Sunday, September 13, 2015

Martha Spong, Interview #213

Name:  Martha Spong

Where you live: South Central Pennsylvania

What you do as a vocation or avocation? Social media minister, writer

Your two favorite books: 
“Thirst” by Mary Oliver - I love her poetry; this is a volume I return to over and over again. “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” by C.S. Lewis - This is perhaps my most re-read book, going back to age 8, and returning to it is like visiting old friends and hearing their voices one more time. My daughter is named for Lucy Pevensie. If you don’t mind, I’ll add a third: The Gospel of Mark, which I love for its interwoven stories and its portrayal of a Jesus who is fully a lot of things.

Your two favorite songs: 
“I’ll Fly Away” - I have a collection of idiosyncratic recordings of this one, from Johnny Cash to Alison Krauss to Kanye West. “Songbird” - Again I love and have various versions, but especially love it as recorded by Eva Cassidy, for the way it marked a turning point in my life. 

Why you are interested in spirituality?  
From the time I was a little Southern Baptist girl growing up in Virginia, and even before I read the Narnia books, I had a sense that even when life in this world is challenging, we belong to something bigger and farther and deeper and more real than we can see. I’ve explored a number of denominational paths and other spiritual influences, but ended up remaining in church, which is the place I feel most connected to a love that is deeper and wider than our perceptions. I feel it most deeply in music and the reading of the Word and always hope to open that connection for others in my preaching.

Your favorite quote: 
“He's wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.” Mr. Beaver in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - such a great counter-balance to our nice, clean, safe Sunday School Jesus.

Your hero? 
My Cousin Jack, otherwise known as the Right Reverend John Shelby Spong, a person of the deep and courageous faith, brave enough to let go of all the handrails of established religious life to show the rest of us there is still a footing to trust. 

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn? 
How God is working through the things I have been slowest to accept, or perhaps I should say through my stubbornness!

A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?"  
Almost anyplace I can see, smell, hear the Atlantic Ocean.

Editor's Note: Martha is the editor of this book:

There’s a Woman in the Pulpit: Christian Clergywomen Share Their Hard Days, Holy Moments and the Healing Power of Humor, edited by Martha Spong, foreword by Carol Howard Merritt (SkyLight Paths Publishing, 2015).

Also found here:

Martha is also a contributor to this book:
The Abingdon Creative Preaching Annual 2016, edited by Jenee Woodard, curator of The Text This Week

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Tim Birchard, Interview #212

Name:  Tim Birchard

Where you live: southwest Colorado, USA

What you do as a vocation or avocation?   Advisor for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math undergraduate students

Your two favorite books:  I AM THAT by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj and To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway

Your two favorite songs: 
"Now Is The Time"  from my album "Love Songs from Hafiz"  
"Rumor"  from my album "Dots and Dashes"  

Why you are interested in spirituality?  
I used to be afraid of ‘getting all spiritual’. After feeling like organized religion had let me down in so many ways, I began to equate ‘getting all spiritual’ with being tricked… with believing lies.
From then on, I wanted proof. I assumed that if I could perceive it with my physical senses, it must be true. Anything outside of the scope of concepts could not be proven; therefore, if I believed in something I could not see/hear/taste/smell/touch or conceptualize, I was going to end up playing the fool… believing lies… and suffering more.

Yet the truth is, I am not this physical body. I am not this mind (therefore, I am not mind-based ego). And as my friend Atreya Thomas says, there are only two things we can be afraid of: something concerning the ego, or something concerning the body. Since neither is my true self, believing them to be real is a mistake.
As it turns out, when I believe what I see/hear/taste/smell/touch/mentally conceive to be reality, I am believing a lie. I am mis-identifying with the transitory and imagining it to be permanent. The path to truth is to discard what is perceived via the physical senses. Reality is beyond thought. Not “irrational”… but “extra-rational”. Fear of ‘getting all spiritual’ is ego-based fear.

Atreya, you said it best: as long as I mistakenly believe the illusory self to be true, the risk of egoic paranoid thinking will continue to be extremely high. My fear of ‘getting all spiritual’ is, in itself, a painful symptom of believing a lie. The doorway out of this suffering is to recognize my true identity as The Absolute.
When I gently recognize ALL thoughts (including these) and perceptions as movement of the mind, then I can rest in the peace and freedom that is my birthright.
Your favorite quote:   
“Wisdom is knowing I am nothing,
Love is knowing I am everything,
and between the two my life moves.” 
― Nisargadatta Maharaj

Your favorite web sites: 

Your hero?  
I work with college students who come from low-income backgrounds, and/or have a disability, and/or are first-generation college students (neither parent had a bachelor's degree when the student reached age 18).
Every one of my students who struggles to succeed in college and in life is my hero.

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn? 
How to live daily life while resting in the perfection of the present moment without being carried away by the distractions of my own mind.

 A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?" 
Takamatsu City, Japan
The mountains of southwest Colorado
The Caribbean Sea
Anywhere I happen to be when I remember that disconnection is simply an illusion

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Vironika Tugaleva, Interview #211

Your Name:
Vironika Tugaleva
Where you live:
Nowhere specific. I'm on a permanent-address-less journey at the moment. I'm a citizen of the world.

What you do as a vocation or avocation? I am an author, coach, and speaker

Your two favorite books: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Prisig,  Island by Aldous Huxley

Your two favorite songs: That changes on a regular basis, but at the moment I'd say: I am Light by India Arie and Lateralus by Tool.

Why you are interested in spirituality? 
Accidentally, really. I was a die-hard skeptic and cynic, stuck in the box of empirical tradition, always believing I knew the "truth". I accumulated so many wounds over the years - trauma, addiction, self-hatred - I eventually had a mental breakdown. In that time, I found something deeper within me. It wasn't until much later, after I started trying to understand what was happening to me, that I discovered the entire field of spirituality. Now, I don't know what my life would be without this deeper self-understanding.

Your favorite quote:
This also changes, and there are so many! This one is probably the most poignant for me, as a teacher, right now:
     You've no idea how hard I've looked for a gift to bring You. 
     Nothing seemed right. 
     What's the point of bringing gold to the gold mine, or water to the Ocean. 
     Everything I came up with was like taking spices to the Orient. 
     It's no good giving my heart and my soul because you already have these.
     So I've brought you a mirror.
     Look at yourself and remember me."
 Your favorite web sites: I love writing for TinyBuddha, Elephant Journal, MindBodyGreen, and HighExistence. I founded a project called The Real Us, where people share their stories of healing, authenticity, kindness, and courage. I always love reading those. I try to keep my own website an enlightening place for people to visit as well. You can find that here:

Your hero? Honestly, my partner. I met him after a few months of deep healing and he's been here for this whole amazing journey I've been on. He's helped me face demons I couldn't face alone. He helped me see past my self-imposed limitations. He believed in me when I quit my job, when I wrote a book, when I went public. He's been here every step of the way, not just as a support system, but as a fellow traveller on the journey of self-discovery and courage. I've watched him change and evolve, and he's done the same for me. Now, we've both shed our day jobs and are setting off to go travel the world, learn the mysteries of life, and appreciate each other even more. He's my everyday hero. He's what makes this fun.

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn? At the moment, I'm learning about the balance between unconditional giving and self-care. I'm learning what it means to give without making it into a transaction, while still respecting myself as a human being with my own needs. It's a funny balance. I'm learning that, while I am powerful and beautiful and interconnected on a spiritual level, I do still have to honour this human experience. I have to respect my form, right here, right now, instead of playing martyr (like I sometimes do).

A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?" Eyes, human eyes, wherever I meet them. And nature. All nature. Unless it's that fake pseudo-nature at the mall.

Editor's note: Vironika is the author of the award-winning, bestselling book The Love Mindset and  Founder of The Real Us. You can find Vironika on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.