Book Reviews

"what's the answer" | Author: Erich Ferdinand | License: CC BY 2.0

Quests and Questions

As long as humans have told stories, we’ve shared tales about people going on quests. There is a long list of these tales about quests of one sort or another in history and in literature. Here are a few of the more famous quests. About 2,000 BC, Gilgamesh embraced the quest to find the secret to eternal life. He started out as a cruel despot who raped any women he fancied. After losing his best Read More

Title: _MG_3044 | Author: Hugh Letheren | Source: Flickr | License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Courage and Creativity

It’s scary to be outside the margins of “normality.”

As any person (whether they they think of themselves as creative or not) knows, introducing newness goes hand-in-hand with disruption of established rules and expectations. But if we can find the courage to break out of rigid structures, we may be rewarded with finding a clearer path to joy, meaning, and purpose.

The Fragility of Freshness

“If you can’t smell the fragrance, don’t come into the garden of love.”  –Rumi “Let me not die while I am still alive.” –Hasidic prayer   Knowing when to cut your avocado is a tricky task. One day too early and the fruit inside is too hard. One day too late, and it turns brown and mushy. Finding optimal freshness is a challenge with fruit and with life. I hate it when my strawberries get Read More

Walter De Maria, 360˚ I Ching/64 Sculptures, 1981. © The Estate of Walter De Maria. Photo: Bill Jacobson Studio, New York.

Ethereal Threads and Cosmic Fabric

“Creative interpretation of the world: Art. Personal beliefs trumping objective facts: Lunacy.” —Brian Greene. When you are swimming upstream in a powerful current, it’s not only hard to think about anything other than surviving, it’s also difficult to raise your head up to look around. This river we are swimming in has a mighty flow, and we are hanging on by a thread—perhaps an ethereal thread or a vibrating string as you will see later. Read More

Title: Half Full Half Empty | Author: Thomas Hawk | Source: Flickr | License: CC BY-NC 2.0

Wisdom and Wealth

All religions allude to the challenge of acquiring enough wisdom to deal with whatever wealth you may have.

These various points of view help us address the questions, “What is wisdom?” and “How do you measure wealth?”

Does one size fit all? Title: Generic Luncheon Loaf | Author: Nikol Lohr | Source: sugarpants on Flickr | License: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Meditation and Mindfulness

What’s the difference between mindfulness and meditation?

The traditions in Asia have language that is much more precise in capturing the nuances of different practices and states of consciousness, and all of this gets lost in translation into English using one catch-all generic bucket word, “meditation.”

Photo of Dhaka, Bangladesh | Credit: Pujohn Das

Stories and Songs

Research indicates that the best way to raise funds for a group is to share a story about one individual member. Narrative is powerful and empowering, yet it strikes me how different each of our stories can be: The scope of our hope, the depth of our love, the beauty of our grace, and our experience of justice vary greatly by simple circumstance; for example, being born on one side of a wall or the other.

Tu m' by Marcel Duchamp (Photo Credit: Yale University Art Gallery)

Taming Tourette

When I was 30 years old, I was diagnosed as having Tourette syndrome (TS).

It was a huge relief to me to finally have a name for what had been tormenting me since I was about 13 years old. I was also depressed to know that I would be dealing with this neurological disorder for the rest of my life.

Title: trust issues | Credit: Yumi Krum

Presence and Presents

“We convince by our presence.” —Walt Whitman

You can’t fake being present in the long term…and other thoughts on how presents can’t stack up to the gift of presence.

"July 15, 2014," www.thezendiary.com

Reacting and Responding

People deserve to be understood.

Many people are suffering from crushing pain that they just can’t seem to beat.

How can we respond–without reacting?

"Basalt Columns of Giant's Causeway" Credit: pictruer / 一元 马 | License: CC BY 2.0

Fast-Slow-Stop-Look-Listen

My nickname growing up was Rapid Rick. I always got things done quickly. Not always accurately or perfectly, but fast. After 70 years of taking pride in this reputation, I finally realized that slower is better. Ouch!

Yes, there were some advantages to my “now is good” approach to life…but now I wonder at what price.

Image from page 295 of "Bell telephone magazine" (1922) | Source: Internet Archive

Pain and Empathy

Pain may not be your friend, but it may be your partner. And pain may be the path to empathy.

Michigan fall landscape, by Rick Bellingham

Emptiness

I remember the knock on the door. It was 1982, and we were living in Basking Ridge, NJ. A fresh-faced and earnest 10 year-old wanted to know if he could mow our lawn. He said he was saving up to buy a car. Even though I was perfectly capable of mowing the lawn myself, I said, “Fantastic, you’re hired.” Today, 34 years later, we are still friends. Richard is now a 5th degree black belt Read More

www.thezendiary.com

Observation

When I look in the mirror these days I’m shocked that the old and withered face I see doesn’t reflect the way I think or feel. The image makes me acutely aware of how differently I’m viewed by people with whom I come into contact. Strangers see me as an old and irrelevant man – three steps from the nursing home. My friends know differently. And I feel more vital than I ever have in Read More

"Lego Wars," Credit: FFCU on Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/free_for_commercial_use/ (License: CC BY-SA 2.0)

Letting Go and Letting In

It seems like we always have to let go of stuff. As babies, at some point, we have to give up our pacifiers or security blankets. As young adults, we have to let go of our dependence on parents and become independent. As we grow older, we need to let go of our defensiveness in order to let in constructive feedback. Over the course of our lives, our security blankets and dependencies change, but we Read More

Title: Fox at Malone Bay Campground -2 | Credit: Ray Dumas | License: CC BY-SA 2.0

The Tao of Money

I just spent a few days on Isle Royale, one of the best kept, National Park secrets in the United States. I walked ten miles a day on rugged trails on this spectacular island in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The views were stunning: pristine lakes, lush forests, breathtaking views, and occasional sightings of fox, moose, and wolves. These walks filled me with renewed appreciation for Teddy Roosevelt for founding and funding the National Parks Read More

Title: November 24, 2015 | Author: David Gabriel Fischer | www.thezendiary.com

Truth, Honor, Integrity, and Sensitivity (THIS)

My dad was a man of honor. If he said he was going to do something, you could bank on it getting done. He was also a very talented man. He constructed two family houses pretty much by himself. He built me a small car from scratch. He invented aluminum two-by-fours for houses. I never saw him treat anyone with anything but decency and respect. Most importantly, he stood by his principles, and his word was gold.

Stepping into the moment

Deepak Chopra describes stepping into the moment as those rare times when our mind is in the present – it becomes silent or generates the vibration “aah.” He suggests that present moment experiences reflect gaps in our perpetual, inner dialogue. Meditation is a way to enter that gap directly. Robert Carkhuff, whose groundbreaking work in helping and human relations led to a revolution in interpersonal skills training , writes that the “immediacy” response is one Read More

Title: Patterns of your past | Author: Aristocats-hat | Source: Flickr | License: CC BY-NC 2.0

Wishing and Willing

I am. I can. I wish. “I am” is being. “I can” is becoming. “I wish” is aspiring. Gurdjieff suggested that using these words could motivate us to tune into our higher selves. In his book, Life is Real Only Then, When “I Am”, Gurdjieff said these three impulses must arise and manifest themselves in an evolving person. These words are essential for “the entire sensing of the whole of oneself.” These words reflect the genuine “I” of a person who has reached responsible age.

Lithograph by Emily Bellingham, 2009. http://www.siteesite.com

Mathematics and Metaphysics

 “Most people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do so.” “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.” —Bertrand Russell I used to love algebra as a kid. It’s such an elegant language. And it’s based on a beautiful principle: you can do anything to one side of an equation as long as you do the same Read More

Photo by Joe Beck

Mindful and Joyful Living, Learning, and Working

My four-year old grandson is an old soul. He is one of the most loving, sensitive, kind and joyful people I know.   He also has a hyper-active body, an incredibly curious mind, and relentlessly intense feelings. It’s a lot for a child to manage. It’s a lot for anyone to manage. The question is: how can we help our kids and each other stay in touch with the unfettered joy and love we were born Read More

Sagrada Família nave roof detail by Flickr user SBA73 https://www.flickr.com/people/7455207@N05

Endings and Beginnings

In 1984, we formed a book group in Basking Ridge, NJ with 6 other couples. Our first book was George Orwell’s 1984. We met monthly (with few exceptions) for the next 32 years discussing a diverse mixture of books: fiction and non-fiction, simple and complex, light and heavy, funny and sad, uplifting and depressing. Each book gave us an opportunity to share our thoughts and feelings and to get to know each other on a Read More

Title: Suburbia | Author: Caribb

Immigration and Imagination

In his book, Tortilla Curtain, published in 1995, T.C. Boyle enters deeply into the frames of reference of both immigrants and the gated community. He puts you squarely into the hearts and minds of people struggling desperately at enormous risks to establish a new life for themselves as well as people who are fighting mightily to protect the lifestyles they have established through hard work and white privilege.

"New Technology" by Flickr user Byron Stormweather

Machines, Money, and Meaning

“And every sand becomes a Gem reflected in the beam divine” -William Blake In 1909, E. M. Forster published a series of short stories in his book The Eternal Moment. The first story is entitled “The Machine Stops.” This chilling masterpiece concerns the role of technology in our lives. Written over 100 years ago, when technology was in its infancy, it is more relevant today than it was then. With an uncanny prescience, Forster wrote about Read More