The Real News Archive (Archive Home)

May, 2004

Monday, May 31, 2004

Handwritten St. John's Bible uses both old techniques, modern images

"It's a work of art and spirituality for the new millennium. It's not a 12th-century Bible," says Tim Ternes, director of public programs and education for The St. John's Bible. "It's very modern."

But this Bible - believed to be the first of its kind commissioned by a Benedictine monastery in 500 years - is still done the old-fashioned way, with every letter and illustration painstakingly drawn by hand.

Jackson and his team of artists in Monmouth, Wales, use quills cut from goose or swan feathers. Ancient inks are prepared using the yolks of eggs from free-range chickens near Jackson's scriptorium as a binder. The words are written on large sheets of prepared vellum, or calfskin, which are then illuminated or brought to light with gold, silver or platinum to form dazzling artwork.

"People just open a page and tears come into their eyes," Jackson says.
...
Writing the Bible is a demanding physical task, Jackson says. The most anyone can work is 5 1/2 hours a day, and lettering one page takes between seven and 11 hours. -more-

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Ma's cult

As others who left the Kashi Ashram before him, Richard Rosenkranz now expresses amazement, sometimes horror, at things he did and allegiances he held while a member of Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati’s new-age religion congregation in Roseland (Florida).
....
People get involved with groups such as Kashi voluntarily because they see something attractive in them, said Rob Balch, professor of sociology at the University of Montana in Missoula and an expert in unconventional religions.

Balch likened the cult attraction to falling in love. "Only it’s a kind of neurotic dependency, a kind of love where the followers are so enamored of the leader," he says, they "put any ugliness they see on the back burner" of their minds.

In essence, "it’s like being in love with someone not really in love with you," Balch says, "and that gives the leader a lot of power over you."

Group members crave the leader’s approval and feel bad when it’s not given, Balch noted. Then when they get jilted they flip — changing from devoted follower to angry critic. "And that’s where all the brainwashing charges come in," he said. -more-

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Looking east for a spiritual home
'People want to experience religion not just talk about it' and practices like meditation make some traditions more accessible. -more-

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Stonework from Zimbabwe planted at Botanic Gardens

By Mary Voelz Chandler, Rocky Mountain News, May 28, 2004

Though many in the United States hear the word Zimbabwe and think of the ravages wrought by dictator Robert Mugabe, the country has found a way to make a different impression by exporting art harvested from stone.

Whole cities were built of that material a millennium ago in southern Africa, great houses that helped give Zimbabwe its name. But Denver-area residents soon will be able to see a different sort of stonework from that part of the world: the 80 sculptures in the sprawling exhibition "Chapungu: Custom and Legend, a Culture in Stone." -more- -and more-

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Book Review
No Greater Glory: The Four Immortal Chaplains and the Sinking of the Dorchester in World War II
Dan Kurzman
(Random House, 250 pages, $24.95)

Two Protestant ministers, a priest and a rabbi are on a boat – it sounds like the first line of a joke. Instead, it's the beginning of a tragic and true story of faith in action. This book recounts the last heroic hours of four chaplains on the Dorchester, a troop carrier sunk by a German torpedo in 1943.

Two thirds of the 900 men aboard died in the icy waters off Greenland. More would have died if not for the four men, who distributed life jackets, including their own, to those without them. The four linked arms as the ship went down, and witnesses recalled them praying aloud together, mingling words in Hebrew, Latin and English in their final moments.

Mr. Kurzman has done his homework yet avoids overwhelming readers with details and facts. The prose is a bit purple at times, but the book reads like a novel, tracing the path of faith that led each chaplain to that fateful night.

The reader leaves the story convinced that, just as there are no atheists in foxholes, in moments of truth, sectarian differences matter very little.

Mary A. Jacobs (This has been the entire article.)

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Religious questions fascinate pollster

Gallup Jr. retiring, but work will go on

SOUTH HAMILTON, Mass. - For the past half century, the Gallup Poll has been phoning strangers, asking personal questions and then telling the world what Americans believe on topics from prayer to haunted houses and the afterlife.

The Gallup Poll's fascination with religion and spirituality has had little to do with the usual rationale for polling - a client's need to accrue market research data. Instead, the polling giant has been probing the inner life of Americans for a far more personal reason: the boss wants to see souls saved. -more-

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Global warming

In a way, the true puzzle of global warming isn't the mechanics of man-made climate change -- the feedback loops, the damage to the ozone layer, the shift in oceanic oscillations, the melting of the ice-caps, the desertification of formerly productive agricultural lands. Those can be studied and understood. The true puzzle is human nature. In every one of these accounts of climate change and environmental degradation, the authors note the inertia of the global system, whether they're talking about economic or climatic models of the future. But there's another kind of inertia built into the system too, and I know no better account of it than a passage from Isaac Asimov's ''Foundation,'' the opening novel in his classic series about a science called ''psychohistory,'' which combines psychology and statistics. ''The psychohistoric trend of a planet-full of people contains a huge inertia,'' says Hari Seldon, the ancestral hero of the foundation. ''To be changed it must be met with something possessing a similar inertia.''

This is a way of saying we live as we have always lived. Sometimes -- like now -- nearly everyone is aware of dramatic changes in the world. Yet we continue to live in the assumption that we can ride out the changes without changing ourselves, coasting, as we have always coasted, on the historic wave of human development. What it will take to wake us up is a wave of equal size traveling in the opposite direction. That wave is already on its way. -more-

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Museum screens concentration camp movie
By LAURA LeBEAU, Staff Writer
May 29, 2004

Bernie Melnick was a member of the Army 28th Infantry Division and 21 years old when he was captured and sent to the Berga am Elster concentration camp in Germany.

Even though his weight dropped from 155 pounds to 90 pounds in those months, he never thought of not making it out of Berga alive.

"You had to be a dreamer. You had to fall back on what was, not what was happening. My mind was always on my good life. I was an American. I couldn't wait to get back and have my freedom," said Melnick, who emphasized that spirituality and inner strength were crucial to his survival.
...
Standing in front of a display titled " Lost Childhoods," (Lorie) Mayer said, "At this point when we have school groups in here, we usually tell them, 'We're not showing you this just to show all the atrocities. We want you to realize what hatred can lead to.'" -more-

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Life so sweet so sad

Before he was the Buddha, or Enlightened One, Prince Siddhartha lived a luxurious life behind the walls of his family castle. But each time he ventured out, the legend goes, he discovered the lame, the halt, the dying. His squire, Chandara, convinced him to ignore such things, as the world was full of suffering. Then his wife gave birth, and Siddhartha, at 29, was struck by the inexplicable mysteries of life and death. Late one night, he kissed his sleeping wife and newborn son goodbye and wandered out of the palace with Chandara to find the answer to how one overcomes suffering.

I read this legend in the home of my friends, John and Jip, in Seattle last weekend, and it struck me why I would make a lousy Buddhist. I imagined Siddhartha’s wife as she awoke the next day and was told her husband left her and her newborn to find the meaning of human suffering. I imagined what if Siddhartha’s wife was Jewish. He did what? He wanted to find out what? Suffering? Let him stay, I’ll show him suffering.... -
more-

Friday, May 28, 2004

How the war on terror has left the Dalai Lama in the lurch
China's rise as a global power has made Tibet's fight for independence less appealing to the Western world, reports Jasper Becker

A Nobel Peace prize winner and the world's most famous advocate of non-violence, the Dalai Lama ought to have found his standing rising in a world obsessed with the War on Terror but though he remains universally admired, he is on the contrary increasingly ignored.

The Tibetan issue has gradually faded from prominence and the Dalai Lama's demands have shrunk in the past 20 years from full independence to not much more than a plea for tolerance and autonomy. -more-

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Shekhar’s Paani gets picked by Lord of the Rings producer

Both Lord of the Rings and The Matrix trilogies created box office history, sent cash registers haywire, greedily snatched up of Academy Awards and kept audiences salivating. Now,the producer of these magnum opus epics, Barrie Osbourne, wants to lend his Midas touch to Shekhar Kapoor’s Paani.

The film’s based on a story penned by Kapur himself and the director’s casting Vivek Oberoi in it. The love story is set in Mumbai, 20 years from now, when taps have run dry and wars break out over water.

The crew’s a khichdi of past Hollywood biggies as well. It’s being co-written by Andrew Niccol, Oscar winner for The Truman Show; the production design is by Jill Bilcock (Romeo and Juliet, Elizabeth, Moulin Rouge), nominated for an Oscar for Road to Perdition. Visual effects are by Cinesite in London, that added the magic to the Harry Potter films. The only desi in the credits is music director AR Rahman.

Scheduled to be shot later this year, in both Hindi and English, Paani will be presented by Intent, a company recently launched by spiritual guru Deepak Chopra and Kapur.

Does that mean we’re going to have a Paani 2 and Paani 3 as well? (This has been the entire article.)

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Church serves spiritual needs for seasonal workers

By Jennifer Hagan, Staff writer

OGUNQUIT (Maine) - Seasonal workers from Jamaica may feel their thirst for God quenched with the creation of a church service designed to minister to them.
...
Monday afternoon five women from Jamaica who work at the Anchorage By The Sea sang, clapped, and danced their praises to God. They were in an apartment at the Pine Ledge Motel and not in a church. And the music was a recording of gospel music like that sung in Jamaica, and not live, but their excitement mounted until they could no longer hold in their joy. These women will be in America and away from their families for eight months but for a few minutes, it was probably a little like being back in Jamaica again.

After the song was done, they each had a sparkle in their eye and excited for church on Tuesday. "That's what church is like in Jamaica. It's vibrant," Marva Shaw said, smiling. "We use [the CDs] to boosts us. It's so important for us to hear that."
...
In Jamaica, a town the size of Ogunquit would probably have 10 to 15 churches, each holding services or meetings twice per day to full congregations. Sometimes the churches arrange retreats together and fill tents with an upwards of 1,000 people for a month. And the revivals almost always go longer then planned, they said. -more-

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Free Ride teaches zen and the art of bicycles By AARON BRUCKART
Staff Writer May 26, 2004
Editor's note: This is the first article in a two-part feature series about Free Ride, a community workshop intended to encourage bicycle transportation.

You have to travel two miles in 10 minutes, or else you're going to lose your job. Your car is low on gas; you can't afford the going rate of more than two dollars, and the possibility of finding a parking space midday in Oakland seems rather slim.

The answer to all your problems is simple: Free Ride.

Free Ride, a bike workshop about three miles from campus, is snuggled inside the Construction Junction, a community hardware store on North Lexington Avenue. It caters to the needs of those who are looking for bikes, but have little or no money.

Free Ride has been around for about two and a half years and is an affiliate of Bike Pittsburgh, an organization that promotes commuting and transportation alternatives to motor vehicles.

"We want to make bikes accessible to everyone," said Andalusia Kincaid, one of the four coordinators of Free Ride. "And we want people to learn about their bikes." -more-

Thursday, May 27, 2004

The land speaks -- do you listen?

For those who come from more southern climes, the Arctic beckons for different reasons. And for those who listen, the great expanse of rock and snow and is anything but silent.
...
I am not far from Iqaluit, having followed the ridges inland for a few hours with an eye out for that which is large and white and hungry. Instead I have shared the land with that which is small and white and hungry -- the arctic hare and, at a greater distance, an arctic fox. Even this short stretch from the community gives me clarity of mind that can't come from peopled spaces -- ravens, vulpine visitors, and other small creatures are always welcome.

The land is my temple. While organized religion is not for me, it seems clear that to explore the fullness of our humanity, reflection and truth-seeking are fundamental. In the jigsaw puzzle of my life, the presence of one, omnipotent creator does not feel necessary or even helpful. -more-

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Latin poet lays down beats

Called to priesthood by verse and inspired by African poets known as Adrian Castro writes and recites rhythmic griots, tales of history, civilization, and spirituality. The way this Cuban-Dominican Miami native sees things, maracas swim in his veins, Caribbean people are born in a downpour of heat and humidity, and palm nuts musically converse. "Poets, in order to be complete poets, should be able to render their work," Castro says. "Poetry comes from the oral tradition."

A self-described "poet of place" who works best in tropical surroundings, the 37-year-old is a babalao, or high priest of the Yoruba religion, from which Santeria evolved. His pulsating recitals combine the English, Spanish, and African languages and emphasize myth and migration. Castro began sharing his writings 16 years ago during open-mic nights at Miami's Cameo Theatre. His first poetry collection, Cantos to Blood and Honey, has since been published, and he has been called one of the most vibrant and original poets of today. He performs at 7 tonight at the Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art (601 Lake Ave., Lake Worth) amid the complementary creations of artist Michael Joo. Admission costs $3. Call 561-582-0006. --Michelle Sheldone (This has been the entire story.)

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Soulmatch

...Beliefnet has decided to launch a values-oriented, spiritually attuned online dating service called Soulmatch.

As you know, Beliefnet's mission is to help people meet their spiritual needs. It's hard to think of a more important need than the desire to find someone to love and who will love you. We wanted to offer a service that would help people match on a much deeper level. Not only a physical match or an age match—but a soulmatch. -more-

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When truth becomes buried in dogma
The head - not the heart - now rules society, religion

CAIRO: Archbishop Damianos is from a line of holy men who contemplate the soul of the planet. For what seems like eternity, the Greek Orthodox monks of Saint Catherine's monastery in the Sinai have gazed at the ancient stars to find the face of God. Now satellites crisscross their perfect night sky.

Today's monks continue in the study of dusty texts and in meditation of the otherworldly landscape, where Moses received the 10 Commandments, our moral guidebook.

But sitting opposite the Holy Father of the Desert, one can't help but think how unreal it all seems, how divorced these men are from the realities of the outside world. Behind high walls on a Sunday morning, they sit eating ice-cream cake trucked in refrigerated vans from the outside, while only feet away the Universal Herd swarms around their refuge. Holy pilgrims, hardened tourists, and the just-plain curious come from around the planet to climb Mount Moses, check out the icons, have a religious experience.

Behind the stone walls of the fortress, these men are isolated from the wars, poverty, violence, even daily stresses. They have retreated from the mess. In so doing perhaps they have traded one bloody hardship post for another.

Because of their majestic isolation, however, bounded by stark nature, the monks also have a unique perspective of the planet. Life on the margin allows them to pull back and to think in longer, broader terms. -more-

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Bethel Baptist upholds tradition of college scholarships for parishioners

OAKLAND (California)-- BETHEL BAPTIST CHURCH has maintained a pact with young parishioners for 43 years: Finish high school, enroll in college and collect some scholarship money. About a dozen students will receive financial assistance -- this year, $200 each -- during the 43rd annual Scholarship Awards Program set for June 13 at the East Oakland church.
...
Although police say the neighborhood is one of the toughest in Oakland, with crime and drug-dealing, Bethel Baptist has created an oasis of calm and spirituality, parishioners say.
...
"Young people don't drop out of school; they fade away," Guice said. "It starts in the fourth grade. They start losing interest. If they don't get the basics, they don't keep up and they won't catch up. By junior high, they have really started to fade away. We can't educate them all, but we can help some. Our funds grow every year, so we have been blessed." -more-

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

This Summer, Let Your Kids Teach You How to Laugh Again
Many parents will find themselves spending more time with their children during these warm months. So what’s a parent to do with a houseful of boisterous kids? Humor Therapist Jacki Kwan says that parents should make the most of this extra time, “because your kids can teach you valuable lessons in living a happier, less stressful life.”
...
According to Kwan, “Children are the humor experts.” She points out that adults only laugh 10 times a day, while children laugh 60 times a day. “Somewhere through the years,” Kwan says, “we seem to forget that laughing makes us feel good and washes away the pressures of the day-to-day routine. Unfortunately, laughing and clowning around are problematic issues for many adults. They’re very self-conscious of what others think of them and are unable to let go and have a good laugh.” It may take some practice, but mastering the skill of laughter will have enormous payoffs, such as reduced stress levels and an increase in overall well-being. -more-

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Seven spiritually edifying things you can do while simultaneously eating a frozen Lean Cuisine, surfing the Internet, and ignoring the blaring cell phone for a few minutes -- all without leaving the comfort of your work station. -more-

Monday, May 24, 2004

Spirituality may help relieve arthritis pain

ISLAMABAD, May 25 (Online): Patients who use religion or spirituality to cope with the chronic pain of rheumatoid arthritis can reduce their pain and boost their sense of well being, preliminary study findings suggest .

The report found that patients who felt a desire to be closer to God, felt touched by the beauty of creation or reported other daily spiritual experiences were more likely to be in a good mood and to have social support. Individuals who used religion as a key coping strategy for their pain reported much higher levels of emotional, social and disease-related support, findings show .

"One might expect that people coping with chronic illness or chronic pain might find it difficult to maintain a positive outlook or feel connected to God or the beauty of life. The results of this study suggest otherwise," write Dr. Francis J. Keefe of Duke University Medical School in Durham, North Carolina and colleagues .

In the study, 35 people diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis were asked to keep daily diaries of their moods, religious and/or spiritual experiences, levels of pain and coping strategies .

The findings appear in the April issue of The Journal of Pain .

"Persons who reported being able to control and decrease pain using positive religious and spiritual coping strategies were less likely to experience joint pain and more likely (to experience) positive mood and higher levels of social support," Keefe revealed .

In addition, these patients used positive religious and spiritual strategies for coping with their disease more much more frequently than they used negative religious and spiritual coping strategies, for example "God is punishing me for my sins," Keefe said .

The authors stress that the types of spiritual experiences patients reported using in their diaries were not "unusual phenomena, such as seeing visions or having out of body experiences, but rather spiritual experiences that ordinary people have in the context of daily life." The study, Keefe said, suggests that understanding the daily spiritual and religious experiences of patients is important in key to understanding their experience of their disease.
-End.-

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We humans often think we've cornered the market on intellect and higher consciousness, but we actually know so little about the way the wild Earth works. And most of us have such a narrow, anthropocentric notion of intelligence, based on our human understandings. Why not imagine greater possibilities? Both the world and our species would benefit if we took a humbler approach to life.
...
I thought about what Gary Snyder had written about the watching world. Forest's songbirds must have been aware of my passage, just as they must be aware of the goshawks' presence. Yet they go about their lives, announcing their own territories and seeking mates, starting their own process of building families, even with death lurking in the shadows. There's a certain faith, a hopefulness in that. -more-

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Sanford Biggers, coming to the Contemporary Arts Center this week, blends hip-hop and Eastern influences

"It's the relationships between cultures I am interested in, the similarities of disparate cultures," he says. "The spirituality of Shinto in Japan, Buddhism in India and the spirituality of the African Diaspora - Yoruba and Santeria. There are too many similarities between these religious practices, before there was any kind of sophisticated travel. I think these traditions are still inside us, latent. We don't get to express them until we tap into them with film, art, dance."

Biggers is known for melding Eastern religions, urban street culture and its language, 1970s process art and technology such as video to create sculptural installations built from discarded materials. For example, in his mandala dance floors, he cuts out patterns from old rubber tile to create the Buddhist concentric design used in meditation. Biggers, however, transforms the sacred image into a mat for break dancers to exhibit their acrobatic moves. -more-

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Burning Man spinoff gathers counterculture revelers this weekend in the Rio Puerco Valley (New Mexico, U.S. A.)

Wolfe said 300 to 500 participants are expected this weekend to share music, poetry, arts and spirituality to create a community like none other in New Mexico.

"It's an alternative culture," Wolfe said. "The whole thing is organic. It's an experimental collaborative, creative art form."

He said the community is all-inclusive, and anyone can show up, but many participants come from pagan and younger electronica crowds. -more-

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Karen Armstrong is renowned for her books about religion. Her new one is a more personal account.

The question that Armstrong gets asked the most, "Do you believe in God?" clearly irritates her. "It's completely the wrong question. That's a very Western Christian question. God's not a being like the atom or this table. Most of the great monotheistic religions have insisted . . . that it's better to say that God does not exist because our word existence is far too limited to be applied to God. I believe very much in the sacred and in holiness."

She sums up her religious philosophy as, "recognising people's sacredness. Every single person has a sacred dimension. If we deny this then we have atrocity and unkindness". -more-

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Volunteers add spice to a garden that feeds the homeless.

Here's a sneak peek for this summer: pungent Zen hybrid greens, sweet blackberries, scads of potatoes, 10 varieties of tomatoes (175 plants total), eggplant, squash, corn, okra, Swiss chard, lettuce, cucumbers and hot peppers.

Will you be able to use those habaneros, Nena?

"The guys love that," she says. "We've fixed egg casserole and biscuits and gravy. When we fix something like that, we put the hot peppers in it."

The garden is tucked amid gently rolling farmland, which it used to be before it was a lawnmower repair service that left a good-sized garage. The land was donated to the church two years ago, and the gardening began last year as part of His Helping Hands ministries at Central Christian, 2900 N. Rock Road. -more-

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Dharma studies for women

The 90 anims (nuns) of Pema Choling Anim Shaydra, their ages ranging from 11 to 66 years, are ensuring their food for the year, planting potatoes, barley, and other hardy crops that survive in Bumthang’s harsh climate. In this deeply spiritual valley of central Bhutan, food is grown in traditional style, the hard way.

The Shaydra, established in 2001, is the highest centre of learning for nuns in Bhutan. The students follow a Buddhist curriculum that will enable them to graduate with a masters degree in Buddhist Philosophy after nine years.
...
There is a shortage of women teachers well versed in dharma studies with the experience to manage schools. Pema Choling will prepare the nuns to become khenpos (the learned ones) and teachers within their own communities. A long-term goal for them is to start schools, train other women, and provide education opportunities for the next generation of girls in Bhutan... . -more-

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Mexican singer Lila Downs crosses borders musical, cultural and spiritual

MEXICO CITY (AP) - In the movie Frida, Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky tells Frida Kahlo that her paintings "express what everyone feels: that they are alone, and suffering."

A half-century after the death of the artist famed for her anguished self-portraits and graphic depictions of pain and isolation, a young Mexican singer who physically resembles Kahlo - and appeared in a recent movie about her - is sending out a different message: none of us is alone, and all of us are one.

Lila Downs, the daughter of a Mexican-Indian mother and Scottish-American father who has lived and studied on both sides of the border, uses multiple languages and diverse musical styles to cross cultural barriers and embrace universal themes of humanity.

Her fourth and latest album, Una Sangre (One Blood), due for release this summer, continues that tradition, underscoring the message that all humans share the same origin, and should celebrate their differences - not fight over them.

The disc combines the strains of jazz, blues and Latin American rhythm on past recordings with additional African, Brazilian, Cuban and Arabic themes, the latter a statement against the war in Iraq. One Blood also speaks out against colonialism and racism, honours strong women and pays tribute to classic Mexican music. -more-

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DORREEN YELLOW BIRD COLUMN:
Pro-DL outlet arguments still fail to convince

I am a lake watcher.

I have friends and relatives who live in Fort Totten, N.D., so I hear about the spirituality of the lake and hear her referred to as sacred - Mini Waukan (the holy or sacred water). My grandmother, Little Sioux, used to ferry people across the lake many years ago when she was young. She also called it the Holy Water. A great and holy spirit lives there, she used to tell us. They regularly gave tobacco offerings when they crossed the lake.

That long association with the lake probably is why I find my perspective is different from that of the state experts and people who live around and in the lake. -more-

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Once championed by Tolstoy, the pacifist Russian Dukhobors of southern Georgia now find themselves without a champion or much of a future.

The central thread of Dukhobor spirituality is the teaching that God's kingdom resides in our souls and God's words direct our actions. The believer needs no priest nor church hierarchy to intercede between the individual soul and God. The "struggle for the soul" is their essential dogma--and the origin of the epithet, originally derogatory, they earned in Tsarist Russia: Dukhobor, or "spirit wrestler." In time the expression lost its insulting overtones and became a neutral term.
...
GORELOVKA, Georgia-- Small white-and-blue houses, all decorated with ornamental window frames, some topped by storks' nests. A landscape whose only touches of modernity are scattered electricity poles, vertical complements to the ash trees that blaze with red berries in the autumn. Villages named Gorelovka, Orlovka, Bogdanovka and peopled with fair-haired, blue-eyed Russian-speakers. But for the harsh, stony highland countryside with bluish hills outlined against a dove-gray sky, it could be a village somewhere on the steppes of southern Russia.

This, though, is the Caucasus and the Samtskhe-Javakheti region of Georgia, home to a unique and dying way of life. -more-

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What book changed your life?

Jerry Jacob, San Rafael

Carlos Castaneda's "The Teachings of Don Juan, a Yaqui Way of Knowledge" taught me that it was better to live my life instead of spending it. Tom Robbins' "Still Life with Woodpecker" taught me how to giggle. Both books taught me that your life starts at zero and ends at zero. -more-

Friday, May 21, 2004

An Arbor Day

My friends were all there with me, just outside the City Hall stop of the 4,5,6 on a beautiful morning on the last day of the last cruelest month in an over-eventful millennium. The sunlight had an almost liquid quality. Each strand of the Brooklyn Bridge was as precise as a line drawing in the clear air. The trees shook their heads, with new leaves bursting out everywhere in a regeneration that seemed unlikely at best only weeks before. I was pretty nervous, but seeing as how it had been my idea, there I was, the voluntary sacrificial lamb, who had only to climb a tree and wait. -more-

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A back-to-nature creative burst sets trad-jazz clarinetist Michael White on fire

"I became in touch with nature, and it became a spiritual journey for me," White recalled this week. "(The river) was like a spiritual being that lulled me to sleep at night. Within a few weeks, ideas started flowing. I felt an intense creativity like never before.

"It was so intense that I had to stop new ideas from coming, because I wasn't finishing some of the ideas I had. It was like I had hit an oil well of subconscious jazz ideas." -more-

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Technology must serve interests of humanity

As one of Sunni Islam's foremost ulema, (Grand Sheikh Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi's) legal readings impact more than 1 billion Muslims across the globe. I have come to his office to ask for his opinion of globalization and technology. More importantly, how he thinks we are doing as God's caretakers of the planet, that is, both of the environment and other humans.
...
"Almighty God has created us from the earth of this planet," the sheikh begins. "And we shall return to it after death. Therefore we should do every good thing possible for the sake of the earth and to benefit future generations."

"Our investment in the planet is not purely physical. It is also spiritual."
...
"Yes, we should plant beneficial plants and trees," he says, referring to the universal "we" of the much hyped "global village." "We should see there is water in the wells by preserving the rivers. We should try to preserve every good thing for the sake of the future generations and for the people living now. We should construct houses for the poor and build factories to give a hand in the progress and prosperity of humanity." -more-

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The Story of the Forgetful Ice Lollies is a children’s book which teaches the life skill of conflict resolution through self-questioning. Ice Lollies is the first of a two-part series that comprises Pillay’s Children’s Transformation Literature Project, which is an endeavour to teach this neglected life skill in senior primary schools through literature.

The Literature Project was given an initial boost when the author received a supporting grant from Business and Arts South Africa to do presentations and workshops in Walton’s name at selected schools.

Yugan Naidoo, Director of Human Resources at Waltons, said that the Business Day/BASA Awards were particularly geared at given recognition to strategic partnerships between business and the arts: “Through its sponsorship of the Children’s Transformation Literature Series, Waltons KZN was able to enlist Dr Pillay’s services to conceive and direct a 20-minute video on the company’s black empowerment initiatives. -more- And read about the book: http://www.noumenon.co.za/Lollies.htm

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Leonard Chana died Jan. 25 of a brain cyst at age 53.

Couples dance at a community outing. Two boys smile as they walk side by side in a friendly embrace, and chickens feast outside a humble home on the Indian Reservation.

The late Tohono O'odham artist Leonard Chana was connected to his culture in such a way that his art always captured the subtle beauty, essence and joy of his people, their land and sacred traditions.

"People liked his work that captured the Southwest family, the community scene, and things they could relate to that showed people just being themselves," said Barbara Chana, Leonard's wife of 22 years. "He would laugh at himself and say he was kind of a Norman Rockwell of the O'odhams. He captured life as it happened." -more-

~ ~ ~

Chanting is a hit with city slickers

A phoneline with a nine-minute recording of mantra chanting has become a surprise hit with stressed out workers in the City. The chanting by musicians Deva Premal and Miten was put on a phoneline as a promotion for their concert tour.

But the number appears to have gone around the City like wildfire and it seems workers are
calling from their offices to take in the soothing chant.
...
"It's scientific. Certain sounds create certain responses in the body and the mantras are a collection of sounds which create a sense of well-being in the body.

"I'm not surprised this phoneline has been so popular. There's a big hole in people's spirituality in the modern world and the mantras are a vibrant force of healing power." -more-

Monday, May 17, 2004

Can you write a great travel article? If so, don't miss the chance to enter our 'Independent on Sunday'/ Bradt travel-writing competition. First prize is a week for two in Bosnia ­ and the winning article will be published in the 'IoS' TimeOff section.
...
The competition is open to all writers, published or unpublished. In keeping with the theme of Bradt's longevity and the emergence of Bosnia, the title we have chosen for the article is "We've Come a Long Way". This can be interpreted as widely as you like, with the choice of a physical or a spiritual journey, but it must have a travel theme. Your entry must be a true account of your own experience, written in the first person. It must not exceed 800 words in length. -more-

~ ~ ~

Everyday jobs can become meaningful

Americans spend more time at work than people anywhere else in the world, and many are beginning to wonder if it's worth the time and stress. But the problem might not be long hours or a low-prestige career, it might be a lack of spiritual connection at work.

"What I have observed is that many people are kind of numb at work," says Elizabeth Guss, founder and managing partner of Cohesion, a Salt Lake City management and training firm. "They are shortchanging themselves, as well as not being able to contribute to the goals of the organization."
...
Guss says people looking for a more fulfilling work life should ask: Why am I at work? What would I do if I were independently wealthy and why? She says many people find they would continue doing the same work, but they might be frustrated by their work environments or wish to work for a different organization. Others might need a career change and should look for a way to do something they love. -more-

~ ~ ~

Space and silence for our thoughts

'THE pace of life feels morally dangerous to me," Richard Ford, the novelist, wrote six years ago.

It has only gotten worse since then, complains David M. Levy, a victim of information overload who is also a computer scientist at the University of Washington's Information School.

"We are living lives of Web fragments," he said. "We don't remember that it is part of our birthright as human beings to have space and silence for our thoughts."
....
Levy is fed up and starting Monday night -- with the help of cardiologists, monks, storytellers, hypertext editors, Zen masters and a choir -- he is doing something about it.

He has organized a conference here called "Information, Silence and Sanctuary," which will diagnose and prescribe treatment for what is ailing Levy -- and, in his view, most of the developed world. -more-

Saturday, May 15, 2005

"What the #$*! Do We Know?!" ... makes a strong case that quantum physics will impact our future in ways that are now almost unimaginable.

The film, which was shot in Portland (Oregon) by a trio of filmmakers, ... tells a light-hearted fictional story and creates a maze of imaginative animation and special effects to illustrate how the heavier thoughts of the science apply to the everyday world.
...
But as it cuts away to interview 14 scientists and one mystic (Ramtha, as channeled by JZ Knight), it does a persuasive job of establishing that -- as in every era before us -- our world view is limited and our assumptions about what constitutes "reality" are in the process of being overturned. -more-

~ ~ ~

Joel Carter creates Rock people

Duluth’s Chester Creek has made friends with some foreigners. Rock people. Or more precisely, inuksuit (i-nook-shooks), meaning “man of stone that points the way.”

Folks have noticed these rock sculptures popping up in Chester Creek and off the wooded trails, greeting visitors with their primitive connection to the earth. Inuksuit are a very old form of communication and a great tradition of the Inuit people of the Arctic north.
...
Following the wisdom spoken to him from water-pourer and medicine man Guy Red Owl, Carter sought to move from “head to heart” by listening to the rocks, seeking their balance points while unearthing his own sense of balance and healing. Overcoming his western medical training, he opened a new portal that allows for the mystery and the divine in the soul’s journey of healing. -more-

~ ~ ~

Fake: My Life as a Rogue Trader, by David Bullen, published by John Wiley & Sons Australia, rrp $24.95, will be released this week. Tells about the author's role in a financial scandal and how it leads to his finding Zen Buddhism. -more-

Friday, May 14, 2004

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

He says he gave the show a ridiculous name because if people couldn't get past it, he didn't want them watching. If viewers could accept the ironic name and the incongruous plot (about a California girl hunting vampires), Whedon figured, they must have the ironic sensibilities and openness needed to get what he was doing.
...
During its seven-season run (ending in May 2003), Buffy never had big ratings. But it did win critics' raves and an aggressively loyal following that made it a cultural phenomenon. In perhaps exactly the reaction Whedon wanted from his viewers, fans didn't just watch episodes—they devoured and digested them.
...
In What Would Buffy Do?, Jana Riess calls the show a "classic medieval morality play…[that] was easily one of the most moralistic programs on tv. Although the series often expressed ambivalence about organized religion, and was created by a self-professed atheist, it offered powerful depictions of core spiritual values at work in the lives of its major characters."
...
the spiritual journeys of the characters were primarily struggles to better understand life, to do right and not wrong, and to control the inner demons that plagued them. -more-

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Woman leaves familiar, finds peace at California monastery

BY JANICE DE JESUS Knight Ridder Newspapers

(KRT) - Jian Pin Shi had her whole life mapped out in front of her.

Born and raised in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, she obtained bachelor's and master's degrees in English literature from two of the nation's top universities. English literature was her passion; she longed to share her knowledge through teaching.

But a visit to Ling Chuan Monastery changed all that. Fresh from graduate school, she accompanied an old high school friend to the majestic monastery in northern Taiwan.

Suddenly, her life as it was - her social status, education and career prospects - didn't seem so appealing. -more-

~ ~ ~

My Life in Foster Care
by William Standard

Since my last days in a group home, it’s been a journey for me. Obstacles have come and gone in my life, and I’ve had to use and apply the skills I learned in the group home to overcome those obstacles. At first it was hard because my arrogance had me believing that I had the system all figured out. But eventually I discovered that the skills, habits and other disciplines learned in a group home are essential and sufficient enough for my life. ... Spiritual life opened a door for my growth in self-esteem, self-confidence and self-realization. -more-

~ ~ ~

Balmy weather beckons visitors to annual fest: Event features artwork, raises funds for church.

"Last year a rainstorm blew everybody away. We were up to our knees in mud," said Ellen Wade, co-chairwoman of the committee that put on the Art in the Arbor fair at Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church over the weekend.

But this year, she said, "we couldn't have asked for better weather."

As a result, shoppers and art collectors flooded the wooded grounds behind the church yesterday at the 36th annual event, which went off without a hitch as it wound up its two-day run. Art in the Arbor, a fund-raising event for the church, combines live entertainment with a fine art and craft festival. -more-

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

A worthy aspiration for most humans: To be like your own dog, by Eileen Mitchell

...to a dog each and every boring, monotonous, repetitive day is an absolute adventure. Just the mere appearance of their guardian is enough to elicit an unbridled joy that's the human equivalent of winning the lottery. And what about a ride in the car? A walk in the park? A scratch behind the ears? Suggest any of these simple, mundane activities and I usually have to steer clear of Elvis' tail, wagging so ferociously it practically slaps each side of his ribcage.
...
I'd love to work and play like a dog, with total dedication, purpose and concentration. Like the service dog that carefully guides his guardian across a busy street or through a bustling crowd. Observe how seriously a border collie will try to herd playing dogs in a dog park. Watch how focused a golden retriever remains on that airborne Frisbee. See how vigorously a Labrador swims through water. Nothing lackadaisical or halfhearted here. Dogs aren't mulling over their walk tomorrow, their meal tonight or their nap in 10 minutes. Dogs live in the moment. -more-

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Olympian Billy Mills stresses pursuit of natural ability

Asked about his October 1964 victory, Mills offers no lively quotes about athleticism or the will to win. His message, which he shares when he speaks, is about having a passion to pursue one's natural ability.

Mills said the same principles of responsibility and character that helped him win the gold are the same ideals that can help business leaders and their companies thrive and avoid legal, moral and ethical trouble.

During his running career, Mills had to overcome racism from Indians because he's part white and prejudice from whites because he's Lakota. Hate, anger, self pity and jealousy will destroy a person, he said, so he had to look deeper to succeed. -more-

~ ~ ~

Angelin Preljocaj's latest show, Near Life Experience, ... constitutes an attempt to capture the essence of trance, ravishment, rapture and ecstasy for the first time on a theatre stage.
...
What he was seeking, he told his dancers, was a physical means for conveying perdition, a word more often used of a ship breaking up at sea. He suggested they try to move without engaging the brain, as if all connection had been severed.

The other key to the piece is the music. It is music, after all, that has led the field in the pursuit of rapture, and in one sense all music aspires to transport the listener up and away from the real world and the imprisoning self. -more-

~ ~ ~

New Religion Survey, Part I - All Things Considered audio

As religions adapt and arise to reflect the changing times, NPR begins a four part series on new religious movements. NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty introduces the series with a look at the trends, and why new religions may be influential, even if short lived. -more-

Sunday, May 9, 2004

In Memoriam of Roshi Philip Kapleau

(Exclusive to Nonduality News. Compiled and edited by Gloria Lee for the Nondual Highlights.)

Philip Kapleau, founder of the Rochester Zen Center, who in the 1950s traded an American commuter train for a monastery in Japan, died Thursday afternoon, surrounded by friends and family at the center on Arnold Park.

He was 91 and had suffered from Parkinson’s disease for many years.

Born in 1912, and a native of a working-class section of New Haven, Conn., he has long been regarded as one of the foremost teachers of Zen Buddhism in the Western world. -more-

~ ~ ~

Saturday, May 8, 2004

Seminarian runner explores the sport's spirituality

AUSTIN, Texas -- In what he calls his "Mother Teresa run," Roger Joslin looks for the divine in the faces of everyone he meets. When "running with alms," the Austin seminarian takes along a few dollars to help those in need.
...
The 52-year-old master of divinity student at Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest relates his experiences in the book "Running the Spiritual Path: A Runner's Guide to Breathing, Meditating and Exploring the Prayerful Dimension of the Sport."

Published last year by St. Martin's Press in New York, the book combines Joslin's insights from 30 years of running with the spiritual journey that guided him toward the priesthood.

"When running, search for the divine in the ordinary," he writes. "Each run is not a pilgrimage to Chartres, to Mecca, to Jerusalem, but it is a pilgrimage nonetheless. If the intention is to converse with God, you are a pilgrim. It is the very ordinariness of the run that enables it to become a central part of your spiritual life. When God appears in the midst of the mundane, we are making progress toward him." -
www. indystar.com/articles/9/144575-7369-047.html">link no longer working-

~ ~ ~

Desecration of a sacred place.

Which leg do you want me to cut off — the spiritual leg or the scientific leg?” queried Jim Rock, a traditional Dakota educator, to a University administrator during a press conference Wednesday outside of University President Bob Bruininks’ office. Rock’s words go to the heart of a controversy, the ugly effect of which is clear. The spiritual leg of the University has cancer. Will Minnesota officials’ preferential allegiance to science leave it spiritually crippled or will it excise the malignant growth and recognize the need to function more holistically?

For 13 years, Rock has taught math and science at the University’s Ando-giikendaasowin (“seek to know” or “hunt knowledge”) Native American Math and Science Camps. Recently the summer program has been offered money to recruit Apache youths from San Carlos, Ariz. This is a direct example of a “cash for culture” trade Minnesota administrators see as an acceptable trade-off for their participation in the Mount Graham telescope project.

For those reasons, Rock, whose love is integrating indigenous spirituality and science, is planning to resign at the end of this year’s camp. Rock said he will not be involved with a project that directly implicates him in the desecration of a sacred place. He feels the camp is now working to appease a group the University has deeply offended with offers of “blood money.” -more-

~ ~ ~

The Africana Profile: Artist Xenobia Bailey

Bailey works in the realm most commonly referred to as the fiber arts, but her work goes beyond the recent knitting revival.

Bailey calls herself a cultural activist, a title that flips the typical artist-in-residence script. Beyond simply showing communities how to make and appreciate art, her work also speaks to the very ways that culture can sustain a community. "What I'm trying to do is bring culture into the community; poverty flourishes where there's a lack of culture. If you have culture you know how to use your environment for economic development."

Toward this end, Bailey imagines whole houses furnished with self-made fiber-based materials, propositions for a new lifestyle that simultaneously revives old traditions while testing the limits of how we exist in the domestic sphere.
...
Shown at the Aaron Davis Hall of City College in New York, the show encorporates Bailey's idea that "We were never reconstructed" after slavery with a number of objects and wall hangings designed to aid in that process. The grand foyer of the performance hall featured work that blended the Buddhist mandala form with colors and patterns that brought to mind South African Ndebele art for a hypnotizing effect. Other work was inspired by Haitian Vodun flags and West African egungun, or vehicles for the dead. -more-

~ ~ ~

Foreign tourists to unzip Vedic wisdom

HYDERABAD : The Vedas are succour for the troubled soul and that’s the way it has been for centuries. Now, tourism planners have found a new meaning to it. This succour is on offer for tourists. Tagged Vedic tourism, it’s yet another industry innovation after health and disaster tourism. Every month, 4,000 tourists descend on the state’s many spirituality centres to be part of the Vedic regimen.
...
Tours to these Vedic centres are arranged by the tourism department and each batch consists of 12-15 people. Here, the tourists live with regular students and meditate. The diet is strictly vegetarian. The tourists also get to interact with the ghanapatis (Vedic masters), sources said. Some Vedic centres are more popular. -more-

Friday, May 7, 2004

EUREKA -- Dan Hamburg has been on a spiritual journey the past few years, and he's coming to the area later this month to talk about it.

The former North Coast congressman, who dropped his Democratic credentials and went on to launch an unsuccessful Green Party bid for governor in 1998, will speak at the Arcata Plaza on May 18 at 7 p.m.

He's going to talk about the transforming power of his relationship with Avatar Adi Da Samraj -- whom the ex-congressman describes as the "living spiritual master" and a key "awakening influence in (his) continuing life of political activism." -more-

~ ~ ~

Wanted: Quiet Volunteers for Monastery Show
By Sherna Noah, Media Correspondent, PA News

The BBC is looking for four men who want to swap their hectic lives for quiet contemplation in a monastery.

The reality show will place the individuals with a community of monks for two months.

Producers have been researching sites around the country to find the perfect monastery for the BBC2 programme.

A BBC2 spokeswoman said the show would not be “intrusive” or “exploitative”.

She said: “This is an observational documentary. It’s not a Big Brother.

“It’s meant to be a programme with integrity, a serious attempt to understand what monastic life is like.

“It will also show what happens when people exchange their busy lives for quiet contemplation and space.

“Hopefully it will be a spiritual journey and we will be able to see how people change when they give up their busy lifestyle.“

The show – which does not have a title yet – is in the early stages of production and will be broadcast on BBC2 next year. -more-

~ ~ ~

Pizza Parlor Prodigy

Acclaimed cello soloists rarely come through Jackson (Mississippi), and when they do, they almost never perform at Soulshine Pizza.
...
Mr. Haimovitz ... planted himself in a chair next to a table littered with beer bottles and an empty pack of cigarettes. The half dozen remaining audience members gathered around him in a semicircle.

Mr. Haimovitz closed his eyes, put bow to string and laid into the Prelude of Bach's First Cello Suite. He did not stop at the end of the movement but went on to play the entire work, about 20 minutes of music.
...
It was just one of many recent curious moments for Mr. Haimovitz, who was once a major cello prodigy accustomed to playing in the elite halls of Europe and America. Now 33, he has chosen an alternative world, traveling the nation to perform in country and folk cafes, jazz spots and nightclubs

Thursday, May 6, 2004

Book highlights baseball's spiritual side

By Larry Stone, Seattle Times (KRT), May 05, 2004

Robert Whiting, the leading American expert on Japanese baseball, paints a fascinating portrait of an almost maniacally driven Ichiro in his new book, "The Meaning of Ichiro," which is destined to become as indispensable as his classic, "Ya Gotta Have Wa."

Clearly, Ichiro's talent — and character — was shaped to a great extent by his father, Nobuyuki Suzuki, a practicing Buddhist who believes that all inanimate things, including baseball gloves, are animated with a spirit.

That helps explain Ichiro's pain-staking devotion to his equipment, and much more is explained by the description of the arduous father-son practice regimen. The daily sessions often wouldn't end until 11 p.m., after which Nobuyuki would massage his son's feet before bed. -
more-

~ ~ ~

Approval rating off the charts

As I continued my spiritual listening, a phrase came to thought: "endorsed pre-eminently by the approval of God." Instantly I understood. Rather than needing the endorsement of any other person, I had God's approval. He loves me just as He created me, just as I am.

My fear dissolved so completely that the next four months of interviews were marked by collegiality, respect, and an increasingly warm welcome. I could now consider the training opportunity without anxiety or longing and to honestly explain that I was interested in the program only if it were a good fit for everyone concerned.

This was a dramatic change - and a relief - from feeling the need to persuade or impress. More, it was entirely novel to my interviewers, and it effortlessly earned their regard. They considered my potential without the limits of tradition and commented on how surprised they were at my success. -more-

~ ~ ~

Zen and the art of paying £150 to be a beggar on the streets of London
By David Usborne, 04 May 2004

The next time a beggar approaches you on the street look carefully into their eyes. What will you see? It could genuinely be a homeless person in desperate need. But there is a chance that the person extending his tin cup will be managing a bank the following morning or running a large company.

A fad that has been in full swing in the United States for a few years - the "street retreat" - is about to take root in Britain. In this topsy-turvy world, stressed-out executives submit themselves to the ultimate exercise in regaining their perspective on life. They play at being a street bum for a few days and nights.
...
"What you are paying for is the fact that we have been doing this for 10 years. There are guidelines. There is also a spiritual commitment to what we do. And a safety factor because the streets are dangerous. You could do it by yourself and you might experience even more but this is a quasi-structured environment." -more-

~ ~ ~

Artist tries to heal Holocaust wounds

"I've done a lot of Holocaust research. But it's a lot different when you're there, where your whole family is buried," (Carolyn H. Manosevitz) she said. "I stood there for a very, very, very long time. It was the most significant part of my journey - and maybe of my life. I felt the spirits of all the people who wished me well, standing with me on some level."

In addition to teaching her Spirituality and the Holocaust course to Christian seminary students from Texas to Denver to Washington, D.C., Manosevitz is an artist and art teacher.

In the early '90s, she began to address issues of the Shoah in her work, and such themes now predominate in her art.

Following her trip to the Ukraine, Manosevitz found she couldn't create for a month. But when she started making her mixed-media paintings, what emerged were images of grass and faces - the grass of Kremenets' mass grave, the faces of the people buried there.

Manosevitz has created a series of works based on the Ukraine trip and the emotions stirred up. The paintings - haunted, gray collages of painting, drawings, photographs and sculpture, with ghostly faces reminding the viewer of what was lost in Kremenets and all across Europe - are part of an exhibit, along with older works, at Colorado Mountain College's Aspen campus. The exhibit opens with a reception tonight at 5 p.m.; Manosevitz will give a gallery talk at 6 p.m.

She sees her work as an aid in the healing process, for herself and others. -more-

~ ~ ~

Faith Sprouts in Arid Soil of China

These days, signs of religious revival abound in China, perhaps nowhere more than among the country's largest Muslim minority, the Hui, who are historically centered in this area of north-central China, where Persians and Arabs migrated in the seventh century, intermarrying with local populations. But the limits on Islam and other faiths enforced by the government remain strict and carefully observed.

Reliable religious data is hard to come by in China, but the country's estimated 20 million Muslims are often said to constitute the second-largest religious community, after Buddhists, who may number as many as 100 million. Christians of various denominations are also believed to number over 10 million, and adherents of all of these faiths are widely believed to be growing.

"It used to be that religious freedom only existed on paper, but now it is flowing into our daily lives," said Mr. Hong, who received a visitor a stone's throw from the towering main mosque in nearby Hong Gangzi. "We are allowed to say whatever we want to, as long as we respect the party.'' Mr. Hong's statement had the ring of a disclaimer, something prudent to say in a country where the government decides who is and who is not allowed to be a religious leader and even where people may gather to worship. -more-

~ ~ ~

Creating a Culture of Empowerment in Mental Health Care

For two decades, activist David Oaks has been the outsider pounding on the door of the psychiatric establishment, demanding an end to its strict reliance on drugs to treat mental illness.

Now, he's found the door unlocked, and he's been invited inside.

Oaks, executive director of the Eugene-based MindFreedom Support Coalition, has been asked to organize a workshop on "Creating a Culture of Empowerment in Mental Health Care" for local mental health providers, patients and families.
...
Many psychiatric drugs are expensive and pose long-term health risks, he said. An "inexhaustible range of alternatives" exists, he said, including peer support, ecological psychology, exercise, nutrition, spirituality and art.

"When the chemical approach totally dominates, that's the problem," he said. "If it was a spiritual approach that was totally dominating, that would be a problem, too."-more-

~ ~ ~

In Vincent's Footsteps

Van Gogh slept with countless prostitutes and even gave his ear to one. But the importance of sex in his life and work has been ignored in the sweetly mythologised image of him as a sunflower-painting saint. Waldemar Januszczak reveals the artist's true colours.

I have this creepy feeling that I've been watching a cult being born. All I have really been doing is following in the footsteps of Vincent Van Gogh for a TV biography on Channel 4. But, at every step of the way, I found myself encountering so much bogus spirituality. People giving themselves to him, as it were. Worshipping him. Preserving his relics. Becoming Van Gogh's disciples. And in order to succeed with this weird sanctifying process, they have had to misunderstand Van Gogh completely. Almost to rebuild him from scratch.
...
What is also interesting is the money that is being made out of Van Gogh, chiefly in the places where he was least valued when he was alive. Anyone who has been to Arles will know how determinedly it tries to brand itself as Van Gogh's town, yet in 1889 the ancestors of these Provencal locals officially petitioned their mayor to have him locked up. Now he is the town's chief money-spinner.
...
The Van Gogh we have created is a far closer relative of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi than he is of the real Vincent Willem Van Gogh, born in Zundert, Brabant, on 30 March 1853, a wiry redhead with a nasty temper, a voracious sex drive and an inglorious sense of victimhood. -more-

~ ~ ~

Queen's tomb discovered in Mayan ruins

By JAMIE STENGLE
The Associated Press
5/6/2004, 12:28 a.m. ET

DALLAS (AP) — While excavating an ancient royal palace deep in the Guatemalan rain forest, archaeologists made a rare discovery — the 1,200-year-old tomb and skeleton of a Mayan queen.

Archaeologists announced the find Thursday, and said the woman appears to have been a powerful leader of a city that may have been home to tens of thousands of people at its peak. They found her bones on a raised platform, with evidence of riches scattered around her body.

"We find clues of people's existence in the past all the time, from the garbage they left or the buildings they built. ... But when you actually come face-to-face with human beings, it's a deeply sacred moment for all of us," said David Freidel, an anthropology professor at Southern Methodist University, which sponsored a team of 20 archaeologists excavating the site. -more-

Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Pope to canonize Lebanese monk known for spirituality, devotions

By Doreen Abi Raad
Catholic News Service

BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNS) -- When Pope John Paul II canonizes Blessed Nimatullah Kassab al-Hardini at the Vatican May 16, church bells will ring throughout Lebanon.

"Blessed Hardini is a pillar of Lebanese monastic spirituality, which has a long tradition dating back to the fifth century," said U.S. Jesuit Father Martin McDermott, who has served in Lebanon for 32 years.

At age 20, Blessed Hardini entered St. Anthony Monastery, adopting the name of Brother Nimatullah. He was ordained a priest in 1833 at the monastery in Kfifan; he chose to live in a monastery rather than in an isolated hermitage.

"The monk in his monastery is like a king in his palace: His kingdom is his order; his soldiers are his brethren; his glory is his virtue and sanctity; his crown is his love of God and his order; his scepter is his chastity and purity; his weapon is his poverty, obedience and prayers; his royal garment is his humility and gentleness," Blessed Hardini once said. -
more-

~ ~ ~

Latinas in America Are Satisfied with Their Looks

GREENWICH, Ct.--(HISPANIC PR WIRE)--May 4, 2004--New research, released today by the Dove beauty brand, reveals that Latinas are frustrated with the gap that exists between their definition of beauty and society’s. The Dove Report: Challenging Beauty finds that over half (60 percent) of Hispanic women are happy with the way that they look. They are comfortable with their appearance and do not feel compelled to change their looks. These findings provide a thought-provoking contrast to America’s seeming obsession with makeovers and cosmetic procedures.

Aware of women’s struggle with their beauty, Dove commissioned a year-long, groundbreaking study to gain deeper insight into women’s true feelings about beauty and, in doing so, question myths about the quest for “perfect beauty.” In releasing these findings, the Dove beauty brand hopes to fuel societal discussion and give voice to women who are redefining beauty in their own terms. -more-

~ ~ ~

Lively Stories Teach American Children About Africa

A person may have a beautiful hat,
But still, he may be unworthy.
A person may wear beautiful clothes,
Yet still, he may be unworthy.
A person may wear beautiful shoes,
Yet he may still be unworthy.
A person may have a pocket full of money,
Yet if he is unworthy, he has no wealth.


Such lessons of spiritual values outweighing material wealth, of the worth of the person not his possessions, are told to children in an entertaining way through the beautiful illustrations and winning stories in the books honored by the Children's Africana Books Awards. A Library of Congress award ceremony held May 1 in Washington honored 38 books by African and American authors and illustrators.

The verse above is from "The Magic Gourd," by Baba Wagué Diakité, who grew up "a shepherd boy, spending solitary days in the bush" in Mali. The book, about a smart rabbit and a generous chameleon, was inspired by his experiences. -more-

Tuesday, May 4, 2004

The Role of the Media in the 21st Century

Through the media we are missing out on the sheer spirituality of life, the need to love, to be loved and the peak of all happiness, loving ourselves.

Exterior looks are making the vanity that lies within all of us vanish, but still, the media wouldn't be what it is without its prime factor, image.
...
The media is far from mundane, as a whole we recognise it to be the fastest growing industry in the world today and probably the most important factor of our society.

From combining my own and other people's opinions of the media, I have found that freedom of speech, faith and family values are all elementary spiritual values for us to build our lives on. In this darkening era of war and terrorism we need these virtues more than anything else.

So, what exactly is the role of the media in the 21st century? Well, it is obvious that the media has somehow evolved into this larger-than-life monstrous being, a monster that we sardonically love. -more-

~ ~ ~

Profiles of some Kashi ashram members: Ma's ashram: A Press Journal special report

When Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati led her group of followers to Roseland (Florida) in 1976 and began building the Kashi Ashram, a whole new world opened up for her and her students, she says.

On 7 1/2 acres, they began a new journey that has led them over the past 28 years to help AIDS victims and the hungry in Indian River County and other parts of the Treasure Coast through volunteerism, she says. "It was and is a magical journey into the wonderment of serving others."

As for the future, Kashi’s matriarch sees it filled with ever-expanding service to others, not only here but across the country and around the world. -more-

~ ~ ~

Noa Fleur from Cacharel arrives at perfume counters this Saturday.

It's described as embodying "optimism, peace and spirituality."

There's a surprise ingredient, coffee, which has never been used before in perfumery. It apparently adds sensuality to the white musk and nutmeg base notes.

Available from all good department stores and perfume counters, it costs £19.50 for a 30ml spray Eau de Toilette. (This has been the entire piece.)

Monday, May 3, 2004

Greg Brown. He's the last American troubadour, a complex mix of Midwestern common sense and bohemian Zen appeal inhabiting a poet's soul.
...
He landed a job with the Iowa Arts Council and played concerts for kids, mental patients and rest-home residents. He played the local cafes, and in the mid-'80s became a regular on Garrison Keillor's homespun public-radio show Prairie Home Companion.
...
Along the way he got married, got divorced, raised three daughters and recorded a boozy version of Bob Dylan's "Pledging My Time" that alone could have made his career as a song interpreter. -
more-

~ ~ ~

Duluth gets that Wobegon feeling

RADIO COMPANION: Fans fill the DECC for a chance to see Garrison Keillor perform live.

BY SHELLEY NELSON

NEWS TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER

Lake Wobegon gave way to Lake Superior for a little while Saturday night when Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" aired from Duluth.

About 2,400 listeners descended on the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center for a chance to watch Keillor work his folksy magic for the airwaves.

"I think he's just great," said Shelley Meverden, who drove from Butternut, Wis., with her husband, Larry, to see the performance. "We're Lutheran and relate to everything he says." -more-

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Book offers tips on nurturing spiritual development of kids

Real Kids, Real Faith - (Jossey-Bass, $19.95) by Karen Marie Yust

"Faith is a gift from God," writes Yust. "It is neither a particular set of beliefs nor a well-developed cognitive understanding of all things spiritual. It is an act of grace in which God chooses to be in relationship with humanity. It comes to us in and through all our senses."

This differs sharply from the beliefs of many developmental experts who argue that spirituality and faith are anchored in specific beliefs, says Yust. They believe that young children cannot participate in faith activities in any meaningful way because they simply aren't able to understand the concepts represented.

"Real Kids, Real Faith" is based on the premise that children have legitimate spiritual experiences that result in unique expressions of faith.

That said, the practices suggested in the book, while worthwhile, are not particularly groundbreaking.

Some sections of the book address children's prayer, how children make sense of abstract religious concepts and the unique ways children can serve others while developing their spiritual lives within a community.

While Yust writes from her experiences as a Christian mother and educator, she includes examples from many religious traditions, and the practices she recommends are easily adapted for non-Christian families.

This is a good resource for those wishing to nurture their children's spiritual development and fully integrate their family's religious and secular lives. (This has been the entire article.)

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India News > TN housewives rally to save dying musical tradition

Chennai, Tamilnadu, May 1 (ANI):

Housewives in Tamil Nadu have taken to revive the state's ancient but dying "Devaram" music, which are devotional hymns sung in reverence of Lord Shiva. Dating back to 600-900 AD, when Tamil literature came under the influence of Saiva saints, Devaram hymns are basically compilations of teachings of the saints.

They have in them all forms of spiritual expression from the Advaitic principles of nondualism and self-realization to devotional praises. Performed mainy at temples or religious gathering, Devaram has its unique rhythm and style and are perhaps the only hymns in the world to be sung both during festivity and mourning.

Though sung by male priest, the tradition has over the years faded into oblivion and now it is the women who are struggling to revive it.

Clad in green sarees (a five-meter drape), these women from state capital

Madras, all of whome are housewives, spend their spare time learning the music and then perform it at various temples or at gatherings in people's homes.

"Everything is very modern these days but Devaram is a very ancient art form, we want to develop our ancient culture that is why a lot of housewives are learning this once a week in their free time," Rani Venkatesan, a Devaram singer, said.

"Nowdays, along with Carnatic musicians, housewives are trying to learn this sort of music to get blessings from saints," Jyoti, another Devaram exponent, added.

The women say with younger generations hooked on to mainstream music, the few surviving exponents of Devaram were finding no students. Living in abject poverty, they are literally on the brink of starvation and have appealed to the government for help. (This has been the entire article.)

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300 worship with breakaway priest

The New Testament declares that God is love, "and you can exchange the words and put 'Love is God,'" Hausen said.

"When you see anyone, whether they are Hindu or Buddhist or Judaism or Christian or Islam ...no matter what color they are, what sex they are, or whatever orientation they are . . . if you see anybody doing selfless love, you see God in action."

He urged his listeners to base their knowledge of God on what they find inside themselves, rather than on tradition or outside authority.

"I feel that the greatest theology today will come from your experience of yourself . . . not from above or from someone imposing stuff on us," he said. -more-

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Greenfire (Maine) offers weekend workshop on Muslim women's stories
Submitted by chambliss neil

(April 29): For all women curious about the Islamic world, Greenfire announces a weekend workshop on childhood stories and memories written by Middle Eastern Muslim women. Over the course of the weekend, participants will read and talk about the stories of growing up in countries ranging from Iraq to Morocco.

Because Americans have traditionally had little to do with the Muslim world, we have a small base for understanding reports now in the daily news. This workshop will give participants a glimpse of the variety of Muslim cultures, how they have dealt with the roles of women, secularism and the west, and the place of religion in their lives. Through these women’s own life stories, we Americans can see how actual people lived their lives, what they cared about, where they struggled.

The workshop leader, Chambliss Neil, is an MIT-trained political scientist who has had extensive experience in Africa and the Middle East and more then three decades in cross-cultural work.

Greenfire is a retreat house for women in Tenants Harbor. Set in the midst of meadows and woods in a two-hundred year old farmhouse, it offers space to all who want to rest and explore their spirituality regardless of tradition, age, or race. It is a non-profit organization and offers open community events as well as weekend workshops and individual retreat space. For additional information, call 372-6442 or email greenfir@midcoast.com. (This has been the entire article.)

Sunday, May 2, 2004

Each day most of us live our lives in heroic proportions. For while ultimately heroism is about extraordinary individuals making great sacrifices for the common good, it is also about ordinary people quietly making a positive difference and improving the lives of others on a daily basis.
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Our recent history is replete with stories of teachers, nurses, law enforcement officers, domestic servants, agricultural workers, seamstresses, shop keepers and their assistants, labourers, hawkers and a miscellany of everyday people who exhibit the “greatness of spirit” of the true hero. Their stories are carved on the hearts of the people whose lives they have lovingly touched and the communities which are better because of their earthly incarnation. -more-

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Book review: Death-Devoted Heart: Sex and the Sacred in Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, by Roger Scruton

Death-Devoted Heart is a book on music, tragedy, love, sacrifice and redemption. It is partly a brilliant critical/ theoretical study, partly a manifesto for a new religion. It's a rare case of a philosopher really telling you what it's all about.
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Scruton dwells on one specific artwork: Richard Wagner's music-drama of love and death, Tristan und Isolde. Of all Wagner's works, it "has the greatest claim to occupy the psychic space traditionally reserved for religion". It "invites us, just as we are invited to the altar in the sacred ritual of a religious gathering". It "offers the final proof that man can become holy with no help from the gods".

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Never underestimate the power of a grandmother's heartfelt prayer

One Sunday morning, I sat with Grandma and Mom at a cafe eating breakfast. It was a warm spring day in Los Angeles, and Mom and Grandma had driven to my neck of the woods so we could eat together -- at a kosher restaurant. As we sat over bagels and coffee, a couple of boys with their peyos (sidelocks) flying behind them ran into the restaurant to buy some ice cream. Grandma turned in her chair and looked at them curiously, the back of her fluffy, just-done white hair facing us.

"Do all of the boys in this area look like that?" she asked me.

I told her yes, for the most part, the boys in my religious community have peyos, tzitzis and wear yarmulkes. Grandma was quiet for a little while, and then we resumed our conversation, discussing what my current dating prospects looked like. This was one of Grandma's favorite topics, and, I have to admit, I also enjoyed talking with her about it. She was eternally patient when listening to my dating sagas, and the one I'd had the previous night had been particularly horrific. She had a straightforward, simple approach to the whole matter. She always insisted, "Don't worry, sweetheart, it will happen. The right one who's meant for you will come along." -more-

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Prayers for peace

O’Neil Woolery, 20, sings out during the final moments of a walk through Malvern’s streets by parishioners from Rhema Christian Ministries. Their aim is to quell gun violence in the neighbourhood. -more-

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Regarding 'truth' and 'non-violence.' If I know anything about how things are done in Dharamshala we are definitely in for more nebulous, "feel-good" conferences (with silk-lined folders and expensive colour souvenir magazines for delegates), seminars and workshops, all of which will probably be underwritten by some well-meaning foreign foundation with more enthusiasm and money than awareness of the real and frightening dangers assailing Tibetan society.

Inside Tibet courageous souls still defy Chinese might with courage worthy of Gandhi. Still the question must be asked whether any of those brave activists are, in any true sense, non-violent activists. In conversations with a number of new arrivals in Dharamshala, I received the definite impression that nearly all of the demonstrators and activists in Tibet adopted non-violent methods (up to a point, they threw stones and burnt down a police station) because they were not in a position to do anything else; and that if the time came where violent insurrection were possible against the Chinese they would welcome it. -more-

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Coffeehouses of worship: Emerging churches appeal to young seekers

ARLINGTON, Texas - It's Sunday, and about 20 people mingle in the Coffee Haus on Mesquite Street. Some pick up a doughnut and a cup of coffee. Others leave their children in a makeshift nursery.

A hodgepodge of furniture -- couches, love seats, plastic lawn chairs -- is arrayed in front of a two-person band with an acoustic guitar and a conga. People sit, some tucking a Bible beneath their chairs, and bow their heads.

The worship service has begun at Axxess, one of hundreds of small emerging churches sprinkled throughout the United States and other Western nations. Rather than sanctuaries, many of these church communities meet in bars, coffee shops and other places frequented by young adults. Many members are in their 20s and 30s. Most are disillusioned with traditional churches. -more-

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'Swanky' Simhastha sees sadhus with computers and cell phones

Ujjain, Apr 30 (UNI) In what might be described as the ultimate 'jugalbandi' of the 'spiritual East' and 'materialistic West', this ancient temple town - teeming with thousands of sadhus attending the month-long Simhastha Mela - has been swamped by digital cameras, OB vans and mobile phones.

Mind you, these modern-age gadgets are not being used merely by the media and the administration but also by the monks themselves! The dexterity of the sanyasis in using cell phones has to be seen to be believed and they can even give a tip or two to a techno-savvy urbanite.

It's not rare to find a sadhu with a laptop. The monks comfortably face cameras and some have even picked up media jargon such as the all-important ''byte.'' Of course, there are several cable TV connections whereby sanyasis seem to keep tabs on worldy matters.

When quizzed on the penetration of gadgets in their 'austere' lives, the monks often shrug off the query while describing the devices as just ''tools'' that enable them to stay in touch with one another and maintain direct contact with their ashrams spread across the country and even abroad.

Officials point out that devotees are increasingly using digicams for recording the unforgettable experience of being part of the Simhastha, which takes place just once in 12 years.

The confluence of technology and spirituality, as witnessed here, has once again underscored the ever-evolving and dynamic aspect of 'Sanatan Dharma'.

For the sanyasis, renunciation never meant running away from the physical world but is in fact remaining aloof to whatever happens and whatever situation unfolds. (This has been the entire article.)

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Western philosophy.

BRADENTON (Florida) - Elizabeth Western started a business 14 years ago selling Chinese Fu shoes at Red Barn Flea Market.

A lizard in her bedroom inspired the name for the Manatee Avenue boutique, which has evolved from humble beginnings to a 1,100 square foot store with its own Zen garden.

Now she sells earth-friendly clothing, lingerie, home decor and, most recently, antique beads at the Chameleon Natural Boutique.

Over the years, Western embraced changes in her business as the market, customers, and her whim dictated. But her style, like her namesake, is slow and deliberate. -more-

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Surfers Aren't Put Off by Sharks: Fans of the sport say their compulsion to ride the waves outweighs the fear of the predator, even in the wake of a recent death.

KAHANA, Hawaii — Sam George can't believe the audacity of surfers who seem to return to the water as soon as the blood of a shark attack dissipates — even though he's one of them.

"Once the blood cleared and the paramedics got off the beach, I'm as silly as the rest," said George, San Clemente-based editor of Surfer magazine.
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Most surfers say they view an attack by a shark as something they have no control over. Some species are viewed by Native Hawaiians as sacred guardian spirits.

"If the shark wants to eat any one of us, they're going to eat," said Karen Gallagher, owner of North Shore Surf Camps on Oahu and a surfer for four decades. "You can't outpaddle the shark."

Regardless, surfers say that doesn't matter. Their passion has only one antidote: surfing.

"Surfers build their whole life around being there and catching the wave," George said. "Everything takes a backseat." -more-

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Krispy Kreme is Modesto's only certified kosher eating establishment.

Jews are supposed to show their obedience to God by following kosher dietary laws.

"The ability to distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil, pure and defiled, the sacred and the profane, is very important in Judaism," states Judaism 101, an online resource. "Imposing rules on what you can and cannot eat ingrains that kind of self-control, requiring us to learn to control even our most basic, primal instincts."

Keeping kosher laws elevates "the simple act of eating into a religious ritual," the site states. -www. modbee.com/life/faithvalues/story/8512611p-9357291c.html link no longer working-