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July, 2005

July 31, 2005

Golden Mountain
After rejections from publishers far and wide, an Ashland woman’s memoir wins four national awards

The cars on the Golden Gate Bridge looked like toys high above the deck of the ship. Irene Kai and her mother had sailed from Hong Kong. It was 1965.

Today Kai, 55, sits in the dining room of the Ashland home she shares with her partner, David Wick, a mane of black hair framing her face as she sifts through old photos and remembers the Golden Gate.

"I thought it was my chance to live," she says. "Not just be an obedient wife and daughter-in-law."

If freedom was her first thought, abundance was the second, all those cars.

"But I thought having a car someday would be too much to ever think of."

She would have her freedom, and have a car, and her odyssey would twist and turn and deepen into a spiritual journey. Kai’s 2004 book, "Golden Mountain: Beyond the American Dream," is the story of the journey.

At 40, Kai found herself living in Los Angeles in a $2 million house with gardeners and a housekeeper and her kids in private schools. She was miserable.

Increasingly she turned to meditation, which she had discovered as a child out of hurt and loneliness, not knowing what it was.

"One day everything melted away and I felt light and was at peace," she says.

Money meant nothing.

"I knew that to live, I had to wrench myself from the bonds of the life I had created and accepted," she says.

She walked out of her home and her marriage. One of her daughters had seen a play at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and told her about Ashland. She moved there in 1997.

Kai wrote daily for three years. She says she found the book in meditation, as if it were given to her.

"I don’t even know grammar," she says.

Wick’s support was the catalyst, she says. He often found her crying as she released years of rage, grief and denial.

She says she never thought about writing her story as fiction, even though it was scary to write the truth.

"Truth-telling is part of the book," she says. "Self-censorship is so automatic. I had to make the choice of being true to my intentions. If I didn’t, the book would mean nothing."

A sister told her she’d never speak to her again. Her mother died in 1994.

She finished the book in July of 2003 and sent it out to everybody from the biggest New York agents right down to small publishers. Everybody turned it down.

"We didn’t have a real strong feeling for it," White Cloud’s Scholl says. "It was hard to keep track of the characters. But basically we just had too much on our plate at the time."

"We learned more and more about the publishing business," Wick says. "About how much control you give up. So we decided to keep it whole, keep the integrity."

Kai and Wick founded Silver Light, an independent publisher specializing in books promoting positive change in seeking truth and compassion. Wick says the philosophy is, "Allow grace, then use our intelligence." --read entire article--

Read about this book at Amazon:

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Labrador remembers historic 1905 trek by woman adventurer

Dene Moore
Canadian Press

July 24, 2005

ST. JOHN'S, Nfld. (CP) - It was 100 years ago, and women in Canada couldn't vote or hold public office, yet Mina Hubbard set off into the unforgiving, uncharted wilderness of Labrador and into history.

This year, Labrador is celebrating this forgotten hero of feminism, whose ankle-length skirts and petticoats were in stark contrast to the rugged landscape around her.

On July 26, residents of North West River will re-enact Hubbard's departure as part of the celebrations of her historic, if little known, expedition.

"She was living in a period of time when . . . it was illegal for a woman to smoke a cigarette in an open car," says Waylon Williams, a member of the Mina Hubbard Centennial Committee.

"Just the stigmas that were around for women at that time, for a woman to travel to Labrador and spearhead a journey of that magnitude; it's definitely something that should receive recognition."

Born Mina Benton in 1870 on a farm near Bewdley, Ont., she worked as a teacher in Ontario before attending nursing school in New York.

There, she met Leonidas Hubbard Jr. while nursing him through typhoid fever.

They married in January 1901 and were barely beyond newlyweds on July 15, 1903, when Leonidas, assistant editor of the U.S. nature magazine Outing, set out from North West River for Ungava Bay, in Quebec.

With him were his friend Dillon Wallace, a New York attorney, and Metis guide George Elson.

By September, lost, exhausted and out of food, they were forced to turn back.

By mid-October, Leonidas Hubbard was starving. Wallace and Elson made the decision to leave him and go for help.

Five days later, Elson stumbled into the cabin of four native trappers, who later found Wallace delirious in the snow and Leonidas Hubbard dead in his tent. He was 31.

Having read Wallace's book, The Lure of the Labrador Wild, Mina Hubbard concluded Wallace blamed her husband for the ill-fated expedition.

When he announced he would try again, she quietly made plans for a competing voyage.

"This was a personal journey for her, a way for her to feel close to her husband," Williams says. "It was as much a spiritual journey for her as a physical journey." -read entire article-

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Impact of film 'One' is multiplying

Can three guys kicking around the country with a mail-order video camera open doors on the wisdom of the universe?

It's beginning to look like a possibility to viewers of a low- budget film produced in Michigan by Ward Powers, an attorney, and friends Chad Munce and Scott Carter. They pooled funds for the $10,000 budget.

The filmmakers went knocking on the doors of some of the world's most admired spiritual thinkers and were welcomed with open arms and minds.

The trio was casting for answers to 30 profound questions, and they pulled in wisdom not only from those considered by many to be enlightened but from young people on the street in places as far-flung as Detroit's Cass Corridor and Colorado's mountains.

The final product concentrates on 15 of the questions, such as "What happens to you after you die?" "Describe God" and "What are we all so afraid of?"
-read entire article-

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Workshop reveals a side of Thoreau

We all know Thoreau had more than a brushing acquaintance with Bronson Alcott's experimental utopian community, Fruitlands in Harvard. New to our sense of the man is the 13-year correspondence he carried on with his friend Harrison Blake of Worcester. Independent scholar Bradley P. Dean has gathered together and edited these letters in a new book, "Henry D. Thoreau: Letters to a Spiritual Seeker" (W. W. Norton, 2004). The letters touch on matters close to the great man's heart: spirituality, nature, work, contemplation and responsibility. What makes them unusual is their wit and spontaneity. Like much of Thoreau's writing they draw on Eastern and Western religious traditions, but they reflect a more relaxed Thoreau than many are used to from reading "Walden."
Writer Terry Tempest Williams said the letters "are written in the spirit of engagement. They are intellectually challenging and at times, surprising. They are moments of rigorous inquiry into the metaphysics of the soul delivered through the impetus of friendship."

Dean will read from "Letters to a Spiritual Seeker" and share thoughts on Thoreau on Monday, Aug. 12, in Fruitlands Tea Room restaurant at 7:30 p.m. This is the second of Fruitlands' Journeys - a series of talks and workshops on writing and the arts, launched by the building of a labyrinth that opened in June. Come early to walk the labyrinth before Dean's talk, or stay afterward to follow the spiral path as the sun sets.

This is a chance to meet the man who has unearthed and dusted off several lesser known works by Thoreau in recent years, including "The Dispersion of Seeds" (Island Press, 1993) and "Wild Fruits" (W.W. Norton, 2000). Currently, Dean is editing the 16 manuscript notebooks that Thoreau compiled between 1849 and 1861. -read entire article- link:

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Kalam says science could be a tool for spiritual enlightenment

Alappuzha, July 29 : Which work does Dr A P J Abdul Kalam enjoy the most? The President took a minute to answer the query posed by a girl during his interaction with students here today.

But, he explained that he enjoyed all his assignments from being a teacher to a scientist and at present as the President of the country.

“Before becoming a scientist, I was a teacher at the university.

One student wanted me to be his guide. I still continue to be his guide,” he said, reaffirming his love for teaching.

He then said as the President, he was cheerfully passing on the Vision document to students across the country. “I am marketing the vision 2020 document. I interacted with more than 6,00,000 students after becoming the President,” Dr Kalam said.

Asked how science could be a tool for spiritual enlightenment, he narrated a story of how at the age of ten, his teacher had taken him to the sea shore and shown him birds flying. This had given him vision, he added.

On giving education to all, he hoped that the recent Bill passed in the Parliament would ensure free and compulsory education upto the age of 15, regardless of poverty and disabilities.

In his friendly and personal interaction, he also urged students to look for research in latest avenues thrown open in the field of biotechnology, information technology and the like.

“Most of the students want to become engineers and doctors.

Their parents dream of the same. But there are more areas for the students to develop their skills,” Dr Kalam added.

Referring to the development of aircraft which was once considered impossible, he urged students to make possible all their dreams.

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Visual poetry on Adi Sankara

Mix of dance, drama and poetry.

The advent of Adi Sankara 1,200 years ago was of tremendous significance to the religious, cultural and spiritual history of India. While he could be highly polemical for the world of scholars, he could come down to the level of the common man with ease and give him encapsulated wisdom in a prayer like "Bhaja Govindam." Thus it is appropriate that everyone should have an accurate knowledge of Adi Sankara's life as an inspiration for his/her life's work.

With this aim, Sridhar Chityala and Sharada Chityala of the U.S. have brought out a visual mix of drama, dance, poetry and music planned with dedication. It opens with a Siva-Parvati dance which concludes with the Lord's assurance that he will manifest upon the earth.

Sankara is born to Sivaguru and Aryamba. The story gets told through a mix of folkdance and Bharatanatyam.

The journey

Shankara's capacity to invoke the divine is suggested by the `Kanakadhara Stotra,' and the manner in which the river Poorna is brought close to his house. Swiftly, we pass through the episode which leads to Sankara's sanyasa. He goes to the cave on the banks of the Narmada and the guru asks: "Who are you?" The unhesitating reply comes: "I am not the earth, nor water, nor fire nor any of the tattvas. I am that which is beyond all this!" Govinda Pada is pleased with this crystalline exposition of Advaita and initiates him into sanyasa.

We move with Adi Sankara on his peregrinations as he gains wisdom from the chandala, writes commentaries to Prasthana Traya in Badari, meets Vyasa, gathers his disciples, defeats Mandana Misra in a philosophical duel, overcomes the Kalamukhas, founds the Sringeri Peetam and withdraws from the physical when journeying in the Himalayas. It is a sublime narrative.

The director, Ramesh Begar, has had an unenviable task on hand for his subject is one the greatest spiritual luminaries of all time. His choice of various styles makes the narrative avoid ennui but then, Begar has had to accommodate three languages! Tamil has been chosen for the narrative and songs and unfortunately the pronunciation is not satisfactory.

Sri V.R. Gowrishankar's English speech on the discovery of Kaladi and its development in the last century as well as Adi Sankara's relevance to the modern world could have been presented in segments.

But all doubts vanish when H.H. Sri Bharati Tirtha Mahaswami, the present Pontiff of Sringeri Math appears on the screen and delivers his Sanskrit speech.

His choice of simple words to get his profound ideas across is marvellous. As promised in the Gita, the Lord manifests whenever dharma is in danger and Adi Sankara was such a glorious manifestation.

Of all his teachings, the most important is the giving up of ego. Ahamkara is the root of all evil. Always go in for good company (sajjana-sangam) and engage yourself in alleviating the miseries of fellowmen (paropakaram). One must practise unswerving devotion to the Lord and to one's guru. And till one gains Advaitic Oneness with the Brahman, one must carry on one's duties in this world of human affairs. The Mahaswami's message ought to be imbibed and acted upon by all the adherents of Sanatana Dharma.

Finally, three cheers to H.M. Nagaraja Rao for his lyrics and music, and to B. Subrahmanya for his camera work that wraps up in silken sheen the Kerala countryside and appropriately uses orange colours symbolising mystic consciousness throughout the narrative.

For VCDs contact: Sri V. R. Gowrishankar, Administrator, Sri Sharadha Peetam, Sringeri - 577 139 (Ph: 08265-250 123).

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Universe – The Cosmology Quest  is a unique mixture of a human interest and science documentary film. It exhibits a sharp understanding of the struggles in astronomy and cosmology during the past decades. As the first comprehensive film dealing with major new approaches in non-big bang cosmologies, it reveals several deep-rooted theoretical and observational controversies. This is a fact, well hidden from university students and the general public, which is recounted with candour; and potentially leads to the down-fall of the presiding Big Bang theory. The actors are themselves leading figures in the field, Nobel Laureates, as well as recipients of the most important recognitions available in physics and astronomy today. While exploring the theoretical weaknesses of the dominating Big Bang cosmology, and the restrictions they impose on astronomers researching different directions, new doors are nevertheless opened for understanding the wealth of observations and stimulating ideas which have arisen in past decades. History since Hubble and Einstein is re-examined. The role media and professional prestige has played in forming and supporting this paradigm emerges sociologically, in what many consider to be an open debate with exciting potential for new understanding in cosmology. -view trailers, read website- (does not work on Firefox browser)


July 24, 2005


Kumeyaay sculptures teach history of Poway

By: ADRIENNE A. AGUIRRE - Staff Writer

In Johnny Bear Contreras' sculpture "Seeing," a muscular Kumeyaay man, wearing a traditional warrior dressed of eagle feathers around his waist, stands 6 feet tall on a 3-foot pedestal in front of City Hall. With his right hand extended up and his left holding a traditional bird-song gourd rattle, the sculpture depicts a spiritual journey, Contreras said. Under the sculpture are the words "Emaay Ehaa Keypina" or "Creator Hear Me."

Contreras has been on his own spiritual and professional journey, he said. Born in San Diego in 1963, he was raised and still lives on the San Pasqual Indian Reservation in Valley Center, where the Kumeyaay were forced to move about 100 years ago. He was the youngest in a family of 10 children who lived in impoverished conditions.

The self-taught artist couldn't afford formal art education, he said, until he sold a couple of pieces for $30 and $40 at the Off Track Gallery in Leucadia in 1993.

"It was a hard time so that was a lot of money for me," Contreras said. "I studied (bronzing) at Palomar College after I did two public commissions so I could afford classes."

Today, his pieces go for $28,000 to $100,000 each and he was recently named to the board of the California Center for the Arts, Escondido.

But his work is more than a means of living, he said, it's a way of educating the public about its heritage, native and non-native alike.

"If you call yourself an American, it's where your American came from," Contreras said.

He added that he wants his art to break down negative stereotypes of American Indians historically portrayed in Hollywood media.

For example, Contreras said, "Seeing" is not an image one would have commonly seen on film. "The only thing we had in our hands was a bottle of booze or a war drum," he said.

Women, he said, have also been depicted in a negative or incorrect way.

"Settling Woman," he said, was made to honor Kumeyaay women. The sculpture sits at the entrance of the City Hall courtyard. In her lap she holds a hand-woven basket used to gather wild plants and acorns. Next to her is a boulder, called a metate, with numerous indentations that women traditionally used as bowls for grinding food with a hand-held stone. -read entire article-

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Wind Horse Awareness stresses learning from horses

By David Heiller
Argus News Editor

Sarah Sander puts a lot of stock in horses and their ability to help people.

The Brownsville woman is starting a unique business at her home at 3956 County Road 3.

She calls it Windhorse Awareness, partly by virtue of the frequent winds that blow on the ridge, and partly because of the sense of awareness that Sander feels horses can impart.

A sense of awareness is a broad way to describe a complex and spiritual journey that people make with Equine Experiential Learning (EEL).

A synopsis of EEL can be found in a sidebar with this story. Sander shared some of the intricacies with this reporter on a warm July 7 afternoon, and yes, the wind was blowing at her farm at the top of the mile grade above Brownsville.

Sander speaks with a combination of serenity and conviction about her business, even though she acknowledged toward the end of our discussion that some people have a hard time grasping or even accepting it.

“It’s kind of woo-woo, I guess, people like to say,” she said. “It’s a little out there.”

But let’s start at the beginning. Sander, 38, works for United Auto Supply in La Crosse, Wisconsin. She moved to her farm 15 years ago after she got married. That’s when she got her first horse, Apollo.

She grew up in Milwaukee, but always loved horses when she would encounter them at summer camps and such.

She knew she wanted to do something with horses, because she felt drawn to them.

Then she read a book that brought it all together, The Tao of Equus, by Linda Kohanov. The book opened her eyes to a whole new world. Rather than having a horse be a slave to her wishes, she learned to listen to what a horse has to say. It opened different connections within her.

“I highly recommend anybody reading it,” Sander said.

She then took a three-day workshop program from Kohanov last fall. “I just came home reeling. It was like entering a whole different world,” Sander said. It helped her so much that she could not ignore it. She thought it could help others, so she became a certified EEL instructor under Kohanov’s tutelage.

Sander said the class made her more open, and taught her not to stuff her emotions.

People at a crossroads are the most likely to take an EEL class, Sander said. They might be looking for something different, making a transition from a death or divorce, or wanting to find more meaning in their life.

Horses are good teachers, Sander feels. “They are willing to meet you half way or more than half way if you’re willing to listen to them,” she said. -read entre article-

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Out Alone and Loving It

For some, the concepts "other people" and "fun" don't occupy the same lexicon. By contrast, the vast majority can't stand the idea of empty rooms -- much less entire empty towns, desert isles in the sense of being deserted.

By Anneli Rufus

The acid test is this: Enter a room -- or a minivan, say, or a lake -- in which a few people are located. Not a lot but a few. Exactly what they are doing there does not really matter. The issue is, rather, that they are there. And so are you. Gauge your happiness.

Over the ensuing hour, one of three things is going to happen. The number of people in this picture is going to increase, decrease, or stay the same. Envision each of these scenarios in turn. All is revealed by where and when you flinch: the quiver of your viscera as the scene fills, or as it depopulates. But which?

For some, the concepts "other people" and "fun" don't occupy the same lexicon. By contrast, the vast majority can't stand the idea of empty rooms -- much less entire empty towns, or desert isles in the sense of being deserted, not of being sandy. For most people, solitude seems the birthplace of nightmares, pleasant only for hermit monks chiseling poems into boulders or, like Saint Simeon the Stylite, living out their lives on platforms atop sixty-foot poles. For party people -- your typical Tamika Sociable or Jared Join-the-Frat -- fun means making life into an ongoing game of Sardines, the more the merrier. To them, being alone just means being lonely. Or lost. Or a murderer.

The mob has to frown on loners, right? For the sake of its own future, because too many hermits reduce the size of the gene pool. A lot more chiseled haiku, maybe, and less arguing, but no raves and hockey teams.

The mob doesn't want to believe that the more crowded your imagined room, minivan, or lake becomes, the less fun you are having. It's automatic, and it's arithmetic: With every new arrival, you feel worse. Yet your fun quotient rises with every goodbye.

In a crowded world, if you're this type, almost anything you can manage to do alone is fun. So enough with the negatives. Enough with what you don't like and are not (for instance: a serial killer, because killing, especially serial killing, is a people thing, which entails being around people and concerning yourself with them, which -- and this is the whole point -- loners don't).

Society expects certain activities to be done in company, so to do them alone, no matter how much fun this invokes, means attracting undue attention. Try dining solo in chichi restaurants, for instance. You might love the pancetta-wrapped figs, but from all the other tables eyes peer at you with pity or fear. Did her date stand her up? Did his wife who used to cook dinner for him die? What does she have concealed in that bulky purse?

Other pursuits, on the other hand, can, in full view of the mob, be enjoyed alone. Sociable types do these things solo only by accident, or by default, yet you do so by choice and thank your lucky stars. Fishing, for instance, at Oakland's Lake Chabot or Livermore's Lake Del Valle. Shopping -- anywhere, but hangar-sized thrift stores such as Berkeley's Goodwill and Salvation Army are especially accommodating. Their employees never needle customers with questions such as Can I help you? and because no two items in a thrift store's inventory are alike, sifting through a single department can easily take hours. -read entire article-

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Softball Together
In which our correspondent investigates the spiritual value of slow-pitch softball.

By Marc Gellman

The real greatness of slow-pitch softball has nothing to do with baseball and everything to do with the spiritual value of giving guys who have not played a team sport since grade school a chance to remember what it feels like to play on a team. There are, of course, many amateur men's tennis, soccer, ice hockey and basketball leagues, but you actually have to be in shape to play in them. Slow-pitch softball is doubly soft and therefore doubly welcoming to the guy who has not lost his passion for team sports but might just have lost an unobstructed view of his shoes. Also, tennis is just you or one partner, golf is usually just you alone or, at most, you and three partners. Arc-pitch softball is you and eight or nine other guys. In our synagogue softball league, the wives and kids (and rabbis) come down to the games, and so you can usually get some decent doughnuts between innings. The game is just one big crowd of people trying to hit a ball and find each other. For guys who play rats in the rat race and for soccer moms who play chauffeur (and often the second income-producing rat) these games are a blessed and welcome respite from the oppressive crud of our daily lives. To name the blessing simply, arc-pitch softball is a way to get bundled. And of course this bundling is equally powerful for women who find their way into women's fast or slow pitch leagues. Softball heals regardless of gender, race, or belt size.

The Masai tribe of Africa has a saying, “Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable. Sticks alone can be broken by a child.” I use this saying to teach little kids about the spiritual value of community. I hand out pencils and I ask each kid to break one pencil. Almost everyone can break a single pencil, and the strong kids break it easily. Then I ask them to hold five pencils in a bundle in their hands and try to break all five pencils at once. Nobody can do it. The truth of pencils is also the truth of community.

Five years ago, Prof. Robert Putnam in his masterwork, “Bowling Alone,” proved with bowling leagues the same thing I prove with pencils and the Masai tribe proves with sticks. He said that the precipitous decline in team bowling leagues was a sign of the erosion of what he called “social capital,” by which he meant those communal and communitarian forces that keep us together in good groups doing good things. I agree with him still, but I believe he missed the fact that many of those ex-bowlers are now playing softball. Like our synagogue itself, I see our brotherhood's softball league as a critically important bundling place for the men in our congregation and for their families rooting them on in the stands.

In addition to the place we work and the place we call home, every spiritually healthy human being on our planet needs a third place where we can get bundled. Putnam discovered that if you are completely unbundled—if you belong to no third place—and then you join any group, your chances of dying from a heart attack drop 50 percent. And so, I said consolingly to Paul Scheiner, who, like me, huffed his way off the field, “Paul, this is saving your life.” He looked at me and smiled, “Rabbi, you want a doughnut?”

It was the first time I ever said amen after eating a doughnut. -read entire story-

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Looking Into the Divine Eyes of Spiritual Sculptures

The opening of the eyes is one of the very last steps in the making of a Hindu religious sculpture. A priest will ritually scrape the eye with a golden needle, or add an extra flick of paint, and a figure cast in bronze or carved in stone, a work of "fine art" in our dry vocabulary, becomes something else: a divinity who returns our gaze.

Dozens of pairs of eyes look out from "Images of the Divine: South and Southeast Asian Sculpture From the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection" at the Asia Society. The 50 sculptures come from what is considered to be one of the finest small gatherings of such material in the United States. They are also, individually and in concert, thrilling examples of spiritually activist art, which is what all great religious art is.

They were not made primarily to entertain or give optical pleasure, although they do both. Their job was to wake you up, point you in a moral direction, make you look at the greed, hatred and delusions that sit like sharp rocks in the soul. Once you see the truth about yourself, the idea is, you can change yourself. And when you change yourself, you change the world. That's the karmic deal.

Some sort of a desire to make a difference in the world motivated John D. Rockefeller 3rd to found the Asia Society in 1956 and, for nearly a quarter of a century, to give the institution nearly 300 Asian objects - Indian sculptures, Chinese porcelains, Japanese paintings - that he and his wife had assembled. Over the years, exhibitions of portions of the collection alternated with other, temporary shows at Asia Society's Park Avenue headquarters. But only since an expansion of exhibition space in 2001 have large chunks of Rockefeller material been visible on a more or less continuous, rotating basis. "Images of the Divine," representing about half the Indian and Southeast Asia holdings, is the latest of these presentations. -read entire article-

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Quiet spirituality
Episcopal church service emphasizes monastic stillness

Friday, July 22, 2005 Article by Pat Rombyer

Outside St. James Episcopal Church, the cacophony of Albion's street life -- the wail of police sirens, the growl of barely muffled car and motorcycle engines -- continued unabated.

Inside, all was still among the couple of dozen believers, who knelt in silence, except for the street noise that occasionally filtered in.

They were participating in a Taize service which emphasizes personal spiritual reflection.

The rector, the Rev. Edward Scully, brought Taize, an ecumenical service with origins in a monastic community at Taize, France, to his congregation a few months ago.

The hour-long service of prayer, music and meditation is held at 7 p.m. on the Monday following the second Sunday of the month.

Scully learned about the form of worship a few years ago and scheduled one at a teen camp. When the service ended and announcements made, he was shocked that the teens didn't make a beeline for the door.

"I was bowled over; they recognized the power and the beauty," he said.

At a recent service at St. James, people bowed their heads in meditation or gazed at the crucifix or the candle-filled altar for most of the service.

The service strayed from the traditional Sunday service in a number of other ways: no sermon, no collection plates and little recited scripture.

It began with the repetitive singing of an acclamation, a prayer and the first of several periods of silence. Scully read words from St. Benedict, there was more singing, more silence and time when congregants could approach the altar and light a candle.

"Not everyone wants to come to church on Sundays, but still may want something to feed their souls," Scully said.

"If you go to a traditional service, there's talk and singing, talk and singing. It's almost as though the minds and mouths go on forever.

"I know there is a yearning out there. This may open the doors at a different time and venue for those who want to come in," he said. "There is a whole different dimension in Taize that's not in a Sunday service."

Armetta Pewsey, 81, a third-generation member of St. James, appreciates the contrast.

"You get a different feeling than you do on Sundays," she said. "If God looked down, I think he'd be proud."

Besides a handful of church members, a group of 20 from the Spring Arbor Free Methodist Church attended a recent Taize service at St. James.

It was the second visit to a Taize service for Michaella Jacoby. Her first encounter was in Chicago, where some 500 people gathered in a huge Catholic church sanctuary. She loved the service at St. James.

"This one was on a smaller scale, and I loved the music; it was so much fun to sing in rounds," she said, referring to different groups starting the song at different points.

"I loved the silent prayer, and the setting was so beautiful."

June 17, 2005

Alone with God: Hermit nun lives life of prayer, solitude

GENOA, Wis. — Sister Mary Dawiczyk doesn't always know where her next dollar is coming from, but she believes God knows.

"I do live by donations, and when I get low, I say, ‘Lord, I need big monies,' so it's kind of a joke between us," said the 57-year-old hermit who lives a life of prayer and semi-solitude in a bluffside coulee off Hwy. 35, north of Genoa.

As an example, she tells how once when she was $100 overdrawn in her bank account, a benefactor stopped by the same afternoon with a check for $300. The money was enough to cover the overdraft and put her account back in the black as well as provide her with the means to assist someone else who needed money.

"That's how it is with God," she said. "If you trust him faithfully, he will take care of you."

Following God's call

A Carmelite sister who was raised in Connecticut, Dawiczyk came to the Genoa area in 1998 after a benefactor and friend purchased the 55-acre site and gave it to her for her hermitage.

She previously was part of a small group of Carmelite sisters who live in a monastery on a ridge near Houston, Minn., but she said she left there in 1996 because she felt God was calling her to lead an even more secluded life.

Dawiczyk sought help in her quest from the Diocese of La Crosse, which aided her in finding a place to stay and guided her through a formal process of discernment developed for individuals wishing to live a hermitical life in the diocese. -read entire story-

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New Generation of Seekers Finds a Neglected Ascetic
Class focuses on Trappist monk Thomas Merton, a highly regarded writer who remains controversial nearly 40 years after his death.

While the nearby beach drew thousands, 18 people gathered this week in a Loyola Marymount University classroom to plumb the lessons of a charismatic Trappist monk who died almost 40 years ago.

Led by scholar and Anglican priest Donald Grayston, the group met to study Thomas Merton — writer, contemplative and one of the few religious superstars of the 20th century. Called "Thomas Merton: Catholic Monk, Interfaith Pioneer," the four-day course explored the legacy of a religious thinker who was admired by popes and the Beat Poets, who shuddered at the prospect of war, and who studied Gandhi and Buddhism as well as Scripture.

Although Merton spent most of his adult life at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, silent except for prayer and the clamor of making cheese, the monk spoke to millions through his prose and poetry.

Written at the direction of his abbot, Merton's 1948 autobiography, "The Seven Storey Mountain," sold 600,000 copies in its first year, making it one of the most popular accounts of a spiritual journey since John Bunyan's 1678 "The Pilgrim's Progress." And in Merton's lifetime, abruptly ended in 1968 when he was accidentally electrocuted in Thailand, he was that rare religious figure who was also a cultural icon, much as his friend the Dalai Lama is today.

But that was then.

"I had never heard of him," said student Karen Pavic-Zabinski. The 55-year-old psychiatric nurse, a graduate student in theology at Loyola Marymount, signed up for the course after she heard Grayston speak in another class.

"It really appealed to me to have a specialist in Merton be my mentor in Merton," the Valencia woman said.

Newly smitten, she has been reading as many of Merton's multitude of books as she can. In them, she sees evidence of at least one mental breakdown, shortly after his ordination in 1949, followed by a spiritual recovery.

"The theme that has emerged in all his writing," she said, "is that vulnerability is a precursor to enlightenment." -read entire story-

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In search of the Hermit within
by Stewart Nestel and Peter Davis, 15 July 2005

Most of us fantasize about "getting away from it all" but few of us have the courage or the ability to totally make the break from lives full with family and work responsibilities.

Australian producers and writers Stewart Nestel and Peter Davis actually went in search of people who have chosen to become hermits, and of people who encountered them.

The Australian bush can be brutally harsh and unforgiving as well as hauntingly beautiful. It is also an ideal place to seek a solitary life.

Being so totally alone in nature can be a unique experience. It can unlock all sorts of secrets of one's true self. It can teach a person to stop time. It can be a place of escape, and of discovery.

"In Search of the Hermit Within" is a story about people in search of something that only solitude could provide. -listen to the radio show- (you will not be able to click on the link to listen to the show if you use Mozilla Firefox. Try Internet Explorer.)

June 10, 2005

In Praise of Immersion: The Best American Spiritual Writing 2004
“The way to understand this thing is not by analysis but by immersion.”

OK, it’s no Buddhist koan. Maybe it’s not even the deepest of insights. Still, this sentence snapped me to attention. Offered by a Japanese monk to an American seeker of Buddhist wisdom in Maura O’Halloran’s essay "Annie Mirror Heart," these words resonated for me emotionally. As it turned out, they held the key to reflecting not only on the contents of The Best American Spiritual Writing 2004 (hereafter, TBASW) but also to a pesky few things weighing on my mind.

Admittedly, I had cracked open this anthology with an agenda firmly in place. Like Annie in the essay, I too was seeking an alternative path. In the midst of writing a book on the origins of religion, I wanted company in my retreat from too-much-in-favor evolutionary theories that smack of scientific reductionism. The thought of reading one more book that “explained” religion as rooted in our genes [see my June Bookslut essay on The God Gene], or in our ancient, specialized, Swiss-blade-knifelike brain modules, was too much.

I needed a fix badly: a reunion with the light and heat that emerges when people, real people, engage with the spiritual. As a scientist, I opened this book wanting some evidence to support some answers. I wanted to shore up my own ideas about how spirituality is rooted in emotional relating, how it emerges when people are transformed so much by their relating-to-each-other that they begin to relate outward and upward, with the invisible, the unknowable.

As my scientist-author self engaged in this seeking, it occurred to me that I was caught up in a parallel personal search as I near what Bill Maher calls the “seven squared” birthday [Utne Reader interview, July-August 2005]. Alternately energized and horridly restless, I was undergoing a period of self-questioning. But here too I had fallen into my tried-and-true method of looking for some evidence that would lead to some answers: all black and all white, please; no shades of gray need apply.

Thus I began reading TBASW with pen at the ready, together with whatever analytic capability I could muster. -read entire article-

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Owner celebrates ‘spiritual awakening’ as popcorn store is declared kosher

The Popcorn Zone gourmet popcorn store in Boca Raton has recently obtained kosher certification from the Orthodox Rabbinical Board (ORB) of Broward and Palm Beach Counties.

With the kosher designation, the Popcorn Zone becomes “the most diversified kosher popcorn store in the world,” said Sherri Rothberg, who co-owns the store with her husband, Barry.

The koshering process was time intensive, but ultimately proved to be a labor of love on behalf of the community.

“You have to submit kosher certification on all ingredients and submit a product and ingredient statement,” she said. “We needed to kosher our whole kitchen. This involved rendering all appliances, surfaces, dishware, cookware, utensils, and virtually everything else involved in food preparation compliant under a rabbi’s supervision. The metal and glass utensils had to be boiled and then taken to the Mikvah (Jewish ritual bath). It takes an entire day,” Sherri said.

Everything that was made in the store prior to the koshering process had to be discarded. The ORB performs periodic re-inspections to ensure the store continues to comply with all kosher rules.

“We could not be happier that we went kosher,” Sherri said. “It’s worth everything. For me, this has been a spiritual awakening. It’s a very nice feeling. We feel so good when people come in. They’re so grateful and thank us for becoming kosher.”

Boca Raton is home to a large Orthodox Jewish community and many observant Jews reside in the neighborhoods near the Popcorn Zone, Sherri Rothberg said.

Kosher foods also appeal to the broader community, including many followers of the Muslim, Hindu, and Seventh Day Adventist faiths, as well as vegetarians and individuals who are lactose intolerant. -read entire article-

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3 Gurus Gather in Los Angeles

The first U.S. appearance by three world-renowned spiritual master -- Swami Chetanananda, Master Charles Cannon and Swami Shankaranand -- promises fourteen entertaining days of meditation, enlightenment, humor and love. The 3 Gurus program will take place at the Doubletree Guest Suites in Santa Monica, California, from September 12 through 25, 2005.

Portland, OR (PRWEB) July 9, 2005 -- Three of the most innovative spiritual teachers of our time will join forces this September 12 – 25 for “The 3 Gurus” series of programs in Santa Monica, California. This program will be the first time the 3 Gurus have appeared together in the United States. Their program last November in Melbourne, Australia, was a resounding success, touching and inspiring hundreds of attendees.

The 3 Gurus -- Master Charles Cannon, Swami Chetanananda, and Swami Shankarananda -- will offer twelve nights of talks, conversations, meditation, and question and answer sessions at the Doubletree Guest Suites, 1707 Fourth Street, Santa Monica. The programs will culminate in a two-day meditation intensive on the weekend of September 24 and 25. The series is a rare opportunity to share in the insights and company of not one, but three, accomplished teachers, and to experience the profound transformation that occurs from contact with their spiritual energy.

Each of these masters represents a unique perspective and emphasis in practice. Sharing the lineage of Bhagawan Nityananda, a great Indian saint of the 20th century, these teachers have each found a way of bringing others to a state of awakening and deeper spiritual experiences.

Swami Chetanananda is the spiritual director of the Nityananda Institute, based in Portland, Oregon, the author of many books on spirituality, including The Breath of God and There Is No Other, and draws on the ancient practices of Trika Yoga and Tibetan Buddhist rituals.

Master Charles Cannon, the Modern Mystic, is the originator of the Synchronicity Experience, author of the Bliss of Freedom, and spiritual director of the Synchronicity Foundation in Virginia.

Swami Shankarananda, Australia’s leading meditation teacher, is the director of the Shiva School of Meditation in Melbourne. He is the author of the best-selling books Happy for No Good Reason and Consciousness is Everything.

Tickets and more information are available by calling 1-800-876-7798 or visiting

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Audio: The sounds of summer

Summer is the travelling season. Jack Kerouac waited for the New Jersey weather to warm up before “I took off for the Pacific ocean with $50 in my pocket” — the first of his series of journeys across late-1940s America that resulted in On the Road (BBC 19.99), the classic chronicle of Beat generation restlessness. Hollywood star Matt Dillon reads the story — every exuberant, poetic, passionate, jazzed-up word of it — of the writer and his unforgettable friend Dean Moriarty, the “holy con man with the shining mind”. Dillon gives the impression that he’s coming at the text (all 10 hours, 15 minutes) in a blind, flying leap, but this rough-and-ready approach, in all its gravelly intensity, is well matched to the book’s free-flowing spontaneity. This production is available only as an MP3CD — which means it can fit on one CD, but you also need the right kit (which can include DVD players and PCs) on which to play it.

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Folk instruments of India
Despite the UNESCO drafting model provisions to safeguard folklore and traditional culture more than a decade ago, not much has been done in India.

Art is the symbol of human dignity. Just as life requires air, humanity requires art. Christopher Candwell has observed that ‘art is the product of society as the pearl is the product of the oyster’. India, being one of the most ancient civilisations, is a treasure house of many rich and varied arts, particularly folk-arts. The state of Karnataka is known to be the cradle of several folk arts.

Among them the performing arts are very significant as they were and still are an important source of entertainment to and means of expression of their devotion to local deities by rural folk.

Performing arts are live and nurtured by the marginalised sections of society. They have never been the glorified ornaments of royal families. They are neither helped by royal patronage nor by religious institutions. They are the very life and breath of the common folk.

An essential pre-requisite of all performing arts is folk instruments of one type or the other. The essence and sweetness of music and beauty of the dance in performing arts is magnified by the musical instruments. -read entire article-

July 3, 2005

Exclusive to the Nondual Highlights and the Real News:

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

A review by Gloria Lee

This is one terrific movie I saw last night. A documentary that does far more than tell the story of a man at loose ends who begins simply by feeding a flock of wild parrots and thereby finds a purpose for his own life. Yes, wild parrots can survive on their own in San Francisco, so other than taking in a few sick or injured birds, Mark Bittner was not needed. But the parrots eventually bring him everything he needs to be happy.

When Mark begins identifying individual birds and naming them, his connection with the birds is reminiscent of Jane Goodall and her chimps. Someone with no visible means of support who devotes vast amounts of time to observing and documenting behavior and relationships among the birds could easily be labeled dysfunctional by our society. Mark describes himself as a "dharma bum" who came to San Francisco in the 70's, aspiring to be a rock musician after he gave up on being a writer. His favorite poet was Gary Snyder, who commented, "If you want to find nature, start where you are." So he did.

We learn his story in small bits interspersed between observations about the pair bonding, squabbles and divorces among the birds, who are remarkably like us in many ways. Mark came to the Hill after a period of homelessness when he was hired to be a caretaker and cleaner for an elderly lady. He stayed on in the dilapidated cottage after she was replaced by a young couple in the main house. They explain letting him live there rent free for the next three years because of his work with the parrots. People give him better cameras and a computer to document his work. The Italian restaurant cook feeds him, the local pet store gives him food for the parrots, the tourists come to watch and ask questions about the parrots. While he is a very likable and gentle man, this recognition of the importance of his work by others is a sign that more is going on here than meets the eye. People sense this and want to honor it. Mark is already locally famous and written up in the newspaper by the time the documentary film maker shows up.

In seeing the parrots through Mark's eyes, with that wonderful connection people can forge with animals, the film brings us to a similar point of deep caring and appreciation of them as well. But the real gift is having such an intimate glimpse into the heart of Mark Bittner. Not so much at loose ends as he first appears, Mark shyly reveals that he feels he is on a path of inner transformation. And he is deeply committed to this process in a spiritual way despite not understanding exactly where it is taking him. Without revealing the surprise ending to the film, I can say that Mark became a writer after all, and is currently on a book tour.

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Guru offers glimpse of the divine

Visit to Brandon (Mississippi, U.S.A.) includes offering spiritual wisdom to Hindu community, blessing the site for a new temple

BRANDON — A crowd dressed in silk saris and clothes accented with pink and orange scarves gathered outside the Hindu temple here Tuesday evening awaiting the arrival of a spiritual leader.

A priest chanted as a copper Lexus pulled up in front of the cinder block building. Out stepped Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji, who had traveled from India to Mississippi for the first time in 12 years to offer wisdom, spiritual music and to consecrate the ground upon which the local Hindu community will build a new temple.

"People always want some kind of spiritual master to connect to the cosmic consciousness," said Prakasa Rao of the Hindu Temple Society of Mississippi and a sociology professor at Jackson State University. "They know how to take you on a spiritual path."

Hindus consider Sri Swamiji — as the visitor is known — to be a saint or spiritual guru. As a guru, he spends his life cultivating a connection to God. In turn, he offers devotees teaching, healing and a glimpse of the divine. -read entire article-

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The Miracle Worker

By Jennifer Bails
Sunday, July 3, 2005

It's the unlikeliest of hugs.

One set of arms extends from an elderly Hasidic rabbi with a sugar-spun beard, clad in a frock coat and velvet yarmulke. His appearance is more reminiscent of prewar Eastern Europe than modern-day Western Pennsylvania.

Completing the embrace is a young addict, with pained, tired eyes that belie his age. We don't know his name or his demon of choice.

It could be alcohol or heroin or pain-killers or something else. The particular substance doesn't matter. Not really, anyway.

What matters is that like the hundreds of patients here at Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Center Township, Beaver County, the man has been given another chance at sobriety, another chance at life.

"That was the first time I heard you speak," the man tells the rabbi, tugging on his baggy jeans and subconsciously checking to make sure his stubbed-out cigarette is still tucked behind his ear. "Thank you so much," he says, softly but without shame.

Hugs for Dr. Abraham Twerski come by the dozens here during his monthly visits to the nonprofit drug and alcohol treatment center he founded in 1972.

They come in the security line at the airport and in the aisles of the grocery store. They come from strangers in the streets of countries as far away as Japan, Finland and Brazil. They come from recovered addicts in all walks of life -- surgeons, politicians, journalists and construction workers.

Even women have found a way to hug Twerski without violating the religious principle that forbids him from having co-ed physical contact with anyone other than his wife and daughters.

"Abe!" shouts a heavyset black woman dressed in pink hospital scrubs in the Gateway lobby, where a portrait of Twerski hangs in the corner he refers to sarcastically as "the shrine." She clasps her arms across her chest and sways side-to-side as Twerski does the same, standing a few feet away.

"You never have to worry about me getting in trouble because I don't have any anonymity," Twerski says.

He wouldn't have it any other way.

More than 30 years after entering the wrenching field of chemical dependency, it's the human contact that sustains Twerski, and in turn, has improved the lives of thousands of people on the brink of self-destruction. -read entire story-

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Blueprint for living
Drawing on many spiritual sources, Bill W. summed up the essence of what brought him to sobriety

Challenge was to codify basic principles of fledgling Alcoholics Anonymous, writes Andrea Gordon

It took William Griffith Wilson 17 years of blackouts, broken promises and wrenching despair before he took his last drink of alcohol in 1934.

Four years later, it took him only 30 minutes to scribble the essence of his spiritual journey to sobriety on a yellow scratch pad so it could be used to help other alcoholics.

The result was the first draft of the 12 Steps, the heart of the Alcoholics Anonymous program of recovery and a path described as nothing short of a miracle by the many who have followed it.

"Two hundred years from now, the 20th century won't be remembered for penicillin or landing on the moon, but for the 12 Steps," says Graeme Cunningham, director of addiction with Homewood Health Centre in Guelph and associate professor of psychiatry at Hamilton's McMaster University.

Cunningham's words are typical of the praise heaped on the fellowship.

British author Aldous Huxley, one of Wilson's contemporaries, called him "the greatest social architect of our century."

In 1999, Time magazine put Wilson in the company of such giants as Albert Einstein, Gandhi and Sigmund Freud as one of the 100 most influential people of the century.

To Wayne Skinner, deputy clinical director of the addictions program at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, it's hard to think of anything that has had more impact than the 12 Steps of AA throughout the history of addiction.

You wouldn't get much argument from many of the 50,000 people gathering in Toronto this weekend for the annual international AA convention. This year celebrates the 70th anniversary of the day that Wilson — known in AA circles as "Bill W.," in keeping with the organization's principle of anonymity — met another alcoholic, physician Robert Smith, or "Dr. Bob", in Akron, Ohio, and discovered the healing power that emerges when people fighting the same demons share their stories. -read more, and the 12 steps-

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Spiritual meets commercial
By Rick Holland
Friday, July 1, 2005

BELLINGHAM - In a commercial landscape that seems to spawn evermore gas station mini-marts and coffee shop drive-thrus, the Pennsylvania Farmer Boy general store and farm on Pulaski Boulevard provides a spiritual sanctuary.

Sprawled over nearly five acres, Omar and Barbara Wenger own and run the entire operation - with help in varying degrees from their eight children - which includes farmland, a large chicken coop and indoor and outdoor furniture displays.

Inside the store, customers can find everything from wind chimes to slab bacon; breakfast cereal to quilts - and a never-ending supply of fresh-baked breads and goodies produced in ovens located only several feet from the cash registers.

"They always have good things here," said Barbara Wilson, a Franklin resident and regular Farmer Boy customer. "I come here for the soup mix, the breads, and their vegetables just seem fresher - and it's nice to talk to the people who work at the store," she added.

While the assortment of items is eclectic, some otherwise common supplies in typical general stores are notably missing from the shop. The business is admittedly influenced by the family's membership in the Mennonite Church, a conservative Protestant sect with beliefs similar to those embraced by the Amish - renown for embracing literal teachings from the Bible and imposing a simple but strict, rustic lifestyle on its followers.

For example, the store has no lottery tickets for sale, no cigarettes or other tobacco products, and no "strong drink" - Omar Wenger's term for alcoholic beverages. Gospel choir music plays in place of droning Top 40 radio, and not surprisingly, the store is closed on Sundays, when the family is involved in Sunday School and church services at the Mendon Mennonite Church on Rte. 140.

While the Amish shun owning and driving cars, and do not use electrical power drawn from power grids, Mennonites are decidedly more liberal.
"We believe in some practical uses that (the Amish) do not," said Wenger. "We drive cars, for example, though they have to be practical; you're not going to see one of us driving a red convertible," he added. -read entire article-

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Spiritual Film Festival debuts in Hailey (Idaho)

Express Staff Writer


Unless you've been on the moon for the past several months, you may be aware that His Holiness the Dalai Lama will be visiting the Wood River Valley, Friday, Sept. 9, through Monday, Sept. 12. Because of his visit, folks are thinking about other spiritual tie-ins.

Just announced is the formation of the Sun Valley Spiritual Film Festival. Festival founders Mary Gervase and Claudio Ruben are booking several noteworthy films that will be shown concurrently with the Dalai Lama's visit, from Friday, Sept. 9 through Monday, Sept. 12, at the Liberty Theatre in and the Community Campus theater, both in Hailey.

The festival will focus on films that explore themes relevant to the Buddhist tradition. They were chosen to compliment the Dalai Lama's message of compassion and reconciliation.

The wish list of films that will be screened includes "The Cup" by Indian director Khyentse Norbu, which takes place in a monastery during the World Cup soccer finals. The other films are "Discovering Buddhism," a series of 13 short documentaries, the Canadian film "Words of My Perfect Teachers," Australian film "On the Road Home," the 1972 movie "Siddhartha," "Ethics for the New Millenium," featuring the Dalai Lama, and the Tibetan film "Cry of the Snow Lion."

Festival organizers are seeking donations for financial support. They've already received a generous donation but still need more in order to fund the total cost of the event.

For more information, contact Bex Wilkinson at [email protected] or Mary Ann Chub at [email protected].