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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Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Jewish Perspective on the Jhanas

The jhanas are states of heightened concentration that have been cultivated by Hindus and Buddhists for just under three thousand years. They are altered states, full of bliss and, I would say, holiness, and they play a central role in the Buddha's Eightfold Path ("right concentration"). Recently, I completed two months of silent meditation retreat devoted to the jhana practice. I went with certain intentions and expectations, which I'll discuss in a moment, but the experience was more profound and more religious than I expected. After a few introductory notes, I will describe my experiences of the jhanic states and describe what I believe to be their significance for Jewish theology and spirituality. As far as I know, such a project has not been attempted before.

1. What I did, and why I did it

I wish to make three introductory notes. First, I want to explain why I undertook this rigorous practice, which involved sitting still for extended periods of time (usually, 90 to 120 minutes), and spending the entire day doing nothing but observing the sensations of the breath at the nostrils, even while walking, eating, et cetera. I had three reasons, and discovered two additional ones during the retreat.

First, my real goal is liberation from the delusions of ego and the clinging nature of the mind: to learn to let go of clinging. On the Theravada Buddhist path, liberation comes from insight: directly seeing and knowing that all phenomena are empty of substance, impermanent, and fruitless to cling to. Insight, in turn, depends on concentration; you've got to get really quiet to see these characteristics clearly. So I went to learn concentration skills as a kind of prerequisite for a four-month retreat that I am on now, as this article is published.

Second, I went because jhana itself helps insight. Distractions and hindrances are suppressed in jhana, and the experience is deeply purifying and refreshing; one emerges with an extremely sharp, clear, and quiet mind, ready to do the rigorous, moment-to-moment noticing that leads to insight.

Third and finally, I did this practice because I was curious about jhana itself. On earlier retreats, I experienced what many meditators experience when their minds become concentrated: deep contentment, bless, gratitude, love, and awe at the beauty and miraculousness of ordinary life. Jhanas are like those concentrated mindstates squared, amplified, distilled -- and I wanted to see what they were like.

Along the way, I discovered two additional purposes to the practice. One is the deep "purification of mind" that is required to enter jhana: you really have to see and let go of all of your stuff, which in my case included a lot of grief, confusion, loneliness, ego, expectation, and just plain chatter. Every moment is an opportunity to let go of all this stuff, and I had a number of extremely powerful openings that perhaps I'll write about some other day.

In addition, the jhanas were themselves a powerful lesson in letting go. They are like everything I had dreamed about from the moment I became interested in spirituality as a young adult. Imagine your greatest dreams fulfilled, in oceans of light, bliss, love, and mystical union. Now imagine that you have to let them go. This is the lesson: that even the greatest of states arise and pass. You can't hold onto anything conditioned, even the dearest and most precious experiences imaginable. This insight alone was surely worth the price of admission.

The type of practice-what I did

My second prefatory note concerns the type of practice I did. There are different schools of thought among Buddhist teachers as to what constitutes a jhana and how to cultivate it. Some hold that discursive thought and perception of the outside world must completely stop for a jhana to be truly taking place. In this model, a jhana is a totally absorbed state of mind; the meditator is only aware of the object of meditation (more on that in a moment), and nothing else. Even the passage of time is not noticed in such an absorbed state. Other teachers, however, will say that a jhana has commenced as soon as its factors are in place and an obviously altered state of mind has arisen.

My own practice was a hybrid of these two approaches. I studied with perhaps the Buddhist world's leading expert on jhana practice, who holds the more strict view. Yet after a full month of rigorous concentration, I was unable to achieve total absorption as his practice demanded. I would enter clearly altered states, but would still be aware of strong bodily sensations and the sense of time. Therefore, after one month, I switched to the more moderate approach, which I had learned earlier. I still cultivated the jhana in the "strict" method: I concentrated on the sensation of breath at the nostrils until the mind formed a mental image of the breath -- a white cloudy light called a nimitta. The nimitta would then become my exclusive focus of concentration. But I proceeded through the first four jhanas even though the absorption was not total. My experiences, as profound and powerful as they are, should thus be understood as only partial in nature. I am a beginner -- some might say a failure -- not a teacher and not an expert in these practices.

(For detailed description of jhanic states and practice, please read Shaila Catherine's Focused and Fearless, the best contemporary book on the jhanas. The best online resource is my teacher Leigh Brasington's website, where you can learn more about the stricter approach.)

Jhanas are better

That said, my third and final prefatory note is that I actually do have a fair amount of experience with mystical states, and these blow all those experiences out of the water. With the possible exception of ayahuasca, I have never encountered anything like this -- and I have spent many years meditating, davening, doing energy work, and engaging in a wonderfully wide range of ecstatic and contemplative practices. Without being too arrogant about it (which would be an ironic reversal of the point of spiritual practice!), I think I know whereof I speak.

When I described some of my experiences to a friend, she remarked that they sounded similar to what Elizabeth Gilbert describes in her book Eat, Pray, Love. I had precisely the experiences Gilbert describes on my first meditation retreats, six years ago. They are world-shattering, mind-altering, and profound. They provide a direct experience of what generations of mystics have described in glowing mystical terms. I do not wish to minimize them, and have described them in these pages in the past ("You Are God in Drag," "What the World Is"). But the jhanas were far, far more powerful and more profound -- perhaps an order of magnitude more. They're like the qualities of those earlier experiences, well, concentrated, refined, and distilled. If what Gilbert, and I in those earlier essays, described is like a lovely Hershey's Kiss, the jhanas are like a rich, hot molten chocolate cake. Get it?

2. Mikvas of light

With those provisos out of the way, I will now describe my experiences of each of the four basic jhanas. (There are actually eight jhanas, but the other four are less essential to insight practice. Moreover, while I had some limited experiences with them, they require their own essay.) While the descriptions that follow may seem hyperbolic and overblown, I assure you that I am deliberately understating and underdescribing the experiences. Every writer who describes the jhanas does this. I don't want to condition your experience by telling you too much, and I don't want to heighten your expectations should you undertake jhana practice yourself (which I hope you will).

First Jhana

The first jhana is like the "big wow," an awesome peak experience that arises after the mind has finally settled on the object of concentration with focused, sustained, one-pointed attention. Bodily or emotional rapture called piti may arise, suffusing the body with bliss or filling the mind with awe--sometimes the feeling is more "gross" and embodied, other times more subtle and purely mental. In my experience, the nimitta would become radiant, awesome, and beautiful, and grow to fill my entire field of vision, and surround my body; the experience was like a glowing, energetic light surrounding and cocooning my whole being. It's quite captivating. There is also a sense of seclusion--of finally being safe from the chattering mind. From my Jewish spiritual perspective, this was like holiness as the big amazing awesomeness, full of mysterium tremendum and radical amazement. It's Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon. Like many mystics, I'll use erotic analogies as well; the first jhana is like having sex, before orgasm: panting, arousing, ah--ahh---ahh--- that sort of thing.

Eventually, though, the first jhana begins to feel like too much effort. You have to work to keep it up. This is its advantage--if you didn't work, you wouldn't get in--but eventually, after anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour or more (my longest was one hour), the mind gets tired of ecstasy, excitement, and bliss and moves naturally onto the second jhana. The transition between jhanas is always from gross to subtle: the more gross factors drop off, revealing the more subtle ones underneath. In the case of first-to-second, the factors of applied and sustained thought drop, and the other factors--rapture, joy, and one-pointedness of mind--reveal themselves more. Usually this "drop" is conscious; after a few weeks of practice, I would feel a kind of mental itchiness when it was time to move on, and would consciously resolve to let the factors drop and the others predominate. A few times, though, the drop happened automatically; the mind would just bail out. Eventually, the four jhanas are kind of like four rooms in a house that you've come to know; you don't even have to make the resolve clearly, because you know the territory, and can recognize it and adjust quite naturally.

Second Jhana

In the second jhana, the feeling tone shifts to joy--"drenched in delight" in Shaila Catherine's words. Effort drops away, and the mind rests one-pointed on its focus. I experienced the second jhana as being like swimming in a mikva of light--in my journal one time, I wrote that when the nimitta expands, it is a "waterfall of shimmering light that fills your body with joy." Again, sometimes this was a semi-bodily sensation, other times purely mental. There was often a bright light in my eyes as well--more on that below--and sometimes a deep sense of healing. This is it, you're here, you can trust and let go. The sexual analogy here is to the time of orgasm itself--not the first moment, but the longer period of time if, like me, you like really long and drawn-out orgasmic states. It's like that gorgeous sexual feeling of letting go: not ah-ah-ah, but ahhhhhh. Sometimes it really felt as if the light were kissing me, penetrating me, filling me. This is God as lover; the fascinans, the erotic partner envisioned and embodied by mystics. It's really something.

Believe it or not, the mind eventually finds all this ecstasy, even without effort, a little gross. Piti becomes too showy; it's almost exhausting. Now, when I was first learning the jhanas, I would spend several days with each one before moving on. Part of this was to really nail down the jhana; the Buddha said that someone who moves on too fast is like a foolish cow wandering from pasture to pasture. But another part was that it took me a while to get disenchanted with these states. For several days, I couldn't imagine anything more wonderful than the second jhana. But eventually, disenchantment sets in--once again, an insight that is, itself, worth the price of admission. Eventually, the mind gets disenchanted with anything. So the grosser factor of rapture drops away, leaving behind only joy and one-pointedness.
Third Jhana

If the second jhana is like an orgasm with God, the third jhana is like resting comfortably on the breast of the Goddess; its dominant sensation is contentment. Here, the love is less erotic and more familial; it's like being cradled by your mother--that kind of "ahh." The light I experienced was golden, radiant, and warm. Many times, I cried and felt healed. Other times, I was still and concentrated. And sometimes, I felt like a little boy sitting by the window, with sunshine streaming in. In the third jhana, piti is relinquished, and sukha, joy, becomes predominant. Sukha is quieter and more subtle than piti, it's less embodied, and more like an emotional, intellectual joy with a honey-like embodied component. Meditators know sukha from whenever the mind in concentrated and everything just feels lovely. The mind is content. What could ever be wrong with the world? Of course, sukha is so lovely that we naturally cling to it, which means we suffer when it's gone -- that's what's wrong. But for me, I spent about three years cultivating sukha, thinking it was enlightenment, and being devastated when, a few days after retreat, it seemed to disappear.
Fourth Jhana
Finally, there is the fourth jhana--the real point of it all, it sometimes seems. In the fourth jhana, even joy passes away. The experience is totally neutral: just "Ah," as in "Ah, I see." And yet, it somehow--just is. I can't quite describe it; there's a powerful sense of equanimity, a closeness to the object, and not much else. Somehow, this state is the most beautiful at all, even though it is totally colorless, bliss-less. The erotic flavor is not even post-orgasmic; it's post-post. The mind is clear, the restlessness is gone. It doesn't feel good anymore, but in some deep profound way, it feels extremely good and peaceful that it's not even necessary to feel good. This is not the Shechinah, not awe, not love; it's just YHVH--Is. It's a love beyond love; satisfaction without joy or even contentment.

For me, the fourth jhana is really the point, because it leads to one of the deep insights of the jhanas: that God is not in the fire, or the earthquake, or the flood. There's a tendency that all of us have--but particularly spiritual Jews have--to deify and thus idol-ize certain states. Oh, that gorgeous warmth of lighting candles. Oh, we were so high during that drum circle / Kabbalat Shabbat / whatever, that was reall,y mamash, it. But that's not it. It is what's always here; Ein Sof, everything. If it wasn't always here, it isn't it. Even the fourth jhana isn't it--it's a state, with equanimity and focus that are conditioned, and thus pass away after a time. You can't cling to it either.

Real devekut has only one attachment: Is. Totally colorless, totally omnipresent, and in fact, if you look closely, the only thing that doesn't come and go. Ramana Maharshi said, "Let come what comes, let go what goes. See what remains." That is the essence of enlightenment right there, I'm telling you. The way leads nowhere. There is no state that is it. This is it; just this. Not feeling special about this, not feeling relaxed or wise or anything in particular--although sometimes those feelings may arise in the wake of letting go. Just is.

Now, does that mean that mystical states -- including the jhanas themselves -- are without value? No; not at all. By fulfilling this spiritual seeker's wildest dreams of joy and rapture, the jhanas point to the limitations of states, chiefly their transient nature. And next month, I'll describe in some detail the benefits as well as the limitations of spiritual states of all kinds, mundane to marvelous. First, though, I want to focus on a different question: God.

Essay will continue.

By Jay Michaelson

The Darker Side of Saffron

'I think his painting hai sati [wakes the consciousness] so that Buddhism can continue its existence."

That's how theatre director Teerawat Mulvilai views Anupong Chantorn's award-winning painting Bhikku Sandan Ka (literally translated as "monks with crow nature"), which sparked controversy in 2007 when protestors demanded that it be removed from the exhibition at Silpakorn University's Sanam Chan Palace campus and its prize reviewed and even rescinded.

The director and B-Floor Theatre co-founder will stage his new creation San-Dan-Ka to celebrate the company's 10th anniversary. Three more productions by other members of the troupe will follow during the year.

Inspired by Anupong's paintings of men in saffron robes and Buddhadasa Bhikku's book Tamra Du Phra (Handbook on how to see monks), which elaborates on different types of bhikkus who break the precepts, Teerawat chose to use Butoh to portray the festered dimension of the spirit.

"I visualised these characters as phantoms and ghosts and I think Butoh can bring out the dark side very well ... I want to be clear that I'm not talking about bad monks in this piece. Those people are not monks to begin with. The show criticises those who dress up like monks," he said.

One of the most politically and socially conscious directors today, Teerawat said he created this performance to critique and awaken the awareness of the state of Buddhism.

"What's the cause of the decline of Buddhism in Thailand? I don't think it's right to blame other religions as a threat to Buddhism. It has to do with the behaviour of monks and Buddhists. And people know why it's in decline, but they can't talk about it because it's one of the most prominent insitutions in Thailand ...

"For a religion to live on, the community and the people have to be able to hold it accountable."

‘San-Dan-Ka’ will be staged from tomorrow until Sunday, February 1 and from February 5 to 8 at
7:30pm at Siam Democrazy Studio (MRT Lumphini, exit 1), Soi Saphan Khu. Tickets cost
300 baht. For more information, call 08-9167-4039


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Simple Technique to Feel Better Now

It may surprise you to learn, but changing your mood can be as simple as changing how you are holding your body.

I can fill this article with theory and technical discussion as to why this is, but I would prefer to show you. Just follow along, feel the magic, then send me a comment and let me know how it worked for you. And please, if it worked, send a link to this article to all your friends. As far as I am concerned, no one, I mean no one, need ever sink into a heavy, low state again.

OK, to make this demonstration really effective, begin by putting yourself into a negative state. Bring to mind something that makes you feel anxious, or mad, or sad. Allow yourself to take a moment to do that now.

Great - before we move on please take a moment to take stock. How are you sitting in your chair? Are you slumped over or sitting straight? Are your shoulders relaxed or tight? Are you holding your lips in a smile or a frown?

Now - read the following paragraph, then follow the directions to the letter.

  • Stand up
  • Keep your feet hip distant apart, knees loose.
  • Raise your arms, spread your fingers, look to the sky
  • And smile.

OK - go ahead and do it now, I will wait.

Great, how do you feel? Pretty cool, huh?

OK, time to do it again, only this time, when you are in position (keep that smile on), I want you to try and get those really bad feelings back. Go ahead and try (keeping your arms raised, fingers spread, smile on) to feel bad. Really, really try.

Couldn’t do it, could you?

Enough Said

Enjoy the day

The Four Keys of Pagan Parenting

As with other spiritually liberal parents, Pagans encourage their kids to explore many faiths so that they can choose one that fits them best.

Pagans, above all, understand the value of religious freedom, and encourage their kids to research many faiths before choosing to practice one. In addition to this many Pagans teach their kids to value nature, to welcome diversity, and to understand their family's Pagan spirituality and practices. Naturally these themes will vary in importance to a particular family, but to some degree you will usually find all four keys to Pagan Parenting.

Welcoming Diversity

Pagans tend to be very liberal, accepting, inclusive people. Many strive raise their children with gender equality, teaching that girls and boys are equal. Pagans value religious freedom and are accepting of other people's faiths, even if they disagree. Pagans actively teach their kids to embrace cultural diversity and are commonly accepting of the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender community. Pagans feel that just as there are many Gods and Goddesses so too are there many different people. Simply by looking at nature, it's obvious to Pagans that the divine loves diversity. The Teaching Tolerance website has many excellent resources on anti-bias education for interested parents.

Religious Literacy

As apart of a young person's upbringing, Pagans help their children to explore many faiths and explore spiritual questions. Studying world religions and even visiting different houses of worship are a common occurrence in Pagan families. Being religiously literate, so that a youth can make an informed decision about what they believe is important to Pagans. Religious literacy also helps Pagans understand other faiths to foster tolerance and acceptance. Unlike other faiths, Pagans do not seek to convert others, not even their own children. Books, such as Sacred Myths: Stories of World Religions by Marilyn McFarlane, can be helpful in teaching religious literacy.

Environmental Awareness

While not all Pagans practice an "Earth Based Spirituality" most have a deep respect, if not reverence for nature and actively teach their kids that "Earth Day is Everyday". Living a "green" lifestyle is common among Pagans. Some families recycle, drive a hybrid vehicle, eat organic food, use cloth diapers, or are vegetarian or vegan. A growing number of Pagan families strive for a sustainable life style and may grow their own organic vegetables, raise livestock for meat, hunt, fish, or live off the grid using wind or solar power. There are many ways to live a greener life, and there is a great variety in the Pagan community as to how the desire to live in peace with nature is expressed.


Last, some Pagans do teach their children about their Pagan traditions, though some do not for fear that their children may become targets for religious discrimination. Most parents do not require their kids to participate in their particular Pagan faith (there are many different types of Pagans), but beliefs are discussed, and children are invited to celebrate their holidays in age appropriate ways. There are several Pagan parenting books available with celebration ideas, sacred stories, crafts and chants for the eight Wiccan holidays. Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddesss Traditions by Starhawk is a very popular guide to Pagan parenting. Another resource for Wiccans and other Witches is Pooka's Pages, a free magazine by Lora Craig-Gaddis.

These four general themes are common, but by no means is there a set standard or doctrine to Pagan parenting. Every family is a little different and will place more or less emphasis on any of the four values. Pagan parenting tends to be very liberal, encouraging respect for all peoples, their right to their faith, and an active respect for nature. Most of all Pagan parents want to give their kids the freedom to choose a satisfying spiritual path that fits them well, guides them to grow spiritually and makes them excited to apart of this beautiful world.

The copyright of the article The Four Keys of Pagan Parenting in Paganism/Wicca is owned by Elizabeth La Posta. Permission to republish The Four Keys of Pagan Parenting in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.

Elizabeth La Posta

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Evolution of God or It Ain’t Your Grandma’s God

“When I was your age, we walked to school seven miles, through the snow, uphill both ways!”

“When I was growing up, we went to church on Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and to every other event the church had.”

Well, it seems as the world “grows up” into this new and modernized era full of technological marvels and split-second globalized communication, the human being is growing away from the old traditions of religion toward a completely new flavor of spiritual understanding. Of course, the concepts of hybrid religions and decentralized spirituality aren’t new — only new to most people who are just now falling across the concepts as a result of this modern era.

The multi-faith, “Immaculate Inauguration” of our new President, Barack Hussein Obama, was a prominent example of an increasing embrace and acceptance of diversity in many areas, but especially an example of religion as more a hobby or interest as opposed to a dogmatic and fundamental monument. Muslims, Jews, Christians, and atheists were all mentioned and participated in the procedure and process — with essentially no reaction from anyone, except a mere noticing it happened.

One key element in this widely-viewed event was the notable and highly scrutinized message by the “token Evangelical,” Rick Warren. As this increasingly popular Protestant pastor said in his “prayer” (which came off more as a speech than communing with the Creator of the Universe),

Help us, Oh, God, to remember that we are Americans, united not by race, or religion, or blood, but to our commitment to freedom.

Some traditionalists might say this is blatant heresy, to invoke the name of God to assert that religion is a backdrop for a more important union. However, as his popularity makes clear, this is the direction religion is headed in the modern era — a deconstructed ideology, based on core principles of tolerance, humanitarianism, and ultimately love. Traditionalists and extremists in Judeo-Christian and Muslim communities alike are likely to summarily reject this view, while Buddhists might say, “This is what we’ve been saying all along!”

However, this growing culture of religion-less spirituality may simply be the deconstruction of social institutions improperly constructed in the first place. After all, Christ never aimed to build a religion: that was Paul’s idea. Christ gave direction only to preach the “Good News,” to all who would listen — that one, unified, unifying God is within us, and among us, and the kingdom of Heaven where God exists is a place in our hearts and minds where love and common decency prevail over tradition and ritual. So, for Christian leaders to assert these things now, is less of a new idea, but more a return to the original ideology.

Arguably, religious extremists reject such a view, because it destabilizes any central control. It gives people the freedom to think for themselves, and to resist the call to align with any certain structured ideological institution. If the predictions of prophets past and present are any indication, this conflict of interest between structured tradition and common sense will come to a violent head before common sense prevails — indeed, it has in the past, is currently, and likely will continue in the future. Yet, there is hope.

Those same prophets predict, in the end, common decency and love will conquer self-centered devotion — not only on personal levels, but on societal levels. If and when this does occur, would it not be Heaven on Earth to live peacefully and prosperously, united in the concepts of service, sacrifice, and selflessness? The scriptures say, one day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus hit the nail on the head with his teachings — before a traditionalist and extremist world nailed him to a tree.

By: Timothy

Friday, January 23, 2009

Is Spirituality Supposed to Be Fun?

At first glance, this question might seem too big to swallow. You might already be trying to nail this one in relation to “smaller” sectors of your life: career, relationships, health, finances. But if you can answer this question for the Biggie-your spiritual life-chances are good it will cascade into the rest of your life.

We all know someone who has a job or career they absolutely love. For instance, one of my online muses recently landed her dream job: Food Artisan Relations Manager. When I visited the Foodzie Blog to read about Susie’s new position, it sounded like an incredible win-win for everyone involved.

Not to mention an unforeseen expansion by the company to create space for her new role. As the story unfolds and Susie gives her behind-the-scenes version of it, you can literally see her “putting one foot out of the comfort zone” time and time again.

Something else will be visible to all who follow the Foodzie Blog. It’s abundantly clear in her article quotes that Susie’s going to have fun at her job every single day! She is being paid to live her passion.

Now, I don’t know the background on Susie’s mental/emotional/spiritual process around landing her dream job, but-like many of us-she may at some stage have had to

(a) change her thinking

(b) change her state of being

(c) get back in touch with some of the “kid” qualities from her childhood.

As kids, we all play games to rehearse becoming adults. Kids have buckets of fun acting out roles or performing tasks that later in life can often feel more like a chore.

What games did you play? I remember playing teacher, store owner, priest, truck driver, sandbox town planner, mother, grocery shopper and cook.

We could probably come up with various reasons why kids can have fun doing stuff we may no longer cherish, but here’s a less common one to consider: until they become socialized (or have it disciplined out of them), kids are often closer to the spiritual realms-in a purely natural way-then we are as adults.

Just as it is with young children hopping on the computer and fearlessly learning technical stuff, so it is with issues such as communing with our spiritual guides. Kids simply don’t have a concept of how “hard” that’s supposed to be. They don’t say to themselves “I need X number of years of meditation before I can be that attuned.”

Kids are natural experts. And one of their areas of expertise is . . . you got it! Having fun.

Could there be a connection with spirituality? I believe it’s well worth investigating . . . and I can show you an easy way to find out in a mere 10 or 15 minutes.

At my workshop, The Fear of Writing Clinic, writers and closet writers show up feeling intimidated-and/or stalled, jaded or confused-about their writing. My secret “cure” is all about guiding these writers back to the fun.

One of the icebreaker writing exercises we start the morning with is called Define Fun. Participants are given 10-15 minutes to free-write and then we go around the circle, listening as each writer reads her definitions out loud to the group.

You don’t need to be a writer to benefit from this exercise. And it couldn’t be simpler.

First, take a sheet of paper and write the words “Define Fun” at the top. Better still, gather with a friend (or several friends) in a coffee house and do the exercise together.

Next, write down everything that’s fun for you. Don’t try to analyze your choices and don’t write anything you think you “should” write. Suspend all preconceived notions about what is or isn’t spiritual. Just write down what’s fun for you.

Take some risks!

Now it’s time to read your list out loud with friends. I won’t dilute your experience by trying to describe how liberating this can be. There’s something about doing this kind of exercise in a group that fosters not only mutual acceptance but self-acceptance.

If you’re doing this exercise by yourself, read it out loud to yourself. You may already notice a transformation.

If not, put your definitions away in a drawer for several days. Then, choose a moment when you’re feeling good about yourself and the world. Take your list out and read it again. Do you notice any shifts in perception?

* Some of the simplest things are the most fun.
* Thinking about, talking about or writing about the things that are fun for you is … fun!
* You have a surprisingly big list (or simply a juicy list) but you’re not always doing enough of the things that are fun for you.

Perhaps you’re doing some things that are NOT fun for you out of a sense of obligation. If you reprioritize your time to include more of the items from your fun list, you’ll have less time to fulfill obligations that are bogging you down. An elegant (possibly even struggle-free!) solution.

Having fun is part of being spiritual. Sometimes we just need a new perspective on it.

And sometimes we just need to give ourselves permission.

By Milli Thornton

Sunday, January 18, 2009

New temple offers insight into Buddhism

It was a double celebration Saturday night inside the International Buddhist Progress Society Chicago temple. Members gathered to give an early welcome to the Chinese New Year, and they also celebrated the grand opening of the temple's new building.

Located on 5 acres along Route 53 in the unincorporated area between Woodridge and Naperville, the temple is housed in a former barn. With its renovation complete, members are welcoming the public to visit and learn more about Buddhism and Chinese culture.

"We want to utilize this to the maximum capacity in any way we can," said Venerable Manpou, Buddhist nun and director of the temple. "Come here, have some tea with us, have a chat, talk about anything. Treat it like a community center, like part of your home."

Like several of the speakers Saturday, Manpou spoke to the audience in both Chinese and English. The temple practices Mahayana Buddhism, typically found in China, Korea and Japan. IBPS Chicago is an affiliate of Fo Guang Shan temple in Taiwan and is now the spiritual home to about 200 members who come from as far as Highland Park and Chicago.

During the celebration Saturday, visitors were treated to a vegetarian dinner along with entertainment, including a Peking Opera performance, demonstrations and games.

The temple started "from zero a few years ago in very small apartment on Cass Avenue" in Darien, Chairman Yman Vien said. "What you are looking at is a complete turnaround from a ... barn."

Sitting atop the altar at the front of the temple are three large golden statues -- Buddha, Dharma and Sangha -- which together represent the Triple Gem. None of the other temples in the Chicago area has all three statues, said member Annie Chen.

While the statues are on an altar, members say Buddha is not worshipped, but is looked to for guidance on the path to enlightenment.

"Buddha is not a god," Yvonne Hammond of Naperville said. Rather, he is "an enlightened person who is helping us on our paths," she said. "We all have the potential of getting there -- to Nirvana."

Hammond began attending temple services two years ago. Having always been interested in Buddhism, she began taking lessons with Manpou. This summer, she officially became a Buddhist.

"I really believe in the principles and philosophy," she said.

Hammond said members are Humanistic Buddhists, which encourage followers to integrate the Buddha's teachings into daily life for the benefit themselves and others. It encourages reaching out to others through charity work and educating people about the Dharma -- the teachings of Buddha.

"It's all about helping people," Hammond said.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Blessings Undisguised

Pet owners bring their loved ones in to the Center for Spiritual Living for annual ceremony.

Jordan Lee couldn’t bring her 9-year-old German shepherd to an animal blessing Sunday, so she dialed up a cellphone picture of the canine instead.

Looking at the photo, the 13-year-old read a blessing for the dog, just like she would for a friend.

“It’s just helping him out,” said Jordan, who, while not being able to transport her more-than-100-pound dog to the event, did bring a 1-year-old chinchilla, hoping that both animals would have long lives and good health.

The Sunland resident was one of about 20 pet owners to attend the ceremony at the Center for Spiritual Living, where participants read blessings in the names of their dogs, cats and even a ferret, invoking the Bible and affirming their love for the creatures, the Rev. Beverly Craig said.

“When people bring animals for blessing, it means that they have a spirituality they want to share with their animals,” Craig said.

Each blessing is an affirmation of the participant’s belief in the perfection of God’s creation in the form of the animal, person or thing being blessed, Craig said.

Most importantly, blessings, for animals or anything else, are acts of good faith that are attractive to people uncomfortable with organized religion, she said.

“There’s spirituality within everyone,” she said. “You say the word blessing and everybody thinks it’s good because they know it’s from God.”

Although the event was open to the public, most of Sunday’s attendees were congregants of the center.

Kailey Martinez-Ranage, 12, brought a friend’s deaf poodle for the blessing, which took place in a room full of people and a collection of animal species, she said.

“It was kind of funny to see all the animals reacting to each other,” said the Silver Lake resident, who noticed only some minor barking and curiosity on the part of dogs, who seemed unusually calm as they approached the cats in the room.

Shirley Cooper, a Sunland resident, has brought her 3-year-old Maltese Chihuahua to the ceremony for the last three years.

“I wanted him to have a blessing just because I love him, and you always want people and animals to be blessed,” Cooper said.

The animal blessing was partly a social outing for Gaby Hoffman and her husband Rene Hoffman, who brought their 6-year-old dog.

“It’s a wonderful community here, and we know a lot of the people through their animals,” Gaby Hoffman said. “It’s amazing how you kind of live through your animals.”

The center also collected donations for the Glendale Humane Society, which operates a local animal shelter.

Donors gave a total of $75, along with clean sheets, towels, rugs and blankets, for the society’s animal care operations.

The center is also planning a “biker blessing,” Craig said. She plans to invite motorcycle riders to bless their vehicles in the hope of keeping themselves safe while riding.

By Zain Shauk

Monday, January 05, 2009

What You Can Do About War

For five minutes each day, be a spiritual activist.

You probably already know what to do. Turn off the TV; neither CNN, MSNBC or FOX know the news. They only know data.

Turn off the bright lights. Put down the newspaper. And go within.
However you do it, turn your attention to the God of your understanding. Surrender your own hatred, give over your own wars, and ask that this year you be lifted above the violence that still lives inside your heart.

With your eyes closed, see on one side of your inner vision the Israeli people. See their physicality, their mannerisms, as you recognize them on the material plane. Now see a light within their hearts, and slowly watch that light expand, extending beyond the confines of their bodies. See the bodies begin to fade before the greater light of their eternal selves.
Now with your inner eye look to the other side of your inner vision, and see there the Palestinian people. See their physicality, their mannerisms, as you recognize them on the material plane. Now see a light within their hearts, and slowly watch that light expand, extending beyond the confines of their bodies. See the bodies begin to fade before the greater light of their eternal selves.

Now using your inner eye - your greatest source of power - bear witness to what happens as the inner light of the Israelis begins to merge with the inner light of the Palestinians. Bear witness to the merging of their spiritual selves. Simply watch and focus, for what you focus on grows stronger.

You are bearing witness now to a higher truth, thus using the power of your mind to draw a heavenly truth into material manifestation. In the presence of higher thought forms, lower ones fall of their own dead weight. In the presence of light, darkness disappears. In the presence of eternal truth, temporal lies begin to fall away.

In the words of Dr. King, "No lie can last forever." The idea that the Israeli and Palestinian people are truly separate, or have separate needs, is simply a lie of the mortal mind. Spiritually, we are all one. Israelis and Palestinians were created by the same God; in Him they are equal and they are joined eternally. Only thought forms have separated them. Thought forms of guilt and separation have been handed down to children born innocent of such lies, generation after generation; those are the true enemy here, not either group of people.

As any of us move beyond the fear-based thought forms of separation and guilt to the truth of our eternal oneness, it becomes easier for everyone else to do so as well. Let's give up the way-too-easy, so-American way of chiding either Israelis or Palestinians for their difficulty in forgiving the past. What both peoples have endured is almost unimaginable, and only the truly sainted among us should even for a minute consider judging either side.

We don't have to; and when in our own right minds, we don't want to.
Use the power of your mind to create a new possibility... a miracle in the Middle East.
As the poet Rumi wrote so eloquently, "Out beyond all ideas of right and wrong, there is a field. I'll meet you there." So go there now. Such thoughts are not just poetry, or even symbol, any longer. In the world that's being born, they're the stuff of a new politics.

No more simply asking, "But what can I do?" Go even further, to "What can I think? What can I pray for? What can I meditate on?" Pray for the removal of all walls that separate any of us from any of us, not only on our earth but also in our minds. Pray for the removal of the guns that still fire within your own mind as you accuse or withhold your forgiveness from anyone. And pray that at this perilous hour, those of us whose lives have not been touched by the horrors of war can be of service to those whose lives have been.

Dear God, please deliver them.
And dear God, deliver us.

You can read Part One Here

The Gaza Strip Tragedy

The Middle East is aflame again...and my wonderful colleague Marianne Williamson has distributed an insightful commentary on this tragic situation that I would like to share with you here.

I will post it in two parts, as the commentary explores this situation in considerable depth. On Tuesday we will conclude our series of posts on The Change Process.

Today is a day to cry for Israel. Today is a day to cry for the Palestinians. Today is a day to cry for all of us.

Today is a day of war.
War anywhere, at this point in our history, is an action that threatens peace everywhere. Particularly when it comes to the Middle East. From its spiritual significance to its political significance, it is humanity's hot spot. It always has been and probably it always will be. It's where all the rivers of human perspective meet, to become either a cauldron of hatred or an ocean of love.

While it might be tempting to "take sides" between Israel and the Palestinians, spiritually there are no sides to be taken. God does not give us victory in battle but rather lifts us above the battlefield. As a generation, our moral imperative to end war period, to somehow move beyond the idea that war is an acceptable means of solving problems. Anything less then that makes us attitudinal conspirators with a line of probability leading to nuclear catastrophe.
According to Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, humanity's biggest problems cannot be solved; they must be outgrown. Our task is to create a field of consciousness in which the idea of war has dropped from the ethers.

So how do we outgrow war?
The first thing we do is to accept the possibility that the end of war is possible. In fact, in the words of Congressman Dennis Kucinich, "we must challenge the belief that war is inevitable." We must embrace the possibility that a world without war could exist.

Secondly, we must mature beyond the belief that the thinking that got us into this mess can lead us out of it. "The problems of the world will not be solved on the level of thinking we were at when we created them," wrote Einstein. We must realize that the mortal ego will not provide us with a solution, because it itself is the problem. Notions such as, "The Israelis have a right to defend themselves," and "The Palestinians have taken so much abuse; what do you expect them to do?" are both insidious drivers of war masquerading as principled stands. They keep us attached to the very duality that is the root of separation and war.

On a spiritual level, our greatest service to both Israelis and Palestinians is to reach for a higher truth within our own minds. For an essential principle of metaphysical reality is that all minds are joined; as any of us are drawn to higher thoughts, then all of us are drawn to higher thoughts. As we ourselves embrace a higher truth, we help create an anti-gravitational force field that lifts all minds above separation, hatred and war.

For all our talk about wanting to be the change, how many of us are siding now against one side or the other in the current Mid-East conflict. If you really want to help the situation there, ask God to remove from your heart any judgment you have against the Israelis or the Palestinians. Any thought of judgment you hold is like a gun that you yourself are firing.

The human race is evolving to the realization that what is happening on the level of consciousness both precedes and determines what happens in the world. War is just an effect, not a cause. With the power of our minds, we can move beyond the level of effect to the level of cause. There, and only there, can we wipe out what President Franklin Roosevelt called the "beginnings of all war."

As Americans, we have a creed - a set of principles enshrined and institutionalized in our founding documents. First and foremost among them is that "all men are created equal." Period. End of story. Don't be lured into thinking that either Israelis or Palestinians have been either the perfect innocents or the perfect victims here; such thinking serves neither. The greatest gift you can give to both is to realize that on a spiritual level, Israelis and Palestinians are one. Their only true reality is the reality of whom they are in this moment, freed from any thoughts of the past.
Complexity is of the ego; do not linger there. Of course there is a complicated history to the struggle currently playing out in the Middle East, and that complicated history has significance and relevance for traditional political formulation. So leave that to the traditional politicians. Our task as seekers and purveyors of a higher human consciousness is to move beyond traditional political notions, to a holistic politics that embraces the relevance of psychological and spiritual realities to the political issues of our time. As students of Gandhi and Dr. King, we know that moving beyond the violence in our own hearts is essential if we are to be conduits for the creation of a world at peace. The truly new politics goes beyond mere "post-partisan" hand-shaking and collaboration among former rivals. It takes us to a new kind of thinking as a basis for the creation of a new kind of world.

Traditionalists can call us naïve all they want to. But anyone who thinks that human hatred can simply be bombed away...they are naïve. Anyone who thinks we can continue to tolerate violence on this planet at ever-increasing levels and have such conflagrations not lead to the ultimate cataclysm of nuclear catastrophe... they are naïve. Anyone who thinks that the narrowness of a rationalistic, mechanistic human perspective can lead us out of the hell which that perspective itself has created...they are naïve. And those who see prayer as merely "symbol, not substance"... they are naïve. Prayer is hardly just symbol; it is a mover of hearts, and thus a mover of mountains.

Mountains we now need desperately to move.
Through the grace of God we are not powerless; according to A Course in Miracles, moving mountains is small compared to what we can do. War is at heart a spiritual problem and it can only be eradicated with a spiritual solution....a solution that lies within all of us.
Martin Luther King Jr. said there is a power in our hearts more powerful than the power of bullets. He described Mahatma Gandhi as the first person in the world to take the love ethic of Jesus Christ and turn it into a broad scale social force for good (To Gandhi himself, non-violence was not just the love ethic of Jesus, but rather the heart of all religion and the heart of reality itself). On today's geo-political landscape, we see hatred turned into a political force all around us; the politics of non-violence turns love into a political force. The question for any conscious human being, much less spiritual seeker, is, "How can I help do that?" Only the power in our hearts will be able to eradicate the idea of war, and then the reality of war from the experience of the human race.

According to Gandhi, the problem with the world was that humanity was not in its right mind. And arguably, we still are not. War, quite simply, is insane. For those of us who wish to be part of the solution, not part of the problem of war; it is time to change our own minds, to accept a healing of our own war-like thoughts, in order to create a new field of possibility. Whether dealing with the transformation of the individual or of the transformation of the world, only what is changed on the level of consciousness becomes a fundamental change in the conditions of the world.

Part II - What we can do