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Get Ready to Tap Your Feet with the Harlem Gospel Choir

December 9, 2014 by  

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I wouldn’t call myself a classic gospel music lover — in other words, I don’t listen to gospel CDs or go to gospel concerts on a regular basis….in fact, it’s rare that gospel falls on my radar and yet when I hear it, I always find my spirits uplifted immediately. It’s not hard to see why since its enthusiastic, happy and peppy and when it’s not, a gospel version of Amazing Grace with a little blues and jazz thrown in, can be life changing. Since I’ve been trying to cover other New York City boroughs and less traveled to areas in recent months, I found myself taking in some of the best brunches in Harlem and exploring the foodie scene in the Bronx. On that adventure, I discovered the Harlem Gosepl Choir, which is touted as the top gospel choir in America. Who knew? I then learned not long after that discovery that they were performing in a week’s time at BBK Blues in Times Square, and so, we got tickets and off we went. Imagine an invigorating performance that is a cross between a musical, a jazz and blues performance and the hippest church service you can imagine attending.…

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The North of Tokyo & Its Historical Asakusa Shrine

November 25, 2014 by  

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While of course I had heard about the shrine at Asakusa in northern Tokyo, everyone initially told me to go there for its infamous colorful market rather than the shrine, which is known to be one of the more traditional markets in the city. I did in fact find it interesting and took a boat load of photos – see my separate article on the Asakusa Market. While the place is in fact all things traditional, it is also seething with tourists. That said, it is one of those places that despite the abundance of foreigners, the shrine is still so inspiring that it’s easy to overlook the commercialism, especially with the breathtaking Asakusa Shrine at the end of one of the market streets. Asakusa-jinja, also known as Sanja-sama (“Shrine of the Three Gods”), is one of the most famous Shinto shrines in Tokyo and is part of a larger grouping of sacred buildings in the area. Located in Asakusa, the shrine honors the three men who founded the Sensō-ji. You can easily see all of this by foot. My recommendation is to to the market first and get shopping out of your system, so that you can be fully present at…

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The Majestic Beomeosa Temple, One of Korea’s Largest Temples, Dates Back to 678 A.D.

November 21, 2014 by  

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When headed to Busan or the surrounding area, a great add on to your trip is a visit to the magestic Beomeosa Temple just beyond the city’s northern suburbs. The Beomeosa Temple is one of Korea’s largest temples, dating back to 678 A.D. To get to the entry gates, you cross over a beautiful arched bridge and mountain brook. At the entry way/gates, which is known as the Gate of the Heavenly Kings, you will be faced with a 7th century three-stone pagoda, which was built some time during the Silla era, around 826-836 A.D. and the main temple hall, which was built around 1614. Beomeosa is a head temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism in Cheongnyong-dong, Geumjeong-gu, Busan, South Korea. Built on the slopes of Geumjeongsan, it is one of the country’s most known urban temples. Built by the great priest UiSang during the reign of King MunMu, it is one of ten HwaEom temples in Korea. It was established to realize the purpose of HwaEom which pursues life full of happiness and generosity. Along with HaeInsa and TongDosa, Beomeosa is one…

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Kyoto’s Magical Rokuon-ji Temple & Golden Pavilion

November 18, 2014 by  

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Kyoto’s Rokuon-ji Temple & Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku) are both nestled in the outskirts of scenic Kyoto in central Japan. When you’re first greeted with the magestic temple, it takes a few minutes to adjust to its beauty. This area has quite a past, for a temple of this magnitude could lay no claims. It’s not the pavilion and temple are that large in size, but their presence overwhelms at first. The area was originally the site of the Kitayama-dai Villa and today is a shariden, a Buddhist hall containing relics of Buddha. The garden and buildings in and around the Golden Pavilion were said to represent the Pure Land of Buddha in this world. It used to welcome the Emperor Gokomatsu (Father of Zen teacher, Ikkyu) and other members of nobility. This was all during the Muromachi period, a time which flourished with trade. Later, it was converted to a temple by a priest who became the first abbot. Talk about fascinating, but then it goes on…..The temple’s name Rokuon-ji, was derived from the name Yoshimitsu was given for the next world – Rokuon-in-den. It wasn’t until 1994 however that the Rokuon-ji Temple was…

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Great Aura at The Tenmangu Shinto Shrine in Tokyo’s Yushima

November 16, 2014 by  

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I fell upon a Shinto shrine in the northern burbs of Tokyo called the Yushima Tenman-gū Shrine on my trip this year to Japan. The shrine itself is devoted to Tenjin, the Kami of Learning and is located in the Bunkyo ward of Tokyo, not far from the University of Tokyo. It is apparently a frequent site of prospective students hoping to pass the entrance exams there in April. At this time, the temple receives many offerings of ema votives to petition the kami for success at exams. I found that amusing in a way as I was walking through there and reflecting on this recently learned factoid. Truth be told, unlike nearly every other shrine and temple I visited in Tokyo, the place was empty which is another reason why I loved it so much and what made my experience there so profound. Built in 458 for another kami, Ameno-tajikaraono-mikoto of Japanese myth associated with strength and sports, the shrine was then expanded in 1355 to enshrine the kami Tenjin as well. Currently both kami are enshrined at this temple. The shrine was later rebuilt in 1455 at the behest of local warlord Ota Dokan, and enjoyed greater popularity…

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The Basilica Saint Therese in Lisieux

November 11, 2014 by  

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As we made our way north from Paris into the heart of Normandy, I didn’t quite realize just how deep the area’s spiritual past was until I set foot in Lisieux. Both a cultural and spiritual center, Lisieux is the home of all things Saint Therese. People flock to Lisieux to see the remarkable Basilica of Saint Therese, which roughly stands 300 feet tall. Built in 1929 in honor of Saint Therese and consecrated in 1954, its walls and those of the crypt are covered with mosaics and stained glass illustrating Saint Therese’s message. Six mosaics portray scenes from her life. Catholics who follow saints will know the life and work of Saint Therese, but those who don’t, you might be wondering what was so profound about this saint that one of the largest basilicas built in the 20th century is dedicated to her. She is known to be one of the greatest saints of modern times.  Born in 1873 into a profoundly Christian family, she spent the last nine years of her life devoted to God. Thanks to her writings, entitled Story of a Soul, published one…

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Church Saint Jacques in Lisieux Makes An Impressive Statement…

November 5, 2014 by  

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While Church Saint Jacques in the center of Lisieux may not be able to hold a candle to the city’s infamous Basilica that thousands flock to every year to celebrate Saint Therese, it makes an impressive statement nevertheless. We may have missed it since it wasn’t on our Spiritual France agenda, except for the fact that it sat posturing above me when I walked out of Hotel Saint Louis, the hotel where we were staying on Rue Saint Jacques for two nights. (Read my review of it in our Brittany/Normandy hotel section). Lisieux is world famous of course because of Saint Therese (Therese Martin aka Sainte-Thérèse-de-l’Enfant-Jésus) and because of her lifelong work, Lisieux is considered to be the second town of pilgrimage in France with some 700,000 visitors each year who go to see the Basilica built in her honour. The Basilica btw, is also said to be the biggest church built in France in the 20th century. Lisieux has numerous spiritual and historical factoids to tout. The city was the seat of a Bishopric almost from the birth of Normandy until the French Revolution. The area known as the “Canonical Quarter” dates from that period, and includes the…

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SAND 2014, Where Nonduality & Energizing Forces Meet

November 4, 2014 by  

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SAND is such a great name for a conference and no, it doesn’t hold that acronym because it’s a travel conference that focuses on adventure in the sand. SAND stands for and is about all things that encompass Science and Nonduality. The mission of SAND is to forge a new paradigm in spirituality, one that is not dictated by religious dogma, but based on timeless wisdom traditions of the world, informed by cutting-edge science, and grounded in direct experience. Brain I first attended the event two years ago (see my blog post from 2012), when it was held in Marin, just north of San Francisco. While they have an annual event in Europe as well, the U.S.-based event is always held in California. This year, they headed south and set up shop for their nearly week long event at the Hayes Mansion on Edenvale Avenue in San Jose California, a resort which was once a lavish private estate. People across continents and from all walks of life started flowing in on October 22 for this annual gem of an event. It was an entirely different vibe this year and I’m not sure if it was due to its extravagant…

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