Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy New Year!

May your New Year
be filled with health,
and the joy of fresh possibilities.

(photo courtesy of

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Happy Holidays

May the blessings of the season
and peace
be real in your life
and in your heart.

(photo courtesy of

Saturday, December 15, 2018

'Tis the Season, Part 3

     How did you do last week, saying all those kind, positive things?  It changes your outlook a little bit, doesn't it?

     Good for you.  You're helping to change the tone of the world right now, even in your corner of it.

     For this week, let's up the game a little bit and add to our kind thoughts and positive words this -- kind deeds.  This may be more of a challenge, given the busyness of the season, but I have confidence in you.  Here are a few ideas, but again, feel free to come up with some of your own:
  • Pay for the coffee for the person behind you in line.
  • Leave a thank-you note or send an email for someone you don't normally talk to -- the mail deliverer, your favorite columnist, the person who does such a nice job making your life easier or more beautiful.
  • Give a child a hug (first getting the parent's permission is a good idea).
  • Hug your pet.
  • Hug yourself.
  • Trade chores with your significant other if it helps them relax.
  • Allow yourself a little time to put your feet up and relax.
  • Leave an anonymous gift for someone who helps you at work or home.
  • Smile at strangers.
  • Smile at yourself.
  • Laugh with others.
  • Watch a funny, uplifting movie with your family or friends.
     We'll change this world yet, one kind deed at a time.

(photo courtesy of

Saturday, December 8, 2018

'Tis the Season, Part 2

     How did last week go?  Did you manage to have at least a couple positive, kind thoughts every day?

     Well, good for you.

     Now, let's take a new focus for this week.  Let's keep the good thoughts going and add words.  Yes, let's work on saying kind, positive things for the next seven days.  Like last week, you can choose from the following list of ideas, or come up with some of your own.
  • Give a compliment to someone you don't know well, whether the cashier, the bus driver, or the driver in front of you (no sarcasm allowed).
  • Say "thank you" to at least five different people each day.
  • Tell someone about a positive trait you admire in them.
  • Tell yourself about a positive train you admire in yourself.
  • If you find yourself in a dialogue where discussing another person comes up, take the high road and say only positive things about that person.  Yes, even your boss.
     I'm sure you can find more ways to say kind or positive things.  Keep the change going!

(photo courtesy of

Saturday, December 1, 2018

'Tis the Season

     Yes, the stores have been packed with holiday d├ęcor and gift ideas since October and we are all sick to death of hearing "fa-la-las" blasted from every speaker, and if I hear "The Carol of the Bells" in one more commercial, I'm going to . . . .

     Well, you get the idea.  It's a stressful time and being nice about it is not high on my priority list.

     So, take a deep breath. Take another.  And now let's think of how to get through this month.

     You have no doubt heard, "Be the change you want to see in the world."  Let's take this in baby steps, shall we?

     For this week, let's focus on thinking kind thoughts.  Keep it simple.  Take any or all of these ideas, or come up with some of your own.
  • Mentally bless the person in front of you, whether in line, or near you in traffic or on the bus or train.
  • Find something to admire in a person.
  • Imagine hugging a person who seems to need it.  
  • Be grateful for something in a situation.
  • Be grateful for something in a person.
  • Be grateful for something beautiful in your surroundings.
  • Be grateful for when your needs and/or wants are met.
  • Don't be so hard on yourself.  
  • Forgive someone -- or yourself -- today.
  • Tell yourself a joke.
  • Dwell on a happy memory.
  • Smile in the mirror.
     For one week, let's make this our mission.  Be the change!

(photo courtesy of pixabay)

Saturday, November 24, 2018

A Thought for Today

     Here's a wonderful quote from Howard Zinn, the late historian, playwright, and social activist:
I would encourage people to look around them in their community and find an organization that is doing something that they believe in, even if that organization has only five people, or ten people, or twenty people, or a hundred people.  And to look at history and understand that when change takes place it takes place as a result of large, large numbers of people doing little things unbeknownst to one another.  And that history is very important for people to not get discouraged . . .  . History is instructive.  And what it suggests to people is that even if they do little things, if they walk on the picket line, if they join a vigil, if they write a letter to their local newspaper.  Anything they do, however small, becomes part of a much, much larger sort of flow of energy.  And when enough people do enough things, however small they are, then change takes place.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Don't Resist, Part 2

     Last week we were discussing how it is futile to resist the people or social or political issues we see in our world today.  Rather than resist, be open.  Show compassion.  Listen.  Be tolerant.

     But I see that as a first step.

     It has become more and more important in my mind that we take the next step, which is to lead.  While it is good to be home and meditate to develop a compassionate heart, it is vitally important at this time that we also go out and work.  We need to be leaders in how to put our actions where our hearts are.  Some examples:

     Do you care about the hungry?  Donate food or volunteer at a food bank.

     Do you want more equality for the underprivileged?  Serve as a tutor or donate to works programs.

     Are you concerned about the environment?  Write your congressional representative.  Give generously to animal protection agencies or nature conservation groups.  Pick up trash.  Recycle.  Don't drive so much.  Teach others to do the same.

     I've only scratched the surface.  There are a million ways that you can lead.  But it is important that every day, even in a small way, you take the charge to lead.  Your actions count.  Let's make this world a better place.

(image courtesy of

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Don't Resist

     I've ranted before about how resistance is futile in combating the social and political changes we see in our world these days (you can read about it here.)  Remember, resistance only breeds resistance.  We need a different way.

     I found a wonderful quote by the Zen teacher Normal Fischer who addresses this very issue:
As a spiritual practitioner you are more committed to caring for others than you are to a side or a cause.  Caring for others doesn't mean caring only for the ones you are sympathetic to; it means all others.  If it's only some, then you're gong to end up being aggressive toward the others who seem to behave unjustly toward the ones you care about.  And aggression breeds aggression.  You might win with aggression, but there is always backlash, and pretty soon you lose.  I have seen this many times.  I am convinced that only real, heartfelt nonaggression works in the long run.  And this isn't something you can just decide you are going to feel.  It is challenging to be genuinely caring and loving.  It takes spiritual work, psychological work, meditation, cultivation.  But there is no doubt that, for me, this is the only way.
     Wow, what a challenge.  But it really is the only way.  And it is the necessary foundation for the next step.  More on that next week.

(image courtesy of


Saturday, November 3, 2018

Let Your Voice Be Heard

     Here in the United States, we face an important election in the next few days.  I think far too many still have the attitude that we should let "others" make the decisions and then live with the results as best we can.

     May I offer a different point of view?

     Imagine if you were in a band, and as a flute player, you decided that you wouldn't play because you didn't feel like it.  Or maybe you felt that your little instrument wasn't as big and loud and impressive as a tuba or French horn.  Or maybe you felt that you didn't have as many years of lessons as the oboist and were an inferior musician.  Or maybe you were just feeling ornery or lazy.

     What would the band sound like without your flute?

     Probably not great.  Every voice matters.  Every point of view matters.  You matter.


(image courtesy of

Saturday, October 27, 2018

An Oldie But Goodie, Part 2

     Last week I was recommending a good book to read, Hot Chocolate for the Mystical Soul: 101 True Stories of Angels, Miracles, and Healings, edited by Arielle Ford.  For those of us interested in spiritual and mystical experiences, this is a good pick.

     I think my favorite section was "Romances of the Soul."  Of course, some of the stories touched on my favorite theme, Twin Souls.  For example, Tom Youngholm's story, "Redhead," explores why he continually dated the same type of woman -- blond, about his height -- but that the relationships never worked out.  Finally, he had a vision of a woman in the 1800s who was dancing with him.  What did she look like?  Blond, about his height.  She told him that she was his soul mate (Twin Soul, in my estimation).  When she said this, he broke down in tears.  He recounts:
[She] told me that we were soulmates -- that our energies complemented one another, and that when we were together, we were truly One.  I questioned her:  I thought one was supposed to find a soulmate here on Earth?  She chuckled, and said most soulmates are not together in the same lifetime.
     She continued, saying that the reason he was having so much trouble finding a mate in this lifetime was because he was still searching for her.  She said to let that go.  She visited him several times after that, but he was able to let go of his obsessive search for her and to find a new type of woman in his life.  A redhead.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

An Oldie But Goodie

     Low on funds (and room) for a new book to read, I searched my bookshelves for an old book to re-read.  And, what a nice find!  It's Hot Chocolate for the Mystical Soul: 101 True Stories of Angels, Miracles, and Healings, a collection edited by Arielle Ford.

     The stories are grouped by categories which include "Mystical Places, Magical Moments," "Divine Guidance and Inner Direction," "Romances of the Soul," "Spiritual Healing," "Help from Above," "Vision," and "The Other Side."  The stories run the gamut from very personal visionary experiences to recollections of extraordinary situations that occurred to several people.  It's also very easy to read.

     To be honest, I think I enjoyed the stories that included other people's experiences besides the authors' because some of the personal visionary stuff was a little hard to relate to in some instances.  It's like when someone tells you their dream -- they may have been very moved by it, but you may have a hard time relating because the symbolism is very personal.  Still, if you want to measure your own visionary experiences against some other people's, this may be a good book for you.  All in all, if you have a mystical bent, this is a terrific book to pick up.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

A Thought for Our Times

     This quote is from David Krieger, and is so relevant to our times.
     Peace is active, not passive.  You can't sit back and wait for peace to come to you.  You must work for it.  You must shake off your apathy and demand it.  This is not always easy in a culture of war, such as we have in the U.S., but it is necessary.      
     It is clear that war makes great demands on its participants.  We need to think of peace in the same way.  Peace is not the absence of war or the space between wars; it is a goal to be achieved by actively demanding that the world's governments find nonviolent means of settling disputes.
     Go forth, peace warriors.
(image courtesy of


Saturday, October 6, 2018

A Terrific Quote

     Here's a wonderful quote I recently ran across.  How true it is!
The time has come . . . to resist the impulse to control, to command, to force, to oppress, and to begin quite humbly to follow the guidance of the larger community on which all life depends.  Our fulfillment is not in our isolated human grandeur, but in our intimacy with the larger earth community, for this is also the larger dimension of our being.  (Thomas Berry)
(image courtesy of

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Some Thoughts for Today

     Here are some quotes that might inspire you:

Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.  (Albert Einstein)
The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life -- the sick, the needy and the handicapped.  (Hubert H. Humphrey) 
Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.  (Horace) 

(photo courtesy of

Saturday, September 22, 2018

An Oldie but Goodie, Part 2

     Last week I was extolling a biography about the 14th century mystic, Catherine of Siena.  Here are some quotes from this powerful woman:
Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.
Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring. 
Proclaim the truth and do not be silent through fear.
We've had enough exhortations to be silent.  Cry out with a thousand tongues -- I see the world is rotten because of silence.
Speak the truth in a million voices.  It is silence that kills. 
     This mystic, not well educated, hardly able to read or write, thin as a rail, still took the command from her Lord and from her heart to speak to the injustices of her day.  I would encourage all of us to follow her example.  The world needs us to show courage and speak up for justice and equality.  Claim your power.  Speak up!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

An Oldie but Goodie, Reissued

     I recently found on my overflowing bookshelf a marvelous little biography entitled Road to Siena: The Essential Biography of St. Catherine.  I didn't know this until I started out, but it was originally published by Edmund Garrett Gardner in 1907.  Fortunately for modern readers, Jon M. Sweeney came along and edited it, rendering sentences and wording to fit the current age.  It's an easy, informative read.  And if that doesn't convince you, Evelyn Underhill, the great compiler of mystical writings and thought, referred to Gardner's biography of Catherine of Siena as "the best modern biography."  That's high praise.

     What I liked about this book is that it presents both the historical context of her life as well as personal details without intruding by offering unfounded psychological analyses.  I'm sure you've read books where the biographer tries to make a point about someone's psychological makeup that after a while feels tawdry or even gossipy.  You won't find that here.  It's well written, well-paced, and presents a woman in all her complexities in an age very different (and in some ways very much the same) as our own.

     Catherine of Siena knew early on that she was destined to work for her Lord, and she did so to the best of her ability.  She lived during a perilous, rocky time when governments were unstable and religious institutions racked by hypocrisy, scandal, and division.  She spoke her truth to power and worked for peace and stability.   She died at the age of thirty-three, having left behind 380 letters, twenty-six prayers, and her Dialogues, which some have compared to Dante's style.  This mystic deserves your attention.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Another Thought for Today

A pair of quotes for today:
It is a spiritually impoverished nation that permits infants and children to be the poorest Americans.  (Marian Wright Edelman)
How can we even begin to disarm greed and envy?  Perhaps by being much less greedy and envious ourselves; perhaps by resisting the temptation of letting our luxuries become needs; and perhaps by even scrutinizing our needs to see if they cannot be simplified and reduced.  (E. F. Schumacher)
(image courtesy of


Saturday, September 1, 2018

A Thought for Today

A pair of quotes for today:
We live in the richest country in the world.  There's plenty and to spare for no man, woman, or child to be in want.  And in addition to this our country was founded on what should have a been a great, true principle -- the freedom, equality, and rights of each individual.  Huh!  And what has come of that start?  There are corporations worth billions of dollars -- and hundreds of thousands of people who don't get to eat.  (Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter)
Have compassion for all beings, rich and poor alike; each has their suffering.  (Buddha)
(image courtesy of

Saturday, August 25, 2018

A Book for New Times, Part 3

     I've been writing about Maureen St. Germain's book, Waking Up in 5D: A Practical Guide to Multidimensional Transformation.  There was a section in it that would interest those who want a different view of Twin Souls.

     In the chapter "Finding your Fifth Dimensional Way," she writes:
Your soul can occupy two bodies.  There is more than one version of you.  This turns the whole belief in one soul, one body upside down!  What else do you believe that may not be true?  It's time to expand your concept of reality.  If you are honest with yourself you must accept there is more going on than you could possibly imagine from a linear perspective.
     My understanding of her point of view is that every "road not taken" results in an alternate reality, like a parallel universe, in which you also exist, living out those choices not taken in this reality.  So, there may be more than two, or four, or even a hundred, versions of you.  I still need to ruminate on this, but it is an interesting concept.

     I do agree, however, with a point she makes about balancing the male and female parts of oneself in order to evolve spiritually.  She writes,
Ideally both men and women aspire to develop the balanced self, which is the full expression of the divine feminine and divine masculine in either sex.  It is conveyed through the physical expressions of compassion and receptivity on the female side, and the expressions of balance, order, and power on the masculine side.  Each of us is called to this balance and will continue to encounter all of these aspects until we have achieved mastery through this balance.
     She believes that achieving the balance of the divine feminine and masculine is key to achieving peace and justice in our society, and healing of our world.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

A Book for New Times, Part 2

     Last week I was praising the book, Waking Up in 5D: A Practical Guide to Multidimensional Transformation by Maureen St. Germain, which has many helpful hints about how to move into fifth dimensional awareness.

     Today I wanted to discuss a couple of parts that I think would be helpful to understand what it feels like to be in 5D.  One of the keys, she writes, is our emotions.  When we are in fifth dimensional awareness, we still feel our emotions, but we aren't controlled by them.  We don't stew in anger or get paralyzed by fear.  Rather, we react with objectivity, acceptance and compassion.  We let go of control and expectations.  We dwell in the moment and allow our feelings to be present and then pass away, like leaves on a river (my metaphor, not hers).

     To get into that 5D awareness, Ms. St. Germain suggests that we watch our words.  Rather than using words or phrases that come from a dualistic point of view, she suggests that we replace them with objective, non-judgmental words or phrases.  For example, rather than saying, "That's terrible," or "How bizarre," she offers the replacement phrases, "That's interesting," or "How noteworthy."  Do you see how the judgment phrase is replaced by a more objective phrase?  It takes out the emotional charge as well.  She provides a page-long list of such replacements phrases.  It's worth checking out.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

A Book for New Times

     I recently finished a book entitled Waking Up in 5D: A Practical Guide to Multidimensional Transformation by Maureen St. Germain.  If you believe that the New Age is upon us and want to know how to prepare, this book is for you.

     The author, a specialist in personal development and spiritual awakening, has detailed how we are changing into fifth dimensional awareness.  By this she means that we are evolving from a third and fourth dimensional awareness, which are dualistic, us-versus-them, tribalistic ways of being.  In the fifth dimension, she writes, we are more aware that we are all one, that love is all there is, and that karma has no more power.  I still have trouble with conceiving a world without karma (the little, mean part of me wants to see a couple people get what I think they deserve), but if our world could realize that what we do to others we do to ourselves because we are all one, it would go a long way toward peace and justice on our planet.

     Physically, we are changing from a carbon-based body to a crystalline-based body.  I have difficulty visualizing that, but I guess we'll understand better by and by.

     If you want to know more about what this next step in our evolution will be like, this book is for you.  Just a couple of caveats: an editor would have done great things to help give this book more polish by nipping the excessive use of exclamation marks (it feels like shouting) and the occasional paragraph where the same sentence appears twice.  As for me, I would have liked to have more information about some of the meditation practices without having to go on her website to order more books or downloads.  Still, those are relatively minor things to overlook for the good information in this book.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Talking Trees and Other Thoughts

     Some time ago I read an article in which certain scientists were studying how trees communicate with each other.  Apparently, trees send out hormonal signals when they sense danger (such as an animal or insect eating them), change the taste of their leaves so repel invaders, and even assist their offspring to grow by shielding them from harsh environmental factors and bringing up water to the smaller trees' roots. And scientists are barely scratching the surface of what trees are able to do. As one scientist, Allen Larocque said, "We don't know what they're saying with pheromones most of the time.  We don't know how they communicate within their own bodies.  They don't have nervous systems, but they can still feel what's going on, and experience something analogous to pain.  When a  tree is cut, it sends electrical signals like wounded human tissue."

     Wow.  How cool is that?

     But this got me to thinking -- during the times that I have been in empathic contact with trees, what am I "hearing"?  Am I in contact with their pheromones?  Is it some quasi-electrical communication?  Or am I sensing something deeper -- like their essence or even their soul?

     I really don't know.

     But I would like to think that someday humans will realize that they are not the only thinking and feeling species on this planet.  We need to greatly expand our idea of what life is.  Even Mary Oliver, the wonderful poet, has remarked on how stones talk to her.  Who's to say they don't?

     And once we make this grand realization that we aren't the only thinkers and feelers on planet Earth, perhaps we will take the giant step to treating all other creatures and rocks and pine cones and trees and dandelions and earthworms with compassion and care.  Wouldn't that be something?

(photo courtesy of

Saturday, July 28, 2018

A Quote for Our Times

"The struggle to see things as they are
is perhaps the fundamental driver of Western civilization. 
There is a long but direct line
from Aristotle and Archimedes
to Locke, Hume, Mill, and Darwin,
and from there through Orwell and Churchill
to Martin Luther King writing
his "Letter from Birmingham City Jail." 
It is the agreement that objective reality exists,
that people of goodwill can perceive it,
and that other people will change their views
when presented with the facts of the matter."

Thomas E. Ricks, journalist and author

Saturday, July 21, 2018

A Quote for This Week

     "Democracy is not a static thing. 
It does not stand still. 
If we don't keep finding ways
to expand and deepen democracy,
we will see it diminish."

Dr. Vincent Harding, a close associate of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

A Quote for Today

     "Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary."  

Reinhold Niebuhr in The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Happy Independence Day

May you be free of fear.
May you be free of want.
May you be free to follow your heart
And fulfill your destiny in peace.

Happy Independence Day.

(photo courtesy of

Saturday, June 30, 2018

A Fabulous Book, Part 2

     The magic of novels is that they can give you an inside look into a lifestyle or philosophy, as Deng Ming-Dao did in his fabulous book, Chronicles of Tao: The Secret Life of a Taoist Master.  I learned far more about Taoism than I have in any of the other books I've reviewed these last several months.

    And why?  Because it portrays a human being, in this case, Saihung, with all his faults and doubts and struggles.  It could go from his internal monologue to his interactions with his Taoist master or his difficulties in maintaining his belief system in the secular world.

     And that, for me, is the magic of novels.  I could have written The Gemini Bond as a dry exploration of Twin Souls and how the concept is found in science and nature and mythology, but following Rissa's journey, I thought, would be far more illuminating.  For example:  How does she handle her psychic visions?  What does the recognition of a Twin to another feel like?  What does the aftermath entail?  That is the power of fiction.  It illumines the real in ways that dry academia cannot.

     In any case, treat yourself to a novel sometime.  You may enjoy the story, but your heart and mind may transformed by the power of the journey.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

A Fabulous Book

     We now call into session our latest fan club meeting for the wonderful author, Deng Ming-Dao.  Wow, have I got a book to recommend to you.

     I just finished Deng's Chronicles of Tao: The Secret Life of a Taoist Master.  It is comprised of three novellas, The Wandering Taoist, Seven Bamboo Tablets of the Cloudy Satchel, and Gateway to a Vast World.  It was one of those books I just didn't want to end.  It taught me so much.

     It follows Saihung, who, as a young boy, was recognized as having special gifts by a Taoist master and who was given to the monastery for training.  The first novella explores how Saihung learned not only Taoist doctrine, but also meditation techniques and martial arts training, along with the everyday duties of a young monk serving his master.  The second novella shows how he became more mature in Taoism, but was sent on a mission which threw him into the low places of China.  The last novella followed him on his travels into the United States.

     What I love about this book is that the main character is so believable, with his doubts and anger issues and desires on full display, while seeing how he learned about Taoism and tried, not always successfully, to incorporate Taoist principles into his everyday life.  It gave me hope, and a sense that we all struggle with balancing our outer and inner lives.

     I can't recommend this book highly enough. If you're interested in learning about Taoism, or just want to understand 20th century Chinese history or the treatment of Chinese immigrants in the United States, get this book.  Fabulous.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

A Pretty Good Book

     Have you ever ordered a book, picked it up and starting reading it, only to find out it was nothing like you expected?  That could be a good thing, as in engaging in an engrossing read or learning something completely new, or it could be not so good, as in when you just can't connect with what the author is trying to say.

     I experienced more of the latter than the former while reading Alan Watts' Tao: The Watercourse Way. I'm sure it's just me.  It came highly recommended on Amazon, so perhaps I just wasn't in the mindset to wander and ruminate with the author.

     Alan Watts, the British author who came to California in the 60s and became a kind of a hippie guru, has written extensively on Zen Buddhism.  This was his only foray, I believe, into Taoism.  He uses each chapter to explore an aspect of Taoism, whether it be the difficulties of translating from the Chinese, or what wu-wei could mean, the yin-yang polarity, or the Taoist conception of virtuality.  However, when presenting the information or concept, he pulls in references from all sorts of places -- from Thoreau to Zen writings to Confucianism -- in an academic way.  It reminded me of a book I read years ago about Emily Dickinson, which read like a scholar's exploration in abstraction, but lacked any sort of point.  Give me the point, please.

     Sadly, Mr. Watts died before completing this book, so perhaps it lacked a fair amount of editing.  Or perhaps this is just how he wrote.  In any case, his co-author, Al Chung-liang Huang contributed an additional chapter, but the book, to me, felt incomplete.  But like I said, it did come highly recommended, so it probably is me.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

A Quote for Today

     From John Perkins, in a 2005 interview:
     We all must remember one thing: that civil movements create change.  We need to be involved in these movements, whether they be environmental, anti-corporate, animal rights, or any other progressive cause.  In this way we have managed many times to create change: women's right to vote, civil rights, saving endangered species, cleaning up polluted rivers -- the list is impressive.  
(photo courtesy of

Saturday, June 2, 2018

A Quote for Today

     From Starhawk, in a 2003 interview:
     It's easy to feel overwhelmed and powerless, but we need to remember that all of these [economic] systems rest on the compliance of millions of ordinary people like you and me.  If we withdraw our consent, if we stop feeling isolated and helpless and start reaching out to friends and neighbors who feel the same way, then we have enormous power.     
     One of the key ways these institutions take away our power is by making us think our voices are small and worthless.  It's an important political and spiritual act to say, "My voice is worth something."  We have to take civic responsibility and not be stopped by fear or a sense of powerlessness.  Democracy is like a horse: you can't keep it healthy when it's locked in the barn; you have to exercise it regularly.
(image courtesy of

Saturday, May 26, 2018

A Pretty Good Book, Part 2

     Here is a delicious quote from Dan Brown's latest book, Origin: A Novel.  This is from the character of the king of Spain, speaking to his son:
'Most importantly,' he said, 'this museum must celebrate the other lesson history has taught us -- that tyranny and oppression are no match for compassion . . . that the fanatical shouts of the bullies of the world are invariably silenced by the unified voices of decency that rise up to meet them.  It is these voices - these choirs of empathy, tolerance, and compassion -- that I pray one day will sing from this mountaintop.' 
     Amen to that.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

A Pretty Good Book

     I recently finished reading Dan Brown's latest thriller, Origin: A Novel.  It finds expert symbolist and Harvard professor Robert Langdon enmeshed in another mystery, in this case, solving the murder of his friend, tech wunderkind Edmond Kirsch.  Kirsch was brutally killed while presenting to the world his latest finding on the topic:  Where do we come from?  Where are we going?  While being chased by mysterious forces, Langdon must avoid being killed himself while trying to reveal Kirsch's discoveries.

     It's a very good book, but not his best, I think. While he has perfected the art of creating tension and pulling you on to the next page or next chapter, I found myself thinking, This feels like The Da Vinci Code.  Offshoot Catholic sect?  Check.  Unknown bad guy pulling the strings in nefarious ways?  Check.  Wondering how on Earth the protagonists do all they do while seriously injured or without going to the bathroom?  Check.

     I also have a beef with one of the chief theses of the book -- that technology is our ultimate destiny and savior.  It would have been nice if there had been more discussion or reflection on that.  But, I tend to be a bit of a techno-avoider, so perhaps that's my bias.  I also believe that there are forces in this world that cannot be explained by a linear world-view, so that runs contrary to Brown's thesis.  Be that as it may.

     If you want a good, escapist read that features some of the best sites in Spain, grab this book.  You may find yourself arguing with the ending, but that might be a good thing.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

A Thought For Today

From Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd president of the United States:
No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country . . . and by living wages I mean more than a bare subsistence level -- I mean the wages of decent living.
(photo courtesy of

Saturday, May 5, 2018

A Thought For Today

From A. A. Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh:
The third-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the majority.  The second-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the minority.  The first-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking.
(photo courtesy of

Saturday, April 28, 2018

A Wonderful Guidebook for Empaths, Part 4

     OK, OK, I know I've been gushing perhaps too much, but I can't overemphasize the importance of Dr. Judith Orloff's book, The Empath's Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People.  Here are some quotes to show you why I think it is so vital to us empaths and sensitive people:
   We are in the midst of an evolution of human consciousness, and empaths are the path forgers.  A sacred responsibility comes with our sensitivities, which demand more of us than simply retreating into isolation.  It's vital we learn how to avoid feeling overwhelmed so that we can fully shine our power in the world.  Empaths and all sensitive people are pioneers on the forefront of a new way of being for humankind.
   You are part of Generation S, for Sensitivity -- those who salute compassion and loving-kindness.  You represent a vital opening for humanity to grow into more heart-centered and intuitive awareness.  You can model for others how to be sensitive and powerful.
   I love when the environmentalist David Orr says, "The planet does not need more 'successful people.'  The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of all kinds.  It needs people to live well in their places.  It needs people with moral courage willing to join the struggle to make the world habitable and humane, and these qualities have little to do with success as our culture defines it."
   Empaths are pivotal to manifesting this shift.  Sensitivity is the path to nonviolence.  We can be the healers and restorers and seers and lovers if we keep our sensitivities open and stay centered in our power.  We don't have to be afraid of who we are.  My advice to you is to do good and be good -- the rest will follow.  A commitment to this goal is critical because there is a quickening in the world now, a speeding up of time that mystics say will bring a reckoning of the light versus the dark on our planet.  We need to take a loving stand.  The more empowered you become, the more you can embody the change that the world needs.
Amen, and amen.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

A Wonderful Guidebook for Empaths, Part 3

    I'm still gushing about Dr. Judith Orloff's terrific and useful (even lifesaving!) book, The Empath's Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People.  How much grief I would have been saved if I had known about how to deal with energy vampires.  Here's how to know if you've run into one:
  • You feel suddenly tired
  • You are suddenly in a terrible mood
  • You feel sick
  • You don't feel seen or heard
  • You reach for sugar or carbs to cope
  • You start to self-doubt or criticize yourself
  • You feel suddenly anxious, angry, or negative
  • You feel shamed, controlled, or judged
     Dr. Orloff then discusses the seven types of energy vampires and how to handle each one.  She talks about the Narcissist, the Rageaholic, the Victim, the Drama Queen/King, Control Freaks and Critics, the Nonstop Talker, and Passive-Aggressive People.  I can point to past bosses who fit into at least one of those categories.  If only I'd known how to handle them!  Well, save yourself some of the grief I've experienced and buy this book.  Yes, right now.  

Saturday, April 14, 2018

A Wonderful Guidebook for Empaths, Part 2

     Last week I was raving about the terrific book by Dr. Judith Orloff, The Empath's Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People.  What a find!  I only wish I had read it years ago (but that would have necessitated time travel, since it was just published last year).

     What I found most helpful is the list of  strategies to combat toxic energy (and if you're an empath, you know exactly what I'm talking about).  Here are a few of the suggestions I found most useful:
  • Ask yourself, "Is this symptom or emotion mine or someone else's?"
  • Step away from what's disturbing you
  • Limit physical contact
  • Set limits and boundaries
  • Plan alone time to regroup
  • Spend time in nature
  • Get plenty of sleep and take power naps
  • Be fully present in your body
     If I had known how to practice those strategies years ago, I would have saved myself days of emotional overwhelm, physical symptoms such as sudden headaches or body aches, and so on.  Do you experience those issues, too?  If so, get this book.


Saturday, April 7, 2018

A Wonderful Guidebook for Empaths

     Have you ever found a book that you wished you had read years ago?  A book that would have saved you a great deal of grief, overwhelm, and confusion?  A book that would have given you wise advice and important life strategies?  Well, I found just that book.

     It is The Empath's Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, written by the psychotherapist and empath Judith Orloff.  If you are a highly sensitive person, or even an empath, this book is for you.  Let me say that more forcefully -- YOU NEED TO GET THIS BOOK.

     Far from airy-fairy, Orloff understands completely what it is to be a sensitive person or empath in the modern world.  She sprinkles various checklists throughout the book for the reader to measure where they are on the empath spectrum, whether the reader is a physical or emotional empath, coping mechanisms of the empath (including addictive behaviors), how much of an empath the reader is regarding food or relationships, whether the reader's child is an empath, and what kind of intuitive the reader is.  I found that very insightful.

     Dear Empath, if you want to do more than just cope through the day, get this book.  You won't regret it.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

A Couple More Quotes

     More thought-worthy quotations:
Real change never takes place from the top on down.  It always takes place from the bottom on up.  It takes place when ordinary people, by the millions, are prepared to stand up and fight for justice.  That's what the history of the trade-union movement is about.  That's what the history of the women's movement is about.  That's what the history of the civil-rights movement is about.  That's what the history of the gay-rights movement is about.  That's what the history of the environmental movement is about.  That's what any serious movement for justice is about.  (Bernie Sanders)
In the final analysis, a democratic government represents the sum total of the courage and the integrity of its individuals.  It cannot be better than they are.  (Eleanor Roosevelt)

 (photo courtesy of 

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)
(photo courtesy of

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.

(image courtesy of

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.

(image courtesy of

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.

(image courtesy of

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.

(image courtesy of

Saturday, February 3, 2018

'Tis the Month of Love

     February is the month of lovers, with Valentine's Day celebrated mid-month, but today we're going to focus on you.

     Yes, you.

     After all, you can't "love your neighbor as yourself" if you don't love you, right?  So, we're going to focus on how to love yourself.

     Perhaps you're better at this than I am, but I've learned that as an empath, it's pretty darn hard to love myself.  I'm swamped by other people's feelings and needs that I feel I have to take care of, soothe over, or try to get away from.  It's hard for me to just focus on myself.

     But here's something that I've learned.  If I want to love myself, I have to feel myself and what I want or need at that moment.  So, I get away from people, get quiet and listen to my feelings and thoughts.  They tell me a lot about what I want or need.  Then, I tell myself that I'm worthy of getting whatever it is that I want or need and go do it.

     I know, as an empath, that it's very, very easy to put others' needs first.  But I'm giving you permission here to take care of yourself first.  Take the time for you.  You deserve it.

(image courtesy of

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Start the Year Right - Book Recommendation #4

     We now call to session our fan club meeting for the artist, poet and writer, Deng Ming-Dao.

     Kidding.  Sort of.

     The last book I'd like to recommend is Deng Ming-Dao's beautiful translation of the I Ching.  Entitled The Living I Ching: Using Ancient Chinese Wisdom to Shape Your Life, he again brings this ancient text to modern times.  As a bonus, he provides the glorious artwork that illustrates the different sections.

     This is a huge book. But it is definitely worth an honored spot on your bed stand or book shelf.  The author presents the history of the I Ching, what the yin and yang symbols are, how they combine into trigrams, and then how the trigrams combine into the hexagrams used for divination.  If you are interested, he also presents who the different authors are purported to be, how various people and traditions changed it, and how it can be relevant in today's world.  A beautiful book.  Highly recommended.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Start the Year Right - Book Recommendation #3

     A third book I'd like to recommend is by my new one-of-my-favorites author, Deng Ming-Dao.  I'll tell you -- the man is prodigiously talented.  He is a gifted writer and poet as well as a renowned artist and Taoist master.  Seriously, why doesn't the man have a fan club?

     Similar to 365 Tao, that I recommended last week, Everyday Tao: Living with Balance and Harmony is another book which takes a word or topic, shows the Chinese character, and then expounds on the subject.  What I really like about this book is that it explains the parts of the Chinese character and the essential meanings of the word.  It gives greater depth to the topic and how it is relevant to today's life.  The author, while well-versed in Taoist philosophy, is no ideologue.  He gets how it is to live in this world.  His essays are relevant and useful, not abstract or nebulous.  I use it as I do 365 Tao, reading one page per day to give me something to mentally chew on.  Highly recommended.