Peace on Earth Goodwill Toward All Sunday, Dec 23 2012 

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Christmas is a joyous season for Christians. We believe in the incredible miracle of God incarnated in the human form of Jesus. And with the presence of Christ, the Anointed One, comes a promise of hope, peace, and light.

The Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi gives us an outline how this gift of peace may be maintained. It is a selfless list of actions that places the other’s needs before our own. We ask the Lord to make us an instrument of peace, which means that we are accepting the work and responsibility involved.

Peace in our hearts, homes, families, work, and the world at large can only occur if we all do our part to promote it. Whatever your beliefs, I ask my Lord and Savior for your peace as well as my own.

Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.

Where there is injury, pardon.

Where there is doubt, faith.

Where there is despair, hope.

Where there is darkness, light.

Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,

grant that I may not so much seek

to be consoled, as to console;

to be understood, as to understand;

to be loved, as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive.

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Amen.

©Mary K. Doyle

It’s a Stretch Thursday, Nov 8 2012 

What did the Buddhist say to the hot dog vender?

Make me one with everything.

I love that joke! I heard it from my yoga teacher, Al Oschner.

Yoga comes from a Sanskrit word meaning to join, unite, or attach. It is a relatively safe, non-aerobic form of exercise that’s been practiced for more than 5,000 years.  Nearly 11 million Americans currently practice yoga. Most Westernized classes focus on physical poses, breathing techniques, and meditation. Some also include a spiritual aspect, but this is seen more often in private yoga centers than public gyms and health clubs.

There are several styles of yoga with varying degrees of intensity. I attend a class at the health club that is quite gentle. Al reminds us that if a pose hurts, we shouldn’t do it. We are to modify as needed for a comfortable stretch. One thing I know for sure is that I always feel better afterwards.

Yoga improves flexibility, range of motion, and posture. It also decreases stress, reduces joint pain, lowers inflammation, and promotes relaxation and better sleep. Nearly all poses build core strength and deep abdominal muscles. Al says that one series of exercises that we practice is even believed to reduce the aging process.

Some caution should be taken with all forms of exercise. Consult your physician before practicing yoga if you have severe osteoporosis, high or low blood pressure, ear or spine problems, or are pregnant. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the most common yoga injuries involve over-stretching and strain from repetition to the neck, shoulders, spine, legs, and knees.

If a style of yoga or particular instructor is too intense for you, check out other classes. I tried a few different ones before settling on Al’s.

Namaste.

©2012, Mary K. Doyle

A Still, Quiet Moment Monday, Jul 23 2012 

The oppressive heat and recent massacre in Colorado leaves many of us anxious, agitated, and fearful. With one hateful swoop, 12 people were killed and 58 injured. Had James Holmes’ weapon not jammed, dozens more lives could have been lost. And the media reminds us of this continuously.

There’s a saying that it takes one hundred acts of love to counter one hurtful word, look, or action. After such a horrific act of violence, that means we all need to make a conscious effort to think and act lovingly all day, every day.

I find I require quiet time each day to maintain a cool and happy temperament. I do this by beginning my day in prayer. And if I feel stressed later in the day, I steal another moment in a quiet place to breathe slowly and deeply.

No matter how much you think you must do, if you are not healthy mentally and physically you can accomplish little. We can’t be in the midst of activity and noise every waking hour and not feel stressed. A still, silent moment every day is good medicine for the body, mind, and spirit.

Find a peaceful spot in your home, garden, a park, library, or church. Concentrate on your breathing, taking slow, deep breaths. Talk to God, think of someone or something that makes you happy, or repeat a mantra. Or clear your mind of everything.

You will find that meditating like this will leave you refreshed, much like a mini nap. You will feel calmer and happier, and that nature will ripple across those around you.

Namaste.

©Mary K. Doyle

Japanese Gardens Monday, Jul 9 2012 

Japanese garden

haven for serenity

and contemplation

 

Looking for a quiet corner in our noisy world? Japanese gardens are designed to promote peace and offer an environment conducive to meditation.

Like life, gardens may appear simple but rich in beauty and experience. They are miniature replicas of larger landscapes. Sand, water, bridges, and particular plants are carefully placed. Every item is significant and maintained according to tradition.

Japanese gardens were constructed for the pleasure of emperors from as early as 500 and 600 A.D. They originated on the island of Honshu, Japan in connection with the Shinto religion.  Chinese Daoism and Amida Buddhism also influenced early gardens.

Seek public gardens in your area for opportunities to relax and enjoy quiet moments of thought and prayer. A simple online search will point you in the right direction. The Midwest has many from which to choose.

From 1910 to 1939 George and Nelle Fabyan designed and constructed the Fabyan Japanese Garden in Geneva, Illinois seen in these photos. The garden has undergone two extensive renovations since their passing. Now owned by the Forest Preserve District of Kane County, it is operated by the Preservation Partners of Fox Valley. The garden is open from May 1 through October 15th. For hours and directions, see http://www.ppfv.org/fabyan.htm or call 630-377-6424.

©Mary K. Doyle

Speak Up for Justice Saturday, May 12 2012 

In a global society of more than seven billion people you may think that your voice is insignificant. Not so says, Mikhail Gorbachev, former president of the Soviet Union from 1985 to 1991. Mr. Gorbachev spoke to an audience of about 600 students, alum, faculty, and supporters at Judson University in Elgin, Illinois on April 21, 2012. In his presentation he said that we all are capable of making positive changes in the world. In fact, he says, we all must speak up and take action on behalf of world peace and justice.

Gorbachev comes from a modest farming background and yet is credited with instigating political and economic reform in his country through perestroika (government restructuring) and glasnost (political openness). His leadership contributed to the end of the Cold War and he received the Nobel Peace prize in 1990.

Gorbachev urged the audience to value and respect freedom and human dignity above all else. He sees consumerism and the limitation of natural resources, especially the short supply of quality drinking water and proper sanitation for millions of people across the globe, as points of contention with the potential of serious repercussions. He also said the elimination of all arms for all nations is imperative and the only means to world peace.

Thousands of people are following Gorbachev’s urge to speak up and take action this week in conjunction with the NATO summit. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, better known as NATO, brings heads of states together in the name of global stability. More than 50 world leaders and their defense and foreign ministers, along with their top advisers,thousands of journalists, and several thousand protesters are gathering in the city of Chicago for the NATO summit on May 20-21, 2012. Summit topics include the unrest in the Middle East. Focus is on Afghanistan in regards to military support as well as ensuring the Alliance’s capabilities to defend its population and strengthening NATO’s partnership.

You can stay informed by following coverage from credible news sources. You also might pray for world peace like your life depends upon it.

©Mary K. Doyle

Separately Together Wednesday, Apr 11 2012 

Our neighbors, the cranes, and the golfers who play the course behind our home, often cross paths. Cranes lunch at our bird feeders and then stroll nonchalantly across the course while golfers concentrate on their swing. Neither seems to notice the other.

Parallel lives such as these that exist without tension fascinate me. Sometimes I even find them humorous, which I don’t know exactly why. But I do love how I can watch them both going about their activities oblivious of each other.

When two human groups can do this, it is even better. My husband and I attend a conference each summer in Colin, Michigan where Amish communities reside nearby. As an outside observer it appears that the Amish and mainstream American residents respect each other and live peacefully in their own, yet very different way.

On one occasion we attended a dinner in an Amish family home. They were gracious hosts and served a delicious meal for us while sharing their beliefs and culture. They encouraged questions and open dialogue.

This type of opportunity diminishes the mystery and fears that occur when encountering the unknown. It promotes understanding and care because the parties are no longer strangers. We were welcomed into their home and broke bread together. We now know each other’s faces and names.

What a simple, easy and yet effective pathway to peace.

©Mary K. Doyle

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