The European adventure is over! I’m going home. New house, new community, and a new book release. Are you ready for a ghost story? I’ll be back in Colorado next week and life starts again!
FINAL REST: PERE LACHAISE
The Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris is the most visited cemetery in the world. On a recent trip, I visited this vast, interesting place. Famed for being the first garden cemetery, it opened in 1804 but there isn’t much space devoted to what we would think of as gardens. Instead, the cemetery is chock full of ornate, closely placed tombs. If you’ve visited the cemeteries of New Orleans, you’d feel right at home here. The sixty-nine thousand tombs cover a range of architectural styles, but the Gothic crypt seems to predominate in the older sections.
Although there are over one million interred in the cemetery, and there is a waiting list today, it wasn’t always a popular burial site with Parisians. Located far outside the city when it opened, and not being attached to a church, made it an undesirable final resting place. So a bit of creative marketing helped it along. First, Jean de La Fontaine (poet) and Moliere (playwright, actor, and poet) were buried there. Burying the famous in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery increased its popularity. A decade or so later, the purported remains of Abelard and Heloise (the famous lovers) were moved to the cemetery and then Parisians clamored to get in. By 1830, the cemetery had thirty-three thousand graves!
Today, people visit the Pere Lachaise to see the tombs and architecture, and the graves of the famous. Americans are probably most interested in Jim Morrison’s grave. There’s an interesting story on how he came to be interred here. He died in Paris, but cemetery officials weren’t interested in offering a musician a place. They were persuaded when they found out he was working on a novel. The cemetery has many famous writers including Balzac, Proust, Gertrude Stein, and Oscar Wilde. The graves of composer Frederic Chopin and actress Sarah Bernhardt can also be visited.
by Penelope Quest
In February, I received Reiki level I training. It was taught in a typical two-day environment and left me feeling like I had more questions than answers. Searching for a good book that would help guide the practice, I found this gem. I read the e-book cover to cover and for anyone wanting an easily accessible manual on Reiki, this is a great one. When I get back home, I’ll definitely be buying the physical book for reference.
Before talking about the book, I think a brief discussion about what Reiki is for those who may have heard the term, but who are not sure exactly what I’m talking about may be in order. Reiki is described as a high vibration healing energy, a specific frequency of chi. Reiki is one of perhaps thirty or so different healing frequencies. Reiki energy stimulates and accelerates the body’s natural ability to heal. The energy is intelligent and works for the highest good using its own timetable. Reiki can affect the physical body, the mind, and the spirit. Developed in Japan by Mikao Usui in the 1920s, practitioners receive attunements to open a channel to allow the flow of Reiki energy.
Although we don’t know exactly how Reiki works, Penelope Quest does a good job providing background information on how science is moving forward with quantum theories and interconnectedness. She points to some tantalizing research done by Valerie Hunt at the University of California on high frequency energy fields. While the average human field is 250 cps, those who use or receive Reiki have a field of 400- 800 cps. I would have liked to have seen some studies on plants or bacteria using Reiki in this book because I have seen them elsewhere. It also begged the question about human studies (you’d think we’d have something by now??). Hopefully, books focusing on the science will emerge over time and Quest’s book is a manual geared to practitioners. (See below for an article citing human studies where Reiki has been effective for treating anxiety and pain.)
Short Reiki trainings do not give a lot of background on Reiki’s developer, Mikao Usui. This is an area where the book is wonderful. Due to a lot of recent research, much of the myth and distortion surrounding Usui is being cleared up. Although we will never have a truly complete picture of this man, we know much more than an epitaph from a gravestone which is all the class alludes to. Quest also goes into meticulous detail over the lineages that developed after Usui’s death and how Reiki in the East is far different from what is taught in the West. I was very captivated with the traditional way Reiki is given time to develop in Japan. The West could learn a lot if we could slow down and step away from the money making paradigm.
Reiki for Life is divided into useful sections so that Level 1, Level II, and Level III are discussed separately. Anyone interested in Reiki, can quickly find out what is covered at any given level and what the requirements are for practice. Additional chapters offer insights in to how to creatively use Reiki in every area of life. Those wishing to open a Reiki practice in the UK will find very specific guidance on legal requirements, but there’s nothing for anyone who wants to do so in the US or elsewhere.
I wanted to share one jaw-dropping moment I had reading the book. This applied directly to me and occurred at about 70% through the book. Remember I outlined above that Reiki was just one of the healing energies. Well, it turns out that many Western Reiki masters are attuning to Kundalini energy and not the gentler Usui Reiki energy. The lineage that includes William Lee Rand introduced Tibetan Reiki symbols that channel this fiercer (serpent) energy. So, the dragon sleeps no longer. I was shocked. Still am. I think this needs to be disclosed going in. Gulp.
The Intention Experiment
I’m reading a book called Becoming Supernatural by Dr. Joe Dispenza. In chapter three, he recounts research from an article in Wired (“Mind Over Matter,” Apr. 1995). Now from my perspective, this is not anything out of my understanding of things because this is the world I’ve been reading about and living in for the last couple of decades, but I know some of you are going to drop your jaws over this. Good! We want that kind of response. Your world is about to crack open. Here goes.
Rene Peoc’h is a French researcher who wanted to study the possibility that intention might operate in our world. He started with a computerized robot set up as a random event generator. Set lose in an area, the robot turned right half the time and left half the time, thereby covering the area equally over time. This is perfectly in keeping with the idea of a random generator. Then he allowed some chicks to imprint on the computerized robot as if it were their mother. So the chicks bonded with the robot creating an energetic bond on their part (at least). Once the chicks had imprinted, Peoc’h put them in a cage where they could see the robot but not go to it. What do you think happened?
If you hold a materialistic view of the world, you would say nothing. The random event generator can’t be affected by the minds of the chicks. It’s ridiculous! But- the pattern of movement of the robot clustered near the chicks’ cage. No longer was the robot moving randomly, but now it had gravitated near the babies. Cool experiment, right? And easily replicated. The larger question becomes if baby chicks can influence objects around them, how much influence do we have? And how do we develop and control it??? That’s what Becoming Supernatural is all about. Interested? Grab the book but be warned, the work is hard and all-consuming. Advanced yogic practices are made accessible to everyone.
Hopefully, I’ll have more to share later but I wanted to share some personal happenings here, too. I am about four months out from returning to the US (YAY! I CANNOT WAIT!!!). My third book is about to be released (FINALLY!!!). The downside is that things are about to get very busy. This blog will probably be interrupted by these major life upheavals.
Let’s find out! I visited Bruges recently and share some of my photos below.
The 12th and 13th centuries were characterized by renewed religious fervor. New spiritual pathways emerged. Some of them were seen as heretical (like the Cathars), while others were tolerated. Franciscans and Dominicans came into existence to reorder the Church from the inside out. The beguines emerged as one of the most original spiritual pathways and they endured for hundreds of years. They can also be viewed as the first feminists.
The beguines appeared at the end of the 12th century. These women initially came from the poorer classes and sought a life of faith without taking formal vows. At first, small groups located themselves in urban settings near hospitals or abbeys. They dedicated themselves to prayer and contemplation, but worked in their communities caring for the sick. The beguines were a conundrum and a challenge to the social order. Free from the male dominance of a husband or spiritual director, the beguine was an independent entity. Her freedom also required she support herself by working. This beguine structure for the first time opened a religious path for poor women who previously had no access to it. Nuns came from wealthy classes and bought their way into the life through large dowries, impossible for poor women.
There is controversy over where the first beguine community was, but we know the movement spread quickly from Flanders through Italy, France, Poland, and Hungry. Over time a communal lifestyle prevailed and took hold. The beguines lived in a beguinage that functioned as a predominantly independent community, with rights and the ability to own property. Women often sought work in the thriving textile industries of their cities. By 1240, most of the beguines in the south of Flanders were living in communities surrounded by walls, where the door was closed at night creating its own version of a monastic center. The beguines had no founder and adopted no universal rule. There was no central authority. Each beguinage was a separately functioning entity, and this was sometimes a strength and sometimes a weakness.
Not surprisingly, beguine communities were the subject of much concern for the Church. The movement ran counter to the power structure and heresy was often a concern, but two papal bulls in the 13th century did support the movement. But it was not enough. Some beguines were burned for heresy while others received protection. By the 14th century, the beguines were suffering. They were subject to inquisitional authorities, and some beguinages closed losing their assets while others were absorbed into traditional monastic orders. Some beguinages persisted through the Protestant Reformation and the French Revolution, but only a few survived into the 20th century. These were clustered in Belgium including the one at Bruges.
I’ve been to several former beguinages in the Low Countries now. They are always peaceful, contemplative places. From these places, there are still echoes of women wanting spiritual space and a place in the world. Sauve Garde.
The Beguines:Women in Search of Sanctity Within Freedom -Silvana Panciera
The Wisdom of the Beguines- Laura Swan
Meister Eckhart and the Beguine Mystics– Bernard McGinn
Owl Killers– Karen Maitland (fiction), starts and ends at the Bruges beguinage
Sisters Between-Molly Connally (fiction)
Such a beautiful song made even more relevant by powerful Saturn returns (around age 30 and again around 60) . A time of change. A time of dreams.
An interesting discussion for anyone interested in consciousness and spirituality.
Today I welcome Bianca Gulbalke to talk about her book, Born With Wings: The ImmortalLife of Piu Piu. Bianca is an award-winning screenplay writer and artist, a passionate gardener, teacher and metaphysics student.
I recently finished her incredible work of visionary fiction. It’s one of those rare books that starts off immediately in the spiritual realm. From start to finish, this is visionary fiction at its finest and most bold. Swept up in the tale of incarnation, life, struggle, and purpose we follow the beautifully drawn characters as the author weaves a wonderful tale. An injured gosling and a little girl come together in lush and magical South Africa. There’s a call from ancestors and a drive for purpose, and danger’s never far away. It’s a captivating tale, a journey of emotions through life, death, and rebirth.
Thank you for joining me, Bianca!
What were your first glimmers…
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This was a Cistercian abbey founded in 1146 and active until the French revolution. It reached its height and fame in the 13th Century. It’s estimated that as many as one hundred monks and three hundred lay brothers lived here. Sleeping and eating accommodations were separate for the two groups. You can walk the tight passageways from the dormitories to the church, visit the rooms where they held meetings and stored holy books and vestments. The church remains a beautiful structure even in ruin.
The Cistercian order was known for its dedication to a life of manual labor and self-sufficiency. Abbeys supported themselves through agriculture and ale-brewing. This abbey had massive land holdings throughout the region.
is March For Our Lives!
Join the movement for change in Washington or your local community (or internationally). I will be joining in from Brussels.
Follow the link to find out what your community has planned.
This book has been around for a while and got a lot of attention because the author was a Muslim writing about Jesus. The furor took off when Lauren Green of Fox News hosted Aslan in what has been called the “most embarrassing interview Fox News has ever done” (and that’s saying something). Reza Aslan defended himself citing his four degrees as a scholar of religions having studied Christianity for twenty years.
I didn’t have a lot of interest in reading a book about Jesus then. It seemed ridiculous that the Christian right was so incensed with a religious studies professor writing a book about a subject in his career field. A few years went by and my son suggested that I read this because my view of Jesus the peacemaker was all wrong. He had just finished Aslan’s book.
Zealot is a fascinating read searching for the historical truth of a man called Jesus. It’s an in-depth examination of the political and social times in which he lived. Jesus lived in a time ripe with Messianic hope and the God Jesus knew was bloody. He had a Jewish mission, telling his disciples to avoid gentiles as much as possible. In its time, “Love thy neighbor” was restricted in meaning to include only Jews. The historical Jesus is not the one of the Gospels. He was a zealot but not a member of the Zealot Party which emerges later. And Aslan talks about the Gospels being a theological argument and not a biography of Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus brings the promise of a new world order challenging Roman authority. Aslan believes he probably gave himself the title, Son of Man. This title tied him to the Book of Daniel and restoration of Israel, but he fell short of calling himself a messiah and its ensuing obvious danger.
The book often discusses Gospel accounts and how they differ from each other, as well as from historical sources. I won’t go through the vast amount of information presented but will say, it makes very interesting reading especially when you start to get a feel for what’s behind the intention of certain parts of the Gospels.
The resurrection is central to Christianity but a difficult topic for a historian to cover. The author admits that something must have happened to push Jesus’s followers to continue the movement. Indeed, the resurrection narrative was part of early Christian teaching predating the virgin birth or passion narratives. Evangelicals wrote those narratives later to flesh out the story.
Jesus as a zealot and crucified Jew left behind a movement headed by his brother James (the Just). James was a follower of the law in Jerusalem. But Aslan makes the case that a crucified Messiah was not possible for the Jews and the new message that emerges under Paul finds ground only with more open-minded Diaspora Jews who are Greek speaking and urban. It’s Paul who triumphs bringing in a Jesus who is the end of the Torah. He takes this message to gentiles and succeeds. It is through Paul that the Jesus of the Gospel becomes the Christ- a divine being, the literal son of God.
The is a well written, easy to read book on a fascinating subject for many of us. It is perfect for the curious and open-minded. It’s one of those books, I’d say will stay with you long after you’ve put it down because of its thought-provoking nature. If you haven’t read it yet, add it to your list!