“In the end, it’s not going to matter how many breaths you took, but how many moments took your breath away” – Shing Xiong

Monday, December 31, 2012

Body Language

I want to share with you a talk given by a social scientist on TED talks:


if you can watch an MP4 with your computer, it's a pretty short presentation but very moving and useful and I wonder how the information here relates to the poses we use in Awakening Stillness Qigong, I suspect there is at least a correlation.

If you cannot get the talk to download so that you can see the poses, it is basically about taking a power pose in private to increase your dominance hormone (testosterone) and lower your stress hormone (cortisol) take one of these confident postures for two minutes in private, regularly, and watch your confidence and comfort levels rise. Try it! Stand like Wonder Woman with your hands on your hips or raise your arms in a victory salute like a runner at the finish line, and smile. That's all, the body reacts like those things happened for real and you benefit, lasting changes can happen. So fake it til you become it.

Diane Eyerman

in memory of her heroic life and measureless generosity, here are some paintings I would have liked to share with her:



Sunday, December 30, 2012

from the Anguttara...

another of the Buddha's teachings:

"There are two kinds of happiness. There is that of an uncommitted life of sensual pleasures, and there is that of a committed life, one of going forth to a new consciousness. Of these, the happiness of going forth is the greater." ~ Buddha, the Tathagata

This does not mean one must ordain to be happy though 'going forth' is often used to mean ordination. Going Forth is to take the step to be alive, to live consciously, not without desire but with desire for happiness and joy for all, with clarity and the happiness of kindness. If repeatedly throughout the day one stops and reflects: "ah, this is life, life is short by nature, what is wondrous and joyful right now?" and makes this a habit, then one is gone forth.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Especially for Mike

here is a link to Root Simple, a clear and easy 5gallon Rocket Stove to cook on - outdoors, of course!


Palm Paintings

The title makes me think of Palm Pilots and other computer gadgets - but no, these are things the palm trees here shed and are free for picking up all over, they are so pretty, from pink to copper to mahogany, they can be cut with scissors and I just started to play with them. I would love to show you Peggy's work with them too - she uses the piece as it comes off the tree which looks a little like a thorax or breastplate, making beautiful mermaids. Here is a pic of what I have done so far -

from the Itivuttaka...

Ven. picked up "the pocket Buddha reader" edited and translated(?) by Anne Bancroft, at a used book sale. I highly recommend it, so this morning I opened at random and the first thing I had marked was:

"Nunks, (ok, I changed this) this committed life is not lived in order to deceive people, or to convert them. It is not lived for the sake of gain or honor, or reputation or financial profit. There is no idea of "let me draw people's attention to me by being a this or a that." No, nunks, this committed life is lived for the sake of seeing into things and understanding them." 
                              ~From the Itivuttaka of the Pali Canon, the collected teachings of the Buddha.

Like all the Dhamma, the teachings of the Buddha, this paragraph is like a seed, like an infinitely shrinking set of Russian Dolls, like a cell of our bodies holding all the information needed to create a new one. Though it seems simple at first glance, if it were all that was left it could guide one to finding and following the same principles outlined in the Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path. This is our job as the Great Determination Sangha, to support each others Practice that we may see into things and understand them.

Why would we do that? Because that effort alleviates suffering, being Noble friends alleviates suffering, understanding things is the alleviation of suffering. The Practice is not the intellectual exercise of learning it is doing and it is fun, it brings joy and when you are enjoying you are not suffering! To live with this joy for even a moment makes life worthwhile. Do it and spread the joy.

Friday, December 28, 2012


Some of you have seen the article on Yahoo this morning - a plastic turtle placed in the road by a student trying to figure out how to help more of them survive road crossings, unfortunately the study showed a fair percentage are deliberately run over. Combine this with the recent study showing that kids asked to perform random acts of kindness are happier and reduce the incidence of bullying and we have the solution (which we knew already) Be Kind! and save a life. If you leave someone with a smile they are less likely to harm.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Zen moment in a dream

A pure mind is like this empty bowl,
its radiance is unmarred by content...

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Homework like Jim's

Kindness key to happiness and acceptance for children

(Isn't it for all of us?)

Children who make an effort to perform acts of kindness are happier and experience greater acceptance from their peers, suggests new research from the University of British Columbia and the University of California, Riverside.

Kimberly Schonert-Reichl, a professor in UBC's Faculty of Education, and co-author Kristin Layous, of the University of California, Riverside, say that increasing peer acceptance is key to preventing bullying. In the study, published today by PLOS ONE, researchers examined how to boost happiness in students aged 9 to 11 years. Four hundred students from Vancouver elementary schools were asked to report on their happiness and to identify which of their classmates they would like to work with on school activities. Half of the students were asked by their teachers to perform acts of kindness – like sharing their lunch or giving their mom a hug when she felt stressed – and half were asked to keep track of pleasant places they visited – like the playground or a grandparent's house. After four weeks, the students again reported on their happiness and identified classmates they would like to work with. While both groups said they were happier, kids that had performed acts of kindness selected higher numbers of classmates to work with on school activities. "We show that kindness has some real benefits for the personal happiness of children but also for the classroom community," says Schonert-Reichl, also a researcher with the Human Early Learning Partnership at UBC. According to Schonert-Reichl, bullying tends to increase in Grades 4 and 5. By simply asking students to think about how they can act kindly to those around them, "teachers can create a sense of connectedness in the classroom and reduce the likelihood of bullying."

Theravada Tradition

This remains such a loaded phrase for us. We are currently considering attending a daylong meeting with Thanissaro Bhikkhu, abbot of Wat Metta and author of Access To Insight, a popular website and great resource. However the announcement of the listing includes an invitation to read an article entitled: "How to Sit With Monastics." As you know we are proponents of modernizing tradition, increasing accessibility for the modern American interested in Buddhist Practice. The article supports the confusion between Vinaya (the Discipline taught by the Buddha) and Asian Tradition.

The Vinaya is a tool and a guide to be used for personal growth, to eliminate the hindrances and strengthen Practice. It is not to be used to set monastics apart or above the common person or other monastics. Multitudes of exceptions allow flexibility so that kindness and fellowship can be shared with other beings without difficulty.  Our feeling is that the intention of the Buddha was to create friendly community with all, a greater value than holding to rules unless your Practice needs that support.

Many members of the fourfold sangha believe it is important for monastics to set themselves apart and above the common person. But for us that would be less than honest, less than helpful. It is a private matter for us to be monastic, for us to observe our personal growth (or lack thereof) and to support each other's Practice as Noble Friends. We acknowledge that Laity are as likely to become enlightened as Monastics, we choose to be monastic to strengthen and deepen the Practice but it does not require ordination to become enlightened. For me, it fell in my lap and I have carried it since.

Ven. Madika has decided to avoid any potential conflict and not go to the talk. This calls to mind a teaching of Jesus or Yeshua as I think of him: Sit at the bottom of the table not by the host and wait to be invited up to a higher place.

Monday, December 24, 2012


While at Emperor's College clinic I listened to an intern try to explain the difference between traditional oriental medicine and western bioscience over the phone to a client, he struggled a bit with explaining Qi but Qi is just a part of the picture. Ted Kaptchuk in his classic: The Web That Has No Weaver is more helpful, to paraphrase:
Chinese medicine sees the relationship of the symptom to the whole being, distinguishing patterns of disharmony, while western bioscience searches for a symptom's cause irrespective of the individual. One embraces variables the other eliminates them. One is holistic, the other analytical. Both have much to offer, both are logical, neither can be discarded without hazard.

There is a well done and worthwhile video out now called "9000 Needles"  - highly recommend it - young and fit man strokes- brainstem stroke, very devastating - runs out of insurance here and goes to stroke care clinic in china - watch his experience! I will be participating in the stroke care clinic here at Emperor's - very motivating!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

a talk with Yellow Rope

a topic that is a personal favorite came up when talking with Jim the other day on the phone: The Power of Forgiveness. His daughter is in elementary school and so I mentioned the shooting in Connecticut, curious if they had had to discuss it. Jim mentioned that he felt compassion for the shooter but was uncomfortable with the reception he could expect from the public or coworkers etc if he stated that, it is something to not take lightly. I told him that in my personal experience being forgiven for hurting someone had changed my outlook on life dramatically, I found it radically healing. I believe it is easier for others to be forgiving if we model that behavior for them, that is a practice we can take on in our quest to gentle the human world. This is the practice of Generosity. Not just tithing, not just plugging the meter for someone else, but bringing forgiveness up in the heart/mind. It feels good!

The days are getting longer again!

and we are in Santa Monica. We built a flexible rammed earth wall in Joshua Tree for Penelope, Susan and DeeDee, some of the sculpture is still in progress - the wolf in the background.

Santa Monica is awesome for freecyclers - first day here Ven Madika found three chinese red planters, yesterday I found a 30x40 framed blank canvas in great condition and today we picked up a "teen mattress" made by pottery barn- all left in the alleys for free to whoever wants them. It has rained a lot but when the sun shines this is heaven.

Ven Madika will start teaching Qigong and Meditation in January, we are working on finding a way to skype with the Sangha back in Ohio and my classes start in January. Class schedule starts with Jade Woman Qigong, then Fundamentals of Oriental Medicine, Intro to Herbal Medicine and three Western Medical classes, A&P, terms and chemistry.

Was sick with something a week ago and went to the clinic at Emperor's on Wednesday. Met Megan who will be the primary intern for me while she is at the school, had a great needle treatment session and received some ground herbs to follow up. Megan warned me they would taste awful but they actually aren't bad - taste like instant coffee mixed with beef bullion, Mmmm.