|Dr. Robert Puff|
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#1548 - Monday, September 8, 2003 - Editor: Jerry
If we aren't fragile
we don't deserve
~ Nye (Iamkatia - LiveJournal)
A teacher asked Paul
what he would remember
from third grade, and he sat
a long time before writing
"this year somebody tutched me
on the sholder"
and turned his paper in.
Later she showed it to me
as an example of her wasted life.
The words he wrote were large
as houses in a landscape.
He wanted to go inside them
and live, he could fill in
the windows of "o" and "d"
and be safe while outside
birds building nests in drainpipes
knew nothing of the coming rain.
~ Naomi Shihab Nye
(Iamkatia - LiveJournal)
The Flatirons are a massive thrust of stone that frames the western backdrop to the city of Boulder, which lies in a shallow bowl just beneath them. Local legend is that if one ever views them with mist around the tops then one is destined to never fully escape the town, and is fated to return again and again.
INTO THE MIND OF SUFFERING
Journeying with Byron Katie in South Africa and Namibia
by Kriben Pillay
Ever since Byron Katie's final presentation at the University
of Durban-Westville's Hindu Centre on Sunday 31 August 2003 -
after a week of non-stop presentations and media interviews
that started in Cape Town the previous Sunday and which took
us to Namibia and Johannesburg and finally to Durban -
e-mails and telephone calls have been pouring in from people
touched by this extraordinary woman and the process that she
calls "The Work".
Out of the depths of her own despair, Byron Kathleen Reid
(now simply called Byron Katie), awoke one day in 1986 to
absolute clarity and unconditional love after a ten-year
period of seclusion, food and substance addictions, and
obsessing about suicide. In this awakening, she found what
all the great spiritual teachers had found - except that she
was without any spiritual training whatsoever - that is, that
it is possible to transcend our limited, self-centred and
fearful life into a life that is an expression of
connectedness and love. In Katie's case, the awakening was
accompanied by four questions that allowed her to undo
stressful thoughts that threatened to take her away from this
new incredible awareness of life that was devoid of any sense
Since 1986, Katie has been sharing this wonderfully simple
tool with hundreds of thousands wherever she is invited all
over the world. And, by invitation, she finally came to tour
South Africa and Namibia, giving endlessly of herself to
those who came in suffering or perplexity.
"The Work" is not another motivational technique, nor is it a
means to further delude the mind. Rather, in the tradition of
Socrates, the Buddha, and later teachers like Ramana Maharshi
and J. Krishnamurti, Katie's process is a process of inquiry,
where questioning the mind's stories allows us to see what is
real without the overlay of our acquired conditioning.
Like the title of her recently published book, Loving What
Is, "The Work" brings us to full acceptance of reality in the
moment, where we are no longer arguing with it but allowing
ourselves to be a creative participant in the unfolding of
each moment, as it is now. This is not a fatalistic approach
to pain, but a dynamic unpacking of the stories that created
the pain in the first place.
From Cape Town to Windhoek, Johannesburg to Durban, Katie -
with great skill and compassion - unpacked participants'
stories of suffering: painful relationships, parenting,
blindness, cerebral palsy, obstinate employees, the fear of
dying alone, political corruption, crime, the rape of little
children - these were some of the issues inquired into. And
each time Katie created a space for participants to see that
suffering arises from the confusion within the mind. Laughter
replaced tears, and self-righteousness was transformed into
humility and compassion. Interestingly, an issue that
preoccupies many people in this part of the world - racism -
was the only currently predominant issue that was not brought
up. This did not escape Katie's notice, but she never imposes
and always allows participants to work from a place where
they are most comfortable. After all, working in front of a
group of 500 strangers can be a daunting and fearful
situation in itself, but those courageous people who sat with
Katie and did The Work all walked away with peace restored to
their hearts and minds.
So, up close, what is Katie like? I can write about the total
absence of reactivity, even when a tiresome allergy and
non-stop presentations caused her great fatigue; of a woman
who is totally present for the person who is sitting before
her; of her great compassion for a child who was struggling
with the death of her loved ones; of her wonderful sense of
humour amidst the grilling criticisms of hard-nosed
journalists ... and of the almost palpable sense of the
sacred that emanates from her. But I suppose, for me, the
most accurate answer would be that Katie is a living
reflection of our potential to be mature, sane human beings.
She did not come to South Africa and Namibia to sell another
self-help programme; to make millions by promising a thinner
body, a life without illness, the perfect soul mate, or how
to manifest material wealth. Rather, she came with four
questions that allow us to discover our own answers. She is,
of course, a highly skilled and quietly supportive questioner
and an empathic listener. As she worked in front of several
hundred people, there was an immense quietness and never a
sign of audience restlessness.
Of course, not everyone in the audiences wanted inquiry that
strips way our illusions. One woman argued that she knew that
she would be attacked some day in crime-ridden Southern
Africa. "The Work" in that moment was perhaps not for her.
She could not see that she was attacking herself with
thoughts that had no bearing on the reality of the moment;
the moment where she was in perfect physical safety, except
for her thoughts that told her otherwise. But Katie's way is
not to convince intellectually, for this simply keeps the
sense of separation in place. She gently went on to the next
participant. If we want to hold onto our suffering, then that
is our business. "The Work" refuses to fall into the old trap
of being self-righteous, of wanting to put the world right.
As the Buddha is reputed to have said: " I show you
suffering, and I show you the end of it."
"The Work" is radical surgery without any anaesthetic (one of
Katie's sayings), but it is only for the one who has truly
grown weary of suffering. And from the responses of Southern
African audiences, many are fast reaching this place.
In Durban, Katie and her friends had lunch at my home. Our
Zulu domestic help, who lost her son in a freak accident
three years ago, was hugged and kissed and within a few
moments a glow from within lit up her face. She may not have
responded to "The Work" in its English format, but she
responded to the one whose awakening had taken her beyond the story of
In a supermarket you might pass Katie and see her for an
ordinary woman - as we experienced her at the breakfast
table, or on the short safari in the semi-desert of Namibia -
until you look into her startlingly blue eyes with their
infinite acceptance, tranquillity and wisdom, and see the
essence of your own pure heart.
For further information about The Work in South Africa,
contact Dr Kriben Pillay on 0824661745. Or visit his website
-- Noumenon:Transformative Thinking. http://users.iafrica.com/n/no/noumenon/
St. Anthony Messenger http://www.americancatholic.org/Messenger/Oct2000/default.asp
The Forgotten Art of Blessing
Blessings are an important part of our faith. It's time we
made them an important part of our lives.
By Sascha T. Moore
Most of us have probably heard the following old Irish
blessing at least a hundred times:
May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
And the rains fall soft upon your fields.
And, until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.
While it is a very simple blessing, the Irish words are a
powerful reminder of how important a blessing can be in our
lives. Unfortunately, in our culture today, we have become a
nation of cursers, not blessers. Our movies, our music, our
magazines are crammed with four-letter words.
Drive down any highway and you will see people cursing each
other with flying fingers and flailing fists. Visit any
playground and you will not only hear cursing from the mouths
of babes, but also witness the violent behavior that cursing
calls forth. The act of cursing has become so prevalent in
our society that we seem to be a people that has forgotten
how to bless.
In the Bible, throughout the creation story, God sets an
example by blessing all that he creates: God looked at
everything he had made, and he found it very good (Genesis
1:31). This goodness, and the desire for goodness, is the
heart of what blessing is about.
A blessing as defined by Websters is, The
utterance of a
wish, request or direction that good should follow,
pronounced over a person or an object, or the benefit which
follows such utterances.
Cursing, on the other hand, is the opposite of blessing. To
curse is to call evil or injury down on someone. It is to
invoke or pray for evil. And so in life, we find ourselves
offered the choice: to bless or to curse, to call forth
goodness or to call down evil.
As Christians, we need to understand the implications that
accompany this choice. If we are to be a people of God, we
need to relearn the forgotten art of blessing.
To offer a blessing is not a difficult task. In fact, a
blessing can be so simple that all too often we take the act
of blessing for granted. The priest, for example, blesses us
at the end of each Mass (provided we havent ducked out
early). Whether we are aware of it or not, we bless ourselves
each time we make the Sign of the Cross. Despite this
inherent simplicity, the act of blessing can take on more
meaning if we come to understand the three basic elements
that comprise a blessing, such as our Irish blessing.
The Elements of a Blessing
The first element in any blessing is that there has to be a
relationship with God. When we bless, when we ask for
goodness, we ask from the source of all goodness, we ask God.
When things are going well in our liveswhen the road seems
to rise and meet usour relationship with God will be
positive. Cursing is the furthest thing from our minds.
When things are not going so well in our liveswhen the
does not rise to meet useverything in life can seem like an
uphill struggle. It is during these times that we run the
risk of losing our relationship with God. If we allow this to
happen, we are unable to bless. We become like the embittered
psalmist who can only curse. Relationship with and belief in
God are essential to blessing.
The second element in a blessing is the ritual of transfer of
the blessing or the goodness. Historically, this transfer of
the blessing takes place physically through words that we
pronounce and gestures that we make, such as uplifted arms or
actual laying-on of hands. The person giving the blessing
transfers the blessing in such a manner that it will somehow
be experienced by the receiver.
The sense of touch, whether it is the wind at your back, the
sun shining upon your face or the firm hand of a priest
blessing your forehead, can convey an enormous
life-sustaining power. A blessing is the bridge between
heaven and earth. The transfer of the divine that occurs when
we bless is truly a sacred moment.
The third element of a blessing is the enhancement of the
receiver, wherein we envision the goodness of the blessing.
Even Jesus, when he pronounced the Beatitudes, envisioned a
goodness that would give comfort and hope to millennia of
believers. We have in our possession the ability to envision
virtually any future for humanity. The power to bless is
incredibly awesome. It is the vision of divine enhancement,
of a people resting in the palm of Gods hand, that is the
hallmark of a blessing.
Opportunities for Blessings
Our days are filled with endless opportunities to practice
the art of blessing. The best place to start, however, is by
personally calling down Gods goodness by blessing ourselves
with the Sign of the Cross. Morning after morning, we can
begin our day by choosing that divine vision, not only for
ourselves, but also for all who we might encounter in the
course of a day.
We might also choose to use this opportunity to include a
brief morning prayer. This self-blessing through gesture,
touch and words can become an important ritual that will help
us to spiritually center our day.
Our mealtimes provide yet another important opportunity for
blessing. We know from our New Testament reading that Jesus
would traditionally bless food at the feeding of the
multitudes and at the Last Supper.
In our society of abundance, we take our food supply for
granted, indulging and overindulging, even to the point of
impairing our health. Why not take a moment at each meal to
pause and bless the nourishment before us? Mealtime graces
from The Catholic Prayer Book include:
Before meals: Bless us, O Lord, and these your gifts which we
are about to receive from your bounty. Through Christ our
After meals: We give you thanks, Almighty God, for all your
gifts, who lives and reigns, for ever and ever. Amen
Our homes, the core place where we spend our lives, can also
be blessed. Many priests are willing to visit and bless a
home. In Christian homes a cross or crucifix can be
prominently displayed as a sign of Gods benevolent presence
in the home. Similarly, in Jewish homes the mezuzah is placed
on the doorpost. Part of the Jewish tradition is the touching
of the mezuzah and the reciting of the wonderful blessing:
May God protect my going out and coming in, now and
We all need that reminder, whether we are just sitting around
the house or venturing out into the world, that the goodness
of God is with us.
Perhaps the most important of the blessings that we can
bestow in life would be the regular blessing of our children.
Who can forget the Old Testament account of Jacob stealing
his brother Esaus blessing and the richness of their father
Isaacs vision for Jacob: May God give to you of the dew of
the heavens and of the fertility of the earth abundance of
grain and wine (Genesis 27:28)?
Today, we give our children everything that is material and
little that is spiritual, then we are surprised when a child
does something amoral. Like Isaacs vision for Esau, we find
ourselves in a position where the only blessing that we can
muster comes out sounding more like a curse: Ah, far from
the fertile earth shall be your dwelling; far from the dew of
the heavens above! (Genesis 27:39).
It is crucial that our children taste and see the goodness of
the Lord. Simple daily gesturesa hand on the forehead and a
God be with you, as they head out for school in the
morning. A tracing of the Sign of the Cross and a God keep
you, before they sleep. Never to let a day slip by where we
dont, in some small way, call forth the vision of goodness
into the lives of our children.
The Importance of Blessings
Blessings, whether theyre Irish or Jewish, ancient or
modern, are an important part of our faith life. We need to
forget cursing. More than ever, we need to continue to bring
the flow of the divine into our lives. Just as in Moses
time, our generation needs to learn the art of blessing: The
Lord said to Moses: Speak to Aaron and his sons and tell
them: This is how you shall bless the Israelites. Say to
them: The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let his face
shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon
you kindly and give you peace!(Numbers 6:22-26).
Like Aaron and his sons, we too hold that awesome power to
bless. We just need to use it.
Feeling Pictish (Indigo not Woad)
Nina gave me a lovely Japanese outfit sewed from shibori indigo dyed cloth. The pants are loose but nicely cut and the jacket wraps to the side and ties closed. Yesterday it was too hot for the jacket but I enjoyed the feeling of the loose lightweight trousers all day, even rolling them up to work in the garden.
The first indication was when I returned from my evening walk and found that my hands were blue, from having them in the pockets. Later, when I undressed for the shower my hips were blue, my thighs were blue, my knees were deep, dark indigo blue.
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|Dr. Robert Puff|