metatags: William James, abortion, David Spangler, mystic, aspartame, stevia, Special Olympics, Michael Toms, Justine Toms
The Sacred Dimension of Earning a Living
by JUSTINE WILLIS TOMS and MICHAEL TOMS
Bell Tower Books
reviewed by Douglas S Johnson
I live with thousands of books, and there are some I live by; books are a constant in my life, but it never ceases to amaze me how constantly my life seems to fall into sync with the books I am reading. I was amazed by this phenomenon once again as I read Michael and Justine Toms True Work.
For far too many of us, work is something we do to "get by," to make money to spend on the weekend. Work is not an enjoyment in itself, not something we do because of what we are or because it's what we need to be doing with our lives. Michael and Justine Toms help us to see how we can rectify this situation, how we can slowly but surely (don't expect magic the first day!) come to the kind of work that is perfectly suited for our role here on the earthly plane.
The first step is to have a positive attitude about ourselves and about the work that we want to do, and even about the work, which we are currently doing. The philosopher William James summed it up nicely when he wrote, "I will act as if what I do makes a difference." (James, acting "as though he might make a difference," managed to single-handedly revolutionize medicine, psychology, and philosophy during the 19th century.)
The second step is to follow our passion. This doesn't mean that we necessarily quit our current jobs and throw all caution to the wind, but it does mean doing what we truly want to do as often as we can (even when it's not for money). I know a woman who began volunteering for The Special Olympics and now makes a good living designing very effective behavior modification learning courses for autistic and handicapped children.
The third step is to proceed with a sense of purpose. We all want to feel as though we are effecting positive change in the world (those who have not entirely sold out, I suppose), and the first measure toward attaining this goal is to begin thinking about what the ultimate purpose of our dreams might be (even if it turns out to be something different in the end).
The fourth step is to work in order to find our work. Anything that feels positive and that might move us toward our goal is the thing that we should do. We need to trust life and proceed without seeing the end of the road. "Luck," as Oprah once said, "is preparation meeting opportunity," and opportunities are waiting around every comer of the wide world. (I spent this past summer studying special education classics like the works of Itard, Seguin, and Montessori and learning some sign language, having not the faintest notion why I was doing so [other than for the sake of a "deeper understanding of humanity"], until I got the opportunity to employ all of it this fall just as I was finishing True Work!)
Finally, the most important step is to make sure we serve the world with our work. It does not matter what we do for a living, just so long as we do it in such a way that it benefits those around us and we spread goodness and profit (monetary and otherwise) to others, instead of hoarding it all to ourselves.
When I first began reading this book, I was looking to use my teaching talents in some new way, propelled by a philosophical discussion group I participate in to expand my work to better serve humanity. (The opening chapters of True Work intensified this desire.)
It suddenly occurred to me that I would be a volunteer tutor, and I began seeking out situations in which to serve in that capacity. Just as I was about to commit to Orting High School, another opportunity fell down before my feet (sort of like that blue feather in Forrest Gump). I am now working (in addition to my college teaching gig and numerous writing situations) as an occupational therapist/tutor for a small autistic child. While it is not strictly volunteer (since I am getting paid), I am profiting from the experience in ways that make me forget about the money.
I know now what my summer "training" was about and even why one of my college classes got canceled (so I would have extra time!). I thought I could make a difference, pursued my passion (even somewhat blindly at first), proceeded with purpose, was ready to get right to work (though what I thought I would do was not what I ended up doing!), and decided I wanted to "serve humanity." Finally, (after several months, and, who knows, maybe even years, of unpremeditated preparation) the opportunity simply appeared like something in a magic trick.
The central message of True Work (and of my experience with its principles) is summed up in a line in the penultimate chapter, entitled "Work as Service": "Look around you and see what needs doing and then commit yourself to satisfying that need. Such an act will open the doors to your own life purpose, and you will begin to realize your full potential."
Briefly, this is a book that I can highly recommend. Read True Work and begin working toward what you were really meant to be.
RINGS OF TRUTH
by JIM BRITT
with EVE HOGAN
reviewed by Beryl Turner
Rings of Truth is a novel (based on a true story) packed with lessons, concepts, and examples that are true to life as well as nourishing and enlightening. Much of this wisdom has grown out of author Jim Britts Master Key Seminars, which teach participants how to "let go" of non-supportive feelings, beliefs, and emotions while "letting in" more love, joy, and happiness. Matt, the main character in Rings of Truth, certainly illuminates these truths for us.
While I wanted to linger and think through the many gems of truth illustrated here, I was also caught up in the events of the novel, so I kept reading. In the beginning, I felt that the author was overly ambitious in presenting such depth of truth within the context of a story, but as I continued to read, this style grew on me more and more. I often caught myself thinking of the important keys presented and found myself developing a real tenderness for the characters. Now, I want to reread some of the gems that really impacted me.
Matt faces many challenges, causing him to ask deeply felt questions about truth, happiness, and his life purpose. Through some beautiful and mysterious circumstances, enlightenment and awakening begin for Matt, and the reader shares that process with him throughout the book. His many lessons include how to: surrender and live each moment fully, develop self-observation, live courageously, remember that "you are God and I am you," experience what it is to let go, know that "I am not my ego," be resourceful, live with clarity, follow the heart, and live from complete commitment.
In the lessons on self-observation and letting go, for example, Britt illustrates that two needs, the need to be accepted and the need to be in control, form the basis for all conflicts, whether internal or external. When we let go of the need for acceptance, we gain the acceptance of others. When we let go of the need for control, we gain true power. By letting go, we inherit the freedom of the present moment, a freedom to choose and act from a place of certainty and confidence rather than fear.
Britt demonstrates how recognizing our divine nature, knowing that we are all truly children of God, profoundly affects how we live. He sees this in the Sufi dance for universal peace. In this dance, the hand movements include bowing to one another with the hands together at the heart as if in prayer, to honor Hu in the other. The Hu, in the Sufi tradition, means "the spirit of God." With this understanding, the translation of "human being" becomes "God-man being."
Matts description of losing a parent stays with me. He remarks that "Parents represent strength, wisdom, nurturing, and support, even if they don't live out those qualities very well." He points out that when a parent dies, an important piece of ones support system disappears, even if you haven't called on it in years. Its as if one's life were a pyramid with a solid foundation. When one of the huge foundation stones upon which it has been built is removed, it leaves the entire structure out of balance, and yet there is an even greater foundation below these stones Mother Earth, God, Source from which the true support, strength, and nurturing comes. Matt finds comfort in resting on this permanent and true source of strength.
Rings of Truth is a novel that runs deep. The story and message will grow on you, and the characters will inspire and challenge your being.
by LINDA BAKER
reviewed by Arlene Arnold
Often the books I choose to read and review concern subjects I am interested in or want to know more about. Soul Contracts was different. I was led to review it largely from my experience of talking to Linda Baker about her work. What she had experienced was surprisingly close to what I have experienced in the work I do. She and I had come to that work from completely different directions: she as a nurse and I as a teacher (plus our additional training and experiences), yet what we found is very parallel.
Why is it that we sometimes find ourselves continuing a relationship that feels destructive or acting in a way that we dont want any part of? Why has our life gone in a certain direction and not another? Why do the same types of people keep showing up in our lives? Some will see it as fate. However, when a person is assisted to go deep within to ask this question, the answer very often revolves around a "contract" or commitment, a decision made prior to entering this life. We find that those very folks with whom we may be most perturbed have actually agreed to be the "pebble in our shoe" so that we will finish something started before this life.
Linda Baker takes great pains to explore questions that some may have about past lives, about connections to others that go beyond our conscious awareness. She allows that there may be different ways of understanding these experiences, yet the healing that takes place is real. She sensitively explores real-life experiences of her clients to illustrate how one can deal with "soul contracts." Each one is unique and special in its own way, yet there is a thread of similarity throughout. Linda lays out clearly a path to inner healing that allows the client to follow inner guidance to quickly find resolution and a new sense of self.
I was fascinated by the chapters on what Linda calls "a spiritual approach to abortion." What a blessing to find that someone is showing women a way to make a decision about abortion by communicating with the unborn child. What a sacred way to approach a most difficult decision in life!
If youve ever wondered how past lives might affect the present, why you seem bent on something that doesnt feel consistent with who you are, or what you are supposed to be doing in this life, read Soul Contracts. I guarantee that you will come away with a larger sense of who you are and a new appreciation for who you may be on more than one level.
PARENT AS MYSTIC, MYSTIC AS PARENT
by DAVID SPANGLER
reviewed by Mary Rose
In the introduction to his new book, Parent as Mystic, Mystic as Parent, David Spangler writes, "Over the years, I have felt that mysticism is misunderstood. It is often seen as something otherworldly
as a practice or set of techniques separate from the ordinary things we do. But this is not how I experience mysticism at all. Mysticism, to me, describes a way of seeing life, a way of connecting with the world; it is a path of incarnation, not of escape."
In this wonderful book, David allows parenting and "mysting" to be the lenses through which we are able to see what it means to live in the deeper presence and awareness of the sacredness of creation. He shows how, through the everyday challenges and joys of parenting, of creating and sustaining family, we are given the opportunity to participate in the deepest mystery: the incarnation and emergence of our childrens spirits and personalities in their full uniqueness. At the same time, parenting our children helps us grow in wisdom about ourselves and our connection with the Beloved.
The book is concrete and enjoyable to read. It is grounded in Davids and his wife, Julies experiences in parenting four children (the oldest now 14 and the youngest three years old). Weaving through a variety of intriguing themes Fostering, Incarnation, Laps, Aliens, Faith, Ghosts, Bones, Love, and Edges David offers us a deep and rich understanding of how we can embrace, embody, and nurture the sacred in our children, ourselves, and in our world.
If we are to be everyday mystics (and the good parents we want to be), says Spangler, we need to be awake and attentive. Children give us the opportunity to "nourish the blessings of the sacred in (our) lives and the lives of others
to be participants, not just recipients, in the miracle and mystery of sacredness." Our children also give us the opportunity to see with the eyes of a child, to see with spirit or "beginners mind."
David describes the faith it takes to trust an emerging spirit, and the "bones," or structure, which also help to nourish children and family. He talks about the "ghosts" that keep us from being our whole and true selves, and which can be brought to light and healed in the context of family: "When one has a spiritual teacher or mentor, it is often the task of that person to bring these unresolved fragments of self and soul to ones attention. Lacking that, I have discovered that children will do the job just as well, if not better. I challenge any abbot or guru to probe as deeply, unlock as many weaknesses, and press as many buttons as a child can do by being himself." He also talks about forgiveness and accepting our humanness.
Parent as Mystic, Mystic as Parent is a celebration of incarnation. David voices the desire many of us feel for our childrens lives as well as for our own: "My deepest wish as a father is that my children will grow to be creative, responsible and loving partners with their world
I want them to feel at home here, to know that there is good stuff on their earth
to realize that we live in a world that still has mysteries and wonders to explore; one that may be dangerous and dark in parts but is still a friendly and welcoming place. I want them to rejoice in their incarnations, and in the singular, specific character of their lives as doorways through which the infinite can enter and bless the world."
As both an "everyday mystic" and as a parent, David illustrates the dance we place ourselves in when we choose to be the bridge between the "down-and-dirty" everydayness of life and the transcendent. This is a remarkable dance, and one that David illustrates with grace, humility, and humor.
David and Julie Spangler will offer the workshop "Parenting at the Futures Edge Spirituality and the Path of being a Parent" February 20-21 at Stonehouse Bookstore in Redmond, WA. For information, call (425) 883-7825.
A Daily Guide
by ROBIN HEREENS LYSNE
reviewed by Douglas S Johnson
Many of the early fathers of the Christian church saw the seasons of the earth as corresponding to the seasons of the heart of humankind. Ireneaus, John Chrysostom, and Augustine all heralded nature as being our connection to the divine and believed that the changes wrought in the natural world were outward signs of the equable transformations that took place in the inner life of the soul.
Similarly, Robin Hereens Lysne asserts in Sacred Living that the ideal life is in "aligning ourselves with the rhythms of the earth and recognizing that those rhythms are sacred." She writes that the first step toward getting in touch with these "Earth rhythms" is realizing that, in fact, we do have "internal seasons" very much like the "external seasons" of the natural world.
This first step is vital, because once we come to know the union of the self and the earth, we will give more respect and attention to both. It is a major flaw in our current society that we do not appreciate God, our world, our bodies, or even our own souls, and we do not see them as being intimately connected. However, this problem is not new. Over three hundred years ago, Blaise Pascal blamed humankind's superficiality on the fact that we are "stuck in the middle" of two physical infinities that are difficult for us to grasp: the infinity of the macroscopic universe (which still defies the most powerful telescope), stretching forever around us toward eternal bigness, and the infinity of the microscopic (which applies even to the makeup of our own bodies), shrinking from us to incomprehensible degrees of smallness. Lysne invites us to ponder our true place in this infinitely big and infinitely small universe, and so by finding our place in it, to no longer take it or ourselves for granted or see it and ourselves as being separated or far apart.
Simplicity and the observance of rituals are two important ways that we can discover our own internal seasons and simultaneously align ourselves with external rhythms. (Pascal also praised simplicity and especially the idea of "custom," since humans seem to be incapable of mindfulness without a habitual task to repeatedly bring them back to it.)
Lysne suggests developing self-appropriate rituals to accompany significant life changes or even daily tasks. It could be anything from becoming more mindful during morning coffee or observing one's womanhood and productivity during the menstrual cycle. The point is to realize that, just like the earth, human beings have cycles: daily cycles, monthly cycles, yearly cycles, and lifetime cycles.
For those who need beginning ideas, Lysne gives her readers suggested rituals to perform in winter, which she terms "The Season of Faith"; in spring, which she calls "The Season of Promise"; in summer, "The Season of Growth and Light"; and finally in autumn, "The Season of Harvest."
One might wish either to observe these rituals in their suggested order or ignore the seasonal designations given by Lysne and perform them at whatever season they are right for the individual reader. The point, at last, is to find our own rhythms, and so nothing presented from outside the self should be taken as a hard and fast rule.
These exercises are all about slowing down long enough to feel God in the natural universe and simultaneously in ones own heart. When that is accomplished, when the rituals are done, in what order they are done, and even the rituals themselves, become unimportant. What is important is that we know ourselves for what we really are, tend to our place in the world, and so become what May Sarton called "the always hopeful gardeners of the spirit."
FOOD FOR THE SPIRIT
Seasonal Vegetarian Recipes to Warm the Kitchen and Nourish the Soul
by MANUELA DUNN MASCETTI and ARUNIMA BORTHWICK
St. Martins Press
reviewed by Arlene Arnold
I have never truly been a vegetarian; however, Food for the Spirit intrigues me and might even convince me to give it a try. I found the introduction and the first few chapters thought provoking. Mascetti and Borthwick suggest that "Eating is ingesting parts of the world. If this was firmly lodged in our memories when we set out to prepare a meal, imagine what kind of food we would choose."
They encourage us to consider the kitchen like a temple, sacred and contemplative. "Spirituality is seeded, germinates, sprouts and blossoms in our kitchens, too. The kitchen has been regarded throughout history as a place of enchantment: This is where the hearth and the heart of the house are. In fact, kitchens help us transform a house into a home."
Especially interesting was a section on meditation and diet taken from a piece by Osho, "From Medication to Meditation": "Simply meditate every day before you take food. Close your eyes and just feel what your body needs. You have not seen any food; you are simply feeling your own being, what your body needs, what you feel like, what you hanker for. This [is] humming food food that hums to you. Go and eat as much of it as you want, but stick to it. The other food [is called] beckoning food: When it becomes available, you become interested in it. If you listen to your humming food, you can eat as much as you want and you will never suffer, because it will satisfy you."
I wasnt happy to see a list of all the foods (some of my favorites!) that increase stress levels in the chapter on "The Diet for a New Humanity." Happily, alternatives are given. Suggestions for living in harmony with the seasons and making a transition from a meat-eating to a vegetarian diet are helpful. For coffee lovers, there is good news and bad news: moderate caffeine intake can be therapeutic, but excessive amounts can wreak havoc with the digestive and neurological systems.
Recipes are divided into the seasons, with suggestions for lunch, dinner, and entrées. Variety is plentiful, and the final section teaches "Harmony between Body and Spirit," with specific suggestions for meditations.
I like the books emphasis that encourages inner peace through attention to what we offer our bodies. Too often, I have not honored the sacredness of food. Too often, I have eaten without even tasting what I put into my mouth. Is it not time for us all to be mindful in all ways? If we are to truly "stay in the moment," we must be intentional about all aspects of our lives.
reviewed by Elana Lindquist
Meet Eliott James, the author of Attaining the Mastership. Take some time to sip some tea and enjoy the beautiful poetry and inspiring story of this very brave and humble man. The quiet beauty will just fill your heart.
Internic Domain Registration
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Poor Richard's Web Site Creation for Non-Geeks
Read the top ten mistakes to avoid when setting up a Web site.
Aspartame No! No!
Get the scoop about the real dangers of aspartame as well as follow links to learn about stevia, a natural sugar that is banned in the U.S.
Inspiring, empowering articles that will help you look at life in a new way or will support your own understanding of where you are right now. A special jewel online!
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reviewed by David A. Young
On this, her second album, Anael makes a quantum leap forward both in artistic integrity and commercial viability. There is absolutely no reason that she should not be among the best selling recording artists around, and its just as easy to imagine hearing her music on top forty radio as on the massage table.
Whats not to love? The lyrics are mature and thought provoking, the melodies haunting, and the lushly layered arrangements remain comfortable while all the while staying delightfully outside the realm of the predictable. Composer/producer/instrumentalist Bradfield has come into his own on this album, leaving his stamp on the finished product in a now-recognizable style that reminds me at times of the most sublime work of Van Dyke Parks or Angelo Badelementi.
The fragile beauty of Anaels vocals wafts over the orchestration, inviting the listener to become part of the world of wisdom and power mapped out in the musical landscape. She exhibits the combination of strength and vulnerability that has been the hallmark of all my favorite singers, embracing subtlety of expression and eschewing histrionics. The sensitivity of her phrasing perfectly mirrors the heartfelt (and heart-expanding) libretto.
The artists are avid supporters of The New Times, and we have received a number of e-mails from Bradfield commenting on various aspects of our work. One article in particular, Lucy Leus "The Language of Compassion" (published in January 1998), was inspirational to him, and on Unconditional, the track "Ask Me Like a Song" is dedicated jointly to Ms. Leu and to The New Times. I think Im objective enough to state honestly that this would be my favorite song on the album even without that dedication, but it sure was gratifying to see it in the liner notes!
The fact is that its difficult to pick a favorite, especially because the disc plays best as a song cycle, no single piece of it is as meaningful or rewarding as the whole. If ever I wished that I could offer a money-back guarantee with a review, its with Unconditional. Its more than the album of the month; its everything I like about music. Catch a rising star. Pick up a copy and see for yourself how good it can get. And drop a line to Anael and Bradfield and tell them you heard about them in The New Times.
(Apsis Music, 1552 Gilford, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, H2J 1S2)
Creative Muse Productions
The warm colors of sunset that grace the cover of this album prepare the listener for the feelings it evokes: warmth, intimacy, tranquility, and oneness. The piano playing is understandably from the heart (the compositions are all Jeanettes), and the accompaniment is breathtakingly congruent. The strings, in particular, resonate as though they were being sounded through the same consciousness and at the same time as the keyboard.
Whenever I hear this album, I am in some Pavlovian way brought to the feeling of a heart so full of love that it could overflow. This state is sometimes expressed in romantic and sometimes in agape ways, but the serenity the sense of being completely loving and completely loveable is simultaneously captured in and triggered by the caress of the music.
Seattle artist Jeanette Alexander has scored a direct hit with her first release (which bears an endorsement from none other than David Lanz). Theres no shortage of solo piano CDs out there, but it is indeed rare to find one that is both so technically satisfying and offers such a direct and conscious connection to that place of perfect balance we all crave.
(Creative Muse Productions, PO Box 75344, Seattle, WA 98125)