Archive for the ‘spirituality’ Category

“Turn the clock to zero…”

I have no idea which interpretation of this Sting song will hold true for me on this most important of days, but it inspires me to start anew, continue looking and building forward, and choosing love and truth:

“I’m thinking in a brand new way…
The river’s wide, (I’ll) swim across.
We’re starting up a brand new day.”

Thanks Sting!

(Here are the complete song lyrics.)

The Buddhist “Middle Way” & Balance

“The Buddha said, ‘I’ve discovered a new way to go,
and it’s not the path of asceticism,
and it’s not the path of sensory indulgence.
It’s the Middle Way…everything needs to be balanced.”

— Mark Epstein, psychiatrist

“Fair goes the dancing when the Sitar is tuned.

Tune us the Sitar neither high nor low,
And we will dance away the hearts of men.

But the string too tight breaks, and the music dies.

The string too slack has no sound, and the music dies.

There is a middle way.

Tune us the Sitar neither low nor high.
And we will dance away the hearts of men.”

— An ancient song that inspired The Buddha

Wisdoms on Nirvana

“There is no where else than here.

The only gate is now.

The only doorway is your own body and mind.

There’s nowhere to go…there’s nothing else to be.

There’s no destination.


It’s not something to aim for in the afterlife.

It’s simply the quality of this moment.

Just this…this room where (you) are.

Pay attention to that…

Pay attention.”

— Poets Jane Hirshfeld & W.S. Merwin

“Just as Long as I Have Breath”

The gift of a song at the “right” time


Sometimes your first experience of a song can come at such a ripe, “right” time, it feels as if it were written expressly for you. The words seem to speak directly to you, and the state or space you’re currently in. Today that happened to me at church (www.uusf.org), thanks to the following hymn.

The entire song was beautifully relevant to me…but the third verse, in particular shot straight through to my heart. I am so thankful I attended the service. You just never know when a gift like this, including the entire rest of the beautiful and cohesive liturgy (crafted and led by recently ordained Denis Letourneau Paul and Lindasusan Ulrich), is going to come along. This inspiration is what drew me to become a member of the community a few years ago, and what keeps me going back.

After the service, I speedily went into the church office with hymnal in hand and asked them if I could make an (illegal) copy of it! Thankfully, the very helpful office asst. made me not one, but three copies. It’s not a text I would want to have lost track of! I hope you find it meaningful too.

As an aside, the other musical offerings, by Hans York, my favorite occasional music minister at our church were transcendent and joy-filled, as always. Enjoy samples of his music on iLike.

“Just as Long as I Have Breath”

Words by Alicia S. Carpenter (1930- )
Music by Johann G. Ebeling (1637-1676)

Just as long as I have breath, I must answer, “Yes,” to life;
though with pain I made my way, still with hope I meet each day.
If they ask what I did well, tell them I said, “Yes,” to life.

Just as long as vision lasts, I must answer, “Yes,” to truth;
in my dream and in my dark, always: that elusive spark.
If they ask what I did well, tell them I said, “Yes,” to truth.

Just as long as my heart beats, I must answer, “Yes,” to love;
disappointment pierced me through, still I kept on loving you.
If they ask what I did best, tell them I said, “Yes,” to love.

Words: © 1981 Alicia S. Carpenter

Finding inspiration…in the bathroom

I recently stumbled upon this beautiful and inspirational piece of prose, nicely framed on a friend’s bathroom wall. Doesn’t one often seem to find such inspiration in this most unlikely locale?  ;-)

I sensed that I may have encountered it before, but that didn’t keep it from resonating so strongly to me this time. I’m sure you will find it meaningful too.:

Fully Alive


I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.

I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,

a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.

— Dawna Markova

It seems such a perfect life anthem, as we prepare for a new year, full of resolutions and fresh goals (however formal or informal). The concept and visual of “loosening” one’s heart is so apt, as mine often feels so tight…clinging so unnecessarily to resentment, anger, fear, grievances.

I am thankful that, perhaps out of all my years, this, my 38th to 39th year has probably been my most “lived” and “inhabited” yet. It’s been chock full of challenges, joys, setbacks, triumphs, and so on.

According to her website, by profession, Dr. Markova is a psychotherapist, a researcher, a consultant to leaders, an author, a storyteller, a parent and grandmother. She has PhDs in psychology and education. It seems all of that living has enabled her to bring us this wisdom. LIVE FULLY!

Let the Sunshine In

Here’s some rough but spirited snapshots/outtakes from our recent Hair photoshoot. The actual photographer’s selects are still to come. It was a fantastic experience…bonding us further as a “tribe”, and connecting us with the true spirit of the show. Yes, the men’s hair needs to grow longer…there is time for that (and/or wigs). In the meantime, enjoy this small taste of what’s to come…

Let the Sunshine InLet the Sunshine In...againThe TribeTribal Hug

I’m (as Berger) at far left in the second photo, at center of the third photo, and at far left (partially cropped) in the final photo.

If music be the food of the soul…

Seeing the movie The Soloist yesterday put me back in the embrace of the sort of music that I love most deeply. The beautiful soundtrack features Beethoven’s “Triple” Concerto, Eroica and Ninth Symphony, and the Bach Cello Suite No. 1. I highly recommend the movie, while confessing it’s quite flawed. But, like Shine or Hilary and Jackie it effectively uses music as a character itself, showing its truly transformative nature, as well as how it can be a reflection of one’s internal Sturm und Drang. (See the real story behind the movie here.)

The Soloist

I have a short-list of classical music favorites in this vein that I return to time and time again, and never tire of. They are my spiritual balm, are deeply healing, and “feed” me when I’m feeling lost or run-down. If I were ever considering an atheistic path, these pieces will continue to convince me otherwise. I consider them some of the most spiritually transformative works in the genre.

I tend to prefer more contemplative, stirring works than cheerful, overtly uplifting ones, when looking for something transcendent, so those weigh more heavily here. Surely one of these will be played at my funeral (which is hopefully a long way off). And, these are not necessarily my favorite recordings, but they are what’s available online, and in a good enough quality, worthy of viewing.

I’ve narrowed to one work per composer, otherwise Richard Strauss and Beethoven would have filled the entire list. I had to leave out the Mahler, Elgar, Faure, and Morricone. They are in no particular order.

Missa Solemnis: Benedictus (Beethoven)
This movement flows without a pause from the previous Sanctus.

Eclogue for Piano and Strings (Gerald Finzi)

Vier Letzte Lieder (Four Last Songs): Im Abendrot (At Sunset) (Richard Strauss)
This rendition is too frenetic, but Popp makes it worthwhile. I most love della Casa and Fleming’s (first) studio recordings.

Mass in C Minor: Et Incarnatus Est (Mozart)
Noone has ever sung this like Ileana Cotrubas, on the Raymond Leppard recording.

Tristan und Isolde: Love Duet (Wagner)

Symphony No. 3 in C Minor, “Organ”: Poco Adagio (Saint-Saens)

Fourteen Songs: Vocalise (Rachmaninoff)

Missa Sancti Gotthardi: Anima Nostra (Michael Haydn)
Please ignore the RIDICULOUS video. This one is for your ears only!

Double Concerto in D Minor, for two violins: Largo (Bach)

German Requiem: Ihr Habt Traurigkeit (Brahms)
As much of a Janowitz fan as I am, this is a bit past her prime, and the Kathleen Battle and Elisabeth Grummer studio recordings can’t be beat.

Beau Soir (Beautiful Evening), for violin (Debussy, arr. Heifitz)

I hope that you experienced here at least one of these pieces for the first time (again, these video themselves in most cases are not the focus here, just a delivery device). Although I don’t think it’s an ideal practice to extract a single movement from a symphony or mass, the “jewel” of such a work can become a portal for one to want to explore more of the complete work. I hope you find that to be the case. Good luck on your journey! I leave you with the Joseph von Eichendorff’s text from Im Abendrot:

We have gone through sorrow and joy
hand in hand;
Now we can rest from our wandering
above the quiet land.

Around us, the valleys bow;
the air is growing darker.
Just two skylarks soar upwards
dreamily into the fragrant air.

Come close to me, and let them flutter.
Soon it will be time for sleep.
Let us not lose our way
in this solitude.

O vast, tranquil peace,
so deep at sunset!
How weary we are of wandering—
Is this perhaps death?

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