Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Complexity, confusion contribute to awe, wonder

In Washington D.C., Reya Mellicker blogs about Thomas Moore's advice, Live simply, be complicated.

She describes the return of a borrowed copy of Moore's Original Self. Leafing through it confirmed her agreement with Moore's approaches: "My head has been nodding. Yes, yes and yes. Moore and James Hillman, and other "archtetypal psychologists" - at least that's what they used to call themselves - are very interested in human depth, more interested in soulfulness than cleverness or stability or "success" - whatever that means - in life."

Mellicker writes, "It's such a relief to read someone who believes, as I do, that people are very complex, and therefore endlessly fascinating. I don't have to understand everything or maintain control over my life, according to Moore. The very idea of control is a fantasy, he says. I couldn't agree more! I'm allowed to be confused which also makes possible states of awe and wonder - as well as possibilities outside the limitations of the status quo. Splendid indeed is the multiverse of Thomas Moore. Oh yeah!"


Friday, February 12, 2010

The kingdom of God is where we tell our stories

Where is the kingdom of God?
According to Jim Goodmann, "In the circumstances that are unacceptable or which challenge our view of the perfect world there is the kingdom of God. We begin to dwell in that kingdom by paying careful attention. Our stories, told in all their color and dimension deserve a hearing — not least by ourselves. And like passages of Scripture, they require a compassionate exegesis, the careful attention of other listeners."

Goodmann draws on Thomas Moore's writings in his post, "Story-Telling as Care of the Soul" in which he suggests care may be more nurturing than heroism. Goodmann writes, "What we need most from each other may be our simple attention, the kind that comes with no hidden motives of fixing or re-drafting. It is in these small spaces of listening that we may be most clearly identified as the body of Christ."

He quotes Moore's observation, "Many religious rites begin with the washing of the hands or a sprinkling of water to symbolize a cleansing of intention and the washing away of thoughts and purposes. In our soul work, we could use rites like these, anything that would cleanse our minds of their well-intentioned heroism."

Goodmann is Regional Director, Calling Congregations, The Fund for Theological Education.

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Saturine anguish may give gifts to life's meaning

Avatar Arts offers a post by Neve, "Melancholy is Meaningful", that quotes Thomas Moore's Dark Nights of the Soul about being "in Saturn":
"You do a disservice to yourself when you treat your feelings of despair and emptiness as deviations from the normal and healthy life you idealize. The dark times too, like enlightenments leave their mark and make you a person of insight and compassion."
After describing a two-day period of feeling down, Neve offers five ways to invite the Saturnine spirit, rather than trying to ignore it. Her second suggestion is to read melancholic poems, quoting Emily Dickinson, one of Moore's favourite poets: "For each ecstatic instant we must an anguish pay in keen and quivering ratio to the ecstasy."

Avatar Arts wants "to combine art and spirituality to inspire and empower others to live a more conscious, creative, and luminous life every day."

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Renewal of the heart may include awakening

The Very Rev'd Msgr. Tony Jack Howard, Pastor of St. Clement of Alexandria Liberal Catholic Church, speaks about metanoia on 13 September 2009, the fourteenth Sunday after Trinity. He says, "The Greek word for "repentance" is metanoia, often used to mean "to change your mind." In his book Writing in the Sand, which we will study during Advent, Thomas Moore asks us to understand the term as a more crucial turning away from default reality toward the kingdom of heaven." After listing the four terms of the Jesus way according to Moore — metanoia, basilea, agape and therapeia — Howard says:
"Here are the fundamentals of the Jesus philosophy. You change profoundly: You don’t just repent and feel sorry for your mistakes. You adopt an utterly unconventional point of view. You live a different reality, even though you are still working out your worldly life. Two streams now define your life: earthly concerns and a spiritual vision. This change leads to a life based on love, a love rooted in radical and profound respect for the other. Eventually you realize that your chief role in life is to heal. That is how Jesus lived and that is what the Gospels teach.

Perhaps this more radical view of metanoia is at work in the selection from St. Matthew’s gospel about the healing of "the man sick of the palsy." Remember: Jesus says to him — “Be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee." The Scribes think Jesus is blaspheming, so Jesus does something that has always puzzled me before; he says “Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee, or to say, Arise and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins [he turned to the sick man and said] "Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house." The power to forgive sins and the power to heal, assumed by the Scribes to be within the province of Yahweh alone, are here illustrated as coming from Jesus. "And when the multitude saw it, they marveled, and glorified God, who had given such power unto men." Not just to this one man, mind you, but "unto men." It is a gift of God given to those whose "change of heart" has opened them up, eviscerated them so that they may be filled with Spirit rather than ego, agents of healing rather than servants of self. If Moore is right in his interpretation of Jesus and the Soul of the Gospels (the subtitle of his book), then what is at work here is more than a moralistic regret for our sins and a desire to avoid punishment. We don’t just seek to be good, but to be awake. What is at work is an existential crisis, a choice to affirm a radical new life in which all of our self-serving assumptions and neuroses are burned away as we see that forgiveness of our sins brings us into a relationship with God that empowers us to love and to heal first ourselves, then our families, then our enemies — indeed, we are healed and forgiven so that we may heal and forgive."
Howard shares, "I don’t have it all worked out yet. In fact, I suspect what is going on here lies more in the realm of mystery than of logic."

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Do you suffer from relationship addiction?

In a post offering relationship advice, Maryanne Comaroto discusses "Avoiding Addictive Relationships". Her column includes:
"I believe what the brilliant author and spiritual leader Thomas Moore asserts: that most addictive behavior is a misinterpretation or distortion of our soul's longing. And have come to notice over the years that when we don’t really know who we are, what we want and what we feel, we don’t know what we need. We are far more likely to succumb to those potentially destructive, unconscious, programmed behaviors we learned as kids to temporarily alleviate or quench those longings. Behaviors we adopted as a means to comfort ourselves, in particular the ones closely associated with being externally referenced that fall into the "object love" category — which many times sets us up for addictive relationships when unchecked.

Repetitious behavior in and of itself is not inherently bad; we count on some of our repetitive behaviors to create success. It’s when repetitious behavior is deleterious or destructive that we need to be concerned. At which point, if we can catch it, we have an invitation for self-inquiry and deeper examination. We can take an investigative look at what we really long for or need. Then we can choose conscious, healthy ways of giving ourselves just that, so we can avoid harming ourselves and anyone else any further."
Comaroto includes 13 questions to help to determine if you are affected by relationship addiction.

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Monday, February 08, 2010

Ask your friends, "How is it with your soul?"

Today in his post "The Question No One Asks: How is it with your soul?", Chuck Warnock writes, "The concept of soul has fallen on hard times in our uber-scientific age. We no longer entertain the quaint notion that we need to attend to, or care for, our souls. As a matter of fact, the whole business of the human soul is up for grabs." He includes, "Thomas Moore, in his bestselling book, Care of the Soul, writes from a monastic background, but expands the idea of soul to include more than a person’s eternal destiny. Moore contends that we need to care for our souls, the essence of who we are as living beings, and pay more attention to the "soul" of all things both living and inanimate." Warnock suggests:
"Before the Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries, and Descartes’ famous, "I think therefore I am", man’s existence revolved around the idea of his soul. Granted, there was a lot of Platonic dualism, separating the idea of physical body from immaterial soul, but even with that duality, soul was more than just that part that went to heaven. Soul was the essence of humanity, the part of mankind that responded to God, and souls needed "curing" — which meant both caring for and gathering into the Christian community.

But with the Enlightenment, science and the scientific method pushed faith and God out of the public realm. One could talk about things that were provable, but of course, faith and the soul were not among those things. Hence, the loss of the soul began.

In the 20th century, the shift continued as the Christian message was intellectualized. The appeal was to what the individual had or had not done: Have you accepted Christ as your savior? Have you been born again? Do you believe the Bible?"
He writes, "Churches should be communities in which the real issues of our humanity are presented. Instead of answering questions about the soul, however, much of our effort focuses on popular problems and their solutions. While it’s fine to have a series on "how to have a great marriage" or "what the Bible says about finances" the problems of 21st century life are soul problems, not just technical problems followed by self-help answers. We must not become cultural technicians, when what the world needs are doctors of the soul."

Warnock concludes, "We may need a new way to ask that old question, How is it with your soul?, but if we fail to ask it we are failing to attend to the most basic need of human beings."

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Saturday, February 06, 2010

A life at work may include failure and instability

In the post "Life's Work", dated 7 February 2010, The Positivity Project blog reviews Thomas Moore's A Life at Work with favoured quotes and personal insights. The blogger's comments show how one's attitude toward paid employment may fuel accomplishments at work. She particularly likes Chapter 12 in which Moore writes:
"Your life work is about your life first. You can fail and quit and change and go down the ladder of success and still have a life work. You don't even have to understand how failure and instability have made you who you are. These things are often inscrutable. You only have to trust that your story is unfolding and you will eventually understand what it means."
The blogger includes, "I love the idea that your entire life is your work."

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Care of the soul includes acceptance and trust

In the January 2010 newsletter of Channing Memorial Church, Unitarian Universalist, Rhode Island, minister Amy Freeman writes about UU Convocation 2009 in Ottawa:
"Thomas Moore, our keynote speaker, was a highlight of the event. He is a leading lecturer and writer on archetypal psychology. Although Moore is not a UU (when pressed about religion he identifies as a Zen Catholic), he understood his audience and was an engaging speaker. Moore’s insights on the importance of cultivating soul in every day life touched me. As we enter a new year, instead of making resolutions, I invite you to care for the soul. As Moore says, it is more about acceptance and trust than improvement. He writes, "Care of the soul entails evoking a sense of home and family; appreciating the struggles and mistakes involved in living a rich and dedicated life; knowing the importance of symbol, ritual, narrative, dream, and the arts; being able to [take pleasure] in matters of love, marriage, friendship, and all kinds of intimacy; and creating a beautiful environment for reflection, conversation, and ritual."
Wishing you all that feeds the soul in the coming year... Friendship... Food... creating a sense of Home... Intimacy... Beauty... and Pleasure!
Rev. Amy Freedman
Rev. Barbara Coeyman of Columbine Unitarian Universalist Church bases her sermon "Dark and Light, Light and Dark" for 6 December 2009, on Thomas Moore's discussions at Convocation 2009 and on his book, Dark Nights of the Soul.

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Groundhog Day replete with religious meaning

"Lessons of the Groundhog", a sermon by Rev. Mark Hayes (Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Centre County at State College, Pennsylvania) explores religious associations with the date February 2, commonly celebrated in North America as Groundhog Day. Hayes describes a number of references and writes, "So February 2 has had religious significance for a long time, throughout both Christian and pre-Christian Pagan history. And believe it or not, there are connections between Groundhog Day and both Imbolc and Candlemas. By Pagan legend, Brigid's snake would emerge on Imbolc, either from her womb or from a mound of earth where it hibernated, and its behavior would indicate the length of the remaining Winter. Doesn’t that sound familiar?"

Hayes quotes Thomas Moore's Original Self and Care of the Soul. Barque initially linked to this sermon in September 2008. It is more relevant today: "The final lesson I’d like to draw from the groundhog this morning comes from taking a metaphorical view of its emergence from the darkness of the underground burrow back into the light of day. Its retreat into its underground shelter from a temporarily inhospitable world could be likened to our occasional retreat from the busyness of our lives into a burrow of solitude, where we might find emotional and spiritual renewal and regeneration."

Recently, Hayes delivered a sermon, "Dark Nights of the Soul", drawing from Moore's book with the same title.

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