Oh Fudge!

By Mitch Rosenzweig

I laughed out loud, although I really shouldn’t have. She was a cute as a button. Curly blonde hair and petite, maybe 3 years old at the most. She had on the cutest little dress with a Christmas print, white tights, and bright, shiny Mary Jane shoes to complete the perfect picture. Her Dad, at the other end of her hand, was clearly a work-a-day type. Gnarled and whiskered, there were paint spatters flecking his plaid shirt and blue jeans. As they walked into the black Friday store, Dad remarked, “Look at all the people!” And in a cute, tiny voice with a little-kid accent, the delicate princess exclaimed loudly, “No Shit!” My coffee almost exploded all over me as I guffawed. Red-faced and embarrassed the Dad bent close to his daughter and gave her a loving reminder: “Now Chelsea, we don’t say those bad words in public.” I wondered if it was okay in private. With wide eyes she nodded, obviously confused and overwhelmed by the bustle of the store.

In the 70s, George Carlin made famous the seven words you can’t say on TV. But really, if you ask anyone, there are way more than seven that we classify as expletives or bad words. When we are kids, we rejoice in their delicious sounds. From the “doo-doo head” and “poopy” of childhood, to the rude mother-degrading curses of teens, we continue to thrill at the obvious insults. It’s not just an American thing; I have seen comedic dictionaries about how to curse in every language. We classify them as “bad” words. Never to be spoken, especially not in public.

Of course no words are really “bad.” They are just sounds on our tongue or letters on a page. It is in the meaning and context that the moralistic value occurs. We can exclaim about abundant waste in a toilet but we better not tell someone they are full of it. It’s all about the context. I have to re-train my brain after my various military stints, where bad words are sprinkled throughout casual conversations. I once heard a Platoon Sergeant use more than 14 of them in a single sentence. The worst part is that I understood and agreed with what he said-and how he said it. I shook his confused hand in congratulations. Bad, bad, bad.

What I don’t understand is why other, non-curse words aren’t considered bad. They have negative connota­tions in all contexts: such as “hate,” “unemployed,” “addiction,” “kill,” and millions of others that produce a visceral response in any setting. We don’t use them in polite society either. I will avoid further examples but I am sure you can think of your own that are far worse than “doody-head.”

As parents and polite adults, we teach our children and train ourselves to avoid using bad words. Even though the best of us occasionally drop an “f-bomb,” most of us don’t cuss like drunken merchant marines. We realize that as reserved and thoughtful adults there are better ways to express our emotions. Only the vulgar cuss-until you stub your toe in the middle of the night. And then that raw instinct forces us to damn something to the nether regions. I’m not holier-than-thou; I am just as likely to slip one in now and then. Especially the milder ones, like sh*t, damn, and hell. Somehow, “doo-doo happens,” or “oh fudge” just doesn’t cut it in all situations.

I have a proposal. Can we create a list of the seven words that we must say? Wouldn’t it be just as important to teach our children those words? The positive rather than negative? Wouldn’t it be amazing to see a dad stooping to teach his to child to say, “Holy love!”? My list of seven words we must say would be: love, faith, caring, peace, giving, forgiveness, and thanks. I’m willing to bet we have just as many reasons to say them in public. Maybe they are prohibited too, since I rarely hear them.

Today, I am going to offer my seven every chance I get. I will fully express myself and let people know how I truly feel. No holds barred. If I offend, so be it. I don’t need a filter. I will pepper my conversation with them and shock people. Even when I stub my toe, I will offer thanks for having a toe to stub. OK, well, maybe after I cuss and fuss a bit.

Express yourself-it’s healthy. Let it out already, Dagnabit!

About Mitch Rosenzweig:
In this new book “Reaching for Insights: Stories of Love, Faith, and the Kitchen Sink”, veteran clinical psychologist and social worker Mitch Rosenzweig attunes his therapeutic sensibilities to his daily landscape and uncovers life lessons for us all – treasures gained by observing the ordinary from an often amusing, and always positive, perspective. This rich collection of 200 brief essays penned from his personal and professional observations delights us and invites us to grow into better, more compassionate human beings. For more information, visit http://www.reachingforinsights.com/

Start Where You Are

We just got done looking at Goldie Hawn’s “10 Mindful Minutes: A Journal” and here I am back, BAM, with “Start Where You Are: A Journal for Self-Exploration” by Meera Lee Patel. Trust me, these two journals are totally different from one another, so you’re going to want to keep reading.

Patel’s journal comes from a unique, but familiar perspective. How often have you put change on hold because things weren’t where you thought they should be for you to make that change? I’ve done. Patel, the author, has done. Odds are good that you’ve done, or maybe you’re doing it now. “Start Where You Are” encourages you to stop looking, and waiting, for that other day, and to instead start where you are. Her journal asks probing, thought provoking questions to help you find out more about yourself: what you really love, your motivations, how see yourself and how you feel others perceive you, and more. However she does mix it up. Sometimes the journal will just ask a question for you to answer, but other times you’re drawing pictures, or filling in circles or other shapes, or coloring in a drawing.

Along with her journaling exercises, Patel includes inspiring quotes from a variety of sources. Since she’s an accomplished artist, with lines of stationary sold in boutiques, the quotes are presented in colorful, whimsical fonts, suitable for framing (if you’re willing to cut them out of the book).

It can be difficult to think about yourself and your desires, particularly if you think they’re unattainable. Artist and author Meera Lee Patel does her best to make the journey a painless and playful one.

Now guess what? My friends at Perigee have agreed to send one lucky Magical Buffet reader a copy of “Start Where You Are” by Meera Lee Patel! It’s worth owning so you’ll want to get in on this one. This contest is open to folks residing in the United States that are 18 years-old and up. Contest runs 08/10/15 – 08/14/15 midnight eastern. Don’t worry international readers, I’ve got some contests coming up that you’ll be able to enter. So without further ado, may I direct attention to the Rafflecopter contest form below?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

10 Mindful Minutes: A Journal

I’ve always liked Goldie Hawn. When I was younger I watched her on “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In”, “Private Benjamin”, “Protocol” (No, dear, I’m not a chicken; I’m an emu.), “Wildcats”, “Death Becomes Her”, and “First Wives Club”. I like that her and Kurt Russell are still together after all these years. I’m not saying I’m an expert on all things “Goldie”, I’m just saying it came as quite a surprise to find out that she’s kind of a well-known figure in the mindfulness movement.

It turns out that Goldie Hawn is an author! She has written an autobiography, “A Lotus Grows in the Mud”, and “10 Mindful Minutes”. Both books ended up on New York Time’s bestselling author’s list! This was all news to me when I was approached to review “10 Mindful Minutes: A Journal”. As you may already have guessed, I never read “10 Mindful Minutes”, so the good news is the journal is effective whether you’ve read the previous book or not. No more talk about the past then, let’s focus on the here and now and “10 Mindful Minutes: A Journal”.

Goldie Hawn at a book event.

The Journal is authored by Goldie Hawn with Jennifer Repo. I’m not sure how much of whose voice we’re hearing when reading the entries but there is a welcoming warmth in the tone of the writing. The book isn’t focusing on deep, obscure meditation practices. You’re reminded of the basics: sitting comfortably and focusing on your breath. The chapters are divided into specific areas of reflection, such as Discovering Empathy, Transforming Anger, and Cultivating Optimism. In the sections you’ll find meditation exercises, and most important to the book, space to journal your reflections after you finish them.

“10 Mindful Minutes: A Journal” works at guiding readers towards a daily reflective meditation practice so that after all the pages are filled, hopefully the practice still remains.

The Seen and Unseen Dimensions of Time

By Carisia H. Switala, MTS

I assume most people are aware of the recent “Voice of an Angel” story reported on the news about an 18-month old girl who was found alive in an overturned car 14 hours after it crashed in a Utah river. The four police officers who rescued the little girl said they heard a woman’s voice calling out for help. However, the girl’s mother died in the crash and there were no other people in the car. The officers really believe something otherworldly took place. Perhaps this story is a good example of the temporal and eternal dimensions of time merging together allowing the mother to call for help from the unseen dimension.

After years of research, I came to the realization that time is an elusive concept. Most individuals believe that looking at their watch and hurrying to get to work on time is the extent to which this concept is relevant. However, in my opinion, time is so much more than a measurement of sequential events. For many years, philosophers and scientists have been trying to explain time. The ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, believed that time is the measurement of change. Whereas Sir Isaac Newton, an influential seventeenth century English physicist and natural philosopher, believed that space was a static container and time was an absolute flow. Newton hypothesized that absolute time exists independently of any observer and moves forward at a steady pace throughout the universe. He also thought that humans perceive ordinary time as a measurement of objects in motion like the sun.

Saint Augustine, an early Christian theologian and philosopher, believed that time was only in the mind and a human invention that cannot be applied to the universe or to God. Augustine’s view was that God existed in a timeless void. However, as the human mind evolved into a thinking machine that applies science to philosophical questions, the idea of relativity introduced the opinion that time is a physical dimension governed by physical laws. This opened up a more expansive view of the world and the universe.

I believe that the ancient idea of eternity, endless time, is a very profound and complex aspect of the subject. What seems like the passage of time in a changing world is but an illusion in a three-dimensional space.

It is difficult for humans to visualize space. The standard human experience of space can be described in terms of three dimensions: width, depth, and height. Once the fourth dimension of time is added to the equation, parallel dimensions and universes become a clearer possibility in a space-time continuum. This advancement in thought and knowledge reveals the endless nature of time and the continuation of life, defusing the idea of a timeless void. It is a perspective that views eternity as endless time, not the absence of time as Saint Augustine suggested.

We measure the passage of time in seconds, minutes, hours, and years, but this doesn’t mean that time flows at a constant rate. Just as the water in a river rushes or slows depending on the size of the channel, time flows at different rates in different places. Einstein believed that the past, present, and future all exist simultaneously. In other words, time is relative. So relativity makes it possible, with the proper technology, such as a very fast spaceship, for one person to experience several days while another person simultaneously experiences only a few hours or minutes.

After I delved into scientific theory, I discovered that the idea of parallel universes in quantum mechanics suggests that all possible quantum events can occur in mutually exclusive histories. These alternate, or parallel, histories would form a branching tree, symbolizing all possible outcomes of any interaction. If all possibilities exist, any paradoxes could be explained by having the paradoxical events happening in different universes. This concept leads to the conclusion that time travel is possible, and a time traveler should certainly end up in a different history than the one he or she started from. Hence, relativity and ancient notions of time variation and parallel universes are very similar.

My research into philosophy, theology and science inspired me to merge scientific and religious views about time into one reality of infinite time. The Bible contains many time-centered passages and reveals eternity to humanity. Science is also on the verge of discovering the possibility of opening up the fourth dimension of time in order to make breakthroughs in time travel. When these two disciplines work together, who knows what incredible insights into the seen and unseen dimensions of the universe will be revealed. The result will most likely be humanity’s inspiration to attain absolute knowledge of the mysteries of eternity.

The new paradigm of time I discerned is endless time. It encompasses the eternal dimension of the universe that allows for infinite life. This dimension contains the unending transformations of nonstop creation. And life doesn’t have to start in the temporal world in order to be infinite because life is eternal and therefore has no starting point. The illusions of the third dimension emanate from a static view of space and time where objects exist and events take place in a linear sequence. Perhaps one day the next brilliant scientist will be able to mathematically prove the existence of eternity.

About Carisia Switala, MTS:
The idea for Carisia Switala’s book “Eternity’s Secret: What the Bible & Science Have to Say About Time” was conceived of several years ago while she was a graduate student at Harvard Divinity School (of which she is holds a Master’s of Theological Studies from). After a strange experience following her mother’s passing-away, Switala finally reached a point where she decided to write a book focusing on the insights and knowledge she had acquired from her scholarly pursuits. She lives with her husband, Lekan Obadeyi, near Washington, D.C. To learn more visit: http://www.carisiaswitala.com/

The Enlightened Woman’s Guide to Modern Love Myths

By Your 21st Century Relationship Psychic Angela Kaufman

Once upon a time, women were told that successful relationships were a matter of showing up, shutting up, and well you can guess the third criteria. Women were content to remain behind the scenes running the show and getting none of the credit (think Edith Bunker).

Things have changed-thankfully, and along the journey to empowerment, women have received mixed signals that keep the journey to relationship bliss feeling like a twisting turning maze-from-Hell.

Our cultural mythology is so steeped in distorted messages about relationships it is no wonder women are confused. In the process of researching prominent mythical heroines portrayed as empowered and successfully partnered I was alarmed to realize that no previous cultural archetype seems to exist. Artemis, the huntress and early animal rights activist, falls in love, only to be tricked into slaying her lover (take away, too much power can kill your love life). Isis, archetypal mother Goddess of ancient Egypt also falls in love with Osiris, a match made in Heaven it would seem. Unfortunately, her lover is slain by jealous Set, their brother. After his body is destroyed, Isis roams the Earth re-assembling his remains (take away, even if you do find happiness with your equal, beware the jealous haters … you will just end up cleaning up everyone else’s mess anyway).

As we enter a new millennium, will we now shift our perception of empowered women and partnerships to allow for the experience of relationships without self or other sacrifice? If this is the direction we collectively desire to go, there are a few modern myths that need to be put to rest.

The “All You Need to Do is Love Yourself” Myth

Can we give this one a break already? Of course, if you don’t love yourself your relationships will be a wreck, we got it. This message came across loud and clear around the time we realized that smoking causes cancer, real butter is bad for you and littering is bad.

In most cases, modern, enlightened women DO love themselves, but still get stuck in relationship ruts and attraction catastrophes. Loving yourself is great, but that is not all it takes to land a great relationship.
Simply put, you are only 1/3 of the relationship. The other 3rd is your partner, the other 3rd is the Spirit bond that brings and holds you together, the relationship energy. So love yourself, please, but don’t neglect the other 2/3 of your relationships!

The Soul Mate Martyrdom Myth

I believe in Soul Mates. I don’t believe Soul Mates are an excuse to remain in unhealthy relationships because the attraction is so powerful. If you are committing to a supremely destructive relationship because you feel the person is your Soul Mate it is time to re-evaluate what you believe a Soul Mate is. A Soul Mate does not have to be the person you are with for life. You may have a Soul Mate that is part of a platonic relationship. Your Soul Mate, or you, may be married to another person and that is fine. Soul Mates are not the epitome of every Valentine’s Day card come to life. Your Soul Mate brings powerful Karmic lessons, and some of them may not be pleasant. However you do not have to sacrifice yourself on the pyre of “Soul Mate-dom”. Your Soul Mate may be the person you divorce, the mentor, the boss, your child, or it may be the person who comes into your life as a catalyst, not as a lover.

The It’s All About Me Myth

Equally destructive as the martyrdom-for-the-sake-of-my-Soul-Mate myth is the It’s All About Me Myth. Unfortunately this myth has gained ground recently. We are taught that if a relationship becomes challenging, to simply give it up. If someone is holding you back, cut them out of your life. Partnership becoming inconvenient and messy? It’s all about you, so hit the road! Just as the Soul Mate Martyrdom represents one unhealthy extreme, the It’s All About Me Myth represents the other. There are appropriate times, and reasons to end or change relationships but many modern women believe that compromise of any kind is akin to the self-sacrifice pit we just finally managed to claw ourselves out of.

We need middle ground for any relationship to be successful. Don’t sacrifice your dreams, career and personality for a partner….but remember if you are really partners you do have to “join forces”. Don’t martyr yourself for a life of craziness because someone may be your Soul Mate….but don’t wield the ax too quickly when things become challenging either.

As an Intuitive Relationship Coach I help women who are successful at life but struggling in relationships, largely due to the beliefs in these and other pervasive relationship myths. I help women identify factors that disrupt and sabotage attraction and relationships, and by re-writing the love script, women are liberated to experience new and more enduring relationships. We are culturally developing a new understanding of partnership and relationships. If you have any doubt, check out our modern fairy tales from stories like “Wicked: Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West” (Gregory Maguire, HarperCollins Publishing 1995) or the more recent “Maleficent” (Disney, 2014). Such modern explorations of female power archetypes suggest a shifting in attitudes toward concepts like love, good, evil, commitment, partnership and power. This is a reflection of changing cultural values, but caught in the midst of this transition, many women aren’t sure which rules to follow. The old paradigm emphasizing sacrifice and obligation, or the new, emphasizing self-determinism and independence. Somewhere in between the extremes, we are creating a new relationship landscape, and it will take time and conscious awareness to fully come to understand what love and partnership is about in the 21st century.

For more information visit moonlighttarotllc.com. To receive your free series of recorded content to help you improve relationships today based on the archetypes of astrology, sign up for my free guide Astrology Guide to Love and Relationships. Discover the 12 ways to convey love, heal heartbreak and more! Visit http://moonlighttarotllc.com/loveguide/ today to sign up and receive the series.

Image: 2 of Cups from the Rider Waite Tarot. Rider Waite Tarot decks produced by U.S. Games Systems, Inc for more information visit http://www.usgamesinc.com/Rider-Waite-Tarot-Card-Deck/

About Angela Kaufman:
Angela Kaufman believes that all women can find lasting loving relationships without sacrificing their dreams. She combines intuitive Psychic Readings with her background and training as a Clinical Social Worker to empower women in cultivating more satisfying and intuitive relationships. Her unique coaching program was recently featured on Tune In To Wellness Today with LisaMarie Tersigni. Angela enjoys empowering women and spreading awareness of intuitive living through workshops and events in the Capital District of NY. She is also an artist and co-author of several books on Wiccan Spirituality, along with Patricia Gardner and Dayna Winters (Wicca What’s the Real Deal? Schiffer 2011; Sacred Objects, Sacred Space, Schiffer 2012; The Esoteric Dream Book Schiffer 2013). For more information or to schedule a reading or learn more about Intuitive Relationship Coaching, visit Moonlighttarotllc.com.

Glamourscopes

While it’s still the start of 2015 I’m happy to share something neat that came through my inbox. It turns out that Glamour magazine has teamed up with Susan Miller, the founder of the Astrology Zone website, to bring us Glamourscopes!

Glamourscopes is where you can find year-long outlooks for each astrological sign in fun video formats.

For example, I’m a Gemini. Here’s what Ms. Miller has for me.

Obviously I’m happily married so none of that, getting’ yo’ self a man stuff interests me. However, will this be the year that my health issues take a turn for the better? That will be a thing to watch.

Not lucky enough to be a Gemini? You can watch your year-long out look here.

Create a Vibration of Prosperity in the New Year!

By Shaman Isabella Stoloff

As the year 2014 comes to an end, and you reflect on this past year, what will you think of? Most of us will dwell on the mistakes or problems we had, or are still having. Very few will look over the past year and say, “Good job my friend”. Instead of beating yourself up over things you cannot change, take a moment and see all the accomplishments you have made, no matter how small. Pat yourself on the back then say, “Well done”! This is the first step in shifting your vibration to become more prosperous.

As a Shaman I teach people to take their power back by focusing their attention on releasing negative self-talk, and falling more in love with themselves. If you want to create more prosperity, then it is important to become more loving with yourself. Create a vibe around you that will increase your magnetism. You know the type of person you enjoy being around right? Someone uplifting and happy, someone who is so secure you can’t help but want to be near them. In the year 2015 you can become that person by listening to your inner guidance.

Most of us are so in our heads it’s hard to get out. We find ourselves in an unstoppable cycle of repetitive patterns. Mentally we go over the same problem trying to find a better solution. Does doing this really help? I feel this is actually what keeps us from finding inner peace. Make a promise to yourself that in the year 2015 you will commit to living in present time consciousness. Let go of the worry, and try something new. Trust that everything will work itself out as long as you stay positive and keep a high vibration. Do this for 30 days and see what happens.

One way I have been able to shift is to listen to my thoughts, and observe how they make me feel. How you feel has a great deal to do with how your life is showing up. When one creates a vibration of love, and safety around them, automatically things begin to get better.

Many times I had to fake it till I made it, but it worked! Each time I shifted my consciousness and vibration around an issue the issue dissolved, and things worked out. Now that’s not to say it was always in my favor, its just that the way I felt about the situation and my perceptions shifted, so I was happier.

It can just be a subtle shift, a little reminder that your thoughts are going in the wrong direction. Then you gently bring your awareness into your body and breathe. Release all that no longer serves you. Find all the things you are grateful for, smile for no reason, sit quietly and find joy in the silence. I know these seem like simple tools for success but they work. Once you can get a handle on your thoughts you will notice your body more, and your intuition will heighten. The importance of having a heightened intuition is learning to trust your inner guidance. As a society we have given our power away for so long that we have begun to not trust ourselves. We need to trust our inner knowing so we can experience happier, prosperous lives.

Everyone is searching for an answer. All of us want the key to success. My feeling is true success comes from deep within. It comes from a place of falling so in love with ourselves that we believe in who we are as individuals, trust our decisions, and know that we deserve the best that life has to offer.

In 2015 learn how to shift the energetics of a situation by shifting your perceptions, and watch your whole life change!

About Shaman Isabella Stoloff:
Shaman Isabella Stoloff is a dynamic leader. She founded the Orange County Healing Center in 2009 and since that time has committed herself to leaving the world a better place. Isabella has been called the Golden Condor and World Ambassador. She has traveled to connect people to their inner wisdom and provide ceremonies for the land. She has a full time practice, writes articles, a YouTube channel, and does guest spots to carry the message of enlightenment. Isabella is a mother and grandmother and understands what is needed today to raise a conscious family. Shaman Isabella feels honored to be on the planet during this time of great awakening. She feels once you empower yourself through positive thought and action you will feel connected and centered. Isabella’s message is to awaken to the light that you are, so you can become the Shaman in your own life. For more info on Shaman Isabella visit www.ochealingcenter.com

The Grateful Life

Here we are in November and soon those of us on social media will start seeing the public Thanksgiving thankfulness countdowns. I don’t know, maybe the people who do those feel they need to share what they’re thankful for with everyone as a way of holding them accountable, of being sure they do it each day. However if I learned anything from reading “The Grateful Life: The Secret to Happiness and the Science of Contentment” by Nina Lesowitz and Mary Beth Sammon it’s that for gratitude to be effective it can’t be seasonal, it’s a lifestyle choice. And just like making any type of lifestyle change, it can be easier said than done.

Fortunately “The Grateful Life” is full of real life stories of how people have learned the value of gratitude and have incorporated it into their lives. Many readers will find a person who they can emphasize with, or find a connection to. These stories end with a tip as to how those people incorporate gratitude into their daily lives. Often times there are links to websites for some of the altruistic projects the people are involved in.

Lesowitz and Sammons also take time to talk about some studies that have been done regarding gratitude and the effects it has on physical health. The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkley are building on findings that consciously choosing to focus on the positive can combat the release of stress hormones that compromise our immune systems and cause inflammation disease. The Greater Good Science Center, in collaboration with the University of California, Davis awarded $3 million in grants to expand the scientific understanding of gratitude. What I’m saying is these gals ain’t just whistlin’ Dixie.

How about this Thanksgiving instead of just a seasonal countdown of thankfulness you pick up a copy of “The Grateful Life” and consider doing the work of making a real change?

The Politics of the Brokenhearted

By Parker J. Palmer

In a dark time, the eye begins to see. — Theodore Roethke, ‘‘In a Dark Time’’

I began this book (“Healing the Heart of Democracy”) in a season of heartbreak — personal and political heartbreak — that soon descended into a dark night of the soul. It took months to find my way back to the light and six years to complete the book. But as I fumbled in the dark, the poet Roethke’s words proved true time and again: my eyes were opened to new insights, and my heart was opened to new life. The evidence will, I hope, come clear as this book unfolds.

In 2004, I turned sixty-five. As I entered my ‘‘golden years’’ and saw how much of that gold was rust, I found myself disheartened by the diminishments that come with age. Family members and friends were failing and dying. Visions I once held for my life were slipping beyond my reach. My body kept reminding me that I am just a tad more mortal than I had imagined I would be. And I was no longer able to ‘‘read’’ American culture as easily as I could when my generation was helping to author it. It was as if I had lost the secret decoder ring I owned when I was a kid, and with it my ability to make sense of twenty-first-century life.

As the shape of my personal life became less familiar and sometimes more frightening, the same thing was happening in American politics as viewed from my vantage point. Dismayed by the state of the nation, I began to feel like a displaced person in my own land. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, had deepened America’s appreciation of democracy and activated demons that threaten it, demons still at large today. Wounded and overwhelmed by fear, we soon went to war against a country that had no direct connection to the attacks. Many Americans seemed willing to abandon their constitutional rights along with our international treaty obligations.2 Some Americans, including elected officials, were quick to accuse protesters and dissenters of being unpatriotic or worse, fragmenting the civic community on which democracy depends.

I am no stranger to this democracy’s moments of peril, which have been precipitated by Democrats and Republicans alike. I lived through McCarthy’s communist witch hunts; the pushback to the civil rights movement; the political assassinations of the 1960s; the burning of our cities; Vietnam, the Pentagon Papers, Watergate; and the electoral debacle of 2000. I have witnessed the rapid erosion of the middle class and the growing power of big money, an oligarchy of wealth, to trump the will of the people. But with fear and fragmentation becoming staples of our national life, and with the haunting sense that our ‘‘booming economy’’ was likely to implode, democracy felt even more imperiled to me in the America of 2004.

As our distrust of ‘‘the other’’ beyond our borders hardened and we began making aliens of each other (a ‘‘we’’ that included me), I fell into a spiral of outrage and despair. How did we forget that our differences are among our most valuable assets? What happened to ‘‘we have nothing to fear but fear itself’’? When will we learn that violence in the long run creates at least as many problems as it solves? Why do we not value life, every life, no matter whose or where? Or understand that the measure of national greatness is not only how successful the strong can be but how well we support the weak?

And where have ‘‘We the People’’ gone — we who have the power to reclaim democracy for its highest purposes, unless we allow ourselves to be divided and conquered by the enemy within and among us?

When things we care about fall apart, heartbreak happens. In my sixty-fifth year, it was happening, again, to me. I soon began to realize that this episode was darker than most of those I had known before: I was descending into depression, my third time down as an adult. Clearly I am predisposed to this form of mental anguish, so I cannot claim that heartbreak was the sole source of my misery. But neither can I attribute the whole of this episode to brain chemistry or genetics. There are times when the heart, like the canary in the coal mine, breathes in the world’s toxicity and begins to die.

Much has been said about the ‘‘voice of depression.’’ It is a voice that speaks despairingly about the whole of one’s life no matter how good parts of it may be — a voice so loud and insistent that when it speaks, it is the only sound one can hear. I know that voice well. I have spent long days and nights listening to its deadly urgings.

Less has been said about the life-giving fact that, as poet Theodore Roethke writes, ‘‘In a dark time, the eye begins to see.’’ During my sojourn on the dark side, it was hard to believe that my vision was growing sharper or to make sense of what I was seeing. And yet as I slowly came back to life, I found that I had gained new clarity about myself, the community I depend on, and my call to reengage with its politics and relearn how to hold its tensions in a life-giving way.

During my recovery, I discovered a book that helped me understand how heartbreak and depression — two of the most isolating and disabling experiences I know — can expand one’s sense of connectedness and evoke the heart’s capacity to employ tension in the service of life. “Lincoln’s Melancholy”, by Joshua Shenk, is a probing examination of our sixteenth president’s journey with depression. What was then called ‘‘melancholy’’ first appeared in Lincoln’s twenties, when neighbors occasionally took him in for fear he might take his own life. Lincoln struggled with this affliction until the day he died, a dark thread laced through a life driven by the conviction that he was born to render some sort of public service.

Lincoln’s need to preserve his life by embracing and integrating his own darkness and light made him uniquely qualified to help America preserve the Union. Because he knew dark and light intimately — knew them as inseparable elements of everything human — he refused to split North and South into ‘‘good guys’’ and ‘‘bad guys,’’ a split that might have taken us closer to the national version of suicide.

Instead, in his second inaugural address, delivered on March 4,1865, a month before the end of the Civil War, Lincoln appealed for ‘‘malice toward none’’ and ‘‘charity for all,’’ animated by what one writer calls an ‘‘awe-inspiring sense of love for all ’’ who bore the brunt of the battle. In his appeal to a deeply divided America, Lincoln points to an essential fact of our life together: if we are to survive and thrive, we must hold its divisions and contradictions with compassion, lest we lose our democracy.

Lincoln has much to teach us about embracing political tension in a way that opens our hearts to each other, no matter how deep our differences. That way begins ‘‘in here’’ as we work on reconciling whatever divides us from ourselves — and then moves out with healing power into a world of many divides, drawing light out of darkness, community out of chaos, and life out of death.

In my experience, the best therapy for personal problems comes from reaching out as well as looking in. Reading about Lincoln as my healing continued, I began to wonder about my own ability to reach across the divides that threaten our Union today, not as an elected leader but as a citizen, a trust holder of democracy. To make this something other than a pious exercise in forced altruism — which always leads me to feel-good failures that end in a pathetic ‘‘God knows I tried!’’ — I needed to find a true point of identity with people whose basic beliefs are contrary to mine.

What do I have in common with people who, for example, regard their religious or political convictions as so authoritative that they feel no need to listen to anyone who sees things differently — especially that small subgroup of extremists who would use violence to advance their views? My own experience of political heartbreak gave me a clue. Perhaps we share an abiding grief over some of modernity’s worst features: its mindless relativism, corrosive cynicism, disdain for tradition and human dignity, indifference to suffering and death.

How shall we respond to these cultural trends that diminish all of us? On this question, I, too, have a nonnegotiable conviction: violence can never be the answer. Instead, we must protect people’s freedom to believe and behave as they will, within the rule of law; assent to majority rule while dedicating ourselves to protecting minority rights; embrace and act on our responsibility to care for one another; seek to educate ourselves about our critical differences; come together in dialogue toward mutual understanding; and speak without fear against all that diminishes us, including the use of violence.

With people who are irrevocably committed to violence, I may never find the smallest patch of common ground. Could I find one with others whose views differ sharply from mine — a small patch, perhaps, but one large enough that we could stand there and talk for a while? I had reason to believe that the answer might be yes. For example, I know of daylong dialogue programs for people who differ on difficult issues like abortion where participants are forbidden from proclaiming their positions on the issue until the last hour of the day. Instead, they are coached in the art of personal storytelling and then invited to share the experiences that gave rise to their beliefs while others simply listen.

Hearing each other’s stories, which are often stories of heartbreak, can create an unexpected bond between so-called pro-life and pro-choice people. When two people discover that parallel experiences led them to contrary conclusions, they are more likely to hold their differences respectfully, knowing that they have experienced similar forms of grief. The more you know about another person’s story, the less possible it is to see that person as your enemy.

Abortion is one of the many issues that generate what some people have called the ‘‘politics of rage.’’ And yet rage is simply one of the masks that heartbreak wears. When we share the sources of our pain with each other instead of hurling our convictions like rocks at ‘‘enemies,’’ we have a chance to open our hearts and connect across some of our great divides.

In this book, the word heart reclaims its original meaning. ‘‘Heart’’ comes from the Latin cor and points not merely to our emotions but to the core of the self, that center place where all of our ways of know- ing converge — intellectual, emotional, sensory, intuitive, imaginative, experiential, relational, and bodily, among others. The heart is where we integrate what we know in our minds with what we know in our bones, the place where our knowledge can become more fully human. Cor is also the Latin root from which we get the word courage. When all that we understand of self and world comes together in the center place called the heart, we are more likely to find the courage to act humanely on what we know.

The politics of our time is the ‘‘politics of the brokenhearted’’ — an expression that will not be found in the analytical vocabulary of political science or in the strategic rhetoric of political organizing. Instead, it is an expression from the language of human wholeness. There are some human experiences that only the heart can comprehend and only heart- talk can convey. Among them are certain aspects of politics, by which I mean the essential and eternal human effort to craft the common life on which we all depend. This is the politics that Lincoln practiced as he led from a heart broken open to the whole of what it means to be human — simultaneously meeting the harsh demands of political reality and nurturing the seeds of new life.

When all of our talk about politics is either technical or strategic, to say nothing of partisan and polarizing, we loosen or sever the human connections on which empathy, accountability, and democracy itself depend. If we cannot talk about politics in the language of the heart — if we cannot be publicly heartbroken, for example, that the wealthiest nation on earth is unable to summon the political will to end childhood hunger at home — how can we create a politics worthy of the human spirit, one that has a chance to serve the common good?

The link between language and empathy was explored by the comedian and social critic George Carlin in his classic minihistory of the various ways we have named the postwar condition of some soldiers:

There’s a condition in combat. Most people know about it. It’s when a fighting person’s nervous system has been stressed to its absolute peak and maximum. Can’t take anymore input. The nervous system has either … snapped or is about to snap.

In World War I, Carlin goes on, ‘‘that condition was called shell shock. Simple, honest, direct language. Two syllables, shell shock. Almost sounds like the guns themselves.’’ By World War II, the name had morphed into ‘‘battle fatigue. Four syllables now. Takes a little longer to say. Doesn’t seem to hurt as much.’’ Then came the Korean War, and the condition became operational exhaustion. ‘‘The humanity has been squeezed completely out of the phrase,’’ Carlin comments. ‘‘Sounds like something that might happen to your car.’’

Then came Vietnam, and we all know what shell shock has been called ever since: post-traumatic stress disorder. Says Carlin,

Still eight syllables, but we’ve added a hyphen! And the pain is com- pletely buried under jargon…. I’ll bet you if we’d still been calling it shell shock, some of those Vietnam veterans might have gotten the attention they needed at the time.

Carlin missed one precursor to shell shock, an important one in the context of this book. During the Civil War, traumatized combatants developed a condition that they called ‘‘soldier’s heart.’’ The violence that results in soldier’s heart shatters a person’s sense of self and community, and war is not the only setting in which violence is done: violence is done whenever we violate another’s integrity. Thus we do violence in politics when we demonize the opposition or ignore urgent human needs in favor of politically expedient decisions.

This book, like the personal journey that helped shape it, does not blink at the darkness laced through American life today. Still, it is full of hope about our capacity to see the light. When I came out of my own darkness back into the light — to the people I love, the work I believe in, the world about which I care — the conflicts within and around me no longer tore me apart. With eyes wide open and a broken-open heart, I was better able to hold personal and political tensions in ways that generate insight, engagement, and new life.

Looking at politics through the eye of the heart can liberate us from seeing it as a chess game of moves and countermoves or a shell game for seizing power or a blame game of Whac-A-Mole. Rightly understood, politics is no game at all. It is the ancient and honorable human endeavor of creating a community in which the weak as well as the strong can flourish, love and power can collaborate, and justice and mercy can have their day. ‘‘We the People’’ must build a political life rooted in the commonwealth of compassion and creativity still found among us, becoming a civic community sufficiently united to know our own will and hold those who govern accountable to it.

In January 1838 — when Abraham Lincoln was twenty-eight years old and the Civil War was twenty-three years off — a prescient Lincoln addressed the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois, on ‘‘the perpetuation of our political institutions.’’ Exhorting his audience to understand the responsibility to protect American democracy against its enemies, he said:

At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? … Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined … could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a Trial of a thousand years.

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.

The Cold War made it clear that America was vulnerable to attacks from abroad despite the protection of two oceans, a fact underscored by the events of September 11, 2001. Still, Lincoln’s case holds. If American democracy fails, the ultimate cause will not be a foreign invasion or the power of big money or the greed and dishonesty of some elected officials or a military coup or the internal communist/socialist/fascist takeover that keeps some Americans awake at night. It will happen because we — you and I — became so fearful of each other, of our differences and of the future, that we unraveled the civic community on which democracy depends, losing our power to resist all that threatens it and call it back to its highest form.

Our differences may be deep: what breaks my heart about America may make your heart sing, and vice versa. Protecting our right to disagree is one of democracy’s gifts, and converting this inevitable tension into creative energy is part of democracy’s genius. You and I may disagree profoundly on what constitutes a political failure or success, but we can still agree on this: democracy is always at risk. Government ‘‘of the people, by the people, and for the people’’ is a nonstop experiment in the strength and weakness of our political institutions, our local communities and associations, and the human heart. Its outcome can never be taken for granted.

The democratic experiment is endless, unless we blow up the lab, and the explosives to do the job are found within us. But so also is the heart’s alchemy that can turn suffering into community, conflict into the energy of creativity, and tension into an opening toward the common good. We can help keep the experiment alive by repairing and maintaining democracy’s neglected infrastructure, whose two levels are the primary concerns of this book: the invisible dynamics of the human heart and the visible venues of our lives in which those dynamics are formed.

It is well known and widely bemoaned that we have neglected our physical infrastructure — the roads, water supplies, and power grids on which our daily lives depend. Even more dangerous is our neglect of democracy’s infrastructure, and yet it is barely noticed and rarely discussed. The heart’s dynamics and the ways in which they are shaped lack the drama and the ‘‘visuals’’ to make the evening news, and restoring them is slow and daunting work. Now is the time to notice, and now is the time for the restoration to begin.

For those of us who want to see democracy survive and thrive — and we are legion — the heart is where everything begins: that grounded place in each of us where we can overcome fear, rediscover that we are members of one another, and embrace the conflicts that threaten democracy as openings to new life for us and for our nation.∗


About Parker J. Palmer:
Parker J. Palmer’s writing speaks deeply to people in many walks of life. Author of nine books—including the bestsellers The Courage to Teach, Let Your Life Speak, and A Hidden Wholeness—Palmer is the founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. His work has been recognized with ten honorary doctorates and many national awards, including the 2010 William Rainey Harper Award, previously won by Margaret Mead, Paulo Freire, and Elie Wiesel.

Excerpted with permission from the publisher, Wiley, from Healing the Heart of Democracy by Parker Palmer. Copyright © 2014

∗In the course of writing this book, I have heard a good deal of debate on the question ‘‘Is the United States a democracy or a republic?’’ My answer is that it is both: we are a representative democracy set in the context of a constitutional republic. I give due attention in this book to the structures of our republic, one of whose most important functions is to protect the rights of individuals and minorities from being overwhelmed by the majority. But my primary focus is on the health of the democratic processes characterized by Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address as a ‘‘government of the people, by the people, for the people.’’

Meister Eckhart on Mindful Meditation

By Matthew Fox

Meister Eckhart was a late-thirteenth- and early-fourteenth-century preacher and mystic, yet like Rumi and Hafiz, he remains relevant today. He speaks to so many and touches people’s hearts. In this short excerpt from his new book “Meister Eckhart: A Mystic Warrior for Our Times”, bestselling author Matthew Fox shares his insights on letting go.

How do we get to that silence, to that Source of all things? Meister Eckhart calls on the story of Jacob in Genesis (28:20): “‘Jacob the patriarch came to a certain place and wanted to rest in the evening, when the sun had gone down.’…He says: ‘To a place’; he does not name it. The place is God. God has no name of His own, and is the place and position of all things and is the natural place of all creatures.” We commune with the Godhead, which is natural for us: “The Godhead alone is the place of the soul, and is nameless….‘Jacob rested in that place,’ which is nameless. By not being named, it is named. When the soul comes to the nameless place, it takes its rest. There, where all things have been God in God, the soul rests. That place of the soul which is God is nameless. I say God is unspoken.” It is in repose, at night, in silence, that God’s love burns the hottest. “In a God-loving soul it is evening. There is nothing there but repose, where a person is thoroughly penetrated and made illuminated with divine love….The soul remains in the light of God and in the silence of pure repose, and that is evening: then it is hottest in the divine love.” Darkness holds its special power and its special attraction. God likes a no-place, a no-where, and the soul wants to commune with God there as well. “As long as the soul is anywhere, it is not in the greatest of God which is nowhere.” After all, “God is nowhere….God is not here or there, neither in time or place.” Christ, too, is to be found there in a place of nothingness. “Where is Christ sitting? He is sitting nowhere. Whoever seeks him anywhere will not find him. His smallest part is everywhere, his highest part is nowhere.”

The journey is a journey inward, for that is where the human spirit is most at home and so too is God. Eckhart says, “God is a being who always lives in the innermost. Therefore the spirit is always searching within. But the will goes outward toward what it loves.”

How do we go about this journey inward to a nameless and unknown place? Eckhart says, “The Word lies hidden in the soul, unknown and unheard unless room is made for it in the ground of hearing, otherwise it is not heard. All voices and sounds must cease and there must be pure stillness within, a still silence.” To meditate is to collect ourselves. “The soul must be collected and drawn up straight and must be a spirit. There God works and there all works are pleasing to God. No work ever pleases God unless it is wrought there.” We learn to focus, for “the more the soul is collected, the narrower it is, and the narrower it is, the wider.” Great things happen in this place of silence, which is “the doorway of God’s house….In the silence and peace…there God speaks in the soul and utters Himself completely in the soul. There the Father begets His Son and has such delight in the Word and is so fond of it, that He never ceases to utter the Word all the time, that is to say beyond time.”

The journey inward into the dark and silence is a trip into simplicity, Eckhart says, a letting go of all things — all forms and images and memories — into the “essential mind of God, of which the pure and naked power is understanding, which the masters term receptive. Now mark my words! It is only above all this that the soul grasps the pure absoluteness of free being, which has no location, which neither receives nor gives: it is bare ‘beingness’ that has been stripped of all being and all beingness. There it takes hold of God as in the ground of His being, where He is beyond all being.” One lets go of all desire, which is so “far reaching” and measureless. “All that understanding can grasp, all that desire can desire, that is not God. Where understanding and desire end, there it is dark, and there God shines.” The Word of God is heard there, for “to hear this Word in the Father (where all is stillness), a person must be quite quiet and wholly free from all images and from all forms. Indeed, a person ought to be so true to God that nothing whatever can gladden or sadden him or her. She should take all things in God, just as they are there.” Then God will do the work and humans need only not resist. “If only the soul would stay within, all things would be present to it.” Solitude is tasted, for there the soul “must be alone as God is alone.”

About Matthew Fox:
Matthew Fox is the author of over 30 books including “The Hidden Spirituality of Men”, “Christian Mystics”, and most recently “Meister Eckhart”. A preeminent scholar and popularizer of Western mysticism, he became an Episcopal priest after being expelled from the Catholic Church by Cardinal Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI. You can visit him at http://www.matthewfox.org.

Excerpted from the book “Meister Eckhart: A Mystic Warrior for Our Times” ©2014 by Matthew Fox. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. www.newworldlibrary.com