by: Shaikh Kabir Helminski on June 25th, 2015 | 1 Comment »
Credit: CreativeCommons / Yetto.
To be a contemplative is to focus the heart on the Absolute Reality that gives meaning to life; to be a spiritual activist is to be engaged in the social world without losing the perspective of that heavenly Absolute Reality.
To be an activist is also to be a realist, to realize that many people are tied primarily to the materialistic plane, the secular world, the outer appearances. And yet no sane human being is entirely without a sense of values, an inner life which, if we are honest, is the key to happiness.
The contemplative faces that inner world of values directly and draws strength and wisdom from it, but no human being is devoid of those inner values, no matter how confused, egotistical, or negative they may be.
The gap between the religious world and the secular world seems to be growing larger; both sides seem to lack a way to communicate with each other. This is one of the greatest challenges of our times. The secular world views the many disparate beliefs and the conflicts among them and wants no part of it. The religious world, suspicious of the freedoms claimed by the secular world, looks at the erosion of values and morals and sees religion as something that can protect the moral nature of humankind.
But there is a third perspective, and this may be the hope of the future. This third perspective recognizes the limitations of all religious beliefs, but without discarding the core values of spirituality. It also recognizes how much the secular world sacrifices to the idols of consumerism and materialism. But it respects secularism for not imposing a single interpretation of belief upon society and for allowing the freedom to choose one’s own lifestyle.
The Pope issued a powerful letter to the world today, called Laudato Si, in which he called upon the people of the world as well as the members of the Catholic Church to make saving the planet from environmental destruction the major and urgent focus of our activity in the 21st century. And he highlighted how climate change will be particularly destructive to the poor. I want to share with you the following piece I wrote, which appeared on the front page of the Huffington Post today. If you prefer, you may read it there. Please never say “I didn’t know what to do in face of the environmental crisis,” because we at Tikkun and the Network of Spiritual Progressives are inviting you to become involved with us in some very specific steps you could take! Please read the article below!
Warm regards and blessings,
- Rabbi Michael Lerner
Pope Francis’ Laudato Si plea for environmental sanity and a serious recommitment to the Bible’s call for humanity to be stewards of this planet earth just might make a huge difference by puncturing through the emotional depression that keeps most of the people of the earth paralyzed in face of the growing crisis.
It is not that people don’t know about the environmental crisis that keeps us stuck in our current situation. It is rather that most people are unable to see any way out of the mess that global capitalism has created for us. Feeling hopeless about the possibility of the kinds of fundamental transformations needed to save the planet, much of humanity has chosen the ostrich strategy: deny the problem, and focus instead on getting as much as one can for oneself in the decades ahead as the planet whimpers under the increasing destructiveness of the capitalist imperative to growth without limits and accumulation of money, power or things as the only meaning to life. Yet it is this very growth and accumulation of things, produced at the expense of the earth, that guarantees earth-destruction if not of the planet than at least of its life-support-system that makes human life on it possible.
Word comes that June 18 is the unveiling date of Pope Francis’s widely anticipated encyclical letter on themes related to the environment. Media coverage will predictably dwell on the newness of such a papal pronouncement, which is to be expected from news. And there will be enough novelty in the occasion, starting with the fact that no pope has ever offered up an ecological encyclical. More interesting, though, is not what Francis will say about the new (about climate change and such), but what he will do with the old – with timeless notions of morality, justice, and the divine.
Last month’s news from Pew on the decline of institutional Christianity, with its trove of data on the “unaffiliated” and the decline of the mainstream, has stolen the stage from its previous report on the Future of World Religions — a study that concluded that while atheists, agnostics and the unchurched are on the rise in the U.S. their numbers are projected to decline globally. But while Pew’s prediction that Islam will overtake Christianity made headlines, the authors of the study were quick to remind us that their findings are not the direct results of polling but projections.
It would seem hard enough to project something as simple as population growth, but what of the mercurial nature of religious faith itself? It might well be impossible to predict the “turn of the soul” for one individual, let alone that of an entire community.
by: Dahlia Abraham-Klein on January 26th, 2015 | 1 Comment »
Every week before Shabbat in the sanctuary of observant Jewish homes, we are graced with a special capacity to meditate and to converse with God while kneading dough to make challah. The kneading is an action meditation, best understood as the performance of commandments and rituals. While meditatively kneading, you can clear the mind for a holy intention and open the channel as a springboard to reach God.
The first step to having the right intention is through practicing breath control. When God created Adam, the Torah says, “God formed man out of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils a breath of life. Man [thus] became a living creature” (Genesis 2:7). The Hebrew word for breath is neshima, while the Hebrew word for soul is neshama. We can understand from this verse that breath and soul are intimately connected. God breathed into man and by doing so, bestowed upon him a spark of the divine – a soul. God did not breathe into any other creature but Adam. Only man has the ability to use his breath in order to control his mind and thereby body, to draw closer to God.
The Spiritual Progressive agenda of creating a caring society presupposes that our human species will actually continue to exist. Yet, by our own actions, our human species is endangered. During the past century we managed to kill over 100 million of our fellow-human beings. We produced genocides and ever-more sophisticated forms of warfare, including nuclear weapons that may yet put an end to human life on this earth. We attempted to put a stop to social horrors by creating the League of Nations after the First World War and the United Nations after the Second World War. Those attempts did not stop the endangerment of our species. Neither did the efforts of the psychological and social sciences (my own background) produce a viable end to our social impotence.
From Henry Margenau, a highly respected theoretical physicist of the past century, we have the lesson that the most basic tools of science are Constructs. What are constructs? The Periodic Table is a construct in chemistry. Gravitation is a construct in physics. DNA is a construct in genetics. What do all of these have in common? Each takes something that exists in nature and adds the Mental Leap to make sense of it! The resulting constructs can become mainstays of a very real and practical science.
For the past decade I have operated from the conviction that we need better science about the Social Space in which we humans operate. Only then can we achieve better control over our actions and, with it, work toward a more secure and humane social existence. We can do so by developing, and seeing the power of four constructs: Links, Transcendence, Closed Moral Worlds, and The Second Path. I am going to give you a brief taste of each of these below.
Jesus was not a Christian and Buddha was not a Buddhist but their religion was love. Can it really be this simple? That the ultimate religion is love! Perhaps we all need to see what we have settled for in order to fully realize that there is another choice besides war and injustice as well as understanding the full meaning of Lennon’s Merry Christmas (War is Over), which was recorded in 1971 – nine years before Lennon was shot down and killed in December, 1980.
by: Bonnie L. Gracer on December 13th, 2014 | Comments Off
“I ask you,” fumed Red. “Was that any way to live a life? Squished in a red tin container– above the kitty litter, no less — just waiting for our turn to burn to death? Well I won’t do it.”
A photograph of the candles that inspired this playful piece of writing. Credit: Bonnie Gracer.
“You mean our turn to shine, Red — to declare the miracle of Chanukah,” said Shamash.
“Shut up Shamash. Just because you were picked to be the Shamash you think you are so high and mighty, elevated above everybody else. Don’t forget your roots. You are made out of wax just like the rest of us – red wax, just like me — and you too are being extinguished as we speak.”
“Hey, I worked hard for that promotion,” said Shamash. It’s taken me years to get noticed.”
by: Yanna [YoHana] Bat Adam -- Heartist on October 14th, 2014 | 6 Comments »
Credit: Yanna Bat Adam -- Heartist
It seems to me that more and more people are realizing that we need to aspire to something higher than what life presents us on its surface. Pleasures such as good food, sex, family life, money… even honor and knowledge, simply do not feed our deepest need, which is spiritual.
Are you one of these people? Lucky you.
This means that we are looking for “something else.” Something that will give us what might be called pleasure, but is in reality something far more enduring, yet hard to define. Something of deeply felt meaning that will finally bring an end to the endless boredom, compensatory diversion, and repetitive frustration that commonly comprises our lives. Something that will make us simply happy without a cause.
by: Roni Finkelstein on October 8th, 2014 | Comments Off
Ruth Golmant believes in the process of creating art as a powerful tool for healing. The art therapist located in Stafford, Virginia lives with one husband, two children, two invisible disabilities, and her ever-evolving Jewish spirituality.
After studying art as an undergraduate at Mills College in Oakland, California, Golmant moved to Virginia to complete a degree in art therapy at George Washington University. Upon graduation she began working with patients in St. Elizabeth’s hospital’s acute trauma unit, where she realized the power of art amidst pain. She recalled: