Good News!

It can sometimes be a struggle to hear and see all the violent images and bad news in today’s world. In fact, one of the topics in our men’s group meetings was “How do you cope with the constant barrage of depressing and deeply disturbing information routinely disseminated in almost every newscast or news article.” One answer was to limit your exposure to such news/broadcasts, be they TV, radio, phone applications, etc. Unplugging ourselves periodically from our electronic and media saturated world is now considered a VERY healthy practice. Happily, there are alternative news sources that can uplift us instead of dragging us down and depressing us. These are two of my favorites:

It’s like a tonic or an ice-cold drink on a hot day. Your psyche and soul will thank you for bringing a bit of joy and optimism to your day. There IS good happening out there – it’s just not as dramatic and, for many, as alluring as the bad news. Some might argue that bad news sells copy more than good news but how can we know that since the ratio of bad to good news is nothing short of staggering?

Goodnews (the application)

This wonderful journalistic collection is available on Android (what I use) and I suspect is also available on iPhones as well. The application comes to us from Germany but is available in English. I did a search just now on Microsoft Store for Goodnews and I didn’t see this application there. If you know of others, please pass them along. I suspect we can always use a bit more joy in our lives.

A Meditation Plug

There are so many worthy traditions that practice meditation. They have a lot in common like ditching the past and future and living in the present moment – now. Among my favorites are Pema Chödrön’s “How to Meditate”, Deepak Chopra’s “Total Meditation”, Eknath Easwaran’s “Conquest of Mind”, and Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now”. I am so thankful to have enjoyed each of these tomes. Each brings a different yet shared beauty and joy to the reader. For me, some of the chapters are better than others in each of these books, but these resonate deeply and help guide me on my path.

A Meditation Prayer

I would like to share with you a joy that was given me by a friend and one of the men in our Men’s Group recently.  I was hosting this particular week and got to choose what our topic for discussion would be (our meetings are comprised of checking-in during the first hour (no crosstalk) followed by a short break, then whoever is hosting can pose a question for the group).  I asked the question “What methods do you use to turn off your monkey mind when meditating?”  This gentleman was kind enough to send me an email later in the week recommending a book by one of the premier Hindu writers of our time, one Eknath Easwaran, entitled “Conquest of Mind”.[1]   In this book (he has written many, drawing from all major religions and sages), this famous Hindu spiritual leader asks his readers to adopt a special prayer to help them with their meditations.  The prayer he most commonly recommends is, surprisingly, from St. Francis of Assisi.  I’d like to share this short prayer with you. Please note Mr. Easwaran's comments that follow the prayer as he explains to whom this prayer is addressed:

"Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.

In memorizing the prayer, it may be helpful to remind yourself that you are not addressing some extraterrestrial being outside you.  The kingdom of heaven is within us, and the Lord is enshrined in the depths of our own consciousness.  In this prayer we are calling deep into ourselves, appealing to the spark of the divine that is our real nature.”[2] 

"Christian mystics call this center of personality 'the Christ within.'  In Sanskrit it is called simply Atman, 'Self'.[3]   Mr. Easwaran suggests that the Buddha would not even go this far in trying to identify the nature of nirvana, to use the Buddha's term.  "This is the great paradox of mysticism:  until you enter nirvana... you will not be able to understand what nirvana is."[4] 

1.  Eknath Easwaran (2018).  Conquest of Mind: Take Charge of Your Thoughts & Reshape Your Life Through Meditation.  Nilgiri Press.

2.  Ibid, From “An Eight=Point Program”, section 1 – “Meditation on a Passage”. 

3.  Ibid, From Chapter 5 “Learning to Swim”.

4.  Ibid.

And Four to Go…

This is the follow-up to “One for the Money”, “Two for the Show”, “Three to get Ready”, and, as this saying goes, “And Four to Go”.  I thought I had already posted this but couldn’t find it on the website and it begs to be read:

All We Can Save:  Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis was written by no less than dozens of diverse women leading on climate in the United States – scientists, journalists, farmers, lawyers, teachers, activists, innovators, wonks, and designers, across generations, geographies, and race – and aims to advance a more representative, nuanced, and solution-oriented public conversation on the climate crisis.”[1]

“…Intermixing essays with poetry and art, this book is both a balm and guide for knowing and holding what has been done to the world, while bolstering our resolve never to give up on one another or our collective future.  We must summon truth, courage, and solutions to turn away from the brink and toward life-giving possibility.  Curated by two climate leaders, the book is a collection and celebration of visionaries who are leading us on a path toward all we can save.”[2]

[1] Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson, “All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis”, Random House, LLC, New York, 2020.  From Information Foreword in Kindle edition.

[2] Ibid.

Three to Get Ready…

(or standing on the shoulders of giants)

My readings have turned up some books that I simply have to share with you because they’re that good:

  • Under the Sky We Make by Kimberly Nicholas, PHD, Putnam, 2021.
  • The Story of More by Hope Jahren, Vintage, 2020.
  • Draw Down by Paul Hawken, Penguin Books, 2017.
  • Regeneration by Paul Hawken, Penguin Books, 2021.

Each of these authors, especially the first two, bring so much more than ugly data to the conversation on environmental issues.  We CAN make a difference.  They spell out in a VERY readable manner, the ways we can help.  What we do and don’t do in the next decade have such far reaching impact on this planet as to make it difficult to fully comprehend.  These authors put it into perspective for us in easy-to-understand analogies and anecdotes. 

Perhaps most important is to not let our circumstances overwhelm us.  Yes, we need to wake up and do our part!  But we can only do what we can and encourage/be kind to ourselves and each other along the way.

Two Titles That Impress

Once in a while, a book comes along that I like so well that I want to have a hard copy to give to others. The first of these is the amazing “The Reducetarian Solution”. This is a collection of over 70 short and diverse articles written by distinguished authors and edited by Brian Kateman, the president and founder of THE REDUCETARIAN FOUNDATION. What’s so awesome about this outfit? Mr. Kateman had the brilliant idea of promoting “How the Surprisingly Simple Act of Reducing the Amount of Meat in Your Diet Can Transform Your Health and the Planet”. No more all-or-nothing approaches commonplace in vegetarian and vegan circles, but a do-what-you-can approach. Wow! That’s so refreshing, especially for people like me that are adept at fabricating guilt, thanks to my Catholic upbringing. Deepak Chopra, author of Quantum Healing (and numerous other books), puts it nicely: “This book offers us a path toward a more ecological, sustainable, humane, and compassionate world while improving our own health and well-being.”

The second book I would like to pass along for your consideration is entitled Active Hope by Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone. The subtitle reads “How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy”. I think the critical review from Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine, puts it nicely: “Books about social and ecological change too often leave out a vital component: how do we change ourselves so that we are strong enough to fully contribute to the great shift? Active Hope fills this gap beautifully, guiding readers on a journey of gratitude, grief, interconnection, and ultimately, transformation.” The authors have considerable depth of know-how, and give us a Rx that overcomes feelings of being overwhelmed by the enormity of the circumstances our generation must face, if we hope to remediate our current crises.

Each of the above books are like a tonic that will serve us well. Enjoy!

The Elephant Journal continues to impress…

I recently subscribed to the ELEPHANT JOURNAL and this morning, in my daily feed, I found these two wonderful articles that I wanted to share with you:

The first of these is entitled “Crossing Paths: We Are Here to Awaken Each Other“.  I am very much inclined to believe that little happens in our lives by chance.  This article describes one such manifestation of that.

The second article (Elephant Journal only allows you to read two articles a day unless you subscribe) is entitled How Busyness Can Be Laziness (Think: Buddhist Ideology v Speed).  IMHO, this article captures a very important truth that is too frequently lost in the mad rush of our busy lives.  Enjoy!