The Real News Archive (Archive Home)

September, 2004

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Why America Needs Rumi
By Maliha Masood, September 29, 2004

(Rumi) certainly would have appreciated the confluence of spiritual hunger and terrorist alerts that keeps his pages turning in America.

The God intoxicated philosophy of Rumi urging a spiritual union with the divine showcases the softer, prettier side of Islam known as Sufism that Westerners find most appealing. But what the majority of non-Muslims and even most Muslims don't realize is that this all abiding love for God rooted in the idea of Tawhid or oneness, free from the institutionalized mosque culture and the heady violence committed in the name of the Holy Quran, is the real heart and soul of Islam, not an esoteric branch of faith disguised as mystical belief. It is also important to realize that an Islam without barriers - be they national, cultural or dogmatic - is not an instamatic oasis of peace - but a daily striving of human dignity overriding power and greed. Rumi reflects on the spiritual journey that welcomes uncertainty and places the burden of responsibility on the individual to make enlightened choices.

"This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of it's furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent as a guide from beyond."

(The Essential Rumi, 109)
...
Since many Americans admire and relate to Rumi's philosophy, they can also learn to distinguish between Rumi's message of a peace loving Islam that embraces humanity and the misdirected Islam of bigotry and desperation that leads to violence. It is easy to forget that tragedies have occurred throughout history by people of other religions in the name of God. To categorize the entire tapestry of Muslims as dangerous because of the actions of militant elements (that are inexcusable and beyond justification) is a shortsighted tactic of addressing symptoms rather than the root causes of a particular disease. It can only lead to an endless cycle of reprisals and counter attacks. The onus on the American people to influence their allegedly representative government to channel the Sufi's passion for tolerance and understanding over the terrorist mentality of self righteousness indignation has never been greater. -more-

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A three-point plan for better spiritual health

By VERN BARNET


“Consumerism is in fact just the contemporary word for the ancient capital sin of gluttony. An economy built on gluttony/consumerism is sick for the soul as well as for the body.”

— Matthew Fox


Matthew Fox, a controversial ex-Catholic priest, thinks America's spiritual health is poor.

He proposes a three-point plan for changing “a very dangerous time, a dark night of our species,” to a time when the environment is protected, people understand themselves and what they are doing, and we live in a wholesome community.

Fox is founding president of the University of Creation Spirituality in Oakland, Calif. He'll speak in Kansas City this weekend about the latest of his 25 books, One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing From Global Faiths.

In 1989 he was silenced by the Vatican for a year, after which he renewed his public appearances with the words, “As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted …” Later, after he was discharged from the Dominicans, he was ordained in the Episcopal tradition in 1994.

Some call him a heretic. Others think he charts a way to the recovery of basic spiritual truths found in all traditions.

In my interview with Fox, he outlined his three-point plan for change:

• First, we must “reinvent education using the new cosmology and creativity” as its core. Fox's “cosmology” affirms the scientific vision of the universe infused with the mystical apprehension of its holiness. What he calls “creation spirituality” sees God's work as an original blessing, which he emphasizes over the doctrine of original sin. The universe in which we participate with infinite relationships is the mystical body of Christ.

• Second, Fox says, we must “reinvent work. Work is where we invest our blood, sweat, tears, time and talent the most.” He defends a traditional understanding of work as a sacred activity, fulfilling the person and contributing to the community. He says that “consumerism is in fact just the contemporary word for the ancient capital sin of gluttony. An economy built on gluttony/consumerism is sick for the soul as well as for the body.”

• Third, we must “reinvent worship. There is no community without ritual, and we need postmodern rituals in postmodern language to bring community alive.” Fox is concerned about the loss of the sense of community today and listed ecological perils, wars, divisions between rich and poor, and a “politics of fear” as evidence of our difficult situation.

His new book identifies a consensus from the world's religions that amplifies related topics, from sacred sexuality to what happens after death.

Fox wants people to appreciate all religions. He cites the Dalai Lama's view that people's chief obstacle to interfaith understanding is a “bad relationship with their own faith without even knowing it.” What Fox calls “deep ecumenism” is a way of discovering the depth of one's own tradition by encountering others.

Vern Barnet does interfaith work in the Kansas City area. E-mail him at [email protected]
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A spiritual lifestyle

"My objectives in life are to stay healthy and be happy. I really have no material goals. I have a simple method on how to stay healthy -- exercise and a good attitude. I'm a strict vegetarian and my weekly recycling output pretty much shows how frugal I am."

"Even after 43 years, I still see myself as simply Dutch-Indonesian. I rarely watch television and I get my news from the radio. I may appear to lead a sheltered life but I describe my world as solitude and silence. It draws me to a sense of spirituality. I see a lot of value by just being with myself." -more-

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Beliefnet Launches Soulmatch
Tuesday September 28, 6:02 am ET
The First Online Dating Service Focused on Values, Faith and the Search for 'Spiritual Chemistry'
Soulmatch Profiles Prompt Users to Think Deeply About Values, Political Leanings and Worldviews


NEW YORK, Sept. 28 /PRNewswire/ -- Beliefnet, Inc., the leading multifaith spirituality media company and online community, announced today the launch of Soulmatch, a values-based, spiritually-centered online dating service. Soulmatch allows users to decide whether to search by broad values and spiritual criteria or do faith-by-faith matching.

For both the spiritual dabbler and the devout, Soulmatch has the depth and accessibility to let users express their own personal beliefs and practices. In addition to the standard looks and hobbies sections found on other sites, users are able to rank the importance of character traits and spiritual leanings they are looking for in a Soulmatch.

"Beliefnet's mission is to help people meet their spiritual needs," said Steve Waldman, CEO and co-founder of Beliefnet.com. "And, perhaps no need is greater than the need for connection, love and companionship. That's why we created Soulmatch as a way for values-based, spiritually-attuned people from all backgrounds to become part of our new community."

Beliefnet launches Soulmatch at a time when more than 21 million people are searching for love online (according to Neilson/Net ratings) and over 64 million people turn to the web for religious and spiritual needs, according to Pew Research.

"As the online dating industry matures, successful businesses will focus on valuable niche markets and servicing them in a more attentive manner," says Sujay Jhaveri, Beliefnet's president. "Soulmatch is one such business."

To register, please visit http://www.soulmatch.com -more-

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On the eve of a publishing trend
Wave of religion books brings women's stories to the forefront


By Mary M. Byrne

COX NEWS SERVICE


ATLANTA - Ten years ago, religion professor Vanessa Ochs was busy writing a review of some new books by women about Judaism when her young daughter asked pointedly why she never wrote about men's books.

"I took her into my husband's library, and I said, 'Honey, the men are covered,'" Ochs says.

Ochs' gesture threw the neutrality of a roomful of books into question. The book collection was nothing out of the ordinary -- meaning, in part, that nearly all of the authors and key figures were men.

This summer and fall, four new books on women and religion aim to subvert that sense of the ordinary and assert their place in the growing market for popular religion books.

With the success of The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown and The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, publishers have incentive to launch religion books that bring women's stories from the margins to the center.

This writing, says Jana Riess, religion book review editor for Publishers' Weekly, "has the potential to be life-changing."

Feminist spirituality has been a distinct publishing category for about 15 years, she says, but she has seen a surge in new titles since the spring 2003 publication of The Da Vinci Code. -more-

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Zen and the art of slam dancing
Buddhist punks find enlightenment in the pit

By David F. Smydra Jr. | September 19, 2004

IF YOU EVER FIND yourself at a punk rock show -- and are invested in self-preservation -- you will probably avoid what is generally known as "the pit." While the band plays a maniacal three-chord ditty set to a furious 4/4 beat, denizens of the pit engage in a venerable ritual that involves slam dancing, jumping, and thrashing around as much as their limited space allows.

But as two recent books and an increasing number of punk veterans attest, this is precisely the space that can prepare an individual to discover the same enlightenment that the Buddha did more than 2,500 years ago while sitting beneath a tree.

In "Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies & the Truth About Reality," published last year by Wisdom Books in Somerville, Brad Warner tells a lively story of his odyssey from living as a punk rocker in rural Ohio to making B-grade Japanese horror flicks to becoming a Zen priest in Tokyo. A veteran of punk bands Zero Defex and Dementia 13, Warner has practiced zazen (the Zen term for "sitting meditation") for over 15 years, and a couple years ago received Shiho, or Dharma Transmission -- formal acknowledgment that he has attained the same enlightenment as the Buddha. "Dharma Punx" (HarperCollins), a 2003 memoir by Noah Levine that recently appeared in paperback, traces a similar trajectory, describing Levine's passage from a West Coast punk childhood to becoming a meditation teacher in the Theravada Buddhist tradition.

The fundamental practices of punk and Buddhism -- thrashing in a pit versus sitting in quiet meditation -- might seem irreconcilable. And yet, Warner writes, "in its early days, punk had a lot in common with Zen," the strand of Buddhism that emerged in China around the seventh century and eventually flourished in Japan. "It wasn't just the fetish for shaved heads and black clothes, either. The attitude of not conforming blindly to society is an important aspect of Buddhist teaching." -more-

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What Remains of Us captures top awards at Atlantic Film Festival

Phayul[Monday, September 27, 2004 18:48]

The powerful and moving documentary film, What Remains of Us, created a tremendous sensation when it was shown at the Atlantic Film Festival, September 17-24, 2004 in Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada. A sold-out audience gave filmmakers François Prévost and Kalsang Dolma a thunderous standing ovation at the film's conclusion and followed it by voting it the People's Choice Award for Best Picture (sponsored by the Movie Network) with an unprecedented 9.9 (out of 10) approval rating.

And to add even further acclaim to the film's prestige, the Festival jury awarded it the Best Canadian Feature Film prize - a ringing endorsement from both the film community and the public.

Filmed between 1996 and 2004 What Remains of Us, a feature documentary written and directed by François Prévost and Hugo Latulippe, travels to the heart of the tragedy that has consumed Tibetan society for over half a century. This profoundly humanist film takes us on a physical and spiritual journey conducted by Kalsang Dolma, the film's narrator. It tackles the crucial issue of individual and collective responsibility towards three generations of Tibetans who, despite the disappearance of 1.2 million of their people, have always refused to yield to violence. It is co-produced by François Prévost (Nomadik Films) and Yves Bisaillon (NFB). In accepting the award Prévost and Dolma said:

"We are very happy to receive this award. This recognition - by the jury, the Festival, and the people of Halifax - helps shine a light on the situation of the people of Tibet, bringing it to the attention of a wider public. It is our profound belief that today individuals can make an ever greater difference in creating tomorrow's world. Thus we hope that this honour which our film has received will help carry that message to the people of the world and so, in some small way, will contribute to helping the Tibetan people reclaim their homeland and their freedom."

Further information on the film is available at http://www.nfb.ca/whatremainsofus/
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Depression lost its grip on me

For several years I suffered from severe symptoms of depression. I had several friends who were combining medication with therapy to quiet destructive negative thinking, but I wanted a different solution. I wanted to be absolutely free from any elements that would identify me as prone to depression.

Underlying my moments of dark mental fixations, I felt a more subtle quiet question of "Who am I?" The effects of depression seemed to define me in ways that were demeaning, fatalistic, self-destructive, and alienating. In my heart, though, I yearned for honest answers to permanently define myself as good, productive, loving, and spiritual. I wanted to discover a new definition of who I was by looking through the lens of the divine and holy instead of genetics and human history.

My search for this insight started by devoting time each day to learn more about God's identity. The Bible and "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by the founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, gave me concrete insights about the infinite, loving nature of God. Both books define God as Mind, Spirit, Love, and Life. It made sense to me that if God, Spirit, is Life, then material conditions such as genetics and personal history couldn't have ultimate control over my life. This verse from the book of Psalms in the Bible was a key to my recovery: "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God" (Ps. 42:11).

For me, this wise quotation indicated that the Divine formed the foundation of my identity with health-giving spiritual qualities. Hoping in and even praising the existence of qualities in me such as trustworthiness, holiness, purity, and goodness were an effective antidote to depression. -more-

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Prophecies of the Black Hills: A Spiritual Warning
by DAVID SEALS

Yuwitaya Lakota/Prophesy: Sweet Medicine of the Cheyennes was a prophet who lived a thousand years ago. He said, "Some day you will meet a people who are white good looking people, with light hair and white skins. They will come here to kill you and to test you. It will seem like they will kill all the buffalo, and they will give you other animals to eat and ride upon, and things to drink, and this other meat and the thing they give you to drink will make you crazy and sick.

"But they will only seem like they are killing you and all the buffalo. The buffalo will go away because you, the Suhaio and Tsistsistas (Northern and Southern Cheyennes), will not honor the White Buffalo Nation which has come down from the stars to live among us. You will forget to do the buffalo ceremonies. You will forget to hunt and live. And you will all die off.”

"When you are all dead, then I will return and we will renew all the ceremonies again, and the buffalo and the people will live again.

All the nations will live together around the Sacred Mountain, Nowah'wus, in the Black Hills.”

The time for fulfillment of this great prophesy is now. The elders and medicine men and women of old knew it, with the spirits of their ancestors as the messengers telling us. The Indians are indeed dying, for all practical purposes. There are no medicine people left among the Cheyenne or Lakota in the Black Hills bioregion. The ceremonies have lost their power, for the pipes and arrows are no longer connected to the White Buffalo Woman and the Yellow-haired Woman who brought them, the Winyan Wakan of the Lakota and the Ehyophstah of the Cheyenne.

These are harsh truths to have to speak, but all Indians know in their hearts it is so. Even those who do sweat lodges and sundances and smoke their pipes faithfully cannot resist the temptations of America, the egotism of false shamans, the greed invited by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Hollywood, and they cannot keep their children from the materialism and irresponsibility displayed everywhere. Many have lost their language and culture. -more-

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From bookshelves to boardroom, `mindfulness' is hot spiritual trend

BY SUSAN HOGAN/ALBACH

The Dallas Morning News


(KRT) - Psychologist Henry Grayson says his book, "Mindful Loving," might not have been a bestseller if his publisher had stuck to a title he'd suggested: "The New Physics of Love."

Three months ago, Body & Soul magazine added the phrase, "The Natural Guide to Mindful Living" to its cover. Mindfulness - living consciously in the moment - has become "just that significant" in American culture, said editor-in-chief Seth Bauer.

Mindfulness books and tapes are frequent bestsellers. Mindfulness training is a staple at seminars, retreats and spas. Hospitals and psychologists are teaching mindfulness as a means to handle everything from chronic illness and addiction to stress and depression.

"There's a sense that what is missing in our lives is a real connection to what we do, what we think, how we relate to people and how we take care of ourselves," said Bauer. "Mindfulness brings all of those things together." -more-

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New Museum of the American Indian Focuses on Spirituality

By Adelle M. Banks
Religion News Service

WASHINGTON (RNS)-- Just as earth tones form an underlying decorative element in the new National Museum of the American Indian, spirituality is an undercurrent within the 254,000-square-foot edifice built on the National Mall.

The top level of the imposing building of light brown limestone features a permanent exhibition that highlights how spiritual beliefs and values merge with everyday life of native peoples across the Western Hemisphere.

"Spirituality is really a rather fundamental tenet of native life," said Richard West, director of the newest Smithsonian Institution museum in an interview days before its Sept. 21 opening, on the eve of the fall equinox.

"It imbues everything, as far as I'm concerned."

The fourth-floor exhibition, "Our Universes," uses the spoken and written words of "community curators" to examine eight native communities, from the Lakota in South Dakota to the Mapuche in Chile.

"We are spiritual beings on a human journey," said Garry Raven, of Manitoba, Canada, who teaches about the Anishinaabe people located in the Great Lakes region and central Canada.

"Everything has a spirit and everything is interconnected." -more-

Also see the website: http://www.smithsonian.tv/museums/nmai/index.htm

Monday, September 27, 2004

Outreach mission offers hope
Church provides the homeless with spiritual guidance and a chance at a better life

By MIKE SNYDER
Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle

Since 1990, Lord of the Streets has provided food, clothing, spiritual guidance and companionship to homeless people and others who are "marginalized in the community," said the Rev. Martha Frances, the vicar and executive director.

Each day, after an 8 a.m. Bible service that is not mandatory, clients talk to counselors who can give them donated clothing or arrange other services. A free health clinic is open several days a week, and the church contracts with an agency that provides alcohol and drug abuse treatment.

Lord of the Streets does not operate a shelter, but often refers clients to shelters nearby.

Many come to the church straight from the streets. They range from chronically homeless people, many of whom suffer from mental illness or alcohol or drug addictions, to middle-class people who have lost their jobs and used all their savings.

"We provide a community," Frances said. "We provide an opportunity for people to make some connections and start getting their lives together."

Young came to Lord of the Streets in 1993, when he was working as a day laborer, living in what he describes as a "seedy hotel" and drinking heavily. Although he had turned away from organized religion in his youth, he said, he liked the individual, free-thinking approach he found at Lord of the Streets.

"I've discovered that you cannot find God unless you find him in your own way," he said.

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From Ireland, subtle tales of solitude, quiet beauty

A BIT ON THE SIDE By William Trevor
Viking, $24.95, 245 pages
REVIEWED BY DEBRA BRUNO

Although William Trevor is one of the greats, he doesn't always get the fanfare he deserves, not in this country at least. Perhaps that's because he's such a quiet writer, taken up with subtle things. He concerns himself with the flow of language in a sentence
and on the page, as rhythmic and continual as waves lapping the shore.
...
His latest work, "A Bit on the Side," is a collection of 12 short stories. More than half of the stories originally appeared in the New Yorker. The book is supposedly concerned with the theme of adultery; and although infidelity is a presence in a number of the stories, to say that Mr. Trevor's new book is about cheating is like saying that "The Great Gatsby" is about rich people. Well, yes, but it's also about much more. For
instance, Mr. Trevor captures, better than almost any writer I've seen, the sense of loss
in today's Catholic Church. And unlike the many writers who throw words and images at the reader until the larger impression gradually forms, he is selective and careful in his
craft.
...
More than any of the other themes, though, Mr. Trevor's gift at portraying loneliness stands out. "An Evening Out" is about a blind date set up through a dating agency. It turns out that the man is a cad who is really only looking for someone to drive him to his photography shoots. The woman is lonely and bored, seeking company. But Mr. Trevor manages to convince us, in the end, that this encounter is pleasant enough: "They did not shake hands or remark in any way upon the evening they'd spent together, but when they parted there was a modest surprise: that they'd made use of one another was a dignity compared with what should have been. That feeling was still there while they waited on two different platforms and while their trains arrived and drew away again. It lingered while they were carried through the flickering dark, as intimate as a pleasure shared."
...
What's lovely in all of Mr. Trevor's portraits of solitude, though, is that they don't necessarily represent unmitigated sadness. Instead, there seems to be a beauty and dignity in lives that are chiefly lived alone. While none of these characters is a hermit, many manage to live in the midst of others and maintain their sense of isolation and difference. -more-

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A R RAHMAN, Composer

‘Music, like religion, has a soul. If you get this right, you can have different arrangements’

Coming from south India, he says, he lived in a shell. But A R Rahman has broken many religious and linguistic barriers since. Now he is on a spiritual journey, inspired by Sufism. In an interview on NDTV 24 X 7’s Walk the Talk, Rahman tells Shekhar Gupta, Editor-in-Chief of The Indian Express, about his inspirations and influences, and what gives his music that haunting, searching quality. -more-

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Dreamscapes of emotive power

It was a visit to Kakadu National Park in Australia's Northern Territory in 1990 that started David Weir on his artistic and spiritual journey.

Perplexed by the emotions evoked by the landscape, Weir, then 22, quit his Melbourne job and lifestyle to live in Kakadu for seven years, immersing himself in the land, the Aboriginal culture and his painting.

Central to this experience was the bond that formed between the young artist and the senior traditional elder for the Bunitj clan, Bill Niedjie.

Through Niedje, Weir was taught the ways of the Aboriginal people who have occupied the land for more than 50,000 years.

He made exhaustive studies of the rock art found on outcrops throughout Kakadu and neighbouring Arnhem Land, became involved in rituals and ceremonies, and learned about the Aboriginal Dreamtime - the unbroken link to the time of creation.

Weir now lives and works in west Auckland, but his art continues to develop from its origins in Kakadu. -more-

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Enhanced digital images are now being made into art.

The Belleville Public Library Art Gallery has a showing of two artists who use the medium of computer in their work. Gene Ouimette’s “Shaman Art” is displayed in the main gallery in both acrylic on canvas and digital paintings, while Ava Darling uses the computer exclusively in her work called “The In Side Out.”

Gene’s inspiration has little to do with modern technology. He was inspired by the ancient paintings of the Hopi, the Australian aborigines and the images found in caves in Lascaux, France.

“These paintings are an extension of my personal spiritual journey,” Gene says.

He left Toronto four years ago as part of his “getting back to nature” in the wilds of Prince Edward County. His journey is all about “reclaiming a sense of spirituality” in his life. He says Buddhism is closer to his actual belief, but the ancient cave drawings appeal to him because of their intrinsic spiritual nature.

“They have a strong connection with the inner spirit,” he says. “I have always been fascinated by the aboriginal.”

Gene has visited the Hopi reservation in Arizona and the caves in France, but hopes to eventually make it to Australia as well. His paintings capture the feeling of the aboriginal art with emphasis on ritual and simple images depicting birth, death, fertility, hunting, crops, migration and the spirit world.

“The Hopi still believe they are on a spiritual journey,” Gene adds. “They feel they have entered their fourth world, which is perhaps another dimension.”

Shaman Art is a new direction for Gene who up until now has concentrated on landscapes and flowers. He likes to use large canvas for painting with bold acrylics and smaller frames for his digital work using software that allows him to “paint on the computer.”

“Both are different,” he says. “For me this is a new love with the computer.”

In the outer gallery, Ava Darling puts emotions into art, transferring digital images from her camera to a fluid work of shadow and light created in the computer.

“I get a feeling for the way it looks,” she explains. “I am guided by excitement and a sense of completion. It tells you when to start and stop.”

She tried working with clay but got frustrated at the amount of time it took to complete an object.
“Computer art is very immediate,” she says. “It’s very visceral.”

Ava has been in Belleville four years and this is her first display at the gallery. She had some work at Bren’s Cafe on Front Street where it was spotted by the gallery curator who asked her to do a show in the outer gallery.

“My art is very personal, very feeling-based,” Ava says. “It is humanesque. I try to show what it is like to be human, with emphasis on the self.”

Ava feels she can explore the medium even more and find new ways to express herself through this very modern artform.

“And I continue to create with my eyes wide open and yet closed at the same time,” she smiles.
This has been the entire article.

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Faith freelancers changing spiritual landscape of West

A growing number of Westerners find spirituality in nature. Shibley, who has studied that trend, said nature spirituality is to Generation X and Gen-Y what New Age was to baby boomers.

Steve Torbit, a senior scientist for the National Wildlife Federation in Boulder, views his work to preserve wide-open spaces partly in spiritual terms.

"When you are away from that crush of humanity, you have to confront your fears and examine your beliefs in a very spiritual and personal way," he said.

"I find the whole experience really not only stress-relieving but also provocative. You question your own existence, the meaning of things."

Others find spirituality indoors, stacking books on their nightstands. In unchurched America, bookstores are considered the new synagogues.

At the Tattered Cover Book Store in Cherry Creek, there are Bibles and classic Christian works by C.S. Lewis, Passover Haggadahs and the Koran.

But just around the corner in the "spiritual growth" section are stacks of the Oprah-endorsed "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle, which cribs from Buddhism, relaxation techniques and meditation theory.

In "metaphysics" is don Miguel Ruiz' "The Voice of Knowledge," which uses traditions of the Toltecs, an indigenous Mexican people, to teach that people are born perfect and should ignore judgmental inner voices.

Sales of the title are neck and neck with Rick Warren's "The Purpose Driven Life," which churches buy in bulk, said Margaret Noteman, spirituality and metaphysics buyer for the Tattered Cover.

"When I was looking for books like this 20 years ago, I didn't find them," she said. "The authors are now addressing that hunger that people have for meaning in a spiritual way without presenting a specific religious philosophy." -more-

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Professor Sirus Naraqi, 61, died on 18 August 2004 after a prolonged illness.

More than 700 mourners of many religious, racial, and professional backgrounds attended his funeral.

Born in Iran in 1942, Sirus Naraqi demonstrated his caliber by placing first in university entrance examinations in Iran out of 80,000 students nationwide.

He completed his postgraduate medical training in the United States where he later practiced as a specialist in internal medicine. He was named "best attending physician" and "best teacher of the year" at the University of Illinois teaching hospital.
...
Because of his spiritual beliefs and his humanitarian nature, he then chose to devote his intellect and expert medical skills to some of the world's most materially disadvantaged people by working in Papua New Guinea from 1977-79 and 1983-98.

He spent much of his free time -- weekends and vacations -- visiting remote villages to provide treatment for those with little access to medical care.

His main role was combining practice as a specialist in internal medicine with his duties as professor of medicine at the University of Papua New Guinea.

His special attention to training local undergraduate and postgraduate students meant that by the time he moved to Australia in 1998, he left behind so many highly competent and trained doctors and specialists that expatriate doctors were no longer so crucially in demand.

In 1999, on the recommendation of the government of Papua New Guinea, Queen Elizabeth awarded him the high honor of Commander of the British Empire (CBE).

"Sirus was a shining example of the committed and dedicated pioneers who came from afar to heal and educate," said a former prime minister of Papua New Guinea, Sir Julius Chan. -more-

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Yom Kippur rituals designed to sharpen focus on spirituality
By LINDA ANDRADE RODRIGUES, Standard-Times staff writer

The most sacred of Jewish holidays, Yom Kippur, is observed today, 10 days after the celebration of New Year 5765.

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, offers an opportunity for a new beginning and is spent worshipping and fasting.

"This is a day of reflection and introspection," said Rabbi Barry D. Hartman of Ahavath Achim Synagogue. "A person analyzes what he did this particular year and how he can improve himself."

Jews observe the disciplined spiritual exercise of a 24-hour fast. It is believed the discomfort is instructive, helping those fasting to reflect on human frailty.

Congregants wear a white robe or dress in white at services as a sign of simplicity, ridding themselves of concerns of clothes and all extraneous distractions of living. They also are prohibited from wearing leather shoes, a sign of wealth.

"Yom Kippur has to teach a person that his raison d'etre is not only to think about himself or herself, but to ask how to help others, to be God's partner to help those who need help," Rabbi Hartman said.

The Book of Life is closed and sealed today, and those who have repented of their sins will be granted a happy New Year.

The shofar, or ram's horn, is sounded once at the close of services.

"If a person tries to devise ways to help others, then he will not believe that he and his beliefs are the only right answers to the exclusion of others," Rabbi Hartman said. "Once a person respects other people's beliefs, then world peace will come."

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The spirituality and psychology of forgiveness

By STACEY PALEVSKY, Courier Staff Writer

WATERLOO --- On the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, it is believed God opens the Book of Life.

He reads about our year, organized by chapters of days, weeks and months. He examines our choices, our achievements.

And he sees mistakes.

The Jewish New Year, which was celebrated Sept. 18, marked the beginning of the 10 Days of Repentance, when Jews are encouraged to take time for introspection and consider the sins of the previous year.

But like all monotheistic faiths, God is a forgiving God. After those 10 days, Jews atone. God forgives.

Tonight, on the Day of Atonement --- in Hebrew, Yom Kippur --- God writes a new Book of Life. Sins are forgiven.

People start anew.

But outside a sanctuary, forgiving and forgetting are not always that easy.

God's forgiveness --- a beginning

Yom Kippur's basic principles --- to ask for forgiveness, to be forgiven, to forgive --- apply to many faiths.

One of the seven sacraments in Catholicism is the sacrament of reconciliation. Each Mass opens with a prayer remembering God's mercy and forgiveness of sins. Protestants also believe in a forgiving God.

When Muslims pray from the Quran each day, several sayings --- or in Arabic, hadith --- address forgiveness. The Quran also talks about repentance.

While Judaism, Christianity and Islam all believe in a forgiving God, many people of faith say this does not eliminate the need to ask forgiveness from those you have wronged.

Waterloo Catholic Theresa Goatee said going to confession makes her less susceptible to future mistakes. God's forgiveness "strengthens us so we can be more strong and resistant of sins," Goatee said. -more-

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Maria Cheng

BRECKENRIDGE (Colorado)- In the church of Cheng, nude Barbie dolls, ecstatic sex, Szechwan cuisine and swords have everything to do with spirituality.

OK, so Maria Cheng isn't quite a high priestess, and the Breckenridge Theatre isn't exactly a church (especially when it was in its heyday as Shamus O'Toole's Roadhouse Saloon). But today and Sunday Cheng explores the spiritual side of life through her one-woman show, "Sworded Tales and Spirit Treks."

Cheng weaves stories of her family's emigration from China when she was 11 and stories of her spiritual journey with stand-up comedy, poetry, tai chi and a touch of modern dance.

The nine-scene work explores her personal answers to universal questions. It addresses the yearning for spiritual experiences as well as the common and comic pitfalls of pursuing a meaningful path. She finished writing the production in February 2003.

"One of the things that struck me is 'Oh my God, so many of us take ourselves so seriously, and the people who are most mature don't take themselves seriously,'" Cheng said. "I'm not mature, but I'm learning to laugh more. (My production) gets funnier and funnier as I keep rewriting and revising it. I'm a lot looser with it."

One of her main messages is that it's a sacred act to honor your humanity, particularly through creativity - not Artistic Creativity with a capital "A" and "C," but rather simple, everyday acts and thoughts.

"Creativity is such a big part of the spiritual path," she said. "To me, spiritual work is soulful work. Creativity is the process by which one takes disparate existing elements and rearranges them into a new, unified order. The spiritual journey is about honoring that inner voice by doing something with it." -more-

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Behind bars, nun embarks on spiritual journey
By Ron Harris
Of the Post-Dispatch
09/11/2004

PEKIN, Ill. - On a cold, overcast day in early April, Cynthia Brinkman, 68, a nun from the School Sisters of Notre Dame in St. Louis, stepped through the teal green metal and glass doors of a red and gray brick building here and surrendered herself to federal authorities at the Federal Correctional Institution.

Brinkman was to begin a six-month sentence for trespassing at Fort Benning, Ga., during a protest rally at what until recently had been known as the School of the Americas, a controversial Department of Defense-run facility that trains Latin American and South American military personnel for free.

Brinkman normally works at a battered women's shelter in Missouri's Reynolds County and provides pastoral care to terminally ill patients in four other area counties. However, she joined with 10,000 others last year in their annual protest outside the school, which in 2001 was renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

During the protest in November 2003, a number of demonstrators were arrested. Twenty-seven were convicted of trespassing. Brinkman and five others received the harshest sentences - six months in a federal prison - because it was the second time they had been arrested at the facility. Brinkman, who talked with survivors of military assaults during visits to refugee camps in Honduras in the 1980s, knew her arrest would lead to incarceration. She agonized for nearly a year over her decision to go to prison over the issue. But, she said, it was a step she felt she needed to take. -more-

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Activist shares message of compassion

By Jill Steinke
For the Marshfield News-Herald

STEVENS POINT (Wisconsin) - For 15 years, Swami Japananda has been fulfilling his personal responsibility to society by caring for the poor in India and helping to treat 4,000 cases of leprosy.

The social activist opened the Swami Vivekananda Integrated Rural Health Centre in Pavagada, India, in 1991, and it serves 800,000 people in the region. Helping others is a duty, he said, and part of his spiritual journey in the Hindu religion.

Japananda shared his vision with students during a visit to Yoga Studio on Monday, followed by a presentation at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point later that evening.

By listening to Japananda's teachings and his music, "he can take you any place you want to be," said Jyoti Chander, a former UWSP professor.

Japananda followed the mission of Swami Vivekananda, India's Patriot Saint, of service of God in the form of the sick. Because the region has many people suffering from leprosy, tuberculosis and blindness, Japananda focused his help there.

Chander was one of the students at Yoga Studio, 1201A Water Street, who met with Japananda, who explained the purpose of yoga through stories and music.

The purpose of yoga, he said, is to find who you are and reach that supreme awareness. That knowledge allows people to do good in the world, he said.

"Man has sent a man to the moon. Man is preparing to send man to Mars. And man has sent man to the bottom of the ocean," he said. "But man has not reached his own heart."
Civilization is not really civilized in that regard, Japananda said. The recent massacre of school children in Russia is one example he gave of viscous acts done by man against man.
"The sign of civilization is love and peace," he said.

He gave examples of the United States' spending billions of dollars on a defense budget and said that money could be better spent in third-world countries full of starving people, he said.

"We cannot spread love and peace with nuclear weapons and guns," he said. "How to spread love as Jesus has spread. How to spread love how Buddha has spread."
With the help of his religious beliefs, Japananda said he hopes to make the poor people of India fit to survive and serve instead of following the scientific theory of survival of the fittest.

His goal in the Health Centre is to not give hand-outs but equip those people to survive.
"We would like to make them to stand on their own," he said. "I believe in giving the net and then the fish," a cause he calls important because society helps shape people, he said.
Japananda believes there are five responsibilities in life: to your mother, who gave you life; to your father, who provided for you; to your teacher, who gave you education; to society; and to nature. This has been the entire article.

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Column: Swimming in the River
By Kezia Bacon-Bernstein/ Diary of Beulah Sherman Holmes
Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The North and South Rivers are where I feel most in tune with my spiritual self. I only discovered the rivers when I was sixteen. All along I knew they were there - but they didn't matter to me until I began searching for some meaning in my life.

It was mid-August before I swam in the river this year. It was an unusual summer, weather-wise, but still it's hard to believe that I let most of the season go by before I remembered to go for a swim. Now I want to make up for lost time.

A friend of mine who grew up in Marshfield but now lives in Los Angeles called last month to let me know that she was coming to town in a few weeks. When I asked what she wanted to do while she was here, swimming in the South River was at the top of her list. That should have been enough of a nudge for me. It was hot that day, but I had work to do. I assured myself, "Later this week I'll go for a swim."

A few days later, another friend e-mailed to arrange a visit. He and his wife and daughter wanted to come down from the city for the day, and if possible, swim in the North River. We made plans for later in the month. The very next day, I heard from my sister, who lives in the Berkshires. She too was planning a visit. "We haven't been in the river yet this year," she remarked. She was right. And summer was almost over. I turned off my computer and hurried out to my car. It was already 4 p.m., and I had to work later that evening, but I could not wait any longer. My bathing suit and towel were waiting for me; I had put them in the trunk at the beginning of the summer, "just in case" I had an opportunity for a swim.
...
I had to bend my knees and practically sit down in order to get my shoulders into the water. Crabs scuttled around my ankles. The occasional fish brushed up against me. I lifted my feet so I could float on my back, and gaze up at the clear blue sky. "This is what summer is all about," I thought. The North and South Rivers are where I feel most in tune with my spiritual self. I only discovered the rivers when I was sixteen. All along I knew they were there - but they didn't matter to me until I began searching for some meaning in my life. I looked far and wide, but ended up just a couple miles from where I grew up. I imagine that the way I feel when I'm at the North or South River is similar to the way other people feel when they enter a church or some other holy place. I feel supported; fulfilled. -more-

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Drawing Closer to God How a spiritual director can help you grow in your faith.
By Agnieszka Tennant

Like a growing number of evangelicals, I've turned to spiritual direction because I want
to know God better. My life is so hurried and unexamined these days, I need someone older and wiser to accompany me.
...
In a typical session, a director may start by asking you about your life, and then begin inquiring, "Where's God in this?" or "How have you prayed about it?" Direction can take place on the phone or by e-mail, and sometimes even in small groups of people who function alternatively as directors and directees.
...
Spiritual direction is not psychotherapy. People usually see a psychotherapist because they want to solve their problems. Once their crisis is remedied, they stop seeing the professional. Spiritual direction isn't designed to "fix" people or solve their troubles.
...
...good candidates for spiritual direction are people experiencing anxiety, change of identity, challenges to their faith, and a yearning for God. Some find direction helpful in steering them away from the kind of sin that tends to ensnare them.

Pick a spiritual director who's further down the spiritual path. Many of us are blessed to have informal spiritual directors: our parents, grandparents, teachers, prayer partners, and pastors. In a way, spiritual direction is something mature believers should
give each other without setting out to do so.
...
Good spiritual directors should be hard to find. Author Leanne Payne, who is head of a
pastoral care ministry, cautions that fine spiritual directors have been "few and far between" historically. There's good reason for that. She quotes 16th-century priest Frances De Sales' writings: "There are fewer men than we realize who are capable of this task. He must be full of charity, knowledge, and prudence, and if any one of these three qualities is lacking, there is danger. I tell you again, ask God for him, and having once found him, bless his Divine Majesty, stand firm, and do not look for another, but go forward with simplicity, humility, and confidence, for you will make a most prosperous journey." -more-

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Help yourself to books that heal
Stories, tips and advice offer inspiration for readers

SARAH JACKSON THE OLYMPIAN

Books -- be they inspirational or self-help guides -- can be the ultimate aids in getting through tough times. The Olympian asked readers to nominate books that have cheered them through dark days of depression, divorce, death of a loved one, cancer, addiction or just plain life in general.

Readers delivered.

While the Bible (nominated twice) has been a guiding force in many people's lives -- and is often the only text that carries people through tough times --many other books exist for folks trying to get through life's rough patches. Check these out: -read brief reviews of over 30 books-

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Bangalore-based architect Anil Bhaskaran believes in minimal use of glass. Tune in to Nature, he says, and bring back those verandahs, pandals and courtyards.

In a city where architects are inspired by the glass and granite buildings of the West, Anil Bhaskaran is an antithesis of the trend. "I see no point in spending money on expensive glass boxes and offsetting the heat generated by them using air-conditioners and then running up huge energy bills," he says.

He is one architect who believes in the minimal use of glass. "We don't have to blindly follow the West. Most of us forget that we live in India, which is a blessed land. We can afford to have an open-to-sky kind of architecture." He refers to the old-world practicality of verandahs, pandals and courtyards. Indians have always had the right mix of internal and external spaces in their buildings, he says. But, unfortunately, use of glass-granite has become the soul of the IT sector today, he adds.

If this trend continues, Bhaskaran fears that Bangalore will go the Mumbai way. "Thirty years from now you'll have brown buildings because the buildings would have started deteriorating, apartments would have changed hands, and there will be no accountability or responsibility for maintenance." -more-

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Nonduality Salon News Service was on hiatus between September 8 - 24.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2004

Cafe Cinema Methodist

Smiling, the Rev. Max Case knows some people will consider it heresy when he says he has more epiphanies about God in a movie theater than in a church.
...
In its fifth year, Cafe Cinema is held on certain Friday evenings at St. Luke's United Methodist Church (in Indianapolis, Indiana), but the free program is open to everyone. Starting Sept. 17, the next three movies will be "In America", "American Splendor" and "Girl With A Pearl Earring."

"We're not there to critique the film. We're there to locate ourselves in the story," says Case.
...
"I don't look for stories that are overtly religious," says Case, who is the pastor of spirituality and the visual arts at St. Luke's. "I look for the stories that show subtle, interior spiritual transformation. I'm a sucker for a great story."

He found one in "In America," the story of an Irish immigrant family dealing with poverty and personal demons in New York City. -more-

Monday, September 6, 2004

"The Sulha Way"

Hello friends,

"The Sulha Way" gathering of 2004 was a huge success. This year's gathering was held over 3 days, from August 17th-19th. This year we reached a new level, bringing together over 4000 Arabs and Jews, including 600 children and many international guests. This year¹s Sulha was held in Park Shuni, just outside of Binyamina near Haifa. It was special that 200 Palestinians from Jenin, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron and Gaza, as well as 20 Jordanians were able to join us.

As an official opening event of the Sulha, Shvil Zahav (the Middle Way) organized a silent peace walk with over 200 people from the Binyamina train station to the site of the Sulha. Joining the walk was the Palestinian delegation from Jenin. As participants from all over Israel, religious and secular, Arabs and Jews and the buses from Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jenin and Jordan arrived they were greeted at the Sulha¹s Welcome Center. After Sulha founder Gaby Meyer welcomed everyone, the crowd broke up into listening circles, where people had a chance to speak from the heart. Many Palestinians were moved by the chance to share their stories, eye to eye, with Israeli Jews and others. Many expressed their frustration at having to wait for hours at checkpoints that day on their way to the Sulha.

In the center of the main lawn of the park was the main stage for ceremonies and concerts. On each of the loud speakers were big signs reading in Hebrew and Arabic, Two People¹s Want to Live in Peace. Around the main lawn were the Children¹s Space, the tent of the Bereaved Parents Circle, a Peace Organizations space, and a Druze family offering traditional pita and labane. Nearby were the Tent of Hagar and Sarah and further away, the kitchen. -more-

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Teaching physicians to treat body and soul
U.S. program begins at U. of Saskatchewan

New doctors learn to take `spiritual history'


An American movement to encourage physicians to integrate the spiritual or world view of their patients into treatment has grown rapidly over the past few years and now has its first home in Canada at the University of Saskatchewan department of psychiatry.

The George Washington University Institute for Spiritual Care was begun in 2001 by Dr. Christina Pulchaski based on the concept that "spirituality is a key dimension for achieving optimal health and coping with illness."

It was launched with a $2.4 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation to develop training programs in spirituality for medical students, interns and residents.

So far, 122 U.S. medical schools have developed programs. Dr. Marilyn Baetz, a psychiatrist at the University of Saskatchewan, recently received the $30,000 award for the program that she developed.

Pulchaski believes that health care practitioners have an "ethical obligation to treat the whole person and to respond to all their needs." They need to be willing to address the spiritual needs she defines as more than just religion. It includes formal religion but also encompasses the "moral standards or world view of the patient." Health care practitioners must provide "a patient centred environment where all issues can be raised including spirituality." -more-

Saturday, September 4, 2004

One Heart: Universal Wisdom From the World's Scriptures

(Marlowe & Co., $14.95) edited by Bonnie Louise Kuchler, essays by Andrew Harvey.

If there's one thing that stands out from reading books about spirituality it's that there is far more common ground among the world's faiths than not. And yet within that common ground are wonderfully unique ways of expressing faith that should be celebrated.

That's the premise behind this lovely little book. In her editor's note, Kuchler writes: "Why would the same Creator who loves novelty - who saw to it that every sunset and snowflake would be unique - demand that every person follow one rigid path?"

And so she turns to the Scriptures of many faiths - Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Taoism - to find compassion, acceptance, humility, integrity, faith, wisdom, discipline and surrender. Mixed in are American Indian proverbs, African proverbs and even the Serenity Prayer from 12-step programs. -
more-

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Esalen's Identity Crisis

For Decades, the Scenic Institute in Big Sur Was the Pioneer in the Self-Help Movement. But as Middle Age Approaches, It's Being Forced to Turn the Mirror on Itself.
...
Esalen leaders also acknowledge the shortcomings of navel-gazing and say they are switching gears. "It's not enough to look at ourselves; we have to see how we are connected with others,'" says Andy Nusbaum, Esalen's tall and lanky executive director. "We're moving from 'me' to 'we.' "

But now, like other baby boomers, Esalen is aiming to recapture its faded glory. As it enters its fifth decade, it is embarking on a 10-year face- lift—improvements prompted by a disastrous storm four years ago. With a stunning new bathhouse, plans to refurbish much of the rest of the 163-acre property, a first-time capital campaign to raise $25 million and six new program initiatives, Esalen's leaders hope to rebound with a roar.

"We're on the edge of what could amount to a second birth for Esalen," Murphy says.
...
How to actively solicit support, however, is a question Esalen is grappling with for the first time, never having overtly marketed itself. But a plan is in the works that will allow the institute to reach specific audiences, starting with the launch of an e-mail campaign to previous visitors, with dreams of an expansion.

"I think there is a sense of urgency to get the knowledge about Esalen out to a more mainstream audience—people who aren't necessarily into alternative medicine or yoga, like someone in Topeka," Nusbaum says.
...
"We're in outlaw country, the road less traveled," (co-founder Michael) Murphy says.

Murphy, 73, believes that Esalen is overly identified with the 1960s and unfairly lampooned as the vanguard of California's touchy-feely New Agers. Too often, he says, the institute's solid intellectual achievements are ignored.

Whatever changes have transformed Esalen over time, Murphy says, the mission to help people fulfill their potential remains evergreen.

Bill Schier, 43, is a case in point. The New York native says he was a hard-driving prosecutor in Northern Virginia when his world suddenly fell apart a few years ago. A 14-year marriage ended in divorce. Shortly afterward, his uncle and best friend died.

"What am I doing with my life?'' he asked himself.

At his therapist's recommendation, he visited Esalen in October 2000. During a workshop, "Experiencing Esalen," he sat in a circle and studied his feet, as instructed during a sensory awareness session. He says he found the whole thing ridiculous—and blurted that out to the group.

Then, Schier says, a startling thing happened. People offered support and companionship. Total strangers who cared? Clearly, he thought, this was not New York. -more-

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Claire Hagen: Serving in Dark Corners

The simple yet complicated ministry of a local bartender.

Editor's Note: This final profile in Today's Christian's series of "15 Believers Everyone Should Know" is about a woman who is trying to follow Christ in a very difficult environment. We include her because she symbolizes, in an extreme way, the need for each of us to live out our faith in a fallen world, and the difficulty of making choices in the brokenness of our culture. As theologian and pastor M. Craig Barnes has observed, "True spirituality must always exist within our ordinary, compromised, and ambiguous lives." Many believers face compromising situations: the clerk at Borders who must sell music that celebrates violence against women; the public-school teacher who must include a curriculum he doesn't agree with in his classroom lessons. Frankly, our staff struggled with this story because, as the subject herself says, "Sometimes I feel like I'm on the wrong side." Should she even be in this place? What does it mean to follow Christ's model of "eating with sinners" and reaching out to the lost? Read her story, then get together with others and discuss our questions at the end of the article. -more-

Friday, September 3, 2004

Legend of soul put friends, musicians he admired on last album

Ray Charles' ''Genius Loves Company,'' completed before he died of complications from liver disease at age 73 on June 10, is his first full-length duets CD.

''I thought it was time to have some of the friends that I love and artists that I admire come into my studio and sing with me live, the way we did it in the old days,'' Charles writes in the liner notes.

That meant doing just one or two takes of the songs to generate maximum emotional impact. ''Ray was real quick. He'd nail it right away,'' says producer John Burk, who worked on most of the tracks. ''We did a lot of things live with the band -- and Ray's whole thing was, as he used to say, 'Sing from the heart and sing in time, and you've got it.' He gave you some leeway about making changes, but it was clear that if he was excited about something, then that was it.
...
Charles confronts his own mortality in the classic ''Over the Rainbow,'' performed with Johnny Mathis in a version that features a whispery, gut-wrenching fadeout. And on the gospel tune ''Heaven Help Us All,'' with Gladys Knight, Charles offers the message: ''Heaven help the boy who won't reach 21 -- and heaven help the man who gave that child a gun.'' -more-

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Frontiers of medicine

The spiritual approach to medicine encompasses the idea that all illness has meaning and does not happen by chance, that ill health is part of our spiritual journey, and that choosing to live or die are less important than finding one's own truth and being true to one’s inner voice.
...
I have touched on four frontiers of medicine that seem prevalent at this time: the conventional classical paradigm, the natural paradigm, the energetic paradigm and the spiritual paradigm. Holistic, integrative doctors of medicine generally do not separate these various approaches but rather incorporate all approaches into a dynamic whole. By their very nature human beings are standing consciously or unconsciously at all frontiers. In the same way that we are not aware of the work of our immune system, so we are not aware of the fullness of our own consciousness and mind working continuously on many levels outside of our present awareness. This full or whole consciousness does feed into that present awareness in what we refer to as intuition, inspiration, gut feeling, good ideas and the other subtle ways that we receive messages and signals. -more-

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Tribute to the early black churches

A multimedia event at a Liberty City gallery pays tribute to the early black churches of the Southeastern United States and the Caribbean.

Many artists can attest that a truly great work of art not only speaks to the visual but also to the spiritual and the heart and soul of the viewer.

The Praise House exhibition at The Gallery of The African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, 2166 NW 62nd St., in Liberty City, does all of that. On display are the works of 13 artists. One work can stir echoes of drummings in distant Africa, while another can make you think you hear the earthy beat of old-time gospel music -- so much so that you want to clap your hands and stomp your feet.

Bayunga Kialeuka, the artist who put together the showing on early 19th Century black churches, said the idea came from his questions about God and what his faith means to him. ''Although I grew up in a Christian family, and while I believe in God,'' he said, ``I am not a member of any organized, religious body. But there are so many questions surrounding the subject of religion and spirituality, I set out to ask questions of myself and others.

``So, I got a group of artists together and asked them their idea of faith and spirituality. The artists did two things: first they presented their personal idea of God, and then they presented their idea of spirituality from the outside, looking in -- looking at it through the eyes of others.'
...
One of the most moving pieces in the exhibit is a simple chair covered in a white cloth with a white towel laid gently on the top rung. On the floor, in front of the chair, is a water bowl. Next to it is a cup of wine and a bit of unleavened bread. The scene depicts the last supper of Jesus Christ and the symbolic washing of the disciples' feet. -more-

Thursday, September 2, 2004

Memories of Paradise

Renowned creator Gary Kato has joined forces with Rorschach Entertainment to create a story that seeks to answer that age-old science fiction question: how did we get here?

Combining his clean and classic artwork with an edgy philosophical look at the origins of the universe, Memories of Paradise could very well be the book Kato is best remembered for.

“This is my finest achievement art-wise and writing-wise,” said Kato. “This is the one I’m most proud of.”

It all begins with a painting.

Interplanetary archeologist Anna Reuelen has an insatiable curiosity. This curiosity has led the scientist and nun to distant worlds in search of secrets left behind by those who came before the human race.

“She wants to investigate how interplanetary ruins can answer questions about origins of mankind and all life,” explains Kato.

When she encounters an anonymous painting depicting a strange and foreign landscape, Reuelen’s curiosity takes over, as she embarks on a quest to find the creator and, in turn, must confront the brightest and darkest aspects of life itself.

“Anna confronts the ultimate life force and ultimate dark side. It’s through her actions and the actions of the artist she is seeking that they are able to bring about change to reality,” said Kato. -more-

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Prince advises aspiring musicians to dump music for spirituality

Rock star Prince has advised youngsters hoping to follow in his footsteps to stay out of the music industry and embark on a more spiritual life instead.

The 'Purple Rain' star, who became a Jehovah's Witness four years ago, has now advised young aspiring musicians to steer clear of the system.

"Stay out of the music industry, stay out of the system. Be revolutionary," rate the music quoted Prince as saying.

"Some of these young kids say they want to follow me. Well, if you do, then get your spiritual life together if you want your relationships to go right, and it will happen," he added. (ANI)
This has been the entire article.

Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Sun Shuyun: Ten Thousand Miles Without A Cloud

Reviewed by JIM EAGLES

This is a stunning story of three great journeys. First, is the 7th-century journey of Xuanzang, a Chinese monk who travelled the Silk Road to India to learn about the Buddha's teachings at first hand.

Second is the spiritual journey of Sun Shuyun, a child of Mao's cultural revolution, who comes to question the slogans she and her classmates once parroted so enthusiastically, and hopes to find alternatives to Maoism in the Buddhism practised in secret by her beloved grandmother.

And third is the physical journey Sun makes, tracing the footsteps of Xuanzang, through the wilds of Central Asia and the sacred places of Buddhism.

Those journeys intertwine to create a wonderful tapestry of life in the China and India, and along the perilous route connecting them, as it was 1400 years ago and as it is today. -more-

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Spa Evolution

Today’s spa is a center for healing and nourishing mind, body, and spirit. People go to spas for fitness, stress management, peace of mind, pampering and pleasure, and health and wellness. Spas offer a wide variety of techniques and services - traditional and modern, from the East and from the West - to meet the diverse needs of their clients: Swedish, Japanese Shiatsu, and Thai massage, European facials, acupuncture, Dead Sea salt scrubs, Moor mud wraps, thalassotherapy, aromatherapy, reflexology, microdermabrasion, endermologie, reiki, aura imaging, watsu, rasul, hypnotherapy, classes in nutrition, meditation, journaling, yoga and Tai Chi, state-of-the-art fitness centers with personal trainers, and much more. To understand and organize this overwhelming variety of spa offerings, the International Spa Association (ISPA) has defined the "ten domains of SPA" or segments of the industry as:

1. "The Waters"
2. Food, Nourishment, Diet and Nutrition
3. Movement, Exercise and Fitness
4. Touch, Massage, and Bodywork
5. Mind/Body/Spirit
6. Aesthetics, Skin Care, Natural Beauty Agents
7. Physical Space, Climatology, Global Ecology
8. Social/Cultural Arts and Values, Spa Culture
9. Management, Marketing, and Operations
10. Time, Rhythm, and Cycles
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more-



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Classic Children's Book Comes to the Big Screen

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

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