Better Ways: Starting a Part Time Job at Circle by Caryn MacGrandle

“Are you the store manager?” the liquor vendor asks.

“No, I’m just part time. Started this week.”

I am working at a local convenience store on the poor side of town where I now live.

“I’m just doing this part time to pay my basic bills so that I can do what I want.”

“And what is that?,” he asks.

“I have a computer app that is my passion. I host Sacred Circles. I do webinars and events. I just bought ten acres of land, and I want to do things on there.”

Heal. Help.

It rather feels as if I might be able to do that there as well. Because it is not the side of town with all the fancy subdivisions, it feels as if there is more community. These are Alabama locals. And compared to the plastic world that I am more familiar with, 85% of their customers pay in cash. Blue collar work trucks, construction crews, concrete workers, dump truck drivers, electricians and poor people. Women wearing chemo scarves. Another tells me, “I keep losing weight each week. Don’t know why.” Bony. Stumbling. Hobbling. But I watch all of them keep going.

Continue reading “Better Ways: Starting a Part Time Job at Circle by Caryn MacGrandle”

In Memoriam: Thich Nhat Hanh by Elizabeth Ann Bartlett

Yet another of my great spiritual teachers has died. Buddhist monk, peace activist, author, and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh died on January 22nd at Tu Hieu Temple in Hue, Vietnam. I have found wisdom in so many of his books, but it is his The Miracle of Mindfulness that has become almost a daily guide. I discovered it sometime in my four-year wait for a new heart after being put on the transplant list following my second cardiac arrest in my 30s. In that time of living with the ever-present fear of sudden cardiac death, it probably saved my life, and certainly my sanity and spiritual well-being.

Continue reading “In Memoriam: Thich Nhat Hanh by Elizabeth Ann Bartlett”

Goddesses of Mindfulness for a New Year Feminism and Religion by Angela Yarber

I’ll be honest. For me, 2017 royally sucked. Though “feminism” was dubbed the “word of the year” by Merriam-Webster’s—as evidenced by the Women’s March, the Handmaid’s Tale, Wonder Woman, and the Me Too Movement—the reason feminists thrust our fed-up fists into the air in protest so frequently was because of the way women are routinely unjustly treated.

In the midst of this global, political, national fury, I experienced personal struggles in 2017 with the death of my brother and my mother’s cancer diagnosis. There was beauty and goodness that filled the year, to be sure, but you can believe me when I say that I am welcoming 2018 with open arms. As I entered into conversation with myriad feminists across the gender spectrum around the world, it seems that many echo these sentiments. We could not wait to bid 2017 farewell. Yet, I knew that I did not want to enter the year filled only with bitterness and resentment. Rather, I wanted to mindfully move forward with radical gratitude, hope, and intentions set on creating a more beautiful 2018. Enter the goddess. Continue reading “Goddesses of Mindfulness for a New Year Feminism and Religion by Angela Yarber”

The Internet and the Divine? by Ivy Helman

studyWhen my dad was in town for the wedding, he asked me a question about Prague.  I didn’t know the answer.  So, I said, “let me look on my all-knowing phone.”  I googled the question, found a reliable website and told him what it said.

I used to only mention the qualifier all-knowing, or omniscient, in relation to theology, often in discussions of theodicy: who is the divine in the midst of evil and suffering?  If we presume that G-d is all-knowing, does that mean that the divine has competition?  Perhaps that is a crass remark, but I also think there is a measure of truth to the idea.  In reality, the phone is not a divine competitor, but the internet might be.  And, maybe, then the phone is our intermediary or our way to access the divine.  Computers belong to this distinction as well.

This concept of technology taking the place of the divine is not new.  The television set has been accused of being an altar.  That is clearly not a compliment.  Continue reading “The Internet and the Divine? by Ivy Helman”

Babies and Bathwater by Oxana Poberejnaia

Since patriarchy is atrocious, and capitalism is currently driving the earth to a very real catastrophe, we can get passionate about these issues. We can get angry. We can get self-righteous.

However, as one of the most famous verses of Dhammapada goes:

Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world. By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is a law eternal.

Dhp I:5, translated by Acharya Buddharakkhita

 We may ask: why should we be patient and kind while we are the ones who are being oppressed and wronged? I don’t have an answer for that, only that through history positive change has ever been affected only by people who made more effort than the ones who wanted to keep the status quo.

Abolitionists, Suffragettes, Socialists and Civil Rights activists all had to be more altruistic, better educated, and more open-minded than their contemporaries. Continue reading “Babies and Bathwater by Oxana Poberejnaia”

On Our Beit Midrash: Kavannah, Writing and Study by Ivy Helman

studyKavannah is a Jewish concept meaning intention or motivation, perhaps most associated with Hasidism.  Hassidism teaches that prayer and the fulfillment of mitzvot connects one more with the Holy One if the right state of mind is cultivated before participating in said activity.  While going through the motions (prayer, mitzvot, etc.) is important and still technically fulfills the mitzvot, it is not as spiritually beneficial to the individual as is doing those tasks with kavannah.  Praying and fulfilling mitzvot within a certain mental space more fully connects you to the divine.  Judaism is not alone regarding this religious insight.  Clearly there is something to it.

Hasidic teachers often inspire and encourage their adherents to find a way to enter into the right mood before starting prayers or performing mitzvot.  What works for you may not work for me and vice versa.  The same is often not the case within community.  Continue reading “On Our Beit Midrash: Kavannah, Writing and Study by Ivy Helman”

The Burden of Shame by Oxana Poberejnaia

I know a man who says to his daughter: “You should be ashamed of yourself” when he wants to imbue some good habits in her. One example would be not putting her dirty socks in the laundry basket. It might seem trivial, but I don’t think it is. I feel that shame is a toxic element of our personalities. I believe shame results in negative consequences, such as sabotaging oneself and health problems.

Many spiritual traditions, including Buddhism, perceive guilt as a trigger for moral development. The rational is, when we feel bad about something we had done, we will change our behaviour for better. The question is: how bad exactly are we supposed to feel, both in terms of quality and quantity of that feeling? Continue reading “The Burden of Shame by Oxana Poberejnaia”

A Maternal Perspective Towards the Body by Elisabeth Schilling

IMG_0617Separatism and dualism do not usually serve me. I understand that denying unity and reducing the multi-prismatic complexity of existence muddies up our vision of reality and can sometimes clog up the channels to compassion. So knowing that this perspective is not universal, but temporarily (at least) healing to me, a particular body with a life situation that gives me access to this kind of thinking, I explore taking a maternal perspective toward my body.

In Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara’s Most Intimate, she mentions the “freedom of experiencing myself [the self] as relationship” (23). I was confused when I first read this.  Relationships are usually outside of me or with me, but not what I am. Yet, after thinking about it, I know that I have been in relationship with myself. We (my body and whatever the “me” is) have been simply so enmeshed and mottled with my perspective of possession, owning, unrealistically demanding and having authority over that body, that it was just not a healthy relationship. Continue reading “A Maternal Perspective Towards the Body by Elisabeth Schilling”

Buttons and Hooks by Oxana Poberejnaia

oxanaI have a problem. Some women push my buttons. Some men anger me, but in the context of feminism it is different. I usually dismiss men’s offensive actions and words as expressions of patriarchy. I take action, when I can – for instance recently I complained about the BBC radio 2 broadcasting misogynist statement when discussing a proposed Paternity bill. Complaining about the BBC to the BBC is like trying to stop a tide single-handedly. However, if no one does anything, nothing changes, as we know. In addition, I hope that statements such as “women of child-bearing age should only be employed by striptease bars” broadcast completely unopposed on the national radio service (for which we the listeners pay annual subscription) will raise more than one objection.

But coming back to women. I have noticed recently that very often I end up in deadlocks with women over silly issues. Once I was engaged in a debate about capitalism with a woman to the point when I completely forgot that I was supposed to be doing something completely different for work. The mysterious aspect of these “quarrels” is that more often than not the women have more in common with me than not: they are intellectual, independent and strong-willed. I suppose it is slight differences that unnerve me.

Continue reading “Buttons and Hooks by Oxana Poberejnaia”

Mindfulness of Putting Ourselves Down by Oxana Poberejnaia

oxanaFrom the Buddhist point of view, all phenomena are conditioned, i.e. they arise, carry on, and come to an end because of other phenomena. Buddhism does not look at anything we experience as “things”, but rather as processes.

Confusion arises due to various factors, chief among them : 1) vague sense of “ego”, and 2) language. The vague sense of ego is portrayed in Khemaka Sutta as the last delusion that a monk drops before getting Enlightened, so we won’t worry about it now. Where language is concerned, Buddhism stands on similar positions to those of postmodernism and feminism, i.e. our social world is defined by how we speak about it. One can say that we actually create society by the act of speaking.

Continue reading “Mindfulness of Putting Ourselves Down by Oxana Poberejnaia”

Menstruation for Buddhist Women by Oxana Poberejnaia

oxanaNot all, but many women menstruate. The menstrual cycle is a contentious areas for feminists. Even men who aspire to be a feminist tend to find it difficult to deal with it. Inappropriate jokes ensue, and completely ignoring the issue is also a popular option.

My journey along a feminist path and toward the Sacred Feminine necessarily included working with my menstrual cycle. In this, Women’s Wisdom and the Menstrual Cycles articles  and Womb Blessings by Miranda Gray have been most helpful.

Continue reading “Menstruation for Buddhist Women by Oxana Poberejnaia”

Soror Mystica: New Myth for a Changing Earth by Gael Belden

Once, when my life collapsed around me, as life is wont to do at times, I began creating clay images, placing them near the headwaters of watersheds around the United States. I called this project 100 Clay Buddha’s and it seemed at the time an incantation and a prayer for water, for the planet.  Later, I came to understand that I was also re-figuring my life, image by image, waterway by waterway.

I was also working at the time with particular koans, myths, and fairy tales because they speak not only to the personal, but to the collective –to the ways things have been over time. The hero’s journey monomyth, although genderless in its most distilled terms, seemed, though its imagery, to speak mostly to the theme of the outer quest (slaying dragons, returning from battle, and whatnot). I felt as a woman, however, my journey had to do with a descent into the Great Below and with that a dying into something new. Continue reading “Soror Mystica: New Myth for a Changing Earth by Gael Belden”

Practicing the Presence of the Goddess by Barbara Ardinger

Practicing the presence of the Goddess is a term I invented in the early 1990s when I started teaching a class with that name. It started out as a class where I taught women about the goddesses of the Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Norse pantheons and gradually turned into lessons on modern paganism, then into a class on creating effective rituals and doing magic, and finally evolved into being in the world—practicing Her presence.

When I wrote about ways of being in the world on April 29, I went past mere existentialism and suggested that benevolence is a good way to be in the world. Be kind to people. Be polite. (Or as kind and polite as it’s possible to be in a world that is markedly unkind and impolite.) What benevolence really is, is one element of what I call practicing the presence of the Goddess. Continue reading “Practicing the Presence of the Goddess by Barbara Ardinger”

On Being in the Moment By Ivy Helman

Time.  We mark years, months, days, hours, minutes and seconds. We mark seasons.  We mark life events.  We live our lives in time: both circular and linear.  Time began before we did and time will continue after we cannot experience it any further.   Some say we repeat time with rebirth.  Others suggest that we only have one lifetime of which we should make the most.  Still others suggest there is existence outside of time with concepts like infinity and eternal life.  We sure do write, discuss and ponder time a lot, but do we ever really experience it?  Meaning: what would it be like to live in the moment, to be aware of and completely conscience within an instance of time, not thinking of the past, not worrying about the future, but being fully present in the here and now?

Sci-fi geek that I am, I often recall the Star Trek: The Next Generation movie entitled Insurrection when Captain Picard and Anij discuss experiencing a moment of time.  Anij explains to Captain Picard, “You stop reviewing what happened yesterday. Stop planning for tomorrow. Let me ask you a question. Have you ever experienced a perfect moment in time?”  A few lines of dialogue later, she picks up the topic again by describing what being present is like. ”We’ve discovered that a single moment in time can be a universe in itself. Full of powerful forces. Most people aren’t aware enough of the now to even notice.”  The visual effects show water stopping and a butterfly’s slow flight if I remember correctly.  Captain Picard is obviously caught up in these moments of time as well as being mesmerized by Anij herself.  The power of both the moments of time and Anij herself is palpable. Continue reading “On Being in the Moment By Ivy Helman”

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