Dec 2014 The pain of injustice after the shooting death of an unarmed young black man and the legal verdict echoes so many similar incidents in the United States over a long history of racism and violence in our country. The verdict and its meaning is somehow unsurprising and heartbreaking. And heartbreaking in how unsurprising it is.

The dharma lens that can perhaps help is the Four Noble Truths. There is dukkha — pain, suffering, unsatisfactoriness in individual experience and in society. There is a cause for this, so let us explore this and try to address the root causes of racism, violence, militarism, and fear. Hatred and delusion manifest in many ways, and there are many ways to work on the individual, organizational, systemic and societal levels.

Let us hold ourselves and others with much compassion. Let us give ourselves a moment to feel the pain before rushing on. May we learn to love and respect each other and ourselves. May we move towards justice with radical love. May we apply our energy to creating change in this unjust system.

Meditation on Perception

Nov 2014 Bhante Gunaratana has written a new book Meditation on Perception,  based on the Girimananda Sutta. His other books, including Mindfulness in Plain English and Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness are among the books I recommend most when people ask for meditation or Buddhist book recs. Bhante G has been ordained since he was 12 and has lived in the US since the late 60s (I knew him when I was a child and he was head monk of the Washington DC Buddhist Vihara).  He also runs a meditation monastery Bhavana Society in WV that holds retreats as well as training monastics. Bhante G has been supportive of female monastics, and though in his 80s, embraces new technology and modern life. Thanks for all your teaching and service!

Creative Action to Stop Violence Against Women

Sept 2014 Amidst disturbing cases of violence against women by NFL players (which is actually not new, just being proven and publicized more), there are some hopeful cases of creative action to bring awareness of misogyny and violence against women. This performance art by a student at Columbia University, this SF woman’s play, this open letter from an NYC actress/bartender. May we all treat each other with respect, kindness and humanity.

Mind is the Forerunner of All Things

Aug 2014 Just back home and catching up on media news. Sad to see Bay Area comedian and actor Robin Williams committed suicide. Further proof that “Mind is the forerunner of all things”, in spite of fame, fortune, and an adoring public. Also sad to see the killing of unarmed young man of color Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the violent military police response to protests. Clearly the trauma of racism and militarism in the US continues to take its toll. May all beings be free from suffering.

Reading the Suttas

June 2014 For those who are interested in reading the teaching of the Buddha directly, I would suggest beginning with the Majjhima Nikaya (Middle Length Discourses) which can also be found online here or here . There are several other resources on the web that can be used as study guides, including Pressing Out Pure Honey  by Sharda Rogell or these talks by Bhikkhu Bodhi. Try reading one periodically, or read one each day.


Pedestrians and Protecting Life

May 2014 A specific application of mindfulness that will help us all is in the area of walking and the area of driving. There has been an increase in pedestrian accidents and deaths in many cities. Our constant connection to our phones and checking emails and texts while driving and crossing the street might be a contributor. Another cause could be our impatience and stress while driving. Either way please pay attention in these circumstance, for your own benefit and the benefit of other forms of life!

Living Simply

Apr 2014 Living simply is one of the things I learned from my time in monasteries and retreat centers. Buddhist monastics are the masters of this, having only the possessions of one robe and one bowl. As lay people we accumulate more things, and may need more things, but the principle of living simply is one that we can also apply to our lives.

What stuff do we have that we do not need or use? Through generosity we can donate that to someone who might need it, and create more space in our life. The spaciousness that comes from having less and clinging less is a great benefit to one’s life.

One idea I heard to see what things you really need:  pack up all the things you have in one room, and then take them out as you use them. The things that remain in the boxes after a few months might be the things that you can part with now!