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Independence Day Thoughts

By Glenda | July 2, 2014

As always, on approaching the 4th of July holiday, I turn to my texts to review what our founders actually had to say about many things. Here are a few quotes that struck me this week:

“…All men are entitled to the free exercise of religion according to the dictates of conscience; and therefore no man or class of men ought on account of religion to be invested with peculiar emoluments or privileges.” James Madison

“…The general prevalence of piety, philanthropy, honesty, industry, and economy seems, in the ordinary course of human affairs, particularly necessary for advancing and confirming the happiness of our country. While all men within our territories are protected in worshiping the Deity according to the dictates of their consciences, it is rationally to be expected from then in return, that they will be emulous of evincing the sanctity of their professions by the innocence of their lives and the beneficence of their actions; for no man, who is profligate in his morals, or a bad member of the civil community, can possibly be a true Christian, or a credit to his religious society.” George Washington

“The faith you mention has doubtless its uses in the world. I do not desire to see it diminished nor would I endeavor to lessen it in any man. But I wish it were more productive of Good Works than I have generally seen it: I mean real good Works, Works of Kindness, Charity, Mercy, and Public Spirit; not Holiday-keeping, Sermon-Reading or Hearing, performing Church Ceremonies, or making long Prayers, filled with Flatteries and Compliments, despised even by wise Men, and much less capable of pleasing the Deity. The worship of God is a Duty, the hearing and reading of Sermons may be useful, but if Men rest in Hearing and Praying, as too many do, it is as if a Tree should value itself on being watered and putting forth Leaves, though it never produced any Fruit.” Benjamin Franklin

“…that we may promote the happiness of those with whom He (God) has placed us in society, by acting honestly toward all, benevolently to those who fall within our way, respecting sacredly their rights, bodily and mental, and cherishing especially their freedom of conscience, as we value our own. I must ever believe that religion substantially good which produces an honest life, and we have been authorized by One whom you and I equally respect, to judge of the tree by its fruit. Our particular principles of religion are a subject of accountability to our God alone. I inquire after no man’s, and trouble none with mine; nor is it given to us in this life to know whether your or mine, our friends or our foes, are exactly the right. Nay, we have heard it said that there is not a Quaker nor a Baptist, a Presbyterian or an Episcopalian, a Catholic or a Protestant in heaven; that, on entering that gate, we leave those badges of schisms behind, and find ourselves united in those principles only in which God has united us all. Let us not be uneasy then about the different roads we may pursue, as believing them the shortest, to that our last abode; but following the guidance of a good conscience, let us be happy in the hope that by these different paths we shall all meet in the end…” Thomas Jefferson

Branches of Buddhism

By Glenda | May 1, 2014

There are two main branches of Buddhism, Mahayana and Theravada, both formed after the Buddha’s death. Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism share the same core beliefs and devotion to the life and teaching of Buddha. Both share the common basic Buddhist teachings of Four Noble Truths, Eightfold path, etc., but they do have some differences.

The Theravada branch, the more conservative school, also called the “doctrine of the elders,” maintains that an individual is responsible for his or her own enlightenment. Students are encouraged to value personal experience and critical thinking over doctrine. Students meditate and focus on releasing bad habits and attaining personal enlightenment. The main emphasis is self liberation. There are no priests. Devout monks live in monasteries where they study the words and deeds of Buddha and strive to live pure lives to achieve enlightenment which they believe comes gradually. The Theravāda Path starts with learning, to be followed by practice. The doctrine involves “Teaching of Analysis” which says that insight must come from application of knowledge and critical reasoning to the aspirant’s own experience. Evaluation of one’s own experiences, as well as careful consideration of the practices of other wise ones, form the basis of growth. There are some rituals, but these are not heavily emphasized.

The Mahayana branch of Buddhism, also called the “greater vehicle,” incorporates many more teachings, practices, and rituals. It holds that besides self liberation, it is important for Mahayana followers to help other sentient beings to achieve enlightenment. This branch also maintains that spiritual growth can be nurtured through the help of others, including a bodhisattva (bodi means “wise” and sattva means “being”), and many Boddhisattvas are revered (Only one Boddhisatva is recognized in the Theravada tradition.) A Bodhisatva is one so full of compassion that he or she will not enter into a state of nirvana until others can enter with him. Owing to local cultural influences, there is much more emphasis on the use of rituals, including mantras, chanting, etc.

Other branches stem from the Mahayanas, including Vajrayana Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, and Zen Buddhism.

Vajrayana, also known as the “Diamond Vehicle” was originally influenced greatly by Hinduism, and contains strong ritual and yogic practices.

Tibetan Buddhism combines aspects of Vajrayana, such as the use of rituals and ritualistic tools, with some other Mahayana traditions. The esoteric practice of teachers giving energetic initiations or attunements in place of theoretical teachings is common. The most distinctive feature of Tibetan Buddhism is tantra. This is most simply translated as “a means to enlightenment through identity with tantric deities.”

Zen is the form of Buddhism first developed in Japan. The most basic practice of Zen is a mindful, silent meditation practice called zazen in Japanese. Zen de-emphasizes mere knowledge of sutras and doctrine and favors direct understanding through zazen as well as direct interaction with an accomplished teacher.

Easter Morning

By Glenda | April 20, 2014

On many and many an Easter morning through the years, I have opened, as I did today, a book by Dr. Peter Marshall called The First Easter to fill my being with the deep and present reality of “resurrection.” I commend the book to you on this holy day.

And I quote from it the following passage, regarding what the disciples experienced as they found the empty tomb. Dr. Marshall says that what they saw changed them forever. He writes:

“The Greek word here for ‘see’—theorei—is not to behold as one looks at a spectacle, not to see as the watch maker who peers through his magnifying glass. It means to see with the inner light that leads one to conclusion. It is perception, reflection, understanding-—more than sight…”

It is for that deeper way of seeing the meaning of Easter that I reach, year after year.

But, aside from that abstraction that satisfies my mind, my heart is fed as well by the following portion of Dr. Marshall’s rendition of the Easter morning story:

“…But Mary Magdalene, still weeping, lingered at the edge of the garden.
Along with the other women, she had come to find a dead body…
and had been shocked to find the grave empty.
She thought it had been broken open–grave-robbers perhaps.
She did not know…
She could not think clearly.

“Only one thought seems to have absorbed her soul—
the body of the Lord had been lost…she must find Him!

“She ran as never before back towards the empty tomb, with the speed and unawareness of time and distance that grief or fear or love can impart….

‘But Mary stood without at the sepulcher weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulcher…and she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

‘Jesus saith unto her: ‘Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou?’

“And John tells us that she thought He was the gardener. She fell at His feet, her eyes brimming with tears—
her head down—
sobbing,

‘Sir, if thou hast taken Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away.”

“To her tortured mind there was a gleam of hope that perhaps the gardener, for some reason known only to him, had moved the body…

“She was red-eyed…
She had not slept since Friday…
There had been no taste for food…
She had been living on grief and bereaved love…

‘Jesus saith unto her… ’Mary…’

“His voice startled her…
She would have recognized it anywhere.
She lifted her head with a jerk…
blinked back the tears from her eyes and looked—right into His eyes.
She knew…her heart told her first and then her mind…
She saw the livid marks of the nails in His hands and looking up into His face, she whispered:

‘Rabboni!’

“The loveliest music of that first Easter dawn is in the sound of those words echoing in the Garden…
His gentle…’Mary….’
and her breathless…’Master!’

“Mary had come prepared to weep—
Now she could worship.
She had come expecting to see Him lying in the tomb—
She had found Him walking in the garden in the newness of resurrected life.”

Journey Toward Oneness

By Glenda | April 15, 2014

As I enter this my 76th year, I notice myself going through yet another cycle of self-reflection, one in which I am sometimes dismayed as I look back over the many and various ways I have, often, “missed the mark,” or “fallen short,” or simply “misunderstood” something essential to my wholeness. This painful realization can immobilize me, and it can foster a sort of hopeless giving up on myself. Then something comes to remind me that what is happening with me, this looking back with new insight, may be, if I allow it, really more a matter of “giving in” than of “giving up.” For surely I am being called urgently now to yield up aspects of my preciously guarded sense of self, aspects that prevent me from experiencing most fully my ultimate Self. As often happens, I am given help unexpectedly when I need it, as I was this morning when I happened to turn on the television, and there was this marvelous and insightful program, a repeat of a program from some years ago. Just what I needed. I am attaching below a brief excerpt from the hour long program; I wish I could find a link to the entire program. It comes from the website GlobalSpirit.tv.

And I say to you again, as before, that as I become less and less proud and certain of who I am, I become more and more tenderly aware of you, of all of us, in the great heart of life and love, each of us precious manifestations of the One that I can only refer to as the Great Mystery, for any other name seems too limiting. Blessings to us all. Glenda

Description of the tv program/dvd: “Beneath the seeming differences that separate the world’s religions, there is a deep undercurrent of teachings that point in the direction of Oneness, or “Unity Consciousness” — the indivisible totality of all creation, all beliefs, all religions and of the universe itself. The Journey Towards Oneness explores the concept of Oneness, and traces its evolution and expression through seemingly different religious and spiritual traditions. ”

Write, she said.

By Glenda | February 5, 2014

Write, she said. Write anything. Just write.

Never mind that my fingers are becoming arthritic, that I do not really like the keyboard on this new computer, the touch and feel and pressure required of it. (Is it only writers, “real writers,” which she insists I am, that are so affected by the wrong keyboard, or the need for the right pencil, for just the right situation in which to write? Or is it the other way around, as I suspect, that real writers have to write and will write, with a piece of charred wood if necessary, in the bitterest cold or on a deserted island, just to get something written?)

I used to be that way. I wrote and wrote and wrote, pouring out, sometimes, my thoughts, but mostly my feelings, posting them out to a world I presumed was waiting to receive them, perhaps even, can you imagine, needed them.

Now I hesitate to speak, let alone write. ‘What do I know, what can I say,” I ask myself (too often, perhaps, for my own good).

Once, when I worked in Washington DC for an association that lobbied for liberal trade policies (yes, once I was a registered lobbyist and even an “agent of a foreign power” since the association I worked for had a majority of Japanese members), there was a bit of an office scruffle-up, and I was busily writing a note about my thoughts on it to my superior. My office mate, a quiet and wise Japanese man, said to me, “Never put things into writing that you don’t have to. Writing makes it official, permanent, remembered. In a situation like this, you won’t want your words to be remembered; you will want this situation to end, to be forgotten.”

I think back on that conversation now and realize that I have more or less been adopted by that philosophy in the past few years. I didn’t consciously adopt that attitude, didn’t decide any of that. But bit by bit, I have all but abandoned my practice of writing anything that is really close to my heart, close to my true nature.

Why? Fear of failure to communicate well what I thought or felt? Often. That’s happened, God knows.

Fear of hurting someone else who might be involved in whatever I happened to be writing about? Certainly I have reason to hold that concern, as there are so many people in my world, family, friends, clients, associates, who have shared their deep secrets and concerns with me. I hold their trust in me sacred. I would never want to inadvertently say or write something that would betray their trust or hurt them in any way by one of my rememberings.

But, also, perhaps now more importantly, there is a fear of not having space to do justice to the subjects that really are of most concern to me. In an age of the “bottom line” and “tweets” and instant communication, my insistence upon context, my need to spell out exactly what I mean by each and every term is, I know, a burden to most readers. They don’t have time for all of that defining and associating and historical detective work that, for me, makes any written communication most meaningful.

Anyone can read, and think they understand, for example, the words, “I baked bread today.” And they would understand, on a certain simple level. But would they be made aware of or be made to remember, by that sentence, the sensation of the spongy dough between ones fingers, the pressure against the heel of the hand when the kneading gets just right, the aroma of the baking bread, the sound that thumping on the crust makes when the bread has baked enough, the way the butter melts across the freshly cut slice of warm bread, and on and on and on. Would they resonate with the words of the poet Patti Lynn who wrote:

“…When sky and street merge in sullen grayness
and black trees stir in sleep,
my stove becomes a hearth.
I am many women who have looked at rain
through a flap of hide, from a hand hewn door,
and felt secure against a threatening world
blessed within warm walls and sheltering roof.
Hands deep in flour,
powdered grain from a million fields
garnered in sweating sunlight,
I am many women who have kneaded resilient dough
with strong hands…”

Can I not trust my reader to bring his or her own associations to my paltry words and enrich whatever I write? Well, that depends. (You see, I must always insist upon that phrase, that’s the issue, isn’t it? It depends…)

If I am to write about the ultimate meaning of the universe, the nature of love and truth, the value of spiritual communication with the greatest mystery, then, no, I do not trust that I will be truly understood. People who are fundamentally inclined to define words in certain given, fixed ways, not allowing for nuance, (no matter their spiritual tradition) will not “get” my rambling excursions into imagination, curiosity, speculation, and, yes, historical context.

So why invite misunderstanding? Why alienate those who would otherwise be my friends, even my confidants? Certainly why stir up new enemies?

Well, yes, I hear you. “So you will give up speaking the truth as you are pursuing it, unraveling it, redefining it, contradicting it, just because…of all that? Cowardly, are you?”

No, not really. I simply have such a reverence for what I hold most dear that I do not want to understate or overstate or misstate it. I do not want it to be misunderstood for its own sake, not mine. Sacred things are to be treated in a sacred manner, by writer and reader.

You ask me if it is that I do not wish to, as Jesus was said to have once advised against, “cast pearls before swine.” (He certainly paid a dear price for not following his own advice, didn’t he?)

But, no, that’s not quite right for me. I don’t think of anyone, even those who certainly would misunderstand and devalue what I have to say, as swine, or as in any way less than me. I have compassion for them in their current state of being, I have love and concern for them, I know that I can learn from their point of view too, I truly want to relate to them, even relate to them where they are. That is, most fundamentally, my way. I have been called, by someone who studied me carefully before making an assessment of me, “a lover. Just that.” I do love, easily, and widely, and consciously. I do not wish to distance anyone from me or from my given love for them because of what I say or write or interpret.

So, for these reasons and more, writing has become difficult. It is easier to quote others. It is easier to remain silent, to become a recluse, to let others hold forth about things that are essential to me. It is easier, in short, to hide out.

But, she says, write. Write anyway. Write for me. Write just for yourself. Write for your grandchildren’s grandchildren. Someone will want to know what you thought and felt. I want to know. Write.

So this morning, I wrote this.

All Honor

By Glenda | December 10, 2013

I clearly remember the day, watching as I was the television, tears streaming down my face, when Nelson Mandela walked out of prison after 27 years of confinement, hard labor, and suffering in South Africa. It was a moment of the victory of goodness in a world always awash in misery. But it was what happened afterward, when under his leadership the Reconciliation Movement occurred, bringing together what had been deadly enemies, and creating not only peace but forgiveness, tolerance, and freedom to all sorts of people in South Africa, that we truly learned the depths of this good man’s character. Recently he brought together wold “Elders” to continue his work, among them Archbishop Tutu and many others, including our own Jimmy Carter. Here is a brief video from The Elders, well worth viewing. All Honor to Nelson Mandela, An Elder to Elders!

The Children Shall Lead Us…

By Glenda | November 5, 2013

Must See, Must Read, Sheila’s Book

By Glenda | August 17, 2013

Our dear friend Sheila Collins’ book Warrior Mother is now available. It is spellbinding to read. Those of us who have walked with her through these many years will find ourselves moved yet again by her courage, now shown in writing through her grief to show others the many ways to be with whatever comes our way and make of it something sacred and creative. Watch this, and buy her book.

Summer Hibernation

By Glenda | August 13, 2013

Summer heat. Here in Texas, the seasons seem reversed from northern climates where people and animals hibernate in winter, while in southern regions with 100 degree temperatures, we hibernate in summer. In traditional native cultures, the season of hibernation was the time when folks sat around the hearth fire and shared “teaching stories,” including the history of the tribe, stories of the ancestors, stories revealing practical and spiritual advice; stories for entertainment. Today, when I’m shut in from the intense heat, I’ve noticed a hunger in myself, for my own “tribe” to be gathered round, sharing wisdom and laughter and joy. So I find myself reaching out to you in this modern-age manner, with greetings and love.
Here is a wisdom story, from a collection called Unpopular Wisdom quoted in The Artful Universe:

“Arguments against new ideas generally pass through three distinct stages, from ‘It’s not true,’ to ‘Well, it may be true, but it’s not important,’ to ‘It’s true and it’s important, but it’s not new—we knew it all along.’

I hope you are keeping your bit of light-hearted sense of proportion in these days of heat, and I hope you take time for a little hibernation.

Force of Nature

By Glenda | July 21, 2013

Tonight I watched a powerfully inspiring documentary called Force of Nature featuring the wisdom and stories from the life of the Canadian elder and environmentalist David Suzuki. I encourage you to find this film on DVD and watch it. Here is a link to see a trailer for the film. http://www.davidsuzuki.org/david/legacy-force-of-nature/

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A Gaelic Blessing

Deep peace of the Running Wave to you;
Deep peace of the Flowing Air to you;
Deep peace of the Quiet Earth to you;
Deep peace of the Shining Stars to you;
Deep peace of the Gentle Night to you;
Moon and Stars pour their healing light on you;
Deep peace to you.

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