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Archive for July, 2009

Standing up to prejudice

Standing up to prejudice

In the category of “something to pray for” . . .

I was watching the ABC Nightly News last Thursday night when they showed a story about the terrible prejudice and violence raging between the Uighurs and the Han in China. The images were particularly awful – men and women with bloody faces, people crying. Horrible. Particularly striking was the still photo of a single Uighur woman, whose husband and brothers had been arrested and taken no one knows where, standing up to the Chinese soldiers. You can see video of this story here.

How easy it is to say, “That is terrible. But it isn’t here.” But you only had to watch the very next story to have that shoved right back in your face.

The next story was about a community swimming pool in suburban Pennsylvania that had a contract with an inner city day camp to allow its children – almost all of the African-American – to use the pool one or two days a week. When the children showed up, white people got out of the pool and made comments about how the black children might steal from them, etc. You know the kind of thing. I won’t honor them with repeating those foul ideas here. Then, in what must surely be the worst case of tin ear in a decade, a spokesperson for the swimming pool issued a statement saying because they worried that the black children might “change the complexion” of their pool, they were returning the camp’s money and canceling their contract. You can watch video of this story here.

It does happen here. Everyday. Everywhere – despite the election of the first African-American president, the nomination of the first Latina to the Supreme Court, the first whatever. Watch these two stories. Look at the faces of the Uighur woman who has endured state-sponsored racism and the little boy who was told he wasn’t good enough to swim with the white folks. Then, in the coming week,  let’s all offer this prayer for tolerance and understanding taken from the Islamic tradition:

IN THE NAME OF GOD, THE COMPASSIONATE, THE MERCIFUL, look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the controversial teachings of arrogance, divisions and hatreds which have badly infected our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; reunite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish Your purposes on earth; that, in Your good time, all nations and races may jointly serve You in justice, peace and harmony.

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Metta Prayers

In response to one of my last posts, a reader named Jan Lundy sent the following nice comment:

“I so appreciate this post and the heart and candor you put into your writing. I also appreciate the prayer you’ve shared by Rabbi Rami. Yes, may we pray for all those who are suffer through the loss of a loved one. For all those who suffer. Whatever beads we use, prayer forms we use (I do metta), may our hearts be inclined toward the One within the all. May you be blessed…”

I had never heard of “metta” – at least not by that name. So I emailed Jan back and asked for an explanation and how it might be prayer bead friendly. I got such a great and informative response, I asked Jan’s permission to share with you. Here is some of what she said:

“Metta is a form of loving-kindness prayer/meditation rooted in the Buddhist tradition. It is very powerful and transformative. Because so many of the beloved Buddhist teachers today use and teach metta in an inter-spiritual way, the practice is finding its way into many hearts.”

The she provided this link for a description of metta. Then she continues:

“I wrote about my ‘discovery’ of this prayer practice in my book, Your Truest Self. If you are open to those of other traditions, you may find it quite lovely. It would work well with prayer beads…

“As for myself, I was raised in the Christian tradition, but today consider myself a truly inter-spiritual person with definite Eastern leanings. I am an Interfaith Spiritual Director trained through the Dominican Center in Grand Rapids, MI,  a blessedly, open and hospitable learning environment. I often teach “metta” in my classes there and even offer it on retreats for Christian women—if they are open to it.”

Jan included her website, her blog, and sent me this wonderful excerpt of the book:

Exerpt from Your Truest Self

©2008, Janice Lynne Lundy

On metta…..

As I am learning from Mari, openheartedness to others can only happen in proportion to how openhearted we are to ourselves. She speaks to me of gentleness, kindness, self-compassion. There is a pattern here, a strong and sturdy thread of truth that weaves through all our languaging and traditions. No matter whether we call ourselves Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Sufi —or “nothing in particular, and at the same time everything,”as Mari does—it is all the same. Our journey into thesacred begins with our relationship with ourselves and ripples out from there. What other practices can we do to keep our hearts open to others? None, until our own hearts are open to what lies within them.

Metta, from the Buddhist tradition, is one such practice for the purpose of cultivating lovingkindness for ourselves and others. We begin by directing metta—lovingkindness—to ourselves first. Sitting quietly, we can mentally repeat, slowly and steadily, the following or similar phrases: “May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease.”1

Lovingkindness meditation consists primarily of connecting to the intention of wishing ourselves and others happiness. After a period of directing lovingkindness toward ourselves, we then bring to mind a dear one, someone in our life for whom we care deeply. We slowly repeat phrases of lovingkindness toward them:

“May you be happy.

May you be well.

May you be safe.

May you be peaceful and at ease.”

In time, we will find ourselves able to send our lovingkindness to others— friends, neutral others, difficult others, even enemies.

Finally, we direct lovingkindness to every single human being on earth. Buddhist teacher Sharon Salzberg tells us that this practice proceeds in a very structured way. Through repetition, with time and grace, “We open up our limits and extend our capacity for benevolence,” she says. “Through the power of this practice, we cultivate an equality of loving feeling toward ourselves and all beings.”2

I love this idea – that we have to direct the loving-kindness (the prayer) to ourselves before we can send it to another and then out to the whole world. I am going to try these prayers (“May I/you be happy,” etc) with my prayer beads. Give it a try and let me and Jan know what you think.

Thank you, Jan, for this wonderful exercise!

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Meet Taffy

Many of you sent me lovely comments and prayers following my post last March about the death our beloved dog, Bella. It was very difficult to lose her and I spent a good six weeks in a pretty bad depression. But my husband and I promised ourselves that when we returned from our May vacation, we would adopt another dog.

Readers, here she is . . . . . . TAFFY!

Taffy!

Taffy!

Taffy is a 7-month-old Belgian Malinois mix we adopted from our local animal shelter about three weeks ago. She was placed in their night deposit box, probably by her owner. She had a boo-boo on her nose, which is now almost all healed. I saw her the day she was processed and that’s all she wrote, as they say.

Taffy may have been a foreclosure dog. She came to us housebroken (with a few lapses), seemingly crate trained, and knowing a few hand signals. I don’t think was abused because she seems unafraid of everyone and everything.

The day Taffy came home

The day Taffy came home

Taffy is quite a handful. I have not had a puppy since I was a teenager. We are having a mouthing issue, but it is getting better. She is showing all the signs of being a wonderful, loving companion. She sleeps through the night in her crate, she loves to go to the dog park, and her favorite toy is a plush stump with three squeaky chipmunks she can pull out and wrassle with. We both love her and she loves us.

Taffy and String Dog

Taffy and String Dog

So that’s the update! Now, when you think of me writing, picture sweet little Taffy asleep somewhere nearby. Believe me, if she isn’t a asleep, I ain’t gettin’ nuthin done.

Okay, a couple more pictures below:

Taffy loves Terry

Taffy loves Terry

Running free at the dog park

Running free at the dog park

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CrownI think I missed a week in this category. It certainly wasn’t because there was a dearth of things worthy of our thoughts and prayers. Hardly. I just could not get past the media hype about Michael Jackson (you don’t really need me to make a hotlink for him, do you?) to find anything really meaningful to say there and then there’s the fact that we got a new puppy (!!!!!) and so now I am sleep deprived. Throw in a couple of deadlines . . . and anyway, those are my excuses.

But last night, lying in bed, I was catching up on some old New York Times newspapers and I came across an essay in the Sunday Styles section (always the first place I go on a Sunday because of its guilty pleasure combination of worthy writing about usually unworthy subjects). Anyway, the first thing I read in the section is the Modern Love essay. This is written each week by a different person and always has to do with the accommodations people make in their lives to find room for love – of a significant other, a child, a parent, a passion – anything. Usually, these are a good read. Once in a while they really suck. And occasionally, for me, they hit a home run. That happened last week in the June 28 issue of the paper.

In that day’s essay, “Raising a Princess Single-Handedly,” Simon Van Booy wrote about the way he and his four-year-old daughter are learning to live together as a family after the sudden death of his wife, her mother. This is a subject that hits home for me. As many of you know, I have two sons – but they are really my stepsons. I married their father after their mother died suddenly, just before Christmas. They boys were then 6 and 8. And I remember how they and their father tried to put their lives together after that lightning bolt. So when I read this piece, it really resonated as true.

I think it also struck me because today would have been my best friend’s 45th birthday. Happy Birthday, Darrell. I love you.

So this week, I ask that as we use our prayer beads, we say a round for all those who suffer the loss of a close family member or other dear loved one.  Here’s a prayer to get you started:

May we discover through pain and torment,
the strength to live with grace and humor.
May we discover through doubt and anguish,
the strength to live with dignity and holiness.
May we discover through suffering and fear,
the strength to move toward healing.
May it come to pass that we be restored to health and to vigor.
May Life grant us wellness of body, spirit, and mind.
And if this cannot be so, may we find in this transformation and passage
moments of meaning, opportunities for love
and the deep and gracious calm that comes
when we allow ourselves to move on.

– Rabbi Rami M. Shapiro (as posted on Beliefnet.com)

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I had the good fortune to visit two of my best friends in Austin, Tex the weekend before last and while my one friend, Chris, was working, my other friend, Lisa, and I hit the bead stores. Lisa is one of the most talented beaded jewelry designers I know and specializes in Japanese beading. You can see her blog here and her Etsy store here. Check ’em out.

Front room at Bead It

Front room at Bead It

One of the stores that Lisa and I went to is called Bead It and is located in South Austin – which, when Lisa, Chris and I went to school at the University of Texas was kinda a place you didn’t want to be in after dark. Here’s my main memory of that neighborhood – a buddy convinced me to go see our first X-rated movie there. Actually, my only X-rated movie. Yeesh.

But now, that part of town is hot and happenin’ and has all kinds of cool stores and boutiques – not the kind you need a million bucks to buy anything in, but the kind that remind you that Austin is still weird, still a bit on the wild side, still a place where you can get away from the strip mall mentality of much of the rest of the country. Bead It is the perfect embodiment of that.

Lisa and I were not looking for prayer beads, or prayer bead materials – which is probably

Zoe, the great sales associate

Zoe, the great sales associate

why we found one of the coolest rosaries I have ever seen. It seems that one of Bead It’s specialties is vintage beads, and there in the front case was a rosary, probably from the 1950’s or a bit earlier, that had directions written on each Our Father bead! Each Our Father Bead was three-sided – like a little Toblerone bar – reminding you of each mystery you should prayer for on a given day. It was like a 3-D rosary map! Very cool! Here’s a BIG picture. Click on it to see the whole thing:

Mapped out rosary

Mapped out rosary

They also had a small case of Tibetan pendants blessed by monks! Pretty cool, huh?

Tibetan prayer beads

Tibetan prayer beads
Rosary window

Rosary window

The store is in an old house and it was extremely fun to wander from room to room and dip through all the treats and treasures – some vintage, some not. They also have a great classroom, and while they do not have a rosary or prayer bead making class, they did have a rather fabulous display of rosaries in their window.

I also noticed that they had a really good collection of crosses and other pendants that would work well for prayer beads and rosaries. Some of the crosses I had never seen before – and I have seen a lot of crosses!

If you go to Austin, definitely check out this fine, funky store. Make a set of prayer beads or a rosary from vintage glass. We were helped by a lovely, young knowledgeable girl named Zoe, and Pake, the manager, or Sarah (the owner?) can also help you out. I plan to visit my friends in Austin again before the end of the year – I hope – and I am going back for sure. I just might have to have that vintage rosary.

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