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Explorations by Kenley Neufeld

Buddhism

Happy People Read Books: My 2017 Book List

By on December 28, 2017

As a history major in college, I read a lot of material for each class. And with my college being on the quarter system, that meant a dozen or two books per quarter. Unfortunately, this material wasn’t all something I’d choose. I’ve always been an avid reader, but as life went on, my reading scaled back due to family and work obligations over the decades.

This year I thought it’d push myself a little and set a goal of reading thirty books this year. I feel accomplished in a couple of ways. First, only 34,529 of 3.1 million Goodreads users who pledged a goal actually met their goal. Second, because I exceeded my goal by reading a 36-books in 2017. My reading interests are primarily science fiction, fantasy, spirituality and Buddhism.

The list intentionally included people of color, women, and non-binary authors. I also don’t necessarily stick to current-year titles, so I can’t give you a “best of…” for the year’s releases but I can highlight a few books to pick for yourself.

But first, here’s the list:

Science Fiction and Fantasy

  • California Bones, by Greg Van Eekhout
  • The Gunslinger, by Stephen King (my first Stephen King!?!)
  • The Drawing of the Three, by Stephen King (my second SK!?!)
  • Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
  • Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
  • The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, by Theodore Goss
  • A History of Bees, by Maja Lunde
  • Helliconia Spring, by Brian W. Aldiss
  • The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle
  • The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers
  • A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers
  • The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin (re-read)
  • New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson (environmental theme)
  • Nemesis Games, by James S.A. Corey
  • The Hum and the Shiver, by Alex Bledsoe
  • Gateway, by Frederik Pohl
  • The Salt Roads, by Nalo Hopkinson
  • The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisen
  • The Three-Body Problem, by Liu Cixin (hard SciFi)
  • The Invisible Library, by Genevieve Cogman
  • Everfair, by Nisi Shawl

Nonfiction

  • What Does it Mean to by White?: Developing White Racial Literacy, by Robin DiAngelo (twice this year)
  • Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do, by Claude M. Steele
  • Trans* in College: Transgender Students’ Strategies for Navigating Campus Life and the Institutional Politics of Inclusion, by Z Nicolazzo
  • The Gandhian Iceberg, by Chris Moore-Backman

Spirituality / Buddhism

  • The Other Shore, by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Happy Teachers Change the World, by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • How to Fight, by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • The Art of Living, by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • The Art of Communicating, by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Silence, by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Hermitage Among the Clouds, by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • At Home in the World, by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Interbeing, by Thich Nhat Hanh (re-read)
  • Secular Buddhism, by Stephen Bachelor

Selection of 2017 BooksNow that I’ve written out the list, I’m feeling a bit challenged to recommend anything. They were all good in their own way, but some were certainly better than others. I totally enjoyed reading Ready Player One, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, and The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. All fun and quick. But I did pick up the second book in Becky’s Chamber’s universe so maybe I’ll recommend that one to you. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is a very sweet and touching story. Great character development. Appreciate the philosophical digressions about life, ethics, humanity. Solid on describing different species. Keeps the story moving when it’s time to move on to the next scene.

From the nonfiction stack, I can easily recommend reading What Does it Mean to be White? (especially to my fellow white-readers!). It’s a bit academic, being written by a sociologist, but still worth the read. Get challenged. Think critically about racism. See your privilege and move in the direction of racial literacy.

In the last category, spirituality and Buddhism, I’m going to need to say Happy Teachers Change the World was my favorite. It’s a great textbook for mindfulness practitioners both inside and outside the classroom. Don’t let the “teachers” part of the title turn you off because this can easily be used by just about anyone. Great practices, guidelines, and methods for learning to breath and being more mindful and present for others.

Coming up,  2018 will likely be more of the same. You might want to get started with Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, originally released in January 1, 1818 by Mary Shelley. Considered by many to be the first science fiction book written.

Like what I read? Follow me on GoodReads. Questions about a specific title, write it in the comments.

Enjoy.

Injustice and the Four Noble Truths

By on June 26, 2017

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. 

 

Philip Seymour Hoffman and Me

By on March 2, 2014

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. (more…)

The Technology Horse

By on November 16, 2013

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.

Second Four Exercises of Mindful Breathing

By on October 13, 2013

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.

The First Four Exercises of Mindful Breathing

By on October 6, 2013

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.

A Place of Refuge in Ojai

By on July 25, 2013

Practicing meditation together as a sangha, or community, is a transformative experience that can help you deepen your practice and nourish happiness and joy in your daily life. The sangha can be a place of refuge for all who attend.

My intention as a dharma teacher is to provide a place of refuge and to teach mindfulness, meditation, and the Buddhadharma in Ojai. A fellow teacher, Gael Belden, and I have been offering a monthly Morning of Mindfulness and a weekly sitting at the Being Peace Zendo for several years now. We have a supportive and stable community. Our home-based practice center has served us very well but now is the time to allow it to grow in a new direction.

Prior to offering regular practice in Ojai, I founded and led the Olive Branch Sangha in Fresno from 2002-2005. In early 2012, I was selected to teach by the Plum Village community and given the Lamp of Wisdom by Thich Nhat Hanh. With this gift comes a responsibility to offer meditation and mindfulness to others. Ojai has many skilled teachers and wonderful places to explore the dharma such as The Ojai Foundation, Meditation Mount, Krotona Institute, The Well, to name a few. We are truly blessed in our little Nest. And I’d like to sweeten it more by creating a public space for our mindfulness meditation practice.

The purpose of this post is to set an intention and seek support. I’m looking for a person, a group of people, or an organization that has the capacity to support building the mindfulness community in Ojai. Specifically, I am looking for a location that can be used exclusively by myself and other local teachers (Gael) and facilitators OR a location that can be used weekly or twice-weekly for meditation and teaching.

If you have a location that would be suitable for a regular meditation practice that can be open to the public then I am very interested in speaking with you further. Ideally the location would have a space for silent sitting, a space for teaching and workshops, and outdoor space nearby for walking meditation. It could also be an unconventional location such as a storefront, an office, or a small house.

Keeping an open mind to the possibilities.

Working with our Relationships

By on July 14, 2013

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. (more…)

Healing with Joy

By on May 11, 2013

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.  (more…)

Accessing Dharma Talks by Thich Nhat Hanh

By on December 10, 2012

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.