Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Andres Lost His First Tooth

Lost Tooth!

They saw Tintin

Their medals for participation in basketball

I've decided to consolidate my efforts in blogging, moving my blog about my kids to this blog also because parenting is a deep part of my spiritual practice.  So is hiking in nature, but I'm going to leave that blog where it is.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Shamash Alidina video (2 min, 22 seconds)

I like the idea of smiling when you notice your mind has wandered.

quote from Mindfulness for Dummies

“Of the three ways of achieving satisfaction in life (pleasure, engagement and meaning) engagement and meaning are by far the most effective, and of the two, meaning has been found to have the most effect.” Shamash Alidina, p. 192

Friday, January 20, 2012


We have a fantasy mind, that is important, but sometimes I don't know the difference between fantasy and reality.  We have to project our wishes onto the world, we couldn't even relate to each other if we didn't do that a little.  Manners and politeness is important.

I have a fantasy about sangha.  My hope is that everyone will be clean and pure and insightful, positive and helpful.  Sometimes that just isn't true.  We get disappointed, disillusioned.  Now if you like reality, then disillusionment is important.  I'm aware that I can eclipse the reality principle with the pleasure principle.  I want to see a certain reality and that helps prop up my fragile psyche.

Maybe sangha is forgetting offenses, overlooking unkindness or addressing it appropriately.  Maybe we can train each other to fulfill our relational requirements or we can just let go of our unrealistic expectations.  Until you are enlightened, you are crazy, like a drunkard, reactively careening from craving to ignorance to hatred.

Why wouldn't sangha be messy, difficult, challenging?  Disillusionment means getting a closer connection to reality, and while it might be painful, it's a good pain, a growing pain.

So I tell myself, dream away, they are important, but also understand what a dream really is.  Dreams are potential guiding wishes that you can work towards, point out our values and give us hope, not disconnections from reality to prop up a fragile ego.

Even though a retreat is more supportive conditions for going deeper, that doesn't mean there won't be problems and snafu.  Sometimes finding my barriers to equanimity is as important, part of the process of cultivating equanimity.  I do feel the effects of the Brahma Viharas over a 3 day weekend retreat.  

Friday, January 13, 2012

Brahma Viharas

I'm off to a retreat at Aryaloka.  Over the winter of 2001/2002, I went on a Brahma Viharas retreat for a week that blew my mind.  Ten years later I'm going on a weekend retreat for outlying sanghas.  In my meditation this morning, I realized how excited I am to meet two new people I don't know yet.  New York City has some people in wide orbits, and I'm one of them because I work on Monday night, so I go to one or two sangha nights a year, and I go to a practice day about once a quarter.  So I don't get to know everyone like I used to, when I would sub for Vajra when he went away in the beginners class, or sangha night or practice days.  So I'm excited to meet someone from NYC who has caught the Dharma through TBC.  I'm also excited to be on a Brahma Viharas retreat, with it's near and far enemies, for metta, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity.  Equanimity is more of an insight practice.  On the retreat I went on we meditated 6 times a day, starting with mindfulness of breathing, the 4 Brahma Viharas and then just sitting--and a puja.  I fell in love with pujas, reading Ritual and Devotion, and made my first offering to the shrine.  Anyway, I'm very excited, and after 10 years of practice, I still get very excited for retreat.

(My computer died, so promised writings projects have had a big setback.)

Letters to Dinoo

Dear DinooDear Dinoo by Sangharakshita
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have read about 30+ Sangharakshita books.  One is an all time world classic:  A Survey Of Buddhism.  One is probably a modern sutta:  The Essential Sangharakshita.  And then there are a bunch of books I can keep reading over and over again for the rest of my life.  Know Your Mind comes to mind.  And The Three Jewels.  Some books are indispensable:  Ten Pillars.  Vision and Transformation is amazing.  The book created from his talk on the Sutra of the Golden Light, is...  I'm trying to think of lofty terms.  I'd actually have to put that with the Survey, The Essential and Know Your Mind.  This man is a genius, but genius implies intellectual skill.  He is so much more than a genius, he is kaboom.  He blows it all up--the depth and breadth of his thinking is beyond words.

Two of his books I couldn't get through.  I would put this book higher than those, but the author himself doesn't see an audience beyond the Triratna community, which is probably why it was printed by ibis  Why wouldn't Windhorse publish it?  It would never ever make money.  Thus the lovely print on demand world.  Wow.

I did think a lot about letters, and I wrote one today.  I wish his letters in this book weren't full of travel planning.  OK, the dude traveled a lot, he was in demand.  He went on preaching tours in India, for goodness sake.  I've read the over a thousand pages of his memoirs.  He went forth.  He gave everything away and went forth from his home, his possessions, his family.  Think about it.  No, think about it.  You're joking right?  That's not thinking about it.  Think about it.  He did it.

A lovely woman gave me this book and I really appreciate that.

View all my reviews

Thursday, January 12, 2012

watched this video today

I'm reading his book on patience, so I thought it would be interesting to take a gander at him.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Possessions

Reading the wonderful Essential Sangharakshita, there's the pithy comment, that renunciation is not about giving up, but about growing up.  I did a review of possessions with my friend.

I've got way too many books.  I put a lot on paperbackbookswap.com but they're not being taken.  I am building up my sons' library, and I'm keeping most of my books, but I continually scan through to weed out books I'm unlikely to reread nor need as reference.  I like it when I was going to social work school, and I would take a backpack of books to pay for my lunch.  It was a sad day when at the Strand, they didn't want the books I was offering.

I have a gas guzzling car, which someone gave me, in aid of the family.  But I think I could eventually move towards a more modest car, and walk to work more, bike or take public transport.  Whether I get rid of the car or not, I can use it less.

I really like my computer and smart phone, but they might dissipate some energy.  I think I'm more likely to get a basic phone instead of smart phone when my phone dies.

I've moved a lot recently and finally settled into a place I expect to live in till my young sons go off to college, so I have divested myself of a lot of objects.  I want to make sure I don't really accumulate more, as you do when you settle.  I do actually have space, it's not cluttered yet.

I remember an order member talking about divesting himself of things.  He would go back out to the garbage can and take something back, he did it very gently with himself.

My friend talked about kitchen stuff.  I think if you like to cook, a well stocked kitchen is important.  And cooking is not only a gift you give to yourself, but also to others.  And if you're cooking vegetarian and healthy, it's not just about pleasure, and you have to eat.

So, while I only put one book to be swapped, I think it's a good conversation to have.  How can I pare down my existence and simplify?  I look where there's room for improvements, soft spots in my ideas, and work towards growing up.  It's a work in progress.

And applying it to children isn't always easy.  I'm collecting board games and books for them.  Since I felt deprived about video games, I'm trying not to deprive them with those.

Camping equipment is also something I want to collect.

I have an informal moratorium on buying new things.  Do I get rid of 2 books for every book I bring into the house?  Things to think about.

And it's not just thinking, follow through is important too, but also gentleness and persistance.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

vulnerability is beautiful

This isn't exactly the Dharma, but it is about barriers to relating to people, and I see that as connected to the sangha jewel because we have to relate to others in the sangha, and removing barriers to that is always good.  Samvega means "the ability to be moved by the Dharma."  I think I feel samvega a bit with this video.


I was reading in Nanamoli's The Life of the Buddha (p.22) that the Buddha had 5 dreams before he became enlightened.  I'm going to present the dream, my thoughts in parenthesis, and what the text makes of it.

1.  Laying all over the Indian subcontinent, feet in the south, hands in each ocean and head on the pillow of the himalayans.

(Bigger than Gulliver's Travels, does it predict the spread of Buddhism?  What a weird thing to be so huge.  The body as a subcontinent.  A pure land.)

The text says it foretells his enlightenment.

2.  A "creeper" grew out of his belly botton and touched the clouds.

(I'm guessing that's a vine.  Or umbilical chord?  Up to the clouds--elevating, transcendent.  He's going to nourish us with his umbilical chord?)

The text says it foretells the noble 8 fold path.

3.  White grubs with black heads crawled and covered him from his feet to his knees.

(Yikes!  Sounds like an anxiety dream to me, but he's probably relaxed.  Later when he wonders of anyone can get the Dharma, he doesn't remember this premonition?  Why are the heads black?  Maybe nobody can be as pure as the Buddha?)

The text says it foretells people joining his sangha, people would go for to him.

4.  Four birds of different colors come and alight on his feet, and they call become white.

(Purity theme, birds are ancient dinosaurs.  I love feathers.  When we talk about caste, at first I was afraid this was in support of the caste system, but then they all turned the same white, seems like he wants to transcend the caste system, which indeed he did.  I can't stand the caste system.  Jai Bhim!)

The text says all 4 castes can become enlightened.  What about the casteless?  Perhaps that didn't exist then?

5.  He walked up a huge pile of dirt and didn't get dirty.

(Nice.  Not to be buffeted by the worldly winds.  To still be in the world, but not sucked into the undertow.  I like that one.  But in a way, I want the Boddhisattva to get dirty, in a way.  Do themes and images of purity lead to splitting and the negative sense of spirituality, that is alienated from the earth and our bodies?  If you don't get too literal, it's a lovely image.)

"...the perfect one would obtain the requisites of robes, alms food, abode and medicine, and yet he would use them without greed or delusion or clinging, perceiving their dangers and understanding their purpose."


That's it.

I had a dream last night, I was showing a friend from India around a Buddhist center.  I hope to begin a sitting group in a couple months, and I'm excited.  Soon I will begin gathering cushions, and soon I will begin advertising the group, in my neighborhood.  I have set a starting date and a schedule for the roll out plan.  I have developed an action plan.