Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Gift of Grief

by Rev. Ruth Barnhart

As a minister, one of my greatest honors is to be able to sit with people in their times of grief. I know of no other time that opens individual’s and families’ hearts to healing and authentic connection than in times of grieving, before or after a transition, or from any other sense of deep loss. Grief can occur when we lose anything of value to us, even dreams and younger images of ourselves.

 “It is human to grieve…” says Ernest Holmes. He goes on to say that though we miss our loved ones, a true sense of the continuity of life will rob our grief of hopelessness. But for me, before I offer the consolation of hope in spiritual truths, I encourage people to linger, to really feel the tenderness and love of their hearts. Just as it is natural to grieve, it is natural that we have grief in our lives. Our times of grief seem to offer, in our vulnerability, an opportunity to come home to ourselves in a new and clearer way. And further still, our tender hearts allow for the possibility to experience the sweet embrace of Life or Spirit, closer than we may have known before. It is one thing to know the Divine lives with us in our happy times, but to experience this when our hearts and lives feel broken, is to find a strength and assuredness beyond compare. It is not so much that the Divine is closer to us in our pain, but more that our barriers and distractions are stripped away, and we become more available in our hearts. This, in turn, deepens our faith, that we may go forward into our ongoing lives with a greater certainty. To know that God’s goodness lives in all our experiences is to be set free to live more fully, in the recognition of the preciousness of life in each moment. Recently, in a session with a grieving widow, at the end of our time, the woman told me that she was aware that the time spent with her husband, while he was sick and moving toward his death, was the best and most intimate time they had. This speaks volumes about the gift that can be found in grief.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Book Review: Runaway Realization

by A. H. Almaas

"The entirety of all and everything is practicing as the individual is practicing.” So A. H. Almaas begins his deep exploration of the nature of being in his book, Runaway Realization, Living a Life of Ceaseless Discovery.

His approach takes the very essence of our teaching, there is only One, present in its infinite nature everywhere, and presses us to really investigate what this means. Who are we as human expressions in this oneness?

Almaas starts with exploring what practice is, opening up the understanding of realization/enlightenment as an ongoing, ever expanding experience, as opposed to a final destination. He then brings in the idea that it is the Realized Mind, the One Consciousness that is doing the work through us. This I think of as the “Good News” of our teaching.  I find his writing presses me to look deeper and deeper still into my understanding and experience of consciousness, and how to see beyond all that I may have ever known, and then to keep letting go into more.  He describes our walk of life as both a dual nature as individuals and as the undivided oneness of all, simultaneously unfolding. 

Not a quick or easy read, Runaway Realization takes us on an inner journey, not only of the head, but in our actual reaching to a greater experience of the wholeness of life. Almaas’ book has softened and melted some of the edges that seem to separate me from aspects of myself, others and life itself. Oneness and consciousness are not small concepts. Take the dive.

Review by Rev. Ruth Barnhart, a staff minister at Center for Spiritual Living, Santa Rosa.

Runaway Realization is available from Stepping Stones Books and Gifts.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Global Village Imports

Stepping Stones Books and Gifts offers an assortment of gift items from many countries. We have about 250 vendors from which we purchase products for the store. One of the vendors, Global Village Imports, is located in Sebastopol, California. We like to support this company for a number of reasons. They are local, their products are exquisite, and they purchase items from small family businesses.
The sarongs are imported from Bali. Most of the designs are created by batik, applying wax to the fabric which resists the dye. The dye is then removed to reveal the beautiful designs and colors. The sarongs can be worn in a variety of ways. Wrap as a skirt, top, headpiece, scarf, or shawl. They are not only the perfect beach wrap but they can also be used as tablecloths, wall hangings, or altar cloths.

The passport and shoulder bags are imported from Guatemala. The fabric and colors brightly represent the Guatemalan culture.

The statues and wall hangings are imported from Bali. The statues are hand carved and sold in the market stalls and the proceeds support the family business. These are some of the most elegant statues I have seen.

Stop in and have a look, I think you will be glad you did.

Martha Salazar

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