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…”

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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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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