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June, 2004

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Reagan Pyramid Nears Completion

Above: Builders expect the Reagan Pyramid to be ready in time for the Great Communicator's mummification and ascension into the Afterworld upon death. Among the items to be entombed with Reagan are 2,500 MX missiles, a golden chalice of jelly beans, and his beloved servant, George Bush Sr. -more-

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Bernard F. Pracko

When Bernard Pracko paints, he ventures within. Indeed, he has lived and worked in some of the country’s most breathtaking settings – the southwestern deserts, the southern California coast and the Rocky Mountains. Yet his artworks document an internal journey rather than a response to the external world.

For Pracko, his artwork is a petition, a prayer, a meditation. His goal – to mirror a sacred space on canvas. He follows in the steps of a century-long line of modern artists like Wassily Kandinsky who cut the moorings of representation and painted an inner reality. “I value only those artists who really are artists, that is, who consciously or unconsciously … embody the expression of their inner life,” Kandinsky says in his treatise, Concerning The Spiritual in Art. Throughout his life, Pracko has shown a growing awareness of the spiritual world, including receiving a master’s degree in theology. In his artwork, Pracko taps his connection to the divine and directs it to canvas. -more-

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Pastor bids farewell to Parish

Editor's note: The Rev. Martin L. Buote served as pastor of St. Anne Church, which closed its doors last week. In this open letter to the community, he writes about science, spirituality and a lifetime of being enthralled by God's creations.

This is the person who left MIT to enter the seminary to study for the priesthood of the Catholic Church. The beauty of God's creation now became more evident in other ways as I became aware of the sweep of God's plan in what is called the Economy of Salvation. -more-

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Lion of Jamaica, Jimmy Cliff roars a message of peace
Reggae legend brings roots and positive vibrations to Byblos

From 1964 to 1975 Cliff rocked the world from the UK to Brazil with his sound, and though songs like "Wild World" were the ones with which he reached a wider audience, more serious songs like his political protest, "Vietnam," written in 1969 against the war in that country, and a song which Bob Dylan called the best protest song he ever heard, did not go over so well.

On Friday, Cliff's rendition of "Vietnam"' went over a treat. Perhaps because he preceded it with a speech about the injustices and brutalizations in Palestine, and how we must continually fight for this cause today against the Israeli state, as well as attacking "these leaders of America and Britain. To them we say "We don't want no war."

It was all very well with a liberated audience roaring their agreement, and few in Lebanon would question his sentiments but the irony came later with Cliff's albeit fantastic rendition of "By The River's of Babylon," and the constant referrals in this song to "the gates of Zion."
Well, there are a few writers who have said it, and I suppose that it is true. Dylan said it on "Blowing In The Wind," and Marley said it on "Natural Mystic," so yes there is a natural mystic blowing through the air and I cannot cut myself off from that," he says. "But my message is one of optimism and hope." -more-

Monday, June 28, 2004

Friendly dog averts ‘killing spree’
Man drove from New Brunswick with small arsenal. Car packed with 6,000 rounds

A man who told police he was bent on going on a murderous rampage believed people in his native New Brunswick were nice, so he planned to gun down people in Toronto instead — until a friendly dog changed his mind about the city’s residents.

The man drove from the Maritimes with a carload of guns and ammunition intending to kill as many people in Toronto as he could, he told police. But a last-minute encounter with a woman and her dogs in a lakefront park convinced him Torontonians are nice too. -more-

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Superman on the Couch' Explores American Psyche

An All Things Considered audio

A society's heroes represent its strengths, its ideals -- and its fears. Danny Fingeroth has been studying comic-book super heroes for more than 25 years. He has collected his ideas about why super heroes appeal to people in his book, Superman on the Couch.

According to the book, the comic-book characters tap into universal themes that people can identify with, making fans out of groups of people who might not have anything in common with each other. NPR's Andrea Seabrook talks with Fingeroth. -more-

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‘Ethical wills' leave spiritual legacies behind (Subscription)

For centuries, Jewish fathers wrote letters to their sons to be given after they died. Unlike wills that distribute possessions, these ethical wills passed down personal morality and values.

They intrigued Rachael Freed so much that she took up a serious study of them and came to see that the deep self-reflection by the writer made the ethical will a two-way gift.

Then, an idea hit.

“I thought, I'm going to transform this into a women's healing tool,” says the family therapist and author.

She began gathering women to think and write about relationships, work and passions that have shaped who they've become. The results took many forms — short reflections, stories, poetry and art. They emerged as a way of valuing women's lives and leaving a legacy.

Freed's legacy circles helped lay the groundwork for her new book, Women's Lives, Women's Legacies: Passing Your Beliefs & Blessings to Future Generations (Fairview Press, $19.95).

It comes almost three years after another book introduced the concept of writing ethical wills to a more secular mainstream. Ethical Wills: Putting Your Values on Paper by Barry Baines (Perseus Publishing, $14), has attracted people, including women, of many faiths to craft ethical wills at various life junctures. Some choose to share them with loved ones while they are alive. -more-

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Interview with Deepak Chopra

I write about consciousness in all its disguises. ... The basis of everything that I write is that if you understand consciousness and how consciousness becomes physical reality then you'll understand everything from perception to emotions and moods and relationships and environments and social interactions and, ultimately, the intelligence that is at the heart of the universe. -more-

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Pastor climbed out of the bottle, into the pulpit

FLINT - Thomas Tarpley was only 4 when he got drunk on homemade wine. By the time he was in his mid-20s, the Pontiac high school dropout had tried just about every kind of booze and drugs as a full-blown alcoholic.

Today, Tarpley is pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Flint.

"I spent 20-some years out on the street, drinking, drugging, abusing and addicted to almost everything out there you could name," said Tarpley, who turns 62 on Friday. "But I was always functional, always able to maintain a job."

It was while he worked as a highly successful insurance agent that Tarpley said the fun ended.

"I didn't enjoy what I was doing," he reflected in his office at the longtime northwest side church. "And then I just had this feeling that I should be doing something else, but I couldn't put my hand on it. -more-

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Black bookstores give important niche a home

At Books for Thought in Tampa, virtually all of the shelves are lined with titles by African-Americans about African-Americans.

The intense buzz last week around former President Clinton's book release eclipsed one noteworthy fact: He selected a single-floor Harlem bookstore owned by four African-American women to help kick off the release of My Life, his highly awaited autobiography.

But Clara Villarosa, one of Hue-Man Bookstore's owners, said she knew the significance right away: "This is a very special opportunity for an African-American specialty bookstore," she said in a telephone interview before thousands swarmed the store. "The launch has put us on the map."

Far from the intensity of New York, and lacking the celebrity draw of a president-turned-author, are bookstore owners who otherwise are much like Villarosa and her partners.

Felecia Wintons and Tangela Murph, are two Tampa Bay area women who saw a niche and left corporate jobs to try to fill it. The women opened separate bookstores where, as Wintons' business cards put it: "Every month is black history month." -more-

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An Experience with Bahai Youth Service Corps

Lahdan Saeed of Salt Lake City, holding her prayer book, has returned from one year of volunteer service in Haifa, Israel. "I wanted to go somewhere drastically different than Salt Lake City," said Saeed.
"Before I left, I joked with my friends that I'd be cleaning toilets all day," she said this week. "To a certain extent that was true."
    They became advanced cleaning professionals, she said, with expertise in waxing, buffing, sweeping and scrubbing.
    The second half of the year, Saeed spent as the only female on a grounds crew that worked with heavy equipment such as power washers.
    One Saturday, she volunteered to go to the Sea of Galilee to gather white pebbles for the center's walkways. The pebbles had to be just the right size, color and shape.
    "The gardens are all about beauty and perfection that had to be maintained down to the tiniest detail," Saeed says.
    Saeed lived in a modest apartment with roommates from Kenya, Norway and Brazil. She learned to love mangoes and the "freshest watermelon I've ever eaten," and "fell in love with falafel and baklava." -more-

Friday, June 25, 2004

Young Muslims and Jews share their common spiritual history

''I wanted to promote peace, but I wanted to create something real and tangible for [the children]," she said. ''And I thought: What better way to do that than to have them meet their neighbors?"
Rabbi Elaine Zecher, a Rashi parent, noticed that the Islamic prayer routine of kneeling and then rising to one's feet resembles a similar ritual in Judaism, when Jews rise to their toes as a symbol of their desire to become like God.

''I think it's important for children to learn about this at an impressionable age," Zecher said. ''It's important for them to see the similarities, so that becomes the lens through which they see the world as opposed to seeing it through all these differences."

Tayebeh Zadegan, a Hamra parent, said she thought the program was a good idea, helping to break down walls of conflict between Jews and Muslims.

''The religions aren't that different," she said. ''Islam accepts the same prophets. It's all the same." -more-

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Nigeria: educating the street children

It is glaring that street children are not being fairly treated by not giving them the same right to education as their privileged counterparts who are presently in schools. Most of our policy makers are deceivers for not being able to recognise the hopeless life most of these street children live and plan adequately for them, to be carried along in the scheme of things. Rather than satisfying the government selfish interest, the masses should not be left floating in an ocean of uncertainty.

Giving hope to street children through education by all means possible, will go a long way to remould them back into the society and make it much easier for them to imbibe good morals. We need to be informed that the moral climate surrounding an individual is a determinant of his or her personal worth. It is an undeniable fact that morality is being thrown to the winds and the world is drifting to chaos, but morality education in both formal and informal dimension, would bring back human values that have been inverted. The truth of the matter is that morality awareness will raise the level of spirituality of the individual child to come into the reality that life philosophy is not that of war but of peaceful co-existence by putting God as the central focus of our doings. -more-

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Thursday, June 24, 2004

The lessons of enforced sloth

I was a workaholic and probably addicted to turbulence. Stay at home and do nothing for six weeks? I'd go squirrelly.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

I have just completed six weeks of Not. Doing. A. Thing.

An arm injury caused by working too much on the computer put me out of commission for a month and a half. I couldn't go to work and rarely left my apartment unless it was to the library or the grocer's a few blocks away.

Doctor's orders were to stay as relaxed as possible to allow the inflamed nerves to settle down.

It may sound like a little bit of heaven -- mandatory leisure! -- but it's not something I would have ever looked forward to experiencing. I enjoy my writing work and always made sure I was busy. Given the choice between stress or boredom, I'd pick a three-deadline freak-out any day. I was a workaholic and probably addicted to turbulence.

Stay at home and do nothing for six weeks? Surely it would drive me squirrelly.

I don't do down time. Holidays are usually more intense than work, trips to complicated and scary places. I couldn't handle an idle retirement; I'd be a world-travelling lawn-bowling champ, or maybe run a pool hall.

But right from the start I embraced the nothingness. After a lifetime of dreading a weekend with no plans, the completeness to which I adapted to the quiet, stretched hours of inactivity was an unexpected and curious gift. I had no plan, not an inkling of an itinerary for idleness, yet time filled up and blank space turned into a sanctuary. -

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Child poet Mattie Stepanek dies
One of the best-selling poets in recent years

ANNAPOLIS, Maryland (AP) -- Mattie Stepanek, the child poet whose inspirational verse made him a best-selling writer and a prominent voice for muscular dystrophy sufferers, died Tuesday of a rare form of the disease. He was 13.

Stepanek died at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, the hospital said. He had been hospitalized since early March for complications related to the disease that impaired most of his body's functions.

In his short life, the tireless Stepanek wrote five volumes of poetry that sold millions of copies. Three of the volumes reached the New York Times' best-seller list. -more- -here's a poem-

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Hakomi is a Hopi Indian word that means "How do you stand in relation to many realms" or in more modern language "Who are you?"

In therapy, clients learn to achieve mindfulness, which Hakomi therapist and trainer Jaci Hull defines as "the ability to view the self in an open way so that you're able to see all of the self. One of the things we're trying to get across," she says, "is that people stay unhappy when they're unable to be mindful about their lives."

How do clients achieve or even understand mindfulness?

Hakomi adherents believe the body is a window to the mind. While any therapist pays attention to a client's body language, it is particularly emphasized in Hakomi, where therapists are taught to "track" minute movements and postures. -more-

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

My Turn: Seeing your faith through others' eyes

By Bill Tammeus
Knight Ridder Newspapers

It can be both illuminating and disconcerting to find practitioners of religions other than your own commenting on aspects of the faith you follow. Sometimes they can help you see things in helpful new ways. But other times they can be annoying and even seem to be purposefully misrepresenting what you think you know so well.

I've had that dual experience recently as I've read excerpts of a remarkable new two-volume work by a man who died in 1952 - Paramahansa Yogananda, credited with introducing yoga to America. Yogananda's posthumous book is called, of all things, "The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You." It will be published Sept. 1. As a Christian, I quickly wondered what this follower of the Hindu philosophical system of yoga could tell me about Christ's return. -more-

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Recalling rebbe a decade later


Scraps of prayers cover ground near grave of Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson in Cambria Heights, Brooklyn, yesterday.

Upwards of 20,000 people are expected to flock to the Cambria Heights grave of Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson today, the 10th anniversary of his death.
Jews and non-Jews alike - from across the country and all over the world - will wait for hours and endure long lines for the opportunity to visit the rebbe's grave site, considered a holy place imbued with spirituality.

"People come here and feel an energy that emanates from the grave. They feel there's a spirituality here," said Rabbi Abba Refson, director of Ohel Chabad Lubavitch Center, which adjoins the grave site. "Some people come out weeping and emotional, and others come out inspired and uplifted, but everyone comes out somewhat impacted by standing in the presence of the rebbe." -

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Dear Dr. Angelini,

I consider myself to be a spiritual person, but lately I have experienced increasing difficulty integrating my spirituality into my personal and business life. What would you recommend?

-- J.A. in Malta -

~ ~ ~

Helping people understand

Templeton says his personal purpose at this point in his life is "to help human beings understand that God is a million times larger than any religion describes Him.

"God is vastly greater than any ruler. Nothing is separate from God," he said.

To encourage spiritual advancement and awareness, Templeton has awarded the Templeton Prize For Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities since 1973.

Previous winners of the Templeton Prize - the largest monetary prize awarded annually to an individual - include Dr. Billy Graham and Mother Teresa.

Along with this honor, countless other awards and monetary contributions are given through the foundation for scientific, spiritual and moral achievements.

Though Templeton has promoted and pursued his goals and ambitions throughout the world, he acknowledges that smaller-scale endeavors can be equally as fulfilling. -

Monday, June 20, 2004

Majestic power and simple beauty

"THE Earth" wrote the French author Antoine de St Exupery, "teaches us more about ourselves than all the books in the world. Self-discovery comes when man measures himself against an obstacle."

It’s a quote that Julie Brook keeps in her mind constantly. For the last 10 years she has been measuring herself against the earth’s immensity with unique and unforgettable results and a show of recent and archive work this summer will open the eyes of a new audience to the work of this surprisingly little-known artist.
Brook’s work enables us, albeit briefly, to indulge ourselves in the wonder of being alone. "Solitude," she says, is also "crucial to the artist in enabling an unbroken rhythm of work. One thing can lead to another without my being able to predict the path."
Hers is a hugely important voice in contemporary Scottish art. -more- -and more-

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Radical Living

If we want to live and experience a way of living and organizing that is very radically different, I think that being quite clear, articulate and up-front about what exactly we would like to see can go a long way. So, here are some of the different alternatives that I see out there that we could explore.
...essentially what we call the “government” is in actuality a mass psychosis that millions of people are experiencing together, and playing off each other with, all at once. Non-possession does not recognize any invisible lines or chains between people and objects or other people - each is taken in, appreciated and respected in it’s full uniqueness and individuality while not being statically tied to anything else.

I personally hold the most affinity with this last concept, what I call “Non-possession”. I see this as being the approach that is the most deeply, genuinely and fully liberatory and authentic. I also see it as in many ways opening the door for an anarchic spiritual journey as well, if one were inclined to take such paths. -more-

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Spiritual awakening in national parks

More than 30 years ago, Milton Goldstein was reeling from a personal tragedy -- the deaths of his first wife and daughter -- when a friend suggested he seek peace in the national parks.

After first losing his wife to illness, and soon after his daughter, Goldstein traveled from his home in Los Angeles to Yosemite National Park, where he found not only solace but a love that would shape the rest of his life. -more-

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Psychiatrists Urge More Direct Focus On Patients' Spirituality

Many patients have spiritual needs that when addressed in psychiatric treatment help unearth important existential issues and strengthen the therapeutic relationship.

Psychiatrists can do a great disservice to patients by sidestepping issues related to religion and spirituality in clinical practice, according to a panel of physicians who are trying to raise awareness of religion and spirituality in the field of medicine.

They came together to address these issues at APA's annual meeting last month at a workshop titled, "Spirituality and Religious Assessment in Clinical Practice." -more-

Related article:

How to Start Dialogue on Spirituality

To help physicians conduct a "spiritual history" of their patients, Christine Puchalski, M.D., director of the George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health, advises physicians to use the acronym FICA to help them remember to ask crucial questions that elicit dialogue around spiritual or religious issues.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Equine therapy builds awareness
By Jomay Steen, Journal Staff Writer

RAPID CITY — It takes more than horse sense to succeed in this riding arena.

Three people working together last week to guide a horse through an obstacle course were also working on ways to stay free of drugs and alcohol.

As participants in Recovery Outpatient Alcohol and Drug Service-Placerville Camp, the two men and one woman had to complete their task without touching or talking to the horse. The exercise was designed to help people who are in recovery learn to trust themselves and connect with others. -more-

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

When the dying speak of traveling

Though very weak, Kenny, 45, intermittently recognized and chatted lucidly with family gathered by his bedside. But he would drop in news of his varied travels: He had gone skiing one afternoon in Australia, he told us, stopped by North Carolina another day, and more than once had been "stuck in passport control."
Authors Patricia Kelley and Maggie Callanan, longtime Washington, D.C.-area hospice nurses, had heard similar talk so often from their dying patients — conveying this sense of moving from one place to another, of being in transition — that they concluded it must be a special language the dying have to communicate what is happening to them. -more-

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Professor takes scholarly bite out of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'

It may sounds frivolous or campy, but Brown argues that "Buffy" is part of something important going on in today's culture, particularly among younger people. They are struggling to find their way in a world where the old values no longer seem to apply.

For many people, she said, the old bedrock ideas -- the Greco-Roman, Judeo-Christian, Enlightenment world views -- are breaking down in a fast-changing, pluralistic, technological era.

A new world view has not yet emerged, and it's in fantasy that people are exploring new visions, Brown said. Hence, the popularity of Harry Potter, "The Lord of the Rings" and "Buffy."

In such fantasies people reinforce values like community, loyalty, forgiveness and compassion, and consider how to face "the monstrous within ourselves." -more-

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''You can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth.'' --Bill Cosby

Those of us who weren't there can only imagine the gasps of chagrin.  We are told that some people laughed, but that most were stone-faced. 

As for me, no surprise at Cosby's politically incorrect chutzpah.  Cosby has run a long (and mostly successful) road since the 1960s, and there was a moment when we met along the way.  There is this one thing Cosby never lost in his travels, which has had a few bumps, but is of no concern for this remembrance, and the thing he never lost is this: his dignified idealism.

I knew Cosby. He never knew me. -more- (Interesting remembrances of Greenwich Village in the 60's.)

~ ~ ~

"Kaena: The Prophecy is a wild and memorable adventure, complete with allegorical commentary on religion, politics, and the human spirit. An impressive directorial debut from former graffiti artist Chris Delaporte, Kaena finds its inspiration in a number of science fiction films, anime, and video game artwork. The first 3D CGI picture to emerge from France, Kaena: The Prophecy represents a milestone in the history of French cinema." -more-

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Life lessons from football

Football neither increased my enthusiasm for subsuming my identity within the collective, nor upped my threshold for inflicting and enduring pain, nor enhanced my willingness to follow orders from authority figures who stood on the sidelines clutching their master plans.

Rather, football gave me a tutorial in managing chaos.
To play well, I had to give up on the idea that life could be managed through contemplation. Events happen too fast. Children grow, parents age, pets wander off, water heaters rust, and jobs come and go. -more-

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Constantin Brancusi: The Essence of Things

Constantin Brancusi Sleeping Muse I, 1909–10. Marble
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden,
Smithsonian Institution,
Washington, D.C., Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn, 1966

~ ~ ~

Music is magic - how else to explain what happens?

If I had any do-overs, chances to go back in time and catch something I missed, I'd spend them on music. I'd go back to a concert, pre-1977, and hear Lynyrd Skynyrd play "Freebird."
I'd spend another do-over at the first performance of Bach's St. Matthew's Passion. Just to be there to witness the intersection of genius, faith and all that passion, Christ's and Bach's.
And when, near the end of the program, Galway took up "Danny Boy," another sleight-of-hand delight. He rescued the tune from the maudlin muck that has so burdened it and liberated its heart, eons of Celtic grief and longing. I had always been driven away by the song's sentimentality, but that night I was captivated by its truth - when it emerged through Galway's lungs and down that glorious tube. -more-

Monday, June 14, 2004

Roland Morris Sr.

1945 - 2004

RONAN - Roland Morris Sr. passed away at his home on Wednesday, June 9, 2004, of natural causes.

Roland experienced an amazing, transformed life. He was born on July 1, 1945, was a member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe at Leech Lake and grew up in Cass Lake, Minn., where he played guard in basketball, fished, hunted and gathered wild rice.

Roland went to a two-year college in Haskell, Kan., to become an architectural draftsman. During college and after, he traveled the circuit, playing guitar in a band and painted. He practiced the trade of architecture for a few years before becoming a self-employed upholsterer. While he struggled with many difficulties in his early years, he was a perfectionist with his upholstery and it gave him great pleasure to perform his craft well. He continued the gratifying work of upholstery throughout his life.

After a life-changing spiritual experience with Jesus in 1992, Roland moved his family to Ronan, where he and his wife Lisa created Montana's first patient transportation service, Mission Valley Medicab, which Lisa administered and Roland operated. They also instigated the formation of the Montana Passenger Carriers Association and the charitable organization, Valley Missions Inc., all without any government assistance. In moving to Montana, he had brought his immediate family into a much healthier life.

However, there was more to do. Having watched many friends and relatives die physically, spiritually and emotionally from alcoholism, violence and suicide, Roland could no longer stand aside and do nothing. -more-

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For some, spiritual renewal comes while doing chores

When I asked readers recently about their favorite urban oases -- those spiritually soothing places where someone can slip away in the midst of a busy day -- Karen Masters of Bloomfield Township stopped me in my tracks.

There's no need to wander across town, she wrote in an e-mail. "This may sound strange, but I find my spiritual refreshment while cutting my lawn!"

In this rainy season, when thousands of us are grumbling about cutting our lawns, her idea seemed very attractive. And it's not as crazy as it may sound. For centuries, Buddhist and Catholic monks have made daily chores a part of their meditations. -more-

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Shaolin kung fu needs protection

Shaolin culture, including the martial arts, needs to be preserved and should be listed as a United Nations world heritage, said Wang Wenzhang, director of the China Arts Institute. -more-

~ ~ ~

Only one of 10,000 meteorites each day

A New Zealand couple had an unexpected visitor from space at the weekend when a 1.3kg (2.8lb) meteorite crashed into their living room shortly before breakfast.

The meteorite came through the roof of Phil and Brenda Archer's house in the Auckland suburb of Ellerslie at 9.30am on Saturday morning.

"I was in the kitchen doing breakfast and there was this almighty explosion," Mrs Archer told Auckland's Sunday Star-Times newspaper. "I couldn't see anything, there was just dust. I thought something had exploded in the ceiling. Phil saw a stone under the computer and it was hot to touch." -more-

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New era of awareness

A scientific interest in the nature of consciousness has parlayed into an unexpected film career for a Tucson doctor who is one of the stars of the sleeper hit "What The #$*! Do We Know!?".

Dr. Stuart Hameroff is also expected to be on the silver screen sharing his knowledge about alternate universes, human consciousness and the mind in two more upcoming flicks - a film about about mysticism produced by Madonna and in an upcoming boxed-set DVD edition of "The Matrix" trilogy of movies. He has already appeared in a BBC special about near-death experiences called "The Day I Died."

Hameroff's work with the University of Arizona's Center for Consciousness Studies has garnered worldwide attention in scientific and spiritual circles. The 56-year-old doctor says added interest from Hollywood is a signal of not only a new genre of film, but of a new era of awareness about science and spirituality. -more-

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Neshama Carlebach

JERUSALEM -- Centuries ago, the rabbis banned Jewish women from singing in public, fearing the effect their voices might have on men. Hearing Neshama Carlebach at an open-air concert in Jerusalem last week, you could understand their concern.

Like most of the women in her predominantly Orthodox Jewish audience, Carlebach is dressed demurely enough in an ankle-length skirt and high-necked, long-sleeved blouse. But her extraordinary voice, traversing a range from soaring folk melodies to throaty jazz-blues, is exactly the kind of immodest instrument the rabbis had in mind.
Some of Neshama's earliest memories are of accompanying her father to perform in strange places.

"I was with my father when he would sing in prisons and, by the time he was finished, the prisoners were dancing with the guards -- you didn't even know who was who," she says.
"My mission is very similar to his -- to bring peace and love. I'm very innocently, naively optimistic. Music speaks to the soul like nothing else.

"When you're capable of singing and coming together in song, the world can change." -more-

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Ray Charles, Bluesy Essence of Soul, Is Dead at 73

Published: June 11, 2004

Ray Charles, the piano man with the bluesy voice who reshaped American music for a half-century, bringing the essence of soul to country, jazz, rock, standards and every other style of music he touched, died yesterday at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 73.
"Ray Charles is the guy who combined the sacred and the secular, he combined gospel music and the blues," Mr. Levy continued, adding, "He's called a genius because no one could confine him to one genre. He wasn't just rhythm and blues. He was jazz as well. In the early 60's he turned himself into a country performer. Except for B. B. King, there's no other figure who's been as important or has endured so long." -more-

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Comic books take on the world of faith and spirituality.
by David Wade

None of these comics directly call their readers to repentance or make demands about church attendance. In fact, few of them have much good to say about established religion in general. What they add to the experience of their readers is the call to a life lived with at least one eye open to the possibility of an enchanted universe - a place where the spiritual world is alive, active, and intervening in the affairs of humanity. This intervention isn't in the form of brightly costumed messiah surrogates who can leap tall buildings in a single bound, but in the lives of fairly ordinary human beings, imperfect and often conflicted in their motivations, who are struggling to find meaning in their lives beyond the dulling drone of the culture's demands, the sudden storms of violence that threaten to overwhelm their worlds, and the limitations of life boxed in by not enough justice, not enough joy, and not enough hope. Out of this context, they become heroes. Just like you and me.

It's not just biff, bam, and pow anymore. -more-

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The Hungry Spirit

It is three in the morning. There is no sound but the house creaking. A siren in the distance. Somewhere monks are rising for Vigils. In Catholic spirituality this hour is associated with St. John of the Cross and the "dark night of the soul." It is a time of nothingness, when life's futility is foremost in the mind. It is Jonah's time in the whale. Where is God? asks the soul.
I think many serious Christians have woken up in this "night of the senses" at one time or another. This is when all perceptions of God have fallen away. We keep our spiritual practices, but we feel spiritually arid. There are no more emotional highs in our prayer life. Occasionally we get a little burst, but soon we are back to the emptiness.

We begin to think that the vibrancy of spirit that we felt in our youth or as a new Christian is lost—and we won't ever get it back. We are embarrassed to talk about it, because by now we are acknowledged as a good and dedicated Christian. We keep up the pretense because there is nothing else to do. "The soul sits helpless amid the spiritual wreckage," writes Mirabai Starr, "and simply breathes in the darkness." If one can persevere, says John of the Cross, and keep fidelity even without the benefit of sensory gratification, then the soul becomes lighter, emptier, more open to God. -more-

Friday, June 11, 2004

Dog knows more than 200 words

Dogs may be able to understand far more words than a typical owner teaches them during obedience training. Scientists experimenting with a nine-and-a half-year-old border collie in Germany have discovered that the dog knows more than 200 words for different objects and can learn a new word after being shown an unfamiliar item just one time. The dog’s ability shows that advanced word recognition skills are present in animals other than humans, and probably evolved independently of language and speech. -more-

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Movie review
Morvern Callar

Adapted from the novel by Alan Warner, Samantha Morton, the eerily beautiful Pre-Cog from Minority Report, takes the leading role in Morvern Callar as the girl from which the title comes.

Morvern has lived a simple and unquestioning life of working in a supermarket on the weekdays and mindless parties on the weekends, until she wakes up one morning to find her boyfriend’s dead body face down under the Christmas tree. His typed suicide note on the computer explains, simply, “it felt like the right thing to do,” and also instructs Morvern to print out the novel he’s written and publish it as her own.

Instead, Morvern buries him in the woods, withdraws the money he leaves her for a funeral and flies with her best friend to Spain.

What ensues is Morvern’s search for herself, as she undergoes a spiritual change that opens her eyes to the world around her. As her friend, Lanna (played by first-time actress Kathleen McDermott, whose thick Scottish accent might make you hit rewind a few times), flirts with guys and parties at night, Morvern slowly becomes aware of a more subtle world pulsing underneath the one she’s living. Morvern drags Lanna with her to a remote desert, where Morvern indulges in the beauty of the world and Lanna complains that she wants to go home.

When a publishing company accepts her late boyfriend’s novel, they offer Morvern 100,000 pounds for it, enough to send Morvern on many more stops in her spiritual journey. Although, asking Lanna to come with her only leads to her friend telling her, “It’s all the same crap everywhere, Morvern. Stop dreaming.” This forces Morvern to realize that she will have to be alone in her trip to find herself.

Written by: Savannah Bobo

Wednesday, June 9, 2004

The Race Across America

On June 20 in San Diego, 95 riders - just 21 attempting it solo, all of them men - will begin a 2,920-mile trip through 14 states, climaxing in Atlantic City.

It's not a stage race. Riders go around the clock and average nearly 300 miles per day, for only those who finish within 12 days and two hours are considered official finishers.

It is considered the most physically demanding event on the planet. Outside magazine ranked it as such in 1993, ahead of an around-the-world sailing race, the Iditarod Sled Dog Race and the U.S. Army's Best Ranger competition.

The stat race organizers cite for perspective is that fewer people have ridden this race than have climbed Mount Everest.
"It's not just a physical test; it's much deeper than that," (Bob Rich) said. "I've experienced some profound thoughts out there when I'm going 200 miles without seeing anybody. I feel a different energy, and I don't know where it's coming from." -more- Photo: Bob Rich became heavily involved in cycling after retiring from the Ohio State Highway Patrol in 1999. The 52-year-old, who once finished a race despite a broken rib, has pedaled 10,500 miles this year.

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The Furniture of George Nakashima’

The late George Nakashima, whose work is currently on exhibit at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts in Ketchum, was a furniture maker in the modernist tradition, but one who seemed to breathe exuberant life into his works by breaking free of its strictures.

"Making something pure, simple and true to material—these are all precepts of modernism," said Kristin Poole, artistic director at the Center. "Nakashima strayed from that in his love of the organic and his faith to the wood."

In many of his pieces, Nakashima retained the naturally occurring splits in boards and incorporated an exposed "free" edge in the work. This theme developed further as Nakashima created whole tabletops that were irregular in form and even had holes in them, holes that were present before being sawn.

While modernist art is typically devoid of any references to the past, "Nakashima honored the past by honoring the tree," Poole said. -more-

Tuesday, June 8, 2004

African Spiritual Teacher at Mythic Conference in Atlanta

There is a deep longing among people in the West to connect with something bigger in community and spirit, African spiritual teacher and author Sobonfu Some' says. "People know there is something missing in their lives, and believe that the rituals and ancient ways of the village offer some answers," she said.
She is one of more than 140 of the world's leading scholars, psychologists, educators, business leaders, artists, authors, filmmakers and performers participating in the first annual Mythic Journeys conference here.
"My work is really a journey in self discovery and in building community through rituals," she said. -more-

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Kilimanjaro experience a physical and emotional trial for man

Aside from the accomplishment of standing atop Kilimanjaro, Titus said the spiritual journey was also an amazing one. At the end, he came to respect simple things about the trip, such as the plants who grew in the fertile parts, the glaciers formed by years of wind and the splendor of God's creation.

"That idea, putting one foot in front of the other, became more and more powerful the further up we got," he said. "God's presence is as simple and glorious as the warmth of the morning sun." -more-

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SPIRITUAL JOURNEY: Following the Right Path

Devout teens in Sin City (Las Vegas) try to set an example and stick to beliefs

Avoiding temptation, Boniface Njoroge, 17, said, is as simple as, "first of all, being around the right type of people, who share your beliefs."
Rogierre Hughes, 16, who attends Second Baptist Church, draws strength from her faith to get through the day.

"Every day just before I go to school, I pray and I read the word and I just live each day knowing that the Lord is watching out for me and that everything will be OK," she said.

Said her brother, Michael, 13, "I believe you must just stay prayerful and read the Bible every day, talk to God, talk to your parents, talk to your friends if you're having a problem -- and talk to people who are religious or Christian friends." -more-

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Catholics pray for peace in Iraq

By Melissa Evans, STAFF WRITER

FREMONT -- With so much uncertainly surrounding the war in Iraq, the 87 Dominican nuns who live quiet lives in the Mission Hills have decided to do what they do best: Pray.

More than 40 congregations, provinces and laity groups within the Dominican Order -- including the Mission San Jose sisters -- will participate in once-a-week prayers through June 30, when the U.S. is supposed to turn control of Iraq back to its people.

"We feel the situation is so critical now," said Sister Charlotte Shea, development director for the motherhouse.

Shea keeps a newspaper article with pictures of the roughly 300 Americans killed during the war posted on her bedroom wall as a constant reminder of how personal this war has become.

The total number of American casualties has now risen to 813, including at least two soldiers with ties to the Tri-City area, Marine Lance Cpl. Travis Layfield and Army Lt. Ken Ballard.

The Dominican Sisters have been assigned Thursday as their day to pray and fast for a peaceful transition of power later this month.

They will eat breakfast in silence, say special prayers during their morning and evening masses, and will forgo their normal dinner for soup and bread.

The savings from food will be sent to the Dominican Sisters who are stationed in Iraq to provide spiritual counseling to those in need.

"There's a deep affinity and love in them," Shea said. "They're not blood family, but they are a part of our spiritual family."

A local Catholic church, St. Edwards in Newark, will also be holding a special memorial Mass in July. The service is open for all those who have lost family members or friends in the war or for other reasons, said Deacon Nick Bruckner.

The service is scheduled for 5 p.m. July 10 at St. Edwards, 5788 Thornton Ave., Newark.
This has been the entire article.

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Times Foundation launches 'The Oneness Celebration'

It's dubbed astronomically as a period bursting with extraordinary creativity — The Venus Transit of 1631-1639.

And now as a celebration of another Venus transit on June 8, 2004, which is being considered auspicious for the world to make a new beginning, the Times Foundation has launched ‘The Oneness Celebration’ — a spiritual, social and cultural programme — with the inauguration of the Sacred Garden inspired by the launch of spiritual garden of oneness at Rashtrapati Bhawan by President A P J Abdul Kalam and chairman of Times Foundation Indu Jain.

To mark the moment rich in symbolism, the Oneness celebrations bring together sacred plants of Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Buddhists and Parsis like fig, grapes, tulsi, pomegranate, jasmine and mango. “If plants were God’s alphabets, ‘Oneness’ would have been etched on earth. For a world lamenting the fast homogenisation of individual cultures, this mantra of Oneness doesn’t signify an end to plurality, but a celebration of the versatile. And that’s exactly what makes India all the more important to the world,” said Mrs Jain, while inaugurating the celebrations and anointing The Oneness Centre at 4, Tilak Marg in Delhi on Monday. The dignified and sombre chants of Buddhist monks of the Grammy Award-winning Palpung Sherab Ling Monastery set the tone for the celebrations which emphasises respect for all forms of life and seeks to transform the planet through spirituality. Even nature blessed the evening as the Delhi summer heat was swept away by a gentle breeze. -more-

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Hilma af Klint Opens at BildMuseet in Umeċ

UMEĊ, SWEDEN.- The BildMuseet presents “Hilma af Klint,” on view through 17 October 2004. BildMuseet is exhibiting a selection of paintings and drawings by Hilma af Klint from 1906 to 1933. This collection highlights her interest for and knowledge of geometry and mathematics. The artist’s ambition to define the existence that is not visible is most apparent in a series of images form 1919, which are now being shown to the public for the first time.

When the Swedish artist Hilma af Klint (1862-1944) began with non-figurative painting in 1906, this occurred completely in isolation from the pioneers of abstract painting and the groupings of established modernism on the continent. Her break with her classical schooling from the Royal Academy of Fine Art’s in Stockholm, which ended in 1887, was preceded by several years of searching for self-knowledge as a member of the group De fem (Trans: The Five). The group was influenced by the period’s spiritual movements, particularly theosophy and the philosophy of Rosenkreutz and later Anthroposophy.

The exhibition Geometry and Spirituality includes 80 works that highlight her ambition to depict spiritual existence, the different levels of matter, but also characteristic and moralistic features of individuals. -more-

Monday, June 7, 2004

A.A. birthplace to open to the public Saturday; Founders Day visitors can tour estate cottage free subscription required to view

Dr. Robert Smith and William Wilson spent hours in the 10 ½-by-10 ½-foot study of Henrietta's home one day in 1935. In the weeks that followed, they laid the groundwork for a self-help group that has grown to millions of members in dozens of countries.
... alcoholic's visiting the Gate Lodge is as spiritual an experience as a Christian's visiting Bethlehem. -more- subscription

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Zen Garden in Town

"That corner was the sorriest-looking mess you've ever seen," Michael Beckley says, referring to a small curbside plot of earth along 11th Avenue between Downing and Corona (in Denver). So two months ago he cleaned it up, spending roughly thirty bucks and three hours -- including a trip to Home Depot -- and created a public zen garden.
"That's one corner in Denver about the size of a bed that somehow has hundreds of people now walking by and talking and just spending a minute relaxing," he continues. "Think how many corners there are in the world. I see people at bus stops or in elevators. They don't talk -- and it just astounds me." -more-

Saturday, June 5, 2004

'Horse whisperer' to speak
Bob Toomer has spent his entire life around horses.

He grew up on a working cattle ranch in Burns, Colo., and now makes his living as a horse trainer in rural Utah.

Toomer is also a Christian missionary and his approach to spirituality has been shaped to a large extent by his experience with horses.

"The way I train horses I believe in a sense illustrates the way God works with us," Toomer, 47, said.

Out of his shared roots as a horseman and believer, he has created an exhibition called "Life Lessons from the Round Pen."

He will travel to Albany next weekend for a pair of exhibitions June 11-12 at the Linn County Fair & Expo Center. The sessions will begin each evening at 6:30 p.m.

Toomer is a follower of what is popularly known as the "horse whisperer" school of horse training. He says the technique is actually fairly simple and its principles are accepted by most trainers: a horse must come to respect the trainer, but also develop trust in the trainer.

"Once you have those two things, the horse will pretty much do what you ask him to do," Toomer said.

He believes the same is true in the relationship between God and people. -

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"The Story of the Weeping Camel"

(PG). A nomad family of herders in the Gobi Desert confronts a crisis with a newborn camel. The purest kind of cinema storytelling, woven with the stealth and bold color of an oriental carpet. Directed by Luigi Falorni and Byambasuren Davaa. 1:30 (animal birthing scenes). In Mongolian with English subtitles. Lincoln Plaza and Angelika Cinemas, Manhattan
"The Story of the Weeping Camel" defies expectations of a summer entertainment in just about every way imaginable, yet will linger in the mind long after the seasonal blockbusters have rendered one momentarily blind and deaf. It is about people who spend the better part of their lives under the sun, observing and abetting the cycles of nature for their livelihood. To the extent that it vividly transmits the rhythms and the rituals that define this lifestyle, it is a Zen movie experience par excellence.

Filmed on location in Mongolia's Gobi Desert, "The Story of the Weeping Camel" follows a clan of herders who are blissfully untouched by the amenities and diversions of 21st century society (for the time being, at least). Occupying three yurts (tents) built to withstand the vicissitudes of desert weather, the closely knit, three- generation family attends to its camels, sheep and goats with the same affection and seriousness of purpose members accord one another. -more-

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"The Richest of Fare: Seeking Spiritual Security in the Sonoran Desert," by Phyllis Strupp. Sonoran Cross Press. 250 pages. $24.95

Strupp began to write "The Richest of Fare: Seeking Spiritual Security in the Sonoran Desert" after she and her husband moved to Carefree six years ago from Princeton, N.J. Confronting the desert’s ochres and mauves after Princeton’s deep green lushness was a lifechanging experience.

"I was just stunned," Strupp says. "So stunned that everything became a religious experience. I suddenly understood why the writers of the Bible were all desert dwellers, and how their own desert had shaped their world view. It certainly reshaped mine."
Strupp also realized that a book about the beauty of the desert would not be complete without photographs. So she photographed the sunset from her patio, the rising moon from outside her den. She took long walks down the dirt roads and paths near her house and photographed dozing javelina, honeybees feeding on sage blossoms, Gambel’s quail guarding their young. And, of course, the ever-present saguaro in full bloom. -more-

Thursday, June 3, 2004

`Music vigils' seek to comfort the dying
At bedside in hospices and homes, harpists play melodies intended to ease patients' pain and stress in their last days

Known as music-thanatology, the work of harpists such as Pasquesi and Pederson is the latest service offered by hospices responding to an increasing demand for end-of-life care.
(Therese) Schroeder-Sheker said she began developing music-thanatology more than 30 years ago, while working in a Denver nursing home, where she was disturbed by the suffering of people who died alone.

She said she realized the soothing effects of music when she held an elderly man in her arms and noticed how his frantic breathing relaxed as she sang Gregorian chants to him. Using her musical background, she drew inspiration for music-thanatology from the spiritual and medicinal traditions of reformed Benedictine monks who founded a monastery in Cluny, France, in the 10th Century.

"The spirituality of the work and the intimacy of the work is so powerful," said Schroeder-Sheker, of Mt. Angel, Ore. "My humility has grown tremendously from seeing and understanding how tender people really are, how vulnerable people really are." -

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Gift of Grace
Napa Cabernet producer Dick Grace saves children with his spiritual philanthropy
This is, in part, a love story. Not about a man and woman, not about a man and wine; not about a man and money, country, truth, not even God, although it includes all of those. It is about a man who learned to love himself, and in doing so, found himself on the edge, a place he likes, and in a world of children, especially those on the edge.
Depression, alcoholism and children are his teachers, he says, adding, "My gurus come from unusual places." Grace bombards people with an infinite store of tales of those who have touched him; in addition to Anthony Frasier, there is a 9 year old he calls John Karma, whom Grace found, lice-ridden and abandoned in a handbasket off a trail in the Himalayas. Grace refused to leave him, cleaned him and eventually found him a home. Like dozens of boys and girls he has met, Grace is committed to bringing John Karma to college in this country. -more-

Wednesday, June 2, 2004

Spiritual cleansing: 'The Mikvah Project' celebrates the Jewish ritual bath
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A deep current runs through the Jewish Museum of Florida, the spiritual cleansing power of mikvah water -- a ritual bath in the Jewish tradition. In a mix of art, oral history and ritual, the Miami Beach museum is presenting ''The Mikvah Project,'' a traveling exhibit created by the Houston-based team of photographer Janice Rubin and writer Leah Lax.
''It's a spiritual cleansing,'' said Rabbi Solomon Schiff from the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. ``The water serves as a renewal because water purifies and uplifts.'' -more-

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The Ghost in the Machine
Using a cheap plastic camera Christine Breslin captures the poetry of Hartford´s Elizabeth Park.

This is poetry of the "real" variety, and Breslin's imagistic poetry is wedded to science, not to tabloid spirituality. The science, that is, of light trapped in a moisture-laden atmosphere. Light that gathers vaguely in a clearing, blocked from the viewer by a screen of moody, silhouetted trees. Light that fractures the Pond House into a thousand shards mirrored on the surface of the glassy waters in an extinguishing dusk.

These are gentle, dreamy beautiful images, gorgeously composed and tendered. Each photo is a kind of transforming window, visiting the present with a dream of a momentary past. They linger on the mind's eye like a musical chord, struck just so. -more-

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Soul of Surfing: Marty Schreiber lives a life that may be fading

"I could probably have a nicer house or send my daughters to college," he says. But surfing is something he needs to do.

No matter what it costs.

Surfing is like a baptism, he says. A rebirth. A conversation with God.

It even makes him a better mechanic, he says.

Out in the water there is no Iraq, no cars with oil leaks, no bad days, says Marty, who’s known around town simply as Marty Mechanic.

"It’s people walking on water, man," he says. -more-

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An A+ for Trenton (New Jersey) principal

TRENTON - Educator Gail Cropper has a simple philosophy when it comes to being a leader. To lead, she said, one also must serve.

"I serve my students. I serve my community. I serve my staff - whatever their needs are," she said. As principal of the city's Washington Elementary School, she never discounts a chance to improve the lives of her co-workers and students.

Today, Cropper is being honored for that service with a statewide award. The New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association (NJSPA) has named Cropper principal of the year and will present her with its Award for Visionary Leadership.
She encourages teachers to stay in constant contact with parents of struggling students, even if the parents may complain about a teacher contacting them on a regular basis.

"That's our job," she said. "If I can't get a parent (on the phone), I go to a house."
Cropper never wants to seem unapproachable. Staffers said she is known to even break out in dance along with students during school assemblies. -more-

Tuesday, June 1, 2004

4 bring East Bay to black film festival in S.F.
Subjects include life in post-apartheid South Africa, cheating man confronted by pit bull

By Chauncey Bailey, STAFF WRITER

OAKLAND -- Many young independent filmmakers see a major festival such as Cannes as a must stop en route to Hollywood fame and fortune.
For emerging black filmmakers, however, who are just as driven and passionate about their craft, there's a more important venue. The 6th annual San Francisco Black Film Festival, a creative outpouring of 60 films from June 9 through June 13, is "home" and equally rewarding for these artists.

For them this growing festival, with its screenings, workshops and awards, presents an opportunity to network and showcase works more meaningful or substantive than "Soul Plane" or other stereotypical African-American comedies dominating today's box offices. -

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Volunteer for an Eco-Spiritual Tour of the Himalayan Mountains

DELRAY BEACH; May 29, 2004 - Combine parts of the Peace Corps, Earthwatch and New Age Spirituality, and you get Global Eco-Spiritual Tours. In August, another tour group will return to spend 10 days experiencing the environmental landscape and Buddhist culture of the Ladakh region deep in the Himalayan Mountains of northern India. A non-profit, tax-exempt organization, Global Eco-Spiritual Tours donates proceeds from the tour to
schools in their tour region.

Tour members will work together on low impact ecological projects and learn about the spiritual heritage of the Ladakh region, a former Himalayan mountain kingdom, situated west of Tibet. Part of the tour includes visiting schools where tour founder Christopher Perry presents donations from tour members to the educational organization.

The cost of the tour is a charitable donation that you actually get to participate in as you travel; says Perry, a professional geologist and environmental consultant based in south Florida. Ladakh is a mysterious, spiritual place with a delicate ecology and a lot of poor kids. Our goal is to help improve the lives of the Ladakhi and Tibetan refugee children
through our member donations. The beauty of this idea is to expand it to other eco-spiritual destinations so that more impoverished children can benefit worldwide.

Ecological projects include donating solar panels to poor families in remote villages, planting sapling trees and bottling spring water for charities. To expand their spiritual awareness of other cultures, tour members will explore ancient monasteries, meet with monks and lamas, participate in meditation sessions and attend summer harvest festivals. An added bonus is that the tour members may have the chance to see the Dalai Lama during a public ceremony on his annual summer visit to the Ladakh region.

The US Ambassador to India, Robert D. Blackwill recently visited the tour area with his wife commenting that the Ladakh region is beyond the imagination and an ideal place for a writer like him to plug in his computer and try and think some serious thoughts. He also added, the Ladakh region is one of the best places to visit for adventure travel in the world and it is also very safe because of the mentality of the people, its culture and the natural beauty of this Himalayan region.

The tour groups will travel the region by jeep caravan and spend most nights in a Tibetan-style hotel. A few nights will be spent trekking and camping in the Himalayas. Openings are still available for the tour from August 2-13 this summer.

Press Release
Contact Person: Chris Perry, President 561-266-0096;
To learn more, visit or email
[email protected].
This has been the entire article

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University of Arizon study on near-death experiences looks at brain
Revived 'dead' have differences, researchers say
By Carla McClain

Many people who have undergone near-death experiences - a profoundly affecting glimpse of a loving afterlife - have abnormal brain waves, a University of Arizona study has found.

This is the first scientific confirmation that something extremely unusual is going on in the brains of people who briefly died, reported leaving their bodies and moving toward a loving, peaceful light or presence, then were resuscitated and returned to life.

The finding does not prove or disprove that near-death experiences are actual encounters with a heavenly afterlife, but it may help explain why lives and attitudes are often dramatically changed by such experiences.

"This is the first study ever to find neurophysiologic differences in people who have had these experiences," said Willoughby B. Britton, the UA researcher who led the study, published last month in the journal Psychological Science.

"They have to some extent an abnormal brain. But even after going through a life-threatening trauma, they are absolutely psychologically healthy, with no post-traumatic stress, no fear response.

"This gets to the question of how the brain and consciousness and reality interact. Everyone wants to know how the spiritual and the physical meet." -