Blogs

Guest Author: 
Imam Jamal Rahman

A question I am often asked is, "What is a Sufi?" Sufis are Muslims who emphasize essence over form and substance over appearance in their spiritual practices.

If the institution of religion can be compared to a cup and the water in it is the spiritual message, Sufis lament that we spend too much time polishing the outside of the cup and neglect to drink the water.

They do subscribe to outer rituals, but are mostly eager to do the inner work. They aspire to taste and live the essence of their faith. To give an example of the Sufi approach to teachings, a conservative Islamic theologian might say that a Muslim who does not perform the five cycles of daily prayers will suffer punishment in the hereafter. A Sufi teacher, on the other hand, will liken prayers to attendance at celestial banquets. A practitioner who fails to pray is missing out on the joy of the feast. That loss is the punishment.

Guest Author: 
Steven Crandell

 

Try following these steps.

Let me know how it goes for you in the comments.

  1. Cultivate stillness.
  2. In that stillness acknowledge whatever pain, hurt, doubt, vulnerability, fear or other negativity you feel.
  3. Watch yourself and notice if you fall deeper into shadow by judging/blaming yourself or others - but do not judge your judging. Simply accept it. If possible, say aloud what you acknowledge. For example, "I know I am feeling vulnerable/anger/fearful because ... I feel I failed at work, or my spouse yelled at me, or my child wouldn't follow my instructions" -- whatever expresses your present feeling.
  4.  Discern. Use the same patience you would offer a person you companion -- witness what truth arises.
  5.  Consider asking this shadow self to dance, so you might know it better ... and then, when you are ready, let go of this shadow and end the dance.
  6.  If appropriate, say thanks for the dance, even though (and especially) you will be thanking whatever negativity you acknowledged.
  7.  Discern over the irony that it is often easier to release what you have first acknowledged and held.
Guest Author: 
Janice L, Lundy, DMin

 

In recent months, Spiritual Directors International has provided much for us to think about in terms of “Welcoming the Stranger". When I hold this invitation in my heart, the passage that Rumi offered to us in the 13th century still rings true:  Indeed, each “one” who crosses our path is nobody other than a unique and marvelously made manifestation of the divine. Who knows what opportunities for growth might come from our meeting?

And, yet, my heart also knows that on a deeper level we are not strangers at all. This knowing comes when I am able to connect with someone on an “interspiritual” level. What do I mean by this?

In his landmark work, The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Traditions, Br. Wayne Teasdale explained interspirituality as “the sharing of ultimate experience across traditions.”

Guest Author: 
Elizabeth Kelly

I keep the above quote from Douglas Steere, the Quaker, in my office, and I read it before every meeting I have, especially with directees.  (It comes from his book, On Listening to Another).

The first time I ever read this line in school for spiritual direction, I copied it by hand and sent it to my best friend with a note that said, “This is what you do for me; you listen me.”

I hope you all have friends like that, someone who listens you. 

When I was living in Alaska, I worked for a think tank called Commonwealth North. (In case you’re wondering, I was a note-taker, not a thinker.) The year I worked with them, they were meeting to discuss the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. A series of experts in anthropology, sociology, economics, public policy, wildlife preservation, and the like met with the group each week to discuss the impact of this legislation, which in part, meant that Alaska would never have reservations like the rest of the lower 48. It’s an interesting system and not without its own serious problems. But I’ll never forget one sociologist who visited our group to speak about some of the common practices of the various Native American cultures in Alaska.

He told us that in some indigenous populations, when one of the tribe suffered a particular trauma, the whole tribe would be gathered together in a circle, and the person who had suffered the trauma was invited to share his or her experience with the first person in the circle. When they were finished, they moved on to the next, and then the next, and the next, just as long as it took. They went around the circle telling their story—until they were finished, until they were listened through the trauma.

Guest Author: 
Lauren Santerre

I currently work part-time as a chaplain for Silverado Hospice in Houston, Texas. I am thirty-six years old, spunky on most days, and often a surprising face for my clients. (I think most people expect an older, male minister for a hospice chaplain.) I regularly wear sparkly Keds and red lipstick which is not necessarily what a family expects to see when they hear the chaplain is coming by for her first visit. Often I am asked how I got “to be a chaplain” for hospice. I smile when a client or a family member asks me this question because below the surface I sense that they do not quite understand why I am doing this work or maybe they even think I am not qualified.

In 2003, I began having daily headaches. These headaches escalated into migraines. They still do. For fourteen years I have battled chronic pain that varies in severity and regularity. I went from being an avid athlete who regularly engaged in volleyball, spinning, hiking, swimming, and running to being incapacitated by my body. I have had days where I cannot even lean over to load the dishwasher. I have had weeks where I can barely move from my bed. Rarely do I have a day without a headache or pressure in my head. This change started when when I was twenty-two years old. I have tried, what feels like, every treatment and medicine possible. Currently my headaches are managed, and I have a team of both Western medical and holistic care practitioners that help me to function in life.

Unfortunately, I am not alone. In fact, the numbers are staggering. In 2015, the U.S. National Instititute of Health reported that 25 million Americans suffer from pain every day, while 40 million face intermittent severe pain. Another survey estimated the number of chronic pain sufferers at 1.5 billion worldwide.

Guest Author: 
Janice L. Lundy, DMin

 

When it comes to accessing inner calm, my "go to" practice has always been connecting with my breath. As a young yoga student, I was amazed at the power of breath to take my mind off current stressors and into bodily ease. Even with that, I had a sense that "something" was missing when it came to a breath practice.

Lamaze classes in my 20s and 30s helped me understand that physical and emotional well-being is restored with an out-breath. It wasn't about breathing in (as in, "Just take a deep breath," sage advice from well-meaning others in a moment of distress), but releasing the pent-up carbon dioxide in our lungs that caused tension. I remember very well the "he-he" panting breathing method used in natural childbirth classes. Another addition to my breath practice, but still feeling incomplete.

Guest Author: 
Mirabai Starr

 

 

At night on my bed I longed

for my only love.

I sought him, but did not find him.

I must rise and go about the city,

the narrow streets and squares, till I find

my only love.

I sought him everywhere

but I could not find him.

From The Song of Songs

 

Love-longing is one of the casualties of the Post Modern Age.  We seem to have come to some kind of corporate decision that relegates spiritual passion to the psychological trash basket of romantic delusion. It’s the same thing we say when two people fall in love: “She is infatuated with an idea,” we declare, “not a real person.”  (We learned this in Psych 101, and it explains a lot about our own history of romantic disasters.)  Or: “She is a blank screen onto which he projects his own hopes and dreams of love.  It has nothing to do with her.”  The conclusion of this line of reasoning is that one day the lovers will wake up, the scales will drop from their eyes, and they will see each other truly.  That, we assert, is when the real work of relationship begins.  And that’s when many lovers bail and bolt, only to run the same delusional story on someone else.

Maybe.  Or perhaps falling in love is more like what Leonard Cohen said in an interview I read in Interview Magazine while pumping my quads on the Stair-Stepper at the gym years ago.  It’s not falling in love that’s the illusion (I’m paraphrasing here); it’s falling out of love.  When that intoxicating feeling of awe and connectedness washes over us and penetrates our consciousness, that’s when the shroud lifts and we see that person for who she truly is: a being of exquisite beauty and pure goodness.  When we fall out of love, the veil drops once again over our eyes, and we stop seeing our beloved as the holy creature he is.

Guest Author: 
Catherine Tran

In a world broken by political divides, by cultural and racial tensions and by violence, it can be overwhelming just to engage with someone who holds opinions different than our own. We wrestle with daily interactions. We may find ourselves befuddled by those we struggle to relate to. Relationships and conversations can confound us.

On a long drive recently, I listened to a radio show about how to persuade others about political issues. The hosts were certain of their own political views so one underlying premise was that the opposing point of view was incomplete or in error. The hour was full of good suggestions for letting the other person speak and ways to explain your own views without being threatening. The hosts were even practical enough to suggest that the other person might not listen or be persuadable. But the question that went through my mind throughout the hour was why. Why should we persuade others to agree with us? Do we always need to win arguments or be right? Is it so bad to have differing opinions? I don’t think so. The world would boring if we all agreed on everything.

Guest Author: 
Rev. Wilfredo Benitez

Photo copyright: (c) Wilfredo Benitez

Many of us in the postmodern world recognize a yearning for spirituality, a longing for something that gives meaning to life.  Perhaps like never before, we live in an age of brilliant psychological insights and openness to spirituality.  There is a growing convergence between psychology and spirituality, something I’m convinced is an unavoidable phenomenon when exploring the deeper meaning of human life.  Dr. Carl Gustav Jung, the father of analytical psychology, established the foundation for this intersection between psychology and spirituality, and although there remains a lingering distrust of organized religion, the wealth of spirituality and wisdom contained in the world’s great religions, cannot be denied.   Book stores are replete with titles on spirituality, and yet most of these have no direct connection to organized religion.  There is a yearning out there, a search for deeper meaning; and yet many of those searching have turned away from organized religion.  Why?

I few years ago I started a webpage: www.ReligionIsGarbage.com .  The webpage was inspired by a Sephardic Jewish car salesman who I once met while looking to buy my next car.  When he realized that I was a priest, he told me he had no use for religion; he said: “religion is garbage.”  He then shared how he was forced to flee from his native country Iran, for being a Jew.  I listened to his story with no intent of contradicting his statement, how could I?  I knew myself that too often religion turns into garbage - it becomes destructive, persecutory, it can cause great psychological emotional damage to individuals, suicide bombers sometimes kill in the name of God, and quite frankly, too often religion engages in destructive politics.  But, what about when religion is not garbage?  What about when religion moves us towards deeper truth, authenticity, and liberation from our false selves?  What about when religion moves us towards inclusion and community?

 

Guest Author: 
Steven Crandell

The best mindfulness practice is always the one that can be done now.

So let’s go. Find the nearest door. Step outside. Find a tree. A tall one if you can. Full of autumn color. Don’t think. Just look up.

This is impromptu mindfulness. An adventure without an itinerary. A journey without a destination. Agile. Ad lib. Right now.

Watching those leaves at the top of the tree? Superb. How does it feel? The air on your face — is it cold? Your breath billows of steam? Did you forget your coat?

No worry. This mindfulness doesn't have to take long.

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