The Sound of Silence

Quiet, peaceful forest

When was the last time you were in the presence of quiet, of silence? I had that experience yesterday, and it was wonderful. It happened because of a sequence of events that were unplanned.

On Mother’s Day we drove down Highway 1 to Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park hoping to see some whales. The park is about 20 miles south of Half Moon Bay. We also had planned to picnic there. We did see some whales migrating north, about a mile off shore. It was very windy at the park, so sometimes it was hard to tell what was a wave and what was the spray from the whales.

It was too windy at the park to have a picnic, so we went to Butano State Park, nearby to find a sheltered area from the wind. Although we were only a few miles from the ocean, Butano’s picnic area was quiet and peaceful, and not windy at all.

redwood forestAfter lunch we decided to walk through the forest. Some folks who were having lunch suggested a route and we started walking. It wound up being a 2 1/2 hour walk through the forest, along a fire road and then back through the forest.

Butano is tucked away off the road and it doesn’t get a lot of visitors. We came across only a handful of people while we were walking.

In Muir Woods there is an area called Cathedral Grove, but in the redwood forest at Butano, it felt like the whole forest was a cathedral. It was so quiet. No sounds of cars and trucks, no crowds of people talking, no planes flying overhead. Just the sound of the forest breathing. Sometimes a bird, especially owls, could be heard. But mostly what you heard was the silence. It took a moment to get used to it and appreciate it.

It was a wonderful experience and we look forward to going back again to our new cathedral grove.

whale and sprayAfter we left Botano, we went back to Pigeon Point. Shortly after getting there we saw a group of whales in the little bay near the park heading out to the ocean. They were about a half mile away and it was easy to spot them and see their sprays and backs.

We felt so blessed to have these wonderful experiences. This was our first time whale watching and we saw 5 or 6. My wife wants to make this outing our annual Mother’s Day event. I’m looking forward to next year.

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I Have a Dream

This is a beautiful video of the last four minutes of Dr. King’s I Have a Dream speech recited by a mixture of young and old; black, white and Hispanic. In the background is a soulful rendition of the song My Country, ‘Tis of Thee, which Dr. King quotes from in his speech. It was created by the Salt Project, a not-for-profit project dedicated to reclaiming and sharing the beauty of Christian life through film, photography, music, poetry, and ideas.

I have always found this part of the speech so powerful and moving – especially when he talks about freedom ringing from the mountaintops and hills of New Hampshire, Colorado, California, Georgia, Tennessee and Mississippi. Having lived in or near most of those places it is a dream I can relate to also.

The creative director behind the film, Elizabeth Myer Boulton, asks this question:

How far have we come on the journey to social justice and what must be done to achieve the dream King so eloquently articulated in 1963?

That is a hard question to answer. In some ways, we’ve come a long way. President Obama is living proof of that. However, I am saddened by the continuing racism I see in our society and on display in the media, our courts and justice system, and some of our elected officials. It is a reminder that the struggle is never over and that hard won gains need to be strengthened every day for all of us.

How would you answer this question?

Note: I found this on the On Being Tumblr, On Being is a public radio project hosted by Krista Tippett, originally called Speaking of Faith.

Peace on Earth

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I am not Catholic, but have been impressed by Pope Francis’ writings and pronouncements this past year. Here are some passages from his Christmas Eve message.

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors (Luke 2:14)

I take up the song of the angels who appeared to the shepherds in Bethlehem on the night when Jesus was born. It is a song which unites heaven and earth, giving praise and glory to heaven, and the promise of peace to earth and all its people.

I ask everyone to share in this song: it is a song for every man or woman who keeps watch through the night, who hopes for a better world, who cares for others while humbly seeking to do his or her duty.

His message this year included a plea for peace in places of conflict around the world, including Syria, Sudan, Nigeria and for a favorable resolution in the peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. It included concern about our world.

Lord of heaven and earth, look upon our planet, frequently exploited by human greed and rapacity. Help and protect all the victims of natural disasters, especially the beloved people of the Philippines, gravely affected by the recent typhoon.

And finally, a call for all of us to work for peace.

God is peace: let us ask him to help us to be peacemakers each day, in our life, in our families, in our cities and nations, in the whole world. Let us allow ourselves to be moved by God’s goodness.

I wish you a Merry Christmas and a New Year filled with Peace.

Gratitude

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We had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner at my sister’s house with her friends and my mom.
We were very grateful for the vegan oil free dishes everyone made including a wonderful baked apple and raisin dish for us for dessert while everyone else enjoyed the pies.
The salad (pictured above) was so beautiful we hated to eat it. But we did and it was delicious.
We had much to be grateful for, and my mom was thrilled to have Thanksgiving with both of her children for the first time in many years.
I hope you had a blessed Thanksgiving also.

Gratitude

This beautiful video combines stunning visuals by award-winning cinematography by Louis Schwartzberg, inspired music by Gary Malkin and an incredible poem by Brother David Steindl.

The film is a reminder to be grateful for the things around us – nature, people and things built by humans. Brother David’s message is that being grateful for the chance to live each day is a reason to celebrate and find happiness all around us.

Enjoy and be grateful.

Faith Makes the Difference

…be of good comfort, your faith has made you whole.
New Testament / Matthew 9:22

Over a dozen years ago, while attending a Unity church in Atlanta, my wife and I took a class on meditation from Roy Eugene Davis. He is a direct disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda and Director of the Center for Spiritual Awareness in Lakemont, GA. During that class he gave us a copy of a little book of spiritual practice with themes for daily meditation.

The reading for today is titled “Faith Makes the Difference.” Here is an excerpt:

It is easy to believe when we see the evidence of a circumstance before us. Faith, however, is believing in the reality of desired outcomes before any objective evidence is discernible. Faith is the very substance of the end result of our envisioning, for it manifests itself according to our assumption and belief.*

I had been thinking about faith after watching two movies last weekend, the new documentary Inequality for All featuring former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.

Both, in the final analysis, are about faith – and hope.

Salmon Fishing in the YemenThe Salmon Fishing movie is about a Yemeni sheik who, because of his love of fishing and desire to give his people a better life, builds dams and other improvements to make it possible for him to enjoy salmon fishing in his country.

The UK government – looking for a good news story from the Middle East – forces a reluctant fishing expert, Dr. Alfred Jones (played by Ewan McGregor), to assist. He is more than skeptical.

He and the Sheik get into a discussion about faith. Jones says he doesn’t believe in faith, he’s a numbers and data person. The Sheik disagrees. He says that Jones loves to fish and to fish is to have faith that the time spent fishing will produce results, even if it takes many hours of no results to make a catch.

Ultimately, the Sheik’s vision, and faith in the outcome, make a believer out of Jones and they achieve the Sheik’s goal.  Jones’ moment of faith comes late in the movie when he believes that farm-bred salmon will migrate upstream, even though they were born and raised in holding ponds. He had no reason to believe this, except his faith that the salmon would know what to do.

Inequality for All - Robert ReichInequality for All is a documentary highlighting the growing income disparity in our country. Professor Reich documents how the difference in income  wasn’t always so skewed toward the rich. The peaks of inequality happened in 1928 and 2007, just before major market crashes. During the period in between, especially during the 50s and 60s, the lower and middle classes thrived and income inequality narrowed. Since the late 70s, changes in the rules, favoring the top 1% of wage earners, made income inequality grow until the crash in 2008. However, unlike after the Great Depression, this time, after a short pause, income inequality started rising again to record levels by 2011.

Reich has been fighting for 30 years to reverse this inequality. His ideas were behind Bill Clinton’s “Put People First” theme for his first presidential election. As Clinton’s Labor Secretary, Reich tried to help the lower and middle classes, especially unions, regain some of what they had lost. He tried to steer the budgets towards investing in education, child care and other needs for working people. By his own account, he was a pain in the rear to Clinton and the rest of his advisers. While they were focused on reducing the nation’s debt, Reich was pushing for investing in people and the country’s future.

So where does faith and hope fit in this equation? Reich teaches at UC Berkeley. He teaches a class on Wealth & Poverty to over 700 students – with the goal of getting his students to understand and think about these issues. Reich’s hope is that some of them will do things to change the system – the rules and other roadblocks to change.

He has a vision of what our country could look like if we valued people over profits. He knows that it existed before, and he has faith that it can happen again. That is why he writes books, speaks to audiences, teaches students and helped make this film – because he has faith in the outcome. He has faith in the American people to see his vision and make it theirs.

Unwavering faith produces results in exact proportion to its clarity and constancy. Real faith is not a vague idea of hoped-for possibilities accompanied by thoughts and feelings of doubt or inadequacy. Result-producing faith is definite, calm, steadfast, and grounded in soul awareness. *

Faith does make a difference.

* excerpts from With God – A Handbook of Spiritual Practice with Themes for Daily Meditation. Published by the Center for Spiritual Awareness. 1995 Edition

One Track Heart

Krishna Das

The sun shines, right? Some flowers bloom, others don’t, some bloom faster than others. But it’s not the sun that’s different, right. The sun is shining the same on everybody.

Krishna Das, explaining how his guru Maharaj-ji gave everyone the same unconditional love, but it was up to each person how they would receive it.

Earlier this summer we saw the movie One Track Heart, a documentary about Krishna Das, a devotee of Maharaj-ji and, according to the New York Times, “the chant master of the American yoga scene.” It is a beautiful film with interviews with Ram Dass, Daniel Goleman and others.

The quote above is from an interview with Krishna Das in the latest issue of Common Ground magazine. You can read the entire interview online.

I thought this quote was incredibly perceptive. We all get nourishment from the sun or the supreme being or guru we worship. But we all experience this differently.

The interview and movie highlight the years of anguish and self-destruction that followed Maharij-ji’s leaving his human form and the struggle to get back to his spiritual roots and chanting as a way to reconnect to his guru.

I highly recommend the movie and his music.