When I was a child, every summer I would visit the family farm in upstate New York, sometimes spending the entire season in the old farmhouse that had no running water and seemed to be right out of the nineteenth century. As soon as we arrived, I would tear off across the pastures to a creek than ran through the farm and could be known by the small, hanging willow trees that edged its progress through the cow piles and patches of grass.
Q: When I see Muslim women in traditional dress I see them as sexualized and oppressed rather than modest. Am I right?
Rabbi Rami: Patriarchal societies often fetishize the female body. Some do so by covering it, others by uncovering it. That said, compare the images of women in contemporary urban Islamic magazines like Brownbook with the images of women in, say, Vanity Fair. Which sexualizes women more? The key for me isn’t more clothing or less, but empowering a woman to challenge her culture and dress as she chooses.
The voice on the other end of the line speaks a language few outside Indonesia have heard. But mining companies have heard—loud and clear—what Aleta Baun has to say.
“The forest is like the dress for the earth. It covers the world. Don’t destroy nature, the forest, because it’s like destroying the clothes; it’s like making the earth become naked,” says Mama Aleta, a respectful nickname for the 50-year-old mother of three, who became the unlikely leader of a movement to halt destructive marble mining in West Timor, Indonesia.
In all my years of following the Buddhist path, there has been only one teaching that made me cringe. Whenever I heard it, my reaction was, “Are you kidding me?!” Here’s the story: Buddha is approached by a monk, who asks for advice regarding desire. It is distracting him from his spiritual practice, not to mention his life. What should he do? Buddha’s response is to tell him that it is important to remember that seeing our desires fulfilled always leads to suffering. Once we get what we want, we’re afraid we’ll lose it—which, when you think about it, we always will in the end.
In the more than 15 years she spent under house arrest between 1989 and 2010, Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi says one of the most important things she learned was the power of kindness.
“Every kindness I received, small or big, convinced me that there could never be enough of it in our world,” she said in her 2012 Nobel speech, more than two decades after she was awarded the Peace Prize. “Kindness can change the lives of people.”
A founder of the Jewish Renewal movement, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi is also one of today’s leading thinkers on the spiritual stages of aging. Writer Kim Rosen spoke with the 88-year-old Zalman about how we can learn to approach the final years of life—for ourselves and our loved ones—with a sense of peace.
What do you mean by the December years?
Though it seems a familiar formula for those on a spiritual path to rebuke money and keep things simple (many holy people have taken vows of poverty), I now wonder if it isn’t time for light workers, those doing the most healing work on the planet, to be unafraid to be the next billionaires.
It begs the question: Is it more “spiritual” to be poor? Should people who truly desire to serve the world take a vow of poverty? Or can being wealthy offer us its own unique spiritual path?
Zen practice is good for angry people. The form is tight. It squeezes that deep red heart pulp, pushing up emotions from way down inside you. A lot of “stuff” comes up when you do this practice. Zen gets your juices flowing. And with these juices come seeds—the seeds of your behavior, your character, your anger, all flushed out into the open for you to see.
Right now, five million Americans are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. The immense burden sets them up for stress, anxiety, depression, and the deterioration of their own physical health. That’s why a recently launched Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care program at the University of California, Los Angeles, treats not just the patients but also the caregivers.
In her new book, Close to the Ground, the S&H columnist and Zen practitioner explores Buddhism’s seven factors of enlightenment: mindfulness, investigation, effort, ease, joy, concentration, and equanimity.
Which of the seven factors do you think is the most misunderstood?
Joy. I don’t know what it is about joy that is so confusing. My experience is that most people equate pleasure with joy. Although there may be joy within some pleasures, it is so much more. Quieter. Lighter. Braver.