I don't think I've talked about prayer before.

I pray a lot - all day, in fact. I have many prayer triggers, and I keep a list of people for whom I am praying. Even as a child I was a great pray-er.

My interest in prayer - a more intellectual interest - was sparked a couple of years ago by reading Philip Yancey's truly wonderful book on Prayer. It is such a beautifully written and persuasive book that it really forced me to approach prayer with a renewed energy and focus, and I find that lately I have been praying even more.

I love sacred spaces, of all religions, because they always seem to encourage prayer, and carry in them the combined energies of thousands of prayers.

And as the years progress I am more and more of the opinion that prayer and meditation are the same thing. Yes, I know lots of learned people will disagree with me, and there's the old adage about prayer being talking to God and meditation being about listening to God. But anyone who has sat for a long period in prayer will know that words soon fade away, and you are left sitting in silence - exactly in an attitude of meditation. Certainly the great monastics have always known this, and the traditions of Centering Prayer, Contemplative Prayer and Christian Meditation all prove that somewhere at the centre of things all prayerful and meditative intentions meet.

As I mentioned in my last entry, we visited the Bahai Temple last weekend, and I was really impressed by the prayerful energy of that place. And reading their literature afterward has helped me to realise that prayer is indeed the focus of Bahai life.

The Golden Rule

Funny how the Universe gives you a new message suddenly and in many different ways?
Last week at the Angel Service we were discussing the Golden Rule, and how it exists in all spiritual traditions.
Then the next day I found myself at Ingleside (we were buying a fried-egg tree!) and took the opportunity to drop in to the beautiful Bahai Temple there. In the gift shop they has this lovely little card, setting out the Golden Rule as it is expressed in different spiritual traditions!
The message is loud and clear. Now I just have to remember to apply it to my life!

The End of the World

I'll admit it, I'm an "End of the World" skeptic. I just don't think it's going to happen. I think we're just going to potter along modestly improving for eternity. Call me a hopeless optimist.
I'm forced to cover this subject because of the inordinate number of books coming out about 2012 - supposedly the year the Mayan Calendar predicts the world will end. I work in a New Age bookshop, and books on this subject are very popular indeed. I've listened to a couple of CDs by a chap called Gregg Braden, who has become the poster boy of the movement. Mr. Braden takes a less scary view of things - he simply thinks that by 2012 the world will have changed so much as to be unrecognisable. I'm willing to bet that by 2013 poor old Mr. Braden will be in obscure retirement somewhere nice.
You see, I've been through it all before. In the early 80s the world-as-we-knew it was set to end because of an impending ice age. It never happened. I have an old Barbra Streisand CD from 15 years ago saying "We only have 10 years to save the world!" - the world is still here, perhaps because of Ms. Streisand's good efforts. Back in the late 90s I used to sell bucketloads of books by a chap called Gordon Michael Scallion, who predicted the world was going to end in the year 2000. Strangely enough, we don't hear much from Mr. Scallion any longer. And don't get me going on the year 2000 - everyone was a catastrophist by October '99.
And this isn't a new thing - the Jehovah's Witnesses have embarrassed themselves repeatedly by predicting a specific date for the end of the world, and any number of wacky religions (most prominently the Seventh Day Adventists) had their beginnings at an event called The Great Disappointment, at which the predicted end of the world failed to happen.
People love to be worried, they are never happier than when scared. And a sure way to make a dollar is to predict that the world is going to end, and that it's all YOUR fault.

Kun Iam Ecumenical Centre

One of the most extraordinary, and certainly one of my favourite, sacred sites in the world is the Kun Iam Ecumenical Centre in Macau.
A vast modern statue of Kwan Yin, designed by a Portuguese artist and built by craftsmen in China, sits atop a large chapel, the whole thing at the end of a pier thrust out into the water right next to the MGM Grand Casino! It's an eccentric space, the vision of one of those remarkable Chinese millionaires who like nothing better than erecting follies. The Centre is almost always completely empty except for a bored staffer. Busloads of tourists pull up outside for a photo-op on the way to the casinos, but none seem to ever come inside.
Being inside Kwan Yin is an amazing feeling, and the whole chapel is really quite well designed and deeply restful. I can (and have) meditated there for hours, and I only wish the place had a more active spiritual programme - it seems such a waste of such a brilliant location.

Big Brother

I can't get anything done because of Big Brother. Every year I tell myself I won't get addicted, and every year I find myself drawn inexorably into its all-consuming little vortex. It's fascinating, let's be frank.
And have you ever noticed that it's only ever really earnest and dull people that don't like Big Brother? The sort of people you'd never want to be stuck with at a party? Lighten up guys. If Proust were alive he'd definitely be watching Big Brother - of that I'm certain.
Gotta go - the Daily Show is about to start.

Caroline Myss

I have been in the orbit of Caroline Myss for an awfully long time.
I first started working in New Age books around the time of her phenomenal bestseller Anatomy of the Spirit. People just went crazy over that book, and when she came out to Australia she was mobbed, a kind of New Age popstar whose riff about healing, the chakras and the symbolic meanings of traditional religious symbols seemed to strike a chord among a certain demographic.
To be honest, I couldn't see what the fuss was about. I found the book dull (I never could finish it), the audio material I listened to was lacklustre, and people told me she was very cold and unfriendly in real life. Nothing, however, could stop the Myss juggernaut as it rolled over the New Age scene. Each release was huge, and her audience just grew and grew. I kept trying with the books, but I just didn't get it.
But things have changed. I read her Entering the Castle and was surprised by how engaging it was, and what a deep spiritual understanding she seemed to have. I was also impressed by her bravery in talking about St. Teresa to an audience of religion-hating New Agers. I heard her on Rachel Kohn's show, and she did seem a little shrill and arrogant, and Rachel got a lot of negative feedback about her.
I've not been well for some time now, and so I decided to listen to her CD Why People Don't Heal and wham! I was just hit by the truth of what she said and how relevant (and deeply challenging) it was to my life and to the lives of my peers. Her seeming arrogance is in fact her willingness to tell the truth, and to challenge prevailing attitudes that privilege weakness, victimhood and prolonged suffering. I'm suddenly a Caroline Myss groupie.
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