Dharma

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The Dharma wheel is a Buddhist metaphor for the eight pathways that lead to an enlightened end to suffering.

As the wheel rolls, any of the spokes might land on top.

Now, I don’t know a great deal about Buddhism, but it seems to me that the wheel might be turned to Right Speech as a messages for the United States right now.

Right Speech is communicating in ways that promote harmony and understanding. It is speech that is truthful and free of malice.

However, it doesn’t mean being “nice” when unpleasant things must be said.

Telling lies is not Right Speech.  Planting seeds of disharmony and misleading information is not Right Speech.

Telling the Emperor he is ever so finely dressed when he is in fact naked is not Right Speech.

We all suffer when our nation veers off the path.

Homeless

It started in 1986 when a woman on her way to work passed a homeless woman and decided to buy her a sandwich.  When that woman learned that here was homelessness even in her home community in New Jersey, she went beyond handing out sandwiches.

Her work lead to the formation of an interfaith hospitality network that involved churches and community resources to provide shelter, meals, assistance with finding work and housing.  The program grew and is now a national program known as Family Promise. In 1992, Family Promise (known then as the considerable less catchy National Interfaith Hospitality Network) was awarded one of 21 Points of Light by President and Barbara Bush.

The Family Promise Mission Statement is:

OUR MISSION IS TO HELP HOMELESS AND LOW-INCOME FAMILIES ACHIEVE SUSTAINABLE INDEPENDENCE THROUGH A COMMUNITY-BASED RESPONSE.

It is hard for me to believe that there are over 450 children just in and around Venice, Florida.  Eleven churches have committed to providing facilities, volunteers, and financial support so that Family Promise can help families of young children receive needed services to solve their homelessness in  meaningful ways.  Additional churches provide volunteers and financial support as well.

I am often skeptical about the whole subject of religion, but I have to say that there is something very beautiful about different churches working together on a common cause and in making their communities better places for all to live.volunteers

 

Rice Pudding

Healthy eating is always a good thing, but once in a while it is healthy (at least in my opinion) to go full on with comfort food.  Usually that is something that takes one right back to childhood.

My mother made a custardy rice pudding that was okay but certainly never my favorite.  However, this recipe, based on one for Kheer, an Indian rice pudding, is something I always find comforting and sweet.

Also, it is easy to eat when I am otherwise not feeling like my usual perky self. (As I have been recovering from bronchitis.)

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart half and half
  • 1 cup milk*
  • 1/2 cup basmati rice
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom

I put the half and half and milk in a slow cooker, rinse the rice, and add it to the slow cooker.

I set the slow cooker to high and let the rice cook in the milk for two to three hours. (it looks like just liquid for a long time, but eventually the rice plumps up.)

Add the sugar and cardamom and cook for another hour or so.

*I have used whole milk, low-fat, and almond milk and all have worked fine.

Raisins are traditional in this pudding, but I like it better without them.  A such of cinnamon is nice though it will make the pudding look like oatmeal.  Toasted almond slices or chopped pistachios (most yummy) can be used as garnish.

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A Sufi Story

It is related that Mahmud of Ghazna was once walking in his garden when he stumbled over a blind dervish sleeping beside a bush.

As soon as he awoke, the dervish cried, “You clumsy oaf! Have you no eyes, that you must trample upon the sons of men?”

Mahmud’s companion, who was one of his courtiers, shouted, “Your blindness is equaled only by your stupidity! Since you cannot see, you should be doubly careful of whom you are accusing of heedlessness.”

“If by that you mean”, said the dervish, “that I should not criticize a sultan, it is you who should realize your shallowness.”

Mahmud was impressed that the blind man knew that he was in the presence of the king, and he said mildly, “Why, O dervish, should a king have to listen to vituperation from you?”

“Precisely”, said the dervish, “because it is the shielding of people of any category from criticism appropriate to them which is responsible for their downfall. It is the burnished metal which shines most brightly, the knife struck with the whetstone which cuts best, and the exercised arm which can lift the weight.”

 

Hmm…the shielding of someone from criticism appropriate to him can lead to his downfall…

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Non-duality

There is a Cherokee legend that is sometimes told as a story about a grandfather who tells a story to a young boy who is angry with one of his friends.  The grand father sympathizes with the boy and admits that he too struggles with anger, but then says anger does not help the injured and does nothing to the one doing the injury.  It is like “taking poison and wishing that the enemy would die.”

The grandfather tells of two wolves that live within.  The first is in harmony with all around it while the other is always angry and flying into fits of temper..  He says it is sometimes hard to live with these two wolves trying to dominate his spirit.

The boy asks, “Which one wins, Grandfather?”

And the grandfather replies, “The one I feed.”

There is something Buddha-like to this story, the principle on non duality. It is not a matter of either/or.  Both sides exist within each of us for a reason.  We can know happiness because we have suffered pain.. The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh uses the image of a flowers such as love, faith, hope and understanding in our thinking.  There are also waste materials like pain and fear in our thinking,  As a farmer uses composted waste materials to nourish healthy plants, we learn to make compost of waste material thoughts to nourish the flowers of love and understanding.

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Brain Food

When I was growing up, Fridays were meatless.  That often meant fish for dinner. I wasn’t crazy about it although I do really love fish now and have it way more than on just the occasional Friday.

My parents always insisted we should eat the fish because it was “brain food.” I don’t know why they said that, but as is so often the case, moms and dads know best.

A couple of years ago the MIND diet was developed at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago when researchers identified certain foods that appear to reduce cognitive decline such as Alzheimer’s disease or senile dementia.

Good foods are:  leafy salad greens, other colorful vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil, and a daily glass of wine.

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Unfortunately, researchers also identified foods that had a deleterious effect of brain health.  See if you can guess…red meat, butter/margarine, cheese, pastries and sweets, fried foods.

I don’t think this is particularly surprising or brand new information.  The plan does allow for some red meat and sweets — no more than five servings (small servings) per week. If you want cheese, a one ounce serving per week is allowed.

I try to eat healthy most of the time.  Since there has been quite a bit of dementia in my family I think I will be more aware of using olive oil instead of butter.  And nuts with a glass of red wine makes a nice dessert as far as I am concerned.

Loving the Enemy

“Do not return evil to your adversary; Requite with kindness the one who does evil to you, Maintain justice for your enemy, Be friendly to your enemy.”

– Akkadian Councils of Wisdom (from the ancient Babylonian civilization that existed two millennia before Jesus was born)

“Shame on him who strikes, greater shame on him who strikes back. Let us live happily, not hating those who hate us. Let us therefore overcome anger by kindness, evil by good, falsehood by truth. Do not hurt others in ways that would be hurtful to yourself.”

– Buddhist wisdom (written centuries before Jesus was born)

In this world

Hate never yet dispelled hate.
Only love dispels hate.
This is the law,
Ancient and inexhaustible.

– The Dhammapada    (source here)

 

So very, very hard to love those who arouse hatred in my own heart.  So very hard to  wish love, compassion, happiness, and ease for those I perceive as spreading  hatred, harm, anger, and pain.

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But I do know in my heart and through all my experiences, hate only attracts more hate.

I do not have to accept hatred.  I do not have to accept wrongs.

But I do have to take action from a place of peace.  Give me strength. As I work on my anger, I am overwhelmed by a feeling of great sadness and tears.

Sometimes the only way to show love to enemies is to hold them accountable for their actions. I can only do what I can do to let light shine.

Breath in, Breath out, Repeat

I do a mindful meditation. Focus on the breath. When thoughts come, notice and then return to the breath. Notice what is going on in the body and send breath to any place of tension or pain.

I am looking for a place of clarity and total letting go.

Although lately not so much, sometimes I get there. I tell myself I will hang on to that.

Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I think what a beautiful day. I am just going to enjoy it.
I have a cup of coffee while watching the sun rise and listening to a flock of tiny little sparrows chirping as they flit around the bushes in the yard.

But I always end up turning on my computer to check emails and read blogs with my second cup of coffee.

The NYT headline flashes in the upper right hand corner of the screen. My stomach knots and my breath catches in my chest. My inner Dorothy Parker screams out Oh what fresh hell is this?

For my own health and well being I need to resist.

But I also need to resist the lure of watching the crash and burn, to convince myself that this too shall pass. Breathe.

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Women’s March

Yes, I marched.  And I am glad and I will do it again.

I do not mean this as disrespect to our elected president.  I consider it my right to stand up and speak out for what I care about. A right and a privilege and even a duty.

 

 

I am attached to my views as others are attached to their own views.  Some day we may all be free from such attachments.  Until then, perhaps we can try to get along, agree to disagree if need be, and remain kind to one another as a way of being kind to ourselves.

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Being Spiritual 2

I don’t know why I have let this Father Mike character get under my skin, but there he is and I have to deal with it.

To claim to be spiritual but not religious is like saying, “I’m a scholar, but I don’t read.”

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Here is an orange.  kimu-orange

 

 

To say, I am a Catholic but I don’t practice the religion and I really don’t so much believe all those teachings, well, that would be like saying “I am a scholar, but I don’t read.” Spirituality can be both a belief and a practice. I am spiritual and I honor and explore the great mystery of life, that’s saying something very different.

Of course there has to be content and context.  Of course there has to be the effort of learning.

I believe that God is love as well. But where did they get that truth about God? They didn’t get it from looking at nature. If anything, nature is impartial. It can be beautiful, but it can also be ugly. It can bring life, but it just as easily brings death. There is nothing in nature alone that indicates that God is love. Nature doesn’t seem to even care about human beings.

Ooooh, Nature!  Mother Earth.  Circle of life…bringer of birth and also of death.  So we tread on them patriarchal order of things.  The Divine Feminine, that is the real threat here isn’t it?  I should have known.

Father Mike, you are dismissed from my mind.