Saturday, May 06, 2006

Tarot as Mirror of the Psyche: Justice

[Please see the Introduction to this series for a brief synopsis of my approach to working with the major trumps of the Tarot. I am hoping to post a new meditation each Saturday. I use meditation here in the philosophical sense of the word, meant to denote an open-ended, free-form exploration of an idea.]

With the eighth trump of the Tarot, we come to the first serious controversy in the deck. The older decks (before Rider-Waite) have Justice as the eighth trump, but A. E. Waite, working from Eliphas Levi's research and ideas, moved Justice to the eleventh trump and moved Strength to the eighth trump. Levi made the move -- and Waite concretized it -- in an effort to make a strict correspondence between the Kabbalah and the Tarot. The correlation is tenuous at best.

The original eighth trump was Justice because it was a good match for the eighth Hebrew letter (Heth). The symbolism of Heth has to do with the balance struck between the work and efforts of human beings and the destructive forces of nature. The idea of balance in that letter matched the idea of Justice as the balance of power.

Many modern decks, most notably the Crowley Thoth deck (say what you will about Aleister Crowley, his Book of Thoth is as conservative a presentation of the Tarot as you will find anywhere) have kept the original order of the cards, as will I in this post. However, Crowley did rename this card Adjustment, which fits with the theme of the young ego emerging into the wider world of adult consciousness.

With that out of the way, on with our look at the Justice card.

It is at this point in the deck that my differences with Sallie Nichols (Jung and Tarot) begin to become more clear. She says:
Now we are about to consider the middle row, the Realm of Equilibrium, so called because it stands midway between heaven and earth. We might see the top row as representing Spirit; the bottom row Nature; and the middle row Man, who functions as mediator between the gods and the beasts.
She later says:
As we have seen, the Realm of the Gods, of the primary archetypes which comprised the top row of our map, is completed. Its seventh card, The Chariot, pictures the hero embarked on his quest for self-realization. Now the creator can rest, for we enter here the Realm of Equilibrium, where man begins to play a more active role in the on-going process of creative evolution.
Well, she's half right. The middle row is the most "human" of the three sections of the deck. And she is correct that the top row (the first seven trumps) is the realm of the Gods. However, the Gods are not from the realm of Spirit, they are from the pre-egoic unconscious. Nichols makes the classic Jungian mistake: the pre/post fallacy.

When we read the deck as the Fool's journey to enlightenment, it becomes clear that the first section of the deck is comprised of archetypal elements, all of which are pre-personal in the psyche of our young Fool. Now that s/he is moving into the egoic realm, into the personal, s/he'll have to do the necessary work to transcend ego eventually and enter into the realm of Spirit.

But back to Justice for now.

In the language of Spiral Dynamics, we are in the transition period between raw, egoic Red and structured, obedient Blue. The ego has emerged as a separate self in charge of its own life in the previous card, The Chariot, but it still has much to learn about the ways of the world.

A young ego is impulsive -- it wants what it wants, and it wants it right now. If the Fool is to survive in the adult world, s/he'll need to learn impulse control and that actions have consequences. Enter Justice, the card of equilibrium, the scales of balance, and the Middle Way.

Many readings of this card focus on the scales as the balance of good and evil, and her sword as the punishment for committing evil deeds or hosting evil thoughts -- a very puritanical Christian approach. In this sense the card is an admonition to the young ego to fear the retribution of Justice (read: God) for stepping off the path.

I prefer a more open reading of this card in line with developmental psychology. A young person at this stage (say 8-12 years of age) is fully capable for the first time of entertaining duality in his/her consciousness. S/he is old enough and sophisticated enough to grasp the meaning of right and wrong, but life is filled with all kinds of duality at this level. All things can appear to be a choice: right/wrong, hot/cold, good/bad, ugly/pretty, fast/slow, popular/outcast, male/female, love/hate, friend/enemy, parent/child, guilt/pride, young/old, body/mind, and on and on. The list of polarities is endless.

In working with polarities, we might see the sword not as a tool of punishment, but as a tool of discrimination. With the emergence of the Blue meme, knowledge of what is right and wrong is important. There are black and white issues in morality, no matter how much post-modern thinking might argue otherwise. The Blue meme is important because it makes those distinctions. The problem is that it often makes those distinctions from a mythical religious point-of-view.

But we can see the sword in this card as a kind of Occam's razor. Rather than seeking the simplest solution to any problem, here we are seeking the most just choice in any situation. It is crucial that our young ego learn to make these choices for him/herself. The archetypal control of the Hierophant and the Emperor are in decline. They have become a part of the Freudian superego at this point, or more correctly, the inner critic.

It's interesting, then, that the figure in this card is female. The critic (or judge) is often associated with masculine energy, but here the figure is a woman. This suggests to me that for justice to be in balance, it must have the access to emotion and community that men often reject. But she is not weak by any means -- no matter how we read it, she does have that rather large sword.

There is also an association with Karma here, as is clear in this card from the Spirit-Magick deck. They use the newer eleventh trump position, but the card plays with a "magickal" version of Justice, which is the law of Karma. Other decks use this designation as well. Karma is a more sophisticated version of Justice, but it still applies here.

Finally, the Osho Zen deck has Courage as the eighth card. It's possible to read this as an interpretation of the Strength card, but it feels to me to be a card of beginnings, epecially the image. Here is how that deck views this card:
Nothing can be guaranteed. Thousand and one are the hazards of the journey, many are the pitfalls - and the seed is secure, hidden inside a hard core. But the seed tries, it makes an effort; it drops the hard shell which is its security, it starts moving. Immediately the fight starts: the struggle with the soil, with the stones, with the rocks. And the seed was very hard and the sprout will be very, very soft and dangers will be many.

There was no danger for the seed, the seed could have survived for millennia, but for the sprout many are the dangers. But the sprout starts towards the unknown, towards the sun, towards the source of light, not knowing where, not knowing why. Great is the cross to be carried, but a dream possesses the seed and the seed moves.

The same is the path for man. It is arduous. Much courage will be needed.
This view fits perfectly with the notion that the young Fool is striking out into the world on his/her own. Courage will be needed. Courage is also needed to make the moral choices that Justice requires.

Here is a little more from the Osho Zen viewpoint:
When we are faced with a very difficult situation we have a choice: we can either be resentful, and try to find somebody or something to blame for the hardships, or we can face the challenge and grow.

The flower shows us the way, as its passion for life leads it out of the darkness and into the light.
This highlights another choice the Fool must make at this stage: facing life head on or choosing to blame others for the injustices in the world.

This is a crucial stage in the process. There is little in most variations of the card to reveal how the Fool navigates this transitional stage. We'll have to wait and see what happens in the next card.

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Information Request

[Image is from Integral Naked]

I am beginning research for an extended series of posts on sexuality in Buddhism and integral sexuality. If any of you have information or can point me toward a book or website that might be helpful, please leave me a note in the comments or email me from the sidebar.

I think that as we look at integral relationships, how we view sexuality must change accordingly. I also believe that the Buddhist stance on sexuality is the product of Iron Age thinking (Red to Blue transition) and needs to be adjusted for the dawning Integral Age (emerging Yellow and Turquoise).

We do not lose our bodies simply because we transcend ego. Further, I believe that sexuality can be a vital tool toward our efforts to transcend the ego -- if approached with the proper intent.

AND, the big AND, even for those of us who want to use sexuality in its higher forms, sexuality can still be FUN. Part of the wonder of working toward second tier consciousness is that it allows us access to all the lower memes as we deem appropriate. So one day we might come together with our partner in pure presence, just sharing the energy of sexual exchange with no goal, no need. But the next time we might choose to experience the raw animal energy of sexual exchange, complete with power hierarchies. It's all available to us in an integral model.

So now you know my agenda. Any help you can provide will be deeply appreciated and (if needed) highly confidential.


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Pema Chodron: Cultivating Equanimity

[image source]

To cultivate equanimity we practice catching ourselves when we feel attraction or aversion, before it hardens into grasping or negativity. We train in staying with the soft spot and use our biases as stepping-stones for connecting with the confusion of others. Strong emotions are useful in this regard. Whatever arises, no matter how bad it feels, can be used to extend our kinship to others who suffer the same kind of aggression or craving -- who, just like us, get hooked by hope and fear. This is how we come to appreciate that everyone's in the same boat. We all desperately need more insight into what leads to happiness and what leads to pain.

It's easy to continue, even after years of practice, to harden into a position of anger and indignation. However, if we can contact the vulnerability and rawness of resentment or rage or whatever it is, a bigger perspective can emerge. In the moment that we choose to abide with the energy instead of acting it out and repressing it, we are training in equanimity, in thinking bigger than right and wrong. This is how all the four limitless qualities -- love, compassion, joy, and equanimity -- evolve from limited to limitless: we practice catching our mind hardening into fixed views and do our best to soften. Through softening, the barriers come down.

~ Pema Chodron, Comfortable with Uncertainty

After sitting with this quote this morning, I want to make this a part of my daily practice. My tendency is to form opinions (right or wrong, good or bad) very quickly. According to the Myers-Briggs system (as of five years ago, anyway), I am an INTJ, with the J standing for judging. When trying to operate in an Orange meme environment, this has served me well. In my life now, not so much.

I am so quick to form an opinion that I don't even see the space Chodron talks about in which we can stop the process. And, of course, she would be the first to tell me to start where I am. First become aware that I am constantly discriminating between aversion and attraction, the primary motivators for judgments.

So that's my goal. I'm going to get a little notebook that will fit in my pocket and try to record as many instances as possible of this process happening. I'll see it all over the place, of course, now that I am going to pay attention to it. That can only help.

I want to be less attached to things and to feel less aversion to things. I want to work toward the equanimity of the Buddha in the picture at the top of this post. So I begin with intention and let everything flow from there.

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Video: Bear Creek Canyon

Here is my first attempt at a video. It's a montage of pictures I took on my hike into Bear Creek Canyon a while back. I added music by Zen Garden to help the mood. The transitions are choppy and the pictures weren't taken with making a video in mind, so its pretty rough. But now I've got the bug -- I want to do more.

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Friday, May 05, 2006


Writing about my birthday was a good exercise in giving space for my inner child to escape the duct tape that binds his arms, legs, and mouth. This was the first time in 25 years that I acknowledged a birthday in any way. I am grateful for the kind wishes I received in the comments and by email.

Learning to be vulnerable is, in part, learning to give space for that child to express him or herself in each of us. As we grow older we become responsible, guarded, mature, restrained, serious, and cynical (well, not all of us are cynical). But someplace inside each of us there is a child who is joyful, exuberant, open, spontaneous, wild, and free. Maybe you have access to that part of yourself -- that subpersonality -- but I and many others do not.

As I make more and more space for him to express himself, I become more and more grateful for his enthusiasm and creativity. He is curious, and he is not cynical. He is trusting and willing to take risks.

I've been missing that energy in my life over the last 25 years. I am still a long way from having full access to it, but I am grateful for the improvements that have come through mediation and working to know my subpersonalities.

What are you grateful for?

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Video: True Color

These days I'm all about creating some space for my inner child to play a little more (well, okay, at all). I found this very cool French video. A lot of the stuff I have seen in this genre is about little more than showing what they can do. This is a video with a message -- a good message. And it's fun to watch.

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Gary Snyder at Shambhala Sun

[image source]

The Shambhala Sun website has a new article/interview with Gary Snyder. For those who think Snyder is one of America's wisest human beings, this article is confirmation of that perception. For those new to Snyder, this article provides a wide-angle view that encompasses his long and important career.

I featured Gary Snyder as my Sunday Poet a while back, here is the link.

Here is a taste:
Many of Snyder's original arguments addressing pollution and our addiction to consumption have by now become mainstream: reduced fossil fuel dependence, recycling, responsible resource harvesting. Others remain works-in-progress: effective soil conservation, economics as a "small subbranch of ecology," learning to "break the habit of acquiring unnecessary possessions," division by natural and cultural boundaries rather than arbitrary political boundaries.

As an ecological philosopher, Snyder's role has been to point out first the problems, and then the hard medicine that must be swallowed. Snyder has become synonymous with integrity-a good beginning place if your wilderness poetics honor "clean-running rivers; the presence of pelican and osprey and gray whale in our lives; salmon and trout in our streams; unmuddied language and good dreams."

"My sense of the West Coast," he says, "is that it runs from somewhere about the Big Sur River-the southern-most river that salmon run in-from there north to the Straits of Georgia and beyond, to Glacier Bay in southern Alaska. It is one territory in my mind. People all relate to each other across it; we share a lot of the same concerns and text and a lot of the same trees and birds."

Raised in the Pacific Northwest, Snyder grew up close to the anthropomorphic richness of the local Native American mythology, the rainforest totems of eagle, bear, raven and killer whale that continue to appear in school and community insignias as important elements of regional consciousness. It is unsurprising that they-and roustabout cousins like Coyote-have long been found at the core of Snyder's expansive vision. Literal-minded rationalists have had difficulty with Snyder's Buddhist-oriented eco-philosophy and poetics. His embrace of Native Indian lore only further ruffled orthodox literary imagination, and in the past his poetry was criticized as being thin, loose or scattered.

As Snyder readers know, the corrective to such interpretations of his work is more fresh air and exercise. Regarding Buddhism, his take is offered simply and efficiently. "The marks of Buddhist teaching," he writes in A Place In Space, "are impermanence, no-self, the inevitability of suffering and connectedness, emptiness, the vastness of mind, and a way to realization."

"It seems evident," he writes, offering insight into the dynamics of his admittedly complex world view, "that there are throughout the world certain social and religious forces that have worked through history toward an ecologically and culturally enlightened state of affairs. Let these be encouraged: Gnostics, hip Marxists, Teilhard de Chardin Catholics, Druids, Taoists, Biologists, Witches, Yogins, Bhikkus, Quakers, Sufis, Tibetans, Zens, Shamans, Bushmen, American Indians, Polynesians, Anarchists, Alchemists, primitive cultures, communal and ashram movements, cooperative ventures."

"Idealistic, these?" he says when asked about such alternative "Third Force" social movements. "In some cases the vision can be mystical; it can be Blake. It crops up historically with William Penn and the Quakers trying to make the Quaker communities in Pennsylvania a righteous place to live-treating the native peoples properly in the process. It crops up in the utopian and communal experience of Thoreau's friends in New England.

"As utopian and impractical as it might seem, it comes through history as a little dream of spiritual elegance and economic simplicity, and collaboration and cooperating communally-all of those things together. It may be that it was the early Christian vision. Certainly it was one part of the early Buddhist vision. It turns up as a reflection of the integrity of tribal culture; as a reflection of the kind of energy that would try to hold together the best lessons of tribal cultures even within the overwhelming power and dynamics of civilization."

Any paradigm for a truly healthy culture, Gary Snyder argues, must begin with surmounting narrow personal identity and finding a commitment to place. Characteristically, he finds a way of remaking the now tired concept of "sense of place" into something fresh and vital. The rural model of place, he emphasizes, is no longer the only model for the healing of our culture."

Lately I've been noticing how many more people who tend toward counterculture thinking are turning up at readings and book signings in the cities and the suburbs," he says. "They're everywhere. What I emphasize more and more is that a bioregional consciousness is equally powerful in a city or in the suburbs. Just as a watershed flows through each of these places, it also includes them."

One of the models I use now is how an ecosystem resembles a mandala," he explains. "A big Tibetan mandala has many small figures as well as central figures, and each of them has a key role in the picture: they're all essential. The whole thing is an educational tool for understanding-that's where the ecosystem analogy comes in. Every creature, even the little worms and insects, has value. Everything is valuable—that's the measure of the system."

This is only a small section of the much longer article. Read the rest here.

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Morning Wisdom


"Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams, who looks inside awakes."

~ Carl Gustav Jung

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Integral Training

The Integral Institute now offers Integral Training. Everything from Integral Psychotherapy to Integral Spiritual Coaching, with a whole lot in between (including Integral Buddhism, with Ken listed as one of the teachers).

Have a look around. As always, the site is beautiful to look at and well-designed.

Looks like II is onto its next stage (generating income).

Their pitch:
Welcome to Integral Training! Integral Institute is pleased to offer a spectrum of training opportunities to help you bring a more Integral approach to your life. We make full use of cutting-edge AQAL™ technology—available only through Integral Institute—to propel your personal, professional, and spiritual growth.

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Video: A Thousand Words

We live in a vast and amazing world. This montage video is a great reminder of that truth. The music is pretty good, too. Happy Friday!

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Thursday, May 04, 2006


A few quotes for my mood today. I feel grateful just to be. How wonderfully unusual.
Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful.

Henry Ward Beecher:
Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.

John F. Kennedy:
As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.

Margaret Cousins:
Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.

Albert Schweitzer:
At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.
What are you grateful for?

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The Year in Review -- Gratitude

As of this morning at around 5:23 am, I am 39 years old. Thus begins my fortieth year on the planet. In the interest of honesty, this is me -- the first time I have posted my face on the web.

A shaman Kira and I consulted once (when I was still 34) said that my life would begin to come into focus during my 35th year and beyond. To a certain extent, that has been true. That year I began to truly study integral theory rather than just read the next Ken Wilber book that came out. I also began to write again for the first time in about four years. And I returned to Buddhism after some time away from practice.

When I was 37, I changed careers, finally settling into being an agent for help and change rather than a pawn in the corporate machine. Some might say that I still am part of the corporate world since I work for BallyTotal Fitness as a personal trainer. I can't argue against that, except to say that I don't push Bally services and products the way they want me to. I do what's best for my clients.

I also began blogging when I was 37, an act that has profoundly changed my life. I began blogging as a way to record some ideas, never really intending that anyone would read them. Then it got more political, so I started a fitness and health blog for my clients. Nearly a year ago (in June) I started this blog to give my life some balance. I was happy then to post a couple times each week.

I spent much of the last year in therapy, another life-changing decision. I wasn't "messed up" or "dysfunctional." I simply wanted to be more ME than I was. Maude's combination of Buddhist philosophy (she'd never call it that) and wisdom about how the psyche functions was the perfect antidote to my rational need to control everything, especially myself. I still have a lot of work to do, and likely more of it with her, but she made a huge difference in my life.

Kira and I had a tough year, some of which is documented on this site. We went through some intense growing pains. The combination of my work in therapy and her ongoing efforts at personal growth unbalanced our relationship, revealing the bonding patterns that held us in a stagnant place. Once we realized what was happening, we have been able to work through it and are stronger for having gone through the challenge.

One never knows what life will bring. The goal for me is to bring more of myself to each day, and to face whatever life brings me with an open and tender heart. I am grateful for what Buddhism has taught me in this area, and for what I learn each day from fellow bloggers, clients, and complete strangers.

I have been working on gratitude for nearly two months now. I feel the shift in my life. I sometimes feel overwhelmed with gratitude -- flooded with a sense of being blessed. It brings tears to my eyes to write about it. And the fact that I can say that honestly, even if somewhat anonymously, is also huge. Yes, men can cry, and be tender, and share their feelings and still squat 450 pounds. That's been an invaluable lesson for me in the last year.

So today I begin my fortieth year. For the first time in my life, I am happy with who I am. I am still committed to being a better partner, a better trainer, a better Buddhist, a better friend, and a better human being, but I am grateful for my life as it is right now.

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Paul Salamone ILP -- 90 Day Assessment

Paul Salamone has finished the 90 days of ILP to which he committed himself. He has posted his review of the process. One thing he noted with the advent of a daily routine was boredom. I can see how that might be a problem for someone with a more "driven" lifestyle.

One thing I noticed in Paul's experience -- and in that of Eric at Integral Valley -- was the emergence of shadow stuff in the area of 30 days or so. Please correct me if my memory is defective. It seemed as though the psyche, being stretched and having its boundaries broken down, staged mild rebellions at about that point in the process. If that is true, it's useful info for anyone else undertaking this process.

Here is a taste of his review:
This blog began as a way to both hold myself accountable to getting my life back on track, and to prove to myself and others that Integral Life Practice is a meme worth spreading. As a secondary benefit, promoting ILP could bring my organization more money, and me a raise. The self-interest was mutual. Well, I'm happy to report two things: ILP works, and it takes a hell of a lot more time to get "on track" than I'd originally concieved. While I wasn't expecting to become a Buddha-with-Biceps after just 3 months of practice, I hoped I'd be doing something along the lines of an hour of Big Mind or 1-2-3 O' God each morning, followed by some hardcore F.I.T. and a session with a therapist or two.

Instead, my commitment to personal development turned to more fundamental things, namely, money and time. The break-through, I believe, was when I started to keep a time and money log, which gave me a new awareness of my day-to-day activities and expenditures. This put me in the frame of mind that every second (and every dollar) counts, and gave me a new orientation towards the future which my previous work-a-hedonism had forbade. Contra postmodern addicto-culture's incessant injunction to chase pleasure and nothing else, I began to adopt something decidely more puritan and old school: saving for the future. I can't even express what a shift this was in my worldview.

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Poem: Ching An (1851-1912)

[Golden Autumn]

At Lushan Temple

In the shimer of distance
the bell speaks pure Sanskrit
seeing off the slanting sun.

Secret, silent
blossoms beaneth
the overhanging cliffs
send their fragrance on the stream.

In the single wind chime at the temple's eaves
the wind speaks for itself.

Before my window, ten thousand trees,
the rain's the first Fall chill.

The hills, locked in cloud essence,
pry into my purity.

The river carries the ancient sound of the billows
all the way to the sea.

I won't admire the thousand-year crane
that nests the ageless pine.

He doesn't know that in the human world
groves turn into seas.

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Morning Video: Mongolia

This is a beautiful video with a nice soundtrack. Ever wanted to go to Mongolia? If you haven't, you may want to after watching this. Mongolia is now on my list of places I must see.

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006


In addition to a new Pearl Jam album, yesterday also marked the release of a new Tool album. Tool has been teaming Alex Grey for their album art of late. The new album, 10,000 Days, features 3-D artwork by Grey, which requires the attached stereoscopic glasses. Very cool. Alex Grey in 3-D, with CGI effects, is something for which to be grateful. The art alone is worth the price of the CD.

So today I am grateful that Tool and Alex Grey have been working together.

I am also grateful for the songs of all the various birds that live in the desert outside my living room window. Their sounds in the morning are peaceful and soothing.

What are you grateful for?

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2006 Inspiration Film Festival

The second annual Inspiration Film Festival was held at the end of April in Santa Monica, CA. Personally, I didn't know there had been a first annual festival. One of the cool things about being alive is that you can literally learn at least one new thing every day.

According to the site:
An Inspiration Film is a movie that inspires us, lifts our spirit, or transforms our lives. An Inspiration Film makes us feel more hopeful, more thankful, more connected, more passionate, and better about life in general. We identify with an Inspiration Film's characters on a deep, emotional level, and are motivated by their stories to pursue positive change in our own lives. An Inspiration film honors the belief that simple choices can change the world and inspires us to make a difference.
Based on that definition, these are the films that were selected (submitted?) for this year's festival:
Akeelah And The Bee
Peaceful Warrior

Into Great Silence
What the Bleep Do We Know?! - Down the Rabbit Hole
The World According to Sesame Street

Grocery Store Wars: The Organic Rebellion
The McCombie Way
Meatrix II: Revolting
New Boobs
Picket Fenced-In

Looks like an interesting assortment of films. Mindwalk(which is from the early 1990's, I believe) is a special presentation -- I suppose they are honoring the history of the genre. I vaguely remember liking this film, even though the Fritjof Capra stuff was a bit tired by then.

Akeelah and the Bee has gotten some good press, considering that this is Starbuck's (yes, the coffee folks) first foray into film making -- including a glowing review from none other than ~C4Chaos. Akeelah won the Gaia Merit Award at this year's festival -- I think that means they liked it. Apprently, Ebert and Roper also gave it "Two thumbs way up!"

Peaceful Warrior is also getting good press. Here is a bit of one review:
There's no question that legions of Millman's fans will embrace this film version of the 25-year-old best-seller. But in adapting the first two-thirds of the book, director Victor Salva and writer Kevin Berhardt clearly aimed to do more than preach to the personal growth/self-realization choir; for the most part they avoid self-congratulatory New Age philosophizing and focus on character.

And then there is What the Bleep . . . . When I first heard about this new, extended version of the first highly boring and laughable film, I posted this commentary.

All of the other films are new to me, so I look forward to seeing some of them.

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Everyday Buddhism's Buddhism section has a new article on how to practice Buddhism on a daily basis -- in five simple steps. This is a good introduction for those new to Buddhism, and a good reminder for those of us who have been on the path for a while.

Here are the five steps:

Meditate daily. Set aside at least twenty minutes each morning and evening respectively. Sit in a chair or cross-legged on a cushion with your back straight. Place your hands in your lap with your right hand resting in the palm of your left hand. Close your eyes, keep your mouth closed and breathe naturally through your nose. Concentrate on the sensation of the breath as it touches your nostrils. Each time your thoughts wander gently bring the focus of your attention back to your breath.

For further instructions on how to meditate click here.

Be Mindful:

As you go through the day develop awareness as much as you can on the present moment. Avoid fruitless speculation on the future or thoughts about the past. Try to concentrate on the task in hand rather than find yourself absorbed in fantasies, worries and desires. In particular be aware when unwholesome thoughts arise. These may take the form of irritation, anger or ill-will. On the other hand they may take the form of sensual desire. When this occurs, do not try to suppress them. Simply note them as passing thoughts and turn your attention to the activity you are engaged in. The practice of mindfulness over a prolonged period fosters detachment and equanimity. Instead of simply reacting to events we learn to step back, observe them and then act in more wholesome ways.

For more on being mindful click here.

Be Kind:

One of the key qualities the Buddha urged his followers to develop was loving-kindness or metta. Loving-kindness is about having a good heart and being able to extend good will to others whoever they are in a natural and spontaneous way. The essence of loving-kindness is captured in the metta sutta. The Buddha also gave practical instructions about how loving-kindness could be cultivated. At the end of each morning and evening meditation it is beneficial to extend feelings of loving-kindness to yourself, to your family and then to the whole world.

For more on loving-kindness meditation click here.

For the metta sutta click here.

Give Naturally:

The Buddha taught that we should expect to give every day of our lives. Giving with an open and generous heart is of great value, being benefical to others and to ourselves. Indeed, from a psychological perspective, the feel-good factor in giving is greater than that of receiving. Every day affords us many opportunities for giving. It can take the form of giving our time, our attention, our consideration. It can also be expressed through giving money and material things. It is not, however, about counting what you give but making giving a natural part of what you do.

For more on giving click here.

Speak Rightly:

Be mindful of what you say and how you say it. Right speech is the third factor of the Noble Eightfold Path. In particular, the Buddha urges us to avoid being dishonest in what we say, gossiping or rumor mongering, and harsh language. In each case this misuse of language breeds division, conflict and disharmony. Right speech, therefore, has the opposite effect. By speaking the truth, speaking kindly and using our words to heal wounds and bring people together promotes concord and harmony. Again, our daily activities give us ample opportunities for wholesome speech.

For more on Right Speech click here.

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Morning Nature Video

Some beautiful Canadian scenery to start your day.

The Four Seasons of Wonder
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