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Charity And Sacrifice Why And How

(category: Spirituality, Word count: 936)
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By undertaking pilgrimage to holy places and participating in 'Satsangas' (congregations) one leads towards charity, individually, combined or by some other way which is very much desired for the needy and down-trodden for their upliftment. Pilgrimage without imbibing virtues will remain and mean only some distance covered and journey undertaken without purpose. No doubt holy places give refuge to the weary souls, make us humble and help in enhancing our spirituality. Charity is an act of great sacrifice, graciousness, piousness, nobleness, compassion, forgiveness and one of the virtuous qualities for absolving one's adversities. One who gives charity feels the pinch of problems of others as his/ her own. Happiness and grace multiplies by sharing with others.

One should not accept charity from atheists and those having sense gratification for the purpose of maintaining sanctity. Some of these charities are compassion, land donation, material charity, charity of cow, charity of maiden, donation of limbs after death, education, charity for peace and charity for food which is the most pious service to the poor and needy. In fact charity given to a needy person for education is a permanent one as it removes one's ignorance. Knowledge and wealth are God's gifts which must be shared with others to enjoy and fructify. Charity of education is given in secrecy as education and intellect cannot be stolen, being hidden treasures, and is helpful even when one does not possess money. An educated and learned person does not possess destitute qualities and he is not an encumber on earth. Some prefer secret charity without revealing their names, as they believe that their left hand should not know what the right one gives.

Blood donation to save some one's life is also a supreme act in the service of mankind. For the infertile couple the donors of eggs and sperms can help in conceiving and giving new lease of life to the dismayed and emotionally shattered people. Those who have absolutely nothing to give can at least devote their precious time for the benefit of the needy. With charity of love which is instilled in us by the parents, saints and erudites by drenching us with nectar of love we can inculcate brotherhood and friendship towards all irrespective of caste, creed, colour, sex, religion and underprivileged etc. and reinstate them into the main stream of life otherwise they will be alienated from mankind and society. This also gives them emotional support. In short, charity is nothing but service to the needy. It is marvelous act and the donor is placed in heaven on this earth itself.

We should contribute and share our possessions with others as the trees, rivers, seas and mountains do without discrimination. Charity is a trust, which should not be considered in terms of cash or kind in quantity. Even the road does service by leading us to our desired destination without expecting any reward . Unfortunately, we share our grief with others but not our comforts and possessions. God is 'Giver' Who always fills our treasures with His bounties and marvels. His treasures are full upto the brim. He takes care even of the tiniest creature. By giving away in charity it dissipates and checkmates our craze for amassing unnecessary wealth and helps in preventing many discomforts and vices of our life. It also stops allurement of unworthy ambitions and wants.

Learn that the whole life is giving, that nature will force you to give. So, give willingly. Sooner or later you will have to give up. Besides the attitude of giving leads to spiritual progress whereas those of taking to a great fall. It is believed that charity or donations sanctify the earnings of the donor. Thus one elevates one's soul and gets salvation. It is also said that God manifests in different forms before His arch devotee, like food for the famished and consolation for the helpless etc.

Charity given with pomp and show stains its true purpose. The purity of hands is based on the charity given and shared through them with generosity. What we give to the poor, in fact we give back to Lord due to His grace .We are giving this gift of God to the weak, unhealthy, illiterate or broken-hearted, inferior and suppressed. We get satisfaction and Lord's blessings only when it reaches the real needy otherwise its purpose is lost in case the receiver becomes dependent for ever and does not try to stand on his / her own feet.

A renowned diplomat and author of Artha Shastra, Acharya Chanakya (Prime Minister of Chandra Gupta Maurya), had rightly said that we should remain within our limits even while giving charity otherwise our stocks will dwindle and we will be left with nothing except worries.

It is proved beyond doubt that one who gives in charity without expecting anything in return is benefited in health and long life. Such persons remain free from blood pressure, heart disease etc. and get peace of mind due to God's grace and blessings of the receivers and also due to their changed positive attitude towards life. The giver also gets contentment. Such a giver never tires in his virtuous actions and his treasures never exhaust but are always replenished by the Supreme Lord in a mysterious way. Also we should give as one lamp lights up many other lamps (for removing ignorance) without losing its own light. Charity is also like an intellect, the more we use the more it sharpens, strengthens and breeds. Charity is a penance for inner purification. It is the way to God realization.

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Here I Am Gulp Lord

(category: Spirituality, Word count: 1558)
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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

"Here I am, Lord

Is it I, Lord?

I have heard you calling in the night

I will go, Lord

If you lead me

I will hold your people in my heart"

(Words and Music by Dan Schutte, 1981; adapt. by Carlton R. Young, 1988)

A few years ago my dear friend, Robbie, gave me new insight into the significance of this song. We must have been singing it in a service and I told her how much I liked it. She said something like, "But have you ever thought of the seriousness of the words-about what you're saying when you sing this song?"

And, therein, lies the beginning of another journey with the Lord...

I had to admit to her-and myself-that, no, I really hadn't thought much about it. The song is so upbeat and we usually sing it with such enthusiasm that it gives the impression that I'm ready to do anything for the cause of Jesus. "Send me anywhere, Lord! I'll do anything! I'll go to Africa (or the popular third-world country of the month) and be a missionary! I'll lay my life on the line for You, Lord! I'll drop everything to serve you!"

But then I begin to sound like Peter-the pre-crucifixion version-ready to walk on water, even get in front of Jesus' face and stop Him from going to the cross, or run out and cut off someone's ear,. Peter was ready all right-before the arrest actually came and he was recognized by an adolescent girl.

Poor impulsive Peter. Yeah, and poor reluctant me! And perhaps I am not alone in not really considering the cost of volunteering for duty.

The song comes from Isaiah 6, where the prophet says, "Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?' And I said, Here am I. Send me!" (Isaiah 6:8 NIV)

The Lord's call can elicit varied responses from us, but basically they seem to fall into one of two categories. The first one-the one Isaiah gives-might be termed:

"What do you want me to do, Lord?"

To be fair, let's look at the event that led up to Isaiah's rush to volunteer-with no details about what he was to do, I might add.

"In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.

"And they called to one another: 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.'

"At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

"'Woe to me!' I cried. 'I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among the people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.'

"Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, 'See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.'

(Isaiah 6:1-7 NIV)

At this point, Isaiah, steps up front and center and volunteers.

Now, although none of us are probably called exactly as the prophet Isaiah, he was just a human being-as are you and I. When I put myself in his place-as little as I can imagine it and feel it, it's a vast understatement to say that this was quite an impressive scene.

Let's say that any of us has witnessed such a spectacle. The often overused word awesome comes to mind. Although it is used to describe everything from a movie to a praise and worship song and more, surely no one would argue that it is misused in this regard. In fact, it falls short of describing the effect of being in the presence of, and beholding, Almighty God. Moses could not see the face of God because it would be fatal, but Isaiah apparently does such a thing and, naturally, believes he is not long for this world.

Then his lips are made clean by one of the seraphim (highest order of angels) who serve God.

THEN, Almighty God asks the all-important question. I'd like to think that, under these overwhelming conditions that I, too, would raise my hand in the air and wave it wildly like a kid who finally knows the right answer in school and say, "Me, me! I'll go!"

But then, I come back to the reality of my real life and I realize: Many times I know as well as I'm sitting here that the Lord is calling me to do something and yet...I...hesitate. Oh, if it falls into the category of calling the equipped, I'll gladly answer the call. "Yes, Lord, I'll go." In fact, these times usually call for me to do something I know entails the use of gifts and talents I know I have, and are well within my comfort zone. To be honest, I don't have to even wait for a call in these situations but often tell Him, "Lord, let me serve here."

Now, I'm saying this in full recognition that God does give us particular gifts and talents and directs us in their use. And we are expected to use them. He knows us better than we know ourselves and gives us outlets for service which are useful in the Kingdom and-surprise, surprise!-are even pleasurable to us. But doesn't He equip the called as well? Might we be called to step out in faith and do something which does not seem to fit in with our individual gifts and/or talents?

In those instances-when a challenge is presented in response to my "What do you want me to do, Lord?" -that my question becomes:

"Lord! You want me to do WHAT?"

Now, Isaiah didn't flinch when the Lord told him what the task was:

"He said, 'Go and tell this people: 'Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing. But never perceiving.'

Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes.

Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.'" (v9-10)

I would probably have said something like, "Well, then...what's the point?" It looks like a waste of time and energy, as well as being potentially embarrassing-or worse.

But then that's me-not Isaiah.

The remembrance of "Here I Am, Lord", and the experience with Robbie, came to mind only recently. I've been rereading Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson. In writing about how God usually responds to our request that He "enlarge my territory", he says,

"As God's chosen, blessed sons and daughters, we are expected to attempt something large enough that failure is guaranteed...unless God steps in. Take a minute to prayerfully comprehend how contrary that truth is to everything you would humanly choose: it goes against common sense, it contradicts your previous life experience, it seems to disregard your feelings, trainings, and need for security; it sets you up to look like a fool and a loser. Yet it is God's plan for His most-honored servants."

Wilkinson goes on, "For most of us our reluctance comes from getting our numbers right, but our arithmetic wrong. For example, when we're deciding what size territory God has in mind for us, we keep an equation in our heart that adds up something like this:

"My abilities + experience+ training + my personality and appearance + my past + the expectations of others = my assigned territory.

"No matter how many sermons we've heard about God's power to work through us, we simply gloss over the meaning of that one little word through. Sure, we say we want God to work through us, but what we really mean is by or in association with. Yet God's reminder to us is the same one He gave the Jews when they returned from captivity to a decimated homeland: 'Not by might nor by power but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.' (Zechariah 4:6)

"Our God", Wilkinson continues, "specializes in working through normal people who believe in a supernormal God who will do His work through them. What He's waiting for is the invitation. That means God's math would look more like this:

"My willingness and weakness + God's will and supernatural power = my expanding territory."

For all his impulsiveness and reliance on his own strength, when Peter stepped out of the boat in response to Jesus, he started out right, with his eyes on Jesus. As long as he did that he was okay. It was only when he considered the circumstances that he began to sink.

Lord, let me remember that I do nothing for you out of my own strength; that it is not by my might nor by my power but by Your spirit. Today I step out of the boat relying fully on You.

Today, let me join You in Your work.

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Shadows

(category: Spirituality, Word count: 708)
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710 words

The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort.

To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspect of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for self-knowledge, and it therefore as a rule meet with considerable resistance. These shadows are repressed elements of the personality which we choose not to be identified with.

..Carl Jung

Shadows lurk in the deep recesses of the psyche.It is buried in the heart, in the mind; it is part of us.It follows us, it frightens us, and they come to us in different ways, but always, fits our lifestyle,our beliefs or therof. The shadow is not a mere concept or a matter of perception.It is very real!

Just as there is light, there is also darkness. Is it possible to deny the shadow element? It is usually the worst side of the person. The courageous person may have a cowardly shadow. The kind,gentle and caring person may have a cruel side hiding behind all that softness. Even among the most benevolent, the most

respected personalities and leaders in every field of endeavor, part of their shadow element peeks through their eloquence and their elegance.

Do they really know themselves, or having denied their shadow element, they find their views, their words and their actions in conflict. This is not intentional- the internal shadow conflicts they fail to deal with come to surface at the worst moment.

Is it possible to ignore or avoid the shadow? Some call it demons that stick around every dark corner, every perilous turn, in every struggle and conflict. When we are at the lowest point in our lives, shadows haunt us.

It is that part of ourselves that we leave in the closet as we face our public and put our best foot forward. Hide them, deny them, suppress them, would they just vanish?

These actions may end up attracting these shadows into our lives in other ways.

Do shadows impact on our lives? Do they mean anything? Shadows come in many forms. They can come as temptations, obsessions, addictions, co-dependency and other forms of indulgence. Shadows appear in the darkness cloaked in fear; shake us at our core.

Shadows also show as projections. It can be a dislike of certain traits in people, unjustified and unexplainable. We don't like what we see perhaps it mirrors part of us that we choose to ignore or may not even be aware of.

Are you comfortable with your friends? If not, ask yourself, why do you hang out with them? Do you judge them harshly? If so, why do you share your precious time with them?

Do you tend to make a compromise that you can not meet? What about the times you get angry at the slightest provocation at times by the same person.

There are times we look for our shadows in the face of other people. We even attract them into our lives. Buried deep, these shadows may drive us to places we dare not go.

Pundits would say it is not wise to deny the shadow element. They believe the only way is to confront it, deal with it and work through the conflicts it creates.

Each one has their personal demons to deal with and to face, otherwise, it follows us in less conscious ways. There are lessons from the shadow element. To become aware of it, we need to go deeper into ourselves, be all that we can be, assuredly.

We can take the good. Work with the bad, see the light, face the darkness without fear.Go deep within; let the fears and insecurities buried deep within surface. Confront the anger seething under the skin.

We are not perfect. No matter how many dark clouds hover above us, no matter how long the dark night is, light will surely come. These dark nights offer a chance to enrich and nourish our spirit, our soul and our lives. It helps us to align ourselves with our highest purpose.

By striving for greater balance, endurance and perspective, we generate more personal power and strength.

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The Tao Of Breathing

(category: Spirituality, Word count: 1147)
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One of the impressions I have gained recently in speaking to Zen friends about practice is a certain attitude towards breathing in zazen. For the sake of brevity, and just for fun, I wish to refer to it as "samurai breathing". I think it has its origins in the martial arts.

The "samurai breath' goes like this: one must push down hard on the outgoing breath, concentrating on the hara (solar plexus) and in doing so, push aside any thoughts, feelings, sensations, that get in the way, smashing through them like a karate expert would smash their hand through a brick.

If you practise like this, it will give you a considerable feeling of power, like winning a contest (with yourself), and also give you a sense of purpose in a goal-seeking way (like paying off the mortgage). This type of straining zazen creates a heroic struggle out of zazen and a sense that you are trying very hard, but it is ultimately self-defeating. Perhaps it is part of the process of learning that we have to go through this struggle before we realise it is not productive.

When I see people practising like this, I have a mental picture of someone on an exercise bike peddling furiously, somehow believing that they are going to get somewhere if only they try hard enough. I then imagine someone coming up to them and whispering in their ear, "Excuse me, it doesn't matter how fast you peddle, you won't get anywhere on that bike. " This is like the story of polishing a tile, believing if only it is done hard enough, it will become a mirror, or believing that one will become a Buddha after years and years of zazen, rather than realising that we are Buddha right from the very beginning.

When I began my zen practice many ago in Japan with Kabori Roshi, I was like the person on the bike furiously peddling to get somewhere. I listened with keen interest to other students talking about various breathing techniques, which I berlieved, if only I could get them right, would propel me towards realisation in no time. Needless to say, I tied myself up in knots trying to breathe the "right" way, even making myself sick in the process. After several months of this, I went to Kabori Roshi and told him about it in sanzen (Rinzai for dokusan). All he said was "Just breathe naturally". I remember feeling a mixture of relief, confusion and disappointment at his comment. How could it be that simple?

Kabori Roshi was like the kindly person whispering in the ear of the stationary cyclist, "Excuse me, no matter how hard you try, you won't get anywhere on that bike." The message got through a little but, looking back, I wasn't quite prepared to really give up my belief, that if only I pushed harder, I would get somewhere.

This happens all the way along in zen practice. Teachers keep telling us there is nothing to attain, but we don't quite believe them, even though we may mouth the words to others. In everyday life we see people all around struggling to find happiness and peace, believing it will come when they finally get what they want, without seeing that this very moment holds all that one could desire. It is easy to see this delusion in others, but can you see it in yourself?

Coming back to the analogy of the excercise bike, it is not the practice of peddling we have to give up but the belief we are going to get somewhere if we do fit. As we give up this belief, (which is underpinned with the fear of failure) we can enjoy just peddling, and in zazen if we give up this belief, we can just breath naturally and our breathing includes the breathing of the currawong warbling in the crisp morning air.

The "samurai breath" after all turns out to be conceptual breathing, a fixed notion of what breathing ought to be, unlike the breath of the Tao which is open and just comes and goes of its own accord. When our breathing attempts to fit some conceptual pattern of how we ought to breath, we interfere with it, and are out of touch with ourselves. The mind/will should take its lead from the breath, rather than the breath taking its lead from the mind/will. When the mind/will takes its lead from the breath, then the mind/will and the breath are in harmony. When sailing, you trim the sails according to the strength and direction of the wind, not the other way round.

Aitken Roshi, when he was a student of Soen Roshi, asked him "When I do zazen should I use effort or not?" Soen Roshi replied, "The question reminds of Joshu's question to Nansen in Case l9 of the Mumonkan - 'ordinary mind is the Tao'".

Joshu asked Nansen, "What is Tao?" Nansen answered, "Ordinary mind is the Tao." "Then should we direct ourselves towards it or not?" asked Joshu. "If you try to direct yourself towards it, you go away from it", answered Nansen. Joshu continued, "If we do not try, how can we know it is the Tao?" Nansen replied, "Tao does not belong to knowing or not knowing. Knowing is illusion, not knowing is blankness. If you really attain the Tao of no doubt, it is like the great void, so vast and boundless. How then, can there be right and wrong in the Tao?" At these words, Joshu was suddenly enlightened. Mumon, commenting on this said, "Even though Joshu may be enlightened, he can truly get it only after studying for thirty more years."

Should we direct ourselves towards it or not? Should we use effort or not? Does Nansen mean just "go with the flow of the Tao" as this cliche has become known, as on some personal growth weekend where everyone lies around drinking herbal tea, looking dreamy-eyed and talking about the oneness of the universe? I remember Aitken Roshi once saying to a student, "When are you going to stop going with the flow and get into action?"

"Going with the flow" is just the conceptual opposite of "samurai breathing". Dull and complacent zazen with no vitality or resolve, which is more accurately going with the flow of Taoist fantasy and natural therapy mysticism.

What is the right attitude then with which to breath? The right attitude is to have no fixed attitude. However from a practical point of view it can follow certain guidelines. I think of right zazen as like holding a baby in one's arms. You hold a baby gently otherwise you will hurt it. You also hold it firmly otherwise you will drop it. Light but steady. Should you use effort or not? Try holding a baby.

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Don T Believe Know

(category: Spirituality, Word count: 394)
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The spiritual evolution of the this planet and its inhabitants is currently in a rapid state of change, a new era is being born, and we are no longer content to be believers, as sheep in a "flock". People are waking up to the knowledge that we can be masters of our own destiny, and are looking to the ancient cultures who have survived to show us the way forward.

How can we break free from our definitions, when we are bound by systems, and rules and regulations, and "normal procedures" . What escape routes are there when all we know is all we have been taught. What is there outside the world we know, and how can we find it and finally be free.

Ancient knowledge and practices from Shamanism, Wicca, Vodou, Druidism and many others are being used and adapted to our modern lives to re-connect us to the worlds of spirit. We are re-discovering that everything in our universe has energy, consciousness, vibration and a power of its own, something the ancients have always known.

By lovingly connecting ourselves to this universal energy, we can know that everything within it has its own spirit, and is connected to everything else. Deep personal transformations can occur as we align ourselves to the loving universal consciousness, giving us back the power to create our own personal spirituality, and to KNOW spirit to the very core of our being.

"I don't believe, I know." Carl Jung.

"You are not my enemies, you are my brothers and sisters. You did not do anything to me or my people. All that happened a long time ago in the lives of our ancestors. And, at that time I might actually have been on the other side. We are all children of the Great Spirit, we all belong to Mother Earth. Our Planet is in great trouble and if we keep carrying old grudges and do not work together, we will all die." Chief Seattle.

"There is no one who can take our place. Each of us weaves a strand in the web of creation. There is no one who can weave that strand for us. What we have to contribute is both unique and irreplaceable. What we withhold from life is lost to life. The entire world depends upon individual choices." Duane Elgin.

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Kabbalah Of Love Ii The Secret Power Of Ego

(category: Spirituality, Word count: 1615)
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THE KEY TO TRUE LOVE

Do you long for love?

Most of us do. The intimate touch of another soul is the most powerful antidote for the all-too-human experience of aloneness. It may be the most compelling and pleasurable experience there is.

So why do we spend so much of our time and energy avoiding intimacy by defending ourselves, being angry, critical, closed and judgmental - in short, blocking the experience that we most deeply want?

DEFENDING THE EGO GETS IN THE WAY OF LOVE.

The answer is that we are wired to constantly reinforce our limited ego-based identity, our sense of who we are.

This ego-based identity plays a very important role in human life, but it does not have the power to love. Ego is all about the self. It can and does experience need, and need is often easy to mistake for love. And it can certainly love how another person makes it feel.

But these things aren't true love. True love and intimacy doesn't come from the ego. In order to experience the power of true love you have to get in touch with a different part of yourself - the part that lies beyond ego.

THE TRUE NATURE OF EGO.

This process is easier when you understand the true nature of your ego-based identity: It doesn't really exist.

Although it functions as if it's the most real thing about you, in actual fact your 'identity' is only a perspective. It's kept alive solely through the stories you tell yourself about life, others and yourself.

You could literally say that your ego is all talk - an incessant monologue whose sole purpose is to reinforce your sense of self - who you are and who you aren't.

Most of the time it goes something like this: "I'm better than he is, uglier than she is, smarter than him, richer than her, worse than I should be. I can do this, I could never do this, I shouldn't have done that, they shouldn't be that way. Life is good, life is hard, he's right, she's wrong, I'm great, I'm no good, it's my fault, it's their fault..." and on, and on, and on...

Just as a whale identifies its location through bouncing sound waves off nearby objects, your ego pinpoints its own presence - defines itself - by relating to the people, ideas, and objects around it.

This process is continuous. Your identity must be continuously reinforced or you will quite literally lose the sense of who you are.

That's why it can be so very threatening to have something or somebody confronting your ego - your beliefs about yourself, others or the world. Since the ego is actually made out of these beliefs, perspectives and opinions, and you identify the ego as 'you', when your beliefs are threatened it can feel just like a threat to your very survival.

Quite simply, the more you get to be 'right' about things, the more real and solid you feel, and the more you have to be 'wrong', the more threatened and diminished.

WHO ARE YOU REALLY?

This would be really bad news if not for the fact that there is another part of you. This part - your core essence, your authentic self - has an intrinsic reality. Unlike your ego-based identity, its existence is not dependent upon outside circumstances or stories. And unlike your ego, it's not threatened by someone else's success, or enhanced by their failure. In fact, the opposite is true.

You could visualize your ego/identity as like the surface of the ocean; changeable, vulnerable, reflecting the sun, sky, and clouds, affected by every wind. Your core is the vast, calm, still, deep water beneath. Those deep mysterious waters teem with every kind of life and potential, but this life is invisible from the surface.

All transformation involves a process of seeing beneath the changeable surface and connecting with the vast deep life-giving waters beneath. This process usually involves a level of discomfort as your identity is shaken out of its placid solid form and made to expand and reflect a deeper level of reality.

But it's worth it.

MY LITTLE WAKE-UP CALL

Last year I had a very typical experience from which I learned an uncommon lesson.

I was upstairs in my bedroom. My husband was late getting home and had failed to call me to let me know. I wasn't really worried about him, but I still began to get more and more agitated by the fact that he hadn't come home when he said he would.

The later he become, the angrier I grew. By the time I finally heard the door downstairs I was in a fury. (I realize that this doesn't show me in a particularly positive light - but the truth is, that's exactly what happened.)

Like a balloon inflating with hot air, I got ready to blow up at him.

But then something happened. In a moment of unusual lucidity, I saw the future before my eyes. This is what it looked like:

First, I'd blow up. I'd express some righteous indignation (in a loud voice). I'd persist until my husband (generally a pretty nice, easy-going guy) admitted that his behavior had been rude and inconsiderate. Then, once my anger was properly validated, I'd forgive him and we could be friends again - but only after I'd temporarily diminished his ego and inflated my own.

In that one lucid moment I realized that I could simply skip the whole thing and go straight to being authentic and close. I saw a new possibility - the possibility of refusing to be a slave to my own ego. To choose from a deeper, calmer, more authentic part of myself.

I was overwhelmed with a sense of how massively stupid, predictable, automatic and ridiculous this whole pattern actually is.

What part of me saw that new possibility? The part that peeked out through the surface of my ego - a little piece of my core.

EGO AND PURPOSE - THE STAGES OF CREATION

The world was created in three basic stages.

In Stage One, G-d's* Infinite all-pervasive essential light was shining without limit, filling all space. There was no place devoid of it, and therefore nothing could exist aside from it. This is the stage of Infinity.

In Stage Two, G-d concealed His Infinite light in order to create an apparently 'empty space' in which other things (i.e., the universe, us) could exist. This concealment of the truth is Stage Two. This is the stage of the finite, where it became possible for myriad creatures and myriad perspectives, each with its own limited boundaries and parameters, to exist.

Stage Three is the merging of infinite and finite. It involves the transformation of the finite inhabitants of the universe. They must move from a state of being which conceals their infinite Divine Source to one which expresses and reveals it.

Like a game of hide and seek, G-d conceals Himself in our finite world and waits for us to find Him. Through this process He can endow us with the greatest gift there is - to exist as finite individuals and yet experience a truly intimate relationship with our Creator.

Your ego is central to this process.

Like everything in the physical world, your ego hides the light of your essence. It is what allows you exist as a separate individual. By blocking out your intrinsic connection to

G-d, your true nature and purpose, and the essential oneness of the universe, your ego allows you to function as an individual. It allows you to have a personal perspective and a personal experience of life. Without it you'd be simply a part of the whole.

But this is only the beginning the process. The ultimate goal is that through your ego - your role as a limited individual with a limited perspective, you will find your way back home.

HOW IT WORKS

We have entered the Era of Transformation. This means that you can train your ego-based identity to recognize and align itself with the voice of your authentic self. The ego doesn't have to be defended or suppressed - it can be transformed. Your ego can be used on behalf of the purpose for which it was created in the first place - to allow you to enhance your relationship with your Creator, express the potential of your essence, and fulfill your purpose here on earth.

Your defensive ego-based reactions will probably not go away for now. But instead of being a slave to them, you can use them as the impetus to connect to these deeper parts of you. The moment you choose to observe yourself rather than react, to question your own defensive instincts, to genuinely see another person's point of view, to admit where you may be wrong, to connect with something higher, to be generous with your time, money or resources when you don't have to, you have made your ego your ally.

In fact, whenever you choose use your body, your mind, your time, your relationships or your possessions to fulfill your authentic purpose - to do something intrinsically good or G-dly - those things, for that moment, are Holy. They have been used on behalf of the purpose of Creation. You have created a bit of light through which the world's darkness and concealment will be transformed.

*Since the Torah forbids the erasing of G-d's name, it's customary to avoid writing it out in full.

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Seeing Red And Other Aura Colors

(category: Spirituality, Word count: 450)
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Colors are important aspect of aura reading. However, when non-physical energy combines with our body, it is confined to the limitations of density, light and form.Note areas where colors are dull, do you see holes within the colors? Trust you intuition.

Black

This is a confusing color. There is nothing wrong with black in one's aura. Black generally means one is shielding oneself from outside energies. This can also mean being unbalanced; one is hiding something or keeping secrets.

A black ring around a child usually indicates some form of abuse, adults who have not dealt with early abuse will carry this black ring till they are healed.

Blue

This comes in different shades. Gifted people have shades of blue in their aura. Intuitive people will show pale blue coloration within the purple bursting out like rays of sunshine, emanating from the heart outwards.

A deeper blue can indicate loneliness. A very deep blue shows devotion, honesty and good judgment.

Not all blues are positive- a muddier shade of blue indicates a domineering person, a tendency towards depression, or oversensitivity.

Brown

This color can indicate growth in a person. Seen around the head and with other colors emanating in combination, it indicates a person who is developing mentally, intuitively and organizing within.

Brown by itself can indicate lack of energy, or one who has become "stagnant".

Gold

Indicates lots of spiritual energy, in tune with oneself. Muddy gold means one has not really come to terms with one's higher levels.

Yellow

Usually seen around a thinker, an analytical person. Could indicate a "balanced" person. Intelligent people show this color around their heads.

Green

Sympathetic to others, dependable and has healing abilities.Muddier shade could indicate jealousy- like "green with envy".

Gray

Can indicate intuition and creativity. Silvery gray shows femininity while darker gray can mean secretiveness or physical imbalance. Gay men can show shades of gray in their aura.

Orange

Bright orange means one is growing emotionally and paranormally.A dull shade means a person is unsure how to accept this growth. Muddy orange shows in a person with too much pride.

Pink

The color of love, and honesty. It also depicts the quieter side of an artistic and creative person. Dark pink may indicate immaturity or changes with one's love life.

Dull pink, however, watch out; Someone is lying.

Purple

The color of intuition, a deeper purple hue shows a strong- willed and passionate person. It can also reflect intense erotic imagination and being over-bearing.

A color of love or hate, strong emotions and a lot of energy. An intense red color, however, may indicate a person ready to fly off the handle.

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How Much Of The Bible Is Literally True

(category: Spirituality, Word count: 465)
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If you don't believe the Bible literally, does that mean you must conclude that Christianity is based on biblical myth - literally fiction and stories passed down, generation to generation, from our ancient ancestors? That the only way to read the Bible is to read it metaphorically or metaphysically?

Absolutely not. There's great history recounted in the Bible. But the Bible is more than just history. It is a book of faith written by people who had undergone a transforming spiritual experience or who believed they had "seen" their God at work in their history. By "transforming" I mean an inward turning-around: things/ideas/values that were not important to you now are; those that were of great significance now aren't.

Biblical people tried, as best they could, to put that experience into words, just as I tried to tell the story of my own spiritual transformation in my book, How the Bible became the Bible (Chapter 9). Trying to tell that story, I learned that it is very difficult to verbalize or communicate deeply personal spiritual transformations. Regardless how I crafted, reshaped, and eventually reworked my verbiage, my soul still felt as if I had missed the mark.

At the same time I also know if I tell my wife: "Honey, I'll love you 'til the moon turns blue," it doesn't mean that I think the moon has turned blue before or will turn blue sometime in the future. It means I'll love her forever. If someone were to find this note of mine four or five centuries from now, they would need to understand a little bit about the 21st century, a little bit about American culture and its many greeting card "festivals," and a little bit about being a middle class professional in that culture in order to comprehend what I was trying to say to my wife. If they didn't understand any of that, they could very well conclude I believed the moon had (or could) turn blue. So, why is it when we read statements like this in the Bible, we think we have to believe them literally? We understand poetry and song lyrics. These kinds of words evoke imagery - "... 'til the moon turns blue." It is the same with the Psalms, for example. Verses in the Book of Psalms were written as praises or songs to be recited, chanted, or sung at temple festivals. Why do we think their references (e.g., to angels) are more literally true than lyrics to one of our songs or poetic verses in a Hallmark greeting card?

So, what can be established as being literally true in the Bible? Speaking in the broadest of brushstrokes, I think we could conclude the following to be pretty accurate:

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Flying Stars Fengshui For 2006 Yearly Analysis Remedies For Main Door Facing South West

(category: Spirituality, Word count: 782)
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(Chinese Solar Year : 04.02.2006 to 03.02.2007)

Flying Stars or Fei Xing is a powerful form of Feng Shui derived from the famous Xuan Kong Fengshui. It is an Analysis of the Five Elements and Star Combinations (representing certain energy patterns) that occupy every building. Each new year these annual stars change, Qi (energy) shifts happen, bringing good and bad energy with them - thereby producing different effects.

In February 2004 all the Feng Shui Energy Patterns underwent huge transformations to the NewAge of Land Luck called Period 8 Energy Cycles. It means that a large scale evolution of the human race with completely new energy dynamics has started. The significance is that the new, vibrant energies of Period 8 impacts on the buildings differently than before and energies that were previously activated now need to be remedied, in order to reduce any bad effects from the past influences.

The Flying Stars Chart or the 9-Grid Meteor Plan for the Bing-Xu, Year of the Yang Red Fire Dog has been plotted and the effects of their energy patterns are analyzed. The analysis also contains suggested remedies/cures for reducing the impact of negative energy and recommended enhancers for increasing and improving upon the beneficial energy.

For the remedies/enhancers to be effective, they should be cleansed, energised, blessed and programmed not only for the particular individual/family but also for the specific purpose/problem. They should also be placed in the indicated location.

The direction in which your main door lies is very important to any form of Geomancy, including Fengshui & Vaastu. The primary reason for this is that the air currents and energy flow in and flow out through the mouth of the main door. Thus you receive positive energy for the year, if the main door faces a direction of auspicious stars or meteors (powerful energy bodies) and receive negative energy for the year, if the main door faces a direction of evil stars or meteors. In case negative impacts are forecast, you can simply offset the negative energy by installing the recommended remedies there. Any or all of these remedies can be reused for the coming years, the only thing is that they should be repositioned according to the new year.

Please note that the effects may be felt in varying degrees depending upon the exact compass degree of the main door.

ANNUAL FORECAST & REMEDIES FOR FLATS/HOMES/OFFICES/FACTORIES WITH MAIN DOOR FACING SOUTH WEST :

A good year where the Celebration Star brings you good name, fame and prosperity. There will also be many occasions to celebrate : awards, rewards, achievements, increments, promotions, governmental recognitions, pregnancy, new births, marriages, etc. Business people will expand the existing setup and embark on new ventures. Previous investments will payoff now and there will be surplus moneyflow. Those in employment will get promotions and increments. Females will fare better than males.

If any of you are in marketing or medical line; real estates, food or in education fields, you will flourish more. If any of you are in metal business, including jewellry, you may not get it that good. To enhance the Wealth Chi, you may place a Fengshui Water Fountain near your main door.

If you wish to have a marriage or childbirth within the year, install a potted plant with large leaves, near your main door. Light up a small green bulb that will continuously burn, 24/7, outside your main door. Minimise the colours black and blue here. Use red or green coloured pillow covers and bedspreads in the bedroom.

If any of your family is, according to the Chinese Zodiac, a Dragon or Dog or Ox or Rooster, they should wear an Amethyst Crystal Pendant around their neck. When any of these people have to sign any documents, make sure of all the fine print.

Display the "Safety Talisman for 2006? in the North West sector and carry a miniature version of it always.

Door Mat Colour for the Main Door : Green or Red (on the outside).

COMMON MINIMUM REMEDY FOR ALL BUILDINGS FOR 2006 :

To minimise damage due to gossiping and rumours, arguments and disputes, avoid the colours green and blue in the center of your home. Do not place any moving water features like fish aquarium or water fountains here. Display 8 red roses without thorns and leaves in the center of your home/office/building and light up a small red coloured bulb which will burn continuously, 24/7. This is applicable for all buildings, irrespective of the direction of the main doors.

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