Monthly Archives: September 2008

september buddhist carnival part 2

woman meditating in japanhello friends, i’m back with part 2 of the buddhist carnival. part 1 is here. the last one had a pretty clear theme – delusions and illusions. this one is a bit more all over the place except for the first two pieces, they have something in common. they’re a bit crude.

meditation rant

new age bitch, one of my newest blog discoveries, throws around a few four-letter-words as she rants against self-proclaimed gurus and praises meditation. or does she? the title of the post is meditation is for masochist.

Q: o guru healer-person in whom i am blindly and unthinkingly placing all my trust and faith, how can we mere ignorant mortals apply this revolutionary new amazing healing method in our own lives please oh please?
A: that’s going to be in my second book.

meditation. it’s billed as a panacea, something that will cure every ill and imbalance. you. must. meditate.

but … what is meditation, exactly?

most people view meditation as a sort of struggle. calming the monkey mind. cultivating stillness, inside and out, so as to eradicate every thought. KILL THE THOUGHTS!! BANISH THOUGHTS FROM YOUR MIND! MAKE YOUR MIND EMPTY!!

you want more of this, right? well, read the rest.

zen in the outhouse

while we’re on the topic of hearty language, let’s talk about shit:

one day sosan was sent into town to buy brushes and ink. upon returning to the temple he had to respond to a call from nature. the temple had an old-style outhouse which was built very high off the ground. it was said that the outhouse was so high that if shit dropped when a traveler left taejon, it wouldn’t land until the traveler reached seoul! that’s how high this toilet was! so, as sosan taesa was squatting over the hole he happened to look down below-way below!-and saw many small animals.

as soon as his fresh shit hit the bottom, worms, rats, many kinds of animals would rush and dive into it, eating ravenously. after contemplating this scene for a while it struck him that the people in the market place were no different. they are always looking for something, always seeking something, always going for something new, always trying to make a profit off something. ahh… his mind opened.

this reminds me of my father. no, not the outhouse. but there was nothing that wasn’t capable of inspiring him when he was open to it. he would have loved this story.

buddhism and the japanese language

let’s move from the korean outhouse into more lofty intellectual realms in japan. glowing face man is studying japanese and mandarin and has noticed some features of these languages which lend themselves to buddhism in a way that english does not.  in his post connections between japanese and buddhism he gives a few examples; and believe it or not, once again there is one about illusion – the illusion of duality:

if a japanese monk is meditating, and she opens her eyes and sees a mountain, she might say “yama da” – “is mountain.” by context, we assume the sentence means “that’s a mountain,” but strictly speaking it could just as well mean “i am a mountain.” except japanese doesn’t have articles (“a”, “an”, or “the”), so it would actually be “i am mountain.” japanese doesn’t have plurals either, so we may as well make it “i am mountains.”

the weird way that japanese subjects work (or, don’t work, when they’re omitted) makes the idea of oneness just a little easier to grasp.

EXERCISE: experiment with removing some subjects from your mental dialogue. easier than it sounds, actually. if nothing else, a fun alternative way of thinking.

a companion post to this would be axel g’s post about meditating in japan.

planetary bodhisattva

for my last feature article, i’m happy to share with you the thoughts of christine the bliss chick, writing, in her own way, about the illusion of duality – the illusion that we are “other” from our environment.

when we get up the morning and don’t feel like being inconvenienced by a bike ride to work and consider driving our cars two miles instead, we can decide on that morning that we are not riding for ourselves but that we are riding for everyone and everything — for the entirety of the planet.

how could you possibly get in your car then?

please also read

… tejvan’s recounting of an old zen story, is that so? and anmol mehta’s thoughts on the role of urgency in motivating us to meditate.

thank you all for participating in this carnival – writers, readers, and all the techies behind the scene we never meet. the MySQL soldier at 1&1, the support fairy at shaw, the good person who took the photograph above, and the #8 bus driver taking home the nice lady who looks after my hydro bill. thank you all!

the next buddhist carnival will take place on october 15. please submit your articles here, or, if you have a hard time connecting to blog carnival, drop me a line.

psychotherapy: understanding versus explaining

today, let me point you to an article i wrote at counselling resource, with the title psychotherapy clients as … humans?

here is the excerpt:

is psychotherapy about “cases” to be explained, or about individual persons who need and benefit from understanding? in this review of an article by psychotherapist janet l. etzi, we look at therapy and counselling as a complex interaction based on understanding the client as a human phenomenon, an interaction that is informed by both the client’s and the therapist’s emotions and thought processes.

etzi’s article is very interesting; it’s one of those situations where i feel it’s a shame that blog posts need to be so short; one could write a whole paper about her article. i’m looking forward to reading more material written by her.

if you find concepts such as “diagnosis” and “symptoms” interesting to think about, please come on over and join the discussion! (btw, you’ll also see that my blogging friend evan, a frequent commenter here, also writes for them).

in honour of the paralympics: some disability links

in honour of the paralympics, i thought i’d share with you some of my disability related links in stumbleupon. here they are:

the people at profy have an article about social networking for the hearing impaired.

tagdeaf is one community that is open to everyone, from deaf to hearing, though it focuses on the deaf and hearing impaired. it offers few special features, concentrating instead on the social aspects of networking and making new friends, with a few extras like photo sharing. other social sites for the deaf, deaf and hearing impaired communities include deafhello, deafpassions (a deaf dating service) and VEESEE (a community based in the uk), to name a few.

even mainstream sites have gotten in on the act. facebook, for example, has one of the largest growing deaf communities of any existing social network site.

ableist language alternatives

iris: a gaming network is a discussion board that seeks to subvert the status quo in gaming in attempt to find ways to rid the gaming industry of it’s strong racist/homophobic/sexist/ableist biases with a particular focus on feminist concerns. in my travels there, i noticed this discussion. it offers some alternatives to ableist or otherwise bigoted language, with some interesting discussion on regional variation following. i’ve appended the list of alternative slurs for your reference. for more on ableist language, check out this recent post from feminist philosophers. in both places, the discussion around language seems to get people quite excited.

buddhists: disability and karma

the recent chatter about whether a person born disabled is being punished for bad karma in their last life pisses me off. not for the reason you might suspect (that i’m angry infants are being, in effect, blamed for their disabilities), but because i don’t think of my disability as a bad thing. [for the record, i became disabled at 7 months old with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis that has not gone away and has left me unable to work.] i’ll state it again, clearer: i’ve found that my disability has had more of a positive than a negative effect on my life.

fellow vancouverite (ok, surrey-ite) glenda has 5 tips on how to make blogs accessible to people with disabilities. here is an example:

bloggers are inundated with spam comments. captchas – completely automated public turing test to tell computers and humans apart – are frequently used to weed out spambot comments from human comments.

however, because captchas are typically images of distorted characters, this information is not accessible to screen readers, leaving people who are blind unable to post a comment. as darrell shandrow, a screen reader user, said visual captchas are “no blind people allowed” signs.

another blogger friend of mine, nickie, who lives a little further down on the west coast (washington, right, nickie?) asks a very interesting question: what does my pain need?  it is a beautiful reflection on living with chronic pain.

my pain needs soft clothing, warmth, soft blankets, strategically placed pillows. it needs scents, aromatherapy which lifts the mood and calms the spirit or relieves pain, it needs warm baths, gentle hands, sitting in silence when the burden is too much to bare.

and while we’re in the neighbourhood, superblogger chris pirillo introduces us to earl, a geek from canada. he live streams. and he has cerebral palsy.

how’s your news is an amazing project – talk about alternative news. reporters swarm small and big places and report it … nothing special, huh? well, all these reporters have serious disabilities. see the world from their perspective!

i guess famous people with disabilities is something the guys’n’gals from how’s your news could cover. in the meantime, the people from disabled world have done it.

and to top it all off with a bang, a great post by another one of my blogging friends, disability, transgender activist, writer and publisher jay sennet: there are no rules.  this is so cool! jay posts an image and then describes it for any seeing-impaired people who might be reading his blog. and of course it also helps understand the image better.

september buddhist carnival – the delusion edition

buddhism, impermanence and natureone of the first pieces of information i came across this morning, before breakfast yet, was the the stock market disaster today. a bit of nervousness wanted to creep in. how good to remember that the fears that can be aroused by such events are made of illusion, and that the stability that we all so yearn for can and will never exist. all we have is the moment. and the moment right here and now is glorious: breathtaking late-summer weather, a handful of local plums in my belly, a house filled with peace and quiet.

welcome, then, friends, to the monthly buddhist carnival. let’s make it a day to celebrate serenity and simplicity.

“you do not need many things”

we always start this carnival with a poem. today, let’s hear zen master ryokan taigu, courtesy of the zen frog:

my house is buried in the deepest recess of the forest
every year, ivy vines grow longer than the year before.
undisturbed by the affairs of the world i live at ease,
woodmen’s singing rarely reaching me through the trees.
while the sun stays in the sky, i mend my torn clothes
and facing the moon, i read holy texts aloud to myself.
let me drop a word of advice for believers of my faith.
to enjoy life’s immensity, you do not need many things.

buddhist economics

echoing these sentiments, anatman relates today’s events to the thoughts of p.a. payutto, thailand’s foremost buddhist scholar:

“every time an economic decision is made, karma is made, and the process of fruition is immediately set in motion, for better or for worse, for the individual, for society and the environment.”

anatman then goes on:

so said the ven p a payutto in his book, buddhist economics: a middle way for the market place.

it may have taken the process decades to come to fruition, but the collapse of lehman brothers appears to indicate that the greed and excess once celebrated by michael douglas’s character in the 1987 film wall street are finally bringing the world’s financial markets to their knees. (…)

through all the years of excess, consumption was the mantra, until we are confronted with not only ecological but also economic collapse. tellingly, ven payutto observed in his book: “…non-production can be a useful economic activity. a person who produces very little in materialistic terms may, at the same time, consume much less of the world’s resources and lead a life that is beneficial to the world around him.

the inner way

a time, then, to turn to – diamonds. the diamond sutra is about “wisdom that cuts through illusion”, sharp like a diamond. i have always liked the image of a diamond, a metaphor that can reflect many ideas, and perhaps like wisdom, can encompass just as vast a multitude. i also imagine a diamond as something deep, hidden, innermost. perhaps you will enjoy as much as i did my good friend carol’s little quiz post on the diamond sutra. and perhaps you will not be as silly as i was when i first “failed” the quiz but rather do what carol encourages in the little video that follows: study the sutra in the inner way.

study and delusion

what does it mean to study a text in the inner way? there is much to contemplate on this topic – the christian practice of lectio divina comes to mind – and i’d also like to present what jim mooney has to offer in his post, resistance is fertile:

i tend to read at a cognitive level. i focus on understanding what is being taught and how it fits in with other teachings. i don’t always then go on to the next step of asking myself, “how do i feel about what i am reading?” tapping into my feelings like this is very difficult for me personally.yet, we can get a lot out of watching our feelings as we read dharma. in particular, uncomfortable feelings are the beginnings of delusions arising in our mind. delusions are distorted ways of looking at ourself, other people, and the world around us.

… our delusions are completely worthless with one exception – they make great “fertilizer.” to grow our minds of patience, love, compassion, and the like, we need fertilizer – situations that challenge our minds of patience, love and compassion.

… and …

other articles submitted to this carnival were by balanced existence who talks about the fundamentals of suffering in buddhism, the three poisons (or doshas): greed (raga), hatred (dvesa) and delusion. or moha (hmm – delusion and illusion really seems to be the topic today).

then there are grace from face to the sun, who discusses why and how to meditate (and who has some really nice images on her blog); someone with the interesting name of fetish self who explores – guess what – illusion and evolution (with frequent references to ken wilber); and nicholas powiull. he, too, writes on illusion – the illusion of individuality.

as usual, i’m presenting this buddhist carnival in two parts. this entry is already way longer than i wanted it to be. oh well. you’ll find part 2 some time in the next week, by september 22 at the latest. in the meantime, if you have or know of a good post on buddhism, please submit it here, or, if you have a hard time connecting to blog carnival (it’s been a bit wonky lately), just drop me a line.

thank you for the image, giant ginkgo

letting go of guilt: a conversation

earlier this year, i wrote a few posts on guilt. this turned into a case study with one of my readers where over the course of a few months, we sent emails back and forth. this reader, let’s call her carla, has agreed to publish some of our emails. of course, we’ve changed some of the identifying characteristics of the story to protect carla’s identity.

we hope that this will help some people who are dealing with guilt to find inspiration, and i also hope that this can be a bit of an illustration of how i help people in online consultations.

we’ll present this in a series of two or three posts.

carla, tell us a little about yourself:

i am a married, 60 year old mother of three, and grandmother of ten. i am a christian, though not in the traditional sense. i work full time, and i love to spend time with my with my grandchildren.

what interested you in the initial blog posting about guilt in the first place?

my own battle with guilt, for over a year of my life prior to reading the blog posting i was plagued with feelings of guilt.

how would you describe your state of mind when you first read that post?

plagued with thoughts and feelings of guilt which made it difficult to think of much else. that caused me to feel pretty depressed, and overshadowed any feelings of happiness. i felt extremely sad, and cried a lot.

how would you describe your state of mind now?

i am definitely a happier person, more at peace, feeling like i may finally be able to forgive myself for the mistakes i made with my family. however, i still struggle with placing blame on myself for mistakes they are making in their own lives, like they really didn’t have a good foundation to build upon. i have come a long way toward accepting my failures, but i still try to make up for my failures as a mother, in whatever way i can.

what changed?

i am able to see myself more objectively, with a degree of understanding that i didn’t have before, and would not have thought i deserved to have. i can now accept that i failed, not because i wanted to (on the contrary, i always wanted to be a good mother to my children). i now see that i didn’t have those skills i needed to be as nurturing and loving as i wish i could’ve been. a lot of that was through no fault of my own. (my mother left us when i was 10, and my father was emotionally distant). i think i may have struggled with some degree of mental illness, and perhaps still do.

this is part one. in the next post about carla’s progress we’ll show you some of the questions i asked carla, and how answering them was helpful for her.

september 11 – the happiest day of my life

hands holding a baby“what was the happiest day of your life?” this question comes up, sometimes. until seven years ago, it was “september 11, 1973.”

that was the day my oldest child was born. it was the least pleasant of my three births, what with me an unwed teenage mother in a hopelessly old-fashioned veteran’s hospital in munich, an arch-catholic part of germany, and my poor little infant immediately snatched away in the belief that sterile hospital cradles were the best thing that could happen to a newborn.

never mind any of that.

i was insanely happy.

despite the exhaustion of labour, i couldn’t sleep the whole night. the miracle of the experience kept looping around in my mind and heart. one moment, excruciating pain, the other, a new person emerging into the world, healthy, with a loud voice, 10 fingers, 10 toes, eyes, everything! absolutely mind-boggling.

my other two births were even easier than the first and quite a bit more pleasant, especially the last one, complete with bob marley, miles davis and glenn gould providing accompaniment, and a bunch of friends and family present. but september 11, 1973 – well, it was that special first time.

when the day after i found out that there had been a military coup in chile, which made it prohibitive for us to move there, i was shocked, but somehow it couldn’t wipe out the overwhelming happiness i felt at having become a mother.

and then september 11, 2001 happened. a day that, in my mind, was dedicated to my son. like so many of us, i remember much of that day – how, for example, i was so shaken by the events that i spilled a big bag full of sushi on the street that i had bought for lunch for a friend and myself.

it’s such a little thing. much bigger things have happened and are still happening that have their roots in september 11, for example people experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, as predicted here and then later confirmed in a study here.

and yet, we almost always come back to what is personally most significant for us, don’t we? for me, it’s the irresolvable clash between the memory of the happiest moment of my life and the horror of the most violent moment on U.S. soil.

as i am writing this, i realize that i want to find a way to elevate the beauty of my son’s birth over the horror of 9/11 and the disconnect i feel over holding both in my awareness. not that i want to, in any way, diminish or forget the terrible suffering of those who died and their families, friends and loved ones.

but peace will always be this: holding life up higher than destruction.

image by coast guard BM