Ushering in the Holy Season
Welcome to the December 1,2006 edition of the Satya Center newsletter. Warm greetings from your Editors, Curtis Lang and Jane Sherry.
Jane's Seasonal Diary
I was thinking recently, since it's Christmas-time, about secular celebrations & religious festivals. I was reminded how as a young ardent feminist, I blamed Christ for the many sins of the Church founded in his name, too innumerable to list here, such as the hundreds of years of persecution & systematic massacre of diverse peoples--from witches to Cathars, from wise women to homosexuals & gypsies, rebels & free thinkers.
It wasn't until many years later, through personal experience of the healing power of the living Christ and intensive therapy to uncover and release the roots of my personal pain surrounding the issue of Christian persecutions, that I was able to reconcile my relationship with the Christ & accept him into my heart. And in the many years since that time, I have come to see the beauty and power of Christ's mission on Earth.
And now, many years later, as part of my continued studies in vibrational healing, meditation & biodynamic gardening, I see clearly that Christ provides us a vibrant and inspired path to Love, to God and to Healing through the spiritual opening of the Heart.
This week, as Curtis & I were driving through Hudson we saw this year's favorite flavor of Christmas decorations- giant plastic inflatable bubbles with Santa, reindeer and other secular Christmas figures surrounded by swirling clouds of plastic snow. Pondering these elaborate plastic Disneyland-in-your-own-home Christmas installations, we passed by a small sign offering "Xmas Trees For Sale". I thought about the esoteric meaning of Christmas and wondered why this holiday is referred to as Xmas in our day and time.
This abbreviation for Christmas comes from the Greek word for Christ, which is "Xristos". In Greek, the letter "x" is called "chi" and thus an Anglicized spelling would be "Christos".
During the 16th century, Europeans adapted the Greek spelling of Christ's name for the holy day itself, placing the "X" in place of the word Christ in Christmas as a form of shorthand. Although the early Christians understood the Greek alphabet, later Christians who did not understand the Greek language mistook the word "Xmas" as a sign of disrespect, a secularization of the holy day.
Today in America, few people understand the Greek alphabet, and this tradition has been uprooted from its historical context. It is clear enough that if you take Christ out of the Seaonal Observance & mark the spot with an English letter "X"- you have a formula for a materialist secular holiday. And it's worthwhile to be reminded of the tension that exists between the secular and the religious at this Sacred time of year. During the "Christmas rush", we can be mightily seduced by advertising, marketeers, peer pressure & family conditioning to lay our coins down at the cash register, or, even easier, use a plastic pencil to sign on the dotted line at the checkout stand, X marks the spot.
There is a tremendously powerful acquisitive and materialistic collective thought-form hovering in the ethers around us, and part of our joy and inner work as bringers of Light into this world is to counter that thought-form with compassion, opening our hearts and giving freely to those around us in need of uplifting.
Don't get me wrong here, I am a good consumer too, in fact I have a retail business so I am not immune to the transactional impulse at this time of year. However, another thing to consider is that western culture has so fused Christianity and Christmas that Advent as a season of prayer and fasting has all but disappeared, replaced by a secular season of "Xmas shopping" that has become synonymous with the month of December. Actually, the stores start gearing up for Christmas the very day after Halloween, another Seasonal Festival which has lost its meaning and relevance to its origins as a holiday of gratitude and offerings to the ancestors - a meaning very clear in the Sacred traditions of pagan cultures and indigenous peoples in Mexico and around the world.
However, I think it still significant to speak of Christ, to spread the good news of Christ's eternal re-birthing each year, whether to a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Atheist, or Agnostic to all good men and women. Because the message of this time of year is to look inside ourselves, see where the love which lights our path does dwell within, look for the one Pure motivating impulse within us to love life, to love our neighbors, our families our very existence here on the planet, no matter their political persuasion or religious practice. For the true message of Christmas is to honor the Christ impulse within us all, the motive for Peace, for Self Love & for Universal Love. Many great spiritual leaders have spoken of this throughout all of human history.
Another realization I had this month was about the importance in celebrating our Mothers when we celebrate our birthdays. Especially in celebrating the birthday of the Christ, we must honor Mary, the Divine Mother. For none of us would have a birthday without the Mother's sacrifice, her determination to serve as a vehicle for the soul's difficult passage from spiritual worlds into material Creation. The Mother's constant vigilance and care, her love, provide nurturing in the Womb, bringing the embryonic human being to the doorway of a human lifetime, conveying the newborn through her pain and intense effort into our world through the difficult initiatic Sacrament of Birth.
This year at Christmas let us celebrate the choice Christ made to enter this world, suffer and die to heal human beings, and to further humanity's spiritual evolution. Let us celebrate the choice Mother Mary made to be the vehicle for Christ's manifestation on Earth, and to nurture and raise the child Christ - a task made extremely difficult due to the forces of Empire, greed and naked power arrayed against the Divine Infant, beginning even before his birth and extending throughout his life and ministry. Let us all celebrate the brave choice we each have made, following in the footsteps of our Teacher, the Christ, to incarnate into this life through the Portal of the Great Mother's Womb, to further the esoteric & exoteric work of spreading Unconditional Love and Divine Wisdom throughout the world.
We celebrate the dark nights this month as they continue to increase until the time of the Winter Solstice when the sun is reborn & Light again increases on earth. We take this time of Winter to strengthen our inner work, to reinvision our lives -- full with peace, love & spiritual guidance. We take time for ourselves in the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season for deep nourishment & physical renewal. We call on the angels & Spiritual Hierarchy to help us detoxify from the work we've done during this year's passage and release all strife, unhealthy emotions or entangling, outworn relations.
Curtis and I are returning this year to the original celebrations of this Christmas season by structuring a three-week period of fasting, purification, intensified spiritual practices, meditation and prayer for ourselves, in the spirit of the original Advent practices designed to prepare disciples to receive the Spirit of the Divine Christ child on Christmas Day. Advent begins this Sunday, for those who are interested in reconnecting with the original spirit of the Christmas season.
Curtis adds: "The word Advent means 'coming' or 'arrival'. The Catholic liturgy assigns the color purple to the Advent season. Purple is a deep reddish-violet, the color of purification and of the open crown chakra in Esoteric Christianity. The beginning of Advent is a time for the hanging of the green. Christians decorate homes and churches with evergreen wreaths, boughs, or trees that symbolize the new and everlasting life brought through Jesus the Christ.
The Advent wreath is a circular evergreen wreath with five candles, four around the wreath and one in the center. The circle of the wreath symbolizes the Divine, the eternal Spiritual world and the boundless mercy of Christ's mission, which marks the beginning of another seasonal round, a cycle of birth and death that has no beginning or end. The green of the wreath is the color of regeneration, rebirth and hence of the hope that we have in humanity's continuous spiritual evolution, the hope of new life in an uncertain world, of renewal in a world that seems to be degenerating in many ways before our eyes, of eternal life for each individual. The candles symbolize the light of God coming into the world through the birth of His son. The four outer candles represent the period of waiting during the four Sundays of Advent, which themselves symbolize the four centuries of waiting between the prophet Malachi and the birth of Christ.
Our personal Advent practice focuses on meditation, practices given by our spiritual teacher, Shri Anandi Ma, to open the chakras, fasting and Reiki baths to purify our bodies, and service to the community. Each of us can find our own ways to connect with the original spirit of Christmas."
And so, in this season, regardless of your political, racial, religious or national background, remember that Love is something each one of us can cultivate within ourselves first & then share among all those around us. Remember to honor your mother and our Planetary Mother Earth. Try to walk lightly through this season and amidst the spending and the indulgences, say a prayer of Gratitude for our beautiful Earth. Meditate on ways we can encourage our industry leaders around the World, our politicians & scientists, teachers & families to replenish rather than to take, to reaffirm our faith in our abilities as humans to evolve in Spirit and in Love.
Top Satya Center Stories of the Week
Visionary scientist Rupert Sheldrake argues the case for telepathy in his new article "Gosh, I was just thinking about you" (http://www.satyacenter.com/sheldrake-case-for-telepathy).
Have you ever thought about someone for no apparent reason, and then that person rang on the telephone?" Sheldrake asks. "Have you felt you were being watched, and turned round to find someone staring at you?"
Recent surveys show that a majority of the population in Britain have had these experiences. If they are more than coincidences or illusions, they suggest that minds are more extensive than brains."
Our favorite cookbook author Rebecca Wood tells us how to simple, delicious and nutritious meals without fuss or muss in her new article, ï¿½Cook Without Recipesï¿½ (http://www.satyacenter.com/cook-without-recipes).
During the crazy busy Christmas season, we can all benefit from following Rebecca's advice on how to counter stress in our lives with good nutrition. See her new article, ï¿½Stressï¿½ (http://www.satyacenter.com/stress).
We've been enjoying winter salads more this year, and we adore Rebeccaï's grain salad formula that invites improvisation to create an endless variety of satisfying one-dish meals that also pack well for lunch. For details, see her article "Main Course Salad Formula" (http://www.satyacenter.com/main-course-salad-formula).
James Bertolino celebrates the mysteries of birth and the cycles of life in his latest poem about the recursive nature of human existence. Read "My Sister's Daughter" (http://www.satyacenter.com/my-sisters-daughter) and enjoy!
Seattle poet Jed Myers celebrates life in all its complexities in his newest work, "Let Thanks" (http://www.satyacenter.com/let-thanks).
Top Spiritual Stories From Around the Web
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Religious Harmony: How to Achieve Happiness
ONE GREAT QUESTION underlies our experience, whether we think about it consciously or not: What is the purpose of life? I have considered this question and would like to share my thoughts in the hope that they may be of direct, practical benefit to those who read them.
I believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. From the moment of birth, every human being wants happiness and does not want suffering. Neither social conditioning nor education nor ideology affect this. From the very core of our being, we simply desire contentment. I don't know whether the universe, with its countless galaxies, stars and planets, has a deeper meaning or not, but at the very least, it is clear that we humans who live on this earth face the task of making a happy life for ourselves. Therefore, it is important to discover what will bring about the greatest degree of happiness.
For a start, it is possible to divide every kind of happiness and suffering into two main categories: mental and physical. Of the two, it is the mind that exerts the greatest influence on most of us. Unless we are either gravely ill or deprived of basic necessities, our physical condition plays a secondary role in life. If the body is content, we virtually ignore it. The mind, however, registers every event, no matter how small. Hence we should devote our most serious efforts to bringing about mental peace. From my own limited experience I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being becomes. Cultivating a close, warm-hearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. This helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the ultimate source of success in life.
by Sharon Salzberg
Giving up, giving in, just plain giving- Sharon Salzberg says that's the truly transformative experience. Generosity opens our heart, frees us from attachment and is the basis of all good qualities. It's the foundation of the Buddhist path.
. . .I recall a Thai forest master who visited the West being puzzled by the sequence of teachings we seemed to be following here. In Asia, he said, the teachings proceed from generosity to morality, and then to meditation or insight. But here we appeared to begin with meditation, then say something about morality, and only after some time, as a kind of appendix, teach about generosity. He asked, "What's going on?"
He was right to ask. We like the idea of a transformative, transcendental meditative state, and we are willing to put our effort into that. However, the springboard for genuine meditative states is the cultivation of generosity and morality. That's what allows insight to occur most gracefully and easily.
The Buddha said that a true spiritual life is not possible without a generous heart. Generosity is the very first parami, or quality of an awakened mind. The path begins there because of the joy that arises from a generous heart. Pure unhindered delight flows freely when we practice generosity. We experience joy in forming the intention to give, in the actual act of giving, and in recollecting the fact that we've given.
If we practice joyful giving, we experience confidence. We grow in self-esteem, self-respect and well-being because we continually test our limits. Our attachments say, "I will give this much and no more," or "I will give this article or object if I am appreciated enough for this act of giving." In the practice of generosity, we learn to see through our attachments. We see they are transparent, that they have no solidity. They don't need to hold us back, so we can go beyond them.
According to the prophecies of the Maya, the Hopi, and the Inka, we're at a turning point in human history.
For millennia, secret societies of Native American medicine men and women carefully guarded their wisdom teachings and acted as stewards of nature. These ï¿½Earthkeepersï¿½ existed in many nations and were called several different names; for example, in the Andes and the Amazon they were known as the 'Laika.' . . .
. . .The Maya identified the year 2012 as the culmination of a period of great turmoil and upheaval, one in which a new species of human will give birth to itself. We're going to take a quantum leap into what we are becoming, moving from Homo sapiens to Homo luminous-that is, beings with the ability to perceive the vibration and light that make up the physical world at a much higher level. For the first time, all of humanity will be able to evolve not between generations but within a generation, which contradicts our beliefs about how evolution works. We'll take a biological quantum leap within our own lifetimes; and the physical, emotional, and spiritual traits we acquire will be passed on to our children and our children's children.
If this sounds hard to believe, consider that you create a new copy of your body about every eight months, as your cells replace themselves.
Farming Ecology: Honoring the Forms & Structures of Nature
by Jerry Brunetti
October 2006, Acres U.S.A.
Farming is a practice of ecology, with the important question being, "What kind of ecosystems (or organisms) are we encouraging?" Although I never gravitated to a career in architecture, I always marveled at the forms and structures found in nature, especially that realm of design known as fractal geometry.
Fractals are the natural world's method of creating inner-space, also known as 'exponential surface area,' in order to magnify its presence (creating more out of 'nothing') and increase its efficiency by allowing and encouraging different systems to interface with one another, which in turn allows systems and organisms to become more complex. Fractal geometry allows the interplay between the biological, physical and chemical realms to generate a myriad of opportunities for life forms to cooperatively come into existence and in turn produce catalysts that generate even more life forms and opportunities for existing species to sustain themselves via a symbiosis with their neighbors.
What has always intrigued me is how these designs show up over and over again throughout the natural world, allowing us to see how similar, yet diverse, components within nature operate, whether it's the root ball of a plant, the rumen of an ungulate, the juncture of a meadow and forest or the 3,000-mile shoreline of Maine. This entire natural system -consisting of trillions of other systems so much alike yet so dissimilar - is bathed in the grace of sunlight, an atmosphere of nearly 80 percent nitrogen, water and a small amount of mineral ash, with even the wastes of everything and everyone being a primary resource for everything and everyone else. In other words, in nature there is no 'waste.'
It should thus come as no surprise that food production, healing/medicine, economics and sound ecological stewardship are in real sense variants of the same phenomenon of life, scions of the same trunk.
Breaking News Headlines 24/7 at Satya Center
Read breaking news stories updated 24/7 from Pacific News Service. Tune in to Satya Center's 24/7 environmental news headlines and listen to environmental news radio from Environmental News Network at ENN EarthNews.
Top News Stories From Around the Web
Red State Babylon
by James Wolcott November 2006
If the blue states are sinkholes of moral decay, as right-wing pundits insist, how come red states lead the nation in violent crime, divorce, illegitimacy, and incarceration, among other evils? To a bus-riding innocent on Manhattan's stroller-filled Upper West Side, it looks like a case of hypocrisy meets stupidity.
In contemporary lore, the good people of the red states walk in Jesus's sandals while the rest of us are following Satan into the licking flames.
It isn't the cultural bastions of the blue states such as the Upper West Side that are greasing America's slide into the disco inferno. It's the Republican red states that are lowering the country's moral standards and dragging us through muck and malaise, the red states that are pustulating with horny hypocrites, rampant crime, polygamy, crystal-meth labs, federal handouts (The Economist recently christened Alaska "America's welfare state"), illegitimate births, blimping waistlines, and future generations of dumb bunnies. JonBenet Ramsey, dolled up and immortalized in her beauty-pageant footage, is the pre-pubescent red-hot-mama mascot of red-state Babylon.
"Red States cling to double standards like a drunk holds on to the last beer he can afford," writes Justin Cord Hayes in the semi-humorous survival guide Blue State/Red State. Hypocrisy is the hallmark of the red-state bull-roarer. Gingrich, who makes Hayes's dishonor roll of "conservative scalawags," has been married three times and has been known to have problems keeping it zipped. Limbaugh has three marriages in the loss column. He is also a prancing Tartuffe on the drug issue, condemning addicts and users on his radio show for their weak wills and moral failings (and wanting to chuck them behind bars), only to be revealed as a painkiller anteater himself. Bennett expended volumes of wind preaching virtue and decrying seamy decadence, only to be exposed as a high-stakes slot-machine love monkey. But these are minor-league hypocrisies, as much a by-product of male prerogative as of Republican humbug. It is at the extremes that the red-state double standards are most sharply defined.
The National Catholic Reporter
Colombia: The U.S.'s other war
By John Dear SJ
Created Nov 14 2006 - 10:39
Last Christmas in an interview broadcast on PBS, President Bush was asked about the future of Iraq. "The future of Iraq is Colombia," he answered with a wily grin. Much of the world recoils as the United States occupies and destroys Iraq. But not so Colombia. There the United States shoves aside the indigenous people, seizes their land, grants it to multinational corporations, and maintains a faï¿½ade of democracy. And the world is none the wiser. Most think a noble cause lies behind the war -- a fight for freedom. Thus the president finds his war on Columbia much more to his preference.
Knowing this, I traveled to Colombia last March for a three-week pilgrimage. There I came upon heaps of dismal facts. Colombia is overflowing with natural resources and has a population of more than 45 million people. And yet in Colombia, 3.5 million people -- the highest number in the Western Hemisphere -- are internally displaced. Political assassinations are rampant. Thirty die every day -- more than 10,000 every year -- the highest homicide rate in the world. In 25 years, some 200,000 have violently died. The place is a stew of rank violence.
It bubbles up from the repressive Colombian government under the democratically elected but dictatorial President Alvaro Uribe, a drug benefactor and close friend of George W. Bush.
Inter Press Service News Agency
COLOMBIA: Arrests of Lawmakers with Paramilitary Ties Rock Government
BOGOTA, Nov 17 (IPS) - The arrests of several Colombian lawmakers for their links to extreme-right paramilitary militias have given further credence to reports by human rights organisations "of how deeply embedded the paramilitaries are in the local and regional public institutions," Carlos Rodriguez, assistant director of the Colombian Commission of Jurists (CCJ), told IPS.
The Supreme Court has evidence that several ruling coalition legislators from the northwestern province of Sucre organised a death squad and actively took part in it, masterminded massacres of campesinos (peasant farmers) that led to the forced displacement of thousands of people, and influenced election results through the use of violence.
While poverty persists, there is no freedom
Millions remain enslaved and in chains at a time of breathtaking advances in technology and wealth
by Nelson Mandela, November 4, 2006
Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of fundamental human rights. Everyone everywhere has the right to live with dignity, free from fear and oppression, free from hunger and thirst, and free to express themselves and associate at will.
Yet in this new century millions of people remain imprisoned, enslaved and in chains. Massive poverty and inequality are terrible scourges of our times - times in which the world also boasts breathtaking advances in science, technology, industry and wealth accumulation.
While poverty persists, there is no true freedom. Amnesty International is right to stand up against the rights violations that drive and deepen poverty.
People living in poverty have the least access to power to shape policies - to shape their future. But they have the right to a voice. They must not be made to sit in silence as "development" happens around them, at their expense. True development is impossible without the participation of those concerned.
The New Yorker
The Next Act
by Seymour M. Hersh
Monday 20 November 2006
Is a damaged Administration less likely to attack Iran, or more?
A month before the November elections, Vice-President Dick Cheney was sitting in on a national-security discussion at the Executive Office Building. The talk took a political turn: what if the Democrats won both the Senate and the House? How would that affect policy toward Iran, which is believed to be on the verge of becoming a nuclear power? At that point, according to someone familiar with the discussion, Cheney began reminiscing about his job as a lineman, in the early nineteen-sixties, for a power company in Wyoming. Copper wire was expensive, and the linemen were instructed to return all unused pieces three feet or longer. No one wanted to deal with the paperwork that resulted, Cheney said, so he and his colleagues found a solution: putting "shorteners" on the wire - that is, cutting it into short pieces and tossing the leftovers at the end of the workday. If the Democrats won on November 7th, the Vice-President said, that victory would not stop the Administration from pursuing a military option with Iran. The White House would put "shorteners" on any legislative restrictions, Cheney said, and thus stop Congress from getting in its way.
Published on Friday, November 10, 2006 by the San Francisco Chronicle
Breathing the 'I' Word: Americans Favor Impeachment
by Elizabeth Holzman
Though Democrats' gains on Tuesday were hard fought, they still pulled one big punch during the campaign. Party leaders chose to refrain from publicly uttering any "i" words -- investigation, immunity, and above all, impeachment -- and to dismiss those who did, for