The Real News Archive (Archive Home)

August, 2004

Monday, August 30, 2004

Giving brings meaning an love

Researchers who studied more than 400 older married couples found that those who provided emotional support to their spouses or practical support -- such as transportation and child care to friends and relatives -- reduced their chances of dying by between 40 and 60 percent over the subsequent five-year period. Receiving support, on average, had no affect on subjects' rate of death. (Psychology Today, November/December 2003)
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Giving is a muscle that needs regular exercise. Observe non-profit organizations and you will notice that there is a small group of the same people giving large sums to numerous groups. These are people whose giving muscle is toned and in shape, and whose muscle stays that way through regular exercise. Then there are the untrained ones, those whose muscles are flabby with disuse and for whom the least bit of exercise is painful.

Call it cheap, call it confused, call it selfish. Call it short-sighted. For in the end, the person who most benefits from giving is NOT the recipient but the giver. Forget the gimmes, I want the givies.
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This Rosh Hashana, pray to be a giver. Ask the Almighty for the strength and wisdom to help others. Pray for a renewal of opportunities. Pray that you'll say "yes" when they come your way. Pray for a chance to exercise your spiritual muscles. -more-

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Wooziness is Iyer's muse

With his latest travel collection, Sun After Dark: Flights Into the Foreign (Knopf), Pico Iyer is back on his regular beat, exploring the far corners of the world and inspiring wanderlust among his readers. But the book also wanders far off the map into the territories of the mind, with chapters on dreams, the mild hallucinations of jet lag and a meeting at a Zen retreat with Canadian singer and poet Leonard Cohen.

Iyer, who says "foreignness" is his natural home, was born in England to Indian parents, raised from boyhood in Santa Barbara, Calif., and now lives in Nara. It's not surprising then that his writing often focuses on the intersections of disparate cultures.

"When I began traveling through Asia in the '80s," Iyer says, "I deliberately wrote not about the Forbidden City or the Great Wall, but the Kentucky Fried Chicken parlor in Tiananmen Square. It represented a new kind of exoticism, a whole new culture that nobody had charted.
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"I began Sun After Dark with a trip to a Zen monastery in Los Angeles where Leonard Cohen was a monk," he says, "partly to remind myself and the reader that we travel most when sitting still, often, and that we can find Zen transformations or riddles in our neighborhoods in the modern world without ever having to travel to Kyoto."

For Iyer, a self-described "traveler at birth," nowhere, exactly, is home. And for this reason, perhaps, one of the major themes of his writing is that the foreign is everywhere. -more-

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Gnostic church

The run-down, two-story building next to Albertsons on Palo Alto's Alma Street seems unremarkable at first glance. An abandoned first-floor storefront displays the corny cartoon of an enthusiastic man selling donuts.

Inside, the smell of incense is the first clue that something is unusual. On the second floor is the Ecclesia Gnostica Mysteriorum , one of the few Gnostic churches in the country.
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Like much of the church, the weekly service -- known as The Gnostic Mystery of the Eucharist -- is a bit of a paradox. On one hand, it's as ritualistic as any Catholic mass. On the other, there is no dogma for the congregants, no hard-and-fast rules that need to be followed.

"There is no obligation to anything," said Rosamonde Miller, the garrulous 62-year-old bishop who founded the church in the same location in 1978. "Freedom has to begin with freedom."

Instead, Miller uses her sanctuary, and the stories and rituals in its services, to eschew habitual beliefs. She aims to bring her congregants beyond ordinary reality to a higher understanding of the world and themselves. She is, in the literal sense, a free spirit.
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"We are born with the capacity to be fully ourselves," Miller said that morning, encouraging congregants to awaken spiritually. "We don't realize it, but we're knee-deep in divinity." -more-

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Christopher Isherwood

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood, considered one of the best prose writers of the twentieth century. "I am a camera . . ." he wrote at the beginning of his most famous work Goodbye to Berlin which was adapted into a play, then a musical and finally the Oscar-winning film Cabaret.

Following publication of his first novel in 1928, Isherwood moved to Berlin where he collaborated on a number of verse plays with English poet WH Auden. They returned to England in 1933 when the Nazis came to power in Germany, travelled together to China and in 1939 settled in the United States – Auden in New York and Isherwood in Santa Monica, California.

Becoming an American citizen in 1946, Isherwood continued to write novels as well as film scripts for Hollywood. But upon meeting Aldous Huxley he became interested in eastern philosophy and joined the Vedanta Society of Los Angeles. He worked on translations of several Hindu classics, including the Bhagavad-Gita. In 1980 he wrote about his spiritual journey in My Guru and His Disciple. -more-

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Keep patient in mind during hospital visits, chaplains urge

“I’ve always found that when I come in with an agenda, I always stifle what God has going on,” Smith said.

Perez describes hospital visitation as a ministry of “presence.” The minister is there to “go where they go” along their spiritual journey.

At the end of the meeting, ministers should promise an ongoing ministry, Smith said. There, the relationship will continue to grow. -more-

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Jerome Flynn

Comic genius Tommy Cooper was a perfectionist, a genial giant who was driven, a private man who made such a public end, dying on stage on live television.

But he was also a very deep soul, a person to whom Jerome Flynn shares a deep affinity with, as Peggy Woodcock found at when she interviewed Flynn in preparation for his portrayal of Cooper at the Clwyd Theatr Cymru, next month.

What a surprising man Jerome Flynn is. (He) ... took two years out, just as his career was flourishing, to go on a longed-for spiritual journey which took him, physically, to India, and, mentally, into new and rewarding territory.

Said Flynn: 'It was something I needed to do, although everyone thought I was crazy. I wanted to understand who I am and what I am doing here. I believe the problems we have in the world derive from a lack of self-understanding.

'I learned how to meditate properly. I had got involved with a teacher who had retreats in India and I have been going back over six or seven years. I have learned how to meditate properly and practice every day.

'We are so conditioned that it is not easy to let go of our minds. Our momentum is to a selfish life and you have to break that down. If it is a choice you set on, it comes.'

He speaks openly, deliberately, wanting and willing to engage on this theme that is close to his heart. He must know he is open to ridicule but it doesn't matter. He knows the value of the ground he has and is covering. -more-

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The Master Calligrapher

CHAPEL HILL -- Japanese artist Kazuaki "Kaz" Tanahashi, 70, carefully prepared for this one moment on Wednesday morning at the Chapel Hill Zen Center. He poured charcoal ink called "sumi" into a white glass bowl, added a little water and more ink to have enough to fill a large, plump brush made of sheep's hair. As he mixed the ink, the metal brush handle produced a bell sound as it clinked against the side of the bowl.

"Ready," the master calligrapher said to a photographer waiting to catch the moment when the artist would make a single brushstroke on the white paper placed on a blue tarp on the floor.

Tanahashi raised the brush and brought it down on the paper, swept it from left to right. Then, without raising the brush, he turned it at a 45-degree angle and pressed the brush to the paper.

It took only a few seconds.

"People say: 'How much do you charge by the hour?' I say, 'I charge by the second,' " Tanahashi joked.

That single brushstroke encompassed a breadth of meaning.

Called "ichi," the character means "one" and is "the mother of all strokes," Tanahashi said.

"It can be like going beyond dualism, seeing all things as one," the artist said. "Also, it can mean the beginning of everything -- or it means being simple." -more-

Friday, August 27, 2004

 

David Rothermal

Rothermel had plenty of success with his landscapes and skyscapes. After 21 years in New Mexico, Rothermel had the itch to move again. Motivated by the nature of his work - "When you're a landscape painter, you've got to move around," he said - and commercial considerations, he relocated to Scottsdale, Ariz., where the art market was booming. But Rothermel found his new home uninspiring.

"I found it lacked spirituality and soul," he said. "It wasn't like here and New Mexico. Because Scottsdale is more commercial; it's a metropolis, a city."

Against the background of an epiphany he had several years before moving to Arizona, Rothermel knew he couldn't stay in a place he found soulless. Six years ago, during a visit to Aix-en-Provence, Rothermel meditated in Cezanne's studio and saw a sort of light.

"I had a moment of clarity there," he recalled. "Whether it was Cezanne's voice, my voice, god's voice, whatever - the message was, stay inspired, and everything would be OK." -more-

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Kosher and Controversial

The recently mounted mezuzah on the front door of a soon-to-be opened restaurant in Malibu is symbolic for many reasons.

It marks the first kosher eatery to open in the seaside community. It also symbolizes Chabad of Malibu’s first foray into mainstream life in a city of surfers and celebrities.
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Sharon Caples said she and her brother are not certain whether they will pursue litigation should the Malibu Beach Grill be identical to their former restaurant.

"It’s just been a slap in the face to us," she said. "And the Malibu residents have been so kind over the years. We’re just sad to say goodbye."

But the greatest hurdle for Chabad has yet to be cleared.

"Malibu is a very spiritual place," Cunin said. "And I hope people come and see what we’re doing here. I’m interested in learning about surfers and their spirituality." -more-

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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

 

In this upcoming show in Beijing, the theatre will be performing its famous classic pieces "Revelation", "Winter in Lisbon" and "Following The Subtle Current Upstream", which have earned the theatre world fame.

Regarded as the quintessential modern dance masterpiece, "Revelations" explores the spirituality of African-Americans in the South. With its emotional journey and timeless theme, "Revelations" has been the signature work of the Company for more than 40 years.

"Revelations" continues to exert a magic spell no matter how many times you may have seen it. One can only envy the thrill of those encountering it for the first time," said the Chicago Sun-Times. -more-

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74-Year-Young Nun's Heavenly Touch Builds Multimillion-Dollar Massage Empire

ST. PAUL, Minn., Aug. 25, 2004 - At 74, Sister Rosalind Gefre certainly has the magic touch. Her massage ministry, once considered controversial in the early 1980s, now boasts five professional schools and five clinics in Minnesota and North Dakota with total revenues expected to reach $3.1 million this year. Last year's revenues were $2.8 million, and that was up from $2.1 million in 2002.

To date, more than 2,000 people have graduated from schools bearing her name where they can take 38 courses in everything from sports massage and foot reflexology to spirituality and massage.

All of this might seem quite remarkable for a woman who was raised on a farm, dropped out of school in the eighth grade, joined a convent at age 18 and had her first massage business raided by the vice squad when she was 54.

But Sister Rosalind attributes her business acumen to a higher power. "I saw massage as Jesus talking to people. We feel very much that God is on our side," she recently told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. -more-

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Wiccans in the military seek more understanding, tolerance

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. - (KRT) - After U.S. military personnel pelted American Wiccan servicemen and servicewomen in Iraq with bottles and rocks as they worshipped in a sacred circle, the Pentagon turned to Patrick McCollum of Moraga, Calif.

The chaplain, a national expert on the earth-based Wicca religion, conjured a little Wicca 101 for the troops.

Most Americans glean their Wicca knowledge from TV's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" or "Charmed," with their witches and curses, good and evil. Wiccan worship focuses on respect for the earth and its inhabitants with a "do no harm" credo.

"Education is the single most powerful tool," in dealing with misunderstandings in the military, McCollum said.

Wiccans represent a small fraction of the military, roughly 1,500 among 1.4 million active personnel, but the Pentagon wants to accommodate their faith. The military trains chaplains to meet the religious needs of all service members without compromising their own religious beliefs, said Col. Richard Hum, executive director of the Armed Forces Chaplains Board at the Defense Department. -more-

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Review: Pilgrimage from Darkness: Nuremberg to Jerusalem
Posted 8/25/2004
By Aharon ben Anshel

Title: Pilgrimage from Darkness: Nuremberg to Jerusalem
Author: David E. Feldman
Publisher: University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, MS


Author David E. Feldman was working on another book when he was invited to lunch by a neighbor, Leonard Levine, in Long Beach, Long Island.

Already a successful published author, Feldman had become accustomed to friends and acquaintances offering new story ideas, and he developed something of a tough hide to most of these suggestions — especially those dealing with World War II, which he felt had been more than adequately covered by his recent novel, "Born of War."

But something in Levine`s tale of a Christian German boy — now man — named Oskar Eder caught his attention. Eder had grown up in Nazi German. He had been a member of the Hitler Youth Corps, and a pilot in the Luftwaffe.

Late in the war, Eder became deeply disaffected with Nazism. His quest for truth led him to explore religions other than Christianity, including Islam, Hinduism, and finally, Judaism.

His voyage concluded with conversion to Judaism by a Rabbinic court in Haifa. He married an Holocaust survivor and embarked on a new life as an observant Jew residing in Jerusalem.

The book`s protagonist was born near Nuremberg — the heart of the Third Reich — in 1925, and in his youth was influenced by German`s xenophobic patriotism, racism and Nazi politics. An impressionable teenager, he fell under the spell of the Jungvolk, the younger branch of the Hitler Youth Corps, and departed from his parent`s socialist leanings. He aligned himself with the older, tougher youth and joined the Luftwaffe to do his part to serve his country.

Never having personally committed any atrocities, he was inspired after the war to begin his personal search for spirituality, starting with the writings of Mahatma Ghandhi.

His quest finally led him to Jerusalem where his circle included Martin Buber, Ze`ev Falk, Hugo Bergman, Ernst Simon and many others. He engaged in agriculture on a kibbutz, read the Bible, and came fact-to-face with many German-Jewish survivors — and his own guilt.

Oskar Eder`s biography takes the reader to the four points of the globe, describing a remarkable, engrossing spiritual journey. Fiction has never been as fascinating as this true story. This has been the entire article.

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A Classic Children's Book Comes to the Big Screen

For nearly 20 years, families around the world have made Chris Van Allsburg’s enchanting story "The Polar Express" part of their own holiday traditions, like stockings by the fireplace, a brightly decorated Christmas tree and the sweet scent of candy canes served in steaming cups of hot chocolate.

In 2001, this beloved children’s classic about a doubting boy who takes an extraordinary train ride to The North Pole on Christmas Eve caught the attention of acclaimed actor (and father of four) Tom Hanks. He brought the book to his friend and colleague, filmmaker Robert Zemeckis. The Oscar-winning pair previously explored issues of the human spirit together in "Forrest Gump" and "Cast Away." Both were excited by the important spiritual journey taken by the young hero in "The Polar Express." -more

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Dylan's still blowin' in the wind

Bob Dylan has been massive influence on 20th Century music As he prepares to publish his memoirs, BBC News Online examines the timeless appeal of musical legend Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan's unique fusion of rock, country, folk and blues have had an immeasurable influence on contemporary popular music.

His political lyrical content has influenced everyone from The Beatles to U2, to Bruce Springsteen and Badly Drawn Boy.

Joe Strummer said Dylan "laid down the template" for lyric, tune, seriousness, spirituality and depth of rock music.

And at the age of 63, the man born Robert Alan Zimmerman on 24 May 1941 in Hibbing, Minnesota, is still on the road, still with his own, enduring career. -
more-

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Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, internationally known expert on death and dying who became a pioneer for hospice care, and pressed doctors to listen to the needs of terminally ill patients, died Tuesday of natural causes. The Scottsdale resident was 78.

Kubler-Ross' 1969 ground-breaking book On Death and Dyingbecame a pop-culture phenomenon with her theory that the dying go through five stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. In recent years, she suffered a series of strokes and infections and in a 2002 Arizona Republic interview, she welcomed death and called God a "damned procrastinator" for not letting her die. She finally got her wish about 8:10 p.m. in her own bed surrounded by family and friends.

Feisty, charismatic and empathetic, the Swiss-born psychiatrist took hold of the subject of death in the 1960s and never let go. She rallied for doctors and nurses to treat the dying with dignity, addressing their questions, fears and anxieties. But also their pain.

"She brought the taboo notion of death and dying into the public consciousness," said Stephen Connor, vice president of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. -more-

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Lucid Dreams in Moving Time: The Hidden Shamanism of Contemporary Western Dance

Not that I’m suggesting dance is a religion. I would say, though, that it is a practice that can manifest a physical and mental evolution. Davida’s perspective resonates not only with my own personal experience, but also with that of two of my peers, dancers Katie Ewald and Chanti Wadge.

Performance, both Ewald and Wadge agreed, can be a meditation about stilling the mind, opening the body as a vessel for energy to pass through. In physical freedom lies the opportunity to embody a larger reality beyond your regular identity. Performance makes the moment significant. It grounds our awareness and allows access to an expanded consciousness. -more-

Monday, August 23, 2004

Spiritual direction

Regardless of the origin, intuition requires that you pay attention to that centered stillness inside. It certainly helps if you get focused, listen and look for the signs.

Many people pay more attention to their intellect or their emotions when making decisions. Many of my clients are guided by their desires, and desires are frequently emotion-based.
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I will share with you an exercise that I have been doing for some time, and it's never failed to provide the right direction and reassurance that I need, no matter what life's circumstance. I pick a day of the week to do this exercise, and let nothing interfere with my special time to listen.

I lie in bed and wait for spiritual direction. Initially, when I did the exercise, I would wait quietly, and as normal thoughts of the day entered my head, I moved them aside, waiting for what God had to tell me. I didn't ask any questions. I didn't have any specific problems. The first message I got was clear and direct. "Slow down and let me take care of you." -more-

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Lee James

In 1983, a chance meeting with Brahmakumaris, a spiritual and educational institution, changed his life forever.

"I was a popular and wealthy actor and revelling in the fame that I enjoyed when I joined Brahmakumaris. I found myself changing my approach to life and liking it also. I also discovered how theatre can be a marvellous medium for therapeutic workshops, especially for youth," he says.

He began practising yoga and meditation and also did intensive research on the healing powers of mind on body, stress management and spiritual empowerment. He has been involved with several international projects for the UN and WHO in post-trauma counselling, working with emergency crew and victims after social or natural disasters. His notable missions include post-trauma counselling at Ground Zero in New York in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 tragedy, at quake-ridden Kobe and Iran, rehabilitation of landmine victims in Cambodia, suicide intervention/prevention in Japan and Korea, hostage negotiations at Indonesia in 2003, among many others. -more-

Sunday, August 22, 2004

The Road Less Gracefully Travelled, by Jennifer Farquhar

When Hannah had first decided to do the pilgrimage, she became single-mindedly focused on successfully completing it, despite the barrage of well-meaning opposition she encountered from those all around her. The only close friend who hadn't tried to dissuade her from attempting the pilgrimage had been her sensei. He had become Hannah's close friend during the two years she taught in his rural village. One day she had admired this stranger's flower garden while passing by his house, and the next morning he and his wife had shown up on her doorstep with an offering of a freshly cut bouquet. That had been the beginning of a very simple and special friendship. Over the two years, she had spent increasingly more time visiting her sensei and his wife in their simple wooden home. Her sensei seemed a Japanese Merlin. A mentor of martial arts and traditional Asian medicine, he patiently guided Hannah through his mystical world. Some nights she would go over to his house in the evening, and they would simply sit around the low living room table, their legs tucked under their behinds, sipping tea. After long silent pauses, one of them would break the personal reverie with a comment such as, "The weather is getting warm, isn't it?" Silence.

"Hmmm. Yes. It makes me happy." More silence. Sip. Sip. At first this reticence was very foreign to Hannah, who had always felt the need to fill any wide-open conversational spaces with a steady stream of pertinent words. Freed from this obligation, it seemed that one could more readily greet the wisdom that enters only through silent gates.

Her sensei had employed this same sparseness in his response to Hannah when she announced that she had made up her mind to walk the pilgrimage. Although he felt more concern than anyone for the safety of she who had become like a daughter, "I see," was all he had eventually responded. "I guess we had better find you a good, strong stick."

And now here she was, 61 days into sweaty retreat with her sturdy stick, her will to forge ahead wearing as thin as the cartilage in her knees. Her body had become overexerted from the daily walking from sun-up to sundown, from toting a heavy backpack, and from miserable nights outside on her flimsy foam roll-up. Lately, every morning she woke up shivering, so stiff that it took a good half-hour of yoga just to convince her joints they weren't made of rust. She had started this journey as a nimble 26-year-old, yet had metamorphosed into a creature with the gait of an arthritic in monsoon season. Despite the breathtaking beauty of the mountain streams and bamboo forests through which the trail wove, Hannah felt so uninspired. Sore from morning to night, new foot blisters sprouting upon old ones, she was finding it increasingly difficult to muster the will to continue. -more-

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The Spiritual Cinema Circle, which can be found at www.spiritual cinemacircle.com, distributes the kind of movies that normally don't get seen outside of film festivals. They're very un-Hollywood.

No gratuitous violence. No intergalactic car chases. Nothing too tawdry.
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(Stephen) Simon says two of his favorite spiritual films are the classic "It's a Wonderful Life" and Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey." Go figure.

And then there's mine: "Harold and Maude," the story of a lost 20-something Harold (Bud Cort) and his 80-year-old lady love Maude (Ruth Gordon).

It's a love story, but it's not about romance.

I think it's about falling hopelessly in love with life.

The film is full of moments that I find inspiring, gems of wisdom, or "Maudisms" -- "Greet the morning with a breath of fire!", "Don't get officious. You're not yourself when you're officious," and "Try something new each day. After all, we're given life to find it out. It doesn't last forever."

There's a scene that always gives me existential pause, and blows away the stubborn boabies. (For the uninitiated, boabies are something between ennui and mild depression.)

Harold and Maude are sitting in a field of daisies. Maude tells him if she were a flower, she'd be a sunflower because they're tall and simple. Harold says he'd be a daisy because they're all the same.

"I believe much of the world's sorrow comes from people who know they are this," Maude says with tears in her eyes as she holds up a daisy. "Yet let themselves be treated . . ." motioning to the field of daisies, "as that."

Spirituality is, indeed, in the eye of the beholder. -more-

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Spiritual caregiving helps heal the soul

I have a friend who loads two horses into her station wagon twice a month. They are the size of large dogs. They whinny to each other as they walk up their wooden ramp. The horses and the driver are excited. They are going to visit a nursing home.

Why? Because the residents smile when they see the little horses. And they smile again when they pet their soft, velvety noses and talk nonsense to them.

My friend's ministry highlights one of the most important aspects of long-term care giving: encouraging loved ones to smile.

If a relative or friend has passed through a critical health crisis but has reached a plateau in recovery, you might be called upon to provide long-term care. Typically, the loved one is not only fighting a physical battle, but he or she also is fighting depression.

Which is more difficult? Caring for the physical body or caring for the mind and spirit? Lifting a heavy body out of bed might be back-breaking work. The human spirit is lighter than a feather. But it is much more complicated to lift. Long-term care giving can be exhausting because it requires both physical effort and spiritual energy. -more-

Friday, August 20, 2004

HISTORY: The labours of Karen Armstrong —Suroosh Irfani

For a girl who became a nun as a teenager, God now signifies the urge for transcendence and transformation, as indeed the desire to live a life more intensely rooted in compassion. A living engagement with such compassion has transmuted her struggle with the darkness within, into a struggle against the darkness of religious hatred and intolerance outside


If there is no miracle more cruel than birth, as the American poet Sylvia Plath famously noted after her first child was born, then spiritual rebirth may well be a miracle no less cruel. Rather than the body, here it is the mind that cracks and the heart that’s broken open. An example of such rebirth is to be found in Karen Armstrong’s autobiography, The Spiral Stairway: My Climb out of Darkness (Knopf, 2004). Her book is a tale of a hunger for God that made her join a convent and become a nun when she was 17 years old, the disillusionment and loss of faith that led to her breakdown seven years later, and her struggle to forge a new identity in the secular world, even as she confronted “moments of dread, when my brain cracked open and the world became suffused with dread”.

However, Armstrong survived it all, and learned “to ... turn again” and find fulfilment in ways she had never expected: She was reborn to life through her own labours, years after leaving the Convent.

As an icon of intellectual activism and religious pluralism bridging the gap between the Muslims and the West, Armstrong has come a long way from the struggling woman who was driven by her successive failures and inner terrors to the brink of despair and suicide. -
more-

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'Living Buddha' to visit Berkeley

By STAFF WRITER

BERKELEY -- Gayuna Cealo, an enlightened spiritual master and saint from the Burmese Buddhist tradition, will be in Berkeley this weekend.

Revered as a living Buddha and known for his joy and contagious laughter, Cealo will present a program 7:30 to 9 p.m. Friday at the Berkeley Unitarian Church, 1924 Cedar St. A $10 donation is requested.

The spiritual master will share his "healing energy" and answer participants' questions, organizers said.

Cealo is head of a monastery and the founder and supporter of many orphanages and charitable groups in Cambodia and Burma. This has been the complete article.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Spiritual wisdom and simple exercises to help you ward off anxiety and terror.

Fear is a very potent emotion. Since the September 11 attacks, every aspect of daily life seems to be polluted by it. Through its power of suggestion, we find ourselves running various scenarios of death and destruction in our minds. Every day news stories about real and rumored terrorist threats feed our paranoia. Law enforcement officers are on "high alert," and citizens are being asked to go about their daily business but to watch out for "suspicious behavior."

Fear plays upon our natural feelings of vulnerability and turns them into expectations that another terrorist attack is about to happen. The concerns first voiced by children on the day of the 9/11 attacks--Is my house safe? Will something bad happen to me and those I love?--are now coming out of the mouths of people of all ages. The feelings of empathy, unity, and compassion, so strong in the months after the September 11 attacks, have been subsumed by the addictive nature of fear.

Recovery programs say that it takes three weeks--21 days--to break a bad habit or to start a new practice. To help you cope with runaway fears, we have collected 21 "Fear Busters," nuggets of spiritual wisdom coupled with simple exercises that you can do to work with any fears you may be wrestling with. We encourage you to check in daily and break the fear habit. -more-

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Former astronaut to speak on science, spirituality

Stephanie Slater

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

The sixth man to walk on the moon lands at the Science of Mind Center next month for a seminar about bringing science and spirituality into a common understanding.

Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell will speak at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 10 at the center on Southwest 12th Avenue in Boca Raton.

Mitchell, who lives west of Lantana, said his experience aboard the spacecraft in February 1971 was the basis for his studies over the past 30 years.

"We were moving perpendicular to our flight path, rotating -- like on a barbecue skewer -- in order to keep thermal balance," he said. "Every two minutes, as we rotated, the heavens, the Earth, the moon and the sun appeared in my window. I suddenly realized that the molecules of my body, my spacecraft and my partners had been prototyped."

In 1973, after retiring from the Navy, Mitchell founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences, a California-based center that researches how consciousness is organized in the universe. Mitchell, who earned his Ph.D. in 1964 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said he considers himself a modern-day shaman in addition to being a scientist.

"We needed to have a new understanding of ourselves: Who are we? Where are we going?" he said. "Science never before looked at why we even have subjective experiences."

Mitchell has previously spoken at the Science of Mind Center, said Barbara Lunde, director. She recalls his spirited description of his nine-day journey in outer space.

"He really gives you the feeling of what it meant to look back at the Earth from the moon, how that changed him," Lunde said. "It's just so inspiring."

Tickets are $20 in advance; $30 at the door. Seating is limited. A reception follows Mitchell's talk. The cost is an additional $15. For more information, call 368-8248 or visit www.somboca.com. This has been the entire article.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz dies at 93

Aug. 14, 2004 | WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- Polish poet and Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz, known for his intellectual and emotional works about some of the worst cruelties of the 20th century, died Saturday, his assistant said. He was 93.

Milosz died at his home in Krakow surrounded by his family, the assistant, Agnieszka Kosinska, told The Associated Press by telephone. The exact cause of death was not immediately known.

"It's death, simply death. It was his time -- he was 93," Kosinska said.

Milosz had lived in Krakow since the fall of the Iron Curtain allowed him to return home after almost 30 years in exile in France and the United States, a time in which he became a prominent symbol for anti-communist dissidents. -
more- -NPR audio: Requiem for a Poet: Czeslaw Milosz-

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Alice Doyle

Alice Doyle never considered herself a missionary.

She set out to be a healer, became a teacher and ended up on a spiritual journey that helped those around her change their views of God.

"She realized that you found union with God in whatever you did," best friend Mazie Herr said. "That is what she taught us . . . To know Alice was a great peace."

Doyle always wanted to do God's work. And at 16, she decided she would spend her life helping lepers banished to a colony on the Hawaiian island of Molokai.

So in 1928, the teenager left her home in California and joined a convent, intent on becoming a nurse.

The Catholic Church had other ideas and instead made her a teacher. It was a role she embraced for the next 76 years, until her death in Phoenix last month at the age of 92.
...
In 1977, Doyle moved to Scottsdale, about 10 years after leaving the convent. But always a practicing Catholic, she immediately connected with members of the Phoenix Diocese, acting as a liaison between the church hierarchy and parishioners.

Doyle often assuaged spiritual wounds inflicted on the faithful by strict doctrine and bureaucracy. Holly Bode said that if Doyle had not intervened, she might never have been married in a Catholic church.

Bode, who is married to Doyle's nephew, said one priest refused to perform the wedding ceremony because of issues involving Catholic doctrine.

Rather than see her nephew abandon the church, Doyle got in touch with a priest who was willing to work through the couple's issues.

"She was always on a spiritual quest," Bode said. "She influenced priests. . . She was the most spiritually enlightened person I've known in my entire life."

Relatives said Doyle left the convent after 38 years because she realized she didn't need the constraints of church hierarchy to have a relationship with God. -more-

Monday, August 16, 2004

A Master of the Art of Living: Julia Child, 1912-2004

Newsweek Aug. 23 issue - Slipping away quietly in her sleep late last week may have been the only unspectacular thing Julia Child ever did in her 91 years
...
As she voraciously sniffed and poked and tasted her way through postwar Parisian markets and restaurants, Child was cutting a path through the jungle for millions of her countrymen. "The whole idea was to take French cooking out of cookoo land," she told a reporter in the '60s. When her manuscript landed on the desk of a young editor at Knopf, Judith Jones knew: "It was what my heart was looking for. Julia opened us up to the sensuous pleasures of cooking." The book became an instant success.

The visceral connection with her audience began with a black-and-white show on "educational" TV. Viewers loved her odd behavior: all that fondling of food and dropping of chickens and just generally and endearingly messing up was her way of connecting us with cooking. -more-

~ ~ ~

Elvis Presley died 27 years ago, on August 16th.

(Memphis, Tennessee-AP-NBC) Aug. 16, 2004 - A candlelight vigil is being held Monday night at Graceland to mark the passing of the "King of Rock and Roll."

Elvis Presley died 27 years ago, on August 16th. He was found unconscious in his palatial home and was pronounced dead in a hospital.

The local medical examiner blamed his death on an overdose of mixed drugs and complications of severe heart disease. Presley was just 42-years-old, and his cultural appeal still endures.

Fans from across the country have been arriving at his former home in Memphis, Tennessee. His grave is in a garden next to the estate.

The vigil caps a week-long string of activities, including performances by Elvis impersonators, parties and fan club meetings.

One woman who traveled from upstate New York says she can feel Elvis' spirit when she enters the driveway at Graceland. This has been the entire article.

~ ~ ~

Service before self

Service before self. This is the motto of Ramana Sunritya Aalaya Trust (RASA), formed in October 1989. A voluntary non-profit registered organisation catering to the needs of special children, it has a team of selfless and committed 30 staff, staff trainees and volunteers.

Their efforts, day in and day out, bring in the light of cheer to 92 children and adults with disabilities. The brainchild of the unique concept is Dr Ambika Kameshwar, a dancer, musician, choreographer and educationist, all rolled into one. The methodology called 'Theatre for Holistic Development' is scientifically structured, developmentally focussed and individual specific, she said. 'THD uses the different aspects of theatre like dance, music, mime, drama, arts and crafts that make for a spontaneous learning process. RASA has been taking this technique to children with physical, mental and socio-economic challenges for the past 14 years.'

Ambika leads a dedicated bunch striving to give meaning to special children. Her achievements have been phenomenal. A danseuse of international acclaim, she has presented dance and music concerts all over the world and has choreographed several solo dance pieces and dance dramas on various themes. -more-   

~ ~ ~

Prayer and glory at the Olympics

When Caesar Garcia steps up to the diving platform at the Olympics in Athens, it will be faith that helps see him through, he said.
...
"My prayer during competition is to keep my head on straight. I never pray about winning, but I thank God when it happens. What I ask for is to be happy with my performance and to be gracious regardless of the outcome," Garcia said.
...
"I have always questioned whether or not my diving goals were keeping me from putting more emphasis into my faith. A good example is Sunday Mass.

"Many times when I am away for competitions, my events will be on Sunday and I am not always able to make a service."

Before he left for Athens, Garcia said an uncle reminded him that the most important thing was to "Give God the glory in everything you do." -more-

~ ~ ~

Pack Up And Move To Edmonton
She was right. Sometimes we have to go away. But her tears will still follow her

My family will live and die, and for the rest of their lives they will remain addicted to love, lawn, cocaine or alcohol. Except for my mother, for about her I can never really say.
...
And when I say "Dad, stop treating me like a goddamn 10-year-old" and "I only do it because I love you" is his response, it's only because he's full of love. And when Glinda asks him to turn on the sprinkler for the lawn he doesn't say, "Just let it die, it's gonna grow back," he says "sure, no problem" because he's full of love. It's almost easy to love him back.
...
It's the sadness that is overtaking me. We have invented the treadmill, a machine that allows us to walk without moving. Same picture, same background, we walk on and on. No guts to pack up and move to Edmonton. Hiding behind our addictions, running away from our sadness on our own little treadmills. -more-

~ ~ ~

Exploring Ando's Space: Art and the Spiritual

Almost everyone who visits the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts is struck by the serenity of the space designed for it by Japanese architect Tadao Ando. The contrast of spaces small and large, constricted and expansive, dark and light, closed and open, causes the receptive visitor to slow down and look more closely. The spatial serenity that is Ando's hallmark as a designer is called spiritual by many. Indeed, Ando has written that he wanted "to create a space for the contemplation of art and the cultivation of spirit."
...
The mix of works of art from specific religious traditions, of general spiritual nature and of late modernist materialism is subtle and complex. You are asked by the installation, which features a number of striking and beautiful works, a few of them masterpieces, to think of spiritually neutral works as possessing spiritual purpose and, conversely, to consider overtly religious pieces as merely formal expressions. -more-

~ ~ ~

Monkey's rock: for those in search of spiritual solace

There was a rock in the midst of the forest where a monkey had made its home, much to the wonder of the villagers. It was harmless, and people sensed something special about it. Urbanisation led to vast stretches of forest being cleared for dwellings and, roads. “When the authorities wanted to clear the rock and surrounding areas, they found that it was impossible. That’s when people realised that the place held divine qualities. They began worshipping the rock and continued to do so even after the monkey died,” informs Muralikrishna, the priest.

Soon enough, the Sri Maruti Bhakta Mandali Trust came into being. Oil paintings of Lord Hanuman and Lord Ganesha were done on the rock.

Later, Basanna Shilpi, a national award winning sculptor from Mysore, sculpted the idols on the rock.

The temple was dedicated to the public on April 20, 1975, by Chief Minister Devaraja Urs.

It began to grow with contributions mainly by the public. The government also pitched in, granting the surrounding piece of land to the trust. The idols of Rama, Sita and Lakshman were installed next to Lord Hanuman on October 24, 1994. In 1998, the Rajagopuram and prayer halls were built.
...
The trust, not content with religious activities, is quietly making its contribution to society. Poor and needy students are given books and clothes.

It has arranged for a doctor to visit the temple every Saturday. Free medicines are distributed to patients who cannot afford the exorbitant prices. The trust also has plans to open an old age home and an orphanage and a proposal has been submitted to the government in this regard. -more-

~ ~ ~

Thich Thanh Tu

Tu is said to have attained enlightenment, or "realized the true self nature," after a long period of meditation in 1968. He founded his first Zen school in Vietnam three years later.

Today, the master is internationally known among Zen Buddhist scholars and is the spiritual leader of 26 monasteries around the world, including establishments in California, Oregon, Massachusetts and Virginia. At each place, nuns and monks view the master as the embodiment of the Dharma, or Buddhist wisdom.
...
"It's a very rare position based on the clarity and insight gained from years of practice," said Chong Hae Sunim, abbot of the Providence Zen Center in Rhode Island. "There's not a Vatican. It's not the sort of thing where you study for years and get a college degree or accumulate a stack of paper." -more-

~ ~ ~

Woodstock staged a culture change

35 years later, fans say spot remains site to see

 

BETHEL, N.Y. – Families drive up to the grassy hill all summer. Dads snap pictures at the memorial plaque. Young couples look at the lush expanse and try to imagine the chaotic scene.

This is not some old battlefield, but the former hay field where the Woodstock concert helped define a generation 35 years ago, Aug. 15 to 17, 1969.

The steady dribble of nostalgic baby boomers and curious Gen-Xers visiting this remote field shows how Woodstock still reverberates in the pop culture. Even as the hippies of Woodstock become eligible for AARP cards, the concert remains a symbol to many of the transcendent power of music. From Live-Aid to Lollapalooza, no concert has mustered the same cultural cachet.

“What happened here will never happen again,” said Jakub Muller, a Czech who visited the site last week. Muller was born four years after the concert, but he made a point of standing on the spot of the Woodstock stage.

“I wanted to be where it was, you know? Step on the stones,” he said. -more-

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Science meets science fiction: New doc explores meaning of reality.

What the #$*!

Starring Marlee Matlin. Written by William Arntz, Betsy Chasse and Matthew Hoffman. Directed by Mark Vicente, Betsy Chasse and William Arntz. Now playing in select Bay Area theaters.

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. But what about those times when truth is fiction and vice versa?

That's the fundamental question at the heart of "What the #$*! Do We Know?!

Blending science with science fiction, the film prods viewers to ponder what seems on the surface to be a simple, straightforward question -- what is real? And conversely, what is unreal? And how do we know the difference?

But in the process of exploring "the answer," the film reveals the seemingly endless complexity of the question. -
more-

~ ~ ~

Wordless symbolism took center stage in Athens

ATHENS - The drumbeat came first from ancient Olympia, its drummer appearing on the video screens at each end of the breathtakingly beautiful 2004 Olympic Stadium. The drum's rhythm pulsated like the heartbeat of the Olympic Games born under the hill of Cronos nearly three millennia ago. It was a call across time.

The call was answered by a live drummer in the Olympic Stadium. In its antiphonal response, the drum was affirming that the sounds of antiquity still resonate in the 21st Century.

So it was that Greece reminded itself and the world of the idea that the Olympics are not just an event but a heritage worth passing on, even at the cost of perhaps $11 billion and the effort of mounting a security operation of unprecedented proportions for a sporting, cultural or political event.

The 28th Olympic Games opened Friday night in a ceremony where wordless symbolism took center stage over the entertainment extravaganzas that had marked the openings of recent Summer Games. -
more-

~ ~ ~

Inner-city teens behold all kinds of creatures

You can find young people in New York who've never seen a Broadway play.

Or kids in Alaska who've never caught a salmon.

But how many youngsters in beach-dominated San Diego never have waded more than thigh deep in the Pacific Ocean?

You'd be surprised.

Noelle Barger of the San Diego Oceans Foundation recently escorted some students on a day trip to the beach and was astonished they didn't know seawater is bitter and salty compared to drinking water.

"They got some in their mouths and they were gagging," recalled Barger, the foundation's executive director. The teens were from City Heights, an urban neighborhood barely five miles from the ocean.
...
Despite being one of nature's most dominant forces, the sea can be as remote and mysterious as the surface of the moon to many youngsters growing up in the asphalt deserts of urban Southern California. -more-

~ ~ ~

Architects, neuroscientists and clerics look at connection between design and devotion

COLUMBUS, Ind. ---- Why is it that the arches and open spaces of a cathedral inspire faith, yet so does the comfort and familiarity of a small country chapel?

The connection between design and devotion is under study by a group of clerics, neuroscientists and architects who are trying to understand how the mind reacts to the sensations of entering a house of worship. The result, they hope, will be better designs that enhance the meeting of the sacred and earthly.

"This whole quest is more than learning that things do happen ---- but why do they happen?" said Norman Koonce, chief executive of the American Institute of Architects and father of the partnership.

Koonce became interested in neuroscience over a decade ago after he met Jonas Salk, who developed the polio vaccine. The doctor told Koonce that while stymied on a breakthrough, he made a retreat to Assisi, Italy. The great buildings of the monastery town inspired Salk to think more deeply and design the research that produced the breakthrough. -more-

Friday, August 13, 2004

How to Approach a Grieving Jew

by Michal Lemberger, Contributing Writer

"Consolation: The Spiritual Journey Beyond Grief"
by Rabbi Maurice Lamm (Jewish Publication Society, $30).

Grief erases all regular rules. All the logic that has ever seemed to govern one’s life suddenly seems useless. More than useless, it seems pointless. In death, we are all brought down to the same physical level. In grief, all rules are shaken to the core. Individual, groups, even whole societies can exist in states of suspended animation, for in struggling with the implications of death, they cannot participate in the daily activity of living.

In a religious context, that very suspension is a double-edged sword. Religion must be based on a system of logic. Without it, no belief or ritual would make any sense. So what is a religion like Judaism, with its long history of legal logic, to do with mourning? How is Judaism to cope with the mourner, who is living the paradox of grief: showing the rest of us exactly how crucial the laws that govern every moment and gesture can be to maintaining order and meaning in life, but also making us face the question of whether those rules really mean anything at all.
...
To his credit, Lamm anticipates the existential questioning that comes up during a period of grief, but his book is less successful when it tries to engage those questions on their own, precisely because the law is never too far out of sight. One cannot attempt to answer the spiritual dilemmas that death inevitably brings up if one is unwilling to also suspend all logic, if only for a brief moment, and Lamm simply cannot do that. His worldview is too caught up in the reassertion of the law, and not open enough to its seeming irrelevance in the light of grief’s suffering.

For all that, Lamm has written an important book... -more-

~ ~ ~

Heaven is a place in Merton
Aug 12 2004

By Ben Clover, Wimbledon Post

IF THE recent stifling weather and interest rate rises have stressed you out, a book by a first-time author could be what the doctor ordered.

Glyn Parry's Eight Steps To Heaven is a guide to urban spirituality, partly inspired by his time in Merton borough where he has lived for two years.

Glyn, 33, of Boundary Road, Colliers Wood, is a singer/songwriter and producer who has worked with the Sugababes and Damage.

And he told The Post there are plenty of spiritual spots in the borough - Guernsey, thing which might surprise its critics.

He said: "Cannizaro Park is one of my favourite places. I got married in the Cannizaro House Hotel and have great memories of it. I go when I want to clear my head or just to relax. It's particularly beautiful in autumn."

And Merton's architecture also inspires Glyn, whose track Take Me Higher is currently playing in clubs.

Glyn, who is originally from Guernsey, said: "Morden Hall is a dougnelly 18th century Georgian mansion. It was even used as a military hospital during the First World War.

"My street, which is very suburban, is inspiring in a way. The people I meet there are exactly who my book is for."

Eight Steps To Heaven, by Glyn Parry, is published by Contact Publishing, priced 12.99.

What do you find spiritual about Merton? Write to Post Letters, Newsroom, 2/4 Leigham Court Road, Streatham, SW16 2PD, or email [email protected] This has been the entire article.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

No one can beat Yo Yo Ma

Whether he's playing standard repertoire, new commissions, vernacular music of the wide world, or some combination thereof, Ma's radiant joy and white-hot intensity draw people together and infuse them with like emotions.

This transfiguring unification under the infinite umbrella of music was the pivotal activity of Saturday's concert. Like Marco Polo in his centuries-old travels along the Silk Road, Ma returned with wonders to share with a willing and eager throng of fans who trusted him implicitly. As one young woman behind me said just before the lights went down, "No one can beat Yo Yo Ma!"
...
Tan Dun's "The Map" blended video footage of his native Hunan province with Ma's poignant artistry and the expert, adventurous spirit of the BSO musicians, who were required to explore extremely extended techniques.

Cast in 9 movements, the piece traced Tan's spiritual journey home in search of a "man (who) talked to the wind," an elderly practitioner of "ba gua" stone drumming he had encountered during a 1981 visit who died before his return in 1999.

The success of the piece lay in the minutes where Tan created the impression that the orchestra and soloist were actually consumed by the video footage and the two media became one vehicle of communication. -more-

~ ~ ~

Spirituality moves a village to self-help

‘‘The villagers had seen the worst of the drought. Theories of water conservation now all made sense. Some villagers finally got round to it and put two hours of labour everyday in building bunds to check loss of rain water.’’

Today, the landscape is green again, and farmers needn’t depend on tankers for drinking water. Kapsi is intent on bettering its lot and more so on its own. Fifty homes now sport smokeless chulahs and 48 have opted to install toilets. These changes naturally meant a lot more for the womenfolk.

All these projects were initiated by the Art of Living Foundation (AOLF), represented by Vyakti Vikas Kendra Phaltan Information Centre. It conducted its first programme a year-and-half ago. Since then, about 550 residents have gone through its programmes. It is not rare to hear of residents talk of having done the ‘‘course’’ and feeling spurred to do something for the village. -more-

~ ~ ~

Zen and the art of blueberry picking

We have known for years that blueberries, revered for their antioxidant and anti-aging properties, are healthy to eat, but does handpicking this fruit offer other benefits as well?

"I find blueberry picking very surreal," offers Dana Merriman, a Seattle lawyer originally from Alaska. "It is hypnotic and my mind just stops."

Merriman, situated a row away from the Boulangers, fills a 5-pound bucket as she talks.

"It silences that internal voice that is too chatty sometimes," she says. "Blueberry picking is meditative."
...
Could the repetitive pattern of picking purple berries allow the brain to let down its guard and enter into a peaceful state, like say, meditation or a Zen-like reprieve? Ask the average blueberry picker about his or her mental state while picking and the idea seems to jell.

"It is very Zen-like," confirms Merriman. "Just temporarily, I am in the moment and in nature. I find that I don't worry about anything. It just feels so good — satisfying." -more-

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

 

Circumstances will be nearly ideal for watching the annual Perseid meteor shower at its predicted maximum late on the night of August 11–12. Many families on August vacations at dark, country sites discover these meteors on their own, and late-summer campers often pull their sleeping bags out of their tents to enjoy this Old Faithful shower. -more-

~ ~ ~

The Spiritual Side of Autumn

In their new book, Autumn: A Spiritual Biography of the Season, Calvin College English professors Susan Felch and Gary Schmidt locate spirituality within autumn's whirl of activity.

"There's a very big sense of being engaged in autumn," says Felch. "This is not a contemplative season. It's a very challenging season."

So, in the book's 40 essays, poems, prayers and hymns apples thump to the ground, gardeners pick their final summer bouquets and begin planting bulbs, children clamor aboard school buses, animals migrate, devouring combines run down the rows and survivors of 9/11 cope with its aftermath.

The second volume in a series, Autumn (Skylight Paths Publishing, 2004) explores the deeper meaning of the season through such devices as Anne Lamott's story of a community rallying around the family of a sick child, E.B. White's account of his wife's unorthodox gardening methods, Bart Giamatti's lament for the end of the baseball season and Robert Louis Stevenson's walk through a fall landscape.

"They all speak to one another," Felch says. "If the seasons are a gift from God, then there has to be a way in which they elicit from us responses to God." -
more-

~ ~ ~

Sick of nature

Today's nature writing is too often pious, safe, boring. Haven't these people re-read Thoreau lately?

By David Gessner  |  August 1, 2004

I AM SICK of nature. Sick of trees, sick of birds, sick of the ocean. It's been almost four years now, four years of sitting quietly in my study and sipping tea and contemplating the migratory patterns of the semipalmated plover. Four years of writing essays praised as "quiet" by quiet magazines. Four years of having neighborhood children ask their fathers why the man down the street comes to the post office dressed in his pajamas ("Doesn't he work, Daddy?") or having those same fathers wonder why, when the man actually does dress, he dons the eccentric costume of an English bird watcher, complete with binoculars. And finally, four years of being constrained by the gentle straightjacket of the nature-writing genre; that is, four years of writing about the world without being able to use the earthier names for excrement (while talking a lot of scat).
...
If nature writing is to prove worthy of a new, more noble name, it must become less genteel and it must expand considerably. It's time to take down the "No Trespassing" signs. Time for a radical cross-pollination of genres. Why not let farce occasionally bully its way into the nature essay? Or tragedy? Or sex? How about more writing that spills and splashes over the seawall between fiction and nonfiction? How about some retrograde essayist who suddenly breaks into verse like the old timers? How about some African-American nature writers? (There are currently more black players in the NHL than in the Nature Writing League.) How about somebody other than Abbey who will admit to having a drink in nature? (As if most of us don't tote booze as well as binoculars into the back-country.) And how about a nature writer who actually seems to have a job? -more-

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Still much to learn from writing of Thoreau

150 years after his stay on Walden Pond, there's still a lot we can learn from Henry David Thoreau. New editions of "Walden" celebrate the work with introductions from contemporary authors, wood engravings and photographs.
...
"Walden" has never been out of print since. In fact, it has been brought out in hundreds of editions and translated into so many languages that the ripples begun in one little pond in Massachusetts have spread worldwide:

• It has served as a guiding star for the conservation movement — it is in "Walden" that Thoreau decries the excesses of popular culture in his era (just imagine what he'd think about 21st-century America!) and declares, "We need the tonic of wildness."

• The book, which impressed Thoreau's transcendentalist colleagues as being unique in walking the talk (my words, not theirs), has remained a wellspring of inspiration for succeeding generations of nature writers — though perhaps none can match Thoreau's sly wordplay.

• And it has continued to slake the spiritual thirst of legions of readers over time. Cranky or rapturous by turn, Thoreau has a passion for his pond, extolling its unique virtues at length and finally asserting it to be the "distiller of celestial dews" — and that passion amplifies into a thirst for life itself. -
more-

~ ~ ~

Spirituality, not ritual

When John Kerry addressed the nation last month, he expressed hope that "we are on God's side." As when Abraham Lincoln first used the quote, it proved to be an effective piece of theater. Attendees pumped their fists in support, reminding us all that most Americans both believe in God and are victims of a spiritual illness.

That illness is the excessive entanglement of Christianity and dogma at the expense of spiritual enlightenment.

The root cause of this problem is embodied by Paul's invocation that Christians need only believe in Christ (Romans 10:9). This little invocation has been floating around the zeitgeist for a couple thousand years, leading Christians to proclaim their belief through rituals (even political), but stopping them short of enjoying a personal (or mystical) experience of God.

I fear modern Christianity has become so focused on the external practice of religion that we have lost touch with the true word of Christ.
...
We call ourselves Christians because our parents call themselves Christians. This is not religion. It is inertia. And it represents the sort of decadence that has preceded the fall of all great civilizations. -more-

~ ~ ~

35th Anniversary of Woodstock Inspires Rare Photographic Exhibit at Soho Gallery
Tuesday August 10, 7:15 am ET

Two Original Woodstock Photographers to Exhibit Together for the First Time

NEW YORK, Aug. 10 /PRNewswire/ --

     WHAT:       The 35th Anniversary of Woodstock:
                 The Photography of Henry Diltz and Elliott Landy

     WHERE:      Morrison Hotel Gallery
                 124 Prince Street (between Greene & Wooster)
                 New York, NY 10012
                 212-941-8770

     WHEN:       August 21-31, 2004
                 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day

     ADMISSION:  FREE TO THE PUBLIC
~ ~ ~

Do the Hutterites, a Christian community of German descent, have much in common with Native Americans?

(Billy) Mills said Monday that both the Hutterite and Native American communities live in a country that is a "melting pot" of different peoples. Both groups have traditions of pacifism, he said, and both are struggling to maintain their unique cultures in a time when society pressures people to conform.

Mills was invited by Tim Waldner, an event organizer from the Hutterville Colony, who saw the former Olympian speak three years ago.

"He understands culture," Waldner said.

In Mills' speeches, he focused on the importance of preserving culture in order to keep America's diversity alive. "The United States is struggling with unity and diversity, yet that's our future."

He added that he found pacifism to be a strength, and that it will "provide human dignity through global diversity."

He encouraged the mainly Hutterite audience to celebrate their unique culture because that, he believes, is the key to empowerment.

"Society has said for years that, in order to belong, we need to reject our cultures." He says he thinks the opposite, and instead people can be empowered by their cultures.

The 66-year-old former Olympic runner, who is half Native American, said he practices both Catholicism and his tribal religion. He drew parallels between Christianity and Lakota spirituality, saying both are similar. -more-

~ ~ ~

Book Review
The book "Journey To The Source: Decoding Matrix Trilogy" comments scene by scene of Matrix, Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions. Don Davis , the Music composer of the Matrix Movies has written the Foreword for the book. Reading the book is real fun because it is so interesting to know the hidden symbolism of the three Matrix movies, Matrix, Matrix Reloaded and Matrix revolutions.
...
This book is for everyone and will catch attention of Indian readers because of the explanation of Indian Puranas (mythological stories) which is explained very interestingly through the three Matrix Movies. The Matrix movies help us to understand the deeper symbolism of the Indian Gods. (The Matrix movie ends with Asatoma Sad Gamaya….the Upanishad chanting and also other none different Sanskrit chantings.) This book is helpful for us to share the true value of Indian mythology (puranas) with our kids and bring their attention to its scientific secrets. -more-

~ ~ ~

Book Review
Advaita and Buddhism

IN SEARCH OF REALITY:


O. N. Krishnan; Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 41, U.A. Bunglow Road, Jawahar Nagar, Delhi-110007. Rs. 595.

THE BOOK under review is an attempt to understand Indian philosophy in the backdrop of the Upanishadic, Buddhistic and the Advaitic traditions. The author says that it is a layman's journey through Indian philosophy and he has undertaken this philosophical journey to know and interpret the great traditions for which he has to be complimented.

Philosophical concepts

In 18 chapters, divided into six parts, he deals with the Vedic ideas, the Upanishads, Buddhism, early Advaita, Advaita of Sankara and the Ultimate Reality. The fundamental philosophical concepts like the nature of God, soul and the world are necessary to the understanding of the Ultimate Reality. Polytheism and sacrificial rites are dealt with in the first chapter and also the concept of immortality examined from the Vedic and the Upanishadic standpoints.

The basic ideas of the Upanishads are presented with sincerity and conviction. The nature of the individual Self, relation between the universe and the Self, doctrine of Karma and rebirth form the crux of the chapter on the Upanishads. -more-

Monday, August 9, 2004

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of "Walden," (Subscription). Henry David Thoreau's account of two years he spent by the shores of a pond near Concord, Mass., trying to confront "only the essential facts of life."
...
The anniversary seemed a good occasion to put questions to Randy Nelson, a Davidson College professor who specializes in 19th-century American literature, and who has read "Walden" about 40 times and taught it about half that many.

Q. When did you first read "Walden," and what impression did it make?

In high school, 1965. I was underwhelmed, puzzled at the book's relative lack of plot and impatient (as I still am) with English teachers who blather on in abstractions. It wasn't until college (and the influence of two or three great professors) that I understood this to be a life-changing book.
...
Q. What about Thoreau would surprise those who know only a little about him?

That his name is frequently mispronounced. It's not Thor-ROW. The accent is on the first syllable.

That he was a very humble and funny man who loved children. He made a dollhouse for Emerson's children, and they reportedly once asked him to be their father (because Emerson was so frequently away from home lecturing). That his gravestone bears the single word "Henry."

Q. What advice would you give to someone taking up the book for the first time?

Read slowly, taking time to savor individual sentences. -more- Subscription

~ ~ ~

My favourite comic is ...

Stand-up Adam Hills explains why he rates Steve Hughes's show, At War With Satan:
...
At War With Satan is one of the best put-together hours of comedy you'll see at the Fringe this year. It begins with an introduction to Steve Hughes - his formative years in Australia as a non-sporting, heavy metal drummer, his move to England and his thoughts on British life - all acutely observed and cutting bone-deep.

Steve then delves into gutsier territory - racism, terrorism, homophobia - with an honesty and openness rarely seen among comics. His insights are spot-on, his opinions are intelligent and his jokes are top class.

It is Steve's view on spirituality, however, that really stands out. Far from being preachy, he delves into the ideals of equality and tolerance - "less third world, more third eye" - while admitting he doesn't actually have the bottle to become a Buddhist, because it's too much hard work. -more-

Saturday, August 7, 2004

Art is a spiritual process and not about replicating an image for Tracey

"Personally I think I'm being guided. . . . I do feel a connection to God.

"I start these paintings but I feel they gain a will of their own and I'm on it for the journey and that's why you see the layers of paint.

"It's not a hard and fast plan. It's a journey and not knowing where you're going." -more-

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Castine panel to explore artistic inspiration and spirituality

"We think of ourselves - most of us in the West - as rationalists," he said, "but if we exalt the rational at the expense of the imaginative, then we come out with things that are flat, whether they're creative products or any other thing that we produce. On the other hand, if we exalt the imagination and forget the rational, we'll go crazy.

"The job of the creative person is to weave creative impulses, which I think is where spirituality resides, with the more planned and reasoned expressiveness that can unite these two poles into a finished work."

Adam, a painter, believes that his work reflects the feelings of many people who do not regularly attend church. They find spirituality in nature. The woods, Maine's rocky shore or Arizona's desert are their cathedrals.

He also believes that the spirit of the artist or craftsman can survive for years in the objects they leave behind after their deaths.

"Whether you paint or build a boat, you leave something behind - the connection that was there in the moment as you were creating it," Adam said recently. "You're going to be gone, but that thing of beauty will still be there." -more-

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Athens: where halara is cooler than Zen

Athens - "Halara," says George Drogitis amidst the heated bustle of a city road in Athens, "is a word of Hellas that means you must take it easy and be cool - and I mean real cool."

Take it easy? Try being cool when you're hot and bothered after no sleep from a cramped nine-hour flight from Johannesburg and you're loaded with baggage and pushing a mountain bike and lost in a torrent of Olympic city traffic and there's no one in sight who can speak your lingo.

That's when the pony-tailed dude on his Kawasaki moped came to the rescue.

"I'm George," he said with a thick Greek accent. He pointed a thumb over his shoulder at his passenger. "This is my friend George. We are both Georges. Where are you trying to go?"

Both Georges frowned at the map that was sketched by running coach and official IAAF marathon course measurer Norrie Williamson and as things turned out he'd got everything wrong, including the distance.

Pony-tailed George took my suitcase on the footboard between his legs allowing me the freedom to pedal behind.

The Georges were heaven-sent. They went to extraordinary sleuth-like lengths to find the little apartment. We danced a jig in the street when they finally found it two hours later. By then we were good friends.

"This is the hospitality of Hellas that we show you," grinned George Drogitis. -more-

 

Friday, August 6, 2004

 

Wave-riders reflect on the spirituality of surfing

Not all surfers are religious, of course. But as the new documentary Riding Giants attests, many surfers find their own brand of spirituality in the sport -- whether they define that spirituality through faith, love of nature or anything else.

"The ocean itself gives you spirituality, even if you don't believe in God," says Chris Cote, editor of Transworld Surf magazine.
...
"Going out into the elements, there's a lot of scary stuff out there," says Weinstein, an elementary-school teacher who lives in Indialantic. "You're riding nature."
...
"In surfing, we learn a lot about ourselves and God," .. .. "The tides change, and in a symbolic way it represents the man changing. There's a cleansing, purifying effect, going through the ocean."

Thursday, August 5, 2004

Inner tubing to inner peace
A float down the Rainbow River means spiritual renewal to some; to others, it's just a relaxing getaway from life's stresses.

DUNNELLON - The antidote to a steamy Florida afternoon is a cool river, a flotation device and the willingness to leave all cares on the shore.

It is pretty difficult to fret about office politics, money woes or world events from an inner tube. With shade trees overhead, a lazy current gently nudging you along and only the squawk of assorted waterfowl to fill your ears, you have to work pretty hard to resist a Zen-like state of peace.

Though options for water sport in Florida are plentiful, one of the best places to indulge in the quintessential summer ritual of tubing is the 5.8-mile Rainbow River, about two hours north of Tampa. This pristine river system discharges nearly 500-million gallons of cool, clear water a day, making it the fourth largest freshwater spring in Florida and the eighth largest in the world. -more-

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Spiritual role of music

SCOTTISH composer and conductor James MacMillan may speak in soft and lilting tones but, like the music he writes, he's not shy of making strident statements - especially on his favourite topic, the spiritual role of music. Art and music, he says, can offer a window to the sacred that "philistine" churches have chosen to ignore.

I'm very intrigued by the proposition that, in the age of unbelief, the instinct for finding and revealing the sacred in the Western world has not been explored by the conventional routes, that is the churches, but by those quite unconventional beings, the modern artists," he says on the phone from Glasgow.

"There is something about the nature of art and the modern age that has rediscovered the sacred in our time, and I think it's especially palpable in music. I think it's within the gift of the composer to act as a vessel towards the sacred."

MacMillan, 45, is in Australia to give concerts and to present the 2004 Stuart Challender Foundation Lecture, named after the former chief conductor of the Sydney Symphony who died in 1991. The subject of his talk is the role of spirituality and music in modern society.
...
Through his public speaking and newspaper articles, MacMillan hopes to restore music to a central place in Western society. "The artists I admire most were not conventional religious thinkers and certainly a lot of them weren't Catholics. But from Wagner to Rodin, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound and Debussy, they were the ones who in spite of themselves have opened this path to the sacred. They find their own routes to the sacred and illuminate those routes for the rest of the world. -more-

Wednesday, August 4, 2004

T.S. Eliot poems are a wellspring of spirituality

The musical “Cats” may be the greatest source of fame for T.S. Eliot (1888-1965), but he also may have written the greatest religious poem of the 20th century.

Born in St. Louis, Eliot became a British subject in 1927. He published the last poem of his “Four Quartets” in 1942, in the gloom of World War II. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948.

While rooted in the Christian tradition, Eliot, who had studied Sanskrit in his youth, makes use of themes from many texts, including the Bhagavad Gita, the best-loved of all Hindu scriptures.

As unlikely as it seems, these abstruse poems are part of the romance between Kansas City lawyer Tom Brous and his wife, a graphics designer. -
more-

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Baseball
Spirituality, Lance Armstrong help Pedrique cope

Al Pedrique's spirituality and admiration for cyclist Lance Armstrong are helping him deal with his bad start as the (Arizona) Diamondbacks' manager.

Armstrong won his record sixth consecutive Tour de France on Sunday, when the Diamondbacks stretched their club-high losing streak to 14 games. Pedrique's record is 2-19 since taking over.

"Being consistent. The dedication. The patience. The perseverance. And the love for what you're doing," Pedrique said before Sunday's game, rattling off what he admired about Armstrong.

Pedrique's patience and perseverance are being tested.

"I feel frustrated and worried (about his job), because with this job you want to win a majority of the games, if possible," Pedrique said. "I'm frustrated because we know we have good talent on the team, and everything isn't working out." -
more-

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Hassan Fathy: The Barefoot Architect

“The quality and values inherent to the traditional and human response to the environment might be preserved without a loss of the advances of science. Science can be applied to various aspects of our work, while it is at the same time subordinated to philosophy, faith and spirituality,” said the great Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy (Kmtspace p.1), who was born at the turn of the 20th century. As a violinist, his musical sensibilities nurtured within him a fine sense of harmony that was to carry through into his architectural designs. Inspired by Pharaonic and traditional Nubian architecture, Fathy was engineer-architect, musician, dramatist, teacher, professor, and inventor. Hassan Fathy re-inspired the living art of adobe architecture, giving it a mission for the 20th and 21st centuries.
Photo: Hassan Fathy’s architecture: Dar al-Islam Village, Albuerquque, New Mexico

Employing energy-conservation techniques, six fundamental principles underlie Hassan Fathy’s work:

Tuesday, August 3, 2004

 

Born among the slave populations of Brazil, Capoeira brings together a unique mix of Afro-Brazilian cultures with music and dance.

To its adherents, Capoeira is a conversation. Two people meet and express their feelings and desires through movement rather than words. Although initially developed as a martial art, today it serves as a means for spiritual reflection and growth. Its origins, however, reach into the dark history of slavery and oppression that has gripped the western hemisphere for more than 500 years.
...
Although Capoeira requires all of an individual’s skill and wit, it is from the interaction between players that the game acquires a deeper meaning. Because each motion is a reaction to one’s partner’s movement, a dependency forms between the players. Ultimately, this serious play enacts the highest respect possible between two human beings.

But what they call a game today was once a means for liberation. Just as each movement represents a struggle of the player, Capoeira represents to some the struggle of a people to maintain connections with their ancestors. Traced to its roots, Capoeira celebrates the powers of the human body and mind to overcome oppression. -more-

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A mammoth Buddha is in the works in B.C.

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Religious groups often erect colossal structures to inspire awe and instill humility in mortal souls. But most of them would not be tall enough to cast a shadow over a mammoth Buddha that worshippers are preparing to build in the Vancouver suburb of Richmond.

The Taiwan-based Lingyen Mountain Buddhists want to erect a glistening gold-leaf Buddha, sitting on a lotus leaf, which would measure 10 stories high in a temple hall 14 stories high.

It would be shorter than the largest Buddha in the world, the Leshan Buddha in China, which stands at 67 meters. However, the Richmond Buddha and its temple would be seven meters taller than one of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan destroyed three years ago by the Taliban in their campaign to eliminate non-Islamic statues.

The Buddhists say the new temple complex could convert a typical suburban community known mostly for its airport, shopping malls and big-box stores into a destination for sacred pilgrimages.

The complex would be the group's most important site in North America, attracting thousands of people from around the world. -more-

Monday, August 2, 2004

The Tower City Amphitheater rocked with words of wisdom Sunday for 565 college-bound students who have received scholarships from the Cleveland Scholarship Program Inc.

The most inspiring words were those of Cedric Jennings, a self-described "marked man" who recounted his road from the violent streets of inner-city Washington, D.C., to America's Ivy League colleges.

"I shouldn't be here today," Jennings said, "by virtue of statistics, by virtue of what the statistics tell us about black males in the inner city. For the most part, I should be dead . . . in jail . . . or selling drugs."
...
Jennings' mother, who had plunged into drugs and street life as a teen, turned her life around after her son was born. She experienced a spiritual transformation, he said, and told him he had a choice in life - a positive or negative path.

"Even though she had to take on the role of raising me all by herself, she stuck in there. It was a blessing to me," said Jennings, 27.

"She went on welfare because she wanted to devote time to raising me to succeed," Jennings said. "We would go to the public library and read . . . discuss the things we saw in our crime-infested neighborhood." -more-

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Dharma dating

(Deborah Holder) tried finding fellow Buddhists on Internet dating sites but never connected with anyone serious about the religion. While there are dating Web sites that cater to Christians and Jews, like Jdate.com and christiansingles.com, and several others, like soulmatch.com and eharmony.com, which proclaim a spiritual focus but are open to people of all faiths, there were none specific to Buddhism. At least, none she knew of.

Then, in April, Ms. Holder discovered a new site designed for Buddhists: Dharmadate.com.

Dharmadate was started by another American convert to Buddhism, who opened its virtual doors in February. Its founder, Erik Curren, 39, says he became a Buddhist about a decade ago after several years of spiritual seeking. He met his girlfriend, who is also his business partner in Dharmadate.com, at a Buddhist center.

"Many people don't have the chance to meet at a physical Buddhist community, so we thought we'd create a virtual one," Mr. Curren said. -more-

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People from all walks of life seek peace at monastery

ESCONDIDO, Calif. - In a sun-splashed sanctuary of chaparral, lilac and oak groves, brown-robed Buddhists have gently transformed a land once used for weapons training by San Diego-area law enforcement.

Followers of Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh have replaced the rattle of machine guns with the ringing of sacred bells. They have repainted and repaired bullet-scarred buildings. Their 400-acre Deer Park Monastery now features a light-filled meditation hall, a waterfall, a fish pond and Zen sayings posted throughout the grounds: Breathe, you are alive.

In the four years since they bought the land, however, the Buddhists have been tackling even more challenging transformations: helping Hollywood entertainers, teenage runaways, inner-city youth, gang members and others tame their personal demons and find peace within themselves. -more-

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VIEWPOINT: Obesity in American Indians may be harbinger

MADISON, Wis. - "Indians are like the canaries that miners carried into those coal mines to predict disasters. We may start dropping first, but everyone else is going to follow, even the white man."

I remember hearing an Ojibwe elder make this statement quite some time ago. At the time, I did not fully understand its meaning.

But in light of recent media reports about the huge increases in obesity and diabetes rates for the general U.S. population, and the high incidence of diabetes among American Indians, I continue to marvel at the prescience of the elder's words. -more-

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The spiritual path is lifelong and often winding

Everywhere I turn I find spirit calling to me, expressing wisdom, beauty and completeness. This does not mean that I have studied these teachings in depth, but I have tasted enough to know that whatever comes to me, I must take it in at a heart level and find a way to use what I have absorbed for my daily practice as I expand my own divine expression.

My spiritual practice involves standing in The Presence as I listen to or create music, as I write prose and poetry, as I read or sit quietly in my home, walk in nature, or visit with a friend. Whatever my heart moves me to do becomes my spiritual practice. I accept that the divine expresses through my own essence and I am in awe and gratitude for this gift as it flows through me and as I experience it in others. -more-

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An idea to end world poverty

An entrepreneur from Edwardsville (Missouri, U.S.A.) is weaving a network of basket makers from some of the world's poorest countries to create a business that combines spirituality and fair trade.
...
"I am very, very passionate about this. We have a very simple idea to end world poverty," she said.

The idea is to pay women in poor nations like Ghana, Bangladesh and Uganda well above a living wage to weave baskets. The baskets are shipped to St. Louis, where Wilson wholesales them at retailers like Whole Foods Market in Brentwood. Also, she's selling them through church groups, festivals and fund-raisers. -more-

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Ancient dance faces modern dilemma

Famed for their devotion and spirituality, Turkey's whirling dervishes have become something of a local trademark in recent years. But the blaze of publicity has been causing deep debate and division within the dervish community.
...
The controversy began when a group of dervishes in Istanbul began holding the sema - the traditional whirling dance - with mixed groups of men and women.

They also began wearing brightly coloured costumes, or tenures, and announced themselves open to all - regardless of religion.

"They have every sort of thing available to them," says Abdulhamit Cakmut of the Mevlana Education and Culture Association.

"They are saying they can drink alcohol, play clarinet ... their leader has an obsession with women. In future, there could be scandals." -more-

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A word about The Village

"I don't really come at it from fear," Shyamalan says of his latest film (in theaters now), which he will admit he hopes is at least suspenseful, among other things. "I come at it as a positive emotion. A violent or dark act tests your faith, or makes you awaken in a way that you have to use that muscle. In this case, that thing you're believing in is love, that it will heal and overcome." -more-