28 September, 2009

Grieving Nature ?

When I read about this it just struck me… a grieving female senator, who’s rich, adventuresome husband died while climbing. Sounds like a new movie. Clifton Maloney, a millionaire invest banker died on a mountain climbing expedition in the Himalayas. Big deal you say? Well, he was happy (quoted by him) and died in his sleep doing something he liked to do. If we could all be so lucky. He could have spent years in a home or intensive care, or living with a stroke praying for death to come knocking. And they said, with some exasperation “but had been in excellent health."

I spent Sunday hearing dhamma by Theravada monks, meditating on a body, getting older every minute. Developing loving kindness for myself while this process is happening. It doesn’t take but a quick look in the mirror in the morning to say, Geez, I am gonna have to get a larger mirror to cover that expanse moving south. That is, if I can still see it! Now, I get it. The reason why our vision goes as we age is so that we don’t have to see this mess so clearly. Oh, you say… just think young! Thinking young doesn’t get me very far when I swim, do yoga, or run in the company of 20-30 somethings.

So, I know I have to work on my mind to accept natural process of aging, illness and the dependency on others. I depended on my family when I had my brain injury, much to my surprise. I had no choice when it happened. I could not even talk enough to say, just leave me alone. How silly would be while intensive care? And if I said to the nurses, well, I just would not be here at all. So, it is beginning to make sense to get as much wisdom by reflecting on the body. Because I don’t buy the 60, is the new 40. It is not a good game plan to count on this. This doesn’t mean we have to give up on taking care of our bodies. Just work on the subtle mind that tells us in so many ways: We won’t die, at least now, so just forget about it and this day will never come. This leads to saying things we regret, acting out or procrastinating on doing things like a trust. Our fear leads us in the wrong direction from wisdom. If we introduce the inevitability of this natural process often, we can make subtle changes in consciousness bringing awareness and acceptance. It will relax our natural tendency to hold on for dear life to something that is constantly changing.

After sitting, we did walking meditation thinking, on one foot: it is the nature of our body to age, and the other foot: It is the nature of our body to get sick while placing them. On the way back we would think, It is nature with one foot and the other, Get used to it. Later in the day, I walked an imaginary path of my lifespan, which I had marked in an area with sun(life, so far) and shade(the unknown future) and I had a slight hesitation walking into the shade each time. It was subtle, but it hinted clearly my fear of what will be next. This whole day of contemplation did not make me feel depressed at all, but instead make me feel happier and lighter. Just what wisdom is supposed to do.

26 September, 2009

School of Thoughts

My roommate, who came in late after being out in the middle of the night, awakens me. Tired, I watched my mind go to negative thoughts. I got up for a snack and water, because I went to bed with less food than I normally eat.

Today, cooked for the monks that I will mediate with on Sunday, and when it came to my dinner I just grabbed some odds and ends. I prepared some food for homeless, and drove out to find some to give it to. Sadly, not too hard to find. I gave to a couple sitting outside a grocery store. When I asked them if they were hungry, the man came to my car and introduced himself and said, “thanks!” A man nearby talking to them, smiled and gave me the thumbs up. So what do I have to complain about?

In my quest to be wise, I have realized just how often we make conversation based on something we don’t like. It can be as minor as the weather…“It’s too hot or It’s too cold!” Trying to build some connection with a stranger or to start a conversation with a friend. It is so common that we do it without even thinking. Now think about it. Have you ever met a wise and happy person? Guess what? You’ll notice that they almost never say a negative statement. Now, it doesn’t mean you have to be “Mr. Positive” and make everything sickly sweet. It just sounds that way in your head. I need to change this. If you create a negative mood, even on a simplest level with something everyone dislikes it is so easy. We hate the weather, politics, the economy or our weight and a whole bunch else. We can find faults in everything. Dislikes that define us as the fussy people we are.

You are creating the world as you see it, and it signals dissatisfaction for the way things really are. Human life is never easy. I know that and most other people know that. You can always find something you don't like. So what? Why point to others that you are not happy inside? It is not something you encounter with a wise person. You might see this positive behavior with regular people, so it is not just some ideal that is seen only with the Dalai Lama. You might even have a friend or acquaintance that does this and you never really knew why they seem to be consistent and positive. They leave you feeling lighter. I have witnessed this in a few people, and noticed that you never gravitate towards negative conversation and leave happier.

So, if I am creating the world I want to live in, then I will have to notice how I speak, catching everything before it spills out of my mouth. A wise person is a conscious person. And I will have to love myself, and not get mad if this does not happen right way. An understanding… that I am a work in progress.

23 September, 2009

Open Door Spirit

I felt a wee bit more relaxed about life after the all night meditation and when I returned a friend who is staying with me even remarked that I seem happier. I joked I am so tired I can’t possibly work up the energy to be bitchy. So, I was thinking it would be best to go again to weekend day I found online at a different venue far from the last monastery I went to last. The same monks from that one will be there and we can feed and help them(dana). I find it remarkably odd that I found this. I can’t seem to let this opportunity just fall by the wayside, regardless of feelings expressed in last post. They opened a door to my spirit, and now I feel an obligation to make it know how much I appreciated this time spent with them. We are all working towards the same goals. Plus, who knows if I end up being in the same robes on day in my life again. I wonder if they yearn for some appreciation of the sacrifice they have made for wisdom and dhamma. These monks where not born into it. So, the decision to leave the householders life had much more importance and only they why they made this move in their life. I know they have some small taste of what they miss from samsara, regardless of all the wisdom they have since gained.  It would not be seen as given towards the monks, but is considered merit. Merit I would earn for all those who have helped me to know love and have love in my life like my Mother. We live our lives by example. So, tomorrow and the next day I’ll cook, and remember the great food I was given when I was a novice.

Today, my partner said he working hard on his Masters for us.  Getting up late at night after work, with hardly a moment to breathe. That struck me, because most people think of themselves. When I work on myself it helps me but sometimes it can help others. They can share in the lightness of being that I can be at times,  but can also see the possibilities for themselves.  I am still trying to help others with no "what's in for me?" motive. That can be very challenging to do, because at the least you expect a thank you or a smile. But, I am getting better at thinking would I like in this instance... maybe some help or even a little understanding. Understanding of the monks, in this instance and others in life will open many doors.

20 September, 2009

The Train Stops to Meditate

My old train, still chugs along… albeit slower, and always a little bit less depend-able. Computer is back, limping and still threatening suicide saying it just can't keep up with the Jones. I decided to get on my bike for a ride to the bridge and back before a reading downtown. Taking off, up a hill and down, my hat fell off in the street. Stopping fast and trying to do a sharp turn, I laid it down…not particularly fast, but… oh, so elegantly. Leaving me with a bloody ego, oops… elbow. I grabbed the hat that missed a near death, by a car swerving, just in time just like the Volvo commercial to avoid giving it that extra starch look. They got more than they asked for in payback when they saw me kiss the pavement. And, I so rarely perform, NOT! I got up, looked at my elbow, shrugged my shoulders, thinking I am lucky once again…but, then I quickly thought I had lost my ring in cold and the crash. A ring that keeps reminding me of my partner, whenever things are tough like this, knowing that we have made it almost nine years against all odds. And we do have alot more to do together.

I biked on to the bridge and back, showered and dressed my wound for public viewing. I showed to a couple of friends, but funny, I did not embellish my story, stating…yes, I, too can be dumb. A close friend said, “your nines lives are gonna expire soon. Better buy the extended warranty!” I just shrug them off, not saying that my body reminds of this everyday. I saw three poets read and one young artist play her flamenco influenced classical pieces in a small venue. Not a poetry fan in general but some of their pieces read aloud brought tears to my eyes. I can always provide links if you are interested. Often can’t follow poetry, because it doesn’t follow the way I think and process. Now, if it were told in short films the visual clues would resonate so much easier for me. A journey back in time to neurological tests in the hospital to see how bad I was…any graphic/ visual element, I always did far better on, and felt that I was cheating in comparison to other kind of tests. So that train was chugging uphill at this time hoping to round the corner at any time a see a clear light at the end of the next tunnel.

Running home, catching busses to get back as fast as I could, to take off for a nearly three hour journey to a Buddhist monastery up north to join them in Lunar event of chanting and meditating all night. A spur of the moment idea I formed that same morning. Arriving in mid chant, I declined to disturb them by opening a door, and sat outside a window, not feeling a welcoming eye or gesture. Not to be discouraged, I quickly released my tight mind, and waited until a break when the door was opened. The room was quiet and small, so to be perfectly honest I know what is like to have an ungounded person walk in a room. Entering, I found the mats and pillows fast, sitting in the back of tiny hall…composed and ready to start the meditation at 9:30 pm. The American monks knew their Pali… impressive.

Hearing from another lay person that breaks, if made, are to be done at the 1/2 hour mark. I felt prepared to go for the long haul with no food in my belly since lunch. In a small temple with an Abbott, seven monks and about 13 lay including myself. Me, an odd man out in more ways than one, no one knew what I was about nor was I going to tell them. Luckily, my breathing warns me first if I am starting to fall asleep, that Darth Vader sound and snaps me back to consciousness without that proverbial head drop.  I made it the midnight bell, when they upped the lights and served strong tea, chocolate and cheese.  Snap, if they didn't whip out some chocolate covered coffee beans. Just a little fuel to make it until 3 am, which I did without too much drama and stayed after most people left. Two monks and I continued on until 5 am, and then they retired. I stayed on thinking the daybreak, would be safer time to leave. I was surprised I could this overnight with two breaks, clearing a lot of mental lint. Feeling it was a nice, calm interesting setting, but lacking some of the happiness I found with the monastic community in temples in Thailand. I am only guessing, but I felt the severity of the decision to join a forest sangha by the American monks, a kind of grim and bear it attitude. It just did not feel to be a logical next step in the path.
Perhaps, this might only come from where the monks started this process from, a painful reminder that life outside did not really pay as promised. This could be one of my reasons of interest, but feel that my desire for more wisdom evolve from a less painful place. Now, all this is just a gut feeling, and I could have read it all wrong and it was only one night, but there it is. One thing that will stick with me, was when the abbott was answering someone's question about how dhamma has changed their life and their intrepretation of people in their life. He said among other things(more or less) is you can't expect anyone else to get on your train, and everyone figures out life in a different way. My train stop approached as the following evening drew to a close at home(i.e. dragging ass) and looked up with sleepy eyes at my ring that never left the house.

13 September, 2009

Impending Doom or Opportunity?

My computer is on its last legs and while it is in the shop quietly deciding its own fate, I use this time to learn patience, yet again. Hey, maybe some wisdom would be great, as well. Pretty please? With sugar on top, if you don't mind. I will continue to analyze my faults, hopefully to access my compassionate heart buried deep underneath. I have noticed that when things are good and you are feeling ok, deep down, you know it will end suddenly. So, one has the tendency while things are fine to not even enjoy them with this threat of the never ending question, "What is next?"

This probably comes to most people like it does for me, after you have a some personal history of failings(we all do - like a breakup, job loss, etc) or some kind of surprise drama like my near death. Or it might come to you, when your upcoming death rears its ugly head like some police sobriety test while you are drunkenly cruising through life. But in all seriousness, if you don't work on yourself when things are good or even just satisfactory you'll find that you are suddenly injured or even on your deathbed and you no longer have any time or patience left. Yes, life goes by this damn fast. We really do have no idea what is next. You can save, dream of some far off place to relax and plan ahead for retirement and it will never put a dent into the clear understanding that things change and often do so with no logic or reason. Out of the blue.

I think I have come to an understanding that those little discontentments I have about life, all the way to the supreme life changing event of my brain injury are a result of my ripening karma. Whether from this life or not really doesn't matter. What does matter ...is I now have the time to invest on developing my compassionate heart while things are fine. This will insure a future of more positive karma and might even result in a peaceful passing. So, you say you don't believe in karma? OK, fine then, but at least once you have probably experienced someone in your life – that their entire being or character is positive and loving and it rubbed off on you, the day you encountered them. I want to be that person, and one can't just wake up and be that.... even if you won the damn lottery. It takes a clear and thorough understanding of the way life really is.

This means working on putting to bed delusions and dissatisfactions based on ignorance. Delusions like anger(yes, even in most subtle forms), jealousy, pride, ego, laziness and others. If I truly want wisdom I have to look at my faults that are fear based, like my death, of course. And how I deal with others. Like today when given a compliment, instead of saying thanks... I try to whittle down my value. You know, people who say, "Not me, I hardly did anything." This is not a wise person, who does not show respect for himself when he downplays a compassionate thank you. You cannot offer wisdom and be truly happy without some real work. What you say, how you act and your body language says a whole lot  about what is in your mind. A calm mind is a product of wisdom and compassion built out of meditation. I can see the kind of compassionate person I want to be,  and I am finally aware of the personal work involved...with or without my computer. But the clearer I get, the more superficial my things appear to me.
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07 September, 2009

Children — What Are We Doing Wrong?

I have watched my nephew over the past week, and although he is loved and disciplined well...there is something with American teachings and desires fulfilled that need to be looked at. All children put up a fight with homework and doing things they don't want to do, but without respect for elders they develop a kind of lazy way of responding. This lazy way can range from total frustration/anger to a flip response. Either way I have watched children in Thailand and here in the USA and there is distinctly different kind of respect that we are not teaching children here. Buddhism addresses desires as not a method to find happiness. Wisdom addresses the attachment to things and people. Give any child in the US a toy, and soon they want one they don't have that is bigger or another friend has. Let a child grow up like this, and they continue on this path as adult. On a path of continual disappointment. There will always be someone who is smarter, prettier, and has a bigger house with a better car. So we have to go back to the drawing board to teaching how to be happy with what you have.
I give to MERCY CORPS kids, because I know that we are very fortunate to born in USA. How long this will last, who knows?

04 September, 2009

Looking Out and Seeing Yourself

I went to temple last night while away from home and left a little early to make sure I could find it. My luck, there were the remains of an accident blocking my exit off the freeway, and I spent 20 minutes pinned waiting for it to be re-routed. I thought what a good time to practice patience, and if I am late no one will care because they don’t know me. While waiting in the car I practiced my Pali chants and worked through a set three times. When I pulled up to a full parking lot one fellow sangha member greeted me with a smiling face, and I knew I was in the right place. I left to find a place to park nearby.
The talk centered with the fact that if one wants happiness they must approach the world with a warm heart. One can only do that by finding positives in others and greet them as you would a close friend. And instead of finding faults in others.. to turn it around and work on your own faults. The point that made me reflect was: How can one complain about others complaining. Bingo, this was me! Something I can definitely work on. I confess I do this way too much, and some friends say I am just a doer, which they just possibly can’t be. I think by them saying this, they are in effect saying to get off their case. I did not learn to speak again to harass people.

Now for some fun: Mr. Dan Philips  is a guy making homes out of scrap with an artful flair while working with the owners. Hats off to yet another “hidden” artist in One Man's Trash. The slide show of his recycled homes is here.

01 September, 2009

Resisting Homophobia in the Military

"Being a lesbian on 9/11 is what initially led me to begin to question my involvement in the military and the military's involvement in the world," Hogg explained to Truthout, "If on 9/11, I did not have the freedom to hug my girlfriend goodbye before we left as a unit for NYC, then what freedom was I protecting? What freedom could we offer to the world if we treat it so restrictively based on who a person falls in love with?"
a quote from a great article from Truthout.org.

 It is a question that, with suitable modifications, is perhaps pertinent for each one of us to ask, even outside the military. We who never tire of vaunting the freedoms that America allows its citizens, and feels authorized to export elsewhere at all costs.
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