Cuyahoga River

Cuyahoga River
Cuyahoga River in the Valley

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Finding the Path to Happiness

It sounds easy to “Choose Happy” like the magnet on my refrigerator says. In Verse II.33 of the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali wrote “Upon being harassed by negative thoughts, one should cultivate counteracting thoughts.” The journal Neuron reports that a study by the Medical Research Council in England shows that when people associate pairs of words and then substitute one with another word locks the brain from calling up the first word. One can substitute negative thoughts with positive ones in this way. Julia Cameron, in her book The Artist’s Way, asks her readers to use affirmations, positive reminders of the best qualities of self, the preferred way to live, a choice to think in a particular way, to help them achieve happiness. When we choose happy, we choose the way of love, forgiveness, and acceptance of the other people in our life.  Choosing happy is the same as choosing the life of the spirit, intellectual seeking, and being in God’s hands.  If we choose happy, we choose a positive thought instead of a negative one, we choose to believe there’s a deity who would like us to make that choice. Maybe I’m a Godian, part of a new co-existent religion that embraces happiness. Or maybe I’m just a yogi finding my path to happiness:

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Writing Made Easy

I don’t like to make a big deal out of writing . . . I don’t like it to dominate my life. I like it to fill my life . .. .when writing is about being shut off from the world in a room sequestered with our own important thoughts, we lose the flow of life, the flow of new ideas and input that can shape, improve, and inform that thought. –Julia Cameron

Sunday, April 14, 2013

In the Woods by Tana French

In the Woods, Tana French’s first novel, is intelligent, skillfully plotted, vocabulary rich, and engaging.  As Cassie and Rob question people, check out alibis, spend time in the woods and follow up on leads, their friendship moves over the line into romance. Fellow investigator and sidekick Sam is the first to notice. It turns out badly, mixing business with love, especially after Rob thought this: “Think of the first time you slept with someone, or the first time you fell in love; that blinding explosion that left you cracking to the fingertips with electricity, initiated and transformed. I tell you that was nothing, nothing at all, beside the power of putting your lives, simply and daily, into each other’s hands.” As the murder case draws to its conclusion, we begin to understand more of what happened to Rob as a kid when his friends were killed—he was fat, couldn’t run fast enough, and “Whoever or whatever took Peter and Jamie away, it decided I wasn’t good enough.”

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Catholic in Cleveland

Andrea McGovern explores Faith, Easter, and Catholicism at Living our faith calls us to be present to the people we encounter and listen to where they are right here and now. We are asked to live each day as a prayer, mindfully paying attention to what feels true and good and right, and in that way we are experiencing life as a prayer, a constant connection with the Divine, the Great Creator, God. I'm working my way through George Kaitholil's book The Prayer Called Life, written by a priest of the Society of St. Paul who was born in India and is well versed in the spiritual traditions of both East and West, as well as Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Lao Tzu, The Parallel Sayings, by Richard Hoople. I think we can learn much from reading and re-reading The Bible, but other teachers open us up to a fresh way of looking at what we're called to do. How many of us encounter ideas that strike us as true or find we move in a new direction without knowing why and fail to acknowledge our truth in the experience? Read Andrea's blog, let it resonate, and think about your own journey. We are a community.   

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wisdom of the First Peoples

While working on my current manuscript, I've been thinking about what I believe in. Eastern religions, secular philosophy, yogic traditions, and Mother Nature influence me almost as much as Christian theology. Years ago, on a mission trip, we helped a Dakota tribe build a Methodist church building, and their drum circle performance moved me with its heartbeat sounds. What was most interesting to me was how they embraced Christianity while also practicing tribal rituals. I've struggled with whether it's okay to skip Sunday morning church service to participate in a transforming yoga class or a meditative walk in a park. Why do I have to exclude one to do the other, and why does this daughter of a Methodist minister feel guilty about missing church?

Two films at the Cleveland International Film Festival showed us how the modern world threatens ancient peoples, but also demonstrated how important it is to be true to self. One film, Beauty, an Argentinean film, spoke about how they believed God was in everything until the Church came in and told them there is only one God who is up in heaven. The Mayan peoples of Guatemala and Mexico who were highlighted in Heart of Earth, Heart of Sky have six senses, the sixth one being heart, but their belief system is threatened by the evangelical churches that are setting up camp throughout their villages. The films focused on Western Culture is destroying their way of life by building factories and churches. What if we all just followed our heart, God within, more?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Cleveland International Film Festival

Years ago I wrote an article for Cool Cleveland about the CIFF and I asked "How did it change you?" That was the theme of that year's festival, so it made sense to jump off from there. Every time I see a film at CIFF, I ask that question. As I'm doing this morning after seeing Caesar Must Die and Camp 14 last night.

Caesar Must Die, an Italian film, was marvelously acted and directed. Shakespeare's Julius Caesar was staged by inmates at a maximum security prison, and it was often hard to tell when the actors were acting and when we were experiencing reality. We experienced the play in modern language during rehearsals and the stage performance while getting a feel for the inmates' lives behind bars. Prisoners became enlivened by art and life. It took them away from their cells and gave them a reason to live, and then they had none. I felt what it must be like to be a prisoner and have little hope of ever being in the real world again to know love and meaning. The applause at the end was well-deserved because I was emotionally wrapped up in the film from beginning to end.

Camp 14 is a Korean documentary about a young man who escaped a work camp in North Korea. North Korea has 200,000 people in work camps. Apparently, it's easy to end up in these camps where people are tortured and beaten and the women are abused. The film also attempted to give us an idea of what former prison guards felt. They were all flat, not living life or respecting it. The young man who escaped missed the security, the simplicity, of his life at camp where he didn't have to think about how to make money. The story was told in interviews with animation and some live footage. It was an important story to get out into the world, but the film should have been edited by 20%. Still, it was a brave effort to let the rest of us know how hard it can be to live in North Korea.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Writing from the Inside Out

Julia Cameron touches on wisdom in her books on living creatively. She wrote, “Writing is a valuable tool for integration. In order to ‘integrate’ our experiences, we must take them into account against the broader canvas of our life. We must slow down and recognize when currents of change, like movements in a symphony, are moving through us.” Writing for ourselves is as or more than important than writing for an audience. “When we write from the inside out rather than the outside in, when we write about what concerns us rather than about what we might sell, we often write so well and so persuasively that the market responds to our efforts.” This is what is meant when people say good writing will find a market.