350 Slices
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Introduction: What Is Meditation?

Patricia Monaghan New World Library ePub

Meditation means many things to many people. To some, it means simple relaxation; to others, a deep blissful surrender to the divine. To some, meditation means rigorously following a prescribed path; to others, it means exploring a path unique to the self.

Meditation can be any or all of these things, but however it is defined, it is always a practice. Whether that practice means sitting still or moving, reading inspirational words or emptying the mind of all words, meditation is something we do. This book will present you with many ways to meditate, but you will not know what works for you until you put the practices into action.

Meditation involves choice. You choose to be present — now, now, now, and now. Meditation is a practice of training your attention by focusing it on something in the present moment, such as a flower, a candle, a sound, or your own breath. Through the practice, the mind settles down.

Meditation is not a religion. It is not a doctrine or something to be acquired. Meditation is play rather than work. While you are playing, your mind is open. As long as you practice with a lightness of approach, you will experience freedom from desire and ambition.

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Part 5: One-Minute Mindfulness for Nature, Spirituality, and Contemplation

Donald Altman New World Library ePub

Humility illuminates the deepest core of what it means to be J. J. human, how we are all frail and subject to error and how each of us is dependent upon the web of life into which we are interwoven. What this means for each of us is that eventually, like it or not, we will be cracked open and rendered vulnerable and naked by life. I am reminded of a concert I attended recently, where poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen performed. Before breaking into his song “The Bells,” he eloquently spoke a few of the song’s lyrics, alluding to the light that shines through the imperfect and cracked parts of ourselves.36

Being cracked open is not the same as being broken or enduring a Humpty Dumpty moment, unable to put ourselves back together. Neither does humility imply that we are weak and incapable. Leadership expert John Baldoni insightfully writes, “Humility is acceptance of individual limitations — I cannot do it alone — coupled with a sense of resolve to do something about it — I will enlist the help of others. That is the essence of leadership.”37 One-minute mindfulness helps the light of humility and growth shine through the cracks.

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11. Indigenous Wisdom and Shamanism: Meister Eckhart Meets Eddie Kneebone, Black Elk, and Bill Everson

Matthew Fox New World Library ePub

Meister Eckhart Meets Eddie Kneebone, Black Elk, and Bill Everson

The round form of the drum represents the whole universe and its steady, strong beat is the pulse, the heart, throbbing at the center of the universe. It is as the voice of Wakan-Tanka, and this sound stirs us and helps us to understand the mystery and power of all things.


The aspect of being at one with the universe…is included in our lives. It is a part of us.…For me, Creation Spirituality…is like the Dreamtime in the way that it brings the entire cosmos into our lives, making it a part of us, and us a part of it.


God loves all creatures equally and fills them with his being. And we should lovingly meet all creatures in the same way. We find this attitude among the pagans, people who came to this sense of love-filled equanimity.


The shamanistic tradition has always been about fostering, or restoring, our intimate connection with the cosmos and all the life within it. It teaches reverence for and identification with animals and creation. Shamanism is found almost universally among ancient and indigenous peoples, and evidence of it ranges from the Arctic to the southern tip of South America, from East to West and points in between. Shamanism speaks deeply to our ancient memory of how, in ages past, humans and animals “shared the same language” — meaning we humans were closer to our animal roots and more alert sensually to the mysteries of nature, be they the rock world, the plant world, the winged world, or the world of the four-legged ones. We were keen observers and translators, one might say, of the signals of other creatures. For our ancestors, this was surely a survival mechanism, but it was also a spiritual reality.

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Chapter 8: A Legion of Demons

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

In addition to the African variant of demonic possession, there are innumerable stories also of another type, which we will here call the Eurasian variant, because it is reported from India and China, as well as from Christian Europe. In a number of characteristics this Eurasian form of possession agrees with its African counterpart. In both, the noxious spirit entities invade their victim uninvited, but have to wait until a path opens for them, a breach of sorts in the personality of their intended victim. Their presence is signaled by illness. If a trance is ritually initiated, the spirits reveal their presence. Healing is accomplished by dislodging, expelling, that is, exorcising, the malevolent being.

But differences emerge all along the line, with the African variant in each instance simpler and at the same time much more sinister, which confirms its greater antiquity. In the African variant, the invaders are always ghosts. In Eurasia, on the other hand, there is a great variety of such evil beings. According to European folk belief, for instance, also fervently held by Protestant fundamentalists in this country, there is a whole slew of demons, associated with Satan as his entourage, fallen angels and unredeemed humans, roaming the earth, eager to possess, corrupt, and plague humanity. In the Christian West, the principal guardian of the tradition about demons is the Catholic church. According to a contemporary catechism,1 devils or demons represent temptation, confusion, deception; they are inimical to humans, barring their entrance to heaven.

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Conclusion: The Twilight of the Spirits

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

There is no doubt that the societies that used postures in religious ritual highly valued this knowledge. Shamans must have cherished them; that was probably why in a first-century Eskimo grave, three finely incised statuettes were found as grave offerings, carved out of walrus ivory, and clearly created by the same artist (pl. 69). They are (from left to right) shown in the Singing Shaman, the Calling of the Spirits, and the Bear Spirit postures respectively. In each instance the hands are placed somewhat lower than we are used to seeing them. Perhaps it was the intention of the artist to indicate that this was the shaman in death. Not only are the postures recreated over and over again in native art, they are also considered attributes of the Spirits, part of their power, as we see in the drawing of the Matsigenka shaman (pl. 60). Going from left to right, the “pure and invisible Ones” are shown in the posture of the Feathered Serpent, of the Singing Shaman, and of the Bear Spirit. And they passed into later traditions as conventionalized characteristics of the gods, as in the Aztec examples (Chap. 10).

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