Category Archives: Interfaith Encounter

Rooster and Phoenix

Celebrating the start of this Lunar New Year with close friends, I discovered something I had intuited for a while – that I was not actually born during the Year of the Dog, as countless take-out Chinese menus had assured me. Their global description of my zodiac sign never quite fit. Having a winter birthday put me on the cusp, and this January, as we welcomed the Year of the Rooster, I finally learned that I myself am a Rooster. I immediately assumed this was good fortune, realizing my Rooster identity at this precise time. I quickly found I was wrong.

According to Chinese astrology, the year that is yours bodes ill – Horses have a hard time in any Year of the Horse, Tigers in any Year of the Tiger, etc. I took the bad-luck news very much to heart, because a couple of women I loved dearly were sick. I sensed in my bones that this Rooster year would be bitter indeed. Some friends challenged my fatalism and encouraged me to stay upbeat, whatever that might mean when things are plainly not going well.

Zodiac

My aunt – who after training as Catholic spiritual director decided to get ordained as a Taoist priest – insisted that in Chinese mythology, “the rooster is also a phoenix. Don’t forget that!” she told me. The phoenix does inevitably rise, but only after everything has burned down to ash. Beginning in spring, my husband Ben and I had three successive deaths in our family in three months. These were special people with whom we spent our holidays: Memorial Day, Christmas and Easter, and New Year’s – that New Year we mark on our Gregorian calendar here in the West.

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Church Yoga

More than a decade ago, when the Scorpion was a far easier pose for me than it is today, I was certified as a yoga instructor. While I never achieved my fame and fortune as a yogini, let alone perfected those ultra-advanced postures, my ambition was rather a modest one. I wanted to end up in the same place I had begun: the church basement, that sacred ground beneath my yoga mat. Continue reading

Tea and Toast

Fasting has never held much fascination for me, but then again, I don’t think much about food. Still, I understand that fasting is a key spiritual discipline that remains significant for many individuals and central in many traditions. Each year, I watch my husband suffer through Yom Kippur, which is precisely the point for observant Jews – affliction and atonement, as my father-in-law would say. I see my husband watch the hands of the clock tick toward the evening hour, and I know he is agonizing over every minute, because my husband thinks about food a lot.

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Buddha out of Bounds

For a few years now, I have shared a lovely office suite with a marvelous assortment of helping professionals, although I am the only minister in the lot. The diversity among us is impressive – we have psychiatrists, psychotherapists, couples counselors, chiropractors, acupuncturists, naturopaths, and nutritionists practicing side by side. We hail from a variety of faith traditions, including Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, and that perennial favorite of ‘spiritual-but-not-religious’, in addition to other, increasingly popular hyphenated-hybrid categories. So I was startled one morning to open up the front door of our suite and come face to face with a huge Buddha head.

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Who’s Your Guru?

Like a considerable number of women in my demographic, I’m certified as a yoga instructor, and like a portion of them, I completed my teacher training in an actual ashram. My plan was to eventually teach classes in a church basement someplace. The first yoga classes I ever took were held in St. Mark’s for a nominal fee and having such easy access to them undoubtedly changed my life for the better. Out of gratitude and a kind of evangelical zeal, I wanted to get out the word about yoga to precisely those types who would give the Hare Krishna singers a wide berth in the airport. Continue reading

The Man in the Gray Cat Suit

In my prior incarnation, I was an English teacher, serving as adjunct faculty in the English Department at a local university, where my colleagues were literary and imaginative and favored felines. As an esteemed professor, the former chair of the department, so succinctly stated: “We are cat people.” Shortly before starting in the English department, I had adopted a very young kitten, just weeks old, entirely gray except for a spray of white at his throat and chest. My colleague from the department observed that the tiny cat appeared at all times to be wearing his “bib and tucker,” an observation that instantly earned Tucker his name. Continue reading

Somebody Else’s Holy Day

In my youth, my friends held far stronger opinions than they do today. One of the most fervent and unusual debates between two of my friends centered on the otherwise benign topic of holiday cards. Who even remembers how it got started? Continue reading