10 ways to control your anger - Professional expert’s advice

I am really emotional and excitable person. I think that there are two types of anger: constructive anger and a destructive one. In order to understand the anger phenomenon I decided to investigate the nature of anger, reasons of its appearing, key factors and anger management.

What does it mean this anger? Anger is a strong indignation feeling of our emotional sphere that is attended by self-control losing. Anger is a signal of our state. Glands produce an array of hormones that have a great and deep effect on all our body. The main participants of this process are adrenaline and cortisol. They activate cardiovascular system and consequently all organs. Adrenalin causes fast heart beating, rising blood pressure. These rich oxygenated blood streams to the places are responsible for reaction. Thus some extra energy is released.

There are 4 basic ways of anger expressions:

1. Straight and immediately (verbally or nonverbally) to show your anger. It gives an opportunity to free from the negative emotions.

2. To express anger in an indirect way. In this case usually suffer persons that are weaker, not dangerous and those ones who “come to hand”, usually they are our family and close relatives. Thus we hurt our dear ones. One of the best ways is to express your anger to the person who is the source of this very anger. If it is impossible- better find some compromise.

3. Restraining anger you “drive” it deep inside. So, negative emotions store will provoke a big stress sooner or later.

4. You may foresee situation of anger feeling, try not to expand this feeling but get to know the reason, understand and solve it. A Roman philosopher Seneca said: “When you are feeling of ascending “volcano”- stand still, not doing anything- not speaking, not moving.”

Anger is a normal and natural human feeling, especially nowadays as life is really fast and we have a huge amount of information to accumulate (in comparison with our previous generations). The range of anger is rather wide: from a slight annoyance to impetuous fury. Anger can be quick and long, lasting for years in form of bitterness, vengeance or hate. Anger can lead to health issues like depression, high blood pressure, hearth diseases, stresses, alcohol dependence and obesity. If you are anger- express it. If you feel discomfort from these “negative splashes”- then we can give some techniques how to manage your emotional anger:

  • 1. Take a deep and continuous breath. Count up to 50 or imagine your aggressor just naked, only in socks. This will help you to calm and smile.

  • 2. Have a walk. Look at high sky. Continue to breathe deep and easily. So you appraise the situation and calm down.

  • 3. Do some physical exercises. When you are angry- your body is very tensed and tough. If you stretch your muscles it will relax your body, as you will spill out all your negative energy into action. Your brains will get more oxygen and it assists to clear your thoughts.

  • 4. Write down all your thoughts. Write down that you are mad and why. Avoid being rational, logical or laconic. Write on paper all you are feeling this moment. Try to write all in details. The function of this technique is to shift all your anger out of your head on paper.

  • 5. Be grateful. Find someone to thank. Do you not forget about yourself. Thank that you have woken up today, thank that that the Sun is shining for you, that the sky is blue and the grass is green.

  • 6. Prayer. Ask God to be with you during this anger moment and lead you.

  • 7. Meditation. Close your eyes, look into solar plexus, and be all your anger, breathing deeply.

  • 8. Change of places. Move yourself on your enemy’s place. And look at situation from his point of view. Better look at the situation from the ceiling. Focus on details, especially on funny and absurd ones. Strive to forgive your enemy as well as forgive truly yourself.

  • 9. Go back to your childhood memories. Recollect state when you were angry. Hug this child and say: “All is ok. I am here. You are good child. I love you and I will not leave you.”

  • 10. Your values. What is the most significant thing in your life? Who are the most important people in your life? What kind of person do you want to be? Think and accept that point that you are living your life, and you are living your values. There is a good man inside you that wants to help you. I wish you good luck!

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

What does it mean this thing Christmas to you? How can you make this meaning having more spiritual resonance to you or your family? Decorate your house with the candles and Christmas tree. Cook some special cakes for the festive dinner. Encourage your children to make presents with their own hands. Thus create good and comfortable atmosphere by sharing positive mood.

We all remember the story of Christmas. Nowadays this legend acquired some contemporary points. But, what is the most significant point that never changes? Of course, joy and love. This is a real amount of pleasure for us in buying gifts, giving or receiving presents, sending Christmas cards to our beloved ones, singing Christmas carols and getting families together. All of these are wonderful because they give us love and make us happy. Love is the most essential point of the Jesus Christ’s birth: “Love you neighbour the way Christ loved us”.

Remember to love, don’t forget about faith and trust people!

Manifest Love and you get Love back!!!

Hanukkah Lights Honor Terror Victims

Hanukkah took on a special meaning for Jews this year, especially those of the Chabad Lubavitch community.

Judaism’s Festival of Lights is the first holiday since the massacre in November of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, his wife, Rivkah, and seven other Jews inside a Chabad synagogue/ hospitality center in Mumbai, India.

Chabad of Eastern Connecticut dedicated a 15-foot menorah, or festival candlestick, to the fallen members of its movement. The menorah was lit for the first night of the festival Sunday. Hanukkah lasts for eight days.

“They were an unbelievable couple,” Rabbi Avrohom Sternberg, Chabad of Eastern Connecticut’s spiritual leader, said of the slain rabbi and his wife. Sternberg lit the memorial menorah in a ceremony at the New London Holiday Inn. The theme of light was very much on his mind.

“We must transform our tragedy into something positive,” he said. “Every time there’s a darkness we must counter it with more light.”

Light is a metaphor for doing good deeds, said Sternberg, who hosted a party for 80 people after the poignant outdoor ceremony.

The nation’s struggling economy presents another chance to reflect on Hanukkah’s meaning, said Rabbi Jeremy Booty of Norwich’s Congregation Brothers of Joseph. He views the festival as celebrating the victory of spirituality over materialism. Also, Jews in the time of the first Hanukkah not only had to fight a military battle but had to overcome corrupt cultural trends known as Hellenism, he pointed out.

“Hanukkah is an opportunity to let our spiritual side emerge,” Booty said.

Booty’s congregation will celebrate the festival at 4 p.m. this coming Sunday after canceling a party and menorah ceremony due to inclement weather this past Sunday.

A pre-Hanukkah party on Saturday at Beth Jacob Synagogue in Norwich proved to be well-timed in relation to the weather.

“We hit it just right,” said Rabbi Charles Arian, the congregation’s spiritual leader.

Weather cut into attendance somewhat. Plans were made to accommodate 75 to 80 while about 60 actually came, the rabbi reported. But spirits were high.

“It was a nice time,” Arian said.

Weather forced cancellation of a party at Congregation B’nai Shalom in Danielson/Putnam. The celebration has been rescheduled for 7 p.m. Friday at the group’s Danielson building, said Alan Turner, the synagogue’s lay leader.

A Sunday celebration by local Hebrew schools at Temple Emanu-el in Waterford also was canceled, as was a latke, or potato pancake, dinner organized by the synagogue’s brotherhood. Rich Pascal, Temple Emanu-el’s president, said both events will be rescheduled for some time before Hanukkah ends.

By James Mosher

Thursday, December 18, 2008

What Transformational Healing Traditions Inspire You?

Transformation can be seen as a tool for learning. I often say, I won’t go through tough "shit" without learning from it. There is no point to facing what we perceive as death and destruction without growing from that experience. I have heard the phrase, “an unexamined life goes nowhere”.

Transformation forces us to examine our lives. Of course some of us have no choice rather than to confront our “divine chaos” when transformation is triggered by some sort of traumatic event such as divorce, loss of a job, economic hardship, health issues, etc. (All issues that hit me at once!) These events can catapult you into full attention and questioning of your life. Such divine chaos is an opportunity for inner reflection. It’s like the universe is saying “pay attention! I am giving you an opportunity to allow your life to proceed with greater purpose!” Many times, as a result of transformational experiences, fulfilling opportunities arise from this chaos which we otherwise would not have been open to. For example, perhaps “losing my job” forced me into pursuing my own soul inspired and consciously aware business. This is an opportunity I wouldn’t have explored so ambitiously if I was parked into the status quo of my former job.

Transformation does not always need to arise from trauma. It can happen gently and with a subtle intention. The point is that when you resist (even Trekkies know that resistance is futile) the universe continues to insist! This is why it’s important to listen to the subtle cues born of awareness, intuition, instinct, and your inner voice, and then follow up on this awareness with inspired action. Too many times we hear these messages over and over and do nothing. Thus, as in my own case, we get blind sided into real clarity.

The journey requires self awareness. The greatest shift in awareness may stem from our own perception. We have the power to shift our perception… to recreate the story of our existence. What is your story? Are you a spiritual being having a human experience or are you a human being having a spiritual experience? For many, the very acknowledgement of spirit and influence over their own perception can have a deeply transformational impact.

So back to the original question, what is a transformational healing tradition?

I am reminded of the ancient tradition of astrology with its Plutonian concepts of death and destruction as a means to transformation and its chironic reflections (chiron representing the wounded healer) of transformation through the confrontation of one’s innermost wounds. What a beautiful example of a transformational healing tradition.

I am also reminded of Latin American folk healing, a tradition that does not separate the soul from the physical body. In fact the intent of spiritual shamans and Granny healers of the tradition is to reunite the body with the soul, for disease is a manifestation of soul loss arisen from trauma or fear. What greater transformation than to be reunited body and soul! Along the same lines, conventional western healing culture is not devoid of transformational healing. They just use different terminology like “post traumatic stress disorder” and may support transformational healing through counseling and education.

There are many different healing traditions that inspire transformation. I am an herbalist, and I have seen many cases of truly inspiring transformation simply by connecting people with plants and nature and by empowering students to become healers not only to themselves but to their loved ones, their communities, and their planet. Speaking of the planet, I would have to say that we are in the midst of a mass transformation!

What healing traditions have inspired your personal transformations?

By Mimi Hernandez

The Seven Spiritual Law of Success – The Unseen Lessons from Nature

Nature and the lessons it has to teach us can reveal a lot about the seven spiritual laws of success. Make an appointment with yourself to spend some time in the natural world open to the lessons that you can learn.

Nature is abundance

As you spend some time immersed in the natural world you will start to appreciate its diversity and complexity. The more you look, the more you will see just how much diversity has been created by nature, how infinitely abundant nature is.

You can see it in the diversity of plants and animals that surround you, in the magnificence and grandeur of scenery, in the vastness of a starry sky over your head, in the breathtaking beauty of a sunrise or a sunset.

As you spend time in nature you will also gain a greater feeling of unity with nature. You will realise that you are in harmony with the laws that govern nature and that these laws will govern your life.

Natural laws apply to your life

At the level of the rational mind the laws of nature are powerful models on which you can base your life. At the spiritual web designer natural laws are a integral part of your existence. Irrespective of your point of view, your life will become more fulfilled and successful as you understand the laws of nature.

Study nature and you will understand the natural laws. Reflect on how they apply in your life. Here are some pointers to help you get started.

Nature left alone is in dynamic balance. Nature has created entire ecosystems where the land, the environment, plants and animals all exist in a dynamic balance each other, each with a perfect role. The metaphor of balance should apply in your life. You need to balance all the different aspects of your life, mind, body, relationships, material existence and spirit.

Nature is cyclical. You can see this in so many different ways at so many different timescales. One cycle we are familiar with seasons – spring, summer, fall, winter. Another is the cycle of life – birth, growth, maturity, reproduction, death. Recognise that much of your life and what you try to do in it is governed by cycles that are mirrored in nature.

Nature is beautiful, grandiose, awesome. You are too

Nature has infinite potential and infinite abundance. Understanding this will remind you of your potential as a human being to create whatever you want from the infinite potential that surrounds you.

Spending time with nature is a spiritually refreshing and uplifting experience. Make time in your life to spend time with nature. You could contemplate the beauty of a garden, a stream or a flower. You spend weeks travelling through nature to become fully immersed in nature’s abundance and potential. Any experience is valid.

The seven spiritual laws of success are built upon natural principles. You can build these natural principles into your life as a bedrock for your path to future prosperity and happiness.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Meditation Service Aims to Lift the Mood of the Lonely

Lurking behind the merriment of the holidays is a bad case of the blues.

Holiday gatherings can put pressure on people to be upbeat and the life of the party.

Dysfunctional families can feel like they'll never get it together. And those without family can experience deep feelings of loneliness.

The Community for Spiritual Living church in Colorado Springs is reaching out to these people and others with a Christmas Taize service on Sunday that relies partly on meditation to lift their mood.

"Christmas time can be the loneliest, saddest time for people," said church Senior Pastor Jody Stevenson. "People need community at this time, and we want to offer that."

A Taize (Tah-ZAY) service offers song, prayer and a method of meditation similar to that of Zen Buddhism.But its roots are firmly planted in Christianity.

The service was developed in the 1940s in an ecumenical Christian community in Taize, France, and quickly became popular because it filled a void within Protestant Christianity.

While Catholicism has the Centering Prayer and the so-called Christian Meditation, both developed by Benedictine monks in the 1970s, and Greek Orthodoxy has a tradition of silent meditation dating back to the Desert Fathers in the fourth century, Protestant churches had no such practice.

Today, hundreds of nonevangelical Protestant churches in America, including a handful in Colorado Springs, hold evening Taize services as a complement to their more traditional Sunday services.

Taize meditation is about emptying the mind to experience the presence of God, said Linda Gleeson, a Taize facilitator at the Community for Spiritual Living.

"In the silence, God has an opportunity to speak to us," Gleeson said.

Sunday's event will be the second annual Taize Christmas service at the nondenominational church, which holds three Taize services each year. Hundreds of white candles will flicker in the dark sanctuary as people pray, sing and listen to Stevenson's brief talk about the holiday blues.

Three five-minute silent meditations will be part of the one-hour service.

Kay Sanders, a 75-year-old church member who has been attending Taize services for three years, said she has deepened her spirituality through Taize.

"We need to take time for meditation," Sanders said, "and be open to whatever the Spirit might share."

Mark Barna

Monday, December 15, 2008

Dalai Lama in Poland – review of a week-long visit

The religious and political leader of Tibet, His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama, spent seven days in Poland. Magdalena Jensen went along to an audience with the charismatic Tenzin Gyatso in Warsaw.

While it was his second visit to the country, this visit was much more public, comprehensive and controversial than before. The Buddhist monk, Tenzin Gyatso, spent a week travelling the country, being honoured in various cities, holding meetings with politicians and giving public lectures.

The Dalai Lama was a guest of honour last weekend at Solidarity hero and former Polish President Lech Walesa’s 25th anniversary celebrations for the receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize. He was joined by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the last president of apartheid South Africa Willem de Klerk, Israel’s Shimon Peres, Iranian lawyer and activist Shrin Ebadi as well as several hundreds of youth from around the world.

The Dalai Lama, addressing his audience, spoke of Poland’s remarkable embodiment of the essence of Solidarity – that is provides an example for his people seeking sovereignty as well as unity in the face of struggle.

“Poland is a nation who has experienced many difficult periods, however, no matter what difficulties, the Polish people always keep your spirit, your determination. I admire Polish people, [you have experienced] a lot of atrocities, a lot of difficulties, but you never lost your hope.”

This message of hope was a continued theme throughout the Dalai Lama’s visit and public and private meetings in Poland. The Tibetan leader was named an honourary citizen by the southwestern city of Wroclaw as well as received an honourary doctorate degree from Jagiellonian University in Krakow.

The University chose to honour the Dalai Lama based on his high ethical standards in social and public life as observed in his inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue and non-violent fight for sovereignty for Tibet. At this particular meeting, the Polish professor who nominated the Dalai Lama, Professor Beata Szymanska-Aleksandrowicz, called the monk a symbol for all those who fight for his cause but remain anonymous in the eyes of the world. She also compared Tenzin Gyatso to the likes of Catholic distinguished figures such as John Paul II and Mother Theresa of Calcutta.

Upon receipt of his doctorate in Krakow, the Dalai Lama continued what became the theme of his message for his Polish audiences: “Poles survived many difficult states in their history, but the Polish nation has kept its heart adamant.”

Upon arrival in Poland’s capital city, the Dalai Lama held an unplanned meeting with President Lech Kaczynski. The Polish President called the meeting private in nature, but, nonetheless, it compounded China’s anger at the Dalai Lama’s meetings in the country that was instigated by the meeting the Tibetan held with Sarkozy.

The French President and the Dalai Lama held a private meeting in Gdansk which angered the Chinese government so much that they cancelled an EU-China Summit that was to be held in Lyons, France early in 2009 to discuss bilateral relations. The meeting with the Polish President was also unfavourably received by Chinese officials. They expressed their “deep dissatisfaction” with the Polish side and hoped that Polish politicians would do nothing further to damage Chinese-Polish relations.

Spirit of solidarity

The Dalai Lama’s trip culminated in a lecture entitle “Personal Responsibility in Everyday Life” held at the Torwar Stadium in Warsaw – with an audience of 5,000 people.

Despite the size of the crowd and sheer vastness of the hall, as soon as the Dalai Lama entered the room, a quiet calm settled on the place. In his truly laid-back, even impish manner, the monk started by joking, “What was I supposed to talk about again?”

His speech, though rather spiritual in nature – about compassion and how the conscious practice of that value creates inner peace, which will in turn lead to world peace – spoke to everyone in the crowd. Babies and grandmothers alike listened with rapt attention as the Tibetan monk spoke of altruism and embodying an objective mental attitude.

The lecture, which felt more of like the telling of a story rather than a true lecture, concluded with the Dalai Lama espousing his general message to Poland: that of Solidarity.

“I have found a very strong spirit of Solidarity [here in Poland] with our struggle. Your solidarity has had a very important impact on [the Tibetan] problem – it gives us hope,” he stated.

Speaking to members of the audience both before and after the visit, I knew that this particular audience would not embody a typical slice of Polish society. Amongst those in the crowd, many were Buddhist – monks and nuns in traditional garb, a large representation of Warsaw’s Vietnamese community, several Tibetans residing in Poland, several Indian Buddhists as well as many young Polish people interested in alternatives to Catholicism.

Maciej Magora, a documentary film maker focusing on the Dalai Lama’s visit to Poland, claims that “this is a historic visit because it is so big and the government has taken a definite stand along with His Holiness for the Tibetan government.”

Gosia, a Pole who lives half-time in Britain, claims that we are lucky to be able to host the Dalai Lama and show our “full support” for Tibet. “We can connect in this way,” she added.

However, not all were so optimistic about his visit. Jakob, a young Polish Buddhist, expressed his disappointment at the Polish audience. “I get the feeling that the questions from the audience for the Dalai Lama represented a bit of a shallow view of Buddhism.”

The Dalai Lama, himself, perhaps sums up his visit better than I ever could. He expressed so much happiness at the welcome he received from Polish officials and the public, thanked them for sitting through his words and promised to “return again as many times as he can in this lifetime.”

His Holiness added, in speaking to his Warsaw audience, “So long as space remains and so long as sentient beings and sovereignty remains, I will live to serve.”

And so, the unassuming monk who spoke to an audience of 5,000 put his shoes back on, unwound himself from his position on the couch on which he was perched, bowed humbly before his admirers and calmly left the stage with a large smile.

From Polskie radio

Sunday, December 14, 2008

This is Your Brain on Spirituality

Note: For these next few posts I am assuming that evolution by natural selection is true. If you still harbor notions that Mormonism and evolution are incommensurable or that intelligent design has any validity I invite you to revisit some of of the earlier posts on this topic here, here, here, and here. For now we will just stipulate Darwinism’s truth.

This staatement from modern neurobiology sounds unsettling: Spirituality takes place by activating areas in the frontal and temporal lobes and turning down activity in the right parietal lobe. In pioneering work by Andrew Newberg and Eugene d’Aquili the brain’s activity during spiritual experience is being mapped with increasing detail and in fact a cottage-industry in exploring the relationship between brain and spirituality is being conducted by neurologists worldwide. Brain researchers are looking for something that’s been termed the God Module—components and structures in the brain responsible for giving us spiritual feelings. What does this mean for the LDS? Can we give place to such ideas? Should we feel threatened by such research? Should we dismiss it out of hand because we believe that spiritual experiences have their source from something outside ourselves? Let’s explore this. First a note on what they mean by spirituality. Newberg’s work, for example, is based on the spiritual practices of Tibetan monks and Franciscan nuns. Some may argue against this being ‘true’ spirituality because it’s not specifically Mormon. I hope that this kind of dismissal can be put aside. I believe that spirituality is something people of all faiths enjoy.

So let’s go all hypothetical for a moment and do an armchair thought experiment. Suppose we go to the MTC and hook a missionary up to a brain imager. Further (we’ll have to fast-forward to the future to do this—nothing like this really exists yet), let’s say that we have a brain scanning device that fits behind this missionary’s ear so we can do 24/7 surveillance on her brain. We keep notes on when the missionary says she was having a spiritual experience. She tells us that she felt the Spirit during testimony meeting that morning, during scripture study that evening while reading the Book of Mormon, and during a talk by the MTC Mission President that afternoon. So we go back to the brain scans recorded at those times and take a look at what her brain was doing. Sure enough, Sister X’s brain structures are all lite up or toned down according to the model of spirituality worked out by brain researchers. Furthermore they are only lit up in that fashion during those times she was claiming to have had a spiritual experience.

If we actually saw this should we bothered? One interpretation is that these experiences are self generated by the brain. That spirituality is nothing but certain brain states encountered during times when the brain thinks sensual input (scriptures, talks, etc.) warrant spiritual action. Another interpretation is that the brain is responding to real signals from another source, like the Spirit. Certainly, the eye, the ear, and other sensual apparatuses are responding to signals from things outside us: lightwaves, sound waves, etc. Why shouldn’t the brain have structures for processing things from a spiritual source. But how could you test that? It seems that the choice between these two cannot be answered with science. Newburg makes this point in his book, Why God Won’t Go Away. These experiments shed no light on the source of spirituality and cannot be used to bolster or dismiss either theistic or atheistic arguments. Meaning that which scenario is right, can’t be settled with an appeal to this kind of data. (For an exercise see if you can design an experiment that separates out which of these two scenarios is right. I think you’ll find without objective access to spiritual input you can’t answer the question. But try anyway for fun.).

Some members are bothered also by any claims that there is a physiological response when we feel the Spirit. Shouldn’t this be just Spirit to Spirit communication? However, when I feel the Spirit, I find my eyes watering, my heart beating more quickly, I feel in my body responses that make me want to pray or give thanks and other things that find expression in bodily acts. All of these are physiological responses. We should not be surprised by this. We know that one of the reasons we came to Earth was to get a body. We know that getting a body was important and part of the plan. During the resurrection our bodies will be fused permanently with our spirit (although I have no idea what that means exactly). Why should we be surprised that there are detectable physiological changes in our brain and body when we have a spiritual experience? Why should we be surprised that there are brain structures and pathways dedicated to spirituality? A large part of our brain is dedicated to vision. Why not spirituality? Conversely, I have trouble having spiritual experiences when I have a headache or am rushed or anxious. It seems to be a two-way street. I believe that our body, mind, and spirit are intimately linked. I find it interesting and important that scientists are finding that the brain has ways of processing the spiritual aspects of our lives. Rather than being threatened by current brain science, I find it wonderful and exciting.

Because we will never have scientific access to the spirit side of the spirit/body relation, I am skeptical that we will able to see how this works in completeness from an Earthly perspective. Subjectivity, as such, is only available to first person experience (think of Elder Packer’s famous reply, “Then you tell me what salt tastes like.” in response to a traveling companion’s attempt to dismiss Boyd K. Packer’s reports of personal spiritual experience). My point is not to speculate on how this works, but to remove the threat some people feel when confronted with these studies, which are often presented as if they they do away with spirituality or reduce it to just a brain state and nothing more.

Once again, we can embrace science without being threatened by its findings. We can defended our spiritual views of life without resorting to just casting suspicions on what science reveals.

Next time. Did these spiritual capacities evolve?

By SteveP

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Religion for Dummies: It's all pretty simple

Dawn Cribbs from McCook Gazette wrote:

Danny and I are frequent visitors at the local library. We don't even have to show our cards anymore and they can tell just by looking at my face whether or not the little overdue bell is going to ring before I can check out my latest finds.

I love to read, as frequent readers know, and enjoy a wide variety of authors, mostly fiction because I get enough of the current events on the job, and I need a break -- a few storybook endings rarely read in the real world, please.

I did check out a "For Dummies" book recently, though, that I found interesting. (I chose the "For Dummies" version because I can only take so much edu-speak in a day.) This book took a look at world religions and gave mostly interesting, certainly concise snapshots of the major religions in the world.

I read through the pages of Christianity, marveling again at the many splits over the years, taking particular note, however, of the fact that most of the familiar Christian denominations are "recent developments" when measured across two full millennia.

Man's desire for something, Someone, higher is by no means a new development in human history. Virtually every human community over the course of the ages has developed a religious system. As one responder to a recent column opined, "Apollo is Pan is Zeus, is Christ, is Muhammad, etc." concluding with the observation that we should celebrate peace on Earth and goodwill to men, "because it is right and because it may save us from our own continued folly of accepting old literature as absolute truth -- a practice which is well on the way of destroying mankind."

It is true, the adherents of the world's largest religions today do believe that "their way" is the "true path" to enlightenment, to Paradise, to Nirvana or to God himself. What is also true is how many of the desires of those world religions are fully met when meeting Jesus.

Each reveals a certain desire for ultimate justice and each reveals the truth of Scripture that God has placed eternity in the hearts of men. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) And man's continued pursuit of peace, whether peace of mind or peace with God (two-sides of the same coin to my way of thinking) revealed in religious writing is perhaps also revealed in these latter days by the number of pharmaceutical companies vying for our prescription dollars.

The Hindu teaching of karma and reincarnation reveals those desires, but close examination of Hinduism shows that even if given multiple lives, man still fails to save himself, to break for himself the cycle of endless death and reincarnation.


For adherents to Islam, Paradise is the goal and is met only by those who fulfill the Five Pillars of Faith in Islam, the first of which is to publicly acknowledge that "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah." Islam teachings are comprised of both faith and duty and Islam further teaches that each man and woman has two angels, one recording good deeds, the other bad deeds. Justice.

It is hard to find fault with the five precepts of Buddhism, which are to avoid killing or harming any living being; to avoid taking what has not been given; to avoid committing sexual misconduct; to avoid using false words and to avoid taking alcohol and other intoxicants. Buddhism provides Four Noble Truths that lead to the Eightfold Path, which ultimately lead to a state of higher consciousness, where dukkah (the futility of life) ceases.


Naturally, Judaism makes the top five (by number of adherents) of the religions of the world, and is somewhat familiar to Christians, because of our belief that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies of the promised Messiah, for whom Israel still waits. The God they worship, follow and serve, is in fact the Father of the Christ we call both Lord and Savior. Judaism and Christianity are intimately and eternally related because of Jesus. God's oft-repeated promise of the restoration of Israel after all, is fully met in the Messiah.

Peace. Justice. Eternity. All are hungers placed in the hearts of men by the One who created them. In the absence of true teaching, and sometimes in spite of it, men have and will continue to manufacture a way to attain one, two or all three.

But look again at the core teachings of Christ and see there the answer to each one. In Jesus we are reconciled with the God who created the heavens and earth, and who formed us in his image. In Jesus we have a righteousness we could never earn on our own, even if we were to live a thousand lives. And in Jesus we find life, both abundant and everlasting.

When all is said and done, it's pretty simple. (Notice I didn't say easy.) There is truth and it can be known by any who truly seek it. If you would know truth, then you would know God for he himself has promised:

"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV)

Things you won't see in heaven:

Broken promises

Monday, December 08, 2008

Imagine No Religion

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, the largest national association of atheists and agnostics, is taking its national billboard campaign to Texas for the first time, posting its colorful "Imagine No Religion" billboard on I-37.

The Foundation launched a national billboard campaign a year ago, taking its religion-free messages state-by-state. Foundation billboard messages also say "Beware of Dogma," "Reason's Greetings," and "Keep Religion OUT of Politics."

I heard of the campaign in late November after the General Outdoor sign company in Rancho Cucamonga, California, tore down and destroyed the Foundation's "Imagine No Religion" billboard. Speaking to the Associated Press, the foundation's co-president, Annie Laurie Gaylor, said the billboard is meant to encourage a debate about religion by evoking lyrics from a John Lennon song.

Personally, I think the campaign is quite strong. By evoking one of the best songs ever written, the foundation reminds us of Lennon's conviction that the world would be better place if we all treated each other with respect and kindness instead of constantly defending our religious beliefs against the other.

BEHAVING as if there were no religion is not the same as GIVING UP our religious beliefs.

Posted by Ko

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Martial Arts and Spirituality

Martial arts and spirituality. What does that even mean? This is a question almost all of us ask. But few of us ever get any real answers. Some say it's mixing religions such as Christianity or Islam with martial arts. Some think it's dressing up in flowing clothes, spouting koans, and seeming esoteric. Some say it's simply, "a bunch of crap".
However I believe It isn't any of these things.

To understand the relationship between Martial arts and spiritually, you must first understand what each of them are on their own. Most of us pretty much understand, or at least have a clear concept of what the martial arts are. I'll define it here as the study of physical conflict. But there are lots of reasonable definitions. Most of us have spent enough time with the martial arts, that we have a pretty clear definition, at least for ourselves. It's spirituality that many of us have a hard time with.

To many, spirituality is simply going to church and reading the bible. While these things are spiritual things, they are part of a religion, and not the spirituality itself. A religion is a school of spirituality. The main goal of these schools is to put people in touch with their spirituality. The practices of a religion (prayer, bible reading, church services, worship etc.) are designed to put you in touch with your spirituality, but they are not the spirituality itself. By adding the practices of your religion to your martial arts, you are not working with spirituality, you are simply adding more practices. Which most martial arts systems already have more then enough of. Religion's are to spirituality as Martial arts are to fighting. They are schools that point to a thing, but not the thing itself. Mixing the practices of a religion into your martial arts doesn't train your spirit.

The trappings of spirituality are not the spirit. While different physical objects can help evoke your spirit, they are not the spirit itself. Wearing a Zen masters robes certainly does not make you a Zen master. Reciting words and incantations that you don't understand does not make you a spiritual person. Seeming aloof and exotic to other people doesn't do a thing for your spirituality either. It starts with you.Your spirit is at the very core of what you are. So how could you find it in things outside of yourself?

Because of our tendency to confuse spirit with practices and trappings, many of us come to the conclusion that spirituality is just a bunch of nonsense and doesn't exist at all. However if you look to the normal instead of the extreme we can readily see examples of spirit in our daily lives. Some common indications of spirit are: "the spirit of giving", "the Christmas spirit", "Fighting spirit", etc. We all understand these examples, and accept them with little doubt as to their existence. The reason is because we've all experienced them or seen them in our lives. We don't think of these things as being different or special, they are just part of life.

Spirit is complete manifestation of true self. Let's look at it in terms of "the spirit of giving". Most all of us have been over taken by this at one time or another, and are quite familiar with it. We know that it is a feeling of joyful giving. It can seem almost addictive. You just start giving things, maybe even expensive or important things, to people you care about. Every part of you wants to give. Once you surrender to your spirit, everything seems to come together for you. The same can be said of "fighting spirit". When someone has a strong fighting spirit, they except the fact that they are in the midst of struggle. In fact they happily engage, excepting what is happening, exhibiting a kind of joy. They do this even in the face of agony or defeat.

Your spirit shows itself when you stop putting things off. Without fearing what is about to happen, simply being in the moment, naturally. We've all had the experience of getting up in front of a crowd to give a talk or present something. Maybe we allowed ourselves to be intimidated by the crowd, kind of shinking inside of ourselves. Not being the best showman we could be. We didn't have the "showman's spirit". We didn't allow ourselves to do as well as we could. We just didn't have enough "spirit" to make the best presentation we could. Spiritual practice's are those that teach you to except what is happening and who you are in order to let yourself, your spirit, shine through. When you are coming from a spiritual place you are acting without fear, worry, doubt, or any kind of dependence on what will happen next, you are simply being you, right now.

Understanding spirit, and spirituality in this way; its connection to the martial arts is undeniable. Martial situations are ones that require strong spirit. If your spirit isn't strong you'll never get through extreme difficulty's. If your spirit isn't strong it's impossible to come through tragedy and not be a victim. And for these very reasons Martial practices make wonderful training grounds for the spirit. Lending the martial arts to being a wonderful spiritual practice. Most religions and non-martial spiritual schools have to add practices in order to train the spirit. Challenges and difficulties must be faced in order to strengthen your spirit. Non-martial spiritual traditions add things like: abstinence, fasting, tithing, worship, routine, strict moralities etc. in order to challenge their practitioners. Martial practices however have a built in set of challenges: fighting, physical fatigue, and habitual practice are the necessities of a martial method. Practices like these make simple sense in the martial arts. You never have to ask, "why do I need to be in good physical shape" ," "Why do I actually need to test my skills against someone", or "why do I need to train so much". The reasons are clear, if you want to be good, you'll have to do these things. You must use your spirit to get through these rigors, this trains the spirit. It's hard to hide behind lies, and clever excuses, if you're not training hard, it's clear that your spirit is not in the practice.

The great thing about spiritual training is that it will naturally start to spill over into the rest of your life. When you honestly take on training in the martial arts, you take on a spiritual practice that makes you a stronger person. Dealing with things directly and honestly starts to be much less challenging. When you willingly participate in physical conflict, dealing with the grumpy bus boy suddenly isn't a big deal. When you force yourself to joyfully except vigorous exercise, doing yard work is no problem. A strong spirit is useful in all facets of life, and will do far more for you then make you a good fighter.

You must pay attention to this. You must actually make Spirituality a practice. If you fight simply because you're mad, or "want too" you're not training your spirit. You are simply giving in to an indulgence. If you show up at your Dojo and simply go through the motions, you're not training your spirit. If you get excited and feed your ego every time you pin someone, or give them a big throw, complaining every time you are thrown, you're not training your spirit. You must stay ever mindful, taking care in all of your training. This will make your practice something phenomenal. Something that will strengthen your spirit, and increase your martial ability. Eventually there will be no more "spirit of giving,", or "fighting spirit", because everything you do will involve spirit. Giving you something we could all use a little more of in our lives, Joy.

How to Make me an Atheist

Lest our discussion on free will turn to bickering, I believe it best to address a motif in many of Ken Ueda's writings regarding the inconvertibility of Christians. That is, Christians often say that neither human reason nor experience can persuade them that atheism is true and Christianity is false. This, I believe, was one of the reasons Ueda started his "Ask an atheist" column and is perhaps a frequent frustration of atheists everywhere. I want to answer this frustration, and in a later article look at Ueda's stated reasons for why an atheist might convert to Christianity. In the end, it seems both sides tend to ignore significant arguments and evidence, though for different reasons.

For me to intellectually embrace atheism two things would have to occur: first, a denial of Christianity and second, a conviction that atheism is preferable to agnosticism, universal Unitarianism or a non-theistic religious system like Zen Buddhism.

There exists one insurmountable barrier in the first step, namely the undeniable evidence of the existence of Christ. Historically, denying the existence of Christ would be like denying the existence of Julius Caesar. Not even opponents of the early church did so. But more important than Jesus' existence is his resurrection.

As Thomas Arnold, appointed chair of modern history at Oxford University, after himself sifting through historical evidence said, "Thousands and tens of thousands of persons have gone through it piece by piece . . . I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God hath given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead."

Jesus was seen by over 500 people and at 15 different recorded times after His resurrection. If Christ did not rise from the dead, no foundation for Christianity would exist. Yet, if it is true, any other issue like the origins of life or the existence of evil is a matter of mystery and faith. Searching, questioning and reasoning are important and legitimate for Christians, yet accepting mystery is also necessary. Thus, such arguments are peripheral if Christ actually was raised from the dead.

It would not be sufficient to convince me that religion is harmful to society. I, like Aquinas, believe that if Christianity is true, it ought to be followed by virtue of truth and not pragmatism. If we were be like Nietzsche, we would face the outcome of the truth regardless of its consequences (he went insane, if you recall).

Nor would it be sufficient to deride Christians as backward or stupid. I think Leibniz, Locke, Descartes, Milton, Donne, Pascal, Flannery O'Conner, Kierkegaard, Tolstoy, Aquinas, Augustine, Rousseau, Lewis, Chesterton, Dorothy Sayers, Max Planck, Lord Kelvin, Mendel, T.S. Eliot and Pasteur would likely disagree. They could all be mistaken about the veracity of Christianity, but to say they are unintelligent would demonstrate ignorance.

Let us assume at some point you provide me with irrefutable evidence that Jesus wasn't the Son of God. Then the burden would lie on you to convince me of the truth of atheism over other alternatives. I would like to know how I can reasonably doubt the supernatural. Some atheists are fond of disproving God to disproving fictional or fairy tale figures like Bigfoot or Santa Claus - I, being a discerning fellow, would label that a fallacious analogy as the weight of evidence for supernatural miracles, texts, design and experience is not even comparable to fairy tales. I would thus ask to be shown how one could prove by preponderance of the evidence that the supernatural did not exist or at least did so to a negligible degree (if that is even possible).

This proof should involve an explanation of why nearly all of human history is filled with spirituality, why humans long for significance and meaning and why there exists, in many, a sense of eternity. Where does this preoccupation come from? Freud's explanation in Civilization and Its Discontents was that humans naturally experience a false "sensation of eternity," and religion has come to accommodate it. Yet, if nothing supernatural exists, how is it that we came to invent it? Just as we can't imagine a "new" color entirely different from the ones we can see, it would be impossible to manufacture the supernatural if it did not have at least some grounding in reality.

Additionally, I would have to believe that the worldview I was adopting by means of logical persuasion did not undermine human reason. I would have to understand how atheism can claim to be true while simultaneously eliminating any potential source of objective and universal truth, as well as how my randomly constructed, partially evolved mind is capable of reliable reason. How could I be logically convinced by an explanation that lacks a basis for trusting logic?

Those are my questions. Whether or not this list is conclusive, can be applied to theism generally, or is even true for all Christians I am unsure. I do, however, think an understanding of the burden of proof for both sides is necessary and perhaps in the future the discussion will turn to miracles, answered prayer, fulfilled prophesy and scientific manifestations in scripture.

By Nick Elledge

Monday, December 01, 2008

Paradise Lost and the Evolution of Spirituality

I have been thinking about challenging questions at the interface between faith and evolutionary biology. In the next few posts I’m going to explore speculation in biology that religion and spirituality are evolved features of human cognition. What are the implications of that if true? Can we believe that and still keep our faith? Of course we can. But let’s explore a context for an approach.

I’ve been reading Milton’ Paradise Lost and have gathered insights there that bear on this question. Late in the book an instructive exchange occurs between Adam and the Angel Raphael who has been showing Adam the events that happened before his creation. Adam is a little perplexed that all the stars, planets and the sun have to circle a little no-account place like Earth. He recognizes the stars and planets are very far way and is amazed that to fulfill the command of their creator to orbit the Earth each day, they really have to make a dash for it to complete their turn about planet each day. He’s really curious about this aspect of the creator’s strange design for the heavens.

(Recalling that the scriptures are absolutely clear that it is the Earth that is still it and it is the heavens that move:
Psalm 93: 1 the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved
Psalm 96:10 the world also shall be established that it shall not be moved
Ecclesiastes 1:5 The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.”
Saying the Earth revolves around the sun is like saying there was death before Adam. It’s that clear in the Scriptures).

The angel is pleased that Adam is asking hard questions and commends him for looking to nature to find answers to questions, which he also considers God’s word. But the angel says:

“To ask or search I blame thee not, for Heav’n
Is as the Book of God before thee set,
Wherein to read his wondrous Works, and learne
His Seasons, Hours, or Days, or Months, or Yeares:
This to attain, whether Heav’n move or Earth,
Imports not, if thou reck’n right, the rest
From Man or Angel the great Architect
Did wisely to conceal, and not divulge
His secrets to be scann’d by them who ought
Rather admire; or if they list to try
Conjecture, he his Fabric of the Heav’ns
Hath left to thir disputes, perhaps to move
His laughter at thir quaint Opinions wide

Milton here is writing about 30 years after Galileo. Both the Catholic Church and Protestant Reformation have rejected the idea that the Earth moves around the Sun. The angel is arguing that as long as you get the reck’n right, as long as you can make the predictions about the timing of heavenly events like eclipses, solstices, etc., how things really are does not matter much. He suggests that God might find our scholarly disputes humorous. The angel then offers some reasons why it’s not a big deal that the expansive heavens go turning about the centered Earth.

. . . Heav’n is for thee too high
To know what passes there; be lowlie wise:
Think onely what concernes thee and thy being;
Dream not of other Worlds, what Creatures there
Live, in what state, condition or degree,
Contented that thus farr hath been reveal’d

He tells Adam not to be concerned with these higher things and be content with what has been revealed.

Adam is quite satisfied with this advice and says:

To whom thus ADAM cleerd of doubt, repli’d.
How fully hast thou satisfi’d mee, pure
Intelligence of Heav’n, Angel serene,
And freed from intricacies, taught to live,
The easiest way, nor with perplexing thoughts
To interrupt the sweet of Life, from which
God hath bid dwell farr off all anxious cares,
And not molest us, unless we our selves
Seek them with wandring thoughts, and notions vaine.

Best not live perplexing thoughts. Let God handle those anxious cares and not molest ourselves with questions.

In fact Adam suggests the questioning mind is dangerous:

But apt the Mind or Fancie is to roave
Uncheckt, and of her roaving is no end;
Till warn’d, or by experience taught, she learne,
That not to know at large of things remote
From use, obscure and suttle, but to know
That which before us lies in daily life,
Is the prime Wisdom, . . .

I see this attitude of Adam and the Angel today among some of the saints who argue that we ought to leave questions about the science of creation alone. Avoid the hard questions that evolution brings. But what’s interesting to me is that the dialogue from Paradise Lost was argued vis-à-vis Adam’s innocence—Prior to partaking of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The last lines of Paradise Lost, as Adam and Eve take their last walk through Eden and out of the garden, are some of the most beautiful and meaningful to me in all of literature:

With dreadful Faces throng’d and fierie Armes:
Som natural tears they drop’d, but wip’d them soon;
The World was all before them, where to choose
Thir place of rest, and Providence thir guide:
They hand in hand with wandring steps and slow,
Through EDEN took thir solitarie way.

The World was all before them and with wandering steps and slow Through EDEN took thir solitarie way! Wow.

So it is for us. We must ask the hard questions. We are no longer innocent. Adam made a choice for knowledge and its pursuit. It was the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil after all. Knowledge. We needn’t fear where the questions of science take us. Adam made the right choice. Knowledge over innocence. Questions rather than answers. Quest is rooted in the word Question’s stem. The world is indeed all before us. We need not fear what we will find in its examination. Not neglecting ‘and Providence thir guide’ we will press on with hard questions about the possible evolution of spirituality in humans.

By SteveP