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…”

Holistic Islam

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“The true dialogue of civilizations will begin when Muslims with spiritual understanding address themselves to the hearts of all human beings. In some cases they will instruct; for example, to counter the hegemony of the financial markets, Islam has a rationale for how and why wealth must serve human needs and not merely the proliferation of capital.

“In other cases, Muslims may have to learn, especially from Westerners who have been deeply involved with the problems of ecology, nonviolence, and gender equality. Westerners have been living longer with some of the contemporary diseases of materialism, consumerism, and depersonalization, and they may be able to offer some remedies.

“Yet the great gift Islam can offer to the world today is its potential to transform human beings. The transformation we need is not of mere outer behavior, or even of the precarious environmental and economic conditions of our planet, but a deeper transformation of the will of the human being: dynamic taslim. We need to discover essence, the kernel (al-lubb), and become people who see to the essence of things, people of true understanding and insight (basirah). We need soul-education that will develop human beings who have a true capacity for intentionality (niyyah), mindfulness of God (taqwa), and remembrance of god (dhikr allah).

Envisioning Applied Spirituality

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Fearless Dialogues

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Gregory C. Ellison II is Associate Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He is the founder of Fearless Dialogues, a grassroots community initiative that draws unlikely partners together to create positive change in self and others. This process stands on three pillars: See. Hear. Change. It places primary emphasis on seeing and hearing as gateways to transformation.

Fearless Dialogues are laboratories for nurturing reverence and wonder. American culture has brainwashed people about "stranger danger" and others fears that can morph into paranoia. One of the major challenges facing black youth is ostracism. The theologian Howard Thurman observed in Inward Journey:

"To be ignored, to be passed over as of no account and of no meaning is to be made into a faceless thing, not a man. It is better to be the complete victim of an anger unstrained and a wrath which knows no bounds, to be torn asunder without mercy or to be battered to a pulp by angry violence, than to be passed over."

Fearless Dialogue enables us to focus attention on the real; as Jesuit priest Walter J. Burghardt put it: "The real, reality, is not reducible to some far-off, intangible God-in-the-sky. Reality is living, pulsing people." Ellison presents "The Long Loving Look at the Real " as a start-up spiritual practice. The author then charts the challenges of crafting communal spaces for asking hard questions, listening empathetically, and inviting the inner teacher of the soul to be present as a guide.

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Fearless Dialogues

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“In [theologian Howard] Thurman’s oft-quoted baccalaureate speech ‘The Sound of the Genuine,’ he describes an encounter between Jesus and a demon-possessed man. Though the man was sequestered to a living death of rattling his chains in a graveyard on the outskirts of town, Jesus posed two dignity-altering questions that struck the man’s inward center: ‘ “Who are you? What is your name?” and for a moment his tilted mind righted itself and he said, “That’s it! I don’t know. There are legions of me and they riot in my streets. If I only knew, then I would be whole.” ‘

“By inquiring of the grave-dweller’s name, Jesus bestowed upon him dignity and personhood. Scripture further tells us that after driving out the demons, Jesus sent the once-possessed man back home to face those who had marginalized him. Not only was he commissioned to serve as a credible messenger of the healer who welcomed him as a child of God; the once-possessed man was tasked to love those who attempted to destroy him.

“Radical in every right, Jesus said to the disinherited, ‘Love your enemy.’ In outlining the taxonomy of hatred, Thurman explains that contact without fellowship leads to unsympathetic understanding, and finally to an active functioning of ill will. To disrupt the breeding of hate, Jesus advocated love. ‘The first step toward such love is a common sharing of a sense of mutual worth and value.’ Jesus understood that while the underprivileged remain in constant contact with many who can threaten their well-being, there exists chance opportunities when foes find themselves at arm’s length and on common ground. The Samaritan, the tax collector, the Roman soldier, even Pilate himself, stood on different ideological and cultural grounds than Jesus. But through dignifying words and compassionate actions Jesus forged pathways to mutual discovery with unlikely partners. Through this example, Jesus modeled for the oppressed an unwillingness to have his inward center tainted by hate and a refusal to have his soul disfigured by evil opposition.”

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In Search of a Prophet

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Born in 1883 in Lebanon, Kahlil Gibran was a Renaissance man -- an author, illustrator, poet, essayist, novelist, prophet, visionary, and spiritual adventurer. His most famous work is a series of prose poems titled The Prophet (1923). It has been translated into more than forty languages and has sold more than one hundred million copies. Sections of it were used in a 2015 animated film.

Paul-Gordon Chandler, an Episcopal priest, interfaith advocate, and social entrepreneur sees this book not as a biography but "a type of pilgrimage into and through Kahlil's own spiritual journey." Each chapter explores one of the creative works of this prolific genius and sheds light on different aspects of his spiritual quest: The Sacred Valley, The Heretic, The Lover, The Madman, The Tempest, The Prophet, The Son of Man, The Wanderer, A Man for Our Times. Themes covered include being an immigrant, traveling, espousing an interfaith perspective, musing on Jesus, and staying open to the manifold mysteries of life.

Here is a sampler of quotes from the book:

"The things which the child loves remains in the domain of the heart until old age. The most beautiful thing in life is that our souls remain hovering over the places where we once enjoyed ourselves. I am one of those who remember those places regardless of time and place.""The soul is mightier than space, stronger than time, deeper than the sea, and higher than the stars.""To wake at dawn with winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
to rest at the noon hour and meditate love's ecstasy;
to return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart
and a song of praise upon your lips."
— from The Prophet"Your neighbor is your other self dwelling behind a wall. In understanding, all walls shall fall down."
— from Jesus the Son of Man"My friend, you and I shall remain strangers unto life,
And unto one another, and each unto himself,
Until the day when you shall speak and I shall listen
Deeming your own voice my own voice;
And when I shall stand before you
Thinking myself standing before a mirror."
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The Reunited States of America

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In a 2014 Pew Research poll, seven out of ten Americans blamed our problems on the inability of elected officials to act effectively. When asked which of our society's moral virtues have declined most "respect for others" scored highest. These polls reveal the vast and widespread disappointment and cynicism brought on by the partisan divide and Washington gridlock.

In this wise and incredibly relevant resource, Mark Gerzon, president of Mediators Foundation, presents his vision of citizenship based on connections rather than division, bridges rather than walls, and using common ground as a gateway to political action. With many years of experience in cross-partisan work, collaborative governance, and "a new patriotism," this multi-talented activist has proven to be a gifted scout surveying the land ahead of us and bringing back to camp fresh ideas on transpartisanship.

Gerzon agrees with Albert Einstein who once noted: "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity," and so he believes we can make the most of this crisis period for American democracy. He suggests we throw out simplistic knee-jerk explanations of where we are and set aside our notions of control, adversarial talk, and blaming the other party for the sad state of affairs in the country. He challenges us to find a safe place for dialogue and to work together with others in a search for common ground.

The author has high regard for openness and sees it as a solid and substantive virtue in all conversations about hot-button issues such as immigration, health care, debt reduction, abortion, gun policy, and education reform. Gerzon laments the fact that most schools have dropped civics courses and as a result, youth are often lacking in knowledge regarding creative governance. This can result in them becoming easy prey to spin and half-truths.

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