Spirituality in the News

April 27, 2015
Uplift
Seeing the images of destruction and suffering coming from Kathmandu and Nepal, it’s easy to be moved and want to do something helpful.

Obviously our thoughts are with those living in the midst of the effects of this devastating Earthquake, but this tragedy has also catalysed a lively debate online about what the best way to help those suffering from the consequences on the ground.
 
Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Nepal

After the quake struck, the hashtag #PrayForNepal, along with a wide variety of quotepics on that theme, were quickly and widely shared on social media. Obviously, people were concerned, shocked, and wanted to express that. The question that this raises, however, is does praying for Nepal, or sharing quote pics about praying for Nepal online, actually achieve anything?

The Humanist Charity organisation Responsible Charity responded to #PrayForNepal with an critical Facebook post ‘Prayers aren’t helping the Nepal earthquake victims; donations, volunteers and deployment of rescuers and professionals on the ground is what they need!’

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April 22, 2015
Jacob J. Erickson
It is a mild Kenyan day in January of 2014. With temperatures in the 70s. I smile with some Lutheran guilt because I know I am missing the worst of Minnesota’s frosty brunt of the so-called “polar vortex” (climate change in action). At this moment, instead of curling up with blankets and hot cocoa, I stand with nearly a hundred others outside in a large half-circle, leaning with anticipation against a waist-high rope. The crowd’s eyes are set on a dusty red trail emerging from a row of trees far on the other side. Cameras begin to click, small gasps and “awws” begin to rumble, and, from the crowd’s sudden muttering and questions, it becomes very clear to me that I have stumbled half hazardly across a kind of spiritual pilgrimage site.

We stand near a suburb of Nairobi known simply as “Karen,” named for the Danish immigrant who once had a farm here early in the 20th century. Most people in the U.S. know its namesake Karen Blixen in the guise of Meryl Streep, who portrayed Blixen in the award-winning film Out of Africa, based on Blixen’s own writings. And Blixen, of course, went by a number of famous pen names—Isak Dinesen is one—writing some of the most fascinating and beautiful theological stories of her time. Most notable is Babette’s Feast. But her theology is for another moment.

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March 19, 2015
JEMIMA THACKRAY for The Telegraph (U.K.)
Organised religion may be on its last legs, but spirituality is all the rage.  Therapy Thought - Photo by Alamy

Courses in yoga, zen, mindfulness, reiki and meditation all have waiting lists of people who may have abandoned the idea of an all-powerful creator, but still crave transcendence. The truth is that many of us sense there’s a higher mystery about human existence – and we want connect with it.

I often hear people say they need to ‘work on’ their spirituality, or they wish they were ‘more spiritual’, but they just don’t have the hours in the day.

Indeed, the array of spiritual products on the market seems to demand an inordinate amount of time and head space. I confess I haven’t even got the focus to engage in the two-minute relaxation at the end of my yoga class.

It’s an agonizing 120 seconds spent desperately trying to still my mind; but by the end I have usually planned dinner, compiled a mental to-do list, and vowed to paint my toe nails like the infinitely more glamorous women either side of me.

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March 5, 2015
T.M. LUHRMANN for The New York Times
When Things Happen That You Can't ExplainI was sitting in a commuter train to London the first time I felt supernatural power rip through me. I was 23, and one year into my graduate training in anthropology. I had decided to do my fieldwork among educated white Britons who practiced what they called magic. I thought of the topic as a clever twist on more traditional anthropological study of strange “native” customs.

I was on my way to meet some of the magicians, and I had ridden my bike to the station with trepidation and excitement. On the train, as the sheep-dotted countryside rolled by, I was reading a book by a man they called an “adept” — someone they regarded as deeply knowledgeable and powerful.

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February 22, 2015
DEEPAK CHOPRA for the Huffington Post

In troubled times, when the world seems to be on fire, people think about God and the religion they were raised in -- a source of solace and hope matters more in a crisis. I don't find myself thinking about spirituality in those terms, however. Like a winter coat that's put away in spring, for many people spirituality, in the sense of going to church or praying to God, gets put away when the crisis has passed.

Crises by their nature, come and go, but the deeper need for spirituality remains. This need is rooted deeper than solace and hope. It's the need for wisdom.  Wisdom is a word that's open to cheap shots and automatic dismissal. It's even alien to the kind of spirituality that's about issues like self-esteem and love. Wisdom is much less personal and mysterious. It gets at the heart of why we exist and what our purpose is. Wisdom gives you a vision of possibilities that are found in consciousness, bridging all ages and circumstances.  It gets at the heart of reality. Ultimately the search for reality is what binds a loose coalition of people who want to reach beyond organized religion and its perceived drawbacks.

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January 20, 2015
Wilamina Falkenhagen for the Huffington Post
What does spirituality mean to you? Would you say you are a spiritual person?

We all need something to believe in, and for some, traditional religion as a basis of spirituality has lost its way. People are looking to other areas for their faith so what is modern day spirituality? What is it that we believe in, that governs how we live our lives?

Sport is a huge one. People live and breathe their sport. When the team wins, life is good; when the team does badly, life is bad. Wrongly or rightly players are Gods and people worship them.

Mother Nature is another one. People love and feel connected with Mother Nature and use her setting as an alter of sorts.

Spirituality at times has had hippy or religious connotations however in the 21st century, spirituality and a spiritual practice can take on any number of forms.

One thing that has not changed over the centuries though, is that spirituality is a highly personal topic. Think about how you respond when someone asks you, "Are you spiritual?" or "What are your spiritual beliefs?"

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December 30, 2014
NBC News
NIGHTLY NEWS
Students at four schools in a poor San Francisco neighborhood meditate twice a day during "quiet time," and the results have been remarkable.


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December 23, 2014
New York Times - David Brooks

With Hanukkah coming to an end, Christmas days away, and people taking time off work, we are in a season of quickened faith. When you watch people exercise that faith, whether lighting candles or attending Midnight Mass, the first thing you see is how surprising it is. You’d think faith would be a simple holding of belief, or a confidence in things unseen, but, in real life, faith is unpredictable and ever-changing.

It begins, for many people, with an elusive experience of wonder and mystery.

The best modern book on belief is “My Bright Abyss” by my Yale colleague, Christian Wiman. In it, he writes, “When I hear people say they have no religious impulse whatsoever ... I always want to respond: Really? You have never felt overwhelmed by, and in some way inadequate to, an experience in your life, have never felt something in yourself staking a claim beyond yourself, some wordless mystery straining through word to reach you? Never?”

Most believers seem to have had these magical moments of wonder and clearest consciousness, which suggested a dimension of existence beyond the everyday. Maybe it happened during childbirth, with music, in nature, in love or pain, or during a moment of overwhelming gratitude and exaltation.

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October 28, 2014
New York Times - Konika Banerjee and Paul Bloom

On April 15, 2013, James Costello was cheering on a friend near the finish line at the Boston Marathon when the bombs exploded, severely burning his arms and legs and sending shrapnel into his flesh. During the months of surgery and rehabilitation that followed, Mr. Costello developed a relationship with one of his nurses, Krista D’Agostino, and they soon became engaged. Mr. Costello posted a picture of the ring on Facebook. “I now realize why I was involved in the tragedy,” he wrote. “It was to meet my best friend, and the love of my life.”

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June 26, 2012
Huffington Post - Philip Goldberg

I recently came across an essay by journalist Eric Weiner, the author of "Man Seeks God: My Flirtations with the Divine," in which he says, "We need a Steve Jobs of religion." In the piece, published last December in the New York Times, Weiner says we need "[s]omeone (or ones) who can invent not a new religion but, rather, a new way of being religious. Like Mr. Jobs's creations, this new way would be straightforward and unencumbered and absolutely intuitive. Most important, it would be highly interactive. I imagine a religious space that celebrates doubt, encourages experimentation and allows one to utter the word God without embarrassment."

It is an excellent idea, but my message to Eric Weiner is: We already have a "new way of being religious" and we don't need a Steve Jobs to invent it. It's been evolving for quite some time now.

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