Tag Archives: literature

This Is What Real Love Looks Like

Burning Love -- Spring Botanical Red Tulip Flower“Real love is something so deep, so energizing, that you will not know it unless you experience it. Love is an expression of energy, not something that is transacted. Tell me one thing: can you love people when you meet them for the first time?”

(From the audience: No Swamiji! We don’t even know them, then how can we love them?)

Exactly! This is what you think. Let me tell you, with a little bit of intellectual understanding and meditation, you will realize that you can love anyone without a reason! You can love the trees on the road, you can caress them and feel the energy flow from you. You can love people whom you pass by on the road without even knowing them. Love is actually your very being, not a distilled quality that you possess.

Nothing is as misconstrued as love is today. Today, love is more of a transaction. If someone says something nice to you, you love him; tomorrow if the same person falls short of it, you don’t love him that much or you probably hate him.

Even your lifelong friend, with whom you chat everyday on the computer, will seem suddenly not-so-close if he says something that goes against your approval. Where is your love at this time? It has suffered temporarily!

It is just games that you play; a game in which love and hate surface alternately and interchangeably. And this love-hate relationship is not love at all. Be very clear. It is simply your reaction to a person or a situation, that’s all. This is what we call love. This is not real love. It is subjective love, that’s all.

Real love knows no object. It is simply there whether there is an object or not. Real love is the subject itself. It does not know any object. You are the subject and you have become love, that’s all. Any object that comes in touch with it, feels it. Just like a river flows naturally and people enjoy it at the different places that they encounter it, real love exudes from a person and the people around him will be able to feel it.

There is absolutely no room for conditioning in real love. The energy in you should overflow and express itself as love. It is then that you can break through the highly knotted boundaries of relationships and express yourself beautifully, as a loving being!

In order to discover the quality of your being, that is love, two things can be done. The first thing: repeatedly listen to words like these so that they create a conviction in you about real love; so that a space is created in you for the process of transformation. Second thing: meditate so that the transformation can actually happen.

In practical life, when you go deeper and deeper into relationships, you will understand that all that you feel is not real love, but just some form of give and take. It is all just adjustment, some compromise, some duty-bound feelings, some fear, some guilt. It is all there in the name of love.

Meditation will take you beyond these mis-understandings of love. Meditation will work at the being level. That is why it is a shortcut! When you have to go through life and know it by yourself, it will take you a lifetime. But with meditation, a space opens inside you to experience these things clearly for yourself, whatever your age may be.

Just understand this one thing: when you are able to love without a reason, you will expand like anything. Your world will suddenly seem larger than life. It will be so ecstatic. You will become an energy source to yourself and to others. You will be so overflowing that the energy in you has to touch others. There is no other way. Others will be naturally drawn to you.”


Originally posted September 2011

6 Iconic American Novels to Read for Independence Day!

Screen Shot 2013-07-02 at 1.48.00 PMThe number one lesson of “best of” lists is: It’s nearly impossible to make a “best of” list. Especially when you’re talking about American literature. This country may not make the best cars or electronic dance music, but we’ve produced some amazing works of literature over the years.

If you went through American public school education – and even if you didn’t – you’re bound to have read many of the classics: Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby, Of Mice and Men, etc. Here is a list of 10 iconic American novels that may not have made it into your formal education, but which are certainly worth reading.

From a wide range of authors, decades, and thematic settings, these books paint a rich, complex, and often troubling picture of this amazing country many of you out there call home. It might not be the light beach reading you’re looking for on July 4th, but take some time this weekend to reflect on the true importance of our national holiday. And grab one of these epic works to help you commemorate the day.

  1. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. Set in the mid-twentieth century, this book tells the story of an unnamed African American man making his way through a harsh and inhospitable world. From growing up in the South, to attending a prestigious black college, to seeking out work in New York City, the man encounters antipathy nearly everywhere he turns. A poignant look at racial tension in this country dating all the way back to our founding and straight through to modern times.
  2. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Caught in the dusty, impoverished South during the Great Depression, the Joad family hits the road for California. Like so many families before them, and so many who would follow, the Joads find nothing but further pain, poverty, and misfortune in their quest. Lush descriptions, noble characters, and gripping scenarios will get you through this long and sometimes traumatic book.
  3. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. To be honest, this book isn’t a “novel,” but it still makes the list. Here’s why: Journalistic, stark, and six years in the making, this is not only the best crime book ever written, but one of the greatest American works of literature. It tells the horrific story of a quadruple murder by two deeply troubled men who, by the end of Capote’s sensitive re-telling, you almost empathize with. Or maybe not. Give it a read and tell us what you think.
  4. My Ántonia by Willa Cather. Young Jim Burden goes to live with his grandparents after his parents die, and he soon falls in love with the free-spirited neighbor girl, Ántonia. Though written from Jim’s perspective, the novel is organized according to the stages of Ántonia’s life, from girlhood through motherhood. Her struggles mirror the stark nature of the American prairie, which Cather illustrates so adeptly, and both are juxtaposed against Jim’s own privileged, modern existence. You’ll fall in love with the characters as much as you do their environment.
  5. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. If you’ve never read McCarthy before, then be forewarned: His books are exquisitely written and often disturbingly violent. This book is no exception. The protagonist spends much of the novel among a notorious scalp-hunting gang in the mid-nineteenth century Southwest. And make no mistake, scalps will be cut, babies will be killed, and your stomach will turn more than once while you read this classic work. But as a portrait of the American West, in all its vicious rawness, it doesn’t get any better than this.
  6. Dune by Frank Herbert. This list wouldn’t be complete without a science fiction novel, and Dune is one of the best out there. Set in an intergalactic future in which “spice” is the number one prized commodity, this book is both mythic in proportion and intimate in human dimension. Paul Atreides is the young hero gifted with super-human powers that will, hopefully, help him save civilization from the evil forces out to destroy it. (And when you’re done with this one, there are 5 sequels to keep you reading for weeks to come.)

What’s your favorite American novel? Let us know in the comments section below. Happy reading!


Read the previous post in our book series here!

Is It Okay to Put Down a Book You Don’t Enjoy?

booksingiantpileOne of the most important elements of my identity is my identity as a reader. I love to read–really, if I’m honest with myself, it’s practically the only activity that I truly love to do.

As part of that identity, I’d developed the habit of finishing every book I read. Once I started, I felt committed. A “real” reader like me finishes books and also gives authors the benefit of the doubt (“maybe this book will get better after the first 50 pages”). Right?

But I realized that I was spending a fair amount of my precious reading time reading books that didn’t really interest me. I’d finish these just because I felt as though I “should” and for the bragging rights of being able to say that I’d read them.

I decided to set myself a new habit: Stop reading a book if I don’t enjoy it. (I consider getting valuable information from a book as a form of “enjoyment,” even if I don’t particularly enjoy the experience of reading it.)

I’ve put down several books over the last few weeks–and it is such a relief. More time for reading good books! Less time reading books out of a sense of obligation.

Do you feel as though once you start a book, you must finish? Or do you put down books half-read? I’ve heard speculation that using an e-reader makes people more likely to stop reading a book. Do you find that to be true?

* * *

What is Enlightenment?

"We are always chasing happiness. We want to be happy all the time. The shortest way to be that way is to become enlightened!


Let me tell you what it means to be in the state of enlightenment. This is my personal experience.


The enlightenment keeps me in tremendous ecstasy 24 hours, 365 days a year. The word ‘ecstasy’ is not enough to describe the bliss I am in. Scientists say that whenever pleasure is stimulated in your system, a hormone called dopamine is released. Doctors call the point where it is released as the D-spot. When the chemical is released, our body is flooded with enormous energy.


When I am in the state of enlightenment, the idea of boundary, a limiting factor for most of us is lost. The feeling that my body ends here and the rest of the world starts here is absent. Everything is mine. The sensitivity with which I feel my body is the same that I feel for the whole cosmos.


My first experience with this kind of joy happened when I was a mere teenager. When I experienced it for the first time, the heightened sense of ecstasy lasted only for a few days. It gave me the first experience, the first glimpse. But after enlightenment, I live continuously in this heightened ecstasy. I am always in bliss day in and day out. It does not diminish, reduce. It just is. There is no time where I am not in this state.


When I became enlightened, I could no longer be judgmental. I only have compassion for everyone and everything. Merely by my physical presence, I radiate energy that will touch everyone.


With enlightenment, the basic idea of sex disappeared. The idea of being either male or female died. Though I have a male body, I can never identify with a male or female body. The truth is I am holding on to my body delicately, just like I hold a handkerchief, with my fingertips.


My mind doesn’t exist. I am like a tape recorder that plays when it is switched on. When it plays, you hear the sound. When it is switched off, there is silence. Similarly, when I stop talking, a space is created. There are no words here. There is only silence.


There are thousands of enlightened masters living on planet Earth. Their energies are all one and the same. Only their expressions are different.


Let us all strive towards enlightenment. Let us all partake the ecstasy and bliss that is eternal. Let all of us be in Nithyananda – eternal bliss."


Join us: http://www.facebook.com/eNithyananda

Visit Us : http://www.amazon.com/Paramahamsa-Nithyananda/e/B004W24N5K/?_encoding=UTF8&tag=enintent-20&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=9325

Make Word To Me

I heard a new word from a new friend, Zach. Custom composition is his full-time job, as the one-man maker, performer, and visual-literary artist behind “poemstore.” Zach crafts exquisite zips of curbside poetry on his manual typewriter for lucky passers by. Name the subject and Zach with architect you a poem, asking only for a donation and a photo of the poem for his website http://zachhouston.com

So, the new word: “Coinsequence” — when a coincidence happens in a sequence. Sort of like synchronicity on a spree. You dig? If you use it, please thank Zach and send him your story.
Here is mine…
It involves a poetry dinner that my buddy Ben hosts, in which he and I invite a handful of others who also love poems to gather, revel, and swap favorites. It’s invariably an eclectic and electric happening. I come away charged by the power of words and dazzled by the force of the current from which they flow. For me, putting a pile of poems in the center of the room has the same effect as a punchbowl laced with LSD. It opens, expands, lifts, and loosens separate selves enough to stir a sensation of collective consciousness. 
Is that what Ben, Zach, Jacqueline, Ana Teresa, Haley, Michael, David, and I experienced last Thursday? This I know: ‘twas groovy. One minute, we were sharing poems, and the next thing I see is Ben rolling out a cage full of bingo balls tattooed on the blank side with different pen-drawn words. We each selected one and started writing. From prompts like “paradise,” “change,” and “angst” our stuff sprung. These flash poems were in turn funny, sexy, profound, touching, weird – and they contained some rather obscure phrases and references that oddly enough mirrored one another and repeated in totally unexpected ways. Were we all on a similar wavelength? Clearly. Yet beyond that, I think perhaps coinsequence masks a deeper truth. Let me tell you why…
Five days later, in the weekly poetry circle that I host at an assisted living community, it happened again. We began in the usual way, catch-up talk, followed by me reciting poems. Then, Walt interrupted to say that he and Ray had spent the better part of the morning in discussion about our meetings. “We need to start writing more,” he declared, “not the whole time, but we should get our own thoughts and responses down, poetically.” Walt and Ray explained that all this poetry was unlocking their imaginations in a way that felt great. They wanted to release those ideas for themselves, but also to show others like them what poetry could do to revitalize and excite in ways that their weekly bingo games didn’t. Bingo is fun, they said, but this is something more potent and it needs to be shared. Jai Ho!
The other side of the bingo ball was again showing its face. And we started writing. And it was a marvel of an afternoon.
I had recited T.S. Elliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” at the beginning of our session. By the end of it, we had an answer to Prufrock’s overwhelming question: DO I DARE DISTURB THE UNIVERSE? 
Yes. Over and over and over. Coinsequence calls out to us everyday. 
Shout back. 
Explaining an Affinity for Bats
That they are only glimpsed in silhouette,
And seem something else at first – a swallow –
And move like new tunes, difficult to follow,
Staggering towards an obstacle they yet
Avoid in a last-minute pirouette,
Somehow telling solid things from hollow,
Sounding out how high a space, or shallow,
Revising into deepening violet.
That they sing – not the way the songbird sings
(Whose song is rote, to ornament, finesse) –
But travel by a sort of song that rings,
True not in utterance, but harkenings,
Who find their way by calling into darkness
To hear their voice bounce off the shape of things.
~ A. E. Stallings

Nabakov’s Other Gift

A friend once described my father as a character out of a Merchant Ivory film.  He certainly exuded a distinct brand of professorial Englishness.  Thoroughly intent and perceptive when it came to the butterflies that were his life’s study, he often seemed baffled by or oblivious to the habits and mores of the human world.  But there was one subject around which our different lives came together and found deep connection:  the author and lepidopterist Vladimir Nabokov. 

VN is in the news again, with the long-overdue vindication of his theory about the butterflies known as the Blues, a classification system endorsed many years ago by my dad.  My father’s link was scientific; mine literary; but this blog needed not become overly biographical.  Suffice it to say that that rare enchanter Nabokov has a way of flitting in and out of my sights, as if ever-present, just there, behind my mind’s eye. 

This witty, wily challenger of all that we know or think we know about life and art, truth and illusion, beauty and beastliness, is brushing up against my thoughts once again.  There is no writer who can so arrest me with language, so shock me by the contrast between heavenly mastery of words and the base nature of acts they describe, so wholly conjure grace from even the most banal bits of human experience.   

His novels and short stories torture only those who try to tame them.  Literary critics were his favorite playthings.  He set traps to tease, trap, and trip those who would seek sure answers or neat patterns from the web of existence.  But to the true reader – the one seeking to feel pleasure and pain, as they come, as in life itself – I believe, he was most gentle.  To me, it’s always felt like he understood the human desire to pin life down like a specimen and dissect its inner meaning.  (This, of course, he did with his beloved Blues).  Maybe, in a sense, his study of Lepidoptera was an outlet for what, as an artist and a man, he knew was a farce. 

There is so much in ourselves and in others that we must take on faith.  Memories, hopes, illusions, these are all bound up in perception.   Tenderly, Nabokov shows us that what is “real” is partially made, partially known, and partially a blessed mystery.  Perhaps his finest illustration of this is captured in Pale Fire, his stunning metafictional novel, which is both a poem (by VN’s character, mild-mannered poet John Shade) and a much-longer critical commentary (by VN’s character, the potentially deranged Charles Kinbote).  

The twists and turns of the story within a story are too complex and delicious to render in a blog.  Besides, I wouldn’t want to spoil the fun of the ride.  But please promise me you’ll do yourself a favor and dive into Pale Fire’s dream world with alacrity.  I will tempt you by saying, however, that one of the big literary controversies has been the structure of “Pale Fire,” the poem itself – a 999-line series of heroic couplets in four stanzas of equal length, excepting the final one, which is one line shy of the others.  What has happened to the last line?  Critics, including the fictional Charles Kinbote, whose commentary forms the bulk of the novel, have posited several explanations. 

What most excites me is that Nabokov knew full well that competing theories on the “lost last line” would proliferate, falling over each other to justify their reasoning.  For me, I can see the logic and appeal of all these conclusions, but the one I’ve reached for myself is this.  I, You, We – the readers – we complete the poem.  We do this either by accepting some critic’s rationale or by devising one of our own, or by simply feeling that by entering the story through our own imaginations, we become the ending.  All words lie flat on the page until we inject our own biographical facts and fictions into them.  We bring them to life.  Why then, should we not imagine that Nabokov gifts them to us to see them through to their unique ends, each time we enter his world?

I return to my father, and to a younger me, when I read VN.  I also find myself questioning the future, recognizing my own need to see its logic, set its meaning, and ultimately knowing the folly of this attempt.  I don’t want to write a final sentence.  I want to dwell in possibilities, along with Emily Dickinson.  This is the present that Nabokov freely offers.  Life in the present and owning the moment.  I am grateful.

From Pale Fire (a Poem in Four Cantos)

I was the shadow of the waxwing slain

By the false azure in the windowpane;

I was the smudge of ashen fluff–and I

Lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky.

And from the inside, too, I’d duplicate

Myself, my lamp, an apple on a plate:

 Uncurtaining the night, I’d let dark glass

Hang all the furniture above the grass,

And how delightful when a fall of snow

Covered my glimpse of lawn and reached up so

As to make chair and bed exactly stand

Upon that snow, out in that crystal land!



Does Divine Energy behind Letters & Words Unify Different Faiths?

Does Divine Energy behind Letters & Words Unify Different Faiths?

It can be no accident that the Word holds such significance in many world religions and practices.

"In the beginning was the Word" proclaims John 1:1 in the New Testament. In Hinduism, Brahma the creator, first appears as a sacred vowel sound, aum, and in Sanskrit, the sacred power behind every sound and letter is called Matrika Shakti. Also in kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism, letters hold special power: there is divine mystery behind the drawing, placement, and viewing of each line.

The 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Shirin Ebadi, pointed out that the first sermon in Islam begins with the word, "Recite!" She goes on to say, "The Koran swears by the pen and what it writes. Such a sermon and message cannot be in conflict with awareness, knowledge, wisdom, freedom of opinion and expression and cultural pluralism."

TIFERET: A Journal of Spiritual Literature hopes to unite people and faiths… and to be a conduit for revealing spirit, in all its manifestations, through the written word.

The Hebrew word tiferet can be translated as Beauty, Harmony, Compassion, Balance, or Integration. It can integrate or harmonize conflicting forces, for instance, the energies of giving and the energies of receiving. Or even the conflicting forces of different man-made religious institutions.

It is, in my understanding, the state from which true creativity can arise.

I think of this word as being a nonlocatable "place" similar to the razor’s edge envisioned by Somerset Maugham–a balancing of heaven and earth, good and evil, material and immaterial, opposing forces our minds don’t easily reconcile.

On the kabbalistic Tree of Life, tiferet is a stable center where the physical and spiritual realms meet. When I first learned this word, I knew it described the way I wanted to be in the world.

My decision to publish the magazine followed my discovery of the word.

I was a writer; I had studied Integrated Kabbalistic Healing; and I wanted to explore the ways divinity enters into or becomes known in our lives through words and enters into or becomes recognized in our bodies through spiritual beliefs and practices.

I hope our magazine, website and online issues can accompany you on your own spiritual journey and understanding of the sacred.

You are most welcome to post your beliefs, your doubts, your places of confusion or ambivalence. Share what is most precious to you from your own faith. Learn about others’ beliefs and rituals. Open your mind and heart to the colorful, changing world words hold out for us.

Again, from John 1:1–"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." How do words, in any language, from any faith, help us understand mystery, the "other," and life?

Donna Baier Stein




Valentine’s Day Intentions

It’s often a good idea to look past the candy and roses and consider where Valentine’s Day came from. Valentinus, the original St. Valentine, was a Roman citizen who was martyred for performing the then-illegal Christian marriage ceremony.  That seems like a pretty idealistic line to take, yet he was convinced that marriage should be a celebration of the divine connection between two people, and not just a legalistic arrangement between two relative strangers. It’s also a long way from the sort of thing ‘his’ day now stands for.

In medieval Europe, St. Valentine’s Day became the day after which it was forbidden to hunt birds.  As Geoffrey Chaucer pointed out, birds were far too interested in mating to be anything but easy prey for hungry villagers – and that meant fewer eggs later, and far fewer birds down the line.  The phrase ‘love birds’ takes on a whole different meaning once you know that. After all, we’re just like those birds and sex can blind us to all sorts of risks we’d normally be alert to.  Still, at the time this was a practical law, not a romantic sympathy for birds.

So just think for a moment – which of us would be prepared to do as Valentine did for the sake of love?  And which of us would go down into those catacombs, stuffed with skeletons and mouldering corpses – which was where the early Christians were forced to meet to avoid the authorities – in order to undergo a marriage ceremony that could get us killed? How many of the weddings we see these days take that spiritual connection seriously? It’s a sobering thought.

So let’s remember St Valentine, and let’s also remember the power of love, not just the candy and the schmaltz.

Dr Allan Hunter

The Six Archetypes of Love – from Amazon.com ($11)



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...