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A good word about New Age

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I’ve gone to a psychic fair, used colored stones to help balance my chakras, applied flower essences to improve my mood, participated in a sweat lodge, listened to a channeled message, had my astrology chart done, read a book on past lives, and done a lot more things labeled “new age.” And no lightning bolt from heaven has struck me down for daring to stray into what some would think is dangerous territory, inconsistent with being a good Catholic.

Here is the simple premise of this blog. We don’t have to be afraid of all these varied methods and paths to finding self-realization, spirituality, and wholeness. We are not betraying our Christian heritage or consorting with the devil by exploring them. Yes, there are some things we need to be careful and discerning about but on the whole we can benefit from new age (whatever that means) experiences if these things appeal to us. And even if they don’t we can still respect them. And it might even broaden us to learn something about them.

An amazing link: Interactive photograph of the entire night sky

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The Photopic Sky Survey is a Web site with a 360-degree, interactive composite photograph of the entire night sky as seen from Earth.

In it we see tens of millions of stars, the glowing factories of newborn ones, and a rich tapestry of dust all floating on a stage of unimaginable proportions.

Assembled and photgraphed by Nick Risinger, it's a 5,000 megapixel photograph of the entire night sky stitched together from 37,440 exposures. Large in size and scope, it portrays a world far beyond the one beneath our feet and reveals our familiar Milky Way with unfamiliar clarity. When we look upon this image, we are in fact peering back in time, as much of the light—having traveled such vast distances—predates civilization itself.

Out of chaos, something quiet and still, pure and deep

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There was something formed out of chaos, that was born before Heaven and Earth. Quiet and still! Pure and Deep! -- Tao Te Ching, Robert G. Henricks translation. (From Gratefulness.org: "Word for the Day")

I heard once that gratefulness is the highest of prayer forms. That stuck with me. It's one of the reasons I find inspiration at gratefulness.org and subscribe to its "Word for the Day."

Gratefulness.org describes its mission as follows: "A Network for Grateful Living (ANG*L) provides education and support for the practice of grateful living as a global ethic, based on the teachings of Br. David Steindl-Rast and colleagues."

How to wage war on food waste

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Laura Wright Treadway writes on the Sierra Club's On Earth blog: "As kids, we were all admonished to finish what's on our plate for the sake of those starving children in faraway countries. Among environmental issues, however, food waste barely registers as a concern. Yet when we do the math, tallying all the resources required to grow the food that is lost as it journeys from farm to processor to plate and beyond, the consequences of our wastefulness are staggering: 25 percent of all fresh water and 4 percent of all oil consumed in this country are used to produce food that is never eaten.

"The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that Americans waste 30 percent of all edible food produced, bought, and sold in this country, although it acknowledges that this figure is probably low."

Read the full article here.

Climate triage and 'the new normal'

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Water and climate scientist Peter Gleick writes on the Huffington Post Green blog about "climate triage," choices about who and what is going to be protected and saved, versus abandoned and lost. It's relevant to the present dilemmas in dealing with the flooding along the Mississippi.

"The delay in acting to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases means that more and more anthropogenic climate changes are now unavoidable. Climate impacts are already evident and they are going to get worse and worse. It's the 'new normal.' In coming years, we are going to be faced with increasingly difficult decisions in what must now be called climate triage..."

The impact of deliberate flooding on rural communities

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The National Catholic Rural Life Conference newsletter this week carries a statement about the impact of deliberate flooding on rural communities.

It begins: "This is not a criticism of those necessary actions, nor questioning a 'cities first' policy, that is clearly carried out for the safety and security of human lives. But before we simply let the waters drain away and mark this as another spring flood – albeit, a major historical one - let’s take a moment to understand the actual impact on farmers and rural communities."

Read the full statement here.

Exanding your spirit and life with meditation -- part 2

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Part 2: How to meditate successfully

The one feeling that is common to most people who undertake meditation is that they are not doing it well. A comment in one of my meditation classes expresses the experience and frustration of many: “I tried doing it, but my mind kept jumping all over. I just couldn’t still it. I guess I’m not cut out for meditation.”

My first item of business in this blog is to clear up an almost universal error about meditation—that the objective is to have a still mind (or a focus on God with no distractions) and that anything short of that is flawed. If any of us start out with an expectation that high and unrealistic, no wonder we are doomed to failure, discouragement, and eventual abandonment of this prayer form altogether. Meditation is not designed to make people feel bad about themselves.

U. N. conference on least developed countries prescribes sustainable agriculture

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The fourth U.N. conference on the world’s poorest countries met in Istanbul from May 9 to 13 and adopted a plan of action at its end stressing the importance of foreign investment and the private sector in lifting millions from poverty. Notable was an emphasis on sustainable agriculture as a way out of poverty and toward food security for these countries.

The program foresees halving the number of least developed countries (LDCs) to 24 during the next decade through a significant rise in aid, favorable market access for all LDCs and building up their productive capacity.

The emphasis on productive capacity – energy, infrastructure and agriculture -- marked the most significant difference from the last LDC action plan formed in Brussels in 2008 which concentrated on health, education and other social areas.

“The stress on productive capacity is favored by LDCs as a means to modernize and diversify economies, create jobs and engage sustainable means to eventually eradicate poverty," said Cheick Sidi Diarra, U.N. undersecretary general and representative for the LDCs.

'Invest in common things' -- in praise of walking (part 3)

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All of us who love to walk have our favorite outings. One of mine was an early summer evening exploration of an old pasture that I had visited a hundred times before. It was favorite haunt. A summer thunderstorm had just passed through. Shreds, layers, and towering Himalayas of dark clouds, flashing with lighting, receded into the hazy distances. Tatters and wisps of fog rose ghostlike out of the soft evening folds of the nearby valleys. As the twilight began to deepen, scarlet patches of open sky appeared brilliant in the West among the dark sooty clouds.

Suddenly out of this shaggy field around me, which was so overgrown and crowded with summer wildflowers that it had become an ornate patchwork bouquet stretching from fence to fence, common fireflies – hundreds upon hundreds of them – rose out of the wet grass and floated slowly over the colorful outbursts of daisies, sunflowers, and Queen Anne’s lace still splattered with raindrops

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September 26-October 9, 2014

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