November 2014 Features

Everyday Gratitude

Reasons for gratitude, on an ordinary day:

Another sunrise.
A cup of coffee in the morning.

Another chance to share our talents and knowledge with the world.
Another opportunity to learn.
Another chance to reach out to friends and relatives.
Another opportunity to open our hearts.

A pause in the day.
A refreshing glass of iced tea or a soothing cup of hot tea.

Another chance to be inspired.
Another opportunity to express our hopes.
Another chance to forgive.
Another opportunity to truly experience the present moment.

Another sunset.
A meal to savor.

Another chance to pray or meditate.
Another opportunity to be grateful.
Another chance for a night of rest.
Another opportunity to dream.

Photo of the Month: Architectural Spirit

Some structures have such an organic quality that they seem to exude a sense of movement and spirit….

  National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC, September 2004.     (Photograph by Michael Riddle.  )

National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC, September 2004. (Photograph by Michael Riddle.)

Book Review: The Endless Practice

When I first saw the title “The Endless Practice,” I felt a little discouraged. "You mean, I have to practice endlessly?" But as I read the book, I think I realized what the author, Mark Nepo, meant by the title. During our entire lives, there will be circumstances that throw us off balance, and we will always need to rely on our spiritual practices in order to center ourselves.

Mark Nepo is a poet, and though this is a book of prose, much of the language in it has a poetic flavor. For instance, he talks about the “cloud of fear”—when we’re overcome with fear, “for the moment all of life seems fearful, the way a single cloud blocking the sun turns life on Earth gray.” He later discusses how to deal with such a cloud (and he includes pain and worry in his discussion). He writes, “the practice of being human hinges on our ability to let the cloud of pain, fear, and worry disperse, so we can see precisely where the cause and impact are coming from. Then we have choices.”

In some cases the poetic imagery lends a lively dimension to the book. In other cases such imagery did not particularly resonate with me, though some readers might find those images to be useful.

In addition to supporting our efforts to be centered, The Endless Practice encourages us in our efforts to open and expand our hearts. Nepo talks about exercising our heart; he notes that “being kind restores our authenticity and openness.” Authenticity is another important theme in the book—in fact, the subtitle is Becoming Who You Were Born To Be. He explores authenticity in chapters such as the one entitled, “The Courage Not to Waste Our Gifts.” At the beginning of that chapter, he declares, “Every single being has an amazing, unfathomable gift that only meeting life head-on and heart-on will reveal.”

Ultimately, rather than being discouraging, The Endless Practice proves to be a source of nurturing encouragement. It’s a poetic book of prose that you can return to repeatedly for a bit of inspiration.

8 Items for a Vegetarian Thanksgiving

More and more people are following a vegetarian diet, either full time or on occasion. When you don’t eat turkey on Thanksgiving, that leaves more room for other things, such as:

 "Thanksgiving without turkey?"

1) Stuffing made with cooked veggie sausage instead of meat or seafood (and, of course, this type of stuffing is prepared in a pan, not placed in a turkey!)

2) Sweet potatoes (with or without miniature marshmallows)

3) Salad (a good opportunity to fit in a protein source, such as cheese or chickpeas, as well as a way to include some greens)

4) Cranberry sauce (purchased or homemade)

5) Green beans (plain or in a meat-free casserole)

6) Crescent rolls (with or without butter)

7) Mashed potatoes (without gravy or with mushroom gravy)

8) Pie (pumpkin, apple, pecan—whatever you like!)

Word of the Month: Kindness

Acts of kindness open and expand our hearts. Such acts often involve giving: we may give someone a compliment, we may help a person who’s in a difficult situation, we may make a donation to a charity. Kindness also involves the quality of our interactions. Everyone on this planet, no matter what their apparent advantages are, has struggles and pain and loss at times; we can be aware of this and try to infuse most of our interactions with kindness (in the form of warmth and politeness and respect).

In the book reviewed in this issueThe Endless Practice, author Mark Nepo writes, “meeting the world with kindness will rejuvenate our soul.” Even though kindness may be perceived as superficial sometimes, it can touch us and others deeply.

It’s helpful to remember that we can be kind to ourselves as well as to others. Some of us can get so caught up in doing nice things for other people, especially as the winter holidays approach, that we neglect ourselves. Everyone in our lives is in need of kindness, including ourselves.

See November 2014 article

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