“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, March 24, 2014


Since starting this series of paintings, landscapes populated with people and critters and places that I would like to visit or build, I am so tickled with it, like building a city in a sandbox. So involved that when there is something not right, or is slightly off or incomplete, it affects me inside…that is if whatever is ‘wrong’ in the painting is not corrected my body responds, physically with odd sensations, Qi sensations. The paintings affect the Qi in my body, like a wind or sun, either too much or too little. The structure of the paintings has to be harmonious for the Qi to be in harmony, good lord what have I stumbled on? 

Is it the painting that reflects me or do I reflect the painting? 

Whichever, I guess it means this is ‘good art,’ my ‘ming’ or an alchemy straight from the heart. It has that freedom that a I recall from long ago, cupped in self acceptance, open to the world.

Friday, March 21, 2014


An inside journey is a journey
towards absolute aloneness;
you cannot take anybody there with you.
…Nobody is with you. You are alone,
and you have to understand
that this aloneness is so precious
that you should not lose it.

Weird thing - this popped up on the computer after I turned it on first thing in the morning after tossing and turning in the wee hours, when the path seems so difficult and friends so absent.

Osho is listening...

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Assault prevention class

In my class at Emperor’s College there is an extraordinary man who is offering a free class in assault prevention. I signed up for it. Why is he extraordinary? Because he is a peaceful warrior. It is something I don’t really understand; he has spent so much of his life focused on physical violence, as an athlete, a soldier, a cop, a trainer. But this is where the telling point resides- intention is the karma builder, not action.

Why would a pacifist, a Buddhist Nunk, take such a class? How can this be appropriate? What would the other Sangha members say? Oh my…( I spend way too much time thinking about critics in my imagination) Of course Sensei believes it is reasonable and appropriate. For me it is this discussion that makes it sooo appealing. The very question, of whether it is appropriate or not.

The ordained Sangha live by a discipline established by the Buddha and elaborated by long ago Sangha members into a complex set of guidelines. Most of those guidelines describe how to make the most of this human life so that the practice can best be accomplished.  This includes remaining safe and fit, with the “pure” mind taking priority over body but acknowledging that the body is not separate from or unrelated to the mind. “Pure” means free of hatred, greed and delusion.

A section of the discipline relates to safety in travel. There is a line in some interpretations that says we should not travel unarmed into dangerous territory. Some believe that not going unarmed means not traveling without armed escort even to the point of writing and reciting the guideline that way. Some Sangha members that say it is all right to have others do something you shouldn't as long as your own hands remain clean. For instance they have said and indicated by action that it is ok for them to tell a lay person to uproot plants or have others actually pay for their food and conveniences, as long as they do not do so themselves. That is their prerogative, each of us has the responsibility to decide and act according to our own understanding, it is all right for them.

One of the amazing things about the Buddha Dhamma is that we are required to investigate it for ourselves. This can take a lot of time and introspection. Venerable Sensei is remarkable to me because like the Vajjian monk she adheres to the three trainings, the training in Heightened Mind, Heightened Virtue and Heightened Discernment. I am so grateful that she is my teacher and noble friend, because I too can abide in these three but the others are, especially in this distant place and time, not correct for me.

For me it is the intention behind the act, in this case the challenge of acting to prevent assault without losing compassion, empathy, understanding for an attacker. Years ago there was a popular bumper sticker that read: Mean People Suck. Shortly after that came out there was a follow up one that read: Mean People Are Hurting. I believe that this is true. I believe it is my responsibility to guard and protect myself from causing harm or receiving harm, harm being malice or irritation. That is from the actual guideline regarding not taking life: Do not take a human life in malice or irritation. Many people do not accept this and interpret it as simply do not kill, including even insects. That is their prerogative. Certainly every being that lives (and what does not?) cherishes that life in some fashion.

I see that there is no life without death, that every act we undertake causes some harm but if we acknowledge this and do not intentionally harm with malice or irritation then the world is made so that harm actually benefits and a balance is achieved. It would be wrong for me to allow another to get away with inflicting harm or deleting life in this body/mind without showing them compassion and forgiveness. Preventing assault is the means of doing that. No different than taking antibiotics or restraining an unskillful thought. It is up to each of us to interpret and clarify and explore what is skillful.

It seems that many accept the opinions of others to gain acceptance and even praise. Some of us choose a stance in order to elevate themselves in the eyes of others. I choose the challenge of maintaining compassion in the face of fear, fear of death and mutilation and pain and loss. I choose to look into this before the event that I may prepare in case it should ever happen. Supposedly these things do happen to people every day all over this planet, there are predators and prey everywhere at every level of existence in this realm. I take this opportunity as it presents itself for the second time because the universe is apt to hit me with a stick when I ignore a repeated suggestion. (This is the second time Tom has offered the class.) So it’s not directly Dhamma but I can observe it in the light of Dhamma and follow the promptings of what ever it is that creates the path.

This is a skillful means for me to explore the concepts of life, living and dying by returning the mind to the moment.. Recall the story of the five monks residing in the forest who were killed by attackers. The story is largely about exploring attachment - it brings up the question of whether to give your life for others, of who should die when others live, etc. The great beauty of this story for us in Great Determination Sangha has been Sensei drumming into us the "fact" that there is no skillful way to consider any of these questions – the only skillful means is to practice living in the moment and then should such an even occur be there mindful of that moment and that moment alone. I can tell this is right by the sense of expansion and freedom and even joy it brings. So sometimes it is ok to consider previous discussions, opinions, conflict and ideas and then it is a wonder to release and return to this moment and no concerns.