Thursday, December 31, 2015

Addiction and Buddhism links

I celebrate 90 days clean and sober. Looking for websites for a blog post helps me out to find out what resources there are out there on the web. Of course there is not an app for resisting urges, gaining insight into triggers, and communing with sober friends, but our mind seeks out what the mind wants and our life is a self fulfilling prophecy so spend time directing your mind to what you want. And if it's sobriety, here are some helpful links for the Buddhist:

Buddhist Recovery Network

12 Step Buddhist: They even have a free course you can take on it.

Refuge Recovery: This is my next book, Noah Levine.

Kevin Griffin: I've read his book twice.

The eight steps of recovery from TBC has a facebook page: I'm reading that book right now. They also have a page on the TBC website.

A Book list

AA Big Book

Friday, December 25, 2015

Namo Amithabha

Book awards 2015

Festavus Kludge

This photo is what I saw in the Buddhist florist shop near my house. They tossed in a manger scene, because it's a business, and heck, I'll believe anything for a buck. And so the great materialistic holiday begins, where parents give presents to young children, to let them know that cultural appropriation is about steam rolling others and materialism. Meanwhile spiteful America rejects Syrian refuges because all muslims are terrorists. But righteousness is such an intoxicating emotion, and as I celebrate 83 days sober, I try to "dial instead of file" (other's numbers), because addiction is cunning, tricky and powerful. In the photo you can see the legs reflected on my vegan partner, who carries our baby girl, who is expected Valentine's Day. I watched Gary Yourofsky discuss compassion yesterday, towards all beings, and there are some images I can't unsee. Meanwhile Bob Thurman says Buddha loved Jesus too. Christopher Titmuss shared the link on global warming. What does all this hodgepodge mean? That we've got to find the silver linings for ourselves, but nihilism doesn't help me to stay sober, and taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, is my festivus for the rest of us, appropriating Christmans for a Buddhists, as their ancestors appropriated Saturnalia for Christmas. May the light of the BuddhaDharma shine down on you during this festivus season.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Service and Silence

Rugged individualism is encoded into the American soul, for better or worse. For me it's worse, because I need to reach out and connect due to my personality and history. Independence and integration on the other hand is an important aspect in advancement, and the old saying goes that you have to be someone before you can realize that you are nothing.

I read Charlotte Joko Beck's books just before I began meditating, so maybe the "nothing special" (and now I'm reading Nothing Holy about It: The Zen of Being Just Who You Are) attitude made me not communicate with others when I was on retreat and felt like I was one with everything. Or when I felt the gushing humungous love of the Buddha walking with me. Or when I kept doing 5 Elements meditation outside a retreat, and started to go a little crazy.

As a modern psychological person, threading self and others is no easy job, and everyone has a unique take on it, even if you have been liberated from the tyrany of . Some are overly selfish. Some are overly self sacrificing. I've become aware that you can't just slap "middle path" on everything, the Buddha just used it between asceticism and hedonism, but maybe it could be extrapolated here as well, because doing for others can often be an act of asceticism and denial of hedonism. Of course altruism is the path to happiness, but it's a difficult path, so those extremes are not so true. Finding out how to be useful to others isn't easy, and just wanting to be useful isn't enough. Being around wanting to be useful can be enough sometimes. Being present to need and neediness is also a gift.

I was at a wonderful AA qualification where the guy talked about a friend who told him the key to happiness was doing service, and not talking about, silence. Now AA is all about anonymity and writing about it on line is to be questioned, but I don't think I've given too much away, this idea isn't exclusive to AA. I find that it was a powerful message to me. AA is a beautiful community that does not accept outside donations, and is only about sobriety, and does not wish to engage in controversy. In a time when we're all looking at our smart phones, it's cool to enter a room and speak to people face to face. Joining a community is the opposite of rugged individualism. Connecting with others in all their glorious imperfections, brokenness and bewilderment. The strange thing to me is that I had spiritual awakenings, and I knew that substance abuse was covering up unwanted feelings--and yet I cross the invisible line. There an article in the Times about breaking anonymity. I'm adding "recovery" to the blog description today, which I am exploring. On the one hand the organization is about principles and not people. And it wishes to avoid controversy. And it wishes to keep other's information confidential. Also if someone falls off the wagon, and they were identified with AA it could be bad press. Lots of layers of complications. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015


from Eat Sleep Sit: My Year at Japan’s Most Rigorous Zen Temple
By Kaoru Nonomura
Translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter
Paperback  $16.95  Publication date:  September 2015
© 1996, 2015 by Kaoru Nonomura
Published by Kodansha USA, Inc.

“Roads come into being as people begin to travel with new purpose in places previously unmarked, each miniscule step helping to wear a path in the ground.” (p. 12)

“However valuable the act of eating may be, without the corresponding physiological process of waste elimination, the life of the individual could not be maintained. This too is completely natural. The natural human act of elimination is, like all of life itself, replete with truths, and this is what maintains the harmony behind the existence of all things.” (p. 46)

“Among all the thinking that human beings do, the question ‘Why?’ has always been predominant. Undoubtedly it has played an enormous role in helping to bring about what we call progress. But in the course of each day’s round of activities at Eiheiji, the question ’Why?’ is virtually meaningless. Delving into the rationale for every single action would mean that nothing ever got done smoothly. What is essential is to accept without question what you are asked to do, and throw yourself into it entirely. There is no room for subjectivity.” (p. 97)

“In my old life, I ate without reflecting in particular upon the act of eating as such. I ate when I was hungry and stopped eating when I was full. Any thoughts I had on the subject concerned how to get the tastiest food possible, no more. But here at Eiheiji, eating was a major undertaking. It was not a question of hunger or satiety, or of food tasting good or bad. The point lay in the act of eating itself. Eating was the Dharma, the essence of Buddhist teaching, and vice versa.” (p. 99)

We lined up again and circled clockwise around the central altar, each one bent forward from the waist with his hands heldpalm to palm and his head bowed. Circumambulation, a form of worship going back to ancient India, is the act of moving around a sacred object. Moving in a clockwise direction also suggests the east, the symbolic source of life, and beyond that the south, also associated with the sun. . . .Outside all was radiant. Everything that met my eyes shone brilliantly in the rays of the new-risen sun. The buds on the old plum tree in front of the Buddha Hall would surely swell to bursting in the spring sunshine of the long-awaited day.” (p. 112)

In the Christian monastic tradition, work is a means of supporting a life of prayer. Continued prayer is the goal, work is the means. But for Zen practitioners, work has inherent spiritual value and is integral to the life of discipline.” (p. 195)

The box was full of washrags that were made from worn and faded scraps: bits of old flannel nightgowns, cotton kimonos, and thin hand towels, stitched together in multiple layers with stout thread. . . . I picked up one of the cloths and asked myself if I had ever put anything to such long use. After a lifetime of throwing things away one after another without a second thought, the sight of so many carefully saved rags was like a dash of cold water in the face. . . . From that day on, I kept one of the washrags from the old people’s home in my desk drawer,and sometimes, when I was feeling down, I would slip it out and look at it. Every stitch was replete with the burning spirit of someone whose faith had stayed strong over a lifetime. In the warmth and solidarity of that person’s handiwork, I could laugh away the frailty of my heart.” (p. 245)

“Yet life’s very unpredictability is what makes it interesting. Though I had no way of knowing where I might be or what I might be doing the following New Year’either, I was heartened by the thought that uncertainty can be a dynamic, life-giving force. Whether such a thing as destiny might exist, I couldn’t say. Rather than worry about it, I wanted only to go on believing in the reality of my own existence, day by day.” (p. 284)

“Devoting oneself to sitting, getting used to sitting, and conquering the pain of sitting are all equally pointless. The only point in sitting is to accept unconditionally each moment as it occurs.” (p. 292)

“Days at Eiheiji are relentless in their sameness. For a while in the beginning, the monotony was upsetting and bewildering to me. Day after day, from the moment we got up until the moment we went to bed our time was strictly regimented, without variation. Over and over we repeated the same routines without end and without question. What was that monotony about, I used to wonder. But now I realize that apart from a few special days now and then, life mostly does consist of one dull, insignificant day after another. Human beings are attracted to drama and variety. The humdrum we hold in disdain. Wrapped up in the routines of our daily lives, we let them slide by unnoticed. But I believe that hidden in these ordinary, unremarkable routines of life is a great truth that requires our attention.” (pp. 292-293)

“By contemplating life as it is, stripped of all extraneous added value, I found I could let go of a myriad of things that had been gnawing at my mind. Through the prosaic repetition of Eiheiji’s exacting daily routines for washing the face, eating, defecating, and sleeping, this is the answer that I felt in my bones: accept unconditionally the fact of your life and treasure each moment of each day.” (p. 293)

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Pardoned turkey

"As the breeders of industrial monstrosities know, most Americans prefer light meat to dark. By picking out the birds with the thickest and widest chest muscles, poultry scientists have bred varieties that by conforming to the desires of shoppers have lost the ability to grow to full adulthood without leg, lung, and wing problems. A pardoned turkey is not necessarily a lucky turkey."

from the blog Ramble