Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Mirror, Mirror: What Kind of World Do You Want? All Lives Matter.

Wednesdays are my favorite day of the week now that we've switched over to the summer schedule. The main reason is, after the first hour of sitting, we work in the fields for an hour. Most everyone joins in regardless of their normal role. Today, within an hour, we had covered a field of spinach, young Boston and red leaf lettuces and I don't know what else in silence so it felt incredibly peaceful and miraculous. Plus, this morning the moon was still up while the sun was rising.

Yesterday I tried to write, but after not writing much last year, my thoughts were like a tangled mess of different colors and textures of yarn. Too frustrating to unravel into something coherent. To give you an idea though, over the last week I learned more about the situation in Nepal: how there's been civic unrest, disagreements between people of different religions, less than perfect NGOs, corruption in politics and the government. About the rising price of food, not only due to the disruption caused by the earthquake, but also the influx of aid workers. About the likely gentrification of neighborhoods as a function of rebuilding. In short, it sounds a lot like the U.S. despite differences in culture. Or, for that matter, the tangled mess of thoughts that gurgles through my brain sometimes. 

And then there's Baltimore. I read an exceptional opinion piece concerning Baltimore that seemed to intuit out loud some of what I was pointing to. Omid Safi, a Muslim scholar, said it better.

My view of the affluence of our country is that, in addition to our own efforts and the efforts of our forefathers, the affluence of our country was built off the lives and livelihoods of the Indian people using the labor of African slaves and neither culture has recovered. Given karma in the three times, we shouldn't be killing them. We don't own them, we owe them. 

When we look in the mirror, do we want to see water shut-offs, uprisings, killing either directly or through neglect and incarceration? Because that's one face of the overconsumption and greed of our society and un-regulated capitalism. I'm not making that face up. 

One thing for sure, if we're going save the world, we can only save it if we're working together.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Reflections: Nepal and Mountains Walking

By now I imagine anyone reading this blog has heard about the earthquake in Nepal. I don't mind saying I've wanted to visit India, Bhutan and Nepal for as long as I can remember. That desire has only increased in recent years thanks to Dogen's metaphorical use of mountains for sitting and practice.

Yet today I'm not thinking about mountains. I'm trusting, that for the time being, these magnificent mountains remain largely intact.

Instead I'm thinking about people. Where is the hashtag #NepaleseLivesMatter?

Considering the probability of earthquake in this region, why wasn't more done to prepare for the eventuality? How many structures were built without relying on what is known about earthquake-resistant building? Were the Nepalese ignorant of the possible technological innovations? Were more affluent countries reticent to disturb the largely peace-loving culture – a culture that, in spite of the industrial and technological innovations of our time, continues to exemplify small desire? As Dogen suggests we could and should ask hundreds and thousands of questions
like this, and not only for Nepal.

In addition to the news agencies, Genju at 108 ZenBooks and Justin at Buddhist Ethics have listed donation sites for organizations involved in relief efforts. Upaya has created its own fund. And here's one more from TheDoDo: How You Can Help Animals Affected by Nepal's Earthquake.

It's good to see such organization and willingness to help following a natural disaster. And troubling to realize that we could have done better. I don't know if I'll ever have the chance to visit Nepal. I still can ask what can we learn and how can we improve?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day - What Kind of World Do You Want?

What kind of world do you want? 

The first time I asked myself this question was after seeing the above window display somewhere near the Hermitage Museum in Amsterdam during my travels last year. My reaction to the question was surprise that it had taken over fifty years of life for me to ask it. 

Truth be told, I'd gotten distracted by the other question most of us get asked early on: "Who do you want to be when you grow up?" and had been struggling to manifest that answer ever since, subconsciously assuming trying to manifest an answer to the second question was the best way to answer the first.

I also probably assumed that other people and/or a greater power, more qualified than I, were working on answering the first question. These days I'm not so sure. I see the continued problems of homelessness, poverty, racism, sexism and classism in even the most affluent countries. I see wars that teach communication in the language of violence, bringing death and destruction while creating large refugee populations. I see thoughtless extraction of the planet's resources. In short, I see a lot of waste.

I want to go back to the first question. The first question allows for more flexibility and creativity in providing an answer at the individual level and shifts the focus away from identity to a broader perspective that includes everything around us. 

The first question is especially appropriate for Earth Day, because in the words of Ajahn Brahm, "No one is driving the bus." The problem is that it not only qualifies as Buddhist humor, it's an accurate description of our collective reality. The bus we're all on has been hurdling along a destructive path at increasing rapid speeds since the industrial and technological eras began. In this age of connected globalization it's past time we decided on a goal/destination. The way I see it, once we have a destination in mind, we can work on a plan. 

What kind of world do you want? I've been listening for most of my life and, based on that listening, here is my answer:

Because we are the stewards of ourselves as well as the Earth – the only planet we have – I want a world in which every man, woman, and child has:

A safe place to sleep at night,
Adequate food, water, and sanitation,
Day care for children,
Health care, 'mind' care, and spiritual care.

Based on past history, only a plan that conveys mutual respect and responsibility for all beings and our planet has a chance of working.

A goal that doesn't take care of everyone and the planet isn't big enough.  If we decide on a goal that doesn't include all beings we collectively, as well as individually, continue to operate from a mindset of scarcity, and the trap that the economy and capitalism represent, rather than abundance.  

Now that I've decided on this as a goal I can wish you all a Happy Earth Day. 

Until we have an agreed-on plan, please consider making a donation to either our children refugees in Syria and/or our children in the US at one of these sites:



NO KID HUNGRY:;jsessionid=020AF936E2C2270FF784B557E5EE2EA7.app250b?df_id=12320&12320.donation=form1&autologin=true&s_src=Email&s_subsrc=SB7_041415__15ED012A

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Breathing in, Breathing Out

Breathing in, the steady calls of creek frogs before dawn

Breathing in, the sound of surf at the beach

Breathing in, the rising chorus of birdsong at the first sign of light

Breathing in, the mist moving through pines

Breathing in, setting out orioki and the aromas of breakfast

Breathing in, the creaking of rafters as the zendo warms

Breathing in, a ceremony for planting the season's first seeds

Breathing in, a walk through the garden into the hills

Breathing in, afternoon tea and conversation

Breathing in, heavy rain on the zendo roof

Breathing out, the close of the retreat, sitting in the sun.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Reflections: In Case You Missed It

It's been awhile since I've written and I have the afternoon off so I thought I'd give it a try. Also tonight I start a two month retreat so it's my last chance for awhile.

I haven't been writing much because I'm giving my brain time to reprogram it's synapses. I have an idea how synaptic reprogramming works, but that doesn't make it any easier or faster. I'm also pretty certain changes are reversible. It's my guess that synaptic and behavior patterns, once formed, are never completely erased -- which, incidentally, is a good reason to keep practicing, whether your primary practice is meditation, mindfulness or yoga. 

There were a lot of posts I thought of writing in 2014 and one of them is why blog? Blogging seems counter-intuitive since I don't have any inclination to be famous. The original reason I started blogging was for friendship. Certainly not because I think I have lots of answers. I don't feel I'm that knowledgable or skilled in a variety of the topics I find myself thinking about, though I have to admit I've wondered how much that line of thinking is due to conditioning I've unknowingly received, at least in part due to gender.

The best reason I can think of for blogging is that it may be a good way to learn, as well as share what I've learned from life up to now. I also have to admit I think it's a more productive way to to spend my 'free' time than shopping for things I don't really need. Shopping seems to be another method many people use to create a projection of self. 

Other posts I wanted to write over the last year include:

My ever-evolving thoughts on happiness. 

Sharing some of the interesting conversations and experiences I've had while traveling.

My thought's on Dogen's Instructions for the Cook and various commentaries, especially Uchiyama's. Incidentally, from what I've gathered, Uchiyama's definition of religion concerns precisely that question of how to live one's life.

The fact that, given interdependence, I don't think there is such a thing as an orginal thought, each thought is merely a thought experienced by a unique place-time-being. 

How to contribute to a better world for all beings. Along those lines, thoughts and questions concerning religion, politics, gender and race, the economy and the environment. 

More on feminism, especially since feminism hasn't been a topic I've spent much time thinking about in my life. In fact, in contrast to some, most days gender has been a topic I prefer not to be confronted with.

Finally, I've also decided that, as extra motivation both for writing and for learning, I'm going start advertising  particular petitions, volunteer projects, and/or donation sites. Today's site is from Avaaz. Please check it out: 

Perhaps, since I'm not going to be able to write for awhile, it's okay to also mention pressuring our governments and contributing to efforts to rebuild various places recently destroyed by conflict including Gaza, the Central African Republic, and Sudan. We're all culpable and I honestly believe that part of the frustration each of us feels, whether we recognize it or not, is our own internal frustration over not being able to help or help enough.

Until next time, happy sitting!