Spirituality Archives - Hooray Living / Spirituality Archives - Hooray Living

HW 007: Winter Weeps

What part does grieving play in the winters we all face?


What will bring us through tough times?  Listen in as Lee Ann reflects upon the power of our grief.


…And drop Lee Ann a line via email, sky-writing or pigeon carrier!  She’d love to hear from you…and as you’ll hear in this episode, she’s sending cards and notes to listeners who just need a bit of love, cheer and/or pick-me-up.  Nothing better than finding some love in your mail box (not your email in box!)…Just don’t forget to leave your mailing address or the address of someone you care about who needs a little surprise.  You can email Lee Ann at:  leeann@hoorayliving.com.


Resources/Links referenced in today’s podcast:


Mary Oliver — (American poet, born 1935)  The poem I read on the podcast is called, “Starlings in Winter” and can be found in her book, Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays (Beacon Press 2003). Another couple of recommendations include one of her more recent collections,  Felicity: Poems (Penquin Press 2015) and, as a devoted dog lover, her book Dog Songs: Poems (Penguin Press 2013).  I particularly enjoy the poems in Felicity because they are about love. Yes, love as the headlong rush into life each day. She grabs you by the shirt collar and points to the birds, furry four-legged creatures, the sky and the mangroves, exclaiming “look, listen and love!”  Pick up any of Ms. Oliver’s poetry and you will get a dose of nature surely capable of healing any woes.


Leo Tolstoy — (Russian writer, 1828-1910)  Tolstoy wrote the acclaimed novels War and Peace, Anna Karenina and The Death of Ivan Ilyich, and still ranks among the world’s top writers.  Here’s an interesting tidbit you may not know…Did you know that Leo Tolstoy’s ideas of nonviolent resistance to evil influenced Mahatma Gandhi?  Indeed!  He was deeply spiritual.


Fyodor Dostoevsky — (Russian writer, 1821-1881)  Dostoevsky’s great novels include,  Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov and The Idiot.

More quotes from this most influential author:

“What is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love.”

“Love is such a priceless treasure that you can buy the whole world with it, and redeem not only your own but other people’s sins. Go, and do not be afraid.”

HW 006: Be a Groupie

“After all, what are any of us after but the conviction of belonging?”–Wallace Stegner


Times are such that we need people, purpose and love more than we need perfect.  Particularly in tough times…Join Lee Ann as she continues the series “Hooray in Tough Times.”  Today, it’s all about “being a groupie.”  Find out what that means for you!


Links, Suggestions and Resources mentioned in today’s podcast:


Wallace Stegner, On Teaching and Writing Fiction – Wallace Earle Stegner (February 18, 1909 – April 13, 1993) was an American novelist, short story writer, environmentalist, and historian, often called “The Dean of Western Writers”. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1972 and the U.S. National Book Award in 1977.


Denmark — the Happiest People in the World – a link to the New York Times article by Sewell Chan.


United Church of Christ – The United Church of Christ, or simply the UCC are progressive Christian churches offering an extravagant welcome to all people where the work of the church is to change lives, individually, systematically and globally through a democratic structure.  They believe that God is still speaking and is not fixed by outdated notions, nor thinking that excludes Science.  Instead, they embrace the whole of creation, and thus are bold in their work for social and environmental justice.

Unitarian Universalist Church – Unitarian Universalism is a theologically diverse religion that encourages people to seek their own spiritual path. UUs are unified by their shared search for spiritual growth. As such, UU congregations include many agnostics, theists, and atheists among their membership. The roots of UU are in liberal Christianity, specifically Unitarianism and Universalism. Unitarian Universalists state that from these traditions come a deep regard for intellectual freedom and inclusive love. Congregations and members seek inspiration and derive insight from all major world religions.

Episcopal Church – The Episcopal Church is a liberal, progressive Christian denomination that is diverse in its understanding of the Gospel–so you will find all manner of beliefs held by the faithful, everything from radical liberation feminist theology to the staunchly conservative flavor of theology.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) – CAIR is a grassroots civil rights and advocacy group. It is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties organization, with regional offices nationwide. CAIR’s mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign – Shoulder-to-Shoulder is an interfaith organization dedicated to ending anti-Muslim sentiment by strengthening the voice of freedom and peace. Founded in November 2010 by over 20 national religious groups, Shoulder-to-Shoulder works not only on a national level, but offers strategies and support to local and regional efforts to address anti-Muslim sentiment and seeks to spread the word abroad.

Network for Spiritual Progressives – The Network of Spiritual Progressives welcomes secular humanists, atheists and people who are “spiritual but not religious” as well as people from every religious community who share the values of love, generosity, creativity, wonder and a commitment to respect one another. Spirituality is personal but not a private matter; it is about how we treat each other and how we live our lives.

Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) –  The RAC educates and mobilizes the Reform Jewish community on legislative and social concerns, advocating on more than 70 different issues, including economic justice, civil rights, religious liberty, Israel and more. The RAC’s advocacy work is completely non-partisan and pursues public policies that reflect the Jewish values of social justice that form the core of their mandate.

Reform Judaism – The Union for Reform Judaism leads the largest Jewish movement in North America providing vision and voice to build strong communities that, together, transform the way people connect to Judaism and change the world.

Reconstructionist Judaism – The Reconstructionist Jewish community is an egalitarian, inclusive and progressive movement founded by Rabbi Mordecai M. Kaplan, who viewed Judaism as the evolving religious civilization of the Jewish people. Each generation is responsible for guiding that evolution in order to meet the needs of contemporary Jews. Kaplan promoted democracy in the synagogue community and respect for the religious opinions of individuals.

Hindu American Foundation (HAF) – HAF is an advocacy organization for the Hindu American community. The Foundation educates the public about Hinduism, speaks out about issues affecting Hindus worldwide, and builds bridges with institutions and individuals whose work aligns with HAF’s objectives. HAF focuses on the areas of education, policy, and community building and works on a range of issues from an accurate understanding of Hinduism, civil and human rights, and addressing contemporary problems by applying Hindu philosophy. Through its advocacy efforts, HAF also seeks to cultivate leaders and empower future generations of Hindu Americans.

American Friends Service Committee (Quaker) – AFSC is a Quaker organization devoted to service, development, and peace programs throughout the world. AFSC’s work is based on the belief in the worth of every person, and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.

SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice) – SURJ is a national network of groups and individuals organizing White people for racial justice. Through community organizing, mobilizing, and education, SURJ moves White people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice with passion and accountability. SURJ works to connect people across the country while supporting and collaborating with local and national racial justice organizing efforts. SURJ provides a space to build relationships, skills and political analysis to act for change.

Black Lives Matter – Black Lives Matter founded by Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza, is a chapter-based national organization working for the validity of Black life. The people involved with BLM are working to (re)build the Black liberation movement.

Moral Mondays/Moral Revival – The Revival is co-led by the Rev. Dr. James A Forbes Jr. and the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II. “The Revival: Time for a Moral Revolution of Values” is a national, multi-state tour to redefine morality in American politics. The tour includes over 50 events led by national and local faith leaders in over 20 states. The Revival is pushing forth a broad social justice agenda that centers on five key issues areas: the economic liberation of all people; access to quality education for every child; healthcare access for all; criminal justice reform; and ensuring historically marginalized communities have equal protection under the law.

Buddhism is so diverse in the U.S. and around the world, we didn’t want to publish information that we could not personally back up.  So please do your own online search for Buddhist communities.

Our list of religious/spiritual/social justice organizations is certainly not exhaustive—simply a starting point.  If you have any organizations, faith communities or other information that might be helpful to our podcast listeners, please email me at leeann@hoorayliving.com and I will do my best to share more broadly.


and…in case you haven’t gotten Lee Ann’s books, you can find them here:

You Are All That: Creating a Great Life with Affirmations

Hooray for You: 365 Get-Up-and-Go-Go Quotes for Your Year


Full Disclosure Alert!  When you purchase books using Hooray Weekly’s link (to Amazon), a tiny pittance of the price comes back to support the podcast.  So thank you very much for any and all your support!



HW 005: Belief

HW 005: Belief

be·lief  (bəˈlēf/)  noun — 2. trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something.


Friends, today’s episode is called “Belief”.  This is the tie-a-knot-and-hang-on episode.  When all is said, done and practiced in difficult times—no matter what our strategies for getting through—there is a point when none of these strategies matter at all.  Random acts of kindness, meditation/being still, keep-on-keeping-on action are emphasized because these are things that we can DO.

But today, we consider the foundation…the stuff that is behind the curtain.  What is there when you pull everything away and look?  What keeps you going when nothing seems to be working, when everything has gone wrong?


On June 17th, 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina, a white supremacist and terrorist entered a bible study at Mother Emanuel and was welcomed with open arms by a black faith community.  But the surreal happened…The visitor pulled a gun and ended their precious, open and welcoming lives with hatred and bullets.

When asked how the people of Mother Emanuel AME have made it through the murders of 9 of their beloved community, the Reverend Waltrina Middleton, cousin of one of the dead spoke about how one goes on.  She said, “because we live in God, I can live into forgiveness.”  Forgiveness and mercy has been a key to many in the black community when facing grief and the constant beat of tyranny and oppression.


In September 1942, an Austrian doctor named Viktor Frankl was enslaved along with his wife and parents in Auschwitz a Nazi camp.  Three of the family were sent to their deaths, while Viktor was marched to another camp where he clung to life until the camp was liberated. Other than a sister, his entire family was wiped out.

As he set about shoring up his fragments, Frankl turned his study to the question “What allows a person who has been stripped of everything to hold on?” His book Man’s Search for Meaning came from that question.

His primary interest was in the prisoners who, in spite of everything, “walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread…they offer[ed] sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”


In both of these true stories, it is evident that the people’s core beliefs are what frees them.


I contend that there is a guiding principle for your life.  I personally cannot know what that is for each of you.  But my experience with many faith traditions, including those who call themselves “nones” with “no faith”, and those who claim Science as their bottom line—ALL of us have something that we know to be true.  It’s a knowing, it’s what you hold in your core, your belly…Science believes that there are organizing principles that cannot be rationally defied, everything can be figured out eventually.  Facts govern.  “Nones” might have as a grounding tenet “that all is basically good or can be made good” or any number of ideas.  Muslims may have as their guiding principle that the idol of the self needs to submit to Allah and peace is yours.  Jews tell a narrative of story and law that to walk humbly with thy God and to repair the world is redemption in this world.  Christians give the most credence and ink to their relationship with Jesus and to the orthodoxy of right thought.  This is where the notion if I believe rightly then I am saved or redeemed.


Buddhism has at its core the path to the elimination of suffering, that human beings can solve human problems on their own.  Buddha was not terribly concerned with the questions about eternalness or who God was.  The story he came up with to answer those questions was:  “if you were shot with an arrow, would you waste time and breath asking who shot the arrow, what she looked like and why it was shot?  Or would you just pull out the arrow?”


What I’m trying to say is that no matter what faith tradition or non-faith tradition we come from, there are those ideas we fall back on, hold onto when everything else is falling apart.  We hold these truths like we do bread and water when hungry and thirsty.


And what do they do for us?  These principles, these bottom lines?


Well, I would say that what we consistently tell ourselves, what we believe to be true can either carry us through choppy waters or can sink us.  So we better have some idea what makes up our foundation.


Personally, my belief or beliefs about God, the world, myself within life, even life itself appears to have shifted and changed over the course of my life.  Yes, I was reared in the Presbyterian faith and dabbled in the Baptist watering holes, but then moved to Catholicism and the Episcopal Church.  Finally, I was ordained in the United Church of Christ, even as I was looking at the Unitarians and Buddhists.  Further studies in Buddhism, Hinduism, New Thought, A Course in Miracles and Judaism (after many years of struggling with the brutal history of Christianity) brought me to a crisis of faith as it were.  I converted to Judaism which left the door open for me to further my journey and to consider the non-duality that Ramana Maharshi taught.  So, friends, I’m always in the search for truth, small t and big T.


But, BUT…while these traditions are wildly different in practice…I always come back to this statement, this truth:  The only thing that is real and true is LOVE.  Love always has been, love always will be.  Love–That which doesn’t change in our souls, in our center.  That which is constant.  That which simply is.  That “is-ness” is who I am.  It cannot be destroyed.  It cannot be damaged.  It cannot stop or end.


So when times are tough, I remember, I go back to, I sit solidly upon the thought that the only thing that is real and true is Love.  That is what is real.  That is what is always here with me no matter what.  Everything else is delusion appearing real.


The truth, the mystery behind the insanity of governments & their actors, the truth behind the dying loved one, the truth behind the perception of failure, the truth behind the discriminating acts and hatefulness, the truth behind any problem I have is that love is real.  Love is here.  I need to be open to it and see it.


So the question I have for you is simple (and hard) but will get you through…


What do you believe?  What beliefs do you hold onto when life seems to be swirling out of control around you?  What is the truth that is true for you no matter what the circumstance?  What keeps your center in place?  What holds you when you’ve let go?  What is the knot at the end of your proverbial rope?


Are you like Reverend Middleton who believes that forgiveness is central to surviving this life?  Are you more like Vickor Frankl who shows that our thoughts are our true freedom?


Think about what your beliefs the next few days.  And test them.  Ask Is this the kind of belief that will see me through tough times?

It’s important to know what that knot is at the end of your proverbial rope.  It’s at this point we know that we have a floor on which to stand, to act, to move, to be our fullest and best selves in the world.


Before you go today, please head over to rate this podcast on iTunes.  And if you find Hooray Weekly helpful, I hope you’ll share it with friends.

Okay, dear ones, may you have a beautiful week ahead.  Know that I love you.  I really, really love you.

Here are some of the resources and links to things I mentioned in podcast:

Frankl, Viktor, Man’s Search for Meaning.

Rev. Waltrina Middleton, UCC Minister for Youth Advocacy and Leadership Formation

700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland, Ohio  44115

Beliefnet.com–an online starting point for searching various beliefs/traditions


and…in case you haven’t gotten Lee Ann’s books, you can find them here:

You Are All That: Creating a Great Life with Affirmations

Hooray for You: 365 Get-Up-and-Go-Go Quotes for Your Year


The books are linked to Amazon’s bookstore.  Full Disclosure Alert!  When you purchase books using Hooray Weekly’s link, a tiny pittance of the price comes back to support the podcast.  So thank you very much for any and all your support!



HW 003:  Finding Stillness

“Be still; stillness reveals the secrets of eternity.” –Lao Tzu


Welcome to the 3rd episode of Hooray Weekly!  So glad that you are here!


Today, I discuss the importance of stillness in our busy, frenetic and fear-filled world.  If you want to find your Hooray in tough times, it is a necessary component for your days.  Listen in to the podcast for some love, encouragement and a couple of meditation/stillness techniques.  Here are two of the practices I mention in this week’s episode.

2 Easy-Breezy Practices for Stillness

  1.  Passage or Verse Meditation–The mind is a funny thing. It doesn’t like to be quiet and shushed.  So why fight it?  This type of meditation is easy.  Get comfortable in a chair or on the floor with your back erect, shoulders down  and away from your ears, eyes closed, arms relaxed with hands in your lap and take some loving belly breaths.  (I go into detail on the podcast for both these meditation practices, so I’m keeping the words simple and short here, okay?)  Next, think of a piece of Scripture or line of a poem or affirmation.  Spend the next 5 to 30 minutes letting the words of whatever you have chosen to come to you again and again in your mind without effort.  I use the line from Psalms: “Be still, and know that I am God.”  I actually repeat the phrase in my mind 5-10 times, then shorten the phrase to “Be still, and know that I AM…”  Again, I repeat comfortable with plenty of silence between the repetitions.  Then I shorten the phrase again, “Be still and know…”  You get the picture.  Next, “Be still…” (5-10 times with more silence).  Finally, I end with “Be…be…be…”  My mind is soft and gentle since these are words that I know by heart.  There is no forcing to focus my mind or to rid it of unwanted monkey mind.  The unwanted stuff will be there, but with less vehemence.  After moving through the passage, I take some deep breaths, smile inwardly, and come out of the stillness slowly.
  2.  Chanting the Name of God (or your dog for that matter)–This practice is similar to the one above, except that one focuses on the Name of God or a blessing.  Some examples include, Om Shanti Shanti, Heavenly Father (or Mother), Peace, Holy Spirit, Allah, Lord Jesus, Krishna, Illumined One, Great Spirit or Light.  The words are endless.  Just make sure that it is comfortable for you.

And for meditation inspiration, these are the four books I turn to regularly:

Easwaran, Eknath, God Makes the Rivers to Flow: Selections from the Sacred Literature of the World (2009).

Ladinsky, Daniel, Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West (2002).

Mitchell, Stephen (translation), Tao Te Ching (1988).

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (adapted by Moshe Mykoff & S. C. Mizrahi with the Breslov Research Institute), The Gentle Weapon: Prayers for Everyday and Not-So-Everyday Moments (2002).


The books are linked to Amazon’s bookstore.  Full Disclosure Alert!  When you purchase books using Hooray Weekly’s link, a tiny pittance of the price comes back to support the podcast.  So thank you very much for any and all your support!






Turbo “Today” for 2017

“The same wind blows on us all. The difference is the set of the sail.”–Jim Rohn


You’ve seen hundreds of articles in your Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter news feeds about all that you need to do to kick-start your 2017. You’ve read all the grab-you-by-the-shoulders headlines: “Why New Years Goals Don’t Work,” “21 Ways to Make Your Life Infinitely Better in 2017,” “5 Tips to Make You a Better Investor in 2017,” “3 Simple Steps to Building Consistency,” “Your Successful 2017 in 7 Easy Moves,” “Habits to Help You in the New Year”…Ugh, the list is endless! And what’s worse, we actually read this stuff and think, “Well that person must know something I don’t…” Then you read the articles and realize on second thought, “They don’t know anything more than I do!  It’s just more (can I say this to you?…)…CRAP!”

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Life Supports Your Path

As Simple as Trusting ~

With regularity I drove my step kids to school and to synagogue.  We’d start at home, follow the same routes, and end up at our destination like clockwork.  During our drives, both of the children were almost always engrossed in whatever it was they were doing:  daydreaming, storytelling, singing or playing with action figures.  On a couple of occasions, I asked the children if they knew how to get to school, synagogue or home if I didn’t drive them.  Their blank stares looked both unknowing and scared, as if Libi (their affectionate term for me) was about to dump them by the side of the road and say, “walk!”

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Darkness Teaches Lessons that Light Cannot

New Beginnings Start in the Dark


Darkness embraced me with a bear hug on two separate and distinct occasions upon my recent return from my honeymoon. (Of course, as I write this blog, fewer and fewer hours of daylight have been apportioned to this winter season. So darkness, both figuratively and metaphorically, is part of our lives.) The kind of darkness of which I write was nearly total—life and brightness choked off.

The first embrace was fierce and so complete I dropped to my knees—a quivering mess if there ever was one. I shook with sobs. My face contorted and wet. I made it to the shower for a full-on sob that could awaken the dead. The shower sounds muffle the unwieldy tears.

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