Friday, December 25, 2020

Happy Holidays

 Wishing you a happy and 

peaceful holiday season.

(photo courtesy of

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Looking with 20/20 Vision, Part 3

      The seismic events of the year 2020 will no doubt reverberate for years to come.  Other than the pandemic and the societal uprisings, a third thing I think we can learn from is leadership.  Here are some take-aways:

  • It has been said that we get the leaders we deserve.  The last four years in the US have shown us the ugly side of our country, almost in a caricatured manner.  Yes, we need to heal the ugly face of racism.  We need to support the underserved in our society and not blame the victims.  We need to look at how we value our environment.  We need to value science and not engage in magical thinking.  We need to treat each others are equals and not perpetuate rankism and elitism.  We need to be mindful that words have consequences.  
  • When I look at how the common people in our country and other countries have banded together to stand up and say "No more!" I am moved and inspired.  Two images come to mind.  First, elected leaders are like the large game animals in wild areas.  What prompts them to move?  The common grass.  Be like the succulent, green grass and entice our leaders to move in your direction.
  • The second image comes from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Have you ever seen it?  The highlight is the large balloons of cartoon characters being led along the parade path, seemingly squeezed between the huge skyscrapers.  The balloons are like elected leaders.  Who leads these balloons?  Just common people, holding the balloons by ropes and walking along the parade route.  Be the rope-holder, and keep walking.
     Yes, 2020 will be talked about for years to come.  But let's use the power of these lessons learned to create a better future for all of us.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Looking with 20/20 Vision, Part 2

      The year 2020 will be remembered for so many things.  Last week we talked about the lessons of the pandemic.  Another giant event in this year was the eruption of protests against historical and systemic prejudice.  We've seen marches against police brutality, against governmental corruption, against racial disparities, against sexual predation, among others.  What is to be learned from this?

  • We cannot ignore historically underserved communities and not expect some sort of backlash.  How we treat others, or allow our societies to treat them, will someday affect ourselves.
  • Our police have forgotten how to relate to others as fellow humans and fallen into the trap of becoming tools of armament vendors.  What happened to the neighborhood cop that everyone knew?  
  • Our police have also been asked to play too many roles -- peace-keeper, social worker, psychologist, addictions counselor and so on -- and are asked to do so in places where people are heavily armed, mentally unbalanced, or desperate.  Our societies need to get back to providing social funding to help support the poor, the emotionally distraught, those with mental illness, and those with addictions.  If we fund people first, the police can get back to serving as peace-keepers.  
  • Sub-groups in our societies will no longer be kept down.  The power of these marches show that it will no longer be acceptable to discriminate against any group that is not part of the ruling class.  There is power in the unity of resistance.
     It seems clear that these lessons will carry us forward as we build a better society, a better future.  May we never forget.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Looking with 20/20 Vision

      No doubt the year 2020 will be analyzed, written about, cursed and eulogized over the coming months and years.  We will all agree it's been a year quite unlike any other!  While I don't pretend to be comprehensive in what I think humanity could learn from this year, I'll look back with 20/20 vision and list some things I think are important.

     Of course, the most important event of 2020 was the novel coronavirus and its related disease, COVID-19.  It has affected everyone in various ways.  Here are some lessons we can list:

  • This virus has touched the lives of everyone on the planet.  What else can you say did the same?
  • It has taught us that the greatest sign of love is to be apart from each other, as difficult as that may be, in order to keep each other safe.
  • Being apart from each other has taught us about the value of relationships, how technology has become so indispensable in staying in touch with each other, and the value of real communication, from the heart.
  • The virus is largely spread through the air, through the droplets spread from unmasked talking or breathing.  It is invisible. In this way it mimics words, whether spoken or written, in how they can affect others.  Are our words filtered with some sense of empathy and kindness, or are they unmasked with venom?  Words affect others just as much as virus cells do.
  • It has shown that the virus can strike anyone, regardless of wealth or status, but it tends to affect those who have been historically marginalized in a more serious manner.  The cracks in our health care and societal support systems have been laid bare with this pandemic. 
  • It has taught us the value of science and objective study.  Hopefully, people will come to learn that conspiracies and politicization are potentially harmful, and that well-regarded, well-researched news media are the best sources for action.  
  • It has taught us to be grateful for the little things -- a beautiful sunset, the gleam of a water droplet on a flower, the warmth of a pet on your lap, the smile from a loved one's face via Zoom.  
     I imagine you also have a list of things you've learned from this pandemic.  Let's take those lessons and grow from them.  

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving

      I don't know about you, but this very unusual year of 2020 with all its challenges has taught me a lot about being grateful.  I want to take the time to say how I grateful I am that you are reading this blog and for those who have ordered The Gemini Bond.  On this day of thanks, I thank you for sharing your time with me here.  I am blessed.

(image courtesy of

Saturday, November 21, 2020

A Terrific Book, Part 2

      Last week I was praising the book Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women, edited by Jane Hirshfield.  I'd like to share a quote that really spoke to me.  It talks about how we could benefit from everything we do, everything we encounter, in order to grow spiritually.  It's by the first published poet in the American colonies, Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672).

"There is no object that we see, no action that we do, no good that we enjoy, no evil that we feel or fear, but we may make some spiritual advantage of all."

     Well said. 

Saturday, November 14, 2020

A Terrific Book

      Sometimes I like to browse through my bookshelves at home, since browsing at a bookstore is not a great idea these days, and picked up one that I've had there for quite a while.  It's good to renew acquaintances with old friends, books or otherwise.

     Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women is a terrific compilation of spiritual writing from nearly every tradition.  What I like the best is that the editor, the poet and translator Jane Hirshfield, included selections that speak directly from the writer's heart.  These aren't poems that were created to please someone else or some religious tradition.  Each word has been felt and lived.

     In these days of introspection and getting back to our true natures, this book presents voices that can still guide us.  A wonderful book to have on your bookshelf . . . or bedside table.


Saturday, November 7, 2020

A Wonderful Quote for Today

 A strong nation, like a strong person, can afford to be gentle, firm, thoughtful, and restrained.  It can afford to extend a helping hand to others.  It is a weak nation, like a weak person, that must behave with bluster and boasting and rashness and other signs of insecurity.  (Jimmy Carter)


(image courtesy of

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

A Thought for Today

 Appealing to tribe, appealing to fear, pitting one group against another, telling people that order and security will be restored if it weren't for those who don't look like us or don't sound like us or don't pray like we do, that's an old playbook.  It's as old as time.  And in a healthy democracy it doesn't work.  Our antibodies kick in, and people of goodwill from across the political spectrum call out the bigots and the fearmongers, and work to compromise and get things done and promote the better angels of our nature.  (Barack Obama)


(image courtesy of

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Saturday, October 24, 2020

A Beautiful Quote

     In order for the world to become more peaceful, people must become more peaceful.  Among mature people war would not be a problem -- it would be impossible.  In their immaturity people want, at the same time, peace and the things which make war.  However, people can mature just as children grow up.  It always comes back to the thing so many of us wish to avoid:  working to improve ourselves. 

(Peace Pilgrim, a woman who walked across the United States for twenty-eight years, starting in 1953 during the Korean War, to promote peace).

(photo courtesy of

Saturday, October 17, 2020

A Book for Our Times, Part 3

     The last couple of weeks I was describing the powerful, relevant book Dialogues with a Modern Mystic by Andrew Harvey and Mark Matousek.  While they touch on many subjects, my ears (or eyes) perked up when I read a passage that touched on one of the themes of The Gemini Bond.  That is, that Twin Souls are symbolic of what must take place internally for us to evolve spiritually.  Here is how Mr. Harvey says it:
The Christian alchemists tell us that when in our being we have completed the sacred marriage of opposites, of the male and the female, the sun and the moon, the dark and the light, the conscious and the unconscious, we become a sacred androgyne-child, free of reason's madness and the ego's frivolous gloom, free of all conscious and unconscious barriers and definitions, mysterious and complete as reality itself and one with its mystery in the ground of our perfected being.
     That deserves some pondering, don't you think?

Saturday, October 10, 2020

A Book for Our Times, Part 2

     Last week I was extolling the book Dialogues with a Modern Mystic by Andrew Harvey and Mark Matousek.  Even though it was written over two and a half decades ago, its words seem like they were written for exactly our times.  Here is a quote that seems fitting, I'm sure you'll agree:
Aging narcissists, which is what we're ruled by, are very dangerous people.  As death approaches, their hunger for power and to prove their immortality gets more and more hysterical.  They're willing to sacrifice more and more people on the altar of their own vanity.  It's frightening to look at the majority of politicians and businessmen who rule the world because they are so clearly terrified.  Their terror of losing power, and of death, makes them engines of destruction.  Through this denial, they're even willing to institutionalize the death of the environment.  This is the final paradox of narcissism, that it is willing to go on engineering total destruction in order to keep going and not have to face the shock and pain of truth; it will press the atomic button to keep alive its fiction of invincibility.  It is as mad as that.
    See?  Written for our times. 

Saturday, October 3, 2020

A Book for Our Times

     A couple of years ago, I was browsing through a lovely used book store and a book practically shouted at me to take it home.  Of course, being the obliging sort, I did so (of course, I paid for it first).

     And this is a book for our times.  Even though it was copyrighted in 1994, it was definitely meant for our current generation to read.  What is this book, you ask.  It's Dialogues with a Modern Mystic by Andrew Harvey and Mark Matousek.  You may know Andrew Harvey as one of the foremost writers and speakers on the mystic life, but Mark Matousek is also a deep-thinking modern mystic.

     The book takes the form of a series of conversations between the two men on various topics.  It starts out with Harvey, primarily, warning of the dark future that faces humanity if we do not return to our hearts and live with compassion, justice, and love.  It then touches on several topics, including fear and courage, death and deathlessness, work, visions, humility, grief, and humor.  It is a book to read slowly, savor, and contemplate.

     I think we need to heed the call within this book.  Let it be a guiding light in our path to building a better future for all of us.  Highly recommended.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

A Moment of Peace

Today we will take a moment
to breathe,
to connect,
to envision peace
within and
all around us.


(image courtesy of

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Are You Being Vigilant?

     We have talked about this before, but with elections coming and misinformation flying like bees on spilled soda, I would like to remind you to stay vigilant.  There are those who have a vested interest in making you angry, outraged, or afraid so that they can bypass your rational mind and have you behave in ways that would benefit them.  Remember -- if you feel your emotions getting aroused when you see things on TV, hear them on the radio, or see them posted in social media, take a moment.  Step back.  Breathe.  Ask yourself -- Is this true?  Have you checked it with  And then take one more second.  Ask yourself -- Who benefits from spreading this (mis)information?  And what actions do they want me to take?  Why?

     Don't be a puppet.  Be wise.  Be vigilant.

(image courtesy of

Saturday, September 12, 2020

A Different Kind of Poetry Book, Part 2

     Last week I was describing the unusual book by Daniel Ladinsky, Love Poems from God.  May I share one of my favorite poems from the book?  It's from St. Catherine of Siena (freely rendered by Mr. Ladinsky):


We work so hard to fly
and no matter what heights we reach
our wings get folded near a candle,
at the end,

for nothing can enter God but Himself.  
Our souls are some glorious substance of the divine
that no sentry wants to stop.

Live without thought of dying,
for dying is not a truth.

We have swayed on the sky's limb together,
many years there the same leaves grow.

But then they get that look in their eyes
and bid farewell to what they disdained or cherished.

This life He gave the shell, the daily struggles we know,
sit quiet for a minute dear, feel the wind,
let Light touch you.

Live without thought of dying,
for dying is not a truth.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

A Different Kind of Poetry Book

     Before the pandemic, when I could go out to shop just for fun, I found a lovely store filled with books of all kinds along with artwork from local artists.  Just my kind of place.  I spent a long time there, head tilted sideways as I was looking at all the books being offered, when I picked up one that practically yelled at me to get.  And being the obliging sort, of course I bought it.  I mean, what's one more book?

     I've spent the last several months since savoring the poems in this most unusual book of poetry.  Written and/or compiled by Daniel Ladinsky, Love Poems from God features poetry that he created out the writings of twelve mystic writers from various traditions.  Which mystic writers? you ask.  Let me tell you:  Rabia, St. Francis of Assisi, Rumi, Meister Eckhart, St. Thomas Aquinas, Hafiz, St. Catherine of Siena, Kabir, Mira, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and Tukaram.  Both Eastern and Western traditions are featured, although it's interesting to see, when comparing the poems, how the poets often come to similar conclusions or dwell on similar themes.

     Daniel Ladinsky is the first to admit that he had fun taking liberties in his translations/adaptations.  Some of the poems are earthy, some are cheeky, some are downright naughty.  But they all point to the mystic's efforts to describe the sense of unity with the divine within.  This is a wonderful book to read and savor as long as you don't read some of the poems in church.  Recommended.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

A Couple of Quotes for Today

You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals.
To that end, each of us must work for his own improvement,
and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity.
(Marie Curie)

We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself,
a society that can live with its conscience.
(Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Yin and Yang Breathing

     While I was reading Richard Wolf's book In Tune: Music as the Bridge to Mindfulness, I was noticing that the majority of his exercises described breaths which are controlled and regulated by the mind.  I know there are schools of thought in which controlling the breath can produce certain mental states and that can be very useful for many people.

     For someone like me, however, I find that I need to let go of controlled, "yang" breathing techniques at times because I have control-freak tendencies to begin with and these techniques just reinforce that, I believe.  I need to balance that with times when I just allow my body to breathe at its own pace and watch that breath.  It's a challenge for someone like me to be "yin" and just allow the body to breathe without my interference!  Once I start observing my breath, I find that I have to be very careful not to start controlling when the next breath comes.  It's a good challenge, though.

(photo courtesy of

Saturday, August 15, 2020

An Unusual Book on Meditation, Part 3

     Last week I was describing a meditation technique from Richard Wolf's book In Tune: Music as the Bridge to Mindfulness that I have found useful.  This week I will describe another.

    In this one, you need to divide your breaths into four beats.  One thing that Wolf stresses over and over again is that as you become more relaxed, your breaths will naturally be longer and slower, so your beats will slow down.  That is OK.  It's better to have the beats match your breath than to force your breath to match your beats.

     In this technique, you assign one internally-heard pitch each of the four beats.  Wolf recommends using Pythagorean intervals, so I will describe that here.  One such set of intervals is 1-4-5-1, or do-fa-sol-do.  If you play an instrument, you could play it as C-F-G-C.

     Here's how the technique goes.  Breathe in and hear internally (don't sing this out loud) C-C-C-C in four even beats.  Hold the breath and count four silent beats.  Breathe out and hear internally F-F-F-F in four even beats.  Hold the breath and count four silent beats.  Breathe in and hear internally G-G-G-G in four even beats.  Hold the breath and count four silent beats.  Breathe out and hear internally C-C-C-C in four even beats.  Hold the breath and count four silent beats.  Repeat.

     I don't know why, but I find this just complex enough to keep my mind engaged while producing a deep calm at the same time.  Perhaps it will help you as well.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

An Unusual Book on Meditation, Part 2

     Last week I was discussing Richard Wolf's book In Tune: Music as the Bridge to Mindfulness.  This week and next I would like to share a couple of meditation exercises from this book that I find I keep returning to again and again.

     The first combines both simple words and single pitches that one hears in one's head.  That means you must be able to "sing" a single note inside your mind without actually singing it out loud.  If this seems doable to you, then read on.

     With each in-breath, you mentally hold a pitch and sing internally one word, which I will give in a moment.  With each out-breath, you listen to external sounds with detachment.  Got that?  Breathe in and hear a single note in your mind, breathe out and objectively listen to the world around you.  You may keep the same pitch with each in-breath if you want, but I like to change it each time.  You can decide what works best for you.

     Now to add a single word for each in-breath.  They are:  Calm, Relaxed, Peaceful, and Now.

     So, here's how it goes.  Breathe in and mentally sing "calm" on a single note.  Breathe out and listen with detachment.  Breathe in and mentally sing "relaxed" on a single note.  Breathe out and listen with detachment.  Breathe in and mentally sing "peaceful" on a single note.  Breathe out and listen with detachment.  Breathe in a mentally sing "now" on a single note.  Breathe out and listen with detachment.  Repeat.

     I like to create a four-note melody that I repeat with each round of those four words.  I also find that when I am in stressful situations, I can start mentally singing that four-note melody and it helps me to recover a calmer state.  I hope this also helps you as well.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

An Unusual Book on Meditation

     I just finished an interesting book on meditation with an unusual twist:  it uses music as a bridge to meditative states.  No, I'm not talking about listening to New Age music while meditating, but rather using certain musical principles to help induce meditative states.  Interested?  Read on.

     Written by Richard Wolf, In Tune: Music as the Bridge to Mindfulness could be a valuable resource for a people who would like new and different methods for their meditative practice.  Richard Wolf, by the way, is an Emmy Award-winning composer, music producer, and professor at UCLA's school of music.

     Of course, I think this book would be best suited for people who have at least some musical training and know what a beat is, what a 4-beat measure is all about, and have some familiarity with intervals (measuring the distance between two pitches).  I've had a bit of musical training, so most of this book made sense to me.

     First, this is not at all like Anthony de Mello's books on meditation, where he gets right to it and describes one method after another, along with helpful hints and caveats.  No.  Wolf gently leads the reader from one concept to another, sometimes offering inside looks at his interactions with various famous musicians over his long career.  This is a gentle, leisurely book.  However, I did find a few of his meditation techniques very helpful and I often come back to them again and again.

     A recommended book, especially if you have a little musical training and want some new and unique techniques for your meditation practice.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

To Free Minds

A couple of quotes for today:

"Think for yourself . . . or others will gladly think FOR you."
 (Dana Gore)

"Nothing threatens a corrupt system more than a free mind."  
(Suzy Kassem)

(photo courtesy of

Saturday, July 18, 2020

For Free Minds: How to Avoid Mind Control, Part 2

     Last week we were examining how people try to control our minds through fear, anger or outrage, and greed.  Today we will look at how often-anonymous people in social media try to influence what we think and do.

     I have a friend who gets almost all of his news from a prominent social media site.  Sadly, much of the news that he chooses to click on is fake.  They have provocative headlines that are designed to elicit fear, anger or outrage, or greed.  One of his favorites are conspiracy theories, which mix fear and outrage.  The problem is, whenever he clicks on one of these stories, the website remembers and generates more articles along that vein.  So, he clicks on more, and more appear.  In a sense, he is creating his own hall of mirrors.  The sad thing is that these fake news articles are designed not only to get him to read more like them, but they are also created to influence how he votes, how he views certain ethnic groups, and how he becomes more ingrained in a certain world view.  It's very sad.

     Stay free of this.  Do not click on articles that you can tell are appealing to your lower emotional centers.  Check "facts" in these articles with or other fact-checking sites.  Be objective.

     Similarly, the non-anonymous talking heads on the daily news channels, especially the ones that run 24/7, use your base emotions to continue watching.  Anger, fear and outrage are particularly common emotions that they elicit in order to keep you glued to the TV.  After all, they are in the business of selling commercial time, and the longer you watch, the more commercials you will see.  Of course, I am not saying that you should avoid being informed and watching the news, but be aware of how the different news organizations make you feel.  Do you feel angry, afraid, or upset?  Do those emotions make it hard for you to pull away from the TV?  Or do you feel informed, where the news is presented in a logical, even-handed way?  That is probably the better choice for getting your information.

     We all make choices in how we stay informed in this world.  By making wise choices, we can avoid the chance that we might come under someone's influence through the manipulation of our emotions.  Be wise.  Stay free.


Saturday, July 11, 2020

For Free Minds: How to Avoid Mind Control

     Since July is a month to celebrate freedom, how about if we discuss how to keep our minds free?  There are several ways that people, organizations, and the media try to control our minds, and we are so often easily swayed by them.  Through awareness, however, we can avoid coming under their control and stay free.  Freedom is good; wouldn't you agree?

     First, let's look at how individual people try to influence us to their advantage.  We have all received phone calls from scam artists who try to control us by using our emotions to our disadvantage.  Scammers call this "getting them under the ether."  They say things to elicit the strong emotions that are based in our reptilian brains, getting us out of our logical, objective higher brain.  And the emotions they love to use are fear or urgency, anger or outrage, and greed.

     For example, a scammer might want to scare you to believe that your computer has been hacked and you only have minutes to take care of it.  They are using fear and the pressure of time to hook you into doing what they want, such as providing them with your credit card number.  The best thing to do is to take a deep breath and hang up.  (Better yet, never answer a number you do not recognize.)

     But leaders also do the same thing, don't they?  Whether it's religious leaders who scare you with talk of eternal damnation or governmental leaders who vilify a minority ethnic group, saying that they are out to take your job or are a threat to your safety, these leaders are using fear to control you so that you will do what they want.  Stop.  Take a deep breath.  Go back to watching and listening to them objectively.  Ask yourself:  What do they want from me?  Decide for yourself if that's something that is in your best interest and the best interest of those you care about.

     Stay free, friends, stay free.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Happy Independence Day

May you be free of fear.
May you be free of pain.
May you be free to develop
the best that's in you.

Happy Independence Day!

(photo courtesy of

Saturday, June 27, 2020

A Useful Book on Meditation

     Continuing on a run of book recommendations for summer reading, today's feature is Anthony de Mello's Sadhana, a Way to God: Christian Exercises in Eastern Form.  If you would like to expand your repertoire of meditation practices, this is a great book to have.

     I've written about Anthony de Mello before.  He was a Jesuit priest, born in India, received his higher education in Great Britain, and prolific writer and teacher.  Given his background, he was uniquely able to meld Christian beliefs with Indian meditative practices.  This book is the result.

     Like many meditation books, he starts with concentration exercises, such as focusing on the breath or body sensations, and advances to practices which he called meditations based on fantasy.  By this he meant meditative practices which use the imagination to access spiritual insights, promote relaxation, heal past trauma, and bring peace.  For me, these were the most interesting and useful practices.

     The last section deals with meditative practices that are strictly Christian in nature.  If you are Christian, you will have no issue with this section, but if you are not, you may have difficulty transferring the practices to your own spiritual viewpoint.  But no matter, the rest of the book is well worth the money.  A highly recommended book for those wanting to deepen their meditations.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

An Informative Historical Book, Part 2

     Last week I was praising my latest read, Joel F. Harrington's Dangerous Mystic: Meister Eckhart's Path to the God Within.  While it is not an easy-breezy read, it is definitely worth the effort. 

     While it is valuable for its historical insights, I think I appreciated most how Dr. Harrington explained Meister Eckhart's spiritual teachings.  Meister Eckhart believed that the masses to whom he preached could be taught how to unite with the God within and would sometimes use phrasing that bordered on pantheism and other non-orthodox beliefs.  One such statement was, "Therefore I pray to God to make me free of God."  He also stressed that the inward state is much more valuable to God than good works.  Of course, this eventually brought him unwelcome notice for the religious authorities and he was called in to explain his allegedly heretical statements.  I won't ruin the ending for you, but it cost him both his reputation as well as his being officially "forgotten" for many centuries.

     I think that what is important about this book is that Dr. Harrington worked to present Eckhart's teachings within the framework of his time and place.  As we have seen in the last several decades, several authors have taken some of Eckhart's words and used them to promote their own viewpoint, but Dr. Harrington clearly counteracts that.  Meister Eckhart taught important spiritual insights that must be taken within their context and, once understood, can provide useful nuggets for spiritual wisdom in our times. 

Saturday, June 13, 2020

An Informative Historical Book

     I just finished reading Joel F. Harrington's book, Dangerous Mystic: Meister Eckhart's Path to the God Within.  What a terrific read.  It was also a slightly more taxing read than I am used to, but perhaps I grew a few more brain cells in the process.  I was glad I made the effort.

     The author is a professor of history at Vanderbilt University and an expert on social and religious history in premodern Germany.  He provides the reader with a thorough sense of German life in the late 13th and early 14th centuries, the Catholic viewpoint and the political struggles of that time.  Within this framework, he zeroes in on the life of a Dominican monk from a small town who had both keen intellectual gifts as well as unique spiritual insights.

     Meister Eckhart was clearly a man of enormous potential, as his superiors supported his intellectual pursuits at the Univeristy of Paris, where he eventually earned a Master of religious studies and also taught there.  He was also a gifted administrator and his superiors also relied on him to lead at various monasteries where the political winds were particularly treacherous.

     However, it is Meister Eckhart's spiritual insights which have made him known, in a negative way toward the end of the life, and somewhat more positively in recent years.  A highly recommended book.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

An Informative Book

     Some time ago I visited our city's art museum and looked at an exhibit of art based on the life of Guru Nanak.  I had read that he was the founder of Sikhism, but knew nothing else about him.  I had a very superficial knowledge of Sikhism because I had taken a class from someone of that faith some years ago.  That's all I knew.

     When I looked at the art, I was struck by the simple honesty of the depictions.  The renderings were accompanied by brief descriptions of the scene they were portraying.  But since I didn't know anything about Guru Nanak's life, they meant little to me.  It was more of the energy of the work -- the directness, the simplicity, the quiet wisdom -- that touched me most.

     Of course, on our way out, we had to stop by the gift shop and I picked up a biography of Guru Nanak so I could learn more.  I finally sat down and read it bit by bit and thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was a delightful read and illuminated the life of Guru Nanak as well as his teachings.  I learned a lot about Sikhism as well as its founder.

     And what is this book, you ask?  Let me tell you.  It's The First Sikh Spiritual Master: Timeless Wisdom from the Life and Techniques of Guru Nanak by Harish Dhillon.  I found myself looking forward to seeing what would happen to Guru Nanak, as his biography read like an adventure story.  Of course, I also relished the parts which explained his teachings and beliefs.

     If you'd like to learn more about Sikhism and its founder, this is a great book to get.  Highly recommended.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

A Quote for Today

We are the children of the Age of Enlightenment, and we have brought the world to the brink of ruin by acting under the delusion that humans are separate from the earth, better somehow, in control of it.  We believe that humans are the only creatures of spirit in a universe otherwise made up of stones and insensate matter; that the nonhuman world was created for us alone and derives all its value from its usefulness to humanity; that we are the masters of the universe.  Because of our technological prowess, we see ourselves as exceptions to the rules that govern the “lower” forms of life.  We believe we can destroy our habitat without also destroying ourselves.  How could we be so tragically wrong?  (Kathleen Dean Moore)

Thursday, May 28, 2020

An Empath's Survival Guide to COVID-19

     Fellow empaths, have you been noticing things are more turbulent these days, emotionally?  On a global scale, we humans, during this challenging time, have been sending out some pretty heavy emotions, mainly fear, anger, and sadness.  I know that for me, the emotions that are bombarding me have affected my health and close relationships.  After talking to a wise friend, she reminded me that my physical ailments and personal stress are directly related to the emotions that are running amok these days.  We talked through the steps of how to deal with them, and I have boiled it down to this five-step guide.  Ready?  Here it is:

  • Come to your sense of self.  It doesn't matter how you do it -- wiggle your toes, stomp your feet, count your breaths, chant, meditate, do a yoga pose -- it doesn't matter, as long as you can come back to your inner self, with its unique emotional landscape.
  • Observe your emotions.  You may find that there are layers of emotions there; some are weaker and some are stronger; some may feel familiar and some may feel like an ill-fitting, itchy sweater.
  • Visualize these emotions as having separate layers.  The more familiar ones may be in your core self.  Others may feel like they hover on the outer part of your emotional sphere.  Do they have colors?  Wave shapes?  Weight?  Notice as much detail about them as you can.
  • Inhale, reaffirming the emotions that truly belong to you.  The ones nearest your core may feel more stable, familiar, and part of your world outlook.  Keep those.  Then, exhale, releasing the ones that do not belong to you.  Repeat.  Repeat again until you feel calmer and more at ease in yourself.
  • Do this process as many times per day as you need -- even 19 times, if that's what it takes.
     We are all in this together.  So let's keep even-keeled, focused, and at peace.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

A Must-Read Book, Part 4

     May I share some delicious quotes from Anthony de Mello's book, Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality?  It may give you a taste for how clearly he wrote and how much sense his ideas make.
"A nice definition of an awakened person:  A person who no longer marches to the drums of society, a person who dances to the tune of the music that springs up from within."
"What does it mean to love?  It means to see a person, a situation, a thing as it really is, not as you imagine it to be."
"It's not reality that matters, but what you're saying to yourself about it."
"The beauty of an action comes not from its having become a habit but from its sensitivity, consciousness, clarity of perception, and accuracy of response."
     I am so glad I found this book, and am honored to share it with you.  It can be world-changing.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

A Must-Read Book, Part 3

     Last week I was introducing you to Anthony de Mello's book, Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality.  If you get nothing out of this book (and it really is jam-packed with clear and helpful hints on how to live more wisely), let me outline briefly one of the major lessons he returns to, which is his Four Steps to Wisdom.

     In step one, he asks that you first get in touch with your negative feelings (ones that you may not even be aware of).

     In step two, he says that you need to understand that the feeling is in you, not in external reality.  He says that no person, event, or circumstance has the power to disturb or hurt you.  Think on that a while.

     In step three, he says that we must never identify with that feeling, but realize that feelings come and feelings go.  Let it pass.  There is an eternal "I" which is completely undisturbed by external reality.

     In step four, he says that good feelings -- happiness, joy, bliss -- come from inside and have nothing to do with externals.  As we change, everything changes.

     As I read the book, I couldn't help but see that some of his philosophy has some influences of Buddhism and mindfulness practices.  Still, the way he presents his ideas make perfect sense and seem fresh and applicable as he describes them.  A fabulous book.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

A Must-Read Book, Part 2

     I'm such a tease.  The book I was referring to last week, the one that took my soul and pointed to a way deeper and purer than ever before, the one that rattled my viewpoint and spoke to the essence of wise living, is Anthony de Mello's Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality.

     First, a word about Anthony de Mello.  He was born in Bombay, India, in 1931 and became a Jesuit priest and a psychotherapist.  His writing shows both a strong mystical leaning as well as a rare insight into the human psychological dilemma.  One of the things that I also appreciated about his viewpoint is that he was able to meld Eastern and Christian spirituality with a clear description of human psychology.  He spoke and wrote with a rare clarity that took my breath away.

     Sadly, he died too soon, at the age of fifty-five, of a heart attack.

     Awareness is a compilation of talks de Mello gave at a spirituality conference, put together and edited by an associate, J. Francis Stroud, after de Mello's death.  Happily, it reads like you are sitting in the conference room with him, watching as he goes off on tangents, or re-engages his audience with a fitting joke.  He speaks to where people are, and not in some nebulous theoretical discourse.  It's a pleasure to read.

     If you are remotely interested in deepening your spiritual life, read this book.  Like, right now.  Like, go to your favorite bookstore and order it.  Now.  It will change your life.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

A Must-Read Book

     After reading a book on various Christian mystics, I picked up a book written by one of the mystics described.  It was one of those books that took me by surprise -- I kept asking myself, "Where has this book been all my life?"  Once I read it, savoring each short chapter, I immediately re-read it, taking detailed notes all the way through.

     Like it was a college text or something.

     And then I typed those notes up to keep as reference and reminder.  That's pretty serious for me.

     Even though I don't completely identify as Christian anymore, I found this book spoke to my mystical-leaning heart.  In fact, it helped deepen those leanings and lit the way for further journeying along that path.  It was a joy to find.

     And what is that book? you ask.  Well, tune in next week and I'll tell you more.

(photo courtesy of

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Some Wonderful Quotes

     Here are some quotes that are applicable to our times:
Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it's less good than the one you had before.  You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you've lost, or you can accept that and try to put together something that's good.  (Elizabeth Edwards)
Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.  (Helen Keller)
Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody else expects of you.  Never excuse yourself.  Never pity yourself.  Be a hard master to yourself -- and be lenient to everybody else.  (Henry Ward Beecher)
The human capacity for burden is like bamboo -- far more flexible than you'd ever believe at first glance.  (Jodi Picoult)
     Have courage, friends.  Peace.


Saturday, April 18, 2020

Yet Five More Things I've Learned from COVID-19

     Reading the news about how people and leaders react to the COVID-19 pandemic has taught me a few things about human nature.

1.  People can react either out of fear or out of love.  The former buy guns and stockpile supplies, while the latter express gratitude and compassion to others.  Although it's hard at times when things seem so out of control, I try to act out of love as best I can.

2.  In times of crisis, people can turn their fear into anger and aggressiveness.  This manifests as putting blame on other people or countries, being threatening, or turning inward and ignoring the needs of others.  This is an opportunity to pull our fractured nation and world together and work as one.  Let's do that.

3.  Our leaders show their true values in times of crisis.  I've noticed that they either put money and the economy first, or they put people and their wellbeing first.  My personal belief is that you can't have an economy without people, but I suppose there is some merit to the idea that if you have a healthy economy, then people can take care of themselves.  Still, if both the economy and the people are ailing, let's put people first, shall we?

4.  Viruses have no nation, creed, ethnicity, or religion.  It is universal, just as the human soul is.  I think people are coming to the knowledge that we really are all one.

5.  We are living through extraordinary times.  Let's be remembered for rising to the occasion and showing our best selves.  We can overcome this.  We're in this together.

(image courtesy of

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Five More Things I've Learned from COVID-19

     Staying home for days on end can be very trying, especially for an introvert living full-time with others.  Here are some lessons I've learned.

1.  Alone time is essential.  Even if I can't be completely alone in the house, I can still hide in a room, a closet, or in my innermost self through meditation.  I need this.  Every day.

2.  Little things can become big things if we let them.  I've learned it's necessary for my sanity and for peace between peoples if I lighten up and let things slide a bit.  Rather than make a big deal over that irritating mouth sound my Significant Other makes when reading, I can either focus on my breath or I can leave for a while.  Fantasizing about silencing those mouth sounds with a pillow is OK as long as I don't act on it.

3.  People are reaching out more.  I heard from a family member for the first time in a couple of decades and the conversation was quite pleasant.  Perhaps this pandemic has put things in perspective for some people.  I know it has for me.

4.  Gratitude goes a long way.  I find things run much more smoothly at home when I say at least five  "thankyous" for every "please will you . . ".  People like to feel appreciated, not constantly commanded or criticized.

5.  On the rare occasions that I go to the store, I make it a point to thank every worker that I see.  So often treated as if they are invisible, they are heroes in my book.  We both feel better when I take the time to acknowledge that.

(image courtesy of

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Five Things I've Learned from COVID-19

     Like many of you, I am staying home almost all the time, going out only for absolute necessities.  Having to stay home can be both a challenge and a focused way to learn some important lessons.  Here are five that I have learned so far:

1.  Finding toilet paper at the store is like finding a winning lottery ticket.  Even if is not my favorite brand, I am filled with gratitude for finding it.  Who knew that an everyday item could impart such joy?

2.  They say that necessity is the mother of invention.  I learned that not being able to find things I usually buy at the grocery store causes me to try new and . . . interesting . . .  ingredient combinations.

3.  The fur babies are loving having us home more.  Having them cuddle on my lap makes me feel better, too.  They help ground me and bring me comfort in trying times.

4.  Taking time to look at the tree branches swaying in the breeze, to listen to the birds singing, to feel the sun on my face is a result of having the time to do so.  These simple pleasures never felt so good.

5.  It is possible to watch too much TV news or read too much news reports on the internet.  For my sanity, I need to step back and return to the present.  Today is a gift to be treasured.  Who knows what the future may bring?  I may as well enjoy now.

(photo courtesy of

Saturday, March 28, 2020

March Forth, Part 4

     We are marching forth!  We are building a new future!  Let's keep hope that it can be accomplished.
Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.  (Desmond Tutu)
We have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon.  (Franklin D. Roosevelt)
Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.  (Martin Luther)
(image courtesy of


Saturday, March 21, 2020

March Forth, Part 3

     As we march forth in building a better world, we focus this week on the theme of endurance.
Every calamity is to be overcome by endurance.  (Virgil)
The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.  (Frederick Douglass) 
We all wish to be brave and strong in the face of disaster.  We all wish to be looked up to for our endurance and efforts to help others.  (Clarissa Pinkola Estes)
(image courtesy of


Saturday, March 14, 2020

March Forth, Part 2

     Building on the idea of marching forth to build a better future, today's focus is courage.
From caring comes courage.  (Lao Tzu)
You will never do anything in this world without courage.  It is the greatest quality of mind next to honor.  (Aristotle) 
We must be bigger than we have been:  more courageous, greater in spirit, larger in outlook.  We must become members of a new race, overcoming petty prejudice, owing our ultimate allegiance not to nations but to our fellow men within the human community.  (Haile Selassie)
(image courtesy of

Saturday, March 7, 2020

March Forth!

     This month I'd like to focus on moving forward.  The way I see it, the only way to get through the current social mess we're in is to go through it with vision, courage, endurance, and hope.  Remember, what you resist persists, so resistance to our current state is only going to prolong it.  Let's build our better tomorrow starting today!  Let's march forth!

     Today's theme is vision.
Where there is no vision, there is no hope.  (George Washington Carver)
Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart.  Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.  (Carl Jung)
Anything can be changed.  Anything can be fixed.  Things that are broken can be fixed.  And you don't have to be some billionaire or millionaire to do it.  You just have to be a person with a vision and the passion to do it, and be willing to fight for it every day.  (Dana White)
(photo courtesy of

Saturday, February 29, 2020

A Terrific Book, Part 2

     Last week I was lauding Carl McColman's book, 108 Mystics: The Essential Guide to Seers, Saints and Sages.  One of the things I liked best about the book is that McColman introduced each mystic in one to three pages, and then provided sources for further study.  His bibliography is packed!  What a wonderful resource!

     I found that, in reading, some of the mystics were well known to me.  But I met a few that were unknown or even overlooked by history.  It made my heart warm, knowing that some of these mystics, working quietly and often alone, described their experiences for a future that they could never imagine would appreciate them.  What a testament to faith and courage.

(courtesy of Jose Antonio Alba of

Saturday, February 22, 2020

A Terrific Book

     I recently finished a leisurely read through Carl McColman's wonderful book, 108 Mystics: The Essential Guide to Seers, Saints and Sages.  It's a wonderful resource for those interested, like me, in the inner core of religious experience.  By that, I mean the mystical experience.

     McColman is a lay Cistercian, as well as a contemplative writer, speaker, and retreat leader.  He writes with sensitivity and clarity, a rare gift given the difficulty of putting such experiences into words.

     He focuses on mystics from the Christian tradition (oh, that he would write on mystics from other traditions as well!) and divides them into nine categories of twelve mystics each:
  • Visionaries
  • Confessors
  • Lovers
  • Poets
  • Saints
  • Heretics
  • Wisdom Keepers
  • Soul Friends
  • Unitives
     Of course, many of the mystics could fit into more than one category, but he did a wonderful job of explaining how the core of their writings or teachings pertained to that category.  A terrific book.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Happy Valentine's Day!

For all Twin Souls --
Lovers and Beloveds -- 
May this day be a celebration
of deep, unitive love.

(photo courtesy of

Saturday, February 8, 2020

A Lovely Little Book, Part 2

     Last week I was sharing how much I enjoyed reading through the book, Wisdom: Moments of Mindfulness from Indian Spiritual Leaders (Mini) by Danielle and Olivier Follmi.  I found many of the quotes, some of which are centuries old, to be profoundly relevant to today.  The pages were further enhanced by Olivier's fabulous photographs from many parts of India.

     May I share two more quotes, which I think pertain to today's push for change?  They come from Mahatma Gandhi.  We need to become students again of Gandhi's ideology which aims for social change through non-violent (non-resistant) means.  His words still ring true in today's climate:
When restraint and courtesy are added to strength, the latter becomes irresistible.
The noblest moral law is that we should unremittingly work for the good of mankind.
     True then, true now.  

Saturday, February 1, 2020

A Lovely Little Book

     I recently finished reading through a beautiful little book entitled Wisdom: Moments of Mindfulness from Indian Spiritual Leaders (Mini).  It is put together by the couple, Danielle and Olivier Follmi.  He is a fabulous photographer, and she gathered some pithy quotes from the Indian spiritual tradition.  Together, they produced a book that can be enjoyed again and again.

     Last month I featured a couple of quotes from this book.  Here is one more:
A profound understanding of religions allows the destruction of the barriers that separate them.  (Mahatma Gandhi, 1869-1948)
     I highly recommend this book.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Another Relevant Quote

We must learn to love those who think exactly opposite to us.
We have humanity as a background, but each must have
his own individuality and his own thought.
Push the sects forwards and forwards till
each man and woman are sects unto themselves.
We must learn to love the man who differs from us in opinion.
We must learn that differentiation is the life of thought.
We have one common goal and that is the
perfection of the human soul, the god within us.

Swami Vivekananada (1863-1902)

Saturday, January 18, 2020

A Lovely Quote

In your veins, and in mine, there is only one blood,
the same life that animates us all!
Since one unique mother begat us all,
where did we learn to divide ourselves?

Kabir (c.1440-1518)

Saturday, January 11, 2020

A New Year, a New Chance

     I know that many of us like to start the year with fresh hopes for betterment of ourselves and of the world.  Along side that, I think we can all sense that winds of change are blowing away old ways of thinking and old ways of living.  I applaud the courage of every person who stands for change, whether within themselves, or as a member of a society that needs changing.

     But I would like to remind us all that change is far more than pushing away the stuff you don't like.  To do that only breeds resistance, and you know the old saying, "What you resist persists."  That's very true whether on the personal level or in societal structures.

     It's far better to go around that stuff and aim higher.  By that I mean that we need to acknowledge that wrongs, faults, and injustices exist but to hold as our goal the establishment of something better to replace it.  We need to have the courage and persistence to fight FOR what we want, not AGAINST what we don't want.

     So whether your issue for this year is person, say, weight loss or stopping smoking or gossiping, or whether it is societal or global, say, climate change, plastic pollution, economic inequality, overpopulation (why do so many people ignore this issue, which is at the root of so many other issues we face?), wars, poverty, hunger, illiteracy, and so on, I strongly urge us all to imagine what its preferred opposite might be and to work for that.

     Up and at 'em.  Keep the faith.  Have courage.

(photo courtesy of Goran Horvat of