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June, 2005

Sunday, June 26, 2005

A soulful look at spiritual sites

By Christine Temin, Globe Staff | June 22, 2005

An exhibition of contemporary art with the title ''Places of the Spirit: Sacred Sites of the Adirondacks" suggests works of the kind of grandeur that the 19th-century Hudson River painters found in wilderness settings such as the Adirondacks, which they portrayed as pristine Edens unspoiled by humans.

The show at the Boston Athenaeum is instead primarily devoted to architecture, to humanity's imprint on the landscape. The buildings are mostly houses of worship, erected in fields and forests or by the shores of lakes, but there's a sprinkling of cemeteries, shrines, and statues of saints as well.

The show was organized by the Lake Placid Institute for the Arts and Humanities, which initially put out a call to 110 communities in the area, asking for information about their ''sacred sites." The response to this provocative request was a wealth of documentation. The alchemy of turning that information into art began with a guest curator, Mara Miller, who chose four photographers -- Heather MacLeod, Romaine Orthwein, Barry Lobdell, and Shellburne Thurber -- whose styles are sympathetic to the theme. To the credit of everyone involved, the result has nothing of the forced feeling of so many group shows on a particular subject.

Among other things, the exhibition acts as a primer on religious architecture in the Adirondacks in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Much of it falls into the ''Carpenter Gothic" category, borrowing the vaulted verticals of European cathedrals but scaling them down and executing them in local materials -- wood far more often than stone. In settings of such sublime natural beauty, it seems odd that so many of these churches make heavy use of stained glass that seals out the landscape. -read entire article-

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Perceiving Tibet with the mind behind the eye (Book review)

Nirwono Joga, Contributor, Jakarta

Tibet di Otak (Tibet on the Brain)
Yori Antar, Raudia Kepper, Enrico Soekarno,
Jay Subyakto, Krish Suharnoko, Ella Ubaidi
PT Gramedia Pustaka Utama
229 pp

A complete narration of spiritual pilgrimage to Tibet via Nepal, Tibet di Otak (Tibet on the brain) opens up our mental horizons.

Through the six photographers who contributed their work -- Yori Antar, Raudia Kepper, Enrico Soekarno, Jay Subyakto, Krish Suharnoko and Ella Ubaidi, calling themselves The Third Eye -- we can leaf through the book from start to finish and explore Tibet, the highest place on earth, also known as a country in the clouds, the roof of the world or the Shangri-La.

Tibet di Otak paints a picture of a mysterious, religious and exotic country through the varying perspectives of the photographers. And it is no misperception.

The panoramic landscape of the Himalayas, including Mount Everest -- Oomolangma in Tibetan or Sagar Mata in Sanskrit -- is truly exotic, even though Tibet is now struggling to free itself from Chinese oppression and gain religious and cultural independence.

We also learn that, thousands of years ago, a spiritual guru from India, Atisha Dipankara, who played a significant role in the propagation of Buddhist teachings in 11th century Tibet -- or the Vajrayana period -- was a pupil of Dharmakirti/Lama Serlingpa, or the Lama from the Archipelago of Gold. The "Archipelago of Gold" refers to Sumatra, and Tibetans feel close to Indonesia while, ironically, we are almost completely ignorant about Tibet.

The landscape series covers a journey down the River Nyangchu, a visit to the sacred and holy lake Yamdrok-Tso (Turquoise Lake or Scorpion Lake), an area designated as a site for power-generating plants, and a tour of the River Kyichu.

An architectural pilgrimage was made by superimposing the images of architectural wealth in Nepalese capital Kathmandu, Bahktapur (City of Devotees) and Patan, as well as Dattatraya Square, Taumadhi Square and Durbar Square, the Seto Machhendranath Temple, Swayambhunath Temple, Pashupatinath Temple and Boudhanath -- the largest Buddhist pagoda in Nepal.

In contrast, the confusing traffic, blaring horns and the pedestrians' negligent on-road behavior will be familiar to those traveling through Indonesia's major cities. -
read entire article-

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Star Wars: An Islamic Perspective

The way "jedis" are taught to respect a greater power, fight for the defense of the innocent and bring peace and justice to their society, is also what Islam teaches all Muslims to strive for

By Irfan Rydhan, June 17, 2005

As most "Star Wars" fans know, director George Lucas took spiritual elements, which are common in most major world religions to create his epic saga of good vs. evil. As a Muslim, I always thought of the "Jedi" as what a true follower of Islam should be like. Never mind the fact Jedi masters with their North African style cloaks and scruffy beards look like Sufi Sheikhs, but they way they are taught to respect a greater power, fight for the defense of the innocent and honor a code of morals and ethics in order to bring about peace and justice to their society, is basically what Islam teaches all Muslims to strive for. So what really is the connection between these similar Islamic principles and the fictional "Jedi Order" of the Star Wars saga?

I decided to look into this question more deeply. What I came across from my research off the internet and talking to other Muslim "Star Wars" fans was not only surprising, but also a bit scary. For example it was reported in a National Australian magazine that more than 70,000 Australians identified their religion as Jedi, Jedi-Knight, or Jedi-related in the country's 2001 national census! Don't these people realize that the "Jedi" are make-believe? There may be some truth in fiction, but instead of looking for the truth, people get caught up with the fiction. In this paper I hope to reveal where some of the truth of the "Jedi" and "Star Wars" comes from: Islam. -read entire article-

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Bravo! takes a spiritual journey - The Tunguska Project - World Premiere, July 20 at 8pm ET

TORONTO, June 15 /CNW/ - Internationally renowned Canadian Cree playwright Floyd Favel went on a haunting journey with Canadian documentary
filmmaker Gisèle Gordon into the heart of Siberia to investigate the
unexplained and catastrophic 1908 Tunguska explosion. Part travelogue and part
quest, Favel uncovered the mysteries of the region along with some surprising
personal demons. Produced by Urban Nation in association with Bravo!, The
Tunguska Project has its world television premiere on July 20 at 8pm ET.
Almost a century ago, an explosion equivalent to 1,000 atomic bombs
devastated over 2,000 km of forest and destroyed the reindeer of the
indigenous Evenki herders of central Siberia. With the overwhelming need to
understand not only what it was, but what it meant, Favel made the 30,000 km
trip from his northern Saskatchewan home to the epicentre of the explosion in
this poignant film. Along the way, he met with Evenki elders and reindeer
herders who recounted ancestral tales about the explosion.

"It's a bit of a road movie," says filmmaker Gordon. "There are so many
important social issues that Floyd's journey touched upon: the parallels
between indigenous peoples in an area geographically similar to northern
Saskatchewan where Floyd is from, and their history of having lost their
culture, religion and language to the Russian ruling powers. This would be
very familiar to Aboriginal Canadians."

One of Canada's most innovative and critically respected theatre artists,
Floyd Favel's works incorporate an intuitive traditional approach with his
international classical theatre training. Favel has worked extensively across
Canada for many years and is the co-founder of the Tipiskaki Goroh dance
company. He is perhaps best known for his portrayal of "Floyd the Hungry Bear"
on CBC Radio's drama Dead Dog Café. His research for his play The Sleeping
Land inspired The Tunguska Project documentary.

Bravo!, a division of CHUM Television, is dedicated to entertaining,
stimulating and enlightening viewers who have a taste for a more complex
television ( A proud supporter of the Canadian independent
production community, Bravo! funds approximately 100 hours of independently
produced documentaries and performing arts specials a year. Bravo! has been a
major contributor to such productions as Murder 19C: Detective Murdoch
Mysteries, Strip Search, and Godiva's.

For further information: and/or screening copies: Laura Regu, Publicist,
(416) 591-7400 x2746, [email protected]; Jennifer C. S. Lo, Director of
Communications, (416) 591-7400 x2761, [email protected]; Please visit
Bravo! Media for high-res photos:

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Life in Solitary

Catholic hermits are reinventing an ancient tradition, living ever farther from society and ever closer to God.

By Lisa Miller

June 20 issue - In the photo, Agnes Long looks drop-dead gorgeous. She's on vacation at the Jersey shore with her husband. He is tall, tan and trim; she wears a zebra-stripe bikini, a floppy hat and sunglasses. The sea breeze has blown her platinum hair across her face and she is smiling. The picture says it all. In the mid-1970s, Agnes Long was a happily married, affluent, middle-aged woman with three children and a weakness for expensive clothes.

Today, Agnes Long is a Roman Catholic hermit. She lives alone in a thickly wooded section of Madeline Island, in northern Wisconsin. Her beloved husband is dead; she hasn't seen her children in years. She wakes before dawn, prays throughout the day, eats small meals, works outside, makes religious paintings, and rises in the middle of the night to pray. Although she sees people when she drives her little truck to the grocery store or to mass, she has no one you might call a friend. And though she answers her phone when it rings, she doesn't often engage in what you would call conversation. "I feel that my whole life has been in preparation for where God has me now," she says, as she slips the old photo back into the pages of her prayer book. "When you go into solitude, you find out who you really are."

Long's life may look radical, but she is following an ancient path. Christianity has a long tradition of hermits, dating back to the third and fourth centuries, when Saint Anthony and thousands like him fled the hardships of the cities for the desolation of the Middle Eastern desert. There they fasted and prayed with the sole intent of getting closer to God. They believed stringent solitude would help them glimpse heaven; the pilgrims who visited them said they looked like angels. These ascetics are known as the Desert Fathers, and there is not a contemplative monk or nun in the world who does not treasure their legacy. -read entire article-

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Robert Frost - A Spiritual Study of the Seasons

Robert Frost is one America's most beloved poets. His poems speak to the heart and soul and make us re-live our experiences, as all great poetry does. According to The American Tradition in Literature, Frost's “art is an act of clarification, an act which, without simplifying the truth, renders it in some degree accessible to everyone.” And though his scenery was primarily the New England countryside, “people who have never seen New Hampshire or Vermont, reading his poems in California or Virginia, experience their revelation.” His poetry has an important universal and spiritual appeal.

You can find in Frost's canon poems for each season of the year. Two of his best loved and most anthologized poems are “After Apple-Picking” and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” the former taking place in late fall and the latter on the first day of winter. If you are a student in a class studying Frost's poems, you might find you can write a useful paper comparing and/or contrasting these poems. You will notice that the speaker of each poem emphasizes “sleep”; what do you think he is implying? Does he mean more than ordinary nightly repose? Read the poems for fun, but study them for the deep spiritual experience they impart.

Another Frost poem that takes place in fall is “The Road Not Taken.” How can you be sure it takes place in fall? Well, the yellow wood and the fact that a lot of leaves have fallen. This poem is often misunderstood. That the “road” is a symbol for making choices is clear enough, but many students read into the poem the notion that the speaker is claiming he is happy with the choice he made, that he is happy that he chose to walk down the road he selected. But if you look closer you will see that the speaker cannot be making that claim. And what the speaker actually claims could be the focus of a useful essay. -read entire article-

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Sunday, June 12, 2005

'West' side stories

June 10, 2005


"Some men come west and lose their souls. The West is a spot on the map, not a way to live."

These are the words of the legendary mountain man Jedediah Smith in Part 1 of the TNT six-part limited series "Into the West," premiering tonight at 7 on the cable network. Do his words resonate with profound insight or a simple man's naivete? Turns out, it's a lot of both.

Turns out, too, that the "spot on the map" was no spot at all -- it was everything west of the Mississippi River, where settlers put their faith in God and each other and headed into a land unknown.



When: Part 1, 7 tonight on TNT; repeated at 7 p.m. Saturday and 7 and 9 p.m. Sunday; **1/2
"Into the West" Part 2, June 17, 18, 19 at 7 p.m.; **1/2
"Into the West" Part 3, June 24, 25, 26 at 7 p.m.; ***
Rated TV-14

And in a sense, "Into the West" is a similarly unknown commodity -- a land rush of vague characters (who remain so even after the credits roll) sprinting through 65 years of American history, specifically the story of the opening of the American West, from 1825 to 1890.

The breathtaking -- and sometimes breathless -- series is divided into six two-hour films, each with two intersecting stories at work: one about the Wheeler family from Virginia; the other about the Lakota Sioux tribe of the Great Plains. Their stories are told primarily through the eyes of the young Jacob Wheeler (Matthew Settle) who heads west in search of a better life and adventure, and the young Indian boy, Loved by the Buffalo (played as a young boy by Simon R. Barker and later by George Leach), a holy man-in-training who searches for answers in the spiritual world and rituals of the Lakota. It's through his spiritual journey that we "see" the fate of his people -- a devastating prophecy that becomes reality as the frontier is settled.

Over the course of the series, their lives and the lives of their descendants play out against historical events, including the Mexican-American War, the California gold rush, the Civil War, the building of the cross-continental railroad, the Battle of Little Big Horn and ultimately the Indian massacre at Wounded Knee.

At the helm of this epic is executive producer Steven Spielberg, who assembled what seems like a cast of thousands -- and six directors -- to craft the six-part series set to air in two-hour segments over the next three weekends. At a cost of $50 million, with more than 250 speaking roles and a nine-month shooting schedule, Spielberg and company have completed a Herculean task seldom seen nowadays in television. Filmed entirely in the Canadian Rockies, the cinematography by Alan Caso and William Wages is beautiful. The colors, the textures and the landscape are wondrous. -read entire article-

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Ordinary excellence

Activist, writer and thinker still inspires devoted Thomas Merton Society

June 9, 2005

In some sense, Thomas Merton was an everyman.

To the center of his being, the Trappist monk, who died in 1968, felt the universal longing for a deep, meaningful union with something greater than himself. To Merton, a convert to Catholicism, that something was God, and he found him in solitude.

"The real wilderness of the hermit is the wilderness of the human spirit, which is at once his and everyone else's," Merton wrote in the 1950s from the inside of a Kentucky monastery that valued silence and solitude. "What he seeks in that wilderness is not himself, not human company, and consolation, but God."

But not every man is so gifted at sharing his experience of that longing that he becomes a best-selling author. Not every man is also a poet, a peace activist, an interfaith pioneer and a mystic. Not every man has so many enthusiasts around the world that he has an international fellowship dedicated to preserving and promoting his vision of a just world.

That group of Merton faithful, the International Thomas Merton Society, will hold its ninth biennial meeting today through Sunday at the University of San Diego. With 1,400 members of a variety of faiths in chapters from San Diego to Salamanca, Spain, the society expects up to 400 people to attend lectures, talks, presentations and performances. -read entire article-

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Space Is Big And Spiritual

By Frederick Smith
June 6, 2005

Space is a big place. I mean, huge. Huge doesn't begin to cover it! Gigantic, gargantuan, damn roomy, to say the least ;)

Voyager 1, launched in 1977, traveling at speeds as high as million miles per day, is just now in the process of leaving the solar system. A solar system is a star with bodies circling it, planets, moons, comets, asteroids and the like. The space inside of our own solar system is enormous, but it's a drop in the bucket compared to the larger universe.

If we zoom out a tad, we see many stars. Many, many stars - “billions and billions” as Carl Sagan was fond of saying. Many are complete solar systems with planets – we've started discovering planets outside of our solar system in the latter half of the 90s, and we keep finding them. But at our level of zoom, we can't see the innards of systems at all, only their bright stars. We are at the level of our galaxy, an island in space, full to the brim with solar systems orbiting the center; a huge swirling oasis in the middle of nothing.

If we zoom out even more, we find galaxies clustered in bunches. The space between the galaxies is an almost incomprehensible void of vacuum. Our group is called the Local Group.

If we zoom out still further, we see that the galaxies tend to be stranded together in a large super-structure of sorts, almost like the the surface of large bubbles. The space inside and around these strands and bubbles is vast ocean of black, gargantuan deserts of utter emptiness.

Here is my favorite Hubble photo. It's not the most famous, nor the most colorful – there are grand pictures of nebula which take those titles. No, this picture is what you get when you point the Hubble at nothing – at a patch of seemingly black sky. Each little jewel is a galaxy containing billions of star systems. This image is a tiny, narrow section of empty sky. -read entire article-

Sunday, June 5, 2005

Science Nourishes the Mind and the Soul
by Brian Greene 

May 30, 2005 · One day when I was about 11, walking back to Public School 87 in Manhattan after our class visit to the Hayden Planetarium, I became overwhelmed by a feeling I'd never had before. I was gripped by a hollow, pit-in-the-stomach sense that my life might not matter. I'd learned that our world is a rocky planet, orbiting one star among the 100 billion others in our galaxy, which is but one of hundreds of billions of galaxies scattered throughout the universe. Science had made me feel small.

In the years since, my view of science and the role it can play in society and the world has changed dramatically.

While we are small, my decades of immersion in science convince me this is cause for celebration. From our lonely corner of the cosmos we have used ingenuity and determination to touch the very limits of outer and inner space. We have figured out fundamental laws of physics -- laws that govern how stars shine and light travels, laws that dictate how time elapses and space expands, laws that allow us to peer back to the briefest moment after the universe began.

None of these scientific achievements have told us why we're here or given us the answer to life's meaning -- questions science may never address. But just as our experience playing baseball is enormously richer if we know the rules of the game, the better we understand the universe's rules -- the laws of physics -- the more deeply we can appreciate our lives within it.

I believe this because I've seen it.

I've seen children's eyes light up when I tell them about black holes and the big bang. I've received letters from young soldiers in Iraq telling me how reading popular accounts of relativity and quantum physics has provided them hope that there is something larger, something universal that binds us together.

Which is why I am distressed when I meet students who approach science and math with drudgery. I know it doesn't have to be that way. But when science is presented as a collection of facts that need to memorized, when math is taught as a series of abstract calculations without revealing its power to unravel the mysteries of the universe, it can all seem pointless and boring.

Even more troubling, I've encountered students who've been told they don't have the capacity to grasp math and science.

These are lost opportunities.

I believe we owe our young an education that captures the exhilarating drama of science.

I believe the process of going from confusion to understanding is a precious, even emotional, experience that can be the foundation of self-confidence. I believe that through its rational evaluation of truth and indifference to personal belief, science transcends religious and political divisions and so does bind us into a greater, more resilient whole.

I believe that the wonder of discovery can lift the spirit like Brahms' Third Symphony.
[editor's note: at the link above there is a separate link to the audio of this symphony.]

I believe that the breathtaking ideas of science can nourish not only the mind but also the soul.

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Be Cool to the Pizza Dude
by Sarah Adams

“In the big pizza wheel of life, sometimes you're the hot bubbly cheese and sometimes you're the burnt crust. It's good to remember the fickle spinning of that wheel.”

All Things Considered, May 16, 2005 ·
If I have one operating philosophy about life it is this: "Be cool to the pizza delivery dude; it's good luck." Four principles guide the pizza dude philosophy.

Principle 1: Coolness to the pizza delivery dude is a practice in humility and forgiveness. I let him cut me off in traffic, let him safely hit the exit ramp from the left lane, let him forget to use his blinker without extending any of my digits out the window or towards my horn because there should be one moment in my harried life when a car may encroach or cut off or pass and I let it go. Sometimes when I have become so certain of my ownership of my lane, daring anyone to challenge me, the pizza dude speeds by me in his rusted Chevette. His pizza light atop his car glowing like a beacon reminds me to check myself as I flow through the world. After all, the dude is delivering pizza to young and old, families and singletons, gays and straights, blacks, whites and browns, rich and poor, vegetarians and meat lovers alike. As he journeys, I give safe passage, practice restraint, show courtesy, and contain my anger.

Principle 2: Coolness to the pizza delivery dude is a practice in empathy. Let's face it: We've all taken jobs just to have a job because some money is better than none. I've held an assortment of these jobs and was grateful for the paycheck that meant I didn't have to share my Cheerios with my cats. In the big pizza wheel of life, sometimes you're the hot bubbly cheese and sometimes you're the burnt crust. It's good to remember the fickle spinning of that wheel.

Principle 3: Coolness to the pizza delivery dude is a practice in honor and it reminds me to honor honest work. Let me tell you something about these dudes: They never took over a company and, as CEO, artificially inflated the value of the stock and cashed out their own shares, bringing the company to the brink of bankruptcy, resulting in 20,000 people losing their jobs while the CEO builds a home the size of a luxury hotel. Rather, the dudes sleep the sleep of the just.

Principle 4: Coolness to the pizza delivery dude is a practice in equality. My measurement as a human being, my worth, is the pride I take in performing my job -- any job -- and the respect with which I treat others. I am the equal of the world not because of the car I drive, the size of the TV I own, the weight I can bench press, or the calculus equations I can solve. I am the equal to all I meet because of the kindness in my heart. And it all starts here -- with the pizza delivery dude.

Tip him well, friends and brethren, for that which you bestow freely and willingly will bring you all the happy luck that a grateful universe knows how to return.

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Mark Dunn releases Return to Peace

Seven years ago American pianist/composer Mark Dunn strapped on a backpack containing his second favorite instrument, the Irish pennywhistle, and went on an extended tour of Central America that included visiting Mayan ruins, rainforests, breathtaking beaches, cloud-shrouded mountain peaks, volcano craters and Indian villages. His Latin American-journey inspired the tunes on his new instrumental album, RETURN TO PEACE, but his family’s Irish heritage (and the practicality of composing on pennywhistle while traveling) gives the recording a Celtic sound.

Dunn’s adventurous meanderings took him to Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama as well as many of the islands throughout the Caribbean. His first two trips each lasted six months and then he decided to make Costa Rica his second home. He bought a house there and s his time between Florida, Costa Rica and Brazil. He performs regularly in all three countries.

Subtitled “A Celtic Journey through Central America,” RETURN TO PEACE was recorded in Costa Rica with Dunn on piano and pennywhistle alongside some of the best local musicians – violinist Peter Nitsche (a member of the Costa Rican Symphony), acoustic bassist Randall Najera (who also plays with Peregrino Gris, a Costa Rican Celtic band with an album out), and percussionist Carlos “Tapao” Vargas (a member of the Latino new age group Editus which has toured with Ruben Blades).
-read entire article-

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Ralph Benmergui looking for five Canadians ready for the spiritual road trip of a lifetime!

TORONTO, May 31 /CNW/ - SEEKERS, a new faith-based lifestyle/documentary
series, is looking for five adventurous and enquiring individuals who want to
find greater meaning in their lives. Selected applicants will be invited to
join host Ralph Benmergui on an unpredictable three-week journey to spiritual
hotspots across North America, exploring everything from Tibetan Meditation
under a crystal pyramid in Sedona, Arizona to Shamanistic healing on Cortes
Island, B.C.

The series aims to tell the unique stories of diverse people who find
themselves caught up in the grind of day to day living and who want answers to
such spiritual questions as:

"Why am I here?"
"What is my purpose?"
"What can I believe in?"
"Is this all there is?"

The journey these people embark upon will be documented in a six-part series for VisionTV and ONE: The Body, Mind & Spirit Channel. Interested applicants are invited to tell their personal stories and explain why they feel they are "Seekers." Submission is by e-mail only to: [email protected]

SEEKERS is co-created by Gemini Award-winning executive producer and director Allan Novak (Loving Spoonfuls) and award-winning host and executive producer Ralph Benmergui. Ralph Benmergui is available for interviews.

For further information: Contact: David Todd, VisionTV Marketing & Communications, (416) 368-3194 ext. 207, [email protected]

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Painting as Spiritual Exercise

Artist Chun Sung-woo is best known for his ``Mandala'' paintings, a series of works that meld the oriental spirit with Western abstract expressionism. Those works are at the center of a retrospective of the 70-year-old painter being held at the Gana Art Center in Pyongchang-dong in Seoul until June 19.

``To me, painting is just like having a spiritual exercise which scrapes dirt from my mind. I consider `Mandala' as rather a figure of a peaceful state of mind, a world which purifies and refines, than its original concept of religion,'' said Chun. -read entire article and view paintings-

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Indian spiritual gurus - godmen or frauds?
Source : Archives

Are new age Indian spiritual gurus actually men of god or big frauds?

That's the debate that happened between Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of the Art of Living movement, and eminent lyricist Javed Akhtar on the second day of the two-day India Today Conclave.

"Spirituality is something that has always been a part of our civilisation," said Ravi Shankar, founder and guru to millions of people around the world.

A core foundation of his teaching is a series of breathing exercises that have helped thousands relax, ease stress and get a grip of the rough and tumble of modern-day living.

"Breathing is intrinsically connected with the way we are. It's related to our emotions. If we know how to control our breathing we can handle our emotions," said Shankar, whose Art of Living courses have been taken by everyone from India's richest business tycoons to prisoners and even rebel guerrillas.

But Akhtar strongly disagreed. "It's not enough to teach rich people how to breathe," said the award-winning poet and Bollywood's top lyricist.

"None of the spiritual gurus have ever taken any stand against injustice in our country. They have not criticised the powers-that-be. They have not stood for the rights of the downtrodden," said Akhtar.

"I believe in no religion," said Akhtar. "I think that every human being has a quota of nobility within them which they finish when they go to a temple or a mosque.

"I don't go to any of these places and so I use my nobility to help people, feed them. This to me is much more important than anything else.

"The gurus teach that come to me and I shall take you away from suffering. In truth, that can never be done, no one can take away the suffering of the world.

"Life is divided into joy and sorrow and no one can do anything about it."

Retorted Shankar: "It's easy to dismiss everything. We have always believed in scientific spirituality and there have been studies to show that breathing exercises help to calm the body, soothe the mind.

"This dismissal is the dismissal of the ignorant."

Some of the world's top government and business leaders are attending the conclave, including US Senator Hillary Clinton and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressed the conclave Friday night.

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Hitching a Ride on the Red Road: Ancient Native American Path Beacons Jackson Hole's Earth-Based Spiritualists

By Danielle Shapiro


I met Janet Woodland in her office at St. John's Hospital, but we did not stay long. She changed and we were off, heading up winding Curtis Canyon road, talking all the way. She told me of the horses she has loved and lost, of the spirits that guide her, and of her faith.

Woodland is one of a small group in Jackson Hole that regularly studies and practices Native American spiritual traditions.

Woodland primarily follows the traditions of the Native American Lakota tribe, whose rituals and ceremonies lead her to the sacred. Though raised an Episcopalian and having attended a Unitarian Church, Woodland said that this Earth-based spiritual path, grounded in nature and respect for all beings – two-legged, four-legged or no-legged – is where she finds most resonance.

"[These ceremonies] are for me a way to get grounded," she said while driving. "They are a vehicle to getting to a sacred place in my head, to my true intention. It would be so hard for me to talk in my office, the square world of work. But outside, the round world is where we feel the spirituality, the connections." -read entire article-

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Spirituality and parrots

June 4, 2005

By Glenn Whipp Los Angeles Daily News

"The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill," rated G, is at the Savoy Theater in Montpelier.

"I'm not an eccentric," Mark Bittner explains in the opening moments of the wonderful documentary "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill." Bittner blanches at the word, and you could see how a guy who has spent a chunk of his life feeding birds and cataloging their existence might be a tad defensive over people getting the wrong idea.

In the same way, you shouldn't get the wrong idea about this film. "Wild Parrots" isn't some namby-pamby nature movie about a modern-day St. Francis of San Francisco. Yes, we watch Bittner befriend a flock of birds near his Telegraph Hill home, feed them and love them. And, boy, if the whole thing doesn't make you a little misty-eyed by the end.

But filmmaker Judy Irving is clear-eyed when it comes to the harsh realities of nature. The hawks are always circling and the birds (cherry-headed conures, to be precise) themselves can be incalculably cruel. There's no Disney-style anthropomorphism here.

Yet, these birds slowly emerge as sharply defined individuals, creatures that we come to know much more intimately than most characters in Hollywood movies. They mate, they fight, they play, they pick on the less fortunate, they live in fear, they ignore another conure simply because he has blue feathers instead of red.

The long-haired Bittner had lived in San Francisco's North Beach area for 14 years as a homeless person, looking for spirituality and meaning. Bittner's curiosity, along with his penchant for not following the society's conventions and his love for the eco-friendly author Gary Snyder (who shares with Bittner a belief in Buddhist tenets) led him to the birds, which ultimately put him on a path where he found contentment in a number of other areas.

Bittner's journey and its surprising destinations and revelations are among the film's many pleasures. The movie builds a momentum, moving from the facts about the flock to Bittner's inscrutable connection to them to something almost spiritual, something anyone who has ever loved an animal or searched for a purpose in this mixed-up world can understand. This is a beautiful movie.

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Why Men Must Sweat the Small Stuff
Source : Archives

Men who apply author Richard Carlson’s dictum "don’t sweat the small stuff" to romantic relationships are risking broken engagements and bumpy marriages, because most women "sweat the small stuff" and expect their partners to do the same, says Toronto psychotherapist Dr. Bob Gottfried.

Director of Advanced Wellness Programs and a consultant with the Canadian Centre for Integrative Medicine, Gottfried recently launched an online "crash communication makeover course" to help men bridge gender-based gaps in cognition and communication. It is available, free of charge, by visiting
The e-course is also designed to help men overcome identity crises caused by changing gender roles as described in his newly released book "Shortcut to Spirituality: Mastering the Art of Inner Peace."

"Unlike men, women tend to be non-linear thinkers who seek a certain order in their lives, an order that may not make sense to husbands and boyfriends, but gives them a feeling of comfort and control," says Gottfried. "If your wife wants the ketchup bottle on the first shelf of the refrigerator, don’t put it on the second shelf. You may think it makes no difference, but it does to her. From her perspective, ignoring the details indicates that you are insensitive to her feelings and don’t care about her needs.

The doctor’s prescription: follow the "4 A’s" of effective communication, and avoid a fifth "A".

Attend. Pay attention to how your partner feels, and encourage her to discuss her emotions.

Acknowledge. Listen to what she is saying, and acknowledge what she is feeling.

Accept. Accept how she is feeling, without trying to change her mood or her mind.

Affirm. Tell her you support her. Ask if you can help, and follow her directions. If she says, "I’d rather deal with it myself," accept and affirm her decision.

Advice. Avoid unsolicited advice, especially when given in the form of "should" - e.g., "You should tell your friend what you really think of her." This is usually interpreted as criticism, judgment and arrogance.

Enhancing relationships, dealing with life’s challenges and other topics are highlighted in Gottfried’s book “Shortcut to Spirituality”, which features practical advice and exercises based on psycho-emotional and spiritual practices.

For more information, visit