misc-joy

Explorations by Kenley Neufeld

Buddhism

Renewal and Taking Care of Yourself

By on January 6, 2009

The new year brings us the opportunity to reflect on the past and ponder the future. Our family spent two weeks at Deer Park Monastery with a six-day Holiday Retreat in the middle. The second day of the retreat I was honored when Thay Phap Hai asked me to participate in the planned dharma talk.  We did this talk with our friend Karen Hilsberg.

The Plum Village sangha has a practice called Beginning Anew that we used for the foundation of our talk, since the theme of the retreat was renewal. Rather than focusing on another person, as we typically do with this practice, the focus of attention was ourselves. Karen provided us with four meditations that we explored in the one-hour talk. Please enjoy the talk.

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Four Meditations for Self-Renewal

  1. Flower Watering/Sharing Appreciation. Looking deeply, I see many positive and wholesome qualities in myself such as…
  2. Benign Regrets. Looking deeply, I regret that I have caused myself pain through my thoughts, speech and actions in the following ways…
  3. Hurts and Difficulties. Looking deeply, I can understand my own hurts and difficulties with deep compassion and friendliness toward myself, without blame or criticism as follows…
  4. Challenges and Intentions for the Future. For the future, I anticipate the following challenges and intend to practice mindfully and skillfully in the following ways…

The key here is to be kind and honest with yourself. If you can’t listen here, you can download the talk.

Two Hours to Count 38 People

By on November 17, 2008

Deer Park Monastery
Deer Park Monastery

I’m going to continue my non-library trend of late and talk about the Stick Ceremony. This past weekend I had the opportunity to return to Deer Park Monastery, one of my favorite places on earth, to celebrate the start of the Rains Retreat. This 90-day retreat occurs annually and is a time for us to look deeply and focus our practice and energy. The retreat begins with a ceremony that identifies those who are participating in the entire 90-day retreat and to set the boundries of the monastery.  We enter the mediation hall, the monastics are sitting in their sangati robes surrounded by the lay community of practitioners. After a bit, we stand for an incense offering and some touching the earth paying respects to the Bodhisattvas, and for me, to honor those characteristics and aspirations in myself. We sit again and chant together.

At this point four of the monastics stand and process to the front – each holding a tray. Update: Two of the monastics, one monk and one nun, each have a tray full of sticks to distribute. The other two monastics will collect the sticks after they have been distributed to each participant. Thank you Caleb for seeking this clarification. A bit more touching the earth and bowing before the tray is brought to the front and a stick is offered to the Buddha present for the retreat. This is done by the first monastics, followed by the second monastic who then picks up the small stick and places it on his tray. The next person to receive a stick is a place held for our Teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh. Again, the second monastic picks up the stick left by the first monk. This continues through the entire row of monks and nuns. Each picking up a stick and then returning it. Thus the process of taking a stick occurs.

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Love, Equal Rights, and Gay Marriage

By on November 11, 2008

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.

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Mindfulness at Work

By on October 1, 2008

I am the Library Director at a large community college in Santa Barbara, California. For the past three years I have been leading a weekly, and for one semester daily, meditation on campus. It is called “Meditation in the Library” and all students, faculty, and staff are invited to participate. The purpose is two fold: provide a space to introduce mindfulness practice into the community, and secondly, to provide me with a time of sitting in the middle of the workday.

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International Day of Peace

By on September 21, 2008

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.” (more…)

Work and Play – Keeping up with Technology

By on September 13, 2008

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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Being Vegan

By on July 21, 2008

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.

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4 days, 25 Monastics, 80 Children, and More

By on July 7, 2008

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.

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What is a potential Christian?

By on May 7, 2008

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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Busylessness – Are you too Busy?

By on April 25, 2008

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. (more…)