The Mandala Center

Mandala Center Walk Meditations

A special invite...

The Mandala Walk at the Mandala Center is now a reality. We have created a path for you to follow around the property. It is not just a hiking trail. It is a journey for you to take and reflect on your own life journey. It is a physical way to renew your mind, spirit and body. It is an opportunity for you to be in our special, spirit filled place. Come, hike for an hour or two, spend a day or longer on a self-guided retreat

Meditations Archive...Click Here

A Reflection...

This coming Friday, October 4th is the day we remember St. Francis. The day we bless the animals.

I think we all know his story of being the wealthy heir and giving away all his wealth and vowing to serve those in need and God’s creation.

There are many stories about Saint Francis and his preaching to animals. It is said that one day he was talking to some birds when they began to sing together. Then they flew into the sky and formed the sign of a cross.

It was also said that Francis could tame wild animals. One story tells of a vicious wolf in the town of Gubbio that was killing people and sheep. The people of the town were frightened and didn't know what to do. Francis went to the town to confront the wolf. At first the wolf growled at Francis and prepared to attack him. However, Francis made the sign of the cross and told the wolf not to hurt anyone else. The wolf then became tame and the town was safe.

While these stories may be apocryphal there is a quote attributed to St. Francis that I think really captures the essence of what St. Francis was all about. I think it is a good mandate for all of us to follow:

“Keep a clear eye toward life’s end. Do not forget your purpose and destiny as God’s creature. What you are in his sight is what you are and nothing more. Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take nothing that you have received…but only what you have given; a full heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice, and courage.”

A Reflection...

I was struck this week by a quote from one of my favorite authors and preachers —Barbara Brown Taylor – It was on Salvation.

Now most people, especially those with a Christian religious background, think the word salvation simply means “to be saved from eternal damnation.” Broadly speaking we can say that salvation is the overriding theme of the entire Bible. But it is a multidimensional theme with a wide range of meaning. In the Bible salvation is spoken of in the context of relationships – God and humans, humans and humans, and human beings and nature.

That is why Barbara Brown Tylor’s quote struck me. She said, “Salvation is not something that happens only at the end of a person's life. Salvation happens every time someone with a key uses it to open a door he could lock instead.”  

The challenge for each of us is to stop and ask ourselves, “Am I using my “key” to lock or open the doors in my life, the life of those around me, the world I live in, and with my God?

A Reflection...

“You don’t become happy by pursuing happiness. You become happy by living a life that means something.” Rabbi Harold Kushner

“Your vocation in life is where your greatest joy meets the world's greatest need.” —Frederick Buechner.

John 10:10 –Jesus says, I have come that you might have an abundant life – In the Hawaiian Pidgin New Testament it comes out like this; “…come alive inside, an live to da max.”

Powerful words, all.

Finding meaning in your life, becoming happy is your responsibility – create it - regularly take the time to;

  • Count your blessings – be grateful
  • Be loving and compassionate – to yourself and others
  • Seek to become a better person – never stop learning
  • Be of service to others – treating all with respect, patience, kindness, and wisdom
  • “…come alive inside, an live to da max.”

A Reflection...

This date, 9/11, carries a heavy burden for many and a remembrance for all of us. Please take a moment to remember and pray:

O God, we offer our prayers this day as we remember those of many nations and differing faiths whose lives were cut short by the destruction and flames of anger and hatred. We remember those who lost their lives through no choice of their own. We remember those who in choosing to go to the aid of others also gave their lives.

As we continue to live, cleanse both us and those perceived to be our enemies of all hatred and distrust.

Pour out the spirit of peace on all the rulers of our world that we may be brought through the strife which surrounds us to the lasting peace of your kingdom.

In remembering this tragedy, we give you thanks for you always being with us in our time of need and as we seek to worship you in Spirit and in truth. Amen.

A Reflection...

“Gather up your dreams today, gather them from every nook and cranny where they may have been collecting dust. Take them down from the shelf, bring them out from under the bed. Get the old dreams, the wild dreams, the child dreams, the ones you had when you were just starting to feel your wings, the ones that burned in your mind like the fever of adolescence, the dreams you told only to a special friend, the dreams that gave you hope. Gather them up now and bring them to where you pray. Their power has not been lost and their blessing has only begun.” (Bishop Steven Charleston)

A great way to start today or any day

A Reflection...

I am not sure who to specifically attribute this to, but I think it is worth repeating, with my own modifications:

8 things to remember when going through tough times:

  1. Everything can – and will – change.
  2. You’ve overcome challenges before.
  3. Reflect on your experiences and learn.
  4. Not getting what you want can be a blessing.
  5. Allow yourself to have some fun.
  6. Being kind to yourself is the best medicine.
  7. Other people’s negativity isn’t worth worrying about.
  8. And there is always, always, always, something to be thankful for.

Start each day with 8 things to remember…Click here to print a copy, tape it on your bathroom mirror, and read it every morning.

A Reflection...

This past weekend we hosted a training program on InterSpiritual Meditation. InterSpiritual Meditation (ISM) is a universal, holistic and integrated 7-Step process. In this process, we learn from the world’s great contemplative traditions to create a personal meditation to achieve these results:

  • Health & Happiness
  • Gratitude
  • Transformation
  • Love & Compassion
  • Mindfulness
  • Wisdom
  • Service to Others

Today let’s look at the first of these steps, Health & Happiness.

Alfred D. Souza - Writer, Philosopher, wrote; “Happiness is a journey, not a destination. For a long time, it seemed to me that life was about to begin—real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. This perspective has helped me to see there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. So, treasure every moment you have and remember that time waits for no one.”

Happiness isn’t something that comes to you or that you find when you get somewhere, it’s something you can take with you on your journey through life and a way to walk in the world.

Where do you find happiness? What are you doing to be healthy?

Start your personal meditation practice with this first step: Vow to be happy and healthy.

A Reflection...Breath/Heart/Mind - To go deeper in our Meditation

Jon Kabat-Zinn, has written a wonderful book titled, “Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life.” In it he says, “Mindfulness has to do with waking up and living in harmony with oneself and with the world. It is examining who we are, constantly questioning our views of the world and our place in it, while cultivating appreciation for the fullness of each moment we are alive. It is the direct opposite of taking life for granted. It is empowering as well, because paying attention in this way opens channels to deep reservoirs of creativity, intelligence, imagination, clarity, determination, choice, and wisdom within us.”

In meditation, the mind is clear, relaxed, and inwardly focused. When you meditate, you are fully awake and alert, but your mind is not focused on the external world or on the events taking place around you. Meditation requires an inner state that is still and one-pointed so that the mind becomes silent. When the mind is silent and no longer distracts you, meditation deepens.

A great quote that I have lived with for many years now;
“Do you have the patience to wait till your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving till the right action arises by itself?” – Tao Te Ching

So often we find ourselves caught up in the rush of everyday living, dealing with all that we have going on, we forget how important it is to take some time and just be.

“Do you have the patience to wait till your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving till the right action arises by itself?” – Tao Te Ching

A Reflection...Love and Compassion

Take a moment and ask yourself, “What is the difference?”

In his book, InterSpiritual Meditation, Dr. Ed Bastian shares the answer he was given, “Love is the sincere wish for happiness of another being. Compassion is the sincere intention to remove the causes of suffering.” He goes on to compare this answer with the words of Jesus, “love your neighbor as yourself,” and “do unto others as you would have them do to you.”

I would combine the two and say, “Love is the desire for happiness of both ourselves and the others in our life. Compassion is to treat others with the same respect and care that we expect for ourselves.”

It is not an either/or, but a both/and. Together they add to our sense of meaning in life and define the how and what of living.

Teresa of Avila said, “The important thing is not to think much but to love much; and so do that which best stirs you to love.”

It is about intention & action. Our intention is to manifest loving compassion and our action is to approach each encounter with this intent.

Recognize that your health and happiness is tied to how you treat yourself and others.

Vow to focus on bringing happiness into your life and all those around you.

Vow to always treat each person you encounter with the same love.

Make Love and Compassion the hallmark of who you are!

A Reflection...From Change to Transformation

You have heard the quote, “The only thing in life is change.” (La Rochefoucauld) I think most of us would agree, everything changes. Sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. The challenge for most of us is learning to rejoice when it is good and to relax, pay attention and learn when it is not the way we want or expect.

There is a big difference between just accepting that things change and being transformed by the changes.

Transformation implies a marked change in your life. In the New Testament Greek, the word used for transformation is metamorphosis. Webster’s Dictionary defines metamorphosis as, “a profound change in form from one stage to the next in the life history of an organism, as from the caterpillar to the pupa, and from the pupa to the adult butterfly.”

A caterpillar is born to become a butterfly. It doesn’t put on a costume or strive to act like a butterfly. The change comes from within.

In Paul’s letter to the church in Rome (12:2) he writes, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (NIV)

I believe that the renewing of your mind comes from the heart – the core of your being. It is there that we need to spend some time, look at what we see, identify the highest ideals in your life.

Take the time, quiet your mind, focus on the things of your heart. See the ideals that you want to light your walk in life. They will give you the courage to face the changes. Focus on the most important thing(s) and allow yourself to be transformed into the butterfly you are meant to be.

A Reflection...Gratitude

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.” ~ A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

We recognize the words as true. The difficulty comes in translating it into our own life.

The practice of gratitude begins with the acknowledgement that we are capable of a “rather large amount of gratitude.”

It is something that can be done in a short time space, for example, while waiting for a morning coffee to brew.

Focusing on gratitude is a simple way to meditate. All you need to do is spend a moment to reflect on the things and people that make you grateful.

Gratitude is not merely about being thankful for positive things. It is about being grateful for everything.

There may be things in your life that right now seem bad, but if you reflect upon them, you will see that they provide an opportunity for you to learn and grow. An important part of gratitude is being able to recognize those blessings.

Many people from various religions and belief systems encourage starting the day with attention to gratitude, but you do not have to hold a spiritual belief to try it, and there are many benefits to starting your day with a few moments focusing on gratitude.

So, four easy steps:

1. Settle yourself. Focus on your breath and center. Let your awareness move to your immediate environment: all the things you can smell, taste, touch, see, hear. Name each one and say to yourself: “For this, I am grateful.”

2. Next, bring to mind those people in your life to whom you are close: your friends, family, partner…. Name each one and say to yourself: “For this, I am grateful.”

3. Next, turn your attention onto yourself: you are a unique individual, blessed with imagination, the ability to communicate, to learn from the past and plan for the future, to overcome any pain you may be experiencing. Name each one and say to yourself: “For this, I am grateful.”

4. Finally, rest in the realization that life is a precious gift. That you have been born into a period of immense prosperity, that you have the gift of health, culture, and access to spiritual teachings. Name each one and say to yourself: “For this, I am grateful.”

A Reflection

On this eve of Independence Day, I want to share a prayer for the Nation from the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church (p.258).

Lord God Almighty, you have made all the peoples of the earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and in peace: Give to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Blessings to all as we celebrate Independence Day.

A Reflection

The Lord is my pace-setter
I shall not rush.
He makes me stop and rest for quiet intervals;
Which restore my serenity.
He leads me in ways of efficiency,
Through calmness of mind,
And his guidance of peace.

Even though I have a great many things to
Accomplish each day
I will not fret,
For His presence is here,
His timelessness, His all-importance
Will keep me in balance.
He prepares refreshment and renewal
In the midst of my activity
By anointing my mind
With His oils of tranquility;
My cup of joyous energy overflows.

Surely harmony and effectiveness
Shall be the fruits of my hours,
For I shall walk in the pace of my Lord
And dwell in His house forever.

A translation of the Japanese version By Toki Miyashina from Psalm 23, Copyright by K.H. Strange, 1969, published By The St. Andrews Press, Edinburgh

A Reflection

I recently read an article that was using Marie Kondo’s organizing principle in relation to our spiritual life. Marie’s principle is simple, you take something you have and ask yourself, “does this bring me joy?”

If it does you keep it, if it doesn’t then you pass it on. The article went on to suggest that we ask ourselves, “What in your religious and spiritual life brings you joy?” I think it is an important question for each of us to consider. But before we get too caught up in wrestling with the answer, let’s first consider what “joy” really is.

One author describes it as a deep abiding.

Webster's dictionary defines joy as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.”

I suspect most of us would use words like gladness, happiness, contentment or delight.

All good, but I recently heard a definition that captured my attention. Joy is “a state of mind and an orientation of the heart.”

Let’s go back to the original question, “What in your religious and spiritual life brings you joy?”

I invite you to wrestle with the question, write down your answers and begin to focus your mind on those things that really abide deep in your heart.

A Reflection on Meditation

Meditation is a precise technique for resting the mind and attaining a state of consciousness that is totally different from the normal waking state. It is the means for fathoming all the levels of ourselves and finally experiencing the center of consciousness within. Meditation is not a part of any religion; it is a science, which means that the process of meditation follows a particular order, has definite principles, and produces results that can be verified.

In meditation, the mind is clear, relaxed, and inwardly focused. When you meditate, you are fully awake and alert, but your mind is not focused on the external world or on the events taking place around you. Meditation requires an inner state that is still and one-pointed so that the mind becomes silent. When the mind is silent and no longer distracts you, meditation deepens.

Drawing from the wisdom of the world’s great teachers, sages, and exemplars, we engage in our personal practice of meditation. Deepening in our own wisdom, we honor the sacred experiences of others.”

Do you have the patience to wait till your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving till the right action arises by itself?
– Tao Te Ching

A Reflection...

Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

From Paul’s First Letter to the church in Corinth: (1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 8)

Love is patient, love is kind;
It does not envy, it does not boast,
It is not proud, nor is it rude;
It is not self-seeking, nor easily angered,
It keeps no record of wrongs,
Love does not delight in evil,
But rejoices in the truth.
Love bears all things, believes all things,
Hopes all things, and endures all things.
Love never ends.

Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.

A Reflection...

A couple of weeks ago I shared with you an article by David Brooks on “Happiness vs Joy.” At the end of the short article David says, “The core point is that happiness is good, but joy is better. It’s smart to enjoy happiness, but it’s smarter still to put yourself in situations where you might experience joy.”

Continuing with this theme today I share with you a quote from Mother Teresa... The password of the early Christians was joy, so let us still serve the Lord with joy. If you give joyfully you always give more. A joyful heart is the result of a heart burning with love. Works of love are always works of joy.

So, the challenge for you is to take a few moments and reflect on where you find joy in your life. What is it that lights your heart?

Take the time to identify the things that you do that bring you joy.

Take the time to identify the things that you do that brings joy to others.

Don’t settle for happiness alone, seek to find that true joy that enables you to be all you are becoming

A Reflection...

A word for today -"benediction"- comes from the Latin bene meaning "good" and dicere meaning "say." Therefore, we might have a “good say” or we might say a benediction is "good words."

Today I want to share with you a Franciscan Benediction – good words to live by -

May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may live deep within our hearts.

May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done.

And we end our benediction by saying together, Amen, meaning So Be It!

A Reflection...

In this graduation season I want to share with you an article by David Brooks in the NY Times that I recently read. It is titled “HAPPINESS VS JOY.”

David says, “there are two kinds of emotion present at any graduation ceremony. For the graduating students there is happiness. They’ve achieved something. They’ve worked hard and are moving closer to their goals.

There is a different emotion up in the stands among the families and friends. That emotion is joy. They are not thinking about themselves. Their delight is seeing the glow on the graduate’s face, the laughter in her voice, the progress of his journey, the blooming of a whole person.

Happiness usually involves a victory for the self. Joy tends to involve the transcendence of self. Happiness comes from accomplishments. Joy comes when your heart is in another. Joy comes after years of changing diapers, driving to practice, worrying at night, dancing in the kitchen, playing in the yard and just sitting quietly together watching TV. Joy is the present that life gives you as you give away your gifts.

The core point is that happiness is good, but joy is better. It’s smart to enjoy happiness, but it’s smarter still to put yourself in situations where you might experience joy.”

A Reflection...

May Day – May pole – May baskets – Things which were never a part of my traditions.

May is also meditation month. Meditation/Contemplation/Prayer has been an important, regular part of my life. Much of my talks on the Mandala Walk here on the radio have been to encourage you, the listener, to consider taking the time to pay attention to your life, embrace the changes, be filled with love and be transformed. In short, for you to begin or continue a meditation practice.

Meditation has been a regular practice of all religions and of those with no religious connection. Being able to meditate is a valuable skill, especially in today’s hectic world. Drawn from ancient disciplines, it is still totally right for our times. The goal of meditation is a union with God, the Divine, a higher power, or whatever terminology we use. However, for many of us I suspect that idea seems too distant. Rather, an experience of tranquility, a pleasant detachment, a sense of there being ‘something greater’ is what we seek. Finding those things are a part of the benefits found in meditation, along with a host of health benefits that come with reduced stress. Like lowered blood-pressure, a better immune system, less frequency of life-threatening diseases and a general sense of wellbeing.

Meditating involves shifting your state of mind, moving into another level of awareness. This isn’t difficult but requires practice.

Parker Palmer writes, “Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic self-hood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only find the joy that every human being seeks--we will also find our path of authentic service in the world.”

Jesus said, “…seek and you shall find…” consider taking 20 minutes a day to pay attention to your life, embrace the changes, be filled with love and be transformed.

A Reflection...

For the past few weeks, we have been considering the Seven Whispers from a little book called, “the Seven Whispers: Listening to the voice of God,” written by Christina Baldwin. So far, we have heard:

  • One - Maintain peace of mind. We learned one simple exercise from the teaching of the Vietnamese monk, Tich Nhat Hanh: “I take one breath to let go, one breath to be here, one breath to ask now what?”
  • Two - Move at the pace of guidance. We talked about walking with a three-year-old and getting caught up in the wonder and amazement of discovering the world around us.
  • Three - Practice certainty of purpose. Start by believing you have one.
  • Four - Surrender to surprise. Christina says, “Surprise is the practice of accepting the unexpected interruption, and the practice of leaving enough space in the day for something to happen that isn’t on the list.”
  • Five - Ask for what you need and offer what you can. Asking / offering / giving / receiving is one circular motion.
  • Six - Love the folks in front of you. Love the folks in front of you. What more can be said.
  • And Seven – Return to the world. Christina calls us to return to the world of the body, the senses, the world of Nature, with a capital “N.” It is about connecting ourselves, our bodies, minds, and spirits with the world around us. Pay attention to the sky, the trees, the sounds, the animals, the others that come our way. It is about the final words I have given at the end of each of the seven whispers; pay attention to the life you are living, allow yourself to embrace the changes, be filled with love, for your God, yourself, and the others. Look within and be transformed!

It is Wednesday of Holy Week. Maybe that has great meaning for you, and you are fully anticipating the rest of the week and celebrating Easter as the resurrection of the Lord. Maybe you are not, and Easter Sunday is more about rabbits and eggs. Regardless, my hope and prayer is that by walking with and listening to the seven whispers the voice or Spirit will speak to you.

A Reflection...

Last week we looked at numbers one & two of the Seven Whispers from a little book called, “the Seven Whispers: Listening to the voice of God,” written by Christina Baldwin. They were:

The Seven Whispers – One and Two
  • Maintain peace of mind. We learned one simple exercise from the teaching of the Vietnamese monk, Tich Nhat Hanh: “I take one breath to let go, one breath to be here, one breath to ask now what?”
  • Move at the pace of guidance. We talked about walking with a three year old and getting caught up in the wonder and amazement of discovering the world around us.
Today we will consider The Seven Whispers – Three and Four
  • Practice certainty of purpose. Start by believing you have one. An exercise to begin the quest: Complete the phrase: Once there was (a man or a woman) who… Then, once you see your story, begin to shape your statement of purpose, your to be list, with the phrase: Right now in my life…
  • Surrender to surprise. Sometimes surprises are wonderful. Sometimes they are painful. Christina says, “Surprise is the practice of accepting the unexpected interruption, and the practice of leaving enough space in the day for something to happen that isn’t on the list. Surrendering to surprise is the practice of balancing structure and openness.” Expect to be surprised today. There is an old Yiddish proverb, “We plan, God laughs,” that expresses a truth we can all relate to. We make plans, setting out where we want to go and imagining what we will be like when we have “arrived.” But things have a way of turning out not quite as we hoped or expected. Learn to expect the unexpected, let go of your plans, embrace the new, whether it is good or bad. With hope, faith and belief we can be better in our life and make a difference in the lives of others.

And a final word from me; pay attention to the life you are living, allow yourself to embrace the changes, be filled with love, for your God, yourself, and the others. Look within and be transformed!

A Reflection...

A number of years ago I ran across a little book called, “the Seven Whispers: Listening to the voice of God,” written by Christina Baldwin. As we continue our Lenten journey, I thought they might have some value for you as well. Since they can’t be given without some explanation and because it is more to take in than a few minutes affords us, I thought we would just hear a couple at a time.

The Seven Whispers – One and Two
  • Maintain peace of mind. Don’t we all want peace of mind? We can begin to move toward peace of mind with one simple exercise from the teaching of the Vietnamese monk, Tich Nhat Hanh: “I take one breath to let go, one breath to be here, one breath to ask now what?” All of us have some form of morning ritual, some do a morning devotional, some meditate, some jog or take a walk, some are glad to get their coffee and rush off into the day. I invite you before you do any of those things that you take a moment to breathe, one to let go, one to be here, one to ask now what? This simple practice can better prepare you to move into the day.
  • Move at the pace of guidance. Christina says, “In a world of speed and distraction, pace of guidance invites us to combine the practices of measured movement and listening…Pace is going around the block with a three-year-old and noticing everything the child is noticing.” I am struck with the reality of walking with a three-year-old. It doesn’t mean moving at a smooth or easy rate of speed. It means getting caught up in the wonder and amazement of discovering the world around us. Regularly take the time to practice that walk – take time to wonder, question and listen.

And a final word from me; pay attention to the life you are living, allow yourself to embrace the changes, be filled with love, for your God, yourself, and the others. Look within and be transformed!

A Reflection...

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. In the Christian tradition it is the time when we take the time, intentionally, to focus on our inner life, to better understand who we are and how we behave. The intent is to be better prepared to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ on Easter.

Honest self-examination is hard work. One reason it is hard is because we tend to focus on self-doubt and a lack of assurance about ourselves. It seems to be easy for us to get caught up in the negative self-talk. And because it is difficult, we can quickly lose interest and our motivation to see it through wanes.

I was reminded this week of Fr. Richard Rohr’s exercise for transforming such negation to affirmation. He suggests; “Think of a negative phrase you have said aloud or thought to yourself that stems from a sense of shame rather than your inherent dignity. Turn it upside down and say, in first person, present tense, an affirmation of your God-given value. For example:

  • I am alone. . . . I am indwelled by God’s presence.
  • II am unlovable. . . . I am infinitely loved.
  • I don’t have enough. . . . I have everything I need.
  • I am stupid. . . . I have the mind of Christ.
  • I am worthless. . . . I am precious in God’s eyes, I am honored, and God loves me.

Repeat the positive statement aloud, slowly, with intention and trust, several times. Then rest silently in the awareness that you are already and forever, without any effort or achievement on your part, a beloved child of God.”

And a final word from me; pay attention to the life you are living, allow yourself to embrace the changes, be filled with love, for your God, yourself, and the others. Look within and be transformed!

A Reflection...

Lent is coming! Next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Lent is a season of reflection and preparation before the celebrations of Easter. By observing the 40 days of Lent, Christians replicate Jesus Christ's sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for 40 days. For many Christians it is a time of fasting or giving up something in order to achieve something in their own life and/or grow closer to God.

I encourage you, regardless of your faith affiliation or even lack of, to consider the words of Pope Francis, and starting next Wednesday to:

  • Fast from hurting words and say kind words
  • Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude
  • Fast from anger and be filled with patience
  • Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope
  • Fast from worries and have trust in God
  • Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity
  • Fast from pressures and be prayerful
  • Fast from bitterness and fill your hearts with joy
  • Fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others
  • Fast from grudges and be reconciled
  • Fast from words and be silent so you can listen

And a final word from me; pay attention to the life you are living, allow yourself to embrace the changes, be filled with love, for your God, yourself, and the others. Give up so you can live!

A Reflection...

Last week I talked about the difference between transform and transmute. I said that transform is to change greatly the appearance or form of something; while transmute is to change, transform or convert one thing to another, or from one state or form to another. Sometimes we need to change our mind, our form. Other times we need to change our being, who we are.

I want to add a new word this week, endurance.

A friend of mine, Tony Robinson, was writing about it in his blog. He said, (Endurance is) “Sticking with it, not giving up, persisting. You don’t know what will come of it, but you carry on as best you are able.”

Endurance is the power to withstand something challenging. ... It can be used to describe the physical strength to keep going, as in a marathon or giving birth, but it can also be used when discussing an exhausting mental situation or stressful time — the endurance to bounce back from loss, perhaps.

Again, a quote from Hope for the Flowers... “And the day came when the risk to remain the same was greater than the risk to change…It is after all the only hope for the cocoon to become a butterfly.”

Transformation and transmutation, changing, is about enduring, sticking with it, not giving up. Life is filled with good and bad. Living is about continuing forward and recognizing when it is time to change.

Many years ago, I was going through a very rough time. A woman gave me a gift. It was a copper plate with a butterfly in the middle. Around the edge is written, “Lord, help me to find my way through the changes in my life.” It has hung in my office for over 30 years and continues to be my go-to prayer.

Wherever you are in your walk, stick with it, don’t give up, endure. You don’t know what will come of it but carry on as best you are able.

A Reflection...

Mandala - The circle that does not exclude but contains. It does not separate but protects and holds opposing forces in such a way that they can be transmuted and transformed. Perhaps you have heard this on the radio. It is the beginning of the ad for The Mandala Center. Have you ever thought, “What does it mean to be transmuted and transformed?”

As verbs, the difference between transform and transmute is that transform is to change greatly the appearance or form of something; while transmute is to change, transform or convert one thing to another, or from one state or form to another.

Sometimes we need to change our mind, our form. Other times we need to change our being, who we are.

In Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, he writes, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 7:2)

Transformation is not mere change, which is inevitable. It is only by conscious choice that we can be transformed. Dr. Wayne Dwyer says, “Transformation literally means going beyond your form.”

And that leads us to “transmute” – to change into something different – In our time together a couple of months ago I introduced you to a book that has been a touch stone in my life, “Hope for the Flowers” by Trina Paulis. “A tale partly about life, partly about revolution, and lots about hope.” It is the story of two caterpillars becoming butterflies. It is the story of that mandala of life that allows for transformation and transmutation.

It is a both/and, not an either/or. Life is about opening ourselves that we might become all that we are.

Let us pay attention to the life before us; let your imagination be transformed; let your life be transmuted.

A Reflection...Another poem from Mary Oliver

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Let us pay attention to what is before us; let your imagination be transformed; let your life be filled with wonder and delight.

A Reflection

While I have never been a big poetry person, the poet I have most appreciated, Mary Oliver, died last week. Along with many of my ordained colleagues, she was the one I most enjoyed and quoted.

In a short article published this week, the Christian Century magazine staff recalled in a 2017 essay in the Christian Century, Debra Dean Murphy calls her “a mystic of the natural world,” and cites three elements of Oliver’s poetry that are enriching for Christians: “her way of regarding the created order,” which encourages “a deeply theological vision of the world”; “a deep love of neighbor”; and a “relative lack of theological sophistication” that challenges “the cynicism of our times.”

Murphy notes resonances between Oliver’s poetry and “the liturgical poem of Genesis 1 in which all of creation exists in a harmony of relationships that the Creator perceives as beautiful.” In a poem published in the Century in 2006, “Coming to God: First days,” Oliver wrote of learning to kneel into the world of the inscrutable:

Coming to God: First days

Lord, what shall I do that I can’t quiet myself?
Here is the bread, and here is the cup, and I can’t quiet myself.

To enter the language of transformation!
To learn the importance of stillness, with one’s hands folded!

When will my eyes of rejoicing turn peaceful?
When will my joyful feet grow still?
When will my heart stop its prancing as over the summer grass?

Lord, I would run for you, loving the miles for your sake.
I would climb the highest tree to be that much closer.

Lord, I will learn also to kneel down into the world of the invisible, the inscrutable and the everlasting.
Then I will move no more than the leaves of a tree on a day of no wind,
bathed in light,
like the wanderer who has come home at last and kneels in peace, done with all unnecessary things; every motion; even words

Oliver’s poems are about “what it means to attend to what is before us in any given moment,” Murphy wrote. “They are occasions for transfiguring the imagination and a summons to wonder and delight.”

Let us pay attention to what is before us; let your imagination be transformed; let your life be filled with wonder and delight.

A Reflection

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give... Winston Churchill

Life is not about the “things” we give but about how we give of ourselves. Things are just things. But when we give of ourselves, we are sharing a story, a life. You may not think you have much to give. But just consider:

Giving a smile – Did you know we have a natural in-built system to resonate with each other. When we see someone doing something, we internally "mirror" or "mimic" with them. If you smile, you make my smiling "micro muscles" go to work. I may feel better for no reason. This process is called resonance. We have an in-built system or sounding board that is acutely sensitive to others. Reach out and, from your side, create positive resonance with others.

Giving a listening ear -Listen to someone attentively without interrupting, take in their perspective fully, allow them to express themselves, and just get yourself out of the way for a while. You will be amazed at what you learn, and this may be the first time anyone has listened to them in such a profound and respectful way. They may in return listen to you.

Being grateful – There is so much for which we can be grateful. I have read that researchers have noted that 3 times more positive things happen to us than negative things every day, yet it is the negative that captures our attention. We dwell on the negative things to the detriment of the positive. Retrain yourself to look for the good in you and, just like giving a smile, you will resonate with those around you and they may find their own things to be thankful for.

Be happy - While some people think happiness is a selfish endeavor, it may just be the most unselfish thing you can do! Once again you resonate with those around you. Some researchers believe that our well-being impacts those around us up to 3 degrees of separation away from us. By taking good care of yourself, doing things you love, and being happy, you are making those around you happier, and the friends of friends of those around you happier too! And don’t forget happiness’ biggest secret: being of service to others brings us happiness.

Saint Francis of Assisi said, “For it is in giving that we receive.”

A Thought for the New Year

It is the ninth day of 2019. I have never been one to put much store in new year’s resolutions. But I do believe the new year is a good time to explore the possibilities of what life has to bring us. It is a good time to reflect on where we have been and really focus on where we are going, who we are becoming.

T.S. Eliot wrote, “For last year’s words belong to last year's language and next year’s words await another voice.”

A first step in finding another voice is to be motivated – I suspect this is not a new idea to most of us. We know that motivation is the key to accomplishing anything we wish to do. No matter what we label as our thing to change - exercise more, eat healthier, quit smoking, save more money, meditate, pray more, or some other laudable personal goal, if we are not motivated, we soon lose focus.

I also suspect that for most of us, if we are honest with ourselves, we might boil our hopes and desires down to “health & happiness.” We want to be healthy and happy. But unless we have taken the time to reflect, look within ourselves to identify the motivation, the real reason we want to be healthy and happy, we will soon give up.

Three ideas on how to create motivation
  • Reflect on all the times in the past we have tried to achieve a healthy lifestyle and to be happy. Write them down – just a descriptive word or two not a long narrative.
  • Focus on identifying the positive things that occurred as we pursued a healthy lifestyle or were happy. Write down the things we did that made us healthier and happier.
  • Identify the true underlying reason you wish to achieve this goal. Write it down. Remind yourself often.

“The road ahead is not some predetermined path that I am forced to trod, but it is a rich byway that I can help create.” - Craig D. Lounsbrough, a life coach/counselor

Today’s Meditation - Christmas Love

I expect that most of us are very familiar with John 3:16. It is where Jesus says, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that all who believe in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Perhaps we are so familiar with it that at least a part of John’s point is missed.

For those of you who know me or have heard me preach on John’s gospel you know that I love the way in which he uses words with multiple meanings, phrases with multiple directions and how he challenges us to consider those possibilities.

John 3:16 is no exception. For a lot of my life I only considered that this verse was talking about Jesus giving his life as a sacrifice on the cross. And, it certainly does mean that…and more.

Bishop Michael Curry, the Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church and recently named as “religious news maker of the year, referred to the same kind of experience in his Christmas letter. He said, “…some years ago I was reading a commentary by Raymond Brown, on the Gospel of John, and Professor Brown said that that passage not only speaks of Jesus willingly giving his life on the cross, but it actually speaks of Christmas, of God giving his very self, his very son to the world, not for anything God could get out of it, but for the good and the welfare and the well-being of the world. Of us.”

He goes on to say, “Someone once said, in a Christmas poem, “Love came down at Christmas.” That’s what love is. To give, and not to count the cost. To give, not for what one can get, but for what the other can receive. That’s what love is. God so loved the world, that he gave.”

It is this great gift from God that we are asked to receive and in turn give to the others around us.

Twice a day, stop, take a breath, calm, clear, and focus your mind, open yourself to receive the love of God. Let it give you the courage to face life cheerfully, heal your ignorance and negative emotions and cultivate wisdom and compassion for all. Let it be the gift you give this Christmas.

May you have a blessed, merry, and joyful Christmas.

Today’s Meditation - Peace

For many of us in a liturgical Christian tradition this is the second week of Advent. Advent is the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Each week has a theme attached to it as a way of preparing for the Christmas celebration. This week’s theme is peace. It is a theme which touches each one of us as individuals and as community. In our writings and conversations about The Mandala Center we often speak of it as “a peaceful place…”

We have had a Peace Pole at The Mandala Center for many years now. A Peace Pole is a hand-crafted monument that displays the message and prayer May Peace Prevail on Earth on each of its four or six sides, usually in different languages.

There are tens of thousands of Peace Poles in 180 countries all over the world dedicated as monuments to peace. They serve as constant reminders for us to visualize and pray for world peace.

The pole at The Mandala Center sits outside the north side of the main building, is part of our Mandala Walk, and serves as a reminder to all who see it that we are committed to be that peaceful place. It is the reminder that around the world people are praying for peace.

Four quotes for you to consider:

1. In Paul’s letter to the church in Rome he says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

2. Thomas a Kempis, “First keep the peace within yourself, then you can also bring peace to others.”

3. Dalai Lama, “We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.”

4. Mother Teresa, “Peace begins with a smile.”

Twice a day, stop, take a breath, calm, clear, and focus your mind, see the ideal of peace that you want to light your way. Let it give you the courage to face life cheerfully, heal your ignorance and negative emotions and cultivate wisdom and compassion for all. Let it put a smile on your face.

Today’s Meditation - Hope

For many of us in a liturgical Christian tradition this is the first week of Advent. Advent is the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Each week has a theme attached to it as a way of preparing for the Christmas celebration. This week’s theme is hope. No matter what our tradition or faith, I think hope has a special place in our lives.

There is a book which has been part of my life ever since it first came out in 1972. It is called: hope for the flowers - A tale, partly about life, partly about revolution, and lots about hope. For adults and others (including caterpillars who can read.)

Let me share with you a little summary of the story without spoiling it for you. It all begins with a cute little fuzzy caterpillar who hatches from his egg on a leaf and meets the world for the first time.

It follows his journey all through his first days... until he discovers something very, very curious. Many other caterpillars have also discovered it, and they all want to find out more, but the path they have chosen to get there is not making sense. The black and white caterpillar, Stripe, by a twist of fate meets Yellow. Their relationship becomes very special, a love you will connect with deep in your soul. Stripe and Yellow experience love, loss, joy, frustration, depression, confusion, excitement, discovery, and so many more life illustrations as they crawl and climb together. At one point, Stripe and Yellow decide to take separate paths that they have struggled internally about, and it is very difficult for them both. They are both searching hard for the meaning of life, one goes through darkness, the other through light, until the mysterious discovery finally sparkles with clarity.

While it is a great book for kids, it is really for all of us. And not just a onetime read but can and should be read over and over. It will encourage you to be persistent, to keep moving forward, to overcome against all odds, and to know that there is still Hope. (Adapted from Laney in the Mommy Dialogues, 2013)

hope for the flowers - A tale, partly about life, partly about revolution, and lots about hope. For adults and others (including caterpillars who can read.)

Twice a day, stop, take a breath, calm, clear, and focus your mind, see the ideals that you want to light your way. Let them give you the courage to face life cheerfully, heal your ignorance and negative emotions and cultivate wisdom and compassion for all.

Today’s Meditation

As we find ourselves in the midst of the holiday season and all of its hustle and bustle, I want to share a reminder to slow down, pay attention, and enjoy the walk.

A Japanese Version of the 23rd Psalm

The Lord is my pace-setter
I shall not rush.
He makes me stop and rest for quiet intervals;
Which restore my serenity.
He leads me in ways of efficiency,
Through calmness of mind,
And his guidance of peace.

Even though I have a great many things to
Accomplish each day
I will not fret,
For His presence is here,
His timelessness, His all-importance
Will keep me in balance.
He prepares refreshment and renewal
In the midst of my activity
By anointing my mind
With His oils of tranquility;
My cup of joyous energy overflows.

Surely harmony and effectiveness
Shall be the fruits of my hours,
For I shall walk in the pace of my Lord
And dwell in His house forever.

A translation of the Japanese version By Toki Miyashina from Psalm 23, Copyright by K.H. Strange, 1969, published By The St. Andrews Press, Edinburgh

Twice a day, stop, take a breath, calm, clear, and focus your mind, see the ideals that you want to light your way. Let them give you the courage to face life cheerfully, heal your ignorance and negative emotions and cultivate wisdom and compassion for all.

Today’s meditation is on “Gratitude”

With tomorrow being Thanksgiving Day, it seems appropriate to turn our attention to giving thanks, gratitude.

In her book Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks, Diana Butler Bass writes: “English essayist Samuel Johnson once said, "Gratitude is a fruit of great cultivation." The Christian scriptures liken gratitude to joy, a "fruit of the spirit." Gratitude is not only an emotion; it is something we do. It is like tending a garden. It takes planting and watering and weeding. It takes time and attention. It takes learning. It takes routine. But, eventually, the ground yields, shoots come forth, and thanksgiving blooms.”

May this Thanksgiving be for you and yours both a blossoming of thankfulness and a beginning of tending your garden of thankful living.

Today's meditation is on "Love"

Alice Walker is an American novelist, short story writer, poet, and activist. She wrote the novel The Color Purple. She also wrote, Anything We Love Can Be Saved. In it she says... “Our last five minutes on earth are running out. We can spend those minutes in meanness, exclusivity, and self-righteous disparagement of those who are different from us; or we can spend them consciously embracing every glowing soul who wanders within our reach—those who, without our caring, would find the vibrant, exhilarating path of life just another sad and forsaken road.”

The New Testament, (1 John 4:7), says it this way: "Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God, and those who love are born of God and know God. Those who do not love do not know God. Why? For God is love."

There's power in love. There's power in love to help and heal when nothing else can.
There's power in love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will.
There's power in love to show us the way to live.

Love is a choice.

We get to choose how we respond to life, to the people we encounter, to how we live.

My favorite quote comes from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin; “Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”

Let us begin today to discover the fire of love in ourselves, our neighbors, and the world around us!

Centering Prayer

This past week Fr. Thomas Keating, died. Fr. Keating was an American monk and priest of the Cistercian order. Keating was known as one of the principal developers of Centering Prayer, a contemporary method of contemplative prayer that emerged from St. Joseph's Abbey, Spencer, Massachusetts.

I got to spend a week with him some 14 years ago learning about and practicing Centering Prayer. It made a huge difference in my prayer life. Contemplative prayer has been referred to as “Christianity’s best kept secret.”

I must admit that the idea of silent prayer was something new to me. Yes, I had heard about it, but it had never become a part of my prayer life. But as I practiced, I felt this immense peace settle into my body and spirit. It quickly became my “go to style.” So, today, I want to share the simple steps to begin the practice of Centering Prayer:

1. Choose a sacred word or phrase as the symbol to consent to God’s presence. It can be something like Love or Jesus or Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me or Be still and Know. Mine was and is Come Holy Spirit.

2. Breathe – In, counting to 4 – Out, counting to 4 - Focus on your breathing – Don’t worry if your mind wanders, just focus on breathing until you feel settled.

3. Silently introduce the sacred word or phrase. Let your focus be on that word or phrase.

4. When you become aware of thoughts return ever so gentle to the word or phrase.

5. At the end of your prayer period remain in silence for a couple of minutes as you return to the present moment.

It is amazing to me that no matter if I am feeling close to God or far away, if life is flowing well or it seems like I am being overwhelmed, somehow practicing centering prayer always seems to settle and focus me.

Breath in four counts. Breath out four counts.
Come Holy Spirit.

Sounds simple, right? But as with anything we have to practice. I invite you, begin today.

Twice a day take the time and practice.

Halloween

Today is Halloween/ All Hallows Eve, since there is a variety of opinions about this celebration, I want to share with you an article by Tamara Lechner, a certified meditation instructor with the Chopra Center, that might be a good reminder of how to best take advantage of this celebration.


Why We Love Halloween—And It's Not the Candy
As the fall leaves begin to change color and the nights become a little brisker, the back-to-school season quickly swings to the Halloween season at our home. I have four children who all agree Halloween is their favorite holiday. What is it about dressing up and trick-or-treating that makes this holiday so beloved?


Historical Halloween
Straddling fall and winter, Halloween is a time of celebration as well as superstition. It's believed to have originated in an ancient Celtic festival where villagers would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a day to honor saints and martyrs. Very quickly the evening before this became known as All Hallows Eve and later Halloween. 
Over time Halloween evolved into a community-based, child-friendly, trick-or-treating extravaganza that happens across cultures in many parts of the world. From a witch hunt to a community connector, Halloween brings joy to those who love it.

Here are some reasons why Halloween is so great. 

1. Allows You to Express Your Creativity
Halloween inspires creativity and there seems to be no limits or boundaries to what or whom you can become. On Halloween there's no script, there's no plan; you can choose an identity that feels exciting and new. Whether you make your own costume starting months in advance or you purchase one the day before, there is creativity involved in make believing you are someone different than your normal everyday persona.

2. Encourages You to Play with Your Archetypes
Archetypes are mythical stories involving heroes and heroines. They have themes that reside at the level of the collective soul. Archetypes demonstrate traits we admire and that inspire us. Their stories resonate with us at a genetic level and the universal theme of their tales is known across cultures. Anytime a person is expressing themselves as bigger than life, you are seeing their archetype come alive. 
You can probably think of someone in your social sphere who loves and connects to nature in a “mother nature” kind of way or someone who exudes the childish wonder, purity, and wisdom of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. The hero, the explorer, the rebel, and the healer are just a few more common archetypes. 
Every human has some type of connection to an archetype—and in costume form on Halloween, you are allowed to play out your dreams, your aspirations, and your archetype fantasy.

3. Strengthens Community Involvement
Life can be very busy and, quite often, you take the car from the garage, to work, to the grocery store, to the school pickup, to soccer, and back to the garage without really feeling connected to your neighbors or your neighborhood. Halloween is a time where we come together outside regardless of the weather and spend time walking together. Halloween isn't stopped by rain, snow, wind, or hail. Spending time together and feeling like a community strengthens us.

4. Promotes Getting Outside
If you are like many Americans, the majority of your life is spent inside. Many spend eight hours each day sitting at a desk with unnatural lighting and staring at a computer. When you do get outside, it is often in a frenzy of hurried activity like “going for a quick run.” Trick-or-treating allows for a slow walk outdoors where you have no goal other than to enjoy the evening. Take notice of the sounds and smells as you enjoy time outside as a family.

5. Encourages Giving and Receiving
When your little ghouls and goblins stumble up the stairs to say “trick or treat” to an elderly neighbor, they bring with them the vitality of youth, which is contagious and all too often missing from seniors’ lives. Then the little ones receive a treat to reward their effort, bringing to mind the Law of Giving and Receiving, which is always great to put into practice.

6. And of Course, the TREATS
When the trick or treating is done, the fun of tallying the candy and seeing what appears from the loot bags is always a special part of the night. Over my 20 years as a parent, I have explored letting the kids trade their candy in for a small toy, encouraging them to choose pieces and donate the rest to a woman’s shelter or just letting them have at it. 
In the end, just remember not to make your parenting feel like policing of their loot. Teaching them to learn their own healthy habits is more empowering than having them strictly follow your candy rules. And talking about it opens great dialogue about health and balance.
A night of costumes, candy, and children doesn’t have to be a nightmare. It is all in your perspective.

The Blessings of Being in Nature

Science writer Kevin Loria summarizes wide-ranging inquiry into our relations with nature and why it is important to our ways of life. As he sees it, both physical and mental health are benefited by spending time in natural environments. Here are 4 reasons why it can be important.

1. Walking in nature improves short term memory.

Several studies show that nature walks have memory-promoting effects that other walks don't. In one study, University of Michigan students were given a brief memory test, then divided into two groups. One group took a walk around an arboretum, and the other took a walk down a city street. When the participants returned and did the test again, those who had walked among the trees did almost 20% percent better than they had first time. The people who had taken in city sights did not consistently improve.

A similar study on depressed individuals found that walks in nature boosted working memory much more than walks in urban environments.

2. Being outdoors has a demonstrated de-stressing effect.

Being outside changes the physical expression of stress in the body. One study found that students who were chosen to spend two nights in a forest had lower levels of cortisol — a hormone often used as a marker for stress — than those chosen to spend that time in a city. In another study, researchers found a decrease in both the heart rates and levels of cortisol of participants who spent time in the forest compared to those in the city. "Stressful states can be relieved by forest therapy," the researchers concluded. Among office workers, even a view of nature out a window is associated with lower stress and higher job satisfaction.

3. Spending time outside reduces inflammation.

In one study, students who spent time in the forest had lower levels of inflammation than those who spent time in the city. In another, elderly patients who had been sent on a week-long trip into the forest showed reduced signs of inflammation. There were some indications that the woodsy jaunt had a positive effect on those patients' hypertension levels as well.

4. Outdoor experiences may help fight depression and anxiety.

Anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues may all be eased by spending time in nature — especially when that's combined with exercise. One study found that walks in the forest were associated with decreased levels of anxiety and bad moods, and another found that outdoor walks could be "useful clinically as a supplement to existing treatments" for major depressive disorder. An analysis of 10 earlier studies found that so-called "green exercise” improved both self-esteem and mood. The presence of water made the positive effects even stronger, the findings suggested.

From: Spending Time Outdoors by Kevin Loria, Business Insider, June, 2018

Come enjoy TMC... 3 or 4 hours, a day, overnight, a weekend, or longer!
A time to reflect, renew, rejoice. Walk with us on your life’s journey!

Today’s meditation, “Service”

You might have heard this short story before. Once a lady asked a Christian priest, 'Father, what does service mean?' The priest replied, 'My dear, say you see an old lady trying to cross a busy road all by herself. Then helping her to cross the road safely is service'.

So when someone heard this, they went out on the streets to look for such people who were trying to cross the road. But they did something quite opposite. They would approach elderly people and ask them, ‘Do you wish to cross the street?’ Though they said, 'No', these people forcefully held their hands and took them to the other end of the road. When the elderly person moved a little ahead, another person approached her and asked the same thing, ‘Do you wish to cross the street?’ When she again said ‘No’, he said, ‘No no! You have to cross the street. I wish to do some service’.

I believe that being of service is one of our highest ideals in life. But as our story says, the best of intentions does not always produce the best results. So, in our quest to serve we must always seek to do so with compassion, peace, and wisdom.

Compassion is the combination of listening and empathy. Colossians 3:12 – Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Peace in Hebrew is “Shalom.” It is taken from the root word shalam, which means, “to be safe in mind, body, or estate.” It speaks of completeness, fullness, or a type of wholeness that encourages you to give back — to generously re-pay something in some way.

It is in this sense that Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” – Matthew 5:9

Wisdom - the soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of experience, knowledge, and good judgment. Solomon didn’t ask the Lord for wealth or riches. He asked for wisdom and the Lord gave him a wise and discerning heart. Seek this kind of wisdom.

Twice a day stop and ask yourself, “Am I serving those around me with compassion, peace and wisdom.

Today’s meditation, “The Road Best Traveled”

I want to share with you this morning an excerpt from Dennis Waitley’s book “Empires of the Mind.” Waitley writes, “The road best traveled was inspired by “The Road Not Taken,” a well-known poem by Robert Frost.

To visualize the road best traveled, you must understand that it’s not what you have that counts – not your money, stocks, IRAs, CDs, cars, position, or real estate. What counts is what you now do with what you have. No one can reasonably claim that the choices are easy. I trust I’ll never forget M. Scott Peck’s great The Road Less Traveled, whose opening line consists of three words: “Life is difficult.”

No doubt it has always been difficult in various ways, but some stretches are more difficult than others, and America has known far easier, happier periods. In some respects, our nation is spinning out of control…

Our society’s current condition reminds me of another first line, this one by Charles Dickens. The famous: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” which opens A Tale of Two Cities, could easily summarize our own times.”

Waitley’s book was published in 1995.

Whether it is the worst of times or the best of times, the road best traveled is made up of those ideals that determine the direction of our life. For me they are, truth, love, and adventure.

I challenge you to take the time to consider your highest ideals for your life, write them down, post them where you can be reminded of which road you are travelling, refer to them often. Let them give you the courage to face life cheerfully, heal your ignorance and negative emotions and cultivate wisdom and compassion for all.

What will you now do with what you have?

Today’s meditation is on the “Fall Season”

Since October 4th is the feast of St. Francis and many of us will participate in the Blessing of the Animals, I thought a story about St. Francis might be in order:

“St. Francis and the Ttaming of the Wolf”

The story is told of the little town of Gubbio in the Italian hills that was being ravaged by a ferocious wolf. It was eating livestock and people alike.
The townspeople were terrified, huddled behind the safety of the town walls.
Then Francis of Assisi arrived, and heard what was happening and took pity on the people and the wolf, and decided to go out and talk to the wolf.
“No! No!” they shouted. “He’ll destroy you!”
But he went anyway.
And he hadn’t been out long, when this enormous wolf charged out of the bushes – growling and snapping his teeth. But Francis, eyes filled with pity and determination, made the sign of the cross over the charging wolf and said, "Come to me brother Wolf. I wish you no harm."
And the wolf knelt at his feet, meek as a lamb.
Then Francis spoke again to him, and got a little upset:
"Brother Wolf, what you’ve been doing is sin. You shouldn’t be killing people. So stop it. I want to make peace between you and the people of Gubbio. They’re not going to hurt you. But you can’t hurt them either. Do you understand?"
Then the wolf looked up at him with sorrowful eyes and nodded his head with understanding and remorse. And he lifted up his paw and put it in Francis’ hands.
"Good. All your past sins are forgiven."
And Francis said, "Come on. Come with me. We’ve got some work to do."
And the wolf followed Francis into the town. And the people were amazed. And Francis spoke on behalf of the wolf. He explained what had happened and that the wolf was repentant, but then said...
Will you forgive him? And will you promise to feed him?
And the whole town agreed and made peace with him. And, just to show that the wolf understood, he again lifted his paw and placed it in Francis’ hand as a sign of his pledge. And from then on, the wolf lived in the village and walked from house to house and the people gave him food. Not even the dogs barked at him. He was just another member of the town of Gubbio. And he lived amongst them for another two years, until he died in peace.

What the story of Francis and the wolf reveals to us is that Saint Francis is helping to bring about peace and reconciliation in this world. This peace, harmony and reconciliation is not only meant to exist between God and humans, but also between God and the whole family of creation! We, too, can be instruments of this peace.

Take time twice a day and ask yourself are you being an instrument of peace?

Today’s meditation is on the “Fall Season”

It is pretty evident that we have transitioned into Fall. The weather is beginning to be cooler - although we will still get those occasional days when it will seem as though summer is hanging on.

The leaves are beginning to change. We are looking for those places where we can observe, maybe even longing for a trip to see the even more vibrant colors.

For some it is a sad transition. It is the loss of summer and its freedoms, perceived and real. Moving back into the routines.

But Fall can also be a time of renewal and discovery.

Today consider the “I’s” of Fall:

  • Initiate – chose to take the time to
  • Inquire – look within and
  • Imagine – the possibilities that are within you and all around you – see them as an opportunity to
  • Innovate – be creative – open your heart and mind to tackle the problems and seize new possibilities so that you might
  • Inspire – yourself and others Implement – Do It!
Take time twice a day and discover the “I’s” of Fall.

“The Parable of the Pebbles” ...Author Unknown

I don’t remember when I first heard this parable, but it has stuck with me over the years and occasionally I am drawn back to it. May it bless you as it has me.

It was a beautiful day and the young man was walking along the path admiring the wonderful scenery. He was on his way to the rich city that lay beyond the three valleys. Many people in his village had talked about this city but none of those who had ventured to it had ever returned to confirm the stories of its greatness.

The first valley was a picture to behold and the grass was so green compared to his old village, which was now a day’s walk away. The valley had a small stream running through it and there were many flowers along its banks. They were small and pretty flowers, bright pinks and reds, with a fantastic scent.

He sat and took some bread and cheese from his small knapsack and enjoyed his simple lunch in these beautiful surroundings. While he ate he let his mind wonder about the rich city. After lunch he continued his long journey.

As night fell he reached the edge of the second valley but it was too dark for him to appreciate its beauty. He opened his knapsack and took out his blanket and settled down for the night. He dreamed about the rich city and how much better his life would be for moving there; it was a long and good dream.

As the sun rose the next morning the dawn chorus of birds in nearby hedges and trees awoke him. The young man stretched and put away his bedding and let his eyes drink in the splendor of the second valley, which was far more fertile and colorful than the previous valley.

He walked to edge of the small river and saw that there were fish in it so he set about catching one for his breakfast. Having cooked and eaten the fish the young man walked across the river and continued his journey.

After a few miles he saw an old man asleep at the side of the path. He asked the man if he needed any help. The old man was very weak, and his reply was short - “I am beyond help but thank you. I will give you some advice though – Collect as many stones and pebbles as you can before you cross the next river.” The young man was puzzled and asked “Why?” but could not get an answer, the old man had gone back into a deep sleep. The young man continued walking.

Why should he collect stones? As he thought of possible reasons he noticed two or three little pebbles in the path, so he picked them up and put them in his pocket. This was a long road and every now and then he picked up a few more pebbles. His pocket was beginning to get heavy and he had no idea how much further he would have to walk. He decided that one pocketful of stones would be enough as he would tire himself too much if carried more.

Hours later he reached the third valley that was very lush and had a wide river running through it. The river was not very deep, perhaps waist high, but the current looked strong. The young man braced himself and crossed the river. He struggled against the current and almost slipped on two occasions when he would surely have been washed down river and perhaps drowned. He finally clambered up the other bank.

He rested and then carried on with his journey. After an hour or so he put his hand in his pocket and realized that he still had his pebbles. He pulled them from his pocket and could not believe his eyes – they had all turned into jewels!

The young man wished he had filled all of his pockets and his knapsack with stones and pebbles, imagine how rich he would be now! It was pointless to go all the way back to cross the river again, he would waste too much time and he could even drown if he tried to cross the river again.

He carried on to the rich city only to find that most people were poor, as they too had failed to heed the advice given by the old man.

Listening and learning is like collecting pebbles; it may seem worthless at the time but who knows when they will turn into precious gems or golden nuggets.

Twice a day, pause, ask yourself, “how many pebbles have I collected today?”

Service

In our weekly time together, I have tried to encourage you to twice a day take time to pause and think about one thing. And to allow that one thing to begin to shape who you are becoming.

Today’s focus on service, I believe, is the key to life, your life, becoming all you hope for.

Albert Schweitzer said it best; "I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve."

Twice a day, pause, ask yourself, “how am I serving – myself and others?”

Silence

I recently read an article about how in 2011 the Finish Tourist Board ran a campaign that sought to encourage people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. Their slogan was, “Silence, Please.” “No talking but action.” The campaign manager said, “We decided instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing.”

As strange as that sounds the Finns seem to have embraced what studies are showing, that silence is much more important to us than we think.

When the brain is silent it can generate new cells. The brain literally grows.

Herman Melville wrote, “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.” When you are not distracted by noise or tasks, you can enter that quiet time that allows your conscious brain to process things. The brain has the freedom to help you discover your place in the world within and around you.

Did you know that noise causes stress? Silence relives stress and tension and calms your soul. It has the direct opposite effect from noise. An unknow author wrote, “Silence isn’t empty, it’s full of answers.”

You don’t have to go to Finland to find your silence space. What you do have to do is take the time, look for “your” space and make it a habit to visit regularly.

Allow yourself to embrace the silence.

A quote from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross; “Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself, and know that everything in life has purpose. There are no mistakes, no coincidences, all events are blessings given to us to learn from.”

Mandala

While some of you may have heard the story of how The Mandala Center got its name I think it is worth repeating in an abbreviated form.

Tish Hewitt, the then owner of the property, had an idea that she wanted to create a space for herself where she could have some peace and quiet to reflect, refresh and renew her own spirit. As she began to design she became distraught over the size and fact that it was made up of circles. She called her daughter Anna and told her of her concerns. Anna at the time was taking courses at Georgetown University and one was on Carl Jung’s work on making the concept of the mandala relevant to the spiritual and psychological work in the west. In 1973 Jung wrote that, “a mandala is the psychological expression of the totality of the self.” Anna told her mom that she was creating her own mandala. Thus, the place became The Mandala Center.

In our radio ad for The Mandala Center I define mandala as the circle that does not exclude but contains. It does not separate but protects and holds opposing forces in such a way that they can be transmuted and transformed. Mandala represents wholeness, transformation, integration, and balance. The mandala is a universal image found over and over again in nature itself and, in some form, in all cultures.

Jung’s attempt to unlock the power of the mandala for the western world was important to Tish and Anna. I think it is important to all of us and each of us should continue this creative work.

So, I encourage you this week to take the time and practice creating your own mandala. It’s not hard, but it does require intention. Twice a day take the time to just draw whatever comes to your mind. Draw a circle on a piece of paper and within that circle draw what is in your mind. Don’t think or try to make it perfect. Just put it down. Just a few minutes. Then in the next few minutes look at it and reflect on what it says to you. Where are the connections, the disconnections? How does the circle hold them in tension?

Twice a day create your own mandala.

Wisdom

Since ancient times, people everywhere have been on a personal quest for wisdom. If you take a moment and ask yourself, I believe you would agree that there are many times when you have wished you were wiser.

I’m not talking about just being smarter. Wisdom has to do with discovering the meaning and purpose of our life.

According to Abraham Ibn Ezra, one of the most distinguished Jewish biblical commentators and philosophers of the Middle Ages, “wisdom is to the soul as food is to the body.”

The seeds of wisdom can be found in everything that life brings our way. The good, the bad, & the ugly. Our failures as well as our successes. All our relationships. But we must keep our eyes open and our hearts and minds responsive to her comings.

Meditation is the pathway to wisdom. And meditation, at it’s best, is when we take the time to stop, look and listen. Another way to say it is, Learning (wisdom) comes from reflecting on our experiences.

There are many meditation techniques. Each gives us the opportunity to draw from the great teachers, sages and exemplars. Many of you listening do practice meditation regularly. I encourage you to continue in your practice. And for those who don’t meditate, for whatever reason, I encourage you that it is important enough for you to simply begin by taking 20 minutes, 10 minutes, 2minutes, where ever you can begin, twice a day, and allow yourself to sit quietly and pay attention to who you are becoming.

Meditation is an inner state of being where the mind is clear, relaxed, and inwardly focused. When the mind is silent and no longer distracts you, meditation deepens, wisdom occurs.

I leave you with a quote that for many years helped me to get started;
“Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving till the right action arises by itself?” – Tao Te Chang

Practice becoming wise.

Breathe

Yesterday I was at the eye doctor’s office for a follow up and of course they run some tests on the eye. While checking the pressure the tech kept saying, “breathe naturally.” I joked with her about how easy it was for her to say, she wasn’t getting something poked in her eye. We laughed.

In thinking about it though, isn’t it true that something we do without thought all the time, we would die if we didn’t, suddenly becomes something we need to be reminded to do especially when we are under stress. “Remember to breathe. It is after all, the secret to life.” Gregory Maguire

By concentrating on our breathing, we calm, clear, and focus our minds.

From Genesis 2:7, paraphrased, – “God formed [us] out of dirt from the ground and blew into [our] nostrils the breath of life. [We] came alive – a living soul!”

Take time twice a day and discover the power of breath in your life. Stop, clear your mind and focus on the air which comes into you when you inhale. Where does it go in your body? Exhale, slowly… feel how you have calmed… how your mind has cleared … Repeat three times!

Consider how the air which comes into you brings you alive. Be intentional and practice. Allow this very natural, vital process to take you deeper in your spiritual life.

“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Remember to Breathe!

Love

This past weekend there was a royal wedding of Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle. You may have seen it. You may have heard the preacher was Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, leader of the U.S.-based Episcopal Church. Bishop Curry spoke passionately for 13 minutes about the power of love.

Because I think it is a powerful message, I wish to share part of it with you.

Bishop Curry started with the quote from the late Dr. Martin Luther King: "‘We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love, and when we do that we will make of this old world a new world. For love is the only way."

He went on to say, “There’s power in love. Do not underestimate it. Anyone who has ever fallen in love, knows what I mean. But think about love in any form or experience of it. It actually feels good to be loved, and to express love. There is something right about it. And there’s a reason.

Love, love is the only way. There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate. Don’t even over sentimentalize it. There’s power in love. If you don’t believe me, think about a time when you first fell in love, the whole world seemed to center around you and your beloved. There’s power in love, not in just its romantic form, but any form, in any shape of love, there’s a certain sense that when you are loved, and you know it, when someone cares for you and you know it. When you love, and you show it, it actually feels right, there’s something right about it. And there’s a reason for it. The reason has to do with the source, we were made by a power of love and our lives were meant and are meant to be lived in that love. That’s why we are here.

Ultimately, the source of love is God himself. Where true love is found, God himself is there. … There’s power in love to help and heal when nothing else can. There’s power in love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will, there’s power in love to show us the way to live."

Take time twice a day and discover the power of love, for you and for others.

Transformation

A few thoughts for us – you – to contemplate: “The thing that screws us up the most is the picture in our minds of how it is supposed to be. You see, it comes down to this: Everything changes, it is all unfolding as it should, so, relax, pay attention and be creative. Typically, we react to change with resistance and insistence; resisting the way our lives are unfolding and insisting that it should be otherwise, according to our plan.” Thomas Roberts the presenter for our workshop, “Embrace the change.”

From my engineering background: Newton's first law of motion is often stated as An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced [outside] force.

Transformation implies a marked change in your life, but you can practice it by making simple changes. Start by doing something different – walk to work by a new route; answer the telephone with your other than usual hand. Break a habit, any habit. Signal [the] Spirit that you are willing to accept change in your life and to be an agent of change in the world. With transformation comes healing and wholeness. It’s as if they had been waiting in the wings all along, until you made room for them on stage.” – From Spirituality & Practice

I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails – Jimmy Dean, singer, actor, the sausage guru

Twice a day this week stop, take the time to adjust your sails.

This meditation is based on the fourth step in practicing InterSpiritual meditation –

“May We Be Loving and Compassionate”

For those who live in misery
I engage in active empathy.

To help all creatures to be free,
I place their joy in front of me.

With love’s compassionate intent,
I strive for pure enlightenment.

The only true pain prevention
is my compassionate intention.

Dr. Ed Bastian, InterSpiritual Meditation

Twice a day this week stop, take the time to intentionally bring Love and Compassion into each moment of our life

This meditation is based on the third step in practicing InterSpiritual meditation –

“May We Be Awakened and Transformed”

In Paul’s letter to the Romans (12:2) he writes, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (NIV)

What does it mean to be transformed? The word “transformation,” according to The Oxford Dictionary is, “a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance.”

Change? Does that mean we clean up our act, change our behavior or live by a new set of rules and regulations? Certainly, worthy goals but, if we are honest we know that trying to change is difficult and hard work.

Stanley Hauerwas in his book, Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir, writes: “When you are trying to change the questions, you have to realize that many people are quite resistant to such a change. They like the answers they have.”

I want to suggest that transformation is a more natural process that we need to learn to pay attention to. We need to stop and look at the answers we are giving ourselves about our self.

In the original Greek language of the New Testament, the word used for transformation is metamorphosis. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, metamorphosis is, “a profound change in form from one stage to the next in the life history of an organism, as from the caterpillar to the pupa and from the pupa to the adult butterfly.”

A caterpillar is born to become a butterfly. It doesn’t put on a butterfly costume or strive to act like a butterfly. As long as it eats, its metabolism takes the nutrients it consumes, assimilates them into the caterpillar, and causes it to grow, so that eventually, the caterpillar changes and becomes a real, genuine butterfly. The change comes from within.

Twice a day this week stop, take the time to focus on becoming the butterfly you are meant to be.

This meditation is based on the second step in practicing InterSpiritual meditation –

“May We Be Grateful”

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.” ~ A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

“While four out of five Americans have told pollsters they feel gratitude in their daily lives, cultural commentator and religion expert Diana Butler Bass, in her new book “Grateful: The transformative power of giving thanks”, finds that claim to be at odds with the discontent that permeates modern society. There is a gap, she argues, between our desire to be grateful and our ability to behave gratefully—a divide that influences our understanding of morality, worship, and institutional religion itself.”

As I look at the world around us I think that I agree with her assessment. I feel like Piglet, grateful for so much in my life. But often not expressing it to those around me.

It is great to feel that you are grateful for the many blessings of and in your life. However, it is in expressing your gratitude that can lead you to a greater connection with God, our world, our neighbor, and our own souls.

So, let’s focus on the who, what, and why we feel grateful.

Twice a day this week stop, take the time to focus on being grateful.

Say to yourself, “For this person, this act done for me, this beauty I see…I am grateful because ___________, and I will do (_____) because I am grateful.”

Over the next few weeks I will be introducing you to InterSpiritual Meditation and the work of Dr. Ed Bastian.

“May We Be Happy and Healthy”

In all the world
I cannot find
The source of peace
Outside my mind.

Neither play, nor drink,
Nor sex, nor food,
Can cause a constant
Blissful mood.

The things I see,
Touch, smell, taste, hear,
Cause both joy and pain,
Hope and fear.

Meditation relieves
My mind of stress,
Leading me to health
And happiness.

InterSpiritual Meditation – Edward W. Bastian, Ph.D.

Twice a day this week stop, take the time to focus on your health and happiness.

THE MANDALA
The Meaning behind the Name

The Mandala

The Mandala represents wholeness, transformation, integration, and balance. The Mandala, as used here, is seen as a universal image found over and over again in nature itself and, in some form, in all cultures. It is a circle that does not exclude but contains. It does not separate, but protects and holds opposing forces in such a way that it can be transmuted and transformed. We believe The Mandala is the perfect symbol for the Center. It is a sanctuary for “holding space” for our quests, healing work, pilgrimages, educational learning, and creative expressions.