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After the horrible news of yesterday’s school shootings we have been mourning the losses and feel numb. Today The Chalice newsletter of the Unitarian Church of Barnstable arrived – the church we just joined last week — and Reverend Kristen Harper included the opening stanza from a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson to introduce her paragraph about mourning losses during the year. Unfortunately it is very apt today.
Threnody by Ralph Waldo Emerson
THE SOUTH-WIND brings
Life, sunshine, and desire,
And on every mount and meadow
Breathes aromatic fire;
But over the dead he has no power,
The lost, the lost, he cannot restore;
And, looking over the hills, I mourn
The darling who shall not return.
I mourn all the little darlings who shall not return because their lives were cut short. I will look for them in the hills and valleys, when walking through a meadow I will remember and mourn. I will see them in the sunrise and sunset and along the beaches we walk on old Cape Cod. I will cherish my children and the children I meet in my travels all the more. I will be patient with them all and with my self. I will look for them as I look for Walt Whitman who wrote in Leaves of Grass:
Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop some where waiting for you.
I hope the sweet martyred babies will wait for us until we have the wisdom to see them again.
A beautiful film. Thinking of Robin right now. Thanks David Kanigan for rebloging this so I could see it.
From the director’s comments:
this film is a celebration of sigur rós’s music and the benefit it is having in the elevation of consciousness that is happening with humankind. people are finding strength in love, care, and respect for themselves, each other, and the world we live in.
for the last twelve years meditation has been a way of life for us. going within, releasing emotions, moving through negativity, judgment, discouragement, and the fears that are so often in the mind.
in meditation we are able to feel and move through our emotions allowing us to drop deeper within our hearts. from this depth of heart we are finding more acceptance, compassion, love, gratitude, passion, clarity, intuitive thinking and much much more.
Sigur Rós has funded a dozen film makers, asking them to create these moving images from the impressions they have of the music found in the album,
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I came across this quote “Anxiety is the fundamental mood of existence” — attributed to Martin Heidegger — in Wittgenstein’s Mistress by David Markson. Markson also wrote that Van Gogh could make everything — even a pair of boots — seem to have anxiety. I don’t remember who he attributed that to.
Wittgenstein’s Mistress is a marvelous book — the height of the experimental novel, according to David Foster Wallace who committed suicide — probably due to his anxiety. But I don’t want to write about the book right now. I want to think out loud about the idea of Heidegger’s about the fundamental mood of life. Is it anxiety for most people? Is anxiety the fundamental mood of your life?
I discussed this with my wife. At first Aurora was skeptical. She is a very positive and cheerful person so ideas like this don’t usually sound right to her. Then, later after thinking for awhile she said something like — “you know it makes sense. We are in a mode (not mood) of survival — always deciding to flee or fight when pressured. And we are often pressured.”
Many of us feel like we are fighting a war. Business is war. The economy is survival of the fittest. In America when its time to file your income taxes it is always anxious time for most of us. We speak of the dog eat dog world. Even our holidays create anxiety. Getting away for a vacation is a source of anxiety for most of us too.
So is the purpose of philosophy and religion to help us over come this anxiety? There is another cause of anxiety — a kind of background noise for our existence as super-sentient beings — the knowledge of our impending, inevitable death. As I read about Buddhism I am learning that one purpose of meditation is to figure out how to deal with knowing that we will certainly die but at a time that is unknown and not of our choosing. Some Buddhists meditate on that daily and afterwards decide how to spend the day — which could be the last one for any living person.
Mortality is one of the truths about life Buddha woke up to. Its a pretty fundamental truth but many mortals do not face it until late in life if ever. By face it I mean think through what it means and how this knowledge should inform our daily life. Buddhist thinking has it that we can only be sure of the present moment. The past is gone, tomorrow may not come and is unknown if it does. Some western religions ask us to focus our attention on ‘the next life.’ Live in a way that will ensure entrance to heaven. Of course Buddhists — some Buddhists — believe in Karma and reincarnation. Karma = actions and the associated reaction of the laws associated with Karma. So this amounts to the same thing, I think.
Meditation is good practice whether dealing with mortality or trying to calm jittery nerves. So is being in nature if one really is there to enjoy it. Real work can also relieve anxiety but there isn’t as much of that around as there used to be. By real work I man doing something for the joy of the work itself and what it will accomplish. Some of us still have that kind of work, others seek it and make it out of an avocation. But there is no doubt that real work is a big help. And maybe the most favorable way to calm down to to help others. I think after meditation there are Buddhists who decide to do just that as well as Catholics, Unitarians and atheists as well.
I recently read a book entitled “Buddhism Without Beliefs” by Stephen Batchelor Its a condensed introduction to Buddhist practice and thinking without the mysticism. A little like Thomas Jefferson’s bible — Jefferson cut out all the mysticism and miracles from the New Testament and made a book that was mostly the sayings and wisdom of Jesus. I highly recommend it. It might help you deal with your anxiety — it helped me with mine.
We need myths; they help define who we are. In Christian countries the myth of the virgin birth of Christ has persisted for centuries. Jesus is our Superhuman being who transcended all human limitations. Buddhist myths seem to be the opposite. They center on a man who through his own determination became enlightened — awake. He discovered the middle way and enjoined compassion. Jesus taught that through him mortals could attain eternal life. Buddha taught impermanence. Nothing persists, all things perish. Treat your fellows with compassion — we are all here for a short while. Here in suffering because we want more than we deserve.
The myth of Buddha is that through meditation any person can become awake and aware of the true nature of life. Buddha proved that in the way he lived. The myth of Jesus is that a deity — God the creator gave us his only son to redeem us and wash us clean of sin. Jesus lived to die for our sins.
I have been at a Christian service and was told that I was forgiven no matter what I have done in my past. I was at a Bahai service and was told that Bahaullah was the perfect reflection of God, who brought God’s message for today which if applied correctly will solve all of our problems. I was at a Buddhist service and was told that only I know how good I can be. I prefer the Buddhist wisdom.
Of course I am ignorant of Buddhist culture and context and probablty too aware of the Christian and Bahai ones. Its a problem. But one I hope to solve.
This is a holiday season because we have always feared the darkness. Not so much now with electricity and enlightenment. Yet still we fear death because it is the dying of the light and might be painful. Today marks the longest night and shortest day. We no longer believe that our ceremonies and rituals are needed to ensure the rebirth of the light on earth, but what do we believe about death? James Carroll wrote a good column today in the Globe “Religion, science, and the solstice.” He concludes that knowledge is holy. But what of our knowledge of the soul and its rebirth after death? Is — as Carroll writes — today’s darkness tomorrow’s” light, or is it just more darkness?
Is our lack of knowledge proof that no rebirth is possible? I don’t think so. Yet we are in the dark about this in the same way as our ancestors were in the dark about the cycles of the earth thousands of years ago. I have faith in the economy of the universe — that nothing is wasted and that our essence has a future. Whether my consciousness survives remains for me to see (a contradiction — yes this is a contradiction and paradox). None of the proofs of the immortality of the human soul seem to work for me. And I observe no rituals to ensure its progress after death. Maybe I should seek some potent rituals designed for this purpose. Or maybe I should simply live my life knowing that I will eventually experience death and transfiguration — a process not to be feared because it is inevitable. As Baha’is chant — in the end “We will all verily abide by the will of God.”
What do you think? Do you fear that the light, once extinguished will not be reborn?
Did we lose our innocence on 9/11/2001? What did we learn? Did we learn anything?
I was dazed by the event not reacting until much later. Did the bastards who did it even know what the impact would be? Did they care about anything but their anger, their own needs? Did they understand the death and horror they inflicted on strangers?
What should we care about now? Anger? Defiance? Revenge? Or should it have driven us to our core? Should we have learned what to care about? Yes but did we?
Should it have taught us that we are one with the terrorists? Reminded us that our nation has used terrorist methods against our enemies?
Why are we enemies with Muslim extremists? Must we hate them? Should we? Or is love the answer, all we need?
Our leaders tell us we were attacked because of jealousy and hate, because our enemies hate us for our freedom and are jealous of our life style. Is that it?
Are we too quick to defend “our interests abroad (oil)?” Too ignorant of the needs and lives of brothers and sisters around the world? Yes? But if so does it justify what was done?
Baha’ullah wrote that there must be a spiritual solution to the economic problem or words to that effect. But that leaves it up to us. What does it mean anyway? What are we to do, live for the benefit of others? Maybe that’s the key.
Baha’i’s, many of them wait for ‘the calamity’ foretold by Baha’ullah to teach mankind a final lesson and drive us all to God. But we have had calamity after calamity and yet we seem not to learn. And will some may have turned to God, others just turn away. Calamity seems not to be our salvation (for which I am grateful.)
So the West spends billions on space exploration and particle accelerators — we want to know where we came from. And the West spends millions on aid to the needy — we want to feel as if we are helping.
Don’t we have our priorities backwards? Our interests come first, second our science and exploration, a distraction from work to feed and heal the poor — which seems to be our last priority — and build a safe, healthy world for everyone not just for Americans or ourselves.
Sorry this is a ramble. I will try it again if I ever have a moment of clarity. But right now I think the lesson is that we in the West are too selfish and cut off from the world. And that people are capable of anything — the holocaust and WWII should have taught us that.
The Twin Tower destroyers and their leaders were and are unspeakable bastards but we have been behaving like spoiled children.
Do you think we have learned anything from 9/11? If so please tell us what you think it is.
“Night Walk” Photograph copyright Frank Winters a Canon G9 image
Luke 17:20, 21:
“And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, the kingdom cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here, or lo there! for behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”
In the Baha’i writings the thirteenth Hidden Word says:
“O Son of Spirit!
I created thee rich, why dost thou bring thyself down to poverty? Noble I made thee, wherewith dost thou abase thyself? Out of the essence of knowledge I gave thee being, why seekest thou enlightenment from anyone beside me? Out of the clay of love I molded thee, how dost thou busy thyself with another? Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his journal:
“The highest revelation is that God is in every man.”
And in his essay Nature he recounts a transcendental experience:
“Standing on the bare ground,–my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space,–all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball. I am nothing. I see all. The currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or parcel of God”
I believe that these passages refer to the same truth. That God is within each of us and that by turning within we may find God.
The quote from Baha’ullah is particularly interesting. Taken as a whole it seems to recount humankind’s evolution and self invention through Nature and the acquisition of knowledge. Nature is the clay of love. The essence of knowledge refers to the source of mankind’s mental growth and spiritual evolution as well as the process of discovery through science and intuition.
The Lord’s prayer says “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread…” Baha’is believe this refers to the time when Baha’ullah came to fulfill the prophecy. Many Christians believe this refers to a future time when Christ will return in the glory of the father and bring about the kingdom of God on earth.
But the kingdom of God is within you says Jesus. Baha’ullah says find Me within you. Emerson says he and all of us are the part and parcel of God.
That’s enough for me. The good news is that the kingdom can come for us in the here and now as can eternity, just as our daily bread comes. However, the kingdom is in the future for most of us because we have not achieved what Buddha called nirvana. But his views will wait for another time!
I am pleased to have reached this conclusion after thinking about these and other passages for months if not years. While I am open to finding a different meaning to them I find this understanding clear and helpful. Meditation will now be easier, I think.
A primary difficulty for me in accepting the Baha’i faith as the basis for belief is in the concept of the Covenant which says that God will send messengers every thousand years or so and humankind will accept and follow them. Baha’i believe that no direct contact with God is possible. All knowledge from God must come through a Manifestation, they believe — because that’s what Baha’ullah taught even though he also wrote the thirteenth Hidden Word.
Many Baha’is over the years have told me that they respect or are fond of Emerson yet he taught just the opposite from this fundamental (and somewhat fundamentalist) Baha’i belief. I think this is because Baha’i beliefs are inconsistent internally. Look at them or interpret them one way and they are aligned, for example, with Emerson. Take another look and they are not. But I imagine this is true of organized religion generally. (Of course I am not nearly knowledgeable enough to know if this is true.)
I’m interested in knowing what others think about this. What did Jesus mean? Are the passages above saying the same or similar things, or not? Do you feel that the Kingdom of God could possible be within you?
A street scene during an election year. We do have choices, don’t we?
The new movie about the life of Bob Dylan — “I’m not here” — has gotten raves. Dylan is played by 6 actors including a 14 year old black actor, Ricard Gere and Cate Blanchett. The movie apparently shows Dylan as a nonexistent shape shifter who changes as soon as his persona becomes intelligible.
Yep — that’s our Bob.
Would that we could learn from his life performance. Would that the rest of humanity could be like Bob, Norman Mailer (currently stirring things up in heaven) and Muhammad Ali who said something like “I don’t have to be like all you people want me to be — I can be whoever I want to be.” He said that after he became the Champ.
But we can’t be like that. We are stuck in the structure of society and economics. We must be who we are supposed to be because we got to live out our lives that way somehow (a little Dylan derivative text).
This is called structural prejudice by sociologists and other learned types. I’m going to delve into it and try to understand what that means and what if anything an individual can do about it.
Bigotry is pretty close to dead. It’s still alive but very subtle and not at all PC. The force that keeps people down is the force of the weight of the years and traditions that impel us to behave in ways that are counter to our better nature.
We are so damn smug and self centered. We are sure that we are God or no-god’s chosen bunch. Each ethnic group tends to feel this way — at least the ones I have experience with. We middle class types put real estate values above almost everything for god’s sake but do we do it because we can’t help it? Maybe, yet we must help.
Last Sunday Reverend Cindy challenged the congregation at First Parish Church to do something about racial inequity in Westford. Blacks earn 40% less than whites she said and there are only 62 whites in Westford. She asked two questions: “How can that be?” and “What are you going to do about it?”
Her suggestion was to give away 10% of our earnings. That might work — certainly if everyone did it it would help even things our.
But it got me thinking (thanks Cindy!) What is really wrong? I think it has to do with were we find ourselves today and our inability to reinvent ourselves. That’s what we need to do — reinvent ourselves – each and everyone of us.
Traditions are good unless they aren’t. We should question our traditional values all the time. Like Emerson taught. Face life each day and question our motives and what we feel we must do. Reinvent ourselves as often as possible.
I think this is what Henry Ford meant when he said “History is bunk!” Yeah, we need to learn from history but as soon as we feel it dictates our actions and thoughts we need to forget it and move on.
Just like Bob Dylan did/does.
Photo: The Christian Science Center at Night — sorry I don’t have any photos of Bahai temples (all the photos on my blog are mine –just a habit I like to keep) But Abdul Baha really liked Christian Science — I’ll blog about that someday soon — so its ok.
I just received an email message from a Baha’i scholar — Sen McGlinn. He is very learned — a graduate student of religion who has written a book entitled “Church and State: A Postmodern Theology” that postulates that Bahaullah meant for church and state to be seaparate. He was kicked out of the Bahai Faith as thanks for his efforts, but that’s another story.
Here is what he wrote:
On 23 Oct 2007 at 19:24, Frank Winters wrote:
“Now — when a writer — or Manifestation for that matter — uses the
term Most Great Infallibility, doesn’t that imply degrees? Most great,
somewhat great just plain great, not quite great and so on?”
That’s exactly what Baha’u’llah says. Not just several degrees, but
also several different kinds:
Know thou that the term ‘Infallibility’ hath numerous meanings and
divers stations. In one sense it is applicable to the One Whom God
hath made immune from error. Similarly it is applied to every soul
whom God hath guarded against sin, transgression, rebellion, impiety,
disbelief and the like. However, the Most Great Infallibility is
confined to the One Whose station is immeasurably exalted beyond
ordinances or prohibitions …
(Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 108)
Here is my reply:
The choice of the word infallible has to be unfortunate. If one leaves out the word and thinks about what Baha’ullah says then it is about being on the right path, I think. What might be a better word?
I tried inerrant but that means pretty much the same thing yet is has for me a connotation of travel to a goal so maybe its closer. Protected from getting off the path — is there a word for that? Steadfast?
‘Sigh’ — its another test. This is my primary argument with God: why all the tests? People need help not @#$% tests. Plain, clear language not flowery prose that could at times mean anything! Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King — better leaders than Baha’ullah or so it seems.
In the days when salvation was about individuals, tests made more sense. Now its the existence of the species that is at stake. Why test all of us in this way?
I’ll tell you why — the entity we call God is not only unknowable it is unthinking in the way we think. Logic has no place there. And God must be indifferent to the question of future human existence. As Baha’ullah says nothing we do has any effect on God whatsoever.
And …. wouldn’t it be great if, as Baha’ullah said, the books really were opened? Religion is still mumbo-jumbo to most people, even in the Baha’i era — if there is such a thing as that.
Well that’s the latest.
I’d like to get some comments on these posts — a number of people have been reading my first post about Baha’ullah — ‘seekers?’ Baha’is? Speak up — what do you think? I will not be hurt or offended if you say you are offended — just don’t tell me to shut up because after all its a free world, isn’t it?
(Photo title: Provincetown Dawn © Frank Winters)
Baha’is believe Baha’ullah was and is infallible. John Hatcher, a well-know Baha’i writes about another infallible body — The Baha’i Universal House of Justice — in the October 16th edition of American Baha’i.
** Note: Baha’ullah was the Prophet/Founder of the Baha’i Faith **
Here’s my post on the subject submitted to the Baha’i discussion group Talisman9 (I am suspicious of any claims to infallibility but Most Great always gets my attention.)
John Hatcher’s Commentary in The American Bahai
I have been told that Mr. Hatcher is an intelligent man. I have not
read anything by him until now but judging from his article that
appears in the October 16th edition of The American Baha’i “Letters
from God to our generation” he writes clearly and well.
But there is what I see as a glaring break down in logic in the
article that calls his thinking into question.
“Infallibility does not admit degrees. That is, a statement or advice
is either infallible or not. Thus in this dispensation, only
Baha’ullah as a Manifestation partakes of the “Most Great
Infallibility”; only he is inherently infallible. The infallibility of
guidance from Abdul-Baha, Shoghi Effendi and the Universal House of
Justice is conferred and derives from Baha’ullah.”
He then makes a case for following the UHJ as if they were sending the
world infallible letters from God.
Now — when a writer — or Manifestation for that matter — uses the
term Most Great Infallibility, doesn’t that imply degrees? Most great,
somewhat great just plain great, not quite great and so on?
I think Hatcher’s advice to the Baha’is is good as long as you want to
be in a Faith that brooks no discussion or difference of opinion about
the important questions in life. But his apparently oxymoronic logical
structure seems a direct result of the twisted logic one needs in
order to accept all of Baha’i as it is articulated officially today.
What do others think? Have I missed the point? Am I confused? Or what?