What kind of dogs can you get from SPCAs or Humane Societies?

There’s a new boy in town – Rhys, a handsome Canadian.

One day, the dashing and debonair Canadian met Orla, a true American beauty….

These dogs were both unclaimed strays – throwaway dogs, in other words.

We adopted Orla from an SPCA in Pennsylvania. We’ve had her about two and a half years. She, along with two sisters, was a starving stray. You can see her lame paw in the photo – actually, the leg and paw are fine, normal, except for being considerably longer than her other three legs. To stand or walk, she must turn it out to the side, as you see in the photo. According to the three vets we’ve taken her to (we moved from Pennsyvlania to Maine), there’s nothing that can be done about it. It is believed to be a birth defect. We bought her boots, the ones sled dogs wear, hoping we could shield that paw – which is twisted and dragged when she walks. She’s so very good, she didn’t take the boot off, just because we told her not to. But the motion of the paw when she walks promptly removes the boot.

We adopted Orla because we liked her personality, mainly, but at least a little bit because we thought that – if we didn’t take her – her chances of anyone else taking her weren’t great. She was a very good choice, she’s a great dog! She is absolutely the easiest dog I have ever had; we didn’t train her, we didn’t need to. She figures out for herself what we want her to do, and does it cheerfully. What a good, and intelligent, dog!

Rhys was a stray in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada. We got him about three weeks ago. He’s doing very well, learning quickly. He has learned many commands since we got him, as well as learning how to live in a house (i.e., don’t jump up on tables and windowsills, etc!). Rhys is somewhere between one year and 18 months old. Because he is a large male dog, this makes him a teenager – not an adult yet.

He is a friendly, intelligent, loving, obedient dog – it just boggles my mind that someone (most likely) dumped him off. At a minimum, even if he roamed away from his home, no one came looking for him. Rhys is a very good dog now, and will be a great dog when we’ve had him about a year. He is also very protective, and has an extremely impressive deep bark. At 70 lbs, he’s too thin. I don’t think he’s finished growing (oversize paws!), and he will probably eventually reach 80 to 85 lbs when fully mature.

That’s it for writing about my dogs for a long time, probably.

I do want to say, however, bringing this back to the over-all theme of the blog: if you are an aging or aged person and fortunate enough to have your own home, as we are, please do consider a dog, especially a large dog. They are generally quieter in the house than a small dog, and I think you are much less liable to trip over them. There is of course a security benefit to owning a dog, any size dog, as well, but more, I think, of a security benefit when your dog has a deep, deep ‘WHOOF’ than if your dog has a high-pitched ‘Yip, yip!’

If you feel that you’re too old to take on the commitment of a dog (and these will be my last dogs, for that reason), please consider fostering a dog or dogs for your local animal shelter or rescue group!
Or adopt an older dog – old dogs are the best, mellow and wise, loving and quiet!


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Why I find ‘passage meditation’ intrinsically interesting

We got a new dog! This is relevant….so this post will be in outline form, and there may not be any more posts for a week or two.

New dog, named Rhys (pronounced Reese), is part Rottweiler and part (probably) Golden Retriever. He is a sweetheart, but young and bouncy and jumps up on tables, etc. He’s also part tank – wow, is he ever strong. He is a VERY GOOD BOY, and instantly stops whatever he’s doing wrong when you yell at him. He is very affectionate too, and has demonstrated NO aggression towards Orla, Resident Dog, just friendly curiousity.

Rhys is coming along fast, doesn’t jump on tables, etc., has learned many commands, and I may have my normal life back in a few days (this paragraph is being written on October 5). But new dog = lots of work at first! It will be worth it, in fact it is necessary: I’m 68, the dog cannot knock me over as I age, and so on. But he is a smart dog, and a very sweet and loving dog too. He really is coming along very quickly.

OK, the ways in which passage medition is interesting (to me, of course):

1. First is reading over inspirational literature in order to the choose the passage to memorize and meditate on. Terrific! Which jewel will I have now? The emerald or the diamond?

2. The memorization process itself is interesting.

3. The passage becomes ‘part of you’ and will come to your mind at relevant moments.

4. I love words; the beauty of the words in many of the passages is stunning.

5. I bought a nice three-ring notebook and when I have memorized a passage, I put it in a sheet protector and put in the notebook. This is a pleasing thing to do: especially when you have quite a few passages memorized, as I now have. Very satisfying to leaf through the notebook and be impressed by how much you’ve memorized!

6. Of course, when you actually meditate the beauty of the words comes through, and a bit of the meaning, although you aren’t especially supposed to think of the meaning as you go through the words in your mind during a meditation session.

I also am mindful that – although I certainly hope not to and most people do not – I might wind up in a nursing home at some point. What I’ve memorized will remain with me, and be a gift, always.

Unless I am unfortunate enough to have Alzheimer’s which does not run in my family, and I don’t worry about it. Nor can I do anything about it, except maintain a healthy diet, and exercise my mind – which incidentally, the memorization does. And exercise my body as much as I am able. I think we’ll all be walking a great deal more now…..Rhys is a big boy, and needs the exercise. 🙂


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‘An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace’, by Tamar Adler

‘An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace’, by Tamar Adler

Do you like to cook and eat what you have cooked? Do you like to read about cooking and eating? Do you like clear, graceful prose? Prose in which the author gets herself out of the way, and which seems effortless (but isn’t, of course)?

If you answered yes to any or all of the above, hie thee to the nearest library and borrow a copy of ‘An Everlasting Meal’ by Tamar Adler.

Adler’s writing reminds me somewhat of Laurie Colwin. Colwin was more chatty and expansive, but she lived in a more optimistic age when the future seemed full of promise. We live in a time that…well, never mind. ‘An Everlasting Meal’ is the type of book Colwin would have written.

Not everything Adler suggests appeals to me, and I could never consume the amount of olive oil and of salt she recommends. But that’s trivial. I haven’t so enjoyed reading a book about cooking in a long, long time.

Some of her suggestions, which might seem a trifle odd at first, I know to be – from experience of my mother’s cooking – in fact, very good. Especially the boiled chicken – which makes soup (with egg dumplings in my Mother’s soup) the first night and another dish the second night. Mother usually made chicken salad the second night.

Yes, indeed! Economy and grace.


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Briefly Noted: Revised ‘About’ Page

I’ve revised the About page to better reflect the purposes of this blog.


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Resources Specifically for Finding Passages for Meditation

The title is somewhat misleading: these poems and prose selections can be enjoyed even if you do not meditate. But the title is too long already…..

Websites with Passages for Meditation

http://www.poetry-chaikhana.com/ – fantastic resource. They also send poems (at what seem to be irregular intervals) to subscribers. For some reason, I’m getting three copies of each! But I don’t wish to lose it altogether, so I won’t rock the boat. (Probably I signed up three times.)

http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/sok/ - The Songs of Kabir, Translated by Rabindranath Tagore.
Kabir was a 15th Century Indian mystic and poet, claimed by both Muslims and Hindus. His poetry is fresh and new today, and easily speaks to 21st Century readers. I find that I almost always prefer the Tagore translation of Kabir’s poems to those of any other translator. Tagore was himself, of course, a poet and philosopher – the preeminent Bengali poet, I believe.

http://www.ccel.org/ – The Christian Classics Ethereal Library. A massive website, with all imaginable Christian classics. Very valuable.

Books with Passages for Meditation

God Makes the Rivers to Flow, Eknath Easwaran. This is the one indispensable book for Passage Meditation. If you’re only getting one book, this is definitely the one. Available at Amazon and elsewhere. I’ve worn mine out over the years, and it’s now in a fairly advanced state of disintegration. I will replace it soon. God Makes the Rivers to Flow comes in a digital version too which is only available, so far as I know, at http://www.easwaran.org .

Timeless Wisdom, Eknath Easwaran. This is a cut-down version of God Makes the Rivers to Flow. The book is smaller physically, and the print is much smaller. Also, it lacks the brief biographies of each author which are included in God Makes the Rivers to Flow. This version is better for taking with you to doctors’ offices and other places where you must sit and wait. But if you are only getting one book, I’d strongly recommend that it be God Makes the Rivers to Flow. The brief biographies of the authors and larger format are worth the price difference.

The Path of Direct Awakening: Passages for Meditation, edited by Stephen H. Ruppenthal. (a student of Sri Easwaran’s.) Compiled specifically as a non-theistic book of suitable passages for meditation. No God involved or even mentioned.

Translated by Eknath Easwaran:

The Dhammapada – teachings of the Buddha, in condensed form
The Upanishads – the oldest Indian scriptures, very relevant today
The Bhagavad Gita – the most-loved Indian scripture and very beautiful

Psalms, The Holy Bible, King James Version. Obviously, use whatever version of the Bible you prefer. So far at least, all the modern versions I’ve read fall on my inward ears with a dull thud. The poetry and language in some of the Psalms, King James Version, are stunning. Take a look at the 104th Psalm KJV, for example.

Prayers for All People, Chosen by Mary Ford-Grabowsky . A compilation of prayers from many cultures.

The Enlightened Heart, An Anthology of Sacred Poetry, edited by Stephen Mitchell. Many selections, well chosen.

I will add to this list if I come across other resources.

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How to Start Meditating – Suggestions

I was asked by a commenter if I had any suggestions for starting meditation. (See my prior post for a detailed list of resources, with URLs.)

First and foremost, I am certainly not an expert on meditation, but a mere beginner! However, I’m a *successful beginner* in that I now have an established daily practice of Passage Meditation which has had valuable benefits, and which I enjoy very much. Passage Meditation holds my interest in several ways (which will be the topic of another post, another day). I’ve tried other meditation methods in the past but they didn’t take – they were boring. I think one reason that Passage Meditation has succeeded for me is its interest; I do not find it boring.

I have also recently started Centering Prayer (in addition to Passage Meditation, i.e., one session of each per day). I’m having trouble managing two sessions per day, but I will keep trying until it becomes easier with practice, as most things do. I like the method itself, it’s just finding the time that is a problem.

The method of meditation which I have happily used daily for a year (yes, every day, with very rare exceptions) is called ‘Passage Meditation’ and it was taught in the USA by Eknath Easwaran (1910-1999). It is suitable for Christians, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, and people of every other major faith. It is also suitable for BaHa’is, Taoists, and Sikhs, atheists, and everyone else. (I know that at least one BaHa’i will be reading this – Hi, Lisa!) Basically, one meditates on previously memorized, inspirational passages.

Students of Sri Easwaran operate a website which has lots of terrific information on Passage Meditation, including a free (and excellent) online course. On the website is also the entire text of Sri Easwaran’s book entitled ‘Passage Meditation’, plus many passages which can be used for meditation.

The website also sells Sri Easwaran’s books, DVDs, and MP3s. His students realized that his teaching was special and started filming him back in the 1970s, possibly even in the 60s. So there are also free video clips and MP3s, as well as the full-versions for sale.

Sri Easwaran wrote other books as well, I recommend them all most highly (except two*). He also translated India’s scriptures from Sanskrit into English (The Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Dhammapada). These translations and Sri Easwaran’s books are published by Nilgiri Press, run by his former students at the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation, which Sri Easwaran founded. The books are all available on Amazon, as well as at the Blue Mountain Center, and elsewhere. Sri Easwaran’s books and translations have been translated into many languages, I think 28 at last count, and have been printed in many editions.

[Begin Aside]
* OK, Pat, which two books *don’t* you recommend most highly? ‘Strength In the Storm’ and ‘Take Your Time’ – they were both compiled by others after Sri Easwaran’s death. To my mind, they do not begin to compare to his other books. I would still recommend them, but I cannot honestly say ‘recommend most highly’ about these two. On the other hand, the most recently published book by Sri Easwaran entitled ‘Essence of the Bhagavad Gita,’ is also posthumous and it is wonderful! In this case, the editors had the benefit of detailed directions given to them by Sri Easwaran, and his notes and tapes of his talks pertaining to the book. I think it’s one of Sri Easwaran’s best books, perhaps even the very best. Sri Easwaran’s books improved right up through his 80s, by the way, a testimony that his methods worked.
[End Aside]

Meditation is the heart of an 8-Point Program taught by Sri Easwaran – it is part of an integral whole, and I don’t believe many, if any, benefits would derive from meditating alone. I had started following the other seven points as best as I could many years ago, so I just needed to add meditation now. (And to brush up on the other seven points, which is a continuing process for me.) The entire program is, again, suitable for people of any, or no, faith.

The ideas in the 8-Point Program are not new, Sri Easwaran didn’t invent them, but he has done a marvelous, in fact I believe unsurpassed, job of teaching them to people in the modern world. The 8-Point Program is also covered in the basic book, ‘Passage Meditation,’ which is free in its entirety online, as mentioned above.

For those who learn best by listening, there is a terrific 3-part series of videos on YouTube by Professor Michael Nagler (Emeritus, Berkeley) entitled ‘How to Meditate’. (Prof. Nagler was one of Sri Easwaran’s students.) Prof. Nagler is also an authority on non-violence, by the way, and the founder of a center promoting non-violence (www.mettacenter.org).

Passage Meditation is what is called a concentrative method of meditation. During an actual meditation session, you go through the words of previously memorized passages slowly in your mind.

Incidentally, my doctor was very pleased to hear about this when I described it to her: she declared it to be terrific for keeping one’s mind active and alert. And so I believe it is. It certainly tests your short-term memory (as well as your longer-term memory) as you keep adding new passages.

If you find memorization difficult at first, please don’t be discouraged: with practice, you *will* improve unbelievably! Just as physical muscles need exercise to strengthen, mental muscles do as well. Don’t try to memorize even a short passage in one gulp: memorize one line per day (if necessary) until that’s easy. Then memorize two lines per day, then four, etc. Even very long passages can be managed in this manner, if you are just a little patient.

Easwaran.org also has available many passages from Sri Easwaran’s book entitled ‘God Makes the River to Flow’ but if you like this method of meditation, you will probably want to buy the book. You can also buy a digital version of the book: a good idea for aging eyes. (I don’t have vision problems, but I’m mindful that my mother had macular degeneration. Certainly it’s a possibility for anyone.) The digital version could, of course, be read by a text-to-speech program as some people learn better by listening. (Another post, on another day, will discuss tips on how to memorize.)

I have recently learned, and added to my program, another method of meditation called by its originators ‘Centering Prayer.’ This, although originated by Fr. Thomas Keating and other Christian (Cistercian) monks, and taught by them (and others) is also suitable for those of any, or no, faith. In spite of its name, it is a method of meditation; no prayer, as most of us think of it, is necessarily involved, although it can be.

Centering Prayer is a practice in ‘letting go’ and since old age consists (or so it seems to me) largely of letting go, I can use the practice. (We all can, of course, regardless of age. Our consumer society fosters unfortunate attitudes of grabbing and clutching.)

Centering Prayer was based on methods used by the Desert Fathers and Mothers in the very early days of Christianity, and on an anonymous document entitled ‘The Cloud of Unknowing’ which dates from 14th century England. It is a receptive method of meditation; so the two methods I’m using should complement each other well.

Fr. Keating wrote several books on the subject; the classic one, I think, is ‘Open Heart, Open Mind’. He also founded an organization which distributes his (and others’) books and tapes, and holds courses and retreats – the Contemplative Outreach Network. There are many videos by Fr. Keating on YouTube.

For me personally, Cynthia Bourgeault’s book entitled ‘Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening’ is the clearest explanation of Centering Prayer, and I have learned the most from it.

Cynthia “has studied and taught in a number of Benedictine monasteries in the United States and Canada. An Episcopal priest, she is well known as a retreat and conference leader, teacher of prayer, and writer on the spiritual life. She is the author of a number of books….” (from Amazon.com).

I was given a scholarship for a DVD-presented course from Contemplative Outreach Network and I found that to be very helpful as well. I also fell madly in love with Father Keating (an 89 year old Cisterican monk who lives in Colorado – my husband won’t mind a bit!).

Again, see my prior post with details for finding the resources discussed here.


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Resources for Passage Meditation and Centering Prayer

For discussion, see my next post.

You do not, of course, need to meditate to enjoy and benefit from all the resources listed here!

Passage Meditation Resources:

http://www.easwaran.org –This is the website maintained by students of Sri Easwaran and it has a wealth of resources.

http://www.easwaran.org/learning-how-to-meditate.html – This page has links to Sri Easwaran’s book entitled “Passage Meditation” (free, in its entirely, online), to many passages to use in meditation, and to a free, four-session online course entitled “Learn to Meditate on a Passage.”

I think anyone trying Passage Meditation should either buy the basic book (entitled simply ‘Meditation’ in older editions and ‘Passage Meditation’ in newer editions) or read, and print preferably, the free online version. I think you also need the book entitled ‘God Makes the Rivers to Flow’ — much, perhaps most or all, of which — is online, and free. (I have the book so I’ve not gone through the online list.)

The four session online course (free) is very useful too.

These are the basics, all you really need to get started, although I hope you’ll read many of Sri Easwaran’s books. Many short clips of his videos are also available at this website, as well as on YouTube.

Easwaran.org also offers on ‘online satsang (fellowship) which is very worthwhile: http://www.emailsatsang.org/ . This is a series of planned lessons, upon which students can comment. Very helpful.

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=michael+nagler+meditation – Excellent three session video by Professor Michael Nagler, on how to meditate. No nonsense, just how to do it! Suitable for atheists as well as people of any faith, and especially for those who learn best by listening rather than reading.

Note especially, that a student of Sri Easwaran compiled and edited a book of passage for meditation which are specifically non-theistic: that is, no God is involved in these passages. The book is entitled ‘The Path of Direct Awakening’ and the editor is Stephen H. Ruppenthal. Available at Amazon and elsewhere. This was compiled for those for cannot even bear any mention of a God or Lord. (Personally, I think it’s sad, and silly, to be that way, even for aggressive atheists – it cuts out too much of the lovely heritage of English literature to which we are the very fortunate heirs.)

Centering Prayer Resources: Note: The Centering Prayer organizations and people are oriented strongly towards Christianity, although they are careful to state that they recognize that Centering Prayer can be practiced by non-Christians. But if this disturbs you (either way), then their website is probably not for you.

www.http://www.contemplativeoutreach.org/ – Contemplative Outreach was founded by Father Keating to disseminate and foster Centering Prayer.

There are many resources here, including articles by Father Keating and others and videos of Father Keating. His numerous videos are also on YouTube: put ‘Thomas Keating’ in the search box.

Contemplative Outreach also has many courses, including some online. Their courses are not free (except the email list) but some scholarships are available.

The most basic book by Father Keating on Centering Prayer is probably ‘Open Heart, Open Mind’ by Father Keating.

Open Heart, Open Mind, by Thomas Keating
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Continuum; 1 edition (November 1, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0826418899
ISBN-13: 978-0826418890
Get the 2006 version (as given above).

I personally found Cynthia Bourgeault’s book entitled ‘Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening’ to be the most helpful source of information on Centering Prayer.

Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, by Cynthia Bourgeault
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Continuum; 1 edition (November 1, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0826418899
ISBN-13: 978-0826418890

There are quite a few videos by Cynthia on YouTube. In particular, see the three video series (of about one hour each!) entitled ‘The Ways of the Heart’. This is a film of Cynthia teaching a one-day, three-session retreat on Centering Prayer, and it is excellent.

See my next post for discussion of both methods. Also see my (soon to be posted) post entitled ‘Additional Resources for Passage Meditation’ for more resources specifically for finding passages for meditation. Many of these are also lovely poetry, enjoyable as such. Many are profound philosophy.

That should be enough to keep you busy for a while!


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