Salam - Shalom - Peace

It was a wonderful moment for Progressive Christianity as Dr. Ann Holmes Redding recently spoke passionately from the pulpit of The Riverside Church in New York City - one of America’s largest and most highly and internationally regarded congregations. It happened late this month just after Redding had been defrocked by the American Episcopal church because she felt the call to become a Muslim in addition to being a Christian priest. Redding chose to enrich her faith and her ethical and spiritual leadership ability with those elements of Islam that are progressive, liberal and fully compatible with the best of Christian thinking. It is wonderful that some can celebrate her journey – even join in with her, despite the foolish sanctions of her own denomination. Both Christianity and Islam (and global peacemakers generally) have so much to gain from leaders like this. Hmmm … I wonder what would happen if all the Christians and Muslims and Jewish people began to really identify with each other, learn from each other and make peace? I guess at least some of the leaders in the Episcopal church wouldn’t really like it very much ... hmmmm. Three cheers for harmony and inclusiveness and moving forward. Zero cheers for fear, barriers and total stupidity.

Getting My Rear in Gear - Mind, Body & Spirit

O.K., with some nice days weather-wise … I’ve been figuring lately that maybe it is now actually time to get back to a bit of cycling - outdoors ... much more fun than the stationary bike thing which I've been doing a bit ... but hey it does get a bit boring when the vehicle doesn't actually go anywhere. Hence, I recently ventured out to the bike shop to purchase some cycling gloves and a new hip and cool comfy gel seat cover for my REAL bike. I figured that the prospect of such comfort while riding will surely motivate me to cycle fanatically this spring. What I ultimately discovered at the bike shop, however, left me a little startled! Among the various bike seating options was a model where the advertising actually promoted the seat's ability to mold PERMANENTLY to the shape of the rider’s bottom!! OMG! The whole idea of this cycling thing is to develop a better physique not to immortalize my current butt shape. Needless to say … I did not purchase that particular model. (I did find a nice regular gel seat cover though as well as some gloves that I like). Now … I just need to get my rear in gear and go a-pedaling!

Miracles all Around Us

Hmmm ... well I haven't blogged much lately, and don't plan to type much here. I was just in the mood to post this great song by Sarah McLachlan, "Ordinary Miracle". The lyrics are so wonderful - so insightful. McLachlan is so superb - one of my favorite pop singers really. Mary Joseph, a United Church minister for whom I have great respect, featured this McLachlan song in her Sunday gathering recently. It lined up with her ongoing emphasis on recognizing the joy and love and delightful realities of life all around us. It is all about "bringing heaven to earth" as she puts it. Heaven is all around us. All we have to do is connect with it. Mary really gets that message across to people, as Sarah McLachlan does in the song. And isn't it so true! Here's Sarah ... (a bit of a miracle herself really): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8SMsMnA1cI&NR=1

Stem Cell Research – I Want to Believe

Well … hurrah … Barack Obama is set to make the transition to the White House. According to his transition team leader John Podesta, Obama will be very critically reviewing Bush’s Executive Orders – high impact orders that a President can make without necessarily having much agreement or support from Congress or other governmental bodies. One area here involves Stem Cell Research. While Bush was not supportive of the research, Obama will likely now make a reversal. It’s GREAT NEWS, I think.
Human life is so sacred and wondrous – in all its forms. Stem Cells are among the most precious examples of this. Within them we see an incredible example of the awesome potential and power that exists in the organic matter of our universe. The idea of really moving forward in the ethical use of Stem Cells in research and therapy is TRULY an exciting one. This will provide such profound transformations in the health of individuals, communities and even whole nations. Now, the whole field of bio-ethics is never black & white. The George W. Bushes of this world have their role to play in always reminding us never to take the gift of life for granted. Their fuller stance (in its entirety) isn’t the way forward, in my view. It does, however, have an anchoring role - so that as we do move forward we will do so with care and with a cautiousness that always keeps us mindful of the need not to step over the line into a place where we could begin to treat human life with disrespect or as a commodity. Ethical study and application aimed at embracing, cherishing and preserving life is what this is all about.
The most rigid and restrictive stances on questions of Stem Cell research and use have been a problem. I noticed a good example of this very point highlighted in pop-culture with Chris Carter’s latest X-Files flick, The X Files: I Want to Believe (July, 2008). (I have to admit, my husband and I have been obsessive fans of the X-Files series and films in years gone by. Among other things, we always enjoy taking in the continual interplay of scientific, spiritual, ethical & religious themes). ***Spoiler Alert (If you don't want details on how the film unfolds ... skip past the paragraph below).*** While there was one storyline in the current 2008 film involving the horrors of the criminal harvesting of human body parts for science and for sale, the other more major storyline looked at the ethical and hopeful use of medical science - stem cell research, specifically. We thought it was quite poignant that one of the central characters, a little boy named “Christian”, could only be saved by Stem Cell therapy. A group of extremely conservative religious elites running a hospital advised and convinced the boy’s parents to give up … but good old Scully (particularly impassioned by the fact that she had lost her own little boy) refused to give up. She wanted to believe. THIS was the final point of the film. She convinced the parents to move ahead, and despite the risks and potential hurdles that lay ahead she moved forward in treating the boy with incredible leading edge techniques. Scully refused to give up on the possibilities.
I want to believe too. Is this the audacity of hope once again? I think Obama is one of the amazing leaders who will help this science to move forward in a way that is highly ethical and powerfully transforming in the world of medicine. Yes we can!!

The Art of Mathematics

As you may know, my husband Judson has produced some really beautiful mathematically based art over the last decade or so. It is quite cool stuff - reminiscent of the artistic wonder we see in fractal images. One is made aware of the "equations within" and the really incredible great creative intelligence that so naturally underlies form and beauty in our sacred universe. Anyway, largely in response to requests for prints ... and just for the fun of it, Judson recently decided to put some of his art on-line. So .... You are cordially & warmly invited to his virtual gallery "opening show": http://colorbynumbers.org
Since this is a virtual opening, you'll have to provide your own wine & cheese. But feel free to mingle: within the gallery, you can leave comments or rate individual pictures if you register. Off the main page, access the gallery by clicking "Gallery" in the menu bar, and go from there.... In a physical gallery opening, there would be music. Since this is virtual, you'll have to do that for yourselves. We suggest Miles Davis, or Henry Mancini's Pink Panther theme, followed by some Dave Brubeck. The virtual gallery opening is open to everyone of all ages. Feel free to bring the kids, or invite a couple of friends and make a night of it. Thanks! Please let us know what you like or don't like about the site, and the pictures. Also, if you like the artwork ... please feel free (and encouraged) to promote the site to others. I'm Jud's biggest promoter, but the more the merrier. :-)

Love is Divine - Ubi Caritas

One of my favorite Latin meditations, is the fairly well known Ubi Caritas … “Ubi Caritas et Amor, Deus ibi est”… (“Where Charity/Caring and Love is, Divinity is there”) To me that says it all! While the nature of God or Divinity is rather hard to ever fully describe and certainly can be said to comprise more than Caring and Love – these elements are surely the most powerful and precious, the most sacred and the most transformational. This is the central view and emphasis of Christianity, and I think is validated by or central to most other belief systems as well.
My family and I recently attended a wonderful ecumenical gathering (United Church, Catholic, Anglican, Baptist & Presbyterian) on a Sunday evening in a nearby park. The event involved the singing of a number of selections from the renowned and broadly respected Taizé retreat community in France. One of these was a beautiful rendering of the Ubi Caritas words to music. I cannot find that version on YouTube (though there are other versions with different music for the same words.) It was amazing though, WAY better than any other version I’ve heard. This version was composed by J. Berthier and is available through GIA publications. (Guitar cords are shown as well). I like the Taizé practice of using simple short Latin sung phrases (with the simple translated words available!) Now, not many people are too versed in Latin. Even so, because of the shortness and simplicity (and the translation), the Latin in this case is very easy and enabling. There is something enchanting about the use of just a little Latin. J.K. Rowlings added just enough Latin nuances into her writing of the Harry Potter series to really provide us with an engaging sense of “the magic” of her creativity and that which transcends or illuminates what would otherwise be very hum-drum or “everyday”. Indeed, use of this beautiful ancient language creates a bridge or, to use a phrase which Marcus Borg quite likes, a “thin space” – a place where we pause and break away from everyday life and language and step into a sacred space – a place where we can feel more fully a meditative connection to the Spirit. (I do check that thinking against very valid concerns expressed by some gentle critics like Canada's Gretta Vosper and others, who point out that Borg sometimes too easily promotes blind acceptance/continuation of liturgical elements that are not truly thin spaces – in the sense that they are too exclusive in nature or reflect theological notions that do not resonate for many, or are unhelpful today, or even grate – effectively causing people to tune out. That kind of space would be a “thick space”, indeed. Fortunately, personally, I don’t find that to be a problem with this particular selection. As I said above, I don’t believe any barriers are created here because the words are so simple and the English is also provided. I think use of this Taizé prayer is very, very effective. That was my experience of it anyway.) The focus that comes through sometimes saying or concentrating on a short “mantra” or verse rather than sputtering out a ton of chatter has been recognized by many faith traditions. I like the Latin phrase also because it emphasizes Caring and Love as central to the presence of Divinity in our world and lives. (This is the focus of the Taizé community). It is derived from ancient sacred writings of the church, and is very consistent with both ancient and very contemporary theological thinking which puts less emphasis on perhaps less accurate or helpful “far off god” type imagery and more emphasis on the role of the Spirit so permeated by Divine Love - active in our world and, yes, at the ground of our very being. As people sang this song and reflected on the words, a real warmth could be felt in the group. This moved out into the time spent together afterwards as people related to each other in a way that conveyed great care and connection. I LOVED it!

Baptism, Water & Eco-Spirituality

Baptism & the Sacred Waters of the Earth (Eco-Spirituality) It’s interesting to note the intersections and interplay of symbols and meaning that often surround us in life. Recently, I found myself standing at the front door of a quite exquisite church building after having attended a Sunday service there. The door was wide open – revealing to any passer by the beauty of the Sanctuary inside. Equally captivating were the gardens just outside these doors. As I stood at the intersection between the inner Sanctuary and outer Sanctuary, the Church Sexton (Property and Grounds Keeper) stepped out of the building and walked towards the nearby lush array of leaves and flowers and rocks. He gently (and very lovingly) poured out the water that had been used earlier that morning for the Sacrament of Baptism. Now, knowing that there is often quite interesting symbolism at the heart of many liturgical practices, I asked about it. The Sexton explained to me that these waters would never ever be simply poured down a drain. They are especially blessed - having been recognized as such, and having been used for a Sacramental purpose. They were to be returned directly to the sacred Earth from whence they originated. This appealed greatly to my Eco-Spiritual approach to life – much as do many contemporary baptismal fonts which are now made from very natural and roughly hewn materials - rock in particular.
Note: The Baptismal Font pictured above is from St. John's Stevensville United Church in the Niagara region. We are baptized into a Spiritual Life of Integrity and Love in the name of Creator, Spirit and Christ. We are Christened with the very waters that are a source of and a sustenance to all precious life on our planet. We continue to honor those waters and all Creation – this bountiful Garden of Eden - as such. I loved the Heaven on Earth symbolism of it all, and can’t resist sharing this imagery on my Blog. I would hope that many churches employ this practice of honoring the waters of the Earth, returning them directly and lovingly back to Nature after such services - and even more importantly I hope they speak about it and enable their members to be activists in a way that is consistent with such Eco-spiritual symbolism.

Africycle - Ecology & Health

Africycle – Great for Africa, Healthy for Everyone & Green! Well, it was time to buy a new bicycle. (My last one was stolen at a train station - last summer ... sigh.)
Anyway, instead of trekking off to the specialty cycle shop in Toronto that we’ve usually patronized, I (with my little son James in tow) decided to check out Durham county’s Africycle – and was I ever impressed! I’d already heard quite a bit about it, but enjoyed learning more. Here’s the scoop: Africycle is an organization which is dedicated to providing beautifully restored “recycled” bicycles to people in Africa. It also provides such bicycles for resale to Canadians and promotes the very personally and environmentally healthy activity of cycling generally. The whole initiative was started up by an amazing guy by the name of Ted Webb - who has a passion for cycling, ecology and the people of Malawi. Ted told James and I a little bit about how he got started with all of this. Ted was in Malawi volunteering when he became aware of how useful bicycles are to the people there - how beneficial to the overall economy their presence is. He realized that if even more bicycles could be made available reasonably to more people, it could really have a very substantial impact in the life of certain struggling areas.
Since Ted already had a passion for cycling and bicycle mechanics, … he launched into a great adventure. Ted started the “Recycle a Bicycle” initiative and now runs a shop in Uxbridge, Ontario where he takes used bicycles, restores them and ships most of them to Africa. A good portion of the bicycles are also allocated for resale to customers in Canada with the profit from the Canadian sales going back into shipping and administrative costs). The shop also does repairs. Additionally, it fundraises by selling beautiful arts and crafts direct from Africa, and t-shirts promoting the charity. Ted has now been joined by a lot of people who are helping out. This includes people in a distribution/repair shop that has recently been opened in Malawi itself. In particular, his friends Ben Voss and Mike Siddal, who have particular strengths in business and administrative areas, have joined him as Trusties of the charity. Anyway, I thought the whole thing was amazing. I bought a bicycle for myself: a really nice 12 speed Mountain Bike - purple (to match my cell phone and jacket), and a SUPER little “motorcycle styled” bicycle for my son which he just adores. I also picked up some of the other “souvenir-ish” stuff as presents for friends with upcoming birthdays etc. So anyway… here are some recommendations to any readers of this blog: First, the general motherhood stuff: - Go cycling often just for fun, it’s good for you! - Cycle rather than drive your car absolutely whenever you can! Second, - If you live anywhere near Durham county and need a new bicycle (or bicycle repairs) …check out AFRICYCLE!! Here’s the website: http://www.africycle.org/

Watering Faith or Diluting it?

Watering our Faith - It's Like Language Acquisition - All About Growth This is further to my previous post on this topic which was entitled "Universal Spirituality - A Watering Down of Faiths or Watering them for Growth?" (I guess I'm concerned about it because there seems to be a little anti-inter-faith rhetoric around lately - in reaction to a lot of the contemporary spiritual thinkers and leaders who are promoting greater universalism.) The question was: Does learning about or incorporating aspects of another spiritual approach or tradition water down our own original faith - or can it make it stronger? A friend of mine (o.k., my dad) who does a lot of speaking and writing in the area of inter-faith understanding recently put it beautifully. He made the comparison to that of language acquisition. He pointed out that one can know a language and have it as their mother tongue, and still benefit INCREDIBLY from learning more languages. In fact, it is in the very best interests of an individual to gain agility in additional languages – both in terms of personal development and in terms of his or her ability to relate to and contribute to the world around him or her. In the end one’s understanding of his or her own first language is actually greatly enhanced rather than diluted or diminished. As for the notion of dilution or loss, a mother tongue is simply never really lost in adults. That only usually ever happens with young children. Even with young children, additional language acquisition is considered highly developmental (most especially when exposure to and therefore retention of their native/original language continues). Indeed, it is much the same with a person's faith development and spiritual growth. It's important to have a foundation, but so much can be built upon it. When I think of the way my own spiritual growth has occurred, I would certainly testify to that anyway. At any rate, when it comes right down to it, our world is ever developing into more and more of a global culture. While we honour and respect each culture and tradition within it – there is a natural blending that is happening all around us. We need to honour the specific cultures and traditions from whence we come, but also embrace and relate to the increasingly unified and rich global world culture that is developing all around us. So why not open our minds and hearts and arms in the name of growth, compassion and understanding? I think that's what that Jesus guy would do ... and Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha guy) too for that matter.
Growth is a good thing.

Water at the Well - Universalism

Water at the Well - Interfaith Wisdom - A Watering Down of Faiths or Watering them for Growth? As I’ve said before on this blog, my spirituality is kind of a Universal Catholic and Creation Focused type of spirituality. While I relate most particularly to the Judeo-Christian stream of spirituality, I do strongly believe that we can gain from the wisdom of other traditions and thinking as well.
Some people react to this kind of approach, saying it will have the effect of “watering down” specific cultural/religious streams – i.e. Christianity. I disagree with that though. I think it is possible to honor the best wisdom, practices and spiritual expressions of a specific stream AND grow even more. In fact, at its outset – Christianity was all about radical inclusiveness, incorporating wisdom from many sources - Paganism, Judaism, Near Asian and even Secular Philosophies ... and more. Even if we just look at the stories we have in the canon, we see the importance of inclusiveness highlighted. We read of Jesus spending time at a well interacting with a gentile woman of Samaria (a geographical region noted for its religious differences in comparison with Judea). Many from Jesus' tradition would have avoided the woman … HOWEVER, that was not the behaviour of Jesus himself. The true “way” of Christ involved and still involves listening, relating and brave inclusion.
Monastary Well - Montréal, Québec This beautiful well is located at the centre of the "Monastary Garden" at the Montréal Botanical Gardens. A nearby plaque notes that the central location of the well, in line with historical gardens on which it is based, is symbolic of the scriptural importance of well imagery. The connection between the water and the health of the garden, and the life birthing symbolism of the waters of baptism were also important in terms of the focal placement of the well. Now, I’m not saying that I would ever make the audacious request that any particular church or denomination adopt this more Universal Catholic view. Institutions will do what they think they need to do. When I do see this kind of more broad approach, however, I am impressed and view it as wise. Congratulations to those who can bring on the waters from the well. Instead of seeing any dilution - we just might see some growth.

Dance, Love, Work

Dance Like You've Never Been Hurt NEW Variation on a classic theme/quotation ... _________________________________________________________ "Dance like you've never been hurt. Love like you don't need the money. Work like nobody's watching!" - Saturday Night Live ROTFLMAO SOooooooooooooooooo funny ... and GREAT advice!!!!!! __________________________________________________________ I absolutely love the above Saturday Night Live new variation on the famous original quote. In case you didn't know it or have forgotten it, that classic quote was: "Dance like nobody's watching. Love like you've never been hurt. Work like you don't need the money." -Satchel Paige My husband loves the original lines. He generally has them embedded in his email signatures. He included the quote in his speech at our wedding 12 years ago. His Dad has now included the sentiment as part of a voice mail greeting on his phone. (Allan, my husband's Dad, attributes it to "a famous computer scientist", by which he means my husband). The fact is that few people seem sure of the identity of the originator of the popular quote. Some say that it is Paige, others say it is Mark Twain, and I think there are other authors to whom it has been attributed. Whoever came up with the quote really had a great approach to life at any rate. The variation which was aired on Saturday Night Live was even better though! Ha ha ... I think of it often now and smile. I can just envision a person dancing despite crutches, someone who has married a person partly because they're in the right "income bracket", or a professional who is overly micromanaged by his or her manager.
...........................................Go Dancers Go!.....................................

Eugene Onegin, 2008

Recently, Judson and I attended the Canadian Opera Company (COC) 2008 production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin.
Giselle Allen as Tatyana and Brett Polegato as Onegin - Eugene Onegin, Canadian Opera Company - 2008 The production was superb, and we thoroughly enjoyed the evening. Certainly, one of my favorite things in the world is to attend a truly great opera production with my guy. My sentiment is like that of Ronny Camereri (played by Nicholas Cage) in the 1987 Norman Jewison film Moonstruck. He says to Loretta (played by Cher): “I love two things. I love you, and I love the Opera. If I can have the two things that I love together for one night, I will be satisfied to give up ... oh God, the rest of my life..!” Ha ha – so melodramatic. It’s one of Judson’s favorite lines too, although I am more of an opera fan than he is. (He quite likes the opera, but is actually even more of a film fan. He's especially a fan of the film Moonstruck. His great joy would be like Ronny’s, only replace the word “Opera” with the phrase “the film Moonstruck”). See Judson’s blog: http://jud.sinton.ca/blog.php/2008/02/04/p71 . Now, coincidentally, Eugene Onegin was one of the first operas Judson and I ever attended together back when the COC performed it last (circa 1994). I’d had my first detailed exposure to the story a few years earlier as well when I attended the ballet version composed by John Cranko – performed by the National Ballet of Canada (circa 1991). (Gosh, it’s time I just pull out Pushkin’s original novel and have a read. Then I’ll be a real Eugene Onegin-ite). Anyway, the Canadian Opera Company did an amazing job. Giselle Allen and Brett Polegato were particularly wonderful in the roles of Tatyana and Onegin respectively. The story itself does leave one shaking one’s head with respect to some of the characters and their sad devotion to their romantic illusions. Well, this is particularly the case with respect to the character of Tatyana, in my view. The way she just pines over Onegin is certainly a lesson to us all in the importance of giving one’s head a shake sometimes. I remember thinking this the last two times I attended productions of the story. On one of those occasions I had recently been reading Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. I remember thinking that these women just needed to forget about the men and confidently embrace their own independence ... go out and get great jobs etc. ... - if only the 19th century world in which Tolstoy and Pushkin wrote would have allowed it. Oh well, at least Tatyana sort of carries on with life somewhat, rather than suffering the fate of Tolstoy’s even more pathetic heroin. (Tolstoy's Karenina finally ends up throwing herself in front of an oncoming train!) It’s good for me to review the Eugene Onegin storyline once in a while since I myself am somewhat of a hopeless romantic. I have Judson on such a pedestal … is it even fair to him? (Well … actually, I think he likes it). It is important to pull oneself out of the sappiness sometimes though. Well, I’m going to sign off on this blog for now. Later I’ll put up another blog on the COCs set and lighting for this opera which I think was cool enough that it deserves its own separate blog entry. Off I go now … Judson has been cooking a wonderful Italian dinner and it seems that it's ready. He has been trying to get my attention actually – with that flirtatious “come hither” tone of voice. So now … yes ... off I go … as much a slave to her feelings and passion ...as poor Tatyana.

Let's Go Back to Nature

I really like the video clip I've linked to below. It features the world renown theologian and environmentalist Matthew Fox. Fox is a former Roman Catholic Dominican Priest who found himself at odds with dear old Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI). Fox has now become more of a Universal Catholic and certainly a Creation Spiritualist. He's a very influential leader within new eco-spritual groups - a rebel with a cause for sure. In the clip, Fox talks about the fact that industrialized world culture has experienced a very fatal break from nature in its attempts to dominate the planet. Fox is quite right, though we must be careful not to think this is necessarily so new today. Our disjointedness with nature was certainly exacerbated exponentially with the industrial revolution, but this goes back thousands and thousands of years into the mists of our earliest history and even pre-history. Since then, our sense of any connectedness with the sacredness of nature seems to come and go, and also vary from wilderness locale to city location, or from culture to culture, or from person to person. Certainly though, it is always in our best interest to seek a restoration in terms of our sense of oneness with the beauty and joy and well being of our miraculous planet - to seek a connection to nature wherever and whoever we are. It goes back to some of the thinking in Fox's earlier work, Original Blessing. There he talks about the blessing of Creation and the break from it that happened at the dawn of human civilization. We broke away from a blessing, and have always yearned to restore it. Never before has the need to restore the Original Blessing been so great. Now this doesn't mean we should all leave behind the cities and head for the mountains. Our cities are important. In many ways our whole world is becoming more and more of a city - in Marshal MacLuhan's famous words, a Global Village. We can make the cities greener though - or just let the "green" in. Check out this amazing article on the natural greening of the Leslie Spit - left unattended by we preposterous humans: http://www.thestar.com/News/GTA/article/414004 Indeed, we can help enable or allow a transformation of the Global Village into a community which is also a beautiful Global Garden. Here's that interesting clip, Let's Go Back to Nature - with Matthew Fox. [youtube]Ye_iWDbAih8[/youtube]

The Papal Shoes

You're not in Kansas Anymore - Pope Benedict XVI I think quite highly of some of the wisdom that comes from Catholicism,and I expect that in this era of increasing post-denominational thinking many will actually benefit quite a bit from a growing connection with some aspects of that tradition. I did have quite a laugh recently, though, at the comedy of the Papal Shoes! Apparently, people are now contemplating the footwear and asking that ultimate question, "Does the Devil Wear Prada?" Others, with a more gentle view of the holy father, are wondering if perhaps he will soon return home to Kansas by clicking his heels three times - too funny. Below: A feature snapshot of the Papal Shoes ... (They almost glow don't they?)
Once Again: The Enchanted Shoes are in full view in a photo of the Pontiff at Yankee Stadium a few days ago ...
Hmmmm ... I think that at least one of those digital cameras is actually aimed right at the shoes. --

Dharmic - Jewish Sayings

Recently, I came across this list and thought it would be great to capture in my blog. It's a list of sort of "Dharmic-Jewish" sayings - haha. The Buddhism or Taoism brings one to a place of peace and the Jewish aspect counterbalances that with a sense of action, urgency and a practicality of sorts. Now I'm not Jewish or Buddhist, but I think there is wisdom to be found in all traditions. I really like a lot that's in the Eastern ways of thinking and "being". It all appeals to me. Still, there is a sense in which all of that causes us to draw back or retreat to the mountaintop. One can only levitate for so long. More than anything I just love the Jewish humour of these sayings. Those Dharmic - Jewish Sayings then ... * The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single "oy". * If you wish to know The Way, don't ask for directions. Argue. Take only what is given. Own nothing but your robes and an alms bowl - unless, of course, you have the closet space. * Let your mind be as a floating cloud. Let your stillness be as the wooded glen. And sit up straight. You'll never meet the Buddha with posture like that. * There is no escaping karma. In a previous life, you never called, you never wrote, you never visited. And whose fault was that? * Wherever you go, there you are. Your luggage is another story. * To practice Zen and the art of Jewish motorcycle maintenance, do the following: get rid of the motorcycle. What were you thinking? * Learn of the pine from the pine. Learn of the bamboo from the bamboo. Learn of the matzo ball soup from the matzo ball soup. * Be aware of your body. Be aware of your perceptions. Keep in mind that not every physical sensation is a symptom of a terminal illness. * If there is no self, whose arthritis is this? * Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Forget this and attaining Enlightenment will be the least of your problems. * The Tao has no expectations. The Tao demands nothing of others. The Tao does not speak. The Tao does not blame. The Tao does not take sides. The Tao is not Jewish. * Drink tea and nourish life. With the first sip, joy. With the second, satisfaction. With the third, a bite of bagel. * The Buddha taught that one should practice loving kindness to all sentient beings. Still, would it kill you to find a nice sentient being who happens to be Jewish? * Be patient and achieve all things. Be impatient and achieve all things faster. * To Find the Buddha, look within. Deep inside you are ten thousand flowers. Each flower blossoms ten thousand times. Each blossom has ten thousand petals. You might want to see a specialist. * Be here now. Be someplace else later. Is that so complicated? * Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkes (beans).

St. Patrick Meditation

Recently, I had an opportunity to hear a very good speaker, Rev. John James of St. Andrew’s United Church, Niagara Falls as he shared a reflection. During his talk, he quoted some favorite lines from a prayer likely to have been written in the 3rd century, and which is attributed to St. Patrick: "Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down ... Christ in the eye that sees me, Christ in the ear that hears me.” The poetry and power of the lines are wonderful, I think. I've reflected upon them many times since hearing James speak. I am very thankful to have been introduced to such an absolutely beautiful meditative passage. Now, I must admit that I looked up the prayer and found that there were many other lines in it which were not nearly as relevant or powerful today (…well…not for me anyway). I think some of the lines would even be considered to be quite irksome or offensive to many people.:-) That's o.k. though. Those weren't even quoted by James after all – quite rightly. It's all about bringing forward the precious treasures, and being o.k. about letting go of some of the stuff that would otherwise be ... well ... cumbersome. (It’s separating the wheat from the chaff, I suppose). By the way, those other lines included: "I summon today all these powers between me and evil ... against black laws of pagandom, against false laws of heretics ... against spells of women and smiths and wizards". (Personally, I'm kind of into some of the earth focused pagan stuff, and I certainly enjoy the heretics! Wasn't Jesus a bit of a heretic? As for wizards, I just adore them (- especially J.K. Rowling’s wizards.) The smiths are probably o.k. too, I guess. And the women with their spells ... well … my goodness - hopefully they're not so bad. I kind of like Hermione Granger...) Oh ... you've got to love St. Patrick though! On that note, I'll now end this post with a well known Irish Blessing for anyone reading. "May the Irish hills caress you. May her lakes and rivers bless you. May the luck of the Irish enfold you. May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you." Top O' the Mornin' ...
Stained Glass Window image of St. Patrick (Ironically, he does look a bit like a Wizard).

Blog Name Decided!

B l o g N a m e D e c i d e d ... O.K. I've decided on the name for the this blog... "The Undiscovered Blog". For one thing, it is actually fairly undiscovered. I haven't told many people about it or linked it up with much yet. Also, I like the reference to the "undiscovered country" in Shakespeare's Hamlet. Being a bit melancholy, brooding and pensive sometimes ... I can identify with Hamlet. In the famous "to be or not to be" speech, the bard spoke of the "the undiscovered country"... the place we go when we cease to “suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune". It's when we choose to follow our destiny, and live (even through pain or death) in the name of action instead of melancholy, or delay. Action does always involve risk, and moving towards a kind of end to our ordinary existence (to the point of having “shuffled off this mortal coil” or toil - well, at least in some respects anyway). Does action also connect us with something eternal in a way? Could we call that connecting with a divine aim - a true inner aim which exists in a cosmic context? Is it when we dare to be our true selves - when we dare to be genuine? Is it when we act in a way that is consistent with all our talents and abilities, with all the DNA stored up inside us, and in a way that is consistent with our experience and learning? I think it's a lot about all of that. Even more importantly though, I think it's also (and even primarily) about connecting with a deeper wisdom within us - one that has little to do with our egos. It's much deeper than our consciousness or even our “conscience”. (Those "make cowards of us all"!) It's all about connecting with a deep intuitive wisdom that will move us along the most ideal path. Some might call that our "true self" – unique and genuine but also rooted in more universal realities. Coming from a kind of Universal Catholic spirituality, I would call this this connecting with the Holy Spirit - a power which will subtly move us in the right direction if we let it. Is it all about "going with the flow" intuitively instead of resisting it or delaying? I tend to think so. Ultimately, Hamlet had to “go with the flow”… Anyway, positive action certainly involves venturing into undiscovered territory in order to really make any progress. So … this venturing is a good thing, I think. It isn’t good to be too afraid of that which is unknown or undiscovered if we are to discover ourselves and our most genuine paths finally. So ... this then ... will be an effort in that direction ... a venturing into thoughts or feelings or actions that are part of an undiscovered landscape... via ..."the undiscovered blog".

Tree Branches and Song

Palm Sunday - Towards Easter ... Well, now it is Palm Sunday, and yes what a party at church. Everyone was in a great mood – especially the children. And yes, there was lots of jubilant singing and branch waving. (No one even seemed phased by the fact that the statue of St. Francis had just been stolen from the church grounds. I wonder who would have stolen St. Frances?? Due to his great love of animals and the natural world – he’s quite the relevant fellow these days as people are more and more focused to ecology and our spiritual connection to nature… but really?? Was it necessary to abscond with the statue? Oh well. Hopefully he’s happy wherever he is. As long as he’s outdoors, I guess he’ll be o.k.) Anyway, as soon as my family got a hold of our palm branches, my husband got busy transforming his and the children’s branches into small crosses. This is done through a series of folds. I think maybe it’s an Anglican tradition, because I wasn’t aware of that activity until I met Judson. The amusing thing was that as soon as my son’s branch was turned into cross, he immediately flipped it upside down and proclaimed that it was his sword. I tried to explain that these were crosses and not swords. “They’re a different sort of …execution tool”, I told him. The similarity between crosses and palm branch swords is interesting though, because in both cases we have a product of Nature, in fact a product of the trees in Nature (such great symbols of life and growth)… cut down and transformed into something re-crafted by human hands, and re-envisioned as a instrument of destruction and death. Isn’t it so true that, overall, we humans have done so much of that corrupting of the Earth’s natural resources – turning our original blessing into so much wounding. Indeed too, if Christ’s arrival in Jerusalem was greeted with fanfare – the recognition of a great blessing, it didn’t take long for people to turn it into some pretty serious wounding. We see such a pivotal cosmic playing out of the original theme of Eden – great blessing > then a wounding (a falling away or detachment from the blessing). Ah, but what’s the next part of that pattern in the Christ story? It’s all about regeneration, restoration, resurrection. Life goes on. There is a transforming divine energy that moves life through and beyond wounding and death. So if we connect with and understand the image of Christ resurrected, what does this foretell in terms of Creation, ultimately? Matthew Fox talks about the ultimate coming of the Cosmic Christ in every aspect of Creation – every leaf, species, rock, person. It’s like Thomas Berry’s vision of a move from the Cenozoic Era that we’re in now, to an “Ecozoic” era where there is a restoration of the connection between humanity and its habitat – a healing of the Earth, and a return to a natural and spiritual harmony. In the Gospel of Thomas, we read of Jesus speaking the words, “Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there.” In John’s Gospel, Christ is also identified as “the Word” which was there at the beginning of time, the light of the universe - so the Divine Utterance in Creation. In Saint Hildegard von Bingen’s words, this is “the word that flashes out in all creation”. In eastern spiritual practice, an echo is heard in the peaceful and meditative "OM" – the sound of the Universe; the peace of the universe. The phrase “the Christ” means “the anointed”. It’s as we move away from crucifying, and return to the joy of the waving of palm branches - as we begin to “anoint” or embrace or recognize the sacred presence of the Christ both in the figure of Jesus Christ and in the presence of the fuller Cosmic Christ that transformation begins. When we see the fullness of Christ - the great peace and blessing of the Universe in all manifestations, then we begin to truly live in loving spiritual harmony with Creation. That’s when we connect with Divinity – the Holy Spirit, so immanent in our Universe - and every fiber of our soulful existence.

Palm Sunday Eve ...

Getting ready to Party ... Well, it’s Palm Sunday tomorrow– one of my favorite Sundays of the year. It all goes back to childhood memories of the great sense of festivity … the chance to “party” in church, waving palm branches and singing very upbeat songs. Later it came to have meaning for me as I began to focus on the symbolism of celebrating the arrival of Jesus along with Mary and the others in Jerusalem which is so symbolic of the great city - world civilization. (Also, incidentally, Jerusalem is one of my favorite spots in the world – so beautiful. I always enjoy thinking about the place. Anyone who has been there will know what I mean). The song that always comes to mind for me, and which I inevitably end up at least humming every Palm Sunday, is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s, "Hosanna", from Jesus Christ Superstar. Most years, in my childhood and teen days, we sang this song as the Sunday School processed waving palm branches. It’s interesting that this musical is again becoming very popular as there seems to be a little revival of passion around the story of The Passion. I know a few groups that have performed it lately with great gusto. I’m thinking of encouraging our current Choir Director to put the musical on next year at our church. We’ve got a little gang of teens that might just do a great job, and grow a lot in the process. Here’s that favorite Palm Sunday song: [youtube]E7dIUjCkXtM[/youtube]

Bring Love, Be Brave

A good friend of mine has, as a little signature on her emails, a comment which I love. It is the following: _________________________________________________ Experience awe. Find your voice. Take risks. Bring love, be brave, ask questions, be you. _________________________________________________ I love that. I feel so inspired every time I get an email from this friend. I just thought I'd add that in as my little blog for today ... as I experience awe, find my voice, take some risks, bring love, try to be brave, try to ask questions ... and try to be genuinely me.

A Blog by Any Other Name

Naming My Blog ... Well, sadly it turns out that the name I have for my blog is not really as wildly innovative as I thought it was. I liked the name … “iblog”… sort of techie sounding (not that I’m a techie). Also, I thought it sounded kind of fashionable (like ipod). One could also think of it as having the pronoun “I” associated with the verb “blog”...so "I blog". Besides all of that, I relate quite well to the letter “I” - since my name begins with I. YES … I thought it was a very, very cool blog name – but apparently, as I now discover, there is a whole universe of ibloggers out there (associated with Apple, of course)…duh. So, now I really do feel that have to come up with - a more unique blog name. Hopefully, the fun of blogging will still be as sweet … like the “rose by any other name”. I have a short list of possible new blog names actually. They’re all based on favorite literary works by writers whom I have always found to be inspiring. The titles are tweaked, adjusting them to the context of my blogging activity. Here’s the list: James Joyce 1. Portrait of the Blogger As a Young Woman (Well 30 something anyway …) 2. Blogger’s Wake … Maya Angelou 1. And Still I Blog … Margaret Atwood 1. Wilderness Blog 2. The Edible Blog 3. The Robber Blog 4. Morning in the Blog Cabin Michael Ondaatje 1. In the Skin of a Blog Alice Munroe 1. The Love of a Good Blog William Shakespeare 1. The Undiscovered Blog 2. This Powerful Blog … Not marble, nor the gilded monuments of princes, shall outlive this powerful blog… (Well, I guess Blog posts are actually fairly ephemeral, but that did sound good). J.K. Rowling 1. The Philosopher’s Blog 2. Blog of Fire 3. The Have-Blog Princess Other options … Another Blog for the Fire Blogs for the Pyre Captain’s Blog … Star-date 2008 Now … the final decision … what name should I choose? I’ll have to think about it for a day or two. Hmmmm…

"Stuffed" Consumers

How Stuffed Are We? - The Effects of Materialism and Consumer Culture A friend recently sent me the following Eco-Alert link, called “The Story of Stuff” with Annie Leonard, which I found very interesting and informative. The materials economy and consumer culture are discussed with respect to their effect on the world's natural resources and people. I recommend the link to all, and encourage others to promote the link. http://www.storyofstuff.com/ _______________________________________________________ My view on the full video which can be viewed via the link provided ... Personally, I do think that a certain amount of consumer spending is a good thing - good for the economy. We shouldn’t be afraid to make investments in the products and resources we need to thrive. It is so true, though, that things have gone a little out of control - to the point where, to use a favorite quote from Wordsworth, "getting and spending we lay waste our powers ... ". I do fully agree that we all need to become much more careful about HOW, WHAT and HOW QUICKLY we consume. We need to ask who is producing it and in what manner. We need to ask ... Are the planet's people and resources being developed as we consume certain products - or are they being exploited and wasted for the sake of short term gain? Do the wealthiest people in our global culture now bow down to an idol which represents a deceptive, fleeting and potentially fatal illusion of material well-being? If the shopping malls are now our new temples, and if we go there mindlessly in search of some sort of momentary thrill, because we think there is no better truth or higher form of aspiration - well ... then haven’t we've become rather shallow? As people, we can connect with something better than this, and we need to know that we can exert great power if we want to do that. We can choose what to consume and what will be developed and when. We shouldn’t be afraid to inform ourselves and then use our power wisely - “en mass”. Frankly, it’s time for a lot of us to stop walking around like zombies. It’s time to stop bearing such a resemblance to the taxidermist’s product – seemingly alive, but simply “stuffed”. So yes … check out Annie Leonard's inspiring thoughts on "The Story of Stuff".

Conservation - A Lenten Theme

The Cycles of Conservation and Renewal – A Lenten Theme As most will know, it’s currently the Judeo-Christian (and particularly Catholic) season of Lent. Lenten traditions include giving up excesses – particularly those which provide a false illusion of pleasure in the moment, but are often quite unhealthy for us and the world around us - especially in the long run. Many people fast or at least restrict elements such as excessive meat consumption during this time. It’s all a kind of early spring activity which is about preparation or "purification" in anticipation of the renewal of life in the fullness of spring - so powerfully symbolized in the images of resurrection and regeneration at Easter. On Shrove Tuesday which is the last day before Lent, Judson and I took the kids to a traditional Flapjack dinner. Shrove Tuesday (also called “Mardi Gras” or “Fat Tuesday”) is all about excess. The idea is to have a last big feast (which usually includes flapjacks and also fatty sausages for those who like them) on this day before Ash Wednesday and the official beginning of an ashen time of going lean. It’s the “last hurrah”. In many countries, of course, Mardi Gras is celebrated with quite a “Carnival” or party in the streets and at Masquerade balls. Anyway, the dinner was a lot of fun. Very interestingly, at the dinner we were at, each place setting had information available at it on a quite wonderful theme. The theme was Environmentalism and how this can be connected to the Lenten season - “cutting out the fat” by focusing on conservation and protecting Creation – this Garden of Eden we yearn to restore. Subjects ranged from education on issues around the availability of clean, healthy water across the globe, to steps we all should take in our homes to reduce, reuse and recycle. There were tips and practices related to the important issue of global warming in particular. Indeed, in this Lenten season and going forward we all need to seek to “trim the fat” – moving away from unhealthy excess to loving stewardship of the Earth’s resources. As the planet renews and restores itself through a seemingly miraculous process – maybe somehow we can see ourselves as not just a beneficiary of that, but also an agent of such revitalization as well. Here’s to “cutting out the fat” then. Here’s to embracing creation with wisdom and love - connecting to and becoming a part of the natural cosmic rhythms of gentle conservation and life generating renewal. [youtube]HLt0VgZloVk[/youtube]

Winter Tranquility

Well, it is February and the fullness of winter has arrived - in all its tranquility and serene arctic light. It’s an almost ethereal time of year really – so very cold, and also somehow seemingly filled with a sense of quiet wonder and anticipation. I always think of it as a time of stillness and reflection. What divine dream is taking place as the aspect of God immanent in nature sleeps under those soft thick blankets of snow? Well, with all my own quiet contemplation . . . I figured it might be a good time of year to blog a bit then. We'll see if I can get the hang of this. Hmmm . . . o.k. now I have to pop in a favorite clip which seems to suit the mood. I love the voices of these young boys, and also the glimmer in their eyes as they sing this angelic song. I can’t help but think of my own son who is just a little younger - he with his own whimsical, optimistic and gentle approach to life. [youtube]neOX4e82nEw[/youtube] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=neOX4e82nEw Now that was beautiful. I believe in angels…