Sep 21

International Day of Peace

Established in 2002  1982, today is the United Nations’ International Day of Peace. As a lifelong pacifist and peace activist, I see today as another opportunity to take action. Being peaceful in the time of war and turmoil is a very courageous act and often counter to how we are told to act and to respond. Being a pacifist does not mean being passive – it requires action and courage to stand up to violence. One such group that I support is the Nonviolent Peaceforce, an international organization that trains civilians to go into conflict areas to prevent death and destruction and protect human rights. Other groups, such as Fellowship of Reconciliation and Christian Peacemaker Teams do similar work.

Perhaps the easiest route to peace is to find peace within yourself. My teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay), is well known for his statements and actions on peace. He tries to keep things real simple by encouraging us to come back to ourselves and learn to live in peace each moment of daily life. I have been honored to practice with Thay for the past decade and to learn the practice of true peace. As a spiritual leader in my community, I have been asked to share a few minutes at an InterSpiritual Service that is part of Living Peace in Ojai. Instead of talking about peace, we will practice peace by using the following exercise. As Thay has said, “Even in the midst of suffering, it is possible to bring our awareness to the good qualities within yourself and allow them to manifest in your consciousness. Practice mindful breathing to remind yourself of your Buddha nature, of the great compassion and understanding in you.” Continue reading

Sep 13

Work and Play – Keeping up with Technology

Unbelievable that it has been three weeks since my last post here on misc.joy, but some of you already know that the Fall semester has begun and I am teaching two extra classes this semester. It has been a blast to teach the San Jose State class again, though the work load is high. I’ve also been working on several volunteer projects that have occuppied time. Namely, volunteering for the Ojai Green Tour on October 4, planning a Benefit Concert for the Ojai Library on October 11, organizing Bike Valet for Ojai Day on Ocober 18, presenting at Internet Librarian on October 19, planning Gold Coast Library Network Professional Day on October 24, coordinating an Education Forum at ALA Midwinter, and helping with the Thich Nhat Hanh 2009 Tour. You may have also noticed the Peace One Day icon on the web page and I will be giving a brief (5-minute) talk on peace and Buddhism at a multifaith event here in Ojai. Yes, it is too much and I am learning how to delegate and ask for help – Leslie has been a life saver on several fronts – but as you can see I still don’t say no. One thing I have learned though is to look for the joy in each of my activities and be fully present when engaged. The March 2008 post 12 Essential Rules to Live More Like a Zen Monk is helpful to read again.

Despite all the above, I’ve still had time to try and keep up with my Friendfeed and play with new tools like  12seconds.tv, Twine, Chrome, and Ubiquity. What’s most promising? What am I finding most useful?

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Jun 28

Dinner in Downtown Disney (#ALA2008)

Apparently some of our dinner attendees had a difficult time finding the resturant. The dinner was schedule for Naples Restaurant in Downtown Disney. This is a space located between the Disneyland Hotel and the Disneyland entrance. Essentially a large outdoor mall to our obsessed need to constantly shop. Though I have lived in California for most of my life and have been to Disneyland quite a few times, I am still completely fascinated by this entire environment. People everywhere. Shopping. Eating. Appearing to have a good time. Did you know it cost $66 to get into one of the theme parks or $91 for both. That’s some serious money if you bring the family. Since I live in SoCal, I can buy an annual pass for $129.

Anyway, back to our dinner and off my little rant. We had 65 Community College Librarians from across the country join us for dinner. The food was excellent. The service was excellent. A good time was had for all. My hosting responsibilities end with this conference.

As the dinner ended, the evening fireworks show began. People were just sitting on the ground in Disney Plaza enjoying the show. My collegue said to me, “Is this the happiest place on earth?” I was feeling pretty happy at the moment.

May 26

Eat Local One Year

We have exciting opportunity here in Ojai to participate with a group eating locally for one year. Of course, this could happen anywhere but Kristofer and Joanne Young have challenged our community by seeking 100 (or more) volunteers willing to do this together. The group is just getting off the ground and has met once with about 50 interested people – people from Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Saticoy, Ventura, Santa Paula, and Ojai. Though I am not 100% certain this will happen for our family, we are giving it some serious thought. The idea came from Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle where her family documents eating locally for one year. The idea is to eat food within 100 miles of our home for one year.

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May 07

What is a potential Christian?

The Heart of ChristianityA couple of years ago I wrote a bio that said I was a “practicing Buddhist and a potential Christian.” Partially, I made it up to be funny. With that said, I have a great deal of respect of my Christian roots and honor the Christian faith. Most of my values, thinking patterns, social action, pacifism are rooted in my Mennonite background and there is no way I would be the person I am today without this. As an adult, I have ceased attending all church because I have not really found a church to practice in – part of the reason I may have drifted towards a Buddhist community – though I continue to look and explore Christian community.

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Apr 11

Two Words I Didn’t Expect to Hear

Two different colleagues relayed stories where the words wetback and beaner were used recently. I didn’t expect to hear these two words in 2008. Even the folks who demonstrated in Ojai last week did not admit to being racist (though I suspect differently). And despite the fact that we have a black man running for the President of the United States, it is obvious that racism is alive and well in America, and in our neighborhood. Both these words were used inside crowded businesses and the derogatory terms were heard by those it was directed toward. In both cases, the recipients were highly educated and active participants in our society and economy. What is happening here? During the mid-1970’s, when I attended elementary school in Fresno, I did hear these terms. But in Trader Joe’s? Inside a Mexican food restaurant?

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Mar 23

Summer in March



We have been experiencing some warm weather the last few days and the flowers are all blooming. The mountains look great. The sky is blue. And a full moon has greeted us at night. Today was in the upper 80s and we hung out around the pool with family for an Easter lunch. Jasper and Mazzy had a blast searching for eggs and then taking a swim in the pool. Of course, the sugar rush was a bit much.

Ironically, tonight is our last night at the Ojai Valley Family Shelter because it closes for the warmer season. Jasper and I have spent the past two seasons staying in a church kitchen with 15-20 homeless. Our night is Sunday and we usually arrive around 6:30pm, eat some dinner, put out the mats, and then serve breakfast around 6:00am.

One person, James, is in 5th grade in a local elementary school and Jasper has enjoyed playing with him. On our last visit Jasper realized that James doesn’t have a home to go to like him. That he doesn’t have a room with toys and his own bed. James’ mom has a few other children, but she only comes to the shelter with two of them. Most people are pretty regular and I have gotten to know names and experiences over the past two seasons. Some are in transition, others have mental health issues, many have day jobs but simply can’t afford to cover rent (much less first and last month). My hope was gain a better understanding of this community and generate more compassion in the world. They are good people with real stories. Bill, for example, sleeps with an oxygen machine and yet he continues to smoke. His friend/partner, Joyce, takes him to the hospital, cares for him, and wishes he’d quit smoking.

We are very fortunate, and that in itself, creates separation. How to remain real and to remain compassionate knowing that I have a home, a job, a savings account. There is so much poverty, so much suffering, so much injustice. It brings me back to the 5th Mindfulness Training where it says, “I am committed to living simply and sharing my time, energy and material resources with those in real need.” Are we doing this? What more can we do?

Joy, friendships, and love all exist, even here in the shelter.