Teaching Story: The Sincere Aspirant by Ed Hirsch

Teaching Story: The Sincere Aspirant  by Ed Hirsch   (IP blog?)

The story goes that a man had a powerful and illuminating opening into the Divine and felt called to share his inspiration with others. After fasting and fervently praying for how best to go about this, he received the illumination he needed. He gathered the people together and gave inspiring sermons on Divine Law based on readings from the Old Testament. All seemed well, and yet by the end of the week, he found that the people were lying, cheating, stealing, and sleeping around. Alarmed but undaunted, he returned to his prayers with increased devotion. Next week, after receiving Divine Grace, he gathered the people and gave sermons on Divine Love based on readings from the New Testament. To his surprise and chagrin, he found by the end of the week that the people continued lying, cheating, stealing, and sleeping around. Frustrated but not willing to give up, he returned all the more diligently to his prayers. “What must I do, O Lord?” he cried. Surrendering his own will, he again gathered the people. This time, he gave even more inspiring sermons, this time on submission to the Divine, based on readings from the Koran. But by the end of the week, he found that the people were still lying, cheating, stealing, and sleeping around. Now almost driven to distraction and despair, he returned to his prayers. “O Lord, I cannot bear this, show me the Way!” This time, after a tremendous revelation, he gave up his own lying, cheating, stealing, and sleeping around, and lo and behold, the people changed their ways.

Commentary: This can be read in two ways: On a more common level, it turns out that the man, who had been so focused on the errors of others, was committing those very same errors. On a subtler level, the man, who had been so focused on the obvious errors of other people, discovered that he himself was committing those very same errors but just in more subtle ways. By both readings, the message is that self-transformation has the greatest impact on others.

Ed Hirsch conducts free, drop-in weekly groups in The Practice of Presence at a local Ashland residence. Contact him at presenceofone@yahoo.com for information.

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Are We Safe: by Will Wilkinson

I was listening to NPR the other day and heard a woman being interviewed about the terrorist shooting in New Zealand say, “Now we can’t feel safe anywhere.” I felt a deep sadness rise up within me as I contemplated the truth of what she said. New Zealand has historically been a very peaceful country. So, if a horror like this could happen there, it could happen anywhere. That realization is chilling.

It’s true that tragedy can strike anytime, anywhere, without warning. But blessings can arise just as unexpectedly and they do, every day, if we’re looking for them. The key to what we see and experience resides in how we look.

Inevitably, in horror scenarios like the Christchurch shooting, heroes appear. Ordinary people act in extraordinary ways, like Abdul Aziz who chased the shooter away from the mosque and most certainly saved lives through his spontaneous heroism. So, knowing that now, where do we put our attention, towards hating the shooter or appreciating this hero?

We always have a choice as to where we direct our attention. Midst the cacophony of social media and 24/7 news feeds, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the stimulation and find our attention swirling around chaotically, with our emotions being enrolled in agendas of judgment and resentment and anger. Conversations can become like trading jabs at a punching bag, whether we are hitting on a murderer in the news, a politician we don’t like, or some friend who did something that offended us.

That’s not what a peacemaker does.

Those who bring peace choose differently. And they need more company from the rest of us. It can get tiring and brutally discouraging to labor with love in a field of hatred… even the strongest and most passionately committed social activists can lose hope. I remember the modern mystic Andrew Harvey recounting how he received a letter from a woman in Africa, someone he described as the strongest person he knew. She wrote, “By the time you read this I will be dead…” and went on to confess how her years of trying to help natives being abused and disenfranchised had worn her down to the point where she simply couldn’t go on and took her own life.

I wept when I heard that, for this woman unknown to me and for all the brave souls who carry on day after day, bringing peace to those in their immediate environments, often at great risk to their wellbeing and even to their lives.

So, how can we help? We all have our own lives and we’re surrounded by people who need reassurance, to be listened to, to know that someone cares about them. The question, “Can we ever feel safe again?” is impossible to answer if we’re wondering about external events. None of us control the universe, things will happen. But all of us can control what we contribute.

We can answer the prayer of St. Francis every day with the attitude we choose, the words we speak, and the actions we undertake. The words in this prayer leave no room for anything but heroic, peace-filled activism:

Lord make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy

This is not a religious text; it’s instructions for being a peacemaker, regardless of your spiritual beliefs. Imagine if each of us decided to follow those instructions, if we re-invented ourselves as a person who was bringing safety wherever we were. I wonder what might happen if I did that, if you did that, if we could inspire others to do it?

It may sound like a grand proposal but I’m actually talking about the small moments of each day and the choices we make. How do we respond? For instance, a friend might complain about another friend. Do we gossip with them? Or do we inject a different tone, perhaps an attitude of forgiveness or understanding? Do we listen deeply and really care about the person we’re with, or are we not-so-patiently waiting to tell our own story?

For anyone who wonders if they can ever feel safe again, the fastest way to “Yes!” is to make sure that others feel safe with you.Will Wilkinson is a local author who has contributed to 28 books in print. He is developing an international meditation network which can be found at www.noonclub.org.  

The above article was printed in the Ashland Tidings on April 6, 2019

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Lessons of Peace from Wild Animals by Janet Marie Sola

Lessons of peace from wild animals  by Janet Marie Sola

This last fall I finally realized a long dreamed-of trip to see the mysterious and beautiful wild animals of the Serengeti in East Africa: the legendary lions, leopards, elephants, giraffes, wildebeest, zebras, ostriches as well as some we had never heard of: the tiny antelopes called dik-diks, the four-foot tall secretary bird, so called because of its quill-like head feathers.

On the first evening walking on the footpath from my tent to the campfire, a menacing head appeared in the tall grass. I recognized the profile instantly: the upright spotted ears, the slouched posture: a hyena, not 20 feet away, staring right at me. I froze. What should I do? All of the images I had seen on endless nature videos came back at me: predators lying in wait for their prey, the heart-stopping chase (where you’re partly rooting for the gazelle to get away from the lion, partly for the lion trying to feed her hungry cubs.) Nature programs are all about the hunt and the kill: a cycle of appetite and instinct where animals live in fear and conflict. In fact, when you think about it, most media is about that, building an audience by focusing only on the drama. So much of our perception of the world is built around those images.

The next day, we rose in the dark and drove in 4 x 4’s along bumpy dirt roads. When the red and gold river of the sunrise began to flood the horizon, it illuminated the endless and seemingly empty grass plain of the Serengeti. But soon enough our guide’s trained eyes began to spot animals. A family of giraffes, moving like slow motion dancers, were nibbling on the shoots of the acacia trees. A cheetah appeared a shadow of gold smoke in the tall grass. She was still; she seemed to be contemplating a bare tree in her sight line as if she was meditating. (I knew it was a she. She was pregnant.)  Further down the road, a group of lions lounged in the shade. In a wetland’s shallow pond, an entire community of hippos lolled about, fat islands of contentment. When a sudden downpour came, they opened their huge mouths upward to capture the rain.

In the late afternoon, we stopped at a water hole, surrounded by low hills that were dotted here and there with bushes and flat-topped trees. A couple of long legged birds were poking around at the water’s edge. Then a zebra came over a hill, striking in its coat of black and white stripes, followed by another and another. Soon after a family of warthogs arrived, trotting purposefully as if they had an important message to deliver.  They all lowered their heads to drink.

It came to me not as a thought but a feeling—a peaceful afternoon of animals sharing a resource in their natural land.  While evolved strategies for food survival are part of their lives they are not all of it. The media focus on flight and fight aside, much of the time the animals of the great natural parks of Africa live in peace. Who is to say they do not NOT enjoy their time at the waterhole, the rain in their faces, and a lazy afternoon of contemplation? Who is to say they don’t also experience caring for their fellow creatures? Darwin posited that the emotions of all animals, including humans, evolved in a complex weave. Despite the later denial of the behaviorists, it is now widely accepted that animals have a wide range of experiences and feelings: mice can have fun, whales fall in love, and elephants suffer from PTSD. And empathy provides the social glue that binds creatures to each other.

In our time there, we saw two male lion companions, one without his right eye and a lame rear leg. His healthy brother was alongside him, turning every so often to make sure his disabled brother caught up with him. They had been together for years, our guide told us. 

             Caring for each other, and living in peace, really is a natural state, one we share with all creatures, part of our birthright. As A. A. Milne (of Winnie the Pooh fame) said: “Some people talk to the animals. Not many listen though. And that is the problem.” Oh, and in case you’re still wondering about the hyena on my path, after staring at me for what seemed like a very long minute, he smiled his weird hyena smile and turned toward the more interesting view of the sunset. Perhaps just to contemplate it in peace.

Ashland resident Janet Marie Sola, a former journalist, now writes fiction. Her writing has been published in Painted Bride, Forge, San Francisco Chronicle and more. Her novel, The Overnight Palace, is a story of art, romance and transformation set in India. She can be reached at her website janetmariesola.com or at solajanetmarie@gmail.com.

 

 

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The Universal Present by Ed Hirsch

The Universal Present 

 Would you like to get in on a secret? The first part is the Open Secret that is always here and now, simple and available. The second part is a gesture that anchors it. Together they make the Universal Present that keeps on giving, always new, always now.

 Have you ever felt caught in an endless schedule or drama, and you knew that at any moment you could simply pause and get off the wheel—but you don’t? And then you feel all the more hooked, trapped, helpless?

 Have you ever felt imbalanced and then got caught in the complications of an endless project of analyzing, rebalancing, improving, self-correcting, self-perfecting—if not outright self-conflict and self-judgment?  

 The secret is the radical alternative. Cutting through the complexity, we come home to Here Now, Returning to Center, to That which is prior to ego, prior to reactivity, prior to problems, prior to mind. We can refer to it as the Power of Now, the Peace of Presence, the Silence, the Stillness, or even God if you like, or simply the nameless Mystery. It is beyond beliefs, doctrines, dogmas, for it is simpler and more direct than any of that.

What IS, Always Already, before you even take a thought, is the Now, which you enter through gesture and breath in the present moment. This brings the Formless into the living here and now, so it doesn’t become an abstract ideal that we know we “should” remember but keep forgetting.

 In the East, it is called mudra or Namaste, but it is universal and not confined to any tradition, East or West. Simply bring your two palms together at the heart. The two hands symbolize all the dualities of life and are extensions of the heart. By bringing them together, you connect with That which IS prior to all differentiations. The hands, agents of doing, are brought together in nondoing. By bringing them together at the heart, you drop out of the head into your depth, which we can call your True Nature or Spiritual Heart. Don’t get stuck on the terms, for this secret is prior to thoughts, prior to emotions, prior to energies. Enter directly into that Presence.

 The hands together at the heart bring you into here. Taking a deep, slow breath brings you into now. Your full attention, your being, is here now. If you like, a simple word can focus your attention on the inner felt meaning of the gesture.

 By making a deliberate action, you are not passively waiting for grace or hanging out in abstractions only. And yet by entering into this gesture, the doing, and even the one who is doing, alchemically opens into nondual Being. What is Prior becomes priority. You yourself are engaged, but it is beyond the separate “me,” beyond any ownership, control, or self-reference. And yet it is inherently satisfying and empowering.

 The universality of this gesture can connect you with the hearts of all by connecting through your own heart. We could call this prayer or meditation, but really it is prior to all of that. Call it a practice or ritual if you like, but really it is a non-practice, a non-ritual, for all its form opens and empties into the Formless, making direct connection with the Peace That IS Here Now.

 By coming to the Formless Center beyond any center, you are prior to attachment to any outcome or problem to solve. It is not designed to attract the perfect partner, job, or circumstance, and yet by coming to Center, you are accessing a central power, love, and wisdom from which to move in the world. As gracefully as form empties into the Formless, the Formless enters into form.

 This practice doesn’t require any belief system, and it is not a religion. You might begin and end the day with it, and you can enter it anytime in between in a way that feels appropriate and unobtrusive. It might take some practice before it feels natural, but it is not about getting good at a practice.  

 There, now the secret is out. Everything falls away to a grounded, heart-centered simplicity of BE HERE NOW. Live from That.

Peace.

 Ed Hirsch conducts free, drop-in weekly groups in The Practice of Presence at a local Ashland residence. Contact him at presenceofone@yahoo.com for information.

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3 Life Lessons from a Cup of Hot Chocolate by Peter Finkle

3 Life Lessons from a Cup of Hot Chocolate

How many simple moments of life today have brought a smile to your face – or your heart?

 68 years of life have convinced me that my happiness does not come from the anticipated vacation, a promotion at work or a new possession.  Yes, those times are wonderful.  I am not minimizing their importance.

 But what about the other 95% of the year?  To put it bluntly, what about all those minutes of our lives ticking by, the moment by moment by moment of daily life when nothing “dramatic” is happening? 

 If we can learn to find simple riches in the moments of daily life, we open the door to living with contentment and satisfaction.  How to do that?  We will each have our own journey, but the journey starts with a decision: “Yes, that is what I want.”

This poem I wrote on a recent chilly winter morning offers some hints.

3 Life Lessons

from a Cup of Hot Chocolate

 This chilly winter morning,

The steaming mug

Warms my hands.

 

As rich dark chocolate

Fulfills my waking taste buds,

I am filled with that just-right “aaahhh” feeling.

 

Relaxed in my aaahhh-ness,

A mind-opening “awe” feeling emerges;

I suddenly see life lessons to learn

From this very cup of hot chocolate.

 

Balance the bitter with the sweet:

 

Faced with a choice, we take sweet over bitter, right?

Yet sweet alone is one-dimensional, cloying.

Only through the bitter “downs” in life

Do we learn to appreciate the sweet “ups?”

Only through bitter and sweet swirled together

Do we appreciate complexity in food, or

Growth and fulfillment in life.

 

History is important:

 The bitter-sweet cocoa and sugar in my cup

Both have an origin and a history,

As do I.

The cocoa and sugar come from the land

(is it cared for or neglected?) and from

The people who work the land

(is the food grown by child laborers or Fair Trade farmers?).

I honor, with each sip I take,

Choices this chocolate company made

To support healthy land and people.

While in my personal history,

I honor my great-great-grandfather,

Who fought to help preserve the Union

And end slavery in our Civil War.

I honor my father, who chose

To help rebuild Europe in the Marshall Plan

After the devastation of World War II.

 

Savor each sip:

 Our culture has a habit of teaching us

Happiness will be found “after…” and “when….”

Meanwhile, the moments, days and years of life

Slip away, and are lost.

This cup of hot chocolate reminds me

To savor each sip,

To appreciate each moment of life unfolding.

There is no more need to fear life slipping away

If I can learn to savor today, each day,

 

Here are two more hints to help us savor each day.

 

Gratitude: Each morning, I write in my journal one to three things I am grateful for. 

It can be something big.  Yesterday I wrote: “I am grateful for my health.” 

It can be something small.  Last January I wrote: “I am grateful I was able to watch on TV as Roger Federer won his 20th tennis Grand Slam at the Australian Open.”

 

Wins: Each evening, I write in my journal one to three “wins” from the day.  Here are three recent examples of simple “wins.”

“I talked on the phone today with my son about his music.”  

“My wife and I took our old electronics to the transfer station for recycling.” 

“I met mystery author Ellie Alexander (Kate Dyer-Seeley) at Bloomsbury and she was interested in my WalkAshland website.”

 You can do these two simple writing practices on paper, or digitally on your computer or phone.  They will, over time, bring a new perspective to each day. 

 Imagine that you have done both for just one month.  You will be able to look back, read and remember 30 to 90 specific things that you have been grateful for.  You will be able to look back, read and remember 30 to 90 of your very own small and large “wins” or accomplishments!

 Could this lead to more moments of life that bring a smile to your face each day?  I believe it could.  If you decide to try this simple practice for a month (or more), save my email address and let me know what happens.

 

_______________________________________

As his contribution to building community, writer and herbal health researcher Peter Finkle is walking every street in Ashland and writing an article with photos about every street.  Visit WalkAshland.com to see and read about local people, history, yard art, architecture, gardens and more.  Peter’s email: WalkAshland@ashlandhome.net

 The above appeared in the Ashland Tidings on Saturday February 2, 2019 

 

                                   

 

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Prodigal Cat by Lorrie LeSage

Prodigal Cat
by Lorrie LeSage  

When I met you, you were just a tiny eight-pound thing who had been left for dead,
or merely overlooked as a trifle by someone preoccupied with more important matters.

Yet somehow despite the odds, you took it upon yourself to survive.
In spirit large and cagey as a lioness, you learned all the necessary skills.

You became a tiny but mighty monarch, in a queendom of your own making–
running with lightning speed to catch a meal, outsmarting the nightly mobs of hungry dogs.

Where others dismissed your beauty as common, I saw evidence of a royal lineage,
Attired as you were in your elegant sun-and-earth-colored coat, and careful velvet eyeliner.

And I understood why mere humans have long-recognized the divinity and magic
that abides within the cat, and why your kind are the chosen familiars of witches.

Over time we became again true and trusted friends, allies in an indifferent world,
our souls having already travelled many miles together in days gone by and long forgotten.

And I saw a deep and holy sweetness still perfectly intact within you,
uncorrupted by suffering.

And in your complete relinquishment of all to the warmth and glory of the moment,
I saw the mirrored-radiance of the One, and the perfection of love at the heart of all creation.

And because of that essential and unperturbable wholeness, I recognized you as my guru,
and you kindly gave instruction on the mysteries, merely through the beauty of your being.

Although the surging waters of time and trials have seen fit to calm awhile and let us rest,
I know that like all rivers you are still a wild, as well as wise, divine and sweet thing.

At your insistence, each night I must open the door to my heart,
and let your tiny frame go, out into the dangerous darkness.

That is Nature’s way, and whatever it is that draws you back there like an addict to her needle,
its tidal pull is vital and lunar, and cannot be obstructed.

And when you return, as often as not, wounded at dawn, I curse you as a crack-head cat,
and wonder if my addiction to you is co-dependent.

Connected yet always separate, now but never forever,
this is the paradox, the great grime and glory of embodiment.

So when I’ve cried and bandaged and doctored and forgiven and forgotten again,
as friends and mothers do, we drink once more a cup of peace from the unfathomable well of love…

My faithless, faithful, prodigal cat and I.

Lorrie LeSage is a retired Mental Health Therapist, and currently lives on a 6-acre farm in Ashland with her husband Tom. Her beautiful cat ‘Sweet Thing’ was already a resident of the farm when they purchased it about 8 years ago, and although it took some time to get to know each other, they are now the best of friends.

 

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Fear of Intimacy or Loving Intimacy by Angelica Rose

Fear of Intimacy or Loving Intimacy by Angelica Rose 

If we have been so hurt by others, feel betrayed, abandoned, dumped on etc. so many times we can come to a place of fearing intimacy. The fearing is coming from not wanting to get hurt again. We set up walls, shut our hearts from feeling, and become skittish with certain types of people that we may perceive as judgmental and / or negative. We become protective. Shutting our hearts from feeling is also hurting ourselves because we are not feeling love. If we protect ourselves this way, we also keep us from experiencing the love we can have in our life. We end up just living life rather than living life in bliss and depths of love. We spend our days going to work, getting our groceries, maybe working out and going into nature. Yet on some level, we are hiding from the world. We have healthy beliefs systems and some that are not serving us. Some of these beliefs we are aware of while others are hidden in our subconscious to emerge and be healed and evolved to higher levels of self-love. The belief systems that are not serving us are what I call contrasting belief systems.

Life experiences pushes on our buttons around the contrasts within us some call shadows to enlighten us to greater self-love and empowerment. Instead of hating these contrasting beliefs that are not serving us and blaming others for them, we can have courage and embrace those beliefs and learn what they are teaching us. When fear comes up shift it to courage; when we want to judge others that are pushing our buttons in areas that are not serving us, shift the judgments to love and gratitude; shift any negative thinking to positive thinking; and embrace all insecurity so it shifts to empowerment.

Meditation is one of the ways I believe supports this transformation with greater ease because it quiets the chattered mind, calms the emotions and relaxes the body. You are not the thoughts, emotions or sensations you experience them. Giving your power to the thoughts, emotions and sensations is like giving it to another human to run your life. You then have no power of choice. Learning to connect more fully into the higher power of love I call Universal Love Realm and feeling this higher vibration of love, rather than doing it alone, is what some call Kundalini.  Don’t blame the people that are pushing the buttons within you around the contrasting beliefs that are not serving you; rather thank them for assisting you to loving you more by embracing and releasing those unhealthy beliefs.

We have to have the courage to open our hearts again with healthy boundaries. To learn to love ourselves enough to be our best friend. To develop empowerment, acceptance and self-respect.  To learn to connect with the higher power of love, I call Universal Love. Some call God, Christ, or Buddha. When we reach and hold this vibration of depth of self-love to a place where we are more comfortable in our skin, we experience freedom and loving intimacy. It all starts within. We start to attract this level of loving intimacy more with those who also have this knowing within themselves. It becomes a simple relationship based on sharing love and joy with each other. We have intimate relationships with those that embrace and accept us and we embrace and accept them. That is true sacred loving intimacy that is fun, playful and empowering. I talk about how to do all of this in my book Transformation. As an Angel Messenger, Love Coach, Certified Hypnotist, Radio Broadcaster, Author and Minister of Love, I connect and channel pure loving energies and messages directly from the Angelic Realm, Pure Love Beings and Ascended Masters. This helps to bring greater clarity and direction in life. To learn to take responsibility for your own life is the first choice in having emotionally mature relationships.  If what I share resonates with you can learn more and get involved with what I offer. Please go to my website  angelroselove.wix.com/love

© 2019, Angelica Rose, all rights reserved  angelroselove.wix.com/love

Angelica Rose Angel Messenger, Love Coach, Certified Hypnotist, Author, Radio Broadcaster and Minister of Love

 

 

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Inner Peace at Peace House by Elizabeth Hallett

Finding Inner Peace at Peace House    by Elizabeth Hallett     

Living in rural Calaveras County in 1980, surrounded by nature, I enjoyed a simple life, away from the problems of the world. There was a certain inner peace to that life. It was also isolating. I listened to the Bay area’s Pacifica Radio and realized that there was a cultural revolution going on. I became spiritually and politically restless.  For me, being connected to others and involved in social justice issues became more important than retreating to the mountains. I had graduated with a BA in American Studies and was actively against the Vietnam War in the 1960’s.

In response to my activist soul, I left my monkish cold-water cabin in the Motherlode and headed to San Francisco and became involved in legislative efforts to certify Direct Entry Midwives. This actually led to organizing protests against wars in Central America and the Gulf War outside of Concord Naval Weapons Station near Walnut Creek, CA.   Many midwives were active in both movements, feeling moral outrage as well as solidarity with Central Americans and Middle Eastern families who were being affected by US involvement in their wars.  By that time, I had become a mother. Pictures of dead mothers and babies in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua reminded me of similar ones published during the US war in Vietnam. I could not look at the pictures without deep moral anguish.

By the time I moved to Oregon, I had fully revived my sixties awareness about US interventionist foreign policies and was connected to many others who were actively educating and demonstrating against the work of the School of the Americas and other arms of the US military. 

For many of us, the question we face is: how can we find inner peace without engaging with the outer world and our collective human condition?  Living with the possibility of fires and other climate-related catastrophes, there is little room to hide from the collective situation that disturbs our mind and our hearts, and challenges our inner peace or “WA,” as the Japanese would say. We will not survive long or well if we simply scurry out for supplies and return to crawl under our security blankets. Apart from the implicit isolation, it would be a life of privilege that most of us cannot afford.

We see and are affected the whole enchilada: a litany of materialism, and greed of the 1% at the top that is affecting the less well-funded deeply. Hate speech; increased militarism; skyrocketing rents; prejudice; decreased educational opportunities; poor or no health care; homelessness and food shortages all press on us and our communities.  If we are not, directly affected, we are more than aware that those around us are suffering. How do socially concerned people find inner peace in this state of affairs?

“No Peace without Justice,” has long been a mantra of those who work on social issues. Cultivating a culture of social action can make an impact and lessen injustices. Applying nonviolent strategies, peaceful organizing can cause powerful solutions and voter-based change.

Enter Peace House: At the corner of South Mountain and Ashland, diagonally across from the SOU campus, stands the home of Peace House and South Mountain Friends Meeting (SMFM). So, what does a culture of peace look like inside this building?

Marjorie and Ogden Kellogg Sr. helped found the Ashland Quaker worship group in the 1960’s that later became SMFM in Ashland. Marjorie also helped start Peace House. The two groups have been entrusted with a place to be together in community: a platform for social change and spiritual growth. We share ownership of the building but are separate nonprofits. Both organizations are based in American spiritual and social justice traditions of nonviolent resistance to tyranny, slavery and militarism, and supporting equal rights for all people. Luminaries such as Martin Luther King, Joan Baez, Gandhi, Dorothy Day and the Berrigan Brothers, Phil and Daniel, inform our philosophy of nonviolence.

Part of the peaceful beauty inside this building is that we host many groups who do not have a peaceful space in which to contemplate, organize, celebrate or just sit quietly together.  You will find a large meditation room, a nurturing kitchen and a modest Quaker library upstairs; a Peace library and a small Buddhist library downstairs, along with two smaller meeting rooms and the Peace House office. We also house a Prison Book Project!

Four rental rooms are offered at a nominal fee for all who seek a place to be in community. A quiet and diverse procession of visitors and renters are enjoying it his opportunity. Examples are: a Buddhist group, women’s writers’ group, a Quaker Meeting on Sundays; a monthly Friends’ Song Circle; an Ad Hoc Committee to examine policing accountability; and private counseling sessions. There are also the occasional anniversary celebrations or memorials.

Peace House coordinates Uncle Food’s Diner, a Tuesday hot meal platform offering several other social services and is co-sponsored by Peace House and the Methodist Church. Peace House also holds educational films, discussion groups and meetings in the building or, sometimes at SOU. We also produce our bi-monthly calendar featuring activist events and projects in Southern Oregon, stitching together a wide variety of social concerns. You can subscribe for free at wwww.peacehouse.net and follow local activities weekly.

Peace House has also served as the sponsor for several fledgling organizations until they could become non-profits in their own right. The house Marjorie Kellogg left behind is being put to good use!

There are deer and squirrels that bless us with their presence amongst the surrounding trees, providing a certain balance to our inner peace. This is a good place to be!  I feel better, now, watching our community take big strides to do our inner work while advocating for nonviolence, social justice and an end to the militarization of our culture.

Biographical Notes

Elizabeth V. Hallett is the Program Director at Peace House, Ashland. She first worked there from 1993-1997. She then worked as Program Manager for ten years at the Ashland Community Hospital Respite Center. After its closure, she went into private practice as a Senior Care Consultant, and has been holding support groups for families living with Alzheimer’s for twenty years. She returned to work at Peace House in 2016. She is has also been training with the Berkeley Interfaith Chaplaincy Institute in Spiritual Direction

The above article appeared in the Ashland Tidings Inner Peace Column  on January 5, 2019

 

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The End of Seeking by Ed Hirsch

The End of Seeking     by Ed Hirsch

 Seeking, craving, grasping onto whatever it is we think will make us happy—that is the oldest of delusions. It seems justified because the only alternative seems to be being the victim, grinning and bearing it. If we ever question it at all. We tend to get caught up in the seeking so much that we have no time to question what might be driving it.

 But it is, in truth, a sort of madness, a falling out of real sanity, which is true contentment with What IS. If you are lost in the trance of seeking, craving, grasping, it is not likely that you would be reading this anyway, unless there is some restlessness, some deep dissatisfaction with your game and whole approach to life, where some suffering is showing through the cracks.

 But that is what is driving the show. We focus on the thing sought—money, power, pleasure, love, fame, whatever it might be—and it keeps us going, so that we don’t have to look within at the restlessness, emptiness, dissatisfaction, dis-ease, even self-hatred that is driving it all. We fear looking within, fearing that we might find that we are deeply misguided, and then we’ll really be lost, in chaos, in meaninglessness. That is the fear that holds it all together. Something seems missing, an inner deficiency that we must try to fill. But what is really missing is our sanity, the recognition that all is truly well.

 The trance of desire is that happiness, peace, true satisfaction, and fulfillment will be found in satisfying the desire. When we feel we lack something, getting it can become an obsession, for then we have something to focus on as a symbol of what will complete us. It can be as simple as wanting food if you are hungry, or as complicated as wanting a relationship if you are lonely. We get content for a time, until the next desire arises. And so it goes.

 I invite you to try on two simple practices, and see how they land in you.

 First, step back from the merry-go-round and reflect that aside from all the comings and goings, the fundamental Reality, Truth, Being, by whatever name, is Always Here Now, is not coming or going. And that applies to your own Truth or True Nature. It is What IS, and you are not separate from That. This is not simply an idea for you to think about. It is a Reality that opens you in unconditional surrender to That. Close your eyes, be still, be now, and just BE. Getting off the merry-go-round is not the feared disorientation, but is in fact the peace of Coming Home. There is no problem.

 Second, and complementary to the first: simply open to your present moment experience and let it be as it is, just as it is. Accept it, allow it. Recognize that it is as it is already, and what is really happening is that you are allowing yourself to experience it. Even if you have doubts, fears, resistance, let that be too. Nothing has to be changed, as it is all simply part of what is now.

 When you stop fighting what is, arguing with it, denying it, trying to change it, figure it out, or control it, you simply let be what is. There is peace, and that peace goes beyond just the moment or whatever happens to be in this moment. The contents or circumstances of the moment are going to change, as they always have. But you open to something deeper, and you are free, free from the nightmare struggle, free from running from yourself, free from arguing with reality.

 These two exercises are always available, because Being is always available, and what is in any moment is also always available. Whenever you are ready.

 It’s not that you then give up on life and have no more desires. Rather, life then begins, and desire is simply natural, as natural as eating when you are hungry. Desire can even become inspiration. The difference is that it is not obsessive, addictive, driven. You are free, free to be, free to live. Have a great summer!

 Ed Hirsch is a local Ashlander with a background in philosophy, spirituality, and psychology. He has taught OLLI courses in Presence, facilitates two weekly Presence groups at private homes,

and offers spiritual counseling. If interested, please contact him at presenceofone@yahoo.com.

 

 

 

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Turning Fake News by Will Wilkinson

Turning Fake News Into Real Peace – by Will Wilkinson

 Something wonderful is happening. Strangers are helping each other survive wildfires and storms. Neighbors are rising above their differences when crises strike. Meanwhile, many of our so-called leaders bicker like spoiled children and fake news confuses our sense of what’s true and false.

The “godfather of fake news,” so-called in a recent BBC on-line story, sits at his laptop and writes. “The words flow from the thoughts in his head. Unconnected to reality, he needs no research and no notes … Publish. (He) sits back in his chair and watches the likes and shares roll in.”

Later in the article, the BBC contributor, Anisa Subedar, quotes another writer, this one living in Macedonia. “The Americans loved our stories and we make money from them,” one faker told the BBC. “Who cares if they are true or false?”

 Who cares? That’s a powerful question. Who cares, not just about truth and lies but about caring? Caring for each other, what we say about each other, and how we treat each other. Many millions of us do, in fact most of us do, but that doesn’t make the news.

We are now at the end of the Holiday season. For Christians, this is a time to celebrate the birth and message of Jesus Christ. For others, it’s a festive family time. What if all of us, regardless of our faith, could fulfil the promise of what’s called “the second coming” in a unique way, by personally exemplifying Christ-like qualities of character? After all, He did his part, what about us?

 He said, “Love your enemies.” That’s pretty clear. What if we actually did just that… and more? Imagine reading, watching, or listening to the fake news that bombards us every day and turning it into real peace. We witness someone ridiculing, shaming, and belittling another? Our response? Appreciation. Here’s the magic to this: appreciation increases value.

 Adults who stoop to adolescent insult hurling are diminishing others to inflate themselves, so they must feel personally undervalued. What if we found a way to appreciate them? Of course, that can be a daunting challenge. It takes a very clever detective of human nature to find something, anything, to appreciate about professional mud slingers. Well, are we up to that challenge? Or do we fling back in return?

 Jesus Christ was called the Prince of Peace. A prince is defined on-line as “a royal ruler of a small state, subject to a king.” What if that describes every one of us, in potential at least? After all, each of us has our own “small state,” populated by family, friends, neighbors, and strangers, plus the world as it comes to us via media. But here’s the intriguing question for an aspiring prince or princess: who (or what) are we subject to?

 Fake news can subject us into constant complaint. But what if we ruled our small state with appreciation and compassion, making sure that everyone felt truly valued?

 This is also the season when many of us make New Year’s Resolutions. We might decide to hit the gym twice a week and lose 15 pounds or finally clean out the garage, but those promises often don’t last more than a few weeks. Why? Because we lack lasting motivation. So, is there a better option, some technique that might keep us on track a bit longer?

 Here’s one: feel the reward in advance. Imagine your immediate environment filled with love and gratitude. We all know the experience of being appreciated. Well, it feels just as wonderful to others as it does to us. That feeling can become our compass, guiding us to make new choices that become new habits. Like, becoming a professional peace bringer!

 As we end this holiday season,, what if we resolved, not just to change our behavior but to change our mindset? What if we chose to seize every moment as an opportunity to bring peace with our words and actions, even our thoughts?

 The heroes we most admire are those who encounter big obstacles but persevere through them. Imagine being able to look in the mirror and honestly say: “That’s me!”

 

Article quoted from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/the_godfather_of_fake_news

 Will Wilkinson is a senior consultant at www.luminarycommuncations.org. He is currently developing a “thriving community” program for local businesses. Information can be found at www.thrivinginbusinessandlife.com.

 The above article was published in the Ashland Tidings on December 29, 2018

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    The Inner Peace blog is a place to share wisdom about peace practices and inspire, learn and explore all aspects of inner peace. A team of writers will discuss varied qualities –€” intuition, courage, fearlessness, friendship, forgiveness, gentleness, giving and receiving, tolerance, faithfulness and kindness –€” that help us all through the tough times, the challenges, the joys and the sorrows with inner peace as the ever-shining goal. Whether 2 or 92, your inner peace is up to you.
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