Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Review: Mystical Ireland: CD Gift Box Collection

Mystical Ireland: CD Gift Box Collection includes The Virgin’s lament, Vox de Nube, The Darkest Midnight by Nóirín Ní Riain. Sounds True. 2003

Nóirín Ní Riain works with the monks of Glenstal Abbey to bring these three CDs to life, creating a highly spiritual experience for Christians and Pagans alike. This music is specifically designed to combine the roots of Christianity and Paganism together to celebrate traditional prayers, hymns, and laments of Irish history.

Each CD brings forth it’s own special spirituality, to enrich and entertain your soul.

The track listings for The Virgin’s Lament include:

1. Caoineadh Mhuire (Mary’s Keen)

2. Gol na dTri Muire (The Weeping of the Three Marys)

3. The Darkest Midnight

4. Seacht nDolas na Maighdine Muire-Uibh Rathach (The Seven Sorrows of the Virgin Mary)

5. An Bhainis Phosta A Bhi I gCana (The Wedding Feast at Cana)

6. Seacht nDolas na Maighdine Muire- Cuige Chonnacht (The Seven Sorrows of the Virgin Mary II)

7. An Caoineadh (The Keen)

8. Caoineadh na hAoine (Friday Lament)

9. Posadh Naofa Cana (The Holy Wedding at Cana)

10. Dextera Domini (The Lord’s Right Hand)

11. Caoineadh na Maighdine (The Blessed Virgin’s Keening)

The Darkest Midnight (Religious Songs from the Irish Tradition) CD includes:

1) The Seven Rejoices of Mary

2) Christmas Day is Come

3) Songs of Jerusalem

4) Ye Sons of Men

5) Good People All

6) Song for New Year’s Day

7) The Darkest Midnight

8) Sciathluireach Mhuire (Mary’s Breastplate)

9) An Teicheadh Go hEigipt (The Flight into Egypt)

10) Now to Conclude Our Christmas Mirth

11) O Pia Virgo (O Blessed Virgin)

Vox ge Nube (Voice from the Cloud) CD includes:

1)Magnificat cum Alleluia (Song of Praise)

2) Pater Noster (Our Father)

3) Lob/Ehre, Christe: Joa Bolendas (Praise/Glory to Christ)

4) A Dhia Ghleigil (Oh Glorious God)

5) O Viridissima Virga: Hildegard of Bingen (Most Holy Virgin)

6) a) A Song for mary Magdalen, b) Pater Superni Luminis (Our Father of Light)

7) Kyrie Eleison: Hildegard of Bingen (Lord, Have Mercy)

8) We Venerate Thy Cross

9) Cum Processit: Hildegard of Bingen (When You Came Forth)

10) An tAiseirl (The Resurrection)

11) Go mBeannaitear Duit (Hail, Mary)

12) Homilia Sancti Bernardi Abbatis (Homily of Saint Bernard)

13) The Beatitudes

14) Regnavit Dominus (The Lord Now Reigns)

15) Saint Brighid’s Prayer

16) O Frondens Virga: Hildegard of Bingen (Oh, Flowering Stem)

17) Seacht Suailci na Maighdine Muire (The Seven Rejoices of mry)

18) Ar nAthair (Our Father)

19) In Paupertatis Praedia (In the Farmland of Poverty)

20) Vater Unser: Joa Bolendas (Our Father)

The haunting sounds of the Monks of the Glenstal Abbey, will transport your mind into a different world. The voices are soothing as the chants draw you into a hypnotic like trance.

Each one of these CDs is deeply spiritual, and can be used for deep meditations, yoga practices, ritual, or other spiritual connections.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Review: Sacred Chants One by Orenda Blu

Sacred Chants One by Orenda Blu. ( Paradise Music

I love chants. I love adding them to rituals, to meditations, and even to help unpleasant chores go more quickly. Sometimes I even chant in the shower just to get my day started off on a positive, energized foot.

I was looking forward to this CD hoping it would be one I could easily pick up the chants to add to my own “repertoire”.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite the chanting I expected it to be.

Fortunately, I really liked it anyway.

While I don’t know how easy it will be for me to pick up these chants to practice myself, (actual English is much easier for me!) this is a beautiful CD to listen to, and possibly chant along with.

Orenda Blu has a beautiful, honest and true voice; that is able to turn these Sanskrit mantras into a relaxing, musical and spiritual experience.

The small CD insert does contain the words to the mantras, though no type of translations are provided.

I had hoped for slightly more contemporary chants, and as I stated before, in English, as I think for many people it is easier for them to make a deeper spiritual connection if they are able to understand what they are chanting on a more comprehensive level. Yes there are many Pagans out there who will understand these mantras for what they are, yet I have to believe there are more who would be able to connect deeply to something more modern, especially for those who do not work with any eastern philosophies.

This CD is wonderful the way it is though, my own expectations did get in the way a bit, and I had to set those aside to really hear what was in front of me. 

Obviously, this is a great CD for meditation.  If you do want to chant along while meditating however, I suggest taking some time to familiarize yourself with the words and pronunciations, along with the patterns in which the chanting flows.

It would also be another great CD to use with your yoga practices, and could possibly be used in some types of rituals. It is also a great CD to just chill and relax to.

The tracks on this CD include:
  1. Jay Ambe
  2. Govinda Jai
  3. Om Namo Narayana
  4. Ganapataye Namaha
  5. Moola Mantra
  6. Jai Kali Ma
  7. Om Shanti

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Living in Gratitude: A Journey That Will Change Your Life

Living in Gratitude: A Journey That Will Change Your Life by Angeles Arrien.  Sounds True: 2011.

If you are a follower of my blog, you already have an idea how much I have enjoyed reading this book.

This book is set up to be read a chapter a month, giving you a complete year of exercises and questions to work with to help you live a life of gratitude. While the book is set up by month, you don’t necessarily have to wait for next January to roll around to start working with this book.  You can either start with the current month, or you may possibly want to start with January since its chapter is titled “Begin Anew”.  You could then move on to your current month.  Whatever you decide, you can start at any time.

The topics in this book are as follows:

January: Begin Anew
February: Attend to the Heart
March: Compassionate Service
April: Mercy and Atonement
May: The Gift of Grace
June: The Power of Equanimity
July: Embracing Nature
August: Cultivating Peace
September: Opening to Guidance and Wisdom
October: Letting Be and Letting Go
November: Grateful Seeing
December: The Mystic Heart

Epilogue: Living in Gratitude – Where We Have Been and How We Can Continue

For those living in the southern hemisphere, you may also want to switch things up so your exercises in Embracing Nature are done during your own summer instead of your winter.

Each of the monthly chapters are broken down into sections.  Each one begins with a prayer, and the author uses prayers from several different traditions. The chapter then explains the topic, and breaks it down into plain and simple concepts.  The author never speaks over the readers head and keeps a very conversational tone and style.

The chapters include Reflections (these are questions for you to answer and work with ), Practices, (different exercises to work on over the month), Review and Integration, (where you take a look at gratitude in the 4 quadrants of life) Blessings, Learnings, Mercies, and Protections, (in which you work with some more reflections) and then end with Internal Questions and External Questions.

I would highly recommend keeping a journal to answer the presented questions, and to write about your reflections and practices as you complete them.  With the Reflections  and Practices sections, the author suggests you pick two of each to work on.  By doing this you can use this book for years, making different choices each year. Or you can choose to do more each month.

So many of the quotes in this book hit home for me in an extremely positive way. After just making several changes in my own life, I found this book to be a wonderful sign to show me I am now on the right path for me.

If you are looking for a change, or even if you aren’t really looking, this book can help give you a new life, or at the very least enhance the one you are living. 

Monday, March 5, 2012


From Living in Gratitude: A Journey That Will Change Your Life by Angeles Arrien:

          Harvests and celebrations involve bringing clusters of people together and
          are essentially community endeavors.  The word community (common unity)
          comes from two Latin words that mean "fellowship" and "shared by all".
          Community is natural to our species, as it is to the rest of nature. ...Human
          beings are happiest in groups where they can share and contribute the most,
          whether they are participating in the joys of life or it's tragedies.

This quote brought a few ideas to mind for me. While I thought I understood completely what community is about, I would have to say I must have forgotten some things myself.  This definition made me understand why certain communities I have been in, have fallen apart. The part on "shared by all", is what started me thinking. 

If people are supposedly involved in a community, and they aren't sharing - are they really involved in that community?  No, they can't be.  They aren't fully invested. Which of course begs the question - then why be involved at all? To which the only answer I can come up with is they are focused on purely selfish needs instead. A community is one of give and take - hence the last part of this quote -- people are happiest where they can share and contribute the most - whether for joy or through tragedies.  People who aren't sharing in a community will eventually learn they aren't happy either. They are denying themselves a human instinct. So while being selfish, taking what they can get, they are also denying themselves the ability to share with others.

If you are involved in any sort of community, it does become easy to tell who is committed and who is not, and as they say, hindsight is 20/20. Look back over communities you have been involved with.  Do you have someone in your own community who shows up only occasionally? Do they always come empty handed? Do you hear excuses like, "I didn't know" a lot?  These are all easy giveaways that the person in your midst is not interested in real "community", they are instead interested in what's in it for them only.  It's impossible to build a real community with people who are unwilling to participate in the give and take community requires. Those who are unable to share or give,  perhaps need to take a deep look inside themselves and figure out why. Until they do, they will never find a true community to completely need all of their needs.

Review: The Intimate Life: Awakening to the Spiritual Essence in Yourself and Others

The Intimate Life: Awakening to the Spiritual Essence in Yourself and Others by Judith Blackstone, Ph.D. Sounds True. 2011.

This book is designed to help you connect more fully with yourself and those around you – particularly with your partner if you are in a committed relationship with a person who is also willing to go through this book and the practices with you.  Which of course can be a real problem.  If you are in a relationship with someone who doesn’t believe in different types of therapy, or thinks these practices may be too “touchy feely” you aren’t going to get very far since the vast majority of the exercises are to be completed with your partner.

There are a few exercises here to be worked on by yourself, that very well may help you open up more fully, but without a partner to work on with this, you probably won’t find yourself living an “intimate life” from these exercises.

If you should happen to change partners at some point, you would also need to perform these exercises with your new partner as well. So while you may awaken yourself some to your own spiritual essence, this book is far more about opening yourself to the spiritual essence of others.

The exercise however, are very interesting, and should be able to bring people closer together, while opening each person up more to their past, to their partners past, and of course to their own present and future.  Opening yourself to the past however is a necessary step in order to be able to open yourself to the present and the future.

Though this book isn’t quite what I had expected – I assumed there would be more individual practices – this would be a really great guide for couples. You may want to purchase this as a gift for an anniversary. However if you are feeling that your relationship needs some help, don’t put this purchase off, it may very well be just the help you need.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


I recently wrote an article for Llewellyn titled Building Empathy in these Tough Times, discussing the fact that when we don't acknowledge the pain in our own lives, we tend to not acknowledge pain in the lives of others as well. Without acknowledging this pain, we in turn end up lacking empathy for those in the world around us. We do everything we can to hide when we are in pain, because mundane society says we should be happy all the time.  Do these teachings come from spiritual traditions or do they come from the manufacturers of anti-depressant drugs?

Again last night, I was doing some more reading in Living in Gratitude by Angeles Arrien.  I am now in the chapter for April: Mercy and Atonement.

Once again, I came upon another quote, that really hit home:

          "All the world's faiths put suffering at the top of their agenda," as Karen Armstrong
          writes in her book The Spiral Staircase. "because it is an inescapable fact of human
          life, and unless you see things as they really are, you cannot live correctly.  But even
          more important, if we deny our own pain, it is all too easy to dismiss the suffering of
          others. Every single one of the major traditions - Confucianism, Buddhism, Hinduism,
          as well as the monotheisms - teaches a spirituality of empathy, by means of which
          you relate you own suffering to that of others."

I would go a step farther and state that many minor traditions, along with Pagan traditions teach empathy also.

Yet there seems to be a severe lack of it in today's world. I believe right now, one of my biggest pet peeves is when people tell you to, "cheer up", "lighten up", "look for the silver lining", and often in completely inappropriate situations.  When you are burying a family member, do you really want to hear, "cheer up"? 

When we refuse to acknowledge pain, to see the down side of life, we truly are living in a fantasy world.  Pain exists.  Denying it doesn't allow us the opportunity to work through it.  Denying pain, denying suffering, is in fact, denying life.

Open yourself to all experiences. Open yourself to live your whole life, completely and fully. It may not all be fun and games, but it is all you.  Allow yourself to learn from your pain, so in the future, you will be able to empathize with others and help them in theirs.