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Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category



Review of Steve Herrmann’s Emily Dickinson: A Medicine Woman for Our Times

Aug1

by: Reverend Dr. Matthew Fox on August 1st, 2018 | 1 Comment »

This exciting and important book is filled with verve and insight that only Dickinson can awaken. With the help of Carl Jung and the inspiration of his own deep work, including his penetrating insights on Walt Whitman’s launching of an American movement of Spiritual Democracy, Herrmann sheds brilliant light on the spiritual genius of Emily Dickinson. Rightly does the author call Dickinson a “medicine woman for our challenging times,” for even today – 130 years after her death – she still brings forth wisdom and insight to challenge patriarchy. The book is filled with insights triggered by James, Jung, Whitman, Emerson, Everson, Jeffers, Melville, Humboldt, and the author’s own well-traveled soul. Herrmann’s acute exegesis of many poems that sometimes seem opaque is sensible and eye-opening.

Herrmann argues that the crux of Dickinson’s struggle was her wrestling with the archetype of vocation. It was her vocation as a poet that charged her with awe and ecstasy as when she wrote: “Take all away from me, but leave me Ecstasy,/ And I am richer than all my fellow Men–/ Ill it becometh me to dwell so wealthily/ When at my very Door are those possessing more,/ In abject poverty – ” (#1640) Yet she had to sacrifice her career as a public poet in her lifetime because she was excluded for the most part from the male-dominated world of publishing. Herrmann believes that Dickinson underwent a “crucifixion of her ego on the cross of her poetic vocation.” After suffering a breakdown she revealed how she rose not as a wounded bird but riding “the Ether into the air or sky as shamans do.”


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Review of Michael Pollan’s How To Change Your Mind

Jun28

by: Anthony Minetola on June 28th, 2018 | Comments Off

Michael Pollan recently published How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence. It is a remarkable work of participatory journalism not only because it highlights the recent renaissance of what had been a very promising field of psychiatric research prior to government backlash against the counterculture of the 1960s, but also because it suggests a broader understanding of how we might define ourselves and thus live happier, more meaningful lives, something relevant to each of us, afflicted with mental illness or not. While the book’s title is certainly a reference to the extraordinary capability of psychedelic compounds to allow the user to view his life and the world around him from a vantage point inaccessible to our normal state of consciousness, it also could be said to refer to the book’s ability to change our mind about psychedelics, from believing they only offer meaningless, drug-induced altered states of consciousness, to understanding they can be used to effectively treat a wide variety of mental illness, and perhaps even engender insights into the meaning of spirituality. To Pollan, after various experiments with these compounds, that meaning is both profound and simple – we can see that egocentric ways of living our lives are harmful to ourselves and our loved ones, and “spirituality” means recognizing life is much bigger and more mysterious than it appears from our vantage-point of everyday awareness. Opening up to that mystery entails a greater sense of connection to our loved ones and even to all of humankind and the natural world.

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Spiritual Practice in the Time of the Mad King

Feb27

by: Rodger Kamenetz on February 27th, 2017 | 1 Comment »

Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav, an early 19th century Hasidic master, offered a parable about a king who foretold that the year’s harvest of rye would be contaminated with ergot, a fungus with effects similar to LSD. Whoever ate the rye would become mad. The prime minister said we must put aside enough grain so we won’t have to eat this year’s harvest.

But the king said, “But then we will be the only ones who will be sane. Everyone else will be mad. Therefore they will think that we are the mad ones. Therefore, we too must eat this year’s grain. But we will put a mark on our foreheads so at least we will know we are mad. I will look at your forehead you will look at mine, and when we see this sign, we will know we are both mad.”

The parable touches on our current situation. It seems the country is going mad, that the country as a whole has eaten a substance that is guaranteed to distort reality. When we find ourselves reading everyday in the newspaper that the “president falsely stated”, when almost every word out of his mouth is a distortion of reality, and when this is repeated every day of the week, there is an overall contaminating effect.

One symptom of the madness is a sense of weariness in the land, as if time is slowing down – which is very much the effect of psychoactive substances. A month of this presidency already feels like a year, and a year will feel like a decade.

It is not only the lying, but the constant shifts of attention, the clever diversions and shiny objects, the theatrical episodes that redirect attention when things are going badly. It now requires so much effort to keep pace that merely to play the role of informed citizen has become almost a full time job in which we are challenged every hour to maintain our own sense of reality and normalcy against a widespread infection of madness.

Everyone has consumed the harvest, everyone is going mad. The concepts of “fake news” and “alternative facts” are not merely propaganda, but a description of a metaphysical infection in which we all, regardless of our politics and whether we wish to or not, are consuming the contaminated “rye” as our daily bread. For we cannot help but consume the news in a way that feels all consuming, in a way that is also consuming us.


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The 12 Truths of Christmas

Dec20

by: Allen L. Roland on December 20th, 2016 | Comments Off

Although Tikkun was started as the voice of progressive Jews, we also honor the traditions of progressives in every religion as well as the insights of secular humanists and spiritually progressive atheists. Our interfaith Network of Spiritual Progressives is explicitly not only in its conception interfaith, but explicitly welcoming to secular humanist and atheists. In short, one does not have to be a believe in any conception of God or connected to any religious practice to be a spiritual progressive. Yet, we also do want to honor the religious practices of every religion to the extent that they embrace a spiritual progressive worldview—namely, seeking to build a world of love, generosity, nonviolence, peace, social and economic justice, environmental sustainability and enhancing our capacities to treat others as embodiments of the sacred and responding to the universe with awe and wonder rather than seeing it (or seeing other humans) primarily in instrumental terms (namely, “what can you do to satisfy my needs?”). It is in this spirit that we send out statements about Christmas and Chanukah, just as we have done for Ramadan. ~Rabbi Michael Lerner, Editor of Tikkun, rabbilerner.tikkun@gmail.com

The 12 truths of Christmas are universal truths meant to be savored and reflected upon, for they are the product of over 45 years of my personal quest to deeply feel and understand a state of love and soul consciousness I once felt and knew as a child. I then found the courage to identify it as the Unified Field, a state of consciousness that exists not only beyond time and space but also beneath our deepest fears. It has demonstrated its remarkable self-healing qualities through the power of gratefulness with clients as well as combat veterans by the simple act of surrendering to love and conquering fear in the process. ~Allen L. Roland, PhD


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Witnessing Standing Rock: A Short Guide

Nov30

by: Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb on November 30th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

Three women holding up a sign saying "water is life." I traveled to Standing Rock in order to help sustain the camp and be a witness. Here are some humble suggestions of what you might do if you travel to Standing Rock, and if you are in solidarity with indigenous struggles locally.

Work in the kitchen! Mounds of garlic are peeled daily to feed the thousands of people eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day. There are five main kitchens throughout camp, so there are many opportunities to go into a nearby kitchen and ask when a good time to volunteer is. Working in a kitchen is a great way to contribute directly to the basic ongoing daily needs of the camp and to meet people!

Go to an early morning ceremony. Standing Rock is a prayer camp and attending an indigenous led ceremony is the best way to learn about the spirit of Standing Rock. Morning ceremonies start at 6 AM and may be led by women. The ceremony I attended by the sacred fires on Friday morning was led by a medicine woman named Blue Lightning, who I had the honor of getting to know while I was there. She asked me to be guardian of the east gate because she learned I was one of the first woman rabbis from young Jewish people from the Bay Area who contributed to building several tents for her family encampment. The morning ceremony was dedicated to “untangling” energies that need to come back into harmony. People were invited to dance in four concentric circles around a four directional altar created with crystals and shells. When the sun rose, about a hundred people walked down to the river for a pipe ceremony led by Lakota women who have greeted the dawn in this way by the shores of this river for hundreds and hundreds of years. This is their land.

Be in service. While I was at Standing Rock, I remained in service to Blue Lightning’s intergenerational family, which consisted of elders, parents, and children. I was able to serve in this way due to my relationships with Bay Area Jewish young people in their 20′s and 30′s who contributed funds for and built several winterized tents, each one complete with insulation, a wood stove, lots of heaters, a porch, chairs, cots, blankets, rugs, tables, and a complete kitchen with shelves, cooking utensils, a stove, storage bins, and wash station for Blue Lightning’s family encampment. The kitchen was dedicated by Blue Lightning to be a meeting place for elders. It’s warm and welcoming. I spent time setting up the kitchen and attending to immediate needs of the elders.

Participate in an action that feels right to you. There is nonviolent direct action training at camp. There is also an ongoing conversation about whether or not a particular action is sanctioned by elders. I chose to attend a Thanksgiving Day silent vigil by the river organized by indigenous youth with the sanction of the elders. The action had several components: some people remained in silence on the camp side of the river while others crossed over the river on a plank to get to Turtle Island, which is sacred ground to the Lakota. There were indigenous men protecting the nonviolent nature of the action by not allowing anyone to climb up the hill to the ridge where dozens of militarized police stood in wait threatening them with violence over a bull horn while telling people they didn’t want a confrontation at the same time. People were still traumatized by Sunday’s attack, which injured 166 people. While I was there, the police installed bright floodlights by the river. They also placed barbed wire along the ridge of Turtle Island and the river’s edge. If you are planning to be part of a direct action, please check in with the legal tent on Facebook Hill to be trained and find out about arrest procedures before you participate.

Listen to stories. Being in camp with an indigenous family allowed me to hear lots of stories such as Blue Lightning’s family stories; Lakota, Shoshone, and Ute histories; tribal origin tales, creation tales, and teachings about prayer; the story of this particular Pipe Line; eminent domain, broken treaties, and Native sovereignty rights; and stories about Standing Rock itself. Jane Fonda’s appearance at camp over Thanksgiving started some conversations. The threat of police violence sparks rumors, so don’t believe every story. Dallas Goldtooth is a good source for staying in touch with what is actually happening. Indigenous news sources are the best way to stay informed.


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Review of After One-Hundred-and-Twenty by Hillel Halkin

Nov10

by: Paige Foreman on November 10th, 2016 | Comments Off

Photo by Tom Hilton. Source: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/).

Berkeley recently decided to take a break from the drought – it rained all day on Friday, and I remembered asking my father why the rain falls when I was a little girl.

“The angels are crying – someone just died,” my father replied.

“Really?”

“I don’t know,” my father shrugged. “But it sure is a nice idea.”

In the final chapter of After One-Hundred-and-Twenty, Hillel Halkin describes a long midrash about the death of Moses. The Torah is silent about how Moses reacts to his death, but the Rabbinic commentary fleshes out Moses’ humanity. The way Moses reacts to his impending death is not all that different from how most humans react to death. Moses argues with God, evades angels, and begs to live on as an animal. In the end though, Moses’ life is taken by God with a kiss and within sight of the Promised Land that Moses never reaches. After the death of Moses, God wept, and I wondered if it rained that day.

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The Practice

Oct11

by: Boo Geisse on October 11th, 2016 | Comments Off

The practice is not downward facing dog.

The practice is not ragdoll.

The practice is not stretching hamstrings, strengthening quads.

The practice is love. The practice is learning how to love.

It is messy; it’s beautiful in its nonconformist way. It’ll break you down – visible in the sweat, audible in the huffing of breath.

The practice is not utthita hasta padangustasana. The practice is not standing split or reverse half moon. It’s not a pigeon in which both hips hit the floor. The practice is not looking beautiful while you transition from chaturanga to updog, or feeling invincible in warrior II.

The practice is love. The practice is learning to look for love.

A lighthouse on a hill.


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“Ba’nu Choshekh L’kadesh: Sanctifying darkness, seeding the light”

Dec10

by: Rabbi David Seidenberg on December 10th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

Every year at my boy’s school there’s a Chanukah concert that includes rap songs and other talent. A few years ago, it included the song the popular song, “Ba’nu Choshekh L’garesh“. I’m not so connected to modern Israeli culture, though, so it was my first time hearing it. Here’s a translation:

We come, the darkness to expel -
In our hands, light and fire.
Each one is a small light,
And all of us together – an immense light!
Flee darkness! Be gone black!
Flee before the light!

The school, Lander Grinspoon Academy in western Massachusetts, teaches great midot – moral qualities – and it’s also multiracial. (I shouldn’t need to say that because Jews are all races, but our prejudices can make us forgetful about who we are.) So the words “Be gone black/Hal’ah sh’chor” really struck me as the wrong thing to be singing, even though I know that no one who loves the song today or in the past – certainly not the Yemenite composer, Sara Levi-Tanai – would have intended any such thing. “Ba’nu Choshekh” probably represented pretty well what a lot of people imagine when they think about Chanukah – we are celebrating the triumph of light over darkness.

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Torah Commentary- Noah: Transcending Deluge-Era Consciousness

Oct16

by: on October 16th, 2015 | Comments Off

The story of Noah is on the surface rather straight forward. The people are bad, Noah is good, God decides to wipe out the Earth but saves Noah and a large number of representative animals in a big wooden boat. After bringing down rain for 40 days and nights, the rain stops, and Noah sends out two animal emissaries, when the second finds dry land, they disembark. Makes for a great children’s book, cartoon, or sci-fi movie. Versions of this tale are found throughout the ancient world, and much literature is dedicated to the roots of this story. Ultimately, though, in any version of this, it is a horrible story, so much death and destruction, and it doesn’t even end well for Noah.

My interest is less in the ancient near eastern roots of this narrative, nor about its authenticity. What moves us in this series of essays on Tikkun is what meaning or sense could be derived from the text we have by the serious spiritual thinkers who have encountered these passages over the generations. Is there a meaning beyond “be good or be a good swimmer”?

Much of the Rabbinic writings focus on Noah, why was Noah saved, what merit did he earn that can be emulated? Much like in the contemporary presidential debates, the ‘media’ as it were seeks a winner. If one compares Abraham, Moses, and Noah, among the great religious figures of crisis, who did the right thing and who committed ‘gaffes’? My interest, however, and for which there seems to be no strongly held position, was what did humanity do that was so terrible that a collective punishment of this scale was warranted, and what lessons does it have for us today?

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We’re Mad as Hell – But That’s Not Enough

Sep15

by: James Vrettos on September 15th, 2015 | Comments Off

An intriguing, thoroughly readable, and timely new book has just been published by the Kairos Center/Poverty Initiative, containing a collection of the recent writings of Willie Baptist, their Scholar-in-Residence and Coordinator of Poverty Scholarship and Leadership Development.

Those unfamiliar with neither the center nor the initiative should know that the mission of Kairos: Center for Religion, Rights and Social Justice housed at Union Theological Seminary in New York is to contribute to transformative movements for social change that can draw on the power of both religious and human rights. The cornerstone program of the center is the Poverty Initiative whose mission is to raise up generations of religious and community leaders dedicated to building a social movement to end poverty, led by the poor.

And Willy Baptist certainly fits the bill for the center and this book – a formerly homeless father of three who came out of the Watts uprisings and the Black Student Movement, he has 50 years of experience educating and organizing among the poor and dispossessed, including working as a lead organizer with the United Steelworkers, the National Union of the Homeless, the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights campaign, as well as many other networks.


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