Book Excerpt: GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT by Cate Cavanagh

Name of Author: Cate Cavanagh
Name of Book: Gifts of the Spirit
Publisher's Website: Gifts Of The Spirit gleefully released (finally!) from my contract with PublishAmerica. To celebrate, I am now giving this book away free! Email me at

Chapter One

I have always said that I could do anything if life did not get in the way. Life. That can be a tough one. Such as being a young widow with a child and no income. That was me at age 32.

My five-year-old daughter and I came home one day and found her father, age 34, dead from a brain aneurysm. For seven years prior we had struggled in poverty as he had been debilitatingly ill and despite hopes and prayers that he would regain some ability to be gainfully employed, he died. The strange thing was he knew was dying and so did I. Our spirits knew his path was quickly coming to and end. That was a long time ago and in retrospect the important thing is that we knew but did not want to listen. No one had suspected an aneurysm. The ailments he suffered from were not terminal just debilitating. After all the rage and sorrow and rebuilding, my spiritual path has taught me that I am affected by the suffering paths of others around me and of those I love just as much as I am affected by my own path. In fact, how I respond to the actions and events of others is pivotal to my spiritual growth.

And it is not personal.

But what do you do with the rage that must engulf us from time to time when life throws some hard realities our way? Rage is destructive and has destroyed families, friendships and lives. Rage can also destroy us. While rage is destroying us we have no control over our circumstances or ourselves. Rage is also powerful from a spirit point of view. Just stop a moment and think of the intensity of rage. Your pulse races and heart races. Perhaps you head begins to pound and you begin to breathe heavily. Your body tenses and, if you have ever walked in on people in the middle of an argument or fight, haven't you noticed how the air just 'feels'?

Now think about when you meet someone new. Someone who makes you feel good when you think about him or her. You sigh more and breathe more deeply. You walk around daydreaming (even a little). You smile. All is well with the world. No one has ever said "You could cut the air with a knife" around someone like this. That is because caring is not harsh; it is soft.

The difference in energy generated is obvious. No good has ever come out of rage. When we cannot release our rage in a healthy manner, that is stress. Stress has been related to medical conditions such as high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack. Rage can affect the metabolism causing fluctuations in blood sugar levels and digestive problems.

When people think of Buddhism, many think of it as a passive religion. You sit, eat nuts, walk the countryside and do not concern yourself with the troubles of the world. It seems like a blasé and easy way to go about one's life. But Buddhism is one of the hardest belief systems to follow because its goal is to master the self. To try to understand this, let us look at the challenges of Buddhism. Buddhism accepts four principles called the FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS which state suffering simply is, suffering is the result of attachment to desires or wants or needs, suffering stops when our attachments to what we want stop and freedom from suffering can be found within the Eightfold Path. The Eightfold Path is a list of traits that, if acquired, will alleviate our sorrow, pain and suffering. These traits are: Right View (or perspective), Right Thought (correcting what we perceive as true into truth), Right Speech (mindful talking or clear communication), Right Action (doing what is right and just when called upon), Right Livelihood (making a living that does not involve the suffering of people or animals or is dishonest), Right Effort (not hesitating to work as hard as you have to), Right Mindfulness (being aware of what really matters) and Right Contemplation (gratitude, joy, desire to do right rather than wrong).

Now, we all want to run out and work on these don't we? As you can see, these are not easy characteristics to acquire.

We do not, however, have to remove ourselves from the world in order to benefit from this blueprint. But, we would benefit from the self-discipline we can learn if we were to apply these principles to our everyday life. I think we would all be better people. After all, to be human is to evolve!

If you look at these traits you can see how they do not leave much room for rage. Since they require so much work, there would be no time for rage. Within the practice of these disciplines, we can learn to live better, wholesome and more compassionate lives.

Meditation to a Buddhist is to annihilate the self for it is this self that is the root of our anguish. Once this is accomplished we can then connect with the greater, uniting force of which we are a part and be filled, like a cup, with this force. This greater force nurtures and refreshes and keeps one mindful of the joy and freedom found in detachment. To meditate in this manner, at the very least, is a refreshing respite from daily woes, stress and yes, rage.

To Buddha, anger and rage make us everything an enemy could want: an enemy would want us to be ugly (have you ever really seen a raging person look attractive?), sleepless (I cannot sleep if I am angry), stupid (ever said a dumb thing in anger?) and ineffective (haven't you ever made a wrong decision just because you were angry?).

Mastering these precepts can help us focus as we explore the shifting in perception so essential to spiritual development. I have found obtaining different values is a key factor in obtaining or regaining our spirit power as is developing appreciation for the things we have and creating our own peace within ourselves. The discipline of Buddhism can be used in any other school of spirituality.

Integral to Buddhism is the observation of animals and nature as found in the literature and poems. So integral were these observations, schools of self-defense have been fashioned after the behaviors of animals in Asia as martial arts. It is interesting to note that Yoga utilizes exercises fashioned after the movements of animals as well.

As we explore other areas I consider mystical, we will see how important animals and nature are to earth based practitioners. But one thing is certain. Utilizing the working values Buddhism offers can enable us to, if nothing else regroup our thoughts, priorities and purposes when the need arises regardless or whether or not we practice any "craft".

Since we will be looking at various ways in which we can begin to THINK DIFFERENTLY and the rationale behind it, mental discipline such as that acquired in Buddhism is a powerful tool. I find the Buddhist outline of how to live one's life beautifully simple and logical.


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