Apr 23

Coffee Arrives. Looking Deeply. 

Appreciating a cup of coffee from Burundi and roasted by Blue Bottle – they call the roast Burundi Kayanza MpangaWhat do I know if where my coffee comes? Not much! It is quite amazing that I can sit here on a bright and sunny morning in the Ojai Valley drinking a cup of coffee from across the planet and not even know exactly where Burundi is located. 


Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world, with 80% living in poverty and a majority of the children malnourished. I can’t even begin to understand this statement. It’s a tiny country in east Africa with coffee being its main export – though exports aren’t even a large part of their GDP. Agriculture and rural living dominates. 

On a windless day the flapping wings of thousands of birds pass between Lake Tanganyika and Lake Victoria. Fed by the same waters and agile as a feather, the Mpanga also takes flight.

This poetic digression from Blue Bottle also helps me touch the beauty and majesty of this tiny country. Burundi is the source of the Nile and they also have the 2nd largest freshwater lake in the world – Lake Tanganyika. I can see the natural beauty and the people living to take care of their daily needs where they make crafts, drum, play soccer, and drink beer by the side of the road. 

The planet is small and yet a life experience in Southern California compared to a life in Burundi could be another planet. 

Thank you for my coffee today. I hope it lends some support to the people of Burundi in a fair and supportive manner. Appreciating the apricot and cane sugar flavored of Burundi. 

Apr 22

Stories from our Lives

Music Banner - April 22

This year is turning out to be a decent year for new music. I’ve got so many new releases in my playlist and I’m happily making my way through the material. Here’s a few tracks that I’ve been particularly enjoying in the last week.

Frightened Rabbit – Get Out

I have the last couple Frightened Rabbit releases and while I have enjoyed each, none of truly grabbed me in a big way. With the release of Painting of a Panic Attack, I’m finding myself really digging each track when it plays. This is one in particular is really good.

The Field – Pink Sun

One of the places that I buy music is bleep.com. They mainly focus on electronic music and I’m rarely disappointed by their recommendations. This was recently recommended and I started listening to it with great interest. The release is called The Follower from The Field.

Sinead O’Connor – Trouble Soon Be Over

As a 30-year fan of Sinead, I always appreciate when something comes from her. This track is from a release called God Don’t Ever Change, a compilation of artists sings songs by Blind Willie Johnson. There are a ton of great songs on it but this is one of my favorites.

Underworld – I Exhale

Not much to say about this track, and never really owned any Underworld in the past. But with the Karl Hyde and Brian Eno collaboration last year, I thought I’d give Barbara Barbara, we face a shining future a spin. I like it. And what’s not to like about breathing.

Yeasayer – I Am Chemistry

Like Frightened Rabbit, I have a couple of Yeasayer releases. I like them but don’t super-love-them. The opening track on their latest release, Amen & Goodbye, is a dead ringer for the Beatles and it sounds really awesome. This track here follows immediately after. And, like Frightened Rabbit, I’m thinking this release is pretty strong overall.

Courtney Barnett – Pedestrian at Best

I tried to keep the list to five, but needed to include Courtney Barnett. What’s not to like from someone who names their album Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. Leslie and I went and saw her perform last week in Pomona and it was a fun and rocking show. She writes great lyrics and definitely knows how to have fun. Enjoy this recording from her latest release but recorded a couple years ago.

Enjoy the music and maybe I’ll post another set of tracks in another month or two.
Dec 15

Writing on Medium

I’ve been experimenting with writing over on Medium the last year or so because it has the capacity to reach a different and broader audience.

If you haven’t checked it out, head over and see my profile (much of the current posts were crossposted here, except for the last one).

Kenley on Medium

Not sure how much longer I’ll keep an active blog here on my domain, but one never knows. Thanks for being a reader.

Jun 16

Catching Snakes and No-Self

snakeOne of the deepest and most difficult teachings of the Buddha is no-self. In fact, we are warned that it can be dangerous if we don’t understand clearly this concept. Furthering my study and reflection on this teaching, I read The Sutra on Knowing the Better Way to Catch a Snake. In this sutra, we can learn to let go of and not cling to or identify with anything. This is Right View. Let’s look at this together and share our collective insight and understanding.

From the teaching of no-self, we can learn to respond with compassion and see false accusations, slander, and reprimands as having an interdependence with all other things. Each of us are products of our family, society, and culture. Seeing this we can have more compassion. To help someone change, we can work to change her family, society, and culture. We don’t need to feel anger or blame.

The same can be said about praise, adoration; and respect. To receive these and not make us proud or arrogant.

In my practice, I am learning how to be in touch with this teaching for myself and also to help transform the consciousness of my society and culture. Just by keeping aware of the teaching of no-self, I can have more compassion for myself and for those who think and believe differently than I do.

Through meditation, conscious breathing, and deep looking I can open my heart to for a deeper understanding. It takes time, silence and presence to move in this direction. And in doing so, I cultivate the heart of love and will not feel anger, hatred, or vengeance.

What freedom!

To help further apply these teachings, we also have the first two Mindfulness Trainings of the Order of Interbeing.

The First Mindfulness Training: Openness
Aware of the suffering created by fanaticism and intolerance, we are determined not to be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. We are committed to seeing the Buddhist teachings as guiding means that help us learn to look deeply and develop our understanding and compassion. They are not doctrines to fight, kill, or die for. We understand that fanaticism in its many forms is the result of perceiving things in a dualistic and discriminative manner. We will train ourselves to look at everything with openness and the insight of interbeing in order to transform dogmatism and violence in ourselves and in the world.

The Second Mindfulness Training: Non- Attachment to Views
Aware of the suffering created by attachment to views and wrong perceptions, we are determined to avoid being narrow­ minded and bound to present views. We are committed to learning and practicing nonattachment from views and being open to others’ insights and experiences in order to benefit from the collective wisdom. Insight is revealed through the practice of compassionate listening, deep looking, and letting go of notions rather than through the accumulation of intellectual knowledge. We are aware that the knowledge we presently possess is not changeless, absolute truth. Truth is found in life, and we will observe life within and around us in every moment, ready to learn throughout our lives.

How are you understanding, practicing, and experiencing these teachings?

Jun 02

Looking Back. Looking Forward.

At twenty-six years old, rocketing out of Silicon Valley at the dawn of the graphical web browser, I went to work as Electronic Media Librarian at University High School in San Francisco. It’s been twenty years since that day, and I have had a very rich and satisfying career serving students and faculty in four institutions. Twelve of those years were in the role of Library Director – four years at Notre Dame High School, Belmont and eight years at a Santa Barbara City College (SBCC). I have always had an outward facing attitude and spent significant time working outside the library. In all those years, my office has always been located in the library. That’s about to change.

Today I have accepted the position of Dean, Educational Programs at Santa Barbara City College. This is a good day! I feel excited, confident, honored, and ready for the challenge of my new role and new responsibilities.

What does this Dean, Educational Programs actually mean at Santa Barbara City College? I will be responsible to the Executive Vice President for Educational Programs and will serve as the academic and administrative leader for English as Second Language, School of Modern Languages, Physical Education/Health Education/Dance, Library, Faculty Resource Center, Student Learning Outcomes Coordination, Faculty Professional Development, Distance Education Lead, Liaison with the Information Technology Division, Grant Development and Administration, and New Program Development.

It’s a big job, but that’s how we roll at community colleges.

My office will move from the library to the administration building. That will certainly be strange for me, but I can still visit the library anytime (maybe even take some adjunct hours at the reference desk) and will continue to provide administrative leadership for the library. In this new role, I will have the opportunity to meet and work with so many more faculty, staff, and administrators across the campus. I will have the opportunity to learn more about these programs, departments, and services and bring my library experiences as an interdisciplinary academic leader. It’s a real opportunity to impact change, provide leadership, and facilitate community in the best community college environment in the country.

I have much gratitude for the confidence, trust, and respect from the colleagues I’ve worked with over the past nine years at SBCC and look forward to many more years to come.  The position will begin in July.

May 24

Graduation Speech at SBCC

As Academic Senate President, I had the honor of speaking to over 500 graduates at Santa Barbara City College on Friday, May 23, 2014. The following are the words I shared.

On behalf of the Santa Barbara City College faculty, I welcome you. Welcome to our faculty, our staff, our administrators, our board of trustees. Welcome to parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Welcome to partners, husbands, wives, and children. Welcome to our friends. Welcome to our ancestors who can’t be here in physical form, to our spiritual ancestors who have taught us how to live well, to our cultural teachers who have reminded us how to treat each other, and to the land ancestors who have cared for and settled on these lands in the time before us. 

No one of us does anything alone. 

Each person present here today is a part of one another in this moment of celebration. Please take a moment to remember all those people and conditions that have happened to bring us to this moment in time. 

We are all present here today as a community. We are all present here today to honor our 2014 SBCC graduates.

Continue reading

Mar 09

Love Letter to the Earth

nasa-earth-wallpaper-1920x1080_731987765Dear Mother Earth,

I feel you under my feet. The gravity holding me close to you. You are alive with the energy of soil, water, and minerals. I see your children all around – the birds, the snails, the flies, the hens, the coyote, the rat, the orange blossom, the trees, and the mountains. Dear Mother Earth, you are a true wonder. When I look up to the sky, there is the atmosphere protecting us from the dark vastness of space from which you originally came. How is it that you came to be the most beautiful planet in our solar system? The intimacy of our relationship to the atmosphere and the mighty sun is beyond belief. There would be no life here without the atmosphere and the sun.

I recognize that you came from stardust all those billions of years ago and that every single cell and atom arose from you and that one day all will return to you and continue. There is no birth and no death. Even the scientist can see this. There is an interconnection to everything on this planet that goes well beyond any religious belief, political boundary, economic status, or race and gender.

Dear Mother Earth, you have lived so many millions of years without the human, the animal, and the tree. Your cycles do not rely on my being here in this form and that you’re strength and solidity will continue long after I am gone. This body of mine will join with you. And so, we are one body and today in this age we rely upon each other. Interbeing! I am you, dear Mother Earth. The connection has a deep and long history from the beginningless time. There is little difference between your well being and my well being. Taking care of you dear Mother Earth is taking care of me.

Dear Mother Earth, I have not always been so skillful. I have been careless with our resources believing that I will always have everything I need. There are times when I don’t see our deep interconnection, out of ease and convenience, and that to take care of you is to take care of me. Please help me to see beyond my microcosm of the world into the richness of this country, this continent, this hemisphere, this planet. Help me also to see into the animal, vegetable, and mineral worlds so that I might take better care of you dear Mother Earth.

Beyond the sun and atmosphere, water is one of our most precious gifts. Water sustains our lives – animal, plant, and mineral. And it is truly a miracle when I turn on the tap in my house and the water flows. This water comes from deep inside you Mother Earth and arrives to help sustain life. The water we have is good and necessarily. Please help me to see this miracle every day. I vow to take care of this precious gift.

Thank you dear Mother Earth.

I love you.

Mar 02

Philip Seymour Hoffman and Me

Happiness, the End of Suffering, and Recovery

Forty-six. That’s not so old – young in fact. He and I are both 46, with young children, and in a long term relationship. We both got sober very young and then maintained that sobriety for many years. Mr. Hoffman made it 23-years, and I’m about to reach my 25th year. This is where the story diverges into disbelief, tragedy, and sadness. Philip Seymour Hoffman is dead from a drug overdose in his own house and a needle in his arm.

How does this happen? Why am I still here and he’s dead? These are the questions on my mind today.

What is clear to me is that success, fame, and fortune do not equal happiness and recovery. Further, many men and women in their forties die everyday. Many probably die from alcohol or drugs. We can’t really blame the heroin, though it is gnarly and deadly, because we know that the drug is just a symptom of a deeper suffering, a deeper sadness, and an inability to cope with reality.

Here’s what I know about happiness, the end of suffering, and recovery. Continue reading

Dec 24

A Christmas Teaching on Love

It is with joy I discover myself reading about Christ’s two greatest teachings on this Christmas Eve day. The first is to love God with all our heart. If I view this absolute love in a non-dualistic way, this also means to love myself with all my heart. The second teaching is to love your neighbor. To be a bodhisattva, serving all beings, is our true nature and my life practice. Self love and love for others is our vocation.

Can you see absolute love and bodhisattva nature in your life today?