Categories
Buddhism Education Justice

Belonging and Co-Liberation

It has been a little over three weeks since a vice-president said the n-word during the Gender Equity meeting at Santa Barbara City College. During this time, the suffering and trauma experienced by our employees of color has come forth. And it is not only the trauma being experienced at my place of work, but a much deeper societal and generational trauma. An unhealed trauma for which we all have a role in addressing and healing. I am also watching some members of the white community quickly fall into the racist=bad and non-racist=good dichotomy (source) and that prevents us from being able to move forward and truly address the systemic and structural racism within our work environment.

These three weeks have been a personal struggle as I make an effort to speak the truth of racism, honor and support those who are traumatized and have experienced oppression, and to also honor my deep-seated beliefs of nonviolence, reconciliation, restorative justice, and social equity. My Buddhist vows guide me by saying, “As members of a spiritual community, we should nonetheless take a clear stand against oppression and injustice. We should strive to change the situation, without taking sides in a conflict. We are committed to learning to look with the eyes of interbeing and to see ourselves and others as cells in one Sangha body.”

I am striving to change the situation and also working very hard to not take sides. But I have a side, and it is the side of justice! And this is my pain and my struggle. Seeing through this to the middle way is my path.

Be Still and Beloved
Artwork by Samuel Paden – samuelpaden.com

During the recent Facing Race conference, I picked up a journal called Othering & Belonging from the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society. The essay I read this weekend, An Evolutionary Roadmap for Belonging and Co-Liberation, speaks straight to the heart of the matter for me. Written by Sonali Sangeeta Balajee who has worked in the field of racial equity, primarily in government, to more fully integrate and prioritize healing. Her essay shares a framework in the following key areas: beloved; be still; behold; believe; becoming; and belonging, co-liberation, and well-being. I loved how she writes, “spirit-based practice is inseparable from social justice, and when realized, is the highest form of political consciousness.” She honors “being still” while at the same time acknowledging “anger and frustration as necessary emotions and movement builders.” Encouraging the reader to “bear witness to hope, as well as grief and anger.” Ultimately, the reader is reminded that “merely learning about belief systems that breed supremacy and superiority are not enough. Knowledge alone doesn’t interrupt or disrupt.

Those are just a few highlights. Read the entire essay because it is important and has clear and practical ideas. I will continue with my struggle for the middle way where truth is honored, people can heal, and society is transformed. Therein lies my hope.

Categories
Buddhism Dharma Justice

A Welcome for Sangha Gatherings

In recent years, I have been reflecting with other friends on the path on methods to make our practice communities more inclusive. Also, to recognize and honor those who have gone before us including those who were instrumental in building Buddhism in America. In particular, as a result of the war in Vietnam we have the Venerable Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh living in exile for fifty years. And with that exile, along with thousands of Vietnamese, we have the practice centers at Deer Park Monastery, Magnolia Grove Monastery, and Blue Cliff Monastery that serve and support mindfulness practice in the Plum Village tradition.

Making our practice communities more inclusive is no easy task. It will require everyone to transform themselves and be willing to do things differently. As the Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams wrote on Lions Roar, this is the “back of the bus” moment of our time.

For the last two or three practice events I’ve offered, both in-person and online, I have begun the session with a short statement. It is offered as a guided reflection followed by a guided meditation. The reflection is drawn from several sources. Please use, adapt, and share with your groups.


Sunrise in Santa Barbara

For over 4 billion years the earth has been here, holding and feeding single-celled organisms, dinosaurs, plants and flowers, and humans. We acknowledge and embrace the many generations of Vietnamese who carried Buddhism to us through our Teacher, Thay, and helped build the sangha in new lands. Their history and practice are present with us today. We are also grateful to hear that our Teacher has been able to return home to his root temple, where he was ordained at the age of sixteen, to spend the rest of his days in the care of the community.

We see and hold too the native and First Nation peoples who lived on the lands before us, who cared for it as we do, and lived their lives in community. Here in the Ojai Valley these are the Chumash people. And today we also honor our diversity, whether that be gender, religion, ethnicity, national origin, age, physical or mental abilities, sexual orientation, gender identity or political affiliation. We hold a special place today for the communities who are recovering from the wildfires in California and earthquakes in Alaska (insert something timely and appropriate).

All this is present here today as the Sangha is invited to come back to our breathing so that the collective energy of mindfulness will bring us together as an organism, going as a river with no more separation.

Categories
Buddhism Education Lifestream Politics Technology

Three-Month Media Blackout

I’m planning on doing a 3-month media blackout during my already-established sangha sabbatical (July-September). It will be an experiment on my need to know (probably why I became a librarian and also something that’s been present in me for as long as I can remember). The experiment may allow me to open up some internal space for emotional and spiritual care. I’m seeing that life may not need to be so dense with content and I’m curious what I may discover without the constant text-based consumption.

I’ve already put my Medium and NY Times subscriptions on hold. Need to do the same with LA Times. Been unsubscribing from a few email lists each day to whittle down the noise. No consuming Twitter or Facebook, but may decide to push content to these platforms in via Hootsuite. That’s pretty safe. I trimmed back the podcast subscriptions significantly to only music and education related (but keeping Sword & Laser!). The Overcast app makes this quite easy to keep the subscriptions but not have them download constantly. And I moved the Unread (RSS) app to a back screen – that one will be hard and I couldn’t bring myself to delete yet.

What to keep? Probably my print magazine subscriptions such as Stack Magazines, Buddhadharma, and Lions Roar. Not sure about Wired or MacWorld just yet. Probably keep them too, but I don’t have to read. Right? The one social platform I’ll keep is LinkedIn. It’s mostly focused on education and helps me stay connected to my profession. Gotta have one doorway.

In the end, I won’t be to harsh on myself when I slip or end up changing my mind. It is simply an intention and a direction, but dogmatism isn’t helpful either.

Now what am I going to do with all this free time?

Categories
Buddhism General Review

Happy People Read Books: My 2017 Book List

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.

Categories
Buddhism Dharma

Injustice and the Four Noble Truths

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. 

 

Categories
Buddhism Dharma Family

Philip Seymour Hoffman and Me

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.

Categories
Buddhism Dharma Technology

The Technology Horse

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.