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

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

happy habits

not hobbits, habits! or why hobbits are happy? anyway this is about the Dhamma and an advert for a CEU seminar I just received in the mail. Science and culture are catching onto the application of the Dhamma as taught by the fully self awakened one, our dear Buddha and Sensei. Absolutely derivative from the Pali Canon and I am just tickled that it so. The closer they follow the Dhamma the better off we will all be, imagine the ripple effect! I am not going to go thru and list all the places in the canon it is already stated but I could. And it is so cool because as it is used and people see how effective it is the anecdotal evidence will accumulate and the culture will change just like an avalanche gathers speed and mass. This is the most hopeful thing the planet has seen in I have no idea how long. It is coming together people and we are part of it. Congratulations, lets keep the momentum going!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

On mysticism

here is an odd commentary on mysticism that seems either designed to provoke fear or written by the fearful for the fearful. Too bad so little understanding of the Buddha Dhamma is disseminated in this culture, maybe in the next 100 years we will correct that. Fear is the product of delusion, one of the three poisons referring to distortion in our perceptions. The Dhamma carefully addresses all aspects of perception, interpretation and communication. Regular daily contemplation of the Dhamma provides a great tranquility in which to understand. Such a deep clarity may not be possible without the periodic temporary withdrawal from daily social living that is a regular part of spiritual practice. Two years in school now has lessened my contact with that clarity of understanding and it is painful to realize.

The article addresses research into the failure of a spiritual practice. The research was called the Dark Night Project, very fanciful. Failure can be brought about by distraction such as that of acclaiming the supernatural powers. It can be brought on by any of the five hindrances, the three poisons, or by infirmity and illness. We only have so long, but we are fortunate to have the Buddha's teaching that covers the obstacles we are likely to face.

The author attributes mysticism to the pursuit of supernatural, but fails to say that these are merely a measure of the practice, never an end in themselves. That greed for these abilities is the downfall of the understanding of many. A wise mystic in any tradition is aware of the pitfalls around them at all times and tenaciously adheres to the guidance of the Dhamma. I think the Dhamma is universal but is best elucidated by the Buddha. And mysticism is best elucidated by Albert Einstein who said: "the most beautiful thing we can experience it the mysterious, it is the source of all true art and science."

I wish y'all well and strength on your paths.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Stocking

This was always the coolest thing for me as a kid, first thing Christmas morning. A well worn teddy bear of a stocking full of odd little knickknacks and maybe a treat or two. That says a lot about me. I was very fortunate. I was loved and cared for consistently, year after year. My parents treasured simplicity and challenged themselves to be generous and compassionate to everyone they met. That's just how they were, it wasn't anything official and it wasn't something they advertised.

I still think that is part of the culture I was raised in - that good deeds are not to be admitted to on earth but admired in heaven. That is one reason I have a hard time wearing the robes, they advertise like a billboard -  and billboards are illegal in the state of Vermont. Billboards clutter up the landscape and are always ugly in contrast to the beauty of the Green Mountains. 

However clothing is a simple statement that is never overlooked in the world. Uniforms declare the role of the wearer. That declaration is a boundary and within that boundary there are laws to be respected. The mystic observes the spirit of the law with openness and intention. Absorbed in awareness of the root and branch of natural law a mystic is both constant and fluid. A mystic monk waves a flag for non conformity, is ever exposed and shifting between inner work and outer abrasion. 

Here is a small and simple knickknack for your stocking that is a cure for the difficulty of being uncomfortable, for feeling like you don't belong, for stress inhibiting your immune system. It is from the work of Amy Cuddy which she presented at TED. Please take it, try it, use it like a toy in your Christmas stocking and have fun with it.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Right Speech starts here

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand. Most people listen with the intent to reply.” – Stephen R. Covey

Saturday, December 13, 2014

One or Two Eyes?

The parable below is really key for me right now, bringing me back to the moment...

There is a story of a young, but earnest Zen student who approached his teacher, and asked the Master, "If I work very hard and diligently, how long will it take for me to find Zen? The Master thought about this, then replied, "Ten years . ." "¨The student then said, "But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast -- How long then?" Replied the Master, "Well, twenty years." "But, if I really, really work at it, how long then?" asked the student. "Thirty years," replied the Master. "But, I do not understand," said the disappointed student. "At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?" "¨Replied the Master, "When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path."

Friday, December 5, 2014


Opinions are kind of like acne. They color your personality for a limited time and then go away until the next irritant invades. Though people may identify you with the discoloration it is merely an outward manifestation of some internal heat toxin and eventually it will clear. There is no need to attach any value to them, if you do the discomfort and unpleasantness will last that much longer.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

It's Raining!

Yay for the rain, and stormlight. We visited Ginger today and saw her boat, and it rained!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

a message from the Maharishi

Our friend Peggy sent this heads up - the live stream happens tomorrow Sunday at noon EST.

"Maharishi founded the TM (Transcendental Meditation) movement back in the '80s and George and her "wasband"  and many of their friends were Maharishi's (M) first students and eventually teachers. George and her "wasband"  still meditate but have moved away from the TM org many many years ago. George was a key person for M and last January Maharishi visited and had a "conversation" with George about all of this and asked George to make all the arrangements to get this info from their conversation out to the public, around the world, for free.

The first 15% of this live stream will be more directed to the people formerly and currently related to the TM Org, but the other 85% will relate to the world at large. George has told no one the details of what he will say. He is an excellent speaker and a very down-to-earth person."

Thursday, November 27, 2014


So much in media today making it look like violence and racism are escalating, back to do not trust the news, better yet do not watch the news, do not look for news outside your own experience, but then be out there on the street in the community and pay attention to the people and beings you meet, be present and aware of others so that the urge to take part has somewhere to go, something to do.

This need to watch the news, to keep up with what is supposedly happening in Missouri or Los Angeles or Afghanistan  - what is that all about? Since the inception of Television we were trained to watch helplessly as others suffered. This created passive sheep dependent on the government to act.  Makes it nice for them. How can we turn this around? Not thru fearfulness, by being present now in the community we live in. Reaching out to greet and speak with people on the street, in the neighborhood, at work or at school.

Why are cops becoming "Other" in media? Commercial media makes money and fame, the two big balls of Greed. Police officers are people in power and the risk they take is not so much that they will be killed or injured in the course of duty but that they will become cynical and detached if not already. We are all at risk for this. That kills the soul rather than the body, creating a living zombie. All of us are finely balanced between resistance to becoming a zombie and being too vulnerable. We choose professions or relationships that push the edge to cause breaks in our armor, a continuous back and forth between open presence and closed numbness.

The Eightfold Path gives us a framework, a work out routine for the spirit that improves our efficiency, agility and endurance in running the maze of life. This is real power. Not power over but true power from within. Let us be Noble Friends to each other, workout buddies in fact. This is the game of life and the finish line is bound to be a surprise.

Thursday, November 13, 2014


This article in the Daily Good reveals the current American trend attacking Generosity. I could blame it on the Reagan era republicans but it is really just greed, the lack of generosity, the opposition to generosity we have in this culture, our culture. Across the country individuals are being jailed and fined for feeding and helping the homeless.

Generosity obviously necessarily includes giving, sharing, supporting those in need and this time I am not here to dig deeper and look at the fine print underpinning the spiritual practice of generosity. Instead I think we have to address the macro since it is being challenged on a nation-wide scale.

Any time an opportunity to support Generosity arises on any scale we take it, that is the practice. We support the generosity of others as well. Acknowledge and praise acts of generosity, speak out in celebration of generosity by talking about it with random strangers, by writing in blogs, tweets, print, anywhere anytime keep it in the forefront of speech and this will feed a whole flock of birds with just the one seed - because the ripple effect multiplies your words by magnitudes like a cavern echoes a shout. Don't bother complaining, this is just an attempt by Mara to instill fear and set us back. Instead by proactive and keep on giving, and support giving directly.  Let officials know you support kindness.

Many of the indirect ways of giving available today like adding a donation to your bill at the grocery store or giving to united way and that sort of charity brokerage end up supporting the overhead of the organizations rather than helping out those in need, and are also not doing your kamma much good. That is not enough intention, attention or personal focus to beef up the benefits of giving. Instead evaluate your resources, see where you can give of yourself and do that. The point is not to over extend but to extend in such a way that both you and the one you are reaching out to and for, are more stable and stronger than before you reached out. This means just making eye contact may be right generosity. But if you have an hour to volunteer, to help someone, or a meal to share, then do it. Failure to do so does not maintain your stability and strength, instead it stagnates and rots. This is the constant ebb and flow of the awakening universe.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Its a process

The other day a prof asked a student if she thought a celebrated and famous teacher whom she had taken a seminar with had seemed to live what he teaches, did he seem authentic. Wow, to pass judgement on so little information. There was comparison to other celebrity spiritual teachers, and it really gave me pause. Why are we so quick to close a book these days? There are media approval ratings - 1 to 5 stars, there are comparison shopping sites, there are consumer rating sites like Angie's List, take a peek and make a decision. That seemed to be what happened in the classroom. The less discussed implications around that were the challenges that celebrity status brings, the limits that lack of real practice brings and the speed at which life passes us by.

For me this was a reminder that Practice is a forever deal. It has to be consistent and persistent. And it reminded me of Ajahn Brahm's two bricks in the wall. It is always those two imperfect bricks that will stand out. It is a call for Generosity, to let go of criticism and fear, to release judgement, to move on and be kind.

Humility is the key to mental emotional and spiritual health whether one is in the public eye or not and humility is manifested by the ability to laugh at ones self. Humor is crucial to living lightly on this earth. No one knows us like we know ourselves and no one can love us like we need to love ourselves. Once this is accomplished we can love others as we love ourselves and then we do so without judging, in fairness with kindness and gentle amusement.

Thing is, when asked to evaluate someone else's performance or to comment on an issue or even to answer a question, we have the choice to submit to pressure to respond off the cuff or to take the time to reflect. Reflection should always be on the Buddha's guidance for skillful speech with the knowledge that the ripple effect is always at work. This means that not only is what you might reply based on your own experience, that you own your own opinions and advertise them as such and subject to change, but also that the questioner is open to listening and might benefit from what you say, is it the right time to speak about this? Would others benefit from what you say, will no one will be harmed by what is said, is it the right time to say what ever might be said. Will what you say encourage, enlighten and inspire?

That means it could take a while to respond, but that then your words would be worth the wait.

Regular reflection on the Dhamma of right speech, with practice especially in self talk, can prepare us to respond more quickly and reliably. All the factors of the Eightfold Path work together to create an integrity of being. We work as diligently as we can while maintaining the middle way, a multifactorial approach to training. What are we training for? Opportunity arises unexpectedly and we do not have the capacity to know what it represents, but we can trust our kamma to unfold as it should.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Rajju Jim

sent a link to this wonderful and enlightening commentary about monasticism. Hell yea, this is it, a roar of approval sounds round the world.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

challenging corruption

What's a Buddhist to do when we see a problem in the world, when a person, system or government or group or family or business or any situation is screwed up, SNAFU, corrupt, unfair, wrong, inefficient or even crazy?

Work on ourselves.

Yep, that is the reason we saw the issue what ever it was and that is the reason for the issue whatever it was, to illuminate our own lack or failing and give us reason to correct it. It really is all about us. Life is short, it is unlikely the chance will come again to have this level of awareness and opportunity for growth, opportunity to learn, opportunity to be what we have the potential to be - our Buddha nature is waiting for us to uncover it.

So we have the directions pretty clearly delineated in the Dhamma, the Eightfold Path. The canon - even with translation problems, reveals the Buddha's extremely practical and thorough advice. We also have the tools of meditation and mindfulness to develop discernment so that we can figure out what he meant despite the problems with translation, and apply the teaching to our daily life.

The most direct and powerful path for most of us is Speech. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that applying the principles of skillful speech to all media is essential but it does take effort, determination and persistence. I have a habit of spouting off and waiting to see what reaction occurs, a risky business and not recommended by the Buddha. Skillful speech is reticent, very reticent, and employs patience, compassion, wisdom, I think it is among the hardest things in the world to practice. So I am not very good at it, but I will keep trying and that is what we can do, often when we turn compassion on ourselves the ripple effect softens the world and warms the beings around us. This is the way I believe Sensei teaches to address issues like those listed above.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Bhante Sujato

posted this recently. An inspirational commentary that should be front and center of the Sangha work today.

This conservative attitude is rooted in the three poisons, Greed Anger and Delusion. Conservative sangha members strive to keep their place and their power, their support by defending their place atop the pillar they have inherited. Just like the Catholic church, a hierarchy exists and is dangerous, damaging and dismal.

Sensei, whose wisdom I cannot deny, says they are learning and everything is just as it should be, it is ourselves we are responsible for and ourselves we work on. 

I see that and agree, but I would like to join with and consort with and communicate with other like minded Sangha members. I cannot find them because I have an unusual situation with an isolated sangha and I would have liked to go to the WBMG but the conservatives have taken it over. I see this as directly related to the misogyny of the conservative sangha and violence in the world. The Sangha absolutely mirrors a dysfunctional and incestuous family dynamic, just like much of the rest of the world. 

But that dynamic is a realm, a hell realm we do not need to reside in. When we look elsewhere and work on our own practice we join a different realm, a heaven realm and reconnect with the good and the kind and the wise. This means there is a choice of how to envision the structure of the world. It can be seen as set in stone or it can be seen as dependent on our intention and effort. This is Dhamma, the world is not as it seems. Do not get trapped in the dismal swamp, step out and raise your head - there is dry ground and fresh air right here. Focus on being Generosity, Compassion and Discernment. The Sangha is also not what it seems, Sangha members are everywhere, they are all around, they appear and give encouragement, wisdom and kindness and then they go away again. The world is mysterious and amazing and much greater and more important than an endless discussion of human failings.

Sunday, November 2, 2014


Finish each day and be done with it. You've done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities crept in. Forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you should begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Rajju Jim sent this the other day, I love it! this is the point of practice to repeatedly let go, release, begin anew. Each moment is all its own, a jewel in time, we are so fortunate to have and so free to make of it what we want.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

7 ways you can handle toxic people

No, I am not re-posting this article, it is on Yahoo's scroll this morning if you want to look at it. Sensei offers a far deeper and more insightful but concise program based on the Buddha Dhamma in The Missing Peace.

A painfully glaring omission in the article was Compassion. It clearly placed the burden and the blame directly on the so called toxic person,creating a whole new category of people to hate and neglecting the idea that anyone and everyone has their moments in both the sun and the murk. If we merely change from complaining about our circumstances to complaining about "toxic people" and continue to place responsibility for our feelings outside of ourselves then nothing is resolved, no benefit is gained. Plays us perfectly like the sheep we are, and we can continue to be harvested and shorn with ease.

How do we transform the herd? The Practice. It begins and ends with the Four Noble Truths - there is a problem, it does not have to be a problem and we can do something and it is up to us (1,2,3,4). So let us know that (1)and generate the intention to follow thru (2). Then we change our behavior (3,4,5) and cultivate (6) awareness (7) and discernment (8). There you have the BuddhaDhamma on the head of a pin, the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.

We cannot change our lives without changing others, like it or not we are all part of the whole. To change imperfect people or circumstances change the self. Start and end with compassion. The more effort applied the more result obtained.

Thursday, October 30, 2014


Our culture goes out of its way, in fact is entirely devoted to refuting or denying the idea that the world is an extraordinarily strange and wonderful place. I am a little slow so I am just now seeing that quite clearly. Yeah, I knew it intellectually but grasping the outrageous depth of the Fear that led to this saturation of denial is pretty astonishing.

Why do I see it now? It is another step into medicine, healing and health. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based in nature, in the rhythms and patterns of natural phenomena. It differs from allopathy in that it does not seek to isolate any portion of cause or effect.

How did we come to have such Fear rule our world? I believe it was Greed that cultivated Fear. Today we are a consumer society, moving from purchase to purchase, seldom content, mostly mindlessly grasping. As a culture we put our faith in science. But science is not what it seems, there is actually very little investigation or insight occurring in science. There is a great deal of marketing occurring however.

What are Greed and Fear according to the Dhamma? Two of the three poisons: Greed, Anger and Delusion. Fear is Delusion and Denial is the verb form, the active principle, the response of a desperate and shallow being but also our greatest coping mechanism. Not all bad, but there needs to come a time when perception can be evaluated, when denial is not in charge.

How do we counteract the three poisons? That is the whole of the teachings, the Four Noble Truths, that is why the Dhamma is in everything and every moment. This is our function and our reason for being, we are the energy of duality, that tension between opposites is the force, Luke- just kidding. Anyway, the point is...
being open to mystery, embracing vulnerability, staying with fear yet not being ruled by it, That is what mindfulness is all about. Our practice is to revisit it as often as we have energy for, energy cultivated by following the Eightfold Path.

It may be obvious that there is a lot not said here, lets just go do rather than stay here and talk about it.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Community Acupuncture Network

great short video on community acupuncture, I am learning a more extensive and fulfilling kind of acupuncture including herbs and adjunct modalities and I cannot imagine not using the wonderful points on the torso and head so will somehow integrate a more extensive treatment option into community clinic setting. But this is the acupuncture access I imagine inhabiting. There is no greater excitement and joy than seeing this happen.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Awake In The World

a Shambhala offering, free talks available for over a week was found through the Prison Mindfulness Institute's mailing list, drop in and listen to the Sakyong and others, previous talks are still available for 48 hours after presentation.

Monday, October 20, 2014

choose an ovation instead

ECTOM, the school asked me to write a testimonial so I sent them an ovation instead:
Clinic Director Robert Newman said, "Plants are teachers, if you spend enough time with a plant and it is your desire and intention to learn from that plant it will teach you." It was that respect for nature and insight into mindful presence that led me to Emperor's. I want that quality in every aspect of the care I offer and in the life I lead.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

sink down deep

I find it soooo difficult to not reply, but instead fall from center to posthole deep into the muck beside the path. I need to find a way to stay in the center, anchored on the path. To speak from the path, to reply from the path, to be the path.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

a wild wild world

At the Smithsonian's website I found further evidence of our interconnectedness and the amazing infinity of life's diversity. Those who doubt or downplay the awareness and delight in life that other species have are doing themselves the worst disservice, they are closing off that gift in themselves.

"Her discovery reminds us that each species perceives the world in a unique way, with a finely tuned set of senses, and so finds itself in a slightly different world. Bacteria call to each other with chemicals. Mosquitoes detect the carbon dioxide we exhale. Ants see polarized light. Turtles navigate using the earth’s magnetic field. Birds see ultraviolet markings on flowers, signs invisible to us. Snakes home in on the heat in a cougar’s footprint or a rabbit’s breath. Most of these different worlds are little understood because of the narrow reach of our own perceptions. Kalcounis-Rueppell hears music in the dark, but as a species we still fumble around."

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-mystery-of-the-singing-mice-1566363/#Bl1ftKHBzczbYIoq.99


A precious and powerful elder I meet occasionally said to me that he did not take full ordination because he was unable to relinquish the eating of meat, he felt his body needed meat sometimes and so he could not be fully ordained.

Where in the teachings of the Buddha, the Dhamma, does it say "Thou shalt not eat meat"? Rather it guides us to eat mindfully with consideration and understanding that this fundamental act of survival means the taking of life, whether animal or vegetable or insect all beings love life and learn and share and create and experience and have awareness, and even if we ate only completely artificial inanimate things (which at this point or probably anytime would not be healthy) we are bound to impact others in deeply disturbing ways.

We are complex components of complexity itself. Eating reminds us of the interconnectedness of all things - and yes, that is a word. When we say eat mindfully we do not mean the raisin exercise although sometimes that is a necessary preliminary step, eating mindfully means being aware of all that goes into eating, not the sensory aspect, the impact upon ourselves and other and the web of all being. Rather than vegetarianism which still causes the inadvertent, incidental taking of life, the Dhamma guides us toward eating not too much and not too little, toward generosity compassion and discernment, toward maintaining optimal health of the body mind and spirit for optimal Practice, practice of the Dhamma, so there is cost to life, in eating we take life and that is a tender pain, a point we must always be aware of and in doing so be conscious, be respectful, be cognizant, be appreciative, be grateful, be honest. That level of honesty is vulnerable, it is intimate, it is painfully present, and that is what the Dhamma is guiding us toward, a full commitment to life in all its complexity and awesomeness. Simply being vegetarian is like eating the raisin consciously, it opens the door to that complexity but if one stops there it falls short of the true Dhamma of Awakening.

But we are all different and at different places in our growth-development-evolution, for some it is proper to eat one thing and not another, to do one thing and not another, there is no blanket rule, sorry all Rajju Jims out there, there is no blanket rule, I sometimes want a rule too, want things to be simple, but that does not fit my perception of reality, of Dhamma. To judge others controverts Dhamma, to judge ourselves is similar, we must be governed by generosity compassion and wisdom and judgement becomes another aspect of eating.

Full ordination is not that different from novice or laity, if the same level of regard is given the Dhamma it makes no difference what outward form is used, that is merely labeling. Live the Dhamma, be the Dhamma, and every moment is an opportunity to Practice, every moment is sacred.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Service Dog

Not the four legged one,, me. I realized in acupuncture last evening that I am a service dog, funny for so many reasons. For one, I was a dog for at least a week in second grade, I barked and everything. But really, I have been miserable since the meditation retreat missing something and not sure what it was, it was nursing!
As a nurse I got to help people all the time. I was musing during acupuncture treatment and felt I had my arm around the bony shoulders of a little old lady, then I recalled that people resemble their dogs and I have a border collie, a working dog, a service dog, and a dog without a job is an unhappy dog.

I am in school to learn how to better help people because I did not feel the medical profession was helping people and believe acupuncture can do what allopathy does not. So I have missed being a nurse, seeing people in extremis every day and being there to help them, to be of service, to offer care. I was afraid the ordained life was not for me, that I was suffering because I was not happy being a nunk, but clarity percolated thru all the layers and revealed that no, ordination remains the best means to being a better care giver, a better nurse and a better human being. Why? the Buddha sought to be of service, the best service, to bring the real relief of suffering to all beings, way to go Buddha, that is empowerment.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Five Hindrances

1. sloth and torpor aka laziness and procrastination
2. ill-will aka boredom, frustration, irritation
3. sensual desire aka "I want this/I don't want this."
4. restlessness aka inability to be still
5. skeptical doubt aka disbelief in the efficasy of the chosen course of action

How do you deal with them?
 #1 is a Noble Friend, covers all five, this is someone who encourages and assists and leads by example on the path and the middle way.
#2 each have a specific antidote as you might imagine. Go ahead, imagine. You have the answers.
#3 gentle persistence, incorporating the roots of happiness: Generosity, Compassion and Wisdom.
Generosity and compassion combined are kindness, and this is how you gradually tame, train, guard and restrain the mind, turning adversity into alliance.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

On the cushion or off, conversations with Sensei

"Certainly! You may wear a hat, you may ride a pony, I don't care what you do so long as you watch thoughts come and go and do not attach a story line to them."

Enjoy your mind

I realized today that most people must not associate meditation with pleasure, yet I just had the experience of greeting my own mind like a friend of another species, a horse or some other large animal, with a definite sense of pleasure. At different times I might see it as something else. You might see your own mind as anything you like or dislike, but I think you will definitely acknowledge it has a life of its own.

Rajju Jim sent a link to an article stating that most of us are on autopilot nearly 50% of the time and that this does not lead to happiness, according to the study findings. Autopilot is the mind run amok. It has no business flying this plane, it is not qualified and has only limited understanding of what to do with this business it has taken over.

Thus have I heard: "Not one thing do I see, oh devoted wanderers, not one thing that leads to such sublime unconditional happiness, as a tamed, trained, guarded and restrained mind." From the Anguttara Nikaya book of ones in the Pali canon, Buddhist scripture.

My landlord has often greeted me returning from a walk with my dog by saying "Boy, that's like a full time job!" Well it is a part time job, one I enjoy immensely. Dogs have historically been known in our culture as Noble animals, selfless and loyal, able to give unconditional love. A Noble Friend is the common antidote to the five hindrances, one who helps us stay the path, protects us and leads by example.

We who have taken this route have the responsibility to continue, and when we hit a wall as happens when inhabiting a realm of strife and discord, we can rely on our Noble Friends to keep us going until it is past. The practice that enables us to trust and rely on such beings begins on the cushion in meditation. There we confront the wild animal that is the mind and tame it, teach it to trust, forge an alliance with it, one governed by affection and reward.

There are times when we must retreat behind the mind and leave it to guard against intruders, but for the most part we should take the lead and have the mind be subservient, a sixth sense, not the boss. This is the training that is pleasurable and rewarding and is what meditation is all about.

So many of us are unaware that the mind is not who we are, it is just a facet, an ally. This awareness is born on the cushion, it is not made clear naturally during development for most people because so often is is dominant from the start.  It is dominant when needed for survival, for when things don't make sense, for when fear rules, but then it has to be relieved of duty or becomes truly domineering and sometimes it stays in charge, permanently. The struggle to be happy reveals its failure as a leader and its separate role or identity within us.

The best guide to training the mind available today for most  of us is Sensei's teaching of the Dhamma, elaborated on in her book, "The Missing Peace." From the home page of Great Determination Buddhist Sangha website click on her picture and go the links under recommended reading or at the end of her short bio.

The training of the mind is a gradual process, happening in stages over time, but it is never too late to start. Once started the path unfolds naturally and accretions fall away when appropriate.
This really is an enjoyable part of life.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

ohh now I understand

I used to wonder about folks that would leave meditation and get pissed off shortly thereafter, where had all that time on the cushion gone? Well, that happened just now to me, irritation arose. (Shhhhhhh,, just shhhh, I like this quiet.) Irritation arises, what happens on the cushion is no different than daily life, daily life is no different than on the cushion, actually on the cushion is more "my ball, my rules." Although it feels good it may not be so beneficial to sit in bliss, or maybe this is hitting a wall during this retreat and will be something to get over.

On reflection, which is an important step not to forget in meditation, I made two big mistakes while meditating today. It wasn't so bad to allow the brain to rest and feel good but I did not focus on compassion meditation, and later in the day indulged in a memory or had an encounter with a remembered acquaintance and spent some time caregiving, which is different than compassion meditation and means I got sidetracked. As a direct result irritation could arise and I am not so replenished.

Also changed locations today, and after rearranging the furniture had it settled pleasantly enough but the room is adjacent to a lounge area and in a hyper sensitive mind leaving through a boisterous crowd is daunting so I stayed through lunch, maybe tomorrow I will do the morning in the park.

If you have had a similar experience do not omit the review step, poke around and find out where the deficiency lies, then change the game plan accordingly. Meditation is a craft like any other, if a batch of pots come out of the kiln all blistered and spalling something went wrong, figure out what it was and start again.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Day three retreat

My brain feels like a fish must feel upon being caught and released, returned to the water,  regaining buoyancy

Saturday, September 13, 2014

meditation retreat

has begun at Emperor's. A less difficult transition than expected. Several visits from a young woman who peeks in, walks to the back of the room,  lingers a bit then turns and leaves quietly.  Really? It seems so, Sensei joined me at the second sitting and remarked on her, so there it is.

Peggy's table runner is keeping the sacred among the mundane, not an altar but an echo of one. And the stone pig is festive with a new pair of wings that Sensei found at Goodwill for me:

(The pig is a feature of room D, not something added for the meditation)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

'Feed your head' commentary

several years back a colleague said she watched movies to 'keep up' and today I resonate with that. I lived a simpler life then and was much more sensitive to imagery and themes. Today I go to school and live in a city and interact with a host of people every day, then I lived in the woods essentially camping and doing hard physical labor while building the hermitage with limited access to media. I retain some of the slowness and sensitivity but have noticed some changes and mostly for better.

Different monastics interpret the Vinaya differently and it is a matter of personal choice what and how much they or we take in from the media available as information or entertainment. There is a very wide range of varying opinions about this, there is some degree of judgment and even competitiveness among our colleagues today. Imagine jostling for first place in a 'purity' contest! Lots of laughs that is but sobering as well. I really feel bad when some of our colleagues make statements about what is right or wrong discipline because that is - in my opinion- just their opinion, and should only apply to themselves, and not be presented as a blanket that covers everyone. But that's just me (and Sensei- we have at least that much in common.)

Actually for everyone, monastic or laity, entertainment is not unsafe or unwise unless it crosses a line which it is up to each of us to draw for themselves. News as the article in the Guardian points out is much more insidious and even dangerous. Both require careful critical thinking and self awareness, the news more so.

The terrain inside our heads is complex and challenging to navigate, maybe this is a silver lining, it certainly is an opportunity for practice. Today the difference between the technologically adept and the unplugged is striking, especially if you are one. I am looking forward to brief resumption of stillness over the break between quarters - we will see what it brings!

Feed your head

 what the doormouse said  (thank you Grace Slick) is the thing we humans do, but what we should be more careful with - all this focus on the diet, too much sugar too many chemicals - none of that matters so much as what we put in our heads. See this article in the Guardian agrees with me! (and the Buddha, of course) yeah, I know it, knew it instinctively, can see the similarity between thinking and donuts, but since the Buddha said it, trained in it, taught it, cared about it,,,I see how important it really is. What a silly little thing to make such a difference, but the Dhamma is full of that sort of insight, connecting the mundane to the sacred, the tiny to the grand, the micro to the macro.

If we choose to forego the morning news and instead read a bit of Dhamma or poetry what a difference that makes.  Tame, train, guard and restrain the mind and happiness is the result. Feed your head like a small child you love and it will be easier to live with.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Sensei speaks

three pages of ethical behavior codified by some Zen monastics can be simply and properly reduced to one sentence: "drop your stupid story".

Friday, September 5, 2014

sloth and torpor

one of the five hindrances also known as laziness and procrastination. Sometimes that is difficult to differentiate from true depletion and exhaustion. How can that be? A lot of westerners are running on fumes, with no real depth to their energy stores.

Damage from chronic lack of sleep is not repaired in one night though that can make a big difference, the restoration really comes with a change in lifestyle that embraces not just routine evening winding down and getting to sleep before midnight but also a welcoming of daily highs and lows, a comfortable enjoyment of the rhythms of life. The figure below demonstrates the changing of yang into yin, and yin into yang, day into night and night into day. If we wait until midnight or later to get to sleep yang is already rising and sleep will not be as restorative.
To get a good nights sleep we train ourselves to let go of the days events. Besides training in meditation to watch thoughts come and go we can shake off the physical accumulation of tension with an evening walk, a shower or a wash both literally and energetically removes the debris from the day.

 Closing out the day with compassion meditation is a great way to release the stories generated by mind, to retain the beneficial impacts and dissolve the harmful. It can be accomplished in several ways but it is always important to start with yourself, to direct compassion toward yourself first, this may seem counter intuitive or you may feel resistance to this, feeling responsibility and blame or shame but this is why it is so important, to be effective you have to start right here in your self. To arouse compassion think back to an event, a situation a being that you felt compassion for or from and feel that sensation, hold it in your heart and then direct it to your target, visualize giving it, handing it over like a gift or a life raft, let your intuition be your guide. You don't have to work hard at this, make it easy, make it natural, enjoy it. More Information is available in Sensei's book "the Missing Peace."

 Training in meditation helps us let go of the stories that keep us from resting. We train to let stories - thoughts, come and go without getting stuck on them. Discernment gained in meditation clarifies what is true and what is false and what is neither. This is the insight we achieve through stillness, the practice of the Dhamma.

Beyond meditation we must consider the body and how it works. Sleep is essential to good health and good sleep is a product of good health. Diet plays a big part in both. Taking time to eat well is a counter part to taking time to prepare to sleep well. At all times we should avoid eating in any way that causes discomfort, indigestion, bloating or burning, but especially in the hours before sleep. 

Beside food we take in other substances and ideas and information. These things have to be evaluated for benefit before consuming, is it worth the result? If not we can choose to refrain, this is the practice to repeat in daily life over and over again. Regular exercise that is balanced and satisfying but not overdone keeps the pumps that run the body in good working order. We all know this, it is a matter of doing it.

If sloth and torpor interfere with your meditation perhaps you need sleep. Perhaps you need to adjust your diet or your exercise. Traditional Oriental Medicine is able to define and correct the root of imbalances that interfere either with meditation or sleep. A licensed acupuncturist can help.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Boddhisattva role

To pay attention as an able and helpful servant, that is the Boddhisattva's role.

We usually see the Boddhisattva as a heroic figure but that is only in hindsight, the hero is just a simple hardworking individual in their present moment. We all have Boddhisattva nature, Buddha nature. We should not fail to implement it, we cannot fail to do it well if only we begin to do it at all because there is a force like gravity that assists.

Be the quiet simple servant. Cultivate our own generosity compassion and wisdom like a gardener or a groom cares for the garden or the horses, and the tools and the tack.

The moment comes when the garden blooms and then the harvest, when the owner calls and then the ride.It does not happen without preparation and hard work. It does not happen if ego arises and interferes. If the gardener or the groom says "what about me?" Then the work is not being done and preparations are not made, the harvest will be meager and the ride will be disappointing.

The Boddhisattva is selfless because the self is a pointless waste of time. Paradoxically they then become someone we want to be, who we strive to emulate, whom we meditate upon and seek empowerments for.

When we wonder what can we do about global warming, the oceans being over fished, pollution, desertification, starvation and war...we have to consider this.


Another point of view: most people see conflict and assume the victim is suffering but not the attacker. Injustice, inequality, rich and poor, destroyer and destroyed - our instinct is to side with the underdog,  to defend, to shield, to respond angrily-loudly-powerfully (so we think).

But our real power is in discernment. Observing with the heart, with a quieted heart, it is possible to see clearly and then it is obvious that every situation has simply two sides- agonist/antagonist, effector/effected, user/used, harmer/harmed. In such an equation where is the point at which to place the tip of the lever of our will? We know a simple machine such as the lever multiplies our force considerably, but placement is everything. physics 101. The tip of our lever must go directly to the heart of the one we perceive as causing harm.

It seems as if we are then giving to the one who already has, to the strong, the wealthy, the attacker - and why help them? Because in such an equation the one without actually has more. The one with actually has less, less contact with the ultimate reality, with the universe, with divinity. This is the point which is mobile, which we can move, which we can alter the trajectory of. And what is our lever? How do we exert our effort? Compassion.

Those whose greed or anger or stupidity lead them to hurt others are hurting themselves most of all but they don't see it and often we don't either. If we react instinctively and strike back we are merely worsening the situation, putting out the fire with gasoline, wasting our breath. To be effective we have to act efficiently.

Cultivate compassion, generosity and discernment on and off the cushion. Strengthen the power of mind with meditation and mindfulness. Apply the Dhamma.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

upcoming retreat

"Retreat" is a misnomer. This is instead a forward march, an advance. It is a training session, bootcamp revisited, an obstacle course, a mountain to climb, an ocean to cross. In all these endeavors there is a clear "do or die" sense of accomplishment, satisfaction. But this is delusion, silly grasping, foolish looking forward.

There is an expectation that many hours will be passed, in room D at Emperor's, alone or in company, but alone regardless of company, watching...watching the animals that come to drink from the pond or the fish that rise to the surface or the passing reflections, to paraphrase Ajahn Chah.

But the Dhamma makes clear that all expectations fall short, all plans are doomed to fail, dukkha intervenes and this is the cause of chaos, randomness, change. Oh how grateful I am for change. Change provides variety, the spice of life. I expect the meditation to be change. I hope it will be change. But who knows? For me the changing has already begun. Effortless, flowing, gliding along the course, the seam between worlds.

This changing is an exercise to establish the strength to cooperate with the others who are change, to lend my strength to yours, to theirs to divert the course of cultivated greed anger and delusion into generosity, compassion and...wisdom. Just on the edge of reason, the conscious world, Gaia, welcomes our awareness and our contribution to her well being, our care for her well being, which is our well being.

So I invite you all to be compassion with me, and to start now without waiting.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Blame the body first

This teaching came to us long ago, I have forgotten its source but it is eternal and wise. We have to take care of the body, maintain it, give it proper nutrition, not tax it too much with chemicals like sugar, caffeine, nicotine, salt and the multi-syllable preservatives and additives of the food industry. We have to do the same for the mind, maintain it, give it proper training, not tax it too much with news media, advertisements, entertainment. The body houses the mind, it supports it, gives it the structure and foundation that allows us to interact with others. When the mind is unstable, distracted, overwhelmed or in pain we should look into the body first, see what disharmony or imbalance is present that could be attended to and so assist the mind. These things are tools, just as clothing, vehicles and computers are. They are not our selves. They are for our use, they have limited efficiency and wear out eventually. Like any successful journeyman we need to take care of the tools of our craft. The better we do that the better our performance.

A Buddhist Mystic seems to have a very difficult job, complex and challenging. It reaches and demands the very utmost of a being. For this it takes great good health, attendance to well being. We need to be ready for the unexpected because it does come when we are least prepared.  This is why it is so often likened to the warrior or the hunter. There are aspects of this that seem contradictory. We need discipline but if it is too rigid it leads to anger and unkindness. We need focused intention but we must be open to what comes and flexible at all times. We have to build and conserve but also relax and let go. This is the middle way, not too much and not too little, not so far one way or the other, but balanced, at ease, in harmony. Even in sickness, even in health, that balance can be held, and that is the essential Dhamma.

Friday, August 29, 2014


Dhamma, the teachings of the fully self awakened one, is used in psychology without attribution and in a shallow, half hearted - half understood way. Some therapeutic techniques or theories utilize some of the training principles, the more the better, but still they stop short of spiritual progress. Why is that? Perhaps the hindrance of skeptical doubt, lacking the faith to exceed expectations or go beyond the mundane.

We have the ability to expand our hearts and minds and with faith, trust, gratitude and generosity cultivate the kind of courage that allows this step upon the path of spiritual evolution.

I am taking a class in general psychology and observe that historically this step has provoked fear, labeling and resistance. But like the Borg, I believe resistance is futile. Evolution happens, and it can be trusted if based in generosity compassion and discernment. Mystics often ride very near the edge but there is no real need to fear. Those without the ability to care for themselves provide a treasure to those who give them care. Those who do not survive are reborn, and not one of us survives. That rebirth foregoes attachment to the previous existence but still some awareness and sense remains.

There is real pleasure in the Dhamma, in this revolution, but its not for everyone, only those with little dust in their eyes. We are so lucky, and we are growing.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

mustard on your broccoli (and kale, collards etc)

wow, this your tube video shows how to get the most out of our brassica family veggies, there is a reason mustard goes so well with them!


Monday, August 25, 2014

a tamed trained guarded and restrained mind

The cloister for some of us monastics lies in avoiding exposure to toxic substances such as the news media, after all a tamed trained guarded and restrained mind is the source of the greatest happiness which is what we cultivate to become like a sun and shed warmth and relieve suffering in all we contact. But there are times when that cloister, the barrier to toxicity, is breached. That is when the practice comes in. Rajju Jim shared that great quote about being like a tree in the wind, you grow strong roots because of exposure, your roots are weak without it. Not that we should search this out, just that we need to be ready, and be aware when the challenge rises.

Challenges arise all the time, I used to use the saying "all difficulties are equal" to help overcome obstacles, maybe I need it again. The challenge today is to be cognizant of greed, anger and delusion and wipe them out in myself rather than being provoked into responding with the same.

What a wonderful opportunity to be part of creating something so beautiful as oneness.

Peace, Let it begin with me - thank you John Prine

The power we have lies in Noble Friendship, the capacity to empathize, to help one another return to the present, to loosen the grasp of our stories upon our minds and souls.

Tonight the clarity and determination to succeed that came with the Bodhisattva intention was refreshed for me in class when ethics in medical research was introduced and covered briefly. I have to remember that the hell realms are where we need to be to cultivate this intention, and so that is where I am, blessed though I am, I am aware of the suffering around me.

I am here to not contribute to the harm, to alleviate suffering directly and to bring about the enlightenment of all beings. The cessation of suffering - the end of the hell realms...I do believe it is happening but of course everything changes with that change and there is still so much that is amazing and wonderful here, especially with the contrasting extremes. 

The point is that when pain occurs, in order to stop suffering from it and to not cause further suffering and to not spread that suffering to others, I must find a way to become compassion. I believe Venerable's book the Missing Peace does the best job of any teaching available today of delivering the tools to make that possible.

Compassion meditation is the most effective and profoundly transformative of all forms of meditation. It is embodied by the first Jhanna, one pointedness has to be solid before it is readily available, and it has to be maintained, returned to, just like a friendship - regular contact is essential to its health.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

vitamins- a health related post

I was looking at supplements in the store the other day, the cost of vitamin and mineral supplements has soared! It's ridiculous, on another tangent I happened across this site which shows you how to make pine needle tea for vitamin C. It also is a source of vitamin A which you don't want to take too much of as it is fat soluble - too much Vitamin C you will pee out but too much vitamin A is toxic, so go easy, but check out the site,  http://www.practicalprimitive.com/skillofthemonth/pineneedletea.html

Friday, August 22, 2014


I am consistently and repeatedly asked where is my temple, and I reply "right here." Most people seem to have the mistaken belief that ordained persons have to live in a monastery. In fact the early followers of the Buddha only gathered during the rainy season to avoid causing erosion or being a burden upon laity. So I have heard anyway.

Last night I told a fellow student that the concept of monasticism where the ordained dwell together for their lifetime apart from the world is a Catholic Xtian practice, not Buddhist.  I know that there are Buddhists who have practiced this way for centuries, after all we are to adapt to the culture we live in, to the time and place we live in. But originally that was not the idea and those who choose to live and practice according to their interpretation of the Dhamma should not suffer judgement or reprisals for that.

I also told him that when we commit to this practice we are each responsible for ourselves, that we are following the teachings of the Buddha in order to be really amazingly awesomely happy.

Politics in Buddhism

How can there be politics in Buddhism? isn't that contrary to the Dhamma?

Yes...if you can be generous, compassionate and discern what speech, action or livelihood is beneficial then you can follow guidelines to survive or even thrive in processes that might be considered political.

When there is self advancement, anger greed and delusion, a lack of humility or caring or attachment to our own opinion then politics is a symptom of disease and disease is by definition harm.

We pursue a different goal apart from orthodoxy or adherence rigid cultural practices, we seek enlightenment and enjoy that path. We are supported by the Sangha of Noble Friends and each other and others who have similar experiences. Now that I know that there is a divide I will be careful not to fall into it.

Dean's scholarship application - A Guide to Understanding Acupuncture Theory for the New Client

A Guide To Understanding Acupuncture Theory
For The New Client by Cleo Wolf

Acupuncture theory for the new client.jpg
But it hurts up here! not down there!

People who are new to acupuncture may not expect treatment to include body parts away from the site of their complaint but often that’s what they need. Understanding acupuncture theory is helpful for your comfort and security during the treatment. When you understand that treatment might include a point on the leg or foot for a symptom on the head you will enjoy your treatment and benefit more from it since you can relax in confidence.

You might come in for treatment of a sore shoulder, somehow it was injured and now it hurts whenever you move a certain way, maybe it aches, maybe you can’t pick up the bag of groceries with that arm since the injury. You may have had x-rays, gone to physical therapy, it may have been months since the injury, now you are trying acupuncture.

The acupuncturist asks some funny questions like, how are your bowel movements? (and you think, what has that got to do with my shoulder?) To make a correct Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnosis she needs to know things you might not think are related to your problem. She might ask if you prefer warm or cold drinks? Or what time of day does a symptom occur? Then she will probably ask you to show her your tongue and checks your pulse.

For a musculoskeletal problem some acupuncturists will evaluate your range of motion, they may touch or press into the muscles or the joint, ask you to point to the exact location of the pain, ask what makes it better or worse, read the x-rays, lab results and reports from other treatment providers that you brought of with you. Others will just select points they know will help that problem.

The acupuncturist may then use what is called dry needling to loosen the knots in the muscles and bring blood flow to the area. Some physicians in the past had experimented with injecting numbing solutions or saline into muscle spasm for relief but then discovered that even without the injection the spasm could be relieved and they eventually began using the solid core needles used in acupuncture.

Acupuncturists have been doing this for a long time, those sore spots or knots are called Aschi points in Chinese, like “Ow!” in English. When stimulated by acupuncture those spots soften up and relax and stop hurting. Acupuncture brings circulation to the spot that was so tight it hadn’t been getting any Qi or Blood flow to it and that had caused pain and loss of function.

But then the acupuncturist may also use other points elsewhere in the body that have been known for hundreds of years to help with your specific complaint but are nowhere near the site of the injury. These are points related to your condition by various acupuncture treatment theories.

Your acupuncturist might use points on channels that actually flow through the area. She might use points that are known to refer to the area. She might use points that are known to treat the type of problem you have. She might use points that address some aspect of the problem other than location. She might use points that are part of a microsystem that affects the location or type of problem but is not anywhere near the site, for instance they might stimulate points in the ear to help with your shoulder. She might use points that treat the imbalance that led up to the problem or that keeps the injury from resolving. The points are chosen to work together to provide the best outcome for your individual constitution and complaint. Sometimes the collection of points used is a classic prescription that has been known for hundreds of years.

A helpful aspect of acupuncture is that whatever the points used our bodies will often sort out what is needed and use that and discard the effects from the rest. This is easily done because we are working with Qi here.

Qi is the electromagnetic energy that makes up matter, that animates living beings, that is the motive force powering all the functions of our bodies from cellular to system levels. Stimulating acupoints has the effect that is needed most at that point to rebalance the whole being.

We talk about Qi as if there were different kinds because it does so many things, but that is just to make it easy to talk about. Acupuncture influences the different functions of Qi just like you might be asked to do different things in your different roles. Your acupuncturist can choose points that stimulate the Qi to help your digestion just like you might move funds from a savings account into checking. Or your acupuncturist can choose acupoints that stimulate Qi to calm the spirit (shen) to help you relax and sleep better just like you might water the garden when it hasn’t rained for a while.

Different acupoints do different things, they impact the location they are part of but they also impact the functions they are involved with. Like you, they live in a certain town (acupoint Wei Zhong is behind the knee) on a certain street (on Urinary Bladder channel) but they work for a business (is the command point of the lumbar region) and volunteer (this point releases heat and relieves skin issues and works locally for knee pain too) and like to roller skate (improves bending and stretching) and have a family (is related to the element water) and are connected to other places by relatives, friends and associates (the channel goes from the eye through the brain, to your little toe and does a lot of different things along the way.)

Different channels do different things too. Channels or meridians are the paths the Qi takes as it moves through the body. As Italians are known for their cooking and art, the Liver channel is known for its influence on Blood and the nervous system as well as metabolism. As the French are known for their wines, the Lung channel is known for its influence on Qi and skin as well as respiration.

When acupuncturists use familiar terms like “Blood” or “Liver” or “Deficient” or “Phlegm”, they are not talking about quite the same thing that we are used to, those terms were just the closest translation early practitioners could use to communicate about the medicine with. In Traditional Oriental Medicine those terms refer to a broader or different scope of functions than they do in allopathic medicine.

There are different ways to approach the same problem that work just as well others. You can figure out that ten tens is one hundred by multiplying, by adding, by counting, by arranging the quantities in a pattern or by moving beads on an abacus. Acupuncturists have a variety of ways of solving problems as well.

Beside its relationship with blood and the nervous system, the Liver is associated with the element Wood, and the color Green, and the season Spring, and the taste Sour. All the points on the Liver channel have some relationship with different aspects of these associations. And each channel relates to the other channels in different ways. This acupuncture theory will help your practitioner decide what points or channels to work with for your unique system.

Your acupuncturist may use points that harmonize or awaken spiritual dimensions to aid in healing. Psycho-emotional aspects of the medicine work as well, for instance if your shoulder hurts you may be shouldering a burden that is hard to bear and emotional release may come from acupuncture. Through acupuncture practitioners of Traditional Chinese medicine can access different levels of our being, the Qi, Shen and Jing that are roughly the musculo - skeletal, energetic and organ functions or the body as well as the psycho emotional, constitutional and even spiritual parts of us. This isn’t merely placebo effect or magic but it often seems magical.

The acupuncturist is not limited to stimulating acupoints with a metal filament either. Acupressure, massage, moxibustion, essential oils, medicinal herbs, herbal extracts, cupping, guasha, electrical stimulation, diet, exercise and meditation are other common tools of the trade. Some are really interested in teaching you about your health and how to improve or maintain it, others will treat your chief complaint, root and branch, and only talk to you about lifestyle if you ask them.

Acupuncture has been practiced for hundreds of years all over Asia, so different variations of acupuncture theory have developed and every practitioner brings their own personality and style to the practice. Ask your acupuncturist to describe what sets them apart from other practitioners and don’t be surprised if the answer is both poetic and scientific.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

ain't it the truth, jack london

" Aftttttttter all, the mishaps are almost the best part of small-boat sailing. Looking back at this, they prove to be punctuations of joy. At the time they try your mettle and your vocabulary, and may make you so pessimistic as to believe that God has a grudge against you — but afterward, ah, afterward, with what pleasure you remember them and with what gusto do you relate them." Published in Yachting Monthly 1912.)



Ok, so...no big loss right?  We each have to realize that we are responsible for our own health and well being and that begins with discernment. Discernment is gained through meditation, sit down and shut up so you can hear what it is that makes you really happy, that makes your body healthy, that satisfies your Needs, not your wants. We each will come to recognize that we are of the nature to die, we are of the nature to get sick, we are of the nature to have pain but that we can choose whether any of this causes us to suffer or not.

The Buddha smiled on care, permitted medicinals, and repair and restoration that was reasonable and individualized. But he taught us how to suffer less by dropping our stories, our opinions, our delusions. All of us would like to prevent illness, especially if it didn't mean giving up things we like, but that seldom is the case. So we make choices and then live with the consequences. We can make the choice to cultivate happiness through generosity compassion and wisdom, this is not an easy thing to do but it is simple, it just takes persistence. This is our best defense against disease, because we will all die, but we can live with joy and awe and benefit all beings while we do.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Lost in Space...

That is how I usually feel when considering other monastics. We have a temple dog, she was and is a great guard dog but presently we live in a place that doesn't require one so much, that may change of course. But we are glad she is part of the team. She is a people lover, and very dog friendly too, an all round brilliant and beautiful creature. Our landlord has been remarking that she is a full time job, possibly because we go for walks a couple times per day, that hardly qualifies as full time IMHO, but whatever. She is a source of pleasure and enjoyment and amusement that I cherish.

I wish that were the experience I had with other monastics. Venerable has had more contact with others and is quite disappointed in them leading her to be what seems like protective to me. Like these little dogs -terriers that we meet on our walks. They are ferocious in their guardianship of their humans. She protects me from them because they have shunned, obstructed and slandered us. She is very perceptive and able to see through much of what I who am gullible to a fault, would overlook.

Apparently there is a mass of conservative Buddhists out there who manipulate and deceive and vie for support and control of the Sangha, who are avoided by friendly monastics but who have caused schism and who shun us. These monastics have slandered us and gossiped and spread innuendo about us and others until the entire Sangha is disintegrated like solutes collapsing out of solution. No one speaks out and no one speaks to one another because of the back stabbing and lying that goes on. It is appalling, and sad.

Our entire system- the semi organized religion of Buddhism is set up to remain passive and separate during this sort of division, to give them enough rope that they might either hang themselves or make a tree swing and become friendly on their own again. Meanwhile time passes and opportunity for communion is lost.

Venerable says we are unique in our practice and our true Sangha consists of those who have gone before that are no longer visible but whom we know through their writings and recordings. Ours is a solitary path but at least we have each other, at least we stand out as an alternative to the conservatives. And we have our brilliant friends who may or may not identify as Buddhist but are on the path of practice and actually are better at it than I am most of the time.

Ok, back to the books, I am studying but keep returning to contemplation of other things.

Too Much Information…

Is that what people say when someone reveals something that is considered too personal or taboo to speak of in the culture? I like to investigate taboos and I believe very deeply that not being frank allows misunderstandings to fester. When a common natural function like sex carries so much cultural baggage it becomes hazardous to health and safety, it’s better to air things out than keep them in the closet. When private becomes public it is less threatening and less apt to provoke judgment, hatred and fear.

This is an opportunity for me to clarify some misconceptions I have heard reported about the vow of chastity for Buddhist monastics. We take it very seriously, sexual misconduct is one of the five disrobing offenses and what that constitutes is spelled out in detail in the texts. That discussion is not the purpose of this article. This article is about what it means to me to be celibate in this day and age in western culture.

It is a common belief that those who choose to become celibate have a problem with either sexuality or relationships. If insight into the drawbacks of either is a problem then this is correct. This leads to some frequently asked questions:

What could be the drawbacks that would lead someone to give up such an integral part of human existence? Why would anyone care if others choose to be celibate? Is celibacy harmful? Does a vow of celibacy drive people to become rapists or pedophiles? Why do many religions or spiritual quests require celibacy? Is sexual repression the inevitable result of celibacy? What are the benefits of celibacy? Can you still have meaningful relationships if you are celibate? Do Buddhists have a problem with “particular friendships?”

What could be the drawbacks that would lead someone to give up such an integral part of human existence? Historically sex has lead to pregnancy for heterosexuals, unless desired and prepared for this is a major drawback. In this day and age that is not such a problem but still occurs unexpected or unwanted. That’s the most obvious drawback. But let’s dig a little deeper. Like a drug sex can be addictive, it alters the neurohormonal chemistry of the body, it brings short term pleasure and relief of pain, it affects the physical, emotional and spiritual levels of being so can be transformative and help us to mature and become wiser and more loving beings. It is how we can relate on a very deep personal level to others and express ourselves and be creative and have fun. Why would that be a problem? It is not necessarily but if you want to do more with your life, if you want to deepen your investigation into the spiritual side of being and develop talents in that realm then the time and energy of the passion you have alway brought to sex is needed for this other pursuit.
Why would anyone care if others choose to be celibate? Some people seem to think that deviation from the norm attacks the cohesion of the community. Others see themselves being asked to make the same choice and feel threatened by that. Is that because they are so deeply judgemental that they fear being judged themselves? Many believe that choice should not be an option in our culture because sex is power to them and the choice of celibacy takes away that power.

Is celibacy harmful? Traditional Chinese medicine recognizes sexuality as a normal life function, too much or too little can indeed cause imbalance leading to disease. Excess or deficient libido are symptoms of disorders that can be corrected or adjusted as desired through lifestyle, diet, herbs and acupuncture. Harm occurs when restraint is unwanted and undesired and resisted, the struggle that then ensues causes stagnation and heat which lead to problems. When restraint is appreciated and applied in a nurturing manner it does not cause harm but enables pleasure in living and tranquility.

Does a vow of celibacy drive people to become rapists or pedophiles? The vast majority of rapists and pedophiles are men who have not taken a vow of celibacy. Those who have and then broke their vow did not do so because of the vow but because of the delusion that satisfaction could be obtained through acting out their anger/hatred or greed/lust.

Why do many religions or spiritual quests require celibacy? Did you ever see that episode of ‘Malcom in the Middle’ where Lois was on some medication that kept them from having sex for a week or two? The yard was mowed, the fence mended, the house painted...All that energy and time and care which had been applied to sex went into other areas of their life for that week. That is the obvious reason. Let’s dig a little deeper. What do we bring to sex? Creativity, affection, delight, appreciation, consideration, desire, energy, joy...what if those were applied to our spiritual pursuit, wouldn’t that benefit that dimension of life tremendously? This is a positive way to consider the benefits of celibacy.

Is sexual repression the inevitable result of celibacy? No, absolutely not except as the result of  misunderstanding from closed door policies that restrict discussion of the subject. Repression is harmful, it causes rebellion and resistance that turn to stagnation and retention of heat or deep cold that kills the life force or blocks Qi. Rather these same impulses which are a natural and wonderful part of life for many people can be consciously sent in other directions.

What are the benefits of celibacy? If your intention is from now on to cause no further harm, to act in ways that benefit all beings and to attain liberation, celibacy is really essential because of the reapportionment of energy and creativity. If you are a spiritual person who has met the deity(s) or traveled in higher realms the energy and creativity retained through celibacy are really essential to continue that level of interaction. If you enjoy living without the drain of entanglements celibacy is an obvious requirement. If you choose to live consciously, to make choices with deliberate intent, to be utterly responsible for your actions and well being then celibacy is clearly a wise course, but it is not inflexible, it can be temporary. If it were not then how could it be so vital?

No such vow can ever be set in stone without harm, it is a living thing. When it is wanted it lives, if it is no longer wanted it can be released. Some do give back their vows. Currently for me this living being, which can be known as a vow of celibacy, is my friend and is a being of such beauty I could never harm it. It is a connection to perceptions of such vast expanses of wonder and awe I cannot imagine giving it up. I cherish it, and I think that is what the Buddha intended.

Can you still have meaningful relationships if you are celibate? Of course! The Buddha taught that the antidote to all five hindrances is a Noble Friend. He taught that noble friendship is not half the spiritual life but all of it. If we find a noble friend we are not to let them go, and it is our obligation to be a noble friend to all whom we meet. There is no better or more worthwhile relationship than that of noble friend. What is a Noble Friend? Someone who encourages you on the path and does not enable your failures, does not blame or judge but shows you by example how to further your practice. Someone who shares the path with you, who tames trains guards and restrains their own mind so that you are not harmed but bettered by their association. That person is a keeper. I am fortunate beyond belief to have a Noble Friend in venerable KC Daikai Madika WarEagle, bhikkhuni, and I try to be so to her as well.

Do Buddhists have a problem with “particular friendships?” Yes and no. Although Buddhism is relatively informal it remains an organized religion in some circles and in some locations and cultures or denominations the taboo against “particular friendship” holds, at least by report. But those may be in the minority, there has never been a poll that I know of. Buddhists tend to be well educated and more well to do and that sector generally is more liberal. What is a particular friendship? This term was used especially by the Catholics to support homophobia within their own community. It refers to close personal relationships that may or may not have a sexual aspect and has been a euphemism for partner or lover. Some Buddhists are rabid homophobes, some are closet queers, others are ‘out and proud’ and others have left these concerns behind.

When I was expecting to join the ordination ceremony conducted in southern California four years ago Venerable was acting in the capacity of preceptor and guide for me. The questions asked of her were what she considered inappropriate. They were clearly seeking confirmation of gossip and slander and were directed toward our past long before either of us took refuge.
I feel sorry for those who are incapable of seeing others in the light of generosity compassion and wisdom but they teach by their example and because of them I try harder, so I am grateful.

This has been a great weight to get off my chest. It has not been easy until the last few years to have given up such a facet of life especially at such a time in my life, I am just fifty two. It might be better for people who are older, as traditionally done in India, to go forth after their children are grown but I lucked into it and chose to make the best of it.

I would like to see this lifestyle be a popular option for people in the west, whether temporary or ever renewing. I fear that many make it difficult especially for women by falling into bad habits and holding disciplines to do with the robes and eating above honest introspection, and by finding loopholes in the guidelines rather than embracing the vulnerability of the pursuit of wisdom.

There are two great things about Buddhism that make all this a relatively small concern, they are that we are not an organized religion, and that we each are responsible only for our self, our own actions and our own practice. No one but us in this realm knows what is in our heart or can be a judge of that. They may try, they may think they can but they are then not minding their own ball. We can only offer them the compassion and generosity we would like to see from them.