May 182012
 

Ran across an excellent quote on the blessing way from a wonderful book by Omraam Mikhael Aivanov.

Aivanhov

Wherever you go and whatever you do, take care to leave only luminous imprints behind you. You are walking or driving down a road: bless that road and ask that all those who pass that way may receive peace and light and be led onto the right path. Why be content to live unconsciously and record nothing but dirt and disorder? Why not try to work like the sun which ceaselessly impregnates the universe with its light and warmth, its life and generosity? Try not to let yourselves be led into chaotic, destructive, negative activities ever again; try to learn how to behave towards creation and all creatures. And everywhere and always, whatever you touch and wherever you go, remember to leave imprints of light and love so that, more and more, all human beings may vibrate in unison with the divine world.

Aïvanhov, Omraam Mikhaël (2011-04-08). The Book of Divine Magic

Mar 052012
 

Droid-RazrI have to confess that I’ve been a little annoyed with some of Leo Babauta’s posts rejecting such things as iphones in the name of minimalism. To me, the neat thing about technology is that it can help you embrace minimalism by doing more with fewer devices.

I had held off on getting a smartphone simply because I didn’t think I’d use the features enough to justify an additional $30 a month on my phone bill for a data plan. Then my daughter got a Droid Razr, and when I saw everything it could do, I was hooked, and ran out and got one within the week.

My justification was that it could do so many things. My GPS had just broken – but my phone was now a better GPS than my stand-alone GPS. The Droid was a better MP3 player than my now-obsolete MP3 player. It was a serviceable e-book reader, so I’d always have a book with me. It keeps my schedules, to-do lists and emails. It can record voice memos and even transcribe them. It’s a great camera (ok, I don’t take many pictures, but it can save the day when you need one).  I have an excellent Bible reader on it, a meditation timer, and links to all my important documents. The last few weeks I’ve been saying Mass with just my Droid to serve as lectionary, scripture reader and music player. I even used it for meditation diaries and dream journals.

Funny thing, though, about those dream journals. Night after night after night, ALL I was dreaming about was setting up my new phone. Only natural, since I spend uncounted hours getting it “just right” and then scrapping it all again for another arrangement. I spent lots of additional time looking for just the right combination of apps. More still organizing my music. If the device was saving me any time, it was more than making up for it in the time I was investing in setting it up.

The other day, I switched back to a paper journal for dream and meditation journals. Even with voice transcription, it was just taking too long to put in a journal entry. My entries were getting shorter and shorter. So what if I don’t have access to my journal everywhere in the cloud? At least it has more worthwhile entries.

So… has the phone improved my life, or just made me its servant? I’m hoping that as my setup stabilizes and the novelty wears off, it will simply become a handy device that sits unobtrusively in my pocket and insures that I don’t have to carry a phone, camera, GPS, voice recorder, my latest book, my planner, my Bible, lectionary, mp3 player, etc. around with me all the time.

But I’m beginning to have a bit more respect for Babauta’s opinion that having the latest device carries its share of attachment to possessions.  Fewer possessions, perhaps – but definitely more attachment.

May 242011
 

Robert_Indiana_love Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell. I bought this book on Audible (Amazon’s audio book company) for several reasons. First of all, it was very high on the best-seller list in spirituality and secondly because the subject has always appealed to me. In fact I was in the middle of writing a piece on much the same subjects. I’m extremely glad I picked it up.

While I would approach the subject slightly differently than pastor Bell, this book will be appreciated by someone who wants to take a fairly conservative and orthodox view of the Bible and yet is troubled by the exclusivist teaching of some fundamentalist and evangelical branches of Christianity.

Using a good assortment of scriptures, historical notes, stories and excellent prose, Bell makes a Christian case for being at least OPEN to the ideas of a limited hell from which people can be redeemed, for eventual universal salvation, and the real presence of the kingdom of God in the here-and-now.

Love Wins

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I’ll give a brief example of his prose. After quoting a ream of scriptures to the effect that God desires the salvation of everyone, and that God’s purpose cannot be ultimately resisted, Bell summarizes like this:

Once again, God has a purpose. A desire. A goal. And God never stops pursuing it. Jesus tells a series of parables in Luke 15 about a woman who loses a coin, a shepherd who loses a sheep, and a father who loses a son. The stories aren’t ultimately about things and people being lost; the stories are about things and people being found. The God that Jesus teaches us about doesn’t give up until everything that was lost is found. This God simply doesn’t give up. Ever.

It’s true that Bell qualifies his points quite a bit, needing to walk a bit of a fine line to stay within the conservative biblical view. Still, his questions alone have been enough to make his book extremely popular, and extremely controversial. People who find exclusivist Christianity limiting but who still love Christianity feel quite liberated that someone has finally spoken to them. And plenty of people in the exclusivist branches of Christianity seem very threatened. And that’s probably a very good sign.

I’d highly recommend the book to Christians who’d like support for a more enlightened version of the Christian tradition, and for non-believers who could use an example of Christianity that isn’t all about sending other people to hell.

 

The picture below links to a short video intro on the book

May 032011
 

Usually when I post articles, I like it to be something original, but today I just want  to send you to Leo Babauta’s website, Zen Habits. I’ve been a fan of Leo’s for quite cartoonsome time. Leo is an extreme minimalist (as you can easily tell from the design of his site). Most of his posts involve simplifying your life. Today’s post contains his 30 life lessons – to celebrate his 38th birthday. One of the best lists I’ve seen. Here are a few favorites:

2. Possessions are worse than worthless — they’re harmful. They add no value to your life, and cost you everything. Not just the money required to buy them, but the time and money spent shopping for them, maintaining them, worrying about them, insuring them, fixing them, etc.

20. A good walk cures most problems. Want to lose weight and get fit? Walk. Want to enjoy life but spend less? Walk. Want to cure stress and clear your head? Walk. Want to meditate and live in the moment? Walk. Having trouble with a life or work problem? Walk, and your head gets clear.

27. Create. The world is full of distractions, but very few are as important as creating. In my job as a writer, there is nothing that comes close to being as crucial as creating. In my life, creating is one of the few things that has given me meaning. When it’s time to work, clear away all else and create.

34. No one knows what they’re doing as parents. We’re all faking it, and hoping we’re getting it right. Some people obsess about the details, and miss out on the fun. I just try not to mess them up too much, to show them they’re loved, to enjoy the moments I can with them, to show them life is fun, and stay out of the way of them becoming the amazing people they’re going to become. That they already are.

Go to Leo’s site for the full list.

Mar 022011
 

religions Have a Little Faith: A True Story by Mitch Albom. I had seen this book by Mitch Albom on various best seller lists, as I had his previous book Tuesdays with Morrie, but I’d never gotten around to reading them. When the audiobook showed up in my library I figured it was time.

For some reason, I had the impression that Mitch was some sort of evangelical feel-goodauthor, possibly because I vaguely realized that he wrote The Five People You Meet in Heaven, which I enjoyed. As it happens, Mitch is Jewish and got his start as a sports writer.

Have a Little Faith

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This book started when he was asked by his childhood rabbi to give the rabbi’s eulogy (an event that didn’t end up happening for another eight years.) In the course of getting to know the rabbi better, Mitch found his own previously casual faith reawakened. He also became involved, during the course of these years, with an ex-drug addict Christian pastor ministering to the homeless in his native Detroit.

Over the course of getting to know both of these men better, Mitch becomes more cognizant of the role of faith and it’s ability to make the world a better place.

The book if full of witty stories (most of them courtesy of the rabbi) and compassionate moments. It frankly admits (as does the rabbi) that we simply don’t have answers to all life’s questions. The rabbi gives the best answer I’ve ever heard to the question of “why do bad things happen to good people.” To quote the rabbi, “No one knows”.

While gaining a new appreciation for his Jewish faith and the value of tradition, Mitch is also given an appreciation for the value of ALL religions and traditions. Embarrassingly, the local Catholic priest, during Mitch’s childhood, once accosted members of the synagogue for taking up too many parking spaces in front of his church with “They didn’t exterminate enough of you!” As his penance, his archbishop assigned him to walk around the church school grounds during recess arm in arm with the rabbi. They later became fast friends.

Then there was the Episcopal priest who was invited by the rabbi to speak to his synagogue to foster mutual respect and ended up trying to publicly bring the rabbi to Jesus. But in spite of such rough spots, the book in infused with a warm and tolerant respect for Christianity and other religions – particularly as it explores the life and ministry of pastor Henry in Detroit and becomes involved in helping his ministry.

Very enjoyable book and I highly recommend it.

Feb 282011
 

FuturePower

The Secret: The Power by Rhonda Byrne. I had previously reviewed wildly popular book “The Secret” by this author. I gave a mixed review of that book, in which I noted that a book on how to get anything you want can send an entirely wrong message to someone in the grip of powerful ego drives.

The newer book hit me wrong right out of the gate. It was only as I continued to read (in this case, listen) that I started to appreciate what the author was actually saying.

I’ll give away the “secret” of the book by saying that the “power” mentioned is Love. A wonderful message. However, in proving that everything in the world is created and obtained through love, Rhonda equates a fervent desire for a pair of designer shoes with “love” for those shoes. Unfortunately, spiritual teachers such as the Buddha identify desire as the root of all suffering.

The Power

Support PathsToKnowledge. Click on the image to see this book in our Amazon store.

As the book went along, however, I realized that Rhonda means something different by “desire” than the Buddha means. What she’s actually suggesting is not a desperate longing for material things, but an awe, appreciation and gratitude for material things. This puts her program on an entirely different (and spiritually helpful) footing. For example, she shares a remarkable point of view for dealing with envy. Rather than having negative feelings about good things coming to other people, we are to consider this as a sign that we are on the same “frequency” as these good things, and that the universe is presenting them to us to enjoy, love, and HAVE if we wish. By this rationale, we should be as happy and grateful for someone else having good things as we would if he had them ourselves.

I found this a unique approach. While perhaps not as pure as being grateful for other’s good fortune because we are spiritually one with them, it’s a good start. And there is much to praise in the book. It’s well written, easy to follow, full of helpful quotations and excellent summaries. It encourages us to practice love, gratitude and positivity in every situation – and that can’t be bad. I found that simply listening to the book on audio while commuting improved my entire day.

The audio version, by the way, has lots of interesting music, sound effects, and Rhonda’s own unique voice. I found these helpful and engaging, but it’s easy to see how some people might find them distracting. Such people might prefer the book instead of the audio.

The original point I made in my review of The Secret still applies here I think. You have to begin with a good perspective on who you are and what your purpose is to avoid being sucked into an ego trap. As Jesus put it:

So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  (Matt 6:31-33, NET)

In a sense, however, the Power is much better on this point. An approach of cultivating love and gratitude is already a long way along the road of seeking the Kingdom than simply trying to practice the “law of attraction”. I think this book rounds out and corrects some of the potential problems with the first, and I’d recommend it over the Secret.

Oct 292010
 
Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed….I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other. But this cannot be seen, only believed and “understood” by a peculiar gift.
Again, that expression, le point vierge, (I cannot translate it) comes in here. At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us. It is so to speak His name written is us, as our poverty, as our indigence, as our dependence, as our sonship. It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billion points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely….I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is everywhere
(Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander p158)
Sep 142010
 

grass Go Green, Live Rich: 50 Simple Ways to Save the Earth and Get Rich Trying by David Bach. Since my schedule has been very busy, I grabbed this little book from the library hoping I could read it in the time I had available. I was pleasantly surprised by the ideas and the quality of the presentation.

The premise of the book is to present ideas for changing various aspects of your life that will not only benefit the planet, but will also save (or make) money in the process. Bach is apparently best known as a financial expert – Start Late, Finish Rich being the title I’m most familiar with. It’s nice to see him put his expertise into the “green” arena, and his ideas are excellent.

After an initial section on assessing your impact on the planet, he’s grouped his ideas into such categories as transportation, energy use, water use, real estate, shopping, recycling, changes as a family, changes at work, and even making money in green investments and businesses. Every idea includes careful calculations on the exact amount of saving involved. For example, for $20 in basic non-toxic ingredients, you can replace the $600 a year that Americans typically spend on toxic cleaning products. Bring your lunch to work and save $2,250 a year, in addition to not creating a mountain of garbage from your discarded packaging from take-out.

If you want to sell green products, David has a list of companies ready for you. And, since you’re already online if your reading this, be sure and check out options for online bill paying and telecommuting – both saving money as well as helping the environment. David even shows you how to “green” your pets and children.

This is a nicely illustrated, short book of practical ideas that are well researched and easy to adopt. Why wouldn’t you try them out?

Aug 242010
 

batgirl I picked up this book because I was intrigued by the title. The name Alicia Silverstone rang a bell, but I really didn’t remember who she was. One of my kids reminded me. “Batgirl” (in the “Batman and Robin” movie). Suddenly I was impressed. While Silverstone was pretty enough in that role, the girl on the cover of “The Kind Diet” was thinner and more radiantly pretty – so much so that I hadn’t recognized her. A good endorsement for any diet.

The diet is “Kind” because it’s vegan – kind to animals and kind to the earth. Actually, it’s three diets in one. She includes instructions and recipes for “flirting” (adding vegetarian and vegan alternatives to your diet), “vegan” when you eliminate animal products entirely, and “super-hero”, where you add more macrobiotic ideas and ingredients, such as more whole grains and sea vegetables. Obviously she hopes to entice you into eventually trying out “super-hero”, but has a lot of help for people who just want to make small improvements.

The book is beautifully done, and includes her personal story, and her well-written arguments against meat, dairy, processed foods, etc. There are also mini-bios of vegan “super-heroes” – athletes and activists who embrace vegan principles. Alicia herself is apparently quite well known as a vegan activist. I suppose I’m not well informed on vegan politics.

blog-alicia-silverstone The photography is very good, and the recipes look great. Some folks commented on Amazon that the ingredients were too exotic for them to find. This applies primarily to the “super-hero” recipes, where the macrobiotic principles call for a lot of Asian (especially Japanese) ingredients. People living anywhere near a metropolitan center or anywhere with a good Asian market should do fine. For all the aspiring trendy vegans in the Midwest, a number of the ingredients are available online. And the vegan and “flirting” sections use an ingredient list that is more familiar.

If you want an attractive introduction to vegetarian/veganism with explanations, recipes, and photos of  celebrities, this is the book you want to pick up. It performs the service of making a radically healthy diet seem normal and mainstream instead of fringe and quirky. Give it a try.

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