Coming soon…an experiential report after 7 days spent immersed in the Merida province.
Coming soon…observations on fear, the prisons created by fear, the defense reaction ready to commit violence for self-preservation, and the real protection of fearless vulnerability.
Coming soon … visualize the creation of the Gulf of Mexico region.
“Business is not Dharma”, said the Venerable Thubten Chodron, Buddhist nun, author, and Abbess. People shifted uncomfortably in their chairs. A few people clapped, but mostly, the climate was one of bewilderment. How could business not be Dharma, when it was business which had generated and then donated the funds necessary to convene this Buddhist Leadership conference at Naropa University in the first place? How could business not be Dharma if people didn’t do business to create the surplus that supported the nun herself, and her abbey, who relied entirely upon charity to live? The venerable teacher later clarified her statement, saying that she felt that Dharma teachings should be conducted in a non-transactional manner. This is also debatable. However, the initial statement and reaction to it highlights a tender dilemma – the perception that money is inherently unholy, and the fact that we are all dependent on it.
Dharma means ‘Truth’. Often, it is meant to express the ‘highest good’. Buddha Dharma is simply the Truth expounded by a Buddha, or perhaps a pure teacher on a Buddha’s behalf. A person’s Dharma is the highest and noblest use of her life, or the best choices she can make given a set of circumstances. To say that business is not Dharma is to say that all working people spend the majority of their lives in service to a lie. Though this may be true for some people, there are quite a number of us that are only able to find the inspiration to continue working in corporations and other places because we do so in service (with varying degrees of success) to a higher ideal. This is Dharma. It is also called Karma Yoga.
Money, sex and power are indulgences that monastics renounce, Chodron said, and indeed, these fascinations fuel great misery among human beings. However, (and perhaps the Venerable Chodron would agree) it is a mistake to view money, sex or power as being inherently evil, wrong or impure. Purity of intention, integrity of action, and detachment to the fruits of our efforts – these three attitudes can transform anything into a vehicle for Dharma. As described by Lynne Twist, another enlightening speaker at the Leadership conference, and a businesswoman who worked alongside Mother Theresa and who has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for global philanthropic initiatives, money is like water. It belongs to none of us. It flows all around us, below and above us, and through us. “Money is like water – it can be a conduit for commitment, a currency of love. Reallocate your financial resources to support what you love. Take money away from that which is destructive, and reallocate it to that which is productive and sustainable. You can do that with every spending decision you make.”
For More Info:
The Soul of Money, by Lynne Twist http://www.soulofmoney.org/about/about-the-book/excerpts/
The Bhagavad Gita, transl. Swami Prabhavananda & Christopher Ishwerwood
The movie ‘Tank Girl’, featuring an anti-heroine who fights a mega-corporation which controls the world’s water supply, was a pretty strange little cult sci-fi flick in 1995. It only held the public’s interest for a week in Westchester County, New York, where it was quickly replaced by another feature. Either that, or the movie revealed too much about somebody’s agenda regarding the control and scarcity of drinking water in the future. For, in this movie, keeping down water supplies was intentional, as a means of population control, just as it was in the 2011 animated film, Rango.
This is not an accusation that politicians and businessmen are deliberately destroying our water supplies. But they are destroying our water supplies, by placing priority on power, money and business over people, the biosphere, and the welfare of the world community. It’s ironic that we’re mounting campaigns to bring running water to African villages, while in Michigan, people who can’t pay their water bills are getting their tap water shut off.
Isn’t access to potable water a basic human right?
Isn’t that why our sophisticated nation has organizations that go to provide it for people in less-organized countries
And then there’s California. Not only does California produce more than half of the country’s vegetables, fruits and nuts, it’s also the number-one dairy state, the number-two cotton state and it produces nearly 50 percent of the nation’s flowers and nursery products. This must be why a certain politician (Mr. Boehner) has been promoting controversial measures. But instead of persisting in short-term views and solutions, politicians should be more strategic and long-term in their thinking. A little more logical and scientific. What about taking Nestle and Arrowhead water to task, who are guilty of sourcing their water from mega-Drought-stricken California?
Instead, our Speaker says, “How you can favor a fish over people is something the people in my part of the world would not understand.” Thanks, Mr. Speaker, for displaying to the world how ignorant your constituency is. It’s an ecosystem. Ecosystems are complex. You don’t just sacrifice one part of the ecosystem to solve a problem in a supposedly more important part nearby. That’s not a fix, it’s a patch. A patch that’s ignorant of systemic consequences. Politicians are making scientific decisions they cannot even comprehend.
These are the leaders of the most powerful nation in the world, readers. This is what we should be afraid of, not whatever the media is fixated on at the moment. How do we remove from power those who are clueless and careless? How do we cultivate critical thinking in our schools? How do we replace guns with musical instruments and art supplies? Anger and frustration can be expressed in ways much more satisfying and progressive than murder of objectified human beings, when people are taught how to channel their anger and difficulties into creativity.
As for doing our parts, we can save and reuse gray water. When taking a bath or shower, one idea is to save the accumulated water in buckets (cat liter containers, watering cans) for reuse in watering plants and housework. Turn the water off while brushing teeth. Be aware, keenly aware of your own water use, how precious water is to us, how people are trying to control it, and how fracking could mean scarcity of water throughout the United States.
Be vocal, be active, speak up and make yourself heard to your senators, representatives, employers, coworkers, family, and friends. Be an influence to make the world saner. Stop caring what people think about you let them worry what you think about them. Be the bigger person.
Let’s bring intelligence and compassion back into fashion.
(originally published in The Examiner in 2012)
For More Information
Losing a pet can be traumatic when it ends badly — there are even pet loss chaplains. When I lost my beloved cat last year, I went through many phases. First, everyone said she’d be back, but by day 10, we knew that the chances were diminishing. This was an indoor cat gone walk-about near Penasquitos Canyon, where coyotes roam. That’s when I got on the phone and started calling lost animal retrieval folks, even though I didn’t have 10K to find my feline.
From animal psychics to K9 search and rescue, there are many people in the business of helping you find your pet, scams and all. It was day twelve when I talked to a professional out of Washington state, who told me this tip:
“Your pet knows your individual scent best, and your scent is strongest in your sweat and urine.”
He advised me to cut up used socks and anything sweaty that I could part with, into one or two inch squares. He told me to collect urine in a bottle. Then he told me to transfer it to a spray bottle, and to go out of the house spraying every few feet and leaving fabric and spray on bushes and vegetation.
“The idea is to spray out several paths in a half mile or so radius from one’s home, to guide the pet home. Like the little matchstick girl.
I put the spray bottle in a handy dandy brown paper bag, and when accosted by a suspicious neighbor as to what I was doing, I said, ‘Looking for my cat.’ That mystified him enough to leave me alone, so it may be useful in case you, too, are busted spraying your scent on public trees and shrubs in search of your beloved animal companion.
Then — the last thing was to leave a way for the animal to come in of its own accord during the night. We propped open the patio door, just four inches. At 3am, we heard meowing, and lo, my beloved kitty, practically weightless from lack of food and water, sat in our living room table, clamoring for attention, glad to be home.
I am so grateful to the K9 search and rescue professional that I often call the numbers on lost petads to tell them of this technique that worked a miracle for us. Let this column help those it may. Good luck, and please pass the technique on.
I had a lot of time to meditate on the day after Thanskgiving. With my cat (feline soul-mate) dying of multiple organ failures, I was in quite a state. Nevermind the shock and grief at her sudden decline; I had to pick her up from critical care in Tijuana, bring her back across the border to San Diego, and then, when she displayed neurological encephalitis within five minutes back home, rush her back to Tijuana. Followed by a trip back across the border, empty cat carrier in the seat beside me.
Driving to my Tijuana vet takes twenty minutes from my house. Returning home across the border takes three to seven hours depending on the time and day. I sat in my car for more than eight hours that day, no internet, no phone calls, no radio. Just thinking about life and death, the preciousness of it, and how quickly all can be lost.
My cat wasn’t lost yet; she was fighting for her life, and thanks to the gracious, generous, and affordable vets in TJ, she still is beating the odds. However, my thoughts took another turn to a different kind of loss. One that had been with me for years. A grievous spiritual loss, which became, over time, a repetitive trauma, and then, one scarred over. A loss which I had refused to accept, and had therefore dragged around with me like the cremated remains of a beloved pet.
When I got home that evening, I wrote and sent my resignation letter to my Roshi. This was a huge thing for me. Terrifying. My spiritual life has been, for decades, the totality of my identity in the world of duality. I’m bisexual, but that’s no identity. I’m of Greek descent, again no identity there. I’m female, but I forget until some guy slams me or makes me out to be crazy just for challenging the status quo. The only thing I say, when people ask me questions relating to identity, has to do with spirit. God. Consciousness. Awareness. In this dualistic world of mandatory occupations and identities, I’m an enlightenment hag. Like a ‘fag hag’, but, I spend most of my time getting into the zone with spiritual types. So, who am I, then, without a title of priest to certify, quantify, and give my ‘brand’ a stamp of patriarchal approval? Who am I without a sangha? Without my own sangha, which I created, people who still may love me and wish to stay together, title or no title?
I didn’t just drop my religion this week. I lost dear friends. There are literally a hundred or more people that I feel deep love for that I will never see again. There are rituals and events that I will miss. There are relationships that I feel I can’t live without. One-sided relationships which I’ve been living without already for years, making up the part of the other person supposedly involved, because they had to care. Didn’t they?
And what of my students, gems and sources of frustration, beloved friends and peers in our adventure of life? I was convinced to remain a priest for their sake, initially, when I first almost found the currage to leave my zen order. But what can I possibly offer them in this relationship with my network that lacks integrity?
Standing alone in this world is suicidal. That is why I call upon all my sisters, and brothers who uphold our dignity and demand that our voices be heard, to stand with me, to help to create a new kind of dimension. An invisible island of aliveness, where things that have no cohesion to the greater whole will not stand.
Am I being vague? Alright, then. The Patriarchy is over. You have been Mother Earth’s honored guest, and look how you treat her. Your time is over. The patriarchy would have you think that someone, thank God, knows what they’re doing, so just trust them, and everything will be alright.
It’s a lie. Everybody is improvising. Don’t fall for it.
I stand for truth, beauty and love. Exposing my foibles, my emotions, my humanity, that is my humility, for you. I could pretend to be great. How would that serve you? That you could be fallible human beings, like me, and still know ecstasy, divine grace, and unity? That is a miracle. For this, I give gratitude today, and every day for the rest of this life script that has yet to reveal itself.
After today’s meditation in our Blue Sky Zen Morning Service, I’m convinced that Death, once the “dust” and the emotional reaction to dying, settles, feels like meditation.
That to be dead is to be pure awareness, consciousness so vast that it perceives itself.
It hears the birds, and the neighbors walking by, and those sounds are oneself. It sees bugs crawling on the flowers on the altar, and it is the bug and the flower too, which now fills the awareness for love, in love with its own beingness.
There is no need for embodiment, for movement is in the awareness, and it is everywhere. Embodiment into form is actually a type of prison, and formalization, a containment into individuality, that which is not individual in its fullest form.
I’m afraid of the pain of dying, the loss of my attachments and loves, but truly, nothing is ever lost. All of our dead beloveds are right here, in the space between our atoms, our cells, the molecules that individuate us, and all the space in between.
Death is a grieving of a loss of companionship in individuated form. But that person is still here, still integrated into the vastness of consciousness.
I had a dream once that I was in a car that plunged off a cliff. I was in the passenger seat, terrified as we crashed and died. But the dream didn’t end there. Then, I was dead, but it was hilarious. All I could do was laugh, because my fear had been so ridiculous, for everything was already the same. Just no particular body.
It might take some time for this insight to be integrated into daily consciousness, but it’s a relief, and it’s a biggie.