Jun 26

Injustice and the Four Noble Truths

This morning I spent time revisiting the Tenth Mindfulness Training of the Order of Interbeing. This training sometimes causes confusion for practitioners who are uncertain how to engage in public action and discourse. The text from the book Interbeing is quite clear. 

A spiritual community, however, should take a clear stand against oppression and injustice. This should be done with a clear voice, based on the principles of the Four Noble Truths. The truth concerning the unjust situation should be fully exposed (the First Noble Truth: suffering). The various causes of injustice should be enumerated (the Second Noble Truth: the causes of suffering). The purpose and desire for removing the injustice should be made obvious (the Third Noble Truth: the removal of suffering). The measures for removing the injustice should be proposed (the Fourth Noble Truth: the way to end suffering). 

We can do this and transcend partisan politics. I can think of numerous opportunities in today’s social and political environment. 

 

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. 

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?

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 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?

Nov 16

The Technology Horse

The Winter Retreat begins today at Plum Village and in a dharma talk earlier this week, Thich Nhat Hanh makes some very powerful statements about technology as well as giving very specific instructions to those practicing in the Winter Retreat.

He uses the ancient story of a person traveling on horseback to ask the question who is in charge of our direction. Thay suggest that the horse is technology and many people are being driven by technology and we are not in control.

One of the more powerful sentiments he shares is:  For the practitioner, if we are doing it exactly like the people in the world then we may not be able to help the people in the world. No email and no Internet and no Facebook can be attractive and to allow us to become a real practitioner. It can be an awakening.

For those who know me, they know I am definitely a technologist. I value technology and believe it can solve many problems. I also value our practice and as an Order of Interbeing member see we should continue to experiment with our practice. That is what we are asked to do.

Thay gives very specific instructions to the monastics: No email. No Facebook. Turn in your computer to the office. How do these instructions apply for the lay practitioner looking to deepen practice during this retreat and yet continue to live and participate in the world?

I do not fear nor suffer from the thought of not using Facebook, Twitterapp.net, LinkedIn for a 3-month period. I am reflecting on how I might use this as an opportunity for me to practice differently. With my work, I am required to use email, and yet there is also opportunity here too. For example, maybe I only check my personal email on certain days or certain hours. Though I can’t attend the 90-day retreat, each winter retreat season I have set an aspiration for my practice. No decision for this winter has been made yet but I’m thinking.

Listen to the talk (it’s not that long) and then share you’re own reflections on what the Teacher is suggesting.

Oct 13

Second Four Exercises of Mindful Breathing

Breathing for Joy and Happiness: Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.

This dharma talk is the second part of a four-part series on mindful breathing given by Kenley Neufeld at Lulu Bandha in Ojai, California. Original date is September 29, 2013.

Our text is from the Anapanasati Sutta translated from the Pali by the Venerable Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. The English title is the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing. The term “sutra” is Sanskrit and is more common in the Mahayana tradition and better known in the west.

In this dharma talk, we focus on the the Second Four Exercises:

5. Breathing in, I feel joyful. Breathing out, I feel joyful.
6. Breathing in, I feel happy. Breathing out, I feel happy.
7. Breathing in, I am aware of my mental formations. Breathing out, I am aware of my mental formations.
8. Breathing in, I calm my mental formations. Breathing out, I calm my mental formations.

The recording begins with a guided meditation followed by the dharma talk. 60-minutes total.

Personal Practice

  1. Write down your conditions of happiness.
  2. Recognize a neutral feeling and transform it into a pleasant feeling.

Enjoy.

Oct 06

The First Four Exercises of Mindful Breathing

Breathing for Joy and Happiness: Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.

This dharma talk is the first part of a four-part series on mindful breathing given by Kenley Neufeld at Lulu Bandha in Ojai, California. Original date is September 22, 2013.

Our text is from the Anapanasati Sutta translated from the Pali by the Venerable Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. The English title is the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing. The term “sutra” is Sanskrit and is more common in the Mahayana tradition and better known in the west.

In this dharma talk, we focus on the the Four Preliminary Exercises:

  1. Breathing in a long breath, I know I am breathing in a long breath. Breathing out a long breath, I know I am breathing out a long breath.
  2. Breathing in a short breath, I know I am breathing in a short breath. Breathing out a short breath, I know I am breathing out a short breath.
  3. Breathing in, I am aware of my whole body. Breathing out, I am aware of my whole body.
  4. Breathing in, I calm my whole body. Breathing out, I calm my whole body.

The recording begins with a 11-minute guided meditation followed by a 50-minute dharma talk.

Personal Practice

  1. During the coming week, practice stopping by taking ten breaths in full awareness at some point each day.
  2. Each day pick 2-3 parts of the body and become fully aware of that body part.
  3. One time in the coming week, practice walking meditation to become aware of the unity of body and mind.

Enjoy.