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From sinner to saint: My beginner’s mind

“Work was my compulsion; the admiration of others, my addiction. Taking back my life was a labor of love”

DATELINE, British Columbia: DAWN DANCING OTTER — I was raised a Christian. My family, for many generations (so far as I know) has been Christian of one denomination or another. When I was a child, I loved God with a child’s conviction. I was fairly certain that God was an old man, kind of an angry one, with a beard, who lived in the sky. I would pray to the old man every night and sometimes all day long. . . please help me, I feel alone, God.

I wanted God’s approval SO badly. There was literally no way to receive it, though, because I was told I was already a sinner.

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Alain Resnais production still

Forgiving the Unforgivable

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Why 2008 was spiritually great

A piece of you: Soul’s Code readers report a year’s worth of their spiritual highs

SOUL’S CODE — The late, great 2008 was a perfect storm for pessimists. They glommed onto the fact that it was the worst year for the stock market since The Great Depression ($7 trillion vaporized). And rightfully mourned the bombing into oblivion of thousands during ‘surges’ in Iraq, Gaza and Georgia. On top of that, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (left, with Mia Farrow, 3 Beatles and a Beach Boy),  Arthur C. Clarke and Alexander Solzhenitsyn died.

Those negative notes didn’t faze the spirit of Soul’s Code readers and writers, though. We embraced a glass half-full openness to adventure.

Thank you for giving us your spiritual highs of the past year. We call them peak experiences. You call them whatever you like: they are miracles of your own making.

From Sweden to South Africa, may these 12 first-person accounts help inspire the time you have in 2009:

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Laura Hollick explains her spiritual definition of physical beauty

“Before I learned how to know who I am from the inside-out, I thought I needed to become a model to be beautiful.”

GUEST COLUMN: LAURA HOLLICK — “People feel ugly when they look at beauty magazines.” 

I heard this saying and I thought it was ironic. . . Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever compared yourself to someone in a magazine and felt like you didn’t measure up, or have you thought, “if I just change these things about myself then I’ll be beautiful”?

I’d like to share a story with you about my quest to understand beauty. . .

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sex and the city

My golden rule for a post-Bush, post-Ike, post-Wall St. life…

Guidance from a homeless man on a beach and Thoreau: disasters, money meltdowns and loss are blessings in disguise

BY VAISHALI — I was talking with a loved one who rode out Hurricane Ike on Galveston Island on the gulf coast of Texas. The Island took a big hit with a 14-foot storm surge, 120 mph winds and torrential rain. As will happen in the aftermath of a storm of this magnitude, a significant amount of the residents’ possessions were destroyed.

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What’s the difference between the stock market and a drunk?

What’s the difference between the stock market and a drunk?

Sorry, no punch line. But the similarities are striking

BY JOHN S.  — As I’ve been watching “live” coverage of the brutal second-by-second collapse of the stock market — broken only by occasional reprieves — I have found myself thinking that I was witnessing a surreal representation of a drunk spiraling to his demise.

Cable TV’s cheerleader of capitalism, CNBC, plasters banners across the screen constantly: “When will we reach a bottom?” . . . “Is the bottom near?” . . . “Still no clear bottom.” The flashing numbers are bright red, the graphical charts all diving towards the gutter — down 340 points one moment, down 780 the next.

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Forgiving the Unforgivable

I was filled with pain and hate over a brutal crime. My path to freedom began with meditation, and ended at a Texas prison

BY TOM HUDGENS, episode 1 (of 5) — Thirty years ago a man named John Black* raped and murdered my sister. In May, I visited him in prison and told him that I forgave him.

The realization that I could actually do such a thing came unbidden. It wasn’t something I struggled to attain. I just looked one day and there it was: my own voice saying, “You can forgive him.” That voice spoke to me often. Eventually, I acted upon it.

Three years ago, after a miserable year in a career that I loved in theory but not in practice, I was struck with the idea of attending a meditation retreat. I typed “silent meditation retreat” into a search engine, and discovered Spirit Rock Meditation Center, located on 400 acres in Marin County, California.

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Forgiving the Unforgivable: Readying my heart to meet my sister’s murderer

I made a commitment to a spiritual practice before facing my “enemy”

BY TOM HUDGENS, episode 2 (of 5) — “John Black is very eager for this meeting.”

That was the short and simple email I received from Rick Warr, a mediator with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice who was arranging for me to meet John Black,* the man serving a life sentence for raping and murdering my sister 30 years ago.

Why was he eager? I wondered. What did he think would happen?

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Forgiving the Unforgivable: My prison reckoning

When I first met my “enemy,” I recognized him instantly. Then I leaned within inches of his face to hear his apology

BY TOM HUDGENS, episode 3 (of 5) — It took a half-hour to drive to Chesterson Unit, the prison in Huntsville, Texas that has housed my sister’s killer, John Black,* for thirty years.

Rick Warr, the mediator with the Criminal Justice department, picked me up at my hotel. We drove through the main entrance, past cornfields and cattle, and eventually reached the sprawling prison buildings, all made of yellow brick.

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Forgiving the Unforgivable: Getting to know my sister’s killer

I asked for complete honesty — however painful he thought it might be for me.

BY TOM HUDGENS, episode 4 (of 5)Not that long ago, I would never have believed that I would be here: Sitting face to face with John Black, the man who raped and killed my sister in 1978, chatting with him about his life.*

He apologized and asked for my forgiveness. And now it was time for me to put my lengthy spiritual preparation — which led me to this prison outside Huntsville, Texas — to practice.

I thanked John Black for reading his letter to me, for agreeing to meet, and asked him to be totally honest, even if he thought the truth might be painful or offensive.

I told him that I was speaking on no one’s behalf but my own, and that I was not trying to see if “justice had been served.” Rather, I wanted to have open communication, compassion and understanding.

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