Monday, December 26, 2011

Our world will continue through 2012!

i'm aware of the predictions and fears. i do however know that the world will continue through 2012 into subsequent years. And i feel that i know this for four reasons:

1. It just makes sense.

Most often the the most probable possibility happens. (Obvioulsy, right?) That the world would end soon AND the idea that it could be predicted by anyone both seem extremely improbable to me.

It is most likely that this year, that the Pope has told us to call "2012," will come and go just like all the others before it.

2. i bet the supposed prediction has been confused, misinterpreted and/or blown out of proportion.

This tends to happen with predictions of disaster.

Back in May, there were predictions that a terrible earthquake was going to strike Rome, Italy, where i live. Some people got really worried about it. i know some people that left town on the predicted date, i heard about offices and businesses that closed up for fear of the impending earthquake.

The prediction has supposedly been made by Raffaele Bendandi, an Italian scientist who lived at the turn of the 20th century. He predicted several other earthquakes and natural events that are believed to have happened as predicted.
Wikipedia photo of Raffaele Bendandi

Well, obviously there was no terrible earthquake in Rome at that time. But the learning point for me is that with a little bit of research i found out (before the date had passed) that he had not actually predicted one for that time and place! Who knows how the idea started getting kicked around by the news media, but people got all upset and worried and he hadn't even actually made any sort of prediction like that.
Now i know a lot of people have put a lot of time and energy into reading all about Mayan predictions. i doubt many of them are looking at primary sources of information, i doubt many of them read the Mayan language, and i know that none of them was present to know the culture or context in which any specific predictions might have been made.

And i really doubt that world ending catastrophy is even what was actually predicted.
3. Buddha said so.

 In the past two winters i have gone to McLeod Ganj, in Northern India, to tutor Tibetan refugees in English. We volunteers were given a discussion topic to prep our Tibetan students on, have them write down their answer and then present their answer to the group in English. One day the topic were about the doomsday predictions for 2012.

Me with my Tibetan students making their English presentations.

Now, the type of English speaker that ends up hanging out and volunteering their time in Northern India tends to be at least a bit New Agey, so many of us might have had concern or even fear. But every one of the Tibetans in the room said that they were sure the world would not be ending any time soon because, according them (all of them Buddhists), Buddha said the world would end when all the people were small. ....i don't actually know that that means, but i happen to be spending time in the United States right now, where it is painfull clear that all the people are NOT small.

i have found plenty of Buddha's other teachings to be wise and beneficial for me, so choose to trust this one too.

The entire class, at the Lha office, in McLeod Ganj, India..
4. i simply believe it.

i do believe we are living in a special time and that changes, that have already begun, will happen in the year we call 2012, but a global catastrophy is not one of them. This will be another one of many doomsday scenarios that blows over without anything terrible happening.

i believe that human beings are awakening to new powers within themselves, but also to our universal connectedness. This will have good outcomes and i think these will begin becoming more clear in this much anticipated year, 2012.

So relax, have fun, hacuna matata and spread the word:

2012 is going to be the best year yet, i'm sure of it!

Enjoy your New Year's Eve, your new year, and then 
enjoy all of your experiences next year and into 
2013 as well! :-)

Earthly love
Photo credits: 1, 2, 3 & 4 from the author, 56

Friday, December 23, 2011

Jesus' birthday?

Imagine going to a party in honor of someone's birthday, and bringing a gift for all of the other guests (beautifully gift wrapped, with name tags to show who the gift is from), but not one for the birthday boy!

Yea, i bet Jesus LOVES that! 

That's probably why Christmas gift giving is so heavily discussed in the Bible :-)

Jesus & Santa
Though, i am sarcastic in using this pic - i do not really think that is what Jesus would really want.
As i ran around getting the obligatory Christmas gifts for friends and family this year, i thought it would be really virtuous, impressive, and truly Christian of people to forgo the giving of wrapped, luxury gifts at Christmas and instead gave things anonymously to needy people they didn't know. (Not that i, personally, am that virtuous - or brave!!;-)

i don't, however, mention this to encourage us to remember that Jesus is the reason for the season, that would be dishonest. That would kill the economy (which would make it unAmerican too, i think, right?)

Of course, if we were to honor Jesus on his birthday, we would do that by acting as he would act. Forgiving our friends and family all their faults and shortcomings, giving unto Caeser that which is his, and giving the rest of our possessions away to the poor, associating with and creating friendships with outcasts and diseased people, meditating a lot and knowing that heaven was already at hand.

...or, we could just imitate the fat guy in the funny suit instead! ;-) :-)

Personally, i am hovering some place between the two ideas. Because, i am observing, that's apparently what i need to be going through right now.

However you do it, i hope too have a very happy December 25th!!:-)

(Photo image found here.)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

We are God is everything! Wisdom from Conversations With God, the book trilogy by Neale Donald Walsch

"Remember: We Are All One."
i just finished reading this amazing trilogy, Conversations With God, by Neale Donald Walsch. i found it to be full of wisdom and truth. And it was even fun to read.

These books came to me highly recommended from several friends and strangers. i now pass that recommendation on to all of you - i think these books would benefit absolutely anyone who reads them.

i read them over a span of more than two years. Sometimes i would motor right through huge sections, taking many notes (as i almost always do when i read), and making them some of the most dog-eared volumes i've ever owned. Other times, long periods would pass when i didn't pick them either due to not reading or reading other things. Many, many times i found though that when i did pick them to read i would immediately find exactly the bit of insight, wisdom or information that i seemed to need right then. 

In the text of the work, the voices of both God and the author both emphasize that this work is meant to be read in its entirety and the order it is presented, simply to avoid confusion. It did become clear how certain quotations could be taken out of context and mean something very different than was intended. i would say though that having read all three cover to cover, not only did all of the ideas make sense, and not only did them all seem believable, they all even seemed to be unavoidably and indubitably true.

They are written in the format of a conversation between the author, Neale Donald Walsch, and God. i do believe, in fact, that that is what it is. i do believe that these books were inspired by God at least as much as The Bible was. But then, i believe that about many books and other works of art. And it is incredibly comprehensive, covering (but not limited to) practical advice on family, friends, and work, the nature and power of love, responses on big questions about the universe and our place in it, whether there are E.T.s, angels and ghosts, the reason that we sleep, 2012, theological and moral understandings, it even makes clear the fact that time does not exist.

That in mind, i will attempt to share here i think is the most interesting insight of the book - the identity and nature of God.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Jesus and Muhammad together, with Lord Rama and Guru Nanak, in a wonderful temple in Bagsu, India!

i was walking down a street in Bagsu, India, near McLeod Ganj, one evening in late 2008, when i looked through the window of a temple and saw something that intrigued me: 

The glimpse that got my attention.
Through the decorously gated window it appeared to be a a statue of someone being crucified. This was a very Hindu part of India and i had never heard of anyone in Hinduism being crucified (only the Romans did that!) so i was very curious. i went inside and found that there among all of the other expected Hindu images and icons, there was in fact a crucifixion.

The priest of the temple soon came out and welcomed me, but he spoke very little English. i tried to ask him if the person being crucified was Jesus. He said no, it was not "Jesus," but someone with another name that i failed to understand well enough to record. He told me that this was someone from something called the "why wool" (spelled phonetically to what he was saying.) So i thanked him, left a donation, and went home to my hotel. That night as i was falling asleep, i shot up in bed and yelled, "The Bible!"

In his Hindi accent this priest was saying "wiwool" for "Bible." So i went back the next day and searched around the temple for the priest. i eventually found him down a small tunnel that you had to crawl through the mouth of a lion to enter. He was sitting at a shrine of three Hindu saints. i sat patiently while he told me about all three of these saints, in a story full of long names and complicated contexts. Then begged him to go back downstairs with me so i could look around more there. What i found there was shocking to me and amazes me still.

In the Vashnu Mata temple, Bagsu, India
This Hindu temple, in addition to all of its normal Hindu parts, had a section reserved to the celebration of four different religions' major figures. He confirmed for that "wiwool" was actually Bible!! It was Jesus, and he was right there next to Muhammad!!:-) 

Jesus Christ and Prophet Muhammad

Empowered by Avalokiteshvara, 1,000 Armed Buddha of Compassion

Statue of 1,000 Armed Avalokiteshvara, Buddha of Compassion
i spent this weekend at the First Annual Florida Dharma Celebration of the New Kadampa Buddhist tradition. This included a ceremony called 1,000 Armed Avalokiteshvara Empowerment. i learned that this figure is a representation of the compassion of all buddhas. (Buddha, here as a non-proper noun, refers to all enlightened beings.) He has 1,000 arms to represent the thousands of buddhas that are alive in this age, and, i believe, in every age. And he has 11 heads - 10 to represent his manifestations in the 10 directions (North, East, South, West, NE, SE, NW, SW, up and down) plus the one on the top that represents his own spiritual teacher.

The 3day retreat took place at the Kadampa World Peace Temple, here in Sarasota, FL. i had never heard of the Kadampa tradition until i visited my parents here in Sarasota two years ago. i was getting my hair cut when i noticed the stylist had a tattoo of  "om" on her forearm. i asked her about it and the conversation lead to her telling me about the Kadampa meditation center that, at that time, was held in a small, normal looking house. OM lead me directly to exactly what i needed at that time! (meditation:-)

 They have since built a complete Buddhist temple right in the center of downtown Sarasota!

Kadampa World Peace Temple, Sarasota, FL

The retreat was wonderful. i learned a lot, met some wonderful people, and came away feeling great. i am sure that some of the ideas and lessons i learned there will stay with me, and i think they might be helpful to you as well.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The U.S. is more powerful than it gives itself credit for.

Some countries in the world are war-torn, recently colonialized, or third world. But basically all of the others have a higher life expectancy than the United States.

Check out this list: Denmark, Portugal, Cuba, Costa Rica, Bermuda, Cyprus, Ireland, Finland, Belgium, Germany, Malta, Britain, Luxemborg, Greece, New Zealand, South Korea, Holland, Canada, Sweden, Italy, Iceland, Spain, Australia, Israel, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Japan and San Marino. 

They all have a higher life expectancy than the United States!! (according the statistics given by The World Bank and shown by google, see a graph here.) Of the G8 countries, the U.S. would have the lowest life expectancy if it weren't for Russia keeping them out of last place. An explenation of how they arrive at their statistics is available here:

The United States has an expected life span of 78 years, compared to Japan's 83 years or Italy's 81.

As an American i simply refuse to accept that we are not capable of better. We can come up with all kinds of explenations - i've been told that this isn't valid because this includes the thousands of Americans killed by gun violence and gun accidents in the States. Then let's decrease that! i've been told that this is due the size of our country, or that it's too difficult because we have so many people but this really all just ridiculous. 

As a nation, we are capable of being healthier, safer, and more long lasting. 
All we have to do is want it. We should prioritize this.

i'd like the government to work on this - i see this as one of its main jobs. i even dream of the corporations taking an interest in their being a part of this country and working on this of the goodness of their hearts. But i can't influence these things very much, at least not quickly or tangibly.

So, i'll start with me. 

i promise to be healthier, both less threatening and and more safe, and to strive towards a long and happy life for the good of all - because that's what i think we should do:-)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

CDC warning about zombies: What is happening in America??

i spend most of my time in Italy. But every couple of years i bounce back to my native country and this time, like the others, i am experiencing some reverse culture shock. One symbolic cause of this is something i recently learned actually from American friends in Italy - the Center for Disease Control of the United States of America has a blog dealing with how to deal with a "zombie epidemic."

Now, i have looked into it enough to see it is really the CDC, and also to know that they claim it is a joke. Among my thoughts though are:

1. Do you really think that's funny? Do you not know some people take both Fox "News" and CDC warnings about zombies seriously??

2. You, the CDC, claim that if someone is well prepared for a zombie attack then they are de facto well prepared for hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquaks, floods, etc. you're telling me that for Americans, natural disasters are not compelling enough for emergency preparedness?? AND that zombies are more so??

If the Department of Education had a program to "teach kids to be wizards" in order to get them to study science, it would feel about the same to me. It's just a little thing, just a symbol of the things that exasperate me when i reimmerse in Americana. But, can someone please tell me, does this seem weird/ridiculous/striking to nobody else??

See their blog (from which i stole that zombie picture) here:

And here is where they explain the motivation behind it:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday songs! A year's worth of spiritual songs

Sunday songs!:-)
Songs for happiness, freedom, inner peace, spiritual strength and beauty, chosen once every week!

Just more than one year ago, on November 14, 2010, i felt inspired to share a song that represented my own spiritual views. That song was Ziggy Marley's Love is My Religion. After that i began making it a personal tradition all year, choosing one song each Sunday (the one day of the week when i almost never work) that either i found helpful or important right at that moment. Sometimes a song will strike me during the week and i'll be saving it up to use for the Sunday Song, sometimes i choose old favorites that are good for this purpose, and on a few occasions, i chose songs that literally seemed to come to me out of the blue on a Sunday, that seemed to present themselves to me just as i am wondering which song to use.

i hope these songs inspire the same positive feelings and influences for all of you as they have and do for me:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

On slaves, employees, and prisoners: Choose to not be a slave

At first thought, it might seem that we are all well familiar with these three terms and that they are all mutually exclusive. But i suggest a different idea - what we generally think of as slaves are actually prisoners, and the difference between "slave" and "employee" is a matter of state of mind.

Here's what i mean:

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Berlusconi resigned! Two quotes to celebrate and memorialize.

"This intellect-free, soccer-club-owning businessman, with his oily film of corruption and sleaze, who regularly embarrasses his fellow citizens by making lewd gestures in the European parliament, who has mastered the art of speaking l'aria fritta (fried air), who expertly manipulate's the media (not difficult when you own it), and who generally behaves not at all like a proper world leader but rather like a Waterbury mayor (that's an inside joke for Connecticut residents only - sorry), has now engaged the Italians in a war they see as none of their business whatsoever."

- From Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

"Imagine if Bill Gates of Microsoft were also the owner of the three largest national TV networks and then became president and took over public television as well. Imagine that he also owned Time Warner, HBO, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Yankees, Aetna insurance, Fidelity Investments and Loews theaters, and you begin to get an idea of how large a shadow Silvio Berlusconi casts over Italian life."

- From The Sack of Rome: How a Beautiful European Country with a Fabled History and a Storied Culture Was Taken Over by a Man Named Silvio Berlusconi, by Alexander Stille

Monday, November 7, 2011

My Ayahuasca Experience, in Europe

i experienced ayahuasca in the fall of 2011. Three Peruvian shamans of the Shipibo tribe (Maestro Jorge, Maestra Celestina and Maestra Luzmila) had been brought to Austria to perform ayahuasca ceremonies on tour for Europeans. There was also then a shaman apprentice who is half American and half Austrian (Virginia) who acted as their assistant and the organizer of the event. My experience with ayahuasca was powerful, positive and helpful and has already catalyzed healthy change in my life and i think in my body as well.

Ayahuasca is a blanket term for psychoactive infusions brewed, as i understand it, from the root of an Amazonian vine mixed with plant leaves. It is made and administered by South American shamans as a religious sacrament, and shared with (and sought out by) foreigners for its spiritually and physically beneficial effects.

What will follow here is the journaling of my experiences over those 4 nights. (The first entry is MUCH longer than the other 3, it is perhaps the most exciting and fun. If you do read this though, or part of it, i do ask that you also at least scroll down to look at the entries on the 3rd and 4th nights as they are to me the most striking and provide important context for what i experienced on the first night.)

Realizing we always want to do everything we do: a helpful exercise (NVC advice i found from the CNVC)

i have realized that we are often stressed by the idea that we do not want to do the things we are doing. Most of us often have thoughts like, "I don't want to go to work," or "I don't want to pay my bills," etc., but this is actually never true. In fact, you are incapable of doing something you don't want to do. Realizing this and learning how to think about healthily, i have found, can be a big stress reliever and even a source of new joy and relaxation.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Nothing is "helpful" in Italian

In 1981, attorney Anita Hill accused aspiring United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of something called “sexual harassment.” It was not the very first time the phrase had ever been used, and it was certainly not the first example of the phenomenon in America. But it coined the phrase for popular usage in America. This being an obviously negative concept, it brought progress towards reducing the problem in America’s work places, or at least i think this is how the story is commonly told.
There is one very helpful concept that has no word with which to be expressed in the Italian language. It is not something that is completely non existent in Italy, but is a positive concept that everyone on the Italian peninsula would benefit from its development and proliferation. What is this word that Italian language is missing?
It is “helpful.”

The United States of America has one of the oldest governments in the world

Growing up in the USA, i remember being taught (or at least believing) that America is a teenaged country, compared to the adult-aged countries in Europe. The opposite fact emerges if we look at modern countries’ actual present form of government.

LOVE and YOU: Two weaknesses in the English language

The incredible value of being a mother-tongue English speaker is very clear to me. i live in an international neighborhood and community in Rome, Italy where not just Italians, but also other international groups (Bangladeshis, Poles, Romanians, Turks, Arabs and Senegalesi) all make a point of speaking to me, an American expat, in English rather than the local Italian language (and most individuals of those groups with more success than the Italians!!) For these people it is deeply in their cultural, social and especially economic interests to learn to speak English fluently. Which is great, for both us and them i guess!
Over the last 6years living in Italy i have put a lot of effort into learning to speak Italian well. Today i speak Italian comfortably in most situations, though i am still shy of the term “fluent” being applied to myself. Usually i’m good to go. But i will quickly get lost in any discussion that strays from my short list of familiar subjects in that language: history, politics, art, haggling, pillow talk and combatative argument.
i have become increasingly frustrated, however, with the English language’s limited ability to adequately express two key concepts, one of which is an slight inconvenience and the other is a potentially painful flaw that is dulling and weakening our society. The poorly expressed concepts are that of “you” and that of “love.”

PaxRyan's Blog

Pax is Latin for peace.

Ryan is my name.

This is my blog.

Hari om.

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