Martha Soukup (soukup) Fri 1 Jan 99 22:53
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.
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?
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.
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."
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?
blather storm (lolly) Sat 2 Jan 99 14:07
Well SOMEBODY had to do it!
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. )
E (earl) Sun 3 Jan 99 10:17
<scribbled by earl Sun 29 Jul 01 23:56>
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
David Gans (tnf) Wed 6 Jan 99 17:03
I like *both* versions of the answer!
a question from the web (tnf) Thu 7 Jan 99 21:42
From: Cathy McGowan <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.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
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...
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
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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