Tet is the Lunar New Year for the Vietnamese community. Our family is very close to the Vietnamese because our Teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, is Vietnamese. We came to Deer Park Monastery in Escondido to celebrate Tet with out brothers and sisters.
Dragon and lion dances. Firecrackers. Drumming. Laughter. Lisi (red envelopes with money). Generosity.
Today is the second day of the new year. It is the only day in the year that lay people (non-monastic) may visit the quarters of the monks and nuns. What joy!
As we travel from room to room, carrying our glasses, we share tea, cider, snacks, and songs. Interspersed with visits by drums and dragon for us to offer up oranges and snacks to the beast.
The monastics live in simple quarters. Some sleep on the floor, others on thin mats. A few books, some clothes, and an altar are usually in each room. They share their space and their tea.
It is a lesson in simplicity. It is a lesson in friendship. It is a lesson in generosity.
May your tiger year be healthy and may your life be long.
(posting from iPhone; links and pix may arrive later)
It has been eight years since the last time I fasted – it was in late 2001 – and for that fast I practiced in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters by fasting from sunrise to sunset for a couple of weeks.
Recently I was sharing about a personal relationship issue with a monastic friend and teacher and he suggested I start with a period of fasting. I was not completely clear on how this could help or be related, but I trust my friend and know that fasting is a common practice in the monastery. The intention here is not a detox fast, but one of a more spiritual nature. I started practicing with the fast for a 1-2 weeks by fasting for dinner. It wasn’t too difficult to eat two meals a day, the most difficult time being late afternoon. This did raise my confidence and understanding in fasting.
It is a sweet opportunity and gift from my lovely wife and partner. Thank you. Every time I plan and attend a retreat, a few questions arise from friends. Where are you going? What is it like? Is it silent?
I leave Friday morning for Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, a Buddhist monastery in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh. The monastery sits on about 300 acres of open land next to another preserve. Very beautiful. I typically spend 4-6 weeks per year at the monastery as an ordained member of the Order of Interbeing (we’re asked to do 60 Days of Mindfulness per year). This particular visit is different because the first 19 days will be without my family. We usually go as a family but Leslie suggested some time for myself and they will come at the end for the Family Camp Annual Retreat.
It was twenty years ago today that I took my last drink of alcohol. I was 21-years old at the time and it was my third or fourth attempt at stopping. Today I am living on grace, and though I don’t speak publicly of this very often, I want everyone to know how proud I am of being sober for two decades and to thank those who have helped me along the way. This is a day to remember the goodness in suffering.
I will not gush. I will not gush. Though I’ve been a Mac user for 15-years at work, this is the first Mac that I’ve purchased personally. It is hard to believe that this move has finally happened. When I noticed our family Dell laptop starting to lose life, and I’d been using the work MacBook a bit more frequently, it seemed time to give the Mac a closer look for the family computer replacement. The other thing that played a key role in the decision is my transition to cloud computing. My email and all my files are happily living in the cloud.
When decision time came, it became a choice between the iMac, the MacBook, and the MacBook Pro. Since this will be our primary family computer and also serve as our “television” when we watch DVDs, we wanted something that would last and meet those needs. The iMac was a brief consideration but we opted not to get it because we need flexability to move the computer around the house and the office. The primary difference between the MacBook and the MacBook Pro is about 2″ of screen real estate, a faster video card, and some extra ports. Oh, and $400. Even that isn’t 100% correct because the Apple Care will cost you more on the Pro version too. Nonetheless, we decided on the Pro because we really wanted the larger screen. We made two visits to the San Francisco Apple Store and finally made the purchase at the San Luis Obispo Apple Store.
One of the toughest decisions of my life happened in the past two weeks when I decided to end my love affair with motorcycle riding. I’m almost crying as I write this and look at the included picture. I’ve been riding since age 14 when our family had a little Honda 50 for dirt riding (or in the back alley’s of Fresno). From there I moved to a Honda Passport, Kawasaki KZ750, and finally to a series of BMW motorcycles. In all it is about 25 years of riding and a quarter million miles on a bike.
Why is this ending? I have been a very lucky rider. In the five accidents, I have never broken a bone or been seriously injured. This includes almost 10 years of riding in San Francisco. In the last decade I have considered selling the bike a couple of times but have never gone through with it. This time my gut tells me it is time. Earlier this fall another rider with my age and experience spent a month in the hospital after being hit at an intersection I cross daily. We get a lot of bikes in Ojai due to our fantastic curves, so accidents and deaths are not uncommon. On January 10, 2009 a fellow rider, sangha connection, and friend was killed near his home in Malibu. Peter Kollock is only a little older than I and rides the same BMW model. That same weekend, there was a death in Ventura and another on Highway 33 above Ojai.
Today I am struggling. In fact, I have been struggling since before the national election. I don’t understand the opposition to gay marriage and how Proposition 8 passed in California.
Growing up, as a Mennonite, I was taught that love was of the highest nature. I see Christ as a true revolutionary who reached out to the poor, the destitute, and the outcasts and he did so without judgment and with pure love in his heart. In the past, I have written that I am a potential Christian and a practicing Buddhist. Today, after the election season in California, much of my bitterness and unhappiness with my Christian roots have been watered and I am not so positive about this potentiality. This is my struggle today. In fact, it is so powerful that I am experiencing resistance to attending another marriage ceremony between two people who may have voted in favor of Proposition 8. This is difficult.
As a practicing Buddhist, I aim to seek understanding and to have compassion. Writing here I am trying to reach some understanding and compassion for my Christian brothers and sisters who have taken the stand to discriminate against a group of people for their sexuality. I know good Christians, people right here in my town, and they are good people. And yet, they have taken the stand of not embracing, not loving. It seems fundamentally wrong, and in opposition to the teachings of Christ, to not allow two people who love each other the right to join in marriage. When I married Leslie in 1995, we did so to share our love with our friends and family, to give the relationship a bit more sanctity, more seriousness, and make a lifetime commitment. Why wouldn’t we want this for gay couples? Aside from the high divorce rate in marriages, I see nothing but positive outcomes to allowing marriage between two people who love each other. It recognizes and honors the love between two people.
Can you imagine being together as a family and your 7-year old son complains about a headache and three minutes later is unconscious and being rushed to the hospital due to a stroke? This is exactly what happened to some friends of ours less than two weeks ago. The life of this boy continues in others now, and I want to share this message of courage and compassion by his parents, even with death.
My partner spent Tuesday and Wednesday with our friends and their young son. This family has given a great gift to the world despite their great suffering. On Thursday morning around 6:00am (Pacific), this young boy was taken into surgery to have 8 of his internal organs removed. Each of these organs were placed into another person (all but pancreas and small bowel were successful).
Back in 1985-1986, I was deeply troubled by the plight of the rainforest in the Amazon. The information I received at that time came primarily from the Rainforest Action Network who talked about deforestation to support the booming fast food industry and the American hunger for cheap hamburgers. I felt helpless to do anything until I realized that I could start by not eating meat. My connection to the environmental movement was connected to my eating habits and I became a vegetarian. Ten years later I began a journey into Buddhism, eventually becoming a student of Thich Nhat Hanh. It was there that I learned about vegetarianism as it relates to ethics and its connection with compassion to all beings and not killing. Now, another ten years have passed. I am still a vegetarian. I am still a student a Thich Nhat Hanh.
With almost 250 people filling Deer Park Monastery, the 6th Annual Family Retreat was a great success. Leslie and I (with kids) arrived a couple days early to help setup and plan for the arrival of many friends. From July 2 through July 6, the monastery was transformed into a time of families practicing together. It was very nourishing to see many old friends from past retreats and to share, learn, and grow together. The Dharma is deep and lovely and it was very present in those attending the retreat. How wonderful to spend time with parents on the path who have similar values and interests as we do in our family. About half the people camped while the others stayed in the simple dorms. The weather was hot, but not unbearable. This Retreat was the most culturally diverse I’ve experienced at Deer Park (having never attended the People of Color Retreat) and I was happy to be sitting and practicing with friends on the path. So, some readers may wonder what happens at a monastery with 80 children.