Monday, July 24, 2017

Quote from The Whisper

The Whisper

by Pamela Zagarenski, author and illustrator

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, New York     © 2015   40 pp.

"There once was a little girl who loved stories. She loved how the words and pictures took her to new and secret places that existed in a world all her own. The characters became her friends, and quite often she grew to love them.

'What's that book?' she asked her teacher.

'That is a magical book of stories,' replied her teacher. 'It was a gift from my grandmother when I was just about your age. I have an idea. Would you like to borrow it for the night?'

'Oh yes, please! Thank you' said the little girl, just as the clock struck three."

Thank you to Sharry and Wesley L. for this lovely gift.

-- submitted by Jennifer Knight

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Friday, July 21, 2017

Passing of dharma & yoga teacher Michael Stone

A CSS library volunteer (Sally) and a local yoga group introduced me to the works of Michael Stone, and we've been adding them to the CSS Library ever since.

At twenty, after the death of a beloved uncle, he spent a year in the woods learning to meditate and reading Carl Jung.  Later while studying psychology at the University of Toronto, he started studying Zen Buddhism, vipassana meditation, and yoga. Since that time he started teaching, became an activist, founded a community, became a father, and wrote, edited or contributed to five books.

On July 13th of this year at 42 years old, the psychotherapist, yoga and dharma teacher, Michael Stone, left home for a run to town and never returned.  His wife received a call late in the day that he had been found, was in a coma, and no one knew what happened to him. Surrounded by family, he was released from life support on July 16th.

Saddened, it reminds me of the preciousness of our teachers, community and the world, as well as the fleetingness of our own lives.  Here are two quotes from Michael's book, The Inner Tradition of Yoga.

The Inner Tradition of Yoga: A Guide to Yoga Philosophy for the Contemporary Practitioner

by Michael Stone (1974 to July 16, 2017)

Shambhala Publications, Boston, Massachusetts & London, England    © 2008     234 pp.

1.  Yidya: Seeing Things as They Are
"Yoga begins in the present moment, and the present moment begins in silence. For that silence, words are born. In the Yoga-Sutra attributed to Patanjali (third century B.C.E.), considered to be one of the core texts of yoga psychology, we begin with a simple sentence: 'Atha yoganusasanam.' This is translated as 'in the present moment is the teaching of yoga.'

The Yoga-Sutra is not a speculative text on philosophy or metaphysics, nor does it offer us a theology of creation or a final comment on what's in store for us after death. Creation and death coexist in sequence with the arising and passing away of each moment. Every inhalation is a birth and the end of every exhalation is a small death. In each consecutive movement, over and over again, the universe arises and passes away on the thread of a breath cycle."  (p. 7)

2.  Yoga, Death, and Dying: What is Most Astounding?
"In the epic Indian story called the Mahabharata, the sage Yuddhisthira is asked, 'Of all things in life, what is the most astounding?'  Yuddhisthira responds, 'That a person, seeing others die all around him, never thinks that he will die.'

One of the deepest pains of being human is the realization that every aspect of life is undergoing constant change and that everything once born is then subject to decay and death . . . To be accepting of aging and dying brings us face-to-face with our ongoing and unconscious repression of the awareness of death and dying." (p. 189)

-- submitted by Jennifer Knight

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Quote from Davening

Davening: A Guide to Meaningful Jewish Prayer

by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi with Joel Segel

Jewish Lights Publishing, Woodstock, Vermont      © 2012      218 pp.

A story is told about a certain Rabbi Shimon, who comes to Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachman with a question. "I have heard that you are a great master of aggadah," he begins.

Aggadah is not an easy word to translate. Sometimes aggadah simply means storytelling. More broadly, it can refer to any form of Rabbinic discussion that is outside the subject of halakhah, Jewish law. It tells us that whatever troubles Rabbi Shimon, it is not something about which he expects a "straight" answer.  He comes seeking a different level of discourse: not peshat, the simple meaning of the text, but something deeper.  He is looking for meanings that are encoded, hinted at.  Secret.

Then Rabbi Shimon asks his question: "From what was the light of the First Day created?"

Other rabbis have wondered about the light of the First Day.  God said, "Let there be light, and there was light." (Genesis 1:3). But the sun, the moon, the stars--the me-orot or luminous bodies--were not created until the Fourth Day. Where then did the light of the First Day come from? This is what Rabbi Shimon is asking.

Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachman was indeed a master of aggadah, a teacher to whom the Rabbis turn again and again, in dozens of passages throughout the midrashic sources, to explain passages of Torah. To answer Rabbi Shimon, the midrash tells us, he lowers his voice to a whisper. "It teaches us," Rabbi Shmuel whispers, "that the Holy One, blessed be God, wrapped himself in it like a garment--and the luster of God's divine majesty illuminated the entire universe, from one end to the other!"

If a mysterious, and many-layered answer was what Rabbi Shimon was looking for, he had come to the right person. At first glance, Rabbi Shmuel does not even appear to answer the question; he merely reflects it back in different language. What does his answer mean? Where exactly did this light come from? And what does the image of God enrobing Godself with a garment come to teach us?

With aggadah we have no choice: we have to slow down. We have to "turn it and turn it," as the Rabbis say, meditating on the meanings that emerge. (pp. 1-2)

-- submitted by Jennifer Knight

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Man of Peace (illustrations)

Man of Peace: The Illustrated Life Story of the Dalai Lama of Tibet

written by William Meyer, Robert Thurman, Michael Burbank

artwork by Alex Gray (cover illustrator) Steve Bucellato (illustrator), Donald Hudson (pencilist), Kinsun Loh, Miranda Meeks and Andrey Pervukhin (colorists)

Tibet House, New York, New York       ©  2016      289 pp.

Stunning new graphic biography of H.H. the Dalai Lama.  Thank you Christin M. for this beautiful gift.

-- submitted by Jennifer Knight

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Saturday, July 8, 2017

Quote from The Hallowed Horse

The Hallowed Horse:  A Folktale from India

adapted and illustrated by Demi

Dodd Mead, New York, New York        © 1987      32 pp.

One of my favorite things about Demi is her ability to shift from culture to culture and the illustrations always have the feel of the culture the story comes from. The Hallowed Horse is from an Indian folktale, and it begins thus:

"A long time ago in India, there was a young king who had elephants and peacocks, white tigers and black lions, rubies and diamonds. But he did not have a Hallowed Horse.And what, you may ask, is a Hallowed Horse? A rare treasure indeed! He has been endowed by the angels above with wisdom and courage, majesty and victory; and he will give these qualities to his rider. His beautiful white coat is as smooth as moonstone, his mane flashes like a breaking wave, from his feet dance plums of fire, and his voice resounds like a trumpet of gold.

The king announced that he would give a mountain of rubies to whomever could find such a horse. For he knew that only a Hallowed Horse could protect his kingdom from Kaliya, the Multi-Headed Snake--the most dreadful and hated creature of all."

And what, you may ask, happens next? Come to the library to find out!

Thank you to Kathy H. for another wonderful book by Demi.

-- submitted by Jennifer Knight

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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Hidden Journey

Hidden Journey: A Spiritual Awakening

by Andrew Harvey

Penguin Books, New York, New York       © 1991     272 pp.

The Divine Mother is one of the forms in which people experience/believe in God/dess. She has been presented in cultures throughout recorded history. Andrew Harvey is a contemporary scholar and mystic who has found a special focus with Divine Mother in his life and written both personal and scholarly narratives on Her. This book comes out of his very personal, direct experience with Mother Meera, a young Indian woman who was believed by many to be the embodiment of the Divine Mother. Describing his time with her as his guru, this account details his struggles, illuminations, ecstasies, and down-to-earth routines experienced through her training. It illustrates the heights and depths one can attain on the spiritual path and still survive intact. Not many years following the timeframe of this book, he split from Mother Meera and denounced her, showing that the ego can survive nearly anything.

-- reviewed by Dawn Kurzka

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Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Practice of the Presence of God

The Practice of the Presence of God 

by Brother Lawrence

Spire Books, Old Tappan, New Jersey   © 1958   63 pp.

First written down and compiled in 1666, this tiny volume of 63 pages recounts Brother Lawrence’s simple approach to remaining continually in God’s presence. His is a self-effacing, if not self-negating, attitude. It expresses a selflessness created by God, as God fills this humble and empty self with his love and grace: “…when I fail in my duty, I readily acknowledge it, saying, I am used to do so: I shall never do otherwise if I am left to myself. If I fail not, then I give God thanks, acknowledging that the strength comes from Him.” (p.19)

This book is a classic must-read for those who recognize the devotional aspect of their path. Readers who can see past Brother Lawrence’s somewhat ornate sentences will find a gem of the devotional life, the same message of humble love
shining from many facets.

-- reviewed by Wesley Lachman

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