REPOSTING: A #Jewish #Buddhist for the #Christmas/ #Chanukah/ #Solstice/#Kwanzaa Season

REPOSTING, from 2016, with some minor changes: A #Jewish #Buddhist for the #Christmas/ #Chanukah/ #Solstice/#Kwanzaa Season

Christmas and I are not friends. We are not even good neighbors. I was raised Jewish in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods, school systems, summer camps and other social encounters. This made me an outsider in an insider world every December.

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Despite about 75% Jewish population in our local public schools, the relentless Christian-ness of the USA permeated. Most of our teachers and all of the school administrators were not Jewish. Therefore, we Jewish students were forced to learn and sing Christmas carols alongside our Christian classmates every year in music classes and choirs in our classes and assemblies. I mouthed but would not sing songs with lyrics like “Jesus, our God,” or “Christ, our King.” I refused to “celebrate,” but I would go along as required.

I hated it.

All of my childhood and most of my young adult life, I also hated Christmas. I hated the trees, the lights, the candy canes, and, especially, the incessant carols on muzak almost everywhere we went. I hated the silly fashion and accessory affectations (reindeer hats, Santa sweaters, elves in snow globes on chains, fake snow on windowsills) and the massively wasteful appropriation of space and time every December. This extravaganza has gotten worse over the decades, now beginning prior to Hallowe’en and including some year-round “Santa Villages,” “Christmas” stores and such.

Appalling.

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Christian adults still post and say ridiculous, ignorant things to me and other non-Christians, like: “Christmas isn’t religious; it’s American.” And, “It’s not a Christmas tree. It’s a holiday tree.” Or, my personal favorite, “You can celebrate Christmas and still be Jewish. I know lots of people who do!”

I belong to several authors/writers groups online and in person, and without exception, they are filled with eager, interesting people. Except, at Christmas. Then, they devolve into ignorant, unaware bigots who claim things like: “If we call it a ‘Holiday’ sale instead of a ‘Christmas’ sale, we’ll get fewer hits on Google”; and, the most appalling, “We did it your way last year. This year, it’s a ‘Christmas’ sale/program/event.”

The most insulting? “You are included if you feel included. Your choice.”

For every kid who feels oppressed by the pervasive and invasive Christmassification of everything for almost two months every year, it’s difficult to separate hating the holiday-ness from despising the people who rightfully celebrate it. I often did/do not succeed in making that distinction. I breathe a sigh of relief every December 26.

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Yippee!

I celebrated the Solstice for a few years. We were tentatively friends, paganism and I. I even created a Solstice “advent” calendar with thirteen paper strips as “rays” of the sun to be unfolded, one on each of the thirteen days prior to December 21. I liked this because each “ray” jad written on it a quality or positivity we wanted to affirm or invite into our lives. That was fun and interesting, and I liked the symbols and intention, but Solstice and I did not remain friends, either.

Winter Solstice

For about twenty years, after our son was born, we—my son’s Christian (Episcopalian-raised)/Sufi and somewhat Muslim father and sometimes members of his family—celebrated a kind of Christmas, usually when at one of their homes.

For two years in the late 1980s, when I worked as the Director of Religious Education for the local Unitarian Universalist “Church,” I/we “celebrated” several December holidays, including Kwanzaa. i even went to church and sang Christmas carols and enjoyed it a little, holding a lit candle and the whole shebang.

Mostly, I hostessed Chanukah parties for my mostly Christian friends and half-Jewish son (not Jewish at all, except by birth). and and then my Jewish/fake Mormon/Buddhist female partner. I did this primarily because I liked to make and eat Chanukah food and give presents. Also, my mom (bless her) mailed (from Missouri) a huge box every year after our son was born that had eight gifts for him and many for us (some were small, like a pair of socks, but still: very welcomed!). So, we needed a way to spread out the opening of these and other gifts so he wouldn’t be overwhelmed and not appreciate any of them properly. I created and shared an English lyric about visualizing miracles to be sung when lighting the Chanukah candles (since the religious parts of the Jewish holidays and I parted ways when I was about ten years old) for each of the eight nights.

latkes

I tried to make Chanukah mine. It only kind of worked, and only for a while (mostly for the years that our son lived in my house or was visiting for the holiday). But, since it wasn’t an authentic, deep relationship, Chanukah and I gradually drifted apart.

Partly, this drift occurred because I became a Buddhist. That made “the holiday season” even more irrelevant. I not only stopped celebrating Christmas, but don’t do much with Chanukah or Solstice any longer, either.

Each fall, when I can afford it, I buy some gifts for friends and family members (honoring whatever they celebrate), and wish people well for whatever they celebrate. But, I also try to keep to myself on the actual days of these holidays, since they’re not “mine.” I really do not celebrate or believe in them.

I do not miss these holidays. I do not feel left out. I do not feel angry. I do not feel deprived, alone, or otherwise sad or depressed. These just aren’t my holidays. I view them with slight amusement and a keen detachment over the last fifteen years, as if I were visiting from another culture (which I kind of am).

This year it is a little more difficult to escape both major holidays because Chanukah and Christmas are coinciding on the calendar: Christmas Eve is the first night of Chanukah and it ends on New Year’s Eve for the first time, ever, in my life. I don’t have much money, but I do want to buy some gifts for loved ones and this is as good of an excuse as any to do so.

I’ve gone through despising, hating, avoiding, celebrating, enjoying, participating, encouraging, hostessing, attending, bowing out to relinquishing December holidays over my six+ decades. I’m quite happy, now, taking the parts I like (mostly some good food and a few songs, gift-giving and receiving, days off) and ignoring the rest.

Buddhist December

Please don’t take it personally that I don’t participate in or celebrate any holidays in the fall “holiday season” the ways you do.

Enjoy your holiday(s). Really.

Just don’t impose them on me. And, by the way, I hate Capitalism, for real.

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Yizkor is the Memorial Service Recited 4x/year during #Jewish Holiday Services

Yizkor is the Memorial Service recited four times each year during #Jewish Holiday Services and it happens this week for Yom Kippur.

Want to learn more? “My Jewish Learning” is a great website for the curious or Jewish-estranged/ignorant: http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/yizkor-the-memorial-service/

Many people light a special, 24-hours-burning yahrzeit candle each year to commemorate the anniversary of a loved one’s death and most Jewish people light one tonight, the Eruv (evening before) Yom Kippur.

yahrzeit-candle

I have not been a practicing Jew for over 45 years, but almost every tradition and religion has ceremonies to honor the dead at least once every year.

In the Nyingma Vajrayana Tibetan Buddhist I am a a part of, we do a daily practice (puja) that includes prayers for the recently deceased (“recently” means anyone who departed within the last 49 days, which has special meaning for Buddhists) and an annual practice for all who have ever died whose karma we pray to improve, during an extended set of prayers and commemorations (a Drubchen). Want to know more? Red Tara (Jetsunma) is the daily puja sadhana (text) and Red Vajrasattva is the Drubchen‘s practice referred to, here. Here is my spiritual community’s (sangha‘s) website, which has a lot of information, including a link to its bookstore, Tibetan Treasures: http://chagdudgonpa.org/

For whatever reasons, maybe because my step-uncle, Jerry Leavitt, died somewhat suddenly (but he was 90 years old…) last week, this week I am especially moved to remember all those I/we have lost, who have passed “too soon” or even those who have had a “good, long life.”


Meg Christian’s beautiful memorial song, “The Ones Who Aren’t Here,” is at 19:45 on this wonderful concert recording from 1983, “Meg & Cris at Carnegie Hall.” Tears and memories abound.

I “recite” some of their names, here. May their memories be a blessing. A”h, z”l, and zt”l

A”h is short for alav/aleha hashalom, which means ‘peace be upon him/her.’ Alternately, z”l stands for zikhrono/zikhronah livrakha, meaning ‘May his/her memory be a blessing,’ and zt”l stands for zekher tzadik livrakhah ‘May the memory of this righteous one be a blessing.'” (From the above “My Jewish Learning” website.)

Passed during high school or college years, from Horton Watkins High School, Ladue, Missouri, USA, in the 1970s:
Jim Haller (motorcycle accident, 1971)
Barbie Dietchmann (cancer, 1988)
Alan Bierman (car accident, 1970)
Lisa Brie (car accident, 1970)(and 2 more I didn’t know, killed in the same car accident as Lisa and Alan)
Barbie Korman (cancer, 1970)
Ellis Markman (a distant cousin of ours and from my class; accident/drug overdose)
Gary Fonarow (heart attack)

Passed later, but “too soon,” from my graduating class or the one before mine (my older brother, Jon’s, class), from Horton Watkins High School, Ladue, Missouri, USA:
Debbie Kean (the sister of two dear Camp Hawthorn counselors; Mike passed before she did)
Elice (Liccey) Bierman (Alan’s sister, friend from Camp Hawthorn and school)
David Ross (my first high school boyfriend)
Jeff Gall (a cousin of my sister, Lauri’s, husband, and in my class)
Joel Roufa (the only kid who punched me in the stomach in grade school)

Passed friends and teachers, taken “too soon,” from the 1970s – 2000’s:
Joan Levinson (the person who most supported and inspired me to get my advanced degrees) (cancer)
Mary Buren (one of my first New Hampshire friends) (cancer)
Marcia Watermolen (my son, Merlyn’s, first Waldorf teacher) (cancer)
David Taylor (fellow actor and star of plays I helped direct; taken by AIDs, in the 1980s)
Cynthia Toth (former housemate, sangha member, friend, my age) (cancer)
Russell Wilfand (one of my best friends at the time of his untimely and sudden death, December, 2007) (stroke)
Jaye Alper (long-time friend and “sister”, of kidney disease, then cancer, April, 2012)
Martha Alsup and Susan Galvin (murdered while on vacation, in their late 30’s)
Iris Markman (Ellis’ mother, theatre/dance teacher at Ladue, also distant cousin of ours; cancer)
“Papa” Joe Richardson (chorus teacher at Ladue; cancer)

Family:
Great-grandparents, great aunts/uncles, aunts/uncles and grandparents, cousins (the ones I knew) , and my father, Ira Fleischmann
“Les” (Sylvester) Harris (stepfather)
“Mama” Sarah Epstein Klein and “Papa” Samuel Klein
Mildred “Mimi” Klein Cytron Bright
Stanley Cytron
William Grosblatt and Agnes Pickle Grosblatt
Bea Grosblatt
Samuel Fleischmann and “Yetta” (Gertrude) Grosblatt Fleischmann
Ben Fleischmann and Ruth Fleischmann
Janice Cytron Rosen and Milton Rosen
Melissa “Missy” Rosen and Lisa Rosen
Nancy Fleischmann Levin
Ethel Klein Trost, Florence Klein Switow, Harry, Jimmy and Eddie Klein
Naomi Leonson Wagner

Family Friends, “Aunts” and “Uncles,” and Friends’ Children:
Margie Klearman
Betty Hoffman
Karky Gitlin and Maury Gitlin
Ed Sorg
Aram Gurian
Max Bassinson
Isabell Schwerin-Whyte
Emily Weiss
Harvey Mizes

My First Buddhist Teacher and the Teacher of my Teachers, His Excellence Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche

If I have inadvertently forgotten anyone, please add/include them and forgive my poor memory.

HUGS to all who have lost someone recently or who miss them, still.

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10/2-10/11/16: 10Q: Reflect. React. Renew.: “Life’s Biggest Questions. Answered By You.”

You don’t have to be Jewish or celebrate #Jewish High Holy Days (Rosh Hashona, Jewish New Year’s, and Yom Kippur, the “Day of Atonement”) to want to spend some time considering your life and your goals/accomplishments each year. I was raised Jewish, but I am a practicing #Buddhist.

It’s free! doyou10Q.com and #DoYou10Q are the connection points.

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

The title and all the info, below, come from the 10Q site. Visit! Sign up! Do it!
http://doyou10q.com/

10 Days. 10 Questions.
10-q-logo

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.

doyou10q

Click hereto get your 10Q on.

10Q begins October 2nd, 2016

http://doyou10q.com/


Here are some of mine from 2015 and 2014:
2015

Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?

Your Answer:

I was able to reconnect with my meditation practice in March & May and again in early Sept. through instruction and connection with my spiritual teacher, Lama Drimed, after many false starts, attempts, painful absences and confusions as well as hurt feelings on my part.

So happy about all that!

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

Your Answer:

The upholding of Marriage Equality laws and the enforcing of them across the USA and in other countries feels like a giant victory.

Looser laws, releasing noncriminals from prison when their only “crime” is possession of marijuana, and eventual legalization of marijuana/cannabis use across the USA and other countries also seem imminent, due to the vast success (economic and social) of those places in which it is already legal and those changes have already occurred; another set of great victories.

I appreciate the egalitarians’ winning. I appreciate common sense’s prevailing. I appreciate nondiscrimination’s being enforced. Feels right and good.

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.

Your Answer:

Due to a TBI [Traumatic Brain Injury] in April, 2014, I went from not being able to meditate for almost one year (after meditating consistently for over 42 years) to restoring my practice, slowly, bit by bit. Very grateful to my spiritual teacher, sangha and good fortune that this has been possible.

Returning to my practice is like coming home.

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?

Your Answer:

My meditation teacher reminded me that meditation practice in our tradition comes from our heart center, not our brain area. The Tibetans use a term that means “heart-mind” when talking about the mind.

My wish to improve myself and my practice is to keep it centered in my heart. “Meditation: it’s not what you think.”

2014
Describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. How? Why?

Your Answer:

Many science discoveries: proof of the multiverse, ability to teleport particles, invention of pre-tractor beam technology, getting paralyzed rats and others to walk, moving limbs and other things with just the mind: so much!

Very exciting, and all goes into research I use for The Spanners Series books!

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?

Your Answer:

Fear getting more unhealthy instead of more healthy over the next several years. Fear not getting my full meditation practice/brain function restored. Fear being unconnected to community/friends, no lover, no one close to me where I live.
Plan to keep exercising, eating better, reaching out to Buddhist and other groups (writers, Jews, work) to make friends.
Plan to stay in touch with my teacher.

What are your predictions for 2015?

Your Answer:

Movement toward reducing and ending full-impact football, hockey, etc. (headers in soccer, e.g.), in youth and college sports.

More states’ legalizing marijuana.

More states’ ratifying gay marriage.

Proof of alien life on other planets.

Chagdud Khadro’s 2016 Summer Teaching Tour #Buddhism #Teachings

Chagdud Khadro

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is the American-born widow and former student of Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche who was ordained as a lama as well.

I have been with her many times for teachings with her as Rinpoche’s translator and with her as the teacher. For those who don’t know, Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche passed in 2002, but he was my first empowering lama and my root lama’s, Padma Drimed Norbu (Lama Drimed)’s root teacher.

I first learned P’howa (the practice that includes transferring consciousness intentionally at and after the body dies or helping others do that, including those who are brain dead, already dead, or dying/dead animals) from Chagdud Khadro at a three-day event I organized for Chagdud Lhundrup Ling (A dharma center I helped start) in Maine in 1997: she was fabulous. I had the good fortune to attend several other teachings she gave or translated for Rinpoche or rituals she attended as a lama in New York, New Mexico and northern California between 1997 – 2007. I keenly appreciated her humor, knowledge, insight and compassion.

If you live near or can get to any of these events, these teachings and rituals are rare and precious. They are in the Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhist tradition but made accessible to Westerners who speak English. Well worth your time if you’re already a practicing #Buddhist, a meditator or interested in #Tibetan #Vajrayana #Buddhism.

Spread the word! Donations requested; no one turned away for lack of funds.

Chagdud Khadro’s 2016 Summer Teaching Tour
#Buddhism #Teachings

P’howa Retreat
Reno, NV
July 9 – 10
More Information: http://goodnesssake.org/special_events/special_events.shtml#phowa

Looking into the Mirror of Death to Find Purpose in Life and Peace in Dying
La Jolla, CA
July 11
robertrosson2000 @ yahoo DOT com

Rigdzin Dupa Drubchod
in attendance at Ati Ling/PPI – Cazadero, CA
with Tulku Jigme Rinpoche (Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche’s son)
July 13 – 19
More Information : http://atiling.org/events/102-rigdzin-dupa-drubchod-2016

White Dakini Drubchen
in attendance at Tara Mandala – Pagosa Springs, CO
with Tulku Sang-ngag Rinpoche and Lama Tsultrim Allione
August 7 – 16
More Information: http://taramandala.org/program/white-dakini-drubchen-2/

Looking into the Mirror of Death to Find Purpose in Life and Peace in Dying
at Rangjung Yeshe Gomde – Cooperstown, NY
August 20 – 21
More Information: http://gomdecooperstown.org/august-20-21-chagdud-khadro/

Looking into the Mirror of Death to Find Purpose in Life and Peace in Dying
Syracuse, NY
August 22, 7 – 9 PM
More Information: http://chagdudgonpa.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Syracuse-Flier-Khadro-2016.pdf

Looking into the Mirror of Death to Find Purpose in Life and Peace in Dying
&
Emotions as Obstacles; Emotions as Wisdom
Chapel Hill, NC
August 27 – 28(times vary: check flyer)
More Information: http://chagdudgonpa.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Khadro-NC-FINAL.jpg
cindy.palay@ gmail DOT com


Chagdud Gonpa Foundation
341 Red Hill Rd
Junction City, CA 96048 USA
530.623.2714 ext 126

#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.

Why I #write utopian, #Buddhist-infused, #multiverse #scifi/rom #novels & why you should #read & share them.

Reposted from 10/30/13 and 2/5/15

Writers are often exhorted to write the books we want to read that seem not to exist, yet. I am following that advice with The Spanners Series, especially Volume I, This Changes Everything, which is now PERMAFREE, and also with subsequent volumes (Volume II, This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, released 6/9/14; look for Volumes III and IV in 2015).

I am an avid reader and have probably read hundreds of thousands of books in my 56 years of reading independently and quickly, sometimes devouring ten books a week. If I say books like mine—a series like The Spanners—don’t yet exist, I’m probably correct.

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All buy links, reviews, interviews, readings and more: http://www.sallyember.com/Spanners Look right; scroll down.

Why am I writing #science-fiction/#romance, #Buddhist-infused, #multiverse/#multiple timelines #utopian #novels besides the reason already given? And, why should you read them? Because we live in a deteriorating, or degenerating Age, according to #Tibetan Buddhists (and probably many others I’m not bothering to research right now).

When I first hear this claim, I disbelieve it. Aren’t most things “improving” for humanity? Modern medicine, technology, transportation, knowledge of all types: in the 20th and 21st centuries, we are experiencing incontrovertible advances, mind-blowing progress, right? Plus, that POV is just such a downer!

Why would the Buddha’s followers propose and then Buddhist teachers and scholars maintain such a doom-and-gloom perspective on life? It’s not enough that Buddha focused his teachings on suffering and impermanence? Most Buddhists must be depressed: that’s what I thought.

I could understand why Tibetans, having been living under horrible oppression, genocide and cultural destruction under Chinese rule for decades, would be so pessimistic. But, we’re in the good ole’ USA: things are great here, right?

Not so much. I won’t go into the facts we all know now (even more than ever, thanks to Snodwen and Manning) about how screwed up the USA has been and still is, nor how terrible the economy is here and everywhere. I won’t provide the list. We all know too well the horrors of our modern life. Modern tragedies, however, are actually not even relevant to this discussion.

The “degenerating” part of our Age has little to do with actual external conditions. Our deterioration involves humans’ not being able to learn #dharma, not being able to find qualified and worthy Buddhist teachers, not being able to practice meditation well or at all. The Buddha’s teachings and Buddhists practitioners are what are degenerating, in what is called “The Third Age” or “The Latter Day of the Law.”

You can look this up. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Ages_of_Buddhism

My point is, dystopian futures abound. Most sci-fi writers, even those that include romance in their stories, write of increasingly worsening conditions on and around this planet and across the Universe. They pile on the violence, showing increasing discord, more political and social unrest, deaths and destructions even worse than we have now. We already have too much awfulness for me to want to read about even worse futures.

Enough, already: I believe we need some hope, ideas of how else things could go, whether or not I always believe they will take these turns. Since I can’t find this optimism in the daily news or libraries’ and bookstores’ fiction, I decide to create it. I need this in my personal life, for the USA, for the continent, the water, air and land: I am imagining routes for improvement for the planet and the entire universe.

When I #meditate, especially during a #retreat phase in which I was #contemplating lives of beings in the “God Realm,” it occured to me repeatedly that we live in opulence amid squalor, all over the planet. Beauty smack dab in the middle of ugliness, every day. #Yin and #yang. We do have to “take the good with the bad,” but do we have to emphasize the “bad”?

I do not.

In my novels, even when things are “bad,” there is more good than bad. Buddha teaches often that we have to discern between “good” and “bad” even as we know these are illusory. Many teachings expound on how there is NO “good” or “bad,” no “birth” and no “death,” no “coming” and no “going.”

While you puzzle over that, I’m going to continue my utopian illusions in The Spanners Series. In my current and future multiverses, beings, including humans, will have love, better conditions and dharma: they/we have it all!

Furthermore, I’m going to HOPE—even though we are instructed to meditate partly in order to relinquish all hope and all fear—that YOU read my books and enjoy them as much as I enjoy writing them.

Please let me know! Write your comments here on this and other posts, on excerpts from my novel, and whatever else occurs to you. Let’s converse!

Honoring World #Poetry Day, March 21st, with a review of Ursula K. Le Guin’s latest collection

World Poetry Day is March 21st, 2016: Celebrate Poetry Globally

To honor this day and #Women’s History Month, both, I’m reviewing and discussing some of the poems from one of my favorite poets and authors, fellow #feminist/#Buddhist Ursula K. Le Guin. Her latest collection, Late in the Day: Poems 2010-2014, is a delight.

late in the day real
Late in the Day: Poems 2010-2014, by Ursula K. Le Guin
http://www.ursulakleguin.com/Index-LateInTheDay.html

Ursula K. Le Guin is my favorite writer. No contest. In fact, I wrote a review of another poetry collection early this year, which I enjoyed enormously: https://sallyember.com/2016/01/19/homage-to-and-review-of-ursula-k-le-guins-finding-my-elegy-new-and-selected-poems/ Some of the explanations of my connection to Le Guin are repeated from that post, below.

I have enjoyed, admired, appreciated, envied and learned from her novels, novellas, short stories, essays, and poetry for over forty years. She is about my mom’s age (in her early 80s, now) and still going strong. She is my idol, my mentor, and my role model. I also found out, after reading a recent collection, that she and I share not only a love of writing, speculative fiction, feminism, social justice, pacifism and environmentalism, but also, Buddhism and meditation. Frabjous day!

Poetry is meant to be read aloud. I enjoy reading poetry aloud as if I am the poet, wondering as I hear each word, line, idea, image, stanza, what the poet was imagining and how this exact turn of phrase came to capture it. Knowing how long many poets take to conjure the precise manner in which to describe and evoke every part of their intention, I want to savor it.

I do NOT read in that artificial, almost-questioning (upturned inflection on the end of lines), drawling almost-monotone that many poetry readers make the horrible mistake of using.

No.

I read poetry aloud as if each poem is its own story, because this unique version of that story is interesting, new, and not mine. I use the line breaks and punctuation as suggestions to help me go with the poet’s flow. I smile, I laugh, I pause, I taste the words on my tongue.

Try it. You’ll like it!

In her introduction, Le Guin discusses the interdependent relationships among seemingly inanimate objects (whose apparent lack of sentience she and others challenge), places, humans, animals, life events and circumstances with eloquence and grace. As in all of her public writing and speeches, she has a way of turning things around with her verbal kaleidoscope to inspire us to see things from new perspectives with each turn. Her unique points of view become more accessible as one continues to read and ponder her body of work, which I’ve been doing for over forty years (she’s been writing for over 60).

This collection is divided into eight sections: Relations, Contemplations, Messengers, Four Lines, Works, Times, The Old Music and Envoi, but I couldn’t explain them or why some poems are in one but not another section. I was very impressed, though, with her poems about things, especially kitchen objects. Amazing.

Enough of all that explanatory stuff. You can get that elsewhere and any time. Let’s enjoy some of her poems!

I marked pages of this book with pieces of scrap paper so I’d remember which stanzas, poems, titles, lines caught my heart. Here are some, in no particular order. I sometimes annotate or explain. Find your own parts to love and for your own reasons.

Le Guin has many poems rooted (pun intended) in nature, and those in this collection follow that trend. She is also the child of two anthropologists and somewhat of a social and physical scientist herself. I love this opinion she expressed poetically and eloquently, from the introduction to this volume (excerpted from a speech she gave in May, 2014, at a conference that occurred at the University of California/Santa Cruz, “Anthropocene: Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet”), in which she explained her view of the relationship between poetry and science and why we need both:

Science describes accurately from outside, poetry describes accurately from inside. Science explicates, poetry implicates. Both celebrate what they describe. We need the languages of both science and poetry to save us from merely stockpiling endless “information” that fails to inform our ignorance or our irresponsibility.

By replacing unfounded, willful opinion, science can increase moral sensitivity; by demonstrating and performing aesthetic order or beauty, poetry can move minds to the sense of fellowship that prevents careless usage and exploitation of our fellow beings, waste and cruelty. (p. ix)

One of my favorites from this collection, Constellating, situates relationships between people as if between stars:

Constellating
Mind draws the lines between the stars
that let the Eagle and the Swan
fly vast and bright and far
above the dark before the dawn.

Between two solitary minds
as far as Deneb from Altair,
love flings the unimaginable line
that marries fire to fire.

How beautifully she depicts that intangible bond humans create to connect us which is like nothing else, yet she finds the commonality in constellations.

In The Games, Le Guin manages to indicate our views on aging and reflecting on past accomplishments in a perfect metaphor:

The Games
The crowds that cheered me when I took the Gold,
who were they then? Where are they now?
It’s queer to think about. Do they know how
you look at the hurdles, long before you’re old,
and wonder how you ever ran that race?
I’m not sorry, now all’s said and done,
to lie here by myself with nowhere to run,
in quiet, in this immense dark place.

Definition, or, Seeing the Horse is the type of poem about poetry that I usually eschew. But, one stanza from it is so perfect I have to share it, here, because it perfectly captures the limitations of poetry:

Definition, or, Seeing the Horse
from iii. Judith’s Fear of Naming
To define’s not to confine,
words can’t reach so far.
Even the poet’s line can only hold
a moment of the uncontainable.
The horse runs free.

Le Guin has written many essays, books and articles about the art and craft of writing, but never have I read or heard her convey what she feels about being a writer so well as in this poem, My Job. She lyricizes about writing’s being something she first learned as a child (“I started out as a prentice”) and is still learning. My favorite of her sentiments are these:

from My Job
Sometimes the pay is terrible.
Sometimes it’s only fairy gold.
Then again sometimes the wages
are beyond imagination and desire.
I am glad to have worked for this company.

Two poems, side-by-side in this book (which cannot be an accident), show her wonderful deployment of language and imagery: Sea Hallowe’en and Between. In all of her poems, she demonstrates her mastery of many different poetic forms: rhyming and non-rhyming, exploding into free verse and staying within those more formally ruled for meter, line length, repetition and other constraints. She calls herself a “caperer,” in her essay about her poetic choices and learning to write in various forms in her Afterword, meaning, one who moves among all forms and free verse as she wishes. She also writes here about how a form can “give” her a poem. Fascinating stuff. Love to read about her process.

From Between, I especially admire this final couplet:

A winter wind just whispers where
two winter trees stand tense and bare.

And, from Sea Hallowe’en, who can’t love this whimsical phrasing that ends each of the stanzas?

west to the tide rising,
cold, cold and wild.

a ghost on a north wind blowing
wild, wild and cold.

At best, I am a mediocre poet, despite having been published and won poetry prizes at a younger age, having written songs that were performed, and including my poetry in my science-fiction books as if written by its protagonist, Clara (http://www.sallyember.com/Spanners for more information). I make no claims to being an actual poet if Ursula K. Le Guin is an example. I yield and bow to her and many others for entertaining, informing, inspiring and enlivening us with their use of words and images.

She writes and speaks often about the rewards of writing and art and the politics and capitalism that haunt the industry. This poetry collection is ended with a speech she gave on these topics. The final lines are very moving:

I’ve had a long career as a writer, and a good one, in good company. Here at the end of it, I don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. We who live by writing and publishing want and should demand our fair share of the proceeds, but the name of our beautiful reward isn’t profit. its name is freedom.

Yes.

Ursula K Le Guin photo
image from her website, photo ©by Marian Wood Kolisch

Thank you, Ursula, for sharing your deep and soulful moments with us all. May your contributions to our literary and emotional landscapes always be known as blessings while you still live and after you die, and may all beings benefit.

Find these poems, this and all her other work here: http://www.ursulakleguin.com


For more information about poetic forms and World Poetry Day:

Poetry adds moments of beauty to our everyday lives, connects our emotions in unique ways, and helps people everywhere express themselves in amazing ways. Poetry of all kinds is definitely something to celebrate, so join us in looking around the world for inspiration. In honor of World Poetry Day, we (The New Rivers Press) wanted to share with you some unique global poetry styles.

Ghazal: an ancient form of poetry dating back to 700 CE in the Arab lands, and later Persia. It is fairly intricate, but contains anywhere from 5 to 15 independent couplets that create a beautiful whole, all with lines of the same length, meter, or syllable count. It is an extremely well-known form in Iran, where the 14th-century Persian writer, Hafez, published his famous ghazal collection, the Divan of Hafez. For examples of ghazals and more detailed information, visit http://poets.org or The Ghazal Page.

Haiku: arguably one of the most well-known types of international poetry forms, this form comes from ancient Japan. It consists of three short lines with five, seven, and five syllables each. The subject of a haiku was originally restricted to nature and the seasons, but that later was opened up to many different subject matters. Some of the most famous Japanese haiku writers include Basho (the “saint of haiku” in Japan), Buson, and Issa. For more in-depth history of the haiku, check out Poetry through the Ages or Encyclopedia Brittanica.

Doha: another ancient form of poetry common in India. It is a 24-syllable couplet, typically in Hindi. The lines are split unevenly, with the first line having 13 syllables and the second having 11 syllables. It was made more famous by such poets as Kabir and Nanak at the end of the 15th century and beginning of the 16th century, as well as Goswami Tulsidas, whose work, Ramcharitmanas, is still famous among Hindus across northern India. To find out more about this and many other poetry forms, explore the book A Poet’s Glossary, by Edward Hirsch.
from The New Rivers Press‘ newsletter, Riverine, Volume 3, Issue 7, http://www.newriverspress.com/

Also, the Poetry Foundation has a great website and mobile phone app that can put almost any poem and poet right into your hands any time: http://www.poetryfoundation.org They also put out Poetry Magazine and a poetry podcast.

Video of #Tibetan #Buddhist Center in Brazil that is part of my #Sangha

If there is a companion video to this excellent one of our sister sangha and main center in Brazil, Chagdud Khadro Ling, for Chagdud Gonpa’s Rigdzin Ling in California, our main center, I don’t know of it. If you do, please share! If you’ve already seen this, sorry for the repetition.

Chagdud Khadro Ling temple
Khadro Ling‘s main temple in Tres Coroas, Brazil.

In Portuguese with English subtitles, beautiful photography and informative narration and scenes of #Tibetan #Buddhist practice, shrines, temples, items, meditation and practitioners, this video captures the quality and feeling of the land, buildings, intention, activities–the ambiance–very well.

The center (Rigdzin Ling) I spent so much time in from 1999 – 2008 (first visited in 1989; did up to 11-week-long retreats there, two more that were 6 -7 weeks and several that were 2 – 4 weeks, silent retreats, and several 11-day-long ceremonies/meditation practices, Drubchods) is in northern California between Eureka and Redding, but it looks a lot like these photos and our practices are the same.

RZL Tara House
Rigdzin Ling‘s main temple, Tara House, in Junction City, CA USA

For those who do not know, some background: This is my sangha (spiritual community of practitioners and teachers), started by my original teacher, His Eminence Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, the teacher discussed in this video. Rinpoche passed in 2002. His newest (15th) incarnation/yangshi/tulku is about 10 years old, now.

Chagdud Rinpoche
H.E. Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche in 2001 and his yangshi in about 2009

To give perspective, Rinpoche was a contemporary of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama: they studied with many of the same teachers before the Chinese invaded Tibet and both escaped to India in 1959 as young men. Rinpoche came to the USA (California) in the mid-1980s with his American wife (second), Jane, who became known as Chagdud Khadro (in the video as well). They started building centers along the USA’s West Coast. In 1991, as the video states, they visited South America/Brazil and moved there in 1995.

Tulku Jigme, CTR, Chagdud Khadro, 2001
Tulku Jigme Rinpoche (Rinpoche’s son), Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, and Chagdud Khadro, Brazil, 2001

The person Rinpoche designated to be his spiritual heir and director is my root/main teacher, Lama Padma Drimed Norbu, known as Lama Drimed.

Lama D in forest tsog 2013
Lama Drimed, forest ceremony (tsog), 2013

May all beings benefit, all Lamas live long and continue to teach, and all practitioners continue to meditate and serve all beings.

Watch the video here:

https://youtu.be/S0d5KoF8288

or

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0d5KoF8288

or

For more information: http://www.chagdud.org

Enjoy! Write back with comments, questions! Share!

http://www.sallyember.com is my main site and blog and has info about my Buddhist-themed science-fiction/ romance/ utopian/ multiverse novels, with discount codes and links, reviews, book trailers, more, about the first 3 ebooks and paperbacks in The Spanners Series, as well as posts about my #meditation practice and retreats.

How Do We Know if Our #Meditation Practice is “Working”?

How Do We Know if Our #Meditation Practice is “Working”?

man sunrise meditatiion

So many of us learn to meditate and then wonder: how we are supposed to be able to discern the effects of our practice?

More specifically, how can we tell if we are doing it correctly? Or, how do we know if we are meditating for enough time each day? How do we know whether we have the “right” practices and if these the ones we ought to continue doing?

Many of my Tibetan Buddhist meditation teachers have given talks in which these and similar questions arise. The teachers’ responses are usually to turn it around and ask us practitioners to consider these simple “measures” of our practice’s effectiveness:

  • Am I more patient?
  • Am I angry less often?
  • Does compassion arise in me more often and spontaneously?
  • Am I kinder more often and more easily?

Then, if we are studying with a meditation teacher, we are asked to contemplate these questions:

  • Do I have strong faith in my heart in my teacher and in the dharma?
  • Does my teacher come to my mind spontaneously while I am in a sleep state, while dreaming and/or in times of crisis?
  • Do I have less hope and less fear?
  • Do I experience clarity more of the time?

How are YOU doing, by these measures, with your meditation practice? If the answer to most of these questions is “no,” please find a qualified meditation teacher to discuss your practice with you and get you on the right track.

Maybe you need to meditate more time per day or keep your practice time and session length more consistent. Possibly, you need to “mix it up,” change what you’re doing. Get up and walk or go sit outside, change your shrine or altar around.

If you’re chanting or visualizing, maybe you need to return to calm abiding (shamatha). If you’re unfocused, maybe vipassana or mindfulness practices are better for you for a while.

There are over 80,000 methods of meditation and practice for “taming the mind.” One or more of them is right for everyone at some point, but many of us need to change our practices throughout our lifetimes and changing circumstances.

meditation better than nothing

We need a qualified meditation teacher, someone we can trust to guide our practice and help us keep it fresh and effective. Books and groups are great and support our practice, but nothing takes the place of having a spiritual guide.

It is said that the spiritual teacher that fits us best has the key to open our hearts. Merely to hear the teacher’s name or see his/her face, even in a photo, can have a profound effect. I hope you can find the right one for you.

Here is mine: Lama Padma Drimed Norbu (Lama Drimed).

Lama D laughing 2012
May all beings benefit. May he live long and flourish. May all practitioners be so fortunate as to find your living teachers and be able to study under their guidance.

How to choose a spiritual teacher, what kind to select, and how to know if your relationship is worthwhile and effective as well as healthy? Read my review, then get the excellent, comprehensive book by Alexander Berzin, Wise Teacher, Wise Student: Tibetan Approaches to a Healthy Relationship, on Buddhist Door, from last fall (2015): http://www.buddhistdoor.net/features/wise-teacher-wise-student-tibetan-approaches-h

“Crowdcreators” wanted: Research Topics Included in the The Spanners Series

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Below is a somewhat complete list of the research topics included in my sci-fi/ romance/ utopian series for Youth, New and older Adults, below.

I plan to include some excerpts from already-published Volumes that relate to many of these topics over the next several months as I keep writing (working on Volume IV of X right now).

Will this entice some collaborators for Volumes VIII and IX, I hope? I’m experimenting with “Crowdcreating” these two Volumes!

Volume VIII (YA-oriented: youth writers and those writing for youth) Remaking Ourselves: Change Comes from Within, the Youth Speak [expected release, June, 2019]

The Many Worlds Collective (MWC), a consortium of planet and star systems all around the multiverse, includes Earth in probationary membership (The Transition) since December, 2012, and full membership since January, 2018. Over a thirty-year, increasingly utopian period, Earthers who survive are adapting and adjusting. Although many changes in politics, climate, government and safety are obvious, the most important and significant changes are within each individual Earther, human and non-human.

Volumes VIII and IX share the individual stories of “everyone”―–ordinary people, primates, cetaceans and cephalopods―–as they learn to live in this forever-transformed and transforming multiverse.

Remaking Ourselves: Change Comes from Within, the Youth Speak focuses on stories from young Earthers (ages 11 – 25).


Volume IX (NA/Adults: New and older Adult writers and those writing for NA/Adults) to “Crowdcreate” those two Volumes with me.
Remaking Ourselves: Change Comes from Within, the Adults Speak [expected release, Dec., 2019]

The Many Worlds Collective (MWC), a consortium of planet and star systems all around the multiverse, includes Earth in in probationary membership (The Transition) since December, 2012, and full membership since January, 2018. Over a thirty-year, increasingly utopian period, Earthers who survive are adapting and adjusting. Although many changes in politics, climate, government, and safety are obvious, the most important and significant changes are within each individual Earther.

Volumes VIII and IX share the individual stories of “everyone”―–ordinary people, primates, cetaceans and cephalopods―–as they learn to live in this forever-transformed and transforming multiverse. Those who barely avoid Sequestering are possibly the most interesting of all.

Remaking Ourselves: Change Comes from Within, the Adults Speak focuses on stories from Spanners (ages 26-over 100 years old).


Deadline for responding to me about wanting to write, co-write, or contribute to a Chapter or more in either or both Volumes is January 31, 2017.

Research Topics Included in the The Spanners Series.
What are you particularly interested in or know a lot about already? Comment here: http://www.sallyember.com/blog

Alternate/Parallel Universes and Timelines
Anthropology
Archaeology
Astronomy
Black Holes
Buddhism
Christianity
Cognitive Dissonance
Cosmology
Cultural Anthropology
Dark Energy
Dark Matter
Death/Afterlife
Dreams
Epigenetics
Exoplanets
Gender Identity
History
Human Biology
Judaism
Materials Science
Meditation
Morphic Resonance
Multiverse
Mushrooms
Mysticism
Neurobiology/Neuroscience
Neuroplasticity
Neuroscience
Nonlocality
Ontology
Physical Anthropology,
Political Science
Postcognition
Precognition
Psionics
Psychology
Quantum Physics and Entanglement
Reincarnation
Relationships
Sexual Orientation Identity
Social Change
Sociology
Sono-pictography
Space Travel
Sufism
Telekinesis
Telepathy
Teleportation
“The Butterfly Effect”
Wormholes
Xenobiology

Preorders @50% for #ebook This Is/Is Not the Way I Want Things to Change, Volume III of The Spanners Series

#Preorders @ 50%, $1.99, for 11/1/15—-12-7/15 on #Smashwords, #Kobo, #iBooks and #nook as well as #Amazon is Sally Ember, Ed.D.’s third #scifi/ #romance/ #paranormal #ebook, This Is/Is Not the Way I Want Things to Change, Volume III of The Spanners Series, which releases 12/08/15 @$3.99.

Spanners - volume 3 cover final

Getting 4- and 5-Star #reviews in pre-pub: see snippets from reviews, below and links to reviews on http://www.sallyember.com (look right; scroll down).

Volume III, This Is /Is Not The Way I Want Things to Change
Pre-order and Purchase LINKS HERE
SMASHWORDS (all ebook formats): https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/588331
AND
AMAZON: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0177Z1KRM

Clara, Moran, Espe, Epifanio and the alien Band of holos are back in This Is/Is Not The Way I Want Things to Change of The Spanners Series. The Psi-Defiers launch increasingly violent protests during this five-year Transition, attempting to block Earth’s membership into the Many Worlds Collective. To join, Earth’s nations and borders must dissolve and the Psi-Warriors must prevail in their battles against the rebels.

Clara, continuing as Earth’s first Chief Communicator, also juggles family conflicts and danger while managing and being one of the instructors of the psi skills training Campuses to help Earth through the Psi Wars. Clara timults alternate versions of their futures as the leaders’ duties and consciences force them each to make difficult choices across multiple timelines while continuing to train and fight.

Will the Psi-Warriors’ and other leaders’ increasing psi skills, interspecies collaborations and budding alien alliances be enough for Earth to make it through The Transition intact? If there is no clear path for Clara’s and Epifanio’s love, does she partner with Steve or go it alone?

What do you do with wanted/unwanted changes?

Volume III Book Trailer

REVIEWS of Volume III:
“Because this reads like documentation of actual events, I came away from it feeling like my own little life is petty and trivial and a waste of ‘time.’ Like, I’m not part of The Movement and I ought to run right out and start a victory garden or a recycling program or find an ESP trainer and get started learning how to TK or….
“The entire series is such an astounding creation it amazes me that it’s the production of just one person.”

—Devorah “Dee” Fox, Dee-Scoveries, fantasy/thriller author, journalist, columnist, 9/25/15

http://devorahfox.com

ALSO: Volumes I, II and III are soon available in both PRINT and ebooks versions by 12/8/15!

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This Changes Everything, Volume I, The Spanners Series, is Permafree in ebook format and $POD

This-Changes-Everything----web-and-ebooks

Volume I, This Changes Everything
PERMAFREE ebook LINKS HERE:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HFELTG8   
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/376197

Dr. Clara Ackerman Branon, 58, begins having secret visits from holographic representations of beings from the Many Worlds Collective, a consortium of planet and star systems in the multiverse. When Earth is invited to join the consortium, the secret visits are made public. Now Earthers must adjust their beliefs and ideas about life, religion, culture, identity and everything they think and are. Clara is selected to be the liaison between Earth and the Many Worlds Collective and she chooses Esperanza Enlaces to be the Media Contact. They team up to provide information to stave off riots and uncertainty. The Many Worlds Collective holos: train Clara and the Psi-Warriors for the Psi Wars with the rebelling Psi-Defiers; communicate effectively with many species on Earth and off-planet; eliminate ordinary, elected governments and political boundaries; convene a new group of Global Leaders; and, help Clara deal with her family’s and friends’ reactions. 

In what multiple timelines of the ever-expanding multiverse do Clara and her long-time love, Epifanio Dang, get to be together and which leave Clara alone and lonely as the leader of Earth? This Changes Everything spans the 30-year story of Clara’s term as Earth’s first Chief Communicator, continuing in nine more Volumes of The Spanners Series.

Are you ready for the changes?

REVIEWS for Volume I:
“[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

Volume II, This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, is $3.99 for ebooks and $POD.

final cover print

Volume II: This Changes My Family and My Life Forever [released 6/9/14, Smashwords, Amazon and elsewhere]
Ebook LINKS HERE:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KU5Q7KC
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/424969  

Intrigued by multiple timelines, aliens, psi skills, multiverse romances and planetary changes? Clara and the alien Band of holos are back. As Earth’s first Chief Communicator, Clara leads the way for interspecies communication on- and off-planet and for figuring out how to deal with simultaneous time and multiple timelines in the ever-changing multiverse.

Fighting to support these changes are the Psi-Warriors, led by its reluctant leader, Chief OverSeer Rabbi Moran Ackerman, against the Psi-Defiers, led by one of the oldest friends of the Chief. Moran reveals his struggles and successes with his Excellent Skills Program training experiences on the new Campus and at home.

Stories in This Changes My Family and My Life Forever come from younger Spanners as well as Clara via “Snapshots” of her earlier life with anecdotes from Epifanio Dang, her on/off lover, and Esperanza Enlaces, Earth’s Chief Media Contact, and others about the first five years of The Transition.

What would you do with the changes?

REVIEWS for Volume II:
5 Stars for This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, Volume II, The Spanners Series
“One thing I like very much about The Spanners Series is the message that we can all live together in peace, learn from each other, be there for each other. All differences (religious, racial, gender, and even between species and inhabitants of other planets) are overcome. I mean, how cool would that be to be able to communicate with animals – and not in a jokey, Eddie Murphy-Dr. Dolittle-kind of way, but accept them and their needs / interests as equal to humans? And those people who resist change (yes, there will always be those, even if it is clear that the change is for the better) will not be eliminated, but gently persuaded to recognise what is best for them.”

–Peggy Farooqi, The Pegster Reads, 5/31/14

http://thepegsterreads.blogspot.co.uk

About the Author
Sally Ember, Ed.D., has been passionate about writing since she was nine years old. She’s won prizes for her poetry, stories, songs and plays. She began meditating (right after The Beatles) in 1972.

Now, Sally delights fans of paranormal and romance by blurring the lines between fact and fiction in a multiverse of multiple timelines, often including exciting elements of utopian, multiverse, science fiction and Buddhism. Her sci-fi /romance/ speculative fiction/ paranormal ebooks for New Adult/adult/YA audiences, The Spanners Series, are unique, exciting, thought-provoking and amusing.

Visit her Youtube Channel for book trailers, author readings, and a live Q & A with Sally plus more: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqnZuobf0YTCiP6silDDL2w

Born Jewish on the cusp of Leo and Virgo, Sally’s life has been infused with change. She is a long-time Buddhist meditator who writes, swims, reads and hosts her Google+ Hangout On Air (HOA) CHANGES conversations with authors, LIVE almost every Wednesday (but on hiatus for November & December, 2015), 10 – 11 AM Eastern time, USA. Join in the fun by commenting and asking questions during the live show on G+ or Youtube, or visit archived CHANGES shows: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLPbfKicwk4dFdeVSAY1tfhtjaEY_clmfq

If you are an author or know one, learn more about and get yourself scheduled on or recommend someone as a CHANGES guest: https://sallyember.com/changes-videocasts-by-sally-ember-ed-d

Sally blogs regularly on wide-ranging topics and includes reviews, interviews, guest blog posts, and excerpts from her ebooks. Visit and comment, follow, “like,” and share! http://www.sallyember.com/blog

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 before returning to live in St. Louis, MO, in August, 2014. Sally has a BA in Elementary Education, a Master’s (M.Ed.) and a doctorate in education (Ed.D.).

Interacting With and Finding Sally Online

Please write a review and give Volumes I and II and then this one, III, a rating on SMASHWORDS, iBooks, Kobo, nook, Amazon, whatever retailer you use for ebooks, as well as many other sites that bring readers to this book: Library Thing, Wattpad, Indiebooks, Goodreads, Booklikes, Shelfari, and her blog, http://www.sallyember.com/blog. 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!

Thank you for reading and considering the implications of The Spanners Series. Talk it up! Tweet! Post! Write to Sally! Blog your opinions and responses!

Sally wants her readers to know: ‘”I change my books based on readers’ suggestions! Also, I would be delighted to visit your Book Club or class if you are using one or more of the books in The Spanners Series. Ask me to co-develop curricula, projects and activities for your group/class members!”

You will want to visit on Facebook, where she is known as “Sally Sue Fleischmann Ember,” and has a Spanners Series page: https://www.facebook.com/TheSpannersSeriesbySallyEmber
or her website to find out when the next Volumes will be available.

She is also very active on Google+ as “Sally Sue Ember” and on her Spanners Series page: https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/115730970500394047116/115730970500394047116/about

Follow Sally on Twitter @sallyemberedd and please Tweet about this book and The Spanners Series!

For photos, images, music, bios and other memes relevant to Sally as an author and directly to The Spanners Series, please visit her 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”; CHANGES Episodes; and, “Flora and Fauna that amaze me.” She also puts up promos for her own and other authors’ books on occasion via “Book Billboards ” and other sites favoring Indie Authors. Please follow her Boards on http://www.pinterest.com/sallyember.

News and Other Information

Sally is experimenting with CROWDCREATING sections or upcoming Volumes VIII (for and seeking youth and New Adults) and IX (for and seeking adults) of The Spanners Series. If you’d like to participate by making story or character suggestions, writing a portion or an entire chapter, or collaborating in other ways, please email sallyember at yahoo or ssfember at gmail and tell her a little about what Volume or portion you’d like to help create! Put “CROWDCREATOR” in the subject line.

Must contact Sally by January 1, 2017, for Volume VIII and July 1, 2017, for Volume IX to be considered for inclusion in the CROWDCREATION.

Sally is also running a CROWDFUNDING campaign to get her ebooks into print, improve the audio quality of her talk show, fund the next books covers and cover other expenses on Patreon. Donate $4 or more and get Rewards: a free ebook, discounts on her editing/proofreading/writing tutoring services and more: http://www.patreon.com/sallyember


The Spanners Series‘ covers and logo #art by WillowRaven: willowraven-illustration.blogspot.com

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All published by logo

Wise Teacher, Wise Student: Tibetan Approaches to a Healthy Relationship – Book Review by Sally Ember, Ed.D., featured on The Buddhist Door website

Wise Teacher, Wise Student: Tibetan Approaches to a Healthy Relationship – Book Review by Sally Ember, Ed.D., featured on The Buddhist Door website

Thanks to Frances McDonald and others at The Buddhist Door for this opportunity to be a reviewer for your site! As a long-time student of #meditation (since 1972) and a #Buddhism student since 1996 in the #Tibetan #Vajrayana tradition, I was pleased to review this book.

Anyone interested in knowing more about how to choose a spiritual teacher or mentor and all the varying types of these there can be, how to be in a better relationship with one or more than one teacher, how and why to end that relationship, and what its pitfalls might be, and so much more, would benefit greatly from reading this book and keeping it around to refer to frequently.

Please read this review and support The Buddhist Door!

Berzin book cover

http://www.buddhistdoor.net/features/wise-teacher-wise-student-tibetan-approaches-healthy-relationship-book-review

#Buddhism and Intimate #Relationships: What’s the Deal?

#Buddhism and Intimate #Relationships: What’s the Deal?

staying in love
image from http://indulgy.com

I went on an online hunt for the latest in advice, opinions, experiences and perspectives on this topic, intimate relationships and/or #love, from a #Buddhist perspective, restricting myself to postings from the last twelve months.

NOTE: Buddhists use this definition of “love”: the wish for the one you love to be happy. So, if you love someone, you will do everything you are capable of to help that person achieve temporary and long-lasting happiness—regardless of what loving that person requires of you—unselfishly, unstintingly, the way a parent would strive for a child.

Dalai Lama Love is wanting others to be happy
image from http://peacelovepotager.blogspot.com

Here are what I found and some of my comments and questions about how to be a Buddhist in close relationships.

Next? Your comments!


From the Buddhism Stack Exchange (“a question and answer site for people practicing or interested in Buddhist philosophy, teaching, and practice. It’s built and run by you as part of the Stack Exchange network of Q&A sites. With your help, we’re working together to build a library of detailed answers to every question about Buddhist philosophy, teaching, and practice”), which has a page on Buddhism, marked Beta, with the subtitle from September 2, 2015: “Do buddhists fall in love?”
http://buddhism.stackexchange.com/questions/11266/do-buddhists-fall-in-love

This site provides a lot of info on the various subdivisions of Buddhism, including Theravada, Mahayana and Zen, and Vajrayana. Since I practice Tibetan Vajrayana Nyingma Buddhism, I focused on the responses that seem to be from the Vajrayana point of view.

Several responses were posted, but my favorites are these two, excerpted below.

One writer, Andrei Volkov (“Non-sectarian practitioner in the tradition of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, heavily influenced by Korean Zazen and studies of Pali Canon. Dedicated to serious practice since 1995, and independent of others with regard to the Buddha’s message since 2012”), posted his response to the question posed (with a lot of explanatory material from the questioner that accompanied this question), “Do buddhists fall in love?”

In Vajrayana schools…emotions, including romantic love, are considered a form of energy that can be put to use… Vajrayana would still appreciate the inherent fakeness of love, the mechanical nature of which comes from a match of partners’ stereotypes and preconceptions.

[E]ven if a Vajrayana practitioner could play with the fire both in context of its ego-melting properties as well as for pleasure, they would not take it one-sidedly as an untrained run-of-the-mill person would do….Vajrayana view includes both sacred and illusory aspects of love. In Vajrayana we are trained to see things from all the sides at the same time. Love is both sacred and a giant trick, as far as Vajrayana is concerned.

The predominant Buddhist sentiment here is that being disappointed/disenchanted (= “sober”) is a …healthier state than the state of intoxication by an object of mind. While Vajrayana is 100% aligned with this most fundamental of Buddhist principles, we do allow ourselves to get drunk, both metaphorically with love, and occasionally even literally—–while staying fully accountable for the consequences—–a trait of the universal adult.

I also appreciated this perspective, posted by “Buddho” (gave no bio info):

Modern neuroscience is catching up with Buddhism in this department it appears. Scientists have found romantic love activates the same addictive parts of the brain as cocaine….

…Buddhism likens romantic love to an addiction, an attachment, and a danger.

…However, love…can also be about selflessness, … sacrifice and … self improvement…. This is the raison d’être for the Vajrayana school of romance as a valid path to enlightenment….


Another point of view comes from Bkikshuni Thupten Chödron, teacher, author and Abbess. Ani [Buddhist honorific for a nun] Chödron is a Western white woman who was one of the first to take Buddhist nun’s vows. http://thubtenchodron.org/biography/

Ani Chödron posted a marriage ceremony prayer that she asks the partners say to each other and to their friends and family, which I excerpt, below:
http://thubtenchodron.org/1995/06/wedding-readings-dharma/

…We aspire to make our spiritual path the core of our life together. We will help each other on the path to enlightenment, watering the seeds of love, compassion, generosity, ethics, patience, joyous effort, concentration and wisdom in each other. As we age and undergo the various ups and downs of cyclic existence, we aspire to transform them into the path of love, compassion, joy and equanimity.

…We recognize that external conditions in life will not always be smooth, and that internally, our own minds and emotions sometimes get stuck in negative ways of thinking. When this happens, we aspire to see all these circumstances as a challenge to help us grow, to open our hearts, to accept ourselves, others and life itself; and to generate compassion for all others who are also unhappy or suffering at that moment. We aspire to avoid becoming narrow, closed or opinionated, and will help each other see all the various sides of a situation and to bring acceptance, flexibility and equanimity to it.

…We aspire to remember the disadvantages of ignorance, anger and clinging attachment and to apply Dharma antidotes when these arise in our minds and to help each other do so, also.

…Day to day, as we progress along the path, we aspire to be patient with ourselves and others, knowing that change comes slowly and gradually…

I have attended a few Buddhist wedding ceremonies and heard about others. They usually include a portion of the vows that ends with “until impermanence intervenes” instead of the more traditional and secular “until death do we part.”


I’ve also heard and read Buddhist teachings that indicate one great reason to be in intimate relationships, whether platonic or sexual: when we are in relationship, we see our own minds better and face our challenges daily with ourselves.

I can attest to the experiences I have had with this exact situation from times I have been on individual, silent retreats: as long as I do not interact with anyone (no eye contact, no conversations, no communication of any kind) and, better yet, don’t even encounter anyone else in a significant way, I believe that I am doing “great” with my practice. I am so patient, so generous, so kind, so loving, so compassionate, so able to rejoice in others’ successes and happiness, so calm and so earnest about wanting to alleviate suffering for all beings. Oh, yes. Ahhhh.

On retreat, I am practically a saint….until I am thwarted or confronted with someone’s saying or doing something I don’t want or preventing me from getting what I do want.

Could be that someone puts their shoes where I usually put mine. Sometimes, I have to wait longer than usual for a meal. Perhaps someone stands where I want to stand, preventing me from seeing something I want to see. Maybe someone “takes” “my” parking space.

parkingspot
image from http://www.smilesforall.com

Provoked by the smallest of infractions or distractions, my ordinary mind and all its selfishness, attachment, pride, jealousy, anger and ignorance rear all their heads at once. There go my delusions of equanimity and of Bodhisattva grandeur: shattered!

The only “realization” I can honestly claim to have is this: I am so far from liberated, I can’t even read the sign for “enlightenment, this way —>.”

It seems to be true that the main spiritual advantage to being in an intimate relationship is that we get our spiritual comeuppance every day, many times a day, and can harbor no such illusions about our proximity to “enlightenment.” When we are engaged in intense, personal relationships with others and paying attention to our own minds, whether that occurs with colleagues, a lover/partner or with friends, our tasks are to be grateful for the challenges, to be glad of the opportunities to grow and improve.

Buddhist teachings exhort us to continue focusing our criticisms on ourselves and our generosity on our partners. We learn to see every interpersonal encounter as a chance to “look in the mirror” and see ourselves better rather than “look out the window” and point at or blame others for our confusions, hurts and complaints. We consider our sangha, the other members of our spiritual community, to be our “guide,” which means they show us the nature of our minds merely by being in our lives.

Lao Tsu knowing others knowing ourselves

This does not mean we shouldn’t remove ourselves from an abusive relationship or ignore people who harm us or others. That is a misconstruction of these instructions. Buddhism also doesn’t encourage “co-dependency” while inspiring unselfishness: fine lines, always.

We simply try to maintain our focus on our own minds when we are feeling angry, resentful, proud, jealous, or afraid. We are attempting to see clearly the nature of our emotions as empty—having no substance—and to discover the source of our own suffering as ignorance, on the path to becoming more patient and spontaneously compassionate toward others.

CONCLUSIONS

If we aren’t interacting in any serious way with others, if we have no “skin in the game,” if all our relationships are superficial, short-term, and insignificant, we won’t be inspired to improve ourselves because, as I believe about myself when I’m alone on retreat, we’ll mistakenly conclude that we are “just fine the way we are.”

Are you in any relationships in which you are “all in,” allowing yourself to be completely vulnerable, exposed, authentic? Or, do you hold yourself back, keep some in reserve, never fully commit or reveal yourself? Only by immersing ourselves in an intense human relationship of some kind can we fully learn to understand our own minds and emotions honestly.

Why hold back? None of us lives all that long….

I am not in a close relationship with a lover right now, but I wish I were. I am in close contact with family members and a few friends, but none of those relationships brings the challenges right to my heart/mind that a lover does. Maybe some day, again…

Trouble is, I am very picky and I have a lot of experience, so I am not inclined to be in a relationship just to be in one. Not now.

My personal ads (when I ran them) did not get many relevant “hits.” Could be because these are my criteria and descriptions: “Serious meditators, only. People my age (61) or thereabouts, only. Kind, intelligent, humorous, interesting people only. No drinkers or smokers. One or no pets. No kids at home.”

I’m willing to be with either a woman or man, which opens up the field considerably, but my chosen categories otherwise make my acceptable potentials (and those who might find me appealing) very small. Also, I’m a Buddhist who was raised Jewish, a feminist and a radical, politically. Unless the other person is, also, or has experience with people similar to me, they probably won’t understand or respect me properly, nor I, them.

Then, add in these facts and you’ll see the pool shrinks into one that holds almost zero candidates: I don’t like to shop except for food that we’ll eat, and I prefer organic and food farmers’ markets, when possible. I don’t wear make-up or perfume or dress up readily. I don’t shave. I don’t wear bras. I’m honest. I’m somewhat psychic. I’m short, but people tell me I’m intimidating even when I don’t say a word. I’m a writer, a blogger, and a talk show host who likes to spend a lot of time alone to accomplish these things. I swim a lot, but I can’t hike (bad leg and back). I don’t have much money (yet). I eschew most sports, don’t like gambling, am not pleased with or want to go to most movies.

I get up at 3 AM and go to bed at about 8 PM, although, with naps, I can push the bedtime back a bit. I’m extremely intelligent and highly educated (doctorate), and I’m not as patient as I ought to be with potential partners who are not well-educated, don’t read much, and/or don’t know how to express themselves and/or don’t talk much. I’m very funny and I appreciate humor, but not if it’s disrespectful or implies derogatory opinions of groups or individuals.

I don’t like most movies or TV programs and won’t watch them. I fall asleep at classical concerts (although I like some of that music) and detest opera. I don’t want to attend most plays or public performances, but there are some I really would like to see.

I’m also not a “Barbie doll.” Therefore, I don’t want to be with someone whose main criteria for a lover start with or center on appearance and “fitness.” I appreciate certain physical qualities, but those aren’t my “screen” and I am not interested in people who screen that way.

I want friendship and interest first, love to have a chance and time to evolve, and for sex to occur as we get to know each other, not as the way to get to know each other. I haven’t had sex for over five years. I can wait.

You see the problems, yes?

subset almost nil
image from http://www.cs.uni.edu

If there is anyone at all left in my subset, what are the odds that this person is alive and living within 15 – 20 miles of me in St. Louis, Missouri USA, right now, AND that I would meet up with him/her by chance and s/he would recognize me and I, him/her?

Let me know when you find such a person(s).

The truth is, because I have had dozens of relationships in my life, from those lasting one-night to twenty+ years, and I have an adult child I am close to and love dearly, as I do his partner, and I have many friends around the country and connections around the world, and relational experiences from dozens of years of living collectively, working closely with and living with people, I have the grounds for being choosy. I’d rather be “alone” than be in a relationship that isn’t healthy or spiritually nourishing.


Love isn’t easy. Love doesn’t always offer fun and sex. Love doesn’t usually include roses or violins.

Is love worthwhile? How should a practicing Buddhist (or anyone conscious) best engage in close relationships?

You tell me. http://www.sallyember.com/blog

Featured today on Buddhist Door, Part I of my stories of being a “Reluctant Buddhist.”

Featured today on Buddhist Door, Part I of my stories of being a “Reluctant Buddhist.”

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

Thanks, Frances McDonald and Buddhist Door, for this opportunity.

Look for Part II to go LIVE on 11/13/15, my dear Lama Drimed’s birthday!

May all beings benefit.

Although she won’t listen, I’m giving my 16-year-old self advice: Guest Post on Krysten Lindsay Hager’s blog

Although she won’t listen, I’m giving my 16-year-old self advice: Guest Post originally on Krysten Lindsay Hager’s blog

I turn 61 today, so in a great age inversion, I’m again sending advice to my 16-year-old self: this was originally posted on May 7, 2015, on http://www.krystenlindsay.com/blog/although-she-wont-listen-im-giving-my-16-year-old-self-advice-by-sally-ember-edd. Thanks, Krysten!

Maybe she’ll listen THIS time…?


Dear 16-year-old Sally,

Sally 1971
Sally at 16

From the impossibly ripe old age of 61, I send you/me advice, based on knowing how things turn out for us and recognizing choice points we could decide differently about, if we are so inclined.

If so, given the simultaneous nature of time and quantum physics’ declaration that anything that CAN happen DOES happen, we will make millions of different choices, rendering some of this advice moot. Even so, here we go.

1) Friends
The “cool” kids aren’t better friends. In fact, they’re usually so intent on keeping their “cool” status (which is always precarious) that they can be deceitful, mean-spirited, unfaithful, disloyal and unreliable in every way. Cultivate and BE the type of friend who cares more about being a good friend than anyone’s perceived (and quite temporary) status. Keeping good friends is a lot more important than attaining “cool” status.

Status in high school will be long-forgotten and completely irrelevant as soon as you graduate. Decades after high school is over, you’ll still be friends with the people worth befriending. You won’t even remember the names of those you were so keen to impress at 16 or why you (or anyone) thought they were so “cool.”

Do you still like graphs and diagrams? Here are four quadrants explaining the four types of friendships people can have and where one’s distribution of friends are likely to fall.
—Quadrant 1 (Q1) is in the TOP RIGHT = IDEAL, which are friendships that are Healthy and Enjoyable, both. If you’re lucky, most of your friendships belong here.
—Quadrant 2 (Q2) is in the BOTTOM RIGHT = PROBLEMATIC, which are friendships that are Healthy but Not Enjoyable You can change what you think is “enjoyable,” but you can’t create “healthy” so easily. Change your point of view.
—Quadrant 3 (Q3) is in the TOP LEFT = PROBLEMATIC, which are friendships that are Enjoyable but Not Healthy What makes these “enjoyable”? Really? Cut it out. Get out.
—Quadrant 4 (Q4) is in the BOTTOM LEFT = “COME ON,” which are friendships that are Neither Health NOR Enjoyable if your’re smart, NONE of your friendships belongs here.

Friendship quadrant
image from http://waitbutwhy.com

2) Relationships with Boys (and Girls)
You will mostly be infatuated and not in love. Feelings of attraction, interest, lust, even love are not the same as being “in love,” but they SEEM to be and can fool you. These other feelings can be very strong and important, but they aren’t meant to help you choose a life partner, just a date or a relationship for a few months. Plan accordingly.

Never blow off a good friend (male or female) to go on a date or spend more time with your date or sex partner. Sex partners/dates will change frequently; friends can last a lifetime, if you’re careful and sincere. Be a good friend and you’ll HAVE good friends.

Great litmus test for whether or not your feelings are deep and/or significant for a date/sex partner: imagine that one of you is in a serious car accident and left with injuries that cause that person to become a quadriplegic. Would either of you be loyal and devoted enough to the other to take care of the paralyzed partner for the rest of your lives? You might never have sex again with that person (or, if you’re monogamous, with anyone else, either). You might never be touched again by/touch that person (paralyzed: remember?). You might never sleep in the same bed, never dance together upright, never take walks next to each other holding hands.

NOW: are you still convinced that you’re “in love”? That’s okay. Have a good time, but don’t make life-long promises.

young-couple-man-wheelchair-11763960
image from http://www.dreamstime.com

3) Sex, Birth Control, Sexuality, STDs, Sexual Identity
You don’t need to be in love to have sex. You don’t need to be having sex to purchase/acquire birth control and STDs protection (condoms, pills, IUDs, etc.), and, in fact, DON’T WAIT! If you are even considering having intercourse or fluids-exchanging sex with ANYONE, go to Planned Parenthood or a free clinic or your doctor and find out what your best choices are. BE PREPARED.

It is not romantic, fun, easy or worthwhile to become pregnant at 16 or contract an STD, ever. Get educated. Find out what is contagious, how easy it is to get pregnant even before or without having actual heterosexual intercourse, how quickly and easily fluids can be exchanged that carry diseases between sex partners and be SMART and PREVENTIVE.

If you can’t talk about these things with your potential sex partner, if you can’t take off your clothes and touch each other with some lights on, if you can’t talk about what you like and don’t like regarding sexual touching, YOU ARE NOT READY TO HAVE SEX and/or YOU ARE WITH THE WRONG PERSON. For real. Don’t do it.

90% of sexual pleasure is in your BRAIN. So, if you’re not feeling safe, cared about, respected, listened to, wanted, known, you won’t climax (come; have an orgasm) AND you won’t feel good afterwards about what you’re doing with that person.

Consent must be given and received before having sex, but it is NOT an obligation to give (or get) consent.

Sex WON’T “fix” a relationship, “bring you closer” or make a tentative connection “better.” It’s just sex. You might temporarily feel more connected after having some sexual contact, but when your clothes are back on, you’re back to being yourselves and you’re stuck with whatever relationship you already have.

Having sex doesn’t cause you to become more mature, smart, “cool,” or ready for responsibility. You’re still YOU; you’ve just added sex to the mix and that is usually NOT a good idea at your age. TRULY.

Be honest with yourself. What turns you on? What/which kinds of people? Are you attracted only to certain types of people? One or more genders?

Here are some clues: “Nice” is NOT boring. Meanness doesn’t signify someone with higher intelligence, just a facility with sarcasm. Humor that is unkind reveals a person using it who is not kind. Pretty eyes, a great voice, fascinating hands or other body parts do NOT lead to having a good relationship: a PERSON has to be attached to these features whom you actually like.

Sex aids
image from http://www.nydailynews.com

4) School, Science and Writing You will have some horrible science teachers and some excellent English/writing teachers. Your math teachers will mostly be all right, but not great. Same with social studies and other subjects: good, but not great. Don’t let the qualities of your teacher determine what YOU are interested in pursuing.

You will use writing throughout your life, for almost everything related to education and work. So, continue to improve your writing/editing skills. You will never regret becoming a good writer.

If you love science (or anything else), stick with it, even if the teachers are awful in high school. It gets better in college and beyond. You can also learn on your own throughout your life, so learn how to learn: that is key.

High school is only 4 years of your life: don’t let it define you or your future choices overly much. Right now, high school is one-fourth of your years on earth, but the older you get, the smaller that percentage becomes. By the time you’re thirty, these four years aren’t even one-eighth of your life. See?

Dr. Seuss quote
quote from The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss.

5) Meditation and Religion You won’t feel connected to Judaism, regardless of how many years you are forced to attend religious education classes and how many of your friends and family members are Jewish. That’s all right.

You will find meditation, then Buddhism to be spiritual “home” for you. Say “yes” when your friends offer to bring you to meditation classes. Say “no” when people try to push you into anything that doesn’t feel right to you.

You will have to pave your own way, even though you’re the only one in your family to travel this spiritual path. You’ll be happy with yourself and you don’t harm anyone else, so go for it.

Buddhist meditation pose
image from http://www.opendharma.org

I hope you’ll take these pieces of advice to heart and follow them. If not, you’ll not be any worse off, at least.

Love,

Older Sally


Sci-fi/romance author, former writing teacher and editor and LIVE talk show host of the almost weekly G+ HOA/Youtube videochat, CHANGES conversations between authors, Sally Ember, Ed.D., is my guest blogger today.

Profile pic fewer distractions 2015

“I have been passionate about writing since I was nine years old, when I wrote and published my first story, a fairy tale about an inquisitive princess (see? I started out autobiographical). Always competitive, I’m absurdly proud that I won prizes for my poetry, stories, songs and plays early in life. Did I use up my creativity good karma too soon?

“I was born Jewish on the cusp of Leo and Virgo, which seems to mean that my life has been infused with change. Currently, I meditate, write, swim, read and host CHANGES most Wednesdays, 10 – 11 AM Eastern time, USA, in St. Louis, Missouri. I have one older brother and two younger sisters (none lives in St. Louis but we’re in close contact) and I used to have seven step-sisters and two step-brothers (we’re not in touch).

“I began meditating at age 17 with Transcendental Meditation (T.M., like the Beatles) and have been meditating for over 40 years. I became a Buddhist in 1996 (in this lifetime, anyway).

“In my ‘other’ professional life, I have 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 before returning to live in St. Louis, MO, in August, 2014. I have a BA in Elementary Education, a Master’s (M.Ed.) and a doctorate in education (Ed.D.).

“I enjoy blurring the lines between fact and fiction in a multiverse of multiple timelines, often including exciting elements of utopian science fiction and Buddhism. My sci-fi /romance/ speculative fiction/ paranormal/ multiverse/ utopian/Buddhist-infused, Jewish-themed ebooks for New Adult/adult/YA audiences, The Spanners Series, which are unique, uplifting, intriguing and challenging, according to readers. Vol I, This Changes Everything, is now FREE everywhere since Vol II, This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, released June, 2014. Look for Vol III, This Is/Is Not the Way I Want Things to Change, in 2015, and Vol IV – X in subsequent years; about two per year is the plan.

“I have one son, Merlyn, who is a computer network engineer and musician. Merlyn, my sisters, my mom and several friends serve as my beta readers and sounding boards for much of my writing and also contribute ideas and characters for my books, as do others in my family and friendship circles (voluntarily or not). The stories in The Spanners Series are completely true and all these characters and situations exist in some timeline or another.

“Since I alternate the POVs and focus on characters and situations to feature those who are younger/YA/NA for even-numbered Volumes of The Spanners Series and feature older adults (primarily) in odd-numbered Volumes, I plan to ‘crowdcreate’ Volume VIII with younger writers and Volume IX with those closer to my age (older adults). I invite readers to submit to me your ideas and suggestions and/or volunteer to collaborate in other ways for either of these Volumes (your choice) no later than January 31, 2016. sallyember AT yahoo DOT com

logoAuthorsDen

“I am also a some-time editor/proofreader, infrequent reviewer (but PLEASE do not send me your books or requests; I choose what to review and I rarely do it since I focus on writing and hosting), frequent blogger and talk-show host, so I geared the ‘rewards’ for my Patreon Crowdfunding campaign to be useful to those who choose to donate (as little as $4 gets a donor something). The Patreon page features videos of me singing (a capella; be nice) an original song about my campaign and describing the campaign goals and rewards. Link is below.

“I blog regularly on a wide range of topics and I also include reviews, interviews, guest blog posts, and excerpts from my ebooks. Visit and comment, follow, ‘like,’ and share.” http://www.sallyember.com/blog

BOOK BLURBS:

Volume I, This Changes Everything, The Spanners Series, by Sally Ember, Ed.D., PERMAFREE

This-Changes-Everything----web-and-ebooks
Dr. Clara Ackerman Branon, 58, begins having secret visits from holographic representations of  beings from the Many Worlds Collective, a consortium of planet and star systems in the multiverse.  When Earth is invited to join the consortium, the secret visits are made public. Now Earthers must adjust their beliefs and ideas about life, religion, culture, identity and everything they think and are. The MWC selects Clara to be the liaison between Earth and the Many Worlds Collective and she chooses Esperanza Enlaces to be the Media Contact. They team up to provide information to stave off riots and uncertainty. The Many Worlds Collective holos train Clara and the Psi-Warriors for the Psi Wars with the rebelling Psi-Defiers, communicate effectively with many species on Earth and off-planet, eliminate ordinary, elected governments and political boundaries, convene a new group of Global Leaders, and deal with family’s and friends’ reactions. In what multiple timelines of the ever-expanding multiverse do Clara and her long-time love, Epifanio Dang, get to be together and which leave Clara alone and lonely as the leader of Earth? This Changes Everything spans the 30-year story of Clara’s term as Earth’s first Chief Communicator, continuing in nine more Volumes of The Spanners Series. Are YOU ready for the changes?

Volume II, This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, The Spanners Series $3.99

51-N7O96ZSL._UY250_
Intrigued by multiple timelines, aliens, psi skills, romance and planetary change? Clara and the alien “Band” are back in Volume II, This Changes My Family and My Life Forever. Now as Chief Communicator, Clara leads the way for interspecies communication on- and off-planet. Fighting these changes are the Psi-Defiers, led by one of the oldest friends of the Chief of the Psi-Warriors, its reluctant leader, Rabbi Moran Ackerman. Stories from younger Spanners about the first five years of The Transition fill Volume II. How would YOU do with the changes?

LINKS:
WordPress Blog and main Website: http://www.sallyember.com
Tumblr: http://sallyember.tumblr.com/
Twitter: @sallyemberedd
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/sallyember
FB Spanners Seriespage: https://www.facebook.com/TheSpannersSeriesbySallyEmber
Personal Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sally.ember (Sally Sue Fleischmann Ember)
Google+ Spanners Series page: http://goo.gl/tZKQpv
Personal G+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+SallySueEmber
Youtube Channel: The Spanners Series books’ trailers, author readings, CHANGES shows and more:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqnZuobf0YTCiP6silDDL2w/videos?view_as=public
Patreon Crowdfunding Campaign: http://www.patreon.com/sallyember
Amazon Author Central: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Ember/e/B00HEV2UEW/
Amazon ebooks’ pages:
Vol I: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HFELTG8
Vol II: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KU5Q7KC
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SallyEmber
Vol I: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/376197
Vol II: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/424969
Kobo:
Vol I: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/this-changes-everything-3
Vol II: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/this-changes-my-family-and-my-life-forever
Barnes & Noble nook:
Vol I: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/this-changes-everything-sally-ember-edd/1117444256?ean=2940045417921
Vol II: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/this-changes-my-family-and-my-life-forever-sally-ember-edd/1119080804?ean=2940045805957
iBooks/iTunes:
Vol I: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/this-changes-everything/id746840776?mt=11&ls=1
Vol II: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/this-changes-my-family-my/id853674553?mt=11
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7237845.Sally_Ember
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/sallyemberedd/en
Wattpad: http://www.wattpad.com/myworks
Library Thing: http://www.librarything.com/profile/sallyember
BookLikes: http://sallyember.booklikes.com/
Shelfari: http://www.shelfari.com/authors/a1002726320/Sally-Ember-Ed-D-/books
Authors’ Database: http://authorsdb.com/authors-directory/5338-sally-ember-ed-d

Covers and Logo Art by Aidana Willowraven: http://www.willowraven-illustration.blogspot.com/

Archived CHANGES conversations between authors LIVE shows: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLPbfKicwk4dFdeVSAY1tfhtjaEY_clmfq 
Authors can learn more about and get yourselves scheduled on as guests:  https://sallyember.com/changes-videocasts-by-sally-ember-ed-d/ 

Bisexual, Female, Western and Buddhist: There are a lot more of us than you might think!

Bisexual, Female, Western and Buddhist: There are a lot more of us than you might think!, by Sally Ember, Ed.D.: written in response to Black, Bisexual, and Buddhist: Zenju Earthlyn Manuel is not afraid to embrace who she is. by Kimberly Winston, August 05, 2015
http://www.tricycle.com/blog/black-bisexual-and-buddhist

Zenju Earthlyn Manuel relates that she “often sees surprise in the faces of the students as she is introduced.” She believes this is due to the fact that “she doesn’t look like many of them expect. She isn’t Asian. She isn’t a man. And she isn’t white.”

ZenjuPic4
Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, photo from TRICYCLE article in online Buddhist magazine, http://www.tricycle.com/blog/black-bisexual-and-buddhist

She recently published: The Way of Tenderness: Awakening Through Race, Sexuality, and Gender, known here as “her second book of dharma, or Buddhist teachings, published in February by Wisdom Publications. In it, Manuel, who follows the Zen tradition, calls on Buddhists not to ignore those ways they may be different, whether it’s because of their color, gender, or sexual orientation.”

She and others call this idea a “‘multiplicity of oneness’—–[which] is somewhat controversial within Buddhism, where the teachings have tended to focus on moving beyond the physical to find the spiritual. But Manuel and a handful of other Western Buddhists—–including a number of African-American teachers–—are embracing the idea as crucial to enlightenment, a state free from anxiety that is the ultimate goal of Buddhism.”

Manuel and I have a lot in common, so I felt moved to respond to this article about her and her teaching, her writing and her spiritual life. I resonate with some aspects; others are quite different for me.

Manuel is 62; I am about to be 61. That means we are contemporaries who are natives of the same country.

She reports that she “has had a multiplicity of lives, all of which inform her work.” My C.V.—my academic and total resume—is over seven pages long. I have also moved over thirty times, having lived in states on both coasts, the midwest and the southwest of the USA. These varied aspects of my professional and personal lives must constitute a “multiplicity,” don’t you think?

Her personal history includes “violence, poverty and prejudice,” which my life contains, also. Heavier on the violence and prejudice than the poverty, for me, but all were there.

Manuel states that she has “been an activist since the tumultuous 1970s”; I started being a vocal, active feminist activist while still in grade school, moved into anti-war and anti-nuclear power activism, continued with feminism and got into reproductive rights activism and other issues as well. I started earlier by about 10 years, but then we both kept on keeping on.

Manuel says that she “has also known fear and rejection because she is bisexual,” but I mostly do not have that experience, perhaps because I didn’t “come out” publicly as bisexual until the 1990s, when it seemed almost no one cared anymore and I was a confident adult with a supportive community and family. I did lose a female friend in college in the early 1970s when I clumsily invited her to be my lover, but usually I did not experience either rejection or fear due to my sexual orientation. Not everyone I approached agreed to be my lover, but their rejections had nothing to do with my being attracted to both genders. So, our lives diverged there significantly.

She “was raised a Christian but discovered Buddhism in 1988,” whereas I was raised Jewish and discovered Buddhist in the early 1980s. However, I had already been meditating in the Transcendental Meditation (T.M.) tradition since 1972. Similar, but not the same, here.

Mostly, though, we share significant components of our cultural, personal and historical location and background. The major difference is that she is Black and I am White/Anglo. Our other intersecting social identities create affinities that few other commonalities could, especially since our experiences led us both to become immersed seriously and deeply in Buddhist practice.

Appallingly, however, she had the misfortune to have had a couple of Zen teachers who “suggested if she ‘dropped the labels’ of ‘African-American,’ of ‘bisexual,’ of ‘woman,’ she would ‘be liberated.’ That is ridiculous and has nothing to do with authentic Buddhism. I’m sorry she had those teachers or allowed them to affect her. Obviously, by trying to accomplish this (the impossible), she was not “liberated.” Furthermore, these attempts did not ease her suffering; in fact, she reported that she became more unhappy.

Eventually, she discovered on her own what Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism (my tradition) has always taught: embrace everything, cling to nothing. While bushwhacking her own path through Zen traditions that were not friendly to her, she arrived at, in her words: “’complete tenderness’—–the experience of walking through her pain, knowing it, living with it, but not being controlled by it—–by confronting her suffering caused by her upbringing and identity as an African-American bisexual woman.”

I challenge this idea, though, that her suffering was “caused” by her identities at that point. I would conclude instead that her suffering was exacerbated early in her Zen journey by the ignorance and arrogance of those Zen teachers who misdirected her, then aggravated by her willingness to follow their misdirections for too long. It isn’t who she was that was the problem; it’s he ways a few teachers positioned who she was with respect to her spiritual path that caused her pain.

Despite being misled by some teachers, Manuel continued within Zen all the way to becoming ordained as a Zen Priest, when she was “given the name ‘Zenju,’ which means ‘complete tenderness.’” She now leads a small, all-female sangha that meets where she lives, in Oakland, California (near San Francisco), many of whom are also identifying as women of color.

I’m glad she found a way through all that, but it was so unnecessary. There are many USA-based Zen sanghas, some right near her that I am personally aware of, in which she would not have had those experiences. We could say it was her karma to have had those encounters, and we’d be correct, since everything we experience is always due to our karma.

But, it is not inherent to the nature of Zen or Buddhism to treat students in those ways. I need to emphasize this truth, since it appears from this Tricycle article and perhaps her book (I haven’t read it, so I’m not sure) that it is inevitable that students of backgrounds similar to hers will encounter prejudice and extreme difficulties due to their social identities everywhere they go in Buddhist communities. Simply not true.

I have observed, though, that too many Buddhist communities in the USA and Canada are populated by a disproportionate number of middle- and upper-class Whites/Anglos in comparison to the number of participants from other ethnicities and class backgrounds. I’m glad to say that these imbalances have been recognized by most leaders and other members: many sanghas are doing extensive outreach to rectify them.

I don’t know if Manuel’s Oakland Zen sitting group is deliberately all women or intentionally mostly women of color; perhaps it is open to everyone, but her being who she is, as the teacher, attracted more practitioners similar to her. That does happen, that spiritual teachers attract students who see themselves as similar to their teachers.

The only similarity that actually matters, though, is that we are all human and we all need to train our minds, develop more compassionate hearts, and liberate ourselves from delusions that cause suffering. Therefore, I believe deliberately segregating ourselves by gender, class, background or any other social identity is a mistake when it comes to creating and maintaining spiritual community. I know there are specific occasions when such segregation can be useful or necessary, but mostly, let’s not.

Clearly, the Buddhist path works well for Manuel and she believes it can work well for other women of color, bisexual or not. In that, we agree.

The Buddha supposedly taught over 84,000 types of meditation so that each individual who wants to practice will be able to find a path that works. In a large enough community with sufficient numbers of paths and teachers, I’m sure that is possible: everyone who wants to learn to meditate in the Buddhist tradition could do so.

Northern California, USA, is such a locale, with dozens or even hundreds of Buddhist teachers and sangha options scattered throughout the rural, suburban and urban areas, each slightly or very different from the other. I used to live there and I miss it a lot.

St. Louis, Missouri, USA, is not such a locale. It is not bereft entirely of Buddhists or Buddhist communities, but there is none in my exact tradition. I find that I am not so interested in attending the groups that are dissimilar. I enjoy meditating on my own just fine. I do miss my sangha and those important, guiding interactions, but not enough to join some other group, yet.

Meanwhile, this female, bisexual Buddhist who was raised Jewish and is White/Anglo is meditating and attempting to liberate in this lifetime alongside or including, but not despite, my social identities. I am lucky to have occasional conversations with my spiritual teacher, Lama Padma Drimed Norbu, by telephone, and regular contact with geographically distant sangha members via SKYPE, social media and email.

May all beings benefit. I wish you all the best in your practices.

Buddha thinking creates happiness

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

“Top 10 Scientific Benefits of Compassion” for #1000Speak for Compassion day

“Top 10 Scientific Benefits of Compassion” is a reblog from Emma Seppala from December, 2013, that is still very timely.

http://www.emmaseppala.com/top-10-scientific-benefits-of-compassion-infographic/

Excellent! Everyone and the planet and all beings benefit!

Kindness Blog

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#Writing as Excavation of the Soul

Repost from 12/2/13

For me, #writing fiction and poetry always involves digging up artifacts and dirt. My own and others’ buried treasures, junk, secrets and lies are uncovered, examined, deemed worthy “as is” or refurbished, cleaned up and presented within the text.

Writing #ClaraBranon, as her and about her, is the most autobiographical fiction I’ve ever written. I decided to gift Clara with most of my own “stories” and history, to see what would happen when a version of me is involved in the circumstances and relationships Clara encounters. It’s a roller-coaster for me, delving into my own life to pull up people, events, emotions, reactions, wishes, fears, griefs and successes and foist them onto Clara.

Usually, she does a lot better than I do or I already have with these events and has a much higher “success” rate with her conversations and intimacies than I can claim. In many ways, I feel envious of her. I also do not want her life, especially the public part. But, I do sometimes wish I had her personal strength and courage.

Oh, wait; I do. I must. I also have her creativity, the fire that burns within her, since I gave it to her. Of course I do.

Then, why is it so much easier to see this in Clara than in myself? I believe I make a character in my own image and deliberately make her better than I am only to discover that she can’t be better than I am because I made her. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the whole “God-made-humans-in-‘His’-own’-image” story has similar issues, yes?

As a fiction and poetry creator, as a #Buddhist well aware of the illusory nature of all phenomena, as a fabricator and dreamer, I am well aware of the fantasies I make into a semblance of reality with each paragraph or stanza I put into words. I paint pictures of scenes, drawing upon deep emotional bonds and reactions in order to do it, but we all know none of this is “real.” Right? Except for the parts that are true, that is.

The exhilarating, terrifying ride of writing one’s own stories in whatever forms is that others are going to read them and get to know things about me and my inner world I would never tell them, otherwise. My best defense, then, is to mix these true tales with pure fiction.

Sometimes serving up this admixture seems to be a cop-out move on my part, as I feel a taunting voice within me saying: “Na, na: you can’t know me! You don’t know what parts of this are ‘mine’ and which are completely made up. So there! Try and figure it out. I’ll never tell!”

This is the gauntlet every writer throws down to one’s readers: “Catch me, if you can!”

I do leave breadcrumbs for your journey, especially on Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/sallyember and here in my blog posts. Happy treasure hunting, readers!

Please let me know what you find and what labels you decide to put on each trinket. We can compare later. Start with Volume I, This Changes Everything (NOW FREE) and ask: “Who is #EpifanioDang?” Move on to “Are there really #aliens coming or already here from the #ManyWorldsCollective?”
http://www.sallyember.com for buy links, reviews, interviews and more. Look right; scroll down.

Continue with a chapter-by-chapter analysis of world history, politics, biology, religions, the arts and meditation and keep going: The Spanners Series has so much to offer you, including Volume II, This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, which released 6/9/14, and Volumes III and IV coming out in 2015!

Enjoy! Write Reviews! Share!

Never-before-released Autobiographical Info about ME in Today’s Feature

Look who’s featured on today’s “Wednesday Writer’s” slot on Jnana Hodson​’s site? ME!

Never-before-released autobiographical info about ME in today’s feature!

Please visit, comment, follow:

https://frugaljnana.wordpress.com/2015/02/04/1812/

#Buddhism and #Science: the Facts, the Yogis, the Practices

A repost from 1/30/14 from my own blog.

quantum-buddha-side

The above image is entitled “Quantum Buddha,” and it captures the essence of this post: the intersection of Buddhism and modern science. Meditation as medicine, mindfulness for many purposes, research data to support their usefulness seem to be in the headlines almost daily. Some links are below to articles like that.

http://ideas.time.com/2014/01/17/we-need-to-take-meditation-more-seriously-as-medicine/

Being called The Third Metric, and The Way of the Future for politics, leadership, business and family life, mindfulness is now almost mainstream.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/21/third-metric_n_4612396.html

Will meditation cure your depression? Your cancer? Your diabetes? Your stress?

http://www.wildcat.arizona.edu/article/2014/01/heat-the-body-heal-the-mind

What are the facts? What is true? What is correct? How do you know?

Einstein and Buddhism

There was recently a forum on meditation led by the actor, Goldie Hawn, at a World Economics conference!

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-20/at-davos-rising-stress-spurs-goldie-hawn-meditation-talk.html

You decide, after learning to meditate, researching via personal experience as well as reading and watching videos, attending conferences and talking with others, what YOU believe. The Buddha would want you to do that. Really.

reject buddha Dalai Lama

When you have time and want to learn a lot more, watch this amazing documentary. Yogis of Tibet.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DctQTDm-HdU

**** for This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, Vol II of The Spanners Series

**** for This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, Vol II of The Spanners Series! by Sally Ember, Ed.D.

Review by: Brenda McCracken on Nov. 09, 2014: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/424969

and

http://www.amazon.com/Changes-Family-Forever-Spanners-Series-ebook/dp/B00KU5Q7KC/ref=cm_aya_orig_subj

I found this to book to be a very imaginative and creative story. Ms. Ember’s Jewish faith shines through her characters in this book. This is the first I have read from the series and I found the uses of telepathy within her characters and the plot interesting. I love sci-fi and fantasy and this is the real deal. Although I disagree with the cover art. As someone who has dabbled with Poser and Daz, those characters on the cover give me the willies. No offense!

Thanks for the review, Brenda! Glad you enjoyed it, but I LOVE the cover art, by Aidana Willowraven!

final cover print

Volume II is available everywhere ebooks are sold (links on http://www.sallyember.com on the right of every page) for $3.99.

Volume I, This Changes Everything, is FREE! Good idea to start with this one!

This-Changes-Everything----web-and-ebooks

**** for This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, Vol II of The Spanners Series

**** for This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, Vol II of The Spanners Series! by Sally Ember, Ed.D.

Review by: Brenda McCracken on Nov. 09, 2014: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/424969

and

http://www.amazon.com/Changes-Family-Forever-Spanners-Series-ebook/dp/B00KU5Q7KC/ref=cm_aya_orig_subj

I found this to book to be a very imaginative and creative story. Ms. Ember’s Jewish faith shines through her characters in this book. This is the first I have read from the series and I found the uses of telepathy within her characters and the plot interesting. I love sci-fi and fantasy and this is the real deal. Although I disagree with the cover art. As someone who has dabbled with Poser and Daz, those characters on the cover give me the willies. No offense!

Thanks for the review, Brenda! Glad you enjoyed it, but I LOVE the cover art, by Aidana Willowraven!

final cover print

Volume II is available everywhere ebooks are sold (links on http://www.sallyember.com on the right of every page) for $3.99.

Volume I, This Changes Everything, is FREE! Good idea to start with this one!

This-Changes-Everything----web-and-ebooks

#Injuries to the #Mind, #Brain and #Psyche that Cause Difficulties with #Meditation

I have been noticing, since the fall that injured my brain via a #concussion in early April, that I have had unusual and unique (to me) difficulties with meditation (and life) ever since. Add to this several other “injuries” to my mind and psyche due to: disastrous #heartbreak; a difficult #move cross-country (i.e., getting rid of almost everything, going far away from my spiritual/ meditation teacher and spiritual community/ sangha to relocate to my childhood hometown); long-term, chronic #unemployment; disappointing #ebook sales (due to my having been incapacitated during key #marketing time after my accident); unexpected and painful changes to my #health; turning 60, which have led to my noticing many other problems with my #meditation practice in the last several months that I’ve never had before this (I’ve been meditating since 1972 and doing this practice since 1999).

I think, under these circumstances, which would put me over the top on any stressors test, I am doing quite well. However, I want to meditate, not just do well. Why does my mind keep skittering away from my focus when I try to meditate? What is happening in this brain/mind of mine? I have done many retreats, some as long as eleven weeks, and never had anything like these problems before. My talks with other meditators without brain injuries confirmed that only we injured seem to have these types of difficulties.

But, why? And, what to do about them?

I kept hearing this quote as I continued my attempts:

meditation better than nothing

I pray that this is true….

Since I am a life-long researcher and the internet provides endless opportunities for me to look for “answers,” I looked around for others’ stories, cautionary tales or suggestions. I wanted to find more injured meditators I could commiserate with or teachers who could offer me advice.

What did I find? See below.

Not surprisingly, when I looked for links between “stress” and “meditation,” I found millions of links (17,700,000) referring to the help that meditation provides us when we’re stressed. Meditation for stress reduction, managing stress, alleviating stress, etc., abound on the internet and elsewhere.

NOT ONE article or study to be found that discusses how stress impacts meditation. Really? Really.

Here was my “path”:
“Searches related to meditation problems life stressors” which then provided these other key word strings:

  • meditation for stress

  • meditation for stress relief

  • guided meditation for stress

  • meditation for stress and anxiety

  • meditation for stress management

  • meditation depression

  • meditation for stress or sudden shock

  • meditation for stress and anger

Frontal lobe meditation before and after

image from: http://www.paramyogaindia.wordpress.com

I also tried: “Searches related to impact of stress on meditation,” which yielded about 6 million results, but always in the reverse: how meditation helps with stress.

Okay. I must be going about this all wrong. I tried the verbal “OKAY GOOGLE” command and asked: “OKAY GOOGLE: Why am I having trouble meditating?”

I got 1,020,000 results, but these all revolved around problems “beginners” have with “monkey-mind,” or problems many have with setting aside time, being consistent, staying with meditation once they start, etc. I couldn’t look at all one million results, but the associated key word strings confirmed my suspicions: OKAY GOOGLE still did not understand my problem.

Google did offer other choices (some quite hilarious, under the circumstances):

“Searches related to why am I having trouble meditating”:

  • i am having trouble pooping

  • i am having trouble getting pregnant

  • i am having trouble sleeping at night

  • i am having trouble breathing

  • i am having trouble breathing and my chest hurts

  • i am having trouble swallowing

  • i am having trouble breathing deeply

  • i am having trouble logging into my facebook account

I even tried getting more specific with OKAY GOOGLE, asking: “Why does my concussion make it hard for me to meditate?” This query led me to even stranger associations than before, including recommendations for those with concussions to meditate to help heal from their concussions.

Huh?

I don’t know whether to be flattered or to cry when this also had my own article from my blog post in May as the number 3 listing among 11,000,000 results:

concussion | Sally Ember, Ed.D.

sallyember.com/tag/concussion/

May 2, 2014

If I’m one of the “experts,” here, we’re all in trouble.

Don't follow me I'm already lost

image from http:///funny-pictures.picphotos.net

So, I was going to give up on finding “help” but then I tried this search string: “research meditation frontal lobe injuries” and hit the jackpot.

First, this quote (unattributed) kept appearing: “Meditation is a frontal lobe activity,” which affected me deeply. My accident, for those who don’t know, involved my hitting a wall face-first, breaking my nose and impacting my forehead, behind which is the frontal lobe.

Here are some selected quotes from the best article I found, from the UK, that clarifies a lot about the functions of the frontal lobe, its effects on and participation in the activity of meditation, and many other aspects of my experience: very illuminating and helpful.

Case study on function of the frontal lobe

“The frontal lobes play a major role in the regulation of our emotions and behaviour as well as planning, decision making, social conduct, and executive functions. They are vulnerable to damage… [and] are thought to be our emotional control centre [sic; UK spelling] and home to our personality.”

“The frontal lobes are vulnerable to injury and damage due to their location at the front of the skull and their ample size. Magnetic Resonance Imaging studies have revealed that the frontal area is the most frequent region of damage following brain injury (Levin et al., 1987). Statistics show that there is no other component of the brain in which impairment can cause such a wide array of symptoms (Kolb and Wishaw, 1990).”

This began to intrigue me, especially the part about the “wide array of symptoms,” which I can attest to experiencing. Some of my “symptoms” have seemed to be unclearly connected to the concussion until I read more of this article.

“The frontal lobes are involved in problem solving, spontaneity, memory, language, initiation, judgement [sic; UK spelling], impulse control, social cognition (Benson, 1996) and sexual behaviour. Motor function is also seen to be controlled by the frontal lobes (Leonard et al., 1988).”

I have noticed my balance is off, my proprioceptors are off, my sense of security on my feet is reduced, but until I read this, I wasn’t sure if I was suffering from a bit of PTSD and wariness about falling again or actually having trouble. The latter, I believe now, is the case.

“Broca’s Aphasia has also been linked with frontal lobe damage (Brown, 1972). It is supported that frontal lobe damage has an effect on memory and attention (Stuss et al., 1985).”

Ding ding ding: points for all. Unfortunately.

“Mesulam (1986) pointed out from his studies, that some people who have suffered frontal lobe damage show impairments in their everyday life; however they show little or no impairment on clinical neurological assessment tests….[One injured patient was] unable to make decisions and plan…often unable to make simple everyday decisions, such as which toothpaste to buy, what restaurant to go to, or what to wear even after endless comparisons and contrasts Damasio (1985)….This may be characterised as a failure of future memory, the ability to encode delayed intentions, and act on those intentions when the appropriate time arrives.”

Usually I am extremely decisive. Even when there are complex factors, even when I feel ambivalence: before this accident and its injuries to my brain, I was considered a person others could rely on to make the choices they could or would not make. Since then, I have had hesitation, confusion, bewilderment, inability to weigh costs and benefits and many other unusual reactions to being asked to choose even the simplest things. Now I know the reasons for this befuddlement. Good.

“Interestingly, some patients who suffer from frontal lobe damage often do not show any defects on neuropsychological tests. However, when observed in unstructured real world settings, patients frequently demonstrate cognitive difficulties, neurobehavioral symptoms, and deficits in their executive functions.”

I would say, without a doubt, that the most severe deficit to my executive functions has been first my complete inability and then my reduced ability to meditate, since meditation has become the foundation for all the thinking, choosing and behaving in my life via values, personality and habit changes.

TBI as a puzzle

image from: http://www.brainline.org

I can see ways I’ve regressed since the accident and these are disturbing in deep and superficial ways. I’m more impatient, more quick to anger, easily provoked to sadness or hurt. I hide it from those close to me but take it out on customer service representatives of mega-corporations which happen to provide terrible service. Not proud of this at all.

“Studies have found high frontal lobe activation during meditation (Herzog et al, 1990; Lazer et al, 2000).”

IF I COULD MEDITATE, I would, also. I miss meditating so much. But, now I know a bit more about the reasons for my difficulties.

I hope this post and the rest of this article (link, below) help others in similar predicaments.

http://www.ukessays.com/essays/psychology/case-study-on-function-of-the-frontal-lobe-psychology-essay.php#ixzz3ClAyyWOc

Keep trying, keep going: got to believe it will improve.

I’m also going to see if I can talk (or video chat) with my meditation teacher some time soon. I need something.

A quote from Thich Nhat Hanh is what I plan to contemplate until my meditation practice gets back on track.

Thich Nhat Hanh quote

Moving back “home” after living elsewhere for over 40 years

What does it mean, exactly, “home”? I left St. Louis County when I went to college. I have visited frequently because many relatives, including my mom, still live here, but have lived elsewhere since 1972.

When I told people I was coming to live here, people asked “How do you feel about moving back home?” How is a place I lived for only seventeen years over forty years ago “home”? It’s not even the same house.

Olivette house

I lived in a house very much like this one, 1959-1972.

I have been peripatetic in my adult life. I lived in Wisconsin (Madison, 1972-74) and Connecticut (several places in and near Bridgeport, 1974-76) during college. I then lived in every other state in New England for twenty-eight more years, from northern Vermont (St. Albans) in 1976 to southeastern Massachusetts (Westport Point) and Rhode Island (Tiverton) in 1977-78, to my longest stint anywhere (20 years) in southwestern New Hampshire, while living more than a dozen places there (New Ipswich, Sharon, Stoddard, Sullivan and East Sullivan, Nelson, then several places in Keene), ending with southwestern Maine (Saco) in 1998. After New England, southwestern New Mexico (Silver City) for 2 1/2 years, then several places in northern California (near San Francisco: two in Santa Rosa, then one each in Sebastopol, El Cerrito, Hayward) for twelve years.

City, country, suburb and small town: I’ve lived in them all. Now, back in St. Louis. Even in St. Louis, the longest I lived in one spot was our family’s house on Old Bonhomme Road (twelve years), which is the same number of years I lived in one collective/family house in Keene (Water Street).

Water Street likeness

Here is a similar house to the one we lived in on Water Street in Keene for twelve years.

A few times, towards the end of my twelve years in Keene, NH, upon returning from times away I’d feel a sense of coming home as we crossed the city limits’ sign. But, soon after, I moved away from there.

If longevity prevails as the criterion, which of these, then, is “home”?

My mom’s condo is not the “home” I spent my school years in, although this location is “in the neighborhood,” meaning, same school district [LADUE (derived from a French word for those who work for a Duke)]. BTW, LADUE is considered to be one of the best school districts in the USA and in the top 25 of the Midwest. Bragging on that.

572 Coeur de Royale

Now we live in a condo very much like ones in this building.

She now lives in CREVE COEUR (meaning “broken heart,” in French), along with many others from the “old neighborhood” (OLIVETTE, meaning “little Olive”). Not a big change, since this is about a ten minutes’ drive from Olivette.

Many of the landmarks, businesses and roads have changed, moved, been eliminated, but there are still some fixtures I recognize after over forty years. The old are populated/interspersed with the new, as everywhere.

The shell of a fast-food place about to be finished (“BIG BOY”) in which I had my first make-out sessions (with Eric) in 6th grade is now a grassy, flat field after having been two different fast-food restaurants. The bowling alley (NELSON BURTON LANES) where I learned to play pinball and to bowl (badly), and behind which I had my first kiss (from Bobby) is still there, but changed owners and names. The elementary school my siblings and I attended (CENTRAL SCHOOL, which we lived almost across the street from and used to treat as our personal playground) became an alternative high school soon after my youngest sibling went to junior high school.

What makes a place feel like “home”? Here is my test: How does it feel to return after I have been away? Does it seem that I am visiting or coming back?

For about twenty-five years, I considered Boston/Cambridge my hub. I had friends who went to college and then lived there. I took classes, saw clients, attended meetings, visited friends and went to events there often. Logan was the airport we used most often until Hartford’s and then Manchester’s grew. Beantown was the BIG CITY we would go to for those experiences. Cambridge was the intellectual/artsy center of existence. I also went to New York City from New Hampshire, but not as often or as easily (it was more than twice as far by car).

Whenever we’d drive to Boston, as our car crested the first hill that would give us a view of “The Pru” and the John Hancock buildings, my heart would lift. Exciting things happened here.

Boston skyline

The “Pru” and the John Hancock buildings in Boston.

I walked all around both Boston and Cambridge, had several lovers in and around there, used the T (subways/trains) and frequented cafes. I loved going there for many years. But, Boston was never “home.”

Flying or driving into St. Louis, I would look for the Arch as the landmark. But, seeing it, I never felt “Oh. Now I’m home.”

Arch

But, here, unlike many places I’ve lived since I left Keene, NH, I am recognized. After being “invisible” for about fifteen years, it is startling to be called out in public. Last week, while perusing the deli section at Whole Foods, “Sally Fleischmann!” reached my ears. A seemingly strange man called out to me, in surprise at seeing me; a classmate from my high school saw and knew me after not having seen me for many years. I went to a friend’s father’s funeral/shiva and many people there recognized me, called out my name, knew my father. I exercise at the local Jewish Community Center’s building and often know people there or they know me or knew my dad or know my mom or siblings. Does being known or recognized make one feel at home?

Maybe it’s that I just moved back to St. Louis about two weeks ago and I haven’t completely unpacked. I have had visits that lasted over a month here before this, living out of suitcases and drawers as I do now.

I think, as I told one friend, recently, once I pass the five-week mark (and I plan to be completely unpacked by then), I could realize that I now am not visiting and actually live here.

How much longer will it take to feel like “home”? Ask me in 2027.

home

The Swan Song of my #Buddhist Mini Home #Retreat Sung a Bit Early

Some of you have been reading/following the posts about my #Buddhist mini home #retreat which began in mid-October, 2013, and was supposed to end March 1, to coincide with #Tibetan New Year (Losar) on March 2, 2014. However due to the schedules of Alameda County’s jury duty roster (which tapped me starting March 6, perhaps) and my teacher, Padma Drimed Norbu, or Lama Drimed, my close-of-retreat meeting is scheduled for tomorrow, February 26.

So, the Swan Song of my Retreat is being sung today. I plan to finish with a tsog (see first posting, in October, for detailed explanation of this ritual), since that is the way I began and I appreciate the function and symbolic bookends of that choice.

Here, to finish my posts about this experience, I give an honest report, comparing my plans with the actuals, now that it is closing.

clock
image from http://www.jadcotime.com.au

TIME: I had planned to spend 4 – 6 hours/day on meditation, contemplation, study and practices for this retreat. I was unable to do this for most of the days for many reasons.

Self-publishing my first ebook, which uploaded for pre-orders Nov. 9 and for sales Dec. 19-20 while writing and then finishing Volume II while job-hunting and going to (unsuccessful, so far) interviews while doing extensive marketing and learning about all that MAY have something to do with the change in time allotments. I was a tad optimistic.

I did spend at least one and sometimes three hours or more, but never 4 – 6 hours on any day except the first two and this last day (the tsog takes at least 4 hours, from prep to clean up).

Except for a family visit for one week in December, I did not take any days off. Even during that week, I practiced every day, just not for more than one hour.

ACTIVITIES: For some parts of the contemplations of the Realms., I was supposed to enact them. I was also supposed to sit and chant a mantra. However, I could not enact most of these beings’ experiences in the Realms nor sit and chant the mantras.

When I tried to sit and chant the mantra (which was just one word), I would get immediately foggy, sleepy and unable to continue.

Furthermore, my lower back, injured and unhappy about sitting even on chairs, refused to allow me to sit in an upright position on the floor or a cushion, even on my bed, for more than 10 minutes without agony.

back-pain-

I utilized an alternative method that kept me awake: a walking meditation. I could complete the accumulations and meditations in that way. This did not quite evoke an enactment, but I was outside and observing with ongoing attempts to internalize each Realm’s beings’ experiences in my mind and body. Limited, but some success.

However, I can only walk for one hour or so on any given day due to a chronic injury to one leg, so my progress in these accumulations (to get to 100,000 for each of the Six Realms) took many days per Realm.

walking meditation
image from http://www.peerfit.com

I had plenty of time, so 9 – 11 days per Realm seemed all right, but somewhat disappointing. Although, from today’s perspective, I wonder why I was in any kind of rush?

I was tasked next with reading and contemplating the readings/teachings of Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche’s original teachings, transcribed in 1989. That was an amazing experience because I knew him then and I knew many of the people who attended that retreat when it occurred, so I could picture his giving the teachings and the others gathered there, the translator’s comments and facial expressions very clearly. Many blessings and gratitude for them during this next phase of my retreat.

Chagdud Rinpoche
Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche and his tulku

At one point near the end of the booklet, though, I wondered if I had the wrong set of teachings, but I contacted Lama Drimed and he assured me it was correct; I had written the title down incorrectly in my original notes. Why did I fixate on that, I wonder?

Next, in tandem, I was to do some physical as well as meditative activities I can’t describe here. I can say, however, that I failed miserably (and not surprisingly) at doing the physical ones, and almost as miserably (and quite surprisingly) and the meditative ones. Need to discuss these with Lama D tomorrow, for sure.

I was also supposed to do some of the recommended sadhana (written/chanted) practices almost daily (my choice which of them to do, Lama D said) and tsogs on each full moon.

Epic Fails, both.

For reasons I still can’t explain, even to myself, I did not do the tsogs except for the first one and the one today, even though I purchased supplies for doing them.
After about day 4, I did not do the sadhana practices. Not at all. Not once. I do not like them, Sam I Am. I do not like Green Eggs and Ham.

Well, you get the picture. I just didn’t feel it.

Should I have done them, anyway? If I had been part of a group that was doing them daily, I would have done them. I would have been there and attended and participated. Left to myself, I did not feel moved to do them. So, I did not.

discipline lacking
Discipline Quote by Marie Chapian

Can’t understand my reluctance, but it was insurmountable, or I just gave in to it. Can’t say for sure how things would have been different if I had been more diligent, reliable, responsible.

I do have all these proud and arrogant parts that tell me and others stories about how disciplined and reliable I am, so it’s ironic and kind of sad that it turned out that I’m not so much of either, even though I also say that my practice is the most important part of my life.

OUTCOMES:
Mixed.

Glad I blogged. In-reading my posts, which are a kind of journal, I can see I did get quite a lot out of many parts and was more devoted and disciplined than I give myself credit for, today. Not great, but good (in some parts).

Obsessing today about whether my lack of accomplishments in those or any of the activities may disqualify me from continuing or receiving the next teachings. Should have done something about that before, when I was overly indulgent, lazy or just unable, eh?

Well, if that happens, all right. Can’t go forward until I’m ready.

Lama Drimed will know.

One thing I am is honest.

metta-prayer

May all beings benefit from my retreat, however it may be assessed. That I do wish, fervently.

18 Tweets/3 photos inspired by the live speech of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, 2-23-14, Berkeley, CA

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, the long-time spiritual leader and former political leader of Tibetans in Exile visited the United States for several weeks in February, including a meeting with President Obama (link to news report about that visit below this post) and right here in the East Bay, Berkeley, California, today (Sunday), 2/23/14. It was sold out, but streamed live. I watched.

Here are 18 Tweets and 3 photos as well as link for more information about the Tibetan Freedom movement, below, inspired by today’s talk.

1. The Tibetan children’s singing of the Tibetan National Anthem w/H. H. the #DalaiLama followed by USA’s is both sweet & bitterly sad, to me.

2. Right now in Berkeley with Congressional Rep. Barbara Lee [Berkeley, CA, USA 13th Congressional District]

HH DL in visor 2014
image taken from live stream by Sally Ember, Ed.D., with cellphone camera; from video by http://www.ustream.tv/channel/how-to-achieve-happiness

3. H. H. went to put on his visor because lights too bright.

4. After Rep. Barbara Lee of #Berkeley intros H. H. the #DalaiLama, they sit together in his chair; he tells her: Stay there while he talks!

HH DL and Barbara Lee 2014
image taken from live stream by Sally Ember, Ed.D., with cellphone camera; from video by http://www.ustream.tv/channel/how-to-achieve-happiness

5. #DalaiLama: “Climate change is a disaster and will get worse.” “Individuals need community to be happy.” “Oneness of humanity is essential.”

6. #DalaiLama: “Money only provides you physical comfort,..not inner happiness//Genuine happiness not depends on external//Be compassionate.”

7. #DalaiLama is talking about sincerity of heart and I keep hearing the song from “Bye, Bye Birdie,” “You’ve Gotta Be Sincere.”

8. #DalaiLama:”The 20th century was the century of bloodshed and violence//should have paid more attention to compassion, love, harmony, peace”

9. #DalaiLama:”The Leading Nation of the Free World….should make significant contributions to education//Build sense of oneness of humanity.”

10. #DalaiLama:”All religions emphasize love & compassion//all should teach these//help bring inner peace//become a compassionate human being.”

11. #DalaiLama:”All religious traditions use different methods & philosophies to reach the same aims, to be compassionate// religious harmony.

12. #DalaiLama:”A nation’s being secular means to be not at all negative towards any religions: respect all faiths and nonbelievers.”

13. #DalaiLama: (not a quote; summary) To challenge the religious or political elite requires us to go against those that exploit the people.

14. #DalaiLama:”Honesty and inner values bring immense benefit to individuals and society//That is how to achieve happiness in life.”

15. #DalaiLama Q: how to motivate children to be happier and do well in school? “Not only through words, but through actions.”

16. #DalaiLama Q”What happens to the soul or loved ones after death?” A Death means “change your old clothes for new clothes” change body only.

17. #DalaiLama More about how to die: “Depends on beliefs.” “Consider God or meditate on compassion, whichever you believe in. Visualize love.”

18. #DalaiLama Q=”What do you do all day? What do you like to do for fun.” A= Daily, I dedicate my body, speech & mind to the welfare of others.

A better photo from this year, looking about the way His Holiness did today, visor and all, but with a different assistant next to him.
HH Dalai Lama different speech 2014
image from Tibetan TV, then article.wn.com

Want to learn more about and perhaps contribute to Tibetan’s Freedom Movement? http://www.freetibet.org/donate/now

Want to learn more about His Holiness’ visit with President Barack Obama this past Thursday, 2/21/14?
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/americas/2014/02/obama-host-dalai-lama-at-white-house-20142215611541188.html

How Having a #Buddhist #Spiritual #Teacher Changes Me

Some of you may remember I began an at-home, mini-#retreat to study and practice in the #Tibetan #Vajrayana #Nyingma tradition of preliminary practices for #T’hödgal—the #Rushan exercises—with meditation, contemplation and study, in October, 2013. I planned to end this sequence by Tibetan New Year, Losar, March 2, 2014. I have written a few posts about some of these experiences and my reactions to them (the ones I’m allowed to publicize).

My spiritual teacher’s schedule is very full and it is often difficult to arrange to see him. Luckily, I found out yesterday that I was able to receive an appointment to see him February 26, which means my retreat ends in a week.

Immediately upon having the date and time for our next meeting confirmed (called an “interview” in this tradition), I could feel the familiar internal reactions that signal other responses that will occur over the next week, in anticipation and preparation for our meeting and my receiving the next teachings. Physically, I feel internal tremors, “butterflies,” flutters of fear and excitement in my mid-section and heart. My heart rate speeds up, my breathing gets shallow and I have to remind myself to take deeper breaths.

Mentally, my mind starts racing around to gather up what I might want to ask, tell, find out in our meeting, which is always too short no matter how long it is. I keep a notebook and start writing down my questions and reactions to the practices during my retreat and always moreso in the days right before we meet. The time with my teacher is precious and I want to use every moment well.

Last night, I again have lucid dreams and more dreams that I remember. Lucid dreams are the kind that occur when I, as the dreamer, know I am dreaming during the dream, waking up to some extent while having the dream experiences and notice that I am awake. Remembered dreams are the ones that wake me up completely or that are with me when I first get up in the morning.

LucidDreaming
image from givnology.com

Sometimes I remember dreams from the night before at random moments during the day as well. In each of these dreams, lucid or remembered, I’m having some conversation or encounter with my teacher.

In my dreams, we are talking about my experiences in this retreat. Or, I am asking questions and he is teaching on some related subject. Or, we are walking, preparing food, washing vegetables or dishes, cleaning a room together.

I had a dream that we were swimming in the pond at our retreat center together at night. Somehow, we could both go underwater and still breathe, talk, and relate to each other for many minutes without difficulty, all the while the moon shone through the water, lighting us.

I dreamed we were in a hot tub together, naked but unembarrassed, talking about accomplishments and experiences in one type of meditation (often termed experiencing “naked awareness” in English translations).

Many times in the “ramp up” to a scheduled interview, I hear him talking to me in my sleep.His speaking voice wakes me up. He is instructing, explaining, teaching on a relevant topic but not one I have actually heard him talk about before in our actual encounters. Although it wakes me up, I try to go back into the dream to hear the rest of what he’s saying, but that never works. I lie there, recalling what he said and what I understand of it. When I have a pen and paper handy, I write down what I can remember.

Also in the days or weeks preceding a scheduled interview with my teacher, I am more keenly aware of my faults and flaws. I try to remember to bring compassion to my self-critique. I also notice any small progress signs I might have and note them down.

Chagdud Rinpoche
H.E. Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche and his reincarnation

Our teacher (his teacher and, for a while, mine), His Eminence Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, often told us that there are several sure signs of progress to watch for which he offered in a series of questions to ask ourselves:

“Am I more patient?”
“Am I less angry?”
“Am I more kind?”
“Does compassion arise spontaneously within me?”
“Am I more generous?”

If the answers to any or most of these questions is “Yes,” then we can be assured that our practice is having good effects. If not, we need to adjust/rectify: our practice, our motivation, our commitment, our understanding.

In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, the spiritual teacher is said to hold the key to one’s heart. Opening the heart (or, in Tibetan terms, the heart/mind) is fundamental to becoming receptive to the spiritual practices and their impact on us, allowing us to change, inviting the methods to work within us without impediment.

A teacher may play many roles. The only limitations to the impact of a qualified teacher are in our own minds.

Teacher-Roles
image from http://www.unfetteredmind.org

The story of how I “found” my spiritual teacher is a bit unusual in that I knew him before he became a Lama. However, I hadn’t seen him in ten years, only talked with him twice on the phone, before coming to accept teachings from him in 1999 and decide with him if he could be my teacher. He had told me on the phone that people who knew him “before” had had difficulty accepting him as a teacher and was warning me that it might not work for us, either.

I told him that I had already had many dreams in which he IS my teacher and I was confident it would work. Secretly, though, I was nervous and a bit doubtful, myself. I knew what he meant because the first person I had considered as my teacher was also someone I had known before and things were very difficult for both of us.

The day the retreat started that June day in 1999, we were all gathered in the shrine room (large space for meditation practice and teachings), waiting for him to arrive. I had no idea how the retreat would be structured, what went on, even where he would sit. There were thrones in the front of the room, but I had a hard time imagining that he would actually sit on one. Because Rinpoche then lived in Brazil, Rinpoche’s picture was framed and occupied the highest throne, in the center. There was one on the right side of it that was empty.

There was a curtain, a drapery wall, separating the shrine room from the porch eating area. It rippled and a man entered. At first, I didn’t recognize him as the man I had known. His hair was down past his waist and flowed as he moved. Last time I’d seen him, his hair was barely to his ears.

Even more different was the way he moved. More startling and unexpected was that I felt my heart burst open. My eyes filled with tears. In total silence and surprise, half bowed along with everyone else, I stood there staring at him. There was a glow around him that I could not actually see with my physical eyes but which I could perceive nonetheless. He emanated peace, confidence, warmth.

My heart was pounding and the tears increased as I watched him glide smoothly across the room carrying a single, long-stemmed rose in one hand.

He walked up to the throne with Rinpoche’s framed face on it. Gently and reverently, with immense love that I could feel from across the room, Lama Drimed placed the rose in front of the picture. Then, he gracefully stepped back several paces and did three full-body prostrations in front of that throne, offering respect and devotion to his teacher. I felt his devotion as pinpricks in my heart and my tears flowed.

long stem red rose

He finished his prostrations and walked over to the empty throne. Climbing up onto it, I could feel the rightness of it: it was his seat, his rightful place.

As soon as he sat down, the room of about thirty students erupted in motion: everyone began prostrating to him as he had done to Rinpoche’s picture. I stood there, trembling. Up until then, despite having attended several teachings, one retreat and several empowerments with other teachers, including Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, when I had done prostrations, I hadn’t felt anything. I did them out of respect, but without my heart engaged.

This time, as I bent to the floor to join the others in this ritual, tears fell on the carpet and my heart felt as if it would burst. The English translation for the words to the prayer we say as we do the prostrations echoed in my mind with new meaning:

“From now until I reach the heart of enlightenment, I take refuge in the Lama, who is the Three Jewels.”
Not “the” Lama: THIS Lama. I felt gnosis resonating in me as I prostrated.

My devotion and dedication awakened that afternoon as it had on no other day in this lifetime, yet it felt as if I were coming home. I had found my teacher, my spiritual guide and friend, the key to my heart/mind. Right there, that day.

Now, almost fifteen years later, I am even more devoted, dedicated, grateful and certain of my good fortune to have Lama Padma Drimed Norbu as my teacher. He scares me, he amuses me, he teaches and guides me. We argue, we talk, we laugh, we discuss. Lama Drimed as a Lama represents the embodiment of enlightenment. As a man, puts kale into his juicer and talks to me about my being a new sci-fi author. He makes me cry in gratitude, frustration, discouragement and awe.

I stretch, I learn, I grow. So does he.

In other times and now, in Tibet, India, Burma, Nepal, many Buddhist students have (had) to endure much hardship, danger, long journeys and infrequent opportunities to be with their teachers. Sometimes only once in a lifetime are they physically in the same places; being able to have an interview is even rarer.

snow travel
image from http://www.ornotmagazine.com

I am so lucky that he is alive and teaching, willing to have me as a student. The grace, good karma, great coincidence of our living in the same geographic area after many years of living other places allow me to see him next week just by driving my car about ninety minutes on good roads.

May all beings benefit. May all find their spiritual teachers and meet with them in this and every lifetime.

Thank you for being the key to my heart/mind, Lama Drimed. May you have a long, healthy, wonderful life filled with benefit and happiness.

Lama Drimed
Lama Padma Drimed Norbu

Are We Practicing Vajrasattva With Its Original Intention?

Thanks, OkieBuddhist! This relates exactly to the portion of my miniretreat in which I am studying Dzogchen practices (t’hregchod and t’hodgal) and enhances my understanding well. May all beings benefit.

Another Friend’s Death: Mortality in Daily Life

We #Buddhists contemplate, study, meditate on and live with #impermanence more than non-Buddhists, for the most part. We do not, therefore, feel as much surprise, shock, dismay, or indignation when relationships end, jobs evaporate, housing changes, animals and people die: that is the nature of impermanence, which we all live with every day. Mortality in daily life is commonplace.

However, that doesn’t mean we do not mourn. We feel sad, we grieve, we suffer personal or professional losses, same as anyone. We’re just not surprised. We don’t ask “why me?” or “why her?”

I lost another long-time friend, Cynthia Toth, a former housemate who is a Buddhist vajra sister this week. I say “another” because she is not the first and she will not be the last. But, she is my age. Somehow, when someone dies who is a peer, it feels “closer to home” in every way. Also, we had lived together in a Buddhist community household for almost a year, which literally brings this loss closer to my own home.

Cyn had been suffering from the aftereffects of ovarian cancer for several years and it actually surprised me that she lived as long as she did. Most with that diagnosis do not survive that long nor live as well as she did for the years they do have left. I admire Cynthia’s courage, applaud her support network and health care providers, and am glad she had that “extra” time because I know she used it well, in service and kindness to others.

This post is not an obituary for her (I am not qualified nor moved to write one), nor even an homage. More, I want to recognize our commonality: everyone dies. One way or another, “early” or after a long life, we all leave our physical bodies.

I have come close to death many times, due to accidents, illness and surgeries. At some point, that closeness will veer over the line into actuality and I, too, will die. Since I am almost 60, no one can say that I would have died “young,” regardless of when I die from now on. But, the older one gets, the “younger” every decade seems or sounds.

When we’re teenagers, being in one’s twenties seems “old” and anyone over forty seems “elderly.” Once in our twenties, we revise that to include people in their forties seeming “middle-aged” and those over sixty seeming “elderly.”

Now, sometimes people in their eighties don’t seem so old to me; dying in one’s nineties can seem “too soon” in some cases. When is anyone “ready” to die if they’re not in pain, not suffering, not alone? Even those who do suffer hang on, as if death were a consequence to be avoided.

The language we use to talk about one’s journey to death is so inappropriate, from my perspective: people talk about the dead person having “lost the battle” when death comes from cancer or other illness; many say a person has been “robbed” or had a life that has been “cut short” when the person was murdered or died from an accident. Even when someone dies of “old age” many talk about how we “lost them too soon,” as if remaining alive well into one’s 90s means we’re “found.” People talk about “cheating death,” “escaping death,” and mortality rates.

My favorite is the epidemiologist who tells us that the incidence of death has increased or decreased due to lifestyle or medicinal interventions or changes, ignoring the fact that everyone dies, which makes the incidence of death 100%, for everyone.

I am not hard-hearted: I cried when I learned of Cynthia’s death….and Russell’s and Jaye’s and Joan’s and Mary’s and Bob’s and Susan’s and Martha’s and Rinpoche’s and my father’s and my grandparents’ and Marcia’s and and and and so many others. I miss them. I wish some of them hadn’t died “so soon,” but I know some of them were suffering, which made their deaths a relief.

I cry, but I am not shocked or surprised. I celebrate their lives and am glad to have known them.

Thank you, Cynthia, for being in my life for a few years and all the ways you were of benefit to so many. I wish you well in your journey to your next incarnation. Maybe we’ll get together again some time.

Thanks, Candace Palmo, for posting this photo of Cynthia from your travels last year. Cynthia is on the left.

Cynthia and Candy 2012

When #Spiritual #Teachers Respond with #Countertransference

I do not have good #karma with spiritual teachers. I must start with that understanding, as a #Buddhist who does believe in karma. However, that recognition does not absolve the #spiritual #teachers who have wronged me.

I have had several teachers relate to me from their own psychological troubles (reliving their family histories) or who believed and then acted inappropriately and unfairly on the basis of unsubstantiated and inaccurate lies or rumors about their students (including, but not limited to me). These teachers are human, yes, but they are established (sometimes self-established) in significant roles of power and authority. I expected better. I needed them to be better.

India Tibet Dalai Lama

Let’s be clear: the power in these types of relationships is held by the teachers (spiritual or otherwise), not the students. Just as: parents have the power and children do not; bosses hold power, employees do not (unless they unionize…); therapists wield power, patients do not (until they’re ready to terminate therapy); clergy retain power, parishioners do not.

While it may be true that we in the underling role “give” or cede that power to those “above” us, more typically, the power differential is institutionally installed and our acquiescence required. Or, these power dynamics are emotionally unavoidable and we all succumb. In any case, the power lies with the “upper” level role inhabitants, not the “lower.”

What happens, what has already happened, when “good” teachers go “bad”? Sexual impropriety, financial greed and theft, many types of favoritism and other painful outcomes for students in the spiritual community of these wrong-headed teachers have occurred when these teachers abused their power. Most abuses have become exposed and even well-documented, eventually, but many remained hidden by students and teachers alike for far too long, to everyone’s detriment.

I’m not writing today about the boldest, most overt abuses. I want to focus on my experiences of some of the more subtle kinds of problems between teachers and students, caused chiefly by the teachers. These #counter-transference dynamics have occurred all too often. The results? Destruction of the delicate balance that generated good will, trust and faith, ruining the community cohesion and causing unhealed and unforgivable schisms, to the point of permanent alienation between me and those teachers and the rest of their students.

Contributing factors: I am the same age or older than most of my spiritual teachers. I am a parent of an adult child, now, and a very strong personality in my own right. I am outgoing, intelligent, assertive, strong-minded and opinionated. I am courageous and able to speak up to “authority” in ways most adults are not. I am an experienced teacher and leader, myself. Many see me as competition or posing some kind of threat even when I do not present any such danger, having no motivation to be that way with them.

What types of responses do my traits evoke? My relationships with spiritual teachers and fellow students start positively enough. Early on, teacher and students begin to rely heavily on me for my organizational or leadership skills, my experience, my willingness to serve. They flatter, “support,” defer to me, giving me more and more responsibility, visibility, community roles.

Then, the negativity sets in, first among the students. I become the target of others’ envy or grudging admiration in public and private sniping. Peer conflicts like these I am used to but do not much like. Unpleasant but commonplace, I weather these minor storms. These skirmishes are not the difficulties. In fact, they are to be expected. Furthermore, we are taught to honor our sangha members and continue to ask forgiveness for our own minds’ foibles. We aim to see our ego-clinging as the source of any interpersonal difficulties: “Drive all blames into one.”

When teachers raise their voices at students in the Buddhist tradition, students are supposed to believe their teachers are expressing compassionate, enlightened wrath to help us with reducing pride and attachment. When teachers ignore us, we’re supposed to see our inner pique as a sign of our tenacious ego-clinging. When a teacher criticizes or praises a student, we’re supposed to see those actions as equal, not to care which is happening, not favor one experience over the other, cultivating the attitude of all experiences, all phenomena as “all one taste.”

Wrathful diety

Sometimes, those are the ways teachers operate. That fidelity to tradition can be excellent for students’ learning and spiritual growth. Students can thrive and develop our practices under these circumstances; students have been doing so for thousands of years.

Sometimes, unfortunately, teachers are just screwed up people with personal issues that they’re working out unconsciously, complete with seductions, anger and power plays, on us students. These behaviors are not acceptable.

The problems begin each time for me when my teachers succumb to counter-transference, unconsciously confusing me with their parents or other adults from their childhood, the people with whom they had/have troubled relationships and concomitant unresolved issues. Just my presence in their lives triggers old resentments, fears, angers and hostilities. They begin to publicly lash out, threaten and accuse me, yell at or blame me unfairly, or they ignore me completely.

All of their inner insecurities, cowardice and inadequacies arise, eventually to engulf them. They blame me.

red_tibetan_mastiff_201123201611343778027

Because Buddhism focuses upon annihilation of the ego, techniques such as those listed above are often utilized for reducing one’s pride, loosening attachment to status or positions of power. We students are taught to continue to hold our teachers with “pure view,” seeing them as embodiments of enlightenment no matter what they say or do. We are supposed to strive to have unblemished and complete faith in our teachers, to trust them unflinchingly, regardless of their outward displays.

We are also, however, supposed to utilize discernment and good judgment. We are not asked to nor should we abdicate our own adult responsibility just because of the time-honored model of spirituality we subscribe to and believe in and how well it usually works. The model works; the people do not, always.

Even on the rare occasions when I’ve had the chance to discuss these interpersonal problems with the offending teachers and they understood what was happening, they chose not to attempt to work on this, not to enter therapy or try other methods to end the counter-transference. They chose, instead, to limit or even cut off contact with me.

Not your mother

These are not deployments of compassionate, enlightened wrath, but rather, the actions of confused individuals who are exhibiting mean-spirited, unkind, disrespectful mistreatment.

I know; I know: these decisions run in opposition to the very teachings they profess to offer. You don’t need to tell me that!

It is devastating to a community and each individual student suffers enormously when a teacher goes “off the rails,” as we’ve seen. Personally, I can attest to the pain, sorrow, disappointment and disgust I experience each time I witness or am the target of such failures in our teachers.

Counter-transference

Being the target of a teacher’s counter-transference robs the student of a chance to have an authentic relationship of any kind with that teacher because the student is not able to be seen clearly by that teacher. The filtering creates a haze of confusion that the teacher puts between him/her and that student which prevents the actual character, words or behaviors of that student from being given untainted attention or fair value.

The ones selected to be lovers of those teachers actually suffer just as much as those, like me, who are blamed and vilified. None of us is seen as ourselves. None of us has a “good” teacher to rely upon; that teacher has checked out.

I never had a chance with some teachers to be seen as me, to be treated fairly and respectfully. Instead, I was viewed with negativity, deemed to be “irritating” or “difficult,” cast out or forced to leave to escape this treatment.

Yes, by the time this happened for the fourth time, I conceded that this is my karma. However, I don’t have to like it. I am saddened, isolated, hurt and frustrated each time. It doesn’t get easier, just more familiar.

There is no easy or, sometimes, any solution, short of wishing/praying that the offending teacher will get some therapy and deal with their issues more thoroughly, hoping they will get their mother’s or father’s face off mine. So far, this has not been the trajectory of these ruined relationships: few apologies and no repairs have occurred. Broken has stayed broken.

Each time, I hope (but do not much believe) my/our karma will change. I am a skeptical optimist.

What are the odds that THIS teacher, THIS time, will deal with his/her stuff and become the teacher I need and want him/her to become?

Not so good. I wouldn’t bet on it. I’ll just keep practicing and put my faith in the teachings, not the teachers.

Let me know when you find a confident one. I’ll give him/her a try.

For more information: <a href="http://goo.gl/tKUCoz&quot; Relating to a Spiritual Teacher: Building a Healthy Relationship Originally published as Berzin, Alexander. Relating to a Spiritual Teacher: Building a Healthy Relationship. Ithaca, Snow Lion, 2000; Reprint: Wise Teacher, Wise Student: Tibetan Approaches to a Healthy Relationship. Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2010title=”Relating to a Spiritual Teacher” target=”_blank”>http://goo.gl/tKUCoz

Link to 11 FAQs about #Buddhism

Buddhism FAQs and great answers from Barbara O’Brien’s Buddhism blog, a post aptly called Misunderstanding Buddhism. Subtitled: “Common Things People Believe About Buddhism That Aren’t True.” Read & Share!

I really like her section on Karma:

“6. Karma Punishes People Who Deserve It
“Karma is not a cosmic system of justice and retribution. There is no unseen judge pulling the strings of karma to punish wrongdoers. Karma is as impersonal as gravity. What goes up does come down; what you do is what happens to you.

“Karma is not the only force that causes things to happen in the world. If a terrible flood wipes out a community, don’t assume karma somehow brought about a flood or that the people in the community deserved to be punished for something. Unfortunate events can happen to anybody, even the most righteous.

“That said, karma is a strong force that can result in a generally happy life or a generally miserable one.”

karma-cleanse

About Buddhism Forum link

Barbara’s bio

A Jew tries #contemplating the #Hell #Realms according to #Tibetan #Buddhism

As some of you know, I’m engaged in a mini-at-home #meditation #retreat in which I am attempting to #contemplate the experiences of beings who inhabit each of the six #Realms according to #Tibetan #Buddhism.

the-6-realms-of-existence-1203257933471246-2-thumbnail-4

I have spent the last two months wending my way through each of the “upper” five and am now on the final, sixth and “lowest” of the Realms, the #Hell #Realm. Problem is, I don’t believe in Hell. This is a very big obstacle to doing this practice.

The first time I ever heard about this cosmology was in a ten-day teaching entitled “The Bodhisattva Peace Training,” conceived of and taught at that time by His Eminence Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, one of the last authentic meditation masters to have been trained in Tibet before the 1959 Chinese invasion. He and his immediate family successfully fled to India and he eventually made his way to the USA. I met him and attended this teaching in the late 1980s, when he had been in the USA for several years.

I was a skeptic. I was resistant. I was only there because some of the people I most loved and respected in the world were already studying with and living at this main center in northern California and others I knew and respected and cared for were also studying with him while living elsewhere, including the friend who attended this retreat with me. We both came to it from New Hampshire where we both lived at that time. However, she was not at all skeptical or resistant, having met Chagdud Tulku in 1983 and already been practicing Tibetan Buddhism for several years.

Samsaric Wheel 6 realms

I, on the other hand, came under duress. I felt coerced by my friends to “try this out.” But, what they meant was, DO IT. They were so convinced that this was “it” that they had sold everything to follow this teacher and live at this center, which they helped purchase for the community of practitioners, the sangha.

But I, like several others who came to this retreat who were refugees from the explosions that had just been occurring within Chogyam Trungpa’s Colorado sangha, felt more “no” than “yes” about the entire package. I listened, I took notes, I attended, I considered.

Some of what Rinpoche (which is what everyone called Chagdud Tulku because “Rinpoche” means “precious one” and is a Tibetan honorific reserved for well-respected teachers) taught made sense to me. Some of it even touched me deeply, resonated within my heart and echoed in my mind as if meeting old friends.

Then he got to the explanation of the Realms, specifically the Hell Realms, and I just sat there, stunned. The descriptions of the experiences of the beings relegated to living in these conditions for untold eons started with statements about how these beings had been cast into these lowest Realms due to their unfortunate actions, karma, in former lifetimes. Specifically, they must have committed murder, betrayal of high beings, or some other horrific acts to have “earned” this incarnational location.

I could live with the concept of karma just fine. Cause and effect, do this and expect that. It seemed a bit simplistic to me and somewhat castigating or threatening, but it had a kind of logic to it.

You and karma

However, the rest was harder for me to swallow. Impossible, as it turned out. Rinpoche told us that there were many types of Hells and talked in detail about their conditions: freezing, burning, cutting, piercing; being forced to do repetitive, arduous work (think: Sisyphus); having one’s skin flailed off, regrowing it, then having it flailed off again, repeatedly; walking around in as much pain as we would feel if someone were scraping a fingernail on our bare eyeballs. And, more. Any one of these experiences, we were being told, could last for what would feel to these beings like eons, with no hope of reprieve. The best protection was never to land there. Rinpoche admonished us: “Be virtuous.”

I resented this attitude, which assumed that I and other students needed to be motivated by fear in order to be motivated to become a Buddhist practitioner. As a life-long contrary, hearing this kind of talk tended to push me in the opposite direction entirely. Then, Rinpoche got even more specific about the kinds of acts that landed one in a Hell Realm and I became increasingly insulted, even outraged.

At one point, when we were invited to ask questions, I raised my hand and asked something like this: “Do you really expect us to believe that all of this is real? Aren’t these just stories you tell children to frighten them into being ‘good’?” Yes, I was that disrespectful, something I am not proud of at all.

Rinpoche’s translator stared at me as if I had just cursed at him. Rinpoche, however, was tranquil, unperturbed.

NOTE: Rinpoche understood English quite well at this point, but his spoken English was difficult for most of us to understand. Sometimes he had someone who knew both Tibetan and English so that Rinpoche could teach in Tibetan, but this translator was tasked with rephrasing his Tibetan-syntaxed and oddly-accented English into more familiar English structures for the rest of us. She would take copious notes or listen as he spoke, then rephrase what he said whenever he paused for her to do so.

After Rinpoche responded to my questions, her translation went something like this: “Rinpoche says, ‘The Hell Realms are as real as this one. It is just your karma making it so you and most of us do not usually see, hear, or experience Hell Realms’ conditions right now. Consider yourself fortunate. Your karma has provided you with a precious Human birth. Use it wisely.'”

This did not help me one bit. Not then, and not for many years. In fact, I was so turned off by this and other experiences at this retreat and with my practitioner friends that I avoided learning any more about Tibetan Buddhism for eight more years. I would go visit them, but as friends. I would even see Rinpoche, who traveled with one or more of them and came East to New York or Boston a few times during those eight years, but not to learn anything he taught. Just to visit.

When I finally became more open to it (another long story), in 1996, it still took me several more years to understand and accept, even tangentially, all this Realms information. Which brings me to now, twenty-five years after that first exposure to the Hell Realms. I’m still on the fence.

I believe and I don’t believe. I know it’s possible that many types of experiences exist in many dimensions or realms that most of us do not perceive. I just don’t completely accept the entire story of the experiences as depicted in Tibetan books and by Tibetan Buddhist teachers of what these Realms are like.

I’ve struggled with these last two months’ assignments, feeling worse and worse about my lack of confidence in depictions of the experiences of beings in the Realms. I go back and forth between acceptance and rejection of these “facts.”

I can allow that Humans can live hellish lives, or parts of our lives can be hellish. Certainly some illnesses, injuries, chemical weapons or other horrible acts of war bring many types of hell to people and animals subjected to them. Napalm, nerve gas, cancer, amputations and phantom limbs, the D.T.s all fit into these stories perfectly.

31-realms

For now, I’m sticking with that version. I’m just too Jewish or too American or too modern or too stubborn (maybe that’s redundant…) to believe in the Realms as depicted.

I do believe in the lessons they are meant to teach, especially the most important ones: Be grateful to be Human, to have been born (this time, anyway) into a life of relative ease and leisure. Be committed to continue to enact and amass more virtue in my life, both for others’ benefit and for my future karmic outcomes.

I can believe in the importance of gratitude and virtuous behaviors. I have thanked and thank again the late Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche (who left that body in 2002) and my current teacher, Lama Padma Drimed Norbu, for putting up with my difficulties and teaching me, anyway. Here are photos of Rinpoche before he left that body and of his new incarnation, and Lama Drimed, below.

Chagdud Rinpoche

Lama Drimed

Meanwhile, I have about a week to contemplate the experiences of Hell, real or imagined. Here I go.

Last Day for Pre-Orders for “This Changes Everything”

FINAL PUSH! last day for #pre-orders for my first ebook, original, unique #scifi/#romance/#paranormal novel with #Buddhist, #Jewish, #utopian themes, This Changes Everything, Vol. I of The Spanners Series, on iBooks, nook, KOBO thru 12/18; release date 12/19 will show great sales and ROCKET TCE to a high position on “best-seller” lists and get it more visibility IF pre-orders pour in.

Please help? Only $1.99. Starting 12/19 @ $2.99.

Give it as a #gift! Geared to older teens and adults.

This Changes Everything cover

Cover art by #Willowraven.

#Free excerpts here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/376197

Other links on http://www.sallyember.com (look to the right and scroll for the link you want: reviews, interviews, blog posts and buy links). THANKS! SHARE!

#Desire Realm Torments and Teases

#Buddhist cosmology puts humans and animals together in what is translated as the #Desire Realm. The Realm I am #contemplating for this phase of my #retreat is The Hungry Ghosts (#Pretas) Realm, which comes “below” these two. Pretas are born into this Realm because of exhibiting strong possessiveness and desire in other lives. So, in all three of these experiences, desire is the culprit.

desire21

However, we can’t function without desire. Our motivations are rooted first in desire, even for the most altruistic intentions, until we are beyond all suffering and desire. Let me know when you achieve that; I haven’t met anyone yet who has. Even His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, speaks of anger and other common emotions that still arise for him. The major difference between someone at his level or close to that and most practitioners are two factors; how long the feeling lasts and what we do in response to it.

Most people, Buddhist practitioners included, get lost for a moment or longer (or forever, if the person has no skills or practice to deter it) in the intense emotions of the present circumstances. We also get lost in emotions from events in the past or while anticipating the future. Every interaction, everything that occurs is an opportunity to remember or forget.

desire defn

The best signs I can hope for in my life due to practice are to experience these emotions less frequently, less intensely and for shorter durations and not to get lost in them. The goal is not the journey. But, part of being in the Desire Realm as a human is to have goals.

What does it mean to “get lost” in emotions? For me, this part of the journey looks like this: when I’m lost, it means I forget about the nondual, oneness truth of all existence. I can’t feel my intention to benefit all beings. I lose track of my ability to feel compassion or to be even a little bit unselfish. I cling completely to the false reality of my tiny physical and ego-ridden self as if “I” am all that matters, or matter the most.

Then, equally importantly, when I do get lost, I am tasked with not condemning myself and not giving up. Learning to accept my failings, have compassion for my forgetting, recognize my humanness and even have a sense of humor about myself. I attempt to take myself more lightly while keeping my goals in mind.

Ruthlessness without condemnation is the key: being honest enough to face my foibles without falling into self-negating, self-deprecating messages. Actually, I’m doing pretty well with this part. I accept who I am at almost 60 years old much better than many people do.

Interestingly, the fact that I do not judge myself as harshly or frequently as others judge me has caused me a few problems. Apparently, misery loves company. Judgers want to see that their judgments have a negative effect. In my experience, when I do not take their derision or evaluations personally, they take offense. They claim I’m not listening, I’m not respecting them. They feel that I’m judging them.

What a strange set of illusions we share! My response to all that self-induced misery for those people is to feel compassion for their being lost and not get lost, myself. For refusing to allow their torment to bother me, I become unpopular.

love-irresistible-desire-irresistibly-desired

Oh, well. Luckily for me I stopped desiring popularity in adolescence. Wish the rest of the adults would grow up.

Until then, torments and teases in the Desire Realm continue and we do our best to ride them out and not make things worse. Join me in gentle humor at oneself and others (but keep your amusement about others to yourself if you want friends!).

Keep on.

Last 8 days for #pre-orders!

BIG PUSH! last 8 days for #pre-orders for my first ebook, original, unique #scifi/#romance/#paranormal novel with #Buddhist, #Jewish, #utopian themes, This Changes Everything, Vol. I of The Spanners Series, on iBooks, nook, KOBO thru 12/18; release date 12/19 will show great sales and ROCKET TCE to a high position on “best-seller” lists and get it more visibility IF pre-orders pour in.

Please help? Only $1.99. Give it as a #gift! Geared to older teens and adults.

This Changes Everything cover

Cover art by #Willowraven.

#Free excerpts here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/376197

Other links on http://www.sallyember.com (look to the right and scroll for the link you want: reviews, interviews, blog posts and buy links). THANKS! SHARE!

Being a “next-thing” Junkie

Addictions are the topic of many blogs, research studies, journal entries, news reports and conversations. At this point in the Western lexicon, someone can be “addicted” to practically anything: drugs or alcohol, of course; shopping; gambling; sex; food, particularly sugar, caffeine or wheat; fame; books; porn; the internet; and, any of a million possessions, collections, hobbies or activities.

Turns out I am genetically or personally lucky enough not to have an actual addiction, even by the above standards (unless you count obsessions as addictions, which is another discussion). However, I am about to confess what I discovered during my first six-week #Buddhist #meditation #retreat: I am a “next-thing” junkie. Whatever I am experiencing, regardless of how wonderful it is, how much I like it, I am always looking to the next phase.

When I am swimming, I fantasize about what I’ll do when I am finished. When I am writing, I consider when I will eat and what. When I am in the shower, I wonder about what I’ll write that day. During a meditation session, whatever practice or portion of the text we’re in, I want to be in the next part. When I’m silent, I want to talk. When I’m in conversation, I long for silence and solitude.

When I’m celibate, I daydream about sex. During sexual encounters, I want to have the aftermath, the closeness and intimacy of the more emotional kind, to be finished with the physical part. On and on.

This is my version of being a “Hungry Ghost,” a #Preta, one of the creatures doomed to exist for however long karma dictates who have extremely large bellies and very constricted throats: constantly starving and thirsty but never able to be satisfied. That is my dilemma: I am never satisfied, or not for very long.

Preta

I am not unique. I am not alone. In fact, I am in this way more mainstream, more ordinary than I am in almost any other component of my unusual life. When I brought this discover to my great #Tibetan #Buddhist teacher in the #Vajrayana #Nyingma #dzogchen lineage of #meditation, Lama Drimed, he talked to me about the known 51 “mental factors” that are considered part of the possible experience of sentient beings.

Want to know how many ways we can be caught up in experiences, thoughts, feelings? Fifty-one. Count ’em.

Here they are:

THE 5 OMNIPRESENT (EVER-RECURRING) MENTAL FACTORS
1. Feeling (the first aggregate)
2. Recognition / discrimination / distinguishing awareness (the second aggregate)
3. Intention / mental impulse – I will …
4. Concentration / attention / mental application – focused grasping of an object of awareness
5. Contact – the connection of an object with the mind, this may be pleasurable, painful or neutral as experienced by the aggregate of Feeling.

THE 5 DETERMINATIVE MENTAL FACTORS
6. Resolution / aspiration – directing effort to fulfil desired intention, basis for diligence and enthusiasm.
7. Interest / appreciation – holding on to a particular thing, not allowing distraction
8. Mindfulness / Recollection – repeatedly bringing objects back to mind, not forgetting
9. Concentration / Samadhi – one-pointed focus on an object, basis for increasing intelligence
10. Intelligence / Wisdom – “common-sense intelligence”, fine discrimination, examines characteristics of objects, stops doubt, maintains root of all wholesome qualities.

THE 4 VARIABLE (POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE) MENTAL FACTORS
11. Sleep – makes mind unclear, sense consciousness turns inwards
12. Regret – makes mind unhappy when regarding a previously done action as bad, prevents the mind from being at ease.
13. General examination / coarse discernment – depending on intelligence or intention, searches for rough idea about the object.
14. Precise analysis / subtle discernment – depending on intelligence or intention, examines the object in detail.

THE 11 VIRTUOUS MENTAL FACTORS
(Note that 18 and 19 are not necessary always virtuous. The first 3 are also known as roots of virtue.)
15. Faith / confidence / respectful belief – gives us positive attitude to virtue and objects that are worthy of respect. Three types are distinguished, with the last one being the preferred type:
a. uncritical faith: motivation is for no apparent reason
b. longing faith: motivation is by an emotionally unstable mind
c. conviction: motivated by sound reasons
16. Sense of Propriety / self-respect – usually the personal conscience to stop negative actions and perform positive actions
17. Considerateness / decency – avoids evil towards others, basis for unspoiled moral discipline.
18. Suppleness / thorough training / flexibility – enables the mind to engage in positive acts as wished, interrupting mental or physical rigidity.
19. Equanimity / clear-minded tranquility – peaceful mind, not being overpowered by delusions, no mental dullness or agitation
20. Conscientiousness / carefulness – causes avoiding negative acts & doing good; mind with detachment, non-hatred, non-ignorance and enthusiasm
21. Renunciation / detachment – no attachment to cyclic existence and objects
22. Non hatred / imperturbability – no animosity to others or conditions; rejoicing
23. Non-bewilderment / non ignorance / open-mindedness – usually understanding the meaning of things through clear discrimination, never unwilling to learn
24. Non violence / complete harmlessness – compassion without any hatred, pacifist
25. Enthusiasm / diligence – doing positive acts (specifically mental development and meditation) with delight

THE 6 NON-VIRTUOUS MENTAL FACTORS

THE 6 ROOT DELUSIONS (Delusion is defined as any secondary mental factor that, when developed, brings about suffering and uneasiness to self or others.)
26. Ignorance – not knowing karma, meaning and practice of 3 Jewels, includes closed-mindedness, lack of wisdom of emptiness.
27. Attachment / desire – definition: not wanting to be separated from someone or something. Grasping at aggregates in cyclic existence causes rebirth & suffering of existence
28. Anger – definition: wanting to be separated from someone or something, can lead to relentless desire to hurt others; causes unhappiness
29. Pride – inflated superiority, supported by one’s worldly views, which include disrespect of others
30. Doubt / deluded indecisive wavering – being in two minds about reality; usually leads to negative actions
31. Wrong views / speculative delusions – based on emotional afflictions. Distinguished in 5 types: belief in the self as permanent or non-existent (as opposite to the view of emptiness); denying karma, not understanding the value of the 3 Jewels; closed-mindedness (my view -which is wrong- is best); wrong conduct (not towards liberation)

THE 20 SECONDARY NON-VIRTUOUS MENTAL FACTORS
Derived from anger:
32. Wrath / hatred – by increased anger, malicious state wishing to cause immediate harm to others
33. Vengeance / malice / resentment – not forgetting harm done by a person, and seeking to return harm done to oneself
34. Rage / spite / outrage – intention to utter harsh speech in reply to unpleasant words, when wrath and malice become unbearable
35. Cruelty / vindictiveness / mercilessness – being devoid of compassion or kindness, seeking harm to others.

Derived from anger and attachment:
36. Envy / jealousy – internal anger caused by attachment; unbearable to bear good things others have

Derived from attachment:
37. Greed / avarice / miserliness – intense clinging to possessions and their increase
38. Vanity / self-satisfaction – seeing one’s good fortune giving one a false sense of confidence; being intoxicated with oneself
39. Excitement / wildness / mental agitation – distraction towards desire objects, not allowing the mind to rest on something wholesome; obstructs single pointed concentration.

Derived from ignorance:
40. Concealment – hiding one’s negative qualities when others with good intention refer to them this causes regret
41. Dullness / muddle-headedness – caused by fogginess which makes mind dark/heavy – like when going to sleep, coarse dullness is when the object is unclear, subtle dullness is when the object has no intense clarity
42. Faithlessness – no belief of that which is worthy of respect; it can be the idea that virtue is unnecessary, or a mistaken view of virtue; it forms the basis for laziness (43)
43. Laziness – being attached to temporary pleasure, not wanting to do virtue or only little; opposite to diligence [25])
44. Forgetfulness – causes to not clearly remember virtuous acts, inducing distraction to disturbing objects – not “just forgetting”, but negative tendency
45. Inattentiveness / lack of conscience – “distracted wisdom” after rough or no analysis, not fully aware of one’s conduct, careless indifference and moral failings; intentional seeking mental distraction like daydreaming

Derived from attachment and ignorance:
46. Hypocrisy / pretension – pretend non-existent qualities of oneself
47. Dishonesty / smugness – hiding one’s faults, giving no clear answers, no regret, snobbery & conceit, self-importance and finding faults with others

Derived from attachment, anger and ignorance
48. Shamelessness – consciously not avoiding evil, it supports all root and secondary delusions
49. Inconsiderateness – not avoiding evil, being inconsiderate of other’s practice, ingratitude
50. Unconscientiousness / carelessness- 3 delusions plus laziness; wanting to act unrestrained
51. Distraction / mental wandering – inability to focus on any virtuous object

from http://viewonbuddhism.org/mind.html

So, the next time you are trying to “control” your mind, or meditate, or refrain from a particular thought or emotion, consider this: another one is likely to arise in just a moment and you might prefer it.

#Impermanence can be our friend.

Who is YOUR inner “Hungry Ghost”?

http://www.yogachicago.com/mar08/hungryghost.shtml

Amy Weintraub (bio and links, above and below) writes very personally about her own inner “Hungry Ghost,” known as Pretas in #Tibetan #Buddhism, the 5th of the 6 Realms I am contemplating for my home retreat.

I’m just beginning this phase of my #Tibetan #Buddhist, #Nyingma #Vajrayana #retreat and wanted some inspiration. Found it!

Her last paragraph, quoted below, was IT for me. I hope it inspires you, also, in whatever #meditation, #contemplation, or other personal #growth and #recovery practices you are engaged in for your own improvement. Best to you!

Today, I write from the memory of seeing the Hungry Ghost in the mirror. There are times, even now, where I see her everywhere, when any mindless action I take follows the old call-and-response pattern of my life. I thoughtlessly judge someone I love. I reach for a cracker when I’m not hungry. I pour another glass of wine. And behind all these actions, she looms, ready to devour, with that E.T. head and too-thin neck, refusing to see the great blossom of her belly beneath, recklessly craving more. No room for my lungs to take a deep breath. No room for my heart to feel compassion for my life. Over the years that we’ve lived together, I’ve learned two things. When I feed her, I am left ravenous and longing for more. When I embrace her with compassion, the wild yearning is pacified and, together, we have learned to dance. Sometimes, my Hungry Ghost still leads the dance, but more and more, it is compassion that leads the way.

Amy Weintraub, MFA, E-RYT (500), author of Yoga for Depression (Broadway Books) and founding director of the LifeForce Yoga Healing Institute, leads professional certification trainings in LifeForce Yoga for #Depression and #Anxiety for mental health professionals and #yoga teachers internationally. She is also a senior Kripalu teacher and mentor. Amy is featured on the CD Breathe to Beat the Blues and the first DVD home yoga practice series for mood management, the award-winning LifeForce Yoga to Beat the Blues. Her bi-monthly newsletter includes current research, news and media reviews on yoga and mental health. To sign up, go to http://www.yogafordepression.com. For more information, visit http://www.yogamind.com or call 773.327.3650. This is from a 2008 post, so not sure if it’s active, still.