Posts tagged ‘Christian’

Question about meditation

So I saw your post about Christianity & Buddhism. I am a Christian, but I adore other religions teachings as well, especially Buddhism & ones similar to it. Your blog made me not feel guilty anymore about that actually. But what I’m here to ask is; I’ve always been curious about meditation, but I’m unsure of how to go about it. I could merely google it, but I think I’d rather ask you. I think hearing your opinion, advice, or resources would be much preferred. So can you tell me about it?

I think more than anything meditation is about being yourself, being honest with yourself… seeing things as they are. It’s not about getting to a special spiritual state or other-worldly place. It’s about being here, being here now in this moment, because that’s all we have. It’s not always a pleasant experience, although it can be. It just is.

Try not to start out trying to over do it or being something you’re not. A good beginning practice is just breathing or loving kindness meditation. (The links take you to posts I wrote about my experience with both.) Try to sit for just 5 minutes a day, then work your way up. If all you do is put your body there and breath for 5 minutes, it can make a big difference. You can sit cross legged or half lotus or try lying down on the floor with your eyes open or closed, whichever comes easiest for you.

You can try a simple body scan. Just breathe. Notice the air going in and out of your nose, your lungs. Notice your chest rise and fall with your abdomen. Just be there. Notice any tension in your body. Don’t judge it, just be aware of it. When you exhale, imagine you are exhaling into that part of your body and letting the tension drain through the floor. Don’t expect anything to happen or to feel a certain way. Just be you and know that it’s ok.

Hope that gives you an idea. The best simple, non-sectarian book on meditation I’ve read (3x’s now) is Real Happiness by Sharon Salzberg. It’s a 4 week guided teaching in 4 types of mediation practices with an audio CD of guided meditations included. It’s really easy to understand and practice.

I wish you well. Feel free to ask any questions. I’ll be glad to answer them privately.

~ Namaste


A Bi-lingual Heart: Christian & Buddhist

I’m not sure how to answer that question anymore. I was raised as a Christian and claimed that faith for my own when old enough to understand what I was doing. I have committed over half of my 35 years on this planet to Christian ministry as a minister. I have a weakness for this faith that makes me swoon over things like Jesus, grace, incarnation, hymns, and liturgy, but so much of what is considered “Christian” these days in America repulses me and makes me want to run away. The expression of Christianity that resonates most with me is old, simple, organic, and real. Krista Tippett’s answer to this question really reflected how I feel also:

I do consider myself to be Christian, or this is the way I would say it: that’s my mother tongue. That’s where I come from, and that’s my mother tongue. That’s my heritage.

– Krista Tippett, from an interview with Buddhist Geeks podcast, “Carving Out a Life of Meaning”

Christianity is my mother tongue. It’s what I know, who I am, and in my blood. I’m very comfortable and fluent in speaking it, even though most conversations are about what it isn’t as much as what it is.

I first began practicing mediation about two years ago in response to a health crisis I experienced. (You can read more about it here: My Journey Into Real Happiness) It was a purely secular, self-help attempt on my part because medication was not working. I didn’t even entertain the thought of Buddhist teaching for a long time. It was simply something that helped me and made me feel better. Almost a year ago I started reading more about Buddhist teaching to gain some understanding and context for what I was experiencing in meditation. The dharma, the teaching, really ignited my meditation practice and helped me to take the practice off the cushion and apply it to everyday life.

Buddhism isn’t a religion as such. There is no one to worship. There are teachings but not some universal dogma which everyone must believe or suffer for all eternity for rejecting. We’re already suffering here and now, and most of it is of our own making, Buddhism teaches. In Buddhist practice we can walk back down the path that led us into this mess. We can begin to understand it. We can make choices to be aware of our thoughts and actions. We can be kinder to ourselves and others.

Somewhere I read that Buddhism isn’t something you believe or something that you are, it’s something that you do. When one master was pressed on the question “Are you a Buddhist?,” he simply answered, “I practice Buddhist meditation.” I don’t think Buddha himself would self-identify as a Buddhist, nor would Jesus likely be able to identify with all that has been done in His name.

I think my best answer today at this point in my life  is that I am a follower of Jesus who practices Buddhist meditation. Christianity may be my mother tongue, but I’m bi-lingual. As I become more fluent in this Eastern tongue, it has informed my Christian faith and enriched my daily life. There will never be a day when I cease to follow Jesus, but I have incredible respect and appreciation for this ancient path that has at last introduced me to myself.

Namaste and Peace Be Unto You

If you are interested in the correlation of the two practices, I highly recommend:

  • Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian by Paul Knitter
  • Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Naht Hahn
  • The Enoch Factor by Steve McSwain

Double Belonging: Buddhism & the Christian Faith

Article from National Catholic Reporter. An interview of Paul Knitter about his bookWithout Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian. I highly recommend the book to anyone new to Buddhism or feel a sense of “double belonging” at this time in your life.

Jews, Muslims, and Christians meet in Louisiana

So what happens when a Jew, a Muslim, and a Christian get together in the South? It sounds like the beginning of a terrible joke, but it’s really happening in Central Louisiana. Tonight was the first night of the second series of Interfaith Dialogues hosted by Congregation Gemiluth Chassodim, The Islamic Society, and Emmanuel Baptist Church in Alexandria, LA. The speakers were Rabbi Arnold Task, Imam Yaser al Khooly, and Dr. Lee Weems. The first meeting tonight was held at Emmanuel, and the topic was “Our Distinctive Holy Days.” The topic of the next meeting will be “What My Faith Means To Me (A Woman’s View)” held at the Jewish Synagogue, and the last meeting of the year will be “Sacred Scripture” held at the Islamic Center.

In the South ecumenism is a rarity, but when it does surface, it usually means that either a black church and white church came together for some occasion or a few Protestants got together with some Catholics for something. Although more known for being the second notch of the Bible Belt, Central Louisiana has had a very visible and very respected Jewish community for years and has a steadily growing Islamic community most notably among healthcare professionals and business owners. My friend and I really had hoped to attend the first series of Dialogues held in the Spring, but they weren’t very well publicized, plus we were off working all over the state. I’m glad that I was able to make it tonight and look forward to the rest of the conversation.

I appreciate the spirit in which the conversations took place. I would characterize it as one of respect and genuine interest. This afternoon while weighing what I had to do versus making the effort to attend tonight, I kept thinking about why this was so important, although seemingly insignificant. If more people around the world would take the time to get together and talk, there would be far less violence and animosity in the world. Having just recently watched CNN’s three-part series God’s Warriors also freshly impressed upon me the importance of working to overcome ignorance and barriers to peace. One of the greatest delusions is that the absence of conflict is the equivalent to the presence of peace. It may be a cease-fire kind of peace, but it is not a peace based on unity and understanding without effort.

I noticed a lot of similarities in the basic underlying tenets or objectives of each faith tradition, as well as many “distinctives.” I noticed most the focus of right relationship to our Creator and the imperatives of service to others. There were a few things that stuck out most to me from each speaker.

It stuck with me most that Rabbi Task summarized Judaism as a religion of “ethical monotheism.” While speaking about charity during Ramadan, Iman al Khooly quoted a prophet that said you cannot be a believer and go to sleep at night with a full belly while your neighbor’s is empty (paraphrase mine). I also appreciated how he described everything done between prayer times as acts of worship and the various signifigances of observing the month of Ramadan. Dr. Weems emphasized the importance of Advent and Lent leading up to Christmas and Easter, which in my opinion is almost never mentioned in most Protestant circles I’ve ran in most of my life. It made me think of why that is. I think Baptists have a knee-jerk reaction against Advent and Lent as “Catholic” observances, but I think Anglicans and other Protestants have placed a higher importance on the seasons as well as the holidays.

Anyway, that’s my take on the conversation. Rabbi Task and Iman al Khooly invited everyone to attend their services some time. I told a friend of mine he’ll have to go with me to the Islamic Center one day. I have much to learn.

Confessions of a die-hard romantic

I’m in love with words and dusty books,
the taste of deep red wine and salty ocean air,
drunk on a lonely tune and a sunset sky.

You might say that I am a romantic, in the classical sense. I go weak in the knees for ideas. I love nuance, symbolism, and possibilities. This makes me especially vulnerable to the seductive language of scripture.

Perhaps you’ve heard the expression “in love with the idea of being in love.” Dorothy Boyd’s description of her feelings for Jerry McGuire describe my affair with Christianity well, “I love him! I love him for the man he wants to be. And I love him for the man he almost is.” One of my favorite bloggers Real Live Preacher expressed this idea succinctly in a recent post:

Christianity has already shrunk in my lifetime from being the shining center of all truth and purpose to something less than that. Even looking at things from the inside, even willing to give the benefit of every doubt, Christianity seems like a bumbling, prosaic movement which is, as often as not, violent, anti-intellectual, and xenophobic.

But I love Christianity so much. Or at least I love what it could be. I want to hug it. I want to throw my arms around the beautiful language of salvation and redemption. I want to curl up in the warmth of my faith community, the people I love so deeply in this world. Truly they are like family to me. I feel I could get drunk on our ancient symbols, myths and stories, the ones that speak in luscious tones vibrating through a million voices across the centuries.

With time and disappointment love can change and devotion can wane, but for all that I have learned and all that I question about my faith I just cannot bring myself to walk away completely. In The Painted Veil Mother Superior said:

“I fell in love when I was 17… with God. A foolish girl with romantic notions about the life of a religious, but my love was passionate. Over the years my feelings have changed. He’s disappointed me. Ignored me. We’ve settled into a life of peaceful indifference. The old husband and wife who sit side by side on the sofa, but rarely speak. He knows I’ll never leave Him. This is my duty. But when love and duty are one, then grace is within you.”

I don’t stay from a sense of obligation or from fear of divine retribution. I think I stay because it’s familiar. These words I’ve heard so many times bring comfort when few others have. For all that I know there is more that I don’t know. I no longer look at the Bible as a rubik’s cube waiting to be solved. It has become more like a painting to me. One that requires long gazes from an open mind to appreciate. Every time I return I see something new in something old. Faith is not having all the right answers to spiritual questions. Faith is loving the idea of what could be, and the test of faith is in making small choices that bring those possibilities to life.

Evangelicals support 400 executions per month in Texas

Religion and culture behind Texas execution tally

DALLAS (Reuters) – Texas will almost certainly hit the grim total of 400 executions this month, far ahead of any other state, testament to the influence of the state’s conservative evangelical Christians and its cultural mix of Old South and Wild West.

“In Texas you have all the elements lined up. Public support, a governor that supports it and supportive courts,” said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

“If any of those things are hesitant then the process slows down,” said Dieter. “With all cylinders working as in Texas it produces a lot of executions.” 

Like his predecessor, Governor Perry is a devout Christian, highlighting one key factor in Texas’ enthusiasm for the death penalty that many outsiders find puzzling — the support it gets from conservative evangelical churches.

This is in line with their emphasis on individuals taking responsibility for their own salvation, and they also find justification in scripture.

“A lot of evangelical Protestants not only believe that capital punishment is permissible but that it is demanded by God. And they see sanction for that in the Old Testament especially,” said Matthew Wilson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Texas also stands at an unusual geographical and cultural crossroads: part Old South, with its legacy of racism, and part Old West, with a cowboy sense of rough justice.

There was a time in my life when I supported the death penalty. With education and life experience my feelings have definately shifted. I suppose 10 years of prison ministry had the most profound affect on me, coupled with intern work with hospice care. Mostly when I read this headline and article today I am saddened.

400 executions per month.

In no way should we diminish or dismiss the seriousness of the crimes of the offenders, but what is most appauling is that the presence and influence of evangelical Christians is cited as a reason for the high number of executions. If anything those who claim to have been touched by grace and declare themselves “pro-life” should stand up for the dignity of all life. Killing the worst among us does not make us just or moral. It strips us of our humanity.