Posted on November 5, 2013
So on the weekend, I completed this wonderful 3 day workshop with Stanford University teachers Margaret Cullen and Erika Rosenberg in Compassion Cultivation Training, a Wake Up Project.
It sparked so much wide-eyed fascination and joy and … well … a sorta renewed general love for the universe in me, I felt a desire to share some ideas on what I learned. It’s all still pinging willy nilly within the walls of my brain in intellectual terms, and bursting my heart with a feeling of excitement! I may be able to share the content a little later. But I’ve been looking around at related material and thought I’d share some cool stuff that I came across with you guys. I found this interview (see the bottom of this page) … something really worth taking the time to read.
The teachers from Stanford used many lovely references and quotes, including something from my favourite Irish spiritual writer, scholar, philosopher and poet – John O’Donohue who might be the most eloquent communicator of all things spiritual and human. And that got me wanting to share some his love on Lilapud!
His words alone, get the ol’ eyes hot and watery, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone there! It seems they could be carved out a beautiful wood, and placed into formation … a structure that is both beautiful to have around you, but also necessary to have around you. Practical and knowing. New, yet familiar. Guiding and comforting. The high artfulness of his beautiful imagery, is so rich in texture, so lyrical, it’s like some form of recognisable and hauntingly beautiful music.
I am lucky to have been raised by a mother and father both of whom have a deep connection to, and respect for their spirituality, and for compassion. I think it’s been well instilled in me, my sister and brother too. As I’m writing I’m realizing and acknowledging why, perhaps, O’Donohue’s message is familiar … that yes, it’s embedded in my heritage, my ancestors, it’s in my very cells, this familiarity to these concepts. It is a gift I will forever cherish, perhaps often take for granted, but is definitely strongly linked to the source of my happiness and contentment in life. I am lucky. Thank you family!
WHAT HE WRITES ABOUT IS SO PROFOUND, IT IS NECESSARY.
His subject matter is like some kind of manual on how to be the best human you can be. Perhaps the most rewarding and fulfilling thing to try and be ‘the best’ at?! So RTFM people!
While we may all be different and unique, while we may constantly look to find things that separate ourselves from each other, while we may spend our lives professing our differences from each other, classifying ourselves, etching out our individuality – which is very important, I feel it is equally as important not to forget that one thing that ties us together – WE ARE ALL HUMAN. The human experience is what we all share. So why not get good at it?!
I think reading this kind of well-crafted work is an excellent way to get better at being human!
The layers of truth and wisdom in his writing, are the kind that shine on some dulled light within you. What IS that? It’s like his words have seen or recognised or reflected something in you, that perhaps you never even knew was there before. But now you do and it’s sorta scary. You can’t ‘un-see’ what you’ve seen. You’ve got to carry on with the responsibility of holding this knowledge. And not just conceptually, like in the cartoon above! I’m sure you’ll agree it’s sometimes harder to have compassion for those closest to us than say just as an example, for the starving people in Africa. The work that goes with the sparkly-ness, yet weight of this knowledge is what’s scary! THE WORK!
His words are arresting to me, but not in an alarmist way. In a way that’s like they put me on the “gentle” cycle of the washing machine with some gorgeously scented soap, and they toss me around languidly, delicately, in a water that is soft, not too hot, not too cold, and I can look out through the glass circle and see things from new angles because of this gentle tossing, and I like it, I question it, I remember it, and then I come out all shiny, renewed and not just clean, but CLEAR and ready to be worn again, my senses alert and ready to absorb the goodness in life!
In a way that makes me sit up and pay attention, the work of John O’Donohue brings an awakening of my spirit, an acknowledgement of something greater in me, that IS me, something more than just the everyday rituals and external façade that is life as we know it. It’s almost frightening. Almost. But instead it’s mind-blowing. I feel an expansion and a heat from the top of my stomach up to my collar bones! A tingling sensation on my skin.
It is the feeling that tells me I’m ready, I am here to do the work.
So anyway! I found this lovely interview on a website called Personal Transformation and thought I’d share it with you.
The Presence of Compassion
An Interview with John O’Donohue
By Mary NurrieStearns
For three months, John O’Donohue’s book, “Eternal Echoes” rotated from the left to the right side of my computer. Each time my hand moved it, I stopped to read a few paragraphs, a few pages. Reading his words, I felt as though I was being embraced by a kind presence. Somehow, I felt seen, made visible, by the touch of compassion.
Compassion can be transmitted through many forms of words and actions. We recognize its energy when we feel that certain swelling in our hearts, for it is the heart that senses compassion. When compassion touches us we feel seen for who we truly are—as more than our troubles, our needs.
You will feel the presence of compassion as you read the interview with John O’Donohue. O’Donohue is a poet, scholar, and author of the award-winning and bestselling books “Anam Cara” and “Eternal Echoes.” He lives in the west of Ireland, which is where he was the day we talked on the phone.
Personal Transformation: Let’s begin with a general discussion of compassion in order to deepen our understanding of its nature.
John O’Donohue: Compassion distinguishes human presence from all other presence on the earth. The human mind is one of the most gracious gifts of creation. The human mind is the place where nature gathers at its most intense and at its most intimate. The human being is an in-between presence, belonging neither fully to the earth from which she has come, nor to the heavens toward which her mind and spirit aim. In a sense, the human being is the loneliest creature in creation. Paradoxically, the human being also has the greatest possibility for intimacy. I link compassion immediately with intimacy. Compassion is the ability to vitally imagine what it is like to be an other, the force that makes a bridge from the island of one individuality to the island of the other. It is an ability to step outside your own perspective, limitations and ego, and become attentive in a vulnerable, encouraging, critical, and creative way with the hidden world of another person.
Compassion is an ability to feel pity for an other. One of the greatest problems in post-modern culture is the problem of otherness, because many of the forces, like electronic media, commerce, economics, and the ideology of rush and speed that we adhere to leave us few possibilities to really engage the difference that we are and that each other is. Compassion is the ability to enter into a world that may be totally different from you, in an imaginative way, naturally, and feel what the others feel. It is related directly to justice. A lot of evil happens because of ignorance and of numbness, and compassion is one of the forces that invites and permits us to step outside our own complacency and see what life beyond our own skin is like.
Within the word compassion is passion. There is an intrinsic connection between passion and compassion. Someone who feels no passion is in pain, a pain that is always a lonesome pain. One of the loneliest things is to encounter somebody whose longing has been numbed. Her personality becomes a mere contour of externality around vacancy. Those who are compassionate are people whose passion and imagination are fully alive and vital.
Transformation: Is compassion innate to our nature, something to be released, or is compassion something to be developed?
O’Donohue: It’s a bit of both. Compassion is somehow innate to our nature. We have a natural attraction toward the other, a fascination with the other, and are deeply touched when we see the other person in pain. It is natural in those ways, and it is easy to awaken, intensify, and extend. Compassion needs development. If a child is raised in a context where he is taught blame and hate, it is probable that his compassion will be damaged. It is interesting, in psychological terms, to look at the narratives of those who have done awful things in the world. Often, the root of the evil in perpetrators is found in an incredible numbing that happened at a time when they were most vulnerable. Great pain sometimes numbs the soul and quenches the potential for compassion.
Transformation: Is there an innate relationship between our yearning to belong and compassion?
O’Donohue: I think there is. The creator of the universe loves circles: time and space are circles, the day is a circle, the year is a circle, the earth is a circle. But when creating and fashioning the human heart, the creator only created a half-circle, so that there is something ontologically unfinished in human nature. That is why you can’t enter your own life or inhabit your full presence without a vital and real relationship with some other person. Your awakening and the fulfillment of your identity requires that you belong together with others. The need to belong to yourself, the deepest need of all, can only be fulfilled through the beautiful force-field of friendship. Our hunger to belong is actually an expression of our compassion for ourselves and our passion for the other.
Transformation: Are you saying that the basis for compassion with oneself is the yearning for the other?
O’Donohue: Yes, that’s not an absolute claim but it is a huge proportion of the force field. The beautiful irony is that even though we’re housed in separate bodies there is a profound hidden tissue of absolute connection between us. The Celtic tradition sensed that no one lives for herself alone. Your call to discover who you are and to bring your soul into birth is also a great act of creativity toward everyone else.
Transformation: What other understandings about compassion have you extrapolated from Celtic thought?
O’Donohue: Celtic thought contributes magnificently to a philosophy of compassion, deriving from its sense that everything belongs in one diverse, living unity. On an ontological level, the exercise of compassion is the transfiguration of dualism: the separation of matter and spirit, masculine and feminine, body and soul, human and divine, person and animal, and person and element. The beauty of the Celtic tradition was that it managed to think and articulate all of these presences together in a profound, intimate unity. So, if compassion is a praxis which tries to bring that unity into explicit activity and presentation, then Celtic philosophy of unity contributes strongly to compassion. The Celtic sense of no separating border between nature and humans allows us to have compassion with animals and with places in nature. For the Celts, nature wasn’t a huge expanse of endless matter. Nature was an incredibly elemental and passionately individual presence, and that is why many gods and spirits are actually tied into very explicit places, and to the memory and history and narrative of the places.
Transformation: Let’s look at a narrow component of this philosophy. What do animals have to teach us about compassion?
O’Donohue: The predominant silence in which the animal world lives is very touching. As children on the farm, we were taught to respect animals. We were told that the dumb animals are blessed. They cannot say what they are feeling and we should have great compassion for them. They were tended to and looked after and people became upset if something happened to them. There was a great sense of solidarity between us and our older brothers and sisters, the animals. One of the tragedies in Western religion is the way that we have been so elitist in reserving the spiritual exclusively for the human. That is an awful, barbaric crime. When you subtract the notion of self from a presence, you objectify it and then that presence can be used and abused. It is a sin and blasphemy to say that animals have no spirits and souls. One of the cornerstones of contemplative life is going below the surface of the external and the negativity. The contemplative attends to the roots of wrong and violence. Because the animals live essentially what I call the contemplative life, maybe the most sacred prayer of the world actually happens within animal consciousness. Secondly, sometimes when you look into an animal’s eyes, you see incredible pain. I think there are levels of suffering for which humans are not refined enough, and maybe our older, ancient brothers and sisters, the animals, carry some of that for us.
Transformation: Let’s move to the presence of compassion. How do we recognize it?
O’Donohue: We recognize compassion in the willingness of someone to imagine himself into the life of another person. We recognize its presence in the withholding of huge negative moralistic judgment. We see compassion in the expression of mercy, in the refusal to label someone with a short-circuiting terminology that condemns her, even though her actions may be awkward. We see compassion in an openness to the greater mystery of the other person. The present situation, deed or misdeed is not the full story of the individual, there is a greater presence behind the deed or the person than society usually acknowledges. Above all, we see the presence of compassion as the vulnerability to be disturbed about awful things that are going on.
Transformation: What is the relationship between absence and compassion?
O’Donohue: Absence and presence are sisters. The opposite of presence is not absence, the opposite of presence is vacancy. Vacancy is a void, a space which is hungrily empty, whereas absence is a space of spatial emptiness, but there is a trail of connection toward the departed one, the lost one, the absent one. To feel absence is to feel connection with the one who has gone. There is still a huge affective involvement with the person. In exploring compassion and vacancy, vacancy is a sinister pain, because of its hunger, its emptiness. A form of vacancy that is prevalent in post-modern culture is indifference, the inability to imagine or show compassion to others who are in trouble. Absence is different. The feeling of absence can create an incredible feeling of compassion.
Transformation: In “Eternal Echoes,” you refer to “the sanctuary of human presence.” What does this phrase suggest?
O’Donohue: The visible presence of the body is the sign of the invisible presence of the eternal, the divine. One of the fascinating tasks in every human life is to engage and experience oneself as a unity. The idea of the sanctuary of the human presence implies a lovely lyrical unity in the human person. When you stand in front of another human being, you stand before the presence of an unknown and infinite world of love, belonging, imagination, and ambivalence, negativity, darkness, and struggle. It is sad, in post-modern culture, that human presence is diminished, rendered vacant, and not acknowledged for the wild divinity that it is.
Transformation: The sanctuary of human presence is the basis of anam cara friendship, or soul friends. Does that kind of friendship bring forth compassion?
O’Donohue: The Celtic tradition was very complex. It was a vigorous warrior type tradition, yet within it was this poignant icon of the anam cara, the notion of soul friendship. Anam is the word for soul, and cara is the word for friend. When you had an anam cara friend, it was as if you were joined in an eternal way with a friend of your soul, in some incredible recognition of the sublime affinity between the two. Originally, the myth was that each human was two in one, but they were split and separated, consequently they spent most of their lives searching for their other half. In the Celtic idea of the anam cara, the anam cara is the other half that you have been missing. In coming into the gift and grace of friendship, you enter into your own fullest completion. You are also being gifted with a dimension of your soul that was hungry and lost and is now found. That kind of attraction, passion, affinity and belonging is a profound experience of birthing one’s own identity. The human body is born in miniature form, but completely there. I believe that the human heart is never fully born, and all our lives, we bring new kingdoms to birth in the hidden world of the heart. Maybe death is that moment you are fully born and you are received into another world where the laws of separation and dualism no longer operate. Unless you experience friendship, affinity, and belonging, it is very difficult to feel compassion. Therefore, friendship, especially the Celtic idea of friendship, is a profound, nurturing ground for extensive and intensive compassion.
Transformation: Talk about human vulnerability and compassion.
O’Donohue: One of the most vulnerable living forms in creation is human. Around the human body, where we live, there is emptiness. There is no big protective frame, so anything can come at you from outside at any time. At this moment, there are people in a doctor’s office getting news that will change their lives forever. They will remember this day as the day their life broke in two. There are people having accidents that they never foresaw. There are safe, complacent people whose lives are managed under the dead manacle of control falling off a cliff into love and into the excitement and danger of a new relationship. In life, anything can come along the pathway to the house of your soul, the house of your body, to transfigure you. We’re vulnerable externally to destiny, but we’re also vulnerable internally, within ourselves. Things can come awake within your mind and heart that cause you immense days and nights of pain, a sense of being lost, of having no meaning, no worth; a kind of acidic negativity can knock down everything that you achieve in yourself, giving your world a sense of being damaged.
Another way to approach this is to look at the huge difference between sincerity and authenticity. Sincerity, while it’s lovely, is necessary but insufficient, because you can be sincere with just one zone of your heart awakened. When many zones of the heart are awakened and harmonized we can speak of authenticity, which is a broader and more complex notion. It takes great courage and grace to feel the call to awaken, and it takes greater courage and more grace still to actually submit to the call, to risk yourself into these interior spaces where there is very often little protection. It takes a great person to creatively inhabit her own mind and not turn her mind into a destructive force that can ransack her life. You need compassion for yourself, particularly in American society, because many people in America identify themselves through the models and modules of psychology that inevitably categorize them as a syndrome. Lovely people feel that their real identity is working on themselves, and some work on themselves with such harshness. Like a demented gardener who won’t let the soil settle for anything to grow, they keep raking, tearing away the nurturing clay from their own heart, then they’re surprised that they feel so empty and vacant. Self-compassion is paramount. When you are compassionate with yourself, you trust in your soul, which you let guide your life. Your soul knows the geography of your destiny better than you do.
Transformation: A sister to vulnerability is suffering. Earlier you talked about how immense suffering can numb us. How does suffering both numb and teach?
O’Donohue: Yeats said, “Too much pain can make a stone of the heart.” We’re only able for so much. The real heroes in human life are the mainly silent, unnoticed ones who draw no attention to themselves but through their daily acts of love and gentleness and compassion keep the tissue of humane presence alive and vital. Some people are called to awful suffering. Down the road from you, in South America, a woman is searching through a bin for crumbs for her starving children, whom she loves just as much as we love our own children. I am often disturbed that she is there, near starvation, and we can talk about something that we love in the comfort of our homes. I don’t know the answer to that, but I do feel that the duty of privilege is absolute integrity. The suffering of the world is not relieved because of our inability to realize how privileged we are, because of our blindness to our duty to help others. I also don’t understand why innocent ones are called to carry awful cargoes of pain at their most vulnerable time. There is no doubt that pain damages. Often, the most beautiful people are those who have been badly broken, who have accessed a place of grace and light and healing. They come back, cohered together beautifully. There is also suffering which numbs you, deadens you. Out of dead vacancy, great darkness and sinister negativity can arise. Therein is the need for prayer, forgiveness, and mercy, which are sublime presences beyond human achievement that visit and mend us.
One of the best teachers in the world is suffering. Sometimes we suffer because we are reneging on our own growth and suffering comes along to unsettle, disturb, and break up some of the false constellations in which we have become atrophied. You may be atrophied in a position you don’t even know you’re in. Unknown to you, a shell grew around you and your life, rather than being a vital presence, was becoming a mere echo. Nothing breaks that shell like suffering. Suffering teaches you what you don’t want to learn, bringing you the gift that you can only receive through suffering.
Transformation: Discuss the growth of integrity and compassion.
O’Donohue: Human identity is about individuality. One of the greatest duties we have in the world is to become the individual we were called to be, to inhabit the destiny which we were prepared to follow from ancient times. Individuation is a call to holistic identity, to the fullness of identity, and it is a complex journey. The awakened life is the true life. I have been around death a lot and have noticed that people who have been faithful to the call of their own complexity and identity feel that they have attempted to realize what life calls them to. To renege on that is to settle for a life in a little ledge somewhere in your destiny and not to go out onto the ocean of the full voyage. That is where integrity comes in. There is a connection between integrity and integration. An awakened life has diversity and harmony within itself, and is a life which is integrated. Whatever is integrated means that the parts are in communication with each other. In the world, you find that destructive actions, which damage, come from energies which have broken off and set themselves up as a whole when they are incomplete, just a part. Integrity is the praxis of creation and compassionate being derives from integrated presence.
Transformation: Where does desire fit into compassion?
O’Donohue: The heart is a theater of desire, of different longings. Desire is the call of fulfillment. One of the etymological origins of desire means being away from one’s star. In a sense, the call of desire is the call to come home. You can talk all you like about the spiritual life. Very often, the more talk there is about it, the less presence of it is actually around. One of the tests of spiritual integrity is whether a person is at home in his own life. That makes for poise. You can trust somebody who has poise and balance in his own spirit, because he is in unity and he is in rhythm, and you can always trust what is in rhythm. Distrust and fear are usually caused by an absence of rhythm and the unpredictability of the threat of destruction that it brings. In a deep, deep way, being at home in your own nature makes for a real sense of belonging. We always imagine that our desire is a call outward, toward something outside. In many instances, it can be, but in its fundamental intention, desire is the call to come home and to discover that which is sought outside is actually hidden under the heart in the home of your own soul.
Transformation: Coming home into your own soul gives presence to human life. What is the difference between being present and presence?
O’Donohue: Objectively, everything that is here now is present. The stones outside this house in Conamara are present, the mountains over the road, the lake outside my house, they are all present. The neighbors at the houses in the village are present in the world. But the fullness of human presence is an awakened and focused presence toward a receiver, a listener, or a hearer. Being present is what we spiritually yearn to be. To be present is to inhabit your own presence with clarity and luminosity. One of the most awful things in modern life is the consistent and insidious diminishment of presence in life. You see it in the corporate world, in relationships, at home, in families. I like to pose a simple question, one that quickly tells what is going on in your life. Ask yourself: to whom can I be truly present, where can I be truly present, in what context is my presence diminished, not desired, or felt? The spiritual hunger so prevalent in our times is a hunger for true presence. There is something ultimately divine in presence. Presence is what life is about. When we come into real presence, the eternal becomes fully active in us and around us. In other words, when we hit real presence we break into eternity.
Transformation: Let’s close with a discussion about Celtic prayer and how prayer can help us develop compassion.
O’Donohue: In Celtic tradition, time had a secret structure and events had their own sacredness. The Celtic mind practised what I call reverence of approach to experience. Experience was a profound threshold of creativity and transformation. Anything and everything that happens in experience unfolds, expresses, and embodies your identity. The Celtics had blessings for starting off the day, blessings for encounters, blessings for work, blessings for eating and for cooking. The last blessing at night was a blessing for the soaring of the fire. In the Celtic tradition, most of the wisdom was handed on around the fire, which was a lovely image of the heart and warmth. The coals of one night’s fire would be the seed for the fire of the next day. The Celtics had this intimate and almost domestic sense of divine shelter and divine activity in the world. When you approach life like that, you are acutely aware of your own gift in the world. When you are aware of your gift, you are aware that your purpose is somehow tied into the deepest hunger and the deepest call of the world.
Additionally, prayer takes you into another kind of space. It takes you into that oblique interim place where the connections between things are born and where there is secretness together, where secret togetherness becomes active. Therefore, prayer is not about anything specific. Meister Eckhart said there is a place in the soul that neither time nor space nor no created thing can touch. The intentionality of prayer is to take us as frequently as possible into that serenity and tranquility and purity of space where we can heal and renew. The insight of prayer means that you are not identical to your biography, you are not just a psychological matrix. There is a place in you which is beyond psychology, and that is the eternal place within you. The more we visit there, the more we are touched and fused with the limitless kindness and affection of the divine. The ultimate goal of prayer is to learn to behold yourself with the same gentleness, pride, expectation, and compassion with which the divine presence beholds you at every moment. If we can inhabit that reflex of divine presence, then compassion will flow naturally from us.
I hope you enjoy this interview, and may you continue to enjoy it as much as I do. Everything he says in this interview is recognisable to me. I am a Celt, I am Irish, I am Australian, I am a Yogini, I was raised a Catholic … all different, separate, individual, and yet all the same at the core. I can read it and understand it from these individual points of view and also from a collective one. Because I am human. I am broad. I am opening. And I care about evolving, acknowledging my frailties and those of others, working towards strengthening mine, and seeing past those of others.
DOES THIS TOUCH A CHORD WITH YOU?
Posted on November 3, 2013
Another one from my weekend course in Compassion Cultivation Training with Stanford University & Wake Up Sydney! This heart-lifting, life-affirming story, will help and inspire you to face your challenges today … and to remember how precious and incredible, the gift of life really is.
Enjoy with a full heart,
Posted on November 3, 2013
Posted on October 30, 2013
This is freaky!! And gorgoeusly touching!
Posted on October 29, 2013
I just bought this album and LOVE it! Thought I’d share the title track with you featuring Anoushka’s sister Norah Jones. Hope you enjoy!
Love Lila xo
Posted on October 10, 2013
“You Are Stardust” begins by introducing the idea that every tiny atom in our bodies came from a star that exploded long before we were born.
From its opening pages, the book suggests that we are intimately connected to the natural world; it compares the way we learn to speak to the way baby birds learn to sing, and the growth of human bodies to the growth of forests.
Award-winning author Elin Kelsey — along with a number of concerned parents and educators around the world — believes children are losing touch with nature.
This innovative picture book aims to reintroduce children to their innate relationship with the world around them by sharing many of the surprising ways that we are all connected to the natural world.
Grounded in current science, this extraordinary picture book provides opportunities for children to use their imaginations and wonder about some big ideas.
Soyeon Kim’s incredible diorama art enhances the poetic text, and her creative process is explored in full on the reverse side of the book’s jacket, which features comments from the artist.
Young readers will want to pour over each page of this book, exploring the detailed artwork and pondering the message of the text, excited to find out just how connected to the Earth they really are.
I have recently added this book to Pure-Li Marketplace.
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I Love Books.
To receive a book as a gift is rarely a disappointment for me!
And it is often my choice of gift to share with someone else.
I’m particularly fond of giving books to children as gifts … here are just a few of my reasons:
1. They’re not plastic!
2. A book is a work of art.
3. Books fire the imagination.
4. Books can improve vocabulary, help us communicate more easily, improve conversation, put words on our emotions, and help us connect with and relate to others.
5. Books can bring families/parents & children together for ‘story time’, this creates bonding. They can also bring people of all ages and backgrounds together, finding similarities over the shared love of a particular book.
6. Books provide an escape, a rest, and a pause from the daily grind, and so counteracts stress.
7. Reading creates mental stimulation which is important for the brain in order to keep it fit and working. Studies have shown that staying mentally stimulated can slow the progress of (or possibly even prevent) Alzheimer’s and dementia.
8. Reading can improve analytical and critical thinking (though some of us don’t need any help there!).
9. Books can be shared, recycled and donated. This means books can be FREE!! Free is good!
Need I say more? No. But I will. Just a bit more.
So while its important to move with the times and be a part of this internet-crazed world (hello!), we mustn’t forget to include reading as a hobby.
It’s difficult with distractions such as mobile phones, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and email checking, which have us multi-tasking and screen staring. Perhaps we believe we’re getting more stuff ‘done’, yet we are sort of moving through life in a mindless and distracted way, it still seems we are rushing from one thing to the next, pretty much constantly.
So while we might feel like we are multi-tasking and achieving more, this kind of ADD-like behaviour, is in fact, shortening our concentration span, raising our stress levels and lowering our over-all productivity.
Counteracting that by including a little bit of book reading in our day, can act like a balm, soothing us, focussing our mind, and encouraging a cultivation of absorption in the present moment.
Apparently reading fiction books increases your ability to empathise with others.
Without even reading (the above headlined) scientific research, that statement makes a lot of sense to me. The reader is part of a journey that they choose to undertake (by deciding to read the book), so they are willing and open participants. That’s a good start to absorbing new concepts. Then they are shown the world through the eyes of another – perhaps one person, perhaps more than one, depending on how the book is written. They are brought through the emotions and experiences and view-points of others, helping the reader’s mind to broaden. Seems pretty recognizable, the more I think of it. But I am an empathetic person, so perhaps that’s why it makes sense to me?
On the other hand …
If you asked someone who doesn’t score highly on the ol’ empathy scale (no judgement), and doesn’t/didn’t ever read much fiction, they might just say:
‘People who are empathetic enjoy reading fiction books and/because they are drawn to them …. ‘
Isn’t that an interesting viewpoint and worth taking into account. But I am digressing from a post about Reading Books to one on Is Empathy Inherent?!!!
An article in The Age newspaper, relayed how Melbourne researchers have PROVEN that the more parents read to their children from an early age, the greater the positive effect on their reading and thinking skills.
“The Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research has not only proven a causal effect between the frequency of reading to a child and his or her development, but have also for the first time measured the benefits.
Children four to five years old who are read to three to five times a week have the same reading ability as children six months older (who are read to only twice or less a week).
Reading to children six to seven days a week puts them almost a year ahead of those to whom are not being read. It was also found that reading to small children has a positive effect on the development of numeracy skills.”
I found it interesting also, that the Institute worked with children representing a whole range of families, from all different backgrounds and economic circumstances. They found it doesn’t matter if a child is from a poor or rich family, or if the parents are highly educated or not, their research showed that doing this basic thing of reading to them leads to better developmental outcomes.
Like music, I find comfort in books.
When I am having a bad day, books can lift me out of my slump. And I don’t even have to read one to get the effect!!
The simple fact that there is a reading genre for every person out there, whether you’re an inhaler of tomes, or a slow digester, whether your taste lies in classical literature or self-help guides, there is something to capture everyone’s imagination and curiosity.
Hang on a minute, just think about that. That is just abso-feckin-lutely gobsmacking!
We will never in a lifetime be able to read all the books in the world, we will never run out of something to read, we will always have a book we can fall back on …..YIPEE!!
When I add to that thought, what a rich culture we are and have, just because extraordinary people have sat down and devoted their time/lives to the art of capturing our imaginations, the art and work of writing, I get such a rush … it gives me hope for humanity, and inspiration and an insane amount of gratitude.
It can turn any bad day into a day in which I am grateful to be literate, and alive.
Book Review For You Are Stardust
The Evolution of You Are Stardust
You Are Stardust App available at the iTunes US store
Do You Like Reading And Why?
Feel Free To Share Your Favourite Reads Here!
Doesn’t ‘You Are Stardust’ Look Like A Beautiful Book?
Posted on October 1, 2013
I made this up last week after a period of eating poorly, and feeling like it was time to be nice to myself. Eating too much sugar makes me short-tempered, as well as giving me aches and pains I don’t get when I don’t eat sugar …
It had been a while since I made a sweet cake, and as I tend to buy ingredients in bulk, it was time to get busy in the kitchen, and use some up! Avocado and cacao mousse was swirling in my mind, and so I made:
Chocolate Cherry Superfood Pie.
My first attempt at this delight, and there are a few changes I would offer to you.
FIRSTLY, I used 2 tablespoons of chia, but I suggest you use 3, as it will give the cake a little more firmness, which I feel it needs, apart from upping it’s superfood-ness!
SECONDLY, it doesn’t take long to do, but it’s important to defrost the cherries (or whatever fruit you’re using) in advance. A little forward thinking was required and I was working spontaneously, so I’d thrown them on before thinking! I was by then in full flight and working towards a deadline, so I, perhaps foolishly, didn’t take them off and drain/defrost them.
Basically, the excess water from the frozen fruit will bleed down around the cake, and won’t allow the base and topping to meld together so well, it might mean also the mousse top separates from the base when you slice and plate it. It just doesn’t work as well aesthetically. Taste-wise however, it didn’t make much difference. It may make the crust a bit soggy (in this recipe it didn’t harm the overall effect, but in others it could ruin it). It still tasted gorgeous and didn’t stop me scoffing it down!
I sourced my freeze dried raspberries from a local deli, but they can be tricky to find. If you’re having trouble, I suggest googling it to try and buy some online – you don’t need to worry too much about them taking a few days to arrive, as they are freeze-dried and therefore less perishable.
I popped mine into a zip-lock bag and bashed them with a rolling pin to make the powder dust for topping. Any excess not used, can then be stored for next time in the zip-lock bag.
Alternatively, if you’ve no joy with the freeze-dried stuff, use the real thing! Oooh fresh blueberries would look cool too?!
1 cup of desiccated coconut (preferably with no sulphites/additives)
1 cup of raw unsalted macadamia nuts
1/2 -1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup Medjool dates, washed & pitted (no sulphites or additives is best)
1 tablespoon raw cacao butter, melted
Pinch celtic sea salt
*Optional: If you don’t eat nuts, you could use 2 cups of desiccated coconut instead.
I used a 300g box of fresh frozen cherries with no additives from the supermarket
2 avocadoes (ripe ones but firm green ones work best)
1 ripe sweet banana
3-4 tablespoons of raw organic cacao powder
3 tablespoons of Rice Malt Syrup
10 Drops of liquid Stevia
3 tablespoons of chia seeds sitting in 3/4 tablespoons coconut cream to soak for about 10 mins
1 teaspoon vanilla powder
1/2 – 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Handful of freeze-dried raspberries, crushed to dust
Drain the frozen cherries over a bowl in a sieve until pretty much defrosted and any excess water has dripped off. (You could add the coloured drippings to your smoothie?!). You may like to further drain the cherries on some kitchen paper towel.
To Make The Gluten-Free Crust:
Place your cacao butter in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water on low heat until it’s melted. (Don’t allow the simmering water to touch the bowl).
Wash & pit (if necessary) your dates.
Place the dessicated coconut, cinnamon, macadamia nuts, pitted dates, salt and melted cacao butter to the food processor and process till it just sticks together. (Take care not to over-process when using macadamia nuts – if you do they release all their oil and the texture of the base will be too sticky).
I lightly greased the sides and base of my cake tin with coconut oil.
Press into a 9 inch cake/pie tin, preferably with a removable base/springform pan, pressing down the top to get a smooth finish.
Halve your drained cherries and spread them over the top of your pie base.
Refrigerate whilst you prepare the filling.
Place your banana, avocados, vanilla, cinnamon, coconut cream with chia, cacao, rice malt syrup, and stevia into a food processor and BLEND until smooth.
I would check for taste here – you might want to ADD more cacao, or sweet banana or stevia, depending on how sweet/chocolatey you want it. The avocado provides an unusual tang.
Spread the avocado chocolate mousse over the top and SMOOTH over with a palette knife.
Refrigerate for about an hour until set.
Place your freeze-dried raspberries in a zip-lock bag and LOCK with as little air as possible inside. Then BASH with a rolling pin or chef’s knife handle or something flat and sorta heavy!
Before serving, USE a hot, wet palette knife (ie. run it under hot water!) and SLIP it down between the cake and edge of tin, SLIDING it all the way around to LOOSEN.
Then OPEN the spring form tin and RUN the palette knife carefully under the pie base to LOOSEN.
CAREFULLY SLIDE IT onto a serving dish with no raised edges (to make it easier to slice and plate).
Before serving SPRINKLE the freeze-dried raspberries over the top of the pie and maybe around the edges of the plate for effect.
This will also work beautifully with fresh or frozen raspberries (less fructose too), or with any berry really.
Alternatively you could leave the berries out altogether, in which case you could keep this as a frozen dessert, just eating a piece whenever you’re short on pudding or fancy a sweet treat that won’t send your blood sugar sky rocketing, and then sticking what’s left back in the freezer for the next time!
And if you like to be super-organised, you could make one of each so you can eat the berry one now, and put the other on ice for a rainy day!
I don’t normally do this sort of ingredient breakdown on here, but I thought as I used ‘Superfood” in the title, I might give you a rundown of what is MY point of view on the ingredients I use. The way I see it, there is a universe of information out there on what foods are good for us, and what are not. One scientist says this, another says the opposite. It basically depends on what or whom you choose to believe (/sells their brand best!). For me, there is no wrong or right – only what’s right for ME. Everybody is different and reacts differently to different stimuli. Food is a stimulus, and therefore, what suits me, may not suit you.
In fact, even some of the foods I choose to eat, and ‘foodosophies’ I choose to follow, don’t fully suit my body – while I may feel healthier from eating in a certain way, I have a sneaking suspicion that it affects a skin condition I have called rosacea. But I’m simply not prepared to give up the many foods I love to see if I’m right! So it’s really very hard to do the ‘right’ thing here …
All we can do is try to be more aware, and question what food companies and governments sell us, but at the end of the day, it’s comes down to making a personal decision. I’ve posted before on how it’s hard to know what to believe anymore when it comes to food, so I try to see it as one big experiment, and expect I will find out some new information every now and then that will alter my perspective somewhat … and I’m happy enough with that.
So for now, here are my beliefs on:
Chia Seeds – Mega Super Benefits, Everyday Food!
Chia is a type of seed well known to the Aztec, Mayan and Native American cultures. For this reason, I believe in buying mine from this part of the world. You can talk about how much nutrition is in this, that and the other, but if the soil it’s grown in does not contain the nutrients, then neither does the food, necessarily.
I have already written about the benefits of chia HERE, if you haven’t read it, I highly recommend that you do. You could be adding a tablespoon of the-new-improved-healthful-you to your food, so easily each day! If you’re still eating packet cereal for breakfast, Im sorry to hear it, but you could always add a tablespoon of chia to it to get some more rounded nutritional benefits!! (Like any high fibre food – always drink plenty of water to keep chia from getting stuck in your system!)
Avocados – Super Benefits, Every Day/Couple of Days Food!
Avocados are high in good fats, have anti-inlammatory properties are high in phyto-nutrients and anti-oxidants, and are rich in:
- Vitamin E
- Potassium (more than twice the amount found in a banana)
- Essential heart-healthy fat: oleic acid a monounsaturated fat
- Folic acid
Read all you need to know about avocados HERE, including how to peel them to get the most nutrients out of you avo!
Macadamia Nuts – Healthful Natural, Once or Twice a Week Food!
These fellas are also high in monounsaturated fats, as well as containing lots of vitamins and minerals such as calcium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium, selenium, iron, and the B-complex vitamins that are so important for metabolism; thiamine, riboflavin and niacin.
Macadamias are an excellent source of minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese and zinc. 100 g nuts provide 3.6 µg of selenium.
Studies suggest that monounsaturated fats in the diet help lower total as well as LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol levels in the blood.
Cacao – This Jury’s Still Out, But Still Would Eat Probably A Little Every Day!
To be clear, I’m talking RAW organic cacao not cocoa (which is usually processed and containing sugar).
I’m still not confident which side to take on the cacao topic. Some claim it to be a superfood, while others say it can be in fact harmful to health in high doses! As yet another superfood debate rages, I need my chocolate!
So I choose one that’s raw, organic and as unprocessed as possible. And then if it’s true what the “for” team say, I get the most nutrients and antioxidants out of it. And it hasn’t got a whole pile of sugar and additives thrown in like cocoa and shop-bought chocolate. I’m just choosing to believe that’s healthier. But it’s still under scrutiny in my mind. Something I’ll have to revisit!
As I’m on the “FOR” side, for now, the team say RAW CACAO provides:
- Magnesium, and other essential minerals including calcium, sulfur, zinc, iron, copper, potassium, and manganese
- Polyphenols called flavonoids, with antioxidant properties
- Vitamins: B1, B2, B3, B5, B9, E
- Essential heart-healthy fat: oleic acid a monounsaturated fat
When buying, look for labels that read “raw” chocolate or cacao. Raw beans are not roasted, and are only fermented and dried, conserving their ‘superfood’ composition.
Avoid labels that read “roasted” chocolate or cacao. When the beans are roasted, they are stripped of their antioxidant properties.
Cacao Butter – Again, This Jury’s Still Out – A Couple of Times a Week Food!
Cacao butter is made by pressing ground, milled cacao nibs to make a cocoa paste. This process separates the thick and creamy butter from the fibrous powder. What we want in our pantry is a good quality raw organic cacao butter which uses only low temperature processing to ensure that quality standards are met, and no chemicals or solvents to ever be used in the process.
Cacao Butter is an excellent source of healthy omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids, and also contains natural antioxidants, as well as nutrients that support mood and the immune system.
If you melt a little more than the recipe requires, you could always rub the remainder into your skin for a natural moisturising treatment!
Coconut Cream – Superfood! Every Day Food! (If not Cream, Then Oil/Water/Flakes etc)
I found the Ayam brand to have the least amount of ingredients. Do we really need guar gum, or sugar or other crap in our coconut cream and milk? No we don’t. Ayam claim their coconut products are processed and canned within 48 hours of harvest., and are 100% natural.
My rule of thumb if we’re buying canned or packet produce, we just want to try and buy ones with the least amount of ingredients inside.
I’ve been drinking fresh young coconut water by the boxful for the past few years, use coconut oil liberally, and coconut milk & cream much more than I used to, since reading more and more about it’s benefits, over the past few years. I’m always banging on about it.
If it’s all news to you, click HERE to read Dr. Joe Mercola’s research and findings.
Cherries (Sweet) – Superfruit, Once or Twice A Week Food!
Cherries are pigment rich fruits. These pigments, in fact, are polyphenolic flavonoid compounds known as anthocyanin glycosides. Anthocyanins are red, purple or blue pigments found in many fruits and vegetables, especially concentrated in their skin, known to have powerful anti-oxidant properties.
Cherries however, are quite high in fructose, (as are dates used in the base, so we eat sparingly), so I wouldn’t be eating bowlfuls of them even though that can be very tempting! No fair! But life ain’t a bowl of cherries!
Scientific studies have shown that anthocyanins in the cherries are found to act like anti-inflammatory agents. Thus, consumption of cherries has potential health effects against chronic painful episodes such as gout, arthritis, fibromyalgia (painful muscle condition) and sports injuries. HOWEVER, if you eat cherries as a therapeutic measure for gout etc, I believe guidelines that say it’s wise to limit it to about 10 cherries a day, as the fructose in cherries generates the uric acid that exacerbates gout, and the inflammation that causes joints and injuries to ache. It’s a real shame as they’re mmm very delicious, but again folks, life ain’t a bowl of cherries, heh heh heh!
Cherries are also mild source of zinc, moderate sources of iron, potassium, and manganese and good source of copper and fibre. Potassium is a heart-healthy mineral; an important component of cell and body fluids that regulate heart rate and blood pressure.
Now, do I need to go into the details of why having NO PROCESSED SUGAR IN THIS SWEET TREAT is perhaps the best thing about the whole recipe?! Because this post is long enough as it is! Maybe some day. Just not this day.
Spelling the plural of avocado perturbed me somewhat.
The Oxford Dictionary said this:
noun (plural avocados)
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary said this:
noun \ˌä-və-ˈkä-(ˌ)dō, ˌa-\
: a fruit with rough dark green or purple skin, smooth light green flesh, and a large seed in the middle
Posted on September 26, 2013
”What is a human being? Complex to the point of absurdity, a whole person is both greedy and generous. It is foolish to think we can’t be both artists and entrepreneurs, especially when Henson was so wildly successful in both categories.
Since he was in college, Jim Henson was a natural capitalist. He owned a printmaking business and made commercials for lunchmeats. In the 1970s, he became a merchandizing millionaire and made Hollywood movies. By 1987, he had shows on all three major networks plus HBO and PBS. … Of course, Henson was not just another Trump. Believe the beard.
When Henson joined on to the experimental PBS show Sesame Street in 1968, he was underpaid for his services creating Big Bird and Oscar. Yet he spent his free nights in his basement, shooting stop-motion films that taught kids to count. If you watch these counting films, the spirit of Henson’s gift shines through. I think any struggling artist today could count Henson among their ilk. He had all the makings of a tragic starving artist. The only difference between him and us is that he made peace with money. He found a way to make art and money dance.” from Elizabeth Hyde Stevens’ book: “Make Art Make Money”
I just have to share this article with you from Maria Popova’s magnificent Brain Pickings website, to which I subscribe and recently started sending a small monthly fee to support her excellent work, and from where the above quote is taken.
Maria tells us’ Brain Pickings is a human-powered discovery engine for interestingness, a subjective lens on what matters in the world and why, bringing you things you didn’t know you were interested in — until you are.’
I love that! And it’s true. I find her work quite captivating and thought you might too, if you’re not already a fan.
This week, I really enjoyed the piece on Jim Henson, creator of The Muppets. Well, actually, it’s a piece about a book called ‘Make Art Make Money: Lessons from Jim Henson on Fueling Your Creative Career’ written by Elizabeth Hyde Stevens. In it, Stevens sets out to debunk the toxic myth that is the assumption that tells us art is necessarily bad if commercially successful, and commercial success necessarily unattainable if the art is any good, through the life and legacy of the beloved Muppeteer.
Click on THIS link to take you through to the article.
REMEMBERING THE MUPPETS:
Posted on September 26, 2013
I came across these ‘fundamentals” on Paolo Coelho’s blog, and I thought about how closely aligned they were with the philosophy of YOGA, which ain’t no surprise – it IS Gandhi!
Perhaps a new manifesto for my wall … and at the same time not so new to me as I am from a good Irish Catholic family!
The principles are all coming from the same place … I’m still with the school of thought that Jesus travelled to India and learned YOGA!
BACK TO GANDHI:
So, as an aside, I’ve added in brackets and blue, how I can see Gandhi’s words through Yoga’s Eight Limbs Philosophy …
Gandhi’s Top Ten Fundamentals1. Change (Lila sees: Ahimsa, Aparigraha) “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.” ”2. Control. (Lila sees: Bramacharya, Dharana, Pratyahara)
“Nobody can hurt me without my permission.”
3. Forgiveness (Lila sees: Ahimsa, Aparigraha)
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
“An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”
4. Action. (Lila sees: Asana, Pranayama, Dhyana)
“An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.”
5. The present moment. (Lila sees: Santosha, Ishvara Pranidhana, Dharana)
“I do not want to foresee the future. I am concerned with taking care of the present. God has given me no control over the moment following.”
6. Everyone is human. (Lila sees: Asteya, Saucha, Satya)
“I claim to be a simple individual liable to err like any other fellow mortal. I own, however, that I have humility enough to confess my errors and to retrace my steps.”
“It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.”
7. Persist. (Lila sees: Tapas)
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
8. Goodness. (Lila sees: Saucha, Santosha, Asteya)
“I look only to the good qualities of men. Not being faultless myself, I won’t presume to probe into the faults of others.”
“I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.” 9. Truth (Lila sees: Satya, Ahimsa)
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
“Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well.” 10. Development. (Lila sees: Svadyaya)
“Constant development is the law of life, and a man who always tries to maintain his dogmas in order to appear consistent drives himself into a false position.” This came to you via Paolo Coelho’s Blog.
What do YOU think?! I think I need to stick these up in my car!
Posted on September 20, 2013
On October 8th in Paddington’s Chauvel cinema, the Conscious Club strikes again, introducing a new string to their bow: MOVIE NIGHT!
I LOVE MOVIES!
This one’s called “CONNECTED“
Here’s what CC are saying about it: ‘
Connected is a thrilling exploration of modern life…and our interconnected future. With wonderful heart and an impressive sense of scale, Tiffany Shlain’s vibrant and insightful documentary, Connected, explores the visible and invisible connections linking major issues of our time-the environment, consumption, population growth, technology, human rights, the global economy-while searching for her place in the world during a transformative time in her life. Employing a splendidly imaginative combination of animation and archival footage, plus several surprises, Shlain constructs a chronological tour of Western modernization through the work of her late father, Leonard Shlain, a surgeon and best-selling author of Art and Physics and The Alphabet Versus the Goddess. With humor and irony, the Shlain family life merges with philosophy to create both a personal portrait and a proposal for ways we can move forward as a civilization. Connected illuminates the beauty and tragedy.’
”An intensely personal exploration of what HUMAN CONNECTION MEANS in our modern, technology-obsessed world.” The Atlantic
“Brilliantly questions EVERYTHING” The Examiner
“LAUGH out-loud funny” – J Weekly
“With humor and CREATIVITY all her own” Al Gore
“It will CHANGE your thinking” Paste Magazine.
“Touches the HEART and provokes the MIND” Cine Source Magazine
“Beautiful, PROVOCATIVE and deeply personal.” Boingboing
I’ve posted about Conscious Club before HERE. This is what I’m talkin’ bout people! I love it and I’m so thankful and grateful for what they do.
This event is taking place in Sydney. Still, I thought it would be good to bring awareness to the movie no matter where you are.
If you click HERE you’ll be taken to the CONNECTED website where they sell the dvd.
It’s also available on iTunes to buy for Au$11.99 or to rent for Au$4.99. Just click HERE.
So go on! Let’s all watch it together all round the world!
And then let me know if you see it and what you think in the comment boxes below! There’s nothing stopping you having your own movie night, wherever you are in the world. (There’s one score for technology!) And isn’t it a nice idea to make it a bit of a gathering, so you’re all … connected …. like!!
For those of you in Sydney available to come along here are the details and I would be buying my ticket asap as they sell out fast! (I’ve got mine already!)
Click HERE to go to the Conscious Club site to book.
Tuesday October 8th at 6.30pm
Paddington Chauvel. Cnr of Oxford and Oatley St, Paddington, NSW, 2021, Australia
$35 (it says on the website additional fees may apply but I paid only $35 so not sure what that’s about.)
And notice what it says on the poster above: FILM MEDITATION SOCIAL DINNER TEA DESSERT!! Yeehooolie!
See ya there!
Love Lila, xo