Sunday, September 30, 2012

We Catch Glimmers

"Religion as a word points to that area of human experience where in one way or another man comes upon mystery as a summons to pilgrimage; where he senses meanings no less overwhelming because they can be only hinted at in myth and ritual; where he glimpses a destination that he can never know fully until he reaches it.
We are all of us more mystics than we believe or choose to believe - life is complicated enough as it is, after all. We have seen more than we let on, even to ourselves. Through some moment of beauty or pain, some sudden turning of our lives, we catch glimmers at least of what the saints are blinded by; only then, unlike the saints, we tend to go on as though nothing has happened. To go on as though something has happened, even though we are not sure what it was or just where we are supposed to go with it, is to enter the dimension of life that religion is a word for.
Some, of course, go to the typewriter. First the lump in the throat, the stranger's face unfurling like a flower, and then the clatter of the keys, the ting-a-ling of the right-hand margin. One thinks of Pascal sewing into his jacket, where after his death a servant found it, his "since about half past ten in the evening until about half past midnight. Fire. Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace," stammering it out like a child because he had to. Fire, fire, and then the scratch of pen on paper. There are always some who have to set it down in black and white."
~ Frederick Buechner, Listening To Your Life 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Welcome To Canada! Just Don't Discuss Anything Controversial: The Aftermath of Motion 312

Kitchener-Centre MP Stephen Woodworth
It's the day after, and all across Canada the in-boxes, voicemails, and mailboxes of Members of Parliament are breathing a sigh of relief. The 294 votes have been cast, and Motion 312 has been soundly defeated.  For my American and International readers, Motion 312 was introduced as a private members bill to our House of Commons by Conservative Member of Parliament Stephen Woodworth from the riding of Kitchener-Centre, Ontario. The Motion reads as follows:

That a special committee of the House be appointed and directed to review the declaration in Subsection 223(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada which states that a child becomes a human being only at the moment of complete birth and to answer the questions hereinafter set forth;

that the membership of the special committee consist of twelve members which shall include seven members from the government party, four members from the Official Opposition and one member from the Liberal Party, provided that the Chair shall be from the government party; that the members to serve on the said committee be appointed by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and the membership report of the special committee be presented to the House no later than 20 sitting days after the adoption of this motion;

that substitutions to the membership of the special committee be allowed, if required, in the manner provided by Standing Order 114(2);

that the special committee have all the powers of a Standing Committee as provided in the Standing Orders; and

that the special committee present its final report to the House of Commons within 10 months after the adoption of this motion with answers to the following questions,

      (i)            what medical evidence exists to demonstrate that a child is or is not a human being before the moment of complete birth?,

   (ii)            is the preponderance of medical evidence consistent with the declaration in Subsection 223(1) that a child is only a human being at the moment of complete birth?,

 (iii)            what are the legal impact and consequences of Subsection 223(1) on the fundamental human rights of a child before the moment of complete birth?,

 (iv)            what are the options available to Parliament in the exercise of its legislative authority in accordance with the Constitution and decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada to affirm, amend, or replace Subsection 223(1)?
For several weeks, women and men across this country have seen this motion as an attempt at re-opening the abortion debate and thus an attack on women's rights.  Thus the letters, e-mails and phonecalls, not to mention the massive e-petitions by groups such as LeadNow.

From the outset, our Conservative Prime Minister said that he would not support such a bill, as he has promised not to bring up abortion while he is in power.

While Mr. Woodworth is unapologetically "pro-life," there is not one word in the above motion that pertained to abortion or stripping away women's rights. What this motion was proposing was a discussion.

The Canadian Criminal Code states that:

A child becomes a human being within the meaning of this Act when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother, whether or not

(a) it has breathed;

(b) it has an independent circulation; or

(c) the navel string is severed.

Furthermore, Woodworth argued that the current definition of a human being was according to a 400 year old English law and should be re-examined.

Again, I hear nothing about abortion or taking away women's rights. I hear a call for a discussion.

If the wording of this motion had been to ban abortion or ban partial-term abortion, or taking away a woman's right to choose, I'd understand the uproar. But it wasn't.

Not surprisingly, though, drama and hyperbole kicked in, and it was easily defeated. What if Mr. Woodworth hadn't have been a Conservative, but a member of the more liberal opposition parties?

As it stands, the Motion was defeated 203-91, with several Conservative ministers including the Immigration Minister and Minister for the Status of Women voting in favour. Also, a handful of Liberal party members voted in favour, while none of the Official Opposition NDP members supported the bill.

The drama continued after the vote, with NDP Women's critic Niki Ashton, took umbrage with Ms. Ambrose, the Ministeer for the Status of Women: "I think we need someone who is actually interested in women's equality. I think it's shameful that the minister in charge of moving forward on women's equality stood up in the House to essentially attack a woman's right to choose." Headshake. Whaaa? Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae said it should be noted that Parliament sent a strong signal with such an overwhelming vote opposing the debate. "The question of abortion is essentially a question of a woman making that decision. It's something where we have to respect a woman's right to choose."

I'm movin' on up back to Woodworth's motion, and says nothing about abortion or taking away women's rights.

A friend and former pastor of mine, Harold Albrecht, is currently Conservative MP for the riding of Kitchener-Conestoga. The day before the vote we chatted online about opening up the discussion. Here's what he had to say: "It seems quite strange that we are unwilling to discuss this issue. We discuss freely the environmental impact on salamanders of the proposed new bridge, but somehow discussing the impact of a 400 year old law on the human species is not allowed? This makes no sense to me." He then remarked, "I will vote in such a way that I can look my children and grandchildren in the eye in 20 years and say "I did what was right, regardless of the political fallout."

I have 2 points to make at the end of this article:

  1. Why are we so afraid to have a discussion on when a fetus becomes a human being? Instead of trying take away rights, perhaps people are trying to make sure that all those who are human beings have rights.  The current definition of when a human being becomes a human being is unbelievable to me. So it's at the time of birth. Hmm. Is it when the head is out, or the shoulders? Is it when you can tell the sex of the baby, or when the umbilical cord is cut?  I think a discussion would be fascinating. Bring in the scientists, the ethicists, the theologians.  Why do people refer to what they are carrying as "their baby" if they are only carrying a fetus? Why do people light up with joy and have "baby" showers if it is undetermined whether the fetus will grow into a baby? A Christian mentor of mine from the past shocked me this past week when they said "I think there should be a discussion on when a fetus becomes a human, and then I believe abortions should be available, that the woman has the right to sit down with her doctor and make that call." 

  2. The terms "Pro-Life" and "Pro-Choice" are worn and tired, and they don't reflect the nuanced details that form our opinions on such matters. Do pro-lifers naturally hate women? Do pro-lifers who are women have an inferiority complex and need to be freed from the clutches of men? Do pro-lifers care as much for people once they are born and all throughout life as they say they do when a child is in the womb?  Is someone who is pro-choice necessarily without religion? Are they baby-killers? Do they have no respect for the sanctity of life?
Last night after having his vote defeated, Stephen Woodworth told The Record: "I think honestly that there is a consensus right across Canada that there ought to be legal recognition of children as humans before birth." Consensus, Stephen? Really?

What we have had here is a whole lot of huffing and puffing, I am glad to live in this land, and democracy was served, albeit after having it's buttocks being kicked by hyperbole. The fact that we won't discuss such matters disturbs me. 

Mark Andrew Alward

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hidden Greatness: What?! No Facebook Notifications?!

"There is much emphasis on notoriety and fame in our society. Our newspapers and television keep giving us the message: What counts is to be known, praised, and admired, whether you are a writer, an actor, a musician, or a politician. Still, real greatness is often hidden, humble, simple, and unobtrusive. It is not easy to trust ourselves and our actions without public affirmation. We must have strong self-confidence combined with deep humility. Some of the greatest works of art and the most important works of peace were created by people who had no need for the limelight. They knew that what they were doing was their call, and they did it with great patience, perseverance, and love.” ~ Henri J.M. Nouwen

Facebook, Twitter, E-Mail, Google+, Reddit, and Instagram - just to name a few. These are a few ways by which our voice can be heard in today's world.  In fact, so many of us are attached to one or many of these forms of social media/communication that we'd be forgiven if we were to ask WWJP (What Would Jesus Post?) or WWBT (What Would Buddha Tweet?) when we power up our computers in the morning.

Let's admit it; most of the things that we post online during the day are pretty useless. We post a status update on the minutiae of our day - what we had for lunch, or if the dog seems to have a cold. I, for one, change my profile picture so many times that it's probably listed in the latest edition of Obsessive Compulsives 'R' Us. I, get particularly annoyed by many of the so-called inspirational quotes with picturesque backgrounds that end up on my news feed.

Clutter. Clutter. Clutter.

As if our "real" lives aren't cluttered up enough with noise, tasks to complete, and people to see, we clutter up our e-lives.

I think a lot of it comes down to plain old narcissism, and I am guilty as charged. (As a sidenote, perhaps the most aggravating of Facebook posts are the ones that say "I have over 100 Friends, but I bet you that less than 15 will "Like" this status update. "Like" it to prove that I mean something special to you." Puuleeeeze.)

I'm not advocating that we all delete our Facebook and Twitter accounts, but perhaps we - perhaps I - can tone it down a notch. And I also want to mention that social media can be a force for good, like when someone is promoting a worthy cause.

But above, the late Catholic priest and writer Henri Nouwen speaks of hidden greatness that is "often hidden, humble, simple, and unobtrusive."  Are you like me and get frustrated when you log on to Facebook or check your email and you have fewer messages than expected or no messages at all? Ahhhh! The sky is falling!  Nouwen says that it isn't easy to come to a place where you don't need public affirmation, and that we have to have a self-confidence combined with a deep humility in order to do so.

One of the things we have lost with the advent of social media and being always-connected is simplicity and humility. Taking a walk to be with our Creator or just to be with ourselves is something our parents or grandparents did, not us. But this is to our peril. Our natural state is not one of serenity and being grounded, but one of anxiety - When am I going to receive another Facebook notification?

I think - I know - that each of us has a hidden greatness. We have great things to accomplish. But the first shall be last and the last shall be first.

And there's a "Shut Down" button on our computers that we might do well to use more often.

Mark Andrew Alward

Friday, September 21, 2012

What The Heck Is Emerging/Emergent Christianity Anyway?

These days you hear a lot about something called "emergent" or "emerging" Christianity, but there seems to be many forms. In this video, Pastor Mark Driscoll gives an explanation as he sees it. Note: If I were still a Christian today, I would be in the category of "emerging liberal."

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

You've Been A Bad, Bad Boy

Matter of Taste Coffee Bar
Kitchener, Ontario
Music: Bob Dylan - Tempest (2012)

Do you believe that you are originally blessed or originally cursed? I think our answer to this question is quite important. For over 20 years I believed the latter, that since Adam and Eve ate some bad fruit and did some naughty things in the Garden of Eden, that their sin spilled down through the generations to me, and that somehow I needed to be reconnected  with the Divine.  I held this understanding throughout my childhood, always making sure to pray for forgiveness whenever I would "do something bad," but things became intolerable for me when I became a teenager.

That's when the hormones kicked in. The Sears catalogues would come in the mail or by pick-up, and I started to gain an interest in the swimwear and the lingerie sections. Inevitably, soon after I began masturbating, but I was almost always ashamed by it, thinking that I was being ungodly for lusting after these tempting women that I kept looking at. As I got a little older and went to Bible college, the belief that I was a sinner in need of grace only increased; so did my lust. Whenever an unused computer was around and the door would lock, there I was, either watching scantily-clad women in music videos or just plain porn; mostly it was the former.  But the guilt just kept growing and growing, and I couldn't understand why I couldn't obey God and make him happy with me. Instead I was a wretch, a sinner, corrupt, filthy. Filthy, filthy, filthy. It was like my "sin" was only corroborating my dirty view of myself.

Bad, bad, bad boy.

I have been in touch lately with someone who has been talking about "the adversary" and dark, spiritual forces.  They've been using them to explain mental illness, which really grinds my fucking gears because, well, I live with mental illnesses.  But this way of thinking is also a spiritual illness.

What if we taught our children that they are originally loved and blessed, rather than having to climb the rungs of some ladder that has Satan nipping at their feet at every moment?  This idea of original sin MUST go, it MUST be discarded. Does that mean we are now perfect, or that children don't need to be admonished sometimes? No, of course not. But to force some sort of pseudo-spiritual centuries-old god-damned guilt on our children, teens, and adults is nothing less than a kind of abuse.  It's very powerful though, and many religious people hold onto it. Why? One word: Control. If you can scare the living shit out of people by telling them they are bad boys and girls and that they have to make sure they stay faithful to God (usually their version of God) then you've got 'em.

I attend a Unitarian church now, and I remember how taken aback I was the first few Sundays when during children's time, the kids weren't told stories of obedience to a great big God. And I learned that in their classes downstairs they were given guidance but a lot of room to freely explore what they were thinking and feeling. That's more like it.

Trust yourself.

Slaughter the pitch-forked adversary by learning how much you are loved and that there is no more need for fear.

Mark Andrew Alward

Sunday, September 16, 2012

We'll Just Fit Well Together


Springsteen's latest album Wrecking Ball is blasting through my earphones and it takes me back briefly to when I was a little kid rocking out to Born In The U.S.A. The feeling passes and all that matters is that this is a kick-ass album.

I used to hear people say that there is one person out there who is perfect for you, and that someday they'll come along. I'm not so sure of that anymore after 34 years. Maybe it's because I haven't been watching as many rom/com's as usual lately. Maybe it's because I think I had a chance with that person and fucked it up. I don't know.

I'm a romantic at heart and it's something that I won't apologize for. The most romantic moment I've ever had came in college when I held my girlfriend on my couch for hours, not minutes, and we just looked into each other's eyes as the hours ticked by.

It's the small things that I miss. The brush of my hand against yours, my hands around your waist, stealing a kiss on the cheek. Having a coffee together and walking through the park and saying hi to the ducks. Cracking open a bottle of red. Your head on my shoulder.

I want to hear how your day went. I want to pull you back into bed when the alarm goes off.

For now I'm not thinking years ahead, as perhaps someone who is 34 should. I want to live in the present moment, I want to live with today. With you. I'll applaud your achievements, you might pretend to laugh at my jokes once in awhile.

I may have met you already; maybe I haven't.

Let's walk right now, take life as slowly as we can, and enjoy those glances, that touch, the stolen kisses.  

We'll just fit well together.

Mark Andrew Alward

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Dalai Lama: "Religion Is No Longer Adequate"

On Monday, His Holiness The Dalai Lama took to Facebook and posted the following for his 4 million followers to see. It is a quote from his recent work, Beyond Religion: Ethics For A Whole World.

"All the world's major religions, with their emphasis on love, compassion, patience, tolerance, and forgiveness can and do promote inner values. But the reality of the world today is that grounding ethics in religion is no longer adequate. This is why I am increasingly convinced that the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics beyond religion altogether."

The 77-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader continues:

"Any religion-based answer to the problem of our neglect of inner values can never be universal, and so will be inadequate. What we need today is an approach to ethics which makes no recourse to religion and can be equally acceptable to those with faith and those without: a secular ethics."

The Dalai Lama has also spoken of the need to bring together science and spirituality in the face of modern suffering. In his 2005 book The Universe In A Single Atom: The Convergence of Science And Spirituality, he writes:

"The great benefit of science is that it can contribute tremendously to the alleviation of suffering at the physical level, but it is only through the cultivation of the qualities of the human heart and the transformation of our attitudes that we can begin to address and overcome our mental suffering... We need both, since the alleviation of suffering must take place at both the physical and the psychological levels."

I agree with the Dalai Lama. For instance, I have many friends who are agnostics or atheists, but are people of love, tolerance, and compassion. Indeed, I am part of a Unitarian congregation which has a fairly large humanist population, and they are a caring, loving, forgiving people.  Religion does not own ethics. I would not denounce faith, nor would the Dalai Lama; it can be very important for us. But religion must no longer take credit for ethics.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Today Is World Suicide Prevention Day

Some words on the 10th Anniversary of World Suicide Prevention Day.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Politics: More Than Buttons And Lawn Signs

Thursday night was a politico's dream if you lived in the Waterloo Region of the province of Ontario here in Canada. There was a provincial byelection in the riding of Kitchener-Waterloo and the results started rolling in around 9pm EST. At the same time, another tab on the browser was open to live coverage of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC. I had volunteered for my preferred candidate in the byelection nearby, but just barely due to an ongoing illness. Over 700 volunteers on election day ensured that the New Democratic Party's Catherine Fife won the seat vacated by a Progressive Conservative (and no that isn't necessarily a contradiction for my American readers.)  Results kept rolling in and rolling in as Senator John Kerry, Vice-President Joe Biden, and President Barack Obama fired up the Charlotte crowd.

Politics is in my blood. My grandfather Harry Alward was a councillor and reeve of my hometown of Port Burwell, Ontario, and he sat on pretty much every board possible at one time or another. He ran for the provincial Liberal party in the 1950's, coming up short. My father is also very interested in politics, though I think he'd rather go to a Marilyn Manson concert than put on an orange NDP shirt (which I happen to be wearing today).

I say all this to lead up to my major point. While campaign stickers and buttons and signs and literature can prove to be effective during a campaign, that is not what politics is all about.

The reason that so many people are disillusioned or just plain disinterested in politics is because most politicians seem to not relate to them at all. They don't appeal to their deepest desires. And what are our deepest desires? In the words of the late New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton, when we dig deep, we are people of love, of hope, and of optimism. But for years, politics has been seen as divisive, playing to each others fears, and "just getting by."

The division between politics and our deepest dreams need not be so. And thankfully we see that in certain politicians. I tend to be left-leaning - ok, I am left-leaning, and what I hear coming out of the mouths of the New Democrats and the Democrats in America is that they simply want to look out after each other, they want to make sure that no one is left behind. Whereas right-leaning parties often come across as mainly being concerned with balancing the books and being responsible fiscal managers (both of which are admirable), they seem willing to do it on the backs of the most marginalized people in society. There is a distinct lack of compassion in their voices and policies, and they reach out to a base that thinks there should be "no free handouts" and "people should work harder to get out of their plights."

Surely we must be more caring than that.  We must do a better job of caring for those who are on the bottom-rung of the ladder - hell, who aren't even on the ladder at all. These people live on social assistance, do not have family who can swoop in and help them, and their social assistance rates are so meager that they can barely live a decent life. Americans who until recently were terrified of going to the hospital because of the bills they'd face, and being met by insurance companies who wouldn't even look at you if you had a pre-existing condition.

How can this change? How can we as North Americans, as a planet, take better care of each other.  First we can elect representatives who truly "get it," who truly have a listening ear and know that we must do better for all citizens, not just some. Representatives who realize that they only have a job because the people have hired them.  Secondly, those volunteers - the ones with the buttons and flyers and lawn signs - they need to stay involved, both during an election campaign and afterwards.  Political engagement is crucial and we can make a huge difference, in municipal, provincial (or state) and federal politics.

No one must be left behind. Love, hope and optimism are not just lofty words or a cheap campaign slogan.  Politicians would do better to appeal to these qualities within our hearts; then more people would be engaged. And that my friends, is democracy.

Mark Andrew Alward

Monday, September 3, 2012

Rev. Sun Myung Moon, Founder Of Unification Church, Dies At 92

Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Holy Spirit Association For The Unification Of  World Christianity (or Unification Church), died Monday at the age of 92.

"The Rev. Sun Myung Moon was a self-proclaimed messiah who built a global business empire. He called both North Korean leaders and American presidents his friends, but spent time in prisons in both countries. His followers around the world cherished him, while his detractors accused him of brainwashing recruits and extracting money from worshipers.
These contradictions did nothing to stop the founder of the Unification Church from turning his religious vision into a worldwide movement and a multibillion-dollar corporation stretching from the Korean Peninsula to the United States.
Moon died Monday at a church-owned hospital near his home in Gapyeong County, northeast of Seoul, two weeks after being hospitalized with pneumonia, Unification Church spokesman Ahn Ho-yeul told The Associated Press. Moon's wife and children were at his side, Ahn said. He was 92." ~ Associated Press
A Few Unification Church Facts & Beliefs
  • Founded in 1954 by Moon.
  • Moon said he was 16 when Jesus Christ first appeared to him and told him to finish the work he had begun on Earth 2,000 years earlier.
  • Moon believed that he was a Messiah and traveled to other realms where he communicated with Moses, Jesus and Buddha. He alone had the power to forgive sins.
  • In 1957 Moon published The Divine Principle, which he viewed as greater than the Bible.
  • In 1944 Moon married the first of several wives, and in 1948 was jailed for bigamy. In 1960 he married Hak Ja Han, who bore him 13 children.
  • Moon caught public attention by conducting mass weddings, one in Madison Square Garden in New York City in 1982 (2000 couples) and another in 1988 (6,500).
  • The Unification Church owns many other religious organizations, political groups, and businesses, such as The Washington Times and the New Yorker hotel.
  • In 1984 and 1985, Moon served prison time for filing false tax returns in America.
  • Moon focused on interfaith dialogue, particularly with Christianity
  • A video from 2004, posted on the website of what was then known as the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace, showed a ceremony taking place in a U.S. Senate office building attended by Moon and several members of Congress. Speaking Korean, Moon declares himself the messiah and says he'd spoken to the spirits of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, both of whom he said found strength in his teachings and mended their ways.
  • Today the Unification Church (also known as "Moonies") claims 3 million followers, while ex-members and critics put the number no higher than 100,000.
  • Moon's death sparks a 13-day mourning period, longer than the mourning periods for late South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

Rev. Sun Myung Moon & wife Hak Ja Han perform a mass-wedding in Seoul in 1982

Walking Through Religion & Then Beyond It

"Recognizing that "the divine" and "the holy" are human concepts, where must we look for them? Surely it must be in life, not in some realm apart from life. So I will search for them only in the midst of the human, the known and the mundane. Religion in the past was a search for security, but security is something I no longer recognize as a virtue. I must seek to embrace insecurity as one of the essential marks of our humanity and strive to help people understand that it is no longer a vice, but a doorway into a new understanding of our humanity. The religion of the past sought to locate meaning and purpose in an external deity. That effort succeeded only in robbing life here and now of its own intrinsic worth, meaning and purpose. The religion of the past sought an answer to the unique human awareness of death by postulating a realm in which death is overcome. I seek to find a doorway into the eternal by going deeply into this life. My search for "heaven" will cause me to turn to this life, to its very depths, for that is the only place where I now believe we can hear the echoes of eternity. In that search I believe, we will discover that the word "heaven" points not to something external to us, but to something that is part of us.
I will seek to understand what our deep and natural interdependence is with all of life and indeed with the entire universe. I will look into how we can be so small and so insignificant when compared to the vastness of the universe, but can at the same time be the only living creature that can with a finite mind embrace, contemplate and interact with the vastness of space. Do these dual realities make us too small to be of any ultimate worth or so incredibly wondrous and mysterious as to cause us to believe that we were made for eternity?
The time has come , I believe, for us to turn our spiritual telescopes around so that we no longer look outward for meaning or God, but begin to look inward. That is not to walk away from God, as the fearful will scream; it is, I now believe, to walk into God. The path is internal not external, for it is identical with a walk into ourselves, and that is a journey that we must never refuse to take.
I do not want to walk away from religion so much as I want to walk through religion and then beyond it. I want to walk into things that religion has never known. I do not want to abandon the wisdom of the past, but neither do I want to be bound by that wisdom, since wisdom is itself ever-changing. The turn from the deity above to the deity within is an enormous shift. It is, however, the only pathway open to us. We enter it with new, and shall we say great, expectations."
~ Bishop John Shelby Spong, "Eternal Life: A New Vision" 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Meditation: Opening & Relaxing With Whatever Arises

"Sometimes we feel guilty, sometimes arrogant. Sometimes our thoughts and memories terrify us and make us feel totally miserable. Thoughts go through our minds all the time, and when we sit (in meditation), we are providing a lot of space for all of them to arise. Like clouds in a big sky or waves in a vast sea, all our thoughts are given the space to appear. If one hangs on and sweeps us away, whether we call it pleasant or unpleasant, the instruction is to label it all "thinking" with as much openness and kindness as we can muster and let it dissolve back into the big sky. When the clouds and waves immediately return, it's no problem. We just acknowledge them again and again with unconditional friendliness, labeling them as just "thinking" and letting them go again and again and again.
Sometimes people use meditation to try to avoid bad feelings and disturbing thoughts. We might try to use the labeling as a way to get rid of what bothers us, and if we connect with something blissful or inspiring, we might think we've finally got it and try to stay where there's peace and harmony and nothing to fear.
So right from the beginning it's helpful to always remind yourself that meditation is about opening and relaxing with whatever arises, without picking and choosing. It's definitely not meant to repress anything, and it's not intended to encourage grasping, either." 
~ Pema Chödrön, American Buddhist nun, "When Things Fall Apart" 

Cardinal Sends Post-Mortem Warning To The Catholic Church

Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini died on Friday at the age of 85.

The former archbishop of Milan and papal candidate Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini said the Catholic Church was "200 years out of date" in his final interview before his death, published on Saturday.
Martini, once favoured by Vatican progressives to succeed Pope John Paul II and a prominent voice in the church until his death at the age of 85 on Friday, gave a scathing portrayal of a pompous and bureaucratic church failing to move with the times.
"Our culture has aged, our churches are big and empty and the church bureaucracy rises up, our rituals and our cassocks are pompous," Martini said in the interview published in Italian daily Corriere della Sera.
"The Church must admit its mistakes and begin a radical change, starting from the pope and the bishops. The pedophilia scandals oblige us to take a journey of transformation," he said in the interview.
In the last decade, the Church has been accused of failing to fully address a series of child abuse scandals that have undermined its status as a moral arbiter, though it has paid many millions in compensation settlements worldwide.
Martini, famous for saying that the use of condoms could be acceptable in some cases, told interviewers the Church should open up to new kinds of families or risk losing its flock.
"A woman is abandoned by her husband and finds a new companion to look after her and her children. A second love succeeds. If this family is discriminated against, not just the mother will be cut off but also her children."
In this way "the Church loses the future generation," Martini said in the interview, conducted two weeks before he died. The Vatican opposes divorce and forbids contraception in favour of fidelity within marriage and abstinence without.
A liberal voice in the church, Martini's chances of becoming pope were damaged when he revealed he was suffering from a rare form of Parkinson's disease and he retired in 2002.
Martini was also known for his interfaith dialogue, particularly with Jews. In 2004 he said, "It is vital for the church not only to understand the ancient covenant [between God and the Jewish people] which has endured for centuries in order to launch a fruitful dialogue, but also to deepen our own understanding of who we are as the church."