Friday, December 30, 2011

What we talk about when we talk about worldly winds

What we talk about when we talk about worldly winds

There's a great story by Raymond Carver, called "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love".  Recently, in the New Yorker, there was a story by Nathan Englander called "What We Talk About When We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank".  Someday I'd like to write, "What we talk about when we talk about worldly winds".  Not today, today is for reflection.

The 8 worldly winds are:  pleasure and pain, praise and blame, fame and disrepute, gain and loss.

I'm reading Vajragupta's Sailing The Worldly Winds, just finished the first few chapters.  To my knowledge the first kindle edition from Windhorse.  Unfortunately I didn't do the urban retreat, they read the book then.

So he asks about my response to some questions in exercises at the end of the chapters, and I thought I'd reflect here on them.  My preceptor is on solitary and my other closest spiritual friend is out of town.  Others are busy.  I prefer to speak this stuff in person, but I'm a little isolated--a worldly wind of sorts.  

One week I'm in contact with a lot of people who are supportive (because they too are on the journey), there's more than usual sangha activity, or I'm on retreat.  And then I'm not around anyone at all.  (I like solitude, but not isolation from spiritual friends.)  Part of the spiritual life is making conditions more conducive to deepening the spiritual life, by hanging around sangha more, developing spiritual friendships, simplifying life, having more free time and less responsibilities to practice (meditation, reflection, Dharma study, friendship, altruism).  It demands great creativity in this distracted and distracting society in New York City.  

For a long time I had a kind of rugged individualism, I was willfully meditating every day, plowing through books.  I couldn't keep that up.  I just don't think the conditions are supportive enough.  Having children is a topic for another day, but children make non-work time full of another kind of labor of love.  There's will power plus making conditions more supportive, so will power isn't needed as much, or can go to more and more refined things.  Just like you realize in meditation, some things you fight and some you just happen.  Learning how to work to improve things is a subtle and complicated art, but it takes clarity and confidence in the teachings.

After the winds of more supportive and less supportive environment for the spiritual practice, the next thoughts about worldly winds are about love life and work life, both which can make one soar to the hights and depths.  (I'm working on an essay about the Dharma and divorce.  And one on my last retreat.)

I think about my worldly wind triggers.  I think I covet my personal time.  When I don't feel like I've had enough, I get bitchy, like that's going to change things.  I notice I can suck it up for a weekend, but often at some point I break.  In some small way, maybe, but there's a point where I just say, "f&$% it," and I lose my discipline.  I tell a story about my experience of parenting.  I feel a great responsibility to give what I didn't get, which is a presence.  My mother came home from work distracted, focused on making dinner, then watching TV.  My step father was curious and alive because he meditates, and exerted a positive influence.  He ultimately led me to trying meditation, which led to the Buddhist path. I want my kids to have a present and alive parent--which I have to tell you is not easy for me.  I want to retreat into a book or computer or something.  I find when they do things I don't like, it's like my mind gets jammed and I can't think.  Thinking around my children is very hard.  And yet somehow on the journey I can improve.

So when my children have hours of homework to do, even though they're in first and second grade, I freak out sometimes.  My parents didn't really help me much with my homework, and I didn't have as much homework as they give now.  I have a really undertow of resistance to my children having so much homework.  Even though I was a teacher, and I'm committed to being the what my children need, and they need help with homework, even so, I find myself checking out at times, and just getting so wazzed out that I'm not helping them with their homework.

The lokadhammas should really be translated "worldly conditions", which I think properly puts the emphasis on conditionality, but "worldly winds" put a kind of emphasis on how things blow back and forth.  I always think about that Zen story when I think about the worldly winds.

Vajragupta provides antidotes to the worldly winds.  Praise and Blame is transcended by truthfulness.  Fame and infamy is transcended by individuality, integration.  Gain and Loss is transcended by generosity.  Mindfulness is the antidote for pleasure and pain.  He references Vidyamala's book (which I want to read) and Breathworks.

I learned from Marsha Linehan, what you need to do with pain is to face the pain.  I've always felt ambivalent about gently leading my patients towards their pain, out of the theory that it will be helpful.  I say theory, because how would you prove that.  

The test is in people's experience, and everyone is different.  In the end, even if someone suffers pain in remembering, it's never quite like when it happened, and if someone's there to process it with them, then that is really profoundly intimate and healing.  In my clinical experience, for what ever worth that is, what ever proof that is.  

Freud used to talk about science of psychoanalysis.  I prefer the art, though I don't really like to indulge in dualities.  I'm expressing a personal preference.  That's why I'm not into evidence based practice.  To ratify common sense and clinical experience with "science" is a waste of time.  Like science proving how healthy meditation is.  Sorry, doesn't need to be proven.  I mean, go ahead and prove that if you want.  And I'm sure I could really learn from evidence based practice of psychotherapy.  I think people who like books and not supervision favor evidence based practice more.  I've just never had a book required or given to me that was evidence based practice.  I'm sure I'd love that too actually  But I digress.

Vajragupta asks in the reflection exercises, how could you fight being blown about by the worldly winds (after he's provided his antidotes)?  I really do think mindfulness is the solution.  I once had a friend suggest that suffering was a trigger to look for more mindfulness.  

Generosity is also a solution.  We can get so caught up in ourselves, and spin our wheels.  Doing something for others is less ambigous if you're a little sensitive to exploring what someone else might need.  Now there are all kinds of questions about helping people, and I was thinking about that the other day when I lent a patient Living Poor, a Peace Corps account of living in Ecuador.  He gives nails to one guy to help him out in business, and the next day his brother shows up.  "I want nails too."  When you give someone something you're susceptible to sibling transference.  "I want some too, it's not fair!"  When you give someone something, you create expectations.  Now that's not fatal, I'm not saying dont' be generous.  But we've got Chogyam Trumpa's concept of idiot compassion.  And this just goes to show that there's no formulaic solution except being present and mindful, no easy answers. True generosity is a complicated and deep thing.

So what's the antidote to the frazzled, overwhelmed, irritability I get after not having a little free time with myself?  What's the dharma door's opportunity?  My friend has always told me, I made this life.  I chose this profession that absorbs my whole being so much, that I'm often exhausted after work.  Then I chose to have children.  It's a huge responsibility that people rarely grasp.  Once they're here, you can't change your mind to it's a decision that colors the rest of your life.  The urge to reproduce is perhaps too unexamined in most people.  I was older, and thought a lot about it.  But my friend reminds me that I was a little ambivalent about it.

Some Buddhist friends don't want to have children, because it's a huge time suck, or they just see through the urge to reproduce.  I think it has been helpful to me to clarify things and grow up in a kind of way.  I would never wish away my children.  But I have to admit that it's taken time from my meditation practice, and when my will was weak, given me a built in excuse for taking my foot off the accelerator.  Other worldly winds can become intensified in that context.

So there are some of my rambles around reflections on the worldly winds.  While Vajragupta goes on about the bodhyangas, you'll just have to read that part of the book to get that.  While we need to tidy ourselves up, we also have to develop a vision of where we're going.  I like the spiritual journey, I think it provides the best suggestions in developing a vision.

(btw, found this interesting bit by Subhuti on the lokadhammas (you have to listen for a while, or go to section 5).  Also Vajragupta has a talk from the Urban Retreat)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Right speech video?

File this in idiots who try and get spiritual.  Well, that's kind of harsh.  I like it when the person who presents himself as out of control and caught up in modernity dabbles in ancient wisdom to try and enhance their life.  Why not.  I like to make fun of myself at times.  I like the yoga teacher too, she's got a completely different personality, yet she's willing to engage with him in this video.  I think his 4 things are from the 10 precepts of Buddhism, the 4 right speech precepts.

Gregory Burdulis TEDxBoulder Video

I like the calm and pace of his presentation, it's not jam packed, he's really simplified the story to the important things.  I find it so interesting that he's entering the world with what he's gotten from the monastery, the cave and the hermitage.  Advertising no less.  I watched commercials yesterday during the Knicks season opener.  One comercial copied the drawing I recently saw in video about the high price of materialism.  I saw Charles Barkley, who claimed not to be a role model, encourage me to join weight watchers because he is a role model.  Advertising can co-opt any message and twist it into materialism.  It's insidious.  Bringing mindfulness to a big advertising agency is a nobel cause, but can that transcend the whole project?  The whole project is to sell something.  Feels like mind pollution to me, clutter.  I wish I could have back the space in my mind that has selling jingles.  More mindfulness in selling?  That could go both ways.  I hope what they uncover is more compassion as wel, but personally I don't think it's just mindfulness.  There's also the cultivation of positive emotion.  I feel like ethical and spiritual development is important too.  Hopefully he can uncover some of that, there.  I'd like to hear about that tension.  I'd like an update on what he's learned after he's done it for a while.  Anyway, an interesting video.  He's a brave man in a way, going into the belly of the beast.  Good luck.

Sunday, December 25, 2011


David Bowie

I still don't know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead-end streets
Every time I thought I'd got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me
But I've never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker
I'm much too fast to take that test

(Turn and face the strain)
Don't want to be a richer man
(Turn and face the strain)
Just gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me
But I can't trace time

I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence and
So the days float through my eyes
But still the days seem the same
And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They're quite aware of what they're going through

(Turn and face the strain)
Don't tell t hem to grow up and out of it
(Turn and face the strain)
Where's your shame
You've left us up to our necks in it
Time may change me
But you can't trace time

Strange fascination, fascinating me
Changes are taking the pace I'm going through

(Turn and face the strain)
Oh, look out you rock 'n rollers
(Turn and face the strain)
Pretty soon you're gonna get a little older
Time may change me
But I can't trace time
I said that time may change me
But I can't trace time


I remember the first time I heard this song.  I was over at a friend's house, he was older and had a bunch of older siblings.  Lots of cool music.  That's probably like 30 years ago.  It came out in '71, so it's 40+ years old.

I was creating a playlist for my kids on spotify and they have Shrek soundtracks, and I listened to that version and the David Bowie version.

I'm struck by the phrase "But never leave the stream/Of warm impermanence".

That's great, "warm impermanence"  Amazing.

Kuan Yin Mantra

Just been googling Kuan Yin Mantra


 This is different than this one, which is a downloadable mp3:

 my button is not working on my phone, at the moment, but here's an app:

 There's a song by Lisa Thiel: Kuan Yin's Mantra I

 Her own bio says: "Lisa Thiel is a visionary artist and ceremonial singer whose healing song prayers and chants are among the most popular in the women’s spiritual movement today.Originally a holistic healing professional in Los Angeles, California, Lisa began creating her music as an expression of and as a vehicle for her own process of personal growth and transformation. Her spiritual path led her to study many of the world’s spiritual traditions and her teachers were yogis, shamans, Tibetan lamas and wise women of the Goddess tradition."

 And there's even more far out wacky seeming stuff about Kuan Yin, but here's some internet wandering I had today.

Friday, December 16, 2011

David R. Loy Quote

p.130 of Money, Sex, War Karma:
"The modern world can keep many of us alive longer and sometimes makes death less physically painful, but it has no answer to the groundlessness that plagues us individually and collectively, for nothing in the world can fill up the bottomless hole at our core."

Also later he writes:
"We need an alternative to 'there's no alternative'."

Friday, December 09, 2011

Guest Blog

With the new blogger interface, I can see how many hits I get to a page.  So it looks like guest blogs get the most hits.  Anyone want to guest blog?  What's your spiritual journey?  Any points about Buddhism, Buddhist culture, Buddhism in America, Buddhist music, Buddhist fiction, feminism and Buddhism, Buddhism and vegetarianism, Buddhism and sex, the Triratna Buddhist Community, Buddhism in New York City, Buddhism and parenting, Buddhism and psychotherapy?  Guest book reviews (no free books sorry, unless you want to come over and look at my book shelf)?

It's not about getting the most hits, to be sure.  I like my humble little blog that could.  It's yours too, though, please consider guest blogging.

Materialism video

I found this video profound.  I want to cultivate intrinsic values and community, move away from materialism.  I've got small children and it's hard not to want to buy them what they want for xmas.  One of my patient's says she bought a whole lot of little things when they were small.  They liked bulk.  Instead of trying to hit a home run, I'm going to try a bunch of bunt singles.  Is that materialistic of me?

More Loy quotes

The following quotes are from his chapter, "What is wrong with sex?" in the recent book by David R. Loy:

"The liberation of sexual preference means that gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transsexuals can come out of the closet leading to an important reduction in collective social dukkha." (p. 65-66)

I like the notion of collective social dukkha.

"Buddhism is unique among the major religions in not being pro-natalist.  There is no doctrinal encouragement that we should have lots of children, which is another aspect of the Dharma to appreciate, given our overpopulation of the world." (p. 66)

Supposedly we just hit 7 billion people.

"Our culture is saturated with sexuality, not only because sex is commodified in every possible way (being indispensable for grabbing our attention) but also because preoccupation with sexual gratification helps to fill up the void left by the collapse of any larger meaning."

David Loy quote

"We are punished not for our our "sins" but by them. We become the kind of person who does that sorts of thing." David Loy in Money Sex War Karma: Notes for a Buddhist Revolution, in the Chapter "How To Drive Your Karma".

This quote captures the subtle and more sophisticated approach to spirituality that I really appreciate. I wasn't wild about the first few essays in this book, but I really enjoyed the chapter on Nagarjuna, and this one on Karma. He does a good job of putting these ideas into a modern context, with a sense of the past.

Buddhism needs to be critically reinvented in the west. On the one hand, we need to understand not the just the literal sayings, but really go deep into the context of why things were said and extract the principles. We need to update these things into our modern existence and cultures, with a critical eye to our own present contexts, without being too trapped in that either. The further along we are on both these very deep areas, the better we can understand what the Buddha was getting at, and what that means for our present circumstances. Sangharakshita is really excellent at that, but there's no final draft and we have our own responsibility to advance our understandings. It is no small task, but in my opinion the "best game in town". Our personality determines whether we're going to be more academic or more of a faith follower, and how those two are mixed.

Literalism and lack of depth, superficiality and vagueness is a plague, a virus, a malaise in me.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011


Just started reading Patience by Allan Lokos. He wrote the book because one of his friends said, "Just about every mistake I have ever made and every unkind word I have ever spoken might bave been avoided if I had been more patient." He felt that was true of him. Is that true of you?

I picked up the book because at one point the feedback I got was that I needed to cultivate more patience. I find it an interesting topic, though I'm a bit wary about picking up books by people I don't know.

I think impatience can be good. It makes me take out the garbage, makes me make changes that were perhaps overdue.

But I think when you really know what's going on, you don't really resist reality.

I didn't know about Allan Lokos, but looks like an interesting center on the upper west side of Manhattan, at 88th and Columbus.

Anyway, interesting beginning, I'll let you know how it goes.

The Story

I've been thinking a lot about story lines I say that cause stress. Maybe this blog should be on my psychology blog, but I think this isn't incompatable with Buddhism. I think it's through meditation that I have gained insight into my stories as stories. Of course stories can be more pragmatic or skillful. We have to tell stories. I'd even go so far as to say I'm a story junkie--after a day of listening to people, I go home and read a book or watch some TV for more stories.

One story line I've dropped is "I can't handle the heat." One I'm conscious of is, "I don't take the holiday season well." December has historically be my least favorite month--the pressure I put on myself to give presents, my own laziness and overwhelmedness contributes. One person said to me that maybe I'm just selfish. OK, so I'm selfish and this holiday season of giving confronts that. My patients seem to think I'm generous. My sons do and don't, my girlfriend does and doesn't. One story line is that I'm a self only child. That's another story I have to work on.

So the holiday season presents challenging stories and demands, and I'm looking into it to see what's useful, what's not, and see if I can root out the negative stories.

Now that sounds like modern psychology, but I think Buddhism is all about the mind, and working with it, with a specific goal in mind.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

if you have a little girl, here is an excellent holiday present

I usually don't do this, but I liked this book. Here is the press release for the excellent children's book I just read:


New Children’s Book Reinterprets Ancient Zen Fable for Today’s Kids & Adults; Makes for a Beautiful and Unique Gift for the Holidays!

(LOS ANGELES) December 1, 2011 – With the holiday season around the corner, families and friends everywhere are looking for the perfect gift, especially for those adorable little children in everyone’s circle. How about something a little different, something with a lot of heart and a little Zen? “Maybe (A Little Zen for Little Ones™)” ($15.99, Umiya Publishing), by Sanjay Nambiar, is a gorgeous, smart, and mindful children’s book that will make a perfect addition to any holiday reading list (for kids as well as adults). In this hectic season of stress and worry, a book like “Maybe (A Little Zen for Little Ones)” is exactly the type of gift that can bring a family together.

Based on an ancient and beloved Zen fable, “Maybe (A Little Zen for Little Ones)” is about a wise girl who experiences a series of events that at first seem lucky (or unlucky) but then turn out to be quite the opposite. For each incident, was what happened good luck? Maybe. Was it bad luck? Maybe. Or, perhaps the girl simply does not get caught up in the emotion of the moment, because she can never know what that event might lead to, “good” or “bad” . . .

Just like the story itself, the book’s beautiful illustrations juxtapose modern graphics with traditional backgrounds to transpose the old into the new, thus creating an accessible context for deeply meaningful concepts.

Sanjay Nambiar, the book’s author, grew up in Carson, CA. He overcame a gang- and drug-riddled environment with the help of a closely-knit family and a focus on education. Nambiar practices meditation on a daily basis and sees extraordinary potential for happiness (and frustration) in the confluence of Western lifestyles and Eastern philosophies.

“The holidays can be filled with ups and downs, with a lot of drama that can be tough for kids – and adults – to process,” said Nambiar. “The themes in this book help us realize that we don’t need to get super sad or excited about incidents during the holidays, because those events often lead to things we couldn't even imagine at first. I hope this can inspire readers to consider the holidays in a different perspective, one that incorporates a little bit of Zen as well as a lot of fun,” he added.

“Maybe (A Little Zen for Little Ones)” is available at,, in e-reader formats for the Kindle and iPad, and at select bookstores and gift shops. For more information, please contact Jeannine Jacobi of Fresh PR at (310) 857-6994 or, or visit

About A Little Zen for Little Ones™
A Little Zen for Little Ones™ ( puts classic and new Zen stories in an accessible context for today’s kids (and adults!). These revered tales provide a little perspective on what’s truly important, on how personal balance and peace can manifest in everyday life. With children as central characters and narratives that reflect modern culture, A Little Zen for Little Ones™ helps us examine our values as our world becomes more complex and confusing. After all, if our children can get a little bit of Zen in their lives, perhaps they’ll grow up to be adults with a little bit of Zen as well. Wouldn’t that be great for all of us?

[end of the press release]

what I like about the book is it recast the story I like, where there's an alternation of "good" and "bad" luck that really with all the alternations turns out to be the opposite each time.

I'll update it with my children's reactions, when they read it.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Don't forget movie Crazy Wisdom

Supposedly last night was sold out, wish I could have been there. Crazy Wisdom is still playing at the Rubin. Hopefully my friend who's going today will write another guest post, maybe she'll overhear a cool comment.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

How To Cook Your Life

Finally got round to watching this excellent movie, How To Cook Your Life, which is streaming on Netflix. The movie was mostly about Edward Espe Brown, who wrote a few books and teaches cooking and Zen in California. Seems he's started his own sangha. Supposedly he helped found Greens, the cool Zen restaurant in SF.

Watching him cook bread made me want to cook bread. It's a quirky documentary because they will interview people and it's not clear what the connection is with Edward Espe Brown is, or to Zen. They say interesting things. It's more of a loose free flowing documentary than a tight one.

I like it that they show Brown's human side--he gets irritated, he cries, he has a tantrum, and he's calmly sitting in front giving a Dharma talk.

There is footage of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, and Brown tells stories about him. I liked this one: A guy asks Suzuki what he thinks of the Zen students. He says, "I think they're enlightened, until they open their mouths."

And of course cooking is cool. You can apply mindfulness to everything and applying it to cooking is important. Bringing mindfulness to what we put into our bodies is very important.

I've heard the story about biscuits tasting right--he used to apply a different standard, expected them to taste like restaurant ones, but then he just accepted them as they were and he enjoyed them even more. I like that story. I think he originated that story, which somehow feels classic to me because I've heard it before.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Book Prize 2011

Book Prize

There are two books that win BOOK OF THE YEAR in 2011.

I need to come up with a name for my prize, book of the year. Please leave a comment to suggest a name: The Going For Refuge Blog Book Prize. And there’s no money attached to the prize; Just the honor of winning it. And this year, there were two books that stood out for me.

The Art of Reflection sneaks up on me. The first third seemed like I already knew it before. But as you go deeper and deeper into the book, it gets you. It’s actually cunningly written to gently guide you in to deeper and deeper spiritual reflections about the BuddhaDharma.

I read everything that comes out of Windhorse, sooner or later. I’m surprised when order members aren’t familiar with everything. That’s me trying to rank on them. Not too cool. I want to join the order, so any kind of proof I have of a greater commitment makes me feel I deserve to get in; You should have me in the order. But on reflection, that’s just insecurity, and reading isn’t the whole of the spiritual depth story.

I will join the order when I’m witnessed to be effectively going for refuge to the three jewels. Not being witness doesn’t mean I haven’t. Not being witness means probably means I’ve got more work to do. I do have more work to do. That’s uncontroversial.

My friend said, “I am who I am, ordain me.” My reply is, “Yes, but can you progress further?” The answer is, of course, yes. Let the order decide the one thing that the order decides.

There is no bureaucracy in the in the Triratna, no pope or Vatican. It’s only body, the preceptor’s college, just asks the question—who are we and what do we want it to look like to be an order member? What is essential to the order? That is not an easy answer, and we get fresh pronouncements of that every once in a while.

When you want to join the order it can be confusing if you check off all the boxes. What does it mean to be an order member? I’m inclined personally to think along the lines of what Sangharakshita supposedly said--“If they’re ready to be ordained in 6 months, why not ordain them now?” That is not how things are done now. But I digress.

That was all preface to why I find it weird when order members don’t talk more about books. On Reflection has been talked a lot about by the people I’m around. And that is not always the case with books, in my circles. This book has had a big influence on the order. It put to words something everyone sort of knows, and developed it further. Brilliant.

Plus is dovetails with “Re-imagining The Buddha”, an essay that Subhuti put out that is an account of some of the thoughts Sangharakshita and him have expressed in conversation. Some people say Subhuti’s essays aren’t the best way to propagate ideas in the Triratna community, but I think it’s just fine.

Supposedly the second draft of thoughts coming out soon about the five spiritual stages, from Sangharakshita’s seminar on the precious garland sutra. But instead of writing a paper, people are working-shopping it a little bit. I’d like a clear paper please. But I do think it’s a better writing process to get feedback on what’s useful, so take your time. But I am looking forward to the paper.

The Art of Reflection, is in many ways saying something we already know, and yet somehow shedding new light on it. And for that I give the book of the year prize for my blog.

The second co-winner is Vishvapani’s book Gautama Buddha. I’ve read Karen Armstrong’s book and others. Biographies of the Buddha are either popularizations or they’re too scholarly. This book is a well-written book with spiritual depth and an appreciation for a wide range of works. It sheds new light by quoting sutras I haven’t read yet. Lots of times I read Buddhist books and they’re quoting things I’ve read over and over again; Not so with this book. And there’s a kind of spiritual depth to the book. You can tell Vishvapani is a practitioner, has advanced along the path. And yet he’s aware of a wide range of scholarly material and primary texts, the cannon, and writes well. A triple threat.

On the one hand you might be tempted to be a historian, and get bogged down in what happened, and gloss over what enlightenment is. On the other hand, some people don’t want to make an outline of the historical Buddha, because what he did is so awesome, he really does step outside history. This book walks that line perfectly.

The Buddha’s advice to Bahia--this is a profound teaching and nobody really explains it. But if you circle back around and keep on taking a crack at it like Vishvapani, you feel like you’re getting a better handle on it. To put the quotes into a historical context that actually explains the quotes better. Amazing writing. This is the kind of book that I finish reading and then start all over again. And there’s a kind of existential appreciation, he quotes the Buddha seeing people like fish in a drying up pool. Casting the Buddha’s crisis in more modern terms is important.

So for this reason, I pick this book as another co-winner of the Going For Refuge Blog book of the year.

I have two questions for Vishvapani. Why isn’t the book available in the USA? I got one at the Aryaloka Book Store. But you can’t get it on Amazon in the USA.

The second question is about him having a child. He’s referenced it that he’s had a child while the book was coming out. The Buddha said to a monk who’s trying to impregnate his wife so she can have a child (out of kindness to his wife since he’s gone off to be a monk), that he’d do better to stick his penis into a snake’s mouth—how does Vishvapani reconcile this in his mind? I have never read or heard that quoted before. That’s a rather personal question, I know, but I’m curious about that, knowing that he’s a new father.

I have struggled with the same issue, though once the kids are around, it’s not a question. They are around and you love them, of course. I never heard that quote before I chose to have children. And I just wonder how he personally he got over that. Maybe some day I will meet him and ask him. I hope he does a book tour in the USA, because I think this is a wonderful book.

Books work on you, and these two books are the books that have worked on me over the past year.

A classic video that bears repeating.

Diksha Bhumi

Diksha Bhumi by Koshyk
Diksha Bhumi, a photo by Koshyk on Flickr.

At the center, a casket has the remains of the great Ambedkar (1891-1956), who was instrumental in bring about the revival of Buddhism in India among the ex-untouchables. I dearly want to visit here.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Personal Dharma versus The Dharma

Thanksgiving thoughts:

Here in the USA we celebrate Thanksgiving. Today I am thankful for the variety of Dharma teachings and practices. I am thankful for the many teachers and the different sects of Buddhism. I am thankful for those who preserved and recorded the teachings, no matter how imperfect. Indeed, I appreciate all the spiritual traditions now that I've found mine.

You hear about teachings: "Well, I see people in the distance in the fog, and I say to some, 'more left' and to others, 'more right'. It seems to contradict, but I see things from a different vantage point."

The Buddha was inclusive. He allowed householders to be part of the fold, when he could have just thought monks were the only way. There were some monks who wants the forest tradition to be The Tradition. The Buddha declined narrowing the path. The path is inclusive, wide.

I gave a talk on generosity at the last practice day. I articulated what was useful and interesting to me, and hoped that it was so for others. I honestly couldn't presume to know what the people in the group needed to know, even if I know some of them as well as I know anyone. Anyway, my short talk provoked a good discussion and thus it's a success on that level. I love the discussion.

I think sometimes people mistake their path for the path. There is an ocean of Dharma to choose from. OK, so yes, the path isn't just about reading books. But is it a problem if someone likes to read books? Yes, we need to take what we know and put it into practice. There can be a kind of indigestion, when you eat too much of a rich meal. Westerners are producing a new kind of Buddhism, that is well read. And if you go deeper into the path, you want to give back and not just accumulate your own deepening insight. Altruism is very important in the spiritual life, it counters spiritual individualism.

But in the end, I think there are many different personalities and kinds of people, and that the Buddha built a big tent, for them all to come in. There are many traditions. And when someone works to enforce their personality view, criticizing others path, well, I think that is a mistake. Whether you're a monk or a householder, whether you're a wisdom type or a faith follower. What ever type you, that is just right.

We are modifiable by our spiritual friends. People outside of us often see us better then we see ourselves.

And there's the danger of vagueness and lack of depth in inclusion. I'm not saying you shouldn't go as deep and as clearly into your path. I think that's the tension really. When we find out what really works for us, then we want everyone to have that. But what I'm saying is that pluralism, tolerance and respect for people's autonomy on the path is also something you can be clear about and feel deeply.

So on this Thanksgiving, no only am I thankful for all the spiritual traditions with their oceans of Dharma, but I'm also appreciative of all my friends who provide such a rich and stimulating life. All my relationships. Thank you.

Hot food blog gets a makeover

I've come under the influence of Under The Influence of Food. And they've had a makeover, so go on over and check out one of my favorite food blogs. Lots of vegetarian and vegan recipes.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Final thoughts on Philip Glass' Satyagraha

Thinking about it the production was amazing. It's cool to see Philip Glass getting his due.

A few of my friends haven't seen the movie Gandhi. When I was in high school, my parents were threatening to move from Madison Wisconsin, to Minneapolis Minnesota. I didn't want to leave my friends for senior year. So having seen Gandhi, I did a hunger strike. I only had to not eat for a day and they conceded.

I asked my stepfather if he'd regretted that, and he said no, it was about the same job and it probably wasn't a big deal not to take it.

I really want to go to India and connect with my Buddhist brethren. My heart goes out to the Dalits who converted with Ambedkar to Buddhism. Seeing all the singers in saris made me think that.

the sangha grows

Saddhu to the new mitra! (I protect people's identity, so I won't say his name, he knows who he is). That makes 11 mintras in NYC for the TBC, and 6 have asked for ordination, to my knowledge.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Read the New York Times review. They even have a video about it with interviews and footage. I'm not an opera critic. I'm not a music critic like my friend Mark. I'm not even even very knowledgeable about Gandhi, Tolstoy or Martin Luther King. I'm not even that versed on the Bhagavad Gita. Though I have read it once.

I don't think there's any Buddhist opera, and googling "Buddhist Opera" doesn't turn up much information. But I did turn up this FWBO video, about an opera they put on! Amazing, I didn't know about this. Supposedly they did it in 2002

Anyway, the rube that I am, I could still appreciate the amazing production, that was broadcast live, which was probably why Glass himself came out on stage and took a bow. Quite amazing use of newspaper, projection, puppetry, acrobats and stilt walking.

As I've written before Satyagraha is a transcendent concept and they demonstrated that well by raising coats, people raising up, and the slow meditative way people walked. It was a lovely meditation.

Opera is such an amazing thing, the amount of effort that goes into a production must be amazing. The building is amazing. When the opera started, the chandeliers went up. I like it that there's people in jeans and people dressed up, it's truly a take it as you like kind of event.

So I highly recommend seeing this opera and going to the Met, which puts on an amazing show.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Subhuti Video

When Subhuti talks, it's worth listening to.

Retreat Account

From Going For Refuge

Dear spiritual friend,

I wanted to tell you about my retreat. First off, because it's a 5 hour drive from New York City to Newmarket New Hampshire, the retreat starts when my spiritual friend gets into the car.

From Going For Refuge

My journeying friend and I have a good history together in multiple contexts, one being spiritual. We catch up. One thing I like about car trips is that you’re kind of stuck with a person without media. Of course now with smart phones and an in the car DVD player, that’s not strictly true, but mostly that happens.

From Going For Refuge

The spiritual life is all about friendship, and if you could just force friendship onto people, I would. Friendship has to flow naturally, although you can always try harder to be with someone, spend more time, and devote more resources to the relationship, so in a way you can work hard. So in a way you can. I find that through meditation, I see more clearly how to work for things. I understand what I can do about conditions to make things more supportive towards my goals.

From Going For Refuge

For unknown (to me) reasons, the retreat was moved from starting Friday night to Saturday morning. So Friday we drove to Portsmith and checked out their new center and hung out with some spiritual friends who live there. Looks like an amazing center. Aryaloka is blooming, lots of people are coming and there's no reason not to think that will happen in Portsmith. It's an exciting thing to watch the spread and blossoming of the order.

From Going For Refuge

When I arrived at Aryaloka, after a night on the town in Portsmith, I was shocked into the retreat. My roommate, who was a night early to the retreat, like me, wanted to meditate in the room. I asked him to meditate in the shrine room, but it was probably cold, and he had the heater on in our room. So he just sat down and started meditating to this amazing rupa of the Buddha slouched over, head in hands, presumably crying for the suffering in the world. I harmonized, and meditated with him, then jumped into bed and slept.

From Going For Refuge

From Going For Refuge

There are a bunch of constants you always get from a retreat visit to Aryaloka. Aryaloka is outside Newmarket New Hampshire, and as the following photos show, the retreat center has a little land and a stream that flows near it. So since I live in NYC, it's nice to get into a rural residential setting.

From Going For Refuge

I like the silence on retreat. Saturday night through Sunday we had silence.

From Going For Refuge

Since everyone is on retreat, people are positive, helpful, sweet, kind. It seems genuine, not fake, though maybe you can tell people are on their best behavior, which isn't a bad thing. The vegetarian food is wonderful—simple and healthy. People always bring cookies and sweets if you need some support by something sweet. In a way a retreat can be very challenging and a few times I’ve laughed like a hyena on the drive home because I had lots of energy to discharge. You know it seems simple, but it’s really quite difficult to go on retreat in a way. People can be overwhelmed by it.

From Going For Refuge

Time spent meditating with others is a very important activity. I’ve meditated willfully for about 7 years, and then I was concerned it was too willful, and I backed off the disciple, and I struggle to keep it at times. I used to go flying into retreats with a full head of steam, but now I struggle to get back into those times. Meditation is very important to me, and I appreciate the support of meditating with others.

From Going For Refuge

I need support in meditation, and setting up positive conditions on retreat really help. Though the retreat didn't start till 9, I sat in the shrine room with the 2 early friends.

From Going For Refuge

Then when everyone gathers, we socialize, catch up and whatnot until we do a more formal checking in--we go around the circle and just say what's going on, how long they've been coming along and what inspires them. I always feel a little weird with all these people, but pretty quickly you get in tune with each other and we feed off each others positive energy.

From Going For Refuge

The topic was the 5 spiritual stages, gleaned from a seminar Urgen Sangharakshita taught on the Precious Garland. Supposedly these ideas are not from the Precious Garland Sutra, the leaders were not sure where they came from, perhaps from Sangharakshita.

From Going For Refuge

I had a revelation on retreat. The Buddha saw literalism as a impediment in the spiritual life, according to Vishvapani’s new biography of the Buddha. In the system of meditation, there's talk about how to develop in the spiritual life. First, with mindfulness of breathing we work on integration. Second, with metta bahavana you work on emotional positivity. Third, you can meditate on the 6 Elements and move towards a spiritual death, or deaths. The 6 Element practice is taught on ordination retreats in the Triratna Community, in the lead up to the next stage: Spiritual rebirth, when a sadana practice is given. As you die, you are reborn as an archetypal buddha, say Avalokita or Manjushri, and you're supposed to either embody or develop these qualities.

From Going For Refuge

I've done the 6 element practice, but I have not yet been invited to join the order. So I felt like doing the 5 element practice is like a quarter back trying to hand off the ball, but the running back (sadana) doesn't take the ball. I’ve always been kind of confused by this.

On this retreat I was quoting The Big Lebwoski. “My thinking was all uptight.” So what if there's no running back? It's looking at things literally. Literal mindedness is a foe of the spiritual life! Even if you have a sadana, that doesn't mean that what unfolds isn’t a kind of rebirth. People have chosen not to get a sadana practice upon ordination.

Take for instance the fact that I used to be a person who disliked the heat of summer. One you take off all your clothes, if you're hot, what do you do? At least in the winter, you can put more clothes on, put another layer on. I felt even in the coldest, you just go indoors and turn on the AC, limit you activity outside.

My parents turned the heat way down at night in the winter, and I could use an electric blanket if needed, but I didn't really even need that. When I meditate, I get hot. Sleeping partners say I'm hot, a warm oven. So I give off heat, and come from a cold midwest (USA).

Since I've taken up meditation, I've let go of the story that I can’t handle the heat. The heat is annoying, but I can tolerate my feelings. I became someone who no longer complained about the heat. Nor do I yearn for the fall the way I used to. Now if that's a small small small spiritual death and rebirth, well, there's no need for a archatypal buddha. It's just a death and rebirth. To imagine it connected to a sadana, an archatypal buddha is to just try and add on another layer.

My spiritual rebirth is really an open ended journey. In fact, what do I want my spiritual rebirth to be? That's a great question. As Rilke says, I'll just have to live the question.

My thinking was so uptight.

Another revelation was I uncovered a layer of perhaps negativity in my relations to others. More work to do. If you go on retreat and don’t come out of it with the thought, “there’s more work to do,” then you haven’t challenged yourself on retreat.

Being with others is great. I especially appreciated the male order member on the retreat, I always appreciate his wisdom and kindness. I also went for a walk with a younger fellow, and got to play the elder spiritual brother some, which is always a worthwhile project. I've read that being a sponsor in AA is very beneficial. When you teach and lead you have to learn more deeply that which you already know. So it's an honor to give some brotherly advice and listen. More listening because he's pretty impressive, but we don't always see things ourselves, and it helps for someone to give some input from outside. We need help in the spiritual life and spiritual friendship is very much recommended, and I appreciate it.

On Sunday the chairperson of Aryaloka gave a talk and led some meditations and that was fantastic! I connected with Ratnasambhava, a little, never really thought about that Boddhisattva. I often connect with a new one, which makes picking a sadana difficult. Maybe I'll throw it back to my preceptor and let him choose. I do respond to this kind of Buddhism, but I like our order's take on it, which doesn't make it necessarily the only path.

The dash home is bittersweet. I'm anxious to get back, as I see the retreat ending with reporting out, but I wish I could be on retreat more. I've gotten better at accepting what I get. I think it's good that I want more. Not all desire is bad. I hope to go on the far flung sangha retreat in January, when the centers on the east coast outside of Aryaloka come together for some spiritual community and retreat.

I report in and report out now to my internalized spiritual community quite often and having a real external reporting in and reporting out is pretty cool.

I hope this retreat account was useful to you. May you be happy, may you be well.



PS, more pictures:

Fall is lovely

From Going For Refuge

From Going For Refuge

From Going For Refuge

From Going For Refuge

From Going For Refuge

They prepare for winter with sand for when it snows:

From Going For Refuge

Looking over Kwan Yin's shoulder at Aryaloka:

From Going For Refuge

Philip Glass' Satyagraha

Philip Glass describes himself as a ""a Jewish-Taoist-Hindu-Toltec-Buddhist" (see the Wikipedia article).

I like it that he doesn't want to be pigeon holed. I didn't know what Toltec was, so I read the Wikipedia article. Maybe he sees himself as an artisan: ""Toltec" came to take on the meaning "artisan"" Toltec came before the Aztecs so it's hard to say what was really going on.

Satyagraha was an opera that, in it being commissioned, he didn't have to work any more at not composing jobs. I recognize some of the words in Sanskrit.

I'm very psyched to see the opera on Saturday.

Satyagraha is an interesting concept (see Wikipedia article): "The essence of Satyagraha is that it seeks to eliminate antagonisms without harming the antagonists themselves, as opposed to violent resistance, which is meant to cause harm to the antagonist. A Satyagrahi therefore does not seek to end or destroy the relationship with the antagonist, but instead seeks to transform or “purify” it to a higher level."

Friday, October 28, 2011


Learning about Satyagraha, the opera by Philip Glass, in preparation for attending it at the Met soon. I'm listening to it now.

Here's from Wikipedia:

"The title of the opera refers to Gandhi's concept of non-violent resistance to injustice, Satyagraha, and the text, from the Bhagavad Gita, is sung in the original Sanskrit."

Satyagraha means insistance on truth, a cool concept.

I can't believe it came out it premiered in '80. Feels very fresh to me.

From Glass' site, I learned:

The first two acts each contain three scenes; the last is one continuous scene. Each act is dominated by a single historic figure (non-singing role) overlooking the action from above: the Indian poet Ravindranath Tagore in Act I the Russian author Leo Tolstoy in Act II, the American Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr in Act III.

And that there's apparently a DVD, though a search on Amazon and it's currently unavailable. You can buy a used non USA format one. Of course Netflix doesn't have it, but they have 2 documentaries on Glass.

I'm psyched to see it.

going to the opera!

I fell in love with opera this summer when I saw La Boheme in Santa Fe.

I've always liked Philip Glass. He always plays at the Free Tibet concerts. I particularly enjoyed his collaboration with Allen Ginsberg, Hydrogen Jukebox.

So I'm very psyched to see Satyagraha at the Met in NYC.

Here's some info about it:

Philip Glass


NOV 4, 8, 12, 15, 19 mat, 26 mat, DEC 1

Don't miss Philip Glass's Satyagraha, the sold-out sensation of 2008.This extraordinarily moving work tells the story of Gandhi's development of his powerful philosophy of non-violent resistance -- one that continues to resonate today. The Met's breathtaking production, which the LA Times calls "a work of genius," returns for seven performances only.

"A profound and beautiful work of theater." - The Washington Post

"Hypnotic visual and musical magic." -The Wall Street Journal

"Breakthrough...a work of nobility, seriousness, even purity." - The New York Times

"A transcendent evening of theater." - Variety

Limited time offer

Buy one ticket, get one 50% off! Use Promotion Code SATYA11

when you order your tickets through, at the Metropolitan Opera Box Office, or by calling 212-262-6000.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

MLK Quote

“Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

Martin Luther King

Which I got here.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Guest Blog about movie Crazy Wisdom

As someone learning about Chogyam Trungpa for the first time I found Crazy Wisdom to be a very interesting moving. There were times during the movie where I felt a little put off by him and other times during the movie where I felt inspired and intrigued by him. I don't know if this was part of the intent, but it certainly kept me paying attention and wanting more.

I'm not sure if I really picked up on the Crazy Wisdom thing though. From what I understand Crazy Wisdom is the behavior and way of teaching that can occur in someone who is very spiritually mature. Behavior that is seen to be 'unconventional, outrageous, or unexpected'. To me this means employing such behavior in order to spread the Dharma. Thinking outside of the box, albeit very far outside of the box, in order to get the message across. Other than his habit of drinking, smoking and sleeping with many of his disciples, I didn't see much outrageous behavior and I certainly didn't recognize any of this behavior in his actual teachings. Maybe I missed it though.

There were beautiful scenes in the movie and it was really fascinating to see images of the monastery where Padmasambhava meditated as well as the burial/cremation ceremony of Chogyam Trungpa.

I think the thing that struck me most in this movie was the level of attachment that his disciples seemed to have towards him. Breaking the cycle of craving and attachment is the key element in Buddhism and yet, Chogyam Trungpa's disciples seemed so attached to him. So much so, that it was cultish. Maybe it was the time in which he was around. And though he was a great man, I believe it is important to recognize and acknowledge this because it does affect one's view of Buddhism and there are too many people out there who still believe that Buddhism is a 'cult' society. And we are to grow the movement and change that view, we have to acknowledge it.

Another key element for me, which was a purposeful part of the story line, was his realness. His pure comfort with who he was and the ease with which he existed. He was himself, he was laid-back, but passionate and serious about his beliefs and teachings and I think this is a large part of why he was so revered. He was accessible. Many of the people who were interviewed about him said that had a certain light and lightness about him, that there was just something about him that was enchanting and glorious. I saw it too. Regardless of whether or not I was put off at times.

It is said that in wanting to bring Buddhism to the west, he decided that he needed to immerse himself in the ways and customs of the westerners in order to determine the most appropriate way to teach them. And though I understand the intent, many times he seemed as though he was behaving recklessly, showing a lack of thought or concern for his disciples. Almost as if he just wanted to go and see how the other half lived, so to speak. Perhaps this is what Crazy Wisdom refers to. As I said before, there were times when I felt put off, this was one of those times. But at the same time, I really wasn't sure because there were always teachings and quite frankly, he made a lot of people happy and helped to grow the movement and so, he was successful. That's not to say that reckless behavior is okay, but sometimes things are hard to decipher and many positive things came out of it and for now, for me, that's okay. I'm going to read more about him and his contributions and perhaps refine my thoughts a bit more.

All in all, he is just too interesting to not learn more about. The conflicting actions and behaviors between Chogyam Trungpa's life and the traditional Buddhist teachings are almost a perfect lesson in Buddhism and therefore deserve nothing less than further contemplation.

by Cori Viles

Crazy Wisdom

Crazy Wisdom: This excellent movie is coming out soon. It's about the life of Chogyam Trumpa. For New York: "We're playing for one week at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City! The film premieres on Friday, Nov. 25 at 6:30pm." For all the screenings click this line.

Chogyam Trungpa founded the first Tibetan Buddhist Center in the west, founded Shambhala, Naropa University. He's a powerful spiritual leader from the Tibetan tradition, who lived from 1939 to 1987

He's one of 13 survivors of the 300 who left his monastery in Tibet after the Chinese invasion. He went to Oxford and then founded a monastery in Scotland. He got married and then came to the US, founded a center in Vermont and then went to Boulder, where he spent the rest of his life.

He's a controversial figure in a way because he slept with his female disciples, while he was married and had children. I didn't know that he created a kind of Buddhist military. Thus the "crazy wisdom", which is part of the tradition.

I can't help but compare his life with my guy, Sangharakshita, who life is not uncontroversial. In a way I think when you're charismatic enough to start a movement, then you're bound to have some excesses.

Sangharakshita admitted though that his sexual experiments yielded nothing in his spirituality. Trungpa drank and smoked. Sangharakshita had wine with meals, until he drove through Europe and realized how much energy is put into wine, and felt he just didn't want to support all that energy into alcohol.

Chogyam Trungpa is a world religious figure, so in that way he's a basic element of our culture, and thus this movie is perhaps required viewing. Anyone with an interest in Buddhism or the spiritual life will also find this movie interesting. I find Buddhism's journey to the west an interesting subject. I wonder what took it so long. The teachings have only been here for a blink.

My one criticism of the movie, or maybe I would have liked to hear more about: what tradition Trungpa was trained in? Tibetan Buddhism isn't one monolithic thing, there are 6 main branches. He was trained in Kagyu and Nyingma lineages. I would find it interesting to hear a critic put his teaching in a context, not just people gushing about how wonderful he was. I think there's a place for a devotional appreciation. But as the first major feature about him, it could perhaps put him more into context.

It was a visually beautiful movie, and he seemed to touch on many people. Reading the press notes, there was a lot of work put into this by a lot of important people. I'm going to watch it again and report any follow up thoughts.

The best testament to the power of the movie was that when it was over my girlfriend said, "You have any books by him?" She was spurred and interested in it. I have Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, and lent it to her. Here are some excerpts of that book.

So I would highly recommend seeing this worthy and important movie!

I asked them

The boys have been young, and then there was divorce to cope with, so I wasn't taxing them. But the divorce is winding down, it's going to be 2 years in Feb. since the separation. So my boys are 6 and 7. They're born 18 months apart, so half the year they appear 2 years apart and half the year they appear to be one year apart.

Anyway, today I said, "Can you guys handle me meditating for 20 minutes. They said yes. So I meditated! Now there is no reason why I don't meditate every day. I can't really blame my kids. Of course time and energy is still in limited qualities. And there will be mornings where it's hard, if I go to bed late, or we have to go somewhere.

But the story that I have children and they are too young and I can't meditate because I am alone with the, is no longer a story I can tell.

When they were young, I thought it would take forever. But in the blink of the eye, they grow up.

You can look at death to help turn up the heat in your spiritual motivation. Or you could just look at how quickly children change. Life is short, children grow up quickly. Sometimes it feels like forever, and sometimes it goes too fast. But overall it feels too fast. And that just shows you how precious life is. We must make use of it.

ps. next is a review of the excellent movie coming out Crazy Wisdom.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

quotes from Living With Awareness

This quote is about imagining enlightenment:

"...imagine a day of unfettered inspiration and free-flowing energy, a day in which you were able to be completely true and clear in your communication, a day in which you felt so real a connection with others that your own concerns ceased to loom so balefully over your life, a day in which you never felt as though you were banging your head against a brick wall or getting stuck in a rut. Imagine such a day of creative freedom and then imagine that freedom doubled or trebled, and continuing to expand, and you will start to get an idea of the nature of enlightenment." p. 153 of Living With Awareness by Sangharakshita.

Also, p. 153:

"Literal-mindedness is a great handicap in the spiritual life and we have to remember that we are prone to it."

Also p. 155:

"...You might notice that when you are experiencing craving, it always comes with a feeling of distress, and that if you stop feeding the craving, that distress will give way to a sense of freedom."

Monday, October 03, 2011

Kindle edition!

Somehow I missed that there is a kindle edition of Sailing The Worldly Winds! Been waiting for that. Supposedly Amazon squeezes the publishers and Windhorse is a right livelihood, and give workers 6 weeks off for retreats and sometimes subsidizes retreats. So the books prices are a bit steep sometimes. It's all for a good cause. I like to read the books generated, for the most part, from my order. And now it just got easier! Yay.

Friday, September 30, 2011

I Want To Die. How Can I Die?

Just read in Elephant Journal that the best way to increase traffic to a blog is to type in "I want to die". Also, "How can I die?" Here's the link.

Buddhism has infused my life with meaning, helps me cope with adversity and makes me want to help others on their journey, to share the Dharma, the teachings that lead to enlightenment.

Buddhism has some ideas about suffering, but if your spirituality is more appealing, go with that. I think any kind of spirituality can help. It's like when the Dali Lama was asked about Tiger Woods and his sex addiction. First they had to explain to him who Tiger Woods was. Then he said, "I think every religion is against that." Outside of well known illness, in their end stages, I think suicide ideas are a cry for help. It has to be taken seriously.

As a psychotherapist I've had to deal with suicidal ideas. Send them to the hospital and then the hospital bounces them because they deny it because they want to go home. You also need a plan and intent to carry out the plan, so just thinking about it is a sign of depression, but it usually means you're suffering. Just the idea doesn't mean you're going to follow through. Don't follow through.

And remember, when we suffer it seems like it's lasting forever, but life changes, so hang in there. Feelings don't equal truth, in this case. Use adversity as a wake up call and examine your life to operationalize your unhappiness, and then develop a plan to counteract the problems. It's never as bad as you think. Google something else, like suicide hotline.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


I was on the 2011 ordination retreat for men into the Triratna Buddhist Order. I've been on quite a few of these retreats, only missing them when my kids were wee, and they get harder and harder. It's partially harder because I understand more and more what it's all about and the beginners luck has worn off.

Beginners luck is when you get into deep meditations because you've not meditated before and you punch through some levels quite easily. But as you meditate for years and years, punching through a level gets harder and harder, sometimes.

Another reason the retreat was hard, was because my meditation practice, while improving and coming back, hasn't been consistant, and like being in shape, if you're out of shape, there's only so far you can go training intensively. Of course it's good, but there's a difference intensifying when you're got a kind of fitness.

So one upshot of my retreat experience is that I've got a lot of work to do.

Of course the new people see with fresh eyes how wonderful it is to have time off to devote to meditation, friendship, dharma study, vegetarianism and walking in nature.

My retreat was all men, and it's a rare thing for me to be with just men. I like that. I love women, I've gone on many mixed retreats, I've done mixed study and all that. I think it's cool to be with just men.

The retreat was on Subhuti's paper based on conversations with Sangharakshita about imagination in the spiritual life.

I know it's kind of spiritual materialism to enjoy collecting new meditation practices, but I do like to learn new practices. We learned the practice where you call to mind the qualities and being of the historical Buddha Gotama.

I alternate between metta and mindfulness of breathing, and just sitting. Sometimes I extend that, or throw in a 6 element or prostration practice.

Btw, I finally heard an explanation of why people don't like the word "spiritual". I've heard many people say they don't like the word, but I never heard anyone say why. In Paramananda's lovely book, The Body, he says that spirituality has an implication of raising above, which can lead to getting away from the body and the muck the lotus needs to grow in. He prefers soulful. Works for me. Still, I use the word in contrast to materialistic or worldly. Even though I want to stay in the body, and I have to be in the muck, still, I do like going beyond somehow. Beyond and grounded.

One of my friends said I got my smile back.

I really appreciated the people who got ordained recently joining the retreat. I worked on my doubt with them--I have subtle and vague doubts that need to be rooted out. Doubt is fine, but it can undermine your practice if you don't examine it, process it.

Anywho, I got a lot from the retreat, and feel that it's a really wonderful thing for everyone. I wish I could do a week every two months, but my life doesn't support that idea, so I might as well either work towards it, or banish it from my mind.

In the safe setting you can talk about your meditation experience, and hear others. That's wonderful.

Lotus Photograph

IMG_1279 by sheyco
IMG_1279, a photo by sheyco on Flickr.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


I was listening to a talk that played an Aimee Mann song in it, and I liked it so I was listening to some of her stuff and then I went on Wikipedia to look at her entry, and I came up with this little tidbit: "Mann played the role of a German nihilist who sacrificed her green nail polished little right toe in the movie The Big Lebowski." Wow.