Wednesday, July 14, 2004

13. Too personal

I think this blog is too personal, so I'm going to leave off it for a while. When I resume it, I hope to make it about what inspirers me.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

12. Missed first mitra meeting

I missed my first mitra meeting in a long while. I woke up too late to drive to Brooklyn. I'm not sure why I suggested going to meditate in people's houses, when we're spending so much time in New Jersey. It's a long schlepp from NJ. I was thinking I'd always be in Queens. Feels kind of weird to miss a meeting, I haven't missed one in a long while.

Vajramati is back, I want to call him, after he's settled in a little. He's performing a marriage tomorrow too. Alyssa organized a visit to the Buddhist temple in Staten Island, but that seems too far, for this relaxing family weekend.

I want to see Trebor too.

I've been having better meditations since I stopped judging myself so harshly, that layer of distraction and energy depletion is gone.

Haven't been reading or listening to any Buddhism. I'll check out the Buddhist news network website now, though.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

11. Fell Asleep

I fell asleep last night, just as Sangharakshita was going to address the suggestion that the doctrine of the no-self contradicts rebirth and karma. Sangharakshita asserts that no major Buddhist teacher in the history of Buddhism had contradicted rebirth. I find it hard to believe myself. If it means anything, it's so slim, that it's useless. But I still need to investigate all the angles.

I really like listening to Sangharakshita on MP3, but unfortunately the best time is in the car, alone. Like driving to my therapist. Otherwise, others don't want to listen, and at night I fall asleep too quickly.

My therapist is on vacation for 3 weeks. I will miss him. The way he helps me is subtle. He's a good guy. I'm going to miss him. We talk a lot about Buddhism and I see him a crucial to my spiritual development, even though he is not a Buddhist.

I'm having better meditations by decreasing my judgments, or I experience them as more pleasant without judging myself. I still need to do some yoga, and lose some weight so that I can get into better positions and improve my postures.

Vajramati comes back today. I for one am glad. He's a constant here, seems wrong that he's gone. But I don't begrudge him retreats, vacations, anything. I just missed him, like it better when he's here. I should not treat him as the constant that I assume he is.

I'm on a mailing list for North America mitras, and Sandy Currie has been sending the most interesting posts to it. She's just back from Africa, and she's got a site of pictures. Hers' the address: The password is "looksee". Nice pictures. I don't know her, but I've been following her pasts, and I wish her the best. I think she's from Vancouver.

I hear William (Joyti) crying, better investigate.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

10 Sangha Night

Andrew and I felt bad, a guy came to the sangha night, after 3 beginning classes. Someone told him he could come. We were wondering how he found out where it was.

Jason, Alyssa and Andrew were there with me for Tuesday's sangha night, our last night without Vajramati. I think it does a sangha good to have the order member go away, I missed Vajramati and his leadership. It's not easy coming up with programming. I'm not sure how he does all the stuff he does, except that I know dharma activity can be addictive.

Andrew lead the meditation and chanting. He's a natural leader. In the second half I talked a little about the subtle hindrances, because I was excited to learn about them. But then we had a meditation reporting in, which was very good for me. Alyssa, Andrew and Jason suggested I was being hard on myself. A month of spotty meditation because of the birth of my bambino and trying to get it back, there's going to be some fall off in meditation. That I meditate every day for 40 minutes impressed them. So less judgment, that's the idea.

It was good to hear about Alyssa, Andrew and Jason's lives.

I stayed in position today, but wiggled and was distracted. Maybe I'll meditate again, I've got some time this afternoon.

I haven't been reading any dharma, which feels weird, and I read some Thich Nhat Hanh (The Heart of Buddha's Teaching) and enjoying it. I was reading Subuti's Buddhism For Today, and it was review, though I did get some things out of it. But it's nice to put it down.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

9. Far enemy of Sympathetic Joy

It's been a difficult weekend, somehow. The book on Optimism is good. I've got to get used to this bench and make it work. I've laid off the dharma books for the first time in a while. I think I've ODed on them. I need to study for my future profession.

Trebor is back from Montana and had a great retreat. I think sympathic joy is in order, but I'm conscious of jealousy. I wish I could have gone, it seemed like it would be wonderful. I am truly glad Trebor had a productive retreat.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

8. Optimism

My meditation at home is different from away. Sangha meetings are good, because of the group. Simon's house is good, I've meditated there a lot. Aryaloka is great, I've had very deep experiences there. New Jersey is a little tough. I've got a bench here now, but it's too low, and there's no cushion. I need a higher bench and cushion. There it trouble with my foot falling asleep.

On the one hand you don't want to move while meditating. On the other hand, it's not torture, you have to adjust and react to sleeping limbs.

So I moved a bit, and ended up on the bed, which was my old position, knees crossed, back supported. Not exactly an alert position, but OK.

Despite the moving around, I went 10 minutes per stage, instead of 8. So that was positive. I'm extending naturally. But I moved, and had the last stage, laying down! A definite no no.

I got the head feeling, which I usually like, but I'm trying to move the feeling more down into my body. To sink it, to swallow it. I sometimes can get it near my throat and swallow, and I've succeeded in getting it all the way down to my upper chest. David Smith has it just below his belly button. I don't know how to get it down there, but that's one hope of mine in meditation.

Having said that, I've developed deeper aspirations about meditation and become very unsatisfied with my present state of affairs. Not going on a retreat in a while partially is to blame, but there's other things I can do. I need to do more personal meditation days. Instead today I just took a long nap during the Mets game, and woke up to see them win. And then I've been reading Learned Optimism by Seligman.

I was reading a book that suggested the concept "spiritual bypassism", which is the idea that you don't have to do any work outside of spirituality, that will take care of all your troubles. Which is not true. Plus I want to be a therapist, I have been a therapist as an intern, and I want to learn more in the psychology realm.

Seligman's book is good, it has a test, that breaks things down some. One shocking result though, was that I don't universalize my goodness. I'm pretty optimistic in not universalizing my badness. And I do see myself as permanently good, but not pervasively good. I have an OK hope index.

While it seems very convincing, it does go against what I've learned in child management and discipline. Don't dole out general praise, it's better to be specific. I've only read 50 pages into the book, so I need to give him a chance to qualify his statements. He also says mild pessimism is useful in a few situations. But I balk at universalizing traits, making global personal statements, good or bad. I've got to read more of the book, but I do believe being positive is a very important step on the spiritual path.

Friday, July 02, 2004

7. First meditation class

I sat in Washington Square Park listening to Sangharakshita on MP3, his lecture on Karma and Rebirth. Andrew called. He would be late, he's printing out stuff for the second half on the 4th Nobel truth, the 8 fold path. He had the bells. As I was walking towards the class, I remember the Tibetan store near by. So I walked there and got some bells for $30. I'm not employed at the moment, and I wondered if I really needed them, but I bought them, telling myself, it was a gift I should not mention. (So much for that.) Andrew offered to go halvsies, but I declined. I made the choice.

I liked the class, hearing about people's new practice. I taught a guy who missed the 2nd week, the Metta Bahavana. Then I lead them through Piper, and onto the metta bahavana. It's hard to keep time when each section is only 4 minutes, and I was very nervous alone there. But it went OK, and we talked about it. I quickly reviewed Piper and told them about taking the practice out of the class, the usual 4th session.

Andrew came and he let me go over 6 minutes. Everyone stayed for the Buddhist section, and Andrew did a good job trying to cover the 8 fold path.

Walking out, I talked with Andrew. He's seeing progress at work. His positive harmonious communication is paying off in 2 areas. His co-workers and with the authors. I was very happy for him, and fought the jealousy, and it cheered me up to hear he was doing well. Andrew is a good guy, I like him quite a lot.

I thought I did horrible in my first try, but I think I'm just appreciating the complexity of the activity. It's hard not to refer to every little thing you know, but that's not appropriate. And it's easy to get side tracked. It's given me a greater appreciation for Vajramati. He's an excellent teacher.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

6. Studying for first

Today I teach my first meditation class. I'm excited. I read a lot of Kamalashila's book on meditation to bone up. I was hoping to meditate a lot, but I only got around to meditating twice, which is better than one. I didn't know about the subtle hindrances: drifting, sinking and stray thoughts.

Saddhamala liked my GFR blog. Andrew thinks he would write and write, if he had a blog. Jae wanted to know what GFR meant.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

5. Last week's sangha night

Last week was interesting. We could not get the key to work. And so Andrew suggested we go to his office building. His office building has open floors, no occupants. Now it's taking the not given, but we were desperate, and it seemed harmless. We left no trace. Andrew, Sita, Alyssa, Jason and Bridget were there. Jason and Andrew did not meditate against the wall, but the rest did, since we did not have any mats or anything. Sita lead the chanting and Andrew the meditation.

Then I gave a little talk on the 5 spiritual faculties. I thought it went well, and there was some good input. Andrew pointed out that Vajramati prefers "confidence" to "faith" because of all the negative associations with that word. Turns out Bridget gave a talk on the 5 spiritual faculties once, and it was good review for her. Sita ran off after the meditation. She said she really needed the meditation. She's very busy with her summer course she's taking. Also her sister is pregnant, ready to pop, we're waiting to hear news.

Anyway, it was an interesting little adventure, and then next week good old Andrew got a key for the new lock, and we were back in our space. A little sangha night adventure.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

4. Sangha Night

This is our second Tuesday without Vajramati. Andrew lead the chanting and rang the bells for the meditation. We did metta bahavana. I wormed around, my foot fell asleep. I broke position twice. I had a fairly deep meditation considering or maybe it just felt deep and useful because I've taken a few days off. First time in a long time I've gone 2 days in a row. I need to recommit to it, the willpower it takes. Somehow it's been easy for the past 2 years, until William came along.

I printed out a sutta to discuss, but I read it just before, and it wasn't that great. So Alyssa talked about the 15 qualities to get calm, from the Ayya Kehma book we're reading in Mitra studies. The got the conversation going. Faye talked a lot to Alyssa. Andrew and Bridget piped in occasionally. We bolted afterwards. I'll see Andrew Thursday.

3. Log to date

GFR Ordination Log (Firsts, retreats and order members met, not books)

7/24/02 Begin beginning meditation class with Vajramati
8/16/02 Begin daily meditation practice, after completing the 4 course beginning course with Vajramati.
10/4/02. Meet Sunanda, who is visiting Vajramati.
10/25/02 Met Vidyajyoti
10/20/02. First Sunday retreat at Simon's, 10am-4pm.
12/27/02. Week long retreat at Aryaloka on Brahma-vihara led by Manapa. Made first offering during a sevenfold puja. Met Shrijnana, Suriyadhamma, Max (now Amaradeva), Mark (now Sravaniya).
1/19/03 Mitra ceremony
1/25/03 Begin mitra study, guest lead by Kulananda
1/26/03 Lunch with Kulananda
3/28-30. Weekend Diamond Sutra Men's Retreat with Suddhayu.
4/21/03. First Dharma talk on Avoloketeshvara at Sangha meeting.
5/31-6/2. Yoga Retreat at Aryaloka with Saddhamala and Michelle McComb (yoga).
7/11-13. Just Retreat with Manapa and Amala. Precept Grid Saturday, Sunday Poetry
9/4/03. Asked Vajramati for ordination.
10/10-12. First GFR Retreat led by Manjuvajra, met Nagabodhi, Thiradhamma
12/7. Retreat day at Simon's led by Bodhipaksa.
12/11-13. Amaradeva stays with us. First FWBO visit, meditation with me at home.
12/23. Talk on Ratnasambhava (Alyssa, Mary Ann, Sita and V). Talk #2
12/27-1/04/04. 8 Day GFR Retreat on ethics. Met Rattanotara, Vajrabandu. Also spent time with Vajramati, Thirradhamma, Amaradeva, and Manjuvajra, Steve Wade, Allan. Met Tony, Don and others.
2/20-22. Retreat with Bodhipaksha, drove up with Andrew, Alyssa and Sita.
3/15/04. Got the complete lectures of Sangharakshita on MP3s for my iPod.
4/14/04. William Honorato Bell is born.
4/19/04. Met David Smith, talked to sangha.
5/12/04. Graduate with a masters in social work from NYU.
5/19/04. Meditated 4 times in one day (solo).
6/12/04. Jyoti's naming ceremony. (Andrew, Sita, and Vajramati attend in sangha)
6/19/04. Met Stephen Batchelor for breakfast (with Vajramati, Andrew, Sita, Laura)
6/22/04. Talk to sangha on 5 spiritual faculties.

Monday, June 28, 2004

2. The Hours

Just watched The Hours. Supposedly the dirctor is a buddhist. I think of dukkha. The unsatisfactoriness of life. You want what you can't have, you push away what you don't like. It literally means a ill made chassie on a charriot. Things just don't go right. Who would willing concieve this as the best of all possible worlds. I read an article in the Times Metro section today about a woman who went into a mental institution to get her meds right, and was brutally raped. You don't have to look far for the dukkha. My son cries and cries. He gets his stomach full, then his stomach has gas. Then his bowels are constipated. Then he's tired. Then waking up is not easy.

1. What this blog is about

I want to write a blog about my deepening my dharma practice, about my going for refuge, seeking ordination from the FWBO ( FWBO stands for Friends of the Western Buddhist Order. It was started the year I was born by Sangharakshita, an English man who spent about 20 years in the East, then came back to England. You can read all about it in his books.

Or go to, which includes a link to the FWBO Files, a web site that is critical of the organization. I think Sangharakshita was unskillful at times in his sexual practices, but I don't expect him to be perfect. He is old and apparently racked with problems of old age. It is unlikely I will meet him. He has not been formally running it for a long time.

Here in NYC we only have one order member, Vajramati. We do get a lot of visitors. In my next post, I'll paste in my going for refuge log that I have created.

One reason I'm doing this blog is that I want to try and pull myself out of this tail dive I've been on. I haven't been meditating as regularly, as you could read about in the blog about taking care of my son. While I'm generally exhausted all the time, there are times when I'm not and I don't meditate. So I want to try and reflect and report in this blog, and use it as a tool to deepen my dharma practice, my seeking refuge in the three jewels.