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Summer dawns on International Day of Yoga

The first day of summer, June 21, 2017, is being observed as the International Day of Yoga. The proclamation by the United Nations follows:  http://www.un.org/en/events/yogaday/

Is Yoga a religion? A fitness regime? A community-building exercise? A philosophy of life? It can be all of these and more. Yoga is compatible with all positive expressions of religion, or it can serve as a religion on its own. It has also been proven beneficial to those with no interest in any religion.

Yoga works equally well for groups as it does for individual practice. When entered into with respect and gentleness, Yoga has been proven to be a positive force in people's lives, building self-confidence, grace, strength, health, positive attitude, and community spirit.

You don't have to be an athlete or warrior to embrace this pathway to well being. Find a sympathetic teacher or a beginner-friendly instruction book and give Yoga a try. It's a way to keep summer in our lives all year long.

 

Posted on Tuesday, June 20, 2017 at 06:19PM by Registered CommenterLinda Brown Holt | CommentsPost a Comment

Sunday morning guilt

I usually don’t take my daily walk in the morning. Between Facebook, Yoga, and other activities, I just don’t have the time before I launch into my work day or weekend schedule. Afternoon and evening have become walking time choices for me.

Today was different, though, because I needed to leave by 2 p.m. to attend a concert event I’d be writing about. Although it was already 80 degrees Fahrenheit and humid, I decided to step out for a routine stroll around the one-mile-square town in which I live.

It was Sunday, and heading out around 10, I encountered something I had not experienced locally in many years: churchgoing. When I feel the need to attend church, I go to one a half-hour south of here, for a variety of reasons. It has been a while since I attended or thought about the churches in my home town.

My town is a small city with a large variety of places to worship. There are six mainline churches, six historically black churches, and one synagogue. And that’s not including the township. Hardly a block passed under my sneakers than I stepped aside to allow an individual or small family to proceed to the ecclesia of their choice.

There were moms and dads (this being Fathers Day), with children in tow. A single person, probably over 50, tried the different doors at the Presbyterian church. As I walked by across the street, the bold entr’acte of the Episcopal organ filled the air through open, red doors. People were jostling to park on the street around the always-busy Roman Catholic church, while an elderly woman, helped by a friend, ascended the front steps of the Methodist. If you think of Sunday morning as a quiet, lazy time of day, you haven’t been to my home town.

I became quickly conscious of several things, since this was not my normal routine. For one, I was thirsty and had forgotten my water, so I took a detour to the Mexican restaurant where it was standing room only for Fathers Day breakfast. Another was that I needed to walk on the other side of the street to capture the unaccustomed morning shade.

And I felt something else, as I strolled in shorts, straw hat, and un-ironed shirt. A lack of guilt. I can’t tell you how many years it’s been since I stopped attending the local churches and then would take complicated detours to avoid parishioners. I don’t know whether their veiled looks of recognition indicated disapproval or embarrassment or nothing at all. But, whether true or not, I sensed very deeply that people I once attended church with now thought badly of me, and that any guilt I felt was well deserved.

In the past, I would take elaborate alternative routes to get by the Methodist or Presbyterian church if I happened to be out and about on Sunday morning. It was hard to avoid the Episcopalians since I lived a few blocks away on their street. Initially, after I stopped attending services, one of the parishioners who knew me by sight would wave or worse still, flag me down and call out cheerfully, “Haven’t seen you in church recently!” It was clearly a “gotcha” moment. I would smile weakly and wave back, resolving to take a different path in the future.

There was nothing wrong with these churches and their members. The faithful cut a charming portrait of small town life, walking to services in their good clothes, not exactly the white gloves, hats, and summer coats of my childhood churchgoing, but purposefully selected to distinguish Sunday from every-day life. But the guilt I experienced when I encountered them was real. I felt like the black sheep, the self-afflicted pariah. I was the prodigal son who didn’t come back.

But today was different. The sun was shining and all the curbside gardens burst with colorful lilies and wildflowers. Bright clouds chased the dark to the far edge of a blue-bound sky. Passing on the sidewalk, the churchgoers and I were people with the same destination whose paths had crossed for a moment, then seamlessly unraveled into our own inevitable ways.

Sometimes it’s what we don’t bring with us that makes our journey light. Next time, and for the future, I’ll bring my water, but leave my guilt behind.

 

Posted on Sunday, June 18, 2017 at 11:48AM by Registered CommenterLinda Brown Holt | CommentsPost a Comment

Spirituality trumps religiosity in beloved Emily Brontë poem

Emily Brontë was more than the 19th century English prodigy who wrote the scorching novel, Wuthering Heights. A brilliant poet, she expressed in a few words the deep mystery of God within and the subservience of religious dogma to spiritual illumination. The idea that Being and Breath are linked in a profound sense is one of the foundational concepts of Indian wisdom literature:

No Coward Soul Is Mine

No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the world's storm-troubled sphere:
I see Heaven's glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from Fear.

O God within my breast,
Almighty, ever-present Deity!
Life - that in me hast rest,
As I - Undying Life- have power in Thee!

Vain are the thousand creeds
That move men's hearts, unutterably vain;
Worthless as withered weeds
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main,

To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by Thine infinity;
So surely anchored on
The steadfast rock of immortality.

With wide-embracing love
Thy Spirit animates eternal years,
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates and rears

Though Earth and moon were gone,
And suns and universes ceased to be,
And Thou wert left alone,
Every Existence would exist in Thee.

There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
Thou - Thou art Being and Breath,
And what Thou art may never be destroyed.

Posted on Sunday, April 16, 2017 at 06:43PM by Registered CommenterLinda Brown Holt | CommentsPost a Comment

A Christian, a Daoist, and a Yogi walk into a bar

A Christian, a Daoist, and a Yogi walk into a bar.

The bartender says, “Great to see you three again! Say, I was just telling someone about you. How do  you remain friends when you have such different religions? Don’t you find yourselves arguing all the time?”

“Well,” said the Daoist, “that depends.” She looked at her two companions and winked.

“We all believe in a supreme power,” said the Yogi, easing himself effortlessly onto the barstool.

“We just call it different names,” added the Christian, adjusting her hat.

“Our religions say more about the culture we grew up in…” the Daoist began.

“…than they do about our deepest beliefs,” the Christian continued.

The bartender shook his head.

“You make it sound so easy,” he said, leaning onto the bar and pouring each a cup of green tea. “But everyone knows your religions don’t get along. Why, people have been known to wage war and kill the people they disagree with!”

The three friends nodded their heads sadly.

“Yes, but that says less about the presence of religion than it does about the absence of tolerance!” the Yogi mused.

“People get caught up in dogma,” said the Christian with a note of regret in her voice. “Without an exception, our faiths as we follow them are based on love, compassion, and kindness.”

“There are those who want everyone to think the way they do and to embrace their culture,” agreed the Daoist. “What a boring world it would be if Truth appeared in the same form to every individual and society!”

The three friends lifted their tea cups, smiled at each other and the bartender, and toasted their enduring friendship.

“To the Three Pure Ones,” toasted the Daoist. “May their example lead us to see beyond appearances to the true nature which is Dao!”

“To the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” said the Christian. “May we experience and share their love and light in the world!”

“To Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva,” declared the Yogi. “Through them may we see existence in its totality and enjoy the bliss of divine knowledge!”

They drank their tea and tapped their cups together.

“Sure there are differences,” said the Daoist.

“Sometimes our knowledge accords with science, and sometimes it does not,” said the Christian.

“Our pathways are winding roads from different points on the compass,” the Yogi said.

The bartender laughed. “I get it! You take different paths leading to a common space.”

The three friends joined the bartender in laughter.

“What does it matter if you call this place a bar, a tearoom, or a tea café?” said the bartender to himself as the three friends departed. “When good friends meet and enjoy tea together, the name of the place is not so important, nor is the road they took to get here. Each one lives a Golden Rule and follows a different path side by side with the other. Separate, but together, they approach their goal.”

(by Linda Brown Holt, copyright 2017)

 

Posted on Tuesday, April 4, 2017 at 04:09PM by Registered CommenterLinda Brown Holt | CommentsPost a Comment

Suffering and redemption in a life of music

Thinking about Beethoven

I haven’t written about Beethoven in a while. I was thinking this morning that what impresses me most about his lifelong output (roughly from age 14 to 56) is its inevitability, the logical way it developed from those first songs and piano sketches to the almost unbearable intensity of the final symphony, quartets, and sonatas.

It’s mythic, as though a Vedic god or goddess stood at the peak of Mount Everest and, blowing on a conch shell, filled the valleys below with this precisely ordered revelation. The peaks and valleys of his music unfold as though planned for centuries by an Immortal Being. Beethoven’s life similarly evolves like some mythic hero destined to suffer and die for his art. Even he recognized his likeness to Prometheus, the Greek titan tortured eternally for bringing fire to humankind.

I know I get a little crazy about Beethoven. But I can’t see this inevitable, logical unfolding of music and human life in any other composer or artist. Like the heroes of the great religions, Beethoven seems to take on the sufferings of the world and offers a kind of preordained musical redemption that is satisfying both in its finality and in the way it points to greatness beyond. It is more than music. It may even be more than life.

L.L. Holt, author of The Black Spaniard

 

 

Posted on Saturday, March 11, 2017 at 03:50PM by Registered CommenterLinda Brown Holt | CommentsPost a Comment
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