Body Spirit & Mind Issue 1 • 2013
Dawning of the
InterSpiritual Age Journey to the
GODDESS Paranormal on the rise
Taming the Mind
Tawang World of Mystics Swiss Values Nurturing Nature
LAUNCH ISSUE BS&M • 1 DIGIMAG
Issue 1 • 2013
Volume 1 • No.1
The Dawning of an Interspiritual Age 12 Paths to the Goddess 14 Reveal 18 Everything Flows Towards Energy 28 Bone Health 30 Timeless Wisdom 36 Tawang 40 Taming the mind 46 Swiss values 50 Rise of the Paranormal 54
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EDITORIAL Well, this is it. Having been involved in conversion of the long standing South African Odyssey Magazine to the realm of digital publishing and social media, it is finally time to bring the wonders of the team to the UK shores. Having lived here myself for over 10 years, it has been a dream of mine to launch this magazine in the UK, and while it has taken somewhat longer than anticipated, I hope you will share in my enthusiasm for what I believe is an amazingly beautiful and insightful magazine. It is important to find the magic, wonder and the abundant beauty in the world around us, and I hope that in some small way the Body Spirit & Mind magazine will be part of this for you. I look forward to sourcing information that is pertinent, interesting, and above all, inspiring. Please join me in celebrating the launch of an amazing magazine that I am certain will bring hours of enjoyable and insightful reading to many. Yours in Body, Spirit & Mind, Garry Doel
Feel free to contact us at our FACEBOOK page or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For additional imprint details see pg 2.
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Contributors Paths to the Goddess Prema Gaia is a freelance writer and ‘new world consciousness publicist’ whose work is focused on raising awareness about people, movements and events that are transforming our world and uplifting our spirits.
Wellness & Nutrition Expert Vanessa Ascencao is a dynamic, inspirational and highly qualified nutritional consultant. She’s helped celebrities, business executives and many others transform their lives through a unique mind-body approach to health and nutrition.
Taming the Mind Being a adventurer at heart, Sibis Mouton has travelled to over 40 international islands. Here she enjoys climbing live and/or extinct volcanos, to scuba dive or to simply chill out while basking in the lushness of tropical life. She also loves the French lifestyle and their spirit of joie de vivre.
Journey to the Dark Goddess Jane Meredith is a writer, ritualist and workshop presenter. She is known for her innovative and powerful work in myth, ritual and the evocation of the divine.
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Architects of Air build 'Luminaria' – monumental inflatable structures designed to generate a sense of wonder at the beauty of light and colour. The monumental walk-in sculptures have enchanted audiences around the world. Since 1992, over 2m visitors in 38 countries across five continents have immersed themselves in this luminous world. A Luminarium is typically booked by an organisation such as a cultural centre or a festival for an exhibition period ranging between three and 30 days. Visitors remove their shoes before entering an airlock. Once inside they can wander freely or just lay back and enjoy the ambience of the structure. The first reaction is often one of delight at the unexpected beauty of the light. The radiance of the daylight transmitted by the coloured PVC of the Luminarium is surprising in its luminosity and makes a direct impact on the senses. Through labyrinthine tunnels and cavernous domes, visitors move in a medium of saturated and subtle hues. Vivid reflections of liquid colour spill across the curved walls which blend, resonate and transform faces and clothing. This stimulating environment can simultaneously be very calming – many people find the luminaria a place for rest or meditation. Visit www.architects-of-air.com for more.
2013 Spiritual Leadership award
Barbara Marx Hubbard (see Odyssey Issue 1, page 16) received Humanity's Team's highest award recently, the 2013 Spiritual Leadership award. Their Global Council presented the award to Barbara with Neale Donald Walsch, the Founder. Neale Donald Walsch commented: 'Barbara is holiness and she makes everyone around her feel whole.' Visit here for more.
Atheists go to heaven? Controversy began after Pope Francis (pictured, right) went on a charm offensive recently to build bridges with atheists. During a sermon at the Vatican, the 1st Latin American pontif proclaimed: 'The Lord has redeemed all of us with the Blood of Christ, not just the Catholics, everyone. Even the atheists.' A day later the Vatican spokesman Father Thomas Rosica added an 'explanatory note' saying that: merely being 'good' was not enough to avoid going to hell and that sinners cannot be saved 'who, knowing the church as founded by Christ and necessary for salvation, would refuse to enter her or remain in her'.
Pests 'resistant to gm crops'
Leonardo DiCaprio was involved in another significant event recently. DiCaprio organised the 11th Hour Auction along with his foundation and Christie's to protect the last wild places on Earth and their endangered species. The 33 works of art, many of which were created for and donated to the auction by the artists, sold for $31.74m. Art collectors from around the globe also placed bids by telephone, leaving DiCaprio 'utterly grateful'. The top lot of the sale was an oil on cardboard mounted on canvas by Mark Grotjahn called Untitled (Standard Lotus No. II, Bird of Paradise, Tiger Mouth Face 44.01), which sold for $6.2 million. All of the 33 works fetched three to four times the price estimated. DiCaprio has been deeply involved with enviro-issues through his foundation since 1988. At the start of the auction he remarked, 'Bid as if the fate of the planet depended on us.'
1-in-6 have no religion According to a report conducted by The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life in 2010, the largest religious group on the planet is represented by Christians with 2.2b people (32% of the world's population), second largest – Muslims with 1.6b people (23%), placing the religiously unaffiliated group in third place with 1.1b (16%), followed by 1bn Hindus (15%), nearly 500m Buddhists (7%) and 14m Jews (0.2%). People who practice folk or traditional religions are estimated at 400m (6%), while approximately 58m people (1%) belong to other religions, such as the Baha'i faith, Jainism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Taoism, Tenrikyo, Wicca and Zoroastrianism.
DiCaprio & Christie’s Raise $32m for enviro-Charity
More pest species are becoming resistant to the most popular type of genetically-modified, insect-repellent crops, but not in areas where farmers follow expert advice, a study stated recently. The crops in question are Bt corn and cotton – plants that carry a gene to make them exude a bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis, which is toxic to insects. Publishing in the journal Nature Biotechnology, US and French researchers analysed the findings of 77 studies from eight countries on five continents that reported on data from field monitors. Three of the five cases of resistance were in the US, which accounts for roughly half of Bt crop plantings, while the others were in South Africa and India. The genes that confer resistance are recessive, meaning that insects can survive on Bt plants only if they have two copies of a resistance gene – one from each parent. Transgenic crops are opposed in Europe and other parts of the world where green activists say they are a potential threat to human health and the environment. On a side-note, Tiger Brands – producer of Purity baby foods – has recently made a decision to source GM-free maize for its products.
'Don't start your day with the broken pieces of yesterday'. Anonymous
Unashamedly Ethical is a campaign promoting ethics, values and clean living which facilitates the forming of local Unashamedly Ethical communities all over the world. Founder, chairman and SA businessman, Graham Power, says, 'the campaign is built upon three pillars, around which local communities form: a challenge to people to make a public commitment to good values, ethics and clean living; an online directory of all signatories (organisations and individuals); and a presiding Ombudsman who holds all signatories accountable. Visit here for more.
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Violence mounts against Baha'i faith in Iran
The Baha'i House of Worship, Delhi, India
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The Baha'i International Community works to protect the rights of persecuted Baha'i communities. In Iran, where the faith continues to be viewed as heretical to Islam, Baha'is comprise the largest religious minority. Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Baha'is have been systematically denied access to higher education, employment and have been subjected to summary arrests and detentions. They have never been able to openly practice their religion and their freedom to participate and to contribute fully to the life of society is denied. The cradle-to-grave attacks against Baha'is in Iran represent one of the broadest and most obvious cases of state-sponsored religious persecution in the world, said Heiner Bielefeldt, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief. Speaking recently in Geneva at a side event during the 22nd session of the Human Rights Council, Dr Bielefeldt discussed the release of a new report by the Baha'i International Community, which documents rising violence against Iranian Baha'is and the utter impunity enjoyed by attackers.
The heart intelligent 'You are invited to discover my new online newspaper, The Heart Intelligent. Every week I select and edit my favourite Heart Centered content, and Paper.li does the rest. It's a great way to treat yourself to fresh articles, videos, and news that will help you have greater access to the intuitive intelligence within your own heart,' says Gabriel Gonsalves, a Heart Intelligence Coach, Seminar Leader and founder of Heart 'n Mind Consulting. He also helps conscious professionals achieve greater levels of performance and success by teaching them how to integrate the intelligence of their minds with the intuitive intelligence of their hearts.
WATCH THIS! Paint Your Faith
The Heart's Intuitive Intelligence
Cape Town based urban artist, Faith47's, latest work appears on a wall in the Austrian capital Vienna, and is titled, 'The Immense Gap Between Past and Future'.
Elysium Trees for Africa Arbor Challenge This upcoming Arbor Month, September 2013, a greening initiative will be launched that will hopefully go beyond SA's borders, the Trees for Africa Arbor Challenge. The concept is to challenge all schools, communities, companies, government and individuals to plant and look after as many trees as possible in the month of September. Register here. The trees.co.za site application will allow you, as a communiTREE member, to visit your own profile and click on a Google map to set the position where you planted. This position will be shown in your profile on the global invenTREE map. The Trees for Africa Arbor Challenge will energise a new excitement and understanding of the value of trees in our lives, their role in balancing the climate, providing food and other crucial resources, enhancing vital biodiversity, and so on.
Set in the year 2154, where the very wealthy live on a man-made space station while the rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth, a man takes on a mission that could bring equality to the polarised worlds. Directed by Neill Blomkamp of District 9 fame and stars Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. Released 30 August by Ster Kinekor.
On Good & Evil Graham Hancock
The top 10 Most Spiritually Influential Living People (as selected by Watkins Mind Body Spirit) appear in sequential order
100 Most Spiritually Influential Living people 'For the 3rd year running, ultimately, this list is meant to celebrate the positive influence of contemporary spiritual teachers, highlighting the most proactive individuals – ranging from political and religious leaders to spiritual writers, filmmakers and visionary artists,' say the publishers, Watkins Mind Body Spirit. Dalai Lama 1 Thich Nhat Hanh 2 Eckhart Tolle 3 Deepak Chopra 4 Rhonda Byrne 5
6 Dr Wayne W Dyer 7 Paulo Coelho 8 Oprah Winfrey 9 Nelson Mandela 10 Byron Katie
For the full list go to www.watkinsbooks.com/review/watkins-spiritual-100-list-2013 BS&M • 9 DIGIMAG
the dawning of an
Interspiritual Age The following article is an excerpt from the introductory note of the book The Coming Interspiritual Age by Kurt Johnson and David Robert Ord (Namaste Publishing).
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orldwide, an inevitable progression towards
Teasdale called this emerging global understanding
globalisation and multiculturalism is unfolding.
'Interspirituality' – an appreciation and practice of
Inherent in this progress is our 'Discovering a
spirituality centered on humanity's most deeply shared
Universal Spirituality in the World's Religions', precisely
values of the heart: interconnectedness, love, kindness,
the subtitle of Brother Wayne Teasdale's now classic book
compassion, and service. In the seminal documents of
The Mystic Heart, appearing in 1999 on the cusp of our new Millennium.
Interspirituality, Teasdale called for religion and spirituality worldwide to step up to the implications of a global
civilisation, one in which heart-centered religion and
spirituality would be part of a positive future for humanity and not one of the sources of further competition and conflict.
The Coming Interspiritual Age has been available since the New Year. The overwhelmingly positive response to this book – by the public, religious leaders, and organisations – and its placement in the Top 10 of new releases in such markets as Amazon.com – has suggested there is truly a growing recognition of the need, as one prominent reviewer said, 'for an Interspiritual Age to come, and come soon'. The interest in this book is also evidence that a trans-traditional melding – indeed a transtraditional and multi-traditional understanding of our global spiritual heritage and how it can be a potential reservoir of real wisdom for our species' future – has been emerging for some time. The differences between the world religions – in beliefs, doctrines, and creeds – are real, of course, and they cannot be ignored. Diversity will always be part of our religious experience, as it has been for centuries. The question is how a global civilisation will be able to
On the Nature of Human Will Dr Kurt Johnson
In The Coming Interspiritual Age, we see evidence of a transcultural, trans-traditional, transnational, worldcentric spirituality emerging worldwide.
cultivate this diversity without it leading to the conflicts that can result when religious attention isn't placed on our
demonstrates a shift in attention from simply pointing
universally shared values of the human heart.
to the differences among the world's religions, in their
As we said in The Coming Interspiritual Age, this
narratives and predictions, to a new attention to what's
compelling need for religions to consistently emphasise
held in common by all, and the pivotal role this commonality
and reflect the deepest teachings they all hold in common
has for our shared future – this destiny of 'discovering a
– of interconnectedness, love, sharing, compassion, and
universal spirituality in the world's religions'.
service – is seen by current science as an 'anthropological
This universal goal, Teasdale said, would require great
threshold'. Whether we meet this potential globally may
courage of all the world's religions. He emphasised that it
well determine whether humanity survives.
cannot be just a pipe dream, or we will be selling all of our
Eckhart Tolle, in his massively influential book A New
Earth, posed our predicament clearly. 'Humanity is faced with a stark choice,' he said, 'evolve or die.' But he also said, as we all sense, that humanity is already experiencing the emergence of a new level of consciousness. This is the consciousness that Interspirituality seeks to explore and nurture. The world's emerging Interspirituality also reflects, we think, a new comprehension of the myriad historical threads that have converged to offer a rich heritage (as Brother Teasdale said) for a future global civilisation based on the heart. It's also a recognition of the countless historical pioneers, across all the world's traditions, who tirelessly pointed to the common root and path held by all the traditions in understanding humanity's common heart and consciousness. This is significant because, paralleling the inherent implications of our globalisation and multiculturalism, it
experiences and beliefs far too short. Accordingly, when we see attention to a book with the themes emphasised in The Coming Interspiritual
Age, we see evidence of a transcultural, trans-traditional, transnational, worldcentric spirituality emerging worldwide. These are positive directions, boding well for humanity's potential soft-landing in our inevitably global and multicultural future. As also pointed out in The Coming Interspiritual Age, there are arrays of quite negative energies occurring worldwide that characterise the current predicament of humanity. There are firmly embedded structures and systems that are emphatically not interested in serving the well-being of all. One perilous example is the exploitive global financial industry, which appears to uphold obsolete and false notions of Social Darwinism's rubric of 'survival of the fittest', still imagining that a culture of outright greed is sustainable. It isn't, and we can't close our eyes to the ongoing danger of this false notion. There are also billions of world citizens we might
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humorously call the 'head-in-the-sand Ostrich sangha (Sanskrit for 'association')'. They simply do not see, or do not want to acknowledge, the reality of the many global threats and challenges truly besetting us – resource scarcity and competition, climate change, enviro-degradation, frequent wars based on national and ethnic allegiances, and economic and social disparities of all kinds. Even some of the world's spiritual communities contribute to the problem, from fundamentalisms that emphasise strict differences and directly promote conflict, to spiritual teachings that are unrealistically otherworldly. Both of these extremes ignore what Teasdale called 'the deepest urgencies of the human heart'. They also leave out the reality of simple common sense. A globalising world, faced with challenges already too long ignored by many, isn't helped by such extremes of misguided behaviour, still so common across our world's religions. To aid humankind on our journey, future worldviews must be balanced, holistic, and guided by the heart.
About the author Dr Kurt Johnson is a scientist, comparative religionist, social activist and former monastic, who was associated with the American Museum of Natural History and the One Spirit Interfaith Seminary in NY. He was a close associate of Brother Wayne Teasdale, the founder of the modern Interspiritual movement, and works also with the International Contemplative Alliance with Father Thomas Keating. He co-authored Nabokov's Blues: The Scientific Odyssey of a Literary Genius, and was chosen as one of the 10 best books in science in 2000. Johnson and Teasdale cofounded the international Interspiritual Dialogue association in 2002 – visit www.isdna.org for more.
Successful future worldviews will have to balance and value both our inner and outer ways of human knowing – our spiritual and our scientific heritages. This is simple wisdom because it is also an adaptive imperative. The survival of a species – and humans are no exception – depends on skilful adaptive choices, and skilful adaptive choices can only be made when the implications of various alternatives (our doing 'this' or 'that') are clear. A successful human future will require both new awareness and new skill sets. These are simply laws of nature.
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To aid humankind on our journey, future worldviews must be balanced, holistic, and guided by the heart –a balancing and valuing of both our inner and outer ways of human knowing – our spiritual and our scientific heritages.
The new 'conflictedness' in humanity
actively but in overall agreement with the global need for
A positive sign of our times is that this clash of human
caught in predicaments that are truly conflictive –
values and visioning is fortunately creating many levels of
complicit with systems they don't like or support, but
conflictedness among our billions of world citizens. This
in which they seem to have no choice. However, the
conflictedness is uncomfortable, of course, but it's a sign
evidence of this conflictedness itself, reflected in opinion
that people are recognising what's no longer sustainable
polls worldwide, shows that awareness about the need for
from our past and what a positive future will require. For
change is massively afoot across the planet.
fundamental structural change. Others find themselves
the first time in perhaps a century, millions are realising
The world is entering a new experimental epoch.
it isn't enough to be complicit in systems and structures
Interspirituality is only one of the arenas – the arena
that not only don't serve the well-being of all but are also
in which it appears undeniable that religion will need
leading us to near-certain ruin.
to be fundamentally different from what religions have
What this means at the day-to-day level is that billions
often been in the past. Can the world's religions turn to
of world citizens are caught in lifestyles they already realise
their shared, profound, and universal understanding of
are unsustainable, or which are complicit with systems and
values – the simple standards of interconnectedness, love,
structures that are propelling the world's problems instead
kindness, and service that are the desire of every human
of furnishing solutions. Some – from Arab and Catholic
being on the planet, religious or not? This is the question.
Spring to Occupy – respond with action and innovative
Will religion and spirituality be part of a global solution,
vision. Others – as evidenced from a myriad statistics
or will it be part of the problem? This question is truly an
presented in The Coming Interspiritual Age – join less
anthropological threshold for our species. O
+300 page ezine available FREE download
Namaste Publishing is the original publisher of Eckhart Tolle and other spiritual teachers, in support of the coming Interspiritual Age. For more info visit www.namastepublishing.com BS&M • 13 DIGIMAG
Paths to the BS&M • 14 DIGIMAG
Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, a Sufi mystic and author of The Return of the Feminine and the World Soul captures Prema Gaia (pictured right) and the philosophy of The Goddess Temple of Ashland (see box) when he says: 'The choice is simple. Can we remember the wholeness that is within us, the wholeness that unites spirit and matter? Or will we continue walking down this road that has abandoned the Divine Feminine, that has cut women off from their sacred power and knowledge? If we choose the former we can begin to reclaim the world, not with masculine plans, but with the wisdom of the feminine, the wisdom that belongs to life itself. If we choose the latter we may attempt some surface solutions with new technology. We may combat global warming and pollution with scientific plans. But there will be no real change. A world that is not connected to its soul cannot heal. Without the participation of the Divine Feminine nothing new can be born.' Prema tells us more.
'Catastrophe can become grace, and disaster possibility, only if we transform their energy by accepting what they have to teach us and acting with complete sincerity to transform ourselves.'
The 7 Self-Responsible Communication Agreements Prema Gaia
spoke with the founding members of the temple and discovered eight common pathways leading to a personal experience of embodying the Sacred
Feminine. These pathways are explained below:
Connection with nature 'In coming into the heartbeat of the Earth through honouring natural time cycles, we deepen into the
e Goddess Prema Gaia: Freelance Writer/ New World Consciousness Publicist
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rhythms that help awaken this place within. Once we drop into this feminine receptive field, whether we are a man or a woman, we are able to begin receiving a depth of peace and wisdom that flows from simply observing the inherent harmonies of nature. We can then attune our bodies and consciousness to this harmony as well. I am convinced that a huge amount of the healing and rebalancing that the Earth needs at this time, whether it concerns ecology and sustainability, social systems, or political peacemaking, requires a return to the quiet wisdom of the Earth and the Divine Feminine flowing
'In our contemporary culture we cannot understand how a deeper mystery was enacted, one that consciously connected life to its source in the inner worlds, a source that held the wholeness of life as an embodiment of the divine, allowing the wonder of the divine to be present in every moment.' Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee
through us all.' Violet MoonRain McBride
Service 'I access her through service, through practices of subtle internal alignment, through prayer, dance, personal ritual, and above all, through devotion and right action. I believe that the best way for anyone to know her is to consciously take a vow to serve her, to commit oneself again and again to what it means in any moment to be an instrument of her wisdom in the world. Everyone finds his or her own way to be a vessel for her, to be her hands
with the divine.' Violet MoonRain McBride (www. shamanicawakenings.com) 'Given that we are each embodiments of divine creative power, I feel it is very much about each woman attuning to her own unique soul-encoded spirit source and learning how to more fully embody her divinity. We need to honour and connect to our own unique energy signature and flame in order to become attuned to feminine divinity.'
of mercy.' Jumana King-Harris
Embodiment practices 'For me, the Divine Feminine is full embodiment and
Sacred ceremony & spiritual practices
presence, through the body, through the senses, through
'Ceremonial menstruation is a powerful way to deepen
emotions, and primarily through pleasure. Tantric dance
our experience with the goddess. Each time a woman
circles with women and men have been my primary path
bleeds she is being called to ceremony with the Earth,
to accessing that deeper internal mystery and that sense
so when we accept this time as sacred, we will create a
of connectedness within. I've had men just crying that
new relationship with our bodies and the world around
they were actually invited and allowed into these sacred
us. Directly returning the menstrual flow to the soil
circles to come into contact with this energy. To me the
is a powerful practice of healing and prayer. I highly
energy of the embodied Sacred Feminine feels like tingles
recommend experimenting with this ancient ritual as a
and aliveness and pleasure in my whole body. It feels
way to connect to the goddess. When menstruation is
like my heart just blossoming open with every breath; it
reclaimed as sacred, we will see a long-awaited balance
feels like ripples and waves of pleasurable joy, and it was
restored to our world. Sitting upon the Earth during this
so foreign to me, especially when I was new to these
time of the month and simply resting or meditating is
practices. I was in such a shielded and guarded and
all that is needed to be in full communion with nature.'
armoured body.' Renee Jeffus
Jasmin Starrchild (www.redmoon13.ning.com)
Intuition & spirit guidance
'I recommend transitioning from mind-centered to
'In the tantric tradition, there is the worship of women.
spirit-centered decision making, discovering a practice
This can include practices such as gazing at the woman
of seeking guidance in nature, and working with a lunar
with love, bringing her flowers, speaking to women from
calendar, such as the 13 moon calendar or We'Moon
the heart, sitting together, and energetically linking your
planner. In addition, learning shamanic journeying can
chakras and allowing the bliss of that to permeate into
be a very powerful tool in accessing the wisdom of
the world. True heart-connection is the greatest thing.'
the Earth, and deepening into a receptive relationship
The Goddess Temple of Ashland
Conscious birthing & mothering 'As a sacred midwife and mother, I feel that gathering women together to energetically support a woman through the birthing process is a profound pathway to experiencing birth as a great Sacred Feminine mystery. We bring priestesses together to energetically support the birthing mother and her partner during labour through ecstatic dance ceremony. The prayer of support is expressed on the dance floor through channelled tribal labour dances, sending the birthing mother the energy and connection to her community that is so vital during her initiation of childbirth and parenting. We either do this ritual at private homes or from a separate location, sending long-distance support.' Graell Corsini (www. birthdancepriestess.com)
Awakening to our healership 'My first experience of feeling this Sacred Feminine essence channel through me was while doing energy work on a dear male friend. He later told me that this energy was able to permeate deeply and provide balm for some of his long-neglected core wounds. He said that he feels the reason that many men have not been able to request the sharing of this kind of energy is because many of them have not allowed themselves to be "unarmoured" enough to fully experience it, don't know what it would feel like, or are not familiar with the language to describe it. Therefore, they don't know how to request it and often, on the surface level, are unaware that they even lack it.' Prema Gaia. O
On the spring equinox in 2011, with the full moon in Virgo, about a hundred people gathered excitedly together in Ashland, Oregon, to dance, to pray, and to perform ceremonies to consecrate a new temple to honour the Sacred Feminine and to invoke the rebalancing of the Divine Masculine and Divine Feminine energies on earth. The Goddess Temple of Ashland was birthed from a vision of Graell Corsini, who felt guided to bring together 19 women, including Prema, from a diverse background of the world's wisdom traditions and healing arts. The goal was to create a sacred space for people to explore their own personal experience of inner union with the Divine Feminine. Part of the inspiration came from the goddess temple in Glastonbury, England, which was formally registered as a place of worship in 2003. That simple ceremony is thought to be the first time a goddess temple has been consecrated in approximately 1500 years. Other inspiration came from mystic scholars, including Andrew Harvey, who heralded 2011 as the 'Year of the Emerging Divine Feminine'. Dr Harvey says that, 'Clearly, now the Divine Feminine is the most important single facet of the religious renaissance of the last 30 to 40 years. Unless we come to know what the Sacred Feminine really is – its subtlety and flexibility but also its extraordinarily ruthless, radical power of dissolving all structures and dogmas, all prisons in which we have sought so passionately to imprison ourselves – we will be taken in by patriarchal projections of it.'
'In all the ancient traditions there were temples where people would be healed through sound, through music, art, and various healing techniques.' Sharron Rose – filmmaker, teacher, and mystic scholar
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A Sacred Manual for Getting Spiritually Naked
REVEAL BS&M • 18 DIGIMAG
Meggan Watterson is a spiritual mentor, speaker and scholar of the Divine Feminine who inspires women to live from the audacity and authenticity of the voice of their soul. In this excerpt from her book, Reveal, she introduces us to a way to lift the veil of your own fear and self-doubt to find the divine within.
o you know who you are?' the shaman asked. A thick silence filled the short distance between us. 'Do you know who you are?' she repeated, her eyes locking mine so forcefully she might as well have put her hands on either side of
my face. Responses were racing through me like the reels of a slot machine. But I remained silent as huge tears started to slide down my cheeks. I knew who I was, but I had no idea how to express it. I didn't know how to mirror on the outside the truth of who I was within. I had come to the shaman because I ardently believed she could flip a switch and change me. I believed that I would meet something or someone outside of myself – the right word, a wise thought, a sacred text, a spiritual master – that would touch my soul, and that would be it. Boom. I would be aligned with the truth of who I am. I would again be connected to that sense of love and freedom I knew without question as a little girl. I was in my early 20s, and I knew what my life so far had cost me. I was afraid, not all the time but often enough that I allowed fear to dictate my choices. The most visible example was my fear of flying, which had morphed into a full-blown phobia. I couldn't be trusted when it came to planes. I jilted flights at the last minute like the Runaway Bride. I didn't want to believe that I was going to let fear decide where I could and couldn't go, so I would say yes to a trip and buy a ticket. I would even board the plane. But at the last minute, I would bolt for the door, leaving my family members or friends slack-jawed in the wake of my exit. By this point, I felt defeated. Confined. I had accepted that my life would have to remain par terre.
experience of the Divine. I wanted to meet what is most sacred, not just one day a week or on holidays or on special occasions like weddings and deaths. I wanted the Divine to infuse every part of my life, every day, every breath. Just as medicine – and later, psychology – were grounded in the male body and the male experience, the liturgy and spiritual practices of most of the world's When a plane had taken off without me, and fear had
religions were codified and created by men. I marched
released its grip, I would stand in the airport wondering
out of my Unitarian church at age ten after reading the
what the bleep just happened. Fear, without fail, would
Bible for the first time and realizing that women's voices
turn out to be what wasn't actually true for me. Fear
weren't a part of the story. I have wondered since then
derailed me in other, more ordinary ways nearly every
what a spirituality would look like if it were created with
day. Moments when I wanted to say or do something
women's experience and perspective in mind.
but a doubt or a disbelief in myself would give fear the
I wanted to be spiritual in a way that allowed me to be
thumbs-up to come swooping in and stifle what I had
as at home in my soul as I am in my skin. Separating my
wanted to share.
sexuality from my spirituality didn't work for me, because
I had no idea how to feel at ease in my own skin, fully
it wasn't true to my experience. For me, it was only by
embodied and unafraid. And I wanted that freedom more
winning back my body – by daring to really be present
than anything. Not just on flights and in difficult moments
to all I was feeling in my body – that I finally began to
but all the time. I wanted to find a way to turn inward
connect to what is eternal in me. The body then wasn't
no matter what my external circumstances or how much
an obstacle but, in a way, the goal.
fear I was experiencing, and know what is true for me,
I have spent the majority of my life gathering stories
the actual rock of who I am. Not the smoke and shadow
of the Divine Feminine. Each time before getting masters
the ego emits, but a source more stable and constant.
degrees in theology and divinity, I went on a pilgrimage
There's a famous BBC interview in which the Swiss
to sacred sites of the Divine Feminine throughout Europe.
psychiatrist Carl Jung is asked if he believes in God.
The first was with a group and the second was on my
'Difficult to answer,' he tells the interviewer. And then
own. So it went group pilgrimage, Master of Theological
after the most perfect pregnant pause he says, 'I know.
Studies, solo pilgrimage, Master of Divinity.
I don't need to believe. I know.' This is what I wanted. I wanted to know God, intimately. I wanted a personal
Through the stories of the Divine Feminine in Christianity's
Mary Magdalene, Catholicism's
BS&M • 19 DIGIMAG
'Descent is not about finding light but about going into the darkness and befriending it. If we remain there long enough, it takes on its own luminosity. It will reveal everything to us.' – Sue Monk Kidd
who could point me toward the holy temple that we can't see with our eyes but can only sense with our souls. This, I found, is who I am. To me being spiritual is less about learning something new and more about remembering what I have always known. Being spiritual is a process of stripping down to what is authentic for me, for my life. Getting spiritually naked is about having the courage to be radically open about the truth of who we are with no exceptions and no apologies, to reveal ourselves without judgement or shame. Take Salome's seductive dance in the Bible as described in Matthew, starting around verse 14. Salome begins to shed the first of seven veils as she dances with
Madonna, Hinduism's Kali Ma, and Buddhism's Green
hips and passion to win the favour of her uncle King
Tara, for example, I began to see that I wasn't as much of
Herod in order to then ask for John the Baptist's head.
a spiritual misfit as I had thought. There was a red thread
Such is the power of a woman revealing herself in public.
that became visible to me. It ran through many of the
Like many good stories, the dance of the seven veils
world religions, especially through their mystics, relaying
has pre-Christian roots. It is thought to have originated
that the way to find the Divine is to go within. And, that
with the great Babylonian goddess Ishtar. The story starts
our potential to be transformed by going inward is exactly
with Ishtar's seemingly innocuous wish to visit her sister,
the same whether we are a man or a woman. The real
Ereshkigal, in the underworld. As Isthar descends, the
barometer of our spiritual potential is not our sex, but
gatekeeper will only let her through each of the seven
the commitment of our desire to want to encounter the
gates if she will shed an article of clothing. Each discarded
piece gets Ishtar nearer to her sister, and when she
In divinity school and seminary I came across
The seven veils that Salome slides off her skin and
mainstream, such as The Gospel of Mary Magdalene and
the seven gates Ishtar passes through can be seen as
the Pistis Sophia. These are texts in which the Divine isn't
seven stages of a spiritual process. The more we reveal
out there, above or beyond us, but rather within us. And
of ourselves, the closer we come to unveiling the soul, to
the central figures of these texts are women.
reaching the Divine.
These were the voices that as a little girl I sensed
Seven is a favourite number among mystics,
were missing from the Bible. But what I really wanted
alchemists, and spiritual writers throughout history. There
to find was a text that helped me go within. I loved
is the seven-headed red dragon in the Book of Revelation.
the metaphors of what happens by turning inward: the
There's St Teresa's Interior Castle with 'seven mansions'
mystical union, the sacred marriage, the alchemical
in which God meets her 'from behind a shut door'. There
uniting of opposites. That all sounded so intriguing, so
is the Trappist monk Thomas Merton, who equates the
alluring, but I had no idea what any of it really meant or
spiritual path to climbing a 'seven storey mountain', and
how to get there.
there is Deepak Chopra, with his 'seven spiritual laws of
What I lacked most and longed to find was a sacred
BS&M • 20 DIGIMAG
passes through the seventh gate, she is totally naked.
early Christian writings that are not well known in the
success', just to name a few.
guide to the inner terrain. I needed help in navigating
And then there is Marguerite Porete, a French mystic
that unknown inner world, a person who could light my
from the Middle Ages, who ascends through seven stages
way through the darkness. I loved listening to sermons,
on her soul's journey to find union with Divine Love. She
homilies, and dharma talks, and attending satsangs,
was encouraged by Church authorities to write down her
pujas, and midnight masses. I loved learning about saints,
experience, which she did, in her spiritual masterpiece,
mystics, gurus, shamans, and holy people from around
The Mirror of Simple Souls. Sharing her soul's story
the world and in all traditions. But what I really craved
had dire consequences, however. After a lengthy trial
was a sort of priestess to the churches and synagogues
that brought to the stand many of the foremost Church
that travel within us wherever we go. I needed someone
authorities (it's a given they were male), Marguerite
and her Mirror were both deemed heretical and she was
voice. I have found what I set out to know: a direct
sentenced to death.
experience of the Divine. Whether I'm seated before a
They burned her book first before burning Marguerite
lighted candle, calm and serene, or I'm plowing my way
at the stake in Paris in 1310. My heart started to race
through a crowded street in downtown New York City, I
when I read this. Not because she had been burned at
can feel and know what is Divine, what is true for me.
the stake – a precursor to the witch hunts that would
And this is what I want most for you; to hear and feel the
follow – but because of the fear her story invoked. To
limitless love and wisdom of the truth inside you, to know
think that it was so threatening to church fathers for a
and trust the voice of your own soul so much that you let
woman to meet Divine Love inside her that they felt it
it guide you from within.
necessary to destroy both her body and her book. Truth
What I want the spiritual process revealed in this book
can never be silenced, however. Like the legend of the
to give you is what it gave to me: a sense of empowerment
phoenix, Marguerite Porete's voice rises from the ashes
that allows you to shed any feeling of being a victim and
to live on through The Mirror of Simple Souls: 'But I was,
own everything that has happened to you; a feeling of
says this Soul, and I am, and I will be always without lack,
embodiment that allows you to let go of every notion
for Love has no beginning, no end, and no limit, and I am
about the body except that it's sacred; an awareness of
nothing except Love.'
true love as a limitless source within you, not something
Marguerite wrote her spiritual memoir for the nuns
or someone outside you; a feeling of self-worth that lets
of her abbey. She wrote down the seven-layered process
you accept that love is your birthright, not something you
of her spiritual transformation to meet with Divine Love
must prove yourself worthy of; the audacity and authority
within her because of her love for them. Through a
to know that you don't need to keep your power hidden,
women's spirituality group I have facilitated for over 10
that we all have a direct connection to the Divine; a belief
years, the Redladies, and through a women's spirituality
in service and meaningful work in the world that doesn't
conference I founded called Reveal, I have met you – a
deplete you but rather demands that you receive as much
whole different kind of holy woman. Smile.
as you give; an experience of the love and support of
Like Porete's seven-layered journey of spiritual
spiritual community to remind you again and again that
transformation, the seven veils of Reveal are the seven
you're not alone – that women do the work of saving each
stages of the spiritual process I went through, a process
that stripped away what was no longer serving me, the false beliefs that covered up the truth of who I am.
I want this book to be the spiritual mentor that I couldn't find but desperately longed for when this process
If I could give you a visual of these seven stages, they
began for me. I want you to know that there is a way
would each be within the other like a Russian matryoshka
through fear. You are not crazy for wanting so much more
doll, like concentric circles, or a seven-course unicursal
out of life. You are not selfish or greedy either.
labyrinth. And in the process I describe, the stages are
You have been initiated. O
not hierarchical; one is not more important than the other. They are not sequential; the soul does not reveal
For info visit www.megganwatterson.com
itself in linear fashion, although for the purposes of this book, I describe the stages in a certain order. Each veil moves back in time to the events and people in my life that helped to shift my beliefs at a particular stage of the process. I refer to this book as 'a sacred manual' because it contains what I have spent nearly two decades searching for: the sacred texts and spiritual voices of women. Discovering these stories, texts, and spiritual voices of the Divine Feminine helped me to reveal my own spiritual Reprinted with kind permission of Hay House Publishers REVEAL: A Sacred Manual for Getting Spiritually Naked Meggan Watterson | 978 1 8485 0893 4
BS&M • 21 DIGIMAG
BS&M • 22 DIGIMAG
NEY TO THE
K GODDESS In her book, Journey to the Dark Goddess, Jane Meredith gives a fascinating insight into the hidden aspect of the goddess energy. This is not about the ‘dark side’, in a negative sense as much as it is about the hidden aspect of a major archetype which is coming to the fore at this time. This article is from the introductory chapter of that book.
he Dark Goddess is a mysterious and hidden
could be our life. Then, as everything falls apart around
figure. Although each of us is familiar with her
us, we are forced to begin the search for understanding
roles of wicked witch, the crone, the bad mother,
the hag and the winter queen, we don’t always remember
When we undertake a journey towards the Dark
her other face of compassion, healing and rebirth. This
Goddess much that we have accumulated is stripped
does us a great disservice. It leaves us disconnected from
away. Sometimes we experience this as having parts of
the full range of the feminine divine and estranged from
our lives we have relied on taken from us; such as health,
much of our ability to change and grow. In a journey to
relationships, emotional stability and status. We cannot
the Dark Goddess we travel deeply into ourselves, seeking
visit the Dark Goddess while still keeping our place in the
answers to difficulties, strength in a crisis, and healing
world; we cannot be in two places at once. This means
or change when we have become stuck. Sometimes we
we have to strip off – or more painfully, be stripped of
make this journey consciously, but all too often we find
– all our guises, props and patterns that are so much a
ourselves on the path without knowing how we got there,
part of our lives we have almost come to think of them
what to do or how to get out. Some of us spend years
as ourselves. In stripping down to the core we find our
down there, in a shadowy, inner realm known as the
intrinsic self, or our soul and that is where we meet with
the Dark Goddess.
Each journey to the Dark Goddess is different, yet
Journeying to the Dark Goddess is filled with
the pattern of journeys remains the same. They begin
paradoxes. For an empowering and inspiring experience it
with an awareness, a feeling that something in our lives
is best to travel towards her willingly; yet we almost never
is not quite right. When this awareness arises we may set
do that. If we want to understand the Dark Goddess and
off to investigate it. But often we don’t. Often we prefer
the part she plays in our lives we have to invoke her, invite
to ignore that awareness, that small voice, that feeling
her in, sit with her. Instead we shun, avoid and cower
of something awry; and we’re capable of ignoring it for
from her. We experience her as utterly other – the scary
quite a long time. Eventually it gets too much and all of a
witch, a faceless dark power, a nightmare – as removed
sudden we are swamped; collapsing under stress, illness,
from ourselves as possible; yet when we finally meet with
emotional crisis, overwork or an outright disbelief that this
her we discover she is a part of us. And not just any part.
BS&M • 23 DIGIMAG
We have to
People everywhere saw vegetation dying (often in winter), returning to the
– of who we are on the inside. One of the
earth and then rising again. They observed
paradoxes is that the worst times in our
that seeds, buried in the earth, rose up into
lives – times when we felt out of control,
new life. They saw the days get shorter
in grief, pain and distress – can be followed
and colder and then – magically, mystically
by the emergence of new inspiration and
– turn around and get longer and warmer.
energy, accompanied by determination to
They saw the moon, every month, vanish
live a life of beauty and meaning. This is a
(obliterated from sight, when it is too close
rebirth by the Dark Goddess.
to the sun to be seen) for three nights;
parts of our lives that are
Our culture has not taught us how to
then to appear again – on the other side
listen to the Dark Goddess, how to journey
of the sun. Reborn, you might say. These
towards her or how to integrate her wisdom
observations are blueprints of the myths
into our lives. But instructions remain
and explain why so many cultures and
in myths from other times and places.
religions share this story of death and
Many women have found support and
resurrection – a journey to an impossible,
guidance in the stories of the Goddesses.
almost unimagined place where something
In Greek myths both Persephone and
mysterious happens which leads to a
Psyche journey to the Underworld. In
Sumerian mythology Inanna (known as
All cultures have seen what we still see
Ishtar in Babylon) is famous for her visit
today; that humans are born, grow, get old
to the Dark Goddess. From these stories
and die; and that new humans, meanwhile,
we can learn much of the journey to the
are born. The death part, or disappearing
Underworld, and the return.
into the Underworld is still mysterious and
unhappy or even ill, and we have to
about them. To descend
Journey to the Dark Goddess will
unknown but we can clearly see, from the
focus on feminine myths of descent,
moon, the seasons and the sun that the
although these stories are not feminine
return will occur. If the return is in a body
alone. Dumuzi, Inanna’s lover and consort
other than our own (our children’s, or
also journeys to the Underworld; Ishtar’s
grand-children’s or simply other members
beloved Tammuz dies ritually in her arms
of our tribe or village), surely that only
we have to
every year with the vegetation; and
deepens the mystery. A basic law of visits
Orpheus journeys into the Underworld in
to the Underworld is that you return
a Greek myth to seek his dead beloved,
Eurydice. Closer to home, Jesus Christ
The Underworld gets some bad press.
one by one,
lay dead in a cave for three days before
We associate it with helplessness, pain,
all the things
rising again. Myths and stories can be read
fear, depression and despair. This is at
as maps of the unconscious; a Jungian
least partly because we so strongly resist
collective unconscious or an individual’s
and delay visiting these dark and difficult
psyche. But they are also quite practical
places of confronting the truth of our lives.
maps that tell us – literally – where to go,
We have a backlog to deal with, when we
how to get there and what to do when we
are finally forced into it. This bad press is
get there. And how to get back.
due to our unfamiliarity with the terrain,
that hold us back from change.
the same observations of natural life.
remind us – when we make the journey
admit to the
BS&M • 24
We find her in the deepest, truest remnant of our souls; always there to
Where do all these myths come from;
and to underlying values and beliefs our
and how could it be that they share the
culture holds such as growth is good,
same basic pattern? Demetra George, in
diminishment is bad and staying in control
her wonderful book Mysteries of the Dark
is necessary at all times. We know these
Moon usefully points out that past humans,
values depict only half the story. Of course
wherever they were on the planet, shared
diminishment is necessary, of course we
are not in control of even the main
essential. It should have been taught to
cornerstones of our own lives, being born
us by the time we began our menstrual
and dying; but it is still very hard to force
cycles, in the company of women, with
ourselves to act from a different basis.
stories, songs and ritual practices. We
would have watched adult women – our
changes us, each time we undertake that
journey. To prepare to visit the Dark
and teachers – practicing such things all
Goddess we have to stop and listen to
through our childhoods and we would be
ourselves; deeply. We have to admit to the
proud and excited to be learning those
parts of our lives that are not working, that
things for ourselves. We didn’t get that.
are making us unhappy or even ill, and we
But we can learn to give it to ourselves,
have to be prepared to do something about
and each other, and our daughters and the
them. To descend into the Underworld we
daughters of friends and our students. An
have to give away, one by one, all the
essential part of returning is that each time
things that hold us back from change.
we bring back with us gifts and powers
This can feel like we are losing everything.
from the Underworld which allow us to live
Meeting the Dark Goddess herself is at the
more fully and genuinely.
heart of the mystery and is different each
I have sometimes felt I simply didn’t
time, but that is the point where change
have the muscle power required to deal
happens. The return journey – that of the
with the Dark Goddess. But I have also
Ascent – is the time when we put those
found I can build that muscle power up;
changes into action, integrating what we
exercising, as it were. Practicing stepping
into – and out of – and into the dark. The
For some women, journeying towards
Underworld. Bringing myself face to face
the Dark Goddess is not the issue. Some of
with the Dark Goddess. Not once; dozens
us feel like we’ve spent all or most of our
of times. Regularly, unceasingly, on good
lives with her. We might be artists, healers,
days and weeks and months and bad
mothers and dreamers. But maybe we’ve
days and weeks and months. Only this
also gone through depression; been out
practice – this discipline, this dedication –
of control with addictions or self-harming;
helps to balance out the Underworld with
or felt balanced on the edge of insanity,
the upper world; helps to allow the Dark
unable to escape the Underworld and the
Goddess a place in my life without having
immediate and continual presence of the
her take over the whole shop, indefinitely.
Dark Goddess. When this is happening,
Of course, she can still do that from time
learning how to depart from the Underworld
to time. But I have garnered a working
is the issue. But these alternatives – barely
relationship with her; my sister.
visiting our hidden selves unless absolutely
We all enter into fallow periods in
forced to, or else not being able to get
our lives, times of questioning, of crisis,
away – are both stories of imbalance. The
of not-knowing; times of depression,
ancient myths teach of balance; how to
stagnation, terror and loss. We return
visit and how to return.
from them; changed. Later we enter them
The practice of regularly visiting the
again. There is no ceasing of this pattern.
Underworld helps if you have been running
And it is by attempting to halt the pattern
a strong denial, avoidance or fear of the
– to avoid the pain/fear/loss part of it –
hidden, ‘darker’ parts of life. It can help
that we cause the greatest damage to
if you have felt stuck in the Underworld,
ourselves. Imagine a full moon that never
unwillingly dedicated to the Dark Goddess
waned. What would the astronomers say
or just past due time to leave. Visiting –
to that? How would the seas respond?
and departing – the Underworld is probably
Imagine a world without winter. When
The Dark Goddess knows all our secrets. Traveling towards her we reveal and rediscover ourselves. Meeting her, we change and this change reflects a deep truth of who we really are. The Dark Goddess is both more powerful than, and an intrinsic part of each one of us.
BS&M • 25 DIGIMAG
would the culling occur? When would be
all our secrets. Traveling towards her we
to the Dark
the quiet time for the seeds, nestled in the
reveal and rediscover ourselves. Meeting
earth, to propagate? Or a world that was
her, we change and this change reflects a
deep truth of who we really are. The Dark
It is not as frightening as it seems,
Goddess is both more powerful than, and
to give oneself over to this pattern of
an intrinsic part of each one of us. The aim
descending and ascending once we fully
of our journey is to visit her; her aim is to
understand that it is cyclic. The pattern
does not get stuck in any one place, but
I am deeply indebted to Robin La
continues like the tides; like birth and
Trobe for initially guiding me through the
death, the waning and waxing moon and
Inanna story as a ritual process, twenty
the turn of the seasons. When we try to
plus years ago and thus starting me on my
halt it, to keep the pattern in one place
own Journey to the Dark Goddess. I thank
this creates enormous difficulties. In stasis
all the women who have written books
we cannot learn or grow very deeply, stuck
about this journey, and those who’ve sung
in one phase of a moving system. Then
songs, made paintings and kept the myths
it is best
imbalance occurs so, like a volcano steadily
alive. I honor and thank all the women who
building its ammunition in the darkness,
have shared with me portions of their own
when it erupts the result is devastation.
journeys into the Underworld and their
and inspiring experience
We need to rebuild the cycle. One of
meetings with the Dark Goddess. Without
the difficulties with our current shunning of
all of this I would not have had the courage
the dying-falling away part of the cycle is
or the conviction to write this book. O
the depletion of the earth, as we demand it
Another imbalance is the endless demand
that. If we
must always move upwards, capital and
over more money, profits increase year
Underworld we are beginning to sway the
Goddess and the part
for economic growth; that the shares index national growth increase, retailing turns by year. By learning to journey into the cycle back to the natural one, where light and dark alternate. There are seasons for growth and fullness and seasons for shedding and rest. Time
is a valuable and intrinsic part of our
development as a human. This is the night
in our lives
and rise refreshed. I would even go further,
we have to
always be available regardless of season.
BS&M • 26
must always be in crop, and every crop must
time for us, where we rest, recover, dream and say all things are not equal, and those times in the Underworld are the most
valuable. They are the times of renewal,
invite her in,
tragic that this is seen as something best
sit with her.
of one’s life and deeply undesirable, even
of understanding and of compassion. It is avoided, inimical to the bright progression unacceptable. The Dark Goddess knows
Extracted from Journey to the Dark Goddess by Jane Meredith, published by Moon Books.
deeper, unfiltered and more real sense of what women are all about. Highly recommended.
Daughters of the Earth: Goddess Wisdom for a Modern Age Cheryl Straffon O Books • 978 1 8469 4016 3
Kissing The Hag: The Dark Goddess and the Unacceptable Nature of Woman Emma Restall Orr O Books • 978 1 8469 4157 3
Hag is not a nice word, as the author herself confesses. But then, she's using it deliberately, partly to confront male-driven stereotypes, and partly to redefine the word in modern, feminist terms. There is, she says, a time in every woman's life when nice is tedious, insipid, 'seeping into the soul like souring milk, warping the mind'. Indeed, she adds, nice can, at times, be all that is offensive. So, while not being 'nice', hag remains a fascinating word, with a long history all its own – and it's not the word most moderns would imagine it to be in terms of its current usage or its ancient roots. It lingers 'at the edges of life, it waits to run a broken nail down some blackboard of the soul,' asserts the author. 'Like princess or pole-dancer, the word quietly slips us a picture, and though for each of us the image may differ slightly, it invariably embodies all that is declared to be simply and irrefutably not nice in woman.' This book is about that woman. And it is, says the author, about all women. Orr has used a combination of anecdotes, memories and sketches of moments in what she calls true stories but with the names of players changed since the point isn't the names but the stories themselves. And, in any case, she argues, they illustrate the hidden woman in lives that have been lived many times through history: 'Details may change, but through millennia of
human lives they have all been lived a thousand times and more.' This is a book for the time, as the emergence of the Feminine Divine takes shape and form and unshrouds itself from a history of domination by men. Excellent.
The Mystery of Woman: A Book for Men Gabriel Morris Soul Rock Books • 978 1 7809 9359 1
Women have long been an enigma to men: shrouded in mystery, misunderstood, both desired and repressed, fought over, respected, honored, denied, manipulated, deified, veiled, lusted after, romanticized in countless songs and works of art and, at the very least, always keeping men scratching their heads in befuddlement. This book is an attempt to pull away the veil, remove some of the mystery and give a glimpse into women's inner workings, desires, needs, visions, dreams, perspective, wisdom, creativity and everything else that encompasses the feminine being. It covers a variety of subjects that could hardly be more wide-ranging, tackling challenging topics from the repression of women and sexual inequalities, to tantra and sex magic; from the role of emotions in both women and in relationships, to trust, intimacy and communication; from the various shortcomings of men in relating to women, to the power of the penis, the true qualities of manhood and the importance of finding balance between masculine and feminine, yin and yang. This is really one for those who wish to have a much
As modern society experiences an awakening of interest in the true nature of the goddess – the archetype, and the inner meaning of this age-old figure that has slipped into the shadows of man-made world, the operative word being man in this context – so we are seeing more of these sorts of books on the shelves or on our e-readers. It's important to note that the goddess figure is part of every major cultural tradition yet encountered, and virtually every minor tribal society still to be found as well. It is a universal figure, and archetype, though it is women who are leading the way in bringing her back from the darkness to which four or more millennia of Western cultural patriarchy had consigned her. Linked almost inextricably to an awakening to the fragility of our collective 'Mother', the earth itself, or perhaps that should be herself, this Divine Feminine emergence is more or less global – even in the streets of the Arab Spring, the male-dominated Muslim fundamentalism has found younger women shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts, demanding their time in the sun too. It is not accidental that this is happening. This book offers a contemporary view of emergent feminine aspect, looking at the research, spiritual practices and ideas old and new related to the goddess. In the legends, landscapes and sometimes secretive ceremonies that have been part of goddess worship for eons of human existence, we are finding a new way to relate to women, to ourselves as a collective, to the earth and to all that lives upon the earth. A book for the times.
BS&M • 27 DIGIMAG
Everythin Everything Everything flows towards energy
BS&M • 28 DIGIMAG
'Recently I have sadly lost a very close friend. Her death was unexpected and although I had only known her for six months her loss has left a huge gap in my life. The spiritual energy we give and receive govern many of our relationships. Do you have people you have known for years but still feel you are skating around the periphery of their lives, but with others there is an instant, almost magical kinship which gives the sensation you have known them forever?' Louise Jensen reports.
o what is energy? The simple
We are made up of multi-body
answer to this is everything.
systems, with etheric, emotional
Alongside sound waves, radio
and mental layers. Experiences
waves and other invisible forms,
don't just 'connect' and affect us
everything we can see is a form of
physically or emotionally, when we
energy, even objects at rest (such as
think thoughts, good or bad, these
trees, water and rocks) have stored
non-solid forms of energy go into
energy. To encounter someone
our multi-body system affecting us
close to our own vibrational level,
on many levels.
whose soul purpose is in alignment
The key is finding techniques
with our own, is a beautiful, loving
that work for us to release any
occurrence to be treasured. The flip
negative thoughts so they cannot
side to this is we can meet people
remain in our multi-body system,
whose energies do not resonate
which can lead to future physical
with our own who inexplicably make
illness and we can, ultimately, move
us fear, doubt and judge.
towards peace and happiness. O
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There is more to your bone health than calcium. There have been some exciting breakthroughs for improved bone health, reports Vanessa Ascencao.
Bone health – Weight-bearing exercise is an excellent way to keep your bones strong
BS&M • 30 DIGIMAG
steoporosis affects huge numbers of people worldwide – and the numbers are on the rise. What precisely is driving this global pandemic on
bone weakness and poor development remains a complex and not adequately answered question. Could it be our sedentary lifestyles? Or perhaps it's our every-increasing consumption of animal products and the toxic chemicals in our food and environment, as well as the lack of key nutrients in our diet? Between 1990 and 2000, there was a 25% increase in the number of hip fractures worldwide. By the year 2050, the risk of hip fracture is projected to increase 240% and 310% for women and men, respectively. It is now well known that bone health depends on much more than just adding calcium to the diet. It's a fine balance between your diet and your lifestyle. An alkaline diet is best, since an acidic diet, or a diet that results in increased acidity, will likely result in calcium being drawn out of the bones as the body fights to restore its
Bone loss speeds up most dramatically during the first 10 years after menopause, which is the period when osteoporosis is most likely to develop. and preventing osteoporosis – but they are not the only key players. The replacement of calcium through the diet is one obvious route to take, but there is also the issue of the body's optimal uptake of any calcium provided to it. So one of the undisputed benefits of vitamin D is that it helps absorption of calcium – this link has been known for many decades. So these two nutritional components obviously go together and make up an important aspect of bone health management. But there are others, some of which we are just beginning to understand properly.
preferred alkaline internal environment. Balancing your
What about Vitamin K?
hormones, managing stress levels, limiting enviro-toxins
Although the role of vitamin K in bone health has been
and xenoestrogens (estrogen-like compounds that come
known for several decades, growing evidence suggests
from the external environment) and a good strength
that this particular vitamin plays a vital – and surprisingly
training program all add to the picture of what makes
important – role in the prevention and treatment of
for better bone health. An intricate balance of all of the
osteoporosis. New evidence shows vitamin K, specifically
above is important and the key to prevention as well as
vitamin K2, to be another key player in your bone health,
management of loss of bone density.
and may be just as crucial in helping you prevent bone
Ideally, prevention of bone loss through a nutritional
fractures as you age.
approach would begin prior to a person's age of peak
While most people are vaguely aware of vitamin K,
bone mass at 18-24 years old, for those beyond peak
not everyone is well versed in what it is, where it comes
bone mass years, age-related bone density decline is
from and how it functions in the body. Firstly, it is a
expected to be 0.5-1% annually, with an increase to 2-3%
vital nutrient associated with green, leafy vegetables.
in postmenopausal women.
According to a study by researchers from Rensselaer
Bone loss speeds up most dramatically during the
Polytechnic Institute, the Hospital for Special Surgery in
first 10 years after menopause, which is the period when
NY, Yale University, Villanova University, and published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has shown just how important this vitamin is in keeping our bones strong and healthy. The researchers discovered that a poorly-understood protein called osteocalcin appears to be essential to protecting bones from fractures, but that it can only be absorbed by bones through the action of vitamin K. 'This study is important because it implicates, for the
osteoporosis is most likely to develop. Nutritional factors affecting bone structure and turnover include organic minerals (calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium and trace minerals), vitamins (A, D, E, K, and the Bs) and macronutrients (proteins and fatty acids). Of these, calcium, and vitamin D have historically been viewed as most important in the promotion of bone health
more than just calcium BS&M • 31 DIGIMAG
first time, the role of osteocalcin in giving bone the ability
that cannot be achieved when one piece of the puzzle is
to resist fracture,' lead researcher Deepak Vashishth said.
missing. Indeed, the benefits of calcium and vitamin D are
'Since osteocalcin is always the point of fracture, we
largely dependent on vitamin K.
believe that strengthening it could lead to a strengthening of the overall bone.'
Also, there's new evidence that it is vitamin K (specifically, vitamin K2) that directs calcium to your
Notably, osteocalcin must undergo a process called
skeleton, while preventing it from being deposited where
carboxylation before it can be absorbed into bones. This
you don't want it – in your organs, joint spaces, and
process is performed by vitamin K.
arteries. A large part of arterial plaque consists of calcium deposits (atherosclerosis), hence the term 'hardening of
How does vitamin K work? Our bodies synthesise vitamin K2 from a precursor (vitamin K1) found primarily in green, leafy vegetables.
the arteries'. Vitamin K helps protect your blood vessels from calcifying when in the presence of high calcium levels.
Prior studies have linked higher vitamin K levels to improved bone health. The Rotterdam Study, a long-term investigation of risk factors for chronic disease in old age, found that over a 10-year period, people who consumed the most vitamin K2 had 50% less arterial calcification and cardiovascular death than average. This effect may be explained by this vitamin's role in moving vitamin K from the blood – where it plays a key role in blood clotting, but where it can also eventually accumulate in arteries leading to calcification, if not cycled into the body for its other uses, such as in strengthening the bones. There has been some remarkable research about the protective effects of vitamin K2 against osteoporosis. A number of Japanese trials have shown that vitamin K2 completely reverses bone loss and in some cases even increases bone mass in people with osteoporosis. The pooled evidence of seven Japanese trials shows that vitamin K2 supplementation produces a 60% reduction in vertebral fractures and an 80% reduction in hip and other non-vertebral fractures. Researchers in the Netherlands showed that vitamin K2 is three times more effective than vitamin K1 in raising osteocalcin, which controls the building of bone. So, if you currently take calcium and vitamin D for your bones, it's important that you also get plenty of vitamin K2. These three nutrients have a synergistic effect
Vitamin D3 Calcium is the major structural element of bones and teeth. Your body needs several nutrients in order for calcium to be absorbed and used properly. Two of these nutrients are vitamin D and vitamin K. Vitamin D increases absorption of calcium from the small intestine so the body receives maximum benefit, while vitamin K helps ensure calcium builds up in the bones and not in soft tissues. There is even evidence that the safety of vitamin D is dependent on vitamin K, and that vitamin D toxicity (although very rare with the D3 form) is actually caused by vitamin K2 deficiency.
A look at the sunshine vitamin Vitamin D is frequently called the 'sunshine vitamin'. It's necessary for normal bone mineralisation and growth, maintenance of muscle strength and co-ordination, cardiovascular health, and a robust and balanced immune function. During winter, it's very possible you're not getting your daily dose. But even when the sun is shining, how often do you actually see it? If you're like most people, not often – especially if you work in an office or never leave the house without covering yourself in
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see pg 60 for our exclusive rates BS&M • 32 DIGIMAG
Bone Building Menu Breakfast – Green vegetable juice (cucumber, spinach, apple, celery and lime) and a small bowl of quinoa with mixed seeds, some honey or xylitol or chia seed porridge.
Snack – Raw almonds or mixed unsalted nuts. Walnuts are also a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids. Lunch – Chickpea and quinoa salad tossed with tomatoes, cucumber, almonds and mint or fresh fish, or free-range chicken breast with a large raw salad with olive oil or coconut oil. Feel free to add cooked green veg. Snack: fresh fruit
Follow a regime of green juices to maintain bone health
sunscreen. If you are taking anticoagulant drugs, your doctor
Dinner – Raw shredded carrot and beet salad or any salad of choice with some steamed veggies, fresh salmon or any other fresh fish. You may also replace the fish with some quinoa.
will most probably inform you that vitamin K counteracts the intended effects of your prescription so make sure you discuss your vitamin K intake with your professional health practitioner. Otherwise, vitamin K is strangely but widely ignored by mainstream medicine, even though it is essential to your bone-building capacity.
Bone health benefits of Vitamin K stun researchers Many scientific studies confirm vitamin K's positive effects on bone-building processes. One good example is an article published in the European Journal of Pharmacology by Akiyama and team. The researchers actually identified a process where a form of vitamin K2, a menaquinone known as MK-4, inhibits the formation of osteoclasts. Interestingly, bisphosphonate drugs attempt to perform a similar function, but fail miserably at matching the co-ordinated performance of vitamin K. This is because bisphosphonate drugs damage and distort osteoclasts, while vitamin K helps co-ordinate the right amount of osteoclast production with other bone cells so as to achieve the appropriate balance. Bisphosphonates are synthetic drugs deprived of a biological role in bone metabolism unlike vitamins and other natural elements. How sad that this crucial distinction is usually ignored by mainstream medicine.
Best exercises Yoga – Great for the body and mind. Keeps you
supple and strengthens the core.
Pilates – Again an excellent way to strengthen
Strength training – 3-times-a-week. it is worthwhile getting a personal trainer for at least a month to show you the ropes so that you don't injure yourself, thereafter if you choose you may go on your own.
Walking – One of the best exercises for cardiovascular health and overall well-being. There is no impact on the joints and it is great to get outside with the kids, the dogs, your partner or a friend.
Supplementation – A study published in Osteoporosis International has concluded that lifetime supplementation with vitamin K1 or, even better, K2, vitamin D3, and calcium is likely to reduce fractures and increase survival in post-menopausal women. Many are under the mistaken impression that a prescription drug combined with calcium supplements is the answer to strong healthy bones, but the regular consumption of a healthy diet, along with safe sun exposure and extra supplementation when appropriate, is likely to be far superior.
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Another study on vitamin K and fracture prevention
bones is a diet rich in fresh, raw whole foods that
had such unexpected positive results that even its lead
maximises natural minerals so that your body has the
author, Dr Angela Cheung, touted it 'surprising'. (Vitamin
materials it needs to do what it was designed to do.
K Supplementation in Postmenopausal Women with
In addition, you need healthy sun exposure along with
Osteopenia [ECKO Trial]: A Randomized Controlled Trial.
regular, weight-bearing exercise.
2008). Published in the journal PLOS Medicine, the study involved 440 post-menopausal women diagnosed with osteopenia. Half of the participants were given a vitamin K1 supplement and the other half took a placebo for two years, with 261 continuing for two more years. While bone density scans showed equal bone loss in both groups, over the four year study period more than double the women who took the placebo suffered fractures compared to the group that took the vitamin K.
Best sources of vitamin K All varieties of vitamin K are fat-soluble and belong to a chemical category called naphthoquinones, but there are two basic types of vitamin K: Phylloquinones, or vitamin K1, which is made by plants and menaquinones; and vitamin K2, synthesised by intestinal bacteria. Unlike vitamin K1, vitamin K2 does not concentrate in the liver. The body stores only limited amounts of vitamin K in the liver, so it is important to have enough bio-available K2 in the body. The richest dietary sources of K1 are green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, Brussels sprouts, green beans, asparagus, and broccoli. Green peas, romaine lettuce, and bell peppers are some of the less concentrated but still very good sources of this vitamin. Even spices such as fresh parsley, oregano, thyme, basil, black and cayenne pepper are rich in vitamin K1. Even though it is fat-soluble, there is no documented
Here are some key ways you can optimise your bone density: Eat foods rich in bone nutrients. Crucial bone nutrients are vitamin D, vitamin C, boron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, folate, silica and calcium. Foods rich in these nutrients include kale, spinach, celery, peppers, carrots, beets, wild salmon, sardines, quinoa, chickpeas, almonds, raspberries, chia seeds and coconut water. Avoid pro-inflammatory foods. Gluten and sugar are the main offenders. Ditch the cereal, granola, crackers, pasta, pizza and bread. No cheese and crackers and no cereal with milk. Eat an alkaline diet. At least 65% of our diet should come from plants (alkaline) with the remainder from protein, seeds, nuts, legumes and grains (acidic). An alkaline diet will keep the blood pH at 7.365 without removing minerals from the bone to buffer acidity. Watch your stress. When we're stressed, we produce cortisol to cope with our stressors. Cortisol increases calcium excretion and inhibits the renewal of the bone-building cells. While we can't eradicate our emotional stressors, we can change how we perceive them. Instead of asking, 'Why does this happen to me?' ask, 'What is my lesson here? How can I see the grace in this?' Take a weekly yoga class, get grounded and connect with more balanced and harmonious people.
toxicity with high doses of vitamin K, with the exception of
Limit your exposure to enviro-toxins. Heavy
synthetic K3 or menadione. Marcus Rohrer Spirulina, one
metals such as mercury, lead, aluminium and fluoride are
of the most nutrient-rich Spirulina products in the world,
bone nutrient mimickers. If bone nutrients are replaced
has announced another nutritional first: the discovery
with heavy metals, the risk of fracture increases. Have
that it additionally contains Vitamin K2.
mercury fillings removed by a biological dentist. Drink
Cyanotech, producers of Marcus Rohrer Spirulina,
filtered versus tap water. Buy lead-free lipstick. Switch to
recently undertook fresh analysis and issued the
a non-fluoride toothpaste like Tom's, Spry or Burt's Bees.
following statement: 'Based on analytical results from an
Balance your sex hormones. Estrogen helps
independent contract laboratory, (our) Spirulina provides
maintain bone density by inhibiting an enzyme that kills
approximately 15mcg/3gm daily serving or 19% of the
the osteoblasts, the bone cells responsible for growth and
Daily Recommended Value of Vitamin K2, and 75mcg/3gm
development of new bone. Check your hormone levels
daily serving of Vitamin K (including all forms) or 94% of
and use a bio-identical hormone if necessary. O
the Daily Recommended Value of Vitamin K.' The summary of our latest knowledge on the subject indicates that one of the best ways to achieve healthy
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For more info visit www.vdanutrition.com.
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Siddha science considers nature and man as essentially one. Nature is man and man is nature. Man is said to be the microcosm and the universe is the macrocosm because what exists in the world exists in man. Siddha explains that to study the body we need to have a strong understanding of the universe. We take a look at an ancient philosophy and the healing modality that it gives rise to.
nt Wisdom I
n the ancient texts of India, the Vedas, the creation of the universe is attributed to the all-pervading primordial vibration, the Om. This primordial vibration
directed to the construction of this universe out of the fundamental particles, the chitta, forming matter and
consciousness. Chitta is the building block of matter as well as consciousness. All of these are thought of as parts of a continuous spectrum. The primordial ocean of Chitta is split into two equal and opposite forces, matter and energy, the Shiva and Shakti – the masculine and feminine, the essence of all that is male and all that is female. By the simple nature
A selection of herbs, combinations, preparation and application – along with cosmic energy applications and meditation – constitute the vast yet simple gift of Siddha Vaidya (Siddhar system of medicine), which is one of the most ancient medicinal systems in the world.
of their opposing forces, they could not have a single existence, because one force justifies the existence of
is imbalanced, health declines and a wide disparity is
incompatible with life. In all living things, specific areas
In order to sustain this balance, they have to be in
or parts of the body, represent each of these elements.
constant dynamic union, the union of Shiva and Shakti.
The correct ratio of these elements within the body
It is, in terms of this philosophy of creation, the union of
is the basis of physiological order, the manifestation of
Shiva and Shakti that gave birth to the current structure
health. Despite its ancient roots, there are still today
of the universe with five elements or states of matter
healers using the principles of Siddha to bring back this
(the Panchabhootas), being Earth, Water, Fire, Air and
balance using herbs, animal products, or purified minerals
Space. Siddha science explains that life is a union of
to rectify the specific imbalance. The selection of herbs,
these elements in the right proportion. If the proportion
combinations, preparation and application – along with
BS&M • 37 DIGIMAG
and meditation – constitute the vast yet simple gift of Siddha
system of medicine), which is one of the most ancient medicinal systems in the world. This system can be traced to the pre-Vedic period. Siddhar, a Tamil word that is derived from its root 'chit', means perfection in life or heavenly bliss. It generally refers to eight
'Our greatness is being able to remake ourselves' Mahatma Ghandi
to mankind in their cosmic evolution. Kayakalpa Siddha
Longevity first propagated by
one of the 18 Siddhars of Southern India. His work was written in Sanskrit, the popular language of the Aryans, and was called Ayul Vedam, or the Veda of Life. During the Aryan
kinds of 'supernatural'
invasion, the Siddha
system was mixed with
to man. The persons
who had attained such
systems, which gave
rise to Ayurveda that
in life are known as
was put into practice
Siddhars. They are men
in areas where Aryans
born with great talents
geographical divide is
of years ago in Tamil
very much evident in
Nadu, Southern India,
today's India, where
who by their devotion
South India contains
and search for truth,
more of the Siddha
in their life-time. especially among the common people, or Siddhi means 'power', Dravidians. A mixture of accomplishment or systems is seen today perfection. To attain in a few places, where these powers, Siddha Ayurveda and Siddha says: find it out for co-exist. Yet, the yourself. Siddha system retained Saava Kalai, or the its purity through Art of Deathlessness, The overt difference between Ayurveda (pictured) and practices deeply rooted has been the simplest Siddha is that the latter is spiritual. in Dravidian culture of the myriad of great and language, and also achievements of the differs from Ayurveda in its deeply-rooted principle: great Siddhas. The history of these alleged immortals Siddha is spiritual. dates back to the time that is beyond our recorded The Siddha system of Kayakalpa is the wholesome memory or history. Even today, to true seekers, the Siddhas present themselves as teachers of their divine process of fine-tuning the whole human system, the arts, blessing them with their divine vision, guidance body, mind and spirit complex, in one unified approach and assistance. Despite many followers vouching for the to attain first the Arokia Deham – the disease-free body immortality of these great sages, to date, very few have (the holistically healthy body) followed by the Suddha achieved such heights of spirituality. Imagine that the Deham – the Light Body (or the Pure Body). O Siddha system we know today is just a fragment of their For more on Siddha contact Sri Jothi Mayil Ma (Abigel) via wisdom, a by-product of their profound sadhana, a gift www.siddha.co.za
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cosmic energy applications
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Tawang Tawang, the world of mystics and enchanting beauties, forms the western-most district of Arunachal Pradesh and is located at the soaring height of some 3 000m. It shares boundaries with Tibet in the North, Bhutan in the South West and the Sela range of West Kameng in the East. It is the home of the Monpa tribe. Niels Andersen reports on his trip to this far-off land.
he wind and driving rain were icy and the day
North Eastern part of India in the State of Arunachal
gloomy and grey, but the novice monks in
Pradesh, are Buddhists – as are almost all of the people in
their plastic sandals and maroon robes were
this region. The region is bordered by Bhutan to the West,
unperturbed. They gathered in the puddles of the Tawang
Burma far to the East and China (Tibet) to the north. The
monastery courtyard, waiting for the evening meal, in
goal of our three-day bone-rattling ride from the plains of
impish good humour. 'Which country?' 'What is your
India was the Tawang Gompa, as this very striking temple
name?' 'What is your height?' they asked us, as they
complex is known.
elbowed one another and giggled at our answers.
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We had come here, my good mate Graham and I, in
Cheerful good humour seems to be part of the genetic
search of that Indian magic we had experienced some
make-up of just about everyone in the Himalayas. Even
30 years earlier. At that time we were young, single,
though people are generally poor and life expectancy
long-distance travellers, innocent of mobile phones,
short by Western standards, if you hail anyone with the
iPods and responsibility. Now, having moved to different
typical greeting 'Namaste' you will almost invariably be
continents, married and raising families, we saw things
rewarded by a dazzling smile and a ready 'Namaste' in
differently. But we had never lost that love for the
Indian subcontinent. And so we made our excuses to
Maybe its a Buddhist thing. Certainly the monks and
our families, took a fortnight off from our businesses and
novices of the Tawang Monastery, in 'little Tibet' in the
here we were – a couple of ageing backpackers looking
for the new India.
travel groups of no less than two tourists travelling with
It was certainly a different India we found in Arunachal
an approved guide, were very carefully recorded and
Pradesh. This is a region far from the clamorous and
our travel itinerary scrutinised so that police posts could
steaming cities of the south (the temperature in Kolkota
monitor our progress. The scrutiny is in part because this
was regularly around the 40º mark in early April). Tawang
is what one could almost call aboriginal India. All the way
is a remote place, even by Indian standards, and the
to the Burma border to the East is a wildwest frontier
reward for this is that you escape the crowds that are
region inhabited by people like the Bodo, Naga and Mizo.
a way of life in most of India. The town is situated at
These are traditional slash and burn and nomadic tribes
a bracing 3 000m at the mouth of the broad, fertile
who are largely animist in tradition and physically resemble
but lightly-populated Tawang Valley, about 300kms from
the people of South East Asia. For many years some of
the nearest sizeable town down in the plains of the
these people have waged occasionally bloody secessionist
neighbouring state of Assam.
struggles and most of them now have a degree of local
It's a region inhabited mostly by the Monpa people,
close relatives of the Bhutanese and Tibetans. There is also
This is not to say that travel here is dangerous or that
a sizeable Tibetan community and many of them, along
the people are unwelcoming. Far from it, but it can be
with the Dalai Lama himself, fled this way from Tibet after
gruelling and slow going on twisting hairpin roads that
it was invaded by China. A few weeks before we arrived
are frequently blocked by landslides. We chose to arrange
the town had hosted the Dalai Lama and a huge banner on
our tour through Darwa Tsering a quiet, thoughtful Monpa
the main street proudly proclaimed this fact. The Chinese
with excellent English and a thorough knowledge of the
government was predictably incensed.
area and its often torturous Indian bureaucracy. Darwa
In fact, the entire region is still claimed by China as part
arranged the RAP and provided the vehicle, known here as
of an ongoing border dispute with India. The two countries
a Sumo, which is generally a Tata, a rugged Indian-built
went to war over it in 1962 when the Chinese army invaded
4-wheel drive. It was not a comfortable vehicle and the
and briefly occupied the Tawang Valley. India now has a
tyres were remarkably bald, but the vehicle didn't miss a
large number of troops permanently stationed in camps all
beat over the next two days.
the way up to the de facto border.
Our driver was named Tenzing (a very common name
As if this low-key tension is not enough, Arunachal
in these parts). He drove seated slightly sideways, slumped
Pradesh is also restive in other ways. We noticed this
up against the door as though ready to make a swift exit,
when we passed through the border post from Assam to
should the vehicle start veering over a cliff. But he drove
Arunachal Pradesh at the muddy little town of Bhalukpong.
with great panache, deftly manipulating the gears and
Here our Restricted Area Permits (RAP), relatively expensive,
sounding the horn incessantly as you need to do if you
complicated to apply for and issued only to permitted
are to give adequate warning of your arrival at yet another
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hairpin bend looming out of the mist. Like most of the
snow that blanketed the surrounding mountains. The road
drivers in these mountains, Tenzing had an acute sense of
became icy as we reached Sela Pass, at 4 150m. It struck us
the margins of his vehicle, of the oncoming traffic and the
as a ghostly place with the snow and fog partly obscuring a
edge (often precipitous) of the road. He squeezed through
small temple with strings of Tibetan prayer flags snapping
the narrowest of gaps or held back to allow oncoming
in the wind. Inside a wooden inn we sat around a bukhari,
traffic through if he judged that they had right of way
the traditional local pot bellied stove, gratefully sipping tea.
– based on who had arrived first. All this was achieved
From here the road snaked back down through the
with a total absence of rancour from any of the drivers on
mountains, past a few grazing yaks and the occasional
these crowded roads (who would surely greet road rage,
white-washed Tibetan prayer wall with fluttering flags and
Western-style, with amazement).
cylindrical prayer wheels. We reached the broad, green
The mountain scenery, once we left the plains of West
terraced farmscape of the Tawang Valley, leaving the
Bengal behind, was varied, dramatic and often spectacular.
snow behind but not the rain. It was a dark, wet Tawang
First, we climbed up into a steep, dripping jungle of wild
town that we reached in the early afternoon, delighted
bananas, bamboos and dense, mist-shrouded rainforest.
nevertheless to be released from Darwa’s Sumo. However,
Then the weather cleared and a different kind of mountain
not for the first time, nor the last during our time in India,
The entire region is still claimed by China as part of an ongoing border dispute with India. The two countries went to war in 1962 when the Chinese army invaded and briefly occupied the Tawang Valley. India now has a large number of troops permanently stationed in camps all the way up to the de facto border. landscape began to appear – dry grassy slopes with
There was nothing for it but to escape the cold of our
landscape of what seemed to be birch forests. The villages
hotel and explore Tawang in search of something warm
were mostly a modest avenue of huts made from panels
to eat or drink. We were in luck and almost beneath the
of beaten bamboo. Every so often we passed the neat
benign gaze of the Dalai Lama smiling down from a large
white-washed brick and Nissen Hut cantonments of Indian
welcoming banner in a small gompa at the town gateway,
army bases with brisk regimental names like 'Ball Of Fire',
we found a restaurant advertising Tibetan cuisine. It was
'The Magnificent 7' and 'The Elephant Regiment'. The
our first taste of what became a love affair with Tibetan
soldiers were mostly martial-looking Sikhs in crisp combat
food. In no time we were hoovering up momos, delicious
greens, matching turbans and magnificent moustaches.
scallop-shaped steamed dumplings made from barley flour,
We made steady progress of about 25km/h. Despite
containing chicken, pork, beef or vegetables, served with a
(or maybe because of) this necessarily slow progress, we
small bowl of piping hot clear soup. We moved onto fried
passed many road signs urging road users to show caution:
Tibetan bread and then gluttonously ordered thukpa, a hot
'If You Want To Stay Married, Divorce Speed', 'Driving is
and sour noodle soup and a couple of beers. The beers
Risky after Whisky' and the misspelled 'Speed Is a 5 Letter
bore the uncompromising brand name 'Hit' and, like almost
Word. So Is Deth.' Finally, after some 10 hours of tiring
all the beer in this region, had an 8% alcohol content (no
travel, we reached the charming little town of Dirang. Here
mid-strength boutique beers for these hardy mountain
the villages are attractive stone and wood houses, in the
folk). The meal cost 200 Rupees, or about $5. We felt like
Nepali fashion. This is Darwa’s home town and he invited
shoestring travellers again.
us to a meal of rice and aloo ghobi which we ate seated on a carpet beneath racks of drying yak meat.
BS&M • 42 DIGIMAG
the town’s power supply was off for the night.
scattered pines alternating with an almost European alpine
Having moved to a much more comfortable and absurdly cheap hotel ($35 double) we spent another rainy
The next morning we headed steeply up into forests
day exploring the typically narrow, shop-lined main street
of rhododendrons in rich scarlet bloom and then up into
of Tawang. Monpo pilgrims made their way down the street
the snowline buffeted by intermittent flurries of driving
toward the monastery, cutting an almost Rastafarian dash
in bizarre yak-skin skullcaps with woolly plaits protruding
battered aluminium food bowls and lids in hand, happily
from them. Tibetan ladies in their tradition wrap-around
posing for photographs and hooting with laughter when
dresses and elegant striped skirts mingled with porters
shown their photos on the backs of our cameras (digital
stooped almost double under the forehead-borne weight
cameras can certainly break the ice and solve the problem
of hugely laden baskets. Young Monpo bucks, with the
of getting permission to photograph).
sort of quiffed hair and low-slung jeans you could see
The monastery is an equally photogenic walk 3kms
in any Western city, lounged outside internet cafes or
up a windy road from town, framed by a spectacular
polished Tata or Murati 4-wheel drives, hoping for a bit of
taxi trade. A pair of monks headed back up to the gompa
mist-shrouded towns and gompas perched high on distant
with a TV and video recorder – wherever you go in India,
mountain slopes. The surrounding mountains would
you are never far from the nearest Bollywood movie or IPL
make for superb trekking, as would a sacred lake a few
20Twenty cricket match.
kilometres away. Darwa has plans to conduct trekking
What we didn’t see were any other foreign tourists, although there were a small handful of Bengali tourists in bulky parkas and beanies. Perhaps it was the late spring
tours in the near future, including treks to his home Monpa village in the Tawang Valley below. All this incipient tourism may be helped by the
Its a region inhabited mostly by the Monpa people, close relatives of the Bhutanese and Tibetans. There is also a sizeable Tibetan community here and many of them, along with the Dalai Lama himself, fled this way from Tibet after it was invaded by China. rain or perhaps it was the daunting three-day journey by
establishment of more regular helicopter flights. We were
road, but overseas tourism is still in its infancy around
lucky enough to wake on our second day in Tawang to
here. Which is a pity because there is great deal to see.
temporarily clear skies and the news that a helicopter
There is, of course, the magnificent Tawang monastery,
would, perhaps, be flying in at midday. This was a dilemma
founded in 1681 by a lama of the Mahayana Buddhist sect.
because we had hoped to go for a trek with Darwa and
The site was selected, according to legend, by his horse
perhaps take a drive up through the spectacular scenery
that had gone walkabout – hence the name 'Ta' meaning
to the sacred lake and the Bhutanese border 40kms away.
horse and 'Wang' meaning chosen. It is the second oldest
However, the long-range forecast was for a small window
and largest monastery after the Potala in Lhasa, Tibet.
of clear weather and then more rain and the certainty of
While it doesn’t have the sheer size and grandeur of the
the same painstaking three-day drive back to Guwahati. In
Potala, the Tawang Gompa is an enchanting spectacle,
the end it was a bit of a no-brainer – absorbing though the
frequently obscured by a swirling mist that streams down
drive from the distant plains was, we quickly decided that
from the snow-capped peaks of Bhutan and Tibet that
doing the journey once was probably enough.
We were in luck and the helicopter (a heavily
The monastery is a walled citadel of some 65
subsidised service provided by the Indian government)
buildings grouped round the main assembly hall, library
arrived on time and almost empty. We shook hands with
and museum. Its gold-painted roofs seem to glow in the
Darwa and then before we knew it we were clattering
mist, a warm contrast to the whitewashed walls with their
though the mountain valleys of Bhutan, heading for the
red trims. And to complete the pleasing colour scheme,
rice paddies of Assam and Guwahati, a mere 45 minutes
monks in tightly-wrapped maroon robes stroll through
away. We caught a last glimpse of a golden-roofed
the courtyard to the sound of muffled prayer mantras
monastery and then we left Tawang in our noisy wake,
from deep inside the complex and the ringing of a bell
regretting that we did not have more time to explore this
announcing the evening meal. This is a signal for the
'Little Tibet', but determined to make our way back, next
novice monks to gather under the dripping balconies,
time with our hiking boots on. O
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The Four Foundations of Mindfulness in Plain English Bhante Gunaratana Wisdom • 978 1 6142 9038 4
In simple and straightforward language, Bhante Gunaratana shares what the Buddha said about mindfulness in his instructional talks and how we can use these principles to improve our daily lives, deepen our mindfulness, and move closer to our spiritual goals. While this book is based on a classic text, the Satipatthana Sutta, its presentation is thoroughly modern in Bhante’s trademark 'plain English' style. Based around one of the Buddha's must succinct yet rich explanations of meditation, The Four Foundations of Mindfulness in Plain English can be read as a stand-alone volume either before or after the bestselling Mindfulness in Plain English. Newcomers will find it lays strong groundwork for mindfulness practice and gives them all they need to get started right away, and old hands will find rich subtleties and insights that will help consolidate and clarify what they may have started to see for themselves.
Amongst White Clouds Directed by Edward Burger This movie is an intimate insider’s look at students and masters living in scattered retreats dotting China’s Zhongnan Mountain range. These peaks have reputedly been home to recluses since the time of the Yellow Emperor, some five thousand years ago. It was widely thought that the tradition was all but wiped out, but this film emphatically and beautifully shows us otherwise. Inspired in part by the noted book by Bill Porter (Red Pine), Road To Heaven: Encounters With Chinese Hermits, and filmed on location in China by American director Edward A. Burger, the film takes an unforgettable journey
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into the hidden tradition of China’s Buddhist hermit monks. One of only a few foreigners to have lived and studied with these elusive practitioners, Burger is able, with humour and compassion, to present their tradition, their wisdom, and the hardship and joy of their everyday lives among the clouds.
Our Appointment with Life: Sutra on Knowing the Better Way to Live Alone Thich Nhat Hanh Parallax Press • 978 1 9352 0979 9
This easily accessible translation and commentary by Thich Nhat Hanh on the Sutra on Knowing the Better Way To Live Alone, the earliest teaching of the Buddha on living fully in the present moment. 'To live alone' doesn’t mean to isolate oneself from society. It means to live in mindfulness: to let go of the past and the future, and to look deeply and discover the true nature of all that is taking place in the present moment. To fully realise this is to meet our appointment with life and to experience the peace, joy, and happiness this realization brings. A wonderful addition to the library of anyone interested in Buddhist studies.
How to Be Compassionate: A Handbook for Creating Inner Peace and a Happier World His Holiness the Dalai Lama Randon House Struik • 978 1 8460 4296 6
In this book, the Dalai Lama reveals basic mistakes of attitude that lead us to inner turmoil, and how we can correct them to achieve a better tomorrow. He demonstrates precisely how opening our hearts and minds to other people is the best way to overcome the misguided ideas that are at the root of all our problems. He shows us how compassion can be a continuous wellspring of
happiness in our own lives and how our newfound happiness can extend outward from us in ever wider and wider circles. As we become more compassionate human beings, our friends, family, neighbours, loved ones – and even our enemies – will find themselves less frequently in the thrall of destructive emotions like anger, jealousy, and fear, prompting them to become more warmhearted, kind, and harmonious forces within their own circles. With simple language and startling clarity, His Holiness makes evident as never before that the path to global harmony begins in the hearts of individual women and men. Enlivened by personal anecdotes and intimate accounts of the Dalai Lama’s experiences as a student, thinker, political leader, and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, How to Be Compassionate gives seekers of all faiths the keys to overcoming anger, hatred, and selfishness – the primary obstacles to happiness – and to becoming agents of positive transformation in our communities and the world at large.
MODERN BUDDHISM: The Path of Compassion and Wisdom Geshe Kelsang Gyatso Tharpa • 978 1 9066 6507 4
This is an inspiring handbook of daily practice that is perfectly suited for those seeking solutions within Buddhism, as well as for encouraging practitioners of all faiths to deepen their understanding and practice of the spiritual path. With compassion and wisdom, like the two wings of a bird, we can quickly reach the enlightened world of a Buddha. Modern Buddhism reveals how all aspects of Buddhism – from the most basic to the most profound – can be applied practically to solve our daily problems and to experience deeper inner peace and happiness.
MINDFULNESS: A Practical Guide to Tessa Watt Introducing Books • 978 1 8483 1255 5
Mindfulness is growing in popularity as a technique which teaches us to appreciate our life. This Practical Guide explores how to listen to your body to reduce stress and anxiety in all areas of your life; how to focus better at work by becoming more aware of what is happening in the present; and how to enjoy life more by bringing mindfulness into everyday actions. Free of jargon but full of straightforward advice, case studies and step-by-step instructions, this is the perfect concise start to making you happier, more focused and stress-free.
Conscious Living Made Easy Robert Southard O-Books • 978 1 8469 4516 8
This book will guide you to living a full and rewarding life, a life without regret. It will help you to take control and responsibility for living life in the present, appreciating life as you live it and to set a realistic path in life for yourself. It will guide you to examining your beliefs and integrate those most beneficial to your path into your spirituality. Part of conscious living is to acknowledge that death will come. As children, we think we are immortal. Even as we get older, we think it is 'someone else' that will die, not us. Our death is far off and we have plenty of time to do whatever we want. To live consciously is to accept that death is a part of life and plan for it, while not allowing it to dominate our life at any age. Southard, after his own near death encounter, shares his experience and offers his thoughts, beliefs and meditations to help you plan for and live life in a conscious way.
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Taming the Mind An immutable fact is that human beings through the ages have
learnt to use the mind to achieve extraordinary feats, as well as to attain happiness. Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965), the Nobel Peace Prize-winning medical missionary and philosopher, said that success is not the key to happiness. Rather, he observed, 'happiness is the key to success'. Dr Sibis Mouton reports.
BS&M • 46 DIGIMAG
o many self-help books nowadays tell us that the
says her intention is to bring 'joy to billions'. We could
mind is a magnificent tool. I agree with that; but I
summarise her 'secret' by saying that one must control
would like to propose that our minds can be used
one's thoughts and only think and speak of the good
for more than just accomplishments and the pursuit of
things that we want in life. Imagination and good feelings
happiness. And what is more, for the highest purpose, we
play the primary role. J J Rowling, creator of the Harry
actually have to lose our minds.
Potter books, said something similar in her graduation
Many of us are familiar with the writings of Rhonda
ceremony speech at Harvard University in 2008. She
Byrne. She has now written three books in the same
stressed that we don't need magic, we just need a
genre: The Secret, The Power and The Magic. Byrne
powerful imagination to change the world for the better.
According to Rhonda Byrne, we can use the mind to
Worshippers apparently gathered at Avebury to
help us give love – and love has no limits. The force of
celebrate life and death, as opposed to the nearby
love can give us health, happiness and an incredible zest
Stonehenge site that was used to worship the sun
for life. So I conclude that the prime purpose of the mind
and moon. The site has a magical aura to it, with an
is, by love, to attract all good things into our lives. The
atmosphere of greatness and reverence so rare in our
second purpose is to give the mind wings, as it is the
contemporary world it makes one think that modern
origin of imagination, which helps us to cross new rivers
society might have lost something precious over the
and come up with fresh ideas to improve our lives.
Through the ages, mankind has also used the mind
I came across a strange story about stones and
for prayer and devotion to a higher power. I visited
extraterrestrial contact during a recent trip to South
the ancient site of Avebury in Wiltshire, England on
Africa's Drakensberg mountains. The imaginative powers
my sabbatical leave this year. The site, a remnant of
of your mind will be challenged by this one. Apparently,
Neolithic times, is England's largest henge monument. It
there is a small beacon of stones on the top of Champagne
consists of an outer circle of stones with two inner circles.
Castle Peak, the second highest peak in the Drakensberg
Originally, there were apparently 400 stones; now only
(3 377m). In 1990, an 82-year-old lady, Elizabeth Klarer,
27 are left. Some of the Avebury stones are massive: the
asked that a helicopter take her up to visit the beacon.
heaviest is the Swindon Stone, at 65 tons. There are two
Her belief was that this beacon, and another three in
closely-placed stones that may have been the entrance
Germany, Scotland and South America, were used by
to a ceremonial area (see photo top right). I heard the
spaceships to navigate celestial dimensions. On arrival,
guide explaining that, in general, the stones were used as
she walked to the cairn of stones and proceeded to repack
a portal to other dimensions.
them. Then she pointed her marble-sized ring, made of
BS&M • 47 DIGIMAG
crystal, at the cairn and, to everyone's astonishment,
to self-realisation. To be able to lose the ego and so
the ring started to vibrate. For her, this was proof that
transcend duality is what I would like to call the highest
the beacon was operating and told the guide that in the
purpose of the mind.
event of an alien invasion of Earth, this site – along with
Transcending the mind and reaching this higher
the other beacons – would be the safest place on the
purpose seems to be very challenging. Everything we
planet, as aliens would never destroy their own navigation
have learnt and worked for – our image, money, job titles,
system. If you visit the summit today, you will find a patch
status, and so forth – must be thrown out the window.
of ground where no grass grows. It is here that, in the
Now, how many people are going to do that? My common
centre of a four-metre diameter area, you will find a small
sense says very few.
pile of stones. So we can use our minds to attract 'good things'; to exercise our imagination; to think intellectually; and
BS&M • 48 DIGIMAG
So, is the idea of taming the mind fact or fiction? Is it an achievable aim, or just a spiritual ideal destined to remain eternally inaccessible?
to pursue devotional ends. How else could we possibly
It seems that it would take a surrendering of the mind
use this extraordinary resource? In order to attract good
and all our false beliefs in order to open up to the blissful
things, however, we first need to tame the mind. An
state of spirit. This state or reaching of enlightenment can
untamed mind can actually attract bad things. In his DVD
shortly be described as an unusual state of awareness
Time is an Illusion, Eckhard Tolle says that modern anxiety comes from our minds. We project ourselves into the future, where we build the most awful 'what if' scenarios. To this famous spiritual teacher, the anxiety-driven modern person is actually mentally unsound. Here, the mind represents an obstacle, rather than a resource. It leads us out of the moment, making it impossible to experience the beauty of the Now. Furthermore, if we believe our mind-made calamities, we will actually attract them. No wonder some ancient texts say the mind acts as an enemy for those who can't control it. Echoing some of India's enlightened masters, Tolle goes on to caution us against identifying with our thoughts. His advice is not to interpret, but just to be. This kind of 'taming the mind' means to 'transcend the mind'. Even Dr David Hawkins, a Western teacher of enlightenment, says: 'The mind is not really you. As soon as you have realised that, you are on your way to real freedom.' Dr Hawkins says that the ego and the mind are one and the same; the mind is actually the block
that replaces the state of our ordinary consciousness. Ramana Maharshi, enlightened Indian spiritual guru, is much more direct in his teachings on this issue: 'Everyone is committing suicide. The eternal blissful natural state has been smothered by this ignorant life.' Maybe entering this dimension is the portal to a life experienced in all its beauty and fullness. Life is such a great experience. Whether we will ever reach the real eternal blissful state, of course, is all a matter of grace. I hope you are all using your mind to gain happiness for when we are happy, we are in tune with spirit. Let's all enjoy the mystery and paradox of this life by attempting to use the mind wisely, whether we can tame it or not. O See Happenings section pg XX for info on Sibis' workshop REFERENCES: Byrne, Rhoda – The Power (2010); Klarer, Elizabeth – Beyond the Light; Tolle, Eckhardt – The Illusion of Time (DVD – 2011); Hawkins, Dr David – Dissolving the Ego, Realizing the Self (2011), edited by Scott Jeffrey; Maharshi, Ramana – The Spiritual Teaching of Ramana Maharshi, foreword by CG Jung (1972)
clinically proven natural medicines
BS&M • 49 DIGIMAG
Nature Nurture Things are seldom what they claim or seem to be when you fail to look at them carefully. The scene above is indeed a photograph taken in Little Switzerland, better known as Swiss Miniatur, where you can view the entire nation – its cathedrals, famous railways and historic buildings – almost at a glance; all one-twenty fifth of their normal size. Millions of people have visited this finely crafted collection of models in Lugano and marvelled at its patient, dedicated imagery and craftsmanship. Harvey Tyson looks at Swiss values and how we should incorporate them into our lives.
es, everyone knows about Swiss craftsmanship.
honesty, for frugality and for orthodox orderliness – all the
But Switzerland itself is not what outsiders think
things parents try to teach their children – are honoured in
it is. And totally fallacious is the mocking gibe:
adulthood in the Swiss Federation. There is zero tolerance
'Seven hundred years of democracy (from the time of
for idleness, begging, littering and theft. That is why the
William Tell) and what have the Swiss given the world?
trains always run on time. Why the clocks work. Why you
The cuckoo clock.'
can travel 100 km and not see a toffee-paper or a plastic
Yes, again. The Swiss state is highly regulated, but
bag lying on any pavement or in any field. That is why,
it would be false to extend generalisations from that.
outside of the 'international' cities like Geneva and Zurich
In fact, 'the Swiss' speak four languages and represent
which border on 'the outside world', you can leave your
at least half a dozen cultures that once existed among
wallet on a counter, your car unlocked in the countryside,
the Germanic, French and Italian-speaking peoples. The
and your R6 000 new electronic bicycle standing in the
Swiss themselves often think that they have too much
street day and night without real fear of loss.
'order'; too much 'democracy'. Is this, perhaps, because as a nation they have too little tolerance? Respect for others; respect for law; for efficiency, for
BS&M • 50 DIGIMAG
But what about warmth and tolerance? As a foreigner you may see very few smiling faces, or receive few casual greetings as you pedal the by-ways or walk through the
streets. Instead you will receive strictly polite and very
They are gardening, completely naked except for one
shoe – needed for spade work. They developed into
It may seem that living in the shadows of long winters
sun-worshippers of both genders and of varied sexual
and below the eternal snows of Alpine peaks makes
inclination. A sun sanatorium was built and funded by a
people cold-hearted. But my experience was that this is
pianist and her industrialist friend.
not so. To quote a single instance: I found instant warmth
During this period Monte Verita also became the home
from an unknown colleague who travelled between
of an anarchist medical doctor who invited Prince Peter
cities on his only day off from editing Switzerland's most
Kropotkin to join him with other anarchists and Swiss
prestigious Sunday newspaper to share breakfast with a
politicians who resigned from the Social Democratic Party
couple of unremarkable former newspapermen on holiday
to support a less orthodox lifestyle. German anarchist
from South Africa. Another instance: the bureaucrat who
Erich Muhsam named it 'the republic of the homeless,
arranged our tour was also no officious representative of
the exiled and the destitute'. But these plans were
government, but another instant, genuine friend.
frustrated by the arrival of a psychoanalyst from Graz
What follows are two – much more significant –
who planned instead a university for the emancipation of
examples of Swiss warmth and tolerance; examples that
mankind and a return to a communist paradise. Then the
lead the world.
queen of Bohemian life in Munich, Countess Franziska zu
Anarchy & Art
Reventlow, arrived to put an end to such nonsense. She changed Monte Verita's emphasis to liberty of the soul.
The first is a settlement on a mountain slope above
World War One saw the founding of a 'School for
Lake Maggiore, between the lake resorts of Locarno and
Art' to introduce students to all the means of expression
Ascona, where the Russian anarchist Michail Bakunin
envisaged by human inventiveness. Intellectual and
lived in uninterrupted peace in the early 1870s. After he
artistic émigrés from Swiss city-life flocked to Locarno.
left, some Swiss politicians and a local aristocrat founded
And Monte Verita saw the birth of the 'New Dance'.
a theosophical cloister on this mountainside above
Isadore Duncan came to perform there. The 'Master of
Switzerland's greatest lake, and named it 'Fraternitas' . In
the Order of the Templars of the Orient' came to organise
1900 the champions of an alternative to Capitalism and
an international conference. Societies with no national
communism renamed the place Monte Verita ('Mountain
distinctions; co-operatives intent on 'new directions';
of Truth') and proposed a new way of life involving
organisations promoting new social structures, rights for
primitive socialism, and later basing it on individualistic
women, mystic freemasonry, liberalised education, art,
vegetarian principles. Today you can see pictures at
ritual and religion all came to seek, or rather promote,
Monte Verita of these pioneers of the 'New Way'.
their 'True Way'. The culminating event was the ritual
BS&M • 51 DIGIMAG
It may seem that living in the shadows of long winters and below the eternal snows of Alpine peaks makes people cold-hearted. But my experience was that this is not so.
'Song of the Sun' in which naked women danced from sunrise to sunset. Monte Verita was acquired in 1926 by Baron Eduard von der Heydt, banker to the former German Kaiser Wilhelm II and one of the greatest collectors of contemporary, oriental and primitive art. The artists of the 'Bauhaus' school flocked to Ascona. A hotel was built at Monte Verita in the 'Bauhaus' style. 'Free' art in every conceivable form flourished. So did free dance (and a theatre for Gothic
and Red Crescent Movement are built. It is also a reminder
Egyptian dancing). So did free thought about politics,
of the universal nature of humanity. To experience this
social systems and sexual mores. Monte Verita pioneered
exhibition is also a reminder of Switzerland's greatest gift
its Videoart Festival in 1980, the first occasion for
to the world (not forgetting the cuckoo clock).
discussion on new electronic imagery, and followed with later debates on the art of cinema and digital graphics. Today Monte Verita is an institution worth visiting if only
border in 1859. No less than 38 000 soldiers were killed
to feel the 'vibe'. You may be shocked – or inspired – by a
or maimed in a single day. A Swiss businessman, Henry
museum accommodating a single, giant, circular painting
Dunant, witnessed the suffering, and organised help for
of 'The Clear World of the Blessed'. Or you can experience
the casualties. He was shocked by the experience, and felt
'Nature on Your Plate' gastronomy. Or stand below the
compelled to write about its folly and the lack of caring for
'Pole of Peace' erected in 2004; walk the meditation path;
the soldiers and innocents who lay dying on the battlefield.
attend an exhibition or concert; or visit the Japanese
It led to the founding of the International Red Cross. And,
Tea House. You might stay at the Bauhaus Hotel on the
miraculously, to the founding of its new partner-in-caring,
Mount, or better still enjoy the swimming pools, flowing
the Red Crescent.
gardens, food, wine and comfort a few minutes away at
The museum's collection of artefacts and films capture
the Esplanade Hotel & Spa of Locarno where specials are
the meaning – and meaninglessness – of most of the wars
occasionally offered in luxury accommodation.
of the past five generations. The violence, the destruction,
War & Peace
the killing and maiming of men and women are briskly displayed. So is the shivering fear of starving, instantly
The second example of Swiss tolerance is something
homeless children. And so is the humane spirit of those
you should not miss. It is the Musée International de la
who try to bring comfort. The exhibition brings tears to
Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge in Geneva. As you
the eyes of even cynical, veteran journalists.
enter the building you will see Dostoevsky's words:
BS&M • 52
The Red Cross arose out of the battle of Solferino between Austrian and Italian forces near the Swiss
We can learn a great deal from the Swiss about
'Everyone is responsible to everyone for everything.'
avoiding the horrors of war and about the underlying
It is the principle on which the International Red Cross
message of the need for mutual tolerance. O
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BS&M • 53 DIGIMAG
Paranormal rise of the
Despite the move in Westernised societies and communities towards a more secular view of the world, there is a comparable and widespread increase in the self-same communities, as evidenced by an array of popular TV document series, in matters pertaining to the 'paranormal'. We take a look as this trend and try to understand what it's all about.
he Long Island Medium is an American reality documentary television series on TLC (DSTV channel 172) that debuted in September, 2011. Based in Hicksville, New York, the
series stars Theresa Caputo, who is a medium and claims to communicate with the deceased. The series follows her life as she juggles clients and her family. The show, in which each episode focuses on Theresa as she conducts private and group readings, with both believers and sceptics, has been a huge hit and its fourth season is about to hit the screens in the USA. Part of its appeal is a 'reality TV-style' look at her family,
along with her claimed and apparent (to many of the people she 'reads', including those who have previously been sceptical) abilities. While watching her husband Larry and two children, Victoria
and Larry Jr, dealing with Theresa's propensity to do spontaneous readings at any moment, convenient or otherwise, is entertaining, it does not explain the appeal of this particular show – or that of a clutch of others which are also running on various TV channels
available locally, in the US and across the globe. So what's going on? The question is all the more pertinent
as attendance at churches is falling – even in America where an estimated 25% of the population are self-described as 'deeply or profoundly religious' – in virtually every developed country. And this particular show's popularity is no aberration, with
other shows popping up all the time. Psychic Detectives has been
running for several years and is increasingly popular – most fun is to watch previously highly sceptical cops, some of them rather grumpy about developments, becoming reluctant 'believers' after dead-end cases are essentially solved by psychics helping them, often at the request of family members of the missing or dead.
BS&M • 54 DIGIMAG
But there are others too, like Paranormal State, Psychic Investigators (which features cops who do paranormal investigations in their off-duty spare time) and Paranatural, to name but a few currently running. Putting aside the 'poo-poo-ing' of ardent sceptics, whose vested interest is in 'debunking' what they see as a variety of fakes and flakes, it is obvious from the above that there is no lack of interest in the paranormal as a subject and as material for the growing number of reality-based shows featuring psychics, mediums and mediumship. Indeed, there appears to be a relatively massive growth in public interest in these topics. And the fact that sceptics have found themselves creating entire websites dedicated to 'debunking' Theresa – part of whose appeal is that she's an 'ordinary Long Island mom' with a 'gift from God that allows her to speak to the dead', as she and her show proclaims – and others like her, indicates that these shows are not mere 'blips on the collective consciousness radar', as it were. There's an obvious trend. Social psychologists might tend to point to the fact that in uncertain times, some people tend to turn to psychics, seers, mediums and others with so-called 'paranormal' abilities. But in increasingly science-based cultures, the re-emergence of a trend last seen in the Victorian age (though very different these days to the sort of table-rattling parlour séances of that time) indicates that growing freedom of people to publicly speak about such things is allowing the expression of interest in these matters. In short, the 'paranormal', and a deep interest in it, seems to be part and parcel of a slice of humanity, regardless of era, culture, religious tradition or any other factor. Of course, one can't take everything with which one is presented at face value, and a certain amount of healthy scepticism is to be encouraged – not only in matters of the 'paranormal', but in all fields of endeavour. On the other
hand, when mystified and rather unhappy cops are forced to admit that the psychic with whom they have (very reluctantly) been working was, in the event, precisely on the mark with what they have picked up in a particular case, and that the psychic's contribution was crucial to solving the case (and how did they know all that stuff about the crime, victim or suspected perpetrator that the cops never made public anyway?) it is clear that something more than an entertaining or amusing TV show is in play. Could it be that, finally, humanity as a whole – and especially that segment of it that lives in the Westernised world where liberty from social and religious suppression is most advanced – is ready to engage with capacities which have apparently always been present among even small tribal groupings in ancient times and are still there to this day. Perhaps mankind is growing up, and can finally look at what we call the 'paranormal' (a not completely satisfactory term for something which appears to occur naturally, not infrequently, is universal across virtually all cultures and times, and is in all respects apparently 'normal' except we don't yet fully understand the how and why of it) with less fear and more open minds. The fact is that among the shows which have proved their popularity in recent years, several feature people earnestly investigating 'paranormal' activities using high-tech gear like forward-looking infra-red cameras and highly sensitive magnetic field variation detectors. All this indicates that we are evolving beyond the sensationalism and fear-based rejection of these phenomena. So, the next time you are surfing through the TV options, perhaps, if you haven't ever done so before, stop on one of the shows mentioned in this article – or perhaps one of several others not mentioned or which may be new arrivals – and you can make the call for yourself as to what it is that is going on and why it is that the 'paranormal' is taking off as never before, and now reaching and teaching a global audience numbered in the hundreds of millions. O
'Long Island Medium' Theresa Caputo on Long Island Medium channeling a 'LIVE! with Kelly and Michael' 7-month-old
'Long Island Medium' with 'Anderson Live' Audience
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r e v i e w s
Soul Companions Karen Sawyer O books • 978 1 8469 4060 6
Subtitled Conversations with Contemporary Wisdom Keepers – a Collection of Encounters with Spirit, this is a book meant for our time. It is a compendium of information and inputs, sought by the author during a two-year quest, from respected healers, seers, visionaries and shamans from around the world. It brings together both traditional and modern wisdom on how to inspire and guide us through these turbulent times towards a planet – and our own being – which needs to be in a much more harmonious, stable and sustainable state than at present. You may know some of those she speaks to and whose wisdom and insights she has captured; most you'll likely never have heard of. Either way, though, there is a consistency and cross-cultural commonality that invites the reader to begin to live more completely in a relatively much more awakened state – and the book provides some techniques on how to do that too. If you are looking for soul guidance at this troubled hour in human history, this book may well be the one for you.
How to Attain Enlightenment: The Vision of Nonduality James Swartz Sentient • 987 1 5918 1094 0
Having not met this author, one hopes that he himself is 'enlightened', whatever that may mean. So there is a problem from the outset as to exactly what BS&M • 56 DIGIMAG
the meaning of enlightenment is in terms of what this author is on about. Enlightenment, we are told, has been eagerly sought over millennia in order to remove the limitations that compromise one's happiness. The implication is that if you are enlightened you are necessarily happy – or at least, happier than you were before 'enlightenment' was yours. Is that true, though? Swartz bases his search for and investigation of enlightenment on the Vedanta, one of the most ancient and venerated wisdom traditions in the world. But this book isn't just one more set of spiritual techniques that have followed so many others; instead, it represents a comprehensive body of knowledge and practice that has successfully been followed by those who have gone before us and apparently unravelled the secrets of nature and themselves to achieve this exulted and sought-after state. Given that this book and this author's understanding is based on a single system, filled with ancient wisdom as it may be, it does create certain restraints in that you may or may not resonate with this particular approach. Besides that, though, in these turbulent times a little bit of peace and serenity born of the resolution of contending opposites may be well worth the time taken to read and absorb what this book offers.
enlightenment, but ended up finding you were looking in the wrong place? The author says this has happened, and is still happening right now, to millions of seekers around the world. He sets out to offer 'a sane and healthy spiritual pathway in our increasingly confused world'. Forman says that it is his experience that many traditional spiritual models are giving seekers a wrong and frustrating impression about the goal of their spiritual life. He seeks to help those who perhaps believe that they don't have the 'right stuff' to make it to 'enlightenment' in this lifetime; those disillusioned by spiritual teachers who don't live up to their lofty self-portraits; are worried that choosing a spiritual life means leaving everyday life behind; or are hungry for a different way to be, but are unable to express it. The book is a memoir about Forman's own 39-year spiritual quest but it is more than that and is beautifully written. It is an invitation to seek and find one's authentic self, beyond what any teacher or system has to offer. In that sense, it truly is a book that goes beyond many that have come before it of a roughly similar ilk. And it's a good read, which is hardly more than one could ask from any book on any subject.
Enlightenment Ain't What It's Cracked Up To Be Robert K C Forman
Seasonal Awareness and Wellbeing: Looking and Feeling Better the Easy Way Marie-Claire Wilson
O Books • 978 1 8469 4674 5
O Books • 978 1 8469 4469 7
What, asks this author, you spent years of your life – decades even – seeking spiritual
This book is designed to help you lose weight and improve your well-being by
harmonizing your nutrition and exercise practices with the seasons. Usually one thinks perhaps of eating in season, but exercise in season? And putting the two together seems a natural extension of the former approach. It does take an effort since the modern lifestyle tends to drive us in exactly the opposite direction than that being espoused here. Rediscovering seasonal rhythms and making simple, practical changes to your routines will help you to feel and look better, and is easy and enjoyable, says the author. Try and see for yourself.
Life: Stepping Stone or Stumbling Block Brenda Hattingh Xlibris • 978 1 4691 3867 1
The quality of your life, says this author, is a choice. She bases this idea on the notion, now widely being adopted in Western culture, that everything in your life has been chosen by you, on some or other level, conscious or unconscious. There are, in this understanding of things, no victims. At the core of our choices is how we see life itself. We can either see it as a pain, or series of pains, with many stumbling blocks to overcome. Or it is a pleasure with many opportunities and stepping stones to higher levels of attainment. The quality of life depends on where you are coming from in respect to these two poles of perspective, or the many gradations in between. Not specifically a 'spiritual' book as such, it does address deep issues generally regarded as 'spiritual' in their nature, and provides many helpful steps and
processes to help you overcome whatever it is in your current perspective which may be holding you back.
Thera and the Exodus Riaan Booysen O Books • 978 1 7809 9449 9
Not everyone realises that today's Mediterranean island of Santorini was once much bigger and went under the name of Thera. Then it had not one but two huge eruptions. Together, says this author, they helped with the formation of a the people we now know of as the Israelites, and indirectly gave birth to Judaism, Islam and Christianity. The Biblical exodus of the Israelites from Egypt is closely linked to these eruptions, the second of which occurred around 1450-1410BCE during the reign of Amenthotep III. The eruption's fallout caused sundry 'natural' disasters including a plague outbreak. To appease the gods, the pharaoh ordered the first born son of every household to be sacrificed, something his own son, Tuthmosis, was narrowly saved from enduring. The latter later became Moses – and the rest, as they say, is history, or at least, it is Biblical history. A fascinating exploration, as the subtitle suggests, of 'The Exodus explained in terms of natural phenomena and the human response to it'. Interesting stuff indeed.
Christanophobia: A Faith Under Attack Rupert Shortt Random House Struik •978 1 8460 42756 8
any particular belief system but rather act as a platform for communication between divergent worldviews and life experiences, including those of people of various faiths. This book is overtly written from a Christian perspective and is about widespread attacks on and oppression of Christians in various parts of the world but especially where those of this faith are in the minority. To align with any particular religion would, then, defeat our purpose. But the author's point, beyond the facts he outlines about the way Christians are treated in some places, and their response to that, is that freedom of belief is the 'canary in the mine' on every aspect of civil liberties. In other words, a regime which allows or turns a blind eye to the oppression of Christians is probably also involved in other forms of civil and human rights abuses. In so far as that assertion may have more than a grain of truth in it, this is an important book, especially when read less from a hardline Christian perspective than from one with a wary eye on what rights people in minorities really do have in societies where those rights are supposed to be protected. In the South African context, the thread may be drawn to go beyond religious belief to political and racial dimensions, just as the same implications may be drawn for other multi-cultural societies. This makes this book worth reading as part of the wider global debate on how human civil rights might best be protected and enhanced, especially for minorities of all types.
We very nearly did not review this book as it not our mission to proselytise for
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