Saturday, May 31, 2008


God speaks to us in many ways. One of the ways I frequently hear God’s voice is through books. This morning I was blessed by my reading of One Day My Soul Just Opened Up by Iyanla Vanzant, which offers a different spiritual principle to work with each morning and evening for 40 days. I’d like to share with you excerpts from today’s chapter, which deals with PATIENCE.

Working Definition: Demonstration of steadfastness and assurance. . . It is stability. A mental attitude of calm and poise. The foundation of faith.

“You must not allow the wind to rattle your core. A hard-blowing wind will rip the leaves from the branches. It will cause the weak limbs of a tree to snap. It may even cause some pretty large branches to snap off. A wind, however, cannot affect the core, the inner essence of a sturdy tree. A strong wind cannot disturb the dark, peaceful calm at the bottom of the ocean. . . When a gusty wind blows through your life, you must retreat to your core. You must not break. You must have faith and be patient.

“Spirit and things of a spiritual nature do not work on your schedule. The fact that you have a schedule, the fact that you want certain things to occur, in a certain way, at a certain time, is an indication that you believe you are in control, that you believe the spirit of life must answer to you. You are not in control! You are in a process of spiritual unfolding, and in that process, whether you like it or not, spirit will use every experience possible to ensure that your development is on schedule -- a spiritual schedule. You cannot watch the clock or the calendar. You must watch your heart, know the truth, and be patient with your unfolding process.

“Patience is a demonstration of your willingness to surrender total and complete control to the wisdom of God. It is the ability to discern the unfolding of a goal in the midst of a windstorm. It is knowing that your efforts are paying off even when there is no tangible evidence to support that belief. Patience is being able to retreat to your core when you are being challenged and pull up everything in your arsenal of truth that will glorify the presence of the Divine in your being. Patience is knowing that you have done your best, and that what will be on the test is what you already know.”

Morning PATIENCE Affirmation

I move in time according to divine order.
I am where I need to be, when I need to be there, doing what I need to do, when I need to be doing it.
The divine order of divine time guides my steps, my manner, and my life.
I move in time according to divine order.
I move in time according to divine order.
I move in time according to divine order.
For this I am so grateful!
And So It Is!

Let Me Remember . . .

Trust, truth, and faith are the foundation of patience.

For everything there is a season.

I am not in control.

A strong wind cannot disturb my core.

Divine time and divine order are guarantees of my divine good.

There is more than I can see going on.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Mission and the Greatness of Serving

“God has created me to do him some definite service; he has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission -- I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for his purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his -- if, indeed, I fail, he can raise another, as he could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do his work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep his commandments and serve him in my calling.

“Therefore I will trust him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain; he may prolong my life, he may shorten it; he knows what he is about; he may take away my friends, he may throw me among strangers, he may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me -- still he knows what he is about.”

--Venerable John Henry Newman
(Cardinal Newman, +1890, established the Oratory in Birmingham, England, and was a preacher of great eloquence.)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Break Your Worry Habit

by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale

Worry is a mental habit taken on from others. You were not born with it, you acquired it. Because you can change any habit, you can cast out worry from your mind. Worry wastes energy. The time to stop worrying is today.  So, practice the following formula and give your personal worries the greatest blow they ever received.

1. Know that worry is a habit; you have practiced worrying for so long it has become a mind-set.

2. Worry is man's greatest plague. People say "I'm sick from worry" and then laughingly add, "not really sick, of course." But they can be, and often are, actually ill from worry.

3. Worries fall into three categories (according to a study of case histories by a group of physicians who established worry as the greatest cause of illness), 40% of your worries are about the past; 50% about the future; 10% about present matters.

4. To be rid of past mistakes, practice the art of forgetting, never look back. Every morning and every evening, repeat one of the greatest aids to mental health: "Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press forward" (Philippians 3:13-14, paraphrased). Repeat that now three times, slowly.

5. Meditate on a wise statement by William James, the great psychologist: "The essence of genius is to know what to overlook."

6. Affirm faith in the future. Remind yourself that despite all the troubles and difficulties that are with us, God is also with us.  He is not likely to depart from anyone who trusts Him.

7. Practice the art of imperturbability. Whatever the stress, affirm, "God is keeping me calm and peaceful." Worry rolls off the imperturbable mind like water off a duck's back.

8. Empty your mind by saying, "I am now emptying my mind of all anxiety, fear, insecurity." Imaginatively do this now. Think of yourself as reaching into your mind and one by one removing the worries. A child has an imaginative skill beyond that of adults. A hurt can be kissed away.  It works because he believes that is the end of it and so it proves to be.  Jesus says for you to become "as a little child."

9. Fill your mind. Say, "God is now filling my mind with peace, with courage and with calm assurance."

10. Practice God's presence, saying, "God is with me now. God is my constant companion. God will never leave me." The practice of the presence of God, the companionship of Christ is a shield against worry. Would you worry if He were actually with you? There is no if about it. He said He would be, and so He is.

The above article is an excerpt from the Peale Center for Christian Living's booklet, "How to Break the Worry Habit". 

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A new Nancy LaMott CD

I never expected to be so fortunate, to again have a shimmering new Nancy LaMott CD, not to mention a two-disk one of 21 previously unreleased songs. Nancy, my favorite cabaret singer, died of uterine cancer in 1995 when she was 43. Her death was a huge loss to lovers of the American songbook everywhere because nobody, nobody, sang it better.

Now, in addition to the DVD of Nancy’s performances that I reviewed April 25, we are gifted with this recording of songs mostly done live on radio or in one take in a studio with her renowned accompanist/arranger Christopher Marlowe. The quality is excellent; if she had gone into the studio last year and intentionally recorded all these songs together for a new CD it couldn’t be better. Her voice has the same bewitching power it always had, and the musical accompaniment is sublime.

In the CD’s liner notes, its producer, songwriter David Friedman, explains how the compilation came to be. After Nancy’s death the radio show host Jonathan Schwartz used to play unreleased recordings Nancy had given him as gifts. Every time he did he was flooded with calls from people wanting to know what CD they were on and how they could get a copy. This interest in Nancy’s compelling singing continued, so several years ago Friedman and others decided to bring those unreleased songs together into a new recording.

The challenge, Friedman writes, was to get them all to play evenly, since they had been done in a variety of locations and with different kinds of equipment of varying quality, “without losing the dynamic range that was the trademark of Nancy’s live performances.” In every case they tried to leave the songs as they were originally sung, “so with the exception of raising and lowering volumes and a few small nips and tucks, all these performances are untouched. The result is an intimate, natural look at these songs just as Nancy sang them. No frills, no tricks, just Nancy.”

Most of the selections were familiar to me, but two quite interesting ones I had never heard. One, “Killing Time,” by Jule Styne and Carolyn Leigh, is a portrait of lost love and regret -- “Filling spaces./ Killing time./ Making small talk,/faking pleasure,/killing time./ Punching pillows,/lunching late/and missing you.” The other, “On My Way to You,” by Michel LeGrand and Alan and Marilyn Bergman, is a triumph of love found -- at last. It’s about a woman reflecting on her journey toward true love, and Nancy sings it with such feeling -- “. . .the smiles I never answered,/doors perhaps I should have opened,/songs forgotten in the morning./ I relive the roles I played,/the tears I have have squandered./ The many pipers I have paid/along the roads I’ve wandered./ Yet all the time I knew it,/ love was somewhere out there waiting,/ though I may regret a kiss or two./ If I had changed a single day,/ what went amiss or went astray,/ I may have never found my way to you.”

The most heartbreaking number, both in terms of the words and how Nancy sings them, is Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers’ “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was.” Here is a song about someone who realizes finally what she has, the love she had always sought throughout a life that “was no prize”. “I wanted love/ here it was/shining out of your eyes.” And with such feeling she sings softly and knowingly at the end, “and I know what time it is now.” It was the last song Nancy ever sang, recorded live at the Museum of Broadcasting Dec. 9, 1995. She died nine days later.

Nothing about this recording is depressing, though. Even with that last song, when Nancy knew she was dying, she sings without self-pity, giving her soul to the song she was singing, just as she always did. She is alive through this recording, and we are so blessed to have her with us again.

As Schwartz says in the liner notes, he recognized Nancy’s specialness right from the start. “This tiny figure of magic would become, I knew, the voice of its time. I think of Nancy every day. This CD will compel you to regard her as a singular figure, alone on the stage, without pretension. The light in her hair, and in her voice.”

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Bully Pulpit

I spent Saturday afternoon with Teddy Roosevelt. At least it seemed that way with Michael O. Smith's spirited portrayal of the former president in the new Off-Broadway play, THE BULLY PULPIT. I felt I was having coffee with him, listening to the stories of his fascinating life, comfortably nestled in the wood-paneled study scenic designer Charles Corcoran has created so perfectly on the stage of the Beckett Theatre.

I’m sure Smith is a good actor any time -- his credits are impressive -- but what makes this portrayal so strong certainly must be his passion for the role; Smith is the playwright as well as sole member of the cast. His exploration into the life of the 26th president of the United States began more than 15 years ago in a class at this church that catered to individuals involved in the media.  According to press notes, the class was told to choose an American hero and create a presentation about that person’s ethics.  Not only did Smith discover Roosevelt's unyielding ethics, but also found his passions, his failures and the humor with which he lived his whole life. What started out as 10-minute presentation is Los Angeles in the early 1990s has evolved into a delightful two-act production.  

With an amazing physical likeness to Roosevelt, Smith has developed a play that shows all facets of the man who is known as a President, but who was also a rancher, writer, sportsman, environmentalist and adventurer.  Taking place in 1918 on his 60th birthday, surrounded by mementos of his adventures, Roosevelt reexamines the events of his colorful life from his humorous and characteristically blunt perspective.

In a program note, Smith says he wanted to emphasize the “fun” he discovered in the man, and he has done that well, starting by having Roosevelt quote an old saying about politicians: “Politicians and diapers should be changed frequently, and many times for the same reason.” With that he had the audience in the palm of his hand, and he kept us there throughout the show. Our visit with the president was two hours. I would gladly have stayed longer.

THE BULLY PULPIT premiered at The Florida Playwrights Festival at Florida’s Studio Theatre in 2004 and has played theaters throughout the country. Directed by Byam Stevens, it runs through June 29 at The Samuel Beckett Theatre, 410 W. 42nd St. on Theatre Row. Tickets may be purchased by calling (212) 279-4200, or by visiting

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Course in Miracles

“The ‘little I’ seeks to enhance itself by external approval, external possessions and external ‘love.’ The Self that God created needs nothing. It is forever complete, safe, loved and loving. . .

“ Perception sees through the body’s eyes and hears through the body’s ears. . . The opposite of hearing through the body’s ears is communication through the Voice for God, the Holy Spirit, which abides in each of us. His voice seems distant and difficult to hear because the ego, which speaks for the little, separated self, seems to be much louder. This is actually reversed. The Holy Spirit speaks with unmistakable clarity and overwhelming appeal. . .

“A miracle is never lost. It may touch many people you have not even met, and produce undreamed of changes in situations of which you are not even aware. . .

“You are the work of God, and His work is wholly lovable and wholly loving. . .

“Miracles arise from a mind that is ready for them. . .

“All real pleasure comes from doing God’s Will. This is because not doing it is a denial of Self. . .

“This is a course in mind-training. . . Healing is of God in the end. . .

“in reality you are perfectly unaffected by all expressions of lack of love. . . Peace is an attribute in you. You cannot find it outside. . . This peace is totally incapable of being shaken by errors of any kind. It denies the ability of anything not of God to affect you. . .

“Whenever you are afraid you are deceived, and your mind cannot serve the Holy Spirit. This starves you by denying you your daily bread. . . All healing is essentially the release from fear. . .

“Charity is a way of looking at another as if he had already gone far beyond his actual accomplishments in time. . . It must be understood, however, that whenever you offer a miracle to another, you are shortening the suffering of both of you. This corrects retroactively as well as progressively. . .

“The truth is that you are responsible for what you think, because it is only at this level that you can exercise choice. What you do comes from what you think. . .

“There is no strain in doing God’s Will as soon as you recognize that it is also your own. . .

“The mind is very powerful, and never loses its creative force. It never sleeps. Every instant it is creating. It is hard to recognize that thought and belief combine into a powerful surge that can literally move mountains. . . There are no idle thoughts. All thinking produces form at some level. . .

“Whenever light enters darkness, the darkness is abolished. What you believe is true for you. . .

“The resurrection demonstrated that nothing can destroy truth. Good can withstand any form of evil, as light abolishes forms of darkness. . .

“All your difficulties stem from the fact that you do not recognize yourself, your brother or God. . . Questioning illusions is the first step in undoing them. . .

“The choice to judge rather than to know is the cause of the loss of peace. . . You have no idea of the tremendous release and deep peace that comes from meeting yourself and your brothers totally without judgment.”

--from A Course in Miracles

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A South Pacific sermon

A Sermon for Easter Six (RCL-A)
27 April 2008
The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, New York
Delivered by the Rev. Canon Tom Miller

I am reminded of the scene in “The Graduate” when a businessman confronts Dustin Hoffman at a cocktail party and says he has only one word of advice for the young man starting out in life: Plastics. Well, today I have two words: South. Pacific. To be specific, South Pacific, the remarkably rich revival of the Rogers and Hammerstein classic, which I attended on Wednesday night.

Well, who would have guessed? In wondering why it hadn’t been revived before, some critics speculated that it might be too dated, too rooted in its time, too politically naïve, or that the plot might be too soppy. Well, the truth is, South Pacific is one of the most up-to-date and sophisticated musicals in New York, smart without cynicism; romantic without too much sentimentality, and politically relevant without partisanship. It’s taken me a lifetime to catch up with South Pacific. Truly: South Pacific opened on Broadway just a few months before I made my first appearance in the bassinette. I’d like to think it was a good year! But South Pacific went its way, and I went mine. But am I ever glad I finally caught up with it.

Here’s the thing I found so wonderful about this theatre piece: It is not afraid to look at human weakness and our struggle with issues of war, racism, class prejudice, brutality, and the troubled affairs of the heart. And it does so with humor as well as heart break, a fair amount of gorgeous song and emotional honesty, and always with the confidence that the human spirit can be courageous when it needs to be – or wants to be -- and that people can accomplish more by pulling together rather than by pulling apart. In other words, it’s not just optimistic. It’s hopeful.

Maybe that’s why some thought the material might be dated. We live today with all the same issues, and yet the prevailing mood is not particularly hopeful, but too often marked by fear and anxiety, which lead to hatred and violence; meanness at home and arrogance abroad. Our spirits seem vulnerable and too easily discounted amidst the harsh realities of our times. How thrilling it is, then, to once again see the world through the eyes of our better natures, to risk a little cockeyed optimism – not to mention that little thing called hope -- in the face of danger and paralyzing uncertainty. In that sense there is a nostalgic quality to this evening in the theatre, but it is a challenging and encouraging nostalgia that doesn’t simply summon up fond memories of a long departed time, but prompts a desire to regain the kind of hope that fills the stage of the Vivian Beaumont Theatre.

Suddenly we feel as if we might know deep down inside what the Letter of Peter challenges us to do: To claim and account for the hope that is in us. Rodgers and Hammerstein presumably account for the hope that was in them; James Michener accounts for the hope he witnessed in the Solomon Islands during World War II. And that hope is that we really are meant to love one another and to let love transform our prejudices, divisions, and to release the hope that is indeed within each one of us.

It’s been reported that when James Michener attempted to write about his experiences in the South Pacific, he tried to write a factual account of events and the details of the military operations, but that he kept being drawn back to the people, some seemingly very ordinary, some quite eccentric, some heroic, and yet everyone of them in their ways extraordinary, and so he ended up giving us the character portraits that make up the story of his book and the subsequent musical version. Perhaps that’s why we are inclined to trust the story. We connect on a very personal level and we can feel the truth of the struggle in the story.

I would like to take just three characters from South Pacific to illustrate the power of love – not simply romantic love, but redeeming and transforming love that challenges the received perceptions of our hearts and minds; love that is tested and in the testing found to be more profound, more enduring, stronger than the characters might ever have imagined; a love that frees them – and us – to hope for abundant life lived with integrity and full of grace and truth.

The first character is perhaps the least complicated. Lieutenant Joe Cable is from a prominent Philadelphia family. He’s young, a little full of himself, and ready to do his duty. And then he falls under the spell of Bali H’ai, “your own special island,” as the song has it, and there he meets a young Tonkinese woman with whom he falls in love. After the initial bliss – younger than springtime – the reality hits him. At least he is honest enough to face the difficulties of taking a Polynesian wife back to the Main Line. They would give a dinner party and no one would come, he sadly reminds himself and us. And so he rejects the young woman and is cursed by the girl’s mother, Bloody Mary.

In frustration and shame he sings about how hatred and prejudice are taught to us by our families and our communities. “You have to be taught before it’s too late, Before you are six or seven or eight, To hate all the people your relatives hate . . . ” It’s a humiliating self realization for Lieutenant Cable, and it’s a bracing recognition of truth for us in the audience. As atonement for his suppression of love, Cable goes off to accomplish an impossible mission that helps turn the tide of the war. Unable to love, he is ready to die.

Nellie Forbush is a little more complicated. She has a mother. She has a mother who writes her letters and reminds her of her provincial roots. Nellie is also an optimist in love with life on a grand scale. She’s in love with love itself, a perilous place for the heart to be. As Richard Rodgers wrote with another partner, Lorenz Hart, “Falling in love with love is falling for make believe.” And now, here in the South Pacific, Nellie’s notion of love on a grand scale is challenged by falling in love with the very singular man she keeps telling us is “a wonderful guy,” the French planter Emile de Becque. She overcomes her wariness and her mother’s likely disapproval to let herself think that she might actually marry him. The test of her love comes in the form of two mixed-blood children de Becque has fathered with a Polynesian woman. Knucklehead Nellie, as her friends call her with some justification, discovers how deeply rooted her racial concepts are, so rooted that she cannot overcome them and she ends the relationship. Well, but this is a test of love. The strength of the love she thought she had quenched asserts itself in her lover’s absence. Nellie steps in to help care for the children, discovers that in caring for them she finds she loves them, a focused and intentional love that frees her to love their father.

Emile de Becque is perhaps the most complex and has had a most interesting life. In his youth he killed a man in his village in France. We’re only told that the man was a bully. De Beque escaped to the South Pacific where he sought and found refuge from the brutality of the world. Now the war has come and threatened his sense of safety in isolation, but it has also brought Nellie and he finds, unlike Nellie and Cable, that he cannot, and indeed does not wish to, suppress this powerful love he feels within himself. The depth of his love is revealed when Nellie rejects him: “This nearly was mine.” One dream in his heart, one partner in paradise. And now he finds himself alone and abandoned. The test of his despair drives him to go along on Cable’s dangerous mission.

Without love there is no hope, nothing through which we can encounter the brutalities of life on the planet, short of running away and hiding from the world. Nellie rejects love, Cable finds himself powerless to accept it, and de Becque, now despairing in love, finds himself playing a part in the very brutality he once sought to escape. There may be hope in all this, but only if love prevails.

Now, my purpose here is not simply to give you a review of South Pacific or to encourage you to go to the theatre, though I certainly do. No, my aim is that you might give some thought to St. Peter’s reminder that we are all called to account for the hope that is in us. When he asks us to do that, he’s not suggesting we work up a theological treatise on hope. We are not asked to think about hope, but to live in hope and to proclaim how the love of God has freed us to hope. For God so loved the world . . . that he gave us love and hope in the flesh, in person, in Jesus, who endured the brutality of the world in love and thereby gives us hope.

Each one of us has been freed to love one another, individually, tribally and globally. It’s all that’s asked of us. Jesus left one commandment above all others: Love one another. This is the gift of Jesus Christ, who overcame the brutality of the cross and grave, so that we might love and hope in the power of the Holy Spirit.

There is one more thing I need to say about South Pacific. The name of the island on which Michener served in World War II, the island where the play takes place, is Espiritu Santo. The Holy Spirit. In the end, love and hope are not out there on a lonely island called Bali H’ai. Hope and love are alive in the hearts and minds of all of us who live together and struggle together right here on Espiritu Santo, and not just in 1949, but today in 2008, and indeed, every day of our lives.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


Shows like this are the reason I love theatre so much. What a wonderful way to close the season. Laurence Fishburne is perfect in every way in his portrayal of Thurgood Marshall. I was involved for every one of the 90 minutes, and would have been happy for 90 more.

Playwright George Stevens, Jr. has given us a gift with this script, his first for theatre. (He has written for film and TV.) And director Leonard Foglia makes the most of both actor and play. I left the theatre feeling transformed.

I knew nothing about Justice Marshall’s life except that he was the first African-American appointed to the Supreme Court. Stevens’ script and Fishburne’s portrayal brought his remarkable story to life. Presented as a speech Justice Marshall is delivering at his alma mater, the law school at Howard University, this triumphant journey from a childhood in the back streets of Baltimore to the Supreme Court of the United States is told with passion and much humor. Justice Marshall shares his many adversities, along with his rock-solid conviction that he would overcome them by using the law as “a weapon.” His recounting of the experience of preparing for and arguing the Brown v. The Board of Education case when he was chief counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People case is riveting. I felt a renewed pride in our Constitution and the way the law can work for the good when it is wisely argued.

And I felt blessed to be able to see this show, and to end the season on such a high note. I got home just in time to submit my Drama Desk ballot before the midnight deadline. Now I have a week off before seeing the first show of the 2008-2009 season, which will be another biography, this time of Teddy Roosevelt. If it’s anywhere near as good as Thurgood, the season will be off to a great start.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Ellen Burstyn

This essay by Ellen Burstyn appeared in Guideposts Magazine.

The world we live in, I’ve come to believe, is just a fraction of the universe, the froth atop a wave moving across a vast cosmic sea. So it is no accident that over the years I have been in movies that have had strong mystical themes. The movies have taken on issues that are important to me and shown a powerful dimension to our existence beyond the rational world. But it is off camera where I have had even more powerful glimpses of that other world, experiences that have changed me, shaped me and made me who I am, going all the way back to my earliest memory.

Detroit, 1935: I was two and a half years old and my five-year-old brother, Jack, was in the hospital with double pneumonia and a mastoid infection. I slept on the couch in the living room and my mother sat nearby in her rocking chair knitting and crying, the click-click of the knitting needles and the creak of her chair lulling me to sleep.

One day at breakfast I overheard my mother tell my grandma that there was a bird trapped between the walls. “I can hear it flapping its wings,” she said. That night she rocked faster in the chair, her needles clicking, murmuring, “That poor little bird.” What did it mean? That my brother was struggling like the bird? Then Mother came home from the hospital with the news that Jackie wasn’t going to make it. In desperation she agreed to let the doctors try out a new drug, sulfa. My grandma tucked me in on the couch and my mother took to her rocker and her knitting. I drifted off. Suddenly the chair stopped creaking. I opened my eyes and saw my mother leaning forward. “The flapping has stopped,” she said in a hushed voice. “The bird has found its way free and Jackie will be all right.”

We found out that the sulfa—which is a very similar drug to penicillin—had cured my brother. But my mother knew it without being told.

Six years later I had a similar experience. My mother and I had just come into the house and we went into Jack’s bedroom where my grandfather had recently been staying. No one was there, but I was overcome with an intense odor of flowers. “What’s that smell?” I asked.

“Flowers,” my mother said. At that moment the phone rang. My mother answered it, and learned that my grandfather had just died.

I can’t remember if I heard the wings of the bird flapping but I definitely smelled those flowers. The sign was so strong that I could never ignore one if it came again. And it did years later.

April 4, 1968, my husband, my son and I were going to spend the day at the beach near our home in California. At 8 a.m. the clock radio came on with the full, rich voice of Martin Luther King, Jr., saying, “I am not afraid. For I have been to the mountain and I’ve seen the other side and mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” I sat straight up in bed certain that Dr. King would be killed that day, but unwilling to believe it was possible.

It was a foggy day at the beach. I lay on our blanket reading. Suddenly I got up and said, “We have to go. We have to listen to the radio. Dr. King has been shot.” I was terrified by my words yet, somehow, I knew they were true. We got in our van and I turned on the radio. There was a pause, then the announcer gave the terrible news. We drove home in anguish.

Easter Sunday I was still mourning for Dr. King. To honor him I went to a sunrise service at an African-American church in downtown L.A. The sky was gray when the congregation gathered around a piano in a vacant lot. We swayed to the music as the light began to lift. The tempo quickened and my heart did too, the piano player pounding his heel against the ground. A pair of hands began to clap, then everyone joined in. At once the hot orange ball was peering over the edge of the earth and I thought: The sun is risen. The Son is risen. I felt reassured.

When we made the movie "The Exorcist" we all knew that we were taking on a difficult and controversial subject. The book by William Peter Blatty had been very successful and the idea that evil was a real force in the world was being reconsidered more seriously than ever before. But I don’t think that any of us knew that that would make a difference in shooting the film.

First, my dressing room was robbed. The thief took very little, but it felt as if we were being put on notice. Billy Friedkin, the director, hired a night watchman to watch the production office. Two weeks later the man was killed outside his home. There were other accidents to people working on the movie. Frankly, we were all getting spooked. At one point Billy had every new set blessed by one of the real priests in the film.

The work was grueling, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Finally I took a day off and stayed in bed reading the paper. There was an article on the devil, its appearance in religion, its usage in literature, the fear of it and its reemergence in the public’s consciousness. As I finished the piece a lazy thought strolled across my mind: Wouldn’t it be funny if it turns out that Satan created the world and is more powerful than God? Suddenly a maniacal voice sounded loudly in my head, laughing wildly. It said, That’s the crack in your mind I’ve been waiting to enter. Now I’m inside your head. 

In a panic I leapt out of bed, my heart pounding, and stood barefoot in the middle of the room. I thought of the character in the movie, Father Karras, who jumps out of a window rather than let evil overcome him. This is how he must have felt. I had to take hold of myself, so I sat on the floor, closed my eyes and breathed deeply, flooding my mind with God’s presence. I filled myself with prayer, with love. My heartbeat slowed down. The awful voice went away. I felt protected and safe, reassured again that good is more powerful than evil, but we must always be vigilant against the latter.

That was a big experience of the divine presence, but there have been other, smaller moments of wonder and mystery. There was the time I lost my beloved dog, Bernard. I had raised him from a bottle, and was really the only mother he had. We were living in upstate New York in a house on the Hudson river. I had to go into the city and left Bernard behind with my housekeeper. I returned to discover that he had been missing for three days.

I searched all the nearby animal shelters. Then I called ones that were farther away. None of them had a dog matching Bernard’s description, and I knew that dogs were only kept 10 days. After a week I was beside myself. How, I wondered, how will I find him?

That night I had a powerful dream. I met a lady who had a small brown wiry dog in her arms. She asked me if I wanted him. I said, “No, not yet. I still mean to find Bernard.” I woke up from that dream, knowing for certain that Bernard wasn’t dead. Again I called all of the shelters near my home and added ones within a 20-mile radius. A man then referred me to a kennel in Closter, New Jersey. When I walked in, there was the lady from my dream—with Bernard at her feet! He was so excited when I took the leash that he ran to the car, pulling me over and dragging me through the gravel.

The biggest power in this world is love, and that was something I wanted to communicate in the movie "Resurrection." To create the role of Edna Mae, a faith healer, I worked with a real-life healer named Rosalyn Bruyere. An impressive woman with a pretty face, she joined us on the set as our technical adviser.

Most of the "Resurrection" crew considered the movie’s story and the subject of faith healing to be somewhere close to science fiction.

Then one of the crew guys dropped a lamp on his hand and smashed it pretty badly. He was bleeding profusely and the fleshy part of his thumb and fingers was turning purple. The crowd hovered around him, and someone was getting ready to drive him to the nearest hospital, which was many miles from where we were shooting in rural Texas. Then Rosalyn slipped through the crowd. “Here, let me see it,” she said to him.

She examined his hand, then pressed her fingertips over the wound. Then Rosalyn closed her eyes and prayed. Everyone fell silent. In a few moments, right before our eyes, the swelling began to subside, the color eased back to a normal color and before long, the gash in his hand began to close.

“Look at this!” the guy exclaimed. “It’s unbelievable!”

At the end of "Resurrection" Edna Mae takes over a gas station in the desert. She still has her healing power, but she has relinquished all of the fame, and is healing anonymously all those who are led to her out in the desert. She hangs up a sign at the station that reads, “God is love and versa vice.” That is really the message of the movie. Edna Mae heals by loving, the exact same way Jesus healed.

The world we live in is just a fraction of the universe. God is in the longing, the searching, the seeing, the loving. I have learned that for myself, often in the most wondrous and mysterious ways.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Adding Machine

It was the best of times for musical revivals in this 2007-2008 theatre season, with South Pacific, Gypsy and Sunday in the Park with George being the highlights.

It was the worst of times, though, for new musicals, with Passing Strange, The Little Mermaid, Young Frankenstein and A Catered Affair being the worst of this (or any) season.

And then there’s Adding Machine, a new musical, but with the quality of one of the outstanding revivals. I had put off seeing this show when the press invitation arrived because I wasn’t sure it was worth journeying all the way down to the Minetta Lane for, even though I really like that theatre. Then our Drama Desk nominations were announced and Adding Machine received nine, more than any other show but one. (A Catered Affair received 12, something that is unfathomable to me.)

As often happens during voting season, I encounter some unexpected treasures while doing my duty as a voter. In years past I had avoided Frozen because a play about a child molester and murdered sounded depressing. It wasn’t, largely thanks to Swoosie Kurtz’s moving and often funny portrayal of the mother. Another memorable experience was seeing I Am My Own Wife, which I had skipped because this one-man play about a real man who lived as a woman who would be played by a man portraying all 35 characters sounded just plain too confusing. It wasn’t because actor Jefferson Mays became all the characters, winning for himself a much-deserved Tony.

Now it has happened again, a solid theatrical find at the end of the season. It wasn’t, however, the kind of show that had me dancing and singing my way home. Adding Machine is a dark, expressionistic musical retelling of Elmer Rice’s 1923 play of hopelessness and despair.

The music, by Joshua Schmidt, who also wrote the libretto with Jason Loewith, is almost incidental, although it definitely adds to the theatricality of the evening. What is so compelling, in a depressing way, is Joel Hatch’s portrayal of Mr. Zero, a man who has spent 25 years of his life adding figures in a dimly lit office -- six days a week, with only one week off each year. He likes figures because they don’t ask questions, and they don’t talk back, unlike his wife who drones on and one and belittles him every chance she has.

The breaking point is when Zero’s dismal though predictable life is shattered when he is replaced by an adding machine.

In addition to Hatch, the cast, under the direction of David Cromer, stars Cyrilla Baer as Mrs. Zero, Amy Warren, Joe Farrell, Jeff Still, Adinah Alexander, Niffer Clarke, Roger E. DeWitt and Daniel Marcus. Keith Parham’s lighting should also be noted.

Because this show has received great reviews and numerous nominations from the various theatrical critics’ organizations, it has been extended through the summer at the Minetta Lane Theatre, 18 Minetta Lane, just blocks southwest of N.Y.U. In addition, the recently recorded PS Classics cast album will go on sale exclusively at the theatre and online at on May 20, two weeks ahead of the June 3 street date.

The performance schedule for Adding Machine is Tuesday – Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.  Tickets are $45 - $69.50 and are available by calling the Minetta Lane Theatre box office at 212-420-8000 or through Ticketmaster at 212-307-4100 or by visiting  A limited number of $25 student rush tickets are available in person at the box office on the day of the performance, subject to availability.
For more information, visit

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Dream interpretation

“There are patterns perhaps far more important than the orderly flow of days and years. There is a pattern of meaning that reveals itself to us in its own time and in its own way. This special pattern is one which leads to fulfillment in life -- not only higher states of awareness but also a rich and joyful appreciation of life, oneself and others. . .

“The dream does not end when we wake up and write it down. It is an illustration of something going on within us and to work on interpreting a dream also means a willingness to work on ourselves, the dreamers. . .

“. . . we always have the choice of mentally building or creating a new thought pattern, rather than being controlled by an old one. Many of our dreams point out such opportunities to us.

“. . . during sleep the soul has actual experiences. It is our conscious recall of them, usually brought back in symbolic form, that we label ‘a dream.’

“. . . link dream study to spiritual unfoldment. . . the very purpose for dream study is development -- not just any kind of development, however. Rather the kind we are aiming for is that which leads us toward the higher forces, or the Ideal within us. Another way of saying this is that the way to interpret a dream is to find how it leads you to a deeper experience of the Ideal....

“Could it be that unrecognized figures in our dreams may be the Christ? . . . it may be that we often encounter the Christ in a dream but fail to recall it in the morning. Although not conclusive, one piece of evidence for this is the occurrence of a healing during sleep. . . . the Christ may influence our dreams by affecting the process of what is going on -- as in, for example, an unexpected reconciliation or overcoming of fear or animosity. . . It gives us a way of looking at more ordinary dreams in terms of a contact with His presence. . . . When we can recognize this influence, we discover that the Divine reveals itself frequently to us in the dream state.”

How to Interpret Your Dreams by Mark A. Thurston. Ph.D.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Top Girls

The first act is promising. Too bad the second is dated and the third full of clichés, in this revival of Caryl Churchill’s 1982 play.

Let’s start at the very beginning -- a very good place to start. In the first act, Marlene (Elizabeth Marvel), a 20th century woman, is throwing a party at a London restaurant to celebrate her promotion to managing director of her firm. She’s gathered five women -- historical, fictional and apocryphal -- from various centuries to join her. Among them are Pope Joan who, disguised as a man, is thought to have been Pope between 854 and 856 (Martha Plimpton), Patient Griselda, the obedient wife in The Clerk’s Tale of The Canterbury Tales (Mary Catherine Garrison) and the Victorian era world traveler Isabella Bird (Marisa Tomei). The idea of this scene is clever -- women throughout the ages getting together to talk about their lives. For the most part, it works.

The second act takes place in the Top Girls Employment Agency in London, where Marlene has just been promoted. Here the portrayals of women’s striving and struggling don’t hold up. They are too stereotypical.

In the third act, the sibling rivalry between Marlene and her sister, Joyce, (Tomei) is so full of clichés it's like watching a daytime drama.

I would have preferred a one act developed out of the first, instead of the two and a half hour play that really dragged and began to seem endless. It’s too bad because some of my favorite stage actors -- Garrison, Plimpton and Marvel -- are represented, doing their best with what they’ve got.

Top Girls was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre in London on Aug. 28, 1982, and transferred to The Public Theater in New York on Dec. 29, 1982. It played 40 performances and reopened at The Public in March 1983 with an American cast, playing 89 performances. Top Girls won the 1983 Obie Award for Playwriting and Ensemble.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Vanessa Williams

I was happy to see in today’s paper that Vanessa received her bachelor of arts degree from Syracuse University on Saturday, nearly 25 years after she dropped out to become the first African-American Miss America. Reading that brought back a lot of memories for me.

I was a reporter at the Syracuse Post-Standard in 1983 when Vanessa, a musical theatre major, won the title. Back then I was a Roman Catholic and used to worship at the Newman Center at S.U. On the day after Vanessa was crowded I was there as usual. What was different that Sunday morning was the announcement from the priest, Father Charles. He said: “You should be proud. Miss America comes from among you.”

That was the first I heard of it, and even though I wasn’t a student, I felt proud to be a small part of that community spirit. If I had I been on campus the night before, I would really have experienced the pride. Jubilant students had filled the streets, shouting out Vanessa’s name.

When I went into the newsroom the next day, the features writers were talking about how Vanessa had modeled for their fashion section and said how extremely nice and professional she had been. I felt even more pride then, and another small connection.

The following summer I was living back in Baltimore when news broke that several sexually explicit photographs Vanessa had posed for before earning the title would be appearing in Penthouse magazine. I so much hoped it wouldn’t hurt her, and was glued to the TV for her scheduled announcement of her plans. I was truly sorry when she said she was resigning; I had hoped she would fight it.

But that, of course, wasn’t going to be the end of Vanessa. She went on to a career as a hit recording artist, eventually winning nine Grammy nominations and selling more than four million albums. I remember the first time I heard one of her songs on the radio. The DJ announced that the singer was Vanessa Williams, and I wondered if it was “our” Vanessa. After the song he said she was the former Miss America and I was delighted. “Good for her,” I thought.

In 1994, 10 years after resigning her title in disgrace, she was announced as Chita Rivera’s replacement in The Kiss of the Spider Woman on Broadway, which was the place she had always wanted to be; the beauty pageant had just been a way to earn money for school. I remember praying for her opening.

Answered prayers -- and all that talent! Vincent Canby wrote in the New York Times: “She’s not a performer who holds back. She’s throwing everything she has into this performance, which pays off with the audience.” He acknowledged Rivera was a hard act to follow, but that Vanessa “appears to have both the intelligence and the intuition that separate merely competent performers from those who are first rate and more.”

That was before I was a critic and I couldn’t afford tickets, so I had to miss that performance. When she was back on Broadway in 2002 as The Witch in Into the Woods, I was there -- twice. And she was fabulous.

Because of these feelings of connection I had to Vanessa, and because I knew her Roman Catholic faith was really important to her, she was one actor I knew I wanted to interview for my book Working on the Inside: The Spiritual Life Through the Eyes of Actors. It took awhile to get it set up because she’s such a busy woman; in addition to being a singer and an actress on TV, Broadway and in feature films, she’s also a mother of four.

The time did come, though, and we sat down together one Wednesday between shows at a restaurant across from where Into the Woods was playing. She was just as gracious and down-to-earth as I expected her to be. She shared wisdom with me that greatly strengthened my chapters on In the Moment, Prayer and Self-Knowledge.

I was equally impressed when at the end of the interview she said: “If you have any questions later, you know how to get a hold of me.” How thoughtful, and how in-tuned to the needs of others. She could have had the attitude that, “I’m a big star and I’ve given you an hour. That’s enough.” No, she recognized that journalists often need to ask follow-up questions. She didn’t waited to be called, but made the offer out front. What a class act!

Vanessa’s latest role as a college graduate came after the university decided she had earned her remaining credits for her degree through industry experience and performances both on stage and on screen. On Saturday, wearing a cap and gown, Vanessa, now 45, delivered the convocation address to graduates of Syracuse's College of Visual and Performing Arts, encouraging them to “treasure the moment.” Her degree is not her first recognition from S.U. In 1996, she had received the George Arents Pioneer Medal, the university's most prestigious alumni award.
As my grandfather, Patrick O’Neill, used to say: “Cream always rises to the top.”

Congratulations, Vanessa!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Beverlee McKinsey

I was sad to see in today’s paper that Beverlee McKinsey died last week at 72 of complications from a kidney transplant. I loved her portrayal of Iris Carrington on my all-time favorite soap opera, “Another World.” Watching her over the years brought me a great deal of pleasure.

On stage, McKinsey’s most notable role was probably that of Honey in the original London production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in 1964, opposite Uta Hagen and Arthur Hill.

I never saw her on stage, but I loved her on AW. From 1970 to 1979, McKinsey played a manipulative, father-obsessed, rich villain, the kind soap fans love to hate. Hers was one of the many fabulous performances I enjoyed over the years on AW, the classic soap that launched (or sustained) the careers of so many solid actors -- Anne Heche, Morgan Freeman, Ray Liotta, Lindsay Lohan, Kelsey Grammer, Kyra Sedgwick, Howard E. Rollins Jr., Billy Dee Williams, Brian Murray and Faith Ford, to name a few.

To my great disappointment, and that of many, many others, AW went off the air in 1999 after 36 years. I was thrilled several years later when Soapnet brought back reruns for a few years. Last year at about this time, though, Soapnet pulled AW from its lineup and, to my continued disappointment, it has not returned.

God bless Beverlee McKinsey. And may AW be returned to Soapnet ASAP!


The 2007-08 theatre season is winding down. Shows like this one make me glad. It will be nice to have some time off from sitting through such drudgery.

The biggest problem is the length -- two and a half hours for a predictable farce that should have come in under two, with no intermission.

The plot could have made for a fun evening. Bernard, overplayed by Bradley Whitford, is an American architect living in Paris and juggling relationships with three airline hostess fiancées (this is the 60s, before they were called flight attendants) who fly in and out of the city and his apartment. Christine Baranski is a riot as Berthe, Bernard’s wry maid who helps him balance all the comings and goings, while also catering to the culinary tastes of the various women -- an American, an Italian and a German.

What made the evening so tedious is the overacting. Director Matthew Warchus has people writhing and wiggling around on the floor -- alone -- pounding furniture and being far more annoying than funny. I kept glancing at the watch on a man in front on me, trying to see how much more I had to endure.

Mark Rylance is funny as Bernard’s old school friend visiting from Wisconsin, but after a while he also goes overboard. Only Baranski is just right. She was the main reason I stuck around.

With tighter direction this play might have been worth reviving. It’s by French playwright Marc Camoletti, who died in 2003, and was translated by Beverley Cross more than 40 years ago for a smash London run. (Francis Evans shares translation credit with Cross for this revival.)

Warchus directed the recent Olivier Award-nominated West End hit revival of the play, in which Rylance also starred. This Broadway version has received a Drama Desk nomination for best revival of a play, but it won’t be getting my vote.

I did like Rob Howell’s 60-inspired scenic and costume designs and Hugh Vanstone’s lighting.

Boeing-Boeing originally opened in London in the early '60s and held the world record for the longest-running comedy in the West End, playing over 2,000 performances. It transferred to Broadway for a brief 23-performance run in 1965, but went on to be widely produced at regional and dinner theatres around the country. John Rich directed the film version starring Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis.

One interesting aspect of this production for me is that the first time I ever saw Christine Baranski on stage was at Baltimore’s CENTERSTAGE in 1976; she would go on to be a resident member there. She was playing a maid, Doreen in Tartuffe. Then, as now, she was appearing in a newly renovated theatre. CENTERSTAGE had just opened at its present location, a former boys’ school that had been converted after the previous theatre had been destroyed by arson. Tartuffe was the first production in the new space. Similarly Boeing-Boeing is the first play in the Longacre Theatre after its $12 million renovation. Christine is once again playing a maid -- and this time she’s stealing the show.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Why did the chicken cross the road -- political version

This was sent to me by my friend Gina in Germany. I love it. Hope you do too.

BARACK OBAMA: The chicken crossed the road because it was time for a CHANGE! The chicken wanted CHANGE!

JOHN MC CAIN: My friends, that chicken crossed the road because he recognized the need to engage in cooperation and dialogue with all the chickens on the other side of the road!

HILLARY CLINTON: When I was First Lady, I personally helped that little chicken to cross the road. This experience makes me uniquely qualified to ensure -- right from Day One! -- that every chicken in this country gets the chance it deserves to cross the road. But then, this really isn't about me.

DR. PHIL: The problem we have here is that this chicken won't realize that he must first deal with the problem on 'THIS' side of the road before it goes after the problem on the 'OTHER SIDE' of the road. What we need to do is help him realize how stupid he's acting by not taking on his 'CURRENT' problems before adding 'NEW' problems.

OPRAH: Well, I understand that the chicken is having problems, which is why he wants to cross this road so bad. So instead of having the chicken learn from his mistakes and take falls, which is a part of life, I'm going to give this chicken a car so that he can just drive across the road and not live his life like the rest of the chickens.

GEORGE W. BUSH: We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road, or not. The chicken is either against us, or for us. There is no middle ground here.

COLIN POWELL: Now to the left of the screen, you can clearly see the satellite image of the chicken crossing the road...

ANDERSON COOPER - CNN: We have reason to believe there is a chicken, but we have not yet been allowed to have access to the other side of the road.

JOHN KERRY: Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now against it! It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about the chicken's intentions. I am not for it now, and will remain against it until updated information is received.

NANCY GRACE: That chicken crossed the road because he's GUILTY!
You can see it in his eyes and by the way he walks.

PAT BUCHANAN: To steal the job of a decent, hardworking American.

MARTHA STEWART: No one called me to warn me which way that
chicken was going. I had a standing order at the Farmer's Market to sell my eggs when the price dropped to a certain level. No little bird gave me any insider information.

DR SEUSS: Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes, the chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed I've not been told.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY: To die in the rain. Alone.

BARBARA WALTERS: Isn't that interesting? In a few moments, we will be listening to the chicken tell, for the first time, the heart warming story of how it experienced a serious case of molting, and went on to accomplish its lifelong dream of crossing the road.

ARISTOTLE: It is the nature of chickens to cross the road. Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing roads together, in peace.

BILL GATES: I have just released "Windows Chicken 2008", which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents, and balance your checkbook. Internet Explorer is an integral part of the Chicken. This new platform is much more stable and will never cra...#@& &^(C% ........."Please reboot now".

ALBERT EINSTEIN: Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the road move beneath the chicken?

BILL CLINTON: I did not cross the road or have sex with THAT chicken. What is your definition of chicken?

AL GORE: I invented the chicken! It's my story and I'm sticking to it.

My friend Stephanie Fischman added a few more:

Mike Bloomberg: If the chicken crosses the road, it's going to have to pay congestion pricing upon arriving at the other side.

Elliot Spitzer: I lured the chicken to the other side of the road and paid it handsomely for sex acts. I'm so ashamed. I let my family down....

Al Sharpton: That was a black chicken intentionally run over by a white driver.

Tom Cruise: I love that chicken sooooo much!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Laura Linney is chilling as the Marquise de Merteuil in the Roundabout Theatre Company’s uneven revival of Christopher Hampton’s 1987 play. Portraying a woman who believes “love is something you use, not fall into like quicksand,” Linney portrays her cold, calculating cruelty as she ruthlessly plots to destroy all who have hurt her.

What sinks this production is that her fellow schemer, as played by Ben Daniels, is too one dimensional to ever effectively deceive anyone. The Vicomte de Valmont is supposed to be so clever at detecting what women want that he can seduce anyone. The sleazy part he has down pat, but sexy and appealing, no way. So the pair’s plot to seek vengeance through his seductions and conquests seems unbelievable from the start.

This is a problem for a show that is close to three hours long. Even if Valmont had been more convincingly played, this is too long for a play with such a predictable ending. I left wondering why Roundabout had decided to revive it.

Katrina Lindsay’s costumes are lush and Scott Pask’s minimalist staging is effective. I also always like seeing Mamie Gummer. Yes, she a good actress in her own right, but she looks so much like her mother, Meryl Streep, that I am fascinated by watching her. That, unfortunately, is really the only fascinating element of this revival.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Country Girl

This is an entertaining play. I had never read or seen it, or even seen the 1954 movie starring Grace Kelly and Bing Crosby. For some reason, it’s been more than 30 years since the last major New York production of Clifford Odets’s backstage drama about a troubled marriage and the demands of show business.

Unfortunately, the relationship between Georgie, played by Frances McDormand, and her actor husband, Frank Elgin (Morgan Freeman), never seemed believable. Not only could I not see any love between them now, as Frank tries for a theatrical comeback while battling the alcoholism that ended his once brilliant career, but I couldn’t imagine they had ever loved each other. There was no spark, no connection between them.

This is a contrast to another 1950s era revival, Come Back, Little Sheba, which I saw in January. That play also had an alcoholic husband and a lonely wife in a stale marriage, but in the hands of Kevin Anderson and S. Epatha Merkerson I could feel a glimmer of the love that had been between them, and believed that a little of it was still there. I didn’t get that at all from Freeman and McDormand in this production directed by Mike Nichols.

Peter Gallagher is competent as Bernie Dodd, the hotshot director who offers Frank a major role, although his is really a stock character -- the high-strung theatre man obsessed with an idea.

I hope it doesn’t take another three decades for The Country Girl to come back to Broadway. It’s already waited too long for its comeback attempt and it deserves to succeed.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

An expert tells why giving thanks is good for your health

The Power of Gratitude
by Stephen Post, Cleveland, Ohio

I’m a researcher. As a professor of bioethics at Case Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine, I deal in facts. I’m also a father and a husband—a man blessed with a rich family life. Like many researchers, I’ve always felt that my clinical and my personal life were two different things. Two different worlds, really.

Then, in 2001, I created a research group called the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love (IRUL), dedicated to testing and measuring the effects of love and other positive caring emotions in human life. Our findings surprised me, as I think they will you. Our studies have shown that love-related qualities—like gratitude—actually make us physically healthier.

The implications of this research have changed the way I look at my life all year ’round, but they’re especially meaningful to me during this time of year. Here are five discoveries from our work at IRUL to keep in mind as you gather together to give thanks with your loved ones.

1. Defends
Just 15 minutes a day focusing on the things you’re grateful for will significantly increase your body’s natural antibodies.

2. Sharpens
Naturally grateful people are more focused mentally and measurably less vulnerable to clinical depression.

3. Calms
A grateful state of mind induces a physiological state called resonance that’s associated with healthier blood pressure and heart rate.

4. Strengthens
Caring for others is draining. But grateful caregivers are healthier and more capable than less grateful ones.

5. Heals
Recipients of donated organs who have the most grateful attitudes heal faster.

The above article originally appeared in Guideposts magazine. Visit the recently updated today.