29 April, 2010

Monastic Weekend

“Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

27 April, 2010

What is Dana?

I was wrapping up a beautiful Vietnamese Mother and Child painting for my yoga teacher who is expecting a baby soon. I felt a pinge of stingyness, as this one, was a painting I enjoyed in my home for many years. Dismissed this fairly easy, knowing that I felt this would a great gift for such a kind soul. It was truly my intention to give her something as important as her presence has been in classes. Always consistent, never a surprise and her classes were calming. She feels to me to be a meditator, but maybe just her karma. One day, I said to a few friends in class that her baby will be just as sweet as she is. That baby will be so lucky! She has been teaching nearly right up to her due date. Tomorrow is last class before she delivers...and hope she is there. Dana can be the food you give the monks, the money to a temple, a helping hand to a stranger or volunteering in your hospital. In my photograph, Alang got flowers along with food on our morning Alms round. Cultivating generosity through dana is one perfection I still have not quite mastered as evident by the feelings I had earlier. Still learning.

The six perfections are:
Dana paramita, perfection of giving
Shila paramita, perfection of discipline
Kshanti paramita, perfection of patience
Virya paramita, perfection of exertion
Dhyana paramita, perfection of meditation
Prajna paramita, perfection of wisdom

24 April, 2010

A Thank You to Three Smart Women

This is my thank you to three women that have made a huge difference in this planet and helped to inspire others.

"Save The Bay was founded in 1961, as "Save San Francisco Bay Association" by three East Bay women who were watching the Bay disappear before their eyes. Kay Kerr, Sylvia McLaughlin and Esther Gulick set out to stop the City of Berkeley’s plan to double in size by filling in the shallow Bay off-shore. They mobilized thousands of members to stop the project, and their resounding victory was repeated on Bay fill projects around the region.

This first modern grassroots environmental movement in the Bay Area won a revolutionary change - tens of thousands of Save The Bay members forced the State of California to acknowledge that the Bay belonged to the public. Save The Bay won a legislative moratorium against placing fill in the Bay in 1965, the McAteer-Petris Act. The Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) was established by the State to plan protection of the Bay, regulate shoreline development, and ensure public access, which at the time was almost non-existent.

BCDC became a permanent agency in 1969, and continues today, the first coastal zone management agency and the model for most others in the world. The agency Save The Bay created has prevented most additional Bay fill, and since BCDC’s inception there has actually been a small net gain in the size of the Bay through tidal marsh restoration. Agency permits for development along the Bay have mandated new public shoreline access, increasing from only four miles of access in 1969 to over 200 miles today.

Save The Bay fought to close the garbage dumps ringing the shoreline, and stop raw sewage flowing untreated into the Bay. We helped establish the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge and helped stop the Peripheral Canal from draining more of the Bay’s fresh water from upstream and we fight to protect the Bay from today's biggest threats - pollution and sprawl.

For nearly 50 years, Save The Bay has given San Francisco Bay a voice, and helped shift public attitudes from complacency to vigilance. Today, Save The Bay continues to be the largest regional organization working to protect, restore and celebrate this great natural treasure by advocating for strong policies that protect the Bay from pollution and inappropriate shoreline development; restoring habitat to re-establish 100,000 acres of wetlands; and engaging and inspiring more than 25,000 supporters and thousands of students annually."

17 April, 2010

Reminders of Other's Suffering

Sitting in a full plane in a window seat, the gentleman near my age in the middle seat leaned over just after I sat down and said, “Do you live in San Francisco?” I said yes and he told me that all his money and documents were stolen in Hawaii, and he is flying back to go to the German consulate to get passport and a ticket home. So, I asked the guy at aisle seat, since he had an Iphone, to please look up the address to it in the city. That guy later bought him a beer since he had no credit card, but then went back to his movie on his computer with earplugs.

I drew out on paper how to get there in detail once I knew the address. I could sense his anxiety and the need to talk to me. He wasn't overly talkative, and respectful. And over the course of the almost two hour flight he told me bits and pieces of how he arrived at this difficult time in life. I said to him I would show him where to go, and get a better map when we arrived, since I am not a rush to get home. I said it is a waste of money to stay in a hotel, since you are short of cash, just shower here at the airport and grab the BART to the city in the morning when they open.

He proceeded to tell me he got divorced from his wife about two years ago, and she got the house, sparing him the half million mortgage debt. Which I pointed out was one good thing to rest your brain on. But this left him with no home, and lost his job as a horticulturist with the market downturn. He told me he even has a PHD, which I could tell amazed him he ended up in this position. He got unemployment, and it ran out this year, and housing and food being so expensive in Kauai he ended up at friend’s houses, and then the street where he his money and passport were stolen. He said, “This all I have after 10 years in Kauai pointing to a bag under the seat.” I shared my story with him, my losses, etc and it seemed to help.

hen we arrived at the airport we walked together so I could show him where to go, and while he went outside to smoke, I went downstairs to get an airport and city map. I found him again and we sat down at a table while he had a beer, and went over the directions and how to get to the embassy and get a ticket home to see his sister and get back on his feet. We talked for over an hour, and he asked me, "How long did it take to get back after your losses?" Choosing not to tell him that I really haven't, because that would make him feel less anxious. I told him instead what I think is positive... that it took me to explore new methods of thinking about me, life and lead me to Buddhism. I said most of the hard part is in your mind, how you perceive your trouble and that is where you should start. He expressed his fear he did not want to end up dead so soon, so he was consciously not taking any drugs or drinking too much, so he was willing to go back and start fresh. He pointed out that he tried anti-depressants and did not finish his first fill and was happy he could spend time with his sister he had not seen in ten years. I said that is where you start, what you like that you have done so far ...what is good in your life and expressed the importance of letting go of the past, what is done is done, and work with going forward now. I gave him a piece of smoked salmon I was bringing home and he lit up. He had one more beer, while we continued talking and he told me that after this one he just go lay down in the airport and sleep. When he finished he walked with me outside, and I said thanks first. He said, “No, I should say thanks for all the help, and if I have any trouble tomorrow I will call me you." I could tell he was somewhat more relaxed than when I first met him.
Like I told him earlier, nobody is immune to suffering, and seeing him was my reminder, hence why I said Thanks.

15 April, 2010

Dreams of Letting Go

They say that some dreams for tell the future, but this one leads to believe that I have a good idea of where my progress in Dhamma will lead me. One night I dreamt that I sold my house and moved into a smaller apartment. So vivid and clear of the room and the place, and was not without some color, fun and views. And the best way to describe where I was in the dream it is location that seems like is a mish mash of Tibet style, Mexican, San Franciscan architecture. So in last night’s dream, me and several other sangha members(some with faces I recognize and some I do not) all came to a place to symbolically burn an item that represents our tie to the material world. Once burned we could move up to a higher level in an apartment building that was fashioned in my dream as kind of city like resting in terraces on hills, with spiritual seekers like Buddhists and others. A nice mix of colorful people old and young, working towards a common goal that was not too defined in my dream. It was a festive and light-hearted dream.

Tharlam Monastery, Boudha, Kathmandu, Nepal

I chose to burn a gold ring that is a “marriage band” that my partner and I have identical copies of. This was not to symbol any lessening of our bond, because deep down we know that nothing can symbolize what we carry in our hearts. It was more a concrete symbol of material wealth that we often think seems very permanent and unchanging. In the dream I was wondering how we can make the heat high enough in the fire to burn gold and platinum since this was happening within a building with others around. Others chose more flammable cloth, and papers, but you know me …I chose the most difficult kind of item to firmly make this transition stick in my mind. I know deep down that we really do not own anything, more like a life-time loan no matter how valuable it is to us.

During the dream there was no desires for it to be different, or feeling uncomfortable …it was I more of the curiosity and playfulness of those around me. The colors of my surroundings and the people in my dream were interesting and diverse. A few people were around me asking about how I will burn the ring? I said what you do is you imagine them casting the ring from the wax mold in beginning. Using my imagination while the ring is in the fire, it began to melt away like wax all the individual bands of gold and platinum to the surprise of those watching. Down to the main band, which shattered with the heat in two, then finally dissolved in ash.

All photos: Wonderlane

I rose from my knees from the fire, and was allowed up the elevator to the higher apartments. Arrived at a bigger one than in the previous nights dream. I saw another woman from my sangha smiling, leading me to a large window where she had taken the glass out, enabling us to comfortably lean out the window. We were kneeled down all along with several other people, laid cloth on the sill and peered below to view a whole choreographed number with Buddhist teachers and students that involved green cloths in both the robes and flags. It kind of was like spiritual procession full of lightness and was definitely not somber. This is the best overview I can pull out of it, and it just seems like the dreams were a symbol of some kind of spiritual progression for me. If not, at least it was fun.

08 April, 2010

On Dhamma

The best books ...
are those that tell you
what you know already.
— George Orwell

I see in the world
people with wealth
who, from delusion,
don't make a gift
of the treasure they've gained.
Greedy, the stash it away,
hoping for even more
sensual pleasures.

photo: http://kassapa.org/

02 April, 2010

Sam Harris: Science can answer moral questions

"So, for instance, if it's really wrong to lie, it must always be wrong to lie, and if you can find an exception, well then there is no such thing as moral truth."

"...one obvious fact, that you can love someone in the context of a truly delusional belief system. So, you can say like, "Because I knew my gay son was going to go to hell if he found a boyfriend, I chopped his head off. And that was the most compassionate thing I could do."
– Sam Harris

01 April, 2010

Say What?

If it is one thing ...it is another. I went to the Dr. for an MRI reading and hopefully a decision about surgery or not. After nearly one hour in the waiting room finishing my book, “MIndfulness, Bliss, and Beyond: A Meditator's Handbook, ” I was escorted to a room, where I sat in meditation posture waiting for the Dr. to arrive. More than 30 minutes later he rushes in and with his laptop say he can’t get my MRI up, seems like the website is down. Now if I knew this would be a problem I would have brought my copy. He does a quick overview, and decides to give me a shot of cortisone. A total of 4 minutes, after 1 1/2 hour wait. I said, if this all I needed why didn't the first Dr. do this? ....it looks like there was no reason to see you, and with a not happy face. I left, pissed off, drove home to get my copy of my MRI and drove back. I gave it to the nurse. I then went down to the first Dr I saw and asked why did I have to get an MRI at my cost, when the other did not care enough to have it in his hands when I walked in. His colleague had it downstairs, so it should not be a problem. I left, asking the first Dr. to call me and state why he had me get an MRI, if the other Dr, did not care(nor was consulted). I stated I could not afford this cost in advance. I left nearly two hours after my scheduled appointment and walked to my car.

On the way there I was lucky enough, to spin me out of my current mental state, to have a cute red toned cat come up to me like an old friend. He was so unlike most cats….he welcoming me to pet and caress him. I said this must be my partner. I later texted him to ask if that was he! I spent a good 10 minutes with this cat, that came to me. Then drove to get a bite, before a job. While waiting for a bagel, a 4 yr old boy walked up to me, out of all the people around, to ask if I saw his mother? I looked around for his description of his mother, as he was worried but too anxious, since he was busy pre-occupied with his toy. So, I said do you now where your car is? He pointed one way, but said she is probably in the bathroom. I said why don’t we wait and sit outside until she comes? I turned to get my bagel as it was ready and there she was, out of the blue even though I looked for her up and down…I leaned towards her and put my hand on her shoulder and said he’s fine….don’t worry. And she said, “Thanks."

On to my client’s house, arriving on time to find a with a note posted he was a little late. I walked to have coffee, and found a wallet on the stairs and upon talking it the customer service window, suggesting that they page the guy as he might be around. I finished my job with my client and went home and suddenly thought I thought I might never see the MRI disc again and drove to the Dr.’s office to get it. Now, three days later, I have not heard what is the final decision about the reading or an explanation of what to expect next. I have calls in to both Dr.’s.

All this points me towards the fundamental nature of all life, Buddha speaks of this as Dukkha. As long as I fight this, lying in bed trying to go sleep, with the heat of worn out muscles, and loose bones that is to be expected. I am no different than the ultimate reality of all life. It is time for more meditation, reflections to align myself with being awake, and put my self concern to bed. Learning from every experience good and bad. That's how I will really relax.

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