Tricycle - Awake in the World The Online Tricycle Magazine Blog en Tue, 01 Dec 2015 10:37:45 -0500 Tue, 01 Dec 2015 10:38:59 -0500 Aware of Assumption <div><strong>Dharma teacher and <em>Tricycle</em> editor Pamela Gayle White has been writing about life with her dog, Moune, for the last three months on <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Tricycle</em>’s blog</a>. You can read her earlier posts, “<a href="" target="_blank">Ma Moune</a>” and “<a href="">A Special Bond.</a>”&nbsp;</strong></div><div><strong><br></strong></div><div><strong><br></strong></div><div></div><div>Early on in my days as Moune’s human, I took her to obedience classes at the local agriculture school. It so happens that St. Gervais d’Auvergne, a town a few miles from my own in central France, is home to one of the country’s few <em>lycées agricoles</em> dedicated to teaching kids how to raise, train, and care for dogs, cats, and smaller pets. You can take lessons there for five euros a pop with a senior student, overseen by a roving teacher.</div><div></div><div></div><div>The roving teacher watched us go through the basics. My dog’s previous human had put Moune through her paces, and she was on her best behavior in the dog school setting.</div><div></div><div></div><div>“Really, she is already a great dog. But I understand she’s recently adopted, so it is good for the bonding,” said Madame Lagrange. “One thing I would encourage for you to remember: she is a dog, not a person.”&nbsp;</div><div></div><div></div><div>Ha. I knew that, right? I’d seen plenty of canines that seemed to be their humans’ surrogate children, and that wasn’t going to happen here. So when I found myself speaking to her in “wuzza wuzza Ma MouMoune” baby talk, I was aghast. I nipped that one in the bud, but the closer I looked, the more I realized how difficult it is for me to abstain from projecting my human motives, foibles, and even goodness onto my dog, who likely has her own motives, foibles, and guileless goodness. In fact, for me and for most of us, it takes a conscious effort to recognize the extent to which we project our motives, foibles, and qualities onto our fellow humans, much less our pets.&nbsp;</div><div></div><div></div><div>One of my neighbors in retreat in the nineties was Dodé, an angular, enterprising German woman who didn’t need much sleep. She effortlessly and religiously followed the retreat schedule (this, in itself, was annoying enough) and used the evening post-practice hours after 10 p.m. to drill, hammer, fit shelves, and engage in other like projects. We shared a wall, so her forays into home improvement deprived me of precious sleep. She <em>had</em> to know she was bugging me, I thought, as resentment built. I certainly would. But when I finally confronted her, her eyes widened in shock and she hugged me and apologized profusely. The aggravation hadn’t even occurred to her. Instantly, I loved her and we’ve remained friends and pen pals (she’s <em>still</em> in retreat) ever since.&nbsp;</div><div></div><div></div><div>I recall this situation with Dodé because it taught me something about myself, my assumptions, and what they might mean. If <em>I</em> were doing this thing, this is what it would signify. From my experiential basis as a reasonably sane and intelligent middle-aged Franco-American woman, I add my other variables and voilà: I’ll automatically interpret Dodé, Moune, and the rest of the sentient world within the scope of what I am capable of imagining.</div><div></div><div></div><div>Our perceptions and the conclusions we draw from them determine our experience of this life. The ways that different life forms relate to water is the classic example that reminds us of the subjectivity of this experience: can we truly maintain that there is some objective validity to how we humans perceive water as opposed to the perceptions of otters, fish, tadpoles, dragonflies, octopi, or pelicans (not to mention the panoply of imperceptible beings in the Buddhist canon)? As long as we’re aware of the anthropocentric nature of our perceptions and conclusions and of the limits of our projections, there’s plenty of room for communion.</div><div></div><div></div><div>When we were kids, we’d play at trying to picture the thing that was farthest from our minds. I do my best to understand Ma Moune in all her wonderful Moune-ness, but there will always be a part of human me in that—and a part of canine her—that is farthest from my mind. For her part, she does her best to read me based on my tone of voice, smiles, and frowns. She recognizes the sound of her name and commands, which she may or may not choose to heed, even if words in general do resonate like “wuzza wuzza” to her ears. Maybe my inability to make sense of subtle odors baffles her as well.</div><div></div><div></div><div>In fact, her instincts and motives do resemble my own in that their motor is hope and fear. My best guess is that her hopes include treats, a warm bed, squirrels, walks, and companionship; and her fears center around abandonment, storms, and threats to her human. Take away the squirrels and there’s a fair amount of overlap. Right now she is antsy: she sees me packing, loading a van. She senses that change is afoot, but doesn’t know how it will impact her. She’s clearly in her element in the quiet retreat cabin we’ve been sharing in Natural Bridge, Virginia, for the past few weeks. “Ah no, not again,” I hear her think. “You’re not taking me away from this Shenandoah Valley paradise, its tantalizing deer and burbling streams and crunchy leaves to frolic in. We’ve been taking the most fabulous walks! This is the <em>perfect</em> home for us.”&nbsp;</div><div></div><div></div><div>Yes, Ma MouMoune, we’re leaving Natural Bridge and moving north. I’m antsy too: new home, new job. But no fears: I’ve got your shaggy back, now and always.&nbsp;</div><div></div><div></div><div></div><div><strong>Pamela Gayle White</strong> is a dharma teacher and translator in the Bodhi Path network and a <em>Tricycle</em> contributing editor. She recently completed her residency as an interfaith chaplain at the University of Virginia Medical Center.</div><div></div><div><em>Photograph courtesy Pamela Gayle White.</em></div> 47038 Tue, 01 Dec 2015 10:37:45 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World What Is True Safety? <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="" width="570" height="380" style="margin: 7px;"></p><p>A short reflection that is often chanted in Theravada monasteries states, in part, “I am subject to aging . . . subject to illness . . . subject to death.” That’s the standard English translation, but the standard Thai translation is more pointed: “Aging is normal for me . . . illness is normal . . . death is normal for me.” The extended version of the reflection goes on to say that these things are normal for everyone, no matter where. To be born into any world is to be born into a place where these dangers are normal. They lie in wait right here in the body that at birth we laid claim to, and the world around us is full of triggers that can bring these dangers out into the open at any time.</p><p>As the reflection concludes, these are good themes to reflect on every day—to keep us heedful of the fact that dangers are to be expected and are not an aberration. That way we can be prepared for them. Otherwise, we tend to forget—and our illusions of safety, when they’re challenged, often lead to unrealistic desires for absolute safety that can cause us to create unnecessary dangers for ourselves and people around us.</p><p>It’s an often-overlooked feature of the Buddha’s teachings that he identified the basis for all our good and skillful qualities as heedfulness—not innate goodness or compassion: heedfulness. To recognize that there are dangers both within and without, that your actions can make the difference between suffering from those dangers and not, and that you’d better get your act together now: this is the heedfulness that makes us generous, wise, and kind. We’re kind not because we’re innately kind. In fact, our minds are so quick to change that they’re not innately anything, good or bad, aside from being aware. If we’re heedful, we’re kind not only when others are kind to us or make us feel safe. We’re kind because we see that kindness is the safest course of action, even in the face of the unkindness of others.</p><p>This is why the Buddha told his monks, when they were ready, to go out into the wilderness to face some of the dangers there, so that they could overcome their complacency and become resourceful in dealing skillfully with threats to their physical and mental wellbeing. That way they could learn to bring out their best qualities even when—especially when—confronted with the worst that the wilderness had to offer. Some of the most moving passages in the Pali Canon are the words of monks in the wilds who discovered, in the face of hunger, illness, and dangers from fierce animals, that the best way to keep their minds safe was to take refuge in practicing the dhamma.</p><p>Now, the Buddha wouldn’t push the monks into the wilderness right off the bat. He was like a wise parent who provides safety for his children as they’re getting started in life, and then gradually acquaints them with the dangers of the world, providing them with the skills they’ll need to negotiate those dangers on their own.</p><p>This is why so many of his teachings deal with issues of safety and danger: recognizing what true danger is, what true safety is, and knowing how to best find true safety both within conditions and beyond them. And he didn’t limit these teachings only to monks and nuns. He taught them to all his students, lay and ordained, because wilderness is not the only place where dangers abound. And monastics are not the only ones who can endanger themselves and others by holding to unwise and unrealistic notions about safety and danger. Complacency and the ignorance it fosters are problems for us all.</p><p>So it’s useful to reflect on some of the Buddha’s teachings on safety, to get his perspective on the dangers we all must encounter. Because it’s hard to keep complex teachings in mind when you’re face to face with danger, I’ll boil the main principles of the Buddha’s safety instructions to a few bullet points. That way they’ll be easy to keep in mind when you need them most.</p><p><br>The first point puts the remaining points into perspective:</p><p>• Total safety is possible, but only in nirvana. As long as you’re not there yet, you have to accept the fact that you’ll be forced again and again to sacrifice some things in order to save others that are more valuable. Life in samsara is full of trade-offs, and wisdom consists of learning to make wise trades. If you forget this fact, you tend to float around in a complacent bubble of what you assume to be a karma-free zone where you can have your cake and enlightenment too—and the people who live in complacent bubbles are the ones most likely to thrash around wildly, endangering themselves and others, when that bubble bursts.</p><p>The next point focuses on the primary means for finding the total safety of nirvana and relative safety in the world. It forms the basis for all the points that follow.</p><p>• Your most lasting possessions are your actions. Your body is yours only till death; your loved ones, at best, are yours no longer than that. The results of your actions, though, can carry well past death, so make sure that you don’t sacrifice the goodness of your thoughts, words, and deeds to save things that will slip through your fingers like water. Specifically, this means that if you really want to find safety, your strategy can’t involve killing, stealing, or telling lies. At the same time, you can’t expose yourself to unnecessary dangers by taking intoxicants or engaging in illicit sex. These are the principles of the five precepts, and the Buddha taught them because they really work in safeguarding the people who observe them.</p><p>If you really want to protect your loved ones and other people around you from danger, remember that the same principle applies to them: their most lasting possessions are <i>their</i> actions. So the best way to protect them is to teach them to observe the same five precepts. If they’re willing to listen to you, you can explain the precepts to them. If they’re not, you can teach the precepts by example—which, either way, is the only way to make the lesson stick.</p><p>• To find some safety in the world, you first have to give safety<i> to</i> the entire world. If you’re determined to observe the precepts in all situations, you’re giving a gift of safety to everyone, in that all beings, universally, will be protected from any harm you might do. In return, you get a share in the universal safety coming from your present actions. If, however, you follow the precepts only in some cases and not in others—if, for instance, you can rationalize killing and lying certain people in certain situations, for whatever the end—it’s like building a fence around your property but leaving a huge gap in the back. Anyone, with any motive, can walk right in through the gap.</p><p>• You can protect yourself from the results of your past unskillful actions by training the mind. The fact that we’re born in the human realm means that we all have some past bad karma, so simply avoiding unskillful karma in the present isn’t enough to protect you from suffering. Fortunately, though, while we can’t go back to change our past actions, we can weaken the effect of any past bad actions by training the mind.</p><p>The types of meditation especially helpful in this area include developing unlimited attitudes of goodwill, compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimity; developing your discernment in knowing how to stop causing yourself unnecessary suffering in the present; and learning the ability not to let the mind be overcome by either pleasure or pain. When the mind is trained in this way, it’s like a vast river of clean water: you can throw a lump of salt into the river and yet still drink the water, because it’s so vast and clear. Otherwise, your mind will be like a small cup of water: the same lump of salt thrown into the cup will make the water unfit to drink.</p><p>• The primary danger from other people lies not so much in what they do to you but in what they can get you to do. Their karma is their karma; your karma is yours. Even when you’re mistreated by others, their karma doesn’t become your karma—unless you start mistreating them in return.</p><p>At the same time, the most dangerous people aren’t necessarily those who are obviously mistreating you. Sometimes people you regard as your friends can try to get you to break the precepts, or to fire up passion, aversion, or delusion in your mind. In doing this, they can make you do lasting danger to yourself.</p><p>This means, on the one hand, that you have to train yourself not to fall for the reasonings or to be tempted by the rewards that some people will offer you to kill, lie, or steal for some “good cause.” On the other, it means that you have to distinguish speech that is genuinely harmful from speech that is harmful only on the surface. Nasty words meant to hurt your feelings or get you upset are harmful only on the surface. Words that insinuate themselves into your mind, getting you to develop unskillful attitudes or do unskillful things: those are the ones that can do deep, long-lasting harm.</p><p>• You can protect yourself from harmful words by, again, training the mind. The best protection against unskillful speech is to depersonalize it, and two techniques are especially effective in this regard.</p><p>One is to remember that human speech all over the world has always been, and always will be, either kind or unkind, true or false, beneficial or harmful. The fact that people may be saying unkind, false, or harmful things to you right now is nothing out of the ordinary. Like all dangers, it’s normal, so there’s no reason to feel that you’re being singled out for any special mistreatment. You can take it in stride.</p><p>The second technique is to tell yourself when something harmful is being said, “An unpleasant sound is making contact at the ear.” And leave it at that. Don’t build any internal narratives around that contact that will stab at your heart. You have ears, so you’re bound to hear both pleasant and unpleasant sounds. But you can also develop discernment around how you use your ears and relate to those sounds. If you can let the words stop at the contact, they won’t present any danger to your heart.</p><p><br>Obviously, these principles build on the working hypothesis of karma and rebirth—a hypothesis that, we’re told, is no longer viable in our modern/postmodern times. But none of us have to be prisoners of our times. After all, what vision of life does the modern/postmodern worldview offer? Fish fighting one another for the last gulp of water in a shrinking pool, all ending in death. What made the Buddha special was that he looked for a safety that lasted beyond death, and—having found it—showed others how to find it too. Along the way, he offered the possibility of safety with honor, something that modern/postmodern views can’t provide.</p><p>The dhamma is said to be timeless. In this world where death is so normal, now is as good a time as any to put that claim to the test.</p><p><br><strong>Thanissaro Bhikkhu&nbsp;</strong>is the abbot of Metta Forest Monastery. His many Buddhist writings are available for free at <a href="" target="_blank">Access to Insight</a>.</p><p><em><a href="" target="_blank">Flickr/Frank Peters</a></em></p><p></p> 47023 Sat, 28 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World A Monk in Mormon Utah <p></p><p><img src="" width="570" height="738" style="margin: 7px auto; display: block;"></p><p>From Sri Lanka to Tanzania, South Africa to Utah: religion professor Wijitha Bandara’s biography is a bona fide Buddhist diaspora.</p><p>Bandara was born in Sri Lanka. At age 11, he was enrolled in a monastery by his father, following the traditional Buddhist practice of accumulating merit by bringing a child to the local monastic community. There, he practiced lovingkindness meditation, studied Buddhist scriptures, and learned English and other languages in order to be able to spread the dharma. After 16 years in the monastery, he relocated to Tanzania, where he worked at a center for the Buddhist minority community that was spreading the dharma by outreach to the poor. After moving again, this time to South Africa to teach an<b> </b>array of Buddhist traditions at a Buddhist university, he decided to shed his monk’s robes and landed in the United States, where he completed a PhD in the history of religions at the University of Virginia.</p><p>Today, as a husband, father, and professor of world religions at Salt Lake Community College, Utah, Bandara brings the spirit of the monastery into the university, dialoguing with Mormon missionary students on their journeys as evangelists and cultivating the patient disposition and inclusive perspective suitable for a Buddhist monk-turned-layman-turned-scholar.</p><p align="right">–<i>Matt Gesicki, Editorial Intern</i></p><p><b>&nbsp;</b></p><p><b>You enrolled in the monastery in Sri Lanka at age 11. What was your experience engaging with Buddhism so rigorously at such a young age?</b><b> </b>It was difficult. In my case, since my mother died when I was very young, my father thought it would be good for me to be received by a temple to become a monk. In Buddhist history, in the 3rd century BCE during the era of King Ashoka, the idea of donating a child to the Buddhist monastery as a meritorious act became more prominent: it was an act of merit not only for yourself but also for future generations to achieve nirvana. This idea became rooted in Sri Lankan Buddhist culture.</p><p>So, yes, I was 11 years old when I was sent to the monastery. And at the beginning I didn’t enjoy it because I was still a child. In terms of rigorous practices, we had to get up at 5:45 a.m., and we were engaged in chores throughout the whole day, including our studies. For awhile our temple didn’t have that much money—people didn’t donate much to us—so we had to be careful with food, and we had to work hard doing things like chopping firewood and scraping coconut. &nbsp;</p><p>Looking back, though, I understand how helpful these tasks were, especially now that I am married and a father. On the one hand, you are so irritated about getting up early in the morning. On the other hand, these practices help you realize that it is not only you who are engaged in the tasks, but the people around you, too. You’re not isolated; instead you become part of that society, part of the life of supporting the monastery. It’s good meditation, too. That’s what all of the work was really for—to make meditation part of daily life.</p><p>The monastery also helped me find my calling to be a kind person. My father was a very good Buddhist and a very kind person. He never ate anything without giving the first portion to someone else—he’d take it and put it outside for anyone, even a dog or a cat. It was because of his influence that I learned lovingkindness meditation. I remember when I was young, 12 or 13 years old, the monastery lights would be turned off by 9:30. So at night I would sit on my bed cross-legged and meditate with lovingkindness for hours and hours. The monks would ask me, “Why are you so pleasant?” Probably because of the meditation. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><b>You departed for Tanzania at age 27, after 16 years at the monastery. Why?</b>&nbsp;In Sri Lanka, the purpose of our Buddhist center was to be trained for religious mission.&nbsp;My teacher<span style="color: #008000;">&nbsp;</span>had already passed away by then, but his whole idea was to teach Buddhist monks from a young age how to read Sanskrit in order to study the Buddhist scriptures, and how to speak English, Tamil, and other languages in order to go on mission to other countries and explain Buddhist teachings. I had this idea of the Buddhist mission rooted in my mind, but the Tanzanian journey ended up being different. One of my friends lived in Tanzania as a monk, and we met while at university in Sri Lanka. He was the one who invited me to Tanzania.</p><p><b>What was different about a Tanzanian monastery from a Sri Lankan monastery?&nbsp;</b>Tanzania is not a Buddhist country, and it was strange for me at first. Wearing my robes in the capital city, Dodoma, people would look at me and ask, “Who are you?” I would say, “I’m a Buddhist monk.” And then: “What does a Buddhist monk do?” I faced many questions. When they heard that I was a Buddhist monk, they frequently thought of kungfu films, and thought that I knew kungfu.</p><p>When I went to Tanzania is also when I realized that the reach of colonialism is long. The temple itself was established in 1915, when colonialism was still in effect. There were about 500 Sri Lankan Buddhist families who joined together and started a Buddhist association. With the association, the temple started a nursery to teach reading and writing to the children of the poor. So our work there had nothing to do with religion at first. We had many volunteer teachers, men and women, mostly Indian devotees, who supported our Buddhist temple in this non-Buddhist country. Later we had meditation groups and dialogues about the fundamental questions of Buddhist teachings.</p><p><b>Can you say more about your observation that the reach of colonialism is long?</b> As a monk, I felt more aware of similarities in attitudes toward certain aspects of life among cultures. What I learned from being here in America is that we don’t have as supportive communities. It’s very rare here—if someone cries in the middle of the night, no one comes and helps. But in a society that has been under colonialism, I think people always have an attitude of collaboration—a human quality that I found so similar in Tanzania and Sri Lanka. I think it’s a direct result of colonialism: the need to work together as a community under collective strife. It gives me some kind of motivation, some kind of comfort to be in a society like that.</p><p><b>Eventually you taught Buddhism in South Africa while still being part of a monastic community. What led you out of the monastery and into study at the University of Virginia? </b>Two groups of monks exist in a monastery. One group focuses on ritual: monks who will be sent out to other Buddhist centers, who perform rituals and own temples. The other group focuses on study, completing Buddhist education in their monastery and going on to the university. I love to study; since I was 13, I was involved in the tedious work of reading Buddhist scriptures and philosophy. Sometimes I disturbed my teachers with questions I would ask that they could not answer. <i>How do you become who you become in the next life? How does Buddhism explain this?</i> Questions like this were haunting my mind. I was so curious to learn. &nbsp;</p><p>On top of that, I really did not like performing rituals, especially funereal rituals. When you go to a funeral in<span style="color: #008000;">&nbsp;</span>a Buddhist society like Sri Lanka’s, the dead bodies are out in the open, and the monks are asked to sit next to the bodies and do the rituals. I was quite emotional when I was younger—actually, I think I’m still emotional—and it was hard for me not to cry in that situation. So I could not do these rituals. I wanted badly to leave and become a layperson. &nbsp;</p><p>Motivated by this desire, I worked hard when I was applying to the University of Virginia—some of whose scholars I had met in Tanzania—and was accepted. From childhood I had been taught to study Buddhist texts and to translate them, which I loved, and at the university I was able to do that.&nbsp;</p><p><b>Now you teach college students at Salt Lake Community College. What is it like to teach Buddhism in a predominantly Mormon region?</b> Before teaching here I was at Utah State University, where about 90 percent of my students were Mormon, either about to go on mission or returning from mission. Since I have firsthand experience with a kind of mission, they love to talk with me. From their missionary experience, they believe that rejection is a good lesson in growing up, and they see in monastic practices the same learning from rejection. We have lovely discussion on subjects like this, in classes especially.</p><p>Now I teach not just Buddhism but all the religions, so I am in a situation where I cannot exclude any one religion when I teach. When you exclude, you develop feelings of anxiety, rejection, and anger. So instead of excluding anything, I ask my students to look at patterns of religion. These patterns—whether we’re looking at Buddhism, Mormonism, Catholicism, or Islam—are very similar. And once you develop a sensitivity toward these patterns, you begin to come up with an idea of how religions work. My teaching method is to open the eyes of my students toward other religions.</p><p><b>What is the monastic “residue” in your method of teaching? Are there still monastic qualities in how you engage with students and lead the environment? </b>In Buddhist monastic practice, you learn again and again how to be patient. Patience borne out of love and kindness is so important in this kind of dialogue. Patience comes out of the practice of meditation, and the purpose of meditation is to have the patience to observe yourself. When I teach, I let the students speak first, to engage in dialogue with the patterns they see. That is part of the monastic training that I learned.</p><p><br><i>Image courtesy Wijitha Bandara</i>&nbsp;<b></b></p> 47024 Tue, 24 Nov 2015 16:34:55 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World Seeking Other Postures <p class="p1"><img src="" width="570" height="378" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></p><p class="p1">In spite of being a daily walker, I have always regarded walking meditation as a sort of punctuation to, or respite from, the work of sitting; nothing on the order of the sober mind training and investigation to be undertaken on the home base of the cushion. This willful delusion could be a hangover from my earliest forays into zazen, where <i>kinhin </i>really was a respite—but also, it seemed to me, a mad, macho dash around the zendo for which I was ill-suited, even as a teenager. Nor was I ever tolerant of the extreme slow motion of Burmese-style vipassana walking. On the contrary, it sent my <em>kleshas</em> into a tailspin, and just made me want to hurry up and sit down.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">This isn’t to say that walking to grocery store or the recycling bin doesn’t give me infinite chances to be mindful of the breath and the contact of my soles on the pavement. And there have been those revelatory times on retreat when the walking path became the best place to be. But through lo these many years, only sporadically did I experience my walking body as the locus of refreshment and concentration that I thought was normally and primarily accessible with glutes planted on the floor. It hasn’t been part of a daily practice, where I set my mind and heart to it, bowed and gave it the respect it’s due. I’ve known I was missing out, or rather, that I wasn’t letting myself in.</p><p class="p2">As with most things that seem hard to undertake, or beyond my ken, it’s usually desperation and the demands of age that force me to really try. Last year, a collusion of physical and emotional shifts shoved me off the cushion and into a series of other postures where I undertook to meditate. In an attempt to jumpstart a better walking practice, I looked for guidance, and came upon <a href="" target="_blank">a set of instructions</a> for walking meditation online, attributed to Ajahn Mun, the founder of the Thai Forest tradition. The translation is attributed to Thanissaro Bhikkhu, who is quite sure he never did translate them, and a search of Ajahn Mun’s biography and the companion volume, <i>Patipada</i>, both written by the Thai master Ajahn Mahaboowa, turn up no such text.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">Regardless of who uttered these lines, their simplicity and forthrightness were what I needed, and re-oriented me to how very <i>available</i> walking meditation is, and what an act of reverence to the dhamma. Another hangover, one many of us nurse through a lifetime, is the din of interior voices telling us we’re not capable of something, that it really isn’t within our grasp. I felt that way for a long time about my own breath, and it took me years to comprehend that I wasn’t doing it wrong, as some of those voices insisted. That playing with and manipulating and sending my breath into all kinds of real and imagined places was my prerogative. And that’s how I learned to meditate. These little instructions, which are nothing new, re-inspired me to collapse the Cartesian distance I’d erected between my pacing body and my fussy mind, and to find another way of accessing what Ajahn Lee called a safe home for the mind. They’re like a plainspoken voice that says, “Do it, out of compassion for yourself.”&nbsp;</p><p class="p3"><b>Walking Meditation Instructions</b></p><p class="p3">The key technique for walking meditation is to be mindful of walking and aware of the touching of the feet to the ground. Before starting walking meditation, the practitioner should prepare a walking path. The walking path should not be shorter than seventeen steps long. The walking path must be clean and smooth. The direction of the walking path, when part of practice, is from the east to the west. Other directions are acceptable if a suitable direction cannot be found, except avoid the direction from the north to the south and from the south to the north.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">Before starting walking meditation, the practitioner stands at one end and puts the right hand over the left in front of the body. Having thus composed the body, they should then stand still and bring awareness and attention to the body. Then raise one’s hands together (a gesture of respect) and with the eyes shut reflect for a few minutes on the qualities of the Buddha, the dhamma and the sangha. Then bring the hands down and decide on how long you are going to walk. Focus the eyes down on the ground/floor about six feet in front of you or at a suitable distance for each individual. Don’t look around.</p><p class="p2">While walking, practitioners mindfully note this arising and passing away of feelings as the soles of the feet lift off or touch onto the ground. Keep the full attention on sensations that arise through walking. Walking quick or slow depends on each practitioner. If the mind wanders a lot, walking slowly is suitable. Then bring the mind back to the sensations at the feet and continue walking. While walking the mind may become calm and tranquil. Stop and stand to allow the mind to experience this calmness and tranquility.</p><p class="p2">Another way to do walking meditation is to use a mantra like <em>bhuddo</em> [awake]. This technique of practice is like the sitting meditation as mentioned earlier. The practitioner mentally repeats buddho with the breath while walking. Be mindful on the breaths as you repeat the mantra, buddho, all the time. This technique will help calm the mind. However, it is not suitable for beginners because the breath is a subtle meditation subject. Walking meditation combined with the breath with the word <em>buddho</em> is fit for one who has attained a certain degree of stability and calmness beforehand.</p><p class="p3"></p><p class="p3"></p><p class="p4"><br><b>Mary Talbot </b>is <i>Tricycle</i>’s editor-at-large.</p><p class="p4"><em>Flickr/Andy Enero</em></p> 47019 Mon, 23 Nov 2015 12:48:05 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World Embodiment <p><img src="" alt="Dali" width="570" height="504" style="margin: 7px auto; display: block;"></p><p>Embodiment is:</p><p></p><p>emerging into this world of light and sound</p><p></p><p>joy of skin touching skin, mouth on breath, body sliding into/out of body</p><p></p><p>separateness of playmates teasing, mommy scolding, dog growling, knife cutting</p><p></p><p>loneliness of being encased in envelope of skin, thoughts and emotions a mystery to others</p><p></p><p>confinement to body as a constantly changing piece of luggage, always a surprise to look down and it has sprout hair or breasts, become fat, wrinkled, thin, peeling, saggy</p><p></p><p>becoming afraid that this will end.</p><p></p><p><span class="Apple-tab-span" style="white-space: pre;"> </span>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;Embodiment is:</p><p></p><p>frustration of mind-never-still standing square in the way of Mind&nbsp;</p><p></p><p>wonder of using mind-that-can-grow-quiet to encounter Mind, body-that-can-sit to realize Body</p><p></p><p>interpenetration of what I call me and what I call paper just now as I read, interpenetration of what I call me and what I call carpet felt, walls seen, air breathed, trees outside, continuously creating each other, mutual verification, no distance at all. Worm bodies, cloud bodies, toothpaste tube bodies, grass leaf bodies, carpet fiber bodies, Sitka spruce bodies, lumber stack bodies, woman’s body birthing slippery baby body.</p><p></p><p>struggling through body of gristle, skin, sinew, synapse, eyelash, sweat, breast, penis; struggling through mind of scheming, dreaming, steaming, jealous, rageful, loving, doubting, antsy; struggling through body of zafu, left-foot-on-right-thigh, thumbs touching, breathing counting, seed syllable, moon disk turning; through mind watching Mind watching mind as it opens to no eye ear nose tongue body mind.</p><p></p><p>Sometimes I think our em-bodies are like clay shaped on a potter’s wheel. Each body is different in form and function, just as pitcher is for pouring, pot for holding, lid for closing. There are man bodies, woman bodies, car, butterfly, radiator, and earthworm bodies. No matter how they are coat, pink slimy, shiny metal, skin, fur, feathers, bark, stone—all are of the same substance. &nbsp;In this universal potter’s studio everything is made of clay: the floor, the walls, potter’s wheel. Nothing enters and nothing leaves. Being born, clay is formed. Living clay bodies chip and gradually or suddenly! break down. Dying, they disintegrate into clay particles again, are gathered, kneaded, and made into new bodies. In the potter’s studio are millions of vessel-bodies, continuously being formed, functioning according to their purpose, breaking down, being remade as something new. Nothing enters and nothing leaves.&nbsp;</p><p></p><p>After hundreds of thousands of millions of years, every particle of clay has passed through every kind of vessel. Every body has particles that have “belonged” to every other body. The vessel-bodies are so tightly packed that there is no distance between them, one shape curving into the next, a valley in one is a hill in another. So close that molecules interpenetrate. What is the clay? Who is the potter?</p><p></p><p><br>From <em>Being Bodies</em>, edited by Lenore Friedman and Susan Moon. © 2007 by Lenore Friedman and Susan Moon. Reprinted by arrangement with <a href="" target="_blank">Shambhala Publications</a>.</p><p><em>Image: <a href="" target="_blank">Ian Burt, Flickr</a>.&nbsp;</em>Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man,&nbsp;<em>Salvador Dalí, 1943. Oil on canvas, 45.5 x 50 cm.&nbsp;</em></p><div></div> 47004 Tue, 17 Nov 2015 18:06:23 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World The Sound of Silence <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="" width="570" height="428" style="margin: 7px;"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>The author’s morning meditation view during her retreat, as it appears in the afternoon.</em></p><p>I’ve just returned to New York from a six-day meditation retreat near Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Part of the time, we were meant to maintain silence. At sunrise, with the temperature hovering around 40 degrees, we meditated on a ridge overlooking tree-covered hills. As the pink glow on the horizon brightened to gold, the birds took up their chorus. And just as loudly, dead leaves from the trees around us turned in the breeze and clattered to the ground. Without silence, how would we have heard the “metal leaves . . . that rattled on like tin,” as T. S. Eliot described them in <em>Little Gidding</em>? I had no idea fall leaves made such a racket, though I vaguely remembered some poet calling fall “the metal season.” So many of nature’s secrets are revealed to us only in silence.</p><p></p><p>Silence makes most people uncomfortable, however—including a number of my fellow retreatants, it seemed. No sooner had the evening practice ended and the retreat leader said, “Remember, we’re in silence until after breakfast,” than conversation broke out all over the meditation hall, technically a quiet zone at all times.&nbsp;</p><p></p><p>These weren’t urgent exchanges: most were the idle chatter of pent-up energy being released. But however inconsequential the content of our conversations, we are addicted to words borne on the sound of our own voices. After living in a Zen monastery and sitting a number of silent retreats, I find solace in silence. In music, silence is the rest between notes that allows us to hear the tune. But when I first started Buddhist practice, even a 40-minute meditation period was torture. Silence terrified me.&nbsp;</p><p></p><p>If you’d asked me why I was afraid of silence, I’d have probably told you something like “Well, if I needed something, I couldn’t ask for it,” or something even lamer like “It’s boring.” Silly excuses, of course. The real terror behind silence was that it left me with myself. Without the diversion of TV or music or chitchat, there is nothing to attend to but what I’m thinking and feeling. Every fear, every doubt, every obsessive idea is vivid and insistent in the silent void. <em>Oh, god, did I really say that? Did I really do that? How could I have been so dumb/careless/silly? What will happen now?</em>&nbsp;</p><p></p><p>As if it weren’t enough to be trapped in my own mental squirrel cage, silence challenges interpersonal relations as well. Being alone in silence is one thing; being silent with others is a different kind of hell. <em>Why is he looking at me like that? What did I do? Is she still chewing over that remark I made at lunch? I was just kidding; does she think I was rude? Where are all those people going? They didn’t invite me.</em> In silence we project onto others the flimsiest of resentments and fears. Without any feedback, how quickly I can install myself in someone else’s mind and compose stories—indeed, entire operas—based on nothing but my imagination. It’s an old joke among practitioners that in the course of a weeklong silent retreat, you can fall in love, carry on a torrid affair, and break up—all in your mind, with a person you’ve never even met who’s seated on a cushion across the room. If silence allows me to hear dead leaves drop, it is equally conducive to fabricating a life.</p><p></p><p>But the opposite is also true. In silence, the fantasy life falls apart more readily than when it’s wrapped in the noise of everyday life. Stay busy, and doubt and anxiety duck behind the wall of talking and doing; shame and guilt slide into the swamp of multitasking and overscheduled time. With enough noise, I can outrun my deepest fears. But in silence at 3 a.m., the fears win out.</p><p></p><p>When I first started Buddhist meditation, I sat at a zendo located on a busy New York street. We could hear the traffic going by, punctuated by the starting and stopping of the crosstown bus. We complained to our teacher that the noise was interfering with our practice. “But that <em>is</em> your practice,” we were told. “Life is noisy. Here, sitting in silence, you learn to quiet the mind regardless of what is going on around you.”&nbsp;</p><p></p><p>One of the buzz phrases these days is<em> lean in</em>, the title of Sheryl Sandberg’s manifesto for women trying to make it in a gender-unequal world. <em>Go after what you want. Don’t avoid the tough stuff</em> is the underlying message. In silence I have little choice but to lean in to the tough stuff—to meet it without resistance when it’s “blown towards me like the metal leaves / Before the urban dawn wind unresisting,” as T. S. Eliot put it. Just as my teacher suggested making friends with the <a href="" target="_blank">clutter in my apartment</a>, I need to cozy up to my internal mess.</p><p></p><p>Because that’s not the end of it. It’s not just the tough stuff—or the fantasy life—we encounter in silence. Beyond the internal mess is clear space, a clear mind. And there’s no better place—indeed, no other place—to meet your true self. This doesn’t happen at once. Usually, it takes a few—or a number of—meditation sessions sitting with the agitated mind before the true self appears. But with each session the fog lifts a bit more, until one day the ego “I,” with its insistent look-at-me voice, drops away, revealing the true self afloat in a vast blue sky. For the moment, at least, there is only a feeling of peace and joy.&nbsp;</p><p></p><p>Why wouldn’t I want to shut up and sit quietly for that?</p><p><br><strong>Joan Duncan Oliver</strong> is a <em>Tricycle</em> contributing editor and the author, most recently, of <em>The Meaning of Nice</em>.</p><p><em>Photograph by Kathy Hayden</em></p> 46998 Thu, 12 Nov 2015 13:38:22 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World A Special Bond <p><img src="" width="570" height="383" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></p><p>It is like this: wherever we go, people make a beeline for Moune. One block of Charlottesville’s pedestrian mall will bring “What kind of dog is that?” “Oh, honey, come check it out! He looks just like Benji!” “Is that a Briard?” “Can I pet him? Her?” “What’s its name?” “Winn-Dixie!” “Can I take a picture?” “How old is he?” “Hey Bud!” “Oh. My. God. She is so PRESH!”</p><p>Some days we enjoy the limelight; other days Ma Moune tolerantly stands there while I, hackles raised, can barely suppress the urge to growl and bare my teeth. It is great patience practice if I’m in a hurry or a bad mood. I’ve joked with friends that next time I’ll get a dog that everyone will pass by without a second glance.</p><p>A dog like Julot (<i>zhu-lo</i>), who belonged to my friend Marc when we were in horticulture school in France years ago. Julot was an ugly blackish mutt, long-bodied and stumpy, with a share of dachshund in the mix, and he reeked. He smelled in general, his breath stank, and he farted with noxious gusto. His personality was not particularly engaging. He wasn’t very bright. He ate poop. Being short-legged but well endowed, Julot had pendulous testicles that would thwump on the stairs coming down. Thirty-odd years later, when Marc—who loved that dog to pieces—evokes memories of Julot, we laugh to tears.</p><p>But Julot would never do. I was drawn to Moune because I found her to be distinctive and special and wonderful. And by abstraction, that makes me, her human, special. Without Moune, I could walk up and down the Charlottesville Mall a dozen times and the panhandlers alone would notice me. I could be just a “grain of sand in the universe,” and <i>know</i> it, as in Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s “We are just a speck of dust in the midst of the universe. If you are a grain of sand, the rest of the universe, all the space, all the room is yours, because you obstruct nothing, overcrowd nothing, possess nothing. There is tremendous openness. You are the emperor of the universe because you are a grain of sand.”</p><p>But my grandmother used to tell me I was special—in a good way—and I liked it. I’m not quite ready to relinquish my fantasies of specialness, embrace the freedom of nonidentification, and be a speck in the universe, empress or not. Moune, the anti-Julot, supports me in my special quest. A pure-bred Berger Picard, she’s an appealingly shaggy creature with character traits typical of her little-known breed: headstrong and self-contained meets comical and endearing.</p><p>By and large, she’s so well-mannered and adaptable that I keep her in tow as much as I’m able. Often, if I’m teaching or leading meditation practice, she’ll accompany me and wait quietly on her cushion. If the session is emotionally intense (I’ve been focusing a lot on aging, illness, and dying lately), Ma Moune can provide a safe outlet for participants’ feelings. And last winter my special companion and I became a certified therapy dog/handler team and began weekly visits on the palliative unit in the hospital where I was working.</p><p>Being blessed with a great dog, I reckon that the best thing I can do is to cultivate gratitude, patience, and generosity, and share her with my little world. In the hospital lobby, at the nurse’s stations, and in room after room, people fuss and I talk about Moune’s breed and her story, and ask about the pets in their lives. And with every smile that Moune occasions, my special little world thanks me back.<br><br><strong>Pamela Gayle White</strong>&nbsp;is a dharma teacher and translator in the Bodhi Path network and a&nbsp;<i>Tricycle&nbsp;</i>contributing editor. She recently completed her residency as an interfaith chaplain at the University of Virginia Medical Center.</p><p><em>Photograph courtesy Pamela Gayle White</em></p><p></p> 46992 Tue, 10 Nov 2015 11:09:50 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World The Great Matter <p><i><img src="" width="570" height="380" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></i></p><p><i>The Great Matter is Tricycle’s blog on death and dying by contributing editor Sam Mowe.</i><br><br>Medical technology has gotten so good at keeping people alive, we’ve forgotten how to die. This forgetting has happened with the best of intentions—namely, we want to preserve life because it is precious and fleeting. But because so many of us are stuck in this mentality of trying to postpone death through medical miracles, we often miss unique opportunities for insight and connection at the end of life.&nbsp;</p><p>Fortunately there are a growing number of organizations that are working to remind us how to die by showing us what compassionate care at the end of life looks like. Last month I attended the annual fundraiser for <a href="" target="_blank">New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care</a> (NYZCCC), an organization that trains caregivers in the art of helping people prioritize their personal goals and values at the end of life. They emphasize quality of life and emotional healing while working in a healthcare environment that often sees death as a failure to cure disease and illness, rather than a human event that we will each experience. “We are trying to change the dialogue around end of life care,” NYZCCC co-founder Robert Chodo Campbell said. “To show that dying is a very ordinary thing.”&nbsp;</p><p>The fundraiser featured a performance of <i>The Healing Monologues</i>, performed by Michael Cunningham, Anthony Edwards, Marie Howe, Eve Ensler, and Richard Thomas,<b> </b>vignettes drawn from the experiences NYZCCC caregivers. As expected, many of the stories were deeply moving—sad, funny, and intense—but what was surprising was how many of them were, as Chodo would say, ordinary.&nbsp;</p><p>The monologues ran the spectrum of human experience, from a patient’s noticing the everyday details around her hospital bed to the description of a mother smiling while holding her recently deceased newborn. The best stories highlighted moments of unexpected connection, reminding the audience that life is so much more mysterious and complex than we might be comfortable with. One of my favorites was drawn from Chodo’s own experience of trying to remind a patient in the psych ward, recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, how to walk.</p><p><i>“Do you remember how to dance?”</i><i>&nbsp;</i></p><p><i>She smiles. “Yeah.&nbsp; You bet I do.”</i></p><p><i>“Come on then, let's dance.” I begin to hum <b>“</b>The Blue Danube<b>”</b> waltz.</i></p><p><i>We dance slowly, ever so slowly<b>,</b> out of her room and down the corridor with the staff and patients looking on, not quite believing what is happening. We are like two lovers unencumbered by frail limbs and failing mental capacity, totally and fully in the present moment.</i><i>&nbsp;</i></p><p><i>Her eyes shine as if something in the recess of her mind is suddenly awakened. She smiles and I think for a split second that we are in love. We </i>are<i> in love, with each other, with life.</i>&nbsp;</p><p>With poignant and human stories like this one—that emphasize spontaneous possibility, the present moment, and sudden awakening—perhaps it isn’t a surprise that Zen groups are at the forefront of modeling what compassionate caregiving and good dying looks like. <a href="" target="_blank">Zen Hospice Project</a>, an organization similar to NYZCCC based in San Francisco, was recently <a href="" target="_blank">written up in the <i>New York Times</i></a>;<b> </b>its Executive Director<b>,</b> BJ Miller<b>,</b> has a popular new TED Talk, “<a href="" target="_blank">What really matters at the end of life</a>.” Katy Butler, author of the recent bestselling <a href="" target="_blank"><i>Knocking on Heaven’s Door</i></a>, which recounts her family’s experiences with her father’s slow decline into dementia and death, is a Zen practitioner. What’s with Zen and death?&nbsp;</p><p>The evening meditation at a zendo ends with practitioners chanting, "The Great Matter is birth and death. Life slips past and time is gone. Right now, wake up! Wake up! Do not waste time." This is a message that our deathphobic culture would do well to hear. In the same way that NYZCCC caregivers help dying patients prioritize their remaining time on earth, reflecting on the reality of death is a powerful spiritual practice that can help each of us shift our perspective on our life. We’re each dying, after all.<br><br><b>Sam Mowe </b>is a <i>Tricycle</i> contributing editor. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.</p><p><em>Gallerystock/Amani Willett</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p> 46984 Wed, 04 Nov 2015 12:38:07 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World Prominent Buddhist Scholar Rita Gross Suffers Massive Stroke <p class="p1"><img src="" alt="Rita Gross" width="574" height="321" style="margin: 7px auto; display: block;"></p><p class="p1"><em>Update (11/12/15): We received news this morning that Rita Gross has passed, at peace and without appearing to suffer. The body was treated in the traditional Tibetan manner and will be cremated after three days. Rita had requested that her ashes be sprinkled into the Lotus Pond at Mindrolling, Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche's retreat center in central Virginia.</em></p><p class="p1"><br>Rita M. Gross—an author, dharma teacher, professor, and longtime <i>Tricycle </i>contributor—suffered a massive stroke last week. She is currently in hospice care at her home in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">A passionate voice for women's equality, interreligious dialogue, and the value of historical study as a way of enriching religious practice, Gross earned her PhD in 1975 from the University of Chicago in History of Religions. Shortly thereafter, in 1977, she took refuge vows with Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, formally entering the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. In 2005, her teacher Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche empowered her as a <i>lopon</i> (senior teacher).</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">Her first article for <i>Tricycle</i>, "<a href="">After Patriarchy</a>," an excerpt from her groundbreaking work <i>Buddhism After Patriarchy</i>, appeared in the magazine's sixth issue in the winter of 1992. Since then, the magazine has<b> </b>regularly featured Gross's work, distinct for its blend of spiritual warmth and academic rigor. Gross's most recent feature<b> </b>article, "<a href="">Man-made Obstacle</a>," which appeared in<b> </b>the Summer 2014 issue, tackled the contradiction between those impediments that Buddhism has implored followers to overcome (worldly concerns, sensory pleasures, and so forth) and those it has deemed insurmountable (regrettably, womanhood).&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">Gross experienced a mild stroke while traveling in India last spring. After undergoing a regimen of physical therapy, she seemed to be making a recovery. However<b>,</b> her recent, far more severe stroke left her hospitalized and she was soon put on hospice.</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">A close friend and student of Gross's told <i>Tricycle </i>that Gross "became more calm almost as soon as she was in her own place again."</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">"Our dear friend is at home now, with all her <i>thangkas </i>[paintings], <i>rupas</i> [statues] and, of course, her beloved cats," she added.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">The <i>Tricycle</i> editors are grateful for Rita’s work, which has enriched our pages. But more important than her helping make <i>Tricycle</i> a better magazine is her achievement—through equal parts instruction and provocation—of helping make readers (ourselves included) better thinkers and practitioners.&nbsp;</p> 46976 Mon, 02 Nov 2015 18:14:22 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World 5 Realities of Becoming a Hardcore Meditator <p class="Body"><img src="" width="570" height="428" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></p><p class="Body">At the beginning of this year I made a vow. If you’ve read my other columns here you’ll no doubt be aware of the fact that <a href="" target="_blank">I’ve had trouble picking—and then sticking with—a specific Buddhist modality</a>. There’s so much available, especially with the advent of teaching via Internet, that my attention has always been divided among the glut of Buddhist approaches that have flooded the West. I’ve snatched up every shiny object out there and fiddled with it only to become entranced by another sparkly thing close by. The sentence that best sums up my journey is probably “Ohhhh, look at <i>that </i>delightful thing . . . oh, SHIT what’s that over there?!”</p><p class="Body">So I’m a bad Buddhist. I’ve known that for a while. Yet I’ve never had any issues with the basic underpinnings of the philosophy. The first time I read about suffering, no-self, and impermanence, I was transformed. Those things and many other, finer details have always sublimely resounded with me.</p><p class="Body">Not so with actual practice. After years of swaying capriciously between meditative methods, I finally wore myself out. I was so disgusted with my constant vacillation that I decided to just nail it down. I was going to stand pat on one hand and play it to the end. Vipassana had always seemed to produce the best fruit for me so I vowed to do that in such a hardcore manner that I’d reach awakening lickety split-ish. It was time to get enlightened or die tryin’. Here are the five most uncomfortable things I discovered while doing so.<br><br><strong>1. Where the hell is my free time?</strong></p><p class="Body">The first thing I had to do after making this decision was carve out time in my daily life. It’s no different from a resolution to start jogging and get in shape, except I could keep eating Slim Jims and I didn’t have to buy new shoes. My vow to meditate—damn, <i>twice </i>a day?—required me to plop my body down rather than get it active. Nonetheless, it’s mental fitness and I had to find a way to cram it into a life that’s already packed with three jobs, a wife, and trivia night at the local brewery.</p><p class="Body">The time commitment was sudden and unwieldy. Following the fairly traditional format—sitting in the morning and the evening—totally messed up my personal hygiene routine. But I’d made the move to get enlightened or die tryin’—I needed to sit twice a day.</p><p class="Body">My usual carefree 25 or 30 minutes wasn’t hardcore enough, either. I made up my mind to do 45 minutes in the morning and at least that much, maybe an hour, at night. That sent my schedule into a tailspin. Instead of rising half an hour early, I was setting the alarm almost an hour before my usual time. That’s because I needed at least five to ten minutes to lie in bed and moan. My wife was a huge fan of that. “I’m so glad you’ve decided to meditate with such diligence,” she’d say, while rolling away and cuddling a pillow. “There are various things on my nightstand I can throw at you if you don’t go get enlightened in the other room.” Then it was get up or get divorced.</p><p class="Body">I wait tables and bartend at two restaurants for a living, and will have to continue until some foolish Buddhist outlet hires me to relate these ridiculous stories full-time. I often work both day and night shift, which is a severe restriction on time as it is. Not much room for hobbies, is what I’m saying. Formal sitting practice truncated that even further. Ninety or so minutes a day for meditation doesn’t sound like much, but when you have to shoehorn it into an already crazy schedule, there isn’t a lot of extra time for learning origami and air guitar.</p><p class="Body">My free time eroded quickly. My sleep schedule, already touch and go, became a nebulous thing that I just got to when I could. Which brings up the fact that . . .&nbsp;<br><br><strong>2. Everyday life gets more difficult.</strong></p><p class="Body">There’s a modern misconception that meditation is a panacea for all of life’s various travails, that the calm, focus, and serenity you cultivate on the cushion will bleed into daily existence and your worries will fly away.</p><p class="Body">I’m not here to pop any poodle-shaped balloons a nice clown blew for you, but it just isn’t true. There’s no doubt—and I repeat, <i>no doubt</i>—that meditation is helpful. But the notion that the practice simply flips a switch from THIS SUCKS to FANTASTIC is seriously messed up.</p><p class="Body">Meditation definitely has immediate, noticeable benefits. But it also brings some side effects that popular interpretations may not have mentioned. For example, I just asked my desk lamp if “interpretation” was the right word to use there. And, more amazingly, I waited for a response.</p><p class="Body">That’s probably not normal, but the side effects I’m talking about are a bit grimmer than that. Any serious delving into how your mind works will bring about things you may not be ready to face. Buried things, deep in the muck of your consciousness, that can break out at any time.</p><p class="Body">I was sitting over 90 minutes a day when it really got uncomfortable. Morning sits often produced a nausea that made me dread the rest of the day. It faded over time, but launching yourself off the cushion with a positive sense of well-being is one thing. Crawling off it with disturbing rumblings in your belly is another. As I’ve mentioned before, this isn’t always cosmic-flavored cotton candy and fluffy kittens. This practice digs deep into your buried shit and heaves it out into sunlight.</p><p class="Body">Most of the time, I just had to go to work with that feeling. I slung drinks, talked to customers with my happy face, and pretended nothing was amiss. Which was wretched. I also became much more aware of all the negative aspects of my persona. As I began to see the connections with what popped up in my mind and the actions that followed, I realized I dealt with the world in a deeply flawed way. It was depressing. In the midst of all the nausea and mental turbulence I kept wondering if this was working.</p><p class="Body">Again, I have to reiterate: meditation is helpful. It leads to a better life. But it can also dip you into darkness. There’s a righteous light on the other side of that darkness but you have to stick with it. If you don’t, you could get stuck in the dusk and never see the dawn.</p><p class="Body">Which is awful, because . . .<br><br><strong>3. Good luck explaining this.</strong></p><p class="Body">I’m generally more interested in the modern, practical dharma movement as opposed to traditional Buddhism. Don’t get me wrong: I adore Buddhism as a whole, from its original roots to today’s adaptations. But I think that secular meditation, along with the underlying Buddhist methods for dissecting the self, may be a key to peace and understanding in the skeptical West.</p><p class="Body">Historically, only monks and nuns (but mostly monks) have practiced meditation in Eastern countries. The laity have always supported them with devotions and donations in exchange for good karma and the hope for a better future life.</p><p class="Body">But we in the Occident expect a better life here and now. Monasticism has collided with non-monastic people to produce a new breed of practitioner: lay folks who meditate.</p><p class="Body">To outsiders, it’s still a screwy religion with roots in inscrutable cultures that probably aren’t suited to the cutthroat lifestyle we’ve cobbled together here. People may enjoy the occasional Zen Yoplait commercial, but they’re not usually into chanting in Tibetan or lighting incense in front of a statue. Which turns out <i>not </i>to be a fat guy, by the way. What gives?</p><p class="Body">Some people in the West have chosen to focus on the practical aspects of the path minus the more outrageous claims that are attached to the whole of Buddhism. It seems possible to practice without beliefs and see the truth of the teachings revealed by personal experience and tangible results.</p><p class="Body">Something like that’s a lot easier to explain than “Well, I was fed up with <i>samsara</i>, you know, so I dug into the <i>dharma</i> and realized I’m nothing but a pile of <i>skandhas </i>and my existence is marked by <i>dukkha</i>, <i>annica</i>, and<i> anatta</i>. Whoa. So I started doing <i>Vipassana </i>and I’m really busting up my <i>kleshas. </i>I think I’m close to becoming an <i>anagami</i> and then <i>nirvana </i>is just around the corner. Cool, eh?”</p><p class="Body">When I became a hardcore meditator, most of my friends wanted to know what was going on, why they didn’t see me as much. My reasons, even within the bounds of pragmatic dharma, still sounded as weird as the rules of cricket, and I could see their eyes go vague as I explained.</p><p class="Body">People don’t want to hear about religion. Ask any Jehovah’s Witness who’s had a door slammed in his face. People don’t even want to hear about something that <i>sounds </i>like religion, let alone anything to do with the limp-wristed, vegan, feel-good takeover of America. They want results, goddammit, and they don’t want to have to change anything in order to achieve them.</p><p class="Body">That’s something you might want to ease into because . . .&nbsp;<br><br><strong>4. I had to give up some habits.</strong></p><p class="Body">I’ve pounded plenty of party beverages in my life. Alcohol is more than just a social lubricant; it’s a crutch. It doesn’t matter if we use it to hobble into the next relationship or simply to stumble around until we get better on our own. There are plenty of bottles out there that help us fuzzy up the details until we’re better equipped to deal.</p><p class="Body">But becoming a hardcore meditator meant I had to give up some things, like the alcoholic crutches and narcotic wheelchairs available. There was no use dedicating myself to serious practice if I was still going to rely on these things to ease over the rough spots.</p><p class="Body">In addition, it seemed I’d have to abandon the idea that there’s a <i>me </i>underneath all this. What habit is harder to break than that? I’ve always lived with a weird hole in my middle, which I think a lot of people feel. I poured a million gallons of alcohol, drugs, and sex into that hole trying to plug it up and stop the ache. Buddhism showed me that hole was natural and the absence it signified wasn’t to be feared. Despite my recognition of that, and my acceptance of it at an intellectual level, I’ve still fought like a demon to keep it filled.</p><p class="Body">Meditation helps. Just sitting is a great way to see that feeling, to deal with it, and understand where it comes from. But that’s not a permanent fix, at least at my skill level. You constantly have to come back to your old habitual patterns, keep discarding them over and over.</p><p class="Body">Such as laziness. I, much like the Dude, am an inherently lazy man. When I get off shift, I like to lie around and watch <i>King of the Hill</i>. I don’t want to do work after I work. But I had to crank it up. You don’t get enlightenment if you only go to seven. You’ve got to hit eleven.</p><p class="Body">Wasting time is another big one. I used to see my life as large chunks of stuff happening with little bits of worthless time in between. Those minutes were to be discarded. They’re not important. They’re a way station until the next thing hits. Smartphones have turned this little notion into a nuclear arsenal of time-killing Armageddon. Texting, games, lesbian lemur ballerina videos on YouTube, and Facebook. So much Facebook. I had to teach myself to put the phone down and experience those minutes as they go by rather than trying to destroy them. Meditation and mindfulness don’t just happen on the cushion. They happen while you’re waiting for an oil change, too.</p><p class="Body">Mainly, though, it’s the resistance to individual change. Silent sitting meditation transforms you as a person. And your person does not want to be changed. It’s a habit so deep, so integral, that the very notion of even nudging it is abhorrent. It seems way too monumental to ever move. Just remember to lift with your legs and not your back, because there’s always . . .&nbsp;<br><br><strong>5. The risk of burnout.</strong></p><p class="Body">Like jumping into anything, committing yourself to hardcore meditation brings a risk of going too hard at first and then giving up. Before I started, I was doing about 20 minutes a day of light <i>shamatha</i>. Just following my breath and trying to chill the fuck out. I made the questionable decision to leap whole-hog into a detailed version of Vipassana that, like “Mad-Eye” Moody, demanded <i>constant vigilance</i>. I’m not sure if I could have gone half-hog, but that wasn’t really on the table. I had committed to rush headlong toward enlightenment and no one was going to talk me out of it.</p><p class="Body">In just a few weeks, I jacked my lackluster meditation practice way up. I went from a desultory sitting every couple of days to screaming face-first at liberation. I crawled out of bed every single morning to meditate before work. I slapped my tired ass on the cushion every night before bed. Sometimes I charged home between shifts with only an hour to spare, spent 45 minutes of that break meditating and then was late getting back to work. Just a little bit late, relax.</p><p class="Body">I didn’t last. Around the two-month mark I thought I was doing well. About three months in I wasn’t too sure of that. After four months, I was certain everything was wrong. And after six months I had to back down. It was too fast and too furious and I certainly wasn’t Vin Diesel enough to take it.</p><p class="Body">I held the misguided belief that my newfound dedication would somehow protect me, like my ill-conceived commitment would shield me from difficulty and usher me politely into enlightenment just because I was such a serious go-getter.</p><p class="Body">I didn’t get enlightened, but neither did I die tryin’. At times it seemed like death was the closer of the two. I emerged from my vow exhausted, frazzled, and in need of at least one big serious drink. After that drink I decided to calm down and renegotiate the terms of my dedication to prevent things like this in the future. And Buddha has been cool with that.<br><br><strong>Brent R. Oliver</strong>&nbsp;is a writer based in Lexington, Kentucky.</p><p class="Body"><em>Photo courtesy Brent Oliver</em></p> 46967 Fri, 30 Oct 2015 14:13:57 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World (Meta)Physical Education <p><img src="" width="570" height="380" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></p><p>After finishing my yearly spiel about rules this morning—the one in which I talk about participation and commitment, about how the work that we do in gym is similar to the work that we do in the classroom, and that even though we may not always like it, completing this work will challenge us, and make us better athletes, teammates, and disciples of Michelle Obama—Amanda, a feisty third grader, remarked, “Great speech, Alex.”</p><p>I didn’t want to laugh. Laughing would indicate to her classmates that undermining your teacher with a well-timed sarcastic comment is acceptable behavior. But in the battle between laughing and being teacherly, laughter always seems to win. When a student pokes a needle into the inflated balloon of your own gravitas, it’s hard to remain serious.</p><p>As a teacher I’m always dancing on the edge between serious and silly, order and chaos, especially in PE, where chaos within limits is the name of the game. It is my job to maintain a safe and structured environment while also allowing my students to explore their athletic potential and figure out what they are capable of. This kind of exploration frequently involves flying projectiles, so my goals aren’t always compatible.</p><p>Much of the same dynamic exists within the walls of a monastery. There are teachers and there are students, who, at the instruction of their teacher, spend their time staring at walls, washing dishes, cleaning floors, and figuring out what they are capable of (thankfully, with fewer flying projectiles). The teacher walks into the room and everyone straightens, notices in that moment how their posture is, their minds returning to the room from various flights of fancy. We imbue the teacher with special power, whether he or she actually possesses it or not, because we want to believe that there is someone out there with authority, with special power, who can tell us how to be; who can help us make sense of the chaos inherent in being human.</p><p>Aside from my whistle (and perhaps my beard, which my students seem particularly awed by), I have no special power. When I first began to teach at Cambridge Montessori School eight years ago, I was terrified that the students would mutiny. Couldn’t they tell that should they decide to play dodgeball rather than tag, or spend the whole class racing around the gym on scooters, there was no real power I possessed to stop them? What could I do, scream “Help!” down the hallway and hope the librarian would come running to the rescue?</p><p>One of the first things that I learned, however, was that the students seemed more comfortable when I assumed the role they expected of me. During chaotic moments, when I blew the whistle and asked for attention, the students <i>listened</i>. When someone got hurt, as inevitably happens when flying projectiles return to orbit, the students quickly brought me over to the injured party. When I walked out into the hallway to greet them before gym, they straightened.</p><p>It has taken me years to recognize the responsibility that comes with this trust. Early on, when I realized, with some surprise, that the students liked me, I was too eager to be their friend, to sacrifice my authority for the boost this relationship gave to my ego. Now, I know that though our interactions can be full of joy, and though they often treat me like a human jungle gym, there is a more important process going on, one that will hopefully result in stronger bodies and sharper minds and allow me, when need be, to facilitate this growth.</p><p>But I’ve also come to recognize that there is a thin line between exercising authority and misusing power. One of the most common mistakes beginning teachers make (and it is a lesson I learned the hard way) is to fight fire with fire. Chaos is distressing and the tendency is to bring about order as fast as possible, by whatever means necessary. The trick, of course, is to be at ease with unease. Once upon a time I would try and wrest control with ear-piercing whistle blasts. Now I find myself twirling my whistle and glancing at the wall clock as the class begins to take notice and sit up straight. In these moments, part of me can’t believe its working and the other part of me can’t believe I’m not still the kid on the bench causing the ruckus. But, as Shunryu Suzuki said, “The best way to control people is to encourage them to be mischievous. Then they will be in control in a wider sense. To give your sheep or cow a large spacious meadow is the way to control him.” I have a spirited flock and so I try and provide a spacious meadow.</p><p>When I went through my yearly spiel about rules with another class, I asked them to come up with some rules of their own in small groups. As we went around the circle sharing their ideas—“Treat others as you want to be treated”; “Don’t die”; “Be hippies about everything”—one group came up with a particularly interesting rule: “Worship Alex.” I hesitated to write it down. It would only serve to inflate the balloon of my own gravitas. And yet it also indicated the role I’ve been cast in by my students, and it’s a role I am all too happy to play. I had to laugh.<br><br><b>Alex Tzelnic</b>&nbsp;is a Zen practitioner and writer living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His essays have appeared in&nbsp;<i>Killing the Buddha&nbsp;</i>and&nbsp;<i>The Rumpus</i>.</p><p><em>Gallery Stock</em></p> 46957 Tue, 27 Oct 2015 12:21:48 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World Learning to Die in the Anthropocene <p><img src="" alt="Planet Earth" width="574" height="447" style="margin: 7px auto; display: block;"></p><p>I’m a bad Buddhist. I don’t meditate every day, and some weeks, I feel lucky if I find the time to meditate at all. I go to zendo in rare spurts, a few weeks on, months off. I kill mosquitoes, flies, and moths. I drink, though no longer to excess. I’ve managed to rationalize continuing to eat meat. I’m often impatient and snarky with people, angry at them for blocking traffic, for being rude or thoughtless, for moving through the world in a haze, unconscious of the life flowing around them. <i>Look out! Look up! Just look!</i> I want to shout. I am suspicious and proud and sometimes cruel, inconstant in my compassion. I don’t steal and I don’t lie, but I’m vain about that; after all, honesty is one of my best qualities. And yet for all my vanity, I’m a hypocrite, too: I dissemble and misrepresent and omit.</p><p>And then there’s the whole “I” problem. Not only do I fail in all these all-too-human ways, fumble the dharma, wander from the Buddha way, spread unnecessary suffering and sometimes even wallow in it, but I feel guilty and ashamed that I—marvelous “I,” wonderful “I,” oh-so-special “I”—have fallen so far below my image of myself, this ideal of a perfect Buddhist me, the beautiful butterfly “I” that will erupt when I become a bodhisattva. So far below! And even more: I’m guilty about my lack of devotion. “I” have career plans, worldly ambitions, hopes for the future outside and beyond achieving spiritual enlightenment. I believe in this “I.” I won’t give it up. I want this “I” to succeed, in <i>this </i>world, in this particular cycle of pain and illusion, even if it means—as it does—making decisions that I know full well contradict the dharma. The path is clear, but I do not take it. The light shines, but I turn my face away. I remain willful, ignorant, suffering, anxious, dissatisfied, every day tying myself to the wheel of samsara. I know it. I keep doing it.</p><p>Another confession: I’m a bad environmentalist. I teach at Wesleyan, and I drive there from Brooklyn once a week, some two hours each way, adding my little bit to the mass of atmospheric carbon dioxide heating the planet. I’m flying all over, too, for academic conferences, journalism assignments, and a book tour: this year alone I’ve flown to Greenland, Russia, Canada, and Ireland, in addition to less polluting trips to the west coast, Miami, Texas, and so on. My partner composts her food scraps, dragging a bag of coffee grounds and onion skins to the park every week, but I don’t bother. I recycle only when it’s convenient. I buy coffee in cardboard cups and throw the cups away. Perhaps worst of all, I eat meat. Not just sometimes, not on rare occasions, not only expensive, “sustainable,” organic, but almost every day, and from the worst places: tuna and salmon from the corner sushi restaurant, turkey sandwiches from the bodega, beef in my Pad See Ew from the neighborhood Thai place, a whole roast chicken from the grocery store. As with my failure to be a bodhisattva, I know it’s wrong, but I do it anyway. There is absolutely no way that eating industrial meat is ethical, whether from a standpoint of compassion toward our fellow sentient beings, a perspective concerned with minimizing greenhouse gases, a point of view concerned with environmental and economic justice, or even the bare hope of sustaining human life on earth.</p><p>This all strikes me as pretty ironic, since I just published a book that tackles global warming as an ethical problem, and does so from a position that could be seen as more or less Buddhist (though I consider my position less Buddhist than pantheist, in the tradition of the heretical Jewish philosopher Benedict Spinoza). That book, <i>Learning to Die in the Anthropocene</i>, argues that we need to make a full ethical reckoning, in the deepest philosophical and existential sense, with the unavoidable fact of catastrophic climate change. <em>Anthropocene</em> is a term some scientists and thinkers have advanced suggesting that human beings have entered a new geological era, one characterized by the advent of human beings as a geological force. The problems we’ve created by transferring vast amounts of carbon transfer from underground into the sky are going to affect life on earth for millennia.</p><p>Within a few generations we will face average temperatures 7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than today, rising seas at least three to ten feet higher than they are now, and worldwide shifts in crop belts, growing seasons, and population centers. Within a couple hundred years humans will be living in a climate the earth hasn’t seen since the Pliocene, three million years ago, when oceans were 75 feet higher than they are now. Once the methane hydrates under the oceans and permafrost begin to melt, we may soon find ourselves living in a hothouse climate closer to that of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, approximately 56 million years ago, when the planet was ice free and tropical at the poles. We face the imminent collapse of the agricultural, shipping, and energy networks upon which the global economy depends, a large-scale die-off in the biosphere that’s already well underway, and our own possible extinction as a species.</p><p>What’s even more shocking is that it’s probably already too late to stop it, even if the world’s political and economic elites were willing and able to radically transform our global fossil-fueled economy, which they’re not. Scientists and environmental organizations have been working to alert politicians to the problem of global warming and to decrease carbon emissions for more than three decades, and emissions have only increased. According to the World Bank, 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit of warming is now inevitable no matter what, even if we stopped emitting carbon dioxide worldwide today. For reasons I discuss in <i>Learning to Die</i>, none of the political or technological solutions on the table—a carbon tax, cap-and-trade schemes, carbon capture and sequestration, decarbonizing the atmosphere, renewable energy, nuclear power, and geoengineering—are likely to work, and almost certainly not quickly enough to preserve global capitalist civilization as we know it. The next several decades are likely to be grim, brutish, and bloody, even nastier than the first two decades of the twenty-first century have been already.</p><p>The situation in which we find ourselves today is more dire than any other moment in human history, and we simply cannot wait until we become perfect bodhisattvas or perfect environmentalists before we respond. We must act <i>now</i>, as flawed, failed, flailing selves. At the same time, the situation we find ourselves in is beyond our power to change. The planet <i>will </i>get warmer. The ice caps <i>will</i> melt. The seas<i> will </i>rise. The global, fossil-fueled, consumer capitalist civilization we live in <i>will </i>come to an end.</p><p>It’s precisely in recognizing this paradoxical situation that the insights of Buddhism can help us move forward. If the bad news we must confront is that we’re all gonna die, then the wisdom that might help us deal with that news arises from the realization that it was going to happen anyway. This self, this existence, this “I” was always already dying, always already dead, always already passing from moment to moment in the flux of consciousness, matter, and energy, nothing more than breath. And if I can understand my very own self as impermanent, transient, and insubstantial, how much more insubstantial is a civilization, a “way of life,” a set of habits and structures and prejudices built and believed in and sustained by oh so many insubstantial selves? Breathe in, breathe out. Watch it come. Watch it go.</p><p>Buddhism articulates the riddle posed by human mortality to human consciousness in a way that shows us that the riddle’s answer lies not in evading the great ending, the terrifying void, but in accepting the truth that our great ending is merely another iteration of the innumerable endings we live through each day. This insight is taught in the four noble truths and in countless koans and dharma talks, and it is experienced in the practice of meditation, whether you practice every day or once a week or once a month. Meditation interrupts the endless feedback loops between consciousness and language, between consciousness and being, not disrupting them as one might with a drug or madness, but opening a space, a pause, a higher order function of attentive compassion. In practice, one learns to accept finitude, mortality, and the great ending, and in practice, one learns to cultivate the patience, compassion, and peace that lead to freedom.</p><p>I’m a bad Buddhist and a bad environmentalist, stuck in a world that promises nothing but suffering and death, heat waves, resource wars, and rising seas. The odds that I have enough time to attain buddhahood in this life, to become the perfect environmentally conscious bodhisattva, are basically zero. The odds are also basically zero that I, personally, will ever be able to do anything to stop or even slow down global climate change. It’s almost certain that I will spend my life failing at the most important things I can imagine doing—failing my friends, my family, my society, and myself. Then I’ll die.</p><p>The question I face, the question we all face, the ethical question at the heart of human life and the ethical question Buddhism helps us see at the heart of any possible response to the global climate crisis, is not whether we will succeed or fail, but rather: how will we choose to live out our inevitable failure? Bad Buddhist, bad environmentalist, flawed person, struggling, mortal, confused human ape—now what?</p><p>The first thing I need to recognize is that this isn’t just my condition but the human condition, and the second is that having a choice at all is a privilege. Only very few of us have the freedom to choose how we fail. The rest have our failures forced on us, and so long as the freedom of the few requires the oppression of the many, freedom itself remains an illusion. When the exercise of my freedom demands my complicity in denying that same freedom to others, I am forced to take on behaviors and beliefs that support enslavement and oppression, and I lose my freedom in the very same moment I think I gain it. Thus we arrive at the paradoxical truth of the Buddha way: the only possible free choice we can make is to choose to work for the freedom of all humankind, indeed of all sentient beings. Failure may be inevitable, but recognizing that is the first step in becoming free.</p><p></p><p><br><em>This essay was originally published on <a href="" target="_blank">NYU's&nbsp;</a></em><a href="" target="_blank">The Revealer: A Review of Religion & Media</a><em>. Reprinted with permission.</em>&nbsp;</p><p><b>Roy Scranton</b> is the author of <a href="" target="_blank"><i>Learning to Die in the Anthropocene</i></a> and coeditor of <i>Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War</i>. His work has appeared in the <i>New York Times</i> and <i>Boston Review</i>.</p><p><em>Image courtesy NASA, Lewis Research Center</em></p> 46953 Thu, 22 Oct 2015 13:24:44 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World The Power of Altruism to Change the World <p>The French-born Tibetan Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard gave up molecular genetics almost 50 years ago to dedicate himself fully to Buddhist practice. Dubbed "the happiest man in the world," he's since authored several books from Shechen Monastery in Nepal, the most recent being&nbsp;<em>Altruism: The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and the World</em>, published by Little, Brown and Company in June. &nbsp;</p><p>In this wide-ranging, 30-minute interview filmed during Ricard's most recent visit to New York, contributing editor Joan Duncan Oliver speaks to Ricard about some of the most pressing issues currently facing humanity—climate change, species extinction, and inequality—and how altruism can solve them.&nbsp;<em>—Eds.</em></p><p></p><center><iframe src="" width="576" height="324" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen="" mozallowfullscreen="" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></center><p></p> 46951 Tue, 20 Oct 2015 11:51:12 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World The Pope and a Cow’s Hoofprint <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="" width="570" height="372"></p><p>There’s a sutta in the Pali Canon where the Buddha draws an analogy between appreciating the good in someone you’ve got issues with, and lapping up water from a cow’s footprint in the middle of a scorching desert. Getting down on hands and knees, putting your face right into that animal puddle, feels problematic—compromising—but you <i>need</i> that clear water, just like you need the goodness and clarity in the person who also acts in a way you can’t abide. Ignore the things you don’t like, says the Buddha. The water in that hoofprint in the dirt could change everything. Ultimately, it’s not a compromise at all.</p><p>This image has been much on my mind of late, inspired by—of all things—the Pope’s recent visit to the United States. In media-time, Francis’s tour is such old news as to be unmentionable, and is generally treated as disposable like virtually every piece of the news we consume. But it’s still got me thinking. As a non-TV-watching feminist Buddhist, I hardly recognized myself in the person who was caught—hook, line, and sinker—in the man’s thrall. There’s much to admire about Francis, and then there are two millennia of Church shenanigans and abuse and brutality masquerading as doctrine to despise.</p><p>Still, while the pope was here, I followed a live stream of his every step, and hung on his every word from Washington, New York, and Philadelphia. I even ran home early one evening to watch as the humble black Fiat drove past<i> </i>my apartment building en route to the United Nations. I saw the pope’s arm, waving, and I yelped and jumped up and down—surprising my bemused son as much as I surprised myself.</p><p>But really, it’s not hard to figure where the thrill came from. What enraptured me, and plenty of others who don’t usually give pontifical things much positive thought, was the phenomenon of hearing profoundly countercultural messages, disseminated for five solid days, to a mass audience over mass media: “Beware the lure of materialism, because it is empty.” “Practice generosity.” “Spread goodwill.” “Take stock in the state of your heart.” “There is good in renunciation”—a term repeatedly translated from the pope’s Spanish as “sacrifice.” But <i>renunciación</i> means renunciation in the way Buddhists use it, and I want to think that’s how Francis meant it, too.</p><p>These are some of the same messages we hear in the dharma, however distinct the soteriological goal might be. Receiving this particular gospel over the same airwaves that incessantly deliver reality TV and Fox News and monetized everything was a revelation. I, along with thousands if not millions of others, drank it in like so much fresh water. Most of the time, our culture leaves us completely parched.</p><p>The hoofprint surrounding that water, though, jumped into sharp relief when I read about the pope’s conversation with Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, in defiance of a federal court order. Suddenly, I felt like a dupe. Did that <i>sub rosa</i> meeting mean everything about the pope that sounds righteous to me is a sham? Is his simplicity, and that wonderful smile he shares with his companions in sickness, old age, and death (to quote some Thai Buddhists), a big political put-on?&nbsp;</p><p>Yes, the Vatican insists that the Kim Davis encounter had nothing to do with her objecting to gay marriage, and I followed the reportage that maybe, in fact, it was the pope who had been duped—into taking the meeting in the first place. I’d like to believe that’s true.&nbsp;</p><p>But as the specter of the hoof reasserted itself, I realized how I dupe myself. What I don’t like about Francis’s views—or what I perceive them to be—is not the problem. The problem is my own attachment to views, to my own egotistical sense of righteousness. Pope Francis is Pope Francis, before and after Kim Davis. His exhortations to examine our greed and cultivate generosity are the same, before and after his meeting with Washington’s bishops. The authentic value in his message is unsullied by whatever I might think is abhorrent in the past and present actions of the Church hierarchy. I need the clear water in the footprint of somebody else’s religion, of somebody else’s goodness, as much as I need anything.&nbsp;</p><p>The cowprint metaphor comes from the <i>Aghatavinaya Sutta</i>—the Subduing Hatred Sutta. The title used to bother me. I loved the imagery and the advice the Buddha gives, but I rarely consider my aversion to people to be hatred. Why couldn’t it be the <i>dosa</i> (aversion) sutta instead? It took my mental contortions over the pope to remind me how <i>aghata</i> flares up the moment I think someone has violated my views, and how that sense of violation is what muddies the precious water in the desert puddle. I have Pope Francis to thank for driving a good dharma lesson home.<br><br><b>Mary Talbot </b>is <i>Tricycle</i>’s editor-at-large.</p><p><em>Pope Francis gets into his Fiat as he leaves a visit to Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington September 24, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by David Goldman-Pool/Getty Images)</em></p><hr><p><strong>More at Tricycle:</strong></p><table border="0" cellpadding="8" cellspacing="10" width="550"><tbody><tr></tr><tr><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>Fear of Silence</b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>The Sangha without Thich Nhat Hanh&nbsp;</b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td></tr></tbody></table> 46949 Fri, 16 Oct 2015 10:33:30 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World Slow the F@*k Down <p class="p1"><img src="" width="570" height="334" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></p><p class="p1">Late last fall, after my third cold in less than two months, I went to see my integrative doctor. It was my rare day off. I had been ridiculously busy working long hours all of September and October. I said something about catching whatever bugs had popped up that everyone else seemed to be getting. She laughed and said, "Sebene, it’s not like the cold and flu arrive on a plane from somewhere else. There are as many microbes now as any other time of the year."</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">Duh, of course. Wait, then why do we all get sick in the fall and winter? She answered: "It's because we have lost harmony with the rhythms of nature."</p><p class="p3">Think about it. Summer, with its long days and high vibrancy, is both when nature is most active and when most of us get our lengthiest restorative time. Starting around the fall equinox, just as we speed up in our post-Labor Day madness, all the plants and animals around us begin to store and slow down in preparation for a needed dormancy. Even if we don’t have kids (but especially if we do), the back-to-school rush is an engine that revs in preparation for months of over-activity. This craze culminates in an insanely frantic pace around the winter solstice when all of nature is either asleep or dead, while our crazy species rushes around in its end-of-the-year, sugar-fat-alcohol-induced madness otherwise known as the “holiday season."</p><p class="p3">Deadly heart attacks most commonly occur on December 25. Second most common day: December 26. Third: January 1.</p><p class="p1">Many any of us—especially those residing in New York City—wear our busyness as a badge of honor with no small assist from technology, which allows (forces?) us to work from anywhere. We fill up every moment of our time, often without asking ourselves if all the activity is meaningful. Even "downtime" is spent scrolling through texts and images, adding endless links and associations to our flooded synapses. It's totally cuckoo.&nbsp;What are we thinking? And what will make us finally slow down? For most of us, only one thing does it: illness.</p><p class="p1">Starting with me.</p><p class="p1">I have had cancer twice. Sadly, the mofo is back.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">I was hesitant to share this news so publicly but part of my evolution with illness over the years has been to challenge its culture of fear, discomfort, and shame. Maybe this is an opportunity to remind all of us (especially moi) that we are <i>sick in the head </i>and need to<i> slow the F down</i> and<i> listen to our heart</i>s.</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">Of course, I have had many powerful emotions and thoughts while grappling with this news. Shock, fear, despair, disbelief, grief... and a roaring "F@*k Cancer!" and "What the F@*k?!" and "F@*k, F@*k, F@*k!!"</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">But I've been gripped most by a single inquiry: "What is important to me?" In the weeks since my latest diagnosis, I have been exploring my deepest longing, what Suzuki Roshi called the <i>heart's most inmost request.</i> What is mine?</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">That is not an easy question to answer because the noise in my mind—with its voices of family, culture, society, media, doctors, and even well-meaning friends—is very loud. And bossy. And that noise insists that incessant activity will keep me from falling apart (counterproductive and pretty useless), help me plan for unknowns (mostly useless), and allow me to control the mysterious process of life and death (always useless).</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">It's hard to listen deeply with all that racket.</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">Of course, there are decisions to be made and actions to be taken whether we are facing a serious illness or not. What is draining and unnecessary is the constant activity and the superfluous thought. Yes, mindfulness is useful here. I've written before about the power of presence. But beyond breath meditation there's also a need to reckon with reality.</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">Yup, I'm talking about death.</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">Buddhists talk about the three messengers: illness, old age, and death. Some of us are blessed with good health for a long time (mazel tov) while others will not make it to old age—but all of us will die.</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">Yet, everything in our culture avoids or outright denies this reality and holds up the impossible ideal of eternal youth. Not that we need to be morbid. Self care is mature and wise. But how much can we diet, dye, cross-fit, pump, plump, inject, and extract, all the while spurning anything that reminds us of the inevitable?</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">Something that has helped me is a set of five daily recollections recommended by the Buddha:</p><p class="p4"></p><p class="p5">1. I am of the nature to grow old. I have not gone beyond aging.</p><p class="p5">2. I am of the nature to be ill. I have not gone beyond illness.</p><p class="p5">3. I am of the nature to die. I have not gone beyond death.</p><p class="p5">4. All that is mine, beloved and pleasing, will change and vanish.</p><p class="p5">5. I am the owner of my actions,&nbsp;heir to my actions,&nbsp;born of my actions,&nbsp;related to my actions,&nbsp;supported by my actions. Whatever actions I do, whether good or evil, of those I shall be the heir.</p><p class="p1">These reminders are simple statements of fact, but within our culture of denial they comprise a radical manifesto of reality: join the cause. Don't wait for illness or death...</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">These days I am taking things way the F slow. I am dropping things, scheduling less frequently, and trying not to fill up free time and space with agitated activity. I am staring out the window, reading actual books (without checking my gadget every 5 minutes), and lingering on park benches. I'm once again noticing the rhythms of nature in the city. Listening...<br><br><strong>Sebene Selassie&nbsp;</strong>recently stepped down as the executive director of New York Insight Meditation Center.</p><p class="p1"><em>This article originally appeared on Sebene Selassie's <a href="" target="_blank">website</a>.&nbsp;</em></p><p class="p1"><em>Gallery Stock</em></p><hr><p><strong>More at Tricycle:</strong></p><table border="0" cellpadding="8" cellspacing="10" width="550"><tbody><tr></tr><tr><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>Naropa’s Five-Acre Conundrum</b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>Tricycle Talks: Jeff Wilson, Mindful America</b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">LISTEN NOW →</a></p></td></tr></tbody></table> 46946 Thu, 15 Oct 2015 12:36:19 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World “For once, then, something” <p><img src="" width="570" height="691" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></p><p style="padding-left: 90px;"><strong>For once, then, something</strong><br><i>by Robert Frost</i></p><p style="padding-left: 90px;">Others taunt me with having knelt at well-curbs<br>Always wrong to the light, so never seeing<br>Deeper down in the well than where the water<br>Gives me back in a shining surface picture<br>Me myself in the summer heaven godlike<br>Looking out of a wreath of fern and cloud puffs.<br><i>Once</i>, when trying with chin against a well-curb,<br>I discerned, as I thought, beyond the picture,<br>Through the picture, a something white, uncertain,<br>Something more of the depths—and then I lost it.<br>Water came to rebuke the too clear water.
<br>One drop fell from a fern, and lo, a ripple<br>Shook whatever it was lay there at bottom,
<br>Blurred it, blotted it out. What was that whiteness?<br>Truth? A pebble of quartz? For once, then, something.</p><p>This poem, by the American poet Robert Frost, is a magnificent example of saying two things at the same time. It is both a simple story about a man looking into a well and a meditation on meaning. Frost talked about “The pleasure of ulteriority . . . saying one thing and meaning another, saying one thing in terms of another.”</p><p>Frost was very much a skeptic. In this poem, he manages to question the nature of reality by merging the myth of Narcissus entranced by his own reflection with an aphorism attributed to the Greek philosopher Democritus. He does all this without losing his native vocabulary as a New Hampshire farmer.</p><p>It’s only when we arrive at the word “Truth” on the last line that we grasp the universal significance of the poem. This universal significance in no way denies the immediacy of well-curbs and cloud puffs; it’s as if Frost is saying “If there is meaning, it’s to be found by looking deeply into the world, not by running off into speculation.” The way <i>beyond </i>the world (as we habitually experience it) is by way of a fuller engagement <i>with </i>the world.</p><p>The story is simple: the poet, “always wrong to the light,” can’t see “deeper down” into the water, but only catches his own “godlike” reflection “Looking out of a wreath of fern and cloud puffs.” This is a marvelously homely metaphor for our human situation: we try to look into life, but all we see is our own reflection staring back at us. So often we’re not really listening to our friend, we’re merely waiting to give our opinion; we can’t enjoy a sunset or a painting because we’re talking about it in our head. Even when we take up the spiritual journey, mostly it’s just “me.” We put ourselves at the center of everything, and then struggle to see beyond our own egotism.</p><p>Frost’s face in the reflection—“Me myself in the summer heaven”—is a comic reference to those vast, frescoed church ceilings by Michelangelo or Tiepolo, where God in all his glory sits surrounded by sun-struck clouds and lute-playing angels. The one god of our world, Frost is saying, is “me”; everything revolves around that.</p><p>He’s saying there’s nothing beyond our self-attachment. Ideas of transcendence are self-deluding—it’s just <i>me </i>“godlike / Looking out of
a wreath of fern and cloud puffs.” But then he changes tack: there was a time when he seemed to see “beyond the picture, / Through the picture, a something white . . . Something more of the depths.” But it’s uncertain. A drop of water falls from a fern and blots it out. For a moment, there did seem to be something more to life, something genuine . . . “and then I lost it.”</p><p>“For once, then, something” hovers between affirmation and rejection. The biblical references in the poem—“godlike,” “heaven,” “and lo,” “rebuke”—evoke the Christian story, but Frost will not affirm it. What’s interesting is that he won’t deny it either. The poem seems to say that belief and unbelief are equally false, or perhaps equally partial. There is “something”—but Frost refuses to either pin it down or disavow it. He remains genuinely skeptical, rather than taking refuge in pseudo-skepticism that mistakes nihilistic belief for the facts of life.</p><p>Frost’s poem is open to something beyond our limited egotism and yet alert to how easily we delude ourselves. There’s a genuine longing to see deeper into life, even though others “taunt him” for always being “wrong to the light.” He ends the poem by asking “What was that whiteness?”—white is a universal symbol of purity and perfection—“Truth? A pebble of quartz? For once, then, something.”</p><p>Frost’s poem demonstrates an authentic openness to how things really are, unclouded by religious or secular dogma. He is saying “Sometimes there does seem to be something beyond my egoistic reflection, but 
I can’t be sure. When I look again it’s gone.” As soon as we try to appropriate experiences that lead beyond self-attachment, we’re back in self-attachment.</p><p>Perhaps, having read the poem, Frost’s glimpse of “a something white, uncertain” reminds you of experiences you’ve had? You might have caught sight of something in friendship, in your response to noble or heroic deeds, in altruistic work, or in your most inspired readings of philosophy. How could you set up conditions in which you’re more likely to experience “something more of the depths” again?</p><p>We need to learn from Frost’s skepticism as well as embrace his longing to see deeper into the world beyond self-clinging. The most important feature of this “deeper seeing” is <i>wholeness</i>—where thinking and feeling flow together in a new unity and all our energies are aroused in a single act of perception. This new faculty of wholeness—intelligent but not heady, richly felt but not merely emotional—takes us beyond the threshold of “being me.” Frost’s poem weds his fine intelligence with direct sensual experience, combining humor with vigor, questioning with questing. Only then will we be able to see “beyond the picture, / Through the picture.”<br><br><b>Maitreyabandhu</b> is an award-winning poet and a teacher in the Triratna Buddhist Order. His most recent book of poetry, <i>Yarn</i>, was published by Bloodaxe Books in September.</p><p>From <a href="" target="_blank"><i>The Journey and the Guide: A Practical Course in Enlightenment</i></a><b>, </b>by Maitreyabandhu (Windhorse Publications). Reproduced with the permission of Windhorse Publications UK and Faber & Faber (Frost poem).</p><p><em>Image: </em>Narcissus<em>,&nbsp;Caravaggio, 1594–1596, oil on canvas, 43.3 x 36.2 in., Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Roma, Italy.</em></p> 46944 Wed, 14 Oct 2015 14:57:54 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World Tricycle Talks: Mindfulness and Awareness in End of Life Care <p><a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" width="576" height="576" style="vertical-align: middle; display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></a></p><p>Our culture is really good at ignoring the one thing that awaits all of us: death. Not only do we remove it from sight, secluding the ill in hospitals and the elderly in retirement homes, but we banish it from conversation as though the very mention of one's demise could somehow hasten it. Confined by this out-of-sight-out-of-mind mentality, most of us don't come in contact with death and dying until we experience it firsthand with the loss of a loved one's life—or even the loss of our own. By this time, however, we may lack the wherewithal, knowledge, or physical health to approach this trying yet potentially meaningful situation with care. It will be, in the most literal sense of the phrase, too late.&nbsp;</p><p>In this episode of Tricycle Talks, Pamela Gayle White, a <em>Tricycle</em> contributing editor who recently completed her residency as an interfaith chaplain at the University of Virginia (UVA) Medical Center, shatters the taboo as she speaks with four of her former colleagues at UVA about what they've learned from their years of working with the dying.&nbsp;</p><p>Dr. Leslie Blackhall, section head of palliative care at UVA Medical Center and an associate professor at the UVA School of Medicine, discusses the transformative power of talking about death; Dr. Timothy Short, a physician who specializes in hospice and palliative care and an associate professor of palliative medicine at the UVA School of Medicine, redefines what we mean by "hope" in the context of end of life care; Susan Bauer-Wu, PhD, RN, the director of the Compassionate Care Initiative at the UVA School of Nursing, talks about how to be mindfully aware during your death or that of a loved one; and Jonathan Bartels, RN, palliative liaison for UVA Hospital, explains how death can help us both rediscover and let go of our relationship to the deceased.&nbsp;</p><p></p><p><iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src=""></iframe></p><p>Tricycle Talks is a podcast series featuring leading voices in the contemporary Buddhist world.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Subscribe</strong></p><p>Subscribe to Tricycle Talks via&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">iTunes</a> or copy <a href="" target="_blank">this link</a> to use with a podcatcher of your choice.</p><p>You can also find Tricycle Talks on <a href="" target="_blank">Soundcloud</a>.</p><p></p><div about=""><a rel="license" href="" target="_blank"></a><em>Photograph by&nbsp;<a xmlns:cc="" rel="cc:attributionURL" property="cc:attributionName" href="" target="_blank">DerrickT</a>&nbsp;</em></div><hr><p><strong>More at Tricycle:</strong></p><table border="0" cellpadding="8" cellspacing="10" width="550"><tbody><tr></tr><tr><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>Tricycle Talks: Sharon Salzberg & Real Happiness at Work</b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">LISTEN NOW →</a></p></td><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>Tricycle Talks: Jeff Wilson, Mindful America</b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">LISTEN NOW →</a></p></td></tr></tbody></table> 46887 Fri, 09 Oct 2015 15:26:15 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World Making Friends with Mess <p><img src="" width="570" height="380" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></p><p>There’s an elephant in my living room: a pachyderm-sized heap of banker’s boxes, research folders, three-ring binders, clothes, shopping bags, books, books, books and a thousand etceteras that have steadily accumulated until the space looks like the Fresh Kills garbage dump—minus the old cars. When an electrical contractor came the other day to survey my apartment for rewiring, I had to waylay him in the corridor and warn him of the hoarder’s nest he was entering and what he could expect to find. “Don’t worry, there are no dead cats or old hamburgers buried in there,” I joked. He was not amused. A look of panic crossed his face, and I had to coax him inside. Even then, he refused to step beyond the foyer.</p><p>It’s not that I’m blissfully unaware of the stuff. Only the blind wouldn’t see it. And it’s not that I haven’t fretted about it continually and made plans for a giant purge. I have the stock of garbage bags to prove it. The desire is there, but the follow-through has been lacking. The trouble is, when clutter gets to this point, short of a court order from the health department or the threat of eviction, there’s little that could override the crippling sense of overwhelm that has kept me from tackling the job.</p><p>Years ago I actually attended a de-cluttering class in a room full of other New York hoarders—many of whom worked in publishing like me. I even wrote a magazine article about de-cluttering: one of the experts I interviewed was a social worker in California who described going into one hoarder’s house with a backhoe to clear out the mess. I’m not quite at the backhoe state, but clearly there’s a problem.</p><p>De-cluttering is all the rage now. The bible of the mess patrol is <i>The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,</i> a surprise best-seller by Marie Kondo, a Japanese “tidying consultant.” The urge to purge has also spawned an interest in smaller houses. I’m hooked on the TV shows <i>Tiny House Nation</i> and <i>Tiny House Hunters, </i>which follow newly-minted downsizers as they try to cram the contents of 2,300 square feet or more into 500 square feet or less. I identify with their angst as they’re forced to part with shoe collections, 10-foot tables, and other trappings of a prosperous life.</p><p>In another sign of the times, friends who wouldn’t dream of keeping up with the Kardashians refuse to miss an episode of the reality show <i>Hoarders.</i> I avoided watching, afraid I’d see myself in high-definition and living color. In our land of plenty and overconsumption, the hoarding problem has reached sufficient proportions for DSM-5, the latest edition of <i>The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders</i>, to for the first time identify hoarding as a distinct condition, a subset of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.</p><p>When I finally watched <i>Hoarders,</i> to my relief I didn’t see myself in the lady harboring 49 sickly cats or the one with a freezer stuffed so full she has to duct-tape the door closed, or the woman sleeping on her patio because every room in her house is crammed with stuff, or the head of a condo homeowners’ association whose own home is so cluttered it would lead to any other resident’s eviction. Still, the signs are there: perfectionism, disorganization, compulsive shopping, procrastination, to name a few.</p><p>For me, the stumbling block is paper: books, research files, manuscripts—predictable detritus of three decades as an editor and writer. Never mind the digital age and the paperless office: any editor over 40 knows that unless you’re covering late-breaking news, editing on screen is a stopgap at best. Why do you think there are so many typos and egregious errors in 95 percent of what you read? (<i>Tricycle </i>excluded: we have a team of beady-eyed editors and proofreaders combing through the copy before an issue goes to press. That was standard procedure in the pre-digital age.) Granted, much of the paper in my apartment could go.</p><p>Books are another matter. I think anyone who throws away books should be arrested, though admittedly a lot of what is published now is rubbish, getting into print only because the author—who may have hired a ghostwriter for the text—has a platform and a following. Most of my library predates trash-for-cash in publishing, though, so I’m not about to part with a single volume, thank you very much. Then again, this becomes an indefensible position once you do the math: packing 3,500 or so books into 350 square feet. Right there is one obvious answer to my clutter problem, but that’s where my denial creeps in.</p><p><i>I need them,</i> I insist when anyone suggests culling the piles. <i>It’s a working library; I use it for research</i>. <i>There are a lot of Buddhist texts there, </i>I protest. <i>You can get all the information you need online,</i> they counter. <i>Not true,</i> I shoot back. And I’m partly right: most of the books published in the last century have not been digitized and made universally available online. But even if you grant my semi-specious reasoning, there’s a bigger issue at stake here.</p><p>See, while I’m roundly defending my clutter against challengers, all that’s shoring up my defense is denial. Once the rationalizations run out, there’s only selective blindness to fall back on. Imagine that your living room was wall-to-wall carpeted with stuff. In order not to see it—never mind trip over it—every time you entered, you’d have to don psychological blinders. It’s a variation on the emperor has no clothes. Like an image in the blind spot of the retina, if I refuse to see it, it doesn’t exist.&nbsp;</p><p>But paradoxically, I know full well the clutter’s there. As the Zen saying goes, <i>Things are not as they seem, nor are they otherwise.</i> And so it was that one day, something clicked, and I realized that the mental and emotional legerdemain required to make the piles disappear left me little time and energy for enjoying the important things in life.&nbsp;</p><p>That’s where meditation practice comes in. I knew that mindfulness and lovingkindness alone weren’t going to make the clutter disappear. The only recourse, I thought, was to sit down and make friends with the mess. With time and diligence I hoped the structure of denial would crumble and the clutter fall away—without a backhoe.&nbsp;</p><p>Once I committed to tackling the mess head on, I had a revelation. I was in the midst of meditating on the clutter piled up under the windows like a snowdrift<b> </b>when I saw that what I was looking at was the kitchen midden of my life—the refuse heap of bygone days. Here lies material evidence of the activity, creativity, reactivity, and accumulation of decades.&nbsp;</p><p>Accumulation is attachment, Buddhism tells us. So now, like an archeologist, I’m sifting through the residue of a life lived for too long in too small quarters. Herding the mess into garbage bags is not the answer. Instead I’m combing through the shards, painstakingly dusting off each item I unearth. As I turn it over in my hand, it gives off memories, a hint of what was going on in my life when I acquired it.</p><p>“Everything you own wants to be of use to you,” Marie Kondo writes. “Even if you throw it away or burn it, it will only leave behind the energy of wanting to be of service.”&nbsp;</p><p>With that in mind, I ask each object: <i>Why this? Why that? Where did you come from? Why did I need or want you? How do you serve me now? </i>I’ve been surprised by the feeling of warmth that arises, the sense of intimacy with my stuff.</p><p>Anthropomorphizing? Sure, but so what? Marie Kondo makes it sound like the most natural thing in the world to see our things as living objects and thank them for serving us. At the end of the day, as she tucks the jewelry she was wearing in a drawer, she says, “Thanks for all you did for me today.” How fitting, when her criterion for keeping something in your life is “Does it give you joy?” If I think of each object in my apartment as something that wanted to be of use to me, how can I be cavalier about tossing it aside? If it no longer gives me joy, I can still thank it for its service before I let it go.</p><p>In pondering how my possessions have served me, I wondered if the converse was also true, and if so, whether I am living up to my side of the bargain. As Rilke wrote, “Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” Years ago, I interviewed an interior designer who said, “Every 10 years you should take everything out of your house and put it on your lawn, and only take back in what you use and love.” Now, as I sit gazing at the top layer of my kitchen midden, a wave of tenderness washes over me. &nbsp;</p><p>Just as too much clutter obscures my ability to function, obscurations in the mind cloud my ability to think. And just as meditation clears away obscurations in the mind, I trust that friendly attentiveness will loosen my resistance to letting go of clutter. Piece by piece, layer by layer, bit by bit, I’m working on both.&nbsp;</p><p>Resistance to de-cluttering, as Marie Kondo points out, is tied to nostalgia for the past and fear of the future. Happily, practice is about being here and now. Only in the present can I surrender an object. And gone is not forgotten. “Freed from its physical form, [your things] will move about your world as energy,” Marie Kondo writes, “letting other things know that you are a special person, and come back to you as the thing that will be of most use to who you are now.”&nbsp;</p><p>None of this will happen overnight. Already I have fits of acquisitiveness and rage at letting go. I’m just beginning the process. But cuddling up to my clutter and expressing gratitude for its presence feels like a good way to start. Who doesn’t want to love and be loved? That includes my stuff.<br><br><em>If you've got a clutter problem of your own, check out this <a href="" target="_blank">advice</a> from personal organization expert Andrew Mellen and watch him put it into action in a 2012&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">video</a> of him reorganizing&nbsp;</em>Tricycle<em> managing editor Emma Varvaloucas's apartment.&nbsp;</em><br><br><strong>Joan Duncan Oliver</strong> is a <em>Tricycle</em> contributing editor and the author, most recently, of <em>The Meaning of Nice</em>.<i></i></p><p><em>Alex/Flickr</em>&nbsp;</p><hr><p><strong>More at Tricycle:</strong></p><table border="0" cellpadding="8" cellspacing="10" width="550"><tbody><tr></tr><tr><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>Naropa’s Five-Acre Conundrum</b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>The Sangha without Thich Nhat Hanh</b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td></tr></tbody></table> 46892 Thu, 08 Oct 2015 09:32:43 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World The Sangha without Thich Nhat Hanh <p><img src="" width="570" height="321" style="vertical-align: middle; margin: 7px auto; display: block;"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Thich Nhat Hanh leads students in a walking meditation at Blue Cliff Monastery in Pine Bush, NY.</em></p><p>On November 11, 2014, the international Buddhist community was dealt a sudden blow when the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh, a beloved teacher and prolific author, suffered<b> </b>a brain hemorrhage that rendered him unable to speak or walk. Since then, Thich Nhat Hanh (affectionately known by his students as “Thay”) has shown steady if small signs of recovery: swallowing solid food and more recently, uttering his first words. He is currently receiving treatment in San Francisco at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center.&nbsp;</p><p>Thay had planned to travel to the United States this fall for his “<a href="" target="_blank">Miracle of Mindfulness Tour</a>,” a two-and-a-half month series of retreats, dharma talks, and days of mindfulness. Despite Thay’s absence, his monastic students have chosen to go forward with the tour as scheduled.</p><p><i>Tricycle </i>caught up with one such monastic, Brother Fulfillment, at the tour’s recent daylong retreat at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. A resident practitioner at Thay’s Blue Cliff Monastery in upstate New York since 2004, Brother Fulfillment discussed what initially drew him to Buddhism, how Thay’s illness has affected the sangha, and where the renowned teacher’s worldwide lay and monastic community will go from here.<br><br><b>Can you describe your first encounter with Buddhism? </b>While I was living in Nepal as a Peace Corps volunteer, I met a young Tibetan monk by the bank of the Trishuli River, which runs along Nepal's border with India. The monk was very personable, kind, and present.<b> </b>Right away he built a really close connection with me. I had visited temples in Kathmandu—Boudhanath<b> </b>and Swayambhunath—which were beautiful but also very otherworldly, especially for someone from a Western cultural background. But with this young man there was a simple<b> </b>human connection. I didn’t say it out loud, but there was a part of me that thought, “I want to be like that. I want to touch that kind of joy.”</p><p>Right around that time my ex-girlfriend came to Nepal with a copy of Thich Nhat Hanh’s&nbsp;<i>Transformation and Healing: Sutra on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness</i>. I thought it was a breathtaking book, and it definitely helped lead me to Thay’s tradition.<br><br><b>You have now been a monk in Thay’s order for over a decade. How has his illness changed the way you and the sangha approach the teachings?</b> I’ve noticed more energy in me. Before, I was following; I was being carried. I was a student, a child of Thay. Within that sense of being carried, I could relax. Now I have shifted to the sense that <i>I’m carrying</i>. I’m carrying what has been transmitted to me and I’m carrying the community. It is beautiful to see what happens as I allow that transmission to manifest itself—to let itself be alive.&nbsp;</p><p>When we practice generating this energy of mindfulness and presence, it feels authentic and healing. We become aware that one day we too may be sick and unable to teach the dharma. That urgency makes that desire to shoulder the community start to bloom in me and I see it in the sangha as a whole: everyone wants to carry each other. We know very clearly that Thay’s vision for us is that we become a leaderless community that embodies interbeing.</p><p>That aspiration is rising up in us. When we plan events, for example, we all sit together and share our perspectives. How should we meet this day of mindfulness? What should we talk about? No one says, “I’m the authority, so this is what we’re doing.” We listen to each other<b>,</b> and by listening, we let the answers manifest themselves.</p><p>This sense of rising to the occasion does bring some anxiety. But instead of saying, “Our problem is that Thay may no longer lead us,” we must say, “Here’s our challenge.” We will make some mistakes. We will not do everything perfectly. There will not be perfect harmony in our community unless we try to work out disagreements, especially without our teacher with us. The energy behind that acceptance is very important.<br><br><b>What has it been like for you and your fellow monastics to assume a leadership role as Thay is recovering nearby in the United States?</b><b> </b>We face the reality that he wants to be here but that he is too sick to do so. We do this for him, through him, with him. We make him present by the way we walk and by the way we act together. We bring him alive and let his spirit come back into the practice again.<b>&nbsp;</b><br><br><b>Do practitioners bring up Thay’s illness when they come to your teachings? </b>People who have studied Thay’s work know that he wants people to find his presence in their practice. Followers everywhere—not just the monastic community but also the huge number of lay sanghas and lay practitioners—know that they are continuing his work. They feel, as we do, that this is an opportunity for all of us to rise to a new level of practice. We constantly return to the teaching of his no-death. For the last 40 years he has said: “I will never die. My practice is alive in you. If you walk and breathe, I am there.”&nbsp;</p><p>Thay understands the power of instilling a transmission. It is not just that he says this over and over but also that he lives it out. He has set up a good model for us<b>,</b> and now we are exploring what it means to realize that model. It is not simple. We have to discover it for ourselves, so there are difficult moments and misunderstandings. But I see the growth. I see the potential for the blooming of our sangha.<br><br><b>What words of encouragement would you offer to novice Buddhist practitioners?</b> It’s OK to not know. It’s OK if the practice doesn’t work in exactly the way you expect. Sometimes the fruit comes later. Sometimes it just manifests when it wants to. Jesus had a saying about the Holy Spirit in which he likens it to wind<i>: </i>the wind blows; no one knows where it blows, where it comes from, or where it goes. It goes where it wants to! Trying to hold on to the Holy Spirit is very foolish. That’s true for meditation practice as well. It’s nice. We touch it; we taste it. We feel peace, joy, and connection. But you have to let that feeling go, like everything. You have to go on.&nbsp; <b></b></p><p align="right">&nbsp;<i>—Matt Gesicki</i></p><p align="right" style="text-align: left;"><i>Paul Davis/Flickr</i></p><hr><p><strong>More at Tricycle:</strong></p><table border="0" cellpadding="8" cellspacing="10" width="550"><tbody><tr></tr><tr><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>Fear of Silence</b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>Talking Buddha, Talking Christ</b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td></tr></tbody></table> 46890 Wed, 07 Oct 2015 14:44:21 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World Ma Moune <p style="text-align: center;"><i><img src="" width="570" height="614">Pamela Gayle White will be writing about her life with Moune, her Berger Picard, for the next three months on the Tricycle blog.</i></p><p><i></i><span style="text-align: left;">Moune, my dog, was 3 when our destinies merged a few years ago. Adopting her was a significant decision, since pre-Moune, my “responsible, nurturing human” slate had become tarnished. Yes, I had successfully cared for a couple of cats off and on, but Sam, my high school boa constrictor, had disappeared into the gables, never to be seen again. (After we moved, I got a twisted adolescent thrill out of imagining that Sam had survived by devouring roving rodents until she became so massive that she crashed through the attic floor into a bedroom of that old Main Line house.) And as a child, the very first time I was fully responsible for the lives of other beings, I ignored my two gerbils to death. Their shriveled, rigid little bodies still manage to haunt me after all these years.</span></p><p>I wanted a dog for all the reasons one wants a dog: companionship, a compelling reason to walk, security, easy contact with strangers. A warm presence to inspirit my quiet stone farmhouse in central France. Someone to communicate with in a life where I could spend days working at my computer without speaking to any visible beings.</p><p>Someone to love who will always, always love you back. It doesn’t matter what you look or smell or sound like. It doesn’t matter if you’re sharp as a tack or thick as two short planks. Your dog thinks you’re awesome.</p><p>I found her via the Internet, where her breeder had posted <i>Urgent, Émone, 3 ans, adoption à cause de divorce</i>. I’d been looking without looking, the way friends have—sometimes remarkably successfully—surfed the dating sites. My peripatetic lifestyle didn’t really lend itself to a steady commitment, but as soon as I saw the photos I was done for. Just before I went to pick her up, I spent too much of a ten-day retreat wondering what I would call her, since the name Émone had apparently been derived from Pokémon, and I couldn’t live with that. I settled on Philémone: the Greek name <i>Philemon</i> signifies affectionate and loving. Nickname Moune, or Ma Moune: <i>my</i> Moune.</p><p>When I first met her at her home in the French Alps, she was a sorry sight: matted dreadlocks, open sores. Neglected though she was, she was full of bounce and silliness, and we took a shine to each other straightaway. Moune’s previous main human had had an acute psychotic episode, her husband needed to focus on their kids while she was interned, then she was too unstable to care for a dog, and the husband never really wanted Moune anyway. He told me that his wife always needed <i>just this one more thing</i> to make her happy, but she was never happy. Moune is a Berger Picard, a rare French herding breed that was one of her human’s <i>just this one more</i> things.&nbsp;</p><p>I can relate. She was one of my <i>just this one more</i> things too, but it works. I delight in her goofiness, stubbornness, shagginess, dogginess. Ours may not be the deepest relationship I’ve ever had, but it’s certainly one of the easiest. She wants to please me; I want her to be happy. Our honeymoon began as soon as she forgot I’d dognapped her, and we’ve been contentedly codependent ever since.</p><p>I’m perfectly aware that there can be no “happily ever after” in this codependency, this coming together of lives. I well know that what comes together will one day separate, and that it will be painful. If I’m honest, the constant of aging and the anticipation of separation are <i>already</i> painful, whatever the loss may be, well before that loss has poked holes in our reality or ripped the fabric of our lives asunder. It’s the price we pay for attachment, I tell myself. Suck it up. For now, Ma Moune and I are a team.<br><br><strong>Pamela Gayle White</strong> is a dharma teacher and translator in the Bodhi Path network and a <i>Tricycle</i> contributing editor. She recently completed her residency as an interfaith chaplain at the University of Virginia Medical Center.</p><p><em>Photograph courtesy the author</em></p><hr><p><strong>More at Tricycle:</strong></p><table border="0" cellpadding="8" cellspacing="10" width="550"><tbody><tr></tr><tr><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>12 Things You Should Never Say to the Sick </b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>Conscientious Compassion </b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td></tr></tbody></table> 46879 Tue, 06 Oct 2015 09:17:43 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World