Jul 14

Working with our Relationships

Earlier this week I shared in our sangha newsletter a series of questions presented by Thich Nhat Hanh in Hong Kong this past May. He simply read off about 20 questions at the beginning of the Public Talk and invited the listeners to allow them to penetrate into their heart. They weren’t easy questions necessary. Please allow me to share a few of them with you now.

  • Are you in love?
  • Are you still in love?
  • Do you want to reconnect with the person you used to love?
  • Do you have the time for each other or are you both to busy?
  • Do you know how to handle the suffering within yourself?
  • Do you understand your own suffering and the roots of that suffering?
  • Are you able to understand the suffering in the other person?
  • Do you have the time to listen to him or her and help him or her to suffer less?
  • Do you know the Buddhist way of restoring communication and bringing about reconciliation?
  • Are you capable of creating a feeling of joy and happiness for yourself?
  • Are you capable of helping the other person to create a feeling of joy and happiness?

This doesn’t only need to pertain to our intimate relationships, but can also apply to other important relationships in our lives such as parents, children, friends, etc.

Suffering was the First Noble Truth taught by the Buddha. There is suffering. Suffering isn’t something to be afraid of, to avoid, or to suppress. The question is do we know how to take care of our suffering. More importantly, do we know the goodness of suffering? The goodness of suffering is knowing that we can use our practice to transform the suffering into peace, joy, and happiness. It’s like the compost for the garden. We need to know how to take the garbage and use the compost to grow a beautiful flower or a vegetable garden. Continue reading

Jun 11

Gen X Dharma Teachers Gathering

next gen buddha

Updated on June 17, 2013

The location was the hidden valley of Deer Park Monastery near San Diego, California. This 500-acre sanctuary provided the space for about 60 dharma teachers to meet for five days in early June. The weather was perfect, the sharing intimate, the facilitation exceptional, and the practice grounded. The dharma teachers came from Theravada, Ekayana, Mahayana, Vajrayana, and Triratna streams bringing a richness of experience to our gathering and conversation. Though the gathering was located at Deer Park Monastery, this gathering was organized and facilitated by a team of five dharma teachers from each of these lineages. Much gratitude to the monastics of Deer Park for opening up their home for our practice.

As active dharma teachers in a tradition of Buddhadharma offering refuge in the Three Jewels, we gathered as a continuation of a similar retreat at the Garrison Institute in 2011. We came together to share our experience, and support each other, as young dharma teachers (born between 1960-1980) teaching western Buddhism. The intent was to connect teachers for whom Dharma teaching is a (or the) significant life activity, whether through teaching retreats, guiding a Buddhist temple, or other format. Being together demonstrated that we are truly a community of teachers and not independent nor separate because of our tradition. We  need not teach in isolation and can support one another in our practice and teachings. Continue reading

May 11

Healing with Joy

heather-perry-underwater-swim (33)This year I’ve been moving slowly through the Satipatthana Sutta. It’s bringing me much joy and enthusiasm for the practice. This Sutta is one of the foundational teachings from the Buddha. Like most teachings, the Sutta wasn’t written down for hundreds of years after the Buddha lived, but it was passed down orally from generation to generation. Beyond the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path, I believe this to be one of the primary teachings because it provides specific instructions for meditation. In fact, the sutta uses the term ekayana, which means “one path” in Pali. This has also been translated as “a most wonderful way to help living beings.”

Thich Nhat Hanh translates this Sutta as the Four “Establishments” of Mindfulness. Others have used Four “Foundations” of Mindfulness. Either way, it teaches us how to meditate. At the very base of the practice. Meditation is to look deeply and see the essence of things. We can begin right now. No need to wait. No need to become a monastic. Yes, the teachings were given to monastics but we can all apply this teaching and discover freedom. Mindfulness means to have awareness. Through our practice of meditation, we can establish mindfulness in ourselves. Mindfulness is always mindfulness of something, and so the Sutta provides guidance in four areas. Specifically, the body, the feelings, the mind, and the objects of mind.  Continue reading

Feb 22

All This Relates to Everything

This is what Ev of Twitter fame said during his interview with Soren Gordhamer from the stage of Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco – all this relates to everything. Brilliance in five words. Wisdom 2.0 is a tech conference, but it’s not. It’s business conference, but it’s not. It’s a wisdom gathering, a dharma talk, a practice, and a community.

Ev was talking about mindfully building a company from the ground up without really talking much about his new company called Obvious. He talked about meditation practice, about building culture, and about using Holacracy within the new company. This is something to explore and learn more about.

The day began with Ev and got increasingly better. I’m sitting at the end of the day with a cup of coffee and an espresso feeling inspired and motivated; trying to digest all that I heard.

Receiving the dharma rain throughout the day from the likes of Padmasree Warrior (CTO for Cisco), Gopi Kallayil (Google), Jack Kornfield, Tony Schwartz (Energy Project), Pam Weiss (Appropriate Response), Jane Fulton Suri (IDEO), Bradley Horowitz (Google), Peter Deng (Facebook), Melissa Daimler (Twitter), Jon Kabat-Zinn, and a fantastic interview with Jeff Weiner (CEO of LinkedIn).

A few highlights that I’m left with to ponder include integrating mindful planning into my work day, discovering my True Job, and managing compassion. My thoughts go to how this can manifest at Santa Barbara City College in my capacity as the director for the Luria Library and soon-to-be Academic Senate President.

All this relates to everything indeed. My work as a dharma teacher, a parent, a partner, a mentor, a librarian, a colleague. Cultivating wisdom and compassion is my practice. I’m feeling the energy to focus on how I can share about being a mindful leader here on misc.joy even more. Please encourage and support me on this endeavor.

Dec 14

Possibility for the Beloved Community

I’ve noticed in myself that I have awareness of the tragedy that happened today, it’s filling my streams, but I have no desire to dwell there or debate the various issues. Seeing the headlines is enough.

I’d like to start a discussion on building the Beloved Community. I think it can applied to so many aspects of suffering, violence, peace, justice, and compassion. Martin Luther King saw this wisdom as it related to racial injustice and violence in the United States and the war in Vietnam. His vision for a beloved community still resonates today and hasn’t been fully manifested. As written on the King Center site, the beloved community is an “achievable goal that could be attained by a critical mass of people committed to and trained in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence.”

We can try responding by cultivating our own beloved community. Strength resides in our connections.

What do you think?

Dec 10

Accessing Dharma Talks by Thich Nhat Hanh

We are currently in the midst of the Winter Retreat and Thich Nhat Hanh is giving dharma talks on Sunday and Thursday mornings (CET) each week. As in the past, most talks during winter are in Vietnamese with translations. The schedule will probably change slightly once we near Christmas and New Year.

If you are in a time zone that supports being awake, then you can watch these talks live on the New Livestream  – the talks may be archived here as well, but there hasn’t been consistent archiving on the Livestream site.

If you would like to watch at a time of your choosing, and can wait a day or two, most talks are archived on Vimeo  – if you create an account on Vimeo, you can often download the talks and save to your computer or share with your sangha. Right now there are almost 300 videos on this site and, like the Livestream site, it is managed by the monastics at Plum Village.

If you’re interested in a comprehensive archive of dharma talks starting with Winter 2009-2010 then look no further than tnhaudio.org – this searchable site includes annotations for each talk and therefore sometimes it takes a few days or week to get a talk posted. If you use iTunes, you can find this source in the Podcast library and each talk will automatically download to your computer. Alternatively, you can get an email notification for each talk by adding your email address on the home page (right side). This site is managed by me and the language posted is always in English regardless of the language of the talk.

Finally, a great source that is pretty reliable is the Vietnamese site Lang Mai – here you can usually get French, English, and Vietnamese versions of each talk. Unfortunately, they sometimes remove the talks after they’ve passed, so if you want French or Vietnamese then you should download and save the file (English is archived on the previously mentioned source).

Written transcripts are sometimes difficult to come by due to the work load involved with transcribing and editing. I can’t recommend an English source, but our brothers and sisters in France have been posting French transcripts online.

That’s my summary of Thich Nhat Hanh dharma talk sources across the internets. I hope you can find what you’re interested in seeing or hearing. Listening to all the talks has been a great source of nourishment for me and I will try to share a highlight here and there.

Jun 06

Happiness and Suffering are Inseparable

Suffering and happiness are inseparable. We all have both and they both come and go throughout our lives – at least up to this point in my life. Our practice of Mindfulness is an effort to transform our suffering into happiness. It is an effort to move in the direction of joy. It is an effort to move in the direction of being truly present and to be present for our families, our friends, and our community. In doing so, we can alleviate a great deal of suffering for those around us, and to cause less suffering in the future. We can make the world a beautiful place in the present moment.

In the very first talk given by the Buddha, he outlines this foundational concept. The First Noble Truth says there is suffering, ill-being. The Second is about the cause of our suffering, and the Third Noble Truth talks of the cessation of suffering. This is the presence of happiness. We can learn how to produce happiness. We have many practices for this transformation, but I especially am drawn to the two foundational practices of meditation of “stopping” and “looking deeply.”

We can do this. Just a few short hours of practice and we can begin to train our mind. It’s quite simple to discover happiness in the present moment and to transform our relationships.

We have been offered mindful breathing exercises. The first is following our breath – mere recognition. This can be done anytime, anywhere. We can use sounds and images from the world around to remind us to return to our breathing. For example, I have a computer application that invites me to stop every 70-minutes. But it could be the telephone, a red light, a child’s laughter. We stop and come back to our breathing. This is stopping. It can be practiced anytime, anywhere. I love this practice. I begin my training with sitting meditation, but it doesn’t have to stop on the cushion. Learn to discover methods to following our breath. When we feel anger, frustration, or despair, returning to our breath can immediately bring us relief. Try it – it’s true!

The next steps outlined for mindful breathing is awareness of our body and releasing tension. Learning to calm our body. Where is our body? We can do this when we are standing, walking, sitting, and lying down – and know that we are doing each. My emotions often come through strongly in my body. How does my body feel? How does my body behaves? In touching this we can bring relieve. In recognizing the body, we see the connection between body and mind. This is especially true when we practice sitting meditation – we should see the unity of body and mind. For some, walking meditation works much better than just sitting.

If we can practice these first few exercises, then we can also nourish joy, happiness and learn to explore our feelings. Maybe we try something like this:

Breathing in, I feel joyful. Breathing out, I feel joyful.
Breathing in, I feel happy. Breathing out, I feel happy.

It is a simple practice, silly even, but it can bring a lot of transformation. There are people who have no peace and joy because they cannot stop their thinking. We can also practice joy by bringing awareness to those parts of our body we may not always remember – our eyes, our heart, our liver. Breathing in, I know know I have two good eyes. Breathing out, I feel joy.

Happiness goes a little further. The story often given is that of a person in the desert who sees an oasis. She is joyful upon discovering the oasis and she is happy when she takes a drink from the water.

Here I have outlined just the first six exercises of mindful breathing. These exercises of mindful breathing can bring about personal transformation, but it can provide the foundation to bring transformation to our relationships – relationships with our parents, our children, our consumption.

Mar 31

Interdependence and Hope

The theme of ACRL 2011 is interdependence. So much comes together each day to create our life experience. Some things are very tangible, like the keynote speech by Raj Patel giving very practical information about the world economy. Other things are a little less tangible, but no less real, like my wife’s support for my professional life. I also see my own past, including fears and dreams, seeking to surface.

I have a long history of seemingly radical politics, social justice efforts, and personal action to effect change in the world. In recent years I’ve probably become less radicalized because I’ve had a difficult time connecting with other radicals – the anger, the frustration, the drama are challenging.

I also have an awareness of the apparent contradictory nature of the world I live in – comfortable life, good work, professional travel, nice clothes, extreme hunger, poverty, economic collapse, environmental disaster, etc. This is my life and perhaps I judge myself to harshly. All these elements make up my being. They are connected.

Today I feel inspired to embrace this contradiction. People are so full of kindness, generosity, and intelligence. We are also full of many challenges and personal struggles. We smoke. We drink. We swear. We stumble. And yet it doesn’t mean we can’t be kind and generous. the people I’ve interacted with today demonstrate this to me.

I’m feeling the Interbeing nature of my life from experiences today. Thank you to those who touched me today. Good people are here. Please help me to keep my eyes open.

Jan 03

Relationships, Community, and Sexual Energy

I was honored to serve on the Question & Answer panel for this year’s Holiday Retreat at Deer Park Monastery with Br. Phap Hai, Sr. Mat Nghiem, Br. Phap De, Sr. Dac Nghiem, and Dharmacharya Eileen Kiera. As a Dharmacharya in training, every opportunity given to share with an audience pushes me to deepen my own practice. This is my first time serving on a panel such as this and is a rare because the panel was composed of the four fold sangha (monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen) rather than just monastics.  I have linked just the questions and responses I gave (19-minutes), as well as to the entire session (114-minutes). I spoke primary of relationships, community, and sexual energy.

Kenley Only

Complete Session – begins with a period of silent sitting