Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘spiritual’

Bhakti-fest of Love

A wonderful quote about The Last Conception from the extraordinary Bliss Mistress and author, Edie Weinstein.

“The Last Conception” is a bhakti-fest of love and loss, hope and courage that comes in unexpected packages. Take a peek into the lives of an Indian-American family faced with an unusual demand of their medical professional unmarried daughter whose job and personal life intersect in unanticipated ways. Although happy endings are never guaranteed, it seems that one is in the offing for this savory literary masala.
Edie Weinstein, author of The Bliss Mistress Guide To Transforming the Ordinary Into the Extraordinary.

If you are unfamiliar with the story, here’s a brief description.

LastConception-CoverA successful embryologist (Savarna Sikand) must make difficult and life-changing choices. Should she continue devoting her soul to work and party with her girlfriend Magdalena or settle down with Charlemagne (Charley) and have children? If she decides to have children, how and when will they start the process and what will it take to convince her conservative East Indian mother to stop trying to marry her off to a “good man”? If that isn’t enough pressure, throw in the bomb her parents plant when they tell her she MUST have a baby because she is the last in line of a great spiritual teacher who reportedly never had children!

Available at: Melange Books and Amazon.

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Death Like the Old Movies

An excerpt from Good Grief: Love, Loss & Laughter.

I wish death happened like it used to in the old movies. You know, those deathbed scenes were everyone gathers around, makes amends, say their good-byes, and drift off with visions of God and the angels dancing in their eyes. But it rarely does. Deathbed conversions are few and far between.

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When death approaches, or has taken place, most people live their faith, their beliefs (or their disbelief) in a God, or the hereafter, the same as they have the rest of their lives. If they believe in some creative force that is more than what we can see, they continue to do so through sickness and loss. If they believe God has a plan for everything that happens, and that Jesus is their savior, they continue to do so until their dying breath. If someone feels that there is no God, supreme being or spiritual meaning for anything on earth, they hold on to that belief after their loved one’s body is buried deep in the ground.

A friend once told me, as their mother was dying, that no matter how hard she tried she couldn’t make herself believe the same as her mother had all her life. She desperately wished she could. She wanted to understand and connect with her mother before she passed on in a way she had never been able to. She said that for awhile she pretended to believe as her mother had, but she knew she was pretending. She even went to her mother’s church and read the same readings and scriptures, without any change of heart.

A client I met with for several months repeatedly expressed her frustration that her husband had never believed in God. She couldn’t understand how he had gone to his death without accepting God into his life. For over forty years she had tried to convert him and get him to go to church, always believing that someday he would see the spiritual light.

A member of my family had an understandably difficult time when my uncle killed himself, and sincerely worried about his soul, wondering if he was suffering as much after death as he had during life. They prayed that God would forgive my uncle and provide the serenity that had always seemed to be just beyond his reach. The only way they could make sense out of the tragedy was to believe that he was “in a better place”. They had always believed that God provides happiness and peace, and used that faith to provide personal comfort, safety and meaning.

Belief in God, a Great Spirit, Nature, Jesus, or some other religion or spiritual path, doesn’t mean that people don’t question, argue, bargain or get angry with that in which they believe.

A colleague of mine was enraged when her daughter was killed in a car accident. She felt like her religious tradition had lied to her. “How could a loving God let such a bad thing happen to such an innocent child?! How could He take her at such a young age?!” She still believed in God, but couldn’t make sense out of what had happened. “Somebody was responsible for this!” she said. “There has to be a reason!” She prayed to God for an answer. “But all I could hear was myself talking to the empty air,” she explained. “It took me years of asking ‘why’, begging for an answer, before God gave me the strength and understanding to live with not knowing.”

Another client blamed God for allowing her abusive ex-husband to survive and live with his alcoholism, while her hard-working, kind friend died from liver cancer. She overflowed with unanswerable questions. “Why didn’t that son-of-a-you-know-what get this awful disease instead? Why does my friend have to deal with this? What did she ever do? Why? Why? Why?” Her friend continued to work as long as possible, and remained true to her sweet loving self until her death a year and a half later.

As in most sweeping statements of finality there are exceptions. Occasionally someone reacts to death and loss differently than they have lived the rest of their lives.

A woman I interviewed a few years ago said she made a bargain with God and it changed her life. As the car she was driving hit a side rail on the freeway, and begin rolling over and over she said, “God, if you let me live to raise my young son I’ll dedicate my life to you.” She had never believed in God and didn’t know where that had come from, but she said she heard a voice answer her that said, “Yes”. She survived the accident, continued raising her son as a single parent, and never forgot her promise. Though she had always seen herself as a selfish person, she started thinking of others and became involved in a number of charities. When her son was killed ten years later she never wavered from her promise and used her son’s death to inspire her to do even more of “God’s work”.

Death and grief can crack open our hearts. They can change our perceptions of how we see the world. They can wake us up to the reality of pain and suffering in ways that we never thought possible. Within the midst of such grief and pain we can reach out for comfort, look within for guidance, and find compassion and forgiveness from our religion, community or sense of personal responsibility.

Mourning can be a catalyst for clarifying our values and deepening our understanding, but it doesn’t mean we will throw our beliefs out the window or change our spiritual faith. We need not despair over our usual conditioned human response to loss. There’s always an old movie with a good deathbed scene we can find at the video store, take home and imagine ourselves saying our good-byes, making last minute amends and being carried off to the heavens!

More support and stories at: Good Grief: Love, Loss and Laughter.

That Zany Grand Lady

586613838e010d433bacb209ce65ea56c69e859e-thumbFor those who are old enough to remember, the original Golden Girls sitcom was based on the real life teachings of that zany grand lady of Zen, Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba. 
Bettie Whyte, Actress, Comedienne, and Ageless Wonder

Gabriel Constans’ divine book about the humble Abbess can be used as a book of prayer, inspiration or before communing with the poor or the filthy rich. 
— Pope Fransis, Bishop of Romen

The story (so far):

This fictional short-story collection challenges our perceptions and illusions about religious masters, spiritual teachers, gurus, charlatans and holy men and women of all persuasions, while simultaneously tickling our funny bone and exercising the muscles our faces rely on for laughter. Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba takes liberty with questionable material from the living sea, near Egypt; tofu paper, in Okinawa; a tomb, in Italy; a shaman, in Ethiopia; and a half-sister, in India. The words, quotes, koans and stories, of this soon to be classical work, include the timeless insights of Let the Worm’s Go, Dead Food,  Reality Bites, Stealing the Buddha, Drip After Drip, Sound of One Eye, Catching Wind, Looking Good, My Cat’s Enlightened, Chocolate Box, and Sex, Drugs and Sushi Rolls.

The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire at Amazon.

Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba at Fountain Blue Publishing

Mohammad Ali In Drag

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Zen Master Tova Tarantiono Toshiba is a splendid collection of wit, women and wine. It reminds me of a night on the town with Mohammad Ali in drag.
Lady GaGaGa

This is a blessed book that can be read during the rapture or while burning in hell.
Rev. Paat Robertson

The story (so far):

This fictional short-story collection challenges our perceptions and illusions about religious masters, spiritual teachers, gurus, charlatans and holy men and women of all persuasions, while simultaneously tickling our funny bone and exercising the muscles our faces rely on for laughter. Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba takes liberty with questionable material from the living sea, near Egypt; tofu paper, in Okinawa; a tomb, in Italy; a shaman, in Ethiopia; and a half-sister, in India. The words, quotes, koans and stories, of this soon to be classical work, include the timeless insights of Let the Worm’s Go, Dead Food,  Reality Bites, Stealing the Buddha, Drip After Drip, Sound of One Eye, Catching Wind, Looking Good, My Cat’s Enlightened, Chocolate Box, and Sex, Drugs and Sushi Rolls.

The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire at Amazon.

Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba at Fountain Blue Publishing

Abbess of Satire

586613838e010d433bacb209ce65ea56c69e859e-thumbMy second newborn has just arrived, within a month from her sister’s birth (The Last Conception). Same father (me), but a different mother (Fountain Blue Publishing).  Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire, takes the classic Zen Flesh Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings, in an entirely new direction… right over the cliff and down the rabbit hole. Praise (and remorse) for these stories, from some famous, infamous, real and surreal, individuals follows (below). Hope you enjoy her “wisdom” as much as I did discovering her.

This fictional short-story collection challenges our perceptions and illusions about religious masters, spiritual teachers, gurus, charlatans and holy men and women of all persuasions, while simultaneously tickling our funny bone and exercising the muscles our faces rely on for laughter. Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba takes liberty with questionable material from the living sea, near Egypt; tofu paper, in Okinawa; a tomb, in Italy; a shaman, in Ethiopia; and a half-sister, in India. The words, quotes, koans and stories, of this soon to be classical work, include the timeless insights of Let the Worm’s Go, Dead Food,  Reality Bites, Stealing the Buddha, Drip After Drip, Sound of One Eye, Catching Wind, Looking Good, My Cat’s Enlightened, Chocolate Box, and Sex, Drugs and Sushi Rolls.

Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba at Fountain Blue Publishing
 
Praise and Remorse for Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

Enlightenment or laughs? With Gabriel Constans’ book you don’t have to choose. Zen masters usually have a sense of humor, or need one. Gabriel’s got it, and he gives us a world of illusions to laugh about.
Bob Fenster, author of Duh: The Stupid History of the Human Race

This is a blessed book that can be read during the rapture or while burning in hell.
Rev. Paat Robertson

World leaders and politicians could learn a thing or two from the teachings of Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba. She understood and transformed the inspiring, Yes. No. Maybe, into Yes, we can, long before its use in politics.
President Ohlama

The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire at Amazon.

Zen Master Tova Tarantiono Toshiba is a splendid collection of wit, women and wine. It reminds me of a night on the town with Mohammad Ali in drag.
Lady GaGaGa

There are no teachings that are outside of you, except the ones inside this book. Unless, of course, you’ve eaten this book.
Bob Tzu, guru, avatar, wisdumb teacher at duhism.com

An incredible onslaught of insight and universal truth – like Yoda on estrogen.
George Lucus

Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba at Amazon Kindle.

An endearing and soul searching work that reveals hidden treasures of this infamous master and hysterically questionable abbess. My brother loves it.
Llama KanChew, Sister of the Dalai Lama

Gabriel Constans’ divine book about the humble Abbess can be used as a book of prayer, inspiration or before communing with the poor or the filthy rich.
Pope Fransis, Bishop of Romen

For those who are old enough to remember, the original Golden Girls sitcom was based on the real life teachings of that zany grand lady of Zen, Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba.
Bettie Whyte, Actress and Comedienne

The Suffering of Others

Trance of “Unreal Other”
by Tara Brach
From Tara Brach’s Blog
14 May 2014

The truth is: without a genuine willingness to let in the suffering of others, our spiritual practice remains empty.

Father Theophane, a Christian mystic, writes about an incident that happened when he took some time off from his secular duties for spiritual renewal at a remote monastery. Having heard of a monk there who was widely respected for his wisdom, he sought him out. Theophane had been forewarned that this wise man gave advice only in the form of questions. Eager to receive his own special contemplation, Theophane approached the monk: “I am a parish priest and am here on retreat. Could you give me a question to meditate on?”

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“Ah, yes.” The wise man answered. “My question for you is: What do they need?” A little disappointed, Theophane thanked him and went away. After a few hours of meditating on the question and feeling as if he were getting nowhere, he decided to go back to the teacher.

“Excuse me,” he began, “Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear. Your question has been helpful, but I wasn’t so much interested in thinking about my apostolate during this retreat. Rather I wanted to think seriously about my own spiritual life. Could you give me a question for my own spiritual life?”

“Ah, I see,” answered the wise man. Then my question is, “What do they really need?”

Like so many of us, Father Theophane had assumed that true spiritual reflection focuses on our solitary self. But as the wise man reminded him, spiritual awakening is inextricably involved with others. As Theophane focused on the needs of those he had been given to serve, he would recognize their vulnerability and longing for love—and realize that their needs were no different than his own.

The question the wise man suggested was wonderfully crafted for awakening in Theophane the true spiritual depth that comes from paying close attention to other human beings.

Like Theophane, whenever we are caught in our own self-centered drama, everyone else becomes “other” to us, different and unreal. The world becomes a backdrop to our own special experience and everyone in it serves as supporting cast, some as adversaries, some as allies, most as simply irrelevant. Because involvement with our personal desires and concerns prevents us from paying close attention to anyone else, those around us—even family and friends—can become unreal, two-dimensional cardboard figures, not humans with wants and fears and throbbing hearts.

The more different someone seems from us, the more unreal they may feel to us. We can too easily ignore or dismiss people when they are of a different race or religion, when they come from a different socio-economic “class.” Assessing them as either superior or inferior, better or worse, important or unimportant, we distance ourselves.

Fixating on appearances—their looks, behavior, ways of speaking—we peg them as certain types. They are HIV positive or an alcoholic, a leftist or fundamentalist, a criminal or power-monger, a feminist or do-gooder. Sometimes our type-casting has more to do with temperament—the person is boring or narcissistic, needy or pushy, anxious or depressed. Whether extreme or subtle, typing others makes the real human invisible to our eyes and closes our heart.

Once someone is an unreal other, we lose sight of how they hurt. Because we don’t experience them as feeling beings, we not only ignore them, we can inflict pain on them without compunction. Not seeing that others are real leads to a father disowning his son for being gay, divorced parents using their children as weapons. All the enormous suffering of violence and war comes from our basic failure to see that others are real.

In teaching the compassion practices, I sometimes ask students to bring to mind someone they see regularly but are not personally involved with. Then I invite them to consider, “What does he or she need?” “What does this person fear?” “What is life like for this person?”

After one of these meditations, a student approached me to report that a wonderful thing had happened since she’d begun doing this practice. When seeing colleagues at work, neighbors walking their dogs, clerks at stores, she’d been saying in her mind, “You are real. You are real.”

Rather than being backdrops for her life, she was finding them come alive to her. She’d notice a gleam of curiosity in the eyes, a generous smile, an anxious grinding of teeth, a disappointed and resigned slope to the shoulders, the sorrow in a downcast look. If she stayed a moment longer, she could also feel their shyness, their awkwardness, or their fear. She told me, “The more real they are to me, the more real and warm and alive I feel. I feel a closeness in just being humans together. It doesn’t matter who they are … I feel like I can accept them as part of my world.”

When we stop to attend and see others as real, we uncover the hidden bond that exists between all beings. In her poem “Kindness,” Naomi Shihab Nye writes:

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

We are all journeying through the night with plans, breathing in and out this mysterious life. And, as my student discovered through her practice , the more we can learn to pay attention to others, and truly see them as “real,” just like us, the more we can allow the “tender gravity of kindness” to naturally awaken and bloom.

Adapted from Radical Acceptance, 2013

Read more from Tara at her blog. TARA BRACH

Trying To Wear Pants

From The Gift: Poems by Hafiz The Great Sufi Master. Translations by Daniel Ladinsky.

Trying to Wear Pants

You are
A royal fish
Trying to wear pants
In a country as foreign
As land.

Now there’s a problem
Worth discussing.

Your separation from God has ripened.
Now fall like a golden fruit
Into my hand.

All your wounds from craving love
Exist because of heroic deeds.

Now trade in those medals;
That courage will help this world.

One needs to love those they have yet to love
To stand near the Friend.

Why
Be a royal fish
Trying to wear pants?

Hafiz,
What are you talking about?
Has something happened to your once
Brilliant
Mind?

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