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Buddhism Family Leadership Library

Soil and Rocks. Breathing and Smiling.

We’ve all been there. The endless lists, multitude of projects, work/family/volunteer seemingly colliding together. Some days we feel like the rocks and soil are simply burying us alive with the anxiety and fear. It is in times like that when breathing and smiling can really save the day, at least in the moment. Even after gaining three hours over the weekend (flying west), I still came to work this week with the awareness of responsibility and tasks.

Being out front, wanting to lead, is something I’ve always done. I can manage many tasks at one time across a wide range of areas – committees, politics, spiritual, home. It seems to be a gift because it comes naturally for me . But the gift of abundance does also must have a balance. Most of the time my life feels in balance, but there comes a time when it feels like the house of cards will fall.

My goal is to present for those around me. This means that “my tasks” sometimes get put aside for the benefit of those who work for me and those who I mentor and support. Because this goal of presence is mine, I do it with joy and awareness. The others in my life, both at home and at work, hold no responsibility for my feeling of imbalance. As a Library Director, I let the day take me with it and there must be space in the calendar to allow for¬†flexibility. As a husband and father, I let the evening take me with it even if the “work” tasks were left incomplete. Though I don’t do this 100%, it is an intentional goal and practice. As Catherine Hakala-Ausperk wrote in Be A Great Boss, “being prepared for permanent whitewater will give you the attitude you need for that day.”

The benefits of being available are immeasurable. There are costs, of course, but I believe the benefits outweigh the costs. It is the human connection that will have a lasting impact, not completing the report or reading the background material or finalizing that budget. Those things are important too, and they will get done, but I’ve set my priority elsewhere. When imbalance arrives, which it did yesterday, then I can use the tools of my practice to keep me centered. It could mean that I close my office door and focus on checking off a few items on the task list (which I didn’t do yesterday). It could mean staying up a little later or getting up a little earlier. Finding joy in the anxiety and fear is possible. Being present, sharing with someone, writing a blog post, they all contribute to balance.

(Recently I committed to writing 250-words a day, but I missed a couple days. That’s part of the letting go too, so here’s my post now.)

Categories
Dharma Family Library

Interdependence and Hope

The theme of ACRL 2011 is interdependence. So much comes together each day to create our life experience. Some things are very tangible, like the keynote speech by Raj Patel giving very practical information about the world economy. Other things are a little less tangible, but no less real, like my wife’s support for my professional life. I also see my own past, including fears and dreams, seeking to surface.

I have a long history of seemingly radical politics, social justice efforts, and personal action to effect change in the world. In recent years I’ve probably become less radicalized because I’ve had a difficult time connecting with other radicals – the anger, the frustration, the drama are challenging.

I also have an awareness of the apparent contradictory nature of the world I live in – comfortable life, good work, professional travel, nice clothes, extreme hunger, poverty, economic collapse, environmental disaster, etc. This is my life and perhaps I judge myself to harshly. All these elements make up my being. They are connected.

Today I feel inspired to embrace this contradiction. People are so full of kindness, generosity, and intelligence. We are also full of many challenges and personal struggles. We smoke. We drink. We swear. We stumble. And yet it doesn’t mean we can’t be kind and generous. the people I’ve interacted with today demonstrate this to me.

I’m feeling the Interbeing nature of my life from experiences today. Thank you to those who touched me today. Good people are here. Please help me to keep my eyes open.

Categories
Buddhism Dharma Family

Relationships, Community, and Sexual Energy

I was honored to serve on the Question & Answer panel for this year’s Holiday Retreat at Deer Park Monastery with Br. Phap Hai, Sr. Mat Nghiem, Br. Phap De, Sr. Dac Nghiem, and Dharmacharya Eileen Kiera. As a Dharmacharya in training, every opportunity given to share with an audience pushes me to deepen my own practice. This is my first time serving on a panel such as this and is a rare because the panel was composed of the four fold sangha (monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen) rather than just monastics.¬† I have linked just the questions and responses I gave (19-minutes), as well as to the entire session (114-minutes). I spoke primary of relationships, community, and sexual energy.

Kenley Only

Complete Session – begins with a period of silent sitting

Categories
Family

Lego League Team

My son is working on this year’s Lego league contest. The theme this year is body forward.

Categories
Buddhism Family

Being Happy While Acknowledging Pain

In the first paragraph of Being Peace, Thich Nhat Hanh explains that for a practitioner, suffering is not enough:

Life is filled with suffering, but it is also filled with many wonders, like the blue sky, the sunshine, the eyes of a baby. To suffer is not enough. We must also be in touch with the wonders of life. They are within us and all around us, everywhere, any time.

This Thursday evening I have been invited to lead the Still Water Sangha in Silver Spring (just outside Washington DC). After our sitting, we will explore together how we can be happy while acknowledging the pain that is in us and around us.

At the close of the annual teen retreat this week at Deer Park Monastery, I had the opportunity to talk with a 13-year old boy. He asked, “What does it mean to be happy?” He followed up with another question, “How do you be happy when a friend brings up an experience from the past that is difficult and still is painful?”

Categories
Buddhism Family

Cultivating the Family Garden

I am writing with a request; a request to reflect about friends and family in your life who may benefit more from the practice.

For the past 6-8 years, the monastery at Deer Park has offered two retreats in the summer – one for teens only (ages 13-17) and another for families. I have attended both these retreats and have found them very nourishing and joyful. The family retreat is particularly diverse, and brings together people from many walks of life and with a wide variety of experience with the practice. The teen retreat is less diverse, but those who attend have reported a life changing experience, and often return the following year bringing more friends. For the teen retreat, no parents are allowed and the teens camp together for the entire retreat. It really is a blast!

If you are in a sangha, I encourage you to share about these retreats in your sangha. Think about people in your life who may benefit from such a retreat, even those who are not regular practitioners, and then invite them to attend. I think teens would particularly benefit. Each year these retreats grow and they are, in my opinion, the best retreats offered by Deer Park.

In the years our family has attended the Family Retreat, I have watched my children and the children of others grow from toddlers to young children and into early teens. Wow! And now, starting in the last year or so many of these families are starting to come to Deer Park at other times during the year. It is a real community.

Though the family retreat has many children in attendance (40-50 kids!), other types of family units also attend and participate. One year, a family came together with four generations! Another time an adult son came with his mom to spend time together on the mountain

Please consider joining us this year.

Teen Camp – Rebel Buddha!
June 16 – 20

Family Retreat – Opening the Family Up
June 30 – July 4

Categories
Buddhism Family OBP

Joyful Tet Celebration

Tet is the Lunar New Year for the Vietnamese community. Our family is very close to the Vietnamese because our Teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, is Vietnamese. We came to Deer Park Monastery in Escondido to celebrate Tet with out brothers and sisters.

Dragon and lion dances. Firecrackers. Drumming. Laughter. Lisi (red envelopes with money). Generosity.

Today is the second day of the new year. It is the only day in the year that lay people (non-monastic) may visit the quarters of the monks and nuns. What joy!

As we travel from room to room, carrying our glasses, we share tea, cider, snacks, and songs. Interspersed with visits by drums and dragon for us to offer up oranges and snacks to the beast.

The monastics live in simple quarters. Some sleep on the floor, others on thin mats. A few books, some clothes, and an altar are usually in each room. They share their space and their tea.

It is a lesson in simplicity. It is a lesson in friendship. It is a lesson in generosity.

May your tiger year be healthy and may your life be long.

(posting from iPhone; links and pix may arrive later)