Saturday, December 23, 2006

Festive Photo

Merry Christmas all!

Here's a picture of my little New England-style house, decked out in some simple decorations to mark the Lord's coming.

There are candles in the windows and a wreath on the door -- and falling snow to surround this humble home in stillness.

What kind of decorations do you enjoy putting up for the holidays?

May you feel peace in your heart!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Pure God, adulterated God...or both?

Sometimes, sitting on my high horse (an Irish expression), I reason that our definition of God is not adequate. We must be missing something far greater and unfathomable because our minds are so small and inadequate in the face of such immensity.

But what if we shed our prejudiced and partisan views of God? Tried to figure out a bigger picture. Maybe our human-faced God is so endearing to so many of us, that we would only lose our way, sever the connection.

I spotted this quote from Martin Buber on Daniel Silliman's literary site. It's worth reading to gain some insight on the terrible and precious bargain we've entered into with God.

"...Generations of men have laid the burden of their anxious lives upon this word..."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Learning Tolerance from Kids

If you've ever spent time with kids, you know that the things they say and do are genuine -- unfiltered and from the heart. (OK, sometimes that's good; sometimes that can be embarrassing!)

The good part of that is, because of their naturally open minds and hearts, they're eager to learn about new ideas and traditions.

Yeah -- we adults can learn a lot from kids.

For example, earlier in December, as both Christmas and Hanukkah approached, a group of Holocaust deniers were meeting in Tehran to spout hate for Jews and Israel. At the same time that was happening, I spent time with my niece and nephew, two Catholic kids, reading a book about Hanukkah.

Their openness to and respect for this unfamiliar religious tradition filled me with hope for the future. It was a good contrast to what was happening on the other side of the world -- a victory over closed minds and hate.
Please read more in my December 18th column on United Press International. And, as always, I'd love to read your thoughts and views.

Peace, and happy holidays to all!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Have a Merry Buddhist Christmas

I've got the perfect idea for an extra special Christmas card! Include Buddhist contemplations on how to grow love in our hearts -- even for, as my grandpa used to say, the "PITAs" in our lives. (PITA=pain in the ass.) Here are the contemplations in abbreviated form. To read more about them, click on the link below to my UPI.com column:

  • Think of everybody you meet as your mother/father/sister/brother
  • Ponder the kindnesses of others
  • Repay those kindnesses
  • Forgive others' "annoying" traits...instead focus on their delightful side
  • Be compassionate by feeling others' pain
  • Stay committed to practicing kindness; it'll change you.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Today's Pharisees -- Blocking Union with God

Back in Jesus' time, Pharisees, a very learned and devoted sect in Judaism, observed their religion to the letter of the law. Good for them!

Problem was they expected everyone else to be fanatics, too, and they condemned ordinary people if they didn't measure up to certain standards. They thought they were the most insightful and correct interpreters of Moses' laws.

Jesus, on the other hand, was all about showing people how to cut through the red tape and make a deeper, more heartfelt connection with God. JC was a spirit man, not so much a law man. So, when he came up against these Pharisees, he was very critical of them, calling them hypocrites who lay down heavy burdens on believers. I think Jesus was trying to say that those burdens get in the way of true communion with God.

The Pharisees live on. Today, it seems that there are plenty of modern-day Pharisees around us -- in all religions and in every part of our suffering planet. The ones I am most familiar with are those who run the Catholic Church. They can't seem to stop telling us how innately sinful and bad we are -- and setting up barriers to fulfilling our relationship with God.

Please take a minute to read my latest column, Rethinking Gays in Heaven, at United Press International, and let me know how you feel.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Our Aggressors are a Blessing

A revolutionary concept: We should thank the aggressors in our lives. If we can manage to get past our anger over their aggression and, instead, practice patience, they can do us great good.

I'd like to invite you to read my latest column on UPI.com below, and please feel free to let me know your ideas on this concept!

This piece was also picked up in Monsters and Critics.com

Outside View: Be grateful for our aggressors
By Don Munro
Nov 13, 2006, 19:00 GMT

Monday, October 16, 2006

Jesus & Buddha Want You to Fail

I think they do, really!

How else would we come to a state of reflection or meditation -- where we could do some serious searching for the divine...and find peace?

Read on! Jesus & Buddha Say: Fail for me

Don Munro is a free-lance business writer who feels most at peace in the hills of New England. He explores spiritual realities and possibilities — especially the beauty of fusing together different traditions — on his blog Awareness 101. He also writes poetry at Poetry & prose from this breath of mine, often spiritually themed. His email address is Munrodh@gmail.com. © Copyright 2006 by Don Munro

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Pluto's Fate - The Legacy of Labels

Poor Pluto, our ex-planet, was recently re-labeled by astronomers and kicked out of the planetary hood.

The whole episode, closely followed in the press for all the residents of this planet to witness, reminded me of just how impermanent our reality is...and it brought home the truth of just how nasty and limiting labels can be.

Poor Pluto

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Sin & Shoo-be-doo-be-doo songs

For my family, Sundays in the 1960s centered on Roman Catholic mass.

I remember waking to the smell of bacon, the sound of "shoo-be-doo-be-doo" songs on the radio and getting to know the foreboding aura of church...incense, rituals, guilt.

Life was a cocoon. But outside the heavy church doors, outside our little home, chaos was coming.

Click on the link below. Are any of these memories familiar to you?

Memories of a Catholic Boy in The 60s

Monday, August 14, 2006

Are you klesha-conscious?

From my 'Waking Up' column at United Press International:

Buddhist teaching offers a way to peace and the end of suffering. It involves first understanding and being attentive to what's going on inside ourselves, particularly our kleshas--those poisonous emotional reactions to life's dramas.

Read on!

Curb Your Kleshas


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Renny BA's Blog Wins Coveted Web Award

I am very happy to announce that Renny, my Norwegian friend, with a swell blog about the beauty and wonders of Nordic Norway, is a Blogs of Summer - 2006 winner.

This distinction comes from Bloggin Outloud. Renny placed first in one of the "Random Blog" categories.

Check out Renny's blog; you'll enjoy the pictures of his lovely country, as well as the history and folklore of the villages and regions he visits. The link is to the right in the link column.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

I Don't Want to be Afraid

I wonder what it will take for people to stop killing each other.

I turned on the TV the other day. There was blood coming out of it. A mother held her lifeless baby in her arms and wailed, wide-eyed with disbelief, moving her head back and forth as if looking to get someone to tell her why.

I hope that she is sleeping so she can forget about her pain for a while. But maybe it's worse to sleep, because when she wakes up, it will only take a few seconds for her to remember that her baby, herself, her life, is gone. And then the grief will overcome her again. Who knows for how long.

I think that fear is very powerful. And I think that it is the basic, stripped-down reason that people kill each other and countries go to war.

We are afraid of losing some imagined, static state of happiness or goodness -- like little children who cry when they must leave the park at dusk and go home to bed. But we are not meant to hold on to these things. They aren't real anyway.

Is a border real? It is just a line on a map and it can and does change. In my childhood, there was a border that made Germany schizophrenic. But it's gone now.

If too many Muslims mix with Jews, will their religions change? Maybe. Maybe religions are supposed to change. Maybe when they mix they will see their sameness.

What if George Bush talked to Osama bin Laden? If he called a meeting and asked him why he is afraid, what American goodness would we surrender?

I wish I could stop being afraid.

I wish we could stop being afraid.

If we weren't afraid, we would not want to kill each other.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews etc.

I was raised on this dogma-bit: Jesus is the only son of God.

So says the Roman Catholic Church.

But what if...

- Jesus was one of God's sons
- Buddha was another son of the one true God
- and so was Muhammad
- and let's not forget about Moses
- and Abraham.

Okay...so given that God doesn't carry around the prejudices we do (at least I hope he/she doesn't), it stands to reason that if there are sons of God...there must also be daughters of God. Maybe we just never think of noticing...because our culture didn't and still doesn't regard them that way? I'm talking about people like:

- Ruth
- Jeanne d'Arc
- Mother Theresa
- and every woman in history who gave up her life so that others might live...

One more point: what if the criteria for being a son or daughter of the Divine is 24/7 realization of our connectedness...and that God is present in everything and everyone in the universe? And through that realization, one is enlightened and becomes, or should I say, is reborn, as God, too.

Just asking.

Your thoughts on this?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Two Roads

Jittery.

Nervous.

Nerve-endings tingle and burn...

...and there's a sense that I'm going to crack any second.

These are the times that I can allow myself to take two roads.

I can embrace these feelings and offer compassion for myself, a mental hug. I can offer myself assurance and encouragement. I can say: 'Just as the down times come...so do the brighter, more optimistic feelings.

Or, I can try and fight and deny these feelings. That's a hard battle. Victory is not won easily, and there is nothing in it that prepares me for the next time I am visited by dark feelings.

What rises falls. And may I know this simple truth today and take comfort in it.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Elvis - on Being a Fool

Elvis said it best: "Now and then, there's a fool such as I."

I'd like to be a fool.

What I mean is that sometimes the best position is that of a fool -- one who has no answers.  A fool might even already have the answers; he or she just hasn't articulated it -- to themselves or to the world.

May I be a fool today.


Monday, April 24, 2006

Worth Quoting

Being is the great explainer.

- Henry David Thoreau

Friday, April 21, 2006

Suffering and Sustenance


Today, any suffering I create for myself


is an illusion


because it lives


astride the reality that Love is present


in and around me in the universe.


It is in every cell


of every


thing,


even in my breath.


I will know it


by


feel and smell and taste and whispers


in the wind.


It is rich, this love,


this spring,


this ceaseless miracle,


this bubbling well of sustenance.


Can I cup my hands


and offer


a drink?

Monday, March 20, 2006

Affirming...versus...Asking for Well Being


This post is a reflection on the meditative practice of Metta...the Buddhist-based practice of discovering and affirming the essential goodness of ourselves and others.





This tool is designed to help us soften our hearts to compassion for ourselves...and others.




For many, it is a particularly helpful method of dealing with difficult people, remembering that, despite the current situation, these people are basically good...and they desire to be happy -- just as we do.



The practice consists of meditating on a series of traditional phrases:




  • May I be safe


  • May I have peace of mind


  • May I have physical well-being


  • May I have ease of well-being.

Many people who practice Metta often have trouble with the words "May I."



For me, the conflict arose when my meditation teacher instructed us that, when we say these words in this practice, we should remember to affirm our right to safety, peace of mind, physical and overall ease of well-being.



We are not asking for these things. How, I asked myself, could I get my mind around the dichotomy of meditating on these affirmatively...while using words that evoke a request, as in a prayer. In fact, my struggle with this is deeper than using words that don't seem to fit the occassion.


It has a lot to do with feeling deserving of these states of being.




But that's a whole 10 sessions on the therapist's couch. Rather, I want to share here a realization that I recently had -- which I think helps me understand Metta better (that rhymes). I hope this helps others who may be struggling with affirming...asking...being aware.




This is a letter that I sent to my meditation teacher on March 19, 2006. Please forgive my irreverant humor.









Dear Carole, I had a revelation…an “A-ha!” moment last night at Mass that I’d like to share with you.



After meditating with the Host at communion, I heard the priest say: “The Lord be With You.”



Now, that’s a phrase I’ve heard by rote since I was in short pants and Jack Kennedy was sleeping with hookers in the Lincoln bedroom. This time, however, the meaning of it hit me in a powerful, new way.



I suddenly realized that ‘the Lord be With You’ is an affirmation…not a request. The Lord is with us always, and if there’s any request at all in that phrase…it’s not to the Lord…it’s an implied request for us to wake up & recognize that the Lord is with us.



It’s like Metta’s “May I be safe.” We’re not asking for it…we’re already safe, and we have the capacity to know this essential truth. We’re just reminding ourselves of that inherent safety…and perhaps more importantly, our ability to wake up and know that we’re safe.



Carole, this has reaffirmed by belief that it is beautiful to learn about all our brothers’ & sisters’ spiritual traditions.



The truths of Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, any tradition that draws us closer to the Spirit…are like so many flickers of gold in the divine stream. If we do the work and pan for those glimmering bits of wisdom and insight, we become rich…enlightened.


Thanks for your priceless guidance!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Christopher Reeve's Widow Dies at Age 44

Perhaps today Dana & Christopher Reeves are running together, hand-in-hand, through a celestial blue surf.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Space Between Breaths

During meditation yesterday, as I was focusing on my breath, I became aware of a message.

It was a kind of 'knowing': 'Pay attention to the space between the breaths, too.'

So I began to become aware of that space, how my lungs feel as they get ready to fill up again...the slight pang of compression that comes before I actually draw in the new air.

That space...that second in which the body takes a break from breathing...is very interesting. It is also uncomfortable.

As I practiced over and over again, I became aware that this space, this uncomfortability, is part of the process. It is to be noticed...even appreciated...along with the joyful reassurance of full, satisfied lungs.

I think that this was a good message for me to hear...and to know.

The uncomfortable parts of life are part of the process, my process. The stuff you can't figure out or that causes you pain and suffering--they are tied into the fun, peaceful times.

Sad or happy, mad or at peace...these are just states of body and mind. They don't define me.

And, if I choose to...or if I'm disciplined enough...I can recognize that...and accept the pluses and minuses together--as just experiences, simply experiences.

One by one, they will arise and fall away...but I'll still be here.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Sometimes it's so hard for me to just be.

It's like I've got this war going on inside of my head, a series of debates.

It happens when something makes me sad or angry, and the internal conversation typically sounds like this: "Oh, that's not right...I shouldn't have thought that!" Or, "Don't be so judgemental of him/her."

I get so tired sometimes because I don't want to figure everything out...and yet...I feel like I have this need to do that. And then there are situations in life, encounters with friends or family--or personal issues that I deal with daily--that I haven't got any power over. But I'm still left with these feelings of helplessness or anger or judgement -- a sense that something is wrong, like a murky cloud that hugs the earth...obstructing my view.

I don't like feeling this way.

I'm throwing my hands up. I surrender.

  • May I have compassion for my feelings.
  • May I feel God's spirit telling me that it's okay.
  • May I just be.
  • May everybody, everywhere know that it's okay to just be.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Steady


Steady.

I need to remind myself to be aware of each moment as it comes. I want to put my trust out there to relieve myself of the burden of suffering. I can do that by breathing, and knowing only that breath...for just that short moment. And yet, I can extend this joy by breathing and knowing...breathing and knowing...over and over again.

And I want to take refuge in Jesus. I have this image of Him and me looking across a green pasture. It is bordered on one side by a wall of old stone, dug up from the soil by generations of worriers before me, farmers. Behind us is a narrow dirt road, lined on each side by sugar maple trees - flaming in their red and orange autumn clothes. The odd birch tree that stands among them adds a mix of green.

There is a pleasant sound of leaves flickering in the slightest stir of air.

And the sun is warming, reaching deep down to my bones.

We sit there, He and I. We have our arms around each other's shoulder, like two childhood buddies who have not let adulthood shame them. And we look across the field to the mountains beyond.

Hawks criss-cross the sky, and there is the scent of fresh cut hay.

All we need to do is rest. The silence is our dialogue.

No thinking. Just being.

All is well.

This is enough for Him…

And all I ever want.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Hate

I added a link about hate today.

It's a website created to remember the survivors of the Holocaust, the Nazi campaign to eliminate the Jews of Europe and Russia. They also killed Gypsies, the handicapped, homosexuals and others they deemed undesirable and unfit to breathe.

Since I first learned about the Holocaust in high school, I still can't believe that this happened in plain sight, out in the open for the world to see.


And I used to think that this kind of thing could never happen again, but, really, when you look at world history, it is a repeating cycle of one group killing another.

The culprit: the delusion that we are different...because of religion...or skin color...or nationality...or sexuality. Suffering from this delusion, we then create a superior...and an inferior.
The antidote: love, and if you can't love, awareness...that everyone is an individual - not a race or a group.

I have seen tons of holocaust pictures. I've seen movies of bulldozers moving bodies into mass graves. I've seen pictures of frightened, dazed people...torn from their beds at night...and herded into cattle rail cars for a trip to the death camps. I even visited a concentration camp, Dachau, in Germany.


And at the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., I saw an exhibit of thousands of shoes stripped from people, as they arrived in those camps and were methodically turned from individuals to numbers.

This stuff is never easy to look at. But at some point, maybe because of the sheer scale of the horror, the brain shuts off. To protect yourself, you become numb, steeled.

But then there's this photo -- above. It makes me shudder every time I look at it.


This woman tries to cover her child as a German SS officer aims his gun at them. There is no logic in her action. In the photo, off to the left, other rifles have just felled more victims. She can't think that her child will escape death.


No, at work here is just the pure instinct of a mother trying to protect her baby.

This picture is the best argument for love not hate.



Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Don't want to let February pass without a small tribute to a pioneer and legend of classic Rock-n-Roll: Buddy Holly.

Buddy died in the first hours of a bone cold, snowy February 3, 1959, along with stars Ritchie Valenz ("Donna") and the Big Bopper ("Chantilly Lace") in a small plane taking off from their gig in Clear Lake, Iowa. They were headed for their next stop on the infamous Winter Dance Party tour of the American Midwest.

This photo was taken from a backstage angle that night.

I wasn't even alive when he was making hits. Still, during a 50s revival in the 70s, I 'discovered' him.

I like Holly because of his wonderful "Rock-a-Billy" sound, that unique mixture of American country music and rock. He's one of the best in that genre, right up there with folks like the Everly Brothers and Gene Vincent.

Check out the link to the right, where there are a lot of good Holly tunes. I recommend clicking on Jukebox #6 to listen to "Think it Over."http://www.dapatchy.com/oldies/

Right before his death, he was venturing more into writing and producing. Indeed, the music he recorded himself in his NY apartment, and which he left behind, showed remarkable creativity -- advanced for that time period. The Beatles, the ubergroup of the 60s, who I think represent one of the mileposts in the progression of R&R, said that they were highly influenced by the sound of Holly.

Anyway, thanks for the music, Bud. If I get to 'heaven,' you're on the list of people I want to meet. After Jesus, of course.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Snow Day


Today, my world is white.  There’s close to two feet of snow on the ground now, and it’s still coming down – fast, driven sideways by the wind.

From the window, my view is obscured by drifts, but I can see that the world has shut down.  

No cars in the street…only the muffled sound of children making the most of this fresh coating of imagination.  With it, they’ll make castles and forts and pretend to fight long ago battles – but with snowballs not bullets.

I’m happy, warm…inside.  My morning newspaper was delivered in the wee hours sometime. It’s buried somewhere on my front path.

Who cares? I’ll read my book, the one I got for Christmas that I’ve been meaning to pick up and start.

I’m happy that the world has stopped, if just for a day. A forced period of rest, quiet.

I wish people everywhere could have a snow day.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The 60s, Part I: Memories of an American Catholic Boy

Seems the fog in my mind thickens as I log each new year, but these things I can still see:

  • Lots of “shoo-be-doo-be-doo” songs on the radio (no Beatles yet)

  • on the menu at the barber shop: crew cuts…or…an “Ivy League”

  • Dad’s white sox and loafers...and strong, hairy arms

  • Aunts biting (yes, aunts…not ants) the fat on my cheeks (they were driven by love…which I didn’t understand then…but do now)

  • The Hi-fi belting out The Tokens’ doowop classic “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”

  • Me singing along: “a whim-a-way…a whim a way”

  • Woolworth’s photo booth

  • Jack & Jackie

  • The milkman, who, while we all slept, left us milk (all kinds of colors, too) and juice, cookies and other goodies. Kids on the block used the metal milk boxes outside their front doors to store baseball gloves (never baseball cards or the gum that came with the cards)

  • A man who came with his very own floor-wax machine—sometimes he gave us rides on it while he polished our floors

  • A man who sharpened things for a living. He drove a truck down the neighborhood streets, gonging his bell for people to bring out their knives

  • Sunday morning: waking up to the smell of bacon and finding pressed outfits, shined shoes, bowties, socks -- all ready for church

  • Mom's white gloves & a hat with fake, blue flowers on top
  • Sunday afternoon: The smell of whiskey and cigarettes...the aroma that came with kissing Aunt Gert & Uncle Dennis
Some stuff happening that I wasn’t aware of:
  • the brink of nuclear destruction…Castro/Cuba/Kruschev…the Berlin Wall

  • Americans suffering indignities -- barred from sitting at a cafĂ© lunch counter, voting, attending school with white kids
  • the Ku Klux Klan
  • the Boston Strangler

Monday, February 06, 2006

The 60s, P II: Memories of an American Catholic Boy


  • Matchbox racing cars and trucks for 99 cents

  • 45 RPMs for 45 cents

  • JFK shot
  • Sunday night: homework checked

  • More Sunday night: a roast beef dinner, then Disney and Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom on television, and then bed…no exceptions

  • That sick feeling in your stomach knowing you had to go to school the next day and you might get smacked in the head by Sister Ferocious, RSM

  • Desserts: Duncan Hines cakes, Jello, boxed eclairs

  • Earning 25 cents from Auntie Ann for vacuuming up the stairs (I still have that quarter)

  • S&H stamps...but also food stamps

  • In school, the nuns asking which one of us would abandon Christ if Communists with machine guns burst into the school room and demanded that all Christians stand up in order to be executed

  • RFK shot, MLK shot,

  • Riots, protests

  • Worrying that the North Vietnamese were going to bomb our town

  • Worrying that the Chinese laundryman was really a Communist and that he would snatch me and smuggle me back to China

  • Tears streaming down my face from the cold wind, as my sled plunged through the snow on 'suicide hill’

  • Peeing in my snow suit because my hands were frozen, and I couldn’t open the fly buttons

  • Watching men walk on the moon on our TV

  • Taking the public bus, at age nine, alone, to babysit for my Aunt who lived on downtown Main Street

  • Getting government cheese…and eating it

  • Eight-hour trips to visit Granny and Gramps in the country, along winding small roads, six kids rammed into a two-door fastback Chevy Impala, the 8-track of “Roger Williams” playing over and over again

  • Hung on our refrigerator door, newspaper pictures of kids from faraway lands like Bangladesh with bellies bloated from malnutrition, pictures that were supposed to make me finish my dinner

  • Grandma's amber-colored "medicine," which, curiously, she took in a high-ball glass, mixed with ice cubes

  • The statue of Virgin Mary at my childhood parish, St. Kevin's Church. On the way home from school, I stopped in to church and stared at her for one whole hour. She winked at me: a miracle. Despite my devotion, my Mom hit me with a wooden spoon when I got home because I'd been AWOL.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Prayer from an American

Lord, eternal spirit, voice in my soul,
I’m not likely to slow down long enough today to take much notice…
of what’s going on…
inside of me…
or with my friends or family…
and certainly not the guy I pass on the street.

You see, I’m busy working; it’s what I like to do.

And, I’m also driving in my car…
and talking on my cell phone…
And when I get home, I need to put in some time on my computer,
and I know I’ll have my head phones on listening to music, too…
and then I’ll do some shopping,
go to the gym…
grab a bite…
and probably watch TV…before hitting the sack.

I’ve been accused of being brash, pushy...but it’s really because I want to get things done – and fast – not because I’m a bad person. So, please don’t think I’m horrible when I ask this, Lord, but here goes:

Considering how much I’ve got on my plate, would you mind speaking louder when you talk to me?

Usually, I can only hear you (and I’ve got to say, it’s not very often) very late at night, while I’m trying to sleep…or sometimes even when I am dreaming…
or when I am in church…
in short, all those times that I’m supposed to be quiet – and everybody else is, too.

But, hey, I want to keep in touch because, well, because I love you. You mean more to me than anything. I really mean that, although I'd be lying if I said I didn't like my house, and my car, too.

Basically, when the chips are down, you're the one to go to for help and comfort. I'm no dummy; this I know.

And I believe that you want me to help people everywhere, not because I'm supposed to, but because it'll help me become a better person. You want me to be as compassionate as I possibly can – because you, my creator, are compassionate.

So, Lord, if you don't crank up the volume on those whispers, I won't remember to do all that stuff.

Wait. Did you just say something to me?

- Don Munro