Categories
Buddhism General music teaching

Renewal and Taking Care of Yourself

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.

Categories
music

Music from 2008 – My Picks

In the past decade, I have put together a mix of my favorite tunes from the CDs I bought that year and have given it away to friends and family. Last year, I tried something different by posting the files for download and keeping to the CD-length selection. This year everyone gets this blog entry instead. It is rather strange to not be limited to an 80-minute CD, but I still have tried to keep things reasonable since I buy a lot of music annually. For those of you who know my tastes, you should see some familiar faces here – Beck, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Portishead, David Byrne/Brian Eno, Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell.

The mix starts with some world music from Issa Bagayogo – a great Malian musician. The second track is from one of my favorite new artists (for me) in 2008 – Shearwater. This Austin band is remanisant of Mark Hollis and Talk Talk. Very sweet music. The other new band for me this year that I’m really digging is Elbow. If you’re listening now, and you want to skip around, it starts off a bit mellow, jumps to some rock, and then a series of ambient and jazz material. I hope you’re enjoying it.

Steve Jansen is a favorite and is the brother of David Sylvian from Japan fame. To be honest, I never thought I’d like Coldplay because they sound too much like U2 but I’ve really enjoyed the new release. k.d. lang has got the voice from God and this is being called her “Buddhist” release since she has become a practitioner. Sun Kil Moon is the band of Mark Kozelek, of Red House Painters fame (Bay Area). Kruder & Dorfmeister and Willits & Sakamoto fill in toward the end. And, if you can believe it, Nine Inch Nails put out almost five albums worth of material in 2008 – most of it as a free download.

The mix ends with the downer Spiritualized who writes beautiful music to make your heart ache. Leslie and I were fortunate to see him open for Nick Cave earlier this year at the Hollywood Bowl. Great show. We also saw the David Bryne at the Arlington in Santa Barbara and Beck at the new LA Live venue Club Nokia. Fantastic shows.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the music. What are you listening to this year?

Categories
Technology

PeopleBrowsr – Up and Coming, but Still Developing

I’ve been playing with a new product for the socially minded web user, but especially for tweeple. Currently in alpha, with new updates coming almost daily, PeopleBrowsr “is a simple visual dashboard that adds power to Twitter and your other online Identities. It funnels in data from your friends and IDs and then funnels it out by publishing, reweeting, rebloggong and tag-grouping.”

Categories
Buddhism

Two Hours to Count 38 People

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.

Categories
Buddhism Family Politics

Love, Equal Rights, and Gay Marriage

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.

Categories
Politics

Political Positions – Election 2008

Let’s start with the biggie. I am a registered Green, and proud of it, and I swore not to vote for a Democrat (or a Republican) in a presidential campaign again. However, the time has come for me to change my mind and vote for Obama. I hope you will too. Because we live in a duopoly, the winner will be either McCain or Obama. Our nation cannot afford a McCain/Palin administration. Period.

The other big issue here in California is Proposition 8 which would take away the right for same-sex couples to marry. The California Supreme Court has already ruled on this matter. It is unfathomable that we are voting for a proposition that would actually take away a person’s personal rights. I simply don’t understand those trying to pass this proposition, but it seems to come down to religion. It is hard to believe that the religious community would be advocating for discrimination and hatred. If you are in California, please vote NO on 8.

A few other important propositions in California:

Categories
Library teaching Technology

Technology Tools 2008

I made the following presentation at Internet Librarian 2008 this past Sunday and will repeat it again on Friday at the Developing Information Communities Professional Day Workshop for the Gold Coast Library Network.