Announcing the Return of Making the Leap

Acrobatic ShadowsNext month I have the privilege of offering the always meaningful online course Making the Leap into Work You Love as part of the Transformative Language Arts Network‘s program of online course for this fall.

If you’re considering a career change or perhaps want to deepen into your current career choice, this online workshop with weekly in-person (via phone and/or video conference) will provide you with tools, reflections, and a community of like-minded souls to journey with. Think of it as a month-long online retreat.

For more information, visit the course page under my offerings section. Note that proceeds are split between myself and the TLA Network, an organization near and dear to my heart.

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Fathering from the Bronze Age to Today

Jupiter of SmyrnaIt’s been a week since the Father’s Day service I led at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Delaware County, and I want to share with you what I wrote, but I also want to reflect with you about how the process unfolded for me.

The idea for the service came out of my Hebrew Bible class last fall where it was pointed out that a shift was happening in the pantheons of the religions of the region: older gods were being replaced by younger gods, sons were replacing fathers. This included the Greeks (Kronos and Zeus), the Babylonians, the Canaanites, and even, the Israelites—a theory held by Biblical scholars is that the God of Moses wasn’t necessarily the God of Abraham. My thought was to look at how this sea change in supreme beings may have influenced ideas of fathering that are still with us today. Continue reading

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Touch Wood – A Deposit in the Deep World’s Gift Economy

Beautiful, approaching the sacred. I’m reminded of this Q&A from Gary Snyder as related by ritualologist Ron Grimes in his book “Rite Out of Place”:

A young woman asks poet, environmentalist, Buddhist Gary Snyder: “If we have made such good use of animals, eating them, singing about them, drawing them, riding them, and dreaming about them, what do they get back from us?” .. Excellent question,” replies Snyder, “directly on the point of etiquette and propriety, and putting it from the animals’ side. The Ainu say that the deer, salmon, and bear like our music and are fascinated by our languages. So,” continues Snyder, “we sing to the fish or the game, speak words to them, say grace. Periodically, we dance for them. A song for your supper. Performance is currency in the deep world’s gift economy.

While on one level this is a commercial, I also see it as a performance for this forest and all of the beings in its ecosystem, even, for all forests on the planet. The video highlights this aspect by turning to the “audience” from time to time—the forest, the deer…we hear birdsong. After all of the tons of throw-away goods made from the flesh and blood of these living trees, this gesture seems a fitting performance—a fitting deposit—into the deep world’s gift economy.

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UU Buddhist Fellowship Convocation

483427_587923971231862_111056099_nThis past weekend I attended the Unitarian Universalist Buddhist Fellowship’s Bi-Annual Convocation, a weekend of workshops—including a day with keynote speaker Tara Brach, networking, sitting, tai-chi, and worship in rural Maryland, north of Baltimore. The highlight for me was meeting other seminarians and ministers. People I’ve only “seen” in Moodle discussion boards or facebook groups were now alive with me in this space. We were able to share in the common delight of conversation, from small talk of location and school, to the depth of our feelings around not knowing, uncertain time frames, financial concerns, and our own quest for community and meaning. I learned that my story is not the most complicated, nor uncommon, that nearly every second-career seminarian is fitting school into family and work as best as they can. We’re all trying to navigate the loosely organized world of theology schools while trying to please the UUA’s Ministerial Fellowship Committee, a board of UU Ministers which determines whether or not an aspirant is ready to become a minister at that time.

As one beginning an American Rinzai Zen path—through the Mondo Zen / Hollow Bones Order—it was interesting for me to see the variety of other forms of Buddhism represented and practiced at the convocation. The majority of participants seemed to have an affinity for, and possibly an affiliation with a sangha that practice in the tradition of Thich Nhat-Hanh’s Order of Interbeing; others were of the Soto Zen school, or practiced Tibetan Buddhism; I imagine every flavor was represented there somehow. In the parking lot, one car had a bumper sticker that said, “My Other Vehicle is the Mahayana.” There were also Insight Meditation and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction practitioners attending who didn’t have a particular affinity for Buddhism, but did have a meditation practice. Just as UUism allows for a variety of religious beliefs, the UUBF allows for a wide variety of practices within itself.

One difference between this UU gathering and others I have attended was the feeling of there being some practices that were “better than” others. This didn’t come out publicly or in the workshop sessions, it was more of a feeling that either I was projecting or that I was sensing as a participant in small group conversations. Reflecting on the truth of the situation, I think what I experienced was more a sharing of differences and an affirming of what individuals liked about their own practice, as opposed to a criticism of other’s practices. My ego was likely making up too much about those interactions, so I hold the opening opinion of this paragraph very lightly and share it here as a way of exposing how perceptions can vary from facts.

The convocation was a wonderful opportunity that I have rarely had as a Unitarian Universalist: it brought me into contact not only with other UU’s, but with UU’s on a similar spiritual path to talk and practice together, and that is a beautiful thing. Gassho. Namaste.

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Journey Toward Divinity

As some readers may know, I’ve begun attending seminary in pursuit of a Master of Divinity degree at Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, California. This past week was new student orientation week, and before this week, I had never set foot on campus nor met any of the faculty advisers. Would this be the right school for me? Why was I traveling so far from my Philadelphia home for this opportunity when other seminaries with equally shiny M.Div. degrees were so close?

My faith journey has been eclectic. While I was exposed early and often to Christian faith traditions in my family, elementary school, vacation Bible school, and in high school, I also turned away from faiths which required a fundamentalist interpretation of the Christian Bible as the Baptist tradition of my youth required. I also turned away from faiths which fermented hatred and contempt for those of other faiths–those which practice triumphalism. During this youthful period in my life, my view of faith was very black-and-white, throwing out the good of religion with the bad. Continue reading

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