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inkwell.vue.25 : Meet PHIL CATALFO
permalink #26 of 49: Martha Soukup (soukup) Fri 1 Jan 99 22:53
    
Good question.
  
inkwell.vue.25 : Meet PHIL CATALFO
permalink #27 of 49: David Gans (tnf) Fri 1 Jan 99 23:14
    

I speak for myself in that song, plum, so yes.  Others have indicated that
they resonate with some or all of what they hear in there.

I draw a distinction between religious and spiritual.  I had no religious
training whatsoever, and no particular spiritual experience until I began to
realize that I was part of something larger than myself in the Grateful Dead
community.  That was a fun time, and it set me on a path that I am still on
today, even - no, _especially_ - after experiencing the corruption, stupidity
and distortion that characterize that world.  I am not talking about the
deification of Jerry Garcia, which is a mistake many people have made; I am
referring to my mistaken belief that the ecstatic experience of Grateful Dead
concerts, and the community that formed in the pursuit of that experience,
would outlive the mortal souls who made the music and the thousands who
danced to it.

To me, religion is nothing worthwhile.  Any social structure that
involves obeying, and maybe even trusting, one of "God's" (substitute
the deity  or figurehead of your choice) proxies is inherently corrupt
and of no interest to me.  Spirituality is recognizing that there is
something that unites us and striving to practice connectedness.
  
inkwell.vue.25 : Meet PHIL CATALFO
permalink #28 of 49: blather storm (lolly) Fri 1 Jan 99 23:33
    
I do wish there was a more neutral vocabulary. I'm embarrassed about using
words like "spiritual" but I don't have better ones.
Do you? Figuring out what's true, I've given up on, but how to live, that's
the whole deal, isn't it?
  
inkwell.vue.25 : Meet PHIL CATALFO
permalink #29 of 49: Jennifer Powell (jnfr) Sat 2 Jan 99 08:45
    

I like your definition, David. For me, spirituality involves following my 
own sense of what's true, but within that larger connectedness, to other 
people and to the universe as a whole. I lean on both of these very 
strongly, I don't know how I would live without either sense.
  
inkwell.vue.25 : Meet PHIL CATALFO
permalink #30 of 49: David Gans (tnf) Sat 2 Jan 99 10:11
    

My motto is, "Do what makes sense to you and don't make it worse for anybody
else."
  
inkwell.vue.25 : Meet PHIL CATALFO
permalink #31 of 49: Cynthia Heimel (plum) Sat 2 Jan 99 10:43
    

striving to practice connectedness.  I like that.  Boy, did Phil ever help
us with that or what?
  
inkwell.vue.25 : Meet PHIL CATALFO
permalink #32 of 49: blather storm (lolly) Sat 2 Jan 99 14:07
    
Well SOMEBODY had to do it!
  
inkwell.vue.25 : Meet PHIL CATALFO
permalink #33 of 49: Gary Gach (ggg) Sat 2 Jan 99 23:37
    
Phil is a lamp, inviting us to be lamps unto ourselves ... ?

For me, "spirit" has baggage that's hard for me:  like, "ghosts" 'n stuff.

My word of choice is sacred.  THe Well is sacred.  Phil is sacred.
Inkwell.vue is sacred.  Wood and water are sacred -- and chopping them and
hauling them with such respect is sacred.  Sanctifying?  Sacralizing?  I
don't know the verb ...

But, sure, we're TRAINED to reach for our gun when someone says "spiritual"
given the cynicism and lack of respect for the sacred in our society
(where the greatest good = the greatest # of goods).

So, for me, saying thanks for the food together is a family practice with
tremendous resonance for keeping interconnected ...

oh, I'm running on and on aren't I?  I'll stop.

(Hey, Phil: didja ever see the book "Dharma Family Practice"? from North
Atlantic?      - Just curious. )
  
inkwell.vue.25 : Meet PHIL CATALFO
permalink #34 of 49: E (earl) Sun 3 Jan 99 10:17
    <scribbled by earl Sun 29 Jul 01 23:56>
  
inkwell.vue.25 : Meet PHIL CATALFO
permalink #35 of 49: Phil Catalfo (philcat) Sun 3 Jan 99 21:12
    
Earl, I don't think it's too early for your friends to start thinking about
family spirituality, that's for sure. My book aims to help parents think and
process and open to the journey, so--it can't be surprising to hear me say
this--I'd say go ahead and give it to 'em now!

By the way, when I said earlier that it's important to start early, I was
speaking from the experience of trying to engage my kids with some of the
outward manifestations of a spiritual practice (grace at meals; visiting
churches; etc.) after they'd already become accustomed to a lifestyle in
which those activities were not a regular feature. Past a certain point,
everything you ask/invite them to do is compared for its entertainment value
with the latest video games, so if they don't already accept some amount of
time being involved with spirituality, it becomes a harder "sell."

Now, this discussion of "religion" vs. "spirituality" is of endless
fascination to me. I think the words are often misunderstood, and in any
case we have largely lost any coherent, useful understanding of the inner
life (on the individual level) and the human religious impulse (on the, um,
species level), and if we could begin to understand the words a little
differently it would help us a lot.

I see "spirituality" as the innermost experience of self and the self's
journey: coming to awareness, an apprehension of meaning, some understanding
of our place in the cosmic scheme of things, etc. And I see "religion" as
the external manifestation by which we give form to that inner experience:
prayers, rituals, ceremonies, teachings, stories, scriptures, and other
artifacts that codify and help explain (and pass on) what we've learned.


As I define them, then, those two terms are rather neutral. But I tend to
agree with David and others who rail against the strictures and injustices
of organized religion. I know that many teachings, doctrines, and practice
that are difficult or seem to confine one's spirit do have value in them --
value that may only be revealed by pressing up against the order or
discipline they impose. But it's also true that leaders of religious
denominations can screw them up with their own narrow perspective or, worse,
malevolent intentions, and I am no more interrested in subscribing to their
tenets than any other sensible person would be. My interest is in exploring
and celebrating Spirit, which I hold to be sacred; where a religion tends to
confine, rather than encourage the joyful expression of, that Spirit in
humans, I tend to turn and walk in the other direction.

Returning to family spirituality, I'd say (and I explore this throughout the
book): 1) Behold your child as a miracle. 2) Act accordingly. That means
(among other things), learning to be sensitive to the unfolding of your
child's spirit, and taking seriously your responsibility as what I call a
"spiritual gardener." The child, and the child's spirit, grows with its own
imperative and needs; your job is to nourish, not to make sure it bears a
certain fruit. That's why I encourage parents to elicit from their children
the kids' own views, understandings, questions, etc., rather than
concentrating on force-feeding them dogma.
  
inkwell.vue.25 : Meet PHIL CATALFO
permalink #36 of 49: Moist Howlette (kkg) Sun 3 Jan 99 22:01
    

Just to add a response to (earl) - I think right after the birth of a child
is an especially good time to give a book like this.  It's a kind of magical
time, where parents tend to be at least momentarily awed by the miracle of
creation...and a great time for thoughts about family spirituality.
  
inkwell.vue.25 : Meet PHIL CATALFO
permalink #37 of 49: David Gans (tnf) Sun 3 Jan 99 23:44
    

>trying to engage my kids with some of the outward manifestations of a
>spiritual practice (grace at meals; visiting churches; etc.) after they'd
>already become accustomed to a lifestyle in which those activities were not
>a regular feature. Past a certain point, everything you ask/invite them to
>do is compared for its entertainment value with the latest video games, so
>if they don't already accept some amount of time being involved with
>spirituality, it becomes a harder "sell."

I see what you're saying, I think, but I also wonder whether it's a good idea
to recruit kids into rituals they do not understand.  If grace at meals is a
place-holder for a more meaningful thing in the future, fine; but instilling
mindless behavior is not a good thing, is it?

I am asking, not attacking.


>I see "spirituality" as the innermost experience of self and the self's
>journey: coming to awareness, an apprehension of meaning, some understanding
>of our place in the cosmic scheme of things, etc.

Yes!


>1) Behold your child as a miracle. 2) Act accordingly.

I love that.


>your job is to nourish, not to make sure it bears a certain fruit. That's
>why I encourage parents to elicit from their children the kids' own views,
>understandings, questions, etc., rather than concentrating on force-feeding
>them dogma.

Thank you.  This is why I worry about the rituals being imposed too early.

Maybe I would have been better off with some experience of larger institu-
tions.  The only higer power in my upbringing was the inconsistent and
neurotic parenting I had at home and whatever good came of my experience int
he public schools.  I would probably be a more focused, disciplined -- and
less overweight -- person than I am today if I had had the fear of God (or
whatever) instilled in me at an early age.

On the other hand, so many people seem to have gone so wrong in the process
of getting as far away from their childhoods/church/family/school as possible
ASAP.
  
inkwell.vue.25 : Meet PHIL CATALFO
permalink #38 of 49: this bag is not a toy (vard) Tue 5 Jan 99 23:46
    

IJWTS that I gave copies of Phil's book this Xmas to my brother and his 
wife (baby born 11/6), cousin and wife (baby born 12/18) and another 
cousin with twins about 2 1/2 years old. All of them were very interested 
even to learn that the book existed. I think most new parents have done 
some thinking about this but don't know exactly what they want to do.
  
inkwell.vue.25 : Meet PHIL CATALFO
permalink #39 of 49: Phil Catalfo (philcat) Wed 6 Jan 99 13:45
    
See, now why can't *everyone* just be like <vard>????  :^)

David, just to clarify something from my earlier post: I don't suggest
that parents *impose* rituals--least of all ones that kids don't
understand; I'm imagining this process differently. Let's say a parent
or a couple have some rituals, prayers, practices, stories, scriptures,
whatever, that they are fond of, that hold meaning for them, or
perhaps they have recently discovered and are finding worthwhile. *As
seekers themselves*, they may wish to incorporate them into their own
spiritual practice (whatever that may be); or, they may be
long-standing components of that practice. And if they do that, they
may well want to share them with their children, that is, they may want
to make them (or at least try them out as) a feature of the *family*'s
spiritual practice, whatever that may be.

If so, they do what kids love to do: show and tell. "Here's a story
from the Old Testament," they might say. Or, "Here's a prayer we used
to say at dinner when I was your age, that I always enjoyed." Or, "Did
I ever tell you about the time when
Jesus/Buddha/Moses/Mohammed/Thoreaus [you get the idea] was ____ and
met a ____ and said ____?" And so on. I picture this as sharing
treasure.

Of course, some parents are more keen on teaching beliefs than others.
And there's nothing wrong with that, as far as I can see, so long as
they don't stifle their children's curiosity or try to force their kids
to think or believe anything. Generally, young kids will look to their
parents to figure out what they think and are supposed to do (in
short, how to live) anyway, so if parents just *act* in accordance with
their beliefs, those beliefs will get transmitted. And if parents want
their family's spiritual practice to have certain form, to feature
specific prayers or rituals or rhythms or whatever, then they should
set things up that way.

The key, in either case, is to *explain* and *dialogue*. Tell your
kids *why* you believe what you do--including how your beliefs have
changed over time, and what you're not sure about--and elicit from them
their take on it. That way, they will come to understand the rationale
(or, if you prefer, the faith) behind what you're passing along to
them; and you will come to understand how well it's making sense to
them, what questions remain, how it may be difficult for them to
accept, how it may actually differ from their own take on the universe,
and what needs they have that you may not be addressing.
  
inkwell.vue.25 : Meet PHIL CATALFO
permalink #40 of 49: Phil Catalfo (philcat) Wed 6 Jan 99 13:49
    
The short answer, in other words, is: No, instilling mindless behavior
is not a good thing. Unless you're trying to create mindless adherents
or acquire mindless followers.
  
inkwell.vue.25 : Meet PHIL CATALFO
permalink #41 of 49: David Gans (tnf) Wed 6 Jan 99 17:03
    
I like *both* versions of the answer!
  
inkwell.vue.25 : Meet PHIL CATALFO
permalink #42 of 49: a question from the web (tnf) Thu 7 Jan 99 21:42
    



From: Cathy McGowan <mcgowanc@home.com>
To: inkwell-hosts@well.com
Subject: Choosing a "Church"

Dear moderator,

This is a question to Phil Catalfo:

I haven't read your book yet (having just stumbled upon the WELL
tonight for the first time and mention of your book) so you may have
answered this question in your book.

My husband and I are striving to provide our two and a half year old
boy with a spiritual life in our materialistic world hundreds of miles
from either of our families.  Something I often long for is  a
spiritual or religious community in which to raise our son. Traditional
churches don't provide the spiritual community I long for  and some
make me feel more isolated than ever.  My grandmother unsuccessfully
tried to raise me a Catholic, and actually turned me off of all
religion with pronouncements that seemed irrational to me that anyone
who was not a Catholic was going to hell.  (She has mellowed on this
view, probably since despite her efforts, none of her seven
grandchildren turned out Catholic (and none has any apparent pact with
the Devil)).  Ever since this I have been wary of organized religion
and yet at times I've found churches that I thought I wanted to join,
but there is some doctrine or something that I don't agree with and I
don't join.  For example, most recently I was about to join a nice
enough church but it required that I give an oath declaring Jesus
Christ as THE only savior.  I balked since I don't believe this (He may
be A savior, but not THE ONLY savior).   It bugged me that members of
the congregation either had religious beliefs fundamentally different
than mine, or they swore an oath to something they didn't think about,
or worse, they did think about the oath and chose to disregard it
(fibbed on an oath?). White lies are fine, but it just hit me wrong
that I would have to fib to join this church.

Some of my friends seem like happy members of churches, even though
they realize the church has its faults, like making you swear to
something you don't really believe.

Another church in our community  doesn't go in for the Jesus Christ as
only savior thing, but this church skimps on the stained glass and the
music and mystery.  I like mainstream religion in that it finances big,
beautiful churches, nice choirs, pretty stained glass.  I  just don't
like the mainstream dogma. Am I too picky?  Do you have any
suggestions?  Do you have this longing?  Someone mentioned the unity of
a Grateful Dead concert.  Good music, beautiful colors, mystery,
optimism, sharing uplifting words while congregating with lots of
friends and family - that's what I long for for myself and for my son.

>>People who affect too much of that sort of thing [spirituality] come
>>off as flakes in the mainstream world, I think.<< wrote David.

Because I don't have a once a week space (like church) to express my
sprituality, I find my spiritual seeking comes out at inappropriate
times making me appear a flake with subsequent loss of credibility
about other matters or making others feel uncomfortable being around
someone with a  "holier than-thou" attitude (which I never intend to do
but suppose it may come off that way.)

Adios,

Cathy
  
inkwell.vue.25 : Meet PHIL CATALFO
permalink #43 of 49: Moist Howlette (kkg) Sat 9 Jan 99 10:06
    


I'm not Phil, but perhaps can provide some alternative ideas.  Many people I
know have found the Unitarian Church to be a solution.  They combine nice,
majestic facilities (at least where I live) with an open-mindedness and a
lot of community service.  My parents, who were/are Jewish atheists (yes,
you can easily be both!) sent us to Ethical Culture Society Sunday schools,
where we had education in Comparative Religion and collected a lot of money
for Unicef.  Here in San Francisco, there's also Glide. A kick-ass choir and
Reverend Cecil Williams' charisma and high high high community service
points and you can't walk in there on a Sunday and not feel welcome and
uplifted and spiritual and generous.  I dare you to try.  They're methodist,
I think.  And if they are welcoming to the daughter of Jewish Atheists (not
to mention the homeless of San Francisco's Tenderloin district) I'd say
they're welcoming of anyone.  Back to our regular programming...
  
inkwell.vue.25 : Meet PHIL CATALFO
permalink #44 of 49: Neal Aronowitz (anuragaji) Mon 11 Jan 99 18:48
    
 I'm enjoying this topic immensely- very dear to my heart.I'd like to
offer some reflections on my experience of raising two daughters (now
12 and 15)who all in all seem to be turning out to be very fine people.
In my own case I've seen bringing up my children in a "spiritual" way
as an effort to encourage in them the qualities of kindness,
compassion,respect for themselves and others, self confidence, a love
of adventure, and excitement about being alive. Not being a part of any
organized religion, my wife (now ex)and I shared our own searches and
experiments with them. They have been in sweat lodges, traveled in
India with us, sang in church, chanted in ashrams,lit hanukkah candles,
and attended various community gatherings of different types. I
sometimes wished I had something steady to offer them, but have trusted
that it was best to be real with them, and have hoped that the feeling
of community and exploration that they were exposed to would serve the
purpose that an established religion would. We have used a few basic
rituals such as grace before meals-- anything that reminds us of a
sense of sacredness is good for us, and we use it.

Starting young definitely makes it easier. A book that was a great
influence was "The Continuum Concept", an account of child rearing in
indigenous cultures. Two great practices from that book are PLENTY of
touching, and trust in babies' innate wisdom- they would be comfortable
letting their kids play by the fire or near a cliff. This caused
countless humorous conflicts with my kids grandparents. ("you mean, if
I think she is going to hurt herself with that stick then she will?"
...Yes Mom!) This is really a powerful practice in trust, and subtly
empowering to children. In twenty seven years between the two girls
their have been no broken bones and only four stitches. As far as touch
goes, at the infant stage the teachings they are receiving is that the
world is a safe place, and that they are loved and welcome here. 

What also seems to have worked well was not watching any television
and not giving them any refined sugar. Many people would remark that in
a group of children, mine would be an island of calm energy. They said
I was "lucky." What also has helped is basically not taking any crap.
They were never hit, but I had no intention of hanging out with brats
and let them know it clearly. 

You teach them about spirit in the everyday happenings of life-how you
react when a pet dies, when they were caught stealing, when you're
emotionally devastated. Getting divorced was a big one. I'm now best
friends with my ex, and though I'm not TRYING to teach them, I hope
that they are picking up something about unconditional love.They learn
from who we are.  I can see my own strengths and failings reflected in
who they are becoming.

I could go on and on, but I'll try to keep it short. In essence, if
you really deeply yearn for a way to share "spiritual truth" you'll
find a way or it will find you. Meanwhile, sincerity and the "bare
necessities are more than adequate.
  
inkwell.vue.25 : Meet PHIL CATALFO
permalink #45 of 49: Gail Williams (gail) Mon 11 Jan 99 20:18
    

I've sure enjoyed this topic.

I'm not really part of the target audience for the book, but I bought a copy
to give as a gift, and read most of it before sending it off. 

This line I copied down; Phil quoting his daughter, then three years old:

"God is the unicorn of the mind."

I loved that.  It gave me an instant, rich image.  A tapestry of tradition
and magic and fierce delicacy.   I love how parents can learn from children
as well as vice-versa, and I love the wisdom of your kids, Phil.   
  
inkwell.vue.25 : Meet PHIL CATALFO
permalink #46 of 49: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Tue 12 Jan 99 08:16
    
I've heard wonderful things about Continuum Concept as well.

How did you treat your daughters if they did start acting like brats?
  
inkwell.vue.25 : Meet PHIL CATALFO
permalink #47 of 49: Neal Aronowitz (anuragaji) Tue 12 Jan 99 13:08
    
If they were fighting with each other I would refuse to play "ref",
and told them to work it themselves, and that they should take care of
each other. I was often amazed at the truces and deals they would make
with each other to settle things. 
I think the key is to respect them as individuals and show them how to
treat you with respect. If I didn't like how I was being treated, I
would tell them so, and why. Appeals to authority ( I'm the daddy,
that's why!!!) ultimately create fear and rebellion. By  treating them
as capable, and worthy of respect, they needed hardly any scolding.
They learned that I was fair, but didn't like being pushed around. 
I was seeing a woman recently who had two young girls who were quite
bratty. They were at my house one day, raising hell. One of them left a
cup of water on my couch and was asked by her mother to put it back on
the table. The girl ( 5 yrs. old). The girl insolently said,"NO"!! .
To my horror, my friend said, "OK, I'll do it".  BAD MOVE!!!!!!!!
When they are wrong and you know it and they challenge you, it is
psychic warfare and you had better not give an inch, for your sake as
well theirs. You have to be willing for them to be pissed at you
sometimes. 
This is all much easier to do if you start young. For the first few
years they are like little puppies who just want to please you. If you
show them that you admire and respect them, they are just delightful,
resourceful, creative, and self respecting. I was so proud of my eldest
when, at eight years old, she wrote a letter to her principal because
she thought her teacher was treating her unfairly. (It began.. To whom
it may consume,; kids say the darndest things!)   
 In my view, spanking is so unnecessary, and so unimaginative. A sign
of laziness and weekness on the parents part. Love rules!
  
inkwell.vue.25 : Meet PHIL CATALFO
permalink #48 of 49: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Tue 12 Jan 99 16:18
    
>to my horror

What do you think the woman should have done instead?  I've seen these
interactions where kids and parents are arguing about making the kid do some
thing, and it's not fun to watch.  So I'm honestly curious.

I'm really liking this discussion.  Thank you.
  
inkwell.vue.25 : Meet PHIL CATALFO
permalink #49 of 49: Neal Aronowitz (anuragaji) Tue 12 Jan 99 18:04
    
No, it's not fun at all to watch. The fact that it happened at all
indicates a long history of this woman capitulating to her daughters'
whims. From what I've observed of her parenting techniques, there was
far too much pampering and few limits put on her kids. They felt it was
their privilege to do whatever the hell they wanted (including
trashing my house) and pouted and screamed if opposed. 
By contrast, a close friend of mine is extremely firm with her
daughter- is loving but takes no guff. I sometimes think that she is
too tough, but her daughter has an incredibly balanced, and good
natured way about her.

So, what should this friend of mine have done? It would have been ok
with me for her to have had it out with the kid right there. In fact, I
would have welcomed it. This also brings up an interesting related
issue, lest we start to drift off into a chidrearing topic. How do we
raise children in a "spiritual" way within the context of the larger
community. Do we allow parents the room to do the uncomfortable task of
reprimanding their children publicly? Do we allow our children to be
reprimanded by our larger circle of friends? 
Also, I'd like to add that the idea of disciplining ones children is
intimately connected to the discipline one goes through in spiritual
practice. The way that we tame our own destructive habits, and try to
manifest some kind of high ideal will be reflected in our children.

? Do we see all children as our own? 
  



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