Tuesday, June 30, 2015

An Open Letter to the NFL and FIFA

Many people around the globe rely on football to provide them with an entertaining distraction from otherwise mundane and less than satisfactory lives. Yet in recent years both the NFL and FIFA have been another disappointment for citizens worldwide with the many controversies surrounding your players, hosting cities, and organizations. The scandal surrounding FIFA officials and Sepp Blatter is another example in which the morals and ethics implied by the phrase "sportsman-like conduct" appear to have been forgotten.

The NFL and FIFA could use some positive PR, so here is an idea given to you free of charge. It involves each team taking a year off and instead of televising games, televise your teams and players planning and building housing and businesses for the homeless, recently unemployed, and recently released to give them a good chance at life and a real chance at regaining dignity and integrity. 

A very good "how to" example which could offer you guidance is The Greystone Institute in New York, the building of which is described in the book Instructions to the Cook by Bernard Glassman and Rick Fields. The environment should provide: 1) Housing; 2) Employment with on-site training; 3) Health care and day care; 4) Opportunity for study; 5) Some form of spirituality or non-denominational interfaith sharing; 6) Opportunities for social action and community building.

Your organizations and teams have the necessary connections and resources. Televising the necessary steps in the process and any difficulties encountered would give your players the business expertise they'll benefit from when they retire and give them the chance to give back to the neighborhoods and communities they grew up with. Not only your players, all those watching worldwide, would benefit. Televise the efforts of your players and the businesses involved in the planning and construction. (Please don't prey on those who have fallen on difficult times at least not until they've become success stories.) Let the Super Bowl and World Cup wins next season go to the teams with the best design, business concept and finished building in real life.

In these troubled economic times, when our countries and governments are offering more spectacle than solution, dare to set an example of good that will stay on the record books of your organizations and our shared history for all time.

Monday, June 22, 2015

At the Intersection of Mindfulness and Compassion in a Complex World:Intro

A few items of note to start. I'm in the process of redesigning this blog, including getting a Creative Commons license and changing over to my real name. I thought of starting a whole new blog. On second thought though, in the spirit of Dogen's "one taste", I've decided to stick with this one. 

In regards to my name, using the pseudonym Happi was a compromise to appease my family. But like our country and government can attest, compromises can result in outcomes that are worse than nothing. After so many years it's beyond time that my writing be backed by the weight of my credentials as well as beyond time that I take ownership of what I've written.

I also want to formally welcome Gesshin Greenwood and her blog, That's So Zen, to the blogosphere. I've been following Gesshin's blog for some time and enjoy her light-hearted writing. Hey Gesshin, you'll be happy to know I don't do p0rn either! It's been wonderful to hear about your time in Japan and your efforts to learn Japanese. The world can only benefit from having another female translator. I know from my own efforts trying to translate Shiki haiku right before leaving for Antai-ji how difficult the translation process can be.

A few days ago I loaded up my car and took a route away from the beauty that is Green Gulch Farm where I've been practicing for the last 7 months. By far the pièce de résistance was the chance to practice together face-to-face with such a rich diversity of people from all walks of life. On the day of my departure, in addition to expressing my deep gratitude, I mentioned that I wished that the friend who suggested Antai-ji had suggested Green Gulch Farm instead. It would have made the last few years so much more straightforward. That's not a knock against Antai-ji at all. It is what it is. Speaking for myself, Green Gulch Farm was much better at providing the answers and experience I needed in order to find a better direction for my life than the direction it seemed to be heading in six years ago.

Besides the rich community life that Green Gulch offered and the model it serves as a simple way to step out of the mainstream capitalistic lifestyle, there was a clear advantage to becoming aware of all the San Francisco area has to offer in line with my interests. I had the wonderful opportunity of attending one of Joanna Macy's talks and was able to take enough time off to attend the 2015 Mindfulness and Compassion conference which I'll comment on in a subsequent post. In fact, there were so many area resources that I did not get a chance to explore and I hope to change that at some time in the future.

Today I have a different agenda. Today I want to introduce you to one of the truly remarkable women I had the opportunity of meeting and practicing with at Green Gulch: Dr. Grace Dammann. Grace is an especially warm-hearted powerful woman that developed comprehensive care for terminally ill AIDS patients in their final stages. Her life and her ability to continue on that path, as well as fulfill her intention to become a Zen priest, were derailed by a head-on collision on the Golden Gate Bridge. You can imagine that meeting and learning her name and story was a jolting and transformative experience given the poem that I wrote so many years ago in reference to Avalokiteśvara without knowing of Grace Dammann's existence. Grace etched in that poem's meaning, for humanity, for Grace's life and for my own life in ways that only Grace and I, and the other refugees on the planet can know. 

While at Green Gulch I was truly amazed at Grace's quiet courage, patience and warmth in spite of what must be nearly constant frustration at her multiple injuries -- injuries that she never will entirely recover from, injuries that keep her wheelchair bound. I had the opportunity to see her film States of Grace just a few days after writing my post for Earth Day and I thank you, Grace, Fu, and the producers and directors of the film for providing me with the first step of an answer for my life, even though Grace and I asked different questions.

It is through Grace's courage that I've decided to tell my story, a story that began long before my presence on-line. I'm telling the story, or at least bits and pieces of it, not so much for myself since I know it will be viewed with a more critical eye. To a certain extent, by analogy, Grace's story is to my story like the victims in Nepal are to victims covered by the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter even though I'm white and middle class and the systems of oppression I faced when facing white patriarchy are admittedly no where near as severe.

I'm telling my story to comment on systems and groups and minds that fall into habitual patterns of lethargy and/or tupor, and a system of Mindfulness and Compassion that can hurt instead of help in spite of the very best of intentions.

I'm telling my story so that fewer people arriving at the gate of practice will be lost and/or injured. I understand the world is a complex system, and that there is a certain amount of inertia in systems, group dynamics and individual minds. Nonetheless, I'm certain there is room for improvement. Every Sangha I've been a member of has lost sincere people. So I'll also be making suggestions for ways that mindfulness, or even mindfulness and compassion, as it is most commonly taught and received  these days could be made better.  

Friday, June 5, 2015

An Open Letter to the Dalai Lama

For the record my favorite cooking movie, among those I've seen, is Babette's Feast. 


Some might think Babette's Feast is a little old-fashioned though it's really quite lovely. Since I suspect you are likely to be a vegetarian, I apologize for the turtle soup.

From the Zen tradition, nine full bows.... Or 1008.

- Happi

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: https://secure.nokidhungry.org/site/Donation2;jsessionid=020AF936E2C2270FF784B557E5EE2EA7.app250b?df_id=12320&12320.donation=form1&autologin=true&s_src=Email&s_subsrc=SB7_041415__15ED012A