What Others Think About You May Matter–It All Depends

File:Padre Pio.jpgA strong believer in Christian meditation, Saint Padre Pio stated: “Through the study of books one seeks God; by meditation one finds him.”

We often hear we should pay no attention to what anyone else thinks about us, and simply be ourselves, no matter what.

Sounds good but it all depends…

What if you are happily strewing trash all around your house or throwing litter out of your car? (Pet peeve of mine!) Does it matter that I am offended to see such abuse of the earth, not to mention there are laws to prevent such uncivilized behavior? It’s like wiping your hands on your mother’s face after she’s fed and clothed you and taken you to the beach. It implies lack of respect. Of course, it might just be you are ignorant and need people to teach you better ways of behavior.

Are laws enough? Enforce them and all will be well, right?

How come Jesus got in such trouble for going against the Pharisaical law when he healed people on the Sabbath and did other no no’s?

It is important to be authentic, but how do we not impose our prejudices and biases onto others? We might not have it right–our truth might not be the full story or even truth at all.

We have to become deeper more aware people. We must learn the way of compassion, of tolerance, of a love that rises from the deep well within everyone, that acknowledges we are all the beloved of God, and even when we don’t believe in God, we are all equally worthy and all part of the process of life, all in growth, all in need, all struggling with problems, issues, and negative behaviors. What you do or don’t do affects me, and what I do or don’t do affects you. As well as hoping for the best for ourselves, what a wonderful world this might become if we begin to hope for the best for all sentient creatures on the planet, and also begin to pay attention to how we might help.

Real love brings wholeness and healing to all it encounters. That is the way of Christ. His (amongst other things) is the way of prayer and meditation.

“Lest we condescendingly do tonglen (a Buddhist) meditative practice for the other one who’s so confused, remember: this is a practice where compassion begins to arise because we’ve been in the other one’s shoes. We’ve been angry, jealous, and lonely. We do strange things when we’re in pain. Because we’re lonely, we say cruel words; because we want someone to love us, we insult them.” p. 98: Comfortable with Uncertainty by Pema Chodron.

There are wonderful Christian prayer and meditation practices too such as Christian centering prayer or contemplative reading of Scripture (lectio divina). Here are two books I find helpful:

Centering Prayer. M. Basil Pennington. New York. Doubleday, Image Books. 2001.

Too Deep for Words, rediscovering lectio divina with 500 Scripture Texts for Prayer. Thelma Hall, r.c. New York. Paulist Press.1988.

I’ve also made available on Amazon Kindle Ziggy, A Little Book of Healing, an account about my dog Ziggy and my struggles to bring him healing. It is a mixture of memoir, Reiki healing, and miracle. It contains an Appendix with seven touch healing prayers based upon Reiki and Lectio Divina for individuals or groups. This is a practice that brings personal balance and is, in fact, a variant of contemplative prayer.


Spirituality and the Arts

Last night, unable to sleep, I picked up a copy of Christian Mysticism, East and West. I opened a chapter called Spirituality and the Arts.  The two are intertwined.   The author, Dr. Maria Joudi, PhD., says “In the Christian West, the tapestry of sacred music is a path leading to a deepening, ongoing relationship with the presence of God. In the Byzantine East, the golden, ponderous tradition of iconography, like the famous Vladimir Madonna, gazes contemplatiely with a bittersweet expression, fearlessly facing life’s tragic crucifixions, and paradoxically, the Christ child in her arms, a mother’s greatest joy.”

I love sacred music, and I always enjoy the music program in Sunday worship at First Christian Church in Ashland where I am a member–the prelude, the bells, the choir, the solos, the congregational hymns are very fine.  I enjoy, too, when I go to other churches and am able to join in the hymn singing–it gives me a sense of connectedness with other people.  I once worshipped in an Anglican church in Rye, and immediately felt at home, and felt such power joining in the prayers for the church, the local community, and the world. Certainly it was a good way to spend an hour.

I wanted to know more about the Vladimir Madonna because this painting is one of the most venerated icons of the theotokos (which is Greek for Virgin Mary, literally meaning “Birth-giver of God.”) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theotokos_of_Vladimir

Icons can be used for meditative purposes by sitting quietly in front of one, with perhaps a candle nearby: gaze at the image, seeking God’s presence, God’s word. Be still. Wait. Spend twenty minutes.  What insights arise? What thoughts? What emotions? How do you view the Mother of God?

The Theotokos of Vladimir (Greek: Θεοτόκος του Βλαντιμίρ), also known as Our Lady of Vladimir or Virgin of Vladimir (Russian: Владимирская Икона Божией Матери) and “The Vladimir Madonna” – is one of the most venerated Orthodox icons and a typical example of Eleusa Byzantine iconography. The Theotokos (Greek word for Virgin Mary, literally meaning “Birth-Giver of God”) is regarded as the holy protectress of Russia. The icon is displayed in the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow. Her feast day is June 3. Even more than most famous icons, the original has been copied repeatedly for centuries. Many copies now have considerable artistic and religious significance of their own. The icon is a version of the Eleusa (tenderness) type, with the Christ child snuggling up to his mother’s cheek.

Love Meditation Using a Breath Prayer and Mantra

Jesus said, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” — Matthew 28:20 (NIV)

What a wonderful expression of love from someone who knows he is going to die unjustly at the hands of people who are threatened by him.

A breath prayer I use accompanied by the mantra breathing in Grace, breathing out Love has recently grown in scope. In the past, it was a simple meditation to help empty my mind of random thoughts with the goal of allowing God to focus and inform my being.

Pema Chodrin, renowned Buddhist nun, instructs people in a meditative practice where we are to first remember a moment of love in our lives and dwell in that moment while sitting in meditation. After following this practice for a while, we begin sending love out to the people we love (family, friends, pets, neighbors…), and eventually we begin to encompass those we do not love (Jesus would call them our enemies) in our feeling of love.

I chose an experience of profound love that changed my life. When I was first attending church, I saw what I can only call a vision of Jesus on the chancel. He was tall and thin, standing in the traditional stance with his arms outstretched. At first, I thought I must be crazy, but what I saw mattered less than what I experienced: I felt a deep sense of love and believed I had been invited into the love of Christ. I accepted the invitation and was baptized and became a Christian.

Remembering this moment warms my heart and enables me to bless others not so much by saying words but by including them in my experience of love.

Take twenty minutes daily and sit quietly with your hands laid gently in your lap. Close your eyes. When you breathe in, silently say the word Grace, imagining you are breathing in God’s grace, and when you breathe out, silently say the word Love, remembering a special moment of love you have experienced. At first, allow this love to be just for you warming you, but then remember friends and family and include them in your warm feeling. Eventually, remember those who have caused you harm and surround them with this love. Finally, remember all the travails and struggles of the world and allow your love to spread.


May this experience bring you peace.

Images are from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meditation

Pure Land Christian Ideas?

In Christian tradition, the doctrine of the Trinity–the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–is sometimes explained as God being one but capable of taking three forms: solid (ice), liquid (water), gaseous (moisture/clouds).

When I read this doctrine and consider the teachings of Christ, I view the Trinity as a metaphor for the interconnectedness of creation in God. God is the substratum of all existence, the ground of being. Christ is the child of God with whom Christians are united. Through the power of the Holy Spirit members of churches form the Body of Christ.

 All people are influenced by others, and the way we treat the earth impacts all of us too. It is so important to fellowship with people who are trying their best to live out the teachings of Christ–forgiveness, compassion, love, truth, awareness…It also brings into consideration that what we take in will influence us–take in a steady dose of violence, how might that impact us and others?  Burn tires and plastics in the back yard–how does that effect your neighbor who has asthma?

In Pure Land Buddhism, Amida Buddha is the one to whom followers reach out for compassion and salvation. Yet Amida Buddha is not the historical Buddha who taught in India in the sixth century BCE.  Rather, there are two Buddhas who share the same essence.

Buddha contains three properties:  

1. The Dharma Body which is non-form in which the Buddha is united with Suchness (Christians might call this God).

2. The Bliss Body which is an ethereal body said to be a reward for helping other beings end their suffering. This is not equivalent to the Holy Spirit, and yet it is akin to the idea of spiritual empowerment.

3. The Manifest Body which is the physical form of the Buddha in the world.  Jesus is a physical manifestation of God in the world.

We try hard in all of our religious traditions to make sense of existence and to define faith, but in both Pure Land and Christian thinking, salvation is not only a matter of accepting and incorporating the teachings of the Masters, but is also something that is given freely out of love from the Suchness, from God.

The Jesus Icon: Image of the Saviour Not Made by Hand: a traditional Orthodox iconography in the interpretation of Simon Ushakov  (Russian)  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ushakov_Nerukotvorniy.jpg

Amida Buddha: Amitabha Buddha pictured in the Ushiku Daibutsu in Japanhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amida_Buddha

Ten Yen True


Ten Yen True: of Monks and Mystery

Years ago a friend told me that any time you find a penny it means an angel is nearby to help. At the time, we were stuck a hundred miles away from home in the pouring rain at a gas station. Our borrowed van would not start and we had no idea what to do. There were just the two of us and we had no money to spare. The penny we found had been run over by numerous tires and was flattened and dirty. 

But an angel showed up. A real live young man who proceeded to replace the starter for us for free. He was a true Godsend. I will never forget his kindness.

Such a lovely idea of pennies being from a nearby angel has stayed with me. Now I always pick up copper coins and I am always grateful to feel there is a protective force, my guardian angel perhaps, looking out for me.

When I got to England last Spring and stayed with my niece, Mandy, since it was only for a few days, I did not unpack my suitcase but left it open on the floor of her daughter’s playroom–the room Mandy had given me as my bedroom.

I loved that room so full of stuffed animals, games, and toys. It seemed a place chockfull of innocence, play, and love.

Rummaging in my suitcase, I came across a coin. It was clearly oriental but I had no idea where it had come from or who had put it there. It seemed mysterious, but I suspected Mandy was playing a joke since I’d recently published a book with a colleague in China.

“Very funny,” I later told her, holding up this coin to show her in the lounge. 

She looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. It turned out she had not put this coin in my case and when she asked her daughter if she might have put it there, the little girl shook her head.

Flabbergasted, we began to speculate how a foreign coin got in my suitcase somewhere in transit from Kentucky to London. We also wanted to know just what country this coin came from and wondered if it might not be an Olympic Village coin or perhaps a Chinese one, but our speculations were incorrect.

Mandy’s husband found a photo on the Internet. The coin turned out to be a Japanese ten yen piece.

It was the beginning of a novel Mandy and I co-authored. The title Ten Yen True came to Mandy in a moment of inspiration.

The whole process of writing this novel seemed inspired: it proceeded rapidly and was full of energy, fun, and humor. We could say it was as if we were helped by angels. Or maybe it was the Japanese monk who showed up to help us…

We are currently looking for a publisher. Are there any angels out there?

To read the prologue, go to http://www.christinastclair.com/ten_yen_true