Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Healthy Living

I wrote in my last post about simple meditation, based on paying attention to your breathing. It is amazing how beneficial also to your health deep breathing can be.

Should I be surprised? Humans have known for millennia the close connection of spiritual health or centeredness to physical health. Each influences the other. Each builds on the other's strengths and is debilitated by the other's weakness. In fact the word health in many languages comes from the root wholeness, just as does holiness. Spirituality is as much a part of wholeness as health is of spirituality.

I have recently been reading a book given me for Christmas by my youngest son and his wife, both health professionals. You, The Owner's Manual, by Drs. M.F. Roizen and M.C. Oz (HarperCollins, New York, 2005) is a wonderfully funny and informative look at what creates, and destroys, total health. It puts the facts there in a straightforward and accessible way, giving you the opportunity to take charge of your body and its health.

Dr. Roizen created the concept Real Age, a way of measuring one's true health-age rather than simple age in years. The book gives a multitude of suggestions of how we can lower our real age. This is not a frantic recipe for hanging onto youth, but rather for living whole, healthy lives.

To go back where I began: deep breathing is not just an indicator of marathon exhaustion or sexual arousal. Deep, consciously diaphragm-controlled breathing cleans impurities out of the lungs, cleans the blood and contribues to good health. The doctors suggest ten times on rising, ten times before going to bed and every chance you get during the day. And I know that adding a meditative purpose as well, being aware as you deep breathe of that calming/smiling/present moment/precious moment rhythm (see my last post), brings together what spiritual teachers call mindfulness with the benefits of good health.

Consider: Have you ever explored that deep connection between centeredness and physical health, between wholeness and holiness?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Sick, sick, sick!

No, that is not a moral judgment, that is how I feel.

My wife and I are both down with a virus that has us hacking and choking and without much energy. Exposed to too many germs and too little sleep at our family reunion over New Years, I guess.

So all the work on the house that I was intending to do in January lies undone, while I lie about on my bed of pain. I get out about 3 times a day to feed and water the chickens and collect the eggs. (Actually, I am not that sick; she is worse; and I have been doing a lot of work on my computer.)

I first spent hours learning how to edit my first two blog entries. None of the editing tools on Blogger would work, and I finally found it was because I was using the Safari browser (yes, I am a big Mac fan). Blogger does not support Safari, so now I access it on FireFox and am away.

And I have done the same to my website. I am a real neophyte there. I have been composing with Nescape 7.2 Composer, finding it straightforward enough (I guess), but really having trouble to get everything to publish properly. Now I finally have it worked out, and have started a new page to download photos from our family reunion. (By the way, does anyone have experience with a better but still free website composer?)

In between, I have been working a bit trying to calm my cough and be present to the moment with some simple meditation. (Am I a neophyte at everything?) I found a delightfully simple form of meditation in a little book by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese monk now living in France. Living Buddha, Living Christ (Riverhead Books, New York, 1995) suggests this simple form: breathing in, calm your body; breathing out, smile; breathing in, be aware of the present moment; breathing out, acknowledge it as a wonderful and precious moment. Calming, smiling, present moment, precious moment. I feel like I must look like a Cheshire cat sitting behind the wheel of my truck or in my big chair with a grin plastered over my face. But it seems to work, and I am working at it.

Consider this: in our hectic world, with the pressures of work and home and traffic, and security and environmental fears, would it help to really work at some simple meditation? Would it help us to be more centered?

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Tikkun Olam: Mending the Universe

Tikkun olam is an important Jewish phrase meaning 'mending the universe' or 'repairing the world'. It calls for actions and attitudes which create social justice, peace and reconciliation, reversing the degradation of the natural world.

I admire the Jewish tendency to make a deep connection between their spirituality (however they define it) and their political, social life. Of course, Jewish institutions, especially the nation of Israel, are no more successful than those of other faiths at translating that connection into reality. But they know what their faith tradition requires of them: to allow their deep spiritual tradition to lead them to a commitment to heal and transform the world.

You might wish to investigate Tikkun Magazine, edited by Rabbi Michael Lerner, anti-war activist and social progressive.

The January 2007 edition of the Utne Reader said:
In November, Rabbi Michael Lerner's erudite rejoinder to the religious right released Tikkun Reader: Twentieth Anniversary (Rowman & Littlefield) to showcase memorable essays from the bimonthly magazine's all-star cast of contributors: Naomi Wolf on "Starting on My Spiritual Path." Jim Wallis facing down fear, post 9/11. Lama Surya Das ruminating on the timeless value of nonviolence. Peter Gabel on "Spiritualizing Foreign Policy."
Revisiting these intellectually rigorous, often deeply moving works concerning our society's collective soul (or lackthereof), we were reminded why Tikkun routinely makes our short list of nominees (eight times since 1989, when it won top honors). Besides challenging people of all faiths ... "to mend, repair, and transform the world," the magazine has made it a mission to stay in the face of what Lerner calls the "values neutral" secular left.
Both messages are invaluable. The executive branch is still beholden to fundamentalists, the globe is once again a battleground of rigid religious belief systems, and progressives still don't know how to keep the faith. Over the past year, Tikkun has not only adeptly analyzed this reality, it has also articulated a pragmatic vision for change.

Lerner has also recently published a book titled The Left Hand of God: Taking our Country Back From the Religious Right. He says the "right hand of God" is an image of power and domination, central to the American political right's world view and co-option of the religious right. The "left hand of God", conversely, is the prophetic image of both the Hebrew Bible and Christian New Testament: an image of compassion, justice, service and peace. It needs to become an energizing image both for religion and the political left. I think he is talking about Canada almost as much as the USA.

By the way, for you western Canadians out there, Rabbi Lerner is to be in Castlegar, BC, July 5th-8th for the second annual Our Way Home Reunion, a celebration of the Vietnam War resisters and the Canadians who helped them.

The Tikkun Community says of itself:
We are an international community of people of many faiths calling for social justice and political freedom in the context of new structures of work, caring communities, and democratic social and economic arrangements. We seek to influence public discourse in order to inspire compassion, generosity, non-violence and recognition of the spiritual dimensions of life.

If that rings any bells for you, consider checking the book, the magazine, or the community. Consider your own spirituality, however you define and experience it. Does it motivate and energize your concern for justice, peace and the healing of the world? Do you find in it a source of strength and wisdom? Does it connect you with others with whom you can reflect and decide and act?

Lerner and the Tikkun Community are pulling together a Network of Spiritual Progressives, connecting people of all faiths and no organized faith who recognize the importance of their spiritual roots and experience and the need for a common voice in mending the world.

Consider this: tikkun olam - mending the universe, bringing justice and peace to the world and to the environment. What part can you and I play?

Friday, January 5, 2007


CONSIDERATA is not really a word, according to Wiktionary. Not a very good name for my Blog, then?

Well, I was thinking desiderata, Latin past participle (plural) of desiderare, to desire: "things wished for, desired". Do you remember the prose poem Desiderata, so popular during the 60's amd 70's in the version set to music by Les Crane, but actually written (and copyrighted) by Max Ehrmann in 1927?

So I will make considerata mean: "things to be considered". Or I could twist that (I was never very good at Latin) to CONSIDER THIS.

This is an invitation to consider. Consider what? Perhaps: faith dilemmas? Perhaps: science and religion? Perhaps: self-awareness? Perhaps: caring for the natural world? Perhaps: the struggle to live simply in a world of excess? Perhaps: wherever my mind and interest takes me.

I am nine months away from 70. I have been a pastor for 44 years, a lifelong outdoorsman, and most recently in retirement, the builder of our retirement home. While pastor at St. George's Anglican Church in Banff National Park, I led a program called Wilderness Spirituality. (See my profile for more details.}

I know a lot about spiritual abuse. I will not try to muscle you into sharing my belief or perspective. I will respect yours, and your life experience, which will be different from mine. Perhaps we can learn together.

What am I inviting you to do? If you are interested in what I am saying, consider it. Is there a call or challenge there for you? Or would you like to challenge me? Can you help me grow in my life journey? Can I help you? Can we make a difference in this world?

So, now we have a new word. CONSIDERATA: Consider this.