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September, 2005

September 25, 2005

Spiritual guru Amma plans low-key birthday:

Kollam (Kerala): Unlike the mega bash on her 50th birthday in Kochi two years back, Indian spiritual leader Mata Amritanandamayi will have a quiet birthday at her ashram here Tuesday.

Amma, as Mata Amritanandamayi is popularly called by her devotees, would give 'darshan' (audience) and also address the gathering. A special Sri Guru Padapuja ritual would be performed, a press release issued by her ashram said.

On the occasion, Amma will distribute keys to 550 tsunami-relief houses besides free fishing boats, boat engines and fishing nets to beneficiaries who have been identified by the ashram.

The ashram will also launch its 'Matru Gramam' programme on Sep 27, wherein select villages would be given assistance in becoming self-reliant.

Free clothing will be distributed to the poor, and a mass marriage will be held for 52 impoverished couples. Gold ornaments, marriage dresses and a family feast will be provided as part of the celebrations.

The chief guests would be Kerala Governor R.L. Bhatia and Union Minister of State for Home Sri Prakash Jaiswal and Minister of Small Scale, Agro and Rural Industries Mahavir Prasad.

Reports indicated that security has been beefed up after an alleged attempt on Amma's life was made by a devotee last month.

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The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book), Don Miguel Ruiz, Book from Amber-Allen Publishing, Release date: November, 1997

Before I get started with this review, I feel the need to get one important caveat out of the way: I am not one of those navel-gazing, crystal-wearing, pipe-smoking, new-age freaks. There, I feel much better.

That said, let's get to my review of one of the best books I've read so far in 2005, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. For such a tiny little book, clocking in at just over 100 pages, it really packs a punch. The pages are short, the text layout is light (as opposed to a densely packed page), and Ruiz's voice is conversational. Though you could get through this book in a day or two, its powerful message will resonate for years to come. Good things really do come in small packages.

Ruiz begins with an introduction to the Toltec people, tribal men and women of immense knowledge. He speaks of his Mexican ancestors passing their beliefs down through the Naguals, or masters, one generation to the next. In The Four Agreements, Ruiz is our Nagual, leading us on a spiritual journey through our Dream of the Planet, which is the Toltec theory that each of us is dreaming our own dream, or version, of the world within which we exist.

According to Ruiz, we have been domesticated since the moment of our birth to understand and accept all that surrounds us and embodies us. He calls the beliefs borne of this process of domestication, Agreements. He goes on to explain that the overwhelming majority of these agreements are detrimental to us and to our journey towards spiritual transcendence. Acknowledgment and acceptance of this idea sets the stage for the transformation that we must undertake by switching out those harmful agreements for the following four beneficial agreements:

* Be impeccable with your word
* Don't take anything personally
* Don't make assumptions
* Always do your best
read entire review-

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Carlos Santana preaches spirituality
By MIKE ROSS - Edmonton Sun

Carlos Santana refers to himself in the third person a few times during an interview before his concert yesterday - rock superstars tend to do that - but he did not claim to be what so many have called him: "God of Latin rock."

Nor does he purport to be the head of his own organized religion. Perish the thought. He has harsh words for such figures. Santana's a mellow guy, but his ire can be raised on issues he's passionate about. No, Santana is perhaps best thought of as a "shaman" - which was actually the title of his last album - a spiritual guide between the visible world and the invisible world that holds the secrets of peace, love and joy for every living human being on the planet.

If you've been watching CNN for any length of time lately - not a healthy thing to do for one's spirit - it behooves us to listen to Carlos Santana's hopeful words. They might not be as "out there" as they seem.

He states his goal: "When you strip me of all that I am, I think my purpose is really to reconnect as many people as possible to their own sense of light. As you know, most people squirm when you give them a compliment. They don't think they're worthy of their own grace or their own divinity. They think they're dirty, filthy people and Jesus is the only one who cleans us. That's the wrong perception to have on this planet.

"My purpose is to awaken as many people as possible to the awareness that we are just as good as Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Allah, Rama, Jehovah. We all have the same light. God made us in his image. We weren't born filthy or ignorant or sinful. That stuff is pimp talk. It's just like a pimp telling you that it's a jungle out there and you need them to get by."

He offers an example of spirituality vs. religion: "If Jesus would appear, like he said he would in the Bible, parts the sky like a zipper and - shazam! - come to Earth, the first thing I think he would do is go to the Pope and say, 'you built all of this stuff in my name?! It's worth $3 trillion? Tell you what: I want you to feed the world for the next 100 years in my name, and you can keep the other half.'

"That wouldn't go over very well, would it? So spirituality has nothing to do with religion or politics. It has to do with the betterment of life, people and the planet."

Santana says this is the essential message he's been trying to get across for nearly 40 years - from Woodstock 1969 to today - through his music. Whether he's working with Herbie Hancock or Bo Bice, it doesn't change. The latter is a guest on Santana's forthcoming album, All That I Am, along with people like Michelle Branch, Mary J. Blige, Steven Tyler, Sean Paul, Joss Stone and Los Lonely Boys. We promised the record company we'd save some of this interview for when the album comes out Nov. 1, but we can say this: the point of such a star-laden project - along the same lines of his Grammy-sweeping Supernatural album in 1999 - is not to sell lots of records in order to make a lot of money. It's to sell a lot of records in order to reach a lot of people. If Bo Bice can help, more power to the shaman.

Santana goes on, "I think the music reminds people that we are precious beyond our bank accounts. We are the best of our mother and father, if you choose to behave like it. It's all about choices. That's the most important spiritual thing you can learn: You have choices. You're not stuck. So you can apologize for being a human being or you can open your arms and say, I'm grace and I'm worthy of that grace."

On the question of whether he feels the weight of his role in popularizing "Latin rock," he says he has no trouble separating himself between musician - or as the case may be, "rock star" - and man.

"Fortunately, my brain is not wired to keep tabs on who I'm supposed to be for whom," he says. "I separate the Carlos on stage from who I am off stage. This is how musicians get screwed up, or when they OD, they don't know when to get off the stage. As soon as I put the guitar down, man, I'm Carlos. The other guy is another guy. I don't mix them together. That's what I do. This is who I am."

While Carlos the Latin guitar Go ... sorry, musician stays away from politics on stage, Carlos the man tackles the issues straight on, more or less.

"I'm not afraid of Bush and I'm not afraid of the Pope," he says. "I don't consider them to be adversaries, I consider them to be obstacles, like Nixon and LBJ."

So there is hope yet, he continues. He even offers another analogy for all the soul-sickened CNN addicts out there.

"If you see a woman giving birth and if you only see the pain in her eyes, that's CNN. When you see the joy when the baby comes out, that's the other side."

When a shaman says something like that, his followers ought to know by now exactly what he's talking about.

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The Translucent Revolution

What is translucence? What's it like to live that way? And why is the founder of Men's Wearhouse translucent?
Interview by Deborah Caldwell

For the last decade, Arjuna Ardagh has studied what he believes is a worldwide advance in human consciousness marked by what he calls “translucents”--people who've undergone a spiritual awakening that also allows them to remain involved in ordinary life. In his new book The Translucent Revolution, Ardagh interviews such spiritual gurus as Eckhart Tolle, Byron Katie, and Neale Donald Walsch--all people who say they have become "translucent." Recently, Beliefnet Senior Editor Deborah Caldwell interviewed Ardagh, who also led her through a meditation exercise for becoming "translucent."

Could you describe the experience of becoming translucent?

The shift that initiates you into the translucent life is an awakening that is beyond thinking and feeling, and changing experiences. Most of the time, most of us are glued to thoughts and feelings, belief, desires, fears. And all we know is the content of what’s in the mind at that time. So we say, I am a vegetarian, I am a Democrat, I am afraid, I am angry. But we don’t really know in that moment who we are. Because who we really are is experiencing beliefs, experiencing thoughts, experiencing objects moving, sounds being heard. When we wake up to the one who is experiencing this moment, people describe that as absolutely peaceful. Not just loving, but love itself.

My book documents 170 interviews with contemporary writers and teachers--13,000 surveys. And based upon those interviews, we believe there are three to four million people worldwide who have woken up to who they are beyond the mind. They realize that who they are is limitless consciousness beyond birth and death, absolutely free. Who they are is love itself. -
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September 18, 2005

New Board Game Enlighten™ Expanding World View in a Fun and Entertaining Way

San Francisco, CA (PRWEB) September 14, 2005 -- While “religion” is the hottest and most taboo subject being discussed, the new board game, Enlighten™ promises to ease tensions, expand awareness and educate the masses. Enlighten™ is lighting a candle of spiritual diversity and awareness as the world learns to play together.

Christa Reynolds, the game’s creator, says Enlighten™ is a “spiritual journey around the world. Without devaluing your beliefs -or anyone else’s - you expand your religious/spiritual perspective.” Enlighten™ players agree, "It's extremely fun and educational at the same time. My friends and I have been playing it consistantly since we got it!"

Enlighten™ is thoroughly non-denominational, including facts and rituals from: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam, as well as Sikhism, Taoism, and Native American traditions. The Greek and Roman, Norse and Egyptian gods get mention, as well as truly ancient (shamanism) and new religious movements.

“We’re tickled a game like this has been created,” says Francesca DiBrito Shuster, with the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions out of Chicago, whose organization also supports inter-faith dialogues.

“People are waking up to the impact of faith traditions on politics, economics and world peace-we simply need to know more,” says Reynolds. “It’s like Garrison Keillor’s story about being raised Lutheran and wondering what the Catholics were up to-only today he might be curious about the Sikhs next door. We need a fun, thought-provoking way to share our beliefs.”

So, Reynolds has spent two years researching religious information, developing game strategy and formulating the 550 questions for Enlighten™. Charles Flores, a Ph.D. candidate in East-West Psychology, joined her in question development.

With Christmas coming up, Enlighten™ is quickly proving to be a popular gift item. Starting at only $29.99 (plus tax and shipping), it's low price will allow a variety of consumers the opportunity to enjoy this soon to be "classic" board game.

Enlighten™ is currently sold at San Francisco Bay Area bookstores and toy and gift shops. To learn more about Enlighten™ please visit our website at, with some sample questions for the curious. “Enlighten Your World” campaign for non-profits can also be found online.

If you would like to receive a copy of Enlighten™ Board Game to review, please contact us asap!

Enlighten™ Game developer Christa Reynolds is also available for interviews!


Kristien Amer / Publicity

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Turkey Celebrates Persian Poet Birthday

Every year thousands of tourists go to Konya, Turkey, in commemoration of Mawlana Rumi, the world famous Persian poet.

Tehran, 18 September 2005 (CHN) – The commemoration ceremonies of Mawlana, the famous Persian poet, attracts thousands of tourists from Iran and all over the world to Konya ,Turkey, every year.

The name Mawlana Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi stands for Love and ecstatic flight into the infinite. Rumi is one of the greatest spiritual masters and poetical geniuses of mankind and was the founder of the Mowalavi Sufi order, a leading mystical brotherhood of Islam.

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi or Rumi who was born in Balkh (then a city of the Greater Khorasan province of Persia, now part of Afghanistan) and died in Konya (in present-day Turkey, then within the Seljuk Empire's territory). His birth place and native tongue points towards a Persian heritage. He also wrote his poetry in Persian, and is read widely in Iran and Afghanistan where the language is spoken. Yet, he is adored to such a degree that citizens of the modern Turkey, Pakistan, and India sometimes consider him one of their own.

Escaping the Mongol invasion and destruction, Rumi and his family traveled extensively in the Muslim lands, performed pilgrimage to Mecca, and finally settled in Konya, Turkey, which at that time was a part of the Seljuk Empire. When his father Bahaduddin Valad passed away, Rumi succeeded his father in 1231 as professor in religious sciences. When Rumi was just 24 years old, he was already an accomplished scholar in religious and positive sciences
Every year Turkey attracts a lot of tourists to the country during the week of commemoration of Rumi birthday, in which a lot of Rumi lovers gather from all around the world for the ceremony. Turkey, aware of the importance of tourism industry and the income tourists bring in, tries to attract tourists including the Iranians who boast to the poet as a source of their national pride to the county during this week by holding ceremonies at the time of Rumi’s birthday.

In Commemoration ceremonies of Mawlana which is held in Konya city, where the tomb of this poet is located, several programs are be held which consist of music, Sama (a whirling dervish) dance, and lyric poems.

The Sama symbolizes the divine love and mystical ecstasy; they aim at union with the Divine. The music and the dance are designed to induce a meditative state on the love of God. Mowlavi music contains some of the most core elements of Eastern classical music and it serves mainly as accompaniment for poems of Rumi and other Sufi poets.

The Sama represents a mystical journey of man's spiritual ascent through mind and love to "Perfect." Turning towards the truth, the follower grows through love, deserts his ego, finds the truth and arrives to the "Perfect." He then returns from this spiritual journey as a man who has reached maturity and a greater perfection, so as to love and to be of service to the whole creation.

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Pictures possess spiritual dimension

By Rebecca Bailey, The Herald-Sun
September 15, 2005 6:44 pm

CHAPEL HILL -- A stone boy. An abandoned house. A hazy moon emerging from clouds, caught in the limbs of a sweetgum.

These are just a few of the images offered by David Bibb and Philip Brubaker in their joint exhibition of photography titled "The Presence of God." The exhibit, which opens Sunday at the Community Church, will be on display through Oct. 23.

Local artist Joan Meade, curator for the Worship and Arts Committee at the church, approached the two photographers last year, said Bibb; and Brubaker came up with the show's theme.

"When Philip suggested the presence of God, I immediately thought of the Open Space series," said Bibb. "It portrays places that are spiritual, meaningful and important -- places people need to spend more time in."

A number of these photographs depict trees that are candidates for protection. A favorite, said Bibb, is the black and white digital "Wolf Tree" with its striking use of light.

"I happened on that," the photographer recalled. "There was a storm coming, and it was one of those moments."

The tree is in the Mark's Creek Watershed Basin, 15 miles east of Raleigh; the Triangle Land Conservancy is working to acquire and protect the area. Bibb noted that "no one really knows why it's called the Wolf Tree anymore. There's lots of lore surrounding it."

A sense of humor

Bibb's sly humor comes out in photographs like "No Passing Zone," where the yellow highway caution is posted beside an old cemetery.

"That picture was taken in Wisconsin," he explained. "I was driving down a country road to visit an uncle, and there it was on the left. I started laughing, and then I backed up a thousand yards and took the picture. There's nothing quite like No Passing Zone. I felt there was the presence of God."

Photography itself is a kind of protected space for Bibb. "I started taking pictures with a digital camera to come out of a severe depression," he said. "I decided to stop and take a long look at my life."

After quitting his job and taking a year to explore creative options, Bibb found his calling. "A friend took me to a photography show at the Vineyard Café in Raleigh," Bibb said. "Nine months later, I had my first show there."

Now Bibb owns the Points of View Photography Gallery on Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh, which features a new guest photographer every month. "Philip Brubaker was my first guest photographer," said Bibb.

Brubaker often finds his shots while exploring abandoned structures -- a burned-out warehouse in Greensboro, a defunct dog track in Vermont, a ruined schoolhouse in Fuquay-Varina. Amid decay and vacancy, light is a strong presence.

"Playing with light and perspective are my main techniques," Brubaker said.

The 35-mm black and white "Without Meaning" was shot in an abandoned house in Massachusetts. In one derelict room, vegetation breaks through the ceiling, and on a window shade is the block-printed message that gives the photo its title.

"Somebody was living here and wanted to make some kind of mark, leave some kind of message for themselves or someone else," said Brubaker. "The handwriting is so precise, and up high, as if somebody had to stand on something to write," he added. "It's a real mystery."

See and witness

Brubaker quoted his favorite photographer, the late Henri Cartier-Bresson: "Thinking is dangerous when you're taking a picture."

The photographer's role, he said, is to see and witness the image. "My favorite and best pieces are when I just push the button without thinking, without knowing the consequences or why I'm taking the picture," said Brubaker. "I try not to understand too much."

Or expect too much, as Brubaker found on a trip to New York. "In New York, you're constantly anticipating great photos, and that's no way to take a picture," he said. On a break, he sat with a friend in Central Park and then started to leave. "I looked over my shoulder, turned and snapped the picture," he said of the black and white "Central Park."

While most of his work is unplanned, Brubaker said he wants to explore the deliberate creation of photographs. Of the pieces on exhibit at Bibb's gallery, said Brubaker, "one is staged completely --'Bowl of Cherries' -- and it's my highest-selling picture. I started thinking, maybe there's something to that."
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Retreats offer homeless men a spiritual step back toward society

When Jesuit Father Bill Creed led his first retreat for homeless men in Chicago seven years ago, it opened his eyes and his heart.

A longtime spiritual director and retreat master, Father Creed had given hundreds of retreats: for priests and nuns, even bishops; for high school and college students; for single people and married people.

"I had been doing retreats my whole life," said Father Creed, who has now directed more than 50 retreats for the homeless. "I went to the chapel that Saturday night and asked God, 'Why is it that I'm being so deeply moved?' I had the sense of God saying, 'Trust me.'"

When Father Creed developed the idea of retreats for homeless people, not many of his peers had faith in the idea. He was coming off a sabbatical following a stint directing a retreat house in Indiana when his provincial called and asked him to find a way to bring Ignatian spirituality to the economically poor.

He had also been teaching Ed Shurna, now director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, how to be a spiritual director. As a spiritual director in training, Shurna was working with two homeless men. He asked the priest if he had ever considered working with the homeless population.

Father Creed decided to offer retreats based on the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius to people trying to get off the streets.

To figure out how to do it, he sent a query to contacts in the retreat and spiritual direction communities across the United States and around the world, asking if any of them had tried such a thing and what their experience had been.

None had tried, and many wrote back that it was pointless, Father Creed said.

"I got an e-mail from one fellow that was typical," he told The Catholic New World, newspaper of the Chicago Archdiocese. "It said we all know (psychologist Abraham) Maslow's hierarchy of needs, and spiritual needs are at the top of the plateau. Only when the homeless have all their other needs met will they be ready to address their spiritual needs.

"They need job training, habits to live life. What struck me is that these people didn't know the poor," he added. "The poor, who have nothing else --- where do they turn but to God?"

After leading the retreats for the past seven years in cities from Chicago to Boston to San Francisco to Cincinnati, Father Creed has gleaned insights into himself, and, he thinks, into members of mainstream society.

As the men share their life stories, he hears what they find comfort in --- and what they fear.

"Most of us are afraid of failure," he said. "But a lot of them are afraid of success. If I succeed, who might I turn out to be? If I get cleaned up and get things together, I'll have to grow up.

"Most Catholics, I think, are afraid of spiritual success. We're afraid we'd be a bit kooky if we were too spiritually successful. We don't want to be too holy."

He also hears men express low self-esteem, beyond not being good enough to succeed. Many do not feel they are "acceptable to God in their very being," Father Creed said.

In the beginning, the Ignatian Spirituality Project retreats were for women and men. But Father Creed soon learned that many homeless women had been battered or otherwise abused by the men in their lives. Now the retreats are for men only, with another organization holding at least two retreats a year in Chicago for homeless women.

The men --- no more than 12 at a time --- are referred by the directors of the transitional shelters where they live. They have to be working at getting off the street and overcoming any addiction. Nearly all are addicted to something, and nearly half have been diagnosed with mental illness.

But for several, making an Ignatian retreat has been one step on the road back to reintegrating with society, Father Creed said. The exercises allow them to find the ways God is active in their lives, and to find ways to welcome God.

"The most important thing is their willingness to make the journey. It's very inspiring to me," the priest said. "I get far more out of this than they do."

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'It's in my blood,' dancer says
Native American group honors shared, diverse heritage


When Kimberly Hunt enters the ring to dance, her mind is clear and she feels at one with her creator.

As the drumbeat echoes through the air, she begins to move around the ring, stepping and twirling on tiptoe. As she moves, 365 metal cones spaced in seven rows on her dress jingle with the beat.

She clutches an eagle feather in one hand, waving it in prayer for healing. The medicine dance she performs was inspired by a grandfather's dream for how to help his sick granddaughter.

The dance is one way of showing what being a Native American means to her.

"My love is for my native people; it has been since I was a young age," said Hunt, 17. "I'm born to love it; it's in my blood."

The dance competition was part of the 29th annual Guilford Native American Association Powwow and Cultural Festival held Saturday at Country Park.

The three-day event, which runs through today at Country Park, usually draws 8,000 to 9,000 people. The event that supports programs run by the association features educational workshops and Native American art and food.

It's a chance for tribes to come together in fellowship, sharing their traditions and passing them on to future generations.

Each tribe -- and there are more than 500 across the country -- has its own traditions, said Nora Dial-Stanley, a member of the powwow committee.

"For me, being a Native American is part of everyday life," said Dial-Stanley, a member of the Lumbee tribe from eastern North Carolina. "I truly feel it is a part of me, and I've made it my personal mission to show my children that."

Her 7-year-old twins, Raven and Ryan, take part in activities through the Guilford County Native American Association, and she's one of the teachers for the group's classes for children.

There, children learn about their history from their elders, including the meaning of some of the Native American dances and the regalia dancers wear.

On Saturday afternoon, dozens of dancers filled the ring in a clearing. The beat of the drums and songs of the drummers filled the surrounding woods.

They danced in brightly colored dresses, vests and pants of red, orange, yellow and green. The feathers adorning their regalia swayed as they moved, and the bells bounced in rhythm with the drums.

Hunt started dancing when she was 2 years old. Her mother is a Blackfoot -- that tribe is from Montana -- and her father is a Lumbee. Over the years, they've tried to teach her about the traditions of their tribes.

This summer, Hunt traveled to Montana for the first time and visited a reservation. She got a glimpse into daily life for people there and learned more about dances not performed in this part of the country.

She's tried to share what she's learned with other youths, Native American and non-Native American alike.

She wants them to see beyond the stereotypes, to understand that Native Americans bring more to the fabric of American culture than casinos, to realize that they are more than alcoholics or dropouts.

They are members of the community, she said, building successful lives for their families while trying to preserve their culture.

"Honor and respect, that's what our culture is about," said Hunt, who is the Miss Guilford Native American Association princess. "It's an honor for me to be Native American."

Contact Ellica Church at 373-7059 or [email protected]

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Scorsese zeros in, and Dylan opens up
Masterful film examines singer's transformation

By Ed Siegel, Globe Staff | September 18, 2005

As art and popular culture drift further and further apart, it's hard to remember there was once no iron curtain between the two. There was no decade in which the two traveled hand in hand like the 1960s. There has been no artist who united the two like Bob Dylan.

That fusion, and the jolt that resulted from Dylan plugging in his guitar, provides the fuel for Martin Scorsese's unmissable documentary, ''No Direction Home: Bob Dylan," coproduced by WNET's ''American Masters" and any number of other entities. PBS, though, gets the short end of the stick in terms of timing. The two-disc DVD comes out Tuesday, while the 207-minute film doesn't air on public television (minus a handful of expletives deleted by Channel 2) until Sept. 26 and Sept. 27. There are, however, only a handful of extras, mostly full-length television clips from the early '60s, that won't be on TV.

Scorsese has forever been fascinated by what makes certain men larger than life. From criminal bosses to Jake LaMotta, Howard Hughes, the Dalai Lama, and of course, Jesus Christ, Scorsese has been particularly adept at illustrating how the social forces of the times helped form these figures, even though they often appeared to stand outside of time.

He also knows a thing or two about popular music, having made ''The Last Waltz," the ''Feel Like Going Home" segment of the PBS documentary ''The Blues," which he also produced, and, lest we forget, Michael Jackson's ''Bad" video. Perhaps it's the credibility that Scorsese earned along the way that makes Dylan open up like he never has on camera as the film masterfully cuts between the present-day, surprisingly lucid Dylan and the refugee from Hibbing, Minn., who arrived in New York in 1961.

The end point is Dylan's controversial tour of England in 1966, when fans couldn't stand the fact that he was accompanied by the rock group that later became the Band. That followed his even more enraging appearance at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, at which Pete Seeger tried to cut off the electricity. There's sensational footage of both, Newport from Murray Lerner's ''Festival" and England from D.A. Pennebaker's film for ABC that the network didn't air.

Five years is a short time to focus on in the life of an artist, but what a five years. Dylan was lapping up every thing of value that he could find -- Hank Williams, Woody Guthrie, Robert Johnson, Martin Luther King, Jack Kerouac -- and transforming it into his own alternative history of the United States.

Scorsese brings that history to life with archival footage the way Henry Hampton brought the civil rights movement alive in ''Eyes on the Prize." In other words, this is PBS at its best -- thoughtful and focused but full of heart and soul. Dylan is particularly moving in the early part, talking about how getting a record player changed his life, how ''the sound of the record made me feel like I was somebody else, maybe not born to the right parents or something." Marlon Brando, James Dean, and Kerouac were stoking other fires in him. -
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The art of ambiguity
Artist melds pop culture, the spirit, science and sex into a mélange of messages

The Kansas City Star

‘There is no single site of my identity. The most concrete, my body, seems to be even more foreign than the random string of letters that is my name.’
Kacy Maddux

Kansas City artist Kacy Maddux, 25, describes her large drawings as “me trying to explain myself to myself.”

Others may see more enigma than explanation in her images of skulls, ovaries, feathers, lips, veins, eye-ball-like heads and anthropomorphic tree roots.

One constant in her drawings is their sense of duality, reflecting Maddux’s fixation on what she calls “basic human conflicts.” Another is that something new appears each time you look, as if the flowing lines had moved and reconfigured the moment you glanced away.

Earlier this year Hamza Walker from the University of Chicago’s prestigious Renaissance Society art space was so taken with Maddux’s drawings that he bought one.

In May she showed 10 of them at Tim Brown’s Telephonebooth Gallery on Troost, marking a kind of “coming out” after two years of intense studio concentration.

“I didn’t want anyone disrupting my focus,” she said. “It’s the only thing I like doing.”

Maddux grew up in Tulsa, Okla., and graduated in 2002 from the Kansas City Art Institute. Her easy Oklahoma manner can’t disguise her philosophical intensity.

Creativity proceeds undistracted by comfort in her midtown studio, where sketchbooks litter the floor and clamp lights illumine drawings pinned to the wall.

“Our parents encouraged us to be creative,” she said. “My mother was always drawing, painting and gardening.”

In middle school Maddux would spend five to six hours a day drawing. In high school she did paintings and drawings and prints.

At the Art Institute Maddux started out in sculpture, went on to painting and also did a series of performance-based videos. “The videos showed myself repeating an action — in one I was digging a hole in the ground with my forehead,” she said.

Her drawings are executed with architectural pens of different thicknesses, the compositions have the black and white austerity of diagrams, but none of the clarity. A depiction of cell division appears on second glance to be ovaries — or the right and left sides of the brain. Microcosm and macrocosm merge and interweave as do sexual, spiritual and scientific allusions.

All this ambiguity is no accident. Each of the large finished drawings represents 10 to 90 sketches, Maddux said. They reflect her early interest in Taoism and indigenous religions as well as her recent studies of Joseph Campbell’s writings on myth and archetype and the detailed illustrations of Gray’s Anatomy.

Pop culture — films and pop songs and what they say about our fears and longings — also inspires her work, Maddux said, but the most important source, is “my personal experience with my body and the way I feel about it.”

“I think and move with chemical and electrical impulses,” she wrote in a recent artist’s statement. “There is no single site of my identity. The most concrete, my body, seems to be even more foreign than the random string of letters that is my name.”

Her words recall Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard’s famous query more than a century ago: “Where am I? Who am I? How did I come to be here?”

After a century, the question hangs in the air.

September 11, 2005

Crusade vs. executions, book bring nun to area

Hurricane Katrina forced Sister Helen Prejean and about 60 other nuns to flee their New Orleans Mother House last week and relocate indefinitely to Baton Rouge.

But the catastrophe had an effect on something else to which the woman who has come to be known as "the Death-Penalty Nun" has devoted her life.

"Katrina put a moratorium on the death penalty in Louisiana for at least three years," Prejean, 66, said before her talk Wednesday night at Holy Faith Catholic Church in Gainesville.

She said court buildings in New Orleans were so badly damaged that judges, among other things, won't be reviewing death-penalty cases anytime soon. In effect, Katrina partly did in a day what Prejean has been working more than 20 years to accomplish - abolish the death penalty in the United States.

That effort was given a boost by her 1993 book, "Dead Man Walking," and director Tim Robbins' 1996 movie based on it that earned Susan Sarandon an Academy Award for best-actress for her portrayal of Prejean. The book explores Prejean's spiritual journey that took her from being pen pals with a death row inmate to accompanying him to his execution, and how that experience crystallized her belief that the death penalty goes against true Christian teachings.

She talked about that journey - from a privileged upbringing in Baton Rouge to spiritual adviser to death row inmates - before about 200 people at Holy Faith. Her Gainesville visit was the first stop on a nationwide tour to promote her second book on the death penalty, "The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions," which details her experience with two executed men whom she said clearly were innocent.

After her hourlong talk, she signed copies of both books - and accepted donations to the rebuilding of the convent in New Orleans.

Prejean (pronounced PRAY-zheen) emphasized that her mission is as much to the families of victims as it is to their killers.

"My new book is dedicated to Murder Victim Families for Human Rights," she said. "I wrote 'Dead Man Walking' as a journey to both sides - the victims' families and the condemned."

But she said to say taking the life of the person who killed your child or other loved one will help you heal, or give you justice, is "dishonest." Executing a human being, she said, "is the exact opposite of baptism." -
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Spiritual Film Festival launches

Express Staff Writer

The planned visit by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Friday, Sept. 9, through Tuesday, Sept. 13, has opened doors for others to breach. From visits by Buddhist teachers of yoga, to talks on dharma teachings, to the inaugural Sun Valley Spiritual Film Festival, the week's activities seem especially synergistic.

The festival is screening specially chosen films focusing on themes relevant to the Buddhist tradition at both the Liberty Theatre in Hailey and the Sun Valley Opera House in Sun Valley.

The multinational film festival was founded by Mary Gervase of Hailey and Claudio Ruben of Santa Fe.

"We tried to have movies from a lot of different countries," Ruben, a film producer, said. "We've been quite fortunate."

Indeed they have. The 16 movies are a mix of documentaries and features from around the globe. -
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Spirituality Briefs

COLCHESTER-- Homecoming Sunday will be held Sept. 11 at Westchester Congregational Church, 449 Westchester Road.

Immediately after the 11 a.m. service, there will be a potluck luncheon and Sunday School registration. Bring a favorite dish to share.

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Articles of faith: spirituality at Pride

By Christian de la Huerta
The Pride celebrations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender community across the country during June must seem a
strange ritual to outsiders. With a wild mix of go-go boys, drag
queens and topless lesbians, all throbbing to tribal drumbeats, this
seemingly self-indulgent display causes outrage for social
conservatives, and chagrin for those in the gay community who would
like to see us acting more conventionally.

But perhaps there is another way to look at Pride besides as an exercise in hedonism: perhaps it represents the pressing back of cultural boundaries by a
people uniquely qualified for spiritual exploration.

Throughout history, people we today label lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender have been honored for their roles of spiritual service and leadership. In many cultural contexts, gay people have been the healers, teachers, shamans, keepers of beauty, mediators and peacekeepers; those who “walked between the worlds.”

For queer spiritual practitioners, not only is their homosexuality or gender identity not a sin, sickness, or abomination, it is a gift, a blessing, and a privilege. It is the element of their personality that has pushed them outside the realm of comfort and conventionality and into the place of mystery inhabited by those who fulfill roles of sacred service. If there is any doubt about the pervasiveness of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in religious leadership roles, it would be a compelling exercise if, on some weekend, every single queer minister, rabbi, music director, teacher or other spiritual functionary stayed home from religious services. -
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September 4, 2005

Zen Priest Now Preaches Philosophy of “Authentic Thinking"

A former Zen Buddhist priest in Japan, Yasuhiko Genku Kimura, is a philosopher and writer who lectures people and businesses on business strategies, ethics, philosophy and what he calls "authentic thinking."

His business clients have included Kishibe Keori Corp. & KSB Marketing, Inc., a Japanese textile company and its U.S. subsidiary; Japan Health Products, Inc.; and American Family Funding.

He has also written several books, including "Think Kosmically Act Globally: An Anthology of Essays on Ethics, Spirituality, and Metascience."

Kimura will appear in Cambridge at 38Cameron for two talks: "Further Reaches of Human Consciousness" on September 15, 7:30 p.m., and "Awakening to Authentic Leadership," a seminar on September 16, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Sampan interviewed Kimura recently by e-mail.

You've been called a "philosopher of change." What does that mean?

"Philosopher of Change" was the designation What Is Enlightenment? Magazine gave me and it makes sense. Since my youth, I have been interested in the whole phenomenon of change, particularly the kind of change often called "transformation" in which people experience a radical shift at the foundation of their being.

This kind of change or transformation takes place usually through a profound, powerful, and literally life-altering realization. My work has been focused on bringing people to the point of having such realization, while my philosophy has been focused on identifying the principles and dynamics underlying such transformational processes. -
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Donovan Impressed by Spiritual Beatles

Sixties legend DONOVAN was staggered by the wealth of THE BEATLES when he first met them, but soon learned there was more to them than glittering materialism.

The CATCH THE WIND singer initially dismissed GEORGE HARRISON as "flash" when he offered him a lift in his customised Mini Cooper, but he quickly bonded with the sensitive guitarist's spiritual side.

He recalls, "I did a double-take and thought, 'What a flash bloke', but George and I would soon become dear friends through our shared interest in spiritual enlightenment." [entire article]

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America: land of spiritual hunger
Many in the US yearn for a 'religion of the spirit.'
By Jane Lampman

Book Review: RESTLESS SOULS: The Making of American Spirituality, By Leigh Schmidt

From flourishing megachurches to potent voices in the political arena, the growth of conservative Christianity is fully on display. Many attribute this growth to Americans' desire for an anchor in a swiftly changing world, a set of rules to live by.

Yet the surge in spiritual seeking beyond the bonds of organized religion continues apace as well. Less than half of Americans attend church in any given week, though only 2 percent say they don't believe in a higher power.

In recent polls, 84 percent say spirituality is important in their lives, and 62 percent consider themselves "deeply spiritual."

How did America become a land of spiritual questing?

Leigh Schmidt, religion professor at Princeton University, takes issue with what he sees as a facile analysis of the "new spirituality" that has tied it simply to watershed events of the 1960's and New Age philosophies. Nor is it always, he says, an outgrowth of the occultism in early American life, as some have asserted.

In Restless Souls: The Making of American Spirituality, Dr. Schmidt explores the cultural roots of this broader search for meaning. He finds its origins in the intellectual circles of early 19th- century America and its evolution in "the rise and flourishing of religious liberalism in all its variety and occasional eccentricity." Criticizing the orthodoxies of their day, liberals exchanged piety for spirituality.

What could be called the "Spiritual Left" goes "deep in the grain of American culture," he says. "It is here for the long haul." -
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A new spiritual home
Wednesday, 31 August 2005

'Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while' - Mark 6:31

THE Dardanup House of Prayer is to become the centre for spirituality for the Diocese of Bunbury [Australia].

A conservation and restoration program for the historic house is already underway and there are plans to double the number of retreats held there next year.

And director Father John Herbert, a Benedictine Monk from New Norcia, says they will keep the door open to non-Catholics, encourage the participation of women, strive to be part of the wider community and not be so "hung up on religion".

"It's to be used as a reference point where people can come and attend to their spiritual life in whatever capacity," he said.

"This place is accessible to everybody. It's not just about Catholics.

"Rich, poor, men, women, Catholics, Anglicans – it simply doesn't matter."

In particular, they want to see women use the house and will be holding a weekend devoted to The Women Mystics in October.

And although the house is in need of restoration, Fr John said they would keep retreat fees on a private pay-what-you-can-afford basis.

Essentially a place for contemplation, quiet prayer and reflection, Fr John said a stay at the house enabled people to better cope with their lives.

People could choose to join in prayer time, as well as daily life at the house, including domestic chores.

"When people come here they can move into it (the Benedictine routine) as little or as much as they like," Fr John said.

Fr John said people often came to the house feeling depressed and they were able to try and provide holistic healing, as a supplement to the work of professionals.

"It's about getting on with the ordinariness of life," he said.

"The whole spirit can be attended to here." [entire article]

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New novel raises questions about spiritual meanings in lyrics

A new novel recently published by Brian Joseph, The Gift of Gabe, has many readers wondering about the meaning of many well known song lyrics, including those of Lennon and McCartney.

The novel is the story of an accidental meeting with an eccentric old man who claims that people who have had similar experiences can communicate these experiences to each other in ways that are not readily understandable to most people. An even greater claim made by the novel’s main character is that during certain creative states some people can channel the Universal Mind and often be unaware that they have done so.

What readers are finding remarkable is that the novel gives examples of songs they are familiar with and interprets them in a new way. Example after example is given by the main character who uses emerging scientific paradigms as well as various spiritual schools of thought to explain his view that the Universal Mind communicates to us through poets and musicians. Those cited include John Lennon and Paul McCartney as well as others.

The Gift of Gabe also explores the rise in interest in consciousness and Gabe claims that there is a new culture rising on the planet. Readers have been startled by the conclusion of this book that creates a new genre beyond visionary fiction.