Zen Blog

This blog collects various internet feeds aimed towards information, experience and technique exchange in support of our shared spiritual journey.....

”Namaste - may the light in me, honor the light in you…”

Birthday of Dame Cicely Saunders

Birthday of Dame Cicely Saunders

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Dame Cicely Mary Saunders — a British Anglican nurse, medical social worker, physician — founded the modern hospice movement in 1967 at St. Christopher's Hospital in London. Concerned about the inadequacy of the care of the dying in hospitals, she revolutionized the way in we care for the ill, the dying, and the bereaved. She helped St. Christopher's become the first hospice to link expert pain and symptom control, compassionate care, teaching, and clinical research.

Her book Beyond the Horizon: A Search for Meaning in Suffering (1990) affords us an opportunity to appreciate her compassion and dedication to the hospice cause. "You matter because you are you," she observed, "and you matter to the end of your life. We will do all we can not only to help you die peacefully, but also to live until you die."

Saunders held more than 25 honorary degrees and received many honours and awards for her work, including the British Medical Association Gold Medal for services to medicine, the Onassis Prize for Services to Humanity, The Raoul Wallenberg Humanitarian Award, and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms for Worship Medal. In 1981 Dame Cicely was awarded the prestigious Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion; she gave the award money for construction of a new wing at St. Christopher's.

Quotes

To honor Saunders's birthday, reflect on her words about what makes suffering bearable:

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The Life of Yogananda

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Philip Goldberg has been studying India's spiritual traditions for more than 45 years as a practitioner, teacher, and writer. He is an ordained interfaith minister, spiritual counselor and meditation teacher. The author or co-author of more than 20 books, his last one, American Veda, charts how India's traditional teachings have transformed America.

One of the leaders of that transformation, Paramahansa Yogananda, is the focus of this book. He is considered by many to be the father of modern yoga; the Los Angeles Times called him "the 20th century's first super-star guru." In this biography, Goldberg has been forced to present material not covered in Yogananda's hugely popular Autobiography of a Yogi. Although he claims not to be a disciple of this Hindu guru, the author calls him "a teacher for the ages, whose contribution to the transmission of India's ancient wisdom to the West was incomparable."

It is delight to read about Yogananda's ecstatic childhood and equally appealing to learn that this gifted boy was conscious in his mother's womb. Throughout his life, his soul was pulled in a struggle between renunciation and engagement. Goldberg gives an interesting glimpse of Yogananda's spiritual deepening through the lighting of his room only with candles and oil lamps; his refusal to go to movies and theatres; his simple diet; and his disavowal of luxuries including a pair gold-rimmed glasses his wife had given him.

These examples prove that Yogananda's spiritual life was practical, meditative, and method-oriented. His devotional life centered around Kali and he created icons of the deity for use in his prayers. Three standout things about Yogananda's work are his belief in courses, the establishment of 13 functioning centers with appointed leaders and regular meetings, and last but not least, a mission statement wherein Good Fellowship in Sat Sanga is the key ingredient along with "a better understanding between the East and the West."

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Morning Homilies IV

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You can't make waves all the time. Pope Francis over the past five years has delivered talks, writings, and encyclicals that have shaken the Catholic church and provoked discussion among religious people and secularists of all stripes.

Every morning Pope Francis says Mass and delivers a short sermon to those seated in the chapel of St. Martha's Guesthouse. Here the leader of the Catholic church ponders the Word of God and shares his insights into mercy, forgiveness, angels and demons, the God of surprises, and seeing Christ in the face of the outcast. Readers will get a "you-are-there" feeling and appreciate the Pope's humor and memorable images.

Reading these sermons from July 2014 to November 2014 (other volumes are also available) will bring you to a fresh appreciation of the Catholic path's resiliency and liberating values.

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The Pope's Cat

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There are a lot of reasons to like "this Pope," as spiritual writer and editor Jon Sweeney describes the current leader of the Catholic Church. One of them is that this story seems very likely as an example of his hospitality to all beings, large and small.

A little stray cat has been living on the streets of Rome hiding behind trash cans near the gelato shop and hoping for some scraps from the fish market. Then early one morning, she is spotted by the Pope, who has escaped the thick walls of the Vatican and is enjoying a quiet solitary walk in the sunshine. "Come here, sweetness," he calls to the little kitty. Then he picks her up and takes her back to his apartment. He names her Margaret.

The Pope's home is a new experience for Margaret. After sleeping in comfort on the couch, she goes to explore other rooms and ends up at a reception for the Queen of England!

Children will enjoy imagining what it would be like to be inside the Vatican in the company of the very friendly Pope. It turns out that what is important to Margaret is also important to us: a safe place to live, plenty to eat, good medical care, and a kind companion.

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On the Brink of Everything

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Parker Palmer is a writer, teacher, activist, visionary, and mentor to those who have read his books, taken his e-courses, and been tutored in programs he helped develop on the roles and responsibilities of leadership. He has explored the heart of American democracy, written about teaching, delved into strangers and the meanings of paradox, covered the lineaments an active life, and explored the gifts of a hidden wholeness. He is profiled in S&P's Living Spiritual Teachers Project.

Now as he looks back on eight decades of his life, Palmer is reflective and eager to observe what is happening. We are not surprised by this admission:

"I like being old because the view from the brink is striking, a full panorama of my life – and a bracing breeze awakens me to new ways of understanding my own past, present, and future. As one of Kurt Vonnegut's characters says in Player Piano 'out on the edge you can see all kinds of things you can't see from the center.' "

We nod our heads in agreement when Palmer states: "We need to reframe aging as a passage of discovery and engagement, not decline and inactivity." In a chapter on the dance of the generations, the author expresses his enthusiasm about having a youthful collaborator on this book. Three essays are accompanied by songs about their themes written and performed by the gifted singer/songwriter Carrie Newcomer. They can be downloaded free of charge at NewcomerPalmer.com/home.

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