I’m exploring the joys of being busy and taking a close look at the commitments in my life. What does it mean to be busy? To have commitments? Is it possible to have to many? I’ve heard Thich Nhat Hanh talk about something called busylessness, or businesslessness, [the correct term is “businessless” invented by Master Linji – added 4/26/08] but I’m not exactly sure what that means. I think it is a word just for those of us in the West who strive all the time. Who pursue something outside of ourselves. We work so hard that sometimes we don’t allow space for openness, for rest. We don’t allow enough space for doing nothing. Let’s take my life as an example (since I’m the one writing). As I look beyond my permanent commitments of being a partner and a parent, I see myself involved with many volunteer activities.
I have just completed my third semester of teaching Information Literacy online at Santa Barbara City College. This institution had the wisdom to make information literacy a graduation requirement two years ago, thereby demonstrating its commitment to the student and the recommendations of Academic Senate for California Community Colleges. The class is 100% online, thereby exposing many students to the online environment who may not have normally enrolled. Students take the 1-unit class as credit/no-credit. This is a reflection on some of my experiments.
August 28, 1943 – April 14, 1998
It is hard to believe that it has been 10 years. In late 1997, I had started a new job as the Head Librarian/Technology Director at a Bay Area high school. The dot com era was getting into full swing and my mom was dying of some unknown disease. How could this be, she was only 55 years old? It was difficult to grasp all that was happening because she and her partner had moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico; someplace very far away. My new employer was extremely accommodating and I flew to Santa Fe often over a period of six months as my mom’s health deteriorated, spending many hours with her as her body gave way. Mom was a strong, determined, willful, loving, opinionated woman. She had created a life for herself and she was happy.
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?
Over the past seven years, I have spent many days/nights at Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, but usually it is for a weekend or even just a day. On two occasions our family have spent 3-weeks at the monastery (once at Deer Park and once at Plum Village in France). These times are always nourishing and provide a nice time away from our regular environment. After our last long visit, in January, the children both said they’d like to stay longer the next time we visit. And though we only spent this past week at Deer Park, it was better than no time, and the children loved the visit especially since the Abbot Thay Phap Dung was available to play silly games with them.
The first question people often ask us about time at the monastery is – what do you do there? What about the children? My best response is that we participate in the activities of the monastery as best we can. For things like sitting meditation, dharma talks (teachings) and dharma discussion, Leslie and I must take turns. Aside from that, we join the community in eating together, cooking together, walking together, playing together, and working together. It is a time to slow down. How often can you take 45-60 minutes for every meal? How often can you take a 45-minute walk in the middle of the day with friends? Or, to sit and have tea for two hours in the afternoon while the children play?