#Buddhist #meditation Mini-#Retreat at Home: Report from the Homefront

#Buddhist #meditation Mini-#Retreat at Home: Report from the Homefront

May 27 – May 30, 2016, all-day, four-day mini-retreat at home: YIPPEE! Did it! First one since my TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury)/concussion/broken nose/hurt eyes in April, 2014; first one in St. Louis. [I called it a “mini” retreat because I usually did at least three weeks’ and up to 11 weeks’ retreat, prior to this.]

I offer this post as a description and explanation for newbies and the curious, but I do not discuss the details of my practice with anyone but my teacher and fellow practitioners.

SCHEDULE:
A typical meditation schedule consists of Tüns (meditation/practice sessions) segmented by meals, breaks, exercise, sleep and personal hygiene time. When we do individual retreats, often we set our own schedules. I modeled this summer’s mini-retreat schedule mostly on the same schedules I followed while on individual retreats at the main meditation center (Rigdzin Ling in northern California), and at my residences in Silver City, New Mexico, and Santa Rosa, Sebastopol and Hayward, California, 1999 – 2014.

Home Mini-Retreat Schedule 2016

3:30 – 4:15 AM— Wake up, ablutions, etc.
4:15 – 5:30 AM— First Tün (meditation/practice session)
5:30 – 6 AM— Breakfast
6 – 10:30 AM— Second Tün (with two ten-minute breaks)
10:30 – 11 AM— Lunch
11 AM – 12 PM— Third Tün
12 – 1 PM— Nap (during first third, usually; see below). Otherwise, Fourth Tün
1 – 3 PM— Exercise (swimming/driving to and from) with moving meditation for 35 minutes while swimming
3 – 5 PM— Fourth/Fifth Tün
5 – 5:30 PM— Dinner
5:30 – 8 PM– Fifth/Sixth Tün (with one ten-minute break)

Total meditation time: about 11-12 hours/day, so about 40 hours (I ended before dinner on May 30).

LOCATION:
When I was fortunate enough to be at RZL, I often sat on a cliff overlooking a pond, river and mountains in the distance, above the main buildings of the center. For other types of practices, meditators prefer or must be indoors or even in a cave or place of complete isolation and darkness for most of the time.

Many people doing the dzogchen Tibetan Vajrayana practice of awareness (rigpa) meditation, trek chöd, as I do, prefer to sit where we have an unbroken view of the sky.

man sunrise meditatiion
NOT what my home retreat looked like at all, this year

There aren’t many cliffs and sky views near where I now live, in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, and I didn’t want to spend a lot of time driving to a spot at which there would be no food, no bathroom, no easy place for this mostly injured body to sit, and no place to swim. Hence, a home retreat. I could almost see the sky, sometimes. I could see trees, bushes, a street and parking lot. Didn’t matter at all. I wasn’t involved with any of it. We keep our eyes open for this type of meditation, but with a “soft focus,” not paying particular attention to anything while noticing everything.

living room retreat spot 2016
Where I did most of my sitting practice: on the living room couch, learning against these cushions on the left, looking out the glass doors of the patio/deck to the right.

WHAT WE DO and DO NOT DO:
We also hear, smell, feel everything. We are not “checked out,” if we are practicing successfully. We are fully awake while doing our practice, sitting in oneness—in awareness (rigpa, Tibetan)—as often as we are able. We return to this awareness every time our attention wanders. That is the practice of trek chöd (Tibetan), in the simplest terms.

For this type of meditation practice, in retreat, practitioners usually don’t recite mantras, pray (except at the beginning and end of each retreat or even each Tün, if we want), use our malas (Tibetan prayer beads on a string, predecessor of the Catholic’s rosary), chant, visualize, play ritual instruments, enact stories, light incense, fill/offer water bowls, open our shrines or speak. Our practice is stripped-down to sitting and breathing.

The entire retreat is usually conducted in strict silence, which means that we make no eye contact when we do encounter people and we do no talking, writing, reading, or any other communicating (when necessary, we use “functional speech” only). We put away and turn off all cell phones, computers, communication or writing/reading/viewing devices of all kinds. We don’t write letters or answer the phone unless we are in a longer retreat during which we must communicate with family, friends, colleagues, neighbors occasionally to reassure them we are all right or respond to something urgent.

When we are fortunate (and/or wealthy), we have someone to “serve” our retreat: they shop for, prepare and serve our meals, sometimes even cleaning up for us, leaving us free to meditate for more time each day. That is part of the wonderful service that active meditation centers often provide retreatants. Sometimes, though, during non-busy times, when I was at the center, I still had to cook and clean up after my own meals, but I didn’t have to shop.

For home retreats, I have to do it all myself. I manage that by cooking a great big pot of soup and another big amount of something I can dole out each day for my two main meals and then have something small (a bowl of cereal, e.g.) for dinner.

Eating lightly at night is important for me, anyway. During a sitting and silent retreat like this, unlike the more active ones, our appetites get smaller and smaller as the retreat progresses, so we need less food.

THE RETREAT COMMITMENT:
It is important to make a firm commitment to one’s retreat by scheduling the entire period in advance and sticking to it. It is also important to make a daily schedule and adhere to it. Many also maintain/take a vow of celibacy to maintain during retreat (no sex or sex acts); some do not.

We all abstain from intoxicants (recreational drugs, alcohol) during retreat. If we have taken Layperson’s Buddhist Vows (or Five Main Precepts), as I have, we also never get intoxicated/inebriated. I don’t drink or use drugs, anyway, but for many meditators, retreat boundaries include that they refrain from engaging in the use of these substances during retreat.

Even if we get sick, someone dies, and/or there are other seemingly significant events that occur, we strive not to break our retreat commitments. Unless it is to save our own or someone else’s life or involves getting medical care to restore our health so that we can practice better afterwards.

It is important to let our friends, family and neighbors know, especially if we are doing a home retreat, that we won’t be answering phones or responding to texts or emails, for example, during these times/these days so they don’t worry. That way, we prevent someone from getting “wrong view” about meditation/meditators (e.g., not understanding our commitment, they think we are rude, unkind, insensitive, unless we communicate to explain).

We do not waver from this commitment or break our silence for any reason. These commitments and guidelines are called “retreat boundaries.” At the risk of generating “static” and negativity for our next potential retreat, we do not leave the grounds of a closed retreat (the “cloister”) or end our retreat prematurely. Some teachers give dire warnings about practitioners’ breaking boundaries that will result in creating negative future retreat karma, but I don’t like responding to threats. I maintain commitments because I want to do it.

Making and keeping these commitments strengthen the practitioner’s practice foundation and create/maintain a strong “container” for successful meditation practice. I feel good when I keep my chosen boundaries.

This time (or for any other home retreats), I did not have a completely strict, cloistered retreat: just isn’t possible. I drive to and from the pool, shop on the the first day for food and cook when necessary (more often on longer retreats). I also responded to a few communications from people who didn’t know I was in retreat and/or to reschedule things I had forgotten to reschedule. But, mostly, I did keep the strict retreat boundaries and commitments.

THE RETREAT EXPERIENCE:
Buddhist teachers talk about the entire retreat’s span of time as being divided roughly into three parts: “getting in,” “being in” and “rising out.”

“Getting in” is the first third. During this, we acclimate to being on retreat, letting go (sometimes slowly, sometimes more readily) of our daily concerns, activities, personae, thoughts, obligations and settling in to the schedule.

We always “open” our retreat with setting our intention and reaffirming our motivation and with gratitude, with prayers and thanks to our teachers. Usually, other directions are given to us in advance by our teachers.

Sometimes, we make offerings and/or have a ritual feast and prayers (tsog). Sometimes we continue our daily practices for the first day or so. Sometimes we do some preparatory readings (from teachings, notes, books) to remind us of the practice we are about to engage in and how to approach it.

Frequently, a lot of tiredness manifests early in this first third. If so, it is recommended that we nap a lot, recovering from the stress and strife of our usual lives’ demands. The peace, quiet and low-key nature of retreat bring us to a recognition of how exhausted and depleted we have gotten. Extra sleep is then necessary to restore ourselves and to be able to practice better for the rest of the retreat.

The middle third is “being in.” By then, accustomed to the schedule, needing fewer or no naps, we are ready and eager to practice for each Tün. We know what we are doing, we are glad to be doing it, it’s working as well as it will. Depending upon how long this period is and how quickly we are able to dive in, we can get very deeply immersed or only partially, but this is the main part of our retreat’s practice time. Whatever signs of accomplishment we may get usually begin to show up in this portion.

The last third is “rising out.” Sometimes gradually, sometimes more quickly, our minds and bodies begin to leave the depths and rise to the surface, preparing us for returning to our daily lives. For longer retreats, we spend part of this time still in retreat and the last part of it again in practices of formal gratitude. We “close” on the last day with offerings and/or a ritual feast and prayers (tsog), and dedicate the merit (the blessings and benefits of our practice) to all beings.

For the last day/hours or so, we are actually not still in retreat, exactly, but beginning to engage again in the more “ordinary living” aspects (whatever we haven’t been doing and must return to, such as driving, doing laundry, talking/communicating again).

We often don’t realize how deeply we are “in” until we begin to “rise out.” When we have been in a strict retreat for more than a few days, this gradual “return to duties” is very important for safety and acclimating to ordinary life. Otherwise, we can get into serious trouble or even accidents if we go back too suddenly to our busy, complicated home lives and schedules.

WHAT’S NEXT?
We usually meet with our teachers during or after our retreats (when we are so lucky as to be able to do that), to “offer our retreat experience” to the Lama by telling him/her about our experiences, insights, possible signs of accomplishment and/or knowledge acquired/applied successfully. We also bring questions, problems, concerns and “stuckness” that occurred during our retreat to this same meeting (or whenever we next meet) so that we may request guidance and answers from our teachers.

Usually during these meetings or subsequent ones, we get instructions, guidance for the next period of our practice, assignments/options for reading and/or attending live or video teachings. We might even schedule our next retreat(s).

I didn’t get to meet with my teacher at the end of this retreat, but I did see him for a private interview just last month, so I feel very blessed.

HAVING A MEDITATION TEACHER:
Tibetan Buddhists stress the importance of meditating under the guidance of and with instruction from a qualified meditation teacher. I completely agree with this. It is not sufficient to talk with other meditators, read books, listen to teachings on video or audiotapes or in person and then put ourselves into retreat and get ourselves out and go back to our lives.

Without a teacher who is more experienced and qualified to teach and guide us to listen to our experiences and direct our practice, we are certainly running the risk of there being a lot we will miss, misunderstand, misinterpret or just plain get wrong.

There are many qualified teachers in many parts of the world, now. I have put live links to some of them, above, when listing my teachers or main center. There are listings of some centers in Buddhist magazines, websites and other places online.

If you are not lucky enough to have found a teacher with whom you work well or you don’t live close enough to any teachers or centers who host visiting teachers, keep looking/trying. It is well worth the effort.

Where are the Buddhists Around Here?
There are several centers who host qualified teachers in the St. Louis area and throughout the Midwest, of all Buddhist traditions. Very close to where I now live is a Tibetan Buddhist practice group that includes some people who have met some of my own teachers and who use some of the same practice texts that I do. There are two others groups that are “cousins” to my lineages/practices and some of those people have also met some of my teachers and share some practices with mine. Khentrul Lodrö T’hayé Rinpoche‘s main center, Katag Chöling, is about a six-hour drive from here, in Arkansas. These are listed, below:

Blue Lotus Dharma Center somewhat eclectic, mixed Tibetan Vajrayana and Chan (Chinese Zen) practices Blue Lotus Dharma Center
Do Ngak Chöling Tibetan Nyingma Vajrayana Buddhism http://dongakcholing.org/
Katag Chöling Khentrul Lodrö T’hayé Rinpoche‘s main center, https://katogcholing.com
Kagyu Droden Kunchab—Saint Louis, Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, http://www.kdkstl.org

MY TEACHERS:
I am beyond-words grateful to my teachers.

Lama Drimed
My beloved Buddhist teacher, Lama Padma Drimed Norbu (Lama Drimed), about 2012

Whatever I was able to accomplish from this mini-retreat or any other part of my practice was entirely due to the blessings, teachings, support and care from my dear teachers, particularly Lama Drimed and the late H.E. Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche (photos above and below), as well as my mom (in whose home I now live), other Lamas, especially Lama Shenphen Drolma and Khentrul Lodrö T’hayé Rinpoche, and sangha (spiritual community of fellow practitioners scattered now around the world) of meditating sisters and brothers: THANKS to you all!

Chagdud Rinpoche
the late His Eminence Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, my first empowering lama and my teacher’s teacher, about 2001, and his Yangshi (designated and recognized reincarnation), about 2013

I dedicate the merit (benefits) of my retreat to all beings.

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Happy Birthday to our Son, Merlyn T. Ember!

Today is the anniversary of the birth of our wonderful son, unnamed at the time and for 20 more days, was born. I became a mother and you became an actual human after swimming around in my imagination for many years and in my womb for nine months. SO GLAD!

bass cake
image from designrshub.com

So, later in May the year of his birth, our son became Merlyn Timli 0 Ember. We gave him in his name the middle figure of “0” (which is a zero, not the letter “O”) to be a placeholder, awaiting the day he might want to choose his own name. True to his independent and somewhat contrarian nature, when he decided what he wanted to do with his name, Merlyn deleted the zero.

“Merlyn” means “Child of the Light,” and “Of the Immortals.” We chose to give him the original Celtic spelling and used those meanings.

Merlyn, with his first initial “M,” is also “named after” two family relatives: his father’s father, Morton Briggs (alive at that time, following Protestant tradition), and my mother’s mother, Mildred Klein Cytron Bright (then deceased, following Jewish tradition).

“Timli” is a name his dad, Christopher R. Briggs Ember (or, now, Ember Briggs) created, and the definition of this invented name is “He who paints in the sky with his fingers.”

“Ember” is the name Christopher and I chose to take on, adding it to our own names so that Merlyn’s surname could be “Ember.” The Ember Days are the days of change, the two or three days before and after every Solstice and Equinox. This name seemed apt since having a child (our first and only) certainly began many days of change for Merlyn’s parents!

Cradleboard M C and I

Merlyn in the cradleboard Emmy Rainwalker made for him, with his parents, May, 1980

[NOTE: Laws in New Hampshire at the time dictated that unmarried women could only give our children our own surnames, and I had no wish to give Merlyn my birth name. So, we chose a new surname for our new family. Christopher and I were deliberately and consciously unmarried, calling ourselves “Partnered,” for several reasons: lesbians and gays could not marry at that time; women became men’s property in New Hampshire when married in 1980; and, we both were marriage-averse for individual/personal reasons.]

I am so grateful that Merlyn’s birth occurred intentionally (and quite fortunately) at our rented home in Stoddard, NH, attended by three lay midwives: Katie Schwerin, whose family lived as housemates of ours and are still our good friends; Emmy Rainwalker (Ianiello), who was a former housemate and good friend; and, Cindy Dunleavy, the “senior” midwife who had trained Katie and Emmy and became our good friend.

Midwives

Also in attendance or present soon after Merlyn’s arrival were other housemates and several good friends: Bill Whyte (Katie’s husband; thanks for the great black-and-white photos, Bill!), Mia Mason (six years old and Katie’s daughter), Emily Schwerin-Whyte (Katie and Bill’s daughter, born in the same house four months prior), Tashin and Toqueem Rainwalker Story Talbot (two months and almost five years old, Emmy and Medicine Story’s children), Dana Dunleavy (three years old, Cindy’s son), Nina (a friend of Katie’s whose surname escapes me), Pamela Faith Lerman (our friend and David’s sweetie), David Eisenberg (a current housemate of ours and a friend), and Zea Moore (family friend). Good thing we had a very large bedroom!

Merlyn and I 1981 cr

Merlyn and I, 1981

We personally knew and/or were related to a total of over twenty children born within one year of Merlyn. He has cousins one year older and one year younger than he is on both sides, and he was born into what felt like an exploding baby boom, a loosely-knit but connected network of families with children around his age. He grew up in collective households with housemates who often included other children and in close connection with several in particular with whom he is still close as adults. We had buying clubs (food co-ops’ predecessors) we belonged to in several towns nearby for collective purchasing of bulk, organic and healthy foods and supplies. We exchanged childcare, kids’ clothes and baby equipment, recipes, chores, tools and handiwork. We celebrated birthdays, weddings, holidays and other occasions at one another’s houses, often ours.

HappyBirthdayGuitar
image from handmademusicclubhouse.com

These other families and their children became our extended family which included children who were students at public and Waldorf schools as well as homeschoolers; Merlyn was all three at one point or another.

Many of these adults and children were/are musicians, as Merlyn is. Our diverse community also included storytellers, teachers, woodworkers, roofers, artists, singers, dancers, therapists, the aforementioned midwives, political activists and social change leaders, construction/building tradespeople, office workers, gardeners, writers, herbalists, acupuncturists, massage therapists, composers, actors, directors, nonprofit social service workers, playwrights, spiritual teachers and leaders, computer techies, farmers/maple syrup makers, publishers, business owners, bookkeepers, retail workers, restaurant workers and many more.

Our ethnic and religious origins included Jewish, Sufi, Buddhist, Hindu, agnostic, Native American, atheist, British Isles/Western European, Chinese, African, Eastern European, and many more. We were/are lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, transgender, questioning, and unknown or unprovided.

Some of the places we lived right before and after Merlyn was born had no electricity or running water (or even walls). We played board and card games, invented and actual sports games. Most of us intentionally had no televisions or war toys. We put the non-TV-watching time to great use.

We READ a lot! We put on plays, played music, talked a lot with each other, rode bikes, ice skated, sledded, swam, cooked and did “kitchen opera,” made costumes, hiked, walked, repaired, recycled and re-used (long before it was required), spent time in Finnish/Dutch-type saunas and Native American sweat lodges, canned and preserved food and herbs, sang and drummed and worked in ever-changing configurations of children and adults together.

Merlyn, you have become an amazing adult: kind, compassionate, intelligent, capable, worthy of and earning respect and admiration from colleagues, employers, bandmates, friends and peers. I am very proud to be your mother!

I hope, on this anniversary of the day of your birth, in your first year since 1999 of living back in the town you spent most of your growing-up years, that you and your sweetie, Lauren, celebrate in multiple ways with friends and your dad. I wish for you to enjoy a great birthday and many more, healthy, happy and prosperous ones to come!

I love you! Thanks, again, for making me a mother!

S M and C at Jake and Sandys wedding

I, Merlyn and Christopher, 2013

MacArthur [Foundation] Announces [a year-long series of] Performances, Discussion to Celebrate 35 Years of Iconic Fellowship Program”

MacArthur [Foundation] Announces [a year-long series of] Performances, Discussion to Celebrate 35 Years of Iconic Fellowship Program”
https://www.macfound.org/press/press-releases/macarthur-announces-performances-discussion-celebrate-35-years-iconic-fellowship-program/#sthash.wuDoFQcB.dpuf

AND

Events Calendar
https://www.macfound.org/events/fellows35/?all=1

The-MacArthur-Fellowship-Program logo

These events are happening mostly in Chicago and on the East Coast (Washington, D.C., New York City), but will be broadcast/put online as well. Awesome! And, “Most of the events will be open to the public for free or at low cost.”

I have always been fascinated by and love seeing who gets these grants each year. I adore the entire secrecy of the process (no one knows, supposedly, who does the selecting, no one can be nominated, and no one can self-nominate). So, one day, my friends and I imagine, someone gets this phone call or email saying: You have been selected as a MacArthur Foundation Fellow for a “Genius Grant”! What an amazing thing to happen!

The panel chooses such an excellent variety of creative, intelligent, talented and skilled individuals, also. Each year, we can learn about their Fellows and meet jugglers, dancers, scientists, writers, playwrights, poets, musicians, choreographers, youth workers and other educators, environmentalists and activists of other types and whoever strikes their fancy all honored in this way. Usually they choose about 20 people from all around the country. Not all are young, not all are older; not all are men or women; not all are Caucasian. Fabulous.

The MacArthur Fellowship[s], called “genius grants” by the media, recognize[s] exceptionally creative individuals with a track record of achievement and the potential for significant contributions in the future.

Fellows each receive a no-strings-attached stipend of $625,000, which comes with no stipulations or reporting requirements and allows recipients maximum freedom to follow their own creative visions. Since 1981, 942 people have been named MacArthur Fellows.

Fellows are selected through a rigorous process that has involved thousands of expert and anonymous nominators, evaluators, and selectors over the years.

The Foundation does not accept unsolicited nominations.

This year “is expected to include the following events as well as others to be announced later.

  • Public artist Rick Lowe will deliver a lecture on “Art in the Social Context” at Stanford University’s Haas Center for Public Service as part of the Mimi and Peter E. Haas Distinguished Visitor program (Stanford, CA, Feb. 4).
  • The College Art Association will host a discussion with photographer LaToya Ruby Frazier and public artist Rick Lowe as part of its 104th Annual Conference (Washington, DC, Feb. 5).
  • The Poetry Foundation will present the Chicago-based collective Every House Has a Door’s adaptation of a work by poet Jay Wright (Chicago, Feb. 20).
  • In conjunction with an exhibition of her work, the Whitney Museum of American Art will host a discussion with documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras (New York City, Feb.).
  • Sixth & I, a historic synagogue and cultural event space, will present a panel discussion on immigration featuring writers Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Aleksandar Hemon and Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz (Washington, DC, March 7).
  • New York’s 92nd Street Y will present a panel discussion featuring MacArthur Fellows (New York, March).
  • Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry will host MacArthur Fellows for events marking National Robotics Week, including Jr. Science Cafes, a public conversation, and robotics demonstrations (Chicago, April 2).
  • The National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution, in collaboration with the American Historical Association, will host a conference on “The Future of the African American Past,” featuring scholars, activists and historians, including several MacArthur Fellows (Washington, DC, May 19-21, 2016).
  • The Poetry Foundation will host a reading by poet and writer Alice Fulton (Chicago, May 24).
  • The Economic Club of Chicago will feature two conversation pairings with arts entrepreneur Claire Chase and music educator Aaron Dworkin as well as computational biologist John Novembre and historian Tara Zahra (Chicago, May 25).
  • Wingspread will host a public event featuring MacArthur Fellows working on issues of interest to the Johnson Foundation and the Racine community (Racine, Wisconsin, May).
  • The Chicago Humanities Festival will host a one-day series of programs highlighting the work of MacArthur Fellows (Chicago, May).
  • MacArthur Fellows will be featured in a plenary session at the annual convention of Americans for the Arts (Boston, June).
  • Orchestra conductor and MacArthur Fellow Marin Alsop is designing three free evenings of performances in conjunction with the Grant Park Music Festival that will showcase MacArthur Fellows working in music and science, including cellist Alisa Weilerstein, violinist Regina Carter, and composer Osvaldo Golijov (Chicago, July).
  • The Harris Theater will host a free, two-night dance performance series featuring curated works created by MacArthur Fellows, including Kyle Abraham, Merce Cunningham, Michelle Dorrance, Susan Marshall, Mark Morris, and Shen Wei (Chicago, Sept. 16 and 17 or 18).
  • The Chicago Humanities Festival will incorporate MacArthur Fellows into its regular annual programming (Chicago, Sept.).
  • The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts will host two free public performances by MacArthur Fellows through its Millennium Stage series (Washington, DC, Oct.).
  • Conservation biologist Claire Kremen will speak at as part of the Women in Science series at The Field Museum (Chicago, Nov. 2).
  • Also during the year-long anniversary MacArthur Fellows will field questions from the public in Reddit ask-me-anything sessions and appear on other digital platforms.

Attend! View! Learn! Appreciate! Enjoy!

More info about the Fellows Eligibility, Criteria and Selection Process, from their website:

Criteria:
“There are three criteria for selection of Fellows: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.

“The MacArthur Fellows Program is intended to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations. In keeping with this purpose, the Foundation awards fellowships directly to individuals rather than through institutions. Recipients may be writers, scientists, artists, social scientists, humanists, teachers, entrepreneurs, or those in other fields, with or without institutional affiliations. They may use their fellowship to advance their expertise, engage in bold new work, or, if they wish, to change fields or alter the direction of their careers.

“Although nominees are reviewed for their achievements, the fellowship is not a lifetime achievement award, but rather an investment in a person’s originality, insight, and potential. Indeed, the purpose of the MacArthur Fellows Program is to enable recipients to exercise their own creative instincts for the benefit of human society.

“The Foundation does not require or expect specific products or reports from MacArthur Fellows and does not evaluate recipients’ creativity during the term of the fellowship. The MacArthur Fellowship is a “no strings attached” award in support of people, not projects. Each fellowship comes with a stipend of $625,000 to the recipient, paid out in equal quarterly installments over five years.”

How Fellows are Chosen:
“Nominees are brought to the Program’s attention through a constantly changing pool of invited external nominators. The nominators are encouraged to nominate the most creative people they know within their field and beyond. They are chosen from as broad a range of fields and areas of interest as possible.

“Nominations are evaluated by an independent Selection Committee composed of about a dozen leaders in the arts, sciences, humanities professions, and for-profit and nonprofit communities. Each nomination is considered with respect to the program’s selection criteria, based on the nomination letter along with original works of the nominee and evaluations from other experts collected by the program staff.

“After a thorough, multi-step review, the Selection Committee makes its recommendations to the President and Board of Directors of the MacArthur Foundation. Announcement of the annual list is usually made in September. While there are no quotas or limits, typically 20 to 30 Fellows are selected each year. Since 1981, 942 people have been named MacArthur Fellows.

“Nominators, evaluators, and selectors all serve anonymously and their correspondence is kept confidential. This policy enables participants to provide their honest impressions independent of outside influence.

“The Fellows Program does not accept applications or unsolicited nominations.”

Eligibility:
“There are no restrictions on becoming a Fellow, except that nominees must be either residents or citizens of the United States, and must not hold elective office or advanced positions in government as defined by the statute.”

Part II of “A Reluctant Buddhist” by Sally Ember, Ed.D., Appears 11/13/15 on The Buddhist Door

Part II of “A Reluctant Buddhist” by Sally Ember, Ed.D., Appears 11/13/15 on The Buddhist Door

Find out how…:
“…did I end up becoming a devoted, long-term student of Nyingma-lineage Tibetan Buddhism, studying, practicing, and completing my Ngöndro (foundation practices) in two-and-a-half years (“as if my hair were on fire”) while in full-time graduate school, working full time, and raising my son?

“…did I go from being unwilling even to enter the teaching venue or shrine room to being eager and willing to help start and/or expand and also, sometimes, live in and be a cook, coordinator, board member, bookkeeper, umze (chant leader), stupa mantra roller/packer, and more for not one, but three Dharma centers (in Maine, New Mexico, and California)?

“… did I transition from not even talking to Wyn for ten years to having him as Lama Drimed (Padma Drimed Norbu) become my root lama and main, then sole, Dzogchen meditation teacher and practice and retreat guide?

“…did I come to learn Tibetan well enough to be able to read, write, speak, and translate?”

http://www.buddhistdoor.net/features/a-reluctant-buddhist-how-it-took-me-eight-years-to-start-practicing-in-this-life-part-ii


Missed Part I? Find it from September 4, 2015, at Buddhist Door
http://www.buddhistdoor.net/features/a-reluctant-buddhist-how-it-took-me-eight-years-to-start-practicing-in-this-life

10 Days. 10 Questions: #10Q

10 Days. 10 Questions.
10 Q logo

If you are Jewish or celebrate Jewish holidays, sunset on 9/13/15 began Rosh Hashonah, the #Jewish New Year: L’Shana Tovah (May you have a sweet and healthy New Year)!

Whether you observe Jewish holidays as a #Jew or Jewish ally or are interested in Jewish customs and new traditions, you may be interested in this new tradition, #10Q, for personal growth and reflection. The “10” refers to the 10 days that include the first day of the two-day Rosh Hashonah celebration and the Day of AtonementYom Kippur—September 22-23, on the other end.

There are many traditions associated with each of these holidays and the days between, but I do not practice them because I am not an observant Jew; I am a practicing #Buddhist. However, last year I found out about 10Q and really appreciated it. So, I did it in 2014 and I am doing it again this year.

Just a reminder: the 10Q site goes into lockdown at the end of Sunday, September 27th. You have till then to fill in your answers and send them to the Vault for safe-keeping. After that, you won’t be able to see the answers until next year–and if you don’t send them into the Vault, you won’t ever see them again. Once you submit, you can relax and look forward to the eve of Rosh Hashanah 2016, when your 2015 answers will be coming back to you.

I recently received my responses to last year’s questions, received earlier this week, as promised (see below for explanation of 10Q). It was fascinating to me to read what I had written because, as many of you know, I suffered a severe brain injury in April of 2014; last fall, I was still in very bad shape, mentally. I don’t even remember much about writing these responses much less what I wrote, so it was with great curiosity that I opened the reporting email with my responses inside.

These 10Q‘s 10 questions (one for each of the 10 days) are very personal; I do not choose to share my responses. But, I will say this: the exercise of responding is a great one, regardless of your religious affiliation.

Summary: I achieved many of the goals and aspirations I put out in my responses!

I heartily encourage each of you to visit this site and respond to the questions, starting on Rosh Hashonah, 2015, which is tomorrow, Sunday, 9/13/15. Read more about 10Q and then click on a link or two, below.

There are/were also live 10Q events happening in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco (see below) and perhaps elsewhere, or you could have one. Check these out!

May all beings benefit.

Answer one question per day in your own secret online 10Q space. Make your answers serious. Silly. Salacious. However you like. It’s your 10Q.

When you’re finished, hit the magic button and your answers get sent to the secure online 10Q vault for safekeeping.

One year later, the vault will open and your answers will land back in your email inbox for private reflection.

Want to keep them secret? Perfect. Want to share them, either anonymously or with attribution, with the wider 10Q community? You can do that too.

Next year, the whole process begins again. And the year after that, and the year after that.

Do you 10Q? You should.

Click here to get your 10Q on.

10Q began September 13th, 2015

10Q: Reflect. React. Renew.
Life’s Biggest Questions. Answered By You.

10Q LINKS:
http://doyou10q.com/about
http://doyou10q.com/faq
http://blog.doyou10q.com/

10Q 2015 QUESTIONS (I plan to add one each of the 10 days):
“1. Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?”

“2. Is there something that you wish you had done differently this past year? Alternatively, is there something you’re especially proud of from this past year?”

“3. Think about a major milestone that happened with your family this past year. How has this affected you?”\

“4. Describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. How? Why?”

“5. Have you had any particularly spiritual experiences this past year? How has this experience affected you? ‘Spiritual’ can be broadly defined to include secular spiritual experiences: artistic, cultural, and so forth.”

“6. Describe one thing you’d like to achieve by this time next year. Why is this important to you?”

“7. How would you like to improve yourself and your life next year? Is there a piece of advice or counsel you received in the past year that could guide you?”

“8. Is there something (a person, a cause, an idea) that you want to investigate more fully in 2016?”

“9. What is a fear that you have and how has it limited you? How do you plan on letting it go or overcoming it in the coming year?”

“10. When September 2016 rolls around and you receive your answers to your 10Q questions, how do you think you’ll feel? What do you think/hope might be different about your life and where you’re at as a result of thinking about and answering these questions?”

“BONUS Q: What are your predictions for 2016?”

10Q 2015 EVENTS:
San Francisco:
Ctrl + Alt + Del: Tashlique at Ocean Beach
Sept. 14, 2015, 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Ocean Beach near Fulton (across from Beach Chalet)
FREE
https://www.facebook.com/events/1624398931151639/

Reset your system with our modern spin on a 600-year-old Rosh Hashanah ritual called tashlique. This custom of ridding ourselves of all our bad vuggum (karma) from the previous year and getting a fresh start for the new one is traditionally enacted by tossing bread into the ocean. Join us by the shore at Ocean Beach (near Fulton) for a brief, engaging ritual and joyful noise accompaniment from shofar* blowers, bag pipers, members of Jazz Mafia and the Ministers of Sound of the Saint John Will-I-Am Coltrane African Orthodox Church. Bring stale bread to share and a shofar, if you have one, to blow along with some of San Francisco’s finest players. Enjoy our twist on the traditional sweet with s’mores and Rocky’s Fry Bread.

New York City

NYC 10 Q event Blank-Slate-Full-Plate-Final-9-2-15
September 23, 2015, 6 – 9 PM

Los Angeles
One Day Retreat in Topanga, CA: Reflect & Renew

10 Q Topanga Taste-of-the-East-Revised-2015
September 19, 2015, all day
Facilitated by Michael Kass & Zoe Gillis

Why I Started a LIVE Talk Show: *CHANGES* conversations between authors on Google+ Hangouts On Air (HOA) and YouTube

“Why I Started a LIVE Talk Show: CHANGES conversations between authors on Google+ Hangouts On Air (HOA) and YouTube”
originally posted on http://www.asidefromwriting.com on July 6, 2015

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In early April, 2014, I had just completed and uploaded Volume II, This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, of my science-fiction/romance/ multiverse/ utopian/ paranormal (psi) ebooks in The Spanners Series for adults, New and Young Adults, and joined two new writers’ groups in the East Bay (one in Berkeley and one in Hayward, California, where I had been living), when I was in a terrible accident. The resulting broken nose has been healing fine and didn’t require surgery; the concussion has proven to be a lot more problematic.

For several months, it was as if I were in a fog. I wasn’t allowed to do any serious computer work, reading or thinking (I had been about halfway through Volume III, This Is/Is Not the Way I Want Things to Change, when I got hurt). Since I couldn’t wear my glasses without causing myself enormous pain (glasses would be sitting on the broken nose, right?), and I was overwhelmingly aphasic, exhausted, confused and injured, unable to process much, the respite from writing, reading and working seemed necessary. The accident had also caused extreme damage to my arms, hands, shoulders and upper back, so keyboarding wasn’t all that feasible, anyway. Plus, when I did type, I made more errors than words, typed very slowly (usually over 100 WPM; then, about 40 WPM, with numerous mistakes).

However, once the enforced hiatus was over, I still couldn’t return to my regular life. My memory was horrible, both short- and long-term. I couldn’t find words, or the right words, to speak or write. I no longer sounded as if I were drunk, but I was still extremely slower and less able, all around, than I had been prior to the brain injury. I usually function in the top 10 percent of intellectuals, with an extremely large vocabulary and many types of intelligence. I had been fortunate, up until the accident, to be a wide reader of many subjects, with both formal and informal education beyond the doctoral level and a larger variety of knowledge, experiences and insights than most people. Post-concussion, I was barely above-average and often, not even that.

Before the injury to my brain, I had been writing my fiction series quite quickly, often exceeding 2,000 words per day. My creativity seemed boundless, my energy matching it. Volume I’s first draft had been completed in under two months, and it was over 130,000 words. I had developed a spreadsheet to record my (very brief) notes on my series’ dozens of human, animal and alien characters, multiple timelines, overlapping realities, historical and future events and people, but most of the series’ details and plans had been in my brain which had been injured to the point of being severely compromised.

In July of last year, I discovered all I could create were short, nonfiction blog and other posts, and it took “forever” to finalize each one, since I typed sentences that were riddled with errors. Each post needed to be proofread multiple times. I could barely read others’ blogs and reblog/share, almost couldn’t read short pieces/stories.

Yes, after a few months I was improving and could do these with increasingly better understanding, but I still couldn’t return to my fiction series. My “executive functions” and “working memory” were still extremely low-performing due to the post-concussion syndrome I had been diagnosed with in June.

I wasn’t well enough to return to my “regular” life of work or writing, but I was well enough to be bored. Luckily, I had discovered Google+ the previous year. During the winter and spring of 2014, I had been attending Hangouts On Air (HOAs) somewhat regularly.

After my accident, watching videos was about the only thing I could do, since reading, writing and other glass-wearing activities were excluded. I attended and participated (when that was allowed) in many HOAs by leaving comments, questions, and interactions with others also viewing or presenting, on topics ranging from books, book marketing, authors, writing, marketing, social media, spirituality/meditation and more. I watched most on Google+, but they were also archived so I could watch those I missed on YouTube, where I found even more entertaining, informative videos. (Find me on Google+ as Sally Sue Ember)

I got into watching one HOA in particular, Lights, Camera, HOA!, run by an excellent trio of women: Meloney Hall, Rayne Dowell and Sheila Strover.

After I attended a few shows, Rayne read Volume I of my series and reached out to invite me onto the show to learn more about being in/on a HOA. The entire reason for this show’s existence is to help newbies (like me) get comfortable with the HOA format and technology, both on- and off-camera. I LOVED it! What a great service this show provides. THANK YOU! https://plus.google.com/u/0/+Bigupticksociallightscamerahoa/about

As a former actor/performer, being “on camera” wasn’t hard for me. As a writer/author, being able to interact with viewers LIVE was so much better than having readers I almost never hear from or meet. I was hooked on HOAs and wanted my own. I learned everything I could in the next several months, wondering if I’d be able to manage my own show.

What could I have a HOA about, exactly? There were an infinite number of choices. By then, I had been interviewed on several radio shows online and submitted many “author interview” posts to others’ websites, so I was familiar with that format and was beginning to feel it was somewhat overused. Frankly, and no offense to the current website(!), I find most author interviews to be awfully repetitive and, well, boring.

I did NOT want to interview authors, but I wanted to meet more authors and talk about writing as well as many other interesting topics. By the end of July, four months post-injury, I still couldn’t write for my series, but I was able to talk better and listen very well. I decided to launch in August and to have a show that I would want to watch.

Since I wanted to be around other writers and hear about their experiences, hoping to be entertained and inspired until my own writing would (hopefully) be accessible to me again, I posted on Twitter, Facebook groups and in general, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+ communities to invite authors to be guests on CHANGES conversations between authors. I also ranged around to those sites that posted award winners in science-fiction, particularly, and invited many of those authors on my show as well.

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The response has been more than gratifying. I welcomed Dr. Shay West as my first guest for my August 6, 2014, premier Episode, with several more super authors scheduled to be on subsequent shows. Since then, with a few planned and even fewer unplanned exceptions, I have had an Episode each week. The live show airs three or four times per month (with one week off, to rest) on Wednesdays, 10 – 11 AM Eastern time, USA, and TODAY, August 5, 2015, I air my one-year anniversary show!

Amazing authors have been guests on CHANGES (http://goo.gl/1dbkZV on my website for full schedule of past and upcoming guests). I have had guests who joined me live and/or hail from France, Spain, England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Canada, Israel, Guyana, and many states in the USA. The authors I have talked with enrich me weekly (and my viewers as well, I hope), writing in every fiction genre and including those who also write nonfiction, plays, screenplays and poetry.

Ethnically, my guests have been American mixed-Causasian, African-American, African-Jamaican, Spanish, English, Indian (continent, not tribe), Russian, Jewish, German, Norwegian, Israeli, Guyanan, Irish, and Greek (so far). Editors, publishers (magazine and book), and translators, with an age range, as of today, August 5, 2015, of 15 – 78 years old, are in my CHANGES guests club.

Our conversational topics list is too lengthy to include here, but has been exactly as I had planned: wide variety, high-level subject discussions that are informative, entertaining, insightful, funny and poignant. My guests and I share personal and professional stories, discuss books and writing, publishing and editing, book cover artists and much more.

I am quite happy to say that, as of August 5, 2015, CHANGES Episodes (now up to 37, http://goo.gl/1dbkZV on YouTube) have garnered audiences as large as over 1000 in one day, totalling over 3600 views, so far.

My YouTube channel went from having 2 to almost 50 subscribers. I now have over 3000 followers on Google+ and Facebook, each (although some are the same people, I’m sure), and over 5000 on Twitter. Pinterest followers’ number has quadrupled; so has LinkedIn’s.

I know these are small numbers compared to many, but I’m happy that my network is growing. We receive many compliments, positive comments and excellent questions for each CHANGES Episode from viewers who watch live or later, and more watch weekly.

Since starting CHANGES, I’m delighted to report that downloads of Volume I of my series, which is permafree since I uploaded Volume II (right before my accident), are steady. I do wish for better sales for Volume II, but I’ve heard a series has to have at least three books released “to really take off.”

What’s Next?
CROWDFUNDING to meet my Goals

—I wish to convert the *CHANGES* videocasts into podcasts, for those who prefer to listen-only, but the podcast hosting sites are not free.
—I also wish to pay for my next book covers,
—I need to buy better equipment for my home videocasts, and
—I must keep writing.

However, the concussion has severely limited my ability to work and I am in deep debt. If you’d like to help, http://www.patreon.com/sallyember has a video about my goals and rewards to donors in which I sing (really; not so well, but, hey; I’m not a professional singer!), and more information.

$4 gets you a free ebook; larger donations earn you deep discounts on professional editing, proofreading and writing tutor services, all of which can do well, despite the concussion.

Concussion Recovery News
As of May, 2015, I am back to writing new parts of Volumes III and IV! Slowly, much more laboriously, with an ongoing need for referrals to notes and dictionary, thesaurus and spell-check than remembering going on, but glad to be writing!

I wish I could open up my brain and retrieve the Spanners Series ideas that had been so accessible, so easily before the concussion and look them all over, but…

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The network of authors, book bloggers, book marketers and other writers I have been developing over the last two years has blossomed into a group I can call upon for help, advice, and exchanges. That has proved amazingly gratifying as I trumpet my announcement, below, because many have stepped forward to play a role in this next phase.

Good news: I finished the Beta readers’ draft of Volume III, This Is/Is Not the Way I Want Things to Change, in late July! Five wonderful writers are reading it right now and will offer their sage wisdom on its improvements by late September. I then hope to be finished with the final proofed version no later than mid-October. I have already begun the cover design process with Aidana Willowraven, The Spanners Series‘ cover artist. The Cover Reveal is planned to occur on Alesha Escobar‘s site in late October. Pre-orders start 11/1/15 and the release of Volume III is scheduled for December 8, 2015!

Wish me luck!

How Else You Can Become Involved
Beta readers for upcoming draft of Volumes IV and reviewers of all Volumes welcomed! Contact me: sallyember@yahoo.com

Also, watch a few Episodes of CHANGES any time: http://goo.gl/6xjSKl Please comment on YouTube or go to the original G+ Event page for that Episode and comment/ask questions, get more info and links. I will respond!

Become/Refer a Guest! #Authors and #bloggers, especially those in sci-fi/speculative fiction, but not only those: learn more about and get yourself on CHANGES, and #Readers, recommend an #author to be scheduled as a guest.

OPENINGS 8/12/15 and later this fall! For more info, schedule and past/upcoming guests list, visit here: http://goo.gl/1dbkZV.

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Also, I’ve invited former guests and others I appreciate to Guest Blog on Wednesdays, with excellent posts, so far! Check out the Guest Bloggers’ Hall of Fame on my site (see below) for previous and upcoming posts.

I strongly suggest you check out others’ HOAs as well: there are some great shows out there in Google+ land! Two good places to find them (and another great G+ community, User2User: LIVE!):
https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/101944073205735325459 for User2User-Live!
Http://www.hangouteventscalendar.com for the HOA Calendar

For updates about and links to available Volumes of The Spanners Series, me as an author, my own and guest blogger’s posts, Patreon and much more: http://www.sallyember.com has all links and info. Look up or to the right and scroll.


May all who are ill recover and all who are in pain find comfort.

Best to you all!

For #1000Speak for #Compassion: What Compassion Means to Me

Today is the second date of this year for bloggers and posters all over the world to join this growing movement, #1000Speak for #Compassion by posting a response to: “What does compassion mean to you?”

1000 Speak for Compassion 6-20-15

For #1000Speak for #Compassion: What Compassion Means to Me

1000 voices Compassion invitation


My first empowering Tibetan Buddhist teacher, the late His Eminence Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, taught frequently on the topic of compassion because, as he said in every teaching I ever attended of his, motivation is the the most important part of anyone’s practice, with an emphasis on bodhicitta, “the awakened heart,” which means spontaneously emanating compassion. Compassionate motivation ought to be at the forefront of every thought, word, and action for everyone who has taken Refuge with a Buddhist teacher.

This is important because the surface Refuge vow, not to harm, does not seem to include any motivation or intention within it. Yet, it does; it must.

For Buddhists, to experience Compassion is to have the heartfelt wish to alleviate all other beings’ suffering, which we do as best we are able in every moment.

In contrast, to Love another is to put that being’s happiness (not temporary, mundane happiness, but ultimate, liberation-from-delusion-and-suffering-type-happiness) above our own.

There are pitfalls, especially for Westerners, which many Buddhist teachers explain and admonish us about.

—“Idiot compassion” is ill-advised. This type of response is reactive, gooey, “Awww” at a kitten video on YouTube feeling, or pity: not actual compassion at all. See above definition for a refresher. It also encourages the acceptance of what ought never to be accepted by being misguided as to what compassion entails. People who do harmful things must face the consequences. We can feel compassion toward them WHILE exacting appropriate measures to ensure they do no further harm.

—“Enabling” is not loving or compassionate action, yet putting others’ ultimate happiness above our own can sound like a recipe for co-dependence. The practitioner must be able to discern between aiding someone to attain some kind of superficial, temporary, mundane pleasures and assisting someone to gain ultimate, spiritual liberation: only the latter is the kind of happiness we strive to accomplish for/with others.

Pity is not compassion (see above). This is more complex than it may appear, however, because pity requires a hierarchy: “I am above you, I am better (off) than you, and therefore, I am in a position to judge, assess, and perhaps help you” and “I feel sorry for you (sympathy)” are those scripts.

—Contrast pity with actual compassion: “I feel with you (empathy). I have been and sometimes still/often are where you are now. We are more the same than different. When I am able to help you, I do so knowing that I, too, frequently need similar help.”

—Without compassion for oneself, it is impossible to feel genuine compassion for others. Self-compassion is not self-indulgence, however, and does not absolve one of taking responsibility, being accountable and striving to improve oneself at all times.

Compassion includes no “free pass.” Feeling compassion towards someone does mean we excuse or accept their every word, action or intention as wonderful. We can maintain our ability to evaluate others’ actions and work to prevent future harm WHILE we feel compassion for their situation and confusion. See above, for “idiot compassion.”

Meditation on exchanging-self-for-other is the key to experiencing spontaneous compassion for all beings. This means that we learn to see ourselves as the same as all other living beings: fundamentally wanting the same things and living in bodies unite us. At first, we pray to experience compassion for all, but usually, we feel compassion primarily for those we already care about and love. Therefore, in our practice, we state that we do feel compassion for all beings, even when we don’t. Eventually, with sufficient practice, we spontaneously feel nonjudgmental, evenly spread compassion for all beings, regardless of their status, condition, relationship to us, or location.

I have noticed a dramatic rise in my ability to feel compassion, even for the most heinous criminals, horribly harmful people, by remembering two things:
1. This being is merely trying to be happy, but because of karma and experiences, is completely confused as to how to achieve that and actually works against that goal, making their own misery and misery for others as well as bad karma.
2. This being and I are connected, as all beings are connected: somewhere, sometime, in some physical form or another, we have been/are each other’s mothers.

WORKS EVERY TIME.

I wish you all the best and may all beings benefit.

1000 Speak for Compassion