June 10, 2011 § Leave a comment
“Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher “standard of living” is worth its cost in things natural, wild, and free. For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television.”
A Sand County Almanac
June 9, 2011 § Leave a comment
- I used to study music
- Had an art studio, where I stretched my own canvases and worked with oil paints
- Studied classical voice
- Pursued photography (primarily black and white compositions)
- Wrote extensively, usually short fiction and poetry
Art can be a tool for exploring suffering, the short-comings of cyclic existence. I think the difficulty lies in giving in to the suffering, embracing the pain as a path in itself. A lot of friends from my past seemed to be fueled by suffering, actually seeking it out to prime their pain levels, so they could “create” out of it.
I used to think that art was some sort of quest for answers, for some sort of deeper realization. My approach to my work caused me great suffering, creeping inside my mind, glorifying the dualistic perceptions of samsara.
After these years of putting aside all creative ventures, I thought to reapproach the process. I no longer have the room or supplies for painting, but I have pen and paper at my disposal. I have found it to be quite a different experience now. It has caused me to wonder about the role of art in society and the responsibility of artists in our world.
I have found that the creative process can be very centering, awakening one to the present moment, allowing one to see more deeply. It can be very Zen in its ability to encourage the individual to be present.
Artists have the ability to either glorify the pains of life, even to glamorize it, or they can see it for what it is and present the beauty of sitting with it in awareness. There is also great beauty to be seen, to be felt, experienced.
The pain and the joy are both passing, fleeting, transitory. That is the nature of cyclic existence. It arises, abides, and then dissipates. That is life.
December 4, 2010 § 1 Comment
WAITING TO DEPART
Tongue, parched and still;
Eyes fixed on the ground.
Mind focusing on a single syllable.
Confinement calling . . .
Alienation emerging . . .
Attempting to eliminate mind’s defilements,
Yet so far, all attempts have failed.
Obscurations hide in dim regions of mind,
Veiling with saturnine darkness
The beauty within the flame.
Strung on a string:
Counting steps toward holiness.
With thoughts of subsiding,
Enter and dwell;
Insight will tell.
The moon will disappear into the water
When the time has arrived to depart.
I sit in silence until then,
Sitting until I arrive.
November 26, 2010 § 1 Comment
Walking meditation isn’t a training usually endeavored in by followers of the Tibetan tradition of Buddhism. Different traditions have particular meditations emphasized. Walking meditation seems to be more popular in Zen Buddhism as well as in Theravada Buddhism.
In 2007 I had the privilege to meet Thich Nhat Hanh. I was invited to a picnic with him, by a Taiwanese nun who was friends with one of his monks. Meeting Thay (respectful reference to Thich Nhat Hanh) is meeting peace. His smile lights up the room, the mountain side, and every step he makes is a step made in mindfulness.
In 2009 I was able to attend a retreat in the mountains of Colorado with Thay’s ordained sangha. Early every morning we gathered before the sun rose and practiced walking meditation together. Over two-hundred people, in slow motion, made their way to a clearing, sat down, enjoyed the crisp air, and witnessed the sunrise. Then we slowed stood up, stretched our legs, then mindfully walked to the main hall for morning meditation and teachings.
Walking meditation isn’t something I do everyday, although I do attempt to. What I learned from it, though, I aspire to bring to daily life. As I walk to check the mail, as I open a book to read, as I sit and type at the computer, I strive to bring mindfulness to every moment, to each breath.
Give it a try. It’s good to slow down, to realize that each step we take can be a step toward freedom for all sentient beings. Peace is possible in every step we take. Peace is possible in every moment. I think that’s an important concept to ponder.
When we answer the phone, do we do so with an edge of agitation? When we are cut off in traffic, does a finger fly into the air or do we pray for the other driver’s safety and ultimate enlightenment?
Each moment, every choice, offers us the option to choose peace. No war is won with violence and anger. Such actions can only cover the embers of war with layers of carefully composed press releases.
The heart moist with compassion, however, can quell the flames of violence. How long will that take? Who knows, but it starts with committing to peace, peace in every step.
November 21, 2010 § Leave a comment
A comment was posted to this blog about two months ago, inquiring as to how westerners live as monastics, as renunciates, in countries where Buddhists represent a very small percentage of the population. The answer to the question is many faceted. My response only represents my own limited experience.
In countries where Buddhism is firmly established, it has generally become part of the culture for the lay community to support the ordained monastics. The monastic community devotes time and energy to prayer, meditation, and study, creating a space for the propagation of the teachings of Lord Buddha. It is an interconnected relationship. The lay community supports the ordained, and the monastics then support the lay community with Dharma.
What about countries where Buddhism is still relatively new? Here in the States, Buddhists are very much a minority. Support systems for monastics are very difficult to find. Some centers are blessed with large numbers of members, and as a result the resident monastics might be sponsored. In return, the monastics usually help run the center, organize events, assist with any website the center might have, and hopefully find time for personal meditation and study.
There are also monastics associated with temples who still have to maintain some sort of employment in order to pay for their own expenses. Monks and nuns sometimes have to pay for the temple expenses and then pray for lay supporters to make donations as well. It is all in an effort to make Dharma available here in the west so stability will one day be established.
As for my own situation . . .
I am not presently associated with a local Dharma center. My main temple is located in a different area of the country. There are actually several lay practitioners in the city I live who are also associated with the same temple. However, there are only a few of them and they all have their own pressing financial obligations. As such, there isn’t a support system that would allow me to devote time to a center at this time. One local individual does help me a lot, bringing food, helping with expenses whenever possible. Yet I have been required to maintain a job to pay for my expenses.
In the morning I wake as early as I can to study, meditate, chant, and pursue the practices given to me by my teachers. I then go to work as a nurse. I dedicate whatever work I do as a nurse for the benefit of all sentient beings. Then at night, after work, I make offerings to the Buddhas and make additional prayers and aspirations. It makes for a busy day! On the days I don’t work, I focus on study and meditation, practicing intensely whenever possible.
It isn’t the most ideal situation for a monastic. However, where else can we start? If we wait for the perfect situation, we will be waiting forever. We simply start where we are and then move forward, making aspiration prayers for more auspicious circumstances to develop for practice, study and propagation of the teachings of Lord Buddha.
November 12, 2010 § Leave a comment
Dear Noble Sangha and Friends,
Some of you may know what and where Crestone, Colorado is. Crestone is home to many beautiful temples, monasteries, and retreat centers of several traditions. There are Buddhist temples, Christian monasteries, at least one Hindu ashram, with quite a few indifividuals living in long-term retreat situations.
Some of the temples and centers in Crestone:
- Crestone Mountain Zen Center (http://dharmasangha.org/index.html)
- Haidakhandi Universal Ashram (www.babajiashram.org)
- Nada Hermitage (http://www.spirituallifeinstitute.org/Nada.html)
- Pundarika Foundation (http://www.pundarika.org/)
- Samten Ling (http://mangalashribhuti.org/html/centers/samten_ling.html)
- Shumei International Institute (www.shumeicrestone.org)
- Spiritual Life Institute (www.spirituallifeinstitute.org)
- Sri Aurobindo Learning Center
- Tashi Gomang Stupa (www.kttg.org)
- Vajra Vidya Retreat Center (www.rinpoche.com)
- Yeshe Khorlo (www.yeshekhorlo.org)
The Air Force is proposing to use the mountains of Crestone as practice grounds for the war in Afghanistan in a program called LATN (Low Altitude Technical Navigation). We are requesting each of you to send an email to the Air Force strongly urging them to not allow the LATN program to be allowed to fly in the San Luis Valley, home to our retreat center, Samten Ling. If allowed to proceed, they would fly low altitude (200 ft.) “sorties” (groups of big, loud military planes) per night, 5 hours in duration each, half of that at low altitude.
One of the 2 planes proposed, the C-120, is essentially a re-fueling plane. The other, the CV-22 Osprey, is an Air Force remake of a Marine Corps plane which has a significant crash record. The specifics of decibel levels are not currently available, but we know that the myriad aircrafts demonstrate negative impacts on wildlife. The first CV-22 deployed in Afghanistan crashed last April, killing 4 and injuring many more. “Extreme climate and rugged terrain” were cited as “presenting special challenges” for this plane, which is exactly the environment of Crestone. The Air Force spokesperson at the scoping meeting held in Alamosa on Oct 19th, Colonel Kirk Smith, acknowledged that the Air Force did not have the capacity to assist containing a fire that would result in the event of a crash. If the Air Force is successful in acquiring this 94,000 square miles of airspace (the entire San Luis Valley as well as NW New Mexico) as a military operations area (MOA), it will be in perpetuity (i.e. for as long as they want it). The Air Force has begun the process of environmental assessment (EA) and FONSI (Finding of No Significant Impact). Here is a link to a website that details the LATN program in relation to the San Luis Valley.
The emails need to include what would be the significant impacts that would occur if this program is allowed to be implemented in Crestone. These can include spiritual practice, wilderness, quietude, enjoyment of the night sky, air quality, peace of mind, heart and body, health, economy, wildlife, agriculture, recreation. Here are some ideas for the main points, but the letters need to be individually composed:
- Ask for an Environmental Impact Statement or EIS to be performed. This should be done rather than an EA (Environmental Assessment), which has much lower parameters.
- Ask for an extended comments period, because many people who would be affected have not yet heard about it.
- The level of noise could have extremely negative impacts on the economy here, which is based on spiritual retreats, [tourism, etc.]
- We certainly want our pilots well-trained, but the bulk of this can be done by simulations.
- In the not-so-unlikely event of a plane crash, the Air Force has stated that they would not be able to help fight any possible fires that could result.
- Air pollution can come from many of the activities that they are planning– not just the act of their flying over the valley but also the pilots practicing mid-air fueling.
- Wildlife would be negatively affected by the noise and the pollution. We have some unique ecosystems here that would be vulnerable. The Code of Federal Regulations (50 CFR part 27.34 Aircraft) prohibits unauthorized operation of aircraft at altitudes resulting in harassment of wildlife, and the LATN proposal falls within these prohibited altitude levels.
Please address these emails to 27SOWpublicaffairs@cannon.af.mil. They need to hear from as many of us as possible, and we need to highlight for them as many issues as possible, because what we express has to be recorded, acknowledged and addressed in the EIS or EA.
The deadline for comments is November 15th.
The preferred method of communication would be email; however, communications can be made by phone (575-784-4131), fax (575-784-7412), or mail (Cannon AFB Public Affairs, 110 E Sextant, Suite 1150, Cannon AFB, NM 88103). We urge you to take the time to write in the next few days in order to protect our sacred land as well as those of other spiritual communities.