Category Archives: dharma thoughts

Giving up the written word

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The other day when I was meeting with my Kalyana Mitta group (basically a Buddhist support group and book club), one of my sangha mates said. “I have to confess I was naughty and brought a book with me on retreat.” I looked around the room to see the reaction to his revelation. For the most part, everyone looked understanding and sympathetic to his disclosure. On the other hand, I probably looked fairly puzzled. Doesn’t everyone bring books with them on retreat? Oh god, am I the only one?

Of course, I have read and heard teachers advise against reading or writing during retreats. It breaks the continuity of mindfulness. The oft-used analogy is if you put a kettle of water on the stove and then take it off, then put it back on and take it off, the water is never going to boil. Same thing with our mindfulness. If we keep losing it by getting lost in words (written or being written), it breaks the continuity of the mindfulness and we’re never going to get the full benefit of the extended practice period. OK, yeah, I get it. But, honestly now, are people actually holding to that?

Apparently, people do.

Tomorrow I’m off on retreat again – five days up at Spirit Rock at a silent retreat co-lead by my golf club wielding teacher. When I met with him yesterday, I wanted to get some clarity on the reading thing.  He confirmed what I had heard before and whipped out the ol’ kettle analogy. I get it, but what I can’t understand is what people do in their rooms after the last sitting and before they fall asleep.  We have no access to electronic media – there is no cell or WiFi signal out there. And certainly no TV. Do people simply sit in their rooms staring mindfully at the walls?

My teacher looked at me rather gently as he told me the obvious: after the last sitting, people simply go to sleep. Oh right. Sleep. At 9:30 at night. Sleep. With no need to wind down, no transition. What a concept.

I have often marveled at how many of the dorm windows are dark when I come out of the last session at 10 or so.  I’m usually one of the last to leave the sitting, so I know all my  fellow yogis aren’t in the hall. Maybe they’re down in the dining hall enjoying a nice rice cracker and a cup of tea.  Doubtful. So the only other option is that they are already in bed. At 10 o’clock. Does not compute.

As you may have surmised, I’m a night owl. I tend to go to bed between midnight and 1 am.  Trust me, I’ve tried to go to bed earlier, but it doesn’t work.  I even diagnosed myself with a mild case of Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder.  I’m fortunate, it doesn’t impact my life that much since I tend to stay away from jobs where I have to be at work early or where my boss is a stickler about tardiness.

I’m also one of those people who cannot simply hop into bed and fall asleep no matter how tired I am. I need time to wind down. Even if I get home really late, I watch a little TV to let the mind know it’s time to stop thinking. So, on retreats with no access to mind-numbing TV, I will spend some time journalling and then take a dharma book with me to bed and try to read myself to sleep. And even that doesn’t always work, especially when I’m struck with anxiety or energy surges from a long day of meditation. As much as I love Spirit Rock and being on retreat, I’ve had plenty long dark nights of the soul there when I’ve found myself battling anxiety and sleeplessness.

Since this is a short retreat and with my teacher co-leading, I’ve decided to push myself a bit. I’m giving up the written word for the duration of the retreat. No reading, no writing.  I’m going to keep my kettle on the stove. If that means I’m still in the hall meditating at 2am, so be it. Basically, I’m going to meditate until I’m exhausted and can hopefully fall asleep without my routines.  (Though, don’t expect me at the 6:30 am sit.)

It sounds a bit extreme, I realize. But, worry not, I’ll still have a book tucked away in my suitcase if my plan doesn’t work out.

Struck by the golf club of wisdom

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Years ago now, back when I was still deeply involved in the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT), I felt I was very firmly “on the path”. I had my bags packed for Enlightenment, or at the very least, some Pure Land.  I had my map, which we chanted at the beginning of each class – Prayers for the Stages of the Path. I trusted that my Spiritual Guide knew how to get to the top of the mountain, I just had to be willing to make the schlep.  I was going was to a place beyond suffering where I would abide in bliss and emptiness and hang out and radiate blessings to all the poor suckers still stuck in samsara. Or at least I thought it was something like that.  The only model we had for enlightened beings were old Tibetan dudes, most of whom were dead.  Enlightened beings never looked like me.

When I stepped off the Mahayana path and started down the much more mindfulness oriented path of Vipassana, my spiritual goals changed.  I stopped fetishising Enlightenment as the end all and be all. That may come eventually, but for now I was simply trying to stay present, right in this moment.  And by going on retreats, I was able to get a taste of some of the bliss that comes with a highly concentrated mind, and experience the peace that comes from mindful attention to my moment-by-moment experience.

Yet, I still had this sense that I would never totally have my spiritual shit together.  All the teachers I had come to admire had traveled to Burma, Thailand, India, etc. and did long retreats. Instead of old Tibetan dudes, my new spiritual role models became the prototypical Spirit Rock teacher – a Marin-dwelling, Jewish psychotherapist.

One day, not so long ago,  I was on my way to see my therapist – a Marin-dwelling, Jewish Spirit Rock teacher. As I drove up to his home office I saw him remove a set of golf clubs from the back of his car. Golf clubs? Gurus don’t play golf. I was completely thrown. We probably spent half the session talking about why I was having such an averse reaction to the fact that he played golf (nay! loved golf). No conclusion was reached by the end of the session. I left as baffled as I was when I arrived.

The next morning as I was driving to work I was still mulling my rather extreme reaction to the golf clubs. Then it hit me. Seeing my teacher with those golf clubs pretty much shattered the picture in my head of what a person who has their spiritual shit together is like.  So, I mulled, if that picture is false, then who is to say that I can’t have my spiritual shit together? Why does my awakening have to look like an old Tibetan dude’s, or  my Marin-dwelling, Jewish therapist/teacher’s?

Those golf clubs struck me like a vajra.  For the rest of the trip into the office,  my ordinary view of other drivers and pedestrians shifted, and I saw them as potential Buddhas (beings who totally have their spiritual shit together).  The hipster girl walking across the street talking on cell could have been a Buddha. The old Chinese lady getting off the bus with her bag of groceries had a Buddha nature. Even the cabbie who cut me off may have been fully enlightened. So why not me?

I never realized how much I had been holding on to these pictures of what a person who had deep spiritual realizations looked or acted like. Nor did I know how much I had excluded myself from that picture.

But, no more.

The question

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Since I left the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) close to five years ago, I’ve been spiritually promiscuous. I’ve tried on a number of Vipassana teachers and sanghas in hopes of finding some place that feels like home. I’ve toyed with a local Dzogchen teacher, studied Mahamudra with a Vajrayana teacher and earlier this week, I returned from a six-day retreat that combined Dzogchen and Vipassana.

Usually when I return from retreat there is a bit of an afterglow. The real world seems rather harsh in comparison to the quiet I feel inside. That wasn’t the case this time. It was an odd retreat. Not bad. Just different than what I’m been used to at past retreats at Spirit Rock.  This retreat was co-led by two heavy hitters in the Dzogchen and Vipassana worlds (whom I’m not going to name simply because I don’t want this blog to show up when someone Googles them).   The main draw for me was the Vipassana teacher who literally wrote the book on Metta/LovingKindness. But, since I had been dipping my toes back into the world of Tibetan Buddhism, I was also interested in what the Dzogchen master had to say.

I wish I had been warned that this was primarily a Dzogchen retreat with an emphasis on the teachings (approx three-to-four hours a day from the Rinpoche and another hour from Ms. Metta).  In the past, I’m used to four-to-five hours a day of sitting meditation, plus another two-to-three doing walking meditation. During this retreat I barely broke two hours of meditation per day, and the walking meditation breaks were really just 15 minute stretch breaks.

Which is not to say the teachings weren’t amazing. They truly were. All the things I loved about Tibetan Buddhism – the intellectual rigor, the precision, and the magical infusion of “blessings” – came flooding back to me. Ah, why did I ever leave?  But, then in the evenings, when Ms. Metta gave her teachings based in the Theravada tradition, I was reminded why I had changed direction. There is a beautiful simplicity and practicality, a psychological resonance, and a strong sense of morality.  I have found a teacher and a sangha I connect with and my practice is strong, why would I want to stray off this path?

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Lost

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I’ve got a couple of pieces that I’ve been working on. And is the case with postings that turn into opuses, they may or may not ever get finished. So, for the sake of trying to maintain some momentum, I’ll share something I wrote  recently for a class. The writing prompt was “Lost”.

Sitting in a chair whose history is long and poignant, my eyes gently shut. Feeling my body vibrating, parts pinging their presence, settling in. And finding the the breath. As usual, it’s a bit shallow, never quite reaching my belly. And with attention, it lengthens, deepens into the belly and through the back. And again. And again. Its pace slowing on its own. Unwinding, breath by breath. A scene starts to play out in my head. A movie I must have made in my sleep. Characters arise fully formed. Bits of dialogue. Lost.

Finding the breath again. “Start again” as one of my favorite Leonard Cohen songs advises. I wonder when Leonard Cohen is coming back to town. The man puts on a damn fine show. “Don’t dwell on what has passed away” I start to sing to myself, “or what is yet to be.”  Lost.

Coming back yet again to the breath. Finding my home in the equinimity of a quiet mind. There we go. That’s it. Damn, I’m such a good meditator. Shit. Lost again.

The pain in my lower back sidetracks the trip back to the breath. That’s OK, I can investigate that. Stupid pain. Can’t it see I’m trying to meditate. No, sense it. What is it? Tight? Sharp? Deep? Shallow? Ouch. I don’t like it and I want it to go away.  Lost.

Oh. Where did that pain go? OK, back to the breath. Feeling the coolness of the in breath right at that spot between my nose and lip, and reaching for some sensation there on the out breath. Opening once again to this moment. I really should write about this sometime. Lost.

Resolutions, Facebook and the comparing mind

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Normally, I poo-poo New Year’s resolutions.  I stopped doing it so long ago, I’m not even sure I ever made them at all. Consciously, I’m not a big fan of setting myself up for failure (unconsciously may be a different story).  When I’m ready to make a change, I simply do it.  Maybe it lasts. Maybe it doesn’t. My meditation regime has lasted. My swimming regime, well, not so much. Same with writing. I’m good for a while and then it fades. So, why if I pledged to do something starting on January 1 would it have any different outcome than something I pledged to start on, say, April 23?

This year, however, I’m feeling like maybe I do want to make a resolution or two. Why the change of heart? Maybe because last year I  got a taste for change. I got reintroduced to my body after decades of living exclusively in my head, and my meditation practice is now an integral part of my day.  It’s been good.

The other night I was reading Sharon Salzberg’s book LovingKindness and when I got to the chapter on generosity, it became very clear to me that being more generous with my time and my resources, was something I needed to do.  And being New Years was only a few days away, I thought that it would make a dandy and worthwhile resolution.  I don’t like that feeling of constriction I get when I’m holding to something for no good reason other than it’s mine.  Which is not to say I need to be foolhardy and give away all my stuff and energy, but I think I’m mindful enough to recognize that tightness that comes when I know I could give, but out of neurosis (selfishness, fear of not having enough, ill will) I simply don’t wanna. So, my practice for this year will be to recognize that constriction, and then make a concerted effort to open up – open up my heart, open up my hand, my wallet, my home, my refrigerator, whatever.

The other intention I have for the New Year is to spend less time on that blasted Facebook. It’s insidious, really. When I’m at my computer at home, I pretty much always have a window open with Facebook up. And even though I don’t really post all that  much, I still peek, almost compulsively at my newsfeed, as if I am expecting some breaking news like election results or updates on a natural disaster.  I really need to get a grip.

Like most of us, I joined Facebook with the hope of connecting easily with old friends – the kind of friends that you’re interested enough to hear what is happening with them, but not so close that you’d make the effort to see.  And it is always a kick when I first “friend” someone  I haven’t seen in eons. I check out their pictures, their info, take a gander at their wall.  It’s a quick and safe way to get a sense of who that person has become (or at the very least who they want people to believe they have become).  Maybe we’ll exchange a message or two expressing how tickled we are to be in touch.  But then after that, the connection is pretty tenuous and voyeuristic.

What I’ve been finding lately, is that my excursions onto Facebook are simply an excuse for my comparing mind to have a field day. Oh look, there’s someone who was such a hotshot in high school and now they’re just a suburban housewife. I’m much more interesting than she is.  And there is that guy whom I barely remember, he’s smart, successful, travels a lot. God, I’m a failure.  And why does that girl have so many friends? She’s such a phony. Yet everyone buys into her Super Mom routine.  Wow, and look at my former workmate, she looks amazing!  I look like crap.”  You get the drift, right?  It’s simply not healthy.

So, I’m going to try and find a middle way with Facebook. I don’t need to drop out all together, but I’m going to limit my time. I really wish there were a plug-in that would tally the number of minutes you’re on it.  I guess I’m just going to have to do that whole mindfulness thing and just recognize when I’m checking Facebook out of boredom or some other neurotic impulse.  Hmmmm. Mindfulness and Facebook. Somehow they don’t really belong in the same sentence, do they?

A sangha of two

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Note to self: When going on retreat, drop all expectations about what you think or want to happen on that retreat because no matter what you want or expect, you’re going to get something completely different.

A little over a month ago, I went on a ten-day retreat at Spirit Rock focusing on concentration practice.  Ever since I had my surprising and wonderful samadhi experience at the my last retreat in December, I’ve been quite interested in concentration/samadhi and, as one teacher called them, the spiritual goodies that come with a highly concentrated mind.  The focus of my practice for the last four months had been concentration (vs vipassana/mindfulness) in anticipation of this retreat.  I was approaching my practice with almost an athletic vigor (as athletic as you can be sitting on your ass and focusing on your breath).  My motto going into the retreat was “jhana or bust”.   (Who me? Striving?)

I got to the retreat shortly after registration opened so that I could get my pick of “yogi jobs” (a daily chore either in the dining hall or general housekeeping) and find a good seat in the meditation hall. At my last retreat, after being assaulted from behind by a serial cougher, I found myself  moving my seat to the very back of the room against the wall. There I was safe from anyone stabbing me in the back with their germs. Call me misanthropic, but I found the relative seclusion quite comforting and safe.  So, this time I immediately looked for a suitable space in the very back of the room. I found one nestled between a credenza and a pile of cushions. Yes, this will do nicely.  So, I grabbed a zabuton, a zafu and a couple of knee cushions and secured my space. This would be my meditative home for the next nine days.

By the second day the wall of cushions had been dismantled by the other yogis in this sold out retreat. My left flank was wide open. You can guess what happened next.  I’m not the only one who has the impulse to move away from the herd, so soon I had a neighbor.

For most of the retreat, in my mind (it was a silent retreat, after all), I called my neighbor Mike. I don’t know why. To me, he  looked like a Mike. He wasn’t a bad looking fellow, but his face looked etched with sadness or worry. And while after a day or two of retreat, most of us do appear a bit grim, Mike seemed pained and lost.  Of course, I say this in retrospect. At the time I didn’t see his pain, I just saw him as a pain in the ass.

To say Mike was a tad restless is like saying Glenn Beck is a tad crazy. While it takes most everyone a minute or two to settle into their meditation posture at the beginning of a sit, Mike’s preparation took much longer.  Of course, that could have to do with selecting among, and placing his vast collection of meditation props:

a kneeling bench
two zafus
two gomdens
two knee pillows
two meditation shawls
two chairs
three zabutons
four specialty pillows from home
an extra pair of socks
a wad of dirty tissue

When Mike initially moved into my space I found his shenanigans really annoying. In fact, even outside the meditation hall, I found reasons to be annoyed with him. I found fault with how he moved about on the trails outside, and the amount of food he put on his plate and the speed with which he ate it. At one point I saw him with a bag of groceries, and I even found his choice of food and beverages annoying.  I was developing my first VV – Vipassana Vendetta – a common retreat phenomenon whereby you project a whole awful story upon a fellow yogi whom you find unpleasant. My retreat journal, rather than filled with insights or ruminations about the dharma, was filled with complaints – nay, rants – about Mike and his noisy-ass self.

* * * * * Read the rest of this entry

Parking as a spiritual practice

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It starts within moments of waking up.  First, a glance at the alarm clock, then a quick snuggle with Sasquatch, my over-sized Maine Coon cat who sleeps next to my head, and then the calculating begins.  OK, it’s Wednesday, so I need to get into the parking lot by 9:30 before it fills up so that means I need to leave here by 8:45 which means I have a half hour to putz around on the computer while eating breakfast before I meditate for a half an hour which gives me 20 mins to shower and get dressed. God, I hope the parking lot isn‘t a clusterfuck today. Then I’ll notice my stomach is already knotted up, and I could have sworn it wasn’t like that when I first opened my eyes

Perhaps it is a sign of an improved economy, but the parking situation at the medical center where I work in San Francisco has been getting progressively worse.  But until very recently, I was always able to find a space on my first pass through my preferred lot.  Back then I had the luxury of merely having to practice patience, so steadfast was my certainty that somewhere in the bowels of the lot would be a spot for me. Waiting in the the funereal-paced queue of cars searching for a spot, I would remember that in those cars were people who were suffering. Perhaps the suffering was from a major illness, or even a minor or imaginary one. Perhaps they were a nervous wreck worried about getting to their appointment on time. Or perhaps they were tired and stressed from taking care of an ill loved one. Patience comes easily on the heels of compassion.

Now, however, with my certainty shaken, generating those lovely minds of compassion and patience in my quest for parking is not so easy, and on some days, downright impossible.  So, as part of my participation in the 100 Day Retreat, I’ve decided to make watching my mind around the whole internal  parking drama one of my mindfulness practices.

I’ve never been a particularly disciplined or organized person, so my morning schedule never quite goes as planned. And with every minute of slack I grant myself comes the thought, OK, I can still get into the parking lot. I mean, it doesn’t really fill up until 9:45. So, inevitably, I don’t leave the house until the last possible minute of having any hope of easily getting a spot.

Unfortunately, no one on the roads seems to care that I’m on a schedule, and that if I’m late the results will be catastrophic. Catastrophic, I tell you!  So, every few seconds I glance at the clock at my dashboard, carefully calculating whether or not I’ll make it to my destination before the parking apocalypse occurs.

If all goes as planned, and the Lot Full sign isn’t up and I can simply breeze in, I feel my mind and body immediately relax. All the preceding drama  and anxiety is quickly forgotten.  However, if the Lot Full sign is up, or if there is line of cars going down Geary waiting to get into the lot, that’s when my mental goat rodeo really begins.

With each car ahead of me, I can feel my mind get a bit tighter.  Suffering sentient beings, my ass!  These people are the competition who were out to take what is rightfully mine.  The nerve of them to want to get into my lot.  But, I’ll ignore the Lot Full sign (as everyone does) and take my place in the slow-moving queue. Rather than a mind of patience, the best I can muster is bored acceptance of my possible fate of having to endure an unfruitful journey through the five circles of parking hell.

Sometimes it may take a couple of  slow, painful journeys down and back up the five levels of the lot, or even trying the lot across the street, but when a spot, my spot, finally opens up, an exultant hallelujah floods my soul as if I had just found Jesus, or a favorite earring that I thought was lost forever.  I feel a wave of gratitude that my quest is over, and while I may be a bit flustered, I’m genuinely happy that it all worked out, even if it took a half hour to find a spot.

Does being mindful of my own insane obsession with parking make it less painful?  Yes, I think so.  Occasionally I find myself quite amused with the dire consequences I’ve created in my mind that have no correlation whatsoever with reality.  And rather than get angry about having my dearest parking wishes go unfulfilled, I simply recognized it for that it is; parking is dukkha, just another example of Buddha’s First Noble Truth.

Maybe one of these days I’ll have the wisdom to simply let go of all my grasping at expectations around parking. Or it just might be easier to take public transportation.

A lazy post about freedom

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Writing prompt: Define “freedom”

Boy oh boy, this prompt is certainly fodder for a political screed, isn’t it? But, I haven’t the energy for that, nor is freedom defined for me by any particular political or economic philosophy.  In fact, to me, freedom has nothing to do with any external conditions whatsoever.

Unfortunately, like I said, I’m a tad tired and can’t really formulate my thoughts in a way that does justice to what freedom means to me.  But, I did find this quote from Ajahn Brahm, a wise and entertaining  Buddhist monk, that touches upon what I wanted to say, and probably says it much better than I could:

Our modern Western culture only recognises…freedom of desires. It then worships such a freedom by enshrining it at the forefront of national constituitions and bills of human rights. One can say that the underlying creed of most Western democracies is to protect their people’s freedom to realise their desires, as far as this is possible. It is remarkable that in such countries people do not feel very free. The second kind of freedom, freedom from desires, is celebrated only in some religious communities. It celebrates contentment, peace that is free from desires.Ajahn Brahm (Opening the Door of Your Heart)

Endless comparisons

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One of the insights I realized while at last month’s meditation retreat (they don’t call it Insight Meditation for nothin’), was that I spend a lot of mental time comparing and judging.   It’s a strong tendency for me.  For others, they may spend their time reformulating the past, or strategizing their future.  But for me, my mind falls into a well-established groove of constantly checking on how I measure up with others, or how others aren’t measuring up to my standards.

I guess that’s really the difference between comparing and judging: when I compare, there are two distinct subjects – myself and others, with the myself part of that equation being quite strong and explicit.  Whereas in judging, the I is more implicit.  The I sits in judgment of others. I assume that my I is correct and is the supreme arbiter of all that is good and right in this world.   So, for example, at my retreat, since a big part of my identity is the idea that I’m sincere spiritual practitioner (I know, I know, I’m missing the point) I found myself comparing myself to my co-retreatants in terms of their ability to sit still, stay awake during the sitting and the level of knowledge displayed during the Q&A sessions.  And while this mind could have focused itself on those whose performance and knowledge were superior to mine, my ego prefered to focus on those people to whom I felt superior.   And then there were those with whom I couldn’t compete at all, in particular, the young, nubile yoga chicks in their stretchy tight pants and impossibly firm buttocks. My I (or my butt) was not even in the competition, yet I felt completely free to judge them as being shallow or there for the wrong reasons or having an eating disorder.  My mind was not kind to the yoga chicks.

Of course, at their core, both of these minds, the comparing and judging minds, come from the same place.  From a Buddhist perspective, one would say that source is the self-grasping mind that sees the I as quite real, and therefore develops all sorts of machinations to prop up and make this I feel good (self-cherishing).   But, from a less intellectual  and more gut level perspective, you can say these minds arise from insecurity, a fear or belief that I’m simply not enough.

But, it’s one thing to recognize this, it’s quite another to reduce the volume or silence this constant chatter in my head.  Lately, though, I’m trying to challenge those voices.  For me, the comparing mind can be quite insidious and keeps me locked in what is safe and known, because it wants to be in situations where it can feel superior.  So, I’ve started taking a writing workshop, Writing from Real Life – Personal Essay Workshop.  The very idea of sharing my work and taking criticism from real flesh and blood people who are in the same room as I am is absolutely terrifying. But, as my teacher, Alison Luterman said, when we get to a certain age, we have to start doing stuff that scares us.  So, in taking this class, I’ll be challenging my comparing mind.  Or at the very least, having some amusing conversations with it.  Perhaps even challenging it to a debate.  And hopefully, one day, having realized that I am indeed enough, telling it to shut the hell up.

I vow

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She’s at it again. Sarah Palin is opening her big yap and begging for attention. And even though probably well over 50% of the population can’t stand the woman, we all fall for it. Within minutes Sarah Palin was the top trending topic on Twitter. Everyone is speculating on the true reasons for her resigning. To me, it’s obvious that she’s clearing her calendar to make a hard run for president in 2012.

As I’ve written before, I can’t stand the woman. And while I could try and justify why I hate her so, it still is hatred.  And I don’t want to hate.  Being consumed with hatred and anger does not feel good.  Being consumed with hatred and anger serves no purpose.   As someone much wiser than I said, having hatred towards someone is like drinking poison, and expecting the other person to die.  Hatred is futile.

While training the mind in wisdom and compassion, it is always good to challenge oneself – to not avoid difficult situations or people simply because they disturb your peace of mind.  However, sometimes you simply have to turn away and keep quiet.   For the most part, I do make an effort to keep my Buddhist precepts – no killing, no stealing, no sexual misconduct, no intoxicants and no harmful speech.   Of all those, the last one is the hardest to keep.  And when it comes to the now former governor of Alaska, it is darn near impossible.  So, to that effect, I make this vow:

I, LazyBuddhist, vow to avoid any and all coverage of Sarah Palin.  I shall refrain from participating in discussions about her, and in particular giving into my urge to rant about her.  My hatred of her only diminishes me.  The energy that would be expended in Palin bashing can be much better channeled into something positive and worthwhile.

Signed,

LazyBuddhist


Excerpts from my retreat journal

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We were warned at the end of our retreat to not try and come to any conclusions about it until about a week or two after the retreat ended.  Fair enough.  There is a sense that things are still being processed in my head, in my heart.  However, after fussing about on this blog about all my fear and trepidation (or as my friend Annie called it, “living in the wreckage of the future”) about my impending week-long silent meditation retreat at Spirit Rock I figured I should post something to let you know I survived.

At first I was going to write out the entire daily schedule – all eight sitting meditation and five walking meditation sessions – but then I realized that you may get the impression that I am not truly a lazy Buddhist, and would insist I change my moniker. But, be assured, my laziness is still quite intact.  While others were hauling their asses to the cushion at 6:30 in the morning, my lazy ass was still in bed.  My day started at 8:45 am which, in my mind, was an entirely reasonable time.

So, here are some daily notes from the journal I was keeping during my retreat.  Enjoy.

Sunday evening:

  • All my worst fears seemed to be coming true.  After parking my car and putting my luggage in a truck, I am instructed to hike the 1/2 mile uphill to check in.  Why can they give my luggage a ride and I have to walk?  I arrive sweaty, cranky and reaching for my asthma inhaler
  • My relief knows no bounds when I discover that I have a single room.  Also relieved to see that the shared bathrooms in no way resemble that of the high school locker room of my nightmares
  • As we (the 70 or so retreatants) left our first session in silence, a beautiful full moon was rising over the San Geronimo valley.  Many of us stopped for a minute or so and just took it in, and then moved on.

Monday:

  • I HATE walking meditation!! I’m incapable of slowing my walking down to a crawl without toppling over.  Instead of moving slowly and serenely, I pace impatiently and mutter how stupid this practice is.
  • People who annoy me (thus far):  the old dude who sits behind me and breaths loudly; the angry-looking Asian guy who has way too many cushions, yet still can’t sit still; cushion hoarders in general – I just needed a couple of the small knee cushions for my back, yet they are all gone because some people have four or more of them; yoga chicks.
  • I think the teacher and I have a different definition of the word “feast”.  Tofu, kale and green salad does not a feast make.
  • Slept much of the day.  Missed all of the afternoon sessions.  Entirely expected.

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Not all here, but not quite there

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For anyone who has been paying attention to my “tweets” in the top of the right column, may have noticed I’ve been interviewing for a new job.  While I was not exactly actively looking for a new job, I’ve been bored  in my current position for quite a while now, and I’ve been less than happy with the lack of rewarding work that is coming my way. I was putting out my feelers, and looking at job postings and just generally staying open to any possibilities that may come my way.

It all started about a month ago when one of my colleagues, Bea, called me to tell me she was leaving her job.  I always really liked Bea.  She had such a sunny disposition, that the sun should be ashamed of being such a slacker.  After wishing her well I asked who was going to replace her.  The job hadn’t even been posted yet.  “So, how much does it pay?” I blurted out.  “Serious?”  “Serious.”  “Oh my god we so need to talk.”

We had a peer group meeting later that week where Bea and I spent more time outside the meeting room talking about the job and trying to set up an immediate interview with her boss.  By the time I left that meeting, my first informal interview was set up for the next day.

The meeting went really well.  I was excited.  My potential new boss (PNB) was excited.  Why shouldn’t she be? I would be managing the department that depends heavily on the web applications that I helped design, and about which I am considered the company expert.  My user community never really has used my applications to their full potential.  Now would be the chance to show the other sites how it should be done.

When the job was finally officially posted, my PNB called me at home to tell me to apply right away as it was not going to be up there for long.  She knew what she wanted, and didn’t need to sort through a whole bunch of other applicants.  We set up an appointment for my official interview.

As expected, it went well.  I came armed with solid ideas that could be implemented the day I set foot in the door and could save her department thousands of dollars.  She wanted me.  She wanted me bad.  If she had her way, we’d already be negotiating salary.

But, I work for a very large organization.  There are processes and procedures.  And lots of other people who have to get involved, particularly for a management position.  So, I wait.  I think next week I get to have one of those oh so charming panel type of interviews with a cross section of other managers I would be interacting with.  Time to break out the serious interview wear.

In the meantime, I’m trying to stay present in my current gig and act like I still care.  But I kinda don’t.  The other day I spent most of the day fantasizing about throwing myself a going away party, and wondering how all my current colleagues would hit it off with my real life friends.  I was amused at the prospects.  Oh right. I still have a job to do, and the new job is hardly guaranteed.  Right.

I guess this is a good practice.  Stay present.  Don’t get attached to something that doesn’t even exist yet, and don’t develop aversion for what is in front of you.  I just have to keep reminding myself of that.  Again. And again . . . and again.