--Jorge Luis Borges
Tonight, my Monday men's meditation group is looking at "regret" from a Buddhist perspective and I imagine that we will be talking a lot about letting the past go and inviting ourselves to be more in the present moment. One of the ways I come to or stay in the present is by concentrating on the ordinary physical sensations of life (like the feeling of these computer keys against my fingertips or the sensations when drinking warm tea). More and more, I appreciate these mundane activities and use them as touchstones for greater awareness and vitality. Joe
Yesterday, when a Libyan protester was asked by a New York Times reporter why he was rising up after 42 years under Colonel Qaddafi, he said, “When you have been pushed, pushed, pushed, and then suddenly you just explode.”
Telling. The human spirit can only endure so much.
“A Free Man” by Rosalie Hickler, from The Atlantic in 1928:
Pressed sorely on all sides, but loath to yield,
Sometimes when it has seemed that I must die
I see your banner, sharp against the sky,
And catch the glitter of your battered shield.
Then, spite of weariness, my arm is steeled
To lift my own discouraged banner high
And gather laughter for a battle cry
To fling against the fiercely crowding field.
I know what friendless struggles you incur,
Faring so carelessly in ways apart,
Still smiling to yourself, unconquered still,
Wielding the lightning blade Excalibur,
Your fair white plume unstained, O Gallant Heart,
Armored in triple mail from every ill.
via the Daily Dish
Nothing is born, nothing destroyed. Away with your dualism, your likes and dislikes. Every single thing is just the One Mind. When you have perceived this, you will have mounted the Chariot of the Buddhas.
I really like this idea of doing everything with oneness, being less reactive to my likes and dislikes, and showing up and doing my best.
Via Zen Calendar
From the NYTimes:
During a news conference in Washington, President Obama said he supported the courage of the Iranian demonstrators who were seeking a more representative government, and he criticized the Iranian government’s response to the rallies.
“I find it ironic that you’ve got the Iranian regime pretending to celebrate what happened in Egypt, when in fact they have acted in direct contrast to what happened in Egypt by gunning down and beating people who were trying to express themselves peacefully in Iran,” he said.
Mr. Obama went on to say: “Real change in these societies is not going to happen because of terrorism. It’s not going to happen because you go around killing innocents. It’s going to happen because people come together and apply moral force to a situation.”
In the spiritual path, there's nothing to get, and everything to get rid of. Obviously, the first thing to let go of is trying to "get" love, and instead to give it. That's the secret of the spiritual path. One has to give oneself wholeheartedly. Whatever we do half heartedly, brings halfhearted results. How can we give ourselves? By not holding back.
Ayya Khema, "What Love Is"
Dedicated to my boyfriend, Jeff White
(Hint: He had something to do with running this country into the economic ditch with widely-discredited conservative economic policies)
A wonderful anecdote by Robert Reich, @ BusinessInsider
Quiz: Which of the 2012 presidential aspirants delivered the following words at the Conservative Political Action Convention, now underway in Washington?
We have seen tax-and-tax spend-and-spend reach a fantastic total greater than in all the previous 170 years of our Republic.
Behind this plush curtain of tax and spend, three sinister spooks or ghosts are mixing poison for the American people. They are the shades of Mussolini, with his bureaucratic fascism; of Karl Marx, and his socialism; and of Lord Keynes, with his perpetual government spending, deficits, and inflation. And we added a new ideology of our own. That is government give-away programs….
If you want to see pure socialism mixed with give-away programs, take a look at socialized medicine.
If you guessed Jim DeMint, you could be forgiven. He talks a lot like this. But you’d be wrong. Newt Gingrich didn’t utter these precise words, either, although he uses much the same language and offers the same themes.
You’d also be wrong if you guessed Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Tom Pawlenty, Ron Paul, Haley Barbour, John Thune, Mitt Romney, or Mitch Daniels. (Sarah Palin isn’t attending.)
But again, your mistake would be understandable because these words sound a lot like theirs. Any of them could have delivered this message – and all of them have, over and over again. It’s the Republican message of 2011.
The perfectly correct answer is Herbert Hoover.
Herbert Hoover delivered these words at the Republican National Convention in Chicago on July 8, 1952.
That was almost sixty years ago.
Republicans haven’t come up with a single new idea since. They haven’t even come up with a new theme.
Herbert Hoover, you may remember, didn’t have a sterling record when it came to the economy. As president, he presided over the Great Crash of 1929 and ushered in the Great Depression. He had no idea for what to do to help the nation out of the Depression except to balance the federal budget. By the time he was voted out of office in 1932, one out of four Americans was unemployed.
By 1952, Hoover had been proven irrelevant and hidebound.
After Dwight D. Eisenhower won the 1952 Republican nomination and went on to become president, he wisely disregarded everything Hoover had advised. Under Ike, the marginal income tax on America’s highest earners was 91 percent. Eisenhower also commenced the biggest infrastructure program in the nation’s history – the National Interstate and Defense Highway Act, which replaced America’s meandering two-lane roads with 40,000 miles of straight four and six-lane highways. He signed into law the National Defense Education Act, which trained a whole generation of math and science teachers, and upgraded American classrooms for the future. The Federal Housing Authority subsidized home ownership. The Defense Department spawned future technologies in aerospace and telecommunications.
Did the U.S. suffer fascism, socialism, deficits and inflation, as Hoover predicted? No. The U.S. economy soared. The median wage rose faster than ever before. And the incomes of America’s working class and poor rose at the fastest pace of all.
Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/who-says-republicans-have-no-new-ideas-2011-2#ixzz1DmnjI2bF
approve a Civil Union bill and now the measure goes back to the Democratic controlled House.
welcomes gay footballers.
welcomes gay footballers.
Today the 6000th unique visitor came to my humble blog, a site that I started 18 months ago. Thank you all.
As people celebrate Reagan's 100th birthday, I have finally forgiven him for ignoring AIDS and its gay victims, but I won't forget the GOP's ugly homophobia
Some of our famous presidents have turned a blind eye to the rights of American citizens, including, for example, FDR & the internment of Japanese-Americans and Andrew Jackson's confiscation of American-Indian lands and the forced resettlement of these people. In my lifetime, I watched in horror, as newly "out" gay man in my twenties, as Ronald Reagan did nothing to help my community while it was being ravaged by this dreadful disease. I realized then that the Republican party did not care about my life or rights one iota -- and their tradition of extreme homophobia continues today.
While it has taken me over 20 years to do so, I have finally forgiven Ronald Reagan for his intentional ignorance on AIDS...even as I remember my dead friends. It is time to let go and move on. As the Course in Miracles teaches, "free to forgive and free to save the world."
And I am completely clear-sighted on the fact that the Republican party has never once taken the lead on legislation to safeguard the health or the Constitutional rights of LGBT Americans.
San Francisco newsman Hank Plante writes about Reagan's silence:
Ronald Reagan & AIDS: a legacy of silence
This weekend's national remembrance of Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday is focusing largely on his accomplishments. But no look back at the nation's 40th president would be complete without remembering his inattention to the AIDS epidemic, which arose on his watch.
Consider that Mayor Dianne Feinstein's AIDS budget for the City of San Francisco was bigger than President Reagan's AIDS budget was for the entire nation. That was true for two years in-a-row in the mid-1980's. In fact, Reagan's proposed federal budget for 1986 actually called for an 11 percent reduction in AIDS spending: from $95 million in 1985, down to $85.5 million in 1986.
No wonder it was left to San Francisco gay leaders, politicians and medical professionals to forge their own way through the early days of the disease, forming what became known as "The San Francisco Model" for effectively dealing with it, a model which would be replicated world-wide.
The disease that we now call AIDS was first identified 30 years ago in medical journals in 1981 -- President Reagan's first year in office. It quickly took hold in the media and in the national consciousness. Yet it wasn't until May 31, 1987 that President Reagan would give his first major address on AIDS. It was at an outdoor speech in Washington organized by AMFAR, the American Foundation for AIDS Research. Elizabeth Taylor, a lifelong friend of Ron and Nancy Reagan, persuaded the President to be there. On the exact night that he gave that speech, saying the word "AIDS" for the first time in public, 21,000 Americans had already died from the disease.
The Reagans' close friend Rock Hudson was one of them, having died from AIDS almost two years before Reagan's speech. Hudson had been a frequent guest in the Reagan White House, even during the time that he appeared gaunt and frail. Nancy Reagan later recalled one such occasion, in which Hudson told her he had picked up a bug in Israel. But even Hudson's ordeal didn't seem to shake Reagan out of his lethargy.
President Reagan did have people around him who were more engaged in dealing with AIDS, notably his surgeon general, C. Everett Koop, and Dr. Anthony Fauci at the National Institutes of Health. But in the office where Harry Truman said the buck stops, the silence on AIDS continues to be a baffling part of the Reagan legacy.
Zen precept #16: "Not disparaging the Triple Treasure" -- using this practice to keep 'uprighting' ourselves
Zen precept #16: Not disparaging the Triple Treasure.
On this journey to taking the buddhist precepts in a Jukai ceremony on Sunday, I have made a lot of preparations: sewing a rakusu over 17 months, learning and reviewing the precepts, examining my life and behavior, and having lived more like a monk these past 16 days -- with a minimum of sugar, sex, and fat. It has been everything: euphoric, challenging, mundane, prickly, numbing, humbling, etc. Yet, in an ancient wisdom sort of way, it has given me a powerful experience of my true self, my buddha nature and basic goodness. It has reminded me again what is important in this fleeting life. It has opened more of my heart to myself and others, with me having a sense of oneness that I don't usually feel everyday.
For me this precept is about reminding myself to live an upright life or as my Zen teacher says "keep 'uprighting' ourselves." No, this isn't a course in perfection or fixed-ness, but rather a fluid and powerful path that encourages me to keep remembering my essential self, to keep seeing my interconnection with all beings, to keep coming back to this moment and out of the world of delusions. The idea of uprighting myself reminds of a toy that no matter how you put it down, the toy uprights itself and returning to its true state. In my case, this Triple Treasure and accompanying precepts are my self-righting mechanism, and for that immensely grateful. With a deep bow, Joe
Regardless of our skin color or religion, the desire to live in political freedom is strong. One can argue that some societies are more ready for democracy than others but the impulse is innate. Again, this week we witnessed the political stirrings of the Egyptian people who, for the most part, conducted themselves with dignity, peacefulness and clear focus. I was deeply touched by their spirit, courage and persistence, and have been reminded of the universal aspirations of all men. Until all people are free, part of me isn't. We all are Egyptians.
Zen precept #15: Not being angry.
One way of characterizing this precept is not to harbor ill will. Reb Anderson talks about the dangers of becoming inappropriately angry and holding such anger in your heart. The Zenkaisho goes even further, instructing us to not becoming angry at all...which is a pretty tall order, ranking up there with realizing enlightenment.
Having no anger is an inspiring aspiration. To gradually move in that direction, I continue to practice, noticing and having compassion for my ego hooks, habitual mind patterns, and judgments about how I and others should be. I am learning to deal with anger in a way that is beneficial rather than harmful, and am slowly becoming less reactive to the invariable challenges of life -- business problems, relationships issues, and parking in SF:). But I have a long way to go given that I can only take about 5 minutes of watching fear-mongering Glenn Beck before getting all agitated. Maybe I can stretch that to six minutes...which I think is exactly the point that the Zenkaisho is making: continuing to do our best.
Reb makes a distinction between appropriate and inappropriate anger, so what does he mean by these terms since anger is regular part of human life? For him, it is appropriate to be angry, for example, when you see someone being attacked or a deception is hurting another person. And he encourages us to examine our anger when we are merely inconvenienced by someone or have our egos challenged. To this point, one of my spiritual teachers said it was appropriate to be angry when it became clear that the Bush Administration had manipulated the evidence on WMDs in Iraq in order to justify the war. And it was inappropriate to be angry at what I perceived as Bush's disdain for critical thinking and facts.
Let me conclude this precept with this reminder from Reb: "For bodhisattvas the passions are the real field of blessings, and walking the middle path through this field is the way of awakening." We don't deny our anger or feed it, but by letting it go, we realize the greatest welfare for all beings.
P.S. The photo above is from the Iranian protests in 2009, not Egypt. The young man in the green shirt is guarding a police agent from the angry crowd, minutes after the policeman had attacked the peaceful protesters. That's the bodhisattva vow!
Zen precept #14: Not being possessive.
This especially wise precept reminds me to see the interconnection of all beings and appreciate how my life is sustained by millions, and to be generous, experiencing the wonder of giving. Suzuki Roshi taught not to give to get merely something in return, but rather to give to bring us closer to ourselves and others, celebrating this life and our good fortune to be born as a human being. I love this idea.
Reb Anderson has more wise words on this precept: "The disease is stinginess, the wonder is giving. Stinginess is a tightness, a constriction of the heart. It is born out of ignorance of the interdependence of all beings...Stinginess is turning away from relatedness toward isolation, and as we turn away from others we also turn away from ourselves."
Reb ends his teaching on this precept with a poem about how generosity and life go together, by Joseph Bruchas:
The old man
must have stopped our car
two dozen times to climb out
and gather into his hands
the small toads blinded
by our lights and leaping,
live drops of rain.
The rain was falling,
a mist about his white hair
and I kept saying
you can’t save them all
accept it, get back in
we’ve got places to go.
But, leathery hands full
of wet brown life,
knee deep in the summer
he just smiled and said
they have places to go to too.
Zen precept #13: "Not praising self at the expense of others" -- seeing how we are supported by many others
Zen precept #13: Not praising self at the expense of others. What a tricky precept since the human psyche tends to love praise, and if it can't get that, it praises itself. :)
I think this passage from Reb Anderson's book, "Being Upright," skillfully outlines the challenge of this precept:
In the realm of dharma, ignoring the dependent co-arising of self is the equivalent of original sin: it is the fundamental disaster. Not seeing how all beings kindly support and sustain our virtue and goodness, it is possible to speak of our own virtue as something separate from others...You forget that it is really only due to the support of countless others that you accomplish anything of merit.
Furthermore, indulging in self-loathing won't stop the self-praising impulse either. Thoughts of self-loathing are born of the same concern that generates self-praise. Both self-loathing and self-praise are tools in the service of self-concern.
This is why people on the Buddhist path are encouraged to be mindful of praise and blame. A wise teaching...
Read this passage from yesterday's New York Times:
The retired general in the blue suit walked alone, with a cane, as hundreds of Egyptian protesters surged past him, chanting and holding signs. He stopped to catch his breath, grabbing the railing of a bridge so he could look out at the Nile.
His name was Maj. Gen. Ali Ibrahim al-Gafy, 71, and he had fought in several of Egypt’s wars with Israel. He had walked about one and a half miles from his home in the Dokki neighborhood to be part of Tuesday’s grand gathering in Tahrir Square. He looked at the tanks in the distance, noting the warm reception the soldiers received. “People like the Army and hate the police,” General Gafy wrote.
Then he jotted down a few words about the man who had inspired the protests, a fellow veteran of Egypt’s armed services: the country’s president.
“Down with Mubarak.” he wrote. “Traitor.”
General Gafy’s scribbles were the quietest expressions of anger on a loud day...
Zen precept #12: "Not speaking of others' faults" -- witnessing but not dwelling on people's failings
Zen precept #12: Not speaking of other people's faults.
A straightforward but difficult precept to keep because the human ego is bent on separating ourselves from others, and what better way to do this than sewing seeds of disharmony and disrespect through our speech.
I like what the 13th century Zen master Dogen teaching on this precept:
Within the buddha dharma,
all are on the same path, the same dharma,
the same realization, the same practice.
So the faults of others will not be discussed,
and confusing speech will not occur.
--Dogen, Essay on Teaching and Conferring the Precepts