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  • THE ABUNDANCETREK BLOG

    + BREATHE! | PRAY! | REGGAE: THE BEAT GOES ON .. dance to the music! | VOTE!

    MONDAY, MAY 24, 2004 + cloudy

    + I just began the abundancetrek/europe2004 blog. We will be going to Switzerland, Monaco and Italy in late June and early July. You can follow the trip from planning to memories.

    + We saw THE FOG OF WAR. According to RottenTomatoes, "documentarian Errol Morris directs ... a captivating look at Robert S. McNamara, who served as the Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War and the Cuban Missile Crisis." Most critics like it and so do we. It's pretty objective. It allows us to really look into the mind of McNamara.

    + We saw IN AMERICA, "a rich and moving story about an immigrant family adjusting to life in New York." It was not what I expected but it was fascinating. Most critics like it.

    + Today's guidance from DAILYZEN.COM >
    Stop searching for phrases and chasing after words
    Take the backward step and turn the light inward.
    Your body-mind of itself will drop
    off and your original face will appear.
    If you want to attain just this,
    immediately practice just this.
    - Dogen (1200-1253)

    FRIDAY, MAY 14, 2004 + sunny and mild

    + NOW ON DVD/VHS > The critics really, REALLY like THE FOG OF WAR. According to RottenTomatoes, "documentarian Errol Morris directs ... a captivating look at Robert S. McNamara, who served as the Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War and the Cuban Missile Crisis."

    + NOW ON DVD/VHS > The critics really like IN AMERICA, "a rich and moving story about an immigrant family adjusting to life in New York."

    + AT SOME THEATERS NOW > The critics really like STRAYED, a world war II drama about a teenager loving a woman with 3 children ravaged by war in 1940 France.

    + Today's DAILYZEN > Nature may be compared to a vast ocean. Thousands and millions of changes are taking place in it. Crocodiles and fish are essentially of the same substance as the water in which they live. People are crowded together with the myriad other things in the Great Changingness, and their nature is one with that of all other natural things. Knowing that I am of the same nature as all other natural things, I know that there is really no separate self, no separate personality, no absolute death and no absolute life.
    - T'ien T'ung-Hsu (8th century A.D.)

    THURSDAY, MAY 13, 2004 + sunny and mild

    + Alternet has some pretty good stuff on the prisoner abuse situation as does Witherspoon Society. Messianic nationalism is turning ugly as is always prophecied by real prophets. The truth, Mr. President, is those prison guards ARE US!

    WEDNESDAY, APRIL 28, 2004 + sunny, breezy, cool

    + Here are is one new paragraph and one revised paragraph on the discipline of stillness for OUR JOURNEY TO HEAVEN >

    The first 4 disciplines of stillness, silence, solitude and simplicity are so closely related that there may be suggestions on any one of these four disciplines which could easily be applied to the other three. Maybe even the order could be changed. I don't know! Remember: As far as I am concerned, this journey is not always orderly. It certainly doesn't follow a straight line!

    Nevertheless, I do believe the discipline of being still comes first and is the foundation for all the rest. When we can become still, we become awake, aware and connected. We stop feeling so separated from our sisters and brothers and the rest of creation. We become one with creation. We become our true self. The switch from plural to singular is intentional. In stillness, our individual egos are overcome by the community unity of the whole universe. This is taught by all the great wisdom traditions. Some of us call it the perennial philosophy. Some of us call it mysticism. By whatever name, it is the truth. We are all one! When we are in heaven, we know this to be true and we are glad in it.

    TUESDAY, APRIL 27, 2004 + clouds, raindrops, sunshine, wind

    + Witherspoonsociety.org has an article about US manipulation of elections in El Salvador.

    + I just discovered a website on Scottish castles featuring the Eilean Donan castle which my artist grandmother painted more than once!

    + Our wooden fence is being installed. About one-third was installed today.

    + from sojo.net > Pray Globally, Act Locally > The gospel provides an antidote to the abuses of the global economy and invites us to act for justice wherever - and whoever - we are. - by Vinoth Ramachandra | read article

    SUNDAY, APRIL 25, 2004 + sunny morning followed by clouds and rain; cool

    4/25/04 dailyzen >

    I climb these hills
    As if walking on air
    Body too light to fall
    Bamboo staff resting
    Against a great stone
    Torn cloak snapping in the wind
    A lone bird soars the azure depths
    Far distant springs reflected in its eye
    Carefree, singing a timeless song
    Gone, on a journey without end.
    - Shih-shu (17th century-early 18th)

    SATURDAY, APRIL 24, 2004 + sunny and breezy and cool

    + Book Discovery > STILLNESS SPEAKS by Eckhart Tolle.

    + Charles Henderson of christianity.about.com is in the early stages of writing A NEW COVENANT WITH AMERICA which is timely for the 2004 elections.

    + We drove to central NY on Wednesday afternoon, April 21. First grandchild EMILY ANNA was born at 11:02pm. Click here and see photos of the baby and family.

    + Today, Gracie the poodle and I hiked in Greenfield's Poet Seat area along the Connecticut River. I took some pictures.

    TUESDAY, APRIL 6, 2004 + sunny and chilly

    + from witherspoonsociety.org > David McPhail reflects on the School of the Americas. He urges the churches to work hard to close it and radically change our foreign policy in our hemisphere.

    FRIDAY, APRIL 2, 2004 + cloudy after lots of rain on Wednesday and Thursday

    + from rottentomatoes.com > AT THE THEATERS: Most critics like HELLBOY, a science fiction/ fantasy film.

    + from rottentomatoes.com > DVD/VHS RELEASES: Most critics like HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG, a drama with Ben Kingsley and Jennifer Connelly, and SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE, a romantic comedy with Diane Keaton & Jack Nicolson.

    + Review of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" By Mark Rutledge, United Church of Christ Campus Minister, Duke University Religious Life Staff >

    I went to see the movie because I felt a responsibility, as a Christian campus minister at Duke, to be able to discuss it with students. After watching it I can only say that it is bad theology, bad biblical interpretation, bad history, bad filmmaking, and bad sensitivity to our Jewish colleagues; in short, a waste of time and money.

    I saw the movie primarily as a visual representation of Mel Gibson's ultra-conservative, pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic interpretation of the medieval doctrine of substitutionary atonement. The entire movie is premised on this theory, which assumes that God demands lethal punishment for human sin. "Jesus died for our sins" is the traditionalist formula--since human sinfulness requires divine punishment and since we are inadequate to repay our offenses, only a divine Son of God can "substitute" for us. Crudely put: as part of God's plan Jesus took the divine bullet that was meant for us. This theory has never made any sense to me. It is transcendental child abuse. I agree with biblical scholar John Crossan who says, "It is obscene theology to claim that God demands victims rather than permanently offering forgiveness, a gift as consistently present as the air that surrounds us or the gravity that supports us." Such a vindictive god is no deity I want to be in relationship with. I don''t think Jesus died "for" our sins, I think he died "from" our sins. In the gospels themselves, Jesus nowhere suggests that his death is going to be an atoning sacrifice for the sins of humanity.

    We need better discussion about the differences between sacrificial death, vicarious atonement, and divine retribution. We honor martyrs who give up their lives for others. We honor figures such as Archbishop Oscar Romero and Martin Luther King who, in some spiritually profound sense, died "for their people." But not as part of a theology of divine retribution.

    For two hours I saw mostly gratuitous violence, manipulated to beat me over the head with this distorted theology. Gibson says he forces viewers to endure scenes of increasingly violent torture of Jesus in order to "push them over the edge." But I think the movie cancels out the redeeming and transforming power of both art and religion. I wondered if the movie endorses divinely sanctioned violence as an effective way to respond to human evil. Jesus did not----his life was a model of nonviolence. I do not think that Jesus'' violent death was any part of God's plan; it was hate's human consequence. The point is not to accept grace because we saw gore.

    Gibson claims his movie is an accurate reflection of the gospels. It is not. There are so many inaccuracies, misrepresentations and distortions of gospel texts that it makes my head spin. It would take a small book to disentangle and properly analyze the inaccuracies that biblical scholars have identified. Gibson also imports many non-biblical scenes, based on the mystical visions of two medieval nuns, in order to lend artistic verisimilitude to his theological propaganda. Throughout the film, he selectively picks from and conflates all four, differing, gospel accounts, which further confuses the distinctions between facts, faith, and filmmaking.

    The movie also assumes the historical accuracy of the Gospels, because Gibson has said that the gospels are literally true. But the Gospels are more faith and theology than they are history. This confounding of "the four Gospels" and "historical accuracy" perpetuates another misunderstanding. The gospels are not journalism or history; rather they are faith reflections containing metaphor, prophecies historicized, historical fragments remembered, and Christian apologetic. Of any given text one has to ask, "Is this history or is it parable?" Gibson did not do his historical research and seems to take the gospels more literally than did their authors. It is unfortunate that some people who see the movie may think it reflects the gospels and go on to assume it is therefore "historically" true. All history is story but not all story is story.

    I was puzzled that the movie made no connection between Jesus' death and his life and teachings. Watching the Romans flay (and flay and flay) Jesus I wondered, "Why are they doing this?" What was it about Jesus' life that led to his death? I understand that he lived and died for his own vision of the justice of the Kingdom of God on earth, which challenged the domination systems of his day. But Gibson says, "Dying was his reason for living." Better to say, "Dying was the result of the way he lived."

    Christians need to listen carefully to our Jewish colleagues who fear anti-Semitic reaction. Passion plays have never been good news for Jews. Is the movie anti-Semitic? Can any description of the death of Jesus that is based on the gospels not be either theologically anti-Jewish or ethnically anti-Semitic? After the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 c.e. gospel writers increasingly shifted the blame for Jesus' death away from the Romans and onto Jews and Judaism in order to evade their own persecution at Roman hands. Gibson takes this Christian fiction and makes it even worse through his fantasy-portrayal of Caiaphas and "the Jews" as more villainous, dark, and responsible for Jesus' death than they ever were in either history or the gospels. Our gospel texts have been abused to encourage centuries of lethal persecution of Jews. As well as acknowledging the roots of anti-Semitism in the gospels, we Christians need to own up to our history and correct it as many churches are trying to do. This movie makes our task harder at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise in many parts of the world.

    Finally, I think the movie's focus on the torture of Jesus deflects attention from the real issue----his official, legal and public execution by Roman authority, which followed as an inevitable consequence to his animation of a movement of nonviolent, spiritual-cultural resistance to Roman colonial oppression. As Crossan says, "It is surely easier to blame 'the Jews' or even God or to emphasize suffering than to face the possibility that the Kingdom of God is on a collision course, not just with the Roman Empire on a bad day, but with the normalcy of civilization on a good day."

    + I am enjoying listening to THE O'FRANKEN FACTOR on the new liberal radio network AIR AMERICA.

    WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31, 2004 + rainy

    + Sahajayoga.org has lots of information on the chakras.

    + Sacredcenters.com has lots of information on the chakras.

    + The comprehensive ecumenical document of the World Council of Churches called BAPTISM, EUCHARIST & MINISTRY (BEM) is online.

    MONDAY, MARCH 29, 2004 + partly sunny

    + Here are 3 paragraphs on the discipline of simplicity for OUR JOURNEY TO HEAVEN >

    Simple living is absolutely essential for citizens of heaven. The abundance of heaven can only be experienced by those who have learned how to simplify their lives.

    SIMPLE ABUNDANCE is the name of a bestselling book of daily suggestions by Sarah Ban Breathnach and also her website. While I like the basic theme, I tend to agree with the Amazon.com reviewer who describes her as "Martha Stewart on prozac." In other words, her approach doesn't work for me but it might work for you.

    I suggest the "simple abundance" approach of Sallie McFague, a brilliant contemporary theologian, who emphasizes our need to simplify our lives in LIFE ABUNDANT: Rethinking Theology and Economy for a Planet in Peril. She emphasizes our need to embrace sustainability. In "A Manifesto to North American Middle Class Christians," she advocates some "new house rules" for our house, the planet. "The basic rules are: Take only your share, clean up after yourself, and keep the house in good repair for future occupants." She points out that "ecology" and "economics" both come from the same word root which has to do with the laws for living in a household. She refers to the famous quote of Charles Birch: "The rich must live more simply, so that the poor may simply live." This responsibility applies to most of us living in the planet's 20 to 30 highly developed countries.

    + Jim Hightower points out a new book on "The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich -- and Cheat Everybody Else."

    SATURDAY, MARCH 27, 2004 + cloudy morning followed by sunny mid-day and cloudy afternoon; turning breezy and cooler during late afternoon

    Here is today's passage from dailyzen.com:

    Silent Illumination

    Silently and serenely,
    One forgets all words;
    Clearly and vividly,
    It appears before you.
    Time has no limits.
    When experienced,
    Your surroundings come to life.
    Full of wonder is the pure illumination.
    - Hung Chih Cheng Chueh (1092-1157)

    + Democritus: "Happiness resides not in possessions and not in gold, the feeling of happiness dwells in the soul." I found this great quote at http://www.peterussell.com/index2.html. This amazing website includes the CHURCH OF I AM (CIA).

    + Laurence G. Boldt (www.soulfulliving.com) offers some great wisdom on one of my favorite themes - you guessed it - abundance. He refers to the tao of abundance. He defines abundance as "the feeling of enough and to spare." It comes from the Latin abundare meaning "to overflow." He points out that wealth comes from the old English word wel or wela meaning "well" or "well- being." He asks an important question: how much is enough? He says:

    "The art of abundance is not the art of making money, but the art of knowing how to live. This knowing how to live is the essence of what I call the 'Tao of Abundance.' The Tao of Abundance is a not a 'get rich quick' or 'think your way to riches' approach to prosperity. It does not encourage you to 'think like a millionaire,' 'dress for success,' or 'climb the corporate ladder.' It speaks to a deeper experience of abundance than can be realized by the mere accumulation of goods or by amassing an impressive balance sheet." Read more.

    FRIDAY, MARCH 26, 2004 + very mild

    + Here are 2 quotations on the discipline of devotion for OUR JOURNEY TO HEAVEN >

    Being devoted > Quotations from The Hua Hu Ching (found at the MYSTICISM IN WORLD RELIGIONS website) >

    Take time to listen to what is said without words,
    to obey the law too subtle to be written,
    to worship the unnameable and to embrace the unformed.

    If you can let go of (the Tao) with your mind
    and surround it with your heart,
    it will live inside you forever.

    + I just found a good translation of the HUA HU CHING of Lao-Tse.

    + Here are 4 paragraphs on the discipline of delight for OUR JOURNEY TO HEAVEN >

    With each step forward in the disciplines on our journey to heaven we become more and more delightful. Life is wonderful. Life is fantastic. Life is joyful. Life is something to celebrate, to enjoy, to savor, to accept and affirm as a precious gift. It's like this:

    Trackless in the crags and peaks
    Nurturing the real elemental,
    At night I eat chrysanthemum flowers
    From the bamboo fence;
    In the morning I drink dew
    From magnolia trees.
    The mystic road
    Is really worth taking;
    How is temporal glory
    A good enough aspiration?
    Throughout all time,
    Men of repute
    Just pile up
    Down in the graves.
    - Wen-siang (1210-1280) / from www.dailyzen.com 3/26/04

    Robert Neale in IN PRAISE OF PLAY says: "There is a minority report throughout the course of history that play is the chief end of (humanity)." In heaven this is the majority report! No, it's the only report! / Living in heaven is delightful because we are free to play all the time / at all times / at this time!

    I think there is a sign when entering heaven which reads: CAUTION - CHILDREN AT PLAY. And I think another sign reads: NO GROWNUPS IN HEAVEN. Grownups are people who have forgotten how to play. They might think they can still play but they have really lost the ability. These disciplines all aim at making us become children again. Heaven is home for the children of God, children who are always free to play.

    + Here are 3 paragraphs on humility for OUR JOURNEY TO HEAVEN >

    The discipline of humility is based on an attitude of equality and a goal of equality. To make things right, we often must regard ourselves as the servant of others. Americans and citizens of other highly developed nations should definitely accept a discipline of service over a discipline of conspicuous consumption. Rather than "shop 'til you drop," we need to serve until we drop. To whom much is given, much is required. We have been given so much. We need to give so much. I have often heard how generous we Americans are. This is such a lie. We are on the take. We are stealing from the rest of the world at alarming rates causing most of the population of the world to be impoverished AND threatening future generations with impoverishment. This must stop! We need to become humble by living lives characterized by simplicity and servanthood. / The Romera quote in yesterday's blog is pertinent.

    Humility requires patience and trust. The common good of all creatures is the goal. No one can be excluded. Since this is God's will, we can be assured that everything is OK and will be OK. Our perception of the world leads us to be impatient and suspicious. This perception is wrong and must be corrected with huge doses of humility.

    As we practice all of the disciplines required in our journey to heaven, we begin to perceive the basic abundance of creation. We let go of the perception that everything is scarce.

    THURSDAY, MARCH 25, 2004 + cloudy with some showers

    + Here are 2 paragraphs on holiness for OUR JOURNEY TO HEAVEN >

    Holiness is the next to last of the twelve disciplines on our journey to heaven. Healing is experienced in all kinds of ways. Heavenliness is within reach. You and I have come a long way when we can be holy in a disciplined and determined way. We are very close to experiencing the glorious realm of heaven. God creates us all to be holy or to be saints. It is natural and simple for us to be holy. But we often make things complicated and therefore miss the mark.

    A holy person, or a person who practices holiness, is thoroughly oriented toward the whole community, the whole universe. A holy person is often identified as one who has attained a state of atonement or oneness with the all. To be whole is to be all! To be holy is to become one with everything. To become holy is to become so united with God that the ego can only rarely cause us to perceive ourselves as separate from others. A holy person is so awake, aware and connected that the needs of others are usually perceived as his or her own needs. There is very little separation when one is practicing the discipline of holiness.

    + Here are 3 paragraphs on Heavenliness for OUR JOURNEY TO HEAVEN >

    Heavenliness is the joyful discipline of caring so fully for each other that everyone is blessed with an infinite supply of love. No one can achieve this discipline alone. It is a corporate discipline. It is the minute-to-minute presence of a fully accountable community of love. If the previous eleven disciplines have not led someone to an enormous increase in compassion, then there is no way heavenliness can be experienced. Heavenliness simply can't be experienced unless love for one another is fully present.

    But, rejoice! This experience of abundant love is God's will for everyone and no counter will can ever stop it! This experience is never far off. It is built into the basic design of the universe. It is often called amazing grace. We can claim the heavenly experience through prayer at all times / at this time / all the time. It is not a plan for the future. It is a here-and-now reality. Let's claim it now!

    Once we have begun to practice the twelve disciplines of our journey to heaven faithfully, the heavenly gifts of abundance, joy, wisdom, beauty, love, truth, peace, justice and freedom become more and more the norm, the rule, the way things are. This is fantastic. This is really good news. This is amazing grace. This is life. This is creation. This is everything.

    + CUIC is the acronym for CHURCHES UNITING IN CHRIST which is the continuing official effort by several mainline congregations to bring Christian unity to our land. It was begun by Eugene Carson Blake in the 60s. Until recently, this effort was known by the acronym COCU which stood for the CONSULTATION ON CHURCH UNION and also the CHURCH OF CHRIST UNITING. At the January 2002 plenary meeting during which COCU ended and CUIC began, Dr. Michael Kinnamon offered an inspiring and informative keynote address. I met Dr. Kinnamon in January 1999 in St. Louis when he met with the Ecumenical Shared Ministry Table which I chaired at the time. At that time I was pastor of a church in Richfield Springs NY which was the first one in the nation to call itself the Church of Christ Uniting.

    + from sojonet > QUOTE OF THE WEEK > "The absolute desire of 'having more' encourages the selfishness that destroys communal bonds among the children of God. It does so because the idolatry of riches prevents the majority from sharing the goods that the Creator has made for all, and in the all-possessing minority it produces an exaggerated pleasure in these goods." - Archbishop Oscar Romero, "The Church's Mission Amid the National Crisis," August 6, 1979. Twenty-four years ago today, Monsenor Romero was assassinated as he celebrated Mass in San Salvador.

    + from sojonet > A gospel of personal wealth meets the gospel of commonwealth / by David Batstone. The sojonet link is not working so here is the article >

    I took part in a fascinating conference at Wheaton College in Illinois this past week. The conference, titled "Faith, Profit, and Decision Making," explored how the modern for-profit corporation can accomplish social good within human society.

    Both Michael Novak and I were invited to deliver keynote addresses, and we had the opportunity as well to share the platform for a discussion about our ideas. In many respects, it was a moment that I have been awaiting for nearly 20 years.

    Back in 1984, I was working in a refugee camp in El Salvador. The country was deep in armed conflict. A leftist revolutionary force was attempting to overthrow a military government that upheld the economic interests of a minority of landowners (symbolically called "the 14 families"). In addition to a ruthless military campaign to uproot peasant families, the military and national police organized covert death squads to target tens of thousands of church, labor union, agricultural cooperative, and human rights workers. The refugee camp where I was working housed poor people who had fled military campaigns into the countryside.

    Michael Novak is a Catholic ethicist who for decades has touted the virtues of the modern corporation without reservation. He was invited to speak in San Salvador in 1984 by an organization called the National Association of Free Enterprise. I vividly recall the account of his speech on the front page of El Salvador's right-wing newspaper. He spoke of a "theology of creation." God had given to each individual the talents that are necessary for productive work. Foremost among these gifts was that of the intellect, which possessed the creative potential of multiplying capital. It would be a sin, Novak explained, to limit the freedom of individuals to use capital, for God has made us to be creators upon the earth. The fruits of bountiful profits, therefore, were to be fully enjoyed because they are the sign of the divine blessing given to a "faithful steward."

    I recall being shocked at the time that a Christian ethicist could come to El Salvador at a time of deep polarization - with the country's wealth so concentrated in a few hands with so many poor living in utter misery - and not say a single prophetic word about the sin of greed. Rather, Novak could only warn against the "sin" of unrealized economic growth.

    That same day, I took part in a Bible study in the refugee camp. I met Ana, a widow whose husband had been killed by the military because of his work as a community organizer within their local Catholic parish. She had come to the camp for the sake of her children. During the Bible study, Ana spoke a different kind of "theology of creation":

    "I, as a mother, feel the weight of this war. In our country, the law of God is being violated.... A small amount of people are living the way that everyone should. There needs to be a change so that we can all live the way that God desires. Although we are treated like animals and receive no respect from those who have power in our country, we know that we are human beings because God loves us. Isn't that what it means to be made in God's image?"

    I chose to share these two theologies of creation to Michael Novak publicly, on stage, at the Wheaton conference. I affirmed the legitimacy of his point of view that a business enterprise indeed may contribute to the well-being of the community and the development of individuals who work within it. But I also made it clear that as Christians we have the responsibility to speak a prophetic word in a time when individuals and institutions fall short of those goals, and hoard for themselves the bounty that is the inheritance of all of God's creation.

    Novak unfortunately did not respond directly to my challenge. He followed my stories with a statement of his confidence in El Salvador's economic growth in an era of globalization.

    Over the years, Novak has done us a great service when he points out the shortcomings of feudalism and socialism, respectively, as both systems accumulate capital and political power in small pockets of elites (even if they call themselves vanguards). It's a tragedy that Novak is evidently so loyal to the capitalist system that he cannot offer a similar critique when it fails to deliver the same benefits.

    I am reminded of Paul's message to the Philippians that they should think of themselves as citizens of a "heavenly commonwealth." He warned against making a god of our belly, or setting our minds on material things, like wealth. Who among us has not fallen into the trap of blind allegiance to a political or economic ideology?

    Doing so often prevents us from speaking the truth.

    + Charles Henderson (christianity.about.com) asks some important questions about the "under God" phrase which the supreme court is now considering.

    MONDAY, MARCH 22, 2004 + sunny and windy and cold

    + We flew to Florida and back on Song Airlines (Boston-Tampa). We enjoyed going to Myakka River State Park which is near Sarasota. We also enjoyed the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens which is in Sarasota. See http://www.seaside-garden-retreat.com/nature.htm for more Sarasota area nature attractions.

    FRIDAY, MARCH 12, 2004 + The morning began with sunshine but then the clouds came and snow flakes began falling at about 9:30. But then the snow quickly subsided after dropping about an inch by 11:00.

    + Here's information about OMEGA (from their website), a conference and retreat center in Rhinebeck NY: Since 1977, through our workshops and retreats, Omega has been a pioneer in exploring, teaching, and embracing new ideas. We have also had another mission: to create a peaceful oasis in a hurried world. To this end, we have made our campus a healing center, a place where you can relax, rejuvenate, and feel at home in the midst of nature's bounty and a community of warm, caring people. / The beauty of our gardens, lake, and rolling hills, the friendly staff, the wonderful food, and the facilities at our Wellness Center all support what people come to Omega to learn. Most of all, it is the sincerity and openness of everyone here that make Omega a place where you can find within yourself the courage to become a happier, healthier, and more spirited person.

    + SHALEM is, according to their website, "an ecumenical Christian community dedicated to the support of contemplative living and leadership." A good friend, Carol, has gone to their workshops. She learned Keating's methods of centering prayer and LECTIO DIVINA.

    + The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society is located in Northampton, MA. A great feature of this website is that you can find many course syllabi from a great variety of teachers in the Academic Program section.

    + I just found a syllabus for a Colgate course called SEEING & BELIEVING: IMAGES AND THE SENSES IN CHRISTIAN SPIRITUALITY offered by Georgia Frank.

    THURSDAY, MARCH 11 + sunny

    + Alice Gerard has written more on her Fort Benning experience.

    + THE RIVER is a Pioneer Valley Radio Station which plays a wide variety of music: rock, folk, country, celtic, reggae, blues, etc.

    + WRNX is a Pioneer Valley Radio Station which plays a huge variety of rock'n'roll music.

    + WOW! Check out this list of the 100 best spiritual books of the twentieth century from S&H. I was glad to see that Alduous Huxley's THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY made the list. But Nikos Kazantzakis is strangely missing. How many have you read? I counted 27 but I must admit I only skimmed some of those so I should probably say 20. Can you guess which ones they are?

    + I invite you to ponder this S&H soulbooster on stillness, silence and solitude featuring a quote by Herman Hesse.

    TUESDAY, MARCH 9, 2004 + another inch of snow fell last night

    + Joseph Naft (innerfrontier.com) offers some insights on the illusion of the ego.

    + 3 paragraphs on healing for my book, OUR JOURNEY TO HEAVEN > Healing is a gift from God. It occurs whenever people are ready to receive this gift. Openness, acceptance, gratefulness, an attitude of gratitude are the chief characteristics of this readiness. This is the discipline of extending ourselves to help others become awake, aware and connected. Reaching the supreme states of holiness and heavenliness are impossible without this discipline and sustained commitment. Buddhists call a person who has reached this stage of spiritual development a boddhisattva. We can and do resist this discipline because it is so difficult. But sooner or later we realize that the resistance is even more difficult. Courage is required. Love is required. Patience is required. Wisdom is required. Humor is required. Of course, continuing to practice the first nine disciplines - stillness, silence, solitude, simplicity, detachment, discernment, devotion, delight, and humility - are required as well. The other disciplines are all naturally healing. So a lot of healing is happening here! Do you feel it? How is your practice going?

    Healing is a community project. It simply doesn't happen in isolation. Nothing happens in isolation. We are all connected. Separateness is an illusion. A COURSE IN MIRACLES offers a comprehensive program for getting beyond our separate ego identities and into our unity with all things. Naturally it is a difficult program because this discipline is difficult. We are so attached to our egos.

    The tenth of Ken Keyes' twelve pathways to higher consciousness is: "I am continually calming the restless scanning of my rational mind in order to perceive the finer energies that enable me to unitively merge with everything around me." We can do this! Healing of the planet and everything on it depends on it.

    MONDAY, MARCH 8, 2004 + snow has been falling on and off during the morning. It's covering the ground but not sticking on the street.

    + This morning I enjoyed listening to my abundancetrek station for the first time in a long time. You might like it! I have programmed it to play lots of Bruce Springsteen, Kate Bush, Todd Rundgren, the Cranberries, the Grateful Dead, Peter Gabriel, Bob Dylan, U2, the Who, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, John Lennon and many more.

    FRIDAY, MARCH 5, 2004 + cloudy with high in low 40s. 60s expected tomorrow but snow next week!

    + Here are some new paragraphs for the introduction to OUR JOURNEY TO HEAVEN >

    Let me tell you about my journey. But first let me repeat how important it is for me to learn about your journey, to listen to your story. Please do share!

    Books have been my friends on the journey for as long as I can remember. Websites are only a recent addition to these old friends. Let me mention several at this point and many more will be mentioned later.

    Let's begin with the BIBLE. I first read it in the KING JAMES VERSION which is a translation of the early 17th century. I didn't understand much of it and never read very much of it. Language has changed a lot in nearly 400 years. Fortunately, better translations came along quickly during my childhood during the 50s and 60s, particularly THE REVISED STANDARD VERSION and THE NEW ENGLISH BIBLE. In the 70s, my favorite became GOOD NEWS FOR MODERN MAN which was the official translation of the American Bible Society. Now I tend to go for THE NEW REVISED STANDARD VERSION.

    An old friend of my teenage years was YOUR GOD IS TOO SMALL by J.B. Phillips. I started envisioning God in new ways after reading this book. In the 60s and 70s I particularly enjoyed reading the novels of Nikos Kazantzakis and Herman Hesse. I also began reading a lot of spiritual formation books and self-help books including the HANDBOOK TO HIGHER CONSCIOUSNESS by Ken Keyes and I'M OK, YOU'RE OK by Thomas Harris.

    + The official jobs report is in and there were only 21,000 new jobs last month. I'm still waiting for the big corporations that like Bush so much to create all kinds of jobs in the next few months which they then can eliminate after November.

    THURSDAY, MARCH 4, 2004 + cloudy after some showers and still unseasonably warm / the snow is melting rapidly and lots of lawn is now visible / early spring?

    + http://www.spiritualityhealth.com/newsh/lists/pthp_bookreview_33.html > S&H lists, briefly describes and provides links to its reviews of 121 books on silence.

    + I'm working on the chapter on silence in OUR JOURNEY TO HEAVEN. An S&H review of SILENCE AND STILLNESS IN EVERY SEASON : DAILY READINGS WITH JOHN MAIN is quite relevant. Here's an excerpt: Main believed in the rigors of a twice-a-day meditation practice using the mantra "maranatha" which means "Come Lord." "Saying the mantra is like dropping anchor; it falls into the depth of our being." This daily practice leads to body stillness ("an outward sign of an inward stillness") and silence ("the language of the spirit"). / Throughout the book, John Main offers a variety of definitions of Christian meditation. He sees it as a way of being awake and fully alive; a pilgrimage to our center, our heart; and a practice that enables us "to root ourselves in the spiritual reality of God." One of the marvels of Main's understanding of the use of the mantra is his practical responses to the distractions resulting from the ego's needs for drama, progress, instant enlightenment, expectations, and comparisons. Silence and Stillness in Every Season is a perfect companion for all Christian meditators.

    + I just posted a comment on the official Johnkerry.com forum. The string is entitled: "Paul Krugman Argues For Kerry Economics" in the section called "Restoring Jobs and Rebuilding Our Economy." >

    I haven't read too many posts on this thread but I do notice that some of us think we are poor. Oh, please! If you are making 20,000 and supporting 2 or more people, I will accept that you are poor. Maybe even 30,000.

    Americans are so spoiled or in denial or simply ignorant. About 75 per cent of the families on this planet make less than 10,000 total household income. Most of us are poor. But not most Americans.

    A progressive income tax is important but its not the only solution to the growing gap between the rich and the poor. We need a leader who is willing to ask all Americans, particularly the privileged ones earning 60 K or more, to be far more generous in their giving. Bush says he is a Christian but I rarely or never hear him talking about sacrificial giving which is a basic core Christian value. If a majority of people earning over 60 K woul simply tithe, what a difference that would make. I don't mean just giving to the church. I mean giving to all kinds of national and international charities.

    I tire of hearing about our lousy economy. We are so rich that we can and do spend billions and billions of dollars on all kinds of things we do not need.

    In a book called the Two Percent Solution, the author (I forget his name) says we can solve many national problems (like health care, retirement security, rebuilding the infrastructure) with a very minor redistribution of wealth. Solving global poverty will take a little more effort but can be done if we get creative and determined.

    Redistribution of wealth alone will not solve all of our problems but it would sure get us going in the right direction.

    Changing our priorities away from our pleasure orientation to a genuine concern for everybody on the planet is also required.

    I voted for Kucinich but I just donated to Kerry because Kerry is much closer to my values than Bush and I believe it is urgent that Bush be sent back to Texas.

    And, yes, I am a preacher!

    love-mt

    WEDNESDAY, MARCH 3, 2004 + partly sunny with unseasonably warm high of around 50 F.

    + We saw DRAGONFLY with Kevin Costner the other night. Most critics said it's a rotten tomato but it isn't! The S&H review sent me looking for the DVD and I'm glad I did. It deals with death and love and compassion and courage and the spiritual quest.

    + Here's a significant item I found on the F&V resource listing for THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST > Critics say Gibson film mimics a hateful book (free registration required) > Despite Mel Gibson's effort to disavow any anti-Jewish influence in his film about Jesus' death, his critics are firing back with fresh evidence that the movie closely follows an anti-Jewish book by a 19th-Century German nun.

    + Faith & Values has a list of study guides for THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. Naturally, I was drawn to the Presbyterian guide.

    + The Center for Progressive Christianity has revised THE 8 POINTS. I like both the original version and the new version.

    + There is one more important page at S&H on THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. It lists other significant resources related to the film.

    + As a result of my exploration of resources on THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST suggested by S&H, I discovered an important spiritual formation website: FAITH AND VALUES.

    + The review of THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, the editors of SPIRITUALITY & HEALTH (S&H) is excellent. The review has a link to their review of THE HEART OF CHRISTIANITY:REDISCOVERING THE LIFE OF FAITH by Marcus Borg, a famous member of the Jesus Seminar. There is a lengthy excerpt from the book describing 5 different theological explanations of the crucifixion. They provide devotional material on the stations of the cross which they hope will be used by liberal and conservative Christians TOGETHER! I saw the movie and did not like it except for a few moving scenes. I respect Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat a lot. They have been important guides on my spiritual journey for a long, long time. I first starting reading their CULTURAL INFORMATION SERVICE in the 70s. Many of you have encountered their study guides on important movies and TV shows and books even if you didn't know it was them. If you are interested in an open-minded and comprehensive spiritual journey, make S&H a favorite website to visit and re-visit over and over again. Don't miss THE BIG EXPLORATION which is designed to lead to a spiritual practice most suited for you. You can subscribe to their SOUL BOOSTERS, a twice weekly devotional email message.

    TUESDAY, MARCH 2, 2004 + showers followed by partly sunny skies and still unseasonably warm

    Here's a new paragraph on stillness for OUR JOURNEY TO HEAVEN>

    + In stillness we become aware of the perennial philosophy or mysticism. At a marvellous website, MYSTICISM IN WORLD RELIGIONS, Deb Platt offers a comprehensive and systematic guide to the literature of mysticism in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and the Tao. She says that "there is a reality beyond the material world which is uncreated, (which) pervades everything, but remains beyond the reach of human knowledge and understanding." She says that "you approach that reality by distinguishing ego from true self, understanding the nature of desire, becoming unattached, forgetting about preferences, not working for personal gain, letting go of thoughts, redirecting your attention, being devoted, being humble, invoking that reality, and surrendering." She says that "that reality approaches you through grace and the teacher." Finally, we are transformed so that we embody that reality by dying and being reborn, seeing the light, experiencing union and experiencing freedom.

    + http://www.altpressonline.com/ < Alice Gerard's paper in Buffalo. Alice wrote an editorial on the Bill of Rights as she contemplates going to jail soon because she did civil disobedience at the SOA protest last fall.

    + FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2004 + sunny with high around 40

    INTRODUCTION to OUR JOURNEY TO HEAVEN (revised 2/27/04)

    The title of this book is both necessary and terribly misleading. The truth is: We are already in heaven. We are home right now. We don't have to go anywhere. But most of us find ways to avoid the truth even though the truth is wonderful! We think Heaven is some far off realm, a dream, a fantasy, not having much to do with our every day lives. Many of us are not sure we will ever get there and we're not even sure whether we want to get there or not.

    But we really have no choice in the matter! Sooner or later we will come to understand that we can never leave Heaven because Heaven is everywhere without beginning or end. We often act like we are not in Heaven. Our lives on earth seem to be outside the heavenly realm. That's why it seems like we must go on a journey to get back home.

    I am writing this book because I have developed some ways to describe Heaven and some ways we can get there, get to where we already are! I describe Heaven as the holy, most glorious, fantastic realm of abundance, joy, wisdom, beauty, love, truth, peace, justice and freedom. I believe we get there as we develop the twelve disciplines of stillness, silence, solitude, simplicity, detachment, discernment, devotion, delight, humility, healing, holiness and heavenliness. I believe there is a reason for the order of these carefully chosen 21 words: 9 words which describe the glorious heavenly realm and 12 words which point to the way we get to enjoy heaven in the here and now.

    So, let's imagine that it is a journey even though it really isn't! We need each other. I believe that no one gets to Heaven alone. I believe that we all get to Heaven together or nobody gets there. (Of course, we are really already here in heaven but it seems like we aren't) So, this book is about our journey together. I offer some ideas and resources and I ask you to do the same. This book is a joint effort and your contribution is not only welcome but necessary.

    I really enjoy working on my website, abundancetrek.com and the abundancetrek blog. It is loaded with links to all kinds of spiritual and peace and justice oriented websites and other resources for the journey. Since I value your presence on this journey. I would love to have you:

    This book could be described as a book on prayer because I believe that prayer is heavenly communication. When we are praying, we are in Heaven! When we are praying, we are awake, aware and connected. Prayer is life itself in all of its glorious fullness. I can't overemphasize this. When we are really praying, we are really in heaven. It could be said that we are always praying whether we know it or not.

    Since it is life we are talking about, let's begin with breathing. Teachers of wisdom, both ancient and modern, teach us how to breathe properly because good breathing makes for a good life, a spiritual life, an authentic life. Becoming aware of our breathing patterns and improving upon them is absolutely necessary so we might as well begin now. Perhaps it can be said that to learn how to pray is to learn how to breathe. Fortunately, we don't have to reinvent the wheel. There are many excellent resources available. Since I am Christian and most of us are Christian or have a Christian background or at least live in a society where Christianity is predominant, I begin with Christian resources but I certainly will not be restricted to them. I do not believe that Christianity is better than any other religion. How would I know? It works for me. But, as you will see, I love the wisdom from all the spiritual traditions, old and new, that humanity has ever developed.

    Christianity has an ancient tradition called the breath prayer which is being rediscovered. Here are some Breath Prayer links > BREATH PRAYER (Herb Gunn) | THE BREATH PRAYER (St. Matthew's Episcopal Church (Wheeling WV) | ANOTHER KND OF BREATH PRAYER (Joan Gannon). I will offer more resources on breathing as we continue on our journey. OK, here are 2 more: BREATHE! PRAY!

    Our journey to heaven is completed when heaven becomes our only goal. A few saints have achieved this state of mind while still living on earth. I am not one of them but I'm working on it because I believe that all humans, indeed all creatures, are called to work on it. Until we reach that state of mind, we are confined to a world where we experience too much scarcity (the opposite of abundance), pain (the opposite of joy), foolishness (the opposite of wisdom), ugliness (the opposite of beauty), hate (the opposite of love), falsehood (the opposite of truth), war (the opposite of peace), oppression (the opposite of justice) and bondage (the opposite of freedom) in our minute-to-minute lives.

    I need to tell you that I belong to a personality type (INFP) which believes that logic is optional. I really do believe that human logic can often sidetrack us in our effort to reach heaven. So, this journey we are on has a definite destination in mind (heaven) but I am not able to offer a clear, logical map for getting there. I don't think anybody can. There will certainly be some logic on this journey because I am willing to admit that logic is not optional in certain situations! Perhaps you will be the one who offers logic when these situations come up. They seem to come up more often than I would like to admit!

    + OUR JOURNEY TO HEAVEN > ideas for chapter on detachment >

    Some one asked, "What is the Way?" I said, "This way is to abandon desires." Oh lover of the King! Know that your way is to seek the pleasure of that Generous Lord. When you seek the Beloved's desire and pleasure, seeking your own desire is forbidden. (http://www.digiserve.com/mystic/Muslim/Rumi/index.html - The Sufi Path of Love: The Spiritual Teachings of Rumi, pp. 216-217)

    I complained of His jealousy. He laughed and said, "Whatever blocks your way -- remove it!" (The Sufi Path of Love: The Spiritual Teachings of Rumi, p. 306)

    Since the lover is not suited for "others," let them all reject him -- then the King of Love will make him His sitting companion. When the creatures drive him from themselves, he cuts himself off from their company; he accustoms his outward and inward to sweet-natured Love. But when the creatures accept him, his mind drags him in their direction and his heart turns furtively this way and that toward anyone's love.

    When Love sees this It says, "My tresses have thrown a shadow, so the lover smells there the fragrance of musk and ambergris. I will make these two scents the enemy of his mind and brain -- he will have to abandon both..." (The Sufi Path of Love: The Spiritual Teachings of Rumi, pp. 306-307)

    What sort of Beloved is He? As long as a single hair of love for yourself remains, He will not show His Face... You must be completely repelled by yourself and the world and be your own self's enemy... So when our religion resides in a person's heart, it stays right there until it takes his heart to God and separates it from everything unworthy. (The Sufi Path of Love: The Spiritual Teachings of Rumi, p. 215)

    Brother, stand the pain. Escape the poison of your impulses. The sky will bow to your beauty, if you do. (The Essential Rumi, p. 62)

    Poverty is not for the sake of hardship. No, it is there because nothing exists but God... Poverty unlocks the door -- what a blessed key! (The Sufi Path of Love: The Spiritual Teachings of Rumi, p. 188)

    Always keep the carnal soul from getting what it wants so that you can attain eternal desire and be delivered from the prison of darkness, for whoso shall have refrained his soul from lust, verily paradise shall be his abode. (Koran 79:40-41) (Signs of the Unseen: The Discourses of Jalaluddin Rumi, p. 64)

    Throw a dog a bit of something. He sniffs to see if he wants it. Be that careful. Sniff with your wisdom-nose. Get clear. Then decide. (The Essential Rumi, p. 258)

    Recognize that your imagination and your thinking and your sense perception are reed canes that children cut and pretend are horsies. Deny your desires and willfulness, and a real mount may appear under you. (The Essential Rumi, p. 5)

    http://dailyzen.com + 9/21/02 >

    Just detach from all sound and form,
    And do not dwell in detachment,
    And do not dwell in intellectual understanding,
    This is practice.
    - Baizhang

    Zengetsu, a Chinese master of the tang dynasty, wrote the following advice for his pupils:

  • Living in the world yet not forming attachments to the dust of the world is the way of the true Zen student.
  • When witnessing the good action of another encourage yourself to follow his example. Hearing the mistaken action of another, advise yourself not to emulate it.
  • Even though alone in a dark room, be as if you were facing a noble guest. Express your feelings, but become no more expressive than your true nature.
  • Poverty is your treasure. Never exchange it for an easy life.
  • A person may appear a fool and yet not be one. He may be only guarding his wisdom carefully.
  • Virtues are the fruit of self-discipline and do not drop from heaven themselves as does rain or snow.
  • Modesty is the foundation of all virtues. Let your neighbours discover you before you make yourself known to them.
  • A noble heart never forces itself forward. Its words are as rare gems, seldom displayed and of great value.
  • To a sincere student, everyday is a fortunate day. Time passes but he never lags behind. Neither glory nor shame can move him.
  • Censure yourself, never another. Do not discuss right or wrong.
  • Some things though right, were considered wrong for generations. Since the value of righteousness may be recognized after centuries, there is no need to crave an immediate appreciation.
  • Live with cause and leave the results to the great law of the universe. Pass each day in peaceful contemplation.
  • from NO ATTACHMENT TO DUST (found at http://members.tripod.com/~meherbhopal/parables.html)

    THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2004 + sunny with high around 40

    + Here are a couple of thoughts for the chapter on discernment in OUR JOURNEY TO HEAVEN >

  • Everything must go! Liquidation Sale! Hurry!...God offers us an even better deal! / What need to discern the difference between the delusion of the world and the delight of Heaven.
  • We need to think differently about everything. The Buddhists call it mindfulness. St Paul calls it renewal of the mind and not conforming to the world. Romans 12:1-2: I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God--what is good and acceptable and perfect.

    + I just posted 3 times (as mystictrek) at the RottenTomatoes forum on THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST.

    + Charles Henderson, the progressive guide for Christianity on about.com, offers some sane comments on Mel Gibson's controversial movie.

    + Here's more of OUR JOURNEY TO HEAVEN: > The following quotes on silence are from Thomas Merton's THOUGHTS IN SOLITUDE. I found them at the extraordinary and comprehensive website, MYSTICISM IN WORLD RELIGIONS:

  • In all things humility is silent and at rest and even the labor of humility is rest. (from http://www.digiserve.com/mystic/Christian/Merton/index.html citing Thomas Merton. Thoughts in solitude. Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1956, 1958. ISBN 087773920X, p. 100)
  • When I am liberated by silence ... my whole life becomes a prayer. (IBID, p. 103)
  • Paraphrased: In silence the world which our words have attempted to classify, to control and even to despise (because they could not contain it) comes close to us, for silence teaches us to know reality by respecting it where words have defiled it. (IBID, pp. 92-93)
  • Words stand between silence and silence: between the silence of things and the silence of our own being. Between the silence of the world and the silence of God. When we have really met and known the world in silence, words do not separate us from the world nor from other men, nor from God, nor from ourselves because we no longer trust entirely in language to contain reality. (IBID, pp. 93)
  • My life is a listening, His is a speaking. My salvation is to hear and respond. For this, my life must be silent. Hence my silence is my salvation.
    (IBID, p. 77)
  • Prayer is then not just a formula of words, or a series of desires springing up in the heart -- it is the orientation of our whole body, mind and spirit to God in silence, attention, and adoration. All good meditative prayer is a converion of our entire self to God.
    (IBID, p. 44)

  • For inner silence depends on a continual seeking, a continual crying in the night, a repeated bending over the abyss. If we cling to a silence we think we have found forever, we stop seeking God and the silence goes dead within us. A silence in which He is no longer sought ceases to speak to us of Him. A silence from which He does not seem to be absent, dangerously threatens His continued presence. For He is found when He is sought and when He is no longer sought He escapes us. He is heard only when we hope to hear Him, and if, thinking our hope to be fulfilled, we cease to listen, He ceases to speak, His silence ceases to be vivid and becomes dead, even though we recharge it with the echo of our own emotional noise. (IBID, pp. 97-98)
  • (Paraphrased: True spiritual life:) It is the silence of our whole being in compunction and adoration before God, in the habitual realization that He is everything and we are nothing, that He is the Center to which all things tend, and to Whom all our actions must be directed. That our life and strength proceed from Him, that both in life and in death we depend entirely on Him. (IBID, pp. 50-51)

    + Here are 3 paragraphs on simplicity for OUR JOURNEY TO HEAVEN:

    Our lives are too complicated. We need to discipline ourselves to "simplify, simplify, simplify" as Thoreau put it in WALDEN. The first three disciplines of stillness, silence and solitude all create simplicity. The more diligently we practice these disciplines, the more we can simplify our lives. When we simplify, we are awake, aware and connected. We are approaching the glorious realm of heaven.

    Tilden Edwards has offered us a powerful approach to living simply every day in his book LIVING SIMPLY THROUGH THE DAY: SPIRITUAL SURVIVAL IN A COMPLEX AGE. He writes: "Firm commitment, deep acceptance, and naked confidence are three vital prerequisites of the simple way. Each of these attitudes has endlessly subtle layers of awareness. At the bottom of each lies the divine image in us, reflecting the very nature of God." Don't you want that? I know I do. Edwards quotes Ram Dass: "We must really want God, which is far more (and far simpler) than merely wanting to want God."

    The Zen Buddhist discipline of zazen (sitting, centering, meditating), if practiced properly, leads to the natural, simple realization of our daily and glorious heavenly existence. In the introduction to ZEN MIND, BEGINNER'S MIND, Shunryu Suzuki says: "The practice of Zen mind is beginner's mind. The innocence of the first inquiry - what am I? - is needed throughout Zen practice. The mind of the beginner is empty, free of the habits of the expert, ready to accept, to doubt, and open to all the possibilities."

    WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2004 + sunny with high in mid 30s

    + The next chapter of OUR JOURNEY TO HEAVEN will be on solitude. Thomas Merton often wrote about the importance of solitude. S&H reviews his book, THOUGHTS IN SOLITUDE.

    + Here's a little more on silence for my book, OUR JOURNEY TO HEAVEN:
    A basic and I think obvious reason for developing the discipline of silence is that we can’t possibly hear God speak to us if we are drowning God out. It’s fine to sing praise songs, for example, but getting the inspiration to write a heavenly song of praise requires silent time and probably a large amount of silent time. Any creative venture requires silent time when we allow our minds to rest in the divine mystery from which all creation comes.

    When we are not silent, we are held back from a more complete revelation of God’s will for us. We keep using familiar and limiting names for the One who remains forever nameless and beyond our knowing. We keep using familiar and limiting words for the One who remains forever wordless and beyond our knowing. St. John of the Cross wrote: “The Father uttered one Word; that Word is His Son, and he utters Him for ever in everlasting silence; and in silence the soul hears it.” Lao Tzu said: He who knows does not speak; He who speaks does not know.” Fenelon wrote: “You cannot practice too rigid a fast from the charms of worldly talk.”

    One of the most persistent noises of modern society which we need to resist is advertising. This was already a big problem in the 1940s when Aldous Huxley wrote THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY. He wrote the following in his chapter on silence: “Advertising is the organized effort to extend and intensify craving – to extend and intensify, that is to say, the workings of that force, which (as all the saints and teachers of all the higher religions have always taught) is the principal cause of suffering and wrong-doing and the greatest obstacle between the human soul and its divine Ground.”

    When I am silent, I am awake, aware and connected.

    + I went to Northampton last night to hear presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich speak. I think his candidacy represents both what America has been at its best and what America will be again when we get back to our true ideals - hopefully soon.

    + Joseph Naft's thoughts on prayer are worth pondering.

    TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2004 + partly sunny with high in 30s

    + Aunt Edith (89) fell on Sunday and broke her hip and arm. She had surgery and is recuperating at a hospital. Please include her in your prayers.

    + Yesterday I went snowshoeing in the Wendell State Forest which is only 7 miles from here. It is a pretty big area with nice trails for snowshoeing and snowmobiling. Gracie the poodle loved running around the forest.

    + I got this from the docket for the January 2004 Utica Presbytery meeting >
    PRAYER OF CONFESSION by Dietrich Bonhoeffer: O God, early in the morning I cry to you. Help me to pray, and to think only of you. I cannot pray alone. In me there is darkness, but with you there is light. I am lonely, but you never leave me. I am feeble in heart, but you are always strong. I am restless, but in you there is peace. In me there is bitterness, but with you patience. Your ways are beyond my understanding, but you know the way for me. Grant me the faith that will protect me from despair. Pour into me such love for you and for all men (sic), that any hatred and bitterness may be blotted out. Grant me the faith that will deliver me from fear. / (Silent reflection)
    Assurance of Pardon: The good news is that God forgives us and gives us Christ to be living water and true bread. Let us accept with joy these precious gifts of abundant life. Amen.

    FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2004 + partly sunny with high around 40 expected

    + Jim Hightower is a populist leader who has written THIEVES IN HIGH PLACES: They've Stolen Our Country-and Its Time to Take It Back. The book is an excellent handbook for doing just that. Here are some links > Jim Hightower's website | Jim Hightower's weblog | ourfuture.org > devoted to progressive action. He is very humorous and you can laugh at his witty remarks every day on the i.e. america radio network (mostly on the web). But after you laugh you may cry as he boldly points out how our leaders are betraying us and our ideals.

    + Here's another paragraph on silence for my chapter on stillness in my book, OUR JOURNEY TO HEAVEN:

    + The discipline of silence is closely related to the first discipline of stillness and the third and fourth disciplines of solitude and simplicity. One thing these disciplines definitely have in common is that they do not deny the reality of death. Kathleen Dowling Singh, who works with dying patients in a large Florida hospice, views "the dying process as a passage filled with grace." Here's the S&H review of THE GRACE IN DYING: HOW WE ARE TRANSFORMED SPIRITUALLY AS WE DIE by Kathleen Dowling.

    + I just updated the abundancetrek movie page which offers many links to the reviews of rottentomatoes.com and spiritualityhealth.com and nytimes.com.

    + 2 new VHS/DVD releases are considered fresh tomatoes: CAMP and RUNAWAY JURY.

    + I'm more and more excited about the website called INNER FRONTIER: EXPLORING PRACTICAL SPIRITUALITY by Joseph Naft. I just read his page on awareness of pain and I think I will take it to heart since I do have body pain and emotional pain and, certainly, global pain. I believe I am intimately and intricately connected to everything there is. So are you!

    + As I scrolled through the comments related to the Orcinus blog, I came across a progressive Muslim with lots of information about Islam and even a blog called Muslims for Kucinich!

    + Here's another paragraph for my chapter on stillness in my book, OUR JOURNEY TO HEAVEN:

    Stillness requires enormous courage and endurance. Heaven is out of reach unless you are willing to make a commitment to a new life. Take up your cross. Take the leap of faith. Begin again. Let go of your addictions and false securities of all kinds. Trust God. Trust the divine rhythm. Regard heaven as your true home and not this world. Enjoy this world but not as your home. Enjoy it as a journey of discovery and adventure. It is a paradox that those who attach less significance to their worldly accomplishments usually accomplish the most! Hmmm.

    THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2004 + partly sunny

    + S&H published an article by Sam Keen on the Quest for Justice, part 1 & part 2.

    + My next chapter of OUR JOURNEY TO HEAVEN is on silence. Spirituality&Health has lots of good thoughts and suggestions for developing the discipline of silence. A segment from S&H follows: "Silence is often referred to in terms of space: the immensity inside, the cave of the heart, the oasis of quiet, the inner sanctuary, the interior castle, the sacred center where God dwells. For centuries, people have used this practice as a resting and renewal stop on the spiritual journey. It provides a way to periodically withdraw from the world. You may go into silence as a prelude to prayer, or you may seek it as the place where through meditation you can contact your deeper self and Spirit. / How can you find this inner quietude, tranquility, and calm? You must make room for it -- literally. Find a space of physical silence where you can sit quietly, away from distracting demands, voices, and sounds. Go there every day. It is the gateway to your interior silence."

    + Here's a paragraph I wrote for my chapter on silence recently:

    We live in a noisy, over-stimulating society. Learning how to be silent and enjoy silence is another important discipline for people who really want to experience heaven. It's not that noise is bad. It has its place. But we have a much better chance of connecting with God in silence. It seems to me that there are two movements affecting the church and society today: the joyful noise movement and the joyful silence movement. I have nothing against the joyful noise movement. Indeed I am a great fan of rock'n'roll. I simply want to lend my support to the joyful silence movement which seems to be a weaker movement and, therefore, needs all the help it can get. Hopefully, this book will help!

    + Income inequality is growing in America and around the world and I am alarmed. Here are some informative links > http://www.lcurve.org/ | http://ferret.bls.census.gov/macro/032003/hhinc/new05_000.htm | http://www.census.gov/hhes/income/histinc/ie1.html

    TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2004 + sunny and cold

    + Using the Yahoo! search engine, I just discovered innerfrontier.org which is devoted to exploring practical spirituality and offers some great ideas on the topic of stillness.

    MONDAY, FEBRUARY 16 + a frigid morning, around zero but sunshine and light breeze made the afternoon feel almost balmy! Snowshoeing was great.

    + BUY Yoga: The Spirit And Practice Of Moving Into Stillness by Erich Schiffmann.

    + I know I have covered this ground before but it's worth repeating again and again that Erich Schiffmann's MOVING INTO STILLNESS is a tremendous read. It is a life-changing read. And most of it is online! The chapter on stillness is fantastic. It presents yoga and meditation and stillness in an entirely new light. Level one stillness "involves learning to relax, become centered, and meditate." Level two stillness "involves living your daily life with this new and growing inner certainty of who you really are. In other words, meditation in action."

    + David K Shipler's THE WORKING POOR is reviewed in the NY TIMES.

    SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2004 + sunny with high around 40 but a frigid air mass will change that drastically by tomorrow

    + I just wrote 7 more paragraphs of my book, OUR JOURNEY TO HEAVEN:

    Stillness is so closely related to prayer that I would like to say they are one and the same! To be still is to be in prayer. To be in prayer is to be awake, aware and connected.

    Centering prayer as taught by Father Thomas Keating is an excellent method. It is an updated method continuing the Christian tradition of contemplative prayer, or "resting in God." The foundation for effective centering prayer is Lectio Divina. Keating writes: "Lectio Divina is the most traditional way of cultivating friendship with Christ. It is a way of listening to the texts of scripture as if we were in conversation with Christ and he were suggesting the topics of conversation. The daily encounter with Christ and reflection on his word leads beyond mere acquaintanceship to an attitude of friendship, trust and love."

    There are many other great practices for prayer. I have already mentioned yoga as taught by Erich Schiffmann. I will point out other practices as we go along. This is so important. Praying is the gateway, the road, the key to heaven. But it is important to say that prayer is a gift from God. We practice prayer as we simply pay attention to God as often as we possibly can and with as much mindfulness as we can possibly muster.

    The achievement of constant prayer means that praying is more than something we need to do in the morning or evening or mealtime or at other selected times. It is something we need to do all the time, at this time, at all times. I suggest that when you catch yourself not praying, that's the moment you are praying in the now moment (at this time). Don't judge yourself for not praying in the past or future, but rejoice that you are now praying! Sooner or later the moment will encompass all moments. That's when you have arrived n heaven. Heaven is being aware, aware and connected right here, right now.

    There is no past or future in Heaven. It is always now and it is always complete. How do I know this? I don't know. I believe. I hope. I am creating the new, most holy, glorious, fantastic realm of abundance, joy, wisdom, beauty, love, truth, peace, justice and freedom. So are you. We all are. God is.

    The name of God is beyond our knowing. But heaven invites us to use a name and receive heavenly wisdom and power. One name that is very powerful and well attested as a divine name in many traditions is I AM.. One way to use the name I AM is to say I AM and then finish the sentence in an endless variety of ways. I believe there is no limit to what we can do under the powerful name of God. The possibilities are infinite. I AM is a powerful name because it is so open and creative. When I am still, I am.

    When I am still, I am creating the new, most holy, glorious, fantastic realm of abundance, joy, wisdom, beauty, love, truth, peace, justice and freedom.

    THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2004 + partly sunny and cold

    + Here are 5 more paragraphs of my book, OUR JOURNEY TO HEAVEN:

    When I am still, I am awake. Waking up to the greater reality is, as Kafka points out, nothing less than ecstasy. A COURSE IN MIRACLES contrasts our ego state of sleeping to our true self state of wakefulness. Buddha means the awakened one. He woke up under the bo tree when he realized a stillness or higher energy state which is attainable by everyone since we are all born with Buddha nature. Christ offers us the peace which is "beyond our understanding." To be awake is to reach a whole new state of awareness.

    When I am still, I am aware. The Buddhist concept of mindfulness comes to mind! I don't miss all the things I've been missing. We resist this state of mind for many reasons. We are afraid of becoming aware of so many things that bother us, threaten us, confuse us, even hurt us. It takes courage to continue moving toward this stillness, this higher energy state, this greater reality of heaven. Become aware of all the help there is when your awareness encounters discomfort and pain. There are friends and guides and colleagues who want nothing less than to offer assistance. They can't take away the pain, but they can help us deal with the pain. These guides and friends are both living creatures (usually human!) and mysterious heavenly beings in various forms. I believe that even the entities which seem to oppose us are our friends and guides and colleagues!

    When I am still, I am connected. I like to call this earthly and heavenly support system the Heavenly Council. It is everywhere and it is setting things up for our success in all things. Most of us pay far too little attention to this support system. Coincidences are always happening and we miss most of them. In THE CELESTINE PROPHECY, James Redfield calls the awareness of coincidences the first insight.

    When I am still, I am awake, aware and connected. I am new and fresh and spontaneous. I am really alive. I am amazed. I am grateful. I am awash in amazing grace. It is wonderful. All my complaints vanish into thin air. There is nothing left but blessing upon blessing. I no longer perceive the earth as a place of scarcity where there's never enough. Instead I perceive abundance everywhere and there's always more than enough. I am satisfied. I am always satisfied. Wonder upon wonder. Grace upon grace.

    Are you still yet? Are we still yet? Am I still yet? This is the heavenly state, the blissful state, the real state. Let's go. Let's get there.

    WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2004 + partly sunny and seasonably cold

    + Here are a few more paragraphs on STILLNESS for my book, OUR JOURNEY TO HEAVEN:

    As I become still I become me! More mysteriously, I become you, too ... and all creation. It doesn't make sense to anyone who remains committed to the generally accepted world view. It doesn't make sense to me. But I choose to pay attention to this impulse, this desire, this demand, this destiny. It makes no sense and it makes all the sense in the universe! It isn't logical but it is logical. Too many people have explored this territory and found it to be true. It is indeed, as Erich Schiffman says, "a higher energy state than what we're used to."

    One option, not the only option by any means, for reading this book and taking it to heart is to stay with this discipline of stillness for a while before you read on. It is so important to learn how to be still. We certainly can't reach heaven without achieving this "higher energy state." So, perhaps you should put down this book right now and pick up Erich Schiffmann's MOVING INTO STILLNESS. It's a highly acclaimed and comprehnsive guide to Yoga.

    I don't know about you, but I resist this discipline. Putting this book out on the abundancetrek blog is one way for me to be accountable to you, to the universe, to all creation, to God. I want to be still. You are holding me accountable and I want you to do so. On my very public blog, I am reporting my progress. I will also report at the end of this book and possibly at times in the chapters that follow.

    I really enjoy working on my website, abundancetrek.com and the blog. It is loaded with links to all kinds of spiritual and peace and justice oriented websites and other resources for the journey. I have found that I improve it the most when I practice stillness and move into that "higher energy state."

    As I write this book, this discipline of stillness will continue to be a major theme throughout all the chapters. I intend to get better and better at it. I hope and expect that the book will be strengthened enormously as I practice this discipline. If I don't practice stillness, then I will never publish the book beyond my website because I will not have practiced what I preach. Up until now in my life, I would give myself about a B minus and that's not good enough for me or for you.

    Instead of asking the question over and over again, "Are we there yet?" I will ask "Am I still yet?"

    TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2004 + sunny and even warmer with the mid-40s expected

    + My friend Ted spent some time recently dealing with cancer and he has just written this poem reflecting on his experience:

    GRACE

    Where is Grace found?

    Can it be found in a dark stool?
    In the directive to "go to the ER"?
    In the admission to the hospital and being connected to an IV?

    Where is Grace found?

    Is it found in an upper and lower GI?
    Is it found in the CAT scan?
    Is it found in all the blood work and breathing test?

    Where is Grace found?

    Is it in meeting the oncologist? The oncology nurse?
    Is it in the PET scan?
    Is it found at the second G.I. doctor's office and in his nurse's hug and words,
    "You will be fine!"?

    Where is Grace found?

    Is it at Metro at 6:30 AM in the esophageal ultrasound?
    Is it at the tumor conference of doctors?
    Is in their tied decision to operate or medicate?

    Where is Grace found?

    Is it in the tears of scare? The fear of death?
    Is it in the decision to operate now -
    "Let us get that thing out of there!"

    Where is Grace found?

    Is it in the strength of a loving wife, accompanying each step?
    Is it in the response of three sons - each offering himself, being at my side, and his gifts freely?

    Where is Grace found?

    Is it in the love of friends with their words of encouragement?
    Is it in the many, many cards and notes and prayers of well-wishes?
    Is it in the prayers for healing by congregations and prayer groups?

    My Friends and Loved Ones,

    Grace is found in all of these experiences.
    What else can I call this whole experience?

    The cardiologist said that I was very lucky.
    I say that "I have been blessed, and grace has abounded!"

    ---TAB

    + I found another interesting website on goddess spirituality.

    + I found an interesting personal new age website > http://members.aol.com/inoffence/

    + I found another website devoted to WORLDPEACE.

    + I forget what I was searching for but I found the website of the Heart Political Party.

    + I rediscovered the website of the celestial guides, Orin and DaBen who are channeled by Sanaya Roman and Duane Packer.

    + 4 more paragraphs from my book, OUR JOURNEY TO HEAVEN, follow:

    Our journey to heaven is completed when heaven becomes our only goal. A few saints have achieved this state of mind while still living on earth. I am not one of them but I'm working on it because I believe that all humans, indeed all creatures, are called to work on it. Until we reach that state of mind, we are confined to a world where we experience too much scarcity (the opposite of abundance), pain (the opposite of joy), foolishness (the opposite of wisdom), ugliness (the opposite of beauty), hate (the opposite of love), falsehood (the opposite of truth), war (the opposite of peace), oppression (the opposite of justice) and bondage (the opposite of freedom) in our minute-to-minute lives. I believe that the goal can be reached while we are still on earth if we can develop a minute-to-minute discipline which includes increasingly large doses of stillness, silence, solitude, simplicity, discernment, devotion, detachment, delight, humility, healing, holiness and heavenliness. Once again, I believe there is some kind of mysterious logical order to these twelve disciplines.

    Stillness comes first. When we can become still, we become awake, aware and connected. We stop feeling so separated from our sisters and brothers and the rest of creation. We become one with creation. We become our true self. The switch from plural to singular is intentional. In stillness, our individual egos are overcome by the community unity of the whole universe. This is taught by all the great wisdom traditions. Some of us call it the perennial philosophy. Some of us call it mysticism. By whatever name, it is the truth. We are all one! When we are in heaven, we know this to be true and we are glad in it.

    "Stillness," writes Erich Schiffmann, "is a higher energy state than what we're used to." / Read more. / Franz Kafka says that when you become still, "... the world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice. It will roll in ecstasy at your feet." / Dom John Main said: "The wonderful beauty of prayer is that the opening of our heart is as natural as the opening of a flower. To let a flower open and bloom it is only necessary to let it be; so if we simply are, if we become and remain still and silent, our heart cannot but be open, the Spirit cannot but pour through into our whole being. It is for this that we have been created." / Read more.

    Since I do believe in the power of being still so much, I am disciplining myself to practice stillness in many situations including my writing. If this book becomes useful to a few readers, it will be because I have learned more and more about how to be still. Did I do my yoga this morning? No! So, off I go to do my yoga.

    + from alternet.org > A PROGRESSIVE'S GUIDE TO POPULIST ECONOMICS - by G. Pascal Zachary - Can Democrats present a progressive economic program that is also politically popular? The outcome of the presidential election may turn on this crucial question. AlterNet's economic primer outlines the core economic principles that distinguish progressive Democrats from profligate Republicans, and offers seven concrete actions that will promote economic equity and make a difference in the lives of ordinary Americans. Read the article.

    + I just found this great quote at denniskucinich.us > In an essay for a Marianne Williamson book, Dennis Kucinich wrote: "Our greatest challenges are spiritual at their source: a misunderstanding of power, the heavy burden of unrelieved materialism, fear of death. If all that government does is address symptoms, we will always be dissatisfied with the government. Government itself must be moved to a higher level of thought, to a quickened cognizance of its generative role as a convener of consciousness for the country."

    MONDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2004 + sunny and warmer

    + Joy Manne wrote I BREATHE FOR AMERICA soon after the 9/11 attack.

    + Perhaps I will include my book writing on the blog from now on. It seems like a good idea since I want this book to be OUR journey to heaven and YOUR journey to heaven and not just MY journey to heaven. I would love to hear from you with comments and suggestions and additions, etc. So here goes:

    You and I are on a journey to Heaven. We need each other. I believe that no one gets to Heaven alone. I believe that we all get to Heaven together or nobody gets there. So, this book is about our journey together. I offer some resources and I ask you to do the same. This book is a joint effort and your contribution is not only welcome but necessary.

    I have some definite ideas about what heaven looks like and feels slike and I'm sure you do too. I believe Heaven is the most holy, glorious, fantastic realm of abundance, joy, wisdom, beauty, love, truth, peace, justice and freedom. Notice that the centering word of these nine words describing heaven is LOVE. I will say more about that later. For now, I just want to point out that there is some kind of mysterious logic which puts those nine words in the order that they are in.

    I belong to a personality type - INFP -- which believes that logic is optional. I believe that logic can sidetrack us in our effort to reach heaven. So, this journey we are on has a definite destination in mind (heaven) but I can't offer a clear, logical map for getting there. I don't think anybody can. There will certainly be some logic on this journey because I am willing to admit that logic is not optional in certain situations! Perhaps you will be the one who offers logic when these situations come up. They seem to come up more often than I would like to admit!

    There is some kind of order to this book but it might not always be clear. I simply can not confine myself write in categories. It just doesn't work for me! However I am working on the belief that heaven can only br reached as we individually and collectively learn how to pray and to ultimately learn how to pray without ceasing. I believe that when that moment comes, whenever that moment comes, we are in heaven.

    Let's begin by collecting as many resources as possible for praying keeping in mind that real prayer is life itself in all of its glorious fullness. I can't overemphasize this. When we are really praying, we are really in heaven.

    Since it is life we are talking about, let's begin with breathing. Teachers of wisdom, both ancient and modern, teach us how to breathe properly because good breathing makes for a good life, a spiritual life, an authentic life. Becoming aware of our breathing patterns and improving upon them is absolutely necessary so we might as well begin now. Perhaps it can be said that ot learn how to pray is to learn hopw to breathe. Fortunately, we don't have to reinvent the wheel. There are many excellent resources available. Since I am Christian and most of us are Christian or have a Christian background or at least live in a society where Christianity is predominant, I begin Christian resources. I do not believe that Christianity is better than any other religion. How would I know? It works for me. But, as you will see, I love the wisdom from all the religions and traditions that humanity has ever developed. I will have more to say about that.

    + I'm working on a book about our journey to heaven. I'm focusing now on breathing. Christianity has an ancient tradition called the breath prayer which is being rediscovered. Here are some Breath Prayer links > http://www.the-record.org/0207/breath.html | http://www.stmatts.com/Worship/BreathPrayer.htm | http://www.rscj.org/news/leadership/0503anotherbreathprayer.html

    + I just found this item at the Dennis Kucinich blog site. It goes back to an early December debate. Kucinich points out so clearly how we all get so misguided by the media.> Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe reports DENNIS KUCINICH got off the best line of the debate last night. Asked by Ted Koppel about Al Gore's endorsement of front-runner Howard Dean, Kucinich deadpanned: "I can't say I was really counting on it." Kucinich also got the most applause of any candidate last night. To Koppel's query about when the candidates who are low on money and low in the polls would drop out, Kucinich shot back: "You see where the media takes these campaigns?" First they make us talk about endorsements, then they ask about polls, then about money. "When do we talk about issues?" Read the story.

    SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2004 + windy after a lot of freezing rain

    FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2004 + 6 inches of snow by noon followed by wintry mix

    + BREATHE!

    THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2004 + sunny and cold

    + Jim Wallis of SOJOURNERS describes and decries the Super Bowl sleaze found both in the ads and the halftime show. Excerpts: "Next year, put your kids to bed BEFORE the Super Bowl." / "You want to know why people join the Religious Right? It may have less to do with wanting to take over the country than being desperate to protect their kids from the crass trash and degrading banality that media conglomerates like Viacom (which owns both CBS and MTV) seem to think is just fine family entertainment for Super Bowl night.

    + I just discovered that the UMass Medical School has a Center for Mindfulness.

    + Erich Schiffman's MOVING INTO STILLNESS website is comprehensive, interesting and includes his book, MOVING INTO STILLNESS. He is a great yoga teacher.

    + Erich Schiffman's MOVING INTO STILLNESS egroup is comprehensive, interesting and fun.

    + Bread for the World is doing a lot to bring justice and bread to the world.

    + BREATHE!

    + BREATHE!

    + BREATHE!

    + BREATHE!

    + Walter Cronkite supports MediaChannel.org.

    WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2004 + Cloudy and breezy after about 6 inches of wintry mix - heavy! But I cleared off the driveway and Gracie's backyard area by 9:00.

    + I just found this article at Christianity.About.com > Instead of War. In the summer (2003) issue of CrossCurrents, Timothy McElwee, who teaches Peace Studies at Manchester College, takes on the oldest and most widely cited clichéé of international relations, "if you want peace, prepare for war." He suggests, the exact opposite is true. You get what you prepare for. And if it's peace we want, we need to invest in "a global peace system."

    + 3 INFP personal websites > http://www.geocities.com/dorareever79/Index.html | http://www.geocities.com/valerieconsoli/ | http://www.geocities.com/bookaficionado/

    + Christianity.about.com has some interesting information about world religions including a map of the world showing where the 12 most popular religions are concentrated.

    + Kerry won 5 of the 7 primaries or caucuses held yesterday (DE, ND, MO, NM, AZ). Edwards won 1 (SC) and came close in another but I think Clark nosed him out in Oklahoma.

    TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 2004 + cloudy with snow or sleet or freezing rain or rain or all of that wintry mix expected tonight

    + I discovered a great personal website created by the book afficionado. She is an INFP like me! One of her pages has an excellent INFP description.

    + Joseph R. Glove offers some great thinking about a favorite topic of mine > abundance.

    + BREATHE!

    + I just overhauled the ABUNDANCETREK LINKS PAGE. It has 6 categories > THIS WEBSITE AND RELATED SITES | SPIRITUAL WEBSITES | PEACE & JUSTICE | PERSONAL INTEREST | MEDIA | WEB.

    + Last night we rented PLAYING BY HEART, a 1998 movie about love and relationships. I thought it was quite inspiring and authentic. Of course I must admit I find Angelina Jolie quite attractive and talented.

    MONDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2004 + sunny and warmer. Going up to high 30s.

    + Gene TeSelle of the Witherspoon Society offers compelling criticism of US policy in Latin America as our SOA Watch colleagues who engaged in civil disobedience are sent to prison.

    + On Saturday, February 14, the Coffeehouse of St. James' Episcopal Church, Greenfield, presents BROOKS WILLIAMS.

    SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2004 + chilly, breezy, sunny

    + I fell twice today during cross-country skiing at Northfield Mountain. Minor scrapes. But it was a beautiful day and I mastered all the hills on the "easiest trails."

    FRIDAY, JANUARY 29, 2004 + cold & partly sunny

    + About.Christianity.Com reveals the top ten religious stories of 2003.

    + The Social Justice Outreach Commission of the Church of Reconciliation in Chapel Hill NC offered this hopeful statement last month > "I still believe that people are really good at heart... I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever-approaching thunder; ... and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think it will all come out right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again." - Anne Frank "I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will bless them and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary among them forevermore." Ezekiel 37:26

    + In a NY TIMES column, Paul Krugman takes the Bush administration to task on their accountability.

    THURSDAY, JANUARY 29, 2004 + partly sunny, windy with some flurries

    + Nothing To Preempt is a TomPaine article by Ray McGovern, a 27-year career analyst with the CIA, who is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and co-director of the Servant Leadership School, an outreach ministry in the inner city of Washington, DC.

    WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 28, 2004 + About 5 inches of snow fell between midnight and 9 A.M. Another inch or 2 is expected.

    + Here's a great SOULBOOSTER from Spiritualty&Health >

    "Many years ago, I read about a study in which people from different walks of life were asked: What is the most profound way you feel loved? The number one response was: 'When someone's really listening.'" -- Mary Manin Morrissey in No Less Than Greatness

    To Practice This Thought: Give someone your undivided attention.

    See all Soul Boosters | Sign up to receive Soul Boosters by e-mail

    + It's 1:30 P.M. and still snowing lightly.

    + I called CBS to register my frustration with their censorship of the moveon.org ad during the Superbowl.

    + I just discovered Awakening 101, a comprehensive web course on Buddhist centering practices.

    + Jason Sutter's blog offers a link to a video comparison between Dean and Bush.

    + The snow continues to fall at 11 A.M. It sure is a beautiful sight! Maybe I can go x-country skiing at nearby Northfield Mountain for the first time.

    + In a recent column, David Broder hit the nail on the head as he described the two visions of America which are colliding with each other in the coming elections.

    TUESDAY, JANUARY 27, 2004 + Cold & Cloudy with a snow storm on the way.

    + As you probably know, I am quite interested in politics and see the need for spiritual people to be quite involved in politics. But then I go to my Dailyzen and read this:

    The shade of noble trees
    Spreads in all directions
    Below the trees a tiny
    Hut is perfectly secluded
    Beyond the sound of cart
    Or horse or sign of human tracks
    All day behind my door
    I sit alone cross-legged.
    - Han-shan Te-ch'ing (1546-1623)

    How do I integrate that kind of belief which is so much a part of me now with a desire to be politically active? I went to my search engine and discovered that Han-shan Te-ch'ing WAS involved in politics! I guess I need to read more about that!

    + Are you concerned about the growing gap between the wealthy and the poor and what is your solution? Do you think the neocons are concerned? I know you can find rhetoric which suggests they are concerned but I don't see them doing anything to really change things for the poor. Point to actions not words where the neocons are actually closing the gap between the rich and the poor. It seems to me that Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose have it right when they write (in BUSHWHACKED):

    "Capitalism is a marvellous system for creating wealth. On the other hand, unregulated capitalism creates hideous social injustice and promptly destroys itself with greed. A marketplace needs rules. From the very beginning, capitalism has required careful regulation. In the market towns of medieval England there were as many as twenty or thirty laws governing just the balance scales, and whether you could put your thumb or any other digit on the scale. Mostly what we've learned from the American experiment is that competition is good, but we need rules because people cheat. And there are some natural monopolies that need regulation or they end up in cartels that rip everybody off."

    It seems to me that the deregulation frenzy has not really helped most Americans or citizens of the earth for that matter. The top ten or twenty per cent of us are doing better than ever while the masses are getting less and less of the pie. What can be done? That's where I want to put a lot of my energy for the rest of my life. I mean finding ways to close that gap. Too many people are working too hard and not getting much of anything as a reward for their hard work. Not to mention all those who aren't working hard because they simply can't find a job unless perhaps they are willing to move hundreds or even thousands of miles away from home.

    + A Google Search on "abundancetrek" - http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&q=abundancetrek - led me to renew communication with my old cyberfriend, Richard > http://rrpowell.homestead.com. And, I'm discovering other links (below) because of this search today > http://www.acim-the5minutebook.com/index.html > Jerry Sears, ACIM teacher. He recommends my website!! | http://www.godspace.com/pages/773066/index.htm > another Jerry Sears recommended website | http://rsci.org/ > Morristown NJ church of religious science | http://www.onespiritinterfaith.org/ > a seminary!! (in NYC) | http://liberalslikechrist.org/index.htm > a progressive Christian website

    MONDAY, JANUARY 26, 2004 + frigid air continues here in western massachusetts

    + Yesterday, as I was listening to NPR station WAMC while driving on the MassPike, I discovered Harry Shearer's le show. It's fantastic! It features great humor combined with a strong progressive political viewpoint.

    + "The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do." ---- Samuel P. Huntington (quote found at the Salam Pax blog homepage)

    + Is the growing deficit a problem? See what the NOW with Bill Moyers website says.

    + The School of the Americas Watch reports that General Wesley Clark has been an ardent supporter of the school.

    + Zogby.com publishes daily tracking polls during this election year. Zogby has an excellent track record for picking up the latest trends.

    + The website of the PBS show NOW with Bill Moyers has lots of information about global warming which was discussed on their last program.

    + The Red State / Blue State divide is closely analyzed by Newhouse News Service reporter Mark O'Keefe. The Springfield REPUBLICAN printed this article yesterday.

    + The Economic Policy Institute reports that "jobs are shifting from higher-paying to lower-paying industries." The PBS program NOW with Bill Moyers brought this to my attention.

    SATURDAY, JANUARY 24 + Very Cold. Low around zero F. and high only in teens F.

    + NELSON, a blogger, pointed out this great link > MARS PANORAMA. WOW!

    + Because of global warming we must SAY GOOD BYE TO TUVALU, a Pacific island nation. The GUARDIAN reported this in October 2001 and NELSON, a blogger, picked it up.

    + I got my red and blue mixed up yesterday. And my first correction a few minutes ago made it even worse! So I actually had to use my search engine to get it right! Blue=Democrat states. Red=Republican states. Now I will correct my MESSAGE FOR THE TREK 1/23/04. I not only corrected it but I also added this: I'm glad I live in a blue state geographically and have a blue state of mind! But I try to respect red state people. That's not so easy when the red state people don't respect us blue state people.

    FRIDAY, JANUARY 23 + Cold

    + I have been offering MESSAGES FOR THE TREK since September 1, 2002 and I invite you to read them all! Ordinarily, I emphasize spiritual formation rather than political concerns but I am also reminded that Gandhi and Martin Luther Ling and many other great spiritual guides considered political involvement necessary and sacred..

    + MESSAGE FOR THE TREK (totally corrected and modified on 1/24/04) >

    Does America have to choose between a "red state" future and a "blue state" future? The red states voted Republican in the last presidential election and the blue states voted Democratic. The blue states are clustered in the Northeast and West Coast. The red states are clustered in the rest of the West and the South. The Midwest is up for grabs. Women are blue. Men are red. We split 50-50 in 2000 and many believe a repeat is possible this year. It seems to me that Bush and the Republican Congress have done very little to show they respect or understand the blue state consciousness. This is especially true since "nine eleven" and the 2002 mid-term election which tilted us slightly toward the red.

    I believe that the blue state consciousness emphasizes community responsibility toward each individual while the red state consciousness emphasizes individual responsibility toward the community. My own feeling is that the red and the blue are both needed. But many people who subscribe to one consciousness or the other believe we should go only their way. I would hope that we can find a way to respect and understand both of these states of consciousness. In other words, I hope we can find a way for a win/win situation to emerge. I would like to figure out some ways to do this. If you agree with me that this is possible, please let me know your ideas.

    I blog frequently on THE ABUNDANCETREK BLOG. I will try to keep this goal in mind. If it seems like I lean to the blue state consciousness, that's because the red state consciousness has increasing control of all 3 branches of the government and more and more of the media and corporations and churches and synagogues and mosques. It seems to me that people with the red state consciousness are acting more and more like they can ignore and repudiate and even repress the people with the blue state consciousness. I'm glad I live in a blue state geographically and have a blue state of mind! But I try to respect red state people. That's not so easy when the red state people don't respect us blue state people.

    I invite you to bookmark THE ABUNDANCETREK BLOG (i.e., make it a favorite place). Please keep your ideas and suggestions coming.

    + NEW AT THE THEATERS: Reviewers like TOUCHING THE VOID.

    + NEW DVD/VHS: Reviewers like SPELLBOUND, OPEN RANGE, ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO and CABIN FEVER.

    THURSDAY, JANUARY 22, 2003 + still cold with even more frigid air on the way.

    + from TomPaine.com > Jim Wallis of Sojourners says Faith Matters and it should matter to the Democrats.

    + NEW MOVIES: TEACHERS PET and CRIMSON GOLD are fresh tomatoes. NEW VIDEO RELEASES: SWIMMING POOL and BUFFALO SOLDIERS are fresh tomatoes.

    + AN AD IN SOJOMAIL > "I Will Feed Them with Justice," Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice, March 5-8, 2004, in Washington, D.C. Sponsored by a broad range of denominations and faith-based coalitions, the gathering will offer tracks on Africa, Asia (Korea), Latin America (Colombia), the Middle East (Israel, Palestine, and Iraq), economic justice, and nuclear disarmament, and will feature Sam Kobia, Syngman Rhee, Bernice Powell Jackson, and Jim Winkler. Contact Leon Spencer, (202) 547-7503; Anna Rhee, advocacydays@earthlink.net; http://www.advocacydays.org

    WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 21, 2003 + Sunny & Cold

    + The ZOGBY TRACKING POLL shows that Bush is quite vulnerable.

    + Because I was so impressed by Kucinich last night, I just ordered his book called A PRAYER FOR AMERICA from DEMOCRATS.COM.

    + I just learned about the IEAMERICA RADIO NETWORK which includes a daily Marianne Williamson talk show from 3 to 5 P.M. The network has a full schedule. You can listen right now!

    + A Department of Peace: We can make it happen!

    + We are only 50 miles from Mt. Snow Valley in the Green Mountains of Vermont. We enjoyed a couple of days of x-country skiing and snowshoeing.

    + I believe that Dennis Kucinich is a very principled candidate for President. He offers a vision and solutions in a recent interview > http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=17567. I heard him last night in nearby Keene NH and was quite impressed. He spoke extemporaneously from the heart as well as the head. I could see his mind groping for wisdom and knowledge. The audience greeted him with cheers when appropriate and deep, reverent silence when appropriate. He pointed out that the presence of everyone in the room was important and contributed to making it "sacred space." He clearly groks many of the paradigm shifts of recent decades.

    That's probably why Marianne Williamson supports his candidacy. I saw her speak in nearby Greenfield MA last Friday.

    + I intend to pay attention to the SPIRITUALITY AND HEALTH picks for 10 best spiritual films of 2003 as I rent films.

    SATURDAY, JANUARY 17 + We have reached 30 F. and it's sunny with no wind. Yesterday's low was -10 and the high was 10 and it was windy.

    + http://www.xcountryski-vermont.com/ > Vermont x-country skiing information.

    + http://www.prospectmountain.com/old.html > where we plan to go x-country skiing tomorrow.

    + http://www.alexandrainn.com/ > the Brattleboro VT B&B where we are staying tomorrow night.

    THURSDAY, JANUARY 15 + Bitterly Cold in Massachusetts! We are still below zero F. at noon.

    + Senator Kennedy gave a speech yesterday, January 14, highly critical of the Bush foreign policy, particularly the war in Iraq.

    + There will be a trial on January 26 for those who trespassed last November at Fort Benning protesting the School of the Americas ( School of Assassins). The Army actually blasted loud music for 6 hours to try to disrupt the annual demonstration by thousands of SOA opponents. They stopped because of a public outcry against their tactics. Free speech is a right which must be defended at all times. SOA WATCH has plenty of information.

    THURSDAY, JANUARY 8, 2004 + Cold in North Carolina. I'm visiting family and friends here while Massachusetts suffers sub-zero frigidity!

    + A recent Karen Armstrong article in the GUARDIAN reminds us that religions often support violence because, after all, religions are established by aggressive human beings. The Witherspoon Society pointed this one out.

    SUNDAY, JANUARY 4, 2004 + Sunny morning followed by cloudy afternoon and rainy night

    + MILLENNIUM MAMBO is a fresh tomato. And so is SO CLOSE. Qi Shu stars in both of these movies.

    + MotherJones has an article evaluating the Bush presidency's empire building record during 2003 > Good Riddance by Tom Engelhardt.

    + deelectbush.com believes Bush is a very dangerous president and must be defeated in November.



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