With Bruce Springsteen in the country at present (although, sadly, I’m not going to one of his concerts) I thought it would be good to feature an excellent and thoughtful interview with Springsteen. The interviewer is Marc Maron, and the audio was released 2nd January 2017.
This is a YouTube recording of the audio.
“…Two Jersey guys hanging out, talking about dads, depression, fear, fulfillment and the future. Bruce tells Marc how and why he constructed "Bruce Springsteen" and what he's learned about the struggle we all go through to become who we really are.”
The downloadable podcast can be found here.
Today, a post in its entirety from Chris Erdman (Thanks Chris. His blog can be found here). I reminded me of a conversation with good friends a couple of weeks ago. One of those friends was Gareth Higgins, and one of his contributions to the conversation included talking about “Porch circles…” In “Porch Circles” a small group gathers for 90-minutes around food and four questions:
What's most alive in me?
How could my life be better?
What opportunities have I had in the past week to embody my purpose to serve the common good?
How can we help each other?
More from what Gareth’s up to in my next post:
And here’s Chris:
“…Feeling passionate but alone? Here's a way to contribute to the common good
Circles of Strength are small, intentional gatherings of people drawn together by a desire to co-create the kind of world we wish to live in. We gather around two essential goals:
We identify our desires to improve our world, and together, we grow our sense of strength so we can make a difference.
Around us, millions of Americans are rising up to meet the environmental, social, and political challenges of the 21st century.
Rather than feeling disempowered or disillusioned, people like us want to do something useful to transcend barriers, overcome hostilities, and create programs, products, movements and opportunities that contribute to the common good in our neighborhoods, cities, nation, and around the planet.
Circles of Strength are small gatherings of 3 or more people (no more than 5). They are intentional in that they meet at least every other week for at least an hour to check in with each other around a series of questions like:
What am I feeling passionate about? And why?
What is a problem or injustice I cannot allow to remain unchallenged?
What would I like to do about it?
What gifts do I have to address it?
What gets in the way or holds me back?
What progress have I made since we last met?
What do I need to take the next step?
Circles don’t need a trained leader, but they do need a common commitment from each other to listen more than give advice, and to help others find their passion. Through meeting together and talking about our desires for a better world, we help foster accountability, hope, and follow-through. (And when we fail or repeatedly bang into walls, we help each other find new direction.)
Find a few other people, create a circle, and begin to change your world.”
This week in Fr. Richard Rohr’s daily e-mails he’s had guest writer Cynthia Bourgeault exploring her specialty subject, the contemplative practice of Centering Prayer.
Here’s a summary of her week of reflections.
Thomas Merton, Thomas Keating, and John Main recognized meditation not as a newfangled innovation, let alone the grafting onto Christianity of an Eastern practice, but rather, as something that had originally been at the very center of Christian practice and had become lost. (Sunday)
Centering Prayer is apathway of return in which every time the mind is released from engagement with a specific idea or impression, we move from a smaller and more constricted consciousness into that open, diffuse awareness in which our presence to divine reality makes itself known along a whole different pathway of perception. (Monday)
Each time you manage to disengage from a thought, you are doing so in solidarity with Jesus’ own kenotic stance; and in the process patterning that stance more and more deeply into your being until it eventually becomes your default response to all life’s situations. (Tuesday)
It could be said that in Centering Prayer your intention is “to be totally open to God”: totally available, all the way down to that innermost point of your being; deeper than your thinking, feelings, memories, and desires. (Wednesday)
There is a deeper current of awareness, a deeper and more intimate sense of belonging, which flows beneath the surface waters of your being and grows stronger and steadier as your attention is able to maintain itself as a unified field of objectless awareness. (Thursday)
Once you get the hang of it, attention of the heart allows you to be fully present to God, but at the same time fully present to the situation at hand, giving and taking from the spontaneity of your own authentic, surrendered presence. (Friday)
Practice: Centering Prayer
As Cynthia Bourgeault shared earlier this week, here is the simple method for practicing Centering Prayer as taught by Thomas Keating. I hope you’ll try it and stay with it for a while!
Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.
Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.
When engaged with your thoughts [including body sensations, feelings, images, and reflections], return ever so gently to the sacred word.
At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes. 
This post follows on from my most recent one to this point. The School of Lifeis committed to developing emotional intelligence. It was founded by Philosopher Alain de Botton. I have been aware of the school through their book series, which have included a wide range of titles.
What I discovered yesterday evening was their YouTube channel ("How to Live" / see short introductory video here) and the wide-range of short-educational films they've produced on a really large range of subjects.
So, given that yesterday was marketer-invented Valentines Day, I decided to illustrate their film-style by posting their short educational film entitled: How Romanticism Ruined Love. I also include a link to a paper of the same title here.
If Philosophy is more your interest you can check out a short film on Michel Foucault, or this one on Jacques Derrida.
“What if the first question we asked on a date were, “How are you crazy? I’m crazy like this”? Philosopher and writer Alain de Botton’s essay “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person” was, amazingly, the most-read article in The New York Times in the news-drenched year of 2016. As people and as a culture, he says, we would be much saner and happier if we reexamined our very view of love. How might our relationships be different — and better — if we understood that the real work of love is not in the falling, but in what comes after?”
You’ll find the podcast here. The NY Times article can be found online here. I also recommend Susan Quilliam’s How to Find a Partner (from The School of Life series. It has useful and interesting insights on the basis of relational love,whether you're in an established relationship, or looking for one)
I’ve been listening to Bangladeshi-born Australian Doctor/Psychiatrist Tanveer Ahmed quite a bit this year. He’s a young man who’s had his fair share of controversy (plagiarism), but to me he remains a fascinating and oftentimes compelling commentator (for some he will be controversial or just plain wrong in his assessment) on what is happening in Australian culture, and as a corollary, with men. I’ve never been much inclined to gather around my self people and commentators who will affirm what I already think. I like to be stretched intellectually.
Gratefulness is a practice that I know is important, but which I find a struggle. It’s too easy to get caught up in the stresses and busyness of the ordinary and the everyday. I’m hoping to embed it a lot more in my life over the course of 2017.
“Happiness is not what makes us grateful. It is gratefulness that makes us happy. Gratefulness is the key to happiness. Unless you are grateful for the gift, it won’t make you happy.”
“Gratefulness (which Br David Steindl-Rast) describes as being the same as mindfulness and prayerfulness) is like any other spiritual practice – it must be practiced!
Practice giving thanks for first things, for beginnings. When you wake in the morning, before you even open your eyes, give thanks for the gift of sight. (Br David makes a practice of praying at this moment for those who have no sight or who have impaired sight.) Give thanks for your first cup of tea or coffee – let all your senses come alive or wake up. Continue to mark out the little beginnings of each day – as you open your bedroom door and move into the rest of your house or as you open your front door and walk outside or as you put the key in your car ignition to begin your commute to work.
But also mark the endings of your day – when you arrive home and close your front door behind you or when you shut down your computer. (Too many people do not shut down their computer or log off from work – it tends to go on and on with no end or renewed beginning!)…”