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

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.