misc-joy

Explorations by Kenley Neufeld

Ojai

Religious Freedom in Vietnam – Help Bat Nha

By on October 3, 2009

Thich Nhat Hanh, Sister Chan Khong and Kenley
Image by kenleyneufeld via Flickr

Do you believe in religious freedom? It is something we almost take for granted in our nation and in our world. However, there are places where religious freedom is a precious gift that must be struggled for to make a reality. This is the case in Vietnam.

For 39 years Nobel Prize Nominee and Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) has lived in exile in France because he challenged the status quo of violence in his Motherland. Even after the “American War” ended, Thay was not allowed to return. That all changed in 2005 when he returned home to tour the country and give talks and share the dharma. He returned again in 2007 and 2008. I was honored to be a part of the initial delegation in 2005 and experienced the elation and joy of the Vietnamese people and the apparent opening up of the nation to new ideas and newfound religious freedom.

The trip also coincided with Vietnam’s desire to join the World Trade Organization, which has since happened. On a related note, the President of Vietnam just assumed the presidency of the United Nations Security Council.
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Discoveries in Fasting

By on August 3, 2009

It has been eight years since the last time I fasted – it was in late 2001 – and for that fast I practiced in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters by fasting from sunrise to sunset for a couple of weeks.

Recently I was sharing about a personal relationship issue with a monastic friend and teacher and he suggested I start with a period of fasting. I was not completely clear on how this could help or be related, but I trust my friend and know that fasting is a common practice in the monastery. The intention here is not a detox fast, but one of a more spiritual nature. I started practicing with the fast for a 1-2 weeks by fasting for dinner. It wasn’t too difficult to eat two meals a day, the most difficult time being late afternoon. This did raise my confidence and understanding in fasting.

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Twitter Dominated ALA Midwinter

By on January 27, 2009

The predominant player at ALA Midwinter Meeting, at least from my personal angle, was Twitter. Though I have been using Twitter for two years, I continue to find more useful applications for this free tool. It does seem that Twitter is reaching a more critical mass, based on the meeting tag (#alamw09) activity, and so there is more conversation on the feed. In fact, I picked up about 50 new followers just over the weekend. I see two positive outcomes from the heavy usage of Twitter at ALA.

First, it made for a more inclusive and broad environment for discussions to occur. On more than one occasion, meetings being held in person were enriched by tweets from afar. Bringing in those voices make ALA more open and accessible – especially for those who cannot attend. Secondly, since there are so many overlapping meetings The Twitter helped attendees to be at more than one meeting at once. So yes, you can be in two places at once. In the LITA Town Hall meeting I sat at a physical table with eight other folks. We decided to hold our conversation on Twitter so we could easily log the conversation. Two things happened: more people joined virtually and, when I had to leave, I could continue participating from the next location. This provided for rich content and open participation. Also, see LITA’s well known Top Technology Trends program as it unfolded on Twitter.  (more…)

Blog Action Day: Poverty

By on October 15, 2008

Today is Blog Action Day 2008 and our focus this year is on poverty. It is a day when bloggers around the world can unite together to highlight an issue. I’m happy to participate and hope that it contributes to global awareness around poverty. Despite the fiscal crisis taking place in the United States, we still have one of the highest standards of living in the world. It is easy for us to grow distraught about our own personal finances, but most of us probably have clean running water, employment, housing, clothing. If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes to wear, a roof on your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than the 75% of the people who live on this Earth. If you have money in your bank account and your wallet and some loose change in some little box, you are one of the world’s 8% well-to-do population. And yet, even here in the United States we have many that live in poverty. Here in Ojai, I typically spend time in the winter staying at the Ojai Valley Family Shelter once a week with the two dozen people who choose to stay in the shelter. Check out some of the other resources put together on the Blog Action Day Web Resources page. Or, you can watch the following video if you haven’t seen it already:

What are you doing for those with less? What is your experience with poverty?

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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Dinner in Downtown Disney (#ALA2008)

By on June 28, 2008

Apparently some of our dinner attendees had a difficult time finding the resturant. The dinner was schedule for Naples Restaurant in Downtown Disney. This is a space located between the Disneyland Hotel and the Disneyland entrance. Essentially a large outdoor mall to our obsessed need to constantly shop. Though I have lived in California for most of my life and have been to Disneyland quite a few times, I am still completely fascinated by this entire environment. People everywhere. Shopping. Eating. Appearing to have a good time. Did you know it cost $66 to get into one of the theme parks or $91 for both. That’s some serious money if you bring the family. Since I live in SoCal, I can buy an annual pass for $129.

Anyway, back to our dinner and off my little rant. We had 65 Community College Librarians from across the country join us for dinner. The food was excellent. The service was excellent. A good time was had for all. My hosting responsibilities end with this conference.

As the dinner ended, the evening fireworks show began. People were just sitting on the ground in Disney Plaza enjoying the show. My collegue said to me, “Is this the happiest place on earth?” I was feeling pretty happy at the moment.