Archive for the ‘Unitarian Universalist’ Category

Pilgrimage Statistics

Cumulative Days Riding:  162                         Cumulative Days Blogging: 147

Today’s Mileage: 4                                              Total Trip Mileage: 1098

We are almost to Jacksonville Florida and tomorrow we will visit the first of three pilgrimage sites in the area, including two historical architectural churches and a nature site highlighting the beauty and diversity of the flora in Northern Florida.

Wired to love?

I’m sure that some of my friends and students found themselves saying “Oh my gosh, Dr. Edwards has gone over to the dark side!”  I want to assure everyone I am still my optimistic and upbeat self.  The title of today’s blog came from a statement made by Andrew Breitbart in a Time magazine article.  Mr. Breitbart is a highly outspoken mouth piece for right wing political thought on the web who the Time article described as a “Tea party Tycoon.” As I read the article I found myself shaking my head, not in disbelief, I’m a Clinical Psychologist I am seldom surprised by human behavior anymore, I shook my head out of sadness and concern. 

I have recently blogged on the characteristics that can lead religions to produce “evil” outcomes.  We have seen some of the sad results of this process in the tit-for-tat historical massacre of Christians by Christians and in the recent news reports of the arrest of a small group of “Christian militia” who intended to attack police officers and hasten a second revolution.

All hate all the time?

In recent news cycles a lot of attention has been given to “hate speech” or what you might call “alarmist speech.”  Terms like “lock and load,” “on the firing line,” and “reload” maybe seen as a colorful call to arms by the people using them, but it concerns others with the imagery of armed rebellion and violence.  Often the people making these statements will defend their “freedom of speech” and will attack those who raise concerns as being the source of the problem (e.g., the Obama health care bill caused the anger and threats of violence) and not the potential victims.

As a therapist I know from experience that words matter!  Among yesterday’s news announcements was the sad story of the teenage girl who after months of verbal and physical bullying by nine fellow students committed suicide. Their words mattered… they drove a desperate young girl to take her life! 

Matching hate speech!

I have spoken personally with members of a Unitarian Universalist church in Knoxville Tennessee, that lived through the terror of a gun wielding assailant who blasted away randomly during a children’s Sunday service.  A handful of innocent adults died in the pews, luckily no children were injured!  On the seat of the assailant’s vehicle in the parking lot lay a hateful letter targeting “liberals” filled with references to the “inspiring words” of a list of popular conservative talk show hosts.  These talk show hosts words mattered… they cost innocent people their lives!

In my last blog we talked about the triple filter test.  I have had a lot of comments about this post.  Many of them agree with my statement that we would all be better off if we followed this test before we spoke, before we made public statements, before we stepped in front of a microphone, before we painted a placard with hateful statements.  I noted that the three filters were truth, goodness and usefulness.  I would like to highlight the usefulness question because I believe it comes in two variations.  Is it useful for the person receiving the information (e.g., a compliment, feedback) or not (e.g., gossip, lies)?  Is it somehow useful to the person providing it (e.g., advancing an agenda, raising alarm and/or money, undermining someone else’s efforts)? 

As I noted in the last posting if Senator Scott Brown continues to repeat a lie (e.g., that Rachel Maddow is running against him) because it generates campaign fund then it is certainly useful to him given an “ends justify the means” approach to politics.  I guess some people would see it as an effective tactic or a screwed move.  I see it as nothing more than a useful lie, an example of false propaganda from a politician who will no doubt speak out of the other side of his mouth when he asks the people of his state to “believe in me” when they cast their reelection votes.  

Brought to you by Westboro Baptist Church!

Mr. Breitbart’s statement, which I used as a header for this posting saddens and concerns me.  He has a right to his belief, and he like all of us chooses the “process” he is going to follow in making his decisions.  That process might be the Golden or Platinum Rule, Might makes Right, the Ends Justify the Means, it’s all a Game, or The Triple Filter, to name just a few.  However, whatever process we use we must live with and accept the outcomes we sow and reap. 

I believe that when someone chooses to place themselves into a public position of authority, like a politician or clergy member, or are elevated by the popularity and marketing of their opinions, like a talk show host, news caster or leader of a movement, they have a responsibility to choose their words wisely!  Their proclamations should do more than serve their narrow needs, they should think about the greater good!  We would hold someone in contempt if they shouted “Fire” in a crowded theater just to secure a better seat, and then shrugged their shoulders at the trampled people’s suffering.  Then why do we turn away in silence when someone espouses hateful attitudes just to create distress in others or advance their personal agenda?

I believe that all of us have a responsibility to make sure that those who lead us, (whether Conservative or Liberal, Republican or Democrat) or act as our mouth pieces, (talk show hosts, favorite bloggers, or letter to the editor writers) or act as our cheerleaders  (family and friends) or offer us guidance (religious leaders) do it in a way so that the answer to the “usefulness”  question is not just that it is useful for them (e.g., makes money, sells books, strokes their egos), or even that it is just useful for our movement or side (e.g., we win the election, we save our school at the cost of som other school, or our church grows larger) but that it be useful for all members of the community, nation and world community.

Lets make it so!!!!

I know I am a dreamer!  I know what I ask is almost impossible to imagine in our present overly charged and highly emotion political and religious landscape.  However, if we who represent the “moderate core” the loving, compassionate, caring individuals, and yes dreamers in every faith and political movement stand up and make ourselves heard we can drown out these voices of hate and divisiveness.  I believe we can!  Join me… stand up… speak up… be heard!  After all we only have a world and a future to lose!

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Cumulative Days Riding:  161                         Cumulative Days Blogging: 146

Today’s Mileage: 4                                              Total Trip Mileage: 1094

After completing yesterday’s blog I decided to choose a “lighter” topic for today and intended to simply share with you some of the beach scenes along our route as we headed up the Florida coast.  However, as often happens I came across a thought provoking incident that lead the blog in a different direction.

Today our Director of Religious Education read an intriguing story to the children during our church service.  As Unitarians Universalists we look for wisdom and guidance in all of the faith traditions.  Today we were treated to an Islamic proverb entitled the triple filter.  The children, and many adults, in the congregation enjoyed the “props” that were used to demonstrate the lesson, various sizes of beans and various sieves.

Sunrise on the beach

After the lesson the children left the service for their RE classes and I got to thinking about the story’s lesson, especially given all of the accusation and attacks that seem to fill our daily news reports.  You see demonstrations of people shouting at congressmen, at the president and at each other.  Newspapers and talk radio shows are filled with anger, resentment and fear.  Many of these emotions are fueled by statements reported as fact or “the truth.”  I thought about the triple filter test and how it could and/or should be used by reporters, talk show hosts, ministers, elected officials, teachers and bloggers!  Here is the story:

The Triple Filter

During the golden Abbasid period, one of the scholars in Baghdad, the capital of Muslim caliphate at that time, was reputed to hold knowledge in high esteem. One day an acquaintance met the great scholar and said, “Do you know what I just heard about your friend?”

“Hold on a minute,” the scholar replied. “Before telling me anything I’d like you to pass a little test. It’s called the Triple Filter Test.”

“Triple filter?”

“That’s right,” the scholar continued. “Before you talk to me about my friend it might be a good idea to take a moment and filter what you’re going to say. That’s why I call it the triple filter test. The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?”

“No,” the man said, “actually I just heard about it and…”

“All right,” said the scholar. “So you don’t really know if it’s true or not. Now let’s try the second filter, the filter of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my friend something good?” “No, on the contrary…”

“So,” the scholar continued, “you want to tell me something bad about him, but you’re not certain it’s true. You may still pass the test though, because there’s one filter left: the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my friend going to be useful to me?”

“No, not really!”

“Well,” concluded the scholar, “if what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?”

* * * *

Deserted stretch of beach

I got to thinking about possible combinations of these three filters.  See what you think of these definitions:

Positive Feedback – Truthful, Positive and Useful to the person receiving it

 Negative Feedback – Truthful, Negative and Useful to the person receiving it

 Flattery or Encouragement – Truthful, Positive and Not Useful to the person

 Gossip – Truthful, Negative and Not Useful to the person receiving it

 Lies – Not Truthful, Negative and Not Useful to the person receiving it

 False Flattery – Not Truthful, Positive and Not Useful to the person receiving it

 Propaganda – Not Truthful, Negative and Useful for the person making the statement

A great blue heron

 It seems to me that we would like to think that news reporters, teachers and clergy would always strive to make sure they were speaking the “truth” or that they would refrain from speaking “opinions” as if they were truthful facts.  Sadly it seems that in far too many cases the potential “usefulness” of a statement is the determining factor in whether it is spoken.  For example recently Senator Scott Brown sent out a fund raising letter announcing that MSNBC TV talk show host Rachel Maddow was being recruited to run against him.  Ms. Maddow has repeatedly denied this statement and challenged Senator Brown on the falsehood of this point.  Senator Brown responded to a questions about why he had not check with Ms. Maddow about the truthfulness of this point by saying” “I did not realize that I had to check!”  He has since sent out a SECOND fund raising letter repeating the falsehood.  To me this smacks of Propaganda, for the falsehood is working to generate funds for Senator Brown’s campaign so what does the “truthfulness” matter.

Sunset on the Intercoastal Waterway

 I would challenge all of my readers to become more conscientious of the three filter test.  I plan to better filter my statements and if they fall in the last four categories to leave the thoughts unspoken.  I suspect the world would be a much better place if we all did the same!

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 39                              Consecutive Days Blogging: 40

Today’s Mileage:  6                                           Total Trip Mileage: 335

      One of the issues with riding a stationary bike, especially if you do it daily, is it can be boring.  You can close your eyes and let the rhythmic movement of your legs and the sound of your breath lull you into a peaceful place.  You might  look out the window at nature and create a poem.  But  there is a third option:  reading! 

     Last Sunday on the way to church my youngest son asked me: “Dad, how did you get to know so much?”  Reading and asking questions was my answer. Yesterday on the NPR Radio Reader program, one of the story characters made the statement: “The way to get smart is to be interested in the world.”  How true, I thought to myself. Read, ask questions and then read some more. I read an array of magazines, some spiritual, many scientific and  occasionally an historical publication.  Recently a scientific article brought a smile to my face and a sense of renewed hope.  I strive on this journey to overcome my failings and weakness.  I enjoy the discoveries along the way and I grow in the process. I share the gifts, insights and wisdom I receive on my journey with others through my blog, my teaching and my therapy.

     The article in the September 2009 issue of Discover magazine by Kathleen McGowan was entitled: Seven Deadly Sins.  The subheading noted: “Science is looking inside the brain to untangle the roots of our bad behavior!”  The article begins with the question:  Why does being bad feel so good? The authors reviewed recent findings  connecting different regions of the brain to “human vices.”  These vices included: Lust, Gluttony, Sloth, Pride, Greed, Envy, and Wrath. The article raised a question which psychologists and theologians grapple with on a regular basis.  Do our moral failings represent poor choices on our part or internal biological impulses?  The article points to an answer involving a complex set of interactions between our brains and our past and current environments. It is an important question when we consider that our society creates laws which legislate morality.  And as therapists we often ponder the question of how to change “bad behavior.” 

Wrath by Christopher Buzelli

     The article ended by noting that: “Historically, moralists have not paid much heed to the findings of science. However,  they might want to pay attention to recent findings from modern neuroimaging  It turns out that acting virtuously does not necessarily require a great deal of suffering, sacrifice and pain(i.e. wearing a hairshirt).  In fact research suggests that: “your reward system fires off a lot more when giving than when you’re taking.”  Yes, science is saying that “being good may be more fun than being wicked!”

     But if this is the case, then how do we turn back the urge to follow the vices rather than chose the virtues?  How do we make, “doing the right thing” the norm of our behavior rather than the exception? The answer may lie within the teachings of Reality and Behavior Therapy.  More on that topic tomorrow!

     Have a wonderful day and enjoy the scenery along your journey’s route!

Thanks to Discovery Magizine for the Images from the September Issue.  The article in question is available online at http://www.discoverMagizine.com/2009/sep/

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 38                              Consecutive Days Blogging: 39

Today’s Mileage:  8                                           Total Trip Mileage: 329

stage7      As I ride the bike this morning a number of topics swirl about in my mind.  I have enjoyed our week in the Miami area. Next time I visit the area in person I’ll make a personal pilgrimage to the Holocaust site as I was struck by the images which still haunt me with their poignancy.  I am looking forward to hitting the “open road” as we head west I hope to see more gorgeous nature scenes.

     I’ve been investigating pilgrimage sites down the road.  We will swing south for a day’s ride before heading west across the northern part of the Everglades and into Big Cypress National Preserve.  Then it’s on to Naples, where we’ll visit a controversial religious site:  a religious city which some people view as the epitome of American freedom, while others view it as a sign of growing intolerance and the fragmentation of our nation’s religious fabric.  As we head up the coast toward Fort Myers we will visit two sites: an ancient Native American site and a place which is a failed tribute to the human desire to create “Paradise in the Wilderness.”

     One of my viewers asked the question, concerning yesterday’s postings, if meditating was so profound then why did I stop after seven years?  There are probably several potential postings embedded within this question.  Let me just give a brief answer for now.

      Any good habit such as exercise or diet can fall prey to changing circumstances.  In addition, there is always the danger that we can become so complacent about the positive efforts that we forget the source of these effects.  My life took on many challenges as I married, entered graduate school, moved about the country.  My meditative practice suffered as I took on the roles of Professor, therapist, and father!  However, the ability and knowledge is there, and at particularly stressful times I return to it to steady my nerves and calm my mind.  Why have I not fully reimmersed myself in the meditative practice? In a way I have, but in a different way!

     In general there are two forms of meditation.  Concentration meditation, the form recognized by most people, where the mediator sits quietly and turns inward using a mantra (sound) as a meditative device.  The goal is to quiet your mind to the point of “no thoughts.”  Transcendental Meditation is one such technique.  The second form of meditation is called Mindful Meditation, and is practiced by several branches of Buddhism.  It involves focusing on and being mindful of whatever one is doing at the moment.  Mindfulness of walking, breathing, studying a flower, the breeze on one’s skin can all be part of a walk through a garden.  It is found to promote deeper insights into how our minds work to “create” the world around us and how to control our attention and focus. 

     As my artistic interests grew over the last twenty years, especially my poetry, I found myself naturally and effortlessly using this technique.  I would state that I still meditate but in a different form.

     Here is a poem and one of my drawings, both are products of a mindful walk:


Beauty by StationaryPilgrim

Nature’s to Blame

Checked my watch

     It happened again!

Half an hour pasted,

     I barely moved.

Oh well!

          I’ll blame the flowers,

               Their beauty impeded my progress:

          And the bird call,

               The humming insects,

               The inviting cool shadows,

               And the still air.

          Don’t forget the fragrances,

               There were way too many.

If I missed something important

     Please accept my apology.


sunset and bike by oojeff

If I had a real bike and was really there!

     Enjoy your day and be mindful of your journey!

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 Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 37                               Consecutive Days Blogging: 38

Today’s Mileage:  5                                             Total Trip Mileage: 321


   Today we will be visiting the Shiva Vishnu Hindu Temple of South Florida.  Before we pull up to the gate and enter the temple I would like to share with you my personal experiences with the Hindu faith.  I have never travelled to India, but I have been lucky to have crossed paths with Hindu beliefs and practices and to have been changed forever by these encounters.

 paramahansa     How does a young man from the plains of the Dakotas come to experience Hinduism and its teachings?  The answer is in California!  During my time in the US Navy I was stationed in southern California, a fascinating place for a wide-eyed youth.   Every other street corner was inhabited by a new religion or cultural group! 

     I developed a deep friendship with a fellow sailor who had grown up in the LA area.  He looked every bit the part of a beach bum surfer, but he was a vegetarian and a Hindu convert.  He attended the Self-Realization Fellowship in LA.  At his suggestion I read the book Autobiography of Yoga, by Paramahansa Yogananda.  This opened up a fascinating new world of religious thought.  I began to read the teachings of various sects of Hinduism. 

AYCover070503_NoBorder      This caused me to wonder about what other belief systems existed in the world which the nuns who directed my Catholic education had failed to mention.  While intrigued by the fellowship’s teachings, especially the pluralistic nature of Hindu beliefs, I did not join the movement.  I was a pilgrim on a new and fascinating journey, checking out the different paths and only sampling their offerings!

      Change was in my future, as I returned from my first tour overseas.  While in Thailand, I became acquainted with Buddhism and began to wonder about meditation.  I got a call from my friend asking if I wanted to learn Transcendental Meditation.  “Sure why not!”  No three words have ever changed my life to the degree these three did (“I do” comes close, but in a totally different way)!


Maharishi Yogi founder of TM

     With no preparation, no afterthought, I entered a simple suburban home and a dimly lit room. I stood before a flickering candle and the portrait of a bearded foreign face and entered a new world!  My first meditation produced what is called a Monist mystical experience, a mind blowing state of nothingness and bliss (see yesterday’s posting for more on mystical experiences).  I walked out of that house profoundly changed forever! 

     I meditated religiously twice a day for seven years.  My anxieties and fears dissolved away, my awe and appreciation for the world around me deepened, and my growing compassion and concern for others pointed me in the direction of a helping profession.  I do not view meditation as a “cure all” that works for everyone. Rather, it is a valuable tool on a path to physical, mental, spiritual health and happiness.  Meditation became an integral part of my journey and reverberates within me still today!

“We are all part of the One Spirit. When you experience the true meaning of religion, which is to know God, you will realize that He is your Self, and that He exists equally and impartially in all beings.”
                                      –Paramahansa Yogananda

     I hope you enjoy this Pilgrimage Site visit (click on the tab at the top of the page to travel there).  If you wish more information about Hinduism, please visit the temple website. Trust me: it is a complex faith!


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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 36                               Consecutive Days Blogging: 37

Today’s Mileage:  5                                           Total Trip Mileage: 316


     As I ride my bike and we approach our next Pilgrimage Site, I want to speak about mysticism.  Several viewers have asked me to define it and to describe types of mystical experiences.  To answer these questions in the depth they deserve it would take more time and space than one Blog posting can offer.  As such today I will be presenting only a cursory review.


Blazing Sky!

     Mysticism can be defined as: the pursuit of an understanding or relationship with the ultimate reality we call the divine, through direct experience, intuition and insight.  This relationship may include a desire to enter into a communion with, identification with, or achieve a conscious awareness of this ultimate reality, divinity, spiritual truth, or God. A mystical experience may be minor and uplifting, like a walk through a beautiful garden, or it may be profound, intense and a life changing event, such as a near death experience!

daodejing1     Mysticism usually focuses on practices that are intended to nurture this direct experience or awareness.  All of the major wisdom traditions either place mystical experiences at the core of their practices, primarily within the eastern traditions, or have mystical branches within their traditions, such as Kabbalah within Judaism, Sufism within Islam, Christian mystics within Christianity. The mystical branches of these Monotheist traditions are often treated skeptically by the more orthodox branches of the faith due to the emphasis the mystic person places on their direct experience and living realization over doctrine. In contrast to orthodox branches which often look only to the sacred scriptures for revelation and direction.

      Mystics believe these experiences of divine consciousness, enlightenment and union with God that are made possible via the mystical paths, are available to everyone who is willing to follow the practice. No one is denied or excluded from the practices or the experiences that result. While some mystic traditions may exclude the validity of other traditions, most tend to be more accepting than the non-mystical versions of their faiths. In general, mystics are more inclusionary and pluralistic.



Alchemist's Star

   How are these mystical experiences classified? In general they can first be divided into dualistic, which maintains a distinction between the individual and the divine, often called Theist Mysticism, and non-dualistic, where the distinction is blurred or no distinction exists.

     These non-dualistic experiences can be further divided into those where there is a mystical consciousness of the unity of all reality superimposed upon a person’s perceptions of the world (i.e. when I, as a young boy, stood transfixed in the face of a gigantic thunderstorm as it and all of reality “passed through me” and became one).  This can be called Nature Mysticism and may be experienced in any moment of intense passion, creativity, or connectedness with other people and natural objects.  If the experience involves a “going inward” and the “falling away” of one’s identity to the point of “divine nothingness”, or bliss, this can be called Monist Mysticism.

  julian-holycard1   You might ask: is a person limited to just one form of mystical experience?  The answer is No!  I myself have experienced both Nature and Monist mystical experiences.  I have never experienced the divine as a deity or a spiritual presence.  My partner has experienced all three.

      Depending upon the religious tradition you are trying to conform to, these experiences may be embraced or looked upon with suspicion.  I believe no single type or combination is the true or desirable experience.  You cannot command mystical experiences to occur. However, you can maintain practices which increase their likelihood of occurrence.  You can pray, chant, dance, meditate, do yoga, or take nature walks to name only a few. A deep level of despair may visit a mystic who has lost this connection with the divine i.e. the Theist to whom God fails to speak, the Nature mystic who feels nothing at the feet of natural beauty, or the Monist who cannot penetrate  layers of ego and desire that block the way to the sacred core. It has been said that “Behind every addiction lies a search for the divine.”  False paths to the divine do exist but that’s a topic for another posting.

     Most people I know who have mystical experiences view them as profound gifts.  As with any special gift, one shouldn’t hoard it, but share it with others.  It may be shared when it inspires caring, loving behavior towards others, as inspiration for a poem or piece of artwork or the topic of a discussion.  There are many paths, many experiences that will take the seeking pilgrim to the mountain top, to a knowledge of and relationship with the divine.  Which path is “your path?”  There is no more important question in life!

     For more information the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy at www.plato.stanford.edu  contains a good academic discussion of the topic under mysticism.   In addition, a wonderful movie is available called A Still Small Voice, narrated by Bill Kurtis (of recent “I found the internet” fame) which includes presentations by people who have experienced all three forms of mysticism.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 35                               Consecutive Days Blogging: 36

Today’s Mileage:  7                                            Total Trip Mileage: 311


     There are times in life when we are faced with an event that we cannot avoid and for which we have made all of the prescribed preparations.  It might be surgery, a big test, the return of a loved one, or a phone call about a job, to name just a few.  We may have said our prayers and activated our support system of family and friends but then what do we do?  Ruminating, worrying, and making last minute changes to our planned response can be problematic.  Some people will continue with prayer while others might try some distracting activity.  In such situations I often simply “take a walk.” 

     Not only is the movement calming but my attention shifts to my immediate surroundings, to the beauty, the complexity, the activity literally “under my feet” and at the edge of the pathway.  Such walks are not only distracting, but they  act as a reminder of our connection with the larger and smaller worlds around us.  Such walks help us to put things into perspective and to be joyful for what we have… the opportunity to take another step down the path and receive the gifts of the divine!

Mindful Footfalls


Bee with flower

   Cosmic spotlight stretched

    By the lakes reflective surface

      Streams through

        The sparse spring foliage

Lift… Stretch… Drop… One

  Sounds of a distant struggle

    Between a squirrel


Stuffed chipmonk

      And a blackbird

        Rages on unseen

Lift… Stretch… Drop… Two


    Of a woodpecker

      Scarring the face of a cedar home

        In search of carpenter bees




Lift… Stretch… Drop… Three



    An inquisitor questions

     Is it an owl or a loon?

      Who inquires of my identity?

Lift… Stretch… Drop… Four

  The air is still

    The only breeze


Butterfly on Bark

      Barely noticeable

        Is the product of my passage.

Lift… Stretch… Drop… Five

  Winged insects

    Large and small

      Hover and dart about

        In the bright sunlight.

Lift… Stretch… Drop… Six


  Hanging from oak branches

     Dangle motionless



        On near invisible threads.

Lift… Stretch… Drop… Seven

  Nature’s perfume counter

    The sweet smell

      Of honeysuckle and jasmine

        Fill the air.

Lift… Stretch… Drop… Eight


Pink Passion

  A pair of daddy-long-legs

    Climb to the highest vantage point

      Of a young oak shoot

        To view my passage.

Lift… Stretch… Drop… Nine

  All this and

    I haven’t even walked


Not the same bee

      A dozen steps

        On my morning journey.

Lift… Stretch… Drop… Ten

  All this and

    I haven’t even

      Made it to the lake

        And it’s sandy shoreline.

Lift… Stretch… Drop… Eleven

bluebirdthumb by rodney cammauf nps  What sensual feasts

    Lie ahead?

Lift… Stretch… Drop…

     I hope you have enjoyed the poem and the images.  Remember to hold your family, friends and our world community in your prayers and then, instead of waiting for the day to unfold, I suggest you “take a walk!” Tomorrow I will blog on the topic of mysticism as a prelude to our Pilgrimage Site visit on Sunday of the most mystical of all the world faiths.

Special thanks to my student Caroline Carvile for the use of her nature walk photos!


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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 34                               Consecutive Days Blogging: 35

Today’s Mileage:  5                                           Total Trip Mileage: 304


Holidays and Holy Days on November 12:

Birth of Baha’u’llah –  Baha’i celebration of the birth of their founder and teacher


      As I ride the bike today I am thinking about the nature of pilgrimage sites.   I’ll let you decide whether you believe today’s site warrants inclusion on the list of Pilgrimage Sites as we are visiting an interesting place in North Miami Beach which is now a beautiful and popular place for weddings and receptions. I found a travel review which stated: “The story behind this place is more interesting than going there.”   While I have labeled it as a “Christian” site, it might be better to think of it as a Marriage Remembrance Site!  I believe this site; The Spanish Monastery has importance and significance.  


View of the courtyard.

   First, I think it reiterates that for some pilgrimages it’s not the site that has significance, but the journey required to arrive at the site.  Like the Miley Cyrus song stated: “It’s the climb.”  I remind myself of this when I find the flower garden bare or the creek dry after a long walk. I have written a number of poems and viewed beautiful images I would not have seen if I hadn’t taken that walk/journey.

     Second, the story of how this Spanish Monastery which predates Columbus’ arrival in the New World found its way to the shores of a “distant land” is fascinating!  It might be seen as a story of a “rescue” of a decaying work of architectural art, a grand but misguided business endeavor, or the appropriation of the relics of another time and place for our use in the present. 


Christ in the Garden.

  I believe our American culture and to a degree historically Western culture has a tendency to buy treasures, or claim sites that produce a readymade “history.”  Is it our impatience to wait for our own relics and sites to develop? Or do we have a sense of entitlement towards the treasures of old, or any site that we discover, whether or not it might already have special significance to others?  I am reminded of the early Christian colonists declaring they were “God’s chosen” and the New World their “promised land”.  Of course that meant that the native inhabitants were, at best, potential converts, or at worst “Canaanites” who warrant only removal and destruction.

     An additional issue this visit raises for me has to do with discovering the “true meaning” of a site or a journey. If you Google wedding reception sites in the Miami area, you will find this historic monastery listed.  Is that a “good use” of the space, or an affront to the building’s “true meaning?”  It was built for a sacred purpose, consecrated with sacred rituals, and inhabited for centuries by dedicated spiritual seekers.  How does the current use enhance or undermine this history? Does it matter? 

     When I first investigated this site I found videos about it on YouTube.  The first I viewed showed a young lady quietly lighting votive candles at the entrance to the sanctuary.  The second video showed a boisterous, youthful wedding party dancing wildly to the Village People anthem YMCA!

     Please click on the tab at the top of this page entitled: Pilgrimage Sites to visit the Spanish Monastery.  Have a wonderful day!

The information on holy days and sacred holidays comes from http://www.interfaithcalendar.org.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding:  33                              Consecutive Days Blogging: 34

Today’s Mileage: 7                                           Total Trip Mileage: 299


Holidays and Holy Days on November 11:

Veterans Day (USA) 


     As I ride today my thoughts go out to the family and friends of the Fort Hood soldiers who were honored yesterday for their sacrifice. As a Vietnam Era veteran it gives me a sense of pride to see our President at the memorial service for these fallen warriors, just as it did to see him honoring the fallen from Afghanistan with an early morning salute at Dover Air Force base.

  091029-obama-hlrg-4a_hlarge   No matter what you feel and think about the President or about the two wars we are currently fighting, I hope you will honor the soldiers who are putting their lives on the line.


World War 1 Memorial

 Today is Veterans Day. Instead of visiting scenes and sites along the pilgrimage route, we will do a virtual tour of a number of the Veteran Memorials in Washington DC.  I have decided to not include any memorial sites pertaining to the Civil War or Revolutionary War.  Both wars have a number of prominent battlefield Remembrance sites but we will stop at these along Pilgrimage routes at some future time. 

marine mem

WW2 Marine Memorial

      It seems to me  the most poignant sites are those commemorating conflicts in which veterans who fought and sacrificed are still alive. Very soon our collective memories of WW1 will be just that, memories, as no one will be alive to personalize it for us.  They will become just another series of photos in the history books, or scenes in our video archives.


Korean War Memorial

A quick study of history shows that wars are fought for many different reasons. But the “boots” on the front line, or in the aircraft, or on the ships do the fighting and make the sacrifices.  It is only fitting that we, as a people and nation, honor their efforts.  I ponder with great sadness the potential works of art, the scientific discoveries, and great leaders we lost with the death of so many young people.  We live on, laugh, love and enjoy the fruits of our efforts because of their sacrifices.


Vietnam War Memorial

     Even for those who returned home alive there were sacrifices such as the loss of limbs, loss of innocence, and emotional scars which are carried for the remainder of their lives. I worked with vets in the VA Hospital who were haunted by their service on the shores of Normandy, the frozen hillsides of Korea, and the jungles of Vietnam.   Joining in now with memories and scars are new brothers and sisters in arms from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. Hold all of them in your thoughts and prayers.


Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

   Besides community and national sites of remembrance many of us also have family memories of service.  My grandfather was a WW1 Army vet, two uncles were WW2 Army vets, my father was a Korean War Navy vet, a cousin was a Vietnam War vet, and I am a Vietnam era Navy vet.  We were lucky that all returned home alive and unharmed.  Far too many families had to place “gold star flags” in their windows, indicating that a family member was not returning home alive. Today we honor all veterans, living and dead for their service and sacrifice.  Thank you… carry on soldier!



Night View of World War 2 Memorial


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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 32                               Consecutive Days Blogging: 33

Today’s Mileage: 5                                               Total Trip Mileage: 292


     As I rode the bike today I pondered several different theme ideas for today’s posting. Tomorrow we will commemorate Veteran’s Day and then the next day will visit a Christian Pilgrimage Site that represents the oldest European Building in the New World, predating even Columbus! So I figured I might just let today be an odds and ends day.

nice building by jose caro

Art Deco

     As we ride up the coastline of Miami Beach I am intrigued by the art deco style buildings and the ever present ribbon of cabana covered sand. It is such a different landscape from the small prairie towns where I grew up. It makes me wonder what it must have been like to grow up in an area like this. How different it is in appearance, yet similar in adventure; the ever present sea, like the streams and creeks inhabiting the edge of the small towns I lived in. We had wildlife to observe, the Miami Beach child had tourists and aging hotel inhabitants. As a teen we could always find work on a local farm, the teen in Miami most likely found work “tending to” the tourists!

view of ocean by hydro

View along the Beach

     Of course in other ways these places are worlds apart, the cultures (Jewish and Hispanic versus rancher and Native American), the crime rates, and the desperately different social classes. This points to an important aspect about differences that exist between people, cultures and life situations. We often view differences as roadblocks to our understanding of other people, such as race or growing up in a different religion. These features of someone’s life seem like insurmountable barriers to empathizing with another person’s joy, concerns and sorrows. However, we can also view differences as intriguing gifts or mysteries that provide us with fascinating insights into another person’s reality. I had a friend in the Navy who grew up in the LA area of Southern California. He learned to surf before he learned to ride a bike. He and his friends use to “commute” to Disneyland on a regular basis. What a wonderfully different world than my own where the closest water to town was Danker’s fish pond and the best show in town was watching tornadoes skipping across the prairie on hot summer days!

south beach by wakerider44     If you can turn off your judging function, the cognitive function which tries to establish which reality has more “truth” and just experience the place, you will begin to see the world through a different pair of eyes. You may also begin to understand other human beings and perhaps see their humanity!

art deco by Manuel R. M.

Art Deco Buildings

      This touches on another issue representing residue from yesterday’s visit to the Holocaust Memorial. I left the walk through the site with it’s beautiful but distressing images,with a profound sense of sadness. How can humans be so hateful towards other human beings who are just trying to get through life, raise a family and find meaning and happiness? How can we not see in their joy and pain our own life struggle? Sadly, the answer to these questions has a connection with the dehumanizing of the other individual.

      As one of my site visitors pointed out, this dehumanizing was not limited to the Nazis towards the Jews, the Serbs towards the Bosnians, Ugandans Hutu towards Ugandan Tutsi or to Europeans towards Native Africans and Native Americans, to name a short list. This dehumanizing also occurs on the community and individual level. Let’s ask ourselves: why did it take so long for women to “get to vote” or African Americans to move up from the back of the bus? When a jury looks at a 13 year old boy and sentences him to life in prison for a store robbery, they are not seeing a misguided youth, a teenager like their own children rather a deviant monster and a threat to society. The effect of dehumanizing may be seen as they relate to gender, race, religion and even age.

     Another of my site visitors left a comment noting that: “On the process of humanizing people. Every person loves something, is afraid of something, and has lost something.” This means that “Every person, including ourselves, is only three questions away from tears.”

     I visited the Holocaust Site yesterday and was left in tears at the sight of a statue of a dead mother and her two children. They loved each other, were afraid of the growing terror and lost the most precious of gifts… their lives. We must love each other, even those strangers who are different from ourselves, be afraid of the growing intolerance and hatred towards those who are different, and realize we risk losing our humanity if we do not change the course of our shared journey.

     A special thanks to the photographers associated with Panramio for the beautiful scenes from along the roadside. The information on holy days and sacred holidays comes from http://www.interfaithcalendar.org.

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