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A priest and psychotherapist shares an Aha! Moment that took a lifetime

A priest and psychotherapist shares an Aha! Moment that took a lifetime

In this economy, not many feel like captains of industry. But we are still obsessed with controlling, listing and working overtime to achieve our goals. The difference between trust and control.

BY DAVID RICKEY — A song by Alanis Morissette called Thank U, which may be a surprising cite given that I am a 60-something priest living in San Francisco and have an iTunes library loaded with chamber music, channels a stunning spiritual meme:

The moment I let go of it, is the moment that I got more than I could handle.

Every time that I let go of wanting a particular outcome, the results far exceed what I imagined.

From the choice of a small college to major in music, switching majors and spending a year in Japan, to the cross-country motorcycle trip I took in 1995, to the move to San Francisco after getting run over by a car in the Blue Hills west of Sydney, Australia (after a much shorter motorcycle adventure there), none of my adventures worked out as they were “supposed to.” Yet all had amazingly wonderful outcomes.

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An antique prayer for anxious times

An antique prayer for anxious times

Laid-off, foreclosed, going broke, ill, stressed, lonely or sad? The Novena to St. Jude is tailor-made for times of troubles

BY SOUL’S CODE — Call it a Catholic meditation. Call it a koan of loving kindness. In the 19th century, the Novena to “the forgotten saint” Jude was known as a prayer for desperate cases, or when a miracle is needed. It now seems perfectly scripted for this century.

With almost one fifth of the U. S. workforce unemployed or under-employed — and five million Americans losing their jobless benefits between Thanksgiving, 2010 and March, 2011 — is it any wonder that a new study estimates that one-fifth of the population of the last ‘superpower’ suffered from a mental illness last year?

So if you’re feeling in any way left out at the turn of this new year and new decade, we reproduce the Novena to St. Jude below as a spiritual prescription.

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Ego halo

W got me thinking: The ego parodoxically drives both evolution — and war

“Not to do a Mel Gibson but most wars are among peoples influenced by the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). What they have in common is a belief in a personal soul that survives death.”

BY DAVID RICKEY — George Bush’s November media blitz to promote his new autobiography, Decision Points, got me thinking about the distinction between the mindless ego and the mindful one, which W lacks. His new book is as myopic and self-servingly spun as his presidency: Even after public testimony before the 9/11 Commission and Congress proving that the CIA had warned the president of an al Qaeda offensive inside the U.S. a month before the World Trade Center attack, Bush deludedly declares that he had no clues that it was coming.

But while Bush’s personality is an exhibit on public display of the ego at its worst — for its self-deception, narcissism and so many other reasons — the ego at its most elemental is a necessary virtue.

To the ears of many Soul’s Code readers and practitioners defending the ego is the spiritual equivalent of saying, “greed is good.” In mystical traditions, the ego is officially verbotten — an entity that needs to be nuked in the name of knowing and liberation.

But I could not be writing this, and you could not be reading it, without an ego.

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Where my spiritual path and science meet

Where my spiritual path and science meet

“Can enlightenment happen through meditation and practice?” Drawing on Eckhart Tolle, her personal experience and science, the answer is: Yes

By Anonymous — I began meditating about two and a half years ago, at the urging of a then-friend (translation: a fellow I was very briefly dating.) I was an avid journal-writer, and felt that was enough for clearing the detritus-of-the-day from my mind.

But a couple weeks later, when someone came into my office and was handing out flyers for beginning meditation classes, I decided to take up the invitation. My work ‘situation’ was super-stressful, and I thought that meditation might help ameliorate the effects more than what I saw people around me using to cope — from Ambien to alcohol.

I also have an intuitive faith that if something is put in front of my face two or three times, it’s probably a Moby Dick of a message from something beyond my mind trying to jog the latter.

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When meditation is a pain

When meditation is a pain

A 31-year-old seeker finds peace of mind by bailing on what was advertised as the ultimate self-awareness experience — a 10-day ‘silent meditation’ retreat by a famous guru

GUEST COLUMN BY MICAL AKULLIAN — It was the morning of Day 5 of my ten-day Vipassana retreat in the Sierra Mountains.

In the ancient language, Sanskrit, “vipassana” literally means “seeing deeply.” In 2010 California, it means a group of 20-odd people gathering in a secluded summer-camp setting. Our purpose: to sit in meditation for ten days, specifically not communicating with each other. No talking is allowed – not to the guy sitting beside you at mealtime – or even to yourself. Silent night? Try silent night and day. It’s kind of like the spiritual equivalent of discipline-testing reality shows like, Survivor.

The California challenge I enrolled in was organized by the contemporary Indian guru, S.N. Goenka.  Explained via video at the beginning of the retreat, Goenka relayed to us via a pre-taped lecture that the mind is like an infected wound, and as you cut it open, the puss begins to rise to the surface.  That puss is our chattering monkey-mind, which is a reaction to pain. Through meditation, we learn to train the mind like you would an animal.

This is all fine and good, except that if you kept any animal in a cramped cage for 10 days it’s bound to get a little pissy.  My revolting mind seemed less like puss rising to the surface, and more like a wake up call from my own intuition. It kept asking, “Say what?”

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Together at last: sound and meditation

A podcast producer blends mindfulness meditation with her love for sound, to create a new process called “Soundwalking”

GUEST COLUMN: VICTORIA FENNER — A few years ago I took the time to deliberately slow down.   Part of this process involved taking a course on “Mindfulness Meditation” based on the writings and theories of Jon Kabat-Zinn. His books: Wherever You Go, There You AreFull Catastrophe Living; and Coming to Your Senses, (among many others) explain how to apply mindfulness in traditional medical settings for pain management, depression and even relief from psoriasis.

I’ve always liked the idea of meditating, but I have trouble staying still for any length of time.  Shutting down my senses, in particular my hearing, is not easy for me, as I make my living as a radio and podcast producer.   There’s just too much to experience out in the big, wide world. And I like to be on the move. As I came to discover, mindful mediation is a practice I can combine with a process I call “soundwalking” to increase my ability to relax and be immersed in the moment.

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3 faces of laura

How I learned to truly love – myself, that is

A daily practice for accepting yourself and getting over perfectionism. For me, it opened up a whole new world for the very first time

Photos of Laura by Kevin Thom

GUEST COLUMN: LAURA HOLLICK Facing yourself can sometimes be the scariest thing in the world.

It can also be the most liberating!

No one is perfect, and the thought of facing yourself can bring forward all the things that you don’t want to know, or admit about yourself.

Despite this intimidating feeling, facing yourself can also enable you to deepen your ability to love.

When I faced myself with an open ‘heart’, I felt a new world open up. My heart grew stronger, and my sense of inner peace deepened. When I “face” myself with a loving kindness, my inner battle is put to rest.

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Screaming at me? My Buddhist comeback

Daniel Woo is a Seattle lawyer who deals with screaming people. . . in litigation, in road rage, in any time and place. Here he reveals his personal method for not taking it personally.

GUEST COLUMN: DANIEL D. WOO — When my own mind is in turmoil, or when another person is literally screaming at me, I wonder: “What is the source of this emotional tsunami?”

Over the years I have learned that “screaming,” and “at me,” are concepts — not empirical reflections of reality. Just look at the video here.

These thought-forms in my mind are “conclusions” that reflect my projections about reality. The feeling that someone is “screaming” changes, completely, when I recognize that the person in front of, or within me, is suffering.

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7 steps to heal your emotional wounds

All of our life experiences — even the “bad” ones — are equal in value. How to expand from “contractions” like loss, hurt and other wounds

GUEST COLUMN: PHYLLIS KING We are always eager to get on with it to leave the past behind and to feel the “good” stuff. I understand this so well. I too have lived this pattern. This idea may be even more pronounced when we have had experiences that have drained our life-force energy.

We can’t imagine waiting even one more minute to feel better. We may say, “Haven’t I paid my dues yet?” and “Does this abundant thinking crap really work?”

I have witnessed, in my clients’ lives and my own life, how our dedication to higher consciousness can also be a mask for our pain. We believe we are living with right thinking and perspective when we are happy and when things are going well. We forget that the natural course of expansion includes contraction.

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Can inconvenience be a motivator?

We can use the hurdles that life throws at us to grow and reach our spiritual potential

GUEST COLUMN: PHYLLIS KING As we grow and mature, our intellect and reasoning skills increase. However, with that, often our ego increases.

The skill we acquire with our use of words sometimes exceeds our ability to truly live our words and their content.

We hide behind our words, “acting” as if we believe them.

This façade is never more apparent when difficulties arise.

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