Monday, January 31, 2011

Brendan Myers, Interview #116

Name: Brendan Myers

Where you live: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; I am originally from the village of Elora, also in Ontario.

What you do as a vocation or avocation?
I am a philosopher. This is partly my career for practical purposes, as I am presently employed as a professor at a small college in Gatineau, Quebec. But it is also my ‘calling’. To live a meaningful and worthwhile life, one needs to be thinking and reasoning about the highest and deepest things in life. So in addition to teaching at my college, I also serve my local spiritual community as a researcher and workshop leader, and I publish books on philosophical and spiritual topics. Writing these books requires intense introspection, and a will to preserve one’s humanity, integrity, and wonder. Therefore writing them may be more important than publishing them. If there was no audience for my books, I would probably still write them.

Your two favorite books:
     Plato’s Republic, because it is so rich with provocative parables and thought-inducing questions; and The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats, because his work is so evocative and lyrical, yet also honest about the human condition. It’s difficult for me to choose just two. I have a private library of over 500 books of philosophy, myth, and spirituality, and of these I tend to return to a dozen or so fairly regularly. But these two are the books I have been turning to most recently.

Your two favorite songs:
Room to Roam (the whole album, not just the one song) by The Waterboys, because it reminds me of my time in Ireland; and  Sympathy for the Devil, by The Rolling Stones, because it is one of the most honest songs about religion ever composed.

Why you are interested in spirituality?
When spirituality is approached and undertaken properly, it can lead to a truly sustainable peace of mind, and sense of confidence, and sense of the goodness of being alive on Earth and being who you are. Rational self-examination, as numerous philosophers have affirmed, leads to the truly worth-while life. We find this view in the dream of Boethius, who while wasting away in a prison, condemned for a crime he didn’t commit, dreamed of the goddess Sophia telling him: “Why do you mortal men seek after happiness outside yourselves, when it lies within you”? Cicero noted that neither pain nor pleasure, neither good fortune nor bad, can unseat the rational person’s peace of mind: “philosophy will ensure that the man who has obeyed its laws shall never fail to be armed against all the hazards of fortune: that he shall possess and control, within his own self, every possible guarantee for a satisfactory and happy life.” Similarly, thousands of miles and many centuries away from Rome, the Chinese philosopher Mencius taught: “All things are already complete in oneself. There is no greater joy than to examine oneself and be sincere.”  
Secondly, a philosophical spirituality gives you a chance to participate in the divine. “The philosopher”, says Plato, “by consorting with what is ordered and divine and despite all the slanders around that say otherwise, himself becomes as divine and ordered as a human being can.”  And Marcus Aurelius says: “He lives with the gods who consistently shows them his soul, content with its lot, and performing the wishes of that divinity, that fragment of himself which Zeus has given each person to guard and guide him. In each of us this divinity is our mind and reason.” These lines mean a great deal to me.

Your favorite quote:
When on trial for his life, on charges of blasphemy and corrupting the youth, Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living”. Among some professional philosophers this motto has become a kind of cliché. But there is something very serious and very correct about this assertion. A life given to thinking and reasoning and wondering about who you are, and what things in life matter most, really is better than a life of ignorance. The opposite claim, that ignorance is bliss, taken as a proposition about life, is simply false.

Your favorite web sites:
This answer may seem rather dull. When I read the internet, I mostly read news outlets, including
CBC News, BBC News, The Globe and Mail, France 24, Spiegel Online, The Guardian, and Al Jazeera.

Your hero?
Ludwig van Beethoven. I find myself enormously inspired by his will to create some of the most wonderful music in the world while at the same time suffering severe tinnitus and deafness and (later in life) cirrhosis of the liver. His hearing disability also imposed on him a profound loneliness. Yet his music also speaks of the spiritual power to be found in nature and in the human spirit. Thinking about his life sometimes just breaks my heart, but at the same time lifts it up. Beethoven could transform the most terrible physical and emotional suffering you can think of into the most beautiful art you will ever hear. If only more of us could do the same.

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn?
I’d like to learn how to follow my path without becoming an intellectual snob! It is sometimes all too easy to look down on people who are poorly informed about the world, or who hold irrational beliefs. I’d like to be better able to have productive and fruitful dialogues with such people.

A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?"
Naturally, I am most at home in my own mind, my own skin, and my own home. This ability to be “connected” wherever you are is of course a major teaching of just about any spiritual tradition. If I had to name one particular location, I’d choose my home town of Elora, Ontario, and the Elora Gorge conservation area. There’s a little grove at the top of one of the cliffs, overlooking some rapids, where I had what I now look back upon as my first mature spiritual experiences. I also think fondly of a few sites in Europe where certain ideas were first born in my mind, such as Loughcrew, in Meath, Ireland, and the Vogelsberg region of Hessen, Germany. But as I now live in Canada, those sites are harder for me to visit.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mary Beth Phillips, Interview #115

Name: Mary Beth Phillips

Where you live: Walnut Creek, CA (and in my car)

What is your vocation or avocation: Therapist by training, Executive Director by profession, passionate about families and children, quality child care and disability rights.  I also create gardens.

Your two favorite books: The last one I’ve read.

Your two favorite songs: Any song one of my very talented songwriting children has written. Listen to the one on our website for a taste of something my daughter wrote and sings.

Why are you interested in spirituality:  I think Spirituality is a necessary part of being human.  I think we a wired to seek the Divine.

Your favorite quote: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”  Helen Keller and “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

Your favorite

Your Hero: my daughter, Elizabeth for her determination and spirit

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn:  Everyone has a job. When you know that you have been called to do your job, say yes and do it but don’t try to control it. That’s how the world gets to be better.

A place in the world of spiritual connection: Where family gathers.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Joan Luise Hill, Interview #114

Name: Joan Luise Hill
Where You Live: Pebble Beach, CA and Nantucket, MA
What you do as a vocation or avocation? Community Volunteer in Education and Health care, fund raiser for causes where there is a positive return on investment in brain power, social welfare and the greater good.
Your two favorite books: The Sparrow for its troubling and thoughtful account of searching beyond our comfort level and the innate danger and reward in the journey.  A Day with Pete the Seagull written by my parents in the 1950s - a story of the beach, of friendship, and of simple pleasures with funds donated to the Jimmy Fund cancer research for children.

Why you are interested in spirituality? I think at a certain age (over 40), at a certain time (facing cancer), and in certain circumstances ie the death of a parent or sickness of a child, we all begin to go outside of ourselves searching for something greater than we are...I think all of those things conspired to jumpstart my spiritual journey.

Your favorite quote: "If you want your dreams to come true, you mustn't oversleep." Eleanor Roosevelt
"The meaning of life is to find your gift, the purpose of life is to give it away."  Joy Gulliver
Your favorite web sites: (I do have a sense of humor...)
Your hero? The unique part of each of us that dares to do that which we are unsure of...Marie Curie in the lab, Alexis Carrel for his belief in miracles; Franz Werfel writing of Lourdes;  everyday volunteers who give of themselves in extraordinary ways

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn? Never to return to complacency; instead to keep searching though sometimes it seems difficult to keep it fresh and alive
A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?" Maryisma, hard not to be lulled into a spiritual connection given the history and the feeling of peacefulness; the cemeteries of Normandy where so many lie in sacrifice for the good of mankind; in the air when flying, seeing the distinct differences in the earth's landscape and marveling at the majesty of the oceans, mountains and fields.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Katie Mahon, Interview #113

Name: Katie Mahon

Where you live: New York, New York (after being a Bay Area, California “native” for 45 years, I moved to Manhattan in 2009)

What do you do as a vocation or avocation:  I am passionate about access to educational opportunities for children across the socio-economic spectrum and continue to be involved in a high school in California; I love to walk in Central Park and enjoy the changing seasons there, and to play tennis when weather permits.
Your two favorite books: Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner, Wild Swans by Jung Chang, and Empire Falls by Richard Russo

Your two favorite songs: “Let it Be” (the Beatles), West Side Story sound track, pretty much all Christmas music

Why are you interested in spirituality?  I am interested in spirituality because I have felt the Presence of something beyond the four corners of what we call reality and I believe this feeling is as worthy of pursuit as anything.

Your favorite quote:  “Miracles seem to me to rest not so much upon faces or voices or healing power coming suddenly near us from afar off, but upon our perceptions being made finer, so that for a moment our eyes see and our ears can hear what there is about us always.” Willa Cather (Death Comes For the Archbishop)
Your favorite websites:

Your hero: Mother Teresa

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn:  The humility to connect myself again to a place where I can park my soul, in spite of the flaws of organized religion.

A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?"
I have had more moments of connection at those times when a sudden awareness of some depth within nature, a sunset that takes your breath away, a silence in a peaceful garden, that I can feel spiritually connected just about anywhere, though these moments are not automatic and don’t come nearly often enough.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Judith Fein, Interview #112

 Name: Judith Fein
Where you live: Santa Fe, New Mexico
What you do as a vocation or avocation? I am a travel journalist, which means I travel around the world and then write and speak about the places I have been. Actually, I focus on the people and the cultures I encounter around the world. I think that learning from and connecting to others is good for the soul and good for world peace. 
Your two favorite books:  I am very picky about what I read.  I want to learn, expand my universe, challenge ideas I have. I read non-fiction, and my two favorite books are almost always the last two I have read. 
Your two favorite songs:  Again, I don't have two favorites that come to mind. I like world music. Opera. Reggae. Classic rock. I learned from indigenous people that it is not good to count. So I try not to count--how many of this or that I have, which are my two or ten favorite songs or books or people. I like anything that makes me feel connected, alive, happy, thoughtful, moved. 
Why you are interested in spirituality?  I am not sure that I am "interested" in spirituality. It is part of my life. I am attracted to things that stir my soul, and try to interact with people in a way that lightens their load, makes them laugh, responds to the core of who they are, or stirs their souls. 
     I am the travel editor of Spirituality and Health magazine and the San Diego Jewish Journal. Sometimes, my husband Paul and I take people to destinations we love. We want them to see the sites, to be sure, but we want them to have a deep, moving, transformative experience. We take them to different spiritual and religious ceremonies. 
     But, beyond all of this, if you ask me what "spiritual "means,  I would, quite honestly, have to answer this: "Spiritual is how you behave with other humans on a minute by minute basis. Do they feel better for having met you? Or do they feel criticized and diminished? You can follow important spiritual practices, but, ultimately, it's not just about your own connection to Source. It is about how you are with humans, in our human world. "
Your favorite quote: Whoops. Here we go again. I don't have favorites. 
Your favorite web sites: Double whoops. I like so many people, places, sites, songs, quotes, books, that it is hard to choose. 
Your hero? There are so many---Nelson Mandela, The Dalai Lama, Aung San Suu Kyi, Bishop Tutu, John Lewis.......they all rise above divisiveness and teach brotherhood and connection. They also fight for what they believe in--the common good, and against racism, despotism and other isms. 
A spiritual lesson you hope to learn?  I am always learning how NOT to get embroiled,  reactive, but, rather, how to take a deep breath and try to see the whole picture. I try to be respectful, even if I am angry. I try not to be led by my emotions. I practice a lot.......
A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?"  When I am comfortable, relaxed and l00 per cent in my own skin. When I am not in the past or the future, but fully present to what is going on around me. Then I am most certainly connected. 
My website is:

I am also the editor of I have many articles on the site. I would especially like to share with readers my Pledge of Peace:

Tracy Lee Nash, Interview #111

Name: Tracy Lee Nash

Where you live: Menifee, California

What you do as a vocation or avocation? I am an Energy Health Practitioner

Your two favorite books:  The Spontaneous Healing of Belief and 
Small Miracles-Extraordinary Coincidences from Everyday Life

Your two favorite songs: Mary's Song (By Tony Sadante) and Penny Whistle Song (By Hans Zimmer)

Why you are interested in spirituality? It reminds me that I am both connected to and a child of God, and encourages authentic living through honoring that deep organic connection to something much bigger than just myself
Your favorite quote:

 "If not by faith how shall you live
  If not by love how shall you give
  If not by strength how shall you grow
  If not by God how shall you go?"

Your favorite web sites:

Your hero? Jesus

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn? True release from all things unproductive

A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?" Egypt