The Noah Project

Rebuilding a sustainable world.

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Photographing Spirituality

James Estrin, co-founder of the The New York Times Lens blog will be exhibiting a collection of his work documenting human spirituality at the 92nd Street Y on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan.

A woman performed a Hindu ritual in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. 2005.

Michael Winerip, who is familiar with Esterin’s work notes:

Having worked many, many 12-hour days with him, I can say firsthand that James Estrin’s photos definitely don’t happen by themselves. Beginning Jan. 7, a collection of his work documenting human spirituality will be exhibited in a solo show at the 92nd Street Y on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. It is a subject to which he has repeatedly returned since he started at The Times in 1987, and encompasses everything from photos at churches and synagogues to prison sweat lodges and childbirth suites.
While some of the worst atrocities in history have been committed by people warring over religion, Jim hunts for the commonalities among faiths.
Still, photographing spirituality is a tricky business.
“The challenge for me is capturing the essence of an invisible event,” he said.
He can see the invisible because he is spiritual himself, and knows where to look. Jim believes in God and man. “The earth was created imperfectly,” he said. “It’s our role to try and perfect it.”

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Quote for the Day


It is true to say that for me sanctity consists in being myself and for you sanctity consists in being your self and that, in the last analysis, your sanctity will never be mine and mine will never be yours, except in the communism of charity and grace.

For me to be a saint means to be myself. Therefore the problem of sanctity and salvation is in fact the problem of finding out who I am and of discovering my true self.

—Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation



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Sunday Prayer

A Necessary Autumn Inside Each

You and I have spoken all these words, but as for the way
we have to go, words

are no preparation.  There is no getting ready, other than
grace.  My faults

have stayed hidden.  One might call that a preparation!
I have one small drop

of knowing in my soul.  Let it dissolve in your ocean.
There are so many threats to it.

Inside each of us, there’s continual autumn.  Our leaves
fall and are blown out

over the water.  A crow sits in the blackened limbs and talks
about what’s gone.  Then

your generosity returns: spring, moisture, intelligence, the
scent of hyacinth and rose

and cypress.  Joseph is back!  And if you don’t feel in
yourself the freshness of

Joseph, be Jacob!  Weep and then smile.  Don’t pretend to know
something you haven’t experienced.

There’s a necessary dying, and then Jesus is breathing again.
Very little grows on jagged

rock.  Be ground.  Be crumbled, so wildflowers will come up
where you are.  You’ve been

stony for too many years.  Try something different.  Surrender.

— RUMI —


Ignatian Prayer Adventure – An Online Retreat

So many of us, myself included, spend our lives meeting its day-to-day challenges the best we can.  Circumstances don’t always allow for a thoughtful consideration of how we can make our lives more meaningful and fulfilling.  Sometimes a crisis precipitates a change, sometimes we just can’t keep pushing ourselves to continue doing the same job we hate or stay in a loveless marriage.  We hit the wall, so to speak.

I’ve felt for a while that the best way to get to the other side of my own knotty issues would be through meditation or some sort of contemplative practice.  That by stilling my worried mind a path would emerge.  Lately, all my spiritual wanderings keep bringing me back to St. Ignatius.  And so, I surrender.  I’m saying yes to St. Ignatius by taking part in the Ignatian Prayer Adventure, an on-line retreat provided by Ignatian  If you would like to join me you can do so here.


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The Examen of Consciousness

The Examen of Consciousness is a spiritual practice developed by St. Ignatius Loyola which can help you grow more sensitive to your own spirit and its source.

You can listen to an audio podcast of a guided Examen led by Father Peter Filice, S.J., by clicking here:…

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Sex and Spirituality

The Times of India, delves into the attitude toward sex and spirituality in many Indian traditions.  I post this on the heels of the Catholic Pope finally acknowledging that celibacy in the Catholic Church is only a tradition, not dogma.  I’ve long held, as does this article, that celibacy is against man’s natural instinct and should only be undertaken when a person is well along the spiritual path.

…according to many Indian traditions, the path of spirituality does not preclude sex. In fact, drawing from the divine Krishna tradition, there is a spirit of joy and celebration around the idea of sex and loving union. It follows logically that sex forms a vital part of self-realization. Osho Rajneesh, a modern master, said forced celibacy was not just wrong, it was damaging to the soul of man.
It was against man’s natural instincts. Celibacy as a vow had to be voluntary, and under the guidance of a capable preceptor. Otherwise, there was every possibility of the act of self-mortification destroying the initiate. All Hindu gods had families while several Indian traditions emphasized the sense of the sensual.
However, other streams of Indian spiritualism also grew, drawing from more severe notions of renunciation. One of the best that exists in Sanatani philosophy on the subject of the human body is Patanjali’s statement, ‘Swa-ang jugupsa, parai asansargah.’ It means that with increasing spiritual insights, with greater realization, with the mind’s constant attachment with truth, there develops apathy for the physical body, and it loses its physical affiliation with others. This is considered a high state of spiritual being, and that is what has made celibacy the plinth of sanyas as many understand it.
Yet, ancient Hindu rishis were known to have families and children. Even modern spiritualists like Swami Ramakrisnha Paramhansa, Lahiri Mahasaya and Sri Yukteswar Giri, the master of Paramahansa Yogananda, were all householders.

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Lord Ganesha Synonymous With Beginning of Any Work

Reasons Why We Worship Ganesha First

On the boldsky blog, Sanchita Chowdhury explains why Lord Ganesha is worshiped before beginning any task:

According to the yogic perspective, anything we do has to fall under one of the two categories: material or spiritual. It is believed that Lord Ganesha rules the ‘muladhara chakra’ of our body. ‘Muladhara’ is the interface between the material and the spiritual worlds. Lord Ganesha is said to control both these worlds. He is the one who gives the material enjoyments in this world and He is the one who liberates us from the endless cycle of birth and death. According to the yogic principles, our material life as well as our spiritual journey starts from the ‘Muladhara’ chakra which is controlled by Lord Ganesha. Hence, to complete our life cycle without any obstacles, we need the blessings of Lord Ganesha.
Since He is the one who gets rid of all the obstacles from our lives, we worship Lord Ganesha before beginning any important work.

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Sustainability and Spirituality

There is a long piece in The Guardian’s on-line publication (interestingly enough sponsored by Unilever) on sustainability and spirituality.  Although it is geared toward a corporate audience, it speaks to many of the issues I, and maybe many of you, have been grappling with.

Integrating Despair and Optimism
While the sustainability movement has already taken some giant strides towards understanding the pathways to change, there is one area in particular where a dualistic mindset has many remaining stuck on the horns of a dilemma.
Practitioners talk of experiencing severe mood swings, one day believing the ‘end is nigh,’ and the next believing we can find a way of avoiding environmental and social catastrophe.
This inability to integrate the seemingly opposite forces of despair and optimism is sapping the energy of many and creating confusion about how to encourage behaviour change in others. Some say we need to tell people the truth about the destruction we are wreaking, while others say this will turn people away and the answer is to be positive and make sustainability fun.
To be truly effective, we need to find a path that integrates the two and to recognise that western society has been naively built on the avoidance of pain and suffering. Continue reading


Organic Farming Cont’d.

Here’s one more story and then I’ll let  it go for today.  This piece from PR Web relates a discussion held by impact investor and advocate of sustainable agriculture, Philippe van den Bossche, on the benefits of Mzee Benson Kinyua’s organic farming practices.

According to a July 25, 2013 article published on People’s Daily Online, entitled, “Feeding Kenya through organic farming,” Mzee Benson Kinyua, a local farmer in Rongai, Nakuru country in western Kenya, strategically selected his farm’s location to be covered by trees, away from the sun’s heat. He explains it was part of a conscious plan. “I depend solely on the environment for food, and so I have to protect it.” Kinyua practices organic farming, relying on “simple, low-cost, environmentally friendly agricultural techniques.” Continue reading

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Sunday Prayer

Krishna Awakes

Krishna awake, for the day has dawned:
large, deep and lotus-like,
your eyes are as in the love-shaped lake
a pair of swans even a million Kamadevas cannot vie
with the bewitching beauty of your face;
the sun rises in the east,
a crimson ball the night is going
and the moonlight pales
the lamps turn dim
and the stars fade out
as though the bright radiance of wisdom’s rays
dispels the pleasures that the senses tire,
and the light of hope chases away
the murky darkness of despair and doubt.

Listen, the birds sing
aloud with glee O sweet child,
life of my life,
my sole wealth,
O darling boy,
bards and minstrels
sing your praises,
saying ‘victory! victory!’

Clusters of lotuses burst into bloom
the bumblebees humming with sweet sound
leave the lotuses;
as though the devout renouncing worldly ties,
in your love drowned
chant your name as they go about.

Hearing his mother’s words with love
drenched the Lord of Mercy arose from his bed;
the world’s woes vanished,
maya’s net was rent.

Says Suradasa,
‘Seeing his lotus face delusion fled;
all doubts and dualities were destroyed and I found in Govinda eternal joy.

Sant Surdas