you expected?  It's not the author's fault, necessarily, but more the result of unfounded expectations on the reader's part.

     And so it was for me with Jack Angelo's Self-Healing with Breathwork: Using the Power of Breath to Increase Energy and Attain Optimal Wellness.  It's a good and useful book, don't get me wrong, but I was really expecting something else.  I think I read the description online and thought it would be about the breathing techniques of various spiritual traditions, with background and context, for the purpose of healing.  Except for a couple of cases, that is not so.

     Mainly, Angelo presents various breathing exercises as they pertain to connecting with the Universe or to your environment, and for filling up and healing the chakras.  That is all good, and I found a few useful practices.  But, secretly, I was a little disappointed.  It's me, it's totally me.  You may find this book worth having.  Explore and decide for yourself.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Some Trippy Thoughts

     Last week I was gushing about the wonderful book by Claire North, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August.  Although mentioned in the book only briefly, I think it explores the concept of parallel universes.  I'm no physicist, but my understanding of this is that every possibility creates a new reality, a new universe.  So, if I choose to go left on Tuesday at 10:17 a.m. in one life, and choose to go right in another version of that life, that creates two parallel universes.  At least, that's my understanding of it.

     Then, it struck me -- aren't the idea of Twin Souls also a form of parallel universes?  In this life, I choose to be female, while another part of my essential soul chooses to be male (or, at least, not the same female) and live at the same time in history.

     And if we are just drops of one ocean, aren't each one of us a part of a greater Soul which chooses to be male here and female there and living in this country or that country, at this time or another . . . In other words, aren't we all having parallel life experiences, as part of this greater Soul?  Whoo, trippy.

(image courtesy of pixabay.com)


Saturday, July 29, 2017

A Heart-Pounder, Part 2

    Last week I was extolling the mind-blowing plot line of Claire North's The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August.  Can you imagine having to live your life over and over, making different choices, having to hide who you really were, and then finding yourself in a race to save the world from premature destruction?  That's why it's a heart-pounder.

     But it's also philosophical in places.  Here's a quote:
     When I am optimistic, I choose to believe that every life I lead, every choice I make, has consequence.  That I am not one Harry August but many, a mind flicking from parallel life to parallel life, and that when I die, the world carries on without me, altered by my deeds, marked by my presence.
     Then I look at the deeds I have done and, perhaps more importantly considering my condition, the deeds I have not done, and the thought depresses me, and I reject the hypothesis as unsound.
     What is the point of me?
     Either to change a world -- many, many worlds, each touched by the choices I make in my life, for every deed a consequence, and in every love and every sorrow truth -- or nothing at all.
     Delicious stuff.  Highly recommended.
 
 
 


    

Saturday, July 22, 2017

A Heart-Pounder

     Have you ever read a book that you had to put down because your heart was pounding too much?  Well, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry Augustis just that sort of book. 

     It follows Harry August, who is a non-linear, meaning he keeps living the same life over and over.  He has the freedom within that life to make different choices, and eventually he finds that those choices include saving the world from premature destruction.  It's a mind-blower.

     Those of you with overreacting hearts, or a strong dislike to scenes of torture, you may wish to think twice before picking up this book.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Some Terrific Short Stories, Part 2

     Last week I was discussing Ted Chiang's terrific collection of short stories, entitled Stories of Your Life and Others.  It's a worthy read.

     I'd like to mention two other stories in this collection which I particularly enjoyed.  One was "Hell is the Absence of God," which takes the idea that God truly decides on whether to send your soul to Heaven or Hell depending on how devoted you are to Him, although Hell isn't such a horrible place.  It's just a place without God.  The story follows Neil, who just lost his wife in a horrible accident caused by a heavenly angel visiting Earth.  During these angelic visits, people can experience miraculous healing, or they can be injured or killed by earthquakes or other side-effects caused by these visits.  Neil is angry at God for killing his wife, who went to Heaven, and is afraid he will never be able to forgive God enough to love Him and be able to rejoin his wife in Heaven.  The story examines the problem of suffering, of the injustice of life, and the depths of love and loss.  Terrific.

     The second story I enjoyed immensely is "Liking What You See:  A Documentary."  It provides the text of an imagined documentary about a university voting on whether to require all students to undergo a minor surgical procedure in the brain, which induces calliagnosia.  This is a condition which renders the person unable to appreciate beauty in another person's face.  Some of the persons "interviewed" say that this condition then enables people to see beyond the surface and learn to appreciate others' gifts such as intelligence, humor, open-heartedness, and so on.  Others were against this measure because they believe it impedes the maturity one must develop in order to see beauty, but look past it.  While calliagnosia is currently in the realm of science fiction, it is an interesting concept.  Funny thing was, when I finished this story, I opened up a fashion magazine and was confronted with all these images of beauty.  It was interesting to note my own reaction.  Also terrific.

    

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Some Terrific Short Stories

     I don't know if you had the chance to see the movie Arrival, but if you haven't, run and do so.  Yes, run.

      But that isn't what this entry is about.

     It's about the short story upon which the movie was based, written by Ted Chiang.  Where can I find this story? you ask.  Let me tell you.  It's in a terrific collection of short stories entitled Stories of Your Life and Others.  Ted Chiang is clearly a gifted writer, who is not afraid to take an idea and examine all its logical ramifications.  It makes for some interesting reading.

     "Stories of Your Life" is the basis for the movie Arrival.  You know how you like the first thing you read or see, and then find yourself comparing the second thing to the first?  Well, I saw the movie first and then read the story and found myself comparing the two.  In this case, I liked the movie better because of its political and social commentary, but the story is great in its own way.  What I really appreciate about Chiang's writing is his emphasis on the human element, not just the plot or scientific details.  That part was carried over into the movie, which gave it its strength in my opinion.

     Do yourself a favor and get this book.  It's a great read.


Saturday, July 1, 2017

Happy Independence Day!

May we be free of fear.
May we be free of suffering.
May we be free of want.
May we be free of exclusivity.
May we be free of closed-mindedness.
May we be free of hostility
And embrace peace, tolerance, and justice
For all in this world.

Happy Independence Day.

(illustration courtesy of pixabay.com)


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Waxing into the Sacred Feminine

     With the summer solstice past, we now enter the time when the nights gradually get longer and longer until the time of the winter solstice.  In ancient cultures, this is the time when the sacred feminine, as represented by the night and the moon, increases in strength.  Let us welcome that sacred feminine -- her receptivity, her nurturing, her profound wisdom -- into our lives.

(illustration courtesy of pixabay.com)

Saturday, June 17, 2017

A Mind-Expanding Book, Part 2

     Last week I was extolling the wonders of Edward Slingerland's book Trying Not to Try: The Ancient Art of Effortlessness and the Surprising Power of Spontaneity.  Here are some quotes that might give you a taste:
I've argued in this book that the phenomena of wu-wei [effortlessness, flow, spontaneity] and de [the charismatic power that comes from being in that state] are central to human flourishing and cooperation.  The only reason we need to be told that is that recent Western thought has been so obsessed with disembodied rationality that embodied spontaneity -- along with the unique tensions it presents -- has fallen off the radar.  Thinking of moral perfection as a matter of following rules or calculating utility certainly simplifies things.  Reason carefully, throw in a bit of willpower, and you're done.  The problem is that this model is deeply wrong.  It's psychologically unworkable, given what we know about the way the human body-mind operates.  Moreover, it completely fails to reflect how we actually experience our lives.
. . . .
[Scientists] are coming to recognize that the sort of knowledge that we rely on most heavily is hot, emotionally grounded "knowing how" rather than cold, dispassionate "knowing that."  We're made for doing, not thinking.  This has significant implications for everything from how we educate people to how we conduct public debates, make public policy decisions, and think about our personal relationships.
. . . .
Our modern conception of human excellence is too often impoverished, cold, and bloodless.  Success does not always come from thinking more rigorously or striving harder.  In a world increasingly dominated by cram schools, treadmills (literal or otherwise), 24/7 connectivity, and punishing amounts of stress, seeing the world in terms of the power and grace of spontaneity can help us to make better sense of our work, our goals, and our relationships.
This is an important book.  Get it.

 
 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

A Mind-Expanding Book

     Every once in a while comes a book which puts everything into a new perspective.  Edward Slingerland's Trying Not to Try: The Ancient Art of Effortlessness and the Surprising Power of Spontaneity is just that book, at least for me. 

     Dr. Slingerland, professor of Asian studies at the University of British Columbia, walks the fine line between presenting the potentially dry philosophical history of Asian thought and irreverent humor.  I believe he widely succeeds.

     Slingerland discusses how we can achieve that feeling of flow -- the feeling that things are effortless, without too much thought, that results in bliss and satisfaction.  He then details how the ancient Chinese philosophers sought to achieve that effortlessness -- either by training the self through strict adherence to the Way as in Confucianism, by throwing off societal expectations and following the natural self as in Taoism, by reorganizing society along rational lines as the Mohists advocated, or to escape the domination of the conscious mind by listening to the qi as Zhuangzi taught. 

     In addition to explaining these lines of thought, Slingerland brings in relevant findings from the field of cognitive science and neurology, and peppers it with pithy stories from the ancients.

     This book helped explain why I've long been drawn to the simplicity of Taoism and had trouble with the five-this and eight-that of Confucianism and its relative, Buddhism (not to criticize -- it's just how my brain works, I guess).  Put into practice, this book is potentially life-changing.  Run, do not walk, and get this book.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

A Wonderful Book, Part 2

     Last week I was describing the scope of Thich Nhat Hanh's book For a Future to be Possible.  While he details the five mindfulness trainings as ethics codes of the highest ideals but realizes that we are human.  Here are a couple of quotes:
The direction of the Five Mindfulness Trainings is the direction of beauty, goodness, and truth.  To transform our collective consciousness into beauty, goodness, and truth, we move in that direction, as we would go in the direction of the sun.  We cannot climb onto the sun, and we don't need to.  To move in that direction is good enough.
And . . .
The situation of the world today is so violent and confused that for a future to be possible, not only individuals, but even nations need to take the Five Mindfulness Trainings.
     A highly recommended book.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

A Wonderful Book

     A while ago I was listening to an audio program on meditation and the author mentioned a book called For a Future to be Possibleby Thich Nhat Hanh.  It took me some time, but I finally bought the book and read a little bit every night before bed.  I found that it is dense, thoughtful writing that is best taken a little at a time. 

     The author, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Naht Hanh, takes each of the five mindfulness trainings to expound on what each training means.  He answers the questions:  What does it mean to be compassionate and not kill?  What does it mean to be kind and avoid causing suffering?  What does it mean to respect commitments and not engage in sexual misconduct?  What does it mean to speak truthfully and avoid speech that will cause hurt or discord?  What does it mean to ingest only healthful things and avoid things that will cause damage to the body, the mind, the soul, one's relationships, society, and the planet? 

     The author believes that our world is hanging in balance and that to avoid societal catastrophe, we need to reacquaint ourselves with the basics and commit to living by them. 

     [Just a word about the edition -- the only edition that I could find in print was a large-print version (hey, no reading glasses needed!).  If you hunt around you may find a different edition.]


Saturday, May 20, 2017

When I Pray

     Every day when I pray for the leaders of my country and the countries of our world, I always get an image in my mind of those leaders.  But that image isn't what you might expect.  It's not of famous people who grace the news every day.  It's not of wealthy business leaders who try to run more than their businesses.  It's not of religious leaders or philosophers, writers or singers, movie stars or celebrities.

     No, the image is of the common folk.  People like you and I.  We are the leaders of this world.

     Never forget that.  Never lose hope.  Keep leading. 

(image courtesy of pixabay.com)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

A Fabulous Book, Part 2

     Last week we were discussing the wonderful writer Mary Oliver and her newest collection of essays, Upstream: Selected Essays.  Here's a delicious quote that gives good insight into her impetus for writing:
Knowledge has entertained me and it has shaped me and it has failed me.  Something in me still starves.  In what is probably the most serious inquiry of my life, I have begun to look past reason, past the provable, in other directions.  Now I think there is only one subject worth my attention and that is the precognition of the spiritual side of the world and, within this recognition, the condition of my own spiritual state.  I am not talking about having faith necessarily, although one hopes to.  What I mean by spirituality is not theology, but attitude.  Such interest nourishes me beyond the finest compendium of facts.  In my mind now, in any comparison of demonstrated truths and unproven but vivid intuitions, the truths lose.
     Get this book. 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

A Fabulous Book

     Mary Oliver knows how to write.  She is a wonderful, insightful, and gifted poet.  She is also a terrific essayist, and her newest collection is another example of fabulous writing.  The book I'm talking about is Upstream: Selected Essays, which was published last year.

     Be aware that many of the essays were already published in previous collections, but there are a few new essays as well.  Still, if you would like to sample some of her best writing without buying a stack of books, this is a good place to start. 

     One reason that I've long loved her writing is that she finds the spiritual, the eternal, in the everyday.  She explains her love of the outdoors and why she finds such peace and perspective there.  If you've been a fan of her poetry, but would like to delve more deeply into the thinking behind her poems, this book is for you. 

    

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Just Wondering Aloud

     I wonder if people who killed would kill if they could feel the pain of their victim.

     I wonder if people who treat others as outsiders, who shun or act with prejudice, would do so if they could feel the others' pain.

     I wonder if people who deny the inherent equality of another's life would do so if they could themselves feel the pain of injustice.

     I wonder if people who abuse, torture, or neglect the defenseless would do so if they could feel the effects of their actions.

     I wonder if people who act as though their earthly home was just a thing to be exploited would do if they felt every pang that our Earth Mother and her children feel.

     I wonder if empaths are the next step in evolution or just remnants of some failing evolutionary line.  I wonder.

(photo courtesy of pixabay.com)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Balance

     Perhaps it is because I am a Libra, but I find the issue of balance to be key.  Take last week's rant, for example.  I was describing my belief that while we are spiritual beings having a human (bodily) experience, we can't deny either the spirit's or the body's reality.  Some religions do emphasize one or the other, but I believe that balance is necessary.

     To be more specific, we have a choice in how we live.  We can turn our back on everyday reality, become a hermit and cultivate spiritual perfection.  Or we can roll up our sleeves and fight to make the world better.  Or, we can maintain the delicate balance of keeping our spiritual perspective (that there is an ultimate Reality beyond this present one) while working to ease the pain and injustice in this world. 

     Let's recall Jesus' example.  Yes, he told his listeners to focus on the Kingdom of God within each one of us.  But then he would feed the hungry, heal the sick, and call out the hypocrites.  He balanced a spiritual perspective (Reality) while working to effect positive change in his immediate world (reality).

     Dear Reader, I believe that is our duty, now more than ever. 

     Or as Joseph Campbell said, "Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world." 

(image courtesy of pixabay.com)

Saturday, April 15, 2017

An Informative Book, Part 2

     Last week I was discussing Alan Cohen's book A Course in Miracles Made Easy: Mastering the Journey from Fear to Love, which explains the basic teachings of ACIM in an easy-to-read manner. 

     While reading, I found some good points that I could incorporate in to my life, but also was bothered by some things.  Perhaps it is the result of Cohen's need to pare down the enormous ACIM texts, but I felt it was missing some things.

     Here is a quote where I became most bothered:
End the world today by refusing to contribute to the pool of fear that has kept the world of sorrow in force.  End starvation by feeding your soul.  End war by ceasing the war against yourself.  It is your happiness, not your pain, that will save the world.  Misery has enough company. (p. 193)
     I had to think a long time before I understood why that bothered me.  I had to step back a bit and think about what viewpoints various religions teach.  Some religions stress good works and striving to make one's world a better place.  Others stress the unreality of this world and the reality of an ultimate Universe/One/Spirit.  Still others try to balance the two viewpoints.

     I think that ACIM tends to fall into the second camp, denying worldly reality while emphasizing the ultimate Reality.  Here's where I disagree.  Yes, you can spend your life achieving great spiritual insight and enlightenment, but if your neighbor is treated unjustly or your children's schoolmate goes hungry every night or your political leaders try to demonize ethnic groups or take away your rights, I think it a work of spiritual service to do something about it.  Your enlightenment won't ease their hunger or pain.  Your spiritual insights won't deter political shenanigans.  Maybe it is my empathic nature speaking, but I don't know how you can find peace when your silence allows violence and injustice to continue. 

      It's something to think about.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

An Informative Book

     Perhaps you have heard of A Course in Miracles, a book espousing a system of new thought that was first published in 1976.  I once saw the book in a bookstore and thought it looked overwhelming long and I didn't have time to read through it all.  Still, my curiosity was piqued and I finally found a much shorter book which encapsulated the teachings of A Course in Miracles (ACIM).  Written engagingly by Alan Cohen, A Course in Miracles Made Easy: Mastering the Journey from Fear to Lovesatisfied my curiosity while leaving me with some food for thought.

     While providing information on the background of ACIM, Cohen also goes through the major lessons and philosophical points of ACIM.  Cohen's writing is easy to read and provides relevant examples related to the points he covers.  If you want to understand the basic tenets of ACIM without investing the large amount of time it takes to work through the original texts, Cohen's book is for you. 

     That said, I came away a little flummoxed and it took me a while to figure out why.  More on that next week.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

A Poem to Share

What We Need

The Emperor,
his bullies
and henchmen,
terrorize the world
every day

which is why
every day

we need

a little poem
of kindness,

a small song
of peace,

a brief moment
of joy.

David Budbill (1940-2016)


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Some Quotes to Share

     I love The Sun.  Do you read it?  It's a fabulous magazine that often touches my heart in such a way that I feel the same way after I have attended church or after a meditation session.  Highly recommended.

     One of my favorite parts of The Sun is the last page, called Sunbeams.  It lists quote after quote, all with a related theme.  Here are some of my favorites from a recent issue:
After a great blow, or crisis, after the first shock and then after the nerves have stopped screaming and twitching, you settle down to the new condition of things and feel that all possibility of change has been used up.  You adjust yourself, and are sure that the new equilibrium is for eternity . . . But if anything is certain it is that no story is ever over, for the story which we think is over is only a chapter in a story which will not be over, and it isn't the game that is over, it is just an inning, and that game has a lot more than nine innings.  When the game stops it will be called on account of darkness.  But it is a long day.  (Robert Penn Warren, All the King's Men)
I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.   (James Madison)
If we are ever in doubt what to do, it is a good rule to ask ourselves what we shall wish on the morrow that we had done.  (John Lubbock)
In a nation of millions, and in a world of billions, the individual is still the first and basic agent of change.  (Lyndon B. Johnson) 
 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

May there always be work for your hands to do,
May your purse always hold a coin or two.
May the sun always shine warm on your windowpane,
May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain.
May the hand of a friend always be near you,
And may God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.

Happy St. Patrick's day!

(illustration courtesy of pixabay.com)

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Happy New Year (a bit late)!

     Happy New Year!  Yes, I know it's nearly mid-March, but I realized that I had forgotten to wish you both happy Chinese New Year and happy Tibetan Lunar New Year. 

     The Chinese New Year started January 28 this year.  It is the year of the fire rooster.  People born this year (or in other fire rooster years such as 1957) are trustworthy, with a strong sense of timekeeping and responsibility at work.  They are active, social, talkative, and popular with people.  Among their shortcomings are the tendencies to be vain, arrogant, and a braggart about their achievements.  Interestingly, the Chinese calendar states that people born during rooster years may experience bad luck during the rooster year.

     The Tibetan Lunar New Year started February 27, and also celebrates the year of the rooster.  According to Philippe Cornu in his Tibetan Astrology, a rooster year "is an energetic but scattered year.  There are many opportunities, but concentration is necessary in order to enjoy their fruits.  On the global scale, there is political hardening and repression."

     That explains a lot, doesn't it? 

(photo courtesy of pixabay.com)

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Me and My Shadow, Part 3

     In the last post, we were discussing how we may be repelled by the events and personalities in our political sphere, but we need to recognize that they function as shadows of ourselves and our country.

     Capitalism and the American dream have shadow sides (see the list from the last post).  But what can we do about it?  Carl Jung gives us a hint:
To confront a person with his shadow is to show him his own light.  Once one has experienced a few times what it is like to stand judgingly between the opposites, one begins to understand what is meant by the self.  Anyone who perceives his shadow and his light simultaneously sees himself from two sides and thus gets in the middle.  (1959)
      I think what we need to do as individuals, and as a country, is to look at both what we value in the ideal (justice, equality, equal opportunity, valuing each person, caring for earthly home, etc.) and what is manifested as its shadow (ego, possessiveness, devaluing others and using them, competition, focusing on the short-term, abusing the environment, and so on).  By saying, "Yes, both parts are who we are right now" is a good first step.  The next step, I believe, is to ask, "What do we want ourselves, and our country, to become?"

     Once we focus on that question, I think the answers will guide who we elect, how we treat others in our country, how we treat the Earth, how we educate our young, and what we choose to spend our money on. 

     We have work to do.

(photo courtesy of pixabay.com)


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Me and My Shadow, Part 2

     Last time we were discussing how the events in the political realm over the last few months, as painful and abhorrent as they may be, are aspects of our shadow self.  Jung described the shadow self as that part in us which we don't recognize until we see that our projections on others are merely manifestations of ourselves.  We see in others what we don't like in ourselves.  As Jung wrote:
A man who is unconscious of himself acts in a blind, instinctive way and is in addition fooled by all the illusions that arise when he sees everything that he is not conscious of in himself coming to meet him from outside as projections upon his neighbor.  ("The Philosophical Tree", 1945).
     I would like to take this a step further and submit the idea that our country has a shadow side.  We value capitalism and business success, don't we?  Isn't that the American dream -- to make it big?  But what is the shadow side of that?  How about:
  • greed
  • competitiveness
  • doing anything (including abandoning a moral code) to win
  • looking at others as winners or losers, not as fellow humans
  • using people, not valuing them
  • measuring one's value by external means (money, possessions, etc.) rather than by one's character 
  • focusing on short-term gains rather than the benefit of future generations
  • seeing Nature as something to be exploited rather than cherished and taken care of
I'm sure you could add to that list as well.  But, the question awaits, what can we do about it?

     More on that next time. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Me and My Shadow

     My reaction to the political events of the last few months has left me with a serious taste of rotten kibble in my mouth.  How about you?  Do you feel like either hiding for the next four years, or wearing black every day until the next election, or moving to another country, or standing in the street and protesting?  Do you feel this internal sense of pushing away what is going on in our world?

     I think that many in our country right now experience these feelings to a greater or lesser extent.  Sadly, the truth is that pushing away is resistance in its purest form and won't make the problem go away.  Remember?  Resistance creates resistance, and both sides become more entrenched and stronger.  Yelling at your enemy only creates a lot of noise.  It won't change any one's mind.

     This brought me to Carl Jung's concept of the shadow.  Here's a quote Jung's Aion (1951):
The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort.  To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real.  This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.
 Ouch!  You mean the ego-displays we see in our political realm, with the need to be right, the dominating energy, the intense feeling of competition and so on -- all that is in me

     Well, yes, it is in all of us.  And once we see it displayed in such a public manner, we realize that we have some work to do.

     I know that I certainly do.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day

Wishing you

a very happy

Valentine's Day.

(image courtesy of pixabay.com)


Saturday, February 4, 2017

Balancing the Male and Female Energies, Part 3

       We have been discussing how to bring balance to ourselves and to our world, after centuries of male-energy dominance.  Here's a thought to grab onto:
We must embody the change we want to see.
     If we think of male energy as fire, we need to act as water. 

     When we see aggression, we take a stand as peacemakers. 

     When we see control and manipulation, we live for truth and work for equality. 

     When we see callous disregard for our environment or the weakest in our society, we act with justice, compassion and nurturing. 

     When we see exclusion, we include. 

     By living the life we want to see, we become leaders of a better tomorrow.  Hopefully, this latest incarnation of male-energy dominance will prove to be a last gasp of that kind of imbalance. 

     Meanwhile, embody the change you want to see. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Balancing the Male and Female Energies, Part 2

     Last week we discussed how our world is currently experiencing an overwhelming resurgence in the male-energy dominance.  We left with the question of what can be done about it.

     I'd like you to hold this thought:  From the one, the many.

     Who would have thought, fifty or sixty years ago, that we would ever see gays legally allowed to marry?  Back then, even European-Americans and African-Americans could not marry.  Yet, a few individuals held the thought that all should be treated equally under the law, and it has come to pass.

     Who would have thought, fifty or sixty years ago, that people of color would ever be treated as equals and be allowed to fulfill their potential, even becoming social and political leaders?  Yet, a few individuals held the thought that people of color could be treated equally, as it has come to pass.

     Who would have thought, fifty or sixty years ago, that women could take roles of leadership in businesses or countries?  Yet, a few individuals held the thought that women should be treated equally, and it has come to pass.

     These few individuals held those thoughts, and by allowing their lives to be led by those thoughts, changed the thoughts of many, many people. 

     From the one, the many. 

     Dear Reader, you are one of the ones.  The thoughts you hold, the thoughts that give your life direction, can and will change the world. 

    

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Balancing the Male and Female Energies, Part 1

     Like many of you, I have been taken utterly by surprise by the strong resurgence of male energy in our political leadership.  Before you think I'm saying that as a compliment, please keep reading. 

     This site is devoted to the union of the male and female energies, as represented by the concept of Twin Souls.  I've also long said that we must balance our internal male and female energies before we can be united with our Twin Soul.  And as we balance our male and female energies, our society will reflect that and our world will heal (that was part of the promise of the 2012 prophecies).

     Our society is woefully unbalanced, with too much male energy.  Here is a list of what describes male and female energies:

Masculine Energy
doing
aggression
analytical
concrete
impatient
movement
striving
rushing
assertive
left brain
thrusting
organizing
logical
busy
hard
controlling
individuality
expression
Feminine Energy
being
surrender
intuitive
abstract
patient
stillness
tranquil
nurturing
receptive
right brain
receiving
synthesizing
creative
calm
soft
allowing
unity
silence
(

    Currently, our country is being led by a prime example of male energy.  In fact, our world has been male-energy dominant for centuries.  Witness the results:  wars, famine, pollution, inequality, disenfranchisement, overwork, racial and economic injustice. 

     What can be done?  More on that next week.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Resistance is Futile, Part 2

     In less than a week, our country will have a new leader and a new direction.  I, like many of you, feel a deep sense of foreboding about this change, and have been at a loss about what to do.

     As we discussed last week, resistance is futile because of a fundamental truth:
Resistance breeds resistance.
     So, if we shouldn't resist, what is the best response?

     I see it as threefold: 
  • Understanding
  • Standing our ground
  • Educating through how we live our lives
     First, we need to understand that a large portion of our country, and even our world, feels under-represented by the government, fears the changing demographics in our society, and worries about how the economy of the past no longer serves them in the present.  They worry about the many changes they see, and worry about how they will provide for their families.  These are understandable points of view. 

     Second, we need to learn to articulate our point of view without becoming argumentative.  Remember that resistance breeds resistance, so act with compassion and an open heart.  When we start to engage our emotions in the debate, it becomes a shouting match and both sides lose.  State your position with compassion (not an easy task, I know).  When you hear of a factoid from the fake-news machine, state the truth.  Do not allow falsehoods to go on uncontested. 

     Third, we need to walk our talk.  Do you believe in certain causes?  Then, donate time or money.  (Some of these causes might include women's rights, racial justice, environmental protection, animal welfare, and so on).  Call or write your governmental representative if you see a proposal that you disagree with.  Act with justice and compassion.  Show kindness.  Help in the evolution of society. 

     It takes all of us, each individual, to do our part and show a better way.  We have work to do.
 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Resistance is Futile

     Ever since November 9th, when I read the morning headlines and felt like the air had been sucked out of the room, I've been thinking over how to respond to the news. 

     My first response was dread, then anger.  I wanted to fight back, but how?  I thought of posting several cutting remarks, such as: 
What is the definition of kakistocracy?  Government by the least qualified or worst persons.  Ka-pow!
     Or:
"Remember, when the judgment's weak, the prejudice is strong."  (Kane O'Hara, 1711-1782)  Zowie!
     Or:
 "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."  (Voltaire, 1694-1778)  Take that!
     Or: 
"Do we need weapons to fight wars?  Or do we need wars to create markets for weapons?"  (Arundhati Roy, b. 1961)  Hai-yah!
     Or: 
"No drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society.  If we're looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn't test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed, and love of power."  (P.J. O'Rourke, b. 1947)  Whammo!
     Or:
"There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been.  The string of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'"  (Isaac Asimov, 1920-1992)  Gotcha!
      And while that may feel really, really good, resistance is, ultimately, futile.  Why?

     Because resistance breeds resistance.

     No doubt you have seen people arguing, or even protesters facing police.  This is how it looks:

(image courtesy of pixabay.com)

     Not pretty, is it?  And you can't really tell who is the aggressor anymore, since both sides have completely stopped listening, demonized the other side, and dug in their heels, avoiding any potential for understanding, compromise, or growth.

     So, if we shouldn't resist, what is the appropriate response? 

     We'll discuss this more next week, but before I leave, here's one final, delicious quote:
"Anger is a great force.  If you control it, it can be transmuted into a power which can move the whole world."  (William Shenstone, 1714-1763)
    Yeah.