A Time of Repentance

The ten days of Repentance that Jews observe this year, from the eve of Rosh Hashanah Sept. 29th to the end of Yom Kippur at nightfall October 9th, can be used by anyone, including atheists and people from any and every religion, to focus on this spiritual practice of repenting. Muslims may also find this practice of value as they complete the Ramadan season.

Practice 1: Repentance

Carefully review your life, acknowledge to yourself who you have hurt and where your life has gone astray from your own highest ideals. Find a place where you can be safely alone, and then say outloud who and how you’ve hurt others and how you’ve hurt yourself. In the case of others, go to them and say clearly what you’ve done and ask for forgiveness. Do not mitigate or "explain" — just acknowledge and sincerely ask for forgiveness.

We do not start from the assumption that anyone has become evil. Rather, we vision any "sins" as "missing the mark." We are born pure and with the best of intensions to be the highest possible spiritual being we can be. We are like an arrow shot straight toward God to connect more fully, yet at various points in our lives the arrow gets slightly off track and misses the mark. Repentance is really about a mid-course adjustment to get back on trace.

Practice 2: Forgiveness

Every night before going to sleep or every morning before engaging in your various tasks, projects or interactions with others, review your life, recall who you feel has hurt or betrayed you and toward whom you are still holding resentment or anger. Then, find a place to say this meditation or prayer of forgiveness out loud:

YOU, my ETERNAL FRIEND, YHVH, THE POWER OF TRANSFORMATION AND HEALING IN THE UNIVERSE,

Witness now that I forgive anyone who hurt or upset me or who offended me by damaging my body, my property, my reputation, hurting my feelings, shaming me, undermining my friendships or hurting my income or scaring me or making me angry. I forgive anyone who damaged people that I love whether by accident or purposely — with words, deeds, thoughts or attitudes.

I think particularly of (fill in here anyone in your life who may have done some of the above).

I forgive (name each person) and every person who has hurt or upset me, whether or not I can remember them at this moment.

May no one be punished because of me.

May no one suffer from karmic consequences for hurting or upsetting me.

Help me, Eternal Friend, to keep from offending You and others.
Help me to be thoughtful and not commit outrage by doing what is evil in Your eyes.

Whatever sins I have committed, blot out, please, in Your abundant kindness, and spare me suffering or harmful illnesses.

Help me become aware of the ways I may have unintentionally or intentionally hurt others, and please give me guidance and strength to rectify those hurts and to develop the sensitivity to not continue acting in a hurtful way.

Let me forgive others, let me forgive myself — but also let me change in ways that make it easy for me to avoid paths of hurtfulness to others.

I seek peace, let me BE peace.
I seek justice, let me be just.
I seek a world of kindness, let me be kind.
I seek a world of generosity, let me be generous with all that I have and to everyone I encounter in my life and to those whom I do not encounter but who need my help.

I seek a world of sharing, let me share all that I have.
I seek a world of giving, let me be giving to all around me.
I seek a world of love, let me be loving beyond all reason,
beyond all normal expectation, beyond all societal frameworks that tell me how much love is "normal," beyond all fear that giving too much love will leave me with too little.

And let me be open, aware, sensitive and receptive to all the love that is already coming to me, from the love of people I know, the love that is part of the human condition, the accumulated love of past generations that flows through and is embodied in the language, music, agriculture and recipes for cooking or preparing food, technology, literature, religions, agriculture, and family heritages that have been passed on to me and to us.

Let me pass that love on to the next generations in an even fuller and more conscious way.

Source of goodness and love in the universe, let me be alive to all the goodness that surrounds me.And let that awareness of the goodness and love of the universe be my shield and protector.

Hear the words of my mouth and may the meditations of my heart find acceptance before You, Eternal Friend, who protects and frees me.

Amen.

 

Putting It into Perspective

One of the things I enjoy each year in my bustling Venice neighborhood is visiting the Abbot Kinney festival.

Our part of Venice has gone through somewhat of a renaissance over the last few years. My husband and I have only lived here for four years, so we weren’t here for the darkest days, when drug deals and shootings made many parts of Venice no-go. We came to Venice as it began to turn, you’d see more families on the streets, new shops and restaurants started to open and Abbot Kinney began to evolve from a little known artistic/beach community for locals into the uber-hip funky street it is today.

As with many areas that undergo gentrification, this process hasn’t come without its share of controversy. Not everyone welcomes an influx of new people and many resent the rising house prices and no longer being able to find a park in your own backyard.

So this year’s festival being the most popular (and crowded) yet was greeted with mixed feelings by many locals. I for one didn’t go. We’d had a tiring weekend with the kids and pushing a stroller through that madness, well I just wasn’t up for it. And now I’m so glad I didn’t.

The news that a man was shot and a woman badly injured in a shooting at the end of the festival shocked many in our community. Much as we may bemoan the radical changes that are changing our neighborhood, I think everyone would agree we don’t want to see a return to those crime-striken days.

My thoughts go out to the families who are suffering after this event. It happened a block from my boy’s school. We walked past the floral tribute on our way in this morning. With everything going on in the world today, events like this put your own stresses and concerns into perspective.

So my intent for today is to be thankful for what I have, keep my loved ones safe, and believe in my community.

Cultivate Your Life Force

According to Vedic science, the intention for consciousness to become the universe is feminine, a quality of the Divine Mother. Creativity is an inherent property of Mother Nature, who loves to turn the One into the Many. The Sanskrit name given to this subtle yet most powerful impulse to manifest as form and phenomena is Prakruti.

No Gym? No Problem

You don’t always need fancy toys or classes to get in shape. These how-to videos will show you how to get fit, no gear required:

Warm up or just loosen up with a no-fuss stretch routine, like this easy 5-minute version you can do anywhere.

Strengthen your arms and upper body with the T push-up, a modified take on the original that won’t have you dropping after 10.

Work your abs and core with this 15-minute routine that uses only your body weight to whittle your middle.

Get high-intensity cardio without the machinery by following this parallel skiing drill from Amy Dixon.

Freestyle by turning on your favorite dance music and just letting loose (bonus: this is also a great stress reliever).

Do a little of everything with this total body workout, a perfect go-to routine for home or travel.

For more ideas, check out these moves using household objects and this simple 10-minute yoga routine.

Just Say “No” to Any Immediate Bailout

Rabbis of antiquity interpreted the attempt by humanity to build a Tower of Babel that would allow people to storm heaven as a symbol of human hubris and technological power gone crazy. It was globalization for the sake of power, not for the sake of kindness or goodness, so, according to the Bible, God ensured that the whole thing would collapse.
Scrambling languages and a multi-cultural reality provided a way for humans to develop their own less imperialistic goals, diffusing power and challenging the notion that the path to salvation lies with material conquests and technological prowess.
Our contemporary capitalist system and its globalization of selfishness has evolved into a similarly grotesque distortion as people are increasingly socialized into the goals of the system: Accumulate as much money and power as possible, and refuse to allow any other ethical goals into the public sphere (we are allowed to pursue them in our own "private lives" but not together in social space).

Gotham Chopra: Suddenly Obama and McCain Don’t Look So Different

“This bailout shouldn’t just be about saving Wall Street, it’s about Main Street…” – Barack Obama…no I mean John McCain. For God’s sake, can I just freaking vote already?
It’s hard to tell these days amidst the orgy of campaign cliches which candidate is which. As each desperately tries to appeal to the middle class swing voter whose mortgages and retirement plans are suddenly at risk, they slowly seem to be morphing into the same political machine.
My support for Obama has always been predicated by the hope that he will bring a fresh face to some of the critical issues of our time, from moral dilemmas facing this nation on issues of health care, poverty, education, and immigration to the great questions facing the security of this country: wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the threat of terrorism, and shattered relations with our allies everywhere. I’ve never been a huge fan of his economic plan which includes increased government regulation and increasing taxes on people that make more than $250K a year. I have no real problem with higher taxes on the wealthy in times like these, but I do have a problem with the seeming demonization of them. After all, the wealthy generally are people who lead businesses and therefore provide jobs to others, pay their healthcare, and fund retirement plans. Let’s not all of a sudden presume that anyone who manages to create their own wealth is some greedy Wall Street Gordon Gekko. Not every one of them is the recipient of the now popularized “golden parachute” which sounds more like a porno-term than an economic one.
Then again, somewhere along the last eight years, the Republican party that once stood for less government, less regulation, and more free market, somehow became the party of the largest government ever in the history of the nation. Now John McCain finds himself trapped by GOP theory and the reality of the potential crisis he could inherit that desperately needs some measure of government assistance.
Both candidates right now are floating around on the periphery of this thing, trying to figure out where the shoe might fall so they can align themselves with it, even take credit for it. Meanwhile, as the chaos ensues, they are fabricating innovative logic to blame the other guy for it. It’s all rather tiresome and superficial because the roots of this madness are so much deeper. Forgive my crude summation of the circumstances, but to me, there is no separating Wall Street and Main Street in this instance. Bankers and consumers are complicit in this one. American consumers and dwellers of Main Street have long been exploiters of America, the credit nation. Americans like to buy things they don’t need with money they don’t have. And the American credit system enables them. The only difference is that this time, the creditors got caught with their pants down. To somehow blame the whole systemic collapse on bankers who were just being, um, bankers seems disingenuous.
Like it or not, we’re all in this one together. Everyone is at risk, and the only way forward may be to admit that the system needs an overhaul, a restart. To me, that doesn’t mean that the government is off the hook and should back away from a bailout, nor that Wall Street big wigs have to re-contemplate the basic tenants of John Smith economics — they do. But everyone else on over-used Main Street, likewise, needs to reflect on how they contributed to this catastrophe.
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