Tuesday, December 10, 2013

School for Living Christmas Party

I half-jokingly suggested that the Sacred Soup gathering Thursday the 19th be a Christmas celebration. Rob took me up on it and asked about plans for the party. Here they are.

Despite the efforts we have made to spruce up the space in Pilgrim, the boiler needs work and we may have Afriky Lolo dancing upstairs so we are moving back to my office on Alamo. Gather at 6:30 and meditation starts at 7:00.

We know that the materialism that has overwhelmed the original meaning of the birth of Jesus is not consistent with the spiritual intuition that has made Christmas such a popular holiday. But what is Christmas really all about? What is the doctrine of the incarnation, why does it matter, and how do we allow the deeper significance of the holiday inform how we live our daily lives. This is the topic for the evening.

Oh, and we will have refreshments.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Enneagram: Part Two

As our second exploration of the Enneagram we are going to hear from Helen Palmer, one of the most influential spiritual teachers of our time and author of what I believe to be the definitive text about the Enneagram.  She was lead presenter at a workshop this past spring held in Boulder and sponsored by Integral Life.

I have selected portions of one of the teachings she offered at the workshop which includes a series of guided meditations.  I have watched the dvd three times now and I continue to glean new insights from it.  No matter how much or how little you know about this powerful tool for personal transformation, there is something here for you.

We will begin at 10:00 in the lounge at the north end of the second floor at Pilgrim.  The building will be open because there will be folks there starting to lay out Christmas decorations.  We will join them for lunch at noon.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

School for Contemplative Practices: Enneagram

EnneagramWe had such a positive response to the session in October on the Enneagram that we decided to go a bit deeper.  We will meet Saturday, November 23 at Pilgrim Church starting at 10:00 and going until noon.

If you are unfamiliar with the enneagram you may want to read through any one of a number of online resources.  A simple place to start is with this pdf that Integral Life is promoting.  One of the resources at the end of document is a dvd of a workshop last spring featuring Helen Palmer.  We will be viewing one of her presentations as part of this event. 

We will share a light lunch following the class.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

School for Living date change reminder

We have been typically meeting on the second and fourth Thursdays but with Thanksgiving and Christmas coming those fourth Thursdays are pretty well booked.  So the next events are the first and third Thursdays and that means this next Thursday, November 7th. 

The content for the class is one I taught this past Sunday at Kirkwood UCC and it went very well.  We will have an opportunity to go deeper into Creative Conflict Resolution between now and Christmas and then start a new series after the first of the year.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Enneagram redux

The School for Contemplative Practices meeting this morning went very well.  So well in fact that we are going to stay on the theme of the enneagram.  Because of the Thanksgiving weekend we are going to set forward our next gathering to the 23rd of November.  [That is the fourth Saturday and we have been doing the last.]

I you weren’t with us this morning you can still join us in four weeks.  If you want to get a running start, here is some homework.

The most accessible way I have found to identify your type is to watch these videos from Integral Recovery.  While the topic is the enneagram as a way to understand recovery from addiction, the way that Leslie Hershberger speaks about type is eloquently simple.  Just view them as you notice the resonance (or dissonance) in you.  If you have a strong emotional reaction of either sort, this may be your type.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Enneagram at Sacred Soup

EnneagramThe Enneagram is a symbol that represents a complex interplay between the forces that give rise to the cosmos. While the laws which the symbol describes apply to everything, one of the most popular and intriguing applications is to the understanding of personality types and the formation of our sense of self.

This coming Saturday at the School for Contemplative Practices of Sacred Soup we are going to explore the Enneagram, its history and its roots in esoteric Christianity, and how it can be used to aid us in knowing who we are and how we can discern the barriers to becoming more fully who God invites us to be.

We will begin at 10:00 in the Second Floor Lounge at Pilgrim UCC and will conclude at noon with a light lunch for those who can stay. If you will be late call Mark at 314-853-9385 so we will know to leave the door open for you.

School for Living and Creative Conflict Resolution 10/24

The School for Living is meeting every other Thursday at Pilgrim from now until Christmas. Our theme is Creative Conflict Resolution as an application of the Law of Three.

The Law of Three is a spiritual principle brought to the West in the teachings of G. I. Gurdjieff which we can see as a framework for understanding all creative activity. Creative Conflict Resolution is a set of practices and perspectives by which we can use the energy that is latent in all conflict to effect creative transformation. We will especially be looking at the persistent patterns of conflict which arise in all significant relationships to further our personal and spiritual transformation.

We will gather at 6:30 and meditate at 7:00. We expect to end by 8:30. Please use the door closest to Kensington by the parking lot.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Thursdays at Sacred Soup: School for Living

Mark posted yesterday his thoughts on what the School for Living is about.  In turn, Kathy offers these observations.

What do we do?

Learn new skills to help us improve how we relate to others.  We also create a supportive and quiet space where we can reflect on important things in life.

How do we learn?

Through interactive workshops.  Mark shares a concept; we discuss how it applies to relationships we have.  Most often, we each leave with a new perspective to use immediately.

Why join the group?

If you improve how you relate to others, you gain more understanding about yourself and other people who are important to you.  The more you understand, the more you become able to transform your life from daily struggles and conflicts to a loving awareness of your environment.

Everyone has conflict in his or her life.  Learning how to respond to conflict constructively makes it easier for each of us to connect spiritually.  

How is it different than Sunday worship?

Sacred Soup is less structured and more interactive.  Free discussion enables us to learn from each other, to explore concepts, to relate life experiences that may help others.  It’s a complement to weekly worship traditions.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

School for Living Fall Schedule

I am having trouble finding a way to state simply what we are doing with the School for Living of Sacred Soup. It is not really like anything else with which I am familiar , or more to the point, what others are familiar with. Here is my current best effort.

The fundamental premise of Sacred Soup is that we are each able to more fully live into the potential of our lives by deepening our awareness of the divine. We find this difficult but it is easier when we support each other. By bringing whatever we experience and sharing with each other we create a community dedicated to spiritual transformation.

While some practices for spiritual growth depend upon getting away from the challenges of daily life, the School for Living takes the opposite approach. Here we use the challenges of our most troubling circumstances as an opportunity for transformation. Those persistent patterns of conflict that arise in our most significant relationships become the context and the engine for growth.

This fall the Thursday evening meetings of the School for Living are dedicated to a step-by-step process for
  1. selecting an issue to work on;
  2. clarifying what we can know about what is real, what is actually going on;
  3. observing the choices we tend to make when this happens and to explore whether our choices actually create what we need;
  4. discovering with greater clarity what qualities are missing when these events arise;
  5. clarifying a way of being that has integrity (is consistent with who we know ourselves to be), power (neither avoids the issue nor tries to change things we cannot change), and moves us reliably toward what we need;
  6. finding those barriers or beliefs that stop us from acting to create what we need and then
  7. discovering the freedom to act.
With this freedom and clarity we act in ways that not only create what we need but also create what everyone else needs. These "ways of being" are a manifestation of our highest potential because they are in full harmony with the Will of God.

Friday, September 20, 2013

School for Contemplative Practices: Saturday, September 28, 2013

Each religion has unique and valid insights into the nature of reality. However when all of the major religions observe a similar truth, we can trust that this harmony points to a core aspect of what is.

One of the observations common to all of the great wisdom traditions is that when we sit in silent attention to the divine we experience a transformation of our consciousness. When we commit ourselves to contemplative prayer or meditation we find that we begin to see reality with new eyes. Whether we call this “discovering our Buddha nature” or “finding harmony with the Tao” or “putting on the mind of Christ” we have a shift that may be called non-dual awareness or unitive consciousness.

Toward the end of the first week of September 180 students of the Living School of the Rohr Institute met at a resort on native lands on the banks of the Rio Grande River just north of Albuquerque, NM. The core faculty consisted of Fr. Richard Rohr, Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault, and James Finley. The topic was on developing non-dual awareness.

Join us Saturday morning, September 28 from 10:00 to Noon at Pilgrim Church in the Second floor Lounge for a presentation by Rev. Dr. Mark Lee Robinson, one of the students in the Living School about the experience and about the teaching. We will examine questions such as;
· Are we called to worship Jesus or to follow him?
· If we realize that Christ is not Jesus’ last name, what does it mean to be the Christ?
· Is it possible for us to “put on the mind of Christ” and if so, what does that experience look like and how does it change the way we see the world?

A light lunch will follow.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

School for Living starts

Living SchoolThe Sacred Soup School for Living starts up tomorrow evening. I am just back from a moving and exciting retreat with three of my favorite authors and teachers in the contemplative tradition. I will share more about it on September 28 but there are some parts of it I am anxious to share with you.

The short version is that what we have been doing as Sacred Soup is entirely within the mainstream of a powerful movement to bring greater spiritual depth to our lives, our relationships, our culture, and all of creation. The heart of this past weekend was a focus on developing and deepening into Unitive awareness or non-dual consciousness. I hope to see you tomorrow evening to tease this apart and to kick off the fall program.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

School for Living starts September 12

Our fall season for the School for Living starts in two weeks. We will be meeting each second and fourth Thursday at Pilgrim Church in what Allen has christened the “Second floor lounge.” Access it from the stairwell in the northeast corner of the building by entering the doorway just off the parking lot closest to Kensington (away from the alley).

We will gather at 6:30, join in meditation/prayer at 7:00, and then move into the program for the evening ending by 9:00.

The Fall Program will be similar to the series we did last winter and spring in that it will focus on how we structure our relationships. Ultimately we want to deepen our relationship with God, the Divine, the Source, however we conceptualize the ultimate reality and truth. We encounter God in the relationships we build with each other and we react to others in large part out of the way we encounter ourselves. So we come into greater harmony with the All by reconciling our relationships with the Each which is a projection of our relationship with our Selves.

Over the course of the summer I have been writing a book. The book has become a web-based resource that I am developing with some colleagues. As is often the case, the work reveals new insights into what is and how to describe what is. It is those fresh insights that I want to share with you in the School for Living this fall.

I will share more as the dates approach, but for now, mark your calendar for the second and fourth Thursdays.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Gathering: Centering Prayer and discussion: Thursdays 8/8, 8/15, and 8/22

room in processThere are three events back to back in August that will move us into our new space. We have almost finished the painting and the curtains should be going up soon.  We also have some furniture on the way.

The schedule will be the same for all three events.  We will begin to gather at 6:30 and then sit for twenty minutes in prayer/meditation at 7:00.  We will watch a segment of the video by the Integral Institute on The Future of Christianity, a conversation between Fr. Thomas Keating and Ken Wilber and the discuss it.  We will adjourn at 8:30.

Use the door closest to the parking lot by Kensington.  Come all the way up to the second floor and then down the hall.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What does “ineffable” mean?

I have had three separate communications about the discussion following the Sacred Soup Gathering last Thursday which each had the theme of, “I don’t know what people are talking about.”

It makes sense when I think about it.  Usually when we humans gather for a conversation about spiritual matters we all share a common religious language.  We are starting from a place of shared meaning by which to speak of that which cannot be described in words.  Given that the most fundamental aspects of reality cannot be captured in words…that is, they are ineffable…it makes sense that when we try to talk about it, if we are not already trained in the language, it won’t make sense to us.

The essence of what Sacred Soup is about is that we each bring whatever we have in our spiritual awareness and share it with others trusting that we will all be enriched by the experience.  What we haven’t yet learned to do is, in the midst of the conversation when someone uses a word or expresses a concept with which we are not familiar, to stop them and say, “I don’t follow what you mean.  Can you say more about that?”

I think it is really important that we address this.  For one thing, we won’t work as a community if we don’t understand each other.  It is important that we all know we belong and are understood. 

But a second thing, and this is at least as important, is that we learn how to talk about our personal experience of the Divine in such a way that others can share in our experience.  In order to learn how to better do this it is vital that we know when are not being clear.  I really grow when others say to me, “I don’t follow what you are saying and it is important to me that I get this because I can see that it is important to you.”

Please come this Thursday and share in the struggle to be clear about the things that are most important to us, even when they are really hard to talk about.

6:30 PM at Pilgrim using the door off Kensington at the parking lot.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

School for Living this summer

Over the summer the School for Living is transforming… or at least changing… well, moving.  Beginning in September we will meet second and fourth Thursdays in an upper classroom at Pilgrim UCC.  But we need to do a bit of work to get the room ready.

Also, the School for Contemplative Practices session on June 1 on the Centering Prayer committed to meeting over the summer to pray together and to experience and discuss a series of shorts videos of Fr. Thomas Keating discussing aspects of Centering Prayer.

We are combining these two agendum into a plan to meet on six Thursday evenings at Pilgrim to work on the room and to pray together.  The dates are June 20, July 11 and 18, and August 8, 15, and 22.  Yes, these are pretty random but such is my summer schedule.  I really need to be there to support the painting and open the doors.

Each evening we will begin to gather as early as 5:00 if you can make it and we will clean or paint until about 6:30 when we will share a light supper and then at 7:00 sit together for 20 minutes, watch the video, and then discuss until 8:30. 

You will not need to have been at the June 1 presentation about Centering Prayer.  We can get you oriented to the Prayer in just a few minutes and everyone can benefit from the review.  You can arrive at any time as your schedule allows but be there by 7:00 so you can sit with us and not disturb others.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Discipline #10 on June 13

We come to the end of our series on the Disciplines of Creative Conflict Resolution on June 13.  We will look at the way that we can construct agreements as a way of clarifying and solidifying our relationships.

We ideally create agreements out of the requests and promises we share with others.  But sometimes our requests come across as demands and our promises as acquiescence.  This does not create a durable agreement.

Another impediment to creating durable agreements is that we must first be confident that we understand each other.  Without an understanding the agreement has a soft foundation and will crumble. 

Join us next Thursday for a conversation about these matters.  As usual, doors open at 6:30 and meditation starts at 7:00. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Resting in God: Bringing Centering Prayer into Busy Lives

From the promotional materials of Contemplative Outreach:

Do you seek the small, still voice of God? This workshop will help you find the God within and hear with the ear of the heart. At this introduction to Centering Prayer, you'll learn about prayer as relationship, the simple method of Centering Prayer, how to deal with thoughts during prayer and how deepen your relationship with God.

You'll also actually experience two periods of Centering Prayer.
The workshop is the foundation of Contemplative Outreach program offerings and is conducted by volunteers trained and commissioned by the International Office of Contemplative Outreach Ltd. to present these materials. Following the workshop there will be further opportunities to experience the prayer and deepen your understanding.

Join us on June 1 at 10:00 at Pilgrim for a two-hour version of this presentation.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What makes us happy?

What makes us happy?

The above link is to a newsletter from Clayton Behavioral in which they cite a 70 year study at Harvard into what makes us happy.  What makes for happiness is how well we deal with adversity and how warm and stable our relationships are.  The study has been managed by George Vaillant who writes about the finding, “It is social aptitude, not intellectual brilliance or parental social class, that leads to successful aging.”  For Vaillant, the main finding of the Harvard study is that "the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”

This is just what the School for Living is all about.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Apology and Forgiveness

This next installment of Sacred Soup: School for Living [Thursday, May 16, 2013] will focus on two very powerful tools for repairing damaged relationships—apology and forgiveness.

We have all had relationships which were damaged by choices we have made that hurt others or choices others have made that hurt us. Often events arise is which we hurt each other. These two tools, very similar in structure, can wield uncanny power to reconcile and transform.

But we have also witnessed “apologies” that were lame attempts to dodge accountability. And we have had people tell us that we should “forgive” but it feels as though we are expected to just “forget.” Powerful as these tools are, they can easily be perverted.

Join us to see what a really good apology is like and to see how forgiveness is not about letting the other off the hook, but about participating in our own healing.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

School for Contemplative Practices: Living Insight Center

On Saturday, May 4, 2013 the School for Contemplative Practices will meet at the Living Insight Center on Clayton Rd. near St. Mary’s Health Center. I encourage you to visit the Center’s really excellent and comprehensive Web site.

We will meet at the Center at 10:00 or you can park by 6454 Alamo and we can walk up together. Jack Sisk, the founder and director of the Center will lead us on a tour of the various rooms and we will have a chance to feel the qualities of the various artifacts and objects collected there.

We don’t have a plan for lunch but there are twenty places to grab a bite within walking distance. Those who wish can eat and talk after the tour.

Friday, April 26, 2013

School for Living: Statement of Accountability

In the current series of offerings in the Sacred Soup: School for Living we are working on how we can best discover those choices that are available to us which build healthy relationships. From time to time we have each made choices that damage our relationships. We do things that harm those we care about the most.

On May 2 the School for Living will discuss Discipline #7: A Statement of Accountability. To prepare for this bring to mind choices you have made that are harmful to others which you regret. Sift through them and try to select one to work on. These choices can teach us about ourselves in ways that help us not only repair damaged relationships, they also help us grow in ways that make it less likely that we will continue to cause harm.

Monday, April 15, 2013

School for Living: ACE

This Thursday, April 18, 2013, we are beginning a series in the School for Living on the Practical Disciplines of Creative Conflict Resolution.

When conflicts arise we want to have in mind a way to respond that will move us toward what we need without making the other lose, indeed, without depending on the other changing at all.  It is very hard to have a new way to respond when we are caught up in stress and anxiety about the conflict with someone important to us.

Since these conflicts are ones which arise from time to time, we can anticipate they will arise again, we can create a new response, and we can then evaluate and adjust our response for the next time this comes up.  ACE is our acronym for Anticipate, Create, and Evaluate.  This is the fundamental framework for our more creative response to conflicts in significant relationships.  Hope you can join us to learn more.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Listening Through the Body as Prayer:

Remember this special event tomorrow.  Rhonda has a beautiful spirit and deep wisdom about listening to our own bodies.  Many of us are not comfortable in our own skin so this offering in the School for Contemplative Practices may be a bit challenging to get to but you will have a wonderful time if you can make it. 

There will be a light vegetarian lunch to follow.  More at the Calendar tab on SacredSoup.org or at this link.

Signing up for Sacred Soup

While most Sacred Soup events are open to those who just drop in (though it would be nice to know you are coming) the Gathering on April 27 to hear Jack Sisk of Living Insight play the crystal bowls is one you need to sign-up for. 

The event will be at the Living Insight Center in an upper room that houses the dozen bowls.  There is only limited space so we can’t just move in another chair.  There is a suggested donation of $10 but I think you will want to offer more.  The donations are the primary support for the Center and for Jack.

To hold your spot, go to SacredSoup.org and click on the Calendar tab.  Scroll down to the event and click the Sign Up button. 

While you are there you might just sign-up for any other events you are planning to attend.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

School for Living next week

I want to remind you that the School for Living will not meet this week.  We don’t want to compete with Maundy Thursday services so we will next meet on the 4th of April.  We are up to the fifth of the Disciplines and the last of the Mindfulness Disciplines.  You need not have been to the earlier conversations to be able to fully participate.

Our concern is to be able to make the choices that create what we need without impinging on others getting what they need.  We want to be skilled at self-care.  In order to do that we have to be very clear about what caring for ourselves looks like.  We start by making a specific plan about what we do when we take exquisite care.  Join us.  See more on the calendar tab at SacredSoup.org.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Listening Through the Body as Prayer:

We are super excited to announce that our School for Contemplative Practices offering for April will be presented by Rhonda Mills who is on the staff of the Big Bend Yoga Center and host of the Transformation Playground.  She has constructed this event especially for us but is incorporating aspects of her program that she teaches routinely.
April 6, 2013: 10:00 to Noon with lunch to follow at Pilgrim, 826 Union, 63108.

Transformation Playground Learning Playshop

You’ll discover that everything you need truly is inside you, untapped and yet available in every moment when you know how to be listen inwardly and include breathing and gently moving your body to facilitate your transformation.  Come with an issue, a fear, a goal, a dream or an aspiration.  Whatever you choose, if you are willing, the playshop process bring greater awareness to what is going on in your subconscious mind regarding the issue or goal, and support you to connect directly with your inner wisdom to discover what new learning or direction is emerging for you and through you. 

At the Learning Playshop, we will: 

· Learn and do a breathing practice which acts on the mind and nervous system (balancing, centering, strengthening)
· Locate the body sensations related to core feelings and presence the feelings directly vs. cognitively
· Learn and practice breathing and creative joint play to create a feeling of well-being and harmony in body, breath, and mind.
· Learning a breathing and movement-based game to discover and shift your fear signature. 
· Combining simple breathing and movement as you presence your issue or goal to discover what new learning or new direction is emerging through you and for you.

Wear comfortable clothing that does not inhibit deep breathing or gentle seated and standing moving and stretching.  Registration for the event is $15 and covers a light lunch to follow.  A donation is invited for the teaching.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Upcoming events for Sacred Soup

Here is a summary calendar for the next few months.  You may want to get things on your calendar now.

I have heard some feedback that we are meeting too often.  Please don’t feel as though you need to come to everything.  Pick what you like and leave the rest.

In general the School for Living meets every other week.  The School for Contemplative Practices meets on the first Saturday of the Month.  Gatherings are totally random. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013: School for Living: Suspending Self Soothing: a conversation about the fourth discipline which addresses anxiety and addiction. Doors open at 6:30 with opening meditation at 7:00 at 6454 Alamo.

Friday, March 29, 2013: Gathering: Good Friday: Tenebrae: a service of contemplation on Gospel accounts of the last hours of the life of Jesus and the impact of his death on his disciples. In the sanctuary at Pilgrim at 6:00

Thursday, April 4, 2013: School for Living: Self Care Routine: a conversation of how we get into the habit of caring for ourselves and what we can do to address the ways we don’t. Doors open at 6:30 with opening meditation at 7:00 at 6454 Alamo.

Saturday, April 6, 2013: School for Contemplative Practices: Listening Through the Body as Prayer: Our teacher will be Rhonda Mills who is on the staff of the Big Bend Yoga Center and host of the Transformation Playground. We know that yoga is a great program for physical health and relaxation. Rhonda will help us move to experiencing bodily awareness as a process for spiritual transformation as well. From 10:00 – Noon with light lunch to follow at Pilgrim.

Thursday, April 18, 2013: School for Living: ACE: This conversation begins the consideration of the Practical Disciplines. We have been looking at how to be more aware. Now we begin to look at what we can actually do when discord arises in our relationships and we are willing to change ourselves in order to address it. Doors open at 6:30 with opening meditation at 7:00 at 6454 Alamo.

Saturday, April, 27, 2013: Gathering: The Singing Bowls at Living Insight Center: Jack Sisk, the Director of the Center, is also an artist with voice and singing bowls. He has a dozen bowls and plays them for groups twice a month. This is one of his usual times to invite the public to hear the bowls. We will not be the only ones in attendance. You must sign up to hold a place. We expect this to fill up. From 3:00 – 5:15 at 6361 Clayton Rd.

Thursday, May 2, 2013: School for Living: Statement of Accountability: a conversation about the seventh discipline. We each have, at some time, made a choice that was harmful to another that we regret. We want to be sure that we have done everything we can to clean up the mess we made and to be as sure as we can be that we won’t make the same mess again. Doors open at 6:30 with opening meditation at 7:00 at 6454 Alamo.

Saturday, May 4, 2013: School for Contemplative Practices: Living Insight Center: The Center which many of us went to on April 27 to hear the singing bowls, is home to many marvelous artifacts from most of the major religious traditions of the world. The director, Jack Sisk, will take us on a tour of the Center and help us appreciate how objects and icons can be used to deepen our spirituality and connect us with the Divine. 10:00 – Noon at 6361 Clayton Rd. with lunch at 6454 Alamo.

Thursday, May 16, 2013: School for Living: Apology and Forgiveness: a conversation that builds on the insights of the Statement of Accountability and moves toward a life stance that neither forgets nor re-members the harm we do or which has been done to us. Doors open at 6:30 with opening meditation at 7:00 at 6454 Alamo.

Thursday, May 30, 2013: School for Living: Framework for Creative Conflict Resolution: This is the penultimate discipline in our series. This is a summary of all of the things we can do to address the persistent patterns of conflict which arise in our most significant relationships without expecting or depending upon the change of the other. Doors open at 6:30 with opening meditation at 7:00 at 6454 Alamo.

Saturday, June 1, 2013: School for Contemplative Practices: Contemplative Prayer: We don’t yet have a presenter for this event. We will explore prayer as contemplation (as opposed to supplication or adoration) especially as it is expressed through the Centering Prayer taught by Contemplative Outreach. From 10:00 – Noon with light lunch to follow at Pilgrim.

Thursday, June 13, 2013: School for Living: Making Durable Agreements: In this conversation about the tenth discipline we will look at what we already do to make agreements and use this template as a diagnostic tool for understanding what is missing when agreements aren’t honored. Doors open at 6:30 with opening meditation at 7:00 at 6454 Alamo.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Life we Choose

Viewing the movie The Way again reminded me that there are some movies that you have to see multiple times to begin to get what they have to offer.  Since this is one that gets better the more times you see it I won’t be spoiling it for anyone who hasn’t yet made their own Camino.

Early in the movie we see a flashback that sets up one of the central themes of the movie.  Tom has learned that his 40 year old son, Daniel, has been killed in a tragic accident during a storm in the Pyrenees.  As his train approaches the village in which he will identify and claim the body, he remembers his last conversation with his estranged son.  Tom and Daniel have argued over the path each has taken in life and Tom defends his experience saying, “This is the life I have chosen.”   Daniel responds sadly, “A life isn’t something you choose, Dad, it is something you live.”

We don’t get enough detail in the conversation to know just what Daniel means by that comment, but the contrast in their lives is clear.  Tom is settled into a profession and is tired.  He doesn’t even want to walk the short distance to the golf ball to take his next shot but his ophthalmology patients are scheduled a month in advance.  Daniel is going to hike 500 miles across Spain and has no idea what he will do after that.

So the death of his only son at a time when he is confused about himself and still mourning the death of his wife tips the balance and Tom decides to walk the Camino with the ashes of Daniel.  Along the way he meets other pilgrims and they tag along with him.  When he finally softens toward them he gets into a conversation with “Jack from Ireland” whom Tom has identified is much like Daniel.  But Jack justifies his life as a travel writer who still hasn’t started on the novel he dreams of writing by saying, “This is the life I have chosen.”  Unlike Daniel, Jack sees a life as something you choose.

In the parlance of the movie there is a distinction between a life as something you choose and a life as something you live.  And it isn’t about being a romantic vagabond.

I had a conversation many years ago with a colleague who challenged me to be more ambitious.  His critical feedback was that I wasn’t clarifying what I wanted in life and going after it.  I remember noting to myself—more than to him, he wasn’t asking me about my philosophy—that it was my sense that most of the really amazing things that had happened in my life arose in a manner that seemed random or even capricious.  I was afraid that if I tried to be too focused on creating a specific outcome I would plan out the serendipity.  Still I took his counsel to heart at least enough to become more self-critical.  It doesn’t seem that one can have a life well lived if one only accepts whatever arises. 

I am tempted to suggest that we may need to find a balance between “choosing” and “living” but that seems too passive a stance.  A more active framework is one I first learned in the writings of George Leonard.  He urges us to engage in focused surrender.  Pay keen attention and put all your effort into it and then… let go.

At the School for Living this week we will be exploring the phenomenon of anxiety.  This feeling arises when something is out of balance in our lives.  It can be a call to action if we hear it correctly.     

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

School for Living: Suspending Self-Soothing: March 14, 2013

It is both healthy and normal for us to experience stress. If we never try anything we don’t already know how to do, we don’t grow. But from time to time the anxiety of not knowing how to best deal with a life situation can become overwhelming and we need the capacity to soothe ourselves.

We have all learned coping strategies…things to do which help to relieve our anxiety. We can take a walk, listen to music, smoke a cigarette, go shopping, eat a pizza, go to the boat, smoke some crack. Each of these works to mask the anxiety. None of them addresses the source of the anxiety.

In the conversation on March 14 we will look at the nature of anxiety and appreciate what it can do for us even as we consider how to identify and address its sources. We will acknowledge that we all have things we do which react to anxiety in ways that are self-destructive and we will look at the fourth discipline as a way to learn from the anxiety so as to make choices that lead us toward what we actually need.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

School for Living: Cultivating Critical Feedback

Next week in the School for Living we will be considering the third discipline: Cultivating Critical Feedback. None of us likes to be criticized. Many of us are our own harshest critics. Why would we want to encourage criticism?

The goal is not to open ourselves to put-downs, but to open ourselves to a closer understanding of what is real. You will recall that we have defined a perspective as an aspect of our interior awareness that is composed of the focus of our attention, the locus of our identity, and the lens or the map by which we create meaning. It is this lens or framework we are seeking to clean and clarify.

We will be able to act with the greatest power when we are most grounded in what is true…what is real. We cannot fully know all of what is, but we can expand our awareness by seeing from the perspectives of others and utilizing their maps.

Sometimes we reject the frameworks that others use to make meaning. Sometimes we do that even as we know that our own are not leading us to choose in ways that create what we need. We have faulty maps but we are unwilling to abandon them. We are clinging to what we refer to as “cognitive distortions.”

We typically do not abandon our distortions easily. Sometimes we have to get a figurative 2x4 up the side of the head to begin to see what is. These blows that bring us to our senses are in the form of critical feedback from those who know us and care to help us see. It helps them to help us if we are able to invite their help.

Friday, February 15, 2013

School for Contemplative Practices: Tarot

Tarot is an esoteric system which helps us to connect with what is, especially with what is going on in the spiritual dimensions of our lives. It is not a tool for predicting the future, though the more clearly we see the present, the more the likely future can be made apparent to us.

Three skilled Tarot practitioners are collaborating to introduce us to this ancient science. On March 2, 2013, as part of our series in the School for Contemplative Practices, they will give us background on how to understand the cards and the layout or “spread” and then will give us each a chance to experience the various decks and to see what it is like for them and for us to invite the cards to guide us into deeper insight into our Selves.

One of our presenters, Jacki Richardson, is someone I have known for many years but I only recently learned of her interest in Tarot. She asked me what it was about Tarot that appealed to me most. I think my answer may be of interest to others as well, but first I want to address more fully what we are trying to do in Sacred Soup.

A central assumption of Sacred Soup is that all wisdom is one. If it is true, it is true for all everywhere. Religions differ over how they speak of truth or which aspect of truth they focus on, but all truth is one. This is known philosophically as Perennialism or as the Perennial Philosophy. One famous articulation of this perspective comes from Aldous Huxley in his book, The Perennial Philosophy, a short summary of which is that all reality is an expression of the Divine Source, humans are a material expression of this Source, and our greatest purpose is to discover and act from an awareness of our fundamental union with this Source.

With this in mind, Sacred Soup is a community to which we all bring our own truth and offer it up to enrich the awareness and practice of each other. This is exactly what Jacki did when she asked about doing a presentation on Tarot.

I will admit to a certain caution when she suggested that idea. Tarot is an esoteric system that doesn’t appear to have roots in any major world religion. There are some aspects that resonate with the Kabbalah, a mystical branch of Judaism, and there is evidence that Christian monks used the system five centuries ago, but it certainly isn’t something the Bible speaks of.

Nevertheless, in practice it is much like the use in Eastern Christianity of icons as a focus for meditation. Each card is an icon. It represents an aspect of the universal relationship between the Creator and the Created. It has relevance for issues of power, relationship, and choice. While there is something ultimately arbitrary about the 78 cards [the I Ching uses 64 pentagrams for a similar purpose] that is far more aspects than most of us hold in our awareness. This system is quite literally mind-expanding.

While it is universal (all decks have 78 cards) it is also personal in that one can choose between many decks (while they have the same cards, the art and to some degree the emphasis may vary between decks) and there is a relationship that grows between the person and their deck. The deck becomes a trusted confidant and, as the relationship grows, the power of Tarot to inform our awareness grows with it.

Join us on March 2 as we learn from Jacki, Jason Turner, and Josh McMichael about how they use Tarot in their own lives and offer us a peek into how it might inform our own spiritual journey.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Hold on Passion:

We are meeting for the School for Living this Thursday for a guided conversation about the second discipline of Creative Conflict Resolution, the Anger Workout.  This will build on earlier conversations but you needn't have been to them to benefit from the discussion.

It has been three weeks now since we talked about the Bothers Me Log.  While we will talk about our experience with that discipline, I don’t want anyone to be embarrassed about not having done it consistently.  I will be surprised (though delighted) if anyone has been able to do it more than half the time.  As I said, it is too simple to be easy.  If you weren't at the last session or you need a refresher you can review at this link.

There are two reasons why we want to get a hold of passion.  One is that when we are overwhelmed by strong feeling we are likely to make choices we will regret.  The other is that when we try to do new things that will work better for us, the feelings we have about trying something new or addressing something we have been avoiding will throw us off and we will fail to act the way we intend.  Strong feelings can get in the way of right action.

On the flip side, right action can often be really hard to manifest.  It is often action done in the face of strong opposition.  We will need a lot of energy to overcome our inertia and act.  A primary source of the energy we need to be able to act is from the strong feeling itself. 

So we will be looking at how we can harness the energy inherent in strong feeling to propel us to act in ways that generate what we need without acting in ways that are harmful to others.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Next Offerings in the School for Contemplative Practices

I am working on lining up next presenters for the Saturday sessions and came across a series of books from a publisher called Skylight Paths.  They have a series of books about various practices and it has expanded my vision… no maybe more like exploded my vision of what we might be doing.  There are a dozen different practices I never even thought of.  Running as a spiritual practice… fasting… use of herbs… bowing… loving-kindness… forgiveness… hospitality… haiku… dance… the list goes on and on.

In addition, we have in our group someone with experience with a form of divination using tarot cards and I have some experience with the I Ching.  There are many many options of where we can go.  I have an investment in this developing along whatever lines we choose collectively.  I am following up leads on Lectio Divina and Yoga as a Spiritual Practice but I want to be sure I am leading where folks want to go.

So, question #1, “What practices are you most interested in learning about?”  And question #2, “What practices are you interested in teaching to the others in the School?”

One last consideration for the moment:  I think Jon Yaffe made a good effort to get us talking to each other about our experience with meditation but I found myself curious about why we were each there and where we are coming from.  So my inclination is to do the next session on Contemplative Prayer as that is something that I feel confident to teach.  I would like to use that topic as a way to help us get to know each other better.  Less teaching… more discussion. Give me some feedback on that idea.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

First offering from the School for Contemplative Practices

Everyone seemed pleased with the first offering of the School for Contemplative Practices.  Jon Yaffe led us through an overview of the principles of Buddhism and then into a couple of periods of meditation, one a guided meditation about impermanence, and then later into a period of silent meditation.

Some left before the light lunch of soup, bread, and salad but those who stayed enjoyed a spirited conversation about the issues raised by the experience and even into the complexities of attachment.

We don’t have a firm date for the next class.  I hope to be able to announce it this next week.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Meditation training next week

One week from today will be the inaugural event in the School for Contemplative Practices. We anticipate about ten participants but to get a more accurate count please sign up online. We will gather in the parlor at Pilgrim at 10 to begin the program. We will end with a light lunch at noon. The cost of the lunch is covered in your $15 registration fee but there will be a donation requested for the teaching in keeping with the Buddhist tradition of dana.

Our core topic will be the art of meditation and our teacher will be Jon Yaffe. There is more about him on the sign up page.

We will place the discipline of meditation in the context of the larger matter of contemplation. We will take a look at some of the meanings of the term and begin to clarify for all of us just what we are hoping to do in the context of the School for Contemplative Practices.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Recommendation for Introduction to CCR prior to first coming to School for Living

I hope those who attended the Sacred Soup: School for Living session last night learned as much as I did.  Of course the content wasn’t new for me, but there was something important about the process.  I hope those who attended will share their own reflections.  Here are mine.

As it happened, none of the Sacred Soup regulars were able to be there.  The only folks in attendance were new people who learned about Sacred Soup from the Meetup listing.  As a result we didn’t follow the planned program of discussing the first of the Mindfulness Disciplines and instead repeated the presentation of the first session of the School for Living, the Introduction to Creative Conflict Resolution. 

There are several propositions that are central to the core philosophy of the School for Living that are difficult to grasp because they are at odds with the dominant notions of our culture.  Indeed, one of the biggest reasons we struggle is that what we are taught is common knowledge is actually not grounded in reality.  Let me just share some of those propositions here.

·         All relationships experience conflict and our biggest conflicts are with those with whom we have the most significant relationships.  [We are told that a “good” relationship is conflict free.]
·         When we resolve conflict we actually strengthen the relationship in which the conflict arises. [We are told that conflict damages relationships.  It is fights that damage relationships.]
·         We routinely resolve conflict but we don’t appreciate how skilled we are in part because we don’t name the circumstance a conflict until we discover that we don’t know what to do.  [We are told that some conflicts are irresolvable.]
·         Because one of the primary ways we know we are in conflict is that the other isn’t doing what we want, we think that resolving the conflict depends on getting the other to do what we want. [We live in a culture that tells us that we should be able to get others to do what we want.  This is especially true for people in sales but still present for all of us.]  The truth is, we do not control the choices of others.  Furthermore, the more we try to control others, the more we damage our relationships and set ourselves up for frustration.
·         The only thing we can do, indeed, the only thing we need do, is to change ourselves.  That is where our power lies…in the transformation of ourselves.  [We are told that this is just the way we are and, once we are grown, we can’t change.]

There are other things we cover in the Introduction to Creative Conflict Resolution but they are more about techniques than about fundamental propositions.  These technical items include;

·         How to share a complaint in a way that others are most likely to hear us and are least likely to want to fight with us.
·         How to transform a reaction to a persistent pattern of conflict
·         How to make a durable agreement

If you have any confusion or disagreement about the propositions or curiosity about the techniques I strongly suggest you attend the Introduction on most any second Sunday evening of the month.  For more about the event go to http://www.creativeconflictresolution.org/jc/introduction.html

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Community Connections

In mid-December I set up a group on Meetup, a very popular online source for learning about community activities.  It uses virtual social media to create actual in-person contact.  By the end of December we had 14 people sign up. They are all people who are members of many Meetups and only one has signed up for the next meeting (January 10) but they each put time into responding to a set of questions for new members so they have a fairly high level of interest.

There are thirty-two members of the Google Group but only a half dozen have attended more than a single event.  I also have a list of folks who have expressed interest at one time or another who are not on the Google Group.

I am going to consolidate the groups by getting rid of the distribution list and only use the Google Group.  If you only get one copy of this post and you want to continue to get information about Sacred Soup, there are three ways you can be sure to get email about what we are doing.

Go to SacredSoup.org and sign up on the site.  There are actually three ways to do that by using the boxes in the right column to join by email, subscribe, or follow.  If you choose follow, others will know you joined.
Go to SacredSoup.org and follow one of the links in the upper right column to either sign up on Meetup or to join the Google Group.
Email me and ask me to sign you up.

Hope to see you at an event soon.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

School for Living: January 10

This is the first in a series of conversations about how we can begin to transform our lives in the face of “popular wisdom” that isn’t so wise. [See below for more about the series.] In this conversation we will address the tension we experience between “not letting things bother us” and “paying attention to what is actually happening in our lives.” As a discipline for addressing this polarity we offer the Bothers Me Log.

The first five disciplines are the Mindfulness Disciplines. They support our developing capacity for non-dual awareness. The conversation about each begins with our common experience of being pulled between this and that and moves to how we can honor the wisdom of both this and that in a way of being that transcends the polarity. If this doesn’t make sense to you, be sure to come to one of the conversations so you can see what we mean.

For more about this you can go to JustConflict.com and click on the Disciplines tab.