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Touching A Magic Chord

March 2, 2015 6 comments

stenciled cave hand

Archaeologists argue the actual date when the first painter stenciled his hand onto cave walls, somewhere in the vicinity of 40,000 years ago. Earliest man was compelled to make a mark, to leave something behind. A memory of him. A gift to us. The human hand is a powerful symbol of our human potential. Flesh and blood, our life coursing through our veins, from our hearts to our hands, and into our sensitive fingers. Touch is how we experience the world.

The hand can reach and grasp: a tool, a paintbrush, a pen, a weapon. Perhaps its greatest strength is what it conveys through gesture, in both the secular and sacred world. Our non verbal communication is a affirmation that something beyond words connects us. The symbolism of a hand gesture may only be within the context of esoteric rite or ritual and known only to that community. Or, it may extend itself to the global family. Our communal symbols and signs are how we experience the world.

From the shameless to the sublime, we know what gestures signify. It is the rudeness of giving someone the proverbial finger. Thumbs up, thumbs down. The calm of the open V peace sign, the power of the fist clenched in solidarity. Deliverance. Defiance. The Hindu and Buddhist mudras. Hands in prayer. The bending of ring finger and pinky in benediction blessing as a sign of the Trinity. A kohen (priest) forming the Hebrew letter “Shin” with both hands, fingers split (“shin” also represents the word Shaddai, a name for God) to confer a blessing.

In an episode of television’s Star Trek called Amok Time, Leonard Nimoy‘s character, Mr. Spock, half human, half alien, is introducing us to other people of his Vulcan race. We are glimpsing an alien greet his alien community. To signify the moment, and to create a richness of their culture and civility, Nimoy created the single hand, split finger version of the kohen’s Hebrew blessing he had seen as a boy. The Vulcan race, with its manner of ritual, of greeting, of community, offers the sign to one another with its message: “Live long and prosper.” It was the power of the hand, the strength of its gesture. Nimoy said that it “touched a magic chord.” It did. We immediately understood.

vulcan sign

nimoy

Leonard Nimoy died on Friday, February 27, 2015. He was 83. He has left his mark, his memory, and his gift to us, in that same unending way as the early man stenciling his hand on a cave wall. To the far reaches of space, where words and time hold no sway, the enduring image remains.

Spock

Orbiting 250 miles (400 km) above earth on the International Space Station, NASA astronaut Terry Virts commemorated the passing of Leonard Nimoy with the Vulcan hand gesture. To the right of Virt’s hand is Nimoy’s home state, Massachusetts, though Leonard Nimoy’s world would become so much bigger. We give the greeting to Mr. Nimoy, who gave it to us, this one last time. We offer it in softest silence, as he, now with his fully human heart at rest, makes his voyage to the eternal frontier.

The Beatles

February 9, 2014 2 comments

beatles 50th

THE FAB FOUR

Raphael – The group’s bad boy. Rebellious, he doesn’t like anyone telling him what to do. His personality can be fierce and sarcastic, with a deadpan humor.
Weapon: Twin Sais. Color: Red

Leonardo – The level-headed tactician and responsible one. Creative. Protective. He has strong leadership qualities. As a result, he sometimes conflicts with Raphael.
Weapon: Twin Katanas. Color: Blue

Donatello – Less outspoken, a calmer, more reserved member of the group. He is the the wise one, and though quiet, he is intense. The least violent in the group, he uses peaceful methods to solve conflicts, but never hesitates to defend his brothers. He is a Ninjitsu master.
Weapon: Bo Staff. Color: Purple

Michelangelo – Easy-going, fun-loving, athletic. He is often the comic relief in the group, with his physical antics and carefree style. While he loves to relax, he also has an adventurous side. He knows how to wield those sticks!
Weapon: Nunchakus. Color: Orange


Wait a minute! These aren’t the Beatles, they’re the Ninja Turtles. Or — are they?
But…it WAS 50 years today when The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show.
And here’s another clue for you all: Leonardo was Paul.

beatles 50th

Nelson Mandela

December 6, 2013 2 comments

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)

In Chinese, Wu De means martial virtue.
“De” is the “de” in the Tao De Ching, and it ultimately represents spiritual, transcendent power.

Nelson Mandela epitomized the term in every way. Martial Virtue: strength, courage, integrity, beauty, restraint, forgiveness, peace.

The purest form of spirit. And the most powerful.

Guest post @ brianbrownewalker.com

martial virtue


Usi Letela Uxolo – Mandela Brings Us Peace

Water Cooperation: No Fighting

March 22, 2013 2 comments

Photo by Toni Tan


“Be formless, shapeless, like water,” said Bruce Lee, echoing the words of the ancient Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu.

Written over two thousand years ago, Sun Tzu’s classic treatise Art of War uses water as a metaphor for strategies in managing conflict.

The theme of this year’s World Water Day is Water Cooperation.

We are facing growing issues surrounding water, conflict and survival. March 22 is World Water Day, and the start of World Water Week. The focus is to promote peace in transboundary water management through cooperation, not conflict. International waters are key natural resources ensuring our global future. Where they touch on more than one country, or are intercepted by a nation upstream, they are also a source of tension.

Conflicts arise among leaders, as these transboundary issues are deeply rooted in emotions –- water is necessary for survival. And it defines a culture’s opportunity for advancement. The challenge is not only to provide a sustainable clean water system, it is also learning to manage and share resources in an equitable way. Understanding historical water disputes and related treaties provide signposts for conflict resolution and aides in developing strategies for the future. Focusing on cooperation and joint action is essential to vital transboundary waters.

The resolution process requires a tremendous effort, great skill, programs and money. It also calls for awareness. Here’s how you can get involved

Lao Tze said, “The highest good is like water. Water nourishes the ten thousand things.”

Both water and cooperation are precious. Water is life. Communication is the path. No fighting.

World Water Day

International Women’s Day

Speak Truth

March 8, 2013. It is a day to imagine balance. And to celebrate the work of equilibrium. Achievement. Justice.

It is a day of global awareness…celebrating women — past and present, with the courage to make their voices heard. And for the future — the songs and struggles of daughters everywhere in this world, who deserve the human right to live their lives in balance and in peace…

Peace in our lives. Peace in our homes, our streets, our cities and towns, our countries, our world. OUR world.

Equity in our lives. Equity in our homes, our streets, our cities and towns, our countries, our world. OUR world.

Speak the truth even if your voice shakes….

Toni

International Women’s Day

IWD

Ode To Joy

December 24, 2012 2 comments

MAY YOU FIND A JOYFUL SURPRISE AND PEACE IN THE MOMENT…

Into The Light

December 21, 2012 Leave a comment

Into The Light

Photo courtesy imgur.com



In astronomy, the seasons move in celestial cycles. As the earth rotates around the sun, it also spins on its own axis, which tilts towards the plane of its rotation (about 23.5 degrees). The northern hemisphere receives less direct sunlight. Days of less and less light, moving towards the birth of winter and a new year. The sun appears at its lowest point in the sky, unmoving on the horizon solstice translates from latin “sun” and “standing still”. The northern hemisphere experiences its annual winter solstice. This marks the shortest day. It is also the longest night. Then, the sun will again ascend in the northern sky as the days begin to grow longer. It is the Earth returning to light.

In the days growing shorter, with darkness falling around us, we enter into our own dark time of sorts. The darkness is considered the space where secrets lurk, and creatures stir –- the vampires and monsters, the underbelly’s destructive and chaotic forces. Our own fears and failings are in that darkness too. It’s a time for assessing who we are, and where we are – in our selves, in our homes, in our community, and in our world. It is a burning and bruising time to examine our collective spirit.

It is an intensified time of natural disasters and man made crisis. In a year of endless suffering – hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, fiscal woes, foreclosures, job loss, war, and violence, it seems that what lurks in the secret, dark corners, at great expense, is being flushed out. Many of us have been knocked down and heart broken in the process.

On the darkest day in the celestial cycle, today is a day of mourning for the loss of lives at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

During the shortest day and the longest night of the year it is a time for illumination. Turn on a lamp, light candles, build a fire: it is a time for rational conversation, compassion and change. The sun, from its lowest point, will follow night and make it way back up into the northern sky. There will be a little more light every day.

The question is: will we use it wisely?

Toni

Shifts, Sounds and Shankar

December 12, 2012 4 comments

Our lives are filled with shifts: seismic, paradigmatic, geographical, sociological, personal, and spiritual shifts. Big and small. And our lives are filled with sound: rhythm, and repetition – music, chant, song, verse, and spoken word.

Endings. Beginnings.

Today is filled with the feeling of a shift. We are aware of the date, and we are in the moment: 12/12/12. Some might note that it is an end…there won’t be another repetitive date for lifetimes, not until January 1, 3001. A door, closing and transformational. Others may say its a number sequence filled with magic and mystery. A portal, open and transformational.

And many of us woke up to the news of Ravi Shankar’s passing.

While Bruce Lee is credited with opening a door to the world of martial arts and to Eastern thought through Chinese philosophy, George Harrison also influenced a cultural shift that would define a generation.

George Harrison was a seeker, looking for a deeper meaning to life beyond the material world and the confusion of fame. He played an instrumental role (pun intended and unintended) in changing how we listen to music, raising our awareness of the global community, opening a door not only to Indian and to world music, but also to Eastern philosophy through Indian thought, practice and meditation. The bridge between East and West was built, note by note, through his friendship, mentorship and collaboration with legendary virtuoso Ravi Shankar.

Pandit Ravi Shankar, from Varnasi, an ancient and holy Indian city, had played with Western artists like John Coltrane prior to his meeting Harrison, though it was his musical collaboration with the Beatles that sent his career soaring, elevating him to cultural ambassador, and introducing classical Indian ragas to the world. He played Woodstock, Monterey and organized the first-ever music fundraiser, held at Madison Square Garden, The Concert for Bangladesh. (The 12/12/12 Benefit Concert for Hurricane Sandy is rightfully part of his legacy, also held at MSG). During his career he played classical Indian music, but also experimented with different genres and collaborated with many artists. His soundtrack for the Apu trilogy by Satyajit Ray is as haunting as are films (see them if you can).

He remained, throughout his life, an electrifying force and powerful presence in world music. Sounds and shifts. Endings, beginnings. A door, closing and transformational. A portal, open and transformational.

Ravi Shankar (1920 – 2012)

Toni

Full

March 28, 2012 6 comments

The moon orbits the spinning earth, and in its phases and cycles, seemingly shows us aspects of itself: new, crescent, quarter, full. Although it appears to be changing shape on its journey, the moon is actually reflecting the light from the sun. It is always moving, intact, whole. In truth, the moon is always full.

Sometimes in our search for meaning, we tend to take concepts and symbols apart, and then focus on the parts, and not the whole. A symbol we are all familiar with is the Taoist symbol of the yin yang. The image is a static version of its wholeness. Life is always in motion, always in a process of becoming, and changing. Like the moon, the yin yang is a symbol for change, for motion, for the play of light and shadow. We think of it in halves, and opposites — but it is not day or night, fall and winter. It is all things: day becoming night, fall becoming winter, growth and decay. It is always moving, intact, whole. This is time.

In the richness of Jungian psychology, this concept and its symbols are understood, and utilized, as the anime and animus. The anima is the female aspect present in the collective unconscious of men, and the animus is the male aspect present in the collective unconscious of women. But this energy is not static, neither halves or opposites — male or female, logic or compassion, conscious or unconscious, light or shadow. It is always moving, intact whole. This is being.

Yeats said, “It takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your own soul than it does for a soldier to fight on the battlefield.” Our life path is to realize the self. Not merely to explore and reconcile our light and our shadow, but to awaken what already resides within us. Like the moon, we are reflecting light, serving as mirrors for one another, not static, but reflective, responsive. This is transcendence.

In truth, like the moon, we are always moving, intact, whole, and full.

Toni

Masks

March 16, 2012 2 comments


Consider the mask. In the English language, the word for person is derived from the Latin word persona – which translates as “mask”. Masks are a universal part of our human experience. Used in ceremony and in practical purpose, the mask holds social and symbolic meaning. Power and myth.

The Iroquois healing ritual masks invoke the spirits of the dream world with the belief their masks have life. Igbo tribal mask ceremonies connect to ancestors. Shamanic masks of the Chinese Shigong, Hopi, Zuni and Dogon are used in ritual dance. There are the Temne’s masks of wisdom and humility; the Ivory Coast Senoufo tranquility mask with its sleepy eyes and Grebo mask of the proud, unyielding warrior.

Masks of ancient drama and myth teach and entertain, from Greek and Roman amphitheater to India’s Mahabarata and the Noh plays of Japan. There is the ancient iron mask as torture; oxygen mask, life saving; gas mask, protection; and diving mask, clarity. Masks as disguise, to avoid recognition, be anonymous — in crime or carnival.

A great deal is written in psychology as well, on how we wear “masks” in our every day life, as a defense mechanism, hiding a true self behind it. We don the right one for the appropriate situation. Our vulnerability is protected.

You may believe you are the sum of all the masks you wear. Give this some thought: if you hold a mask in front of you, and shine a flashlight between the mask and your face, light would shine through. It would pour through the openings in the eyes, the mouth, it may even appear luminous. Maybe your essence is spirit, and you are that light shining through.

What do you think?