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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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Buddhists Tell How to Stay Happy Despite Crisis

People's happiness risks being evaporated along with their wealth as the financial crisis bites. Millions of people around the world are falling on hard times as they lose their jobs or businesses.

Liu Changle, CEO of Phoenix Satellite Television, told a seminar at the World Buddhist Forum in Wuxi, that there had been an increase in suicides in Hong Kong, since the economy of the financial center began its downward spiral.

But in a nearby seminar, monks, believers and scholars spoke about the true path to happiness and the importance of cultivating contentment as part of a strategy to build a harmonious world.

Speaker after speaker said selfishness and greed are to blame for the economic crisis. "The financial collapse is a symptom of the crisis of the value-system predominating in western countries," said Xiao Wunan, vice president of China's Socio-Economic and Cultural Exchange Association. "Materialism … stimulates an insatiable appetite for wealth. Profits are being made at the cost of natural resources, without regard for natural rules."

"I think it's time to propagate traditional Chinese culture (a combination of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism) which calls for harmony between nature and human beings," Xiao said.

Yuan Chi, deputy curator of the China Buddhist Literature and Heritage Museum, said: "People are so addicted to the pursuit of profit that they rarely have the chance to experience a culture that can lead to wisdom. Government officials and entrepreneurs are dazzled by the prospect of profit, a double-edged sword that strips people of their dignity and their respect for law and morality."

To end suffering and curb corruption, the thinkers said people should cultivate altruism, a virtue capable of healing the pain caused by the financial tsunami. Gong Xiya, general manager of Beijing Capital Guarantee & Investment Co Ltd, said: "The Buddha once said 'a candle can still burn even after it has ignited 1,000 others. In the same way, happiness will never wane when it is shared by others'."

In spite of fierce competition in the financial field, Gong believes real happiness lies in a peaceful mind and the elimination of greed. She said: "The material, the exhaustible and the external are causes of conflict, while, happiness, which is infinite and internal, can be sought in peace. Happiness is unparalleled wealth; it should be pursued as the ultimate goal in life."

Her point was echoed by the Venerable Seik Hui Siong, abbot of the Vihara Mahavira Graha Pusa monastery in Indonesia. He said the lust for wealth is insatiable and the accumulation and consumption of worldly goods will not lead to happiness.

"Sakyamuni Buddha taught that suffering cannot be overcome by material things," the abbot said, "I believe a peaceful environment, free from selfishness, fear, and hatred, is a necessary condition for belief, for cultivating a spiritual path, and achieving common goals."

Group discussions on a variety of topics concerning the development of Buddhism, the relationship between Buddhism and Science as well as different Buddhist cultures, followed the opening ceremony of the forum in Fangong Palace, at Lingshan, a mountain in the countryside near Wuxi.

The delegates left Wuxi for Taipei, capital of Taiwan Province, by charter flight on Monday, March 30, where the forum will close on Wednesday, April 1.

By Wu Jin

Monday, March 30, 2009

Will We Still Reject Materialism After the Downturn?

Question: I enjoyed your recent interview with Robert McElvaine. His thesis that the downturn will lead us away from consumption as a way of life to what really matters is interesting.

Am I correct in my impression there's a growing number of reports lately about such positive benefits of our economic woes? But even if true, I wonder how long such newfound wisdom will last, once credit starts flowing again.

Unlike the Great Depression, we have generations raised from babyhood on the importance of material possessions and the ease of acquiring them. Is that habit truly changing now, or just dormant until the worst blows over? I'd put my vote on dormant for those who may have to hunker down, but aren't losing their homes and struggling to feed their children. What's your take?

Paul Solman: I don't know if there's a growing number of benefits-of-downshifting reports, Marion, only that we ourselves have now done two of them - our interview with McElvaine and a piece called The Upside of the Downturn. Or maybe even three, if you count Dallas Salisbury's advice to start saving once again.

How long do I think the "newfound wisdom" will last? Remember, I'm the guy who can't go a month on this page without repeating that there are two kinds of economists...those who don't know the future, and those who don't know they don't know.

In short, I haven't a clue. But if I had to bet, it would be on another period of increasing optimism, with all (or many of) the attendant excesses. We human beings are obviously on the "more-is-better" treadmill. Presumably, we're wired that way, because those wired for covetousness, or just for staying ahead of the Joneses, DID get more in the EEA ("environment of evolutionary adaptedness"), when we were still evolving back in the Pleistocene. We had more to feed and shelter their kids, so more of our kids survived than those of, say, the hakuna matata types on the savannah. And so the "more" genes (or proteins or whatever) prospered, relatively speaking. End of the story: We can never get enough, because the whole point is "more than the other guy."

Now clearly, some folks get off the treadmill, or never get on. Near as I can tell, this is what Buddhism seems to be about. But I have to confess, I've known more than one Buddhist shopaholic in my time. Transcendence takes a lot of practice and even then, it's no slam dunk.

Marion Jacobs

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Top 10 Spiritual Destinations

Are you looking for a travel experience that will totally transform your life? Justine Kim explores the best spots to satisfy your spirit.

Since the beginning of time, man has worshipped gods. Throughout the world, there is plenty of physical evidence that traces the history of man’s quest to reunite with the divine: ancient stone circles, majestic pyramids, gothic cathedrals and mountaintop shrines. People have visited these sacred sites for healing, inspiration and guidance.

Mainstream western scientists may scoff at suggestions of water from holy wells curing illnesses and the like, but the concept of powerful places has been known to many cultures for thousands of years.

Regardless of what religion you adhere to, or even if you're not religious, there are certain places that evoke feelings of awe and wonder. These places may not move you to suddenly believe in an unseen power, but the sheer beauty and depth of history can be enough to take your breath away. Here are ten of the most holy places that you can find on the globe.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

On the Corcovado mountain high above Rio de Janeiro, you will find one of the world’s most visited holy statues, the Cristo Redentor or Christ the Redeemer. In 1931, the statue was inaugurated as an icon of faith to celebrate the Centenary of Brazilian Independence of 1822. The statue has open arms, a gesture of blessing, protection and power.

Mount Fuji, Japan

Japan is a very tranquil and picturesque country with a lot of religious and cultural history. The elegant Mount Fuji is a mysterious and spiritual landmark that has inspired art and literature throughout the ages.

For generations, Mount Fuji, also called Fujiyama (“everlasting life”) has been considered a sacred mountain that pilgrims climb as a religious experience. An estimated 200,000 people climb Mount Fuji every year, about 30 per cent are foreigners.

Sedona, Arizona

You don’t have to leave North America to find places known for miracles. Sedona, especially the Navajo region, is a noted spiritual hotspot. It has been a pilgrimage destination since prehistoric times. Long before the Europeans settled North America, the indigenous Navajo aboriginals and natives from Canada and Central America journeyed here for healing and learning.

Sedona features rich red sandstone buttes and monoliths. These rocks are said to emit a powerful energy, which may be because of their high concentration of magnetic iron. The spiritual pull is palpable, especially at sunset when the mountains catch fire with reflected glow.

Egypt

If you ever get a chance to visit Egypt, witnessing the absolute wonder of the ancient pyramids is a must. West of Cairo, the three pyramids of Giza rise from the edge of the Nile’s west bank in perfect geometric form. They are thought to be the work of Egyptians from around 2500 B.C. The pyramids are the only remaining of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Each year, over 65,000 backpackers make the 25-mile hike up the 500-year-old path. Machu Picchu (“ancient peak”) is found amid the Andes mountain range, just northwest of the former Incan capital of Cusco. For centuries, it was buried in Peru’s jungle and was discovered in 1911 by a Yale historian. The spectacular ruins include staircases, towers, fountains, terraces and a temple. The magic here is unmatched.

Goa, India

There is no dearth of spiritual destinations in India. The country is overflowing with them. Goa is located on the west coast of India and thanks to nearly 500 years of Western influence, it represents an entirely different landscape compared to the rest of the country. The region is embraced for its quiet and peaceful atmosphere. It is known for its architecture, including the Basilica of Bom Jesus. Perhaps the most interesting trait of the area is that for the most part, Hindus and Catholics coexist.

Tibet and Nepal

These bordering regions are epicentres of religion and holiness. Tibet is the traditional centre of Tibetan Buddhism and the homeland of spiritual and political leader, the Dalai Lama. A journey here with the monks will certainly change you.

Nepal is a small country between the People’s Republic of China and India. More than eighty per cent of its people practice Hinduism. Trek to Nepal to see the Himalayas and Mount Everest.

Vatican City and Rome, Italy

This list wouldn’t be complete without the Vatican and Rome. They make the cut not only for their religious history, but also for their magnificent past as a capital for the arts, literature and culture.

Don’t miss St. Peter’s Basilica, the heart of Vatican City and the home of the Catholic Church. Even if you aren’t a Catholic, the church’s design will stop you in your tracks.

Mecca, Saudi Arabia

It is the centre of the Islamic world and the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad. It is located in the Sirat Mountains of central Saudi Arabia. Every Muslim hopes to make a hajj, or pilgrimage, to its shrine at least once in his or her lifetime. When they pray, Muslims face in the direction of this city no matter where they are in the world.

Jerusalem, Israel

It can be argued that no other city comes close to Jerusalem in terms of historical and religious significance. Judaism, Christianity and Islam can all trace their roots back to the Holy City. It is also the home of The Dome of the Rock, a shrine completed in 691 A.D., and is believed to be where the Prophet Muhammad began his journey to heaven. So if you want to visit the site of the three monolithic religions, then Jerusalem’s the place.

By Justine Kim

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Four Paths to Freedom - Which Is Your Root Path?

For the next post in my mystic spirituality series (which I have to warn you I may meander through with lots of tangents, because I am after all a Pisces and just can’t help myself) I wanted to cover the four types of spiritual paths, which correspond to four types of mystic experiences. I don’t usually like categorizing much, but I find this particular classification system useful for:

1) understanding the religious and spiritual traditions of the world

2) understanding the different routes to ’spiritual’ experiences, and

3) understanding your own spiritual proclivities

These four categories are based on ancient Hindu texts such as the Vedas and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, but I first came across them in the biography of Vivekananda, one of the formost disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, and the first Indian ‘Swami’ to travel to Europe and the U.S. (he did this before Yogananda, founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship.)

In Vivekananda’s writings, he labels each path as a different type of yoga, or path to ‘union’ (which is what the word yoga means.) The root of any experience that we label as ’spiritual’ or ‘mystic’ is a dissolution of boundaries, and therefore rooted in a sense of union with forces or a power larger than ourselves. Of course dividing life into ’spiritual’ and ‘non-spiritual’ moments presents big problems, but for the sake of this post, let’s just not get worked up about that - I think we can all acknowledge that we have certain moments or experiences of opening that help define our spiritual lives. Personally I prefer the word ‘freedom’ to ‘union’ - as in, freedom from the forces that usually keep us tied down or separated. So I call this Four Paths to Freedom, but you can call it whatever you want!

Think about what you gravitate to the most as you read this. What has preceded your defining moments? What dissolves you? Which of these traditions have you gravitated to the most? Each path is traditionally associated with certain risks, which I have listed, so think also about whether you have ever been (or currently are) caught in any of these traps? Let me know in the comments!

Paths of Inquiry (Jnani Yoga)

These paths revolve around direct inquiry into the nature of reality, mind, personal identity, and God/source. While these start as intellectual exercises, the practices are meant to move you beyond intellect, dissolving subject and object and all the dualities of mind that cause us to believe we are separate from God/source/each other.

Motto: To Know (or even better, To Know the Knower)

Seeking: Truth

Tradition Examples: Zen (all of Buddhism to some extent, but Zen in particular), Taoism, Vedanta, Hasidic Kabbalah (in terms of Talmudic study), Eckhart Tolle, Jungian-based symbolic psyche systems, the Enneagram

Risks of these paths: Getting trapped in the mind. Analysis paralysis. Mistaking intellectual understanding for wisdom, or self-awareness for realization.

Antidote: Surrender. Your intellect is your tool on this path, not who you are. It can bring you to the brink, and then you have to let go.

Paths of Devotion (Bhakti Yoga)

These paths revolve around devotion to an external representation of God, source, or love. Usually, this is devotion to a teacher, deity or other person meant to represent the liberated state. While initially these generate feelings of love for the object of worship, the idea is to collapse into the love itself, recognizing yourself as a pure expression of love, not an individual feeling love.

Motto: To Love (or even better, To Become Love)

Seeking: Connection

Tradition Examples: Christianity (through devotion to Christ), Tantric/Vajrayana Buddhism (through mandala, deity, or guru identification), Sufism, ritualized Hinduism (deity devotion), Guru yoga

Risks of these paths: Getting trapped in external devotion. Never recognizing the same source inside yourself. Getting addicted to the ‘feelings’ of love or bliss that devotion can trigger, without taking the next step into becoming love. Sentimentality. Self-righteousness - when emotion becomes the sole psychological driver.

Antidote: Discrimination - as in the mental ability to take a knife to your ego, discriminate between the various forces at work there, and surgically dissect your emotional addictions (which can be considered a kind of jnani yoga - inquiry and devotion work together.) If you stay trapped in worship for the emotional ‘high’, your ‘object’ of worship has to remain external to yourself. Give up temporarily feeling good to be free.

Paths of Service (Karma Yoga)

These paths revolve around service to others, as a means to overcoming the ego’s self-interest. The goal is to live in selflessness, through service to others, in order to overcome all egoic attachments and thought patterns. Dissolution occurs through recognizing everyone (and yourself) as expressions of the same source. Service to others is service to self - there is no separation.

Motto: To Serve (or even better, To Serve as Source)

Seeking: Selflessness

Tradition Examples: Christianity (think Mother Teresa), Judaism (in the principle of tikkun, or making the world ‘whole’ through compassionate action), Bodhisattva practice in Mahayana Buddhism (which includes Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, but some lineages stress service in action more than others, and fit better here), karma yoga monasteries like that established by Vivekananda himself (one of Gandhi’s inspirations)

Risks of these paths: Attachment to outcome - judging results instead of focusing on your inner relationship to service. Also, martyrdom or ’service ego’ - attachment to others viewing you as a ‘good person’, which masks underlying insecurities. And finally, compassion fatigue - a shutting down due to sacrificing your own needs beyond a level that is sustainable long term.

Antidote: Solitude. Meditation. Pulling inward instead of going outward for a time, to reconnect to your source and recognize your true drives.

Paths of the Unseen (raja yoga)

Raja actually means ‘king’, and these paths are so called because they combine aspects of all the other paths, plus add in occult and energy studies. The idea is to study the unseen forces in our world - the patterns of energy and laws of existence that determine what we experience and how the world evolves. Or put another way, the laws of creation. Dissolution comes through the recognition that we ourselves create the world, as opposed to the focus being on an external ‘creator’. Any act of creation - from the creative arts to healing (which is a kind of re-creation) to magic and manifestation - can be a practice on this path.

Motto: To Create (or To Become Creation)

Seeking: Power - as in the power to Create/Manifest

Tradition Examples: Tantric/Vajrayana Buddhism, mystic Kabbalah, kundalini yoga, siddha yogic paths, Religious Science/New Thought Christianity, energy healing traditions practiced as part of a spiritual path, Evolutionary astrology, any occult or energy-based tradition (magick, divination, healing, even martial arts) that is practiced as part of a spiritual journey

Risks of these paths: Arrogance. Attachment to using power as an individual, to fulfill your own ego desires, instead of as a means for experiencing yourself as a conduit for creation. Also, disassociation - too much time in the ‘unseen’ can leave you emotionally disconnected from ‘real life’.

Antidote: Compassion, and service (the raja and karma paths can work to balance each other just as the bhakti and jnani can.) Focusing on your connection to others is the best way to keep yourself connected and balanced.

Many people label only devotional or occult paths as ‘mystic’, but as I said in my Are You a Mystic? post, I use it much more broadly. As for my own tendencies, in my life I have most definitely focused the most on the Paths of the Unseen, with a strong draw to Paths of Inquiry too. But interestingly, the main focus of my last few years - parenting - is a combination of the other two Paths, Devotion and Service. So I’ve been pulled to explore other aspects of myself - and spirituality - through that.

So what’s your tendency? What paths (formally or informally) have you been drawn to? What do you most seek - Truth, Connection, Selflessness or the Power to Create? What traps have you encountered? I’m interested to know…

From Mommy Mystic

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Young Lama Weighs Tibetans' Future

SIDBHARI, India -- For a living Buddha and one of Tibet's next spiritual leaders, the 23-year-old Karmapa Lama hardly conforms to Western notions of a monastic figure. He spends many of his afternoons in his wine-colored robe, head-bobbing to hip-hop music on his iPod or releasing "negative energy," as he calls it, playing war games on his PlayStation.

Frustrated over the pace of Tibet's struggle against Chinese rule, he is known here as the reluctant lama: brooding and outspoken about the plight of his compatriots, many of whom have lived in exile in India for three generations and feel no closer to persuading China to let them have autonomy in their homeland.

"Sometimes I feel like an old man," the Karmapa Lama said from his monastery in Sidbhari, a farming village near the Dalai Lama's exile headquarters in the northern Indian town of Dharmsala. "I'm physically young, but the challenges I have been through have made me an old, experienced man."

That's because the Karmapa Lama -- born Ogyen Trinley Dorje -- carries a heavy burden: He is Tibetan Buddhism's third most senior figure and is being groomed as one of several potential leaders to forge a fresh path for the next generation of Tibetans in their struggle against China, whose troops entered Tibet in 1950.

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The appointment of a successor to the 73-year-old Dalai Lama, who almost single-handedly catapulted Tibet's struggle into the world's consciousness, has become a daunting issue for Tibetans as the spiritual leader ages.

The Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace laureate, has won over presidents, Hollywood stars and multitudes of soy-and-granola suburbanites with his nonviolent doctrine, down-to-earth spirituality, easy laugh and personal search for compassion and inner happiness.

So far, Tibetans have remained unified largely out of their love and respect for the Dalai Lama. But there is a growing divide in the community -- some want independence from China, and others favor the Dalai Lama's proposal for true autonomy, or his "middle way" approach. Analysts are uncertain whether the Tibetan movement could remain united under a less-venerated leader such as the Karmapa Lama.

"Our generation has so much to take on our shoulders when His Holiness passes. The Dalai Lama has unified the hearts of all Tibetans," said Tenzin Tsundue, a poet and member of the Tibetan Youth Congress, a group that advocates an independent Tibet. "But Karmapa is passionate, he's energetic. He has the respect of the youth. We will really need him."

Tibetan Buddhism holds that the soul of a high-ranking monk, or "living Buddha," is reborn after his death. The resulting "soul boy" can be found through the interpretation of signs, which could include recognition of the deities' personal items.

In the past, Tibetan court-appointed monks have sought the successor to previous Dalai Lamas from among Tibetans. The current Dalai Lama was discovered in 1937 as a 2-year-old in a village in Amdo, now part of China's western province of Qinghai.

Monks searching for signs of a lama rebirth chose the Karmapa Lama, then a 7-year-old son of nomads, as the 17th reincarnation in the Kagyu sect, one of four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

But his sect is a problem. Previously, all Dalai Lamas have come from the Gelugpa sect. Some analysts say appointing the Karmapa Lama as the next Dalai Lama would be similar to appointing a Methodist as the next pope. Despite that obstacle, there is a movement among Tibetans for him to become an acting leader when the Dalai Lama dies, in part because any replacement would probably be too young to lead immediately.

"After the Dalai Lama, things will be very difficult. We will have lost not just a leader, but our soul," the Karmapa Lama said, his leg nervously bouncing up and down.

In a recent interview with Western journalists, he was vague about his stance on independence vs. autonomy. "His Holiness has been very successful in laying the foundations for the Tibetan struggle," he said, referring to the Dalai Lama. "He has done a great job. Now it is time for the next generation to build on this and carry it forward."

Tibetans worry that China could exploit division over the Dalai Lama's successor and that it is already trying to steer the selection process for Tibet's next leader. Last week, Chinese officials said that Beijing must approve the Dalai Lama's successor, according to the state-run New China News Agency.

The Dalai Lama has suggested that his incarnation might be found outside China and could be female. He also said Tibetans themselves could vote on whether to continue the tradition of theocratic rule through reincarnated Dalai Lamas.

A 6-year-old boy anointed by the Dalai Lama in 1995 to succeed the late 10th Panchen Lama, Tibetan Buddhism's second most senior leader, disappeared in China 14 years ago and hasn't been heard from since. Posters of the young, rosy-cheeked boy line the narrow lanes of Dharmsala. Human rights groups have called him "the world's youngest political prisoner."

So far, the Karmapa Lama, who speaks fluent Chinese, is the only spiritual leader recognized by the leaders of Tibet and China. China had once hoped that the Karmapa Lama would be more conciliatory than the Dalai Lama, but that optimism has been tempered in recent years.

"The Chinese government considers the older generation of Tibetans as rubbish. What they are trying to value now is the coming-up generation," the Karmapa Lama said. "We must not consider China and the Chinese as opponents and enemies, but respect them as a source of education. We should learn their language. That's how you become equal."

For now, he is a hero among Tibetan youth in exile, many of whom spend their days in Internet cafes where his photo is posted with the caption "Tibet's Rising Son," competing for space with Pink Floyd concert posters and Free Tibet bumper stickers.

The Karmapa Lama has taken the same path of exile as many of the 200,000 Tibetans living outside their homeland. In 1999, under increasing pressure to denounce the Dalai Lama, he escaped Chinese-dominated Tibet by jumping from the second-story window of his monastery.

He trekked for eight days across the freezing Himalayan pass. He was then airlifted by helicopter to India, the Dalai Lama's home in exile. The Dalai Lama himself fled Tibet 50 years ago this month, disguised as a soldier.

The Karmapa Lama, tall, broad-shouldered and restless, is schooled in traditional religious painting. He looks forward to visits with his sister, who lives in town. Once a month he lunches with the Dalai Lama, who often brings him sweets and prayer beads from his world tours. Those who know the Karmapa Lama say he often paces the rooftop, with a view of Dharmsala's wheat fields, tea plantations and snow-brushed mountains.

When he first arrived in India, he was restricted to the top floor of the monastery. Indian intelligence worried that he was a spy for China. But lately he has gained the trust of Indian authorities. Last year he traveled to the United States, where he was introduced by a swooning American female fan as "His Hotness" rather than the traditional salutation, "His Holiness."

In January, the Karmapa Lama was allowed by India to appear at a prayer festival in Bihar, at the spot where Buddha is believed to have attained enlightenment in the 6th century B.C. He drew the largest crowds in decades.

In Dharmsala, half a dozen young devotees recently woke at dawn to attend a prayer service for Tibetans who lost their lives or were arrested during last year's demonstrations in Tibetan areas of China. Amid the yellow light of butter lamps and the sound of throaty Tibetan chants and long brass trumpets, they squeezed into a prayer service led by the Dalai Lama, a leader they still adore. But they were equally eager to see the Karmapa Lama, and what they saw intrigued them.

"The Dalai Lama is always smiling. He has joy in his heart. But Karmapa seems so intense and serious, so worried about the future," said Sonam Lhamo, 29, who bent her ponytailed head in prayer at the Dalai Lama's Tsuglakhang temple, nestled in the Himalayan foothills. "Karmapa is like our young generation: angry, serious about Tibet, but unsure of what to do."

By Emily Wax

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Demiurge

The concept of the Demiurge is actually more broad than might be assumed. For most, belief system in the beginning was chaos. A formless or hyper ordered state beyond human comprehension, and the divine being, the first consciousness, tends to dwell in or arise from this.

Now in an effort to understand the consciousnesses that proceeded, our own man sort of intuitively identifies the powers that be. The major players in how the world seems to work. Orthodox Catholics deride this and pantheism, but in fact it is more a sort of deism. An understanding of divine order or God in the machine. One of the things that gets commonly noticed though, is that these guiding forces don’t necessarily seem to be on the same page.

Essentially these first beings could be likened unto the very first observers, but there seem to be two broad orders of observers;

  • Those who remain in touch with the macrocosm.
  • Those that for one reason or another seek to set themselves apart, and declare that “thou shall have no God before me”.

The original state is often compared to water, as it was in the Japanese creation story, and the Indian, and the Bible even. At first everything is pretty much in order, everybody playing their role so to speak, but in the case of the Demiurge (and this being goes by many names) it sought “creation”. To set something apart from the total potential. In a sense it was the first rejection of the oneness that so many schools of mysticism seem to focus on.

What are some of it’s other names? Ah, Samael, Ahriman, Jaldabaoth.

Rejection? Yes, the Demiurge refused to include the other observers and Iao itself called in Chinese belief the Tao. So while it was off being sort of narcissistic (and this issue still exists to this day), it came under the indirect influence of one of the other beings who also goes by many names, and its vision was guided to provide the new creation with a potential it wouldn’t have.

Just because it wouldn’t include them, doesn’t mean they didn’t include it, yes? Exactly, so when the Demiurge was done, it looked at it’s creation and was surprised at how perfect it was, but it wasn’t totally perfect.

Who was he under the influence of? Just before the appointment of Shatian, Jaldabaoth, Ahriman, the separate divinity. The demiurge was guided by Sophia, first wisdom. In Greek the goddess Nox, or night, and thus was there the first period of rest, and that is when the potential of the world was first actualized.

How was it not perfect? Well, the Demiurge wanted a contained system. It wanted it to be limited and perfectly orderly, but it’s peers sought for more. The Demiurge is also known as Baphomet, is hermaphroditic, and it sought to deny humans a comparable power to it’s own and divided the potentials.

Like an ant farm? Yes, and is part of why even to this day people feel like ants.

Yin, yang, male, female, duality, fun? Was successful? Not entirely in eating of the tree of knowledge. And knowledge has been symbolized as a tree in many belief systems, the Norse, the Druidic.

Demiurge would not like humans venturing off into space like we are doing now? No, it doesn’t like that. It is part of why we have had some odd things happen, and people have an inexplicable paranoia regarding aliens and such.

You mean it may have caused accidents? It’s still governing a lot of what I refer to as probability matrixing.

Seeds us with a fear? Yes, but in humanity a seed was planted. A force called chi, kundalini, a force that we are taught to fear.

Someone gave us curiosity though? Yes, the others. The “serpent force” most directly, our reptile brains would have been totally dominant, and basically creative reason beyond us if it weren’t for an intervention. So things went, the orthodox powers that be don’t like their “contradictions” being talked about, the Kabala and such. And Gnosticism is just supposed to be “the work of false prophets”. It even was in the Greek ecclesiarchy before Christianity spread there. Plato was more of the “heretical” strain. Gnostic is what platonic method in teaching was based on, that we have access to knowledge beyond our brains.

Gnosis, life energy, chi? Actually yes. Plato and other Greek mystics were much concerned with a secret fire. Zoroaster was the bearer of this fire to the Persians, and he lead a movement excluding placation of Ahriman who was seen to be the tyrannical harsh petty side of Ahura Mazda, Lord Wisdom, aka Sophia. It is covered in both the fall of Icarus and the story of Prometheus. Prometheus was the bringer of the fire to early man, a Titan from the age before humanity. When he brought the fire from off of the cosmic axis (the world tree again, same image), Mount Olympus, he was villanized. When man later would seek to explore this fire, fly into the field of awareness, a.k.a. the astral plane. The Demiurge reinforces the limits of the human brain, making it mistranslate what it encounters and make mistaken decisions. In the metaphorical case fly too close to the sun.

Fear? Yes, always fear.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Karma isn't Something to Stress Over

Karma. This is a term and a philosophy that most people are familiar with. I, however, am losing faith that people actually know what it is and how it works.

The term Karma originates from cultures and religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism. It's a concept that believes that your actions and deeds are direct cause to the effects of the outcome of your life later on. That they actively shape the present and future, and its adaption in the western tradition in Christianity is the whole idea of "You reap what you sow".

So when adapted to a generalized culture, it's a general understanding that Karma is simply in place to encourage good deeds and morality. You do something good, something good will happen to you. You participate in heinous behavior, and then life's waste matter hits the fan.

Everyone knows that Karma can sometimes be a… well, not very nice.

Most people just focus on the bad side of Karma like it's some voodoo curse you may spray upon the world and walk about cursing people with bad Karma. Like as if Karma undertook the deeds that you wish you could do yourself makes you a much purer minded person. Yes, continue being na've. It's amusing.

About two weeks ago, I was walking through campus in a hurry because I'm always late and running behind, when a certain organization (I will not throw out any names because you know, Karma) stopped me and asked me to donate to their cause. I felt in my pockets and bag for change and realized I had absolutely none. I apologized and tried to move on. The friend I was walking with, however, did have money she was willing to donate, so we walked over to do so. When my friend placed her dollar bill in the collection tin, I got cursed with bad Karma. The person asking people to donate, point blank told me that I would have bad Karma and fail my next test because I did not donate, and my friend would have good Karma because she did. I was rather shocked that someone would be willing to curse me with such a harsh punishment because I didn't have money to donate. But I walked away laughing at the matter, and both my friend and I were shocked at the audacity of someone just freely giving out bad Karma in the school court yard.

I think cursing someone with bad Karma simply to try to persuade them into cooperating with you just simply to get your way is bad Karma. There is no way you can expect for something good to happen when you are too busy trying to give bad Karma to everyone else.

Good luck to those who have wished bad Karma on everyone else for selfish endeavors. Just sit back, live your life and let Karma do the trick, and remember-what goes around, comes around.

By: Veronica Ivey

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Could the Next Dalai Lama be Female?

After struggling for almost five decades, speculation is growing on who will lead and guide the Tibetans after the 14th Dalai Lama “TenzinGyatso”.

Speculation grew last November, when the exiled Tibetan leader hinted at a press conference, that a female Dalai Lama may succeed him. Many attendees were surprised, since history has never seen a female Dalai Lama.

His comments came after a historic Tibetan’s exile meeting ended, which discussed the future course of action in their nearly 50 years of freedom struggle.

In the context of Tibetan Buddhism, the possibility of a female incarnation of the Dalai Lama, or other reincarnating lama lineages, is known collectively as tulku. Tulku is used to refer to the corporeal existence of enlightened Buddhist masters.

“Although there are female lamas, or living Buddhas, men are predominant and it is rare for reincarnated lamas not to share the sex of their predecessors,” said His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

This comment follows his surprising remarks that he might choose his successor before his death, or even hold a referendum on whether he should be reborn at all.

“If people feel that the institution of the Dalai Lama is still necessary, then it will continue,” he said.

“All the Dalai Lamas, ‘til now, have been male,” says the Dalai Lama. “Now, we want a female Dalai Lama. Women have to play a more important role to play in today’s context.”

And then in his characteristic style, he adds, in a lighter vein, “The female Dalai Lama will be more attractive, so we will have more followers.” But then, is he a feminist?

“Yes, I am a feminist and a humanist too,” he says.

The Dalai Lama scotched all rumors of his possible retirement, saying, “There is no point or question of retirement. It is my moral responsibility ‘til my death to work for the Tibetan cause.”

“My body and flesh is all Tibetan. I remain committed to the Tibetan cause,” he says.

“There are various ways of doing it [having a successor],” says the Dalai Lama. “The point is whether to continue with the institution of the Dalai Lama or not. After my death, Tibetan religious leaders can debate whether to have a Dalai Lama or not. The successor can be a young girl. Girls show more compassion. Also, women are dominating things all over the world.”

Tibetan girls were delighted. They said it was unexpected but not unlike the Dalai Lama to say this.

“No one expected the Dalai Lama to say such a thing,” says Tenzing Nyesang a young Tibetan women outside the temple, minutes after his speech. “But one expects the progressive leader to have such an outlook towards equality of women.”

Tibetan women in exile have been quick to adapt to the new social life in exile and have contributed in the field of social welfare, community building, economics and the political struggle of Tibet in particular. Tibetan women have established themselves as a strong force in assisting the Tibetan government in exile through social and political activities and are the backbone of the refugee community.

Life in exile has given Tibetan women an opportunity to raise their issues to the international community, by working with international womens’ groups and attend various conferences related to women’s causes. Participating in these international gatherings has enhanced the outlook of Tibetan womens’ perspectives and taught them to work on a variety of issues concerning women in the global village. This has helped focus the international community on the Tibetan cause from a woman’s point of view.

As refugees, Tibetan women are displaced people who cannot return home for fear of persecution. Tibetan women refugees have had to adapt to a new way of life and at the same time struggle to maintain the Tibetan culture and identity in which the best effort to restore things are being done by them.

Even as the Dalai Lama stated that there is no question of his retirement until the Tibetan cause is resolved, he is still a visionary, looking ahead, keeping with the times, and breaking tradition.

Saransh Sehgal

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Spiritual Questions for People

In this day of political correctness, it’s sometimes difficult to come up with conversation starters that won’t come back and bite you. Many people, especially if they’re the shy type, may feel that there are no appropriate questions to ask people for fear of causing offense or misunderstandings from which they can’t recover. The result is a bunch of wallflowers, dying on the vine for any meaningful communication. Here we take a look at five questions which will stimulate everyone’s thinking and offer a venue for the exchange of ideas. This is what communication is all about. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll learn. You might well make some new friends, too.

When thinking of questions to ask people, keep in mind that everyone loves talking about themselves. This is not a bad thing. People are so different in the way they perceive the world, and you can gain some interesting insights on how another person has arrived at an opinion on any subject.

For example, global warming is a hot topic these days. The only opening you need is a very hot or cold day. Wow, can you believe this heat? Did you see Al Gore’s movie, ‘An Inconvenient Truth’? If the person has, there’s much meat here for a lively conversation. If not, you can throw out a few remarks to capture their interest. Did you know that polar bears are dying out because they can no longer swim from one ice floe to another?

There are a range of answers you might receive. Perhaps this person doesn’t think global warming is real. That’s your cue to find out why they hold this opinion. Don’t try to be argumentative. Part of the art of successful questions to ask people requires a genuine curiosity on your part to understand their position. Another person of whom you ask the same question might be very involved and knowledgeable on the issue. In either case, you’ll learn a lot.

Let’s say you’re into the fashion scene. A simple question like, Where did you find those beautiful earrings?, can launch an entire conversation, beginning with the earrings and ending with an invitation to a fashion event. If nothing else, you’ll certainly gain a sense of that person’s fashion perspective and probably learn a thing or two.

When you formulate questions to ask people, it’s essential to remember that what you’re after is learning what others think on any given subject and how they arrived at their conclusions. You don’t need to agree with the other person. When you learn to draw people out, without disagreeing in an offensive manner, you’ll learn a great deal about humanity in general. The more people you talk to, the more enriched you become. It’s a two way street, because both parties are equally satisfied in having learned a new perspective. When you practice the art of questions to ask people, everyone wins.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Comic Spirituality

Coyote is a key trickster figure in Native American mythology. He’s a shape shifter, part human and part animal, combining within himself all that makes up the human character. In numberless exploits, he is portrayed as greedy and gluttonous, thieving and lecherous. Clever and foolish at the same time. Yet he is the one who created the world, created people, stole sun and moon and the seasons and made them available to the people he created, shaped the very character of the land.

Here’s one story about this fascinating being: Coyote is sealed up in a hollow log as punishment for some trick he played. Once again, he’s been too smart for his own good. So he’s caught in this log and he tries with all his own personal power to escape but it’s useless, he can’t move an inch, the fit is too tight. He’s stuck.

Which makes what happens next so ironic. There he is, stuck in the log with no way out, and all of a sudden he hears the sound of a woodpecker pecking away at the hollow log. And while you’d think that Coyote would be overjoyed at this possibility of release, he’s cranky instead. “What a racket!” he says to himself. “What an irritating sound,” he says. Doesn’t even occur to him that Woodpecker was going to be his salvation. He just hates all the noise. So he shouts at Woodpecker to get away. “Stop that!” Luckily, Woodpecker keeps on pecking. He can’t hear Coyote shouting from within the log. He keeps on pecking away until he’s drilled a small hole that lets in a bit of the light.

And Coyote sees the light—in more ways than one. Suddenly he’s not at all irritated by the sound. Now he wants more of it! He starts shouting again, but this time, it’s to say, “Hurry up! Get me out of here!”

But now that there’s a hole, Woodpecker can hear Coyote more clearly, and Coyote’s shouting scares him away. He just flies away. It’s only when Coyote begins to appreciate the humor of his situation and disengages from all his anger and irritation and just shuts up that Woodpecker feels safe enough to come back and start pecking at the log again, according to a pace and a rhythm that is natural for him. Coyote just shuts up. Doesn’t say another word. Just waits until enough of the log is pecked away, and he is free, and then … he laughs!

For me, a story like this suggests some of the central themes of comic spirituality, which is what I want to talk about today. Comic spirituality is about being at home in the world amidst all its conflicts and struggles and dangers. Comic spirituality counters the temptations of the tragic point of view. Comic spirituality also says that, when life is at its worst (or when it just happens to be another round of Daylight Savings), a sense of humor saves. Laughter saves. Asbestos gelos. The person and the community and the world that laughs, lasts.

One of the things I love about Coyote stories is that they give us a behind-the-scenes look at how things came to be and how they are—which is playful. Coyote represents an unquenchable lust for being and life, and he creates and acts out of this lust, but he does not do this like the God of the Hebrew Bible, who always seems to know what he is doing and has everything in control. Coyote acts, but he is vulnerable to the surprising and unexpected consequences of his actions, so he can find himself stuck in a jam, and he’s got to figure a way out, and he does, and this results in yet another close call, leading to yet another burst of creativity, and on and on, and such is the process of the evolution of the world. Not by long-range planning—design established from the very beginning and then executed ideally without flaw—but experimentation, throwing yourself into it, seeing what happens next, facing loose ends and incongruities, experiencing breathtaking beauty and meaning but only to the degree you expose yourself to risk and therefore to pain. Shrugging shoulders at this fact of life; perhaps even laughing at the joy and absurdity of it all….

This is what Coyote stories reveal to us, as they take us behind-the-scenes of our everyday here-and-now. The heart of reality is not serious, but playful. Incongruity and pain are an integral part of the deal; sometimes it’s our fault, sometimes it’s not, and our best bet is to stay cool—to resist nurturing resentments and rage—to go with the flow, stay creative and loose. “One day,” goes another story, “Coyote was walking along. The sun was shining brightly, and Coyote felt very hot. ‘I would like a cloud,’ he said, so a cloud came and made some shade for Coyote. But he was not satisfied. ‘I want more clouds,’ he said, and more clouds came along, and the sky began to look very stormy. But Coyote was still hot. ‘How about some rain?” he said, and the clouds began to sprinkle rain. ‘More rain,’ Coyote demanded. The rain became a downpour. But now Coyote wanted a creek to put his feet in, so a creek sprang up beside him, and Coyote walked in it to cool off his feet.’ It should be deeper, said Coyote, and so the creek became a huge, swirling river, and now Coyote got more than he bargained for. He found himself swept up into the currents, rolled over and over, thrown up on the bank far away, nearly drowned. When he woke up, he saw buzzards circling him, trying to decide if he was dead, and he shooed them off. He looked around him. He had made the Columbia River. This is how that great river began.

I always think of Coyote when I sing “Bring Many Names,” #23 in the grey hymnal. There’s a verse that captures his essential spirit: “Young, growing God, eager still to know, / willing to be changed by what you started, / quick to be delighted, singing as you go: / hail and hosanna, young, growing God!” This is the only kind of God I could ever believe in, I think. Not a God that somehow stands outside of the natural order of the universe, who intervenes supernaturally in ways that favor one person over another or one tribe over another. Not a God that is locked inside the metaphor of maleness, or the metaphor of the human. Not a God that is all-powerful, with unlimited ability to act and yet appears to remain passive and uncaring when evil in the world is truly excessive, far beyond what seems needful for people to grow strong and wise. Especially not this last part, since then, how could the heart of reality be playful? How could anyone truly feel at home in a world in which a God existed who had the power to prevent evil but held back from using it? Allowed the very worst to occur?

There is a current in contemporary theology, called process theism, that takes very seriously the idea that behind-the-scenes is a playful force like Coyote, or the “young, growing God” of our hymnal. Process theism sees God as the creativity of the universe, and there are two sides to this. One is the body of the universe, the evolving interdependent web of all existence. Process theology tells us that it is sacred: galaxies and stars, trees and animals, you and I. All of it is part of God’s growing body. The world is God’s body. That’s the first side, and here is the second. God is a consciousness over and above the universe, just as you and I have a consciousness that is over and above our own bodies. You and I feel our bodies and think about them; we hope things for them and envision goals and futures; and it’s the same thing with God. God has a conscious side to complement God’s physical side. God is both the world and the consciousness of the world. Put the two together, and this is the kind of God that process theology envisions.

One of the immediate implications of this picture of things takes us right back to Coyote, and to comedy. God simply cannot force the universe to do whatever God wants. Therefore, things can get tangled up. Slapstick happens. Evil happens. God’s power is not unlimited. The universe has creative independence and freedom, just like your own body when it gets sick. Your mind doesn’t want it to be sick, but it is anyhow, and you have got to deal. Same thing with God. God doesn’t want the world to be sick, and yet the world has creative independence. God simply can’t enter into the world supernaturally, like a bull in a china shop, and stop this and start that. All God can do is influence the world from the inside—and I know this might sound strange, but think of how cancer patients participate in their own healing. Cancer patients visualize their immune system as strong, as powerful, as potent, and the immune system responds. Similarly, God visualizes blessing and healing for this world, and if we are open to it, we can respond and receive. Nothing supernatural here at all. God influences the world from the inside, showers continual blessing up on us, impartially, universally, and does it without us having to ask. But the world has creative independence too, and so the blessing might not be received, we might be so stuck in the log of our fears and angers and resentments that we can’t hear God’s still small voice…. The blessing might not be received. That is simply the reality and risk of freedom.

And by now you may be noticing something about comic spirituality. It’s not frivolous. It’s a way of being in the world richly, in the midst of incongruity of every kind—pain, suffering, death. It says, if the heart of reality is like Coyote, or like the God of process theism, then there’s nothing malicious behind-the-scenes for us to resent and rebel against, like some tragic existential hero. Life is an open adventure. Accidents do happen. We can get firmly stuck in logs of all kinds. But don’t forget about the woodpeckers out there, who are on their way. All we have to do is stay calm, and let them do their work to free us, so we can continue the adventure.

And this takes us to the next theme of comic spirituality, which has to do with resisting the temptations of the tragic point of view. The temptations are great. Two quick illustrations are in order. One has to do with an observation about kite string. Ever gone kite flying, and (wind being the trickster that it is) your kite takes a nose dive, and in the process of reclaiming your kite, you tangle up the string? If you are like me, trying to untangle it can make you impatient, and then angry, and suddenly you feel like a tragic hero. The world is unfair, the world is against me, the world is doing this to me … and before you know it, you have forgotten that your best bet is to finesse things. You are pulling on the tangles way too hard, jerking and tugging them, making a bad situation worse. What was originally just tangle is now a hard knot, an unredeemable mess.

Second illustration. Think Achilles, from ancient Greek mythology: his famous rage. Rage is the fundamental emotion that moves Achilles in the Trojan War—rage at being dishonored by the Greek general Agamemnon, so he will not fight; then rage at the Trojans who killed his close friend Patroclus, so now he will fight. Rage has him in its grip, and he is bursting with it, and not once does he question whether the Gods are on his side. He does not think: he acts. His deeds are larger-than-life and always to be remembered, but no one would call Achilles wise. The tragic mindset is not wise. Fundamentally reactive as it is, it simply cannot step back from the righteous heat of the moment and cool off; and this means it has a hard time being self-critical, or empathetic towards a different point of view, or creative. Every problem is a nail, to be solved by hammering. Our world—with all its curves and complexities and behind-the-scenes jitters—is just not a good fit for straight-arrow people like Achilles, and that’s why the traditional ending of a tragic story is not the journey that runs ever on, but the journey stopped short by the death of the hero. Tragic heroes are swept under and destroyed by the very life that they are so ill-equipped to understand and work with.

Succumb to the temptations of the tragic point of view, and the result is disaster. We never get out of the log, in one sense of another. Emotions like anger and sadness and fear sweeping us away, and out of these we react to whatever life sends us; we become so noisy we scare away savior woodpeckers for good. This is the key ingredient of the tragic mindset: stuckness in difficult emotions, endless rumination, which makes it difficult to stay loose and creative in our thinking, keeps things way too serious, causes us to feel discomfort with ambiguity and complexity, prevents us from being able to walk a mile in another’s shoes. In other words, low emotional intelligence. People finding themselves in a tangle, challenged by a diversity of valid perspectives and valid concerns, and before you know it, the tangle, which could have been finessed, has become a hard knot, another Middle East conflict. Well intentioned people wanting to fight for justice and for peace, but somehow they bring the fight to each other, and there is petty bickering and posturing and rigid political correctness and a party line; and suddenly these well-intentioned people, wanting to fight for justice and for peace, find themselves in the middle of a circular firing squad of their own creation. If you have ears to hear, then hear this.

But a comic perspective keeps things sane. It keeps us working together in world that is impure, keeps us hopeful even when the system we can’t extricate ourselves from is compromised and flawed. In this regard, I like what Chinese writer Lin Yutang has to say: “[T]he tremendous importance of humor in politics can be realized only when we picture for ourselves … a world of joking rulers. Send, for instance, five or six of the world’s best humorists to an international conference, and give them the plenipotentiary powers of autocrats, and the world will be saved. As humor necessarily goes with good sense and the reasonable spirit, plus some exceptionally subtle powers of the mind in detecting inconsistencies and follies and bad logic, and as this is the highest form of human intelligence, we may be sure that each nation will thus be represented at the conference by its sanest and soundest mind. […] Can you imagine this bunch of international diplomats starting a war or even plotting for one? The sense of humor forbids it. All people are too serious and half-insane when they declare a war against another people. They are so sure that they are right and that God is on their side. The humorists, gifted with better horse-sense, don’t think so.”

Amen to that. The temptation of the tragic point of view is ultimately a temptation to do violence and war—especially in the name of our highest and noblest ideals. But comic spirituality counters it. A sense of humor saves us. Which leads to the third and last theme of comic spirituality I want to address today: the power of laughter—unquenchable, invincible laughter. Asbestos gelos. The person and the community and the world that laughs, lasts.

Consider the experience of Captain Gerald Coffee, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam. After three months in captivity, Coffee’s Vietnamese jailor ordered him to wash in a rat-infested shower room littered with rotting things and garbage all around him. As he felt the stream of cold water against his body, he was overcome with despair. There he was in a dismal hole, body broken, totally uncertain of his fate, pressure to do this, do that, hostility his daily fare, men dying every day, the fate of his crewmen unknown. That’s where he was, mind, body, spirit, as the cold water washed over his body. Then he raised his head, and saw something. There at eye level on the wall in front of him, scratched in by some other American who’d been there before him, were these words: “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera!” And he couldn’t help but smile. In that crazy place, woodpecker had come for him, and he laughed out loud. He felt such gratitude for the spunk of that unknown American who was able to rise above his own dejection and pain to inscribe a line of encouragement. And Captain Gerald Coffee, there in captivity in a Vietnam prison, found strength to go on.

Sometimes laughter takes us by surprise, and we find strength to go on. Better yet, though, is a conscious intent to nourish our sense of humor regularly. Never allowing the humor tank in us to go empty. Brush your teeth every day, top off your humor tank every day. Watch John Stewart, or Bill Maher, or South Park. Read The Onion. Whatever. Whatever can puncture our self-righteous pretensions, loosen us up, bring us back down to earth, keep us energized and plucky. We laugh so that we can last.

I want to close with some humor aerobics. It’s just like regular aerobics to get the blood pumping—humor aerobics to get the sense of humor pumping. To do it, you don’t have to feel particularly happy beforehand; although by the end, you might just be laughing like crazy, and it feels so good….

Here’s the exercise. It’s one of my favorites—it’s called The American Bat Face. It’s especially good to do right before you are about to enter into a difficult conversation. Let me describe it first:

1. Place your hand on top of your head, with the fingers pointing straight forward

2. Reach down with the middle two fingers and touch the tip of your nose—pull the nose up, flaring the nostrils

3. Flap your tongue in and out of your mouth while making a high-pitched squealing noise

4. Think to yourself repeatedly, “This is not stupid, it’s silly.”

If this feels too uncomfortable for you, you absolutely have permission not to do it. But I hope as many of you as possible will try it and see what happens. As you do it, see if you can hear Coyote laughing with you…

Ready? Let’s go on three…..

*

You see, there’s an important difference between “stupid” and “silly” that comedian Steve Allen’s son, Steve Allen Jr., points out. He says that “stupid” means ignorant and uneducated. But having fun and playing is not stupid—it’s “silly,” and “silly” is a word that comes from the Old English, meaning completely happy, completely blessed. Silly was a blessing you wished upon those you loved.

I wish that upon you today, and forever. Be more silly in your life, and be blessed.

Monday, March 02, 2009

I AM: Kitaro - Grammy Winning Composer

Spirituality for me is to ‘believe’ in the power of the universe and accept nature as a gift.

Nature is the origin of creating music and I feel music
is literally a way of life, perhaps much more than that. Spirituality for me is a way of understanding the whole of life around me. In that sense, I am ‘naturally’ spiritual. The beauty I see and feel in nature inspires and influences my compositions. Our natural surroundings are so immaculately magical that I believe that God lives in nature.

My genesis is Buddhism and Shintoism. Visiting places of worship is a way of spiritually enhancing me and that can be strongly felt in my music. Beauty of any form can be experienced, be it a place of worship or anywhere else, till one learns to feel nature around him. I have spent a lot of time learning new things about myself and how I compose my music is also achieved through inner peace. My music is deeply rooted in the traditions and mystical sensibilities of the East.

I don’t feel compelled to wear any lucky charms. My composition and music is my amulet, my lucky charm and the mantra for love and peace. The beauty in nature inspires me so much that the music I create makes me communicate with my inner self and I guess that is the ‘highest power’ I would always love to turn to. I don’t live by any set philosophies per se. For me, music is not a job. There isn’t much religious character in my music either.

But I do believe that music is my mission through which I want to communicate a message of world peace. Currently, I have a strong belief in my inner self and in the nature that surrounds all of us.