Monday, 19 October 2020

Non-Attachment

The wisdom of my grandfather has become more apparent to me as I grew older. He said that once you earned your first dollar, you always wanted more. As a child, you learn that money can buy pretty things or useful things. You can buy gadgets or gifts. The question I have come to as a more mature person, enriched by life's experiences, is: what is a good gift? Is it something small and expensive, is it something practical? Or is the best gift your time and energy?

In our world, where Covid-19 is noticeable in every corner of the earth, the consequences of lockdown is on every person's mind, and consumerism has to take a step back. Gone are the times when the desire for travel and experiences were easy to accommodate.  Internationally tripping has come to a stop. National travel might be contemplated, but at what cost? Are we better to stay in our region?

The recent elections have given our Labour Party a mandate to continue. The reality is that no matter which party won, the economic crises that is anticipated due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, needs funding. The job losses, the uncertainty, the hopes and dreams of many are shattered. Maybe this is the right time to re-evaluate our hopes, dreams and spending. Perhaps this is a good time to look at saving the planet and our bank balances.

I am astonished to read that one of the major chains in New Zealand is closing branches due to under performing sales, and at the same time it is announced that the CEO is receiving a 1.4 million dollar bonus. To me, that is incomprehensible! I am well aware this is not unusual. There will be more stories like this. My grandfather was right. Once you have experienced the benefits of having money, you don't want to be without. There is a difference between need and greed. There is a difference between what you earn and what you are worth in an industrial setting.

The lofty ideological ideas of a variety of religious traditions describe detachment, or more to the point, non-attachment. Maybe it is a good practice for the world of today.

Attachment is seen as the main obstacle to a happy content life by Buddhists and Hindus alike. They practice letting go; letting go of desire; learning to let go takes time. Those who practise meditation know it takes hours and hours of self-discipline to practise the art of detachment. For some Buddhist, this means 'nekkhamma', renunciation, or giving up the desires of the world to lead a holy life. 

For Zen practitioners, it is about giving up thoughts, and staying in the moment for it is all you have. Detachment of thoughts and opinions of others can lead to less suffering.

It is not just the Eastern Philosophies who encourage non-attachment. Christians have a similar thought. Not to store up riches on earth, but in heaven. According to the Hindu tradition that could relate to karma. Or in modern sayings, "What goes around, comes around'. In Ignatian Spirituality, the word is 'indifference'; this relates to letting go of personal stuff and being available to God and neighbour.

If you thought that minimising of desires is mainly a spiritual notion, think again. There is a raft of organisations focussing on less consumerism, less wastage, and on intentional living.

Change the world start with yourself, seems to be a realistic starting point!

 

Seek Peace. Find it within.

Monday, 12 October 2020

Joie de Vivre

The world of marketing and advertising is exciting and full of colour and creativity; it is a multimillion-dollar business to support large and small brands of products. The messages are witty and colourful, often with a catchy tune.

We are bombarded daily with products we need to buy to feel better, look better or how we can make a change for the better. This moisturizer, that car, or even those clothes, will instantly change your life! We are told that ‘we are worth it!’

I do not doubt that we are worth taking care of ourselves, to enjoy life and strive to be happy. To live life to the fullest is an art most of us need to develop. Most of us become good musicians, painters or writers by diligent practice. Sure, having some talent helps, but it is the practice that makes the difference; endless scales, writing and rewriting before we publish, or whatever practice is needed to improve our skill.

Recently I pulled one of Anselm Grün’s books of the shelf. Anselm is a German monk who writes books and leads retreat. This particular book is about ‘joy’ (vreugde) – the joy of life, what inspires us, what makes us happy as an individual?

He says you cannot make joy; you have to experience it. To live a fulfilling life, we need to work out what brings us joy and delight, and a zest of living. What makes us get out of bed, what spins our wheels? Anselm invites us to revisit our past. What did we enjoy as children, followed by what is meaningful, or what gives meaning to your life?

To discover what makes us tick, what supports our spiritual well-being is the foundation of our zest for life, our joie de vivre. Whether you are ‘a bon-vivant’ or an introvert, to discover your spirituality, your desires for life and the bare necessities for living that life, we may need to look at what gives us pleasure and delight outside our regular chores.

For some, the ground of their spirituality lies in prayer and meditation. Attending church services on a regular base is enough to feed their spiritual hunger. There might be a time when that is not enough—a time when God feels at a distance.

Anselm suggests reminding ourselves of the delights of childhood may help us reconnect with our spiritual source. For me, that is about water. As a child, I could sit at a river or lake for hours at a time, watching the movement of the water. Water, especially flowing water, has given me a sense of connection with the Divine. Walking along a beach, feeling the sand between my toes is heaven!

Another way I reconnect with the Divine is through creativity. To create and be creative, to sing and dance or paint and write, whatever gives us joy is the bases for a spiritual grounding.

What brings you joy and delight?

 


 Seek Peace. Find it within.

Saturday, 3 October 2020

Books

Books, I like books.
Although e-books have become popular, I like to hold a book, it is so different from an electronic experience.
The excitement of wonders hidden inside the pages, the wisdom gathered and shared.
I am not sure about you, but I like the possibility of flipping through a book, turn the pages and go back if necessary.

I have lots of books.
They become like friends. There is knowledge and insights I haven't discovered yet.
'How-to' books are engaging. Learning a new craft from a book is a challenge. However, as, I am very visual, I give thanks for the 'YouTube' videos posted by competent people.

Do you read a book as soon as you have bought it? Or does it go on the shelf with its counterparts, to be rediscovered another day?

When I was studying, we were encouraged to read widely, a chapter here and a chapter there. The required reading list was endless. "One day", I thought… One day, I will sit down and read the whole book at leisure. I am sorry to say, that day has not yet come, and more books have been added to the shelves. The excitement, the wisdom, the insights to be gained, are still waiting.

The other day, I thought it would be sensible to go through the shelves and see if I can make some space.  I was not successful. I pulled book after book off the shelf, read the blurb at the back and returned it to the shelf, making a mental note to self to read the book and take some notes, it was all fascinating. And so the afternoon continued. Although 'downsizing' is the buzzword for this generation, my intention was to create space.

Then there was a book sale for a local charity.
Thousands and thousands of books!
Rather than exercising any self-discipline, we went along, and yes, we bought more books. Novels, some I had read a long time ago but no longer owned and books of authors who were vaguely familiar, also came home.

I am not sure that you can have too many craft books: stitching, painting and lace-making are only part of my selection.

The good book says not to store up riches on the earth, to exercise self-discipline in every area of our life. I clearly am a work in progress, as I have not managed that criteria yet!

I like using my hands and my brains. I enjoy the intellectual stimulation of scholarly books. To toss ideas around, to engage with life's questions and have some conversations.
Books are good companions. In some instances, it takes a while for me to warm to the insights, and sometimes they hit the spot.

It is the diversity that attracts my attention. It doesn't matter whether the author is from a Jewish, Buddhist or Christian background; there are always gems hidden in the pages.

 

 

Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Rage

Do you ever get angry? 

Not merely annoyed, but angry, rage, sparks flying? 

I get that. Not because the wind blew the neighbour's bin over and all the rubbish is on my drive, which is annoying. Not because someone is taking the parking spot I have been waiting for, that is frustration.

 

I can get angry, or is the correct term "disappointed", especially when I look at how the Catholic Church is organised, or how society deals with inequality. The injustice of gender bias, race, religion etc. Reading historical literature, I come to the conclusion that some things have improved. Still, other aspects of human society and equality have a long way to go. 

 

When I was a teenager, my mother subscribed to a Feminist magazine. I wasn't particularly bothered then; schools were inclusive, and when looking for career opportunities, we were encouraged to look outside the square. Gender issues hadn't surfaced in my 'straight' world, although I am the first to admit that there might have been classmates who were gay, it didn't seem a big issue at the time.

 

Recently, in our monthly study group, we looked at some of the bookmarks from Caritas. Those bookmarks are a good starting point for a lively discussion. 

We were all given three different bookmarks and were invited to choose one we had to speak to. I received the 'Subsidiarity', 'Human Dignity' and 'Participation'. Choices - choices! I could speak to all of them!

 

Subsidiarity is about decision-making at the right level. And when you make a decision, you need to be aware of all those affected and make sure the decision made is in the best interest of all. The 'Participation' bookmark highlighted the need for each and every member of a community to play its role. 

 

It was the 'Human Dignity' bookmark that received the most energy, it made me angry and disappointed. The lack of inclusive language, the assumption that men know best. That makes the sparks fly! Or as a friend would say, 'It smokes my tyres'. 

 

Probably unintentional, or simply because the people who put it together do not think about these things. But the lack of female images or pronouns for God, the assumption that the Church knows best…. It is the arrogance of the male-dominated attitude that grinds me, time after time.

 

Recently I heard that a female, Catholic Theologian, really struggles that in their religious (female) community, (consisting of intelligent women), have to get a male in to Celebrate Mass. Nuns, sisters of religion, are increasingly vocal about the arrogance of the male-dominated church.

 

I wonder if the priests are aware that without the Blessed Virgin, (clearly a female), there would not have been a Jesus born. 

It is surprising that the Priest claim to take Jesus place at the altar, should it not be a female? To represent Mary? Should it not be a female, like Mary Magdalene, who was the first disciple teaching us about faith and following Christ? Where are the women in the Church??

Am I a Feminist? Only if that means that we work intentionally for equality in both society and Church. I am not saying a gentleman can't open the door for me, or can't gift me flowers. I do believe in equality in church and state matters.

 

I find it astonishing that in all world religions and faith traditions, the women have become second-degree citizens. Even in today's society women are not paid equal, have no equal rights and are still victims of sexual violence. Males continue to decide what is right or wrong for a woman. Just as an aside. How often do the trouser length for male trousers change? Who decides on the length of the skirts, dresses, depth of décolleté Etc. Etc.?

 

At what stage will the Catholic Church accept women for their worth, not just for cleaning the brass, or taking care of the flowers, and continue to fill the church. 

 

Over the weekend, my husband and I explored one of the lovely walkways in our city. A pleasant meander along the river, birdsong and blossom galore. It was Divine! I have lived in this city for more than 20 years, and never felt that walk was a sensible thing to do; how terribly SAD. My husband acknowledged he has never had to think about whether a particular walk is safe or not. He doesn't think twice going for an evening stroll.

 

Here we are, I make no apology for my rant. I do hope that as a society, we will make serious efforts to reach a point of equality, in every area of our lives. Where male and female are treated equal, no matter what their sexuality or race might be.

 

What change can you make in your life towards gender equality, towards a minimizing of male arrogance?

 

 


 

 Seek Peace and find it within.

 

Monday, 14 September 2020

Praying Beads

I have this image of people walking or shuffling along, murmuring prayers as they finger their prayer beads. In the Middle East, especially during the Ramadan, you would see people in the souq, under a tree or sitting at their doorstep, praying the ‘Mishbaha’ (Muslim prayer beads). It was one of my earlier encounters with praying beads. When visiting Thailand, begging monks with their bowls and ‘Malas’ (string of prayer beads) were a common sight in the cities.

Prayer beads are an essential part of the spiritual practice for a wide variety of people. Many faith traditions have a rich history of using them. Buddhists, Hindus and the Abrahamic traditions, all utilise this form of prayer. The religious traditions have their specific reason for the number of beads and the prayers they use for the beads. There is no magic in the beads, it is merely an aid to counting prayers, or loosing oneself in the prayer.

Ten years ago, travelling through Italy and France, I would see monks or nuns, fingering their Rosary, murmuring the prayers under their breath as they sat in Church or wandered around parks and streets.

I was intrigued! And envious. It was my desire to learn to pray like that. To be focused; to be at so at ease in my faith that devotions in public would not make me self-conscious. The beauty of sitting in silence in a church, allowing the beads to slip through my fingers as I prayed, or in the park under a tree, devoted to my practice. I was a long way off!

Praying the Rosary or using the Mala beads while saying a mantra is helpful as you concentrate on something outside yourself. This meditation practice has both physical and spiritual benefits. Physically it helps to lower blood pressure, slowing down in general and decreasing anxiety and stress levels. The spiritual advantage lies in getting closer to God, the God within and God without and being present in the moment. It is an aid to a deepening spiritual devotion and awareness.

Although most people are familiar with the Rosary of the Catholic Church; the Eastern Orthodox Church uses knotted ropes or beads for their prayers. The knots are used for counting the ‘Jesus prayer’ or the ‘Kyrie Elision’. The Catholic Church promoted the idea that praying the Rosary may benefit you or others. I don’t believe that at all. There is nothing we need to do. God loves us and does not demand any works of us. Praying the Rosary is for personal benefit, to grow closer to God as you spend more time in prayer.

The Protestants seem reluctant to use prayer beads, because Jesus didn’t use them, nor is there any reference in the Bible that promotes the use of beads. Some Anglicans will use Anglican prayer beads which are set out in a si
milar way to the Rosary but have fewer beads.

Over the last few years of praying the Rosary, reflecting on Scripture and praying have deepened my faith. When I go for my walks, I often say the Rosary as it helps me to let go of stuff in my head.

Do you use a mantra, pray the Rosary to stay focused on the Divine?


Open my heart to your Love.