Spiritual Ecology Mystery Solved

Honestly, I can be a real asshole. Case in point, when I received a copy of “Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth: An Introduction to Spiritual Ecology” by John Michael Greer. I immediately, without a moment’s pause, tossed it aside. Nothing against nature or the earth, I thought, but I didn’t need to read another “hippy” book about how the earth has much to teach us and let’s learn her ways and live on dirt and etc., etc. I get it, nature is an awesome thing, and I do love it from the window seat in my climate controlled home, but I just didn’t need to read another book about it.

Then I don’t know what happened. I kept shuffling the book from one spot to another in the apartment. For a while its spine stared out at me from under our laptop. Then it was bumping my elbow for a few days while I was working at my computer. You get the idea. Somehow this book, no matter where I shoved it, always seemed to end up in my way. As my mom would say, “Like a pile of horse shit, always in the middle of the road.” Finally I decided the only thing left to do was to read the stinkin’ thing.

Holy crap am I glad I did.

There is no peace sign throwing, tie dyed flag waving, hippy jargon to be found in “Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth”. Instead, John Michael Greer uses some of the most basic observable things to be found in nature to explain fundamental principles of modern mystery schools. Consider me very impressed. Many apologies to the venerable Mr. Greer whom I never should have doubted.

Greer breaks down the mystery teachings to seven core principles: The Law of Wholeness, The Law of Flow, The Law of Balance, The Law of Limits, The Law of Cause and Effect, The Law of Planes, and The Law of Evolution. These may sound abstract, but by repeatedly using the familiar setting of a grassy meadow (even this allergy pill junkie can manage reflecting on a grassy meadow) these Laws become easier to understand and to relate with the others. With the addition of an affirmation, a theme for reflection, and a meditation to each Law, these Laws go from being just an informational stepping stone to a mystery practice itself.

After that Greer does an excellent job explaining what magic is like in the Western occult traditions, what it is like, or more precisely, what it should be like to be an initiate in a mystery school, a bit of context of where mystery schools are in the history of spirituality, and lastly an afterword that advises readers as to what to look for in potential mystery schools and suggests a few books.

John Michael Greer’s “Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth” is the best book I ever read for explaining the fundamentals of the Western occult traditions. You could give this book to someone who knew absolutely nothing and they would walk away with a better understanding than most. However this book isn’t just for beginners. Although not an expert or an advanced practioner I suspect that someone like that would find this book a wonderful tune up for their practice. A touchstone to some core principles to breathe a little fresh air into your system. I guess what I’m saying is buy this book, buy it now.

Playing Card Oracles

I am so super fortunate and blessed to have received a review copy of “Playing Card Oracles Divination Deck” by Ana Cortez and C.J. Freeman from U.S. Game Systems.

As the name implies we’re not dealing with a tarot deck here, this deck is a standard deck of playing cards. I should probably go ahead and talk about C.J. Freeman’s art first because when you get the deck it is undoubtedly the first thing you’re going to notice. This is certainly the most beautiful deck of playing cards I’ve ever handled. I honestly find myself at a loss for words as to how to describe them. Freeman’s art draws me in and I find myself genuinely touched by the imagery of many of the cards. Although I have trouble articulating it, there is something in the symbolism that I find in some of the cards that seems to speak to me on some level, and obviously the beauty of many of the cards moves me. I find myself terribly sad that Freeman is referred to in the past tense on the bio card, since that means he is no longer with us. I felt real sorrow to discover his magical work and lose him at the same time. Let’s take a look at the magical art of C.J. Freeman.

10 of Hearts
3 of Spades
7 of Diamonds
11 of Clubs

With such rich artwork it could be easy to overlook the work of author Ana Cortez, but that would be a huge mistake. For as fantastical of a world Freeman created with the art on the playing cards, Cortez has woven an equally grand fascinating tale for the cards to tell. The suits each represent an element and have key concepts, the court cards represent people who play out events revealed by the pips (cards ace through nine), and each individual card has its own meaning. I wouldn’t call it easy or intuitive, but I would call it intriguing and beguiling. The companion booklet also includes a few different spreads to try with the cards.

With the deck came a card explaining that Ana Cortez has also written a full length source book called “The Playing Card Oracles” that serves as an excellent companion to the deck, and is illustrated by C.J. Freeman. That bad boy is already added to my Amazon.com Wish List.

I just realized how I can kind of explain my experience with Cortez and Freeman’s “Playing Card Oracles Divination Deck”. Remember the very first time you opened up your first deck of Rider-Waite Tarot Cards and thumbed through them? That feeling of glimpsing something truly mystical and unknown? That sudden feeling of boundless potential? That’s what I felt when I first open and sorted through the “Playing Card Oracles Divination Deck”. There is real magic in those cards, for those who take the time to learn to use them.

Incoming!

Yep, it’s been a while since something shiny and new has been in this space. Rebecca, what the hell have you been doing? Well, I’ve spent a bunch of time watching my husband play through Prototype on the PS3 again so we can slide neatly into Prototype 2 which I’ve heard good things about, or maybe we’ll go with Mass Effect 3, but we’d want to play through Mass Effect 2 again, we left things with an awkward unresolved love triangle that makes both me and the husband feel uncomfortable. I’m sorry, what were we talking about? Oh, yeah!

I’ve also been catching up on some of the wonderful goodies I’ve been sent to review. Seriously folks, I’m literally buried in them. Okay, not literally. If I were a squirrel I’d totally be buried. A Chihuahua? Probably. One of those adorable Fainting Goats? It’s possible, definitely after I fainted. You get the point though, we’re talking about a lot of stuff. And soon it’s going to be coming at you. I just wanted to warn you guys that it was coming. Normally I try to mix it up a little and maybe some other stuff will sneak in there, (I have some feelers out there. I’ve been networking, pressing some virtual flesh.) but for the moment I have A LOT of reviews. Lots of books and tarot decks, and well, books and, um, tarot decks. Hey! That’s what people send me!

But relax, you know me, these won’t be ordinary reviews. There are going to pictures of unique things, inappropriate language, personal stories that probably shouldn’t be shared, you know, the kind of amateur writing that for some reason keeps you guys coming back for more…..and oddly publishers continuing to send me review copies.

For now, let’s enjoy those adorable Fainting Goats…..

The Oatmeal Post

I’ve kind of wanted to write about my oatmeal for a while now, but despite the number of bizarre and/or mundane posts I’ve shared here I always thought maybe my oatmeal would be too boring for the site. Yet it has been on my mind a lot lately, and not just because I usually eat it three mornings a week. So what sparked my recent oatmeal musings? I reviewed my BFF Brian’s “The Sexy Vegan Cookbook”. (We’re totally BFFs now. I call him Brian and he calls me “that crazy blogger who keeps acting like she knows me”.) Anyway, I’m not a vegetarian or a vegan, and I have no intention of changing that, but when reading a book like “The Sexy Vegan Cookbook” you can’t help but take a moment to reflect on what you eat and see if at any point you do, as I say, “accidentally” eat vegan.

I realized that Brian will be pleased to know that without any effort, thanks to my awesome oatmeal, usually three breakfasts a week are totally vegan. (He’ll probably be less pleased with the steak dinners. And excuse me while I go off on a parenthetical rant, but there have been some social media suggestions that I have been “crushing” on “Sexy Vegan Cookbook” author Brian Patton. It is true that I value wit and an appreciation for food so he does merit a bit of a fangirl squee. However I am happily married to a very attractive geek who I adore. But even IF he wasn’t in the picture, Patton would have to get in line after Wil Wheaton, Adam Savage, Grant Imahara, and Jet Li. Sigh…………………………………………..sorry, zoned out there for a minute.)

I’ve always liked oatmeal. I know some people just don’t like it. I don’t understand those people. My mother would make it on the weekends. When they started making that nasty toss in microwave stuff I would eat that before school. Once I moved out of the house I kind of fell out of the habit of eating oatmeal. But then my parents tried out the “South Beach Diet”, which emphasizes whole grains. When I gave it a try that meant good-bye bagels and cold cereals, and hello again oatmeal. Over time I kept tinkering with it; some stuff added after a visit to a nutritionist, some stuff after trying out leftovers, and some stuff just ended up in there because I tried it out and it tasted it good. It’s a pretty bad ass bowl of oatmeal, if I do say so myself. Although it doesn’t involve rum like Brian’s.

First, you’re going to need a bowl. This isn’t some girly, wussy hot cereal breakfast. This is a big, giant bowl of awesome morning fuel and thusly you are going to need a honkin’ huge bowl to contain it in. For example, here’s what I use.

Best. Bowl. Ever.

Next up is the oatmeal. I have no brand loyalties. If a store brand is available and I haven’t had a bad experience with it, I buy it. If no store brand is available you can never go wrong with the Quaker. I do insist on it being the “old fashioned” takes 5 minutes to cook kind. I make the “heart healthy” amount which is 1 1/2 cups water and 3/4 cups oats. I find it humorous that there is a 1 minute quick cook style right next to the 5 minute that I buy. Who doesn’t have 5 minutes to cook oatmeal? I use that time to prep the other stuff for my oatmeal and finish getting my lunch for work ready. It’s 5 minutes to have a slightly more whole grain folks. Go for it. I know that there are people who go all out and do the steel cut Irish oats and the like by using a crock pot to cook them over night. I’m not that committed.

Okay, so the oatmeal is cooking away. This is when I crush up some nuts into the bottom of the bowl. I generally don’t buy nuts specifically for my oatmeal, I just use whatever we have that’s leftover from baking. That usually means I’m dealing with walnuts, but occasionally it has been almonds or pecans. It’s all good.

Brace yourself because this is when things get real. You grab yourself an apple and dice up the whole thing. That’s right, I told you this wasn’t a sissy’s breakfast. One whole motherbleepin’ apple is going to end up in your oatmeal. I’m not overly particular about my apples. I purchase red apples and if available I try to buy ones from local orchards. Once it’s diced just set it to the side. (I’ve also used bananas and they are delicious, but they ripen so fast I found them to be way more stressful than I really needed from fruit. Apples tend to hold up better. I also tried canned, no sugar added, peaches. Not so great.)

While the oatmeal finishes cooking I pull my ground flax seed and vanilla coconut milk out of the refrigerator and get out the raisins.

The Ingredient Recap

The oatmeal is done cooking and it is time to assemble the behemoth! A lot of stuff is going in here so I tend to work in layers. As you remember the walnuts are already on the bottom of the bowl. We just added the oatmeal. On top of the oatmeal I sprinkle a teaspoon or so of ground flax seed. (Ground flax seed really makes oatmeal tasty. If you eat oatmeal and only try one thing from this rambling ode’ to oatmeal, try adding ground flax seed to your next bowl!) Now stir until the walnuts and flax seed seem thoroughly mixed in.

At this point I add half of the diced up apple and a sprinkling of raisins and I stir those in. It will start getting a little tricky to stir, even with an epic cereal bowl. Once that round of apple and raisin is stirred in go ahead and dump in what’s left of the apple and a little more raisin. Give it another stir.

Here’s where you add your liquid. Some people like to add only a splash of something to their oatmeal, others like to add a lot. When I was younger I only would add a little milk and I thought my mother was crazy for dumping in tons of milk and making her oatmeal all soupy. Now I add a bunch of coconut milk and end up with oatmeal more at my mom’s consistency. When I was younger I used 2% milk. As an adult I switched to skim milk. Then after a holiday party we had leftover vanilla soymilk and I tried some and really liked it. I remembered that a nutritionist I had seen in the past suggested more soy to help with my cholesterol, and I saw that the nutritional stats weren’t much different than skim milk with regards to fat and calories, and I got vanilla flavor, so I switched. Then, while chasing down my ongoing health issues one of the things I had to try was cutting soy out of my diet, so that meant giving up my beloved vanilla soymilk. Jim (the attractive geek husband) suggested trying vanilla coconut milk, and since it seemed similar to soymilk in the nutritional stats I decided to give it a try. Oh man you guys, there is something so decadent about that warm vanilla coconut smell gently wafting up from the oatmeal. So this is where I pour in a moderate amount of vanilla coconut milk and very carefully stir. Your bowl is about ready to burst at this point.

This has become one of my very favorite breakfasts. Like I said at the start, I usually eat this three times a week. Although comprised of healthy components, it’s probably not the lowest calorie way to start the day. Lots of fat, mostly “good” fat, but still fat. Lots of fruit sugar. But I still feel good about it. I’m not super hung up on staying away from all processed foods or anything. I take things one meal at a time. However I did want to share one story with you despite it perhaps being a touch of the too much information.

On a couple of instances when at doctor’s offices (because believe me I’ve been to them aplenty) I would mention suffering from mild constipation. Of course the immediate response is, do you eat much fiber? I would outline my diet and in doing so would describe this oatmeal and say that I eat it regularly. And all of them, ALL OF THEM, asked why I would do that. They all suggested switching to assorted cold cereals. They don’t offer more dietary fiber, I checked at the time. Like I said, I’m not some huge flag waving anti-processed food protester. Yet I can’t help but still be a little flabbergasted that multiple doctors and nurses would suggest I stop eating my naturally high fiber cereal with the only added sugar coming from fruit and what’s in my delightfully evil coconut milk and switch to ground up processed grains with 3 or 4 kinds of crazy sugars and who the heck knows what else! I mean none of these people were nutritionists, but come on! Or am I crazy?

Judging by how long I’ve written about oatmeal, I might be crazy.

Geek Month in Review: April 2012

By JB Sanders

On to summer!

Pipe Organ Puzzle Safe Desk
The creator claims: “It is quite likely this is the coolest desk in the world!” Yeah, it really is that awesome. It isn’t steam powered, but it’s everything else you love about SteamPunk and puzzles. It’s an all-wood desk that uses wood pipes to play music. You push in the drawers to get air moving through the pipes, and if you play the correct tune, it opens a super-secret compartment. The desk has a “logic board” that lets you set the tune by turning a large number of all-wood screws. Plus the drawers have tiny puzzles of their own to open other secret compartments and other drawers.

The Fourth Dimension
It’s not often I pimp out iPad/iPhone apps, but this one is so cool I need to mention it. The app fully explains the fourth spatial dimension and how we can see it in our lousy three dimensions. With plenty of snark. But really, you’re buying it so you can play with a fully interactive tesseract.

So Here’s Your Damn Flying Car

A Dutch company has created a commercial prototype for a hybrid car and helicopter and airplane. The rotors unfold.

MorpHex Robot
Or as I found the link headline “The latest edition to SkyNet’s arsenal”. It’s a spherical morphing robot with hexagonal plates.

Floppy Autoloader
It reads the disk, makes a copy of it, takes a picture of the disk and ejects it. It can do 250 disks in 12 hours. Certainly beats the pants off doing it by hand.

Self-Healing Plastic
A real scientific reality. Not YET a product, but closer than “5 years”. Watch the linked video for the scientific explanation for how it works.

Vanishing Ground
There’s a town in Russia, east of Moscow a ways, that has a sinkhole problem. How bad? They have 24-hour video, seismic and satellite surveillance of the entire town — just to watch for forming sinkholes. The town is built over a now-abandoned mine.

The biggest sinkhole? They call it the Grandfather: “The Grandfather is now 340 yards wide and 430 yards long, and it plunges right to the salt strata underneath the city — 780 feet, or the equivalent of 50 stories, straight down.”

And here’s a web page with actual pictures:

Taking the Time Out of Space
Theoretical physicists have long debated whether time really is the 4th dimension. Now read about how physicists are saying time is NOT part of it at all.

Sonic Screwdriver Invented
Well, technically what the Scottish scientists at Dundee University have done is prove that they CAN make a sonic screwdriver. You know, eventually.

Stay Active
Even moderate activity can help stave off Alzheimer’s. Money shot: granny rock band.

The Lamp that Powers Itself
It’s a 3D-printed LED lamp that spins in the wind, powering itself.

3D-Printed Buildings — On the Moon!
Speaking of 3D printed stuff, here’s a plan to create robots that build 3D-printed-type buildings on the moon. With pictures!

Doing IT Support on Antarctica
As the article so coyly puts it “the coolest IT job in the world”. Yes, very cool: -10 F most days, during the Antarctic summer. Read about the hardships, getting tech support in Antarctica and their unique cooling problems.

Descriptive Camera
Take a picture, and the camera generates a description rather than a photo.

Titanic II
No, NOT a movie sequel. Some billionaire is building a replica of the original Titanic, only with “modern technology”. Seriously. Because nothing will happen on it’s maiden voyage.

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog: http://glenandtyler.blogspot.com

STUFF!

While I’ve been sitting on the sofa letting my ass get wide working my way through old seasons of “Chuck” and “Numb3rs”, and getting sucked into new television like “Once Upon a Time” and “Grimm” (Damn you Hulu!), friends of The Magical Buffet have been actually accomplishing things. So much so that I’m way past due in giving you guys the rundown on all that has been going on.

My friends at the Northern New York Paranormal Research Society have a new website going. It has many of the same features as before, like a chat room and forum, but the upgraded site now also gives them the capability to broadcast investigations live online! Nifty, right? If you haven’t checked them out before, now is the time. www.nnyprs.com

Remember Paula Chaffee Scardamalia who wrote the wonderful essay “Weaving a Woman’s Life” for The Buffet? And how she had a wonderful book, shockingly titled, “Weaving a Woman’s Life: Spiritual Lessons from the Loom”? Well that book is now available as an e-book! Also, her more current work under the umbrella of “Divining the Muse” has a beautiful new website! You can learn more about getting a copy of “Weaving a Woman’s Life” (with free PDF downloadable journal) and her other fascinating work with creativity by visiting her newly refreshed website www.diviningthemuse.com.

Apparently this is the time of year for website upgrades (Jim, get on that!), because New Age musician, and long time friend of The Buffet, Paul Avgerinos just gave the Round Sky Music and Studio Unicorn websites a complete overhaul! You may remember I just talked about Avgerinos’ “Bliss” album in October 2011. In case you’re wondering, it’s still relaxing.

There has also been interesting news out from The Pluralism Project at Harvard University. I received this press release that I think will be of great interest to many of you.

The Pluralism Project at Harvard University is pleased to announce the launch of America’s Interfaith Infrastructure: An Emerging Landscape, a website documenting and resourcing the interfaith movement in the United States. Dr. Diana Eck, a professor at Harvard University and director of the Pluralism Project explains, “While interfaith organizations play a vital role in cities and towns across America, their critical contributions to our multireligious society are often overlooked.”

The Pluralism Project has been researching religious diversity in the United States for the past two decades; however, America’s Interfaith Infrastructure: An Emerging Landscape represents an in-depth pilot study of interfaith efforts in twenty cities across the U.S. Since 9/11, interfaith initiatives on the national scene have gained prominence and are increasingly covered in major media outlets for their outstanding work, yet few have chronicled interfaith efforts at the grassroots level. This pilot project documents the richly diverse interfaith movement as it continues to develop in the United States. Initiatives include: an innovative community video project in Omaha, Nebraska; a thriving women’s interfaith network in Syracuse, New York; and a long-standing, replicable tradition of a festival of faiths in Louisville, Kentucky.

Dr. Diana Eck explains the importance of this new resource as a starting point for scholars, activists, students, and citizens:

“Ten years after 9/11, the need for inter-religious understanding and cooperation has never been greater. Interfaith organizations create innovative programs to engage and educate – they also offer a counter-narrative amidst the rising rhetoric of division. People of all ages and beliefs from across the country are collaborating in the arts, social services, youth leadership programs, and civic initiatives at unprecedented levels. New forms of dialogue are emerging as we speak.”

The Pluralism Project invites activists, students, educators, and community members to share their own story of the interfaith movement by submitting a short audio or written piece that may be included in the storytelling portal of America’s Interfaith Infrastructure: An Emerging Landscape.

The site, www.pluralism.org/interfaith, includes promising practices, leadership profiles, case studies, and multimedia features; a summary report of the findings from this pilot study is also available.

Lastly, (I know! Freakin’ EVERYONE has been doing stuff except me!) remember Avi Glijansky, creator, writer, and director of the awesome web series “The Further Adventures of Cupid and Eros”? Well sadly he isn’t back with season 2 yet (where I secretly hope to get a cameo as God), but he is part of something new and fun that I thought I would bring to your attention; “The Silver Lake Badminton and Adventurers Club”.

In a world full of secrets, lies, and depravity, there are some crimes that the police are just too mainstream to handle. Enter: The Silver Lake Badminton and Adventurers Club. The heroes Silver Lake deserves but hasn’t necessarily heard of yet.

It’s an over the top hipster noir Scooby Doo adventure, filled with actors you may recognize from “Cupid and Eros”. Here’s part one to try out!

I guess this is a reminder that it’s time to get up and get moving! It’s time to innovate, to reinvent, to create! I’ll get right to that after this next episode of “Chuck”.