Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Eating for life can be spiritual ?!

Ok, so the title is a bit strange, but allow me to explain. I have been reading quite a bit about eating for health - the Paleo Solution, the Paleo Diet, Anticancer, etc. - and strangely enough it is tough to separate eating right, from feeling right, from doing right and/or from "being right" (i.e. additional aspects of healthy living like sports and spirituality).

So how can eating right be spiritual you may ask? Well, if you start paying attention to what you are eating, it is a form of paying attention, of focus, and this in and of itself is very meditative in quality. Now that may be an intellectual shortcut but the truth of the matter is (at least my TOTM) that once you start trying to eat right you are in the process of accepting the "garbage in, garbage out" principle and can't really help thinking of the other ways we "feed" ourselves (TV, cinema, culture, reading, positive people, ...).

And once you start paying attention there is no going back, i.e. it is a slippery slope down to the spiritual path. My "eating right" plan started due to some funky blood tests and it has led me to rethinking everything I eat and the link between eating right and good health. That in turn got me thinking about living right and has led me to the inexorable conclusion that I need to meditate. In other words, I need to work on my "monkey brain" (as many Eastern practitioners are wont to call a mind that believes in the illusion that multitasking is possible) to quiet it down and gain some additional serenity in my life and in my way of being.

Easy? Not really. Which is why I have started by trying to improve my eating habits : ) A bit easier to do (without falling asleep, which is what my meditation keeps leading to - high quality cat naps)...

In any case, allow me to share four concepts that have really left an impression on me:

1/ the way we eat in most Western diets creates inflammation and irritation within the body and weighs heavily on our immune system opening the door to a host of possible "oh-no not that" diseases...

2/ while there is very little consensus in all things "nutrional" there is one apparent consensus concerning the catastrophic effects that white sugar and white flour can have on our health. Again no consensus but out of my various readings I would suggest minimizing (or better yet, eliminiating) consumption of both and if you can't avoid them or can't resist the temptation make sure that you consume them as part of a meal and never alone (e.g. during a snack).

3/ instead of thinking about meals as fleshy major + veggie minor (e.g. large portion of meat/poultry/fish +  smaller side portion of veggies, mash potatoes, fries, salad, whatever), you should actually think about it backwards: a veggie foundation which you accompany with a small portion of meat/poultry/fish/tofu for taste (hat tip: David Servant Schreiber MD PhD)

4/ we can think of our bodies as garden - if it is well-tended then the occasional weed will pop up but will be easy to identify and deal with, if it is not tended then weeds will end up invading more and more of the garden and potentially devastate the rest of the garden.

Now that I know how to eat, I will still have to figure out how to meditate without falling asleep. Apparently the two together are the key to a longer, happier and healthier life. But who would want that?!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Mindfulness versus Mine-fullness


I know it has been a while since I have posted but it is not for lack of spiritual interest, thinking and reading. Actually I have several books to review and much thinking to share - hopefully I'll take the time to get my ass in gear and write some of it all down.

That said, a lot of my recent thinking is on mindfulness. From various and disparate sources I have been getting the message that it is time for me to live a more mindful experience and that there is "mindfulness" is a vast subject that includes awareness, intention, a form of super consciousness, talking to your brain, talking to your superbrain (see Deepak book of same name), talking to your cells, talking to your DNA, talking to your Akash (past life history), talking to your higher self and even talking to your quantum energy. While that may seem like a lot and quite disparate, the different discussions all make a lot of sense - even if they are referring to different ways of approaching the question the overall message is the same: you/I/we have the ability to shape our respective realities much more than we do and the key to doing just that is mindfulness.

Now what exactly is mindfulness? I won't attempt a definition here but my understanding is bringing attention to everything you do, observing, listening, attentive to feelings, emotions and energy and being more present. For example, walking while being attentive to your breathing, to how each foot feels as it hits the ground, how the rest of your body feels (knees, hips, swinging arms...), being attentive to each step you take. Very Thich Nhat : ) who even eats his oranges that way.

Obviously meditation is part of the mindfulness experience, or could be. And that is also where the mine-fullness comes into play. Being mindful is easy to say (or write) but is more of a slippery eel than I expected. I hope it is like a muscle that will get stronger as I exercise it, as for the moment my mindful endurance is not pretty. But as I try to be mindful more often, I find it sneaking into various stages of my day and hopefully whatever process may have started that this may be hinting at will continue. Fettered or unfettered, I just hope it expands !

In the meantime I will be trying to successfully navigate the minefield of my own creation which is on my path towards a hopefully more spiritual way of being. Boom, crash, wince, adjust the azimuth but/and carry on ; )

Thanks to for the image

Friday, June 15, 2012

Being grateful... for Rhonda Byrne

Let me start this blog post by giving gratitude! I have innumerous things to be grateful for but I would like to share one recent one with you - The Magic - a book by Rhonda Byrne (of The Secret fame). A wonderful book which is actually a handbook and daily exercise workbook on showing, living and expressing gratitude in many different aspects of your life.

It is actually quite simple and "all" it takes is come time, focus and discipline...Obviously those three are not easy to align, otherwise we would all be who we wanted to be a long time ago, but the requirements are relatively low on all three dimensions (10 minutes per morning and 5 every evening, and, depending on the exercise du jour, some sporadic moments during the day).

I am convinced, and not by Rhonda in this case, that gratitude is the first step to a better, richer outlook and life experience, but also the first step towards being a more spiritual being. Which means that it requires some "work" for most of us.

Once you start looking for things to be grateful for you discover a never-ending list. But it also reminds you to appreciate things and to stop taking so much for granted. Being grateful for the food you eat makes it taste better. The same goes for everything and the formula is drop-dead simple: being grateful for X makes X better.

You can substitute X for anything - food, water, friendships, family, work, play, technology, life, health, music or smaller things like the material stuff, gadgets, chewing gum, you name it. Which kind of implies, in a sappy way, but very real way, that it actually makes us richer (we have better everything than we thought). It wakes us up to the incredible abundance we have and were not fully aware of (I hope you don't mind me including you in the "we")...

In any case, I am truly grateful for this opportunity to use technology to try and share this wonderful book, concept, philosophy, spiritual practice with you - whether you discover this the day I wrote it or in many years time...

Gratefully yours,


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Great quote on joy sorrow and humor

Everything human is pathetic. The secret source of humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven. ~ Mark Twain

(thanks to Elephant Journal for the quote)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Job - a Biblical hero and great story

One of the Biblical stories  that have always impressed me is that of Job. Lots and lots has been written about Job but if I put it into the proverbial nutshell this is what I get:

  1. The guy isn't even Jewish! 
  2. God is a cynic - betting on the faithfulness of his believers with Satan no less.
  3. God is unfaithful - he sold out his most faithful follower.
  4. Job is not about patience but more about enduring the incomprehension of God's ways.
  5. Job shuts God up for eternity - in the Old Testament it is the last time we hear God speak (in the Christian versions Job appears earlier).
I still find it interesting, even fascinating that Job was not Jewish and yet he was included in the Old Testament as one of the books of Wisdom. There is much to wonder about here but it is a testimony to the power of the story.

Job mocked by his wife
Another interesting aspect is Job's wife. His first wife. She has no name in the story and she is the only character that we do not know what happens to. All of his first children are killed, all of his animals are stolen or killed, all of his houses are burned and/or pillaged. But she takes care of him apparently, chides him about his "issues" and then just disappears from the story. Not a very feminist writing style, apparently she did not merit mention, or some say it was the author's way of avenging her chiding of Job. Georges de la Tour, a renowned French painter from the 17th century put this part of the story into oil and medium - even if it was mistaken for another painting with another title for only a few hundred years... (oops!). Actually I found the picture (painted in the 1630s) so I can show you rather than tell you about it/her...

Interesting to note that Job is mentioned in the Old and New Testaments as well as in the Coran. And while the Coran does not mention Job that often, I found it interesting that during the Lebanese civil war in the 1980s it was often written on walls around Beirut "sabrak ya Ayoub" - meaning something like "Be patient Job".

For those who have not read the book, basically the form is a bit post modern alternating poetry and prose in the three parts. Three different friends come and give Job "advice" as he suffers many different maladies until God comes to address Job directly. The ensuing "dialogs" are fascinating as  basically it seems like Job has the moral upper hand and God resorts to the "because I said so" of many parents and then disappears for eternity with the equivalent of a "humph!"

I am now reading a fascinating "biography" of Job, Job's unknown author/s and the story of Job throughout history. It is called "Vies de Job" (Lives of Job) and is written by the very erudite Pierre Assouline.

The book is fascinating on a lot of levels but one of the most incredible is that on page 84 he made a comment which made me think of a book written by my grandfather, Yossel Rakover speaks to God. A Job-like story which is incredibly powerful in a short format. Imagine my surprise when 5 pages later he goes on to tell the story of Yossel and my grandfather Zvi Kolitz over 10 pages!

In this book, I also learned how many people identify with Job! It turns out that he is the poster boy of the rich as he was both the richest in the land and the most righteous, so this proves that the two can go together. Also, many (tortured?) artists and authors completely identified themselves with Job. Voltaire, that strange (and contestable) literary figure, for example, mentions Job or identifies himself with Job nearly 1800 (!) times in his letters and correspondences. Can you say "obsession"?

And as an added bonus, Pierre Assouline mentions in his book Francis of Assisi, another personality from posterity I am particularly interested in, even if it would probably have been Brother Leo (his faithful sidekick) who was more Job-like, but side-kicks never do get the merit they deserve across the ages. Mutatis mutandi and all that jazz.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A new book on my radar: I was blind but now I see

Every once in a while a book comes into my peripheral vision that speaks to me. The most recent example is James Altucher, who I discovered via (an interesting website in itself). He wrote a book called I Was Blind but Now I See which speaks to many things I often think about. Books like Noam Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent on how our thinking is shaped by the media, or Jiddu Krishnamurti's entire life work on the importance of understanding the effects of education, media, parents, culture and religion in shaping who we are, how we think and act, what we strive to do and be, how we define success, happiness and failure - strike a similar chord.

Although I have not gone far enough into my own personal inquiry on all of these elements I am increasingly aware of the fact that I need to be increasingly aware of this. That most of who and how I am is not conscious or even of my own doing.

James Altucher seems to be addressing these issues in his book. I have ordered it today. When I take the leap and read it I will report back.

If you take a look at the book or have read it, let me know what you think/thought.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Waiting to exhale - spiritual maturity

A quote from an e-mail I received today from Andrew Cohen of EnlightenNext on Spiritual Maturity:

Spiritual maturity is not a matter of how long you have lived or even how much life experience you have. The important question is: how much does any of us actually learn from our life experience? Those people who are more spiritually developed are people who have been deeply paying attention, who are sensitive and awake enough to truly learn, and grow, and significantly evolve as a result of the life experience that they have.

This has got me thinking about a theme I have often thought about - what am I waiting for to start to apply all that I have learned, seen, heard and read about spirituality??? When will I finally assimilate even just a smidgen of all that I "know"? Those who don't know have an excuse, but what about all of us who have taken the time to inform ourselves about being, acting, thinking, reacting differently and in a more spiritually-evolved manner? No excuse. None.

So, when do I start?

What about now?!

Yeah right...

Thursday, June 30, 2011

God grant me the serenity - wonderful food for thought

No need for comment, I just wish that I kept this in mind more often (now printing this out to put on my office wall). This is what I wish for us all at least up to the word peace - thereafter it is to each his/her own according to his/her own beliefs...

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
~ Reinhold Niebuhr

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sometimes Simple = Spiritual

I was recently watching a CNN interview of Larry King with Garth Brooks. I was not really interested but I was in China and there was not much else on television so I listened as I worked on my computer. Slowly I was drawn in. While Garth Brooks did not say anything incredible, it slowly dawned on me that this was someone who had figured quite a lot of life's important lessons and was able to articulate them in the simplest of terms.

He was humble, grateful, understood the value and importance of relationships, spoke in loving terms in respect to his ex-wife and the mother of his children (summed up along the lines of "we are no longer husband and wife but we will never stop being mom and dad"), and exuded something extremely positive.

It was quite surprising as I had never seen him before and had never heard his music before and I did not know much about him either. Something in his simplicity struck me as being extremely beautiful and extremely human. Apparently his music has that effect on many as it turns out that he is one of the best selling artists and performers in the US over the last decade or so.

He also appears to live by one of the principles of management that I think is key - "we succeeded, I failed"...

One of the most striking things, to me, was the simplicity with which he spoke. Short sentences, no fancy vocabulary, but able, nonetheless, to express very deep ideas and the degree to which he cared about many people (family, friends, colleagues). Impressive.

The man is clearly no saint and even admitted to being attracted to the dark side of the law. However the way he spoke, his demeanor, and the life intelligence he expressed were all strikingly unconventional. Not an idiot savant by any means but an example (and a reminder to me) of how wisdom and spirituality can come in apparently simple packages.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Excited about a new book on the way - Talking with Angels

I have just ordered the French-language version of a book called Dialogues with the Angel in French but translated into Talking with Angels in English by Gitta Mallasz. It is apparently another case of "scribum deus" by which the author/s were inspired to write or felt they were not their own words (i.e. they took dication from a higher source). This story is interesting as it took place over 17 months among 4 Jewish friends in Hungary right before the second world war. Only the author survived the war and lived to tell the incredible story.

Similar books I have read and loved, mentioned in early blog posts include Conversations with God (Conversations with God : An Uncommon Dialogue (Book 1)), A Course in Miracles (A Course in Miracles: Combined Volume) and Many Lives Many Masters (Many Lives, Many Masters: The True Story of a Prominent Psychiatrist, His Young Patient, and the Past-Life Therapy That Changed Both Their Lives)

I still haven't received my copy yet but I hope to be able to share some pearls of wisdom for you from this book once I have time to dig into it...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Daniel Kahneman: The riddle of experience vs. memory | Video on

A very brief post which is none other than a link to an interesting TED talk by the Nobel prize winner on behavioral economics. Here is a talk about experiencing happiness...

Food for thought and for improving our awareness of the experience of happiness rather than relying on our fickle memory.


Daniel Kahneman: The riddle of experience vs. memory | Video on

Friday, September 17, 2010

Spirituality in a glass of wine (yup!)

I am reading the most wonderful book on wine, Terry Theise's Reading Between the Wines. As I mentioned earlier in a recent post, spirituality, when you look out for it, pops up in the most unexpected places.

My intention is not to do a book review but just to share with you some of the ideas that have come to mind since starting to read the book. Terry talks about connectedness, of listening to what the wine has to say or is trying to express, of the way wine will make anyone who tries to tame the subject quite modest, of the links between nature and wine, and more...

Reading this got me thinking about how wine is also a vessel for a lot of "here and now" type meditation. When you taste a glass of wine, or rather when you stop to taste a glass of wine, you put everything else aside and concentrate all of your senses on the task at hand. One-pointedness, total concentration, listening to what messages your senses are sending you... sounds a bit like zen meditation to me.

The book is just wonderful and anyone who even slightly enjoys wine would love to read it. I learned a lot and have enjoyed it quite a bit on a lot of different levels (personal anecdotes, language, travel stories, ...).

Plus anyone that quotes Ouspensky's Tertium Organum in a book on wine can't be all bad : )

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Who has time to be spiritual?

Well it has been a while since I have posted to this site. And it has been some time since I have had time to take stock of anything spiritual, except to notice that I really haven't had time "to be spiritual" of late.

Even worse, I would say that any illusion of spirituality or of thinking/acting a bit differently flies out of the window when I am tired, under work stress, lacking sleep. Exactly when you need spirituality most it seems to be most elusive.

After the heat of the moments I remember some of the spiritual lessons and kick myself for not being able to apply them during the moment of truth. Reading the different spiritual books and sources has given me many tools to deal with stress and I think I do ok for the most part managing stress, but there are still too many slip-ups for me to look myself in the mirror and say 'you done ok kiddo'. Maybe one day. In any case, I just wanted to share with you some of my favorite 'stop and reframe' tricks. If you can call it a trick. In any case, it is something that I hope you can use more efficiently than I have in recent months, but that when I have used them have helped me quite a bit to diffuse otherwise delicate situations.

Two of my favorites are as follows:

  •  The first, "What would love do now?" when in a confrontatational situation with someone. Taking a deep breath and saying to myself "ok, if I acted from a place of love and caring for this person how would I act in this situation, how could I react more positively?" This has helped me rewrite quite a large number of emails that otherwise would have been more ballistic and less constructive...
  • A second, "This is not being done to me" which is kind of a mind set in which I remind myself that even though the person involved in some friction is not behaving as I would prefer, they are not doing it "to me" rather that is just something they are acting out with me. I got this one from the Course in Miracles and I am explaining it poorly, but it is very powerful reframing approach which helps me especially in 'altercations' with strangers when someone acts meanly or spitefully without provocation. 
Anyway, short but I am now being kicked out of the cafe that I am writing this from. I hope this helps a little bit and in any case I am happy to be back : )

Monday, April 19, 2010

Giving (better) advice or giving advice (better)

One of the things that are tough to deal with in our post-modern world is the whole notion of giving advice. And that is for many reasons. The more we read and search and learn the more we have a willingness to share that knowledge with others. And sometimes that "willingness to share" comes out less neutral than we would like and more like advice.

Then there are many hang-ups about advice. We all have our own but often I know that I feel that maybe giving advice is a form of arrogance? I mean really, without going to the extent of Socrates, do I really know enough about anything to justify giving advice? Then there are the social takes on advice, like only give advice when you are asked. Or the post-modern injunction of "everyone is ok as is" which I guess kind of precludes any advice that could possibly change someone. Then there is the Venus-Mars world in which apparently women are not looking for advice in respect to any problems/situations/decisions, they just want to be heard. Advice, such we are told, is a Mars no-no.

Spiritually-speaking, the more we delve the more we realize that the unseen is greater than the seen, that we understand a lot less than we think, and that what may ring true to us on one level may be seen from an entirely different perspective from another. Without going too far into that debate, it is clear that advice, in that spirit, is a slippery slope.

That said, we are often confronted with friends, colleagues, family members who either ask for or seem to need our advice. What to do, what to do?

An interesting answer to the question is given in a recent blog post in Psychology Today in which behavioralists seem to have cracked the code on effectivly giving advice. They looked into the way people actually use advice and found four main kinds of advice:  
  • Advice for (a recommendation),  
  • Advice against,  
  • Decision support (suggesting how to make a decision); and 
  • Information (offering new information about a subject).
Interestingly, decision makers seem to value the feeling (or illusion) of making their own decision independently. Thus the first three forms of advice makes the decision maker feel they have lost a bit of autonomy in making a choice. However, when the advice is given solely as information the decision can listen to and use the information without feeling like they have not made up their own minds - independently.
And if that wasn't enough, when you give advice as information it also helps the person receiving the advice in future related decisions and makes them more confident about their choice.

So there you have it, a little perspective on giving advice. However, please note that this post was made on a purely informative basis : )

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Being and becoming

This post was inspired by an article read in EnlightenNext magazine (formerly What is Enlightenment?) - my favorite magazine over the last 6 years since I last discovered it.

The article was a discussion in a series of discussions between Ken Wilber (an 'integral philosopher') and Andrew Cohen (a 'spiritual leader' and founder of the magazine) on vertical and horizontal development.

It is actually one of their best discussions and one that is particularly a propos for 'our' generation in which there is a lot of confusion, I find, about what becoming a better person actually means - which is something I imagine most of us strive for (some more or less actively and/or consciously).

Without rewriting the article, the main idea in their words is that horizontal development is about being a better you, i.e. improving (without getting into what that means). While vertical development is about becoming a new 'you' (quotes mine, as the you changes I figure it merits something to show the before-after element). Wilber differentiates between the two as horizontal pertaining to being and vertical dealing with becoming. Both agree that both are necessary.

My own take on this, as I try to explain it to myself, is that horizontal development is about improving or personal improvement. Something I think every one of us sees as a goal at some level. Vertical development, I see as evolving into something new.

Now I see this also as a wonderful goal, and share at some level the belief of the authors that this is possible. At the same time I wonder if this is not simply human hubris. Let me explain.

A major element/theme in EnlightenNext magazine is evolutionary consciousness, levels of spiritual development and the belief in the ability of human beings to evolve as a race and as people. Now the first part, evolving as a race, from one generation to the next is something that appears clear and, thanks to Darwin et al., not too difficult to see over the history of our planet. The second, being able to evolve within our lifetimes, and to consciously evolve (i.e. something that does not happen by accident or mutation) requires a bigger leap of faith. Can we really change in the sense of becoming something or someone new or can we only become "better" or "more" of what we already are?

Most of the faith-based religions would say the latter. Even Buddhism shows enlightenment as an awareness of something you already were (and forgot), i.e. a reconnecting with not a reinventing of.

In other words, can we give credence or, better yet, experience the idea put into words by Cohen, "we're not simply making the self, as it is, better. We are engaging with the spiritual process in such a way that the result is going to be the emergence of some quality, ability and capacity that was not there before"?

I tend to think so and I hope so. But maybe that is just my own hubris...