Mayflies, Pumpkin Pies and #Impermanence

Mayflies live their entire adult lives during only a few hours or perhaps up to three earth days. They belong to an entire order of insects, Ephemeroptera, which means lasting a day in Greek.

Adult Mayfly

Pumpkin pies also usually last only a few hours or up to perhaps a couple or three earth days (depending on how many are baked and how many are eating them).

Pumpkin Pie

With these and so many examples of #impermanence surrounding us, how is it that we can be so surprised when someone leaves us through choice, accident or death? We ask, “Why?” as if there would an answer different than this, just for us, just for this occasion: “because everything ends.”

Why are we so caught up in our illusions of continuation that we neglect to recognize the preciousness of each moment, each hour, each day we inhabit these fragile, ephemeral bodies? We meet, greet, hang out with friends, family, colleagues, groups of loved ones and leave without realizing that one or more of us may never see one another again in these bodies, in this lifetime.

I am struck at this time of year especially by how much we take for granted, how many of our days we deny the temporary nature of the license any of us has to go on living. I feel lucky that, as a #Buddhist, I intentionally spend a part of each day in an integral part of my practice reciting and recalling the truth of impermanence. We do this whether we are #Zen, #Theravadan, #Vipassana, #Mayahana, Vajrayana or non-sectarian practitioners.

Impermanence is one of the key concepts we learn as beginning students of #Buddhism and we contemplate it repeatedly: everything is impermanent and bound to die. Everything that exists ends. Everyone who is born dies. Nothing earthly lasts. No one escapes this fate. Relationships, jobs, activities, emotions, diseases, meals, sexual encounters, pleasures and pains of all descriptions eventually end.

I am in a state of melancholy. I am ebullient and filled with hope. I am curious. I am anxious. I love. I fear. I receive. I give. I end.

During my mini-#retreat I begin each day with the Ngöndro, the preliminary practices for #Vajrayana #Nyingma #Tibetan #Buddhist #meditation. These practices themselves begin with “The Four Thoughts That Turn the Mind,” and one of these is the contemplation on impermanence.

The way this contemplation affects me has changed over the the 17 years I’ve done this practice daily. At first, I was resistant, looking for the loophole. Maybe everyone ELSE dies, but I will not. Maybe YOUR relationship, YOUR job, YOUR life ends, but MINE continues. On and on, denial after denial, to the point of absurdity.

At one point, some friends and I joked that one of us was the “designated dier,” meaning, the one we chose would die on all of our behalves so that the rest of us, i.e., we, would not have to die. We volunteered D. He objected, but we prevailed. We kept telling him this for many years. Luckily, he’s still alive, so I do not feel guilty about this. However, I do remember feeling a tremendous sense of relief that the group had not chosen me to be the designated dier; I do feel guilty about that relief.

Regardless of anyone’s guilt or innocence, being chosen or not, D could not take my place or anyone else’s. We all die.

More than many people I know, I have lost friends and relatives to death, starting when I was 7 years old and was with one of my great-grandmothers when she died while getting dressed. Since I didn’t know she had died at the time, I was not afraid, merely puzzled that she would choose to lie back on her bed to take a nap while putting on her stockings.

When I was given to understand that she had died, I realized that I hadn’t been scared because there had been nothing frightening or startling in her death. One minute, she was talking with me (in Yiddish), putting on her clothes. The next minute, she stopped talking, laid back, her stockings in her hands, and was silent, the stockings resting on her body. No clutching at her heart or head, no screams or moans. Just gone.

While the dozens of others who have died around or right in front of me did not go so silently or easily, I still do not find death frightening. Sad, often. Feeling sorrow and compassion for those in pain or suffering, surely. But afraid? No. I often miss the person who dies for many months or years, grieving with great sobs, laughing and reminiscing about those I yearn to see again.

But, I never think: “Oh, why did s/he die?” I know the answer.

We all die.

The best any of us can hope for is to appreciate one another while we are alive. So, this is what I try to do. I tell people I’m grateful. I say “I love you.” I give them what I can of mine: time, stories, gifts, resources, help, support, encouragement. I let them know often, not just when they’re sick or I’m in pain, how much they mean to me.

Many call me “sappy,” or “sentimental.” I prefer to view my actions as realistic. We truly never know when we are going to die, which of our loved ones will die and when, between one visit or encounter and the next. Not knowing this, I treasure each call, each visit, each email, even when I don’t tell them this.

What else can we do? You tell me. Comment here. And, go tell someone you love that you love them. Again.

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#Buddhist #Meditation #Retreat part 4: Animal Realm contemplations

Some of you know I’ve been doing an at-home, part-time #Buddhist #meditation #retreat in the #Vajrayana #Nyingma #dzogchen tradition of #Tibetan #Buddhism for about two months and plan to finish on Tibetan New Year (#Losar) on March 2, 2014. This retreat consists of the preliminary practices, or #Rushan, for #T’högal. Some of what I’m learning and doing are only to be discussed with dzogchen teachers or similarly or advanced practitioners, but some I can talk about. I share what I am able and wish to in these blog posts.

This portion’s contemplation and prayers are on beings of the Animal Realm. Of all the 6 #Realms, as Tibetan Buddhists conceive of our shared illusory reality, the Animal Realm is the closest akin to ours, so close that Humans can co-exist consciously with Animals. This means we can readily see, smell, hear, feel, and taste Animals in our everyday existence. For most Humans, our senses are not so easily stimulated by beings of the other Realms.

The first time I heard teachings on the 6 Realms, as I mentioned in a previous post, I thought the teacher was being metaphoric or joking. I was so stuck in my senses’ ordinary experiences that I could not believe the other Realms actually co-exist with ours.

There are some Buddhists who do treat the 6 Realms as a metaphor. These meditators prefer to use these concepts to recognize the ways that humans experience all of the Realms’ conditions while being human rather than believing that there are actual beings living in each of the Realms. I leave it up to you as to how you conceive of the Realms and the beings’ experiences.

For me, it’s more important to contemplate those experiences and generate empathy and compassion for them, regardless of how they occur. The main characteristics that Tibetan Buddhists assign to Animals as distinct from Humans are explained in this way by Barbara O’Brien in her article on the Buddhist Wheel of Life (samsara, in Sanskrit):

“Animal Beings (Tiryakas) are solid, regular and predictable. They cling to what is familiar and are disinterested, even fearful, of anything unfamiliar. The Animal Realm is marked by ignorance and complacency. Animal Beings are stolidly un-curious and are repelled by anything unfamiliar. They go through life seeking comfort and avoiding discomfort. They have no sense of humor. Animal Beings may find contentment, but they easily become fearful when placed in a new situation. Naturally, they are bigoted and likely to remain so. At the same time, they are subject to oppression by other beings — animals do devour each other, you know.”
http://buddhism.about.com/od/tibetandeities/ig/Wheel-of-Life-Gallery/Animal-Realm.htm

I don’t happen to agree with this conceptualization of animals; I never have. I do not see all animals as “ignorant,” and some definitely have a sense of humor! They are certainly a lot less bigoted than most humans I know and know of. As for the being “subject to oppression” part, even devouring each other, we’d have to include humans in that activity, wouldn’t we?

Animals are also most certainly NOT “un-curious,” and many employ what Temple Grandin calls “seeking” behavior in their everyday lives. (Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals , Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009). In fact, Grandin’s research proves that animals need more than their basic physical and psychological requirements to be met. Yes, animals need (or certainly would prefer) to be free from hunger, thirst, discomfort, pain, injury, disease, fear and distress. However, Grandin proves resoundingly that animals respond positively when allowed to use “seeking behaviors” and “play.” Some animals, particularly pigs and primates, can malinger, become self- or other-injurious, kill or even die without these outlets.

I spent a few weeks listening to this amazing book on CD this past summer, not yet knowing I’d be doing this retreat or contemplations this fall. Generally, I have not had a close relationship to animals or pets (except for others’ pets I happen to live with or encounter over the years). However, forging new relationships with animals via interspecies communication devices and aliens-humans encounters and relationships are central to my sci-fi novels in The Spanners Series, so I listened to Grandin’s book and watched the biopic about her early life (“Temple Grandin,” starring Clare Danes as Grandin; great movie) as research for my series.

Now that I’m in this section of my retreat, I find myself remembering many parts of both the film and the book, considering animals from Grandin’s perspective rather than Tibetan Buddhists’ concepts. Her philosophies, attitudes and understandings are closer to my own. I go further than she does, though: I am more in harmony with Douglas Adams, the late, sorely missed and amazing author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a five-book “trilogy.” One of these volumes is entitled: So Long and Thanks for All the Fish. In this, Adams posits the superiority and other-worldly origins of dolphins, which I have no trouble believing.

I also believe in the superiority or at least equality with humans regarding intelligence, compassion and creativity, of all forms of cetaceans, elephants, wolves and many primates, cephalopods and others in the Animal Realm. To me, it’s impossible to ignore or deny the ways elephants grieve and remember, wolves communicate with their packs, whales gather intentionally for fun and protection, and many other examples of animals’ social, altruistic, creative and communicative behaviors not at all inferior to humans’ activities. I also can’t ignore or deny how disappointed I am in the selfish, unintelligent and socially perverse ways of humans.

This week, as many vegans rail against humans eating turkeys as well as pigs, fish, chickens, cattle and whatever other animals humans eat, I have to remind myself and others of the inherent suffering in all existence, the nature of samsara, according to my Tibetan Buddhist teachers. Humans can’t survive without killing, even when it’s unintentional. We kill billions of beings every day in service to providing us with shelter, food (even vegan food), clothing, work, transportation, education, tools and entertainment. We can’t plow fields or harvest their bounty without killing. We can’t breathe or walk without killing. Every day and every night, all twenty-four hours of every day of our existence, we are murderers.

Contemplating this and Grandin’s book and life make me want to mitigate the suffering of animals, for sure. However, I do not pretend I or any human can eliminate it. We can’t eliminate our own suffering, either. What we can do is change the ways it occurs, lessen or alleviate it, and feel compassionate about it enough to respond appropriately and less selfishly.

So, if you are NOT a vegan, here is my advice: do not waste your animal food. Only purchase, cook/prepare what you and your loved ones will consume. Honor the spirits of the animals who gave their lives to feed you with prayers, thoughts, songs, smoke, herbs: something sacred. Be conscious as you spend your time this week and every week hereafter of the gifts animals give us and the ways we exploit these gifts. Be humble. Be grateful. Be caring.

I will try. I hope you do, also.

Pre-orders and Release Date for “This Changes Everything” free coupon!

Please share: Now in Pre-orders @ 50% $1.99 on Kobo, iBooks and nook, Sally Ember, Ed.D.’s first sci-fi/romance/paranormal novel, is getting 4- and 5-Star Reviews in pre-pub: see snippets from Reviews, below and full reviews on Goodreads. This Changes Everything, Volume I of <em>The Spanners Series release date is 12/19/13 via Smashwords to Amazon and all ebook retailers. Book club members, teachers and readers of THIS press release, contact Sally for coupon for free download from Smashwords to use after 12/19 – 12/31/13, sallyember@yahoo.com.
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/376197

What others are saying about This Changes Everything,
Volume I, “The Spanners Series” by Sally Ember, Ed.D.

“[This Changes Everything] is highly-imaginative, but for so many different reasons, and outside of the normal scope. There are times when I felt that I was reading an actual research report of true to life events. Honestly, I’m sitting at my laptop, questioning if Clara has provided this work to Ember, or if the two are one in the same. The experience is mind-altering, and would challenge readers to think beyond the bubble that we live in. I would surely recommend ‘This Changes Everything’ to anyone that enjoys a a well-written and researched Sci-Fi series. I will point out that it pushes the envelope, and toys with one’s perception. Well done! 5 Stars.”
–Janice G. Ross, author, 11/11/13
http://jgrwriter.wordpress.com/2013/11/11/review-this-changes-everything-by-sally-ember-3/

This Changes Everything by Sally Ember is a well-written, complex work that is going to add a strong title to a genre that can sometimes become bogged down with the same old, same old. ‘This Changes Everything’ is a book that I am very happy to have had the chance to read and I would recommend it to any sci-fi/fantasy fan.”
–Zach Tyo, Indie Reviews, 10/4/13
http://indiebookreviewer.blogspot.com/

“You have created your characters very well. I feel for Clara, I imagine her alienating a lot of people because her enthusiasm and drive and ability to push herself makes her someone who doesn’t suffer fools gladly. I would have liked more of the reporter’s life and I didn’t like Epifanio at all. He sounded arrogant and selfish. I loved that the aliens were chosen by lottery. You had so many good touches like that, which made the book a continuing surprise. I…have to say it is one of the most challenging, exciting and original books I’ve read.”
–(Mary) Josephine O’Brien, author, ‘Sharing Skies,’ 9/14/13

“You have written a wonderfully imaginative and original story with plenty of twists and turns. I really like your multiuniverse setting with different timelines and the concept of the ‘Many Worlds Collective.'”
–Sophekles, author, ‘The Serotonin Transfer,’ 10/8/13

“I love your sense of humor. I literally laughed out loud when Clara said that she had given him the name ‘Led.’ I also like that this is an alien story where the aliens are helping, rather than trying to take over the world. It’s a refreshing angle.”
–S.M. Koz, author, ‘Pangalax,’ 9/4/13

[after reading 1st 20 pages only] “…In a lot of ways I’m at a loss to critique this because it’s quite different than what I’m used to encountering. It’s a more immediate version of ‘Stranger in Strange Land’ by Heinlein. Now, what I say next is strictly speaking off the cuff at 11 PM after a couple of rum and cokes, but as it stands I’d probably rate this either three or four stars, depending on how it develops. Once I got into the ideas behind it all, I found it personally fascinating. I’m not sure how that would translate to a broader readership, but it’s nifty stuff. I like alternate timelines and the like…”
–Alexander Crommich, reviewer @ Crommich Industries

“The writing is complex and done extremely well….There were times when I almost forgot I was reading a work of fiction and not a news account of real events, and I would consider that to be skilled writing indeed….[D]id I enjoy more of it than not? Yes. Four stars. Did I like the overall content? Most of the time. Three stars. Was the writing of good quality? Oh, definitely yes. Five stars. My overall rating: four of five stars.”
–Lynda Dietz, Easy Reader, ilovetoreadyourbooks.blogspot.com, 11/4/13

About the Author
Sally Ember, Ed.D., is a published, nonfiction author and produced playwright (children’s theatre, Crystal Dreams; Grading System for adults) whose sci-fi romance/speculative fiction, YA, New Adult and adult series, The Spanners, starts with Volume I, The Changes Everything, uploaded in e-book format by Smashwords and for sale December 20, 2013. Volumes II – X are planned (see Appendix A, below). Volume II, This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, is coming out in Spring, 2014, and the others are in various draft stages. Sally also has some short stories and articles published in ‘Out of the Kitchen,’ a journal available in the 1980s in print format only. She has co-written, edited, and proofread many nonfiction books and worked for a some magazines in the early 2000’s.

Sally was raised Jewish and is a practicing Buddhist meditator. She is also an almost-daily swimmer, a mediocre singer/pianist, avid feminist, dreamer, and devoted mother/ sister/ aunt/ daughter/ cousin/ friend.
Her website includes a blog: visit and comment, follow, “like,” and share! sallyember dot com.

In her “other” professional life, Sally has worked as an educator and upper-level, nonprofit manager in colleges, universities and private nonprofits for over thirty-five years in New England (every state), New Mexico and the San Francisco Bay Area (where she now lives). Sally has a BA, a Master’s (M.Ed.) and a doctorate in education (Ed.D.).

Interacting With and Finding Sally Online
Please write a review and give This Changes Everything a rating on SMASHWORDS, iBooks, Kobo, nook, whatever retailer you use for ebooks, as well as many other sites that bring readers to this book: Authonomy, Wattpad, Indiebooks, https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7237845.Sally_Ember, her blog, http://www.sallyember.com. Help bring people to ‘The Spanners Series’ via any other website that invites readers to post comments and reviews of Sci Fi novels, especially if you LOVE it!

Sally would be delighted to visit your Book Club or class in person or via SKYPE to talk about ‘The Spanners Series.’ Ask her to co-develop curricula, projects and activities for your group/class members!

You will want to check on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheSpannersSeriesbySallyEmber or her website to find out when the next Volume will be available.

Follow Sally on Twitter @sallyemberedd and please Tweet about this book and series! She will be posting excerpts of the upcoming Volumes on the Series’ FB page. Notices of those postings will be on Twitter.

For photos, images, music, bios and other memes relevant to Sally as an author and directly to ‘The Spanner Series,’ please visit her ten boards on Pinterest: “‘The Spanners Series’ includes…”; “Inspirations for the Earth locations in The Spanners Series”; “Music of ‘The Spanners Series'”; “Space Shots I like”; “Books that changed my life”; “TV shows and movies I actually like”; “Writers I Love”;”Resonating Pins” (from others’ boards); “Blog Posts”; and, “Flora and Fauna that amaze me.” She also puts up promos for her own and other authors’ books on occasion via “Book Billboards.” Please follow her Boards on http://www.Pinterest.com/sallyember gets you to her boards.

Cover Art by Willowraven: willowraven-illustration.blogspot.com

This Changes Everything cover

Recently Deceased #Buddhist May Attain Rainbow Body

This article is quite amazing in its description of what happens when an accomplished Tibetan Buddhist practitioner leaves the physical body. Those of you interested, follow this link and read about what’s happening to this particular Lama and what is possible.

This type of current occurrence is rare and rarely discussed so openly. It inspires faith and renews my commitment to practice.

“Auspicious News: My Teacher Lama Karma Attains Rainbow Body!
Composed by His Eminence Dzogchen Khenpo Choga Rinpoche and his disciples on the 23rd of November, 2013, the auspicious day of Lha Bab Duchen, the Buddha’s Mother’s Day, at the auspicious place of the Dzogchen Retreat Center, USA.”

https://www.facebook.com/notes/dzogchen-khenpo-choga-rinpoche/auspicious-news-my-teacher-lama-karma-attains-rainbow-body/10151794778007773

Happy #Thanksgivinkah: #eBooks = Great #Gift Idea

Happy #Thanksgivinkah! Want to give a great gift and spend almost no money? #eBooks are free or absurdly inexpensive. Support authors like me!

Fans of #sci-fi/#romance, #multiverse/multiple timelines, #aliens and space travel, #paranormal skills, several narrators (ages 16 through 81), world #history, #politics, family and intimate #relationships, #Buddhism, #Judaism, #GLBT identities and more will LOVE #The Spanners Series.

Volume I, This Changes Everything, available NOW! ebook links for TCE: free excerpts and more info now and sales @$3.99 after 12/18 at Smashwords.

Pre-orders @$1.99 through 12/18 at
iBooks
nook
and Kobo after 11/23/13,

TCE will be on Amazon and other ebook sites after 12/18/13 (links to come then).

Reviews and more info on Goodreads

and right here on my website, Sally Ember, Ed.D.

Visit! Browse the ebooks sites and leave comments, rankings, brief reviews for This Changes Everything and other ebooks.

Follow my blog and leave a comment, then contact me for a coupon for a FREE copy of TCE, any ebook format, via Smashwords, usable after 12/19/13.

This Changes Everything cover

Cover art by Willowraven

Enjoy!

#SallyEmber reads aloud from #ThisChangesEverything”

Come hear Fremont Area Writers (chapter of California Writers) read from our works at the next “Open Mike” at BookSmart, NewPark Mall, Newark, CA, tonight, Monday, 11/25/13, 7 PM, FREE!

I’ll be there reading from This Changes Everything, Volume I, The Spanners Series, which is now available for pre-order on #nook, #iBooks and #Kobo and is in wide release on #Amazon, #Smashwords and other ebook sites beginning 12/19/13. Free excerpts on all sites.

If you can’t come, check out my reading on youtube (see below) or here! Share, comment. Thanks!

http://youtu.be/_xynpNaSeKc

Author Interview at Amethyst Eyes’ site!

Thanks, “Amethyst Eyes” site author, Debbie Brown, for hosting an Author’s Interview that went live today, 11/22/13! Please visit and comment!

http://amethysteyesauthor.blogspot.ca/2013/11/sally-sue-embers-and-this-changes.html