Exploring Namaste and Other Expressions of Love

Note: The following is a transcript from a talk I gave to the St. Croix Unitarians.

Namaste.
Namaste is a Sanskrit greeting or salutation that means, “I honor your sacred or transpersonal self.” Said another way: “My essential Being recognizes your essential Being.” Namaste is an intention to greet each other on Sacred ground, and is often accompanied with a hand gesture.

Namaste, or a variation of that word, has been around for almost 5000 years. I recently noticed a rather whimsical online variation: Nutmasde. It might be the language of squirrels. Nutmasde means: the nutty in me recognizes the nutty in you. I wouldn’t expect monks to be using that one any time soon. When a word becomes popular, it’s natural that we might engage in word play. What is more common is that our language becomes less mindful. Continue reading

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The Art of Listening

Note: The following is a transcript from a talk I gave to the St. Croix Unitarians on December 11, 2016.

The following story is told of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who often endured long receiving lines at White House receptions and was tired of the small talk and flattering comments he received from White House guests.

Roosevelt decided that the guests were never really listening to what he was saying. One day at a reception he decided to try a little experiment. As each guest arrived and shook the president’s hand he smiled politely and said pleasantly, “I murdered my grandmother this morning.”

As Roosevelt had anticipated, the guests responded with such comments as, “Marvelous!” “Keep up the good work!” “We are proud of you!” God bless you, sir!”

It was not until the end of the line, while greeting the ambassador from Bolivia, that his guest actually listened to what Roosevelt was saying. Maintaining his diplomatic décor, the ambassador leaned over and whispered, “I’m sure she had it coming.” Continue reading

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Forgiveness and Letting Go of Blame

Note: The following is a transcript from a talk I gave to the St. Croix Unitarians on October 9, 2016.

A little boy decides he wants to skip school. So he calls the elementary school office, and he tries to deepen his voice: “Donald Falk cannot go to school today because he is sick.” The woman on the other end of the phone asks: “To whom am I speaking?” The little boy says: “This is my father.”

That’s a cute lie, but often lies leave us feeling hurt and betrayed. When people lie to us, or mistreat us or take advantage of us, we’re likely to have a negative reaction. We’re likely to develop negative patterns of association with the individual who caused harm. And we sometimes feel the need to armor ourselves to keep from being manipulated or harmed in the future. When we armor ourselves, we are putting up defensive barriers that can include withdrawal and avoidance, a flight response, or aggressive behavior. Or maybe our language becomes defensive. Continue reading

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An Inquiry into Avoiding Unnecessary Suffering

Note: The following is a transcript from a talk I gave to the St. Croix Unitarians on September 11, 2016.

When I was asked to speak on 9/11, the inference was that I would be the right person to speak on this particular day. At first I wasn’t so sure. Then I recalled the Buddha’s teaching on the second arrow of suffering. I’ll get to that.

First, I’m going to begin with a light-hearted story that I wrote called Bear Trap. Continue reading

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Bias and the cultivation of open-hearted belief: Transcript from Unitarian Presentation

There’s a story from a couple of centuries ago. There was a situation where the Pope wanted the Jews to leave Rome. There was an uproar. So, they decided to have a debate. If the Pope won, then the oppositional Jews would leave. If the representative of the Jews won, the Jews could stay. There was a rule to the debate that neither side could talk. The debate begins and there’s silence for several minutes. Then the Pope raises his hand and shows three fingers. Moishe, who represents the Jews, raises one finger. The fingersPope raises his fingers and circles them around his head and Moishe points to the ground. The Pope gets out a wafer and a glass of wine and Moishe gets out an apple. The Pope stands up and says, “The man is too good I give up, the Jews can stay.”

An hour later the cardinals are all around the Pope and ask: “What happened?” Continue reading

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