Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice, David Whyte, and Morning Has Broken



I attended a beautiful winter solstice event last night in Windham. There was poetry, prayer, meditation, dancing and beautiful music. The winter solstice has become a sacred reminder to me of the importance of honoring both the cycles of nature as well as those that occur in our own lives such as sleeping and waking, working and resting, embracing and letting go. And then there is the miracle that occurs each and every morning - the dawning of the light following the deep darkness of night.
The solstice above all else symbolizes this to me - the promise that light will always follow darkness. If we are patient and open we will discover that so much can be illuminated by the darkess, and great wisdom comes forth in the silence...

Winter poem

"No one but me by the fire,
my hands burning
red in the palms while
the night wind carries
everything away outside.

All this petty worry
while the great cloak
of the sky grows dark
and intense
round every living thing.

What is precious
inside us does not
care to be known
by the mind
in ways that diminish
its presence.

What we strive for
in perfection
is not what turns us
into the lit angel
we desire,
what disturbs
and then nourishes
has everything
we need.

What we hate
in ourselves
is what we cannot know
in ourselves but
what is true to the pattern
does not need
to be explained.

Inside everyone
is a great shout of joy
waiting to be born.
Even with the summer
so far off
I feel it grown in me
now and ready
to arrive in the world.

All those years
listening to those
who had
nothing to say.
All those years
forgetting
how everything
has its own voice
to make
itself heard.
All those years
forgetting
how easily
you can belong
to everything
simply by listening.

And the slow
difficulty
of remembering
how everything
is born from
an opposite
and miraculous
otherness.
Silence and winter
has led me to that
otherness.

So let this winter
of listening
be enough
for the new life
I must call my own.

By David Whyte

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Life and art

"Being a Creator, at its deepest level, means that you create your life. Being a Creator, at its deepest level, means that your life is your work of art."
- Christine Kane

This past Sunday I crafted an almost perfect day. A quiet morning with a period of brief meditation and journaling, a long winter walk in the afternoon followed by a good book before a blazing fire, a meal of homemade aromatic stew and delicious healthy muffins, and a soul nourishing visit with a very special friend. Nothing extraordinary, just a whole lot of wonderful ordinary thoughtfully placed upon my canvas - a work of art...

Friday, December 11, 2009

crisis line numbers

Following is a list of crisis line numbers that can be useful to have on hand if you or someone you care about is in crisis.

National Crisis Helpline:

800-999-9999

National Suicide Prevention Hotline:

800-273-TALK

Calling a warm line

1-800-314-2680

Mental Health Crisis Line:

800-222-8220

Grief Recovery Helpline:

800-445-4808

Crisis Hotline for the Physically & Mentally Challenged

800-426-4263

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
1-800-203-1234

Cocaine Anonymous (CA)
1-800-347-8998

Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
1-800-627-3543

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Battle for the Soul of America

Nick Unger - CBHC Annual Meeting from Campaign for Better Health Care on Vimeo.



Above is a powerful 14 minute speech delivered by Nick Unger on the health care reform bill. He asks a question that each and every one of us needs to answer, "what kind of country do we want to be?" You can read a transcript of the speech at the Universal Health Care Action Network website.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Aging and Growth



I watched one of my very favorite movies this weekend, Harold and Maude, which was released in the early seventies. I try and watch it at least once a decade and always with friends.

Harold is a depressed and death obsessed adolescent who meets and falls in love with Maude, an elderly free spirit who is about to turn eighty and will teach him a tremendous amount about life and love and the wonder of it all. Among the many junkets of wisdom she shares with Harold is, "A lot of people enjoy being dead. But they are not dead, really. They're just backing away from life. *Reach* out. Take a *chance*. Get *hurt* even. But play as well as you can. Go team, go! Give me an L. Give me an I. Give me a V. Give me an E. L-I-V-E. LIVE! Otherwise, you got nothing to talk about in the locker room."

If you're willing to overlook the ending and travel lightly with the two zany main characters then it's a very special movie. It reminds us that life is to be savored at any and every age and that as Betty Friedan asserts, "Aging is not 'lost youth' but a new stage of opportunity and strength."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

"Making Sense"

Public broadcasters from Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont joined forces to help residents of northern new england cope with the financial challenges effecting our region. The result of their collaboration is "Making $ense," a highly informative and inspiring program that addresses many of these challenges and examines some of the creative approaches that have been developed to deal with them.

You can watch the program on demand at: http://www.mpbn.net/OnDemand/Makingense/tabid/1024/Default.aspx

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hugh Prather and a morning ritual







Author, counselor, and minister, Hugh Prather, suggests in his chapter, "Walking Home" in Handbook for the Spirit that we look into our hearts and ask ourselves each morning, "How can I begin to experience my goodness? How can I make the effort today to be the kind of person I want to be?" I've found these questions to be very helpful in keeping me focused on what's most important to me and I try to ask them each morning as I greet the new day.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Aging, Service, Community and Commitment Every Single Day in Bangor...



"On call 24 hours a day for the past five years, a group of senior citizens has made history by greeting over 900,000 American troops at a tiny airport in Bangor, Maine. The Way We Get By is an intimate look at three of these greeters as they confront the universal losses that come with aging and rediscover their reason for living. Bill Knight, Jerry Mundy and Joan Gaudet find the strength to overcome their personal battles and transform their lives through service. This inspirational and surprising story shatters the stereotypes of today's senior citizens as the greeters redefine the meaning of community."

The 2 plus minute trailer is heart warming and inspirational...

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Healing of America




Foreign correspondent for The Washington Post, T.R. Reid, traveled around the world trying to find an affordable health care system for the United States. In his book, The Healing of America, Reid convincingly argues that an effective universal health care system in the United States is possible. The above video is a brief interview with Reid.



To learn more, check out the following:

5 Myths About Health Care Around the World

Excerpt from The Healing of America

The Healing of America on Fora Tv

Frontline: Sick Around the World (Can the US learn anything from the rest of the world about how to run a health care system?)



Thursday, October 15, 2009

Teen Art Tuesdays at the Lewiston Public Library

A wonderful new program is being offered at the Lewiston Public library called Teen Art Tuesday. "...a free informal weekly arts and crafts program designed to provide teens with an opportunity to exercise their creative right-brains!This new program will provide youth between the ages of 13 and 18 with the materials, instructions and assistance to make fun and creative projects.

Teen Art Tuesday will allow teens to explore various styles of art and to work with many different media. The projects act as foundations which youth can build upon to create their own personalized masterpieces. Projects ideas include advanced bean mosaics, bookmaking from everyday items, collage art, 3-D photo illusions, t-shirt alterations, and jewelry making. Teens are encouraged to recommend other project ideas as well.

The program runs from 3-6 p.m. in the Teen Room every Tuesday. For more information, stop by the Reference Desk or contact Molly at 513-3004 x 3521 or mladd@ci.lewiston.me.us."

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Women's Wisdom Group in Lewiston

This past Sunday I participated in a guiding circle for the Women’s Institute of Maine, a very special community of women run strictly by volunteers which currently offers a monthly women’s circle, women’s circle trainings, and a number of online resources “to amplify women’s wisdom and voice.” From my very first experience sitting in a circle of women, I have been nurtured, inspired, taught, and touched. Last Sunday, surrounded by deeply caring and committed women was no exception.

In
Circle of Stones: Woman's Journey to Herself, Judith Duerk wrote, “How might your life have been different if there had been a place for you? A place for you to go… a place of women, to help you learn the ways of woman… a place where you were nurtured from an ancient flow sustaining you and steadying you as you sought to become yourself. A place of women to help you find and trust the ancient flow already there within yourself… waiting to be released… A place of women… How might your life be different?”

When women regularly experience the wisdom, warmth, and acceptance of other women who came together to offer support and to honor one another’s voices through deep listening - the kind of listening that creates “containers of emergence,”[i] lives are eventually transformed.

It’s in a circle of women that we very often come closest to ourselves, discover aspects of our own sacred story mirrored in the story of another; claim our gifts and strengths very often for the first time, and learn to trust the darkness as we fully experience our pain while being held in the hearts of our sisters.

If you are a woman and live within a commutable distance to Lewiston/Auburn, I would like to warmly invite you to join us at the Center for Wisdom’s Women on Tuesday, October 6th from 1:00 to 2:30 for our first wisdom circle. The center is located at 97 Blake Street in Lewiston and is committed to helping women discover their inner resources, pursue life affirming relationships, and develop their potential. Participation in the Wisdom Circle is free.

Rainer Maria Rilke observed, “there is nothing as wise as a circle.” Following are some helpful resources regarding forming and maintaining circles.

The Women’s Institute of Maine Wisdom Circle Page

The Wisdom Circles Homepage

Becoming: Women’s Circles Women’s Lives

[i] Anderson, Sherry Ruth, and Patricia Hopkins, The Feminine Face of God: The Unfolding of the Sacred in Women (Bantam, 1992.)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Micheal Moore on Capitalism: A Love Story



On Fora TV Micheal Moore talks about his newest documentary, Capitalism: A Love Story. You can watch the interview here.

Of his movie, Moore writes on his website,

"...I'm gonna show you the stuff the nightly news will rarely show you. Ever meet a pilot for American Airlines on food stamps because his pay's been cut so low? Ever meet a judge who gets kickbacks for sending innocent kids to a private prison? Ever meet someone from the Wall Street Journal who bluntly states on camera that he doesn't much care for democracy and that capitalism should be our only ruling concern?

You'll meet all these guys in "Capitalism." You'll also meet a whistleblower who, with documents in hand, tells us about the million-dollar-plus sweetheart loans he approved for the head of Senate Banking Committee -- the very committee that was supposed to be regulating his lending institution! You'll hear from a bank regulator why Timothy Geithner has no business being our Treasury Secretary. And you'll learn, from the woman who heads up the congressional commission charged with keeping an eye on the bailout money, how Alan Greenspan & Co. schemed and connived the public into putting up their inflated valued homes as collateral -- thus causing the biggest foreclosure epidemic in our history.

There is now a foreclosure filed in the U.S. once every seven-and-half SECONDS.

None of this is an accident, and I name the names others seem to be afraid to name, the men who have ransacked the pensions of working people and plundered the future of our kids and grandkids. Somehow they thought they were going to get away with this, that we'd believe their Big Lie that this crash was caused by a bunch of low-income people who took out loans they couldn't afford. Much of the mainstream media bought this storyline. No wonder Wall Street thought they could pull this off..." Read the rest here

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Wonderful New Online Tool for Job Seekers in Lewiston/Auburn

The Lewiston and Auburn Public libraries have joined together to offer their patrons a wonderful new tool. Career Transitions, a "clear, easy-to-use, self-paced online resource that walks job-seekers through the entire process: from assessing strengths and interests, to exploring new opportunities, to improving their chances of getting a job, to finding and applying for jobs. With Career Transitions LPL and APL cardholders can:

Prepare - build, save, retrieve and update personal career information with a career toolkit

Assess - explore current skills, occupational knowledge and interests and match them with fulfilling career paths

Explore - investigate thousands of career paths, industries, locations and companies

Improve - find educational opportunities and take classes to increase hiring chances

Apply - search job listings from around the country that meet user criteria"


Friday, September 18, 2009

   The following is a poem by artist and social activist, Rashani
that I find to be both beautiful and powerful entitled, There is a Brokenness.

There is a brokenness
out of which comes the unbroken,
a shatteredness
out of which blooms the unshatterable.

There is a sorrow
beyond all grief which leads to joy
and a fragility
out of whose depths emerges strength.

There is a hollow space
too vast for words
through which we pass with each loss,
out of whose darkness
we are sanctioned into being.

There is a cry deeper than all sound
whose serrated edges cut the heart
as we break open to the place inside
which is unbreakable and whole,
while learning to sing.

-Rashani,1991
You can visit her website at http://rashani.com/

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Life as Art

We're born to create, each and every one of us. I’m not necessarily talking about painting, or poems or novels, although I am talking about works of art. Each of us makes the painful and profound journey down our mother’s dark birth canal and onto a waiting canvas. That canvas is our lives.

We’re not presented at birth with our fair share of resources, nurturing, or opportunities upon our arrival, but we do each receive all that we require in the way of teachers. These teachers school our souls even while at the same time they may break our hearts.

Frederick Buechner in, Our Fiction or our Faith wrote, “There is something deep within us, in everybody, that gets buried and distorted and confused and corrupted by what happens to us. But it is there as a source of insight and healing and strength. I think that is where art comes from.”

Our once empty canvas doesn’t promise beauty or wisdom or meaning. An empty canvas doesn’t promise much. But the world that holds it is overflowing with possibility, more than enough for us to create meaning, and beauty, and wisdom.

It’s entirely up to us.

Friday, September 4, 2009

New Online Support Group for PTSD

There is a new online support group for those who suffer from PTSD. You can find it here. You do need to register in order to participate however registration is free.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Suffering and The Second Arrow

The Following quote is from "The Engaged Spiritual Life: A Buddhist Approach to Transforming Ourselves and the World " by Donald Rothberg and Jack Kornfield.

“…How can we be in touch with suffering and work to transform it, but not react in ways that lead to further suffering?

…One of the most powerful images in the teachings of the Buddha – the image of the ‘two arrows’ helps us to clarify the nature of suffering and how we might learn to open to suffering without creating further suffering. It also suggests an important and precise distinction between what we might call pain and suffering.

We can imagine, the Buddha says, that when we experience pain, it is as if we were shot by an arrow. Each of us is sometimes shot by this arrow of pain. We each have a certain allotment of painful experiences, some of us more, others less. To be human is to be vulnerable to pain and at times to be in pain. Our soft bodies are easily injured and tend to break down over time. We are frequently startled and shocked – physically, emotionally, and mentally. We want meaning and connection, kindness and love, fairness and justice, yet we often find them lacking in our lives.

Typically, because of this first arrow of pain, we react in various ways. According to the Buddha, our reaction is equivalent to being shot by a second arrow. We can call this second arrow suffering. Suffering arises because when we experience pain –when we experience pain – when we are injured or startled, or lack meaning and love, or are treated unjustly – we typically react by lashing out, at ourselves and others. We believe somehow that this will dispel or mitigate the pain. We act in such a way that a second arrow is shot, at us or others, on account of the pain of the first arrow. When we act so that the second arrow is shot, we ‘pass on’ the original pain.

Suffering can thus be seen in large part as a kind or resistance or reaction to the pain of the present moment. We tend to react physically, emotionally, and/or mentally when we have unpleasant or painful physical sensations, emotions, or thoughts. When we experience physical pain, we tend to tense and contract around the pain, as if this will somehow assuage it. Some doctors say that perhaps 80 percent of what patients exper ience as physical pain is not the result of the original stimulus bur rather ongoing resistance to this stimulus.

Similarly, when there is emotional pain (think of the pain that may follow from a perceived slight by someone close to us or the breakup of an intimate relationship) we tend to comment at great length, produce a flow of emotions, and react physically as well, all on the basis of the original stimulus. We may generate anger and harsh judgments of self or others or rationalize continually, sulk in depression, find a scapegoat, or attempt to escape the pain through food, shopping, sex, or television…

For the Buddha… the task of spiritual practice is not to rid ourselves of all pain, to prevent being shot by the first arrow. Rather, our core intention is to not shoot this second arrow."



Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mindfulness Facts, Tools, and Techniques

I'm a very strong proponent of mindfulness practices. There are several physical and psychological benefits to practicing mindfulness including but not limited to improved immune system functioning, stress reduction, decreases in the intensity of stress-related physical symptoms such as chronic pain, substantial reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety, heightened creativity, and an improved sense of overall well-being.

Following are a list of links to resources on mindfulness.


Links on mindfulness
Online Audio and Videos on mindfulness

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Creating a New Life Direction

I just published life coach, Laura Berman Fortgang's article, "10 Tips to Creating a New Life Direction" at SagePlace. The article is based on her book, Now What?: 90 Days to a New Life Direction in which fortgang provides readers with a very useful process developed to assist people in moving forward with their lives.
In the introduction to her book Fortgang writes, "As I look back at the time I have spent working with people, the yearning for "more" has undergone a transformation. In the late 80s and early 90s, people's definition of more was more money and more status... And now, it seems we've come around to recognize that what we wanted along from "more" was fulfillment: feeling satisfied and finding meaning... I welcome you to an exciting (and sometimes scary) exploration that will reveal the truth - the truth about what you really want, about who you really are, and about what you are really capable of..."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Repower America Coming to Auburn on August 17th

The following is quoted from the Lewiston Sun Journal

"Repower America, a national grassroots movement affiliated with the Alliance for Climate Protection, will hold a public informational meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 17, at the Auburn Public Library.

Delia Gorham, an organizer for the regional chapter called Repower Maine, will explain the organization's goals, the progress of the American Clean Energy and Security Act and ways to take action in the community. The need to maintain open and ongoing conversations about issues is one of the main points. The Alliance for Climate Protection is an outgrowth of Al Gore's film 'An Inconvenient Truth.' "

You can visit the Maine page of the national site at: http://act.repoweramerica.org/us/maine

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Awe

Albert Schweitzer wrote, "By having a reverence for life, we enter into a spiritual relation with the world. By practicing reverence for life we become good, deep, and alive." Following is just one example of why it is possible to feel awe and wonder every single day of our lives...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Will You Support Real Health Insurance Reform?

With Congress home on recess, August is a pivotal month in the fight for real health insurance reform. I just committed to go to at least one Organizing for America event this month to build support in our community, and show Congress where we stand. Can you commit to attending one event this month as well?

There's a lot of misinformation out there, and people are, not surprisingly, starting to get pretty nervous. There will be lots of different things we can do this month to fight back, and it's really important that we do what we can.

You can sign up here:

http://my.barackobama.com/CommitAugust

Thanks!

Healing Health Care

The following is a 3 minute video where physicians speak about the importance of health care reform.




For more information about health care, watch:

a 3 minute explanation of why we need health care reform and a short summary of proposed solutions, watch why we need health care reform.

a 3 minute explanation of why health insurance is so expensive

a 2 minute explanation of consumer driven health care

Friday, July 31, 2009

A Kinder Gentler Vision of Success

Alain de Botton, writer, presenter and co-founder of the School of Life, offers both a funny and thought provoking talk entitled, "A Kinder Gentler Vision of Success" on TED Talks.


A few observations made by de Botton:

“Pick up any newspaper or magazine, open the TV, and you'll be bombarded with suggestions of how to have a successful life. Some of these suggestions are deeply unhelpful to our own projects and priorities - and we should take care.”

“We may seek a fortune for no greater reason than to secure the respect and attention of people who would otherwise look straight through us.”

You can listen to a brief (2 minutes and 35 seconds) comment on happiness, ambition and wealth
here

You can also watch an excellent six part documentary entitled, "A Guide to Happiness" presented by de Botton here.




Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Healing Effects of Laughter and the Smallest Joys

Laughter is healing, we all know that. Many of us are even aware that laughter stimulates the immune system, reduces the effects of stress, can reduce the perception of pain, increase productivity, and promote overall health and well being. I love to laugh and suspect that my husband's shared appreciation of laughter has had much to do with our marriage surviving and thriving for 32 years now. It is because I believe so strongly in the healing gifts of laughter that I want to share the following video with you as a reminder of how sweetly simple it can be if we only allow it...



The Benefits of Positive Emotions

Happier.com has an online video by Professor Barbara Fredrickson that outlines the benefits of cultivating and experiencing positive emotions. You can view it here.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Rewriting our Stories

" I came to the middle point of my life, and I realized I didn't know what myth I was living." Carl Jung

George Gerbner, journalist and professor of communications, observed that the people who tell the stories are the ones who have the greatest influence on how we live and how our children will grow up. Not so long ago, considering the vast history of human kind, we received most of our stories from trustworthy elders who had our best interests at heart. Today, profit driven media has become our primary storyteller. By the time American children graduate from high school, it’s been estimated that they’ve been exposed to a minimum of 360,000 advertisements, and on average, by the time we die, most Americans will have spent an entire year of our lives watching television commercials. When we stop to consider what the message of this incredibly pervasive story teller has been, it's not too difficult to appreciate how much soul the American story has lost, and how much of our soul has been silenced by a story heard thousands of times every day across America, a story whose constant refrain is, “buy me."

Psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, observed that his work as a healer didn’t truly begin until he recognized that the key to comprehending ourselves resided in our stories. Jung also maintained that until each of us actively shaped and lived the unique story that resided at our core, our lives would lack the direction and meaning that we long for. If we lose our story, or fail to live it, cautioned Jung, ultimately the very direction and purpose of our lives would slip away. I wonder how much of my own story has been lost to America’s dominant and all pervasive story – a story that I was born into and to which I have had few authorship rights.

And then there's the story I was introduced to in training to be a psychotherapist. A story that stressed that the 'patient' is sick or broken and needs to be fixed, rather than that this unique and special person is in process and is responding to the world in which he or she lives. It was also a story that identified the therapist as the 'expert,' instead of a companion and ally - one with wounds of his or her own.

James Hillman in, "We've Had A Hundred Years of Psychotherapy," bravely (and outrageously according to many psychotherapists) declared that most psychotherapy models do something vicious to the people whom they are meant to serve. They internalize emotion. How? By so often turning the rage and pain brought on by the injustice, chaos, inequity, aggression, alienation, consumerism, and so much more that surrounds and diminishes us into personal demons and inadequacies. For instance, offers Hillman, imagine that a client has arrived at his therapist's office shaken and outraged. While driving his fuel efficient and compact car, he's just come very close to being run off the road by a speeding trailer truck. The outcome of this scenario, asserts Hillman, all too often leads to an exploration of how the truck reminds the client of being pushed around by his father, or that he's always felt vulnerable and fragile, or maybe he’s furious that he isn't as powerful as 'the other guy.' The therapist ends up converting the client's stress (in response to an external experience) into anxiety - an inner state. The well meaning therapist has also managed to transmute the present into the past (the client’s anger and fear is really about unresolved issues from childhood); and transforms the client's outrage about (the chaos, the craziness, the dangers, etc of the client's outer world) into rage and hostility. Thus, the client's pain regarding the external world has once again been turned inward. It's become pathology.

Hillman explains, "Emotions are mainly social. The word comes from the Latin ex movere, to move out. Emotions connect to the world. Therapy introverts the emotions, calls fear 'anxiety.' You take it back, and you work on it inside yourself. You don't work psychologically on what that outrage is telling you about potholes, about trucks, about Florida strawberries in Vermont in March, about burning up oil, about energy policies, nuclear waste, that homeless woman over there with the sores on her feet - the whole thing."

After over two decades as a psychotherapist, and almost a half a century as an American citizen, I've come to appreciate Hillman's wisdom. He maintains that a significant amount of what therapists have been trained to view as individual pathology, is often an indication of the sickness that exists within our culture. In doing this, laments Hillman, "We continue to locate all symptoms universally within the patient rather than also within the soul of the world. Maybe the system has to be brought into line with the symptoms so that the system no longer functions as a repression of the soul, forcing the soul to rebel in order to be noticed."

The Narrative therapist might call Hillman’s perspective about therapy an ‘alternative story’. When we begin to explore and acknowledge both our alternative and preferred stories, we're entering into a creative process where we lay claim to our authorship rights. Our alternative stories, unlike the dominant cultural stories that we were all too often conditioned to accept without question, evolve from our own personal experiences and values. During this process of exploration, evaluation, and creation, we’re no longer simply 'readers' of our story, we become writers too.

From here, where we begin to openly critique and dismantle the dominant stories that we have not only lived, but that have come to live inside of us, we finally become free to envision a story that has personal meaning and integrity to us. During this tumultuous and pivotal time in our country’s continuously evolving story, it may be more important now then ever that we ask ourselves the following questions, “is the story that I am currently living the story that I want to live? “Is this an honorable story?” Does my current story privilege community or competition, sustainability or excess, money or meaning, power or love?” “What are the essential themes of the American story that I no longer wish to participate in, and which themes do I want my story to embrace as an American?”

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Century of the Self



The Century of the Self is a documentary that explores "the rise of the all-consuming self against the backdrop of the Freud dynasty" including how effectively Americans are manipulated by corporations. Are you in charge of your own desires? Watch the documentary here and then think again...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A New Politics for the Common Good

Harvard professor, Michael Sandel, makes an excellent case for a moral and civic renewal in democratic politics and calls for a new politics for the common good. What would such a politics looks like? Among other things, it would invite us to view ourselves as citizens rather than consumers and would call on us to very seriously consider the moral and spiritual implications of our actions, not only the economic ones. You can listen to his lecture at the Reith Lectures 2009

Sandel asserts that, "We live in a time of financial crisis and economic hardship – everybody knows that – but we also live in a time of great hope for moral and civic renewal…Whatever reforms may emerge, one thing is clear: the better kind of politics we need is a politics oriented less to the pursuit of individual self-interest and more to the pursuit of the common good. That at least is the case I shall try to make in these lectures. A new politics of the common good isn’t only about finding more scrupulous politicians. It also requires a more demanding idea of what it means to be a citizen, and it requires a more robust public discourse – one that engages more directly with moral and even spiritual questions."

I could not agree more....

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Earth Song by Michael Jackson



It's for work such as the above that I choose to remember Michael Jackson for.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Secret Lives of Bees and the Black Madonna



This past winter I watched "The Secret Life of Bees" with my mother, daughter, niece, and sister. I loved the book and was equally touched by the movie. It felt particularly special to be sharing this film with the women in my family as two primary themes of both the book and movie had to do with the sacred feminine and the enduring love of families. What made "The Secret Life of Bees" the most significant to me was that it was my first exposure to the Black Madonna. Images of the black Madonna have known to exist in numerous European countries since as early as 50 AD.

In an interview with Heidi Schlumpf about the Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd shares, "It's about a girl who has lost her mother and who finds these women who teach her about a Black Madonna A Black Madonna or Black Virgin is a statue or painting of Mary in which she is depicted with dark or black skin. This name applies in particular to European statues or pictures of a Madonna which are of special interest because her dark face and hands seem to need and love her into healing. Lily's great quest was for her mother, but not only for an earthly mother. It took me a while to understand this as I wrote it, that she was longing--as most all of us are--for a larger mother. We're all really looking for that great mother.

So there were two quests going on--one, for the actual mother, whose loss had left this terrible hole in her. I don't know about that particular quest personally because my own mother is still alive at the age of 82. But as I was writing I understood that I did know about that other longing for this larger, we could say, spiritual mother. In the book I let the Black Madonna carry all that."

Heidi: "What exactly are Black Madonnas?"

Sue Monk Kidd: "There are hundreds of these images of dark-skinned Black Madonnas in Europe, and they are some of the most ancient images we have of Mary. The most well known is probably Our Lady of Czestochowa in Poland. Many of them are in great Gothic cathedrals, like Chartres, France, often in the crypts.

There are a lot of inventive speculations about why they are black. Some people have said it's about candle smoke (I think that theory has been more or less rejected), but some scholars believe they are black because they have connections to pre-Christian goddesses, many of whom are pictured black. Their history suggests that there may have been a kind of underground nerve center for worshiping the divine feminine within the medieval church, and it often came through in the Black Madonna.

If that is the case, we've got a very powerful amalgamation going on, a blending of the Christian Mary and these old earth goddesses. And there's an amalgamation going on not just in her history, but in her spirituality, in her mythology, in the stories that evolve around her and in the way people relate to her...People ask, "Who was the queen bee in the story? Was it the Black Madonna?" It really alternated. Sometimes it was August, who stood in as that earthly Black Madonna. Sometimes it was the Black Madonna reflected in the masthead. But ultimately as I tried to portray in the end of the novel, it's something within us. As August said to Lily, you have to find that mother inside yourself."

In The Hidden Spirituality of Men, Episcopalian priest and author, Matthew Fox when writing about one aspect of the black Madonna observes, "The black Madonna calls us to grieve. The black Madonna is the sorrowful mother, the mother who weeps tears for the suffering in the universe, the suffering in the world, the brokeness of our very vulnerable hearts... She invites us to enter into our grief and name it and be there to learn what suffering has to teach us. Creativity cannot happen, birthing cannot happen, unless we pay attention to the grieving heart. Only by passing through grief can creativity burst forth anew. Grieving is an emptying, it is making the womb open again for new birth to happen..." Fox offers several other descriptions of the black Madonna archetype and what she calls us to do in the twenty- first century which you can read online at “The Return of the Black Madonna" however his observations connecting her to the transformative possibilities inherent in grief are especially meaningful to me.

Friday, June 26, 2009

In Praise of Slowness

I enjoyed Journalist Carl Honore's talk on TED, "In Praise of Slowness." Honore asserts that with our obsession with being fast and first, we westerners sacrifice not only our quality of life but our health as well. He urges us to slow down and points out the multitude of benefits to doing so. You can watch his talk here

You may also want to pay a visit to the website, Slow Movement which "supports a growing cultural shift towards slowing down. On this site we discuss how we have lost connection to most aspects of our life and to the natural world and rhythms around us, and how we can reconnect – how we can live a connected life. The Slow Movement is a worldwide movement to recapture Meaningful Connection this state of connectedness. The movement is gaining momentum, as more and more people recognize their discomfort at the fast pace and disconnected nature of their lives."

Monday, June 22, 2009

Intuitive Eating

I just made my powerpoint presentation on intuitive eating available for free download at:
http://www.sageplace.com/powerpoint%20presentations.htm

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Honoring the Work of the Unemployed

A middle aged professional shared with me that he had run into an old acquaintance recently who asked him where he was working these days. His shoulders automatically drooped and his jaw tightened as he answered with more than a little embarrassment, “Well, I’m not working anywhere at the moment, I’ve been laid off.” I was saddened and unsettled by his response. Although, yes, in fact, he was currently unemployed, his answer wasn’t true. He was deeply engaged with his work. He had created an abundant and beautiful organic garden, filled with a variety of vegetables and bordered by perennial flowers. He was engrossed in research on sustainable living, an issue he had always cared about but had never had the time to actively pursue, and he had become involved with a group of activists lobbying for health care reform. In a culture where what one does for a job appears to have become the primary measurement of a man’s success, the story my ‘unemployed’ friend had begun telling about his own life had become tragically distorted.

Beldon Lane in The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality quotes an old man in William Least Heat Moon’s book, Blue Highways who asserted,

“A man’s never out of work if he’s worth a damn. It’s just sometimes he doesn’t get paid. I’ve gone unpaid my share and I’ve pulled my share of pay. But that’s got nothing to do with working. A man’s work is doing what he’s supposed to do, and that’s why he needs a catastrophe now and again to show him a bad turn isn’t the end, because a bad stroke never stops a good man’s work.”

Lane makes an important distinction in his book between our jobs and our work. In our jobs, points out Lane, we attend to what needs tending to for money, with our work, we attend to what matters the most to us.

There are so many stories told every day about Americans who have found themselves without jobs through no fault of their own, and while these stories sadden me for a multitude of reasons, I’m also captivated by the stories we are not telling. I am referring to those stories that have nothing to do with stock prices, the gross national product, unemployment figures, or our national debt. I’m referring to stories about those who are unemployed and who are providing loving care to fragile and elderly parents and even neighbors, who are volunteering, involving themselves in local politics to an extent that they never had time for before, who are changing lives and even in some cases helping to revise and strengthen entire communities.

There may be fewer jobs available, but there is no less work to be done. In fact, it feels to me as though there is more work then ever before. Lets not underestimate for a moment the tremendous value of those who are doing so much of this work -- the unemployed.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Listening to our Lives During Times of Uncertainty

Many of us seek the wisdom of a guide when life becomes uncertain, and for some of us, a wise and supportive person is available and willing to offer assistance. Others withdraw, hiding their pain and consequently depriving themselves of the comfort and support that might be available to them if only they were to reach out. And then there are those who incessantly lament or complain, refusing to take full responsibility for resolving their difficulty, they wait for their circumstances to change or for a saviour to arrive. Sadly, in many cases, the rescuer never shows.

All too often when facing a dilemna we fail to trust the wisdom that exists within each of us. Instead, many of us secretly yearn for an all knowing teacher who can provide us with the perfect answers and protect us from making mistakes. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of Women Who Run with the Wolves, points out that life itself is our finest teacher, "Life is the teacher that shows up when the student is ready... Life is often the only teacher we are given that is perfect in every way."

Estes reiminds us that our own lives are a source of tremendous wisdom -- our memories, our experiences, our mistakes, our disapointments, our struggles, our pain - every single thing that serves to make up our lives holds valuable lessons than can and will provide enourmous guidance if only we open ourselves up to them.

Frederick Buechner advised, " "Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and the pain of it no less than the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace."

Resolve to listen to your life, to settle deeply into those teachable and precious moments that are offered up to you, and prepare when ever possible to harvest them.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Four Fold Way

In "The four - Fold Way," Angeles Arrien suggests that each of us ask the following questions and answer those that apply to us. "Where in my life did I stop dancing? Where in my life did I stop singing? Where in my life did I stop being enchanted with stories? Where in my life did I become uncomfortable with the sweet territory of silence?"

The logical next step would be to consider how you might regain what you've lost touch with. There are countless gifts that accompany dancing with abandon, singing your heart out, allowing yourself to be completely absorbed in a story while fully open to its lessons, and able to embrace silence as a trusted companion.

So how about if each time you have some time alone you do at least one of the following:

Dance around the house

Meditate

Spend some time outdoors listening to the wind

Sing your heart out

Write in your journal

Draw in your journal

Create a collage

Close your eyes and spend 5 minutes quietly following your breath

Work on your memoir

Close your eyes and listen to meditative or soul expanding music

Read a short story someone recommended

Get in touch with the one who still lives inside of you who used to burst into song and dance spontaneously and who unreservedly believed in magic...

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Men's Room



The Men's Room is a weekly talk show on men available for viewing online. Thus far the show has covered topics such as:

Boys and Rites of Passage

Men and Depression

Mentoring for Boys

Veterans issues

Images of Men

Male Spirituality

Men and Happiness

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Friday, May 29, 2009

Our Shadows at Midlife - Part Two

According to Janice Brewi and Anne Brennan, authors of "Celebrate Midlife: Jungian Archetypes and Midlife Spirituality," there are two possible catastrophes at midlife. One is to deny the presence of the shadow and hold on firmly to our lifestyle and identity, refusing to surrender outgrown or acknowledge developing aspects of our personalities. This fear to risk, and determination to maintain the status quot, freezes our personal development and deprives us of valuable opportunities for growth. As Brewi and Brennan observe, "one can die at forty and not get buried until ninety. This would surely be a catastrophe."

The other catastrophe according to Brewi and Brennan would be to embrace our shadows while at the same time rejecting much of what we've valued up until this point, deeming most of our past choices to be the wrong ones, and the 'self' that we've presented to the world up until this point as an impostor. Those of us who respond to our shadows by abandoning all of the now rejected old, in order to be completely free to experiment with the more titillating new, often sabotage their development and risk catastrophic losses.
Psychotherapist, James Dolan, suggests that one of the most obvious ways that we can detect the presence of the shadow is in the simmering depression that haunts so many of us. This depression, from his perspective, is connected to our sorrow, our regret, our resentment, our lost dreams, our creativity, and so many other facets of ourselves that we've denied.
Finding oneself is not purely about embracing the desired, or rejecting the unpleasant. Instead, it's about examination and integration -- exploring what fits, letting go of what no longer works, embracing the gifts that we've lost or abandoned, and weaving the various strands of the self together to create a whole and unified tapestry.

The years following young adulthood offer as many (if not more) prospects for growth than our often romanticized youth promised. Opening ourselves up to these possibilities by reclaiming or modifying old visions or by creating new dreams fosters hope, discovery and renewal. Focusing on what did not/ might have/ could have/ should have/ and should not have been only leads to prolonged and unnecessary suffering.

It's impossible to arrive at midlife without being scarred. In "Listening to Midlife" Mark Gerzon points out, "None of us reaches the second half whole... Our health depends on beginning to heal these wounds and finding greater wholeness - and holiness in the second half of our lives."
The process of healing past wounds and reclaiming lost gifts can often be a painful one, and yet when we proceed with wisdom and integrity, it is always a sacred journey.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Good Life



Here's a short thoughtful video based on an old and wonderful story, one that's particularly meaningful today.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Our Shadows at Midlife

The process of individuation (of becoming oneself) which begins the day we are born takes on a greater depth and intensity at midlife. It's from this place of accumulated wisdom and experience that we're most likely to come face to face with our shadow. Our shadows consist of those parts of ourselves that we've repressed, rejected, lost or abandoned -- the person I might have been, and the one that I chose not (dared not) to be. Psychiatrist, Carl Jung, called the shadow the "negative side" of the individual. I choose to think of it as the disowned self. It's the dark side, the silent witness who steps forward from time to time into the light to have its say. Its appearance, while unsettling, brings with it a creative force that offers tremendous opportunities for deepening and growth. If, from time to time, we move toward our shadows, rather than turn away, we will discover significant gifts from within our depths. Reclaiming lost and buried parts of ourselves will most likely require some excavation, however the buried treasures available to those willing to dig deep are well worth the dark journey into the unknown...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Talk Therapy Superior to Medication for Treating Insomnia

A new study conducted at Laval University in Quebec Canada found that talk therapy is superior to the use of medication alone in treating insomnia. You can read more about the findings of this study here.

Recommnendations for those suffering from insomnia by those who conduceted the study include but are not limited to:

1. Don't read, watch television, worry, etc. in bed, bed time should only be sleep time.

2. If you are unable to sleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed and return to bed only when you're sleepy again.

3. Establish a wake up time that is the same time each morning, don't plan on getting up at 7:00 one morning, 9:00 the next, 7:00 the next, etc.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A good Question...




Deena Mezger observed, "a good question is a great gift... a good question can change your life..." What important question have you been avoiding answering?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Latest Information on Swine Flu in Maine

With so much information regarding Swine Flu available on the internet, it's easy to obtain a significant amount of misinformation. The Maine Center for Disease Control offers daily updates
regarding diagnosed cases, prevention strategies, and treatment. There is also a general public call in number, 1-888-257-0990 or 207-629-5751.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Creation and Spirituality

I saw theologian and author Matthew Fox in Portland yesterday. I had read/heard much of what he shared in other lectures and books he's previously written but it is always wonderful to be reminded of what feels wise and whole and true. Among the thoughts that he shared which resonated with me were:

Suffering is initiation into our deeper creativity...

The definition of courage is comprised of two French words meaning "wise heart."

To overcome our fear it's helpful to connect with what we love and cherish.

Our culture fails to appreciate the value of the void, we're always trying to fill it up.

Wisdom brings heart and mind together.

Men have to recover their warrior nature (huge difference between warrior and soldier.)

Christ, Gandhi, King were all warriors.

The warrior is a lover and a mystic.

"Don't give a loaded gun to young men who have not yet learned to dance."

The love of death (necrophilia) grows when the love of life (biophilia) is stunted.

Wildness is the wellspring of creativity

Clarissa Pinkola Estes asserts that creativity (and the wild woman) lives in the gut and not in the head

The love of life and the grief of life give birth to creativity

The first level of grief is anger

Our universe is completely committed to birthing and creativity

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Live Your Life Well

Mental Health America recently published Live Your Life Well, a website designed to assist visitors to more effectively cope with stress and create a more satisfying life by providing 10 research based tools that promote well being and facilitate resiliency. You can also sign up for their free monthly living well email list.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Walking

I frequently encourage my clients to walk, and sometimes I invite them to walk with me during our session. Frank MacEowen in "The Mist Filled Path" describes walking as "a poetic and sensual experience ... a spiritual act... an art form, a dynamic communion with the landscape... a special time to connect with another person..."

MacEowen quotes Soren Kierkegard who cautioned, "Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness that would have me; I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thoughts so burdensome that one cannot 'walk' way from it."

Walking on a regular basis is therapeutic on a number of levels. It releases endorphins (the 'feel good' chemicals in your brain, and natural pain killers), reduces risk factors related to obesity, hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol, improves mood and relieves stress.

Following are some helpful links:

Walking in Nature to Promote the Health of the Mind, Body and Spirit

Healthy Maine Walks

Best Walking in Maine

Lewiston/Auburn Trails

Monday, April 27, 2009

Listening to Your Life

In "Listening to Your Life: Daily Meditations" Frederick Buechner writes, "Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and in the pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch and taste your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace."
How might our lives be different if we held them lovingly, recognizing each moment as sacred, each life a precious gift...

You can listen to an interview with him entitled, "the stewardship of pain" here.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Preparing for "Honoring The Sacred in Nature" this Sunday

In preparing for this coming Sunday's event here at SagePlace, "Honoring the Sacred in Nature: Honoring the Sacred in Ourselves," I came across a book filled with wisdom and beautiful imagery entitled, "By Monomoy Light" written by North T. Cairn. In it she wrote,

" I have spent most of my life exploring the hinterlands of the hidden self, and when the time was right, I made the north – the mythological direction governing birth and death; the body and nature; growth, creativity and silence – my own.”

She also wrote, "Still, the last decade of the millennium was more for me the beginning of ten years of wandering in a small wilderness, and it would change me for good. It is not that I found myself in the sparse wilderness of Monomoy, but rather that I lost myself there, in the intricate elegance and uncompromising energy of nature.”

For me, Maine fits her description of the North perfectly and offers us opportunities to be both lost and found.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

What is Depression? An Overview

WebMD has a very good slideshow available online that offers an overview of Depression including its symptoms, impact on daily life, whose at risk, causes, diagnosis, and treatment. You can view it here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day Meditation: At Close Range

On this earth day I am reflecting on the tremendous amount that has been written about the value of encountering the natural world (of which we are a part)close-up. Winifred Gallagher in, The Power of Place, quoted James Swan, an environmentalist and psychologist who advised that his prescription for inner conflict was spending time alone with no activities or distractions in a natural setting. Swan observes that as we spend most of our time indoors, we become estranged from "the vast mine of meaning, art, metaphor, and teaching that we evolved in."

According to Gallagher, signs exist all around us suggesting that we long to reconnect with our natural environment. In exploring our growing attraction to nature-based activities, as well as the benefits of such endeavors, Gallagher cites a study conducted by Stephen and Rachel Kaplan who concluded that nature has a profoundly positive impact on both mental and physical health. Acts as simple as listening to a bubbling brook, feeling a gentle breeze ruffle your hair, lifting your face to the sun, following the flight of a butterfly, each of these experiences can be soothing and restorative.

Psychologist and researcher, Marc Fried, found after identifying the significant factors that enhance the quality of our lives that while the strongest predictor of life satisfaction was a good marriage, the immediate surrounding (the natural environment in particular) rated as the second strongest predictor. Not everyone is graced by a garden in the backyard, a beautiful view, or a park nearby. However, most of us can bring some degree of nature home by including live plants or fresh flowers in their living and work spaces.

According to Sam Keen, in Hymns to an Unknown God, the organization of the human soul reflects the world in which it is contained. He observes further that most of us have been cut off from our natural environment, working at desks and confined to artificially cooled and heated buildings for much of our lives. Keen believes that in order to sustain spiritual health we require expansive views, close contact with the elements of nature, the wind, water, the sun, lightening storms, and "the reassuring sight of something that grows from seed to maturity."

On this beautiful, warm and sunny Earth day in Maine I prepare to head outside to count my blessings...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth Healing the Mind



"the world is sick; it needs healing, it is speaking through us, and it speaks the loudest through the most sensitive of us."
Sarah Conn


Following are quotes from the book, " Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth Healing the Mind."

"...the trauma endured by thechnological people like ourselves is the sytemic and systematic removal of our lives from the natural world: from the tendrils of earthy textures, from the rhythms of sun and moon, from the spirits of the bears and trees, from the life force itself. This is also the systemic and systematic removal of our lives from the kinds of social and cultural experiences our ancestors assumed when they lived in rhythm with the natural world."
Chellis Glendinning


"Our enormously productive economy... demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption ... we need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced and discarded at an ever increasing rate... "
Victor Lebow

"Psychological evidence shows that the relationship between consumption and personal happiness is weak. Worse, two primary forces of human fulfillment - social relations and leisure - appear to have withered or stagnated in the rush to riches. Thus many in the consumer society have a sense that their world of plenty is somehow hollow - that, hoodwinked by a consumer culture, they have been fruitlessly attempting to satisfy with material things what are essentially social, psychological, and spiritual needs."
Alan Thein Durning

Friday, April 17, 2009

Eco Spirituality and Cross Currents



I came across a wonderful collection of articles some time ago collected and published by Cross Currents, a publication and global network sponsored by The Association for Religion and Intellectual Life. You can view these articles online here . They include:

Trees, Forestry, and the Responsiveness of CreationBrian J. Walsh, Marianne B. Karsh, and Nik Ansell

The Greening of Buddhist PracticeKenneth Kraft

The Gaia Hypothesis: Implications For a Christian Political Theology of the EnvironmentStephen B. Scharper

Islam and EcologyMarjorie Hope and James Young

Ethics and Trauma: Levinas, Feminism, and Deep EcologyRoger S. Gottlieb

Christianity and The Survival of CreationWendell Berry

Eucharistic Ecology and Ecological SpiritualityBeatrice Bruteau

Mountains Made Alive: Native American Relationships With Sacred LandEmily Cousins

On The Wings of a Blue HeronPaul O. Ingram

Re-conceiving God and Humanity in Light ofToday's Ecological Consciousness: A Brief StatementGordon D. Kaufman

Global Requiem: The Apocalyptic Moment in Religion, Science, and ArtJack Miles

The Ecotheology of Annie Dillard: A Study in AmbivalencePamela A. Smith

Green Lap, Brown Embrace, Blue Body: The Ecospirituality of Alice WalkerPamela A. Smith

The Green Face of God: Christianity in an Age of EcocideMark I. Wallace

And the Earth Is Filled with the Breath of LifeArthur Waskow

Most of the above articles are written in sophisticated language and are not simple reading however, their messages are worth the time and energy expended in absorbing them.
These messages include but are not limited to:

1. The need for us to recognize and address what Thomas Berry has defined as our "cultural autism" and to develop an ability to 'hear' the voices of creation once again.

2. The significance of the Gaia hypothesis and it's implications for our culture.

3. The earth's crisis is fundamentally a spiritual crisis

4. Many of us are traumatized by the growing threats to our world

5. The view of our earth as a eucharistic planet (the true presence of the divine) has existed in almost every culture in the world in one form or another and reclaiming this view is essential for the protection of our world.

6. Learning about Native American religious traditions can help non-Natives as they offer a model for developing a spiritual relationship with the land.

7. If we look at hell as a metaphor then, "hell is land that has no spirits to claim it." (Mamie Salt)

8. Religious life and the earth's ecology are inextricably connected.

9. The importance of a biohistorical perpective of being human , one that emphasizes "our deep embeddedness in the web of life on planet Earth." (Gordon Kaufman)

10. The very real possibility that humans might become extinct sooner than anyone imagined offers significant opportunites for spiritual and artistic growth.

11. "In the deepest origins of Jewish life, the most sacred relationship was the relationship with the earth." Arthur Waskow

12. "Earth itself has become the nigger of the world...While the Earth is poisoned, everything it supports is poisoned. While the Earth is enslaved, none of us is free .... While it is `treated like dirt,' so are we." Alice Walker




Thursday, April 16, 2009

Earth Day Meditations: Remembering Dam Pond


It's my spirit that most remembers sitting in the middle of Dam pond at dusk. I am gently cradled and rocked by the water's rhythmic dance beneath me. The coming twilight will be my nightlight. The music of the loons, the bullfrogs, the yellow warblers, and the tree swallows my lullaby. I am at peace. My spirit is soothed as I meditate. I gaze at the reflection of the pines upon the water. I glance up at the blue and white and pink sky. I silently greet the magnificence of all that I do not see; the miraculous and countless entities beneath the pond's surface, and the magic and the mystery of the very universe. Here and now there is no yearning, no searching, no struggle. I am surrounded and enfolded in the arms of God. It's that simple.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Jim Staltz and a Walk in Beauty in Auburn on April 19th



Jim Stoltz "a Montana Folk Singer and traveler is bringing his multimedia show, "Forever Wild" to the First Universalist Church of Auburn. In his preformances, Stoltz takes his audience into the wilderness using photography, musc and stories. Named Walkin' Jim for the 27,000 miles he has traveled in the wilds of North America, his lyrics convey his deeply held respect for nature. The show will begin at 1 P.M. and tickets are $10 for adults, free for children. Make reservations by calling (207) 783-0461 or at uuauburn@myfairpoint.net. "

In an article by Zachary Hecht-Leavitton in the College Media Network Jim explained, " "In my show, I combine photography and music and put them together to create a real double-whammy. Art plays to heart. Getting more than one sense working makes for a stronger message and touches people in a more powerful way."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

We are not strangers here...

Recently I listened to a young man lament that for much of his life time he didn't feel as if he belonged -- he didn't belong in his family, at his school, in his neighborhood or at his workplace. I asked if there was any place that he was able to experience a sense of belonging and he responded that he felt connected and at peace when he was in the woods or in his canoe. I was immediately reminded of the words of Alan Watts who observed, "you did not come into this world, you came out of it. You are no stranger here."

How many of us find ourselves at home in the natural world, and how great of a price do those of us who find ourselves estranged from it pay?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility



Tonight at 7:00 at Gilsland Farm Audubon Center in Falmouth there will be a discussion of an essay and a book, "Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility." The Audubon website offers the following description:

"Three years ago Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger lectured to environmentalists that their movement had outlived its usefulness and must die so that something new could arise. The essay angered many environmentalists, but ignited a much-needed debate over the fate of the environmental movement in the United States. In this follow-up to the original essay, the authors give us an expansive and eloquent manifesto for political change. What Americans really want, and what could serve as the basis for a new politics, is a vision capable of inspiring us to greatness. Making the case for abandoning old categories such as nature vs. market, and left vs. right, the authors articulate a pragmatism fit for our times that has already found champions in such prominent figures as Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama."

It should be both an informative and inspirational evening. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Count Down to Earth Day


For the past five or so years I have made it a practice to begin counting down to earth day starting April first by making a point every day of reading something, visiting some place, attending a lecture, watching a movie , etc. that celebrates nature. It just occured to me that it might make sense to share a quote, talk about a local activity, lecture, movie, etc. each day leading up to Earth Day.

Today's quote:

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."
- -- Henry David Thoreau quoted in "Promises Ahead: A Vision of Hope and Action For Humanity's Future by Duane Elgin

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Looking for a 'Green' or Socially Responsible Job?

Here's a link to a list of job boards that focus on social and or environmentally responsible jobs.

How Can We in Lewiston / Auburn Save the Environment AND the Economy?



In this six minute video Van Jones talks about how the break down of our economy and the peril to our planet can lead to a break through offering tremendous opportunity. While watching the video, I found myself repeatedly thinking about how wonderful it would be to bring "the green for all" movement here to Lewiston/Auburn.

The folks at Green For All would like those of us in cities and towns across the country to know and then act on the following: " Between now and June, your Mayor and local officials must come up with a plan to secure and implement President Obama's Economic Recovery funds. Does your Mayor have a plan yet? Do you know what that plan is? This may be the most important opportunity you'll ever have to bring green-collar jobs to your community." You can read more here

What are Mayors' Jenkins and Gilberts plans?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The L/A (Lewiston/Auburn) Time Bank

The L/A time bank is a wonderful gift to the Lewiston/Auburn community. How does it work? "Time Dollars are a type of community currency that anyone can earn by using their time, energy, skills, and talents to help others. One hour of service provided to another human being or to the community earns one Time Dollar. You can spend your Time Dollars on any number of services." To join or to learn more about the program, call 207-782-5783, ext. 1607.



You can also pay a visit to The Hour Exchange in Portland to learn more about Time Dollar programs in general

Monday, April 6, 2009

National Child Abuse Prevention Month

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and the Child Welfare Information Gateway has a number of resources to offer parents and other caregivers at their website. A good resources for residents of Maine is The Maine children's Trust and a resource that offers information regarding activities and happenings in Maine of interest to parents is Raising Maine

Friday, April 3, 2009

Creative Illness and our Collective Quest

What comes to mind as you read the following questions: ” “How bad is it?” “How bad will it hurt?” “How worried should I be?” “How much worse will it get?” “How much time do we have?” “How did this happen?” Do these seem by any chance like questions that someone who has just discovered that he or she is ill might ask? And does it seem to you that these kind of questions are getting asked a whole lot these days? It does to me. One definition of disease is 'a lack of ease,' and the escalating threats of a dying planet and seriously ailing economy are most definitely making many of us more than a little uneasy (and leaving some of us quaking. )

In “The Discovery of the Unconscious,” historian Henri Ellenberger described a process whereby illness in addition to being painful, debilitating, and frightening can also be evolutionary and transformative. He called this phenomenon, ‘creative illness.’ Serious Illness and dis-ease often lead us to confront issues that we haven’t truly faced before, and to ask the kind of questions that seldom (if ever) have easy answers. Today, many of us are earnestly asking questions that we’ve long avoided such as, “what will we need to do differently, more efficiently, sustainably and now as we face global warming?” and, “how must we behave, think, and live differently in order to survive the harsh new economic realities?” Ready or not, we have been launched on a quest -a quest that threatens, challenges, and frightens us.

Quests by definition are initiated by questions, some of which have the potential to distract and overwhelm us, particularly those that are all too often accompanied by complicated and even contradictory answers. Poet Rainer Maria Rilke advised us to love questions, while another poet, Mary Oliver, suggests that there is ultimately only one question that we need to ask ourselves and that is, “how to love this world?”

It’s my belief that the outcome of our collective quest will have a great deal to do with the quality of the questions that we ask ourselves along the way, and I am dearly hoping that through the questions we ask and the courage and integrity required in not only seeking, but then living the answers, we will in the end be stronger, deeper, wiser, and more creative, and that through our questing we will be both transformed and redeemed.