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God by any name.

November 25, 2017

God by any name..

I spend too much time thinking about God. I spend too much time thinking in general. Does it really do much, if any good to think about God? I don’t know, but it is something I do.

I have come up with a theory about God. Something that makes sense to me, sort of. I think that is the best we can do – those of us who believe in God or the Gods – find a way of thinking that works for each of us.

Some of you probably know I was born and raised a Protestant Christian, and that I’ve not practiced the faith in over two decades. You might also know that I’ve learned at least a bit about Buddhism, Wicca, and other faiths.

I never experienced a feeling of being in the presence of God, or any deity, for that matter, not while I was a Christian.

When I was still in high school, I attended a massive, international missionary conference at the University of Illinois. I was in a huge basketball stadium on campus, where the main meetings were held. There were that many people at this conference.

After a meeting, there was an informal prayer service. There were volunteers who were sort of prayer counselors.. people could talk to them about the experiences they were having during this service.

It was like a Holy Spirit bomb had gone off. Hundreds of people in the room. Many crying, some in other emotional states.

I sat there, and felt depressed. Depression was not new to me, even then.

Occasionally, one of the prayer counselors would come by to check on me, and pray with and for me. They’d say, “Feel anything yet?”

I’d say no.

I left that meeting, and the conference, feeling even worse than I had before I had attended.

It was not until 2014, in a much much smaller room, that I felt I was in the presence of something.. other.

There’s a Wiccan group here in Boise that meets in a back room of a store. That’s where I was at this moment in 2014.

Wiccans have a way of communicating with their deities and bringing forth messages, called “aspecting.” They take on the “particular appearance or quality (one definition of the word “aspect”) “of a deity.

I don’t mean they always dress in costume. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Usually not. No, this is something different than just costiumes.

Two of the women from the leadership led the meeting. They were among those who belong to the closed coven (one of the purposes of the coven is training of Wiccan clergy, who have the same rights to perform the same rites – marriages, funerals, etc. – as other, more well known clergy). The coven is closed, meaning that only certain people can be part of it. How to become members of this coven? I don’t know all the details, and that’s not important for this essay.

One woman presented a positive, “light” side of a particular goddess.. I forget which one. The other presented the “dark” side.

They both wore normal clothes, except that one wore only white, the other black.

They walked around the rest of us, we who were attendees of the open circle meeting, the meeting that was open to all, unlike the coven.

As the women circled us, walked and talked, I felt something subtle. But definitely felt that there was more than these women talking. There was something or someone else there at the same time. My feeling, although not strong, was a bit unnerving.

I had this feeling once more, when I attended a sort of interactive ritual drama on the Wiccan holiday of Samhain, (pronounced something like “sah-win.” Samhain is October 31st, but sometimes celebrated the night before.

It would take awhile to write about the ritual-drama-experience, and so I won’t do that now. The experience was also at the back of the store. But the spaces in back of the store had been incredibly well and carefully decorated to facilitate our metaphorical journey into the realms of the underworld.

Before I even entered the building, one of the members of the coven came out to see if we all had our tickets – which most of us had purchased days or weeks earlier in the store.
The Wiccan church, which includes both the coven and open circle meeting, is a self-supported group. A LOT of work went in to preparing this experience. The price of the tickets helped defray the cost.

The woman who came out to talk with us, who were waiting outside under a tarp, and watching the rain, was dressed somewhat as a cat. Long flowing skirt, black top, with cat ears, makeup, and claw gloves.

When I looked at her and talked briefly with her, I could tell there was a sort of spirit about her, or temporarily part of her. This woman was aspecting. She just called herself Cat.

The other coven members were aspecting as well. One was the Slavic goddess Baba Yaga, a fierce goddess. Her husband was aspecting a much more kind, benevolent Slavic god whose name I cannot remember.

When I was near these people, and others, I felt that I was genuinely in the presence of deity.

You might be thinking the feelings I experienced were just because of the decorations, the dim lighting, the costumes.

But you’d be wrong. I finally felt a spiritual presence. Not a strong feeling, but a real one. The woman aspecting Baba Yaga felt powerful and somewhat scary. Her husband, who has a nurturing presence, felt more powerful than usual, and felt like an even more loving individual when he was aspecting his deity.

Did I become Wiccan? No. I can’t manage to be religious. But these experiences, combined with living with religious relatives – two Catholics and one who was Protestant, converted to Catholicism, and later returned to his Protestant views, and combined with what I’ve learned from my formal and informal religious studies, have often got me thinking about God.

Who is God? What is God?

A theory I have is that there is one Source. The Wiccans call it Spirit. From this source comes all spiritual energy, and all deities.

A second part of my theory is that God will answer by any name.

Some people from all faiths, and those who practice lesser known spiritual ways, such as shamans and so forth, have “religious experiences” – experiences of the divine.

It doesn’t matter if God is called Jesus or Yahweh or Allah or by the names of the Gods of the European pagans, by the names of the deities and spirits of Shinto, or by the names of the 36 million or so Hindu deities.

I’m thinking God will take on the aspect of any deity, and go by any name. That doesn’t mean people control God, but rather, that God meets people where they are, and has chosen to play the roles in which the different peoples of the world understand and worship God.

A third part of the theory is that it doesn’t matter what name a person prays to. A prayer request to one of the Catholic saints might be met by the same God, the all in all and above all, who also chooses to answer to the name Shiva or Kwan Yin or Jehovah.

Jews, Christians and Muslims will likely disagree with my theory. That is understandable.

Many Hindus and Pagans would likely agree with this theory. Hindus have a saying, “That art thou.” Point to anything besides yourself, and you are still pointing to yourself. This is to say that the Hindus (most of them, I’m guessing, if not all) have the view that all is one. All the gods, all the people, all that is, is one, a great, impersonal One.

Some pagans are hard polytheists, and would disagree with me. Hard polytheists believe that the gods each have an individual identity, and do not believe that all goddesses are but aspects and manifestations of one goddess, and the same for all gods being different personas of one male god.

Persona is Latin for “mask” – something a performer would wear.

These hard polytheists would also perhaps disagree with my opinion that perhaps all the deities come from one source.

There are many pagans who do not agree with hard polytheists, and share my views, at least to some extent.

Buddhists – it really depends on the school of Buddhism. Certain gods were mentioned in certain stories of the Buddha’s life, but I’m not aware of any Buddhist teachings that specifically address the idea of God or the gods. In fact, there are many atheists who are happy to be Buddhists. To many Buddhists, God and the very idea of God is irrelevant.

Some Buddhists do believe in deities and spirits. This is especially true of Tibetans, and those who practice a Tibetan form of Buddhism, but who are not Tibetan.

There is a form of Buddhism in Japan, called Pure Land. Adherents of this form of Buddhism believe in a deity who is a non-historical Buddha – not the man Siddhartha Gautama, who was born 500 years before Christ, in what in more modern times has been called Nepal, and who became the Buddha.

No, these Japanese believe in a deity called Amita or Amitabha Buddha – sometimes called the Buddha of Pure Life, or the Buddha of Pure Light. These Buddhists, as far as I understand, believe that Amitabha Buddha is a deity, who, if prayed to, will bring his faithful to the Pure Land, to live with him, after they die.

I doubt the Pure Land Buddhists would agree with my theory. I don’t know if the Tibetans would or not.

I believe we have only theories about God. I don’t believe any religion is the One True Faith, that has the only Absolute Truth.

There is a fourth part to my theory.. one that I don’t like so much. A light side, a dark side. Think of The Force, as an analogy, I suppose.

What if this same source of all spiritual good is also the source of all spiritual evil?

Most Satanists are LaVeyan satanists – followers of Anton LaVey, 20th century author of the Satanic Bible, and founder of the official Church of Satan. These satanists claim to be atheists.

There is another form of satanism, called theistic satanism. These satanists are much more rare.. hopefully. It is they who believe Satan is their god. And they are the satanists who are likely to commit crimes, including terrible crimes.

I don’t know how keen the LaVeyan satanists are on performing black magic. I think the theistic satanists are more into that, or should I say, a lot more serious about it.

There are other forms of dark, evil magic as well.

Does evil spiritual power come from the same source as the good? For my theory to be consistent, yes.

My theory is one among many. I don’t feel entirely at ease with this theory, but it’s the best I can do for myself.

God by any name.

“The Finger and The Moon.”

November 16, 2017

“The Finger and The Moon.”

Some of you who are familiar with Buddhist or Taoist teachings, or who have seen the Bruce Lee film “Enter The Dragon” might have heard of a teaching called “The Finger and The Moon.”

This teaching does not just relate to martial arts practitioners, or adherents of Buddhism or Taoism. It relates to anyone who practices any religion, or who is on any spiritual path.

Although I’ve studied Buddhism and a bit of Taoism, I first came across this teaching when I watched “Enter The Dragon,” a classic martial arts film, featuring Bruce Lee as a martial arts expert who becomes an undercover agent who infiltrates a mixed martial arts tournament so he can take down a crime lord.

In an early part of the film, Lee’s character gives brief instructions to one of his young students. I’ll include the clip in this post, just below. During his instruction, Lee talks about the finger and the moon. If you watch the clip on youtube, instead of just here on my blog, you can find another commentary on the teachings found in the clip.. worth reading.

One of the things Lee says is, “Look at the moon, don’t look at the finger. If you look at the finger you will miss all of the moon’s heavenly glory.”

Here is the clip:

 

I’m guessing Lee or the scriptwriters found this teaching in Buddhism, Taoism or both.

Ages ago, a Buddhist monk named Bodhidharma brought Buddhism from India to China, and it was in China that Buddhism became mixed with an ancient Chinese philosophy called Taoism. That’s why some of the same teachings might be found in both Buddhism and Taosim. There’s even a famous form of Buddhism called Zen, which is a mixture of Buddhism and Taoism.

Also, in China, Buddhism is practiced along with Taoism and Confucianism. Lee, being from China, and being a martial artist, (Chinese martial arts being rooted in Taoism, Buddhism, or both) was no doubt exposed to these philosophies.

So, I’m guessing neither Lee nor the writer or writers of the script invented this teaching.

Even though I saw the film decades ago, I never came up with an interpretation of what Lee’s character meant.

Today, as my incredibly over-active mind was rambling along while I was doing my stretches, I came up with an interpretation of this teaching. An interpretation, not THE interpretation.

I started thinking about how it can be easy to focus not so much on the purpose or goal of spiritual teachings, but instead, focusing only on the teachings or primarily focusing on spiritual teachers.

This is true regardless of what faith one practices.

If you are a Christian, you likely believe that Christ is part of the Holy Trinity, and therefore God and a part of God at the same time, is the moon, and a part of the moon, at the same time.

I think, for Christians, Christ, as God, is the moon, but Christ is also, as a moral teacher (in the Bible, he talked a LOT about morality and right living) a finger, pointing to God.. God his Father, and to a higher way of consciousness and living.. which is also the moon.

(I’m being as clear as I can, but my mind is muddled, and religion can be tricky.. )

Even if you think of the Christian God as the moon, you still might also think of your favorite pastor or priest or Christian teacher on TV or radio as the moon instead of the finger.

So often, congregations become a cult of personality, focused on a particular, popular priest, or a much loved and respected pastor and his or her family (some Christian denominations have female pastors). I have heard of and seen this happen.

Unfortunately, members of the clergy get caught up in this sometimes, and this goes to their heads. This phenomena can be very bad for a congregation.

Also, it is common for pastors or priests to not always stay with one congregation. Often, they get re-assigned, or choose to move on to a different church somewhere else. When this happens, some folks leave their church, because their favorite pastor or priest has moved on.

Christians, it is important to worship your God, not his messengers.

Getting fixated on a spiritual leader is not a problem unique to Christians.

Hindus can easily become focused on their gurus or other spiritual teachers. If you want to see an example of this, watch a unique and excellent documentary called “Kumare,” about a guy who, some years back, decided to pretend to be a guru – a Hindu teacher claiming to possess special wisdom. This film is really worth watching.

Here’s the trailer for “Kurame:”

 

The trailer makes the film seem like a comedy, but much of it is serious and pretty deep. Ironically, although the guy is pretending to be a guru (which begs such questions as, what makes a real guru, and are all gurus pretending.. what is real?) he learns and comes up with some definite wisdom and spiritual truth, I think.

Moving on to Buddhism and other faiths..

Buddhists can get too focused not only on Buddhist teachers, such as the Dalai Lama, Thich Naht Hanh, or Pema Chodron, but even on Buddha. Buddha did not want this to happen. He never claimed to be God. He claimed to be “one who woke up,” which is the meaning of the word Buddha.

Buddha did claim to wake up to ultimate reality, and shared that reality with people in India, almost 500 years before Christ. But Buddha did not want the focus to be on him.

Buddha’s intention, as far as I understand it, was that people not become Buddhists.. followers of Buddha, but instead become Buddhas. His hope was for people to become as enlightened as he had become.

There’s even a Buddhist teaching on meditation that says, “If you encounter the Buddha along the road, kill him.”

What this teaching means is don’t be distracted by or fixated on anything in particular while you are meditating, including thoughts or images of the Buddha. Instead, while meditating, let your thoughts arise and depart.. float overhead like clouds. Don’t get stuck on any thoughts or images (not even clouds), and don’t get stuck on the Buddha.

The Buddha was a finger, pointing to enlightenment, The Dharma, the Way of the Buddha.. not the absolute way, but a way of thinking and living.. is a way to enlightenment. It is enlightenment, a gradual process for most Buddhists, that is ultimately the moon.

Buddha had disciples, but didn’t want them to venerate him as a god. He wanted to educate his disciples so they could go forth and teach the Dharma.. pointing others to the moon, enlightenment. (What is enlightenment? Buddhists disagree on this, so I’m not going to attempt to define enlightenment, I’m just saying, in my understanding, it’s the final, most important goal of Buddhism),

But, go to any Buddhist temple, or country where Buddhism is practiced.. or just go to any Chinese or multi-spiritual gift shop, and you will see statues of the Buddha. (Side note.. the fat Buddha is NOT a statue of the historical Buddha, whose name was Siddartha Gautama, but that’s a subject for another essay).

A statue of the Buddha in one’s home or temple where one attends Buddhist services is not necessarily a bad thing, if the statue is a reminder enlightenment and how to achieve enlightenment – right living and right meditation, etc. – the Buddhist way to enlightenment.

However, if much time is spent on venerating the Buddha, or thinking of Buddha as a god, like what is done in the Japanese Pure Land Buddhist sect, that, in my opinion, is not what the Buddha wanted.

What about Wicca and other forms of paganism? Many many pagans are what are called solitary practitioners. They are not part of a group, but practice their paganism, magick, etc. by themselves and do their own thing.

However, some Wiccans and other pagans are part of organized groups. These groups have at least one leader, or a small hierarchy of leaders.

Even for pagans, those who are part of a group, it can be an easy thing to do to focus on one or more of the leaders and not just on what is being taught or what the goal of the teachings is.

I am guessing that Mormons, Muslims and Jews sometimes can become too focused on their own religious leaders, even if this is not at all what their leaders want.

And, unfortunately, being the moon, not the finger, is exactly what some religious leaders and teachers want to be. Watch out for these leaders, regardless of what religion you practice.

No, spirituality is not ultimately about who is giving the teachings, nor is spirituality just about the teachings.

The moon is what the teachings bring you to, whether the teachings bring you to salvation, enlightenment, a greater appreciation of God, or whatever the goal of the teachings is.

The moon can be a combination of moral living, compassion, and appreciation or worship of deity.

But moral codes and teachings can also become only the moon and not the finger instead of the moon, if people get too hung up on various teachings and morals. This is not good, and can lead to fundamentalism. Fundamentalism, regardless of the faith, is destructive.

If you are on a spiritual path, it is important to stop and consider if what you are focusing on is the moon, or is it only a finger pointing to the moon, regardless of whether the finger is a person or a teaching, or moral code that is pointing to the moon.

Yes, focusing on teachings, morals, practices, and so forth is important, but only within the context of getting you to focus on the moon, whether it be God and what God desires of you, enlightenment not only for one’s self but for all beings, or whatever your ultimate spiritual goal is.

It is the moon that matters, not the finger. Do not look at the finger. Look at the moon.

Happy Birthday to Paul Simon!

October 14, 2017

This past day, October 13th, was Paul Simon’s birthday. He is 76, and one of the greatest music legends of our time! He’s had a very long career! Simon and Garfunkel released their first album, “Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.” in 1964.

Simon, for the next several decades after that first album was released, split and reunited with Garfunkel. I think Simon was too musically restless and creative to just do folk songs with Art, even though the songs were fantastic.

I’m glad Simon often went off on his own, because if he didn’t, we wouldn’t have such wonderful songs as..

 

 

 

And my favorite..

 

Paul Simon, thank you so much for your wonderful music! Happy Birthday!

“Whiplash,” Jazz, Drumming, Prog Metal, and a young woman named Devikah.

August 18, 2017

So I finally got around to watching the movie “Whiplash.” It is about a student drummer at a prestigious (fictional) school, having to deal with a horrifyingly sadistic music teacher/band leader (think drill sergeant from “Full Metal Jacket,” but a lot less funny). The kid almost kills himself (literally) trying to be the best drummer he can, and avoid being abused by his teacher.

Was the film worth watching? A little, since I like jazz on occasion, and really appreciate great drumming, no matter the genre. However, the film was quite disturbing and hard to stomach.

I’ve just done some research, and it seems the movie is mostly B.S. A teacher could never legally be as abusive as the teacher in the film (using an incredible amount of homophobic, racist insults, physically assaulting students). The student’s practicing methods are not portrayed accurately, anyone who bleeds that much while playing drums is doing something very very wrong, etc.

The actor Miles Teller (no, I’d never heard of him before either) who played the student, is, it turns out, very musically gifted. He was a self-taught drummer. and had been playing for many years.. rock cover bands.. but learned all the immeasurably difficult drum parts in less than a month.

The film.. if you want to see some great acting (J. K. Simmons won Best Supporting actor for his performance as the sadistic teacher), don’t mind being disturbed, and really like jazz, you might want to watch it.. maybe.. but otherwise.. skip it. Seriously.

For those who are morbidly curious, here is trailer:

The rest of this post is not about the film. I’m now going to write a bit about a drummer I found on youtube. Her name is Devikah, she is only 18, and looks like a really cute anime character. She’s also a damn good drummer.

I found Devikah while looking up tunes from the “Whiplash” soundtrack. One of the videos that showed up was Devikah playing drum covers of the two main musical pieces from the film.

Here is the video:

After the video, I clicked on one of her comments, which led to some info about her, also on youtube, and found a link to her website. On there, as on her youtube channel, are many more videos. Turns out she is quite versatile, and can play various styles of music, including prog metal. Devikah is in college now, but is available to play gigs a few nights a week. She’s a drummer for hire, living in Las Vegas.

Here is Devikah performing a prog metal cover of a song by a band called X Japan:

Here is her website: https://www.bandmix.com/devikah/

Some of you are likely not familiar with the genre of music called “prog metal.” “Prog” stands for “progressive.” The most famous prog metal band in America is Dream Theater. Prog metal is crazily hard to play. It is, or, should I say, it can be, a mixture of metal and other musical styles, including jazz and classical. Like jazz, prog metal is something of an acquired taste. I’ve been into jazz off and on for quite awhile, but have only been listening to prog metal for a few years.

Here is my favorite song by Dream Theater:

Dream Theater is not my favorite prog metal band. I prefer a band from Sweden, called Opeth.. formerly mostly a death metal band that went prog..

Prospekt (spelled with a “k” on purpose) from England (sadly, they have a different singer now than the one on their first album). Unfortunately, this amazing band is practically unknown.. I’m trying to change that. Here’s an audio-only video of their song, “Shroud.”

I also really like some music by the band Pesefone. This band is from a tiny European country I’d never heard of before, called Andorra. I only like this band’s instrumentals. For the most part, I do not like the singer’s voice. But the instrumentals are fantastic. This band is also pretty much unknown. Here’s an intense instrumental (audio only):

And some American instrumental bands.. Scale the Summit.. I listen to this band quite often.. hmm.. hard to choose which track to put here.. Alright.. this is a video of one of the guitarists playing “Black Hills,” which is the first Scale the Summit track I bought (please pay for your downloads if you can find them available for sale):

The Fine Constant:

Animals As Leaders:

And lastly, the band Liquid Tension Experiment, made up of three of the guys from Dream Theater, plus bassist Tony Levin:

Alright then.. thanks for coming along on this musical journey through film, jazz, and prog rock. I hope you’ve enjoyed the trip.

browsing international radio stations and finding..

August 6, 2017

So I had an idea to listen to international radio stations online.. something fun to do.. don’t know why I hadn’t thought of this sooner.

Why did I think of this at all? I was watching one of my favorite British sitcoms, called “Black Books.” A character on the show mentioned being employed by something called Radio 4.

Even though I’m somewhat of an Anglophile, and heard the station mentioned in the past, I’d never looked up Radio 4.. so I looked it up tonight.

Here’s the webpage I was streaming from.. not sure if it’s official..

http://www.internetradiouk.com/bbc-4/

Here’s the official home page: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4

After reading about it on Wikipedia, I found the station online and streamed it for a bit, then decided to try radio stations from Jamaica.. why not.

There’s a webpage called jamaicaradio.net http://www.jamaicaradio.net/#rjr-94-fm-94-1-kingston that allows streaming of many stations. At the moment, mostly dull hip-hop that doesn’t sound Jamaican, some reggae, some free-form dance DJ weirdness.. terribly amateurish, and then..

Country?

Yes, on 94.9 RJR.

Here’s the homepage: http://www.rjr94fm.com/

(Oh, you might be wondering where I am.. Boise, Idaho).

I was going to switch to something else, since I don’t tend to listen to country (although I like a little of it) but a song came on that I thought.. hey why not listen to this? So I did..

I figured, like most radio stations in America, the DJ would not say what the song or artist was played, or even be on the air at all, so I googled the lyrics, and found the song!

(What’s with string sections in classic country songs?!! Ruins the tunes! I’m not talkin’ good ol’ fiddle music.. THAT I like.. no, I’m talking about string arrangements.. sort of a ’70’s thing I guess? I’ve noticed this in a lot of tunes that are otherwise great).

What a way to discover a song by Reba McEntire! How random, huh? This is a great song, and I’m going to purchase download of it. (Don’t be a pirate.. if you like a song, and you can find a download for sale, pay for it).

Anyway.. for those of you who are curious about music, radio, and other countries.. google the name of the country of your choice, the words “radio stations,” and “live streaming.”

I think I’ll try Japan a little later, even though I don’t know any Japanese, except for a few words. I enjoy a bit of Japanese music once in awhile. Maybe I’ll like more. Been watching an anime series called “RahXephon” that is both semi-incomprehensible and amazing! The opening and closing musical themes are wonderful!

After sampling Japanese stations?

Hmm.. I will try some in India..

I’m still listening to the Jamaican station.. the DJ finally came on.. bit of a surreal experience listening to a dude with a Jamaican accent hosting a country show. I do wish he’d play whole songs.. doesn’t even do a fade out, just cuts them off a bit before the end sometimes.

He’s just played a tune.. I couldn’t tell who that one was by, so I googled the lyrics I heard.. found that one too.. Randy Travis “Don’t Take Your Love Away From Me.” I like that one too.

And now, something by Patty Loveless.. so the DJ says.. his last song of the night.. just googled Jamaica current time.. what, only an hour ahead of Boise? Doesn’t make any sense! NYC is two hours ahead of us! Oh wait, Jamaica is on Eastern Standard Time, and NYC is on Eastern Daylight time. EDT is one hour ahead of EST.. I’m guessing they don’t have daylight savings time in Jamaica? So, only one hour of time difference between Mountain Daylight Time, the time zone that I’m in, and Eastern Standard Time. Don’t they have a sort of Caribbean Standard Time? Well no, the Islands are spread out quite a bit.

Right then.. that one.. the Patty Loveless (what a depressing last name) song.. strange theology in the lyrics.. “When the Fallen Angels Fly.” Whoops.. that one cut out too.

Now it’s religious music.. damn.. ok then. I’m out. Actually, I really like some religious music, but it tends to be several centuries old, and composed by one of the greats.. Bach, Mozart.. that’s NOT what started playing just now..

But anyway.. please enjoy this song by Reba McEntire (wow, she’s hot in this video! Big hair, but.. wow, classy too) courtesy of my curiosity, and 94.9 RJR in Jamaica.

Human sound, healing, mantras, speaking in tongues..

August 4, 2017

I have a very strange feeling that I have never felt before, and which is hard to describe. I feel like I need to speak in a language that is ancient, primitive, something not heard by modern man. If not that, then perhaps something from the Middle East? Hebrew? Arabic?

Some people believe in speaking in tongues. I can speak in tongues.. I suppose, but I don’t think there is anything spiritual about it. I can make sounds that are like a language… but they are gibberish as far as I can tell. The sounds are vaguely Middle Eastern, as far as I can tell, from listening to my students, and people from the Middle East who I knew back in college, and who spoke various languages such as Arabic and Assyrian.

I feel a bit cathartic when I speak in this way, but am also worried.. what if I am speaking in some ancient language, and what if what I am saying is not good. What if it is a curse? Or worse?

I also feel as if I strongly need to not only speak from my mouth, but speak from my whole body. As if I could resonate sound from all of my body and project it forward. If that is possible, I don’t know how to do it.

This feeling just came upon me very recently, and I don’t understand it.

The best thing I can do right now is to use an audiobook called “Heal Yourself With Your Own Voice,” or something like that.

The narrator/author makes strange, sometimes embarrassing, or almost orgasmic sounds, to create resonance within the body, and to heal one’s self. The listener is supposed to repeat these sounds. I’m guessing these practices are rooted in some ancient, primitive tradition. But I could be wrong. It doesn’t matter, if making these sounds helps.

I’ve had the audibook for years, but have not made the sounds. I don’t live alone, and feel inhibited.

I also have a 4 DVD series on how to free one’s singing voice. Loosening up the voice so more notes can be hit, and one’s range can be expanded. I have the potential to be a good singer, if I practice. But I feel that singing, although a good start, would not be enough. Maybe it would. Maybe it would help a lot.

I haven’t used this DVD series much, and have only worked, or rather sung, my way through the first DVD a few times. Again, because I don’t want to sound strange and bother my family members. Also, I really don’t like the guy on the DVD. I find him annoying.

I’m staring to think that I should really get past these inhibitions and work on these vocal exercises.

Perhaps I should chant mantras as well. The only one I know is long, in Sanskrit, and is a prayer of praise to the Hindu god Shiva.

I like chanting it, and I don’t. I don’t want to chant to any god. I don’t believe in any god written about in any book.. either that or I feel that any god that has been written about is just a tiny view of a part of what God really is. Like all religions get a tiny bit of a view and think their view is absolute truth.

Maybe I should just chant “Om.” According to the Hindus, that is the sound of the Universe.

Unfortunately, I’ve had SO much negative Christian programming in the past that I feel any chant in a language I don’t know is potentially bad.. conjuring up evil, demons, or bad luck.

So I tend not to say mantras. Maybe I should work on getting past my fears, and chant mantras anyway.

Maybe all and everything is a part of God, so it doesn’t matter if I’m chanting to Shiva or whoever.

I don’t know, but whatever it is.. sound.. vibration.. I feel strongly that I need to let it out.

In this short video, I demonstrate my version of speaking in tongues, and what the “Om” and mantra sound like:

The Incredible Importance of Self-Respect.

August 3, 2017
This post is about the immense value of having self-respect, and the potentially immense drawbacks and dangers of not having self-respect.
 
Before I go further, I want to point out that self-respect is not the same as having a big (and easily bruised) ego, or arrogance. Those things are not healthy. Self-respect is very healthy.
 
On to the rest of the post..
 
I have come to realize that so many problems we experience are those we bring on ourselves.
 
A big cause of problems we create for ourselves is lack of self-respect. Often, we don’t even realize this.
 
I’ve been looking back on my life, and have been wondering why I was bullied in school at times, treated poorly in the churches I attended, and was sometimes picked on and harassed in the workplace at various jobs.
 
I don’t know all the reasons, but I have finally figured out one of them.
 
I had not respected myself enough. And it showed.
 
Why had I not respected myself? I’ve dealt with serious depression pretty much my entire life. I think this was revealed by my tone of voice, mannerisms, body posture, etc.
 
People could spot me as an easy mark. Some people have a predatory nature, and almost a 6th sense. It is their nature to spot weakness in others, and cause harm.
 
Tone of voice matters. Body posture matters. How we dress and conduct ourselves maters. We can appear confident, even when we are not, even when we don’t feel up to it, even when we are depressed or anxious.
 
In fact, in some circumstances, we NEED to act like we respect ourselves, because otherwise we are much more likely to be victimized, passed up for raises and promotions, make poor relationship choices, and will generally be mistreated.
 
 
Women, pay special attention to this next part. There have been many studies on rape. Although rape is not entirely preventable, there are things women can do to decrease their chances of being raped.
 
What can women do? They can project confidence. One study I read about in college had to do with women being raped in parking lots or parking garages. The conclusion of the study was that women who walked in a way that was not confident, looked at the ground, etc., and appeared weak were much more likely to be raped than those who walked with poise and confidence. Rapists, like other criminals, tend not to want a challenge. They want an easy target. Don’t be one.
 
Scan the area, be observant, develop situational awareness. Men should do this too.
 
Another thing women can do is walk with their car keys in one hand, with the sharp end of one key pointing out. This key can be used for stabbing. Aim for the neck, shoving upward, if you can. Or an eye. A good kick or knee to the crotch works quite well also. Or a kick to the knee or other part of the leg to destabilize balance.
 
Another thing to do is take a self-defense class.. a serious self defense class that meets weekly or bi-weekly, not just a one day seminar. Effective self-defense classes increase confidence in both women and men.
 
Keeping yourself in strong shape is also a very good idea.
 
Don’t be an easy target.
 
Going back to my past..
 
There were times that, even if I knew what I know now, I might not have been able to change my posture and behavior, but maybe I would have. Forewarned is forearmed.
 
I can’t change my past, but I can learn from my past. Right now, I am learning, I working on making changes, and am going to be making more changes.
 
I have already been paying attention to my posture and how I walk. I have also started to dress a little better, regardless of where I am going to be.
 
Even if I’m just headed to the grocery store or to the library, I make sure to look a little nicer than I used to. For example, I won’t just wear an old t-shirt, sweat pants, and beat-up shoes. No. I show respect for myself, and dress better. I wear a pleasant-looking but not overly formal button-down shirt, a good pair of jeans or shorts, socks of appropriate color and length, if I’m wearing socks, no socks with sandals, and shoes that are in good condition.
 
Unless I feel like looking a bit funky. Then I’ll wear my Converse Chucks with my own custom artwork. That’s ok once in awhile. If I’m on a hike though, or doing something else outdoors, then sweat pants, old t-shirts and so forth are fine. It’s about dressing appropriately.
 
It matters how we look. It also matters how we sound.
 
I notice that I sometimes speak in somewhat of an anxious voice that is higher pitched than my natural voice. I need to work on that.
 
Getting in shape..
 
I need to get myself in better shape. This includes improving my diet, which I’ve already started to work on, and get more exercise. Eventually, I also want to regularly attend a practical self-defense class. Being in shape equals feeling more confident.
 
Taking deep, diaphragmatic breaths is important. Practice.
 
I can also do such things as shine my shoes, practice my posture while I’m at home (something I really need to do, not only to improve confidence, but to decrease pain and be more healthy), wear clothes that fit well, not sit down too long and get up from my chair once in awhile.. set a timer for this.. meditate for more mental peace and clarity.. make simple, small improvements that add up to big results.
 
Will I be problem-free? No, but I believe I will have less problems, be more resilient and better able to handle problems that come along, and will be taken more seriously in the future.
 
What about you? Are you experiencing problems in the workplace or in your personal life?
 
Consider how you carry yourself. Consider if you are appearing and acting in a way that shows you have respect for yourself, or are you doing something else?
 
Do you respect yourself? Do you act like you do?
 
Even if you are often down or anxious like I am, you can still make small, positive changes which will make big changes in your life.
 
There is a saying, “fake it ’til you make it.” I even heard a Ted Talk about this. I will put a video of this talk at the bottom of this post. This talk has been viewed by over 12 million people. It focuses on body language and confidence. There are other Ted Talks and various youtube videos that can be helpful.
Do what you have to do to no longer be a victim, not only a victim of others, but a victim of yourself.
 
You will eventually make better choices, and have a better life.
 
Is all this easy? Of course not. Improvement and gaining self-respect requires a LOT of patience (the most difficult part, I think), self-awareness, kindness to yourself, honesty about yourself, and determination. It also requires small, incremental steps, which are doable. I can do this. You can do this. Remember that film, “What About Bob?” Baby steps!
 
Ted Talks and other videos can be helpful, and so can podcasts. You can find Ted Talks and other useful podcasts if you look for them. These don’t cost anything.
 
Check iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.. for guys “Art of Manliness” is a good podcast choice, although it covers a huge range of topics, not just building confidence.
 
There are also two books I am interested in reading that I think will be very good. “The Art of Worldly Wisdom,” written by Baltasar Gracian, and published in 1702. The other is “The 48 Laws of Power,” by Robert Greene, published much more recently. I don’t know how much these books will help, because I’ve only read a little of each so far. But I am optimistic.
 
Don’t kill yourself trying to find just the right self-help book though, and try to find books at the library. If you want to buy books, buy only those you like the best, and find the most useful. And shop around. Using money wisely is something to feel good about.
 
In summation..
 
Creating self-respect, maintaining self-respect, and acting like one has self-respect. This is incredibly important. Take heed.
 
In the comments section, I’m going to include a song which might seem frivolous, but it isn’t. Listen to it, and believe what you hear. (And, I’d give it a ’10.’ It’s got a good beat and I can dance to it).
https://youtu.be/-1pYKdqD1ls
https://youtu.be/Ks-_Mh1QhMc