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…”

The Evolution of Imagination

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Stephen T. Asma is Distinguished Scholar and professor of philosophy in the Department of Humanities as well as Fellow of the Research Group in Mind, Science, and Culture at Columbia College Chicago. He is the author of several books including On Monsters and Against Fairness.

"Improvising in a jazz band, or medical triage unit, or a soccer team requires shared intentionality of a high order. We are a call-and-response, turn-taking species. The tenor horn blows a blues riff, and the piano responds by mimicking the phrase; the dancer leans in with his hip and his partner curls slightly in response. Just like a jazz musician, the early improviser had to be very sensitive to the volitions of others around him,” writes Asma as he pinpoints the amazing source of human imagination, freedom, and meaning.

Using personal anecdotes, references from genetics and psychology, and insights from neurology, biochemistry, sensory perception, and the emotions, the author explains the biological basis for imagination. He maps the energetic flow of creativity and ponders the evolutionary dynamics of collective action and embodied expression.

Asma's ability to blend philosophy with his observations as a musician and jazz player opens the doors to the hallmarks of the improvising mind-set — fluid responsiveness, toleration, and a level of comfort with failure and ambiguity.

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Letting Go of Good

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As a practical psychotherapist for 30 years, Mathews has spent a lot of time using a wide variety of tools to help readers understand the emotions by doing the hard inner work of intuition, discernment, and desire. As a professional trainer and workshop leader, she has made it part of her mission to enlighten people around the world about human potential and spiritual consciousness.

A major impediment to our unfolding is the good-versus-evil paradigm which has shaped so many lives with its rigidity, judgmental emphasis, and poisonous qualities of anger, fear, sorrow, and resentment.
Mathews begins with a chapter on letting go of the good and learning to be genuine instead. Along the way, she maps this clean-up operation with material on falsehoods that hold us back, making friends with difficult emotions, embracing your personal powers, and cashing in on the dividends from the healing process.

In the foreword by psychotherapist Thomas Moore, he recommends that we turn to Andrea Mathews for ways to learn from our failures, dark spots, and the difficult and troublesome people in our lives.

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Letting Go of Good

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“The definition of innocence as absolute purity comes from a paradigm of good and bad, which cannot be authenticated. On top of that it assumes a degree to goodness that none of us truly believe. Such innocence is both impossible to accomplish and also becomes a motivation for the kind of thinking that is self-negating, and even self-abusive.

“Rather, if we could see innocence as the kind of authenticity with which we were born, then it would be sacred, for it would motivate us to be authentic and to respect as sacred the authenticity of our children. Then we might begin to parent our children according to their authenticity, rather than according to an impossible-to-define mental construct of goodness. As a collective, we would be able to move out of the good/bad paradigm and into the true/false paradigm, and live from the truth of genuineness.”

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The Man Who Invented Christmas

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The Christmas season is one of giving, sharing, and the quiet joys that flicker in our minds and bodies. It is the season of connections with loved ones, which are often extended to charities and other organizations we support. At no other time of the year are the pleasures of generosity so heart-felt. As Lilly Golden, an editor and writer, has observed:

"Christmas is a time when people look about themselves, take stock of their lives, and feel either grateful or denied, when joys are celebrated and the painful truths of life become evident, when love seems sweeter and losses more bitter."

A major booster of this understanding of Christmas is A Christmas Carol, a novella published by Charles Dickens. Through the story of a grouchy old miser, Dickens explored the consequences of a life of selfishness and the blessings of his transformation for himself and those around him. This film tells the story of how Dickens came to write the story and managed to get it published in just six weeks.

In the winter of 1843, Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) is going through a dry spell. At the time he was England’s most popular writer (and he may still be today), but his last three efforts have been commercial flops and his publisher has reduced his royalties. His wife (Morfydd Clark) is expecting their fifth child, and he has incurred a lot of debts decorating a new house. His father (Jonathan Pryce) and mother (Ger Ryan) have arrived, looking for handouts. Amidst all this pressure, he’s experiencing writer’s block.

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Holistic Islam

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Kabir Helminski is a Shaikh of the Mevlevi Order of Sufis which traces its inspiration to Jelaluddin Rumi. He and his wife Camille founded and now direct The Threshold Society, a nonprofit educational foundation that has developed programs to provide a structure for practice and study within Sufism and the broader multifaith community.
He toured the U.S. with the Whirling Dervishes of Turkey, delivered the
Wit Lectures on spirituality at Harvard Divinity School, and in 2009 was named as one of the "500 Most Influential Muslims in the World." He has created some very popular e-courses for Spirituality & Practice on the poetry of Rumi, the hadith of Prophet Muhammad, the Qur’an, and Sufi practices.

The focus of Helminski’s work is contributing to a “new language of spirituality to express the fundamental psychological and metaphysical truths of the spiritual process.” It is from that context that this new book emerges to give us a fresh understanding of Islam, the second most popular religion in the world.

In the rousing prologue, Helminski points out that holistic is implied by the very word Islam, with the root phrase qalb salim describing a purified heart which is fundamental to spiritual well-being. Birthed fourteen centuries ago, Islam offers our out-of-balance world "a way of life incorporating cleanliness, wholesome diet, physical exercise in worship, positive relationships, patience in adversity, generosity, altruism, and much more.” Best of all, instead of being a religion of fear, it emphasizes love.

Helminski points to Sufism as a living tradition that has survived within Islam. Rooted in the Prophet Muhammad’s character, flexibility, patience, and kindness, it offers a “spirituality adequate to the times” because it has illustrated the process of purification of the heart through a chain of “conscious, compassionate, and realized human beings.” They have demonstrated “a spirituality that is moral without being puritanical, that is rigorous without being rigid, that is beautiful without being ostentatious, that can heal a wounded humanity and contribute to the elevation of civilization and culture."

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