Tag Archives: religion

The Price of Slowing Down: What Has Caused the Increased Interest in Buddhist Practices?

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An article, entitled “Buddhist’s Delight” is the number one most e-mailed article in the New York Times this morning. This is fascinating to me.

We live in a time where technological advancements have required us all to become multi-tasking masters, enslaved to the pings of smart phones and e-mail. But clearly, many people seek new ways to regain a simple focus on the here and now.

The irony, of course, is that the focus of Buddhist practice is meditation, whereby people sit in silence and attempt to empty their minds to listen to the voice within. There could be nothing less technological than this. And yet people are willing to pay hundreds, even thousands of dollars, to go on spiritual retreats to work on cultivating this silence and emptiness.

I, too, seek the peace that comes from meditation and yoga. I savor the moments at the end of a yoga class when we lay still and listen to our bodies and feel the softening of the mind. But soon after I return to my everyday life, this peace quickly dissipates.

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We live in a fast paced world where instant gratification has become the norm. Perhaps this is what causes many of us to seek a religious philosophy which encourages us to slow down.

Imagine a long distance relationship, where you run to the mailbox every day to see if there is word from your far-off lover? Or disconnecting from work every night and waiting until you get back to the office to see if there is anything pressing which needs attention? Really, would this be so bad?

What do you think? How do you explain the interest in Buddhist philosophies and practice? Do you think this is related to the hectic pace of everyday life? Do you practice meditation or yoga or otherwise find ways to try and remain aware and present? Have you found any strategies that help carry this peaceful state into your everyday life? Do you think that interest in these practices will grow or do you think that this is just a fad?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading!

28 Comments

Filed under Culture, Health, International, Peace, Religion, Technology

Nuns on the Bus: Roman Catholic Nuns Hit the Road to Highlight Community Work of their Sisters

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An article in the New York Times about a group of Roman Catholic nuns who have planned a multi-state bus trip to highlight the critical work that nuns do on a daily basis to help the poor brought a smile to my face.

In light of the criticisms from Rome, it is no surprise to me that this group of inspiring women has chosen to hit the road to highlight the life-saving work of nuns across the country, who help feed the hungry and provide healthcare to the poor every day.

While I am not religious, it seems to me that nuns have kept their focus on one of the most fundamental tenants of Christianity, which is helping the poorest among us.

Meanwhile, as nuns have maintained this focus, working every day with people in need, the organized church has embroiled itself in scandal and political controversy over abortion and contraception.

I would suggest that the Catholic Church follow the lead of these courageous women and consider returning to work that inspires its followers, rather than work that shames, alienates and judges its most devoted members.

As I have blogged about before, I think the future of the Catholic Church may depend on this.

What do you think? Are there any organizations run by Catholic nuns in your community? What type of work are these women doing? What do you think about the criticism of the nuns by Rome? How do you see this impacting membership in the Catholic Church?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading!

19 Comments

Filed under Education, Income inequality, Poverty, Religion, Women

What is the Catholic Church Thinking? Nuns on the Run…

I am not Catholic, although more than half the members of my family, including my husband, are and our marriage was sanctioned by the Catholic Church. I firmly believe that organized religion has much to offer in terms of helping people discern what is ethically and morally right and wrong. And I realize that organized religion has helped many people who are struggling and looking for more meaning in their lives.

But I am absolutely baffled by the Catholic Church of late. It seems to keep digging itself into a deeper and deeper hole with each new scandal. First it was the apparent cover-up of sexual abuse of young boys by priests. After seeing the outrage over the scandal at Penn State earlier this year, I was struck by the lack of accountability illustrated in the tepid response of the Catholic Church to these heinous crimes.

Now, the Church has decided to publicly chastise one of its greatest assets: nuns. The New York Times had two excellent opinion pieces about this issue this weekend, one written by Nicholas Kristof and one written by Maureen Dowd. The Kristof article included a link to the public reprimand recently issued by the Vatican, in which the Church proclaimed that Nuns in the United States were getting a little too big for their habits (my words, not theirs).

I am sure all of us have seen the magnificent work that nuns perform daily throughout this country, indeed throughout the world. As a feminist, it is a wonder to me that women are willing to make the sacrifice that it requires to become a nun, when it appears that the Catholic Church has historically had little regard for women.

I truly believe that this could be the beginning, or at least the middle, of the end for the Catholic Church. I know that many will disagree with me, saying that this is just a conservative phase that the church is going through under its current leadership. But the Catholic Church has had a difficult time of late recruiting people to serve as priests and nuns. With displays like this, I can’t help but believe that the pool of people willing to make the significant sacrifice that is required to serve the Church and their higher ideals will only dwindle further – and that is too bad.

My Aunt was a nun who inspires me to this day with stories about her community organizing in low income neighborhoods. And my grandmother did the “holy wash,” cleaning all the church linens for more than 40 years. Both of these strong women significantly helped shape who I am today.

And I know the positive aspects of organized religion and the Catholic Church. My husband and I went to the required pre-marital counseling to enable us to be married in the Catholic Church and it was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life.

But the Catholic Church should play a central role in helping the poor and in comforting the down-trodden. And that is what nuns have been doing, without fanfare or glory, for generations.

I hope the Catholic Church rethinks their reprimand and begins to listen to the stories of these inspiring women. They should try to understand the nuns’ concerns with the current direction of the Church. The very future of the Church could depend on this.

These women are heroes and I have no doubt they will survive and thrive after this recent setback from Rome; I have less confidence in the Church’s ability to do the same.

What do you think? I am sure that plenty of people will have differing perspectives on this issue and I welcome those. Do you think that the Catholic Church will be able to recover from the scandals that have plagued it in recent years? Do you think that the Church will be forced to be more inclusive in the future to survive? Do you have an inspiring story about how nuns have touched your lives? What do you see as the future of the Catholic Church and of organized religion?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading!

15 Comments

Filed under Religion, Women

Rethinking His Religion

So, for the first news story – and the one that inspired me to start this blog, I have chosen “Rethinking His Religion,” which was published in the New York Times on March 24th. To read the article, go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/opinion/sunday/bruni-a-catholic-classmate-rethinks-his-religion.html?_r=1&scp=22&sq=jesus&st=cse

This is an article which really calls into question the assumptions we make about people. It is such a natural human tendancy to make snap judgements, especially about people. But so frequently, these judgements can turn out to be completely wrong. And we can easily miss out on connecting with a person who could have taught us something profound or touched our lives in some very personal way by not second-guessing these assumptions.

I know that all of us have experienced this at one time or another – meeting a person who helped us see the world in a whole new way or who made us question our assumptions. I always have to smile when that happens and think that I have just been given a reminder not to jump to conclusions.

One example I remember well, was in 1996. I was working at NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund. A woman who is now a wonderful friend of mine came into the office to apply for a graduate-level internship. She was (and still is) beautiful, with long flowing model-like blond hair and high heels. She was very well dressed and may have even had a manicure. Immediately, I thought “That canNOT be a feminist.” And I know she had some assumptions about me when we first met as well. It turns out that, not only is she an ardent feminist, but she is one of the smartest, funniest, most thoughtful people I know. I have been lucky to have her in my life and would have missed out on this friendship if I had not looked beyond my initial assumptions.

This article is also about one person’s personal evolution through his exposure to a broader world. For me, this is a story of a person who was willing to question his assumptions about himself and about the things he believed when he was young. It takes a strong person to be willing to do that.

What does this article bring up for you? When have you been forced to rethink your judgements and assumptions? And what kind of personal evolutions have you and your friends experienced that changed your perspective and fundamental beliefs?

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Filed under Stereotypes